I still find it difficult to use the word 'bum'-Akshay Kumar

Akshay Kumar recalls a traumatic incident from his childhood when, at six, he was ‘touched inappropriately’ by a stranger
Meena Iyer (MUMBAI MIRROR; July 28, 2017)

Akshay Kumar, while speaking at a seminar on women’s safety alongside Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday, took everyone by surprise when he briefly digressed to address the subject of child abuse. He recounted a personal horror story that involved him as a six-year-old boy and a seemingly harmless lift-man, and urged the audience to encourage kids to communicate. Over to Akshay:

“When I was a child, my parents always encouraged me to speak to them frankly about everything. Whether it was discussing a sexual issue or inappropriate behaviour, I was asked to come home and talk frankly.

When I was six, I was on my way to a neighbour’s house when the lift man touched my butt. I was really agitated and told my father (Hari Om Bhatia) about it. He filed a police complaint. Investigations revealed that the lift-man was a history-sheeter. The cops took action and the man was arrested. I was a shy kid and was relieved that I could speak about this to my parents. But even today, I find it difficult to say the word ‘bum’. We must encourage women and children to speak up and tell their families if they encounter anything strange so that they can be protected and empowered.”

Horror has never been done properly in Bollywood-Shah Rukh Khan

Shah Rukh Khan
Nayandeep Rakshit (DNA; July 28, 2017)

Bollywood might be taking rapid strides as far as scripts, story-telling, and VFX are concerned, but there are many genres that we still have to tap into. Most Hindi films fall largely under three categories — action, comedy or drama. Shah Rukh Khan feels that there’s scope to do a lot more when it comes to other genres. Here, he talks about the kind of movies he thinks have a lot of scope and that filmmakers can attempt.

Children’s films
We could do more children’s films. And when I say children’s films, I don’t mean silly films. Maybe, something like the Harry Potter series, and it’s not just about wizardry, but even something like Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. We should attempt something interesting, which allows the imagination of children to go wilder and makes them think a little and also have a great cinematic experience.

Horror films
Horror as a space is something we can totally improve on. I am not a big horror film fan, even when it comes to international films. I don’t get turned on by horror. That’s also probably because it has never been done properly in Bollywood. Maybe, the visual effects and the special effects have to be of a certain level to pull off a horror film.

Diplo insisted on me being a part of the video, and I had to oblige-Shah Rukh Khan

Sonil Dedhia (MID-DAY; July 28, 2017)

Shah Rukh Khan’s collaboration with American DJ Diplo for the song, Phurrr, in Jab Harry Met Sejal has already made news. The actor recently shot a promotional video of the number with the Grammy winner, in the sunny vistas of Los Angeles. Talking about his shoot, Khan tells mid- day, “Diplo had a show in Miami, but he postponed it and flew down to LA instead.”

Khan further reveals that he was not supposed to be a part of the song originally. “I went on the set to meet him. But, he insisted on me being a part of the video, and I had to oblige. He showed me some swag moves, and I just copied him.”

The duo bonded over Indian culture. “Diplo has spent a lot of time in Kolkata, so he loves India and our culture. He was sweet enough to give me a jacket of his record label, Mad Decent.”

Diplo was accompanied by his kids, Lockett and Lazer Pentz, who are big fans of SRK. “I was surprised that his sons knew of me. Unfortunately, my kids couldn’t come because it was an early morning shoot,” he informs.

Pahlaj Nihalani stays as Censor Board chief; rumours of his ouster are false?

Pahlaj Nihalani
DNA (July 28, 2017)

Speculation about Pahlaj Nihalani’s ouster as the chairperson of the Central Board Of Film Certification (CBFC) has been rife for some days now. It is baffling, because reliable sources in the Ministry For Information & Broadcasting indicate that there is no such move afoot.

The source also brings a significant fact to light. “Every time there has been a board meeting of the CBFC on the anvil during the last two years, ‘news’ about Nihlani’s ouster is leaked out presumably by disgruntled board members.”

The source says, no discussion on Nihalani’s ouster has been tabulated in the board meeting to be held at Thiruvanthipuram on July 28. The source adds, “One of the topics to be discussed will be the fate of Jayan Cherian’s Ka Bodyscapes, which has been stuck with at the CBFC for many months now. But there is no move to discuss Nihalani’s removal or his replacement with names such as Prakash Jha, Dr Chandraprakash Dwivedi and Madhur Bhandarkar.”

Hrithik Roshan chooses dad Rakesh Roshan's Krrish 4 over Vikas Bahl's mathematician biopic?

Mohar Basu (MID-DAY; July 28, 2017)

'Queen' director Vikas Bahl's next is a biopic on Patna mathematician Anand Kumar. He wants Hrithik Roshan to do the film, which was scheduled to go on floors later this year. But it will now kick-off by mid-2018. A source close to Bahl tells mid-day, "The script is being worked on. Though Hrithik has agreed to do the movie, the paperwork is yet to be done. Since Rakesh Roshan is in the last leg of scripting Krrish 4, Hrithik wants to start prep for that film first. His father's film is his first priority."

The insider adds that Bahl has been advised to delay he biopic. "It has been done to ensure the controversy he got embroiled in a few months ago doesn't take the focus away from the movie." In April, a female employee of Phantom Films, the production company owned by Bahl, Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane and Madhu Mantena, accused Bahl of sexual abuse.

Meanwhile, Roshan Sr is looking for a Christmas 2018 release for Krrish 4. "Hrithik and I have brainstormed on the story for days. He will play Krrish and the characters from the earlier instalments will be carried forward. New characters will also be introduced. We will start shooting early next year, but Hrithik will start prep for his role earlier," says Roshan Sr.

I'm conscious about my films being relevant to the times

Hiren Kotwani (BOMBAY TIMES; July 28, 2017)

You can take a director out of a writer, but you can't take the writer out of a director. That perhaps explains why Anees Bazmee, who has helmed films like No Entry, Ready, Singh Is Kinng, Welcome and Welcome Back, still spends his nights rewriting scenes before shooting them the following morning. As he readily says, “Main writer hoon, aur main dil se kaam karta hoon.“ As his latest, Mubarakan, gears up for its date with audiences, BT catches up with the director for a tete-a-tete. Excerpts...

At the outset, Mubarakan looks like a typical Anees Bazmee film. So, what sets it apart from your other movies?
Whenever I start working on a subject, I don't think about my previous films. When I made Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha (1998), many people said that I should make Yash Chopra-style romance. Then, when I made Deewangee (2002), they said that it was more in the Abbas-Mustan zone. After No Entry (2005) became a huge success, I set out to make a romantic film titled Welcome (2007). Akshay wanted me to make a film with him and was instrumental in getting Firoz Nadiadwala to produce it. However, likhte-likhte, it became a comedy. Singh Is Kinng (2008) too started as a romance, but gradually, a considerable amount of comedy entered the narrative. Talking about Mubarakan, it's not just a comedy. It has family, emotions...when you see it, you will agree that it's different from my previous outings.

Most of your films have been comedies, and one can't completely avoid stereotypes in that genre. So, are you apprehensive of being panned for stereotyping in your films?
I try to avoid clich├ęs and stereotypes. Also, I think that I am a good writer. When I was planning to turn director, many of my filmmaker friends dissuaded me, saying that we don't have enough good writers. Swarg, Shola Aur Shabnam, Aankhen, Bol Radha Bol, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi... I have written many superhit films and that can't be by chance. I meet people from diverse walks of life and always try to keep up with the times. I'm conscious about my films being relevant to the times. I don't know anything else besides movies. Jeena yahaan, marna yahaan, iske siwa jaana kahaan.

At the end of the day, films are business and producers consider the recovery of their investment before backing a film. Do you also get influenced by commercial aspects while penning or helming a project?
See, main hisaab-kitaab nahin jaanta. I've never planned a film with an eye on the box office, nor do I repeat the elements of a previous hit. Main writer hoon, aur main dil se kaam karta hoon.

Despite the success of Deewangee, you never made a thriller again. Also, you haven't teamed up with Ajay Devgn after your fourth film, Benaam, didn't make it to the theatres.
It's not intentional, it's just that I have been looking for a good subject to make a thriller. Now, I finally have one and if it develops well, I will go ahead. I make one film in one-and-a-half to two years so, it's important that the subject retains my interest for that long. As for working with Ajay , he's a very good friend. However, we got busy with our respective movies. We don't meet for months, but whenever we do, we have that instant connect. If I tell him that I have a very good subject for him, he won't insist on a bound script. He trusts me as a good writer.

You've already worked with actors like Govinda, Anil Kapoor, Salman Khan, Ajay Devgn, Akshay Kumar and now, you are working with Arjun Kapoor. Do you see yourself working with Arjun's contemporaries like Varun Dhawan, Sidharth Malhotra and Ranveer Singh?
Why not? I like Varun a lot and have known him since he was five years old. He loves and respects me. I'd love to cast him, but it has to be a fantastic subject.

You reportedly developed differences with Salman during the making of Ready (2011). You haven't worked together after that and despite of it being in news, there is no progress on the sequel to No Entry...
It's all false, there are no issues. It's just that we got tied up with our respective commitments. As for the sequel to No Entry, only Boneyji (producer Boney Kapoor) can tell you about it. I am always ready, but I can't discuss money and dates with actors.

As someone who started his career as a writer, what advice would you give to new writers, who get shortchanged by filmmakers? There are many who don't get money and credit for their work...
It's unethical and unprofessional when filmmakers shortchange new writers. I'd advise new writers to first register their scripts with the Film Writers Association and safeguard their rights to their work. They should also focus on one script at a time and make it so good that no filmmaker can refuse it.

Even after you turned director, you continued to write for other filmmakers for a while...
I was scared. A filmmaker friend gave me a list of 134 writers who had turned directors, but failed. He said, 'Aisa na ho tumhari film flop ho jaaye aur tumhe writer ka kaam bhi na mile.' I then had to give interviews saying that 'main writer hoon aur main sirf shauq ke liye direction kar raha tha'. I come from a humble background and had to support my family. I struggled for 10 years before achieving significant success. It's only after achieving success as a director that I said I wouldn't write for other filmmakers. In fact, it was David (Dhawan), who coaxed me to write Mujhse Shaadi Karogi.

Do you have any fears now?
No. While I want to make films and entertain the audiences, I also want to enjoy life and give time to my family. I consider myself lucky to have 15-20 superhit films as a writer. If you ask me which is my favourite film, my answer would be 'the one I'm making next'. I don't know if I'll make a film with a big star or a newcomer. Let's first see how people respond to Mubarakan. I'll rest for a week or two before I go about deciding what I want to make next. It all depends on the story; it should retain my excitement for the next one year.

Anil Kapoor has just crossed into his youth with Mubarakan-Anees Bazmee

Subhash K Jha (DNA; July 28, 2017)

Anees Bazmee first got to know Anil Kapoor when the former served as an assistant on Raj Kapoor’s Prem Rog. Recalls Anees fondly, “Anil was as enthusiastic, exuberant and endearing back then as he is now. He was a regular visitor on Raj saab’s sets — they were rishtedaars — and I think, we hit it off since then. Subsequently, I got to work with Anil in nine to 10 films, first as a writer and then as a director. I wrote Anil-starrers like Laadla and Deewana Mastana.”

The first brush
The first time that Anees got to direct Anil is another story. He remembers, “It was a film (Mr Azaad) where the director was unable to shoot for some time. I was asked to help out, and I gladly did. This was the first time I got to work as a director with Anil. I think he enjoyed the experience. He made me promise we’d work together whenever I turned a full-fledged director.”

Creative camaraderie
The moment came with No Entry in 2005. Says Anees, “Since we already knew each other well, working in No Entry was a party. Anil helped me a lot in getting familiar with all the actors in the film, who were all his friends. We decided we’d work together as frequently as possible. And we worked together in Welcome, No Problem, Welcome Back and now Mubarakan. In fact, it was Anil, who got me into Mubarakan. When he heard the idea for the plot, he said only Anees can direct something so zany.”

Playing the spirited sardar
Anees confesses Mubarakan was optimum fun to make. He tells an interesting story on how Anil’s character became a turban-wearing sardar in the movie. “We knew Anil was going to play a guy from Chandigarh, who is settled in London. So my writers and I decided, why not make Anil a sardar? And it was the right decision. Anil makes for an amazing sardar. He is innocent and charming, dil ka bahot saaf hai, just like Akshay Kumar’s sardar character in Singh Is Kiing.”

Kajol opens up on doing a Karan Johar or an Aditya Chopra film in the future

Nayandeep Rakshit (DNA; July 28, 2017)

Kajol’s best and most iconic films have been with filmmaker friends Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar. She starred in the debut films of both the directors. Unfortunately, her hubby Ajay Devgn has had issues with them. The tiff with Aditya’s Yash Raj films happened during the Son of Sardaar vs Jab Tak Hai Jaan release clash. Ajay accused Karan of sabotaging his film Shivaay, which resulted in a friendship of decades — between Kajol and Karan — falling apart.

Does this mean that Kajol won’t work with either of them again? She says, “When I sign a film, in my head, I know I have to spend a certain number of days with an entire team and the director being the head of the team. If I don’t get along well with a filmmaker, I will never do his or her films. I find it useless to be on a film set where I don’t enjoy working.”

Karan and Adi have always given Kajol some terrific films. What if they offer her a pathbreaking role? Would she take it up? The actress says, “First of all, if a director, who has had issues with me, ever came to me with a film, he would have had to sort them before he can even approach me with a film. So the question is moot.” Point taken.

Turning producer is a natural progression-Katrina Kaif

Nayandeep Rakshit (DNA; July 29, 2017)

Sonam Kapoor has a production house with her sister Rhea, Anushka Sharma has one with her brother Karnesh, and Priyanka Chopra’s production house is run by her mom in her absence. Many heroines are now jumping on the production bandwagon. And why not? It allows them the luxury of making the kind of films they want to work in.

Katrina, too, will follow suit. She says, “Production is definitely something I’m interested in. You have to have the logistical side of it ready because that’s something I would not know about. But it’s definitely on my mind and something I would want to do. And it’s eventually going to happen as a natural progression maybe.”

Kat is all praises for actresses who have already launched their own banners and are producing films. She says, “I think it’s really great. It takes a lot of time and you need to have a good team — people who you can trust — that’s really important. You need that support to be able to put it all together. Anushka has done a brilliant job with her brother. It’s lovely to see what they are doing.”

Ask Katrina if she has any thoughts on the kind of films she wants to produce and she smiles, “I don’t classify films that way — whether you call it different or the same, classic or arty or anything. A film is a film and it connects with you or it doesn’t. If I hear something special, I will instinctively know it.”

There was news that Katrina had bought the rights of a French film. But she avers, “I tried to buy the rights of He Loves Me... He Loves Me Not. But that didn’t happen.”

I'm used to such link-ups-Esha Gupta on her dinner date with Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin

Natasha Coutinho (MUMBAI MIRROR; July 28, 2017)

After she sent gossip mills into an overdrive last September by going out on a dinner date with Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin, Bollywood actress Esha Gupta returned to the Queen’s City to unveil the Highbury-based football club’s new kit recently. Insisting that she’s been a sports girl all her life, she says, “I’ve been an Arsenal fan for as long as I can remember. Like every Indian I’m crazy about cricket but football has also intrigued me and I it’s history and geography. Modeling the team jersey was an opportunity too good to miss.”

Speaking of how the opportunity, she informs that she has been invited to sit in the VIP box and watch the game before. “This time, I happened to be in London and when they asked, I told them that I’d love to launch ‘the new awaken’,” she says, adding that despite her interest in the game, she likes to take someone knowledgeable along for matches for company. “It is so I wouldn’t just be the cheer girl in a stadium packed with screaming fans. I watched my first Arsenal game six years ago. They were up against Chelsea. I hope to be their lucky mascot for them during the upcoming match on Saturday so I can hear fans chanting the Arsenel anthem and booing the opponents. From an “Oh-my-God!’ moment during kickoff to the “God, save us!” during an penalty, I feel I’m one with thousands of the club fanatics at the stadium.”

She credits her dad with her current interest in football. “My dad is a fan and would rave about how Arsenal always gets and trains amazing new young players. Players like Andre Santos and Lucas Perez are my absolute favourites. It just happens that they also get the most good-looking players,” she laughs.

So, how good a friend is Hector, the club’s 21-year-old star? “That dinner was last year. Honestly I’m used to such link-ups. It’s just that the paparazzi didn’t catch me at any other dinner. I wouldn’t want to comment,” she demurs.

So who’s her favourite player? “Right now I love Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud. I’m also excited about Alexandre Lacazette who has just been signed. At the jersey launch I was asked what number I liked and I picked 9 which was my way of welcoming Lacazette. The moment he signed up, I posted about him online. I’m a fan and get excited when great players are taken on. Talks are on with Thomas Lemar and I hope he comes on board too. We need good players like him,” she asserts.

And has she got any of the players interested in Bollywood yet? “Not yet. Robert Pires came to India some time ago. I met him and I’m guessing he knows about Bollywood and its actors now. If I get a chance, I’d like to screen one of our films for the players. I’ve been an ardent fan of Arsenal for 16 years now but Bollywood comes first,” she signs off.