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Rajeev Masand is entertainment editor at CNN News18
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Bollywood Standard Time | The Reluctant Hero

Those who’ve been protesting the ‘nepotistic’ nature of Bollywood after Kangana Ranaut famously turned the term into a cuss word of sorts on Koffee with Karan might be less than delighted to learn that two more ‘industry kids’ are headed our way. Maine Pyar Kiya (1989) star Bhagyashree’s son Abhimanyu Dassani is making his debut in Peddlers (2012) director Vasan Bala’s Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota (2018), which earlier this week won the Midnight Madness audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Dassani was reportedly cast after a month of auditions, and the filmmakers revealed that he trained in all manner of martial arts to prepare for his role as a young man who feels no pain. Afflicted with the rare condition of congenital insensitivity to pain, the character only needs to keep himself hydrated in order to stay immune to physical discomfort. Of his performance, Hollywood trade bible Variety says: ‘Dassani strikes the perfect balance of ingenuousness and ferocity as the hero who repeatedly discovers new ways to hydrate—sometimes deliberate, sometimes providential—to lubricate his heroics.’

The other industry sprog who will be on screen shortly is third-generation ‘insider’ Pranutan Bahl, daughter of actor Mohnish Bahl, and granddaughter of legendary star Nutan. Earlier this week, Salman Khan announced that he had cast her as the leading lady in a film he was producing to launch a friend’s son Zaheer Iqbal.

Salman and Mohnish go back a long way, having first worked together in Maine Pyar Kiya, the film in which Bhagyashree played the leading lady opposite the two gentlemen. So you see, it isn’t even a case of six degrees of separation for debutants Abhimanyu and Pranutan, who’re connected on account of their respective parents.

Bollywood Standard Time

Before the makers of 2.0 (2018) roped in Akshay Kumar to play the antagonist opposite Rajinikanth, they were in advanced talks with Arnold Schwarzenegger for the role. That’s not a joke.

Well-placed sources within the team reveal that a deal was made with the former governor of California and heavyweight Hollywood star, but things went cold after it became clear that their styles of working didn’t quite match. It all boiled down to the fact that Schwarzenegger is used to working with tightly worded contracts that allow little room for the kind of ‘eleventh hour’ changes that are commonplace on Indian film sets. The producers reportedly realised they couldn’t ensure— especially for a film of such a scale—that schedules would move like clockwork. Once the deal with the Terminator star fell through, the makers quickly reached out to Akshay, who was excited about working with Rajini. Looking back, my sources say things worked out just right. Akshay was especially accommodating when the film fell way behind schedule after the Tamil megastar took unwell suddenly and the shoot had to be called off for four months. A similar scenario with Schwarzenegger would’ve cost the producers crores.

The Reluctant Hero

A red-hot-right-now filmmaker known for his ‘closeness’ to a young actress he’s cast in four of his films already is having a hard time convincing the A-lister whom he’s just signed for his new film to work with that heroine. Insiders say the actor is not excited about the director’s choice of leading lady. They also reveal that the actress is ‘determined’ to land the role.

As a compromise, the filmmaker has given her the lead role in another project, one that he’s producing, opposite another red-hot-right-now actor. Not a bad deal at all, most people insist. But the actress hasn’t given up hopes that her mentor will convince the star to work with her eventually.

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