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    East meets West
    The inaugural event of the just- concluded 18th Mumbai Film Festival began at the spectacular, newly-restored Royal Opera House. The red
    carpet was swarming with glamorous gowns and sculpted suits. Jacqueline Fernandez made for an enthusiastic, albeit clumsy, host as she fumbled through her lines and emphasised on the complete lack of awareness about world cinema. This effort to marry Bollywood with cinema from around the world makes for a fated match, but the organisers work overtime to counsel the two into making it work. If it does work it’s only for the duration of those few hours when the flashbulbs pop and the red carpet is rolled out, continuing to the hot ticket afterparty at the home of the sponsors, Mukesh and Nita Ambani. Journalists, filmmakers from around the world, sponsors and co-sponsors and Bollywood stars exchange gossip and notes over a vast vegetarian spread.

    Keeping a low profile
    At the after-party for MAMI, all eyes were on Karan Johar, who smartly gave the opening ceremony a miss and discreetly slipped into the after-party. He was pleased to soak up the sympathy tut-tuts that came his way while maintaining his trademark humour. Of course, this was before the next controversy (regarding the payout settlement) was revealed. But all said and done, cross-border politics have certainly ensured a mammoth opening for Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, releasing today.

    Worth his weight
    On the subject of new faces on the film scene, there is no denying the impact made by the young girls who play Aamir Khan’s daughters in the trailer of Dangal. The two pretty women—Sanya Malhotra and Fatima Sana Shaikh—also accompanied Khan to the Mumbai Film Festival’s opening night events, standing by quietly as he introduced them to all those who approached to congratulate him on the first look of his December release. Asked about the authenticity of his paunch in the Dangal trailer, Khan reassured the curious that it was all natural and all him, and that it took him several months to get rid of the girth and get back into shape to play the wrestler Mahavir Phogat. Currently, Khan’s look is rather menacing, with sharply-styled facial hair and blond streaks in his hair. “It’s my look for Advait Chandan’s film in which I have a cameo,” he explained. So after Dangal, Chandan’s Secret Superstar will be Khan’s only release in 2017, with his next big project being Thugs of Hindostan, co-starring Amitabh Bachchan.

    Fresh blood
    Ajay Devgn’s Shivaay has fallen in to the shadow of the Ae Dil Hai Mushkil controversy, at least among the urban educated multiplex audience. But Devgn is not concerned. The trailers of his action-adventure have garnered a terrific response and the vast action scenes appear to be impressive. What’s also interesting is the introduction of three new female faces to the Indian audience. First up is the young Abigail Eames, a British child artiste known for TV films such as Lawless (2013) and Harry & Paul’s Story of 2s (2014), but most recognised as Maebh in Doctor Who. Abigail plays Devgn’s daughter and it seems, just to make her bedroom in the film look perfect, director Devgn filled it with 2,000 stuffed toys. Then there’s Polish actress Erika Kaar whose previous experience is also in TV with shows such as The Passing Bells and Bodo. And finally the UK and Mumbai-educated, homegrown Sayyeshaa Saigal, grandniece to Dilip Kumar. Saigal displayed an early interest in acting and is trained in several dance forms and music. Let’s hope these ladies get to make an impact in a testosterone-driven action thriller.

    -Udita Jhunjhunwala

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