Apr 262018
 

The much-awaited female buddy film Veere Di Wedding’s trailer was unveiled yesterday amidst a much fun event. The four girls – Kareena Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Swara Bhaskar and Shikha Talsania bonded really well and the same can be seen in the trailer.

While at the event, firstly all the four were asked about their experience with working on this film to which Swara Bhaskar has the funniest reply. She revealed how she was intimidated by none other than Kareena Kapoor.

Swara expressed, “At first I just want to say that the highest point in this film for me was touching Kareena Kapoor which I have wanted to do since a long time now. I was excited and like I’ve touched her, I’ve touched her”. After listening to this, Kareena couldn’t control her laughter and was left in splits.

Not only Swara but co-star Shikha Talsania too was smitten by Bebo’s presence in the film. She also expressed, “I got to dance with Kareena Kapoor and that was a big thing for me”.

Meanwhile, Veere Di Wedding’s trailer has been doing exceptionally well on social media platforms and has been receiving a positive response from the audience and the trade analyst as well.

Talking about the film, Veere Di Wedding is one of its kind films in Bollywood which traces the journey of four girlfriends and their respective relationship related issues. The trailer promises a joy ride and affirms that the film is all about friendship, relationship and a hell lot of fun!

Directed by Shashanka Ghosh, Veere Di Wedding is co-produced by Rhea Kapoor and Ekta Kapoor. Kareena – Sonam – Shikha – Swara’s ‘Veere Di Wedding’ is all set to release on 1st June 2018.

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Feb 182018
 

Ahead of the release of her drama, Veerey Di Wedding, Swara Bhaskar reflects on her career, and moving from small-budget to commercial films

Still from Veerey Di Wedding
Still from Veerey Di Wedding

Connecting with Swara Bhaskar for this interview, her open letter to Sanjay Leela Bhansali, slamming his glorification of jauhar in Padmaavat, invariably steers the conversation. Referring to her act of voicing the opinion of many as she chided the celebration of a regressive tradition, I tell her, “It was a bold move!” Pat comes her reply, “And an incredibly stupid one too, I hear…” We laugh at the plight of an industry that doesn’t encourage debate around art, even though art, in its truest sense, is debatable. Yet, Bhasker promises that Bollywood has more good than is visible. In a chat with mid-day, she talks about why she isn’t agitated with the reaction to her letter, being shrugged off by award gala organisers despite delivering acclaimed acts, and how her next, Veerey Di Wedding, aims to change the way films led by women are perceived.

Swara Bhaskar

Edited excerpts from the interview:

What has been your take away from the controversy that attached itself to your open letter to Bhansali?
I didn’t even know that I was so famous, or my voice mattered this much. Although in a twisted, warped way, it did remind me of the reach I had. However, the Bollywood I know deserves more credit than we give it, because the hatred I received for writing that letter came from social media users, not the industry. Bollywood braves too much criticism. It has accepted me the way I am, and given me the space to thrive. Fundamentally, I have fierce opinions. And if I have them, I must be prepared to deal with trolls. In Bollywood, however, everyone is only trying hard to hold their ground, despite all odds. So, this is not the industry that must be blamed.

Do you find it difficult to be outspoken?
I have to be careful about the things I say because it will be up for scrutiny. Words are twisted out of context to imply something else. This is also probably the reason behind artistes’ hesitation to back issues that they feel strongly about.

Your next, Veerey Di Wedding, is being helmed by four women. What change do you believe this film will being about?
Primarily, I hope it changes the way people perceived films that are helmed by women. Four women coming together for a film does not imply it will be another Sex And The City. This is not a chick flick. It’s a story of women, their flaws and personal journeys. Not every film featuring women must have a social message or a cause to promote. This one is about relationships. I’ve enjoyed working with the cast [Kareena Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor and Shikha Talsania]. I have worked harder on this film than I have on any other. I hope it changes the way films featuring women as protagonists are viewed in Bollywood.

How do you think the industry has changed since 2010, when you debuted with Guzaarish?
It is now more accepting of outsiders. I’ve had a wholesome journey. I have seen how difficult it is to make it, yet learnt how easy it can be. My journey has been easier than that of several others. Given that I am well educated, I never lacked confidence. I didn’t have financial constraints either. Also, in this industry, talent nahi chupta. And that understanding is relieving. It’s interesting to see how the palette of the industry is changing today. Scripts are different, characters are distinct, and carefully created. The role of a hero’s sister, the kind I played in Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (2015), demanded more from me than merely tying a rakhi to my brother [played by Salman Khan]. A single scene, a single line can make your life. I remember, when I entered the industry, among the first people I met was Naseer sir [Naseeruddin Shah]. He asked me, “Do you love acting so much that you’ll die if you don’t do it?” I thought, ‘That’s dramatic. Who dies if they don’t act?’ But, now I know what he meant. This industry demands so much from you that unless you have conviction, a passion to survive, you won’t. Anything and everything can drive you nuts. I’m ecstatic that my craft is valued today.

Despite being among the most acclaimed actors for your role in Anarkali of Aarah last year, you didn’t receive many awards. Is that upsetting?
Awards are important for someone like me, who has entered Bollywood without any backing from a bigwig. So, an award is a validation that I, a newbie, am getting my due when I perform well. But, they aren’t deal breakers for me. Apart from the opinion of the jury, several factors go into determining the winner.

Do you think box-office figures are one of them?
Yes. See, I don’t think [good] box office figures are signs of appreciation. Great content is celebrated at the BO, but often, so are poor films. Associating economics with a movie is confusing. Anarkali was a passion project. We struggled to release it. I went to every big studio to get the backing. I don’t blame them for not producing it because, sometimes, businessmen can’t see content objectively. For me, the film was a hit. It released in a pithy 300 screens at first, and still won hearts. I got messages on social media. Passersby at airports stopped to talk to me about it. So, awards or not, my validation came from the audiences’ reception. I hope it marked the beginning of a trend where content-heavy films that don’t feature stars are also backed by [big] producers.

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Jan 312018
 

Sanjay Leela Bhansali celebrates the success of his most controversial film yet, inspired to make more films ‘abhi ke abhi’

Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Sanjay Leela Bhansali

What are you feeling at this moment?
I feel like making more films. People have given Padmaavat so much love that I feel, aur film banaya jaaye abhi ke abhi [more films should be made immediately]. But, I’ve told my staff to take a month-long break before we resume. There are mixed feelings because we have endured so much. We weren’t sure whether the film would release. Then, when we got a clearance, there was a ban in select states. Even today, I pray that the film releases in those states. At the same time, I feel accomplished. The film had a difficult subject but it turned out the way I wanted it to. It has been executed to the best of my ability, almost near perfection. I don’t think many would have been able to pull it off. It [enduring opposition] was humiliating and angering. There was injustice. But, I had a rare piece of work that I was trying to protect. It’s been an experience of a lifetime.

Has the film turned out precisely how you wanted it to?
This is what I wanted to make. Obviously, any filmmaker would change a few things to make the final cut better, but, for me, this is the film that I had set out to make. There were no changes that I [was compelled to] incorporate, barring the alteration of the name to Padmaavat. And I agreed to do so because the film is based on Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s book by the same name. Rumours of us being forced to make X number of cuts weren’t true. Prasoon Joshi [CBFC chief] gave us a fair certificate when you consider the pressure that was on him. And now, when one sees the film, s/he questions what the hullabaloo was all about? I released a video promising people that there was nothing wrong in the film. I am proud that I made the film that I wanted under such circumstances. I loved my work so much that I had to fight without getting tired. The media provided support, as did people from the fraternity.

Do you think the industry could have been a more vocal in their resistance against the fringe groups. On instances, celebrities simply responded to your circumstances stating that it was your film, not theirs.
This is my film, it is my battle. A few of them, like Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Samir Soni, Sudhir Mishra and Ashoke Pandit, supported me earnestly and told me to stay strong. But, there was no obvious solution to my fight. So, everyone was helpless. They wondered where it is that Sanjay Leela Bhansali should go [for help]. No one understood the reason behind this uproar. So, I wasn’t sure if things would have been different if I had received more support. But I am happy with the manner in which the industry backed me.

After this incident, do you feel artistes are being stripped of the freedom of expression?
We enjoy freedom of expression, but it comes with responsibility. I am a responsible filmmaker. When I say there is nothing amiss in the film, people should believe me. Why am I answerable to some fringe group that says we are the torch bearers of history? There is a government, and a Censor Board. I am answerable to them. Also, when the states decide against releasing the film [after the Supreme Court’s approval], only because people are angry, that is a failure of democracy. The states should act against them [fringe groups] and show them their place. They should be told that they don’t have a right [to cause a stir]. If they want to protest, they must do so in a civil manner. Yes, there is a sense of intolerance that is rising by the day. I hope artistes fight fearlessly. Such uproars cause distractions, drain our energy and lead to demoralisation. A musician can’t be told to not sing a particular raag because it doesn’t suit temperaments. A painter can’t be stopped from painting something, lest someone protests by throwing acid on his face, or beheads him, or even cuts his nose. These were the threats that we received. This doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. It’s very scary. I have overcome it, but the anger hasn’t subsided. We have the right to say whatever we want to say. If it doesn’t suit you, don’t listen to me, or watch my film. People are protesting against elements that haven’t even been showcased in the film. The greatest support came in the form of the audiences’ decision to go to cinema halls and watch it. It was a message to those who protested, a sign that viewers aren’t scared. If people’s voices get louder, in the future, we won’t succumb to them.

The depiction of Jauhar has received flak from a few, with Swara Bhaskar even recently penning an open letter criticising it…
Jauhar, in this context, is an act of war. Our men have died on the battlefield, but the war doesn’t end there. They believe that the Rajputs have been vanquished. But, the women wage the [final] war. They decide that not a single woman or child would be subjugated to rape, or violation. That’s what happened then. So, are people questioning Padmavati’s decision?

I would assume they are questioning the decision to tell this story in this day-and-age, and the repercussions it may have…
This film is based on a story in which the character performs jauhar. The character doing so was convinced that it was an act of war. I feel it’s an empowering thought. She didn’t allow the enemy to win. It was a victory of dignity and honour. This is what transpired, and I can’t question her. In those days, when there was no solution, harakiri [method of suicide] was prevalent. I can’t question it. It is like asking why the Taj Mahal was made when the money spent in doing so could have been used for charity. Some will stand for it, some against it. And that is okay, because any work of art should be debated. But don’t oppose my authority to make what I want to, or to narrate it in a particular way. No one is compelled to agree with everything that I have said. As long as we agree disagree, and the work is thought provoking, it’s wonderful.

Have you fictonalised the poem Padmavat? According to the literature, it was Kumbhalne ruler Raja Devpal who kills Raja Rawal Ratan Singh [Shahid Kapoor]. But in the film, Ratan Singh becomes a victim of Malik Kafur [Jim Sarbh]…
That is why it’s an adaptation. When catering to a different medium, a story must be open to interpretation. One has to dramatically tweak narratives when keeping the audience in mind. You will sketch an image of Goddess Lakshmi a manner that is at odds with how I will. This poem was also interpreted differently over the years. A film called Padmini (1964) showed the queen in a different manner. In fact, it includes a scene which features rani Padmini walking towards Khilji’s tent and having a conversation with him. So, it is based on the poem. It’s not the poem itself. In my case, the basic story was adhered to. Padmavat is the only document available about the incident. History books are have chronicled it in a brief manner.

People argue that Alauddin Khilji wasn’t the barbaric ruler that he has been shown to be…
People say Ranveer’s [Singh] Alauddin has been shown as a dark character. For me, he is the most colourful of them all. He had a sharp mind and an obstinate heart. He was a great emperor, and the empire thrived under him. I haven’t enjoyed [showcasing] a character as much as I did this one. Art must be effortless and spontaneous. I would go on set and improvise. The scene where he throws ittar on a girl and then embraces her happened in the moment. I was enjoying myself. Ranveer is eccentric, and we brought his vivacious energy to Khilji.

Were you apprehensive about showcasing a mainstream hero as one that is bisexual?
It was documented. I asked Ranveer if he was comfortable with it and he agreed to do the role. We did not showcase it in a jarring manner. It was done with subtlety. Jim and he handled their act with delicateness and dignity. A lot was left for the viewer to gauge.

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Jan 312018
 

Defending her stance on Padmaavat that it made her feel reduced to a “vagina only”, actress Swara Bhasker has said the questions she raised via her lengthy open letter were legitimate and should have become a part of national-level discussion

Swara Bhaskar
Swara Bhaskar

Defending her stance on “Padmaavat” that it made her feel reduced to a “vagina only”, actress Swara Bhasker has said the questions she raised via her lengthy open letter were legitimate and should have become a part of national level discussion. Asked what prompted her to write an open letter to the “Padmaavat” filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Swara said here: “‘Padmaavat’ has become part of national conversation and I also want to remind people that from the beginning, I supported ‘Padmaavat’, and criticized The Shree Rajput Karni Sena only because each artist should have freedom to express their thoughts through their art in a safer and democratic environment.

“But once a film get released, then it comes for public consumption and I feel this film became an important film for our country as it opened up a discussion about so many issues. I thought that my questions about this film should also become a part of that national level discussion and that’s why I published this letter on a public platform.”
Swara spoke out about it on the sidelines of the Nexbrands Vision Awards 2018 on Tuesday here. Her letter last week was a scathing comment, criticising the Jauhar scene that features the film’s lead actress Deepika Padukone.

Swara said watching the glorification of Jauhar (self-immolation), she felt like a woman was being reduced to “vagina only”. She got trolled also on the social media. “I think everyone in this country has freedom to express their opinions, so whatever I felt about ‘Padmavaat’, I expressed through an open letter,” she said, stressing that she expressed her opinion in a “very polite and respectful manner” and did not have any vicious intent behind it. “I had a few questions in mind which I felt was very legit questions, so I asked it. If people do not agree, that’s completely fine with me. We live in a democracy, so it’s a nice thing that we have difference in opinions on issues and I think we should have debate and discussions because art always has that intent,” she said.

Known for films like “Nil Battey Sannata”, “Prem Ratan Dhan Payo”, “Anarkali of Aarah” and more, Swara has also been a part of Bhansali’s “Guzaarish”. Asked if she sees her free opinion affecting her reputation in the film industry or a chance of reduced film offers, she said: “I didn’t give much thought to it before writing it as I didn’t have bad intentions about the film or anybody related with the film. “I asked legit questions and I think this kind of conversation is necessary in our society. I think it is good that it’s happening and apart from that, I didn’t think people will take so much interest in my letter. I didn’t know that people of India have so much interest in reading.”

Besides that, she said she never thought the word “vagina” would create “such a controversy”. The actress became angry when asked if she wrote the letter to Bhansali as a publicity stunt or if anyone offered her money to do so. Swara said: “Will you give me money to speak? Till today, media hasn’t given me money, so next time when you want to ask question to me like that, you should pay me first to answer it.

“See.. people can easily target a female actor when such type of a controversy happens, saying that she has received money to speak on such issue or she has bad character or she is jealous or she is doing all this to garner public attention. So all these talks about me has happened earlier as well, so I don’t think I need to respond to these rubbish talks.”

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Nov 082017
 

Sonam Kapoor found herself being trolled on Wednesday evening after her sunbathing pic went viral. The actor is shooting in Phuket for ‘Veere Di Wedding’. Co-star Swara Bhaskar shared a video of the girl gang by the pool. Trolls had a field day passing comments about her bikini body, not that Sonam cares.

Sonam Kapoor
Sonam Kapoor

Swara Bhaskar wrote the following along with her post, “When u are dog tired after a looooooong flight.. actually two.. but still gotta chill out with your #Veere At @amanpuri #Phuket with @sonamkapoor @rheakapoor @shikhatalsania #VeereJustWannaChill missing #kareenakapoorkhan #VeereInThailand also yeah.. upside down video whatever!!!”

Also read: ‘Veere Di Wedding’ is all set to release on this date

As always, any social media post by a Bollywood celebrity especial one where an actress posts a bikini photo of herself becomes the object of trolls. Swara Bhaskar’s post had the same reaction. Some trolls targeted Sonam Kapoor for being flat-chested while others began slut shaming the actress. Below are screengrabs of some posts…

Sonam Kapoor trolled

Sonam Kapoor trolled

Sonam Kapoor stars alongside Kareena Kapoor Khan, Swara Bhaskar and Shikha Talsania in ‘Veere Di Wedding’ which is set to hit theatres on 18th May, 2018. ‘Veere Di Wedding’ is has been touted as Bollywood’s first major chick flick.

Sonam Kapoor gained 11 million followers on Twitter earlier this week. During a Q&A session with fans, Sonam has stated that she plans to make Kareena Kapoor Khan join Instagram soon.

Shikha Talsania, Sonam Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Swara Bhaskar in a post from 'Veere Di Wedding'
Shikha Talsania, Sonam Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Swara Bhaskar in a post from ‘Veere Di Wedding’

Also read – ‘Veere Di Wedding’ first look has turned up the heat this October

Sonam Kapoor has also expressed her desire to be cast as a villain if she ever did a superhero film in the future. Sonam even confessed that she would have loved to be part of her dad Anil Kapoor’s film ‘Mr. India’ which she considers one of her favourites.

Sonam Kapoor recently revealed on Twitter that she developed bronchitis due to environmental conditions. Sonam won a National Award for her performance in ‘Neerja’ (2016).

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Nov 072017
 

Hollywood is being flooded with horrifying casting couch stories after the numerous sexual abuse allegations against the powerful producer Harvey Weinstein. Bollywood actors like Kalki Koechlin, Tisca Chopra, Ranveer Singh and Ayushmann Khurrana had also spoken up on the existence of casting couch in Bollywood. Now, Swara Bhaskar has opened up on her experience of sexual harassment. In an interview to a leading publication, the ‘Veere Di Wedding’ actress revealed that she was asked for sexual favours in exchange for a film role, and how she lost out on some films because she wouldn’t give in. She also highlighted the lack of safety on film sets.

Swara Bhaskar: I have been harrassed and stalked by film director
Swara Bhaskar

On being asked if she had ever come across a sexual harassment case in Bollywood, Swara Bhaskar told Mumbai Mirror, “Of course. I’ve been propositioned by men who were in a position to cast me. I lost a few roles because I didn’t give in. It made me vulnerable, nervous. Some people even stopped responding to my messages because they knew I would not give in. Being an articulate, educated girl they sensed that I would not take things lying down.”

Swara Bhaskar spoke about how she was a victim of sexual harassment by a film director. She told the tabloid, “There have been catcalls during shoots and eve-teasing on one of my sets. I’ve been groped by a mob during promotions and during a 56-day outdoor at a remote location, when I was still fairly new, the director harassed me with texts and dinner invites. He stalked me during the day and called me through the night. I was asked to go to his hotel room on the pretext of discussing the scene and would find him drinking. During the first week itself, he started talking about love and sex and one night, arrived in my room, drunk, and asked to be hugged. It was scary! I was young and alone. I would switch off the lights after pack-up and remove my make up in the dark so he would think I was asleep and stop calling me.”

Also read: Vidya Balan reveals how she protected herself from ‘casting couch’

Swara Bhaskar told the director that he was scaring her and making her uncomfortable. She told him that she wouldn’t be able to act in the movie if he continued. She said that he stopped harassing her, but only for a few weeks. She told the newspaper, “He acted hurt and said I had misunderstood him. He stayed away for two weeks, then he was back to his tricks. I finally confided in the executive producer and made sure that I was escorted everywhere.”

Also read: Richa Chadha: I am angry with women who are ready to sleep with producers

When asked how could an actress deal with the harassment on set, Swara Bhaskar said, “Lose the part but don’t get on the couch. It’s not a feminist choice and it’s certainly not a liberating choice. It’s like giving a bribe and that is succumbing to a wrong.”

On the Bollywood front, Swara Bhaskar is currently shooting for her upcoming film ‘Veere Di Wedding’ with Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sonam Kapoor and Shikha Talsania. The film releases on May 18, 2018.

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Sep 182017
 

Bollywood actress Kareena Kapoor Khan has been shooting for a dance number in Delhi for her upcoming film ‘Veere Di Wedding’. Pictures from the rehearsal and shoot have surfaced online.

Kareena Kapoor Khan is seen in a braided hairstyle and looks chic in her get-up. Bebo is seen pouting for the camera and posing along with her team members.

It is the first song of the film that is being shot and it has been choreographed by Feroz Khan.

A snapshot of Kareena posing with one of the dance assistants has been doing the rounds online too.

We bet these pictures must have got fans excited for the film!

Also see: Photos: Kareena Kapoor Khan flaunts hot bod in skin tight gym wear

‘Veere Di Wedding’also stars Sonam Kapoor and Swara Bhaskar. It marks the comeback of Kareena Kapoor Khan to the big screen after her pregnancy.

Kareena Kapoor Khan gave birth to Taimurin December last year. She has been working out rigorously to shed post-pregnancy weight and has been gymming to get back in shape.

Also see: Remember actress Tulip Joshi? She now runs a multi-crore company
Remember actress Tulip Joshi? She now runs a multi-crore company

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Jul 282017
 

Akshay Kumar is one of those actors in the industry who often talks about social issues that we hesitate to even discuss. He encourages people to come out and speak out about their problems, instead of just living with them. 

He actively takes parts in seminars where you will find him talking about self-defence, women's safety, and children's problems as well as encouraging people that they talk for help. 

But, this time he went a step further and spoke about an incident that happened to him when he was just six.

It takes a lot of courage to talk about something as sensitive as this. Akshay Kumar revealed that he was molested by a liftman at the age of 6. At an international conference on Human Trafficking, he took a page out of his life and shared it with everyone in order to raise awareness about sexual harassment and abuse.

Akshay Kumar Opens Up About Being Molested When he Was Just 6 © Twitter/AkshayKumar

He said, “When I was a child, my parents always encouraged me to speak to them frankly about everything. Whether it was discussing a sexual issue or inappropriate behaviour, I was asked to come home and talk frankly.”

This incident affected him so much that he has to share it on this platform. “The cops took action and the man was arrested. I was a shy kid and was relieved that I could speak about this to my parents. But even today, I find it difficult to say the word ‘bum'. We must encourage women and children to speak up and tell their families if they encounter anything strange so that they can be protected and empowered.”

In a country where molestation and rapes happen every few minutes, it is important someone talks about it and gives it the required importance, instead of brushing it aside.

In the past, other celebrities like Kalki Koechlin, Swara Bhaskar, Sonam Kapoor and other have also opened about their traumatic past. This actually starts a much needed debate regarding these sensitive topics and gives people the push they need to talk about such issues as well. 

Much power to Akshay Kumar who decided to stand up and speak up about something as crucial as this. We salute him!

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Jul 232017
 

Swara Bhaskar was in Pondicherry recently attending an acting workshop. The ‘Anaarkali of Aarah’ actor also trained in the old martial art form of kalaripayattu. Despite her busy schedule, Swara managed to squeeze in time to attend the classes.

Known for her acting chops, she plans to channel the focus she gained from it into her craft. It will come handy when she starts shooting for ‘Veerey Di Wedding’, which is slated to roll next month.

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