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Agents of Change

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Keep Calm and Work Hard | Traffic Tangle

Switching agents is a big decision in Hollywood and tends to make big news. It usually implies that an actor is not satisfied with either the quality of work the agent has been lining up, or with the size of the pay-cheque that the agent has been able to negotiate for him or her.

Closer home in Bollywood, the concept of agencies and agents is a relatively new one. Given that the film industry here is a much smaller place—everyone knows everyone— and the emphasis has always been on the ‘personal’, the handful of operating agencies tend to focus on procuring brand endorsements and ad campaigns over feature films for stars.

When Sonam Kapoor’s agents Shanti Sivaram and Atul Kasbekar (of Bling) turned producers with Neerja, they offered the lead role to their client, thereby creating a win- win package for themselves and the actress. The film’s subsequent success and the thumbs-up Sonam received for her performance was the icing on the cake. She made sure to give them due credit at every opportunity available.

Which is why it has come as a shock to Bollywood insiders that the actress switched agencies recently. Sonam has signed up with rival agency Kwan, which also represents her rival Deepika Padukone, among others.

Word on the street is that Sonam had repeatedly issued instructions to her agents that she was looking for international film work, which she felt they hadn’t worked hard to procure for her. Plus, a source close to the actress reveals, she was less than pleased that her agents were focusing their attention on another film they were set to produce, Tumhari Sulu, for which they’d roped in their client Vidya Balan.

When Sonam delivered the blow to Bling, she did it as gently as she could, one hears. She remains very close to Shanti and Atul even if they won’t be working together anymore.

Keep Calm and Work Hard

Contrary to tabloid gossip, Deepika Padukone tells me there’s no awkwardness whatsoever with Priyanka Chopra. The Bajirao Mastani leading ladies, both of whom are exploring the possibility of straddling a career on two continents, were on the same flight to the US some weeks ago, and “everything was normal, exactly the same”. The actresses ran into each other again at the post-Oscars Vanity Fair party in Los Angeles, and since no fireworks were reported, we’ll assume things went smoothly.

While Priyanka, who is currently filming Season 2 of Quantico in New York, appears to have put down roots in the West, Deepika says she sees herself as a nomad and insists that she doesn’t think she needs to be based in the US to work there when good roles come her way.

Traffic Tangle

There’s something perversely heartening about the fact that it’s not just us lesser mortals who’re routinely pummelled by the obnoxious traffic on Mumbai roads. No, no, traffic, as it turns out, is the great leveller. Even our top movie stars ensconced in their fancy cars feel the brunt. Day in and day out.

One A-list male star who had promised to attend a Bollywood awards show recently, called up the organiser on the afternoon of the event to confirm what time he needed to get there to present a key award. The actor, who had somehow assumed that the ceremony was taking place at a suburban studio not far from where he lives, was in for a rude shock when he learnt that in fact the show was to happen at a sprawling sports stadium at the other end of the city.

The actor reportedly excused himself from his commitment, insisting that there was no way he was going to brave weekend peak-hour traffic. And no amount of requesting and cajoling from the organisers would make him change his mind.

In the end, he stubbornly stuck to his word and stayed home. The organisers, meanwhile, both puzzled that he hadn’t bothered to find out about the venue till the eleventh hour and upset over his cancellation, were left with no choice but to request another star to present the award instead.