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    Coming of age
    These days the marketing push behind the first look, first poster, first teaser, first trailer and first song of a film has become immense, and often determines the mood for how the movie is going to be received. So the response to the first trailer of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ambitious period epic, Bajirao Mastani, which was showcased last week, should have heartened all concerned. Although on the back of Bahubali, the wow factor for the battle scenes might have been tempered, the cast did awe viewers. While Deepika Padukone has firmly established her credentials after Piku and Priyanka Chopra is displaying a new confidence with her international career going great guns, all eyes are on Ranveer Singh. Singh, who was the surprise package in Dil Dhadakne Do, looks set to finally silence cynics and establish himself as both an actor of skill and craft, as well as a true star. Of course, one has to wait and see if he has matured enough to moderate his off-screen antics and exhibitionist behaviour as well.

    Girl of the hour
    Earlier this week, Radhika Apte (Badlapur) hosted a screening of Sujoy Ghosh’s
    Bengali short film in which she stars in the lead role. Ahalya is a modern-day thriller inspired by a tale from the Ramayana. The 14-minute film also stars Bengali actors Tota Roy Choudhury and Soumitra Chatterjee. This is a good time for Apte, whose trailer for Manjhi – The Mountain Man, starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui, is also receiving rave reviews. The actress is certainly taking strong and steady strides in the industry.

    A reunion in Varanasi
    Masaan, the double winner at the Cannes Film Festival this year, opens across India today. Director Neeraj Ghaywan’s directorial debut stars Richa Chadda, Sanjay Mishra, Vicky Kaushal and Shweta Tripathi. But the biggest star of the film is its location. Set in Varanasi, Ghaywan’s characters are escaping questioning of sexual morality, greed and the caste system. “Some things about our culture are bad, which you have to acknowledge along with the good qualities,” says the 35-year-old MBA who gave up a lucrative management career to chase a dream. Ghaywan stayed focussed on his changed career goal in spite of his parents’ deep disappointment. Assisting Anurag Kashyap and being an intrinsic part of Gangs of Wasseypur (GOW) gave him further confidence, and also his cast. Originally Manoj Bajpayee and Rajkummar Rao were slated to act in the film along with other GOW alumni Chadda and Pankaj Tripathi. First-timer Vicky Kaushal, who eventually replaced Rao, was also an assistant director on GOW. As for Shweta Tripathi, Ghaywan said, “We wanted an angelic looking, small town girl. Not a hot, model type, but the girl next door.” As for Kaushal, the director added, “He is the real discovery. We both stated our careers together as assistant directors on GOW. But I only cast him after I saw his audition.”

    Worldly wise
    I recently saw Vir Das performing a stand-up comedy routine in Mumbai, when he was the opening act for British comedian Russell Brand. While I was aware of his popularity, his stand up presence and material were a revelation and far surpassed his skills and achievements as a Bollywood actor. Das’s film credits include Delhi Belly, Go Goa Gone and Amit Sahni Ki List. But the comedian-actor is embarking on a new stage in his career, by enlisting an American artist management agency. His first assignment seems to be a world tour with a new show. Movie-wise he has a number of projects on the anvil including Santa Banta, 31st October, and the bank heist film Plan B.

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