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An evening spent listening to Shah Rukh Khan is an evening well spent. This week, I attended the launch of the second season of Star’s Ted Talks India: Nayi Baat. Shah Rukh, the show’s host, was a key speaker at the launch. He talked about how the show helped him to connect with the outside world, how it inspired him to see so many young innovators and how it helped increase his emotional quotient. This could’ve been a generic plug for a platform that is paying handsomely for his services. But boring is not something that happens when Shah Rukh is around. So into his very sincere speech, he bunged in that the money from the network was very good which always helps, that one of the key producers of the show kept correcting his English so that was an added benefit (he now knows how to say “audacious” properly) and the icing on the cake was when a journalist asked when he was announcing his next film. Without missing a beat, Shah Rukh said, “Actually right here”, and then absolutely straight-faced followed it up with: Here’s the trailer. It was hilarious. I think he should do a Ted Talk himself on how to wear fame lightly and the importance of being witty. Bollywood would be better for it and us film journalists would get more sparkling interviews!

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My week started with another event – the press conference for the 21st Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival with Star. This is my fifth year as festival director. That’s a grand title but I’m more like the stepney – the extra wheel that’s taken out when required. It always gives me great pride to see what the festival team creates – many months of work goes into the curation, getting the right guests, networking with sales agents and other festivals to get the right films. This year MAMI will showcase 190 films in 49 languages from 53 countries. We are also bringing back the MAMI Movie Mela, a fan event in which film critic Rajeev Masand and I do live sessions with leading artists and directors. Putting together a film festival of this scale takes a village. It also takes a hefty paycheck. Which is why, year on year, I’m grateful to our sponsors Jio and Star – they underwrite the cost as a gift to our city. My only complaint with the festival is that they put me to work through the week and I can never catch enough films!

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The other highlight was War – I will admit that I walked in with some trepidation because director Siddharth Anand’s last few films were so underwhelming (Bang Bang, Anjaana Anjaani). But Anand, with some help from co-writer Shridhar Raghavan, producer Aditya Chopra, who also contributed to the story and dialogue writer Abbas Tyrewala, seems to have found the sweet spot between silly and smart, old and new. The film is also an ode to the beauty of men – specially Hrithik Roshan. It was fun to see the film in a nearly full hall at 9 AM. People were hooting and whistling. It once again underlined for me that no streaming service can ever replace the joy of the communal experience. And I exited the theatre wishing that someone would do a War for women – a gorgeous, glossy, clever popcorn thriller with staggeringly good-looking people walking in slow motion. I think Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt, Sara Ali Khan would be a hell of a trio for a desi Charlie’s Angels. Any takers?

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