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IFFI 54: Bird Bites – Rani Mukerji, Muttiah Muralidaran film, Michael Douglas arrival, Nawazuddin Siddiqui new film, Tarsem… (galleries)

IFFI 54: Bird Bites – Rani Mukerji, Muttiah Muralidaran film, Michael Douglas arrival, Nawazuddin Siddiqui new film, Tarsem… (galleries)

Goa 12.30am (November 27) (GMT 7pm)

🎥 Rani Mukerji could have been in ‘Lagaan

🎥 Cricket legend Muttiah Muralidaran biopic to go out on Jio Cinema free next week (December 2); and is joined by writer-director MS Sripathy and lead actor Madhur Mittal in talk here

🎥 Michael Douglas expected to be in Goa later today (November 27) – ahead of Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Cinema presentation…

🎥 Star Nawazuddin Siddiqui attends Gala screening of new film – ‘Rauta Ki Beli’ with other cast members here on Saturday (November 25)

🎥 Tarsem Singh Dhandwar gets down to earth and talks ‘Dear Jassi’ with cinema enthusiasts

ASK ANY OUTSIDER what they think of instantly when asked about India and they will probably say, Bollywood and cricket.

Rani Mukherji and Baradwaj Rangan at the Kala Academy in Panjim, Goa

Festivalgoers got a healthy dose of both earlier yesterday (November 26 IST) at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Panjim, Goa.

The former came in the stylish, shimmery figure of Rani Mukerji – one of the Indian film industry’s most enduring stars, who started out as 16 year old. Now in her 40s, she talked about her early days and what she most looks for when selecting scripts.

Speaking for just over half an hour with Indian film critic Baradwaj Rangan, she covered a wide range of ground, chewing over the start of her long career in Bollywood. Her father, Ram was a film director and her mother, Krishna, a playback singer. She made her Hindi language debut in ‘Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat’ (1996).

“My mother just told me to do it. I was nervous and I suffered from a slight stammer but once I started it came to me easily’” she disclosed.

The die had been cast and there is a long roll call of successful films and several alongside Shah Rukh Khan, perhaps the number one popular Bollywood lead even today. She has not shied away from playing characters that go against societal norms and are often bold, modern and assertive.

“I like to portray strong Indian women,” she told the audience.

Rani Mukerji (©BTM)

Many will connect with her role in ‘Kabhi Alvida Nat Kehna’ (2006)’ alongside SRK, when the couple bond, despite being married to other people.

“There were a lot of divorces after Kabhi – that’s what Karan (Johar – the director) told me.”

She also talked about how Aamir Khan, who plays the lead in the Oscar-nominated ‘Lagaan’ (2001) wanted her to be in the Ashutosh Gowariker directed film that became the first Indian film in modern times to reach the shortlist for an Oscar.

“Aamir wanted everyone to be in Bhuj (Gujarat) for six months to film but I had a commitment and the director whom I won’t name said, no…”

“As it was Aamir and others had to come and go and others did also…” She said responding to a question from Ranjan about whether she regretted not taking up a role – her basic was answer was no, she didn’t really think like that and actors who got roles were ‘meant’ to be in them.

Asked what it takes to give a compelling performance – the title of the In Conversation – she said simply: “Be yourself.” See gallery below…


Muttiah Muralidaran (also spelt as Muralitharan) is one of the greatest ever cricketers – and holds the world record number of wickets in Test cricket. His 800 dismissals form the title of a biopic titled – ‘800 – The Movie’ , which isn’t just about his cricketing exploits but his life in general.

The cricketer himself was hugely engaging and open in conversation with journalist Komal Nahta and spoke for about two thirds of the hour plus discussion, about the film on his life – made by Tamil film director MS Sripathy and starring Madhur Mittal (‘Slumdog MIllionaire’ and more relevantly for this the baseball movie, ‘Million Dollar Arm’).

Muralidaran spoke at some length about the 2009 terror attack on the Sri Lanka team bus travelling to the stadium in Lahore.

He intimated that because of the troubles in his own country and the heightened vigilance of all there – the players and staff knew instinctively to take cover by laying down on the floor of the bus while being fired at by terrorists outside.

“Tharanga (Paranavitana) had taken cover by lying low in his seat. When we got to the stadium his chest was covered in blood and he appeared dead but he was still alive and the dressing room became like a hospital.”

Doctors were able to save him and Thilan Samaraweera who also needed substantial treatment and four other Sri Lankan players sustained injuries, while six police personnel and two civilians died in the attack. None of the terrorists were apprehended at the time.

Komal Natha, MS Sripathy, Muttiah Muralidaran, Madhur Mittal

Muralidaran also recounted how he had just managed to avoid being caught up in the devastating Tsunami in 2004, which killed an estimated 30,000 in his country alone.

He had been scheduled to attend a function hosted by his charitable foundation and was about two hours away from where he was staying at the time, as he was with his then fiancé (Indian Madhimalar Ramamurthy) and family and in the final stages of finalising what became their wedding.

“There was a lot of commotion and people stopped the car, we didn’t know what was going on, I thought it might be a riot and decided to turn back,” he recalled. “Another 20 or 30 miles further and we would have been washed away.”

Sripathy spent some five years plus researching the film and talking with Muralidaran about his life and how it should be portrayed.

“I just wanted it to be honest,” emphasised Muralidaran.

There was a lot of politics swirling around how the film should be made and how communities would be portrayed and which Tamil actor should play the Muralidaran part.

“I didn’t want to be suffocated – like I can’t do this,” said Sripathy of the writing process.

In selecting an actor from North India, they bypassed any of the politics surrounding the casting of the main part. And both felt Mittal was the right actor.

Madhur Mittal

Mittal said that in a car accident some seven or eight years ago his arm had got a little bent.

“It helped with recreating Muralidaran Sir’s action,” he informed the audience.

The film has been translated into several South Indian languages as well Hindi and Bengali with Mittal dubbing his own Hindi.

“I left my ego behind,” he said after accepting he could not do justice to the original Tamil as a non native speaker – but initially wanting to learn Tamil to portray the cricketing legend.


THERE is already a palpable sense of excitement with the impending arrival of Hollywood legend, Michael Douglas and actor wife Catherine Zeta-Jones. Douglas is all set to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Closing Ceremony on the final day of the festival and is expected to talk to the accredited media here later today (November 27).

Nawazuddin Siddiqui second right at IFFI


CROWDS were excited to see Nawazuddin Siddiqui attend IFFI on Saturday (November 25). He along with almost a dozen or so of the cast attended the screening of ‘Rauta Ki Beli’. Sadly the film is under a reviews embargo and it isn’t known when this Anand Surapur directed Zee Studios film will release. Let’s just say Nawaz fans won’t be disappointed and that there is a fine supporting ensemble cast.


Tarsem Singh Dhandwar gets down and basic (Courtesy of IFFI54)

TARSEM SINGH DHANDWAR and better known just as Tarsem, engaged with delegates by talking to them in the grounds of the Kala Academy here… his film ‘Dear Jassi‘ has been doing the festival rounds and while we spoke to him at London Film Festival last month, we caught up with writer Amit Rai, who wrote the screenplay. He is also the director-writer behind the hit Bollywood film, ‘OMG2‘. Our video interview with Rai will be out later…

On Friday (November 24), the audience at the Kala Academy were treated to the trailer for the Manoj Bajpayee starrer, ‘Joram’ by Devashish Makhija. This film has shown at several international film festivals and now gets a global release on December 8. Bajpayee who was at IFFI for the web masterclass urged everyone to watch the film. He also talked to the media about his film, ‘Gulmohar’ which dropped earlier this year on OTT (streaming) channel, Disney Hotstar and is a contemporary social drama set in Delhi. It screened in the week in the Indian Panorama section which showcases the best of Indian cinema over the year.

Also attending IFFI was director Rahat Shah Kazmi, whose ‘Country of the Blind‘, we covered at Cannes Market in 2022 and we also spoke to actor Mir Sarwar who appears in ‘The Family Man‘ just after he had caught up with directors Raj and DK who were in the same masterclass with Manoj Bajpayee and Sreekrishna Dayal and Apoorva Bakshi. (Seen our video of the masterclass? Pictures below…).

All eyes will be on Douglas and Zeta Jones and US buddy Shailendra Singh as they walk the Red Carpet here and interact with the media later today…stay tuned!

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture