It’s time to celebrate the South in the Bihari household of Shatrughan Sinha. After four years of living in an apartment, their swank, newly rebuilt 10-storey bungalow, Ramayan, finally had a grihapravesh — only for very close family members. Missing was current flavour Sonakshi Sinha who was shooting in Dalhousie and couldn’t celebrate the success of her second film Rowdy Rathore with her folks in Mumbai. Her Lootera co-star Ranveer Singh, who was laid up since April 11 with a bad back, reported for work fit as a fiddle and resumed shooting for the film. Sona had to fly out and join Ranveer in Dalhousie, proving it was work first, everything else later for this determined Sinha girl.
There was a huge gap between Dabangg, her first film, which was released in 2010, and Rowdy Rathore which came almost 21 months later. But Sonakshi kept frustration at bay by working non-stop and the long wait has paid off. The blockbuster opening of Rowdy established that Dabangg was no flash in the pan. Coming soon after Housefull 2, Rowdy also proved that when it comes to pedestrian fare, Akshay Kumar can still pull it off.
It was a hectic month for Sona’s mom Punam Sinha, who juggled the family puja and the release of Rowdy. She smartly took all the family members who had gathered for the grihapravesh (Shatru’s sister had flown down from Patna) to watch Rowdy Rathore in the stall in a single-screen theatre (not a swishy multiplex) where the real audience sat. Sanjay Leela Bhansali and his group sat up in the balcony and came down to the stalls only to gauge the reaction of the audience and found the Sinha guests happily ensconced there.
“I’m told that Rowdy Rathore is the biggest hit of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s career,” thundered a pleased Shatrughan Sinha. He should be thrilled because Rowdy is not only Sona’s big money spinner but also an unacknowledged copy of his own 1970s hit Kalicharan, but with a distinct south Indian flavour.
With Prabhudeva at the helm of Rowdy, the style, the sensibilities and a flash appearance by a Tamil superstar called Vijay gave the Hindi film an unmistakable “Made In South India” stamp. It is regressive 1970s cinema at its commercial best and it has worked, giving the Sinhas a taste of the South.
Coincidentally, the grihapravesh in Ramayan was also conducted by a south Indian priest, followed by a typical satvik meal on a banana leaf. With only Biharis from the Sinha side and Sindhis from Punam’s family, a south Indian housewarming sure was a pleasant surprise.
By the way, after making so much moolah with his south Indian outing, Sanjay Leela Bhansali will be chuffed when he sets out to direct Ram Leela which co-stars Kareena Kapoor and Ranveer Singh (chronologically five years younger and professionally a decade junior to her). Considering it is Bhansali’s version of Romeo and Juliet set in Gujarat, and the chemistry between the lovers is vital to the script, everybody concerned is pretty confident that Ranveer and Kareena will be brilliant together and not come off as a mismatch. Actually, Kareena is looking so splendid that she does pass off as someone much, much younger, so that shouldn’t be a problem except in our own heads. But there’s a whisper that Sonakshi was also in the running for the plum Juliet role and lost it to Kareena who has been in Bhansali’s vision for a long spell now. Remember he’d wanted to make Bajirao Mastani, another great Indian love story, with her and Salman years ago?
As always, the good and the sad had to happen in the same week. When Raju Hirani cancelled a shoot with me and flew to Nagpur to bring his ailing father to Mumbai, it was cause for concern. Much like his warm, feel-good cinema, Raju had been trying for years to get his parents to shift to Mumbai. After Munnabhai and his first taste of success, Raju had bought the next door apartment in Bandra East, hoping to have his parents as his neighbours. But the senior Hiranis wouldn’t dream of leaving Nagpur where they had comfortably settled down.
When even bigger success visited Hirani after 3 Idiots and he bought himself a huge bungalow in Goregaon, his parents stayed on in Nagpur. They came down only when his dad was really ill and had to be hospitalised. Raju rose to the occasion and began his hospital vigil, putting all else on hold.
“Dad’s better and we’ve brought him home,” Raju said, the last time we bumped into each other. But alas, he had his dad with him for barely a handful of weeks as Suresh Hirani passed away on June 4. RIP, Mr Hirani.
Bharathi S. Pradhan is editor, The Film Street Journal