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Subhash K Jha Selects His Favourite Films Of 2016

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Was this a great year for Hindi films?  Certainly not for the boxoffice which could not take the double burden of mediocre repetitive fare and demonetization. Nonetheless quality will show. And it did. The year had its share of sparkling gems. Subhash K Jha lifts his favourites.

  1. Pink: Some films are meant to change the way we look at ourselves . Pink was one such rarity. Its impact was felt much through the year as it opened up old wounds that never healed . Women and their right to say no to sexual advances were so far considered subjects too prickly to be brought out into the arena of mainstream cinema But then, when has Shoojit Sircar shied away from tackling taboo topics?Unforgivably, a lot of the credit for this powerful film was given to Sircar when in fact the film was directed by Annirudh Roychowdhury, a director of Bangla cinema with a formidable reputation. Here Annirudh was on slippery ground determined not to make his sexually violated protagonists either Slut or Victim.It took the Bachchan baritone to remind us that when a woman says no she means no.And yes, when moviegoers say yes to a film, they don’t hold back .
  2. Dangal: Aamir Khan wrestles with flab and emerges with a film that is in every sense, fab. Without taking a high moral ground director Nitesh Tiwari talks of muscle power for girls in a society where the girl-child is often considered a curse. Eschewing moral lessons, Dangal builds a wonderfully sturdy story out of real-life wrestler MahavirSingh Phogat’s struggle to make kushti champs out of his daughters. More than a show of Aamir-power this is a film about girl power. No power-puff ladies, these.It wins your heart with its unstinted allegiance to telling a story that needed to be told.
  3. Udta Punjab: The energy,  pace, frenzied action as director Abhishek Choubeycaptured the despair and doom in a State of drug haze were unlike anything seen in recent times, and so what if everything in the film was not as original as it initially seemed to be? You can’t take away from the sheer grit of the narrative and the power that Alia Bhatt and Shahid Kapoor brought to their troubled parts. The irreverent tone of narration left me stunned. The violence was brutal but never gratuitous. Everything, even the most demented action of the film’s zonked-out rock star Tommy Singh, happened for a reason. Though what it was, was not always apparent to us.Life sucks.And films about life can often be a bitch.
  4. Neerja:   Real-life braveheart Neerja Bhanot who gave up her life saving passengers on-board a hijacked plane, got a movie of her own to celebrate her incalculable heroism. Director Ram Madhvani spared us the chest-thumping rabble-rousing hero-giriand focused on telling us the story of what really happened on that flight  when Neerja turned savior.As in the case of Dangal and Sultan it is the human relationships that worked to the film’s advantage. The mother-daughter bonding between Shabana Azmi and Sonam Kapoor(who played Neerja, in case you don’t know) defined the plot. And yes, if you are a Rajesh Khanna fan as I am, the film got bonus points for the ‘Kaka’ references strewn across the film.
  5. Aligarh: Another true-life story, this one of a gay professor Srinivas Siras in Aligarhwho dies a lonely and mysterious death, Manoj Bajpai brought the role immense poignancy and  Rajkummar Rao who played against Bajpai as a journalist who befriends the socially ostracized educationist, was also superb. Director Hansal Mehta portrayed the man’s isolation with an empathy and compassion that reminded me of Jennifer Kapoor in 36 Chowringhee Lane.And yes, if you are bhakt of Lata Mangeshkar the film endeared itself even more to your heart by playing her songs to accentuate the professor’s loneliness.
  6. Sultan: The other wrestling epic of 2016 and a grand achievement in every sense from director Ali Abbas Zafar who had until then only the mediocre Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and Gunday to his credit. Sultan saw Salman transform into an aging wrestler who loved his wife to death. This was a love story masquerading as  sports film.This was a tender softhearted ode to old-world romance pretending to be  all hard and rugged on the surface. Gosh, the lengths people go to .
  7. Airlift: Director Raja Krishna Menon’s real-life story of an Indian entrepreneur in Kuwait who helped evacuate hundreds of Indians when Saddam attacked, was tense tactile passionate and patriotic.Just the way Akshay Kumar likes it.
  8. Dear Zindagi:  Dear Shah Rukh, Dear Alia, Dearest Gauri Shinde…the three skilled cinema persons got together to give us a  film that was high on life and sold on dreams. The psycho-therapy sessions never seemed dull , thanks to the crackling chemistry between Khan and Bhatt. He a convincing talker.She a rapt listener.They looked like two persons who jelled well. More importantly, director Gauri Shinde knows how to hold the camera just close enough to her characters’ hearts without seeming invasive.She is a master storyteller, no doubt about it. And Alia is the Star.
  9. Mirzya: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s telling  of the legendary love tale was powerful, never frail.  So what if the film failed? So did Guru Dutt’s Kagaz Ke Phool and Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker. Mirzya is destined to be recognized as a classic take on eternal love . It employed a format where the past and the present were never fused by serendipity. Things happened. Love doesn’t have  a reason. Mehra didn’t create any.
  10. Ki & Ka: Sparkling tongue-in-cheek take on gender equations. Arjun Kapoor made a convincing house-husband. Kareena Kapoor Khan made a convincing….she is so gorgeous she doesn’t need to convince us at all. Director R Balki pushed the ‘he’ and ‘she’ theme just far enough for it to be sassy and funny.No more.

Also worth a mention:  Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani 2, Ashwini Iyer Tiwari’s Nil BatteSannata,   Nagesh Kukunoor’s Dhanak,  and  the two Marathi masterpieces MaheshManjerkar’s Natasamrat and Nagraj Manjule’s Sairat.

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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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