Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Kareena Kapoor with co-star Imran Khan in Gori Tere Pyaar Mein:
you voted for her fans as being the most active on Internet

Dear Readers,

If I don’t post this blog right away, I’m afraid @Kareena_No1 on Twitter will have me hung, drawn and quartered. My apologies. I’ve been busy, so I’m just sitting down to discuss this poll question I had asked you earlier this month:


Here’s how you voted:

34% of you believe Kareena Kapoor Khan has the most active fans on the Internet.

25% believe it’s Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.

15% picked Shahid Kapoor fans.

7% of you voted for Rani Mukerji’s fans.

4% each believe that Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone’s fans are most active on the Net.

3% Salman Khan’s fans.

2% Priyanka Chopra’s fans.

1% Amitabh Bachchan’s fans.

Those who didn’t get any votes at all: fans of Ranbir Kapoor, Preity Zinta, Aamir Khan, Madhuri Dixit-Nene, Akshay Kumar, John Abraham, Hrithik Roshan, Sonam Kapoor, Katrina Kaif.


If you were to go by the raging battles on the social media, it would seem that Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan are the Bollywood stars who have the most active fans on the Internet. Yet, it’s Amitabh Bachchan who has the largest and/or fastest-growing number of followers on most platforms (7.2 million followers on Twitter, 6.9 million likes on FB as I write this post) – and if you follow such things closely you will see his fans too are quick to zero in on anyone seeming remotely critical of him.

From personal experience I can tell you that the most overwhelmingly positive response I’ve ever got to a query on Twitter has been from Rani Mukerji fans. When I was hosting an interview show for Headlines Today till three years back, I used to have a Twitter section in which I’d ask my guest questions sent to me by people following me on Twitter. No stars’ fans have ever flooded me with as many questions and messages as Rani’s fans would when I’d alert them about an interview. They sent me so many tweets for one particular show, that when I printed them out it came to 35 pages! This was about 5 years back, Rani was already floundering in the industry at the time and it was clear that her decision to stick primarily to Yashraj Films’ projects combined with the industry’s tendency to tire easily of heroines had damaged her career, possibly irreparably. From her fans’ messages though, it was evident that there was a hunger among them to see her in more films and in substantial roles. The experience of that interview with Rani set my mind ticking so I checked the Twitter account of her contemporary Preity Zinta whose acting career was clearly pretty much over by then. The numbers were startling: she has 2.6 million followers as of now with not a single film in hand and none in sight, and even today they remain a very active community. Again, from the messages being sent to her, it was clear that there was a hardcore fan following yearning to see her in more films and solid roles.

On a not-so-positive note, when I first joined Twitter, I found the fans who tried to intimidate me the most were Salman Khan fans – back then they’d pick on every single tweet I posted on Bollywood heroes and allege an anti-Salman bias for the most laughable reasons, I assume to put me on the defensive. Was I doing something wrong, I wondered? This is obviously exactly the question they wanted me to ask myself. I was reviewing films for Headlines Today at the time and for weeks before a Salman film’s release, they’d start sending tweets of this sort: We know you media are all pro-SRK and anti-Salman so it goes without saying you will give Bhai’s film a bad review. After a while I began to realise that this was a psychological game to influence critics who might consequently, at a sub-conscious level, hesitate to give a negative review even if they were genuinely unfavourably inclined towards a particular Salman film. Was I being singled out for such attention? Was I flattering myself that people thought I mattered enough to be targeted with such mind games? Fearing that my ego was getting the better of me, I visited the Twitter accounts of critics from rival channels and newspapers and found that they were all being similarly targeted, some mildly as I was, and some rather viciously.

Then when Guzaarish was released and I happened to tweet my thoughts about the film I had my most unpleasant experience ever on Twitter. Fans of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan bombarded me with tweets threatening all forms of violence including rape and murder on me and my family, while directing the most vile abuse at me, my family and my organisation. I immediately visited the Twitter accounts of critics from two rival channels and whaddyaknow: the very Twitter handles that were attacking me that day were writing to both of them with the exact same threats and abuse. That’s when I devised my personal social media policy (for want of a better word) that I intend to practice for all time to come: NEVER REPLY TO ABUSE AND THREATS. It helped. In time I found that abusers melted away. I’d like to assume with Gandhian conviction that this happened because there is limited satisfaction to be derived from cursing and threatening a person who refuses to respond. Now I find the people on my followers list are primarily interesting film buffs with whom one can engage in a sensible conversation; the insecure, verbally violent sort rarely bother me now.

Question is: from personal experience, do I conclude that the Bollywood stars with the most active fans on the Internet are Salman, Rani, Aishwarya and Hrithik? Not necessarily. First, I believe it is unfair to gauge the fan activity of male and female stars with the same barometer. It is an achievement for the female stars and a measure of their extreme charisma (which the industry does not fully tap) that they have such massive fan followings considering that they almost never get the kind of larger-than-life roles that the men get. Second, the heavy activity among female stars’ fans shows a keenness to see them in the sort of projects that made them stars in the first place. Goes without saying, there are not enough such projects going around. After a while, the enthusiasm of the fan followings is bound to dwindle. Third, a star may have active fans on the Net even without being personally present on any web platform. Aishwarya, Kareena, Katrina, Rani and Ranbir are proof of that. Fourth, numbers don’t necessarily indicate activity, which is why when I uploaded this poll, I urged readers to read the question carefully. To my mind – and this is purely from observation – though Bachchan fans are extremely active on the Net, fans of SRK and Salman are even more so, possibly because Bachchan’s numerous projects are still the sort that one would see in a star’s second innings whereas SRK and Salman are right now at their peak. What about fans of the third Khan? Well, though Aamir is a massive star, he himself is relatively indifferent to the Net therefore the other two end up scoring over him in this respect. On the other hand, because of the kind of projects SRK and Salman choose, the kind of fan Shah Rukh attracts is more likely to be already active on the Net and able to articulate their views in comparison with the average Salman fan (not all, but most, please note). My guesstimate – which, incidentally, mirrors the analysis of the film industry too – is that Shah Rukh and Aamir fans have similar profiles while Salman and Akshay fans have similar profiles in terms of education, background and so on. 

My vote therefore:

Among the female stars, I’d say the ones with the most active fans on the Net (in this order) are: (1) Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (2) Priyanka Chopra (3) Rani Mukerji (4) Kareena Kapoor Khan (5) Deepika Padukone

Among the male stars, I’d estimate this order of fan activity: (1) Shah Rukh Khan (2) Salman Khan (3) Amitabh Bachchan (4) Akshay Kumar (5) Shahid Kapoor

Signing off now. Do vote in the next poll which will soon be up. 

Warm regards,


Photograph courtesy: Everymedia PR

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Release date:
November 15, 2013
Sanjay Leela Bhansali


Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh, Supriya Pathak Kapur, Richa Chaddha, Abhimanyu Singh, Gulshan Devaiah, Barkha Bisht

Sanjay Leela Bhansali is a freak. He is unlike most Bollywood filmmakers who assume that men have hormones and women don’t. And so in that beautifully choreographed song-and-dance Tattad tattad with which the hero Ram (Ranveer Singh) is introduced to the audience of this film, women watch expectantly as this delicious man starts stripping off his shirt, one lady faints at the first sight of his naked torso, another walks up to him to eagerly touch that bare skin. The men, meanwhile, dance with an energy that radiates from the screen right into the theatre, puffing out their chests like preening peacocks, quaking with bodily exuberance, almost seeming to vibrate with passion. Rarely before on the Hindi film screen have male and female libidos been given such equal and equitable treatment.  

Later, Leela (Deepika Padukone) gets her grand introduction. As her hair flies in the air, her garments swirl about her, she flashes that stunning smile and the endless slim torso goes on display, just as you’re thinking, “Hmm, we’ve seen this before,” she takes the wind out of the sails of a good-looking stranger who has the cheek to sexually challenge her.

That’s the thing about Ram-Leela (a.k.a. Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-leela): there’s nothing conventional about it. It’s based on Romeo and Juliet, but Bhansali has contemporised and Indianised it so much that it feels like Shakespeare’s play is just the foundation on which has been built this extravagant film. In a town in Gujarat, two wealthy criminal clans have been enemies for 500 years. Ram and Leela are on opposite sides of that fence. In the midst of his gun-toting relatives, the dandyish womaniser Ram sticks out like a sore thumb with his love of fun, frolic and the gentler side of life. Ram runs a porn shop, supports the family enterprise but decries their bloodlust. When he meets Leela, the physical attraction between them is electric and instant, but he also discovers in her a soulmate; a gutsy, unorthodox creature, unaffected by the family feud and possibly more drawn to him precisely because of his surname. Obviously the road ahead is not carpeted with roses, but what’s not obvious is how different their actions will be from the two teenagers at the centre of Shakespeare’s 16th century classic.

Bhansali’s film is as much about star-crossed lovers, their unquestioning faith in each other and the enmity between their families, as it is about the enemy within, intra-family power games, pacifism and even gender politics. The women of this film don’t cower behind closed doors, they’re equal partners to their men. Leela doesn’t wait for Ram to kiss her, she kisses him first. When he hollers at her, she hollers right back. When a don is felled by a bullet, it is not automatically assumed that the nearest male relative will take over. And unlike the heroine of last year’s horribly misogynistic Ishaqzaade, strong women here don’t roll over on their backs and pant in submission when love strikes. Into this scenario, the director weaves in song after song, with elaborate musical arrangements, sinfully lavish visuals and mesmerising dancers (Ranveer is excellent, Deepika and guest star Priyanka Chopra are angels of grace). Not all the songs are as melodic as Ram chahe Leela (featuring Priyanka) or as fiery as Tattad – frankly, a couple of them would probably be boring as standalone numbers minus the video, but that matters little within this film, so lovely is the manner in which they’ve been used, never once slowing down the narrative, rather adding to the tempo of the film each time.

Maxima Basu and Anju Modi’s costumes for Ram-Leela are works of art; DoP Ravi Varman and production designer Wasiq Khan’s every frame could be on a museum wall; the detailing in sound design by Parikshit Lalwani and Kunal Mehta, supplemented by Monty Sharma’s background score, takes the breath away. Ah well, that Bhansali will deliver an audio-visual spectacle is a given. In his last outing Guzaarish though, he showed us how tedious beauty can be and how it can rob a film of soul. Humans were arranged in that film to fit into carefully created sets. Even Devdas, magnificent though it was, occasionally felt overly self-conscious. Ram-Leela is different. Except for a couple of slow-mo shots of bodies falling into water and one or two where the leads look like they’re posing around, the film’s eye-pleasing nature at no point takes away from the fire at its heart. Nothing dwarfs the emotions at its core.

Ranveer and Deepika are perfect for their roles, both comfortable in their characters’ unabashed lustfulness, both capable of pulling off the dialogues occasionally written in verse (this perhaps being another of Bhansali’s bows to the Bard). Their chemistry is not quite in the league of Hrithik-Aishwarya or Kareena-Hrithik, but it’s pretty darned close. She looks impeccable in her gorgeousness. He looks a tad over-muscled in his opening scene, but is otherwise an eyecatcher as well. Their performances are so spot-on that it’s impossible not to laugh and cry with them. Of the very strong supporting cast, special mentions must go to Supriya Pathak Kapur and Richa Chadda as Leela’s mother and sister-in-law respectively, and Barkha Bisht as Ram’s sister-in-law, for managing to convey a devastating blend of strength and vulnerability.

The star of this film though is Bhansali. His screenplay (co-written with Siddharth-Garima) is a wonderful mélange of passion, politics, pain and even humour. There’s a lot of bloodletting, yet the camerawork is designed to downplay the gruesomeness, with surprisingly powerful results. The deliberately melodramatic tone never feels over-the-top. Quite to the contrary, the proceedings are very believable – this is probably how forbidden romance feels in Haryana under the watchful eye of khap panchayats. The film’s occasional follies are hard to notice if you’re holding your breath as often as I was while watching it. Ram-Leela is an adrenaline high.

Rating (out of five): ****

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
2 hours 34 minutes
Photograph courtesy: Everymedia PR

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Release date:
November 8, 2013
Ram Gopal Varma


Punit Singh Ratn, Anaika Soti, Amitriyaan, Aradhna Gupta, Mahesh Thakur, Makarand Deshpande (Narrator)

The kindest thing that can be said about RGV’s latest film is that it’s not half as bad as his Sholay remake Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag.

When Priya Mehra (Priyanka Chopra) in Krrish 3 said last week, “Krrish ek soch hai”, it made sense because she was pointing out that a superhero can never die if his convictions take root in the minds of the common people. Very much in that vein I guess, the eponymous hero of Satya 2 says at one point: “Company ek soch hai.” I suppose that’s his way of explaining how his gangster network (it’s literally called “Company”) can never die since its Robin Hood-esque agenda has been adopted by the masses. Yet it makes no sense, since nothing that comes before or after that grandiloquent line explains how exactly this man set up the Company, how precisely it works, what specifically it does or how on earth the public got wind of it while a crack police team failed to crack it.

Not that it matters, because by the time the film lumbers around to this scene, it has bored with its verbosity. God, it’s wordy! The narrator talks. The hero talks. Then the narrator talks some more. Then the hero talks and talks and talks. Worst of all, none of what they’re saying amounts to much though it’s evident that they’re trying to sound deep. Whatever happened to the Ramu we knew and whose work we once loved?

Satya 2 is the story of a small-town youngster called Satya (Punit Singh Ratn) who comes to Mumbai and quickly manages to become the top boss of the underworld. How? Never mind. He sets up a crime syndicate he calls Company without declaring himself or anyone else as its leader or openly linking the Company’s name to his own (unlike what that silly boy Dawood did with D Company). This is Satya’s magnificent strategy (magnificent in his opinion, not mine) to ensure that the police never catch him. They soon do, so what was the point of that strategy? Well, never mind that again.

While he’s busy with all this, Satya also makes time for a trio of friends: his lady love (Anaika Soti) who keeps biting her full lower lip, an aspiring film maker with a thick mop of curly hair (Amitriyaan) and a starlet with a flexible body (Aradhna Gupta). I describe the three in terms of their physicality because there’s nothing about their poorly written characters that’s striking. Soti can’t act to save her life, or this film. Amitriyaan and Gupta may possibly be better in a better film, though it’s hard to be sure. Ratn, on whom Satya 2 relies heavily, is not awful or anything – it’s just that he’s ordinary which, some might say, is worse. Watching him drone on about this and that, I found myself longing for the charisma of Nagarjuna from Ramu’s very first film Siva in Telugu (1989) and its Hindi remake Shiva; for Manoj Bajpayee’s memorable Bhiku Mhatre in the Hindi Satya; for Ajay Devgn’s brooding Malik and Vivek Oberoi’s explosive Nandu in Company. Watching Soti’s strange hip vibrations in a tacky honeymoon song-and-dance number, I found myself longing for Amala’s innocent charms in Siva/Shiva and Urmila Matondkar’s version of sexy in Rangeela.

No actor is better than their director, and Ramu was the man for all these stars. He’s also the man who forever changed the way Bollywood looked at the underworld when he made Satya in 1998. It was gritty, funny, bloody, dramatic and real. Four years later, he made the equally pathbreaking, slick, beautifully acted gangster flick Company. What happened between then and now is perhaps a question to which we’ll never find the answer. What turned Ramu from a pioneer into the creator of the most lacklustre sequel-to-a-classic in the history of sequels-to-classics? We may never find out. This much can be said with certainty: Satya and Satya 2 have nothing in common beyond their titles and director.

Oh wait … there’s a third commonality: I remember being moved to tears when I first watched Satya; by the time the credits rolled in Satya 2, my eyes were moist again – this time for the Ramu that once was.

Rating (out of five): 1/2

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
2 hours 33 minutes