Bareilly Ki Barfi director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari was working on two scripts before she zeroed in on Panga. One was the official remake of a foreign film about a deaf-mute protagonist, which Alia Bhatt was committed to star in. The other was the hockey film that became her current project, the Kangana Ranaut-starrer Panga. This one materialised first because Kangana gave her dates as soon as she wrapped Manikarnika (2019); with Alia the wait was going to be longer.
As Ashwiny puts the finishing touches on Panga, which is scheduled to release in February, there is no talk of the Alia film any more. Some catty Bollywood insiders are pointing to Kangana and her open contempt for Alia as the trigger that may have influenced the director to change her mind about pursuing that project. But Ashwiny has rubbished the conspiracy theories, telling those who have brought it up with her that Kangana has no role to play in it at all. Ashwiny won’t speak about her interest (or not) in making the other film, but sources close to her reveal that she got tired of waiting for Alia to prioritise the project in between her numerous other commitments to Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Karan Johar, SS Rajamouli and father Mahesh Bhatt whose remake of Sadak Alia’s starring in.
The Other Cheek
Mulk and Article 15 director Anubhav Sinha was so angry with the politics of Kabir Singh (2019) that he went and made the antithesis of that film. No, that statement is only partially correct. It is true that the misogynistic vibe of that Shahid Kapoor blockbuster made Anubhav seethe with righteous rage, particularly the scene in which the film’s titular hero slaps the heroine in a fit of anger; an action that was subsequently justified by both the film’s director Sandeep Vanga Reddy and his leading man. It’s also true that Anubhav has just completed a film titled Thappad (Slap), which, as it turns out, is about a young woman (played by Taapsee Pannu) who walks out of a marriage when her (until then perfectly normal and loving) husband slaps her in a moment of anger.
But although Thappad was deep in pre-production when Kabir Singh released, Anubhav thinks it is fortuitous that his film will release while the debate over Reddy’s film is far from over. Filmmaker friends of Anubhav who were invited to watch the film after he’d locked the edit recently say it’s a powerful drama that makes an important point. One of them explains the film’s central premise: “In raising his hand on his wife, her husband acted completely out of character, and she’s aware of that. But she can’t wrap her head around what made him think it was ok—even in a heated moment—to hit her.”
Anubhav has reportedly told friends he couldn’t care less if it appears that his film is a response to Kabir Singh. He knows that may well become the narrative in the press when his trailer drops, and he’s ok with it. In some ways, it would have been his exact response if he was asked to weigh in on the polarising debate over that film. The filmmaker who once made bargain basement action thrillers like Dus (2005) and Cash (2007) appears to have found his voice—both literally and cinematically.
Rumour goes that the director-producer of a recent film had a clause included in his contract with the leading man of his film that the filmmaker had the right to forfeit a percentage of the actor’s fee if he didn’t hit an agreed upon body weight before shooting on the project commenced.
It’s a fairly standard practice in Hollywood, but here in Bollywood, which is still mostly a ‘relationship driven’ industry simply because of its comparatively intimate size, such clauses can be awkward. According to the grapevine, the filmmaker did in fact enforce the clause when it was clear that the actor had not reached the agreed weight. It reportedly became a cause of great friction between the two, but both put up a professional front and fake-smiled their way while promoting the film together.