Bareilly Ki Barfi is a clean and toothsome indulgence

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We are living in times when the concept of independent women and feminism has been largely misinterpreted. The problem with every female-oriented film, be it NH 10, Pink, Angry Indian Goddesses or the recent Lipstick Under My Burkha, is that they portray their male counterparts as dumb, fickle or lusty creatures. Thanks to Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari for coming up with a film that depicts its female lead as an independent woman minus the usual trappings of ‘feminist films’.

Bareilly Ki Barfi revolves around a small-town girl Bitti, played to perfection by Kriti Sanon. The male characters of this film, i.e. Chirag Dubey (Ayushmann Khurana) and Pritam Vidrohi (Rajkummar Rao) have their own set of attributes as well as flaws, which make them more endearing and humane. This is a kind of love triangle where you’d stay invested so much in the lead characters that it would be difficult to root for any of the two prospective grooms.

Loosely based on H. Bruce Humberstone’s ‘Happy Go Lucky’, a British Musical Comedy of the 50s, which inspired many a film like Sajan, Sapnay, Ghajini, to name a few, Bareilly Ki Barfi takes the story a notch above the mistaken identities. It lends an Indian charm to what transpires after the obligatory ‘adlaa-badli’ of the author who penned a flop book, Bareilly Ki Barfi. Now who’s the author and who’s the imposter and who ultimately wins the girl are things best left for you to discover in the auditorium.

The icing on the cake is Javed Akhtar’s voiceover as the film’s witty sutradhaar, which is reminiscent of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s ‘Baawarchi’. For a change, this sutradhaar doesn’t appear only at the film’s beginning and the end, but stays with you throughout, often taking pot-shots at the film’s characters and situations. It’s time we bring this old-fashioned narration back to our films.

In hindsight, this is the right time to rediscover the roots of Indian films, taking a leaf from stalwarts like Bimal Roy, Satyajit Ray, Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee and reintroduce their style to the current generation, rather than relying on those DVDs of Korean films.

There’s no doubt Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari is already championing this cause with her films like Nil Battey Sannata and Bareilly Ki Barfi. Her experience in advertising is evident in the brevity of scenes and putting a message across without lingering over the issue for a long time.

The film’s writing is top-notch. Kudos to writers Nitesh Tiwari (Director of Dangal and the director’s husband), Shreyas Jain, and Rajat Nonia. The songs, ‘Sweety Tera Drama’ by Tanishk Bagchi and ‘Nazm Nazm’ by Arko Pravo Mukherjee are sure to stay on your playlist for a long time. Gavemic U Ary, the cinematographer captures the beauty of a small town without distracting the audience with ‘beautiful’ shots.

Among the actors, Kriti Sanon is spot-on as Bitti. In fact, she will now be remembered as Bitti rather than Kriti. The actress internalizes her character so well that her eyes reflect the angst as well as joy of Bitti. The equation that she shares with her father, played by the gem of an actor, Pankaj Tripathi, is quite rare in our films. Devoid of an iota of melodrama, the father-daughter scenes touch you to the core, which are further well-contrasted with the mother-daughter kich-kich. Seema Pahwa is a delight to watch here and so is the one-sided conversation of Pankaj Tripathi facing the ceiling fan.

Ayushmann Khurana delivers an earnest performance and ably portrays the grey shades of his character without going overboard. All said and done, it is undoubtedly Rajkummar Rao who steals the show, not just because he’s a talented actor, but also because of his author-backed role. The role of Pritam Vidrohi is written so well that the actor laps it up and clearly revels in each scene. Pritam Vidrohi is a character you’ll carry with you home after watching Bareilly Ki Barfi.

The film’s director once quoted in an interview: “I am not saying independent means being feminist. I am not saying independent means not listening to your parents. It is about finding your space and finding your identity, which is a huge thing in our country.” Thanks, Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari for setting the record straight, teaching us the true meaning of women being independent and feminist, especially in the times when words like these have been hugely misconstrued in our films and literature. Folks, indulge yourself in this clean and toothsome delicacy that leaves a sweet aftertaste even after days of watching it.

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A hate note for Bare Bones

I hate you Bare Bones. I really hate do. Since the time I have watched your series of short plays at Vasvik Auditorium, Vadodara, I haven’t been able to forget the invaluable lessons your characters taught to my subconscious mind. Whenever I doubt my abilities, a voice invokes hope and mutes the whispers of negativity that haunted my mind.

Whenever I decide to buy something, a voice tells me that possessing something can only offer me easy access to it and shall add no value to it. Whenever I glance at the Christ’s image, Joshua kneels in front of me, reminding of the last words of the hermit, compelling me easily forgive those who wronged me.

Whenever I decide to get drunk with a friend, a voice tells me that the ‘knight’ in me just might show up, revealing well-guarded secrets and exposing the real person lurking behind this facade. Whenever I decide to explore the world and worry about economic crisis, a village bumpkin laughs at me, asking if the crisis would stop the sun from shining, the breeze from blowing and flowers from blooming.

Whenever I decide to follow my mind rather than heart, your character, heart speaks to me in her lilting voice, “I want to meet you without any reason” and keeps staring at me until I turn away from her in discomfiture. Whenever I decide to kill some time by doing nothing, your restless character of Time makes an appearance and urges me to rather make it stop for a while through meditation rather than killing it mercilessly.  

Whenever I decide to weave stories set amid rich ambience and golden lights shimmering through glittering backgrounds, your director Kamlesh Acharya convinces the writer in me that it’s possible to offer thrills minus the frills, sans those elaborate costumes, lavish sets, indulgent lightings, make-believe makeups, and overzealous actors wearing loud expressions spouting profanities for the ‘real’ effect.

I hate Harsh Shodhan, who articulates his emotions through the timbre of a voice so well-pitched that he speaks volumes even in muted conversation, rendering all those dubbing technology as mere gimmicks. I hate Denisha Ghumara, who wears her heart up her sleeves and never needs to ‘act’ on the stage. She becomes the character she portrays and does it with such effortless ease that would put the so-called ‘big actresses’ to shame.  

I hate Kamlesh Acharya, who triples up as a writer, director and actor with such a chameleonisque way that makes one seriously doubt his production, Bare Bones just a six-show old toddler. He makes me question all those beliefs that a guy in Ahmedabad can never write flawless English and people of Gujarat will never accept English plays. I have stopped waiting for that elusive producer to help me share my stories.

Bare Bones, you have no idea how much I hate you because your short plays have made me incapable of hating anyone. 

Toilet: Ek Prem Katha is endearing

Beyond the jacuzzies and bidets, there’s another India where people have an easy access to 4G network, but toilets remain a pipe dream. A nation of paradoxes and a land of jugaad, India must perhaps be the only country to inspire a love story revolving around toilet. Director Shree Narayan Singh’s film, Toilet – Ek Prem Katha encapsulates jugaad and toilet in a heart-warming love story, along with an important message peppered with generous dose of humour.

Akshay Kumar’s Keshav is jugaad personified, which is an image that suits him to the T, case in point, Khiladi, Aflatoon, Garam Masala, Hera Pheri series, Tees Maar Khan, Housefull series, Entertainment to Jolly LLB 2 (Phew! That’s almost his filmography). The character of Keshav is someone for whom jugaad is a way of life and is a solution-based guy who doesn’t shy asking his cousin to elope with the guy she loves. On the other hand, Bhoomi Pednekar’s Jaya is a well-educated girl with an unmistakable feminist streak.

Director Shree Narayan Singh concocts his love story around these two disparate characters and the villain, for a change is the ‘soch’, not ‘shauch’. The ‘soch’ is personified by Keshav’s father, brilliantly played by Sudhir Pandey. Topics on toilet have the trappings of either being replete with toilet humour or being too preachy. Toilet-Ek Prem Katha, unfortunately gives in to the temptation of creating awareness, albeit with restraint.

In hindsight, one feels that the film knows its audience well and articulates its message to them in the language they understand. A morning ritual which is something we seldom bother about, unless there’s a water scarcity or bowel issue, is magnified here to create the urgency the issue deserves.

The recent cases of rape and molestation of women defecating in the open and especially the lynching of a man who tried stopping the government officials from clicking pictures of women squatting behind bushes is saddening and films like these need to be made so as to change the mindset of rural populace.

Akshay Kumar shines here with a performance that ranges from comedy, dejection and anger with effortless ease, especially in the scene towards the film’s end. Divyendhu Sharma is fantastic as the chota bhai wala role and makes his presence felt amid the veterans. Bhoomi Pednekar, despite sharing the right chemistry with Akshay Kumar, falls short of nuanced performance, which becomes quite clear in the intense scenes.

Anshuman Mahaley seems to know the rural landscapes well and his frames take you to the labyrinthine lanes of the village, capture the Lathmaar scenes beautifully without inspiring an awe of ‘look how brilliant the camerawork is!’ Right from Hrishikesh Mukherjee to Rajkumar Hirani, editors turning into directors have an edge over others through their inherent quality of brevity. Director Shree Narayan Singh doubles up as an editor here and knows where to cut a scene and where to begin the next transition, thanks to his hands-on experience as an editor of films like A Wednesday, Rustom, MS Dhoni, etc. 

To sum it up, Toilet Ek Prem Katha is an endearing love story and this toilet surely deserves a visit. Unfortunately, such films will always be branded as propaganda films. Sigh.

 

‘Chor Bani Thangat Kare’ will steal your heart 

A day of dreams brimming with reality. A day of hopes finding happiness. A day of sweat on the brow shining against the sun of fame. A day of darkness bowing to the arc lights. A day of confidence. A day of goosebumps. A day of bouquets. A day of brickbats. The day of Chor Bani Thangat Kare’s release isn’t just another day for someone like Rahul Bhole, a Vadodara-based filmmaker who started out with short films.

Before we proceed with the review, a digression here: There are around 100 Gujarati films currently being made and the average cost including marketing and release per film is about two crores. With almost one or two Gujarati films releasing every weekend, the industry is growing exponentially to be reckoned as a 200-crore industry and still growing. Despite such encouraging figures and films like Kevi Rite Jaish, Bey Yaar and Wrong Side Raju (All from the same stable of CineMan films) already set higher benchmarks, Gujarati films seldom draw the audience to the theatre.

What keeps them away from Gujarati films is perhaps the kind of clones being churned out every Friday with films revolving around a group of friends (With toilet sense of humour), a girl (Wearing an expression of ‘what am I doing here?’), bootlegger (Dry-sigh state), jugaad for money (After all, Gujarat is a business-centric state so no films can be made without money being the core theme), and of course, Garba (Drone shots. Masked dancers’ shots. Flirting shots. Check.).

This is where Chor Bani Thangat Kare scores. It steers clear of all the clichés associated with Gujarati films and even if it does touch the ‘daaru’ aspect, it makes sure that the scene is an integral part of the film’s narrative, rather than just another dry state gag. What really works here is the engaging screenplay peppered by hilarious dialogues and a cast that essays characters you’d root for, despite the predictability.

Rajkumar Trivedi, aka Robin suffers from kleptomania, a psychological disorder that makes him a compulsive thief without him realizing it. The biggest obstacle this character must brave through is the ability to make people around him understand the fact that he is not a chor i.e. thief. Amit Mistry plays Robin with a gleeful ease, so much so that he might be christened as Robin after this film. This gem of an actor literally ‘stole’ the show in the second half of Bey Yaar and choosing him to play Robin is the best casting decision of the filmmaker.

Well, as karma would have it, here another actor steals the show from Amit Mistry (not that he would mind, as he is a character you’d never forget after watching the film), who is none other than Ojas Rawal. An actor who began with a rather serious role in Tejas Padiaa’s Gujarati film debut, Polampol, goes for a complete spin here by playing two hilarious characters, one being a local chor and the other as a lookalike of Baba Ramdev. Ojas is a sheer delight to watch and each time he appears on the screen, you’re already hoping for an encore.

Bijal Joshi, as the actress does a decent job playing a character which seems to be written in haste. Despite being a pivot to the film’s plot, she fails to leave an impact, blame it on the passive treatment her character is lent. There isn’t a single moment in the film where she is assertive and comes on her own and is always pushed to action by someone, either the lead actor or her grandma. Even the old Nokia and backstory is reminiscent of Kareena’s character in 3 Idiots and doesn’t add anything to the narration, except the predictable utility of her phone in the film’s end.

Prem Gadhvi impresses with his character of Lenti, a friend who is always by the side of Robin through every thick and thin. The actor has grown with each film, to become an essential part of every Gujarati film and already has a large fan following, which is evident when the audience cheers for him during his entry scene.

Manan Desai, an ex-RJ turned stand-up comedian and curator for India’s best talents in comedy, makes an interesting cameo as a terrorist with an ability to make the cops apologize for hitting him. No matter how farfetched this may sound, but the actor does it with a conviction that will leave you in splits. Chirayu Mistry, a popular stand-up comedian of Vadodara plays an interesting role of an instalment collection executive carrying a saw. These are one of those rare cameos that go on to prove that the length of an actor’s role doesn’t matter, if it has been written and portrayed well. Other stand-up comedians like Aariz Saiyed and Preeti Das show up as news anchors too.

The music by Sachin-Jigar is soothing and lends the film a much-needed breather (how long can you keep laughing continuously?). Speaking of songs, this is a film where the songs are seamlessly woven into the narrative. ‘Bhuli jau chhe’ and ‘Mauj-E-Dariya’ (Benny Dayal’s first Gujarati song) are tracks you’d look up on iTunes and listen on a loop.

Like any other film made on a limited budget (the production values are top-notch, mind you), few scenes do stick out as sore thumb, especially the yoga session that is supposed to have 3000 participants, while what barely hundred show up and the terrorists keep insisting that they are 3000. But thanks to Ojas Rawal, whose performance as the Ramdev Baba lookalike prevents you from noticing such slipups. Even the terrorists are replete with stereotypes (Why are the walls of their rooms always green?).

The film’s basic premise of a reluctant thief itself gives way to multiple possibilities, which the writer-director Rahul Bhole explores to the hilt, thankfully, without going overboard. The smartest thing that he does with the plot is to focus on one story and throw in an ensemble of madcap characters. It wouldn’t be surprising if Rahul Bhole comes up with a sequel of Chor Bani Thangat Kare. We’re already waiting.

Jagga Jasoos revives the art of storytelling and brings out the child in you

A film that kicks off by doffing hat to the legendary showman, Raj Kapoor (Gardish mein taare rahenge sadaa) goes on to establish his grandson as the tramp of our times. It goes without saying that if Raj Kapoor’s biopic were to be made, Ranbir Kapoor could play the lead with a veteran’s ease. Watching Jagga Jasoos makes one believe that Barfi! was the initial process of laying foundation for this helluva rollercoaster ride.

Musicals, though unexplored in our films (Let’s forget Shirish Kunder ever made Jaaneman. If you’re wondering which film was this, you’re indeed blessed). Hum Aapke Hain Kaun had songs for every occasion, but was far from a musical narrative. The Indian films find their roots in the Ramleelas, which were no less than musicals and later graduated to melodrama after Parsi theatre took the centerstage. So, it’s quite strange we never got this genre right, despite belonging to the land of Ramayana and Mahabharata, the epics which were ‘recited’ rather than being ‘read out’. Well, better late than never.

If AR Rahman made a breakthrough in the broadway musical with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Bombay Dreams, Anurag Basu cracks the Indian musical code with Jagga Jasoos. The film plays out as a narration from a children’s book and handholds us to a whole new world of love & loss, innocence & acceptance, curiosity & simplicity.

The film solely rests on two wonderful characters, Jagga (Ranbir Kapoor) and his foster father Tuti Phooti (The brilliant Saswata Chatterjee). The ‘taal-mel’ of these two actors is splendidly ‘aww-inspiring’. Such chemistry isn’t found even in the lead pairs or any lead pairs of late, for that matter. Both actors (or rather all three actors, if one were to include the child actor who is equally brilliant as the lil’ Jagga) complement each other. Think of it as a three-hour mime act underlined by seamlessly mellifluous music and punctuated by soulfully simple lyrics. The dialogues don’t matter. They have never mattered in any film with a strong screenplay. 

Ranbir Kapoor gives it all to his character and shines across every frame, becoming Jagga, the diffident yet determined, the stammering yet articulate, and the lonely yet lovable character reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes and Satyajit Ray’s Feluda. In fact, the journey that he embarks upon with Katrina’s character Shruti Sengupta (The worst Bengali we have seen on screen, who doesn’t even bother to pretend being remotely connected to Bengal) is imbued with fantasy flavours of Ray’s Goopi Gyne Bagha Byne and Heerak Rajar Deshe.  This is quite a welcome change, where our filmmakers are looking within (read country) rather than seeking inspiration elsewhere.

Katrina may have got the Bengali thing wrong here but is nonetheless adorable as a narrator surrounded by kids. Supporting actors like the easygoing ex-IB officer played by Saurabh Shukla and Rajatwa Dutta as the cop surrounded by multiple hued landline phones make their presence felt with their nuanced performances. Saswata Chatterjee steals your heart as Tooti Phooti or Bad-luck Bakshi. One just can’t get enough of this gem of an actor. Having said that, Ranbir Kapoor makes his character endearing, as well as memorable. Once the credits roll, you find yourself already waiting for the sequel. When did you last feel that way, except for the ‘Katappa query’?

Jagga Jasoos is perhaps one of those few films where the music director Pritam and lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya play the lead role without even appearing in a single frame. Right from the news anchors breaking into a song to the investigation scenes and the confrontation scene of Ranbir and Saurabh Shukla, each situation is unbelievably translated into gripping narrative through music and lyrics. Ravi Varman paints the silver screen with Disney hues and Ajay Sharma deftly edits each scene to perfection.

Through Jagga Jasoos, director Anurag Basu reminds us the long-forgotten art of storytelling. Watch this film and you just might stumble upon the child in you. Well, I just did. 

 

Sarkar 3 isn’t just dimly-lit, but also dimwit

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The format is set. A shady guy walks inside the artifact-ridden and electricity-deprived mansion of Sarkar. The henchmen are about to hit him while he speaks, but Sarkar’s eyes prevent them from doing so. Sarkar hears him out while sipping and slurping chaai in a saucer. The offer of the shady guy is refused with a prompt ‘Kisi aur ko bhi karne nahin doonga’. The shady guy walks out, resolving of making Sarkar’s life hell, instead of getting his work done elsewhere, despite Sarkar’s caveat. Add to this, some domestic issues, ego clashes and double (multiple) crossing, lo and behold, you have your Sarkar script ready.

Film after film, Ram Gopal Varma is churning out assembly-line of films under the pretext of The Godfather (It’s a blasphemy to compare the two). Well, the first film did leave us awestruck with its novelty factor of Amitabh Bachchan, the second one ambled along on the Anna Hazare-Kejriwal terrains, and the third one dumbs itself down with ‘naatak kar raha tha mein’. It’s as if the director telling his audience, ‘Ullu bana raha tha mein’. Yup, the joke is on us, who could have easily watched Bahubali 2 yet another time rather than sitting through this done-and-dusted Sarkar yawnathon.

The background score blares out the Govinda chant, making the audience secretly wish Raja Babu makes a brief appearance with ‘dil behelta hai mera aapke aa jaane se’ and brightens things up in this dimly lit and dimwit film. Amol Rathod’s camerawork is far from the brilliance demonstrated by Amit Roy in the previous Sarkar films. This time, the Sarkar mansion is so dimly-lit that many characters are barely visible in poignant scenes, especially where Sarkar reprimands his grandson, Shivaji alias Chiku, who stands in the dark. One can’t help remarking, ‘Sir, daantne se pehle lights on karke check to kar lo ke Chiku hi hai ya dhobi?’ Perhaps there was a load-shedding issue in the vicinity and the only electrical appliance you could see was television playing perfectly-timed breaking news (Why aren’t those channels playing irritating commercials like Vicco Turmeric ad in between those breaking news?). Guess those television sets must be battery-operated. Okay I give up here.

Among the actors, Amitabh Bachchan does try to recreate the magic of the first Sarkar, but it’s the lazy writing that lets him down. For instance, if you watch the first two films, Sarkar was never a verbose character. And here you see him addressing a plethora of extras with yellow flags (Not saffron, lest they’d resemble a certain family in Mumbai), uttering inane lines like ‘Ek haath mein maala hai to doosre mein bhaala’. When was Sarkar’s character about Maala and Bhaala, Mr. Varma? Wasn’t he someone who was a ‘soch’ and not ‘bol bachchan’, who let his actions speak louder than words?

This deviation right from the opening shot sets the tone of the film which entirely relies on its camerawork, be it using and abusing the shallow depth of field (Okay focus-defocus feature in your mobile), along with artifacts strategically placed inside every room, be it Ganesh idol, pug, laughing Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi or a large picture of Abhishek Bachchan (Who seems to be insisting upon the fact that he is the hero of the film, like he does whenever a Dhoom series is about to release). No character enters the Sarkar mansion without being depth-of-fielded along with an artifact. The director’s brief seems very clear in every frame, not to mention the camera peering through every possible aperture (no pun intended) in the dark Sarkar mansion.

Actors like Ronit Roy, Manoj Bajpayee, and Jackie Shroff are completely wasted with roles of glorified extras. Amit Sadh comes across as a miscast here, who seems to be wondering why he took up this role of playing Sarkar-Sarkar. Not a single emotion of Amit Sadh makes you root for his character or relate to his anguish, something Kay Kay Menon pulled off with a veteran’s ease. Just like Sarkar’s henchmen, you just cannot accept him as the Sarkar scion, no matter how hard the actor and director try.

As for Yami Gautam’s character, the lesser said the better. Here’s a girl, who seek vengeance against the man who killed her father (The allegation is conveniently written off as a misunderstanding over a single meeting with Sarkar that the director doesn’t even bother to film, and is mentioned in a dialogue as justification), but barely chalks up any strategic plan. There’s no trace of chemistry between her and Amit Sadh. Yami wears a constipated expression all throughout the film (Rubbing her fingers under the table, just in case you don’t get that she is a threat to the Sarkar family).

Manoj Bajpayee, who seemed to be the only saving grace of the film, is done away with midway, killing all your hopes against the hopes for this colossal mess of a film. There’s a Mahatma Gandhi scene where he clearly outshines Bachchan, such is the power of this gem of an actor, who must seek a compensation from Ram Gopal Varma, for being exploited in this film.

Jackie Shroff clearly wears the expression of ‘Mere ko kyu cast kiya Bhidu, khaali-fokat bikini babe aur dolphins ke saath time-pass karney ko?’ Even his face-off scene with Sarkar towards the film’s end is the weakest ‘filmy takkar’ we have seen of late. Heck, even the Mithun-Mukesh Rishi scene in Gunda (1998) was far effective, at least you felt the tension between the duo. In Ram Gopal Varma’s Sarkar 3, everything, except Sarkar’s chaai, is all thanda.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Begum Jaan: Popcornversation: Partition of story and logic

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A fictional conversation between Begum Jaan’s director, Srijit Mukherji and writer Kausar Munir, who has been credited for writing the dialogues of the film. The conversation is an attempt to understand what thought or logic went behind making such excuse of a film:

Director: I am doing a remake of my Bengali film, Rajkahini, which is a remake of Mandi.

Writer: But sir we don’t have the rights to remake Mandi.

Director: Who cares? I will set the same story against the backdrop of partition. I don’t want you to watch the original Bengali film. So, come up with your own draft, especially the dialogues. I will adapt the screenplay later and credit you for the dialogues.

Writer: That will require a lot of research and even the budgets will shoot up.

Director: Who cares? I will make two groups of villagers pass through a patch of land along with bullock carts. That’s partition for you.

Writer: And what about the riots?

Director: Simple. Make woman lay unclad before a mob. Place the camera above her head. Take a perspective shot, punctuated or rather accentuated by a loud background score. That way we’d be killing two birds with one shot, hinting at the Nirbhaya episode.

Writer: Sir, how about showing an old woman disrobing in front of the rioters and rapists, hence shaming them?

Director: That’s brilliant! I will use this same technique by showing a teenage girl doing the same towards the film’s end. The idea is to keep repeating things until the audience gets it.

Writer: And let’s have two fine actors like Rajit Kapoor and Ashish Vidhyarthi representing India and Pakistan.

Director: And let’s cut their faces into two halves, symbolizing the two nations.

Writer: Won’t it look odd? And will people understand?

Director: They will. I will employ the same technique 3-4 times until they get it. And add a Satyajit Ray’s Jalsaghar angle to the story…we can cast someone like Naseeruddin Shah to play an aging king losing it all to the British regime.

Writer: And what about British actors? Most of them look like Bob Christo in our films.

Director: Let’s do away with them.

Writer: How are we going to depict colonialism without British actors?

Director: Who cares? Our film will have enough distractions to keep the audience away from story and logic. We will have an opening narration by Amitabh Bachchan. His deep baritone will ward off all the evils of intelligence.

Writer: And what about the lead role? How about Kiron Kher reprising her role in Sardari Begum?

Director: Sardari Begum…sounds an interesting name. We will cast Vidya Balan playing Kiron Kher and call our film Begum Jaan.

Writer: But why Vidya Balan? Why not someone like Seema Biswas or Nandita Das?

Director: By casting Vidya Balan, we won’t have to worry about paying her extra to put on weight, like Nitesh Tiwari had to do for Aamir in Dangal.  Secondly, we can thrust the feminist angle down the audiences’ throats, by casting someone who has already done female-oriented films like Kahaani and The Dirty Picture, which means wider ‘aunty audience’.

Writer: And what about the other roles? Mandi had an interesting ensemble of actors like Smita Patil, Neena Gupta and Soni Razdan…We, too, should have an impressive cast of women working in a brothel.

Director: Who cares? Vidya Balan will rule the three-legged roost in the film and boss around the girls. We can have someone like Gauhar Khan and other obscure girls speaking in different accents. And why are you referring them as ‘women working in a brothel’? Just call them whores. Even our posters will read: Lived like whores, fought like queens. Subtlety is for the art film directors. I am establishing my brand as a ‘commercial art’ film director.

Writer: What will be Vidya Balan’s accent? Since the film is set near Agra so should it be Urdu?

Director: Does the audience really care about such things? Let her talk in different accents, be it Punjabi or chaste Urdu or Hindi. We will add other characters speaking with fake accents of Punjabi, Gujarati and Bihari for those ‘cinema connoisseurs’. Don’t get into silly details like these.

Writer: You also asked for a Holi scene despite the film’s story set during the partition i.e. August…

Director: Did you say something…?

Writer: Okay, I get it…Shall do.

Director: Here’s the DVD of Mandi, go and watch the film again and develop the screenplay. Make sure you underline every scene with additional dialogues, some sex and menstrual references, a clown character, lesbians, etc. and I will take care of the rest to underline it further with loud background score and artistic cinematography.

Writer: We need some goon and traitor who shall evacuate the kotha or kothi whatever…I need to visualize someone while writing these characters…

Director: Chunky Pandey is a star in Bangladesh and wants to do a comeback in Bollywood. We can ask him to shave his head off, blacken his teeth and wear a vest-lungi costume.

Writer: Chunky Pandey? Okay…maybe that will draw the curious audience…And what about the traitor?

Director: Cast an innocent looking guy…Can be Vivek Mushran. The key to the success of any film is unusual casting.

Writer: But what if Chunky Pandey overtakes Vidya Balan with his performance?

Director: Who cares? We aren’t making the film for Vidya Balan. Well, to be on a safer side, we will ask Vidya Balan not to do her eyebrows for few months.

Writer: But since she is into prostitution, shouldn’t she be conscious of her looks?

Director: Let the other aspects remain the way they are…Just the eyebrows will have a ‘realistic touch’.

Writer: But how can she remain oblivious of what’s happening around in the country? She can shift her kotha elsewhere and still thrive…

Director: The kotha is her home, remember!

Writer: But countless Indians and Pakistanis abandoned their ‘homes’ during the partition. So, what’s the all fuss about?

Director: Did you say something…?

Writer: Okay, I get it…So, how are we going to end the film?

Director: Padmavati is news these days. Do a Google search on her and see what you can do. Add some grandma kind of character like Ila Arun to narrate the tale and manipulate with the emotions of the audience in the climax. Make sure your screenplay has truckloads of melodrama. It always works, be it Chopra, Johar or Bhansali film.

Writer: But sir, will this film work?

Director: Who cares? My debut in Bollywood should establish my brand as a stylish auteur who uses unconventional camera angles and you as a female feminist writer. We have a star like Vidya Balan to carry the entire film and producers like Mahesh Bhatt and Mukesh Bhatt. What else do we want?

Writer: Er…We do need a story and logic…

Director: Did you say something…?