Weekly column: Inside Dharma-Hema’s intensely private world!

Romance died, came alive and lives on forever, off screen or on it, in my fabulously filmi week.


Hardly the idiot box junkie to wake up early morning and watch the Emmys, I catch its repeat telecast in the evening only to discover quite a few moments in the Jimmy Kimmel-hosted ceremony.

* There’s nothing like too much trolling where Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is concerned.

Be it Kimmel reproaching Apprentice producer, Mark Burnett for contributing to Trump’s celebrity, ‘Thanks to Mark Burnett we don’t have to watch reality shows anymore, we’re living in one’ or five-time Emmy-winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s mock apology for the current political climate, ‘Our show (Veep) started out as a political satire but it now feels more like a sobering documentary.’

Sashaying in a flowy red Jason Wu, Priyanka Chopra is a picture of romance. Twirl and Tom Hiddleston in tow, it’s tempting to read more into their smiles as the handsome duo takes centre stage to present a section of awards. Sadly, this is not Bollywood and nobody breaks into a song.

* Topple the patriarchy! Whistle-inducing last words of a hard-hitting speech delivered by Emmy recipient and Transparent creator Jill Soloway.

* Hurray, the kids from Stranger Things are here! Bummer, it’s a snooze-worthy shtick of Eleven, Lucas and Dustin dispensing peanut butter jelly sandwiches made by Kimmel’s mom to the attendees.

Rather see them on stage collecting an Emmy or two next year.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Mr and Mrs Smith
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Mr and Mrs Smith


Shrek’s Donkey was right about celebrity marriages. They never seem to last. And the latest to uphold his belief are Hollywood royalty — Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

I am not devastated by the news of their divorce. Nor am I all that surprised and I’d like to believe it’s got nothing to do with my leanings for Team Aniston. Pitt’s ex-wife moved on years ago, so should her so-called sympathizers.

What I am amused by is the circus that follows, the nature of (social) media coverage.

There’s an onslaught of Rachel Green gifs having a last laugh over the split. The press is happily highlighting an assumed quote as the Friends star’s conclusive personal reaction to the development.

New York Post goes ahead and runs a cover of a cackling Aniston. What’s problematic about this narrative is not only is it in terribly poor taste but the fact we are taking delight in it.

I am not the biggest fan of Brangelina but the truth is two people got hurt, enough to break their union and family of more than a decade. But the jokes and speculation once again reiterate how fame is only about curiosity never concern.


Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia in Saagar
Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia in Saagar.

Saagar is playing on cable.

Ramesh Sippy’s 1985 love triangle owes an awful lot to Rahul Dev Burman’s melodies, picturesque Goa and Dimple Kapadia’s oomph. How dreamily the three combine in the seduction and sensuality of Jaane Do Na.

Compared to the physical proximity one witnesses in today’s cinema, one may argue it’s pretty mild. Except it’s the very element of teasing and a palpable sexual tension between Dimple and Rishi Kapoor that gives it a timeless edge over toned abs of semi-clad beings.

But take out the aforementioned attributes and Saagar’s typically 1980s tropes — a contrived rich versus poor plot, hamming histrionics and tacky conflict — make the romance drama quite a slog to sit through.


A still from Banjo
A still from Banjo

Inside old Delhi’s renowned Delite Diamond for a press screening, I am instantly enamoured by its dome-shaped structure, illuminated ceiling and vintage style.

Here to review Banjo starring Ritesh Deshmukh and Nargis Fakhri, which unlike the impressive ambiance doesn’t quite leave a mark.

Like I wrote in my review, ‘dedicated to street musicians, Ravi Jadhav’s first Hindi film is an underdog fairy tale about four slum-dwelling small-timers of great talent and zero fortune in anticipation of a breakthrough. Banjo makes a winsome start but takes an awfully tedious route to achieve its happily ever after.’


Anushka Sharma in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil
Anushka Sharma in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

Alright, so the official trailer of Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is finally out.

My biggest takeaway? Anushka Sharma, hands down!

I don’t know if she’s central or not but for me, so far, Ae Dil is completely about her. Even in those fleeting scenes, she exudes such attractive vulnerability conveying that crazy space of ‘it’s complicated.’

There’s one moment where Ranbir Kapoor, presumably her BFF, is cosily perched next to his gorgeous darling Aishwarya Rai Bachchan quoting Faiz and a visibly awkward Anushka juggles between grace and daze. Two words — class act.

I have a fun theory about this scene but I need to watch the movie before it’s confirmed to discuss further. Let’s just say kuch kuch hota hai, tum nahi samjhoge.


Amitabh Bachchan in Shahenshah
Amitabh Bachchan in Shahenshah

OH MY GOD, what is this I see? Amitabh Bachchan as Dobby the Elf? Or perhaps an inspiration for a beloved character from the Harry Potter universe?

Jokes apart, he should retain this look for his upcoming movie with Aamir Khan, Thugs of Hindostan. The latter doesn’t even require any prosthetics, heh.


Hema Malini and Dharmendra in Kinara
Hema Malini and Dharmendra in Kinara

Want to know the definition of chemistry in visuals? Just watch Kinara’s Ek hi khwab kai baar dekha hai maine.

I always blush at the sight of this song high on Dharmendra and Hema Malini’s intensely personal interaction. (The famous pair of several hits like Sholay, Azaad, Pratigya and Seeta Aur Geeta tied the knot in 1979, two years after the release of Kinara)

Everything about Ek hi khwab — RD’s mellow, leisurely pace, Gulzar’s idyllic words and romantic commentary of the mundane, Bhupinder’s deep timbre expressing intimacy in ardour and mischief (Tikoo ki bachhi) revolving around an irresistible Dharmendra and an understandably flushed Hema — celebrates the beauty of companionship in a manner few have or can.

No hype, no spectacle, just good old-fashioned togetherness.

This column was first published on rediff.com

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Banjo review: Not much to beat about!

A still from BanjoIt’s the sort of superficiality where Nargis Fakhri sprints about New York City in headphones and in a Def Leppard tee to assert her identity as a music-obsessed DJ and Riteish Deshmukh sports a grungy look to realise Bollywood’s definition of street.

Occupying this tired space are also a bunch of oddballs called Grease, Paper and Vajya (Dharmesh Yelande, Aditya Kumar and Ram Menon) and their loony dreams, introduced to the viewer in Vijay Raaz’s sprightly voice-over, lending the scenes wit and whimsy.

If only Banjo was more about them if not specifically.

Dedicated to street musicians, Ravi Jadhav’s first Hindi film is an underdog fairy tale about four slum-dwelling small-timers of great talent and zero fortune in anticipation of a breakthrough.

Banjo makes a winsome start but takes an awfully tedious route to achieve its happily ever after.

A brand of music synonymous with Mumbai’s celebratory spirit around Ganesh Chaturthi and Navratri, it makes sense to set Banjo around the festive period. Besides creating visuals of endless dazzle, it also provides fodder for local rivalry, highlighted in a simmering Mahesh Shetty (his theme bears disturbing resemblance to one of the pieces of Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar score), which aggravates after Fakhri’s arrival on the scene.

Impressed by the unique sound of banjo orchestra, she travels to Mumbai in pursuit of a talented troupe to collaborate on a music festival. To accomplish this objective, she turns a photographer accumulating poverty porn for a leering bloke’s slum redevelopment schemes.

As ridiculous as the ploy is, it cannot beat the film’s vile obsession to project Fakhri as a dense, fashion Barbie prone to salacious gaze and sexual innuendoes. And her vapid expressions at all times do not help one bit.

Even a cringe-inducing attempt to cash in on her American accent to generate laughs, in a sequence where she abuses the afore-mentioned dealer in roadside gaalis, is more robotic than rib tickling. She’s amusing in a ‘yeah, right’ sort of way when inspiring Deshmukh and his banjo band with posters of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin or likening them to the Fab Four.

Banjo frontman Riteish Deshmukh, whom Fakhri addresses as Tarot, doesn’t exactly pass with flying colours either. He seems too burned out to convey the raw, roguish charm of a man on the fence over transgression and better prospects.

His character craves respectability for a snubbed art form and drowns his bitterness in country liquor and admissions to an elderly bandmaster (late Janardhan Parab) who stays mum but Deshmukh’s endeavour to endear us to his hopes or sympathise with his failures is strictly average.

A still from BanjoMore than the leads, it’s the supporting cast of Yelande, Kumar and Menon that stay true to the milieu and brace Banjo’s banality and triviality with refreshing zing and idiosyncrasy.

Between musicians who double up as goons and a encroachment arc that goes nowhere, Jadhav derails from a slum to stardom tale to tangle itself in needless complication, conflict and melodrama through murder attempts, fall from grace, awakened conscience and a supremely unconvincing rift.

By the time Banjo serves its dark horse comeback to a pounding Vishal-Shekhar spectacle laced in unabashed Maharashtrian pride, indifference has seeped in.

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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Power of Pink!

Pink, Penaz Masani and a precious picture of Nirupa Roy in and as Superman, a low-down of my fully filmi week!

Oh look, a picture of Bhagyashree and Sheeba celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi in Sangli, Maharashtra.

Their BFF fervour may not be as famous as Kareena Kapoor Khan and Amrita Arora or Sonam Kapoor and Swara Bhaskar but the duo’s Instagram feed is ample proof of their attachment.

Now for some useless trivia, what do these two actresses from the 90s bandwagon share in common besides colourful attire and closeness?

That’s right, Salman Khan! Except one starred opposite him in one of his best movies (Maine Pyar Kiya) and the latter his worst (Suryavanshi).

Sheeba and Bhagyashree

Photograph: Sheeba Akashdeep/Instagram

Embarrassingly late to the party but happy to discover the splendour of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, thanks to my Netflix subscription.

Earlier I was so consumed by Igor Maslennikov’s Russian adaptation of the legendary sleuth, I didn’t want to dilute the impact of its traditional telling by immediately switching to the contemporary tone of the new BBC series.

My deductions: Apart from the brilliant bit of casting — Cumberbatch’s lucent face and extraordinary energy articulates the infinite aptitude of his brain in words and silence, the unassuming Martin Freeman as Doctor Watson adds up as the perfect foil and second fiddle — I am floored by its audacity, imagination, sophistication, wit and layers mixing up Arthur Conan Doyle’s timeless mysteries into modern-day politics and crime yet having a ball with it.

Although the developments in the follow-up to a crackerjack season two puzzled me a bit. Like compromising on Sherlock’s unfailing conceit for a sentimental rendering, especially to accommodate Mary Watson felt somewhat unnatural. Perhaps this shift in behaviour isn’t as obvious when watching an episode after a year’s anticipation but back to back, the discrepancy is too noticeable to overlook.

All the same, my mind palace is choc blocked with too many thrilling memories of the high-functioning sociopath living in 221B Baker Street to make a fuss.Sherlock

Woo hoo, mail just arrived and it’s my complimentary copy of a book on Indian Cinema.

Published as a collector’s volume by Federation of Film Societies of India (FSSI), the 17th edition of the ‘Indian Film Culture’ features writings on a wide range of subjects concerning the said theme by eminent film critics of English, Hindi and regional cinema.

One of the essays includes a humble contribution — Is Old Always Gold? Looking at the good, bad and ugly of Hindi cinema– by yours truly.

“As someone regularly focusing on old Hindi movies, I sense a strong need to acquaint the younger generation about the feats (and foibles) of India’s cinematic past in order to be a better judge of its present.”Indian Film Culture

It’s my darling nephew’s first birthday! All the more reason for his super filmi aunt to behave even more filmi?  No, I didn’t inundate him with ‘Jug Jug Jiyo Mere Laal’ but it’s certainly reflected in my choice of gifts.

Last week, I wrote about his obsession for Masoom’s Lakdi Ki Kathi so I promptly ordered a rocking horse, er, dragon actually, because I am so big on Smaug, Haku, Mushu, Pete and Toothless.

The other gift I picked is a hilarious and charming graphic novel Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown, which imagines what it would look for the Sith Dark Lord like to raise an offspring.

Still some time before he can enjoy the book but, hey, the force is with him already.
Darth Vader and SonFriday
Amazing how social networking websites can turn a drab day into a delightful one.

On Twitter, a fellow movie enthusiast shows me a picture of Nirupa Roy and, man, it’s the mother of all surprises. Long before she was crowned Bollywood’s indispensable Maa, Roy starred in and as Superman. She resembles a closer cousin of Phantom actually.

Nevertheless, it’s exciting to see Hindi cinema’s most lachrymose character aiming a dagger at her opponent in a badass bodysuit. Although she played the lead in plenty films before graduating to mommy roles in a majority of Amitabh Bachchan vehicles, nothing so feisty.

My friend Pavan Jha, a treasure trove of knowledge on Hindi cinema’s little-known facets tells me he’s seen the film, currently unavailable for viewing. There was a surge of Superman films in Bollywood at that time, he adds. Indeed, there’s one called Return of Superman that came out the same year and also stars Nirupa Roy but Jairaj in the titular avatar.

I am at Mumbai’s Terminal 2 to catch a flight to Delhi only to discover the entire airport has been cordoned off. The car drop off point is completely blocked forcing travellers to drag their luggage all the way to the building and wait indefinitely until entry is permitted.

Worst part is no one has a clue on what’s going one. A fella rerouting the traffic blames it on some ‘VIP’ presence whereas a porter offhandedly mentions the possibility of some unclaimed, suspicious object. Turns out it’s a mock drill that takes place once in a year and the crowd of us is eventually let in.

Hassled by the long queue for security check, I turn around to see who’s laughing so whole-heartedly despite the likelihood of missing her flight. It’s ghazal singer Penaz Masani.

The gorgeous lady is all sunshine and radiates so much positivity, I immediately forget all about my irritation. After all how many people can promise ‘you’ll love our country’ to a dazed tourist with a conviction like hers so soon after the pandemonium outside the airport? Masani also gives her some tips on shopping and Indian fashion before the camera phone brigade entreats her for selfies.
Penaz MasaniSunday
Watching a housefull show of Pink in a Delhi theatre, where folks think it’s perfectly normal to tag their excessively chatty tots along. Grrr.

Minor quibbles aside, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s first Hindi film, also set in the capital, regrettably synonymous with misogyny and male chauvinism, should be watched by everybody and everywhere because it’s not so much about an incident as it is about judgement, assumption, conditioning and limits around something as basic as decency and as unacceptable as force.

It treads on grey areas yet adheres to a strict black and white code of characterization, the courtroom scenes sometimes oscillate between stagy and unrealistic and the add-on arcs hold little weight. Projecting itself as a thriller, revealing very little and leaving the viewer to pick details for cinematic effect is a splendid idea but when the focus is on something as serious as the one in Pink, it eventually conflicts with the enormity of its disclosure. But the performances are so remarkably solid and real, the connection it sparks so hard-hitting and on point, it goes without saying Pink is the need of the hour.

The message is effective and, more importantly, essential and that’s why the film succeeds even where the filmmaking does not.A still from Pink
This column was first published on rediff.com.

Also read:
The irrepressible cuteness of Pooja Bhatt
Indradhanush was our Stranger Things
When Saif Ali Khan wore Rishi Kapoor’s sweater
Getting nostalgic about the 1980s, Winona Ryder & Kishore Kumar
Rediscovering Gulzar’s Ghalib & finding Free Love
Applauding NTR’s Superman on screen!
Tripping on A R Rahman
A millipede and Kimi Katkar’s monsoon romance
Udta Punjab, worst casting decisions, and naheeee…!
Of warring Khan bhakts and meeting Mogambo!
Ranbir’s forgotten romance in Bachna Ae Haseeno
Funnier than Aishwarya’s lips
Clashing superheroes and crying Khans
OCDing on Neetu Singh’s LPs!
Garam Dharam, Mantrik Origins, Rockstar Cruise

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