(From L to R) Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Mohan Kapur and Priyanka Chopra
“Back then, there was no Pakistan or Bangladesh. It was all one big country, India.” When Yusuf Khan, played by Mohan Kapur, says this in the lovely new Disney+Hotstar series Ms Marvel, he is speaking for the whole subcontinent, as it was, emotionally, if not geographically. As Kamala Khan’s dad in Ms Marvel, Kapur has had a late career resurgence that is the envy of many younger actors, his fame mirroring and exceeding, in many ways, that as the host of the game show Saanp Seedi, when Zee TV was launched as India’s first private entertainment channel in 1992. Thirty years later, the 56-year-old is known as Yusuf Khan, everyone’s favourite dad in the sweetest, funniest and kindest Muslim family seen onscreen. As Yusuf Khan, Kapur has danced at a wedding sangeet, which he has never done in Bollywood; he’s celebrated Eid with joy and colour; and he’s even donned a homemade The Incredible Hulk costume to entertain his beloved daughter. Oddly enough, Kapur is not a dad in real life, and doesn’t remember his own dad who died when he was nine months old. “Yusuf is a storyteller,” says Kapur, South Mumbai-born and bred, who began in advertising in Lintas. “He loves his children. He’s more forgiving of his daughter and a little sarcastic towards his son, and tells him he needs to stop praying to put some food in his mouth,” he says. Every Muslim is not a fanatic, he says, adding that the six-episode series shows what families look like, sitting around the dining table, talking about life, relatives, food. Kapur believes with Ms Marvel, Disney is walking the diversity talk like no one before. The creator is Pakistani-American, the writer is British-Pakistani; the directors are a Pakistani, an Indian from New Jersey and two Belgians from Morroco; the music is mostly Bollywood, with the occasional Nazia and Zoheb Hassan song; and Farhan Akhtar and Fawad Khan make appearances as swashbuckling heroes from the past. Kapur, who auditioned for the role during Covid-19, started shooting in Atlanta in November 2020 and completed his schedule by end of February 2021. Will this open doors for the actor globally? You better believe it.
Something about Samantha
The list of Ormax Stars India Loves (May 2022) shows that female actors from south Indian film industries have stolen a march on their counterparts in the north. The top 10 stars India loves is headed by Samantha Ruth Prabhu and has six other female actors who work predominantly in the south. Alia Bhatt at No 2, Deepika Padukone at No 4 and Katrina Kaif at No 7 are the only female actors who work predominantly in Hindi movies. And this is when south Indian movies tend to objectify women a tad more than their Hindi film equivalents—notwithstanding Sai Pallavi’s performances which tend to overshadow the conventional hero, whether it is Love Story (2021) with Naga Chaitanya or Virata Parvam (2022) with Rana Daggubati. Keerthy Suresh, for instance, who is at No 6 in the list, poured her heart and soul into the role of a heartless wench only interested in Mahesh Babu’s money in the extremely odd Sarkaru Vaari Paata. Ormax is one of the few credible research agencies in the Indian entertainment industry that collect data from moviegoing audiences across cities. Samantha Ruth Prabhu’s movie choices, whether it is the ‘O Antava’ song in Pushpa: The Rise (2021) or her easy, breezy double billing with Nayanthara in Kaathuvaakula Rendu Kaadhal (2022), have kept her in the news, after her groundbreaking performance as Raji in Season 2 of The Family Man on Amazon Prime Video. Add to that her conversational skills, either with Sadhguru or with Bollywood’s spiritual guru Karan Johar on Koffee with Karan, manage to keep her in the headlines. Up next is Shaakuntalam, a movie with Vijay Deverakonda, her cameo compatriot in Suresh’s Mahanati; Yashoda with Varalaxmi Sarathkumar; and from all accounts, there is something brewing with Raj and DK again in a love story co-starring Varun Dhawan.
Scene and Heard
Priyanka Chopra has made a name for herself globally in the notoriously difficult Hollywood; is one half of a Los Angeles power couple; has a super cool New York restaurant, Sona; owns Anomaly, a haircare brand; and a production house, Purple Pebble Pictures. And now, with Sona Home, she’s created a luxury homeware brand that everyone would love to own.