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Shabana Azmi: “It is  a time  when we needed to give till it hurts”

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Looking back on 2021  the great Shabana Azmi’s main takeaway  from  the year was that acceptance is not the same as submission. “To carry on undaunted might sound very brave in most circumstances but the Pandemic made us re-evaluate our behaviour. One had to be cautious without  being paranoid. Because irresponsible behaviour could jeopardise the safety of others.”

  Shabana  learnt the virtues  of   giving  until it hurts during these  times  of crisis. “I think this pandemic has awakened us to the fact that we are all  connected and it is incumbent on the privileged to extend a helping hand to  those less fortunate.It is  a time  when we needed to give till it hurts.”

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 The brilliant actress last see in the Moghul  drama The  Empire,kept working through most of 2021 all over the world.

How tough was it to work  through the pandemic and in masks?   “I worked on Shekhar Kapur’s  What Has Love Got To Do With It with Emma Thompson and Lily James in London early  2021 at the height of the pandemic and on Steven Spielberg’s web series Halo and Nikkhil Advani’s Empire. We were tested every single day  on  Shekhar and  Spielberg’s sets and could not move out of our bubble. It felt weird in the  beginning but in hindsight that’s what kept me going .”

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   Shabana  found  the second wave  of  the pandemic  tougher than the  first. “The second wave was  very traumatic because everyday we heard about people losing friends and family.Fortunately we could move to Sukoon our home in Khandala and spend  quality time with the family. A lot of people dealt with their feeling of being  caged in by devouring by and  getting addicted to the OTT platforms . People realized that’s what kept them from collapsing in despair.”

 Shabana  enjoyed  doing Nikkil Advani’s  Empire.  “I enjoyed playing Esan Daulat and am grateful that my work was appreciated. I  will always be thankful to Nikkhil Advani for accommodating my dates.”

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  With movie theatres in a state of ceaseless uncertainty does  Shabana  see the OTT  as a  way out? “Yes,  for sure for now .But one keeps hoping that the Covid variant will become benign and we develop herd immunity.Consuming the way we watch content has altered greatly. When I visit my nativetown Mijwan I see that it’s the mobile phone which has become the preferred choice  of  visual entertainment. The big budget extravaganza is what people will go to the  theatre to watch.”

So does Shabana  believe  that the OTT platform is  here to stay?  “The OTT platform has opened up opportunity for authentic faces .Chocolate faces are disappearing. It’s not just me a lot  of senior female actors are getting substantial work and that is a welcome  situation. The advent of the casting director has cast the net wider so stock actors for stock characters is no longer the norm . Earlier you could predict  with your eyes closed that Shivraj, Jeevan , Sapru, Lalita Pawar etc would be  cast in a particular role. Today you have fresh faces from the hinterlands who  are replacing them . I hope the trend continues .

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2022 looks uncertain and  challenging to Shabana . “One can plan nothing . My shooting schedules have gone for a toss, we’ve been holding back on  renovations for our home in Mumbai. I was looking forward to a long-deserved holiday with my girls gang that’s been kept on hold. The Mijwan Fashion Show has been postponed but I’ve  learned to go with the flow instead of cribbing endlessly. Live in the here-and-now  has become my motto.”

 Which  were the films and shows that Shabana enjoyed in 2021  and what are her   projects for 2022??  “The Crown , Downtown Abbey were  my favourites in  2021.I have three major releases Halo, What’s Love Got To Do With It and Karan Johar’s Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani.I  have some projects in various stages of development. It’s a time I can’t complain about.”

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Aamir Khan’s Sister Plays Shah Rukh’s Mother In Pathaan

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Aamir Khan’s Sister Plays Shah Rukh’s Mother

Ever  since Pathaan released on Wednesday, audiences  have been  curious to know who  is the woman who plays Shah Rukh Khan’s adoptive mother in Afghanistan. The stately lady  with  royal looks is none  other than the late producer  Tahir Hussain’s daughter and  Aamir Khan’s elder  sister Nikhat Khan.

 Nikhat has been  closely  associated with the  film industry  and has helped her father in the production of his  films like Dulha Bikta Hai and  Tum Mere  Ho.

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Nikhat has  acted earlier in the Akshay Kumar starrer Mission Mangal ,  Ajay Devgan’s Tanhaji and  in Sandh Ki Aankh(as a Maharani).

For Pathaan, it was Shah Rukh Khan who suggested Nikhat Khan should play his foster-mother in  Afghanistan who names him ‘Pathaan’. It proved to be  an inspired  piece of casting, as  audience have  loved Nikhat  Khan’s cameo.

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It is  heartwarming that  all three Khan superstars  are  associated with Pathaan in one  way  or the other.

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Anurag Kashyap’s New Film Is About Love Jihad

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Love Jihad, whatever  that means, is  the theme  of  Anurag Kashyap’s new film Almost Pyaar  With D  J Mohabbat.

Debutant Karan  Mehta plays a Muslim boy  in an intense relationship with  Alaya F who plays  a Hindu  girl.Kashyap has spared the  audience none of the ugliness that  such a relationship generates  among  social-media  bouncers, the self-styled  guardian of morality .

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In the hardhitting powerful and pertinent film  a  bigot is heard commenting snidely, “These people first talk about Mohabbat. Then  they talk about Mohammed.”

Happily and  surprisingly,  the Central Board Of Film Certification gave the  film a ‘UA’ certificate  with no  cuts: a  rare non-‘A’ film of Kashyap.

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So far  Kashyap and his  team have kept the Love Jihad part  of  the plot  out of all media interaction.

But the  cat is  now  out of the bag.

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Samantha Ruth Prabhu to Star Alongside Varun Dhawan in Prime Video’s Indian Original Series , Samantha Speaks

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Samantha Ruth Prabhu

Samantha Ruth Prabhu will be starring alongside Varun Dhawan in the Indian installment of the Citadel universe, the global-event series from Prime Video and the Russo Brothers’ AGBO. The untitled Citadel series based out of India is being helmed by renowned creator duo Raj & DK (Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK), who are the showrunners and directors.

 The local installment is written by Sita R. Menon, along with Raj & DK. The streaming service also confirmed that the production is currently underway in Mumbai. After this, the unit will head  to North India and then onwards to international locales like Serbia and South Africa.

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  Richard Madden (Bodyguard) and Priyanka Chopra Jonas will star in the first-to-launch series within the Citadel universe, which comes from the Russo Brothers’ AGBO along with David Weil (Hunters) and is set to premiere in 2023. Alongside Madden and Chopra Jonas, the first-to-launch Citadel series will also feature Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games saga). Additional local-language Citadel productions are also in the works, including an Italian Original series starring Matilda De Angelis (The Undoing).

  Speaking on  her participation in  The Citadel  franchise for  the  first time,Samantha says, “When Prime Video and Raj & DK approached me with this project, I decided to take it up in a heartbeat! After working with this team on The Family Man, it is homecoming for me.The Citadel universe, the interconnected storylines between the productions across the globe, and most importantly, the script of the Indian installment really excited me.”

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   Samantha  says she is  looking forward  to working with Varun Dhawan  .  “I am thrilled to be a part of this brilliant universe conceptualised by the Russo Brothers. I am also looking forward to be working with Varun for the first time, on this project. He is someone who is full of life and cheer when you’re around him.”

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Bollywood’s Achche Din Have Come

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 Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar

All you doomsday  prophets, the  booms-day  profits  are here.  Pathaan  has  opened the floodgates again for Bollywood’s  bumper  bonanza at the  boxoffice.And now there is  only the achche din ahead  for  Hindi  cinema.

In the  next   two months there are  three sureshot  blockbusters coming up, beginning with Shehzada.  An astute devilishly impish  adaptation  of  Allu Arjun’s  2020 Telugu   blockbuster  Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo.The super-popular Kartik  Aaryan gives  his own  spin to the  character. This  performance will take   Kartik to the  next level of stardom. Kartik’s version of  Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo is  radically different  from  its Telugu  version. Shehzada  takes  the core idea of  the Telugu original  and turns it into a  something  completely different. Kartik’s  co-star in Shehzada  is  Kriti  Sanon with whom he earlier shared superhit space in Lukka Chuppi.

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 Then there  is Luv Ranjan’s ravishing rom-com   Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar. The director’s   male viewpoint on the chaos  of love relationships  crests to a comic  high in his latest. Ranjan  for  the first time, collaborates with Ranbir Kapoor for the  first time  collaborates with Shraddha  Kapoor  who badly needs a hit.This film should do the  trick. The winsome  lead pair tries  to do one  another  in a  game of Luv This is Luv Ranjan’s Hum…Aapke Hain Con. Ranjan  has in the past used  the romcom  space to  entertain his audience  to the hilt, he  says this  time the stakes are different. It is  not something we’ve seen before.

 Finally  it is   Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani.  Karan  Johar’s first directorial in six years(not counting the one segment each  in Ghost Stories and  Lust Stories). This time he has assembled a dream star-cast  of Dharmendra, Jaya Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Ranveer Singh and  the  boxoffice darling(s) Alia Bhatt.  But trust me, this one is  not about assembling stars  into a complacent plot. The writing in this  zany Romeo & Juliet is so crisp  and engrossing, the experience  is  likely to be   the visual version of a multi-flavour icrecream cone. Colour, choler and karma collide in this tragic-comic love story . Let the  box office dhamaka  begin  from the house  of Dharma.

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