Bollywood king says new age dawning for Indian film

Indian Bollywood film director Rajkumar Hirani, left, and actor Ranbir Kapoor during a screening of the Hindi film ‘102 Not Out’ in Mumbai on May 1. (AFP)
Updated 12 October 2018
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Bollywood king says new age dawning for Indian film

  • ‘Before there was a belief that you had to have songs’
  • ‘Now people are completely experimenting with the subject matter’

BUSAN, South Korea; Bollywood box office king Rajkumar Hirani believes a new golden age is dawning for the Indian movie industry as filmmakers look outside the box to tell more varied stories.
“Before there was a belief that you had to have songs,” said Hirani, the man behind a string of Bollywood hits including the global sensation “3 Idiots.”
“Now people are completely experimenting with the subject matter.”
Even those directors who continue to include songs are also exploring “much darker themes” — and still enjoying massive box office success, he said.
A case in point is 55-year-old Hirani’s latest offering, “Sanju,” which the director has brought to this year’s 23rd Busan International Film Festival in South Korea, the largest of its kind in Asia.
“Sanju” is based on the real-life story of the rise and fall of Indian star Sanjay Dutt, who was born into Bollywood royalty but was jailed after being accused of involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks of 1993.
The director admits the project was a risk given the often-grim nature of the story, which includes gritty scenes of drug taking and its lead character’s descent into depression.
But the strong box office returns have convinced him that audiences want a wider range of options from Hindi language films.
“Sanju” has so far grossed $80 million, placing it third on Bollywood’s all-time global earners’ list, according to The Times of India newspaper.
“It’s very much a human-interest story about battling your demons,” said Hirani. “It’s a very different kind of film than I have done before.
“While I was making it, everybody thought it was a mistake.”
But Hirani said he was more confident the film might succeed after seeing the reaction of Dutt, who was released from jail in 2016, at a preview screening.
“He saw it three days before its release and I was watching him,” said Hirani. “He was crying and after that he sat at home and drank for three days, so I knew it had worked.”
As a director and producer Hirani has reaped box office gold with a diverse range of films, from comedies including “3 Idiots” (2009) and alien-on-earth hit “PK” (2014), to the sports drama “Final Round” (2016) and now on to “Sanju.”
Experts say the Indian film industry is on track for record earnings in 2018, after surpassing last year’s $2.1 billion mark by the end of the first quarter.
Across all languages, India now produces more than 1,000 movies a year — several hundred more than come out of Hollywood.
Increasingly these films are finding a global audience.
Hirani’s “3 Idiots” — the tale of three friends struggling with the pressures of getting an education — was a ground-breaker in terms of international box office success, with around $30 million in international takings.
Hirani said Bollywood filmmakers are expanding their own horizons as their audience grows, both domestically and globally.
But the filmmaker stressed he had found no magic wand for making great cinema.
“I don’t think there’s ever a formula for success in film,” said Hirani. “If there was, everyone would share it. I’ve been fortunate
“I guess one of the principles I work with is make the film for yourself not an audience. At least then one person will like it.”
“You can’t judge what the world will like,” he added. “If you laugh at the jokes you are writing, if you can cry at the emotional scenes, then hopefully the audience will too.”
But for all the guidelines, Hirani says, early on it’s hard to predict what the final product will look like.
“Every time you start a new film it’s like digging a new well. You are not sure what you might find.”
The Busan International Film Festival runs until Saturday.


Yara Shahidi honored with Spotlight Award

Yara Shahidi was honored with an award at the 25th Annual Elle Women in Hollywood Celebration. (AFP)
Updated 19 min 21 sec ago
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Yara Shahidi honored with Spotlight Award

DUBAI: Actress and social activist Yara Shahidi was honored with an award at the 25th Annual Elle Women in Hollywood Celebration on Monday and took to the stage to give a speech.

The Iranian-American star of TV show “Black-ish,” who has her own spinoff show called “Grown-ish,” was given the Calvin Klein Spotlight Award at an event attended by the likes of Charlize Theron, Jennifer Lopez and many more.

The 18-year-old Harvard University student is one of a star-studded list of honorees, including Lady Gaga, Shonda Rhimes and Mia Farrow.

The event also celebrated the female cast of “Black Panther” — Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira and Lupita Nyong’o — at the event in Los Angeles’ Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills.

Shahidi sat down with the magazine for an in-depth interview published in its November 2018 issue. The teen, who hails from a highly accomplished family — one of her cousins is the rapper Nas, while another, Anousheh Ansari, was the first Iranian-American astronaut — covered everything from women in Hollywood to her political activism.

“We’re holding people accountable for their actions. There’s an intentional knowledge disparity in any industry, which is tied to the maintaining of power. I love the fact that this community of women is disintegrating that. I’ve been able to reap the benefits of it, and I’m also fortunate to have my parents with me, guiding me,” she told the magazine.

Shahidi has talked openly about her family in the past, including in a revealing social media post about her parents during the uproar about the proposed US immigration ban in 2017.

“If my baba was stuck in an airport because of a Muslim ban 39 years ago, he would have never fallen in love with my mama. I would not exist and I wouldn’t have two amazing brothers,” she posted on social media at the time.

The actress has been vocal about her Iranian-African-American heritage and even called herself “a proud Black Iranian” on Twitter.

In her most recent interview with Elle magazine, the actress expands on what causes are close to her heart.

“Immigration, gun control. There’s been a lack of humanity, especially in the policies of these past two years, policies that alienate minorities,” she said.

Lady Gaga was also awarded at the ceremony, and took to the stage to give a powerful, emotional speech about being a survivor of sexual assault.

“As a sexual assault survivor by someone in the entertainment industry, as a woman who is still not brave enough to say his name, as a woman who lives with chronic pain, as a woman who was conditioned at a very young age to listen to what men told me to do, I decided today I wanted to take the power back. Today I wear the pants,” she said at the event.