As the theatrical release of ‘Bell Bottom’ brings cheer to Bollywood, we chart how the film is energising the industry – and many remain concerned about what is happening in Afghanistan*…
By Rodrigues C
HOW’S it all hanging there this week, UK?
Mumbai is all clean, green and extremely pleasant thanks to the annual monsoons.
But this isn’t the only good news around, there’s more.
Star Akshay Kumar’s ‘Bell Bottom’, based on a mission to free hostages, released on August 19 all over India.
It’s the first big movie to release in theatres in four months in India.
There have been movie releases since 2020 such as — ‘Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari’, where a bachelor gets rejected several times by families of potential brides, ‘Indoo Ki Jawani’, where a woman uses dating apps to find the perfect mate, ‘Shakeela’, about an adult star of the 90’, ‘Roohi’, based on friends hired to kidnap a bride, ‘Mumbai Saga’, a gangster thriller and ‘Madam Chief Minister’, about a woman’s journey into politics – but nothing as big as ‘Bell Bottom’.
The producers of the movie took the giant leap despite cinemas in the biggest markets for Bollywood, the state of Maharashtra and its capital Mumbai, accounting for 30 per cent of the country’s film gross, being shut and cinema halls in many states running with restrictions; Gujarat allows 60 per cent capacity, whereas in Telangana its 100 per cent.
Many states allow 50 per cent capacity. In some states cinemas shut at 8pm, while in others it’s 10pm or at the weekend.
Also, Kumar has an impressive lineup of future releases such as ‘Sooryavanshi’, which is about averting a terror strike, ‘Prithviraj’ where the actor plays King Prithviraj Chauhan, ‘Atrangi Re’, a north-south love story, ‘Bachchan Pandey,’ in which a gangster aspires to be an actor, ‘Raksha Bandhan’, a brother-sister bond-based drama and ‘Ram Setu’, where Kumar plays an archeologist. Out of breath? Haha.
Many of these films’ releases have been rescheduled multiple times as producers and Kumar wanted them to hit only theatres.
The backlog of finished as well as soon-to-be-released unfinished films was probably too difficult to manage and ‘Bell Bottom’ had to be released despite restrictions in theatres.
For Bollywood, which has sustained losses to the tune of ₹10,000 crore (about £1 billion) since last year, the theatrical release of ‘Bell Bottom’ served as a massive morale booster.
The film has fared much below expectations at the box office and it may be released on OTT once it’s out of theatres.
What matters is that the release of ‘Bell Bottom’ has already led to other producers taking the painful decision of releasing their films in theatres, despite the restrictions.
On August 12, Amitabh Bachchan announced on Twitter that his much anticipated movie ‘Chehre’, about a man with a taste for real life games, will hit theatres this Friday (August 27).
In yet another sign that a revival is around the corner, on Tuesday (August 23), star Kangana Ranaut took to Instagram to announce that her movie ‘Thalaivi’, based on the life of actress and former chief minister of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, will hit theatres on September 10.
The film was initially scheduled for a June 26, 2020 release and then an April 23, 2021 outing.
On August 24, it was announced on social media that Suniel Shetty’s son Ahan Shetty’s ‘Tadap’, a remake of the Telugu film ‘RX 100’ will release on December 3 this year.
Though this may sound like a trickle, it’s at least the beginning. More films may soon follow.
Bollywood expresses fears and solidarity with Afghan people
With Afghanistan dominating news here (everywhere), the focus has shifted to everything related to the country.
Many Bollywood stars have been speaking about the country on social media.
Filmmakers Anurag Kashyap, Hansal Mehta and lyricist-writer Varun Grover have shared an open letter by Afghan filmmaker Sahraa Karimi.
The letter requests film communities around the world to speak about the people of her country.
Afghan actress Warina Khan, who featured in the Salman Khan Production ‘Loveyatri’, which is about a man, who falls in love with an NRI, has been speaking about her ‘difficult’ time in her country; she currently stays in India.
Unknown to most is the fact that many Bollywood actors have their roots in Afghanistan. Several actors, Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan trace their roots back to Pathans who lived in Afghanistan. Aamir’s family are said to have emigrated from Herat and Saif Ali Khan’s royal lineage is also reportedly of Pathan ancestry. Those of the same ethnicity who remain in the region of Afghanistan and Pakistan are known as Pashtuns.
In fact, quite a few films have also been shot in the country (see below). August has brought to Bollywood something that it desperately needed, hope. No one knows for sure where or if the third covid wave will hit India in the coming months. Bollywood, like everybody else is hoping against hope it doesn’t.
Afghan festival stars
In recent years, www.asianculturevulture.com got to know Salim Shaheen, who has made over a 100 films in Afghanistan. He came to prominence globally in the film, ‘Prince of Nothingwood’ (2017) which toured the festival circuit and was made by French journalist, Sonia Kronlund. His current whereabouts are unknown.
News has reached us though about Shahrbanoo Sadat, whose two feature films premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019 and 2016.
Based in Kabul, she has managed to make it out of Afghanistan.
She and nine family members made it through the Taliban checkpoints in the city and were helped by French soldiers and the French government to board a plane out of the country.
She was reported to be in Abu Dhabi on Monday (August 23), and was said to be making her way to Europe shortly, Katja Adomeit, producer and CEO of Adomeit Films, which has helped her to make her two films, reported all this in a media statement.
Sadat spoke to us about ‘Wolf and Sheep’, based on her personal experiences and set in rural Afghanistan, in 2016. The film won the main award at Cannes Directors Fortnight that year and her second feature, ‘The Orphanage’ was screened in the same section in 2019. It is the second in a five-part series based on the unpublished diaries by Anwar Hashimi and Sadat was working on the third instalment, ‘Kabul Jan’.
Bollywood movies shot in Afghanistan
Cast-Feroz Khan, Hema Malini
Khuda Gawah (1992)
Amitabh Bachchan, Sridevi
Fardeen Khan, Celina Jaitly
Kabul Express (2006)
John Abraham, Arshad Warsi
Sanjay Dutt, Nargis Fakhri
Bollywood actors with roots in Afghanistan
The late actor was born in Kabul. His father, Abdul Rahman Khan, was from Kandahar, while his mother, Iqbal Begum was from Balochistan, Pakistan.
His great-grandfather Anwar Khan, a Alakozai Pashtun, came to India in the mid-18th century and settled in Indore.
His father Sadiq Ali hailed from Ghazni in Afghanistan, while his mother Fatima had Persian ancestry.
*This article was compiled before the terrorist attacks on Kabul Airport on August 26
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