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    Defying gravity
    Most of the industry and media are waiting to hear Priyanka Chopra announce her next films. We know she has finished shooting for the Baywatch movie and that her TV show, Quantico, has been renewed for another season, but what about Bollywood movies? Well, besides producing regional language films under her newly-floated production company, Chopra has also tied up with studio Viacom18 to co-produce and star in a biopic on Indo-American astronaut, Kalpana Chawla. Not only was Chawla the first woman of Indian origin in space, but she was also one of a crew of seven who died in the ill-fated Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003. While the script, director and other details are still being finalised, we do know that, besides being a compelling story, this might just be Bollywood’s first space movie!

    Words and flashbacks Shashi Kapoor2
    Last weekend, Kunal Kapoor, the older son of veteran actor Shashi Kapoor, was present at the Mumbai launch of Aseem Chhabra’s book, Shashi Kapoor: The Householder, the Star. The audience—which comprised largely of middle-aged women, who were undoubtedly once fans of the handsome young actor—hung on to every word Kunal shared about his father. One of the more charming anecdotes was about how Kunal was always hesitant to bring home a girlfriend because she would inevitably end up swooning at the sight of Shashi Kapoor, a mere 20-odd years older than his son, or get distracted by his young brother, Karan. Another interesting piece of trivia came from filmmaker Shyam Benegal who has directed Shashi in Junoon and Kalyug. When discussion veered towards Shashi’s Mercedes, imported from the UK, Benegal recalled that it was the same car that was crashed in Kalyug. It was disappointing that frail health kept the Deewar actor away from the warm evening.

    Homeland comes to Mumbai Nihil
    Another film on Viacom18’s slate is Lucknow Central, being co-produced in association with filmmaker Nikhil Advani’s company. Directed by Ranjit Tiwari, the film is set in a jail and tells the story of a band formed by the incarcerated inmates. But first Advani is busy with the shoot of the Indian adaptation of the Israeli series Hatufim, which resulted in the popular American TV series Homeland. Titled Prisoners of War, it has Purab Kohli and Satyadeep Mishra—who play two soldiers returning home after being battle-scarred in brutal wars abroad—currently shooting in Mumbai. The American show also featured a pivotal female CIA operative. It remains to be seen whom Advani casts. Could it be Nimrat Kaur who not only appeared in his last production, Airlift, but also featured as a Pakistani intelligence officer in one season of Homeland?

    Flora in the desert Flora
    After she impressed in Nagesh Kukunoor’s Lakshmi a couple of years ago, Flora Saini is back in the director’s latest feature, Dhanak. In this fable-like story revolving around a brother and sister (shot in Rajasthan), she plays a tribal woman from the Kalbelia tribe. The film has bagged awards at festivals around the globe, with its story that centres around a blind eight-year-old boy (Krrish Chhabria) and his 10-year-old sister (Hetal Gada), who promises him that he will get his vision back before he turns nine. While he is a hard-core Salman Khan fan, she is a fan of Shah Rukh Khan. So when she sees SRK endorsing an eye donation campaign and hears that he is shooting hundreds of kilometres away in Rajasthan, the siblings set off on a journey to try and fulfill her promise. Along the way they meet numerous colourful characters, including the Kalbelia tribe. Meanwhile, Saini also had a blink-and-miss, but glamorous, part in last week’s release, Do Lafzon Ki Kahaani.

    -Udita Jhunjhunwala



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