INTERVIEWS

Husain saab wanted to be in love always - reveals good friend Ila Pal


“Kitnaa hai badnaseeb Zafar dafan ke liye Do gaz zamiin bhii naa milii kue-yaar mein...”
(How unfortunate is Zafar... he was not granted even two yards for his burial in the land of his beloved)

During the last years of his life, legendary painter Maqbool Fida Husain may have identified with the pathos of these lines, written by Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal emperor to rule India. After the revolt of 1857, the poet king wrote this verse, while exiled in Burma. In 2005, India’s most celebrated artist chose self-exile, when court cases and protests against him from extremist groups questioned the manner in which he painted Hindu goddesses.


He chose to live in Dubai and finally died in frosty London away from the warmth of his beloved country. For Husain, who once wrote about his feet, “Yeh bahut chalein hai, bahut daude hain, magar kabhi bhaage nahin (they walked a lot, ran as much, but never fled),” there couldn’t have been a greater irony. And it was this ‘feeling of grave injustice’ meted out to her mentor and close friend by her countrymen, which inspired well-known painter/writer Ila Pal to pen Husain: Portrait Of An Artist.



Sufi Soul

Having shared a relationship with Husain that spanned five decades, Ila deeply understood his sense and sensibilities. “The nudity in his paintings of goddesses was not about nakedness; it was about innocence and purity. We didn’t do justice to an artist of his calibre,” she laments. Ila insists that Husain was a Sufi soul. “He was as much a Hindu as a Muslim. He never differentiated between faiths. Before beginning a painting, he’d draw a Ganesh,” she says adding, “Painting was like ibadat (prayer) for him!” She reveals in the book that Husain’s reverence for the Ramayana could be traced back to his childhood. “He had a Hindu friend. He’d sit with him in temples and listen to the Ramayana. Even as an adult, he listened to the Ramayana of both Tulsidas and Valmiki,” she says. Ila recalls an incident where Puri Shankaracharya visited Husain’s exhibition in Hyderabad, inspired by the Ramayana in the ’70s. “Puriji remarked, ‘Husain, all your samskaras (rites) are Hindu!’” says Ila. “Husain saab listened to the Ramayana before painting it. Who has cared to do this? You accuse such a person of painting nudes for commercial purposes?” she asks.



My guru, My friend

A young Ila, first saw Husain in the doorway of the Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai in 1955. While the rain lashed its wrath outside, Husain vented his creative fury onto the canvas. “Oblivious of me, he continued painting for an hour,” she recalls. Six years later, in 1961, she met the celebrity painter at his studio at Bhulabhai Desai Institute. She recalls him as ‘the tall wiry man, with a salt-and-pepper-beard’. It was the beginning of a journey together, between a student and a master, which evolved to a close friendship. Ila has written five books out of which two are on the iconic painter. The two books that Pal wrote on Husain are separated by 23 years. When he was almost 80, Ila wrote the first book Beyond The Canvas: An Unfinished Portrait of M.F. Husain. The second book has her observations of him and also the conversations they shared. “He was my muse. He shaped my life, my attitude. I’ve not seen anyone paint like him, live like him,” she says. “I’d try to get close to his mastery. If I saw him getting up at 5am and beginning to paint, I’d want to match that. Only to find him getting up at 3am the next day. He considered himself a student all through his life,” she says.



She recalls the time when as a 23-year-old, she accompanied a 46-year-old Husain on a month-long sketching trip to Rajasthan. “We hired a car and would go sketching together. Suddenly, one day, he threw his sketch book in the car and walked away. I feared that disappointed with my drawing, he had walked away in disgust. He returned after a long time. I asked him, ‘What happened?’ He said, ‘Look at your sketch! So much freshness. Look at mine, fatichar!’ Which artist of his stature would talk like that? Imagine the humility and graciousness!” she remarks. Moreover, Husain dismissed the term ‘guru’. “Every new painting is an assertion of one’s individuality, of one’s breaking away from the past and from the masters,” he once told Ila. “The boldness, the radical thought that you see in my paintings is from Husain saab,” she maintains.

She credits her late husband, Devain Pal, for allowing her to bloom under Husain’s influence. “I travelled with Husain saab for months. It’s not that my husband and I didn’t have fights over this. But it never reached a point where it got out of hand. Also, Devain realised that Husain saab was fascinated with me as an artist, not as a person. Even my children – Anuradha (Pal) and Ashish (Pal) loved him,” she says. She confides that anyone would want to be considered as his close friend. “But to assume that I was his only friend would be a folly,” she says. “Yet, I could criticise him openly. He shared his life, his loves, his thoughts with me. I missed him and would be angry when he ran off as he often did. And I showed it. But he dismissed such things,” she smiles.


FIDA OVER FILMS

Another thing Husain was crazy about, apart from painting, was cinema. In fact, he began his career by painting film hoardings. Early in his career he made the 15-minute film Through The Eyes Of A Painter (fetched the 1st prize, in The Golden Bear Film Festival in Berlin, 1967). And like most of his generation he was fascinated by Meena Kumari. “Once we went to watch Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962). So mesmerised were we by Meena Kumari that we bought the tickets for the next show and then the next... deewanon ki tarah!” recalls Ila. She recollects an incident when Husain happened to meet Meena Kumari, while she was recuperating in hospital. As also mentioned in her book, Ila says, “Her eyes subtly shaded with kohl, her long hair loose... she (Meena Kumari) looked beautiful. She offered him paan from her silver paandaan. Husain saab was left speechless.” Later, when Ila asked him why he seemed flabbergasted, he replied, “Kambakht ne is andaz se meri taraf dekha, meri toh zaban hi kat gayi.”


Through the years Husain had many favourites from Mumtaz, Smita Patil, Sridevi... “Being an artist, the body beautiful mattered to him. He liked well-endowed and curvaceous women. That was his idea of beauty. Like all men, he liked sexy women. Yet, he was understated about everything, which was beautiful. Even in his poetry, nothing is obvious,” says Ila. On a lighter note she adds, “He was someone who always wanted to be in love. Once he came home looking off colour. I remarked, ‘Ukhde ukhde lag rahe ho!’ He replied, ‘Mazaa hi nahin aaraha hai.” I said, “Bardasht karlo! You will find someone’,” she laughs.

However, she insists that nothing could supersede his obsession for Madhuri Dixit. “The first time he had walked out of Hum Aapke Hain Koun...! (1994) within 20 minutes. But when he watched it for the second time, he was entranced by Madhuri’s movements in Didi tera devar deewana – when she takes a few steps with her back to the camera. In her he found the tribhangi (the three bends in the female form), which Indian sculptures glorify,” says Ila.

Soon after, one morning Husain came to Ila’s house with the script of Gaja Gamini (2000). “I didn’t like it. His nostrils began to flare. He was sarcastic and said, ‘You only like sentimental stuff!’” narrates Ila. The next morning, he came with
a revised version. “I said, ‘It’s beautiful!’ He was embarrassed and changed the topic saying, ‘What are you giving me for breakfast?’ And went on to have his usual fried eggs,” smiles Ila.


She maintains that the actress tackled his obsession with dignity. “Everyone enjoys the attention of a famous person. There are no two ways about it. It was flattering all the way for her. And being a showman, he understood the value of being in the spotlight with her. But his nonsensical exposure lowered him in eyes of people. Somehow, it was annoying. I told him so. But he didn’t care,” she remarks. As an afterthought she adds, “Thankfully, his obsession, ended after her marriage.”



After Gaja Gamini, a cinematic essay on Indian womanhood, Husain went on to make Meenaxi:

A Tale of Three Cities in 2004, starring Tabu and Kunal Kapoor. It centred on an unconventional muse and was shot in Hyderabad, Jaisalmer and Prague. “I thought well of his films. People didn’t understand them though. They were like a series of beautiful paintings,” says Ila.
Courting controversiesFrom the ’90s onwards, Husain put Indian art on the global platform – brandishing his brush and brand with flamboyance. But, someone who was known to enjoy the sunrise in one continent and sunset in the other, he was grounded by controversies and court cases. Dejected, he left India in 2005. He lived in Dubai for most of the time. Ila’s last meeting with him was in 2010. Husain passed away on June 9, 2011 at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London. “I couldn’t believe he had passed away. I was shocked. He always gave you the feeling that he would live forever,” she says. Husain had once mentioned to Ila that when in London, he’d mingle with the Indian taxi drivers there. “He missed India terribly. He’d say, ‘I talk to them to get a feel of India. No one can take India away from me!’ He may have said that in jest. But what does that mean? The poignancy can’t be missed,” she points out. “He felt sad when his artist friends didn’t understand his work. Rivalry never bothered him. Lack of understanding did. This book is a tribute to him but with a lot of angst. We took away from ourselves an artist of such stature. His death has left me with a lot of anger for the way Indians treated him. They just let him die… It was horrible,” she sighs.

But someone whose paintings leap back and forth in time to convey eternal truths, Husain will live on in the colours and contours he has left behind. Let History Cut Across Me Without Me, a book he created of his paintings, could well be his challenge to the world that abandoned him.

ABOUT M F HUSAIN

·      Maqbool Fida Husain was born on September 17, 1915 in Pandharpur, Maharashtra to Zunaib and Fida Husain, who hailed from a Bohra family. He lost his mother when he was a very young child.

·      He moved to Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1935 with the dream of becoming an artist. His initial years were difficult. He managed to get a job of painting billboards and posters for Bollywood movies. During this time, he also worked for a toy company designing and building toys.

·      He held his first serious exhibition in 1947 at the Bombay Art Society. India gained independence in August the same year, and the partition of India and Pakistan had a profound impact on his career.

·      During that time, a group of young artists, including Husain, wanted to encourage the development of Indian avant-garde art and popularise Indian art on the international scenario. The political chaos and violence following the independence of India proved to the catalyst that led to the forming The Progressive Artist's Group in Bombay in December, 1947.

·      Some of the major themes he painted on were related to prominent personalities like mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi. He drew inspiration from Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Paintings of Indian urban and rural life were also recurring motifs.

·      During the early 1950s he went to Europe for the first time and did a barefoot grand tour. He also held his first solo exhibition in Zurich. While in Europe he met other famous painters such as Picasso, Matisse and Paul Klee. He ventured into filmmaking and made his first film, Through the Eyes of a Painter, in 1967, which was shown at the Berlin International Film Festival.

·      Some of the major works he painted are Vishwamitra (1973) and Passage Through Human Space, a series of 45 watercolors, which he completed in the mid-1970s.

·      In 2006, he was charged with ‘hurting sentiments of people’ because of his nude portraits of Hindu deities. He left India and went on a self-imposed exile.

·      After leaving India, he spent his later years mainly in London and in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He had a strong desire to return to India but could not do so. He was offered citizenship by Qatar in 2010 which he accepted.

·      He died on 9 June 2011, in London, England. He was 95.

Dev saab said romance doesnt mean going to bed with a woman.- friend Mohan Churiwala on Dev Anand


The late Dev Anand eulogised youth. And this fascination began right from his days in Government College, Lahore where he often recited Hafeez Jalandari’s poem Abhi To Main Jawaan Hoon. In fact, Sahir Ludhinavi’s classic romantic number Abhi najaochoddhkar in Dev Anand’s Hum Dono (1961) was based on the same metre as Jalandari’s elegy. It was this undying zest for life that attracted young Mohan Churiwala to Dev Anand. “Ours was an association of 15 years,” says the fan and associate with a faraway look.

Today, six years after Dev Anand passed away, nothing can seal the vacuum in Mohan’s life. A successful share-market professional, the empty spaces are filled by recollections of his hero. He points to the huge photograph of Dev Anand in his bedroom saying, “Yahan roz matha tekkarjaata hoon!” A cushion with Dev Anand’s face on it holds the pride of place in his bedroom. Few days before Dev Anand passed away, Mohan had ordered the star’s favourite cologne 4711 for him. Sadly, he never wore it. “But I’ve kept it near my mandir,” says Mohan. “I’ve preserved his hat, his jacket, his mobile, his pen… in fact I even bought over his old car, a Ford Ikon 524. It’s a scrapped model but it’s a keepsake for me,” he smiles. “When I received the delivery of my new Mercedes, I first kept Dev saab’s hat in the glove box,” he reveals adding, “Every car of mine has his book Romancing With Life.” While Mohan has more memories of the legend than he can share in a lifetime, he shares a handful with Filmfare…


Evergreen memories


Fan-turned-friend

As a youngster, I used to read Dev saab’s interviews and was inspired by his optimism. But the inspiration reached a new level after
I happened to watch Kala Bazar (1960), in which Dev saab plays a black-marketer. He realises the importance of education when he’s besotted by Waheeda Rehman and wants to impress her. He regrets not having studied. He starts studying to dismiss his ‘dil aurdimaag ka andhera’. This enthused me to complete my education.

Later, whenever I commuted in the B.E.S.T bus that passed through Khira Nagar (Santacruz) where Dev saab’s office was, I’d strain my neck hoping to catch a glimpse of him. By the mid ’80s, I was doing well in the stock market. But my fascination for Dev saab continued. One day, I dialled his number. Dev saab picked up the phone. I said I wanted to meet him. He said, “I’m busy, call me next week.” This continued for a long time. Till one day he asked me to come over. Then on it became my daily routine to meet him. After finishing with the stock exchange at 3.30 pm, I’d reach Dev saab’s office by 5 pm. He’d wait for me like a child. I’d help him in his work, conduct recce for him, send out his mails… Through time, he realised I had no vested interest. I didn’t want to invest his money in stocks, I didn’t want to act… In fact, for years, I’d fast every Tuesday for his success. The turning point came when Peter Mukherjee’s 9x channel was to be launched. Dev saab trusted my business acumen. He sent me to Peter to sell the rights of Navketan Films. Peter tried to bribe me suggesting I keep a certain amount for myself and quote a lower amount to Dev saab. Feeling insulted, I got up to leave. Peter then agreed to the higher amount that I was asking for Dev saab. When I went back, Dev saab hugged me teary-eyed. He realised I was his well-wisher. That I could give my life for him. We grew closer.


Evergreen memories



Generosity of spirit


Dev saab’s positive attitude is well-known. When his films failed, he’d say, ‘Chalo koi baatnahin, next time we’ll do better!’ Once at a press conference, a journalist asked, “After so many flops, aren’t you craving for a hit?” His retort was, “Someone like you is interviewing me. That means I’m successful. You wouldn’t have interviewed a flop actor. Would you?”

He never cribbed about money. When I’d go to give his balance payments, he’d tell me, ‘don’t bargain, give the full amount’. He was a good paymaster. From the clapper boy... to the top man he paid everyone on time. He had huge FDs. He earned from the video, music and the satellite rights of his films... Anand Studio did well. I never saw him sell anything or borrow money.He had a unique take on love and women as well. He’d say, “Romance does not mean going to bed with a woman. Romance also lies in conversation. You can sense the beauty of an orgasm even in a conversation.” He respected women deeply.

Evergreen memories



Evergreen memories


An affair to remember

Dev saab looked back at his relationship with the late Suraiyaji with respect. When asked about her he’d say, “I’m not ashamed of anything. I liked her at one point, call it calf love or whatever. And I did not model myself after Gregory Peck for her. I superseded Gregory Peck long ago. Has he made films? What talent has he introduced? I’ve gone beyond him. Yes, I admired him but I never copied him.” During his romance with Suraiyaji, Dev saab had bought her a diamond ring. Infuriated, her Nani (grandmother) threw it in the sea. But Suraiyaji’s mother asked Dev saab to come on their terrace at 10 pm and meet her daughter one last time. Raj Khoslaji and Guru Duttji asked him not to go alone fearing trouble. He took an inspector friend along. With two torches and a loaded gun, the inspector sat on the parapet opposite. He asked Dev saab to flash his torch if he sensed trouble. When Dev saab met Suraiyaji, she cried bitterly. Dev saab returned heartbroken too.

Evergreen memories



Evergreen memories



Evergreen memories



Evergreen memories


Even years later, whenever we passed her house, Krishna Mahal at Marine Drive, he’d recall, “I’d take a train and walk down the road to meet her during my struggling days.” Years later, Suraiyyaji attended the 25th anniversary party of Navketan. Dev saab didn’t visit her when she was ill to avoid the press. He wanted to maintain the sanctity of the relationship and not malign an ailing woman. He didn’t attend her funeral for the same reason. When she died, he shed a few tears quietly.

filmfare



Evergreen memories


Friends & rivals


The Censor Board had opposed the scene where Waheeda Rehman’s husband Marco fondles the feet of a woman in Guide (1965). Vijay Anand (Goldie) believed that it was essential to justify Waheedaji’s moving towards Dev saab in the film. A special screening was kept for Indira Gandhi, who was then the Information and Broadcasting Minister. She gave it a nod and the film was passed. After the premiere of Guide, industry’s bigwigs, who watched it left with a blank face. A few nights later, Raj Kapoor called up and asked for the reels of Guide. Goldie was woken up from his sleep and sent across to deliver. Rajji called Dev saab the next morning and said, “Kya picture banaiyee hai! Tere Bhai ko bol mere liye yeh picture banaye!” Rajji, Dev saaband Dilip Kumar were good friends despite being rivals. Rajji had offered Sangam to Dev saab. “If you don’t direct it, I’ll act,” Dev saab laid the precondition. Even Dilip saab said the same when he was offered Sangam. Dev saab wanted Dilip saab to release his book – Romancing With Life. But he was unwell so the then PM, Manmohan Singh, released it. Also, Manmohanji and Dev saab share the same birthdate. The memoir talks about his association with Zeenat Aman. Maybe, Dev saab had developed an attachment with her. One evening he asked her out for a candle-night dinner. Zeenatji said they’d first make a flash visit at a party. At the party, Zeenat touched Rajji’s feet. While doing so, she turned around and looked at Dev saab, a little guilt evident in her eyes. Rajji asked Zeenatji, “Why didn’t you wear white as promised?” Dev saab heard all this and was heartbroken. He was about to leave the party when Rajji clasped his hand tightly and said, “No Dev, you’re not leaving!” Zeenatji also said, “But we were supposed to go out.” To which Dev saab said, “Some other time. You enjoy the party now!” Few days later she was signed for Satyam Shivam Sundaram.

Evergreen memories



Evergreen memories



Evergreen memories


Friends forever

Dev saab’s fans were varied… from commoners to the elite. His greatest fan was Nawaz Sharif. When Dev saab visited London, he’d too fly down to meet him there. They’d enjoy having hot chocolate at Harrods. In jest, Nawaz saab would urge him to talk in Punjabi. “Tusi Punjabi mein gal karo!” he’d say. Nawaz saab has a house in Surrey in the outskirts of London. Once we three took a scenic ride in a horse-carriage there. Those days Nawaz saab was in exile (he became PM of Pakistan after Dev Anand passed away). Dev saab was extremely fond of MF Hussain as well. One day he called him and said, “Husain saab, aapkiyaad aa rahi hai, I want to kiss your hands!” Husain saab flew in from Indore that night. It happened to be Dev saab’s birthday. He drew a sketch of Dev saab, signed it, presented it to him as a gift and flew back to Indore that same night! Another incident is that of a distraught girl, who came to meet Dev saab one day. She wanted to hand over a sketch of his, which her artist grandfather had made years ago. It was his last wish that the day he dies, the sketch be given to Dev Anand. Dev saab was touched and recalled the story behind that sketch. He said, “As a struggler, I’d often visit the Parisian dairy at Nariman Point to have hot milk and develop contacts. Once I was sitting on the parapet, brooding and watching the waves, when an artist came up to me and said, ‘You look like a hero, can I sketch you?’” He drew the sketch in two minutes. Dev saab, who was in a disturbed frame of mind, asked him to keep it himself. Years later, the sketch finally found its way to Dev Anand, the star!

Evergreen memories



Evergreen memories


Farewell in London

Dev saab was a health freak. The doctors would say that his reports should be framed as an example. He used to have 11 glasses of lukewarm water throughout the day. He’d have a heavy breakfast, no lunch – maybe a sandwich – and end the day with a full dinner. He’d take a light walk after that. He was vegetarian and enjoyed baingan bharta, dahi, papaya, corn, popcorn... He didn’t fear aging but he didn’t like people addressing someone older as ‘uncle’ or ‘aunty’. He’d say address everyone by name. He’d say, “Why count age on birthdays? Stay young at heart and in mind. Aging is a state of mind.” He worked for 18 hours a day till the very end.
Sadly, when Dev saab passed away, I was not with him. He had gone off to London to prepare for his next film – the sequel of Hare Rama Hare Krishna. In the hotel room, Dev saab was seated on the sofa talking to his son Suneil (Anand). Then Suneil went to the washroom, came out and continued talking to him. When he got no response, he turned around to look at his father. Dev saab had turned still and silent. He was no more. Dev saab always wanted his fans to remember him the way they had last seen him on screen. Hence, he was cremated in London on December 3, 2011… away from it all…

Secret Superstar director Advait Chandan talks about his love for writing and working with Aamir Khan


Whatever Aamir Khan touches, turns into gold. Here, we mean box-office gold! Advait Chadan, debutant director of Secret Superstar, would definitely agree. A decade-old journey with Aamir Khan, as a production hand and then manager, finally found fruition when the superstar agreed to co-produce and act in Advait’s film. Starring Dangal girl, Zaira Wasim, and Aamir Khan, Secret Superstar, tracks the journey of 15-year-old Insiya, whose aspirations to be a singer are thwarted by her misogynist father. Aamir plays a maverick music director, Shakti Kumar, who spots her talent, while Meher Vij plays Insiya’s resolute mother.

The spirited tale that also spoke of feminism and domestic violence crossed the 50-crore mark and buoyed the sedate movie market. What’s more, it won immense praise for Advait. “It’s a dream come true. I want to repeat this dream again and again,” he says his sense of euphoria palpable. “The big deal is that people are talking about the scenes, the characters and the moments. They say the film has left them shaken and moved,” he shares.

Advait started his career as an intern with Prahlad Kakkar’s advertising house. Later, he moved towards Excel Entertainment and assisted Reema Kagti during Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd. But the bright curve in his career can be said to be his decade-old association with Aamir Khan Productions (AKP) as also his friendship with Kiran Rao. Starting off by looking over catering on the sets of Taare Zameen Par (TZP) and then being Aamir Khan’s manager for four-and-a-half years, it’s been an exhaustive process of learning. In fact, he’s done nine projects with Aamir including Satyamev Jayate, Talaash, Dhoom, PK and Delhi Belly.

The catalyst of an idea for Secret Superstar came from Satyamev Jayate. “There were two episodes that struck me. The first was about a girl, who worked to support her mother’s dreams and the second about a boy who learnt to play golf online and become a champion,” he shares. Advait blended these two ideas – the grit of a girl and the power of technology – and Secret Superstar took form. “The internet gives you a democratic platform. If you’re talented your work can immediately go viral. Artistes get exposure to a whole new world. They’re able to showcase their talent. The biggest gift for an artiste is an audience,” he insists. The sordidness of abuse, the harshness of misogyny and the fact that we tend to take our relationships for granted was sensitively portrayed in Secret Superstar.

“I made someone laugh, I made someone cry. Like someone said, ‘I went home and gave my mom a hug’. These are the compliments I cherish,” says Advait who watched the film in a theatre with 10 of his friends. “I reached before time and sat in the stalls. It was amazing to see 600 people come in and sit. When they laughed at a joke, it felt like a compliment,” smiles Advait even received congratulatory calls from industry bigwigs like Rajkumar Hirani, Karan Johar and Sooraj Barjatya. “Shatrughan Sinha sir said the film reminded him of Hrishida’s (Hrishikesh Mukherjee) work. That means a lot,” he beams.

He recalls the time when Aamir heard the script and liked it. ‘‘Then I auditioned Aamir sir for the role. We were sure that nobody could pull off that role like him,” he says. They went to Panchgani for 10 days for the rehearsals. He was aware that he had to match the standards of his mentor. “Aamir sir doesn’t approve of mediocrity. It’s scary to meet his standards. I was nervous. But he made it easy. He gives you the power to direct him. He allows you to change his performance. He’s receptive and approachable,” he says. “Aamir sir watched the film only after it was complete. There was no interference at all. He said you’ve got to be the mother of this film,” he elaborates. “Aamir is a team player. He treats all as equal. He doesn’t let you feel small,” he says. In fact, directing Secret Superstar has increased his admiration for Aamir. “Earlier I was a fan of the actor but today I am a fan of the person. His willpower and discipline is incredible. The way he worked out and lost weight post Dangal at his age is no mean feat. He pushes himself so hard,” says Advait.

He goes on to share an interesting anecdote about Aamir. “It’s said that once Aamir sir sleeps, nobody can wake him up, no matter what! That’s when he’s not working. So, once we were in New York where a special circus show was on. The tickets were steep. But we bought them as I was keen to watch it. But Aamir just wouldn’t wake up. I missed the show!” he laughs adding quickly,“But when it’s about professional commitment, he arrives half an hour before time.”

He’s extremely fond of Aamir’s wife Kiran Rao. Their bond developed during his stint as a production assistant on Taare Zameen Par. “I’d take care of the catering, the travel, the boarding and lodging. Kiran was the producer. She was the boss of my boss so I had to report to her. I interacted with her the most,” he says. Later, Kiran hired him as an assistant for Dhobi Ghaat.

He’s glad that he could zero in on Zaira Wasim to play his protagonist. “Zaira was first selected for Dangal. I hoped she wouldn’t do Dangal so that I could give her the full-fledged role in my film. But I had to wait till she finished it,” he smiles adding, “Zaira is an incredible talent. She’s gifted and natural. The moment you hear her read a line, you know she’s an amazing actor.” He insists he’s an audience first. He’s passionate about watching every new release. “I love masala movies. I love Hrishida’s films. But my favourite director is - Rajkumar Hirani because his films have everything - humour, emotion, drama and the message!” he opines.

He takes pride in being a writer. “I’m first and foremost a writer. The joy for me is watching the characters come alive. Like when you see PK, you get attached to that character. You feel his pain. You should be able to relate to the characters,” he insists. He’s enjoying his stint in showbiz and views it as a circus. “You’re part of this beautiful circus. You entertain people, you make them laugh. When they clap, it’s an amazing feeling,” he smiles.

âœIâm just trying to tell stories that excite me.â ⓠNewton director Amit Masukar tells Filmfare


Newton is in the headlines for two distinct reasons. One is the phenomenal box-office and critical success and the other is the allegation of plagiarism. On one hand, the movie world is celebrating India’s decision to choose Newton as its official representative at the Oscars. On the other, there’s concern regarding the similarities between Amit Masurkar’s film and an Iranian movie called Secret Ballot (2001). Addressing the plagiarism issue Amit says, “I haven’t watched Secret Ballot. I’ve only heard about it.” He continues further, “Newton has gone to so many international film festivals where the programmers and organisers have watched both films. Honestly, I don’t know what the critics’ intentions were when this issue was brought up.” He points out that the makers of Secret Ballot have issued a letter clarifying the matter. He adds, “Now it doesn’t matter who’s saying what.”

He’s ecstatic that Newton has been chosen as India’s official entry to the Oscars this year. “I’m happy it was chosen at a time when it was running in the theatres so that people could go and watch it,” he says.He insists his film is inspired by real people, events and situations. “There’s a reality outside Mumbai, which you will only know when you visit places like Bastar and Chattisgarh,” he says. While developing the idea of Newton, his co-writer Mayank Tiwari and Amit went to Chhattisgarh. “We met Adivasi activists, lawyers, surrendered Naxalites there. We went to CRPF camps, villages and deep inside the jungles where people don’t venture. We met election officials, right from the volunteers to the election commission itself,” he says of the extensive research. He says, Newton is a film about the experiences and the recollections of all the people they met. Every line in the film has an insight. It’s not written randomly or just for comic effect. The story was written after a lot of research, a lot of thinking and a lot of love he informs. “Anyone who loves our country and our people will connect with Newton,” he says.

The film has been lauded for its subliminal storytelling and the deep insights on political machinations. Amit maintains it’s not a tough film to grasp. “It’s worked well in small-towns. I’ve noticed that middle-aged viewers are also enjoying this film,” he says. He’s particularly delighted that few have compared it to Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Satyakam (1969).

Amit always wanted to make a political film. Back in 2009 he’d even written a film about a politician’s life. But that script never saw the light of day. “There was always a keeda to make a political film. One afternoon, I was randomly typing words on a blank computer screen. I wrote down words like constitution, election, electronic voting machine...That’s where the journey of Newton began,” he says.

He read many interesting articles on the elections being conducted in Arunachal Pradesh, near the Indo-China border and on an island in Andaman Nicobar, where a polling booth is installed every election for just one voter. “I was wondering where to set the story though. Then I read a book called Hello Bastar by Rahul Pandita. That gave me some interesting ideas,” he says.
Newton was shot over 37 days in and around Dalli Rajhara in Chattisgarh, a cosmopolitan mining township of the Bhilai Steel Plant. The location was surrounded by tribal villages on the outskirts. “Chhattisgarh’s not the most popular place to shoot a mainstream film. The violence and tension in the area wards off filmmakers. There’s absolutely no infrastructure to help shoot a feature,” he maintains. The biggest hurdle was to cast the additional actors. Amit and his team had to rope in the local tribals for the smaller roles.

He reveals Rajkummar Rao was always the first choice for the film. “Raj looks young, he has a sincere personality and he’s exactly like Newton in real life. He also has a good sense of humour. We needed an actor with good comic timing,” says he. Amit was inspired by Isaac Newton’s life, which is why he named his film’s character after the scientist/inventor. He reveals, “Sir Isaac Newton had a one-track mind. At a time when the Church persecuted scientists, his quest for truth and scientific explanations was inspirational. My film’s character isn’t a genius but within the confines of the bureaucracy, he considers himself as relevant as Newton.” He maintains his film is an ode to the Election Commission of India that works so hard to conduct elections in a country as diverse as ours. “There are many people like Newton who work hard, which is why governments change, which is why India sees such a largely fair election process.”

Despite the brilliant writing, Newton wasn’t an easy film to make. The studio system just couldn’t wrap its head around this political satire. Amit reveals that he never even got a chance to narrate the script to the studios. He smiles, “The moment the executives heard the word ‘politics’ they’d reject the idea. They would ask me to make a breezy film like my first feature Suleimani Keeda.” Masurkar’s first film was made on a wafer-thin budget. Most of the cast comprised Amit’s friends and colleagues. It was appreciated by the critics but it had a limited release back in 2013. Suleimani Keeda has become a cult hit online though. The studios wanted Amit to emulate the situational comedy of Suleimani Keeda. Luckily, Amit ran into Manish Mundra, who’d produced small gems like Ankhon Dekhi and Masaan. Manish’s Drishyam Films got Newton on the road. The first impressions were garnered at the festival circuit. They met Meenakshi Shetty, who views films for the Berlin Film Festival. She liked it and the film was programmed for the Berlinale.

Then other festivals started inviting them. Around that time Aanand L Rai heard about Newton and he saw a clip of the film on Rajkummar Rao’s phone. He found it interesting and called Amit, who had assisted Rai during his television days. “He’s a lovable and an encouraging person. But I was surprised he remembered me and he wanted to watch Newton. After watching the film, he insisted on a wide release. Once Aanand sir came on board the exhibitors showed confidence. We got the good shows,” reveals Amit.

Amit has a theory as to why the smaller films have been a better business proposition this year than big-ticket releases. He points to a paradigm shift in the way viewers are influencing the filmmaking process. “Everyone wants something different, something new. This year big films haven’t done too well. Yet smaller releases like Newton, Hindi Medium and Bareilly Ki Barfi have scored big. It’s because the audience is looking for good stories. Aanand L Rai is making something new with Shah Rukh Khan. The film industry has to make extra efforts to get the masses into the theatres now,” he says. He believes SRK, Aanand L Rai, Anurag Kashyap, Manish Mundra and Aamir Khan are on
the right track. 

He maintains he made both his feature films purely to satisfy his creative urge. “I’m just trying to tell stories that excite me.” Newton has sparked a dialogue on democracy and the elections in the country. Amit acknowledges the power of cinema. But he’s aware that cinema alone cannot change society. Though he does believe artistic expressions like poetry, music, painting... played a big part in the Independence movement.He explains the effect of cinema saying, “People change their hairstyles according to what their favourite actors are sporting. Cinema can induce a change in a person. It can inspire a mind to think.” He dreams of making better cinema and telling invigorating tales with his favourite stars like Ranbir Kapoor, Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma, Deepika Padukone and Kangana Ranaut. Now that’s some goal worth pursuing.

Filmfare Exclusive Rani Mukerji on being away from films for three years


Powerhouse performer Rani Mukerji is back on big screen after Mardaani. Her next, Hichki, is ready for the release on February 23, 2018, where she will be seen playing a teacher, Naina Mathur, who is having Tourette syndrome. Her fans did miss her a lot for three years but the actress herself didn't miss being on screen. 

When she was asked about it, she said, "You see I'm back looking younger, better and refreshed after having a baby. So I'm not complaining about it at all. Yes, of course, my fans did complain but I'm sure they are reasonable enough to understand that when you have a baby, unfortunately, if men would have babies we would be free to go about with our jobs but it's not like that. We can not fight with nature. As a woman, you do undergo with a lot of changes when you become a mother and it's not only physical changes, it's a lot of emotional change as well that comes into your life because you give birth to a new life. You are responsible for that life. It's a different emotion for every mother like every single girl who becomes a mother she experiences motherhood in different ways. There are so many women I have heard who probably get back to work in three months. There are women who wait for a year, there are women who come back after probably ten-fifteen years into work, you never know. So emotionally I have gone through a very different phase after having my child and I can only tell you that's been very enriching, fulfilling and very loving. I have come back with a lot more love for everyone. Now when I see people, mothers, parents, my heart goes out to them because I have been through it myself in the truest form. I have not missed being not there but thanks to my husband being in the same profession, I didn't feel away from it."  

After marriage and having a baby, actresses are seen in a different light in Bollywood but heroes still continue romancing younger heroines. And Rani Mukerji sees as a major Hichki. She says, "I am also romancing my husband. Why you are saying so? How can we stop romancing? Romance is supposed to be with us for life. Who stops romancing?" 

The actress doesn't agree with the thought that actresses don't get a chance to romance heroes after a certain age. She says, "I don't think that's true. Times are changing. In the west, there has never been a discrimination like that. So I would say that in the west they don't have that Hichki. Yes, over here we do have that Hichki and I'm sure that with time that Hichki, if we work on, it can change and that's in everyone's mindset. If you see an actor and you don't enter in movie theatre tagging her as a married and woman with a child, you will see the actor as the character in the film as the role we are playing but if you are going to judge an actor based on what she is going through in her personal life then these hichkis will keep coming to you. So once you enter movie theatre you have to come sans Hichki, you have to see the actor for what its worth in the cinema hall, in the movie, in the basic ratio of what character she is playing." 
   
Rani is always seen playing challenging roles on big screen. She will continue doing that in future as well. She says, "More than making a benchmark for myself and only to believe that I would be only offered challenging roles is also a bit much. I think with each script there comes one particular thing about a script that really touches me. Like in the case of Hichki, It was the fact that the role is very challenging and the story is very feel good and it's about an underdog and about how you win obstacles in your life and you overcome your difficulties in a positive way and you make it your opportunity. In case of Hichki, it was a different reason why I did the film. Having said that the films that would be offered to me now I always look at that one factor that kind of touches my heart. It could be just story, It could be a love story that touches my heart or it could be just anything that kind of connects with me as a person because somewhere in all this Rani that I am, the person, it's important that something touches me as a human being there is something in the story, something that excites me as an actor. I will always take that up." 

Rani Mukerji's Hichki is presented by her husband Aditya Chopra's banner YRF. But the actress never had any discussion about the film with him at home. She is very clear about her work keeping away from home. She says, "If we didn't have any discussion, we will be mad. We are working on a film and we won't talk about it. Maneesh Sharma is the actual creative producer of Hichki. So, Adi was less involved in the project and Maneesh was more involved as a creative producer. So most of my interactions were with Maneesh and my director Sidharth Malhotra. Yes, I had a lot of discussions with my husband but only in the studio. At home, we never had any discussions about Hichki."  

Filmfare Exclusive Diana Penty on Bollywood: This place toughens you up


With her anglicised name and the amount of time this Parsi-Christian girl has spent in New York, you wouldn’t give her an ice cube's chance in hell of making it here. But impress she did with her choice of roles and rare confidence. Diana Penty’s short but snazzy career has seen two veritable hits – Cocktail and Happy Bhag Jayegi. Even though the two films were four years apart, Diana seemed like she belonged in every frame. Whether it was the contemporary relationship drama in Imtiaz Ali’s Cocktail or the rustic charm of Mudassar Aziz’s Happy Bhag Jayegi, this exotic actor fitted in effortlessly.

In fact, the success of Happy Bhag Jayegi has led the makers to announce its sequel as well. The model-turned-actress is in no hurry to hog the limelight though. Adding more power to the adage ‘beauty with brains’, she believes in focussing on substance rather than just style. Her latest film is the brainy science and action medley, Parmanu - The Story Of Pokhran with John Abraham. Directed by Abhishek Sharma, the film is based on the nuclear tests conducted at the Indian army’s Pokhran Test Range in May 1998. Diana’s just back from Jaisalmer where she’s been shooting for Parmanu. She’s got a soft spot for true-life stories. “It’s the first time I’m doing action in a film. That had me excited. And Parmanu gave me that opportunity.”

She took kickboxing classes apart from her usual regime of weight training to prepare for her role. She says, “While shooting, you have to remember the sequence of kicks and punches. You need to maintain a constant stance and composure.” She explains further, “It’s complicated especially for someone who’s not familiar with martial arts. It took me three days to recover because my body isn’t used to so much physical activity. I was using muscles I never knew existed. My body was sore. The next day I couldn’t even hold my cup of tea.” But she enjoyed the experience of pushing the limits.

Entry into films happened just like that for Diana. She was modelling in New York when Imtiaz Ali offered her Rockstar. Imtiaz Ali got in touch with her agency and wanted to meet up. She was so happy with modelling and living the New York life that she wasn’t even considering films at that time. “I was such an introvert that I never thought this could be an option for me,” she laughs today. But she met Imtiaz anyway and told him that she was ‘completely hopeless’ as she had no inkling of acting. Imtiaz, however, put Diana through workshops, where she did voice modulation and improved her diction. She even did a crash course in acting. “I did those workshops and I did get better. But I wasn’t ready to play that part because it wasn’t a character close to my personality,” she confides.

At that point, Imtiaz was writing Cocktail and he kept Diana in mind for Meera’s role. Later when producers Dinesh Vijan and Homi Adajania were looking for a girl to play Meera, Imtiaz recommended Diana and that’s how Cocktail happened.

She feels lucky to have chosen the right roles thus far. She explains, “Choosing the right roles and being able to avail of opportunities is the biggest challenge. It’s important for your heart to be in sync with your head. It’s the most satisfying approach to work.” She adds, “It’s important to make a choice that feels right to both the heart and the mind. There are times when you have to forfeit one for the other and that can be tough.”

She claims her approach to her work is different. She understands that since she’s not from the film background, getting work is going to be difficult. But she’s okay with it. She asserts it’s a truth that’s relevant to all professions. “If you are a businessman’s son, you’d obviously have more opportunities than someone who’s not part of the same field. I don’t see why people make such a big issue of it. For me, it might take a little longer than the others but I’m patient,” she declares.

Box-office numbers and the 100-crore club mean nothing to her. She’d rather have an eclectic body of work than a hefty bank balance. She says, “There are certain things on your wish list. I want to sit back and look at the diversity of the characters I portrayed in my films. Once I’ve ticked those, I’ll believe I’ve accomplished something. While she’s not the one to stretch her neck out to bag roles, she believes she’s got the right attitude to succeed. “If you lose your own identity chasing success then what’s the point? I’m a quiet and a private person but that doesn’t mean I am unapproachable. I do things my own way, balancing out how much I want to be out there,” she says.

There’s an air about Diana. And that’s what sets her apart from the rest of her ilk. She explains, “It’s easy to get lost in the crowd. Having a mind of your own and being sure of what you want can help you create the right impression. I’m a bit of a control freak. But in showbiz things aren’t always in your control so I’ve learnt to let go.”

She shares that the industry has changed her. “This place toughens you up. You tend to grow up a little before your time. You also realise how transient things can be and how easy it’s to find yourself surrounded by people who may not necessarily be honest,” she says. “So you begin to value your privacy, your family and your close friends a lot more,” she smiles.

She’s also a bit of an environmentalist. If she catches you littering the roads she’ll probably give you a piece of her mind. She smiles, “There are times when I’ve gone up to people and asked them to pick up their trash. I can’t handle the narrative of cutting trees for progress. There are better ways to be civilized.”

She has a similar zeal in matters of the heart. She’s not single and is believed to be dating someone not from the industry. She says, “If you’re in a relationship with someone you genuinely love and care for, then it can be your anchor, especially in an industry like this. You need someone to support you through thick and thin. A partner can help you stay grounded.” She’s ecstatic that her best friend is her partner. Reluctant to reveal his name, she says, “Being with my best friend of 13 years is the best part of my relationship. It comes with a sense of peace and security that no one can take away.” Now that’s the absolute truth.

Legendary actor Premnaths son Monty Premnath looks back at his late fathers journey with Filmfare


In the late ‘40s, he was competition to Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand. But when he tried to form an onscreen pair with his beautiful wife Bina Rai, it sadly didn’t work. The 14 years that Premnath spent waiting for stardom to shine again, helped him embrace other facets of himself. Like his spiritual search in the Himalayas. His tryst with music, poetry and writing...

And then he roared back... as the blockbuster baddie in Johny Mera Naam. The powerful Rai Sahab, being seduced by Padma Khanna in Husn ke lakhon rang, was the highlight of Vijay Anand’s thriller. Next, Feroz Khan’s Dharmatma – a takeoff on Godfather - had him play Dharmdas – our own home-grown Marlon Brando! And who couldn’t but love the earthy fisherman Jack Braganza in Bobby, Khan Badshah in Shor and the joyful Harnam Singh in Roti Kapda Aur Makan? Vociferous, volatile and yet vulnerable... Premnath was an emotional tornado he was. In this month, which marks both his birth and death anniversaries, his younger son/actor Monty Premnath shares memories of his father... in his words

“All heroines wanted to marry him


Army to arc-lights

Papa was born in Peshawar. His family shifted to Madhya Pradesh after the Partition. While he was in school, he’d write letters to Prithvi Papa (Prithviraj Kapoor), whom he was related to, saying he wanted to join films. My grandfather being an Inspector General Of Police sent Papa to the army instead. But Papa’s heart belonged to films. Once, he wrote a letter to his father asking him to send ` 100 to buy a gun. With that money, he came to Dadar. He went straight to Prithvi Papa, his guru, and joined Prithvi Theatre.

He debuted with the film Ajit (1948) and went on to become a star in the late ’40s and early ’50s playing the lead in films like Sagai, Buzdil, Naujawan and Dard-e-Dil. He enjoyed top billing. At one point, he was paid more than his peers. He was paid ` 1.25 lakh per day, while Raj uncle (Raj Kapoor) apparently got ` 75,000, Dilip saab (Kumar) ` 50,000 and Dev saab (Anand) ` 35,000. Then after Aag (1948) and Barsaat (1949) he rose higher. He had a fit body, he exercised regularly. Girls were crazy about him. There were instances of them tearing off his clothes. Soon, Papa and Raj uncle became friends. Once they went to Jabalpur together, where Raj uncle saw Krishna aunty (Kapoor), Papa’s sister. Raj uncle fell in love with her and they got married. Raj uncle would often joke with Papa saying, “Saari khudai ek taraf, joru ka bhai ek taraf!”


“All heroines wanted to marry him


Premnath-Bina Rai love story

Mom (the late Bina Rai) was a fan of dad. They first worked together in Aurat (1953). Mom was nervous in front of a superstar. Her hands were trembling, while giving the shot. So Papa put flowers around her hand in a bid to camouflage that. Papa was taken in by her simplicity. Gradually, they fell in love and got married. Randhir Kapoor, who was a child then, sat on the horse with Papa as the sarwala (best man).
After marriage, my parents started their own production unit (P.N. Films). Their first offering was Shagufa (1953). But it didn’t do well. The films that followed – Prisoner of Golconda, Samundar, Hamara Watan and Chengiz Khan – suffered a worse fate. Their charm didn’t work after marriage. But mom’s films like Anarkali (1953), Taj Mahal (1963) and Ghunghat (1960) with other heroes were hits. Ghunghat fetched her the Filmfare Award for Best Actress. Papa’s, career, on the other hand went downhill. The years between 1956 -1970 were bad for Papa. Since mom was doing well, producers would line up for her. Invitation cards were addressed as ‘Mr and Mrs Rai’. Papa was happy for her but somewhere his pride was hurt. In fact, Hrishikesh Mukherji based Abhimaan on my parents’ life.


“All heroines wanted to marry him


The spiritual trek

Papa drifted towards religion. He went off to Char Dhaam in those 14 years. He travelled to the Himalayas. In 1957, he made a documentary on Kailash Parbat. He returned in 1958, when I was born. So I was given the name Kailash. He wrote three books during that period – Tears Of The Heart, Dil Ke Aansoo and Shraddhanjali. People said he had become a sadhu. But humanity mattered to him above all. He’d say, “My name Premnath. Prem batne hi aaya hoon! ”

During those years, he didn’t touch non-vegetarian food or alcohol. But years later, when he developed kidney stones, the doctor asked him to have beer. Then whisky, gin… all came along. I drew close to him during this period. He was both – mother and father to me, as mom used to be busy shooting. Later, she quit films and sacrificed for the family. Daadi Maa (1966) was her last film.


“All heroines wanted to marry him


The comeback

Papa believed in astrology. He knew that Johny Mera Naam (1970) would be his comeback film. He had told Dev Anand while shooting that the film, which was releasing on his birthday would be a hit. For an actor who was out of circulation, you could see that confidence in his portrayal. He shared a special bond with director Vijay Anand. Years ago, Papa, as a chief guest at a competition, had adjudged Vijay Anand’s production as the best play. After Johny Mera Naam, he was in top form with title roles being written for him in films like Chattansingh (1974) and Dharmatma (1975).

Meanwhile, Raj uncle was devastated after the debacle of Mera Naam Joker (1970). RK Studio was mortgaged. Papa was also upset as Krishnaji was his sister. Once, when we were celebrating Holi at Chembur, Raj uncle told Papa, ‘I’m planning a film with Rishi (Kapoor) and Dimple (Kapadia). I’m a flop director but you’re in a good position. Will you work with me?’ Papa replied, ‘Kamal hai! We began our journey together. We’ll make a blockbuster!’ He would sleep with the Bobby (1973) script by his bedside.’ Such was his devotion! He went and lived in the machere basti (fisherman’s colony) in Versova for two days to pick up their mannerisms. I remember one evening at RK Studio, Raj uncle and Papa sat drinking in the cottage listening to Goanese tunes. One of them was Ghe ghe ghe re Saiba, which was selected for Bobby.
Subhash Ghai also called him ‘Papa’. Subhashji was given a chance to direct Kallicharan by NN Sippy on the condition that it would star Papa. Shatrughan Sinha was a villain, who would be playing hero in the film. Reena Roy was a newcomer. Naturally, Sippy saab was concerned about selling his film. One evening Subhashji came home to narrate the script to Papa. Papa, a music enthusiast, was doing riyaz with his Guruji. Subhashji got a chance to narrate the script after the riyaz got over at 4 am. Papa then asked him to sleep in our home. He gave his nod only in the morning.


“All heroines wanted to marry him


Subhashji did many films with Papa like Vishwanath (1978), Gautam Govinda (1979), Karz (1980) and Krodhi (1981). But in Karz, he gave Papa the role of Sir Judah, a don who couldn’t speak as those days Papa was not keeping well. He had developed neuritis and couldn’t walk. Given his vociferous performances, he didn’t want to appear as a watered-down version of himself on screen.
Manoj Kumar came to Papa for Shor (1972). After the narration Manojji asked Papa about the payment saying, “Kab, kitna, kaise?” Papa relied, “Jab, jitna, jaise!” That was the level of trust Papa had in him. As an actor, Mr Premnath was a wild horse. He needed a good jockey, a good director, to control him and get the best out of him. That’s why his equation with actors-turned-directors like Raj Kapoor, Feroz Khan, Vijay Anand, Manoj Kumar, Subhash Ghai… was so special.


“All heroines wanted to marry him




The romantic

As is well-known dad was supposed to marry Madhubala. But it didn’t work out for religious reasons. But his love for her remained pure even years after she was gone. Once we were passing by Mehboob Studio in Bandra. Madhubala’s father, Ataullah Khan saab, lived there. Papa had heard he wasn’t keeping well. He dropped in to see him. Discreetly, he pushed a lakh rupees under Khan saab’s pillow. I asked why he’d done that. He replied, “Had I married her, he’d have been my father-in-law. I’m just doing my duty as a son-in-law.” He was that emotional. I remember once Madhubalaji had called Papa to congratulate him for a performance. (Smiles) And my mom did feel possessive that moment!
Papa was a good-looking man, a rockstar. All heroines wanted to marry him. There were rumours linking him with several co-stars. But he gave utmost respect to my mother. He’d say, ‘Yeh meri Maharani hai!’ Later, when mom suffered a nervous breakdown, he was extremely concerned. She was finding it difficult to shoot for Daadi Maa but he encouraged her complete it. Their last years were spent looking after each other.


“All heroines wanted to marry him




The sunset

His last film appearance was in Hum Dono (1985). For the industry, it’s out of sight, out of mind. Also, the lifestyle he led was responsible for his failing health. Raj uncle and he abused their bodies with their lifestyle, too much work and too little sleep. A certain depression had set in Papa. That fateful day, he had breakfast, took his medicines and went back to sleep. Sometime later, when the domestic help tried to wake him up, Papa didn’t respond. He passed away in his sleep on November 3, 1992. He was 65. Years later, in 2009, mom too passed away in her sleep. They say, good souls go like this.

Deepika Padukone chats with Filmfare about PadmavatiRanveer Singh and more in her exclusive interview


When she walks in, heads don’t turn, they swoon. Time ceases to exist. The ability to think, perceive and be intelligent dims. Not just people, even the furniture in a room gawks in awe at her perfection and elegance. That Deepika Padukone is beautiful isn’t just an understatement, it’s a disservice to her being. But, she’s always been so. Back in 2007, when Shah Rukh Khan paired opposite a newcomer with a familiar surname, everyone couldn’t but help concede that the girl with the dimple, was indeed pretty. Ten years on, that perception hasn’t changed. What has changed is the acuity of Deepika’s stardom and talent. What’s also changed is her confidence.

She’s the centrepiece of every frame in the Padmavati trailer, let alone the film. Yes there’s Shahid Kapoor’s charm, there’s the Sanjay Leela Bhansali influence and the Ranveer Singh mania, but above all that, stands her poise. In fact, whether it was Piku, Bajirao Mastani, Finding Fanny, Cocktail or Ram-Leela, Deepika was the one who stood out. Monikers like ‘superstar’ and ‘highest paid’ are well-earned for this ethereal actress.

She’s had a taste of Hollywood too. Deepika Padukone is a name that’s followed, liked and shared by billions. A big part of her stardom is just an extension of her real self. She’s not the star who puts on a show. She’s the star who wears her heart and emotions on her sleeve. Whether it’s the smouldering chemistry with Ranveer, on and off screen, or her confessions on mental health issues and personal growth, what you see with Deepika is what you get. The easy honesty is natural and beautiful. A select few are to the manor born and this empress of showbiz is truly destined for greatness. Stardom, pressure, love, marriage, there’s a lot on her mind. But like always, the clarity of her thoughts is like a waft of the winter breeze. Read on a candid conversation…


The empress strikes back


Padmavati is complete and up for release. Are you relaxed now?

In a way, yes. That feeling with which you wake up each morning, carrying the character with you, living it, feeling it, breathing it... that burden has reduced. But at the same time, I’m anxious about the release. I’m both excited and nervous. So in a way it’s not over yet.

Do you feel emotionally drained after playing such an intense role?

Yes, I feel exhausted. In fact, that’s the reason I’ve been going out so much in the last two-three weeks. I had no life for almost a year. I’m not complaining. That’s what the film demanded. But I do feel the need to connect again with my regular life, with people around me. I need to breathe again.

What did you miss most while shooting for Padmavati?

Being an actor already comes with a lot of sacrifices. It’s a prerequisite. And with a film like Padmavati, it’s ten-fold more. You have to cut yourself away from everything that might come your way. Sometimes it’s a family commitment, sometimes a personal commitment, sometimes other work commitments, social obligations... There are times when you’re tempted. You want to engage with other people. You want to go out. Or you need to see your family. But you need to sacrifice all that to be able to allow a film like this to come to life.


What was the most challenging thing about playing Rani Padmavati?

The exciting part was that she’s a woman who’s worshipped. She’s someone we’re historically familiar with. The challenge was to play someone, who has such inner strength. Who in a way like Mastani (Bajirao Mastani), is a warrior princess but without being one in the literal sense. She’s not someone who physically goes out to the battlefield to fight a war. But it’s about her power, the resilience and strength with which she deals with situations. As a woman you feel these powerful emotions of strength, courage, defeat, victory... How do you emote all of these without any tools, without any weapons? Just from the eyes! That was extremely challenging.



The empress strikes back



What was the preparation for the role like?

There were hours of discussions with Sanjay sir (Leela Bhansali) vis a vis the research material. He’s the captain of the ship and we follow and execute his vision. I prepped a lot for the Ghoomar song, the language, understanding the culture, reading books on history, understanding the different versions. But largely it was to get the essence and the flavour right, to understand her mind, her thoughts. So the emotional prep was harder than the physical transformation.

This is your third period film after Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey and Bajirao Mastani. Does history fascinate you?

Whether it’s my fascination with history or the fascination of these kind of films to find me or some deep-rooted connect with history... I’ve no idea. Recreating stories of inspiring people that need to be retold is interesting. Everyone has heard about Padmavati. We’ve probably skimmed through it in our history books. But few would know the details. When you pick up one line from a chapter and turn it into a beautiful story, it’s exciting. Her journey, her sacrifice for her honour, for her people, for the honour of Rajputs... the story needed to be told.

If you could be one person from history, who it would be?

I find women motivating. Not necessarily great historic women. I find the regular Indian woman’s story also fascinating. I’d love to play a homemaker. She’s the crux. Something our mothers are. That’s the life I want. The homemaker, who actually holds everything together, who supports the vision of her husband, of her children, of her parents, of her in-laws... I find that such a huge sacrifice. So many women have sacrificed their own dreams and aspirations to be that. Sadly, they don’t get their due. We don’t give them enough credit. For example my mother. You need to be extremely giving to be able to be in that place. To sacrifice your life and to hold it all together for others is commendable.

This is your third film with Sanjay Leela Bhansali (SLB). Do you agree that he brings out the best in you?

Absolutely! I believe he drives me as an actor to a place where nobody else has. He has broken me down as an actor. He challenges me as an actor. He excites me as an actor. The journey of discovery each day is fun. We discover something new about our relationship, about me as an actor, about him as a director. The journey of all three films has been so different. After Ram-Leela and Bajirao Mastani... our relationship evolved to such a point that we could do a film like Padmavati. It needed that kind of nurturing to be able to reach a place of comfort, where we could go out there and fearlessly trust each other. Having worked with the same director three times over, almost back to back and yet keeping that energy and excitement alive, not falling into a trap of doing something we’ve already done before... that’s the challenge. A lot of people had apprehensions about Padmavati. Like arre you’re doing a period film again. How different is it going to be? But today people have watched the trailer and know how similar yet how different Padmavati is from Bajirao Mastani. It’s not easy. The challenge was to push the envelope.


The empress strikes back




Padmavati is being dragged into politics... earlier with some Rajput groups protesting and also some people assaulting SLB... Does it anger or upset you?

I wouldn’t say I’m upset or angry because these are strong words. Rather it’s disheartening. It’s not just about Padmavati. To repeatedly watch the Indian film industry being targeted, for everything that goes on in the country today, is not right. It has to stop somewhere. We’re responsible citizens of this country. We’re grown up, mature, intelligent and educated adults. No one is here to hurt anyone’s sentiments. We must be allowed that kind of freedom. In any field for that matter. We belong to this land as much as anyone else. So why are we constantly held responsible for everything political and otherwise that goes on here and have our films held on ransom? Really, it has to stop!


Shouldn’t the industry come together and do something about it?

The industry is together. Trust me; it’s a matter of time because it’s ready to explode right now. I guess, everyone has had enough. Let’s see how Padmavati pans out.

SLB has repeatedly said that there will be no distortion of history. Then why this targetting?

Probably, I can never tell what someone else’s intention or gameplan is. But we’re not answerable to anyone else except the Censor Board and the audience. Let’s see because I’m in this and I’m willing to fight it out.

It will be heartbreaking for Ranveer Singh’s fans and yours not to see you’ll on screen together...

Yes. To cast us in two iconic films like Ram-Leela and Bajirao Mastani, where we were eternal lovers and then to literally tear us apart, where we have not even been on the set together during Padmavati has been hard. To be part of the same journey and not share that experience is definitely hard. That’s the way it is.

Do you believe that Alauddin Khilji is going to be his best performance till date?

Yes and no. Because I don’t know what more is in store for him. He’s capable of so much. He has so much more to explore. Is it going to be his best till date? I hope so. In fact, I can’t even say yes or no because I’ve not seen his work. We’ve not worked together in the film. That’s why I feel like they’ve shot a completely different film with him. I don’t know what he has done. But I’ve seen what the audience has seen, which is the trailer. Yes, I hope for his sake that it’s his best till date.

Ranveer as Ram, Ranveer as Bajirao or Ranveer as Khilji... your pick?

(Smiles) Ranveer as Ram... boyish, young, innocent, playful, sensual... a young romance. But at the same time I know what value he has brought to Bajirao or the value that he’s added to Khilji. Because no other actor in our industry today can do that.


The empress strikes back



When do you plan to take your relationship with Ranveer to the next level?
(Laughs) Hmmm... and what would the next level be?

Obviously marriage!

(Smiles) It’s not obvious. I don’t know if marriage per se... Because I believe every relationship has its natural progression. I’m discovering that myself.

So no plans of settling down in 2018?

I can’t put a year to it. Honestly, I’ve never been able to do anything that is time bound. I believe relationships have their own way of unfolding. As far as my equation with him is concerned, I’m sure that it will unfold in its own manner. I can’t wait to be a homemaker. Because from the time I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted to be that. I’ve always wanted to start a family. Anyway, for the last 15 years, I’ve been living on my own and running my house. Starting a family and sharing that life with people... I’m excited about that.

What’s the best thing about Ranveer’s company?

When we’re with each other, we don’t need anything or anyone else. We’re comfortable in each other’s presence. Sometimes it’s intelligent conversation, sometimes just silence, sometimes there’s a childlike innocence and it’s about being playful. We keep each other grounded. We’re very good in that sense.

How has the definition of love changed through the years?

(Laughs) Early in life, you view love in a certain way, that is, it being one-dimensional, just as a romantic relationship. There are no layers to it. And then as you grow and as you evolve, you realise that there’s so much more to love. There are so many different kinds of feeling and emotions associated with it. It’s multifaceted and layered. I find love fascinating because it’s no longer uni-dimensional.

How easy was it for you to establish chemistry with Shahid Kapoor on screen?

People who’ve seen us together feel it’s electric. And I’m not surprised because it was about
time we did a film together. I understand the value that he brings to this film. He’s perfect for Rattan Singh. He suits the part. I’m glad that we came together for this particular film.

How does it feel to be called the highest paid actress of Bollywood?

(Smiles) Honestly, it feels great because I’ve had to work hard to achieve that, to get where I am. I have the body of work to be able to command that kind of money. And I don’t need to fight for it.

Is it true that you’ve been paid more than Ranveer and Shahid in Padmavati?

I don’t know if it’s true or not. What I get paid is not the exciting part for me. The fact that Padmavati is one of the most expensive films in Indian cinema ever... that is what we need to take note of. To do a film of this scale, magnitude and budget and to have me as Padmavati, says a lot. I guess that justifies my remuneration.

Is recovery your concern?

Yes, I feel the pressure.

Would you wish to do a light-hearted film now?

Yes, I do. I don’t mind actually. I’m ready for that, not that my immediate next film is. My next film (with Vishal Bhardwaj) again is quite intense. Maybe after that, during the second half of the year, I’d like to do something emotionally lighter. But then again I’m always drawn to films that are complicated and hard on me. So let’s see what I do.

How have you evolved as an actor and as a person through the past decade?

So much... oh God! I enjoy the person I’ve become today. From walking onto my film set 10 years ago, where I had no idea about acting, dialogue, performance... it’s been a long journey. Sometimes I wonder on what basis Farah (Khan) and Shah Rukh (Khan) cast me in Om Shanti Om. I was so raw. I had no experience. It makes me value the opportunity they gave me more than ever. They could have taken anyone, why me? Today I’m more grateful than ever before. Understanding the craft, making mistakes, correcting my weaknesses, enhancing my strengths, choosing films that may not have been wise career moves... it’s been a roller coaster of a journey. And all those experiences have made me the person I am today.


The empress strikes back


What are the lessons you picked on the way?

Be authentic. You’ve got to be authentic in all that you do in life. It’s taken me my mistakes to understand that. I always believed that to be an actor I have to conduct myself in a certain way, act in a certain way, do certain kinds of films and say certain things. But I felt suffocated. However, my experience during Cocktail opened me up as a person. Certain life experiences also made me realise that there’s nothing more important than being genuine and true to yourself and to who you are.

What are the dos and don’ts you swear by?
Do exactly what your heart tells you to. Follow your gut. Follow your instinct. Don’t try to be someone you’re not because people will understand that you’re not being yourself. That you’re trying to fit in. So it’s important to be honest.

Do you fear failure?

No I don’t because I have experienced it in the past.


The empress strikes back


What were low points that you fought?
A broken relationship and depression. Those were the two very low points of my life.

How did you overcome that?

Well, time and a lot of work on myself helped me overcome it. It came with an amazing support system, my friends and family. My friends and family keep me grounded. They keep me rooted. They anchor me. Also, today my work is everything. My work is me. I have created it. I’m responsible for my success and failure. No one else can take that away from me. That’s on what I have focussed all my energies and efforts. It’s my baby.

You enjoy a good rapport with colleagues. How difficult is it to balance work and relationships?

It’s not difficult at all. I’m someone who’s honest. So if something is bothering me, if something is on my mind, I confront it head on. I can’t allow negative feelings to fester. I will always talk it out and make sure that the slate is clean because I can’t carry any burden. I need to feel free and I need to fly. 


The empress strikes back


Why did you say no to Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘dwarf’ film?

I believe that’s irrelevant. Some films happen and some films don’t happen. There’s no reason or logic to that. When they do it’s good. When they don’t it’s also good. Every film has its own energy and may be the energies didn’t match. Having said that I believe Shah Rukh and I share a very special equation where we don’t need to say mush to each other. I get him and he gets me. That’s it. When we need to come together, it will happen.

Alia Bhatt and you are the new besties in town. What do you like about her?

I’m very fond of her. I feel a sense of comfort with her. I’ve known her closely for at least a year now. I’m not analysing it but there’s a sense of familiarity when we’re together.

Reportedly, you two are joining hands for some business venture?

I read about it too. Sometimes people put ideas into your head. It might be exciting to do something like that. In reality, there’s no such thing but you never know.



The empress strikes back


Any plans to get into production?

Production? Oh God! I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it. But I’d want to be the executive producer. I want to arrange the cars; I want to make sure my unit gets food on time. (Smiles) I’ll be the homemaker of my film. I’ll make sure everyone is fed properly, everyone reaches home safely. I’ll get into those logistics.

You haven’t singed any film after xXx: Return of Xander Cage. Is Hollywood not your priority right now?

I don’t believe I can dedicate that kind of time now. As exciting that experience was for me, I don’t have the time to nurture it now. It’s a new relationship in a way. Creatively, it’s an extension of what I’m doing. But a film like Padmavati is also extremely demanding in terms of time and energy. So, let’s see. I will follow wherever my energies take me. Whatever is meant to be, will be. That’s what
I truly believe.

Filmfare Exclusive 5 things we learned about Deepika Padukone in her Rapid fire


As we catch up with the queen of all things gorgeous who’s tasting success like never before, we find out the most interesting things about her which makes  her the wonder woman that she is. Presenting our exclusive rapid fire with Deepika Padukone where we got to know 5 things about her which have never been known to the world.

 
What brings you the greatest joy?

My family.

 

What should every woman try at least once in her life?

She should do something for herself with full abundance and without pressure.

 

A skill you wish you had learnt...

I wish I knew to ride a bike or play an instrument. I want to learn to play the piano or guitar. It’s never too late.

 

A quote you live by...

Live, love and laugh.

 

Your greatest indulgence...

Being an actor. That way I can do so much.

Rapid Fire: Every single beauty question youve wanted Aditi Rao Hydari to answer


Much like her beauty, style too seems to be part of her splendid lineage. Presenting Aditi Rao Hydari's super candid and fun rapid fire exclusively with Filmfare.

Read on...

Heels or flats?
Sneakers.

Your all-time fashion icon...
Audrey Hepburn.

One person whose wardrobe you’d like to raid...
Gigi Hadid.

A fashion trend you wish to see back...
Knotted saree blouses that my masi used to wear from the flower-power generation.

A fashion trend you wish to see go out of fashion...
Shoulder pads.

The most stylish actors and actress in Bollywood?
Ranveer Singh and Kangana Ranaut can pull off anything!

Your best-styled screen character...
Leela from Mani Ratnam’s Kaatru Veliyidai styled by Eka Lakhani.

Nude lips or classic red?
Both!

A colour that looks best on you...
Yellow because my mother said so since I was a child. But I love all colours and they all work on me!

Your ideal dress for a date night...
No date nights... that’s too much pressure!

What would you like to see a guy wearing for the first date?
No date nights! Just regular hanging out. I’d like him to wear jeans, a casual white muslin shirt and kolhapuris.

How often do you shop?
Whenever I travel.

How many pair of shoes do you own?
Ouch!

Exclusive Ranveer Singh goes all out in his latest Filmfare interview


I meet him on a momentous day in his career. Just a few minutes back he was on stage with his favourite cricketing legend Kapil Dev, who he’s going to soon play on the mega screen. He’s ecstatic and overwhelmed at the same time. It all feels surreal for him. But Ranveer Singh’s journey has been no less inspiring. His performance on the showbiz pitch has been as impressive. Like his hero, Sylvester Stallone, in Rocky, his was too ‘a million-to-one shot’ at the movies. And he delivered the knockout punch with movies like Goliyon Ki Raasleela - Ram-Leela and Bajirao Mastani. In between our conversation, he breaks down while recalling a cherished memory. Those tears are of sheer gratitude. They bear testimony to his struggle, talent and hard work. For the first time, I see a different side of Ranveer. Behind the zany superstar, lies a vulnerable heart. A man who remembers the uncertainty of his ambition, the unflinching support of his parents and the blessings of the Almighty.Today, his fan following is increasing by the minute and so is the number of filmmakers wanting to sign him. What else can explain Sanjay Leela Bhansali signing him the third time in a row, the magnum opus, Padmavati, being the latest. Zoya Akhar has signed him for Gully Boy after collaborating with him in Dil Dhadakne Do. Aditya Chopra, who only worked with Shah Rukh Khan, turned to Ranveer for Befikre. And Rohit Shetty, known for working with select actors, has chosen him for his next...This is Ranveer’s brightest moment under the sun. What’s more he’s hit a beautiful equation in his personal life as well. As we go through the exotic photoshoot we did with him in Mauritius, Ranveer chats about the highs and happiness. Read on…


Living the Dream



Padmavati is the most anticipated film of the year. What’s your state of mind?

Padmavati is definitely a biggie. I’ve never experienced this kind of hype and buzz for any film in a long time. I’m happy that everyone has gone bonkers over the film’s trailer. It’s a film that took a lot out of me and it’s not just about time and effort. It was emotionally, mentally and physically draining. Now I’m prepared for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s films. I did ‘expectation management’ before the film. I knew it would take blood, sweat and tears. But it’s all worth it in the end. The entire team kept its eyes on the prize. We had set out to tell a special story and make a film that’ll be remembered for a long time. Being part of it is humbling.

Living the Dream


You’re playing an outright negative character – the 14th century ruler Alauddin Khilji in the film. Aren’t you scared?
I’m shit scared. I’m playing an anti-hero. Only when I see the film, will I be able to assess my character. It’s a risky move for me. That’s why I took so much time to sign it. For a mainstream leading man to make a choice like this at this stage is dicey. It’s a despicable character. He’s mean.

One of my seniors, and who I believe is one of the greatest actors of all time, advised me to be careful. She told me the Indian audience is naïve. If they love a character, the love will transfer to the actor who played it. In this case, if they hate my character, the hate will be transferred to me. I felt if I had to play negative, it had to be with Mr Bhansali. Also, I cannot say no to him. If I have any standing, it’s because of his films. He gave me Goliyon Ki Raasleela - Ram-Leela at a time when my career wasn’t going great guns. He had me play Bajirao in Bajirao Mastani, a character that was ahead of my years. I’m indebted to him as an artiste. He has pushed my boundaries and got the best out of me.


Living the Dream


Three times in a row with Sanjay Leela Bhansali. That’s something…

I’m thankful to Mr Bhansali for that. Aditya Chopra once told me that you should give your director so much that they can’t look beyond you. You must leave no stone unturned in adding value to their vision. I’m happy that this is the case with him. Sanjay Leela Bhanslali is truly an enigma. He’s a special man. He’s blessed with these unreal talents. He’s hypersensitive and intelligent. He cannot digest mediocrity. The defining phrase for Mr Bhansali would be ‘the relentless pursuit of excellence’.

The film sailed through troubled waters… The protests, the sets being vandalised... What’s your take?

I do have strong opinions on this subject, which I wish to express. But I’ve been requested by the team to not voice it to avoid further hurdles. I channelled the angst into my performance. These are issues none of us anticipated. It’s unfortunate. Apart from all these external issues, I knew this whole process would be ball-busting. I was ready for the testing times. Sometimes, it’s difficult to pick yourself up and go back to work next morning because it’s so draining. It takes a toll on your physical and mental health. But it’s all for a greater purpose. These films are for posterity.


Living the Dream


Did it help that Deepika Paudukone, with whom you share a personal equation, was your co-star in this stressful film?

(Laughs) I have no scenes with her in this film at all. But it’s nice to have someone you can confide in. It’s comforting. It’s great to have someone who can relate to your problems. It was definitely a good feeling to have.

Popularity, great roles, awards… is it like living in a surreal world?

I do feel so! At least once a day, invariably in the morning, I find it hard to believe what’s happening in my life. Today I was on stage with Kapil Dev and I had to pinch myself. I’m going to play him in one of the biggest movies of Hindi cinema. I thank the Almighty for giving me the opportunity to do what I love. For wonderful people to work with, for my loving family and friends. Every day in prayer I remind myself as to how big a deal this is for me. I only wanted to be one thing all my life. It’s a dream which lakhs dream of. They come from small parts of the country to this big bad city to make it as an actor.

Go on...

A few days back, a close friend brought up a small fact. During my struggle period, for three years in my bedroom there was huge a black and white poster of Rocky with the tag line: His whole life was a million-to-one shot. That became the story of my life.
I had a million-to-one shot at the movies and it happened. There have been instances, when amidst large crowds, I stop engaging with the external and ask myself can you bloody believe this? It’s the greatest high when the film releases and you go to watch it in the theatres. I usually visit Chandan cinema in Juhu. I watch my film sitting in the stalls with the audience. They laugh, they react, they clap. To realise that I have connected with the audience… Nothing compares to that.


Living the Dream



I’m sure there must be many such more moments…

Oh yes, like winning my Filmfare Award for Best Actor (for Bajirao Mastani). I couldn’t believe I was standing on stage holding a Black Lady in my hand. In the first row was Mr Amitabh Bachchan. My family was sitting in the second row. It was one of the greatest moments of my life.
When I was a struggler, my mom and sister used to read this book called the The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. It asks you to visualise your goals. And I did. During that time on my birthday, my sister, instead of candles, put photoshopped images of me on the cake. Like, she had superimposed my face on Shah Rukh Khan’s on the Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge poster. She had placed my face on SRK’s with the Black Lady and so on...

Later, I placed those pictures near the Rocky poster for a good two years. And all that manifestation worked! One day my face appeared on the YRF poster. And on another day, I was holding a Black Lady in my hand. Also, I wanted to be an actor like Amitabh Bachchan. So he congratulating me before I went up on stage… is something I can never lose sight of.


Living the Dream



That’s a great attitude to have...

Yes, I attach immense value to every opportunity. Even when we shot this Filmfare cover in Mauritius, at one point, I couldn’t help thinking how great it was. What a beautiful place with such wonderful people working so hard to click wonderful pictures of me! My Twitter bio says ‘Living the dream’! Because every day I am.

Were there moments when your parents were unhappy about your career choice?

To be fair, my parents have always supported me. They’ve helped me at every step. They supported me when I called them halfway through the university and told them that I wanted to become an actor. You can imagine how bizarre it must have sounded to them. They told me first get the degree and then pursue my passion. My dad supported me throughout my struggle period. He coughed up money for my portfolio, for my physical training and for my dance classes. And it was not the best financial time for us. Three and a half years of waiting is a long time. At times, he did question if the path I had chosen was the right one and whether I was serious about it.


Believe and you shall receive. Ranveer Singh tells Rahul Gangwani why the adage works for him



Then?


After the second year, you wonder whether the phone will ever ring. It was also a period of recession. Films were not being made. Fewer films were being made with newcomers. I believe I started the trend. It was Anushka Sharma and then me, then Parineeti Chopra, Arjun Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Sidharth Malhotra, Varun Dhawan came in. Fortunately, it all turned around. My dad had a breakthrough in his business. I got a break. As they say, dene wala deta hai toh chappar phaad kar deta hai.

How are the dynamics at home now?

My father is getting older and gets emotional easily. The other day I was cleaning my shoe closet, which has some 100 pairs now. It was a staggering sight. Dad walked past the room and he stared crying. He said I remember once you had just two pairs – one for everyday wear and one while going out. Tell me, how can I not be thankful to God?


Living the Dream




It sure was an emotional moment...

Yes. My grandfather, who was a pious man, once told me that he kept asking God where life would take me. For the longest time he didn’t get any answer. However, one day, he had a vision of me standing next to Amitabh Bachchan. He’d narrate this story every day with the same enthusiasm. It’s crazy how his vision came true.

Stardom comes with a price. What is the price you paid?

Certain instances can agitate you. The lack and invasion of privacy being one. False media reportage can also leave you disturbed. Sometimes people just cook up stories. They don’t realise that it could affect a human being profoundly. That it’s bad karma. Mobile phones are adding to the nuisance. They don’t even ask you for a picture. It’s bad manners. They take pictures and videos even when you’re eating or when you are in the washroom.

Any such instance that comes to your mind?

There have been instances right here in this hotel. I was doing a joint interview with Akshay Kumar here. We were in the washroom in adjacent stalls. We both turned around to see a guy shooting us. That day I realised there’s so much to learn from Akshay. The way he handled that situation was amazing. He was firm with the person but also diffused the moment. He gave him the picture and taught him a lesson too. I’ve learnt people skills and management from my seniors.

Your comment on the leaked pictures of Ranbir Kapoor-Mahira Khan...

I can only speak about my own experience. There are times when I’m at a certain place with certain people and I don’t want those private moments to be captured by anyone. But you can’t help it. You got to take the
bad with the good. I get to do what I love to do and I make a lot of money. But some things are irritating and you’ve got to take them in your stride. It’s a crazy world.


Living the Dream




Mahira, particularly, faced a lot of backlash for the pictures. What’s your view on gender bias?

Everyone has their own interpretation. Everyone has their own set of values. Everyone has an opinion. You can hear them but you needn’t subscribe to them. At the end of the day, one should just live and let live and focus on more important things. Mahira is a great performer and an entertainer. One should ideally just engage with her at just that level.

Are there other things which annoy you?

People ask me how I am such a happy person. They ask me whether I’m really happy or faking it. I believe we are living in a maha kalyug. It’s the worst it’s ever been. I can’t understand why people find it hard to believe that I’m a jovial person. They don’t realise that I just count my blessings every day. I’ve so much to be thankful for? How can I be a dull and morose person? Maybe, if I had not become an actor, I would’ve been a different person. Perhaps, I’d have been bitter and resentful. Right now I have all the reasons to be happy.

Like what?

Work, family, friends... Everything is beautiful. I’m also someone who likes to make others happy. I guess, I’m blessed with this ability. I do that on a daily basis. If I spread happiness and joy, I’ll get it back manifold. I find it amusing that people can’t wrap their heads around my happiness. It makes me wonder how many cynics are out there. Yes, the agony of existence is always there but you can choose to ride that wave and be happy through it all. That’s why I live my life to the fullest.


Living the Dream
ââPlease bury me in Chanel - Priyanka Chopra

 

 

One word that describes your style best…
Confidence.

 

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much would you rate your personal style game?
it would be 8

 

How do you take care of your skin?
Simplest possible way… cleanse, tone, moisturise.

 

How do you take care of your hair?
Keep it clean, clean, clean and whenever possible show it some love. Get a head massage with coconut oil and moisturising hair treatments using eggs and yoghurt.

 

What make-up/skin care products are always in your handbag?
Kiehl's lip balm, perfume - I'm always changing up the scent, L'Occitane hand cream, lipstick for sure and mascara...

 

Tell us your Holy Grail beauty product.
Water… drink the right amount every day and watch how your skin, hair and overall body just transform!  That kinda glow you won’t get anywhere else!

 

What’s your beauty mantra?
Wear what you feel best in.

 

What’s the one make-up hack you’ve learnt since entering showbiz?
Eyebrows are very important to your face and can change the way you look.

 

Which celebrity gives you style inspiration?
I don’t get inspired by celebrities. I wear what makes me comfortable.

 

What’s the best fashion advice you’ve been given?
Not to wear something if you're not feeling comfortable in it.

 

Is there any one garment you feel conscious in?
Lingerie.

 

What garment makes you feel ‘body confident’?
A saree.

 

Have you ever worn an outfit for an appearance only to regret it later?
(Laughs) More times than I’d like to remember.

 

Tell us your three favourite looks you’ve totally loved since your debut.
Uffffff…. That’s a toughie but if you force me to choose…
a. Roma in Don
b. Ayesha in Dil Dhadakne Do
c. Nandita from Gunday

 

What are the five wardrobe essentials every girl should have?
An LBD, a pair of great fitting jeans, a killer pair of heels, flattering innerwear and the self-confidence to carry off anything she puts on, irrespective of what anyone says!

 

One beauty/fashion tip you picked up from your mother?
Grace is a woman’s best accessory.

 
What’s your go-to off-duty outfit?
Track pants and singlets.

 

If you could raid anyone’s wardrobe, whose would
you pick?
Kendall Jenner.

 

Is there a fashion trend you can’t wait to try out?
I’m a jeans and t-shirt girl... I leave trend testing to my stylists.

 

Who’s your favourite designer?
Chanel Chanel Chanel - please bury me in Chanel.

What’s your signature perfume?
For me to know and you to find out.
 

What’s the one fashion trend you wouldn’t be caught dead in?
My birthday suit!

 

Do you enjoy wearing own make-up?
No. I’m always in heavy makeup on set so when I’m off duty, I keep it simple and use only mascara and lip stain.

 

What’s your way of dealing with a bad hair day?
Put it up in a top knot.

 

How long did it take you to decide your Oscar red carpet outfit?
Three fittings.

 

Your favourite international red carpet moment?
The Oscars and the Billboard Music Awards - sweet and spicy. At the Oscars I felt like a princess. At the Billboard Music Awards I felt fierce.

 

Nude lips or red lips?
Depends on what your eyes look like.

 

Saree or gown?
Depends on the mood.

 

Jeans or skirt?
Jeans… always jeans.

 

How do you unwind…? What all do you do?
Eat, sleep, binge watch TV shows and movies… oh and try and solve math equations!

 

 

 

âœWho doesnât admire Dhoni?â - Bhumika Chawla


How did MS Dhoni: The Untold Story come your way?

I got a call from the film's casting director Vicky Sidnah followed by a meeting with the director, Neeraj Pandey. It was an engaging conversation. I had a gut feeling that this would be a great project. And I followed my instincts.  

 

What kept you away from Hindi films for almost a decade?

Post Feroz Abbas Khan’s Gandhi, My Father in 2007, I kept doing Tamil and Telugu films. While I did hear scripts in Mumbai, I didn’t find anything exciting enough to grab my attention.

 

Do you view MS Dhoni… as the perfect comeback?

I’m happy to be a part of this movie. Whether it's a perfect comeback or not, let the audience and the industry decide. Terms like ‘comeback’ are coined by the media. There are so many actors who have taken a break, done one film and have gone on a break again. (Laughs) We should use new terms like ‘keeps coming back’. That would keep things open-ended and flexible.

 

We’d like to know more about your character.

I play MS Dhoni's sister Jayanti Gupta. She’s an integral part of Dhoni’s journey. They share a special bond. Dhoni always shared his deepest thoughts with her. If you have watched the trailer you will get a sketchy idea.

 

Are you wary that after this, you might get typecast in ‘sister’ roles?

No, I’m not the kind to worry about these things. Today the industry is coming up with such wonderful scripts. Priyanka Chopra played Ranveer Singh’s sister in Dil Dhadakne Do and then she played his wife in Bajirao Mastani. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan played a sister’s role in Sarbjit and now she is paired opposite Ranbir Kapoor as a glamorous poetess in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. People are watching international TV shows in Netflix. This is an age of web series. Cinema too is evolving in its narrative, content and storytelling. It’s a great time for an actor to push his limits.

 

How was it working with Sushant Singh Rajput who’s playing Dhoni?

Sushant is a mature actor and a great team player. When you are essaying a character like Dhoni there’s a lot of responsibility. A lot of research has to go into the role. It’s easy to buckle under pressure but Sushant held forth. The ease with which he has performed is showing on screen.

 

Okay, what excited you about the movie?

Cricket is a way of life for us Indians. Dhoni is someone the whole country loves. People who don’t dig cricket on a regular basis are also curious about Dhoni. He’s a household name and his life story is inspiring. We spend two hours in a theatre and eventually go back to the mundane chores of our lives. But if those two hours are well spent, if inspiration comes along with entertainment... I believe one should go for it.

 

Bhumika Chawla and Sushant Singh Rajput in a still from MS Dhoni: The Untold Story MS Dhoni: The Untold Story

 

 

What’s your favourite song from the movie?

I love Besabriyaan. It’s a beautiful melody and well placed in the film. It adds to the character. When you watch the visuals you begin to relate with Dhoni’s character. You get attached to his journey.

 

Are you a cricket and MSD fan in real life?

I watch cricket with the family. I’m an admirer of MS Dhoni. Tell me who doesn’t admire Dhoni? He’s a hero for every Indian.

 

You’re still known as the Tere Naam girl…

It was a great debut and I will always cherish it. Salman Khan was patient with me despite being such a huge star. Satish Kaushikji was a mentor. It’s a great feeling to be a part of something that people remember even today.

 

You’re mother to a two-year old son, Yash. How has motherhood changed your life?

Life certainly changes after motherhood. You are learning every day. The smile and laughter of a child, the pure love and hugs are absolutely invaluable. Yash is the best gift of life. And this is the best role I’m playing.

 

Any upcoming projects?

I’m waiting for good offers. Till then the train is parked in the station and I’m enjoying my chai at home. On a serious note, unless I get something exciting I won’t do it just for the heck of it. I could have done that long back. Now there is even more reason to pick my roles carefully. They have to be good enough for me to justify my time away from my two-year-old.

 

Your three recent favourite Hindi movies...

Kapoor & Sons, Bajirao Mastani and Wazir. 

Bad girls rule

 

Teena’s avant-garde looks, a short pixie haircut and dusky skin amidst fair and feminine aspirants, grabbed the eyeballs of casting directors when she began giving auditions for TV commercials and even films later. “You don’t sport such a haircut if you want to be in this profession. Often casting directors would ask me to apply foundation during auditions because I’m not fair. I faced a lot of censure initially," she says. "But I’m proud of my skin colour. So, to prove a point I started attending auditions without foundation and with my short hair. This became my USP. The rest of the girls looked the same with long hair and white skin,” says Teena recalling her early tryst with the glamour world. “If someone tells me I can’t do something I make sure I end up being the best in it,” says she. Born in Punjab, Teena spent most of her life growing up in a boarding school in Shimla. “In North India, people make you feel terrible if you’re not fair. All my life, I was told that I wasn’t attractive,” she confides. 

 

Teena, who first began as an event manager, was not keen to face the camera. But when she bagged her first TV commercial in 2013, life changed forever. She ended up doing 80 commercials in three years. While she was doing ads, director Abhishek Kapoor offered her a small role of a tattoo artist in Fitoor. “It was because of my distinctive looks,” she smiles. Then she landed the part of the college bully in AR Murugadoss’ Akira, which has Sonakshi Sinha as the protagonist. “Most girls debut in roles with pretty dresses and long flowing locks. But my role is unusual,” she laughs and adds, “The bad girl part excited me. I play a gang leader in college, who’s the strong silent type but a bully.” 

 

Teena claims that the feminist theme of Akira appealed to her. “There are three strong female characters in Akira played by Sonakshi, Konkona Sen Sharma and me. Mouna Guru, the Tamil film on which Akira is based, was a guy’s story. But Murugadoss Sir’s turned it around and created three strong female characters,” she says. She insists she never felt overshadowed by Sonakshi. “The fact that you got the role out of so many girls, means you’re doing something right. You’ve got to have conviction in your talent and work. I feel a sense of confidence,” she smiles. She’s even acted in Netflix’s American show Season 2 of Sense 8. “My director Lana Wachowski had co-directed The Matrix. I noticed how different it was working with her team as compared to an Indian film set. Nobody needed to scream, shout or rush around. Everything was organised and well-planned,” she states. Teena also features in the second season of Anil Kapoor’s TV series 24. 

 

Teena

 

 

Coming from a conservative Punjabi family in Ludhiana, her mother wasn’t happy when she began doing ads. “She said, ‘Achhi ghar ki ladkiya yeh sab nahi karti.’ At 18, her dad wanted her to get married but Teena insisted on moving out. “They don’t realise that in trying to protect us, they’re stifling our growth. It’s a big deal to follow your dreams in small-towns. I believe I should chase my dreams rather than a man,” she asserts. 

 

Teena may not have watched many Hindi films in her growing years but she couldn’t remain immune to the Shah Rukh Khan charm. “I used to watch only Shah Rukh Khan’s movies. I was in love with him. But once I grew up, the bubble burst. I wanted to find a guy like SRK. But I realised, men like that don’t exist.” Today, she relies only on herself for inspiration. “I’m trying to be a better version of myself every day,” she concludes.

âœBeing an actress is hard for me.â ⓠNargis Fakhri

 

 

What attracted you to do Banjo?

First off, the girl was from New York so I was like ‘Oh that is me right there'. It was a combination of things for sure, the character being from New York, being a music student and being a DJ. When I heard the story and heard about her experiences in Mumbai because it is her first time there, I was just laughing because I remembered my first time and all the things that went wrong.

 

 

What did you enjoy most about playing your character?

I love my character and I feel very close to her. When you are choosing a film, you have to connect to the character you are going to play. That is really important to me, that I feel some kind of connection when I hear her story. I really felt her!

 

 

How was your experience working with Riteish?

He is an amazing actor. He is also an amazing human being. He is very easy to work with. Riteish is down to earth, funny, smart and very helpful.

 

 

Any special memories while you were shooting?

The atmosphere on set was good, but they were all speaking in Marathi and it was like coming to India for the first time again. I could not understand anything that anyone was saying. I am hearing them speak and some of them sound like Hindi words. I just could not understand, but then I started to pick up more and more and understand some words but it was difficult.

 

 

What do you love about being an actress?

It is hard for me, because there’s a language barrier. It’s also difficult because I don’t see my family, I don’t see my friends. I don’t see my mom for four or five years at a stretch. I committed myself because it was a challenge. It seemed interesting, and it was a great opportunity.

 

 

Would you like to do more Hollywood films now?

Sure, I’d like to try but only up to a point. I have been blessed to have made it this far here with no skills, no knowledge, no family, no friends and without sacrificing my values and morals.

 

 

 

 

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