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‘Sholay’ Producer Sippy Cremated | Shilpa Enthralls British Audience | Actor Dharmendra Turns 72 | Salman Turns Down 10 Billion Deal |‘Bahu’ Wannabe | Pak Bride | Row Ends | Real Action | Amitabh’s Mother Cremated | Film Shown Amid Tight Security | Drug Charges | Back to Kashmir | Regional Films Rule at IFFI | Small-budget Film

Sholay’ Producer Sippy Cremated

The man who gave us the firebreathing dialogues of Gabbar Singh, the swashbuckling antics of Amitabh and Dharmendra and the dance-to-the-death drama of Hema’s loquacious Basanti is no more.

Veteran producer-director G.P. SIPPY, whose Sholay has now become a cultural icon died Dec. 25 night and was cremated in Mumbai Dec. 26, family sources said.

His family members and close relatives were present at the funeral.

The 93 -year-old Sippy was suffering from age-related ailments for the past few months.

A scion of a rich Sindhi family, Sippy’s career got to a flying start with Marine Drive (1955) and he went on to produce Adl-e-Jahangir with Pradeep Kumar, Meena Kumari and Durga Khote as its star cast in the same year.

The ’50s and ’60s were a hectic time for Sippy, with his banner producing and directing movies like Shrimati 420, Chandrakant, Light House, Bhai Behan and Andaaz.

In 1972, Sippy, along with son Ramesh, made the super hit Seeta Aur Geeta with Hema Malini in a double role.

However, the movie for which he will be always remembered is Sholay, produced by him in 1975 with an impressive star cast that included Sanjeev Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Hema Malini and Dharmendra.

Later on, he also produced films like Saagar (1985), Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman (1992), Aatish (1992), Zamaana Deewana (1995) which were also well received by the audience.

Sippy was the chairman of the Film and TV Producers Guild of India on four occasions in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. He also bagged the Filmfare awards in 1968 and 1982.


Shilpa Enthralls British Audience

Shilpa Shetty in “Miss Bollywood.”

Shilpa fans (do you people actually exist?), you can now heave a sigh of relief. After a decidedly mixed year of this Bollywood star wannabe (call me harsh, but that’s the God’s truth), SHILPA SHETTY seem to have pay dirt.

If reports are to be believed Shilpa has charmed the English audience at the hallowed Royal Albert Hall here with a scintillating performance in her musical Miss Bollywood.

A capacity crowd at the renovated Hall cheered her repeatedly as Shilpa along with her 40-strong troupe gave a great account of themselves in the final of their series of performances in the Europe Dec. 12 night.

The musical “Miss Bollywood” is set against the backdrop of London as the city prepares for the 2012 Olympics.

It follows the story of “Maya” — performed by Shilpa Shetty — a classically trained dancer and choreographer who recently arrived from India to set up a dance academy in a soon to be demolished East London building.

Maya soon found herself thrust into the limelight, where she must either sink or swim. Her tribulations include the unwanted attentions of a famous but predatory choreographer and a jealous diva.

The musical is a concoction of riveting dance sequences, showcasing a combination of eclectic dance forms taken from the Hindi cinema with Shilpa Shetty re-capturing on stage some of Bollywood’s greatest hit songs over the past four decades.

Good for you, Shilpa! At last you’re hitting the headlines for reasons that could do your career some good rather than being on the headlines because Richard Gere pecked you on the cheek.


Actor Dharmendra Turns 72

Evergreen star Dharmendra

He may have turned 72, but who cares? The man still oozes machismo with his shy smile.

The great thing is that septuagenarian or not, DHARMENDRA is not ready to take a bow yet.

Garam Dharam promises to continue charming his fans, a fact reflected by a string of movies he acted in recently.

However, in real life, Garam Dharam prefers to celebrate his birthdays privately with his family.

“Usually our family does not make much ho-hallah about such events. We prefer to celebrate these in private,” his proud actress-daughter Esha Deol said here.

Esha, who wants his father’s image as “he-man” to remain for ever, feels Dharmendra still has something in him that will make him remain in the industry for some more time.

“This year has proved to be very good for papa, I wish he will keep on rocking his fans,” said the Dhoom star about his MP father.

Dharmendra thrilled his fans with his appearance in the song “Deewangi Deewangi” in the recent release Om Shanti Om. The veteran actor will be back next year with Jahnu Barua-directed love story Har Pal and Soni Juneja’s Mr Natwar Lal 2.

Esha is particularly delighted with Dharmendra’s performance in recent movies like Metro, Apne and Johnny Gaddar with a wish that he will continue to be in the acting world for a long.


Salman Turns Down 10 Billion Deal

Salman in “Salaam-e-Ishq.”

You have to hand it to our Sallu. Sure, he can act like a spoiled brat at times (in fact, quite often), but once in a while he pulls of something that can leave you openmouthed in awe.

I mean, no matter what you may think of him, you have to clap your hands in admiration when SALMAN KHAN has the guts to turn down a cool Rs. 10 billion deal that Zee has offered him for a 3-film contract.

Said a Zee spokesman, “Salman turned down the deal as he did not know what his market would be after he completes the film. He insisted that he will do only one film as of now.” That takes some cojones.

Of course, don’t lose any sleep of the possibility of Salman going hungry. He will get over Rs. 240 million for a deal with Shree Asthavinayak Cine Vision. But now he beats his own record with an astronomical Rs. 3.35 billion deal with Zee Telefilms.

Meanwhile, Kareena Kapoor will be paid Rs. 35 million for a forthcoming film, making her cross Aishwarya Rai and Priyanka Chopra to become the highest-paid actress — at almost one-tenth of the highest-paid hero.

This could be a shrewd ploy to book the top names before the next producer comes along. But it’s a double-edged sword, with the star’s ass tied to the mast, if the film sinks, the star will have to face some of the music as well.


Bahu’ Wannabe

Rakhi Sawant in a most un-“bahu” outfit

Guess who wants to be a bahu these days. Our sizzling starlet RAKHI SAWANT, no less.

No we’re not talking about marriage, silly. It’s make-believe bahu, as in Kyonki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu …. You, know, that kind of bahu.

“I am fed up with tiny roles in movies where I have to present myself as hot and sexy. I really want to play a ‘bahu’ in any of Ekta’s serials,” Sawant told reporters in New Delhi.

Well sweetie, a little bird tells us that your tiny roles may have more than a little something to do with your tiny outfits.

I mean, you can have guys drooling with those dances where your body parts move like jelly, but that is hardly what is expected of traditional bahu.

In any case, Rakhi has had quite enough of being every frontbencher’s wet dream, if her words are to be believed.

In the capital to promote the reality dance show Nach Baliye, in which she reached the final round, the actress said the pressure to look sexy is taking a toll on her body.

“I am always expected to look sexy and this is taking a toll on my body as it requires a lot of workout along with dieting and of course the make up. I don’t want to do such roles anymore,” she said.

We wish her every success, but we must say it’s a sad day for frontbenchers.


Pak Bride

John Abraham in “Salaam-e-Ishq.”

Guess who is looking for a bride for Bollywood studmuffin JOHN ABRAHAM?

It’s Pakistani crossdressing TV show host Begum Nawazish Ali a.k.a. Ali Saleem, who was recently in Mumbai to meet John. Dressed in a heavily embellished mauve sari, the Begum kept referring to John’s former girlfriend Bipasha as John’s “physiotherapist.”

The Begum Nawazish has offered to look for a suitable Pakistani bride for John.

She also jokingly offered to speak to John’s mother about herself. “Woh (Bipasha) toh abhi bachchi hai (Bipasha is a kid),” she guffawed.

“Physiotherapist to hamari baatein nahin sun rahi” (I hope the physiotherapist is not eavesdropping), the flirtatious Begum asked fearfully.

Kidding aside, John talked about his latest film Goal, the first film to be simultaneously released in India and Pakistan. The film has been a smash hit across the border.

The movie is based on the exploits of expatriates from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan who come together to form a football team in London.

“People are tired of fighting, of wars. This is a film which unites Indians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis. It shows the confluence of cultures.

“When we were shooting in Southall (in London) we actually got abused. So whatever is shown in the film about racism is actually true.”


Row Ends

Madhuri in “Aaja Nachle.”

Talk about bad luck. Here you are, waiting with bated breath for your comeback vehicle to click in the box office. Not only does it draw a weak opening and stumble at the box office, but more than several states go up in arms over a perceived slight.

Such is the sorry fate of Aaja Nachle, supposed to be the comeback vehicle of former Bollywood star MADHURI DIXIT.

First, the brouhaha over the film. Dalits were angry over the lyrics “Mochi bhi bole khud ko sonar hai” (even the cobbler calls himself a vendor of gold), so Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab banned the film.

Yash Raj Films responded immediately. Deleting the offensive lines, it issued the following statement: “Yash Raj films apologizes to all the people whose sentiments have been hurt with the lyrics of one line in the title track of Aaja Nachle. It was not our intention to hurt anybody. We have taken immediate steps to rectify the damage caused and have instructed all our distributors and exhibitors to delete the objectionable words from the song as of last night.

Veteran filmmaker Yash Chopra said, “It was not our intention to hurt the feelings of any individual or community of our great nation. If we have inadvertently hurt the sentiments of anybody I apologize for the same and have taken immediate remedial action by deleting the line from the prints of ‘Aaja Nachle’ from all over the country.”

The bans have been withdrawn, but alas, critics and film buffs say that will not suffice to save the film from a well-deserved oblivion. Tough luck, Madhuri. Better luck next time.


Real Action

Sonali Kulkarni

Truth, sometimes, is not just stranger than fiction. It mimics fiction.

Take the strange story of SONALI KULKARNI. Here she was, shooting for her film Mohandas, when reality and fiction got entangled.

Sonali was playing a television reporter in the film who is doing an investigative story. The scene required her to interview Sharbani Mukerji about her plight in a rice field. According to the script, while the interview is on, some people from the town charge towards them. They force Sonali to abandon the interview and leave the place.

“As luck would have it, we had chosen a particular field for this sequence and had taken due permission,” laughs director Mazhar Kamran. “However, when we started the shoot, one of the owners of this field suddenly came rushing in and asked us to leave. I very patiently told him that we had taken prior permission and paid a sum of money. But he started shouting and ordering us to get out. When I offered to pay more money, he began abusing us. It was exactly the way our shoot was to be and eventually we moved over to another spot, but not before I told my artists playing the local goons to learn from the real incident and bring the same intensity!”

There you are. Give the director credit for keeping his wits together and making the best out of a difficult situation.


Amitabh’s Mother Cremated

Amitabh Bachchan in “Cheeni Kum.”

The mortal remains of Teji Bachchan, mother of superstar AMITABH BACHCHAN, were consigned to flames at the Ruia Park cremation ground in Juhu Dec. 22.

Amitabh, the eldest son, lit the funeral pyre. Standing by his side were younger brother Ajitabh and son Abhishek.

Amitabh’s daughter-in-law Aishwarya and daughter Shweta joined him at the funeral. Throughout the funeral procession and while performing the final rites, Amitabh held himself together, not shedding a single drop of tear.

But his face and eyes reflected the emotions in his mind. Abhishek was seen holding on to his father’s shoulders at regular intervals in an attempt to console him.

However, Shweta was seen crying inconsolably. Both Aishwarya and Abhishek took turns to console her.

The funeral procession started from Bachchan’s Juhu bungalow Pratiksha on foot under tight police security who also regulated the traffic flow.

Amitabh, Ajitabh, Abhishek, Anil Ambani and Amar Singh carried the body on their shoulders. At the cremation ground, for about 15 minutes, Amitabh performed the final rites and finally lit the pyre.

Dignitaries present at the funeral included former Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, actor Vivek Oberoi, director Pahlaj Nihlani and several others. However, the Gandhi family were conspicuous by their absence. Teji Bachchan was very close to Indira Gandhi.


Film Shown Amid Tight Security

Aamir in “Taare Zameen Par.”

Targeted by protesters for the actor’s support to a movement against the Sardar Sarovar Dam, AAMIR KHAN’S latest film Taare Zameen Par was Dec. 22 released in a couple of cinema houses here amid tight security, police said.

Film goers were seen queuing up for tickets after the film was released at Pratap cinema and PVR mutiplex here.

The movie was not released Dec. 21 as little-known groups under the banners of Sardar Patel Group and Hind Rakshak Samiti had opposed its screening and demanded an apology from Khan for the controversial remarks he made against the Narmada Dam.

These groups had submitted a memorandum to the management of several cinema houses in the city asking them not to screen the movie.

The theatre owners had, however, expressed willingness to screen the movie if they got adequate protection.

Police had earlier arrested seven members of the Sardar Patel group for tearing down the movies posters and burning them inside the premises of the PVR multiplex.


Drug Charges

Fardeen Khan

Given the snail’s pace of the law in Indian, he is still dealing with a case over drug charges based on an incident in 2001. Recently FARDEEN KHAN admitted before a court here that he had bought one gram of cocaine for personal consumption from drug peddler Nasir Shaikh on a few occasions prior to his arrest in May 2001 for the offense.

Fardeen, who recently lost his passport in the United States, appeared before Special Judge U.D. Salvi and submitted his new passport as per the conditions allowing him to go abroad.

His lawyer Ayaz Khan said as Fardeen had been caught buying one gram of cocaine from Shaikh on May 5, 2001 by the Narcotics Control Bureau, he should be tried only for that amount of drug.

The prosecution, however, had filed a charge sheet alleging that nine grams of the drug was recovered from the duo — Fardeen and Shaikh.

Ayaz Khan pointed out that immediately after the arrest, Shaikh had said in his statement that Fardeen had called him to buy one gram of cocaine. Also, the money the actor withdrew from his ATM card as reflected in his account statement was enough only to buy one gram.

As they say, the saga continues.


Back to Kashmir

Bollywood appears to have made a comeback to one of its favorite shooting locales in the country — the KASHMIR VALLEY — but filmmakers and state authorities want to keep it a low-key affair.

The move is part of a well thought-out strategy to avoid hype as the authorities here had a bitter experience of highlighting the arrival of tourists who became soft targets of militants over the past two years.

They said the presence of film personalities who have started flocking to Kashmir after a long gap, will give a fillip to tourism in the state.

The valley was a favorite shooting spot for Hindi film producers in 1960s, 70s and 80s before the onset of militancy in 1990 with several Bollywood blockbusters like Silsila, Karma, Aarzoo, Mangal Pandey and Betaab and many others being shot here.

However, the eruption in militancy forced filmmakers to look for other places as the security situation did not permit shooting of movies in the valley.

Although bits and parts of several Bollywood films were shot in Kashmir in the post-militancy period, the producers as well as the authorities here now want to maintain a low profile during the stay of the stars in the valley.

Recently, a crew from Santosh Sivan Films Limited was in Pahalgam tourist resort for a 25-day shooting for an untitled movie but their movement and schedule was kept a tightly guarded secret.

However, when reporters came to know about the film’s shooting schedule, the liaison officer of the crew said they had decided not to shoot in Kashmir any more as the locations were “not up to their expectations.”

His statement proved to be a bluff to throw the media people off the trail and an attempt to avoid the limelight.


Regional Films Rule at IFFI

The 38th INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL OF INDIA 2007 witnessed around 200 works of cinematic excellence sans Bollywood glamour, making it a delight for viewers who relish regional and international flavors.

Housed in an erstwhile dilapidated hospital complex, which was refurbished at a cost of Rs. 140 million by the Goa government, the festival saw Pakistani film Khuda Ke Liye becoming the hot favorite among a number of other serious works emphasizing more on regional films.

The Romanian film Four months, Three Weeks and Two Days, winner of Golden Palm Award, Festival de Cannes 2007, inaugurated the festival, while Portuguese-Spanish film Fados was the concluding film for Asia’s oldest film festival, which is being held for the fourth year in a row in Goa.

Manipuri films made their entry after a lull of 11 years in the festival, which went much more smoothly this time, with the absence of Bollywood stars from the festival receiving mixed reaction.

Except for Dev Anand, Raima Sen, Pankaj Kapoor, Supriya Pathak, Bhavana Talwar and a few others, Bollywood glamour was missing from the ten-day extravaganza.

The festival also saw the mainstream cinema section being deleted from the itinerary. The section is usually dominated by Hindi films. “This was a conscious decision. Also, we could not get the sub-titled films,” film festival director Neelam Kapoor told a press conference. The choice of films for Indian Panorama section was much appreciated by delegates. The section had 21 feature and 15 non-feature films including two movies each of Bengali filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta and South Indian filmmaker Adoor Gopalkrishnan.


Small-budget Film

While Goa remains largely unrepresented at the ongoing International Film Festival of India 2007 here, a small budget KONKANI MOVIE is making waves at the peripheral activities of the ten-day event.

Zuzari (The Fighter), based on Goa’s freedom struggle, is produced by Suhas Sawardekar, who hails from the state.

Made at a shoe-string budget of Rs. 2 million, the film is based on real incidents that happened in pre-Goa liberation in 1961. Shot entirely in the coastal state, it has a local cast.

“We could not premiere it as part of IFFI as we got the Censor Board certificate a bit late,” Sawardekar, also the writer of the film, told PTI.

“We, however, managed to get the slot in peripheral activities of the fest,” he said.

The film, the first production by Sawardekar, got good response when it was screened at Poinguini in remote Canacona taluka, Mapusa, Sanguem and Quepem as part of IFFI- related activities.

The film depicts the chasm between Goa freedom fighters’ expectation of a golden era and the state’s volatile politics and its turncoat politicians, who have “ruined” the tourist paradise. “It’s a strong statement on politics of today compared to our history,” said Sawardekar, who has written several Konkani plays.

With multiplex and theatres not keen to exhibit Konkani movies, the producer intends to showcase the film at private invitations. “After some time, we may release the film on DVDs and CDs,” he said.



Unsung Heroine:
Agnes Smedley

American feminist Agnes Smedley played a key role in assisting Indian freedom fighters in the U.S. and in Europe in the beginning of the 20th century, writes Ved Prakash Vatuk.

Humble Heroine:
Mukhtar Mai in Sacramento

Mukhtar Mai was declared Glamour magazine’s Woman of the Year for her fearless stand against sexist oppression. She recently visited Sacramento, and our reporter Ras H. Siddiqui was there.

Midair Near Misses:
Air Traffic Crisis in India

India’s exponential growth in air traffic is now the cause of a missed mid-air collision every 15 days, writes Siddharth Srivastava.

EDITORIAL: Unsung Heroine
NEWS DIARY: December
PHOTO ESSAY: 2007: Year in Review
TRIBUTE: Goodbye, Benazir
SCIENCE: A Close Relationship
ETHNIC ISSUES: Study in Contrasts
SUBCONTINENT: India’s New Boom
TRAVEL: Bear Valley, Calif.
HEALTH: Pregnancy 101
COMMUNITY: News in Brief
MUSIC: Kal Ki Yaadein Concert
AUTO: 2008 Acura MDX
BOLLYWOOD: Taare Zameen Par
RECIPE: Hot Kachri
HOROSCOPE: 2008 Yearly Forecast

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