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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 'provoked' to write own story
Aishwarya Rai's portrayal of a battered Sikh woman in Jagmohan Mundhra's Provoked sure won her accolades at Cannes, but it was something else that caused a stir: The lady's confession that she had suffered domestic violence in real life. What's more, Ash added that she might just write about it one day. Well well, do we see Salman Khan scurrying for cover? Incidentally, a foreign mediaperson didn't know what hit him when Ash shot back at him when he criticised her costumes in the much acclaimed film. We can't really blame the actress --- she has been hounded by media reports of her 'atrocious' dress sense since her first appearance at Cannes.

Meanwhile, Ash's former beau Viviek Oberoi too was seen roaming around the streets of Cannes while his erstwhile lady-love was hogging the limelight there. The actor was in the scenic city to promote his new film, Vishal Bharadwaj's Omkara.

Big B wanted for Shoot-at-Sight!
Amitabh Bachchan has donned the khaki in many films but this one promises to be different. The buzz is that Jagmohan Mundhra of Provoked fame wants Big B to play a Scotland Yard officer of Pakistani origin whose life changes after the July 7 London blasts, for his next film Shoot At Sight. The film is said to be influenced by real life characters. If Bachchan does sign on the dotted line, it will mark his international debut, and he will have veterans Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri for company. These two are already part of the cast.

Meanwhile, Amitabh has done a Rani Mukherjee in the much delayed Zamaanat which is finally ready for release. The actor plays a blind lawyer in the film which also stars Karisma Kapoor, Big B's once bahu-to-be!

Ajay, Salman set to rock
They make strange bedfellows all right but they could turn out to be a rocking combination. We're talking about the flamboyant Salman Khan and the staid Ajay Devgan. The two are slated to play the lead roles in a Bollywood movie about an Asian rock band. Shooting is due to begin in London in July. According to scriptwriter Sridhar Raghavan, the film centres around the rock band "and the perils of success." The rest of the cast is largely made up of British Asians. Titled London Dreams, the movie will be directed by Raj Kumar Santoshi. 

Incidentally, grapevine has it that Sarla Sarogi, wife of Ashok Sarogi, lawyer of extradited gangster Abu Salem, wants Salman to play Salem in a movie that she is making on Salem's life. We'll have to wait and see if Sallu bhai obliges!

B'wood beckonsPenelope Cruz
Fans of Penelope Cruz in India have reason to rejoice. Bollywood has caught the fancy of the gorgeous Hollywood actress and she is all set to produce an India-centric film. Penelope has confirmed that her pet project will take off soon. However, the search for a director is still on for the English-language film that is backed by Cruz's newly launched company, 88 Producciones. What's more, it's comely Cruz herself who is slated to play the leading role, that of a real life flamenco dancer who falls in love with and marries an Indian maharaja. Shooting will take place in France, Spain and India later this year for the movie which is based on Javier Moro's novel Indian Passion. 

Five Pakistani films were released in India in June marking the latest breach in a four-decade ban between the two nations. The films chosen for screening are Syed Noor's Daku Rani and 'Majajan', Javed Sheikh's Yeh Dil Aapka Hua, Sajjad Rashid's Salaakhein and Reema Khan's Koi Tujhsa Kahan. The films were launched simultaneously in New Delhi and Mumbai on June 25 during a 10-day film festival.

Satish Kaushik has been chosen to play the male lead in the screen adaptation of the highly acclaimed and best selling novel Brick Lane written by Monica Ali. The film is being produced by Oscar and Golden Globe nominee Alison Owen who has in the past produced films such as Moonlight and Valentino, Elizabeth, Sylvia and Proof, among others. It will be directed by Sarah Gavron. A delighted Kaushik is leaving for London in a few days to shoot for the film. 

Ahmed Khan has a football flick coming up. Tentatively titled Yahan Ke Hum Sikander, it will feature Nana Patekar playing coach of a team comprising Sohail Khan, Viveik Oberoi, Suniel Shetty, Arjun Rampal, Aftab Shivdasani and Bobby Deol.

Chandraprakash Dwivedi has claimed that his Ashok will have a budget "double that of the biggest Bollywood masala" and will involve some of the top names of the industry. But he is not willing to reveal more at this stage. The film, unlike Santosh Sivan's Asoka, focuses on the emperor in the post-Kalinga phase. He is in his early 60s and the story is taken from the ancient Buddhist text, Divyavadan. Kunal, the son of Ashok, and his wife Tishyarakshita are the other main characters in Dwivedi's film.

Chris Tucker of Rush Hour series will be playing the main lead in Gangster MD, the Hollywood remake of Munnabhai MBBS. Gangster MD is being directed by Mira Nair.

Starring: Aamir Khan, Kajol, Rishi Kapoor, Tabu
Director: Kunal Kohli
Music Directors: Jatin-Lalit

So the much awaited film with its awesome casting is finally here. Kajol and Aamir Khan opposite each other for the first time! But alas, while they're both good individually, together they do not spell magic. Having said that, it is equally true that Fanaa is watchable only because of its talented lead pair, especially Kajol. The actress looks just as lovely as she looked five years back and emotes with the same ease and intensity.

Zooni (Kajol) is a blind Kashmiri girl who experiences emotional and sexual awakening when she meets Rehan Qadri (Aamir), the flirtatious charmer masquerading as your friendly neighbourhood guide in Delhi. Rehan bowls the girl over with his romantic shayari. They decide to marry but before they can do that, Rehan mysteriously disappears. You see, the guy is actually a tech-savvy terrorist. What happens later we will not reveal but suffice it to say that the second half is full of twists and turns which would have kept you more engaged had the movie not drawn on endlessly. 

One glaring flaw in Fanaa is that while its story is good, there are many loopholes in the script. For example, it is never really explained why Rehan becomes a terrorist. And the conflict that tears him between his love for his family and his commitment to the cause of Kashmiriyat is never really elucidated. So the only way to enjoy the movie is by doing away with your thinking cap.

Kohli's old favourites Rishi Kapoor and Kirron Kher (as Kajol's parents) are here too, and delightful as always. Aamir's complex role requires him to slip into many avatars and he does it with his trademark sincerity. But it is quite apparent that the actor is more at home playing the loverboy than the hardened terrorist. And what pray is Tabu doing in the movie. As an intelligence officer of sorts tracking down a Kashmiri militant, she is a total waste. So are Shiney Ahuja and Lara Dutta in their bit roles. 

Cinematographer Ravi Chandran gives Delhi and Poland (which passes off as Kashmir) a magnificent aura. Jatin-Lalit's music is disappointing except for the very original Chand Sifarish number sung to near perfection by Shaan.

Current Top 10 Songs
1. Chand Sifarish (Fanaa)
2. Tu Hi Meri (Gangster)
3. Dil Na Diya (Krrish)
4. Aashiqui Mein Teri (36 China Town)
5. Dil Vich (Chupchup Ke)
6. Yaad Sataye Teri (Phir Hera Pheri)
7. Jhalak Dikhlaja (Aksar)
8. Roobaroo (Rang De Basanti) 
9. Humko Deewana (Humko Deewana Kar Gaye)
10. Meter Down (Taxi No 9.2.11)

Current Top 10 Movies
1. Fanaa
2. Phir Hera Pheri
3. Chupchup Ke
4. Gangster
5. Rang De Basanti
6. Humko Deewana Kar Gaye
7. Being Cyrus
8. 36 China Town
9. Taxi No. 9.2.11
10. Malamaal Weekly

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