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    Out of action
    As a result of certain pressure tactics and overly zealous patriots, the handful of artists from across our sensitive border have been side-lined from recent movie promotions. Perhaps it matters not to Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan that Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Raees (respectively)—two big-ticket movies in India—released with little traction for them in Indian media. However, it did appear to be making some difference to Sunny Leone who has an item number in Raees but, by default, has become the female face of this Rahul Dholakia-directed Shah Rukh Khan film that released earlier this week. Despite the fuss, in March this year, the Irrfan Khan film Hindi Medium is up for release. Pakistani television and film actress Saba Qamar stars opposite Khan in this light-hearted rom-com about a Chandni Chowk couple with aspirations to move into high society.

    Genius class
    When a poster does half the work and the Berlin Film Festival selection does the rest – that’s the story of Newton. Director Amit Masurkar’s dark comedy stars Rajkummar Rao as an election officer, and is set on election day in Chhattisgarh. It’s quite a departure from his small debut film Sulemani Keeda, which was set in the world of Bollywood writers. He admits that Newton was a tougher film to make, not least because of the politically sensitive subject but also the research, casting more than 100 non-actors and shooting during the peak of summer in the jungles outside Dalli Rajhara. Besides Rao, the film also stars Pankaj Tripathi, Anjali Patil and Raghuvir Yadav, among others. Newton, a rookie clerk on election duty in a conflict-ridden jungle in Chhattisgarh, is trying to conduct free and fair voting despite the apathy of security forces and the looming fear of an attack by Maoist rebels. The film premieres at the International Forum of New Cinema section of the Berlin Film Festival.

    Covering tracks
    Bollywood celebrities including Sonam Kapoor, Anushka Sharma and Imran Khan leant their might and support to the screening of documentary Before the Flood in Mumbai earlier this week. Tackling the clear and present danger of climate change, this documentary features Hollywood actor and UN Messenger for Peace, Leonardo DiCaprio, travelling around the world to gather first-hand knowledge and to witness climate change real-time. Directed by Fisher Stevens, produced by DiCaprio and executive produced by Martin Scorsese, the documentary also covers India and features Delhi-based environmentalist Sunita Narain. Organiser of the Mumbai screening, Vikram Gupta, hopes that the audience will spread the word about the urgency of arresting climate change. Let’s hope the Bollywood stars think about this and their carbon footprint as they ride back home in their SUVs and fly around the country promoting their films in private jets.

    Hands full
    Saif Ali Khan is excited about his upcoming release Rangoon in which he plays a Parsi movie producer. With this film he reunites with his Omkara director Vishal Bhardwaj but what he enjoyed most about making this movie was the World War II period setting and the opportunity to play dress-up! For research, Khan drew from family albums and childhood memories of his grandfather. Besides the February release, co-starring Shahid Kapoor and Kangana Ranaut, Khan is also most excited about the other films he has lined up. “People refer to it as a ‘pipeline’ – so I guess my pipeline has the remake of Chef, being directed by Raja Menon, and Akshat Varma’s film Kaalakaandi about three strata of Mumbai society.” Khan, who is enjoying another innings in fatherhood, is also reviewing new projects, and is excited about quality films and age-appropriate roles with interesting directors. On being asked if, like many of his colleagues, he has any intention of writing a book, he said, “I must be the only one not writing a book. But if did, I know what I would call it.” He’s not telling us what the title of the potential Saif Ali Khan autobiography might be –well, not yet!

    By Udita Jhunjhunwala

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