3 years

Not People Like Us

Looking for a Lucky Break

Rajeev Masand is entertainment editor at CNN News18
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Looking for a Lucky Break • Just Too Good to Give Up • The Unimportance of Being Earnest
As if it isn’t bad enough they’re making a sequel to 2007’s goofy blockbuster Welcome, its makers seem determined to add respected ‘actors’ to the new project. While John Abraham replaces Akshay Kumar as the lead in Welcome Back, Nana Patekar, Anil Kapoor and Paresh Rawal all return for a second turn.

To fill in the shoes of the late Feroz Khan who starred in the earlier film, producer Firoz Nadiadwala and director Anees Bazmee wanted an actor with some gravitas. Apparently they had their heart set on Amitabh Bachchan, who, after mulling over the offer for a few weeks, declined. Next they went to Kamal Haasan, who in turn was horrified at being approached for the film. The South star was wooed not only by the makers, but also by Nana Patekar who tried to coax him into committing himself to the film—with little success. The makers also reportedly asked Kamal’s daughter Shruti Haasan (who has a role opposite John in the movie) to put in a good word with her dad, but Kamal could not be convinced.

The film is currently shooting with the rest of the cast, but the makers are still in search of their ‘big star’ who’ll give their mass-market comedy a touch of upmarket respectability.

Just Too Good to Give Up

Farhan Akhtar is enjoying acting so much he’s unlikely to return to direction anytime soon. At the NFDC’s Film Bazaar in Goa earlier this week, he told me he still thinks of himself primarily as a writer-filmmaker, but the acting roles coming his way are so exciting, he’s happily embracing this career “diversion” for now.

The enormous success of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag earlier this year—the first film he acted in outside his own Excel Productions banner—has no doubt inspired confidence in filmmakers who were overwhelmed by the actor’s physical transformation and his unwavering commitment to get under the skin of Milkha Singh. Next he’ll be seen playing Vidya Balan’s husband in the light-hearted comedy Shaadi Ke Side Effects.

Yet, it’s the newer projects he’s signed that are particularly interesting. Farhan will play the lead in English, August director Dev Benegal’s next, which Excel will also produce. Kareena Kapoor stars opposite Farhan in this Hindi film, which Benegal tells me isn’t so much his foray into mainstream Bollywood as it is Farhan’s entry to Benegal’s school of personal, indie filmmaking.

In his sister Zoya Akhtar’s next, Farhan has taken the smaller part of Priyanka Chopra’s romantic interest, clarifying immediately that it’s a supporting role in a film that is essentially about a dysfunctional family of four. There is also a Bejoy Nambiar film, to be produced by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, in which Farhan will star along with Amitabh Bachchan, whom he directed in Lakshya.

The Unimportance of Being Earnest

It appears that some difficult decisions may need to be taken on the casting of an ambitious new film, in light of the recent failure of another big-budget venture. The makers of this new film that’s currently in preproduction reportedly met last weekend to discuss the viability of their intended project given the fact that their leading man now has three reasonably big-budget duds in a row to his name.

Their proposed film is designed as a hero-centric vehicle with considerable action scenes and even a superhero bent. The producers met to brainstorm whether they could in fact raise the film’s sizeable budget on the strength of their star, and whether it might be beneficial for the film if they were to rope in a more ‘bankable’ actor instead.

Turns out no firm decisions have been taken just yet, but the project is definitely being reconsidered as it currently stands.

That’s a shame, particularly for the young actor, who’s been looking forward to shooting the film and has already begun training for the part. Known for his earnest approach and professionalism in an industry dominated by stars who throw their weight around, the actor’s recent spate of flops could be attributed to a bout of bad luck over any lack of commitment on his part.

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