Tiger Shroff on Student Of The Year 2: I’m taking somebody else’s franchise forward, praying it becomes a blockbuster

Tiger Shroff is usually shy and distant but I was in for a surprise when he suddenly dropped his guard for me to discover that he was a big foodie. He is seen looking keenly at the pizza, samosa and dhokla spread. When someone frisks away the food items one by one, his eyes follow the food plates till the door. “I really get tempted. But I have to be conscious of my diet. I can’t control sometimes. The problem is that I am half naked half the time so I can’t eat these junk food,” he says, and hastily adds, “Listen, when I say half naked, I mean topless. I have really got screwed in the past so badly for not clarifying what I am saying,” he laughs. Tell him about his picture with a huge Gujarati thali kept in front of him that recently went viral, and he says, “That was all naatak ya, I was only posing.”

The go-to action star, who is currently gearing up for the sequel of Karan Johar’s campus caper Student Of The Year 2, is a bit nervous to take the franchise further, especially since the first instalment was a box office success. It was also a launch pad for three newcomers — Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan and Sidharth Malhotra — giving them a good landing in Bollywood. Secondly, his action flick Baaghi 2, that released last year, made him a worthy member of the prestigious Rs 100 crore club, raising the bar much higher for him. “Baaghi, in a way, is home ground for me whereas I am an outsider with Student Of The Year. I’m taking somebody else’s franchise forward and praying that it becomes a blockbuster so that the franchise can live on for future generations. Also, it’s Karan sir’s baby. So in that sense, there is more pressure and expectation,” says Tiger. But he is happy about the family support that he is getting and smiles thinking about his dad and veteran actor Jackie Shroff’s reaction to the trailer — “Bindaas, exam pass ho gaya tu!

Tiger Shroff on Student Of The Year 2: I’m taking somebody else’s franchise forward, praying it becomes a blockbuster

However, Tiger considers Student Of The Year 2 to be a nice break for him before two “heavy” films, including the one with Hrithik Roshan under the Yash Raj Films (yet untitled) and then Baaghi 3. “Yes, this was a nice break for me,” he says. But how was it playing a student when his fans are so used to Tiger kicking butt? “Yes, I am getting my butt kicked for a change (laughs). Here, I am not a superman or the one-man army. But I do get to kick some butt in college and in sports. But it was fun because I have never had a college life. After school, I directly got Heropanti and my career started. Just imagine we haven’t gone to college and we have done this film. Even Ananya (Panday, co-star) has not been to college. Tara (Sutaria, co-star) is the only one who you can call padhi likhi (educated). But I got to experience a very different kind of college with Student Of The Year 2,” says Tiger. “I really wish I was in this college (laughs) where I am basically studying romance, how to woo girls, how to do action, and how to play sports,” he says, laughing heartily.

While some people might think that Tiger is getting stereotyped and that how long he can sustain with action and dance, the actor, in his five-year-old career, is pretty clear about the path he wants to take, his immediate goals, and how he can physically express differently each time as per the given emotional drive. “This is like my life, so whenever I am not shooting, I keep practicing, wanting to learn new things every now and then. For instance, kabaddi is one of the sports in the school for competition in Student Of The Year 2. So I practised a lot to get the body language of kabaddi but at the same time, I tried to keep my athletic ability in mind because I have a certain audience who likes seeing me do my ‘Tiger-ism’. I have mixed both and that is how I went about doing this film,” he explains.

When asked if he wants to break out of the action genre and try something different, he says, “I’m very blessed that I have an identity because of the little things that I can do. And just because I am doing action doesn’t mean there is no story or purpose behind it. It is not my show-reel. Otherwise I wouldn’t believe that Baaghi would have done Rs 165 crore at the box office. It wasn’t just me killing people. I have to play the hero with a purpose whether it’s saving the heroine, fighting for my country, or taking on the baddies. There has to be a motivation to everything that I do on screen. When I decided to become a hero, I looked up to Michael Jackson. I also admired Jackie Chan, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Lee. Why are these guys such larger than life celebrated heroes? They have one thing in common: they are all action heroes. Action is a universal language. Everybody wants to look up to someone, or be like someone.”

“When kids look at me and say, ‘Mujhe aap ki tarah banna hai, mujhe yeh seekhna hai (I want to be like you, I want to learn from you), it is the best feeling and I feel the same way about these action stars,” he says. “It is a responsibility and I am very lucky that I got lucky with kids. Today I was promoting the film on Super Dancer and kids as young as four to five years of age are so fond of me, and I don’t know what I have done to deserve that. I am very blessed that I have got their attention and appreciation,” Tiger adds. Tiger also feels that the fondness for him among kids gets extended to their parents. “Because of these children, their mom and dad have to like me. So for me, it is one plus four ticket at the box office. Probably that is why I got lucky with Baaghi and other films.”

Tiger has a Plan B ready because he knows he will reach a stage when he will face a burnout. He does admit of getting exhausted. “Yes, I do get exhausted but I want to use my youth right now to the full potential and when my legs start giving up, I will start changing my genre,” he says. Tiger accepts that he is handicapped without rehearsals. His Student Of The Year 2 director Punit Malhotra confirms that if the actor is not called just for one rehearsal, he would have an argument with him. “I have to rehearse because I am not an actor like Alia (Bhatt, who makes a cameo in Student Of The Year 2 with ‘Hookup Song’ with Tiger), so I need rehearsals. I don’t want to be unprepared with that dumb expression on my face while everybody knew what they were doing. I am handicapped without rehearsals,” he says, adding that he had a good time shooting with Alia. “Initially, I was a bit nervous because she is such a superb actor. I was worried about giving too many takes. But she is so hardworking and focused, and gives her 2,000 percent to each shot. So that inspired me to give my best. She might be saying that she was nervous matching steps with me, but all that is naatak,” says Tiger.

Tiger Shroff and Alia Bhatt in a still from the Hook Up Song. YouTube screengrab

Talking about the competition with his two co-stars — Ananya Panday and Tara Sutaria — over who would grab more screen space, Tiger says, “Probably it (competition) was between the two actresses. I had nothing to do with it. But strangely, the two girls who were being launched in the same film were very friendly with each other and I would wonder how. If I was one of the girls, I would definitely feel insecure because it is my launch, will she shine more, or will I shine more, I would keep wondering throughout the shoot. I am that kind of a person. But they were very cool and got along very well with each other. Luckily, their characters are so contrasting so it wasn’t a problem,” says Tiger.

So, who are the actors he feels insecure about, and he immediately says, “Thank god, Hrithik Roshan wasn’t launched now or else nobody would have seen me.”  Further, Tiger reveals that he and Hrithik are supposed to have a dance-off in the film they are collaborating on, which is yet to be shot. “I hope I survive. I’m 100 percent insecure in front of Hrithik.”

Finally, did the absence of ‘ex-students’ — Varun Dhawan and Sidharth Malhotra from Student Of The Year — make him happy?  “Ya ya, thank god. Otherwise who would have seen me? Anyway, their fans must be upset that I am doing the film,” he signs off, laughing out loud.

Student of the Year 2 movie review: Tiger’s acting or plot clichés — what’s the worst part of this film?

Can a leading man’s nice-guy demeanour hold up an entire film? The answer is to be found in the new Tiger Shroff-starrer in town. Shroff has a likeable quality about him, but his facial muscles remain more or less stationary throughout Student of the Year 2, which I suppose could be deemed appropriate considering that the plot itself has not moved since Sidharth Malhotra and Varun Dhawan battled it out over a trophy and Alia Bhatt in Student of the Year (SOTY) in 2012.

That film was directed by Karan Johar, and whatever its failings may have been – the foremost being that it sinfully under-utilised Bhatt’s acting talent and reduced her to a Barbie – at least it had her cuteness, Malhotra’s hotness, Dhawan’s fledgling acting skills, the trio’s undeniable charisma and a superficial fun factor going for it. The sequel, produced by Johar and directed by Punit Malhotra (I Hate Love Storys), pretends to be about two girls and a boy but it doesn’t really care about the girls, and the boy, well, he is played by Shroff who cannot act to save his life or a film.

SOTY 2 is centred around the very very middle class Rohan Sachdev (Shroff), star athlete of the low-brow Pishorilal Chamandas College, and his rivalry with the very very wealthy Manav Singh Randhawa (Aditya Seal) of the snooty Saint Teresa College not far away. When Rohan beats Manav unexpectedly in a track event, the stage is set for a clash in their personal and student lives culminating in the annual Dignity Cup tournament between the colleges of Dehradun and Mussoorie that will also decide the winner of the Student of the Year trophy.

Student of the Year 2 movie review: Tigers acting or plot clichés — whats the worst part of this film?

You know women mean even less to SOTY 2 than they did to SOTY 1 when the bad guy promises the good guy that at the end of the contest he will have the trophy on one arm and the latter’s girlfriend on the other, and his attitude echoes the attitude of the film itself, which treats their female collegemates as prizes to be won and lost, nothing more. The irrelevance of the women is further underlined by the fact that Student of the Year is a battle between eight colleges, of which we know at least two to be co-ed, yet the competitions shown are all for boys alone. The girls are not even in contention.

To analyse SOTY 2 primarily on the basis of its gender apathy would be to take it too seriously though. What it ought to be judged on are its blandness, triteness and poor casting. Cliché is piled on cliché in this unoriginal screenplay.

The rich as the evil ones – check.

The middle class as guileless, largely good and at worst, misled by the rich – check.

Loneliness in an upper-class family contrasted with warmth in middle-class family and community life – check.

Glamorous, perfectly made up girls in tiny clothes – check.

Enviably slim female waistlines and legs perennially on display – check.

Boys with muscular, perfectly sculpted bodies – check.

Male biceps and abs perennially on display – check.

Boys who obligingly take off their shirts for our benefit – check.

Boys and girls who look doll-like in their physical flawlessness – check.

Soul – none.

Tara Sutaria who plays Rohan’s girlfriend Mridula has a lukewarm personality, but Ananya Panday, who is cast as mean girl Shreya, has an X factor that pushes its way past the layers of gloss in SOTY 2. Both characters are initially positioned as significant but are in fact marginal to the proceedings. The graceful and striking Ms Panday (actor Chunky Pandey’s daughter) deserves more.

Aditya Seal acts better than Shroff but has a somewhat dull screen presence, which made me wonder why his role was not given instead to TV actor Abhishek Bajaj making his film debut here as Rohan’s kabaddi teammate. In a tiny part, Bajaj makes a far greater impression than Seal does as the second lead.

Even the choreography does not throw up anything extraordinarily original. The usually cheery Vishal-Shekhar too roll out a generic soundtrack that does not do much even for the remix of a lovely old Hindi film song in an early dance-off.

There are certain plot elements in SOTY 2 that could perhaps have borne fruit if they had been explored by a better writer, such as the starting point of the story which is about a boy making his girlfriend’s dreams his dreams and having none of his own. This is a reversal of what we see in real-life man-woman relationships, and who knows where it could have been taken. Here though, the screenplay by Arshad Syed is so preoccupied with foregrounding the men that the point wanders away before being referenced once again briefly in the middle and the end, thus adding up to not very much.

Tara Sutaria, Tiger Shroff and Ananya Pandey in a still from Student of the Year 2. Screenshot from YouTube

Class struggles among the youth in educational institutions have great potential, as we know from Mansoor Khan’s memorable Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar in the early 1990s. SOTY 1 chose to spend more time on its characters’ bodies, make-up and wardrobes, its soundtrack and dance routines than on its writing, but proved to be entertaining in its own limited fashion. SOTY 2 seems not to even try.

KGF, Zero box office collection: Hindi version of Yash-starrer makes Rs 24.45 cr; SRK film falls short of 100 cr

The Hindi version of KGF: Chapter 1, starring Yash, has been a bonafide success, beating even the star-studded Zero. The film witnessed a growth by 40 percent on the second Saturday at the box office, but the release of Simmba did have a negative impact on its collection, especially in the Mumbai circuit. The film has raked in a total of Rs 24.45 crore.

A still from the trailer of Kolar Gold Fields (KGF). YouTube

Despite the reduction in screen count from 1500 to 780 as well as the number of shows in week two, the film has had a steady performance at the domestic box office.

A report by Box Office India states that Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma’s film’s collection has fallen flat. The report predicts that the second weekend earnings are not likely to exceed Rs 3-4 crore. Bollywood Hungama writes that the Aanand L Rai directorial has only managed to earn an estimated Rs 1 crore through the second weekend. The film’s total stands at Rs 91 crore as of today.

KGF was touted as one of the most expensive works of the Kannada film industry. Directed by Prashanth Neel of Ugramm fame, the film also stars Ramya Krishna, Anant Nag and Achyuth Kumar. The first chapter of the two-part period drama has been in production for the last two years and hit cinemas on 21 December.

Deepika Padukone says she was exhausted after working on three consecutive projects with Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Deepika Padukone, who has collaborated with Sanjay Leela Bhansali on three consective projects, Goliyon Ki Raasleela – Ram Leela, Bajirao Mastani and Padmaavat, has said that working with the director has been exhausting. According to Pinkvilla, in an interview, the actress revealed that she felt to replenish herself emotionally before signing up for more projects.

Deepika Padukone/Image from Twitter.

I must admit that I was exhausted after working with Sanjay sir (Leela Bhansali) consecutively. (As an actor,) I had nothing left and that’s why I really needed to replenish emotionally before I took up anything else,” Pinkvilla quoted her as saying via Hindustan Times.

Deepika will be seen next in Meghna Gulzar’s Chhapaak, also starring Vikrant Massey. She will portray acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal in the film, which Meghna has in the past described as an “attempt to explore a larger story on acid violence in the country through a real life subject.”

Speaking about Chhapaak, Deepika believed she was in “great hands” with Meghna as the director. She will also serve as a producer on the project.

She had recently confirmed that she is developing a superhero project, which will be the first time a female superhero will be witnessed in an Indian film.

Simmba box office collection: Ranveer Singh, Sara Ali-starrer earns Rs 75 cr over opening weekend

Rohit Shetty’s action entertainer Simmba, starring Ranveer Singh as Sangram Bhalerao, a Goan police officer, earned Rs 20.72 crore on the opening day and Rs 23.33 crore on the second day. The third day earnings saw a growth by 33.13 percent, report trade analysts. The film earned Rs 31.06 crores on Sunday, taking its opening weekend collection to Rs 75.11 crore.

Ranveer Singh in a still from Simmba. YouTube screengrab

Trade analysts were also of the view that Simmba will witness further business at the domestic box office owing to the New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day on Monday and Tuesday respectively.

Further, trade analysts reported that the film performed exceptionally across the Mumbai circuit, earning a total of Rs 29.01 crore over the weekend.

Based on Telugu film Temper, the film also stars Sara Ali Khan as Ranveer’s love interest. It is produced by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions and Rohit Shetty Picturez.

Akshay Kumar on 2.0: Shankar is like James Cameron on steroids; everything is larger than life in the film

Rajinikanth and Akshay Kumar’s action sci-fi thriller, 2.0, releasing in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu on 29 November, has been in the news for a variety of reasons. A sequel to 2010 hit Enthiran, the film’s gigantic budget (estimated at over Rs 500 crore), the technology used to make the movie and the film’s star cast has been making headlines from the time it was announced.

Akshay Kumar as the cell-phone robot antagonist in Rajinikanth-starrer 2.0. YouTube screengrab

Akshay’s villainous role in the film has garnered a lot of interest, and now that 2.0 promotions are in full swing, the superstar says he is excited to be part of India’s most expensive film. “It’s a huge release and I am nervous about how the film will fare at the box office but it was a relief when I last spoke to my producer. He sounded happy though I am not sure how they will recover the cost. But if this film works then I will be confident enough to say that I have set a benchmark and I will feel motivated, or else I will be back to square one,”

Working with Rajinikanth

“I was very excited when S Shankar (director) offered 2.0 to me. I knew everyone’s character when the script and screenplay was narrated. It talks about how the world is not only for us humans, the earth also belongs to animals, birds, and just because they can’t speak, we shouldn’t take advantage, we shouldn’t play with the nature. It’s such a brilliant concept and I wondered why no filmmaker came up with this idea before,” says Akshay, excitedly adding, “I was also very happy working with The Rajinikanth. I would enjoy talking to him in Marathi on sets.

Rajinikanth has repeatedly said that 2.0 is Akshay’s film, to which he responds, “He’s just being humble. I’m just the Amrish Puri of the film. It is very much his film, because the title is 2.0 and he is 2.0.”

Akshay pointed out that he and the rest of the team were simply awestruck by Rajinikanth’s style. “He has a huge aura. It is amazing that he would add his unique style in every dialogue. Just give him one simple line and he would make it so entertaining. He is very professional and not put on. He is never worried about his appearance.” Akshay is often been asked why he agreed to play the antagonist, and he jokingly says, “The advantage of playing a villain is that you shoot for less number of days. I shot for just 40 days and Mr Rajinikanth shot double that number.”

The VFX in 2.0

While everyone is talking about Akshay’s fierce and ferocious look, the actor is completely awestruck by the technology used in making the film. “I don’t know if my look is a highlight but technically it is the best that India has produced. It is an original 3D film and you can feel the beat of it. It is not transformed into 3D. Mr Shankar is equivalent to James Cameron on steroids (laughs). Everything’s larger than life,” he says.

Akshay Kumar in a poster of 2.0

“When we watch two robots fighting with each other in Transformers we come out saying, ‘Wow, that was great fun’. 2.0 is a similar attempt from India, we can’t compete with the West because their budget is some 17 times higher than ours. But trust me, they cannot make what we have produced here in Rs 510 crore. Technology wise it will definitely be appreciated. I would leave the reception of film and screenplay to the audience yet I feel the technology will enhance the story and narration. The message comes out very clean and clear and it is the finest 3D film India has ever produced,” added Akshay.

The supposed divide between Hindi and south films

Besides having a wish list of working with directors in the South, Akshay further said that he would love to take up such projects in the future.

“I would love to do more sci-fi films,” says the actor. He continues, “I feel this divide between Hindi and South films should blur completely and hence I would call 2.0 a lovely Indian film. But, professionally, too, South film industry is much ahead of us and one can learn a lot from them. I feel, a newcomer should do five films in the south industry and then come here. They take 35 to 40 shots in a single day, whereas we manage just 12 to 13 shots. They are very fast. They don’t take others for granted, they value people’s time. 2.0 is an experiment, it is an experience for me.”

Lauding Akshay’s discipline, dedication and patience, the film’s director recently said that Akshay suffered a lot while getting the prosthetic make-up, costume, sunlight to match, to which the actor said, “I didn’t suffer but it was very tough. For three-and-a-half hours I would be sitting quietly in one place and three people would work on my body. After shooting, it would take one- and- a- half hour to remove the make-up. Every night I would sleep with the thought that I have to go through this process again the next day, and it continued for 40 days. That was a painful. My pores couldn’t breathe, so for six hours sweat would accumulate inside my body, and when I would get out of the costume, my whole body would smell of sweat. Also, I was only on liquid diet — water, juice and milkshakes. I wasn’t allowed to eat because the costume had to fit me. And the first thing I did after I saw myself in that get up was click selfies with my family, my wife, my children,” he reveals.

His future projects after 2.0

Akshay is one of those rare actors who has moulded himself as a comic actor who is also good at drama and action, and he never shies away from experimenting if convinced about the project.

Akshay Kumar. File image

Someone who muscles in four to five films every year and all in different genres while striking a fine balance between commercial and meaningful cinema, Akshay, with a ridiculously high success rate, has an incredible line up of films like the historical war drama Kesari in collaboration with Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, which is near completion with just six days work left; he teams up again with Kareena Kapoor for Dharma Productions’ Good News (shoot starts next year); there is the fourth instalment of the popular franchise, Housefull, and his own production, Mission Mangal, based on ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission.

Kesari is also a high budget film, and when my film is talked about for its content and it is commercial as well, I like that,” he says. In fact, the superstar is also game for collaborating with OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon that is attracting a lot of popular actors. “I would surely love to do something on a digital platform,” he adds.

When asked about the other projects that he is likely to take up in the future, for instance, the historical period drama, Prithviraj Chauhan (he will be finalising this next year end), the third instalment of Hera Pheri and sequels of OMG Oh My God! and Rowdy Rathore, the actor bursts out laughing, saying, “Looks like I am doing 35 films! I can do only five films at a time.”

Thugs of Hindostan is nothing but a failed masala film going through the motions of patriotism

Thugs of Hindostan is a disaster, and it will remain so even if it makes some profit in the end, since more things than economics decide ‘success’ in cinema. It may be difficult to make this point to a Bollywood producer, but the success of a film venture is less dependent on the genius of the director and the technical or visual add-ons than on touching emotional chords with the film-going public, traceable to the socio-political issues of the day — though the political links may not always be visible. 3 Idiots (2009) had a message pertaining to self-actualisation just when the urban youth had been enthused by stories of Indians doing well in the global arena, and it celebrated the ‘Indian genius’. Patriotic films similarly latch on to sentiments in the public space but they need to tap the right kind of patriotism.

At the present moment, it would appear, anti-Pakistani sentiment is a more reliable way of bringing audiences into the halls than anti-colonial rhetoric, which is what Thugs of Hindostan offers. My own view is that anti-colonial rhetoric stopped being pertinent after the Congress era — since the Congress subsisted on the mythology around the freedom struggle, and kept the sentiment alive. Even under the Congress, the sentiment was already weakening and the last (moderately) successful anti-British film may have been 1942: A Love Story (1994), which was sold more on the basis of RD Burman’s music. If Lagaan (2000) was also ‘anti-British’, it tapped into cricketing patriotism, current to this day, rather than into any anti-colonial feelings. The anti-colonial rhetoric in Thugs of Hindostan is ludicrous and the film’s closest relative from Bollywood may be Manmohan Desai’s Mard (1985), a failed masala film; Thugs of Hindostan may also be described thus – as a failed masala film going through the motions of patriotism.

Aamir Khan and Katrina Kaif in a still from Thugs of Hindostan. Image via Twitter

This leads us to the question of what a ‘masala film’ is and why Thugs of Hindostan cannot be termed a ‘successful masala film’. My view here is that a masala film is a difficult object to create and one of the few masala classics in Hindi cinema hitherto has been Manmohan Desai’s Amar Akbar Anthony (1977). A masala film by definition is a film that uses all the standard ingredients of popular cinema self-consciously, to the extent of making it border on its own parody. Amar Akbar Anthony, for instance, has all the ingredients familiar from films like Deewar and Yaadon ki Baraat – the sacrificing mother and siblings separated in childhood; there is also divine intervention when the villains try to get at the protagonists. The very shape of the miracle – a cobra which blocks their path into a sanctuary where a bhajan is being sung – is deliberately excessive, and a sophisticate cannot but laugh out aloud. At the same time, the film also allows some people to take all this seriously and it is not straightforward parody. The poor man played by Pran whose wife is afflicted by disease also invokes laughter (‘meri bibi to TB ho gaya hai’) although this again can be taken quite seriously as pathos by a segment. Another masala classic is David Dhavan’s Hero No. 1 (1997), which also borders on its own parody; part of its humour comes from Govinda’s comic imitation of Rajesh Khanna in Hrishikesh Mukerjee’s Bawarchi (1972).

It may seem that a masala film is generally without a message but it is almost mandatory for any popular film to have one; it would be more accurate to say that the masala film delivers an inflated message that can be read as self-mockery. It is not a half-hearted message but one that is almost nonsensical that makes for a masala film. Given this element, it may not be appropriate for a masala film to appear when political passions are running high. Amar Akbar Anthony came at the end of the Emergency when elections had already been announced and Hero No. 1 also when there was no strong political discourse in the public space. Just to give an idea of the political messages in masala films, in Amar Akbar Anthony, the children separated in childhood near a statue of Gandhiji can be read as Gandhian values not being able to unite the nation, and I take this to refer to the two Gandhians then opposing Mrs Gandhi — Morarji Desai and JP Narayan. Manmohan Desai was perhaps a Congress supporter since his later film Coolie (1983) also toys with Mrs Gandhi’s kind of populism. The original films that the two classics partly parody were serious efforts tapping into national sentiments and the timing of the masala films (and not only their inspired content) made them successful.

Thugs of Hindostan was initially announced as an adaptation of Confessions of a Thug by Phillip Meadows Taylor (1839), based on the Thuggee cult in India in existence for over 500 years. The Thugs were described as murderers and robbers and eliminated by the British when Lord Bentinck was Governor General. The man credited with destroying the cult was William Henry Sleeman and the town of Sleemanabad in Madhya Pradesh was named in his honour. With history being revised in the post-colonial era, the real truth about the Thugs was called into question, especially the notion of ‘criminal tribes’ created by the British, implying that everyone in a tribe could be branded a criminal. Thugs of Hindustan, which is now denying that it has anything to do with Meadows Taylor, appears to have hit upon the idea that Thugs were freedom fighters and embarked upon the project as an exercise in patriotism.

Thugs of Hindustan casts Amitabh Bachhan and Aamir Khan as principal characters and this casting itself reveals that it does not know which way it is going. Amitabh is evidently a tired man and even endorsing a ceiling fan may be making too many demands of energy upon him. He also takes the patriotism very seriously, as do the other bit players, something that the energetic Aamir Khan, wisely, does not do. Aamir Khan is probably the only one who had an idea of where the film might have gone. The film also brings in a British villain John Clive (perhaps brother of Robert Clive, the Company’s first Governor General) who plays his role very straight. I propose that a fake Britisher in a blonde wig reminiscent of Mogambo from Mr India (another successful masala film) would have served Thugs of Hindostan much better. Lloyd Owen who plays ‘John Clive’ is a genuine Britisher and a phony was what the film craved for – a fake Britisher as objective correlative to the fake anti-colonial sentiment spewed!

The film is being touted as the most expensive Indian film ever made but it is not a good strategy for a masala film to spend so much money. When the entire film is based on a fake premise visible from miles away, what is the good of trying to persuade the audience that it is all real? It is not always a good thing for a work of cinema to be sincere, especially when it is based on an unpalatable premise, but when it is insincere it should be conscious of its own insincerity, admitting to it without hesitation. Only such an approach makes for a great masala film, and Bollywood would do well to understand that.

Bollywood uses the word ‘fun’ rather loosely and film critics are quick to believe that the worst kind of trash can become ‘fun’ if only the spectator watched it with the right attitude (rather than a ‘critical’ one). My point here is that true ‘fun’ is difficult to produce; what happens most often is that people recognise that something is intended as fun and oblige the film-maker by mimicking ‘enjoyment’. This is like one’s polite response to a bad joke: one laughs simply in recognition of an intention rather than at genuine humour. Enjoyment is a component of happiness and we need desperately to convince ourselves that we are not unhappy. Since it takes discernment to recognise when one is not enjoying oneself, it is heartening that spectators and critics alike have given Thugs of Hindostan the thumbs down, implying recognition that true joy is not so easily to be had and only a successful work produces it. Perhaps Thugs of Hindostan will help audiences move to a new level of self-awareness with regard to the emotions that entertainment actually generates — rather than what publicity tells us it produces.

Deepika Padukone Ranveer Singh wedding: See first photos of newlyweds’ marriage ceremonies

Bollywood stars Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh were married in a traditional Konkani ceremony at a Lake Como resort in Italy on Wednesday, 14 November 2018. The couple, who became romantically involved after working together on the 2013 Sanjay leela Bhansali film Goliyon Ki Rasleela: Ram-Leela, also married as per the rituals of an Anand Karaj ceremony on 15 November.

The first photos from the couple’s highly guarded wedding were released on their social media accounts some hours later.

The images depict Deepika looking resplendent as a bride, while Ranveer seems to be the very picture of an elated groom.


Photos of newlyweds Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone at their Anand Karaj and Konkani marriage ceremonies at Lake Como in Italy

Their outfits for both the Anand Karaj and Konkani ceremonies were designed by Sabyasachi.

The designer’s creations for Deepika and Ranveer are reflective of their personalities as also of their roots. “All of us at Sabyasachi wish the lovely couple all the very best for a wonderful and happy married life,” a statement released by the designer’s team said.

Their wedding portraits were shot by photographer Errikos Andreou. “This was a wedding made of dreams!” Andreou said. The photographer has previously shot both Deepika and Ranveer for individual assignments.

A lavish luncheon was planned for their select guests at the villa where their wedding was held on Wednesday afternoon. The spread was created by Swiss chefs flown down specifically for the purpose. A party followed in the evening post-which guests retired to their rooms to begin preparing for the Anand Karaj ceremony to follow the next morning.

Filmmaker Karan Johar was the first to tweet his congratulations to the newlyweds, saying they looked “stunning and gorgeous” on their big day and wishing them a “lifetime of love and happiness”.

Cheat India teaser: Emraan Hashmi looks to capitalise on India’s financially lucrative education sector

T-Series unveiled its first teaser of Emraan Hashmi’s upcoming film, Cheat India, which focuses on the prevailing education system in the country.

It introduces us to Emraan’s money-minded protagonist Rakesh Singh, who looks to capitalise on the country’s financially lucrative education sector. With lakhs of students appearing for various entrance exams and only a few thousand seats, he devises a cheating scheme to help those in need.

Emraan Hashmi in Cheat India

Inspired by true events, the film looks to expose the rampant malpractices prevalent during competitive exams.

Earlier this week, a poster of the film was released, which showed Emraan’s face stitched together by an assortment of exam admission cards and rupee notes.

Emraan is not only acting in the film, but also producing it with T-Series and Ellipsis Entertainment. It also marks the Bollywood debut of actress Shreya Dhanwanthary.

“The script and title of Cheat India are supremely powerful. This is among the most engaging and riveting stories I’ve read in a while, and I am thrilled to be essaying what I believe will be a landmark role in my filmography,” Emraan had said, as per a press release.

Directed by Soumik Sen, the film landed in a controversy earlier as filmmaker-actor duo Dinesh Gautam and Imran Zahid claimed the storyline of the film was copied from their movie titled Marksheet.

Produced by Bhushan Kumar’s T-Series, Tanuj Garg and Atul Kasbekar’s Ellipsis Entertainment, and Emraan Hashmi Films, Cheat India is scheduled to release on 25 January, 2019.

Thugs of Hindostan: Aamir Khan, Amitabh Bachchan power this fun, fearsome Bollywood ride

The year is 1857, and at the time of the East India Company’s rule, Raunakpur is among the few remaining freeholds. Its ruler Mirzasaab (Ronit Roy) is preparing for an all-out battle with the Company, and its representative, John Clive (Lloyd Owen). His trusted general Khudabaksh (Amitabh Bachchan) has been deputed with Raunakpur’s prince to gather allies.

A surprise night visit with Clive, however, puts paid to those plans. With his son held hostage by Clive, Mirza hands over control of Raunakpur to the British. But the prince is killed anyway, as is Mirza, and his wife. The only surviving member of the royal clan is the Princess Safira, who is rescued at the eleventh hour from the clutches of Clive by Khudabaksh.

Eleven years later, we’re introduced to a thug Firangi Mallah (Aamir Khan). A glib talker, Firangi’s eccentricity is not to be taken for a lack of seriousness, however. For he is ruthless when it comes to the question of profit, and not above double-crossing his own comrades when it comes to earning a pretty penny.

Poster for Thugs of Hindostan. Image courtesy Twitter

Cut to a whole other type of ‘thug’: Khudabaksh, who now fights the British with a grown-up Safira (Fatima Sana Shaikh) by his side. A snazzy action sequence on a ship gives ample opportunity for the duo to display their wizardry with sword and bow-and-arrow, their cunning and discipline, and the devotion of their band of followers.

The contrasts between Firangi Mallah (who has to introduce himself) and Khudabaksh (who is spoken of by others due to his deeds) is drawn very clearly in these opening scenes.

The British decide that they can’t let Khudabaksh persist in his challenge to the East India Company, and seek the services of a true villain in bringing him down. Enter: Firangi Mallah, who it turns out, has another grand passion apart from money — the dancer/courtesan Surayya (Katrina Kaif). The first few scenes in which we’re introduced to Surayya are mildly uncomfortable as the camera dwells on her waist and bust and pout. If we meet the other characters through their actions, with Surayya, it is her physical beauty and that alone, which is the focus. However, she gets to to display some quickness of wit as well, in her interactions with Firangi. That’s before she must launch into the actual reason for her presence: an energetic dance number. It is during this dance that Firangi meets the British officer who wants to co-opt him into the fight against Khudabaksh et al.

And so the stage is set for Firangi to meet Khudabaksh.

Which he does in spectacular fashion, during a skirmish set on a ship.

When the trailer of Thugs of Hindostan released, there were comparisons aplenty to Pirates of the Caribbean. Perhaps Firangi is modelled on Jack Sparrow, but there are also traces of the other quirky characters Aamir Khan has played in the past. No matter though, he is still a hoot. And the action sequences in this first half are an incredible amount of fun to watch. The stunt choreography is slick, even if it has definite touches of Bollywood (by which this reviewer means some hyper-dramatised moments). At no point in the first hour-plus of the film do you feel your attention flagging.

There’s something about the way Firangi and Khudabaksh relate to each other that’s oddly reminiscent of the Shah Rukh Khan-Amrish Puri equation from Diwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. The younger man trying hard to impress, the unbending older man seeking a spark of something within this protégé. Khudabaksh seems to see something in Firangi that hitherto no one has: a spark.

Through symbol, imagery and through words, Firangi is depicted as Khudabaksh’s ‘heir apparent’. Their characters are a study in contrasts: one ever-ready to yield, the other completely unyielding; one for whom everything has a price but no value, while for the other, some things — like freedom, integrity, loyalty — are so valuable that there can be no price put on them, ever. Amid their battle with the British, there’s also a battle of wills between Firangi and Khudabaksh. Whose character will prove to be stronger, who will influence whom, is part of the crux of Thugs’ first half.

The conclusion of this battle of wills is perhaps of the foregone variety, but the way it plays out is satisfying.

In one scene, we see Khudabaksh tilling a barren land over several years, in the hope that one day, the same ground will yield a harvest. The land is a metaphor for Firangi, and it proves to be a fertile spot after all, for Khudabaksh’s hopes to take seed.

Amitabh Bachchan plays warrior patriarch with ease, and Fatima Sana Shaikh is competent enough in the role of Safira. She performs the action sequences perfectly, but falters in the emotional ones. Aamir Khan shifts between being funny and menacing in a most engaging manner. One moment, he could be jesting, the other, a change in expression shows the danger that lies just below the surface.

There’s plenty of opportunity for Firangi to show this menacing side as the skirmishes with the English (and their chief, Clive) pick up in scale and intensity. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for poor Katrina Kaif, who is brought in for her second oddly athletic dance number of the film at a late point in the proceedings. She writhes and contorts in sequinned hotpants as the plot builds towards its climax.

It is the setting up of this climax that Thugs of Hindostan totters a bit. There’s an unveiling that’s a little too filmi (even for this wholly commercial entertainer). This, however, is forgiven in the rip-roaring, all muskets blazing finale sequence of the film. The showdown is appropriately high-stakes, and caps off an enjoyable caper.

Thugs of Hindostan is Bollywood having a blast (quite literally, in some moments!). If its no-holds-barred adoption of the commercial Hindi entertainer’s elements can be a flaw at times, for the most part, it works in the film’s favour. A mild Pirates of the Caribbean hangover aside, this is prime Diwali blockbuster material — a story of relationships, betrayal, adventure and courage, of underdogs and their unlikely triumphs.