There is no doubting the fact that Kangana Ranaut has been making great strides in her career. Earlier this week, the actress collected a National Award — her third — for her impressive double-role act in Aanand L Rai’s Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015), even while she’s shooting a sweeping love story with Vishal Bhardwaj — one of the best filmmakers working in Hindi cinema right now.
This, amidst a raging firestorm of a controversy, which has her entangled in an elaborate legal battle with Hrithik Roshan over a romantic relationship that crashed and burned. Some actually see this as a hallmark of a true diva: great films, prestigious awards, overzealous attention from the press, and a woeful love story.
The next logical step to up her celebrity would be an Indo-French production that Kangana had signed up for in 2014, titled Divine Lovers, in which she would act opposite Irrfan Khan. Helmed by Sai Kabir, who had directed her in Revolver Rani (2014), the film was to mark Ranaut’s arrival in the European mainstream market. Quite a bold, experimental move when compared to two other leading ladies, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra, who have chosen relatively safe Hollywood franchise films for their crossover debut.
Divine Lovers was a project commissioned by the French Film Commission. Its Chief Operation Officer Frank Priot, has been mentoring Kabir in getting the nuances of his script right in a manner that would appeal to French audiences.
She said she is eager to do films where she’s the solo lead. If I have a script where that is the case, I will surely take it to her. Unfortunately, Divine Lovers isn't
So excited was Kangana for this unique crossover venture, that she had said in an official release, “Divine Lovers will receive a mainstream cinema release in France. It will be India’s answer to edgy, love stories that world-cinema viewers enjoy.” And that would probably have been the case since Leonard Glowinski, who has co-produced films like the Liam Neeson-starrer Unknown and the Oliver Stone-directed Alexander, was putting together this project too. (And still is.)
However, according to a Bollywood Hungama report published on Tuesday, Ranaut has decided to opt out of the project. A source close to the development said that the film is a love story but centred more on Khan than her, which didn’t go down too well with the Queen actress.
“She made it clear that if she’s not the 'hero' of the film, she doesn’t want to do it,” the person familiar with the details said. “The team was quite taken aback as they had waited for her for over a year. She was busy and couldn’t find time for a proper narration and when she did, she wasn’t keen on doing the role as it didn't entirely revolve around her.”
The makers then went scurrying for a replacement as they have to take the film into production over the next few months. They have now finalized Zareen Khan (Veer, Hate Story 3) for the role.
Confirming this, director Sai Kabir, in a telephonic conversation with HuffPost India, said, “The character is that of a lower-class Muslim girl and I feel Zareen Khan will do a great job. After much delay, the film is finally on track.”
When asked if Ranaut and he parted ways bitterly, he said, “She said she is eager to do films where she’s the solo lead. If I have a script where that is the case, I will surely take it to her. Unfortunately, Divine Lovers isn't.”
Kabir said he didn't want to mess with the script to satisfy an actor's demands. “I didn’t want to compromise on my vision. The script of Divine Lovers remains as it is. We go on floors soon.”
A love story set against the backdrop of the India Shining myth and how it offers a false sense of hope, Divine Lovers will be shot in Mumbai, Agra and Aligarh, and is Kabir's ode to Satyajit Ray's Mahanagar (1963).
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