(L to R) Kangana Ranaut, Nikesh Patel and Kriti Sanon
She’s one of the best actresses in the country; she’s managed to expose the frailties of some of the most powerful men and women in the Mumbai film industry; and, she is currently working on three movies where she is front and centre in almost every scene. Yet, she chooses to ingratiate herself with the powers that be. Calling a chief minister “goondai” and asking for a prime minister’s “virat roop” to destroy his enemy is not standard practice for an artist. Why would Kangana Ranaut take the focus away from her movies Thalaivi, Dhaakad and Tejas to her politics, which caused Twitter to suspend her account? Addiction to controversy perhaps, or just a permanent performance for those in the establishment? If Bollywood’s storytellers start choosing to be political props rather than honest artists, then there is little hope for the state of popular culture in the country.
Yet Another Outsider
Kangana Ranaut’s contribution is convincing young men and women from outside Bollywood that they have a chance too. Kriti Sanon, educated at Delhi Public School and trained as an engineer, has emerged as a likeable movie star. She has, over the last eight years, become quite the favourite of several male co-stars. Her role as Sita in Om Raut’s Adipurush will certainly see her brand value escalate as she acquires national visibility. She has been shooting a series of movies waiting for release: from Mimi, where she plays a surrogate mother, to Bhediya, a horror comedy with Varun Dhawan.
Some of our best documentaries are really like idea pioneers, often seeding stories and narratives of the invisible people in popular culture. The mainstream doesn’t always acknowledge it, but the conversation around them gathers enough critical mass to find an outlet. Skin Deep,
Reena Mohan’s 1989 documentary is one such, talking about body shaming, colourism and ageism, long before it became part of daily conversations. Nishtha Jain’s Laxmi and Me (2007) about the filmmaker and her relationship with her domestic help as well as her At My Doorstep (2009), about migrant workers living in and around her apartment block, look as if they are precursors to Rohena Gera’s Sir (2018) and Unpaused (2020), the Amazon Covid-19 anthology. Gulabi Gang (2012), Jain’s film on Sampat Pal, was no doubt the inspiration for Madhuri Dixit’s Gulaab Gang (2014). The theme of single women and their houselessness, one of the many rich strands of Alankrita Shrivastava’s Bombay Begums, was discussed in great detail in Shikha Makan’s 2016 documentary Bachelor Girls. Enough reason for more people to fund and watch documentaries and for streaming services to buy them. Jain is working on a documentary on the farmers’ protest, Farming a Revolution, and has just completed work on another film inside a jute factory in West Bengal, The Golden Thread. And as if so much prolificity wasn’t enough, she has done a powerful short film in black-and-white, Saboot, on discrimination, set during the days of the Punjab agitation.
Our Very Own Rom-Com Hero
Who knew the son of two Gujarati pharmacists from Wembley would become England’s latest rom-com pin-up? Nikesh Patel, last seen in the Richard Curtis-inspired and Mindy Kaling-created Hulu series Four Weddings and a Funeral (2019), now finds himself opposite New Zealand standup Rose Matafeo as a Hollywood hero called Tom Kapoor. Kapoor falls in love with Matafeo’s messy underachiever Jessie in BBC Three’s six-episode comedy, Starstruck, that is already shooting its second season. Patel, who became a star with the overwrought and over-hot Indian Summers (2015), now finds himself in danger of becoming the internet’s boyfriend, a privilege accorded to very few leading men, from Tom Hiddleston to Benedict Cumberbatch to the latest global crush, Bridgerton’s Regé-Jean Page.
Did You Know?
After starring in a Gujarati web series Vitthal Teedi on a new streaming platform OHO Gujarati, the super-talented Pratik Gandhi, last seen on screen as Harshad Mehta in SonyLIV’s Scam 1992 – The Harshad Mehta Story, will now be starring in a Tamil/Telugu movie. Gandhi, who earned his spurs in Gujarati theatre, is building a pan-India resume for himself which will finally do justice to his prodigious talent. “Even the smallest part I’ve played has led me to where I am today as a performer,” says Gandhi.