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Rajkummar Rao: Actors should be socially responsible. I don’t want to do films where I am spreading hatred

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By: Express News Service | Published: December 29, 2017 12:28 am The Indian Express film critic Shubhra Gupta in conversation with actor Rajkummar Rao at the Express Adda in Mumbai last week.

This edition of Express Adda, held at Tote on the Turf in Mumbai, hosted actor Rajkummar Rao. In a discussion moderated by The Indian Express film critic Shubhra Gupta, Rao talked about being drawn to characters with many shades, censorship and creating a dialogue, and why it’s a good time to be in films.

On starting out

I was born and raised in Gurgaon. I grew up in a joint family, in a typical middle-class north Indian family. I went into martial arts when I was in Class III or IV. Then dance came into my life. But we had a ritual; every weekend, the whole family would sit together and watch two or three films every night on VHS. And I was madly in love with films and that world. For some reason, I used to think as a kid that these actors are not from this planet. It’s a surreal world and they must be living this amazing glamorous life but at that time I didn’t think of becoming an actor. I remember watching Agneepath and crying my eyes out and sitting with my head in the pillow saying, ‘God please Amitabh Bachchan ko zinda kar do. Woh mar nahi sakta, woh Amitabh Bachchan hai. So, I was a very filmi kid. I did my first play in Class XI, where I played Oedipus. I really enjoyed being someone else on stage. After Class XII, I joined Shri Ram Centre. From Class XI, my life just changed. My focus was only on acting. For three years, I was totally into it. There was never a plan B.

Also Read | Rajkummar Rao: It is for govt to take a stand on censorship

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On his FTII days

I got through the acting course at FTII (Film and Television Institute of India, Pune). FTII absolutely changed my life. I started watching movies of Daniel Day Lewis, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and others. Before that acting was about looking good and saying your lines. After FTII, it became very meditative. Whatever I am today, I would give major credit to FTII and actually to Rajat Kapoor. He once visited FTII and a classmate and I acted for him. I was doing something and he was like, ‘Why are you working so hard. Just get up, go there, take your glass, come back. It’s very simple.’ And that just changed it for me. I (realised I) don’t have to put in so much effort. That day, I tasted real acting and said I am going to keep my characters very real so that the effort can’t be seen.

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On getting his break in Love Sex Aur Dhoka

I came to Mumbai in 2008 after passing out from FTII. You know the usual struggle but I don’t have too many emotional stories to share that I slept on footpaths and all. That didn’t happen; my family really supported me. In 2010, I was visiting FTII and I saw an ad that said Dibakar Banerjee is planning his first digital film and he wants to cast newcomers. I was a huge Dibakar fan and I knew his characters were mostly from Delhi. I thought this was my golden opportunity, I can’t let it go. I kept calling up the casting director Atul Mongia till he asked me to meet his assistant, Neha

Chauhan. I gave a test which Banerjee liked but he asked me to lose some weight. I used to eat a lot of gulab jamuns. I started running since that day and I am still running. After a few rounds of auditions, I got that one phone call that everyone in the city was waiting for. That changed my life. And since LSD, I am still working. In Ragini MMS, I was hesitant to play a character with grey shades. Since Ekta (producer Ekta Kapoor) was keen to cast me, I thought of taking it up as a challenge because I love the horror genre.

When Music Heals

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Written by Suanshu Khurana | Published: December 29, 2017 12:27 am Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan

A rousing applause greeted Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan after a complicated yet melodious alaap, jod and jhala in the expansive raag Gara at Dhaka’s Bengal Classical Music Festival. Khan, the seventh-generation sitar maestro from the illustrious Imdadkhani gharana and Ustad Vilayat Khan’s nephew, was visibly touched by the response. “I wait for audiences like you,” he said. The temperature may have dipped quite a lot at 2 am, but a maidan full of people, at what’s being called “the world’s biggest classical music festival”, sat in complete attention at the music festival.

Khan’s melodic twists and turns, resplendent strains and the meends (glides), made his performance at the all-night music festival noteworthy. Earlier in the day, Pune-based classical vocalist Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar and santoor maestro Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma presented invigorating performances. Kashalkar’s khayal in raag Jog took one through the maze of the pentatonic raga with much vigour. A performance by Astana Symphony Philharmonic Orchestra from Kazakhstan, in collaboration with L Subramanian, opened with a rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and found much attention on the festival’s opening day.

At Dhaka’s Abahani Field in Dhanmondi, about 300 miles from Cox’s Bazaar on Teknaaf Highway where more than 8,30,000 Rohingya refugees are sheltering, the music festival is a fresh breath of air. The entry is free and inclusiveness of every community is what Abul Khair, Chairman of the Bengal Foundation (presenters of the festival), is aiming at. The event, which recently got a go-ahead from PM Sheikh Hasina and the Indian High Commission, is aiming to create social consciousness through music.

“This is not merely a festival. I believe that violence against minority communities can be tackled through the strength of music,” said Asaduzzaman Noor, Minister of Cultural Affairs in Bangladesh. Commenting on the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, Noor said, “We are giving shelter to foreigners, the ones being killed in the name of religion. People we have been living alongside for thousands of years are being attacked. We saw Chittagong tribals and Buddhists coming under attack. We saw Santhals being targeted. We saw Hindu localities being attacked in Rangpur. The activities of such elements need to be omitted.”

In the next two days, more Indian stalwarts will present music at the festival, including flute maestro Pt Haripradsad Chaurasia, vocalist Ustad Rashid Khan, violinist Mysore Manjunath, ghatam maestro Vikku Vinayakram and Mewat gharana doyen Pt Jasraj, among others.

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Okka Kshanam movie review: Allu Sirish starrer promises to be an interesting watch

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By: Express Web Desk | Bengaluru | Updated: December 28, 2017 9:47 am Okka Kshanam hits screens on December 28.

Telugu actor Allu Sirish’s latest release Okka Kshanam is a high-concept film, which revolves around a love story and flirts with the science-fiction genre. The trailer has already created a good buzz in the industry and among the fans. Okka Kshanam, which has Surabhi and Seerat Kapoor as the female leads, is the latest directorial outing of VI Anand.

The first and the main reason why you should watch Okka Kshanam is its concept. Unlike the majority of commercial films, it doesn’t seem to follow the same rules of ‘five songs and six fights.’ The trailer revealed that the film follows two different love stories, which are interconnected to each other somehow. The filmmakers call it ‘parallel life.’ “The past of one couple is the future of the other couple in the film,” said Allu Sirish, while explaining the concept of ‘parallel life.’ Aren’t you curious to know about the force that is connecting the lives of two couples? And the scientific explanation for it?

Director VI Anand is another important reason as to why we should not miss Okka Kshanam. He has been making a niche for himself in the industry by mashing up different genres and topping them with the engaging visual elements. VI Anand demonstrates a sincere vigour to experiment with genres and the results of his efforts in the past were surprising and amazing at the same time.

Okka Kshanam has a very young star cast. While Allu Sirish and Surabhi play the leading couple, Seerat Kapoor and Srinivas Avasarala play the second leads. The film also stars Vennela Kishore, Satya, Praveen, Kashi Vishwanath and Rohini among others.

The action is expected to be one of the main highlights in Okka Kshanam. Stunt choreographer Vijay master has composed fight sequences in the film. “We have not used string works anywhere. I told my action director that I want my fights to be realistic. I wanted it to be more about emotions. I wanted the pain of the character to be seen when he hits someone, not just martial arts technique,” said Allu Sirish.

The last but not the least reason to watch Okka Kshanam is the filmmakers’ confidence that they have made a good content-driven film with all the elements of a mainstream film. “If audience encourages such concepts and ideas, more such films will be made,” said Allu Sirish, while appealing to the audience not to miss the film.

Watch this space for Manoj Kumar R’s movie review of Okka Kshanam.

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David Dhawan on Biwi No 1 remake: We may surprise everyone by doing an entirely original film

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By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Published: December 28, 2017 1:57 pm David Dhawan opens up on Biwi No 1 remake.

After the massive success of Judwaa 2, starring Varun Dhawan, Taapsee Pannu and Jacqueline Fernandez, speculations were rife that Varun would star in the remake of hit flick Biwi No 1, which starred Salman Khan and Karisma Kapoor in the lead roles. Interestingly, the reports suggested that talks around the remake of yet another David Dhawan directorial are at a nascent stage. However, David Dhawan has rubbished the rumour.

In a conversation with Deccan Chronicle, Dhawan revealed that he is happy about people’s speculations but there is nothing being planned for now.

“Good that people are speculating about what we will do next. We haven’t thought about remaking Biwi No. 1 as of yet. Right now, we’re in the holiday mood. Let the new year begin and then we’ll think of what to do next. I know it is a convenient formula to do remakes and sequels. But we may surprise everyone by doing an entirely original film this time,” informed the director.

Judwaa 2 was one of the biggest hits of 2017. The film went on to earn Rs 138. 61 crore, becoming the second hit of Varun Dhawn this year after Badrinath Ki Dulhania.

At present, Varun Dhawan has interesting projects in his kitty. He has wrapped up Shoojit Sircar’s October and would soon start filming Sui Dhaaga.

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After starry Mumbai reception, Anushka Sharma-Virat Kohli head to South Africa for New Year celebrations

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By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 28, 2017 10:18 am Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma at Mumbai airport.

Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli are off to South Africa after hosting a star-studded wedding reception for their friends and colleagues from cricket and cinema industry in Mumbai. The newlyweds took off to the picturesque country with the Indian cricket team late on Wednesday night. While Virat sported his team’s tracksuit, Anushka kept it casual in a black and white jumpsuit. The Indian skipper was in a playful mood at the Mumbai International airport as he teased Shikhar Dhawan’s son Zoravar and Anushka watched them play.

Newlyweds Virat and Anushka will be ringing in their first New Year post marriage together in South Africa where India is scheduled to play the Proteas in three Tests, six One-Day Internationals and three Twenty20 Internationals from January 5 to February 24. Anushka will return to the country in the first week of January and will resume shooting for Aanand L Rai’s next with Shah Rukh Khan. Also, the actor will start the promotions of her next production Pari which is slated to release on February 9, 2017.

Meanwhile, another photo of Anushka with husband Virat from their honeymoon in Finland surfaced on the internet. “It was so great meeting with you @virat.kohli and @anushkasharma ? You are amazing and lovely couple ♥ I look forward to see you soon again ? #luxuryaction #viratkohli #anushkasharma #lapland #visitfinland #wilderness #india #nature #travel,” read the caption of the photo shared by a man whose Instagram bio reads, “Founder of Luxury Action.” It’s the same place from where Anushka shared an endearing click with Virat and wrote, “In heaven, literally ??.”

See| Photos of Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli from Mumbai airport

photos of virat and anushka Photo: Varinder Chawlaphotos of virat and anushka Photo: Varinder Chawlaphotos of virat and anushka Photo: Varinder Chawla

Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma’s nuptials in Italy on December 11 created quite a frenzy among the fans of the duo. After taking the wedding vows in a hush-hush ceremony both the stars made it official in identical tweets as they wrote, “Today we have promised each other to be bound in love for ever. We are truly blessed to share the news with you.This beautiful day will be made more special with the love and support of our family of fans & well-wishers. Thank you for being such an important part of our journey.”

Today we have promised each other to be bound in love forever. We are truly blessed to share the news with you. This beautiful day will be made more special with the love and support of our family of fans & well wishers. Thank you for being such an important part of our journey. pic.twitter.com/Scobdiqk7l

— Anushka Sharma (@AnushkaSharma) December 11, 2017

Once the couple was back from Italy, they made sure to make their near and dear ones a part of their celebrations and hosted grand receptions in New Delhi and Mumbai. Now, as they are off to their first vacation post marriage, Virushka fans eagerly await to see more of their pictures together.

Censor Board invites Jaipur historians to view Padmavati

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By: IANS | Jaipur | Updated: December 28, 2017 2:47 pm A source suggests a four-member panel has been formed to review Padmavati next month.

The Censor Board has sought the opinion of two veteran historians from Jaipur on film Padmavati by inviting them to view the film.

These historians include Professor B.L. Gupta and Prof R.S. Khangarot.

While Gupta is a professor of history in Rajasthan Vishwavidhyala and has written numerous books on India during the medieval period, Khangarot is the principal of Agrawal College.

Speaking to the media, Khangarot said the entire tussle related to the movie is not between the Karni Sena and Sanjay Leela Bhansali, director-producer of “Padmavati”, but between Bhasali and history and hence “once we watch the film, it will be clear if history has been tampered with or not”.

Gupta said he was all for artistic freedom but then it should not happen at the cost of history. “It should be very clear that we will share the historical facts to the best of knowledge and will not be backing any political party,” he added.

The age-old custom of jauhar (mass immolation) should be shown effectively in the film or else it can have adverse effects on the audience, he said, adding that it should not be romanticised in the film as well.

According to sources, a four-member panel has been formed to review the film next month.

The film, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, was deferred post death threats coming from various religious communities and political parties to the director as well as the lead actor Deepika Padukone, who plays Rani Padmini in this magnum opus film. Apart from Deepika, the film also stars Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh.

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Tiger Zinda Hai box office collection day 7: Salman Khan starrer to enter Rs 200 crore club

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By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Published: December 28, 2017 7:15 pm Tiger Zinda Hai is proving to be one of the most successful films of 2017.

Salman Khan-starrer Tiger Zinda Hai is roaring at the box office even on weekdays. The film, which had released on December 22, has earned Rs 190.62 crore and is expected to touch Rs 200 crore mark on the seventh day of its release. According to trade analyst Taran Adarsh, the film is a one-horse race. And with no big releases ahead, the film is not expected to slow down.

In fact, the film has proven to be not only the only big release of December but one of the most successful films of 2017.

“As an actor, I always want to be part of movies that audiences thoroughly enjoy and the feedback that I’m getting from audiences is overwhelming and extremely satisfying,” Katrina said in a statement while talking about the success of the Ali Abbas Zafar directorial.

Salman Khan also credited the success of the romantic actioner to Katrina Kaif. He said, “Tiger Zinda Hai has worked only for one reason, and that is Katrina Kaif.” The actor then went ahead and appreciated the way Katrina has done action in the film.

The actor also thanked his fans for showering so much of love on the film. He said, “I thank my fans and audiences for showering so much love on Tiger Zinda Hai. It was an extremely challenging shoot for the entire crew given we had to pull off some incredible action sequences sometimes in the blistering heat and then in the freezing cold and the love that the movie is getting right now only validates the effort that everyone had put in to make Tiger Zinda Hai a really good entertainer.”

Post Tiger Zinda Hai, the actor-director duo of Ali Abbas Zafar and Salman Khan will join hands again for 2019 release Bharat.

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Been through hiccups personally, professionally: Rani Mukerji

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By: IANS | New Delhi | Published: December 28, 2017 2:55 pm Rani Mukerji talks about her upcoming film Hichki.

“What is life without a few hiccups” — the tagline of the upcoming film Hichki resonates with the ideology of the film’s lead actress Rani Mukerji.

Hichki, meaning a hiccup, is about Naina who suffers from a speech difficulty. It is about turning disadvantages into opportunities and staring down at challenges and ultimately winning over them.

Asked if she has faced any hiccups in her two-decade career, Rani said, “Yes, of course. I think hiccup is a normal process for any actor, for any person in their life. Sometimes you have a hiccup in your personal life and sometimes in your professional life.

“The beauty of a hiccup is that you can get over it as well. It’s not like that you have a hiccup and you keep hiccuping all your life… There have been times professionally and personally I have been through hiccups.”

Without elucidating on the hurdles she has faced, Rani said hiccups can be a learning experience.

“We can learn how do we get out of it and how do we come out stronger.”

This is not the first time Rani will be playing a character with a disability. In 2005, the actress portrayed Michelle McNally, a visually and hearing impaired woman in Black.

In Hichki, she plays Naina Mathur, a character with the Tourette syndrome — a condition that forces an individual to make involuntary repetitive movements or sounds.

“I think every role is difficult because for every role, I am trying to take Rani Mukerji out and put the character in it. So, whether it is Naina, Michelle or Babli (of ‘Bunty Aur Babli’), the role has to be distinct from each other. They can’t be the same. I have to put in a lot of thought in every particular character,” said Rani.

Bond villain a ‘delicious’ role to play, says Kenneth Branagh

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By: PTI | London | Published: December 28, 2017 6:25 pm If Kenneth Branagh gets on the platform as Bond villain, he would be the first British Bond villain in 17 years

Kenneth Branagh says portraying the role of a James Bond villain would be a “delicious” opportunity. The 57-year-old actor, who was last seen playing detective Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express, said the antagonists to the latest 007, Danile Craig, have been “almost Shakespearean”, The Mirror reported.

“I think as an actor that is always delicious to play… I am a connoisseur of those Bond villains. But is a hard one to do. I loved Javier Bardem in Skyfall.” The actor-director added keeping up with the changing tastes of the masses was tough and the Bond franchise has managed to keep them on their toes. That franchise has been great at responding to the way that audiences want to receive the material. That is not trying to be a cartoon – they want to have as much complication as possible,” he said.

Featuring Craig in the number 25 Bond movie, the next installment is expected to be released in November 2019.

If Kenneth gets on the platform as Bond villain, he would be the first British Bond villain in 17 years- with Toby Stephens as Gustav Graves playing the antagonist in Piers Brosnan’s Die Another Day in 2002.

Kenneth gained critical acclaim for directing Murder on the Orient Express, which released last month. The film featured a star-studded cast including Branagh, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe and Josh Gad.

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Sai Pallavi to team up with Sharwanand for Hanu Raghavapudi’s next

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Written by Ashameera Aiyappan | Chennai | Published: December 28, 2017 6:08 pm Sai Pallavi is currently awaiting the release of her debut film in Kollywood, Karu, directed by AL Vijay.

Looks like Fidaa girl Sai Pallavi is quite the toast of the town right now. After bagging Suriya’s 36 film with Selvaraghavan, we now hear that the actor will now star opposite Sharwanand next in Tollywood. The film will be directed by Hanu Raghavapudi and produced by Prasad Chukkapalli and Sudhakar Cherukuri under Sri Lakshmi Venkateswara Cinemas banner.

The film is touted to be a romantic comedy which is Hanu Raghavapudi’s forte. The project is also said to go on floors by the third week of January. Notably, both of Sai Pallavi’s films in Tollywood have been hits thus increasing the expectations from the project. Sharwanand’s latest Mahanubhavudu also opened to positive reviews. In a media statement, the makers said, “We are happy to associate with three talented people — Sharwanand, Sai Pallavi and Hanu Raghavapudi. It is going to be a hilarious romantic entertainer. The film will please youth as well as family audiences. Regular shooting of the movie starts from January 3rd week. We are planning to release the movie in monsoon.”

Sai Pallavi is currently awaiting the release of her debut film in Kollywood, Karu, directed by AL Vijay. She is also part of Dhanush’s Maari 2 helmed by Balaji Mohan apart from being part of Suriya 36. Maari 2 will also star Mollywood star Tovino Thomas. Sharwanand, on the other hand, is part of untitled Sudheer Varma directorial and is paired opposite Kajal Aggarwal and Nitya Menen in the film.

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