Leisure http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure.rss en Sun Dec 11 11:18:13 IST 2022 https://www.theweek.in/privacy-an-settlement.html japanese-chef-masaharu-morimoto-about-his-recipes-restaurants-cooking <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/16/japanese-chef-masaharu-morimoto-about-his-recipes-restaurants-cooking.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/9/16/79-Japanese-chef-Masaharu-Morimoto.jpg" /> <p>Wasabi by Morimoto, the famous Japanese restaurant at Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, turned 19 last weekend. To celebrate, Masaharu Morimoto―the founding chef who has to his credit 20 restaurants across the world and who is known for introducing Japanese cuisine in India―was in the city to lay out a specially-crafted Omakase menu. Omakase in Japanese translates roughly to ‘I leave it to the chef’. The Wasabi in Taj has a special place in his heart because it is the second restaurant he opened, after Morimoto in Philadelphia in 2001. “I am often asked why I opened the second one in India and not anywhere else in the world,” he says. “The answer lies in love. If we had not loved each other―Taj and I―we could not have sustained for 19 years.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Morimoto recently opened his 21st restaurant in Jakarta. Known best as the ‘Iron Chef’ on Japanese TV, he got trained as executive chef of the first Nobu in New York, started by the legendary Nobu Matsuhisa. Morimoto is known to have championed the idea of modern Japanese cuisine. His expert play with sharp Japanese flavours and spices combined with his love for sushi and ramen, and inclusion of distinctly western ingredients like olive oil and dairy products, have made him a favourite among all those he has served, right from former US president Barack Obama to an array of Bollywood celebrities who are regulars at Wasabi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He is 68 now, but you could not tell it from his youthful energy. Immaculately dressed in a white shirt, black trousers and a long flowing jacket, with his hair neatly tied back and a ready smile on his face, he was constantly sashaying in and out of the kitchen and greeting guests in the dining area. “I want to stay a chef for as long as I can,” he says. “Even now I spend most of my time in the kitchen.” He landed on a Friday afternoon and went straight to the kitchen to supervise the dinner. The weekend was chock-a-block with planning and organising eight lunch and dinner shifts, alongside giving interviews and socialising.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nineteen years ago when he launched Wasabi, he was super confident, he says. But then one month later, he had to change 50 per cent of the menu, because many would say that his dishes were a Nobu rip-off. He had to give it his own identity. “So now, when somebody asks me, ‘Chef, what do you recommend?’ I say, ‘everything’. They say it is not fair. But then I say I made my menu myself with so much love and sweat that you cannot ask me what is best. Everything on my menu is the best,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are seated on a round table for an eight-course Omakase meal on a languorous Saturday. Through the window, the Gateway of India and the Mumbai harbour glisten in the pale afternoon light. The menu cards are personally signed by Morimoto. The dishes that arrive in quick succession are beautifully plated and Instagram-worthy. Plating, say those who have worked with Morimoto, is one of his specialties. An example of this was the salad course, something that Morimoto had apparently created at the White House for Obama’s dinner for former Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe. The vegetables were sliced longitudinally with bits of meat, wrapped in fancy Japanese cellophane paper and tied with a thin golden ribbon. The experience of consuming it felt like unwrapping a gift.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The starters included eight to nine gourmet dishes like pumpkin jelly, avocado tartar, tofu, beautifully placed duck meat and tuna belly topped with wasabi. Before moving to the main course, we were served chilled sake. Made from polished rice, the fermented rice beverage―called nihonshu in Japan―was sharp and mellow in equal measure, and beautifully complemented the food. Later, I switched to the warm sake, which soothed the mind and body.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The sushi was the highlight of the lunch, and we were served five different varieties in one platter. Morimoto himself freshly grilled the tuna. The main course included pan-fried sea bass with mushrooms, cheese and vegetables with pickled jalapeno sauce and ginger shoots, and rock lobster. When I asked for a vegetarian option instead, I was in for a bit of disappointment. I had to make do with potatoes and cheese. Here, it pays to be non-vegetarian.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the chef himself prefers vegetarian fare. And that too, just one big meal every evening. He just had banana yogurt and vegetables for breakfast. “After lunch at 4pm, nothing,” he says. “Only plain water. Last time I lost 10 kilos and I have stopped alcohol completely.” This is ironic, since he is aggressively selling his new line of sake.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The problem is that in India, it is difficult to source ingredients,” he says. “The transportation system here is not conducive for fresh catch to be transported in real time. But again, there is no need to push for it so much. India has its own cultures. People don’t know much about Japanese cuisine, and that is fine. The fact that we have been here for the last 18 years is history in itself.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On this trip to India, he is taking the dosa back with him. “This time when I go back to the US, I am going to create different varieties of dosa with my own twist,” he says. “Every time I come, I take away some new idea from the country, be it a spice or an ingredient. Last time I was blown away by coconut curry and coconut milk. This time it is dosa.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Morimoto and his wife, who is many years younger to him, travel extensively. They don’t have kids, but own a dog. He says he never cooks anything at home. “Zero,” he says animatedly. “When we got married in 1979, my wife was a terrible cook. She could not cook anything and I could cook everything. Over time, she learnt and is better than me now. Cooking is that which comes from the heart, or else it is nothing. So the chef whom I respect the most is my wife.” He once said that the most interesting thing he sees from behind his sushi bar is the proposals. “I have put a ring in the food or the drink a hundred times,” he said with a laugh. “And each time the proposal has been accepted I shake the man’s hand and say, ‘welcome to hell’.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/16/japanese-chef-masaharu-morimoto-about-his-recipes-restaurants-cooking.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/16/japanese-chef-masaharu-morimoto-about-his-recipes-restaurants-cooking.html Sat Sep 16 16:23:47 IST 2023 shahi-kabeer-talks-about-nayattu-and-his-life-experiences-that-influenced-his-scripts <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/16/shahi-kabeer-talks-about-nayattu-and-his-life-experiences-that-influenced-his-scripts.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/9/16/82-Shahi-Kabir.jpg" /> <p>When the 69th national film awards were being announced in Delhi on August 24, writer-filmmaker Shahi Kabir was at Ilaveezhapoonchira in Kerala’s Kottayam district, 3,200ft above sea level. As a civil police officer once stationed there, Kabir had worked in a cramped tin shed that doubled as a wireless station for the Kerala Police and living quarters for the policemen manning it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The staying conditions have since improved, but Kabir skilfully recreated those days for his directorial debut―<i>Ela Veezha Poonchira</i>―a murder mystery involving two policemen, in 2022.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His latest trip there was to see Nidhish G., a fellow officer, dear friend and the scriptwriter of <i>Ela Veezha Poonchira</i>. “The place has connectivity issues, making me completely inaccessible,” Kabir told THE WEEK in his baritone. “I do not know who delivered the news, but someone told Nidhish that I was chosen for the national award for best original screenplay for <i>Nayattu.”</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Directed by Martin Prakkat, <i>Nayattu</i> was a story of three civil police officers who find themselves on the run after being framed in a case under political pressure. “<i>Nayattu</i> was based on a real incident that occurred in Piravom (Ernakulam) during the 2011 elections,” said Kabir. “Two dalit children were injured in an accident involving a trio of police officers. The issue gained a lot of attention and the officers had to go into hiding. I took only this thread from the real incident; the rest of the story is fictional.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Nayattu</i> offered a poignant take on how the deeply hierarchical policing system in the country falters, simultaneously letting down society and its own officers, all the while grappling with relentless political pressure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film also delved into the complex internal states of its characters. This emotional exploration was evident in Kabir’s first movie as a writer, <i>Joseph</i> (2018), and <i>Ela Veezha Poonchira</i>, too. This knack for observation, he said, came not from his police work, but from his avid interest in reading books on human psychology. “However,” he said, “I do not possess a formal academic degree in psychology or any other subject.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a way, he credits the Kerala Police for nudging him towards his film career. “My journey in the police department began in 2005,” he said. “Initially, I was posted at police camps, but when I started working at local police stations, I saw the emotional challenges people faced. I have always had a bit of extra empathy in me. We dealt with negative issues on a daily basis, and it started to affect me deeply. So, I yearned to explore something beyond this realm. I realised that cinema might be an avenue worth exploring.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Camp life influenced the scriptwriter in him. “I never wrote a story during my school or college years,” he said. “However, during our time at the camps, I would share numerous stories with my colleagues just to pass the time. It was not long before they encouraged me to transform these stories into scripts.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After the release of <i>Nayattu</i>, some critics called it a film with ‘anti-dalit politics’. Kabir, though, said that once a film is released, neither the writer nor the director has control over the way the audience perceives it. “<i>Nayattu</i> was interpreted in ways I had not even imagined,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Over the past two decades, Kabir has intimately seen the myriad emotions people face; he has a remarkable ability to grasp the subtle intricacies of these emotions, making him an exceptional storyteller deserving of national recognition.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/16/shahi-kabeer-talks-about-nayattu-and-his-life-experiences-that-influenced-his-scripts.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/16/shahi-kabeer-talks-about-nayattu-and-his-life-experiences-that-influenced-his-scripts.html Sat Sep 16 11:49:23 IST 2023 south-korean-singer-aoora-is-making-waves-blending-indian-and-korean-rhythms <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/16/south-korean-singer-aoora-is-making-waves-blending-indian-and-korean-rhythms.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/9/16/84-Aoora.jpg" /> <p>Remember the song ‘Koi Yahan Aha Nache Nache’ from the Mithun Chakraborty film <i>Disco Dancer</i>? It has a fancy K-pop version now. A South Korean artiste, in outfits quirky and colourful, walks the streets of Mumbai belting out the song’s signature hook ‘Auva, Auva’, as he blends Korean lyrics into the original’s tune and tempo. The performer is Aoora, a South Korean singer-composer who is fast carving a niche in mixing Indian tunes with his own work and those of others.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Born Park Min-jun, Aoora is 37―perhaps a tad too mature for K-pop’s feverishly youth-obsessed fandom. But Aoora does have his porcelain skin and boyish looks that belie his years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No one really introduced Aoora to Hindi songs. It was during a random internet session that he stumbled upon the song ‘Cham, Cham’ from the 2016 film <i>Baaghi</i>. “I was captivated by its energy,” he says. “That is how my interest in Indian music, especially Hindi songs, began.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aoora says he was always interested in approaching music with “innovation”. He was 13 when he discovered his passion for music, and 16 when he began formal training. Music shows on television had taught him the basics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He discovered a deeper connect with songs in Hindi (and other Indian languages, as he later found out). “What immediately resonated with me was their vibrant energy, catchy rhythms and effective use of chorus, all of which are distinctive features of K-pop,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He noted the differences, too. “Korean music is more focused. For instance, there will be a particular rhythmic pattern throughout the song, concentrating on a specific element. In contrast, Hindi music is upbeat and high-energy… created on a much grander scale, with rhythmic changes throughout,” says Aoora.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With his unique musical sense, Aoora is going places. The Uttar Pradesh tourism department recently announced that he and fellow K-pop artiste DJ Fridayy will be performing a string of concerts across the state from September 12 to 27. The department said it was “thrilled to announce a momentous cultural celebration to commemorate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between India and South Korea.” All concerts, it said, would be held in educational institutions―a good choice given the demography of India’s K-pop fan base.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aoora roughly means ‘feelings’ in Korean. He says he does not know much about diplomacy or politics, but he feels that he can contribute to deepening the good rapport that India and South Korea share.</p> <p>New Delhi and Seoul had signed a twin-city agreement in 2017, looking to increase cooperation on matters related to culture, tourism, environment, education, sanitation, public health and youth affairs. A much deeper association is the ‘sister city’ agreement between Ayodhya and Gimhae in South Korea. Legend has it that an Indian princess, Suriratna, married King Suro of Geumgwan Gaya, a powerful city-state in ancient Korea. The couple founded the Karak dynasty, to which more than six million present-day Koreans trace their roots. Near Ayodhya’s Ram Katha Park is a memorial to the legendary mother queen, who is known as Heo Hwang-ok in Korea.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The sister city agreement between Ayodhya and Gimhae was signed in 2000. “Many people in Korea may not be aware of it,” says Aoora. “Music has the power to nourish and maintain this strong connection.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Does the label of being a cultural ambassador weigh heavy on him? No, says Aoorah. The aoora, he says, are of “happiness and pride”―that his “small contribution” could boost the warm ties between India and South Korea. “I would like to [have] more collaborations by blending musical elements from both the countries,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is Aoora’s third visit to India, and his music is steadily gaining popularity here. “Meeting people who love music and attend my concerts brings me immense joy,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In UP, he looks forward to learning more about Indian culture. Anything that scares him? “Navigating unknown roads always frightens me, especially in a place that I am not familiar with,” says Aoora.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He says he has only a “beginner-level” understanding of Hindi. His list of Indian favourites include Shilpa Rao and Ash King. His favourite composer? Pritam. And, of course, Bappi Lahiri. “Bappi da”, he says, has a “special place” in his heart.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aoora’s most popular mashup has been of ‘Main Tera Boyfriend’ (<i>Raabta</i>, 2017) and ‘Euphoria’ (by BTS member Jung-kook in 2018). But his favourites keep changing. The current one is ‘Chaleya’, from Shah Rukh Khan’s latest release <i>Jawan</i>. In the pipeline are mashups of Tamil, Telugu and Punjabi songs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His bourgeoning base of fans call themselves Aurians. Their love and affection, says Aoora, has him “deeply honoured”. “They are energetic and vibrant,” he says. “Together, we create an atmosphere of high-voltage energy during live shows.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/16/south-korean-singer-aoora-is-making-waves-blending-indian-and-korean-rhythms.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/16/south-korean-singer-aoora-is-making-waves-blending-indian-and-korean-rhythms.html Sat Sep 16 11:45:30 IST 2023 indian-standup-comedian-and-actor-vir-das-is-experimenting-with-his-craft-and-exploring-new-avenues <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/09/indian-standup-comedian-and-actor-vir-das-is-experimenting-with-his-craft-and-exploring-new-avenues.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/9/9/63-Vir-Das.jpg" /> <p>It was 2009. ‘Walking on Broken Das’ had just hit the comedy circuit, and India was warming up to Vir Das and his standup routine involving sex, alcohol and James Bond jokes. “We could never ever have an Indian Bond,” Das would say, “because it is impossible to have an Indian man wear a tuxedo without looking like a waiter.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Das, lean and clean-shaven, would open his gig by introducing himself. “A lot of people come for the show and they don’t really know what my name is,” he would say. “They know my work, but they don’t know who I am. Some think I might be Russell Peters!”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In three years, though, he no longer had to fear about people mistaking him for the Canadian-Indian comic. In 2012, leading theatre producer Ashvin Gidwani presented ‘History of India―Vir-itten’, written and performed by Das. The show’s banners and tickets had pictures of Das wearing a black tuxedo and standing with folded hands. He had finally arrived. His jokes not just evoked laughter, but tears of laughter as well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But that was not good enough for Das. He had to up his ante, and stir the audience. So his shows began addressing issues that were both cerebral and contentious―like racism (2017), homophobia (2018) and religion (2019). Das’s evolution as a comedian became apparent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“So, white people,” he told a New York City audience in 2017, “I submit to you that we Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Nepalis and Sri Lankans all look the same. The only difference between me and the Pakistani person is increased musical quality and decreased life expectancy.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2021, a six-minute video of a performance in Washington, DC―titled ‘I come from Two Indias’―made Das’s evolution complete. “I come from an India where we worship women in the day and gang-rape them at night,” he said. “I come from an India where we bleed blue every time we play green, but every time we lose to green we turn orange all of a sudden.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The video became a sensation on social media, and Vir Das became a household name. He had shaken the system and stood up to authority. It also made some people uncomfortable. Das was made to issue a statement urging them to “chill and take things lightly”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I don’t care if comedians are getting slapped,” he said once. “You tell Indian comics that a comedian got slapped, and we don’t ask, ‘By who?’ We ask: ‘With what―sedition, defamation, hurting sentiments?’ You see, cases hurt more than faces. You thought your right hand hurts? You should try the right wing.”</p> <p>A vanilla image will just not do for Das. To him, fame is “when everybody knows you and dislikes you”.</p> <p>Today, Das not just a comic, but also an actor, writer, director, show-runner and self-confessed “idiot”. “Life’s good; I’m employed,” he says. “I have been fortunate in that standup comedy as a profession evolved and got a very loyal audience that craved authenticity. Every time I did anything that was slightly fake or marketed or very performative, the audience didn’t gravitate to it and every time I did something that was real and honest, they rewarded it tremendously. Eighty per cent of my audience is between ages 18 and 25, and this is a lovely audience, which I have waited a really long time for. This audience is redefining what it means to have stardom, or fake stardom.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Das’s comedy has one single motto―to question the system unapologetically. He is angry, not grumpy; satirical, not derisive; upbeat, not whiny. His monologues feel like conversations, with the audience appearing to be a part of the act. He often talks to them, questions them and cracks jokes at their expense. No two Das sessions will ever feel the same, but they all demand attention.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Das has now reached a point where world tours are a piece of cake. As he speaks to THE WEEK, he is preparing for his third world tour―‘Mind Fool’―that begins this month and has shows in 33 countries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But even today in India, he says, it remains a challenge to find success as an English standup comic. “The job of the comedian is to discuss the milieu. I think because of social media, the milieu has as loud a voice as the performer for the first time ever, and you kind of have to honour that voice and recognise that you have been very privileged,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Das also says there has never been a better time to be a comedian. “The more volatile the milieu is, the more the comedy. I have a simple rule: whatever the climate is, I am writing a joke about it. You will never find me complaining about it; you will never find me screaming about it. You will only find me joking about it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But what happens when the jokes feel repetitive and unoriginal? His sharpest critics say he is an “unintelligent” comedian, but Das maintains that the “best thing one can call me is stupid”. “Nothing you say about me can be worse than the things I have said about myself on stage,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Das the interviewee is nothing like Das the comic. He is serious, introspective, thoughtful and self-deprecating. He reflects on why he did not taste much success as an actor, and the lessons he learnt from past failures such as <i>Go Goa Gone </i>and<i> Mumbai Salsa</i>. He is now looking at reinventing himself for the screen.</p> <p>“You don’t know what an actor is like when they are not on camera. But a standup comedian is very accessible, so you know them and their lives,” says Das. “When you pick an acting project, it has to be a real departure from who you are―for it to be interesting to the audience. So my next three or four acting projects are kind of the opposite of who I am. One is a very evil person, one is not an urban person at all. One is an action film, and I have never done straight-up action or been very violent before. I am doing the most exciting acting work I have ever done.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He is also enjoying wearing many other hats. “Recently, I got to create a project, act in it, co-direct a few episodes and be a show-runner as well. I just didn’t know enough to do that earlier, but now with experience, some very interesting choices are in front of me.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a rule-breaking comic, Das also seems to be in line for bagging a lasting place for himself in pop-culture lore. “My wife once said that I was born a generation early. She said, ‘The reason your shows are selling out right now is that you were born for this generation, but you were born the generation before it,’” says Das. “I hope that 20 years after I am dead, something will happen in the world and you can quote me about it, and that will be my job done.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It has certainly been a rewarding job so far. With a net worth of more than Rs100 crore, says Wikipedia, Das is the richest comedian in India. He laughs when asked about it. “In a world that includes Kapil Sharma and Zakir Khan, I am by no means the richest comedian in India, especially as an English comic.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The upside of being rich and famous, Das has found out, is that he can afford to travel light. During the Mind Fool tour, he will not be carrying check-in luggage. “One is successful enough when the audience shows up no matter what one is wearing,” he says with a chuckle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Last year, when he was nominated for an International Emmy Award for his Netflix special <i>Vir Das: For India,</i> Das did not know what to wear on the red carpet. “I knew nothing about fashion, so I offered a chance to a brand-new fashion designer to dress me up for it,” he says. The designer, Pradeep Bhat, was a third-year student at the National Institute of Fashion Technology in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Mindfool, Das has followed a bigger version of the same plan―pay 15 new designers for their work, and return the clothes later. “That will give them a platform,” he says, “and give me a lot of happiness.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/09/indian-standup-comedian-and-actor-vir-das-is-experimenting-with-his-craft-and-exploring-new-avenues.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/09/indian-standup-comedian-and-actor-vir-das-is-experimenting-with-his-craft-and-exploring-new-avenues.html Sat Sep 09 11:48:08 IST 2023 a-diplomats-garden-book-by-aftab-seth-review <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/09/a-diplomats-garden-book-by-aftab-seth-review.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/9/9/67-A-Diplomats-Garden-new.jpg" /> <p>No one would like to have been in the shoes of India’s ambassador to Vietnam on the evening when president K.R. Narayanan hosted Vietnam president Tran Duc Luong. At the banquet in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, they played the anthem of “the hated defunct regime of South Vietnam”, which had ceased to exist in 1975.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The sweating feet in the ambassador’s shoes were of Aftab Seth. No one around understood the faux pas, except Seth who had to think on his feet literally as the Vietnamese protested to him violently. He begged the visiting delegation to give him a little time. Overnight he drafted an official apology, got it approved by the entire hierarchy―the president’s secretary, the foreign secretary, the prime minister and the president himself―and presented it early morning to the Vietnamese who had nearly decided to call off the rest of the visit and go home. Indeed, the coup de grace was a surprise apology conveyed by president Narayanan himself to the guest next morning.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Seth’s <i>A Diplomat’s Garden</i> is not all about flowers, but also about such thorns that prick a diplomat’s feet in his career. In his four-decade-long career, Seth treaded on many such thorns, but came out with few wounds thanks to his personal charm, diplomatic skill and pleasant manners which deflated egos.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Born in an illustrious multi-faith family, Seth went to the right schools and college, including one in Japan, a country for which he seems to have a soft corner. Well, that soft corner did help in repairing India-Japan ties. Japan had been one of the nastiest sanctioners on India after the 1998 nuclear test, but within just a couple of years turned friendly, and even sent their prime minister on a visit. No need to say, Seth, then ambassador in Tokyo, played a key role in facilitating the visit and improving relations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Seth might have liked his stint in Japan the most, but what interests the readers would be his tenure as consul-general in Karachi in the crucial years when Benazir Bhutto was allowed to return to military-ruled Pakistan, jailed and released. Those were also the early days of Rajiv Gandhi as prime minister when he was seeking to build good ties with Pakistan. The book gives a good idea of how non-official channels and events helped build ties―for instance, the Doon School reunion where Seth got old boys from Pakistan and Rajiv hosted a tea for them, and the St. Stephen’s old boys’ network about which Zia himself seemed to have been proud of.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Pak chapter is not just about old boys’ networks and tea parties. Seth tells us riveting stories of how he met Pakistani leaders, including Benazir and even the hard-drinking Baluch leaders, often fooling his ISI tails.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the interesting anecdotes involves THE WEEK and <i>Malayala Manorama</i> whose managing editor Mammen Mathew interviewed Zia in 1985 in Islamabad. After it was published, the Pakistan mission in Delhi claimed that THE WEEK had added the word “only” to a statement by Zia. “Mammen, unfazed, published the interview any way. He also published the letter of the mission written to him in full. Mammen wrote to me saying he had the whole interview on tape and Zia had indeed used the word “only”, which the Pakistanis claimed, changed the context of the sentence.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then the author adds good-humouredly: “The episode was a clear example of the precarious nature of our relations with Pakistan, where the slightest incident, in this case the interpretation of semantics, could and did create problems for those involved.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A DIPLOMAT’S GARDEN</b></p> <p><i>By</i> <b>Aftab Seth</b></p> <p><i>Publisher:</i> <b>Birch Books</b></p> <p><i>Pages:</i> <b>568;</b> <i>price:</i> <b>Rs1,300</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/09/a-diplomats-garden-book-by-aftab-seth-review.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/09/a-diplomats-garden-book-by-aftab-seth-review.html Sat Sep 09 11:33:18 IST 2023 saiyami-kher-ghoomer-actress-about-her-life-and-movie-ghoomer <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/09/saiyami-kher-ghoomer-actress-about-her-life-and-movie-ghoomer.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/9/9/68-Saiyami-Kher.jpg" /> <p>There were two bits of advice that Saiyami Kher received as she was starting her movie career. One: don’t be opinionated. Two: do not talk too much about sports. In a country where celebrities are routinely pilloried for their opinions, the first was understandable. The second, not so much, especially for someone who had always had sports as a way of life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I was told too much talk of sports would go against the image of a typical heroine―who is supposed to be pretty and dainty. I am alright with taking about beauty and fashion, but I don’t get why I should kill the voice in my heart,” said Kher.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In her latest screen outing with Abhishek Bachchan, <i>Ghoomer</i>, Kher plays a bowler. The unkindest of critics have said that there are no flaws in her cricketing technique―at least, not visible to non-cricketers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That precision was achieved with months of discipline. Almost as soon as the film was locked, Kher started to use her left hand for everyday tasks such as brushing her teeth and combing her hair. “It became second nature to me,” said Kher, who once played against Saina Nehwal in the junior nationals in the middle of the 2000s. Kher was under 16, Nehwal under 19. She still laughs at the memory of the drubbing she got at Nehwal’s hands.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Before the filming for <i>Ghoomer</i> began, Murali Karthik―the left-arm slow, orthodox bowler―was brought in to check on Kher’s technique. He required barely a couple of days to give her the go-ahead.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Cricket was another option for Kher, and apparently so good was she at it that when Kiran More, who was once chairman of the selectors of the Indian cricket team, saw her play, he told her that she needed just a couple of months of practice to make it to the team. But by then, she was already shooting for <i>Mirzya</i>―a film where More’s daughter was an assistant director.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kher began her career in the Hindi film industry with <i>Mirzya</i> (2016), which tanked at the box office. This came after she had seen moderate success in her first film, <i>Rey</i> (Telugu, 2015). It was the discipline she had learnt as a sportsperson that made her survive that disappointment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I have survived in the film industry, which can be a very brutal place, only because of sports. It teaches you to move on quicker and control the controllable. It gives you a backbone,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kher channeled her distress through running, slowly graduating to half marathons and marathons. Next on her list is the Ironman Triathlon, which is one of world’s toughest one-day sporting events.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite its failure, <i>Mirzya</i> is dubbed by Kher as her ‘biggest lesson’. It reinforced what sports had taught her: “Be humble in victory and in failure. Put your head down and work.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It also helped that Kher’s biggest sporting inspiration was Sachin Tendulkar, from whom she learnt grace under pressure. It was by watching Tendulkar on television that Kher got her first lessons in cricket. One year after the filming of <i>Ghoomer</i> was over, Tendulkar asked Kher to bowl in person. A nervous Kher thought she would fail, but she managed to impress Tendulkar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kher’s parents, both models at one time, had chosen to raise their family in a small town (Nashik), for a life beyond malls and movie-going. Her father, too, had been sporty. It was when Kher started doing theatre when studying at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, that she discovered how much she loved acting. “I am not very expressive in real life. I keep things bottled up. Acting is therapeutic,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, when the transition to films began, she was dumbfounded. “No one told me to work on my Hindi or better my craft. It was all about wearing small clothes, being seen at parties,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kher was saved by her teachers―Adil Hussain and Dilip Shankar―from her theatre days, who told her to ask herself the question―‘why do I want to act’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kher pondered and decided it was not just for money―she could well have chosen an alternate career for that. Instead, she was seeking joy in the creative process.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It helped that her career path brought her to directors like Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra who kept reminding her to drown out the noise of the outer world. It was on Mehra’s goading that she plunged into anchoring a show for the 16th edition of the Indian Premier League.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kher’s love for sports always comes with a risk of injuring her face―in a career which places great emphasis on looks. In August, she was on a month-long bike trip in Italy and fell flat on her face. It required stitches, which she is thankful don’t show. “I cannot give up the high that sports give me for anything,” said Kher.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Her wish list, thus, includes trying a new sport every year―surfing and snowboarding are next as is scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And, yes, she will not stop talking about sports, her well-meaning advisers notwithstanding.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/09/saiyami-kher-ghoomer-actress-about-her-life-and-movie-ghoomer.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/09/saiyami-kher-ghoomer-actress-about-her-life-and-movie-ghoomer.html Sat Sep 09 11:29:43 IST 2023 tiger-baby-films-zoya-akhtar-reema-kagti-led-bollywood-production-house <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/02/tiger-baby-films-zoya-akhtar-reema-kagti-led-bollywood-production-house.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/9/2/65-Zoya-and-Reema.jpg" /> <p>This year may well be called the year of Tiger Baby Films. The production house has helmed two massively successful series (<i>Dahaad and Made in Heaven 2</i>, released on Amazon Prime Video in May and August respectively) and is coming up with a third offering by the end of the year―<i>The Archies</i>―on Netflix. This, after the company’s debut film, Gully Boy (2019), became not just a box office success, but also one of the most disruptive films of the year. It was picked as India’s entry to the 92nd Oscars.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tiger Baby Films, launched in 2015, is helmed by two incredibly smart creative founders―unusually both women. Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti have been longtime friends and collaborators as directors, producers and writers. Their leg-up may have come from the production house of Zoya’s brother Farhan Akhtar―the flourishing Excel Entertainment, which he co-owns with Ritesh Sidhwani. Zoya directed the critical and commercial successes <i>Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara</i> (2011) and <i>Dil Dhadakne Do</i> (2015) for Excel, while Reema directed the popular <i>Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd</i> (2007), <i>Talaash</i> (2012), and <i>Gold</i> (2018).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But both women have ensured their place in the spotlight by turning producers with Tiger Baby. “When we wanted to produce, we just launched our own production house. Excel was launched by Farhan and Ritesh, who were classmates. They were our producers and we directed some films for them,” Zoya says. “We wanted to make films that interested us. And when OTT platforms became a thing, we wanted our films to travel the world,” Reema adds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are meeting at Zoya’s Bandra home, a sea-facing bungalow that is filled with art deco and antique pieces, and books on art and travel. It is a short distance from the Tiger Baby office. The girls are both dressed in all-black, and have their waking hours filled with post-production work for <i>The Archies</i>―a film that stars a roster of debutants like Suhana Khan, Agastya Nanda and Khushi Kapoor―followed by Kho Gaye Hum Kahan, headlining Ananya Panday, Siddhant Chaturvedi and Adarsh Gourav.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tiger Baby Films is not feminist or female-centric, but has written into existence some of the most peerless female characters. Alia Bhatt’s Safeena of <i>Gully Boy</i> is an audacious hijab-wearing bully. Sonakshi Sinha’s Anjali Bhati of <i>Dahaad</i> is an uncommonly strong-willed low-caste cop on the hunt for a serial killer; she makes time for a quickie with her lover even as her mother insists on finding her a husband. Sobhita Dhulipala’s Tara Khanna of <i>Made in Heaven</i> is an ambitious working girl with a survivor’s instinct of coming out on top.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So is there something women filmmakers bring to the table that men don’t? “I think good story-telling matters the most. We need amazing scripts, well-rounded characters and a fair idea of what filmmaking is about. I am not sure if being a woman gives me a different perspective as it is the only lens I have. But yes, my experiences as a woman are different from a man’s, even if it is just while walking down the road,” Zoya says. She remains the only woman to have won the Filmfare best director award twice, for <i>Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara</i> and <i>Gully Boy.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The ladies refuse to take credit for being groundbreaking female mass entertainers. “Farah Khan really smashed it out of the park. I loved Sai Paranjpye’s films,” says Zoya. “I mean, <i>Chashme Baddoor</i> (2013) was a mainstream film, right? As are Tanuja Chandra’s movies. I am such a huge fan of Mira Nair’s films. But yes, budgets are always smaller when there is a woman directing a film.” <i>Gully Boy</i> was made on a budget of Rs 60 crore and went on to make Rs 250 crore globally.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tiger Baby remains our first women-led production house. Other than CEO Angad Dev and content head Kartik Shah, most of their collaborators are women. Tiger Telly, the company’s new advertising cell, is helmed by Yoshita Bhaskar. Naheed Chotani is Zoya and Reema’s executive assistant. Their new music and podcast vertical, Tiger Records, is looking for a head. Their go-to gang comprises, among others, casting director Nandini Shrikent, co-writers and directors Alankrita Shrivastava and Nitya Mehra, and production designers Suzanne Merwanji and Sally White.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nandini, who has cast for every Tiger Baby production, finds their female characters fleshed out in the script itself. “They are always layered so beautifully,” she says. “Like Priyanka Chopra’s character in <i>Dil Dhadakne Do</i>. Not once was it spelt out that daughters don’t inherit businesses in business families. Kalki’s character in <i>Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara</i> was a caricature, but so humorous. <i>Made in Heaven</i> is full of strong female parts.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nitya, who has worked with Zoya and Reema for several years now, feels they definitely approach their characters with “a female gaze”. “Arjun Mathur’s character in <i>Made in Heaven</i>, for example, could only have been written by a woman. His emotional arc and his relationship with his mother―this is their female gaze at work,” she says. “Other than that, their films have a strong social message, but are also great entertainers.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Alankrita says she met Zoya and Reema for the first time when she was offered to direct some episodes in Season 1 of <i>Made in Heaven</i>. “It was such a collaborative, democratic space,” she says. “I never felt like I was not included in something because we had just met. I felt quite free. The series emerged from a space of free-flowing discussion and a lot of mad ideas.” Alankrita directed the episodes featuring Mrunal Thakur and Dia Mirza in the show’s second season. The first dealt with domestic violence and the second with polygamy. “But we don’t look at these women with judgment, we look at them with empathy,” she says. “We understand that violence takes away your voice, and thus it takes time for a woman to walk out. We explore Dia’s heartbreak along with her. We see her feel disempowered and her insides being eaten away.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Was the polygamy episode a comment on the ongoing Uniform Civil Code debate in Parliament? “No, it’s just a coincidence. We shot it a couple of years ago and had banked it. But you cannot talk of patriarchy and not talk of polygamy,” says Zoya. She says she does not know if she could have launched Tiger Baby a decade or two ago. This, despite being born in the industry. Her father is the acclaimed screenwriter and lyricist, Javed Akhtar. Her mother, Honey Irani, is a well-regarded screen-writer who perhaps did not realise her full potential in cinema. Does her mother have stories to share? “My mum has a lot to share,” says Zoya. “She started as a child actor. She says every stage has its own challenges. She also says that the industry is like a game of Snakes and Ladders―you never know what’s coming next. That has been my biggest learning from her.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Zoya and Reema have been friends and colleagues since working together as assistant directors to Kaizad Gustad on <i>Bombay Boys</i> (1998). They worked together on Reema’s directorial debut, <i>Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd</i>. What’s the secret sauce in their partnership? “We come from entirely different spaces, but we connect on stories,” says Zoya. “I grew up in a city whereas Reema grew up on a farm and went to boarding school. My parents are divorced while hers are still together. I have a brother and she has two sisters. I think it is great that we bring a different perspective to things.” Reema adds, “Our experiences are different, but we have similar values.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Next up is the much-touted <i>The Archies</i>, with the three star kids headlining it, alongside Vedang Raina, Mihir Ahuja, Aditi ‘Dot’ Saigal and Yuvraj Menda. The kids have been to what Zoya calls a “boot camp”―four rounds of acting workshops, skating and dance classes, and technical sessions like being tutored on camera angles. Tell us something about the film no one knows, we ask Zoya. “Umm, I found one of the kids on YouTube and another on Instagram,” she smiles.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/02/tiger-baby-films-zoya-akhtar-reema-kagti-led-bollywood-production-house.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/02/tiger-baby-films-zoya-akhtar-reema-kagti-led-bollywood-production-house.html Sat Sep 02 16:11:23 IST 2023 a-p-dhillon-and-his-tribe-are-giving-punjabi-music-a-global-appeal <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/02/a-p-dhillon-and-his-tribe-are-giving-punjabi-music-a-global-appeal.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/9/2/70-AP-Dhillon.jpg" /> <p>Everyone knows that it is almost impossible to release a Hindi film without a Punjabi song in it. But now, there is a parallel paradigm shift in the way <i>theth</i> (the pure form of the language) Punjabi songs by artists from the Pind, or the rural part of the state, are being consumed globally. At the forefront of this is Amritpal Singh Dhillon, aka AP Dhillon, who hails from Gurdaspur and is settled in Canada.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His song ‘Brown Munde’ (2020), which made him a global Punjabi sensation, gives an idea of how people of colour struggle to thrive away from their homeland. He sings:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>In our Lamborghini trucks, we travel directly to Hollywood</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Songs of Indian boys are heard by the whole of Bollywood</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Our music has made waves, we do not want any fame</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>We know how to sing, and also know how to write</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dhillon represents the Canadian dream―a boy from a small Punjabi village with big dreams goes to Canada and becomes a music sensation. “Millions of us have gone to Canada, America, UK, Australia, everywhere…. And it is just everybody’s story. You start from nothing and then you make something out of it,” says Shinda Kahlon, Indo-Canadian rapper, singer, and writer of ‘Brown Munde’. The song became the anthem of the ‘brown mundes’ living abroad. There has been no looking back since.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In <i>AP Dhillon: First of a Kind</i>, a recently released four-part docuseries on Amazon Prime Video, Dhillon and his team―Kahlon, Gurinder Gill, Kevin Buttar, Herman Atwal and Gminxr―retrace the singer’s journey from Gurdaspur to performing to a full crowd at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Apart from Dhillon’s innate ability to combine the pind’s rustic charm with western music, what is striking is how determined he was to bring his culture to the world while remaining true to himself. He consistently uses the pure form of Punjabi, his recent release ‘With You’ being an example.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a rare peek into the mysterious singer’s life, the docuseries captures Dhillon’s concert preparations, stage shows and his rise to fame. However, other than a few details about his humble beginnings, it offers little on Dhillon’s personal life. Every time he visits India on a tour, he heads to his village to meet his father and grandmother. He does not share much about what happened to his mother, but says that it was his grandmother who brought him up. A civil engineer, Dhillon comes across as a shy pindwala who smiles often and is happiest when he is doing what he does best―sing. Apart from his ode to the browns of the world, his music largely focuses on love pangs and heartbreaks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>DJ, TV and radio presenter Bobby Friction says that Dhillon represents the generation in Punjab that has grown up with social media, and was able to translate that [duality of existence] to the South Asian diaspora. That generation of musicians that Friction is talking about is now enjoying immense popularity abroad. Put it down to the peppy beats, relatability, or fun vibes, but Punjabi music has found fans everywhere that it has reached, especially in Canada.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the last decade, the number of Indians who became permanent residents in Canada rose by 260 per cent, from 32, 828 in 2013 to 1,18, 095 in 2022, according to a report by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP). For many Punjabis, going to Canada to make it big became the ultimate ‘Canadian dream’, resulting in the country turning into a haven for aspiring musicians and singers from Punjab.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sidhantha Jain, head of marketing at the talent management firm Represent, says that Canada is not just a hub for Punjabi culture, but also serves as a springboard to launch artists to worldwide fame. “Remuneration for top artists has seen a significant boost, and investments in music production have become larger and more sophisticated,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jain says that this popularity has led to a marked increase in world tours and stage shows in diverse locations like Latin America, Africa, and East Asia―places we previously never envisioned Punjabi music reaching. “Punjabi artists are complete 360° packages, and the value they introduce, along with the potentially untapped market they represent, is enormous,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When singer-songwriter Kamaljit Singh Jhooti, better known as Jay Sean, started his career in the UK 20 years ago, Punjabi music was very niche. “Over the years, it has developed from traditional bhangra and become more adventurous and unique, incorporating genres like hip-hop, afrobeats, and dancehall,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Social media has further escalated the popularity of Punjabi music. Recently, actor Vicky Kaushal posted a video of him dancing to singer Riar Saab’s song ‘Obsessed’, and it immediately went viral. Soon, a score of others was sharing videos of them dancing to the song. Saab says that he and his collaborator, Abhijay Sharma, had the feeling that they had created something special, but Kaushal’s video took it to the next level. “Punjabi as a language has a natural flair, which is why there has been a pan-India acceptance of Punjabi culture,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another indication that Punjabi music had arrived globally was when Diljit Dosanjh became the first Punjabi artist to perform at Coachella this year to a full-house audience. This year, Dhillon, too, made history as the first act to perform entirely in Punjabi at the Juno Awards. In fact, the late Sidhu Moose Wala was another musician who was popular among the Indian diaspora in Canada and the UK. In the month following his death, Moose Wala became the first Punjabi artist to make it to the Billboard Global 200 Chart with his song ‘295’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Moose Wala was shot dead last year, Dhillon was one of the several Punjabi musicians to receive death threats, which forced him to flee to Canada. “Sometimes I wonder if it is all worth it… staying away from my hometown and my family,” says Dhillon in the docuseries. “But then I think of the love I have received so far.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps Moose Wala himself has an answer to his question. As he sings in ‘295’, <i>“Tell me son, why is your head down? Don’t be discouraged here, the world tests the path you have taken.”</i></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/02/a-p-dhillon-and-his-tribe-are-giving-punjabi-music-a-global-appeal.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/09/02/a-p-dhillon-and-his-tribe-are-giving-punjabi-music-a-global-appeal.html Sat Sep 02 11:41:00 IST 2023 emmy-winner-ruchira-gupta-about-her-debut-novel-i-kick-and-i-fly <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/26/emmy-winner-ruchira-gupta-about-her-debut-novel-i-kick-and-i-fly.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/8/26/63-Ruchira-Gupta.jpg" /> <p>Every year, when a damp mist hangs over the lentil fields near Girls Bazaar, the <i>mela</i> arrives in Ruchira Gupta’s book, <i>I Kick and I Fly</i>. An integral part of it is the cheap strip dance that takes place in the dance tents, where girls in skimpy clothes gyrate to music on the makeshift stage. The younger ones stuff their bras with rags and plastic balls to make their breasts look bigger. The book’s heroine, Heera, and her cousin Meera <i>di</i> used to lift the tarpaulin many times and watch these girls from the sidelines. Until Meera <i>di</i> becomes one of them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Heera watches in horrified fascination as Meera <i>di</i> dances in a tight red dress, while a boy pours buckets of water on her to make her clothes stick to her body. One day, Heera fears, she too will become one of these girls bought by the owners of the dance parties from their fathers or guardians. The owners then pay for their marriage to a banana plant in a ceremony called Bisi Bele, and then auction the girl’s virginity to the highest bidder.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a scene vividly described, as by one who has seen many similar scenes in her life. Gupta is no stranger to the intricacies of sex trafficking, having spent more than two decades fighting it. That is why the world she creates in her debut novel feels so authentic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But this annual fair, the ramshackle tents, the dancing girls, and the relentless pimps are just the backdrop. The story really begins when Heera watches a group of girls being taught kung fu near her school. As she joins them, the self-defence classes become her ticket out of this suffocating world of drugs, gambling, and prostitution.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I began writing the book in 2014, when a girl from my NGO Apne Aap won a gold medal in karate,” says Gupta. “I remember how difficult it was to keep her in school when her family was pressurising her mother to sell her into prostitution. Despite that she stuck on. She took on the bullies, the stigma and the social pressure. And through all of that, she won the gold medal. I felt proud of her and felt I should tell her story.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In some parts, the book―described as “irresistible” by feminist author Gloria Steinem and as “essential reading” by actor Ashley Judd―feels too good to be true. Like when Heera goes to the US as part of a kung fu exchange programme and comes back to find that her family has moved into a new home and her mother now owns a <i>paan</i> shop. Yet, Gupta’s work is a testament to the fact that change is possible. There were 72 brothels in the lane where Apne Aap started. Now there are only two. Someone like Heera’s mother really has a <i>paan</i> shop and someone like Mira <i>di</i> is a seamstress now, writes Gupta at the end of her book. The cattle fair is no longer allowed to bring dance or orchestra groups.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It all began in the 1990s, when Gupta was researching another story in the hills of Nepal as a journalist. She writes about how she came across rows of villages with missing girls, followed the trail and found that a supply chain existed from these remote hamlets to the brothels of India. Girls as young as 12 were locked up in tiny rooms in Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai for years, and sold for a few rupees every night. She exposed the horror in the documentary The <i>Selling of Innocents</i> (1996), which won an Emmy in News and Journalism.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As she went onstage to receive the award, she could see the bright lights before her. But beyond the lights, all she could see were the eyes of the mothers who had risked all to speak out in her documentary. In that moment, Gupta decided that she was going to use her Emmy not to build a career in journalism, but to help these women.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The first thing she did afterwards was to travel to Mumbai. She sat on a straw mat in the brothels and told the women about the Emmy. I have told your story, she told them. Now what do you want? They told her four things: a school for their children, a room of their own, an office job and punishment for those who bought and sold them. So, this became Gupta’s business plan when she started her NGO. She testified before the UN and the US Senate. Her efforts led to the passage of the UN Protocol to end human trafficking and the first US Trafficking Victim Protection Act. She has spoken in the French Assembly, the Icelandic Parliament, the South African Parliament and the Indian Parliament. She has won several awards for her activism, including the Clinton Global Citizen Award in the US and the National Order of the Legion of Honour in France.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It has not been easy though. Her staff members have been stabbed. Criminals would turn up at her home and threaten to kill her, to which she would laugh and reply: “My destiny is not in your hands. It is written somewhere else.” Cops would heckle her. She was always short of funds. In between, she got cancer. Once she was interviewing some women in a brothel in Mumbai when a man walked in and held a knife to her throat. It was a small room with a narrow door and a window with iron bars. She was sure he was going to kill her. Then, the 22 women in the room surrounded her. “If you want to kill her, you’ll have to kill us first,” they told him. The man walked away. “That’s when I realised the power of women’s collective action,” says Gupta.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is a moment in the book when Heera looks at Mira <i>di</i> and resolves to rekindle the laughter and light in her eyes. “I will overcome my fears for her,” Heera decides. “I will fight for my future, for the dreams that she could never make come true for herself.” It is a pivotal moment that marks the difference between the two girls―one who gives in to her fate and the other who fights it. And in this long and hard fight, Gupta and her team help the girls in whatever way they can―by procuring ration cards and government IDs for them, enrolling them in schools, building low-cost houses for them, and rescuing them from pimps. Most of all, she equips them with that weapon whose value cannot be quantified―hope.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>I Kick and I Fly</b></p> <p><i>By</i> <b>Ruchira Gupta</b></p> <p><i>Published by</i> <b>Rock the Boat (</b><i>distributed by</i><b> HarperCollins India)</b></p> <p><i>Price</i> <b>Rs499;</b> <i>pages</i> <b>336</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/26/emmy-winner-ruchira-gupta-about-her-debut-novel-i-kick-and-i-fly.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/26/emmy-winner-ruchira-gupta-about-her-debut-novel-i-kick-and-i-fly.html Sat Aug 26 12:00:18 IST 2023 depp-vs-heard-netflix-series-review <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/26/depp-vs-heard-netflix-series-review.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/8/26/66-Depp-vs-Heard.jpg" /> <p>Unless you have zero interest in Hollywood you would have heard about the defamation case brought by Johnny Depp against his former wife Amber Heard. There was an almost voyeuristic interest in the trial that was live streamed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Netflix’s <i>Depp vs. Heard</i> is the latest addition to a saga, the last chapter of which is perhaps not yet written. This is not the first documentation of the battles between the two stars. In one version we hear the story told from the perspectives of their supporters. Another focuses just on the verdict.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The documentary, a three-part Netflix offering, plunges into a real-time viewing of the trial, juxtaposing the testimonies of both parties to the same set of questions; placing them against insane public interest, mixed with expert viewpoints, and reactions of social media content creators as they unfolded during the six weeks that the trial was on. It does not go down the path of interviewing experts to analyse the collective cultural experience it became; and the machinery and the mindset that enabled it. It does not delve into its possible long-term repercussions on an already dying #MeToo movement, the dangers of misinformation, or, even, our gendered conditioning on the nature of domestic violence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To those who watched the trial, this is at best a copy-paste recap. To those who did not, it might border on the annoying as it keeps cutting out to social media users (podcasters included) and their horrified/happy/insane/overboard reactions as they followed it, replete with memes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This version of the trial’s telling is much like the trial itself, which offered nothing to understand the legal fact and nature of defamation that the case was centred around. It stands more at the crossroads of popular culture, social media user behaviour, and the circus that the mainstream media can be.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The contrasting responses of both parties to the same questions makes the ‘he said, she said’ telling stark―but offers nothing new. Certainly, not the probable truth, or even its periphery.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It also makes you wonder about what we really care about given that there was five times more coverage of the trial than there was of the then unfolding war in Ukraine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is only towards the last few minutes of episode three that it is revealed that 6,000 pages of material unused for evidence could well have made Depp not look as believable as he appeared during the trial. It is also revealed that the #JusticeForJohnnyDepp might well have been a bot-dominated algorithm.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As Heard’s lawyer, Elaine Bredehoft, said in a post-verdict interview, the decision to broadcast the trial turned it into a zoo. The documentary leaves the viewer wondering who the objects of spectacle in the zoo were. And if the truth ever mattered or it was just about who you liked better, who the better actor in the spectacle was.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a shallow telling of a story, which revealed as much of human nature as it did of the parties involved. You would be better off watching finer-made stories that Depp and Heard have been a part of in their cinematic careers.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/26/depp-vs-heard-netflix-series-review.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/26/depp-vs-heard-netflix-series-review.html Sat Aug 26 11:53:28 IST 2023 west-side-story-director-lonny-price-interview <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/26/west-side-story-director-lonny-price-interview.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/8/26/68-Jadon-Webster-and-Melanie-Sierra-as-Tony-and-Maria.jpg" /> <p><i>West</i> <i>Side Story</i> has come to India for the first time. The classic Broadway musical―which captures a Romeo-Juliet love story set in 1950s New York, amid the fierce rivalry between the white American Jets and the newly-arrived Puerto Rican Sharks―is theatre at its most captivating. In the derelict streets and backyards of the Upper West Side, the two groups fight for a stake in the American dream, even as there blossoms the love between Tony of the Jets and Maria of the Sharks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Renowned Broadway director Lonny Price retains the original concept and choreography by Jerome Robbins, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and music by Leonard Bernstein―even as he gives it some context. With a new international creative team, Price kickstarted a multi-year world tour in December 2022, of which India is a stop. The performances are pulsating and the set is evocative. The brown stone buildings perfectly resemble a suburban neighbourhood. All the actors are stylishly dressed in costumes peculiar to 1950s America. A 34-member ensemble got finalised after auditioning over 3,000 aspirants. The show opens with the dominating presence of the Jets, and as they dance to Bernstein’s masterful score, you cannot help but get caught up in their entrancing performance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even as one struggles in the beginning to juxtapose the Romeo-Juliet love story into the gang war dynamics of yesteryear America, it does not take long to acclimatise. The musical then gives a wholesome experience, especially set in the Grand Theatre of the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC) in Mumbai, with top-notch acoustics. It is on till August 27. Even though Price could not make it here as he is working on another musical on <i>Peter Pan</i> (which he hopes to bring to India soon), he spoke with THE WEEK from the US about how he put it all together and what <i>West Side Story</i> means to him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ <i>West Side Story</i> has been regularly revived on Broadway as well as in films, including one by Steven Spielberg. What do you think about the musical’s evolution so far?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> When the show premiered on Broadway in 1957, it reflected the very particular gang war of the Puerto Ricans and the white Americans. Its evolution is interesting because it is really about xenophobia to some degree―vilifying others for not getting what you want or for taking away jobs, which encourages a lot of anger and violence. And very sadly, that is still with us, not just in our city, but all over the world. There is a tremendous epidemic of xenophobia. And then there’s the [Romeo and Juliet] love story, which is timeless. So, its appeal is universal. As for how it has evolved, I love the original 1961 film, which was my first exposure to the material. I fell in love with the power of Mr Bernstein’s score. It is one of the masterpieces of American musical theatre. And what is interesting about the music is that it does not feel like it was written in the 1950s. It feels as fresh and vibrant as if it were written today. And I don’t think he would change [anything] if he wrote it today.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Everything in <i>West Side Story</i> gives an impression of wildness, ecstasy and anguish. Tell us more about your own takeaway after you first watched it, and then years later when you directed it.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> I love those three words―wildness, anguish and ecstasy. That is what my sad story is about. I first probably saw it in the mid-1960s, when I was very small. And what I took away from it was mostly the music and the dancing, and Jerome Robbins’s utterly iconic choreography, which I think has never been surpassed on stage. And [right now], we are doing the original. So I think the power of the score and the story struck me as a young man. We have the album of the Broadway show in my home, as my parents love theatre music. So that was one of the albums that [I listened to] while growing up. In a way, I feel like I was indoctrinated with this music. As the director, the only thing that I tried to do in this production was to give it a little context. In the backdrop [of the play], for example, there are advertisements of white post-war America, where white people are enjoying the country’s affluence after the war, with big cars, refrigerators, and work suits, and a life that teased others.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was a myth that anyone could have the American dream, a kind of lie. I think the rest of the world knows it is a lie. But for some reason, we like to believe this myth. And so we have put these advertisements of happy white people all over the set. And why, because of the colour of their skin and for socio-economic reasons, some will never attain that American dream. It is not available to them. And yet, it is always playing before them, as if they are being teased about something that they will never have, but they are forced to look at all the time. There is the vilification of the other as the two groups [the Puerto Ricans and the Americans] blame each other for not being able to achieve that American dream, so that’s the context. But other than that, we have not changed a line of the dialogue or a note of the music. It is the same as it was in 1957. It was not broken, so it did not need to be fixed. It has been doing very well for over 60 years. So we have just given it a little context. But as a director, I wanted to remind people of what both these factions are facing in terms of the American dream.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How does the current rendition of the play negotiate its relationship with the evolving city of New York?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> I don’t think New York has changed that much since 1957, not the energy or the vibrancy of it. There are different gangs now, but I don’t think things are that different. Sadly, this is why the play remains relevant even today. Also, another aspect that makes <i>West Side Story</i> so current and relatable is that it reflects the romanticism of the city amid its grit and grime.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The play has come to India for the first time. What has been your takeaway?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> First of all, I am thrilled that we are here. I mean, what an honour to play here for the first time. I wish I was there with you. But I am busy working on another show based on <i>Peter Pan</i> in New York. But I just think it is amazing that it has taken this long for <i>West Side Story</i> to come to India, and I hope it inspires and entertains people there in the same way that it has in our world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Why according to you does <i>West Side Story</i> continue to have such a wide cultural footprint?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> The musical is very successful in Japan, as well as in Europe and in the US. So, it is really extraordinary when you think about it, that it has that kind of power for every culture. And to think that what Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins did all those years ago stays relevant and speaks to people all over the world still. I don’t know of another show that has had this kind of broad appeal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Which segment of <i>West Side Story</i> is closest to your heart?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> I think it is the ‘Dance at the Gym,’ when Tony and Maria meet, and then they do a little ‘cha cha’ with each other. The simplicity of the dance moves me to tears every time I see it. There is no contribution of mine, yet it moves me.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ As a director, what was your biggest challenge?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> It is difficult to get performers who can seamlessly sing, dance and act. In the olden days, the dancing and the singing were separate. This is the first time that all three disciplines have to be embodied in one performer. If you cannot dance, you cannot be in <i>West Side Story</i>. So then, having the dancers be able to sing well enough for Mr Bernstein, and then be good actors, too―that was hard. We auditioned a lot of people and that alone was the most challenging thing. The cast has to be perfect at all times.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/26/west-side-story-director-lonny-price-interview.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/26/west-side-story-director-lonny-price-interview.html Sat Aug 26 11:50:14 IST 2023 from-barbie-to-the-archies-why-our-childhood-heroes-are-making-a-comeback <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/19/from-barbie-to-the-archies-why-our-childhood-heroes-are-making-a-comeback.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/8/19/63-A-poster-of-The-Archies.jpg" /> <p>In Greta Gerwig’s film <i>Barbie</i>, something unthinkable happens―the appearance of cellulite on Barbie’s thigh. It is blasphemous to think that Barbie could be anything less than perfect, because then, what of the millions of girls everywhere in the world who hung their dreams on Barbie’s rounded hips and golden tresses. If Barbie cannot have a happily-ever-after, then what hope do they have? Yet, Gerwig dared to turn the ideal on its head and in doing so, she challenged us to revisit our childhoods and redefine what perfection meant to us. It was a formula that worked wonders. Three weeks after hitting the theatres on July 21, the film, with an estimated budget of around $145 million, made an astonishing $1 billion at the global box office, making Gerwig the first solo female director with a billion-dollar movie. All the Barbies and Kens of Barbieland must be pumping their plastic fists.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And it is not just Gerwig who is taking us to the back alleys of our childhood. If Barbie can be resurrected, so can others like Shaktimaan and Archie, who are returning in a bigger and grander way. Anyone who grew up between the 1970s and 2000s would call it an idyllic era, when reading was still a valid pastime, and stories still lay inside storybooks and comics, and not on mobile phones and short-form videos.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We got a ringside view of the lives of Archie, Tintin, Batman, Chacha Chaudhary and many others. They shaped our humour and our sense of the heroic. Marvel, Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha were a treasure chest of many adventures. According to Comichron, the world’s largest public archive of comic books sales figures, compiled by the American science fiction author John Jackson Miller, Archie comics were selling half a million copies by the 1960s. They reached their peak in the late 1960s and early 1970s, even beating the sales of Superman, Batman and other superheroes in 1973. It was in 1974 that <i>The Amazing Spider-Man </i>and<i> Superman</i> surpassed <i>Archie’s</i> sales. From an average sale of around five lakh per issue in 1960, it dipped to 9,052 sales per issue in 2014. This drop in numbers might reflect a decline in interest in the character, a change in the reading culture and a shift to digital modes of entertainment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The pandemic, however, revived nostalgia stories. Ever since then, there has been no turning back. In 2020, the return of classics like <i>Ramayan, Circus </i>and<i> Byomkesh Bakshi</i>, as well as the overall rise in TV viewership during the lockdown, resulted in Doordarshan becoming the most-watched channel between March 28 and April 3. It enabled you to relive a simpler time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Also, Archie, Jughead, Veronica, Betty and the team are not going down without a fight. Zoya Akhtar’s <i>The Archies</i>, set in the 1960s, has already created a stir among Archie fans, who look forward to the characters getting an Indian makeover. It is set to release in November. Mukesh Khanna, who popularly played Shaktimaan, also endorsed the upcoming 1200-1300 project based on the character, and said that it is likely to be a grand watch. It will allegedly star Ranveer Singh in the lead.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sidharth Jain, founder and producer of the House of Talkies, a film and series production company, says that the earlier limitations with the theatrical and television format prevented some interesting characters from being brought to screen in the last few decades. “Episodic premium content format on streaming is very liberating,” he says. “It lends itself well to adapting stories from the past by adding a layer of relevance.” Jain is the producer of the recent critically acclaimed Netflix series <i>Trial By Fire</i>, that was based on the Uphaar fire tragedy of 1997. If the fan following for movies is very wide, like for the Harry Potter films, then the pressure is very high, says Jain. But if it is more nostalgic and a thing of the past, then there is a great opportunity to reboot the franchise and make it more relevant for audiences today.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This spurt in nostalgia films might well snowball into something bigger. In 2020, Manoj Gupta―editor, president and co-founder of Raja Pocket Books and Raj Comics that brought to life characters like Nagraj, Doga, Bhediya, Dhruv and Parmanu, among others―shared plans for movie and OTT adaptations of several of these characters. Last year, Excel Entertainment joined hands with Diamond Toons―the publishers of Chacha Chaudhary and Sabu―to feature characters from the film <i>Phone Bhoot</i> (including Katrina Kaif), in the Chacha Chaudhary comic series created by Pran.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Preeti Vyas, president and CEO of Amar Chitra Katha Pvt Ltd and founder of FunOKPlease Children’s Publishing, shares that in the last 10 years, 2022-2023 has yielded the best revenue and profitability for ACK. “We don’t want to be seen as a nostalgia brand,” she says. “The comics we create is for eight to14 year olds. We have been selling 2.5 million copies a year in print and have about three million subscribers digitally. A single book that sells 25,000 to 30,000 copies in print has a paid readership of about 3.5 lakh on our own app and third party apps. Our pace of creation is faster than ever before and we are witnessing a 40 per cent year-on-year growth in our revenue and readership.” This year, ACK debuted at the Comic-Con in San Diego. Vyas says that they have struck a licensing deal with Applause Entertainment for their entire ACK catalogue to be turned into animated series and web shows. ACK has also acquired the rights of the character Minnal Murali for their digital comics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The west, of course, has capitalised on nostalgia better than us, with Marvel and DC bringing to life most of its superheroes. Now, Mattel, Barbie’s creator, is getting into the game as well, with plans to bring Barney, Hot Wheels and others to the big screen. It looks like nostalgia is here to stay. If you see something looming into view, it is probably your childhood.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/19/from-barbie-to-the-archies-why-our-childhood-heroes-are-making-a-comeback.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/19/from-barbie-to-the-archies-why-our-childhood-heroes-are-making-a-comeback.html Sat Aug 19 15:46:01 IST 2023 bollywood-actor-abhishek-bachchan-interview <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/19/bollywood-actor-abhishek-bachchan-interview.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/8/19/66-Abhishek-Bachchan.jpg" /> <p>Despite several box office disappointments, Bachchan Junior, as he is popularly referred to, remains passionately committed to being a character actor. “For me, every project I do becomes my dream project. If it isn’t the case, there is no point in doing it at all,” he said. Abhishek Bachchan, with a burnished skin and a full beard, looks imposing and charismatic. We are at Janak, the family’s bungalow next to Jalsa (where Amitabh and Jaya reside), and Pratiksha (where Abhishek and Aishwarya live along with their daughter).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As we begin the conversation there arrives a plate of chocolate biscuits, and by the end of the interview, Bachchan has had them all. “This is also intentional,” he told me, “It is a part of the character I have to play in Shoojit Sircar’s next that I must binge on all this in order to look a certain way. We don’t get to live our lives; it is dictated by the work we are doing at that point of time.”</p> <p>Excerpts from the interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ How did <i>Ghoomer</i> happen?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A\</b> [R.] Balki and I keep bouncing ideas off each other. The first time we did a film together was <i>Paa</i> (2009). After that we discussed ideas but nothing fructified. This time we managed to put it all together. In the case of <i>Ghoomer</i>, I liked the very concept itself. I play a coach of a paraplegic. The characterisation came much later. But it is not that I went ahead because Balki pitched it. Somewhere, as an actor, you have to be convinced about what you are doing. To me, <i>Ghoomer</i> is about the triumph of the human spirit. It is an inspirational story of two opposite characters and how they find common ground and work towards acheiving their goals. Also, it is about cricket. I have never considered and nor do I still consider <i>Ghoomer</i> to be a cricket film. That’s just the backdrop.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ You have had some hits and some misses in your career. Does your approach towards greenlighting scripts change after the previous film hasn’t performed well?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A\</b> No. The criteria remain the same always. When I read a script I try and gauge if that is something I would like to see as a film. And, if it is, then I should do it. It is immaterial whether the previous film is a success or not.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ We don’t see you aggressively promoting your films.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A\</b> No, I don’t agree that I don’t promote my films enough. In fact, I have been one of the few who goes out of my way to promote. We launched the trailer [of <i>Ghoomer</i>] and the day after that I was busy doing interviews. Then, yesterday night, I attended an event. So, I am busy every day. In the last three to four years because of the pandemic I couldn’t really go out. But we [his team] do whatever is required.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ You have been focusing on doing only one film a year. Why is that so?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A\</b> I think it is really weird when people say that. In the last five years I have done more work than any other time. I think the style of working now is to do one film at a time. The economics of filmmaking is turned out to be like that. But I have always done multiple films. Currently, I have three films that are in post-production. One is about to release. I leave at the end of this month to shoot my next. In the last three years I have shot seven or eight films.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Most of your recent releases have been on OTT, including <i>Ludo</i> (2020), <i>Big Bull </i>(2021), <i>Bob Biswas</i> (2021), <i>Dasvi</i> (2022), <i>Breathe: Into the Shadows</i> (2022). Your last theatre release was <i>Manmarziyaan</i> in 2018. Each time your character has been vastly different from preceding one.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A\</b> Life is difficult, right? Yes, I think the last romantic drama I essayed was <i>Manmarziyaan</i> with [Anurag] Kashyap. But I haven’t had the opportunity since. If something like that comes across I would love to do it. My roles are diverse and it is difficult to keep that momentum going. I mean the audience will get terribly bored if we did the same thing every time. You need to keep showing a new facet of yourself without reinventing yourself.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ In Bollywood, the success of an actor depends on his performance at the box office. How true is this for you, especially when most for your theatrical releases do not fetch the kind of numbers expected?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A\</b> Of course, it is the absolute and the only truth that box office success is everything and more. There are no two ways about it. We are a commercial art form. We expect our audiences to purchase a ticket; so the box office figures of your film are of paramount importance. The audience seldom decides to love somebody. And if they do, you have to respect that and work hard every day to honour that. There are going to be films that they like and films that they don’t like. That is okay. It is not the end of the world. Learn from it, move on and rectify it in the future.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Which film made you the most popular and the most loved?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A\</b> I don’t know which one, and not having an answer to that might be a good thing I suppose. I did not think about it, although I introspect a lot. But I don’t like my performances anyway. Whenever I revisit my films I find a lot of mistakes [in them] that I think I could have improved upon. I’m not happy with any of my performances. Not even with <i>Guru</i>. Today, when I look back, I can see so many things that could have been better. I watch my past films regularly.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/19/bollywood-actor-abhishek-bachchan-interview.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/19/bollywood-actor-abhishek-bachchan-interview.html Sat Aug 19 11:31:33 IST 2023 the-bomb-the-bank-the-mullah-and-the-poppies-book-review <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/19/the-bomb-the-bank-the-mullah-and-the-poppies-book-review.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/8/19/69-The-Bomb-new.jpg" /> <p>Iqbal Chand Malhotra’s thoroughly researched book―<i>The Bomb, the Bank, the Mullah and the Poppies</i>―has laid bare the agenda of Pakistan’s ‘deep state’ and the murky world of how money was acquired from the heads of States and billionaires. It also explains the CIA’s links with drug dealers in Latin America, and how Pakistan’s generals garnered profits from Afghanistan’s poppy plantations. Add to this heady cocktail of pro-Pakistan characters like the Arab sheikhs―especially of Saudi Arabia and the UAE―all of whom gladly funded Pakistan’s quest for an Islamic nuclear bomb.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It all began with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s desire―after the humiliation of Pakistan’s defeat by India in the 1971 war―to acquire an atomic weapon to counter future Indian aggression. Bhutto laid the foundation for a team that would include nuclear experts like A.Q. Khan, and which would raise the money to fund Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions. Thus they created the BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce International) which, at one stage, became the fastest growing bank in the world; it had branches in Colombia, Luxembourg, London and, of course, Pakistan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What is stunning is the millions of dollars that the BCCI received from the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority as a risk-free arrangement from 1980. But as the blessings of Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed were not enough to enter the exclusive world of white men-led banking, Pakistan’s shady banker-in-chief and the head of the BCCI, Agha Hasan Abedi, roped in Tom Clausen, chairman of the Bank of America, who invested $6,25,000 in the BCCI for a 30 per cent stake. This gave the BCCI the credibility to draw in investors and soon its network spread worldwide. This money filled the coffers of Pakistan’s nuclear fund handled by generals and politicians, from General Zia-ul-Haq to, eventually, Pervez Musharraf, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, and their cronies who monitored the poppy plantations of Afghanistan along with the Taliban’s pliable tribal chiefs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In all these years, Khan, called the father of Pakistan’s bomb, had built the required facilities to produce atomic bombs―some say in hundreds―that were enough for terrorists to create mayhem! Khan was then formally encouraged to look at exporting bombs, and the related knowhow, to North Korea, Iran and Libya for a price. Ironically, US intelligence agencies―the chief patrons of non-proliferation―knew of the rot in Pakistan’s ‘deep state’. CIA’s dossiers named the players and the money in this ‘great game’ that the author of this fascinating book has listed out, authenticating all his information with endnotes and a detailed bibliography. It makes it hard, therefore, to dismiss his work as one of fiction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The BCCI― Pakistan’s ‘bank of crooks and criminals international’, as someone once called it―had to be shut down in the summer of 1991 by the Bank of England, as the evidence against its money trail from drug lords in Latin America to Afghanistan became too hard to hide.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But by then, Pakistan had its nuclear bomb through deceitful and dubious means, and it now remains the crown jewel of the Pakistan army. The irony is that, none of the players in this great game has been brought to book, especially by the US which had its hands deeply soiled in this messy game, as the author of this book has brought out with encyclopedic inputs. As an eminent public personality stated recently, India’s intelligence agencies would gain from getting a copy of this book, and so would all those who delude themselves about Pakistan’s well-meaning initiatives.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>THE BOMB, THE BANK, THE MULLAH AND THE POPPIES</b></p> <p><i>By</i> <b>Iqbal Chand Malhotra</b></p> <p><i>Published by</i> <b>Bloomsbury</b></p> <p><i>Price</i> <b>Rs799;</b> <i>pages</i> <b>223</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/19/the-bomb-the-bank-the-mullah-and-the-poppies-book-review.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/19/the-bomb-the-bank-the-mullah-and-the-poppies-book-review.html Sat Aug 19 11:26:59 IST 2023 tale-of-tikam-chand-and-his-175-year-old-camera <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/19/tale-of-tikam-chand-and-his-175-year-old-camera.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/8/19/71-Tikam-Chand-with-the-Carl-Zeiss-camera.jpg" /> <p>Against the frenzy of the old city market, the rose-hued Hawa Mahal rises majestically into the sky. If you pass it by to the old town hall, you might find a man with a 100-watt smile half-hidden by a bottlebrush moustache, sitting in front of it. He is Tikam Chand, and keeping him company is his 163-year-old Carl Zeiss camera. In a way, Chand is as vintage as his camera. Despite his jet-black hair, crisp shirt and polished leather shoes, there is an old-world feel to him, as though he photoshopped himself into today from a distant, sepia-toned past.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I fell in love with this camera, which first belonged to my grandfather Pahari Lal, the first time I saw it,” says Chand. The Carl Zeiss is the last surviving camera of its kind today, he says. The coming age is going to be digital, but this camera is special, he recalls his father telling him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chand, who has been taking pictures with it since 1977, treats it like a family member. “Be it repairs or maintenance, I care for it like my child,” he says fondly of the camera that has been the family’s breadwinner for three generations. “The feel of a picture taken with this camera is surreal.” He, however, refused to reveal from where he got the film for the camera.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Before Chand and his camera became a tourist attraction, people used to come to take their pictures taken, often passport size. Then he became famous, the subject of blogs and news articles. He had cameo appearances in films like <i>Bhool Bhulaiyaa</i> (2007) and <i>Shuddh Desi Romance </i>(2013). He has also photographed celebrities like Paresh Rawal, Anil Kapoor and Akshay Kumar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, his business took a real hit with the pandemic. “My work is directly related to tourism, and that time, tourism had completely stopped,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chand has shot several types of photographs with different backgrounds and cutouts, creating illusions like the one where the subjects are sitting on a crescent moon. “Some of my favourite photographs include one I clicked of Albert Hall in Jaipur in 1980,” says Chand. “It was unique, because it was so difficult to fit the huge structure in a post-card size frame. Another picture I love is of Hawa Mahal that I clicked from Badi Chaupar (Jaipur’s old town).” Chand is now training his sons to use the camera. He has left it to them whether they want to carry on the legacy or not, but he is adamant that they should be able to answer any questions about the camera.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Even in the age of digital, you can still see the beauty of old pictures,” he says. “This camera’s process of shooting has seemed like magic to many people, as it has for me. The handmade process of making a vintage photograph reflects the naturalness of a person. Today, black-and-white images that look true are a rarity, and that is why people are attracted to this camera.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Taking photographs with the Carl Zeiss might seem like a dying art, but it is what enlivens Chand. He himself explains it the best. “I understand it and it understands me. I maintain it, and it maintains me,” he says.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/19/tale-of-tikam-chand-and-his-175-year-old-camera.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/19/tale-of-tikam-chand-and-his-175-year-old-camera.html Tue Aug 22 10:39:30 IST 2023 falguni-and-shane-peacock-fashion <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/12/falguni-and-shane-peacock-fashion.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/8/12/89-Falguni-and-Shane-Peacock-with-actor-Kiara-Advani.jpg" /> <p>The fashion week fever is over after an Instagram-heavy week of celebrity showstoppers, jazzy collections and designers clamouring to create ‘unique’ shows. The mood was set by designer duo Falguni and Shane Peacock, who opened the FDCI India Couture Week with a stunning collection of glittering pastels inspired by the Renaissance. They had a fitting showstopper in actor Kiara Advani, who channelled ‘Barbiecore’ in a pink lehenga that was touted as one of the best closing looks of the week.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Asked if Barbie pink will be the trend for this year’s wedding season, Falguni and Shane say that pink has always been one of the quintessential bridal colours. “Each year, in our couture collection, we experiment with different shades of pink,” they say. “And this year, it was all about Barbie pink. While trends may come and go, we believe that pink in bridal wear is here to stay. Whether Barbie pink or any other shade, pink will continue to be a sought-after colour for brides.” They think that this wedding season, brides and grooms will likely opt for softer colours like ivory and pastels.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Barbiecore was not the only reason why their opening show was a runaway success. Out and proud gay model Rabanne Victor made a case for inclusivity by walking for them in a champagne gold lehenga. His slender frame and sleek bun hairdo complemented the look. Falguni and Shane say they knew immediately that the gold lehenga was for him to wear. “We knew he would carry it off very well,” they say. “In our minds, the lehenga was a perfect match for him, and we were immensely proud to witness his graceful walk on the ramp. He truly pulled it off with confidence and style.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Falguni and Shane are old hands at bringing diversity and inclusivity in their fashion. “A few years ago, we did a shoot in London where we dressed a male model in a couture gown,” they say. “Even during the 2020 digital showcase at the India Couture Week, we draped a dupatta on one of our male models dressed in a sherwani. Inclusivity has always been an integral part of our brand’s principles.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They make it a point to decouple fashion from gender. For them, fashion is about feeling good in whatever you wear, regardless of gender norms. The luxury couture designer couple has been in the industry for more than two decades now, having begun their design journey in the early 2000s.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Their ‘Renaissance Reverie’ collection was an homage to the bygone period of Renaissance and its world of art. They derived inspiration from their love for art and the treasures they saw during their travels. “The collection pays homage to the essence of the Renaissance culture,” stated the concept note. “Each ensemble exudes the same kind of majestic grandeur that characterised that remarkable era.” According to them, each garment in the collection was a testament to cultural exchange and celebrated the invaluable lessons they had learned from the past. The artisans’ intricate embroidery and handcrafted details merged the opulence of the Renaissance with the richness of Indian heritage. The collection was a visual feast, with colours ranging from strawberry yogurt to Portland grey. The harmonious interplay of vibrant accents like sugar coral, primrose yellow, and purple ash gave it a contemporary twist. The richness of Aztec brown and almandine was complemented with soft whites and pastels.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At Cannes 2023, actors Mrunal Thakur and Diana Penty wore their collections. The idea was to celebrate Indian craftsmanship on a global platform. The couple is now working on their upcoming show at the New York Fashion Week, marking their much-awaited comeback (their last Fall/Winter collection was shown at NYFW 2015). Preparations for Cannes 2024 begin soon after.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Their Instagram handle today has got around 2.5 million followers, propelled by their international clientele, bespoke designs, signature styles and recent runway successes. Social media, believe Falguni and Shane, is the biggest catalyst for new designers to establish a wider reach. They credit its immediacy with transforming the fashion landscape. It was very different when they were starting out. “We believe that now, in the age of social media, it is easier for new designers to establish themselves,” they say. “When we started out, platforms like Instagram and Facebook did not exist, and we had to rely on fashion journalists to write about us and read it the next morning. Today, with social media, the moment a collection hits the ramp, it is out there for the world to see, review, and even purchase.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the age of easy visibility and acceptance of new labels, Falguni and Shane stand their ground. “External factors or what other labels are doing do not affect us,” they say. “We have always maintained a tunnel vision, channeling our attention and focus on pushing our boundaries, raising the bar for ourselves, and continuously experimenting with our craft.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/12/falguni-and-shane-peacock-fashion.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/12/falguni-and-shane-peacock-fashion.html Sat Aug 12 11:40:16 IST 2023 architect-sameep-padora-about-his-work-and-designs <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/12/architect-sameep-padora-about-his-work-and-designs.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/8/12/92-Jetavan-Spiritual-Centre-Maharashtra.jpg" /> <p>Sameep Padora’s bungalow office is tucked away in one of the charming <i>gaothans</i> (village settlements) of Bandra West, the kind that is now considered chic enough to be dotted with cafes and boutiques. Padora’s work is very under the radar, and he would prefer to keep it this way. The office is a three-storied structure, with glass windows, dark walls, a cantilevered staircase and possibly every design book there is out there.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I bought this space when I returned from the US in 2010. <i>Gaothan</i> land predates British records. The inside of this one was burnt, and was thus a good investment. I used to live upstairs and the office was downstairs then,” says Padora, 48. He studied at the Parsons School of Design and Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. The <i>gaothan</i> land was probably what gave this Kashmiri in Mumbai his strong sense of community. Padora’s multiple projects and studies of low-income housing in Mumbai have resulted in a well-regarded exhibition of 18 building codes called ‘deCoding Mumbai’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Padora has also just been appointed the new dean of CEPT, formerly the Centre of Environmental Planning and Technology, in Ahmedabad, famously started by legendary architect and Pritzker winner, B.V. Doshi. “I have been going to CEPT for four or five years now, as part of their board of reviewers,” he says. “Basically we watch what the students and educators do. It is a wonderful space as all our suggestions are immediately implemented. Then one day Bimal Patel, who is the current president of CEPT, suggested I apply for the position of dean. I told him I was still practising, but he was convinced that the institution needs me. I think it is important to contribute and make an impact that outlives you, so here I am.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In his new role, he oversees the content being taught at the university. “I aim to make it one of the best architecture schools in the world, not just in India,” he says. “People should compare CEPT with MIT.” Padora says he has the support of Bimal Patel, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s preferred architect for the Kashi Vishwanath Dham in Varanasi and the ambitious Central Vista project in Delhi. “He is very interested in efficiency. He is quite hands off and lets you be,” says Padora.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What is nerve-wracking for him is to be a part of Doshi’s legacy. “I feel weighed down by this, as I am very conscious of his greatness. He loved new ideas. He was so open-minded that nothing was anathema for him. The kind of frugality one sees in his work is reminiscent of Gandhian principles,” says Padora. “He once mentioned our studio in an interview and said that he liked our work. That was just so immense for me. Once, he had visited us here in Bandra, and I had organised a lunch for him. He walked around the office looking at everything.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some of Padora’s pet projects involve working with communities. In Karjat, he has built Udaan, a low-income housing project. “This is why CEPT is important as a lot of people feel what you study academically is not applied in the real world. One is poorer for that. Pedagogy needs to be practical. This project came out of a desire to accommodate natural lighting and ventilation, but also a social life, which is so important for community living,” he explains.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Mumbai, he is part of the Bandra Collective, a group of six young and stylish architects involved in pro bono work. They partner with the municipal administration to do local projects that are both high quality and aesthetically pleasing. “All government bodies are complex organisations, but you figure out a way to unravel the bottlenecks,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Padora’s famous Temple of Steps in Andhra Pradesh, commissioned by Anushree and Parth Jindal of the JSW group, is remarkable for turning the private, religious project into a social mission. A relative’s house in Jammu made it to <i>Wallpaper</i>, the international design magazine, for its wooden trellises that opened and closed at will. “Jammu is not a very well-planned town, and we wanted to introduce some sort of structural development here,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His Maya Somaya Library in a school in rural Maharashtra has won the Beazley and Brick design awards. “This is one of the most successful projects we have done,” he says. “The library combines ancient techniques with Swiss software tech. We wanted to show that the global can be instrumental in transforming the local constructively and not destructively.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Padora is behind some of Mumbai’s most elegant restaurants, including Indigo Deli, Neel and The Clearing House. His work at the Oberoi Hotels’ Eau Bar introduced him to the legendary Prithviraj Singh ‘Biki’ Oberoi. “Our meetings were an education by themselves. I could write a book on him,” says Padora. “He had immense knowledge about space and design, whether it was the right height of a table and chair, or the engaging experience of architecture.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/12/architect-sameep-padora-about-his-work-and-designs.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/12/architect-sameep-padora-about-his-work-and-designs.html Sat Aug 12 11:35:17 IST 2023 telugu-web-series-dayaa-review <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/12/telugu-web-series-dayaa-review.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/8/12/94-Chakravarthy-in-a-scene-from-Dayaa.jpg" /> <p><i>Dayaa</i> is based on the Bengali series <i>Taqdeer </i>(2020). Streaming on Disney+ Hotstar and dubbed in multiple languages, it has been customised to suit the Telugu audience. The series marks the OTT debut of actor J.D. Chakravarthy, who was noticed across the country in Ram Gopal Varma’s <i>Satya</i>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The character arc of Dayaa (played by Chakravarthy) is somewhat similar to that of Satya (the character played by the same actor in <i>Satya</i>), where he is silent and unassuming before being possessed by a violent streak.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dayaa is a partially deaf driver of a refrigerated van that transports fish and aqua products. The show is set in the coastal belt of Andhra Pradesh, with stunning aerial footage, captured beautifully by director and writer Pavan Sadineni.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dayaa is a struggler who is trying to make ends meet and dreams of a better future for his pregnant wife Alivelu (Eesha Rebba). One day, for the lure of money and under an obligation to his friend Prabha (Josh Ravi), Dayaa accepts to transport a consignment despite being tired. Upon reaching the destination, he discovers that it is a dead body with a bullet wound. From here, the story picks up pace to comfortably slot itself into the crime thriller genre. Dayaa and his friends try to get rid of the body only to learn that it is of a popular journalist, Kavitha (Remya Nambeesan), who works with a regional news channel.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kavitha’s life as a feisty journalist acts as a sober track that gives a glimpse of her troubled marriage. Her husband, played by Kamal Kamaraju, is searching for her in Hyderabad, without knowing that she is already dead.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>How Kavitha ended up getting killed is revealed in bits and pieces till one gets a full picture in the last episode. There is a political angle to it, with the entry of a local MLA, who is also a womaniser. The narration is gripping, keeping the audience entertained with various revelations. Viewers also get a peek into the dark past of Dayaa and his wife.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The climax leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Sadineni is successful in leaving the audience wanting to know more. <i>Dayaa</i> is one of the few OTT shows in Telugu that has finally managed to hit the right note with the viewers. Though acting and the dialogues are not the strong points of <i>Dayaa</i>, the characterisation is excellent.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/12/telugu-web-series-dayaa-review.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/12/telugu-web-series-dayaa-review.html Sat Aug 12 11:28:43 IST 2023 indrani-mukerjea-memoir-unbroken-tells-her-truth-unfiltered <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/04/indrani-mukerjea-memoir-unbroken-tells-her-truth-unfiltered.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/8/4/76-Indrani-Mukerjea.jpg" /> <p>Indrani Mukerjea is learning to live alone. She is home after six and a half years in the Byculla women’s prison, in the house no longer for Mr Mukerjea. Single, and with a lot of “me time’’. She dances everyday. She’s been getting lessons in ballroom dancing with a friend. There is yoga four times a week, and each morning begins with kickboxing. At 51, she is now fit, free and fighting. “I am almost healed,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On Instagram, Indrani is kitted out in boxing gloves and still learning to throw a right hook with force. But on paper, she is in form. Her memoir, <i>Unbroken: The Untold Story,</i> is defence at its most damning. “[The book] is my response, not a reaction,” she says. “Which is why I took my time.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She spares no punches. <i>Unbroken</i> is her side of the story in one of the most sensational murder cases in India. It is a blockbuster of a book, a no-holds-barred account of everything, from her first husband Sanjeev Khanna’s conservatism to the relationship of Peter, her “favourite” husband, with his first wife, Shabnam, which became a cause of marital discord and her reason to “testify” in the Karti Chidambaram case. “It was something that was on my conscience for a long time,” she writes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a Monday afternoon, and Indrani is back from Kashmir. We are having a Zoom interaction, and she sits on a rust leather couch with deep orange cushions. You can see a lift button in the beige background―a hint at the sprawling house she now lives in. Unlike the sheer white earlier, her hair is now completely black. Hair dye is a detail that she is clearly obsessed with. (Appearances are important to her.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I did not have a voice the moment I went to prison, because I was not allowed to speak,’’ she says. “Everybody, including people who did not know me, came out all claws and daggers. This is a very gentle reminder that I have a voice as well. Just because I kept quiet does not mean I have forgotten. Forgiving is one thing, but I have not forgotten.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As twisty as an OTT crime show, no other murder case has matched the frenzy of this one, in which media tycoons Peter and Indrani Mukerjea were accused of murdering Indrani’s daughter, Sheena Bora. The closest match in sensationalism is perhaps the Aarushi Talwar murder case, again one that boiled down to parenting and secrets. If Aarushi’s mother Nupur was judged to be not emotional enough, Indrani was too ambitious. “Everyone forgot about the case,’’ she says. “People started scrutinising me as a good mother or a bad mother or the worst mother alive. How could she abandon her children, they said. There is no good mother or bad mother. Every mother raises their children the way she thinks and believes is the right way. In my head, I do not believe I am a bad mother. I have done for all my three kids what is best for them. And I will continue to do that always.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Sheena Bora case was spun into a binge-worthy news story, with breathless reporting. There are different versions of the truth. There is also her daughter Vidhie’s book, <i>Devil’s Daughter,</i> the rights of which she is rumoured to have sold to Westland for a large sum. Peter has written, too. But his book was based on his experience in television.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indrani claims Sheena is still alive. The body found in Raigad remains unidentified, she writes. The skull discovered there is not the same as the one produced before the trial court in Khar. And what’s more, Sheena has been sighted. “I have not met her myself,’’ Indrani says. “But several people have even gone to court filing affidavits about there being CCTV footage, which is still sealed in court, which obviously establishes that there is a very strong possibility that Sheena is still alive. I would also like to add that there is enough evidence on record to definitely establish that she was alive after the alleged murder date.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is Indrani’s truth, unvarnished and certainly unfiltered. She was raped by her father when she was 14 and 16. So, that makes Sheena her daughter and her sister. Her mother did not stand by her. (She later gets back with her father, who adopts her children as his own). Indrani narrates in the book that the first time it happened, she was 14. Pari, as she was called then, was taken by her mother to a doctor who was told that the culprit was a boy in her tennis class. The next time it happened, she was 16 and her father, “his eyes filled with lust’’, told her that she needed a “real man’’. Her father was finally told to leave by Vish, the boy she loved.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the tell-all book, Indrani dishes it out in a pulpy, voyeuristic fashion. It provides plenty of headline-grabbing nuggets. Her sister-in-law asked her daughter Vidhie to refer to her as Lucy, short for Lucifer. Hence, the title of Vidhie’s book <i>Devil’s Daughter,</i> where she clearly sides with Peter. Since then, mother and daughter have made up.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are fake orgasms with Sanjeev, her first husband and Vidhie’s father. (Yet, his family continued to bring her food in prison). But it is Peter’s life that is stripped bare. She spent her first night with him, unfulfilled. The next morning, while brushing his teeth in his grey nightshirt and shorts, he told her, “You’ve got small b**bs. But your nipples make up for it.” But she surely did not need to hear it early in the morning, that too after being deprived of sexual satisfaction the night before, she writes. So, she shoots back, “You’ve got a small willy. And your jewels don’t make up for it. But I’ll get by.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Her book is anger-fuelled and chillingly cold at the same time. She has not chosen to hide either. If anything, Indrani wears her ambition front and centre, daring you to call it out. There is no doubt that she is driven, determined and unwilling to settle for domesticity. When she was barely 19, with Rs5,000 in her account and two kids―Sheena and Mikhail―to take care of, she refused to get tied down when Siddharth, her friend and the father of Mikhail, asked her to marry him. Indrani wanted much more. As she leaves her children with her parents to go to Calcutta and make her fortune, she is confident that she has made the right decision. It is this burning, naked ambition that propels her. It is what makes her a survivor, even in jail.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/04/indrani-mukerjea-memoir-unbroken-tells-her-truth-unfiltered.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/04/indrani-mukerjea-memoir-unbroken-tells-her-truth-unfiltered.html Sat Aug 05 11:39:18 IST 2023 excerpts-from-the-book-unbroken-by-indrani-mukerjea <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/04/excerpts-from-the-book-unbroken-by-indrani-mukerjea.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/8/4/78-Unbroken-new.jpg" /> <p>And then I stepped into the main prison complex.</p> <p>Byculla Jail is a two-floor complex. It has two units―Circle-1 and Circle-2. In September 2015, when I went in, the prison wasn’t very crowded. Circle-2 housed pregnant women and women with young children―it is colloquially called the ‘bachcha barrack’. Women are allowed to keep their children with them till they are seven years old. There are two barracks within Circle-2. Contrary to what one assumes about prison, the Byculla Jail is actually very well maintained. It has a beautiful garden, with flowers and beautiful plants.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was put in Circle-1. This unit is where they keep regular female prisoners, and is much bigger―it has six barracks. On the first floor of the prison are four big barracks that function as common dorms. I was assigned to a barrack on the ground floor. The barracks are airy, with lots of fans to keep the inside cool. There are clean bathrooms that are washed by the inmates on duty, twice a day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the day I entered prison, the barracks downstairs were almost empty. Other than me, there were only two more people. I hadn’t eaten anything that day. The prison constable, Wasima, was on duty that evening. She came to me and asked, <i>‘Aapne khana khaya? Aap thoda doodh piyengi? (Have you eaten? Will you have some milk?)’</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I remember, I foolishly blurted out, <i>‘Main raat ko doodh nahin peeti hoon.</i> (I don’t have milk at night.)’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was offered roti sabzi and some watery dal. When I was at Khar station, home-cooked meals stopped coming to me after the second day itself. My food came from restaurants, from biryanis to sandwiches to dosas. Even though I was not used to this food, by the time it arrived, I was somehow resigned to my fate. Or perhaps, I was really hungry. I didn’t care what was in front of me. I simply ate. In a way, I was relieved to be in prison. At least, I was no longer cooped up in a tiny guard room. I liked the space. A strange sense of freedom took over me, even though the fear of what was going to happen to me stayed in my system.</p> <p>For the uninitiated, prison is what they show in the movies. And so, I was fearful of what fate had in store for me. I didn’t get much sleep that night. The tossing and turning continued through the night. Wasima was placed at the gate of the barrack. I was later given to understand that officials were instructed to keep a suicide watch on me. For inmates like me, the shift from a posh Worli apartment to prison is what rock bottom feels like. Add to it the high-profile nature of the case, along with the media attention―prison officials worry about the toll this may take on an inmate’s mind.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I still remember the first time when I walked into the bathroom. I used the western toilet and realized there was no flush. No jet spray either. I came out and asked another inmate, Savitri [name changed], who was the designated kaamwali of that barrack, <i>‘Flush kahan hai?</i> (Where is the flush?)’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She smiled kindly and told me, <i>‘Nahin, didi. Aapko bucket se paani daalna padega.</i> (No, didi. You will have to use a bucket of water.)’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It might seem minor, but these things do add to the shock. In my life before prison, even as a toddler, I knew that when one turns on a tap water will flow out, and that this was something one does not have to think about as such. The concept of filling the bucket with water and using it was alien to me. I didn’t even have buckets at home. As these thoughts swirled in my mind, I took the bucket, filled water in it, and used it to flush the toilet.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I spoke to Savitri at one point in the night, when we were both not getting any sleep. She, too, was being tried for a murder case― the murder of her stepmother―and had been in prison for four years at that time. Her father and husband were in prison, too. After serving so much time, she was eventually acquitted in 2017. It is a sad truth of the Indian legal system that people suffer for years in undertrial prisons only to get acquitted in the end. Savitri had two little girls who were with her in-laws. After she came to prison, her family simply abandoned her. They didn’t send her money, so she had to work in prison to cover her basic needs. She was paid 1600 rupees a month for working as a kaamwali. Her grouse was the same as most women in that prison―her husband had a steady flow of cash coming from the family while she was simply left to fend for herself. The world is harsher for women in every strata of society even inside a jail.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After much tossing and turning, I slept for a couple of hours. By the time I had got to my assigned barrack on the first day, it was evening. Next morning, I got a better view of the prison. As I looked around, I saw a team of officers waiting to talk to me. I was handed a bottle-green saree to wear.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When a female prisoner is accused of murder under Section 302 of the IPC, she has to drape a green saree over her regular clothing on the occasions when she has to step out of the jail circle for mulaqats, which are meetings with family or lawyers, or to go to the canteen or the dispensary, a practice that has continued since the British era. I later understood that the colour coding was perhaps designed to allow prisoners to get a sense of the severity of the charges. The chances of a murder-accused getting bail are very low. In a way, the saree signifies that the inmate has to stay for much longer, a symbol that the prison has given them shelter. The spirit of it might come from a pure place but my immediate thought was: Everyone will think I am a murderer. Of course, I hadn’t realized then that everyone in the world outside the prison walls had already labelled me as one.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At first, I was nervous and anxious when I was told that I had to wear that saree. The guard sympathetically said, <i>‘Aapko aadat par jayegi</i> (You will get used to it).’ I draped the saree on top of what I was wearing. Every time I had to go for Monday morning inspection, office visits or mulaqats, I would wrap that green saree around me.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Superintendent Chandramani Indulkar met me in the office. It was my first time meeting him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘<i>Aap kab aaye</i> (When did you arrive)?’ he asked me.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘<i>Kal raat</i> (Last night),’ I said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘<i>Kya kalam hain aap pe?</i> (What are the charges against you?)’ he asked.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, he knew the criminal sections I was charged under. The whole country did. But it is a part of the procedure, where prisoners give their details. I was asked for contact numbers, and I gave Peter’s.</p> <p>With these formalities out of the way, I was formally entered into the prison system of the Byculla Undertrial Jail as prisoner number 1468.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>―<b>Excerpted with permission from HarperCollins India.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Unbroken</b></p> <p><i>By</i> <b>Indrani Mukerjea</b></p> <p><i>Published by</i> <b>HarperCollins India</b></p> <p><i>Pages</i> <b>400</b> <i>Price</i> <b>Rs599</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/04/excerpts-from-the-book-unbroken-by-indrani-mukerjea.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/08/04/excerpts-from-the-book-unbroken-by-indrani-mukerjea.html Fri Aug 04 15:45:01 IST 2023 tillotama-shome-about-her-films-characters-and-career <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/29/tillotama-shome-about-her-films-characters-and-career.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/7/29/63-Tillotama-Shome.jpg" /> <p>American theatre director Lee Strasberg once famously said that acting is not something that you do. Instead, it is something that occurs. “If you are going to start with logic, you might as well give up,” he said. At some point in her life, Tillotama Shome discovered this to be true. Shome, 44, part of that rare breed of contemporary method actors in India, does not act as much as she lives. In her latest projects―<i>The Night Manager 2 </i>and<i> Lust Stories 2</i>―both of which released on June 30, she inhabits her characters to a degree where it is impossible to tell where she ends and they begin.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Along the way, she has learnt a few lessons: that one cannot fake emotions, and to make the audiences feel what you are feeling is an art that comes straight from the soul. Lately, she has learnt one more truth―that what the actor intends might not be what finally results onscreen. She learnt this inside the editing room, where “actors are usually barred from entering”. She recalls witnessing an exchange between her character and another on the editing table. “The way the scene was edited felt like there was a sense of fragility to my character [which I had not intended],” she says. “It came with the way it was juxtaposed on the editing table with the other person’s performance.” Shome says this was a real revelation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are at a Mumbai studio and Shome―with her petite frame accentuated in a midi dress―looks as charming as ever. Her ebullient demeanour instantly puts everyone at ease. As the interview progresses, one tries to see in Shome the multitude of characters she has portrayed onscreen. In <i>Lust Stories 2</i>, she plays Ishita, an affluent and single working woman who is disgusted at discovering that her maid and the maid’s husband were having sex in her bedroom. And then, Shome seamlessly navigates the high sea of emotions as she moves from deep rage to a voyeuristic curiosity. In <i>The Night Manager 2</i>, through her role as the spy Lipika Saikia Rao, we get to see RAW agents as real and relatable. Every woman sees some aspect of herself in Rao, who struggles with work and pregnancy and remains fiercely committed to espionage. Shome invests the ‘plain looking’ Rao with such an infectious energy that she perfumes your senses, long after the series ends.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Since her father was with the Indian Air Force, Shome grew up in different parts of the country, and studied theatre at the New York University. She started out late in films and pursued independent cinema for over two decades, since her debut in Mira Nair’s <i>Monsoon Wedding</i> (2001). She achieved international acclaim with <i>Qissa</i> (2013) followed by <i>Raahgir―The Wayfarers</i> (2019). She has got more recognition at international film festivals than back home, in a way because the country woke up to her immense talent only in the last four years or so. “In the last few years, I had more work than in my 20s and 30s. The waiting period taught me to be my own best friend, [and to wait] with resilience and patience,” she once said in an interview.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Through an assorted filmography―where she has essayed a coolly restrained maid (<i>Sir</i>), a ruthless antagonist (<i>Delhi Crime season 2</i>), a polished immigration consultant (<i>Angrezi Medium</i>) and a dedicated mother (<i>A Death in the Gunj</i>)― Shome feels she has just arrived where she has always wanted to be. But the most important question one wants to ask her is, ‘How does an actor of her calibre prepare?’ “I feel whenever I am asked this question, I am lying,” she says. “Because I don’t think we can articulate that. When I see a film, I do not see what I thought I did, and definitely not when I was doing it. Then who did it? I stumble a lot even while learning lines, because I struggle with Hindi, and with memorising in general. If [the project] is in a language that I don’t know, then it just makes things that much harder. But otherwise, the preparation really is about how you dance with the dWirector.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the most liberating things she did in her career was to free herself from concern about her looks, something Bollywood considers paramount. And so, she never did feel inadequate. And while her peers worked on their body and voice, she knew that her priority as an actor was to work on her mind. Improvisations in Hindi happened very rarely, as it is a language she is not very comfortable with. Yet, in Konkona Sen Sharma’s segment of <i>Lust Stories 2―The Mirror</i>―she recalls cracking a joke in Hindi, where she played on the words ‘Ajoor ke khajoor’. “I think it was the pinnacle of my artistic creativity,” she says with a laugh. “I can never do better than that.” Sharma, who also directed Shome in <i>A Death in the Gunj</i>, is all praises for her. “I can say that the performance she gives is invariably nothing like what you have ever seen before,” she says. “Every performance is so unique. I have observed her closely, and I know she will deliver exactly what I want.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shome has honed her skills through diverse projects, from theatre to short films to international shows. Never mind stardom, she prefers to describe herself as a character actor who plays “meaningful and hard-hitting” roles. Onscreen, she is by turns, extroverted and withdrawn, articulate and moody, firm and engaging. She has perfected the ultimate trick that every actor longs to master: she disappears.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/29/tillotama-shome-about-her-films-characters-and-career.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/29/tillotama-shome-about-her-films-characters-and-career.html Sat Jul 29 16:33:24 IST 2023 sn-sreeprakash-paintings-are-a-remarkable-portrayal-of-the-tribal-life-of-andaman-and-nicobar-islands <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/29/sn-sreeprakash-paintings-are-a-remarkable-portrayal-of-the-tribal-life-of-andaman-and-nicobar-islands.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/7/29/66-Sreeprakash.jpg" /> <p>A s a wandering seagull, I embarked on my journey to the Andamans.” Artist S.N. Sreeprakash has this simple explanation on how the captivating islands became his muse. Though originally from Kerala, he has made the Andaman and Nicobar Islands his home for the past three decades. His recent exhibition, titled ‘Me and My Palette’, in Thiruvananthapuram was a collection of his works, many of them capturing the life and history of the islanders.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sreeprakash set foot on the islands in 1986. “I went there to visit my sister and her husband, who were employed on one of the islands,” he said. “I unexpectedly landed a job as a teacher at Little Andaman, a remote island.” Coming from a family of painters—both his father and grandfather mastered the art—his artistic journey took a serious turn at Little Andaman. “I began with watercolour and stump work, and later explored other mediums,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After a while he was transferred to Car Nicobar, the northernmost of the Nicobar Islands, where he switched his career from teaching to statistics. He soon got a job with the Amalgamated Statistical Cadre of the Andaman &amp; Nicobar Administration.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sreeprakash forged a strong bond with the islanders. He freely mingled with them and sketched their lives. The solo exhibition featured a remarkable collection of sketches and paintings that portrayed the island’s tribal life. Another series showcased the marvellous limestone caves, a challenging project, thanks to low light in the caves.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Car Nicobar holds a special place in Sreeprakash’s heart, as it was here that he spent his honeymoon with his wife, Jayshree. Witnessing the destruction caused by the Tsunami was a devastating experience for him. “Three days after the disaster, I had to visit Car Nicobar on official duty. The devastation was beyond words. Many could not even receive a proper ritualistic burial. I was deeply affected by the tragedy. In an attempt to pay homage to the departed souls, I started working on a series titled ‘Candles on Waves’.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2017, ‘Candles on Waves’ was transformed into a book, capturing the customs, beliefs and lives of the Nicobarese before and after Tsunami. There are plans to make a movie based on the book as well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some of the paintings Sreeprakash created for the 2012 short film <i>Mounathinte Nilavili</i> (Scream of Silence), on the haunting history of the Cellular Jail in Port Blair and the torture endured by freedom fighters imprisoned there, were also part of the exhibition.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Tricolour was first hoisted on the Andaman Islands on December 30, 1943, long before India became independent. This historic moment took place after Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army captured the islands with Japanese support. Sreeprakash said his exhibition was a “tribute to the freedom fighters and a salute to the Tricolour hoisted on December 30, 1943”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the 75th anniversary of the event, Sreeprakash created four artworks depicting the Car Nicobar and the Andaman islands. He created a colour portrait of Bose for the entrance of the Netaji Stadium in Port Blair.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The exhibition also featured a set of paintings that explored into the challenges women face in adjusting to a new household after marriage, and a tribute to all frontline workers, especially nurses, during the Covid pandemic.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/29/sn-sreeprakash-paintings-are-a-remarkable-portrayal-of-the-tribal-life-of-andaman-and-nicobar-islands.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/29/sn-sreeprakash-paintings-are-a-remarkable-portrayal-of-the-tribal-life-of-andaman-and-nicobar-islands.html Sat Jul 29 12:21:48 IST 2023 john-zubrzycki-about-his-new-book-dethroned <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/29/john-zubrzycki-about-his-new-book-dethroned.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/7/29/68-Author-John-Zubrzycki.jpg" /> <p>Otto von Bismarck had to trigger three wars to forge peace across Germany. A Prussian master of strategy, Bismarck manoeuvred Denmark, Austria and France into fighting a loose alliance of 39 quarrelling German states. In the end, he got what he wanted: three war victories that fused the states into a unified Germany, making it a major European power.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Much has been written about India’s own Bismarck, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who accomplished a far bigger national unification project with nary a battle. In the weeks before and after India’s independence, Patel coaxed, cajoled, threatened and arm-twisted 562 princely states into joining the Indian Union. But the birth of India was not entirely without bloodshed―the “police action” in Hyderabad, for instance, resulted in at least 25,000 deaths.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All things considered, though, the unification was orderly enough to make Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev wonder: “How did you Indians manage to liquidate the princely states without liquidating the princes?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As it happens, John Zubrzycki has the answer. A scholar, journalist and former diplomat, Zubrzycki has written <i>Dethroned: Patel, Menon and the Integration of Princely India</i>, which tells the remarkable tale of how India’s dhoti-clad, no-nonsense first home minister―together with his political aide V.P. Menon―negotiated the accession of the princely states.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Zubrzycki takes the tale into the 1970s, when prime minister Indira Gandhi dealt the final blow to the princely order. She abolished the privy purse―a sort of political pension for the royals―thereby erasing the last Bismarckian touch in India’s political integration. It was Bismarck who had invented pensions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At 337 pages, <i>Dethroned</i> reads like a breeze. Unsurprising, considering Zubrzycki has had practice condensing history and making it entertaining. His last effort was <i>The Shortest History of India</i>, a rundown on 5,000 years of Indian history in less than 300 pages.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So which was the more difficult book to write? “Oh, it is very hard to condense 5,000 years of history into, say, 250 pages,” Zubrzycki tells THE WEEK in an interview, “but telling the story of what happened to 562 princely states at the time of independence and afterwards was equally hard. The story of the princely states, even though it takes place over just a few decades, is quite a complex one. And, there are many competing narratives at play.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indeed, there are competing narratives but the competition remains thin. There is surprising dearth of accessible books in India that focus solely on the political evolution of princely states. K.M. Panikkar’s <i>Relations of Indian States with the Government of India</i> (1927) is a foundational study, while Menon’s post-retirement <i>Story of Integration of Indian States</i> (1957) remains a go-to book for researchers. But there is a view that the strength of these books double as their weakness as well―both are first-hand accounts rich with, and corrupted by, personal and often partisan observations. Panikkar was the dewan of Bikaner, and Menon was a debonair civil servant who wanted history to make him look good.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While there have been excellent studies of specific states―Manu Pillai’s <i>The Ivory Throne</i> on Travancore, Rahul Sagar’s <i>The Progressive Maharaja</i> on Baroda―few mainstream historians have written in detail about the events and people who midwifed India’s birth. In Ramachandra Guha’s magisterial <i>India After Gandhi</i>, the integration of states is a subplot that serves the wider narrative.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With <i>Dethroned</i>, Zubrzycki fills a crucial gap. “While there has been some books dealing the accession of princely states,” he says, “most of those were written many decades ago, and none of them focuses also on what happened to the states after independence. None of them focuses on states that found themselves in Pakistan, and none of them focuses on what happened in the lead-up to Indira Gandhi’s de-recognition of the princes in 1971…. So this is a first in that sense.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Before he became a full-time writer, Zubrzycki was deputy foreign editor of <i>The Australian</i>. The nose for news has served him well in producing such works as <i>The House of Jaipur: The Inside Story of India’s Most Glamorous Royal Family, Jadoowallahs, Jugglers and Jinns: A Magical History of India, and The Last Nizam: The Rise and Fall of India’s Greatest Princely State.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I studied Indian history and Hindi in university,” Zubrzycki says. “I travelled to India several times, worked in India as a diplomat, as a journalist…. It was as a journalist that I started to think about going deeper into Indian history, and not just writing news or feature articles about what was going on around me, which was fascinating in itself, but delving really deeper into what is an extraordinary history. I mean, there are so many aspects of Indian history that are just waiting to be analysed, researched, written and presented to the public in a way that is accessible.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Journalistic flair shines through in <i>Dethroned</i>. In one of the more exciting chapters in the book, Zubrzycki brings his own twist to a fairly well-known incident―the Jodhpur maharaja pointing a gun at Menon after being forced to sign the instrument of accession. According to Menon, the maharaja “whipped out a revolver” and said, “I refuse to accept your dictation.” Menon would later write that he stayed calm and told the maharaja that threatening him would not get the accession abrogated. “Don’t indulge in juvenile theatricals,” Menon reportedly said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are different accounts. As Zubrzycki writes, one historian described the stunt as a joke. The ‘revolver’ was actually a seven-centimetre, gold-plated pen with a 22-calibre bore made in the maharaja’s magic props workshop. Mountbatten made light of the incident, and it became a standing joke among the three men.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Zubrzycki writes that the maharaja later sought a reconciliation, asking Menon to contest elections from Jodhpur. The pen gun was gifted to Mountbatten, who donated it to the Magic Circle in London. In 2013, it was sold for £13,000 to the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In <i>Dethroned</i>, Zubrzycki weaves such anecdotes, trivia and some razor-sharp sketches of people and places into a silky smooth yarn. He not just illuminates the labyrinthine plots and counterplots that determined India’s borders, but also delves into the motivations of people who played pivotal roles. The book has both brains and a beating heart.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>DETHRONED: PATEL, MENON AND THE INTEGRATION OF PRINCELY INDIA</b></p> <p><i>By</i> <b>John Zubrzycki</b></p> <p><i>Published by</i> <b>Juggernaut</b></p> <p><i>Price </i><b>Rs799;</b> <i>pages</i> <b>337</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/29/john-zubrzycki-about-his-new-book-dethroned.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/29/john-zubrzycki-about-his-new-book-dethroned.html Sat Jul 29 12:01:48 IST 2023 amitav-ghoshs-new-book-is-a-chronicle-of-opium-addiction <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/21/amitav-ghoshs-new-book-is-a-chronicle-of-opium-addiction.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/7/21/63-Amitav-Ghosh.jpg" /> <p>Amitav Ghosh has chased opium for decades. From the stash of opium papers in the British archives to the poppy fields from Bihar to Guangzhou, he followed the flower―the most potent force that, like Helen of Troy, launched a thousand ships, and more―for a considerable part of his life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a few days after his 67th birthday and Ghosh, in a way, is back to the start with <i>Smoke and Ashes: A Writer’s Journey through Opium’s Hidden Histories</i>. It has been almost a lifetime on the trail of the drug. He embarked on the Ibis trilogy (<i>Sea of Poppies</i>, 2008) when his children were teenagers. <i>Flood of Fire</i> (2015) was out when they were adults. “I was completely unaware of before [opium story],” he says. “I studied history in college, I have been reading history forever. But even then it came as a complete surprise to me, this whole chapter of the Indian past.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ghosh is on a whirlwind tour across the country promoting his new book, which is a chronicle of the addiction―pushed by colonial powers. And it could be tied up intimately with his own history. “As I began to delve into it more and more, I suddenly discovered that it could have played an important role in my family,” he says. “Maybe some of my ancestors were employed by the opium department, which was by far the biggest game in Chapra and in Saran district. But I would say, what was true for me was to some greater or lesser extent true for virtually every family in the Gangetic belt in Malwa. This trade had such a massive role in the 19th century India. In fact, it affected most of us in one way or the other.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book is testimony to Ghosh’s eye for detail. If he conjured up a world that had been lost in memory in the Ibis Trilogy, his latest makes the history that built his books difficult to forget. “It was the Dutch who led the way in enmeshing opium with colonialism, and in creating the first imperial narco-state, heavily dependent on drug revenues,” writes Ghosh. “But it was in India that the model of the colonial narco-state was perfected by the British.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is all poppy crop. The foundations of Bombay, Singapore and Hong Kong. Grown in the fields of the Gangetic plains, the drug that addicted China and filled the coffers of British India. “From the 1830s onwards, Bombay was literally kept afloat by opium,” says Ghosh. “Singapore could be a free port solely because it was essentially financed by opium. Hong Kong was built in order to be an opium smuggling hub after the war. This is the hidden history of globalisation. If you think of cities like Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Bombay, these four cities together handle probably 30 to 40 per cent of the global trade. They all came about because of the opium.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like with everything that Ghosh writes, it is thoughtful and meticulously researched. There is the sheer vast landscape of history, which provides a dark history of globalisation powered through drugs that existed in the colonial world and became the template for the narco-states that is witnessed in Afghanistan today. “Japanese resisted,” he says. “Every Asian company in the country tried to resist. The Burmese tried. But essentially, they were forced to adopt this model by the British and the French. Once Patrick French and I were talking about these things. He said to me, ‘No matter how bad you think colonialism was, when you actually look at the material, it’s even worse’.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book traces the extent of this narco-state and how its links were hidden in plain sight. While it is a book based in India―and on how it became the centre of trade―it is also about China. And the devastation that opium brought. Even India’s role in it, from fighting the Opium Wars to fuelling the habit.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Farmers in the Gangetic plains were forced to grow it even in the famine. It expanded the empire; the Company invaded Sindh to capture Karachi. After the 1830s, opium was the main export, averaging 20 to 30 per cent of the annual total.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are very few writers who have perused opium so obsessively, or written about it with so much clarity. The book comes at a time when slavery―and the countries linked to it―are being questioned. Ghosh confronts the reader with the Indian link. Opium not only fuelled the rise of cities, but also contributed to the rise in wealth across continents. From the Dutch rulers to the wealthiest families in America, they all trace their fortunes to the drug habit.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Closer home, the trade benefitted great Parsi merchant clans like the Wadias, the Dadiseths and the Readymoneys. Even Dwarkanath Tagore, Rabindranath’s grandfather, traded in opium. “Indian merchants also did that. In fact, many of them won’t let historians enter their archives. This whole subject is considered taboo. They will not let it be spoken of,” says Ghosh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The research of the drug―and its sheer power―has kept Ghosh clean. He kept away from it, even after a hip replacement. “I was then two or three years into my research,” he says. So, he chose paracetamol to the miraculous power of opioid painkillers. “I am going to America’s opioid crisis because they promoted this whole idea that there is too much pain in society. And in order to fight the pain, you have to have oxycodone. And they would prescribe oxycodone even after minor surgeries or minor procedures. And that’s how people got hooked,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ultimately, Ghosh’s book is about morality. And an idea of correctness tinged with idealism. What makes his retelling of history poignant is that it is deeply felt. “One of the reasons why it is possible to talk about what western countries did to Africa is because Africa is so clearly a victim,” he says. “It is very difficult to conceive of the Chinese as a victim because they are so strong, so powerful. But it is certainly true that they were at the receiving end of this history. They managed to overcome this problem. They are the only society that have really dealt with mass addiction in this way.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An epic sweep of the history of the flower that made and unmade empires, Ghosh’s book offers a tangible proof that the past is never really gone.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/21/amitav-ghoshs-new-book-is-a-chronicle-of-opium-addiction.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/21/amitav-ghoshs-new-book-is-a-chronicle-of-opium-addiction.html Mon Jul 24 14:37:12 IST 2023 when-barbies-director-greta-gerwig-smiled-at-me <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/21/when-barbies-director-greta-gerwig-smiled-at-me.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/7/21/66-Greta-Gerwig.jpg" /> <p>Picture yourself in the mesmerising world of cinemas. Ever since I moved to London, it had become a regular part of my life, working at a cinema and witnessing the comings and goings of celebrities. So you can imagine my devastation when I discovered that our cinema would not be hosting the much-anticipated <i>Barbie</i> premiere on July 12. What made this movie so special to me was not just the incredible cast; it was the fact that Greta Gerwig directed it. For me, <i>Barbie</i> represents Greta’s artistic vision, even though I had never watched <i>Barbie</i> animations or played with the dolls. Growing up with brothers who adhered to traditional masculine norms, I missed out on the <i>Barbie</i> experience.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Greta has captured my heart with her exceptional talent as a writer, director, and actor. I have immersed myself in her movies like <i>Frances Ha</i> (2012), <i>Mistress America</i> (2015), and <i>20th Century Women</i> (2016). Her characters resonate deeply with women of my age, as they reflect our experiences and emotions. That is why I proudly display <i>Frances Ha</i> as my favourite movie on one of my work badges.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The most challenging part of this whole adventure was getting wristbands for the premiere. I rallied my friends from work and embarked on a mission to get those coveted wristbands. We woke up early, headed to the venue, and joined the line. Wristbands were being distributed from 8am, but by the time we arrived around 6am, a long queue had already formed. After three hours, we finally got the wristbands.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When I returned in the evening, the whole Leicester Square was a vibrant sea of pink. To fully embrace the atmosphere, I wore a pink dress. The event began, and the excitement was palpable. I must commend <i>Barbie</i>’s marketing team for their exceptional work. The pink carpet itself exuded enchantment and vibrancy. London was thoroughly saturated with their marketing efforts, evident by the renaming of Barbican tube station to Barbiecan and the appearance of a pink Doctor Who Tardis at Tower Bridge.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Celebrities graced the pink carpet one after the other. Simu Liu made a striking entrance, followed by the legendary Will Ferrell, who came with his family. Dua Lipa’s unexpected arrival added a touch of glamour. The stars of <i>Sex Education</i> brought their charm to the event. <i>Barbie</i> stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling were next to arrive, with Margot wearing a stunning pink dress, perfectly embodying the essence of <i>Barbie</i>. She even playfully quipped that there would be an optional fine for not wearing pink on Wednesdays, with the proceeds going to charity. Ryan, on the other hand, sported a green suit, which I assumed meant he had been fined by Margot for breaking the pink dress code. And then, the moment we had been waiting for―Greta made her entrance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Filled with excitement, we handed our posters to Greta for her autograph, along with my cherished work badge. The sight of her movie on my badge brought a radiant smile to her face. One of my friends could not contain his admiration and shouted out how Greta had changed his life through films like <i>Lady Bird</i> (2017) and <i>Little Women</i> (2019). Greta seemed pleased. I even got Ryan’s autograph on my poster, and he was as charming as ever. Witnessing the banter between Greta and Ryan was unforgettable. These memories will forever hold a special place in my heart.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Augustine just completed her studies at Northumbria University</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/21/when-barbies-director-greta-gerwig-smiled-at-me.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/21/when-barbies-director-greta-gerwig-smiled-at-me.html Sat Jul 22 16:29:50 IST 2023 was-never-taught-craft-but-i-had-this-archie-comics-dream-ritu-kumar <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/21/was-never-taught-craft-but-i-had-this-archie-comics-dream-ritu-kumar.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/7/21/68-Ritu-Kumar.jpg" /> <p>At the splendid ‘India in Fashion’ exhibition, curated by the acclaimed Hamish Bowles for the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC), one outfit in particular made you stand and stare in gobsmacked awe. In a room full of extraordinary clothes made by extraordinary people―Alexander McQueen, Elsa Schiaparelli, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, and our own Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla, Tarun Tahiliani, Sabyasachi Mukherjee and Anuradha Vakil―an all-white ensemble made by Ritu Kumar was unusual in its understated glory.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The anarkali and gharara was made for the ‘haldi’ ceremony of actor Athiya Shetty’s wedding to cricketer K.L. Rahul earlier this year. It was the reproduction of a 15-year-old archive, a ‘jugalbandi’ between Kumar and Martand ‘Mapu’ Singh, where the textile historian and curator had asked the couturier to make something with white hand-spun khadi. She found the finest matte khadi from Jaipur and Benares, and teamed it with gold and silver zardozi and gota embroidery, inspired by motifs from the 19th century. Kumar made just two or three versions of this as she says it was too beautiful to put in a store. The outfit almost whispered ‘the queen is still the queen’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kumar has been making clothes for close to 55 years. That is longer than anyone else in the country. It is even before the terms ‘fashion’, ‘designer’ or ‘retail’ became part of India’s vocabulary. What did she call herself at the time then? “I called myself nothing, I was just making printed scarves and saris. Mapu and I were barefoot doctors in the field. We wore Kolhapuri chappals and kurtas, and that’s how we worked,” Kumar, 77, says with a laugh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Ritu Kumar label, now fronted by her son Amrish Kumar, will be showing after almost a decade at the India Couture Week in Delhi on July 26. Kumar is still responsible for the research and design template her son and their gargantuan team produce. Her legacy is unimaginable in crafts revival, as well as in pioneering entrepreneurship. It is almost as if she gave the prototype for the rest of the Indian fashion industry.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I did not know a thing about craft when I moved to then-Calcutta as a young 21-year-old bride,” she says. “I was an art history student in the US, and did a museology course at the Ashutosh College in Calcutta. I heard about the archeological site of Chandraketugarh outside Calcutta. It was as old as Harappa and later became a maritime hub. I discovered lovely hamlets in Bengal with these immensely skilled crafts people. I understood what had happened to India historically, particularly to that area. Over 250 years of colonisation had impoverished the country. Serampore, a centre of silk printing, was a Danish colony, but they had burnt all their wooden blocks. I appreciated their art and just wanted to give them work. I gave them basic designs to print and they made it look beautiful, because the silks were so rich. I was never taught craft or fashion―Pupul Jayakar and Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay were in distant Delhi―but I had this <i>Archie</i> comics dream. So I travelled to Delhi and I learnt.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Journalist and cultural activist Jayakar sent Kumar to block printers in Farrukhabad, UP, where she discovered a family that had been doing nothing but blocks for the last 300 years or so. “Some ancestors were Persian, some were Uzbek; they had come through the Silk Route. They refused to sell me their blocks, but agreed to make some for me. So that is what they did for 25 years. Eventually, we set up a unit in Calcutta,” Kumar recalls. “I had started exporting scarves. I went to Mulhouse in France, which copied Indian textiles for industry, and Lancashire in England.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kumar began selling printed silk saris for Rs120 each, sharing space with a grocery store in Calcutta. Her second store was an upgrade―the garage of a building in Nepean Sea Road, Mumbai. She sat with Rosemary Crill at the Victoria &amp; Albert Museum in London (it still has the largest and best documentation of Indian textiles), learned all about zardozi, and took those designs to her Farrukhabad printers and embroiderers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, Kumar is thrilled with the dependence Indian fashion has on its crafts. “When we started out, we had no choice,” she says. “We could not import anything, not even a button or a zip. I had sent a piece to Neiman Marcus, held together with drawstrings and tiger claws. We learned tailoring along the way. Every designer was their own manufacturer and PR person. We could not get denim from a factory in Ahmedabad, because they would not entertain us with the limited quantities we needed. The only place we could be creative was with the craftsman. India has an organic and indigenous handwriting in fashion, and Indian designers are just catalysts.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She says she will not take credit for starting anything. “Indian textile crafts are so rich and I am a nobody,” she says. “I could not design a block, or print with one, or create an alchemy of colours like the dyers did. I just join the dots.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Her study of textiles and embroideries even led her to people’s godowns. “What I made caught the eye of the dealers in Chandni Chowk, who took the copies to the masses. They are so important. I tell you, we on the ramps have no impact. When it really works is when it is copied,” she says with a smile. Kumar was the first designer to receive a Padma Shri in 2013. She remains only one of two designers to have got this honour, the other being Wendell Rodricks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She was also the first Indian, along with Fabindia, to get into ready-to-wear retail as early as the 1980s. “We are not a country with only one handwriting,” she says. “The folk and the one-of-a-kind coexist. If we have a buti done for a Jaipur royal and a refined buti in Bagru, neither is a poor cousin of the other.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2002, her son Amrish launched a mass line called Label, and in 2021, another one called Aarke. In 2019, the Ritu Kumar label diversified into home furnishings. The Ritu Kumar label still comprises the biggest chunk of the pie, with Label coming in second, Ri (bridal) and Aarke next, and Home still rather small. “A lot of things happened within the business and within India as well,” Amrish, 45, tells me. “Ritu Kumar had about seven to eight stores across India when I joined the business, but we had one product line that was particular to one type of woman. The Ritu Kumar woman had grown up a little bit, and we needed to create for the next generation, too. The idea of Label was to create more product categories.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thanks to Amrish, the company also integrated into a strategic partnership with Reliance Brands in 2022. The corporate house now owns 52 per cent of the company, and is in charge of finance, administration and HR.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I will never retire, but I volunteered to focus on research. There are too many openings of retail spaces now, and I cannot keep up,” says Kumar. “We are the first company where the next generation is the creative head. I don’t want to be hands-on. I want to write and I want to paint.” Her health is also playing truant with her. A fall last year injured her spine and put her in a temporary brace. “I can’t walk the ramp now,” she says with a laugh. “I cannot even drink Scotch anymore. I don’t know what Mapu and I have put into our systems all these years. I can only drink wine now.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kumar has collected textile fabrics, blueprints, shawls, and actual embroideries from museums and dealers. “Education in our field is very important, but so patchy. I have an anthropologist’s collection from Bhuj and that area. I am a big collector, but some things which I have bought for myself should be put in a museum. Besides my entire repertoire of designs,” she says. “Pramod KG of Eka has been working on it for six months, and even I did not know what I have.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kumar is also bringing out a book with curator Mayank Mansingh Kaul. “The working title is Yatra, and the book will take you to all the areas I have worked in,” she says. “It tells you where to go, where to stay, how to get there and who to meet. Younger people need to take over India’s textile traditions, and they need to rough it out, too.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/21/was-never-taught-craft-but-i-had-this-archie-comics-dream-ritu-kumar.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/21/was-never-taught-craft-but-i-had-this-archie-comics-dream-ritu-kumar.html Sat Jul 22 16:26:35 IST 2023 indian-fashion-designer-rahul-mishra-about-his-show-at-the-paris-haute-couture-week <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/15/indian-fashion-designer-rahul-mishra-about-his-show-at-the-paris-haute-couture-week.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/7/15/63-Mishra-with-his-showstopper.jpg" /> <p>When Rahul Mishra presented his eighth fashion show at the Paris Haute Couture Week on July 3—he has previously shown 12 times at the Paris Fashion Week—visitors witnessed something unique: Two Indian embroiderers, Afzalbhai and Noore Alam, sitting by the runway with their needlework stands, stitching glorious colours into the cloth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Craft has been Mishra’s mainstay ever since he launched his label in 2006 and then again, after an academic stint in Milan in 2009. He has been vocal time and again about the importance of craftsmen to the Indian arts and fashion, and most certainly its semi-organised rural economy. In an earlier interview he told me, “Luxury is not consumption, luxury is participation.” Mishra, 43, is the only designer to initiate and advocate ‘reverse migration’, where he encourages artisans living in cramped city shanties to return home to their villages, and pays them an urban salary so that they can build rural economies. His Gandhian approach to fashion seems impractical to every other designer, and yet Mishra goes to Paris season after season on his own penny.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His new collection—‘We, The People’—was born last year when he read that India would soon overtake China to become the most populous nation in the world. “We learned in every social science class that overpopulation was a bad thing. But our people are our biggest strength, or can be turned into our biggest strength,” he says with a smile. “I feel my label is as democratic and inclusive as my nation is. It is by the people, for the people and of the people.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The collection is a human study of artisans at work. “I became interested in how they sit, their gestures, their ergonomics,” he says. “In how a tailor looks at things, and how an embroiderer looks at them. They are almost meditative in their ‘work’. These ideas became beautiful things in my mind. In the ‘Rahul Mishra universe’, god is the craftsman, because he is the creator. Us designers, we only imagine things.” Details on the clothes show faces of his artisans—someone is made out to be a DJ, another a rockstar.</p> <p>“These are all our insider jokes from the atelier. There is much humour going around the room,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mishra is on a train from Paris to London as we speak. His wife and business partner Divya, whom he affectionately calls “the boss”, is checking out London as a new market for the label. Afzalbhai and Alam are still in Paris, where paid interns are taking them around tourist destinations. The Mishras constantly ensure their craftsmen guests have had their meals on time and have not missed an Uber.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Afzalbhai’s daughter Nazneen has secured admission in a British university. “Everyone in India has a common dream—that their child will study abroad,” says Mishra. “These are not elite dreams, if artisans can become entrepreneurs, they can realise their dreams too.” Afzalbhai embroidered Mishra’s Woolmark Prize-winning collection in 2014 gratis. “He said pay me when the money comes,” Mishra reminisces. “He helped me get started.” Alam was his first employee at his Noida studio.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I loved that Mishra showed a white lehenga as a showstopper in Paris this season. His famous Zendaya sari—which the celebrated American actor wore to the opening of the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre in Mumbai in April—showed up here, too, in an ivory avatar. “I dream of the day when an Indian silhouette becomes a global must-have,” Mishra says. “Everything that is global now began from being something regional. We can still be us and still be modern. Western women can wear the lehenga as a crop top, a circle skirt and a veil. When an Indian designer says their clothes are ‘international’, they do themselves a disservice. I want my clothes to smell of India. My soundtrack was regional, too, featuring A.R. Rahman and Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mishra, now an expert, believes the India story has taken Europe by storm. “I feel the ‘Made in India’ label commands much respect now. We would be among the top five countries to have this respect,” he says. “Dior has acknowledged India so graciously with their Mumbai show. I am collaborating with a British brand soon. Three years ago this would have been unthinkable. We are on the cusp of a golden period.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mishra is thrilled that his show was presented at the Monnaie de Paris—a giant neoclassical building in the chic Latin Quarter of the city, which once hosted a retrospective of sculptor Subodh Gupta.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mishra funds his own shows here, and each season costs him between Rs3 crore and Rs4 crore. “It is a business for me,” he says. “Haute couture or even fashion week in Paris is the greatest branding exercise one can do. It is also a beautiful intellectual exercise. When you show alongside important names, it empowers you and your team. I get a lot of private clients and can generate work for my craftsmen. And it also brought about an investment from Reliance.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That brings us to the much touted investment by Reliance. “The ‘Rahul Mishra’ brand is independent. The joint venture with Reliance is for a new ready-to-wear brand. The label will be launched in September and its name will be announced shortly. We are creating something very beautiful and it will have a strong presence in the ready-to-wear market. The JV will also assist in growing my couture label as we are going to jointly run the retail,” he explains. “The beauty of this collaboration is that it has given me a lot of confidence and created a beautiful support system.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/15/indian-fashion-designer-rahul-mishra-about-his-show-at-the-paris-haute-couture-week.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/15/indian-fashion-designer-rahul-mishra-about-his-show-at-the-paris-haute-couture-week.html Sat Jul 15 16:03:35 IST 2023 huma-qureshi-about-portraying-chef-tarla-dalal-on-screen <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/15/huma-qureshi-about-portraying-chef-tarla-dalal-on-screen.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/7/15/66-Huma-Qureshi.jpg" /> <p>When Huma Qureshi was asked if she would like to helm a biopic on India’s culinary legend and Padma Shri awardee Tarla Dalal, ahead of the latter’s tenth death anniversary, she was thrilled and nostalgic. The one person who came to her mind was Meryl Streep (she created an uncanny version of Julia Child in <i>Julie &amp; Julia</i>, and with a spot-on accent). Both the film and Streep have been Qureshi’s “forever favourites”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, while there was no question of declining the opportunity, Qureshi knew she would have to work hard to convincingly look the part; to come close to looking like the legendary chef whom an entire generation grew up watching. But the odds were stacked against her—Qureshi is a hardcore non-vegetarian as against Dalal who was the exact opposite. Neither was non-vegetarian fare ever cooked in the Dalal household nor was anything ordered from outside. In fact, Dalal converted her non-vegetarian husband [Nalin Dalal] into a vegetarian after she saw him having meat with his colleague. Next was the issue of height; while Qureshi stands tall at five feet five inches, Dalal was petite at five feet two inches. The latter’s dainty personality remains as much in public memory as her recipes—so it was important to get that right. Also, Qureshi, with her longish face and a sharp bone structure, looked nothing like Dalal, whose wide jawline held that peculiar toothy grin that was so popular.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I was conscious of the fact that I don’t look like Tarlaji,” Qureshi told THE WEEK. “But, for me, it was very important to capture and come close to the essence of the person whose biopic I am playing. And since we could not do anything about the height and chose to forget about it, we toyed with the idea of using prosthetics, but that was not feasible since we were shooting in peak summer. So, then, we decided to play with the jaw. Given my face is longer, we did a piece to make [my] jaw broader, added two teeth, which are slightly bigger than mine to mimic her toothy smile, which we wanted to capture, then the glasses, the hair; we did multiple rounds of wigs, and all of that. I also tried to get her body language and mannerisms right.” In the 120-minute film that one aspect Qureshi has nailed perfectly, and which makes her so relatable to Dalal, is the nervous energy, which Dalal, a mother of three, was known for. She was a multi-tasker, and perfect at time management. Dalal was known for fixing multiple dishes at the same time, doling out instructions, and ensuring everything is taken care of as she juggled multiple things at the same time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“When we were told that Huma was playing our mother on screen, we knew she would nail it,” said Renu Dalal, Dalal’s daughter, “Also, one crucial aspect which kind of brings her very close to my mother is her belief in being a gracious and generous host. Both our parents believed that hosting guests well was extremely important. Each time a guest left, I saw my father make a list of what we had served them because it was so important that we don’t repeat the same items for them the next time, and also because we would remember what their feedback to particular dishes was.” Renu is an author of three cookbooks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The family visited the set when Qureshi was shooting a scene in which Nalin Dalal comes to see her for the very first time in Pune to ask for her hand in marriage. “It was a very cute scene and I was wearing Tarlaji’s own blue sari that Renuji had sent us. I came out to meet them wearing it and it was an emotional moment for all,” said Qureshi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After six releases last year, with each one vastly different from the other but only a few remarkable and noteworthy, Tarla was just the role that Qureshi needed to boast about her acting chops. With an array of upcoming projects, including <i>Maharani Season 3, Pooja Meri Jaan and Single Salma</i>, Qureshi is looking forward to much more. “Each time I go out and play out a character, I don’t want to repeat myself. I want to approach my work with a fresh set of ideas,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With just over a decade as an established actor in Bollywood, Qureshi achieved instant fame in her debut film, Anurag Kashyap’s critically acclaimed <i>Gangs of Wasseypur</i>, in which she starred as Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s lover. In <i>Tarla</i>, too, Qureshi has her moments. Like the one when she conducts her very first class at home, one instantly feels her pain, her anxiety and nervousness and wants to cheer for her. Her dialogue delivery is unforced and the screenplay does not meander—it is crisp and fast. There are occasional dips, but one does not mind that in the face of an upbeat story that centres around ambition and support.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Said Renu, ”My mother had her kitchen rules always laid out: no leaving the platform messy, arranging everything you need in advance before starting, and no misplacing things. We never ever ordered food at home, it was either that we went out to dine or ate homemade food. My mother knew how to delegate and make the most of the helps she had in the kitchen. I think that is an art unto itself. And, most importantly, she never put pressure on me to get married or to learn cooking, unlike other mothers who always wanted their daughters to learn how to cook so that they find themselves a good spouse.” Post her mother’s passing, Renu became a full fledged cook and has established an identity of her own. “I am still hunting for the Baked Alaska recipe of hers, a dessert with layered ice cream cake covered with merangue, which is then baked. This is one of my favourites and I am not going to stop until I find it. I think my mother’s cheese corn balls were the most popular,” she said.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/15/huma-qureshi-about-portraying-chef-tarla-dalal-on-screen.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/15/huma-qureshi-about-portraying-chef-tarla-dalal-on-screen.html Tue Jul 18 16:41:28 IST 2023 excerpts-from-varavara-rao-a-life-in-poetry <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/15/excerpts-from-varavara-rao-a-life-in-poetry.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/7/15/68-Varavara-Rao.jpg" /> <p><b>Varavara Rao: A Life in Poetry is a collection of poems in English by the Telugu poet and activist, edited by Meena Kandasamy and N. Venugopal. Below, an excerpt from Kandasamy’s introduction</b></p> <p>My first memory of encountering the name ‘Varavara Rao’ was in the newspapers. This was in the early 2000s, when warring guerrilla groups came to peace-talks tables. As a young Tamil woman, I consistently followed the Norway-brokered talks between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Government of Sri Lanka. Likewise, I was fascinated by what was happening on home ground: the talks between People’s War and the Indian government. Perhaps because of the way in which the print media at that time both valorised and demonised the guerrilla fighters, I was fascinated that three people had dared to be emissaries between the governments and the fighters. One of the interlocutors was Varavara Rao, the other two were Gaddar and Kalyan Rao. Growing up in a household without television, I would wake up every morning and read about the progress in these talks as if it were a serialised novel. (Both talks ended in failure; in both cases the state used the ruse of the talks to go on a spate of naked aggression.) To my younger self, being an interlocutor seemed like an act of absolute courage and immense responsibility. At that time, little would I have imagined that one day in my life, I would get the opportunity to work with the poetry of this fierce, larger-than-life poet.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My second memory of encountering Varavara Rao’s name was during a particularly traumatic episode in my brief marriage. The man I married was a self-professed Maoist; he asked me to read aloud a particular poem of Varavara Rao: ‘Photo’. The poem speaks about the risks that await were a revolutionary’s photo to fall into the hands of the police. ‘I lost all my desire for a photo,’ he writes and equates the smell of a burning photograph to the ‘stench of/ iron heels and brutal feet/The stink of khaki dress’. Knowing that my (then) husband was looking for validation for his poetic tastes, I said something to the effect that ‘this poem strikes deep’. I savoured the poem, little aware that it was going to be a precursor to something very sinister. I did not realise that this poem would form the philosophical basis for my abuser embarking on a process of my erasure. Upholding this poem by Varavara Rao as the truest example of a poet committed to the revolution, he would taunt me.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘Why this narcissism? Why do your photos float around on Facebook? Do you realise that if we were to ever go underground, we would be haunted by all these pictures of you that are everywhere?’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Such intellectual bullying would be followed by strict, supervised action: I would be forced to delete my pictures from social media, from my own laptop, from my website, from wherever they existed. Because: a future threat, the fear of the state, the fear of repercussion. Those terrors lay in the faraway unknown, but the terror of displeasing a violent man was immediate. I did as told, believing that my obedience would pave way to his kindness. It did not. These days, as I poke around my internet presence, trying to find my pictures before 2011, I remember this poem. Written by a radical poet to call out state surveillance and intimate memory, I had the misfortune of inhabiting a lived reality where these powerful lines were deployed to serve the purpose of a toxic-masculine act of female erasure. For the many years that followed, I associated the name Varavara Rao with a painful memory; the poet had no role to play in the emotive violence inflicted on me, and yet, his words were appropriated to serve the most unintended cause.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Subsequently, I would come across Varavara Rao’s name in the usual, predictable ways: an invitation to a conference of leftist writers, or the signatory to a petition condemning the state one way or another. In 2018, when I was away teaching in New York and pregnant with my second child, I read news of my friend Rona Wilson’s arrest.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This time Varavara Rao’s name also surfaced—as someone who was under the state’s scanner in the same infamous Bhima Koregaon conspiracy case. He was also arrested. It was during his time in jail that I established touch with N. Venugopal and the idea of this anthology became concrete. Reading Venugopal’s book, <i>Varavara Rao: An Intimate Portrait by a Nephew</i>, I learnt that Varavara Rao has spent close to a decade in various prisons around the country, beginning with his first arrest in 1973. He has been implicated in more than 25 cases, often under various draconian anti-terror legislations such as the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA), the National Security Act (NSA), the Terrorist And Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), but the prosecution has never been able to prove a single charge in a single case against him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Varavara Rao is perhaps the most-jailed poet in independent India’s history. He also holds the distinction for being the only poet to have voluntarily opted to cancel his own bail (in the Secunderabad Conspiracy Case) and instead choose imprisonment. So severe were the threats to his life from state forces that he ‘forfeited the borrowed freedom on bail in order to enjoy the freedom of writing and the security of life’. At the time of this incident, Varavara Rao embodied the angry young man; he was in his early forties. Today, he is double that age (in his eighties), but his fiery verses sparkle with the same rage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Excerpted with permission from Penguin Random House.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>VARAVARA RAO: A LIFE IN POETRY</b></p> <p><i>Edited by <b>N. Venugopal and Meena Kandasamy</b></i></p> <p><i>Published by <b>Penguin Random House</b></i></p> <p><i>Price <b>Rs499;</b> pages <b>119</b></i></p> <p><br> <br> <br> </p> <p><b>What We Need is Poetry</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>BY VARAVARA RAO</b></p> <p><i>Translated by Rohith</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>The poetry</i></p> <p><i>Of tears, of dreams, of enchantments</i></p> <p><i>Poetry of memories and futilities</i></p> <p><i>Poetry of hope, dashed hopes</i></p> <p><i>Aspirations, experiences and emotions.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>The poetry with an embryo</i></p> <p><i>That explodes into a blossom</i></p> <p><i>The poetry that flowers</i></p> <p><i>Releases fragrance and</i></p> <p><i>Comes to fruition.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>The poetry with a spine</i></p> <p><i>That can stand up to the system</i></p> <p><i>And hold it accountable,</i></p> <p><i>The poetry that refuses power</i></p> <p><i>The poetry that challenges the state.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>The poetry with a vision</i></p> <p><i>A foresight and an eye</i></p> <p><i>On the ground.</i></p> <p><i>The poetry of the smile of an infant</i></p> <p><i>That spreads like love, motherly poetry.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>The poetry that won’t shy away from disdain,</i></p> <p><i>The poetry that can bring a world of affection</i></p> <p><i>To its reader.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>The poetry that’s as much a synonym to</i></p> <p><i>Melancholy as it is to solace</i></p> <p><i>The poetry that can stand</i></p> <p><i>On either side of the proletariat</i></p> <p><i>The poetry that paves the way</i></p> <p><i>For the workers’ tomorrow.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>The poetry that’s churned out</i></p> <p><i>Of the immensity of existence</i></p> <p><i>The poetry that’s a symbol</i></p> <p><i>Of the ocean of abysmal lives.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>The poetry that’s a metaphor of our fights</i></p> <p><i>And another world</i></p> <p><i>The poetry of democracy</i></p> <p><i>The poetry of people’s struggles.</i></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/15/excerpts-from-varavara-rao-a-life-in-poetry.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/15/excerpts-from-varavara-rao-a-life-in-poetry.html Tue Jul 18 16:38:20 IST 2023 lorekeepers-aims-to-preserve-folklore-traditions-in-kerala-through-digital-archiving <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/08/lorekeepers-aims-to-preserve-folklore-traditions-in-kerala-through-digital-archiving.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/7/8/63-Child-volunteers-of-the-LoreKeeping-project-during.jpg" /> <p>Kaliyamma M.K.’s lean, weathered frame reflects a lifetime of arduous labour. Her toothy laugh, though, not only exudes charm but also makes others smile.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A 65-year-old dalit, Kaliyamma cannot read or write―she never had the opportunity to learn. Yet she is a treasure trove of wisdom. Etched in her memory are stories and songs that carry the essence of her ancestors’ experiences―from moments of joy and sorrow to tales of bonded labour, and resistance spanning generations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On May 26, Kaliyamma was invited as a special guest to a summer camp held at T.R.K. Upper Primary School at Vengad in Kerala’s Malappuram district. There, with her songs and stories, she regaled her audience―a group of “lore-keepers”, or children recording the session with their cellphones. As the session progressed, the lore-keepers playfully asked Kaliyamma to perform a song traditionally sung by those who toil in paddy fields. Kaliyamma laughed and said, “If I were to begin, the song would last for countless hours. So perhaps it is best I refrain from it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘LoreKeepers’ is a one-of-its-kind initiative by Archival and Research Project (ARPO), a nonprofit dedicated to digital archiving, multimedia storytelling, community engagement and conserving cultural heritage. Its primary objective is to gather oral traditions passed down through generations, and involve younger generations in preserving them for posterity. The emphasis is on collecting oral traditions from historically marginalised groups.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Even those who are now in their forties or fifties did not know many of these stories and songs. So if we do not archive them now, they would be lost forever,” says Majeesh Karayad, artist and project manager at ARPO.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Before independence, extreme forms of untouchability and discrimination prevailed in Kerala. Oral traditions have preserved the harrowing tales of oppression that communities have endured over centuries. Archana K.P., a class seven student at T.R.K. School and a LoreKeepers volunteer, says some of the stories left her bewildered.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“An <i>ammama</i> [elderly lady] told us the meaning of a song, describing how they were compelled to work in the fields of <i>thambrakkans</i> (upper-caste landlords), but were forbidden from even entering their courtyards. She also said that they were not even allowed to be within the vicinity of these <i>thambrakkans</i>,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Such songs not only depict the struggles against discrimination, but also the intense resistance against it as well. For instance, a protest song collected by ARPO speaks out against landlords beating dalit farmers for wearing clothes that covered their knees.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sruthin Lal, ARPO cofounder and former journalist, says the organisation has been preserving oral traditions since 2021. The Vengad camp was the third held by ARPO to build a team of lore-keepers. At the camp, led by Karayad, young volunteers were taught the importance of oral traditions and folklore, along with the basics of videography and digital archiving.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We wanted to involve children in this process of collecting and storing the stories and songs,” says Lal. “There have been many efforts in the past to document oral traditions. But this is a [large-scale] process that requires a collective effort. Also, we now have technology-driven methods to record, collect and curate these traditions and make them available for researchers and libraries.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lal’s journalism background played a crucial role in shaping the project. In 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic was at its peak and the migrant labour crisis was unfolding, Lal and his colleague Dibyaudh Das cycled 600km from Delhi to Lucknow to capture the heartbreaking trek on their cellphones. He has utilised that experience in lore collecting and archiving, and equipped young students to become lore-keepers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lal explained why educational institutions are key collaborators in the project. “Children like to hear stories, and an educational institution would provide many collectors from one place. Also, this is a project funded by the Faizal and Shabana Foundation, which is involved in initiatives related to education and youth,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Subhash P.K., headmaster at T.R.K. School, the LoreKeeper project helped bridge generations. “A student would make a conscious effort to talk to a person from an older generation. This communication is so important. Also, the project requires a student to find a person who knows many stories. This exploration is not easy, and there are chances of failing in it. Even that failure is a learning experience. There are also the possibilities of using digital devices as a tool to produce something creative.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The power of creativity can perform miracles, as the LoreKeepers team recently found out during a visit to Kootalida, Kozhikode. The team was there to meet Balakrishnan T.M., a 66-year-old master of a unique form of <i>kolkali</i> (a folk dance using sticks) performed by Pulayas, a dalit community. Multiple strokes that Balakrishnan suffered two years ago had robbed him of the ability to perform <i>kolkali</i> and made him reliant on a walking stick to move around.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rajani, Balakrishnan’s daughter, recounts the day the lore-keepers visited him to document his repertoire of songs. As the conversation veered towards <i>kolkali</i>, Balakrishnan began singing and demonstrating hand gestures. “Then, astonishingly,” says Rajani, “he got up from his seat, first leaning on his walking stick, and then he discarded the stick and started a spirited display of footwork. He executed <i>kolkali</i> steps with perfection and left all of us in awe.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The lore-keepers believe that the world will soon look in awe at their expanding archive of stories and songs.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/08/lorekeepers-aims-to-preserve-folklore-traditions-in-kerala-through-digital-archiving.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/08/lorekeepers-aims-to-preserve-folklore-traditions-in-kerala-through-digital-archiving.html Sat Jul 08 17:19:15 IST 2023 miss-world-pageant-2023-taking-place-in-india-after-27-years <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/08/miss-world-pageant-2023-taking-place-in-india-after-27-years.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/7/8/66-current-Miss-World-Karolina-Bielawska-and-Miss-India-Sini-Shetty.jpg" /> <p>The year was 1996, five years after liberalisation. The world was making its way to India, and so was Miss World. The international beauty pageant was brought to then Bangalore by Amitabh Bachchan’s ABCL. It did not go well. As <i>The New York Times</i> reported, “Strange bedfellows found themselves entwined in their mutual outrage―feminists who found such contests degrading to women and Hindu nationalists who saw the show as an invasion of western degeneracy”. Women’s groups held a mock pageant at a public park, awarding titles such as Miss Poverty and Miss Homeless. The protests became so severe that the swimsuit competition had to be moved to the Seychelles.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Twenty-seven years later, the Miss World pageant is once again being hosted by India this year. “It was not difficult to choose India,” says Julia Morley, chairman and CEO of the Miss World organisation. “It is a joy and thrill to be here.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was in 1966 that India got its first Miss World. Reita Faria went to London with a suitcase full of borrowed clothes and makeup. For the swimsuit section, she had borrowed a suit from model Persis Khambatta. But the suit did not fit her well, and so she spent the £3 she had brought with her to purchase a new suit and a pair of heels, which she never wore again. Since then, India has had five Miss Worlds―Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Diana Hayden, Yukta Mookhey, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Manushi Chhillar. If the current Miss India, Sini Shetty, wins the Miss World title, India would have the maximum number of Miss Worlds. Shetty says she does not find it a burden to compete in her home country. She would love her fellow contestants to explore India and its culture. “Our values are encapsulated by ‘<i>atithi devo bhava</i>’, which means the guest is equal to God,” says Shetty. “Having a background in hospitality, I think I will do a decent job. I know that I am representing 1.4 billion people.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, Shetty will not find her task easy. She has to compete with winners from 130 countries for the title. It is like working a full-time job, but all the work is done on yourself, says Liza Varma, former Miss India, show director and groomer of Miss India participants. “Your day starts at 6am and goes on till 11pm, and is packed with two to three hours of workout, yoga, controlled meals and meetings.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Varma says that the moment Chhillar walked into her home in 2016, she knew that the young model was going to win the crown for India. For nearly six months, Varma groomed her on her body language, catwalk, confidence, pose and poise. “She had real dedication and was committed to working hard,” she says. Chhillar’s dieticians have earlier shared that she would begin the day with warm water, never skip breakfast, avoid sugar and eat in small quantities. From diet to grooming to personality development to even skin and dental health, participants are prepared to be the best version of themselves, says Varma.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But besides all this, the most important asset is that X-factor within oneself, says Dr Aditi Govitrikar, actor, physician and model who became the first Indian woman to win the Mrs World title in 2001. On beauty pageants being called regressive, she says, “There has always been this argument, but it is also true that beautiful women have a place in society, and that includes their inner beauty. In the field I have chosen, I get paid for how I look. Brands rope in models to promote their products. Moreover, these women get a platform to support a cause and spread a message. Having said that, even though Miss World and Miss Universe have their own criteria, many beauty pageants have now tweaked their rules to become more inclusive, where height and body measurements do not matter.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When she won Mrs World, she was criticised for competing after marriage. Your career is over, people told her. “But I had to change the notion that a woman’s life was over after marriage,” she says. “Today [things have changed so much that] when I judge such pageants, women tell me they want even their daughters-in-law to participate.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Miss World pageant, founded in 1951, is the longest-running international beauty contest. It started with Julia’s husband, Eric―who was the publicity director of an entertainment company―getting the idea to include an international bikini contest in the Festival of Britain. Due to protests from countries like Ireland and Spain, the bikini was changed to a one-piece bathing suit, but it did not impact the contest’s growing popularity. The rise of TV spurred it further, and by 1959, the BBC had begun broadcasting it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Since the beginning, 70 Miss Worlds have paraded their beauty, talents and intelligence on the world stage. The current Miss World, Karolina Bielawska from Poland, says she is excited to come to India, and hopes to work in a Bollywood film one day. She says her mother had planned a much-anticipated trip for them to India, but it never materialised. “So now, it is like fulfilling her dream,” she says. “I am really looking forward to visiting Agra, Bengaluru and Mumbai, and absorb their culture. I love butter chicken and cannot wait to try other Indian flavours.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Julia, what makes Indian winners unique is their hard work, discipline, sense of humour, kindness, respectfulness and originality. The past Miss Worlds from India have not only put the country on a global map, but they have also gone on to become global icons, superstars and entrepreneurs. If Shetty wins the Miss World title, she will have large heels to fill.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/08/miss-world-pageant-2023-taking-place-in-india-after-27-years.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/08/miss-world-pageant-2023-taking-place-in-india-after-27-years.html Sat Jul 08 17:16:50 IST 2023 tamannaah-bhatia-lust-stories-2-shares-her-experience-in-ott <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/08/tamannaah-bhatia-lust-stories-2-shares-her-experience-in-ott.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/7/8/68-Tamannaah-Bhatia.jpg" /> <p>I think cinema itself has become global post-pandemic, its consumption [is] so universal―languages aren’t barriers anymore,” said actor Tamannaah Bhatia. She spoke from experience. After debuting in 2005 in the Hindi film <i>Chand Sa Roshan Chehra</i>, Bhatia has straddled Kannada, Telugu and Tamil films. Her body of work encompasses a wide variety of roles―from a warrior princess and a village belle to a bouncer and a dancer. Last year, Madhur Bhandarkar directed her in the Hindi film, <i>Babli Bouncer</i>, which premiered on Disney+ Hotstar, and she flagged off this year with the romantic drama <i>Jee Karda</i> on Amazon Prime Video, in which she plays a woman in her 30s looking back on her life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, Bhatia is in the news for her latest OTT film on Netflix, <i>Lust Stories 2</i>. She stars opposite actor Vijay Varma. Said Bhatia, “I think OTT gives us a great space. It gives us a chance to be different people. I got to show my physical strength in <i>Babli Bouncer</i>, and, in <i>Jee Karda</i>, I got the chance to showcase an urban Mumbai girl. Also, it is being consumed globally―I don’t think they’re churning out movies in long format only in our country, but for global consumption. So, for us, it is an interesting time, where we are putting our stories out but they are consumed all over the world.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So what has it been like to be a part of big productions? “The thing about being a part of these humongous films is that nobody really knows until it goes out to people,” she said. Bhatia gave credit for her popularity [in the south] to the resonance that her films have had with the audience. “I got a lot of acceptance from the audience,” she said, “I think it is how the south understands that telling rooted stories is unique.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Recently, Bhatia became Swiss watchmaker Longines’s Brand Friend. “I own it, my family owns it,” said Bhatia, “It is a brand I gravitated towards when it came to watches. Longines really stands for its tagline―‘Elegance is an attitude’. It has stood the test of time when it comes to the pieces they churn out, and they continue to do that.” She feels watches are a reflection of a person, and does not enjoy pieces that are heavy or bejewelled. “When I think of owning a watch or getting one as a gift, I would naturally come to this brand. It is my sense of style,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Films are not the only thing keeping the actor busy. In 2021, Bhatia unveiled her book, <i>Back to the Roots</i>, which she co-authored with Luke Coutinho, a celebrity lifestyle coach. It dealt with ancient Indian health and wellness practices for a holistic life. This year, the actor also launched her online jewellery brand, Wite&amp;Gold.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Having completed nearly 18 years in films, what have been the lessons she learnt along the way? “What I’ve definitely learned is that consistency is key. You have to keep working on your craft. The key is to evolve as a person and it will naturally translate into whatever job you’re in,” said Bhatia.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/08/tamannaah-bhatia-lust-stories-2-shares-her-experience-in-ott.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/08/tamannaah-bhatia-lust-stories-2-shares-her-experience-in-ott.html Sat Jul 08 16:12:06 IST 2023 debasmita-dasgupta-graphic-novel-terminal-3-review <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/08/debasmita-dasgupta-graphic-novel-terminal-3-review.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/7/8/71-Terminal-3-new.jpg" /> <p>Kashmir is a land of paradoxes. For the 13th century poet and scholar Amir Khusrau, the valley meant heaven. For many, it meant living in uncertainty and on the brink of violent death. The land of thriving dreams and crushed desires. The scenic land of snow-capped mountains that turns red and smoky in the blink of a moment. The land of food and culture, and yet the land of conflicts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When graphic novelist and film producer Debasmita Dasgupta sat down to sketch her rendition of Kashmir, in the form of a graphic novel―<i>Terminal 3</i>, published by India Penguin―she looked at it through the dreamy eyes of a teen, Khwab Nazir. While many voices from the valley have narrated the tales of disintegration of lives, Dasgupta’s version is a fairly simpler, one-of-a-kind and impactful one. Her illustrations bring the story and its characters to life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A jiu-jitsu player, 17-year-old Nazir grows up in a family that pushes her to achieve success despite their kin complaining about her getting tanned due to long practice sessions, and nagging the family about her marriage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The idea, according to Dasgupta, germinated a decade ago when she had started her Facebook page to share stories of fathers who defended the rights of their daughters. “There were not enough such positive stories back then,” she says. “Men were usually seen as perpetrators of violence but I also wanted to tell stories of men who had supported women. I have personally had a great relationship with my father and he has supported me in becoming whatever I am today.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the backdrop of the story of dreams in a conflicted land is also the parallel heart-breaking story of, Noor, Nazir’s best friend, and Yusuf Najar. Their innocent love blossoms, but their joy is shortlived as Nazir is killed in an explosion which blinds Noor. “I’m not dead, Khwab. I’m only wounded. I shall live. My soul will resurrect from the ashes of my bones,” says a valiant Noor, reflecting on the undying spirit of the people of Kashmir.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Terminal 3</i> goes back and forth in time between 2017 and 2019 as Nazir reminisces what led her to the present day where she is ready to spread her wings. Waiting for her flight at Indira Gandhi International Airport’s Terminal 3 in August 2019, she wonders why she could not reach out to her family back in Kashmir over phone. This was also a time when Article 370 was scrapped in the valley and the special status of the state was removed, leading to disconnection of mobile networks in order to maintain peace during the time of transition.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Her next graphic novel is the story of Faiza, a boxer from Himachal Pradesh. “People of any conflict zones are humans at the end of the day and have friends, family, relationships, lovers, dreams. We sometimes forget about these aspects,” says Dasgupta.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>TERMINAL 3</b></p> <p><i>By</i> <b>Debasmita Dasgupta</b></p> <p><i>Published by</i> <b>India Penguin</b></p> <p><i>Price</i> <b>Rs223;</b> <i>pages</i> <b>110</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/08/debasmita-dasgupta-graphic-novel-terminal-3-review.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/08/debasmita-dasgupta-graphic-novel-terminal-3-review.html Sat Jul 08 16:07:52 IST 2023 the-success-of-south-asian-artistes-is-quietly-changing-american-theatre <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/01/the-success-of-south-asian-artistes-is-quietly-changing-american-theatre.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/7/1/103-Michael-Maliakel-in-Aladdin-broadway.jpg" /> <p>Some very startling things are happening on Broadway, New York’s renowned theatre district. The Disney extravaganza <i>Aladdin</i> is playing to packed houses, and for the first time, Aladdin is played not by a white or black actor but by an Indian, Michael Maliakel. Aladdin’s love interest, Princess Jasmine, is also played by an actor of Indian-origin, Sonya Balsara.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The previous lead, too, was Indian―Shoba Narayan, who was recently seen as Nessarose in Wicked, another big Broadway show. Shoba made her Broadway debut in 2016 in <i>Natasha, Pierre &amp; The Great Comet</i> of 1812 and became the first female South Asian actor to play a principal role on Broadway. She also played Eliza in <i>Hamilton</i> on the national tour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another Broadway production packed with South Asian actors is <i>Life of Pi,</i> based on Yann Martel’s bestselling novel. In its final weeks, Pi is being played by a woman, Indian actress Uma Paranjpe. The gender change was the decision of the playwright―the London-based Lolita Chakraborti, herself a mother of two girls. <i>Life of Pi</i> has already bagged three Tonys, New York’s most prestigious theatre award, and five Oliviers, including the one for best play.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Look at any playbill, and you can now find desi names on it. When <i>The Kite Runner</i>, set in Afghanistan, played recently on Broadway, critic Maya Philips wrote in <i>The New York Times:</i> “Legitimacy is always a tricky question when it comes to productions about people of colour. That a story about the struggles of Afghans over the course of nearly three decades is on Broadway is a feat in itself, as is the cast of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are now so many South Asian names in theatre that change is in the air outside Broadway as well. Mira Nair’s musical <i>Monsoon Wedding</i> has been drawing huge crowds since its opening at St Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn. Each day, right before the performance, there is a lively <i>baraat</i> where the performers and audience sway to the lively ‘band baja’, often with Nair herself joining in. The jubilant audiences of mixed nationalities show the appetite for delicious Indian fare.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The new openness is there for all to see. Recently, the Indian theatre production <i>Mughal-e-Azam</i> opened in the prestigious Lincoln Center in New York and travelled to 13 American cities. The cast also gave a sneak peak by performing a flash dance at Times Square, the heart of the Broadway theatre district. Watching and applauding were hundreds of tourists and Broadway lovers. Even though South Asians are not generally known as a theatre-going community, they lapped up the expensive Broadway tickets thanks to their fond memories of the original <i>Mughal-e-Azam</i>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The way things are going, it would well be appropriate to change the famous Broadway song ‘Give My Regards to Broadway’ to ‘Give my Namaste to Broadway’. After decades of struggle, Indian and the larger circle of South Asian actors are finally getting their due.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, there have been a few South Asians who have had to toil in relative anonymity and are just about getting noticed. But there are also a few who are crown jewels of American theatre. One of them is novelist and playwright Ayad Akhtar, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and president of PEN America. His Broadway play <i>Junk: The Golden Age of Debt</i> (2016) won a Tony nomination; <i>Disgraced</i>, which played at Lincoln Center and Broadway in 2013, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a Tony nomination; <i>The Invisible Hand</i> (2015) won several awards including the Obie Award and the Olivier award.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rajiv Joseph is another well-known name. An Indian-American whose thought-provoking plays have won acclaim, Joseph made his Broadway debut in 2011 with <i>Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo</i>, which starred Robin Williams and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. According to Broadway World, “Joseph’s impact on the theatre world has been significant. His plays have been produced in theatres across the US and around the world, and he has been recognised with numerous awards and honours.” His current play on Broadway, <i>King James</i>, has received acclaim from critics and audiences.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Award-winning designer Neil Patel has won two Obies for the amazing sets he created for Broadway and off-Broadway productions. His latest was the magnificent sets of <i>Mughal-e-Azam</i>. Nehal Joshi, an Indian actor who has notched up several Broadway shows, including <i>All My Sons, Flying over Sunset</i> and <i>Les Miserables</i>, was the final Phantom of <i>The Phantom of the Opera</i>―the longest running show on Broadway.</p> <p>These South Asian success stories are no coincidence. Said actor Meetu Chilana, who stars in <i>Monsoon Wedding:</i> “In the actor pool, there are a lot more young South Asians, and there is a lot more support from their parents, which is very different from earlier generations.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Behind the South Asian success on Broadway, stories of great struggle abound. Choreographer Devanand Janki moved from Canada to New York around 40 years ago, when he was only 18. He had trained as a professional ballet dancer and boy soprano in Canada, and in New York, he attended the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. It was a tough life: he worked as a singing waiter and relentlessly auditioned. “No agents would touch me. They were basically like, ‘You are un-castable’,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After 10 auditions, Janki finally bagged a role in a big Broadway show, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s <i>Cats</i>. He played the lead cat, but of course, was covered in makeup. It was his singing and dancing ability that got him the role. More Broadway shows followed: <i>West Side Story </i>and<i> Miss Saigon</i>, and the world tour of <i>The King and I.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For the next decade, Janki worked steadily on Broadway, with only two other Indian actors working alongside him. They would meet at auditions for bit roles and share their joys and frustrations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For South Asians, the big breakthrough came in 2004, with Webber’s <i>Bombay Dreams</i>. For the first time, desis were celebrating their own story on Broadway with an all-South Asian cast. <i>Bombay Dreams</i> ran for 11 months on Broadway, selling 3.67 lakh tickets and grossing $22.4 million.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet, it did not do well enough in the American market. But, as the musical’s male lead Manu Narayan put it, it allowed a whole generation of South Asians to see themselves on stage. “They were like six or seven years old at that time, and now they are arts professionals in New York City,” said Narayan. “When I meet them, they bring me to tears as they talk about how our performances in <i>Bombay Dreams</i> not only allowed them to see a career for themselves as professional artists, but had their parents allowing them to do it as well. It was very powerful.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indeed, things do not arrive readymade on Broadway. It takes years and years of performances in other places, in many regional shows, for a work to be fine-tuned and launched on Broadway. For South Asians, in the pipeline is what could be a surreal surprise: Yash Raj Films’ Broadway adaptation of the Bollywood classic <i>Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge</i>. Titled Come Fall in Love: The DDLJ Musical, it stars Shoba Narayan (<i>Aladdin</i>) and Austin Colby (<i>Frozen</i>). It will begin previews at Old Globe in San Diego in September before heading to Broadway.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Will all these changes result in a winning formula for new, global audiences? According to Janki, 90 per cent of decision-makers in American theatre are still white men; to see a real change, he said, the situation needed to change.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We need to have representation in directors and writers and producers and stage managers and designers of costumes and sets―the stuff that happens behind the stage,” he said. “Those are the people calling the shots.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/01/the-success-of-south-asian-artistes-is-quietly-changing-american-theatre.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/01/the-success-of-south-asian-artistes-is-quietly-changing-american-theatre.html Sat Jul 01 17:02:54 IST 2023 pageboy-a-memoir-by-elliot-page-book-review <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/01/pageboy-a-memoir-by-elliot-page-book-review.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/7/1/107-Pageboy-new.jpg" /> <p>When the imagined world seems better than the real, one escapes to it frequently, basking in its comfort and delusions. Looking back at his life as Ellen, 36-year-old Elliot Page writes in his memoir <i>Pageboy</i>, “My imagination was a lifeline. It was where I felt the most unrestrained, un-self conscious, real.” Ultimately, this living in his imagination fed into his onscreen calling. With his roles in films like <i>Juno</i> (2007), <i>Inception</i> (2010) and <i>X-Men:</i> <i>Days of Future Past</i> (2014), Page is an established name in Hollywood today. He was recently seen in the web series, <i>The Umbrella Academy.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He says he knew at the age of four that he was a boy stuck in a girl’s body. It would take him two decades to finally come out as gay, and another couple of years to reveal his transgender identity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a child, he would try to urinate standing like a man, not caring if he spilled all over. He would cut his hair short and wear collared shirts and pants. However, he soon had to give up his ways when he took up acting as a profession. His pictures from <i>Juno</i>’s premiere show his discomfort at being made to wear a dress and heels. At the age of 20, he won an Oscar nomination for his role in <i>Juno</i>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The success of <i>Juno</i> coincided with people in the industry telling me no one could know I was queer,” he writes. “That it would not be good for me, that I should have options, to trust that this was for the best. I was struggling with depression and having panic attacks so bad I would collapse.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The insensitivity of the media would add to the trauma. He shuddered in disdain when the headline of a popular news magazine speculated, ‘Is Ellen Page gay?’ Being called a “dyke”, Page writes, was like being smacked across the face.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From kissing a girl for the first time to visiting a queer space and feeling whole, he bares his soul in the book. He writes about his relationships and sexual encounters with co-actors, both onscreen and off, and getting rid of shame as he comes into himself.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“That time at Reflections (a gay bar) was new for me, being in a queer space and being present, enjoying it,” he writes. “Shame had been drilled into my bones since I was my tiniest self, and I struggled to rid my body of that old toxic and erosive marrow.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He is also open about the sexual harassment he faced as a minor working in Hollywood, often from film directors and crew members. “Turning 18 further frayed my boundaries, an unspoken permission slip I did not consent to,” he writes, describing how a female crew member would repeatedly take him to her apartment for non-consensual sex. This continued for years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Pageboy</i> is a deep dive into what it takes to survive in the binary gendered world. Despite the challenges, Page thrives, writing his story in his own voice and reclaiming his true self. From being denounced by magazines for his sexual identity to becoming the first trans man to appear on the cover of TIME, Page’s journey is a true page-turner.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Pageboy: A Memoir</b></p> <p><i>By</i> <b>Elliot Page</b></p> <p><i>Published by</i> <b>Flatiron Books</b></p> <p><i>Price</i> <b>Rs1,383;</b> <i>pages</i> <b>288</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/01/pageboy-a-memoir-by-elliot-page-book-review.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/01/pageboy-a-memoir-by-elliot-page-book-review.html Sat Jul 01 13:17:42 IST 2023 nawazuddin-siddiqui-about-playing-romantic-and-lighter-roles-in-his-new-movies <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/01/nawazuddin-siddiqui-about-playing-romantic-and-lighter-roles-in-his-new-movies.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/7/1/108-Tiku-Weds-Sheru.jpg" /> <p>There was a time, says actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui, when he was head over heels in love with a woman for four years. But he never gathered the courage to tell her. “I was totally smitten,” he says. “It was one-sided, of course. I had built up this fantastical world with her, and she did not have a clue. That is the way to love. One needs to have that spark, and a certain passion for true romance. If you are a lover-boy off screen, you will be able to portray it well on-screen too.” Recently, Siddiqui, 49, got mercilessly trolled for romancing an actor half his age (Avneet Kaur) in his latest film, <i>Tiku Weds Sheru</i>―a Kangana Ranaut production which just released on Amazon Prime Video. Defending himself, the actor says he is “far better at love and romance than all the millennials put together, who are glued to their phones and could, at best, get involved with AI bots”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dressed in a pista green suit and holding a mug of black coffee, Siddiqui is sitting in a Mumbai studio with Kaur, 21. He says in a way, this film is a dream come true, something he has been waiting for ever since he started his career in 1999. It is not just a mainstream commercial film, but it is also a role far removed from his brooding, gun-wielding, gangster characters. He is neither playing second fiddle like in films like Kick (2014) and <i>Bajrangi Bhaijaan</i> (2015) nor is he part of an ensemble cast, like in <i>Gangs of Wasseypur</i> (2012).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Surprisingly, Siddiqui says he has always had an affinity for lighter, romantic roles. When he graduated from the National School of Drama with friend and co-actor Rajpal Yadav, both had decided that they would pursue lighter roles, but while Yadav did veer towards comedy, Siddiqui was handed dark and intense scripts. “That might have to do with my dark skin and the intense look on my face,” he jokes, turning to Kaur and asking whether his face gives an impression of seriousness. She dismisses it with a grin. “I don’t know why, but despite becoming popular doing comic plays in school, when Rajpal and I were leaving school, my teacher pleaded with me not to do comedy when I went to Mumbai,” says Siddiqui. “It got me to introspect. But back then, as long as I was getting work, I was okay. Then, at some point, I felt life was turning out to be quite dark, dull and bleak. It was time to pep it up with a splash of colour. It was time to try romance and add some chutzpah to life.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A few films like <i>Freaky Ali</i> (2016) and <i>Manto</i> (2018) have been exceptions. But <i>Tiku Weds Sheru</i>, he says, is a consummation of all his hopes. “Earlier, too, I had done romantic roles, but it is for the first time that I am doing such a full-fledged and quirky romance,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, his tryst as a lover-boy does not seem to have gone down well with the audience. <i>Tiku Weds Sheru</i> turns out to be a disappointing and direction-less hotchpotch. Despite the slice-of-life film being based on Siddiqui’s own life experiences and struggles as a junior artiste in Bollywood, his delivery seems caricaturish, and the chemistry between him and Kaur is almost non-existent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Co-written and directed by Sai Kabir, who made <i>Revolver Rani</i>, <i>Tiku Weds Sheru</i> tells the story of Sheru (Siddiqui), a Mumbaikar from Bhopal who plays bit roles in bad films and makes his living, reluctantly, as a pimp. His bride, Tiku (Kaur) comes with a fat dowry and a fatter dream―to be a film star. She uses him to get a ticket to tinseltown.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After films like Kabir Khan’s <i>New York</i> (2009) and Ritesh Batra’s <i>The Lunchbox</i> (2013), Siddiqui seems to have lost the plot with his recent choices. His last, <i>Jogira Sara Ra Ra</i> (2023), turned out to be a slice-of-life comedy with no novelty. “Yes, I want to experiment with lighter roles, because that is what I think comes naturally to me,” he says. “I will not say no to intense roles, either. But I will not do anything just for the heck of it. I have really felt for the films I have worked in, and I believe I can connect with the audience with my comic timing.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He added that even in something as dark as <i>Gangs of Wasseypur</i>, there was always a line or two that would make people laugh. “The humour is always present in my dialogues in some way or the other, and I will stick to that,” he says. “Films may work or not. My assessment of my talent is that, I am very much capable of comedy and romance.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However much he is capable of on-screen romance, his love life off screen has been a mess, with estranged wife Aaliya accusing him of domestic abuse. Siddiqui maintains a stoic silence. “I would not want to talk about it, please,” he says. “I want to keep the personal and professional separate, and I am able to do it only because of my passion for my work.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/01/nawazuddin-siddiqui-about-playing-romantic-and-lighter-roles-in-his-new-movies.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/07/01/nawazuddin-siddiqui-about-playing-romantic-and-lighter-roles-in-his-new-movies.html Sat Jul 01 16:55:35 IST 2023 stories-of-tawaifs-are-seeing-a-revival-on-screen-and-in-print <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/24/stories-of-tawaifs-are-seeing-a-revival-on-screen-and-in-print.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/6/24/63-Madhuri-Dixit-Nene.jpg" /> <p>When Jubilee’s Nilofer, played by Wamiqa Gabbi in the 2023 web series, is brought to a shabby <i>kotha</i> in a newly independent India, <i>she</i> resists, asking to be taken to a better one. She finally escapes from the clutches of the ‘madam’ and goes on to become an actor in Bombay. Nilofer’s transition from a <i>tawaif</i> in British India to an actor in independent India perfectly captures the death of the <i>tawaif</i> culture that came about with the British rule and India’s subsequent independence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This forgotten culture is the premise of filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s OTT magnum opus <i>Heeramandi</i>. The upcoming series narrates the stories of three generations of <i>tawaifs</i> living in Heera Mandi in pre-independence Pakistan’s Lahore. It is not as if <i>tawaifs</i> never had a screen presence―they have been immortalised by leading actors like Madhubala in <i>Mughal-e-Azam</i> (1960), Meena Kumari (<i>Pakeezah</i>, 1972) and Rekha and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (<i>Umrao Jaan</i>, 1981 and 2006). But there has been a renewed interest in the life and times of <i>tawaifs</i>, not just on screen but off it, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unlike popular perception though, <i>tawaifs</i> were not prostitutes. According to Saba Dewan, author of <i>Tawaifnama</i> (2019), <i>tawaifs</i> were women highly skilled in the arts, music and dance who also offered sex, but always consensual―they could choose their lovers. They played an important role in preserving art forms, from classical musical strains like dadras, thumris, and ghazals to dance forms like kathak. They were wealthy, owned properties and enjoyed the patronage of the upper class and the creative community. Their origins can be traced to the period of renaissance (14th-17th century) where courtesans―women who stayed in royal courts―offered entertainment and companionship to aristocratic men. Be it in Greece, Rome or closer home, courtesans became women of importance in the society. “They would say men weren’t cultivated enough if they didn’t frequent a <i>kotha,”</i> said Dewan. “But the reality was that in the 19th century, <i>kothas</i> were sites of artistic cultivation with highly trained dancers, musicians, poets and writers. There were ustads and musicians put up there and <i>kothas</i> were cultural hubs.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But in a colonial world, the <i>tawaif</i> culture was deeply stigmatised and lost patronage, with public morality being preached. “‘The white man’s burden’ was to cleanse the society of such ‘fallen women’ and to ‘control loose men’,” said Dewan. What further put a stop to the <i>tawaif</i> culture was the Contagious Diseases Act of 1868 that formalised detaining and checking of ‘diseased’ women to prevent the spread of venereal diseases and the Cantonment Act of 1895 that outlawed any official approval of prostitution in cantonments.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Also, the need for a <i>tawaif</i> was diminishing in a fast-changing world, said Dewan. By the late 19th century, middle-class women were educated and could provide companionship to men rather than just being caregivers. Furthermore, entertainment was now also found in cinema and in clubs. Dance bars, she added, were “a manifestation of the decline of the <i>tawaif</i> culture and the dance bars were trying to evoke a filmi image of <i>tawaif</i> girls. Girls related to former <i>tawaifs</i> also worked in bars”. That is when the boundaries between a <i>tawaif</i> and a sex worker were blurred, explained Dewan, as the former took to sex work for financial support. However, back in the days when kothas and <i>tawaifs</i> thrived, there was a clear difference between a <i>tawaif</i> and a sex worker.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Manish Gaekwad, author and senior manager (creative), Red Chillies Entertainment, said his mother, a former <i>tawaif</i>, would get furious when anyone confused them with sex workers. “We don’t do that work,” she would say. He also does not agree with the glorification of the <i>tawaif</i> culture in films. The first look of Bhansali’s <i>Heeramandi</i> shows women dressed and decked in gold. Even his Chandramukhi in <i>Devdas</i> (2002) had a similar touch. “Not all <i>tawaifs</i> were as glamorous as Bhansali’s are,” said Gaekwad, who wrote the screenplay for the 2020 web series <i>She</i> and was the script consultant for the 2022 film <i>Badhaai Do.</i> “Some lived in small and scruffy <i>kothas.”</i> The days were spent in <i>riyaaz</i> (practice) and kathak training and the nights were spent entertaining patrons, he added.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gaekwad grew up in a <i>kotha</i>, and remembers a beautiful world engulfed in perfume, costumes, music and dance. As he grew up, the hushed words and silences around him made him realise that there was something unacceptable about his mother’s profession. “I was called the son of a whore,” he said. “When I was sent to a boarding school, I always told everyone my mother was a dancer, which she was, and nobody had to know more than that.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most <i>tawaifs</i> of the time earned well, as the income was unaccounted for, and sent their children to boarding schools to give them a better future. However, with liberalisation and opening of bars, the kotha culture became a closed-door affair. “I don’t want to blame Manmohan Singh here (who is credited with liberalising the Indian economy as finance minister),” said Gaekwad, chuckling.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2018, Gaekwad wrote about his mother’s journey on Twitter and in newspaper columns, which landed him a book deal. He has published two books so far―<i>Lean Days</i> (2018) and <i>The Last Courtesan</i> (2023). His second book is a first-person account of his mother’s story. His next book, which comes out next year, is based on his growing up years in a kotha.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Stories of <i>tawaifs</i> are finding their place not just in books and scripts. Gaurav Sharma, who teaches Indian Art History at NIFT Delhi and conducts heritage walks, has observed a growing interest from middle-aged people and students, especially women. His walks are centred around former <i>tawaif</i> colonies in Old Delhi. Once the Mughals shifted their capital from Agra to Delhi, he said, the <i>tawaif</i> culture, too, spread across Old Delhi. Only a few remnants remain today like the Randi Ka Masjid in Old Delhi that was constructed in a <i>tawaif’s</i> honour. “I carry photos for people to visualise how the kothas were as none of them exist today,” said Sharma. While narrating the history, he makes sure to avoid the use of certain words as they have been misconstrued over the years. Mujra, for instance, was not necessarily attached to dance but was a salutation, he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dewan said that the current conversations around <i>tawaifs</i> were helping address a crucial silence in women’s history. “It is about recovering lost history,” she said. <i>“Tawaifs</i> should get due credit for preserving art and culture and dance forms generation after generation.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/24/stories-of-tawaifs-are-seeing-a-revival-on-screen-and-in-print.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/24/stories-of-tawaifs-are-seeing-a-revival-on-screen-and-in-print.html Sat Jun 24 16:14:14 IST 2023 kishwar-desai-partition-museum-in-delhi <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/24/kishwar-desai-partition-museum-in-delhi.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/6/24/66-Exhibits-at-the-Partition-Museum-in-Delhi.jpg" /> <p>Trains and platforms overloaded with desperate passengers who, in search of a new home, have left behind their homes and loved ones. The horrors of the partition have them displaced and a little dead inside. Some walk over piles of bodies, while some painfully leave their people behind—often not willing to search for them for fear of finding them in traumatising conditions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Deepa Mehta’s <i>Earth</i>, Govind Nihalani’s <i>Tamas</i> and Chandraprakash Dwivedi’s <i>Pinjar</i> capture the pain of partition in cinema, as effectively as Khushwant Singh’s <i>Train to Pakistan</i>, Saadat Hasan Manto’s stories and Urvashi Butalia’s <i>The Other Side of Silence</i> do in literature.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the largest mass migrations in human history, partition torments the survivors even now. But when it comes to memorialising the event physically, and not just in the pop culture space, there still remains a certain void. Offering a vision to fill it is author Kishwar Desai, who had set up a partition museum in Amritsar in 2017 through The Arts and Culture Heritage Trust.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Desai has now established the Partition Museum in the Dara Shikoh Library Building at Dr B.R. Ambedkar University in Delhi. The location is apt. The city, especially Old Delhi, bled profusely during the partition—it lost about two-thirds of its Muslim population. The city’s refugee camps housed thousands of Hindu and Sikh refugees who poured in from across the border. Some families took refuge in Delhi’s tombs. “There were all sorts of people there—rich, poor, business families,” says Desai as she points to pictures of hundreds of camps at Purana Qila. “It didn’t matter what you had earlier. Now you had been reduced to a refugee in a camp.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Old Delhi is more alive than the city’s posh areas because of its rich culture and often painful history. Cinema halls spoke volumes of the milieu. Jagat Talkies near Jama Masjid was popular among Muslims, while Moti Talkies was the preferred place for Hindus. Daryaganj’s Delite Cinema played patriotic films. Ads in Urdu, Hindi and English served the population.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Theatres collapsed during the partition, and with it went their monopolies. What remains of Old Delhi today is the Jama Masjid, the Muslim settlements around it, the Chandni Chowk, the Khan Market and stories waiting to be told. Desai felt fortunate when she was given a place in Old Delhi for the museum.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Displayed at the museum are souvenirs of partition-era migrations—kettle, blanket, shawl, antique chair, and so on—sourced from the families of survivors. While the Amritsar museum focuses on the region around it, its Delhi counterpart shows the partition’s impact on the capital.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Galleries in the museum show various phases of partition. Along with the planned Dara Shikoh digital exhibition area, there are sections recounting the events leading up to the partition, the migration and the refugees, the rebuilding of Delhi, and the gallery of hope and courage. All of them display artefacts sourced from those who lived through the partition. There are installations, oral narrations and interviews, and pictures from the past. The migration gallery has a train installation, with lost luggage and traces of blood everywhere. It harks back to the time when trains carried thousands of refugees—and sometimes dead bodies—to this side of the border. The trains brought broken families that hoped for a new beginning in a new nation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The first hall of the library that will soon house the digital exhibition was handed down to David Ochterlony, the British resident of the East India Company from 1803 to 1806. Desai hopes to view the restored space as a cultural hub that will host book launches, art exhibitions and musical evenings. She says the seed of the museum idea was planted 25 years ago, but she was initially discouraged as it would require a lot of work. “My parents lived through the partition and came from Lahore,” she says. “My father was pursuing his PhD [on] Urdu poetry and loved Lahore. When they came to India, my grandfather could only bring some books back, as a family had already occupied our house there.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When India turned 70 in 2017, Desai felt it was the right time to set up a space commemorating the horrors of the partition. So, after successfully establishing the Amritsar museum, Desai started preparing for the Delhi museum in 2018. The Union culture ministry handed over the building to Desai’s trust under the Adopt A Heritage scheme. Her parents were the first to donate artefacts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After visiting the Amritsar museum, author and lyricist Gulzar said, “You have taken our pain and put it up on the walls. Now we can talk about it.” Desai feels conversations would now be stirred in Delhi as well.</p> <p>“We talk about freedom fighters often, but not the people who paid the price of the partition,” she says. “Unfortunately, independence would not have been possible without the partition and so, people unwillingly had to pay the price.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Will there be another partition museum in a different part of the country? “No,” says Desai. “It requires a lot of investment, and until we don’t have enough, I can’t think of it.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/24/kishwar-desai-partition-museum-in-delhi.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/24/kishwar-desai-partition-museum-in-delhi.html Sat Jun 24 16:12:49 IST 2023 shaitan-review-a-show-of-blood-gore-and-expletives <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/24/shaitan-review-a-show-of-blood-gore-and-expletives.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/6/24/69-Shaitan.jpg" /> <p>In the first episode of the Telugu web series <i>Shaitan</i>―streaming on Disney + Hotstar―which has a runtime of hardly 30 minutes, the audience is reminded about the colour of blood. One of the initial scenes is at a butcher’s shop, where blood from a butchered animal splatters on to the face of Bali, the lead character. A few minutes later, blood is back, but this time on the face of his brother Gomthi, who kills a dog cruelly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Before you recover from the bloodbath, the climax scene arrives: Bali severs the head of a police officer (Yaqub). Cut to blood-splattered Bali again. The audience is introduced to conventional and unconventional expletives, blood of different creatures, and also two sex scenes, all packed in one episode. Across nine episodes, you see three severed human heads.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This pretty much sums up the shock value of <i>Shaitan</i>, a nine-part series directed by Mahi V. Raghav. Going through the series, two observations are hard to miss. The first is the attempt to imitate some of the more successful Hindi crime OTT shows that are high on abuse and sex. The second is the desperation to rely on extreme scenes to keep the pot… sorry, plot, boiling.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Shaitan</i> revolves around a family that sticks together; they turn into motivated criminals to survive the harsh realities of life that threaten to finish them. Bali (Rishi) is the son of Savitri (Shelly), a single mother, who allows a police officer, Yaqub, to sexually exploit her in return for financial support. Bali has two siblings―Jayaprada (Deviyani Sharma) and Gomthi (Jaffer Sadiq), who is a dwarf.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The social discrimination and acute poverty faced by the family form the fundamentals of the show. With time, Bali takes up the mantle of being a responsible son. He becomes a criminal to support his family. His aimless tryst with the Left-wing extremist movement makes up the rest of the story, in the backdrop is his pursuit of the home minister and a blossoming friendship with a cop.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bali is the central character of the show, and Rishi has done an impressive job playing the role. A fearless and remorseless criminal, Bali wears a smile throughout the show, and his peculiarities stay with the viewers even after the show ends. This is a different take on the bond between a mother and children.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The script is not very tight, but it is engaging given the extreme situations showcased in the show. In a way, the show can be considered path-breaking as it clearly deviates from the clean language used in regular regional OTT shows. The makers seem to have taken the risk of alienating children and families from their audience, as it is impossible for a family to watch the show together. <i>Shaitan</i> will be talked about and watched by a section, but viewers will be forced to analyse and ask a question, “Had it not been for the gory scenes, would this show have turned out any better?”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/24/shaitan-review-a-show-of-blood-gore-and-expletives.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/24/shaitan-review-a-show-of-blood-gore-and-expletives.html Sat Jun 24 11:38:21 IST 2023 designer-gaurav-gupta-about-his-designs-and-working-with-celebrities <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/16/designer-gaurav-gupta-about-his-designs-and-working-with-celebrities.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/6/16/63-Gaurav-Gupta.jpg" /> <p>Walk into designer Gaurav Gupta’s 5,500sqft flagship store in Kala Ghoda, Mumbai, which opened earlier this year, and you feel like you have walked into a space capsule. The pristine white interiors are sculpted into curved surfaces and forms. The muted colour palette―mostly white and grey―is meant to highlight the garments, hung on mannequins on the second floor. A winding staircase leads there, and when you walk up, there is a spot where the slanting light falls in a specific angle. Standing there, you feel like you have just been given access to a sunlit corner of Gupta’s mind―where whimsy and playfulness jostle with structure and order.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I want everyone who comes to Mumbai to make the store a must-visit destination,” says Gupta.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His clothes are just as otherworldly as the space in which they are displayed. Satins and crepes enhanced with metal coil embroideries. Lehengas and gowns with exaggerated ruffles and structured silhouettes. Dresses decorated with glass beads and pearls. Tuxedos with bold lines and metallic accents. They are perhaps best described as “frozen art”, and this is the year in which they really came into their own.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It all began with the Paris Haute Couture Week in January, where Gupta became one of only three Indian designers (the others being Rahul Mishra and Vaishali Shadangule) to be selected to showcase their collections. Gupta’s was named ‘Shunya’―Sanskrit for ‘zero’―a number that symbolises both stillness and infinity. The 35 looks which were showcased were intensely sculptural, with elements drawn from fantasy and mythology―metallic veils that partially covered the face, entangled wires as embroideries, gravity-defying arches.... The universe and its vastness serve as inspiration for the 44-year-old designer―there were dresses inspired by garbage, snakes, the ancient Egyptian civilisation…. Nothing is beyond the realm of possibility in a collection that was described as “subliminal in thought and original in form”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hours after the Paris show on January 26, American rapper Cardi B’s stylist, Kollin Carter, got in touch with Gupta. He wanted him to dress her for the Grammys, which was just a few days away on February 6. It was a race against time, but Gupta managed it. And it was worth it, for the electric blue gown that she wore was almost career-defining for the designer. With its over-the-top ruffles and fluid lines, it was like she was dressed in ocean waves. The dress was a huge hit; <i>Harper’s Bazaar</i> called it “actual art” and <i>Vogue</i> called it “the best gag-worthy outfit” at the Grammys. Almost two decades after starting his label, the designer had arrived.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I have been waiting for this moment,” he says. “With the talent, workmanship and skill that my team has, I knew this would happen sooner or later.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Not that he is a newcomer to fame. The roster of celebrities he has dressed includes <i>Ms Marvel</i> star Iman Vellani, singers Kylie Minogue, Lizzo and Megan Thee Stallion, actors Sharon Stone, Jenna Ortega and Jeremy Pope…. At the recently-concluded Cannes Film Festival, too, Gupta had his faithful muses―from American actor Aja Naomi King to Indian actor Vijay Varma and Canadian supermodel Coca Rocha. One red carpet triumph was the black bandhgala sherwani with a golden lion embroidery that he designed for <i>RRR</i> star Jr NTR at the Oscars this year, something that embodied “a true global Indian identity,” according to the designer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Out of all the celebrities he has designed for, his favourite, he says, is Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, who wore his gown at Cannes last year―a pink sculpted creation that was inspired by Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’, and took 100 craftspeople 20 days to make. “One of my greatest highs was when Aishwarya’s dress was included in <i>The New York Times’s</i> 15 iconic looks from Cannes over the years. She appeared alongside icons like Elizabeth Taylor and Madonna,” he says. “I found her a delight to work with. It was so cool hanging with her and the L’Oreal team at Cannes last year, though it was a real challenge transporting her dress there.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It has all been a dream come true, and perhaps it is fitting that it all began with a recurring childhood dream―that he was a bird. He thinks it has spurred his creativity in some mystic way. He would dream of flying over skyscrapers and school playgrounds, and when he woke up, he would feel tired, as though from a long night of flying. “I was once reading out a blog I wrote about it to my father and he was like: ‘Don’t tell me. You too?’ Apparently, my dad also had these recurring dreams of being a bird,” he says. “We discovered that my dad, my brothers and I―we were all birds. I have not gone deep into why this happens. I like to keep it abstract and magical.” Gupta says the experience brought a sense of freedom, unfettering his imagination.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In many ways, it is like he exists on two planes―the real and the surreal. This penchant for the abstract and the fantastical made him extremely creative as a child―he loved to draw, sculpt, dance…. The only thing he did not like was academics. “I was a dumb child; I flunked my sixth standard,” he says with a laugh so sudden that it transforms his otherwise serious demeanour. “I was so lost that I used to only look at the clouds and flowers and stars. I did struggle in school because I was bullied for being gay. But it helped that I always had the love and protection of my family and friends.” He did eventually come into his own, topping business studies in school. But joining his father’s steel business afterwards was unappealing. With his love for art and design, NIFT seemed like the natural choice, followed by Central Saint Martins in London. He then went on to work with designers like Hussein Chalayan and Stella McCartney before starting his label in 2005.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even in his personal life, Gupta is unconventional. It is not every day you find a gay man living with a straight woman. “Navkirat [Sodhi, poet and author] is my soulmate and life partner,” he says. “We don’t understand concepts of marriage or gender, we just have a feeling of pure love, so we decided to be life partners. It is like we are twin flames.” Nowadays, he has his hands full, what with relaunching his ready-to-wear line at the American luxury retailer Neiman Marcus and getting ready for the next Paris Haute Couture Week in July. Still, he makes it a point to have breakfast with Navkirat every morning. In the evening, they unwind by having people over or watching something good on OTT. Despite the set routine, Gupta looks at life with a sense of wonder. His couture is the language he uses to express it.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/16/designer-gaurav-gupta-about-his-designs-and-working-with-celebrities.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/16/designer-gaurav-gupta-about-his-designs-and-working-with-celebrities.html Sat Jun 17 11:26:28 IST 2023 the-woman-who-climbed-trees-novel-by-smriti-ravindra-book-review <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/16/the-woman-who-climbed-trees-novel-by-smriti-ravindra-book-review.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/6/16/66-The-Woman-Who-Climbed-Trees-new.jpg" /> <p><i>The Woman Who Climbed Trees</i> opens with a wedding. Meena, 14, stands on a terrace in Darbhanga eating roasted peanuts when she is told about 21-year-old Manmohan, her future husband. He is the first in his family from Nepal to study in India. Her mother, Kaveri, claims he is “a prize”, and a “proper Majnu”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But Manmohan is no Majnu; instead, he dreams of finding his place in Kathmandu and leaves his wife with her dour mother-in-law Sawari Devi in Sabaila.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Manmohan had studied at the Banaras Hindu University and dreams of democracy. It is through his eyes that readers see the politics of Nepal and India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the beginning of the novel, as the barber’s wife applies <i>mehndi</i> on Meena’s hands, she talks about marriages, mothers and motherland. “The mother and the motherland are not like the arms or legs of a body, which when decayed can be amputated,” she says. “The mother and the motherland are the heart and the liver of the body. They cannot be removed. The mother remains, and the motherland too, in daylight and in darkness... What is mother and motherland to a woman. They are impermanent dreams.” This loss lies at the heart of the book, one that is carried through generations and remembered.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The story is personal, fuelled by the memory of her mother’s longing for her home in Nepal. It is addictive, evocative and haunting.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The novel, Smriti Ravindra’s first, traces Meena’s journey to Sabaila from Darbhanga as she tries to build her life in a country that is not hers. Ravindra brings alive the squelch of Sabaila mud, the mountains of Kathmandu and the green of her garden as she writes with longing of the Madheshi experience in Nepal. The politics may be familiar, but Ravindra makes it palpable and real. It is not institutional history that she weaves―the linking of Nepal with India―but one that is remembered and felt. She blends folklore and myth to create a world that is dazzling, populated by women and brought alive with their stories. And these characters―whether it is Sukumariya, the old babysitter of Sabaila who carries the memory of the struggle of the first Indians who came to Nepal; Kaveri, Meena’s mother who lives fiercely when her husband dies; Kumud, Meena’s sister-in-law trying to keep up with the tasks and her twins; Meena, fragile and strong at the same time; or Preeti, who watches her mother unspool―make <i>The Woman Who Climbed Trees</i> deeply felt and impossible to forget. The heart beats with these stories, stories that make you weep and ones that you will instinctively recognise.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The Woman Who Climbed Trees</b></p> <p><i>By</i> <b>Smriti Ravindra</b></p> <p><i>Published by</i> <b>HarperCollins India</b></p> <p><i>Pages</i> <b>416;</b> <i>Price</i> <b>Rs599</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/16/the-woman-who-climbed-trees-novel-by-smriti-ravindra-book-review.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/16/the-woman-who-climbed-trees-novel-by-smriti-ravindra-book-review.html Fri Jun 16 15:35:30 IST 2023 rock-band-indian-ocean-latest-album-tu-hai-explores-a-range-of-interconnected-issues <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/16/rock-band-indian-ocean-latest-album-tu-hai-explores-a-range-of-interconnected-issues.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/6/16/68-Members-of-the-fusion-rock-band-Indian-Ocean.jpg" /> <p>It would be a disservice to Indian Ocean to separate its music from the larger socio-economic and political issues embedded in it. Renowned for its eclectic live performances, the rock band has, over three decades, carved out a niche for itself by blending classical music with rock, jazz, and fusion. The band’s line-up―Rahul Ram, Amit Kilam, Himanshu Joshi, Nikhil Rao and Tuheen Chakravorty―include both atheists and theists, resulting in a unique mix of perspectives. And, this is evident in their latest track, ‘Tu Hai’, from the album by the same name, where the band explores the process of questioning a supreme being.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The philosophical dimensions of the track encapsulate the album as it raises serious questions on a range of interconnected issues―from environmental sustainability to spiritual solace.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“You can put a question mark or three dots after the words <i>tu hai</i> [and both would bring different meanings and perspectives],” said Joshi, vocalist of the band. The song was released in two parts on streaming platforms. “In one, it questions the existence of a supreme being, citing the problems that the world faces, and in the other, it takes a more philosophical route to accept the concept of God in different forms,” said Joshi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indian Ocean refuses to sacrifice their musicality to conform to the reel-obsessed trends of the contemporary world. In fact, the tracks in <i>Tu Hai</i> uplift the spirit in us. The band is crafting music for eternity, with the hope that future generations will one day rediscover the magic concealed within their tracks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indian Ocean has come back with an album almost after a decade. But the six tracks of <i>Tu Hai</i> are already familiar to the band’s loyal followers. “We were playing them much before we were thinking about an album,” said Joshi. “Initially, we did not have a specific theme in mind. We had already recorded the songs when the pandemic struck, resulting in a significant time gap before its release. We noticed a coherence between the songs and a structural theme that was emerging. The album began to take shape as a collection of songs, addressing pertinent issues that we face today, including environmental degradation and the dominance of materialism in society.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The band’s last album, <i>Tandanu</i>, had seven songs, with different artistic geniuses. In <i>Tu Hai</i>, too, one could witness some exciting collaborations. The opening track of the album, ‘Jaadu Maya’, was written by acclaimed poet and filmmaker Varun Grover. The band praises Grover’s lyrics as multi-layered and leaves them open for interpretation by their audience.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The band’s reflection on the environment is loud and clear in the track. “It talks about the black clouds around us and [insignificant] fights that we are engaged in, when there is a much bigger story that is unfolding,” said Joshi. In an animated video from the album, the band members could be seen in the avatars of news anchors and reporters, singing their segments. However, it does not mean that they are playing the heralds of doom. Because ‘Jaadu Maya’ is also about hope, as it announces that it is never too late to take meaningful action towards a more sustainable future.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The song ‘Iss Tan Dhan’ is a modern take on a poem by the legendary poet Sant Kabir Das; it muses on the futility of earthly possessions. Bass guitarist and vocalist Ram had the idea of using the poem in a track. “His father used to sing the poem, so he picked it up and created an instrumental part to go with it,” said Joshi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another collaboration in <i>Tu Hai</i> is with acclaimed American saxophonist George Brooks―a long-term friend of the band―for the track, ‘Jungle’. Brooks’s prolific style of combining jazz with classical music elevates the track, which underscores the magnitude and vastness of nature, and, thereby, the insignificance of human beings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The band calls the last track in the album, ‘Rebirth’, the ‘baby’ of guitarist Rao. ‘Rebirth’ was born out of Rao’s love for Carnatic music. “We started playing this track in 2016,” said Rao. “It was a major hit among loyal followers. They would come and listen to the instrumental. But, we struggled to find a name for the track for many years. Once, on the stage, we asked our followers to come up with a good name for the track.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Frankly, we never got a name that we liked.” But then the name ‘Rebirth’ emerged. Rao said the ideas of renewal, regeneration and starting afresh were all going through the collective mind of Indian Ocean. “And the track fit beautifully into the album’s theme,” said Rao. “We start the album complaining about the world, but we finally settle down to a place where we feel rebirth or renewal.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/16/rock-band-indian-ocean-latest-album-tu-hai-explores-a-range-of-interconnected-issues.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/16/rock-band-indian-ocean-latest-album-tu-hai-explores-a-range-of-interconnected-issues.html Fri Jun 16 15:31:21 IST 2023 reema-kagti-and-zoya-akhtar-about-their-creation-dahaad-amazon-prime-series <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/02/reema-kagti-and-zoya-akhtar-about-their-creation-dahaad-amazon-prime-series.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/6/2/63-Reema-and-Zoya-and-Sonakshi-Sinha.jpg" /> <p>A plucky lady cop, Anjali Bhaati (Sonakshi Sinha), leads an investigation into the murders of 27 young women across Rajasthan in Amazon Prime Video’s latest crime drama, <i>Dahaad</i>. Back home, her mother regularly presses her to get married. One night, when she brings photographs of prospective grooms, Bhaati, in turn, shows her horrific images of the battered women whose deaths she is investigating. That puts an end to all discussions of marriage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At work, she faces constant jibes about her caste. Once, she is prevented from entering a minister’s house because he thinks her caste is a bad omen. She barges in and shames the minister in front of her full force. Tasked with leading the investigation, Bhaati observes a pattern: the women are all dressed in bridal wear and found dead inside public toilets, foaming at the mouth. It appears that a serial killer lures poor and emotionally vulnerable girls into marriage and then makes them consume a contraceptive pill laced with cyanide in a hotel room.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This forms the central narrative of <i>Dahaad</i>, created by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti, in which the duo once again pulls off what they do best: flesh out a story around a strong-willed, feisty and rebellious woman who knows her mind and makes her own rules. Take the previous films which they co-wrote—the light-hearted <i>Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara</i> (2011), the neo-noir <i>Talaash</i> (2012) or the disruptive <i>Gully Boy</i> (2019). All of them feature strong and fiery leading ladies, be it Katrina Kaif as an underwater diver, Rani Mukerji as the wife who established an identity for herself outside marriage, or Alia Bhatt as the young and possessive girlfriend.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But in <i>Dahaad</i>, it is different. Bhaati’s character has been one of a kind, and the duo took months to flesh her out, especially since the question could easily be asked why they chose a woman as their protagonist. But the nuances of the story could only have been brought out by a woman, they feel, because then there are layers of social commentary in the themes explored, whether it is gender discrimination, sexism, independence and confinement, or so much more. Kagti and Akhtar never had a doubt that they wanted Sinha to play Bhaati. The suggestion came from Ritesh Sidhwani, whose Excel Entertainment is a co-producer. “Ritesh, Zoya and I were chatting, and he suggested her name,” says Kagti. “We immediately called her and she met us that evening itself, when we gave her a small narration. We later sent the material to her, and about 12 to 18 hours later, she was onboard. Her brief was to highlight the stark lack of privilege that exists in various sections of society, and bring it to the more socially and economically evolved classes in India.” The dependance and helplessness in a person’s life because of this lack of privilege, observes the filmmaker, is heartbreaking. “It is this heartbreak that Sonakshi brings alive onscreen as a cop who is daring and vulnerable at the same time,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Akhtar and Kagti wanted to contrast Bhaati with the other women in the show, including the 27 victims and their mothers. “Because that really brought out the point we were trying to make, that if any of these 27 women had any agency they would probably have lived like Bhaati, and not as a victim,” say the duo.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One difference in <i>Dahaad</i> is that, unlike in their earlier projects, the men in this show are not merely foils to bring out the women’s strength. In the earlier projects, the pair’s stories have occasionally tended to be lopsided, with male characters who are wimps or male chauvinists. Not so in <i>Dahaad</i>. All the three main male characters are fighting battles of their own. There is her boss, Devilal Singh (Gulshan Devaiah), and her senior, Parghi (Sohum Shah), both of whom are shown to be equally professional and level-headed. And then there is the notorious psychopath, Anand Swarnakar (Vijay Varma). His casteist and sexist slurs only serve to empower Bhaati, and drive her to finally reclaim her “lower caste” identity. Even if the end was a bit abrupt, it was profound. “We chose to keep it that way, because somewhere we wanted her to own her own reality,” say Kagti and Akhtar. “Throughout the show she had to deal with a certain amount of discrimination and she always fights it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another aspect is the layering of the drama with underlying messages, be it Devilal talking to his son about the discourse around sex, or arguing with his wife to let his daughter travel alone to Delhi. Then again, when Bhaati lectures a local goon on the abolition of caste discrimination, it sends a strong message about our society. “We try to do that in each of our projects, be it a message on family structure in <i>Dil Dhadakne Do</i> (2015) or a message on class issues in <i>Gully Boy,”</i> says Akhtar. “So there is always something you want to layer your work with.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The duo—who started their production banner, Tiger Baby Films, in 2015—are both avid watchers of crime dramas and documentaries. They spend a long time building the story before they get into the screenplay. This is their first crime procedural, written along with Ruchika Oberoi, and co-produced with others, including Excel, owned by Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar. Now, the women are looking at going solo with their upcoming film, <i>Archies</i>, featuring star kids Suhana Khan (daughter of Shah Rukh Khan), Khushi Kapoor (daughter of Sridevi) and Agastya Nanda (grandson of Amitabh Bachchan). Season 2 of <i>Made in Heaven</i> will soon be out, after years of postponement. Then there is also the Farhan Akhtar directorial Jee Le Zaraa—starring Alia Bhatt, Priyanka Chopra and Katrina Kaif—which Kagti and Akhtar have jointly penned. With such a dazzling array, success is a foregone conclusion, and their only competition is themselves.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/02/reema-kagti-and-zoya-akhtar-about-their-creation-dahaad-amazon-prime-series.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/02/reema-kagti-and-zoya-akhtar-about-their-creation-dahaad-amazon-prime-series.html Fri Jun 02 15:34:34 IST 2023 centres-of-power-chinmaya-r-gharekhan-book-review <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/02/centres-of-power-chinmaya-r-gharekhan-book-review.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/6/2/66-Centres-of-Power-new.jpg" /> <p>After Natwar Singh resigned as foreign minister in the wake of the oil-for-food scandal in December 2005, Sonia Gandhi was keen on replacing him with Chinmaya Gharekhan. But, for whatever reason, it did not happen. Gone was the opportunity to leverage the services of one of India’s most brilliant diplomats.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gharekhan, a 1958-batch IFS officer, has now written his second book after his celebrated debut <i>The Horseshoe Table: An Inside View of the UN Security Council,</i> in 2006. Former UN secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali had found that book to be “intimate, honest and highly professional”. The same can be said for the new one, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Centres of Power</i> is simply an engaging read. We are offered a ringside view of the behind-the-scenes goings-on in the prime minister’s office and the UN Security Council with the help of meticulously maintained diaries. Couched in subtle humour and a string of illustrative anecdotes—with no words like ‘I was there’ and ‘I did that’—the narrative is candid but low-key, so characteristic of Gharekhan’s “non-offensive” and “non-combative” style.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In part one, we are in the PMO from 1981 to 1986, where Gharekhan is serving two prime ministers, Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. You see the author grow, with the mantra of ‘be yourself’, from a nervous first-timer to calling the shots and extricating the prime minister from complicated situations. In contrast to Indira, who “loved to amend drafts of letters, speeches and messages” like “a compulsive subeditor”, Rajiv had no time to read drafts. His instinctive, off-the-cuff decisions were symptomatic of “a young man in a hurry” and made bureaucrats insecure. He was his own man and did not want to be reminded of his mother’s decisions or policies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Rajiv’s proposed speech to the joint session of the US Congress in June 1985 (the first by an Indian prime minister) was being discussed, Gharekhan had questioned the obsession with Pakistan. Though everyone disagreed with his observation, Rajiv took heed. His speech had no mention of Pakistan, perhaps for the first time in such an important speech.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gharekhan, though, was disappointed when Rajiv allowed himself, “against his convictions”, to be guided by power-hungry politicos “without any secular credentials”, to bring “communalism into the political landscape” by introducing a bill in Parliament to nullify the Supreme Court’s Shah Bano judgment and to open the lock in the Ayodhya temple.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the second part of the book, the focus is on Gharekhan’s role as India’s permanent representative to the United Nations and twice president of the UN Security Council. The narrative begins with Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990, and ends with the declaration of ceasefire on February 28, 1991. In between, we see a convergence of interest of the permanent members not seen since; the congenital high-handedness of the Americans and the eagerness of the Russians to cooperate with their erstwhile rivals; the hi-tech war testing the latest US ‘toys’; and the pathetic saga of India’s cargo ship Vishva Siddhi sailing to Indians in Kuwait with 10,000 tonnes of food that they “did not need”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is also a little-known parallel journey with daily riyaz of Hindustani classical music—with the protégés of the founder of the Indore gharana, Ustad Amir Khan—that transformed Gharekhan’s personality.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A calm, composed and unruffled diplomat stands up with elan in Centres of Power.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The writer is editor, Citizens First TV (CFTV), and convener, Working Group on Alternative Strategies, New Delhi</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Centres of Power: My Years in the Prime Minister’s Office and Security Council</b></p> <p><i>By</i> <b>Chinmaya R. Gharekhan</b></p> <p><i>Published</i> <b>by Rupa</b></p> <p><i>Price:</i> <b>Rs603,</b> <i>Pages:</i> <b>336</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/02/centres-of-power-chinmaya-r-gharekhan-book-review.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/06/02/centres-of-power-chinmaya-r-gharekhan-book-review.html Fri Jun 02 15:26:47 IST 2023 manoj-bajpayee-about-his-journey-in-film-industry <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/05/26/manoj-bajpayee-about-his-journey-in-film-industry.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/5/26/65-Manoj-Bajpayee.jpg" /> <p>Almost two and a half decades ago, Manoj Bajpayee decided that he “wouldn’t ever settle as an actor”. The year was 1998; <i>Satya</i> was released to rave reviews and unprecedented box-office success, and Bajpayee had become an overnight sensation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the time, the Khans were ruling the industry and Ajay Devgn and Akshay Kumar were making their mark. There was definitely no place for an outsider, not for an average Joe, anyway. And Bajpayee was a National School of Drama reject, a theatre veteran from Bihar with dreams of making it as an actor. Nobody had imagined that Bhiku Mhatre, Bajpayee’s character from <i>Satya</i>, would become so popular and even win a national award. However, it brought him a flood of negative characters. But he was against being typecast as a “villain”. The son of a farmer, who was staying in a rented flat in Mumbai, was bold enough to reject multiple offers, and the big money that came with it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then on, Bajpayee had made a mental note of the kind of roles he would say yes to: “Those which bring out both the positive and the negative sides of human character.” The goal was to highlight the shades of grey that is present in each one of us, from the gentlest civilian to the hardened criminal. Bajpayee followed the brief decade after decade, immortalising each character with his nuanced and expressive portrayal. From Raghavan in <i>Aks</i> (2001), who had a twisted philosophical reasoning of life even when he was the embodiment of evil, to the heinous politician Veerendra Pratap in <i>Raajneeti</i> (2010), Bajpayee made the audience fall in love with his characters for their style and idiosyncrasies. Along came a few roles with an underlying social message such as Hansal Mehta’s <i>Aligarh</i>, a hard-hitting film on gay rights. Credited with three national awards―<i>Satya</i> (1998), <i>Pinjar</i> (2003) and <i>Bhonsle</i> (2018)―and more than 60 critically acclaimed films, Bajpayee has aced the art of selecting films and never doing a role for the “heck of it”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This streak of “adding chutzpah and layers to human characters” has given him the freedom to experiment with diverse characters, from the infamous Sardar Khan of the <i>Gangs of Wasseypur</i> to the overworked but driven Srikant Tiwari from <i>The Family Man</i>, which was a huge OTT hit. “I must tell you I feel so lucky. I stay true to my craft, script, scene and the demands of the character,” says Bajpayee, in an interview with THE WEEK over Zoom.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not easy to interview Manoj Bajpayee. He usually keeps away from filmy gatherings and promotions. It is perhaps easier to spot him buying vegetables on the roadside or walking his daughter, Ava, to her classes. This time, though, it is different. He has been asked to “commit a full month” for the promotions of his upcoming film, <i>Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai</i>, which was recently released on ZEE5. The film is based on lawyer P.C. Solanki’s fight against godman Asaram Bapu, who was convicted for raping a minor. Directed by Apoorv Singh Karki, the film received a standing ovation at the New York Indian Film Festival. Karki says it is one of Bajpayee’s finest performances. “The way he has portrayed an ordinary man’s extraordinary fight will be remembered for a long time,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bajpayee says he does not let himself come into his roles. “For that, an actor has to make sure that he is not obsessed about himself. Since we actors are very much aware of how we look, how we walk and how we eat, it borders on vanity completely.... So I surrender to the demands of my character completely. I keep reading the script multiple times no matter where I am.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bajpayee has mostly been involved with independent films which usually do not have huge budgets for promotions and are totally dependent on the power of social media. His choices have been very offbeat, each with an in-depth characterisation. “I have always wanted to be a part of the ‘middle of the road’ cinema or the independent genre. Not that I am against commercial cinema, but, in that realm, I want films that have very solid stories. What happens is that in India, cinema is mainly dominated by the mainstream and the stars. And these are welcomed by producers, exhibitors and distributors. In that crowd, if I am getting to do my own thing in my own small way and if they do well, then I am happy. But in India if your films are not huge box-office successes and if you are not leading the pack, you don’t get the credit. So I did not have too many films to choose from,” he said. But OTT changed everything. It took him to a space where he always wanted to be. Srikant Tiwari entered households and gave him a new-found audience in younger kids. “I have been in the industry for three decades, but what is so mesmerising and overwhelming for me is that now my fans are also children―they are 12, 13 or 16. At my daughter’s boarding school, students aged 11 or 12 approach me with 50 pages for autographs for the entire class. My daughter gets miffed and embarrassed, but I am thankful for this new-found fan base.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bajpayee’s video is switched off during the interview. “I am looking quite shabby,” he says in his typical self-deprecating humour. He seems the perfect antidote to the extravagant Bollywood culture where everyone wishes to be seen, heard, liked and followed. Bajpayee remains the quintessential “family man” who enjoys doing the dishes at home and visiting his village at least twice a year. He is too lazy to wear branded stuff and hates doling out life lessons. He is, however, introspective and is constantly on the hunt for an answer to the bigger questions of life and death.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This year has been especially great for him with two back-to-back releases―<i>Gulmohar</i>, a family drama alongside Sharmila Tagore on Disney+ Hotstar and now the courtroom drama on ZEE5. The third season of <i>The Family Man</i> is being filmed for an year-end release.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bajpayee has now reached a space where the bigwigs of Bollywood like Neeraj Pandey and Anurag Kashyap are keen to work with him. “With age comes a certain fearlessness to essay any role,” he says. “I am feeling so blessed. I am a better actor now.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/05/26/manoj-bajpayee-about-his-journey-in-film-industry.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/05/26/manoj-bajpayee-about-his-journey-in-film-industry.html Sat May 27 15:16:45 IST 2023 modern-love-chennai-series-review <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/05/26/modern-love-chennai-series-review.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/5/26/68-K-and-Sam-in-Modern-Love-Chennai.jpg" /> <p>Love, as portrayed onscreen, usually falls into two categories. Either it is the loud, bombastic, over-the-top variety, drenched in glamour and customised for that “warm, fuzzy feeling”. Or it is the subdued kind, usually steeped in the drudgery of everyday life. Both types are susceptible to opposing dangers. In the first, the danger is of excess―too much of bubble-wrapped fantasy and song-and-dance escapism. In the second, the danger is of sparseness―too little of melodrama and whimsy. <i>Modern Love Chennai</i> firmly falls in the second category. It is most comfortable in its own ordinariness. It tells gentle, slice-of-life stories set in houses with peeling walls, dark alleyways, crowded metros and grubby street corners. Its heroes are pani puri sellers, biscuit makers, construction workers and college professors. No shining Lotharios or tower-trapped princesses in this show.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And that’s just the problem with it―it is too slice-of-life, almost to the point of blandness. It lacks that cardinal quality that usually determines onscreen success: Character. Most of the stories of <i>Modern Love Chennai</i> take an oft-portrayed romantic trope―the adolescent girl with a crush on the new boy, the woman who gets her heart broken by a crook, the cinema-obsessed teen in love with the idea of love―and marinates it in some music and pan shots of city life. There are occasional sparks of genius in the writing, set ablaze by some excellent performances. But ultimately, the show is too monotonous, too lacking in colour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Stylistically and structurally, there is an attempt at variety. There is, for example, the straightforward and linear style of storytelling as in the second episode titled ‘Blur’, about Devi (T.J. Bhanu), a woman who is going blind. As she tries to build a life with the man she loves, she begins to understand the implications of her gradually worsening eyesight. Even as the story plunges its heroine into darkness, it shines light on everything that darkness is taking from her. Devi does not bemoan not being able to see the seven wonders of the world. She bemoans not being able to pack her daughter’s lunch, sign her report card or bathe her without getting soap in her eyes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then there is the more experimental style of storytelling, like in the last episode titled ‘Memory is a Bird’. It is about a broken relationship between Sam (Wamiqa Gabbi) and K (PB). But is the relationship really broken if K who breaks it loses his memory? The story is told in a surrealistic, stream-of-consciousness style in keeping with the theme. The dark filters and existential dialogues enhance the tone. Flitting between the past and the present, the plot is as elusive as memory itself.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But no matter how stylistic the packaging, the substance is lacking in this show. Towards the end, there is a scene in which K wonders about what happens to the lovers in a film after it ends. “In the theatre, when we hear the applause and see the curtains fall, we understand that it is the end,” he says. “But would the characters know that? Would they have known that this is their ‘And they lived happily-ever-after’ moment? Does that mean that whatever happened afterwards was not interesting?” I don’t know whether the characters of this show lived happily ever after. The truth is, I didn’t really care.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/05/26/modern-love-chennai-series-review.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/05/26/modern-love-chennai-series-review.html Fri May 26 17:40:37 IST 2023 create-passkey-for-your-google-account <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/05/26/create-passkey-for-your-google-account.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/5/26/69-Bye-bye-passwords.jpg" /> <p>Google recently introduced a password replacement method called ‘passkeys’ for its personal account holders. A passkey allows authentication with fingerprint ID, facial ID or PIN on the device rather than the user ID-password combination. Google is nudging people to convert their traditional username and password login to a passkey, as it is safer and more convenient.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Password-based authentication, which has long been standard across computing, is vulnerable to phishing attacks. On the other hand, passkey is designed to address phishing attacks by relying on a model that uses cryptographic keys stored on your devices for authentication. The three most prominent OS makers―Microsoft, Google, and Apple―are part of the industry association known as the FIDO Alliance, which has been promoting passkeys.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To create the passkey for your Google account, go to g.co/passkeys, log in with your username and password, and then click “+ Create a passkey”. You should do it on a personal device that only you control. Passkeys can sync between your devices through end-to-end encrypted services like Google Password Manager and iCloud Keychain. Or you can set up passkeys on multiple devices by generating a QR code on a device that’s logged in to your Google account.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All your Google account passkeys are listed on the “Passkey Management Page,” where you can manage them. You can store a passkey for your account on the device of someone you trust as a recovery option. And you can still use someone else’s device to temporarily gain access to your Google account by creating a one-time sign-in.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/05/26/create-passkey-for-your-google-account.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/05/26/create-passkey-for-your-google-account.html Fri May 26 17:37:40 IST 2023 michelin-star-chef-massimo-bottura-about-his-creative-process <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/05/26/michelin-star-chef-massimo-bottura-about-his-creative-process.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/5/26/70-Massimo-Bottura.jpg" /> <p>When asked if former US president Barack Obama and wife Michelle had to wait long to get a reservation at Osteria Francescana―Chef Massimo Bottura’s three Michelin star restaurant in Italy―the chef proudly replies, “Not just them”. It is reputed to be one of the most difficult restaurants in the world to get a reservation at. This is quite the achievement for an obscure, 12-table restaurant that got its first Michelin almost by accident. When it opened in 1995, customers were few and reviews lukewarm. Six years later, one of Italy’s most prominent critics happened to get stuck in the quaint, colourful town of Modena, where the restaurant is located. He decided to go in, and the rest is culinary history. Osteria Francescana got its first Michelin a year later. Slowly but steadily, it climbed up to the first rank on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants twice, in 2016 and 2018, and now features in its ‘best of the best’ list.</p> <p><br> Bottura, who was on <i>TIME’</i>s list of 100 most influential people, was invited to India recently by Culinary Culture (a movement that brings together India’s food community) for an event at The Leela Palace, Delhi. Asked if India is a good market to start a restaurant, Bottura answers, “It could be. Italian and Indian food are very similar. In India, there are different food experiences in the north, south, east and west, with different meats and spices, just like in Italy.” However, he has no immediate plans to open a restaurant here. “My reputation is my wealth,” he says. “I will open a restaurant here only if I am sure it will succeed.”<br> This drive to succeed, and a passion for living life full-throttle, have been Bottura’s trademark. After Osteria Francescana, Bottura opened several restaurants all over the world. His partnership with Gucci led to three restaurants―Gucci Osteria in Tokyo, Florence and Los Angeles. In Dubai, he created his own unique experience with Torno Subito. As founder of the NGO ‘Food for Soul’, Bottura advocates for the reduction of food waste and protecting the environment through sustainable cooking practices. He is also a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme, and a brand ambassador for Maserati.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bottura first travelled to Mumbai to visit girls in an orphanage, before flying to Delhi. Asked if he has tried Indian versions of Italian food, he says, “When I come to India, I don’t want to try Italian food. I want to try Indian.” While curating the menu at The Leela Palace, Bottura says he did not customise according to the Indian palate, as he wanted to give an authentic experience of the food at Osteria Francescana. “My guests wanted Italian food―Massimo’s food,” he says. “One does not have to make everyone like one’s food. You don’t ask Picasso to change ‘Guernica’ (his 1937 oil painting). ‘Guernica’ is ‘Guernica’!”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Celebrities like Sonam Kapoor enjoyed Bottura’s creations at the hotel, which included signature dishes like ‘Oops I dropped the lemon tart’, ‘The crunchy part of the lasagna’ and ‘Psychedelic cod not flame grilled’. Many of these creations have interesting back stories. ‘Oops I dropped the lemon tart’, for example, was born when someone accidentally smashed a sweet on the pastry counter. The result was a dessert that had just the right balance. When you have the lemon tart, you are getting a taste of the master chef’s creative process―a perfect blend of the methodical and the spontaneous.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/05/26/michelin-star-chef-massimo-bottura-about-his-creative-process.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/05/26/michelin-star-chef-massimo-bottura-about-his-creative-process.html Fri May 26 17:35:40 IST 2023 pakistan-author-shahbaz-taseer-interview <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/05/20/pakistan-author-shahbaz-taseer-interview.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/5/20/63-Shahbaz-Taseer.jpg" /> <p>Shahbaz Taseer’s nightmare began in broad daylight. On August 26, 2011, six months after his father (Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, Pakistan) was shot dead for opposing the blasphemy law, Shahbaz was kidnapped by terrorists while he was driving to his office.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shabby, as he was popularly called, suddenly went from being one of the most privileged and protected people in Pakistan to a man in a soiled salwar kameez living in a tiny room with a bucket for excrement. This was his life for the five years he was in captivity―sordid, dark and foul-smelling.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And then he escaped.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I can explain all forms of torture to you,” says Taseer, who now leads a normal life in Lahore. “It is difficult, but I can explain it with incidents, like when they got my back open.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He talks about torture casually. And his book <i>Lost to the World: A Memoir of Faith, Family and Five Years in Terrorist Captivity</i> has details of it that are almost cinematic. “I am sure everybody’s slipped and cut themselves with glass. You can understand that. Being buried alive is a bit difficult to explain,” he says, laughing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His kidnapper―Mohammad Ali of the dreaded Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan―did everything to break him, yet kept him alive. An empty gun was put to Taseer’s head and the trigger pulled twice. Nails were ripped out, and mouth sewed shut. He was buried alive, stung by bees, and flesh was cut from his back. Salt was rubbed on to his wounds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>More than the physical pain of torture, though, it was loneliness that became unbearable for Taseer. “I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In <i>Lost to the World</i>, Taseer writes evocatively about how he kept his sanity by drawing lines on the mud wall to keep count of the days. The book has moments that leave you shaken and heartbroken. Taseer seeing a pomegranate tree for the first time in years. The time he heard voices of children. A sliver of soap, with a picture of a woman on the pack. Striking a friendship with a spider in the room. Taseer named it Peter, and sang to it the Spider-Man theme. “Peter was my first friend,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book is stranger than fiction. Taseer lived with his kidnappers, survived a drone attack, fled from Pakistan to Afghanistan, and found himself in a Taliban jail from where he negotiated his freedom. Taseer tells his story clearly and passionately, with no trace of bitterness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His memoir is about the value of love, and he finds kindness even in those who caused him pain. Aya Jahan, mother-in-law of Mohammad Ali, once stopped a torture session―she stepped into the room and said she would not let it happen under her roof. “She would have blown me up at a checkpost,” says Taseer. “She had no love, no sympathy for anyone in the world. Her personal belief structure was that of a suicide bomber. She was an extremist on a waiting list. She understood that I needed to be kidnapped. [But] for her to break these barriers, to actually come through…. Whatever be her reason for this act of kindness, it was an act of kindness. It saved my life.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Lahore, he has rebuilt his life―he has two children and is expecting a third.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He has plenty to live for now, but even when there was not, he discovered that he could not take his life. “I was in solitary, I was being tortured, and I wanted to take my life,” he says. “And I couldn’t. I felt like a coward. I thought I am willing to live in this degraded state, in this state of constant humiliation, and just be dehumanised.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And then he found solace in faith. “I read a line in the Quran that said, ‘To give up hope is to give up on God and be an infidel,” he says. “I thought, wow, here you are at the crossroads of your life, and you can’t even be hopeless. Then I understood what the line meant―that you can never give up hope.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Lost to the World</i> is ultimately about finding faith and realising its power. It is an ode to his larger-than-life father. It is also about his mother, who was forced to watch videos of her son being tortured and yet never lost hope and continued to negotiate with his kidnappers. “She is the hero,” says Taseer. “When I say humiliating and dehumanising, maybe if it was just between me and them (the terrorists). It is something that would have been easier for me to recover. But they filmed it, sent it to this woman, and made her watch every second of it. The fact that she is okay today, and that she is still the same woman, is [a blessing].”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The hardest part for Taseer was asking for his father’s killer, Mumtaz Qadri, to be freed. It was part of the conditions that Mohammad Ali laid to set him free. But Qadri, a commando who was assigned to guard Taseer’s father, was convicted and hanged in February 2016. “A reason that I am happy, and that I strive for better things in my life, is that [Qadri] didn’t walk to his freedom, so that I could have whatever people would think is mine. I would have been a broken man [if that had happened],” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Taseer used his sense of humour as a survival tool. Once Ali asked him where the most beautiful women were from. “There was no correct answer to that,” says Taseer. So he said Brazil, but Ali said it was too far. Iran then? Ali said the women there were kaffirs. They finally agreed upon Italy. “‘I will make the Vatican my harem,’ he told me,” says Taseer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Around that time, they were forced to flee Pakistan because the Pak military had launched a massive crackdown. They journeyed across the treacherous mountains for seven days to reach safety. After they arrived in Afghanistan, his kidnappers fell to their knees in prayer. “I looked at Muhammad Ali and said, ‘Rome is the other way,’” says Taseer. “I laughed a lot because I knew how funny it was. But I never thought I would live to tell it. But here I am.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/05/20/pakistan-author-shahbaz-taseer-interview.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/05/20/pakistan-author-shahbaz-taseer-interview.html Sat May 20 16:03:04 IST 2023 lost-to-the-world-shahbaz-taseer-book-extract <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/05/20/lost-to-the-world-shahbaz-taseer-book-extract.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2023/5/20/66-Lost-to-the-World-new.jpg" /> <p>It had been several days since my last torture session.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Muhammad Ali decided it had not been brutal enough. It was time to up the ante.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He would typically arrive to disclose his plans for the following day, making sure I would stew all night imagining the horrors of tomorrow.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As an uneventful day drew to a close, Muhammad Ali took me from my room into an adjacent chamber and sat me down at a table. A guard, Sohail, sat behind me to hold me still. Muhammad Ali held a special torture tool, a plass, pliers. The video camera was already set up. The whole production had a clinical air, almost like a doctor’s appointment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was given a single painkiller injection in the flesh above each nail. This wasn’t to completely numb the pain―there would be plenty of that―but simply to make sure I didn’t pass out. This was all to ensure the video had maximum impact. It was to be as gruesome as possible with me in as much agony as the camera could capture. “You have to start screaming as soon as we start and keep screaming until we are done,” Muhammad Ali commanded, like a film director. “The louder you scream, the sooner this will be over.” It was surreal to sit there receiving these instructions as though I were their accomplice, not their victim.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Muhammad Ali injected the painkiller into my fingers, then spread my hand on the table.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He took the nail of my thumb in his pliers and started to pry it loose.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At first there was only pain. The agony was so intense I came close to vomiting. But the nail wouldn’t come loose, which meant the action was useless for his torture video. So they stopped the recording and Muhammad Ali took a small blade and cut across the top of the nail on each finger, to loosen it. Then they started the video again.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This time, he decided to skip the thumb. With the pliers, he ripped off the fingernail of each finger on my right hand. With each yank a white-hot pulse of pain throbbed through my entire body. My hand on the table was covered in blood. He took my nails and placed them in a small plastic bag. A messenger would soon be arriving. He’d have these nails sent to my mother in Lahore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When it was all over, I was crying and delirious with pain.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The guard swabbed my naked nail beds in Pyodine, which hurt almost as much as having the nails pulled off. Slowly the pain began to ebb. My fingers were bandaged, the camera switched off; the show over, they took me back to my room.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I had been reduced to the lowest form of life you could find on earth. The pain was one aspect, it was excruciating. Beyond my pain and degradation what almost defeated me was what a burden my family would also bear. These videos, the gruesome evidence of my lowest moments, would be delivered to them. Rendered helpless, I felt the humiliation threatened to swallow me whole.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another night, not long after, Muhammad Ali came to my room. “Ahmed,” he said, using one of the code names they used to keep my identity secret, “tomorrow we cut flesh from your back.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was quite aware of the horrendous agony that would ensue for days.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The next day they took me back to the torture cell. My shirt was removed; I was made to stand in a large plastic bin and tied by the wrists to the loop in the ceiling.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I realized the purpose of the plastic bin was to catch all the blood that would stream from my body.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Muhammad Ali stood behind me, a sharp knife in his hand. He drew the knife down my skin, cutting a long strip of flesh from my back.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The pain was indescribable. I screamed and screamed. But again, the pain was not the worst of it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was consumed by an overwhelming sense of disbelief that my life had ended up here. In the hands of these madmen, desecrating me. The sense of desperation at my situation, the suffocating conviction that somehow I deserved all of this, took me to a dark place.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Muhammad Ali cut a second strip of flesh from my back, a few inches long.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He held it up to my face for me to see.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Did I pass out? I may have. It’s hard for me to recount the individual moments of my torture. They were a series of sensations, sounds, moments, all played out against a backdrop of searing pain.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Excerpted with permission from Penguin Random House</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lost to the World: A Memoir of Faith, Family and Five Years in Terrorist Captivity</b></p> <p><i>By</i> <b>Shahbaz Taseer</b></p> <p><i>Published by</i> <b>Penguin Viking</b></p> <p><i>Price</i> <b>Rs1,705,</b> <i>pages</i> <b>288</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/05/20/lost-to-the-world-shahbaz-taseer-book-extract.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2023/05/20/lost-to-the-world-shahbaz-taseer-book-extract.html Sat May 20 15:59:58 IST 2023