Filmfare-ME-March-2024

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One Kind of a

BROUGHT

EDITORIAL TEAM

EDITOR

Aakanksha Naval-Shetye aakanksha.naval@starzmediainc.com

Digital Marketing Executive Shruti Nigam shruti.nigam@starzmediainc.com

Graphic Designer Amit Panchal amit.panchal@aldanube.com

BUSINESS MANAGER - EVENTS Mayur Panchal mayur.panchal@starzmediainc.com

Magazine Co-ordinator Yunus Naik yunus.naik@starzmediainc.com

FILMFARE (INDIA)

Chief Executive Officer

Rohit Gopakumar

Chief Community Officer & Editor Jitesh Pillaai

Executive Editor

Anuradha Choudhary

Brand Solutions Director Jyoti Verma

PUBLISHED BY: Starz Media Inc

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Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Peace, Prayers & Blessings!

It’s here! The holy month of Ramadan when duas and gratitude fill our hearts and fasting, praying and charity nourishes our souls. It is a time to thank for the countless blessings and pray for peace. It is also the time to learn some more Ramadan recipes and prepare for the blessed Iftars and Suhurs.

March also started on a memorable note for us as we honoured women and celebrated their achievements at the Yardley London Presents Most Influential Women 2024. One of the most prestigious and talked-about events in Dubai, the 3rd edition held on 1st March, had several prolific women across industries join us in this celebration of excellence, along with our special guest - the powerhouse performer Taapsee Pannu

An actress par excellence, Taapsee is also the Cover Star of our March Women Empowerment Issue. After all, who better to grace the cover than the Bollywood star who has redefined female narrative on screen with strong gender defining commentaries in iconic films like Pink, Thappad, Saand ki Aankh, Naam Shabana, amongst many others. Fearless in her choices, she’s been a trailblazer, and has never shied away from taking the path less-trodden (read unconventional roles). One of the few actresses who’s not succumbed to industry pressures and most of all been brave enough to be her own hero. In our exclusive Cover Story, the actress talks about all this and also makes some candid revelations! Flip on the pages to read more.

In the pages ahead, we also have exclusive interviews with Shilpa Shetty Kundra, Nayla Al Khaja, Raja Kumari, and Badshah. In Fashion, we take a look at Power-Dressing for Women and to celebrate the International Women’s Day we also check out some of the actresses who’ve given us memorable and iconic women characters.

Listing them down was not an easy task. Especially since interestingly enough, the female protagonists are increasingly becoming the rule rather than being an exception to the rule, more so in recent times! Thanks largely to OTT, the narratives have changed in the favour of brave filmmakers and actors who have had the courage to be disruptors with their content specifically the women-oriented kinds. With the freedom from Friday box office numbers tightening the leash around filmmakers, there’s been a surge in seeing strong characters not necessarily dictated by their genders. And even if the box office was to be considered, there’s no doubt that the viability of actresses and women-centric content has rapidly shot up. Directors like Zoya Akhtar (my absolute favourite), Reema Kagti, Gauri Shinde, Farah Khan, Konkona Sen Sharma, Nandita Das, Meghna Gulzar, Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, Kiran Rao, amongst others, have already broken gender stereotypes attached with women filmmakers with aplomb. All these together are certainly big strides in the right direction and even if a handful, we hope these filmmakers and their films pave the way for change in the way the society perceives and treats women at large.

REGIONAL

Coming back to the International Women’s Day which is globally celebrated on 8th March, well it’s a great way to remind all you fantastic women out there of how special each one of you truly is. Whether a home-maker or a professional, and no matter your age, size, colour, country, marital or parental status, each one of you are the QUEENS of your own stories and that alone makes you worth celebrating. And in every role, at every step just remember that #youareenough! While applauding all you strong women, also a pat on the back to all the men who’ve been the strongest supporters of the women in their lives. Here’s to celebrating you too! Happy International Women’s Day!

And as we start this blessed and holy month with prayers, peace and a deep sense of gratitude, here’s wishing you all,

Ramadan Kareem!

OF Worldwide Media Pvt. Ltd Copyright 2024 Starz Media Inc All rights reserved. While the publishers have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of all information in this magazine, they will not be held responsible for any errors within. Printed and Published under license and permission from Worldwide Media Pvt. Ltd
PARTNER
Copyright 2024: Reproduction in any manner in any language in whole or part without prior written permission is prohibited Aakanksha Naval-Shetye Filmfare Middle East takes no responsibility for unsolicited photographs or material | ALL PHOTOGRAPHS, UNLESS OTHERWISE INDICATED, ARE USED FOR ILLUSTRATIVE PURPOSES ONLY LOG ON TO WWW.FILMFAREMIDDLEEAST.COM FOR OUR DAILY UPDATES! Editor Filmfare Middle East
TO YOU BY
MIDDLE EAST March 2024 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST 3

SALMAN KHAN – SANDEEP REDDY VANGA TO COLLABORATE?

NO ENTRY 2 TO STAR VARUN DHAWAN, DILJIT DOSANJH, ARJUN KAPOOR

ALIA BHATT TO

ALIA BHATT TO STAR IN YRF’S FEMALE-LED SPY THRILLER!

POWER-PACKED: FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN OF DANUBE GROUP MR RIZWAN SAJAN WITH INDIAN PRIME MINISTER SHRI NARENDRA MODI

SANYA MALHOTRA GETS CANDID

SHILPA SHETTY KUNDRA TALKS TO AAKANKSHA NAVAL-SHETYE

ABOUT PACKING IN A PUNCH AS THE FESITY COP IN INDIAN POLICE FORCE

POWERHOUSE PERFORMER TAAPSEE PANNU IN CONVERSATION WITH AAKANKSHA NAVAL-SHETYE TALKS ABOUT HER UNCONVENTIONAL SCREEN ROMANCES, BRAVE CHOICE OF ROLES, AND BEING HER OWN HERO!

EMIRATI FILMMAKER NAYLA AL KHAJA CELEBRATES THE SUCCESS OF 3 WITH AAKANKSHA NAVALSHETYE

BADSHAH CHATS UP WITH AAKANKSHA NAVAL-SHETYE ABOUT ALL THINGS MUSIC AND REFLECTS ON HIS JOURNEY SO FAR

PHOTOGRAPHER: SAHIL BEHAL

STYLIST: LOVEDEEP GULYANI

MAKEUP ARTIST: EVANIA PANNU

HAIRSTYLIST: SEEMA MANE

ARTISTE PR: SPICE PR

CHECK OUT STYLES THAT SPELL POWER

HERE’S HOW YOU CAN GET THOSE BEAUTIFUL RAMADAN LOOKS

CHECK OUT ALL THE FUN ON THE FIELD AT THE DANUBE PROPERTIES PRESENTS CCL

THE UNTOLD DUBAI WAS ONE ROCKING MUSICAL AFFAIR

TAKE A LOOK AT SOME OF THE TOP STARS PLAYING THE MOST ICONIC FEMALE CHARACTERS ON SCREEN

4 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST March 2024 Volume 72 |March 1, 2024 highlight fashion women special interviews 10 26
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COVER STORY
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Exciting News! Kay Beauty has officially landed in UAE. Show Now! At Nysaa Mirdif City Centre, Dubai store and Nysaa.com!
YOUR VIEWS 8 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST March 2024 ON THE GRAM READERS WRITE AND BITE BACK... WITH LOVE AND AFFECTION Post your reviews to Send us your views, opinions and suggestions to: Email: aakanksha.naval@starzmediainc.com FilmfareMiddleEast FilmfareME FILMFARE ME BEST INSTA MOMENTS Check out the super liked posts on our instagram...... LIKES : 229 K VIEWS : 2.6 M VIEWS : 174 K LIKES : 115,129 LIKES : 28,587 LIKES : 19.1 K LIKES : 21.9 K VIEWS : 462 K VIEWS : 494 K

Highlights

a bird’s-eye view of show town’s happenings

SANDEEP REDDY VANGA MAY COLLABORATE WITH SALMAN KHAN

NO ENTRY 2 TO STAR VARUN DHAWAN, ARJUN KAPOOR, AND DILJIT DOSANJH

The Salman Khan, Anil Kapoor, and Fardeen Khan starrer No Entry, which was directed by Anees Bazmee, was a huge box of ce hit. A sequel to this entertainer has been on the cards for years now. While earlier it was being said that the lmmaker is keen on getting the same cast yet again for the second instalment, recent reports suggest that Anees may have just changed his mind. It’s being said he plans on bringing the trio of Varun Dhawan, Arjun Kapoor and Diljit Dosanjh as the leads in the lm. There’s no news about the female leads, as of now.

Sandeep Reddy Vanga has reportedly approached Salman Khan for his upcoming dark action crime thriller. Vanga is presently collaborating with Allu Arjun and Prabhas on his other projects. He has also expressed his desire to work with superstars such as Chiranjeevi and Shah Rukh Khan. His last lm, Animal, courted several controversies despite its box of ce success.

RAVEENA TANDON REVEALS SHE STEPPED OUT OF FOUR SHAH RUKH KHAN FILMS

thriller. such important

The movie received mixed reviews from both the audience and critics. Animal also featured Rashmika Mandanna, Anil Kapoor, and Bobby Deol in important roles.

Raveena Tandon recently revealed that in the 1990s, she had agreed to work on four lms with Shah Rukh Khan, but each encountered various issues. Raveena also mentioned that she was offered the role played by Juhi Chawla in Yash Chopra’s Darr, alongside SRK, but she decided to decline the offer. She mentioned that one movie was cancelled due to the director’s demise. She opted out of the second lm because she wasn’t satis ed with the costumes.

ALIA BHATT AND SHARVARI WAGH TO STAR IN YRF’S FEMALE-LED SPY THRILLER

Aditya Chopra has earned a reputation for nurturing exceptional talent, and the latest is director Shiv Rawail Rawail’s directorial debut, The Railway Men, has not only garnered immense praise but has also achieved success. He’s now going to direct a spy lm for YRF, which will be female-centric and will star Alia Bhatt and Sharvari Wagh as leads.

HIGHLIGHTS

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s next with Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Vicky Kaushal is titled Love & War

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s next epic saga titled Love & War, featuring Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, and Vicky Kaushal, has been con rmed for a Christmas 2025 theatrical release. The lm will be the second collaboration for Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, while Vicky Kaushal is teaming up with the lmmaker for the rst time.

MOHIT SURI TO DIRECT A NEW-AGE LOVE STORY WITH YRF

Mohit Suri, known for Aashiqui 2 and Ek Villain, is reportedly set to collaborate with YRF for a new-age love story. As per a press release, “The company will produce a young love story that will touch your hearts, and they have partnered with one of the best lmmakers of this genre, Mohit Suri. Mohit has delivered huge hits with this genre and he will direct this lm aimed at the youth of the country. The yet-untitled lm is set to go on oors later this year.

IS YASH IN TALKS FOR A PROJECT WITH SHAH RUKH KHAN?

Yash, renowned for his success in the KGF franchise, is set to make his mWark in Bollywood with Nitesh Tiwari’s ambitious project, Ramayana. The Kannada superstar is reportedly already in discussions for his second Hindi venture and has expressed interest in collaborating with Shah Rukh Khan. Sources reveal that discussions with Red Chillies Entertainment are underway. Both Yash and SRK are reportedly keen on selecting the right project to meet the high expectations of their fans. An of cial announcement is yet to be made.

Shahid Kapoor in talks for a lm on Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj

Actor Shahid Kapoor is reportedly in advanced talks for a major historical project. As per reports, Kapoor is in discussions with director Amit Rai (OMG 2) for a lm based on the life of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The lm is expected to depict a “brave chapter” from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s life, utilising high-quality VFX and aiming to be among the most expensive Indian productions ever made.

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Taapsee Pannu

One Kind of a

POWERHOUSE PERFORMER AND ACTRESS PAR EXCELLENCE TAAPSEE PANNU IN CONVERSATION WITH AAKANKSHA NAVAL-SHETYE TALKS ABOUT HER FEARLESS AND UNCONVENTIONAL REEL CHOICES, BEING IN A LEAGUE OF HER OWN AND REVEALS WHY SHE PREFERS HAVING A VANILLA LIFE OFF

COVER STORY
SCREEN!
PHOTOGRAPHER: SAHIL BEHAL | STYLIST: LOVEDEEP GULYANI | MAKE-UP: EVANIA PANNU | HAIR: SEEMA MANE

OLET’S START WITH TALKING ABOUT THE FACT THAT YOU HAVE MADE A CAREER, YOU HAVE BECOME A STAR WITHOUT FALLING PREY TO THE STARSYSTEM PER SAY, AND WHERE HEROES DON’T MATTER. YOU HAVE BEEN YOUR OWN HERO.

I have been the hero of my own films, because it came out of the situation where I wasn’t getting those kind of films where there were big heroes being a part of it. I don’t know for some reason, obviously there must be a

utspoken, brazen, honest, versatile, sassy and smart – Bollywood star Taapsee Pannu is a lot of things rolled into one - but the one thing she’s clearly not is ‘conventional’! While there are actresses who’ve piggy-backed their way to the top playing the quintessential heroines to the reigning heroes, a look at Taapsee’s filmography instantly reveals that she isn’t one of them. From playing beautifully flawed characters and owning them unapologetically to playing the headstrong ones, oscillating between the naughty and nice, she keeps it real, relatable and relevant. And not afraid to take the paths less-trodden, she’s emerged the hero herself. “I was way behind in that queue of playing the conventional love interest in movies. So I decided to start my own queue and started doing the films that are my kind of films,” she says rather matter-of-fact, insisting that choosing the hard way has always been the only option for her. I meet her in Dubai where she’s just been honoured as the Iconic Achiever for Excellence in Cinema at our Most Influential Women 2024. Candid, witty and full of surprises, she’s a dream to interview as we dive headlong into a fun conversation and talk about all things life, love, her quirky and unconventional screen romances and being her own hero! Excerpts

lot of other actresses who were probably better at doing those parts where you have to just be the love interest. Somehow I was way behind in that queue. So I decided to start my own queue and started doing the films that are my kind of films and that’s why a lot of people say that you probably are in your own league or you are one of a kind because I had to create that new line where I’m in the front which is my kind of cinema, where I’m probably the protagonist that you root for. I did not have an option. So I had to create an opportunity of this kind.

YES, YOU HAVE BEEN RATHER FEARLESS NOT ONLY IN CHOOSING THE KIND OF ROLES YOU DO ON SCREEN, BUT ALSO IN THE WAY YOU HAVE NAVIGATED YOUR JOURNEY IN BOLLYWOOD. WHAT’S MADE YOU SO BRAVE?

You know what they say: When the going gets tough, the tough get going! To be honest I didn’t have the option to have it easy. In fact, whenever I’ve tried to get things easily, or even the things that have come to me easily, they’ve somehow just never worked in my favour. Like eventually I could not gain much out of

My film career or my filmography takes care of all the drama of my life. So, I really have a very vanilla life in comparison to the kind of roles I do in my films.
March 2024 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST 13

it. So, I realised, whenever I put myself in a difficult movie or a role or a film that I get with a lot of difficulty is eventually what works for me the best. So I think somewhere God has probably designed my career in such a way that whenever I take the risk of jumping in the pool in the deep end, I’m going to come out as a winner.

AND YOU ALWAYS DO...

Yeah! Because I don’t have an option, as I said. I genuinely feel that I want to make the most of the opportunities that I get because there are so many people who want to be a part of this industry especially from outside. Like me, so many don’t have any help or any support system inside the industry, and we really wait for one good opportunity. So, I just don’t want to take any opportunity for granted and I try to make the most of it. If the opportunity doesn’t come my way easily, I kind of go to the opportunity. I’m ready to walk that extra mile. And somehow I always try to do that because I want to make

the most of every day. I don’t want to take anything for granted. And I really want to make sure that tomorrow when I look back at my career, I don’t really regret a lot of things.

TALKING ABOUT THE OUTSIDERS, IS THAT THE REASON YOU HAVE NAMED YOUR PRODUCTION HOUSE JUST THAT?

So that’s why I seriously feel that being an outsider is actually an advantage for an actor and as I always say, the view is the best from the outside. So, yes Outsiders Films is that.

Yes, actually that’s one of the reasons because it came to a point where I could see that everyone is kind of referring to ‘outsiders’ as a stepdown, as an inferiority complex of a certain sort where you refer to them as an outsider, it looked like you are probably the step-child. And I did not feel like that being an outsider. In fact, I always felt that because I’m an outsider I have seen life and circumstances of different kinds so closely that I actually use that experience and show that on screen. And it has helped me to be the performer I am today.

GOING BY THE KIND OF ROLES YOU’VE ESSAYED ON SCREEN OF ROLES, YOUR IDEA OF ROMANCE SEEMS VERY… Risky… I know (laughs).

EXACTLY LIKE YOU DID DUNKI WITH THE ‘KING OF ROMANCE’ SHAH RUKH KHAN. AND INSPITE OF THAT… THIS LOVE ANGLE IS ALWAYS SO UNCONVENTIONAL OR DARK AND EDGY WITH YOU…

Like I just said, nothing comes easy, right?

Whenever it’s supposed to be an easy-breezy rom-com, it just doesn’t work in my favour. It has to be very drastic, very radical in a lot

Whenever it’s supposed to be an easy-breezy rom-com, it just doesn’t work in my favour. It has to be very drastic, very radical in a lot of ways. So most of my love stories, be it Manmarziyaan or Haseen Dilruba or now Dunki, have been like really on the edge

of ways. So most of my love stories, be it Manmarziyaan or Haseen Dilruba or now Dunki, have been like really on the edge. As I said, nothing comes easy.

BUT WHAT IS YOUR IDEA OF ROMANCE IN REAL LIFE? LIKE HOW ROMANTIC ARE YOU AS A PERSON?

I think my film career or my filmography takes care of all the drama of my life. So, I really have a very vanilla life in comparison to the kind of roles I do in my films. People probably have a perception that I might have a very crazy life considering the kind of work that I do or roles that I play. But on the contrary, I have a very bland, regular life where there’re no big ups of major sorts or no crazy lows. It’s been more or less smooth. Or I feel I have kept it like that, because I want to save the drama for my screen presence and not in my real life. I can only handle drama in one thing, professional or personal. I have to choose one side, so I will choose drama

I have been the hero of my own films, because it came out of the situation where I wasn’t getting those kind of films where there were big heroes being a part of it.
PHOTOGRAPHER: AJAY KADAM | STYLIST: SHREEJA RAJGOPAL MAKE-UP: EVANIA PANNU | HAIR: SEEMA MANE SAREE: VAISHALI S

in my professional life, not the personal.

AND YOU’VE BEEN AMAZING WITH BOTH THE CHOICE OF ROLES AND THE WAY YOU HAVE PORTRAYED THEM ON SCREEN. IT RESONATES REALISTICALLY FOR WOMEN, AND SO MANY FIND THEM INSPIRING AND MOTIVATING...

I think also because I want to see a female as a hero on screen myself. And a lot of films I choose are the films that I’m the audience of. So when I pick a film I actually think, will I pay 500 rupees to go and watch it on screen. Is it worth my time? And because while growing up, I didn’t see many

If you liked Haseen Dillruba, you should wait and watch part two. Phir Aayi Hasseen Dilruba is a level up in every way

films in theatre where there were women stories being told or where the woman was the hero. So I think that’s why I feel that when I get these opportunities, I feel ‘oh this is new, this is different’. So, I want to do that where audience feels like ‘okay this is different it is worth my time and money’ and I want to make sure that I never waste their time.

TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT TAAPSEE PANNU THAT NO ONE KNOWS?

I think one thing about me that no one knows or probably even if they know they probably will have difficulty in believing is that as I mentioned a few minutes back that, I

pictures and kept it. I was a huge fan of Karisma Kapoor.

WHEN NOT SHOOTING, WHAT WOULD WE CATCH YOU DOING?

You’ll catch me playing a sport or doing some or the other kind of activity. I really enjoy spending my free time playing with friends, or just learning a new sport or probably going to theatres to watch a film. If you’re talking about between 7 am in the morning to 10 pm in the night, this is what I’ll be found doing if not eating. But after 10 o’ clock regardless of work or no work day, I start feeling a little dozed out because I think it’s a body alarm that goes off after 10 pm. That’s why I said I have a very vanilla life.

WHAT IS YOUR SECRET INDULGENCE?

Indulgence, when that word comes, I only have food in my mind. I love food, I live to eat. So all my work-outs that I do which I do a lot is because I want to make sure I can eat everything and anything I like. I don’t want to compromise on eating food. I will eat all unhealthy stuff but I’ll work out double to make sure I compensate. I love my chole bhature, that’s my indulgence, if you ask.

YOU SAID YOU HAVE A VERY VANILLA LIFE. WHEN YOU PLAY SOMETHING RISQUE, LIKE THE CHARACTER IN HASEEN DILLRUBA, WHERE DO YOU BRING THAT NAUGHTY, SEXY

have a very vanilla life. I don’t have an exciting life beyond camera. All the excitement in my life, all the spice and fun of life that one has is in front of the camera. I have a very bland life beyond camera.

AS A TEENAGER, WHOSE POSTERS DID YOU HAVE IN YOUR BEDROOM

It will sound very weird but because I’m still in the industry with them. I had posters of John (Abraham) and I was a huge fan since then. And I was a huge fan of Karisma Kapoor. So I had a lot of these scrap books where I had collected her beautiful

See as a female, you have all these things in you. Something is more active than the other. Some sides are more dominant, some are more active, right? So over years, probably nobody really used or tried to present that sensual side of me on screen. So when I got an opportunity with Haseen Dillruba, I kind of jumped onto it because I was like this is my one opportunity to show that I can also be sensual.

AND HOW! THAT PALLU SCENE HAS BECOME SO ICONIC

That… yes (laughs)! But if you liked that one, I think you should wait and watch part two. Phir Aayi Hasseen Dilruba is a level up in every way.

16 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST March 2024
SAREE: DISHA PATIL

I was way behind in that queue of playing the conventional love interest in movies. So

I decided to start my own queue and started doing the films that are my kind of films...

SAREE: EKAYA BENARAS RING: MAHESH NOTANDASS

POWER PLAY

18 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST March 2024 DUBAI SCOPE
PICTURES -ABU SAMUEL & SUMAIR ALI KHAN
Mr. Rizwan Sajan and Anu Malik Mr. Rizwan Sajan and Shabbir Ahluwalia Mr. Rizwan Sajan and Dheeraj Dhoopar Mr. Rizwan Sajan and CEO Zee Entertainment Enterprises - Punit Goenka Mr. Rizwan Sajan at Zee Rishtey Awards
March 2024 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST 19 SHEEN GURRIB IN CONVERSATION WITH MR. RIZWAN SAJAN AND MR. ADEL SAJAN AT THE BRANDME SUMMIT MR. RIZWAN SAJAN WITH MR SATISH KUMAR SIVAN, CONSUL GENERAL OF INDIA TO DUBAI AT MAHABIZ MR. RIZWAN SAJAN ADDRESSES THE STUDENTS AND GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS ATCITY UNIVERCITY AJMAN MR. RIZWAN SAJAN WITH HER ROYAL HIGHNESS SHEIKHA JAWAHER BINT KHALIFA AL KHALIFA, FOUNDER OF THE SHEIKHA JAWAHER FOUNDATION AT MAHABIZ EVENT
FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN OF DANUBE GROUP MR RIZWAN SAJAN WITH INDIAN PRIME MINISTER SHRI NARENDRA MODI AT THE GLOBAL BUSINESS SUMMIT IN NEW DELHI Sam Bahadur

I ONLY THINK, ‘WHAT CAN I ADD TO THE SCRIPT,’ WHILE SIGNING ON A FILM. AND THIS HAS BEEN MY MANTRA SINCE MY FIRST FILM

SANYA MALHOTRA IS ENJOYING THE FRUITS OF BEING PATIENT. SHE SHARES HER VIEWS ABOUT LIFE AND CAREER WITH SUMAN SHARMA

Whatdreams maycome

Sanya Malhotra knows how to achieve great work life balance. She’s been appearing in OTT films like Kathal and Love Hostel and was also seen in big budget productions like Sam Bahadur and Jawan. Working with Shah Rukh Khan has been a dream come true moment for her. Her eyes glow when she talks about the star who is a former Delhite like her and has been a source of inspiration for her. She’s seen her share of ups and downs but asserts that everything which happens makes you better at survival. The star, who is as real as they come, talks about her journey and her way of life in a heart-toheart chat.

You recently won the Best Actress Critics’ Trophy for Kathal at the Filmfare OTT Awards. How does it feel? It’s my first Filmfare win. I couldn’t attend because my sister Shagun was getting married to producer Achin Jain. And I was not expecting to win at all, and I have always been so excited just to be nominated for Filmfare. The next day I was promoting Sam Bahadur in Delhi, and I was with my producer, Guneet Monga. And on my way back, Guneet broke this news to me: Listen, you have won a Filmfare Award for Kathal. And what was the

divine intervention that I had with my producer when my nomination and award were announced? And I couldn’t believe it. I was like, This year can’t get better, whether it is professionally or personally. Touchwood.

All your recent films have been different, be it Paggalait, Meenakshi Sundaram, or Kathal I wasn’t really confident in myself to do a movie like Pagglait. But my producers, Guneet Monga and Achin Jain, had faith in me. I didn’t have the confidence to shoulder a film like Pagglait. But just to see the kind of confidence they had in me as a maker gave me a lot of confidence. I am glad that I believed in myself, because it has been a really important

AS AN ACTOR, YOU HAVE A CHECKLIST OF WHICH DIRECTOR YOU WANT TO WORK WITH, SO MEGHNA MA’AM HAS ALWAYS TOPPED MY LIST
March 2024 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST 23
Sam Bahadur

film for my filmography. It kind of opened up a lot of opportunities for me as an actor. So I am very lucky that despite me not having confidence in myself, they have confidence in me much more than myself.

How will you sum up 2023 for yourself?

Sorry for the pun, but a “jackfruitful” year. It has been a fantastic year for me because in 2022, I shot five films back-to-back. I was hardly at home; I missed out on really important family events and I used to just sit back in my vanity van or on set and think about whatever I was missing out on; I would get a “jackfruit” for it, never knowing that it would turn out to be this good. I think these are the opportunities that an actor dreams of and I feel really lucky that I got to work with some good co-actors and amazing directors in the seven years of my career. The pace is proper and the growth is also very sustainable.

How was your experience working with Meghna Gulzar in Sam Bahadur ?

As an actor, you have a checklist of which director you want to work with, so Meghna ma’am has always topped my list. I feel so blessed that Meghna chose me to play Silloo Maneckshaw. I so clearly remember that it was a Sunday afternoon when I got a call from her. She said I have a script for you; please read it and tell me if you would like to do it or not, and I read it in one go. And in two hours, I called her back and told her that I wanted to be a part of this film. And I feel so blessed because this is a film in which we are celebrating Sam Maneckshaw’s life as a wonderful human being. It feels validating and gratifying to get the kind of response that we are getting for the film.

Tell us something about Vicky Kaushal.

After the film was over, I couldn’t stop crying. I felt so happy to see him

24 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST March 2024 WOMEN SPECIAL

Jawan

THE TOUGH DAYS ARE THE ONES THAT WILL MAKE YOU MOVE, WHICH WILL MAKE YOU CHANGE SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF AND WHICH WILL SHOW SOMETHING SPECIAL ABOUT YOURSELF

Kathal

perform the way he did. He is a fabulous actor and we as an industry need to celebrate these performances.

Working with the superstar Shah Rukh Khan in Jawan —was it like your dream come true?

Of course. The dreams begin from there. I remember he had a series with a channel where he was in Delhi in a car and he showed his school; he talked about Hansraj College, New Rajinder Nagar. I grew up listening to all this, and because I am from Delhi, I also started nursing a dream that agar yeh Dilli wallah kuch kar sakta hai toh hum kaise peeche reh sakte hain. I had five roommates and we would constantly only talk about Shah Rukh Khan. If somebody’s mood was bad in the house, we used to go and stand outside his house to just pump ourselves up. He has been an inspiration not just for us but for so many people. On a film like Jawaan It is a very big opportunity to have worked with him. And working with Atlee sir, was one of the most fulfilling experiences. I have formed a special bond with all six girls in the film. And we have a WhatsApp group called “Good to go, Chief.” We are constantly updating each other about our lives and meeting each other because we were together for two years.

What are some qualities that separate SRK from other actors?

Shah Rukh Khan is full of wisdom. There is so much that you can learn from him. Not just about filmmaking, but about life too! He is the most charming and grounded as well. You will know that if you are around him, you will feel that he is one of the most special ones. He makes everyone feel special. And you can see it in all of his films; it is a team effort. He makes everyone feel validated

and special in some way.

Did you feel that your role was kind of short in Jawan? Not at all. I only think, ‘what can I add to the script,’ while signing on a film. And this has been my mantra since my first film. And as I see it, this has been going well. At the end of the day, the script is the real hero. The writer is the real hero. That is something I always keep in mind as an actor.

What’s your criteria for choosing a script now?

As I said, the script is the real hero. You just know it when you are reading a script, whether you want to be a part of it or not. And apart from that, the makers, director, coactors—all of that also plays a very important role in figuring out the scripts that you want to be a part of.

It’s said outsiders have to struggle a lot. They don’t get work easily. I don’t relate to the word “struggle.” When I came from Delhi, I knew that I had to work hard. It was difficult. I am not going to say overnight I had an opportunity or overnight I had bagged Dangal. I had to wait for a long time. There were days when I used to feel like I should go back to Delhi. I did not have any work, and I had to work harder then and prove to myself that my dreams are special and valid. But the tough days are the ones that will make you move, which will make you change something about yourself and which will show something special about yourself. That period keeps reminding me where I have come from. It is a reminder of sorts that when you have everything and when you don’t have anything, one thing you can keep constant is your inner happiness. All things, whether they are sorrow or happiness, need to be accepted at every stage. You need to accept

all kinds of emotions and circumstances in life.

Where do you draw the strength to be positive and keep moving?

I get my strength from my family. I did not know that I would get so much support from my friends and my family towards my dream. So whenever I used to feel low or like I couldn’t do this anymore, my father used to give me small pep talks. When my father would come to Mumbai for some work, he would get fruits for me. Because it was not possible for me to spend money on buying fruits or dry fruits, I would wait for Papa to buy them for me.

What’s the one thing that you kept reminding yourself of during that period of time?

Patience is really important. I constantly keep reminding myself that I am not here alone. I had that really strong circle around me that had come to Mumbai with me. I have seen them grow. So it’s kind of a reminder of where we came from and what we are doing, so that keeps me grounded. I’m proud of almost everything that I have done in these seven years. I have always been a bit too harsh on myself. I think when you are forced to get out of your comfort zone is the time you really grow in your life.

Can you tell us about your next project?

Mrs. is a film close to my heart. It’s directed by Arati Kadav. And as I told you, I would be very harsh on myself in relation to work. But this was the first time and I was like, “Yeah, I have done a good job.” The film has come out really well, and I am so confident about it. The story is important and it will hopefully resonate with a lot of people. n

March 2024 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST 25

Packin’Packin’ a Punch a Punch

Shilpa Shetty Kundra Shilpa Shetty Kundra

GORGEOUS AND FIGHTING FIT AS EVER SHILPA SHETTY KUNDRA TALKS TO AAKANKSHA NAVAL-SHETYE ABOUT HER ACTION-PACKED SUCCESSFUL OTT DEBUT IN FICTION WITH INDIAN POLICE FORCE AND PLAYING THE FIRST FEMALE COP IN ROHIT SHETTY’S COP-VERSE!

You absolutely nailed the cop act in Rohit Shetty’s Indian Police Force on Amazon Prime Video. What was your mind-space like ahead of this dashing actionpacked debut on the OTT in a fictional series? It’s a good space. Rohit has set the benchmark so high when it comes to the cops, that it’s just too exciting and such a huge compliment to be a part of his cop-verse and being the first female cop in it. I loved the way he has projected me and just to be able to do all those action sequences without a stunt double is such a high. There’s a lot of work, sweat and tears that went into it but it’s all well worth it just to play this badass cop called Tara Shetty. So it truly has been an amazing journey. There’s a lot I learnt.

That’s quite the connection - Rohit, you and Tara, all three Shettys!

Yeah, superb na (laughs)!

Yes, there’s only one key Shetty missing – Suniel… Then we could have called it Udupi Force (laughs).

On a serious note, you are one of the fittest actresses in the industry. But doing this kind of action mustn’t have been easy at all. Like you said no body doubles, everything raw, right there…

It was hectic yaar!

Especially at this age. I’m not in my 20s you know. It was really hard, but thankfully I’m still fit, I’m fighting fit! And maybe God was preparing me to be able to play this character. I am someone who likes to work on

myself and likes to put in that effort. It would’ve been hard if I wasn’t training. And a little bit of basic that I’ve had in taekwondo, back in the day, kind of helped me. But it was just amazing. I was just happy that I could do it. It’s a part that most actresses would give an arm and a leg for. And I got it. So I made the best of it. I didn’t give an arm, but I gave a leg (laughs).

Yes, you did injure your leg in the process… I gave this my sweat and blood, literally!

Isn’t it ironic that you have been in so many movies where heroes have always played the cops and now you’re playing one and doing a fab job, even better than some infact…

Nahin nahin yaar, who, what better job and all. I

don’t look at it like that. Cinema gives you that opportunity to play larger than life characters and to play a cop in “Rohit Shetty’s cop universe” it comes with that added

INDIAN POLICE FORCE IS MY DEBUT ON OTT WITH FICTION AND I JUST FEEL LIKE IT’S A NEW BEGINNING. SO I APPROACH EVERY ROLE WITH A POINT OF VIEW OF ‘THIS IS A NEW BEGINNING’. NEVER IN COMPARISON TO THE PAST.
March 2024 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST 27

responsibility. So I was just too, too happy that I got this opportunity. There’s no comparison because I’ve played cop before. And when I play a character I never compare the character to how other people have played or even how I played, because each one has their own sensibility. And each one has a certain way they want to project themselves. So if you like me in this, there’s a lot of credit that’ll have to go to Rohit actually.

We saw the walk and the talk…

Yes, you saw that… there’s a whole art to it!

From the roles you have played, would you say that this one has come easier to you?

No, actually, no character is easy. The minute you feel like this is an easy character to portray, then I feel it’s the death of an actor.

When I go on set, I always approach my work like a newcomer and I always feel like, “Oh my God! Am I going to be able to do this? How am going to be able to play differently, how am I going to be honest to this character? Will the audiences like me, like the way I’m playing this role?” So there are a lot of questions. And also to kind of approach it with a bit of a difference is crucial. Because when you’re working for so long, things tend to get a little repetitive. So how do I do a scene differently, how do I bring a little more authenticity into it. There are all these things playing in my mind.

As an actress do you feel a sense of freedom today where you can choose roles without thinking of Friday Box Office collections or next hero ke saath pairing kya hoga? Are

you in that space where you can just go out do anything and everything that you want to? Like you did Sukhi... It was a beautiful movie.

Thank you! Thank you so much. I’ve got so much love for Sukhi. But for me as an actor, I’ve never ever thought about these things. Ye kabhi cheezein aati hi nahi hai mere dimaag mein ki I’ve to think about ‘who am I going to be paired opposite next or what are the numbers this film will do.’ Yes you feel happier when it’s meets success. But the definition of success is again, decided by you. For me the definition of success is the level of satisfaction I get when I do a role or the love that it garners from people. Toh mere liye Sukhi was a very successful outing. Even Tara Shetty’s character! Indian Police Force is an OTT release and it will not be met with the pressure of box office numbers, but it’s my debut on OTT with fiction and I just feel like it’s a new beginning. So I approach every role with a point of view of ‘this is a new beginning’. Never in comparison to the past.

Quick Quick 7

WHAT IS THE ONE SUPERPOWER THAT YOU WISH YOU HAD?

I’m a woman and I’m a mother. It’s already a superpower. I wish I had the power to become invisible though.

WHAT’S YOUR ONE GUILTY PLEASURE?

Chocolate !

THREE WORDS THAT DESCRIBE YOU THE BEST?

Honest, positive and fab! Glamourous maybe!

IF ANY OF YOUR MOVIES WERE TO GET A SEQUEL,

WHICH MOVIE YOU WISH, WOULD GET ONE?

There are some films I wish were never made only. Sequel ka pata nahi mujhe... But yes Dhadkan maybe.

AND IF ONE MOVIE COULD BE REMADE, WHICH ONE WOULD YOU WANT.

No, I don’t believe that films should be remade. Just kills the whole soul of the movie. Really.

IF YOU HAD A CHANCE OF PICKING UP ONE CHARACTER OF ROHIT

NO CHARACTER IS EASY. THE MINUTE YOU FEEL LIKE THIS IS AN EASY CHARACTER TO PORTRAY,

THEN I FEEL IT’S THE DEATH OF AN ACTOR. WHEN I GO ON SET, I ALWAYS APPROACH MY WORK LIKE A NEWCOMER AND I ALWAYS FEEL LIKE,

“OH MY GOD! AM I GOING TO BE ABLE TO DO THIS?”

SHETTY’S MALE COPS, TO PLAY ON SCREEN, WHICH ONE WOULD IT BE?

Why? I am happy playing Tara Shetty in Indian Police Force. It’s a character that’s so powerful!

WHO DO YOU THINK IS THE HOTTEST COP ON SCREEN?

I think Ajay (Devgn). Ajay is quite hot. Even Akshay (Kumar) is also very hot. Loved the sequence where he jumps out of the helicopter in Suryavanshi. They’re all hot yaar (laughs).

28 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST March 2024 WOMEN SPECIAL

Fabulous Fierce &

THE RECENT YEARS HAVE SEEN A STRONGER CHANGE IN NARRATIVES THAN EVER BEFORE WITH WOMEN TAKING CENTRESTAGE AS THE PROTAGONISTS. AAKANKSHA NAVALSHETYE TAKES A LOOK AT SOME OF THESE ACTRESSES WHO HAVE GIVEN US THE MOST ICONIC FEMALE CHARACTERS TO WATCH ON SCREEN.

KANGANA RANAUT

Setting the screens on fire with her feisty performances, this firebrand doesn’t mince words off screen either. With films like Queen, Manikarnika, Tejas, Thalaivii, Fashion, Tanu Weds Manu, amongst others, she has shown the women power at the Box Office. An actress – a director and producerKangana is a power brand to reckon with.

RANI MUKERJI

MRS. CHATTERJEE VS NORWAY

BLACK

An absolute entertainer on screen, Rani has always ruled the roost with her strong portrayals. Some of her most memorable and praiseworthy roles where she drives the narrative include Mardaani, Black, Hichki, Mardaani 2, No One Killed Jessica, and most recently Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway.

MARDAANI QUEEN THALAIVI MANIKARNIKA

VIDYA BALAN

KAHAANI

SHAKUNTALA DEVI

PAA

Vidya Balan is as fiery and zesty off screen as she is on screen. Her repertoire boasts of some of the finest performances we’ve seen. Paa, Kahaani, The Dirty Picture, Ishqiya, No One Killed Jessica, Shakuntala Devi, Tumhari Sulu, Sherni, Jalsa, Guru… she’s got a long list going there.

ALIA BHATT

GANGUBAI KATHIAWADI

RAAZI

DARLINGS

Gangubai Kathiawadi, Highway, Dear Zindagi, Darlings… Alia Bhatt has within a short span of time earned her spot under the sun! The young mum is unstoppable with an impressive line-up ahead.

SPECIAL MENTIONS

RAVEENA TANDON

YAMI GAUTAM

RADHIKA APTE

KALKI KOECHLIN

RASIKA DUGAL

TABU

CHANDNI BAR

ANDHADHUN

HAIDER

One of the finest performers of the Indian film industry, this actress par excellence has given us some of the most iconic characters in cinema. From Andhadhun, Chandni Bar, Drishyam, Haider, to The Namesake, Maqbool, A Suitable Boy, Cheeni Kum, Filhaal, Kuttey, Khufiya, the actress has proven her mettle with each screen outing and how!

KRITI KULHARI

SAYANI GUPTA

SOBHITA DHULIPALA

ANUSHKA SHARMA SONAM KAPOOR

TAAPSEE PANNU

SAAND KI AANKH

PINK

THAPPAD

Easily one of the most unconventional actresses when it comes to her choices on screen, Taapsee’s filmography is a long list of impressive women characters. Pink, Thappad, Manmarziyaan, Naam Shabana, Badla, Mulk, Baby, Haseen Dilruba, Saand ki Aankh, Game Over, Looop Lapeta, Dunki, Shabaash Mithu, Dobaara… take your pick!

30 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST March 2024

PRIYANKA CHOPRA

MARY KOM QUANTICO

BAJIRAO MASTANI

Straddling the West and Indian cinema with effortless ease, the actress-producerentrepreneur-singer has proven that multi-tasking could well be her middle name. Her power-packed performances on screen and equally powerpacked ventures off it make her one of the most popular names globally. Mary Kom, Dil Dhadakne Do, The White Tiger, Quantico, Bajirao Mastani, Baywatch… she’s got a long list going.

SHEFALI SHAH

DELHI CRIME

THREE OF US

AJEEB DAASTAANS

BHUMI PEDNEKAR

TOILET EK PREM KATHA

DUM LAGA KE HAISHA

Her films have been a strong commentary on several issues plaguing our society. From Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Toilet Ek Prem Katha, Saand Ki Aankh, Badhaai Do, Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitaare, Sonchiriya, Lust Stories, to the most recent Bhakshak, Bheed, Afwaah… the actress has won over hearts and critics with her acting prowess.

Putting the realism in cinema, Konkona has balanced out the hardcore commercial fare with movies that spell reality. As a director too, Konkona has made her mark in Indian cinema. From Page 3, Wake Up Sid, Luck By Chance, Life… In a Metro, Ek Thi Daayan, Mr & Mrs Iyer to her directorial gems A Death in the Gunj, Lust Stories 2… she’s certainly earned her spot here.

Expect nothing but a performance worth an applause each time she takes to the camera whether it’s her OTT outings or movies. Delhi Crime, Darlings, Three of Us, Jalsa, Ajeeb Daastaans, Dil Dhadakne Do, Monsoon Wedding, Human… and counting!

DEEPIKA PADUKONE

PIKU

CHHAPAAK

BAJIRAO MASTANI

The gorgeous star reigns the Box Office with not just glamour but also her performances. Piku, Chhapaak, Gehraiyaan, Padmaavat, Pathaan, Chennai Express, Bajirao Mastani, the actress has even wowed the West with XXX: Return of Xander Cage.

KONKANA SEN SHARMA

PAGE 3

LIFE… IN A METRO

MR & MRS IYER

BHAKSHAK

ALL THE COLOURS IN THE RAINBOW

COSTUME DESIGNER POORNAMITRA SINGH WAS IN THE NEWS RECENTLY, THANKS TO HER EYE-CATCHING COSTUME CHOICES FOR THE ARCHIES. SHE SHARES HER JOURNEY WITH TANISHA BHATTACHARYA

Ranveer Singh’s rapper street style in Gully Boy (2019), the high society characters from Made In Heaven (2022) and the retro fashion seen in The Archies (2023). All of these have a single, common thread: costume designer and stylist Poornamitra Singh. Her foray with Bollywood began as an assistant costume designer on Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. She has since worked on films like Rang Rasiya (2008), Turning 30 (2011), Aurangzeb (2013), Baar Baar Dekho (2016) to name a few. Over the years, Poornamitra Singh has learnt to trust in her instincts. She feels that costumes complement the mood of a scene and is known to exhaust her directors with queries when she takes on a project. Excerpts from an engaging interview with the self-taught designer.

Gully Boy had a streetwear vibe, then Made in Heaven was all about the weddings, and now you’ve gone vintage with The Archies. What did each project teach you? Made in Heaven was challenging for me because it was the first time that I worked on a web show. The scale of it was so big because we are all from feature film backgrounds. It was difficult to get into a web show format without any prior knowledge about the pace, minute details to take care of and amount to be shot. There were so many people and weddings with the glamour aspect. At the same time, there was also another side to it because Delhi is a mashup of a lot of different localities and people. I’m a stickler for details. I researched Delhi thoroughly, and creating those characters was super fun. Right from Jazz’s (Shivani Raghuvanshi) character to the first Russian wedding. The variety of weddings was also so vast; some were artistic, while others were loud. I researched people I knew and got their wedding photos and personal photos. I needed real people in this, and that’s how I approached my series. Then Gully Boy was set in the slums of Mumbai. There’s a lot of life. There are a lot of rappers in it who have their styles going on. So just meeting all those musicians—in reality, all the rappers and songwriters. I met them just to get an idea of their vibe. Our team went around photographing a lot of college kids and found out how they wrapped their hijabs, what their hair looked like, what bags they

carried, what shoes they wore, and what kind of jeans they wore. Zoya has a sense of what the movie looks like and what palette she needs to bring to the film, and then we all kind of work together.

You’ve worked with Zoya before in Gully Boy and Made in Heaven. Tell us about that experience and bond. It helps me a lot because she’s such a creative genius.

I’m somebody who gets into the narrative of the film; hence it helps me to work with someone who has written it. I would ask her random questions about The Archies, like what was Archies’ favourite colour and where Veronica would go and shop. I go in-depth about who they are, their moods and how they would approach life. My colour palettes reflect the mood of the characters and scenes in the film too. It helps me when I work with someone like Zoya because she’s somebody who knows the world so well. My discussions with her over time helped me build a lot for the characters, and that’s how I can get into the finer details of things. Over time, we have developed trust and rapport that work for us.

How different was the sourcing and research bit for a musical like The Archies?

Everything was made from scratch. I had to create a world that’s unique to the The Archies universe. We took a lot of real-life instances in terms of our research and where the place was located. It’s partly based on reason and partly on your imagination. These are comic books, but Zoya wanted the feel of a storybook in this movie. I’ve always been fascinated by storybooks and that world. Right from designing, sampling, pattern-

32 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST March 2024 WOMEN SPECIAL

making, and silhouettes prevalent in that era, it took a lot of time for my workers to do the stitching and everything from scratch because they were not used to the styling from that period. I had to train them on how to make these silhouettes and highwaisted pants with wide pleated finishes. Collars, cuffs, and everything had extreme detailing, and once it was done, I used to pin them up on the bottom and say whatever anyone in my team is making for this film, these details need to be there. Even with the school uniforms that we had, we didn’t have fitted blazers. If you see the film, it’s loose with a straight cut. The training required was massive to get it right.

Were there any past movie references you went back to pick references for the AngloIndian community styling?

I researched people like Brigitte Bardot, Audrey Hepburn, James Dean, Asha Parekh, Sadhana, Sharmila Tagore, and Shami Kapoor. I went through the archives of old magazines from the ’60s. I looked at newspaper clippings where Jacqueline Kennedy had come to India and some political people like that. To form

different characters in the movie, you require various personalities. You can’t just reference films and film stars. I went through a lot of personal photographs of friends and family, and I interviewed a lot. People who lived through those times and were in school remember how their uniforms used to be. I noticed the skirts were longer and the blazers were wider. Then some ’50s fashion with cinched waists for dresses and skirts. The mini dresses had just come in blue, which is why Veronica started wearing them because she has access to fashion all over the world. She gets the ’60s fashion in Riverdale because she’s well-travelled and can afford it. Betty is somebody who would like her mother to buy her things from the local boutique. She would like hand-knit sweaters or like a neighbour would stitch her some clothes. She is somebody who would have had a wardrobe like that for five years. Like gloves with embroidery and beret hats.

I THINK WHAT INTRIGUES THE AUDIENCE ABOUT FASHION SEEN IN FILMS IS THAT THEY SEE SOMETHING NEW AND FRESH, AND THEY WOULDN’T MIND TRYING IT OUT IF IT LOOKED GOOD TO THE EYES

The vintage footwear in the film has also been a hot topic.

I hope people see my shoes because they were painstakingly made. We handpicked footwear and got it made for everyone. A lot of the footwear is vintage from that time, which I picked from London. We picked the colours, patterns, and styles. And we just got them made.

What’s your most special memory with the young cast from the sets?

It was a sheer delight because they are fresh and their energy is so infectious. It was hilarious. I would see the boys tugging at their pants and tell them it’s supposed to be that high. They had shorts that would start high on the chest, and they’re really long until the knee and quite wide, and it’s almost like a divided skirt. They would ask me, ‘You’re making us wear a skirt?’ They have such dedication, focus, and enthusiasm. We got that energy from them.

What’s it like to design for a force of fashion like Ranveer Singh?

It helps me. I like input from actors, so I include them in a lot of things. It helps me to widen my horizons and make my process easier, and that’s how I can help them build a better character on screen. It goes with all my projects; I like that kind of collaboration.

How important are costumes in a film’s storytelling process?

Cinema is a big thing here. We are a country of song and dance.

I HAD TO CREATE A WORLD THAT’S UNIQUE TO THE ARCHIES UNIVERSE. WE TOOK A LOT OF REAL-LIFE INSTANCES IN TERMS OF OUR RESEARCH AND WHERE THE PLACE WAS LOCATED

We are a country that likes beautiful colours. I think what intrigues the audience about fashion seen in films is that they see something new and fresh, and they wouldn’t mind trying it out if it looked good to the eyes. That’s why there’s such a big fan-following of the fashion sported by actors.

A word of advice you would like to give to aspirants who want to make a name in the entertainment industry in styling.

It’s not glamorous at all. It’s far from it. Behind the scenes, it’s a lot of hard work, dedication, and research. We do have a lot of fun, but it’s a different kind of fun. It’s not what you see in the cinema. You need to develop that skill in design. I get a lot of people who are just stylists, who just pick up things and put them all together, but it requires a lot of effort. If you don’t know the construction of a garment, you cannot fit it on people. I see that gap a lot. There’s a huge technical aspect to it. In The Archies, when the girls are twirling, twisting, and flipping, you need to know how to stitch the garments to keep them in place. You only know when you know how to construct a garment.

March 2024 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST 33
The Archies
Gully Boy
Made in Heaven Season 1 Lust Stories Season 1

DREAMS UNLIMITED!

SINGER AND SONGWRITER RAJA KUMARI, WHO IS A KNOWN NAME IN THE WEST, IS SLOWLY FINDING HER FEET IN INDIA. SHE SHARES HER GAMEPLAN WITH TANISHA BHATTACHARYA

SHow have things changed after the massive success of the Jawan anthem?

It’s been great. I want to be more involved in the Telugu scene. I want to keep making more songs in Indian cinema. I feel it’s a wonderful platform, and I’m manifesting it. Every single person that watched Jawan either knows my name or voice, and that kind of response is something I can never replicate. I’m thankful, and I want to keep using it to spread the good vibes and let people know that if your daughter wants to do music or art, there is a way to do it. If I can be an example of that, then I’m happy to do it.

What was your first reaction to being approached by Shah Rukh Khan for a song in his film?

I am a magic manifester, so the things I ask for, the universe gives them to me. I got to work with Shah Rukh Khan for the first time in Husn parcham in Zero, but

that interaction was just on the phone. There’s a video of me talking to him. My friend is recording, and I’m literally crying. This time, it was a little bit better for me. I was a little more adjusted. Meeting him at the screening was such a special experience. SRK’s someone I’ve always wanted to work with and who I respect and love. So much so that when he hugged me at the screening, I felt my heart chuckle.

Did you tell him about this whole emotional moment you had?

I always tell him I’m shameless with my fandom. I moved to India because of Swades. The day Jawan was released, I watched Swades again. And I remember I was just crying because I realised what an impact that film had on me. I remember the last scene when Shah Rukh is washing his feet on the steps of the temple and it just pans away. I remember when I watched it in America just thinking, “What will I have to do to one day be able to live in India? This

could be something I could experience.” And I think the Jawan theme song—being on stage and being able to tell him—was so beautiful for me.

How involved was he in the making of the Jawan anthem? With Husn parcham from Zero, I always tell people that SRK was my co-writer because I wrote it when we had our first talk. With this one, it was a different experience. I got to write something on behalf of all his fans. Anirudh, the music composer called me on the day that I was releasing my album The Bridge, which is an independent release. He called and said that he needs me to give him a vocal tomorrow, and it’s for Shah Rukh. So I dropped everything I was doing. I went straight to the studio, and I love that it happened on the day my album came out because it was an amazing day. Anirudh just

34 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST March 2024 WOMEN SPECIAL
Live performance at the Bridge World Tour vetha Yallapragada Rao, professionally known as Raja Kumari, is an American rapper, songwriter and singer from Claremont, California. She started performing since she was 14 and has been known for her collaborations with Gwen Stefani, Iggy Azalea, Fifth Harmony, Sidhu Moosewala, Knife Party, Fall Out Boy and others. She is also a trained dancer in Kuchipudi, Kathak, and Bharatanatyam. She made a cameo in Gully Boy as a judge, and has collaborated with the singer Divine on the songs City slums and Roots. Her first collaboration in Hindi films began with AR Rahman, for whom she sang the song Jugni for the Tamil film Kaatru Veliyidai (2017). She sang the song Never give up for Anirudh Ravichander the same year for the Tamil film Vivegam. Her recent collaboration with Ravichander, the title track of Jawan, has made waves this year. The singer, who looks up to Shah Rukh Khan, is on cloud nine for being part of his film. Excerpts from an interview with the euphoric singer.

told me three things: it’s sharp; Shah Rukh is with a gang of badass females, and they’re vigilantes for the good; there’s a lot of guns. So I watched the trailer and I kept watching it on loop. I wrote the song because I wanted to. He told me, “You can go ahead and say King Khan.” I got so excited because I have referenced Shah Rukh a lot in my music. I’m just happy to be a part of it in that way. I didn’t come in and just sing a song that someone else wrote. I got to participate in writing the song and creating a vibe, which has always been my dream.

Now that the dream of working with Shahrukh has been fulfilled twice, who’s next on your wishlist?

Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Because my soul is something out of an ancient past and because of my training in classical. I would love to be in a period piece and I could sing a song. I think it’d be really fun.

How has Hindi music influenced you growing up abroad?

Bollywood was the connection I had to what it meant to be Indian. My understanding of Indian culture was classical, mythological and historical because that’s what I studied. I studied Kuchipudi, Kathak and Bharatanatyam and in college, I studied religions like South Asian religions. But to think about modern India, Bollywood was that bridge. Shah Rukh is the archetype for the guy we all want to fall in love with in some ways. I feel this has always been the way to understand Indian culture, and I wouldn’t be the same without it.

Tell us about your collaboration with Madhuri Dixit Nene in Made in India.

It wasn’t just about Madhuri Dixit Nene, the star, but just as a human being. I think she understood my passion for my art and we met in America. She wanted to work on an Englishlanguage album and I got

BARBIE HAD A LITTLE KARAN JOHAR SEGMENT. WE’VE ALWAYS INFLUENCED THE WORLD. I THINK MICHAEL JACKSON WAS INFLUENCED BY BOLLYWOOD WHEN HE MADE HIS VIDEOS

the opportunity to be the writer. And she walked in, and I thought I would faint, but I just took a deep breath and carried on. I told her, as a fan, we want to know about the time when you got married, moved to Colorado and were doing groceries by yourself. That is such a fascinating period. What was it like when you first got married? So a lot of the music we wrote was about her experience. And I feel like we were able to get to know each other. And when I came to India in 2017, I didn’t have a plan. I was just kind of trying to figure it out. And I went to see Madhuri and asked if you wanted to work on some more music. She just asked me to move to her place and I was there for four months. We worked on eight songs and I got to have a unique

SRK’S SOMEONE I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO WORK WITH AND WHO I RESPECT AND LOVE. SO MUCH SO THAT WHEN HE HUGGED ME AT THE SCREENING, I FELT MY HEART CHUCKLE

putting out as a community, we’re changing people’s perspectives. The capabilities we have and the music have always been the heart and soul of Indian cinema.

Do you recall your most challenging phase while trying to find your footing in India with your work?

experience with her. She’s always going to be my inspiration.

What is the perception that the West has when it comes to Bollywood music?

Barbie had a little Karan Johar segment. We’ve always influenced the world. I think Michael Jackson was influenced by Bollywood when he made his videos. When RRR was at the Oscars, there was a huge performance in Telugu, which growing up, I would have never imagined to be possible. But there wasn’t one South Asian dancer on stage. And that was painful for the dance community in America because I’m friends with a lot of SouthAsian dancers who want to be dancers in America with Indian parents. I think with the type of work we’re

A lot of people don’t realise that when I moved to India, my family was still in Los Angeles. So I had to put up my house here by myself. I went through numerous management deals and record label contracts, ultimately becoming independent today and controlling my destiny. It helped me understand who I am and what my worth is and I feel like now I’m standing in my power. I turn my pain into power. I’ve had the loneliest days. It’s an alienating career because there’s so much competition that you don’t quite know if people are trying to be your friend, to be close to you, or to take your ideas and outdo you or learn from you. And that used to be something I worried about a lot. But now I’m so secure in who I am and what I’m doing.

What motivated you to get up and get going during that lonely phase?

I think my mom. The one thing my mom instilled in me was that God is there and he called me for something and as long as I do everything with good intentions, even if things are not working out, it’s a redirection. And now I’m living proof. It took me a year to cut out all toxic relationships, work, relationships, people, energies and substances. I was sleeping for four hours because of the two time zones. And I was eating a bunch of chocolates and whatnot. As a little girl, I wanted to fulfil that dream of representing Indian culture in the mainstream and people growing up in America having a better understanding of where I come from.

March 2024 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST 35
Jawan

Celebrating UAE's Most Inspiring and Influential Women

Step into the realm of empowerment and accolades as Yardley London proudly presents the Most Influential Women 2024. A celebration of remarkable achievements, this prestigious awards ceremony honored trailblazing women during the week of International Women’s Day. Dr. Sana Sajan led an engaging panel discussion, while the charismatic Bollywood sensation and our Cover Star Taapsee Pannu, unveiled the March issue of Filmfare Middle East along with the visionary Founder and Chairman of Danube Group, Mr. Rizwan Sajan. The evening was a true testimony of empowerment and inspiration.

36 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST March 2024 MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN - 2024 PHOTOGRAPHER - YASIR ARAFAT, KHURAM NASEEM; CLOUD9 EVENTS | VIDEO - JAFAR VETTIYIL
Bollywood Actor Iconic Achiever for Excellence in Cinema Felicitated by Mr. Rizwan Sajan - Founder and Chairman, Danube Group
TAAPSEE PANNU
Founder and CEO, The H Concepts and Siraj Outstanding Contribution to Humanitarian Causes Felicitated by Mr. Adel Sajan - Group Managing Director, Danube Group
HEBA RUMHEIN
Former UAE Women’s National Football Team Player Outstanding Achievements in Sports Felicitated by : Mr. Adel Sajan - Group Managing Director, Danube Group
HOURIYA AL-TAHERI
Host - 104.8 Channel Outstanding Radio Jockey of the year Felicitated by H. H. Sheikh Juma Bin Maktoum Al Maktoum
EVE JASO
Advisor Marketing and Strategy Network International Pioneer in Marketing Felicitated by : Mr. Yehia Habli - Chief Executive Officer, Tamer Arabia
BANALI LUTHRA MALHOTRA
Department Chair Management, AUE Outstanding Contribution to Education Felicitated by Ms. Nadia Qaisar - Chief Marketing Officer, Yonboon
DR. NIKOLINA LJEPAVA
Young Star of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies - Expo 2020 Rising Star Felicitated by Ms. Zenofar Fathima - CEO, Zen Film Productions
MIRA SINGH
Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs & Port Security - Albarsha Branch Customer service Excellence in Public Service Felicitated by Ms Preeti Laungani - Associate Director, Zee5 MENA
MONA DARWEISH ALDHANHANI

AVITAL COHEN

Founder of AC Holdings

Outstanding Contribution to Realty Solutions

Felicitated by Mr. Rizwan Sajan - Founder and Chairman, Danube Group

EMMA BANKS

Vice President, F&B Strategy and Development EMEA- Hilton

Excellence in Hospitality

Felicitated by Ms. Sharihan Al Mashary, First Emirati General Manager

EBTESAM AL KAABI

Vice President - Sales, Jafza

Excellence in Business Leadership

Felicitated by : H.H. Sheikh Juma Bin Maktoum Al Maktoum

KATYA KOVTUNOVICH

Fashion Designer and CEO, Katya Kovtunovich

Excellence in Fashion

Felicitated by Ms. Sameera Rizwan SajanDanube Group

DEEPSHIKHA DESHMUKH

Film Producer

Emerging International Film Producer of the Year

Felicitated by : Mr. Yaqoob Al Ali

MONA SHROFF

Jewellery Designer & Stylist

Pioneer in Jewellery Designing

Felicitated by Mr. Priyadarshee Panigrahi - Senior General Manager and Business Head Middle East, Wipro Yardley

AYESHA KHAN

Founder & Managing Director - Food-ATM, Mentor at UN Women Excellence in CSR activities

Felicitated by Ms. Shabnam Kassam - Founder Alish Apparel

FIBHA AHMED

Vice President - Property Sales, Bayut and dubizzle

Outstanding Achievement in Real Estate

Felicitated by Ms. Harjyot Oberoi - Head of Marketing, Khaleej Times

MUNIRA RAHMAN

CMO and Brand Ambassador - Al Haramain Perfumes

Young Achiever

Felicitated by Ms. Ana - Maria Plopeanu, Petra Cosmetics

March 2024 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST 37
Danube
& Director,
Welfare Center
LAMA YAMMINE-HOCKS Co-Founder OPTO Excellence in Fintech Felicitated by : Mr. Parvesh Kumar - Chairman, Helios Perfumes and Cosmetics LLC
FERRIES ON BEHALF OF PALLAVI DEAN Founder & Creative Director - Roar Excellence in Architecture & Interior Design Felicitated by : Mr. Yaqoob Al Ali NATASHA HATHERALL-SHAWE Founder & CEO - TishTash Communications Excellence in Public Relations Felicitated by Mr. Gopal Sudhakaran - Marketing Operations Manager, Grand Stores LLC ELHAM AL MARZOOQI Vice President and Board Member - Emirati Musician’s Association Excellence in Music Felicitated by Mr. Lamak Ali - Managing Director, Miss & Mrs. Cosmetics DORA HRKAC FORBES Communications Council, Official Member - USA Excellence in Innovative Communication Felicitated by : Ms. Ann Raji, Content Creator ANURADHA AGARWAL Founder of Modista Exhibition Excellence in Event Management Felicitated by Ms. Nazneen Rasheed - Marketing Controller, MENA - Wipro Yardley ABEER ALJABERI Visual Artist and Mechanical Engineer Outstanding Contribution in Art & Culture Felicitated by : Ms. Karishma HingoraniFounder & Podcaster, Karishma Konnect
CLAIR

SHIRIN NABATI

Celebrity Makeup Artist

Trendsetter in Beauty and Makeup

Felicitated by Mr. Rizwan Sajan - Founder and Chairman, Danube Group

FARAH NAZ

Director - ESG and Innovation, Middle East and Africa

Outstanding Contribution to Literary Arts

Felicitated by Ms. Shabnam Kassam - Founder Alish Apparel & Director, Danube Welfare Center

FATMAH ALHANTOUBI

Emirati Debater, Interlocutor and Voice Commentator

Outstanding Eco Warrior

Felicitated by H.H. Sheikh Juma Bin Maktoum Al Maktoum

BUSHRA BOUMEDHI

CEO & Founder of Red Films

Outstanding Contribution to Regional Film Industry

Felicitated by : Ms. Shabnam Kassam - Founder Alish Apparel & Director, Danube Welfare Center

PANCHALI MAHENDRA

President of Atelier House Hospitality

Restaurateur of the Year

Felicitated by Ms. Aditi Khare & Ms. Kavya D’Souza, Danube Properties

CHRISTINE ADOLF

Founder & CEO - Triple C Global Motivational Entrepreneur

Felicitated by H.H. Sheikh Juma Bin Maktoum Al Maktoum

ZAI MIZTIQ

CEO, Step Up Journey (Jiom Pte Ltd) Entrepreneur | Speaker | Trainer Author

Emerging International Film Producer of the Year

DANA ITANI

Film Director

Excellence in Storytelling

Felicitated by Mr. Arif Bhaldar - General Manager - PR, Danube Group

H.E. SALMA AL QUBAISI

President Salma Al Qubaisi Holding

Outstanding Contribution to Business & Technology

Felicitated by : Ms. Aditi Khare - Manager - PR & Communications, Danube Group

Felicitated by : Mr. Mayur - Business Manager, Events - Filmfare Middle East, Ms. Aakanksha Naval - Shetye - Editor, Filmfare Middle East, Ms. Adharika & Ms. Harpreet - Danube Properties

38 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST March 2024 MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN - 2024
March 2024 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST 39
(L-R) Dr. Sana Sajan, Ms. Banali Luthra Malhotra, Ms. Dora Hrkac, Ms. Fibha Ahmed, Ms. Natasha Hatherall-Shawe, Ms. Lama Yammine-Hocks Mr. Rizwan Sajan - Founder and Chairman, Danube Group and Taapsee Pannu Mrs. Sameera Sajan, Taapsee Pannu and Ms. Shabnam Kassam Mr. Rizwan Sajan, H.H. Sheikh Juma Bin Maktoum Al Maktoum and Mr. Adel Sajan Dr. Sana Sajan , Mr. Rizwan Sajan, H.H. Sheikh Juma Bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, Mr. Adel Sajan and Mr. Yaqoob Al Ali Mr. Adel Sajan - Group Managing Director, Danube Group
40 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST March 2024
(L-R) Team Filmfare Middle East - Shruti Nigam, Aakanksha Naval - Shetye, Mrs. Sameera Sajan, Taapsee Pannu, Mr. Rizwan Sajan, Ms. Shabnam Kassam, Amit Panchal and Mayur Panchal Manjusha Aakanksha Naval-Shetye and Taapsee Pannu Fibha Ahmed Mayur Panchal and Kartik with guest Mrs. Sameera Sajan, Taapsee Pannu, Mr Rizwan Sajan and Ms. Shabnam Kassam Dr. Sana Sajan
March 2024 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST 41
Yehia Habli Arif Bhaldar Deepshikha Deshmukh and Mr. Rizwan Sajan Lamak Ali and guests Ann Raji Mona Shroff Emma Banks Christine Adolf Pavitra Natasha Hatherall-Shawe Eve Jaso Dana Itani Aakanksha Naval-Shetye, Bushra Boumedhi with Ayesha Saeed Mira Singh R.J Shruti Munira Rahman Zenofar Fathima Ms. Shabnam Kassam, Ayesha Khan with Mrs. Sameera Sajan Mr. Rizwan Sajan, Zai Miztiq and Mrs. Sameera Sajan Harpreet and Aadharika Nadia Qaisar and Khrystyna Kozatenkova Aditi Khare, Shruti Nigam and Shagufta Ali Clair Ferries
42 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST March 2024
Kris Ankem and Drishti Israni Deepak Somashekara with wife Zai Miztiq with guest Banali Luthra Malhotra with family Avital Cohen Farah Naz with guest Elham Al Marzooqi Nazneen Rasheed Ana - Maria Plopeanu with guest Dr. Nikolina Ljepava with a guest Dora Hrkac (L-R) Yonus Naik, Mayur Panchal, Fahad, Sneha Karnik, Shruti Nigam, Aakanksha Naval-Shetye, Javeed Ebrahim, John, Amit Panchal, Jaffar Vettiyil and Yasir Arafat Panchali Mahendra with a guest

Trailblazer!

Acclaimed director and the first Emirati female filmmaker Nayla Al Khaja in conversation with Aakanksha Naval-Shetye talks about the success of her first ever feature film 3, her passion for the horror genre and decodes her cinematic language

The first Emirati female filmmaker Nayla Al Khaja is a renowned and celebrated name in the cinematic history of UAE. From directing several acclaimed short films, she has successfully taken the big leap with her first feature film 3 in her favourite genre of psychological horror. Whether a filmmaker, an artist, a painter, a wife or a mother, she juggles all roles with great elan while continuing to inspire women across to pursue their dreams. We caught up with the vibrant filmmaker at her residence and over a candid chat talked about her passion for cinema and her vision ahead. Excerpts.

YOUR FIRST FEATURE FILM 3 HAS BEEN REALLY WELLRECEIVED. WHAT’S BEEN THE MOST EXCITING PART OF YOUR JOURNEY?

It’s a culmination of everything that I went through, manifested on a much larger scale which is my first feature film. It’s taken 3 years in the making, and it comes with a lot of responsibilities because unlike a short film which depends mostly on sponsors and grants, this has investors. So with investors comes responsibilities. Every film is a company. People don’t think of it that way but it is. Some movies cost 20 million, 30 million. So although it’s an art form, the responsibility of a business side is quite daunting, if I may say. So this is where you switch gears and develop really quickly. You have to grow

up really fast to be able to meet those demands in the market.

DOES IT ADD THE PRESSURE AS FILMMAKER OR DO YOU LOOK AT IT AS ONE MORE CHALLENGE, MORE FUN TO EXPLORE?

Oh my God yes, of course! I look at this as a beginning of my feature film career in the long narrative form. So my journey has just begun. Although I had 20 plus years of warming up, practicing, making mistakes, and we will continue as humans, right? But I’ve reached a level where I have found my cinematic voice and now I can hone it and I can develop it even further and push myself in the next.

WHAT’S YOUR OBSESSION WITH THIS GENRE?

It goes back to my passion for watching serial-killer movies and reading thrillers - Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Vampire Diaries. So, obviously you do

things that trigger strings of your heart.

THERE’S A LOT OF CLARITY IN YOUR VISION AS A DIRECTOR. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOURSELF AS A FILMMAKER?

I define myself as a filmmaker through my very, I wouldn’t say limited, but very obvious colour palette. I use a colour palette that is aesthetically quite dark because I am specialising in the genre of film. And the genre of film has a lot of branches, so the dark genre also falls under eight categories, so the category that I would like to identify myself with would be more the psychological horror genre, where you have fear induced, where you have always some sort of anxiety in the film. And it also lends itself to colouring with light because I’m a painter originally. In fact, I used to have a small gallery, a lot of

people don’t know this. So, if you look at my shots, even though it’s a horror film, the visuals are there, you can see that it’s coming from a background of art. So that’s where I blend both worlds and this is what I want to be known for. I want to be known as the woman who can paint with light and create atmospheres where people get sucked right into them.

YES, EVERY FRAME IN THE MOVIE SEEMS TO SAYING A STORY…

Absolutely. There is no such thing as not intentional. There are of course moments where you get inspired on set and you can be spontaneous and we call the nirvana stage where something else takes over you. I’m sure a lot of artistes, specifically in music, dance and the

44 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST March 2024 WOMEN SPECIAL

arts in general will identify. These moments are very rare but when they come magic happens. That’s what we call the magic zone in the arts, is when you become so deep in the game, literally under the skin of it that you get lost with it. Something takes over and you start like filming angles and moments where you get so inspired that art gets created. This is where you break the rules and you forget about your story board.

DO YOU THINK THE AUDIENCE HAS EVOLVED ENOUGH TO NOT THINK ABOUT THE GENDER OF THE FILMMAKER?

I believe yes. It’s never been a point of debate, which is great, though, there is a stereotype which I like to break which is that women always make films about women or documentaries or light-hearted romcoms, which is absolutely nonsense. It’s not entirely incorrect but it’s also not entirely true.

YOU ARE AN INSPIRATION TO

SO MANY WOMEN OUT THERE. DO YOU HAVE AN ADVICE FOR WOMEN OUT THERE WHO FEEL THAT THEY MAY NOT BE ABLE TO DO IT ALL?

Prioritize. When I work, I work and when I’m with family, I’m there a 100 per cent.

Quick 6

DO YOU FOLLOW INDIAN CINEMA?

SO WHAT’S THE WAY FORWARD?

My next film is called Baab which translates to ‘Door’ in Arabic and I do like the tagline which is ‘somethings should be kept behind closed doors’. So it’s quite

I grew up with Hindi films, I watched them a lot as a child. I watched an Indian documentary recently and occasionally even now I do like the Hindi films. I tried to watch my first Malayalam film as well. It was quite fun. But yeah, unfortunately I don’t watch as much as I used to.

FAVOURITE ACTOR FROM INDIAN FILM INDUSTRY?

Aamir Khan, but more as a filmmaker than an actor. I like Dhobi Ghat I like his work as a producer.

WHEN YOU’RE NOT WORKING, WHAT WOULD WE FIND YOU DOING?

Working on the next film (laughs). When I’m not working at all, which is now a luxury, I spend it with my family. We’re obsessed with zoos which is nice because it makes me very young at heart.

YOUR DREAM STAR CAST…

Daniel Day-Lewis!

WOULD YOU WANT TO DIRECT IN BOLLYWOOD, HOLLYWOOD?

Yes! You see how quicky I answered that. I would love to direct a Bollywood film. It has always been a huge checklist, like a dream for me. I think it would be hilarious and fun and brilliant. Something completely not my kind of work, like super-spicy, colourful, like super masala Bollywood style. Yes I would be absolutely honoured.

a mysterious fantasy-drama. It’s in the development phase and we have also signed with AR Rahman to do the music for the movie with hopefully Firdaus Orchestra. Again it’s still in the dark genre, but it’s a very poetic take on this genre.

In a historic move, we are going through an AI technology scheme. We have used AI to convert 3 using the authentic voices of the actors to speak in Mandarin, as a first trial test. And it became so successful that now VOX Distribution is now releasing it on March 14th in cinemas in the UAE. So now we’re going to target a Chinese audience with a Chinese poster and actors speaking in Mandarin.

TELL US ONE THING ABOUT NAYLA THAT NO ONE KNOWS?

I was born in Mumbai! So basically my grandpa had a small steel company there in Bombay and my father grew up in India at that point. They were Emiratis but they loved India so much and the hospitals were so advanced, they decided to have me over there. And I my first trip to Dubai was when I was five days old. Now, I want to go there and direct.

THREE WORDS THAT DESCRIBE YOU BEST?

Pagal (laughs), patient. This film was a dream from 12 years ago and I didn’t give up on it. And courageous.

March 2024 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST 45

I WAS ONLY LOOKING FOR A GOOD-LOOKING MAN EARLIER. BUT NOW I THINK I WOULD LOOK FOR SOMEONE WHO’S UNDERSTANDING AND CARING NOT ONLY ABOUT ME BUT FOR THE PEOPLE AROUND ME

NATIONALcrush

TRIPTII

DIMRI HAS BECOME AN OVERNIGHT SENSATION AFTER ANIMAL. TANISHA BHATTACHARYA CHATS WITH THE ACTOR WHO STILL HASN’T COME TO TERMS WITH THE INSTANT FAME

Triptii Dimri bedazzled you with her seminal acting in both Bulbbul and Qala. She played complex characters in both films, women who dealt with trauma everyday, till it engulfed them. They weren’t easy parts to play but Triptii made the acting look easy. Ironically, she became the darling of the masses after playing Ranbir Kapoor’s lover in Animal. It wasn’t a big role – she was barely there for not more than 15 minutes, but it was enough to skyrocket her fame. Though she’s loving every minute of it, she says all she ever wanted was to be known for her acting skill and it’s great that fame has found her after she made her mark as an actor. Excerpts from a bare-all interview.

Coming to Animal, tell us your first reaction you had when the film came to you. I was shooting for a hair oil advertisement and the assistant told me that there’s this director who wants to cast you opposite Ranbir Kapoor. When good things start to happen in your life, you become unsure and you don’t want to believe them too soon. A lot of that was running through my head and I told myself not to get too excited. I kept on saying that things can still change, so be calm. But when I got a final yes, everybody around me was so happy. It was a dream come true for me because I’ve always wanted to share screen space with Ranbir. Also with Vicky Kaushal and Rajkummar Rao, for that matter.

What would you tell Triptii from Laila Majnu

2.0

One is always unsure and not confident starting out. So I think I was like that. When I was shooting for Laila Majnu, it helped me grow as an actor because I think if that curiosity and hunger weren’t there, then I wouldn’t have shown any interest in acting at all.

When did that confidence come? What did it take?

I think it happened post-Bulbbul

I DON’T CARE ABOUT FAME, BUT I WANT TO BE RESPECTED AS AN ACTOR. AND IF I GET THAT, I’LL BE

HAPPY

When that film was released, I think something changed within me. Until then, I was unsure. I had a lot of fun on the shoot and I was pretty confident when I was working, but I was still unsure. Anvita Dutt was always there to guide me, but that feeling is still there. What if people don’t connect with the character? I’m giving my 100 per cent, but what if it doesn’t come through? But luckily, when the film came out, a lot of people watched it and they could connect with Bulbbul, and that’s the point where I became confident. This is the day I was waiting for because I remember having this conversation with Sajid Ali. He asked today?

If I get to speak to the Triptii that I was when I did Laila Majnu, I would just tell her to take each day as it comes. Don’t stress too much about what’s happening, because I remember at the time I used to be stressed a lot because I had limited knowledge of acting. I was in a new world where a lot of things were alien to me. I used to keep trying to figure things out. Many times, after doing a scene, there used to be a lot of dissatisfaction about whether I’d done well or not. It’s a process of growing and learning, so take it as it is. That’s the one lesson I have learnt.

So you’re saying you would question yourself a lot?

me once while we were shooting for Laila Majnu, and I wasn’t able to crack some scenes, and he said, ‘What kind of actress do you want to be?’ I told him that I don’t care about fame, but I want to be respected as an actor. And if I get that, I’ll be happy and Bulbbul gave me that.

Avinash Tiwary recently told us in an interview how you’re extremely close to his family because you started together.

I was new to Mumbai. And when you’re in Mumbai, you kind of feel homesick all the time. So his mom used to make food for me and send it to me. It was

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Animal

sweet of her. And Avinash also helped me a lot with the scenes because he could see that I was nervous and he’s been acting for 14 years. He was extremely good at his craft. He would just be sitting and talking about the craft, and I would just be sitting there blank. I had no idea, and he could see that on my face. He supported me at that point. He’s the one who advised me to go to an acting workshop. He asked me to go and see if this works for you because this is where I started, and it helped me look at acting in a completely different light. Till then, I thought acting was just standing in front of a camera and saying your lines, and that’s about it. Nothing about emotions or putting yourself out there. But the workshop changed a lot of things for me.

Director Anvita Dutt and you must share a special bond after Bulbbul and Qala. With her, I was introduced to a different style of acting. To build a character’s life from the age of five to the age that’s shown in the film, which was so different. Till then, I was looking at characters as characters and you start with whatever scene is there in the film. But she was the one who introduced me to making backstories for the characters, so that you know your characters as well as you know yourself. She’s given me a process that I follow now with everything that I do and every character that I play. Even if it’s a different director, I make sure that I follow the process that was given to me. She had helped me so much with Bulbbul. Some characters truly stay with you. It takes time to detach yourself from those characters. And I feel Bulbbul was something else.

Did the film impact your mental wellbeing?

It was difficult because it was my first intense character and I got into it. There was a time when the shoot was done and I was just on my bed and I could see the canopy that was there in Bulbbul’s room and I would constantly think about the character. I had cried so much on the last day of the shoot because everyone had started calling me Bulbbul, and I was like, from tomorrow on, no one is going to call me by this name anymore. With Qala, it was a little easier because you also realised that you couldn’t keep doing this. You can’t keep being so attached to your character.

Are there memories from your personal life that draw upon while acting?

When you’re trying to think of a memory, you go back to your childhood, to the time when you couldn’t express yourself and didn’t know how to express yourself. I was bullied when I was in school and I didn’t tell my parents. I could not go and tell them because I was someone who never liked going to school. And I thought if I told them this, then they would feel like she was just making an excuse to not go to school. I was horrible at my studies. And I had toppers in my family, so there was a lot of pressure. You get used to being a certain way. You get used to not seeking attention, not trying to talk to a lot of people and not trying to make new friends. I had become that person until I met my best friend in the 9th grade and then things changed. But right now, I can say that I’m in a place where, when I look back, it doesn’t make me sad. I think I’ve got the closure I needed through acting.

Would you sit down and discuss this all with your parents today?

They would probably laugh today. I run away from arguments. I run away from confrontations because the minute I open my mouth, the tears start pouring. And I don’t like to be in a position like that, so I usually avoid any such conversations.

We’re going to see you on screen with Vicky Kaushal soon…

He’s quite understanding and gives you your space, which is important. I was new

and nervous. When you’re acting with big stars, you take a backseat because you keep thinking, Am I being too friendly or too distant? These were the initial questions on my mind, but then, Vicky, he’s like a full-on Punjabi. He is very committed to his work. He’s someone who made me feel comfortable. He’s secure as an actor. I was told that good actors are those who believe in making the scene look good rather than focusing on their performance, which I believe is so important and such a great lesson for me to learn. Usually, when you’re acting, you tend to get a little selfish about your scenes and performances. You have to be aware of what your co-actor is doing, or else the scene will fall flat. That worked out with Vicky.

What’s your definition of love and what would your ideal partner be like?

Honestly, like every other girl, I was only looking for a good-looking man earlier. But now I think I would look for someone who’s understanding and caring not only about me but for the people around me. The guy has to be gentle and soft-spoken, for sure. In a relationship, there’s always one who’s more dominant, but I would want someone who sees me as an equal. I hope I can find someone with whom I can balance out that equation. n

48 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST March 2024 WOMEN SPECIAL
Qala Bulbbul

MEET the ALL ROUNDERS

Danube Properties sponsored the historic debut of the 10th season of the Celebrity Cricket League (CCL) in the UAE, with the grand opening ceremony taking place at the iconic Sharjah Cricket Stadium. The ceremony was graced by a special coin toss by Mr Rizwan Sajan, the Founder and Chairman of Danube Group, alongside luminaries such as Sohail Khan, Ritesh Deshmukh, and Indrajith Sukumaran. Adding to the event’s allure, Salman Khan, the brand ambassador of Mumbai Heroes, made a notable appearance. Also present over the 3-day matches were a host of stars and superstars including Daggubati Venkatesh, Sonu Sood, Arya, Kiccha Sudeep, Vishnu Vishal, Navraj Hans, amongst others

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Mr. Rizwan Sajan - Founder and Chairman, Danube Group and Salman Khan Mr. Rizwan Sajan with the Stars of CCL Mr Rizwan Sajan and Sohail Khan and (right) with Keecha Sudeep Mr Anis Sajan and Sonu Sood
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Mr Rizwan Sajan tosses the coin with the captains Mr Anis Sajan at the presentation ceremony Manara Chopra, Abu with Mr Anis Sajan Mr Anis Sajan and Mr Vishnu Induri Aditi Khare and Kavya D’souza Avika Gaur, Anis Sajan and Archana Gautam Mr. Rizwan Sajan and Elnaaz Norouzi Iulia Vantur Aakanksha Naval - Shetye and Riteish Deshmukh
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TREAT FOR MUSIC-LOVERS!

FROM FEBRUARY 15TH TO 18TH - EXPO CITY DUBAI TURNED VENUE FOR UNTOLD DUBAI AND FANS OF MUSIC WERE TREATED TO A PLETHORA OF GROUNDBREAKING PERFORMANCES FROM GLOBAL SUPERSTARS SUCH AS TÏESTO, BADSHAH, HARDWELL, ARMIN VAN BUUREN, PSY, G-EAZY, ELLIE GOULDING, SEBASTIAN INGROSSO, TIMMY TRUMPET, AND MANY MORE.

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OF MUSIC! Badshah

GLOBALLY ACCLAIMED MUSIC ARTISTE BADSHAH IN CONVERSATION WITH AAKANKSHA NAVAL-SHETYE TALKS ABOUT HITTING THE HIGH NOTES AS THE FIRST INDIAN ARTISTE TO PERFORM AT UNTOLD DUBAI AND SHARES RARE INSIGHTS INTO HIS JOURNEY SO FAR

It is my first interview with Aditya Prateek Singh Sisodia aka Badshah – the globally acclaimed hip-hop artiste, singer-songwriter, music producer, and entrepreneur! Continuing to add on to his laurels, Badshah is all set to become the first Indian artiste to perform at the UNTOLD Dubai, one of the biggest music festivals globally. A far cry from his wild party image that his blockbuster and recordbreaking songs would suggest, the singer is dressed in comfortable athleisure and is rather calm and downto-earth in his approach to life and success, as we settle in for a candid chat in his room overlooking the iconic Burj Khalifa. His light-hearted approach, a humorous streak, and non-starry attitude make him an absolute delight to talk to and we do talk nineteen to the dozen. Academically a qualified engineer, the hitmaker’s had quite a journey to stardom from his humble beginnings. Today he reigns the music scene globally and is the go-to singer for filmmakers who rope in the artiste for that 100 per cent guaranteed hit. In a heart-to-heart conversation, we talk about all this and also check up on the music superstar’s dating status. Excerpts

and hope that it all comes together with the audience enjoying it to the max, then it’s a hit show!

YOUR SONGS CONNECT MUSIC LOVERS ACROSS LANGUAGES AND COUNTRIES AND THIS CONCERT BRINGS THEM ALL TOGETHER…

HOW’S IT BEING THE FIRST INDIAN TO PERFORM AT UNTOLD DUBAI?

I didn’t know that I’m the first Indian hip-hop artiste and it was only later that I read about it. To be honest, I didn’t even know how big it really was. Then I found out that apparently it’s the sixth largest festival in the world. So till I didn’t know about that I was chilled, but the moment I read that, the magnitude of the festival actually sunk in and I was a bit nervous ahead of it (smiles).

Yes, that’s a whole different vibe. When your music releases, there’s radio, streaming platforms, so there are listeners across nationalities getting a taste of it. But to actually see the artiste in front of you LIVE, that’s a different experience altogether. Like when I attended Coldplay’s concert that in itself was an experience. So, it’s not only about the music, it’s about the feeling of being there and experiencing everything. It’s a synergy between you and the artiste you’re watching. And of course the crowd cheering, singing in unison, it’s a different level altogether. And that feeling cannot be recreated or replicated through any other medium. So that’s the big thing.

WHAT PART OF THE PROCESS DO YOU ENJOY THE MOST. CREATING THE MUSIC, OR RECORDING, RELEASING, LIVE CONCERT…?

WHAT’S YOUR USUAL HEADSPACE LIKE RIGHT BEFORE YOU STEP ON TO THE STAGE?

Of course I pray! I pray because I’m very grateful to be doing what I like. A lot of people don’t get to do that. And I pray that people should go home happy and smiling, having enjoyed the experience and the performance. A lot of people don’t realise all the hard work and efforts that go into putting together a show of this scale. Be it staging or lights… So I just pray

I think performing LIVE is the most enjoyable for me as an artsite. Bohot hi zyada maza aata hai jab saamne baatcheet ho rahi hoti hai, jo vibe hai, crowds responding to your music, singing along… But at the same time, when a song turns out exactly the way you had envisioned it, that also is a very happy and memorable moment. Because sometimes a song can turn out to be in a different direction than imagined. So I think we artistes are blessed to be working in a creative space, where it is enjoyable at every step of the process. You never get bored!

HOW DO YOU KEEP THAT CREATIVITY GOING THOUGH?

IS THERE EVER A

BURNOUT?

Just stay free. It may sound cliched, but as much as you keep yourself free from all the trappings and pressures of expectations, the more you can create. Like for example, my own song ‘Abhi to Party Shuru Hui Hai’ is almost 10 years

old now, but I don’t think I can make the same song again even if I want to. I may create something more exciting or less but same I doubt. It was made in a certain state of mind and that keeps changing, the thoughts are different each moment, so as an artiste I keep changing with that. I never become a slave of what I have already created. It’s easier said than done, but that’s the key. When you free your mind, you explore a new space that you haven’t tried before. As an artiste that’s what allows you to create something new, rather than keep repeating what you have done.

YOUR SONGS ARE SO MUCH FUN, THEY’RE WILD. ARE YOU AS WILD IN REAL LIFE TOO, LIKE A TOTAL PARTY ANIMAL?

NO! Not at all. In fact I get irritated by loud noises. Like even after UNTOLD there’s some afterparty and it’s a big deal. And I am like bhai jaldi khatam ho toh main sou, main soya nahi hu (laughs). Aur mera nahi man karta koi zyada party karne ka but I know it’s a job, I take it very professionally to make a good song, does not mean aapko khud party karni hai Like a lawyer is not going to be a lawyer at home, even if he thinks like one.

So yes, that mind process is always on. Like a few nights back, I slept at 2 but woke up at 5 because there were some lyrics and wordings running through my head. And I had a shoot that day so I had to look all fresh. But the words were flowing so easily that I got up and started penning them down on my phone. So, artistically your mind is always running but no I don’t enjoy partying much. In fact not at all!

A LOT OF YOUR FEMALE FAN FOLLOWING ESPECIALLY WOULD WANT TO KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENING ON

YOUR PERSONAL FRONT! ARE YOU SINGLE… DATING?

I am dating a lot of women, what do I say, I’m having the time of my life (laughs)! No yaar, just busy working really and nothing else except that is happening on my personal front.

There’s an album coming up for release, I’m busy with that. Date kya, I don’t even have time to go for a court date (laughs). So for now, no mind-space for dating really.

BUT YOU WORK WITH SO MANY ACTRESSES, NONE FROM THEM?

No, well, you know you’re fortunate to work with such amazing people who are not only good looking, but they’re also very good people. Artistes generally are good people, they are emotional, they are not calculative, what you see is what

I TRAVEL IN A PRIVATE JET, AND I ALSO TRAVEL ECONOMY! MUJHE NAHIN FARAK PADTA BILKUL BHI. FOR ME, I JUST BELIEVE THAT WE SHOULD STAY GROUNDED AND THERE’S NO OTHER WAY TO BE… NEEND BADHIYA

AANI CHAHIYE, BED KA SIZE CHAHE JO BHI HO. THAT IS SUCCESS!

PICTURE CREDITS - YASIR ARAFAT

you get, so it’s good to interact with them, it’s fun to converse, to learn from them. To know how they achieved so much, their struggles, I think they also enjoy working with me because I don’t trouble anyone. You can be comfortable being yourself with me. Creatively, like when I was working with Jacqueline (Fernandez) on ‘Genda Phool’ we made her wear a Bengali sari and while many from my team were sceptical, she believed in my vision. So I have a vision for every artiste that I work with, but also they should be comfortable.

YOU’VE SHARED SUCH AMAZING CHEMISTRY WITH ALL, BUT PERSONALLY WHO DID YOU SHARE THE BEST EQUATION WITH? ANY FAVOURITES?

All of them! No, no, mera favourite main hi hota hu set pe (laughs). But I love working with all of them. It was really great working with Jacqueline, I mean she’s so hard working, very hands-on as an artiste, very involved and gives in her best.

YOUR SENSE OF FASHION AND STYLING ALSO HAS MUCH TAKERS… Kaunsa fashion... kaccha pehna hua hai (laughs).

COME ON, WE’VE SEEN YOUR COLLECTIONS… SO WHERE DOES THAT STYLE COME FROM?

Thank you so much.

But I don’t know, I had this passion for good clothes right from my childhood. Like I should have good clothes. And I was very inspired by the basketball culture, when it comes to fashion, the American street style, so I was very influenced by that since my childhood. And we grew up with that. And let me share a very interesting thing with you, you know nowadays there are those socks-shoes. When I was a kid and used to play basketball, many a times I would wear the socks on the shoes! Sachi baat hai, and by the end of the game of course the socks would be torn. But I had Bata shoes, and I would

put 3-stripes on it, I would make them like Adidas, because we didn’t have the money back then to buy the original. So ye keede the bachpan se And when I had the money, I checked out the brands. But I still only wear things that I’m comfortable with. I don’t wear it just because it’s in fashion. I can’t carry that, and I don’t want to wear that. That’s why you will see me in comfortable clothing, shorts, tracksuits, athleisure, more like sportsmen. I go for sneakers, you won’t see me in boots!

I THINK SUCCESS IS ITS OWN STYLE. WHEN YOU ARE SUCCESSFUL, ANYTHING YOU WEAR LOOKS STYLISH!

Haan bilkul, jo successful hota hai vo kuch bhi bolde sahi lagta hai. Yeh sab time time ki baat hai. You should never lose your real self. You should stay true to yourself.

YOUR JOURNEY TO BECOMING THIS GLOBALLY LOVED MUSIC ICON HAS BEEN VERY INSPIRING…

I don’t think that any person’s success story is his own. There are many people behind it and the biggest credit in mine goes to my parents. They have faced so much struggle to ensure that we get a good education so we can stand on our own feet. I can’t imagine what they faced to make sure we become capable enough to face the world, not have any complex about where we come from. They did the best they could. Then there’s your team that works on you and with you. When you see a dream, you can’t fulfil it alone. And I’m grateful that I had a strong team of very good people and we could be there to help each other grow and achieve. Rest, I feel success in itself is very subjective, it’s a philosophical zone. Like

me performing at this huge music fest, I could look at this as a milestone in my journey, but this is not success for me. Success for me would be, to be able to enjoy a peaceful and a happy time with my parents and family without any worry at all.

YOU HAVE THE BEST OF EVERYTHING AT YOUR FINGERTIPS. HOW DO YOU STAY SO GROUNDED?

Because all these things don’t matter to me. I travel in a private jet, and I also travel economy! Mujhe nahin farak padta bilkul bhi. For me, I just believe that we should stay grounded and there’s no other way to be. I do what I feel like, when I feel like it and I call this success! Otherwise you are only putting pressure on yourself. Like this room where I’m currently staying in, its bathroom is bigger than the room, my studio that I work in. And I sleep in my studio, so these things don’t matter to me. Neend badhiya aani chahiye, bed ka size chahe jo bhi ho. That is success!

QUICK 5

WHAT IS THE ONE SUPERPOWER YOU WISH YOU HAD?

To make people laugh anyhow!

WHAT IS YOUR SECRET INDULGENCE?

It’s no secret really, but my indulgence is desserts. Khana hi hai mere liye.

3 WORDS THAT DESCRIBE YOU BEST?

Moody, lazy, passionate.

YOUR SECRET CRUSH?

Dua Lipa, secret kya reh gaya ab toh. So, Dua Lipa, Gal Gadot and there’s a Spanish singer Rosalia.

WHICH ARTISTE ARE YOU MOST LOOKING MOST FORWARD TO COLLABORATING OR WORKING WITH?

Jiski kismet acchi hai, kar lega humare saath kaam (laughs)!

60 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST March 2024 INTERVIEW

horizons new

WHY DO YOU THINK PEOPLE ARE FASCINATED BY SHOWS AND FILMS ABOUT DISASTERS?

It’s not so much about the disaster. It’s about the victory from the disaster. When season one of Mumbai Diaries came out, there was a great comment that said, it’s not about heroes, it’s about survivors, the city is about survivors. Lots of people survive in season two, but lots of people don’t. We want to see heroic stuff happening. We consider ourselves not to be big heroes in real life, right? And we manifest ourselves in what they are going through. And so if those guys

are going through the same problems as you, you are engaged. Somebody’s being beaten up at home. Somebody is having an issue with identity. Somebody is unable to muster the courage to ask a girl out. If we can just elevate those problems into something engaging, I think that resonates with lots of people.

WHEN YOU’RE MAKING A SHOW ABOUT A DISASTER, IS THE BEHINDTHE-SCENES ALSO A BIT OF A DISASTER?

The second season is about the Mumbai floods. None of us have worked on water. So everything was new. I sent the first draft of

the script to Konkona. And Konkona is lovely. She’ll not tell you what the problem is, she’ll wait for you to say that there is a problem. She said, “Does it have the same amount of jeopardy as season one?” So I said, “Oh, okay. That means you’re asking me to put more jeopardy.”

Then I went back and we were in draft two where we brought in a lot of water. And she turned around and said, “I don’t know how to swim.” So we had to figure out how to do those big, complicated action sequences all in the water with Konkona not knowing how to swim. Covid-19 was also a big challenge. We planned a schedule starting in March and then it’ll start raining in Mumbai in June

and we’ll get the floods. And then it doesn’t rain. Nature plays its game and we don’t have rain. So now what do we do? I’m on the board of the Sanctioned Nature Foundation.

So I’m saying we can’t be wasting water. Recycling means filtration. Filtration means money. Pumps are being put in and filters are being put in. There’s a scene where Tina gets stuck in a car. I want to do everything as real as possible. So I said we have to submerge the car but that’s dangerous. So we had to create trap doors just in case something went wrong and the underwater cameraman who’s actually a scuba diver and a scuba instructor was inside the car. If something

March 2024 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST 61
Exploring
NIKKHIL ADVANI TELLS TANZIM PARDIWALLA THAT DESPITE BEING A FILM BUFF, HE LOVES WORKING IN THE OTT SPACE Mumbai Diaries 2 Rocket Boys
I want to see more of Panchayat. I want to see stuff like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. I want to see a goodreally setshow in a newsroom

went wrong, there’d be a signal to pull off the trapdoor, the car is pulled up immediately. Nothing happened but these are the things that one has to think about. Even when the railway bridge collapses in a scene, I said, but why can’t we just drop the bridge? Just drop it. We’ll let it fall. So yeah, lots of fun.

MUMBAI DIARIES HAS SO MUCH TENSION IN EVERY FRAME. WHAT GOES INTO BUILDING THAT?

A big standing ovation should be given to Malay who was the DOP and Priya Suwas who was the production designer and the

writers as well. They basically understood that tension is everything. Malay myself made it as claustrophobic as possible, so one can’t breathe. The lighting is also grey and dull because it was raining outside and all the sets had rain constantly coming down. Everybody was on their toes as far as performance was concerned. In the sound design, there’s this constant sound of the rain for background music and a humming sound that something is going to happen, it’s constantly building.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE DISCUSSIONS YOU HAD WITH

KONKONA SEN SHARMA AND MOHIT RAINA GOING INTO MUMBAI DIARIES SEASON 2?

As far as Konkona’s character is concerned, I had already promised her that in season two, I would make her front and centre. I’d already told her what we were going to do with her and that there would be talk about domestic violence. Season two is about abuseinfrastructural abuse, abuse of power, abuse of the media, domestic abuse and sexual abuse. Mohit’s character evolved because I think Kaushik Oberoi became such a superhero in season 1. I felt the

62 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST March 2024

newsrooms all over this country today. If somebody can allow us to make a show like that. I want to see a political satire. I want to see a show like Afterlife What incredible writing.

THERE IS SO MUCH TALK ABOUT A KAL HO NAA HO REMAKE. WHAT IS YOUR STANCE ON REMAKING ICONIC MOVIES?

Karan recently said Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was his most fearless movie and I agree. I was there standing shoulder to shoulder with him. And he really was fearless.

need to humanise him, bring him down as a human being, make him a little more fractured, broken, et cetera. The logline of the show has always been those who are meant to heal are the most broken. So Mohit’s reaction was, “Everybody expects me to be a superhero. For four episodes, I’m not doing anything.”

So I said, “Relax, it’ll happen. Don’t worry.” There were interesting conversations.

YOUR SHOW ROCKET BOYS HAS AN EMMY NOMINATION. DO YOU THINK INDIAN OTT SHOWS ARE GETTING ENOUGH RECOGNITION

GLOBALLY?

Not enough. I think if you allow some of the showrunners out there to really push the envelope we will be global players to another level. It’s encouraging that there are lots of stories that are getting made, but there are some stories that are not getting made.

WHAT ARE THE KINDS OF SHOWS YOU WANT TO SEE GETTING MADE?

I want to see more of Panchayat. I want to see stuff like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. I want to see a really good show set in a newsroom. There must be a constant tussle between the truth and what is being manufactured in

Remakes have been a staple and now thanks to social media, we know that certain things are remakes. But we’ve been doing it constantly, picking up an interesting subject from some form of regional cinema and making it in Hindi or vice versa. The conversation around Kal Ho Naa Ho as a possible remake has become trendy because we are in the 20th year of Kal Ho Naa Ho. But I’ve never thought about it, not once. There’s a lot of stuff that I would like to reshoot. Like It’s the Time to Disco. I think that we were so tired. We had all come back from a hard schedule in New York and we jumped into the song. We could have done better with that song, for sure.

SO MANY ICONIC BOLLYWOOD MOVIES ARE RERELEASING IN THEATRES. WHY DO YOU THINK FILMS LIKE KUCH KUCH HOTA HAI HAVE STOOD THE TEST OF TIME?

Honesty. Just plain honesty. We all manipulate drama, emotion, and characters to do what we want them to do, to tell the story we want them to tell. But I don’t think it was ever done in keeping with a Friday number or a Saturday number or a Sunday number. It was always done with the purpose of the story progression.

KARAN JOHAR’S ROCKY AUR RANI KII PREM KAHAANI DID SOME COURSE CORRECTIONS. HAVE YOU CONSIDERED DOING A WOKE VERSION OF ANY OF YOUR PREVIOUS FILMS?

Just imagine if I made Kal Ho Naa Ho and left the dialogue “6 Din ladki in,” what would you say? What would you say if two men are sitting on one hospital bed and one is saying he is not going to be able to get up and she’s standing in the corridor, my God? My daughter is 17 years old. Having said that, I don’t know how it has stood the test of time, it’s aged like a good bottle of wine. The world has changed a lot. And there are so many more stories that we need to tell. And there are so many different, so many other characters that we can, you know, talk about and issues that we can talk about. What we were saying 20 years ago and 25 years ago is different. Love is different between 2003 to 2023. n

Karan recently said Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was his most fearless movie and I agree
March 2024 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST 63
Kal Ho Naa Ho

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64 FILMFARE MIDDLE EAST March 2024 RAMADAN SPECIAL PIC CREDIT: YASIR ARAFAT
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