Saroj Khan, the choreographer, raked a can of worms when during the course of a press conference she made comments that seemed to suggest that the casting couch phenomenon in Bollywood, where sexual favours are demanded and given in return for meaty roles in movies, might actually not be a bad thing.
Saroj’s argument was that it was, after all, not rape and that if women did fall for it, then they also got a livelihood in return. She said that it had always been happening here and that many women experience it. On the other hand, it also happens everywhere else and not just in the film industry and so why target only Bollywood?
The furore against the remarks was immediate with people railing against her for endorsing such an ugly practice. She was, in fact, not really encouraging the practice as her critics were insinuating, instead it was just a realistic appraisal. The actress Richa Chadha pointed this out saying that a mountain was being made out of a molehill when Saroj clearly was only making a case for not blaming Bollywood alone. But then Richa herself became a target of online criticism.
There is, of course, a history of sexual exploitation in Bollywood by those who wield power in a film production and it has been a long-standing issue. However, it also is assumed that only women are subject to it, which is untrue. An infamous rumour is that the casting director of one of Bollywood’s biggest production houses, who is a female, made the career of numerous male stars after they slept with her.
Man on a mission
Aamir Khan has always been more than just your regular superstar and has had a subtle social activist side. His television talk show Satyamev Jayate had done a lot to throw light on some of the pressing issues that society was facing. But it went off air four years ago and Aamir had not been focusing much on his other persona. But that changed recently, when a social service organisation of his which promotes water conservation and rain water harvesting began to gear up its activities. Aamir is now campaigning for people to volunteer with the organisation in order to help drought stricken rural villages be self-sufficient in water. This is an apt time for such a venture because of the impending monsoon.
While other Bollywood stars also support various causes, often it is cursory. With Aamir you can expect it to be a serious initiative. He also made news on another front when he was slated to be appointed as a brand ambassador to China by the Indian government. This is obviously because of the enormous popularity he has developed in that country, where his movies have been doing astonishing business.
The Chinese government, too, professed to be very pleased with the move, saying it would encourage trade and cultural relations between the two countries.
The trailer of Sanju, the biopic on Sanjay Dutt, has come out and it immediately went viral online getting millions of hits. The movie is being directed by Rajkumar Hirani, who promises that it won’t be a hagiography or paper over the controversial events in his life. And the trailer does seem to suggest that they will be there. It had Ranbir Kapoor, who is essaying the lead role in the movie, in a number of different get-ups showing different points of Sanjay’s life. In it, he talks about both Sanjay’s problem with drug addiction and the AK 56 gun whose possession had led to him being convicted and sentenced to jail. But obviously, the movie is not going to paint Sanjay in a bad light given that Hirani and Sanjay are close friends. They are also responsible for the Munnabhai movie series which took their careers to great heights. Ranbir apparently has put in enormous work to get the role correct. Since Sanjay’s life is being shown in all stages and ages, from when he was lean to bulky to flabby, Ranbir had to also get his body to match the looks. As Rishi Kapoor revealed in interviews to the media, his son took two months to get each of the look correct and that needed intense exercising, different diets, eating a lot and starving too. At a media meet, Ranbir, speaking about whether his own biopic would make for interesting viewing, gave an insight to his life and said that it was boring and that there was nothing in it besides work and going home to sleep. Of course, Sanjay’s life is many times more colourful, but then Ranbir’s own love life has plenty of masala. So it might not be all that boring either.
Ms Mafia Don
After the stupendous success of Padmaavat, the question on many people’s minds is what would be next for Deepika Padukone. She was already at the top of the list among heroines, with no-one in sight for second place. Sure, there is Priyanka Chopra, whose movies are doing well, but she has decided to focus her attention to Hollywood and is something of a part-timer in the Hindi film industry now. Katrina Kaif has had just one big hit in recent times in Tiger Zinda Hai and the credit for that goes entirely to Salman Khan.
But being the uncontested number one also means that Deepika has to compete against herself in outdoing her past performance. And while it might not be necessary to clock ever greater box office numbers, at least the quality of the movies remaining constant or better would be a big consideration.
Her recent run of superhits is also not mindless entertainment flicks, but projects in which she had shown considerable acting prowess, something that critics have also appreciated. So what next?
Apparently, it might be a role in which she plays an underworld gangster, a biopic on a real lady mafia don who had carved a criminal empire a quarter century ago. The movie is said to be directed by Vishal Bhardwaj, which would certainly mean that it will have substance and story. But Bhardwaj doesn’t have a good record of delivering commercial hits in recent times, so Deepika might just have to forego box office success for critical acclaim. Her very presence however, might lead to the movie becoming a hit, given that she can manage to draw an audience on her own.
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