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Every experience has enriched my life: Anupam Kher

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As Anupam Kher completes 500 films,he speaks to Subhash K Jha on his long journey from  Aagaman in 1971 and Saaraansh in 1984 to Prem Ratan Dhan Payoin 2015.

500 films is a staggering number?

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And I am proud of every one of them, good bad indifferent they are all my films. You may criticize for doing Kya Kool Hain Hum. But every experience has enriched my life.Every film has mattered to me because I know what a workless existence means to an actor.

Your 500th film is a Hollywood film?

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Yes , it is a film called Big Sick. I got to work with phenomenal talent like Ray Romano(of Everybody Loves Raymond), Holly Hunter, Zoe Kazan(Elia  Kazan’s grand daughter). It was an enriching experience.And my 501stfilm Mumbai Hotel  is one of the most important films in my career. It is about the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai.

Tell me about it?

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The kind of  research the makers have done gives the film  a unique insight into what really happened at the Taj inMumbai during the terror attack.It’s sad but terror attacks are all about statistics that we read in the newspaper. They happen so frequently that we have have stopped reacting to them on a humane level.It’s about how many people died,and we move on. This  film changes that sense of detachment we’ve developed about terror attacks.Mumbai Hotel is about what happened to the people inside the Taj that evening.

So all the characters are real?

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Some are real. Some are based on real-life characters. I play a character inspired by the Taj chef Hemant Oberoi.

Do you plan to meet him?

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No so far .I haven’t met him.I intend to interpret the character my own way.Some of the biggest talent from Hollywood and America is involved with the project.I can easily say this  is one of the best roles for an Indian actor in a foreign film.I call it my first film after the interval in my career.

You went through your period of struggle?

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When I  came to Mumbai from Simla I had no work, no home, no goals, no dignity, no one to call my own. I lived on the streets, faced humiliation and taunt. But I was obstinate and relentless. I had no choice but to keep trying.Because the only other alternative was to go back home …and do what? There was nothing I could do except act. So when I finally got work I grabbed everything that  came my way.

Everything?

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Yes.I didn’t want to let go of a single opportunity.You have to understand I had gone through hell. I was a hungry man. To me there was no difference between biryani and khichdi.I am reminded of what the great ManmohanDesai once said to me during my days of struggle when I had gone to meet him.

What did he say?

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He advised me to keep my ‘date diary’(recording the work schedules for various films) full. ‘As long as your date diary is full you will be respected and valued in the film  industry.So keep working.So I kept doing everything that came my way. Now that has changed. In recent years my work speaks for me.30  years have passed since I began my journey into Bollywood .The hunger to excel remains.As far as doing not-so-great work is concerned,every stage or film artiste does work that isn’t  quite up to the mark

Admit it, doing Umar Pachpan Ki Dil Bachpan Ka and Mast Kalandar at this stage would look odd?

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Wisdom comes with experience. I just got tired of doing films out of a sense of insecurity. I no longer have any reason to feel insecure. That phase of grappling with my insecurities is over. However let me reiterate.I’ve enjoyed shooting even for my bad films.

Apparently you received congratulatory messages from your Hollywood friends for completing 500 films?

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Yes, Robert de Niro, William Defoe and David O’Russell, among others. When I am shooting with these people I carry with myself a sense of responsibility about representing India.

Do you feel Indian cinema needs to mature when compared with its American counterpart?

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Come on,be fair . Our cinema is only 70 years old. In these seven decades we’ve made phenomenal headway. Let’s not make Hollywood our benchmark.We have Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Adoor Gopalkrishnan, HrishikeshMukherjee and Raj Kumar Hirani.Nothing can take away their genius.

Indian actors who shot abroad become conscious of the chaos on Indian film sets?

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I don’t feel our cinema to be inadequate when I am shooting abroad.It’s like when I have a meal at the Taj. I don’t compare it with my mother’s cooking. Ghar ka khana ghar kha khana hota hai.To sit on the floor and have my mother serve me  my meal is the greatest joy on earth. To come home and shoot in India gives me the same joy.

Tell me about your new television show?

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Bharatvarsh is about the greatness of our country , about the people who made a  difference to the shape of modern India.I am learning about the rich heritage of our country. Come to think of it, I’ve been learning on the job all through my career.

Anything that you’d like at this  point of your existence?

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I have it all. No, nothing more.

What would you say in the way of advice to coming generations?

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Work hard ,optimism and honesty are the key to success. Lage raho, Munnabhai.

Do we get to see you  in active politics?

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Not in the next 5-6 years for sure.

Which of your 500 films do you consider to be  milestones?

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Your milestones may not be my milestones. But if you are asking about my milestones here goes Saaraansh, Daddy, Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin, A Wednesday, Special Chabbis, Baby, Hum Aapke Hain Koun, Ram Lakhan, Karma,Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Maara, Bend It Like Beckham, Wake Up Sid, Silver Lining Playback. And also Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution and Woody Allen’s You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, although I had just a few scenes in these two.When I look back I feel, ‘Not Bad, Anupam’.

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Faraaz : We Are The Champions

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Faraaz

Faraaz

Directed  by Hansal Mehta

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Rating: *** ½

 Compared  with  Hansal Mehta’s other two  films on  global terrorism ,Shahid and OmertaFaraaz is a mellower more  lenient  and  forgiving work. It is  predominantly  a discourse on true Islam and  its subversion by  terrorists as embodied in the two main characters Faraaz(Zahan kapoor) and  Nibras(Aditya Rawal).

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The  dialogues between the two are sharp and relevant. Most importantly these dialogues  never overstay their welcome, hence the film, though largely confined to a café  held  hostage  by a bunch of misguided  youngsters, never gets verbose.Instead Hansal Mehta brings in a sense of reined-in anxiety.

The agony  of  those  outside the  sealed café, whether the government officials  or parents of  the hostages(Juhi Babbar Soni, Amir Ali are  both superb , though the former has a  far more dramatic scope than the  latter) is given as  much  priority as  the  terrorized  hostages  inside the  café.

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Unlike  the several 26/11   films, the latest being the Adivi Sesh starrer Major, Faraaz is not too keen on generating thrills out of a  real-life tragedy. Hansal Mehta  doesn’t  edit out the brutality and suddenness of the attack, but  he  does humanize  the  young terrorists , specially Nibras, played with compelling restraint  by Aditya Rawal S/O the extraordinary Paresh.

 In  the  years to come,  young Rawal will be an actor to watch.

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Faraaz has  a lot of young talent to galvanize  the  story of one  blood-bathed night in  a  café in  Bangladesh . Many young  people went for an evening of recreation and  conversation. Several  never came out. This  is the story of one  braveheart who said he won’t run for his life without  his friends.

It’s  a disturbing moving tale of true heroism told with feeling rather than flourish.

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Nutella India signs Bollywood Superstar Ranveer Singh to promote the brand across India

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Ranveer Singh

Nutella, the original and popular hazelnut cocoa spread brand of Ferrero, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of sweet-packaged products, has signed Bollywood superstar Ranveer Singh as its brand endorser for India market.

By coming on board as a brand representative for India, the superstar will promote the Nutella brand across digital and offline marketing channels as well as be an active part of their various campaigns.

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Nutella® India made the announcement in collaboration with the pan-India star Ranveer Singh’s social pages through an entertaining video, where the actor is seen engaging in a rapid-fire round on ‘what comes to my mind when….’ and proclaims his love for the brand.

 Ranveer Singh comments, “I am excited to announce my association with Nutella®. Nutella® has always held a special place in my heart. I’ve been a fan ever since I was a child and my love for it has only grown over the years. I am stoked to be part of the Nutella journey in India and help bring alive their vision of making tasty breakfast and desserts.”

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The Bollywood star, whose love for Nutella is no secret, will be launching the World Nutella® Day celebrations this year with fans.

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Rakesh Roshan: “Everything I  Know  About Acting & Direction, I Learnt From K Vishwanathji”

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Rakesh Roshan

The  mighty moviemaker K Vishwanath who  was to Telugu cinema what  Satyajit Ray  was  to Bengali cinema,  passed  away on February 2,leaving behind a luminous  legacy.

Acto-director Rakesh Roshan  who had  the  rare honour of working  in four projects  with  Vishwanath recalls him with tremendous respect. “Everything I know  about acting and  direction I learnt from  him. He was  a stalwart , an institution, and so passionate about his work. I had the privilege  of being directed  by him in two films Aurat Aurat Aurat  and Shubh Kamna. He would show  his actors  exactly what he  wanted, down to the minutest gesture.His  understanding  of the medium was  extraordinary.”

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Rakesh Roshan remembers how  he  invited Vishwanath to make films for him. “I produced  two films that Vishwanathji directed. One  was Kaamchor, the other was Jaag Utha  Insaan.While the  first was  a runaway success, the second didn’t do well.”

Speaking on how Kaamchor happened Rakesh recalls, “Vishwanathji and I used to meet socially in Hyderabad.We  wanted to work together. But we had  no script.One evening when we met he  looked very depressed. When I asked him what was wrong, he  said his new release Shubodayam  (in Telugu) had  flopped. That  night I went to see Shobodayam  in  a theatre in Hyderabad. The  next morning I  told Vishwanathji, ‘We’ve  found our script’. I told him where  the  storytelling in Shubhodayam  had gone wrong.We corrected the script and that’s how Kaamchor  happened. Although the entire story revolved  around me,  it was Jaya Prada who benefited  from Kaamchor.”

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About the beautiful  Jaag Utha Insaan , Rakesh Roshan admits  bluntly, “It  flopped because  of miscasting. During those days Sridevi was known  in Hindi cinema as a glamorous heroine. We cast her as classical dancer. Mithun Chakraborty had  the image  of  Gun Master G-9 and  Disco Dancer.We cast him as  a downtrodden  underdog. I was  known  for Kaamchor and  other citybred characters,I was cast as a Brahmin pandit.With other actors Jaag Utha  Insaan would have been a superhit”

Rakesh met K Vishwanath six years  ago. “We were shooting for Krissh in Hyderabad. He came on  the set several  times. We  had so much to say to each other. After that we lost contact. He was  very very busy with many projects. K Vishwanathji lived  for his cinema.”

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As His Latest Work Faraaz Releases Today,  Hansal Mehta Speaks To Subhash  K Jha On The Exciting Times Ahead

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Faraaz

Hansal, Faraaz is  your fifteenth directorial  venture. How does it feel to have come so far  with so many  milestones behind you?

don’t count my films. Genuinely. Every film is a new beginning. Every film has its share of uncertainty and nerves. Perhaps it is also because of the choices I make. There is no scope for either complacency or me carrying a false sense of security. I’m not complaining,though. Living life on the edge keeps me going.

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I  consider  Faraaz to be  a part of your great trilogy on  the dynamics  of terrorism, after  Shahid and  Omerta…where do you see Faraaz  positioned  in your creative ambit?

Thank you , Subhash.Faraaz is a film I’m very, very proud of. It was a challenge to pull off, a tough journey but creatively a very satisfying one. As Rajkummar Rao told me after watching the film , the Trilogy is complete now. Time to explore new stories and new characters. And finish post-production for all the exciting things that we shot for over the past eighteen months.

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Out of curiosity which of your films  have given you  the most creative  satisfaction?

Almost every film Shahid onwards has been immensely satisfying , both in terms of process and the outcome. Save a couple that I need not name. But even those I own for all their flaws, failures, deficiencies and redeeming qualities. But Faraaz has been a great process. I’ve made so many new friends in this journey and found some of the most exciting colleagues that I’m proud to introduce through the film. Writers Raghav Kakkar and Kashyap Kapoor (who co-wrote the film with Ritesh Shah), Cinematographer Pratham Mehta, Sound Designer Mandar Kulkarni, Editor Amitesh Mukherjee, co-producers Sahil, Maz and Sakshi – all of whom have given their blood and sweat to make this film happen. And of course Anubhav Sinha one of my oldest friends in the industry who backed me in telling this story just the way I wanted it. So yes, Faraaz has been satisfying and also filled me with a deep sense of gratitude. I must have done something right, no?

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Of course. Faraaz has a lot of young new actors in it. Tell me  about the  process  of  casting in this film? It couldn’t have been easy since there are dozens  of faces?

That was the challenge and the joy of making this film. I worked on the story during Chhalaang and I always knew that it would be a return to my indie roots for Faraaz. The film had to be made. And it needed fresh faces, bereft of image or trappings of stardom. A huge credit to Mukesh Chhabra who has a huge role to play in my filmography since Shahid. We constantly challenge each other and never ever give up. Casting is a process I really enjoy and finding the right talent to bring characters alive is something I thrive upon. Faraaz has an amazing ensemble. Right from Aditya Rawal , Zahan Kapoor, Juhi Babbar to every small character in the film including the officers, parents and the hostages this one is a triumph of honest casting , casting without an eye on profits, simply in service of the film, of the character.

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Faraaz is  about a terror attack in Bangladesh?how  do you respond to those who want to know, why Bangladesh?

In our research of this dastardly attack we realised that here was a story that had a larger message and something very universal to share. Misguided youth taking up violence in the name of religion or a parent’s love for her child or the unexpected bravery from an unlikely hero are themes that cannot be limited by borders, nationality or language. These stories must be told. They must transcend the limitations of perceived local relevance – particularly when our polarised times need such stories to be told to a larger audience.

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In 2020, your OTT series Scam 1992  proved to  b e game changer. Do you see Scam as a turning point  in your career?

I see Scam 1992 as an enabler. We did not expect its humongous success and to say it did not change things would be fake humility. It gave me back a lot of things I had lost in the years before it released. Including some money. And the courage to tell the stories I desperately wanted to. Also exceptional friends and collaborators like Sameer Nair and his Studio Applause.

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Your films  and your  attitude to cinema has always  been fearless. How  do you  cope with the  threat of growing intolerance in our society  vis a  vis your  convictions as a  filmmaker?

It is not new to me. Remember Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar in 2000? The only difference now is that then I was deeply affected by the intolerance to a point of self destruction. Now I channelise my despair and anger into telling relevant stories and through them taking on those who have made it a business to be intolerant.

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