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Nagraj Popatrao Manjule’s brilliant short-film Vaikunth!

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Nagraj  Popatrao  Manjule  Interview

The  reticent,  mutely gifted  Nagraj Manjule stunned us with his Marathi film Fandry  in  2013 .He then directed  Sairath in 2015 which brought him into pan-India  renown. He  is  now back with the brilliant short-film Vaikunth which is part of Amazon  Prime’s Unpaused Naya Safar a  haunting anthology on  Covid  consequences

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He is now back at  direction  with  a short story  Vaikunth in Amazon  Prime’s anthology Unpaused Naya Safar.It is by far the best segment  of the anthology. In fact it’s so brilliant I felt it should have been an independent feature film.   Replies Manjule, “I am really glad and thankful that you like the film. Of course, it could have been anything, it could have been an independent feature film, it could also have been a novel. It’s a story that needs to be told and it could have been done in any format.”

After the Marathi masterpiece Sairath Manjule  have been missing in action. He says his next film starring Amitabh Bachchan is ready for release. “We are ready with Jhund. We will release the film once the COVID situation improves and theaters re-open with 100% capacity. We want to release the film in theaters and we will wait for the right time.”

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In Vaikunth Manjule  has  recreated the stark brutal reality of a cremation ground during the pandemic.

Reliving the experience  of  the  shooting the  Marathi-Hindi  filmmaker shares,  “We shot at a real crematorium, but we only used a premise of it. We built our own set at an actual cremation ground. It was a difficult experience to shoot for this movie, not just physically but also mentally. We were shooting around fire and dust, so physically it was a little tough, but we were also shooting around the corpses, so it was a depressing atmosphere as well. It was an intense experience overall.”

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 Nagraj Manjule not  only directs this miniature masterpiece, he also plays the lead of the cremator, burning bodies round the clock and trying to look after his  little son. It’s a tough role. How deeply did it impact  him as an actor and a human being?  “I don’t know how it impacted me as an actor, but it did impact me as a human being. As a person when you’re acting, directing or seeing things happening around you, it obviously leaves an impact on you. Working on a cremation ground is not easy. I could understand what they must be going through, especially during COVID times.

 Vaikunth  is a bleak brutal dark film and yet you it ends on a note of hope  .

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That’s the way  Manjule  wanted  it. “Even two years later, we are still facing the same situation. We are now facing the third wave and still wondering if this will ever get over, if there will be a light after the end of the tunnel. When situations are tough, it’s only hope that gets us going. Hence, we wanted to end this story with hope. Even if people are struggling, they are still holding on to hope. That’s the message behind the film.”

Speaking of his  future plans Manjule reveals, “As an actor, after Vaikunth, I am working on two more Marathi films. As a filmmaker, Jhund is ready. I have written some scripts during the lockdown and now I have to start the work on them as well.”

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Sairath seems  like  a hard act to follow. But  Manjule isn’t  daunted.  “Why do we have to follow that hard act, though? Keeping Sairat as a benchmark would mean binding yourself or pressuring yourself to recreate something of that level. There’s always scope for improvement. We may be able to create something even better.When I made Sairat, I didn’t plan it to be such a huge success. I am glad that it happened. If it happens again, I will be happy, and if it doesn’t, I won’t be disappointed.”

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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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