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One of the highlights of my week was FC Blockbuster – a new monthly screening activity that we’ve kicked off at Film Companion. The idea is to go beyond Bollywood and showcase the best non-Hindi Indian films. We started last month with Virus. This month, we screened Dear Comrade starring Vijay Deverakonda and Rashmika Mandanna. The film had already been making news for weeks – because it underperformed and because Karan Johar bought the remake rights for a rumored 6 crore.

I loved the film. It’s bloated, the screenplay has too many jagged edges, and the villain of the piece – a cricket selector – hams to glory. But the love story at the core of Dear Comrade is flat-out gorgeous. Writer-director Bharat Kamma creates a narrative that pivots on a woman’s professional choices – just for that, he needs to be lauded. But he also gives us a relationship that is vibrant, fractious, thorny and exquisitely romantic – in one scene, Bobby and Lilly lean out of a window and kiss in the rain. In another Bobby tells Lilly, who is a state-level cricket player that the day she loves him more than cricket will be the day he distances himself from her. For all his faults, Bobby is a keeper. And Lilly is such a refreshingly distinctive heroine – she’s strong and she loves her job. She breaks only when that is taken away from her.

In the Q and A session after the screening, Vijay, who plays Bobby, said that it never occurred to him that the heroine’s track was more prominent than the hero’s in the film. He said he just felt this was a story that needed to be told, which is why he did it. Rashmika talked about how playing the character drained her, how she was inexplicably sad while shooting the second half and would cry for no reason. The theatre was packed with Vijay’s fans who were clamoring for a selfie. So after the interview wrapped, he instructed them to put their phones on selfie mode and then went from one aisle to another clicking photographs. His generosity was refreshing.

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This week, I chatted with Ekta Kapoor and Sakshi Tanwar about their upcoming ALTBalaji show M.O.M, which like Mission Mangal, is also a fictionalized account of the Mangalyaan mission. Ekta has always been a polarizing figure. I’m an admirer. I find her journey fascinating. Over 25 years, she’s built an entertainment powerhouse that makes films, television shows and now web series. Last month, Variety, a leading Hollywood trade magazine, reported that Alt has 20 million paying subscribers, 41 original shows and 60 more in the pipeline. It’s staggering.  Ekta said they were hopeful that viewers would return for another helping of the inspiring Mangalyaan story, this one a more fleshed out, deep-dive into the lives of the women who made it happen, though these characters, like the ones in the film, are also fictional. She also added that being a mother has made her appreciate imperfection more. She said: Women are imperfect. They can’t do it all. It’s important to recognize that rather than put women on a pedestal. I totally agree.

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In a pleasant surprise, producer Sajid Nadiadwala held a screening of his latest film Chhichhore for select press several days before the film’s release. I am always grateful when that happens. Social media and bad word-of-mouth have spooked producers and studios so much that now we usually see films only on Thursday evening before release or the Friday morning of release. I dislike watching movies and rushing reviews without enough time to process what we’ve seen. I think it’s disrespectful to the film and the team that has put months and years of hard work into it. For me, early previews are a gift from heaven – I hope more producers follow suit!

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