(L to R) Sarita Choudhury, Mozez Singh and Ananya Panday
One of the most interesting coincidences of making Disney+Hotstar’s new thriller Human, based on illegal clinical drug trials, is that the co-creator to whom the story was suggested comes from the family that owned Ranbaxy Laboratories. Mozez Singh, who directed some episodes as well, sharing credit with co-creator Vipul Amrutlal Shah, is no stranger to the world of pharmaceuticals and drug trials. Grandson of the founder of the now defunct Ranbaxy Laboratories, Bhai Mohan Singh, Mozez was always questioned about his choice of films as a career as opposed to the pharma business. “I gave up a lot of privilege to stand at the back of the queue and make cinema the way I wanted to,” he says. With Human, a twisted drama about drug trials based on reality with Madhya Pradesh as its epicentre, he has finally arrived. It took time, with his movie Zubaan (2015) being discovered slowly on streaming after a not-so-successful theatrical run. Given that his cousins are in Tihar Jail for breach of trust, and Mozez is soon going to start helming a movie for Netflix, perhaps cinema was a better career bet than the pharma business. The real horror though is that unethical drug trials continue to be a reality, especially in Bhopal whose residents, especially those around the Union Carbide factory where the gas leak took place in 1984, are still dealing with the effects of toxicity in mottled skin and blind eyes.
Does the chicken come first or the egg? Marathi filmmaker Nagraj Manjule, the man behind one of its greatest hits, Sairat (2016), believes good cinema will produce stars, and not the other way round. For long an advocate of songless movies, he now thinks he was too rigid. If people come for the songs, they will also imbibe the message. In his latest short film, Vaikunth, part of the new Amazon Prime Video anthology Unpaused: Naya Safar, he is committed to the invisible individual and the marginal story. In Vaikunth, he plays the lead as well, of a worker who lights funeral pyres, who was suddenly elevated to warrior status during Covid-19 but was still kept at a distance from polite society. But as he shows in the film, which he also wrote, whether one is a Gaikwad or Kulkarni, Hindu or Muslim, death levels us all.
For every trio looking to become a foursome, an Indian actor seems to be a must now in American television and streaming shows. So, even as Mindy Kaling’s The Sex Lives of College Girls on HBO Max cast Amrit Kaur as a nerdy, sex-obsessed comedy wannabe, And Just Like That (HBO Max) seems to have filled Samantha’s Manolos with the flamboyant real estate agent Seema Patel, played by Sarita Choudhury (though not without some controversy about stereotypes of arranged marriages and Diwali dates). Disney+Hotstar’s How I Met Your Father, the spiritual successor to How I Met Your Mother (2005), has Suraj Sharma from Life of Pi (2012) as a potential love interest for Hilary Duff. And Kaling’s other hit series, Never Have I Ever on Netflix, has a third boy, Anirudh Pisharody, surely to confuse young Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) even more. Can lead parts be far behind? Ramakrishnan is already playing Elizabeth Bennet in a modern-day adaptation of Pride and Prejudice in Netflix’s The Netherfield Girls. She’s Tamilian, but of Sri Lankan origin, via Canada.
Scene and Heard
Shakun Batra’s forthcoming Gehraiyaan on Amazon Prime Video had an intimacy coordinator on set to get the four main actors to be emotionally and physically comfortable with each other. Dar Gai, co-founder of Jugaad Pictures, who has directed artistic videos for songs such as Prateek Kuhad’s ‘cold/mess’, helped the actors Deepika Padukone, Siddhant Chaturvedi, Ananya Panday and Dhairya Karwa shed their inhibitions in what is being touted as a unique relationship drama, but seems to have shades of Showtime’s The Affair (especially the watery theme) where everyone has a new-age name like Tia, Alisha and Zain. Gai’s workshops and doing yoga every day, having meals together and winding down at night made the four leads friends for life. As Bollywood sinks deeper and deeper into introspection, expect action coordinators and dance choreographers to make their way to the south, which seems to have rediscovered a passion for making mixed masala movies.