DEEPIKA PADUKONE IN xXx RETURN OF XANDER CAGE

Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone was in Hollywood a few days ago to promote her new film xXx Return of Xander Cage that stars Vin Diesel and is directed by DJ Caruso.

xXx Return of Xander Cage

Diesel, Caruso and  Padukone attended the Indian premier in Mumbai  since the film released in India on Jan 13, 2017. Diesel’s films are hugely popular in India, and so it was no surprise that he got a hugely warm welcome when he was in Mumbai to promote his film.

After promoting the film in India Padukone got busy promoting it in the US in various talk shows. xXX Return of Xander Cage released in the US on  Jan 18, 2017.

This is Padukone’s first Hollywood film as she explains  in The Ellen Show interview.

Padukone also appeared on the Late, Late Show with James Corden along with Diesel. Corden and Padukone busted some Bollywood moves of lungi dance, a hugely popular song from the Bollywood film Chennai Express. Corden is a quick study as you can see for yourself in this clip. Who knows you might end up seeing Corden in a Bollywood film.

And, here is the original “lungi dance” from Chennai Express that stars Padukone and Shah Rukh Khan. The song pays homage to the South India film actor Superstar Rajnikanth, who is also known as Thalaiva, which means leader in Tamil. Rajnikanth is known for his unique style of dancing.

Who knew one day I’d end up watching a Rajnikanth inspired song on American TV.

Here is a list of TV stations in the US that broadcast our show. You can subscribe to our  YouTube channel and podcast where every week we feature new interviews.

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FILM NOTES: BAJIRAO MASTANI

Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s latest Bollywood film Bajirao Mastani appears to be a hit in the San Francisco Bay area according to an unscientific poll I conducted. The first few days were sold out explained the ticket sales person at the local Silicon Valley theatre when I went to see the film. I, of course, waited for a few days before catching the show on a weekday and was surprised by the turn out. Bajirao Mastani needs to be watched on the big screen someone pointed out, and I agree.

Bajirao Mastani is Bhansali’s magnificent obsession. For over a decade he tried to make the film and finally succeeded in directing the film starring Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Tanvi Azmi, Milind Soman and others. The film released on Dec 18, 2015 in a handful of theatres in the San Francisco Bay area.

This historic period film is set in 18thc India when the country was a patchwork quilt of different kingdoms with the Mughals ruling in Delhi and the Marathas ruling from the western state of what is Maharashtra today. The film opens with a discussion on electing a new Peshwa or Prime Minister for King Shahu (Mahesh Manjrekar), the Maratha King. The conflict is resolved when Bajirao (Ranveer Singh), a brilliant military strategist is chosen. Selecting the new Peshwa is a minor conflict compared to what unfolds next – a love conflict, where Bajirao ends up loving two women – Mastani (Deepika Padrone) and Kashi (Priyanka Chopra). The story of Bajiao and Mastani is mostly a footnote in Indian history books, but in the hands of Bhansali the story morphs into a grand tale of love and betrayal.

In one of his early military expeditions Bajirao falls in love with Mastani, a princess from Bundelkhand, who is of mixed heritage. Her father is Hindu and her mother is Muslim. He ends up marrying Mastani, who follows him to Pune, where Bajirao lives with his mother Radhabai (Tanvi Azmi) and Kashi. His mother has a hard time accepting Mastani since she is partly of Muslim heritage. She simply refuses to accept Mastani into the family and uses various ploys to severe the ties between Bajirao and Mastani. Radhabai fails miserably.

The uneasy relationship between Bajirao’s family and Mastani continues for a few years. Mastani lives in a separate home with her son and gets to meet Bajirao on rare occasions. Things take a turn for the worse when Bajirao and Kashi’s son Nana actively plots to eliminate Mastani. In a tragic turn and unrelated turn of events Bajirao and Mastani die.

The film was an absorbing watch, but every now and then a dialog box would pop in my head with a question or comment. Before that ephemeral thought melts from my mind I’d frantically scribble them on a piece of a paper. Here are my observations in no particular order. Ranveer Singh’s performance is powerful and riveting. For some inexplicable reason I was reminded of Sohrab Modi, an actor, who was famous for his performance in films like Pukar, Sheesh Mahal and others. Modi had a way of grabbing your attention right from the first frame of his film.  I am not sure if Singh has watched any of Modi’s films. The way Singh strode into the first scene of Bajirao Mastani reminded me of Modi.

Both Padukone and Chopra were very good. Padukone has developed an effortless way of portraying her characters and she did the same in this film. This is perhaps one of the more polished performances of Chopra. Her portrayal of Kashi had lot a lot of quiet depth, empathy and conflicted emotions. Tanvi Azmi as Radhabai was very convincing. Others that need a special mention are Milind Soman and Mahesh Manjrekar.

The costumes, color palette and the sets grab your attention. Anju Modi needs a special mention for her wonderful work on creating a rich and brilliant wardrobe for the actors. Grand costumes with gorgeous color palette is a hallmark of Bhansali’s production. And then there is the music that is composed by Bhansali.

I am not sure whether it was just me or if others saw the fleeting influence of Chinese cinema in Bhansali’s directorial style. For instance, the sword fight between Mastani and Bajirao reminded me of Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon. And then there were a couple of scenes that distinctly reminded me of Chinese director Zhang Yimou’s films like  Raise The Red Lantern. There was a scene in Bajirao Mastani where red Chinese looking lanterns are lit  that brought back memories of Yimou’s films. And then there were shots of the Peshwa’s home, courtyard and rooftops that once again had that tantalizing Chinese influence.I was puzzled on why I was reminded of these Chinese influences. Could it be that Bhansali was trying to reach his Chinese audience through these references? Bajirao Mastani released in China in 600 theaters. Perhaps that explains the Chinese influences in the film? Or, am I reading way too much into it?

And now for the quibbles. What is it with Bhansali and love? Why does he focus so strongly on the tragic elements of a love story? What is his fascination with unrequited love and portraying women as having limited choices? I’d be curious to find out what Bhansali has to say about love. Why does loving someone have such drastic and dramatic consequences in his film? What draws Bhansali to make films on a grand scale?

Bajirao Mastani is worth watching on the big screen at least once. And by the way, Bajirao Mastani is just 10 minutes longer than Spectre. So, are Hollywood films catching up with Bollywood films in terms of the length of the film? You be the judge.

  • Title:BAJIRAO MASTANI (Rated R)
  • Running Time: 158 minutes
  • Status: Releases DEC 18, 2015
  • Country: INDIA
  • Genre: BOLLYWOOD/ROMANCE

FILM NOTES: PIKU

I had no idea what “Piku” was about. All I knew is the film starred Deepika Paduknone, Amitabh Bachchan and Irrfan Khan. The film is directed by Shoojit Sircar, whose previous film “Vicky Donor,” I enjoyed watching. The other bit of information I knew was that Juhu Chaturvedi wrote the story of “Piku” and “Vicky Donor.”

Piku Banerji (Deepika Padrone) is a young professional woman who lives with her 70 year old father Bhaskor Banerji (Amitabh Bachchan) in Delhi. She juggles her personal and professional life with a certain degree of stress. The father’s whole life revolves around his “constipated” state of health and how to overcome it. Everything in life is connected to your stomach is the father’s philosophy. He is such a worry wart that he drives his entire household nuts with his singular preoccupation with his constipated state of affairs. “Elvis Presley died of constipation,” he points out.

The real fun starts when father and daughter decide to go on a road trip from Delhi to Kolkata. The aim is to visit their old family home in Kolkata and take care of some property related affairs. Irrfan is roped to drive the duo. He is the owner of a taxi service company. How they reach Kolkata and what happens next is what “Piku” is about.

This is a heartwarming and delightful story that reminds me of my relationship with my father and our roads trip and loud disagreements on a whole range of issues. “I gave you full freedom,” says Banerji to his daughter and I was instantly reminded of my dad saying the same thing. I bet  you I am not the only one who was reminded of their father and those crazy road trips in India.

“Piku” is not your regular Bollywood masala film with fights and duets and people running down mountains or around tress. This is a warm and delightful story filled with all sorts of warts about a father-daughter relationship. I was laughing so hard that I had tears streaming down my cheeks at one point. I was not the only one, the rest of the audience in the theatre were laughing out loud and clearly had a great time watching the film.

“Piku” releases May 8, 2015 in San Francisco Bay area.

  • Title: PIKU
  • Running Time: 135 minutes
  • Status: Released
  • Country: India
  • Genre: Bollywood