Tag Archive: post script


Pop! goes my heart…

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!

Sohini Dey

Film: Fast And Furious 5
Director: Justin Lin
Cast: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster
Rating: Average

Fast And Furious 5, the fifth film in the series is a no holds barred action entertainment, full of every masala from hot girls, hotter cars, goofy humour, elaborate chase sequences and ricochetting bullets to camaraderie and family bonding, all in the right proportion.  The lack of an engrossing plot has been compensated by spectacular visuals of car chases and crashes in this Justin Lin directed film which sees a re-union of all the stars from previous films in the same series. After Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is rescued from police custody by his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) and her ex-FBI agent lover Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker), they decide to plunder the corrupt businessman Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) whose path they have crossed. To pull off a $100 million heist, they round up a team of sleek and stylish criminals who, in between chalking out the plan and rehearsing it keep the quotient of entertainment high by prattling enthusiastically. Obstacles to the task are two. For one, Reyes has locked his wealth up in a safe in the police station and secondly, DSS special agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), who is equivalent to an entire police force, is after Dom and his gang.
The stunts performed are entertaining no doubt, with some heart-in-your-mouth moments, but seem too convenient to be plausible. Take for instance the final chase scene where Dom’s and Brian’s cars drag the humongous safe along crowded roads manoeuvring the safe itself to smash enemy cars into smithereens. But you know it’s an action film and you know how it will end, so after a point of time you stop worrying about the truth value of whatever’s shown on the giant silver screen. Somehow you don’t even mind the predictability of it all and lie back and enjoy.
Everybody plays their parts well. Malleability is not a trait Diesel’s face is famous for, but in a film that requires him to display only three emotions at the most, and a lot of his rippling muscles, he is perfect. The same holds for Dwayne Johnson. But the physical and behavioural similarities between the two in the form of a chiseled body, shiny bald pate and steely determination make the chaser and the chased two sides of the same coin.
Apart from the unexplained bit about Vince’s betrayal and return, there are a couple of questions the film raises — Is the huskiness of a mafia lord like corrupt businessman’s voice an acquired trait or a pre-requisite for the role? Is the impending birth of a child in the family the only incident that can swerve criminals by choice off the path of crime?

Jaya Biswas

 
Film: Thank You
Director: Anees Bazmee
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Bobby Deol, Suniel Shetty, Irrfan Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Celina Jaitley, Rimi Sen
Rating: Average

Men hate him, women simply adore him. Anees Bazmee’s latest film, Thank You, sees Akshay Kumar playing a detective who specialises in extra-marital relationships. Akki tells heartbroken wives about their promiscuous husbands, enlightens them with signs of a cheating man and how to catch him red-handed. He educates women and makes them wiser. Well, now you know why!
The basic premise of the plot dwells on ‘Men are dogs’ and ‘Women are dumb’ philosophies. Raj (Bobby Deol), Vikram (Irrfan Khan) and Yogi (Suniel Shetty) are three married men trying to have some fun outside their marriage. Sanjana (Sonam Kapoor), Karthika (Rimi Sen) and Radha (Celina Jaitley) play their lovely wives.
All seems to go well until Sanjana senses something fishy about her hubby’s smooth-going life. On Karthika and Radha’s suggestions, Sanjana hires the perpetually flute-playing private detective Kishan (Akshay Kumar), who promises to teach the three philandering husbands a lesson that they’ll never forget. Sounds familiar? Thank You, sadly, comes across as a not-so-appealing concoction of erstwhile releases like Shaadi No. 1, Biwi No. 1, Masti et al. But most prominently, it is hugely inspired by Bazmee’s own film, No Entry.
While nothing significant happens in the first half, the storyline gets slightly better post interval. But just when you feel the end credits are about to roll, it starts stretching like a chewing gum with Raj’s ‘realisation’ phase in focus. That’s not all. It’s followed by an unnecessary and predictable flashback of Akshay and his wife played by Vidya Balan.
Pritam’s music is uninspiring except for Mika’s Pyaar do Pyaar lo number (from Jaanbaaz-1986), which is already climbing the music charts. The song sounds more like a remix and looks very much like trying a re-do of Apni To Jaise Taise from Housefull.
Akshay delivers an average performance; he does nothing that we haven’t seen him do before. One wonders if Akki doesn’t get tired of playing clichéd roles. Irrfan Khan is simply brilliant with his superb comic timing. Suniel Shetty’s character seems an extension of Hera Pheri. Bobby Deol is decent. As far as the leading women are concerned, Rimi Sen is good but not very different from what she did in Dhoom, Sonam Kapoor looks the prettiest of all. But that’s about it. As far as performance is concerned, this is certainly not one of her best performances. Celina Jaitley doesn’t really stand a chance as she remains absent most of the time. Mallika Sherawat with her item number fails to tickle you.
Annes Bazmee should perhaps say “I’m sorry” for directing Thank You. Watch it for Irrfan, if you must.

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.

 

 

 

Ananya Ghosh

 

 
Film: Yamla Pagla Deewana
Director: Samir Karnik
Cast: Dharmendra, Sunny Deol, Bobby Deol, Kulraj Randhawa, Mukul Dev and Anupam Kher
Rating: Average

 

Yamla Pagla Deewana starts with a montage and a hilarious narrative on the ‘bhichhda hua family’ phenomenon of 70s’ Bollywood and the sepia-toned scenes from the blockbusters or yesteryears make way for a modern day family where Paramveer Singh (Sunny Deol) lands in Benaras from Canada in search for his long lost father, Dharam Singh (Dharmendra) and his brother Gajodhar Singh (Bobby Deol); and the first person he meets on the busy streets of the holy town is of course the kid brother! It turns out that the father-son duo has quite a reputation as petty thugs. Nonetheless the big brother promises their mother (Nafisa Ali) that he will unite the family. But, before that he must ensure his brother’s love story a happy ending by tackling the girl’s (Kulraj Randhawa) tough brothers (Anupam Kher, Mukul Dev and the rest).
After the melodrama that was Apne, it is refreshing to see the Deol sharing screen space in a comedy film and making the most out of it. It can be regarded as a tribute to the Deols as well. The black-and-white photographs of the stunning Dharmendra of 60s makes your heart skip a beat, the songs of Barsaat and Kareeb playing in the background during the climax reminds one of the curly-haired, cute Bobby Deol in his initial days, and Sunny dancing with a tube-well on his shoulder makes you remember the famous scene from Gadar: Ek Prem Katha. This is where you will get to see them in their asli rang. The scene where Bobby re-enacts the famous ‘suicide scene’ of Sholay is quickly silenced by a straight-faced Sunny who snaps, “Woh din gaye jab larkiya ise maan jaati thhi,” takes you off guard and then makes you burst out in fits of laughter.
The Deols compliment each other with their comic timing and Anupam Kher remains the brilliant actor as usual. However, it is Mukul Dev who is the surprise package in the movie. His acting is absolutely effortless-this kid has surely come a long way since his Ekse Badkar Ek days!
Kulraj, famous as Kareena of Kareena Kareena, has little to do than look pretty- in the first half as she sashays through crowded streets of Benaras in hotpants (which of course reminds you of Sonali Bendre’s Nirma act) and post interval she enacts a bit of Kajol of DDLJ, a bit of Kareena of Jab We Met and a bit of what not- but all through the film she looks pretty indeed!
What begins as a spoof on the masala films of the 70s, turns out into the modern version of the classic love story of Mirza-Sahibaan, but YPD is certainly not a Kameenay or Dev.D. The movie is an out-and-out masala film, replete with unbridled goofiness, Punjabi stereotypes, one-liner PJs, raunchy item numbers and unpretentiously over-the-top fight sequences. The cinematography is good, the songs apart from one are atrocious. A better script and better direction might have made a far better movie out of YPD but on the whole it is a movie for the aam-janta and a must-watch if you want a hearty laugh sans any brainwork. Same goes if you are a Deol fan. But, if you are a Rajinikanth fan then lookout for the scenes where Sunny holds up an entire balcony with one hand, or where he fights 50-60 people alone with his hands stuck in his pockets, or where he shouts and breaks all the window panes.  What Rajini can…Sunny can too!

Drift in the clouds

 

 

Mountain sights and sounds in winter will make you forget and forgo more than you wish for, says Supreeta Singh

We didn’t expect the things that happened on this trip. My two girl friends, Sammy and Debolina and I have travelled together many times before, but Lava and Rishop caught us off guard. It made us laugh, cry, fight, lose patience, forget things, meet wonderful people, spend sleepless nights and have an incredibly good time.
It was Sammy’s idea to visit a cold place during winter. We decided to spend Christmas at the small hill towns of Lava and Rishop in North Bengal. We were warned that the temperature could dip as low as zero degrees but we ignored it. Little did we know that the experience would leave us in cold sweat!
 
Day 1 – December 23

We boarded the 8 pm Kanchan Kanya Express from Sealdah on December 23 straddled with eight bags — thanks to our woolens. Our RAC tickets split the three of us. After dinner I went to stretch myself on the upper berth but got stuck midway. With one foot on the upper wrung of the ladder, one foot scrambling to touch the floor and one hand desperately clutching the seat, I hung on to the iron support with all eyes glued on me. A young man sitting on the opposite berth came to my rescue. Originally from Rajasthan, he now lives in Bhutan, he said and had come to Kolkata on a business trip. Debolina eyed him with suspicion while he chattered on about Bhutan and its beauty, showed us his shopping bonanza from Burrabazar and even handed me three one rupee notes of Bhutan as a souvenir! It was soon time to call it a night.

Day 2 – December 24

The morning began with our first disaster. In the bathroom, Debolina sent her mobile down the hole. We could not do anything but sit sadly. The mobile must have gone to the permanent lost and never found bucket of Indian Railways. Around 9 am, we reached New Mal Junction. We waved goodbye to our helpful neighbour, collected our luggage and disembarked from the train. As the train began to move, the young man called us back. Debolina had forgotten her bag that contained our money, tickets, hotel reservations, my wallet and phone among other things. Debolina ran and grabbed it. A few seconds late and we would have been stranded at New Mal forever! We could not believe our luck. That guy neither took our numbers nor asked our names, but saved us twice.
Our car was waiting outside. As we went up the hills, the tension melted away as we soaked in the natural beauty. When we reached Lava, our cabbie asked us to take another car and head to Hotel Paradise. We were perplexed. Lava was a small town. How much further are we going? Nonetheless, we followed his advice. We took a cab. Few minutes later, we saw the first cabbie following us. Why? Because we had forgotten our food bag in the cab. The third disaster.
We were already tired and famished, and there was more waiting! Half-way through the journey, we realised our fourth disaster. Paradise was cheap here, so there was a Hotel Paradise in both Lava and Rishop. Our first cabbie had thought that we were going to Paradise in Rishop. So he had put us in another cabbie for Rishop. But we were headed for Paradise Lava. As we did a U turn, we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry! As we charted our course back, the driver politely asked us to pay Rs 200 instead of the usual fair of Rs 450. He wasted his time and it was he who was sorry that he had to take money from us.
On reaching our hotel, we changed, had lunch and went out. Our first and only stop was the nearby Lava monastery. We had emptied our bags and wore everything we were carrying and yet felt bitterly cold. We were shaking, shivering and turning blue. Walking slowly and braving a biting cold wind, we went around the monastery. Not a single monk was visible. They must have attained a spiritual elevation to evade the the chill. A few tourists loitered around. As evening fell, we were engulfed by fog that drifted from the hills and in a few seconds everything was enveloped in a misty embrace.
By the time we came back to the hotel, we shivered uncontrollably. We carried three small bottles of whisky. It was Christmas Eve. Out came our candles and cakes. Sammy turned on the laptop to play music. I poured the drinks. In the next hour, we danced and made merry and at 8 pm, three pegs down I fell asleep thinking that I can pass the night oblivious of the all-pervading chill. I was wide awake at 8.45 pm, cold and trembling. At dinner, we met a couple from Kolkata who told us that only brandy can keep us alive! At midnight, two of us knocked on their doors and begged for brandy, because death, we realised, is worse than losing your dignity.
 
 Day 3 – December 25

Our first stop of the day was Rachela Peak. Together with another couple, a guide and bottles of water, we walked up the mountain. It was hard, to say the least. I gasped and panted and after twenty minutes reached the top. The view was breathtaking. It was a foggy day. I stood at more than 7,000 feet above sea-level with mountains rolling on all sides, a forest inhabited by bears behind me and the naked, azure sky above. The silence was golden.
For breakfast, we went to Orchid restaurant at the city centre. The place was crammed with Bengali tourists, even during this off-season. In contrast to the quiet nature of the hill people, the noise of the tourists from the plains, was severely disagreeable. Even in Lava, they were stuffing themselves with bread, banana and eggs! Were they at a picnic at the Victoria memorial?
Stuffed with a breakfast of momo, soup, bread and coffee, we headed off to Chhangey Falls. The guide informed us about the films that have been shot here. On the way back, our guide suggested we take a detour. It was a scary experience. A vertigo victim, I almost swooned as I trudged along the narrow and steep path holding on to Sammy.
By early afternoon, it was time to say goodbye to Lava and head to Rishop, a hamlet situated at 8,000 feet. We reached Neora Valley Resort — a beautiful property scattered with cottages amidst a sumptuous spread of greenery. We were told that this is the place where Kanchenjunga can be viewed the best. I waited for it to be morning.
 
Day 4
December 26

It was 6 am when we were woken up by tourists shouting (or may be crying) Kanchenjunga! Kanchenjunga! We gathered at a view point called Jhoola Wala and before we could rub our yes and pray ‘look at me Sir’, The Lord of Mountains was gone. Since this was our last full day at Rishop, we decided to make the most of it. Along with a local guide, a one-hour trek took us to Tiffindara, another view point. The surrounding was magnificent. We stood at one of the highest points in Rishop and all around us we could see mountains covered in thick forests. It was another cloudy day and the cold was almost intolerable. But no complaints! We walked back through a forest, just the four of us, our guide included. There was no need for small talk. We were awed by tall trees, the deep gorges and the sheer remoteness of the place.
The day drew to a close with a campfire in the evening. We were joined by a family of three – husband, wife and their daughter. Swathed in five layers of clothing, we were almost hugging the fire. The night sky was clear and glittering with millions of stars. Sight to behold, not to tell.

Day 5 – December 27

Our trip had come to a close but not without the last, grandest surprise! Very early in the morning we saw that the fog had cleared. We tiptoed to Jhoola Wala, as if our footsteps may disturb His Majesty! And there it was! It shone in the sun, a large white mass of snow, floating in the sky, a mass that grew with the Sun above. Kanchenjunga in all its glory! We had got our Christmas
present!
All was forgiven! We were game to go back and plan our next trip!

 

 

PostScript caught up with the model-turned-actor, Indraneil Sengupta, on the sets of Riingo’s System, an underworld saga…

 

Diganta Guha

He has made a mark as an actor in Bengali films working with directors like  Buddhdev Dasgupta, Kaushik Ganguly and Anjan Das. Excerpts:

Have you managed to settle down in Tollywood?
I don’t know whether I have or not but yes, I am working here.

Aarekti Premer Golpo is going places…
I am elated with the response. When we were making the film, I was under the impression that the film would go to various festivals, win awards, receive critical acclaim, both nationally and internationally. But I am amazed that it has also got such a good response from audiences. People are buying tickets in black, and those who are unable to see it are going back home disappointed. It was a bold subject, alternative sexuality, and we never thought the public would accept it so freely. The movie is being watched by one and all. This isn’t exactly the commercial everyday love story that you see on-screen and people appreciate the difference.

How was Rituparno Ghosh as an actor?
Rituda is brilliant. As an actor he is absolutely amazing. Working with him gave me the impression that he must be a great actor-director. He is very patient and his acting style is completely different. I learnt a lot from him…..
 
Did he guide you on the sets?
To a certain extent he did, but when you are acting yourself, it is not possible to guide your co-actor constantly, because you are busy with your own lines and parts. But yes he did help me with a few things. The character that I played was very complex. I am looking forward to working with Rituda, the director because then he would have the luxury to guide his actors.

You have done very meaningful films in Tollywood and not just run-of-the-mill stuff. Was it a conscious decision?
It’s a two way process. I have been choosey with my films, and I have got offers for certain kind of films only. I am really lucky that such scripts have come my way. Tollywood had a good run in 2010. Many small and medium budget films did very well. There are many talented, creative people in the industry. We have brilliant actors and directors. For me as an actor, Tollywood is important because of the kind of characters and scripts that I get. Hopefully, 2011 will see Tollywood doing even better.
 
Your wife Barkha is also working in Tollywood…
Barkha is hosting a show on Zing and doing a lot of live shows in Mumbai and Kolkata. She is consciously avoiding daily soaps because it takes up a lot of time. Even I suggested that she should skip daily soaps at the moment. In Tollywood she has done a cameo in Dui Prithibi which won her a best debutante award. She is also doing a full-fledged role in Mahesh Manjrekar’s Aami Subhash Chandra Bolchi with Mithun Chakraborty. She is very excited about it. Language is not a barrier for Barkha. She loves acting. If she gets more opportunities in Tollywood she would definitely work here more frequently.

Do you get time to meet each other?
When I am not working here, I am in Mumbai. When I am shooting in Kolkata, she makes it a point to take some time off to be with me. So, in a month we are together for about 15-18 days. 
 
What are your current projects?
I have just finished a film called Uro Chithi. Only the dubbing is left. I have System which is an action film, so if you think I haven’t done any mainstream film, here it is. I have also signed a comedy called Le Halwa. Bedeni is going to release soon. In System I play an underworld guy.
 
Do you have any projects in Mumbai?
No. I think I am too occupied in Kolkata to market myself in Mumbai.

Supreeta Singh
Imran Zahid is the latest blue-eyed catch of the Mahesh Bhatt camp. The owner of a media academy in Delhi, Zahid’s Bollywood debut will see him playing the role of assassinated political leader Chandrashekhar Prasad in Bhatt’s next venture Chandu. The film is supposed to hit the floors next month and is scheduled for a late 2011 release. Excerpts from a telephonic conversation:

Tell us something about your background. How did acting happen?
I am originally from Jharkhand. I came to Delhi in 1996 to study at  Hindu College. As for acting, it came naturally to me. I was always   interested in acting. In fact, theatre is my passion. While In college, I acted in a lot of street plays and have also trained under veteran theatre director, Arvind Gaur. The whole idea of a nine to five job never appealed to me.

How did you bag this role?
I was in Dubai for a media workshop when I met Mahesh Bhatt. This was four years ago and our rapport grew over time. Mahesh Saab wanted a new face for the role of Chandrasekhar Prasad and he chose me. Although I have always wanted to be an actor, I could never allow myself to go begging for roles. So, when Mahesh Saab offered me this role, that too without even an audition, I had to grab it. Otherwise, I was happy running my media academy.

Chandrasekhar Prasad was a Marxist leader in Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) who was brutally shot in Bihar’s Siwan in 1997. How did you prepare for the role?
In recent years, there have been very few leaders with such charisma as Chandrasekhar Prasad. As I researched about him, I was impressed by his resolve to bring about social change in Bihar. Hailing from Jharkhand myself, I could immediately relate to him and his predicament. He was shot dead while delivering a speech in his native town, Siwan, and till date his murderers have not been brought to book. Cases like those of Jessica Lall and Priyadarshini Mattoo are freak accidents but there’s such hue and cry over them. On the contrary, Chandrasekhar’s death  was a deliberate attempt by some power clique, which has recieved no attention. Today, the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Shah Rukh Khan, and Sania Mirza are crowned youth icons. But Chandrasekhar is no less an iconic figure because he fought against all odds and gave up his own dreams for the cause of his state and country.

How are you preparing for the role?
Chandu is not a period film at all, as it is rooted in the current political scenario and that is what makes it different. It was only 14 years ago that Chandrasekhar Prasad was shot dead. His friends and relatives are still there. I often visit JNU and spend time with his friends and colleagues. The interesting thing is that the man still has a presence in the university. Students have not forgotten him. Besides, I am reading books on Communism and sifting through Prasad’s personal letters and writings to gain an insight into his psyche.

This is your first film and that too with Mahesh Bhatt.How is he as a person and as a director?
Mahesh Saab is the only person I am comfortable with in this industry. He is my friend, philosopher and guide. I was an ordinary person hailing from a small city. Can you imagine what I must be feeling now? I am indebted to him for giving me such a break. People are already talking about me. I am in the limelight. I have surrendered myself to Mahesh Saab. I will always follow his advice.

Live and let love

In a world torn by violence, does the credo of baul philosophy show a flicker of hope?

 

 

Supreeta Singh

 

 
Against the backdrop of environmental hazards, physical threats and emotional depletion, the quest for spiritual freedom stands tall. If a man’s ultimate aim is self-realisation, then the need to find meaning in life becomes monumental. Unfortunately, today the concepts of peace, liberty and equality have been stripped of their essence and reduced to a mere lip service at best or buzzwords at worst.
 However, a small sect in West Bengal has a different tale to tell. They are above any organised religion, caste and creed or gender discrimination and completely shun orthodox rituals.
Spread across Murshidabad, Nadia and Birbhum districts in Bengal, Sylhet, Bikrampur and Kushtia in Bangladesh, Baul singers and poets practice an egalitarian philosophy preached by ‘exponents’ of world peace and love. 
Thanks to Gautam Ghose’s film Moner Manush, there has been a reawakening of interest in one of the prominent baul exponents, the iconic figure Lalon Fakir. A Hindu-turned-Muslim fakir, who flouted all established norms of society in his exploration of self, Ghose’s film pertinently makes Lalon’s philosophy embedded in his lyrics seem relevant. 
Gautam Ghose says, “Lalon is contemporary. Bauls are not just performers; for them it’s a way of life. Today, not everyone is a performer but they practice devotion nonetheless.”
 For young folk singer Anusheh Anadil of Bangladesh, bauls uphold a philosophy that is eternal. An ardent fan of Lalon songs, she claims that songs give her a glimpse of reality. “The need for self-realisation does not disappear with time. I am in love with the bauls and fakirs specially because here there is no duality of ideas. It is about learning to be empty and embodying that love which is making creation possible. For me, it’s always been about the message these songs convey. I try to pass it on to my audience in whichever way they may listen.”
 The growing popularity of baul songs and tunes in popular culture also stand as a testimony to its revival among the youth. The lyrics, strains and compositions touch a chord infusing a listener with a sense of unbridled joy. Percussionist Tanmoy Bose whose projects Taal Tantra and Baul and Beyond, where Anusheh is one of the contributors, says that baul philosophy is the best example of unity, brotherhood and friendship. According to him, youngsters must go through the lines of poems crafted by bauls to understand their import. He adds, “Baul does not just mean smoking weeds and singing songs. It’s a way of life that needs total devotion. For me, the most heartwarming and urgent message of bauls is the principle of guru-shishya (disciple) parampara or tradition that it upholds. Every day we read about student and teacher conflicts. The basic foundation of the baul philosophy lies in total surrender to your guru, who will lead you through the tumultuous hurdles of life. It says that you have to know your guru to complete yourself. This is opposite to the language of aggression youths display. In any situation of dispute and disagreement, baul philosophy can teach you to cooperate.”
 In the same vein, Bangladeshi singer Latif Shah says, “When the desire rises in you to merge with the ‘Supreme Soul’, no matter what your age is, you will be drawn to it like bee to a flower. My disciples are as young as 12 years. That’s an impressionable age and therefore they understand all about bauls with ease.” 
Bose is amazed by the fact that our own indigenous baul philosophy finds resonance in African-American blues and jazz entrenched in socio-political revolutions. “I have been to so many countries and everywhere I have found that the native form of music has sprung out of some kind of protest. Both music and baul philosophy are universal. They are deeply rooted in selflessness. Hence, there is much to learn from them.”
 One of the strongest elements of Baul is the way it embraces everyone irrespective of religion, community, class, economic background and gender. At a time when world leaders at large fail to do more than initiating peace-talks between warring nations, bauls talk about forging ties. “Baul is a secular philosophy. Although fundamentalists attack them in many pockets of Bengal and Bangladesh, yet they promote love and compassion. Men and women, who have been ostracised by society, find solace and acceptance in the company of bauls. Many of them come from poor families and have nowhere to go. Earlier, the urban and rural divide was not as marked as it is today. Now, bauls flock to cities to participate in fairs and festivals giving city slickers an opportunity to learn from them.”
 Interestingly, Baul songs are engaged in a conversation with the body. For them, human body is the most intricate and elaborate vehicle where universal truth lies hidden. The body is a means to an end – the final reunion with the ‘Supreme Being’ who resides in all of us. Human body is sacrosanct, a symbol of divinity. From novice to advanced baul singers, meditation and yoga are a must every day – exactly what health experts urge people to do.  
 “Physical exercise or shadhon-bhajon is as crucial to bauls as singing. All baul songs are centered on the body, which is a metaphor for leading to higher states of existence. A good guru will always decode the songs and explain its meaning to his disciple,” says 30-something Sanjay of Baul band Brahmakhyapa.
 Bauls believe in the principle of ‘here and now’. There is no concept of reincarnation or idol worship. Free of dogmas, it stresses on body and mind to find all answers. “What attracts me to baul philosophy is it’s scientific nature. To develop the inner psyche, you must reach a level of control that is achieved only when you are physically, mentally and emotionally fit. There is neither any sudden anger nor any sudden joy. Isn’t this what any spiritual guru would advise? Today, people earn bushels of money, but are they really happy?” asks Sanjay. 
 The prominent place of women in baul communities is another stellar aspect. While conservative religions put women on the pedestal and worship them, domestic violence continues unabated. Bauls are routinely dismissed for their apparent sexual proclivities, their lifestyle often dubbed as ‘free sex in a free society. Yet rising statistics of divorce and separation speak about the lack of respect and love in urban couples. Tanmoy Bose is aggrieved by such misinterpretations. “It’s an injustice. You have to look beyond the physical intercourse and discover the epitome of love in your partner. And it’s not as if bauls indulge in indiscriminate sexual orgies. They too have fixed mates,” he fumes.
 Echoes Sanjay, “My partner Malobika and I live together. We have a daughter too. As in tantra, baul philosophy too believes in the union of male and female and only the union of the two can lead to creation. There are so many married couples in the society who are miserable. Does the ‘married’ tag stop them from abusing each other? So, how is it different for the bauls?”
 Kartik Das Baul of Santiniketan, who is married with a son, says, “Bauls are not separate entities outside the purview of society. Lalon advises us through his songs to be free of restrictions. In India and abroad, we have finally got our due recognition and things look brighter for the future. As long as I can connect with myself, nothing can dampen my spirit.” 
 Golam Fakir, a noted baul from Nadia, observes that bauls as a sect will always remain a little mysterious and unfathomable to laymen. “Only those who come with a sincere heart and thirst for knowledge are able to apprehend the true essence of bauls. Yet for a world whose heart is bleeding, he shares a snippet from Gita  — Whatever has happened in the past, happened for the best. Whatever will happen will happen for the best too.”

 

 

Sudipta Dey

 

 
Film: The Tourist
Cast: Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Paul Bettany, Timothy Dalton
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Rating: Good

What would you expect from a romantic thriller that has two most popular actors of all time as the lead, an Academy award winning director and Paris, Italy and Venice as the backdrop?
The Tourist has Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp pitted against each other, where the former plays an under-cover agent (again) and the latter is a Maths teacher from Wisconsin, an average Joe.
The plot revolves around Jolie’s character, Elise, who is apparently chasing her former lover, who also happens to be an elusive gangster, Alexander Pearce. On his instructions sent through a letter, she picks up a random tourist who looks somewhat like him to evade Interpole, and that’s when the real story begins.
The film revolves around the same plot that we have seen in many such films about mistaken identities (like the more recent Knight And Day). Jolie, like most of her films, has the action-seeking streak in her, and Depp is the victim of circumstances.
The plot has nothing great to it. It has a lot of flaws, that could have been avoided. But the massive starcast makes up for it. Apart from the two American superstars — Jolie and Depp, the film has Paul Bettany as Inspector John Acheson chasing the duo, Timothy Dalton as the Chief Inspector Jones who only appears in phases, Rufus Sewell as the mysterious man who claims to be Alexander Pearce on the insistence of an unknown man.
British actor Paul Bettany, who is more popularly known for his characters in The Beautiful Mind, A Knight’s Tale and Da Vinci Code, has done a decent job as the frustrated inspector chasing Pearce for over two years. His character could have had more meat, if the director (who has also co-written the film) paid a bit more attention to characterisation, something which is expected from a director who won the best foreign film in 2007 for Lives of Other.
Though the film has a mixed starcast, it has a distinct European romantic vibe to it, with most of the beauty lent by the picturesque setting of Venice and Paris.
Jolie looks simply gorgeous is her diva avatar, as she is seen mostly in gorgeous designer dresses throughout the film unlike in her other action films. Depp is his usual suave self.
The script should have given more time to make the love angle between Jolie and Depp a bit more convincing. There are a few witty dialogues exchanged between the two, which are crisp and at times funny, but those could only be credited to Jolie and Depp’s acting prowess.
If you don’t pay too much attention to the story and script, the film is worth a watch, specially for the actors and the beautifully captured Venice, the city of lovers.

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