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Bollywood: Coronavirus brings India’s mega movie industry to standstill



India’s Hindi film industry sees abandoned film sets, closed cinemas and movie stars with empty diaries

With the world at a standstill because of Covid-19, India’s Hindi film industry is seeing abandoned film sets, closed cinemas and movie stars with empty diaries. BBC Asian Network’s Haroon Rashid reports on the impact on Bollywood.

This time last month, Bollywood fans around the world were excited. The latest instalment of director Rohit Shetty’s super-cop universe was set to hit the screens on 24 March. The makers of Sooryavanshi were expecting massive box office numbers because the release had been strategically planned to coincide with a national holiday in India.

Instead, the country went into a 21-day lockdown that day to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Sooryavanshi’s release was postponed indefinitely. So was that of 83, director Kabir Khan’s sports biopic about India’s World Cup-winning cricket team, starring real-life superstar couple Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone. The film was to premiere on 10 April.

Speaking on the YouTube channel, Film Companion, Khan said it had been “very disappointing” to make that call. 

“We were really itching to show the film to the world. But some things are way bigger than all this. The whole planet today is on standstill so I think watching a film becomes a much lower priority.”

It’s not just film releases that were affected.

Actress Kangana Ranaut was shooting for her new film, Thalaivi, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu when restrictions began. “I was supposed to be there for 45 days but then we were not allowed permission to have crowds [for the scene]. They stopped shooting and I was back in Mumbai,” she told Pinkvilla, a Bollywood news site.

Actress Deepika Padukone has said she considers herself “lucky” because she was due to fly to Sri Lanka to start shooting her new movie, days before India’s lockdown began.

“The great thing is that we hadn’t left Mumbai. We weren’t stranded somewhere else. I know a lot of people who had literally a few days of shoot left to actually get done with a film,” she told journalist Rajeev Masand in a recent interview.

Film stars have suddenly found themselves with time on their hands – and they are filling their social media feeds with snippets of their life at home.

Some, such as Deepika Padukone and Katrina Kaif, have taken up household chores – cooking, washing dishes and re-organising. Others, such as Alia Bhatt and Hrithik Roshan, are learning new skills.

Some have, however, attracted criticism for “being insensitive” to the gravity of the situation. In a blunt Instagram video, director Farah Khan threatened to “unfollow” a few of her famous friends if they didn’t “stop making workout videos”. She said: “I can understand that you are privileged and you don’t have any other worries in this global pandemic except for looking after your figures. Most of us have other concerns during this crisis.”

Some actors are using their social media clout to educate their followers about social distancing. Kartik Aaryan released a video where he spoofs a scene from his film, Pyaar Ka Punchnama. He amended the dialogue to reflect the urgent need for people to stay at home. It was viewed more than 10 million times on Instagram.

Many in the film fraternity are also doing their bit to help. Akshay Kumar and Anushka Sharma donated money to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s national fund for the millions of daily-wage workers who have been left jobless by the lockdown; and many of their colleagues have contributed to a fund set up by the Producers Guild of India to support daily-wage earners in the industry, such as technicians and assistants.

But given the speculation that the lockdown will be extended, producers are already anticipating major changes to the way Bollywood will operate.

Filmmaker Karan Johar was supposed to start shooting his next film Takht – a big period drama – this April. His team had already started constructing sets in Europe, but speaking to Rajeev Masand, Johar said he was unsure about the future: “We had a palace in Florence that we were shooting in and we were shooting in Spain at the Alhambra. We had recced this for two years. It’s not one of the major concerns one should have right now. It’s what happens.”

As one of the most powerful producers in India, he has two films ready for release and seven others in production.

“That’s just at Dharma Productions. Every company, every studio has multiple such situations. We don’t yet know, when things get back to normalcy, what the levels of footfall will be at the cinemas.”

Trade experts have suggested that the postponed films will suffer losses when they eventually release, but 83 director Kabir Khan is optimistic. He predicts that the “industry, as a whole, is going to slide by in about four months”.

But Bollywood stars and directors are also aware that their problems fade in comparison to what the poor are facing.

Actor Vicky Kaushal describes watching the news as “heart-wrenching” but hopes his fans can “be as careful and responsible” as possible and try to find the “little joys in life”.

Similarly, Deepika Padukone says: “Now, it’s just about focussing on other things that bring about joy or positivity or happiness.” BBC



Viettel FC aim for a top three finish in the upcoming V.League 1



Viettel FC stand ready for the upcoming V.League 1 season. Photo courtesy of Viettel FC


HÀ NỘI — As the highly anticipated V.League 1 season is set to kick off this weekend, Viettel FC are preparing to hit the field with determination and a clear target in mind – finishing in the top three of the league. 

“In the 2023 season, Viettel will have many new policies to improve the team. We aim to reach the top three at the league, competing for the championship and reaching the final of the National Cup,” chairman of Viettel FC Tào Đức Thắng said as the team gathered on Tuesday.

“This year, Viettel FC will continue to focus on youth training. Viettel set a target that the percentage of players trained by their training centre will account for at least 85 per cent of the squad,” Thắng added.

Viettel finished fourth in the league last season, but they marked their success by contributing to the Vietnamese national team.

They contributed eight players to the senior team, accounting for 31 per cent of the team. The contribution rate of youth players to the U17, U19, and U21 teams is 43 per cent with 27 players.

Nguyễn Hoàng Đức, Nguyễn Thanh Bình, Nhâm Mạnh Dũng and Phan Tuấn Tài all featured prominently on the team that won 31st SEA Games gold. They also received certificates of merit from the Prime Minister.

The team also officially announced the signing of a contract with striker Jefferson Elias from Brazil, born in 1998. Elias is a prominent player from the youth training academy Atletico Minero of Brazil.

He also played for Democrata and Patrocinense. Last year, he scored 11 goals in 18 matches for URT.

Viettel will face defending champions Hà Nội FC this Sunday in the opening match of the national premiere league.

“The most anticipated game of the season is also the opening match that makes us extremely excited. The challenges are not small when we meet the defending champions, but we will make our greatest efforts to get the best result for the match,” captain Bùi Tiến Dũng said. VNS


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Coach Park Hang-seo to hold event thanking fans for their support



Park Hang-seo will hold a meeting to thank the fans before he bids farewell to Việt Nam and returns to South Korea. — Photo


HÀ NỘI — Before his contract with the Việt Nam Football Federation (VFF) expires, coach Park Hang-seo will hold a meeting with fans to thank them before he bids farewell to Việt Nam and returns to South Korea.

Coach Park’s contract with VFF expires on January 31, ending five successful years with many impressive achievements.

Park’s agency (DJ Management & Inspired Asian Management) made the announcement on its homepage.

“During the five years of dedication to Vietnamese football, coach Park received unending love and support from the fans. DJ Management and Park have put together a fan meeting event to express Park’s appreciation for the fans who have always accompanied him in his time in Việt Nam.”

The event will be held at Athena Room 2, Hà Nội Grand Plaza Hotel, from 6pm to 8.30pm on February 2.

The 30 luckiest fans will receive souvenirs, including Park’s badge, a Park autographed ball and many other attractive gifts.

The South Korean coach has gained legendary status in the country after leading a golden generation of talent that excelled both at regional and continental levels.

When he took over the Vietnamese national team in 2017, at the AFC U23 Championship in China, coach Park made a big splash when his team overcame many opponents to finish second.

A year later, Park’s team triumphed at the AFF Cup 2018. Then, Việt Nam reached the quarter-finals of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 in the United Arab Emirates, where they ultimately lost 1-0 to Japan.

Park’s team also made their first appearance in the third Asian qualifying round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Although they were ultimately unsuccessful, they put in some noteworthy performances, including beating China 3-1 and drawing 1-1 with Japan. — VNS


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‘This is just the beginning’: Bandovic hails Hà Nội’s Super Cup success



Hà Nội celebrate winning the National Super Cup 2022. Photo


HÀ NỘI — Hà Nội defeated Hải Phòng 2-0 in the 2022 National Super Cup at Hàng Đẫy Stadium on Sunday, but coach Bozidar Bandovic acknowledged there is still a lot of work to do to get his squad to where he wants them to be. 

“I am very happy that Hà Nội won the National Super Cup. I don’t want to talk about any individual players because we all fought and won,” Bandovic said after the match.

“The Hà Nội players have personality and quality and we only worked together for five days before the match. I know that we can do better, of course, with respect for our opponent. I believe our players. Within five days of training together, they showed their level and ability on the pitch.”

Goals from Lucas Vinicius Gonçalves Silva and Trần Văn Kiên helped Hà Nội take the title. This is Hà Nội’s fifth Super Cup ever and also Hà Nội’s third title of the 2022 season, along with the V.League 1 and National Cup.

Although Bandovic has only worked with Hà Nội for about a month, he is already continuing the capital side’s success. 

The Montenegrin said that this is just the beginning, though many difficulties lie ahead.

“We can’t change many things in a short time, but I’m happy to have won the national championship. I’m not satisfied with the player’s fitness because I understand that we can do better,” coach Bandovic said.

“The level of Hà Nội players is still not equal. I want to improve the young players to help them become the future of Hà Nội and Vietnamese football. The national players have had almost no breaks, and a group of players can’t play at 100 per cent of their strength.

“I plan to use the break after the first four rounds of the V.League 1 to improve the team. We need to be better and have to be better. I want to congratulate the players of the team, but this is just the beginning, how it ends is important.

“We can change a few things but it takes time. The players’ fitness hasn’t improved, but we play more calmly, control the ball and score goals. Creating chances but not scoring won’t be as important as playing without creating chances. We have to play better and play in more stable positions,” Bandovic added.

Meanwhile, coach Chu Đình Nghiêm said that the cause of Hải Phòng’s defeat was the strong change of players in the team.

“Hà Nội won because they played better. I also observed them in the friendly event. The new coach Bandovic has changed the style of Hà Nội’s play,” Nghiêm said.

“We will look for foreign players to replace Emmanuel Okotu. After the 2022 season, Hải Phòng changed up to 70 per cent of personnel, and they were all important people. We are still looking for players, but it is very difficult.” VNS


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