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Friday, December 21, 2007

I felt Sandhya Mridul should win: Urmila Matondkar

In a conversation with Subhash K Jha, looks back on the experience of judging Jhalak Dikhla Jaa which concluded last Week.

You seem to have enjoyed the task of judging amateur dancers on Jhalak Dikhla Jaa?
Very honestly I'm ecstatic about being able to be part of this show. I was facing the participants and audience for the first time. There were no written lines, no cues, no second chances.

Either it worked or it didn't work for you. It required a lot of quick thinking. It was a concept that I liked, and the participants were celebrities in their own right. I loved the idea of them trying to dance.

But it didn't mean I'd sugar-coat my comments.I had to be frank. And it was tough. The experience got me lots of accolades. Anywhere I go, I'm complimented about my personality and comments.

But you were exposed quite a lo to public events.
Yes, I'm comfortable being in public places. I feel if you're a celebrity you need to be comfortable with crowds. But believe me it wasn't easy for me to judge people who were far more senior and sometimes much more accomplished than me.

I had to show I was only doing my job. It required a lot of mental presence. The comments were all extempore. Fortunately everyone seems to have liked what I did.

You often broke into a song during the show.
I know! It was a conscious effort to lighten the load of some of my stronger comments. Sometimes a song expresses a bitter truth far more effectively and inoffensively than mere words. It was certainly not the channel's idea that I sing. Everything I did on the jugge's chair was my own decision.

You openly said Sandhya Mridul deserved to win after Prachi Desai's victory?
And why not? I felt Sandhya would win. When she didn't I felt terrible on her behalf. So I said so.

I thought it was my duty as a judge to state my opinion on the potential winner. I know not many people on the hot seat would be so vocal.

But when I saw how moved Sandhya was at my words I felt I had done my duty. My greatest victory was when at the after-finals party Prachi's mother congratulated me for balancing out the trio of judges on the show.

Being an expert dancer was it hard to lower your standards to judge the amateur dancing?
Believe it or not, I've never been trained to dance. I had it within me and I didn't even know it. The urge to dance will remain with me until the day I die. The fact is, I've never learnt dancing. Yet I've done classical and Salsa dance.

It took me no time to get the Salsa right in Bas Ek Pal. Dancing isn't just about getting it technically right. For me it's about expressing oneself beyond words.

I've performed many dances on screen without even a choreographer by just feeling the music and its rhythm. I never strove to be a perfect dancer.

But whatever dance was given to me I made it my own. In Geela geela pani (Satya ) all I had to do was tilt my head and sway my body slightly.

How did you lower your perceptions of dancing to suit the amateur dancers?
I never looked at the dancers on Jhalak Dikhla Jaa as amateurs, though admittedly some of them were really naïve when they started the contest. But I'm a positive person. And I only thought of these celebrities giving dancing their best shot. To me that's fantastic.

When I read someone commenting that Mir Ranjan Negi (the hockey champ) looks ridiculous dancing at his age, I wondered what age had to do with it! For him to even get out of the green room when he had never lifted a limb to dance, required a lot of guts.

Sudha Chandran with all her hurdles was so fantastic. I was blown by her hip-hop. For me, taking up challenges had always been important. Model Tapur must've looked down on Bollywood jhatkas.

And there she was giving it her best shot. I had to encourage and correct them. People didn't expect me to speak up so knowledgably on dancing. I want to ask them if they thought of me as a pretty airhead.

Were your tears for the camera only?
I never cried on camera. But there were extremely emotional moments. Thank God I have't lost touch with my human side. The contestants have said good and bad things about the judges. But I didn't mind. In the process of interacting you grow as a humanbeing.

When Mini Mathur, Tapur or Sudha Chandran got eliminated I was very disturbed. I had become a part of their dreams. When Mr Negi was out I could feel his dream shatter. I had seen my parents' reaction when I lost out as a child at a dance competition.

I didn't have to make super-human efforts to connect with the participants. I'm really fond of Tapur, Mini, Sudha Chandran and Mr Negi. They're such simple normal people! I've criticized the contestants, but without malice.

There was Jai Bhanushali who's fallen and faltered but kept fighting, Prachi Desai who kept fighting back the negativity and of course Sandhya Mridul who's been the finest dancer but never took anything for granted.

And Sonali Kulkarni….I really hated it when she was eliminated. I hated shooting on Saturday mornings when we shot the elimination rounds.

Your interaction with the other two judges?
Fantastic! Shiamak Davar is mad and fun. I've known him for years. He has choreographed my stage events though never any film. During Jhalak… he was constantly reaching to me to understand the Hindi words.

He kept me well fed with cookies and sandwiches. One day he got Parsi food for all of us. And Jeetendraji….I've known his son Tusshar for years.

Now I know where Tusshar inherits his gentle nature from. Jeetuji made such apt comments on Jhalak Dikhla Jaa. It was wonderful hearing anecdotes about the film industry from him.

The respect among the three judges came across. I've often taken up for Shiamak and Jeetuji. I liked being the balancing factors between the two judges.

Has the show changed you?
I see life in a different light. Your performance depends on so many factors. I think judging Jhalak Dikhla Jaa has made me a better person.

Initially I was hesitant about taking this up. But once I was on there was no looking back. There was so much genuine emotion shared among us all. I remember the day Sonali Kulkarni was eliminated I was very depressed.

Shiamak came to my van and entertained me. I've realized that despite the deserving and the hard-working being left out, the show must go on.

Pregnancy rumors haunt Aishwarya!

Is there a Salim on the way? Actress Aishwarya Rai, Jodha Bai of the period epic "Jodhaa-Akbar", is having toght time handling the speculation about her pregnancy in the media. And she refuses to rise to the bait.

"If I walk too carefully or if I stand with dupatta draped on one side, the media will be rife with speculation the next day. It crosses the line of decency…of respect… yes, it gets frustrating at times.

"We have agreed as a family to let the father of the family that is Amitji to clear out all the rumors. Like I said it takes more strength to maintain silence," said the chirpy former Miss World-turned-actress shimmering in a cloud of green chiffon and diamonds..

She was in the capital to unveil a new collection of Nakshatra diamond jewellery, a brand she represents.

She is not even threatened by the return of Madhuri Dixit in "Aaja Nachle". "Have you watched 'Devdas'?" Aishwarya shot back when asked how did she take the former superstar's comeback.

Aishwarya is comfortable in her new role.

"This new phase of my life, as Abhishek's (Bachchan) wife, has been special. I have another set of parents in Amit (Amitabh Bachchan) and Jayaji. The goodwill of the media and the people in general also has mattered," the actress said.

The actress is full of memories of "Jodhaa-Akbar".

"It is a director's film all the way. Ashutosh Gowariker is a committed filmmaker and for me it was another project that I enjoyed.

The choice was between two films and Ashutosh was undecided which one he would make first. Then he messaged me one day saying will you be my Jodha. I said why not?" recalls Aishwarya.

There is no special connect on the part of Aishwarya with Jodha Bai, emperor Akbar's favourite Hindu queen, whose identity is still a mystery.

"Ashutosh is not here to give a lesson in history. He just made a movie on the moving love story between Jalaluddin Akbar and Jodha Bai. It is an inspiring story.

They were two people, who had an arranged inter-religion marriage despite the fact that they came from different backgrounds," she clarified.

The only aspect of Jodha Bai the actress identifies with is her "silence". "She made her presence felt through her silence and spoke only when she wanted to make herself heard," Aishwarya said.

Speaking about love for diamonds and accessories, she said: "Diamonds were to a woman what cars were to men."

The actress is nostalgic about her first diamond. "I got it from my father. It was a diamond ring which belonged to my grandmother."

The rest of the diamonds she acquired along the way "with experience and they have been priceless".

Welcome opens to AED 450,000 in UAE

Welcome has taken a rocket opening in the UAE according to the reports by its overseas distributor Indian Films-Studio 18.

On 29 prints, the movie is said to have opened to an unprecedented AED 450,000 (approx) - implying that in just one day flat, it has done close to half the lifetime gross of a successful Akshay Kumar comedy in the UAE!

TZP runs into trouble in Gujarat

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Aamir Khan seems to have become controversy’s favorite child these days. One day prior to the release of his maiden directorial venture Taare Zameen Par , comes this piece of news that the film has run into some kind of trouble in the state of Gujarat.

Apparently, around 50 members of the Sardar Patel group gathered at a cinema hall in Vadodara compelling the management to remove the posters of Taare Zameen Par. The group also went to some other theatres in the city like Chandan and Inox and submitted a memorandum to the management asking them not to screen the movie.

The group members said that they were still hurt by Aamir’s comments on the whole Narmada Bachao Andolan issue and that they wouldn’t allow the movie to be screened in the state of Gujarat unless the actor apologizes.

It may be recalled that Aamir’s previous two movies Fanaa and Rang De Basanti too ran into trouble during the release for the same reason.

Hope these issues settle down and Aamir’s directorial debut makes it to theatres in Gujarat.
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Sushmita in a legal hassle over 'virginity'

Sushmita Sen finds herself in a soup as the Madurai branch of the Madras High Court issued a notice to her, earlier this week, over some comments made by her on ‘pre-marital sex’

The actress, in a T.V. interview, had commented that “No Indian has chastity or virginity anymore” which didn’t go down well with the legal authorities and the moral police, who felt that such comments could affect the moral fabric of India.

A notice has been issued to the Tamil daily as well, which published the transcripts of the television interview.

In the past, actresses like Khushboo, Reema Sen and Shilpa Shetty have also faced similar petitions in the past for their ‘controversial’ comments.

Madhur's Fashion gets some competition

UTV-Madhur Bhandarkar's big film on the beau monde Fashion has barely got going when one hears of a small-time filmmaker launching his own take on the Indian fashion world.

The film titled The World Of Fashion is to be directed by a certain Sanjay Khandelwal and jointly produced by Adarsh Kumar and Khandelwal. The makers of this cash-in-on-a-talked-about quickie hope to start and wrap up the film by March 2008, long before UTV and Bhandarkar's film is complete.

Madhur Bhandarkar seems to be unaware of this fly-by-night project. "Who's making it? Who's in the cast?" he asks curiously from the sets of his film. But the question is not who, but why is The World Of Fashion being made?

John to launch his underwear brand

John Abraham’s amazing style quotient along with the sense of dressing could be gauged by his brand of Jeans, JA, which was launched last year. And, now after coming out with the collection of vests as well, John is planning to introduce a range of innerwear called John Essentials which is likely to be launched next year.

Excited about his new venture, John explained that he and his team will be launching JA accessories, like belts, caps, shoes along with the underwear line. The designs will be approved by John himself.

Claiming to have put down almost all the offers pertaining to underwear advertisements, John added that he will certainly be the model for John Essentials, not for money but for the immense pride that he feels for his brand. He also revealed about the vast collection of women wears from jeans, pedal pushers to racer backs and halter necks are available in 17 stores all over India.

John wants JA line to be niche which stand for well-travelled, classic, retro and very James Dean in terms of look. Well, no matter how niche he wants it to be, with style icon John selling his brand of products, everyone will wish to own it.

Yash Chopra eyes the small screen

The filmmaker Plans to launch a TV channel in collaboration with a media firm.

Filmmaker Yash Chopra, who has ruled the box office for decades with his romantic movies, is now heading towards the small screen.

Chopra is believed to be in talks with leading television broadcasters to air TV content produced under his banner. And that's not all - sources inform that the movie mogul is considering launching an entertainment channel.

It is learnt that Yash Raj Films has roped in Ravina Raj Kohli (of Sony and Star fame) to set up a television division. According to an industry source, the production house has been in talks with leading Hindi general entertainment broadcasters for its debut on television.

The company has been trying to negotiate for two-hour back-to-back airtime on weekdays. “Yash Raj Films has been talking to various television broadcasters. However, blocking two hours for one production house is a risk for any channel. Consequently, the production company is reworking its strategy,” said an executive from a broadcasting company.

Chopra is contemplating launching his own TV channel wherein the filmmaker will telecast programmes - both soaps and format shows - produced by his company. Besides, he will also feature movies that Yash Raj Films churned out over the years. According to the source, Chopra is most likely to partner with a television broadcaster for his channel.

With an aim to create an integrated entertainment company, Chopra is also getting into multiplexes. This seems to be the most logical extension given that multiplex owners have in the past earned almost 60-70 per cent of their box office revenues from the movies produced by Yash Raj Films, according to industry estimates.

The production house makes four-five films annually that run for an average of three weeks. The movie exhibition business will also be through a tie-up with a company.

Entry into television and theatre chain will complete Yash Raj Films' circle in the entertainment space. Formed in 1970, the production house has come a long way from running a studio to the recent foray into animation flicks. The company is producing Roadside Romeo, an animation film, in collaboration with Walt Disney. It will hit the theatres next year.

A few years ago, the production house launched Yash Raj Music and releases the DVDs of its films under the Yash Raj Films Home Entertainment label. The company last year ventured into film distribution with Bollywood blockbuster Krrish starring Hrithik Roshan, followed by Karan Johar's Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna.

Both the television and film exhibition projects will take form by 2008-09, according to the source.

On the film production front, Yash Raj Films has six-eight movies (including co-productions) slated for release in 2008. Other releases include Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor starrer Tashan and a co-production with filmmaker Kunal Kohli. Besides this, the company will also distribute Rakesh Roshan's Krazy 4.

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