A day after this newspaper ran a front page story about alleged sexual harassment by a top Bollywood director and his subsequent ouster from the film production house that he co-founded with three others in 2011, the dramatis personae at the heart of the controversy offered conflicting versions.
According to information available with us, a young woman working at Phantom Films had alleged that she was molested by Vikas Bahl, director of the much-acclaimed Queen, during a trip to Goa a few months ago.
Following her complaint to the other stakeholders at Phantom, Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane and Madhu Mantena, the matter was escalated to Reliance Entertainment with whom Phantom has a 50-50 joint venture. The seriousness of the allegations resulted in the company setting up a committee as per the Vishakha guidelines to hear her grievance.
Kangana Ranaut once again reminded us why she’s not someone you’d want to get on the wrong side of. Only days ago, when asked if she’d been unceremoniously dropped from Aashiqui 3, the actress had said: “Yes, many lame rumours are doing the rounds. Even a dumbass can tell where these rumours are coming from. I don’t know why exes do silly things to get your attention. For me that chapter is over and I don’t dig graves.”
Interpreted by the media as a swipe at Hrithik Roshan— with whom Kangana was widely reported to have had a fling, and who was allegedly responsible for her ouster from the film—her statement quickly went viral, leaving the Krrish star with no option but to respond to the story. Shrewdly blaming the film press for the rumours and never mentioning Kangana by name, Hrithik declared on Twitter: ‘Ther r more chances of me having had an affair with d Pope dan any of d (I’m sure wonderful) women d media has been naming. Thanks but no thanks.’[sic]
If Hrithik thought he was going to have the last word in a face-off with Kangana, he clearly doesn’t know the firebrand actress well enough—which seems kinda strange, given that, you know, they were meant to be ‘together’ briefly. Asked by a television reporter earlier this week if she was hurt by Hrithik’s blatant denial, Kangana responded with her trademark brazenness: “No. I am not hurt. I respect the other person’s opinion also. It’s very likely that a person can have a different perspective on the same situation or rather the past. But then, stick to your stand. Don’t slyly pursue people and spy on them, and chase them. So, we sign and seal the deal and then move on.”
Ouch. Seems unlikely that Hrithik will want to carry on this argument much further.
So it appears that the gloves are off. With Dilwale having failed to beat Bajirao Mastani in the (domestic) box-office sweepstakes—not to mention its abysmal defeat in the ‘perception game’, thanks to crushing reviews and dismal word-of-mouth—it was only a matter of time before the blame game began. Bollywood insiders are saying that star- producer Shah Rukh Khan is blaming the film’s poor performance on his director Rohit Shetty… for banging out a film that just wasn’t up to the mark. The Chennai Express director, meanwhile, who has a reputation for delivering blockbusters consistently, seems to have his own grouse with SRK. Sources close to Rohit say the director had ‘begged’ the star to avoid clashing with Bajirao, but Shah Rukh was unwilling to shy away from a fight.
Just a little over a fortnight since they staged that balcony kiss to shut up nosey tabloids that had aired suspicions that there was trouble in their relationship, it appears that Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif may have indeed split. It’s what all the gossip rags are currently obsessed with, although neither actor has confirmed or denied the story. Everyone seems to be reporting that Ranbir has left the home he was sharing with Katrina until recently and has moved back with his parents. There is one narrative that inevitably involves Salman Khan. According to that version, Katrina had a two- hour face-to-face with her ex before calling it quits with RK.
Famously reclusive and deliberately inaccessible, Sanjay Leela Bhansali appears to be making a concentrated effort to change his ways. The Bajirao Mastani director-producer showed up at friend-turned-foe-turned-friend-again Farah Khan’s birthday brunch last weekend where he sportingly posed for selfies with the rest of Farah’s filmi friends.
He also attended a Filmfare Awards ‘Pre Nomination’ party where he bumped into on-off pal Karan Johar just as he was making his way to the event. Photographers had a field day snapping both filmmakers who put on their best smiles as the flashbulbs popped. Bhansali was accompanied by his two-time leading man Ranveer Singh, who, according to the industry grapevine, will work with the director again in his next. Currently waiting for his hair to grow out, Ranveer will dive into Aditya Chopra’s rom-com Befikre in March; that film will be shot at one stretch in Paris. Bhansali, who has said he’s zeroed in on his next movie, has already revealed that he intends it to go on the floors in 2016, so Ranveer could have his follow-up project sorted. But there’s also a good chance Karan Johar and Rohit Shetty want him to play the Anil Kapoor role in their remake of Subhash Ghai’s Ram Lakhan.
The drama surrounding Lootera director Vikramaditya Motwane’s ambitious vigilante movie Bhavesh Joshi has finally culminated in the film being permanently shelved. First, Imran Khan was attached to star; then the actor was dropped after his career went downhill following a string of flops. Ek Villain’s Sidharth Malhotra replaced Imran subsequently, but now it appears that the film will not be made.
According to industry insiders, it was Motwane himself who decided that the film was no longer relevant. Reportedly the story of a young man filled with frustration over a corrupt and bureaucratic system, Motwane felt the film accurately reflected the youth’s cynical attitude until a few years ago. “But with the promise of ‘achche din’ and the new wave of hope that the new Government brought with it, the general mood has changed,” a source explains, citing the director’s reason for abandoning the project. The source adds that it’s not just the changed political scenario that made the film feel dated. A key portion in the film reportedly illustrated the red tape involved in obtaining a passport. “But ever since the functioning of the passport office was privatised, you can get [one] in seven days.” One of Motwane’s partners at Phantom Productions is believed to have cattily remarked that Motwane ought to put the film on the backburner instead of shelving it completely, given how fast the tide tends to turn when it comes to politics.
John Abraham reportedly got paid Rs 15 crore recently to star in Hera Pheri 3, which his Welcome Back producer Firoz Nadiadwala is currently making. Studio bosses, however, have balked at the actor’s ‘ridiculous’ asking price, insisting that he doesn’t guarantee an opening commensurate with that salary. Yet, sources in the film trade say that John is fast emerging the go-to- guy for producers without studio deals who’re willing to cough up a fat fee so they can put a film into production.
It’s a tricky road to go down—signing films that don’t have a studio attached, and therefore no release strategy in place. But John has at least two such films more or less ready and completed. Neither Welcome Back nor Rocky Handsome have a release in sight, allegedly because no studio is willing to pick up these projects at those high sums. Word on the street is that Nadiadwala announced Hera Pheri 3 recently with the hope of raising money to complete and release Welcome Back, and then invest the returns from that movie in completing Hera Phera 3. His Force producer Vipul Shah has also been talking about a sequel to that film, although that project is also unattached to a studio. One studio head explains that he’d be willing to pay John as much as Rs 3 crore for an action film, “but anything more is out of question in this market”.
Mobbed by a Bevy of Wannabes
With booze flowing freely and a steady stream of PYTs floating in and out of the premises, some of Bollywood’s most prominent filmwalas were predictably in high spirits last Saturday night at a party thrown by a leading entertainment channel in Mumbai.
The star of the evening was unquestionably a hot young male actor who reportedly had to fob off attention from the seemingly never-ending stream of starlets who begged for selfies and hugs, and somehow made their way into the cordoned off VIP area where the big-name celebs had huddled. The young actor, who has another movie lined up for release shortly, is one of Bollywood’s most promising up-and-comers, and is apparently in a committed relationship with a childhood sweetheart. Nobody could tell for sure if the actor left the party with one of the many ladies who were unabashedly throwing themselves at him all evening. It wasn’t just the stars who were being mobbed, though. At least two male directors, both currently going through divorces, found themselves being openly wooed by the half-dozen or so beauty pageant contestants and assorted wannabe actresses. An eyewitness reveals that the men didn’t even have to try—“They only had to pick which one they wanted to leave with.” And turns out they did.
One source describes the party as “Vegas-like debauchery” with just the right number of B-rung starlets sprinkled. A married female model and item girl who showed up solo and kept mostly to herself all evening became the subject of much gossip when other guests in the exclusive section complained about her body odour.
• Hema was with Dharmendra and Jeetendra with Shobha. But when Hema and Jeetu started working together they fell madly in love. Secretly they decided on marriage. During an outdoor shoot they would have almost completed their pheras if Shobha and Dharmendra hadn’t got a clue to the situation and rushed to the spot and brought back their respective partners.
• Sridevi had fallen in love with Mithun Chakraborty on the sets of Rakesh Roshan’s Jaag Utha Insan. But Mithun was already married to Yogeeta Bali and they had a son. Sridevi had also pleaded with Yogeeta to leave Mithun, but of course she didn’t let go. Sridevi and Mithun had got married secretly and later Mithun admitted to the press. But only when a fan magazine published their marriage certificate! Yogeeta Bali took an overdose of sedatives, after which Mithun went back to his wife.
• When Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu looked like they had the perfect marriage, out came his marriage with Asma. When Saira threw a fit and asked for a quick divorce, Dilip Kumar retracted to Saira and divorced Asma. Asma remained the loser all the way, as she had left her husband and children to be with her beloved. She tried suicide and later went back to her former husband.
• Karisma and Ajay were madly in love with each other. That was before Ajay fell madly in love with Kajol. Karisma had called Ajay one day while he was on an outdoor shoot and heard a female voice in his room. She threw a fit and left in a huff. Quickly, Kajol moved in leaving her long-standing boyfriend Kartik.
• Rekha got into a heady alliance with Sunjay Dutt (then referred to as her toyboy) after she was disallowed to meet Amitabh Bachchan. Even when he was in hospital after the accident on the sets of Coolie she went in for a relationship with a vengeance and did whatever she did rather publicly. It lasted a month.
• Kamalahasan and Sarika were in love, but not public about it for some time. But Sarika got pregnant out of wedlock. Of course, Vani Ganapathy, his wedded wife, raised an uproar and went public. But Sarika went ahead and gave birth to her love child. Later they got married and have recently split.
• Rajesh Khanna, the 30+ Superstar was into a relationship with Anju Mahendru when he announced his runaway marriage to a girl half his age, the 16-year-old Dimple Kapadia. Dimple at that time was romantically involved with Rishi Kapoor. The marriage was a disaster and the Superstar moved on to Tina Munim. Dimple left with her two daughters and made a dramatic comeback with Sagar opposite Rishi again. Later she was also involved deeply with Sunny Deol. As for Rajesh and Tina, their love could be measured by the fact that they would even share their toothbrush and were the first ones to start ‘living together’. Later, Tina married Anil Ambani.
• The latest was, of course, Preeti Jain who accused Madhur Bhandarkar for ‘raping’ her for five yeard. She alleged that he had promised to cast her in his film. Though it created quite a sensation and nightmarish time for Madhur it fizzled out.
• A huge ruckus was created by Vivek Oberoi when he called a press conferance to tell the world that Salman, blinded by his ‘love’ for Aishwarya had called him up 41 times in the middle of the night. Vivek went on camera sensationally charging Salman with harassment and even Aishwarya went on record saying how she was ill treated and mentally abused by Salman. Since Salman kept quiet and nothing came of it really.
• Mamta Kulkarni had accused Rajkumar Santoshi of asking her for sexual favours and on not complying her role was chopped off.
• Manisha Koirala had accused Subhash Ghai of chasing her down the corridors, though later she decided to keep mum.
• Mahima Chaudhary turned coat on her mentor Subhash Ghai, after her stunning success in her debut film, Pardes, and later back-pedalled.
• Tabu had accused Jackie Shroff of attemps to rape her after calling her to his friend Danny Denzongpa’s house. She apologised later.
• Chetan Anand’s sons, Ketan and Vivek, were charged and sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiracy for the murder of Priya Rajvansh who had been living with their father. Later they were granted bail. Vijay Anand, too, took filmdom by storm when he married his much younger niece.
• Gulshan Kumar, the music baron, was gunned down in broad daylight in front of a temple. More shocking was Nadeem being accused of this murder and his fleeing to London, where he still lives.
• Producer Brij Sadanah gunned down his wife, daughter and son. And later killed himself. The wife and daughter died, but Kamal survived somehow. This was result of a family feud.
• Boney Kapoor’s marriage to Sridevi made his first wife, Mona, livid. Once when Sridevi was pregnant they came face to face in a party, and taking the opportunity Mona’s mom started assaulting her until Archana Puran Singh intervened and stopped the enraged woman.
• Rekha was seen running down a Juhu road after a fight with Raj Babbar in his office in the middle of the night. Amitabh Bachchan was waiting outside. Torn between the two men she wanted to flee from both. Amitabh in a white Ambassador tried to stop her, but she was hysterical and just kept running.
Mukesh Agarwal married her and was found having committed suicide very soon after.
After blockbuster director Rohit Shetty completed Singham Returns in six months flat, the director began catching up on the new releases he’d missed watching as his schedule cleared up. One of those was 2 States, the Arjun Kapoor-Alia Bhatt hit based on Chetan Bhagat’s novel.
Turns out the director couldn’t stop cracking up over Amrita Singh’s character in the film, the garrulous Punjabi mother who keeps making snide remarks about her son’s “Madrasi” fiancée and her family. The character, Shetty reveals, reminded him of his own mother. When he told his family to watch the film to see their mum on screen, Mama Shetty was not pleased her son was comparing her to the bossy screen diva. But everyone else at home, including the director’s wife, smiled conspiratorially, fully endorsing the parallels.
Personal Grudges and Public Grouses
Ram-Leela director Sanjay Leela Bhansali is reportedly seething. He’s not thrilled that his Khamoshi star Salman Khan has been dissing him lately. In a video interview the actor did last week with his Hum Aapke Hain Kaun director Sooraj Barjatya, Salman said each time he saw Bhansali lose his temper on the set or throw things at assistants, he would ask him to take a page out of Barjatya’s book. Barjatya is famously soft-spoken and calm- tempered and is currently working with Salman on their fourth film together. According to a well- placed source, Salman routinely attacks Bhansali on his temper, his “overrated” talent, and his “tendency to make films that nobody watches”.
Not long after the release of Guzaarish some years ago, Salman gave an interview saying “not one makkhi (fly) went to the theatre to see that film”. It is no secret that the actor has had a love-hate relationship with Bhansali since working with him on Khamoshi and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam—two of Salman’s better films, most would agree. He openly criticised Bhansali when the director approached Shah Rukh Khan and not him to play the lead in Devdas. Salman had claimed that he’d salvaged Bhansali’s career by working with him in a second film (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam) despite the failure of Khamoshi, but that the director repaid him by moving on to SRK when he finally had a hit under his belt.
Salman was also upset that Bhansali had chosen to work with Aishwarya Rai, and not him, after the former real-life couple had split amidst much controversy and reports of acrimony. Salman and Bhansali buried their differences temporarily when the director approached him to make a guest appearance in Saawariya, but the actor’s camp says Bhansali didn’t keep his end of the bargain—he’d reportedly promised to make Bajirao Mastani with Salman after Saawariya, which he did not.
The Perfectionist’s Cube Obsession
They don’t call him the Earnest Star for nothing. But his constant efforts towards perfection sure find a way to tick people off. This leading man, who happens to be pretty good with a Rubik’s Cube, thought it would be a good ice-breaker if he demonstrated his nifty Cube-solving skills to an Oscar- winning British filmmaker who came visiting him a few years ago when he committed to co-produce a film that the actor was involved in.
Like an enthusiastic eight-year-old, the actor claimed he could solve the Cube in a record one minute, and proceeded to demonstrate. Only, he took well over two-and-a- half minutes. Insisting he’d do it in a minute in his second try, he went at it again. This reportedly went on about half a dozen times, until he eventually achieved his target. But by then the filmmaker and his entourage had lost their patience.
More recently, another Oscar-winning filmmaker was scheduled to meet the star at his home when the former was in town to promote a new film that he’d shot in India. As it turns out, the studio representing the filmmaker was the same that had flown in the previous heavyweight. This filmmaker was specifically warned not to bait the actor if he brought up the Rubik’s Cube claim. Of course he did when they met, but the filmmaker didn’t react, and quickly moved on to another subject to discuss.
Apparently there was a collective sigh of relief from the reps escorting him.
It’s hardly any secret that Deepika Padukone is visiting her beau Ranveer Singh in Europe, where he’s filming Zoya Akhtar’s Dil Dhadakne Do. The actress even posed for pictures with fans who spotted her out and about in Capri, shopping or just taking in the local sights and sounds. Still, unit members on the set have reportedly been told not to take pictures with DP and have been specifically asked not to post them on social networking sites. A production assistant who apparently uploaded a picture with Deepika on Instagram was asked to immediately take it down when the photograph went viral, and began showing up on celeb gossip blogs earlier this week. Too late unfortunately!
Turns out Deepika has no problem being spotted traipsing around Italy and Spain, but doesn’t want to be filmed on the set, thereby directly linking her to Ranveer. Those wondering why Bollywood’s busiest and most successful female star would follow her boyfriend around on a shoot might do well to remember that Zoya’s film also stars a certain Miss Anushka Sharma who, in case you’ve forgotten, happens to be Ranveer’s former flame.
Deepika, who famously hooked up with Ranbir Kapoor while they were shooting for Bachna Ae Haseeno in Australia, knows a thing or two about on-location romances—and probably wants to keep an eye on Ranveer to make sure the exes don’t rekindle their spark. But turns out Anushka’s own boyfriend, cricketer Virat Kohli, joined her when the unit arrived to film in Barcelona. That’s one too many nervous partners on a film set… no wonder buzz is that Zoya and her producers aren’t thrilled with all the ‘guests’ showing up, and wish their cast would just focus on filming.
Anything in the Name of PR
Camp Hrithik Roshan is in overdrive mode. Possibly to deflect attention from his imminent divorce and personal crises, the actor’s PR machinery made sure a battery of photographers were present outside a Mumbai hotspot where the actor and his family was dining with The Fast and The Furious director Rob Cohen recently.
But when asked if there might be a collaboration in the works, the star’s father, filmmaker Rakesh Roshan, has said nothing of the sort is true. Roshan Sr has revealed that Hrithik and Rob got to know each other when his son was filming Kites in Los Angeles some years ago. Cohen and Hrithik also have a common friend in Rush Hour director Brett Ratner, who cut an international version of Kites for the American market—which sadly sank without so much as a trace.
While Cohen was in town, Hrithik reportedly showed him a few action scenes of his still-in-production Bang Bang, itself a remake of the Tom Cruise dud Knight and Day.
A much married actress and former beauty queen who’s more or less retired from the screen is not surprised by another actress’ recent allegations that she was verbally and physically abused by her ex, an industrialist scion. The former beauty queen, now happily married and a mother, once dated the same wealthy big shot and reportedly endured similar temper tantrums during their tumultuous relationship.
Her friends have revealed that she had a harder time with said industrialist because she was only starting out in her career at the time. On one occasion, he allegedly locked her up in their love pad and left her with limited food supplies, not returning to release her for a few days. Years after they’d broken up, when his company used her photograph to promote a beauty pageant they’d organised, the actress—spotting an opportunity to get back at her ex—reportedly sent a legal notice to the company asking them to refrain from exploiting her image without her consent.
Although there’s no love lost between both ladies, the former beauty queen has told friends she’s happy that the actress has exposed the industrialist’s abusive and high-handed ways.
Meanwhile, a third actress and former model is also cheering as the big shot gets his just desserts. The model apparently had a fling with the gentleman recently, while she was engaged. She was subsequently dumped by her fiancé when he discovered she was fooling around with said Richie Rich. The big shot, however, did not want to make a serious thing of their relationship when she went to him after being dumped, revealing that he was already committed to an Italian heiress he’d been introduced to by a family member.
The unit of Anurag Basu’s Jagga Jasoos is currently shooting in Cape Town, and photographs of Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif shopping on their day off from the set have already surfaced on the internet. The film’s leads are believed to have spent an afternoon browsing through a local mall, and didn’t flinch when desi fans spotted them hand-in-hand, or hankered for autographs and pictures. Fans noted that the couple was perfectly comfortable with the attention and made no effort to hide their closeness.
Meanwhile, in another part of the world, another star couple has reportedly been spotted getting cosy. Deepika Padukone apparently showed up in Barcelona a few days before the Dil Dhadakne Do unit sailed off on a cruise where they’ll shoot the chunk of the movie. Apparently DP and Ranveer Singh took in the sights and sounds of the city during his day off from work, although a source on the set reveals that the actress wasn’t shy about hanging out with the unit too. In an interview not long ago, Deepika told me she’d love to be an assistant on Zoya Akhtar’s set because “it’s the best script I’ve read”. She didn’t land up seeking an apprenticeship with the director, but Deepika does share a warm friendship with producers Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani, who she’s likely to work with again sometime in the near future.
More Than Just a Filmi Friend
Sonakshi Sinha brought in her 27th birthday last Sunday at Olive in Mumbai, and invited a gaggle of her filmi friends to party with her. Her Tevar co-star Arjun Kapoor, her Lootera director Vikramaditya Motwane, actor Sidharth Malhotra, model Niketan Madhok, and photographer Rohan Shrestha were among those spotted downing shots with the actress. Conspicuous by his absence, however, was Sonakshi’s R…Rajkumar co-star and “good friend” Shahid Kapoor, who, it is rumoured, took the actress for a late-night drive after her party.
A friend of Shahid’s reveals that the pair has become very close after working together, and that Shahid even advises Sonakshi on her career. It was the Haider hero who apparently recommended that Sonakshi sign up with the same talent management agency that handles his film and advertising work.
However, turns out there’s no truth to rumours that Sonakshi turned down the Akshay Kumar starrer Singh is Bling because Shahid was uncomfortable about her friendship with Akshay. In fact, she wasn’t even considered for the film, which Kareena Kapoor has now reportedly landed. The film’s producer, Ashvini Yardi, a friend of Sonakshi, wasn’t too keen to repeat the Akshay-Sonakshi pairing so soon after Holiday, and so didn’t even approach the actress for the role. She didn’t go to Katrina either, because that casting might suggest they were making a sequel to Singh Is Kinng, which this project isn’t.
The Envious Filmmaker
Not long after his latest film bombed at the box-office, a prominent filmmaker was catching up with his team over drinks at his sprawling home recently. The seasoned chap appeared defeated, and eyewitnesses suspected that his mood was a result of the film’s dismal performance.
Over the course of the evening, the gathering grew more intimate. When the filmmaker was alone with his core group—his leading man, senior assistant directors and key crew members who have worked with him for years—it became clear that what was troubling him had nothing to do with the fate of the film.
The filmmaker, who has been routinely linked romantically with many of the actresses he worked with, was apparently upset that the film was now done, and with it he’d lost any opportunity to ‘get close’ to his latest leading lady. In a moment that some described as desperate, others pathetic, the gentleman in question leaned over to his leading man and allegedly whispered (loudly enough for the group to hear), “Tu ne uski li kya?” (Did you have her?) As it turns out, he was all cut up over the possibility that his lead actor had had a fling with her, but he hadn’t had a chance to get close. Yeesh!
Reports that the desi version of 24—produced by and starring Anil Kapoor—didn’t quite achieve viewership targets haven’t dampened the actor’s spirit. AK is insistent that a second season will soon appear. He admits that the show couldn’t have attracted the same volume of viewers that embrace traditional melodramatic soaps. “This is a new format, a new genre for Indian television, and it certainly has a very different look and feel,” Anil explains. “The good sign is that viewership grew with each episode.”
Before he begins work on 24 Part Deux, however, Anil will dive into Zoya Akhtar’s Dil Dhadakne Do, in which he plays papa to Priyanka Chopra and Ranveer Singh. His shooting dates for that film have reportedly overlapped with the dates he’d allotted for Anees Bazmee’s Welcome sequel (titled— what else?—Welcome Back), and now both filmmakers are trying to find a way to optimise their dates with the actor.
Later in the year, he’ll also shoot No Entry Mein Entry (again to be directed by Bazmee), the cheerfully silly-sounding sequel to the 2005 blockbuster that’ll reunite him with Salman Khan. The film, to be produced by Anil’s brother Boney Kapoor, has been delayed for months—presumably because of Salman’s chock-a-block schedule, and also because of the falling out between Salman and Bazmee during Ready. Harrowed producer Boney, however, stepped in to mediate recently.
Groom and Tell
Bitter exes can be a dangerous thing, and Priyanka Chopra appears to have learnt that the hard way. The actress is currently seething over a recently-announced film project, involving her former boyfriend Aseem Merchant and ex-secretary Prakash Jaju.
Model-entrepreneur Merchant is producing a film inspired by Priyanka’s life, which will include her messy split with Jaju. The actress, when urged for a reaction, said she was disappointed that someone she knew and trusted would want to exploit her life.
Jaju, who claims responsibility for grooming Priyanka into an A-list movie star soon after she won the Miss World crown in 2000, famously clashed with the actress and her late father when they terminated his services. He went on a public tirade against the actress, claiming underpayment, and reportedly even leaked telephone records, which revealed many late-night conversations between Priyanka and her much-married co-star Akshay Kumar. The Chopras subsequently sued Jaju for intimidation and stalking, which led to his arrest.
Now it seems Jaju has a means to embarrass the actress again. Jaju claims the film is about his own life, although he has revealed that his history with Priyanka will be a big part of the film. In the same breath he insists he has no hard feelings against her. Confused much?
An Awaited Crime Thriller
The daughter of an eminent writer-filmmaker is reportedly preparing to shoot her new film which will be an investigative account of one of India’s most shocking unsolved crimes. The lady in question, who has directed two films earlier—both box-office failures—has found a producer in a respected ‘art-house’ filmmaker who was able to secure funding and distribution for the project because of his own involvement. He has agreed to be on set throughout the shoot, which was reportedly the financier’s only condition in exchange for bankrolling the film.
The highly sensitive and more than likely very controversial film will examine a high-profile double murder from the police perspective and will offer a logical theory about the identity of the perpetrators. The actual case itself continues to play out in court.
The filmmakers have roped in a much-admired male actor to take the role of the investigating officer. The actor, currently filming a Hollywood blockbuster sequel in Hawaii, is believed to have taken a substantial pay cut for the film as a sign of gratitude to the producer, who gave him one of his best roles some years ago.
Apparently Ranbir Kapoor is deeply embarrassed by his dad Rishi Kapoor’s recent outburst in a film glossy against Gangs of Wasseypur star Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Kapoor Sr was quoted attacking Nawaz, hollering that “You have neither the image nor the talent to do romantic films”, in response to Nawaz’s statement in an earlier interview that romantic roles were relatively easy to do.
Taking affront to the comment, Rishi Kapoor, easily Bollywood’s most successful and popular romantic hero, lashed out: “My friend, my dear Nawazuddin, I’m not demeaning your talent… I’ve even seen one or two of your films, in which you were just average. But it takes hard work to do what others are doing. You haven’t done it in your life; neither will you get a chance to do it. And you aren’t capable of doing it either.” Ouch.
Kapoor Jr, who famously declared last year that Nawaz’s performance in Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs films was the best acting he’d seen in a long time, reportedly explained to Nawaz that his father had a hot temper and a tendency to shoot off his mouth. Ranbir also may have had a chat with his papa, who has since insisted he was misquoted in the interview. Nawaz too has apologised for offending the senior star, insisting that he wasn’t dissing Rishi Kapoor, whose lifelong fan he remains.
Back in Farhan’s Camp
Thirteen years since his breakout in Dil Chahta Hai, Saif Ali Khan has apparently signed on to make a new movie with Excel Productions, the banner headed by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani, who gave him that early hit. The 43-year-old star will appear in Talaash director Reema Kagti’s thriller, expected to go on the floors later this year after Zoya Akhtar wraps principal photography on her Ranveer Singh-Priyanka Chopra starrer that Kagti has co-written.
Saif’s had a bumpy relationship with the company after Dil Chahta Hai, having committed to star in Zoya’s debut film Luck By Chance but pulling out at the last minute and causing much bad blood between old friends. Although more than one male star had okayed and then dropped out of the film during its seven-year incubation, Zoya has reportedly told friends she was particularly disappointed in Saif for the ‘cut and dry’ manner in which he left the film, and for expressing no apology for the inconvenience he’d caused.
Industrywalas, however, snigger that there’s a long time until the film goes into production, and the famously moody star cannot be trusted to stick to his word. The actor’s movie choices, after all, are often knee-jerk reactions to the box-office fate of his last film. It appears that after the failure of the heartland-set Bullett Raja, Saif has decided that he ought to ‘secure’ himself with a handful of A-grade urban films that are his comfort zone. But he’s got at least two releases (Sajid Khan’s Humshakals and Happy Ending with Krishna DK and Raj Nidimoru) lined up between now and when he starts Kagti’s film. And that’s enough time for a change of heart.
The Son No One Wants
Mr Moneybags Producer, once a leading name in the biz, is reportedly desperate to place his son in a ‘big’ film, but can’t seem to find anyone who’s willing. Not even a director he’s paying a fat salary for helming a multi-starrer comedy being made under his banner.
The producer has already launched and re- launched his son four times over in ‘smaller’ solo ventures, but the kid hasn’t landed a single project outside of daddy’s company. From splurging on the rights to an international pop number to hiring respectable supporting actors for each of these movies, daddy dearest has dipped deep into his pockets each time. But it’s become clear that the only thing that might actually help his son ‘succeed’ is riding piggyback on the popularity of real stars in a multi-hero project.
Word on the street is that the producer has failed twice to convince a big-name director into casting his son in the two films he’s made for his company. The latest movie, a comedy with three male leads, would have been an ideal project to slip his son into, but the director reportedly insisted there was only space for ‘stars’ in his film.
The drama over the casting of Karan Johar’s Shuddhi and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani reached epic proportions last week when Band Baaja Baaraat star Ranveer Singh was forced to choose one of the two films as a starring vehicle for himself, neither filmmaker willing to adjust his production schedules so the actor could work in both films. But I told you that already. Last week, in fact.
Turns out it was Bhansali, Ranveer’s Ram-Leela director, who reportedly threw a hissy fit and more or less ‘emotionally blackmailed’ the star into choosing his next over Johar’s production, although Ranveer had signed Shuddhi before Bhansali finalised him for Bajirao. No wonder Johar is mighty miffed at Bhansali for his arm-twisting tactics, and for announcing the same release date for his film that Johar had already picked and announced for Shuddhi.
But one hears the usually competitive Johar may not bother with a fight this time around. Word on the circuit is that even as Bajirao goes into production soon, Johar is considering putting Shuddhi into cold storage for now. He has apparently told friends that he has no plans currently to look for replacement stars, and is wondering if it might be a better idea to put the film on the backburner while director Karan Malhotra whips up another script.
The New Kiss on the Block
Alia Bhatt and Arjun Kapoor, who star in 2 States and are rumoured to be dating off-screen, appear to be cheesed off by the relentless media attention on their on-screen kiss—as witnessed in trailers of the film. Funny, given that the actors themselves have said in interviews that they enjoyed kissing each other. “But this kiss has become the only thing journalists write about,” Alia complains. “They ask a bunch of questions, but only keep the bits about the kiss.” Welcome to Bollywood, Ms Bhatt.
Gunday star Arjun, however, understands that all this chatter over their snog may not hurt the film after all: “If it brings people into the cinema to watch the movie, by all means keep talking about it.” But he will quickly explain that the kiss is not gratuitous. “This couple is in a live-in relationship. They will share intimacy, and shooting a kiss is a way to convey that,” Arjun says.
He also sticks to what they have been saying in interviews— that they enjoyed kissing each other, but then wonders why such a big deal is being made of that. You point out that in an industry where actors mostly conduct romantic relationships discreetly, seldom admitting to them even after photographs of PDA are splashed in the tabloids, it’s refreshingly mature that a young pair would speak candidly about their chemistry. He smiles cheekily, but refuses to admit they’re a couple.
The new obsession among A-listers is achieving the Rs 1,000 crore net worth target. Every one of them is in the race, reveal leading producers who complain that they’re left bearing the brunt of it. One superstar, who’s negotiated a Rs 500 crore satellite deal with a channel for all his films over the next five years, will keep that cash as his fee for the said projects.
Ironically, the same actor likes to talk about responsibility, and about not burdening a project with unreasonable salaries. Yet, as one leading filmmaker who worked with him some years ago on an ensemble romantic film explains, he’s making it hard for producers to survive in the business. This producer reveals that he paid the star Rs 4 crore for starring in his 2007 film, but the actor is demanding remuneration amounting to Rs 66 crore for a new project. Not all of it is expected upfront, but that is what the star wants to be paid for appearing in the film by the time he’s finished making it.
But he’s hardly alone. With other A-listers producing most of their new films themselves, or demanding a sizeable percentage of profits from every release, they stand to make nearabout the same fee from big projects. But the bubble will burst, say industry watchers who point out that in this current scenario, nobody but actors end up making money… even when their films bomb. “That’ll change quickly, because otherwise, soon you won’t have producers wanting to make any more movies,” a source explains.
It’s hard to imagine what Nawazuddin Siddiqui could possibly be doing in a Salman Khan film, but the Gangs of Wasseypur star is in fact currently shooting with the muscled action star for producer Sajid Nadiadwala’s directorial debut Kick. To be fair, it isn’t just Nawaz. Even Randeep Hooda has a significant part in the movie.
These aren’t the sort of actors you’d typically expect to turn up in Salman Khan starrers, given that these films are mostly mindless action-comedies that only serve to build on the superstar’s existing popularity, and not necessarily tell engaging, credible stories. But one hears Sajid offered Nawaz a sizeable paycheck to accept the film’s chief negative role, whereas Randeep was seduced by the fact that he’d been promised a parallel role to Salman’s (ha!)—he’s the third angle of a romantic triangle that has Jacqueline Fernandez and Salman as well.
Unit hands have revealed that Nawaz looks perpetually out of his depth on the sets, while Randeep has managed to strike up a warm friendship with his superstar co-actor, who tends to enthrall the crew with jokes and banter in between shots.
Passing the Torch
Less than eight weeks to go until filming was to begin on Kahaani director Sujoy Ghosh’s next, his leading lady Vidya Balan has dropped out of the movie, reportedly citing health reasons. Industry sources reveal that the actress may be pregnant, and has been advised against doing intense physical roles, thereby completely ruling out Sujoy’s action thriller that is once again set in Kolkata.
But far from having created a rift between filmmaker and muse, turns out Vidya has been recommending possible replacements for her role, which she claims she was excited to play. There is news now that Queen star Kangana Ranaut will replace Vidya in the film, having committed to the project as soon as she heard a script narration.
Having received, in her own words, “dozens of offers” since the recent release of Queen, Kangana is nevertheless being cautious in her choices, she says, seeking out “only the best roles”. While she had already said ‘yes’ to Raanjhanaa director Aanand L Rai’s Tanu Weds Manu 2 (opposite R Madhavan again) months ago, Sujoy’s film is the only new project she appears to have signed.
A self-admitted ‘fan’ of Vidya’s, Kangana doesn’t seem perturbed by the fact that she was the second choice for the movie, or that it may be forever referred to as ‘the film Vidya couldn’t do’. The actress has apparently asked Sujoy for a few weeks to prepare for the part—so she can get under the skin of the character, which she says is unlike anything she has done so far.
Weight Throwing Contest
Organisers of a Bollywood awards show that’s held on foreign shores annually are currently fielding calls from stars who’re making unreasonable demands in exchange for attending the show. One diva has reportedly asked for 35 VIP seats to be reserved for her guests to attend the show, and her manager balked when the organisers sent her a bill for the tickets. A male B-lister has asked for free hotel stay for a few days in another city while in transit on his way back to Mumbai.
But it’s a young actor best known for his comic performances who has shown the most grace. He has apparently asked the organisers to book him and his wife onward to another holiday after the awards show, and has entrusted them with hotel and flight arrangements, all the while insisting he’d pay for the personal trip himself. The actor has told them he wants to assure his wife a good time, and he’s happy to pick up the tab.
That’s a nice change from the promising young star who has asked that his parents and siblings be flown with him to the awards show venue where he’s already being paid a fat fee for a live performance. Informed that the cost of their flight tickets and hotel stay will be deducted from what they owe him by way of his performance fee, his managers reportedly threw a hissy fit.
It’s funny how practically every major new film currently going into production will star or has been offered to Deepika Padukone. Even if filmmakers have not locked in a leading man yet, negotiating as they are among a handful of options, there appears to be little doubt in their minds about their choice of leading lady.
Soon after wrapping Happy New Year with Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika will begin filming Imtiaz Ali’s Window Seat with Ranbir Kapoor. She has also signed Karan Johar’s Shuddhi, which doesn’t have a hero after Hrithik Roshan’s exit (Ranveer Singh is most likely to be roped in), but is nevertheless being rushed to the floors in order to make a December 2015 release. Deepika will also flex her acting chops with Amitabh Bachchan in Vicky Donor director Shoojit Sircar’s next, a no-frills father-daughter drama that will also star Irrfan Khan in a pivotal part. And although Aamir Khan has reportedly walked out of first- timer Nithya Anand’s time-travel movie to be produced by Farhan Akhtar’s Excel Productions, Deepika remains attached to the project, which the makers have now offered to Hrithik Roshan. There’s a good chance Hrithik could also be the Bajirao to her Mastani in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s passion project of many years. What eludes her still is a movie with Salman Khan. If the grapevine is to be trusted, Deepika herself politely turned down Sooraj Barjatya’s offer to appear opposite the star because she wasn’t convinced of the script, making way for Sonam Kapoor to land the project instead.
Last weekend at Filmistan Studio, where she was filming Happy New Year, I met Deepika and enquired if there was a director she’d sacrifice an arm to work with. After much consideration, she replied: “At this point, I’d probably say Rajkumar Hirani.” She was also sporting enough to admit that she wishes she’d been offered Zoya Akhtar’s next (now titled Dil Dhadakne Do), which she describes as a “crazy, terrific script”. The dark comedy about a dysfunctional Punjabi family that takes a luxury cruise together will star Deepika’s boyfriend Ranveer Singh and Priyanka Chopra as brother and sister, and Anushka Sharma and Farhan Akhtar as their romantic interests. “I haven’t even discussed this with Zoya yet, but if I can get a few months off around that time, I’d go and work as an assistant director on that set,” Deepika reveals.
Shahid Kapoor spent his 33rd birthday earlier this week in Goa for some sun, sand and R&R, away from the snowy climes of Kashmir where he’s been shooting for weeks now with the unit of Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haidar.
The actor, who tends to take all his girlfriends, and even his casual dates, to the beach capital for quick weekend breaks—Priyanka Chopra, Bipasha Basu and Nargis Fakhri have all been spotted with him in Goa previously— invited a small group of friends to join him there this time.
Pulling his leg about his reputation when it comes to his Goa getaways, Shahid’s Rowdy Rathore co-star Sonakshi Sinha tweeted to him: ‘Happy Birthday @shahidkapoor!! Goa mein gandi baat aur party all night okkk :p Have funnnns!!’
A Hot and Heavy History
A prominent director of new age Indian cinema recently filmed an item song for his new movie on an oomphy has- been actress, best known for her seductive dance numbers in the 1990s. The filmmaker and the showgirl couldn’t be more different than chalk and cheese, but few will remember that they share a secret. Back in the day when she was ‘slumming it’, working in an art-house film during a rough patch in her career, she’d hooked up with the said director, who was at the time an up-and-coming angst-ridden scriptwriter working on the same project. They’d had a passionate fling, away from prying eyes, and the director has confided to close friends that “she taught me things I didn’t in my wildest imagination think possible”. When they met again recently to film the song, eyewitnesses on the set say they quickly got over any awkwardness they may have had, and in fact shared a friendly vibe. The director is reportedly thrilled with what he’s shot with her, and announced that she’s still just as smoking hot as audiences remember her.
Poor Anushka Sharma—so disturbed by all the jibes and ‘before & after’ pictures posted on Facebook and Twitter after her appearance on Koffee With Karan last week—had no option but to issue a statement clarifying that she hasn’t undergone cosmetic surgery: ‘For a short while now I have been using a temporary lip enhancing tool and that along with make up techniques (I have learnt over the years) is the reason why there might be a change in the appearance of my lips.’
To hand it to her, Anushka sportingly took all the Heath Ledger ‘Joker’ references in her stride: ‘Some of the ‘joker’ jokes/memes doing the rounds though a bit mean did bring a smile to my lips ;)’
The actress has clarified that this experiment is part of her look in Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet, ‘where I play a jazz singer in the 1960s-70s.’
Nice of her to respond to all the gossip, but like one rival of hers pointed out, “Anushka makes an unconvincing argument, and she should be careful because everyone’s going to be looking at her other films to see if indeed it’s a look she’s sporting only for one movie, [or] a condition that’ll affect her look in all her films.” With Rajkumar Hirani’s P.K. arriving in December, and Bombay Velvet lined up not long after, all eyes will be on Anushka’s lips.
Vidya Balan says she’s naturally overwhelmed at having been announced the recipient of the prestigious Padmashri honour, but reveals that her friends haven’t stopped teasing her about it. Her Shaadi Ke Side Effects co-star Farhan Akhtar will drop whatever he’s doing and stand up when she enters the room, only to get a laugh out of her. Others are more creative. “I have friends who now refer to me as Padmashri Vidya, and they’ll call Siddharth”—her husband, UTV head honcho Siddharth Roy Kapur—“Padma-shrimaan,” she says amid giggles.
Having swept awards ceremonies four years in a row—she won Filmfare awards for Paa (2009), Ishqiya (2010), The Dirty Picture (2011) and Kahaani (2012)—Vidya’s lucky streak came to a screeching halt with last year’s critical and commercial dud Ghanchakkar, even if she was the best thing about the film. While she may have gone home empty handed after the recent Filmfare, Screen and Star Guild Award ceremonies, she will soon be making a trip to the Rashtrapati Bhavan to collect her Padmashri, a coup her rivals can only envy. The irony isn’t lost on her: “It really felt surreal when I got the call. It took some time to sink in,” she says of being bestowed with the national honour.
But there’s a good chance she’ll be an awards-race contender again next year after she’s done filming Kahaani director Sujoy Ghosh’s next, a thriller in which she co-stars with fellow awards-magnet Irrfan Khan.
A Worldly Friendship
Whoever said young ’uns have all the fun? There’s gossip doing the rounds about two senior actors who’ve reportedly got ‘very friendly’ while shooting at an outdoor location recently. The movie in question is a Hollywood production being filmed in India, the sequel of an international hit that was also shot here a few years ago.
If sources from the unit are to be believed, a fairly well known Indian character actress, who reprises her role from the earlier film, has charmed a Hollywood A-lister who’s recently been added to the new film. This silver fox, a hugely popular American star, has been to India often in the past on spiritual and philanthropic missions, but is filming locally for the first time.
Everyone from the crew to their co-actors have noticed that the pair share warm vibes, and rarely miss an opportunity to drive back to their hotel together in the same car when pack-up is announced. It’s not unusual for one to be holed up in the other’s vanity van or make-up room in between shots, and one source describes their friendship as “extremely touchy-feely”.
The actress, well-known for her raspy, gravelly voice, is married and a mother, and is well known in social circles outside Bollywood too. She’s starred in both blockbusters and indies, often taking mum parts, and has had considerable success in roles with comic undertones. Among those who’ve heard the rumours, there are a few who suspect there may be nothing more than a Platonic friendship between the two. “She’s a great talker, and she’s an even better listener. There’s a good chance she’s the only person on that set who has a worldview outside of films, and that’s probably what he’s drawn to,” a friend of hers offers.