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The Big Bucks Problem

Rajeev Masand is entertainment editor at CNN News18
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The Big Bucks Problem • An Accountant’s Birthday • The Claws Are out

Saif Ali Khan’s passion project, the spy-thriller Agent Vinod is reportedly going through a bumpy journey. First, financiers Eros International balked at the Rs 60 crore budget the actor allegedly demanded to produce the film. Then both parties are believed to have settled at a Rs 40 crore price tag (after the debacle of Kurbaan). Now, it appears, after completing a substantial part of the shoot in Latvia and Morocco, actor-producer Saif and his director Sriram Raghavan are finding it hard to bring the film in at the agreed budget. To add to that, leading lady Kareena Kapoor doesn’t have shooting dates till June 2011.

It appears now that Saif has decided to push the next schedule of Agent Vinod till June, and accepted three new acting jobs that he hopes to work on in the interim. The first is Vishal Bhardwaj’s Dreams (with Aishwarya Rai and Vidya Balan), there’s also Prakash Jha’s Aarakshan (in which he’s replaced Ajay Devgn, and will star with Amitabh Bachchan, Deepika Padukone and Prateik Babbar), and finally a romantic comedy helmed by his Being Cyrus director Homi Adajania that Saif will produce under his own banner Illuminati Films, with his Love Aaj Kal leading lady Deepika as co-star.

While many in the industry are confused why Saif would embark on another production while Agent Vinod is still incomplete, sources close to the actor reveal that the Adajania-directed rom-com is being kickstarted to raise a respectable budget for this film, a part of which will be immediately diverted to Agent Vinod.

An Accountant’s Birthday

On Saturday evening, half of the Hindi film industry made the trek down from the suburbs to Tote at the Mahalaxmi Race Course to clink their glasses at the 50th birthday celebrations of Bimal Parekh, chartered accountant to Bollywood. It’s typical of filmwalahs to expend energy to stay in the good books of the guy who manages their money.

Eyewitnesses spotted Sanjay Leela Bhansali maintaining a safe distance from UTV’s Ronnie Screwvala and Siddharth Roy Kapur, who’re reportedly Rs 30 crore poorer after the failure of Guzaarish. Also at two opposite ends of the room, trying hard to avoid each other were Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey co-producer Sunita Gowariker (who arrived with her brother-in-law and his wife, sans husband Ashutosh) and PVR’s Ajay Bijli. The Delhi-based Bijli brothers (Ajay and Sanjeev) will reportedly write off more than Rs 30 crore in losses towards the ‘historical’ disaster.

Friends-turned-foes-turned-friends Farah Khan and Sanjay Leela Bhansali exchanged pleasantries and even posed for a picture for common friend Karan Johar. Meanwhile, Priyanka Chopra’s parents represented their daughter at the party, and Rajkumar Santoshi was seen making idle chat with just about anyone. Apparently, the party got livened up with the arrival of Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao who became the centre of attention the moment they walked into the room. Later, the actor raised a toast to his long-serving bookkeeper and joked that the best thing about working with Parekh was all the gossip you could tap him for on the rest of the industry. “He knows exactly who’s doing what film, and how much they’re getting paid,” Aamir teased.

The Claws Are out

Two prominent actresses currently promoting their forthcoming thriller are having a hard time pretending that they like each other. While one is a has-been star hoping to make her comeback with this film, the other is the current go-to-girl for strong, dramatic roles. Unit members on their film say they managed to complete the shoot without any major clashes, although there were times things got difficult on the sets.

The rivalry seems to have kicked in now, at the marketing stage, with both actresses trying to position themselves as the central protagonist of the film. They may smile as they sit down together for media interactions, but each will cut in while the other is speaking and try to steal the spotlight from the other. In all fairness, it’s the younger, current star who’s showing some grace, occasionally turning a blind eye to her co-star’s petty behaviour. The has-been star leapt up from her seat and bellowed recently when her co-star referred to her as the “senior” actor, and demanded that she take her words back.

This,when she started out in the business at least seven years before her co-star!