(L to R) Bhumi Pednekar, Aditya Chopra and Disha Patani
In the second wave of the pandemic, Bollywood has decided to lie low. Some of it is because the pandemic has ravaged almost every home, as much as society at large. Whether it is Aamir Khan or Deepika Padukone, A-list stars have been affected. Some are still recovering. Some, like Sonu Sood, are moving towards a model of professional philanthropy, having developed a network of individuals who can transport oxygen cylinders, help people reach medicines and ensure plasma donations. Bhumi Pednekar, an actress whose film choices indicate an evolved social conscience, has been working long hours to connect people with much needed help. For her, the ‘Covid Warrior’ journey has been an extremely intimate one. As she said to me: “I had a hellish time when my mother contracted the virus and she was extremely serious. Though that time wasn’t as nightmarish as it is today, I was still at a loss trying to figure things out for my mom. Then it struck me hard that if privileged people like us from the cities are going through such hard times, what would be the condition of those who are less privileged? I shuddered at that thought and told myself that as soon as my mother felt fine, I would dedicate my time to fight for every life that I can save. That’s how Covid Warrior came into existence and has become a network of the people, by the people and for the people to save humanity at large.” The pandemic has united us in ways and forms that we had never imagined before, she says. Check out her Twitter timeline and you will see that Covid Warrior has used the power of social media for the greater good. So, despite all the heartbreaks of losing lives that she was not able to save, she tries to keep focusing on lives that can be saved. It’s the only thing that has kept her going in the midst of such devastation. She says this is the only thing that we can collectively do while mourning for those lives that have been lost. At a time when much older leaders of industry have been wondering how to help—clearly throwing mere money at the problem cannot help—it is interesting to see the digital solutions Sonu Sood and Bhumi have come up with.
No Celebrations, Please
When Yash Raj Films completed 50 years of its existence in 2020, Aditya Chopra had decided to spend a considerable amount of money in celebrating that event globally. But the second Covid wave sweeping through the country made him rethink. Now that budget is being diverted to providing cooked meals to frontline workers in Mumbai’s Goregaon and at quarantine centres in Andheri. The studio also launched the Yash Chopra Saathi Initiative aimed at providing financial support to film industry workers. This includes direct benefit transfers of Rs 5,000 to women and senior citizens in the industry as well as distribution of ration kits to workers for a family of four for one month through their NGO partner Youth Feed India. Yash Chopra, a man whose family had seen another kind of devastation, Partition, would have been proud.
She is all of 28, and she is quickly becoming the go-to woman when it comes to dance and glamour. We can and should be creeped out at Disha Patani playing 55-year-old Salman Khan’s love interest in Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai (2021) but for an outsider from Bareilly, it is a great way of getting established. Patani, who first came to everyone’s notice playing the one that got away in MS Dhoni’s biopic, is a great dancer and has a kind of old-fashioned oomph that sizzles onscreen.
Radhe is her second film with Salman with whom she acted in Bharat (2019). She endorses brands such as Calvin Klein and Pepsi, and with a few more notable films, will soon find herself the queen of flat abs and athletic dancing. A place where once Katrina Kaif was queen?
Did You Know?
Shaylee Krishen, a Kashmiri Pandit who was born in a refugee camp, and is starring in the Asif Kapadia-produced The Last Hour on Amazon Prime Video, saw her first movie in Bengaluru when she was 13. It was a Malayalam movie, Urumi (2011), and she was so blown away that she vowed she would work with the director one day. As it happened, her photos reached that director, Santosh Sivan, who cast her in Sin, his almost silent film. Magic still happens.