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Allu Arjun’s Ecstatic Response To Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo, The Last Big Indian Hit Before Pandemic, Now To Release  In Hindi

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Right before the pandemic broke out in March 2020,  Telugu superstar Allu Arjun had a massive success in Telugu called  Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo. Released  on  Makar Sankranti  2020 it was one of Indian cinema’s last  big successes before the  first lockdown.

As far as star vehicles go Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo is a masterclass of  cine-seduction, with Allu Arvind presiding over the  oldfashioned but  engaging plot  without  overwhelming  the proceedings. There were  episodes  in the  hero’s exhibitionism–almost  like one  super-enticing item song after  another– when Arjun unleashed  a kind of tantalizing  crowdpleasing tamasha that  takes  his  inherently  persuasive  screen presence  to dazzling heights of virtuosity.

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Playing the  do-gooder  with a heart of gold  who can without any warning, turn into a fire-spewing dragon, Allu Arjun has many occasions in the  film to show the audience who the real boss is.

But the Allu Arjun  ‘item’  that had the audiences roaring in approval , and the one that would be  almost impossible  to pull off by any actor except Allu Arjun , is  the  sequence in a boardroom corporate conference where  Allu’s character Bantu makes his point  to the gawking  executives(one  of whom even  joins the Superstar in his  swag  spree) by singing old popular Telugu film songs. By  the  time Allu Arjun comes  to “Abbanee Teeyani” from  Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari  he makes it clear  to us that he’s a Chiranjeevi fan.He is also not  above leering at his  girlfriend Pooja Hegde’s legs as though they were food on his table.Ms Hedge  doesn’t mind  the gawking, so are we?

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Luckily for  Allu Arjun, the  screenplay provides  him with  ample opportunity to  play  the traditional do-gooder  with an aplomb that’s entirely his own. No Telugu actor in  recent times has been seen doing the  crowdwooing  thing so  effectively. The  weatherworn  plot about long-lost children  being exchanged at birth could  have been killingly  hackneyed.  Arjun  and the supporting cast specially  Jayaram and Tabu (as  a long-married couple with complex issues that warrant a separate  film of  their  own) and Sachin Khedkar(as Tabu’s privileged  father with  a mischievous glint in his  eye) ensure  new life is breathed  into a weatherworn tale.

The film has  outstanding  dialogues ,which salute  oldfashioned sentiments , and that includes  movies and actors of yore,  without bending backwards to be  cutely  reverent. At one point when Khedkar employs Allu Arjun to work for  his company  someone wonders in what  capacity  Arjun is  being  hired.“Until we  figure that  out he can  ogle at girls on the internet,” the  old man winks.

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One of   the many songs and dances(I didn’t mind the frequent song breaks, as  the choreography  is constantly fresh) makes a reference, to the loved one being “silent like the audience at a multiplex.”Niiiiiice.

No doubt the  film will be  a roaring hit,for Allu Arjun in  a dubbed Hindi  version when  it opens on January 26.

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I had spoken to Allu Arjun just after the  release   of  Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo and was on Cloud 9(Covid  back in January 2020 seemed a  minor threat). “I’m overwhelmed. It’s also very humbling to be given this  kind of  response,” says Arjun  whose career since 2003 is cluttered  with blockbusters.The two things that I  keep  hearing repeatedly about  Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo is   that it’s a one-man show, and that it has repeat value. As far as being a one-man show goes, I can’t take the credit for  my performance. Full credit must go to my director Trivkram Srinivas.”

Trivikram and  Allu Arjun have worked  together before. “Yes, we teamed  up in  Julai and S/0 Sathyamurthy  before. So  there is a  huge comfort level. We needed to  do something different  within the commercial format.The  story(of babies getting switched  at birth) has been done  repeatedly  for generations. The  freshness had to come in the treatment, not in  the plot.”

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Arjun  said  he  tried to  do something  different in Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo  with his performance   even  while  adhering to  the  needs of a  commercial audience. “You see, when we mass entertainers  do  a  formula  film  we tend to go over-the-top to seem  larger-than-life. This  time  in  Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo I decided  to keep my performance on an authentic  level even as I  did  all the things that  commercial cinema demands  of  me.”

About the boardroom jig Arjun had laughed,  “You  liked it?It was an afterthought.We thought  the  boardroom  sequence needed something extra. So why not a medley of old songs for me to dance to?We had a very experienced veteran choreographer  to guide my  steps. When we  were doing it we never  thought of how much it would be  liked. When  I am doing a film I don’t think about how successful it would become.  I don’t put that  kind of  pressure on myself. I’m not thinking now  about  what to do in my next film to be one-up on  Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo. But I  can tell you I’m putting  everything that I  can into my next.”

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But here is  the one thing that Arjun would never abandon. “I am  never  going to step off the commercial platform. It is  where  my  dreams were realized and as far I am concerned it is  the  commercial cinema  that  gives  me all the  success and  fans.”

Speaking of  fans does it get too much to handle them? “Not at all . I love their attention. I am what I am because of the fans. They’ve made  me into  the person that I am today.”

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Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo has  the incandescent Tabu playing  Arvind’s  mother. How did they manage  the feat?Says Arjun, “It took no great  persuasion. One  phone  call from the director….five minutes  into  the   narration and she was on board. She   knew my director’s work and We needed someone with  great dignity and grace, someone  who doesn’t talk much, but can freeze  you with one glance.  Who but Tabu?”

  Arjun also told me  he  has no plans of  heading to Bollywood. “Don’t get me  wrong. Bollywood  is  a  lovely place. I  love the work that’s being done there. A film  like  3 Idiots is truly  inspiring to me. There have been  offers  from Hindi cinema.  But for me  to take  a break from my  busy career  in Telugu cinema it has to be something worth the effort. Maybe some day soon.”

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Would Allu Arjun  like it if his  son and daughter showed an interest in  acting? “I’d welcome  it. Right now they’re too young. But when they’re old enough to  choose their own  path and  if they tell me they want to be  actors, I’d extend  all support to them. I come from  a family devoted to cinema. My grandfather  gave his life to the movies. And  my father is  completely devoted to  producing films. For me cinema is life.”

Interestingly Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo  is being remade into into Hindi as Shahzaada with Kartik Aaryan  take over  Allu Arjun’s swag. It’s being  directed  by David Dhawan’s son Rohit Dhawan.

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Shabana Azmi Breaks Her Wrist, Flies To  Budapest For Spielberg

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Shabana Azmi

Shabana Azmi’s commitment to  getting it right, no matter what it takes, is  by now beyond legendary. She  is known to go to extreme lengths for her  characters, the   quick-reference what-Shabana-can-do-for-a-role film being Shyam Benegal’s  Mandi where she had put on 30 kgs to look like  a  ‘Madame’ and  convey her message  in  a  brothel.

 Now , Shabana  flies to Budapest on the  night  of 8 February  in spite  of having broken her wrist.

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“What  to  do, I have to.I’ve to shoot another schedule  of my second season of  Halo(the series  produced by  Steven Spielberg) . There is no way I can postpone  it. I am very upset with myself. It  was such an  unnecessary accident. I was in Jindal . I took a jump and landed with a  fractured wrist, ”  says Shabana  angrily.

This is not  the first fracture that Shabana has suffered in recent times. Before  the wrist  that’s broken now, she  had broken the other wrist. And  prior to that she  had broken her shoulder.

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“I’m supposed to be  shooting till the 28th  of February. And  it’s all very tough physically rigorous  scenes. I don’t know  how I’m going to do it. I am  really annoyed  with  myself for  being careless.” Shabana sighed  before signing  off.

Knowing her the way I do,I can only say, nothing is impossible for Shabana Azmi.

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Shobita Dhulipala On Her Close Aquatic Connection To Her Character In The Night Manager

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Shobita Dhulipala

Sobhita Dhulipala has constantly tried to  make an  impression  with her intriguing performances and roles. In The Night Manager she  slips into the mysterious role of Kaveri.

Talking about her character, Sobhita Dhulipala says , “There’s a certain intrigue to Kaveri. On better days, you feel like you get a sense of who she is, but you could never be too sure of what she is.”

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   Being a  water  person  Sobhita  enjoyed her character’s aqueous antecedents, “There is a very visible parallel that’s drawn between Kaveri and water throughout the show.They both can be so gentle, so nourishing, but also very tumultuous and deep. Kaveri seems like that. She has this tenderness as well as a current within her.”

Sobhita comes from an aquatic  family and  feels  a deep affinity  to  water. “I have in the past been compared with water’s energy and I thought it was a tremendous compliment. So, to be able to give form to that feeling, that connection I feel with it..it’s great. My father is a sailor. And I spent many of my younger years at sea, also the home I grow up in was by the shore. I also love the name Kaveri and I always thought when I have my own child, I’d name him/her by a river! So, I think there’s, resonance, all of it really comes together for me.”

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The Romantics Adi Chopra’s Show All The Way

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The Romantics 

Netflix’s The Romantics profiling the legend Yash Chopra in four episodes , happened only because Netflix  gave complete creative control to  Yash Chopra’s son Aditya Chopra,  the scion of the Yash  Raj family.

A  source very close to  the project reveals, “If it wasn’t for Adi’s nod, the project  wouldn’t have happened. He not only greenlighted the project, he also personally supervised every aspect of the project. Smriti Mundhra is  on board as the director of The Romantics.  But it is  Adi who decided what  goes, and what  not.”

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Apparently  the  thirty-five interviewees speaking on  Yash Chopra in The  Romantics  were all  personally approved  by Adi Chopra who  also agreed to do his  first video interview ever for the docu-pic on his distinguished dad.

Adi Chopra’s one  and  only print interview was with  film critic/editor  Khalid Mohamed.

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The Romantics starts streaming on Netflix on Valentine’s Day  February 14.

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I’m very excited to be doing my OTT debut: Shahid Kapoor

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Shahid  Kapoor

As Shahid  Kapoor Gets Ready To Make  His Digital Debut, He Takes Time  Off  For A Q & A With  Subhash K Jha

Farzi is your first foray into the OTT space. How would you describe the experience? Is it any different from doing the films for the big screen?

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 I’m very excited to be doing my OTT debut, as everybody calls it. I think I did it because I love  the directors Raj and DK and their work, and I actually really really liked the idea and the concept behind Farzi, the world of counterfeiting . I felt Sunny was a character that was as challenging as some of my most challenging characters as I’ve done yet. So I immediately wanted to do it.

And was it any different  shooting for an OTT series?

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Of course, it’s different because you’re watching the character over five to six hours as opposed to maybe two to two and a half hours. So it’s a deeper, wider opportunity to bring a character to life, that’s it.

 Farzi gave you the opportunity to work with the great Vijay Sethupathi and also the creators Raj and DK. So what was that experience like?

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With Raj and DK, I’ve loved Family Man very much and we’ve met over time and always wanted to collaborate. So I was really looking forward to it. In fact, I asked them if they have a show because they were calling me for a movie because they didn’t really expect… they didn’t think after Kabir Singh,  I’d like to do something like that , or whatever. But I actually asked them for it and probed  for it, and then they actually told me about this concept which we had discussed as a movie earlier.

So why  was the feature   film converted  into a digital series?

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It was just too elaborate to turn into a movie, to fit into a movie. It was only extremely sensible of them to turn it into a show because it deserves that much screen time.

What  was it like working with Vijay Sethupathi?

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With Vijay sir, it’s been a pleasure. And I want to see how people receive the show. He’s a fantastic actor who has always rediscovered himself and given people completely different experiences when he has come on the big screen. So it’s a privilege to have him on the show. And I had a blast working with him.

Shahid, it’s been twenty years since you started as a leading man. How do you look back on your career so far?

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I feel very fortunate to still be here. And I feel grateful that people find my work relevant. I feel there’s a lot more that I would like to do. And I think I am as charged as I was at the age of 21, giving my first shot, as I am today. And I think that’s the best part of the entire journey, that I still am as excited and as curious to get on that film floor and give my next shot. I think that’s what drives any artist.

Tell me about your forthcoming projects?

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I’ve got Farzi coming out on  10 Feb. And then there’s a movie with Ali Abbas  Zafar, which is an action thriller, a  slick action fun film, which will come out in the middle of this year. And then there’s a high-concept quirky love story that I’m doing with Maddock Films, which is directed by a new director. His name is Amit Joshi. It has me and Kriti Sanon in it, and Dharam ji and Dimple ma’am and various other very talented people.

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