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There was a time when popular music in India also meant Indi-pop, with its own star system and billboard chartbusters. But no sooner was the genre coming of age, it vanished into oblivion, writes Jaya Biswas

Those in their late twenties or early thirties surely wouldn’t have forgotten those evenings when we would it take a little break in between our homework and dinner to watch Chitrahaar, on Doordarshan on Wednesdays at 8:30 in the evening, which was popular because it aired a bouquet of songs from both old and upcoming films. There were no trailers or teasers back then on television so an odd song was often the only sneak peek at a forthcoming film, a peek that the nation seemed to wait for.
Every Wednesday, with baited breath we waited for Chitrahaar. Like much of the offerings on the state run channel, it was shoddily produced and often half-a-song would be edited out to make way for adverts/ news bulletins. But in the difficult and oh-so-far-way 1980s Chitrahaar, since it didn’t have to match steps with satellite music channels, was oh-so-very welcome.
But the early 1990s were a defining period for the Chitrahaar generation. We witnessed the emergence of yet another musical countdown show which made an entire generation dance to its tunes. Our loyalties almost unflinchingly shifted to Superhit Muqabala, aired on the newly launched DD Metro which promised to be more urbane than the staid and Bharatiya DD National. And it was here, in this show, more brazen than DD and more slickly produced that we first caught Alisha Chinai crooning to a shrill Made in India for a breathtakingly handsome Milind Soman. The song caught the generation as if by the collar and became the unofficial anthem of young India.
The story of the ascent of Indi-pop would remain incomplete without mentioning Biddu Appaiah, more popularly Biddu. An Indian-British music producer, composer, song-writer and singer, he not only produced and composed many such hit records worldwide, the credit goes mostly to him for managing to create a non-filmi niche in the 1990s. It was Biddu who made the Indian audience savour the real taste of pop with Pakistani singers Nazia Hassan and Zoheb, a sibling duo whose records, produced by Biddu, sold millions of copies. Nazia and Zoheb were Pakistani singers from Karachi. The group initially gained prominence with their single Aap Jaisa Koi was then featured as a soundtrack for Feroz Khan-Zeenat Aman starrer Qurbani. The song was also part of the group’s debut album Disco Deewane, released in 1981 by Biddu. The album became a best-seller. It also changed trends of music in Pakistan and was the first South Asian album that was also a hit in Brazil, Russia, South Africa and Indonesia. The duo released their second album Boom Boom in 1982 which was also the soundtrack for the Bollywood film Star, made in 1982, starring Kumar Gaurav, Rati Agnihotri, Raj Kiran and Padmini Kolhapure.
Made in India (1995), composed by Biddu, went on to become one of the highest selling pop albums of its times and Alisha, who had made some name years ago singing in Tarzan, became a household name. Biddu, also composer of the Boom Boom track, featuring the then newly minted Anupama Verma made many a heart go aflutter.
Indi-pop or Indian pop music, notwithstanding the distaste that lovers of western pop showed for its denizens, had started taking shape as a subculture. Bollywood was of course there while a singing culture with pan-Indian appeal, started to evolve outside it and very quickly too. 
Next, Biddu turned his attention to Hindi vocalist Shweta Shetty, both writing and producing the Johnny Joker album in 1993. In 1996, Biddu backed another brother-sister duo with Shaan (Shantanu Mukherjee) and Sagarika Mukherjee, producing the album Naujawan. Biddu spent the rest of the 1990s working with various musicians. Into the new millennium, he produced two hit albums with Sansara, Yeh Dil Sun Raha Hai and Habibi.
Biddu was almost a one-man army for the first few years when Indi-pop gained in prominence. But more than just the score, other factors also came into making it popular — creative videos, peppy music, pretty girls and a new group of talented singers. One must remember that Bollywood was on an overdose of Bappi Lahiri and late Laxmikant-Pyarelal, both insufferably kitschy, throughout the late 1980s. While Bollywood turned a new chapter with Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and Maine Pyar Kiya, Indi-pop emerged as the music for the nightlife — groovy and clever melange of Indian folk and popular tunes with peppy beats and often heady rap especially of the Baba Sehgal variety in Thanda Thanda Pani. Pop music had arrived and by the time satellites TV invaded the drawing rooms, India finally had its own divas and icons slowly but steadily eating up most of Channel V and MTV’s airtime.
In fact, music videos in the country made a splash with Indi-pop. Film music gave little scope to do videos and Indi-pop took the opportunity to make expensive and often experimental (by Indian popular standards) videos, thereby managing to hold on to the increasingly remote-happy, diminishing attention induced viewership.
Indi-pop soon, perhaps too quickly, touched its pinnacle with artistes like Anaida, Lucky Ali, Mehnaz, Daler Mehndi, Leslie Lewis, Raageshwari, Ali Haider, Ila Arun, Shaan, Anaida, Asha Bhosle, Anamika, Sonu Niigaam, Shubha Mudgal, KK, Babul Supriyo, Shankar Mahadevan and bands such as Euphoria, Silk Route, Stereo Nation, Aryans making Indi-pop a convenient money-minting option with albums sales soaring higher and higher.
Anaida’s ouvre was in churning out a strong storyline in the song, well-choreographed sequences, and tight editing with an eye for the over-all impact. Even ace choreographer Shiamak Davar and superstar Amitabh Bachchan joined the league with their songs Jaane Kisne and Ek Rahein Eer Ek Rahein Beer… respectively, also remembered for the brilliantly choreographed videos. Another big hit on the small screen was Malaika and Jas Arora in Malkit Singh’s music video Gud Naal Ishq Mitha.
Actress-singer Suchitra Krishnamoorthi doled out hit albums like Dole Dole and Dum Tara. Ghazal singer Hariharan and singer-composer Leslie Lewis joined hands to form their unique band Colonial Cousins, in 1996. They fused Indian and Western musical genres which were instantly lapped up by the listeners. Their eponymous debut album broke all records including hitting platinum sales in India. The duo also won the MTV Asia Viewer’s Choice Award and went on to bag the US Billboard Viewer’s Choice Award. The album had two major hit singles, Krishna and Sa Ni Dha Pa; their videos repeatedly playing on various music channels.
Shweta Shetty came up with another one in the year 1998 named Deewane To Deewane Hai. Her album became a huge success and her gravel voice and come-hither-sexiness seem to spill out of the television. 
Siblings Shaan and Sagarika hit the jackpot with the remix of Disco Deewane, followed by Roop Tera Mastana and Love-o-logy. Sagarika released her solo albums Maa and It’s All About Love. Few years later, Shaan scored big with Tanha Dil and Tishnagi.
Baba Sehgal, who is credited as the first Indian rapper, shot to fame with Manjula, Thanda Thanda Pani and Aaja Meri Gadi Mein Baith Ja in the mid-1990s. But he went on a world tour and by the time he settled down again no Indi-pop was left. He turned to playback singing and acting.
Around the same time we saw yet another bunch of singers like Daler Mehndi and Sukhbir who made us sample the heady flavours of Punjab. Daler Mehndi switched from classical music to pop, and in 1995 his first album Bolo Ta Ra Ra… was the best selling non-soundtrack album in Indian music history. He received the Award for Voice of Asia International Ethnic and Pop Music Contest in 1994. He earned Channel V’s Best Male Pop Singer Award, which he received in 1996 for Dar Di Rab Rab and in 1997 for Ho Jayegi Balle Balle.
Sukhbir’s unique Bhangra songs were a fusion of Bhangra with rap, techno and reggae. In Oi Triesto (2002), his music was complemented by Spanish and Portuguese rhythms, while he also uses instruments like tablas, congos, guitars and keyboards. He also stated once that Daler Mehndi and Malkit Singh were his biggest competition in the Punjabi music market.
In 2000, Asha Bhosle teamed up with Adnan Sami to release a collection of love songs named Kabhi To Nazar Milao. The music was also composed by Adnan. The album became an instant blockbuster and topped the Indipop charts for most of 2001. Two songs from that album — Kabhi To Nazar Milao, whose music video featured model Aditi Gowitrikar and Lift Karaa De whose music video starred Amitabh Bachchan — became immensely popular.
Sonu Niigaam was perhaps the only singer who could successfully juggle between film playbacks and private albums. His list of non-film popular albums includes Deewana (1999), followed by Jaan, Mausam, Kismat, Yaad and Chanda Ki Doli (2005) — most of which topped the charts.
But sooner than later Indi-pop came to an abrupt, and as we now know, a definitive end. Actress-singer Suchitra Krishnamoorthi had even said that the decline of pop spelled the death of her music career.
Mohit Chauhan, now a popular playback singer and once a part of music band Silk Route, rues, “Music companies are to be blamed which simply refuse to produce Indi-pop albums in fear of incurring huge loss due to piracy. Otherwise, there is no dearth of talent or listerners.”
Suneeta Rao, once famous for her Pari Hoon Main, released her last album Waqt in 2008 which sank. Alisha, like Shweta Shetty tried making a comeback to the Indi-pop scene with Vouz Soulement in 2003. But after that failed, she went back to doing film playback. And then she struck gold with Kajra Re (Bunty aur Babli in 2005). Alisha won several awards for this song and has since scored several hits.
So, what really went wrong? According to music critics and singers, film music itself went pop and Indi-pop lost its musical exclusivity, definition and identity. Almost 20 years down the line, the concept of Indi-pop may sound worn-out and overdone, but we do carry its essence in our hearts! Those who were better performers in the Indi-pop genre — singers, video-makers, arrangers and choreographers — made a quiet but effective move towards Bollywood. And those were there for publicity and money, faded away.
Indi-pop had a short life. Perhaps because Bollywood proved to be too big to take on! Perhaps Bollywood itself accommodated that kind of music. The item number for example, remains a kind of an offshoot of Indi-pop. Many films now shoot promotional videos to go with promotional music. Is it not a legacy of Indi-pop? Perhaps it is. Or may be with the coming of a new breed of talented and smart musicians — from AR Rahman to Santanu Moitra, from Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy to Pritam — Bollywood music itself became varied, tracing influences to not only music forms in India but often outside. Somewhere down the line, Indi-pop lost the plot.
Though choreographer-singer Ganesh Hegde claims to have brought the pop music scenario with his latest album, Let’s Party, could we really forget Lucky Ali’s O Sanam Mohabbat Ki Kasam… or Pankaj Udhas’s Aur Ahista Kijiye Baatein… or Ali Haider’s Purani Jeans aur Guitar? If not, then that’s the take away from a decade of what was born and died young as Indi-pop!

 

 

Jaya Biswas
 

Film: Luv Ka The End
Director: Bumpy
Cast: Shraddha Kapoor, Taaha Shah, Shenaz Treasuryvala, Pushtiie Shakti, Jannat Zubair Rahmani and Ali Zafar
Rating: Good

Luv Ka The End is all about one crazy night as three girls discover love, life, friendship and more… Now, that’s not something which Yash Raj Films hasn’t tried before. It was attempted earlier in Pyaar Impossible and more. With the new Y-Films coming into picture where the focus is on making films of, for and by the young, one can expect the production house to go full throttle keeping youth in mind.
The story of Luv Ka The End also runs somewhat on the lines of Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na or Wake Up Sid! in the beginning, with the plot revolving around a gang of girls just out of college, but soon takes a twirl and an interesting one at that.
The film focuses on Rhea (Shraddha Kapoor), who is the quintessential girl next door. She is lovable, cute, lively, vivacious and always dressed in funky clothes that she puts together for herself. Her dream is to watch her favourite rockstar, Freddie Kapoor. Rhea is madly in love with Luv Nanda (Tahaa Shah), the richest and the most popular boy in college. Luv, who so far has been easily befriending almost every hot chick in college, and has even ‘made out’ in the library with a treacher Miss Naaz, now eyes Rhea for a reason. He wants to be the highest scorer at ‘Billionnaire Boys Club’, an online portal that ranks them in the order of their ‘female conquests’. It is Luv’s personal mission to take Rhea’s virginity.
On the eve of her 18th birthday, Luv and Rhea plan to take their relationship to the ‘next level’. Accidentally, Rhea finds out that Luv is not as nice as she thought he was. Rhea decides not to cry but to give it back, in style — to get even and bring Luv Nanda down — and all in the span of one night with the help of her two friends. While most rom-com musicals start with a mushy number, this one is different as it aims to put love to an end.
The song, Tonight by Suman Sridhar is a slow, dreamy number about a young girl in love. Suman has really crooned the song well, effectively capturing the mood. This is followed by the title track of the film Luv Ka The End, sung by Aditi Singh Sharma, which is definitely the second best in the album.
Another interesting fact is debutant director Bumpy’s Hitchcockian screen presence. In almost all of his films, Hitchcock made an appearance much like Bollywood’s showman, Subash Ghai.
Last but not the least, popstar Ali Zafar’s special appearance as Freddie Kapoor adds cherry on the cake. Performancewise, Shraddha Kapoor and Taaha do justice to their roles. However, Pushtiie as Shraddha’s friend is the real show stealer.
Overall, Luv Ka The End is hip and zappy; a fun film worth a watch.

Shauli Chakraborty

Film: Bidehir Khonje Rabindranath
Director: Sanghamitra Chowdhury
Cast: Abhishek Chatterjee, Arpita Mukherjee, Angshuman
Rating: Average

This year being Rabindranath Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary, a lot of people have decided to commemorate the occasion in different ways. Filmmaker Sanghamitra Chowdhury too has, in her own way, paid tribute to Tagore through this film.
Sanghamitra explores Tagore’s grief after suffering various personal losses. He saw the deaths of Notun Bouthan Kadambari Debi, his wife Mrinalini Debi, his daughter Madhurilata and son Samindranath. Tagore is said to have attempted planchets in order to reach out to the souls of the departed.
It is a film within a film. Jeet (Abhishek) is a filmmaker who is planning a documentary on Tagore. He loves Bolpur and makes it a point to visit Santiniketan whenever he can. Jeet’s brother has a gang of friends who think this is the perfect opportunity for a weekend getaway and convince Jeet to let them accompany him to Bolpur. Like most youngsters these people know very little about Tagore and are on a constant lookout for opportunities to dope and booze and show very little respect for all things Rabindrik. How Jeet deals with this bunch and manages to shoot his film is for you to find out!
The music is heartwarming and soulful. In fact, it is the music which keeps much of the film afloat. There is a tribal dance sequence that has been shot in Bolpur and is pure delight to watch.
As far as performances are concerned Abhishek Chakraborty alone is worth a watch. None of the other actors manage to make an impression. From body language to fake accents — nothing seems to work for this motley crowd, most of whom are first timers. They seriously need to attend grooming classes before attempting another celluloid appearance.
The film deals mostly with Tagore’s dealings with the supernatural and the kind of impact those episodes had on his life. It is more of a docu-feature than a full fledged documentary. However, editing is poor and a number of scenes could have been easily done away with.
This is not a great film – as the filmmaker has acknowledged herself. But this is
definitely a positive beginning. We hope such films encourage other filmmakers, old and new, to make more documentaries on Tagore and other greats
as well!

Film: Just Go With It
Director: Dennis Dugan
Cast: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Brooklyn Decker, Nicole Kidman
Rating: Average

Imagine how wonderful or awful it feels, depending on which film industry you swear by, to see a Hollywood romantic comedy being ‘inspired’ by a Bollywood one. Remember Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya, a romantic comedy starring Salman Khan, Sushmita Sen and Katrina Kaif, where Salman plays the doctor falling for the much younger bimbette Katrina and Sushmita plays the assistant who has to pose as his soon to be divorced wife- well, Just Go with It is a little less complicated and a lot more sexed-up version of the same. That’s what should strike the audience who don’t know that the Hindi film itself was ‘inspired’ by the 1969 comedy Cactus Flower. So there, illusions put to rest, let us proceed with the story.
Adam Sandler is a huge-nosed would-be cardiologist simpleton Danny Maccabee, who turns smart and sly, becomes a plastic surgeon and gets his nose in shape, after discovering that his is a marriage of convenience for his scheming bride. But the ring remains on his finger, drawing sympathy and favours of a physical nature alike, at the expense of an imaginary adulterous and shrewish wife, till he meets the right girl (Brooklyn Decker). To marry her he needs a divorce and to get a divorce he needs a wife. His long-time assistant plain-Jane Katherine (Jennifer Aniston) comes to the rescue. A regular comedy of errors ensue and yards of yarns are spun till a praise-each-other session and a passionate Hula dance competition brings the truth out.
Adam Sandler is the perfect choice for a role he has played so many times before that by now it must be difficult playing anything else. Brooklyn Dekker in spite of all her prettiness is bland as the good and kind-hearted girlfriend. One wishes her character wasn’t this flat. Jennifer Aniston clearly carries the film forward with her natural smartness and sparkling eyes. She does the ugly-duckling turning beautiful swan act gracefully but every now and then you spot good ol’ Rachel peeking out of the screen. It is no surprise that Nicole Kidman makes her presence felt even in a cameo. Bailee Madison and Griffin Gluck are adorable kids, the former playing the role of a precocious little girl with elan.
Though the concept is cliché, there are some genuinely funny moments. However, most jokes are discriminatory, in bad taste and at the expense of people who have undergone and are suffering from the negative effects of plastic surgery. Sometimes the jokes and the acts, especially the ones by Nick Swardson are so gross that they are anything but funny. There is no chemistry whatsoever between Sandler and Brooklyn, but he and Aniston make a very warm, cute couple, past their prime. The comfort between the two that seems to reflect in the camaraderie they share on screen easily makes the film a one-time watch. — SD

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!

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.

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.

Ranveer-Anushka’s day out!

Siddharth Kak of Surabhi Foundation hosted the Dhamaka Art & Craft Festival at Urban Haat, Belapur recently. We spotted Anushka Sharma and Ranveer Singh (of Band Baaja Baarat fame) at the event trying a hand at pottery with child prodigy Priyanshu. The event reminded Ranveer of his school days when, while making a clay pot, Ranveer had fallen asleep. When he woke up, his teacher told him, that his pot was the best. Geeta Kak and Pamela Chopra the trustees of Surabhi Foundation were also present at the venue. For Anushka Sharma this was a completely new experience and she enjoyed every bit of it. It was altogether an evening to remember.

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