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denies rift with Aishwarya
By Subhash K. Jha,
Mumbai, Feb 1 Talented actress Vidya Balan has completely
dismissed rumours of a rift with Aishwarya Rai during the making
of Mani Ratnam's "Guru".
"By now I'm used to all kinds of rumours. But this one truly
takes the cake. I can't say we got along like a house on fire
simply because we didn't have that many scenes together. But
whenever we worked together, Aishwarya was a dream co-star ...
an absolute delight and someone I look up to."
She is quick to laugh off reports that Aishwarya was responsible
for her rather short role in the film.
"To even suggest that she had my role cut is so ridiculous. I
was aware of the extent of my role from the start. I did 'Guru'
for the pleasure of working with Mani. There're moments in the
film where Aishwarya needed to reach out to me emotionally. She
did it so naturally and spontaneously that she won me over."
What about stories that Vidya didn't attend the premiere of
"Guru" in Canada because of Aishwarya?
"This is too much," giggles Vidya. "I wonder who's spreading
such nonsense and for what purpose! I was in Australia shooting
for Sajid Khan's 'Hey Baby' on Jan 10. The premiere of 'Guru' in
Canada was on 12th. There was no way I could reach there and get
back to my shooting without disrupting Sajid's schedule. I
wouldn't do this to anyone, least of all Sajid Khan who's a
first-time director and a dear friend."
She takes a deep breath and adds: "I hope this puts to rest all
these silly speculations about Aishwarya's role in my life.
She's way above all this petty politics. Her dignity in the face
of adversity is exemplary. If I can possess even a fraction of
her poise I'd consider myself lucky."
Vidya, who turned a year older Jan 1, says she is quite happy
with the year gone by.
"After 'Parineeta' I needed to consolidate my position. 'Lage
Raho Munnabhai' did that for me. 2007 will also hopefully start
on an auspicious note with 'Salaam-e-Ishq' and Eklavya."
John Abraham works hard on his Hindi
By Subhash K. Jha,
Mumbai, Feb 1 Actor John Abraham was earlier looked
at skeptically for his feeble command over Hindi and many of his
earlier films were dubbed by professional artists. But all that
has changed now with the Bollywood heartthrob working hard to
get rid of his so-called anglicised accent.
Said John: "I admit it was one of the areas that I needed to
work doubly hard on. I've been consistently working on it. But 'Baabul'
truly made me confident of the way I speak my dialogues. First
of all, the words were all in pure Hindi. Achala Nagar's
dialogues were a bit complex for all of us, except of course Mr.
"I had two options open in front of me. Either I asked the words
to be simplified. Or I worked on the language. I opted for the
latter. And believe me, if the impact of a role can be gauged by
the spoken word, then 'Baabul' is the most influential film of
my life. It has changed my thought process. Now I'm actually
able to think in Hindi."
Nagar, who has written other socially relevant films like Raj
Kapoor's "Prem Rog" and B.R. Chopra's "Nikaah", was physically
present on the sets of "Baabul" to make sure the words were
"The way she narrated the script was in itself a work of beauty
and a joy forever. I fell for the words hook line and sinker. I
wanted to absorb her words and use them as though they were
mine," John remarked.
Post "Baabul", producers are actually eager to let John speak in
his own voice on screen.
Some actors who had their voices dubbed initially:
Amisha Patel ("Kaho Na... Pyar Hai")
Rani Mukherjee ("Ghulam")
Sridevi (had her voice dubbed in her first dozen films)
Dino Morea ("Raaz", "Gunah")
Bipasha Basu ("Ajnabee", "Jism", "Gunah", "Phir Hera Pheri")
Kunal Kapoor ("Meenaxi")
Katrina Kaif ("Sarkar", "Humko Deewana Kar Gaye")
John Abraham ("Jism", "Aetbaar", "Paap")
Nepal cinema now breathes free of censors
By Sudeshna Sarkar,
Kathmandu, Feb 1 The coming of peace after a decade
of communist insurgency and the formation of a multi-party
government has helped Nepal shoot down the bans imposed by
Nepali film director Narayan Puri, who was the first in Nepal's
film industry to dare make a film on the Maoist movement when
the guerrillas were banned as terrorists and paid for the
defiance by having censors hack his film ruthlessly, has been
revived by the winds of change blowing in since then.
Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, whose name is being
suggested for the Nobel peace prize for signing a peace accord
with the Maoists and ending 10 years' of bloodshed, was also at
the helm of the country in 2002 when Puri made his controversial
film, "Aago" (Fire).
However, things were vastly different then. The Maoists, who
returned to parliament this year and are poised to join
Koirala's government, were banned as a terrorist organisation in
2002 with an international alert for the capture of their top
Though "Aago" did not refer to the Maoists by their name, it was
seen as glorifying the guerrillas.
The censor board first ordered Puri to cut out nine scenes and
then, sat on the negatives for 11 months, preventing its
In 2005, when the Koirala government had given way to King
Gyanendra's regime, formed through a bloodless coup, "Aago"
continued to suffer at censors' hands.
Along with nearly six other films, it was tacitly banned from
However, after the fall of King Gyanendra's government in April,
the resilient Puri shot back with a new film on the Maoists,
"Alpo-Biram" (Short truce).
It conveys the message that the Maoists, who have called
ceasefires thrice earlier, should now pledge themselves to
lasting peace and end the armed insurrection.
After the completion of "Alpo-Biram" last year, Puri is now
re-making "Aago", restoring the scenes deleted by the censors.
"Aago" looks at the reasons that forced humble people, who had
no political aspirations, to take up arms and oppose the
system," Puri says.
"It looks at the widespread exploitation, poverty and oppression
in Nepal that stoked the Maoist movement."
"Aago" refers to the kamaiya system - the old tradition of
bonded labour in Nepal that despite being abolished by the
government on paper flourishes in the homes of ministers and
"In winter, when Nepal celebrates the Maghe Samkranti festival,
it is also the time for rich people to buy slaves from markets,
just like they buy cows and goats. Such sales can be seen all
over midwestern Nepal."
One of the deleted scenes in "Aago" shows revolutionaries going
to the villages and trying to motivate people to oppose such
customs. Another shows a teacher educating villagers so that
they can understand how they are exploited and what their rights
"The censor board never returned the deleted scenes to me," says
Puri. "When I asked to have them back, I was told they were
lost. If the negatives had been intact, I could have simply
added them to the film. But now, I have to shoot them again."
Besides the lost scenes, Puri has also added two "revolutionary"
songs that also had to be dropped due to the censors.
The shooting is nearly complete and the new "Aago" will be
screened this month.
After that, Puri, maker of 21 feature films, plans a sequel to "Aago".
"Aago II" will look at the Maoist movement from the perspective
"The Maoists taught people to take up arms for their rights," he
says. "Now they have to teach that rights come with
"The insurgency killed over 13,000 people and destroyed property
worth millions. Some of the destruction was unnecessary and
"Now that they are going to be in the ruling coalition, Maoists
have to go through self-criticism, learn to repent violence."
Himachal tribals angry with Madhur Bhandarkar
Shimla, Feb 1 Tribals in Himachal Pradesh's Kinnaur
district are annoyed with Bollywood filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar
for referring to eunuchs as 'kinners' in his forthcoming film
The tribals claim that only they - and not eunuchs - can be
referred to as 'kinners' as they belong to the mountainous
tribal district of Kinnaur.
The controversy erupted after Bhandarkar allegedly spoke to a TV
channel about his film, in which eunuchs are called kinners.
"The reference to eunuchs as kinners is an insult to the people
of Kinnaur. We will protest against this and will not allow the
film to be released," Tashi Cherring, a local writer based in
Kinnaur, said Thursday.
"The people of Kinnaur were given the status of Scheduled Caste
under the Indian constitution in 1956. So referring to eunuchs
as kinners is an insult to the tribal folk of Kinnaur and will
not be tolerated," Rajeshwar Singh Negi, another local resident,
"The Kinnaur tribe is a proud and progressive one with a long
recorded history. Bhandarkar has been reckless and should have
been more careful with his research," he added.
The tribals of Kinnaur include some of the richest farmers in
Now Ricky Martin to visit Jaipur
Jaipur, Feb 1 After Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and
Mick Jagger, it is the turn of Latino pop sensation Ricky Martin
to visit Jaipur to attend a wedding Friday.
Ricky is invited to attend the wedding function of the son of
Mumbai-based industrialist Neeraj Raja Kocchar and he might
perform at the party, a source close to the industrialists'
family told IANS here Thursday.
The industrialist, who is in the international metal business,
has booked two suites for Martin - one in the Rajputana Palace
Hotel and the other in Le Meridien near Amber Fort.
The pop star is expected to arrive here by a chartered flight
and drive straight to one of the hotels Friday afternoon.
Martin will also perform at the wedding party to be held at the
historic Jaigarh Fort.
Moreover, Indian pop singer Sukhbir and Bollywood
choreographer-director Farah Khan are also slated to be part of
the three-day lavish wedding function that began Thursday.
Extravagant Jaipur weddings, held at heritage resorts, have
become a lifestyle statement for the rich and famous and have
been featured in international magazines and television
'Jodha-Akbar' to release on Oct
By Subhash K. Jha,
Mumbai, Jan 31 Shooting for Ashutosh Gowarikar's "Jodha-Akbar"
is expected to be over next month and the long awaited film,
that the director insists is not a "remix version" of "Mughal-e-Azam",
will be released Oct 12.
"That's the Eid week. We're looking at a cross-culture of
audiences to come for the film," says the "Lagaan" and "Swades"
"Swades" wasn't a huge success. "But ultimately it reached out
to the right people... You know, we're going through a 're-mix
phase' in music and cinema. We need to get over that. It will
soon go away and a new order will emerge. Let me reiterate, 'Jodha-Akbar'
isn't a 'remix version' of 'Mughal-e-Azam'."
"Jodha-Akbar", starring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai, is
Ashutosh's most expensive film. "Our budget is Rs.37 crores. But
my co-producer Ronnie Screwvala and I aren't looking at the
budget as a responsibility. Between us we've worked out the
financial details, including what is required in production and
Aishwarya and Hrithik have undergone the most gruelling and
rugged outdoor experience of their lives. But the horse riding
and sword fencing were not entirely a shock.
"We had several sessions in Mumbai... lots of riding and
sword-fighting lessons just so that they'd be attuned to their
Mughal characters and know the right way of riding a horse or
holding a sword. You know sword fencing is a very western
concept, whereas the way the talwaar was used in the Mughal
times was very different.
"I had got Hrithik and Ash accustomed to the body language and
attitude of those times from beforehand. Now all they're doing
is executing a vision they're already aware of," says Ashutosh
from his location in Rajasthan.
Is he worried by the utterly contemporary image of his lead pair
in "Dhoom 2"? "Not at all! In 'Dhoom 2', they are Hrithik Roshan
and Aishwarya Rai. In my film they are Akbar and Jodha. Their
personas in 'Dhoom 2' are closer to what they really are. Not
that I've changed their physicality. But audiences will see only
Ashutosh thinks Ash and Hrithik aren't only immensely good
looking but also hugely talented.
"I've seen every single film of theirs from 'Kaho... Na Pyar Hai'
and K'yun....Ho Gaya Na' to 'Dhoom 2'. They always show an easy
adaptability to the requirements of every director. Be it 'Chokher
Bali' or 'Raincoat' for Aishwarya or 'Mission Kashmir' and 'Fiza'
for Hrithik, they've transformed in front of the camera. They're
both intensely dedicated."
The diligent filmmaker is all praise for the pairing. "Hrithik
and Ash look really good together in my film. But the full
impact will be discernable only when the film releases. The
give-and-take between the two as they get into character is
The film also stars Sonu Sood, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Suhasini
Mulay and Raza Murad.
The director is confident the audience will see exactly the
vision in his mind. "I'm working towards it. So far so good. You
know, Akbar once decided to not hunt a cheetah because he fell
in love with it. Instead he got it to be trained and put next to
him in the Diwan-e-Khas. But because of the animal-rights rule I
can't have this shown on screen.
"That's the kind of bearable compromise I'll have to make. But
I'm sticking to the authentic vision as much as possible. But I
want the Golden Period of the Mughal Empire to look as glamorous
Kareena hitting a career high: Shahid
By Subhash K. Jha,
Mumbai, Jan 31 Shahid Kapoor, who is yet to find the
right project after "Vivah", says girlfriend Kareena Kapoor is
hitting the best time of her career now and from this year on
both will focus only on quality films.
Asked about his wish list for himself and Kareena in 2007, he
told IANS: "I'd like to do good work and balance out my personal
life with my work. Kareena is hitting the best time of her
"I think quality has become far more important today than it was
earlier because one successful film, no matter how small, is in
the eye of the audience. Neither Kareena nor I can get away with
doing bad work."
Shahid is still searching for a good project to take up after "Vivah".
"I'd be happy picking any script that has mass appeal. No point
in giving a good performance in a film that nobody watches.
Luckily, films like 'Rang De Basanti' or even 'Vivah' have
broken the mould.
"In fact, both Kareena and I have taken a deliberate decision to
cut loose completely and start with a clean slate. Today she's
doing a Mani Ratnam film. Every actor in the industry wants to
work with Mani sir. She has been very patient, hasn't worked for
eight to nine months. That's tougher on a leading lady than a
hero. I'm so happy that her decision to be patient has paid off.
I hope it pays off for me."
Will Shahid be in Sooraj Barjatya's next film? "I've my finger
crossed. I'd do anything to work with him again. I was lucky 'Vivah'
did well. It gave me the confidence to hold out. 'Vivah' has put
me in a position to be patient. It was time for me to move to
"I've been patient. I did get scared when I got up workless. But
now I'm comfortable connecting with myself, listening to scripts
and watching as many films as possible."
He also has happy memories of meeting singer Nelly Furtado
backstage before a show Dec 31.
"I was aware that Nelly and I wouldn't be able to do an act
together. We were all so stressed-out about our acts. Nelly had
her own act ready from beforehand.
"I told her how much I loved her 'Powerless' track. She
surprised me by telling me she remembered meeting me and Kareena
on a flight sometime back. I was quite touched and taken aback
that she actually remembered that. I'd have liked to dance with
Nelly. But she had barely landed barely 24 hours earlier."
Kareena wasn't there to cheer Shahid at the event. "She watched
me on television from home. I preferred her to be with her
family. It wasn't such a big event that I'd want her to be there
But it was Shahid's first live performance in Mumbai. "Since I'm
not doing any movies right now I had the time to rehearse. In
any case I don't like going on stage until I'm fully prepared.
The best part of the evening was the interaction with the live
"Earlier this year I had gone on my first world tour. That's
when I realised how heady the whole experience of a live
performance can be. This was like 20 minutes away from my home.
So it felt like 'apne ghar ki baat'. The turnout was damn
good...9,000 people. The standing cheering crowd was very
"That's only possible for an event like New Year's Eve. To add
to my excitement, this was my first performance in India and
that too before a live crowd. Of course, I've performed at
awards functions. But never outside."
Shahid had a good time. "Bringing in 2007 while I was at work
was a good thing. I haven't been working for two months. It felt
good to be working again."
Kareena works with Karan Johar again
By Subhash K. Jha,
Mumbai, Jan 31 "I've a weakness for Karan Johar,"
confesses Kareena Kapoor as she gets ready to face the camera
under the superstar-director's stewardship after "Kabhi Khushi
This time, however, it's only for an ad for a popular brand of
"But how does it matter if it's three hours or three minutes?
I'm as excited about this ad as I was when I did 'Kabhi Khushi
Kabhie Gham' with Karan years ago."
A maelstrom of memories flood Kareena. "I was treated like a
princess on the sets of K3G," she says.
Speaking about boyfriend Shahid Kapoor, she says: "Things
couldn't get better for both of us. Shahid had 'Vivah' in 2006.
2007 starts for me with one of my favourite directors Karan and
ends with another favourite, Mani Ratnam."
Why the paint ad?
"Because I like colours. I associate colours with youth and I
feel I connect best with young audiences. Karan will be able to
bring out the most vibrant side to my personality in that one
short film. I'm as excited about it as I'd be about any feature
film. I've realised Karan and I are inseparable."
A feature film next with Karan? "A-ha, wait and watch. There're
plenty of surprises from me in 2007," Kareena signs off.
Mick Jagger wants to buy land in Udaipur
By Anil Sharma,
Udaipur, Jan 31 Music legend Mick Jagger, who made a
quiet visit to Udaipur last week with his daughter, was so
impressed by the scenic beauty of the city that he has expressed
interest in buying a piece of land here.
Jagger, 64, and best known as the lead singer of Rolling Stones,
had come to this lake city along with daughter Jade to attend
the wedding of his close friend and former cricketer Dilip
Doshi's son on Jan 21.
"Mick Jagger and Jade had come here on Jan 21 and they stayed in
the Hotel Lake Palace here till Jan 26," a source at the Taj
goup's Hotel Lake Palace told IANS here.
He said that Jagger evinced interest in the city, mentioning he
would like to buy a piece of land in Udaipur as he really "liked
the peace and scenic beauty of Udaipur".
He was very keen to know about the place's past and was
awestruck by the authenticity and history of the Lake Palace.
The Taj Lake Palace, located in the middle of Lake Pichola, is a
white marble dream. The palace was built in 1746 by Maharana
Jagat Singh II, 62nd successor to the royal dynasty of Mewar,
believed to be descendants of the Sun God.
After the grand ceremonial welcome along with a rose-petal
shower and a round of Moet Chandon champagne, the guests were
escorted to the ultra-luxurious Sajjan Niwas suite and were
briefed about the history of the palace and the suite.
During the stay, they enjoyed the wedding functions and
ceremonies in the hotel. They were also impressed by the beauty
of the hotel. Jagger visited the City Palace and also went for a
sightseeing tour of the city.
While attending one of the traditional functions - the mehendi
(henna) ceremony at the Mewar Terrace, an exclusive and unique
area of the palace - the guests really enjoyed the Hindu-style
traditions and were an active participant in the entire
function, the source added.
The Sajjan Niwas suite, which retains an old world charm with
its lamps, portraits, glass mosaic inlay, traditional cloth fans
and doors embellished with mirrors and furniture, particularly
The suite's bedroom, decorated with frescoes depicting Hindu god
Krishna, is suffused with romance. The Sajjan Niwas suite opens
onto the Sajjan Terrace, which overlooks the lake with
spectacular views of the Jagmandir island and the Aravallis.
"I am enjoying the stay so much that I don't want to leave,"
Jagger wrote in the visitor's book.
Jagger and Jae were extremely health conscious and exercised on
a regular basis while sticking to fresh juices, fruits, cereals
Delhi dances to 'little champ' Diwakar's tunes
New Delhi, Jan 31 TV show "Sa Re Ga Ma" Little
Champion Diwakar, who is blind from birth, came, sang and
conquered hearts here with a medley of new and old Hindi
The 3,000-plus audience at the Siri Fort auditorium broke into
applause as the 13-year-old sang the popular Hindi number "Tum
jo mil gaye ho to yeh lagta hai..." at the 'Diwakar Nite' show
As the second prize winner of last year's 'Little Championship'
competition - run by "Sa Re Ga Ma" - hummed "Dil de diya hai jan
tumhe denge", Steel Minister Ram Vilas Paswan was seen clapping
"The crowd was great. I have never seen such an encouraging
crowd earlier," said Diwakar, a Class VI student of the DPS
School at R.K. Puram here who gave his first public performance
at the age of five.
"Come on friends. Sing with me...!" he continued as hundreds of
schoolchildren joined him from the gallery of the auditorium's
"I still remember my first competition. I got a Casio as prize
and played with it for many years," he said.
Diwakar, who wants to be a playback singer, said he was
confident of bagging a top prize in the "Sa Re Ga Ma"
"My performance was good and I was feeling confident," he said,
adding that his interaction with veteran singer Lata Mangeskar
has been the high point of his career.
"I have heard her songs but to interact with her was amazing.
She called me and kissed me on my left cheek," the budding
Asked about his most interesting interaction with his fans, he
said: "A young girl ditched her partner to dance with me during
a performance in Hyderabad. She hugged me."
The Steel Authority of India Ltd and Ozone group supported the
show organised by Tamana - a New Delhi-based NGO for the
Shyama Chona, the head of Tamana, said: "The evening is
dedicated to all such hidden talents across the country.
Although they are physically challenged, they are no less
talented and Diwakar is one such example."
Kangana threatened, vows to fight till the end
By Subhash K. Jha,
Mumbai, Jan 31 Kangana Ranaut is determined to fight
threats from the man from Himachal Pradesh who allegedly threw
acid on her sister last year and is now out on bail. "I'm a
fearless person," says the "Gangster" actress.
Sounding agitated but restrained, Kangana told IANS: "The calls
started a while back. He calls up and says, 'let me marry your
sister because no one else will marry her now'. He promises to
keep her happy. And when I refuse his generous offer, he says
he'll do the same thing to me that he did to my sister."
Kangana seems outwardly unperturbed.
"I'm shooting for a promotional music video of Suneel Darshan's
'Shaka Laka Boom Boom'. I can't allow this man to disrupt my
sister or my life. My sister Rangoli isn't allowed to take any
calls. I can handle this man. But the best part is, calls have
started coming on my cook's cell number! How does this man have
my numbers? Who gave them to him?"
Even more baffling is how the electronic medium got wind of
Kangana's scary predicament.
"I lodged a complaint with my local (Versova) police station.
And they offered to provide security. I was also asked to tape
the man's conversation, which I duly did and handed over to the
authorities. The next thing I know the news that my sister and I
are being threatened is all over the TV channels!"
Kangana is hounded by the electronic medium.
"But I'm not speaking to anyone. I just want it to be known
through this interview that I'm going to fight this man who's
creating havoc in our lives to the end this time."
Brown-Bachchan meeting leaves Bollywood smiling
By Subhash K. Jha,
Mumbai, Dec 31 The not-too-brief meeting between
Britain's future prime minister Gordon Brown and Indian
superstar Amitabh Bachchan has resulted in big plans for
Bachchan told IANS: "Yes, we did meet at Yashraj Studios, though
this isn't the first time that Chancellor Brown and I have met.
He has on other occasions asked me to be part of charitable and
social global endeavours, and I've gladly done whatever I
But now Bollywood seems to be the focus of Brown's attentions.
Apparently the British chancellor of the exchequer was so taken
up with the Big B that he insisted on watching footage of the
"I don't know about that. But yes he did watch 'Kajra re'. After
that we had a fairly detailed discussion. Chancellor Brown wants
to extend the parameters of our collaboration with Great
Britain. He wants to provide further incentives and facilities
to our film industry for shooting in England."
What the Big B desists from stating is that Brown zeroed in on
the actor as Bollywood's primary ambassador to Britain, and is
in the process of formulating ambitious plans to further Indian
cinema's reach in Britain.
"Yes, there was a closed-door meeting after the screening of 'Kajra
re'. I am certainly willing to represent our industry in every
way that I can," said Bachchan.
While some said he had a big glow on his face at the meeting
with Brown, Bachchan said: "The glow, as you call it, comes from
the fact that my son has made such an impact in 'Guru' and that
he's getting married."
His son Abhishek is engaged to actress Aishwarya Rai.
Shilpa Shhetty unlikely to join BJP
New Delhi, Jan 31 Film actor Shilpa Shetty, who made
headlines after winning the British TV reality show "Celebrity
Big Brother" this week, is unlikely to join the Bharatiya Janata
On Tuesday, BJP MP from Gurdaspur, film actor Vinod Khanna had
announced in Chandigarh ``in all seriousness'' that Shilpa
Shetty, after her highly acclaimed `Big Brother' win, was going
to join the BJP.
But on Wednesday, when BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad was
asked, he feigned total ignorance about it.
Insiders said Shilpa Shetty had turned down the proposal made in
all earnestness by Vinod Khanna. But Prasad had nothing to say
when asked whether Vinod Khanna had consulted Shilpa and the BJP
before making the announcement.