How do you make a movie about the dark underbelly of the Mumbai film industry without touching upon the prickly issue of the casting couch? Especially if you’re Madhur Bhandarkar, and especially if you’ve been fighting allegations of rape levelled against you by a struggling starlet who claims you exploited her by promising her a film role in return?
Bhandarkar, whose Heroine would have released by the time you read this, isn’t above creating thinly disguised characters out of real people, and has seldom thought twice before recreating controversial incidents from famous people’s lives in his movies. For his expose on the Hindi film industry, he admits he’s once again tapped the private lives of real stars from both Bollywood and Hollywood.
The story goes that Preity Zinta is upset with him for a dig he’s reportedly taken at her in one of the film’s dialogues, in which leading lady Kareena Kapoor remarks that actresses buy IPL teams when their movie careers go downhill. Some months ago, Manisha Koirala was also apparently livid when she learnt that Bhandarkar had been insinuating that he’d based the character of a debauched superstar on her.
Perhaps anticipating all the angry responses from those who’re likely to recognise themselves or facets of their personalities in his characters, Bhandarkar is believed to have included his own controversial rape case in the film’s script. An insider reveals that the filmmaker has shown how a “desperate woman will go to any length to pull down a successful man, including framing him for assault or rape”. So while he may have sportingly exploited his own life for the screen, Bhandarkar has cleverly portrayed himself as a victim, not perpetrator.
There’s a nasty rumour going around that Akshay Kumar’s reasons for abandoning Joker at the promotions stage might have had nothing to do with what he thought of the film after all. You might remember the actor’s camp was busy attributing his unwillingness to participate in the film’s marketing and promotions to the fact that he was disappointed with what director Shirish Kunder had made of the film. But insiders are saying that’s far from the truth.
Come to think of it, Akshay has been involved in several lousy films during the course of his career, and yet he’s sportingly supported them and promoted them. It’s unlikely he thought Joker was much worse than films like Thank You, Action Replayy or Kambakkht Ishq. Turns out his differences with Shirish and the director’s wife Farah Khan (a co-producer of Joker) might have been strictly over money matters.
According to the industry grapevine, despite having charged a sizeable acting fee, Akshay (who was also one of the producers on the film) was reportedly hoping to make a substantial sum overcharging UTV (the studio that had bought the film and was releasing it) for converting Joker into 3D. When the studio decided not to release the film in 3D, the star is believed to have thrown a fit and demanded that Shirish and Farah side with him on the issue. When, despite Akshay’s best efforts, the studio flatly refused to invest any more money in the project, the actor allegedly decided to get his revenge on Shirish and Farah by leaving them to promote the film without him.
Getting in the Director’s Hair
There are murmurs that a top film director got into an ugly argument with his leading man on the set recently, and stormed out when he realised he wasn’t able to get across to the young star. When this leading filmmaker (considered to be among the country’s finest, even though his last two films have been complete duds) arrived on set to see that his male lead had trimmed his hair and beard too fine for the character he was playing, the director allegedly lost his temper at the actor in full view of the crew.
The actor in turn insisted he’d gone for a trim because he was simultaneously shooting another film in Kolkata, for which he required a shorter crop. Appalled that the actor would take “such a big step” without consulting him, the director huffed and puffed, only to get further upset when the star reportedly said he owed just as much, if not more, to the producer of the other film—who had launched his acting career. At this point, the fuming filmmaker is believed to have walked off the set with smoke practically billowing out of his ears.