After the commercial success of The Kashmir Files in 2022, everyone in the Mumbai film industry decided that untold true stories were the future. One of those is Sudipto Sen’s The Kerala Story, based on reports of Hindu women from Kerala who were allegedly converted and became ISIS slaves. It’s based on a documentary on the same subject made by Sudipto Sen, In the Name of Love! Sen says he has spent the last seven years researching this subject deeply and has taken the same assertive, even aggressive, approach that Vivek Agnihotri adopted while making and releasing The Kashmir Files in 2022.
Sen has a powerful producer backing him, Vipul Amrutlal Shah, who is known for his work in Gujarati theatre, movies such as Waqt: The Race Against Time (2005) and Namastey London (2007), and most recently the web series Human on Disney+Hotstar in 2022, based on illegal clinical trials. Shah says The Kerala Story has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with humanity. As for offending those who don’t believe in the narrative of love jihad, he says this is the kind of movie where people have to decide which side they are on. Sen believes it is a complex issue because of the laws on trafficking for those over 18. Is Shah afraid of the politics of the film? “When this story came to me, I was shaken. There was no other consideration except that it is a human tragedy of lives lost and ruined. That said, what area of life in India doesn’t have politics?” he asks. Predictably, they had no trouble with the Central Board of Film Certification. Expect many more of these provocative stories, from Kangana Ranaut’s Emergency, which deals with the darkest period of Indira Gandhi’s political career, as well as biopics on Atal Bihari Vajpayee and VD Savarkar.
Films and Farming
Yami Gautam Dhar may have had back-to-back successes on OTT with A Thursday (Disney+Hotstar), Dasvi (Netflix), Lost (Zee5) and Chor Nikal ke Bhaga (Netflix), but it’s not the only arrow in her quiver. The actor retreats to her farm outside Mandi whenever she can and is growing turmeric, ginger and peas organically. She has four cows, two of which she has named herself, and is looking forward to rearing their calves. The farm will soon be marketing its products, whether it is hand-pounded haldi or pure ghee. It is her gift to her mother, who spent much of her youth looking after Gautam and her two siblings. Gautam has been doing what Bollywood likes to call woman-oriented cinema which is code for movies where the woman is a bigger star than the man. Gautam likes to describe it the way the rest of the world does: that her equity is not dependent on who she is paired with, which is the traditional path of success for women in the industry. She says she is clear about what she wants out of life. “Do I want to be chased, mobbed and trend all the time? Or do I want my work to speak for itself?” she asks. It is most likely the latter with two movies expected to release soon: Dhoom Dhaam, a caper comedy with Pratik Gandhi, and Oh My God 2, with Akshay Kumar and Pankaj Tripathi.
Scene and Heard
In Bollywood, we are, well and truly, in the age of celebrititis and it is a disease of epic proportions. Children of superstars get to endorse beauty brands before they get movies, launch luxury streetwear brands (an oxymoron if ever there was one) before they produce something, and appear in advertisements for banks with their famous significant others without any independent achievement. It leads to the craft of filmmaking being diminished and unearned fame being elevated. There are other consequences. Superstars can get away by insulting the awards they host, as Salman Khan did recently by describing one award as a family doorstopper, while others such as Shah Rukh Khan can cut themselves off from the media by talking only to co-stars at celebratory press conferences where the media is not allowed to ask questions. Who wore what and how, whether at the opening of the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre or at New York’s Met Gala, becomes much more important than the cause or, indeed, cinema. What matters is the material success— the price at which Alia Bhatt bought her new office and Ranveer Singh purchased his new home.
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