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
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