December 31, 2018January 2, 2019 5min readBy Pooja Dhar
Cringing at this year’s Bollywood Roundtable? Me too.
Bollywood critic Rajeev Masand is no stranger to interviewing the film industry’s elite and is known for his annual Bollywood Roundtable with the actors and actresses who delivered the year’s finest performances in his estimation.
In 2018, the actors invited to the discussion were Ayushmann Khurrana, Vicky Kaushal, Rajkumar Rao, Ranveer Singh, and Pankaj Tripathi, while the actress roundtable featured Alia Bhatt, Deepika Padukone, Rani Mukerji, Taapsee Pannu, Anushka Sharma, and Tabu. Both are incredible lineups of talent, of course, and for the most part, the discourse was quite riveting and revealing, but there were a few obvious issues with one Bollywood Roundtable over the other.
Overall, there appeared to be far more camaraderie in the Bollywood Roundtable featuring the actors; they seemed to respect one another and the time/amount each actor wanted to speak. In sharp contrast, the Actresses Roundtable found me cringing several times at people talking over each other. There were times, in fact, where the interview had a good 20 seconds of complete gibberish because they were all talking at once. At one moment Rani Mukherji had to call out that it was “Deepika’s turn to talk,” while in the Actor’s Round Table, on the other hand, Rajkumar Rao, elicited conversation from Vicky Kaushal, since he had been quiet for quite a while.
One of the questions referred to takeaways from 2018, and both groups used the phrase “content is king,” indicating that the film industry is realizing that the audience is far more discerning, and demanding. There are more powerful female roles than ever before, some incredible stories being told, the likes of which used to be relegated to the title of “art film,” rather than a commercial one. Additionally, Netflix’s original content is providing direct competition to the film industry, and, as Ranveer Singh noted, it is a great time for creators overall, so big-screen filmmakers and actors cannot take their craft for granted, because there are other avenues in which the audience can choose to consume entertainment.
But we can’t ignore the elephant in the room: the polarizing discussion regarding India’s #MeToo movement.
Masand addressed the movement’s huge surge in India and asked each group for their reactions to it. The men were all suitably “woke” in their responses (it helps that many of them appear in films that are more well-rounded when it comes to equality in roles for men and women). Ayushmann Khurrana called the movement the “need of the hour,” and Rajkumar Rao applauded the women coming forward and stating that women feeling safer is imperative.
Ranveer Singh called the movement “historic, surreal and unprecedented,” generating a necessary “purge.” In his uniquely raw way, he described the environment in Bollywood as “ab mardon ki phat ti hai” (loosely translated, it means “now, men are shitting themselves,” presumably out of fear of being called out). While Khurrana and Singh agreed that there has been some “collateral damage,” Singh insisted that it is a byproduct of a “revolution.”
All of the actors agreed that the women coming forward were courageous. They agreed they are seeing changes in the industry already, and they want the changes to be more widespread. The discussion provides at least a little hope for more progressive values in the future for the industry.
The actresses’ Bollywood Roundtable, on the other hand, had more division than expected. Alia Bhatt, Anushka Sharma, and Deepika Padukone seemed to be on the same page: Bhatt expressed full solidarity with the women who came forward, and the movement itself. She also brought up a concern that in any workplace, the movement or fear thereof, shouldn’t further hamper a woman’s opportunities or employment for the purpose of avoiding this sort of risk. Sharma added to that point, stating that it comes down to trust; that a woman would not be using the movement or reports of sexual harassment as “propaganda.”
It was here that the Bollywood roundtable took a dramatic turn, as Rani Mukerji made some bold statements contending that the woman holds the responsibility to be bold enough, and powerful enough, to keep herself safe, as well as be able to speak and act out against potential harassers in the very moment. Even as she joked about men not taking the risk of harassing her due to how she looks and her voice (what…???), the tension around the table seemed palpable, with Padukone’s furrowed brow, Bhatt’s fidgeting and lip biting and Tabu and Sharma’s slightly waning poker faces.
Mukerji implied that a woman should either kick the man between the legs or slap him, thereby ensuring that he think twice before trying it on another girl. Fortunately, Padukone interrupted the uncomfortable diatribe to state that not all women are “built” to have the ability to fight back in that way. Mukerji’s response to Padukone’s legitimate argument: Those women should “change.”
Deepika, Anushka, And Alia really were making great points while Rani here makes martial arts noises. You can’t make this shit up. pic.twitter.com/sceqsEj71N
Sharma pointed out that this kind of thinking holds women responsible for the change and victim shames them, rather than holding the perpetrators responsible. Mukerji’s regressive rebuttal was that we cannot control the behavior of anyone other than ourselves. Bhatt then brought up that sexual harassment and molestation also happens to children and young adults who are too scared and impressionable (to her credit, she even states that both women and men can face sexual harassment), and that many of those cases reveal that a family member is a perpetrator. Meanwhile, Mukerji kept interjecting phrases like “Krav Maga” and “martial arts,” eventually explaining that martial arts should be mandatory in schools for self-defense.
Padukone tried to explain that the problem should be “nipped in the bud” well before reaching the point of needing martial arts, but Mukerji was clearly not listening; instead, she was seen randomly chopping her hands around and making cartoonish martial artist-related noises. Mukerji continued that one cannot go around telling mothers how to bring up their children, that they are raising their children incorrectly. And yet she is also saying women need to change and learn martial arts?
It was incredibly disheartening to see an influential actress victim-blame, rather than address the true root of this problem: India’s patriarchal society.
In another portion of the Bollywood roundtable, Masand talks about newcomers to the industry, particularly women, who are kept repressed, told not to have an opinion, told they must keep quiet, and do as they are directed. It was interesting that Bhatt and Mukerji, with their legacy Bollywood backgrounds and associations (being the daughter of highly successful directors and producers, Mahesh Bhatt, and Ram Mukherjee respectively) expressed no such issues—they were of the opinion that they could be just as bold as newcomers as they are now. In a refreshing change of pace, Sharma spoke up and said that although she believed she would choose her values over being repressed for the sake of getting jobs, she would hate to think what she may have had to do, had great opportunities not come her way from the start.
This conversation was reminiscent of when Bollywood stars were called out for nepotism early in 2018. The concern with nepotism is the inherited power, and it was disappointing that Bhatt and Mukherji failed to mention the inherent advantages in being born into a Bollywood family as well as launching and growing their career in an environment where their family is still quite influential.
The Bollywood roundtable interviews made it clear that not everyone in Bollywood fully understands highly nuanced subjects like power, consent, and culpability. With 2018 being the year of revolution thanks to the #MeToo movement (even if that revolution came with its share of opposition), maybe 2019 is the year for reflection and growth. One can only hope we continue to move in the right direction.
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.
“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.