Bollywood Superstar Aamir Khan Announces Divorce

(FILES)Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao have announced in a joint statement their divorce after 15 years of marriage. (Photo by STR / AFP)

 

 

Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan announced Saturday that he is splitting with his wife of 15 years, film-maker Kiran Rao.

The A-list couple released a statement saying their break-up had been agreed but they would raise their son together and still work on joint projects.

“In these 15 beautiful years together we have shared a lifetime of experiences, joy and laughter, and our relationship has only grown in trust, respect and love,” they said.

“Now we would like to begin a new chapter in our lives — no longer as husband and wife, but as co-parents and family for each other.”

Khan and Rao met while shooting a film in 2001 on which Rao was the assistant director, and they married in December 2005.

The 56-year-old actor, whose film about wrestling, “Dangal”, made him the top Indian star in China, was divorced from actor Reena Dutta in 2002.

“We began a planned separation some time ago, and now feel comfortable to formalise this arrangement, of living separately yet sharing our lives the way an extended family does,” Khan and Rao said.

“We remain devoted parents to our son Azad, who we will nurture and raise together. We will also continue to work as collaborators on films, Paani Foundation, and other projects that we feel passionate about.”

 

 

Khan and Rao, 47, thanked their family and friends “without whom we would not have been so secure in taking this leap”.

“We request our well wishers for good wishes and blessings, and hope that – like us – you will see this divorce not as an end, but as the start of a new journey.”

Khan, a Muslim, is an activist for humanitarian and political causes and said in 2015 that growing “intolerance” against Muslims and intellectuals in India had led to Rao, a Hindu, suggesting they leave the country.

He has been working on a remake of the 1994 Hollywood hit “Forrest Gump”, titled “Laal Singh Chaddha”, which is provisionally due for release at the end of 2021.

 

Amazon To Produce First Bollywood Film

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 28, 2011 the Amazon logo is seen on a podium during a press conference in New York. Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP

 

Amazon is diving into Bollywood with its first Hindi-language movie, starring India’s highest-paid actor, as it fights for viewers in the huge but crowded market.

Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar will be the lead in the action-adventure flick “Ram Setu”, which will be released in cinemas before its streaming debut on Amazon Prime Video, the American tech giant said in a statement Wednesday.

Global streaming platforms, including Netflix, Amazon and Disney’s Hotstar, have expanded their presence in the country of 1.3 billion in recent years, including by commissioning local productions featuring Bollywood stars.

Streaming services have surged in popularity due to the coronavirus pandemic as locked-down, cinema-loving Indians turned to them for entertainment, with theatres shut for more than six months.

Amazon, which has already bet big on India with its core e-commerce business, recently ruffled feathers when it was forced to issue an apology for “Tandav”, a drama streamed on Prime.

Politicians from India’s ruling party called for the show to be banned for “deliberately mocking Hindu gods” and disrespecting religious sentiments.

Streaming TV services are not subject to the country’s notoriously fussy censor boards, which regularly cut scenes from movies shown in cinemas and on television.

But under contentious new guidelines announced last month, streaming platforms will soon be forced to withdraw content deemed objectionable 36 hours after a complaint.

The furore over “Tandav” and the new rules are already prompting production firms to tone down programmes they are making, or even drop them, according to media reports.

During his visit to India last year, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos told an audience of Bollywood filmmakers that while Prime Video was doing well in all geographies, “there’s nowhere it’s doing better than in India”.

Amazon has not announced a release date for “Ram Setu”, which refers to Adam’s Bridge, a chain of shoals off southeastern India that was built by an army of monkey warriors, according to Hindu mythology.

“I look forward to telling the story of a significant part of Indian heritage, especially for the youth,” said Kumar, the highest-paid Indian actor in the world according to Forbes’ 2020 rankings.

“I am happy that, with Amazon Prime Video, the story will cut across geographies and strike a chord with viewers across the world.”

 

AFP

Independent Musicians Thrive As Pandemic Silences Bollywood

In this picture taken on October 28, 2020 Bollywood actress Urvashi Rautela performs during the shoot for her upcoming music video album in Mumbai. – Bollywood movie songs normally dominate India’s music charts. But when the pandemic dried up film releases, it created a huge opportunity for independent musicians to become famous –- sometimes from their bedrooms. (Photo by Sujit Jaiswal / AFP) / TO GO WITH ‘India-music-economy-Bollywood, FOCUS’ by Vishal MANVE

 

Bollywood movie songs normally dominate India’s music charts. But when the coronavirus epidemic put paid to new film releases, it created a huge opportunity for independent musicians to make a name for themselves –- sometimes from their bedrooms.

Singer Carlton Braganza saw his popularity skyrocket when the country went into lockdown in March, and his phone is now ringing almost non-stop with offers from agents.

For more than three months, the 48-year-old spent nights performing for an online audience from his small bedroom, gaining tens of thousands of new fans in the process.

“I performed live every night for 70 days on Facebook, taking audience requests,” the Bangalore-based musician told AFP.

He has clocked up to 1.5 million views on Facebook, with around 125 online shows under his belt.

His free performances are now paying off, with private bookings and venues lining up as India loosens restrictions.

Experienced musicians like Braganza are not the only ones profiting from the unexpected pandemic-induced vacuum in India’s entertainment calendar.

Hip-hop artist Palak Parnoor Kaur, who has used a small GoPro to shoot videos inside rickshaws and buses under the moniker ‘Lil Malai’ (‘Lil Cream’) since 2018, has also seen an uptick in online followers.

Her videos focusing on India’s millennials and the issues that trouble them struck a chord with young audiences on Instagram and YouTube, with fans praising her for tackling difficult subjects like gender violence.

“Independent artists fill the empty spot created by Bollywood music with original and organic content that audiences can relate to. Now they are more aware of our existence”, the Mumbai-based Kaur told AFP.

– Sea change –
Data from audio streaming platform JioSaavn reveals the sea change that has taken place, with their Top 30 weekly chart dominated by non-film music since the lockdown.

Until mid-October, the top five songs streamed in India were all non-film tracks, according to the platform.

The expansion of independent music labels such as the US-based CD Baby and Tunecore into India has made it easier for musicians to release albums online.

But experts caution that it is only a matter of time before Bollywood claws its way back into the spotlight.

“Once movies start, audiences might just go back to Bollywood music and non-film numbers will tank,” Priyak Dhar, editor of MusicPlus.com, told AFP.

Many artists are still struggling to make money, despite acquiring social media followers, said Atul Churamani, managing director of music publishing firm Turnkey.

“Although artists have started online concerts, most of them are free,” Churamani told AFP.

“With coronavirus-led lockdowns, even if artists have views and a huge fan following, there are no offline gigs and hence no revenue.”

– Social issues –
But for some, money isn’t the main motivation behind their desire to grab the mic.

Rapper Duleshwar Tandi’s furious videos about the plight of millions of migrant workers in India’s lockdown went viral in April, bringing the former waiter unexpected fame.

The videos, shot on a mobile phone in his village in eastern India, attacked the government for its apathy towards the poor.

“When the lockdown was imposed, my family almost starved as there was no work or money,” said the 27-year-old, who raps under the pseudonym ‘Dule Rocker’.

“I started rapping to channel my anger with the governmental system and everyone responded strongly.”

He has rejected offers from the film industry, telling AFP he refuses “to write rap music objectifying women”.

But in a story arc worthy of a Bollywood movie, he is now working on an album for US titan Universal Group Music.

“I want to bring changes to how society looks at poverty”, he said.

Indian Action Hero Rajinikanth Enters Political Fray, Vows Corruption-Free Government

Indian actor Rajinikanth (C) addresses the media representatives in front of his residence in Chennai on December 3, 2020. Indian film superstar Rajinikanth announced on December 3 that he is going into politics vowing to bring in “corruption-free” politics. PHOTO: AFP

Indian film superstar Rajinikanth on Thursday became the latest in a long line of big-name actors to enter politics, vowing to bring in a “corruption-free” government to his home state.

The action hero, one of Asia’s best-paid actors, said on Twitter that with “huge support from people” he would be launching a political party in January that is expected to contest elections scheduled in Tamil Nadu state next year.

The 69-year-old former bus conductor said the public wanted “honest, transparent, corruption-free, caste-less, secular and spiritual politics” in the state.

READ ALSO: Netflix Hit ‘The Crown’ Blasted For Anti-Charles Bias

“Wonderful and amazing things will happen!” he added without stating explicitly that he would stand himself.

The actor enjoys a cult-like following across India where he is called “The Superstar” or “Thalaivar” (leader).

Every new film sends Tamil Nadu into a frenzy, with fans getting haircuts like his most recent character or having his face tattooed on their bodies.

Rajnikanth, who worked on buses in the southern city of Bangalore before moving into acting in 1973, proved his political muscle in 1996 when he called on fans to oppose the Tamil Nadu government, which was then voted out of power.

Rajinikanth said in 2017 that he wanted to enter politics to bring “change in Tamil Nadu”. His fans set off fireworks in celebration but have been waiting since for the formal moves.

He launched his own movement, Rajini Makkal Mandram (RMM), which has since been putting in place the political launchpad for the film hero.

He has carried on making films and had health scares which led some to believe that he would give up his political ambitions.

Rajinikanth is following a well-worn path from the cinema into Indian politics.

Hindi star Sunny Deol is a member of parliament and another Tamil star, Kamal Haasan, formed his own party in 2018 but failed to win a seat in a national election last year.

Jaya Bachchan, the actor wife of Bollywood’s best-known star Amitabh Bachchan, has served four terms as a member of the Rjya Sabha upper house.

Comedy actor Govinda was a member of parliament from 2004 to 2009 and actress Rekha was a member of the Rajya Sabha parliament but stood down in 2018 following criticism of her attendance record.

AFP

India Star Akshay Kumar Acknowledges Bollywood’s Drug Problem

In this picture taken on October 2, 2020, Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar gestures after completing the upcoming spy thriller Hindi film ‘Bell Bottom’, at the airport in Mumbai. (Photo by Sujit Jaiswal / AFP)

 

Bollywood megastar Akshay Kumar acknowledged on Saturday a drug problem within India’s film industry, following a growing narcotics probe surrounding the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput.

Movie-obsessed India has been gripped by the saga around the death of Rajput, who was found dead in June in his Mumbai apartment, with police saying he took his own life.

The investigation into the 34-year-old’s death has expanded into a massive drugs probe, with his former girlfriend, actress Rhea Chakraborty, arrested earlier this month for allegedly buying cannabis for him.

Indian media has also joined calls for a wider investigation into the multibillion-dollar film industry’s so-called “drugs mafia”.

In an almost four-minute video posted on his Twitter account on Saturday, Kumar called on the industry’s fervent fans not to tar everyone in Bollywood with the same brush.

“With a hand on my heart, how can I lie and say that this (narcotics and drugs) problem doesn’t exist in our industry,” Kumar, 53, said in Hindi in a video watched more than 2.5 million times.

“It exists in our profession the same way problems exist in every other profession. But to say that everyone in every profession is involved in all its problems would be wrong.”

Several high-profile actresses including 34-year-old superstar Deepika Padukone, Sara Ali Khan, Shraddha Kapoor and Rakul Preet Singh have been hauled in for questioning.

Wider national interest in the Bollywood case peaked last month after TV channel TimesNow broadcast sections of WhatsApp conversation about procuring hash, alleging that the two people chatting were Padukone and her manager.

Rajput’s family, meanwhile, has disputed reports the actor suffered from depression and have also accused Chakraborty of stealing his money and harassing him.

Chakraborty, 28, who has been hounded for months by the media along with her family, has denied any wrongdoing.

AFP

Bollywood Superstar Padukone Summoned By Police In Drugs Probe

Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone. – AFP

 

Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone has been summoned for questioning as part of an escalating drug probe into the suicide of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, Indian police said late Wednesday.

The investigation has already seen actress Rhea Chakraborty arrested for allegedly buying drugs for her former boyfriend Rajput, who was found dead in June in his Mumbai apartment — with police saying he took his own life.

A star with many hit movies to his name, the 34-year-old’s suicide initially triggered a debate over mental health in the multi-billion-dollar industry.

But his family disputed reports that he suffered from depression and accused Chakraborty, 28, of stealing his money and harassing him. She has strongly denied the allegations.

Rajput’s death has sparked a media storm in India, where calls have mounted for a wider probe into Bollywood’s so-called “drugs mafia”, with television channels speculating that Chakraborty supposedly drove Rajput to suicide by purchasing cannabis for him.

India’s top anti-crime agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, has been probing his death since last month. The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) was looking into his consumption of cannabis.

Earlier this week, TV channel TimesNow broadcast sections of a WhatsApp conversation about procuring hash, alleging that the two people chatting were Padukone and her manager.

K.P.S. Malhotra, deputy director of the NCB, told AFP the agency had summoned Padukone as well as actresses Sara Ali Khan, Shraddha Kapoor and Rakul Preet Singh for questioning.

The police have already detained others in connection with the case including Chakraborty’s brother and a member of Rajput’s house staff.

The investigation has grabbed headlines for months, and some celebrities including actresses Vidya Balan and Sonam Kapoor have accused TV channels of carrying out a “witch hunt” against Chakraborty.

Born in the eastern state of Bihar, Rajput quit his engineering studies to pursue a career in acting.

He got his big break in 2013 with “Kai Po Che”, a film about cricket, love, and politics that won acclaim at the Berlin film festival.

He was also lauded for his portrayal of Indian cricket hero Mahendra Singh Dhoni in a hit 2016 biopic.

In an interview with AFP that year, Rajput spoke of the emotional rollercoaster he experienced while filming the movie, which portrayed the heartbreak suffered by Dhoni when his girlfriend died.

“After we did the preparation, in my head I was him and everything that was happening was actually affecting me,” he said.

 

 

-AFP

Bollywood’s Bachchan Back At Work As India Relaxes On-Set Rules

A photo of Bollywood megastar, Amitabh Bachchan.

 

Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan is back at work filming India’s version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” following a bout of COVID-19, while authorities eased coronavirus curbs on movie and TV shoots.

A blanket ban on studio activity in March dealt a huge blow to India’s cinema and TV industries, hitting not just Bollywood — the world’s most prolific film factory — but also regional movie-making hubs and productions for television and streaming platforms.

In June shooting was allowed again but with strict rules, including a ban on actors and crew aged over 65 — including Bachchan, 77 — until a court overturned that earlier this month.

Late Sunday the government eased the regulations but still insisted that common facilities be regularly sanitised, masks worn and social distancing “followed as far as possible”.

But the relaxation depends on individual Indian states, and Maharashtra, home to Mumbai and Bollywood and responsible for more than a fifth of India’s virus cases, is sticking to the old rules for now.

“We are careful and will review these decisions based on how the pandemic is evolving in the state,” a spokesman for the state government told AFP.

Shows such as “Kaun Banega Crorepati?” for instance, which Bachchan has hosted as quizmaster since 2000, will not be shot before a studio audience.

The veteran star, who spent much of July in a Mumbai hospital, shared a photo with his 22 million Instagram followers of crew members “in a sea of blue PPE”, wearing full-body overalls and face masks.

Maharashtra authorities have sought to combat the spread of infections by banning producers from filming elaborate dance numbers and fight sequences — a staple of popular Hindi cinema.

Social-distancing norms also put a stop to kissing or embracing, meaning a return of styles from the more conservative 1980s, when Bollywood songs often cut to images of flowers brushing against each other — then a shorthand for romance.

In addition to providing crew members with medical and life insurance, producers in Mumbai are required to have a doctor, nurse and an ambulance on set.

Members of the Bachchan dynasty have been among the country’s highest-profile coronavirus patients.

The superstar, his actor son Abhishek, actress daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai, and granddaughter Aaradhya were all admitted to hospital last month. All four have since been released.

AFP

Bollywood Star Bachchan Discharged After Testing Negative To COVID-19

(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 27, 2019, Indian Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan takes part in a launch event for the water conservation effort “Mission Paani” in Mumbai. Sujit Jaiswal / AFP

 

Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan said Sunday he had been discharged from hospital, three weeks after being admitted with “mild” coronavirus symptoms after testing positive for the disease.

The news came as powerful Indian Home Minister Amit Shah revealed he had tested positive for coronavirus, which is infecting tens of thousands of people a day — and killing hundreds — in the world’s second-most-populous country.

More than 1.7 million people have now been infected in India and more than 37,000 have died, giving it the world’s highest toll behind the United States and Brazil.

Bachchan’s actor-son Abishek, who was admitted at the same time, will remain in hospital, while his daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai and granddaughter Aaradhya were discharged last week.

They were the highest-profile family in India to contract the virus in a country that worships movie stars.

“I am back home. I will have to be in solitary quarantine in my room,” Bachchan wrote on Instagram, saying he had tested negative.

He thanked his family, fans “and the excellent care and nursing” at the hospital, saying they “made it possible for me to see this day”.

At the time he said he had “mild” symptoms.

Fans of Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan chant prayers in front of his statue as they participate in a special prayer organised for his speedy recovery after he tested positive for COVID-19 coronavirus, at the Amitha Bachchan temple, in Kolkata on August 2, 2020. Dibyangshu SARKAR / AFP

 

Bachchan’s discharge came as Home Minister Amit Shah — Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-hand man — said he had tested positive for the virus.

“On getting initial symptoms of coronavirus, I got myself tested and my report is positive,” Shah tweeted.

“My health is fine, but on the advice of doctors I’m getting myself admitted to a hospital.”

The 55-year-old called on everyone in contact with him over the past two days to get tested and isolate.

It was not clear if Shah had met Modi or other senior cabinet ministers in recent days. He was admitted to a hospital in Gurgaon, just outside the capital New Delhi, local media reported.

Bachchan, 77, idolised in India and affectionately known as “Big B”, has worked for more than half a century in the film industry.

His release from hospital was cheered by his legion of fervent fans.

Hundreds of them gathered at the Amitabh Bachchan Temple — built by his fans in the city in 2001 and which has a life-size statue of the revered celebrity — in Kolkata on Sunday.

“Amitabh is our ‘guru’. He is more than god to us,” Amitabh Bachchan Fan Association secretary Sanjoy Patodiya told AFP on Sunday ahead of the actor’s announcement.

“His fans are spending sleepless nights praying that their god gets well soon.”

AFP

Bollywood Star Aishwarya Rai, Daughter Moved To Hospital For COVID-19 Treatment

In this file photo taken on November 20, 2019 Indian Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (L) and daughter Aaradhya Bachchan pose during an event with NGO Smile Train India to bring awareness about cleft lip and palate, in Mumbai. Sujit Jaiswal / AFP
In this file photo taken on November 20, 2019 Indian Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (L) and daughter Aaradhya Bachchan pose during an event with NGO Smile Train India to bring awareness about cleft lip and palate, in Mumbai. Sujit Jaiswal / AFP

 

Bollywood star and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has been moved to a Mumbai hospital along with her eight-year-old daughter, nearly a week after they were revealed to have the coronavirus, media reports said.

Her actor husband Abhishek Bachchan and superstar father-in-law Amitabh Bachchan are already in the same hospital, the highest-profile personalities to have been infected in India, which has now recorded more than one million cases in the pandemic.

Aishwarya Bachchan, a former beauty queen who went on to become one of India’s top actors, and her daughter Aaradhya were revealed on Sunday to be suffering from the coronavirus.

They had been in self-quarantine at home but the Times of India newspaper said they were moved to the Nanavati Hospital on Friday after complaining of “breathlessness”.

“They are fine,” a hospital source told Press Trust of India news agency.

 In this file photo taken on March 22, 2020 Bollywood actors Abhishek Bachchan (R) and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan along with their daughter Aaradhya clap from atop a residential building to thank essential service providers during a one-day Janata (civil) curfew imposed amid concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, in Mumbai. Sujit Jaiswal / AFP
In this file photo taken on March 22, 2020 Bollywood actors Abhishek Bachchan (R) and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan along with their daughter Aaradhya clap from atop a residential building to thank essential service providers during a one-day Janata (civil) curfew imposed amid concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, in Mumbai. Sujit Jaiswal / AFP

 

Amitabh Bachchan, 77, and his son Abhishek, 44, are in the hospital’s isolation ward. When they entered hospital their cases were described as “mild”.

No health update has been given since but Amitabh has been regularly issuing Twitter messages.

“In happy times, in times of illness, you our near and dear, our well wishers, our fans have ever given us unstinting love,” he said Friday.

Aishwarya Bachchan won the Miss World Crown in 1994 and has since become one of the most famous faces in Bollywood. She has been a regular on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival and married Abhishek Bachchan in 2007.

The elder Bachchan, idolised in India and affectionately known as “Big B” — has a more than four-decade-long career in the film industry.

He was voted “actor of the millennium” in a BBC online poll in 1999 and became the first Indian actor to gain a lookalike at London’s Madame Tussauds waxworks museum.

City authorities said India’s financial and film capital has now seen nearly 100,000 cases, with more than 1,200 new patients being reported each day. More than 5,582 people in the city have died.

Nationally, the country of 1.3 billion people has reported 26,000 dead.

 

AFP

The Battle For Bollywood: Virus, Streaming Apps Spark Fears For Cinemas

In this file photo taken on September 22, 2017 Sandeep Bacche, an Indian rickshaw driver and fan of Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, poses for a picture in Mumbai.  PUNIT PARANJPE / AFP
(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 22, 2017 Sandeep Bacche, an Indian rickshaw driver and fan of Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, poses for a picture in Mumbai. – A Bollywood actor’s face tattooed on his arm, Sandeep Bacche’s devotion shocks few in India where stars enjoy semi-divine status. But even here the hallowed silver screen may be losing its shine to streaming services and pandemic fears. With cinemas shut for months due to a coronavirus lockdown, and little prospect they will open soon, frustrated Bollywood producers have turned to the likes of Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ Hotstar to release films online. (Photo by PUNIT PARANJPE / AFP)

 

 

A Bollywood actor’s face tattooed on his arm, Sandeep Bacche’s devotion shocks few in India where stars enjoy semi-divine status. But even here the hallowed silver screen may be losing its shine to streaming services and pandemic fears.

“Whenever things get better and theatres begin operations, I will watch three movies a day for sure just as a way to celebrate,” said the Mumbai rickshaw driver, who is recovering from the virus himself.

But others may not join the party.

With cinemas shut for months due to a coronavirus lockdown, and little prospect they will reopen soon, frustrated Bollywood producers have turned to the likes of Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ Hotstar to release films online.

“Gulabo Sitabo”, starring Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan, premiered on Amazon Prime last month. Other Hindi movies have followed a similar route, as have the huge Telugu-, Tamil- and Malayalam-language film industries.

This has sparked fury from cinema operators.

INOX Leisure Ltd, India’s second-largest multiplex operator, warned producers of possible “retributive measures”.

“Movie stars are not made on the small screen but on the silver screen,” Siddharth Jain, INOX executive director, told AFP.

But, noting the financial might of the competition, he said: “No business model in the world can compete with free money and Netflix is nothing but free money.”

Shoojit Sircar, who directed “Gulabo Sitabo”, told AFP that “a digital release was a tough decision” but financial constraints pushed him to do it.

“A lot of technicians are dependent on me,” Sircar said.

“Cinema magic cannot be replaced by TV, iPad or laptop experience. But I needed to move on.”

Affordable entertainment
India has the world’s most prolific film industry, churning out nearly 1,800 releases in 2018. Stars are worshipped like gods, with fans building temples and making pilgrimages to their homes.

Going to the cinema also remains a hugely popular and affordable pursuit, with 75 rupees ($1) buying three hours of entertainment in an air-conditioned movie theatre.

Some of the higher-end multiplex cinemas have menus that include biryani being delivered to your recliner, and blankets to snuggle under if the air conditioning is too cold.

But with more than half of India’s population under 30, and many of them consuming entertainment on mobile phones, the likes of Netflix were starting to make inroads even before the coronavirus.

Hotstar, the market leader now owned by Disney, boasted 300 million active monthly users in 2018 — offering some content for free and other shows only to subscribers.

The shutdown has only accelerated the shift.

For years Mumbai-based teacher Nigel D’Souza, 27, was one of the holdouts, preferring to watch films in cinemas.

But when India went into lockdown in late March, he bit the bullet and subscribed to both Amazon Prime — aggressively priced in India at just 129 rupees per month — and Netflix.

He is now hooked.

“It was very cheap… as we don’t spend money on expensive popcorn or travel”, he said.

Furthermore, he found he “could binge-watch any number of movies… without worrying about the virus”.

Virus measures 
Vijay Subramaniam, Amazon Prime’s director of content for India, insisted the company was not looking to put cinemas out of business.

“Theatres play an important role in film distribution and we aren’t looking to change that,” he told AFP.

But he added: “As technology continues to change that landscape, customers’ preferences of what to watch and where will continue to evolve.”

Cinemas meanwhile are getting ready for the end of lockdown, which will come with strict rules that will further eat away at their profit margins.

Some seats will have to be left empty and cinema halls will have to be thoroughly disinfected after every show. The lavish menus and blankets will probably have to go.

But it is not all doom and gloom.

“The cinema experience is ingrained in our blood… (it) will never go out of fashion,” Mumbai-based film trade analyst Girish Johar told AFP.

For diehard fans like Bacche, the heady pleasures of the silver screen are simply too irresistible.

Even in the coronavirus treatment facility, the 41-year-old still needed his daily fix of Bollywood, he said.

He found it on the YouTube app on his phone, which he still uses — a sign that the pandemic’s impact on viewing habits may linger for a while longer.

 

 

-AFP

Bollywood Stars Attend Rajput’s Funeral As Death Sparks Mental Health Debate

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 10, 2019 Indian Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput attends the book launch of ‘Boundless’ in Mumbai. – A young Bollywood heartthrob lauded for his portrayal of cricket star M.S. Dhoni on the silver screen has taken his own life, Mumbai police said on June 14, the latest in a string of deaths to rock India’s entertainment industry. “Police found Sushant Singh Rajput’s body at his residence Sunday afternoon,” Mumbai police spokesman Pranay Ashok told AFP, confirming that the 34-year-old had taken his own life. Rajput, renowned for his numerous hits on the big and small screens, reportedly battled depression. Sujit Jaiswal / AFP.

 

Bollywood stars joined family members for the funeral Monday of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, whose death aged 34 has sent shock waves through the Indian film industry and rekindled a national debate about mental health.

Rajput was found dead on Sunday in his Mumbai apartment, with police saying he took his own life.

A star of hits on the big and small screen, Rajput died just days after the shock death of his former manager, Disha Salian.

Those attending the funeral included Shraddha Kapoor, who starred with Rajput in his last movie release, “Chhichhore”, which dealt with societal pressure and mental health.

Others, including actress Kriti Sanon and producer Ekta Kapoor, joined Rajput’s family in heavy monsoon rain to pay their last respects as his body was cremated according to Hindu rituals.

READ ALSO: Bollywood Actor Sushant Singh Rajput Dies At 34

The young actor’s death has sparked emotional discussion on social media about mental health, with stars including Deepika Padukone and Anushka Sharma posting messages about the importance of seeking help.

An ambulance carrying the body of Indian Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput is seen leaving after he took his own life, near his residence in Mumbai on June 14, 2020. – A young Bollywood heartthrob lauded for his portrayal of cricket star M.S. Dhoni on the silver screen has taken his own life, Mumbai police said on June 14, the latest in a string of deaths to rock India’s entertainment industry. INDRANIL MUKHERJEE / AFP.

Padukone, who has previously shared her struggle with depression, tweeted with the hashtag #YouAreNotAlone.

“As a person who has had lived experience with mental illness, I cannot stress enough about the importance of reaching out,” tweeted Padukone.

“Talk. Communicate. Express. Seek help. Remember, you are not alone. We are in this together. And most importantly, there is hope.”

Sharma, the actress wife of Indian national cricket team captain Virat Kohli, also tweeted condolences.

She too had previously opened up about struggling with anxiety.

“Sushant, you were too young and brilliant to have gone so soon. I’m so sad and upset knowing that we lived in an environment that could not help you through any troubles you may have had.”

Born in the eastern state of Bihar, Rajput quit engineering studies to pursue a career in acting and dance.

He got his big break in 2013 with “Kai Po Che”, a film about cricket, love, and politics that won acclaim at the Berlin film festival.

He was lauded for his portrayal of Indian cricket hero Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the 2016 hit “M S Dhoni: The Untold Story”.

He told AFP about the emotional rollercoaster he experienced while filming the movie, which also showed the heartbreak suffered by the ex-skipper when his former girlfriend died.

“It was very difficult because, after we did the preparation, in my head I was him and everything that was happening was actually affecting me,” he said.

His most recent films were the comedy-drama “Chhichhore”, and action movie “Drive” — both released last year.

He had been working on a string of projects, including a Hindi remake of the Hollywood romance “The Fault in Our Stars”, titled “Dil Bechara” (“Poor Heart”).

Bollywood is still struggling to come to terms with the loss of two luminaries, Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor, who died in April after long illnesses.

AFP

Bollywood Actor Sushant Singh Rajput Dies At 34

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 10, 2019 Indian Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput attends the book launch of ‘Boundless’ in Mumbai. – A young Bollywood heartthrob lauded for his portrayal of cricket star M.S. Dhoni on the silver screen has taken his own life, Mumbai police said on June 14, the latest in a string of deaths to rock India’s entertainment industry. “Police found Sushant Singh Rajput’s body at his residence Sunday afternoon,” Mumbai police spokesman Pranay Ashok told AFP, confirming that the 34-year-old had taken his own life. Rajput, renowned for his numerous hits on the big and small screens, reportedly battled depression. Sujit Jaiswal / AFP.

 

A young Bollywood heartthrob lauded for his portrayal of cricket star M.S. Dhoni on the silver screen has died, Mumbai police said Sunday.

“Police found Sushant Singh Rajput’s body at his residence Sunday afternoon,” Mumbai police spokesman Pranaya Ashok told AFP, confirming that the 34-year-old had taken his own life.

Rajput, renowned for his numerous hits on the big and small screens, reportedly battled depression.

He passed away just a few days after the shock death of his former manager Disha Salian.

“It pains us to share that Sushant Singh Rajput is no longer with us,” Rajput’s management team said in a statement.

“We request his fans to keep him in their thoughts and celebrate his life, and his work like they have done so far.”

“I will miss him so much,” tweeted Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan alongside a selfie with Rajput. “His energy, enthusiasm and his full happy smile.”

Fellow star Akshay Kumar wrote on Twitter that he was “shocked and speechless”.

“Such a talented actor… may God give strength to his family.”

Bollywood is still struggling to come to terms with the loss of two luminaries, Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor, in April.

In early June, Wajid Khan, one of the top composers of Bollywood dance songs, died at the age of 42 after contracting coronavirus, according to media reports.

Celebrated filmmaker Basu Chatterjee passed away just a week ago. He was 90.

Born in Patna in the eastern state of Bihar, Rajput quit his studies in engineering to pursue a career in acting and dance.

He got his big break in Bollywood in 2013 with “Kai Po Che”, a film about cricket, love and politics that won acclaim at the Berlin film festival.

His most recent films were comedy-drama “Chhichhore” and action movie “Drive”, both released last year.

Rajput in 2016 told AFP of the emotional rollercoaster he went through filming the biopic of Indian cricket hero Dhoni, “M S Dhoni: The Untold Story”, which included retelling the death of the ex-skipper’s former girlfriend.

“It was very difficult because, after we did the preparation, in my head I was him and everything that was happening was actually affecting me,” he said.

AFP