Cool Movies for the Hot Sea­son

Gritty dra­mas, thrillers, breezy en­ter­tain­ers, and a much-awaited biopic... Af­ter a not-so-rosy start to the year, Bol­ly­wood saves its best for the sum­mer

India Today - - CINEMA - By Suhani Singh

Ladies and gen­tle­men, fas­ten your seat­belts. The weather is about to get worse,” says Ran­bir Kapoor as a young San­jay Dutt in the teaser for Sanju, Ra­jku­mar Hi­rani’s highly-an­tic­i­pated sum­mer re­lease. So far, 2018 has been a bumpy ride for Bol­ly­wood. The his­tor­i­cal drama Pad­maa­vat just about struck the Rs 300 crore mark, still im­pres­sive given that it didn’t re­lease in Gu­jarat and Ra­jasthan. The pres­ence of Ak­shay Ku­mar wasn’t enough to con­vince peo­ple to watch a film on men­strual hy­giene, with Pad Man only man­ag­ing Rs 78 crore. In a re­flec­tion of our dwin­dling stan­dards, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, a misog­y­nis­tic bro­mance, and Baaghi 2, in which Tiger Shroff’s Rambo-in­spired char­ac­ter drives around Kash­mir with a hu­man shield, were the only films to cross the cov­eted Rs 100 crore mark. Add to that the Hol­ly­wood blow of Avengers: In­fin­ity War, which has

be­come the sec­ond-high­est gross­ing film this year—Rs 187.4 crore and grow­ing.

This sum­mer will be a test­ing pe­riod for Hindi films. And film­mak­ers and ac­tors are mak­ing bold bets. Alia Bhatt spear­heads a drama on her own in Raazi. The tal­ented Kapoor dab­bles in the biopic genre with Sanju. The com­bined girl power of Ka­reena Kapoor Khan, Sonam Kapoor and Swara Bhaskar comes to­gether for a film with no A-list he­roes in Veere di Wed­ding. If the am­bi­tious projects fail, there’s al­ways Bhai aka Sal­man Khan do­ing what he does best: flex­ing his mus­cles and ro­manc­ing a PYT in the ac­tion thriller Race 3 (re­leas­ing June 15). Here’s what to ex­pect this sum­mer.

I spy, I pa­triot

In Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi (May 12), based on Harinder Sikka’s novel Call­ing Sehmat, Alia Bhatt is a 19-year-old Kash­miri who in­fil­trates a Pak­istani house­hold as wife of a mil­i­tary of­fi­cer (Vicky Kaushal). Her mis­sion: to pass on se­crets to the In­dian gov­ern­ment.

“It is a char­ac­ter filled with du­al­ity and not an easy one to play,” says Gulzar. For her, only one ac­tress could pull it off. “I am not go­ing to hard­sell her,” Gulzar says of Bhatt, be­fore adding that the ac­tress isn’t just hard­work­ing but also in­stinc­tive. “I would say ‘OK’ and she would say ‘No, I want to try one more [take]’. And that will be a com­pletely dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the di­a­logue or scene.”

Set in 1971 when In­dia-Pak­istan re­la­tions were par­tic­u­larly tense, Raazi in­evitably plays up na­tion­al­ist emo­tions. But Gulzar, best known for her nu­anced take on the Aarushi-Hem­raj mur­der in Tal­var, says she won’t ad­here to “the pre­dictable or ex­pected deci­bel lev­els or treat­ment” in vogue. Gulzar also plans to stay far away from the 1970s’ cin­ema car­i­ca­tures of big side­burns and col­lars or bell­bot­toms. “I wanted my ac­tors to look good,” says the di­rec­tor. “Just be­cause it is a pe­riod film doesn’t mean it has to be monochro­matic or sepia-toned. Even if the cir­cum­stances are dark, the world can still be bright and beau­ti­ful.”

Brav­ery and de­cep­tion are key in­gre­di­ents even in di­rec­tor Ab­hishek Sharma’s

IT IS NOT YOUR CHEST­THUMP­ING PA­TRI­O­TISM. IT IS IN­DIA STAND­ING UP ON ITS FEET AND NOT BEAT­ING SOME­ONE” —Ab­hishek Sharma, di­rec­tor, Par­manu: The Story of Pokhran

es­pi­onage thriller Par­manu: The

Story of Pokhran (May 25), which doc­u­ments how In­dia caught the US and other su­per­pow­ers off guard by pulling off the nu­clear tests in 1998. “I am amazed that in 20 years we hadn’t done a movie on it, be­cause it is a wa­ter­shed mo­ment in In­dian his­tory,” says Sharma, who un­til now has only dab­bled in come­dies, such as

Tere Bin Laden. “It is one of our big­gest achieve­ments and it marked our as­cent as a world power.”

Par­manu... doesn’t just ac­knowl­edge the sig­nif­i­cant role of then prime min­is­ter Atal Bi­hari Vajpayee, late sci­en­tist A.P.J. Ab­dul Kalam and physi­cist Ra­j­gopala Chi­dambaram, but also cel­e­brates the hid­den fig­ures from the Bhabha Atomic Re­search Cen­tre (BARC) and De­fence Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DRDO) who donned army uni­forms and worked tire­lessly for the se­cret mis­sion. Au­di­ences can ex­pect a thriller in the Argo ter­ri­tory as, along with co-writ­ers Sai­wyn Quadras and Sanyukta Chawla Shaikh, Sharma mounts a David vs Go­liath bat­tle where the ac­tion is more “psy­cho­log­i­cal and in­tense”. “It is not your chest­thump­ing pa­tri­o­tism. There is only one flag shot in the en­tire film,” said Sharma. “It is In­dia stand­ing up on its feet and not beat­ing some­one.”

To bal­ance sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion with fic­tion re­spon­si­bly, pro­ducer John Abra­ham, also the lead­ing man, roped in Col. Bri­j­mo­han Sharma as a con­sul­tant to train the crew and as­sist the writ­ers. Sharma also spoke to a key sci­en­tist in­volved in the mis­sion. Hav­ing a woman as part of the A team was im­por­tant to Sharma. “Women are now present in every spec­trum, be it at ISRO or as fighter pi­lots,” said the film­maker. “This is not a naach-gaana

(song and dance) where you need a woman. She is a strong char­ac­ter. You do not ex­pect a woman to play it.”

Of he­roes and su­per­heroes

Un­like Par­manu..., Ra­jku­mar Hi­rani’s Sanju (June 29) deals with a hero of a flawed kind, one who was held guilty by the courts for il­le­gally pos­sess­ing weapons in 1993. The biopic of San­jay Dutt, also the star of Hi­rani’s Munnab­hai films, sees Ran­bir Kapoor es­say the ac­tor in six dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods—from a dru­gad­dled young­ster to a Yer­awada jail in­mate. “There was no com­pul­sion or pres­sure to make this film,” said Hi­rani at the launch of the teaser, as­sur­ing that the film didn’t aim to li­onise its pro­tag­o­nist. “San­jay was brave enough to say ‘Jaise bolna hai

bol do’ (show it the way you want to).” Hi­rani and his trusted writer Ab­hi­jat Joshi spoke to Dutt over two months and ended up with 725 pages of tran­script in which, says Joshi, they found “the most as­tound­ing tale”. “It’s like you were read­ing a novel of Dos­to­evsky that’s dark and deep and sud­denly a chap­ter from P.G. Wode­house comes in,” says Joshi.

Writ­ing their first biopic to­gether was any­thing but easy. “Un­like an orig­i­nal script, you don’t have con­trol

over it,” said Hi­rani. “You have to be true to what has hap­pened in life.” The duo strung to­gether anec­dotes from Dutt’s life to weave a nar­ra­tive that leans on the fa­ther-son re­la­tion­ship, friend­ship and a hint of ro­mance. For Kapoor, it was a “screen­play sent from heaven”. “I’m 35 to­day; by the time he (Dutt) was 18, he had lived five times what I could ever live in my life,” he says.

The crime that Bhavesh Joshi

Su­per­hero (May 25) is guilty of is ide­al­ism. Film­maker Vikra­ma­ditya Mot­wane posits a com­mon young man (Harsh­vard­han Kapoor) who dons a mask and be­comes a vig­i­lante to bring about change in Mum­bai. “The film started be­cause I got tired watch­ing peo­ple jump traf­fic sig­nals,” said Mot­wane, who wrote the first draft a year be­fore Anna Hazare’s an­ticor­rup­tion move­ment kicked off in 2011. “There was more angst then. A mel­low­ing has hap­pened over the years. The script has be­come more plot-driven, ac­ces­si­ble, fun­nier and en­ter­tain­ing.”

Draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion from su­per­heroes such as Bat­man and Su­per­man, the film, says Mot­wane, also cel­e­brates Bol­ly­wood’s own legacy of vig­i­lante-jus­tice films that dom­i­nated the 1970s and ’80s, with a se­ries of an­gry young men like Amitabh Bachchan, Sunny Deol or Anil Kapoor. “A vig­i­lante emerges be­cause the ju­di­cial sys­tem is bro­ken,” says Mot­wane. “It is not the ideal way, but some­times there’s just no other al­ter­na­tive.” Mot­wane’s first ac­tion film rides on the mes­sage ‘Hero paida nahi

hota, banta hai’ (He­roes are not born, they are made). Bhavesh Joshi thrives on re­al­ism and bat­tles cor­rup­tion. Do­ing things their way is what Kalindi (Ka­reena Kapoor), Avni (Sonam Kapoor), Meera (Shikha Tal­sa­nia) and Sak­shi (Swara Bhaskar) want in Veere di Wed­ding (June 1). Writ­ten by new­com­ers Nidhi Mehra and Mehul Suri, the film comes with not one but two hashtags: #friend­sare­fam­ily and #no­tachick­flick. The trailer, with all its ex­ple­tives, stylish clothes and for­eign hol­i­day scenes, may come across as ca­ter­ing to the mul­ti­plex au­di­ence, but di­rec­tor Shashanka Ghosh thinks oth­er­wise. “Maybe the de­pic­tion is ur­ban, but the is­sues are uni­ver­sal,” he says. “A lot of the dig­i­tal gen­er­a­tion is us­ing a gram­mar which is com­pletely ho­moge­nous. With in­ter­net, the so­cial sen­si­bil­ity di­vide be­tween a Bom­bay and Kan­pur girl has re­duced. So there might be a girl in Kan­pur who is be­ing pushed into an ar­ranged mar­riage and in her head she thinks, ‘But jab tak be­hen **** man­gal­su­tra gale mein nahi lagta na, tab tak life com­plete nahi hai’

(Life is in­com­plete till the time one gets mar­ried).” Ghosh did present a sani­tised ver­sion of the script, but pro­duc­ers Rhea Kapoor and Ekta Kapoor didn’t en­ter­tain it. About his brave pro­duc­ers who are opt­ing for an A rat­ing, he says, “Rhea said, ‘Where’s the truth in it?’ She likes cred­i­ble stuff over filmi for­mula. It is a lex­i­con that you may see in a web se­ries and not usu­ally on film.”

Veere di Wed­ding fol­lows An­gry In­dian God­desses as a film about fe­male bond­ing in times of ad­ver­sity. “There have been male friend­ship films in Zindagi

Na Mi­legi Do­bara and Dil Chahta Hai, but in each of them, there was a com­ing of age where each [friend] dealt with his own prob­lem while the oth­ers were there for sup­port,” said Ghosh. “In Veere

di Wed­ding, they make it hap­pen for each other some­times just by cathar­sis or do­ing some­thing about it.”

THERE WAS NO COM­PUL­SION OR PRES­SURE TO MAKE THIS FILM. SAN­JAY DUTT WAS BRAVE ENOUGH TO SAY, ‘JAISE BOLNA HAI BOL DO’” —Ra­jku­mar Hi­rani, di­rec­tor, Sanju

GIRL POWER (Top) Alia Bhatt in Raazi; Veere di Wed­ding prom­ises to be a women-cen­tric com­mer­cial en­ter­tainer

THRILL PILL (Top) A still from Bhavesh Joshi Su­per­hero; the multi-star­rer Race 3 re­leases on June 15

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