By: ASJAD NAZIR
EVERYONE has been talking about how great recently released Bollywood documentary The Romantics is, without noticing the key elements it missed out, along with flaws that ultimately made it inauthentic.
The four-part Netflix series details the iconic rise of legendary Hindi production house Yash Raj Films (YRF), from Yash Chopra making his mark as a director and founding the banner, to his son Aditya Chopra taking it forward. There are contributions from a stellar line-up of Bollywood stars including Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Ranbir Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan, Rani Mukerji and so many more, along with industry pundits. Collectively they tell the story of a production and film family that changed Hindi cinema forever. This is cut together with amazing unseen footage, photographs and fascinating behind-the-scenes stories.
The opening episode is about the rise of Yash and part two offers up the biggest surprise. It focuses on his movie-making mogul son Aditya and gets him to speak on camera for the first time in around 27 years. The publicity-shy filmmaker and studio head finally gives an insight into his influential career.
While the story, anecdotes and the presence of many stars offering their personal insights make this a must watch for Bollywood fans, there were many fascinating pieces of information that were strangely omitted.
The addition of these elements would have really made The Romantics great, instead of it coming across as incomplete and under-researched. Director Smriti Mundhra didn’t seem to have the deep knowledge that could have made this series fly higher.
For instance, there is no mention of how deeply poetry influenced the late filmmaker and pushed him towards the romantic genre. I remember Yash talking to me in depth about this and how it shaped him. This love for poetry fed into him having a great ear for music, and the wonderful songs that helped build YRF into the powerhouse it is today.
But there is next to no mention of the dream partnerships the director had with iconic lyricists, musicians and singers who helped create some of cinema’s greatest songs. Considering Bollywood is an industry built on music, it was a surprising omission.
There were plenty of fascinating stories behind YRF-produced movies, but not for the blockbuster Dil To Pagal Hai, which is comfortably one of the top five films the banner has ever made. Yash being born in Lahore should have encouraged the documentary to take a deep dive into cross-border classic Veer-Zaara, which had also innovatively used compositions of a late musician in a way never seen before in cinema, but the movie was barely mentioned at all.
When Silsila was spoken about, there was no reference to perhaps the greatest casting coup of all time that mirrored real life. There was also no mention of Aamir Khan starting work on Darr before he parted ways with the project and opened the door to Shah Rukh Khan’s rise to stardom.
In telling the story of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, it was painted as if Shah Rukh Khan was the only choice for leading man, without mentioning that Aditya had remarkably wanted to cast Tom Cruise, and that Saif Ali Khan made the biggest mistake of his career by rejecting the role.
Similarly, in recounting the story of Ranveer Singh’s debut, there was no comment about Ranbir Kapoor rejecting that same role first.
The banner’s most successful franchise has been the two Tiger movies, which has given rise to a blockbuster spy universe, but that wasn’t really covered either.
While Aditya was admirably honest about early failures at YRF, including his brother Uday not making it as an actor, he didn’t include YRF’s many wrong turns in the past 13 years. He also tried playing down the obvious nepotism that exists in Hindi cinema.
In addition, the YRF casting/talent agency was painted as a beacon of success, when it seems to have had far more failures than successes.
There were other minor errors, like a montage mistake. By not going a little deeper, The Romantics didn’t reach the great heights it could have. What started off as a tribute to India’s greatest filmmaker turned into a PR exercise that attempted to paper over cracks in Bollywood.
In the end, Yash deserved much more than what The Romantics offered because he really was the greatest Bollywood filmmaker of all time.
BUSY SAMANTHA’S MAKING WAVES
WITH all eyes constantly on Bollywood, it seems to have gone unnoticed that Samantha Ruth Prabhu is arguably doing the best work of all the frontline Indian female stars. The Telugu super star will make her Hollywood debut with Arrangements of Love, playing a bisexual Tamil woman running a detective agency.
She is also currently shooting for the Indian version of high-profile spy series Citadel and has undergone rigorous training for the action sequences. In terms of Telugu cinema, Samantha will next headline historical movie Shaakuntalam, which is due in cinemas on April 14, and star in romantic drama Kushi opposite Vijay Deverakonda.
With producers lining up to sign the versatile actress, expect even more exciting projects from her in the months ahead.
AKSHAY’S SELFIEE OUT OF FOCUS
LAST week I had written about how Akshay Kumar will follow up five film disasters in 2022 with more of the same this year, starting with his new release Selfiee. The Bollywood remake of 2019 Malayalam movie Driving Licence turned out to be another commercial failure, just as I had predicted. This continues to illustrate how his strategy of quantity over quality is just not working, and that audiences are sick of seeing the ageing actor on screen.
MC STAN: NOT A RAP BOSS
HE MAY have been the winner of recently concluded reality TV show Bigg Boss 16, but MC Stan just isn’t a good illustration of the exciting Indian hip hop scene. Although his story of rising from the slums to riches is inspiring, there are far better rappers than him in India, who deserve a much bigger platform. He just isn’t good enough musically to be at the forefront of a cutting-edge Indian rap scene that has actual world-class talents.
JANNAT HITS THE WRONG NOTES
FROM dancers and singers to world-class comedians, social media has amazing content creators entertaining many millions globally. But sites like Instagram are also a reminder that you don’t need talent to become popular. Jannat Zubair Rahmani has more than 45 million followers on Instagram, despite having had an average acting career and online reels that are really basic. The 22-year-old confirmed that lack of talent by releasing awful recent song Babu Shona Mona, which she described as a new-age sound for millennials but is, in fact, ear-achingly bad. Even though it is impossible to listen to the terrible track from start to finish, it has received nearly five million YouTube views, thanks to the social media influencer’s 3.66 million subscribers on the video-sharing site.
IMAN ‘STEALS THE MARVELS’
THE release of hotly anticipated superhero movie The Marvels being postponed from July 28 to November 10 is bad news. But the great news for fans is lead star Iman Vellani generating great excitement for the action adventure. Although it is technically a direct sequel to hit movie Captain Marvel, the studio head, Kevin Feige, revealed that Vellani as Kamala Khan is the stand-out in the movie, adding she is “a great new character in the pantheon, and essentially steals The Marvels”.
The 20-year-old stars alongside Brie Larson as Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel in a story that sees them swapping places between a spaceship and the teenage superhero’s house. It is now inevitable that Ms Marvel will be seen in further films.
MUSICAL GEMS KABIR CAFE SET TO SPARKLE
THERE is a great opportunity to see Mumbai-based indie-folk fusion band Kabir Café in concert at London Spiritual Centre in Bushey on March 17 and at the Rich Mix Arts centre in London on March 24. The talented band, with a formidable reputation on the live circuit, perform contemporary Sufi music-inspired songs with powerful social messages. They have released acclaimed albums and are hidden musical gems, well-worth finding. YouTube: Kabir Cafe Official & Instagram: @kabircafelive
FAWAD: THRILL GUARANTEED
WHEN The Legend Of Maula Jatt came out in 2016, Fawad Khan had amazingly not had a major film release for six years, despite being a huge global star. He is making up for lost time because his next film Money Back Guarantee is due out on April 21. The heist caper’s trailer has received a positive response, and it looks like adding to the impressive recent momentum generated by Pakistani cinema.
The movie with a huge star cast, including cricket legend Wasim Akram making his acting debut, looks like a sure-fire winner. It will consolidate Khan’s position as the hottest property in Pakistani cinema.
SHAMEFUL SALMAN’S NOT ACTING HIS AGE
AGEING Bollywood actors regularly embarrass themselves trying to romance a heroine young enough to be their daughter. Another example of this can be seen in new song Naiyo Lagda, which is taken from forthcoming film Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan. It sees 57-year-old Salman Khan trying to look cool as he romances Pooja Hegde, who is 32. His silly dad dance moves in front of a leading lady who wasn’t even born when he made his movie debut, are just cringeworthy.
NO END TO COPYWOOD
THE era of Hindi film remakes being over should have been indicated by the recent failure of Shehzada. Despite starring hot-right-now actor Kartik Aaryan, the Hindi adaptation of 2020 Telugu hit Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo was a huge box-office disaster. This latest film in a long line of flops should motivate producers to make more original movies, but unfortunately Bollywood will carry on being Copywood, with more remakes on the way.