Bollywood: The Oscar Lady

Bollywood: The Oscar Lady

Bollywood: The Oscar Lady. Call it the election fever or the summer of discontentment but somehow nobody is willing to visit the theatres.

Call it the election fever or the summer of discontentment but somehow nobody is willing to visit the theatres. All the three releases of last week ‘Revolver Rani’, ‘Kaanchi’ and ‘Samrat & Company’ have been disappointing. I had predicted this for Revolver Rani from the way it was hyped up in the promotions. The critics have loved Kangana Ranaut once again and so have her fans but ‘Revolver Rani’ is certainly not a film for the masses. Just as ‘Samrat & Company’ is not an ‘Aamir’ from Rajeev Khandelwal and ‘Kaanchi’ is not ‘Pardes’ or ‘Ram Lakkhan’ from Subhash Ghai. No doubt Ghai has his heart in place, he always did for four decades and 19 films it is just that his style of filmmaking appears old world now. I’m certain he is aware of this but to be able to present so many newcomers in a musical with a message at his age is credible!

This is a time for new talent and new energy and that is why most production houses are launching debut directors and actors. Akshay Kumar and Ashvini Yardi’s Grazing Goats unveiled the trailer of their second joint venture ‘Fugly’ and the invited guests were treated to a stage dressed in crazy props from the film like a toilet seat and crazy mirrors. Everybody had a story to narrate about their shooting experience from director Kabir Sadanand, versatile actor Jimmy Sheirgill and the young and restless star cast. Ashvini Yardi said: “‘Fugly’ is a film that is very close to all of our hearts. It is a vibrant, youth centric entertainer it is funny and witty and packs a major punch. Akshay and I are delighted to introduce such a talented cast in this film and feel that they have done a fantastic job in the film. Many careers are dependent on the faring of the film as this is a new opening for boxer Vijender, a launch pad for Mohit Marwa who is cousin of Arjun Kapoor and Arfie Lamba who was introduced in a cameo in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’.
It was refreshing to attend an event for a change not cordoned off by celebrity bouncers because the film introduces new faces. Infact the only body guards off the stage were those protecting the producer of the film, Akshay Kumar. It sets me thinking that nobody in the olden days ever needed to be escorted by bouncers to film shootings or parties and when we watched Hollywood stars fiercely guarded by their security we were unable to fathom how superstars could be unsafe amidst people who loved them. Today, with electronic media invading our lives we have understood the paparazzi phenomena and experienced that private security for superstars is a necessity today.
I remember when director Govind Nihalani launched ‘Dev’ at Rajkamal Studio the media got unruly and Amitabh Bachchan had to personally supervise the chaos before he could give his mahurat shot. Something similar happened on the last day shooting of ‘Humshakal’ in London where fans in large numbers turned up to watch Saif Ali and the only way to disperse them was for Khan to take on the role of a crowd controller. Khan came out to wave at the large gathering and taking over the microphone requested them to allow the unit to complete shooting as they had permission to shoot just for a few hours and once they were done with the work, he would personally sign their autographs and pose for their cameras. The nawabi charm worked, the crowd dispersed and returned late in the evening for another glimpse of the star.
Before I sign off it is important to pay tribute to India’s first Oscar winner designer Bhanu Athaiya who celebrated her 85th birthday last week.
Thirty one years ago she made the country proud by winning an Oscar for her costumes in Richard Attenborough’s ‘Gandhi’ shared with British counterpart John Mollo. The year was 1983 and the venue The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles. Athaiya was the only Indian HOD on the film and the award was Bollywood was not surprised by her honour. Athaiya had been a path breaker and changed the texture of the films she worked in with her detailed, intricate and well researched costumes. She had worked with all the legends of the Black & White and Colour cinema be it Guru Dutt, Raj Kapoor, BR Chopra, Yash Chopra, Lekh Tandon, Ramanand Sagar, Raj Khosla, LV Prasad, Conrad Rooks, Ashutosh Gowariker, Jabbar Patel, Vidhu Vinod Chopra.
In case you have been watching Swastik produced ‘Mahabharat’ on the television and wondering why the costumes are so special, it is because Bhanu Athaiya is the designer behind all the characters. The present generation is unaware of Athaiya impressive body of work in a career spanning over 60 years. The talented artiste has dressed up many male and female superstars both from Black and White to Colour films and changed their personalities. She is the woman who dressed the beautiful Meena Kumari as chotti bahu in ‘Saheb Biwi aur Ghulam’, Vyjayantimala in ‘Amrapali’, Hema Malini in ‘Meera’ or ‘Johnny Mera Naam’.
When it came to her work Athaiya called the shots even with with legendary filmmakers be it Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt, Sunil Dutt or Vijay Anand and they willingly submitted to her because they accepted that she made a difference to their films. Two years ago in 2012. The Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences in Los Angeles held a collection of her works, donated by Athaiya including her Oscar statuette. A year ago, a selection of her costume sketches was exhibited at the East West Gallery in Honolulu as part of an exhibition celebrating 100 years of Indian cinema.
Now Athaiya’s family is keen to make available her various sketches, costumes, photographs diligently preserved over the decades to a museum in her memory that will archive her research for future scholars and costume designers.
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