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regular-article-logo Friday, 24 May 2024

Between two worlds

Big is not better” was proved without debate this weekend. Neither the Rs 350 crore invested in an Akshay Kumar-Tiger Shroff-starrer nor the Rs 240 crore Ajay Devgn film impressed the audience

Bharathi S. Pradhan Published 14.04.24, 04:44 AM

Big is not better” was proved without debate this weekend. Neither the Rs 350 crore invested in an Akshay Kumar-Tiger Shroff-starrer nor the Rs 240 crore Ajay Devgn film impressed the audience. When the advance bookings were cold, both films were put off by a day. Instead of coming into empty theatres on Wednesday, the release day was pushed to Thursday, riding on the excuse that they wanted to arrive on the festive day of Eid.

Producer Boney Kapoor was confident he had a polished product, so he showed Maidaan to the media on April 8 with an embargo on reviews till the 10th. Ajay came to PVR to meet the press after the screening and revelled in the many compliments he received for his performance. Sensing that most critics were favourably inclined, the embargo was lifted. But neither positive reviews nor pushing the release brought footfall for the football story.

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Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (BMCM) was comparatively diffident with a press screening finalised only on Wednesday late evening, hours before the film went public. Even director Ali Abbas Zafar showed BMCM to his personal circle only at the same time as the press screening. In fact, he came across to Cineapolis during the interval to gauge the media reaction. Lacking in coherent storytelling and entertainment, BMCM got a beating from critics and at the box office.

The failure of two diametrically opposite biggies stunned the cocky film industry. In contrast to what happened on Eid, two films are relying on content and not on star power or bloated budget. The trailers of Vidya Balan’s Do Aur Do Pyaar (DADP) and Rajkummar Rao’s Srikanth are out. It doesn’t show in the trailer but Vidya has lost so much weight that she’s glowing and the fear that she’d prematurely resemble an amma has receded. “I’m at my healthy best and I’m feeling great,” she beamed.

DADP has a clutch of firsts. It’s the directorial debut of Shirsha Guha Thakurta, a young ad filmmaker. Somewhat similar to the way Suresh Triveni, another ad filmmaker, made his debut directing Vidya in Tumhari Sulu (2017), a Rs 200 million film that made more than Rs 500 million.

DADP is also Pratik Gandhi’s first romantic comedy; he’s playing the much-established Vidya Balan’s husband. But Pratik is such an experienced theatre actor that he brings back memories of Sanjeev Kumar, the only other Gujarati actor to have made it as hero in Hindi cinema. Although the pan-India audience has known Pratik only since Scam 1992 (2020), in which he played Harshad Mehta, he’s been much applauded for slipping into multiple roles in the same play and for performing a monologue in English, Hindi and Gujarati on the same day. Nothing fazes him.

Pratik was hilarious in a cocaine overdose sequence in Mudgaon Express. He pulls off another comic one playing imaginary football in DADP — you can watch it in the trailer. “When you’re on stage, the reaction from the audience is so instant, you can subtly change your pitch. But on film, you don’t know if a comic moment has landed well until months later,” he explained.

With seven films that are complete and waiting for release, Pratik has moved into a swank new apartment in Juhu, his favourite suburb, in a building where Kajol has also invested. Close to Ajay Devgn’s office, it’s an address that says you’ve arrived.

Meanwhile, Rajkummar Rao, reportedly fetching Rs 15 crore per film, excels in following in the footsteps of Audrey Hepburn (Wait Until Dark, 1967), Naseeruddin Shah-Om Puri (Sparsh, 1980), Hrithik Roshan (Kaabil, 2017) and Ayushmann Khurrana (Andhadhun, 2018) who have all played visually impaired roles. An authentic story that’s unexpectedly full of spirited fun, not of pity, as the indefatigable real-life Srikanth puts it, “There’s been blindness but no lack of vision in my life.”

There is plenty to look forward to.

Bharathi S. Pradhan is a senior journalist and author

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