It has been acknowledged by all, often as a reaction to sensuous imagery like this, that Neha Sharma is one of the sharpest cards, looks-wise, in the acting fraternity. But why the depth in those eyes, the symmetry of those limbs and the soft seduction of her aspect could not be parlayed into a breakthrough performance is unknown. Remedial action might be upon us through the short film Vikalp, which treads the much-trod-upon ground of women’s empowerment. Neha, who plays Shivani, has suffered for the role, and will be subjected to misogyny, sexual harassment and revenge porn, before she puts up a spirited fight to overcome these scourges bedeviling the lives of so many women. Patriarchy is a cunning institution known to rear about, fairly untouched, even after a severe battering. Neha will be a star if the trauma she felt on the sets translates into verisimilitude.
‘Oomph’ and ‘pizzaz’ are but words to jazz up a hack’s copy, unless it’s embodied, and accompanied, by someone like Raveena Tandon—much mature, but still kindling the fires she lit in our hearts two decades and more back. The one man who’s currently doling out remarkably fulsome compliments to her is film-maker Manish Gupta (Stoneman Murders, Rahasya), who directs her in a thriller. The role, insists Gupta, is “electric”, “intense”, and sure to give audiences “goosebumps”. The character itself is under wraps, but Gupta spins an agonizing riddle: it’s something unprecedented for Raveena, while telling us ignoramuses that she’s “sensitive and caring”, a “philanthropist” and terribly punctual. For us, Raveena represents the last burst of tackily enjoyable Bollywood masala before it smartened up, and we show her in a similar garb—swathed in shocking pink, ornaments subdued and dazzling, and flashing her practised come-hitherness. Only the pouring rain is missing.
Gravity, risk, life-threatening routines were just background noises swatted aside nonchalantly by Simone Biles when she took gymnastics to unforeseen levels. The GOAT (think Bradman, not Nadia Comaneci) mantle was also lightly worn, before it weighed a tonne in Tokyo. But Simone is determined to have fun, and this one-year anniversary photo with her boyfriend, NFL player Jonathan Owens, shows her at her happiest. Orange T-shirts, ripped jeans, white sneakers…the couple has planned this well. “So happy past 1 year to the best thing that’s ever happened to you: ME,” she writes in a delightfully possessive Instagram post. Amazingly, Owens was totally oblivious to the difference in their stature. “I didn’t know who she was…and when I told her, that’s one of the things she liked,” he has said. Either Owens is short-sighted, or has set his sights only on an oblong ‘ball’. But for all Simone went through, someone who cares nowt for the balance beam must have been a gift crafted in heaven especially for her.
The man is new, and so are the leather jacket and jeans. Is the tattered T-shirt peeking underneath, so eye-catching in its tears and gashes, a designer counterpoint? The boy is Ahan Shetty, who’s about to enter the hurly burly in the film Tadap: An Incredible Love Story. An inter-generational symmetry is achieved by Sajid Nadiadwala, the producer, who also launched Ahan’s father, Suniel Shetty, in Waqt Hamara Hai. The film is being touted, heart-flutteringly, as “intensely romantic”. Ahan looks intense enough to take on any romantic tangles he might encounter, but would do well to avoid the stony-faced school of acting so beloved of his father. Times have changed since the ’90s, and a stoical approach to the pitfalls of love might just be misunderstood by today’s movie-going generation as being cruelly unfeeling.