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Breathe 2 follows the rollercoaster theme and template of Season 1 to make for an engaging watch

Breathe 2 follows the rollercoaster theme and template of Season 1 to make for an engaging watch

How far will a parent go to protect their child? With their bloodline on the line, will they, who instil values in us and help us distinguish right from wrong, not even stop at murder?
Breathe: Into the Shadows carries forward the theme and template of the first season — in which R. Madhavan metamorphosed from an Everyman into a cold-blooded killer in order to give his greviously ill son a fighting chance to live — delivering an emotional wallop as well as a breathless rollercoaster ride. This impression, however, is based on the first four episodes of the 12-part season made accessible to The DSTV Darjeeling before Season 2 drops today.

Abhishek Bachchan, credited as Abhishek A. Bachchan and making his web debut here, takes over from Madhavan (whose character died in Season 1) as the father compelled to kill under duress when his knee-high daughter vanishes one day. Six-year-old Siya, a juvenile diabetic who is heavily insulin dependent, is kidnapped from a birthday party, and Avinash Sabharwal (Bachchan) and his wife Abha (Nithya Menen) find their seemingly perfect world turned upside down overnight. The ‘how’ and ‘why’ quickly turn to ‘what?!’ when months whizz by without a ransom call or any news, good or bad, of Siya and the distraught parents, running from pillar to post, find their own relationship on the line. Till a message arrives from the kidnapper that Siya is alive and well, but accompanied with a rider: Avinash has to kill random strangers picked by the kidnapper in order to get his daughter back.

Channeling thrillers like Room and Se7en (Avinash’s modus operandi for the killings has to be based on the Seven Deadly Sins, in a nod to the seminal David Fincher film starring Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt), Breathe: Into the Shadows puts together its world and characters effectively, even as it slowly but steadily builds a pressure cooker-like situation with Avinash, a psychiatrist with the ability to read people’s minds but now finding himself flummoxed by the mechanics and motivations of the kidnapper, racing against time to execute the murders to keep Siya alive.

You don’t really need to revisit Season 1 to be able to watch Breathe 2. Writer-director Mayank Sharma fashions a plot that has no bearing on what’s played out previously, with only troubled cop Kabir Sawant (Amit Sadh) returning, his man Friday Prakash Kamble (Hrishikesh Joshi, the show’s comic relief) in tow. Like Season 1, a now-buffed-up Kabir (unarguably the most interesting character in Season 1) is battling his personal demons, prompting him to take a posting in Delhi, where the perplexing murders are taking place. That results, of course, in a cat-and-mouse game between cop and criminal.

Breathe 2 benefits from a taut plot that builds its tension gradually. The landscape of the show is built painstakingly, with the viewer empathising with the emotional seesaw that Avinash and Abha are made to go through. Nithya Menen as Abha scores with screen presence and strong emotionality, acting as both catalyst and conscience-keeper in Avinash’s downward spiral into the dark recesses of grief and guilt. Saiyami Kher’s Shirley is the other key female character here. Shirley largely remains within the shadows in the first four episodes, but with the promise that she will influence the proceedings as Breathe 2 hurtles forward.

It’s upto Abhishek to do the heavy-lifting here and the actor rises to the occasion, bringing alive the pain of a father and the dilemma of a man who quickly turns murderer. Just that one scene where Avinash, trying to be in control but completely losing it, breaks down before the cops illustrates what the actor can do when given a role he can sink his teeth into. Now waiting for more… of Breathe and Bachchan.

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An earnest Tom Hanks masters the angry seas in the war film, Greyhound

An earnest Tom Hanks masters the angry seas in the war film, Greyhound

When C.S. Forester wrote The Good Shepherd, a novel set against the World War II, he made his readers aware of the worries going through the mind of a lonely man with a resolute exterior. Captain Ernest Krause is a man who is aware of his place in the pecking order — the captain of a ship also has someone to report to — but at the same time, he understands that the people he commands are human.

Nobody else can play his character better on screen than Tom Hanks, who easily slips into the role of Krause in Greyhound, based on the 1955 novel. The 64-year-old has been the captain of several roles — Captain Jim Lovell in Apollo 13, Captain Richard Phillips in Captain Phillips, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger in Sully and, of course, Captain Miller in Saving Private Ryan. Yet again, he has managed to capture the essence of a story full of tension like no other.

Set over 48 nerve-wracking hours — but played out over a mere 90 minutes — during the Battle of the Atlantic, Krause holds the command of a destroyer with the call sign ‘Greyhound’, which is tasked with protecting vital supply convoys travelling from the US to Britain. His enemies are the rough seas and, of course, countless Nazi U-boats that are difficult to spot. By the time the US entered the war in 1941, the Allied forces were already vulnerable, while protection from airborne forces was limited.

Making Krause vulnerable is the fact that he has already been passed over for peacetime promotion and his relationship (a cameo from Elisabeth Shue) has become as formal as his way of speaking with juniors. Here was a man on his first big engagement, hoping that his long years of training would pay off.

There is very little in way of historical sound bites. We hear a few stirring words from Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt that fade into the destroyer USS Keeling (call sign ‘Greyhound’). Tension and mountainous seas grip the viewer immediately.

Director Aaron Schneider keeps the action moving between beautifully mounted shots of an angry sea — most of the times made unbearable by U-boats — and the command room on the Greyhound where the only consistency is Krause’s stoic face and a chain of commands — directing the ship starboard or port — that we have heard so much in classic war movies.

Where Greyhound wins viewers over is in the use of exact details, remaining true to the novel. The screenplay — by Tom Hanks himself — is tight, making only one character have more than one dimension. The others are voices over intercoms and brief meetings. The only German voice we hear is that of a submarine commander (voiced by Thomas Kretschmann) over the radio: “We hear the screams of your comrades.” The element of psychological warfare is kept restricted to a few dialogues.

It’s a pity that a film with the heart of a classic war film has to be seen on a streaming service. The booming seas and the sinking of a few U-boats need to be experienced on the big screen. It’s equally true that the film is a big win for Apple TV+ on which you can stream it. Though you can watch the film on any TV or device, most of the world will end up watching it on their iPads, which luckily offers excellent sound and comes with a top-of-the-line display.

As for Tom Hanks, he is just perfect. As always, he obediently performs the job he undertakes. He always manages to sparkle with his cool, calculating dialogues. Tom Hanks is a man of precision, the precision seen in one of the objects central to his life — the typewriter. Captain Ernest Krause gives commands. Hanks delivers with real motivation, making us believe in humankind, in the fact that he is one of us.

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‘Post Bulbbul, I hope the opportunities are more and better’ — Avinash Tiwary

‘Post Bulbbul, I hope the opportunities are more and better’ — Avinash Tiwary

Avinash Tiwary’s turn as Satya in the Netflix film Bulbbul has earned him praise. The actor, who was seen earlier this year in Karan Johar’s segment in Ghost Stories, chatted with The DSTV Darjeeling on the conversation the Anushka Sharma-produced film has started and why it needs to become a public discourse.

Two weeks down, has the huge success of Bulbbul sunk in?

Well, it’s been trending on Netflix at No. 1 ever since it was released. It’s all new for me, to get so much love and acknowledgement (laughs). The audience has been talking about every facet of the film, and that’s something that’s very rare. Right from cinematography to costumes, set design to the background score, the performances to the message of the film… all of that has been appreciated.

One of the conversations I have had with close friends and family, because there I can speak my mind freely,  revolves around patriarchy. The film talks about feminism and we realised that we also need to identify the patriarchs. I knew that the eyes and attention of the audience would be on Tripti (Dimri) because the film is called Bulbbul after all, but one of the major reasons I signed on was that I wanted to see what Satya would bring to the film. At the end of the film, Bulbbul calls out Satya as one of the patriarchs in the film… she tells him, ‘Ab tum bhi unki tarah ho gaye ho’. That’s the conversation that’s been happening around me… was Satya patriarchal? What did he really do wrong?

Most men around me identify themselves as being like Satya… he’s someone who doesn’t really do things wrong, but still comes across as being patriarchal because of the conditioning that most men have. I kept debating with Anvita (Dutt, director) about it… honestly, I kept thinking that Satya was doing everything right, until Anvita said that, ‘Avinash, maybe you need to acknowledge that you are a closet patriarch yourself’. It’s not very easy to accept that… I am still fighting it but I am willing to understand that I may be wrong about it. I am happy that at least people around me are having a conversation about it. When that conversation becomes a public discourse, that’s when things will get interesting and a change will happen. I truly feel that I am a feminist and the day I can acknowledge that I am actually a closet patriarch is when that shift will happen, at least within me.

You’ve said this was a tough man to play. What were the biggest hurdles?

Tripti and I had done a film (Laila Majnu) together before this. So we needed to keep audience perception in mind. Also, Satya walks this thin line which is kind of undefined. It called for a very controlled performance. My job was to walk this thin line that creates this intrigue in the film about who Satya really is, a man with some regressive ideas and yet blessed with a certain naivete. That was very difficult. I realised that playing someone with innocence, ignorance and naivete is tougher than playing someone who is smart. I had to keep my personality completely away from the character.

I feel that all the hard work we put in has been rewarded by the fact that people have really got the film. And the credit for that should go to Anvita because she set the grammar and prepared the landscape of the film. There are so many layers to the film, and people have been able to unravel them. Honestly, I felt Satya has his own tragedy… for him to acknowledge who he really is and then walk away, is tragic in its own way. He’s a victim of that system himself, like Binodini (Paoli Dam) is.

What did you have to do physically to play the part?

When Anvita met me, the first thing she told me is, ‘I think you should put on a little weight’. You know, basically fitting into the stereotype of early 20th century Calcutta, the stereotype of chawal-machhli khaanewaala (laughs). Physically, Satya wasn’t meant to be very fit. I had an accident then and wasn’t working out anyway, and then I made sure I started eating well, took all the restrictions off. I grew my hair.

There is a certain amount of drooping shoulders when it comes to Satya. The head of the family (Indranil, played by Rahul Bose) takes all the decisions. Indranil is overpowering and Satya doesn’t really have a say. He does what the head of the family asks him to. So, I actually saw him as someone burdened by that and that crept into his physicality. He’s not flamboyant, he’s slightly brute. It’s so minute that I don’t even know that the audience will pick it up.

What was the shooting experience like?

Oh, how beautiful is that Rajbari (Bawali)! I had no idea about it. It’s a beautiful property created in the middle of absolutely nothing in a way. After the shoot got over, I stayed back in Calcutta for a few days to roam around. Because I am from Bihar, it was a comfortable space for me… I would walk on the streets and drink sattu paani. It’s something that comes from my roots and I enjoyed that. The food in Calcutta is world-famous anyway. I went to a few temples also. It’s such a cultural place, an old-world charm and its a space I really love.

What’s the way forward for you?

I don’t know what to do and how to do it. There is no guide and no mentor. So someone like me has to take decisions depending on what comes to me and I do it to the best of my ability. And then I just hope that it pays off in terms of the audience choosing to see my work. Post Laila Majnu, Bulbbul was the first project that was offered to me and then I went on to shoot The Girl on the Train (co-starring Parineeti Chopra). After that, I am doing Dongri to Dubai. Laila Majnu didn’t reach people but I did get these opportunities. Post Bulbbul, I hope the opportunities are more and better. But I don’t know how to leverage it. I can just hope that things come to me and I grab them with both hands.

How’s it been like over the last few months?

Self-introspection has been a way of life for me. There have been phases in life when I haven’t had any work and not made any money. I just stayed at home and made sure I survived those phases. The lockdown seems similar in that sense. About this phase, someone told me recently, ‘It’s not that we are in the same boat… we are in the same storm and our boats are different… kisi ke paas chhoti boat hain aur kisi ke paas cruise’. My sense of empathy is very high, sometimes to almost dangerous levels. This time has really affected me. I have had a lot of thoughts and I wrote them down… I actually had T-shirts printed during the promotions of Bulbbul with these thoughts. I’ve learnt a few magic tricks, wrote a song, danced….

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Vote in Singapore for new government on Friday amid coronavirus pandemic

Vote in Singapore for new government on Friday amid coronavirus pandemic

Singaporeans vote Friday in Southeast Asia’s first election since the coronavirus pandemic began, with the health crisis and a grim economy expected to bolster Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s party and extend its unbroken rule.

While victory seems secure for Lee’s People Action Party, the entry of his estranged younger brother into the political fray has given the opposition some hope of expanding its toehold in parliament.

His brother, Lee Hsien Yang, joined an opposition party last month but decided not to contest the election, saying the country “doesn’t need another Lee.” Their father, Lee Kuan Yew, was Singapore’s first prime minister and during 31 years in office turned the resource-poor nation into an affluent city-state. Lee Hsien Loong is the country’s third prime minister and has led the government since 2004.

Lee Hsien Yang accused the PAP of turning into an elitist party and called for a more transparent and accountable government, Still, a strong showing by the opposition will be a tall task with the country facing its worst recession this year.
“It’s hard slog for the opposition in any time, more so in a crisis,” said Bridget Welsh, honorary research associate at Malaysia’s University of Nottingham.

Lee Hsien Yang has “helped set the tone for the opposition, calling into question some aspects of PAP governance, especially his brother’s leadership … but the flight to safety argument on the economy favors the PAP,” she said.
Singapore’s elections follow polls in Mongolia last month and in South Korea in April, when governing parties in both countries scored resounding victories.

Singapore’s elections come just weeks after the country emerged from a two-month lockdown aimed at controlling one of Asia’s worst virus outbreaks. The tiny nation of 5.8 million people has reported more than 45,000 cases, most of them foreign workers living in crowded dormitories that were overlooked in the early phase of its crisis management.

While infections have mostly declined, new daily cases still top 100. But the government says the elections can be held safely with more polling stations and staggered times allocated for the 2.65 million eligible voters to cast their ballots.

Physical rallies were banned during the nine-day campaign that ended Wednesday, in which both sides took their battle to social media. Candidates sparred over how to keep jobs and propel the economy forward in televised debates and delivered strong online video speeches. Some wore shirts with QR codes so residents could scan them and get instant access to their social media pages.

The two Lees, who have been embroiled in a public spat since 2017 over the fate of their family home, have hit the campaign trail in hawker markets and public housing estates, but with masks and without the usual handshakes with voters.

With the economy forecast to shrink this year by between 4% and 7%, the PAP has touted its strong track record in propelling the nation into one of the world’s richest. Prime Minister Lee said the polls aren’t about his family feud but the nation’s future, and appealed to voters for a strong mandate to navigate Singapore through the crisis and beyond. His government has unveiled several economic assistance packages totaling nearly 100 billion Singapore dollars ($71.7 billion).

The stakes are higher this time for Lee, who has said he plans to retire in two years at age 70. His deputy and finance minister, Heng Swee Keat, is his designated successor and some see the election as a vote of confidence in the new leadership.

“Ultimately, it is how voters view the PAP government’s handling of Covid-19 in all aspects that could play a big role in whether the ruling party will secure a strong mandate,” said Eugene Tan, law professor at Singapore Management University. “If the PAP is able to secure about 65% of the popular vote and not lose additional seats, then I think they can claim to have a very good general election.”

The popular vote for the PAP has never slipped below 60%. In 2015, the PAP won 69.9% of the total vote and 93% of parliamentary seats, riding on the nation’s 50th anniversary and the death that year of Lee Kuan Yew.

While fragmented, the 10 small opposition parties appear united against the PAP. All 93 parliamentary seats are being contested, mostly on a one-on-one basis against the PAP. The opposition has pitched itself as a check-and-balance, urging voters to deny the PAP its two-thirds super majority in parliament that allows it to amend the constitution.

While praised for its economic management, the PAP has also been criticized for muzzling the media and dissenting voices, and for its government-knows-best stance. In recent weeks it used a new anti-fake news law against the opposition.
“The maze we live in today is the result of having a single party in charge with no checks and balances, no transparency or accountability. Only ‘ownself check ownself.’ This is dangerous for the future of Singapore,” Lee Hsien Yang said in a final election message on Facebook. He urged Singaporeans to vote fearlessly to send a “wake up call” to PAP.

“End the PAP’s supermajority … no more blank check,” he said.

No matter the outcome, Singapore’s law provides for defeated top opposition candidates to be offered non-constituency parliamentary seats to ensure there are 12 opposition lawmakers, up from six previously. But opposition parties slam such an arrangement as a ploy to deny them elected seats.

 

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Six actors on how they learnt to adapt to the new normal and what’s the way forward

Six actors on how they learnt to adapt to the new normal and what’s the way forward

Shooting forKi Kore Bolbo Tomay

How would you sum up the experience so far?

We are all sticking to a schedule, following protocols and maintaining safety measures. I am really passionate about my work and I am being very careful. I have my parents at home, and I am concerned also since I am stepping out of the house every day. On the sets, things are really professional. But sometimes those spontaneous bursts of joie de vivre and excitement are missing, which used to happen on the sets pre-Covid. People are really serious and keeping to themselves.

What are the lessons learnt?

That I have to go on doing my bit no matter what the situation. I have to give my best even if I’m giving a solo shot or a shot featuring two people… to sum up, an actor’s life has to go on. We are entertainers and I feel proud that I take the risk to come out of my house and work for my viewers even in this pandemic.

Do you still get anxious now when moving around the sets or removing the mask?

Well to be very honest, once I am done with my make-up, hair and everything, and I become Radhika and step on to the shooting floor, the pandemic doesn’t cross my mind at that moment. Initially, I would wear a mask constantly after doing my make-up but now I am aware and careful.

How safe do you feel on the sets?

I feel safe, pampered, secured and taken care of. All safety measures are being taken and protocols followed with great care and attention and the rest depends
on us.

What’s the most challenging part of the shoot for you?

To perform while maintaining social distance. We are all very, very focused now.

Have you had an OMG moment?

Ayanda (Sengupta), the director, is a teacher to me. We had not met for many days. On the first day of shoot post-lockdown I remember Ayanda — on seeing me — was about to hug me but he stopped himself, greeted me and then said, ‘Oh, the social distancing norms.’ So this was a very cute moment.

Krushal Ahuja
Krushal Ahuja

Shooting for: Ki Kore Bolbo Tomay

How would you sum up the experience so far?

It’s been refreshing! I had faced the camera after 85 days and I was literally counting days and waiting to get back.

What are the lessons learnt?

It was all about learning to adapt to the new normal and performing while maintaining a distance.

Is there anything you would like to see change about the shooting procedure now?

I am happy with the way our team is working in this critical situation and I think we are doing the best possible and the changes can only be brought if the situation is normal again. Just one little change — people should smile more and be happy from within, which I think is lost somewhere in this pandemic situation.

Do you still get anxious now when moving around the sets or removing the mask?

No. Now the panic is less and people know the new normal. We follow all the guidelines strictly.

What’s the most challenging part of the shoot for you?

Everything is going on as usual but the most challenging part is to complete a scene by maintaining social distancing. Specially ours is a love story (Ki Kore Bolbo Tomay) and it is difficult to limit the scene because of the present scenario but still we are trying to meet our audiences’ expectations.

Have you had an OMG moment on set?

My director and I share a very understanding relation and we laugh and crack jokes in between the scenes or after the scene is over. So there are times, after cracking a joke or saying something very funny, we want to give a high five to each other or maybe a hug but then we realise the new normal and social distancing and we do an air high five! Hahaha!

Madhurima Basak
Madhurima Basak

Shooting for: Sreemoyee and Mohor

How would you sum up the experience so far?

It has been different to say the least. Not the usual relaxed atmosphere it used to be. Lesser number of people are multitasking to compensate for the smaller crew. Trying to be organic in the performance yet remembering safety protocols and distancing at the back of the mind is a difficult task. But nothing compares to the feeling of being on a set again after such a long wait. It has been more of an unlearning experience.

What are the lessons learnt?

That life goes on… and this too shall pass. When there were fewer cases, we sat at home and now with the spike in Covid-19 positive cases, we have no option but to get out to work practically every day. Survival is a bigger instinct than fear. What I have also realised is that remaining positive and not spreading negativity goes a long way in solving things and containing fear.

Is there anything you would like to see change about the shooting procedure now?

Reduced working hours might help. Pick up and drop facilities for all unit members in designated sanitised vehicles will help contain exposure for all. Schedules need to be flexible and lenient to incorporate absenteeism on account of illness even if it is a minor fever or cold and cough.

Do you still get anxious now when moving around the sets or removing the mask?

The fear of exposure to the virus is always there but safety is in our own hands. I try to make sure to wear my mask unless I’m facing the camera or having my food. And apart from being in the scene or using the washroom I am generally seated in my place. I restrict my movements and interactions to bare minimum nowadays.

How safe do you feel on the sets?

I feel safer than going to the supermarket or taking transportation to work. The hygiene and safety standards are being maintained properly and I can always point out or get a certain thing corrected on the sets if I feel it is diluting the safety standards. In other places though, like I mentioned above, I have no control.

Are all safety measures being followed on set?

The crew and cast are maintaining distancing norms. All unit members including make-up artists and technicians wear protective gears like masks, face shields and gloves and remove them only when extremely necessary. Sets are being sanitised with industrial sprayers regularly after shooting each scene. There is a five-minute hand-wash break for all cast and crew members every hour. Thermal scanning for temperature check is done at the entry to the studio and shooting floor. Bags and shoes are sprayed with disinfectant while entering the shooting area. So a lot is being done to maintain safety protocols and hygiene standards. That is what all organisations do I guess. Beyond that it is but fate.

What’s the most challenging part of the shoot for you?

To unlearn the earlier practices of being in a set where we would sit close and chat, pat someone’s back or share food or even the customary hugs to meet and greet. It is more of being on your own, a lot more distant approach on the sets and very unlike our tele culture. But then it’s all for a good cause and concern for self as well as others.

Have you had an OMG moment?

There have been moments when someone would sneeze or cough and the entire crew would get apprehensive and look at the one who coughed with doubt. It was considered a normal thing before corona days but now the fear being inherent, people are bound to be sceptical and less trusting. Thankfully, I haven’t had any such close encounters personally.

Indrajit Chakravarty
Indrajit Chakravarty

Shot for: Nokshi Kantha
How would you sum up the experience so far?

It was all about being very careful about oneself and others, and adapting to the new norms on the sets. It was entirely a unique experience, walking around in PPEs and masks as if we were on a different planet.

What are the lessons learnt?

Human touch is very, very important , it’s kind of like therapy. It’s natural. And that is what is missing from our lives. Other than that I would say please be aware, be careful but don’t be paranoid!

Is there anything you would like to see change about the shooting procedure now?

I would prefer more outdoor shoots rather than being inside. That’s more safe, for that matter. Otherwise, everything else is taken care of.

Do you still get anxious now when moving around the sets or removing the mask?

Yes, I do get anxious, especially seeing the number of Covid-19 cases surge every day.

How safe do you feel on the sets?

All safety measures are followed on the sets strictly, hence it’s more or less safe! But again you never know. However, some individuals let it loose at times.

What’s the most challenging part of the shoot for you?

The most challenging part is maintaining the physical distance of six feet among the actors. And that actors cannot wear masks during a shot! Yes, the other unit members have their masks on but we are somewhat vulnerable. Handling of costumes also is a big challenge and I am sure the costume department is carefully handling it to ensure clothes and shoes are washed and sanitised well. And it’s best not to share make-up; have your own personal set.

Have you had an OMG moment?

Hahaha! Many times it happened with co-actors getting real close accidentally! Old habits die hard but we have been very careful all through.

Roosha Chatterjee
Roosha Chatterjee

Shooting forSreemoyee and Mahapeeth Tarapeeth

How would you sum up the experience so far?

The best thing was that I was back at the shoot, reunited with my family. The flow of work has been a lot smoother and people are very conscious.

What are the lessons learnt?

The biggest lesson I have learnt is to make sure that I am safe and alert so that people around me are safe. And I have to be safe for my family back home to be safe.

Is there anything you would like to see change about the shooting procedure now?

Everyone already is so cooperative and conscious and taking every initiative to be safe and sound that I don’t think I want to change anything.

Do you still get anxious now when moving around the sets or removing the mask?

No, not at all. Everyone on set is very alert. They all understand that the artistes are not in protective gear (during a shot), so they make sure artistes feel comfortable.

Are all safety measures being followed?

Yes, as far as I have seen, from checking temperature before entering the studio or the set to sanitising the rooms and clothes. Everyone is maintaining their distance.

What’s the most challenging part of the shoot for you?

To remember to keep social distance while acting. During the scene we get so engrossed in it that we forget to keep distance but the director is there to guide us.

Have you had an OMG moment?

I don’t think I have had an OMG moment but I am sure few people around me have had OMG moments! Without realising I may have gone a bit close to someone (in the beginning). Initially that was a problem but now I think we have become used to this new normal.

Ushasie Chakraborty
Ushasie Chakraborty

Shooting for: Sreemoyee

How would you sum up the experience so far?

It is not very usual. We are adapting to the new normal. Sanitisers almost pour on us like rain when we enter or move around the sets. The script that we read from is being sanitised. Everything is being sanitised over and over again. We are also washing our hands, using sanitisers. Our movement is limited. My character (June in Sreemoyee) is very hyper and I would often confront a person and get close, in the pre-Covid days. That has stopped. I am accommodating these changes in my acting now.

Do you still get anxious now when moving around the sets or removing the mask?

Not really, it’s okay… I will deal with it. My philosophy in life is Que Sera, Sera (whatever will be, will be). I have taken the decision to shoot, so I don’t think about it so much.

How safe do you feel on the sets?

I feel very safe, everyone is being very careful and cautious. All the safety measures are being followed on our set.

What’s the most challenging part of the shoot for you?

Not being able to do the physical acting… where we move around, get close, move our hands… that has stopped. I get into verbal battles a lot in the serial. I really like doing that. So I am adapting to the new norms. We are focusing on giving dialogues in close-ups. As an actor I am also learning.

Have you had an OMG moment?

Yes! When you meet someone after many days there is a tendency to shake hands or give a hug. But we are not doing it now. We are immediately reminding ourselves of the distancing norms. We are doing air hugs and handshakes!

 

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Saiyami Kher — who features in Breathe 2 — on her dream run on the web

Saiyami Kher — who features in Breathe 2 — on her dream run on the web

Saiyami Kher has been having a glorious run this year. After the super success of Special Ops and Choked, the Mirzya stunner now stars in a pivotal role in Breathe 2. A chat with The dstv Darjeeling

Special Ops, Choked and Breathe 2, it’s been three big-ticket releases for you since March. Do you count that as a silver lining to an otherwise trying phase?

Definitely, it is. Workwise, it’s been very productive. They’ve also released during a time when people are largely at home and are consuming more content. It is kind of a happy-sad feeling, but I should try and only take the positives out of this. Now I am just waiting for life to get back to normal.

What made you sign on Breathe 2?

I actually signed and started shooting for this before Special Ops and Choked, but it’s the last to be released. I really enjoyed the first season of Breathe. When I auditioned for Season 2 and Mayank (Sharma, writer-director) narrated it to me, even at the script level, I didn’t want him to stop… it was that thrilling. It’s a genre I really enjoy watching and wanted to be a part of.

My character in Breathe 2 is very different from what I have played so far. Not too much of the character is out in the trailer because it is a crime thriller and my character is very intrinsically connected to the plot and moves the story forward.

Shirley is an escort. And Mayank had told me to reference Julia Roberts from Pretty Woman. He didn’t want to stereotype her at all. She’s a strong woman with strong ideas and you get to see various sides to her. She has no qualms about the profession she’s in. It’s always helpful when the writer is also the director because then he can see his characters clearly, and that’s what happened here.

Did the fact that the first season was such a big success ease the nerves getting into Season 2?

You’ve been having a great run on the web…

I’ve had three big releases with three big people (Neeraj Pandey, Anurag Kashyap and Mayank Sharma) in the business, and with three big platforms (Special Ops on Hotstar, Choked on Netflix and Breathe 2 on Amazon Prime Video). My debut film (Mirzya) didn’t have a great run because its weekend collections weren’t great and it lost most of its screens after the first three days. People who wanted to watch it couldn’t because it didn’t reach out to enough people. See, if a product reaches people and then they don’t like it, it’s fine, but to not have enough screens to show your film is the saddest thing.

So, I count the OTT platforms as the biggest blessing because the pressure of the weekend is not there, it’s just based completely on content. If your content is good, people will even watch it months later. The biggest thing for an actor is to have our work reach people. The numbers for both Special Ops and Choked are overwhelming.

How are the next few years looking for you?

Seeing the response to Choked where I was the central character, I hope I get offered more meaty and different kind of characters and not get categorised into a particular look or kind of role. Even if the screen time is less, I am okay with doing a part which contributes to the script.
What I felt after Mirzya is that one tends to get very easily stereotyped. I have been blessed to have broken the mould with my last few projects. I feel people can now look at me through different prisms. I really respect actors who try and do something different every time.

I was actually offered two films in the last few months and they wanted to go on the floors in mid-July. But I feel I am still in a position to hold out for a bit because the safety and health of me and my family comes first.

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An earnest Tom Hanks masters the angry seas in the war film, Greyhound

An earnest Tom Hanks masters the angry seas in the war film, Greyhound

When C.S. Forester wrote The Good Shepherd, a novel set against the World War II, he made his readers aware of the worries going through the mind of a lonely man with a resolute exterior. Captain Ernest Krause is a man who is aware of his place in the pecking order — the captain of a ship also has someone to report to — but at the same time, he understands that the people he commands are human.

Nobody else can play his character better on screen than Tom Hanks, who easily slips into the role of Krause in Greyhound, based on the 1955 novel. The 64-year-old has been the captain of several roles — Captain Jim Lovell in Apollo 13, Captain Richard Phillips in Captain Phillips, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger in Sully and, of course, Captain Miller in Saving Private Ryan. Yet again, he has managed to capture the essence of a story full of tension like no other.

Set over 48 nerve-wracking hours — but played out over a mere 90 minutes — during the Battle of the Atlantic, Krause holds the command of a destroyer with the call sign ‘Greyhound’, which is tasked with protecting vital supply convoys travelling from the US to Britain. His enemies are the rough seas and, of course, countless Nazi U-boats that are difficult to spot. By the time the US entered the war in 1941, the Allied forces were already vulnerable, while protection from airborne forces was limited.

Making Krause vulnerable is the fact that he has already been passed over for peacetime promotion and his relationship (a cameo from Elisabeth Shue) has become as formal as his way of speaking with juniors. Here was a man on his first big engagement, hoping that his long years of training would pay off.

There is very little in way of historical sound bites. We hear a few stirring words from Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt that fade into the destroyer USS Keeling (call sign ‘Greyhound’). Tension and mountainous seas grip the viewer immediately.

Director Aaron Schneider keeps the action moving between beautifully mounted shots of an angry sea — most of the times made unbearable by U-boats — and the command room on the Greyhound where the only consistency is Krause’s stoic face and a chain of commands — directing the ship starboard or port — that we have heard so much in classic war movies.

Where Greyhound wins viewers over is in the use of exact details, remaining true to the novel. The screenplay — by Tom Hanks himself — is tight, making only one character have more than one dimension. The others are voices over intercoms and brief meetings. The only German voice we hear is that of a submarine commander (voiced by Thomas Kretschmann) over the radio: “We hear the screams of your comrades.” The element of psychological warfare is kept restricted to a few dialogues.

It’s a pity that a film with the heart of a classic war film has to be seen on a streaming service. The booming seas and the sinking of a few U-boats need to be experienced on the big screen. It’s equally true that the film is a big win for Apple TV+ on which you can stream it. Though you can watch the film on any TV or device, most of the world will end up watching it on their iPads, which luckily offers excellent sound and comes with a top-of-the-line display.

As for Tom Hanks, he is just perfect. As always, he obediently performs the job he undertakes. He always manages to sparkle with his cool, calculating dialogues. Tom Hanks is a man of precision, the precision seen in one of the objects central to his life — the typewriter. Captain Ernest Krause gives commands. Hanks delivers with real motivation, making us believe in humankind, in the fact that he is one of us.

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Dublin award for Rima

Dublin award for Rima

Assamese filmmaker Rima Das has won the best director award in the Dublin Film Critics Circle category at the 2019 Dublin International Film Festival for her film Bulbul Can Sing while Aamis by Bhaskar Hazarika, also an Assamese filmmaker, has been selected for the International Narrative Competition at the Tribeca Film Festival in the US.

Rima told The Telegraph in a text message: “I’m delighted to win the Dublin Film Critics Circle Award. It’s amazing that a film based in a small village in Assam is winning hearts in another part of the world. Thanks, Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival, Ireland, for the honour.”

Bulbul Can Sing narrates the story of Bulbul, a teenaged schoolgirl, who grows up in a rural setting in Assam. While she is on the verge of discovering her teen life, a tragedy strikes her best friend. A spirited Bulbul fights her way through love and loss as she figures out who she really is.

The film also got Special Mention from the Generation 14plus International Jury at the Berlin International Film Festival in Germany.

Aamis, directed and written by Hazarika and produced by Poonam Deol and Shyam Bora, will have its world premiere at Tribeca’s International Narrative Competition in New York. Tribeca Film Festival 2019, which will begin on April 24 and conclude on May 5, is considered a Mecca for cutting-edge cinema.

The film tells the story of Niri, a married woman, who shares a forbidden passion with Sumon, who introduces her to a world of fresh, wild, meat-based delicacies. But as their unconsummated desire mounts, the two are pushed inexorably towards transgression and taboo.

“It’s a huge boost for the Aamis team and Assamese cinema in general. To be featured in a festival known for introducing new age films to the world is a wonderful validation for the film and we are all feeling great,” Bhaskar told The Telegraph.

In November 2018, Aamis had won the Facebook award which is calculated on audience votes and number of visits to the film at the Film Bazaar’s viewing room.

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‘Mafia was an experience and a lesson’

‘Mafia was an experience and a lesson’

Her debut film was Projapoti Biskut and Ishaa Saha has carved out a niche for herself in Bengali films and web shows in three years. Acting gives her the opportunity to express herself. And now, Ishaa will be seen in the web series Mafia, directed by Birsa Dasgupta, which starts streaming on Zee5 from July 10. The dstv darjeeling chats with Ishaa…

You have started shooting once again. Were you anxious going back to the sets?

I was excited and nervous! I was going back after so many days. I was so excited because we could all resume work once again and face the camera. I remember shooting for the web series Detective in March… and then I went back to the sets for its shoot on June 27. It is difficult to explain the feeling. Of course, before going to the sets, I was a bit anxious… I was thinking about sanitisation and would I be able to sanitise my hands every time. It had become a habit while I was at home but I was wondering would I be able to follow it on the sets. I was not sure. Once I reached the sets, I saw all the safety measures were being taken and health protocols being followed. That eased me up.

But I could not shoot on the first day…. It was an outdoor location. I went to the set, got ready but then the rain came pouring down. I waited for two-three hours but finally packed up and went home. I was back on the sets on July 1 and then faced the camera.

How did you feel when you removed the mask for a shot?

Once you are in the moment, you don’t think about it. You become the character and focus on the scene. The set was bustling with so much positive energy. We are focusing on our work and not worrying over anything else. The self of the actor becomes dominant. Also, a lot of it depends on the trust we have in each other.

Ishaa Saha in the Zee5 web series Mafia

Why did you decide to do Mafia?

Because it is so different from the web shows I had done in the past. The story and my character both appealed to me. My character is so different from what I had played before. It was kind of an experiment for me.

You were in North Bengal for a month to shoot for this series…

Shooting outdoors is always a lot of fun. This was also the first time I was away from home for a shoot for 30 days. Sometimes I did miss home but everything would be fine once I reached the sets. We were surrounded by greenery. The shoot location was around 40 minutes away from where we were staying and there was no traffic on the road. It would rain occasionally. The bungalow was really pretty.

Was it tough for you to shoot at night?

Not at all… when I am not shooting I am usually up till dawn! But when we have shoots I follow a schedule. Here though we were shooting at night so it was quite okay for me. I would be up all night during lockdown and go to sleep in the morning. I would feel hungry at 4am, make myself something and then go to sleep. And if I could push it till 7am or 8am, then I would have a proper breakfast and then go to sleep.

On a positive note, I got to spend a lot of time with my family in the last three months. It was also a time to introspect… I feel I have become a lot calmer and serious. I have become more emotionally strong. There are certain things I feel I can change. I am not active on social media. That can change. I would like to improve my social media skills.

In the past you had told us that you are shy and that you take time to open up. And then you were on an outdoor shoot for 30 days with a team that was new to you….

That is work…. and I am a thorough professional. Self-motivation is so important here, which I constantly do. I motivate myself, cheer myself up. And I gradually developed a bond with the team and became friends. Mafia was an experience and a lesson…. in work. We all worked like a family. Mafia is special.

You have this pretty, cute, girl-next-door screen image. Would you like to break out of this image and not get typecast?  

Yes, I am aware of this image. But I am not looking at consciously breaking the image. Instead I would like to explore more as an actor and try to play different kinds of characters. So much of it depends on the script. One of the things I look for in a script is that the new character should be different from my previous ones. I don’t come from a film background. I was not really raised on a diet of films and plays. But for my work, I am willing to explore and broaden my horizons. I have done a lot of new things in Mafia. Ideally, I should not have a limit as an actor.

Are there certain things you would not do on screen?

It depends on the script and the director. If the script can convince me and I know the scene will have more meaning because of that and I trust the director and the team, I can go ahead. But if I find something is unnecessary then I would not do it. I would ask a lot of questions then.

Your first screen kiss happens in Mafia

It is work and I was playing a character. Every scene of Mafia has been shot really well and presented tastefully. Same happened with my scene (with Anindita Bose). The scene is there in the teaser and many people did not even notice it. Interestingly, I have got mixed comments on social media. Some asked me why I did the scene. “What was the need for it?!” some asked. Once they see Mafia and get to know the context, then they won’t say it.

Do you have a message for those who had asked you why you did the scene?

I know they have commented out of love. See, I am an actor and I have to act. I cannot be like Jhinuk (from Guptodhoner Sandhane) always. I have to play different characters. Change will come. Those who have commented like that should try to be a bit more accepting and understand our point of view and not judge us.

Your debut film Projapoti Biskut came out in 2017. Are you satisfied with what you have achieved so far in three years?

Yes, kind of. I feel I am lucky. I have progressed gradually and got some really nice films and web shows and characters. I have tried to balance it out. I am getting a lot of love from the audience.

The Mafia story revolves around “six college friends who reunite after five years for a bachelorette party in the jungles of Madhupur, where their horrifying past comes back to haunt them”. Tell us about your character…

I play Ananya, who is different from the rest. This is her college group. The other characters are more financially well-off. I cannot reveal more about my character since it’ll be a surprise. Ananya is simple, innocent but can change under the circumstances.

 

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Ever flipped over a character? Spotlight on our recent Bolly screen crushes

Ever flipped over a character? Spotlight on our recent Bolly screen crushes

Kabir in War
Played by: Hrithik Roshan

@iHrithik in WAR is like Death by Chocolate from Corner House!…Just Saying….’ Deepika Padukone put into words exactly what we felt while watching (or was it drooling over?) Hrithik Roshan’s Kabir in War. Tall and tanned, flat abs and sinewy pecs, not to mention the specks of grey in the hair and those grey eyes, Kabir was definitely the best thing about this action blockbuster, prompting many of us to stick around even when the film had lost its sticking power. From that glorious ‘hero’ entry where he coolly walks out of the helicopter (can you blame Tiger Shroff’s Khaled from staring, mouth wide open? We did too!) to those effortless moves in Ghungroo, we still crush on Kabir big time. And, of course, we would queue up for a sequel only
for him.

Piku in Piku
Played by: Deepika Padukone

Talking about Deepika, has there been a bigger #GirlCrush in Bollywood in recent times than Piku in the Shoojit Sircar film? Piku is the extraordinary Everywoman we love, losing it sometimes but often keeping it together. She exemplifies the woman we all are, independent yet vulnerable, wanting to break free but ever mindful of the needs and wants of her eccentric father. Deepika embodied Piku like few others could, that scene of her staring out of the window of her Calcutta home with childlike innocence still etched in our minds. Those big kohl-smeared eyes and almost-perfect Bangla took care of the rest.

Rahul in Kapoor & Sons
Played by: Fawad Khan
That smile. That stare. That voice. And that man. Fawad Khan made his Rahul both striking and suave, standing out for his looks in a film peopled with lookers. A man of words (he’s an author) and an ideal son, Rahul is Mr Dependable, but he can let his hair down and have a good time when he wants to, from those fun dance moves in an eatery with Alia Bhatt’s Tia to spouting gibberish after a pot-smoking session with his brother and grandad in that instant-classic of a scene. The fact that the character played a part in normalising homosexuality in mainstream Bollywood is a plus. Rahul is generally self-assured, but his nagging need to come out to his family and not be tagged “perfect” all the time is what endears him even more.

Simi in Andhadhun
Played by: Tabu

Well, how can anyone crush on a cold-blooded killer, you may ask. But we really can’t deny that Simi brought an attractive madness to the method and mechanics of murder in this Sriram Raghavan thriller. Simi, played by the irrepressible Tabu, is unpredictable, scheming and deliciously evil, but is also a woman who is in complete control of her sexuality (“aphrodisiac” hasn’t sounded better) and uses it to to her advantage. She’s a woman who dictates and directs the men in her world. Simi is fun in a twisted way and totally unapologetic about being bad. With or without that Scary Movie mask.

Taapsee Pannu in Mulk

Aarti in Mulk
Played by: Taapsee Pannu

Taapsee’s turn as the wildchild Rumi in Manmarziyaan may be the pop pick, but we go with her Aarti in Mulk. The part may be something that Taapsee’s strong persona naturally lends itself to, but Aarti is a woman of many shades —  she’s not to be messed with as a lawyer in court defending her family tainted with terrorism charges, and as a wife and daughter-in-law, she brings in the right amount of sensitivity. Aarti in court — assertive without being aggressive, rational yet emotional — is what stands out, with that powerful speech towards the end sealing the deal.

Safeena in Gully Boy
Played by: Alia Bhatt

This girl is pure love. One of the key players of Gully Boy’s rebel landscape is Safeena, a girl who marches to her own beat, asserts herself in a society where she’s marginalised on many fronts and always wants to strike out on her own. Part of Safeena’s appeal — played with a mix of angst and spirit by Alia Bhatt — lies in the fact that she wears her heart on her sleeve, is prone to violent bouts of jealousy (she can nonchalantly, but endearingly, spout lines like, “Mere boyfriend ke saath gulu-gulu karegi toh dhoptuingi na main usko”). ‘An incredible, pocket-sized dynamite’, is how we had described Safeena in our Gully Boy review. Add ‘kickass’ to that.

Shah Rukh Khan in Dear Zindagi

Jug in Dear Zindagi
Played by: Shah Rukh Khan

First he reeled us in with that trademark Shah Rukh Khan dimpled smile. And then with lines like, ‘Don’t let the past blackmail your present… to ruin a beautiful future’ and ‘Khul ke ro nahi sakogi toh khul kar has kaise paogi?’ Hands up all those who went looking for a therapist as charming as Jahangir aka Jug after watching Dear Zindagi. Jug is an unconventional thinker blessed with wondrous ideas about life and living and Alia Bhatt’s Kaira (along with the rest of us in the audience) find ourselves being drawn to him. Witty and charming, this is one screen man we continue to crush hard on, and keep hoping he will show up in some other film. And yes, this is the SRK we love!

Laila in Zindagi na Milegi Dobara
Played by: Katrina Kaif

A woman who urges you to live life to the fullest, love freely and to face and ace your fears, Laila not only mesmerised Arjun (played by Hrithik Roshan) from the moment he spotted her on the beach but made all of us in the audience fall in love with her. Laila afforded many an epiphanic moment to Arjun in this Zoya Akhtar film and effectively embodied its central message of ‘carpe diem’. Everything about Laila is love — from the way she stares at the stars and says, “Insaan ko dibbe mein sirf tab hona chahiye jab woh mar chuka ho”, to that moment when she comes riding in on a bike, kisses Arjun with, “Mujhe afsos karna nahin aata”, before vrooming away with a smile. What a girl!

Randeep Hooda in Highway

Mahabir in Highway
Played by: Randeep Hooda

Alia Bhatt’s Veera was the focal point of this Imtiaz Ali film. But her journey of self-discovery played out parallely with her kidnapper Mahabir (played by Randeep Hooda) finding himself. A man boxed in by circumstances who grudgingly takes up a life of crime, Mahabir may have been gruff and grim through most of Highway, but Randeep made sure we spotted that lost boy looking for love and redemption. The character’s gory end was expected but what remains with us is Mahabir’s disarming smile when a relieved Veera spots him at the bus stop in the final stretches of the film.

Amarendra Bahubali in the Bahubali films
Played by: Prabhas

A one-man army (or rather two, since he played the double roles of father and son), Prabhas ensured that our eyes rarely shifted away from him, especially when he donned the royal robes and then the armour of a warrior as Bahubali Sr in this SS Rajamouli spectacle, which went on to become one of the biggest blockbusters ever. Virile and strong but armed with an emotional vulnerability, a romantic streak and that winning smile, Amarendra Bahubali was a man we crushed on like crazy. Just that moment in the Mahishmati court where he takes on his mother, protects his wife and punishes the man who’s violated her, is enough to make us go ‘aww’, ‘wow’ and ‘whoa’.

Vicky Kaushal in Raazi

Iqbal in Raazi
Played by: Vicky Kaushal

‘Women are more in love with Iqbal than with Vicky!’ That’s what Vicky Kaushal had told The Telegraph right after the release of Raazi. The actor’s portrayal of Iqbal in the Meghna Gulzar film was spot on, his performance benefiting from how endearing the character was, and his tragic death not leaving a single eye in the audience dry. An all-round nice guy, Iqbal is crush-worthy for not only being a sensitive and understanding husband trying to pull out all the stops to make his new wife comfortable in a foreign land, but also for the way in which he brings a humane touch to our conventional idea of the ‘enemy’. Vicky’s smile was all that was needed to make us crush on Iqbal even more.

Sunny in Dil Dhadakne Do
Played by: Farhan Akhtar

The part may not have been meaty but just that lopsided smile from Farhan Akhtar was enough to make us crush — really, really hard — on Sunny Gill. Besides his good looks and easy demeanour, Sunny won brownie points for being a highly emancipated man, publicly taking on Manav (played by Rahul Bose) for his chauvinistic remarks. Sunny’s sense of humour — especially in the run-up to Gallan goodiyan — made us laugh-out-loud and we just fell a little bit more in love with him when Ayesha (Priyanka Chopra) asks him at the end, “Kya tum mera intezaar karoge?” and he goes, “Hamesha ke liye”. Dimpled smile. Check. Cute charm. Check. Farhan Akhtar. Check.

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