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Before Kai Po Che

Rajeev Masand is Entertainment Editor and film critic at CNN-IBN
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Before Kai Po Che • The Return of Aishwarya Rai • Rom-Com on the Sets

Referring to the uncertainties of the business and its ability to surprise even veteran players, William Goldman, the Oscar- winning screenwriter of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, had once famously said: “In Hollywood, no one knows anything.” This is true of Bollywood as well.

The success of Kai Po Che has reinforced the fact that even successful stars and established producers can be wrong in their assessment of a script’s potential. Director Abhishek Kapoor is being lauded for his decision to cast non-stars as his leads, but few are aware that he had, in fact, approached big actors for the film before having to settle for a relatively unknown ensemble.

According to industry sources, Imran Khan, Shahid Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor were all presented with the script. But each of them is believed to have separately said ‘no’ to Abhishek on the grounds that the story didn’t convince them. Ranbir, in particular, who has displayed a knack for picking quality projects so far, not only turned down the film, but also allegedly told Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani that he was “surprised” they were thinking of producing the movie (Abhishek was originally developing the project for Excel Entertainment).

It is hard to tell how much Farhan and Ritesh were influenced by Ranbir’s feelings when they finally decided to pass on Kai Po Che. Insiders say the truth is that the two were never comfortable with the script’s final act, which revisited the Godhra massacre and subsequent communal riots of 2002.

The Return of Aishwarya Rai

If all goes well, Aishwarya Rai should begin working on her comeback project sometime this year. The buzz is that the actress has been approached by Agent Vinod director Sriram Raghavan to star in a film he is directing for Tips’ Ramesh Taurani, opposite—hold your breath— Varun Dhawan.

No, this is no Summer of 42-style older- woman-younger-guy romance, but a dark thriller, from the sound of it. A source close to the director reveals that this is, in fact, the same film Sriram had once committed to helm for Ramesh and Rohan Sippy’s production outfit, with Aishwarya and John Abraham in the lead roles. Then titled Happy Birthday, the script has apparently been polished and updated, and while Varun is more or less locked to play the male lead, Aishwarya is yet to respond to the offer.

Rom-Com on the Sets

More or less everyone involved with his new film—from his leading man to studio executives assigned the task of marketing and releasing the movie—is allegedly cheesed off with this prominent filmmaker, who appears to be putting his heroine’s interests before that of the film. Some two years ago, when the filmmaker pitched the project as a First Blood- type action movie with a promising model-turned-actor in the central role, the studio jumped at it, convinced they could bring it in at a reasonable price.

But during the course of its making, the filmmaker, who is married with kids, allegedly grew ‘very fond’ of his leading lady (a former beauty pageant winner making her acting debut), and gradually the film’s romantic track went from a mere sub- plot to the full-fledged motive of the film. Unit members reveal that the actress was given preferential treatment over the rest of the cast and crew, and even her multiple cosmetic surgeries were billed to the film’s budget. One source insists that the actress had so much work done on herself during the course of filming that after a screening of the rough-cut, most people remarked that it appeared as if two different heroines had shot for the same film.

The leading man, too, isn’t thrilled that the filmmaker has been showering so much attention on his co-star. He is particularly peeved about the fact that the filmmaker insisted the entire unit fly economy when they were travelling for an outdoor shoot so that costs could be kept in control, but the filmmaker and heroine ended up flying business class. When confronted, the filmmaker is believed to have said he paid for their upgrades from his own pocket.

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