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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
Ash, Abhishek set to marry?
Rani Mukherjee might be playing Amitabh Bachchan’s daughter-in-law in Ravi Chopra’s Babul but it is her friend-turned-foe Aishwarya Rai who, if rumours are to be believed, is all set to become Big B’s bahu in real life! Yes, the strongest buzz of late has been that Abhishek and Aishwarya are madly in love and things have reached a stage where even their horoscopes have been matched by the Rais’ family astrologer. Apparently, Ms Ash was a special guest at Junior B’s 30th birthday party on February 5 and she stayed on till the wee hours of the morning. Romance between the two is said to have started in Jaipur during the shooting of Umrao Jaan soon after Ash broke up with Viveik Oberoi. Common friends, however, pooh-pooh the rumour saying that it is too early for both to even think of marriage, although a romantic relationship between them is highly possible. Meanwhile, the couple head off to Brazil to shoot for Dhoom 2. Will it be celebration time on their return? We, along with Salman and Viveik, wait with bated breath!

Incidentally, we hear that while Big B considers Rani Mukherjee too as a potential bride for his son, mom Jaya insists that the Kajrare girl is the right one for sonny boy.

Will Smith rocks Bollywood
Don’t be surprised if the next Karan Johar movie has Hollywood star Will Smith as Shah Rukh Khan’s co-star. The ‘Hitch’ star who had come a-visiting Mumbai recently, expressed his desire to share screen space with SRK in a Karan Johar movie, at a party thrown by the superstar at his palatial bungalow Mannat. In fact, Smith was the star attraction at a lot of Mumbai parties and the guy sure had a rocking time. Smith also met the other Khan, superbrat Salman at his Bandra home in the presence of all the Khan family members and friends including Katrina Kaif, Preity Zinta and Diya Mirza. Perky Preity was also present at Shah Rukh’s do.

Though Smith had a great time amongst the bevy of Bollywood beauties, it was Aishwarya Rai that he had special words of praise for. “ She’s so full of positive energy” he gushed. Apparently, he has offered her a movie also.

Madhuri raves over Vidya Balan
Vidya Balan is walking on air these days. Besides bagging awards for her smashing debut in Parineeta, the pretty and talented actress has been showered with praises by no one less than former Bollywood diva Madhuri Dixit. Mads, who has come down to aamchi Mumbai from the US, is very impressed with Vidya: “I have seen Parineeta and I think Vidya is fantastic.” No surprise then that the model-turned actress is flooded with offers. One of them is Sudhir Mishra’s upcoming project Bahut Nikle Mere Armaan based on the real life and struggle of an actress and writer from the Hindi film industry in the 1950s. “Vidya’s pristine beauty makes her the perfect choice for the role,” says Mishra. Mishra’s blue-eyed boy Shiney Ahuja plays the writer. 

Meanwhile, the buzz also is that Vidya is likely to step into Waheeda Rehman’s shoes as Rosie in Rituparno Ghosh’s remake of Vijay Anand’s classic Guide, titled Rahgir. But the big surprise is that Akshay Kumar has been approached to play Dev Anand’s memorable role. That’s some compliment to Akki!

Pakistani to direct Hindi movie
By the time this goes into print, Pakistani actor-turned director Omar Sharif would have begun shooting for a comedy Tum Mere Ho (You Are Mine) with an all-Indian star cast comprising the 1970s’ Bollywood superstar Rajesh Khanna and upcoming stars Ashmit Patel and Aarti Chhabria, in the hi-tech capital of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad. Sharif has the distinction of being the first Pakistani to debut as a director in India’s movie industry. “We are trying to build a bridge of friendship between the two countries and this is the kind of initiative we are trying to take,” said Sharif. The film to be shot in Chicago also, will ironically not be released in Pakistan because of the ban on Hindi movies being released there.

K. Asif’s magnum opus Mughal-e-Azam will soon be released across the borders in its restored coloured version. It will be the first film in the last 40 years to get the green signal from the Govt of Pakistan.

Banaras – A mystic love story which stars Urmila Matondkar, Ashmit Patel, Naseeruddin Shah, Raj Babbar and Dimple Kapdia is scheduled for an April 7 release. Another April release is Inder Kumar’s Pyaare Mohan, a comedy starring Viveik Oberoi, Fardeen Khan and Esha Deol.

Tanuja Chandra will return after a sabbatical with her latest offering Rocking which features Sushmita Sen and Shiney Ahuja. Sush plays a vibrant pop singer while Shiney plays a shy, reclusive doctor in this love story. The film also stars Moushumi Chatterjee in a double role.

It’s a lethal combination all right --- Bipasha Basu, Mallika Sherawat and Katrina Kaif come together in Abbas-Mustan’s latest untitled thriller. The male leads are being played by Saif Ali Khan, Fardeen Khan and Anil Kapoor.

Nandita Das will soon be seen in a new film based on a story by Jnanpith award-winning writer Mahasweta Devi. It's a Marathi film being directed by Chitra Palekar. The film is adapted from a story by Mahashweta Devi. Atul Kulkarni is her co-star in it. The internationally acclaimed actress is also doing an "untitled" English film with Rahul Bose which will be directed by cinematographer-turned-director Santosh Sivan.

Soha Ali Khan and Sharmila Tagore will come together for the first time in Aparna Sen’s new film Jewellery Box. The film also has Konkana Sensharma and Paresh Rawal in it. Apparently, Soha will be playing a double role in it and Sharmila will be playing a ghost. The film has Govinda in the main lead. 

Chingaari (Spark)
Starring: Sushmita Sen, Mithun Chakraborty, Anuj Sawhney
Director: Kalpana Lajmi
Music Director: Aadesh Shrivastava
Chingaari had the potential of setting the screen ablaze with its searing intensity but the movie fails to ignite even a spark in the hearts of the cine-goers. Yes, Kalpana Lajmi’s yet another feminist treatise just falls flat. The movie throws light on the inner struggles of a sex worker and it exposes how some people exploit society in the name of religion. But these poignant issues leave the viewer untouched, partly because the handling is too loud and grotesque, and partly because the city-bred multiplex audience today doesn’t really want to watch a movie with a village as its backdrop. Unless of course, it’s of the class of Lagaan or Iqbal. 

Based on a short story by Assamese singer Bhupen Hazarika, Chingaari revolves around three characters in a village called Rangpur--- a sex worker Basanti (Sushmita), a young postman Chandan Mishra (Anuj Sawhney) and the priest Bhuvan Panda (Mithun). Basanti falls in love with good guy Chandan and that is the beginning of her travails. Panda makes life hell for her but finally women’s power prevails. A ravaged Basanti rises like Durga incarnate, complete with trishul and flying tresses, to destroy evil. The end seems almost like a replay of the climax of Lajmi’s earlier Raveena-starrer Daman.

The only bright spark in Chingaari is the talented Sushmita Sen who delivers a powerful performance and portrays a gamut of emotions with effortless ease, though she is hardly suited for the role of a rustic prostitute. Anuj suits his role of a crusader but Mithun should not even have thought of a comeback. His dwindling fans must have dwindled further with this movie. 

Aadesh Shrivastava comes up with a forgettable musical score. So this Chingaari turns out to be a damp squib. Watch it only if you have a yen for melodramatic and outdated stuff. And of course, if you are a die-hard Sushmita fan.

Current Top 10 Songs
1..Jhalak Dikhlaja (Aksar) 
2. Roobaroo (Rang De Basanti)
3. Jiya Dhadak Dhadak (Kalyug)
4. Right Here Right Now (Bluffmaster)
5. Aashiq Banaya (Aashiq Banaya Aapne)
6. Ankhiyon Se (Shaadi Se Pehle)
7. Maine Suna Hai (Taxi No 9.2.11)
8. Dil Keh (Kyon Ki)
9. Teri Yaad Yaad (Vaah! Life Ho To Aisi!)
10. Main Zinda Hoon (Zinda)

Current Top 10 Movies
1. Rang De Basanti
2. Taxi No 9.2.11
3. Maalamal Weekly
4. Aksar
5. Fight Club
6. Chingaari
7. Teesri Aankh
8. Apaharan
9. Bluffmaster
10. Kalyug

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