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In conversation with Hira Mani

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Alongside a lucrative career in talk shows, what inspired you to start acting?

I started working with talk shows when those were a huge deal – when I got married Mani was a talk show host as well and I got some pretty good offers. My own first choice was not acting and I enjoyed hosting a lot. I was often offered scripts here and there but as long as 5 years passed working with talk shows before I realized I wanted to give acting a shot. But i had a very young kid at a moment and the camera often unnerved me. I was quite indecisive at the time as well. Eventually when I felt like I could divide my attention and when my kids became slightly more independent, I felt like maybe I should take on acting. Even during the hosting days maybe there was an actor deep inside but I could still never imagine mainstream television acting like it became afterwards.  

What project would you say was very critical to your career in the entertainment industry and why? 

Yakeen Ka Safar was very critical. The novel by Farhat Ishtiaq really touched a chord with me and the role I was offered was of the character called Gayti. But the thing is I did not prefer doing second leads. All my roles have been lead roles. But initially the character of Gayti was a new flavour for me. She was a nutritionist and I had to work my way into this character. Why it was a challenge was because Gayti did not have supporting roles to lean on. She was a widow. She didn’t have a mother in law either. Performance margin was not there through other roles. The character was not pivotal to the storyline and I did not get a lot of screen time. So my method was simple: whenever I did have a scene, I gave it my all. Completely.

What is Hira Mani’s take on the television industry? 

I think its grown too much. Too many different people from very diverse walks of life are a part of it. TV industry has overtaken the film industry as well and it is not just for actors, it has evolved into a major amalgamation and I feel like there is nothing missing or nothing exceeding here. Everything is in equilibrium. Its become a WOW industry. 

Your drama project Bandish takes on some interesting aspects of paranormal activity. Please tell us more about it?
When I read the script the topic really struck with me. I saw the opportunity to do something different, something fresh. I’ve often seen people repeatedly do the same things over and over. Doing something fresh is always a tough decision. I’ve always had really romantic story lines. This was horror, scary, paranormal! I actually got curious about how I would perform under the stress of fear. How I would look screaming or running around. Besides, my parents’ roles are being played by Sajid Hassan and Marina Khan. They are both acting legends and its going to be a fun gathering too. I was unsure of the shift in people’s responses after Dil Moam Ka Diya. I signed Bandish for my own entertainment – I don’t believe in magic and working on a magic storyline is quite exciting. I would suggest our audiences to consider television as just that. Take away good messages, if there is something you don’t understand, just change the channel!

Your husband was also your longtime colleague in the television industry – how does the Hira-Mani brand work as a professional relationship?

We don’t have a professional relationship. We got married 11 years ago and that is the relationship we have. We were both pretty young. We grew up together, switched cars and houses together. Its like two people start studying the same subject, one is a pre-schooler and one is a graduate. I was the pre-schooler and Mani the graduate. He is a real trendsetter. The cool and quirky method of hosting that is so big in the industry now was conceived by Mani, it was introduced by him. He has empowered a lot of people to act themselves and be themselves. Hosting with Mani was quite intimidating because I did not want to embarrass him at any point. I took a lot of notes from him. I miss working with him on shows. We both have a very organized, healthy working relationship. I’m not the kind of woman who pretends to not need her better half. He is the support I always need and always get! Our kids Muzamil and Ibrahim have also become quite organized watching us!

Hira Mani is a household name. Any advice you would like to give to the newcomers coming into the public eye?

Please be sure that there is something extraordinary inside you and that if you look for it enough you find it. Life passes on without fame. Fame is in the hands of God. Everyone can act like heroes and heroines on television. The real deal is to be heroes and heroines in real life. Don’t let the industry and its expectations get to your real life. Don’t let it get under your skin – be steadfast. Keep believing in yourself and take that road that pays you off most. Once again, don’t lose the human touch. Being human is being the real heroes! 

Bollywood

Gully Boy: Ranveer & Aalia deliver heart winning performances

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Start Rating 4.5 out of 5.0

Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy is a story of a young man living in sub slums, that also highlights India’s emerging hip-hop subculture. Gully Boy is inspired from the life journey of two street rappers Vivian Fernandes aka Divine and Naved Shaikh aka Naezy.

With fascinating writing, excellent texture this world is a revelation, I would say this is the first great Bollywood film of current year.

The basic storyline of the Gully Boy is simple and typical Bollywood movie. You must have heard several stories about a boy who has nothing and ends up gaining fame. A nobody that has no one to look up to, facing several hurdles, have to work hard to get basics in life, family issues, flawed love life etc. We know that the Rap music has always been a music that belonged to underprivileged, marginalized young adults. However, the powerful screenplay, astounding cinematography, real life dialogues makes it something to stand tall among all. Every scene of this film is carefully crafted to near perfection.

Ranveer Singh as Murad is battling to survive with a tough life. Murad is not a kind of a hero who has all the confidence in the world. He is shy, and is afraid of several things in life. He is a commoner roaming the streets. Ranveer has set high standard for himself, in the next movie he will have to match this performance in order to compete. The journey he took from his struggling phase to his celebrity status phase reveals his potential.

Aalia Bhatt electrifying performance outshines everyone in every single frame she was in. She portrayed Safeena with utmost zeal, her hothead character demands somethings extra, and she delivers like a duck to water. Unlike Murad, Safeena was very clear from the very beginning what she actually wants to do with her life. She is fearless, determined, passionate, daring, and ready to go to any length for her goals. This is a very unconventional character of sub-slum area Muslim girl and perhaps no one can play it better than Aalia Bhatt.

Kalki Koechlin character was more like a cameo though very important. She added the much-needed brake from the slum life lead characters are living and handles different shades of it with class.

For me, the biggest surprise was the character of MC Sher aka Siddhant Chaturvedi. It was difficult to believe that it was his first film. He has done a marvellous job. He didn’t look like a new comer. He graces every scene he was in with commitment and enthusiasm.

Vijay Raaz played as Ranveer’s father matches his talent. It appeared as if this role is made for him.

Murad’s drug dealer friend Vijay Varma has a role that also has several layers. He always looked compassionate.

Murad’s mother played by Amruta Subash owned every emotional situation with a style and did have a huge impact.

Zoya Akhtar has achieved something in Gully Boy. The film starts and ends with the bang. It makes the audience listen to the sounds and voices that you cannot ignore. Gully Boy is a rare film, it is near perfect in almost every department. This is not limited to rap music, it is about humans and humanity. It is time to take a bow to this cinematic marvel of Bollywood.

The only regret would be 3 missing kiss scenes that our CBFC chopped out for the sake of moral policing.

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Top 5 Timeless Books

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One can never have or read enough books and that’s a fact. Reading books is the healthiest addiction out there and definitely not one that you should ever stop. Even if you have read one good book in your life, you will know what reading gives. It gives you incomparable pleasure. So here are our top 5 books that everyone should read once in their lives.

1. Harry Potter series

From the opening line of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone through the poignant end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, few book series are as gripping as J.K. Rowling’s. Decades after the tales of “The Boy Who Lived” were first published, these books continue to enchant and inspire readers of all ages. This list includes all of Rowling’s magical novels, as well as a few bonus books she wrote for Harry’s biggest fans and a play she co-wrote with two others. We can say from personal experience that one can never have enough of the Harry Potter series.

2. Homo Sapiens

Homo sapiens rules the world because it is the only animal that can believe in things that exist purely in its own imagination, such as states, money and human rights. Starting from this provocative idea, Sapiens goes on to retell the history of our species from a completely fresh perspective. It explains that money is the most pluralistic system of mutual trust ever devised; that the treatment of animals in modern agriculture is probably the worst crime in history; and that even though we are far more powerful than our ancient ancestors, we aren’t much happier.

3. Game Of Thrones

This series needs no introduction, HBO’s beloved show helped place the critically acclaimed books on everyone’s radar. Full of twists at every turn, in depth character development, a slightly different plot than the one presented to us in video format, this is something you should definitely get your hands on. If that alone doesn’t help sell you these books, the fact that you’ll have an upper hand on people who only watch the TV show should suffice.

4. Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon

For all history, art, cryptography and semiotic buffs, these books are a dream come true. Balancing a perfect amount of fiction with reality, Dan Brown keeps us immersed and on our feet. Providing a lengthy deconstruction of the Vatican, Freemasons and many other secret societies, there’s not a moment of boredom in sight. If you’re looking for books that are intellectually stimulating yet fun to read, these are perfect for you.

5. The Alchemist

Paul Coehlo’s masterpiece, which is saying a lot considering all the other amazing books he has written. An alluring and beautiful story about a man’s journey of self discovery and yearning, following one’s heart and desires, and most importantly one’s faith in themselves. A must read for everyone unsure of themselves and what the future might hold for them, the book offers an enlightening experience.

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Kangana Ranaut hits new low: “Pakistan ban is not the focus, Pakistan destruction is”

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From raising the issue of nepotism in bollywood to standing up for the #MeToo movement, Kangana Ranaut has now taken another route. In wake of the Pulwama attacks, the actress cancelled her success party for movie “Manikarnika” in solidarity but that was not the end of it.

Ranaut went on to bash cultural exchange between Indian and Pakistani artists claiming “Pakistan ban is not the focus, Pakistan destruction is”. Even though Pakistan denies any role in the bombing, India has accused the state of being complicit.

Ranaut has always voiced her opinion and has been highly regarded as a strong voice for female empowerment, however has taken things too far this time. Coming from an artist, these words seem irresponsible and ignorant and some have claimed that Ranaut is now trying to make her way into politics.

She went on to bash Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi for accepting an invite by the Karachi Arts Council to celebrate Azmi’s father,  Kaifi Azmi’s birth centenary. However, in light of the attacks, they cancelled their trip but Kangana did not stop there.

Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar

In an interview with PINKVILLA she said “People like Shabana Azmi calling for halt on cultural exchange, they are the ones who promote Bharat tere Tukade honge gangs…. why did they organize an event in Karachi in the first place when Pakistani artists have been banned after Uri attacks and now they are trying to save face. Film industry is full of such antinationals who boost enemies morals in many ways but right now is the time to focus on decisive actions.

Azmi responded – “You really think at a time like this a personal attack on me can be of any significance when the entire country stands as one in our grief and in condemning this dastardly Pulwama attack? May God bless her. Shabana Azmi.”

Esteemed bollywood actress Sushmita Sen also reacted to Kangana’s comment: “We are living in sensitive times, what sounds like ‘fake news’ may well be someone’s reality. Let’s all be more aware of our surroundings & our true sense of patriotism, so that NO ONE can mislead us.”

Looks like Pakistan was not the only target of her misplaced and misjudged wrath, she also went on accusing the film industry for not supporting her movie. Kangana Ranaut’s statements about Bollywood ganging up against her to boycott her has not gone down well with many from the industry. Not that this is the first time she has accused Bollywood of treating her as an outsider. This time, she went on record to threaten that she will expose each from the industry after how they neglected her most ambitious release, Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi. She even mentioned Alia Bhatt in one of her statements by calling her ‘Karan Johar’s puppet’.

When Zoya Akhtar was recently questioned about Kangana’s statements and what does she think of this whole backlash from Kangana, she however retorted saying, “Of course people appreciate her work…I don’t understand her accusations, I’m sorry” She said this in interaction with Pinkvilla.

Zoya Akhtar, Director of Gully Boy (Also happened to be the daughter of Javed Akhtar – Seems likes these assaults are all linked)

Looks like Kangana is just out to attack anyone who she sees as a competitor. This attack was brought on unprovoked and Alia Bhatt was also called out by her for no apparent reason other than the fact that Zoya and Alia’s movie “Gully Boy” was set too release around the same time as “Manikarnika” and gained more attention.

It is deeply upsetting to see someone on a platform so important, generalizing a whole country and blatantly throwing shade without realizing the impact it might have on the citizens of both countries. We expected way more from her than we clearly should have and this is all the more reason Pakistanis should focus on celebrating their own artists and promoting our national film and cinema industry.

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