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Welcoming Lord Ganesha In Bollywood

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Every year in the Nightingale Lata Mangeshkar’s home Prabhu Kunj  on Peddar Road, the Ganpati Festival is a period of great joy and celebration. The doors of the famous Mangeshkar home  are thrown open for family and friends.The entire Mangeshkar clan of  4 sisters, 1 brother and the spouses and children throw in their fervour for a fortnight, all professional commitments forgotten for the interim.

 Ganesh Chaturthi  is the socially most active time of the year for Lataji. She once said to me, “We  Mangeshkars  give a lot of importance to Ganesh Chaturthi. We celebrate it for the full period of its occurrence. Relatives and guests are welcome all day long. It is the one time when the entire family comes together .Yes, I’d describe it as the happiest time of the year. For me my family means happiness.”

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On the other end of town in Juhu, movie moghul J.P.Dutta and his wife Bindiya Goswami treat Ganesh Chaturthi with just as much reverence and affection as the Mangeshkars. For the Duttas Ganesh Chaturthi holds a special significance.

Says Bindiya, “When our younger daughter Siddhi was born JP left us at Breach Candy and drove towards the Siddhi Vinayak temple.Would you believe it, at 2 am in the morning the temple lights were on and the temple services in full swing!JP went inside.There was  a pundit in the temple and no visitor except  JP. At that moment he felt a divine connect with Ganeshji.We decided to name our daughter Siddhi and host a Ganesh Chaturthi celebration in our house . We’ve maintained that tradition for 15 years now ever since Siddhi was born.”

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 Bindiya considers their open-house Ganesh Chaturthi celebration the equivalent of the Punjabi langar. “Anyone can come to the house anytime during Ganesh Chaturthi. We spend days and weeks decorating the Ganesh idol. Every year my daughters and I do a different theme on the idol.We’ve  the priests from the Siddhi Vinayak temple coming in the morning and evening for the aarti. Yes, like Lataji said to you, this is the best most peaceful and purifying time of the year.JP experienced a miracle with  Ganesh’s blessings.And it’s JP’s mannat that Ganeshji should come home for the last 16 years. ”

 The Duttas host a 7-day Ganesh celebration in their home. A similar fervour is shared by various other families in Bollywood. It’s a Maharashtrian thing, to  a large extent.

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 Says Subhash Ghai, “We’ve been bringing Ganpati home for decades .And we feel blessed. If you grow up in Maharashtra you grow up with Ganpati being a part of your life. It is everywhere.In your emotions, spirit, mind and soul and when the annual Ganesh Chaturthi happens all those emotions connected to Ganesh bubble  to the surface.”

 What gives Shabana Azmi added joy during the festive season this year is that Eid and Ganesh Chaturthi fall on the same day.

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 Says Shabana, “My sister-in-law Tanvi brings Ganpati home. This year it feels terrific because we celebrate Eid and Ganesh Chaturthi back-to-back.This year we go straight from Biryani to Modak! Such is India’s syncratic culture, which I’m proud to be part of.”

 Shabana recalls many Ganesh Chaturthis from her childhood. “As children my brother Baba and I would be taken to Sarvajanik Ganpati mandals in our area in Girgaum. I have extremely warm memories of those visits.I love the mangalmurti aarti. Many of my close friends bring Ganesh home.And we go visiting them.Among the people we visit are Neetu,Rishi Kapoor, Rani Mukherjee, Anil Kapoor and his wife Sunita, Mona Kapoor(producer Boney Kapoor’s ex-wife) and Manish Malhotra. No other country boasts of as many religious festivals as we do. The diversity of religious celebrations is our strength. Abba(father Kaifi Azmi) used to be big on celebrating all festivals.We carry the tradition forward.”

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Poet-lyricist Prasoon Joshi who grew up in North India became familiar with Ganesh Chaturthi later in his life. “I love the festival! In my growing years I had only heard of it.But over the years in Mumbai I’ve become very attached to the whole celebration. I don’t bring Ganesh home. But I join friends every year. I think it is one of the most beautiful festivals in the world.”

For outsiders the Ganesh Chaturthi is quite a cultural delight. Tamilian superstar Hema Malini and her two daughters religiously go through the Ganesh Chaturthi each year.Sameera Reddy who is originally from Andhra Pradesh observes this festival with her family.

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Actor Samir Soni who is from Delhi and singer Rekha Bhardwaj say Ganesh Chaturthi has no ritualistic significance for them .

 Says Soni, “Growing  up in Delhi where it is not a big event it’s never had a huge important in my life other  than the frenzy it generates on the roads. But I do visit friends in Mumbai for darshan and Ganpati meals.Other than that I believe God is within us and an extremely private relationship. Hence I shy away from public demonstration of devition.”

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 Rekha Bhardwaj says Ganapati is everywhere in her house, and yet not a reason for religious celebration. “I don’t follow any religion. I don’t do Ganapti puja. I’ve done Ganapti and Navratri puja when my son Aasman was very young to familiarize him with all this.And I’ve lots of Ganapati idols at home that I’ve collected over the years.”

Director Abhinay Deo who is the son of the veteran stage and film actors Ramesh & Seema Deo says the Ganpati was never a part of their home. “Our family never got the Ganpati home. But I’ve lots of childhood memories attached to the Festival.”

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For Punjab-born Sonu Sood,however, Ganesh Chaturthi is very important. “I’ve been keeping Ganapati  for the past eleven years and I look forward to it every year.This year I am shooting in Mysore. But I’ll be home for a day to bring Ganapati in.”

Says Sameera, “Ganesh utsav is very important to me.He is vigneshwar(the obstacle remover). He gives stability and new beginnings.We are  devotees of the GSB Seva Mandal . My family has been its patrons for years.”

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Shatrughan Sinha and his wife began bringing Ganesh home when their twins Luv and Kush were born. Lately the practice has been aborted because of  the family’s traveling plans.

 Says Shatru’s wife Punam, “Ganesh Chaturthi is very important for us.  Ganesh is the God of all auspicious beginnings in our lives. Nothing moves without His blessings.We did  bring Ganapatibappa into our home Ramayan for 14 years after Luv and Kush were born. Hamare Luv,Kush and Sonakshi Ganpatiji ki kripa hai hamare oopar. Because of our schedules we discontinued the Ganapati at our home. But we visit Ganapati at relatives and friends’ homes.”

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Shilpa Shetty has recently begun bringing Ganpati home. “This is the second year he’s gracing our home.I will continue the practice as long as I can. I’m a huge believer in Lalbag Ka Raja.So I get a miniature version of Him at home.”

Though married into a  Muslim family Ayesha Takiya observes the Ganpati season with gusto. “My grandmother keeps a Ganpati at home for 1 ½ days.Since childhood me and my sister and cousins went with our  grandmother to select the flowers and jewelry for the idol and of course to taste the sweets. My grandmother’s coconut modak is everyone’s favourite. Each year for Ganpati the entire family gathers together at my  great grandparents’ home in Colaba.All us girls used to go for the immersion. No more. Now we wait at home. It’s a sad moment when Ganesh leaves.”

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TV actress and BJP politician Smriti Irani is a diehard Ganapati devotee. “Every year for the last 11 years we are fortunate to have  Ganapati come home to bless our family. It’s an occasion  for us to give thanks for all the good health and success bestowed on us.”

TV and film actor Ronit Roy has become a Ganapati convert in recent years. “We have Ganapati home for 1 ½  days.We’ve been observing this tradition for the last 6-7 years. My wife started the practice. I followed her.”

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Ganapati songs and sequences shot during the immersion in Mumbai are prevalent in Hindi cinema. Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan have shot Ganapati songs in Don and Wanted,respectively. Salman, in fact, was looking forward to celebrating both Ganapati and Eid in his home this year. All festivity in the Khan residence has been rudely interrupted by the superstar’s illness.

The entire climax of Bejoy Nambiar’s Shaitaan was shot during the Ganapati visarjan in Mumbai and then edited into the film.

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 Says filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali, “If you’re a part of Mumbai Ganesh utsav is an intrinsic part of your being. I’ve grown up with the images of the festival . They’re embedded deep in my psyche.And they signify a great sense of spiritual exhilaration for me. There is no getting away from Ganapati in Mumbai.”

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Pathaan Collects 55 crore nett in India On Day 1

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Pathaan

YRF’s Pathaan has apparently wiped out all previous records as it collected 55 crore nett in India and recorded the biggest ever Day 1 for a Hindi film. The total collections of Pathaan on Day One is 57 crore nett (Hindi – 55 crore and dubbed versions 2 crore).

It is the widest Hindi release of  all  time in India and also the highest grossing 1st Day for a   Hindi film.It is  also the  highest grosser  on the  first first for a  non-holiday release. Pathhan is  also the highest  opener for Shah Rukh Khan.

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Akshaye Widhani, CEO of Yash Raj Films, says, “It is a historic day for Indian cinema and we are humbled to see the love and appreciation that is flowing for Pathaan globally. For Pathaan to shatter records in this fashion on a non holiday, just proves that the theatrical business is here to stay, provided we make films that entice people to come to the cinemas to witness a never seen before experience that entertains them thoroughly.“

He adds, “We, at YRF, are thrilled with the start that the film has got across India and we are hopeful that Pathaan brings joy to cine-goers globally in the days to come! Pathaan is the fourth film of our YRF Spy Universe and we are thrilled that we have been able to elevate the cinematic experience of audiences with each film from this franchise. We humbly share this moment with all the stake-holders of the film who have given their blood, sweat and tears to give people a movie-going experience like never before.”

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“Professionally, What  A Year It Has Been For Me,” Raveena Tandon On Her Padma Shri

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Raveena Tandon

Raveena Tandon  feels  she is in a dream. “I woke  up  today to the  news that  I have been awarded the Padma Shri by  my Government. I felt all my years  of hard work  has  finally come to  fruition.I can’t wait to get  back to Mumbai.”

Raveena  is  in Bhopal attending a  wedding.  “I woke  up  on Thursday morning to the good news. My husband(film distributor Anil Thadani) who is in Mumbai had no clue about it. I had to inform him that his wife is now Padma Sri Raveena,” she laughs heartily.

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She then grows  melancholic. “The past one year has been a whirlwind  for me. Professionally, it couldn’t get any better. My webseries Aranyak on Netflix  and  then the bigscreen  blockbuster KGF 2 where I played one of the protagonists , became huge  successes.Sadly,it  was  also the year that  I lost my father(well-known producer-director Ravi Tandon). It was  the severest blow of my life.I am still processing the loss. The Padma Shri would have made  my Dad so proud.”

Remind her  she is  still young and already a Padma winner and Raveena expresses  her  happiness. “I guess I am lucky to have received the honour at the  midpoint of my life and career. I am also very happy that M M  Keeravani Sir has  also received the Padma Shri.His Naatu naatu has  the  world dancing to his tune. But even  before Naatu naatu he has done such exemplary work.”

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Getting nostalgic Raveena  says, “I started working when I was 17.I have done every kind of  cinema, balancing out a Chote Miyan  Bade Miya  with  a Shool, a Rakshak with a  Ghulam-e-Mustafa,  a Bulundi and a Khauff with a Daman and an Aks. It’s  always been  my endeavour to be be seen in escapism and  real cinema. Some people think dancing around trees  and  doing the masala  stuff is easy.  It is  not!  In fact  being real on screen is far easier.”

Raveena feels the  good days  are  back in the entertainment  industry. “I saw Pathaan and  I whistled  and clapped the loudest. It is  an out-and-out mass entertainer and bound to revive the  sagging fortunes  of  our industry.  While the Padma Shri is a personal triumph,  the success of Pathaan  is  a happy occasion for the entire industry.So yeah, I am on top of  the world,”

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Raveena’s fans  would like to know her khubsoorati  ka raaz.

She  laughs, “It’s nothing more than sleeping and eating right. I  try to eat  correctly. I have only  organic  food. More  importantly,I am happy and secure in life. If you are content within it is  bound show on your face.”

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5 Most Relevant Patriotic Songs

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 Ae mere watan  ke logon

  1.  Ae mere watan  ke logon:  Lataji  speaks on  the most beloved  patriotic   song  of the  country: “Kissko pataa tha yeh gaana logon ko itna pasand ayega?(who knew the song would be so much liked by people?).When Ae mere watan ke logon was being created we never thought it would become such an imperishable patriotic anthem.I recall vividly that cold winter evening in Delhi when I sang the song as part of the Republic Day celebrations in front of an audience that comprised President S. Radhakrishnan, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and so many other distinguished guests. It was Pradeepji,the poet who wrote the immortal lyrics , who came to me and asked me to sing the song. I declined because there was no time to rehearse and prepare to sing it in front of so many distinguished personalities.You see,at that time I was working round-the-clock. To give special attention to one song seemed impossible.We had very little time to get Ae mere watan ke logon ready.Rather than do a rush job I wanted to opt out. But Pradeepji said if I don’t sing Ae mere watan ke logon he would scrap the idea. I agreed. But I suggested we format  the song into a duet with me and Asha. But Pradeepji wanted it to be a solo.I insisted that we do it as a duet.In fact Asha had even rehearsed for  the song. But then days before we were to fly to Delhi she came to me and said, ‘Didi. I’m not coming to Delhi.’ I tried to convince her to change her mind arguing that her name had even been printed in the newspapers as one of the singers for Ae mere watan. But she was adamant.I told composer-singer Hemant Kumar who had actually orchestrated the whole Ae mere watan ke logon project about Asha’s decision to not accompany us to Delhi to perform the song. Hemantda also tried to convince Asha. Lekin woh nahin manee. Then it was left to me to rehearse alone for the song.Pradeepji told C Ramachandra who was composing the tune for Pradeepji’s words,about my predicament. C, Ramachandra informed us he had to be in Delhi at least 4-5 days in advance before our performance. So he was unable to rehearse  the song with me. Instead he gave me a tape of the number.I picked up the tune from the tape and flew to Delhi on 26 January with all the big names from the film industry. Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Mehboob Khan, Shankar-Jaikishan, Madan Mohan…we were all in one aircraft. I was listening to the tape with  C Ramachandraji’s rendition of Ae mere watan ke logon all through the flight from Mumbai to Delhi.I was accompanied by my best friend Nalini Mhatre.When we reached Delhi in the night I had a stomach ache. I asked Nalini how I’d sing in my condition. She told me not worry, everything would be fine.On 27 January we reached the venue. I sang two songs. The Bhajan Allah tero naam followed by Ae mere watan ke logon. I was much relieved to get it over with.After I finished my two songs, I went backstage to relax with a  cup of coffee unaware what an enduring impact the song had created. Suddenly I heard Mehboob Khan Saab calling for me.He caught hold of my hand and said, ‘Chalo, Panditji(Jawaharlal Nehru) ne bulaya hai’. I wondered why he wanted to see me.When I went out everyone including Panditji, his daughter Indiraji, Radhakrishnanji stood up courteously to greet me. Mehboob Khan Saab said, ‘Yeh rehi hamari Lata.Aapko kaisa laga usska gaana?’  Panditji said, “Bahut achcha . Mere aankhon mein paani aa gaya’.  They all complimented me. Then we were all invited to Panditji’s  home for tea.Some of us from the film industry including Shankar-Jaikishan, Raj Kapoor, Mehboob Khan, Dilip Kumar proceeded to Panditji’s residence. While the rest of the entourage spoke eagerly with Panditji I stood in a dark corner by the corner hesitant to make my presence felt. Suddenly I heard Panditji say, ‘Lata kaha hai?’. I kept standing where I was. Then Mrs Indira Gandhi came and took my hands saying, ‘I want you to meet two of your little fans.’ She introduced me to little Rajiv and Sanjay Gandhi. They did Namaste and ran away.Then Panditji again asked for me. Mehboob Khan Saab came and took me near Panditji . Panditji asked, ‘Are you going to go back to Mumbai and sing Ae mere watan ke logon?’  I replied, ‘No, it was meant to be a one-off thing’. He wanted a picture with me. We posed for a keepsake and then I quietly left .I had to rush back because it was my sister Meena’s wedding in Kolhapur. When I returned to Mumbai the next day with my friend Nalini I had no idea that Ae mere watan ke logon had already become a rage. When we reached Mumbai the city and the media were buzzing with the impact that the song had made in Delhi, how Panditji broke down,  etc, etc. I attended a film premiere for a Marathi film where I had composed the music and the following day left for Kolhapur for my sister’s wedding .Away in Kolhapur I had no idea that the song was taking over the nation’s psyche. Who was to know that the song composed for a Republic Day function would have such an enduring impact? Only Pradeepji had faith in the song. He had prophesied to me, ‘Lata, tum dekhna yeh gaana bahot chalega. Log hamesha ke liye issey yaad  rakhenge.’ I didn’t take it that seriously.Since it was not part of a film I thought it would have a limited impact.Ae mere watan ke logon became my signature tune. No show of mine, no concert or event is complete until I sing Ae mere watan ke logon.I give full credit to Pradeepji for writing such powerful words. He wrote words that reverberated across the nation. We had just come out of a war defeat with China. Ae mere watan ke logon triggered emotions of great patriotic pride in every Indian.My regret is that Pradeepji had not been called for the Republic Day function where I sang the song to immortality.If he was there he would have seen with his own eyes what impact Ae mere want ke logon had created.”
  2. Kar chale hum fida  jaan-o-tann saathiyon(Haqeeqat): Kaifi Azmi wrote this   song for  the  soldiers  who lost their lives in the 1962  Indo-Chinese war. Jiyo Kaifi Azmi. Jiyo Madan Mohan. Jiyo Mohd Rafi! Haqeeqat director  Chetan Anand wanted  a  patriotic song  that  mankind would  remember  forever.He got it. Mohd Rafi poured his soul into this paean to patriotism written by Kaifi Azmi for Chetan Anand’s war film Haqeeqat. The long song is still so strong on sentiments, it moves listeners to tears every time.Madan Mohan loved composing desh bhakti songs. His other Rafi salaam to the nation was Meri awaaz suno in the film Naunihal composed when Pandit Jawharlal Nehru passed away.Says Kafi Saab’s daughter Shabana Azmi, “It is my favourite patriotic song. Kar chale hum fida jaan-o-tan saathiyon is the most definitive of all the patriotic songs. It gives me gooseflesh every time I hear it.My father  and Chetan Anand were  part of the same  likeminded  circle of friends . They believed  cinema  could change  society.”
  3. Mere desh ki dharti (Upkar): Manoj Kumar who directed and starred un Upkar recalls, “Meri desh ki dharti (‘Upkar’) happened when lyricist Gulshan Bawra  and  I  gone to a shrine to pay our respects. When we returned from the shrine in the car, Gulshan  was singing Mere desh ki dharti sona ugley… jawanon bhar bhar lo jholiyan… khushi se bolo boliyan?. I kept quiet as he hummed these lyrics.Two-three years later when I made Upkar, I went to music composer Kalyanji and narrated the script. I called Gulshan home and told him the situation. I recalled the lyrics I had heard him hum near the shrine?. It had stayed in my mind? I saw it as a great idea that needed to be improvised.But I didn’t like the lines Jawanon bhar lo jholiyan, khushi se bolo boliyan.I removed it from my Upkar song. Instead we had Meri desh ki dharti sona ugley ugle heere-moti. Both Kalyanji and Gulshan were hesitant. They said the ‘mukhda’ of a song couldn’t be of one line. But I was adamant.An hour later Gulshan, who was sitting in the next room jumped and said, ‘This is great’. Every filmmaker while writing a screenplay comes to a landmark point in the plot where he thinks a scene can be narrated musically. That situation is given to the lyricist and explained. That was how ‘Mere desh ki dharti’ happened.I always had the lyrics first, then the tunes. Gulshan had written another song Har khushi hai wahan in Upkar. He couldn’t write the whole song because he had to take my brother to  college in Ajmer. Gulshan himself told the media that the second stanza of Har khushi hai wahan was written by Aziz Kaifi and Manoj Kumar. Gulshan Bawra and I   were from the same village near Lahore (now in Pakistan). My chief assistant Sikandar was Gulshan’s cousin. So we bonded much beyond cinema. Filmmaker Kewal Sharma, cricket player Manmohan Sood, Gushan and I? we were good friends. Gulshan has only gone away physically. He was a wonderful man. He was a friend to everyone, never gossiped.,” Manoj Kumar recalled.Concludes Manoj, “Gulshan  Bawra  alive in every word of Mere desh ki dharti.That song is imperishable. When Mahendra Kapoor-ji, who sang Mere desh ki dharti, expired our former  prime minister Manmohan Singh said he would always be remembered for Mere desh ki dharti. It hurts to know so many people connected with that song – Kalyanji, Mahendra Kapoor and Gulshan Bawra – are no more.”
  4. Jo samar mein ho gaye amar(non-film) : Every Indian knows Lataji’s Ae mere watan ke logon. How many know this equally beautiful peerless paean to patriotism composed by the great and underrated Jaidev? Jo samar mein ho gaye amar , written by Narendra Sharma , one of the most favourite poet-lyricists of Lataji,is a profoundly moving tribute to our soldiers who give up their lived to keep us safe. Narendra Sharma writes, “Laut kar na aayenge vijay dilane wale veer/Mere geet anjali mein unke liye nayan neer..” Wah! Lataji sings the words with emotions that cannot be gauged in words. In my opinion, this is a superior patriotic number than the rightly celebrated Ae mere watan ke logon.Why? Because the words are sharper and more devastating. The tune to this non-film song is exceptionally elegant. And Lataji has seldom sounded better.There is one more reason why this immortal Jaidev  number  is exceptionally special.Both  the illustrious Mangeshkar  sisters Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle have  sung separate versions of  the same Jaidev composition. Take your pick.\
  5. Mere  Dushman Mere Bhai(Border): J. P. Dutta’s post-glasnost song of Indo-Pak unity sung with immense affection and anguish by Hariharan had Anu Malik pulling out all stops to create the perfect tune for Javed Akhtar’s outstanding poetry on across-the-border brotherhood.Says JP, “It wasn’t easy writing a song in Border that pleaded for sanity and amity between the two countries at a time when politicians were baying for blood. But I believe we needed a voice of sanity.  I certainly didn’t project anti-Pakistan sentiments in Border. The film was born out of my anguished comprehension of a complicated and tangled relationship between India and Pakistan. We’re brothers and yet we’re enemies.”
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Salman-Shah Rukh’s Hilarious Take On The Khan Hegemony

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Shah Rukh-Salman

One of  the highlights of watching Pathaan is to see and hear Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan discussing their  dominance  at the top of  the game  for what seems like a very long time.

 They admit to one another that they are  boneweary. But they  also admit that there is little  they can do to change the status quo ,because  there  is no one else to take over from them.

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“What about that one?”  Salman asks  SRK without naming anyone.

“What  about the other one?” asks Shah Rukh.

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Then they  both sigh and shake their heads  in the negative.

The  entire end-credits  exchange between  the two Khan  superstars in Pathaan  has taken the film industry  and the  audience aback.

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 Upon discreet inquiries on how that this ‘Tiger-Pathaan’ conversation  was incepted, it is revealed  that the  idea of  a self-deprecatory  conversation on their  longevous  stint  was producer Aditya Chopra’s  idea.

“He just wanted to make  a point, that  the Khans have their own untouchable place in the  film industry. The  younger actors  are  doing their own thing. But Salman-Shah Rukh-Aamir  are  in  a league of their own. Pathaan proves it,” says a source in the know.

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