(L to R) Sidhartha Mallya; Hema Malini and Rinzing Denzongpa
With cinema halls opening up in Maharashtra by October-end, Bollywood’s long drought at the box office looks all set to end. Producers have already announced release dates for long-pending movies, but the question is will audiences return to watch content that was effectively made at least two years ago? Audience tastes have changed over the past 18 months to embrace global and regional entertainment. So, not only will Mumbai movies now have to cater to a more exacting audience, but also contend with Hollywood and southern cinema. If there are any achievements from the lockdown, they are these: audiences are ready to pay for good content, and it can be from anywhere. Yet, nothing in its arsenal so far shows that Mumbai cinema has changed. Sooryavanshi, the first of the big films to release, features cars, helicopters, Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn in Rohit Shetty’s police universe. Films like Bunty aur Babli2 and Shamshera will bank heavily on nostalgia for the original Bunty aur Babli and the 1970s dacoit movies, respectively. And Salman Khan’s Antim: The Final Truth will rely on his equity. So, has the industry learnt any lessons in humility and in scaling down? The short answer is no. Stars are still charging enormous amounts, subjects are still largely based in urban areas (take Karan Johar’s Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani and Farhan Akhtar’s all-girl road movie Jee Le Zaraa), and the focus is still on putting projects together rather than getting good scripts made. The streaming universe is vastly different because of the tight creative control exercised by the OTT services, where every script alteration and every acting choice is vetted by the executives. Remember the Mumbai film industry has never changed on its own, it has done so only when pushed either by technology or by economics. This time is not likely to be different.
Actor in Training
For the two years Sidhartha Mallya was in India, handling Royal Challengers Bangalore for his father’s company, he was offered several movies thanks to his last name. He’s glad now he didn’t do them because he was not ready. Instead, after a brief foray into the indie movie scene with Brahman Naman, Mallya trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in 2016, and then moved to Los Angeles to try his luck as an actor. Now, he spends his time training at the gym, going to acting class and giving auditions. Six months ago, he took another big step, changing his name, registered with the Screen Actors Guild, from Sid Mallya to Sidhartha Mallya as a tribute to his heritage.
So Black Indeed
In This Life at Play: Memoirs, a memoir stuffed with incisive observations of the late Girish Karnad and the many worlds he inhabited, one of the most delightful anecdotes deals with Hema Malini virtually proposing to him. Karnad had acted in Swami (1977), produced by Jaya Chakravarthy, Hema’s mother, and it was rumoured at that time that she was keen on Karnad as her son-in-law not in the least because she was not too enamoured of her daughter becoming Dharmendra’s second wife. Karnad recalls how he began to be invited to Hema’s house for meals and being met by her brothers. Jaya even started work on a new movie Ratnadeep (1979), pairing Karnad with Hema. On the shoot of the film in Khajuraho one day, Hema asked him the all-important question: “The press is saying we are going to get married, How do you feel about the idea?” Karnad writes that he gave her the excuse that he was engaged to someone in the US. (Saraswathy, who eventually became his wife.) But even otherwise it would not have been possible to marry her, he says. Just one reason? When he asked her why she didn’t ever act in Tamil films in then Madras, Hema giggled and said: “Oh, the people there are so black.”
Did You Know?
Sikkim will soon have its own star son? Rinzing Denzongpa, son of Danny Denzongpa, will be making his debut in the action film Squad, directed by Nilesh Sahay, for Zee5. So confident is Sahay of Rinzing that he has already cast him in another action film, Ronin. Looks like Tiger Shroff, Rinzing’s childhood buddy, will have some competition.