Monday, 20 April 2009

"A role like Shabri is given to you once in a lifetime", Eesha Koppikhar

by Devansh Patel

On a hot summer day when you have to go and interview a hot actress, things start getting hotter the time you reach and ring a bell on that celebrity door. Then starts to cool down when you come to know that she has just declared her passionate relationship with her boyfriend open to the public and media. Welcome to the home sweet home of the Koppikhars. A maid opens the door and I see a scorchingly thin figure wearing a track suit in a wake up mood and mode. Took me a few seconds to figure out that the lady standing was Eesha. Sometimes a thin figure that makes clothes look elegant can seriously underwhelm without the curvature the camera adds. But as Eesha escorts me to her small cute little sitting area, I'm braced for a complete showdown. Miss Koppikhar was mesmerizingly lovely because her no-make up-face complimenting the track suit made her look like the world's cuddliest actress. All that was missing was the leonine spark familiar from photos and TV appearances. What hit the jackpot though was her million dollar smile and her face looking as crisp as a lady pink apple. Unbelievably, this is how she looks in morning-after mode. But before we began our candid chat, she introduces me to her grandmother, father, mother and Mougli, her pet Alsatian, who comes barking towards me. “It's a friend Mougli”, shouts Eesha. Mougli wags his tail in delight and accepts my greeting. Met the members? Now meet the pampered princess, for whom the greatest blessings aren’t found in the cordoned-off VIP area but around her family and her loved boyfriend, with whom the actress plans to get married sooner or later and live a happily ever after life. UK's Harrow Observer columnist and Bollywood Hungama's London correspondent Devansh Patel gets personal over the most personalised chat Eesha Koppikhar has ever had since her acting career where she talks about her soon to be released two Mukta Arts Films, her most ambitious unreleased project, Shabri, the turning point in her career and the love of her life, the handsome hotelier, Rohit Narang and her way of keeping busy after marriage. Over to the self made woman who quotes, “I have no God father in this industry. Just one God, one father and one mother”.

How did your likeness for Rohit Narang blossom into love?

Rohit and me were in touch over the phone and text messages for more than two years now. We've bumped into each other at social gatherings and I quite liked him as a person as he seemed to have a positive frame of mind and an honest approach in what he does. I started going around with him from the longest day of the year in 2008, June 21. And as I got to know him, I discovered that he is a very generous soul and a helpful person. Whatever I liked, gradually blossomed into love. So it's been a romantic journey since ten months now.

Post your new found love life, have you also found a new Eesha Koppikhar who'll be looking at films differently?

Yes, I found a new love life and a whole new Eesha Koppikhar but after Shabri, Ek Vivaah Aisa Bhi and a couple of more films like these, with or without Rohit, I made up my mind that I am going to be more selective with the kind of scripts I'll be taking on. I want to do films which portray some kind of a message now rather than just be running around trees. I want to be a part of serious cinema. I'm not saying parallel or cross over films but some serious, substantial roles which label you as an actor more than just a good looker.

So you're saying that in your acting career, you've only had couple of films worth signing?

Not really. But the fact is that people still remember me for my Kya Kool Hain Hum performance. Having said that, I've never really been that happy with my roles in terms of performances as it's a male dominated industry where female actresses don't have much to do anyway. Nevertheless, if something really nice comes my way which may not be that performance oriented, I may take it on.

Now you've got a helping hand at home, Timmy Narang aka Rohit Narang for your decision making.

Of course. Timmy is a business man and he is very analytical about what one should do. So he definitely throws in his inputs on how I need to handle my career. If it makes sense to me, I listen to him. If not, I don't (laughs).

Not many know that a programme on Sab TV called FIR was inspired by your character in Kya Kool Hain Hum.

You're right. FIR has Kavita Kaushik doing a Haryanvi accent just like I did in Kya Kool Hain Hum. The truth is that I met the director of FIR in Gold's Gym where he told me about his likeness for my role in the film and that he had created Kavita's role especially after seeing the film. That's an honour. Plus I've also got a few cops saluting me and saying that they want a character like mine in their police station.

Brief us about your first time experience of working with Mukta Arts?

Right Ya Wrong is a suspense thriller where I play a grey character. It's a very mysterious kind of a role. Then I'm doing my second film with Mukta Arts called Hello Darling which is an out and out comedy. I play Satyavati Chautala who gets a job in Mumbai. There is Celina, Gul and Javed Jaffery in this nonsensical and a mad comic caper.

What about your long awaited and anticipated Ram Gopal Varma film?

Oh God, yeah. Shabri it is. I play a gangster in the film. Actually a slum dweller, a woman who is spoilt and sandwiched between the Mafia and the cops. It is interesting to know that whatever films I've done for Ram Gopal Varma so far are all special appearances. A role like Shabri is given to you once in a life time. The role was so demanding for me that I had to be hospitalised after the film was over. You can imagine the amount of stress I got under to play a role of a slum dweller. If the role isn't done well, it can just fall flat on your face. I still don't know how the audiences are going to receive it but everybody I meet talks about when Shabri is going to release. Well, only RGV has the answer to that I guess.

Do you thank Lalit Marathe for watching RGV's D.

Yes, you can say that. Lalit who is still waiting for his directorial debut Shabri to be released saw me in D. He liked the scene from the film where I am washing the utensils just before Chunky Pandey gets killed. That's when he decided to cast me for Shabri, of course it was also Ramu who had his say. In fact, even after the death scene of Chunky, I got a call from Javed saab and Shabana ji saying that they hadn't seen an actress cry like that in any film. I was really ecstatic that evening after the comment.

But you were not Ram Gopal Varma's first choice for Shabri.

I still remember the day when Ramu called me to his office where he showed me a promo of Shabri which was cut with Antra Mali in it. But for some reason, things didn't work out with Antra and the director. Ramu too wasn't keen. But we all know how Ramu is. He was in two minds before he finalised me for the title role. But once he saw the rushes, Ramu was convinced. He said, “I can't believe it. I thought you would be the one who'd stick out as a sore thumb”. Even now when I look at my Don pictures and put them next to my Shabri pictures, I can't believe it.

We also hear about the Kali Mata's blessings in disguise which got you your dream role Shabri.

Yup. This incident took place just hours before I got my role as Shabri. I often visit the Sitladevi temple. Just next to Sitladevi is my kuldevi Shantadurga and bang opposite her is Kali Mata's temple. I paid my respects to Kali Maa. There is a saying in the temple that only a crying baby gets milk. So I asked. Asked for a rocking film to come my way. Then suddenly a flower fell right in front of me and I took it with me as her blessings. The same day I got a call from Ram Gopal Varma to come to his office. The rest is history.

What are the other things you've realised about yourself besides being an actor?

Apart from Eesha Koppikhar the actor, there are a lot of other things I want to do in my life. I love fitness and food. Timmy is a hotelier and I want to do something there as well. I don't want to work all my life doing just movies. So I am tapping different sides of my talent. Meanwhile, because of the current meltdown, I am also doing other activities. Like, I am appearing for my black belt in Tae Kwon Do. As for films, I am in and out of narrations, listening for new scripts, etc. My idea is not to do just anything to be busy and to keep my diary full. I want to do something like Shabri and Ek Vivaah Aisa Bhi. The fate of the film does not matter to me.

Aren't you fed up of the 'Khallas' song? I mean, you're still known in the media and your fans as the 'Khallas Girl'.

laughs). Khallas was a benchmark song for me. That's the song I was and I am still recognised by. That was a monster of a song. People had not seen a song like that. I mean, there is so much of me than just that song. Love it or hate it but you can't ignore 'Khallas'. Again, thanks to Ram Gopal Varma.

Elections are coming up Eesha. How secured are you today with what's been happening in our country?

I don't feel secured at all. I want a peoples government. I don't believe in politics. I believe in policies. Having said that, if I want my type of government, I better vote. The government has just been making plans but fail to execute them. They need to bring back the lost trust in us, and now is the time. Post 26/11, things have definitely changed. I am a celebrity. I may not go to a mall but when my friends or family visit, I get scared. That's what the black day has done to me.

Any of your films which Rohit has seen and has liked?

He liked Kya Kool Hain Hum, he cried seeing Ek Vivaah Aisa Bhi and loved Shabri. Me, Lalit and Rohit saw Shabri together. Rohit also said, “I don't know how this film will fare but you have done your best ever work in Shabri”.I then told him, "You look like this YRF film hero. You're tall, smart and suited all the time".

Saturday, 18 April 2009

"May be in the next elections, you'll see my involvement", Shreyas Talpade

exclusive by Devansh Patel

The only thing we learn from a new election is we learned nothing from the old. But post 26/11, things have started to get a bit serious...too serious it may seem for Shreyas Talpade. The elections are two weeks away and the actor who was personally invited on behalf of the Chief Minister of Maharashtra for the Prime Ministers meet recently has decided to enter active politics in the near future. After having a candid chat with Shreyas at his Waldorf apartments on an extremely hot summer afternoon over a cool, sweet and salty nimbu paani,we almost read the actors mind and figured out his inner most revelation - a politician thinks of the next election but a citizen like Talpade, of the next generation. Bollywood Hungama's London correspondent and UK's Harrow Observer columnist Devansh Patel travels to Oshiwara to find out more about the intentions of actors plunge into the big bad world of politics, his lost faith in the security and judiciary, his advice for the youngsters interested in joining politics and of course...his films, Paying Guest, Click and Aage Se Right.

Its a dog eat dog situation when you enter the political battlefield. You ready for it?

Well, let me clear the air. I was invited by the CM for the PM's party meet. They all spoke well and we sat there for a good couple of hours. I was accompanied by Subhashji and Manmohan Shetty. I wanted to meet our PM because I respect that person a lot but we didn't get a chance. I wasn't supporting any party as such. I was just invited and I had to honour the invite. Today our job doesn't end by going and voting. It's a little bit more than that. Post 26/11, we all are shaken up. Ab maamla ghar tak aa gaya hain. Today, one has to be a bit more responsible and involved, and if that involvement means me getting into politics, I really don't mind. So may be in the next elections, you'll see my involvement.

There is a price you pay when you join politics. How do you deal with it?

To a certain extent it is. Every now and then you hear some candidate being shot or murdered. Politics has become dirty. Someone told me that even today, the ratio of good people is more than that of the bad. When this same ratio is flipped, we need to be alarmed about. Having said that, there are lots more educated people coming into politics now and are trying for a change. And things will change. Perhaps it might take two more elections or let's say one more. We have got everything inherited from our ancestors and it's time we give something back to our future generation.

It seems you've lost trust somewhere.

You're right. I've lost faith completely post 26/11. I don't trust anyone. I just want that faith to come back. The whole idea is to trust someone or someone trust you. I was in South Africa when this whole Taj and Trident blasts happened. I was there for the next thirty days and missed being part of those rallies and ceremonies. I wanted to be with my India and my people in time of grief. I was frustrated. In fact, post 26/11, people have become a bit responsible if not trustworthy.

With so many successors ahead of you, as a youngster, how far do you want to reach in politics?

Let's say in acting, I want to be number one. I want to be the best and I'll do what I can to compete with SRK, Ranbir Kapoor or whoever. Politics is a completely different ball game all together. Politics is all about coming together than competing with each other. My idea is not to be the PM of India. But even if I can do something in my locality, it'll be great. If I can make my area a secure, I've won my election.

How much room is there for idealism in political leadership and achieving your goals?

I think idealism is the factor that'll prompt you or motivate you to do certain things. The word idealism exists but it's time we need to give some meaning and depth to it. Each party started off with some ideology and down the line we see that it has gone for a complete toss. Few days back I read an interview where Mr Sanjay Dutt was asked about his manifesto which stated that the party will ban English and there won't be computers, machines won;t be used for farming, etc. When asked Mr Dutt on his comments about the manifesto, he said, “I was busy campaigning. I didn't have time to read it”. My question is – What was Mr Dutt campaigning about? I think that things are really going wrong somewhere. Is there any room for idealism here?

Do you ever stop and think back how you could've handled things differently if you weren't an actor?

I don't know what I would've done. Probably get a stable job in a nationalised bank. And before you ask why a bank job, because there is an inter bank drama competition. That's how my hobby can be fulfilled.

If a young person came to you who wanted to live a life of activism, a political life, what would your advice be to him?

When I started doing Iqbal, there was one thing that Nagesh Kukunoor told me. If I ever wanted to succeed as an actor, he told me, I just needed to be honest with myself and the character I was portraying. I'd like to advice all youngsters to be honest to their selves in whatever they do.

What do you see as the biggest challenge ahead. Not just for you and India, but for the world which is heading quick in the 21st century?

At the moment, the biggest problem we are facing is security. Every side and part of the world is under tremendous tension. We are more worried now and want to find out who has come to live next to us, meaning our neighbours. Who are they? Where have they come from? Etc. The trust and security issue is what we need to handle in the current scenario. Most of our revenue is going in defence services, arms and ammunitions. So if that's the case, why is there a lapse in security each year? Get it sorted man!

Tomorrow if you join politics, what would be your Indian Dream?

Everybody wants to see India on the global map, the next super power, etc. That's secondary. I want to get my faith back and that's my primary concern. And not just me. The whole nation wants to get their sense of security and faith in the political scenario and the security of our country. If they can do that, I'll be like a King. That for me is my Indian Dream.

From a serious topic, lets move on to a bit on the light side. Films. Do you think post the strike, many films are going to suffer. I mean, there is always a right time and the right place for films to release?

I completely agree with you. I also feel that today people can smell films. They see the first promo and the first poster of the film and decide whether they want to go and watch it or not. But if your story is good, it'll work and recover its money, and that's not rocket science. For some films, a lot of word of mouth is required. My first film was pitted against No Entry. Still both films worked in some way or the other.

Take us through Click

Click is a horror thriller film directed by Sangeeth Sivan. I've worked with him in Apna Sapna Money Money. Actually, people see him as a comedy director but I guess his forte is suspense thrillers and horror. We've got some very good songs in the film too. And this is my first ever horror film. So I'm looking forward to it.

And Paying Guest?

It's a story of four friends who are staying as PG's out of India. One fine day they are kicked out from the place they are staying and the job they are doing. Due to certain circumstances, they have no place to live and no work to do. One lie to another and the balloon bursts.

What about Aage Se Right?

Aage Se Right is a comedy flick with a Pink Panther sort of humour. It's not slapstick. It's a UTV and Ronnie film. It's a story about a cop who loses his gun and there is a terrorist in the film too. He finds his gun but again the gun goes somewhere else. It's a bizarre thought but it's something never been made before. It's because of the one wrong 'right' turn I take and what happens.

Are you happy in the small space you've made for yourself in the industry?

I am very happy. I am also ambitious and want to grow and achieve a lot of things. I know I will but want to give a bit of time to it. I want to stay here for a long time. So with the pace I'm going, I am safe and sound. But in my entire journey, I'd love to work with Raj Kumar Santoshi because I think he has got a very honest and an aggressive approach towards all his films. Mani Ratnam is the next director I'd love to work with because of his superb and diverse filmography. Having said that, I've also worked with a completely different school of directors. From Nagesh and Shyam Benegal to Farah Khan.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Meet the boy next door from Delhi Belly, Wake Up Sid, India 24/7 aka Rann and Ghajini

by Devansh Patel

Rahul Pendkalkar waves cheerily as he walks into Candies at Bandra for his first ever interview which he is going to give to the media. Like any normal seven year old, he shakes hands nicely and sits down. He is accompanied by his mother and sister who sit along side him. The neat black hair and dark brown eyes are just as you’d expect after seeing him on screen; he’s in a short sleeved maroon shirt and beige shorts, with brown lace ups, neatly knotted. A kid next door. Any door. Almost.

But the thing that sets Rahul apart is his experience in talking grown up stuff with journalists. The answers are eloquent, not too smart or precocious, well considered and very short. For example, when we asked after seeing his cute little picture with Jiah Khan on what was the interaction like with the actress, he said, “Jiah Khan was so good. She let me sit on her lap and loved me lots”. Now that's what we like about the cute boy.

Coming from a lower middle class family, Rahul was interested in acting ever since he saw his father, Praveen, interested in the same profession. But being an advocate, he could not continue his passion. Then came Ghajini, Rahul's first film along side Aamir Khan, Jiah Khan and Asin where he was seen in the last cake cutting scene of the film.

Now that you know Rahul Pendkalkar was in love at first sight with Jiah Khan, what you didn't know was the fact that the original dialogue of Rahul during the final scene was suppose to be recited by another child. But as Aamir Khan saw Rahul repeat the lines which the other child could not grasp pretty well, the actor recommended the cute boy to A.R. Murgadoss who then made Rahul say his first ever dialogue in a Hindi film. After the pack up, Aamir walked up to Rahul and said, “Tu bahut upar jaayega”.

What followed after Ghajini were two big films which Rahul bagged. One of them was the Ranbir Kapoor and Konkana Sen Sharma starer, YRF's 'Wake Up Sid'. Rahul describes his experience on working with Ranbir and the film. The above picture was clicked at the YRF Studio while the shoot of Wake Up Sid was on. Talking about the film, Rahul plays Sanju, Ranbir's neighbour and Ranbir plays the role of a professional photographer who makes a portfolio of his cute neighbour Sanju. According to the kid, he got along very well with Ranbir and recalls his first time when he met the actor. “I was taking a nap when Ranbir came up to me and said Hi. I don't know how he came to know my name but I was very impressed”. What impressed us was the fact that Rahul didn't give away much of the film. A pukka pro we should say! YRF, you listening?

Now this picture story is quite interesting. Rahul's third film was the Aamir Khan productions with Imran Khan and Shehnaz Treasuriwala starer Delhi Belly. The strange coincidence is that Rahul's first assignment for an ad-film (Ambuja Cement) was directed by Abhinay Deo and that's how the director recommended him for Delhi Belly. When asked why didn't his album have his picture clicked with Imran, Rahul gets a bit upset and bursts his anger out, “I don't want to talk about Imran because I don't like him as he didn't click a picture with me”. We totally support Rahul on this one till we find out the other side of the story which his mother reveals, “Rahul is just kidding. He loves posing with the actors for a candid picture but we forgot to get him snapped with Imran”. Speaking a bit about the film, the cutie revealed that Imran plays a mechanic in Delhi Belly. The funny part is that each time, Rahul's on-screen father has to travel on his scooter along with Rahul and his on-screen mother to the mechanic to repair their car because the unfortunate car just cannot reach the final destination – their home. Here for a change, Rahul is all smiles and happy to pose with the producer of the film. Way to go boy!

This one was taken on the sets of Rahul's fourth film, Ram Gopal Varma's India 24/7, previously called Rann. We broke the story of the Rahul being hit by the glass door and how Mr Bachchan rubbed the ice pack on his forehead. Catch this! Way before the accident happened, Rahul was eager to meet the Big B, his icon. He says, “I want to become like Amitabh Bachchan when I grow up. I liked him in Bunty Aur Babli and Bhoothnath”. When Amitji entered the sets, Rahul quickly took his blessings by touching Big B's feet. “Jeete Raho beta”, said Amitabh and he started playing with him. Rahul quotes, “My dream was to work with Amitabh Bachchan and I have achieved that milestone. Now I want to work with the rest, starting from Hrithik Roshan, Salman Khan, Govinda, Sunny Deol and Bobby Deol”. The most shocking line was, “I want to work with Dharmendra too”. The seven year old loved Apne in which all the three Deols were present. Believe it or not, Rahul's next film is with Akshay Kumar which is going to be shot entirely in London. The film is yet untitled. Coming back to the picture, the young actor recalls his best incident from the sets of Rann. “When Ram Gopal Varma made a mistake in the script, Amitabh Bachchan shouted on him and improvised the scene himself. Nobody can be like him. He is the best we have. Thank you Ram Gopal Varma for seeing my Hindustan Times and the Fiat advert”.He adds, "Amitabh Bachchan plays my nana's role in India 24/7. He has called us home because my father in the film, Rajat Kapoor, does not take care of my mother in the film, Simone Singh. Paresh Rawal is my dadu in the film".

Jr Pendkalkar ends this lovely, fresh and candid chat with us by saying, "After Jiah Khan, I love Aishwarya Rai and Katrina Kaif. I want to have a picture clicked with them too". Sooo sweeet!!!

Friday, 10 April 2009

A Day spent on the sets of RANN with Ram Gopal Varma and Amitabh Bachchan

by Devansh Patel

You'd actually pinch yourself when you see both Ram Gopal Varma and Amitabh Bachchan on the sets together. But your dream soon becomes a reality when the director says 'Cut'. A series of stunning performances headed RGV's Sarkar and Sarkar Raj, and now Ramu brings together the best element he had crafted in these two films - Amitabh Bachchan. It's like achieving nirvana when you see the lethal combo back again, especially during the making of a film because it's exactly that moment when you come to know the making of genius.

My day started off a day before I visited the sets of RGV's Rann. A text message sent to the director reads – Hi Ramu, Have you started your Rann shoot again with Mr Bachchan? I'd like to visit the set. A prompt reply from RGV says – Ya sure. Just let me know when you want to come. And that's when my poetic instincts, according to RGV, comes into act. I reply him back – It'll be worth a watch to see the inventor meet the creator, to see the rebel meet the perfectionist and to see the master meet the sarkar. Having known Ramu for quite sometime now, I knew he would throw the ball in my court, and how! His text says – Now stop being a poet. B is shooting with me tomorrow.

But the question is 'Where'. I call the writer of Rann, Rohit Banawilker for details. 'Madh Island' was the answer. After a gruelling hour and a half I finally reached the destination. 'Viva Bunglows' was where the mighty star cast was present. Amitabh Bachchan in a dapper looking dark blue striped suit, Simone Singh draped in an off white kurta pyjama, Sudeep wrappped up in a shirt and jacket, Neetu Chandra covered from top to bottom in a peach coloured dress and Nina Kulkarni who plays Big B's wife in a beautiful saree. The contemporary look of the bungalow might take you by surprise because RGV has finally moved away from the chawls and the theek thaak looking gharana. All shared a strong camaraderie with Ramu. In the three hours I spent on the sets, two scenes were shot. In a day though, more than five scenes were done and dusted. That's a feat in itself. But don't get surprised. We all know that RGV likes to work at a lightning pace. What's more, his enthusiasm is infectious. Some directors direct from the TV monitor but he'll walk on set with the cameras and interacts with everyone fantastically. Varma's favourite DOP, Amit Roy, pans his camera in a tight close in one of the rehearsals. The director believes that the eyes and the facial expressions of the character speaks more in volume. You now know why Sarkar Raj had those tight close ups.

Having said that, on the flip side, RGV does what he believes that no other director would've dared to do. In one of the scenes where Nina Kulkarni and Neetu Chandra were seated on a sofa along with Sudeep and Simone Singh, a soft focus of Amitabh Bachchan seen in-between them from a distance was to be shot with no dialogues from the senior most actor. A figure like Mr Bachchan is in soft focus yet it is the most important scene according to RGV because he thinks that people still have their eyes on Big B. For a second, you want to believe that Big B was like a fly on the wall. He had to be there long enough that people forget that he was there. You have to second guess what is going on and to be there for three to four takes to get the moment. But it's only the fly that is in your mind. Killing the scene softly, RGV requests Amit Roy to then take his favourite shot – close up of Big B's facial expressions. 'Cut' says the director and off we go for lunch.

Szechuan Chicken with Roti and Curd was a perfect meal on a hot summer day and what better lunch than to have Ram Gopal Varma to give you company. We sat together in his vanity van discussing films, films and more films till the second shot was about to get ready. RGV rushes to the sets in time. He loves and respects time because I got to know from his well wishers that he has always finished his shoot early yet properly.

Shot two goes under way with a dining table breakfast scene where Sudeep, Mr Bachchan and Nina are seated where Big B again has no dialogues. With nothing to say and get the scene perfect has become RGV's trademark. Talk about a team player. He puts everything he has into it. But as soon as the shot was in its second take, a child actor named Rahul gets hit on his head against the glass slide door which he thought was open. The crew got worried but more worried was Mr Bachchan. He walks up to the main door from the breakfast table, orders the ice and rubs it gently on Rahul's forehead. Crying in pain, the cute boy couldn't see the fun coming his way. In order to divert the attention of Rahul, he rubs the ice on his face and slowly into his tee. Cry turned into smiles and in a second into a laughter for Rahul. Everyone including Ramu was present during the picture perfect moment when Rahul got his best pic clicked with Mr Bachchan before the pack up announcement was made.

On A Date With Minissha Lamba

World Exclusive by Devansh Patel

The beautiful and the innocent have no enemy but time. Minissha Lamba decided the time. “You have to see me walk. So be at the Grand Hyatt at 2pm”, said the gorgeous lady who was to be a show stopper at yesterday's Lakme India Fashion Week. Day one of the biggest fashion spectacle which celebrated it's tenth year, show 2 of designer Archana Kocchar saw Minissha open the show in the most stunning red gown that had a dramatic ghagra splashed with a profusion of roses which were lit with neon lights, and there she walked as if she had never walked before, there she looked all rosy presenting you with that era of innocence which set the mood for a glamorous evening just waiting round the corner at Del Italia in Juhu. As I always say – The innocent are so few that two of them seldom meet, but when they do meet, their victims lie strewn all around. But before I met the luscious Lamba at the LFW, I had something else planned for the lady a couple of days back. Flashback please.

Travelling by a luxury sedan for a date with someone special sets a tone of class and sophistication. I mean, it was my fifth date in the last five months, with the two of my last dates at the Indigo Cafe. Really felt like a brand ambassador. For that, I could've travelled in one anyway. But my busy, hot and humid schedule dampened my spirits. Not that Mini was to come in a one big fat stretched Limo. Hang on...she could've though. She's more than just an ambassador. Anyway, let me introduce you to my date of the day – I love to call her Mini, for the world outside, she is Minissha Lamba. It's been a strange trip for her it seems. Coming from a highly intellectual background, she might have expected to lead an academic life. Instead, much to her bewilderment and horror, she was seized upon by Bollywood and thrust into the limelight as the latest teen sex symbol. I hate to use this word 'sex symbol', so not symbolic for me. But if there is another way to describe this sexy blandly urbane lady, please feel free to post your comments below.
At precisely 3pm from the Film City, I send her a text message:
“Hi Mini, I've left Film City and will reach Indigo by 4. That fine with you lovey dovey?”
The alert from the other end came in a second:
“Just to be safe, let's make it 4.30. Running a bit late on my current appointment”
I love to get the convo going and thus sent her another beep:
“Make sure you have time to relax busy girl. Cool it down at Indigo”
Pat comes the reply:
“ to get me going for the next half of the day”.

4.30pm and my car headed towards Indigo. Almost a hundred meters away till I read something on my mobile – Message from Minissha Lamba, which read:
“Will be delayed by fifteen mins baba...just got done”.

Punctuality is what describes me. But when at 4.46, I reached the destination Indigo, Mini calls me: “Where are you?
I reply: “Just parking the car, see you in a second. What about you?”
Mini: “I am inside the cafe. Look who's late”

My mind couldn't think of anything better than the cult cliched dialogue from the 80's – Yeh sun ne se pehle main mar kyun nahin gaya.
In walks me dressed in my most comfy jeans and a pink tee with a chequered scarf adoring my neck....and there she was sitting peacefully, in her own sweet serenity. I come close to her, make eye contact and a warm hug made things much more relaxed...finally.

I'm sure all this sounds more like a screenplay, with the camera on the trolley taking a full 360 degree capturing the mood, the essence and the intensity in Mini's eyes in a soft focus and me standing in a blurred out pink as I play a second fiddle here. Now if that's the case, here's the script:

ML: “Hey, how you doing?”
DP: “Not so perfect. Late by a minute and a half”

We look at each other for a good few seconds as if we had forgotten our lines. I went colour blind but Mini could see many colours.

ML: “That's a nice pink I've seen in ages. It looks good on you”
DP: “Thank you Mini, but I'm straight”
ML: (smiles) “I mean, there aren't so many who can carry the pink so well”
DP: “I know I can because I'm slim”
ML: “Yeah, but you don't have to be macho to make pink look cool”
DP: “You're right. I don't have to put on the meat”
ML: “And why do you wear a scarf on a hot summer day?”
DP: “To protect my neck from being burnt. You see, you girls are lucky to have long hair not exposed to the sun. This is my way to stay cool”.
ML: “Very interesting. I couldn't have figured that out”

The attendant comes with the orange coloured menu. Thought it could've been indigo. What to order was the next big question.

: “So what's the speciality here Mini?”
ML: “I thought you've been here for quite a few dates”

Ooops...bad homework. That made me look like a fool upfront but I pulled it off somehow.

DP: “Yes I have but every time I've visited this place, either it's the coffee or the juice”
ML: “Got it. I'll order a coffee. I've recently started my daily dose of caffeine intakes”

When you see Minissha Lamba’s svelte physique, you’d never imagine she loves regular coffee. To be precise, a moccachino. Does she even have a trainer, I ask myself. The attendant arrives with his pad and a pen.

ML: “Could you get me something that'll wake me up please? I'll have a nice caramel coffee”
Attendant: “Try Moccachino ma'am”
ML: “Alright but make sure it's got some chocolate flakes added in it”
DP: “And I'll have something that can make me mad”
ML: “What's that?
DP: “I'll have a nice extra hot black coffee please”
ML: “Why don't you have something to eat Dev”
DP: “I'm keeping it slim now-a-days”
ML: “Then order yourself a salad or something”
DP: “I'm fine love, trust me”

The attendant leaves.

DP: “So tell me what's happening with you after Abba Ka Kuan?
ML: “Not signed any film as of now”
DP: “Ok. And how's Abba doing”
ML: “Boman is a darling. I think he is in town”
DP: “It's been ages I've met him”.

My eyes spot the lovely big copper coloured Armani leather watch Mini was wearing but what I didn't spot was that she had her eyes on mine too.

DP: “You an Armani person?”
ML: “Not really but I noticed your Armani dial and it's similar to mine. I like Earth colours and that's why I like this watch”
DP: “So if I open your wardrobe, I'm sure to find green, brown, grey, blue?”
ML: “Kind of. But I am seasonal. One time I wear shades of blue, sometimes you'll see me shades of red, etc”
DP: “Yeah. The last time I saw you, you were adored in red from top to toe”
ML: “Yes, that was our first meet during my Kidnap days”
DP: “What make is your mobile?”
ML: “It's Nokia. But I'm now planning to buy a Blackberry. All my friends use that. Is it a nice choice? And which one do you use?
DP: “I've got my I-phone but the Blackberry is a smart choice. Make sure you go for the Storm, the latest one from the range of Blackberry”.

Our coffee arrives. A frothy one for Mini and a filtered black one for me. Both of us cheer our white cups to our friendship. The talk continues...

DP: “I liked your exclusive photo shoot which you did for Bollywood Hungama”
ML: “Thank you. But I am always confused as to how these things fall in place”
DP: “Don't task your mind love”
ML: (smiles) “So how's work going?”
DP: “I am loving it. Feel like working 24/7. Busy with my newspapers in London and loyal as always to Bollywood Hungama”
ML: “That's very good”
DP: “I heard you too wanted to become a journalist, right?”
ML: “I wanted to become a War journo who would cover the real things, everything real and as it happens. It's challenging”.
DP: “You aren't from any army background right?”
ML: “Nope. I've seen a lot of India because my father was a hotelier”
DP: “So that doesn't make you a Mumbaiker then”
ML: “I'm just a three and a half year old girl in Mumbai”
DP: “So what have you still got to see in this beautiful city?”
ML: “Except Versova, where I live, I haven't seen much of anything” (smiles)

At 5.15pm Mini's mobile rings. She talks for a few minutes.

DP: “Please let me know when you want to go. I'm sure nothing was that urgent”
ML: “It was just a friend. But I've got to reach Juhu at 6pm for one last meeting I've got scheduled”
DP: “That's going to take ten minutes from where we are in Andheri”
ML: “Not with a traffic like in Mumbai”
DP: “You bet. But we still have twenty minutes to kill. That's fine with you right?”
ML: “Of course yes”
DP: “So what else is happening? I'm sure the industry is going to see it's dark days with this whole strike thing of the multiplexes”
ML: “To each their own. I'm sure everyone has got their own view points on this. But we have to have a common ground for a mutual agreement on an issue like this”.

The coffee in Mini's cup is almost over. But here's what was really delicious. She took a spoon kept along side her cup, swirls it inside the cup and gets the sticky chocolate residue to tickle her taste buds. That could've been a well shot scene.

DP: “That's sweet Mini. Tell me something, do you have a low sugar problem?”
ML: “No but I have a low blood pressure sometimes. Did you enjoy your coffee?”
DP: “I loved it. It's the first time I'm having a black filtered coffee in Indigo. Can't get real than this”
ML: “What do you mean?”
DP: “Filter coffee is better than the processed ones you get in glass jars. These are coffee beans crushed to the core, packed and sealed. I'm missing Starbucks”
ML: “I've heard it's soon coming to Mumbai”
DP: “That's good. Costa needs some competition”
ML: “Yeah, but Barista and Cafe Coffee Day too serves you some good coffee”
DP: “Ok. Now tell me when are we shooting your video for the Elections and the Earth Day?”
ML: “Why don't you come with your guys to the Hyatt on the 27th March. I am a show stopper for the day. We can do it in the lobby once I'm over”
DP: “Great”
ML: “But why are you just coming to shoot your video, you have to come to see me walk too”
DP: “And who's going to arrange for my passes?”
ML: “Don't be silly. You're coming with me backstage”
DP: “Now that's getting me excited”
ML: “I'm sure if you have your Press card, you'll be alright anyway”
DP: “You bet! I struggled getting into the Film City today”
ML: “Show me your Press card Dev”
DP: “You must be joking. You'll die seeing my five year old picture. I'm not showing you”
ML: “Shut up. Just show me your card”

That could've ended my date in a spur of a moment. I take my wallet out, then slowly take my Press card out. Mini grabs it. Has a good close look at it and utters:

ML:“You look good here. What's wrong with the pic?”
DP: “It's a five year old pic Mini. Come May this year, I'll be getting old. You should look at some of my better pics like the ones on Facebook”

The attendant comes and clears our cups and Mini again humbly asks me to have something again. So sweet of her. She then looks at the time. The time was right. 5.40pm. She had to leave for her appointment as promised. Not a right time to part though. But our convo could've never ended. Mini takes her sun glasses out and pop comes my branded talk, “Ok, let me guess what make are they. Armani? Guess? Gucci? Givenchy? Versace?” All my brand guessing was a waste. The clever than me Mini reverts, “It's Bvlgari”. So as I get up and be a perfect gentleman by allowing Mini to walk past me as a perfect lady dressed in her jeans a cute casual white sleevless top with her glairs on, she takes a pause, calls her driver. I too call mine. Her Accord arrives. My Corolla doesn't. I call him again only to figure out that he had parked it a bit far off. The professionalism in Mini comes into act. She waits for me till my car arrives. She again takes a pause. And that was killing me softly. I could see it coming. She said, “You remind me of someone”. I got it. She continues in the same breath, “You resemble so much like Farhan in the way you talk and dress”. That made Minissha Lamba the seventh person to make me realise that. Will have to seriously take this up with Farhan the next time I bump into him. I wasn't embarrassed on the compliment but more on her waiting for my car to arrive so she could depart. I put my foot down. “You need to go Mini, please leave, I'll be fine”. A warm hug and a promise that we'll hook up on the 27th March at the Grand Hyatt made us cheer up while we parted ways. Thank you Mini for being who you are - simply irresistible!

"I promise that we three Wiz Kids will dance in our twentieth year", Andre Timmins - IIFA Founder

exclusive by Devansh Patel

2000 London, 2001 Sun City, 2002 Malaysia, 2003 Johannesburg, 2004 Singapore, 2005 Amsterdam, 2006 Dubai, 2007 Yorkshire, 2008 Bangkok. It's been nine years of unlimited fun and entertainment where you saw the world's hottest and the most sought after acts on stage, where you witnessed your most loved Bollywood celebrity taking home their most deserved award, where you stood outside the red carpet braving the cold, hot and sometimes rainy weather only to get that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet your favourite celebrity in person, and where you adored the beautiful colourful flowing gowns and the more beautiful faces that compliment them. What started off as a one night affair at the Millenium Dome (now called the O2 Arena) nine years ago is now a three day weekend filed with activities, events, business tie-up's, world premieres and the biggest awards night of the Hindi Film Industry to take place outside our Indian soil. In the year 1988, Wizcraft International Entertainment was born. Come 2000, IIFA was born. And the ones to give birth is a strong, dedicated and a supportive team of the three Wiz Kids - Andre Timmins, Sabbas Joseph and Viraf Sarkari. Would you have ever in your wildest imagination thought that an ex DJ, a former journalist and an ex night manager of a hotel would've formed a formidable team that gave birth to one of the biggest brands in India called Wizcraft? What's even more interesting is when you get a chance to meet some of the most creative minds from the world of entertainment because you never know what they've got up their sleeves. Such an encounter took place yesterday at the J.W Mariott where one of the Wiz, Andre Timmins, took some time off from his busy schedule for Bollywood Hungama's London correspondent and UK's Harrow Observer columnist Devansh Patel where they recalled their last chanced encounter at the IIFA Yorkshire two years ago. But more than us remembering our long last chat, we hurriedly get on to the current one as that was sure to take more time with the coffee getting cold. Andre spoke in length about IIFA in its tenth year, the importance of voting for such awards, the global meltdown hitting the IIFA, the brand ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, what makes IIFA different from the rest of the award functions, his plans to rope in the entire cast and crew of Slumdog Millionaire at IIFA 2009, his future plans to take IIFA back to England and a promise - that in IIFA's twentieth year, all the three Wiz Kids will perform on the stage. But before all the above began, the cute Wiz said those golden words, “ Ten years ago, the journey was driven by passion. Ten years later, we have the same passion or may be more”. A passionate chat continues....

IIFA is in it's tenth year now. A journey worth it's wait?

(smiles) Oh yes. When we started off in London in the year 2000, none of us knew what was in-store for us. Ten years ago, the journey was driven by passion. Ten years later, we have the same passion or may be more. For us, IIFA is very close. IIFA 2000 was a one night affair and was extremely difficult. It was even more difficult for the celebrities then to understand what we were trying to do. Across the board, as the years passed by, we realised that we had a winner on board. It's a win-win situation now. So as we sit back and look, we see that it's benefiting our country, our sponsors and the host country. We have created a home brand called IIFA which we've taken out across the globe today only to get the recognition it deserves.

You've just finished your voting weekend and we hear that it created history. Explain.

We've just finished the voting weekend three weeks ago with the first vote cast by Mr Amitabh Bachchan. Voting is the pulse of the industry. You're right, for the first time we did above 1500 individual votes and it's never happened before in nine years. So that itself gives us the encouragement that we want to go out there and do our best for the industry. There is a buzz out there and people in the industry want to come out and support IIFA.

The world is not going through the same win-win situation like you Wiz kids. Has the global meltdown hit IIFA too?

From the meltdown perspective, yes, its been tough. At one point, we were thinking of bringing back the IIFA to India for its tenth year. A lot of people suggested that to us in tough times. But if there is a good product, people will surely back it. That's what we are seeing in the support of our sponsors, support of Star Plus, support of the media, etc. Recession has brought the world to spend their money wisely. I mean, even the Academy had their lowest ever budget for this years Oscars.

And there can't be an interview without the mention of the great ambassador called Amitabh Bachchan.

(laughs) Without Mr Bachchan, IIFA would not be where it is. His support and passion to the brand is worth saluting. We sometimes get embarrassed because we go to him two or three months prior to the event for his dates. And he surprisingly accommodates us and has been doing it since a decade now. Today I know why people choose different people as ambassadors. For us, he is more of an advisor. He has got so much wealth of knowledge that you have no idea about. When he talks, and when you listen, and follow what he says, you're bang on target and will never go wrong.

There has been a lot of debate on award functions being biased. What really makes IIFA different from the rest of them?

We are the last in the row. The question is, how the industry perceives it. We believe that anything that you do, if you're not honest enough to do it in the right manner and don't have the guts to do it, you'll fail. I remember when I went to invite Anil Kapoor for the IIFA 2000, he said that he would come, and eventually did not turn up in spite being nominated. The first two or three years, we had a very tough time bringing in the nominees. Now here's what happened. Anil Kapoor won the award that year and we sent the trophy to his house. The next time I bumped into him, he said, “I did not come and I won the award”. That's what IIFA stands for. We are unbiased because our process is very different. We have the industry voting. You have to have an international release for you or your film to get nominated. Then it goes for voting. After that, the nominations are put open to the public. Then it goes to the public voting and finally the winners are chosen. There is no jury here. Over 600,000 people vote. 30% vote from America, 25% vote from the UK, the rest from India and the Middle East. IIFA doesn't invite the nominees alone, but the entire film fraternity grace the event. Last year, Shah Rukh Khan won the best actor award even though he doesn't grace the IIFA's. Now is that being biased?

I'm sure lobbying was great fun then?

Yes it was. We had the entire team from films like Jodha Akbar, Fashion, Rock On, etc. What does the Oscars do? The studios lobby. They keep showing their films to people there. You can't be sitting at home and not contributing. You need to go out and vote. You cannot say that I don't like tis government and so I won't vote. At least vote for the one you like. The majority of the people who came and voted this time around were not the stars but the technical teams. We've done the lobbying for the IIFA's, now it's your turn.

So how is it to turn green since IIFA Yorkshire?

Great. We support the environment in a big way and we're taking it up very seriously. We've done events like Light a Billion lives and plant a billion trees at the Unforgettable Tour. At IIFA Bangkok last year, we planted a tree with the Bachchan family. It's easy for us to endorse this thought provoking message through our celebrities because the world follows them, so why not follow them in their noble cause. We are the first people as far as the awards are concerned to take this cause forward. We want to go out loud and clear – We want to go green.

Any international celebrities gracing IIFA 2009?

(laughs) You want me to disclose the venue right?

We know where it is.

(laughs) Well, the world will know soon, come April mid week. I can tell my audience that this years IIFA are going to take place somewhere in Asia. Bollywood has worked with some of Asia's biggest stars in films, and we are trying to get them to the IIFA this year. We are also trying to get the entire cast and crew of Slumdog Millionaire to the IIFA 2009 as it'll be their last award function before their journey ends.

We've been getting a lot of feedback from the UK for IIFA to return back next year 2010 to where it all started. Any plans for that?

England has always been home for us. While we were promoting IIFA 2000 around the world, I remember the entire anti-approach towards the show being held there. Millenium Dome is now called the O2, the same place where we did our Unforgettable Tour. So we would love to go back to England. In fact, we've got a lot of request from the region that they want to bring IIFA back. But as you know that we've just finished IIFA Yorkshire in 2007, it's too early to decide on taking it back. But we will someday.

Anything you'd like to remind people that June is coming...get ready for the IIFA's?

I wouldn't like to remind anything. But people like you'll, the media, who support us and get our message across the world should be thanked for this. We've got different ambassadors around the world, whether it's South Africa, UK, America, Europe, etc. We've managed to make friends like you who've spread our love to the people. This goes to everyone out there who've loved us, “Come and support us like you've always did, be a part of the IIFA 2009 and be there in person and enjoy our tenth year”.

I'm sure we've got great choreographers who can make all the three Wiz kids perform on the stage for the tenth year.

(laughs) Many people ask us in our meeting across different countries – Who does IIFA belong to? And we say – IIFA belongs to the Indian Film Industry. Seeing three of us on the stage is very rare and that too to shake our leg (laughs). The event is so large, that we all have our individual expertise. Viraf, one of the Wiz, has never ever witnessed any of the other events taking place except the main event which is the awards night. But this year, he will be able to see all the events because everything is happening under one roof. In our meeting last week, he said, “It's the first time I'll see the fashion show, it's the first time I'll be at the world premiere”. So that's the dedication we all have. I promise that we three Wiz kids will dance in our twentieth year (laughs).

"Aa Dekhe Zara is my first film in the UK and I'm really excited", Neil Nitin Mukesh

By Devansh Patel

The world is full of what ifs and what might have beens. When, in 2007, Neil Nitin Mukesh received a raft of glowing reviews for his shape-shifting efforts in Johnny Gaddar and then was announced as the next best thing , many of his compatriots wondered where this new Indian phenomenon had sprung from. Unlike most of his Hindi film star peers, he had not served an apprenticeship in TV or on the stage, he was not a household name or face. His sudden rise to the Bollywood prominence seemed oddly spectacular. Add more, his debut film wasn't even released in the overseas but those few who witnessed his extraordinary work knew he had arrived. The rest would remain in the dark till he emerged as the new thriller boy in his next film Aa Dekhe Zara, yet another thriller, this time around with the sexy Bipasha Basu as his co-star. In months to come, Neil's journey now seems worth examining with back to back releases in the form of Yash Raj's New York followed by Madhur Bhandarkar's Jail. Well, for a change, Neil is looking for a mighty mainstream career ahead of him. One film old and he is notoriously hard to pin down but we managed to nail him just in time while he was busy rock n rolling along with his new band for the film, ADZ- Rising, promoting his film by touring different cities across India. Bollywood Hungama's London correspondent and UK's Harrow Observer columnist Devansh Patel caught hold of the actor who has stepped aside from his peers and shown himself to be one of the country's most unusual and potentially important stars. Of course, he too makes a singing debut, but it's in his blood for god sake! Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for the ever so suave and the smooth operator Neil Nitin Mukesh in an exclusive chat on his next big thriller, marketing strategies, his wish to sing with Bips, his wish to sing with his dad, his excitement on his first overseas theatrical release, followed by some scary moments, some behind the scenes photography skills and a sneak peek inside his future from his magical camera.

What's keeping you so busy not to reply back to our calls?

I'm so sorry yaar! It's this road trip I'm doing along with our band ADZ- The Rising which is keeping me busy 24/7. I'm talking to you from our road trip which is touring different cities to promote Aa Dekhe Zara.

All this marketing strategies have taken over the film world by storm. Do you think a good story needs to be marketed well? I mean, if the story is good, it'll work anyway.
You're right, if the story is good, it'll work anyway. But any good product needs to be marketed well to create an awareness of it that it exists, right? Any product for that matter needs to come in the eye of the consumer or the audience. If we sit at home and do not go out there to let the people know of our acting skills, how's anyone going to know who Neil Nitin Mukesh is.

So is Johnny going to be a gaddar again?

(laughs) No, not really. Johnny is not a gaddar for a change in Aa Dekhe Zara. Johnny is a plain and a simple guy in this film who is known as Ray Acharya.

Did you desperately want Bipasha Basu to sing the title track along with you?

Yes, I wanted her to be a part of the song which was so important. So I pitched the idea to her and was hoping that she would agree to lend her voice to the title track, Aa Dekhe Zara. It would've been great if Bipasha could sing the song in the film because I am emotionally attached to the song.

Singers galore in your family. To sing must've been an easy task isn't it?

No it wasn't an easy task. Aa Dekhe Zara is a legendary song and it's not an easy song to sing. It's a song sung by one of the world's best singer, Kishore Kumar, it is composed by one of the world's finest music director, R.D Burman. So to re-create something which was already created was difficult and when I sung the title track, it was a tribute to the legendary Kishoreda, R.D Burman saab and my grandfather.

Your first two films are thrillers. You fit the genre pretty well or is it the other way round?
(laughs) In this film, I play a guy with so many layers to him. I always like doing character oriented films. I don't think my fair skin and chocolate boy looks really matter then. It really depends on how well sketched the character is and how well the director can handle the actor in that surrounding. Ray Acharya will show you all the shades in Aa Dekhe Zara as a boy next door who gets special powers and thinks that his problems will get solved without realising that he is creating bigger problems for himself. Gone are the days of super heroes who prove that they can save the world. Here comes the days that you really attack on the fact that there is selfishness in everybody. That's where Ray Acharya gets sucked into.

This is going to be your first release in the U.K. You looking forward for the fan following after the film?

(laughs) Yes, this is my first film in the U.K. I am really excited. Johnny Gaddar wasn't released theatrically but the film did well amongst the selected few in the dvd market by a strong word of mouth. But I was hoping for Johhny Gaddar to release in the overseas. But with God's grace and the love and affection of my audiences, Aa Dekhe Zara is going to release in the U.K and I am thrilled.

What's with these debutant director huh? What really doesn't make them – The first timers?
Jehangir is young, enthusiast and has a great vision of cinema. That's what these debutant directors possess. What really attracted me to do this film was, even though the concept was larger than life and it's a fictitious film in every sense, it's about a guy who gets the camera which shows the future. But the way Surti has handled the future element is so neat that you can relate to it. He wanted the surroundings to be real more than his characters. These few and many more qualities didn't make Jehangir a 'first timer'.

First Johnny Gaddar, then Aa Dekhe Zara, your next release will be Yash Raj's New York followed by Madhur's Jail. The challenges keep on growing as an actor for you. But how do you surpass them?

When I had worked on Johnny Gaddar, I thought I had done one of my best films and the most challenging role of my career. It was very difficult to portray a character like Vikram in Johnny Gaddar who was vulnerable and meticulous. I was hoping that another script like this should come my way and it came in the form of Aa Dekhe Zara which had a different portrayal of my character and emotions, and then ofcourse, Omar, the role I play in New York was far more challenging than in Johnny Gaddar too.

If you had a camera which showed you the future, what would you like your future to look like?

(laughs) I'd like my future to be bright. But I don't want to be looking at my future. But if I had a camera like the one I have in the film, you'd find me at the race course or may be at the Dalal street dealing in shares (laughs).

Did you play around with the camera by taking some stills on and off the sets for any of your films?

Today I can say that I am a professional photographer. I was in New York for hundred days when I learnt photography for my film New York. The film medium we work in is the only moment where we can capture every moment on the camera. Today when I sit back, I sometimes go back to my school and college days but I really can't bring those moments back on the lens. Film making allows us to do that. Yes, I did capture some moments from Aa Dekhe Zara.

Any scary moment?

Yes, there was. I jumped nine floors down which was really scary. I don't think I'll ever do that again.

The film looks very pacey, isn't it?

Aa Dekhe Zara is a musical thriller. The songs are very situational. We have some great music by Gaurav Das Gupta and Pritamda. I think the music is helping the narrative of the story very much. At the same time, there is action which is limited but is more thrilling. And considering it to be a thriller, Aa Dekhe Zara is an under two hour film.

Now that you've made your singing debut, are we ever going to hear you sing 'So Gaya Yeh Jahan' from Tezaab, the cult classic your father had sung?

I'd love to sing 'So Gaya Yeh Jahan' from Tezaab along with my dad (laughs). I kind of need some support from him in that song because it's difficult to sing that number. I've actually been forcing him to re-create that song in his voice and mine. If given a chance or an opportunity, we'd love to do that.

Any message for your U.K audiences?

Go and watch one of the best thrillers you'll ever see, Aa Dekhe Zara. Thank you for the love and suport shown towards Johnny Gaddar by seeing it on the DVD and I'd love to visit the U.K after the release of ADZ.

Movie Review - STRAIGHT ***

Exclusive by Devansh Patel, Harrow Observer, UK.

We, the so called reviewers, have always criticised majority of small budget, foreign locale shot films for reasons best known to us only. But Straight comes as a cool breeze on a hot summer day because it’s refreshing to see homosexual relationships and straight relationships treated equally. This isn’t another one of those annoying gay rights movies, it just wants to have fun. Let me take you through a funny little film that really deserved more attention than it got.

The film smartly opens up with a very funny animated display of Kaki's (Ketaki Dave) long lost family scattered in different parts of the world. But in this long elastic Patel family, Pinu's (Vinay Pathak) parents are no more and it's his Kaka (Rasik Dave) and Kaki who bring him up only to see their little big Pinu who is the owner of London's best Indian restaurant, Gaylord, get happily married. And there lies the problem.. The first one arrives in the form of Payal. She rejects Pinu and he gets heart broken. Then comes another to-be bride of the groom who just wants to get out of the so called 'arranged marriage'. Pinu loses it all. But why him? Can't he find his perfect match? Is he confused? Is he a gay? Is he straight?

A simple soul at heart, Pinu has many complexes - a special one being that he is a virgin and has experienced no intimacy with a woman. To top that, his biggest fear is to be laughed at by people - an ever-repeating phenomenon with him. To help him get out of the mess is his trusted foster brother Rajat (Siddharth Makkar) who is a singer and makes his living by performing gigs in Convent Garden, pubs and restaurants and gay clubs. After returning back to London from a failed marriage, Pinu tries to join the jigsaw puzzle of his life. Enter the suave stand up comedian and a cook, Kamlesh (Anuj Chaudhary) and the extraordinarily gifted caricaturist with a smile to die for, Renu (Gul Panag). Both come to Gaylord looking for their individual jobs. While Kamlesh who wants to become a stand up comedian by profession lands up as a cook, Renu on the other hand lands up as a cashier with dreams of pursuing a profession of a cartoonist. Within days, Gaylord begins to transform and so does Pinu Patel. The virgin had what he always wished for – the best of friends in the form of Kamlesh and Renu. The road ahead looked all straight. But not for long. I leave the tedhi-medhi journey for you to discover.

I would again like to thank Uttam Gada for not going over the top. The ingenious dialogue occurs in quick, humorous spurts. The characters speak in a witty, candid, spontaneous style as the dialogue cleverly directs the story in unexpected ways. With amusing references it’s difficult not to like the film’s many quirks. How can you dislike a movie that has so much fun like the "fuzzy wuzzy was a bear...." rhyme? With all the melodramatic matrimony in the world, it's about time Bollywood gives us a break from it all. Straight has a lot of fun with its material, and we have a lot of fun watching it. Sitcom gags provide the comedy and contrived angst provides us the drama.

One might argue that Vinay Pathak kept the best role for himself, and why not? His commitment issues and his inability to fully communicate his feelings come into sharp focus in the film. Vinay's role offers a layered performance that grows as the film unfolds. It is a particularly remarkable achievement, one that hopefully will assist the actor in breaking out of the mould of being typecast, which many critics think that he is. Gul Panag is picture perfect and as brilliant as ever. She is like an plain white empty canvas. By the end of the film, you'll see her in more colours than just one – witty, smart, sexy and poised. The other lead actors, Anuj Chaudhary and Siddharth Makkar are relatively unknown, yet they’re strong across the board. They're impressive, strikes a strong chemistry with Pinu Patel's character and are charming and funny. Not to forget, Ketaki Dave too brings in her gujju style humour as an added ingredient to this yummy film.

A high five for director Parvati Balagopalan. She has indeed found out the pyaar ka superhit formula this time around. In her second offering, Paravati wisely utilizes her strong roster of supporting characters to create a striking balance. For me, she claims the centre stage.

Straight charmingly plays on the fact that once we learn about someone's likes and dislikes, once we learn what is important to them, those things take on a resonance of their own. It is things such as this in the film that keep it firmly anchored into a realm that anyone can identify with.
Take your run-of-the-mill romantic comedy with all its prerequisites, insert large portions of clever and entertaining banter and have it delivered by an impressive and colourful cast of performers, and you’d have Straight.
In a nutshell, the movie has enough energy and an entertaining, natural sense of humour to provide an enjoyable ride whether you're gay or straight.

Rating – 3 out of 5.

"I adopted Boman as my father while we were off the sets", Minissha Lamba

Exclusive by Devansh Patel

For once she was the petite and a cute girl next door. Not any more though. Looking lean, luscious and rosy cheeked is Minissha Lamba these days. Lean because that's how many of the abba ki daughters look now a days, right? Luscious because each time you see her photo-shoots, you go oh-lalala and rosy cheeked because she has just wrapped up her latest flick 'Abba Ka Kuan' in Hyderabad directed by one of Indian cinema's finest film makers, Shyam Benegal, not to forget, she had a blast out there too.

Being smart, well-read and occasionally outspoken, she can switch to humour from high drama in a split second, and doesn't she remind us of the sexy Heather Graham? Not that we are playing the comparison game here but this Indian siren has the same combination of freshness, intelligence and a great body like her Hollywood compatriot. Speaking exclusively over the phone only for Bollywood Hungama, the actress shares her unforgettable Hyderabadi connection.

“Mostly we were restricted to Ramuji Film City where we were shooting and even though it was an outdoor schedule, this has been one of my most relaxed schedules I've been on. The place we were put up was completely secluded from the city and was very beautiful. There were no cars around and suddenly when you're so cut off from the world around you, you've achieved nirvana”, exclaims Mini. We love calling her by that name. But the one name which the actress can't get out of her mind is of the master and mentor, Mr Shyam Benegal. “Shyam sir is a veteran. It was a pleasure working for him because even after the end of a gruelling one month in Hyderabad, he was still recharged without the exhaustion and the pressures of shooting an entire film in one go under soaring temperatures of 45 degrees celsius”.

Now we don't like to give this out but we have to. Did you guys know that Lamba loves to get her hands on the spicy hot biryani? What's disappointing is the fact that....We'll let the temptress do the talk. “My God! I tried my level best not to indulge in the mouth watering biryanis. So my staple diet out there was curd and rice, the famous South Indian delicacy. That kept the heat away for a bit”. Mini is also a good sport, not that she is talking to us about her just finished film, but the fact that she got the time to brush up her skills on a sport she loves playing, Squash. She said, “Playing squash wasn't a deliberate attempt to shed the kilos. I was so glad that they had a court out there because it's been a while that I've improved my game. One has to keep fit as an actor but at the same time you also need to keep yourself entertained post any shoot. Playing squash was the perfect way to keep my mind and body occupied”. Back to the film, the question remains, is the role going to fetch the actress a lot more than what she expects? The answer was loud and clear. “What I expect from every film is that you grow as an actor and are proud of the work you've done. Ultimately, the fate of the film is not something which is in your hand. You do what you can and what is under your control. I hope the film fetches a lot more for all of us than just me”.

Abba Ka Kuan is a political sattire and a light hearted take on certain things we all talk about. The rosy cheeked chic sounds all excited. “When I read the script, I simply loved it. I hope people like the film because it deserves to be liked. The whole point of you working and making a film is that people like it. You don't make a film so that people hate it. Just because my last film did not work, that doesn't mean I did not believe in the film. I believed in it till the very end from the day one”. We did remind you at the very beginning that the actress is outspoken. She further adds, “Everything is an experience in life. You cannot know the good without knowing what the bad is and the vice versa. That's how life is. I am a true optimist”. And so is her co-actor in the film who plays her father, known as Abba, Boman Irani. Mini shares her new born relationship. “Literally I adopted Boman as my father while we were off the sets. I would call him Abba all the time and he too would call me by my name of the character I play. The bond between the father and the daughter would be played out post pack up every evening, so much so that when something had to be done, I would take permission from Abba. It was one of the most unique relationships I've had with any co-star to date. The moment I wouldn't find Boman around, I'd be looking for him. That's how the rapport was”.

So after saying ta-ta to Hyderabad, Minissha Lamba now looks forward to the IIFA 2009, she says, which is going to take place in the beautiful city of Macau, and we hope she enjoys it as much as she enjoyed Hyderabad, except the weather, we guess. But what'll she do without her favourite biryani?

"Watch Firaaq as a human story and not as a film...only then you'll love it", Sanjay Suri

by Devansh Patel

It has been more than five years since the Gujarat riots struck the Indian consciousness with a lightning bolt and confronted Indians with the reality of how far their secular fabric had been damaged. Films released after the riots like Dev and Parzania showcased the same with different and not so different issues. So where does Sanjay Suri fit into all this? In the actors latest multi award winning film Firaaq, he plays a role of an urban and an educated Muslim who seems lost and is searching for his own identity feeling vulnerable at times. The role he portrays in the film, he says, is so close to his own experiences and consequences he had suffered in Kashmir as a child that it brought back the old memories. Anyway, coming back to Sanjay, it could be said that he, along with his firstime buddy, Dino Morea, was the surprise cinematic hit of the late 1990s in their debut film Pyaar Mein Kabhi Kabhi. We can recall our first ever interview with Suri in Ahmedabad way back in 1999 before his feel good film released which finally got him his first ever fan following. But now in 2009 Sanjay Suri might view his own career path a little differently. Not only is he doing lesser films but even lesser masala pot boilers. He is careful than ever before because he wants to be a part of films he believes in and wants to make, thus turning himself into a producer too. Bollywood Hungama's London correspondent and UK's Harrow Observer columnist Devansh Patel gets to talk to his first ever interviewee about the much talked about Firaaq, the hype surrounding the film, his Kashmiri connection, his debutant director Nandita Das, his directorial moves and why he thinks it is important to watch Firaaq in this BH exclusive.

We've known that Firaaq has created a lot of hype in the overseas. Will it sustain its hype in India when released?

Firaaq has been doing well in the festival circuit and the audiences in the festival circuit are quite a differentiated lot. They are the ones completely aware of world cinema and the jury members are highly cinema literate. But any film which does extremely well in the festival circuit does not guarantee a box office success. Having said that, the film does not undermine its quality. Firaaq is a high quality product and I hope it will find its hype in India.

It seems that you're selecting your projects very carefully. Less films, less entertaining films.

An actor doesn't create roles nor does he get too many. An actor then gets what is offered to him and takes it on merit. Within that space, I kind of get offered such films which are thought provoking or fit into a sensible, commercial cinema. Once you keep doing them, your body of work is well defined by the films you do. I've never been offered main stream roles by main stream film makers and I guess that is because of the above same reason.

Gujarat is a state which has created a lot of problems for film makers in the past. Now that Firaaq is releasing, do you think dirty politics will start again?

I don't see Firaaq as a controversial film. I don't see Firaaq hurting anyone's sentiments. The story is taking place one month after the riots. I hope the film is viewed in the right perspective. It could've been set in any place which has seen that kind of violence. It touches these normal regular people directly or indirectly. I hope dirty politics is kept out of Firaaq.

Reality shows and promotion of any film is now becoming very cliched. How are you guys promoting Firaaq?

Each to their own. If every film would do well by promoting it on the reality shows, box office would be laughing. But I think Firaaq will depend a lot on word of mouth publicity. Like I said, the target audience already knows about the film. It's already in the news for winning awards all over. There is no kind of concentrated marketing campaign through these reality shows. In fact, the target audience of these reality shows is also quite general and not really specific.

By this I don't mean any physical violence, but any scars left behind after working with Nandita Das the debutant director? Any fond memories?

(laughs) When Nandita approached me for the part, I was very excited because I like her as an actor because of the kind of work she has done in her career. I was also excited to be a part of Firaaq because it had talents like Paresh Rawal, Naseeruddin Shah and Dipti Naval. Working with such great people have left behind so many memories.

How happy are you with the role you play in the film?

I am very happy. I play a modern day, urban and an educated Muslim guy who is struggling. It's an internal battle he is dealing with. At one level, he is searching his identity and on the other, he is feeling vulnerable in such time. I understood the part very well because something like this has happened to me personally in Kashmir. So what I had to do was just the role reversal. I was a Hindu boy feeling scared in Kashmir when the ethnic cleansing was happening. I also had to grow a beard to take my exams. I had to assert my identity in the time of crisis. I just changed the context here for the film.

We've heard a lot about your personal stories in Kashmir. Why don't we see you put it on the big screen now that you're also a producer?

I don't want to talk about my story in general. I've also heard stories that Firaaq might ignite fire again in Gujarat. The point is, whether it's a Hindu or a Muslim, whoever suffers, one has to understand his or hers pain. There is a dialogue in the film which says – 'Ek insaan doosre insaan ko maar raha hain'. To make people aware, I tell them that I have also been in the similar situation. The idea is to sensitise people towards violence. In Sikandar, which is my next release, I play a role of a Kashmiri politician. Another point is, you can take me out of Kashmir but cannot take Kashmir out of me.

Anything special about the director of Firaaq?

Yes. Besides being focused and having tremendous clarity, what I enjoyed was that she understands the mind of an actor because she is also an actor. Without handcuffing the actors and giving restrictions, she gives them a lot of freedom to work within the framework, and by the end of the day, it all seems like a very collaborative effort. Firaaq was more of a work shop than just work work which was very good because nowhere did she show to anyone of us that she was directing for the first time. She is very passionate and clear about her subject. Nandita didn't close herself to suggestions and at the same time she knew her point of view.

How do you think people in India are going to receive Firaaq?

I wish I had a concrete answer to this important question. I'm sure people will not hate the film. They would like the film but they might have issues and their individual point of views. But I think every film maker and the film should have a view of its own. I think people in India should see it as a human story whether its the people in Gujarat, Punjab, Maharashtra or Kashmir.

From acting you've moved on to being a producer. I'm sure the directors chair is waiting for you now.

(laughs) Acting is my bread, producing is my butter but I am not looking for the jam right now (laughs). I'm happy with the bread and butter. Direction is a qualified job and I'm not ready for that now. I've started production because I want to make the kind of films I believe in. I might be very harsh on myself if I take it up.

What if this film re-ignites those horrific moments for the ones who've gone through this ordeal after watching Firaaq?

It won't. I don't think that things catch fire unless you fan it. It's what you take from the film that matters. What has happened cannot be forgotten even today before the release of the film. As I've said before, I hope Firaaq is viewed in the right perspective.

Why is it important to watch Firaaq? Or do you feel so?

Yes, I do. It is important to watch Firaaq because it is a story of times which has passed by quite recently. It is important not to forget such incidents but at the same time not to carry any anger too. Watch Firaaq as a human story and as one and you'll love it.

What's future looking like?

I've got Firaaq up for release in two days, then I've got Sudhir Mishra production and Piyush Shah directed Sikandar which comes out next month. Then I'm waiting for Alibaug to get complete as we are now just waiting for Irrfan Khan's dates. That's a Sanjay Gupta film. Then the last of this years release hopefully will be a film called Flat which is produced by Anjum Rizvi.