A Family Affair

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A Family Affair • “Star-crossed Lovers” • A Fine Friendship
Zoya Akhtar doesn’t start shooting her next film till April, but the buzz surrounding the project is only getting stronger. Ram-Leela star Ranveer Singh, who replaced the director’s first choice Ranbir Kapoor, describes the movie as “The Royal Tenenbaums set on a ship”, hinting at the film’s quirky Wes Anderson-like tone.

Reportedly, it’s about a dysfunctional extended family thrown together on a holiday cruise, forced to confront their many issues. On one level, the film apparently also addresses the deep-rooted hypocrisy among Indian families towards their children, in that sons are raised much more liberally than daughters.

To realise these characters, Zoya has cast Ranveer Singh and Priyanka Chopra as her sibling leads (in parts that were originally written with Ranbir and Kareena Kapoor in mind), and while no official announcement has been made, there’s talk that Anil Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia will play their parents. Meanwhile, Ranveer’s real-life ex Anushka Sharma will play the actor’s love interest in the movie.

Zoya and her brother Farhan (who will once again write dialogues for his sister’s film) have denied that the story is based on their own lives, but they don’t entirely dismiss the notion that the relationship between the characters played by Priyanka and Ranveer may be somewhat inspired by their own.

“Star-crossed Lovers”

Kareena Kapoor, currently sporting an extremely toned frame, says she has “no choice but to get into solid shape,” given that she begins shooting with the very fit Hrithik Roshan from 1 December.The pair, who haven’t worked together since 2001’s Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, are being reunited for another Karan Johar production, Shuddhi, helmed by Agneepath director Karan Malhotra.

While promoting Gori Tere Pyaar Mein with Imran Khan earlier this week, the actress told me she doesn’t stress herself out over a film’s box-office performance anymore, having been through the roller-coaster ride of success and failure for “so many years” now. She also appears a lot more stoic about major film projects that didn’t materialise. Of Ram-Leela, which was famously offered to her first, she says: “Sanjay (Leela Bhansali) and I are like star-crossed lovers. It never seems to work out.” Of Zoya Akhtar’s offer that fell through after Ranbir Kapoor dropped out of the film, Kareena says: “I’d really love to work with Zoya someday because she’s one of the best directors in the country, but this movie probably wasn’t meant to be.”

Not that she’s nursing a grudge against her cousin Ranbir for nixing the offer. One hears Kareena got along famously with the Besharam star while filming Koffee With Karan recently, and even teased him on camera about his relationship with Katrina Kaif. “I’ve got my lehenga ready for your wedding,” she reportedly told him. “And I’ve been rehearsing the steps to Sheila ki Jawaani and Chikni Chameli,” she ragged.

Kareena may not be working with Zoya this time round, but she has said ‘yes’ to starring opposite Farhan Akhtar in director Dev Benegal’s film, which Farhan’s company will produce. “From doing an item song in Don [which he directed], to being his heroine,” she says, “this will be interesting.”

A Fine Friendship

She arrived in Bollywood as a breath of fresh air, making a lasting impression with her natural performances. Early in her acting career, she’s being spoken of as an artiste with immense potential, and one for the ages. The tabloids haven’t found any scandals, no skeletons in her cupboard, no secret boyfriend, nothing really to embarrass her yet, although she’s been repeatedly linked to the director of her debut film, with whom she made another hit film recently.

The actress, for her part, has dismissed the romantic rumours, never denying however that they’re close buddies. So close, in fact, that it appears the director has a flat in the same building in which the actress lives, just a few floors below her. They reportedly share a domestic help, and common meals are often prepared for both homes. Neighbours living in the same building are used to seeing the actress visit the director at his home, and neither makes any effort to hide their friendship as if they were up to something sneaky.

There’s been some talk that the director has snagged an A-list male star to feature in his next film, and word in the trade is that his favourite actress will naturally be paired opposite the superstar.