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Disha Patani. Image Credit: Courtesy of Nupur Agarwal

Bollywood actress Disha Patani comes bearing gifts this Eid Al Fitr.

Her festive offering is the dazzling, star-powered spectacle ‘Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai’, releasing in UAE cinemas on May 13.

Spearheaded by top Bollywood actor Salman Khan and directed by ace choreographer and South Indian actor Prabhu Deva, ‘Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai’ spells the resurgence of the fading ‘masala’ genre that was big in the ‘80s and ‘90s in Hindi cinema. Typically, masala films in Bollywood are led by popular stars who serve up bombastic content filled with drama, songs, dance, exaggerated emotions, plot twists and comedy.

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Disha Patani and Salman Khan in 'Radhe'. Image Credit: Supplied

“‘Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai’ is a full-on mass entertainer where you have action, nice songs, nice dances, and great comedy … At a time like this, it’s really important to just take your mind off for some time, go out, and just have fun and enjoy at the cinemas. Just be positive,” said Patani in an interview with Gulf News.

Due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in India and the subsequent lockdowns in most Indian cities, its makers decided to opt for a hybrid release meaning it will premiere on a streaming platform and in select cinemas across India.

But in the UAE, ‘Radhe ...’ will enjoy an exclusive theatrical release this Eid. Advance bookings for this festive release began weeks in advance, as Khan’s box office power remains unparalleled; he’s one of the few Bollywood stars who guarantees a good box office opening weekend.

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Disha Patani. Image Credit: IANS

For someone like Patani, who grew up on a staple diet of larger-than-life Bollywood masala films, ‘Radhe’ was right up her street.

“I was born in India and was brought up by parents who used to take me to all those movie screenings — both old and new films. I am a Bollywood kid in the truest sense of the word and I truly love watching those masala films. I connect to them because they just take you to a different world where you don’t have to over-think … That’s what I love about them,” said Patani.

The trailer of ‘Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai’ indicates that Khan’s fans will be transported into a world where a single, titular hero, can save them from all evils.

In this Eid release, a buffed-up Khan plays Radhe who is on call to clean up a nasty drug syndicate in Mumbai targeting the city’s youth. Even the police officials believe that only Radhe has the power to bring a morally-bankrupt drug lord (Randeep Hooda) to his knees.

Khan’s critics may not always love or admire his brand of films, but his devoted army of fans consider him indestructible and cannot have enough of Khan swooping in to save the fractured world. His hits such as ‘Dabangg’, ‘Kick’, and ‘Ready’ stand testimony to his flop-proof existence as a hero.

So what was the experience of working with Khan, one of Bollywood’s most formidable stars with a murky personal past?

“At first, I was so intimidated to work with him because he’s the biggest star of our country. When he comes onto a set, he has this aura around him. But once we began shooting, you realise that he’s one of the most easy-going, humble, and giving co-actors out there. He helps everyone around him and he makes any scene come alive,” said Patani.

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Salman Khan in 'Radhe'. Image Credit: Supplied

She recounts a time when many approached Khan to help them out on the sets of ‘Radhe’ and he happily obliged. The two have earlier worked in the blockbuster ‘Bharat’, partly filmed in Abu Dhabi, before their latest cinematic outing.

“He’s always ready to help everyone …. What people say about him is completely true. He is there to help you out, no matter what,” said Patani. It’s no secret that Khan’s coterie find the actor flawless and heroic. His on-screen antics are as vibrant as his off-screen persona, which has seen him have several run-ins with the law. But his on-screen charisma is all-pervasive.

In the hit song ‘Seeti Maar’ from ‘Radhe’, Khan is shown flexing a waiflike Patani like a dumbbell as he sits on a throne-like prop. So, was she OK with being flexed like a gym accessory?

“Salman sir is very spontaneous. He only decided on set that we should do something different and it was his idea. So yeah, it was his idea for sure,” said Patani, adding that hours and hours of intense rehearsals went into mastering the choreography of that hit number.

“I had never done a style like this … There’s South [Indian] style with hip-hop. The musicality was different. I struggled with this song, but thanks to Prabhu sir [Director Deva], he really supported me and told me that I can do as many takes a I want. But it was pretty intimidating to dance in front of Prabhu sir — and even Salman sir, who’s full of swag,” said Patani.

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Patani hopes her movie 'Radhe' can spread cheer. Image Credit: IANS

While many film fans might find Khan’s flamboyant dance moves reductive for female actors, Patani doesn’t overthink it, a quality that she loves most in masala films. She was just taken in by Khan’s star wattage and was thrilled to be a part of a project, backed by big names including Jackie Shroff and Hooda.

“Even if Salman sir’s just standing still in a song, it still look great as he’s simply mesmerising to watch anything he does,” gushes Patani.

Patani, under no circumstances, comes across as a feminist icon hopeful in this 10-minute interview. She is just thrilled that a film like ‘Radhe’ is going to spread cheer amid a global pandemic.

“A mass entertainer like this is important for everyone because it pushes you to have fun, enjoy, sit back and relax at a time like this. With so much happening around us, this film will bring our families together … I am so happy and grateful that we have a release during Eid after a year … I don’t think we had a release like this for the last one year since COVID-19 hit,” Patani said.

The actress believes that this pandemic has been the biggest reality check of her life.

“This pandemic has taught us that it’s not about just one person. It’s about all of us! We are in this together. Sometimes you may feel that only one person helping is like a drop in the ocean, but if everyone starts helping each other, then those drops becomes an ocean … Every effort counts and that’s my biggest take away of this year,” said Patani.

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Disha Patani. Image Credit: IANS

Patani, who wasn’t born to an acting dynasty but worked her way up, has also learnt to be grateful to be alive. She describes herself as an eternal student of life. Even though she made her acting debut in 2005, she’s still a novice, believes Patani.

“I still feel like a struggler. I still feel like it’s my first film! The more work you do in cinema, the more you want to do … I just want to learn and I am grateful that I got this opportunity to be a part of a film like ‘Radhe’,” she said. “I am just enjoying the ride and learning to go with the flow.”

Did you know?

Disha Patani on her fondest Eid memory: “At school, I had a friend whose mother used to make the best Seviyan [dessert with milk] along with dry fruits. Even thinking about it makes me hungry now. Spending our evening with them and eating their good food is what I remember best about my Eid. Festivals are all about being with family and friends and Eid is no different.”

Don’t miss it!

‘Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai’ is out in UAE cinemas on May 13.