Like most ‘90s born South Asian millennials growing up in the diaspora, my average Friday night consisted of a Bollywood film with biryani. Sometimes, if my parents felt extra generous, we’d go to the cinema and wrap up the night with a takeaway from our local curry house. The latter was usually reserved for a film with endless (albeit sometimes problematic) scenes and dance music for days.
So, when 20 odd years later I received the opportunity to interview Bollywood’s iconic queen Rani Mukerji it all came full circle. Her warm energy and welcoming aura immediately replaced my nervousness with ease, as we laughed about being each other’s namesake. “I’m so excited to finally chat to you, Queenie!”
In an exclusive interview with Brown Girl Magazine, Rani speaks about her 25th anniversary in Bollywood, diverse range of roles, as well as the highly anticipated release of “Bunty Aur Babli 2.”
We start with a well-deserved round of applause for her remarkable 25-year Bollywood journey, whether it’s for pop-culture icons such as Tina in “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai,” or critically acclaimed Michelle in “Black.” Surely, with great power comes great responsibility.
Yes, absolutely. I strongly believe an actor’s journey is never-ending in any creative field. For example, it’s not just a film I learn from, it’s also the process behind all my films. If it’s a destination project and I come across something quirky, I will try my best to learn from it. I am quite observant as a person and draw energy and inspiration from my surroundings. These 25 years have been a journey of learning, of memories, of making friends, of exploring and growing as a person. And when all of that comes together, it’s been a journey of making sure I am giving out the right message to my fans.
While “Bunty Aur Babli 2” is yet to be watched, the first part — starring Abhishek Bachchan and the leading lady herself — was an entertainment package that Rani looks back at fondly. She reminisces about Vimi’s loud and vibrant clothes and what a fashion statement they made the world over in the early 2000s.
You know it’s not just about the clothes — it’s how confidently she wears them. She wears them with such panache that you believe she’s looking the best in the world. She’s unflappable in thinking she’s the Queen of Phursatganj, the queen of fashion. Nobody does confident fashion like her and I absolutely love that. The fact that she’s 5 foot nothing and wanted to become Miss India — that’s so fab.
I nod in agreement, recalling countless trips to my darzi in an attempt to recreate Rani’s quintessentially desi short kameez and shalwar look (which he never got right). Fashion has since evolved multiple times — so has the mindset of the actors who played the lead roles. Was it challenging to fit into Vimi’s shoes after a 15-year gap?
I think what I realised while doing “Bunty Aur Babli 2” is that Vimi never left me. She has always been a part of me like a looming shadow. The real Rani aspires to be a lot like Vimi in a strange, secretive way. I absolutely love her guts and what a powerhouse she is.
While that may be true, Vimi does hail from an era that wasn’t as digitally advanced as her tech-savvy counterparts are used to in 2021. Can we expect forwarded scam messages and Instagram bots, as opposed to old-school conning that she and Rakesh were masters of back in the day?
I think the audience will really get an insight into how times — as well as Vimi and Rakesh’s conning ways — have changed in this film! Sharvari Wagh and Siddhant Chaturvedi’s characters are well-armed with all sorts of technology, whereas Saif and I are the senior guns. We really needed to oil our engines and learn how to be digitally savvy. That’s one of the main clashes in the film.
I think a lot of us can relate to that feeling! Surely, shooting a sequel in a time vastly different from the 2000s brings back its own set of challenges. How difficult is it to step into a beloved character’s authentic shoes while retaining their original charm for a completely new movie? Especially since there may be a completely new set of audience (teenagers) who might have not seen the first film.
I strongly believe that [“Bunty Aur Babli 2”] is such a fresh new film — as cast members, we didn’t feel the pressure of the first part at all. Audiences will get into the story immediately — there’s no beating around the bush. So, kids and young adults who might have not seen the first film will probably look at Saif and I as the old-school couple; whereas the new jori may be seen as hip and cool. Vimi’s loyal followers have seen her journey — she’s now a mum, more set in her ways. I think the film will brilliantly cater to all ages. Millennials will relate to Vimi’s transformation and Rakesh’s quirks, as well as connect with Siddhant and Sharvari’s characters.
I don’t think Rani’s fans will ever call her old-school, though, to us, she’ll always be Bollywood’s trendsetter. She’s gracious as ever, and shares how she shared the older sister chemistry with Sharvari on set. The mention of chemistry, however, reminds me of her previous projects with Saif Ali Khan and their multiple films together. I’m sure it’s the equivalent of working with a very dear friend.
My relationship and chemistry with Saif are that of a best friend — I’ve known him for years. It’s similar to meeting school friends after ages — that comfort level never disappears. Saif and I discovered that we were just as relaxed working with each other as we were during our first film, even though it’s been so long since we’d last worked together. We’ve always been friends, with a lot of regard and respect for each other. That reflects in our work, which fans thoroughly enjoy — hopefully, they’ll enjoy it just as much in “Bunty Aur Babli 2”!
I’m sure we will, Rani! “Bunty Aur Babli 2” is now released in cinemas worldwide, and is already loved by millions around the globe. I, for one, can’t wait to watch it on the big screen — my first film in a cinema in two years since the onset of the pandemic.
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!
“Ghoomer,” R. Balki’s latest directorial venture, had its world premiere at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 2023 (IFFM), earlier this month, and the moment was nothing short of memorable. Lead actors Abhishek Bachchan, Saiyami Kher, and Angad Bedi, were present to unveil their labor of love to the world, and all three were left speechless at the reaction of the global audience; the film received a standing ovation on opening night, leaving the team extremely emotional — a feeling that Bachchan tells Brown Girl is one he cannot put into words.
“Ghoomer,” tells the story of Anina (played by Kher), an exceptional cricket player who loses her right hand in an accident. Downtrodden and with no will to live, Anina finds a mentor and coach in Padam Singh Sodhi (played by Bachchan), an insensitive and brash failed cricketer who helps her turn her life and career around; Anina also has the unwavering support of her husband, Jeet (played by Bedi). Sodhi teaches Anina unorthodox techniques to make her mark on the cricket ground once again. Enter, ghoomer, a new style of bowling.
Balki checks all the boxes with this feature — his protagonist is a female athlete, the film is his way of giving back to cricket (a new form of delivery), and he highlights the idea that nothing is impossible for paraplegic athletes. The heart of Balki’s film is in the right place — Kher mentions that the film is meant to be more of an inspirational movie and less of a sports-based movie. One can only imagine the impact that a film like this would have on an audience that’s hungry for meaningful cinema.
And, to chat more about “Ghoomer,” Brown Girl Magazine sat down with the stars of the show. Bachchan, Bedi, and Kher came together to talk about their inspiring characters, the filming journey, and how their film aspires to change the landscape of cricket and paraplegic athletes in the country. It was all that, with a side of samosas.
Take a look!
The featured image is courtesy of Sterling Global.
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.