Archive for February, 2011


 

Supreeta Singh
After a parachuting accident, that almost broke his back, Bear Grylls went on to win the Guinness Book of World Records (1998) at the age of 23 for climbing Mount Everest.  Almost paralysed, it took him 18 long, difficult months to recuperate. It was then he realised that when life gives you a second chance, one should just grab it without thinking twice. Putting behind the stuff that nightmares were made of, Grylls is back in the game as the action-driven host of Discovery Channel’s extreme adventure series, Man Vs Wild.
The new season sees him travelling to remotest places on the globe, including Australia’s northern territory, the Republic of Georgia’s Caucasus Mountains, a deserted island south of Papua New Guinea, the snowfields of the Canadian Rockies, sharing invaluable survival strategies along the way. Grylls loves adventure. “These places are unforgiving and you have to keep your enthusiasm intact. There’s no alternative.  Adventure sports make the world a hard place,” he says.
For a man who lives life in the extreme, survival strategies are a must. Grylls says that it’s important to let people know the route you are planning. Then comes water, a knife, a map, flint and a compass. “I always have a little laminated picture of my family that I tuck in the sole of my shoe. Carry whatever gives you hope. That’s a big part of staying alive,” adds Grylls.
After endless close-shaves with near-death experiences, Grylls now defines his work by the times he gets it right, not the times he gets lucky. However, he does have several funny moments too. “I remember once I was filming in the black swamps in Sumatra. It’s a place where the Tsunami had hit and all these crocodiles had been feeding off 65,000 human corpses and it was just a desolate, dead, stinking, infested area full of snakes, mosquitoes and leeches. I remember getting out and thinking never again back there.”
Since adventure-sport is often touted as counter-culture by many, Grylls has come across parents afraid of letting their children be part of such extra-curricular activities. He says, “My agenda is to encourage young people to follow their dreams and live their adventures. I get responses from parents saying their kids who only wanted to play computer games before are now wanting to climb mountains. Isn’t it great?”
After traversing almost all adventure sports destinations, Grylls believes he would need 10 lifetimes to tick off all the activities on his list. He hopes to visit India soon. “I have been to the Himalayas for hiking. There are so many wild places, great jungles, huge mountains and amazing deserts. I’d love to film in India,” he chuckles.

Sayandeb Chowdhury

 

 

Film: 7 Khoon Maaf
Director: Vishal Bhradwaj
Cast: Priyanka Chopra, John Abraham, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Naseruddin Shah, Irrfan Khan, Anu Kapoor, Usha Uthup, Aleksandr Dyachenko, Ruskin Bond, Vivaan Shah and Konkona
Rating: Excellent

Vishal Bhardwaj made Maqbool. And that was it. A new school of cinema was born in Bombay. Cinema that was tough, unrelenting, atmospheric, harsh and full of power. In case of Maqbool, and its successor Omkara, the author was none other than William Shakespeare (Macbeth, Othello). By the time he reached Kaminey, Bhardwaj had already acquired a kind of an unsparing vision of a life and its assorted idiosyncrasies that he had harnessed to remarkable effect. Kaminey, the gangster movie about Mumbai underworld and the horse racing mafia was but cool. In 7 Khoon Maaf, Bhardwaj manages to pull his aces together to create what is perhaps most Shakespearean of his films. In what is a virtuoso adaptation of Ruskin Bond short story Susanna’s Seven Husbands, Bhardwaj shows how he has internalised the Shakespearean eye for the imminent and the immanent, to what beauty he can build an atmosphere of genuine suspense even in the everyday, how premonition and clairvoyance resides in ordinary acts of human kindness and insight. And most importantly how behind chilling acts of crime are often the most tragic and lonely of human beings who are otherwise pilgrims of love.
Priyanka Chopra in what is an author backed role plays Susanna to almost perfect effect, falling for love every time when actually there was none. She lives and breathes her role as a love-seeking, vulnerable woman, who gets accosted by and seduced by six brazen men, who turn out to be different from who they were supposed to be. Her vulnerability is however her biggest weapon in her troubled life and as she grows old, she learns to use them more effectively than ever before. And like any woman who has passed not once but six times, alone, through the territory of impertinent men, she learns to use the craft of her sexuality too, even as her bones and skin turn thicker and thicker under her beauteous, if wrinkled skin. 
The story moves fast and uncontrollably towards its denouement, which is nothing short of revelatory. On the way, Priyanka changes her religion twice, visits Kashmir and Pondicherry, get’s married to a Russian attaché and a Bengali doctor apart from a Rajput rockstar, a Goanese General with one leg and a UP police inspector. Her milieu changes from the brazenly feudal world of the landed military, to that of an Urdu poet with special affection for sadomasochism, from the heroin-induced world of skirted rock singers of early eighties Goa to that of naturopathy of a bankrupt doctor. Her only witness and confidante is the narrator, Arun, who remains the distant young lover and the only normative influence in her mad life, perhaps the only one who could have survived her audacious search for love in a battered human landscape that includes her husband and her band of murdering minsters.
The film’s premise and period moves from the swinging ‘70s to 26/11 and beyond and the details are brought out with total attention and care. Ranjan Palit’s superlative, atmospheric photography is the highpoint of the film, apart from, of course, Bhardwaj’s superb ear for music which includes a rock ballad, a sufi lovenote and of course the Russian folk inspired Darrling, which remains the film’s chartbusting number. 
7 Khoon Maaf is vintage Vishal Bhardwaj, sensible, sensitive, powerful and sparsely illuminating of the darkness that we all carry inside.

Mush ado about nothing

 

 

 

 

 

Men aren’t supposed to like reading romance. That’s the theory anyway… In reality, they do read Mills & Boon novels, but secretly, writes JAYA BISWAS

 

 

It was in a café at the Mumbai airport that I happened to witness this ‘rare’ sight. A tall, plump, middle-aged man engrossed in a Mills & Boon paperback novel titled, Take On Me. The book cover bore a picture of a scantily-clad woman on a beach about to be seduced by a man in swimming trunks. The man reading seemed to relish each and every page, completely oblivious of the fact that he was receiving quite a few odd stares from fellow passengers who were whiling away their time before the announcement for departure. He didn’t care. Perhaps, he was aware of the hypocrisy of other men, who read the same books, but publicly condemn them as ‘rubbish for women’.
Take them or leave them, but you certainly can’t ignore these romantic novels, which have been a part of most peoples’ lives. Hundreds of them stacked in libraries, heaped at roadside book stalls, laid out for second-hand sale on pavements, borrowed time and time again — especially in hostels, where the trick is for one girl to borrow the book and ten girls to finish it in the same night — Mills and Boon books are everywhere. Come on, we’ve all ogled the alluring covers depicting coy, docile heroines with tall, handsome men aching with desperation, anguish or lust, at some point or the other.
But is it only women who read these so-called mushy Mills & Boon (popularly M&B) love sagas? Or are men just as hooked? It is difficult to establish their popularity among men as most will never admit to reading M&Bs. Afsha Khan, a 26-year-old freelance writer from Mumbai, says, “Men are just too proud to admit that they don’t have the patience for descriptive text. They’re more into pictures. They would rather watch a Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge or a Pretty Woman than use their imagination. Maybe if M&B came up with a graphic novel with really good illustrations, chances are that they would fall for them.”
However Malay Desai, a college student has a reverse take on men reading mush. He says, “I’m yet to meet a man who owns up to reading M&Bs. Men claim it’s only women who read them because women have no qualms flaunting them. Comparing M&B to well-made films isn’t fair. Rather parallels can be drawn with Indian television’s great afternoon soap factory. Many men watch TVs soaps, but will never admit that they like them. Same with M&Bs. Maybe more men would come out in the open on this sensitive mental orientation if women gave them the assurance that reading mush isn’t ‘uncool’.”
Most men are still not confident of being in touch with their softer, feminine side. And certainly if they are of a more sensitive nature they would never admit it in front of their friends (particularly other men) afraid of being considered “girlie”.
Manish Singh, country manager, Harlequin Mills & Boon India Pvt Ltd, claims that the number of men who buy M&Bs compared to women is very low, “Though concrete data is not available, our research says that the percentage of male buyers is very small, and they normally buy it for others.”
Mr Gautam Jatia, CEO of Starmark echoes this, “Our male customers rarely ‘read’ M&Bs. Around 10 per cent of the total count buying M&Bs are men. However, we have noticed that men usually buy M&Bs as gift items.” 
 The Pregnancy Shock, The Sheikh’s Convenient Mistress, Taken by the Bad Boy, The Billionaire’s Bride of Vengeance, The Millionaire’s Ultimate Catch are some of the most sought-after M&B titles that women lap up till this day, even if it means masking them in brown covers or hiding them inside their study material.
 It is not just men who lie about their liking for M&Bs. There are even some women who claim they don’t read this basic form of chicklit as it is considered low-brow. Suranjana Nandi, a journalist working with a fashion magazine in Mumbai exclaims, “Women of all age groups read M&Bs. They may not admit it but they do. And this holds true for both single women as well as those with partners. The stories are single women’s dream, while those with partners want to know all that ‘could have been’. Therein lies the charm of reading these novels.”
 Interestingly, the reasons behind the popularity of M&B novels are astoundingly mottled. Bonny Ghose (Kolkata), a librarian by profession, cites an example, “Not only do I find young college-goers asking for M&Bs, my mother too is an avid reader and has always been so. However, she avoids the sexually-explicit ones. Mom would rather go for an easy-read formula story after a hard day’s work.”
Mr Jatia couldn’t agree more. He says, “M&Bs are a hit with readers for so many years because they make for quick read, easy connect and the
language is simple, making it convenient for occasional readers as well.”
 Recalls Afsha, “I read my first M&B when I was 13, in the dead of the night when everyone had fallen asleep.  As for why it is such a hit, I think these novels ‘immensely’ improve the vocabulary (pun intended!). My ability to describe things pictorially became increasingly better after my fifth title. Plus, it’s interesting to note how smartly they skirt around certain words. In this case, I’d say ‘reading is believing’.”
 It is no wonder that Harlequin Mills and Boon have grown to become one of the leading publishers of adult romantic fiction around the world for more than a century. There has been a remarkable change in reading habits too, especially in the last five years. Mr Singh reveals, “The readership has risen over the years. The books are available for various moods and cater to all age groups (from 16 to 60 years). The market for English language books has witnessed 10 per cent of yearly growth. Alternative format like e-books has also contributed to increase and change in the readership pattern. The data from other international markets where e-books are a rage, shows that readers are comfortable in downloading the titles and reading them either on PCs or hand-held devices.”
 Anuttama Banerjee, psychologist and consultant at Eastern Zonal Psychological Association (Kolkata), sums up the situation. She explains, “We are all victims of ‘labelling’ by the society. We grow up with certain notions, for example men are associated with qualities like assertiveness, machismo and fearlessness. They are considered to have a practical bent of mind, while women are generally expected to be submissive, docile, romantic and dreamy eyed. And there lies the dilemma. Moreover, it has been observed that men receive a lot of flak and get teased by their peer groups if they happen to exhibit soft emotions.”
Anuttama further adds, “Men have to try hard to match up to the standards set by the society. They prefer to keep it discreet, oblivious from public eye. On the other hand, women have the freedom to express their penchant for romance and no one objects. However, the fact that men read mush cannot be ruled out completely. If they can read women’s magazines, chances are that they read M&Bs too, maybe when their partners are done with them.”
 Girls, all you need to do is keep your eyes open!

Everything is fair in the game of love. If you are a man looking for a date on Valentine’s Day, a little act of indifference on your part will help to hook the woman of your dreams

Supreeta Singh
ere’s some interesting news for men on Valentine’s Day. A recent study reveals that a woman is seemingly more attracted to a man when she is uncertain about how much her man likes her. Conducted by experts at the University of Virginia and Harvard University, the study reveals that if a woman is left wondering about the degree of a man’s interest in her, it would improve his chances of grabbing her attention. In other words, ‘playing hard to get’ is a foolproof strategy to arouse a woman’s interest and keep her hooked.
 Among the many unwritten rules to be followed by both men and women during courtship could be a show of indifference. It really works since it triggers the instinct of chasing a possible partner and winning him/her over. Poonam Jha, a media professional, says, “It is human nature to pursue a thing more persistently, when it’s hard to get. If you get something served on a platter, you tend to take it for granted and soon lose interest. When you apply the same formula to romantic relationships, a man or woman’s apparent aloofness drives you crazy. In the initial stages, it can be an effective method to keep the person, especially women, guessing.”
 Dating has its own code of conduct which at times leaves men and women confused. But when a man plays hard to get, it adds an aura of mystery and charm that women find difficult to resist. According to the study, when a woman goes around with a man who is not forthcoming about his level of interest, then she spends considerable time thinking about him. The more she muses, the more attractive he becomes, at least in her imagination.
 Paromita Banerjee, a student, says, “This is a more subtle psychological tease. A man can easily woo his love-interest with more mushy things like chocolate, flowers or taking her out for dinner. But when a man makes me curious about him, I find it more captivating. It adds to his masculine magnetism.”
 Fed on a diet of amorous tales of passion, women find it a worthwhile pursuit of slowly discovering what teases men. However, an intelligent man would know where to draw the line. Asif Iqbal, a PR professional, says, “When dating a girl one must know that girls love attention but it is important to be careful so as not to drive her away. Change in your attitude will compel her to shift focus towards you as well as the relationship. But you must show your care  in a subtle way even while being indifferent because drastic changes in your behaviour will hamper the relationship.”
 So, is there any way to be appropriately indifferent? The measure of a man’s success with woman he is eyeing, depends on the perfect blend of cool reserve and friendly banter. Supratim Roy, an event oragniser, doles out the mantra, “When you are hanging out with your friends, take her out with you. Don’t show her that you are over-protective. Call her at regular intervals. Let her know that you enjoy her company without forcing yourself on her. Allow her to make moves too.”
 Try it!

Return of the native

 

 

Pritish Nandy comes to the city which was once home, to rediscover the poet in him

 

Sayandeb Chowdhury


It was an evening that the city would relish for some time to come. Be it the lush spread at the Tollygunge Club, or the tony crowd that arrived in their finery, or the chirpiness of the birds that gave a more than fitting setting for reading of poetry, it is clear that such evenings do not come often. Those who matter in Calcutta seemed to be there. It was just a book launch session. But then it was just not another book that was being launched. On the dais, to talk about the book, the poetry, about writing and cinema were a galaxy of stars who had just descended. There was Anupam Kher, a friend of the author whose book was being released. There was Javed Akhtar, as poet and lover of letters. There was Prasoon Joshi, yet another man of words. There was Farrukh Dhondy, novelist and screenwriter and there was APJ Abdul Kalam, a man for all seasons and a poet at heart. But the chief attraction was the man whose book Again was being released along with the launch of  Nandy’s republished book Tonight the Savage Rite, co-authored by Kamala Das .  And he, in a white short-sleeved shirt coupled with a black waist jacket and Ray Ban shades looked as far from a poet as one can be. But that is what Pritish Nandy is all about: dandy and delectably cerebral at the same time, and it was he who had made sure that Calcutta gathered at the Tolly lawns on an early February evening.
The proceedings were no less interesting. Tapan Chaki, Nandy’s old friend, talked about the itinerant traveller, lover and performer in Nandy, the man who has more firsts to his name than most others before others took turns to talk about the man, his poetry and poetry in general. The poems were vintage Nandy. And they attained power when the beautiful and effervescent Vidya Balan , who called herself a wannabe Bengali, read out poems from Again along with Nandy, the latter’s voice reverberating across the foyer and lashing on to the great greens nearby. Surely poetry, even though Calcutta is a steady supplier of many of its famous practitioners, hardly finds itself at the centre of such bonhomie and sophisticated affection, that too in such salubrious settings. But one thing is for sure. Nandy who has been there and done that and has never looked back, seemed to have returned to poetry when he is riping inside and may be outside. This was his return to the comfort and warmth of letters. And the city which gave him words.

A flash of vision

Supreeta Singh

One fine morning in her hometown Minnesota, a young Annie Griffith Belt headed towards the golf course with a camera. As she focused her lens, she stepped onto water sprinklers strewn all over. The effect produced a photograph that captured droplets of water bursting in mid-air broken into tiny bubbles by light. It was an image that changed her life.
 “A camera is a window used to tell a million different stories. Sometimes photographers see a moment build up like a crescendo and sometimes a moment presents itself serendipitously. Whatever may be the case, you have to forget everything else and concentrate on your work,” said Belt at the 35th International Kolkata Book Fair where she held a discussion on photography.
 One of the youngest and first women photographers to join National Geographic (NG) in 1978, Belt is a prolific artist and an author of several books. Late last year, she edited Simply Beautiful Photographs, a collection of more than 50 images taken from the archives of National Geographic. “There is an enormous archive of pictures that have not been seen at NG. When a photojournalist goes on an assignment for six months he brings back a wealth of photographs out of which only 20 or 30 are printed at the most. The rest get archived. I selected a few pictures and used them in a way that challenges the conventional notion of beauty,” she said.
 Normally, a sunset or a beach or a landscape would appeal to an onlooker as pleasant. But Belt showed a few photographs from the book that defies traditional meaning of beauty. From a carrot, dog, jelly fish, flowers, fields, cityscape to nuns, children, birds, tunnels, deserts, trees and roads, the breathtaking images evoked gasps of surprise and admiration from the audience.
 Belt explained that there are six creative tools or elements that transform an ordinary setting into extraordinary. “The first and most important element is light. Then it’s the composition which is the only thing a photographer can control. What you choose to keep out of the frame is as important as what you choose to keep in. Next is the moment – the most sought after and the most elusive element, followed by colour and time. Last and most important is a sense of wonder. NG images should inspire everyone to discover a new perspective of a known or familiar thing,” pointed out Belt.
 However, the elements alone do not produce a beautiful image. What finally pleases the eyes is the impression of geometry brought about when the factors come together in the right proportion.
 As a photographer who excels in travel, documentary and nature documentation, Belt argued that although technical development has paved the way for better cameras, a photographer must get close to his or her subject to clinch the deal. “You must get busy with people long enough for them to trust you. The biggest mistake you can make is not get close enough to your subject,” Belt said.
 There are many photographers who take umbrage when their work is compared to a painting. Does that annoy her too? “Someone had said that the gift of the six penny photography is better than any acts of philanthropy. Photography taught painters how beautiful imperfection is. I guess a painter and a photographer felt threatened that one would trespass on the other’s territory. Personally, I don’t care because photography is fun,” she replied.
 Belt is also involved in social cause. She develops documentary programmes that help poor women whose life has been devastated by climate change. In India, she travelled to Jaipur, Sunderbans and a few slum areas in Kolkata. “With a team of people, we document stories through powerful pictures and present them to NGOs and policy-makers and effect their decision making process.”
 So is she one of those who only see the poverty and degradation of India? “Photographers come for a million different reasons to India like fashion, textile, Bollywood. When I visit a slum I go with a purpose and not for an easy picture. There are people in every profession who exploit their art to meet a certain demand. But I found India to be the single most compelling country to photograph,” she signed off.

Diganta Guha

Bollywood’s famous music director Ehsaan Noorani of (Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy fame), was seen in Kolkata, recently, for an event. This year will be a busy one for the trio. They have scored music for a number of big releases and have also composed the theme song De Ghumake for Cricket World Cup 2011. And now, Ehsaan is trying his hands at something different.
He is going to launch his signature line of guitars soon. Talking about it, Ehsaan could not hide his excitement. “I think it’s a big achievement for a musician. Thanks to Jasbeer Singh, the India distributor of the Fender line of guitars, I got this opportunity,” he said.
“I have been in this industry for quite some time now. I have done well, received global recognition. Jasbeer proposed that I launch my own line of guitars. Fender is one of the biggest brands of guitars in the world and is used by all leading musicians,” he said adding it was not an easy process. “There were lots of meetings before the deal finally worked out,” Ehsaan said. 
The musician-cum-composer confirmed that this will be purely a commercial line and he will go all out to promote it.
So what is happening on the Bollywood front? “We have our hands full. Right now the music of Patiala House is out. Then we have Don 2, Chittagong, a British film West is Best, Zoya Akhtar’s Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and many more,” said Ehsaan. He is also meeting artists outside Bollywood and working on building global collaborations.
We have seen music, director teams parting ways but Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy have been going strong and there has never been any news about infighting or problem between them. What is the secret? “We love our work and our entire concentration remains on coming up with good music. We don’t have time for petty bickering. The moment politics creeps in, complications arise,” said Ehsaan.
Bollywood music has undergone tremendous changes over the years. Ehsaan said change was for the better. “There has been a lot of improvement in this field, production wise, technologically,” said the composer. What about hordes of new singers trying to get a foothold in Bollywood? “It’s good since everybody has something new to offer,” he added.
 What about the music scenario in Bengal? “I have followed some rock numbers from Bengal. There are many musicians from Kolkata on my Facebook list of friends. We were supposed to work with Rituparno Ghosh. But somehow it didn’t work out,” Ehsaan signed off.

 

 

Fashion designer Kiran Uttam Ghosh launched her new collection Multiplicity that underlines her evolution 

 

 

Supreeta Singh

 
Just before leaving home, she broke her fingernail and arrived 45 minutes late to the launch of her own collection. By that time, 85 Lansdowne was a flurry of activities with Kiran Uttam Ghosh’s dedicated line of clientele immersed in trying the designer’s latest offering called ‘Multiplicity’.
Touted as a pop-up store, the exhibit was an ordinary showcasing of clothes and accessories. While the garments consisted of ethnic wear and western drapes, leather bags in yellow, red, peach, blue, black and white fitted into the accessories section.
 Talking about her motivation, Kiran explained, “I have evolved as a person and as a fashion designer. My collection represents that spirit in multiple techniques, ideas and thoughts.”  She further added, “All designers do the same thing but the world has forgotten simplicity and that’s me. The idea is to tell the story with elegance and not shout from the rooftop.” Translating this into fashion sensibility, Kiran’s collection is divided into layered drapes in metallic coral, gold and camel shades in fabrics like satin, brocade and chiffon. The styles and silhouettes vary with detachable neck-pieces that add to the ornamentation. On a different note, there are voluminous anarkali kameez in blazing red, emerald green and smooth white coupled with trailing dupattas and a golden metallic texture on the border. Jersey sarees for the young bride and crushed drapes in purple, green, black and red also feature in the collection.
 Apart from being a designer, Kiran also played the part of a flawless salesperson, answering every query of her young and old clients, explaining the convenience of a particular drape and fabric, recommending colour and cuts, and advising on style and comfort. “I think I am the worst salesman but when I see someone making a wrong choice for themselves I always speak up,” she said.
 Since most of her clients were looking for wedding apparel, Kiran doled out wisdom on how to look fetching on such an occasion. “Wearing a saree is not outdated. If you wear a chic blouse or choli with a saree then you won’t have to look like a behenji. I always say that be an aunty but not an aunty ji!”
 To Kiran, simple things make a long-lasting impression. “When you dress up, people should notice it and remember you. Just by adding a little drama to the way you drape a saree, a boat neck choli, a clutch in a vibrant shade and classy jewellery can lift your look. Today, the Indian client is ready to accept metallic colours in gold and coral that goes very well during pre or post-wedding events,” said Kiran. 
 After reaching a milestone with her accessory line, what’s next for the designer? “I want to make more beautiful clothes and reach out to more people. The next 100 ideas are ready in my mind,” she smiled.

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