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A true maverick wizard

Dhruv Jagasia is a music whiz, entertainment professional, film producer and add to that the reluctant role of a star creator who can turn dust into gold.

Anshu Khanna

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If winning an award for avatar makeovers was a reality, the one person who would win it hands down is Dhruv Jagasia, kingmaker, music whiz, entertainment professional, film producer and a maverick at heart. Add to that the reluctant role of a star creator and you have someone who can turn dust into gold yet if given half a chance would simply retire to the hills forever and be lost in the vast universe he has within. Though ‘forever’ is not a word he likes to acknowledge and ‘day after’ a day he leaves to mortal confusion. As he puts it, “All I know is that I have a few calls to make tomorrow, a meeting to attend. Beyond that is up to the universe.”

Dhruv is the founder of the highly successful entertainment and talent management firm, Big Bad Wolf. A name his wife, a criminal lawyer, gave. Though Dhruv suspects it was “Big Bald Wolf” that she had in mind.” With artists like Vir Das, Prateek Kuhad, Indian Ocean, Kubra Sait, Kamakshi Khanna, amongst others in his repertoire, he now turns a producer with the film Choked, also handling the image and career graph of acclaimed director Anurag Kashyap.

Dhruv Jagasia
Dhruv Jagasia

A practising Buddhist and a born survivor whose office has this quirky poster that proudly proclaims, “Soch mat kar de”, Dhruv’s life is a story of someone who jumped first, thought second. And luckily for him each leap of faith got him deeper into the reservoir of his own inner talent.

 Before treading into his incredible trajectory one must first highlight the fact that if someone whom he calls his mentor, Sanjoy Roy, kept the wordsmiths busy with their beloved authors during this lockdown, Dhruv swept the world of independent artist with his magical stroke of LIVE FROM HQ, an online festival where young and acclaimed artist held private shows from their own handles and interacted with their audiences right when the lockdown call was made and humans were getting mentally ready to crawl into the quarantine mouse trap.

He recalls, “I was walking to my office, which is a brisk 8-minute walk when this eureka of an idea hit me. Why not get the artists to go live and entertain their fans at 8 pm each day.” He shared it with his team whom he calls the real custodians of the brand. And each one of them “Pallavi, Aniruddh, Yama, Pritam and Abhishek (Dhruv insists on naming each adding that he is lucky to have these bright minds who indulge all his waywardness) lapped it up. Ashish Hemrajani, the CEO from BookMyShow, was in too. The team put together a DIY poster, lined up the artist and voila the act was alive.”

 Dhruv the explorer has now turned LIVE FROM HQ into a platform that will scout new talent and give them a voice. “Honestly it is my ulterior motive of listening to something new, something fresh,” he laughs.

 So how does he view the world of entertainment in these bleak times when congregations are not going to take place and festivals are out? He sends all preconceived notions out of the window when he retorts: “If festivals are the only parameter of survival how do you explain the billions who listened to Kolaveri Di on a loop? Or who made Gangnam style such a rage.” If that is not logic enough, he adds, “The pandemic is not a question, it is a fact. What we need to find is an ecosystem to overcome this reality. Just like in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, we have to also bring all the pirates together, to make the ecosystem robust. We need to talk to each other.”

To the eternal question of how will the economics pan out, he turns on an intense tone: “An artist is an ‘alag sa’ being. By opting for this path he has taken the empirical decision to be judged for the rest of his life. Whether it is a singer, songwriter, or a guitarist, people wait for that one wrong note to make them fall. Artists are simple-minded people who face a slew of difficulties. Today they have to turn the narrative from ‘why me’ to ‘why not me’. This pandemic has united the world like never before and we entertainment people also have to unite to walk that extra mile for each other.” He insists, “While brands cannot position themselves as just sponsors, artists too have to take a step or two extra.” And above all he hopes that this reverse engineering will filter down to the folk artist who is in the real doldrums.

A kingmaker, Dhruv calls himself just a carpenter! “I did not carve the figurine but I sure do make the cask that transports his work to its audience.” Ask him how did he master this carpentry, and he blames it on his life in school as a backbencher that made him acquire skills to the nonce. Once again distracting you from his brilliance, he insists he was a “useless student” whose father taught him to respect every realm of work. “All through New Year eve I would be working at the packaging department of his factory with the workers.” His mother, a friend first, prodded him to work as an apprentice with Sanjoy Roy whom he openly calls his real mentor.

“Just imagine the delight of this Punjabi boy. There he was working with a maverick boss who let you think, wore his salt and pepper hair with élan, told you that you were actually in the business of ‘carving dreams’ and appreciated you when you got your ears pierced!” That to him was a game changer. At Teamwork was born this energy house that acted, directed, played radio jockey and even hosted a show on Vintage cars for NDTV Goodtimes.

 It’s incredible what made him a reluctant artist. “I replaced Randeep Hooda in a play last minute when he got a role in Monsoon Wedding and our attempts at casting failed. It was the role of a loud Punjabi boy, which I could mime easily but trust me I almost escaped before curtain call out of agripping stage fright. If it weren’t for a kind co-star, the late Pooja Mukherjee, who first introduced me to the power of chants, I would have run for my life. Literally thrust on stage with a comforting opening line of ‘oh f**k!’, Dhruv charmed the audience and went on charming his way through acting for the next 40 productions and 400 shows he took part in.”

 It was after jockeying for Radio Mirchi, anchoring for Goodtimes and being a line producer for films that he found his company which today works with most success stories including Indian Ocean, Karsh Kale, Karan Singh Magic, etc.

His newest avatar, that of a film producer, also follows the trajectory of getting into a realm by default. Anurag knew of him due to Indian Ocean and met him at the time he had come for the screening of a documentary on the band made by Jaideep Verma. However, it was his pal Zoya Hussein who inadvertently re-triggered the tie by inviting him to the screening of Mukkabaaz and then to Kashyap’s home for dinner. There when asked by Anurag to rate the film he responded: “From a layman’s point of view I liked the movie but wished my pal Zoya had a bigger role.” To which, “In the most surreal experiences, Anurag read me a whole new script.” This was followed by Kashyap’s request to handle Zoya’s career. He waited that thought out and agreed once she acknowledged a route that he mapped for her in a two-page letter.

Then he met Anurag again and found himself in the middle of his meeting with Bira Beer. “I was with Anurag at that time. I knew these guys well and I simply rattled off with them to see myself negotiating the waters for Anurag who was now playing on his phone.” Next came the offer to handle Anurag to which another two-page letter was written by Dhruv and Anurag accepted all points…

The role as producers was a natural corollary and today he works closely with the director whom he calls a “fantastic institution. A man who lets you charter the route.” As for Dhruv, his eternal quest for asking a million, hapless questions continues and the universe’s un-satiating desire to give in to his question continues too.

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DIRECTING ‘LUDO’ WAS AN ADVENTURE FOR ANURAG BASU

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Filmmaker Anurag Basu says directing the upcoming multi-starrer, ‘Ludo’, was quite an adventure for him because he has never dealt with a story like this before. “‘Ludo’ is unlike any film I’ve made before. It’s been an adventure. It was fantastic working with such a talented ensemble, where each actor brought a unique vision and craft. (Composer) Pritam, one of my closest collaborators who I have worked with on so many projects, worked closely with me to bring this film to life and I am so grateful to him. I’m excited that the film is getting a global audience with Netflix and hope that they enjoy this Diwali entertainer with their families,” said Basu. The trailer of the film was launched on Monday virtually in the presence of the director and the cast. It stars Abhishek Bachchan, Aditya Roy Kapur, Rajkummar Rao, Sanya Malhotra, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Rohit Saraf, Pearle Maaney, Pankaj Tripathi, and Inayat Verma, who were part of the event. The film is an anthology dark comedy and is scheduled to launch on 12 November.

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THERE IS SO MUCH TO LEARN FROM AKSHAY: MANUSHI CHILLAR

Uday Pratap Singh

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Superstar Akshay Kumar has started shooting for YRF’s big-ticket entertainer ‘Prithviraj’, based on the life and heroism of the fearless and mighty King Prithviraj Chauhan. The big-budget historical had completed a major chunk of its filming before the coronavirus pandemic hit the nation. YRF has now built an extravagant set inside YRF Studios compound and all safety precautions have been put in place for a smooth shoot. Joining him is the ethereally beautiful Miss World 2017, Manushi Chhillar, the leading lady of ‘Prithviraj’. The big-budget entertainer sees Manushi playing the role of the gorgeous Sanyogita, the love of the king’s life. We caught up with Manushi who’s excited about resuming work. “I’m thrilled to be back on the sets of ‘Prithviraj’ as I awfully missed the set life. I look forward to being on shoot every day because I’m absorbing a lot and I’m loving it. I was excited to be on sets with Akshay sir because I’ve learnt so much from him and there is so much more to learn,” says the debutant actress. Manushi reveals Akshay is very encouraging of her work and she is grateful for the same. “I consider myself fortunate to be working with the team and everyone has been wonderful. It is daunting when you debut and you want to do your best and give it your all. Everyone including Akshay sir are all very supportive and encouraging,” she adds

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ETHAN WANTS TO VISIT INDIA FOR ITS CULTURE

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Hollywood star Ethan Hawke says he wants to visit India and experience the culture of the country. “I want to come to India so badly. India has always been one of those places, where I want to go,” Hawke told IANS in an exclusive interview.

Hawke is best known for his performance as a narcotics officer in ‘Training Day’, the hopeless romantic in the ‘Before Sunrise’ franchise, the tormented Father Toller in 2018 film ‘First Reformed’, and a bizarrely imagined time travelling agent in ‘Predestination’.

The Oscar-nominated leading star, critical writer and director, is currently seen in ‘The Good Lord Bird’. The limited series is based on a novel by James McBride, and is infused with themes of racism, religion and gender. The story is told from the point of view of Onion (Joshua Caleb Johnson) a fictional enslaved boy who becomes a member of John Brown’s family of abolitionist soldiers.

“This has been so hard. It was like making three indie movies back to back. The actual workload of that much drama, editing and producing as well as making sure it gets released right and doing interviews with countries all over the world… I feel so exhausted,” he said while looking back at the making of the show. Besides starring as John Brown, Hawke has executive produced and co-created the show, currently available in India on Voot Select. -Correspondent

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AYUSHMANN IS NORMALISING TABOO TOPICS THROUGH FILMS

Uday Pratap Singh

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Bollywood actor Ayushmann Khurrana has been voted as one of the most influential people in the world by TIME magazine for his clutter-breaking, conversation starter social cinema. On the second anniversary of his blockbuster ‘Badhaai Ho’, about accidental pregnancy of an older couple who already have two grown-up children, Ayushmann revealed his intent in handpicking such films.

“I have been trying to normalise taboo conversations in India through my cinema. My choice of films, right from my debut ‘Vicky Donor’, you will notice that I have tried to do my bit to have a constructive conversation with society about the need for change,” says Ayushmann to The Daily Guardian.

He adds, “I have strongly felt that through cinema, we could tell society to widen its gaze towards important subjects that were not being addressed. We were a shy country, we still are and there is beauty to that but what I’m most happy about is how the people of my country have appreciated my style of cinema.”

Ayushmann, who has delivered eight hits in a row, says that the love of audiences towards his progressive, forward-thinking social entertainers have been hugely encouraging. He maintains that through ‘Badhaai Ho’ he wanted to highlight that physical love between parents shouldn’t be frowned upon.

“Their love is the biggest proof that our society wants to normalise deep-seated issues and that’s the biggest validation for me as an artist. With ‘Badhaai Ho’, I tried to normalise the sexual desires that our parents could have and there’s nothing wrong in that. For Bollywood, this storyline was rare but it was necessary,” he maintains.

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WHY SRK WAS SCEPTICAL TO PLAY A ROMANTIC HERO

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Shah Rukh Khan always felt that he wasn’t cut out to play a romantic character. The iconic blockbuster ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ recently completed 25 years.

Shah Rukh says, “Raj was unlike anything I had done. Before ‘DDLJ’, there was ‘Darr’, ‘Baazigar’, ‘Anjaam’—films in which I had portrayed negative characters. I always felt that I wasn’t cut out to play any romantic character. So, when I was presented with the opportunity by Adi and Yash ji of essaying the role, I was excited to work with him but had no idea how to go about it and also if I would be able to do it well.”

 The ‘DDLJ’ ending has inspired scores of lovers across generations to visualise their love story to be like Raj and Simran’s. Many filmmakers have also used this scene as an inspiration for their films. SRK reveals that he didn’t expect the train sequence to become as iconic when they were shooting it.

The King of Romance adds, “I think ‘DDLJ’ helped me cement my place and brought me fame in a way that I didn’t think it would. As for perception, I always felt that I can play more unconventional roles because of my looks, but ‘DDLJ’ has belied that and I still struggle to make that one macho unconventional kick-ass character which suits me, or so I thought, but it’s been a struggle to not be considered romantic and sweet for the last 25 years — a struggle, I guess, I am happy to lose.”

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SHAH RUKH, KAJOL RECALL THE EVERGREEN MAGIC OF ‘DDLJ’

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Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol starrer ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’, directed by Aditya Chopra, completed 25 years on Tuesday and the film’s leading lady opened up about why the film is hailed as the most loved romantic film in the history of Indian cinema.

 ‘DDLJ’ shattered all box office records and is one of the biggest all-time blockbusters in the history of Hindi cinema. It also went on to become the longest-running Hindi film of all time as it has played in theatres for 25 long years!

 SRK and Kajol have also changed their Twitter handle username as Raj Malhotra and Simran. Kajol says, “I think ‘DDLJ’ is timeless because everybody identifies somewhere down the line with Simran and Raj. I think they just like these characters a lot! They have liked them for years and years now and it’s one of those things that you always like and probably will always like.”

 Kajol says, “I thought Simran was a little boring, to be honest, but I recognised her. I realised there is a lot of Simran in almost everybody we know in a way that they want to do the right thing. A lot of people don’t do the right thing but we always want to do that. You want to get that approval, you want to get that feeling that you are approved of and that you are doing something right in the world. So, yes Simran was like that. I thought she was just cool, a little old-fashioned but cool.” 

 ‘DDLJ’ is also the winner of a record-breaking (at the time) 10 Filmfare Awards and the film changed the face of Bollywood globally. It was made at a budget of Rs 4 crore and the blockbuster, in 1995, collected Rs 89 crore in India, Rs 13.50 crore in overseas markets. Thus, total collections stood at Rs 102.50 crore worldwide in 1995! In today’s inflation-adjusted value, its collection stands at a staggering Rs 455 crore in India and Rs 69 crore in overseas territories, taking the total worldwide collections to a phenomenal Rs 524 crore!

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