Manish Paul is the latest anchor to make his debut as a leading man in a Hindi film. Known for his wit and improvisation, Manish is playing the title role in Mickey Virus, scheduled to release later this month. “It is my sense of humour that got me the role but the film is not just a comedy but comic-thriller and the role has given me an opportunity to express different emotions.” Mickey is a middle-class boy who is not too keen to sit on the grocery store run by his mother. “He looks lazy but is a master hacker and helps police in solving cases. The build-up is comic but after that the film takes a different turn,” says Manish, who was recently seen giving good competition to his star guests in Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa, where he was one of the anchors. “Up till now we were considered good enough only to be sidekicks but now producers are game to put money on our talent.”

Manish says technology is proving to be a great leveller. “I don’t think a common man will find a film on a hacker to be too elitist. These days even the neighbourhood vegetable seller sends messages by mobile phone and i-pad is no longer a novelty.” And it is not a one off as Manish has already signed the sequel of Tere Bin Laden. With Laden no longer around, the figure might become a metaphor but for now Manish is tight-lipped.

The other side

Known for pot boilers like The Train and The Killer, director Hasnain Hyderabadwala is taking a serious turn with a film on extremist elements in Islam. A Mahesh Bhatt protégé, Hasnain says it was on the advice of his mentor that he decided to take up the subject. He says the film is an attempt to expose those who misinterpret Quran and its real meaning to breed terrorism by manipulating the young and vulnerable youth.

The film represents a clash of two ideologies. Dr Mazhar Ali Khan, played by Manzar Sahbai (of Bol fame), represents the Islamic principle of compassion and respect for human life while Maulana Jeelani, portrayed by Akhilendra Mishra, is a demagogic cleric, who incites youth to avenge alleged atrocities on Muslims. “We were not afraid of anyone but were a little cautious. We don’t want to hurt any sect or any Muslim. We consulted a lot of people as part of our research. Quran does not approve of terrorism in any way. Not a single verse in the holy book supports terrorism,” says Hasnain, who last delivered a dud in the form of Jashn.

Headline hunters

These days headlines are becoming easy fodder for fiction. At one level there are big names like Prakash Jha and Ram Gopal Varma who are getting ‘inspired’ quickly. At another level there are names which we haven’t heard but the subjects that they deal with are enough to make people curious, if not serious. While the biggies use terms like ‘loosely based’, these new arrivals have no such compunctions. Audience in metros might see through their plans but in small towns they can find an audience. Many would not know Don Gautham but the man is a director who has completed a film on the Delhi gang rape victim in a jiffy. Called Aaj Ki Freedom the film is ready for release and Gautham is coming up with statements like the motive of the film is to make the audience feel the pain of the victim. Similarly, Asharam’s controversy has yet to fade away from news channels but director Manoj Sharma has already announced a film on him. Titled Guru Ho Ja Shuru, the film has Hemant Pandey, known for his comic timing, in the lead. Pandey says the film will bring us face to face with a hard hitting reality of how a guru misuses the faith of his disciples. Perhaps, Sharma has outpaced Prakash Jha, who might be dusting off his script of Satsang! He was supposed to make this film on religious and spiritual gurus before Satyagraha but then the socio-political turn of events made him change the order.

Bhoot is back!

In the last couple of years, horror has taken a backseat on television. Now to revitalize the genre, Sony, known for its Aahat series is once again knocking at the doors of ghosts to bring back the eyeballs and in the process it is reigniting interest in the 11 p.m. slot which lying almost vacant across channels. But in times when everybody is looking for something ‘realistic’, even bhoot has to come with a real story. Yes, the channel says that Bhoot Aaya is based on true supernatural elements. The series also marks the return of Akashdeep and his wife Sheeba, who have produced the series.

Akashdeep, who has given some flop films on the big screen, says the stories will be fictionalised and interspersed with the narrations of the victims’ themselves. “It tries to uncover the truth behind some of the most mystifying occurrences.” Each episode will also introduce experts from the Indian Paranormal Society of India and other pertinent fields, who will be sharing their opinion on these encounters. Their findings will be revealed as a compelling conclusion of each episode. Let the paranormal activity begin on October 13!