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Shirley Setia to debut in Abhimanyu Dassani’s next with Sabbir Khan

YouTube sensation Shirley Setia has been roped in to play the female lead in Abhimanyu Dassani’s next with Sabbir Khan

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Shirley Setia to debut opposite Abhimanyu Dassani in Sabbir Khan film

Earlier in the day (March 14), CineBlitz exclusively informed you that Abhimanyu Dassani will be playing the lead in Sabbir Khan’s next. Well, now we also have the name of the lady who will be playing the female lead opposite Abhimanyu. And it’s none other than YouTube singing sensation Shirley Setia. Read on to know more details about the same.

Shirley, who is a popular playback singer and a highly followed YouTube sensation, will be making her acting debut with this untitled project. Since Sabbir Khan is known for making films like Baaghi and Munna Michael, we are assuming his latest offering will also be an action-packed movie which will be produced by Sony Pictures. Shirley, on the other hand, is known for singing covers of popular Bollywood songs. She has collaborated with different artists and enjoys a fan base of 5 million followers on Instagram. Knowing that she is finally making her Bollywood debut, we are pretty sure all her fans across social media platforms must be super happy and excited as well. After all, she has bagged the lead role and that’s indeed a big deal, no?

Talking about Abhimanyu, he has been brought on board as lead even before the release of his first film. His debut film Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota is all set to hit the screen on next week, on March 21. While one more name has been added to the list of actresses making their debut this year, let’s see what Shirley has to offer acting wise.


Shelly Chopra Dhar: LGBT community is stereotyped in Bollywood; they are shown in a derogatory or comical manner – read full interview

In an exclusive conversation, Shelly Chopra Dhar opens up about taking a plunge into Bollywood post 50, her journey till now, her responsibilities as a filmmaker and the LGBT community’s portrayal in Indian cinema!

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shelly chopra dhar ek ladki ko dekha toh aisa laga lgbt community stereotyped exclusive interview

It was while her children were in middle school that Shelly Chopra Dhar enrolled herself in a film school. And in spite of being the sister of illustrious filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Shelly admits she’s a late entrant. But the 50-plus director of Sonam K Ahuja’s Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga believes that when it comes to dreams, they don’t come in bottles with an expiry date! Not only did the director make her dreams come true, but she proved to everyone that in achieving them, age is but a number. The debutante director talks to us about her journey into films.

Your brother, Vidhu Vinod Chopra is a well-established filmmaker. What took you such a long time to enter the film industry? Tell us about your journey…

Well, I’m settled in the US. My background is in computer software and I was working in the field for 15 years. Later, I took a break for the family and my priority changed. I had enjoyed computers because designing software was equally artistic. While on a break, I dabbled in ceramics. I learnt music, pottery and painting. I’m very excited about the arts, learning and doing new things. That’s part of who I am! Things that I don’t know or understand, attract me even more.

It was around then that Vidhu was working on Broken Horses in LA. He wanted me to help him with administrative work on the film, which I really enjoyed. While doing the behind-the-scenes, I fell in love with the process of film-making. And when my kids went to middle school, I enrolled myself in a film school. I was the oldest student there. I feel that there are priorities in life that change with every phase. So let’s just say I have enjoyed every phase, including this one as a filmmaker.

So, when did your film take shape?

I started with assisting on Ferrari Ki Sawaari, then 3 Idiots, and Broken Horses. After that I started working on my own scripts.

Your film’s lead protagonist played by Sonam K Ahuja is a gay character. Wasn’t that a risk for a debutante? Especially considering a mainstream ‘love story’ film has never had a lesbian protagonist?

Yes, and it was the reason that the subject was considered a risk. But it got me thinking and believing even more that this story needed to be told.

ek ladki toh dekha toh aisa laga bts sonam kapoor rajkummar rao anil kapoor shelly chopra dhar

Your first film has earned mixed reviews. Do you think the audience connected with it?

Yes. And it feels amazing when your story telling gets validated by the audience. You feel like you have achieved what you set out to do. When the audience actually understands your story in the way you planned for them, it is fantastic.

What do you have to say about the LGBT community’s representation in Bollywood?

The subject is very close to my heart. I’m nobody to speak about anyone’s work. But the LGBT community has not been represented well in our film industry. Pathos and compassion towards them in commercial cinema is lacking. I’ve always felt the portrayal of the community has not been showcased in the right spirit. It has either been shown in a derogatory fashion or in a comical manner. Both are harmful. When people go to watch these films, they come out feeling that it’s okay to laugh at them. Or they expect them to behave in a certain way!

Our films stereotype them. On the other hand, the films that do portray them sensibly and sensitively belong to parallel cinema, that has a limited reach. So, my only idea was to make film that was entertaining and not preachy. And without putting anybody down, I wanted to present them in a light that they deserve to be shown, with respect and dignity.

Your film was shot before the Supreme Court decriminalised homosexuality, right?

Yes, and I wish they had done it way earlier. From the film’s point of view, yes, I would have made it a little differently.

ek ladki ko dekha toh aisa laga bts anil kapoor shelly chopra dhar

Women filmmakers are expected to make films that are socially-driven or socially conscious. Do you endorse that thinking?

The term filmmaker or director is a gender-neutral term. And women or men, filmmakers should be spoken about for their films and craft. Having said that, I would take what you are saying as a compliment. We, as women, are more attuned to sensitive issues. But I feel that every filmmaker, irrespective of gender, is in a position of a great responsibility. As filmmakers, we must remember that whatever we show to people, there will be a take-away for the audience.

Even if 10 per cent of the audience is taking away something from the film, it has to be something positive. It better be good. As it is, there are enough issues in the world. And the last thing you want to do through your film is to further negativity. So I better do something that will help, if not say or do anything detrimental to society. And this, I do not know, if it comes from being a woman or a responsible filmmaker.

What about commercial aspects?

Who says that a film with a message can’t be an entertainer and work at the box office?

What are you working on next? And will you be juggling between the US and Mumbai? Or are you shifting base here?

As of now, I haven’t locked a script. But we are already working on it. All I can confirm is that my next will be entertaining too. And if there is a nice little message that you can take home, that’ll be better. I will be down from the US to make my next. For now, my family is there.

What would be your advice to women?

Never be intimidated by age or what people or society will say. If you have belief in something, do it. And when you do something truthfully from your heart, you can never go wrong.

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Singer Kamakshi Rai readying herself for an acting debut in Bollywood?

In an exclusive interview, singer Kamakshi Rai talks about her struggle with record labels, debuting as a Bollywood singer, acting in plays, her big screen debut and much more

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Kamakshi Rai shot to fame with the singing reality show The Stage in which she was the runner-up.  Apart from being a singer-songwriter, she’s also an actor and a dancer and has played lead roles in big musical productions like Balle Balle and Sing India Sing. And now she is finally making her singing debut in Bollywood with Vasan Bala’s Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota. As she gears up to storm the industry with her beautiful voice, we talk to Kamakshi about her journey so far and her aspirations

How did life change post The Stage (Season 1)?

It was my first brush with cameras, reality TV and the industry. I was quite naive, but fortunately, we were in good hands and it was a productive environment, where inspite of the regular insecurities and competition, everyone worked well together. Finishing the show as a top 3 finalist gave me a lot of studio work and live gigs, so I could quit my job of managing a recording studio for someone else.

What’s your take on the emotional stories of the participants we see on most reality TV shows? Did it happen while you were on The Stage?

Luckily, none of that forced masala-making happened during season 1 of The Stage. They built on real-life events and experiences we’d had. However, I have met people from different shows who’ve point-blank been asked for sob stories at the audition level itself. It’s unfortunate because talent speaks louder than anything else in my book. While tough experiences do give you depth, the lack thereof doesn’t mean that your voice is any less expressive. It’s the responsibility of the trade to keep the game clean.

Who are you excited about working within Bollywood?

I listened to a huge amount of AR Rahman and used to sing songs from Roja and Rangeela as a kid. I loved the voices of Hariharan and Kavita Krishnamurthy. I’m also a big Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Vishal-Shekhar fan. Vishal Dadlani’s versatility as a vocalist is something I aspire for! It would be the most incredible thing to sing for Karan Johar, in any of his films. I’d be over the moon. I’d also love to sing for Sara Ali Khan. She’s got a unique vocal texture that I feel my voice would suit very well, and I’m a fan of her work.

Who do you admire in the international music circuit currently?

I listen to a lot of John Mayer, Kaleo, and The Weeknd. Although I have to admit, I start my day with the classics – Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong, Sinatra, and Fitzgerald.

You have sung two songs in Vasan Bala’s Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota. How did it happen?

I sing for a lot of TV commercials – you would have heard me as the voice of Tanishq, Raymond, Oppo, Engage, and many more. That’s how I met Karan Kulkarni. We worked on some commercials together and he really liked my voice. He’s not just a fantastic composer/director but also a really nice human being. So even if he called me to sing the alphabet, I’d gladly oblige!

I was initially supposed to sing only one song for the film, titled Tere Liye – a Hindi duet with Vishal Mishra. However, when Bala Sir met and heard me in the studio, he said he wanted my voice for another part of the film as well… It was supposed to be a small part of the background score, which grew and ended up being a full-fledged English jazz number called Dreamtime which is now on the album. Needless to say, I’m psyched!

How was the experience working with Karan Kulkarni and director Vasan Bala?

Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for better people to work with on my Bollywood playback debut. Karan is a gem, and astoundingly great with melody. Vasan Sir literally walked me through the song and described exactly what he needed and it made me put my heart and soul into the track. Even Abhimanyu Dassani was there for the recording of my first song, and his friendly demeanour put me right at ease.

Have you faced any resistance coming up in the industry?

This line of work comes with a side helping of uncertainty and a dash of instability. I’ve had bad experiences with record labels, and with people, who constantly want you to work for free, knowing that you’re struggling and this is your bread and butter. But I feel there is a shift in the industry. I think the people in it are trying to make it a better, more fulfilling place for everyone involved. And we all need to do our bit to make it a healthy environment. There’s very little job security in film or music – you may have an epic project today and no work tomorrow.

What would be your advice for young talent aspiring to make a mark for themselves?

Find your calling, and be obsessed. No matter how low you think the chances are of ‘making it’, all you need to do is be convinced you can, despite what anyone else says. The two things that I personally think matter the most apart from your natural talent are discipline and an insane work ethic.

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Sanya Malhotra: I don’t want a hero to come save me, I’m not a damsel-in-distress – read exclusive interview

In an exclusive chat, Photograph actress Sanya Malhotra talks about the real Sanya, her films, working with Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Ritesh Batra, Vishal Bhardwaj, Anurag Basu and much more.

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sanya malhotra photograph dangal badhaai ho nawazuddin siddiqui exclusive interview

Sanya Malhotra’s dream debut in Bollywood was the Rs 500 plus crore blockbuster, Dangal (2016). It was followed by last year’s sleeper hit Badhaai Ho (2018). She also did Vishal Bhardwaj’s Pataakha, in between. And though it did not crunch in heavy numbers, it did propel her graph as an actor. Clearly proving that Dangal was no flash-in-the-pan, and that she’s an actor to watch out for! And as her next, Photograph releases, Sanya beams with the confidence of an actress who knows her worth, and is yet unperturbed by box office figures. “I don’t know about numbers, but I’m having a dream run,” she tells us as she settles down for a quick chat.

You entered the elite Rs 500 crore club with your debut itself. Has that dulled the sheen of the number game or increased the pressure to perform at the box office?

Neither. I am just living this dream. Am happy with the kind of films I’m getting to do and the kind of actors and directors I’m getting to work with. I’m in a good space, enjoying my life, getting to grow and better myself as an actor. Am fortunate to get the kind of projects coming my way.

So, what is success to you if not numbers?

I don’t know whether I’m successful or not when it comes to numbers. But I would call myself successful because I’m getting to choose and do the kind of projects that I have wanted to. If I’m happy with the kind of work I’m doing, that’s success to me.

You are redefining conventional in Bollywood with your looks, as well as your choices of roles on screen!

I can’t say if I’m conventional or not. But I feel there is overall a change in the kind of cinema that’s being made and accepted. Those typical characters we saw in films used to be unbelievable. And as an actor, I thought this is not how I want to be! I don’t want a hero to come and save me. I’m not a damsel-in-distress. Thankfully, now, filmmakers are creating strong roles for women, not as an exception, but as a rule. So, it’s easier to make those choices for me as an actor too. Women are not being put on pedestals, they are flawed and being accepted with that. I’m happy doing roles that inspire or that people can relate to.

Do you think it’s a good time to be an actress?

Oh, absolutely! Today, many filmmakers are making films with strong women characters. They are more real and relatable. They feel like the women we come across in life. These characters are inspiring. The audience is also changing, largely due to the exposure to OTT platforms today. In life, they see women across strata claiming a space and finding acceptance as they are. These changes naturally permeate down to Bollywood too, where people want to see real women. I’m glad people are not just writing such characters, but they are being appreciated by the audiences too.

As part of one of 2018’s most profitable films Badhaai Ho, what was your take-away from the film?

When your choices as an actor get validated by the audience, it’s always a happy feeling. I was equally elated being part of Pataakha, even though the film wasn’t a box office hit, because of the love and respect my character earned me. The outcome is not always measured monetarily, although that too is great and always welcome.

From Nitesh Tiwari to Vishal Bhardwaj, and Ritesh Batra to Anurag Basu, you are working with the best directors.

I’m my own worst critic, so I can’t say if my acting or performance has anything to do with it (laughs). I guess, I’m lucky to be able to work with some of the best names in the industry so early on in my career. I can only hope that it continues.

Dangal, Pataakha and Badhaai Ho saw you play quite unhinged characters – bordering on the fierce. Whereas in Ritesh Batra’s Photograph, you’re playing a coy girl. Which is the real Sanya?

Extremely similar to my character Milonee from Photograph. Yes, people get surprised, but that’s a fact. I am very much like this character. She’s reticent, lives in her own world. Milonee is keenly observant, intelligent, and very calm and quiet. I’m a lot like her. But the world she comes from and the world I come from are completely different. And the challenge was to know her world.

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Photograph recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival. Hollywood Reporter listed you in the ‘5 Breakout Talents to Watch,’ how did you feel?

I didn’t realise how big an achievement it was until I saw it being written about so much.

Wasn’t Photograph supposed to be your second film, right after Dangal?

Yes, I had signed and shot for Photograph immediately after Dangal. It was a completely different character for me to play after Dangal, the other end of the spectrum. Not a lot of actors get this opportunity.

How was the experience of working with Ritesh Batra and Nawazuddin Siddiqui?

I learnt something new throughout my journey on this film. Ritesh helped me understand Milonee’s world. Nawazuddin and Geetanjali Kulkarni were so amazing to watch and assimilate from as co-stars. I learnt so much about acting and prepping for a character from them. In spite of being the new one, I didn’t feel pressure from the team. I knew I was working with a great director and I knew I didn’t want to mess this role. This was a perfect film for me and I was lucky to get it.

What’s next for you?

Post Photograph’s release, I’m working on Anurag Basu’s film with Aditya Roy Kapoor. Again, a completely different experience altogether.

As an actor, what’s the strength that comes from being a woman?

Being a woman, I think, we are more emotional, so knowingly or unknowingly, I get attached to the character. I don’t know if I can project that deep attachment on-screen or not, or if the audience can grasp my connection to the emotional aspect of it. For men, it’s easier to approach it practically. After shooting for Photograph, it took me a lot of time to disassociate from Milonee and be me again.

What’s the best thing about being an actor?

It’s fun to be a different person for those 45-50 days when you are shooting.

Tell us three things that people don’t know about you.

I’m an introvert and a home-body. Not the bubbly, chirpy person people think I am. I like being at home doing nothing (laughs). And I love dancing. My Instagram followers know about my love for it. At one point, a long time
ago, I wanted to be a ballet dancer.

What is it you miss as an actor – the flipside of stardom?

I miss shopping at Sarojini Market in Delhi (laughs).

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