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Vivek Agnihotri: “Success or failure  I don’t change, This is not going to change me”

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Pinning down  Vivek  Agnihotri  for  an interview was  not easy. The Kashmir Files  has turned  Vivek’s  life  inside  out.But he  hasn’t changed.

“You know me  from the time  I made Chocolate in 2005. Even back then  I couldn’t  fit into the Bollywood mould.  When I started my journey  12 years ago I  decided I will make my  kind of films and I will  never make  a star-driven film. I firmly  believe cinema  is  the writer and director’s medium.”

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 The Kashmir Files is  not a film. It’s  a movement.  Vivek  Agnihotri  is   filled with gratitude at the  stupendous  success that’s come  his way. “ Audiences  the worldover are  watching the  film in pindrop silence. 3 hours and  50 minutes is not  a  joke. People are reaching out to  Kashmiri Pandits all  over the world.Why is it working so well in Canada? It started  with two shows. Now it’s  more than  ninety shows. The film has connected Indians in conversations and debates  everywhere.Ramu(Ram Gopal Varma) has made a video on   the  success of  The Kashmir Files where he says explains why  he hates my film.It’s  a  brilliant  review  .We were working  on The Kashmir Files  for  four years. We  used our own money. We mortgaged  our home.We  went  to  many parts  of  the world  for research. And after  all the  expenses we didn’t even know  what   was  going to come  out of it.”

Vivek  Agnihotri  had  great difficulty in getting a  producer on  board. “ But finally we had Abhishek Agarwal who came on board unconditionally.   Then after the film was half-complete  Zee also came on board. Bollywood producerswanted me to make  typical potboilers  which we were  unwilling to  do. We decided we will make our own research-based  films with self-generated funds. This was  our  decision  in 2010. We  then made Buddha  In The Traffic Jam, The  Tashkent Files and  now The Kashmir  Files. Then The  Delhi Files.”

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Vivek  Agnihotri  admits  he is clueless as to why Bollywood follows the star system and  pays  actors in  multi-crores.  “ I resigned from  Bollywood  long ago. Even while promotingThe Kashmir Files  my wife (actress Pallavi Joshi)  and  I  do the needful.Because we  believe we are the creators of  the  product.We need actors  not stars in our  films.”

Vivek  Agnihotri  admits  there  were  threats to his wellbeing after the controversial  success  of The Kashmir  Files. “Yes, there have been threats. Recently two boys barged into our office when  my wife  and I were  not there. Only  a manager, a middle aged lady  was here. They pushed  her  with the door, she fell they asked for me and then fled. I never spoke about this  incident  because I  didn’t want such elements to get  any  publicity.I told them not  to  bother with the  security. But they said  they have to.”

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  The  filmmaker  won’t   be flogging the ‘Files’ franchise further.  “Coming up next is  The Delhi Files and then I am done with the Files trilogy. No power on earth  and no amount of money can  persuade me  to turn  the Files into  a franchise. It was  always  meant to be  a trilogy. Nothing can change  that. Those  who  know me  from  before would know that  I’ve been making  the  films that  I want to make  for the last  ten  years.I am the last person who is  going to  think, ‘The audience is addicted to the franchise, so let’s make one more.’ I will never do that.”

So the Files are closed? “The Trilogy was planned as  a trilogy. One  day I was  looking the  the three pillars  of democracy:  truth justice  and  life . The Files  trilogy was born from this  tenet.  The  Tashkent Files was  about the right to  truth. The Kashmir Files is about  the right to   justice. The Delhi Files  will be on  the right to life. The fourth pillar of  democracy is the audience. Let them  decide   what they want to see.”

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 Not just  his film, Vivek feels  the pandemic  has  changed  the  grammar  of  cinema  entertainment. “Covid also changed a  lot of things.Audiences  are  not going  to  clap for crap.You see for us(Vivek and  Pallavi)  cinema is  not about networking and socializing, We  don’t party. We  don’t drink. We haven’t  slept for more than four hours  since we  started working on Kashmir Files, not because we were out partying  but because we were constantly  checking and re-checking the logistics  of the writing filming and release. We started  with a mere 600  screens. Then suddenly  it became a  B  and C centre film as well.So we had  to provide screens to  those centres.”

Lots of people  are  saying that the film is getting a tax exemption because  of Vivek’s closeness to  the BJP. Vivek vehemently  opposes this view. “No!  That’s not true. That’s the Government’s acknowledgement of  of the  film’s relevance. If they don’t make the  film taxfree  their voters would  rebel against them.”

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As for  The Kashmir  Files being labeled anti-Muslim Vivek protests, “Our intention was never to malign any  community.I have  not even spoken against Pakistan in my film. I  believe  my audience  is intelligent  enough to know that the  villain in The Kashmir Files is terrorism. There is  a line in my film where  a character says  even Muslims and other communities apart  from Hindus are  victims   of terrorism. I will tell you one  more secret.  You  remember the scene on a  shikara where a  Kashmiri  tells Darshan  Kumar what he(the Kashmiri) thinks  about the situation. I told the Kashmiri  to say  everything  that he feels . I told him to write the  dialogues  himself. That was a real Kashmiri Muslim  boy who lives  in Srinagar.And yet if the film is being branded anti-Islam  then that’s politics. I am okay with that. What  matters to me is  that the  film is  reaching out and  touching hearts.An 85-year old man and his  75-year wife who had never stepped  into a  cinema  went to see  The Kashmir Files. That is my real  achievement .The film has gone to the villages now.”

The Kashmir Files has reactivated a  the mass exodus into the theatres? Vivek is reluctant  to take credit for it.  “I had been fighting with  the  I  & B Ministry  in  Delhi, Maharashtra  government  and with Uddhav Thackeray to reopen theatres  after Covid. Nobody was listening. Then I  fought for a  hundred percent attendance in theatres while everyone was  busy collecting fat pay  cheques  by selling their  films on the OTT. They wanted  to know  why was Vivek  fighting for  re-opening   of theatres?They said he was not getting any buyers  on OTT  , that’s why he  was fighting for theatre. But I  knew cinema  needed to  be  revived. Today they are saying footfalls in  not just the cinemas but shopping falls  have revived  because of  The Kashmir Files.”

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 When I  bring up the  lack of support for the  film from  within  the  industry  Vivek  Agnihotri has a priceless explanation. “I resigned  from Bollywood in 2010. We  are a very small boutique  filmmaking house.We make  cinema  out of  passion.I am happy I don’t have friends in Bollywood. If I did  I would somewhere be tempted to  make them happy by making what they want  me to make. Right now as I talk to you I can make lots and lots money  and go home happy. But I  can’t do that.It’s not in  my DNA.”

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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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