(L to R) Sara Ali Khan, AP Dhillon and Raveena Tandon
One of the problems in the Hindi film industry is that most newcomers dream and think in English. Hindi, the language of their art, is a distant second. But, after three years in the industry, Sara Ali Khan says with confidence that Hindi is the first language she thinks in. Regardless of her education, which includes an undergraduate degree from Columbia University in New York, Sara, amongst all the newcomers, seems to have found her most authentic self, whether it is in the salwar-kameez she usually wears, her centre parting, or her fluent Hindi. Sara, who made her debut with Abhishek Kapoor’s Kedarnath (2018), has marketed her new film, Atrangi Re, with the ease of a marketing veteran. Whether it is the Chaka chak dance move which she has made everyone do, from Madhuri Dixit or Ranveer Singh, or her knock-knock jokes, or her instant shayari, she has carried Atrangi Re across TV, ground events and the digital space. It is divine justice, she says. Atrangi Re came to her in a very sullen year, 2020, “so, it behoves me to give it back whatever I can,” she says. She is aware that audiences are very demanding, and just as the love she got for Kedarnath evaporated when she did Love Aaj Kal 2 (2020), “where I came across as unnecessary loud and annoying,” she hopes that Atrangi Re will restore the balance. “I want my mother to be proud of me, I want the media and audiences to love me,” she says with the purpose and clarity of someone who is comfortable being ambitious and honest with herself. “You can’t manicure me,” she says, adding, “I know who I am at my core.” Indeed, a girl who can jump into a taxi from an AP Dhillon concert and equally fly a private jet with Akshay Kumar for a promotional tour, someone who can stun in a simple salwar-kameez one day and wear a Dolce & Gabbana dress another day. Atrangi Re should put Sara where she yearns to be, in people’s hearts.
Raveena Tandon is in fine form in Aranyak, a chilling series on Netflix created by Rohan Sippy. As SHO Kasturi Dogra of Sironah, she is very much our own Mare of Easttown, knowing everything about everyone in her little town. She is a pahadan (hill woman), an ace rifle shooter who hits first and asks questions later, unlike the sophisticated police officer who replaces her, played by Parambrata Chatterjee, who is English-speaking, all gloves, rulebook, and forensic examination. One minute stroppy, another minute soft, it is a role that would have never been written for women before. It’s not that Raveena didn’t seek out-of-the-box characters before. Whether it was Satta (2003), directed by Madhur Bhandarkar, or Shool (1999), directed by E Niwas, Raveena went out of her way to get good work. But in an industry that loves typecasting, she will always be seen foremost as the Tip tip barsa pani girl from Mohra (1994). Raveena describes the ’90s as an odd decade where the heroes got all the meaty parts and the women had to fight for the scraps. “We were at the mercy of the editors and journalists. Now, at least you’re on a one-to-one with the fans, and can immediately clarify issues,” she adds. Most of the stories were about which hero was dating whom, and most of the film magazine editors and journalists were women secretly in love with the heroes. And they were dismissive of the women actors whom they did not consider to be working women. And the fights were exaggerated. “Most of us remained good friends—Madhuri [Dixit], Sridevi, and Juhi [Chawla],” she adds.
Did You Know?
The great Shyam Benegal is now doing post-production on the most appropriate movie in this 50th year of the 1971 war, a biopic on Bangabandhu, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country’s founding president. Commissioned by the Bangladesh government, the film needs another stretch of shooting which was delayed by Covid-19.