(L to R) Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Kartik Aaryan and Huma Qureshi
If there is one thing the 2020 lockdown effected in Bollywood, it was the demonetisation of power symbols. It’s evident in the way rising star Kartik Aaryan was treated recently. Reportedly, Kartik Aaryan had been fired from Dostana 2 for unprofessional behaviour after shooting for 20 days. No specific reason was given apart from the fact that Dharma Productions had vowed never to work with Kartik again. It was a signal to others that Kartik was toxic. This was pretty much the playbook adopted for the marginalisation of Sushant Singh Rajput. So it was no surprise that Kangana Ranaut stepped in and tweeted her support for Kartik, asking him not to succumb to the ‘vultures’. But the actor, whose Dhamaka is slated for a Netflix release soon, is keeping quiet and presumably getting on with his work—so much so, he hasn’t had time to unfollow Karan Johar on Instagram in a tit-for-tat move. And perhaps, he is well rid of Dostana 2 whose second-half, he believed, was just not working. When Dostana was released in 2008, it attracted as much attention for its caricaturing of the gay community as it did for Priyanka Chopra Jonas’ desi girl song. For the past 13 years, various attempts have been made to do a sequel, no one quite knows why. It was hardly a gamechanger when it released. But Dharma Productions seems committed to making the sequel.
How to Hound a Star
Does anyone remember a similar effort in 2012 to diminish Priyanka Chopra Jonas in a city tabloid frontpage saying that no ‘hero’ wanted to work with her? That was after she had just been part of two big hits, Barfi! and Agneepath that same year. Priyanka had just started exploring her singing career in the US with ‘In My City’ and had to go to south India to seek a lead role in the remake of Zanjeer (1973) with Ram Charan. But her persistence paid off and her international career now has a great balance of big franchises and quieter movies. And she is welcomed in the very quarters that had orchestrated her takedown.
World of Her Own
The great Irrfan Khan showed the way and many have followed since. Huma Qureshi is one of those acquiring a colourblind profile that can see her cast in Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead, at the same time she is headlining Subhash Kapoor’s political drama Maharani for SonyLIV and acting opposite the inexhaustible Ajith Kumar in Tamil film Valimai. Qureshi, who first appeared in Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur (2012), has developed an interesting career with A-list directors, from Deepa Mehta to Gurinder Chadha to Dibakar Banerjee (she appears in his Kashmir drama Freedom). All this and a part in the 1970s spy thriller, Bell Bottom (2021), the first film to be shot after the lockdown, in Glasgow, Scotland, and her very own fitness and food show on Zee Zest. Qureshi is excited about the possibilities, especially in the West, where she says there’s a huge appetite for people who look different. “I’m just chasing good stories,” she says, “wherever they are. People like Priyanka Chopra and Adarsh Gourav are breaking barriers. There is much more work for us in the West.”
There’s one place where the left-liberals are still unmoved in Bollywood. The Progressive Writers’ Group (PWG) won again in the Screenwriters’ Association (SWA) executive committee elections, having done much to aid writers legally, financially and even in terms of pure credit. Veteran writer Robin Bhatt retained his position as the president of the executive committee, while Zaman Habib was elected general secretary for this term. The executive committee reads like a roster of the best and brightest in Bollywood, among them Anjum Rajabali, Saket Chaudhary, Sanyuktha Chawla Shaikh and Hussain Haidry. Formed in 1960, SWA is a trade union of around 33,000 members, a majority of whom have not moved, as yet, to the right.
Did You Know?
Madhur Bhandarkar’s forthcoming film India Lockdown is written by Amit Joshi, who anticipated the lockdown when he wrote Vikramaditya Motwane’s survival drama Trapped in 2016. India Lockdown, with four intersecting stories, follows a migrant labourer couple trying to go back home, a sex worker, a business executive and an airhostess and how their lives come to a standstill during the lockdown. Starring Prateik Babbar, Shweta Basu Prasad and Aahana Kumra, among others, the film is being edited by Bhandarkar now. Just in time for Lockdown 2.0?