[Featured Image Credit: Screenshot / YouTube, Warner Bros. Pictures]
The year 1973 saw the birth of a star; legendary actor and filmmaker Raj Kapoor cast the 16-year-old Dimple Kapadia in ‘Bobby,’ and her natural ease on the big screen shot her to instant fame, touted her as a ‘cult figure’ in Indian cinema, and made her a household name.
Kapadia has worked in over 70 Bollywood films in her career that now spans over 40 years, taking sabbaticals here and there, but always returning to roles that challenge her craft and prove her capabilities. Still making a pivotal impact with her recent roles in films like ‘Dabangg 3’ and ‘Angrezi Medium,’ major money-spinners at the box office, at this stage in her career, Dimple Kapadia needed an opportunity of a lifetime, and that came in the form of esteemed Hollywood director, Christopher Nolan’s film, ‘Tenet.’
Nolan’s movies are no stranger to mind-bending and non-linear narratives and ‘Tenet’ takes these elements, and the thriller-action genre, to a whole new level. The film’s distinct storyline of a secret agent setting out on a “time-bending” journey to prevent World War III, paired with Kapadia’s phenomenal screen presence along with her counterparts, makes the movie a compelling watch.
In an exclusive chat with Brown Girl Magazine, Dimple Kapadia talks about her experiences with shooting ‘Tenet’ at length. Here’s what she had to say:
For those who haven’t seen the film, can you please give the audience your take on ‘Tenet.’
“What can we say about Christopher Nolan’s film ‘Tenet’? Words are just not enough. It’s absolutely mind-blowing, riveting, it’s a huge experience — I mean films are an experience — and it turns your brain inside out, and that’s what’s so fascinating about it. It’s just not visual. It completely throws you off and you have to see it a couple of times to see the beauty of the film. It’s fabulous!”
You mention that the film is mind-blowing. Its plot is also mind-bending, consisting of concepts like entropy, inversion, and non-linear thinking; Christopher Nolan even said that this is his most ambitious project yet. What inspired you to take on this role?
“The way I became part of the film was very strange, actually. I got a call from this number I didn’t recognize, and I picked up and it was an agent and she said, ‘Christopher Nolan wants to audition you for this film.’ I don’t watch a lot of movies, but I’ve seen ‘The Prestige’ about four times — because his movies have to be seen 4-5 times — and I went crazy! So, I went and told my nephew that I got this call and ‘some Christoper Nolan wants to audition me.’ He’s like to me, ‘that’s your favorite director! Don’t you remember ‘The Prestige?’ What are you saying?!’ I told him not to get too excited thinking why Christopher Nolan would want to cast me? I thought somebody was pulling my leg. So it started off like that. But then I saw that this was a reality; I just kept thinking whether I would be able to pull this off. All this fear was in me and I actually shut myself off and said I don’t want to do this. I can’t do this. And this was not because of anything else but my own fear and insecurities. But then I gave it a shot and just my good luck, he [Nolan] was coming here to India and he wanted to do an audition with me.”
I understand that this was the first role you ever auditioned for in your career that spans over 4 decades. How was the audition experience for you?
“I still didn’t think I stood a chance, but I went to the audition and took my nephew with me saying we’ll get a picture with Nolan and that would be the best part of our day. I went in there expecting nothing at all. I was just stunned by this huge man, one of the biggest directors in the world, and he was so simple and kind. I left the meeting still thinking that I didn’t get the part but I was just happy meeting him and getting a picture for my nephew.
But then, oh my god, I got the part, and I still can’t explain what that’s done for me. I still haven’t been able to take in all of it. At one point, he had the camera in his hand and he was taking the audition and I was like, ‘oh my god, Christopher Nolan is taking my audition!’ During the meeting, we had a cup of tea, and at one point I forgot my lines which is nothing new, and it just went on. I came back thinking wow I just did an audition, I’ve done it. The fear of auditioning was gone. He made me so comfortable.
So, how I started my audition was: ‘Hello, I’m Priya Singh, mujhse dosti karoge?’ I started from there and I’ve come here. I’m extremely grateful. I told Christopher that he pulled me out of my grave. I didn’t think I would get the part, I genuinely didn’t think anything.”
[Photo Courtesy: Warner Bros.]
Talk to us about the character of Priya Singh. She’s multi-layered — intelligent, powerful, and mysterious. How did you find essaying this role?
“Honestly speaking it was a breeze because I was just adopted by sir [Nolan] and all I had to do was just stand there and do my stuff. Chris put everything together, I really didn’t have to do a thing. He has us get it all out. I don’t know how he does it. His passion and concentration to bring his story to celluloid are so infectious, so you can’t help but to try and put your best foot forward.”
‘Tenet’ offers a powerfully diverse cast — a black lead, and a South Asian star playing the prominent role of an arms dealer. How do you think the diverse casting effects the positive impact of the film on the audience?
“It’s wonderful because the casting gave a lot of credibility to the characters. At the end of the day, it’s not about your skin color and where you come from, it’s about your talent and what you can bring to the table, and if the audience sees that then you’ve done your job.”
The film also marks your debut in Hollywood.
“That’s right! I remember I did an interview eons ago, where I said at 15 I became a star, at 20 I sort of divorced, at 30 I’m back, and at 50 I’ll be in Hollywood! So I was 13 years late but look how it happened! I feel absolutely blessed. I actually went up to Christopher and asked him what the short form of his name is, and he said ‘Chris.’ I said to him, ‘no, for me it’s Christ.’”
How was it working on a bigger budget Hollywood film like ‘Tenet’?
“The passion and drive on the set were so strong, and every member of the unit strived for just one goal and this sets the whole meter for you. It was absolutely fantastic! Each member of the unit was a contributor to the film. I was made to feel so comfortable on set. They didn’t make me feel differently because I was from India or as if I was a smaller star. They all made me feel very special. There was no attitude from anyone on the sets and that’s what I love about them — they’ve achieved so much in life, yet they’re so humble and so grounded. It was an absolute pleasure.”
What are your parting words for the Brown Girl audience?
“I just want to tell the audience to not even bother watching a pirated version of the film — it’s a big-screen film and you have to go see it there, it’s an experience! You’ll probably have to see it twice or thrice — it’s a Christopher Nolan film — because there’s so much happening that you miss out on the little things! I know times are bad, but it’s worth the watch.”
‘Tenet’ marks the Hollywood debut of a multi-talented Bollywood actress who proves that she’s far from being labeled as a “yesteryear star.” The filmography of Dimple Kapadia may prove to be nostalgic to many, but her career graph continues to grow as she explores new realms for more promising roles in the West.
It’s never a dull moment with your girl gang; some shots and conversations about sex, right? If you agree, you’re in for a treat with Karan Boolani’s directorial venture, “Thank You For Coming,” which had its world premiere at the 48th annual Toronto International Film Festival. This coming-of-age story unapologetically begs the answer to a very important question: Why should women be left high and dry in bed?
Kanika Kapoor (Bhumi Pednekar) is a successful, 32-year-old, Delhi food blogger who makes a huge revelation on her 30th birthday: She’s never experienced an orgasm. This dirty little secret (no pun intended!) has now become detrimental to her self-esteem. She feels so down and out that she even accepts the proposal of a very boring suitor, Jeevan-ji (Pradhuman Singh Mall).
But, it’s not like she hasn’t tried. Kanika’s been a monogamist since her teenage years, starting with puppy love in high school — unfortunately, their sexual endeavors coined her as “thandi” (cold) by her first boyfriend — all the way to dating in her adulthood. But, regardless of how great any relationship was, nobody had her achieve the big O. All until the night of her engagement with Jeevan, when the drunk bride-to-be leaves the party for her hotel room and gets into bed. What follows is her very first orgasm. Ghungroo, finally, tute gaye! But, with whom?
The morning after, an initially-satisfied Kanika works herself into a frenzy of confusion and frustration as she makes her way through the list of potential men who could’ve been in her room the night before.
Was it one of her exes? She’d simply invited them to come to wish her well.
Was it her fiance?
Or, God forbid, was it actually the rabdi-wala (ice cream man)?
Boolani takes a straight-forward and on-the-nose approach to drive the point home. There are no cutting corners, no mincing words, and no hovering over “taboo topics.” The dialogue is raunchy, the characters are horny, and no one is apologetic. It’s important for a film like “Thank You For Coming” to be so in-your-face because the subject of women achieving orgasms can’t really be presented in any other way. Anything more conservative in the narrative would feel like the makers are being mindful of addressing something prohibited. And there is no room for taboos here.
But, there is room for a more open conversation on the reasons why many women feel the need to suppress their sexual needs in bed; how generally, women have been brought up to be the more desirable gender and hence not cross certain boundaries that would make them appear too brash. The fight for the right of female pleasure would have been a little more effective if the modesty around the topic was addressed. But, that doesn’t mean that the point is remiss.
The plot moves swiftly along, never lulling too long over everything that seems to be going wrong in Kanika’s life. “Thank You For Coming” is full of all the right tropes that belong in a comedic, masala film, too; the direction very seamlessly takes classic fixings like the abhorrent admirer (enter Jeevan-ji) and effectively plugs them into this contemporary feature that will remain perpetually relevant.
And now, let’s come to the star of the show: the well-rounded characters.
Producer Rhea Kapoor has mastered the formula of a good chick flick and her casting is the magic touch. She’s got a knack for bringing together the right actors — cue, “Veere Di Wedding.” So, just when we think that it doesn’t get better than the veere, Kapoor surprises us with a refreshing trio — they’re modern, they’re rebellious, and they say it like it is. Thank you, Dolly Singh (Pallavi Khanna) and Shibani Bedi (Tina Das) for being the yin to Kanika’s yang — and for the bag full of sex toys your homegirl oh-so needed!
To complete Kanika’s story, we have her single mother, Miss. Kapoor, brilliantly portrayed by Natasha Rastogi. She is the face of a headstrong and self-assured matriarch and a symbol of the modern-day Indian woman. Rastogi’s character exemplifies the fact that with access to education, and a stable career, women do not need to mold their lives around men.
I love the fact that Miss. Kapoor is almost villainized by her own mother (played by Dolly Ahluwalia) in the film because she had a child out of wedlock in her yesteryears, she chooses to remain single, and she brings her boyfriends around the house to hang out with. But, there’s a point to be made here. The fact that Kanika’s mother is being antagonized just highlights that she is challenging the norms and pushing the envelope for what is socially acceptable for women. Miss. Kapoor definitely deserves an honorable mention.
Pednekar’s unexpected yet impeccable comic timing is the highlight of the entire film. Everything from being a damsel in sexual distress to a woman who unabashedly chases self-pleasure, Pednekar puts on a genuinely entertaining act for the audience. From being portrayed as a high-schooler to the 32-year-old, independent woman, Pednekar is fit for each role. Her naivety as a teen wins you over, as does her gusto as a full-blown adult with a broken ankle and some very messy relationships. This also speaks volumes about the versatility of her looks.
And, of course, Pednekar is not new to films that address social topics, but “Thank You For Coming” challenges her to balance Kanika’s droll with the responsibility of delivering a very important message to the viewers. Mission accomplished, Ms. Pednekar!
“Thank You For Coming” is a through-and-through entertainer. Everything from the casting — a huge shout out to the rest of the supporting cast including Anil Kapoor, Shehnaaz Gill, Karan Kundra, Kusha Kapila, Gautmik, and Sushant Divkigar, without whom this roller coaster would have lacked the thrills — to the homey locations and even the glitz and glamor in the song sequences, they’re all perfect pieces to help drive home a powerful message: Smash patriarchy!
March 20, 2023March 21, 2023 4min readBy Nida Hasan
If you are a South Asian, born in the ’80s or the early ’90s, chances are your ideas of love and romance are heavily influenced by Hindi films — that first gaze, the secret love notes, that accidental meeting somewhere in Europe, over-the-top gestures and dancing around trees. While reality may have been far from what was promised on reel, you still can’t stop pining over a hopeless romantic, with chocolate boy looks, chasing you across the earth and many universes; in the life here and the ones after. Somewhere deep down, you still dream of that possibility despite your husband sitting and sipping his morning coffee right next to you. And much of the credit for weaving this dreamland, that we can’t resist happily sliding into, goes to the legendary Yash Chopra. Award-winning filmmaker Smriti Mundhra’s docu-series, “The Romantics,” that released on Netflix on February 14, chronicles Chopra’s prolific career; offering an illuminating look into the highs and lows of his journey, his unblemished vision for Hindi cinema and sheer love for filmmaking.
I wanted to look at Indian cinema through the lens of it being a major contributor to the global cinema canon and Yash Chopra seemed like the perfect lens to explore that because of the longevity of his career and the fact that he had worked across so many different genres. His films, for so many of us, defined what Hindi cinema is.
— Smriti Mundhra
As “The Romantics” unveils, in a mere episode — a challenging feat in itself — Chopra did experiment with multiple genres as a budding filmmaker, initially under the shadows of his elder brother B.R. Chopra. From the religiously sensitive “Dharamputra” and the trendsetting “Waqt” to the action-packed and iconic “Deewaar.” It wasn’t until later on in his career that he set a precedent for a Hindi film having a wholly romantic narrative; though “Waqt” did offer the perfect glimpse into what would go on to become Chopra’s cinematic imprint. And then came “Chandni” which ushered in a new era for Hindi cinema; defying the formulaic approach to box office success and making love stories the golden goose.
In the words of more than 30 famous faces, a host of archival videos and interviews, and personal anecdotes, audiences get an extensive insight into the life and career of Yash Chopra and the evolution of his vision through the business acumen and genius of his polar opposite son and a famous recluse, Aditya Chopra. “The Romantics” is not a fancy portrait of a legendary filmmaker but an exploration of what goes into making a successful film family and a path-breaking production house. As viewers, we not only get a peek into the making of a fantasy creator but also learn of the many failures, hurdles and uncertainties that the business of filmmaking comes packaged in, the impact of socio-political shifts on the kind of content being produced and demanded, and just how much control we have as an audience over the fate of the film and the filmmaker.
For both the uninitiated and fanatics, there are some interesting revelations like Shah Rukh Khan’s lifelong desire to become an action hero as opposed to a romantic one and the creative conflict between Aditya Chopra and his father Yash Chopra on the sets of “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge” — a project that, surprisingly, did not seem too promising to the latter. Mundhra penetrates deep into the family’s history and industry relationships evoking some really candid conversations; almost as if these celebs were eagerly waiting for their moment to speak. With one appraising interview after the other, it’s a panegyric that does border on being a tad tedious but there is enough depth and fodder in there to keep one hooked. Kudos to Mundhra for managing to achieve cohesion despite there being more than enough material to chew on. In the process of bringing this project to life, Mundhra also ends up achieving a number of milestones: one that the series features the last of actor Rishi Kapoor’s interviews and two, it brings Aditya Chopra, who, it appears, can talk a blue streak contrary to popular belief, to the front of the camera after almost two decades. The moment when he puts the nepotism debate to rest by referring to his brother’s catastrophic attempt at acting is quite the show-stealer.
At some point during the four-episode series, you might question if it’s fair to credit the Yash Raj family for being the only real changemakers of the Hindi film industry and for picking up the baton to get Hindi cinema the global recognition that it has. But then there is no denying the Chopra clan’s body of work, their ability to understand what pleases the crowd and their commitment towards growth and progress amidst changing times and technology — Yash Raj Studios is in fact the only privately held and one of the biggest, state-of-the-art film studios in India. Chopra’s career and legacy are in no way under-lit that Mundhra can claim to throw new light on with “The Romantics.” But what she really has on offer here are sheer nostalgia, some fascinating discoveries and an ode to a cinephile and his art with a bit of fan service.
In an interview with Brown Girl Magazine, Mundhra discusses why it was so important for Chopra to be the subject of her docu-series, her own learnings during the series’ research and creative process and her accomplishment of getting Aditya Chopra to talk, and that too, at length.
It’s always a flamboyant affair of colour, emotions and grandeur when Karan Johar directs a film, and his latest blockbuster “Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani” is as K Jo as it gets. After recently being recognised at the British House of Parliament for 25 years as a filmmaker, Johar is back to doing what he does best — bringing together families and star-crossed lovers, but this time with a modern touch. He makes a decent attempt at showcasing progressive ideals and feminist issues while taking us on this family-friendly ride.
“Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani” is a larger-than-life film revolving around the love story of a boisterous Rocky (Ranveer Singh) from a wealthy Delhi family, and Rani (Alia Bhatt), a sharp journalist from a progressive Bengali household. And of course, despite belonging to completely different backgrounds and lives, our protagonists, in true Bollywood fashion, fall hopelessly in love through a string of slow-motion gazes, warm embraces and some truly breath-taking song sequences in Kashmir’s snowy mountains. They are then forced to face their opposing families which brings along the family drama in the second half of the film.
The plot is not the film’s strongest point — there’s no real surprise about what’s going to happen next, and yet the film doesn’t fail to keep audiences engaged and pack an emotional punch. This is down to its strong acting, witty dialogues and K Jo’s classic, beautiful cinematography.
Ranveer Singh sinks into the skin of his character with ease – not only does he make the hall burst into laughter with the help of perfectly-timed gags but he pulls off those dreamy gazes ,expected in K Jo’s heroes, to evoke that typical, fuzzy-feeling kind of Bollywood romance. Alia Bhatt’s intelligent and undefeated character is no less a pleasure to watch on screen — not only does she look breath-taking in every shot but her feminist dialogues earn claps and cheers from the audience as she brings a progressive touch to this family drama.
Albeit, while Bhatt’s dialogues do their best to steer this film to the reformist drama it hopes to be, some of Singh’s gags and monologues on cancel culture bring out bumps in the road. The film could have done better to reinforce its points on feminism and racism without using the groups it tries to support as the butt of jokes.
There is also a case to be made about how long these Punjabi and Bengali stereotypes can go on with often gawkish displays of Ranveer’s ‘dilwala-from-Delhi’ character among the overly-polished English from Rani’s Bengali family. But it is with the expertise of the supporting cast, that the film is able to get away with it. Jaya Bachchan in particular is as classy as ever on screen; the stern Dadi Ji holds her ground between the two lovers, while Dada Ji Dharmendra, and Thakuma Shabana Azmi, tug at our heartstrings showing that love truly is for all ages.
Saving the best to last, it is the film’s cinematography that makes the strongest case for audiences to flock to the cinema. The soul-stirring songs steal the show with their extravagant sets and powerful dance performances that treat the audiences to the much-awaited cinematic experience of a K Jo film. While audiences may already be familiar with the viral songs, “What Jhumka?” and “Tum Kya Mile“, it was the family-defying fight for love in “Dhindhora Baje Re” that really gave me goosebumps.
Overall, the film does exactly what it says on the tin and is a family entertainer with something for everyone. It will make you laugh, cry, and cringe at times, but nothing leaves you feeling as romantic as some old school Bollywood with a mix of new school humour, in true K Jo form.