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NO more Rojas and Bombays. Mani Ratnam is looking at the Big Picture. His next venture, to be shot by Santosh Sivan (he's all over the place these days), starring Aishwarya Rai, Mohanlal, Nana Patekar and possibly Tabu, is a period film with a sweeping canvas. One that examines, through the lives of its characters, the tumultuous India of the 1920s right up to the present days. Mani groupies say the film, which will take a hard look at Indian society, will have the production values and slickness of a Hollywood blockbuster. Ratnam is determined that the staggering scale be that of the film alone. Not the actors. Accordingly, thespian Mohanlal and the strapping Tabu have been asked to trim their lard.
THIS Salman R. of Sex doesn't sigh. He singes. Shantanu Nagpal's debut play, Oh Come Bulky Stomach, denounced sexual hypocrisy. His second play, just completed, and to be directed by Barry John is being scheduled to open in Delhi in February next year. Nagpal sticks to his theme and once again advocates sexual militancy. "The route to sexual salvation lies in activism, not pacifism," quoth Nagpal, who claims he was inspired by Rushdie's Inside the Whale. "Writers who repudiate a participatory role in society may as well stay inside the whale and keep jerking off," says Nagpal. The protagonist lives with his sister inside a whale, ventures into the outside world, turns successful stockbroker, is propositioned by a man and a woman, goes to bed with both, and is pilloried for it. "He goes by instinct; his castigators go by the norm," explains Nagpal. The message lies in the denouement: the man rejects his sister's entreaty to return to the safe haven, the whale, choosing to "look at the world from a place where he can change it rather than from a place from where he cannot". It's a play that ends with a message of hope. Surprising, as Nagpal, 27, styles himself "a cynical 90-year-old fart".
SHARON Prabhakar's Roshni, in the eponymous musical directed by husband Alyque Padamsee, dazzled nobody. Critics and audiences alike opined it was "lights out" time for Sharon right after the opening in Bombay. Well, Ros -hni bombed but never-say-die Sharon shines on. This time on the small screen playing Roshni, Benjamin Gilani's love interest in the popular soap, Tara. Never mind the acting, she looks good. Detractors insist it has all to do with roshni. Some discreet soft focus lighting is responsible for our seeing her in a different light. Meanwhile, here's throwing some light on future plans. She's coming up with a pop album next month. Title: Burning. All lit up, what? Finally, for the nine of the 950-million out there still interested: romance flourishes yet in Jurrasic Park. Contrary to rumours the ageing Eve and her aged Adam are still very much together.
THE Ali to beat all Alis (Ghulam Ali, please note) is all set to take the country by storm. Courtesy director Rahul Rawail. He's got Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to score the music for his forthcoming venture starring Bobby Deol and Twinkle Kapadia. Javed Akhtar will pen the lyrics for the movie to be shot by ace cinematographer Santosh Sivan. Whose idea was it anyway? "My producer, Sohail Mecklai's. He said, why sign up plagiarists if we can have the original?" disclosed Rawail. The subject of the movie: "A romance shot through the four seasons." It will, says Rawail, "allow free play for the musical genius of Nusrat Fateh Ali". But one person who's definitely not singing mera piya ghar aaya is Anu Malik "Ali".
SO what will Saeed Jaffrey wear to his OBE investiture on November 9? "A morning suit," says he. "I would wear a sherwani, but I don't have one here." What he does have is a closet full of angrez honours this year: the OBE, a retrospective at the Birmingham International Theatre and Film Festival as also the Norman Beaton Award for creative contribution to multicultural theatre and film in Britain. No wonder he snubs Victor Banerjee for carping about Indian actors being reduced to Peter Selleresque caricatures for western filmmakers. "With two films to his credit, he shouldn't talk. Why whine? Why not take the smallest part, turn it around, make it shine? That's what good actors do."