(L to R ) Yami Gautam Dhar, Kartik Aaryan and Fatima Sana Shaikh
In Shonali Bose’s Raat Rani in Amazon Prime Video’s anthology Modern Love: Mumbai, Lalzari, played by Fatima Sana Shaikh, wants to cross the Sea Link on a cycle, though two-wheelers and pedestrians are not allowed. Lots of things are not allowed in the young Kashmiri woman’s life—whether it is going to college, or going out at night, or falling in love, or marrying a man from a lower caste, or finding happiness when he leaves her. Crossing the flyover becomes a metaphor for her on-screen liberation. It is a metaphor for many young women in Bollywood now who are slowly overcoming their fears, choosing to expand their art rather than stay in the groove. Shaikh is one such actor who has learnt from her failures and done work that challenges her. Whether it was Thar, where she had to learn the Rajasthani dialect or Raat Rani where she worked on her Hindi diction to sound Kashmiri, the mercurial actor is improving bit by bit. She’s shooting Dhak Dhak currently, Taapsee Pannu’s production with three other female leads, Ratna Pathak Shah, Dia Mirza and Sanjana Sanghi, on a group of women who motorcycled to the highest motorable pass in the country. And straight up after that is Indira Gandhi in Meghna Gulzar’s Sam Bahadur. “One has the image of power, of her as this stern and forbidding character. But I’ve been studying her interviews and newsreels. She was small, petite, soft-spoken, almost birdlike. Yet, she exuded strength,” says Shaikh. With filmmakers excavating our history, Indira and her father have become on-screen favourites, played in a variety of ways, not always satisfactorily or accurately. Rajit Kapur’s Jawaharlal Nehru in SonyLIV’s Rocket Boys, for instance, portrayed him almost like a fop and a dandy, whereas Rahul Vohra portrayed him almost charmlessly in Gangubai Kathiawadi. Where is Roshan Seth when we need him?
Yami Gautam Dhar crossed the flyover when she proved she could be anti-dainty in Uri: The Surgical Strike or laugh at the quirks of social media influencers in Bala, both in 2019. Since then, she hasn’t put a foot wrong, choosing good roles in good cinema, whether it was A Thursday or Dasvi. She has also shown, yet again, that marriage makes no difference to a heroine’s career—certainly doesn’t make them less desirable as was thought earlier. In the year since she got married to director Aditya Dhar, she has never been busier, shooting eight films almost back-to-back. Both audiences and most filmmakers have learnt to respect the difference between actors’ personal and professional lives. And those who don’t, she’d rather steer clear of. Of course, a good partner who understands the work-life balance helps. Her advice to those who want to join the entertainment business is clear: “Use your work to announce yourself, not the way you look or what you wear.” She’s very clear now that whatever work she does should add to the idea of new-age cinema. “I don’t want to be fearful of numbers or be imprisoned by the box office,” she says. She wants to collaborate with good directors and start conversations where women are no longer replaceable. Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s (Tony) Lost is up next where she plays a journalist in a thriller set in Kolkata (where everyone assumes, after Vicky Donor, that she is a Bengali) and then OMG 2, a social satire on faith.
Scene and Heard
With Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 racing towards what is now known as the `100-crore club, Bollywood is heaving a sigh of relief. The audience seems to be in a mood to be entertained, and that’s one thing Bollywood has in its DNA. Kartik Aaryan, the star of Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, has a wide following which is related to his earthy humour from his days in Luv Ranjan movies. Once dismissed as a B-movie director, Ranjan was quickly picked up by Ranbir Kapoor who could do with a boost to his career after the long-pending Dharma Productions’ Brahmastra and YRF Films’ dacoit drama Shamshera. While the former looks like it may well be worth the wait, Shamshera looks as inviting as the dead-on-arrival Jayeshbhai Jordaar. Aaryan seems to have everyone’s goodwill as well, with actors as diverse as Kangana Ranaut and Ayushmann Khurrana praising him. If the guardians of the galaxy stick together, then the challengers to the system seem to have decided to speak up for each other as well.