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This is as big as it gets


A most-wanted Don, a shrewd business tycoon, fast and furious bikers, sordid tales of war, a taste of Awadhi culture and endearing tales of love. Forthcoming Hindi films present a heady cocktail for the movie buff

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Aishwarya goes Awadhi as Umrao Jaan. Shah Rukh (below) does big time wheeling and dealing as the Don.

We don't know if it's got to do with saving the best for the last. The Hindi film industry has a slew of films coming up, including a handful of heavyweight productions. The year has been good so far, with commercial successes like Fanaa, Gangster, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna and Lage Raho Munna Bhai to mention a few. The joy ride isn't over. Farhan Akhtar's Don, J.P. Dutta's Umrao Jaan, Shirish Kunder's Jaan-E-Mann, Sooraj Barjatya's Vivaah, Mani Ratnam's Guru, Yash Raj films' Dhoom 2 and Kabul Express are all expected. Presenting the big picture...

Farhan Akhtar was all of four years when Amitabh Bachchan's Don was released. The film was his favourite through his growing up years and Farhan says Don - the chase begins, is his tribute to the classic. The new Don is an entertainer, suave, tech savvy and in good company. Javed Akhtar has reworked his script to suit contemporary settings. Who's who in the film: Priyanka Chopra (Zeenat Aman), Kareena Kapoor (Helen), Boman Irani (the friendly cop) and Arjun Rampal (Pran).

Ishaa Koppikar's is the only role that has more footage than in the original. "The Don's girlfriend Anita, who grows jealous of his proximity with Zeenat Aman, is hardly there for a few scenes. Farhan has improvised the character. I get to play this haughty, glamorous girl," says Ishaa. For the first time ever, some portions have been filmed in the former Malaysian PM Mahathir's office at Petronas Towers.

Ash diaries

Meanwhile, the Ash-Abhishek season is just getting started. They soak in the 19th century Awadhi culture in Umrao Jaan, get a taste of the murky world of newspapers and business (a story reportedly based on Dhirubhai Ambani's life) in Guru and redefine biker fashion in Dhoom 2. Umrao Jaan is J.P. Dutta's adaptation of Mirza Hadi Ruswa's Umra-O-Jaan-E-Ada. Aishwarya is Amiran, abducted from her home and sold in the bazaars of Lucknow. Shabana Azmi relives the role done by her mother Shaukat Azmi and portrays Umrao's mother. Like Shah Rukh, who made news for his dhoti-clad avatar in Devdas, Abhishek is making heads turn with his safaa (the traditional Lucknowi turban).

Javed Akhtar, who penned the lyrics, tells us, "When Dutta narrated the script, I couldn't visualise any other actress as Umrao; I told him not to make the film without Aishwarya. Umrao is enigmatic and Ash's personality symbolises it." Though Muzaffar Ali's Umrao Jaan is the most popular, the other films based on Umra-O-Jaan-E-Ada were Zindagi Aur Toofan and Mehndi.

Dhoom 2 and Guru are set in different worlds from Umrao Jaan. Dhoom 2 takes off where Dhoom ended — John Abraham proving to be too smart for Abhishek. The sequel has Hrithik Roshan, in a negative character, setting new standards yet again for action sequences. Abhishek continues his chase for the culprit. And until the film releases, speculations will continue on who sports a bikini: Aishwarya or Bipasha?

Mani Ratnam's Guru, to be released in December, steps back by a few decades and traces the life of an industrialist (Abhishek) and a media baron (Mithun Chakraborty). Madhavan, Vidya Balan and Aishwarya make the rest of the cast. Mallika Sherawat puts in a guest appearance, Rajeev Menon takes charge of cinematography, film-maker Shaad Ali assists Mani Ratnam once again. Shot in Turkey and Bagalkot in Karnataka, Guru also has a song sung by Bappi Lahiri.

Romance, wedding and war

If that's not enough for variety, there is also Sooraj Barjatya's Vivaah and Yash Raj production Kabul Express. Vivaah has Shahid Kapoor as Barjatya's new Prem and co-stars Amrita Rao. The film traces the journey of a couple from engagement to the wedding.

Director Kabir Das's Kabul Express, though, is a stark tale shot in the war-ravaged Afghanistan. Starring John Abraham and Arshad Warsi, the film is already doing the rounds at international film festivals.

Completing the list of big productions, Jaan-E-Mann is one that launches Shirish Kunder (editor of Main Hoon Na, but better known as choreographer Farah Khan's husband) as director.

Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar and Preity Zinta give us gyaan on romance. Anupam Kher does a Kamal Hassan by playing a midget.

Jaan-E-Mann is fighting competition from Don and Umrao Jaan by planning its release across 1,000 screens worldwide!

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