Several actors start their careers in independent films. They then spend the months before the film’s release and the months after, fondly recalling what a life-changing experience it was and how their hearts will always beat for the offbeat. Sayani Gupta, who played the visually impaired girlfriend to Kalki Koechlin’s character in Margarita, With A Straw, is one such instance. Leaving her independent film debut behind, she is part of not one, but three mainstream Bollywood movies, including Fan, Jagga Jasoos and Baar Baar Dekho. She also features in Leena Yadav’s independent film, Parched, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last year, but does not have a release date yet. But this is not a problem the commercial films are likely to face. As for Gupta, her future co-stars include Shah Rukh Khan, Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif and Sidharth Malhotra.
From the city to the jungle
Vikram Bhatt’s urban thriller/sex drama Love Games, with the curious cast of Patralekhaa, Gaurav Arora and Tara Alisha Berry, releases this week and faces competition from the jungle drama, The Jungle Book. More than the other cast members, Love Games is a crucial film for Patralekhaa who made a respectable debut in Hansal Mehta’s CityLights, opposite her off-screen beau, Rajkummar Rao. From the simple village girl transplanted to a daunting Mumbai city, she has done a pendulum swing by taking on an obsessive, hedonistic and glamorous urban character. On the other end of the spectrum, The Jungle Book, although rated U/A, is sure to attract family audiences with its evergreen story and the deep nostalgia adults associate with Rudyard Kipling’s story of the young man cub, Mowgli. Of the team attached to the original Hindi TV series, Jungle Book (Sunday mornings on Doordarshan), Vishal Bhardwaj and Gulzar have reunited to revive the classic song, Jungle jungle baat chali hai, and Nana Patekar returns as the voice of Sher Khan. He had dubbed the voice of the feared tiger in the 1990s animated series. Disney’s The Jungle Book, releases today, a week before its US release.
When a film runs into deep trouble because its once-inseparable lead actors are in the process of decoupling, the producers often have to take quick and evasive action. Decision-making is marginally easier when one half of the decoupling couple is also the producer. This seems to be the case with Jagga Jasoos, starring Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif. The much-delayed Anurag Basu film is slated to release in June this year, with principal photography still not complete. One schedule was scheduled for Morocco, but with Kapoor and Kaif barely communicating with each other, and tensions likely to be sky-high, the producers have been prudent and decided instead to recreate Morocco in a Mumbai studio. Now that is certainly one way of managing a possibly overdrawn budget.
Apte joins The Ashram
After the tremendous global success of Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox, the international film media has been eagerly waiting to see what producer Guneet Monga puts together next. It turns out that she’s attached to filmmaker Ben Rekhi’s, The Ashram, an English-language thriller set in the Himalayas. Comprising an Indian and international cast, including Sam Keeley (In the Heart of the Sea), Melissa Leo (The Big Short), Kal Penn (Bhopal, A Prayer For Rain) and Radhika Apte (Badlapur), the spiritual adventure is Rekhi’s second feature after Waterborne. He has co-written the script of The Ashram with Binky Mendez and the film is currently being shot in Manali.