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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 is Sir Ben’s Mumtaz Mahal

It’s history in the making all right! Sir Ben Kingsley will play Shah Jahan to Aishwarya Bachchan’s Mumtaz Mahal in a yet untitled movie on the Taj Mahal to be produced by Sir Ben’s production company. Ever since the legendary actor met Bipasha in Lisbon for the unveiling of the New Seven Wonders, there has been a buzz that Bips would bag the prestigious project, but Sir Ben, better known as Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, has stated that the Bachchan bahu is doing the movie. However, Bipasha too is a part of the project, says he. The Bong actress will play the role of Shah Jahan’s daughter Jahanara Begum. The movie will be shot in Agra and Fatehpur Sikri next year. 

Preity is in Heaven on Earth
After Aishwarya Rai, it is her buddy Preity Zinta’s turn to play the battered Punjabi housewife in a movie titled Heaven On Earth. What’s more, it’s none other than the talented filmmaker Deepa Mehta who will direct the original Ms Bubby of Bollywood. Yes, Preity is certainly going arty with a vengeance. No wonder the actress has asked Delhi-based painter and former Miss India Anjana Kuthiala whose muse till now has been Shah Rukh Khan, to portray her in a different avatar – a serious one. 

Not only that, the buzz is that Preity will essay the controversial painter Raja Ravi Varma’s muse Sugunabai, in a bio-pic tentatively titled Suryamukhi. Madhuri Dixit and later Vidya Balan were earlier offered the role but they apparently turned it down because the script demanded a ‘nude’ scene.

Salman says ‘no’ to Tussauds’ offer
Superbrat Salman Khan has done the unimaginable --- he has turned down an offer from London’s famous Madam Tussauds museum to stand tall as a wax sculpture. An official team, in fact, was on its way to take his measurements when they were informed that Salman had decided against taking up their offer. “Salman considers his fan following to be the greatest honour,” said his secretary. If the actor had agreed, then he would have been the fourth personality to figure in the Bollywood gallery of the museum. Does Salman realize that he has lost out on the opportunity to be in the august company of his former love Aishwarya Rai for eternity? Or is that the reason for his ‘no’? Only Sallu can tell.

Baby boom in Bollywood!
It’s soon going to rain babies in Bollywood! Read this…Choreographer-turned director Farah Khan is expecting not one, not two, but, hold it…three babies! Yes, proud dad-to-be Shirish Kunder has confirmed the news that his wife is due to give birth to triplets in February 2008. That’s not all. Zayed Khan and wife Malaika are also excited about becoming parents early next year. So are Fardeen and wife Natasha. 

Incidentally, it seems that Ash’s pregnancy rumour was just that --- a rumour. According to hubby Abhishek, his wife is not expecting. 

Laaga Chunari Mein Daag
Starring: Rani Mukherjee, Jaya Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Konkona Sen 
Director: Pradeep Sarkar
Music Director: Shantanu Moitra

Don’t get taken in by the warm and merry opening song Hum To Aise Hain Bhaiyya shot on the sylvan ghats of Benaras. The rest of the movie is a clichéd tear-jerker, good in bits but on the whole disappointing. We expected better from Pradeep Sarkar. Laaga is not a patch on Parineeta despite its tremendous potential.

Laaga Chunari is the story of a small town girl Badki (Rani) who morphs into a high class call-girl in Mumbai, Natasha to support her impoverished family. That in a nutshell is what the film is about, a ‘done to death’ theme in Bollywood which takes us many years back to the Mumtaz-starrer Aaina. Predictability is what bogs the movie down. Nothing new is offered, in fact the regressive tone of the narrative would irk many in the audience. Also, there are many loopholes in the ineptly written script.

As far as performances go, Rani is good as always but it is Konkona Sen as her sister Chutki who is the real scene stealer. The girl is a natural. She is especially good in the confrontation scene.You only wish she hadn’t been given so many dialogues to mouth. Sometimes silence speaks louder than words. But hey, what are the guys doing here? Kunal Kapoor as Chutki’s boyfriend is likeable enough but that’s about it. Abhishek is a waste in his extended guest appearance. Come to think of it, you don’t really mind because the film is truly a sibling show.

Also, the movie has been beautifully shot and is visually very rich. Each song, though not great, is in complete sync with the mood of the moment. 

Watch Laaga Chunari but don’t go with great expectations. 

It will be a double dhamaka this Diwali. Two much awaited and hyped movies are slated to release on November 9 --- Farah Khan’s reincarnation drama Om Shanti Om and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s love story Saawariya. Also, Madhuri Dixit’s comeback film Aaja Nachle is slated to release on November 30.

Farhan Akhtar has agreed to play the lead in his sister Zoya Akhtar's directorial debut Luck By Chance. "Yes, I'm Zoya's leading man. I don't know how it happened. But it has happened.” In fact, Farhan is putting on hold his next directorial venture Voice From The Sky to star in Zoya's film. The movie will be a contemporary take on Bollywood.

Juhi Chawla has been cast as psychiatrist in Roshan's comedy Krazy 4 to be directed by Raja Sen. This is Juhi's second role as a shrink in a comedy. The first time she enacted such a role was in David Dhawan's Deewana Mastana.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Eklavya – The Royal Guard has been selected as the official Indian entry to the Oscars this year. Meanwhile, Gandhi My Father, produced by Anil Kapoor, is making waves at the Incredible India Festival in New York.

Director Anubhav Sinha has signed Bond actress Caterina Murino for the lead in his next film Chase. The slick action flick will be shot entirely in Italy.

Current Top 10 Songs
1. Main Agar Kahoon (Om Shanti Om)
2. Saawariya (Saawariya)
3. Chak De (Chak De! India)
4. Hum To Aise (Laaga Chunari Mein Daag)
5. Bhool Bhulaiyya (Bhool Bhulaiyya)
6. Let’s Do The Dhamaal (Dhamaal) 
7. Woh Bheege Pal (Manorama Six Feet Under)
8. O Yaara Dhol Bajake (Dhol)
9. Aao Milo Chalo (Jab We Met)
10. Mahiya (Awarapan)

Current Top 10 Movies
1. Dhamaal
2. Dhol
3. Chak De! India
4. Heyy Babyy
5. Partner
6. Manorama Six Feet Under
7. Johnny Gaddaar
8. Apne
9. It’s Breaking News
10. Go

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