LAST year I had written extensively about how some Bollywood stars seem to be rushing to do as many movies as possible before producers find out their time at the top is over.
This has resulted in Hindi cinema being dragged down to the kind of depths that it has perhaps never been to before, in terms of the quality of movies being made.
The prime offender in 2022 was perhaps actor Akshay Kumar, who delivered five big-budget disasters in the span of seven months. But instead of him slowing down in 2023, or producers realising that it no longer made sense commercially to cast him for a big fee, there looks like being more of the same this year.
On his Wikipedia page, Kumar is listed as starring in up to six movies in the next 10 months, and this doesn’t include others that he is being connected to.
What will likely be another year of flops will commence with Selfiee. Due in cinemas on Friday (24), it is a remake of the 2019 Malayalam movie Driving Licence, which is available for free on Amazon Prime. This lack of originality also spills over into his forth coming remake of 2020 Tamil film Soorarai Pottru, which can be viewed on the same streaming site.
In addition, the over-exposed actor is part of comedy sequel OMG 2 – Oh My God 2 and rubbish-looking biopic Capsule Gill. He is also listed as starring in Bade Miyan Chote Miyan.
Another movie Kumar will be seen in is Vedat Marathe Veer Daudale Saat, which sees him play 17th century Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji. That particular movie got off to a horrible start with a heavily trolled teaser video that saw him walk beneath a full chandelier of light bulbs (200 years before the light bulb was actually invented). He has also been linked with the films Gorkha and Khel Khel Mein.
Doing that many films at the same time will never result in quality and perhaps explains why his career has been filled with so many disastrous efforts in recent years, including those five epic failures in 2022. It also results in careless mistakes like the chandelier, fake-looking facial hair and on-screen bloopers.
On one hand, the argument is clearly that Kumar being cast in so many movies is harming the industry because filmmakers are struggling to turn a profit and preventing new talent from coming through. It has been especially bad at a time when Bollywood is going through such a horrible run at the box office. But then the flipside is that the actor is fully entitled to make hay while the last rays of sunshine are still lighting up his career.
If producers are silly enough to give him the eye-watering sums of money despite his awful recent track record, then surely he should grab it with both hands. The 55-year-old is perhaps aware of the fact that a time will come when all these big-money offers are no longer in front of him.
A counter argument to that would be that the millionaire actor doesn’t need the cash and should round off his more than 30-year career as a leading man with decent performances, instead of destroying whatever legacy he may have with all these stinkers. Maybe he should take a step back, like Shah Rukh Khan did, and find a project such as Pathaan, which recently scored big at the global box office. But Kumar is unlikely to do that and will throw a barrage of movies at audiences in 2023.
There was a similar situation in the 1980s when a generation of legends stuck around too long as leading men and became laughing stocks. This resulted in that decade having a horribly high number of flops and many of those actors destroying their legacies.
Whatever the case may be, Bollywood fans won’t be able to get away from Kumar in 2023. Most will likely turn their backs on his movies, starting with Selfiee, which looks like the beginning of another bad year for him.
MANUSHI MAKES A GOOD CAREER MOVE
WHEN Samrat Prithviraj was released last year, I had said that Manushi Chhillar had made a colossal error by making her debut in the terrible movie. Apart from starring opposite a leading man in Akshay Kumar who was old enough to be her dad, the biggest part of Chhillar’s problem was her letting Yash Raj Films (YRF) looking after her career.
While the giant studio has done very well as a production house, it has an awful record when handling young talent in Bollywood, with a long string of failures. Now the former Miss World has followed the likes of Ranveer Singh, Parineeti Chopra and others by disconnecting from the clueless talent agency branch of YRF.
Hopefully, Chhillar can finally kickstart her acting journey properly with a film that isn’t a potential career killer like her debut release.
MAHI SONA STRIKES A FALSE NOTE
NEW film What’s Love Got To Do With It? deserved a stronger central track than Mahi Sona, which got lost in the black hole between commercial Asian and western music. That is why the disappointedly flat song generated very little interest when it was released recently. Stronger music would have significantly helped the wedding romantic comedy draw in a bigger audience.
AVANTIKA: ACING HOLLYWOOD TEST
WHEN I interviewed Avantika Vandanapu in 2021, what immediately struck me about the teenager was how incredibly ambitious, focused and determined she was to make a mark in Hollywood, including wanting to be a producer.
The 18-year-old American actress has reaped rewards for that dedication with interesting projects since then, and has bigger ones on the way. This includes recently landing the coveted lead role of Karen Smith in Hollywood film Mean Girls – The Musical, which is based on the Tony-nominated Broadway show and a modern take on the iconic classic from 2004.
The young Los Angeles-based talent will also star in and executive produce live-action young-adult series A Crown Of Wishes for Disney, which is an adaptation of Roshani Chokshi’s best-selling novel.
Other projects Vandanapu has on the way include the India-set show Masoom for Amazon Prime and international film Horrorscope.
DANCING WITH DADI
THERE are great dancers on social media regularly demonstraing their impressive skills, and one of the most inspiring is Ravi Bala Sharma (right). Known as ‘Dancing Dadi’, the 64year old is showing that age is no barrier to living your dance dream and regularly delights her more than 251,000 Instagram followers (@ravi.bala.sharma) with entertaining videos. The granny with great moves is motivating all ages, including the elderly, to follow in her dance footsteps.
WHEN SPIELBERG MET RAJAMOULI
A GREAT YouTube video of SS Rajamouli in conversation with Steven Spielberg hasn’t really received the attention it deserves, and is well worth seeking out. The record-breaking Indian director behind RRR and the Baahubali movies, interviews the Hollywood giant about his latest film The Fable mans, which has seven Oscar nominations. Along with Rajamouli’s recent viral conversation with James Cameron, it is another indicator that a Hollywood move is imminent for him.
SURAJ FILM BACK TO INDIAN ROOTS
ALTHOUGH his primary focus has been on Hollywood since his star-making debut in 2012 blockbuster movie Life Of Pi, Suraj Sharma has had plenty to offer Indian cinema, and the industry should make more use of him. The Indian actor will follow up great performances in Umrika (2015) and Phillauri (2017), with a role in new film Gulmohar, which has a straight-to-streaming site Hotstar premiere on March 3. He is part of a great ensemble cast in the family drama, which includes heavyweight stars such as Sharmila Tagore and Manoj Bajpayee.
ALLELUJAH FOR NEW TALENT BALLY GILL
EARLY indications are that Bally Gill will be the next big British Asian breakout star. After terrific turns on stage and TV, he steps up to play a lead role in soon-to-be-released film Allelujah, which is set to be in UK cinemas on March 17. The big-screen adaptation of Alan Bennett’s acclaimed theatre play sees Bally portray an Indian doctor who teams up with elderly patients trying to prevent the closure of a geriatric ward in a small Yorkshire hospital. Gill stars alongside British acting legends Dame Judi Dench, Jennifer Saunders and Derek Jacobi in a movie that is sure to be a huge turning point for him. Look out for my interview with him next month.
SUFI SINGERS NOORAN SISTERS IN UK RETURN
TALENTED Indian singers The Nooran Sisters return to the UK at the end of April for a nine-day tour. You can catch them at Symphony Hall, Birmingham (28), The Indigo at 02, London (1), St George’s Hall, Bradford (5) and City Hall Glasgow (7). The explosive Sufi duo are magnificent live and will likely deliver one of this year’s best music tours. Tickets are on sale now.
WHAT’S LILY GOT TO DO TO FIND LOVE?
THERE is one huge irony that no one seems to have noticed in this week’s film release What’s Love Got To Do With It? Lily James plays the lead role opposite Shazad Latif in the cross-cultural romantic comedy weighing up arranged marriage against falling in love, but just two weeks ago, it was reported she had split from her rockstar boyfriend Michael Shuman after two years. This follows on from a five year relationship with actor Matt Smith. Perhaps she should consider an arranged marriage, and after her new film, there will be no shortage of matchmakers wanting to help her.
Producers of Sonam Kapoor’s film Blind are reportedly having trouble finding a streaming site to buy it. It’s not surprising because the Bollywood remake of 2011 South Korean crime thriller Blind looked like a dud project from the very beginning.
Noted painter Lalitha Lajmi passed away last week at the age of 90. The sister of late Bollywood legend Guru Dutt, she was known for her visually striking artwork.
Saif Ali Khan has been cast in the lead role in the Hindi remake of hit Danish/Swedish series The Bridge. The investigative drama has already been remade in multiple countries across the world.
Punjabi music legend Gurdas Maan returns to the UK for a seven-date tour in May, with shows in Newcastle (13), Bradford (14), Gravesend (17), Birmingham (20), Dublin (24), London (28) and Southampton (29).
Bollywood stars Dharmendra, Aditi Rao Hydari and Naseeruddin Shah will headline new ZEE5
historical series Taj – Divided by Blood.
Actor Gurmeet Choudhary will star in forthcoming Hotstar period drama series Maharana.