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Bollywood Spotlight: How Two Recent Brutal Roles Made Anushka Sharma & Jennifer Lawrence Shine!

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Last week, the female leads in both the releases were subjected to sadism and forced self-flagellation by what one can refer to as a stern fallback to sexism — the male gaze.

In the haunting Hindi film “Pari”, Anushka Sharma is chained, whipped, thrown violently to the ground and made into an ideal candidate for a trauma centre. Jennifer Lawrence in last week’s big Hollywood film “Red Sparrow” is a woman on a mission who is at the receiving end of a torrent of abuse.

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Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence

And I do mean that in a sexual way. Hard up for money and in dire need of financial help to tend to her seriously ailing mother (played by Joely Richardson, daughter to the legendary Vanessa Redgrave), Dominika Egorova becomes a Russian spy.

In case you haven’t already guessed from the actress’ name, “Red Sparrow” is set in the forbidding, ominous and politically charged Russia where, if the movies are to be believed, intrigue and conspiracy are a way of life. We recently saw Charlize Theron don a steely seductiveness in “Atomic Blonde”. Jennifer Lawrence’s spy act is far more vulnerable. She brings in an element of tenderness to the ongoing brutality, like an adamant chef who slips in a green vegetable dish at a meat banquet.

Dominika is introduced into the dark inescapable world of spying and seduction (not in that order) at a finishing school for potential whore-spies. A “whore school” is how Dominika describes her training ground for orgasmic nirvana. The guru is played by that amazing British actress Charlotte Ramping who last stole our hearts in Ritesh Batra’s underwhelming “The Sense Of An Ending”. Here Rampling seeks a different kind of ending for her followers.

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As Lawrence goes through a series of not-so-charming adventures in espionage kingdom, we get to meet some truly remarkable actors, including Jeremy Irons and Joel Edgerton and the long-time-no-see Mary Louise Parker. All of these brave actors have something to add to Dominika’s strange and seductive story told by a director whose virility of vision is matched by his leading lady’s proclivity to infuse vulnerability into sadism.

Early in the largely-gripping plot, Dominika — injured and shunned from her life as a ballerina — storms into her dancing partner’s sex romp and clubs the lovebirds to death. It is a defining moment of physical violence, underscoring the emotional upheavals that Dominika would have to weather before she stymies the storm.

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“Red Sparrow” is being compared with the silly and puerile “Atomic Blonde”. But this is a far more profound study of exploitative sex and state-sponsored seduction where young men and women are taught to lose all their inhibitions for the sake of the country. Only, the sex may not be for as noble a cause as the State actors claim.

There are constant throwbacks in the narrative reminding us that the Cold War, Kremlin and the KGB (now SVR) have come a long way since James Bond embraced John Le Carre. “Red Sparrow” is strong, seductive and scintillating in its brutal candour on sexual gratification. The camera prowls the lush unkempt locations with predatory urgency, as the actors act out their karma in a mood of resigned irony.

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In a classroom for sex training a young man is called up and asked to go naked. He strips completely and stands with his entire body exposed to the camera, as Jennifer Lawrence’s Dominika cowers at the sheer brazenness required from her for the job. She is told that her body and mind belonged to the State.

Getting naked for the camera is nothing new for Jennifer Lawrence. She did it in her last film “Mother!” where she was brutalised to an insane degree. “Red Sparrow” is no less prone to violating the actress. Some would say it’s the bigoted male gaze. I would rather believe it’s a sign of the times. The more we speak of equality of the sexes, the more the sex comes in the way.

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Luckily for us in Bollywood the heroines are making brave, pathbreaking choices. Anushka Sharma, who is now hitched to cricketer Virat Kohli, is not afraid to explore the dark side in “Pari”. Most of our actresses are trapped in the glamour glasscase, unwilling to make choices that could break the mould.

Roles that require tremendous physical perseverance are shunned by most Bollywood A-list actresses. Shradha Kapoor is supposed to play the badminton champ Saina Nehwal. But the project is on hold. She just doesn’t look convincing on court.

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Decades ago, when Madhubala had to play the enchained imprisoned Anarkali in K. Asif’s “Mughal-e-Azam”, she insisted on wearing those heavy iron chains even though the doctors said it could kill her. The actress thought it was worth the risk.

Immortality is not an easy state to obtain. Most of our actresses would never know the hunger because they refuse to starve themselves.

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Pink Director’s Next  Featuring Yami As A Crime Reporter To Stream From February 16

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Yami

Anniruddha Roy  Chowdhury whose  Pink  featuring Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu was one of  the  most important  films of  2016, is all set to  release his  next  Hindi film.

Entitled LostAnniruddha’s film , based on true  events, will see Yami Gautam Dhar(that’s  what the actress calls herself after her marriage)  as a crime journalist. LOST is an emotional social thriller that represents a higher quest, a search for lost values of empathy and integrity.

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Inspired by true events, Lost is a story of a bright young woman crime reporter in her relentless search for the truth behind the sudden disappearance of a young theatre activist.

Lost

Lost

Says Aniruddha  “The shoot of LOST has been an incredible journey. I have been eager for the release of our hard-worked venture. The film is a realistic highlight of media in a social context and I am sure that it will give the audience a compelling watch. I am curious about its release and see the responses it shall get. I hope they will welcome it with open hearts.”

Yami Gautam Dhar  who plays  the lead  of  the  crime reporter  says,   “I can’t be happier and more proud of the film’s selection for the opening night at CSAFF. I feel like its one that the people will connect to and will be the one that you cannot miss, especially in the current age and time. I have loved playing this role because it was such a special experience, it allowed me to explore so many layers of emotions as an actor and the entire team has worked really hard on it. I genuinely cannot wait for the film’s release, especially to see the reactions of the audience to it.”

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The crime investigation  drama boasts a stellar cast. Along with Yami, the film will feature Pankaj Kapur, Rahul Khanna, and an ensemble of younger talent, including Neil Bhoopalam, Pia Bajpai, and Tushar Pandey, in pivotal roles.

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Jamuna Had A Love-Hate Relationship With  Bollywood

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Jamuna

Veteran  Telugu  actress  Jamuna who passed away on Friday, shared an uneasy relationship with  the Hindi film industry.She did eleven Hindi films including the iconic Milan in  1967 where Jamuna  agreed to play the  second lead, or the  supporting role if you will, to Nutan.

 Jamuna as Gauri was the Other Woman who craved for the hero Sunil Dutt’s attention whereas  he had  eyes and devotion  only for Nutan. In later  years  Aruna Irani played a similar  role in  Caravan.

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 In Milan Jamuna  was not keen to  do a supporting role. Producer L V Prasad tempted her with three chartbusting songs. Besides, Jamuna had played the same role in Mooga Manasulu, the  Telugu original  of  Milan. But it  was the songs composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal  which convinced  Jamuna to  take up the second lead in Milan.

 While  Nutan had no solo songs  in Milan, she did have the chartbuster duet  Sawan  ka mahina . Jamuna on the  other hand,  had two  splendid Lata Mangeshkar solos: Tohey saawariya naahin khabariya  and   the magnificent Ghazal Aaj dil pe koi  zor chalta nahin.Not only  these, Jamuna  also had a  hit duet  with Mukesh  based on her character  Gauri:  Bol Gauri  bol tera kaun piya.

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But  then, fate  intervened. After the film released  one of Jamuna’s solos, the poignant and memorable  Aaj dil pe koi zor chalta nahin was  snipped  out of the film.

Here is what  happened:  the  Ghazal , one of Lataji’s all-time greats, was very much a part of Milan when  it released on 17 March 1967. But then  it was seen to hamper the  flow of the  film and  edited  out. The  beautiful song occurred right after intermission. Producer  Prasad, a shrewd  filmmaker, got to know that audiences prolonged their  loo breaks as there was  a song after the break. Hence the sacrifice  of  a seriously  sonorous melody.

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Jamuna hardly did  Hindi films after Milan. Her last  Bollywood appearance  was in  Raj Kumar  Kohli’s Raj Tilak  where she  was lost in a multistarrer as  the royal  queen.

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Karan Johar Moves Alia Song From Switzerland To Kashmir

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Rocky Aur Rani  Ki Prem Kahaani

The  romantic duet in  Karan Johar’s Rocky Aur Rani  Ki Prem Kahaani  which was to be  shot in Switzerland and which was  delayed  due to the film’s leading lady Alia Bhatt’s motherhood, is now being relocated to  Kashmir.

Purely out of  the  love for  new mom Alia.

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Says a source in the know, “Karan loves Alia  like his own daughter. He would do anything for her. He postponed  the  release of Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani as the love duet could not be shot before Alia’s maternity leave. Karan had decided to shoot the song in Switzerland  after Alia’s maternity love. But now he has relocated the song to Kashmir  as Alia doesn’t want to leave her  baby girl behind for  long stretches.”

And as Karan Johar argued, snow is  snow. How does it matter whether it is  Switzerland or Kashmir?

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This  song would be Karan Johar’s tribute to  his  idol Yash Chopra. Alia would be dressed in chiffon sarees while  Ranveer, for  a change, would be seen in  formals.

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Bobby Deol’s Switchover To Villainous Roles

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Bobby Deol

After  Prakash Jha’s webseries Ashram where Bobby  played a sleazy  godman, and Love Hostel  where  he was a ruthless assassin,   he is playing the villain to Ranbir Kapoor in  Sandeep Vanga’s  Animal.

Bobby says it is not conscious career decision to play negative characters  but a conscious  decision to play interesting characters. “ I don’t look at  characters as positive or negative.When I watch  films there is always  one character  that stays  with you. I want to play that  character.”

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Prakash Jha’s Ashram proved a gamechanger for Bobby.  He admits finding  challenging roles is tough.  “I am trying. I  am doing Sandeep Vanga’s Animal with Ranbir  Kapoor , Parineeti Chopra. Then I am doing the family film Apne  2 which I am  very excited  about.”

 In an  earlier  interview with  this writer Bobby spoke  about his   long absence  from screen  before Prakash Jha’s Ashram.  “My fans   would ask why I wasn’t being seen on the screen.And I couldn’t tell them it was  because  I wasn’t getting good roles. But my fans  stood by me. They gave me  the strength  to  keep looking for the right roles. Thankfully I found the roles I liked. My new  films have given  me  some new fans. I am  thankful  I am still here. Yeah , I am in a good space right now.”

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