India's narcotics control authority has formally charged as many as 33 people, including some Bollywood celebrities, in a drugs case linked to the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput in June last year.
The 12,000-page chargesheet has been filed in a special court by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and includes the names of Sushant's actor-girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty and her brother Showik, UNB has learnt.
The chargesheet contains the testimonies of as many as 200 people and physical as well as digital evidence, sources said Friday.
NCB started probing the drugs scandal following the death of Sushant last year. Among the first to be arrested in the case were Rhea and Showik. Both are currently out on bail.
Rhea was, in fact, arrested by NCB on September 9, following days of questioning, and accused of procuring cannabis for her late actor-boyfriend, whose body was found hanging from a ceiling fan in his Mumbai flat on June 14.
Immediately after the arrest of Rhea, the names of at least 20 top Bollywood celebrities — from actors to filmmakers to designers — surfaced in the drugs case. Several of them, including leading female Bollywood actors — Rakul Preet Singh, Deepika Padukone, Sara Ali Khan and Shraddha Kapoor — were subsequently grilled by NCB.
The grilling came in the wake of WhatsApp chats retrieved from Rhea's mobile phone indicating that they procured banned substances like cannabis, weed and hash from dealers with links to foreign countries.
All the actors, however, reportedly denied any links with such drug dealers.
Once upon a time, dear children, before you were born, they made a fairytale movie about a kingdom called Zamunda. “Coming to America,” starring Eddie Murphy at the height of his popularity and charisma, became a huge hit and a cult classic.
In this film, dear children, Murphy played Prince Akeem — he didn’t need to be called Prince Charming, because he was already so darned charming. We met him on the morning of his 21st birthday, awakening in his palace bedroom to a full orchestra, servants tossing rose petals at his feet, and gorgeous naked women servicing him in the bathtub until his royal appendage was deemed clean.
Oops! Sorry, kids. Some parts of “Coming To America” didn’t age very well. Including most of the stuff about women.
But 33 years and one #MeToo movement later, it’s time for a reboot. The good news about “Coming 2 America,” directed by Craig Brewer, is that things have gotten better for women in Zamunda. Yes, it’s still a patriarchy (more on that soon) and yes, there are still obedient royal bathers. But we don’t see their naked breasts or backsides. There’s also a bathtub gag involving the great Leslie Jones that flips the gender dynamic entirely and gratifyingly (especially for her).
And now, Prince Akeem is not a randy young heir but an established family man. Happily married for 30 years to Princess Lisa — the bride he found in Queens in the last film — he has three daughters, brave and feisty. The eldest wants to be his heir. A female heir? That’s not done, in Zamunda. But the times, they are — or might be — a-changin’.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that this sequel, despite (or perhaps because of) its nod to modern sensibilities, isn’t nearly as funny or edgy as the original. It has seemingly everything -- the original cast, some well-known newcomers, high-profile cameos — and eye-popping costumes by the great Ruth E. Carter (an Oscar winner for “Black Panther”). It has set pieces and choreography and de-aging technology and overlaying plot lines. What it has less of, is fun.
Still, just like we go to college reunions 30 years later to recapture the magic, fans of the first will flock to it on Amazon Prime. They likely won’t be too disappointed. Especially because, despite the knowing references to urban gentrification, transgender offspring, Teslas and even unnecessary movie sequels, little has really changed.
Obviously Murphy is back, as producer and star. So is Arsenio Hall, as trusty sidekick Semmi (and a bunch of other roles). Also back: the stately James Earl Jones as King Jaffe Joffer; Shari Headley as Lisa (a seriously underwritten role); and Louie Anderson as Maurice. John Amos is back as Lisa’s dad, still ripping off McDonald’s. And of course the My-T-Sharp barbershop crew is back in Queens.
A new presence is the casually appealing Jermaine Fowler as Lavelle, Akeem’s previously unknown son. Celebrity guests include a highly amusing Wesley Snipes as flamboyant General Izzi, leader of Nexdoria (next door); Tracy Morgan as Lavelle’s uncle; and Jones as his uninhibited mother. Another “Saturday Night Live” face, Colin Jost, makes the most of a brief cameo. Among notable musical appearances, Gladys Knight sings “Midnight Train From Zamunda.”
The plot follows a familiar trajectory, beginning in Zamunda and traveling to Queens to solve a major need. In this case, the need is not a bride, but a male heir. Akeem, who becomes king upon his father’s death, learns he unknowingly sired a son during that Queens trip three decades ago (it was Semmi’s fault!) He needs a male heir to cement his power. So he brings Lavelle, a ticket scalper who aspires to much more, back to Zamunda, along with Mom.
But Lavelle needs to learn royal ways, and pass a “princely test” which includes facing down a lion. There’s also the matter of Akeem’s daughter, Meeka (a luminous KiKi Layne, not given enough screen time), who rightly deserves to be queen one day. Complicating matters entirely, Lavelle falls not for his intended bride, Izzi’s daughter, but for his royal barber, Mirembe, who aspires to her own shop one day (women don’t own businesses in Zamunda).
Again, it all feels like a 30th reunion — maybe because it IS one — where the liquor flows, old stories are rehashed, the men haven’t aged quite as well as the women, the kids steal the show, and by the end you’re happy to have gone but feel no need to be at the next one.
“Coming 2 America,” an Amazon Studios release, has been rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America “for crude and sexual content, language and drug content.” Running time: 110 minutes. Two stars out of four.
MPAA definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned, Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
India's tax police Wednesday raided the properties of four Bollywood celebrities, including actress Taapsee Pannu and filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, in the cities of Mumbai and Pune in the western state of Maharashtra.
Both Taapsee and Anurag are vocal critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party government. They have slammed the government on various issues on social media, including the ongoing protests by peasants against the three new farm laws.
Sources told UNB that 30 properties linked to the four Bollywood celebrities -- producers Vikas Bahl and Madhu Mantena being the other two -- were searched by sleuths of the federal Income Tax department in Mumbai and Pune over allegations of tax evasion.
"The tax raids were in connection with Anurag's Phantom Films, a now-defunct production house. Vikas and Madhu were co-promoters of Phantom Films. Several documents have been seized during the raids," sources said.
Indian Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar refuted allegations that the raids were "politically motivated". "The Income Tax department probes someone based on whatever information they get. The issue goes to court later," he told the media in Delhi.
Maharashtra's ruling Shiv Sena ministers have come down heavily on the Modi government for the raids. "Anurag and Tapasee have raised their voice against the Modi government's policies. This action is an attempt to suppress their voices," Minister Nawab Malik said.
After modeling for a few years, Tapasee made her acting debut with the 2010 regional Telugu film Jhummandi Naadam and later acted in the 2011 Tamil film, Aadukalam. She made her Hindi film debut with David Dhawan's comedy Chashme Baddoor.
The actress got noticed for her performance in the courtroom drama Pink, which was a critical and commercial success.
Apart from acting, Pannu runs an event management company called The Wedding Factory along with her sister Shagun and a friend. She is also the owner of the badminton franchise Pune 7 Aces, which plays in the Premier Badminton League.
On the other hand, Anurag got his major break as a co-writer in filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma's crime drama Satya in 1998, and made his Bollywood directorial debut with Paanch, which never had a theatrical release due to censorship issues.
He then went on to direct Black Friday (2004), a film based on the namesake book by Hussain Zaidi about the 1993 Bombay bombings. He gained fame with the two-part crime drama, Gangs of Wasseypur in 2012.
Chloé Zhao became the second woman to win best director at the Golden Globes and the first female winner of Asian descent on a night in which her film “Nomadland” was crowned the top drama film.
Zhao, who was among three women nominated in the directing category, was honored for her work on “Nomadland,” about people who take to the road and move from place to place seeking work for usually low wages. It stars two-time Oscar winner Frances McDormand and includes nonprofessional actors.
“I especially want to thank the nomads who shared their stories with us,” Zhao said, accepting the directing honor virtually on Sunday night.
She singled out real-life nomad Bob Wells, who appears in the movie, for help with her remarks.
“This is what he said about compassion,” Zhao said. “Compassion is the breakdown of all the barriers between us. A heart to heart pounding. Your pain is my pain. It’s mingled and shared between us.”
The 38-year-old director who lives in Los Angeles is a leading Oscar contender for “Nomadland,” which is in select theaters and streaming on Hulu.
“Now this is why I fell in love with making movies and telling stories because it gives us a chance to laugh and cry together and it gives us a chance to learn from each other and to have more compassion
for each other,” Zhao said in her acceptance remarks. “So thank you everyone who made it possible to do what I love.”
She joins Barbra Streisand, who won in 1984 for “Yentl,” as the only women to win directing honors at the Globes. Until this year, just five women had been nominated in the category.
“Sometimes a first feels like a long time coming. You feel like, it’s about time,” Zhao said in virtual backstage comments. “I’m sure there’s many others before me that deserve the same recognition. If this means more people like me get to live their dreams and do what I do, I’m happy.”
Regina King ("One Night in Miami...") and Emerald Fennell ("Promising Young Woman") were the other female director nominees.
Zhao also was nominated for best motion picture screenplay and lost to Aaron Sorkin. McDormand received a nod for actress in a motion picture drama, but lost.
Born in China, Zhao made her feature directing debut in 2015 with “Songs My Brother Taught Me.” She broke out in 2017 with “The Rider.” Next up for her is the big-budget Marvel film “Eternals,” set for release this fall.
Narrating the thrilling and triumphant story of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)'s breathtaking operations to defeat the pirates of the Sundarban, acclaimed action director Dipankar Dipon's 'Operation Sundarban' is set for release on Eid-Ul-Adha 2021.
The action thriller set in the mangrove forest, produced by RAB Welfare Cooperative Society Limited, unveiled its teaser and website through a gala event at the Army Golf Club in the capital on Tuesday, where the makers announced the release date of the film.
Featuring an ensemble cast including Dhallywood's celebrated superstar Riaz Ahmed who is making a comeback after four years, alongside heartthrobs including Siam Ahmed, Nusraat Faria, Ziaul Roshan, Manoj Pramanik and Taskeen Rahman, the 1-minute and 33-second teaser was lauded by its audiences for showcasing the commendable narrative of the history and facts through infotainment.
Benazir Ahmed, Inspector General of Bangladesh Police attended the event as the chief guest while RAB Director General Chowdhury Abdullah Al-Mamun and Additional Director General (Operations) Colonel Tofail Mostafa Sarwar joined as special guests, alongside other higher officials and the cast members of the film.
The 1-minute and 33-second teaser of the film was then released by the guests, which was followed by the launching of the official website of the film, https://operationsundarban.com/.
"Sundarban has a language and narrative of its own, which was pretty much controlled by the water pirates until 2016 when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared the Sundarbans free of pirates. Our film is depicting the story with the involvement of our 1,300 cast and crew members, narrating the saga of the mission against the pirates and their post-pirate life, and the livelihood of the natives living around Sundarban," Director Dipankar Dipon said at the event.
He added, "We had to work through a lot, with a mission to tell a tale that the Bangladeshi audiences have never seen before. In addition to that, we had challenges to make an actual movie that is different than a documentary. Without the cordial cooperation of RAB members and other elite force officials, alongside the people of Sundarban - this film would not see the daylight."
"For years, the imagery of our elite forces in our own movies were confined into silly, comedic actions such as discouraging the casts in the last sequences on not to take actions by themselves. Film is a wonderful medium of documentation of history, and without proper documentation, the glorious tale of our operation against the pirates in Sundarban would remain untold. From that perspective, we took the initiative and Dipon made justice with proper research and development on the project," Benazir Ahmed said at the event.
Also read: Shooting of ‘Operation Sundarbans’ begins
Comparing with movies from outside the country, RAB Additional Director General Colonel Tofail Mostafa Sarwar said about the film, "Reality is much more different and difficult than fiction. We often see international movies showcasing glorious operations of elite forces, and we have tried to do the same in Operation Sundarban, depicting the enthralling true stories blending adequate amount of entertainment."
Under the supervision of RAB, the shooting of the film has taken place in some remote areas in the Sundarban where people usually do not go or cannot go. Actor Siam Ahmed, alongside Ziaul Roshan, Riaz Ahmed and others have undergone special training sessions from RAB prior to the shooting in Sundarban and were seen taking part in various expeditions on water, land, and air into the teaser.
Initially scheduled to be released for Eid-ul-Adha in 2020, it faced delays due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The film is expected to enthrall the audiences in theatres during Eid-Ul-Adha 2021 and also with possible releases on global platforms including Netflix, the organizers informed at the event.
Eid ul Adha is most likely to fall on July 19/20 this year, subject to the moon sightings.