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Going regional with characters and milieu is becoming a saleable fad in Bollywood

ABOUT a decade ago when Ajay Devgn and Saif Ali Khan got into the skin of their avatars as Hindi heartland goons in Vishal Bhardwaj's Omkara , their acts were universally lauded. There was a glitch, though. Many among the urban audience found their unusual heartland dialect hard to follow. Since the film was primarily catering to city multiplexes, the aspect became a deterrent.

The trend of creating characters that are specific to a region however stayed on. Over the years, vernacular milieus have ranged from the brilliant ( Peepli Live ) to the indifferent ( Zilla Ghaziabad ). With time, directors have realised the audience is increasingly becoming disinterested in films that are set in vague locales and narrate stories of unreal characters.

The trend has to do with mainstream Bollywood's growing fetish for authenticity. While crossover cinema took to the idea easily, bigbudget films are slowly learning to move away from generic names such as Mr Vijay for the hero and locations ambiguously called Bharat Nagar or Shanti Nagar.

Bollywood is giving its protagonist a specific face and address.

Tanu Weds Manu Returns is a contemporary example. The sequel of 2011' s Tanu Weds Manu brings back Kangana Ranaut in a delightfully comic situation with relevant social subtext. This time, Kangana plays a double role as Tanu's tomboyish lookalike Pratibha, a girl from the Haryana heartland who dreams of being an athlete but faces family objections.


THAT twist in the script of Tanu Weds Manu Returns necessitated research on the Haryanvi milieu.

Cosmetic makeover to set the two characters includes a cropped hairdo for Pratibha, besides tomboyish body language. Importantly, Kangana imbibed a Haryanvi accent with the help of an accent coach for her second role.

The big showcase of regional hues will only happen in 2016.

Aamir Khan plays Haryanvi wrestler Mahavir Phogat in Dangal . When perfectionist Aamir plays a Haryanvi wrestler, he is even willing to court health risk.

Health experts have claimed his sudden adding of weight is hazardous.

Aamir essays Mahavir Phogat's life as a young man, a middle- aged man and an old father of two girls. His diet chart lets Aamir gorge since he has to maintain his 90 kilos. Training in wrestling and Haryanvi language is also an essential part of the makeover.

EASTWARD HO! SHOOJIT Sircar's recent crossover hit Piku perhaps captures the essence of a Bengali family Delhi's Chittaranjan Park as few films do. Amitabh Bachchan and Deepika Padukone's essaying of a Bengali fatherdaughter pair clicked owing to the right chemistry, especially considering neither actor is a Bengali.

The feel- good comedy has a wacky metaphysical subtext equating life's woes to constipation.

In itself, many Bengalis are known to be chronic sufferers of digestive ailments. The CR Park milieu, along with the quaint setting of Kolkata where the second half unfolds, further lent authenticity to the cultural context.

Bengal, in fact, has gradually become a popular haunt for Bollywood, especially its Bengali filmmakers.

Since the time Mani Ratnam made Kolkata look simplistically gorgeous in Yuva almost a decade ago, Sujoy Ghosh has explored the city succinctly in Kahaani and Anurag Basu gave the hills of the state a romanticised touch in Barfi! . No one, however, thought of giving Kolkata a pulsating retro edge as Dibakar Banerjee did with Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! . To get into the skin of his character of a pre- Independence Bengali sleuth, Sushant Singh Rajput took a break of three months. The actor has said he needed that much time "to get the 1940s body language, hairdo and accent right for his role of a dhoti- clad youngster in the World War II era". Director Banerjee said he consciously "avoided giving Sushant's Byomkesh any Bengali- accented Hindi dialogues" because he "wanted to avoid creating a caricature". The focus was on getting the larger Bengali milieu right.

STARRY TOUCH IF Amitabh Bachchan and Dee- pika Padukone turned Bengali for Piku , several other superstars such as Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif will don various regional garbs in upcoming films.

When SRK dons a Gujarati avatar in Rahul Dholakia's Raees , he will have much at stake, considering he has whetted appetite of fans by claiming no other actor could essay the role. Dholakia's upcoming film will see the actor playing a Gujarati bootlegger and don, a character SRK once described as "an earthy role". The film, said to be based on a true account, is set in the eighties and will see the actor play a man who rises from the ghettos to rule the underworld.

For Akshay Kumar, the scene should be gloriously absurd in Singh Is Bling as it was in Singh Is Kinng , when he sets out playing a mercurial Punjabi the second time.

Contrary to popular notion, Singh Is Bling is not a sequel to Akshay's 2007 blockbuster Singh Is Kinng . The film only brings back Akshay as alpha Punjabi male with a fetish for bling. Since the film is directed by Prabhu Dheva and appears to be the essential Akshay Kumar entertainer, not much can probably be expected in terms of details. The focus will be on serving unadulterated masala where the hero is incidentally Sikh.

In contrast, Abhishek Kapoor's Fitoor takes Rekha, Katrina Kaif and Aditya Roy Kapoor to Kashmiri realism. With the state once again opening up to Bollywood shoots, filmmakers are returning to the Valley.

Fitoor is Abhishek Kapoor's reinterpretation of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations and presents a love story against the volatile Kashmir backdrop.

The film is extensively shot in the Valley. Leaked snapshots from the location revealed Katrina and Aditya clad in local attire while filming important romantic scenes. The film's team of writers did extensive research to incorporate nuances while setting up the Valley milieu.


SHEER grandeur while setting up a regional milieu will perhaps be unmatched in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Bajirao Mastani . The historical, said to be Bollywood's most expensive film ever, will see Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Priyanka Chopra reprise the epic romance of Maratha peshwa Bajirao and his wives, Mastani and Kashibai. For the 1700s Maratha backdrop tale, Bhansali set up workshops to get his actors into the skin of their characters.

Mainstream Bollywood is slowly learning to give its protagonist a specific name and address.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:May 16, 2015
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