A cutesy sailor’s cap mounted by badges and brooches; a pristine cashmere set off by the pale denim of her hot pants; a classic photographer’s pose held in frame by the intense longing in her eyes…lovers of others, you wouldn’t be blamed if you fell for the fey charm of Alia Bhat. But succumb to it at your own peril, for she’s gonna leave this garb and slip into the troubled character of Gangubai Kathiawadi—the infamous ‘madam’ of Kamathipura who once had gangsters at her beck and call. During the shooting of Gangubai, an overworked and exhausted Alia had to be hospitalised, but returned gamely to the sets the next day. It has all the makings of a gritty drama but, in the hands of the redoubtable Sanjay Leela Bhansali, one wonders what unholy, costumed excess it would turn out to be.
The casting director of Satya Sai Baba deserves a medal, we think, for seeing a haunting shadow of the late godman in India’s foremost singer of popular bhajans, Anup Jalota. Yet, seeing that Jalota is a devotee, it might have been a low-hanging orange. Impersonating the baba won’t be a tough challenge, except for his lifelong excellence, according to some, as India’s foremost magician—vibhuti, rings, necklaces…he could conjure anything out of thin air. Add to that the widely believed powers of miracles, clairvoyance and, most frightening of all, bilocation. Yet, the charismatic, inspirational Sai Baba was guru and comforter to India’s most inspiring—A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Tendulkar, Gavaskar, Rajinikanth and many more. A masterful make-believer or one of India’s great mystics? The verdict, for us, hangs on Jalota’s acting ability.
She’s not wearing a classical bodice, nor does she have a starched, frilly tutu around her, but those pointe shoes doth confuse the mind: does the leotard-fitted Jacqueline Fernandez—all toned muscle and flexibility—want us to think ballet, or its garbled encounter with modern dance? Keeping up a sphinx-like mystique, she wouldn’t tell, but only drop the name of her next film, She Rox Life. Possibly, feel those who worry about such matters, it has to do with dance or fitness. Others, who don’t care that much, covered the Instagram photos in fulsome praise. Among them, the generous Shilpa Shetty and Yami Gautam.
Is this a case of biting the hand that feeds it, or that of a remarkably principled stand against one of the world’s scourges? YouTube and Facebook (and other closely allied platforms) have played a hand in making popstars out of talents like Selena Gomez—often through images like this, that pleasurably strains the visual sense, or music videos that tug constantly at teenagers’ eyes, ears and time. But hours after an angry mob of Trump supporters took control of the US Capitol, Selena laid much of the blame at the feet of Big Tech—“Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google, Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Jack Dorsey, Sundar Pichai, Susan Wojcicki” et al. She has been calling out Silicon Valley’s big hitters for profiting from misinformation and hate on their platforms. The tipping point? In 2017, when a 12-year-old commented on one of her Instagram posts: “Go kill yourself.”