Kangana Ranaut, Karan Johar’s debate on nepotism in Bollywood is hitting (wrong) headlines

With the nepotism debate taking new turns everyday, everyone seems to have an opinion on it. The Kangana Ranaut-Karan Johar row began on the latter’s talk-show, Koffee With Karan.

Ranaut had called him “the flagbearer of nepotism” in Bollywood, referring to the filmmaker’s preference for star kids. Johar brought up the debate again while hosting IIFA awards 2017 along with Saif Ali Khan and Varun Dhawan. The trio made a nepotism joke, aimed at the actress on stage.

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Since then, a lot has transpired – apologieshave been issued and sides have been chosen and open letters have been written.

However this one takes the cake. ScoopWhoop recently wrote a satirical response on behalf of Ranaut. The spoof piece had the actress apologising for speaking her mind. “I want to sincerely apologise to Karanji and tell him that I will never utter the

word nepotism again,” read a few lines from the piece.

The piece was clearly meant to not be taken literally. However, some people and media houses could not detect the sarcasm and passed it off as Ranaut’s actual response to the fiasco.

There is no doubt that this row has been fodder for a lot of news organisations because it involves some of Bollywood’s most influential celebrities and the favourism that exists in the industry.

Although the post was shared by organisations which deemed it as the Queen actress’ official statement, Ranaut had no involvement in the fabrication process of the piece. This highlights weak judgement and hasty decisions, all of which lead to fake news.

Fake news is as important an issue as nepotism and needs to be tackled. Therefore, not being misled by such information is imperative for uninterrupted, healthy discourse. A little fact-checking could save one from having an uninformed opinion.

Munna Michael movie review: Who cares about logic when you have dance, action courtesy Tiger Shroff?

It’s 1995. An aging dancer with a disturbing Michael Jackson hangover is removed from the chorus line of a dance troupe. Michael (Ronit Roy) is devastated. He’s seeking solace at the bottom of a bottle but fate has him wander past an abandoned baby. Michael adopts the child and raises him as Munna.

Inspired by his father, Munna Michael (Tiger Shroff) becomes a dancing machine and makes a quick buck by pulling cons on the dance floor. His inspiration is also Michael Jackson.

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It’s bad enough that our choreographers are stuck in a time warp – they either design sequences aping Jackson or are rehashing hip-hop moves from the mid-90s. But here we have a film where even the writer and director are holding on to nostalgia, not just in terms of inspiration and choreography but also a story line.

Munna Michael takes the comic route and the cold, corpse-like narrative comes alive with the introduction of the ever-reliable Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Siddiqui plays Mahinder Fauji – a hotelier and a thug with a soft corner for a dancer called Dolly (Nidhhi Agerwal). He believes the best way to impress her is by learning to dance, and for this job he hires Munna.

Let me explain that by this time Munna has left his ailing father in Mumbai and moved to Delhi to continue his con-on-the-dance-floor act. We don’t know what his father is suffering from and why Munna cannot think of any other career option but being a dancing cheat. But there you have it.

The moment Munna sets eyes on Dolly, it’s love at first shimmy and shake. Dolly’s dream is to win a dance show on TV. The men believe she’s a dancing queen. But Agerwal dancing is passable at best with her studied moves making her barely convincing as a champion dancer. Maybe she should have joined Munna’s dance classes! Alongside her, Shroff’s robotic moves almost look fluid.

Munna is assigned the job of helping Mahinder court Dolly and then, when she flees from Delhi, Munna must bring her back to Mahinder. What Dolly wants is, of course, of little consequence to Mahinder giving Munna an opportunity to deliver a lesson about that. Fortunately Mahinder’s obsession doesn’t become too creepy as the character is shown to be mean as nails otherwise but soft when it comes to matters of the heart. Siddiqui looks like he’s really enjoying the dance lesson sequences even as he flubs the steps.

Director Sabbir Khan and writer Vimi Datta have designed a film that is serviced by Shroff’s two skills – dancing and action. In spite of being predictable story with slack storytelling, Khan once again (Heropanti, Baaghi) showcases just what is needed to keep Shroff’s fans satisfied.

Put in enough of these two elements and who cares about logic, story, acting or originality.

Now Kangana Ranaut writes an open letter: ‘If Saif Ali Khan’s point is true, I’d be a farmer’

In his open letter on Kangana Ranaut and nepotism, Saif Ali Khan mentioned how he is not on social media because it comes across as ‘fake’. Now, Ranaut has responded with an open letter of her own. Thus, open letters seem to be the tweet equivalent of those who have chosen to distance themselves from social media.

Saif Ali Khan and Kangana Ranaut in a still from Rangoon. Twitter

In her open letter, Ranaut clarifies that her response to Saif’s letter should not be  viewed as a clash of individuals but as a healthy exchange of ideas. Ranaut largely countered Saif on three arguments. Firstly, she explained how the nepotism is not a personal issue between both of them and in fact, addresses a much larger issue that concerns society as a whole. Therefore, she argued that Saif did owe an explanation to the public, and not just a personal apology to Ranaut.

“Nepotism is a practice where people tend to act upon temperamental human emotions, rather than intellectual tendencies. Businesses that are run by human emotions and not by great value-systems, might gain superficial profits. However, they cannot be truly productive and tap into the true potential of a nation of more than 1.3 billion people,” she said in her open letter.

Secondly, she contested Saif’s claim about genetics playing a role in children of film personalities inheriting their talents. She argued that artistic skills, hard-work, experience, concentration spans, enthusiasm, eagerness, discipline and love, which are prerequisites of making it large in the film industry, can not be inherited.

“If your point was true, I would be a farmer back home. I wonder which gene from my gene-pool gave me the keenness to observe my environment, and the dedication to interpret and pursue my interests,” she said, in her open letter.

She even challenged Saif’s allegation on the media for being a part of the vicious cycle of nepotism. She said that nepotism is a part of the human nature, not a crime. While she said there is no point in getting defensive about one’s choice, she also clarified that nepotism is not the way to go forward.

“In my opinion, that is an extremely pessimistic attitude for a Third World country, where many people don’t have access to food, shelter, clothing, and education. The world is not an ideal place, and it might never be. That is why we have the industry of arts. In a way, we are the flag-bearers of hope,” she signed off.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui hints at Bollywood’s colour bias, in a tweet referring to ‘fair and handsome’ leads

Bollywood actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui has shared a cryptic message about the discrimination he has faced in the Hindi film industry over appearance.

Taking to Twitter on Monday night, Nawazuddin, whose performance has been lauded by critics and audience alike, wrote: “Thank you for making me realise that I cannot be paired along with the fair and handsome because I am dark and not good looking.” The Manjhi: The Mountain Man actor added: “But I never focus on that.”

Just last year, Nawazuddin Said, “I think there is no racism in this film industry. They are only in need of talent though it takes time, if you are talented you will get your due. I am thankful to be part of this industry,” as quoted by Indian Express.

File photo of Nawazuddin Siddiqui. News18

However, the 43-year-old actor’s message is unclear as to who he was referring to. On the acting front, Nawazuddin is gearing up for the release of his upcoming film Munna Michael. The film directed by Sabbir Khan is set to release on 21 July.

Munna Michael also stars Tiger Shroff and debutante Nidhhi Agerwal. It is based on the story of Munna, a street boy from Teen Batti slum locality of Mumbai. He loves dancing and grows up idolising Michael Jackson, the King of Pop.

Nawazuddin was last seen in the Sridevi starrer Mom and will also be feature in Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, which is slated to release on August 25.

 

From Ranbir Kapoor in Jagga Jasoos, to Salman Khan in Tubelight, stars aren’t afraid to experiment

Editor’s note: With Shah Rukh Khan’s Fan and Salman Khan’s Tubelight not quite hitting the mark in terms of box office success, there are some crucial question we found ourselves thinking about. Is Bollywood’s male movie-star bound by his ‘image’? What happens when stars experiment, and give their fans something ‘new’? What happens when their experiments fail and how do the stars themselves react to this failure? This is part two of a three part analysis on this very idea — what is bigger, the star or the image of the star? 

Also read parts one and two of this series. 

In the just-released Jagga Jasoos, Ranbir Kapoor plays a Tintin-esque detective. The film itself is cast in the mould of a Broadway musical, not seen before in Bollywood, and includes 21 songs.

Ranbir’s played varied roles before — be it the coming-of-age Wake Up Sid or the everyman in Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year, and even Tamasha. Still, Jagga Jasoos is an ‘experiment’ for the actor.

What’s interesting that this ‘experimentation’ is being engaged in by actors across the spectrum in the Hindi film industry. Just a few weeks ago, we had Salman Khan playing a man with developmental difficulties in Tubelight. While that film flickered out at the box office, it was an attempt on Salman’s part to do a role different from his usual larger-than-life onscreen image. Meanwhile, his contemporary Shah Rukh Khan is also trying something different with Aanand L Rai’s next, in which he plays a dwarf; while Aamir Khan has — yet again — transformed himself entirely for his role in Thugs of Hindostan. Images of Aamir sporting long hair and a nosepin are already doing the rounds on social media.

A mere four years in the industry, and a Varun Dhawan can pull off a Badlapur, while a Sidharth Malhotra an work on an experimental thriller like Ittefaq.

Ranbir Kapor in Jagga Jasoos; Salman Khan in Tubelight. Images via Facebook, Twitter

Meanwhile, Ranveer Singh can charm viewers in an offbeat Lootera and play a rapper from the streets in Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boys. And an ‘outsider’ like Sushant Singh rajput can break into the Bollywood big league with unconventional films like Kai Po Che, Shuddh Desi Romance and Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! 

Forty years ago, this would have been unimaginable. One could hardly conceive of an Amitabh Bachchan or Dharmendra — at the height of their superstardom — playing differently-abled characters in a film that had no romantic angle. There would always be a song-and-dance routine with a Rekha in Ghazab, or the metamorphosis of dim-witted Kallu into dashing Kaalia. They would, undoubtedly, give the greatest of performances, but in conventional vehicles like Deewar, Pratigyaa and Chupke Chupke.

But playing a differently-abled character in a realistic drama… well, that kind of experimentation was best left to a Sanjeev Kumar, as in the 1970 release Khilona. It was up to a Balraj Sahni to play a landless labourer in a stark drama like Do Bigha Zameen, while a Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor — as great as they were — displayed their histrionics in larger-than-life films like Mughal-E-Azam and Awara. Or Naseeruddin Shah, who played a visually impaired man in Sparsh, while Vinod Khanna or Jeetendra bashed up baddies and romanced heroines in their films. But today, if Randeep Hooda or Nawazuddin Siddiqui are experimenting with their roles, so are the big stars like Salman, Shah Rukh.

It is not at all a coincidence that Aamir’s Lagaan, a film where a major Bollywood star experimented with both form as well as content, came within a decade of economic liberalisation, exposure to satellite television and invasion of the internet, followed by the multiplex revolution. The audience was changing and the stars were quick to realise it. Aamir tried to follow the same experimental route with Mangal Pandey — and though it proved less successful, he continued down that route.

Shah Rukh made the attempt with Swades, although it was Chak De India that proved to be his first major ‘experimental’ success. He continued walking off the beaten path with Karan Johar’s My Name is Khan and more recently, Yash Raj Films’ Fan. Salman may have started late, but he seems to be making up for lost time with Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Sultan and Tubelight. And if an Ajay Devgn has a Drishyam in his kitty, then Bollywood’s ultimate khiladi, Akshay Kumar has made it a point to pick unique subjects with films like Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Padman and Gold. 

These are definitely good times to be a Bollywood (film) viewer. We are fortunate to watch our favourite actors in unusual and experimental roles in an image-obsessed industry. As horizons have expanded, and tastes have evolved, it’s no longer a stretch for viewers to see their favourite stars go from playing the typical romantic/action hero to ageing wrestlers — or dwarves.

Jagga Jasoos: Anurag Basu opens up about Ranbir, Katrina and shooting without a physical script

Anurag Basu is one of those people who has the habit of finishing his sentences very fast while communicating. This only means you have to be extra cautious while listening to him, lest you miss out on words.

When I meet him at the Disney office, he seems relaxed in a blue floral half-sleeved shirt and loose trousers. Along with Ranbir, he has just delivered a succession of TV interviews and is still raring to go. The relaxed vibe could also be attributed to a different technique that he has been employing for his films.

Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif in Jagga Jasoos. Image from Firstpost

“For both Barfi and Jagga Jasoos, I went ahead and shot the climax first. It gives you a sort of confidence and the entire film is clear in your head. I do this only because the climax of a film is the most difficult portion to shoot and if you are able to finish the most difficult portion first, then it’s like catching the bull by its horn,” explains Basu.

The germ of his latest venture Jagga Jasoos lies in his own daughter. After he showed Barfi to her and met with a disapproval, he was on the lookout for a subject that could appeal to his daughter and replace the Hollywood flicks synonymous with Disney and Pixar. Jagga Jasoos was thus born, a musical with a tinge of thriller.

The film also marks the second collaboration of Anurag with his ‘muse’ Ranbir Kapoor. “Ranbir is a great person and that’s why he makes a great actor” says Basu.

For the filmmaker, it was a task explaining the genre of the film to his investors. “It was very tough to explain, as there was no reference for this musical thriller. It was more like walking a completely dark path but then slowly as you move ahead, the vision became clear,” he says. Basu is a sucker for musicals and counts Mary Poppins, Sound of Music and the more recent La La Land as his favorites. He also cites a film that was made in his mother tongue Satyajit Ray’s Heerak Rajar Deshe, as one of his favourites.

To borrow words from Ranbir Kapoor, chaos is what best describes Basu’s sets. He reportedly never carries a ‘physical’ screenplay, as it’s all there in his head. Ranbir has admitted that when he was given the first narration of Jagga Jasoos, the entire movie was in his head but nothing on paper. “It’s just not possible to shoot a film without a screenplay. You have to have a graph with a beginning, middle and the end. You just cannot land on the sets and start shooting scenes. It’s just not possible. The script is definitely there somewhere, it’s either in the head, or in some drawer or in the back pocket of the director,” says the director, without revealing where he kept his script.

While the initial days of the film were marred with casting issues, there were also reports of some early scenes of the film being scrapped. As per Basu, only two small scenes were scrapped and nothing was reshot. The build-up to all this also resulted in negative publicity for the film.

“It’s difficult for both Ranbir and I to keep explaining and justifying. Ranbir is not on social media and I am hardly active. The film should speak for itself and there is no point giving justifications,” he clarifies.

Rumours related to Katrina Kaif’s commitment towards the film after her alleged split with Ranbir also did the rounds. Quiz Basu about it and he talks more about her professional commitments: “She has been amazing actually, and Ranbir and her compliment each other. They gave each other lots of space when on the sets. Both of them have behaved in a professional manner throughout the film.  It’s also very difficult for actors to give consistency when a film is in making for long. It was tough for them and they could have easily lost their interest.”

Basu also clarifies about the image of Govinda that’s been floating on social media these days. He clarifies that he did shoot with Govinda for a special appearance in the film, but because of some changes it could not find a place in the final cut.

Right at the helm of the film, I wonder what occupies the director’s mind. He jokingly reveals a grudge he has towards Ranbir. “I really want to work with most actors from the industry, but he is just not allowing me to. Kamina, karne hi nahi deta hai. There was a film planned with Shah Rukh Khan but something happened at the end moment, I am hopeful that after Jagga Jasoos it might just happen,” reveals Basu.

Jagga Jasoos cinematographer Ravi Varman gets congratulatory message from Wes Anderson

The shoot of Anurag Basu’s Jagga Jasoos is over but the film’s DOP, Ravi Varman still has work to finish.

Ravi Varman is holed up in a cabin at the bustling Red Chillies VFX office in Goregaon. When he saunters in the room, his disheveled hair and the casual clothing scream out that he is tired.

He is both surprised and elated at the fact that no one bothers to interview the cameraperson of a film, and the singers seem to be more recognised than him.

The tête-à-tête begins and the first thing he does is opens his smart phone to show me a message from ace Hollywood director Wes Anderson. It’s a short note of appreciation on the trailer of Jagga Jasoos that he really liked.

After having won accolades for his camera work in Barfi, Ram Leela and Tamasha, Ravi Varman is all set to woe us once again with his picture perfect frames of Jagga Jasoos. For Bollywood buffs, the camera work of Barfi was a whiff of fresh air. Ravi begins by remembering the initial days that led to Barfi.

“When I met Anurag, he gave me just four pages which had the entire story and I was totally surprised. I took those pages and went to Chennai and when I read those pages I realised that it’s a silent film and only the visuals would speak. Since I could not utter a word of Hindi, I thought it was a great opportunity and there was no way I was going to leave this film,” reveals Varman.

How Varman and Anurag Basu met each other can only be described as serendipity. Varman was shooting some patchwork for the Salman Khan starrer Bodyguard in 2010 near the Film City Lake. After the shoot got over, he met Anurag Basu and it was just a cursory ‘hi’ from his side, while the two went their separate ways.

After 20 days he got a call from someone working with Ishana Movies (the production house owned by Anurag Basu) asking him if he is the same person who did camera work for Phir Milenge and Dashavataram. Next thing he knew, he was on his way to Mumbai.

“Mumbai has a different culture and a language. I found it very difficult to adapt there and felt very uncomfortable. I was simply not able to survey the situations in Mumbai from Chennai and thus thought it better go back home,” he says. Staying in the Maximum City would have meant spending time in an unfamiliar non-Tamil environment. He kept his Mumbai connections open and did close to 500 commercials before he finally signed Barfi.

It was also a moment when he realised if he wanted to explore his career further then Bollywood couldn’t be ignored.

Varman’s Bollywood stint has also given him opportunity to work with ace filmmakers like Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Imtiaz Ali and Anurag Basu. While they all are known for their craft, they also have a temperament. Varman maintains that Basu is the most demanding of the three.

“Sanjay Leela Bhansali often tells others that he works with a painter, when he works with me. Imtiaz writes his own stories for his films and never ventures near the monitor. He believes in capturing the moment by seeing the performance of the actors. With Basu, you can’t predict anything. You have to be alert in every shot. You can’t be certain about his likes and dislikes,” Varman tells us.

But one person he completely adores is Mani Ratnam. He assisted his guru Ravi K Chandran for nine years and in his company got to know the man at a personal level. For Varman it was a dream to work with Mani Ratnam, which finally got fulfilled with Kaatru Veliyidai this year.

“The visual imagery in India gained respect only because of Mani Ratnam. When it comes to aesthetics, the first name that strikes the mind is none other than Mani sir. He’s the one who brought art in cinematography,” says Varman. We couldn’t agree more.

When asked about his ultimate ambition, Varman gives a totally unexpected answer.  The ace DOP says that he does not believes in making any plans for life, as making plans will only depress you. “I don’t have any ambitions in life I only want to keep my mind refreshed by keeping it clutter free. I don’t keep expectations from anybody. I prefer seeing the reality and enjoy the moment.” The last time I heard something similar was from a saint.

Paresh Rawal: ‘Ranbir Kapoor is terrific in the Dutt biopic, he’s a unique talent’

Actor-politician Paresh Rawal rarely sits down with the media for a chat but when he does, it is a no-holds barred interaction.

Ahead of the release of his upcoming flick Guest Iin London, Firstpost meets up with the actor in a suburban hotel and he answers every query ranging from movies to politics in his inimitable style, expressions and quirks.

The first part of the film – Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge was quite hilarious and funny. Now, in the second part, Ajay Devgn and Konkana Sen have been replaced by Kartik Aaryan and Kriti Kharbanda. Did you miss Ajay and Konkana especially since you might need senior actors with perfect timing to match your comic timing?

I never missed Konkana or Ajay in this story as it is a completely different film. Secondly, in terms of give and take, Kartik is equally competent, and even Kriti Kharbanda is a good actress. And I mean it, I’m not saying just to sound polite.

In the film, you reprise your role of a ‘bin bulaye mehman’, so what kind of a guest are you in real life? And how do you tackle unwanted guests?

As a guest, I never disturb the host or any of their belongings and I don’t like people tampering with my stuff as well. I like few people and I like them for not more than three to four days. I am pretty much upfront and straight-forward. I ask them right in the beginning about when they plan to leave, and when their tickets are booked. They know me well so they don’t mind me asking. But I don’t have guests who pester me.

You don’t seem to socialise much…

My job is to do good work. I am not here to maintain relationships. I am from theatre; you can call it arrogance, confidence or over confidence, but I never felt the need to network or party.

What kind of roles excite you? Which have been your most challenging roles so far?

Roles have to be well-written. It should scare me; it is fright that motivates me. Sir, Sardar, Tamanna, Mumbai Meri Jaan, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye — these are some of the better films I’ve done.

How’s your experience portraying Sunil Dutt in Sanjay Dutt’s biopic?

Oh, it’s so amazing. It’s all because of my director Rajkumar Hirani, because of Abhijat Joshi’s writing and because of Ranbir Kapoor’s acting that the movie is looking amazing. Ranbir is terrific, he is a unique talent.

What kind of preparation went into it?

Fortunately, I am portraying a character that doesn’t have any kind of set mannerisms or idiosyncrasies. Sunil Dutt was very human.  He never had any vibes of stardom around him. The film is essentially a story about father and son.

MOM review: Sridevi, Nawazuddin Siddiqui weave an intensely gripping story

MOM starts with an ever-so-stunning Devaki (Sridevi) walking into a class room as a teacher, in the same school where her step-daughter Arya studies.

The scene involves a part where a boy in class sends a porn video to Arya and Sridevi confiscates the phone. There’s charm and beauty in Sridevi’s eyes hasn’t diminished one bit.

Her family life is a little complicated with a teenager in the house, who is also her step-daughter.

Funnily enough, Sridevi makes a come back every 3-4 years, and always to our pleasant surprise.

It’s exciting how an actor who is 300 movies old keeps reinventing herself with every movie she does.

The relationship between Devaki and Arya is strained. Arya still hasn’t accepted Devaki has her mother despite relentless efforts from Devaki’s end. Taking permission from her stepmother isn’t her favourite, so she routes everything through her father. This is the same when it comes to a Valentine’s night college party, which is happening at a farm house faraway from home.

At the party, a mishap and fight with some boys from her school leads to abduction and gang-rape. Arya gets thrown away in a drain after.

She then gets admitted in a hospital, and gives a statement identifying the rapists, but because of a medical report which claims Arya had 0.08 % alcohol in her body, her report became invalid. The accused also gets to walk scot free because of lack of evidence.

In this situation Devaki sets out to take revenge. The plot is very close to the recent Raveena Tandon starter, Maatr. 

Not to sound like a Sridevi loyalist, but give me anything with her face in it, and I have no doubt in her ability to emote.

The character that she plays is strong, strained and is in a very tricky relationship with her teenage daughter. Sridevi plays this to perfection. Her impressive screen presence is something that one gets to see rarely.

Nawazuddin Siddique sports an extremely interesting look and plays the role of a secret detective. He has a very eerie vibe to him. He works closely with Devaki in her process of revenge.

The second half has Devaki taking revenge one by one. She punishes three out of four and all this is done for Arya to see that the rapists get their due punishments, which she does. This brings in a lot of change in her and she starts slowing come back into normalcy.

Nawaz as the private detective impresses incredibly in the second half. Akshaye Khanna plays a CBI inspector, and fits the role. Especially since he’s been playing the brooding cop role for a while now.

There’s no doubt about this. Mom has some stellar performances. However, while the story is strong and gripping, it’s not unique, it’s not new. I can’t help but point out similarities with Maatr.

MOM can be underwhelming in bits. Do stellar performances add up to a great movie? No. The basic foundation that holds the whole movie together is the story, and that’s where the problem lies here. With the foundation in trouble, it’s not very difficult for the whole skeleton to fall.

This is a story that I have seen multiple times, in different ways.

While Sridevi and Nawaz deliver excellent performances, the plot and the story is line is too feeble. A mother taking revenge against the rapists of her step daughter — now that’s a meaty plot if we were in 2005.

Ek Haseena Thi Ek Deewana Tha movie review: Suneel Darshan’s son returns in a film so terrible, it’s riveting

A long long time ago in the kingdom of cliched cinema, a rich man’s daughter falls in love with a poor stable boy. He is killed by her father for that crime. Decades later, his bhatakti aatma returns to claim the heart of her granddaughter. We are told the young lady is her naani’s carbon copy and, as fate would have it, already engaged to her childhood friend at the point she meets the aatma.

What happens thereafter is not what you might expect, but I am not wasting time getting into the nitty-gritty of the story because, frankly, that would amount to beating about the bush. Overriding fact: this film is awful.

It is a romantic thriller, but no twist in the end, nor even Amarjeet Singh’s slick camerawork in the picturesque English and Welsh countryside, can compensate for the all-round godawfulness, the inertness and the dated storytelling that constitute Ek Haseena Thi Ek Deewana Tha.

Poster of Ek Haseena Thi Ek Deewana Tha

Producer-director Suneel Darshan’s latest venture marks the return to Bollywood of music director Nadeem Saifi, and Darshan’s second attempt at giving his son Shiv an acting career.

Nadeem’s compositions for the film are passably melodic while they last, but too generic to be memorable. The Nadeem who has churned out songs for Ek Haseena Thi EDT is not worthy of the reputation enjoyed by the man who made the blockbuster music for Aashiqui and Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin as one half of Nadeem-Shravan in the 1990s. Like this film, his work too seems stuck in time.

It speaks volumes about the pathetic quality of Ek Haseena Thi EDT that the music is still one of the nicer things about it.

The highlight of the film’s horrendousness is Shiv, a milky-skinned gentleman whose expressionlessness resembles the blankness of faces we see these days Botoxed into immobility.

I understand paternal devotion. I do. But to expose your child’s absolute lack of talent before the world is not love. There is no kind way of saying this, so I may as well not mince words: Shiv cannot act.

The only saving grace for him in this film is that Natasha Fernandez is almost — though not entirely — as bad. Instead of advertising itself as a film, Ek Haseena Thi EDT should have considered promoting itself as a contest for pathetic acting between Darshan Junior and Fernandez. Their co-star Upen Patel is no Robert De Niro, but he comes off looking comparatively impressive in the presence of these two and made me wonder whether he might show some spark in a better film.

Pretty Ms Fernandez struggles to work her facial muscles, poses around (clearly at the behest of her director) and delivers dialogues in an amusingly strained fashion. Her Hindi diction is awkward, she even says tukraana for tthukraana. And director saab did not deem it fit to correct her before demanding a retake?

Perhaps Darshan was too busy focusing on getting the wardrobe and makeup departments to package his heroine to perfection so that she could be draped on his son.

The problem lies not just in a father prioritising his offspring over all else, but also in this team’s questionable attitude to women. For instance, the good guy in Ek Haseena Thi EDT is positioned as a good guy although he thinks nothing of kissing a sleeping woman who does not know him; and when one man asks another for a birthday gift, the other guy points to a woman, as though he had purchased her from a shop. Her outburst in the end, about the right to make her own choices, comes as an obvious afterthought, inserted there by writers who want to camouflage their narrow-mindedness in a changing world.

To be fair to Darshan, although he has enjoyed tremendous commercial success, he has at no point been viewed as a great artist or a liberal by serious Bollywood gazers. That said, nothing in his filmography is a match for the vacuity of this film.

Ek Haseena Thi EDT is so terrible, it is riveting. (Spoiler alert, for those who still care) It is not a fantasy flick, nor does it belong to the mythical/mythological genre, yet at one point, a man reveals — with a perfectly straight face — that after an accident, he prayed to God for a few extra days on Earth and God granted him 14. What calculation did God make to arrive at that precise figure. Was God a voice in this fellow’s head? Did s/he appear in flesh and blood? Did they chat on Skype?

With nothing happening on screen, I busied myself with these profound questions. I also briefly considered headlining this review thus: Ek haseen critic thhi, ek khokhla film thha.