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Rajnish Sharma is an India-based journalist who has worked for leading Indian dailies like The Times of India and Hindustan Times. A familiar name with the overseas NRI and PIO readers, he has been writing columns and articles for a host of magazines and portals in the US, Hong Kong, Mauritius and Australia. Over the years, he has covered virtually every aspect of journalism with his wide ranging interests ranging from culture & cuisine to finance & technology and from politics & Indian diaspora to environment & Bollywood. He can be contacted at  click here

Meera ready to take on Ash
Her debut film Nazar may have been a miserable flop but that hasn’t stopped Meera from eyeing the numero uno position in Bollywood. In fact, this Pakistani beauty is determined to take on none other than the globally acknowledged beauty Aishwarya Rai head-on. The situation is certainly volatile with both the ladies set to play Umrao Jaan in two different projects. And Meera has already sounded the clarion call: I want to show the world that I am prettier, sexier and more glamorous than Aishwarya. I am sure I will make a better Umrao Jaan. What’s more, I wish some filmmaker casts both of us together in a film. I’d love to shatter the myth that Aishwarya is the queen of Bollywood.”

Incidentally, Meera has gone on record as having said that she is in love with the baadshah of Bollywood Shah Rukh Khan and would have loved to marry him if he were single. “But whoever I eventually marry, one thing is certain: it will be an Indian!” Do we see Pak hardliners up in arms again?

Welcome to the ladies’ club
Scriptwriter-turned director Honey Irani has pulled off a casting coup of sorts. The spunky lady has managed to get four seasoned actresses and a sizzler together for her new as yet untitled film. Giving Shabana Azmi and Jaya Bachchan company, will be close real life friends Dimple Kapadia and Amrita Singh. And no prizes for guessing who the fifth member of this ladies’ club is — yes, it’s the bombshell Mallika Sherawat! You could call her the odd woman out but she certainly is someone who has managed to get Saif’s ex-wife excited. “ She’s the country’s hottest babe, isn’t she? It would be great fun working with her,” gushes Amrita. Honey refuses to reveal more about the project at this stage but then do we really need to know more?

Talking of Shabana, her masterpiece Arth is to be remade by Pooja Bhatt. Titled Thank You, the film will be a modern version of Arth — a cult movie made by her father Mahesh Bhatt. And no, Pooja hasn’t found her leading lady yet: “It’s difficult to get someone who can outperform Shabana in Arth.”

The return of Zeenie baby
There’s reason to rejoice for fans of Zeenat Aman. The original oomph girl is making a comeback to the silver screen in painter-sculptor Jehangir Jaani’s experimental film. Titled Nakalistan, the movie has Zeenie baby in the role of a fading actress. Every 40-plus actress wishes to do a Sunset Boulevard and this is Zeenat’s chance. That’s not all. The Dum Maro Dum girl is also teaming up with the superstar of yesteryears Rajesh Khanna for Shahrukh Mirza’s romantic film Jaana. The two set the screen afire in films in the 70s in films like Ajnabi and Chaila Babu and according to Mirza, even after all these years both Rajesh and Zeenat have lost none of their charisma and charm. So after Amitabh Bachchan-Hema Malini and Rishi Kapoor-Dimple Kapadia, we wait to see Kakaji and Zeenie baby play autumnal lovers.

To Sir, with love
No, Kaushik Ganguly's next film titled Sir doesn’t feature the legendary Sidney Poiteur, but Bengali superstar Prosenjit Chatterjee who plays a blind teacher. And his student? None other than Mahima Chowdhury for whom the movie is a homecoming of sorts. You see, the actress did her schooling in the Kalimpong hills of Darjeeling, where the movie will be shot. And ironically, Mahima, who speaks fluent Bengali, is working hard at speaking broken Bengali — she plays a woman who comes from outside Bengal. The film also dwells on environmental degradation and has a "save green" message. 

Incidentally, of late Bengal is beckoning several Bollywood stars. Rekha (who was mesmeric in her Moulin Rouge number in Parineeta) will be seen in a significant role in Gautam Ghose’s next Bengali film Yatra which also stars Nana Patekar. Abhishek has acted in Rituparno Ghosh’s Antarmahal while Bipasha Basu has agreed to do Ghosh’s next film. Sameera Reddy and Rahul Bose also play lead roles in Buddhadeb Dasgupta's latest film Kalpurush-Memories in the Mist.

Nagesh Kukunoor's new film Iqbal tells the story of a deaf-mute village boy chasing his dreams of making it into the Indian cricket team. Celebrated artist MF Husain was so impressed by the film (after a private screening) that he declared his intention to capture his feelings about Iqbal on canvas. Says Husain: "The film was very convincing and real. I was inspired by the visuals and the emotions, and my paintings will convey the spirit of the film. I love cricket but Iqbal made a greater impact on me than Lagaan." 

Harinder Singh Kohli better known as Lucky Singh, a London-based film producer with several animation films to his credit, is making Harry Puttar, which is not really a takeoff on Harry Potter but his version of Home Alone. "I grew up watching Hindi films. And I often wondered why there was so little for kids. Harry Puttar is a homage to my childhood," he says.

After the success of Kya Kool Hai Hum, Tusshar Kapoor and Riteish Deshmukh have become the most sought after pair. Indra Kumar has decided to cast the two in his new venture Dhamaal because of their fantastic comic timing.

Chunkey Pandey is excited about his impending Hollywood debut in Shantaram based on the eponymous book. The film happened to him quite unexpectedly when he recently bumped into the author of the book, who was once a junior artist on his sets. It later came to light that almost four pages of the book had been dedicated to the author's experiences with Chunkey. Shooting will begin in February next year and the film will be shot in Mumbai, Afghanistan and Australia. 

Bhagyashree of Maine Pyar Kiya fame is set to make a comeback to films after all these years. The petite actress will play the role of Akshay Kumar’s sister in a yet untitled movie which also stars her first hero Salman Khan’s girlfriend, Katrina Kaif.
According to reports, the library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has decided to include the script of Vidhu Vinod Chopra-produced Parineeta as part of its collection, another feather in the film’s cap.

The Indian box-office has got its first full-length animation feature film with the release of Bhaggmati - the Queen of Fortunes. And India's first fully animated 2D feature film Hanuman is all set to storm Indian cine screens within two months of the release of Bhaggmati

Salaam Namaste
Starring: Saif Ali Khan, Preity Zinta, Arshad Warsi
Producer: Aditya Chopra
Director: Siddharth Raj Anand
Music Directors: Vishal-Shekhar

Here comes a movie that’s sure to gel with the youth of today — it delves into the subject of live-in relationships and unwed motherhood without being the least apologetic about it. What’s more, the treatment is such that even the most orthodox amongst the audience will not raise an eyebrow, rather they will feast their eyes on the blue sapphire waters of Australia and the fabulous performances by Saif Ali Khan, Preity Zinta and Arshad Warsi, not to forget Javed Jaffrey and Jugal Hansraj.

An initial hostile meeting between a qualified architect-turned-chef Nick (Saif) and a medico-cum-radio jockey Amber (Preity) in Melbourne leads to an attraction which blossoms into love. They move in together and everything is hunky dory till Amber discovers she is pregnant. All hell breaks loose as Nick wants her to go in for an abortion while she is hellbent on having his baby. This creates a rift between the two but even then, the film never loses its spirited ebullience. The commitment-phobic Nick eventually has a change of heart and sure enough, the movie ends on a happy note but not before a surprise appearance by Abhishek Bachchan playing a forgetful, bumbling doctor. 

Beneath that light and frothy veneer, Salaam Namaste actually makes a telling comment on the yuppie urban male of today who shies away from commitment, enjoying all the pleasures of life without taking on any responsibility. Dialogues by Abbas Tyrewallah are totally in sync with modern urban sensibility and spoken by the actors wonderfully too, especially Saif who has mastered the art of delivering his lines in his signature wacky style. And yes, this is Preity’s most passionate film till date — she puts Mallika Sherawat miles behind with her steamy lip-locks. The onscreen chemistry between Saif and Preity has to be seen to be believed.

The icing on the cake, without a doubt, is Vishal-Shekhar’s easy-on-the-ears music, especially the title track and the delightful My dil goes Mmmm! The picturisation of the songs only enhances the effect.

Current Top 10 Songs
1. My Dil Goes (Salaam Namaste)
2. Kajrare Naina (Bunty aur Babli)
3. Halka Halka Sa (Chocolate)
4. Just Chill (Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya)
5. Dus Bahane (Dus)
6. Aashiq Banaya Aapne (Aashiq Banaya Aapne)
7. Kaisi Paheli (Parineeta)
8. Kaal Kaal Mein (Kaal)
9. Just Love Me (No Entry)
10. Main Vari Vari (Mangal Pandey)

Current Top 10 Movies
1. Salaam Namaste
2. No Entry
3. Barsaat
4. Iqbal
5. Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya
6. Mangal Pandey
7. Dus
8. Bunty aur Babli 
9. Aashiq Banaya Aapne
10. Pyaar Mein Twist


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