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TOIFA Spotlight: Neha Dhupia

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Neha Dhupia

Neha Dhupia

By Amanjit Dhillon

 Former Miss India and actress Neha Dhupia was at the TOIFAs to host the musical concert that featured some of Bollywood’s greatest singers including Sunidhi Chauhan (Band Bajaa Baaraat, Dhoom), Shalmali Kholgade (Ishaqzaade, Cocktail, Race 2), Mohit Chauhan (Rockstar, Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, Barfi!) and Hard Kaur (Singh is Kinng, Kismet Konnection). Neha was funny and classy as the host. Playing the game ‘Kaun Banega Neha Dhupia Ka Pati’ Dhupia had the crowd laughing as she made four male audience members participate in a dance off to see who would win and become her husband (note, none made the cut.) After the show, I caught up with the actress to chat about her thoughts on the Punjabi film industry, Canadian fans, and her secrets to staying in shape.

AD: With several Hindi film projects, many that were a hit, why do a Punjabi film now?

ND: Jimmy (Shergill) came to me with this script and it was interesting. To me, what’s most important is the script. I have done two films in Telugu so doing a Punjabi film wasn’t too different for me. It was tough to get the Punjabi accent at first but I managed to do it. I’m a Punjabi girl and I come from a Sikh family so it was important for me to give back to my roots. The Punjabi film industry is growing so much and there are so many excellent scripts being written. I have done over twenty feature films and this film is by far the best film I’ve ever been in. I’ve worked with Jimmy before in Delhi Heights so I knew if I did this role, working alongside him would be a pleasure.

AD: What do your Canadian fans mean to you?

ND: They mean a lot. They give me so much love and appreciation. The Punjabi community here is so large so it’s the perfect place to promote my film. Punjabi films are really appreciated here. I have a film with Karan Johar coming up soon called Unglee, which I hope to bring with me the next time I’m in Canada.

AD: You hosted the TOIFA musical night. What was the experience like?

ND: It was amazing. I really enjoyed interacting with fans. We played this game to find me a proper Punjabi boy and it was mad. We danced, laughed but most importantly, I really felt the love from the audience.

AD: What are you looking forward to during your visit here in Vancouver?

ND: I am walking in Manish Malhotra’s show and I’m such a fan of his work. He makes the most beautiful dresses. I’m also looking forward to seeing the show itself and seeing Aishwarya Rai Bachchan perform. Jimmy (Shergill) is coming here to promote our film together so I am looking forward to getting feedback from the fans.

AD: Why should Canadians go out to see Rangeelay?

ND: Well to support me of course! But also because it is really a great film. It has romance, action, comedy, a bit of everything for everyone. There are also some beautifully made songs in the film.

AD: You were a former beauty queen and now as an actress, do you feel pressure to look a certain way and maintain a certain weight?

ND: I do and that’s why I really focus on being healthy and fit. I work with a nutritionist back home and even when I’m traveling, I bring a yoga mat along so I can workout in my hotel or go for a run. I eat small meals every couple of hours. I stay away from sugar and fried foods. As an actor, its part of the job to look and feel good.

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Sridevi dies at 54 of cardiac arrest: India, Bollywood in shock

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SRIDEVI-DEAD

Sridevi no more, and a part of my childhood dies with her

Sridevi died on Saturday night after suffering a cardiac arrest at the age of 54. Called the first female superstar in India’s male-dominated film industry, she made over 260 films in a career spanning 45 years.

As a starry eyed schoolchild, I would spend hours trying to get the steps of Morni Baagan Maan right, in front of the mirror. As a girl, not even 7, I was too young to understand the complexity of the lyrics or the depth of the feeling that the Lamhe song held within it, but it was she, Sridevi, her fluid dance moves and the play of emotion in her face that had me entranced. I would try to turn just like Sridevi, get her hand mudras right. Again, it would take me years to understand there was nobody like Sridevi. The twinkle in her eye, the charm she could switch on as cameras turned towards her or the movie star charisma that was part of her personality — Sridevi lived what her Mr India song said, Bijli Girane Main Hoo Aayi.\

Sridevi as a child actor in Thunaivan.

Sridevi as a child actor in Thunaivan.

My experiments in front of the mirror were not extraordinary, nor were they one of a kind. Lakhs of children across India were trying to emulate Sridevi — for some (like me) it was her dance, for others it was the fact that she was a superstar when women rarely had the word super attached to them in any form in the industry. And for almost everybody, it was her ability to light up the frames she inhabited.

My romance with Sridevi began long before I understood how to tell good films from bad; at that age I either loved them or hated them. So, when, early on a Sunday morning, as I got up to incessant messages, tweets and Facebook posts full of grief, I went back to my childhood. It was a child again who was mourning the loss of her star.

Sridevi as the quintessential Yash Raj heroine in Chandni.

Sridevi as the quintessential Yash Raj heroine in Chandni.

Indeed, Sridevi’s death has taken away something crucial with it — a part of my childhood. Whether it was her act as a child-woman in Sadma, the luminous double role in Lamhe, the quintessential Yash Chopra heroine in Chandni or the bubbly Hawa Hawai of Mr India, Sridevi managed to bring a certain je na sais quoi to every role she played.

Among the yellowing photographs and fading memories is a photo of me with my friends with a fruit hat a la Sridevi in Hawa Hawai. Maybe it was a day during summer vacation when time hung heavy on our hands. But I remember how disastrous the first attempt with a straw hat and a bowl of fruit was. We were rescued when the friend’s mother emerged and gave us a tongue lashing that only mothers are capable of. Then, being a Sridevi fan (who isn’t?), she helped us fashion the hat.

For every Lamhe, Sridevi also did duds like Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja but managed to bring a certain charm to it.

For every Lamhe, Sridevi also did duds like Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja but managed to bring a certain charm to it.

Then came Madhuri Dixit, and the gaggle of girls divided into Team Madhuri and Team Sridevi. I was a staunch member of the latter and many a evening, we would spend in fraught debates on who was better. Sridevi had been around for decades. Starting as a child artiste at the age of 4, she had worked in Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada films before she decided to shift her focus to Bollywood. She was a star here as well. Madhuri, IMHO, was a novice.

There were chinks in her career but it was still 90s Bollywood and actresses — even the one called the first female superstar of Bollywood — had to take the good with the bad. The pulpy papers of those times were full of how the leading actors of those days would cower before her. They may or may not have been true but they fuelled my imagination as a fan.

SRIDEVI FAMILY

SRIDEVI FAMILY

She definitely left a stamp on my career. I believe that years of defending her against Madhuri fans (you know who you are) made me pick up the job of an entertainment reporter. I came across her on many occasions in my career and always found her a picture of grace and poise, standing out in the sea of beauty that is Hindi cinema.

And today, she is gone, in a moment that appears was written by an unfeeling screenwriter. Or maybe, it is the fan inside me who is not ready to say goodbye. Oh, what it would be to watch her once again in a dark theatre with the lights dimmed.

Sridevi made 264 films over 45 years, and while not all of them will stand the test of the time, her charisma will. I would remember her as the effervescent Chandni, the middle class mother in English Vinglish but mostly as Hawa Hawai — who wore fruit hats and solved crimes as an intrepid journalist.

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The Great Sanjay Leela Does Disservice To Cinema With Propaganda And Dishonest Portrayal Of History In Padmavat

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I saw the film more than a week back and I was flabbergasted and disgusted by what I had seen.

It wasn’t until my mentor and friend Promod Puri, the founder an former publisher-editor of Canada’s oldest South Asian English language newspaper  The LINK, wrote his review online that I felt compelled to add to the debate about one of the worst forms of propaganda in a Bollywood film I’d ever seen.

The great Bollywood writer-director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has basically put himself in the gutter with this outrageous Rajput Hindu propaganda that glorified the individual suicide the Sati (mass suicide as in Padmavat called Jauhar).

Looking back at the Hooliganism and blockade of the film by extremist Hindu and Rajput groups – it seems like a conspiracy given that the film actually shows the Muslims as evil blood thirsty monsters and I’m not even talking about the actually monstrous Khilji played by Ranveer Singh.

It should be the Muslims who should be appalled and disgusted at the polar opposite portrayals of Muslims and Hindus. It’s the Muslims who should be protesting and saying the film should be banned!

Padmavati

Given that the film is produce by Viacom India which is now 51 percent owned by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, I think the “Show” if extremism might have been planned ahead so that Muslims in India don’t actually think the film is anti-Muslim which it clearly is.

Writer-Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali is a good if not great filmmaker but here he comes across as Hitler Propagandist  filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl who made pro-German propaganda films during Adolf Hitler’s reign.

Films like Padmavat are extremely irresponsible at a time in India where there continues to be a divide among Hindus and Muslims  in Modi’s India.

sanjay-leela-bhansali

And the film is really laughable as it tries to reconstruct history from a Hindu perspective when in reality the great but blood thirsty madman Khilji defeated the Rajputs. And no matter how much the film may try to sugarcoat it, the Rajputs were no match for the brutal strength of Khilji at a time in human history when brutal and maniacal strength was the Warrior’s code.

Take the brutal rulers of Europe and Asia – they were no different than Khilji!

I lost a lot of respect for director Bhansali as it seemed like he was just a puppet pulling someone else’s strings with much dishonesty and disgrace!

 

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Aamir Khan say there is no Intolerance in India, urges Modi to reign in people spreading hatred

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Aamir-Khan-say-there-is-no-Intolerance-in-India,-urges-Modi-to-reign-in-people-spreading-hatred

Days after his intolerance remarks, Bollywood star Aamir Khan today said India is “very tolerant” but there are people who spread hatred and appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to rein them in.

The actor also believes that he still continues to be country’s brand ambassador even though the government may have discontinued his services, saying India is his mother and not a brand.

“Our country is very tolerant, but there are people who spread ill-will…Those who speak of breaking up this vast country, such people are present in all religions, only Modiji can stop them. After all, Modiji is our PM, we have to tell him,” he told Rajat Sharma in his ‘Aap ki Adalat’ show on India TV, according to a press release issued by the channel.

Aamir said a sense of security comes from the justice system, which should ensure speedy justice, and from elected representatives who should raise their voice when something goes wrong.

“After all, law is equal for all, and nobody is above law. Unfortunately, there are some people who spread negativity and hatred. If I am not wrong, our Prime Minister has also expressed concern. His slogan is ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’,” he said.

The actor, who hit headlines with his remarks that his wife was thinking of leaving India over growing intolerance, also replied to megastar Amitabh Bachchan’s remark that he damaged India’s brand identity by his statement, saying there was a feeling of insecurity due to growing intolerance.

“I had said in my interview that there was a sense of depression, a sense of despondency, a feeling of insecurity and intolerance was growing. But these are entirely two different things,” he said.

He added that he was “wongly quoted” and said, “I never said India was intolerant, I was wrongly quoted…To say about rising intolerance and to say India is intolerant are two different things.”

Claiming to continue serving as India’s brand ambassador even after government discontinued him, the superstar said, “For me, my motherland is my mother, it cannot be a brand. I can never view my mother as a brand. It could be a brand for other people, but not for me. Till this date, I continue to be India’s brand ambassador, even the government may have discontinued me.”

He said for 10 years he was brand ambassador for ‘Incredible India’s Atithi Devo Bhavo campaign’ and never charged a penny for all his public service campaigns for the country and nor will he charge in future.

Aamir also asked media and news channels not to air news about violence on TV as it creates an atmosphere of fear.

“Every Indian is infected with fear. I would also appeal to media not to highlight such violence, as it creates a sense of insecurity and fear among common people,” he said.

On his wife Kiran Rao expressing her intent to leave India due to insecurity, Aamir said he and his wife were not going anywhere and have been born here and will die in India, but said, “After all, Kiran is a mother, a mother always worries about her children.”

“Often we speak so many things among ourselves, but that does not mean, we take 100 per cent action on them. Now was that our intention. Kiran has actually expressed a feeling, an emotion, and we were born here, and we will die here. We are not going to leave our country, let me make it clear,”he said.

The superstar went on to say that whenever people try to divide, “we should become alert, and should beware as to why we are being reminded that we are Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh. After all, we are all Indians. We have to be on our quard.”

Seeking to clarify that there was intent on his or his director’s part on purportedly denigrating Hindu religion in his film ‘PK’, he said, “It was only a character playing the role of Shiva in a play, who was made fun of, in a particular situation. After all, Lord Shankar is Almighty, how can we dare to make fun of him?.”

The actor said he fully empathised with the cause of Kashmiri Pandits. “My heart cries even today for them. It is shameful, and I appeal to people living in the Valley to bring the Kashmiri Pandits back.”

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