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    Counting down to 2016
    Bajirao Mastani and Dilwale more or less round up 2015a��s Hindi film releases. Next week is left wide open for the globally awaited Star Wars The Force Awakens (it opens worldwide today, but only a week later in India). Ita��s been a disappointing year at the box office, with hardly a handful of films making a dramatic mark in terms of revenues. Of the top three films of the year, two are Salman Khan starrers Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, while the third is Kangana Ranuata��s Tanu Weds Manu Returns. Look out for my list of the best of 2015 next week.

    Bhansali raises the bar
    Sanjay Leela Bhansalia��s drive for perfectionism is well known, and when it comes to a project like Bajirao Mastani, which has lived with him for over a decade, he is reportedly even more particular. This came down to such minutiae as finding the perfect shade of green for the walls. When asked how much effort goes into authenticity and research when making a period drama, Bhansali said, a�?As a filmmaker I have a certain responsibility towards my audience as well as towards the people who were part of and associated with that historic story, and I try to do my best to balance both.a�? If he has any one he is competing with, ita��s not the Jodha-Akbars and Baahubalis but his own last film, which in this case would be Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela. a�?My only yardstick or benchmark is my last film. I only want to outdo my last film. The biggest challenge would be to put a team together to build that vision and sets of those proportions. Ia��m extremely happy with the one that has worked on Bajirao Mastani,a�? he said of his Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra starrer, which released today.

    Maintaining his cool
    Ita��s the battle of the yeara��the one the industry has been waiting for and the day audiences will choose between a Shah Rukh Khan action drama and an 18th century costume drama. Ita��s the Dilwale vs Bajirao Mastani day. The last time Sanjay Leela Bhansali clashed with SRK was 2007, when Om Shanti Om went head-to-head with Saawariya. Khan has been at it since the age of 26. Now, at 50, hea��s still willing to take on crazy action and stunts designed by Rohit Shetty, whose penchant for blowing up cars is well known. And the actor continues to play Raj and Rahul, and has left no stone unturned to ensure he has a blockbuster on his hands a�� after all he has to compete with not one but two Salman Khan hits from earlier this year. So what has changed in the last 25 years? Mainly his body, he says. a�?The pain and injuries I have, have made certain things difficult to do,a�? he said in a recent interview, adding that he thinks 50 is a a�?coola�? age to be. In his next project, Fan, Khan plays himself and his own double; in Raees he goes dark as a bootlegger; and what Gauri Shinde does with SRK and Alia Bhatt remains to be seen.

    Sports drama Saala Khadoos, starring R Madhavan, is finally ramping up for a release on January 29, with the backing of director Rajkumar Hirani. Madhavan has obviously bulked up for the part of a retired boxer and a coach. Written and directed by Sudha Kongara, the film, which was shot in both Hindi and Tamil, sees the acting debut of national-level boxer Ritika Singh.


    Udita Jhunjhunwala


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