July 26, 2001,
this be Mann’s big break?
set to emerge from the sidelines
bug bites Bollywood
this be Mann’s big break?
He’s been to hell and back. But despite his terrible accident in January, Gurdas Mann, who has recovered from his head injuries, is back in the arclights doing what he does best — making music and films.
The singer-actor whose rippling muscles match his golden voice is working on an ambitious film script that could fetch him a national award. Titled ‘Zindagi Khoobsoorat Hai’ the film is produced by Mann’s wife Manjit, directed by Mano Punj and has music by Anand Raj Anand. It revolves around the theme of mentally challenged children.
The big news is that Mann has signed Tabu as the leading lady. She plays the role of a hooker. "I was really fascinated by the script. I think it’s an extremely sensitive theme. I don’t think any one has made a film on mentally challenged kids."
Tabu says she was very impressed with Gurdas Mann’s ‘Shaheed-E-Mohabbat Boota Singh’ which, too, was directed by Manoj Punj and had music by Anand Raj Anand. "The film had depth and imagination. That’s why when I was approached for ‘Zindagi Khoobsoorat Hai’, I accepted the film without any hesitation," she says.
Over the years, Tabu has earned the reputation of going for good scripts and, unlike other heroines, she’s not overly concerned about who is playing the male lead. "Big star names don’t guarantee big hits. It’s the storyline and performances which make all the difference," says Tabu who played the role of an housewife in ‘Astitva’ against Sachin Khandekar and has done roles opposite Mohnish Behl, Milind Soman and Nana Patekar.
‘Zindagi Khoobsoorat Hai’ revolves around a singer’s emotional boding with a spastic child.
For Mann himself this could be the big turning point in his career as he crosses the rubicon from regional to mainstream cinema. Incidentally, the Punjabi Sangeet Natak Academy recently presented an award to the singer-actor for his contribution to performing arts of Punjab. The award was presented by Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal.
Mann has effortlessly combined his singing career with films. In fact more than his songs, Mann’s films have earned him a legion of fans. Films like ‘Mamla Gadbad Hai’, ‘Long da Lashkara’, ‘Ki Banu Duniya Da’, ‘Chhora Haryana Da’, ‘Qurbani Jatt Di’, ‘Ucha Dar Babbe Nanak Da’, ‘Pratigya’, ‘Kachehri’, ‘Bagaavat’, ‘Gabroo Punjab Da’, ‘Dushmani Di Agg’ and ‘Shaheed-e-Mohabbat’ have made him a superstar in northern India.
Born on January 4, 1957 in Giddarbaha village in the district of Faridkot in Punjab, Mann did his graduation in business administration and masters in physical education. He was all set to become a sports coach in Patiala. But that’s when the music bug bit him.
Not that he was new to music. Throughout his school and college days, Mann was active on the stage and wrote and sang songs, much to the delight of fellow students. Even as his popularity spread he began to be invited to local functions. It was in one such event that a producer of the then Jalandhar TV saw him sing ‘Mamla Gadbad Hai’. The rest, as they say, is Punjabi music history.
Now, for two decades he has been restlessly pushing back artistic boundaries and has today become a legend in the world of Asian music. His latest film, too, has a touch of the autobiographical as Mann has a special love for spastics and has been inviting them to his concerts for years.
Back in the late seventies he pioneered the bhangra pop craze along with Malkit Singh. Today, Mann has crowds swaying to his earthy style of singing and his vibrant presence on television. It’s no surprise that most of his new albums are runaway hits and showcase the versatility of this ‘Punjab da puttar’. — N F
all set to emerge from the sidelines
She breezed into Hindi cinema on an endlessly long ‘dupatta’ in Vinod Chopra’s ‘Kareeb’. Next, she was seen in the ‘Aaja Mahiya’ number, in Khalid Mohamed’s ‘Fiza’. She had also a role in Mahesh Manjrekar’s ‘Ehsaas’. But it was only in Prakash Jha’s ‘Rahul’, that she made an impact.
The film turned out a box-office tragedy, but Neha’s role as the young mother of a four-year-old earned her critical acclaim. She was cast opposite newcomer Bunty Grewal, who played her lover.
"I was playing a mom for the first time", she says. "It was difficult to grab the nuances and mannerisms that go with the role, but I did my best. ‘Rahul’ was made with a lot of conviction and hope. It is just very unfortunate that the film did not click with our audiences".
Neha belongs to the generation of "Delhi girls" like Sushmita Sen, Priya Gill and Preity Zinta who invaded the film industry three years ago. But while others have managed to work in more than a dozen films, Neha can claim only four starrers to her name in all these years.
Worse, none of her films could be called a hit. Call it bad judgement, wrong career moves or sheer ineptitude, Neha continued to languish on the sidelines, waiting for a good role to come her way. And she wasn’t very wise in her decisions there either.
"Khalid told me that he couldn’t think of another actress for that small role in ‘Fiza’, she narrates. "I took it as work and a full-fledged role. I even considered the scene with Hritik Roshan at the hospital very special. But when you have just three scenes to do, it is hard to get the characterisation right".
Born in Delhi to a civil engineer father, Abbas Raza from Lucknow (mother Shakila is a Hyderabadi), Neha grew up with a younger sister, Rukshana — both promising basketball players. She wanted to join the national basketball team, but her parents insisted she complete college with science.
"I rebelled because science meant too much studies", she narrates. "You see, everybody in my family has a science background, so it was hard convincing them that I’d rather do English literature in college. But then Vinod Chopra showed up and I found myself in ‘Kareeb’.
Their encounter was accidental: "I happened to meet Saurabh Shukla (the actor-scriptwriter) quite by chance at a friend’s place. He told me about the film by Vinod Chopra and took down my phone number. I told myself that I was not stupid enough to believe this guy.
"But the next day I get a call from him that Mr Chopra wanted to meet me. He came to my house, met my parents and talked to me. Soon I was called for an audition to Mumbai. It was to be for five days, but I stayed on for three months. They didn’t take an audition, but put me through acting and dance classes".
The film got her appreciation, but surprisingly, no work. "While shooting for ‘Kareeb’, I got a lot of offers", she explains. "But I had to refuse them because I was under a contract, which did not allow me to do any other film until the release of ‘Kareeb’. Some were fantastic roles.... but it’s no use crying now".
Several such "mistakes" not only cost her opportunities, but also valuable time. Wiser now, she is convinced that without a background in films or a godfather around, it is virtually impossible to beat the competition among actors and emerge successful. "I learnt the hard way", she quips. "After ‘Fiza’ and ‘Rahul’, people say that I’m back in the reckoning. I am getting work. But nothing can quite compensate for the time I have lost. Today, I know what makes a good production. After all, nothing speaks louder than success in this industry." — MF
bug bites Bollywood
With big-budget multi-starrers hitting the screen in rapid succession, the Hindi film industry is caught up in a side-show of a new kind. Almost all releases these days are being subjected to the speculation and ministrations of Mumbai’s notorious betting community. The stakes are high. The opening odds for a new film are between 25 paise and 39 paise for an 85 per cent first week occupancy, 48 paise for a 90 per cent tally, Rs 1.50 for 95 per cent and an eye-popping Rs 2.50 for a 100 per cent collection.
"After the clampdown on cricket betting, bookies have started concentrating more on films," said Amod Mehra, a reputed trade analyst. "But serious betting only takes place when big-budget or mega-starcast movies are due for release." He pointed out that more than a billion rupees exchanged hands in mid-June when the Aamir Khan’s ‘Lagaan’ clashed with the Sunny Deol-starrer ‘Gadar’ on the same Friday. Significantly, the two stars collided earlier with ‘Dil’ and ‘Ghayal’ in 1992, and then with ‘Raja Hindustani’ and ‘Ghatak’ in 1996.
But the trend actually began last Divali when Shahrukh Khan’s ‘Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani’ and Aamir’s ‘Mela’ were released around the same time. Aditya Chopra’s ‘Mohabbatein’ and Vinod Chopra’s ‘Mission Kashmir’ also attracted heavy betting.
Today films commanding the highest stakes include Subhash Ghai’s ‘Yaadein’, Rajkumar Santoshi’s ‘Lajja’, Deepak Shivdasani’s ‘Yeh Raaste Hain Pyar Ke’, Karan Johar’s ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham’, Shahrukh Khan’s ‘Asoka the Great’ and Anupam Kher’s ‘Om Jai Jagdish’.
While producers and distributors are trying to grapple with the situation, the police have chosen to remain conveniently ostrich-headed. "I am not aware that betting takes place on films," said Shirish Inamdar of the Social Crime Branch Cell. "No instance has come to our notice."— MF
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