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Mark your calendars! 'The Boys' season 4 premiere date announced

Today, Prime Video announced that the Emmy-winning global hit drama series 'The Boys,' will premiere its fourth season on June 13, 2024. The diabolical drama will return with three mind-blowing episodes on June 13, followed by a new episode each week, ending with the epic season finale on Thursday, July 18. The eight-episode season will stream exclusively on Prime Video in more than 240 countries and territories worldwide.  In celebration of Homelander’s birthday, Prime Video also revealed new artwork from the highly anticipated fourth season.  In Season Four, the world is on the brink. Victoria Neuman is closer than ever to the Oval Office and under the muscly thumb of Homelander, who is consolidating his power. Butcher, with only months to live, has lost Becca’s son and his job as The Boys’ leader. The rest of the team are fed up with his lies. With the stakes higher than ever, they have to find a way to work together and save the world before it’s too late. The Boys stars Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Antony Starr, Erin Moriarty, Jessie T. Usher, Laz Alonso, Chace Crawford, Tomer Capone, Karen Fukuhara, Colby Minifie, Claudia Doumit, and Cameron Crovetti. Season Four will welcome Susan Heyward, Valorie Curry, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. The Boys is based on The New York Times best-selling comic by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, who also serve as executive producers, and developed by executive producer and showrunner Eric Kripke. Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, James Weaver, Neal H. Moritz, Pavun Shetty, Phil Sgriccia, Michaela Starr, Paul Grellong, David Reed, Meredith Glynn, Judalina Neira, Ken F. Levin, and Jason Netter also serve as executive producers. The Boys' is a fun and irreverent take on what happens when superheroes, who are as popular as celebrities, as influential as politicians, and as revered as gods, abuse their superpowers rather than use them for good. Intent on stopping the corrupt superheroes, The Boys, a group of vigilantes, continue their heroic quest to expose the truth about The Seven and Vought, the multibillion-dollar conglomerate that manages the superheroes and covers up their dirty secrets. It's the seemingly powerless against the super powerful. The Boys is produced by Sony Pictures Television, Amazon MGM Studios with Kripke Enterprises, Original Film, and Point Grey Pictures.

23 February,2024 06:39 PM IST | Mumbai | mid-day online correspondent
Sonakshi Sinha

Sonakshi Sinha: With Bhansali, it’s like watching a magic show unfold

Leaving behind the dark setting of Dahaad, Sonakshi Sinha has moved to the vibrant and extravagant world of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Heeramandi, which tells the story of courtesans of pre-independence India. “That’s the beauty of being an actor. You can be a new person every day,” smiles the actor, as she accommodates an interaction while shooting for her second web series. The women-led period drama marks Bhansali’s OTT debut The Netflix series — also starring Manisha Koirala, Richa Chadha, Aditi Rao Hydari, Sanjeeda Shaikh and Sharmin Segal — is a highly anticipated project as it marks Bhansali’s foray into the digital medium. All eyes are on the auteur as he brings his signature grandeur and opulence to a streaming platform. Sinha considers herself fortunate to be a Bhansali heroine — the filmmaker, after all, is known to give his leading ladies author-backed roles. So, how is it working with the maverick director? “With Sanjay sir, it’s like watching a magic show unfold. Only he can do what he does. I believe he is one of those directors who bring out the best in all his actors. It’s a privilege to be directed by him.” Sanjay Leela Bhansali The two had first teamed up for Bhansali’s 2012 production, Rowdy Rathore that saw Sinha opposite Akshay Kumar. Over the past 11 years, the actor-filmmaker duo often tried to reunite, but in vain. Finally, as she is a part of his vision with Heeramandi, she says that the filmmaker has the ability to nurture his actors in a way few can. “Since Rowdy Rathore, we’ve been trying to collaborate, but it didn’t materialise. He has always been so encouraging. Even on set, the way he speaks about my acting and looks [is so motivating]. He calls me a true Indian beauty. The fact that a person [of that stature] can say such good things about me makes me want to work harder and be the best for him.”

23 February,2024 06:09 PM IST | Mumbai | Priyanka Sharma
Sanjay Leela Bhansali; R- Heeramandi poster

Sanjay Leela Bhansali's ‘Heeramandi’ a tribute to ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ and ‘Pakeezah'

Filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali who turnsa year older on Saturday is gearing up for his OTT debut series 'Heeramandi', which revolves around the life of courtesans. The show is a tribute to Indian cinema classics 'Mughal-E-Azam' and 'Pakeezah'. The filmmaker said in the upcoming Netflix series he has tried to capture the nuances which were highlighted in 'Mughal-E-Azam', directed by K Asif, and Kamal Amrohi’s 'Pakeezah'. In both the films, the leading ladies Madhubala and Meena Kumari played the role of courtesans. “'Heeramandi’ has nuances which you feel are found in the great Kamal Amrohi’s ‘Pakeezah’. ‘Heeramandi’ is my tribute to the great ‘Mughal-e-Azam’, ‘Pakeezah’ and Mehboob Khan sahab’s ‘Mother India’,” Bhansali said here at an in conversation session with Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos. The ace filmmaker said iconic Indian directors Raj Kapoor, Yash Chopra, Mehboob Khan, Bimal Roy, Guru Dutt, and V Shantaram have inspired him to weave stories around women. “They told beautiful women stories. They understood that she is the creator of man, therefore she needs to be given a place in literature, cinema and art. They always told stories of women, they were not necessarily telling stories of men. “So if there is a Bajirao, there is also Mastani for me. If there was no Padmavati who would hold the fort, fight and go into fire, I wouldn’t have made that film,” he said. The director further said his filmography is filled with strong women characters — from Annie in 'Khamoshi: The Musical', to Nandini in 'Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam' and Michelle in 'Black'. Set against the tumultuous backdrop of the Indian freedom struggle of the 1940s, 'Heeramandi' explores the cultural reality of a dazzling district, through the stories of courtesans and their patrons. The show features Manisha Koirala, Sonakshi Sinha, Aditi Rao Hydari, Richa Chadha, Sharmin Segal and Sanjeeda Sheikh. Bhansali believes there is no such thing as “perfect cast” for him and he follows his instincts. “They are not perfect for the characters. And because they are not perfect, it was so exciting to find and discover how they are going to interpret the role. So, I like to discover a ‘perfect cast’ as I tell the story. I have cast these women because I always wanted to work with them and they are wonderful talent. They can do anything,” he added. Sarandos, who along with Bhansali had unveiled the first look of “Heeramandi”, praised the Indian filmmaker for his ability to find a balance between “style, drama and substance”. “When I think of your career… about ‘Silence’ (‘Khamoshi’), ‘Black’, ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’, and now ‘Heeramandi’, they are all widely different worlds that you are building. Your ability to find that right balance between style, drama and substance and how you move a story is unique. “The images that you put on screen and the way they move you emotionally, sometimes it is a tiny dance step and sometimes it is in line of dialogue, it is subtle and unbelievably impactful. You seem to invest a lot in the little moments of emotion. It is a beautiful art form,” the executive said. He added that excitement around the show is “thrilling” and they are looking forward to introduce the global audience to the world of “Heeramandi”. The show will soon premiere on Netflix. 

23 February,2024 12:51 PM IST | Mumbai | mid-day online correspondent
Pic courtesy/ Karishma Tanna's Instagram account

Karishma Tanna wins Critics Best Actress trophy at Dadasaheb Phalke Awards 2024

Karishma Tanna, once again claimed the spotlight for her stellar performance in 'Scoop' at the 2024 Dadasaheb Phalke International Film Festival Awards, clinching the prestigious critics Best Actress award. This victory adds another jewel to her illustrious career, showcasing her as a powerhouse performer and entertainer in the industry. Karishma, who has previously garnered numerous accolades for her phenomenal portrayal in 'Scoop,' continues to captivate audiences and win hearts. This recognition among industry stalwarts further solidifies her standing as a versatile and immensely talented artist. Expressing her gratitude, Karishma Tanna remarked, "I am truly honored to receive this award for 'Scoop.' It's a testament to the collective effort of the entire team. I extend my heartfelt thanks to the fans who watched and loved the show. Your support means the world to me." She adds, "Part of 'Scoop' has been with me, it's very close to my heart. The journey which I have lived in the show has taught me and given me a lot of guidance, that life is uncertain, anything can happen at any time, be humble to people. Be hungry for work but at the same time see the circumstances around you. I have lived the character, and it has helped me in real life also," Besides Karishma, 'Scoop,' directed by Hansal Mehta also stars Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub and Harman Baweja in lead roles, along with Prosenjit Chatterjee, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Deven Bhojani in pivotal roles. ‘Scoop,' is available to stream on Netflix, seamlessly weaves the intrigue of Mumbai's crime underbelly with exceptional direction, breathtaking cinematography, and a stellar cast. The show is based on Jigna Vora's biographical memoir ‘Behind Bars in Byculla: My Days in Prison’. It follows the real-life story of Jigna Vora who was accused of the murder of mid-day reporter Jyotirmoy Dey in June 2011. In a night filled with stars, luminaries like Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee, Nayanthara, Kareena Kapoor, Vicky Kaushal, and Bobby Deol were also acknowledged for their exceptional contributions to the industry. Karishma Tanna's continued success at the Dadasaheb Phalke International Film Festival Awards reinforces her status as an enduring force in the industry, leaving an indelible mark with her unmatched talent and captivating performances.

22 February,2024 05:17 PM IST | Mumbai | mid-day online correspondent
Alia Bhatt

Alia Bhatt: Weaving such a story within crime genre not easy

On Richie Mehta’s Poacher, Alia Bhatt serves as an executive producer. “It’s a fancy word,” she laughs, not one to care about jargon. Bhatt’s role is etched out in her mind—put simply, she is throwing her might behind a story that struck a chord with her. “I responded to the show on a personal level. My first feeling was, ‘Wow,’” she smiles. With Poacher, creator-director Mehta of Delhi Crime (2019) fame has turned his attention to the rampant ivory poaching in Kerala, crafting an investigative thriller that features Nimisha Sajayan, Roshan Mathew, and Dibyendu Bhattacharya. While Bhatt turned producer in 2022 with Darlings, the Amazon Prime Video offering marks her series debut. “It’s a first of its kind for me and Eternal Sunshine Productions. We are [mostly] developing projects from scratch; this is the first where we have come in at a later stage. At the end of the day, you want people to see the story, and what’s most important is whether you can contribute to it in any way. [Executive producing] is backing and putting your voice, time and energy in content that you believe in. Here, because I wasn’t part of it since its inception, [I focused on] what I can do to amplify the show’s reach.” Backing Poacher was a no-brainer for Bhatt, owing to its impactful storytelling. Plus, it united her with Mehta, a filmmaker with whom she has been keen to collaborate. “There is [powerful] storytelling that Richie has put in the show. Plus, the cause it speaks about hits the spot. Stories like these should be told in an entertaining way so that everyone can consume them. Crime is the most watched genre globally. To weave a story like this within the genre of crime is not easy. Poacher plays out like a crime show. Audiences need an emotional hook, which Richie gives them.”

22 February,2024 05:26 AM IST | Mumbai | Priyanka Sharma
Pic courtesy/ PR

Bhuvan Bam begins fitness transformation, reveals a new version of himself

Actor Bhuvan Bam has recently sparked a frenzy among his fans with pictures he shared on his social media platforms. The image reveals a visibly transformed and fitter version of the multi-talented star, hinting at his dedicated focus on personal health and well-being. Bhuvan Bam's commitment to his fitness journey has become increasingly evident, leaving fans in awe and many lauding his remarkable transformation. The actor attributes his desire to transform owing to having been busy for over a year with writing content and scripts, and wanted to bring about a change in his lifestyle.   His trainer, Pranit Shilimkar, is leaving no stone unturned to sculpt Bhuvan's physique, ensuring he is primed for his next big projects. Bhuvan's rigorous training sessions are proof of his determination to excel in all aspects of his career. When asked about his motivation behind this journey, Bhuvan Bam expressed, "This year, being healthy and fit is my top-notch priority. I believe that a strong body breeds a strong mind, and I want to ensure that I am at my best both physically and mentally to tackle the challenges ahead." His recent social media posts serve as a testament to his unwavering commitment to health and wellness, showcasing his rigorous gym sessions and dedication to building strength. He took to his Instagram to share a chiseled photo of himself, in which his transformation could be evidently seen. He captioned the post as, "Getting There."           View this post on Instagram                       A post shared by Bhuvan Bam (@bhuvan.bam22) As Bhuvan Bam continues to inspire millions with his brilliance and now, his commitment to fitness, fans eagerly anticipate witnessing his journey unfold both on-screen and off. Bhuvan Bam rose to prominence with his videos that he would post on his Youtube channel called 'BB Ki Vines.' He currently has 20 million subscribers on Youtube. Apart from being a content creator, Bhuvan has also explored his talents in the field of acting and music. As an actor, he has worked in web series like 'Dhindora' and 'Taaza Khabar'. He has also featured in short films and shows like 'Plus Minus' and 'Titu Talks.' In the music arena, he has worked as a singer and songwriter for singles like 'Ajnabee', 'Safar,' and 'Sang Hoon Tere' and 'Rahguzar.'

21 February,2024 05:56 PM IST | Mumbai | mid-day online correspondent
Kajol with Rituraj Singh in The Trial

Kajol mourns demise of 'The Trial' co-actor Rituraj Singh

Actor Kajol on Tuesday mourned the demise of her web show 'The Trial' co-star Rituraj Singh. Taking to Instagram, Kajol shared a picture on his stories and wrote, "My deepest condolences to the family....prayers." Rituraj Singh passed away last night in Mumbai at the age of 59, a close friend of the late actor Amit Behl confirmed to ANI. The TV actor was suffering from pancreatic disease and was hospitalized recently. He passed away after suffering a cardiac arrest. Actor Arshad Warsi took to X to pay tribute and wrote, "I am so saddened to know that Ritu Raj passed away. We lived in the same building, he was a part of my first film as a producer. Lost a friend and a great actor... will miss you brother..." In 'Badrinath Ki Dulhania' Rituraj played the role of Badri's father (played by Varun Dhawan).  Film director Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri took to X and wrote, "Rituraj, my friend, how did you make it even possible? "Kitna baaki tha..." Artists never die. Om Shanti." Notably, Rituraj has appeared in several television shows, including 'Hitler Didi,' 'Shapath,' 'Aahat,' 'Adaalat,' and 'Diya Aur Baati Hum' among others. Apart from that, he was also seen in films like 'Badrinath Ki Dulhania' 'Satyamev Jayate 2' and 'Yaariyan 2'. He was a part of several web series' including 'The Trial', 'Indian Police Force,' ' Made in Heaven,' 'Bandish Bandits,' among others. This story has been sourced from a third party syndicated feed, agencies. Mid-day accepts no responsibility or liability for its dependability, trustworthiness, reliability and data of the text. Mid-day management/ reserves the sole right to alter, delete or remove (without notice) the content in its absolute discretion for any reason whatsoever

20 February,2024 07:03 PM IST | Mumbai | ANI
In Pic: Huma Qureshi (Pic/Instagram)

Maharani 3 Trailer: Huma Qureshi returns to the throne as Rani Bharti

Actor Huma Qureshi wowed the audience with her portrayal of Rani Bharti in her much-loved political drama Maharani. Now, the actress is all set to return to the throne to take us on yet another ride. The OTT channel SonyLIV has just released the trailer, announcing the release of the third season. The trailer for Maharani 3 shows that it is Rani Bharti’s world, and we all are just living in it. The trailer depicts the political fight, extreme drama, and the quest for revenge and justice. While releasing the trailer of the series, the streaming platform wrote, “Bandook kamjor log chalate hai, samajdaar log dimaag!” Watch Rani’s revenge unfold in Maharani 3. Trailer out now!”           View this post on Instagram                       A post shared by Sony LIV (@sonylivindia) Huma wrapped up shooting for the third season of her series 'Maharani' in October 2023. The actor shared the news on Instagram, posting a video with the cast and crew from the show's set. "And it's a wrap !! Season 3 Maharani .. what a ride it has been @kangratalkies @sirsubhashkapoor @sonylivindia," Qureshi wrote in the caption. Kangra Talkies, the production house behind the Subhash Kapoor-created political drama, also shared the update on Instagram. The second season of the show, which premiered last August on the streaming platform SonyLIV, saw Rani learn the ropes of politics as she is accused of misgovernance and fights her greatest enemy, her husband. "Maharani" also stars Amit Sial, Vineet Kumar, Kani Kusruti, Anuja Sathe, and Dibyendu Bhattacharya. Maharani 3 is produced by Naren Kumar and Dimple Kharbanda, created by Subhash Kapoor, and directed by Saurabh Bhave. The gripping storyline, penned by Subhash Kapoor and Nandan Singh, features an outstanding cast including Huma Qureshi, Amit Sial, Vineet Kumar, Pramod Pathak, Kani Kusruti, Anuja Sathe, Sushil Pandey, Dibyendu Bhattacharya, and Sohum Shah in pivotal roles. Meanwhile, The Tarla actress has the human drama Pooja Meri Jaan in her kitty. It’s a far cry from her past projects, and also telling of the vast genres she has dabbled in. Ask her if there’s a genre she is still keen to explore, and she says, “I would like to do an out-and-out comedy, like Andaz Apna Apna. I am waiting for someone to offer a comedy to me. I’d love to have a character like Crime Master Gogo as my partner in crime,” she signs off. 

19 February,2024 05:00 PM IST | Mumbai | mid-day online correspondent
Sony Pictures Television announces Stream

Sony Pictures to bring iconic shows and movies to India with 'Stream'

Prime Video has entered a distribution agreement with Sony Pictures Television (SPT), a division of Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), to launch Sony Pictures – Stream on Prime Video Channels. Curated for Indian customers, Sony Pictures – Stream offers a vast and exciting repertoire of entertainment including SPE’s outstanding international selection of iconic, blockbuster movies, timeless classics and highly popular TV shows available on Prime Video Channels. Prime members can purchase an annual add-on subscription to Sony Pictures – Stream at a special introductory price of Rs 399 per year. With an add-on subscription to Sony Pictures – Stream on Prime Video Channels, Prime members can enjoy an extensive slate of multi-genre content offerings including action-packed blockbusters, heart-warming dramas, rib-tickling comedies, suspenseful thrillers, evergreen classics, and much more. Some of the movies include Charlie’s Angels, Men in Black, Peter Rabbit, Ghostbusters, Jerry Maguire, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Taxi Driver, A Few Good Men, Legends of the Fall, Spotlight, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Terminator, Groundhog Day, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Step Mom, Book of Eli, Seven Pounds, Legend of Zorro, Anaconda and Evil Dead, among others. TV aficionados will find timeless classics such as I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, Mad About You, and Diff’rent Strokes and recent hit shows including A Very English Scandal and Loudermilk.   “We are delighted to launch Sony Pictures – Stream, a new Prime Video Channel curated specifically for our customers in India. The collaboration allows Sony Pictures Entertainment to make their vast and beloved library available in India at a single destination, reaching customers across the length and breadth of the country via Prime Video Channels,” said Vivek Srivastava, head – Prime Video Channels, India. “Within a short span of time, Prime Video Channels has offered the perfect launchpad for several international streaming services and studios, helping them reach an incredibly wide audience across India. In sync with our philosophy of super-serving our customers with choice, access and convenience, we have worked towards offering a wide variety of content, making it all available at a single destination – Prime Video. We are sure that with its vast and diverse library Sony Pictures – Stream will offer something for everyone, delighting Prime members with their favourite movies and series.” “We’re thrilled to work with Prime Video to super-serve Indian audiences with content from SPE’s extensive library of award-winning films and critically acclaimed television series while simultaneously offering a bespoke experience that is easily accessible to viewers across the region. Additionally, in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Columbia Pictures, a part of Sony Pictures Entertainment, Sony Pictures – Stream spotlights the studio’s history and incredible film legacy by offering customers an incredible array of films from the studio’s beloved vault spanning the decades.” said Sonika Bhasin, Vice President – South Asia, Sony Pictures Television. 

19 February,2024 02:16 PM IST | Mumbai | mid-day online correspondent
Aarya's audacious Anu

Aarya's Audacious Anu: Screenwriter Anu Singh Choudhary's journey

On a top floor of a building that stands tall on one of the busiest lanes of Mumbai sub-burbs in Andheri are tiny rooms stacked next to each other like Lego bricks that complete a structure, yet are whole in themselves. It’s an office comprising smaller offices, typical of the city that has a big heart but a crunched space for its people. There’s no creativity to absorb walking past these compartments until you reach the last one, a brightly lit room inhabiting a table and two chairs and walls painted in different hues of sticky notes with short paragraphs written on them, resembling a storyboard. That’s screenwriter-author Anu Singh Choudhary’s writer’s room, her heaven. The stairway to this heaven was 18 year long. The Ranchi girl took many detours, even including a brief stay in Mumbai on impulse, and later working in Delhi as a journalist, to finally land where she always felt belonged. "Yeh shehar chhodke toh nahi jaana," she begins. The final part of the third season of Sushmita Sen-led thriller drama series Aarya has just dropped. Choudhary has been in its writers' room since its inaugural season (2020). She is currently developing another show for a major streaming platform.  The writer likes to be all over the place when she is ideating, but when it’s time to put pen to the ramblings in her head, nothing’s better than a quiet place, much like her office.  “When you are physically sitting down and just writing, you need your quiet time. You need to be fully immersed in what you are writing. Then it doesn’t help if you are doing many things together,” she smiles. Choudhary has earned this quiet after a thunderous last year, the sound of which, to her delight, lingers on. After all, she had four back-to-back releases, across mediums and formats. Director Hansal Mehta’s Netflix show Scoop released last summer, on which Choudhary was credited for additional screenplay. It was followed by Sajni Shinde Ka Viral Video, starring Nimrat Kaur and Radhika Madan, that released in theatres. Choudhary was one of the four writers on the mystery thriller. Following a couple of weeks, the writer had her dysfunctional family drama Shastry Viruddh Shastry in theatres. In November, the first part of Aarya season three premiered.  “I want to be a multi-format writer. So, I want do one film, a series and also go back to write the novel that I want to,” she laughs. And when she is not writing, Choudhary through her writers’ retreat likes to nurture those who have an imagination but lack tools to facilitate their ultimate dream, to write movies. Who better than her to value such a dream. She lived with one herself for almost 20 years, half of her life that is. “At a very young age, I would read Filmfare, film trade magazines… I was very fascinated by cinema. I am an ‘80s kid. So, for us there was no cable, everything was Doordarshan. Just the joy of watching something with your family, calling your neighbours to sit and watch Mahabharat… I knew I wanted to write, express and communicate. But I didn’t know how it would happen.”  Choudhary has a vivid memory of perhaps one of her earliest realisations that she was destined for the movies. “I distinctly remember being delighted that Rahi Masoom Raza had written the dialogues of Mahabharat because I had read his novel, Aadha Gaon, by then. So, this connection with a writer and to think that a writer could do so much happened very early. I wasn’t more than 10.” Her face lights up as she shares her biggest influences in cinema, ranging from Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s inimitable warm, life-like creations to classic romantic comedies of Norah Ephron.  “Of course one would enjoy works of Salim-Javed, which were grand, had the angry young man protagonist, even though the women were side kicks. They provided so much entertainment. But it would be Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Gulzar’s worlds inspired me, the ones I revisit the most, till date. And of course Satyajit Ray's. Not just their women characters, but all the people in their worlds were fascinating. There was such sensitivity with which they dealt with them. Another filmmaker, whom I absolutely love and would love to have a body of work like, is Nora Ephron. She started as a journalist, graduated to screenwriting, became a director and then producer. She is also one of the finest memoirists I know. Great writers have the ability to make you a part of their world, yet have this detached amusement. That’s the kind of writing I enjoyed,” she beams.  Her love for these auteurs is palpable in the excitement with which she recollects Mukherjee’s 1980 dramedy Khubsoorat, starring Rekha. “His films had characters, who were so real, flawed, and yet there was so much warmth. In Khubsoorat. Rekha, wanting to change everything with her rebellion, was flawed. So was Dina Pathak’s character as the matriarch. But they were so endearing that you just couldn’t stop loving them. Being human was so innate to his stories. I am getting goosebumps even while saying this.” Choudhary’s relationship with cinema, however, remained privately intimate for many years. Belonging to what she describes as an “extremely conventional family” from Bihar, there wasn’t much scope for her to dwell on her cinema pursuits. But her 10-year-old self found another pair of wings to fly, of literature.  "My association with books happened thanks to my school library, the state library and then the British library. My parents realised I was an avid reader, so they let me be. I grew up in a joint family and nobody around me would get my love for reading. In fact, my parents picked up reading after me." Inclined more towards Hindi literature, Choudhary found faithful companions in the works writer Ismat Chugtai. "I say it even today, ‘I want to be become Ismat Chugtai when I grow up.’ She had a huge influence on how I was thinking, how I wanted to write. The humour that she had, the way she imagined women, who are supposedly the oppressed in the society, as an amused audience to what’s going on around them. It would be so ironical, funny and distinct." It was literature, in fact, that brought her closer to her dream. Even if briefly. By then, Choudhary was seeing journalism as the most accessible means to reach her end, writing. But she was lost. It was author Surender Varma, who showed her the direction.  "If my professor reads this, they will scold me," she bites her lip nervously and continues, "I was studying journalism at IIMC (Indian Institute of Mass Communication). But I never enjoyed it. It was my media theory class. I would sit at the back and read Surender Varma's Mujhe Chand Chahiye, which was this fascinating novel about a young girl from Shahjahanpur, who comes to Mumbai to follow her acting dreams, and makes it big. I felt, ‘This is it. I want to create characters.’ My entire batch got placed in journalism jobs. I was the only stupid person, who packed her bags and came to Mumbai looking for a job." Choudhary had always been audacious. And naively so. Even as a child, she was single-minded focused on what she wanted to do. "I was 10 when one day, I walked into the radio station and asked someone, ‘Where does kids’ show get recorded?’ That person directed me to a lady, whom I told, ‘I write poems and I want to read them on radio.’ She was very kind. She told me, ‘Okay, come on Sunday at 10 am.’ I landed there to read my poetry! And there were six other children. Then I became a regular on Aakashvaani. I used to get Rs 110 per month to read poetry. That was my first salary. My mother had to start a bank account in my name. So, that was the fascination, to be able to communicate." Mumbai she did come. And the same evening, landed her first gig. "The morning when I arrived to Mumbai, I happened to read in the papers that Deepak Tijori was going to direct his first feature. I was staying at a relative’s place. I went down to the PCO to make a phone call to my parents back home. And I saw Deepak sir across the road! I hung up, ran to him and said, ‘Sir, I heard about the film you are doing. I want to be a part of it. I want to learn production.’ He looked at me in disbelief and moments later told his guy, ‘Tell this girl where to come from tomorrow.’ And he walked off," she recalls. Choudhary felt like it was the first day of school all over again. "The film was Oops. I joined as a production assistant and went on to become the associate executive producer at the end of its filming after eight-nine months. Deepak sir gave me so much to learn and I really enjoyed working on the film." It all sounds like a dream.  Coming to Mumbai, bagging first film on the first day of arrival, and a smooth workplace. But dreams have a shelf life. "Mumbai was a tough city to navigate. Money flow was erratic." Naturally, her family was worried. And that's when Choudhary's brother said something that was to alter her course of life. "He had visited me, when he said, 'I don’t think this is the right time for you to be in Mumbai. You are too lonely. Go back to Delhi. It’s a safe space. You know people, you have a degree. I promise we will return to Mumbai one day and do something together.'" With a sense of uncertainty continuously staring at her in Mumbai, it felt like the correct thing to do. It wasn't without its emotional bearings, though.  "I went back. I was depressed for two months. I just didn’t know what to do. My peers were doing so well in their careers." But universe had her back. Choudhary joined a leading television news channel, and thereon her journey as a journalist began. "It was another safe space for me.” the writer immersed herself in the demanding profession, keeping her screen dreams safe and secret in her heart. She had to return to them, but it wasn't the right time. Choudhary loved every moment of her journalistic career, which offered her a huge canvas to tell stories ranging from political to sports. The profession also gave her a few crucial life lessons too. "The most important thing that journalism taught me was speed. I was a television journalist. We thrive on breaking news, bulletin to bulletin updates change. The second thing that I learnt was multi-tasking. When you are in the field or editing on desk, you can’t be rigid and say, ‘I will only do this.’ You have to prepared to do many things, like scripting a sports program, working on an entertainment story, to chasing a political story. I worked on all kinds of stories, but they all were at the core human."  Her journalistic background became one of the reasons why she was hired on Scoop that focused on life of a female news reporter. Her ability to jump beats in journalism prepared her to make smooth transitions between genres, years later, in the film industry. "No experience goes to waste."  But there was so much more that journalism couldn't help her with. That's where she turned to fiction writing.  "Sometimes journalism doesn’t allow us to chase, understand our quest for truth. So, how do you that? There could be an emotion, a character, an event or a day in your life that you want to understand, scratch its surface. In order to do that, I would write. That’s how I started writing fiction as well as long form pieces." In 2014, Choudhary made her debut as an author in Hindi literature in with bestseller Neela Scarf, a collection of 12 short stories depicting life across different classes in India. The author's other works include Mamma ki Diary (2015), about a woman trying to make sense of everything that comes along with motherhood, and Bhali Ladkiyan, Buri Ladkiyan (2019), about the adventures of a young girl from Bihar who goes to Delhi for higher studies. Throughout her published work, Choudhary draws an intimate portrait of the inner worlds of her characters, especially women. What also sticks out is her ability to be relatable and entertaining through the written word. The same qualities Choudhary wanted to exploit in her screenwriting as well. A pursuit, whose time was now.  She doesn't prefer to dwell on it, but it was a trigger as well as a reminder that she couldn't be away from the movies anymore. Choudhary again packed her suitcase and came to Mumbai, this time forever. "I thought, ‘This is it.’ It was 2018. I stayed with my brother for over two years till pandemic happened. This time, I was more prepared and matured. I was ready to take risks. I didn’t fear anything.  I started reaching out to people, telling them I was now here and looking for work. Many former journalists had already made a transition to the other side. I reached out to them. One of them told me about the Star Writers Program and that’s how my smooth entry into the world of screenwriting happened," she smiles.  The six-month long program nurtured aspiring writers. Choudhary, of course, was now a well established author. Yet again, literature led her to movies. "My colleagues at the writers program had seen a lot of my work and they knew I could write. One of them recommended my name to Ram for Aarya." It took Choudhary more than 15 years and less than 15 minutes to land what stands as her biggest project to date.  "This long journey that I undertook to reach here really helped. When I first met Ram, he presented the Aarya story and how he was seeing its world. I remember I kept talking about being a mother, womanhood, what nobility means, what being noble meant, the privileges of motherhood and yet how those privileges were a vehicle of patriarchy. We wouldn’t have had those conversation if I didn’t have those years behind me. In 15 minutes of our conversation itself, Ram was talking about, ‘How we will do it, how we will write and envisage this.’ So, I said, ‘You haven’t read anything I have written. Should I send you some sample scripts?’ He replied, ‘No. I know this is it.’" Choudhary wrote the first season of Aarya (2020) with co-writer Sandeep Shrivastava, the next one with Sanyuktha Chawla Shaikh. On the latest season, she collaborated with writers Khushboo Agarwal Raj and Amit Raj. Her smooth entry in the new stage of her life was preceded by a turbulent exit from Delhi, where Choudhary lived with her husband and two children. "I supposedly had a settled life in Delhi. There was a lot of resistance. People just couldn’t fathom. ‘Who changes cities? What’s the need of doing this at this age?' were the frequently asked questions. A woman moving to a different city for work is not considered normal. Add to it, you are in a profession where you are constantly in the public eye, you are meeting new people. How do you deal with that resistance as a woman? By doing your work. Baatein kam, kaam zyada." This simple mantra has helped the writer work on as many as seven projects in less than six years of her innings as a screenwriter. Today, she has made a home in Mumbai. And she knows her husband and kids have been her allies like no one else.  "My kids also had a difficult time. They had to pay, in terms of the friends they lost, a year that they didn’t go to school. But if you ask them, they will tell you that they will not have any other way. They are very happy today." So is Choudhary, who cherishes every moment of creating different worlds with her pen and seeing them transform visually. She now looks forward to the release of Mrs, the Hindi adaptation of the Malayalam feminist drama The Great Indian Kitchen, starring Sanya Malhotra in the lead, and directed by Arati Kadav.  Having come this far, the writer remembers the words of her first ever director and boss. "It was the screening of Deepak’s second directorial venture at Siri Fort Auditorium back in the day. I had gone there with a colleague, who was an entertainment journalist, to meet Deepak. He kept telling my colleague, ‘Can you not tell your friend she is not meant to be here? Her place is in Mumbai. Tell her to go back."  After Aarya premiered, Choudhary received a call. It was a familiar voice. "Deepak had seen my name in the credits. I don’t know from where he found my number. ‘I am beaming with pride,’ he said. This was almost 20 years later! That’s the time I took to reach here. But I have no regrets."

18 February,2024 01:56 PM IST | Mumbai | Priyanka Sharma
Alia Bhatt in Sabyasachi excellence! (Pic/Alia Bhatt's Instagram)

Alia Bhatt stuns in a Sabyasachi black saree at special screening of 'Poacher'

Alia Bhatt graced a special screening of her upcoming web series 'Poacher' in London, sharing glimpses of the event on her Instagram Stories on Saturday night. Accompanied by her mother, Soni Razdan, and sister, Shaheen Bhatt, Alia posted several pictures capturing the moments from the screening. The family trio attended the event, adding to the excitement surrounding the highly anticipated series that uncovers the largest ivory poaching ring in Indian history. Alia Bhatt in a Sabyasachi black saree at the London special screening of 'Poacher' Alia Bhatt spiced up her Instagram with a pic near a window, captioned 'Today' and a rose emoji. She then served us a B&W moment with her partner in crime, Shaheen Bhatt, dubbing her "With my best, @shaheenb" – Sister Goals activated. Alia also reshared Soni's selfie of the trio in the audience. And if that wasn't enough, she graced the stage, striking a pose with the 'Poacher' team. Alia looked amazing at the event in a black velvet saree with a golden border and a sleek black sleeveless blouse. She rocked a pearl necklace and earrings, pulling off the classic bun hairstyle. Soni kept it elegant in a black dress, and Shaheen went for a pop of colour in pink and red ethnic wear. The Bhatt ladies slayed the fashion scene!  Alia Bhatt in a Sabyasachi black saree at the London special screening of 'Poacher', take a look: Freida Pinto and film director Gurinder Chadha were also present at the event. Prime Video India shared numerous pictures from the occasion on Instagram, captioning them, "The echoes of the jungle take over London at this special screening tonight! #PoacherOnPrime, Feb 23."           View this post on Instagram                       A post shared by prime video IN (@primevideoin) Alia serves as an executive producer on the Prime Video series, marking director Richie Mehta's comeback to the streaming world. 'Poacher,' an eight-part crime drama based on true events, unpacks the largest ivory poaching ring in Indian history. The show features Nimisha Sajaya, Roshan Mathew, and Dibyendu Bhattacharya in significant roles and will be available for streaming on Prime Video starting February 23.

18 February,2024 08:14 AM IST | Mumbai
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