Some interesting little stories today! With some interesting things to think about in terms of Big Questions of Indian society and film and fun stuff like that. And also, little petty questions like “what the heck is happening on the Manikarnika set and why are they trying so hard to cover it up?”
Ajay Devgan and Luv Ranjan and Hansal Mehta and Rajkummar Rao
Ajay Devgan now has not one, not two, but THREE films in development with Luv Ranjan. And reading between the lines, it sounds like he might have decided to simply turn over his production studio to Luv? If so, I think that is a really good idea. Luv is a smart director who knows what sells, and is able to look outside the box and find talents and stories that the hidebound mainstream folks might overlook. (story here)
Right now, Ajay is working on De De Pyaar De with Tabu, and Rakul Preet Singh which Luv is producing but the director is a first timer with a long long filmography as an editor. After that, Luv will direct Ajay and Ranbir Kapoor in a film Ajay is producing. And it has just been announced, Luv will produce on Ajay’s behalf a film by Hansal Mehta (Aligarh, Shahid, City Lights, etc.) starring (probably, because he always works with Meta) Rajkummar Rao.
(Luv talking to Ranbir and Ajay)
So we have an unusual love story (De De Pyaar De), plus a comedy with a strange combo (Ajay and Ranbir), plus a presumably serious film. All coordinated by the same producer, Luv Ranjan, with involvement by Ajay. I think this is a very smart idea.
I have seen a grand total of one film by Luv Ranjan (Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety), but that one film had an interesting talented cast and crew and a fresh feel to it. And then I discovered the truly radical film in Luv’s filmography, Akaash Vani, which made me think he has some real range. Hindi film can use more outside the box thinkers behind the scenes, if Ajay is looking at building up Luv the way he helped build up Rohit Shetty and bring in another new voice, I am all for it.
So, a image creeped out from the Manikarnika reshoots (story here):
Notice the director is listed as Kangana? I mean, what the heck? It was already weird with the previous report that filming was continuing despite the director being down in Chennai filming Vidya for the NTR biopic. It’s not like that’s just “rumors” or something, it’s a big ol’ film crew doing stuff in two different places with, on paper, the same director supposed to be running them. And two super different places! This isn’t a “you keep filming, I’ll go off and check the set next door and be right back” kind of thing. Manikarnika is shooting in Jaipur and the NTR film is shooting in Hyderabad right now. Completely different regions of the country. And now the clapboard has come out listing Kangana as director.
The official explanation is that it is to “avoid confusion on set”, since Kangana has stepped in to “help out”. As I said the first time this story came out, it’s obviously very common for leads of films and top stars to direct a second unit when the director isn’t around, to take charge in all kinds of ways. But Kangana doesn’t necessarily have the experience I would think necessary to take charge. And I would also be very surprised if the clapboards are updated based on who is technically calling the shots. Pretty sure the clapboard is just so when you are looking at rushes later you can tell one from the other and so on. And her name isn’t like written in, it’s printed on that thing. Why does the clapboard have to say her name, why can’t people on set just know she is in charge because she is in charge? And why do the rushes have to be identified later between her work and the official real director’s work?
Maybe there is a reason, maybe it is standard policy at this particular studio and if it was some AD directing (come to think of it, why isn’t an AD doing this?) they would list their name. But what made me sit up and go “okay, what is it they are trying so hard to hide?” was the wording of the official explanation issued by Kangana’s team (not Zee studios, not Krish the official Manikarnika director, Kangana’s people are the ones leaping in to make this statement. Which is also weird):
Krish Jagarlamudi is director of #Manikarnika & will remain so. He’s currently fulfilling his unavoidable commitments with another project and so #KanganaRanaut has stepped in to shoot patchwork on his behalf. The team of Manikarnika wants the movie to release on 25th January 2019 and to make sure that happens Kangana had to step in to do the patchwork, which she is doing very dedicatedly. There is no truth in rumours of miff between Kangana and Krish. The clapboard is used only to avoid any confusion on the sets for the crew members and there should not be much made out of the same. In Hollywood it is a common practice for actors to also step in the shoes of director if the situation demands. For example in the hit series Friends 10 episodes were directed by David Schwimmer who played Ross, despite the original director James Burrows being present.
That is just plain the strangest explanation I have ever read. Filming part of a major historical epic that you are starring in is not the same as a cast member of a long running sitcom directing an episode.
For one thing, American TV shows have “showrunners” who perform the function a director would on a film set. They are the ones who approve storylines, come up with characters, with moods, with all the rest of it. The director is very important, yes, but their job is limited to one particular episode with the great sweep of the work controlled by the showrunner. That’s why you can swap out directors so easily. And, of course, it’s an episode by episode thing. They are standalone with minimal effect on the rest of the episodes, if the director does a terrible job, no big deal, you just bring in a different director for next week. That’s not the same AT ALL as a director on a film set, in India or America.
That’s what is oddest to me about this story, that they pulled in this clearly ridiculous example and explanation. Simply say “Kangana is taking charge of the set after discussing things with the director in order to finish off the last few scenes”. Why bring in this whole weird Hollywood analogy?
Also, how gullible is/do they think the Indian press and public will be that they will buy this as common Hollywood practice? And how star struck by Hollywood that they just assume anything Hollywood does is better?
Another Sports Biopic, But Political
Yet another sports biopic, sigh. But this one I am interested in immediately because of the casting, Shahid Kapoor to play Dingko Singh who was from Manipur. Manipur is a Northeastern state, part of that area way off to the side of the map of India, the part I think of as the waving hand, attached to the rest of the country by a thin little wrist squashed between Nepal and Bhutan to the north and Bangladesh to the south.
(See Sikkim? The little thumb on the waving hand? That’s where the Paltan battle took place, so get ready to hear a lot about it next week)
Like Kashmir, Manipur was a princely state, one of the larger ones. And the people never got to have a referendum on whether they wanted to join up with the rest of Independent India or be independent or do something else, the king just decided for them. Which lead to some continuing unhappiness with their position, stuck off in the waving hand and sometimes feeling forgotten by the rest of the country. Manipur and the other Northeast states are often rocked by violence, by uprisings, but all kinds of terrible stories of military crimes by the Indian army that is stationed there. This is the region Manisha Koirala was from in Dil Se.
Let’s take a moment for Dil Se and Manisha. Manisha is Nepali by birth and heritage. She has been cast as all kinds of characters from all kinds of places in India, but technically she has more in common with the Northeast region than anywhere else. The Northeasterners have a distinctive/not distinctive look. Some of them look very central Asian, some of them look more or less like any other north Indian. I have a friend who is married to a Nepali man, her husband looks basically like Hrithik Roshan. But his brother looks very central Asian. More Chow Yun-Fat.
Shahid is going to be playing Dingko Singh, a northeasterner from a disputed territory, who looks like a northeasterner from a disputed territory. In a film that will be dealing with the issues revolving around being from that territory (teased that Dingko considered joining a Naxalite group at one point). And I am curious if this will be an issue or not? Is there any sort of identity/pride tied up with that particular identity which could come into play?
I looked up Shahid and his father because I was curious about their background. His father in particular has always had a bit of a “northeastern” look. I can’t find anything indicating a connection to that region in their family background, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I’ll be curious if it really isn’t an issue related to this film, or if later in the promotions there is discussion of Shahid’s connection (if any) to the Northeast to explain why he wanted the part. Lots to consider and watch for!