Not People Like Us

The Director’s Tantrum

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The drama over the casting of Karan Johar’s Shuddhi and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani reached epic proportions last week when Band Baaja Baaraat star Ranveer Singh was forced to choose one of the two films as a starring vehicle for himself, neither filmmaker willing to adjust his production schedules so the actor could work in both films. But I told you that already. Last week, in fact.

Turns out it was Bhansali, Ranveer’s Ram-Leela director, who reportedly threw a hissy fit and more or less ‘emotionally blackmailed’ the star into choosing his next over Johar’s production, although Ranveer had signed Shuddhi before Bhansali finalised him for Bajirao. No wonder Johar is mighty miffed at Bhansali for his arm-twisting tactics, and for announcing the same release date for his film that Johar had already picked and announced for Shuddhi.

But one hears the usually competitive Johar may not bother with a fight this time around. Word on the circuit is that even as Bajirao goes into production soon, Johar is considering putting Shuddhi into cold storage for now. He has apparently told friends that he has no plans currently to look for replacement stars, and is wondering if it might be a better idea to put the film on the backburner while director Karan Malhotra whips up another script.

The New Kiss on the Block

Alia Bhatt and Arjun Kapoor, who star in 2 States and are rumoured to be dating off-screen, appear to be cheesed off by the relentless media attention on their on-screen kiss—as witnessed in trailers of the film. Funny, given that the actors themselves have said in interviews that they enjoyed kissing each other. “But this kiss has become the only thing journalists write about,” Alia complains. “They ask a bunch of questions, but only keep the bits about the kiss.” Welcome to Bollywood, Ms Bhatt.

Gunday star Arjun, however, understands that all this chatter over their snog may not hurt the film after all: “If it brings people into the cinema to watch the movie, by all means keep talking about it.” But he will quickly explain that the kiss is not gratuitous. “This couple is in a live-in relationship. They will share intimacy, and shooting a kiss is a way to convey that,” Arjun says.

He also sticks to what they have been saying in interviews— that they enjoyed kissing each other, but then wonders why such a big deal is being made of that. You point out that in an industry where actors mostly conduct romantic relationships discreetly, seldom admitting to them even after photographs of PDA are splashed in the tabloids, it’s refreshingly mature that a young pair would speak candidly about their chemistry. He smiles cheekily, but refuses to admit they’re a couple.

Being Starry

The new obsession among A-listers is achieving the Rs 1,000 crore net worth target. Every one of them is in the race, reveal leading producers who complain that they’re left bearing the brunt of it. One superstar, who’s negotiated a Rs 500 crore satellite deal with a channel for all his films over the next five years, will keep that cash as his fee for the said projects.

Ironically, the same actor likes to talk about responsibility, and about not burdening a project with unreasonable salaries. Yet, as one leading filmmaker who worked with him some years ago on an ensemble romantic film explains, he’s making it hard for producers to survive in the business. This producer reveals that he paid the star Rs 4 crore for starring in his 2007 film, but the actor is demanding remuneration amounting to Rs 66 crore for a new project. Not all of it is expected upfront, but that is what the star wants to be paid for appearing in the film by the time he’s finished making it.

But he’s hardly alone. With other A-listers producing most of their new films themselves, or demanding a sizeable percentage of profits from every release, they stand to make nearabout the same fee from big projects. But the bubble will burst, say industry watchers who point out that in this current scenario, nobody but actors end up making money… even when their films bomb. “That’ll change quickly, because otherwise, soon you won’t have producers wanting to make any more movies,” a source explains.