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The Non-mover and Shaker

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The Non-mover and Shaker • Amisha’s Persistence • Extravagance on Expense Account

The Non-mover and ShakerIt’s being described as the big ‘Cannes con’. Shekhar Kapur’s documentary on Hindi cinema’s musical films, titled Bollywood: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told, received scathing reviews at the recent Cannes Film Festival, with one prominent Indian filmmaker going so far as to describe it as “a stinking piece of shit”. A 90-minute orgy of song sequences slapped back to back, and interspersed with occasional soundbites from the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Katrina Kaif and Subhash Ghai, the documentary appears to be a slipshod last-minute job that nevertheless got sizeable attention at the festival, being the only film from India to be officially invited.

Produced jointly by Kapur and UTV, the film was hawked at the Cannes market by its international sales agents who succeeded in closing more-or-less full worldwide distribution deals. Insiders say this virtually no-cost film will be UTV’s most profitable venture in years.

The premiere of the film itself was reportedly a tacky, lacklustre affair. One solo female Indian dancer in a blue ghagra choli danced to the beats of popular Bollywood numbers being belted out by a small band on the Cannes red carpet, and Kapur himself broke into an impromptu jig. 

Closer home, Bollywoodwalas are far from dancing. One filmmaker angrily explains that Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, the film’s co-director, was absolutely the wrong choice to helm such a project: “Both Shekhar and Rakeysh are contemptuous of the ‘traditional Bollywood musical’ as a genre. Why not trust such a film to someone like Sanjay Leela Bhansali who believes in the genre and respects it?” Indeed, the one thing Bhansali can still be counted on to do is deliver spectacularly filmed and choreographed song sequences.

Amisha’s Persistence

Bollywood had more or less written off Amisha Patel, but she’s like a bad rash that won’t go away. The once-promising actress—who burnt bridges with everyone from her own parents to mentors Rakesh and Hrithik Roshan who launched her in the movies—is threatening to make yet another comeback. She recently launched her own production company, Amisha Patel Productions, in partnership with old friend Kunal Goomer. And although she has hinted that she may not star in the debut film she’s producing, to be directed by David Dhawan, all evidence seems to suggest otherwise.

The actress has apparently bought advertorial space in a leading newspaper to plant flattering news items and photographs of hers on a regular basis. She’s also invested in hoardings across Mumbai that are plastered with images of her bursting out of tight dresses. She’s been giving interviews left, right and centre and urging journalists to refer to her as ‘sexy and single’. And while her proximity to Sanjay Dutt’s wife Manyata hasn’t resulted in her landing any films opposite Dutt yet, sources say she is tapping the star wife to produce films in collaboration.

Extravagance on Expense Account

It’s the hottest ticket this summer. A youthful multi-starrer filmed in Europe and produced by one of Bollywood’s top banners. Industry insiders are whispering that at a landing cost of roughly Rs 75 crore, it’s going to be hard for this film to make money, even if big numbers do flock the multiplexes when it opens. It turns out the lavish production flew stars and their ‘plus-ones’ First Class from Mumbai to the shoot location (and back). Once there, talent was checked into fancy suites at the finest five-star, and daily shopping excursions were organised for bored star-wives and accompanying families. The show-off producer even hired a luxury cruise at one point during the roughly 40-day schedule, so spouses and girlfriends could keep themselves occupied while the stars and crew remained busy on set.

With such extravagant but unnecessary expenses, it’s hardly surprising that the film’s actual production budget escalated to a whopping Rs 50 crore, to which the producers have reportedly added a fat margin of close to Rs 25 crore. It’s being bankrolled by a top distributor who has had to shell out these big bucks and then pray that his investment doesn’t go down the drain. Meanwhile, the producers continue to revel in the reputation of being one of Bollywood’s coolest and most generous film-making companies. All very well, except that none of this generosity is coming out of their own pockets.