Katrina-Ranbir's late night outing

Deepika Padukone had been away most of the last 7 days, attending screenings of “Chandni Chowk To China” in North America and Britain. Meanwhile, Salman Khan has been busy shooting for “London Dreams” and has not been in Mumbai too.

So what did we hear about their respective partners?

That Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif met up for a late dinner at a five-star hotel in Mumbai on January 11. They are said to have arrived separately but dined together in a private setting. They were reported to be in a relaxed and chatty mood.

The duo is co-starring in two movies and their growing closeness has reportedly already upset Ranbir’s girl, Deepika, leading to some tiffs between them in the recent past.

So wonder what she’d say to this one?
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I feel disgusted by Slumdog Millionaire: Amitabh Bachchan

Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan has slammed Danny Boyle's Golden Globe award winning underdog drama “Slumdog Millionaire” for showing India in poor light.

“If 'Slumdog Millionaire' projects India as Third World dirty underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations, ” Amitabh said in a posting on his blog Wednesday from Paris, France.

“Its just that the 'Slumdog Millioanire' idea authored by an Indian and conceived and cinematically put together by a westerner, gets creative global recognition, ” he added.

The 66-year-old also talked about the changing trend in recognition of Indian cinema.

“The commercial escapist world of Indian cinema had vociferously battled for years, on the attention paid and the adulation given to the legendary Satyajit Ray... and not a word of appreciation for the entertaining mass-oriented box office blockbusters that were being churned out from Mumbai.

“Ray portrayed reality. While, the other - escapism, fantasy and incredulous posturing. Unimpressive for Cannes and Berlin and Venice (film festivals), ” he explained.

He further wrote: “But look how rapidly all that is changing. Dedicated TV channels running Hindi cinema on prime timings. Premieres at Leicester Square (referring to 'Chandni Chowk To China'), the home of all Hollywood royalty, thronged by hundreds on the street in cold biting weather.”

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I hope Deepika does not beat me: Akshay

Action hero Akshay Kumar says he helped co-star Deepika Padukone match his action skills in their forthcoming film "Chandni Chowk To China" but made sure she came "second best" to him.

"She (Deepika) once said she wants to be the female Akshay. I hope she doesn't beat me. She has done a good job in the film and I helped her here and there. That way I made sure she always came out second best to me, " Akshay told in an email interview.

Though Akshay was slightly apprehensive in helping Deepika considering "how good women are at picking up skills", he was quite sure he wouldn't be "outshone" by his leading lady.

"Chandni Chowk To China", slated to release Friday, features the two actors in a story of an Indian cook, Sidhu, played by Akshay, who goes to China and is mistaken for a martial arts expert.

The film is apparently based partly on Akshay's own life as he was also born in Chandni Chowk in Delhi and grew up to go to Bangkok to work as a chef.

About his character in the film, he said: "I love my character. It's so much like me. Come to think of it, Sidhu is a man I was once in Bangkok. Though the purpose of the journey is different but the drama is definitely the same. I have fought as many villains in this movie as I have in my career."

"Chandni Chowk..." is being talked about for its aggressive promotional activities as well as for the association of international names like renowned Chinese actor Gordon Liu and action choreographer Dee Dee Ku.

For Akshay, training under Ku, who has worked for films like "Kill Bill", "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Matrix" among others, was like "squeezing blood from a stone".

"He is super quick. Whenever he would have crazy stunt ideas, one couldn't figure if he was serious or joking. He is incredible in his field. And I trusted him with my life.

"If I would have met him before, my life would have been different. He has only worked with the best. So pleasing him was like squeezing blood from a stone. When he used to say 'Akshay the take is okay', that used to be a huge compliment coming from him, " he said.

Sharing screen space with Gordon Liu was like a childhood dream come true for the actor.

"You know how fans react when they see Aamir Khan and how they run behind him. That's how I see Gordon Liu. I have admired him and his martial arts since the beginning. It was superb working with him, " said Akshay.

"Chandni Chowk..." also holds the credit of being the first Indian film to be shot at the Great Wall of China.

"We had a fabulous experience shooting at the legendary monument of the world - the Great Wall of China. It was spiritually breathtaking and probably the highlight of our shoot, " he shared.

A part of the film has also been shot in Chandni Chowk. Akshay has a lot of fond memories of the popular market place.

"Shooting in Chandni Chowk was a unique experience. I was born there. I thought it was sheer madness to shoot there in the narrow lanes but people there were overwhelming. I am an expert regarding the food available there so I used to treat the unit of the film to the best delicacies there, " he said.

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No one can match Hrithik in Bollywood: Isha

She is known as the diva of the dancing world; the other rules the beat. But prolific dancer Isha Sharvani thinks no one can match actor Hrithik Roshan when it comes to shaking a leg.

Isha waltzed with the actor in Parle's Hide and Seek biscuit ad and she once again teams up with the actor in the forthcoming film "Luck By Chance".

"It was such an amazing experience to perform with Hrithik again. He's such a great performer. I remember, for the 'Hide and Seek' ad, our practice session lasted for three days and one should see him practise. No one can match his steps. He is so full of energy and is so much fun to work with," Isha told over phone from Mumbai.

Apart from Hrithik, Isha assures that "people will get to see a little bit of dancing" from her too in the film.

Directed by debutante Zoya Akhtar, "Luck By Chance" is a menagerie of characters and activities about making it big in Bollywood. Produced by Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar, the film is releasing Jan 30.

Farhan plays the main lead and the cast also has Konkona Sen Sharma, Dimple Kapadia, Rishi Kapoor, Juhi Chawla and an ensemble of almost everyone in Bollywood in walk-on parts.

Throwing light on her character in the film, the 23-year-old said: "This is a whole film about making it big in Bollywood and I am a part of that struggle. I play the daughter of a diva played by Dimple Kapadia."

Rumours are also rife that "Luck By Chance" is Bollywood's next "Om Shanti Om", considering its behind the scenes portrayal of the film industry.

But Isha slammed all such speculations and said: "The film is very different from 'Om Shanti Om'. The plots of both the movies are very different. 'Om Shanti Om' was much more of a musical. While 'Luck By...' has a different take on Bollywood. It's much more real.

"I think Zoya has really put together a fantastic script and characters in the movie. The film is unique in its approach."

Isha considers her getting a role in "Luck By Chance" as a matter of "luck".

"My getting this film is totally a matter of luck. I had no idea that Zoya would sign me for the film. I feel so lucky that I got to work with her in her maiden venture," she said.

However, the actress also had some sore moments while shooting for the film.

"When I was doing a ring sequence in the film, I was suspended from a hook in the air and the costume I was wearing had a lot of diamonds on it. As a result, I ended up being completely scratched because of the diamonds but I am glad the sequence came out really lovely," she said.

Isha forayed into Bollywood with Subhash Ghai's dud "Kisna" in 2005 and has since been seen in lesser-known and back to back flops like "Darwaza Bandh Rakho", "Rocky: The Rebel" and "Good Boy, Bad Boy" in 2006.

In 2008, she featured in Ajay Devgan's directorial debut "U, Me Aur Hum".

She doesn't have any other films in her kitty at present, but is concentrating on a new dance show for smal screen with her mother, renowned dancer and choreographer Daksha Seth.

"It's based on martial arts. We are thinking about a name right now for the show as we haven't zeroed in on anything yet. However, the show will be aired from April 3 onwards," she said.

On being asked if she has any plans of stepping into her mother's footsteps - that is, choreography - she said: "I am not interested in any activity other than dancing and acting. So, no choreography or anything else for me in the future too.

"I am a dancer and an actress and I am game for just the two as both are really and equally important to me," she said.

The actress is not bogged down by the pressure in Bollywood and tries to balance dancing and acting.

"I always think one should balance one's time and I think I am being able to do that between both my dancing and acting."

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Chandni Chowk To China: Maar-Saala Arts

Starring Mithin Chakraborty, Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone, Ranvir Shorey
Directed by Nikhil Advani
Rating : * ½

This is a film about maar-saala arts, not to be confused with martial arts which Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan practice with such splendid and subtle skills on screen.

Akshay Kumar cannot be accused of the sins of subtlety. Not at all. He goes from a sweaty cook in Chandni Chowk to a cheesy fighter in China with hammers tongs and indecipherable tongues.

What lies between the extremities represented by the two Oriental cultures has to be seen to be believed….or, not seen to be not borne. But then we in country love to torture ourselves. And most of us do exactly what we are told not to.

So go for this one. And find out why 'Bollywood' (that horribly inappropriate wannabe term used to describe Hindi mainstream cinema) cannot compete with its technically savvy upcountry cousins from the West, or even China and Hong Kong.

When Jackie Chan kicks ass, man… he really kicks! No two ways about it. Akshay Kumar divides his time between being an action hero and a comic virtuoso, tripping over the line that divides the two genres with little or no scope to contain the fall as the screenplay plunges lower and lower into the depths of inanity.

Writer Sridhar Raghavan, known for his smart slick cerebral takes on formulistic conventions spins a web of incidents chronicling the journey of Sidhu the protagonist from a cook in Chandni Chowk to the satirical samurai in Shanghai is littered with laughable incidents and episodes that appear more to be part of a clumsy sitcom lampooning the Chinese than purported large-screen spectacle bringing China to Bollywood.

Director Nikhil Advani (who displayed pockets of sensitivity in his innovative but over-long Salaam-e-Ishq two years ago) takes the hero into what looks like a carryover of the Chambal ravines in China.

Honestly, if this film had been shot anywhere in the world it would've been just as bland and fatuous. What compounds the woefully inadequate narration is the abject lack of connectivity between the protagonist and the audience.

Not even for a second do we feel a rush of empathetic adrenaline for the culturally-displaced Sidhu who encounters all kinds of emaciated goons, terrorized by a suited, booted and largely-uprooted villain named Hojo (Gordon Lieu) who is no Gabbar Singh or Mogambo.

Just an aging goon in a black suit who doesn't know it's bad manners to pee in public, specially in the hero's face.

Brutality when done with grace can be extremely arresting. We saw that recently in Ghajini. Chandni Chowk To China does the cause of cinematic violence a great deal of disservice.

The internationally-renowned action directors who pool in their might seem unsure of where to position the action. Perched on the Great Wall Of China, Akshay Kumar and his fellow fighters (and that includes the desi Lucy Lieu Deepika Padukone) slug it out like drunken revelers on a rowdy spree.

Elegance is in short supply in the film, except when Deepika playing twin sisters (told apart mainly by their hair, one of them perpetually forgets to braid it properly) waltzes in with a light step and twinkling eye. She seems to have fun. We don't. And that's mainly because the scriptwriter forgot to include the audience in his circle of entertainment.

Large chunks of this 'Adventures Of Sidhu in blunderland' saga leave us cold and unresponsive. And when the final climactic fight between the hero and the villain occurs, Akshay Kumar decides to turn it into a comic romp in the middle of the climac. We are more dazed than dazzled by the baffling mood swings in the plot.

Yes, there are moments that hold your attention. Sidhu's martial arts training with twin Deepika Padukone's Chinese dad (who looks like he could do with a wash) are superbly orchestrated.

That touch of unstrained comicality in stressful times that the narration apparently strives to achive, eludes the film by a wide margin. Most of the time you are looking at a film that does appalling things to Indo-Chinese relations. Not to mention our traditional perception of mainstream masala-maar ke entertainment.

Martial arts are turned into maar-saala arts. And you leave the film wondering what it was meant to be. A bird, a plane or just a pathetic parody of Jackie Chan's comic vendetta sagas.

Chandni Chowk To China isn't just no-brainer. Its lobotomized laughter can make you wish for anesthesia. At least you'd know where the numbness is coming from.

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Govinda wants Bhansali for his angel Narmada

2008 has been a decisive year for Govinda. After working with Mani Ratnam he has decided to work only with directors of a certain caliber.

And now in 2009 Govinda has far more to look forward to. His daughter Narmada will finally be facing the camera, and that too with a home production.

Confirming these radical developments in his life Govinda says, "After weighing all the pros and cons I decided I'm the best person to do the needful. I don't want anyone else no matter how well-meaning to take the credit for launching my daughter. So yes, Narmada will finally be launched anytime in 2009. "

The director to do the needful for Govinda will be finalized in the next couple of weeks. Those on Govinda's wish-list are Nikhil Advani and Shaad Ali.

"Ideally, " says the anxious father, "I'd have liked Narmada to be launched by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. He's the among our best. But since that's not possible we're looking at some other names. My daughter has to be directed by someone who has a vision and an aesthetic sense and also respects the work that I do. "

Continuing to speak on his favourite subject Govinda says, "I've struggled all my life and I continue to do so. All kinds of strange stories are planted about me.

The question is not, why. But by whom? Narmada has also faced very harsh and hurtful incidents(she was involved in a terrible road accident) so early in her life. I feel today she's emotionally equipped to face the camera. "

While focusing on his daughter's career Govinda has also taken some hard career decisions for himself. "Six of my releases are ready. But now, after my so-called comeback I've again stopped signing new films.

After working with Mani Ratnam I can't go back to doing chalta hai roles in routine films. I'll work only with directors who are as organized and disciplined as Mani Ratnam. He's clear-headed about everything. "

Shooting in the jungles wasn't easy.

"But it wasn't so tough either, " laughs Govinda. "I've spent my childhood in a village. So I'm used to being in cut off from city life. Shooting in the jungles with Mani, Abhishek and Aishwarya was very invigorating."

Says Govinda, "For now I'm saying no to all future assignments until I get something comparable with Mani's film.

But I'm in negotiation with Ravi Chopra for his next film after Banda Yeh Bindaas Hai which is now complete and being released in February, and for the sequel to Partner with Salman and David. But for now I'm focusing on giving my daughter the best career launch any father can give. "

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