Aditya Chopra has given Katrina Kaif three of her biggest films —Ek Tha Tiger (opposite Salman Khan, a bonafide blockbuster), Jab Tak Hai Jaan (opposite Shah Rukh Khan, another blockbuster), and the forthcoming Aamir Khan-vehicle Dhoom 3 (a surefire firecracker)—yet the actress turned down Gunday (which Aditya was reportedly keen that she star in) so she could work with Hrithik Roshan in Siddharth Anand’s Knight & Day remake, Bang Bang, instead.
Priyanka Chopra slipped into Gunday instead, earning brownie points with the producer. And Bang Bang, whose shooting dates originally clashed with Gunday, has been endlessly delayed, with filming only likely to start in June now.
Industry pundits are saying Katrina is no longer in Aditya’s ‘good books’, and she might have shot herself in the foot by turning down Gunday, where she would have been cast opposite younger heroes Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor. “Working so frequently with the Khans and with Hrithik, her ‘screen age’ has become considerably more than her real age. Unlike Deepika and Anushka, Katrina doesn’t have films opposite younger actors like Ranbir, Imran and Shahid. It wouldn’t have hurt to do a film that would bring down her screen age,” explains a respected film producer.
The producers of Bombay Talkies succeeded in cajoling as many as 20 prominent stars to appear in a music video that is being used to promote the film commemorating 100 years of Indian cinema. However, one star conspicuous by his absence in the video is Salman Khan. Gossip mongers insist that the star turned down the producers’ request because he didn’t want to be a part of any project that Shah Rukh Khan was also involved in, but a source close to the actor reveals that Salman just didn’t have the time or the interest. “Bhai didn’t see why he needed to do this. He’s not acting in the film. He isn’t particularly close to the directors of the film. They weren’t offering any compensation in return for making an appearance.”
Also missing from the video are all of the Bachchans. Neither Amitabh, nor Abhishek or Aishwarya are to be seen in the video that features, among others, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh, Ranbir Kapoor, Akshay Kumar, Madhuri Dixit, Sridevi, Vidya Balan and Priyanka Chopra. Word has it the Bachchans were travelling and couldn’t make it “despite being relentlessly pursued to spare a few hours”.
One for the Self-Help Book
Amisha Patel—she of the giant hoardings and print campaigns advertising an eyewear brand that doesn’t exist!—wants you to know that she’s going to Cannes.
Soon after returning from Cannes where she will attend an out-of-competition gala screening of Bombay Talkies, the portmanteau film she’s directed a 27-minute segment for, Zoya Akhtar is likely to finally wrap up the script of her next feature in which she hopes to cast Ranbir Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor. Akhtar has reportedly been working tirelessly with her writing partner (and Taalash director) Reema Kagti on this script, while still managing to squeeze in short Goa holidays every few months.
According to sources close to Kareena Kapoor, the actress has been “hounding” Zoya to finalise the script so that they can dive into the film “right away”. Ranbir, meanwhile, who is committed to completing Abhinav Kashyap’s Besharam before starting to shoot Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet, also has projects with Imtiaz Ali and Anurag Basu lined up. Still, he is believed to have “reacted very positively” when Zoya first narrated the germ of the idea, and has apparently asked her to bring him the finished script when it is done.
Zoya’s project, which could be the first to star the two cousins together, is apparently an ensemble piece with a large cast. She is aware that getting Ranbir and Kareena on board is only the first hurdle; the second is coordinating their dates with those of the “massive” supporting cast she has lined up.
Harman Baweja (remember him?), who hasn’t had a release since 2009’s colossal dud What’s Your Raashee?, was spotted partying in Vancouver recently during a Bollywood awards ceremony. The actor, who has dated Priyanka Chopra and Shamita Shetty and is now reportedly seeing Bipasha Basu, was noticed chatting up pretty locals and happily posing for pictures with star-struck fans. Bipasha was in London while her beau made the most of his Canadian vacation.
Since her break-up with John Abraham two years ago, Bipasha has admitted that she’s been dating frequently, and actors like Shahid Kapoor, Harman and Hollywood’s Josh Hartnett are some of the men she has been linked to. It is also a well-known fact that Bipasha has renewed her friendship with exes Milind Soman and Dino Morea, who her friends say she was categorically asked to “stay far away from” while she was with John.
Speaking of Dino Morea, he is believed to have signed up for—wait for it—a theatre acting course in Delhi. Too little too late? Dino has apparently told friends that he is taking a three-month break from “the scene” to “recharge my batteries”. He successfully transitioned last year into a producer with Jism 2, on which he had Pooja Bhatt as his partner.
Oozing confidence about his performance as Mumbai gangster Manya Surve in director Sanjay Gupta’s Shootout At Wadala, John Abraham insists that the film will force the audience to see him in a new light. The actor has revealed he’s shirtless only in one scene of the film and “the focus is purely on the acting”.
Not allergic to appearing in multi-starrer films (his biggest box-office hits, Houseful 2 and Race 2, were both ensemble projects), John has reportedly signed on to feature in another star-heavy sequel—Anees Bazmee’s Welcome 2. Which is why it makes no sense that he’d turn down Farah Khan’s Happy New Year with Shah Rukh Khan and Abhishek Bachchan.
“Farah and Shah Rukh saw me in a particular part, but I couldn’t see myself in that role,” John told me last week. “I’m grateful and touched that they thought of me, but I didn’t think I suited the role at all,” he added. The film is believed to be a musical comedy about a group of friends with two left feet who participate in a championship for the worst dancers ever. Farah is apparently still in the process of casting three male parts as well as the female lead.
At least three filmmakers are reportedly hammering out scripts based on Hamlet. My Brother Nikhil director Onir has long expressed a desire to adapt the play. Now one hears Paan Singh Tomar director Tigmanshu Dhulia may also have conceived an adaptation set in the badlands of India. But most likely to beat them both to the finishing line is Vishal Bhardwaj who, one hears, has already started discussing his project with actors. Having already successfully adapted Macbeth (Maqbool) and Othello (Omkara), Vishal has an edge over the other two as far as timing is concerned.
Dhulia is currently filming Bullet Raja with Saif Ali Khan and Sonakshi Sinha and is committed to dive into Milan Talkies’ next with Imran Khan and Priyanka Chopra. Which means he is at least a year away from starting any new project. Onir, who already has a script idea in place, is allegedly facing serious casting hiccups for his planned adaptation.
Not that Vishal is putting all his eggs into the Bard’s basket. If Hamlet doesn’t happen, sources close to him say he already has a script in place for Kaminey 2 that will reunite him with Shahid Kapoor. Despite all the grief Kapoor gave Vishal while filming Kaminey a few years ago, the director has apparently banged out a script for the sequel, and is believed to have put the past behind him.
Last week, just hours after the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Sanjay Dutt on charges of illegal possession of firearms, sentencing the Munnabhai star to five years’ imprisonment, a swarm of the actor’s film industry friends had gathered at his Bandra home. Over the course of the next few days, producers, directors and actors trickled in, offering solidarity and volunteering to speak up in defence of Dutt as part of a campaign his wife Manyata was reportedly mobilising to plead for the actor’s pardon.
Dutt himself has been calm, say friends who visited him, and seems concerned only about providing for his family. The actor allegedly took at least two filmmakers to a quiet corner, urging them to promise that they would direct a film for his home banner. “I’m the only breadwinner of my family and I could serve up to three-and-a-half years,” he reportedly told them. “I need to make sure my family is taken care of.”
On Sunday, Dutt was paid a visit by his old friend Salman Khan, who had arrived the same morning from the US where he was undergoing medical treatment. Salman, whose own legal woes kept him busy the rest of the week, is believed to have assured Sanjay Dutt that he would “always” look out for the star’s family “if the situation arose”.
Film directors Zoya Akhtar, Homi Adajania and Reema Kagti reportedly had a good laugh at Madhur Bhandarkar’s expense during an event in Mumbai last week when Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg was interviewed by Amitabh Bachchan in the presence of several Bollywood filmmakers. Apparently, Bhandarkar slowly sidled upto Spielberg during the photo-op at the end of Bachchan’s session and tried relentlessly to get an ‘exclusive picture’ with the maker of Jurassic Park. The directors were asked to assemble on stage for a group photograph with Spielberg, but Bhandarkar was apparently in no mood to share the frame with his peers. Since it was virtually impossible to catch Spielberg alone at the crowded affair, the Heroine director got as close to him as possible, turned sideways to make it appear as if they were speaking face-to-face and then asked a friend to quickly take a picture. Unfortunately for him, he was spotted masterminding this entire sneaky operation, and the others couldn’t stop laughing at his “desperate behaviour”.
Meanwhile, Karan Johar decided to skip the evening altogether since he reportedly didn’t want to be a part of what he called a “classroom picture”. Johar claimed he was tending to his ailing mum when he called to inform the organisers that he couldn’t make it, but then got his dates mixed up and was spotted by a gaggle of waiting photographers and camera crews as he left the very same five- star hotel after a workout in the gym.
After announcements in tabloids a few months ago that Anil Kapoor’s son Harshvardhan would appear in a short film opposite Isabelle Kaif, sister of Jab Tak Hai Jaan star Katrina, there has been no further talk of this project. Now it seems Anil’s 22-year-old sprog may have signed his debut feature film.
There is buzz in trade circles that Udaan director Vikramaditya Motwane will launch Harsh in a quirky superhero film—a Gujarati superhero named Bhabesh—but only after the star-kid completes assistant director duties on Anurag Kashyap’s film Bombay Velvet.
Harsh, whose cinematic sensibilities are reportedly very different from that of his father, or his sister Sonam, has been a devoted fan of Kashyap’s films, and regards Udaan as one of his favourite films in recent years.
Motwane once told me the kid almost missed his flight to Los Angeles because he couldn’t stop discussing Udaan with him after attending a trial show the director had invited him to. “His staff was nervous; he had to fly back that night because he was on break from university, and here he was deeply engrossed in a discussion on this film that he’d just watched. His parents kept calling to make sure he wasn’t going to miss the flight,” he said.
Referring to the uncertainties of the business and its ability to surprise even veteran players, William Goldman, the Oscar- winning screenwriter of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, had once famously said: “In Hollywood, no one knows anything.” This is true of Bollywood as well.
The success of Kai Po Che has reinforced the fact that even successful stars and established producers can be wrong in their assessment of a script’s potential. Director Abhishek Kapoor is being lauded for his decision to cast non-stars as his leads, but few are aware that he had, in fact, approached big actors for the film before having to settle for a relatively unknown ensemble.
According to industry sources, Imran Khan, Shahid Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor were all presented with the script. But each of them is believed to have separately said ‘no’ to Abhishek on the grounds that the story didn’t convince them. Ranbir, in particular, who has displayed a knack for picking quality projects so far, not only turned down the film, but also allegedly told Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani that he was “surprised” they were thinking of producing the movie (Abhishek was originally developing the project for Excel Entertainment).
It is hard to tell how much Farhan and Ritesh were influenced by Ranbir’s feelings when they finally decided to pass on Kai Po Che.
It was time to try her hand at Bollywood. She had already acted in a Tamil and a Kannada movie by the time she arrived in Mumbai from Chennai around three months ago. She met a casting director soon after, and he got straight to the point—that she would have to take a call on sleeping with someone for a role, and he was the first person she would have to please. “I was amused,” she says, “But I have been told this is the norm. They tell you straight up so that you don’t have any expectations. All you need do is take a call and then stick with it. I suppose once you decide, it’s easy. And unlike the older days, when you had to impress directors, now it’s casting directors.” She has not taken that decision yet, she says. She has not rejected anything either, but is wary. “They start by saying ‘Why don’t you start with me?’ Everyone wants to screw you. They even want something in return for telling you where a particular audition is taking place. Sometimes these casting directors put you on to the wrong people—who just want to have fun with you—and get paid by them in return.”