Aamir Bashir is coming off a superb performance in Disney+Hotstar’s School of Lies as an abused and abusive teacher in a fictional boarding school set in Panchgani but he hasn’t chosen anything new in the past six months. Not for lack of offers. Since his role in Inside Edge on Prime Video, he has been much in demand as the “new daddy in town”, but of late, the only parts he is getting are those of a “good Muslim” among a sea of “bad Muslims” in films based on revisionist history. And on principle, now that he sees the impact of a certain kind of cinema on society, he refuses to do such roles. “Being manipulated and used even as a small pawn is not a good feeling,” he says. Bashir, a Srinagar-born, St Stephen’s educated actor, has also been waiting patiently for his much-awarded film, The Winter Within, in Kashmiri and Urdu, to be released theatrically or on streaming. It won the KB New Currents Audience Award at the Busan International Film Festival, 2022, and the audience award at the Festival of 3 Continents at Nantes, France, 2022, and tells the story of a couple torn apart by the conflict in Kashmir. This is Bashir’s second film as a director after the National Award-winning Harud in 2010. Bashir’s career as an actor got a boost with OTT, with character actors like him getting an opportunity to showcase their talent. But over the years, they’ve had to be wary of typecasting. Says Bashir: “After Armaan (2003), everyone wanted to cast me as a doctor. After A Wednesday (2008), I got offers to be a police officer. It just goes on.” Coming up for him is a change of pace. He plays a father in Karan Johar’s Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani, and praises the director for his “emotional intelligence”. “To see him in tears behind the monitor after a scene you’ve done is an experience. He is almost childlike,” he says. For Bashir, this is poetic justice. He was kept waiting for a US visa when he was cast as Shah Rukh Khan’s brother in My Name is Khan (2010) and lost the role to Jimmy Shergill. The character of Samuel Singh in School of Lies was unexpected in its complexity and tackled the idea of masculinity formed by bullying and ragging in an all-boys school. Says Bashir: “When we were children, we were just left in a dark hole, especially those who suffered learning difficulties, instead of being protected and nurtured. It’s an important story for parents who live in denial.”
Not everyone has the good fortune of being from the family of the filmmaker who made the only movie Mahatma Gandhi ever watched, Ram Rajya (1943), starring Prem Adib and Shobhana Samarth, who successfully played Lord Rama and Sita in other films as well. But Krishna Bhatt, the great granddaughter of Vijay Bhatt, who directed Ram Rajya, is fortunate in that sense. The 28-year-old daughter of Vikram Bhatt, horror meister, is making her debut as feature film director with the upcoming 1920: Horrors of the Heart and knows she will be compared to her father. But she has been in his office and on his sets since she was 12, and has learnt everything by doing. “From giving the clap to handling the costumes, I’ve assisted my father in every department,” she says. And she is thoroughly ready to show her work to the world. She is grateful for Mahesh Bhatt’s help. The writer-director mentored her father and has done so for her as well. “He asked me to search deep within myself and confront my demons,” she says. She did. She knows audience tastes have changed and that films now get written off within the first couple of hours on the Friday of release. But she wants nothing more than to be a storyteller.
Scene and Heard
Kevin Barry’s Night Boat to Tangier, one of the New York Times’ Top 10 Books of the Year, is being made into a film starring Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson and Ruth Negga. It is to be backed by Ashok Amritraj’s Hyde Park studio. Barry is adapting the screenplay, and it is to be directed by James Marsh. The film will be set in Spain and Ireland. Amritraj was one of the earliest Indians to make it big in Hollywood, and he has expanded his range to prestige movies such as Shopgirl (2005) and 99 Homes (2014). One of his projects is a film based on Suketu Mehta’s novel Maximum City, to be directed by Anurag Kashyap, and another has Zoya Akhtar directing the series Paradise Towers. The last time he made a film in India, it was the ambitious but unsuccessful Jeans (1998), starring Aishwarya Rai and Prashanth.