Tag Archives: Deepika Padukone

Meghna Gulzar’s Chhapaak: Behind The Scenes

With her latest film Chhapaak, Deepika Padukone addresses vitriolage, shatters gender stereotypes, and attacks modern-day misogyny.

Malti (Deepika Padukone) was attacked with acid on a street in New Delhi, in 2005. Through her story, the film makes an attempt to understand the on-ground consequences of surviving an acid attack in India, the medico-legal-social state of affairs that transpires after the acid has been hurled and the face is irreparably burnt. Beyond its cinematic sphere, movies like Chhapaak are characterized by their sheer necessity in our society where women are forced to grapple with heinous acts of violence in real time.

This movie helps to raise awareness about a key societal issue yet also helps to shatter stereotypes that surrounds its victims. Deepika’s character is searing not because she is wildly different but because the movie proves that she is just like the rest of us. Chhapaak opens Friday, January 10 in theaters across North America.

Watch this new behind-the-scenes video featuring interviews with Deepika Padukone and director Meghna Gulzar about the making of this acclaimed motion picture.

To find out more about this movie, click on the subtitled trailer here.

Local theatre and showtime information is available here.

 

 

Two Sitas, Two Deepikas, and One Cross-Dresser

“Is it true there was cross-dressing in early Indian cinema?”

The question came from a young Texan undergrad, and there was some muffled laughter in the audience. I paused for the room to be quiet.

Raja Harishchandra (1913), India’s first feature film.

It was up to me to provide some cultural context. I had received some photocopied pages for the reading on Indian cinema, and I glanced at them for specific details. 

“Yes, it’s true that Dadasaheb Phalke’s earliest films had men dressed as women. In 1913, Annasaheb Saluke played the role of the queen, Rani Chandramani, in India’s first feature film, Raja Harishchandra.”

Annasaheb Salunke played female roles in Dadasahab Phalke’s films

I elaborated on how Dadasaheb Phalke had been unable to find female actors in the traditional Pune society of 1913. How acting was a morally suspect profession, and chaste Indian women could have nothing to do with it. How Annasaheb Saluke, a Mumbai restaurant worker, played the role not only of Ram but also Sita in Lanka Dahan in 1917.

It was a small footnote of cinema history, but it made me think. Women had been entirely missing in the first Indian film, and when they were allowed in, there were specific roles that they were afforded: of mothers, maidens and mistresses, each with strictly enforced codes.

Perhaps early Indian cinema did continue to exert an influence on the films being made today. Take devotionals and the two Deepikas, for instance.

DEVOTIONALS

The story of how the father of Indian films, Dadasaheb Phalke, was inspired to make devotional films about Hindu religious mythologies such as Raja Harishchandra (1913), Mohini Bhasmasur (1913), and Lanka Dahan (1917) is an interesting one.

In April 1911, Phalke visited the America India Picture Palace, in Girgaon, Mumbai with his family to see a film. As it was Easter, the theatre screened a film about Jesus, The Life of Christ (1906) by the French director Alice Guy-Blaché. While watching Jesus on the screen, Phalke envisioned Hindu deities Rama and Krishna instead and decided to start in the business of “moving pictures.” (Watwe)

The devotional genre was continued by films such as Sant Tukaram (1936) and Jai Santoshi Ma (1975), Shirdi Ke Sai Baba (1977) and then, on a smaller TV screen, Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan (1986) where actress Deepika Chikhalia woodenly played a pious Sita. Devotional films have been immensely popular and more importantly, revered. “People would keep their shoes outside the cinemas before going in to watch Nanak Naam Jahaz Hai (1969) recalled veteran trade analyst Vinod Mirani. 

Film historian Sumita Chakravarty (1993) has suggested that women in Indian cinema have been cast as good wives, good mothers, or conversely, as bad women: vamps and courtesans. In Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan (1986), actress Deepika Chikhalia played the role of Mother Sita, and was subsequently criticized for any roles thereafter where she had to wear revealing clothes or where she was not an ideal wife or mother.

THE TWO DEEPIKAS

Source: IMDb

Seven decades separated Annasaheb Saluk playing Mother Sita to Deepika Chikhalia playing Mother Sita, but how much had really changed?

Fast forward to contemporary events. For Deepika Padukone, the role of Padmavati came under a similar category of an ideal woman. (In present day India, Hindu Rajput women continue to worship sati mata, the goddess to whom the sacrifice of one’s body is made by widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands.)

Taking the role of a mother created an expectation that high standards of morality would be displayed by the Deepikas.

To fully appreciate the Padma(a)vat(i) controversy in 2017, one needs to understand history certainly, but more specifically, South Asian cinema history. The history of devotionals, of audiences throwing coins at the stage as good vanquished evil on-screen. We are to understand the consternation caused at the unseemly sight of Mother Padmavati dancing the ghoomar with her midriff exposed. It was the government, and its censor board, that was tasked with the job of gently covering Mother’s midriff. Bhansali’s film was delayed, and then released, after a name change to Padmaavat, and the Censor Board required edits where Deepika’s offending midriff was covered.

Padmaavat

But for the government to cover a woman’s midriff digitally! That will be in the film history books. Students in the year 2099 might ask — is it true?

And someone, I hope, will provide some cultural context.

 

Geetika Pathania Jain, Ph.D., is Culture and Media Editor at India Currents.

Photo credits (unless otherwise noted): Wikipedia

Puzzled by Gossip

Is there anyone left in the world who has not yet heard that Priyanka Chopra is engaged to Nick Jonas? As we gladly fritter away our precious time and attention on these manufactured stars in distant constellations, searching for new tidbits of information written by entertainment journalists trading in gossip, the nature of celebrity, gossip and fandom is in question once more. And for anyone bemoaning the state of journalism in today’s world, a reminder that we get the media we deserve.

Yes, media is an industry. And some of these industrious gossip columnists remain etched in our memory. In the bohemian 70s of Bollywood, Stardust magazine and Neeta’s Natter exemplified chatpata film gossip. Neeta’s Natter, “honed by the raillery of Mohan Bawa but presented by a bejewelled black feline, was mostly about catfights and who was sleeping with who” mentions Roshni Nair in a recent article. Neeta and her gossippy natter was a creation of free-lancer Mohan Bawa and Stardust’s very own Nari Hira and Shobha De.

So, what is the nature of fandom and how have gossip columnists learned to give us what we clamor for? How is it that we actually care about these celebrities and their lives? In Sorry to Bother You (2018) we see how telemarketers literally land with a thud in our living rooms, interrupting the flow of our day. How did Irrfan Khan’s sad news land in my heart? Why did I care that Irrfan Khan has got cancer, the Emperor of All Maladies? It is a puzzle.

Which brings me to Puzzle (2018), the latest film with Irrfan Khan. Irrfan with an extra r. There is sheer intelligence behind Irrfan’s laconic delivery of the sardonic dialogue. In Piku (2015), he delighted with his barbs to the beautifully stressed out Deepika Padukone. But it was in Lunch Box (2014) that his curmudgeonly Saajan Fernandez tugged at our heartstrings.

Is Puzzle (2018) the Hollywood version of Bollywood’s The Lunchbox? Both are about desperate housewives trapped in unfulfilling domestic roles. Both could be seen as an “under-appreciated housewife’s private escapist dream.”

It seems that marital infidelity is on the menu again.

Direct journalistic descendants of Neeta’s Natter might discuss films on stepping out of the shaadi ka pavitra bandhan (holy matrimony) so:

“Meowww… Marital infidelity is like, so cool lately, yaar. Lunchbox (2014) won best film award at the Filmfare awards, though — get this — they never meet! But this wife is like, ready to run off with this old dude and go live in Bhutan or whatever. Like, they must get advance copies of the Kinsey report or something. There’s Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (2006). And there’s this antebellum lust triangle in Twelve Years A Slave (2013), and the villainous white master dude has the hots for this black slavegirl, and his wife is just wearing her frilly dress and looking on and pursing her lips and totally hating on her enslaved rival, right? And she’s not in the most enviable position, right? So, she’s not much better than a slave, right? (Gathering steam) In a way, right? And she’s the white mistress and everything, but, like, she’s not that much better off, right? And in Puzzle (2018), Kelly MacDonald is like, “I’m not your servant” when her husband is looking for his warm dinner and she’s been AWOL. So it’s these institutions(!) slavery and marriage  — so confining, yaar.

So marriage is like, such a hapless institution, like total umar-qaid, (life imprisonment) right? But if you find yourself crying while dying the easter eggs, as Kelly MacDonald does in Puzzle, a closer look at the state of your marriage seems merited. And in Shaadi ke Side Effects (2014), like, no one has an actual affair affair, but Farhan Akhtar is apparently having an affair with a younger, single version of himself. Which is obviously confusing and everything, but, whatever. And his wife, Vidya Balan, is like, you’re never around, and she’s digging on the neighbor, right? But nothing happens! Right? So everyone’s been true to their wedding pheras or whatever… from one cat to another, meeowww till next month”

Marriage therapist Esther Perel could tell us a thing or two about marital infidelity in her book Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic (2006). Wouldn’t it be just like Catty Neeta to suggest that very book as a wedding present to Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas, who are jumping into matrimony just as so many of the filmic characters are trying to jump out.

Catty Neeta and the gossip industry might find a jolt of recognition in Rita Skeeter of the Harry Potter franchise, or the Aunties who are speculating about the state of Swara Bhaskar’s marriage in Veere di Wedding (2018). The aunties collectively end the gossip session with a wholehearted Saanu ki! (None of our business!)

But gossip is, in fact, big business. What can we learn from the trade of gossip? In our interpersonal relationships, we learn about the importance of safeguarding confidences, of treating information that is handed to us with care. It is precisely the breaking of this trust, of trading in the embarrassing details of people’s lives which is the currency of the gossip columnist. Because they are disseminating information that belongs to someone else. And that brings us to today’s dilemma, of social media networks taking our information and peddling it carelessly, selling it to others without our knowledge, which accounts for our outrage at this betrayal. So perhaps Facebook is now the biggest gossip of all.

I wish Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas many happy years of togetherness (please nobody tell him about Saat Khoon Maaf (2011), where femme fatale Priyanka disposes off husband after husband, including an endearing Irrfan Khan). A small reminder that trust is a fragile thing. Puzzle was about marriage partners losing trust in each other. Facebook reminds me that there are other betrayals.

 

WIll they? Won’t they? Marital infidelity is on the menu in Puzzle.

 

Geetika Pathania Jain is Culture and Media Editor at India Currents. She wrote a gossipy article about Priyanka Chopra in 2016 that got an award.

Deepika Padukone on “Padmavati”: “We Will Not Live in Fear.”

Bollywood star Deepika Padukone is Padmavati in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s upcoming film, based on a story by Malik Muhammad Jayasi set in 1540 A.D.  

Deepika Padukone (DP) took some time to chat about her hopes and fears with India Currents Culture and Media critic Geetika Pathania Jain (GPJ) on the topics of jauhar, intolerance, and the limits of artistic freedom.

[To provide context to this discussion. Press reports regarding opposition to the film, Padmavati have been increasing in number. Members of a group called Shri Rajput Karni Sena, have vandalized property and even assaulted Sanjay Leela Bhansali. There is opposition to an alleged love scene between Padmavati and Allaudin Khilji (played by Ranveer Singh) in the film. Deepika has been speaking out against the intolerance, and has even engaged in a sparring match with Subramanian Swamy on this topic. Bhansali has been provided police protection after death threats were leveled against him. The release date has been postponed indefinitely at this time.]

GPJ: Deepika, congratulations on your upcoming film, Padmavati. Our readers at India Currents are super excited about it and looking forward to it. Do you have a message for our readers?

DP: Please tell India Currents readers that we are very proud of the film we’ve made and we are equally equally excited! There’s been so much anticipation about the film, about its release, based on everything we’ve seen so far, and we can’t wait to share this experience with everyone.

GPJ: So you’re working with Ranveer Singh again, and he has a darker role as Alauddin Khilji in this film, an anti-hero who invades Chittor. How does it work, as an actor?

DP: It’s very hard! In two films, we are cast opposite each other as eternal lovers, you know, you have RamLeela and you have Bajirao Mastani, and then to put us in a film where we are in a hate story, so to say, it’s emotionally very very hard.

GPJ: I’m going to ask you about some of these controversies that we have been hearing in the press. It seems there is some concern about how the film will be received and whether there is the potential to hurt the sentiments of some groups of people. Do you have any comments on that?

DP: Firstly, I find it appalling just to see how people are reacting, certain groups of people are reacting,  or what they’re reacting to. Just based on hearsay, without having any facts to back what they’re saying. It’s kind of hilarious and appalling at the same time.

GPJ: You are referring to the protests against the film.

DP: And the only people that we’re answerable to is the (Indian) censor board. And we’re not going to succumb to these threats or to this pressure and we’re not going to live in fear. Because we’re not answerable to them.

GP: I’m going to quote a line from Ajay Gehlawat, a film historian, who discusses Bhansali’s strategy of using “historical accounts to retell a contemporary story?” Ira Bhaskar and Richard Allen similarly note that “History is always written and re-written from the point of the present.” Do you want to comment on that?

DP: I feel like people need to trust. We’re very proud of the film that we’ve made. It’s the story of a woman and her story and the sacrifices that she made for her people. And we should be celebrating this moment. Instead, it seems to be completely the other way around, and for what? And what can anyone say without even having seen the film?

GPJ: Well, like the rest of the world, I have not seen the film yet. But just the title, Padmavati suggests that it’s a female-centric film, that it’s the story of this amazing woman who lived in the fourteenth century, and of course when we look at her from contemporary eyes, it’s hard to put ourselves in that situation. Could you comment on the practice of Rajput women committing jauhar, a form of mass suicide to avoid capture and sexual violence during war?

DP: I don’t think I can question that, to be honest. Times change. Things that are relevant then may not be relevant now. And vice versa. So I don’t think we can really question what they did or didn’t do, or what they practiced or didn’t practice. But for me, it’s much larger than that. For me, like I said before, it is about the woman that she was, the courage that she had, what she believed in, what she stood for, her intelligence, her vulnerability, those qualities that make her a woman. That’s the inspiring part for me.

GPJ: When we talk about the growing intolerance and backlash in India, would you feel that working in Bollywood film industry is losing its charm?

DP: If anything, we serve a purpose – people turn towards us because we are the one industry that gives you moments where you can escape from reality. Where you can feel love, feel unity, feel positive, feel happy, laugh. Cinema is that powerful. And it’s sad that people don’t see it. Or, certain groups of people choose not to see it. And I think no amount of opposition from a small group of people will kill the spirit of the much larger audience that understands the power of cinema. And it’s definitely not going to kill our spirit. If anything, it’s fueling it further.

GPJ: That’s good to hear. As you said, Bhansali films are all about the spectacle, stunning scenery and choreography, the songs and the beautiful ghoomar dance that we’ve been seeing. Certainly it seems like it will be a visual treat and hopefully one that will bring people together rather than divide them. Congratulations on your beautiful dancing and you look luminous in the film.  And I think our India Currents readers will be very excited to see you on the screen! Stay strong!

Geetika Pathania Jain is Culture and Media Critic at India Currents.

Deepika Padukone on Ellen Degeneres Show Today!

Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone makes her first American talk show appearance when she sits down with multiple Emmy winner and two-time Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to talk about the upcoming action thriller xXx: Return of Xander Cage, which marks Padukone’s debut Hollywood movie. The highly popular show airs today on Wednesday, January 18. Check local listings for times.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage opens in North American theaters this Friday, January 20.

Deepika Padukone and Vin Diesel in Dhoti for Hollywood Movie Release

Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone is all ready to make her explosive debut in Hollywood starring with Vin Diesel in the action thriller, xXx: Return of Xander Cage, which releases in North American theaters next week on January 20.

Deepika Padukone, Vin Diesel

Photo Credits:

Vin Diesel and Deepika Padukone arrive in Mumbai at Chhatrapati Shivaji Intl Airport for the Paramount Pictures Title “xXx” and attend fan event on January 12, 2017 in Mumbai, India.

(Photo Credit: Ritam Banerjee /Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)