Rana Daggubati, 38, has been the informal bridge between the Hindi and Telugu film industries long before it became fashionable. He played a musician in Rohan Sippy’s Goa thriller Dum Maaro Dum (2011), and then brought Baahubali (2015) and Ghazi (2017) to Mumbai, both Telugu movies dubbed in Hindi. So, it is no surprise that he is powering his way into the Hindi web series space, along with his superstar uncle Venkatesh. For both, it is an opportunity to play against type. Says Daggubati: “While I was playing a politician in Telugu, I was a musician in the north. Cinema has always been my life.” For his uncle, Venkatesh, who usually plays good guys in Telugu movies, this was an opportunity to cut loose. And how! Venkatesh gets to utter some of the most shocking dialogues of his life—a far cry from his roles in a few Hindi films he did in the past— but says he was emboldened to do so after Covid. Venkatesh describes the forthcoming web series for Netflix, Rana Naidu, as one that focuses on the grey in life. Based on the Showtime drama Ray Donovan, it features a Bollywood fixer who is called in to keep star images intact and details his volatile relationship with his father, who is as violent as he is lively. “This is the kind of grey character I have never covered in my career,” says Venkatesh. Dagubbati says the pan-India market brings Telugu filmmakers and actors the scale they have not seen before. “Otherwise, we are comfortable where we are, not dying to come to Mumbai and work here,” he says. But dubbed movies are bringing the country together. It’s a good thing that at 62, Venkatesh seems ageless. What keeps him going? “I don’t overthink anything. Every day is a bonus,” he says.
Zeenat, in Her Own Words
Very few women in their seventies can still make grown men weak in their knees, whether it is a musician or a minister. Zeenat Aman is one of them. For so many decades, since she first burst into popular consciousness playing a drug addict in Haré Rama Haré Krishna in 1971, she has been filmed, photographed, and written about by others. Whether it was her work or her love life, ‘Zeenie Baby’, as the film magazines dubbed her, was always in the news. Until she wasn’t. Her marriage to actor-director Mazhar Khan and his subsequent illness saw her vanish from the silver screen only to return occasionally on screen and on stage. So it is wonderful to see the actor tell her own story through a series of Instagram posts since she made her social media debut as @TheZeenatAman on February 11. She says she was prompted to do so by her sons, and one of them, Zahaan Khan, a musician who goes by the Instagram handle @zanuski, gets mentioned there occasionally. But mostly it is one of the most authentic sources of recent film history. Not only does it feature vignettes from interviews, including one from the sets of Qurbani (1980) but, for instance, it also gives details about her mother, her constant inspiration through her career. Often known in film magazines only as Mamma Heinz, Aman reveals her full name, Vardhini Scharwachter. Scharwachter was married to Amanullah Khan (which is where Aman comes from) who wrote Mughal-e-Azam (1960) and Pakeezah (1972). Aman talks about the continuing pay disparity and the rising number of women behind and in front of the camera. Most poignantly, she talks about enjoying the opportunity to reflect on “my life and my career in my own words”, without pressure from managers, studios or brands. “The truth is,” she writes, “I have been in the public eye since I was 16 years old, and have experienced the perils of being misquoted, taken out of context, censored and gossiped about.” Not any more.
Scene and Heard
Mira Nair has always been influenced by Amrita Sher-Gil’s work and life. After she premieres Monsoon Wedding: The Musical with 21 songs at Broadway later this year, she will finally get to make the movie based on the Indo-Hungarian artist who died young. Nair starts shooting her film based on Sher-Gil’s life in September and is gathering her cast. This includes Vicky Kaushal, Jim Sarbh and Naseeruddin Shah, who was the quiet soul of Monsoon Wedding.
Anxiety to Stay Relevant Amit Khanna
Return to Greatness Zakia Soman
‘This Is Not Fusion’ Akhil Sood