Sunday, August 22, 2010

Review: Lafangey Parindey

Director: Pradeep Sarkar
Starring: Deepika Padukone, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Piyush Mishra, Kay Kay Menon
Rating: **1/2

Much of Lafangey Parindey suffers from the same problem that the director’s last film, Laga Chunri Mein Daag had. A seemingly serious subject, with plenty of dramatic and life-altering events is treated in fast-forward mode, with no real character and narrative build up. You are cursorily introduced to a Mumbai chawl, where Nandu (Neil Nitin Mukesh) fights blind-folded every Friday for local goon Usman bhai (a superb Piyush Mishra). He is called ‘One shot Nandu’, because that is all it takes him to demolish his opponent. Anna (Kay Kay Menon in a guest appearance) works closely with Usman, and tries to keep Nandu away from the crime scene. However, on Usman’s prodding Nandu agrees to participate in a shoot-out, which goes all wrong. Anna is shot dead, and in the same incident Nandu ends up running over a girl, who strangely turns blind!

The girl in question is Pinki (Deepika Padukone), an aspiring dancer and ace skater from his chawl. An ambitious go-getter, she’s always desired to win a reality talent show that would enable her to change her fate (Rab Ne..?) Feeling guilty, Nandu offers to help Pinki, and soon falls for her. The rest of the film hinges on the predictable question of how Pinki will react when she knows the truth.
The thing you instantly notice is the overuse of the tapori lingo, and some crude lines. Looks like Yash Raj decided to take a break from their ultra-sanitised dialogues for this one.

The film has a bit from both Ghulam and Tum Bin in terms of story. There is an emotional core to this film, which could have been explored better. The narrative never seems to pause enough to allow the characters to reflect on their actions and feelings. This is one of the main failings of the film, which otherwise had some potential. For instance, Deepika’s accident, her entering into coma, and quickly again wanting to participate in the reality competition is all too sudden.
The other weakness is the performance of Neil Nitin Mukesh. He lets himself get buried into the setting, and his act is so reticent and expressions so limited, you don’t know what to make of his performance really. Sure, he has the appeal of a gentle, well-meaning man, which is important for the character, but one really wishes he had pitched his character a bit more strongly. His lack of expressions doesn’t sufficiently convey his emotions, especially ones where he starts to fall in love with Deepika.

On the plus side, the film’s treatment by Sarkar feels quite fresh. Unlike Laaga...which seemed quite superficial, Lafangey Parindey has more heart. The narrative takes the predictable twists and turns, but the premise of the Pinki-Nandu relationship is interesting enough to keep you mildly curious.
Deepika Padukone is easily the star-actor here, and it’s her character that holds the film together. Tomboyish and embodying a never-die-spirit, the actress has certainly improved compared to her previous films and she brings a level of believability to her character.

The other wonderful performance is from Piyush Mishra, and one has to applaud the writers for making him a flesh and blood villain. His last interaction with Nandu where he explains his point of view is especially a gem.
As it stands, Lafangey Parindey is a decent watch, but it feels like a film comprising only of highlights. It’s like a bird which sporadically flutters its wings, but never quite takes flight.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Review: Peepli Live

Director: Anusha Rizvi
Starring: Omkar Das Manikpuri, Raghubir Yadav, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Shalini Vatsa, Farrukh Jaffer and Malaika Shenoy, Vishal O Sharma
Stars: ***

Aamir Khan may be putting all his weight behind Peepli (Live) and making a Gulliver out of a Lilliput, but it's important to see this as debutante director Anusha Rizvi venture more than anyone else's. Prior to this, Rizvi was working as a journalist for NDTV, and the script seems to be born out of her on-the-job observations. Because even though the film's central theme is the relevant and burning issue of farmers' suicide and the expanding divide between villages and urban India - Rizvi's focus is primarily on the TRP-driven electronic media, and the limits they can cross! This is a world Rizvi knows and understands well, having been privy to it. The satire is almost entirely targetted at the media, which makes Peepli (Live) a competently and clevely made film, but not terribly fresh or new. Also, it doesn't cover enough in its ambit to qualify as a really powerful satire.

Brothers Natha (Omkar Das Manikpuri) and Raghubir Yadav (Budhia) are in a helpless state after losing their land. The local administrators are portrayed as callous louts, who laugh at these two farmers when they approach them for help. A half-baked rural legend about how the government gives compensation of one lakh to the families of famers committing suicide reaches their ears, and it's decided that Natha should die. The news gets leaked and a media circus ensues. Meanwhile, the politicos have their own private scores to settle and the Natha story is used as a pawn in the process.

There are wonderful touches of humour, the dialogues remain constantly crisp and entertaining, sparking with colloquial wit. The references and nuances are all part of a well-reaserched, intelligent script. Rizvi understands the media, its compulsions and motivations, and portrays it very effectively. The characters of Malaika Shenoy (Nandita) and Deepak (Vishal O Sharma - fabulous!), represent the elitist English and desi Hindi channels respectively, and how there is so little to choose between them in terms of their aims. Similarly, the politicians are portrayed as self-serving and manipulative. All this is done with a certain flair, which makes it feel less predictable. In all the madness that goes on, you see a nation without a sense of direction or focus, and where the urban world has started looking upon its villages as distant 'neverlands' and Natha as an exotic creature. All these points hit home and the film has enough moments to keep you interested.

However, one is oddly detached from the story, because Rizvi's target remains the media and politicians, and no one else. The urban-rural divide could have better explored, with more characters from both sides. Also, the film - even if it makes its points well - it doesn't have anything very new to say. The degenerating nature of politics and media is well-known to everyone, so Rizvi is merely stating the obvious.

Besides the feeling of deja-vu, the film starts to seem repetitive after a point. Afterthe premise is established, and you're amused for a while, you sense a strain in the narrative, as Rizvi fills the space with gags (they are all funny of course).

Peepli Live is cinema verite, and offers a slice of today's India. The film is treated like a semi-documentary, and is a far cry from the escapist Bollywood cinema one has got used to. In a bold ending, it does not allow the audience to 'feel-good' and leaves you with the uneasy feeling of having seen things in its bare, raw form.
At a time when hardly any films are made about our village - where 60 cent of Indians reside - Peepli (Live) must be commended for focussing on it. It does not provide any new insights or solutions, but it's a film that will hopefully evoke discussions on various levels.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Interview: Cyrus Sahukar

Cyrus Sahukar, whose impressive performance in Aisha has come in for much praise, talks to Sandhya Iyer about his transition from hosting to acting, among many other things

Cyrus Sahukar, the man known for his comic acts and spoofs on MTV, made a cursory appearance in two films, Rang De Basanti and Delhi 6. They were itsy-bitsy roles, and one didn’t get to see anything of him as an actor. However, in Aisha, he springs a pleasant surprise, bringing a distinct sense of originality and plausibility to his character. Cyrus is obviously happy with the praise that is pouring in. “Many important people have noticed my performance. Karan Johar tweeted about it — that felt nice. The reviews have all been good to me,” he says, enthusiastically.

Cyrus plays a nouveau-riche guy called Randhir Gambhir, who is constantly at the receiving end of Aisha and her best friend, Pinky’s jokes. Yet, things take an unexpected turn, when Pinky falls for him in a love-hate scenario.

“Randhir represents a very interesting demographic in India today — there are many youngsters who hail from small-time business families. Over the years, their shops have grown into chains, and suddenly more money has started pouring in for them. The youngsters get good education, but their family background remains mostly conservative. So they feel a bit conscious mixing in the company of the affluent and classy. And yet, they want to desperately ‘fit in’. If you notice, my character, Randhir Gambhir always dresses up in ‘sets’ — like a mannequin, because he does not know how to mix fashion,” says Cyrus, explaining the many things that went into preparing for the role.

The performance could have easily ended up looking bafoonish, but the young actor has lent the role just the right amount of simplicity and honesty, that makes his character quite likable in the end. “What I understood about Randhir is that he’s a pure, clean guy — not cynical and jaded. Initially, I wondered how I would play him. I used to go to actor Deepak Dobriyal’s house to understand my character better. Then I came across this lovely line from Oscar Wilde — ‘All bad poetry springs from genuine emotion’ — that gave me an idea about approaching the part,” he says.

Cyrus recollects Anil Kapoor giving some inputs as well. “That scene where Pinky and Aisha are having a fight and I excuse myself saying, ‘I’m going to the toilet’ — that was Anil Kapoor’s idea. That was also my first scene in the film. Initially, I was supposed to get all upset about Aisha’s statements and walk out in a huff. But Anil said, ‘He’s a light-hearted person. He would rather want to run away from the situation where two women are fighting.’ he said. I played it that way,” Cyrus tells us about the scene that is evoking the maximum chuckles in theatres.

And how difficult is to be an actor after being a successful anchor for television? “It is extremely tough to break out. When you are hosting, you are paid to be yourself. With acting, you are doing the opposite — you have to be your character. I’ve had a strange career so far. I started with radio and then got into hosting for television when I was 18. I did the Simi Garewal and Taare Zameen Par spoof. It was around that time that I got a call from Rakeysh Mehra to play a small role in Rang De Basanti. Then later, he wanted me for Delhi 6. I enjoyed playing a bit of a sleaze in that film. Rhea Kapoor and Sonam liked me there, and so approached me for Aisha,” he says about his journey so far.

Even though Randhir is Cyrus’ meatiest role in Bollywood so far, he says, he won’t be giving up on hosting and writing. “I want to create my own content, which I am doing for MTV by way of a mockumentary series. It will be on the lines of Borat and Office. In any case, at this moment, I want to have fun without thinking about the medium,” he says.
Ask him about the rumours linking him up with Sonam, and he elaborates without reserve, “We are good friends, but hardly ‘everyday hang-out buddies’. We had a Delhi 6 reunion sometime back, and that is when we got linked next day. There is nothing to be embarrassed about dating Sonam — she's gorgeous — and I would have admitted if it was true,” he says.

For now, we allow Cyrus to enjoy the success of his film and performance — both well-deserved.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

'Thrilled with response to Aisha'

Anil Kapoor and Sonam made for a beaming father-daughter team, as both expressed happiness over the reception for their new film, Aisha. Sandhya Iyer brings the spot report

In spite of mixed reviews for Aisha, Anil and Sonam were in an upbeat mood, as they came as celebrity guests for the finale of Zee TV's Dance India Dance L'il Masters, held at Balewadi Sports Complex on Saturday evening.
At a brief press meet at Hotel Sayaji, Sonam walked in looking resplendent in a maroon-gold sheer sari. “I am so happy with the response to Aisha,” she gushed. “You know, I’m not so much into boxoffice figures, but my brother follows it closely. That's his forte. In the morning, he woke me up, saying ‘Didi, these are the numbers, and they are awesome!' The reviews have all been nice to me,” she said, looking genuinely pleased at the turn of events.

Anil too played the part of a proud, supportive father, “Actors must not get into the business aspect of a film. Bas, apna kaam karo. It’s the job of the trade and media to convey numbers correctly. I was on the phone with the PVR CEO just before coming down and he was very excited about the collections. The film is doing encouraging business everywhere. It has done a total business of 9 crores gross worldwide on the first day, which is phenomenal for a niche film, meant for youngsters – they are all loving it! And that’s great for a film all about girls. I am really proud of Sonam,” he said.
Many believe Aisha was produced by their home banner as a mega-launch and showcase vehicle for Sonam, though she debuted with Saawariya. Anil, however shrugged this off, saying that a launch was never the idea, “Our co-producer PVR was interested because Sonam was in it. She was the main attraction for them. I’ve never done anything to launch Sonam and I say this honestly.”

When did Anil first think that Sonam had it in her to become an actress? “When I used to see her dancing as a kid at our family events – that is when I knew she would be in films. The party would be over, everyone would have left, and here, she would still continue dancing on stage all alone. We all thought she might want to grow up and act in films. Then she decided she didn’t want to be an actress. And then again, she wanted to be one,” he said, smiling.

Aisha is about a young rich heiress who has a penchant for match-making. But Anil has no such ideas for pretty daughter, and believes people must find their own life partners. “That’s the best thing. Only if one feels that they are making a totally wrong choice, must parents advice them that ‘hey, you’re not doing the right thing’
Later both came for the finale of Dance India Dance and enthusiastically took part in the proceedings. There was a lot of playful banter seen between the show’s grandmaster Mithun Chakraborty and Anil – who kept pulling each other’s leg. Anil was effortless on stage, throwing excellent impromptu comic punches. When the show's achor, Manish Paul (superbly entertaining) asked Anil what he felt about Sonam's success as a father, the actor protested in mock anger, “Kya tum! Why do you keep saying, ‘father' father'. You must say, Mr Kapoor, how do you feel about your film, Aisha, as a producer? Kya mein father lagta hoon!” He asked the audience the question, and the entire mass of crowd lustily cheered for him.


In a tightly fought contest, it was 11 year old Jeetu Moni who was declared winner of the immensely popular dance show on television. The Grand Finale, held in Pune at Balewadi marked the end of a thrilling dance journey for 16 bright kids from across the country, who dazzled screens with their performances week after week.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Film review: Aisha

Fresh, but forgettable too
Director: Rajshree Ojha
Starring: Sonam Kapoor, Abhay Deol, Ira Dubey, Cyrus Sahukar, Arunoday Singh, Amruta Puri
Stars: **1/2

Hindi cinema, given its unique framework and form, has seldom lend itself easily to literary adaptations. But Jane Austen's novels - with their romantic appeal and lush characterisation have been a hot favourite with desi makers too. There was Rajiv Menon's Kandukondain Kandukondain, a wonderful adaptation of Sense And Sensibility in Tamil. As for the women - Austen's influence has been profound - there was Gurinder Chadha's curry musical, Bride & Prejudice, and now, there's Rajshree Ojha and Devika Bhagat who have adapted Emma for the screen.

Yet, it must be said that Austen novels, for all their wit and acute sense of characterisation, have never had much of a plot. This is not a problem for filmmakers in the West who adapt her novels in their pure form. The novels have enough highlights to keep it engaging, and the period appeal is massive. However, to adapt it, and that too for a desi audience, requires some work. So are the Aisha makers upto it? They seem on track for a while, and it tickles you to see an out an out chic flick being attempted in Hindi. A whole song is dedicated to L'oreal products!
However, the film runs out of ideas once the screenplay exhausts itself working around the wafer-thin plot.

Aisha (Sonam Kapoor) is rich, fashionable and giddy-headed. Her partner-in-crime is Pinky (Ira Dubey). And together they have a rollicking time - shopping, looking for frivolous pass-time, and teasing their 'too uncool for us' acquaintance, Randhir (Cyrus Sahukar). They come across Shefali (Amruta Puri), a bumbling, small-town girl, who is actively looking for a husband. Buoyed by the success of her previous match-making attempt, Aisha promptly takes her under her wings and promises to find her a suitable match. She tries to bring Randhir and Shefali closer, because she believes they would be right for each other. The plan does not work, and ends in an unexpected match. All this while, Aisha's family friend and relative, Arjun (Abhay Deol), is displeased with her match-making activities and admonishes her on several occasions.
The film realises that there aren't enough strands to work with, and hence introduces two NRI types - Druv (Arunoday)and a desi Angelina Jolie, Aarti (Lisa Haydon) --- each one meant to serve as rivals and 'supposed' love interests of Aisha and Arjun. But it starts getting predictable, and the second half is repetitive and long drawn. All this while, you could at least appreciate the understated, subtle treatment that Ohja gives to the narrative, but the last 30 minutes of the film goes haywire. Suddenly, everyone behaves out of character, and everything is spelled out loudly for the audience. There's no clear build-up to the events or characters, so many of the later outbursts by Arjun, Shefali and Pinky don't seem convincing enough. And the climax is just laughable.

The film is a great showcase for Sonam, who gets a meaty role to essay and looks like a million bucks. But her poor dialogue delivery again mars much of the effect. The bigger problem is that you never get into the head of her character. There's just a lot of surface acting going on. And since she's there in every frame, she fails to carry the audience along.

On the plus side is the peppy sound-track, the good-looking sets (lots of English-looking outdoors, floral curtains and frocks, curled hair). The Cyrus and Ira Dubey love-hate relationship and Amruta Puri's gawky act are the best things about the film. Abhay Deol has become something of a poster-boy for new age films, but his acting has rarely come in for much attention. Here, he shines and plays his supporting part effortlessly. Arunoday has a brief role, but he does well too.

The film's effect disappears faster than the taste of toffee in your mouth, but it's still better than many of the recent flicks one has seen. It has patches of understated humour(derived from a lot of American rom coms) and has the novelty and freshness of a desi chic-flick.

-Sandhya Iyer

Thursday, August 5, 2010

'I've learnt you can never underestimate your audience'

Parvin Dabbas, best known for his work in Monsoon Wedding and Khosla Ka Ghosla, is currently working on his directorial debut, Sahi Dhandhe, Galat Bande

Parvin Dabaas, the actor with a clipped firang accent, has been seen sparingly in films. And yet, he has two of the most popular and acclaimed films, Monsoon Wedding and Khosla Ka Ghosla to his credit. Now, the actor has turned his attention to his new film, Sahi Dhandhe, Galat Bande, which he is directing and also partially producing.

Ask him if filmmaking was always on his mind and he says, “Production was on my mind, but I hadn’t thought of direction. My idea has been to make films which I want to watch. Not the pop-corn entertainment. When I was writing the script, I knew how I wanted the film to be, so I took on the challenge of direction,” says the actor, who is married to Preeti Jangiani.

The film is about a gang of four friends (Parvin is one of them), who belong to a village on the outskirts of Delhi. The government wants a land vacated there, so as to facilitate an industrialist to build his factory. They want the protest of the farmers, who own the land, to be broken and entrust this job to the gang. The friends are torn between their desire to grab the fortune that awaits them and the demands of their conscience to help the farmers of the village they belong to. The film takes place in urban and rural Delhi and presents an image of a society stuck between a need for development and a government hungry for land. It also examines the media’s selfish and constant desire to see conflict.

Parvin says that though he spent a major part of his life in Toronto, and then went off to do an acting course in New York, he never lost touch with the village he was born in. And hence, the writing came naturally to him. “The village is called Kanjhawla and I stayed there as a kid. Even when we lived in Delhi, I used to go there quite often. It’s just one and half hour’s drive. Also, it’s not really a village with kachcha ghars. It is a modernish village actually. So it’s a subject I could very well relate to,” he says.

The film has actors like Anupam Kher, Yashpal Sharma, Neena Gupta and Sharat Saxena, among others. Yet, the fact that it’s a small film, with no A list stars is not worrying Parvin too much. “I am confident people will come and watch. It’s not a preachy film. And people are very smart, they can gauge a film from its promos — they don’t see recycled stuff. They want something fresh and interesting.”
Parvin’s past success in films like Khosla...and Monsoon Wedding has taught him to respect his audience. “When I did Khosla, people said, ‘Isme star nahin hai’ . They were laughing at the subject and title. But these films performed excellently. I never expected Monsoon Wedding to be such a big success. I’ve learnt you can never underestimate your audience. Too many people make too many assumptions about how a film should be,” he says.
He even quotes recent films, to stress how today’s audience has matured. “You had Udaan and Tere Bin Laden releasing a couple of weeks ago. Both films did well, compared to another film that released with stars in the same week. If my film does badly, it will be because it wasn’t good enough. I would never blame the audiences,” he says.

Now that he is interested in filmmaking, will he be putting acting on the back-burner? “I would like to explore both areas. I’ve already worked with top directors like Mira Nair, Dibakar Banerjee, Karan Johar, but there are many more filmmakers I want to work with. Time is on my side, and besides, acting involves less headache. I can just sit back,” he smiles.

The actor may have done a couple of memorable films, but he’s not been a very visible actor. And when he’s cast, it is mostly as an NRI or an urban high-flier. Isn’t he getting typecast? “It’s just that my films which became successful had me in those kind of roles. I played a different character in Via Darjeeling, where the guy was street-smart, not very clean-cut. But the film didn’t do too well, so it wasn’t noticed. But I hope to do a variety of roles,” says the actor, who was also seen in Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin mara and My Name Is Khan. Here’s hoping Parvin joins the growing list of promising new-age directors.
— Sandhya Iyer

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Shefali Shah interview

'I can be very critical with Vipul'

Vipul Shah and Shefali Shah have gone back to their first love - theatre. Vipul is producing the Hindi version of the landmark Marahi play, Dhyanimani, which will have Shefali in the lead. Sandhya Iyer speaks to the husband-wife duo about what makes the stage so special. Meanwhile, Shefali also speaks about her film career and why she's taking it easy.

Vipul Shah, who is a well-know producer-director in his own right, and Shefali Shah, who is probably one of the most underutilised actress of her generation, are coming together with their new play, the Hindi version of the landmark Marathi play, Dhyanimani. The husband and wife jodi started their careers from theatre, and then went on to find success in both television and films. This play marks their comeback to theatre after almost 10 years.
Most of Vipul Shah's early work was for the stage. And he's happy to be producing this play, which will have Shefali in the lead. "I know 14 years is a long time to be away from something like theatre. But I was always connected to it emotionally. And also in these 14 years I did not get an opportunity or time to do something in this field. But I am glad that I am going to be associated with theatre again. Dhyanimani is one of the most critically acclaimed plays from Marathi theatre. Also Shefali wanted to get back to theatre and I am glad that it is this play that marks both our comebacks to what we love,” says Shah.

Shefali, who was last seen in Karthik Calling Karthik and The Last Lear, is excited to be back on the stage, and believes the play will offer her one of the finest roles of her career. The play - to be directed by Chandrakant Kulkarni - will be ready by August, following which it will travel to different cities in India and abroad. Shefali says theatre gives her a different kind of high altogether, because it challenges her on every level. "It affords you none of the luxuries that you have when you do a film. You don't have retakes, no close-ups or silences. You have to hold the play together yourself and ensure that you don't lose the audiences' interest for a second. It pushes you to your limits. I find the whole process of rehersals very enriching," she says. "In theatre, you are banking on your voice --- there is no other option, so it tends to become verbose. When I do films, there are so many ways of expression - close-ups etc - that I tell my directors, 'don't me a single line to say' . Doing a play is very different from doing a film, " says the actress, who came into the limelight with her power-packed role in Satya.

Shefali has mostly played parts that have portrayed her as a strong, opiniated woman. One gets the idea that perhaps her real life persona shadows her characters. But the actress believes she always puts her characters before herself.
"I am a strong woman in a real life too - that is true - but I don't think I consciously model my characters on my own strengths and weaknesses. I have always believed that the play or the movie are above me. Lot of actors have this attitude that 'yeh mera scene hai, main phod doonga' - even if they are in the background, they will keep doing something to get noticed. They do not have the grace to give the other actors their space. I have always believed that any creative venture is a joint effort. I am willing to dissapear into the set, if need be. That was the beauty of Monsoon Wedding. Till the last bit, you didn't even know my character existed. Each actor was a supporting character and each one had their moment. I have got over the insecurity of proving that I am the best. I don't feel the need to outshine anyone. I want to be true to my role," says the actress, who will soon be appearing in a film with Rahul Bose, called Kuch Love Jaisa.
The play, yet untitled, is tipped to be a grand affair. "Like other plays, I don't see myself doing 10-12 shows of it every month. It won't be possible, given its scale. But it will travel a lot, and Vipul is putting all his expertise and resources to make sure it turns out great," she says.

Meanwhile, Shefali is excited about her next film, Kuch Love Jaisa opposite Rahul Bose, which first-timer Barnalee Shukla is directing and Vipul is producing. The actress is extremely gung-ho about the film. “"The character is my age. I have mostly played older characters. Here, she dresses and looks exactly the way I do in real life. She is goofy and funny. I am very eagerly looking foward to the film," she says.
However, Shefali denies that her husband is producing the film, only to showcase her talent. "Actually, Vipul was nowhere in the picture when I got the offer for this film. Barnalee came to me with the script, which I loved. She was looking for other producers at that point. I discussed this script with Vipul and he asked me 'who is the producer?' When I said, it's not decided, he asked me if he could make the film, if all the terms could be worked out. From some time, he too has been wanting to diversify his company and make cinema such as this. That's how it happened," she says.

Vipul Shah has been mostly associated with complete masala fares and pot-boilers, while she has consistently done more subtle and niche films like Gandhi My Father, The Last Lear and on. Does that mean their sensibilities are quite different from each others? "It's true I've done more off-the-road cinema and he's done masala films. But that doesn't undermine his work," she says firmly. "Vipul's films are a creative expression of his, but it involves such tremendous hard-work from everyone, that at the end of the day, the film has to work' He does not make indulgent cinema. If a director wants to do that, he must make home videos," she says, adding, "Out of the films he's made, I loved Namaste London, Aakhen. And London Dreams, even if it did not work at the box-office, I saw a definite growth in Vipul as a maker. He is a great combination of commerce and creativity."

Shefali says she gets involved in her husband's work and vice versa. "When he writes a script or comes across one, he gives it to me to read. Also, I am the first person who gets to hear the music for his films. And gets quite nervous, because he knows I can be extremely critical. He knows I'll rip it apart. But finally, it is his interpretation and he has to take a call on what he wants to make and how. On my part, whenever I get a film, I run it by him," she says.

The actress - being a successful producer-director's wife- has the luxury to refuse work, but she says she wouldn't have accepted sub-standard work anyway. "That's how I am. I give my 100 per cent to anything I accept," she says.

While Shefali has done quality work, she admits that the roles she would like to do don't come to her often. "Why would a director take me when he has the option to cast mainstream actresses, who are all dying to do parallel cinema? Look, at Chameli and Raajneeti. These were roles done by leading heroines. They are saleable, so I don't blame the makers. I do realise that I don't do enough work, but I have also come to terms with the fact that the kind of work I choose to do doesn't happen every day. so in the end I might not have 25-50 films to my credit, but I will have a few landmark films that will be remembered. I had a seven minute part in Satya, but it was worth doing every bit of it. I have done just five films, but all of them have been solid, credible work I really prefer to wait it out for that one good film, than take up work I don't want to do. I'm not prepared to leave my house and kids and my space for doing stuff I am not interested in," she says.

What's Tanvi upto these days?

The beautiful Tanvi Azmi talks on why she's not doing enough acting work, and remembers her transition into the Azmi household after her marriage

The cherubic-faced Tanvi Azmi never fails to evoke fondness, even if she gave up films in her prime and did the disappearing act on television too. The actress, married to cinematographer, Baba Azmi was in the city for the book launch of Gouri Dange - who happens to be one of her oldest friends. Looking fresh, and younger by years, and dressed in a simple black-gold salvaar kameez, her kohl eyes sparkled as we wondered aloud about her absence from acting. One saw her last in a forgettable role in Delhi 6, but otherwise, she's been completely out of the film circuit. In between, she'd put on plenty of weight and didn't seem inclined to act. But looks like the actress is gung-ho about life once again.

About her disappearce in the last many years, she smiles acceptingly, "I know. Both sides of my family are completely tired of me. Shabana, in particular is very upset with me. I am such a fuss-pot you know. And to make matters worse, whenever we're watching some film, I blurt, 'Hey, I was supposed to do that role!, 'Hey, that role was offered to me' - that really irritates everyone. They're like 'Then why aren't you doing these roles?' I don't know what to say... mera dimaag kharab hai."

Remind her of how she is viewed as a tremendously underutilised actress and she twinkles back, "Good na... since I work less, people don't find out about my limitations. They keep thinking - 'she has something more to offer'"

The actress, who charmed audiences with her debut film, Pyaari Behna, fell in love and married the film's cinematagrapher, Baba (Shabana Azmi's brother), several years older than her. She was all of 21, and was entering an illustrious family, comprising of strong-minded and highly accomplished women like Shabana and Shaukat Azmi (Tanvi's mother-in-law). Was it a tough transition to make? "Yes, people felt I would be completely over-shadowed and over-powered by the women in the family. But that never happened really. I gave them respect, and I got it from them. Of course, you must earn your respect, and I think I did," she says, adding, "My background was very different from my husband's. I belonged to a middle-class Maharashtrian family. My father was a professor, my mother (Usha Kiran) was an actress. Yet, in terms of cultural leanings, I was never out of place at my in-laws. Because even at my maher (mother's place), we had writers and poets visiting us. There would be discussions and talks. Hence it was only about adjusting from Marathi to Urdu, the sensibilities were the same," she says, even as she warmly hugs some of her close friends from Pune, who walk upto her in the course of the interview. There are many - acquaintances and buddies - vying for her time, so we suggest that we could talk on the phone later. "Oh no," she reasons, "My phone is always on silent, I rarely pick it up. If I had to do an interview on the phone from home, it will never get done. There are more people there and I will be called for one thing or the other," says the actress, who also happens to be a great dog lover.

Just a word on her husband, Baba, who we spotted inquiring about the availability of a few Hindi books. Being several years younger than him was she babied in the initial years of her marriage? "No, I was never babied," she smiles with a 'please-don't-believe-me' expression, "Men don't baby their wives. But I think I have a great comfort level with him. He's always been there. I asked him to come with me for this launch, and he did," she says, with happy thoughts of domestic bliss.
So is she planning on taking up more roles now? "Yes, I am doing a film with Nagesh Kukunoor called Yeh Hausla. It's about five women protagonists, and I absolutely love the way the film has turned out. It's just the kind of work I want to do," she says excitedly.
We too can't wait to see more of her!

-Sandhya Iyer