Leisure http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure.rss en Fri Mar 13 16:36:23 IST 2020 https://www.theweek.in/privacy-an-settlement.html game-of-phones <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/18/game-of-phones.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/2020/6/18/games_1589396551.jpg" /> <p>Competitive video gaming and competitive Indian parenting seldom mix well. For many parents, a child is wasting time if he is hunched over a computer or lounging on a couch playing PUBG. Would not his attention be better spent on an entrance exam, or two?</p> <p>The dedicated gamer could rightfully object that it is not just a game, but a sport. There are tournaments to be won with purses running into crores, and excellence demands practice. “Sachin [Tendulkar] once said he hit a ball one lakh times,” says Akshat Rathee, cofounder and managing director of NODWIN Gaming, a leading eSports solutions company.</p> <p>The eSports professional is leagues above the casual gamer. “For the first 0-200 hours of play, you just love the game; 100-500 hours in, you build game skills; 500-1,000 hours in game, you are building team skills,” he says. “Beyond 1,000 hours is when you become an eSports athlete.”</p> <p>Rathee can confirm that eSports pays off in India. His company is in the B2B side of the industry, acquiring streaming rights and distribution for the growing number of eSports tournaments. NODWIN Gaming partnered with Disney+ Hotstar to stream the ESL India Premiership 2020, “India’s flagship eSports tournament”; NODWIN also runs a show called eSports Mania on MTV India. Like any sport, eSports has hundreds of people working to make the scene happen—from players and organisers to content creators, marketers and influencers.</p> <p>The Indian eSports scene had multiple tipping points for its growth: The 4G revolution, the explosive accessibility of PUBG (with over 116 million installs in India by the end of 2019, according to data company Sensor Tower), and now, a lockdown.</p> <p>“The Indian video game industry is thriving, despite the widespread economic disruption caused by the coronavirus,” says Yash Pariani, founder and director, Indian Gaming League (IGL), which hosts tournaments online. “Initial data shows huge growth in playing time by up to 10 to 12 hours a day along with a 100 per cent increase in new user registrations and up to 150 per cent [increase in] sales since the lockdown began.”</p> <p>Amid lockdown, OnePlus organised the Domin8 tournament, pitting pro-gamers like Tanmay ‘Scout’ Singh against national cricketers, including K.L. Rahul and Smriti Mandhana. The company says live-streamers on platforms such as YouTube and Twitch reported a fourfold increase in viewership during the lockdown. As for eSports events, Rathee says he saw a triple-digit percentage increase in viewership in this period.</p> <p>For the Indian gamer, lockdown may have created a conducive environment. “Earlier, when a kid used to play games all the time, he would be reprimanded,” Rathee says. “In a hostile environment, people do not listen to you. ‘I do not care whether it makes you intelligent, I do not care whether it is in the Olympics or not,’ he would be told. Now, he is no longer reprimanded because parents are telling him to stay indoors.”</p> <p>The challenge with eSports is that games like Counter-Strike:Global Offensive (CS:GO), PUBG and Defense of the Ancients (Dota) cannot be equated to football or cricket—videogames are publisher-owned and copyrighted. For example, were the Olympics to have a first-person shooter category, how would it justify, say, choosing Valve’s Counter Strike series over Activision’s Call of Duty franchise?</p> <p>This is partly why Rathee does not feel eSports will make it to the Olympics, or that it should be included at all without the publisher agreeing.</p> <p>In 2017, the International Olympic Committee said that eSports could be considered a sport. But, by the end of 2019, it took the view that “the sports movement should focus on players and gamers rather than on specific games.”</p> <p>However, simulation titles based on Olympic sports could play a role in the coming Games. And there has been no greater driver for simulating sport at a distance than Covid-19.</p> <p>In April, just 10 days after the Australian Grand Prix was cancelled after an engineer tested positive for the virus, the Virtual Grand Prix was announced. While virtual F1 has been around since 2017, the 2020 series was marked by the absence of the physical sport. According to eSports Charts, the six virtual Grand Prix Series in Monaco, Spain, the Netherlands, China, Vietnam and Bahrain had nearly 18 million viewers put together—and that is only on Facebook, Twitch and YouTube.</p> <p><b>Training game</b></p> <p>For players, life under lockdown has been a mix of training to get better and training to relieve monotony.</p> <p>Says Samir ‘Kratos’ Choubey of TeamIND: “For the [PUBG Mobile Pro League], we have cut practice sessions. Our schedule is to wake up by 11am, freshen up and eat by 12:30pm. By 1pm, we start with warmup sessions and drills.”</p> <p>“In this current lockdown, we have decided to have more breaks as it is really unhealthy for our players to stick with their devices all the time and not go out. We often have other side games and fun with each other. It is really important for us to keep our players happy and [it is] not just about performing on competitive platforms,&quot; he adds.</p> <p>Neeraj G.V. aka TheBONES, a professional CoD Mobile player, says, “In my case, I would wake up late in the morning or in the afternoon due to late-night gaming. Then get ready and have lunch. After that, I chill on Netflix or YouTube for a while before I start gaming with my friends or play IGL tournaments. Then have dinner and chill on Netflix or YouTube before a night session of gaming. I go out for fresh air during the free time in between.”</p> <p>The stakes grow larger with each event. The recently-concluded PMPL South Asia had a $138,500 prize pool. The ESL India Premiership 2020’s sponsors include Mercedes-Benz and Red Bull. Professional PUBG Mobile players in India can make up to Rs 50 lakh a year, says Rathee.</p> <p>From big brands advertising with cricket players, we now have cricket players advertising eSports (the Domin8 tournament). Telecom brands—whose services are crucial to mobile gaming (the dominant gaming sector in India)—are diving into the fray; Airtel has partnered with NODWIN Gaming to create an Indian eSports ranking system. Reliance Jio is said to be considering an entry into eSports, too, after having invested in talent to work in its eSports division.</p> <p>The signs are promising. More people watched the League of Legends World Championship Finals than the Oscars. The prize pool for Dota 2’s The International 2019 tournament, at more than $34 million, was more than thrice that of the 2019 ICC ODI World Cup. </p> <p>Yet, taken together, these facts still fail to paint a complete picture of the state of eSports as a whole. Viewers for a LoL match represent just the fans of a single type of game. Sporting prize pools do not account for money earned via sponsorships or media rights (the industry is worth $822 million globally, according to a Newzoo report).</p> <p>So, can Indians make a mark in eSports? The signs are inspiring. Fnatic, one of the world’s most renowned eSports organisations across multiple titles (sort of like if Manchester United fielded teams in multiple sports), maintains an all-India roster for its PUBG Mobile team.</p> <p>When Samir ‘Kratos’ Choubey started gaming professionally, he did not tell his parents about it. Now, he says his dad watches all his matches, and probably knows more about the game than him!</p> <p>The future of eSports, at this pace, is bright.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/18/game-of-phones.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/18/game-of-phones.html Fri Jun 19 12:09:40 IST 2020 one-woman-army <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/18/one-woman-army.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/2020/6/18/Keerthy-Suresh-1.jpg" /> <p>Ever since she won applause in the Telugu industry for her performance in <i>Mahanati</i> (2018), a biopic of yesteryear actor Savitri, Keerthy Suresh has wanted to do a Tamil film that could do for her what <i>Mahanati</i> did for her in Telugu. <i>Penguin</i>, simultaneously shot in Tamil and Telugu, could be that film, she feels. It is set to release on June 19 on Amazon Prime Video. In it, she plays a pregnant woman in search of her missing child. “This is an emotional thriller,” she says. “I am happy to be part of a genre I have not tried before.”</p> <p>Having mostly worked with established directors, working with debutant Eashvar Karthic might have been challenging. “But it never seemed like I was working with someone new,” she says. “It seemed like he had done a lot of movies. From the way he narrated the script to the way he executed it, it was beautiful. I am not sure if a lot of debutant directors are like that.”</p> <p>The film deals a lot with motherhood, so it was natural that the first person she called to prepare for the role was her mother, actor Menaka. “But then, I relied mostly on Eashvar’s brief,” she says. “His script was inspired by his wife’s pregnancy. I used to ask him a lot of questions.”</p> <p>Except for <i>Mahanati,</i> which, as a biopic, required a lot of research, her preparation for roles has been fairly simple. “Before the film begins, I mostly try to crack the look. Moving on to the finer nuances of the character happens only when I go on the set,” she says.</p> <p>Born to Suresh Kumar, a Malayalam film producer whose movies include<i> Coolie</i> (1983), <i>Charithram </i>(1989) and <i>Vishnulokam</i> (1991), and Menaka Suresh, a prominent south Indian actor of the 1980s, Keerthy and her elder sister Revathy always dreamed of associating with films in some way. They wanted to be like their parents, says Keerthy. School vacations were spent on their father’s film sets, something that she enjoyed a lot. So, when an opportunity came to act in one of his films when she was seven years old, she grabbed it. She was cast in <i>Pilots</i> (2000), followed by <i>Achaneyanenikkishtam</i> (2001) and <i>Kuberan </i>(2002), all produced by her father. “Our family background has influenced us a lot,” she says. “That is the reason why my sister works behind the camera [as a costume designer], and I in front of it.”</p> <p>She considers it a boon that she grew up in two different states. Born in Thiruvananthapuram, the family moved to Chennai when she was very young, and then moved back when she was in the fourth standard. After completing her schooling, she went to Chennai once again to study fashion designing. Although initially she toyed with the idea of becoming a fashion designer, fate had other plans when filmmaker Priyadarshan, a friend of her father, offered her a role in <i>Geethanjali </i>(2013), alongside Malayalam superstar Mohanlal. She could not be happier to accept the role.</p> <p>The film, in which she had a double role, did not perform well at the box-office, but her performance was applauded. She took up a more challenging role as a blind girl in <i>Ring Master</i> (2014), which was a hit, followed by many films in Tamil and Telugu. But none of them gave her the recognition that <i>Mahanati </i>did, for which she won a national award.</p> <p>The award, of course, made a big difference to the way people saw her as an actor. But even before it, she knew that something had changed after <i>Mahanati</i>. “Including <i>Penguin,</i> all the women-centric films that I am doing today are because of <i>Mahanati,”</i> she says. “The film [gave a huge boost] to my career. It opened up a lot of opportunities.”</p> <p>About <i>Penguin</i>, producer Karthik Subbaraj says: “Eashwar felt that the artiste who performs the lead role would have to be very strong, and so we chose Keerthy. A typical heroine could not have played the protagonist—a pregnant mother who has lost her child.”</p> <p>That the film is releasing on a digital platform hardly makes a difference to Keerthy. She needed this film as her last two releases in Telugu and Tamil were two years and one-and-a-half years ago respectively. Her Malayalam film, <i>Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham</i>, that reunites her with Priyadarshan and Mohanlal, was to hit the theatres on March 26, but got delayed because of the lockdown.</p> <p>“At this point, a release was very important for me because it has been a while now,” she says. Although she feels that a theatrical release would have been better for a thriller like <i>Penguin,</i> she does not mind the film premiering on a digital platform, as it has the advantage of being released in many countries simultaneously.</p> <p>Keerthy was initially roped in for <i>Maidaan</i>, a Hindi sports film produced by Boney Kapoor, but because of unavailability of dates, she had to pull out. To make a mark in Bollywood is a cherished dream of most actors, but Keerthy is not actively chasing it. “I want to explore a different language and a different culture,” she says. “It gives you a lot more exposure as a performer. But I will wait for the [right] time.”</p> <p>—<b>with Lakshmi Subramanian</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/18/one-woman-army.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/18/one-woman-army.html Thu Jun 18 14:30:00 IST 2020 blood-begets-blood <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/18/blood-begets-blood.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/2020/6/18/68-da-5-Bloods.jpg" /> <p>George Floyd was alive when Spike Lee began filming <i>Da 5 Bloods</i>, an ambitious film about four black war veterans who call themselves the Bloods, hunting for the remains of the fifth Blood—their prophet-like platoon leader “Storming” Norman, killed in action in Vietnam.</p> <p>The evening Floyd walked into a grocery store in Minneapolis to buy cigarettes, Lee was at home, readying the film for release on Netflix. It was Memorial Day, a public holiday in the US for honouring and mourning military personnel who had died while serving.</p> <p>In Lee’s film, the Bloods go into a Vietnam that has drastically changed. “Wow, look at all this!” exclaims one of them as a young Vietnamese guide leads them through a crowded market square surrounded by high-rises and burger outlets. “They didn’t need us. They should’ve just sent Mickey Ds, Pizza Hut and The Colonel, and we would have defeated the Viet Cong in one week!”</p> <p>Floyd, too, could have found himself in a place that was both familiar and strange. The owner of the grocery store, a 35-year-old Palestinian American called Mahmoud Abumayyaleh, knew Floyd as the “big teddy bear” who would drop in occasionally to pay phone bills. That evening, because it was Memorial Day, Abumayyaleh was away and Floyd had to deal with one of his young, inexperienced attendants.</p> <p>In <i>Da 5 Bloods</i>, the motives of the veterans are not entirely honourable. Their reverence for their fallen leader is not the only factor that prompts them to return to Vietnam; they also want to recover a pile of gold bricks that was buried with him. The gold was the US government’s bribe to the native people for their help in fighting the Viet Cong. The Bloods get hold of it during the war and bury it. “If they ask, we say the VC got it,” Storming Norman tells the Bloods shortly before he dies. “Later on, we come back and collect.”</p> <p>Floyd’s intentions, too, much like the Bloods’s, may have been less than honourable. He was inebriated, and he allegedly bought cigarettes with a fake $20 note, the ink on which was reportedly still drying. To the shop assistant, Abumayyaleh’s teddy bear looked threateningly big enough to call the cops.</p> <p>In the film, one of the Bloods, Paul, deserts his friends after obtaining his share of gold bricks. “You made me malignant,” he says. As he escapes with the lucre, Paul looks down the camera, at the audience, and delivers a long monologue. The war, he says, polluted “my bloodstream, my cells, my DNA and my... soul”. “But I ain’t dying from that shit,” he says defiantly. “You hear me: You will not kill Paul. The US government will not take me out. I will choose when and how I die!”</p> <p>Paul, it turns out, meets a fate that is not very different from Floyd’s. And both the deaths lead to violent confrontations. “Bloods don’t die; we just multiply,” goes one prophetic line, early in the film.</p> <p>Spike Lee’s films are usually dense, topical and resonant, but never has he directed a film as eerily fitting and grandiloquent as <i>Da 5 Bloods</i>. Watching the film is quite like feeling the reel and the real converging and collapsing. It is never a comfortable watch.</p> <p>The topicality can also be off-putting at times. There are indeed powerfully subversive moments (in a nod to <i>Apocalypse Now</i>, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries blares as the Bloods set off on a boat to the jungle) and thematic stresses (Paul is a Trump supporter who wears a MAGA cap that ends up being worn by a murdering Frenchman). But, all these elements never quite come together to make a great film. Like most Spike Lee movies, <i>Da 5 Bloods</i> is less than the sum of its parts.</p> <p>But then, Lee is not a filmmaker in the conventional sense of the word. Each of his movies (except the horrible <i>Oldboy</i>) is labelled as “a Spike Lee joint”. That is how he ‘signs’ his movies. A Spike Lee joint, he once explained, was “really all the ingredients that I put into my film. Whatever film it is, whatever subject matter is. The connective tissue is that it’s coming through me.”</p> <p><i>Da 5 Bloods</i> is as messy and unsophisticated as anything Lee has rolled in film. But he may well want you to savour and experience it in parts, rather than devour and understand it in whole.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Da 5 Bloods</p> <p>Available on Netflix</p> <p>Rating: 3/5</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/18/blood-begets-blood.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/18/blood-begets-blood.html Thu Jun 18 13:28:02 IST 2020 android-11-beta-more-features-more-power <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/18/android-11-beta-more-features-more-power.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/2020/6/18/69-android-11-beta.jpg" /> <p>Google has made the public beta of Android 11 available for its Pixel phones. A few more devices from other manufacturers will get it soon. While there are numerous subtle and not-so-subtle changes and improvements, some of them stand out and make a strong case for upgrading to the new version.</p> <p><b>Notifications</b></p> <p>Google makes it a point to refine the notifications panel in every iteration of Android. In Android 11, the notifications are separated into three sections—conversations, alert notifications and silent notification. Conversations is where all your chat notifications are displayed. An interesting new feature here is that any chat can be turned into bubbles, just like the Facebook Messenger chat heads. The media playback has been moved from the notification panel to quick settings.</p> <p><b>Power menu</b></p> <p>The power menu has been redesigned to accommodate smart home control buttons that had been buried in the Google Home app.</p> <p><b>Home screen</b></p> <p>When you swipe up on the home screen, you get three options—screenshot, select or share.</p> <p><b>Location permissions</b></p> <p>Now you have the option of using four settings for location identification: one time, allow for an app, ask every time, or deny.</p> <p><b>Other things</b></p> <p>Among the many other tweaks are scrolling screenshots that can grab an entire web page, picture-in picture (mostly used by video streaming apps) that can be resized, and an updated keyboard. </p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/18/android-11-beta-more-features-more-power.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/18/android-11-beta-more-features-more-power.html Thu Jun 18 12:49:53 IST 2020 reaching-for-the-stars <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/18/reaching-for-the-stars.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/2020/6/18/71sushant-singh-new.jpg" /> <p>Hindsight can sometimes be quite eerie. The last question I asked Sushant Singh Rajput after a day of working together on a photo-shoot and interview for THE MAN magazine in Mumbai a couple of years ago, was whether he would give it all up.</p> <p>The actor replied that he may just go and do anything, and always has, throughout his life. He pointed out how he gave up engineering a few months before getting his degree, and the TV show he was headlining (Pavitra Rishta) when it was getting good TRPs. “I [will] do [anything] when I feel like doing it,” he said. “As long as I enjoy the process and have different methods to try, I will keep doing it.”</p> <p>At what point did Sushant run out of that joie de vivre and all the glorious uncertainties that life could throw his way? For, a little earlier, he had stated with self-assurance, “I like not knowing, not being careful at times and trying out different things.” He had his reason, too. “[Only then] will you stumble onto something that is absolutely new.”</p> <p>Sushant’s might have been a life gone too soon, but it was certainly spent in search of a higher purpose beyond a stereotypical starry existence. Born in the dusty plains of Bihar, he was brilliant at everything he did. A National Olympiad winner in Physics, he cleared all 11 entrance exams he appeared for, finally choosing to study mechanical engineering at the then Delhi College of Engineering.</p> <p>However, music and dance soon beckoned, and he abandoned engineering to move to Mumbai, joined a dance school and started looking for acting gigs. After taking acting classes, going for several auditions and generally roughing it out—things that every outsider in Bollywood has to go through—Sushant hopscotched his way through dance and television soaps to the big league in Bollywood. His first film Kai Po Che (2013) was a rage, followed by seven years of delivering mostly hits like PK (2014) and M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016). His last release Chhichhore (2019), in which he played a father who nurses a suicidal son back to life, grossed more than 0200 crore at the box office.</p> <p>But satisfaction never comes easy to a thirsty soul. His financial issues may have been solved, but the mind was still restless. Nothing illustrated it better than how he got his first luxury car, a blue Maserati. As a child, from the time he got a blue toy Maserati from an instant noodle pack, young Sushant always dreamt of owning one once he grew up. After becoming a star, he went to order one, only to be told they did not have it in blue. “I waited for seven months and got myself a blue Maserati only to realise two days later that [the high was gone],” he had said. “I got used to it very quickly. Now, I needed another high.”</p> <p>What he perhaps did not find on terra firma, he looked for in the infinite skies. His fascination with space was well known. He regularly posted on social media what he saw from his high-end telescope. He also did a certification course at NASA to prepare for his dream project of making India’s first space film. He had even installed a VR-set in his home, which let him virtually fly Apollo 11. “After you do that… you feel something is missing, after that complete immersion of looking at the moon, the earth, and being in space,” he had said. In hindsight, Sushant was probably meant to be a wandering star up above, not a shooting star down below.&nbsp; </p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/18/reaching-for-the-stars.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/18/reaching-for-the-stars.html Thu Jun 18 12:39:38 IST 2020 summer-of-fall <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/12/summer-of-fall.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/2020/6/12/63-Vijay-new.jpg" /> <p>Just as India was getting ready for Unlock 1, the Tamil Nadu government had some good news for its television industry. On May 30, it relaxed the norms for shooting of TV serials (the green signal was given in an order dated May 21). Most significantly, the new guidelines allowed up to 60 people on set, compared with 20 as per the initial order. However, Kollywood, for now, has to settle for the resumption of post-production.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Post-production work, such as dubbing and editing, of around 20 films have resumed with strict security protocols. But, in the case of TV serials, not much has happened despite the go-ahead. Actor Khushbu, general secretary of the state’s small screen producers association, said that as serial shoots mostly happen within a small space or inside a building, social distancing is difficult.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, despite the practical difficulties, there is now hope in the television industry. The film industry on the other hand is facing a crisis. Kollywood had a turnover of Rs2,000 crore in 2019 and stakeholders were hoping for a major growth at the start of the new decade. But the lockdown resulted in an all-time low; the loss is estimated to be around Rs800 crore. “Kollywood business is usually higher during summer vacation,” said G. Dhananjayan, film producer and trade expert.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The biggest blow was the postponement of action thriller <i>Master</i>, starring Vijay. Made at a cost of Rs180 crore, <i>Master</i> was the most awaited release of the summer. Vijay’s <i>Bigil</i> (2019) reportedly made close to Rs300 crore; his <i>Sarkar</i> (2018) and <i>Mersal</i> (2017) were both estimated to have crossed Rs250 crore. Other major postponed releases include Suriya-starrer <i>Soorarai Pottru</i> (based on the life of Air Deccan founder G.R. Gopinath), Dhanush’s <i>Jagame Thandhiram</i> and Jayam Ravi’s <i>Bhoomi</i>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vikram’s <i>Cobra</i> is yet to complete shooting. The remaining part—20 per cent—has to be shot abroad. Rajinikanth’s <i>Annaathe</i> has around 40 per cent shooting left; it was scheduled for a Diwali release, but has now been pushed to January 2021. Even if film shooting is greenlit, sources said stars may not return to work before August. Some are said to be ready to work only by October. Moreover, actors aged 60 and above may not be allowed to work immediately.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Apart from the big-budget movies, around 80 smaller movies are waiting for the theatres to open. Trade analyst P. Ramanujam said the lockdown had halted the release of 125 movies. This includes completed films and those which were under post-production. Thirty-four movies, which needed just five to 15 days to complete, were also stopped. “Even if the theatres open, only the big-ticket films can bring back the crowds,” said Dhananjayan. He said the audience may become more choosy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In fact, a survey conducted by Cinema Central, a part of Dhananjayan’s film institute BOFTA, found that 39 per cent of the respondents were ready to go to the theatres if a much-anticipated film was released. Sixty-six per cent missed the theatres and 43 per cent were willing to go to cinema halls within three weeks of them being reopened. Fifty per cent were concerned about safety, while 13 per cent were worried about spending. Also, 20 per cent said they were comfortable watching movies online.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, not everyone believes the big-ticket releases are the way to go. Kothanda Ramaiah, a senior member of the producer’s council, said that <i>Master</i> should not be released as soon as the theatres are reopened as it may bring in big crowds and wreak the social distancing efforts. He said small budget films should be run in the theatres for a few weeks before the big films are released. “This is because of the politics in the industry,” said Ramanujam. “The producer’s council election is scheduled to take place in September and there are many small producers who will support him.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, theatres have seen a loss of over Rs5 crore a day during the lockdown. With 1,100 screens across Tamil Nadu, Ramanujam estimated that each theatre, even when closed, has to spend at least Rs5,000 daily for maintenance. Rakesh Gowthaman, managing director of Vetri theatres, said that summer releases were expected to help in achieving a 30 per cent increase in the overall business this year. In fact, theatre owners were expecting more business this year as there were highly anticipated Hollywood releases like Scarlett Johansson-starrer <i>Black Widow</i> and <i>Fast &amp; Furious 9,</i> and Bollywood sports drama ’<i>83</i>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Overall, Rs1,000 crore investment has got locked in the industry this summer, as Tamil box office is associated with malls and multiplexes,” said Dhananjayan.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/12/summer-of-fall.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/12/summer-of-fall.html Fri Jun 12 11:41:50 IST 2020 through-the-looking-glass <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/12/through-the-looking-glass.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/2020/6/12/66-Sudarshan-Shetty-new.jpg" /> <p>For a while, it seemed like the world had drawn to a close, with offices shut, film releases getting indefinitely postponed and live music and fashion shows going online. We are facing such an unprecedented situation that it is difficult to conjecture what a post-Covid-19 world will look like. Still, one has to limp back to normalcy. So, we asked five industry experts from fashion, food, music, cinema and art on what they think is the future of their industries. Sometimes the best perspective is gotten amidst the worst crises. As the lyrics of a song by Brandi Carlile goes: “You can dance in a hurricane. But only if you are in the eye.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>SUDARSHAN SHETTY,</b> artist and former curator, Kochi-Muziris Biennale</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“<b>NOW IS THE TIME TO BRING ART BACK TO THE IDEA OF ‘AVANT GARDE’”</b></p> <p>Coming out of this, there ought to be something of an essential change in the way we look at the world and our place in it. This is the time to question the ways in which we have failed so far, and how we can proceed further.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I think the social need for ‘art’, as we see it now, is on the wane. There was a time when art produced information. Today, most art that you may see is secondary or dependent on the information that is [already] out there. This can be very conformist, so as to conform to a generally accepted notion or images of the dystopic times we live in. I think now, more than ever, is an artist’s responsibility to bring art back, if at all, to the idea of ‘avant garde’. To not only produce information that has transformative power for society at large, but also to find possible ways in which we can perceive the world outside or inside of ourselves.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The art industry, in the way it operates now, is not conducive to this approach, as it is tied inextricably to the market forces and is controlled by a very small group of people in the west. To begin with, we must stop playing ‘catch up’ with them. I hope this lockdown may help restructure some of the ways in which the industry and the art market are conducted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I think that the internet can provide one way of dissemination. Right now, it seems to be the first response to the situation we find ourselves in, with museums and art spaces holding virtual tours and exhibitions. It would be interesting to see how artists respond in the future that may throw up some very interesting ways of dissemination of knowledge and vision outside of the internet.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>RICKY KEJ,</b> Grammy award-winning musician</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“<b>COLLABORATIONS ARE GOING TO BE KEY IN FUTURE”</b></p> <p>Live concerts will be majorly impacted as people cannot come out in large gatherings. However, today, the technology just does not exist for musicians from different locations to get online streaming to fans [in a seamless way]. Just take Zoom—the audio quality is terrible. Even if there is half a second of latency, it can throw off a drummer or a percussionist. Because of the poor quality, you cannot charge money for online concerts. However, one can use the popularity they provide to make money through branded content or by coming up with advertising jingles for clients. Musicians will need to think very creatively to make money.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pre-recorded concerts are a good option, if you have absolutely exclusive content for the audience and can offer a brand-new experience. Online concerts also open up the whole world for collaborations, which are going to be key in future. I can collaborate with a musician from another country in the same way I can collaborate with one two doors down my road.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Personally, 17 of my concerts in different countries have gotten cancelled. I have 16 albums streaming on various platforms; the royalty I get from them gives me a steady income. Many musicians whom I hire for concerts, though, have been really affected. The musicians who are going to thrive are the ones who are technologically adept. Things are going to be completely DIY (do it yourself).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>CHEF MANU CHANDRA,</b> chef partner, Olive group of restaurants</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“<b>BEING CLOSED FOR OVER 70 DAYS IS LIKE BEING STRUCK BY A METEOR. IT IS ARMAGEDDON”</b></p> <p>These are desperate times. I see no silver lining. From what I can see, [even after restaurants reopen] people will want to wait before entering crowded spaces. This will have an overall impact on the whole eco-system of the restaurant industry and will determine whether it weathers the storm or perishes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>How is dining going to change? A lot has been written about digitised menus and servers wearing PPE suits. One thing seems to be piling onto another and the impact seems to be substantial. You take a hit if you are closed for 3 days. Being closed for over 70 days is like being struck by a meteor. It is Armageddon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>You have no choice but to introspect. After a point, introspection gives way and desperation takes hold. Will you be able to create a replacement model for what exists? It is not going to happen. So then what will happen? And what about the young, starry-eyed hotel management graduates? Lakhs of them entering the job market have nowhere to go. We were huge creators of demand. What’s going to happen to the families of our suppliers?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If this continues for another four to six months, 35 to 40 per cent of the restaurant industry is not going to survive. I see no light at the end of the tunnel yet. Only when every stakeholder is willing to work constructively and share the immense pain this has caused, will there be a glimmer of hope to overcome these extraordinary odds. It cannot be an option, but the new reality, till we return to the normal we knew.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>IMTIAZ ALI,</b> filmmaker</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“<b>THIS WILL LEAD TO SEVERAL IMPROVEMENTS IN THE FILM INDUSTRY”</b></p> <p>We will face a lot of immediate problems—like how the infectiousness of the disease will affect the collaborative processes of film-making, shooting, post-production…. It seems like some form of shooting will begin in August-September. Then, the advantage will be to those whose films were half-made. Then to those who had not yet started filming. And finally, those films which were not yet sanctioned will get sanction. This means that the creative flow of our industry will have a lag of six months or so when it comes to production, even though people are writing a lot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite all this, this period will result in several improvements in the next five years. First, when it comes to budgeting, things have been hyper-priced for long. The size of the units, for example, will be naturally controlled as a result of the pandemic. When you reduce the unit size, there will be more accountability and efficiency, as is there in the west. Secondly, filmmakers will take a re-look at their scripts. Focus on those things that were good but not ready, instead of those that were ready but not good. Thus, the general level of cinema will improve. Thirdly, the OTT space will really raise the bar of films that are produced. As filmmakers, we know that we have a space where our films can be placed; we can escape narrow-minded release strategies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>MANDIRA WIRK,</b> fashion designer</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“<b>THE FUTURE IS DIGITAL, WITH MORE VIRTUAL APPOINTMENTS AND TOURS”</b></p> <p>Things are going to change drastically in fashion. The future is digital. There are going to be more virtual appointments and tours of showrooms and garments. When it comes to the price point, there might be a pause on luxury and greater focus on comfort—more cotton and fabrics made in India. The emphasis is going to be on smart clothing that you can wear to meetings or to work, but nothing over the top. The artisans have taken a major hit. That is why we need to go back to our heritage and give importance to our tradition and culture.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With technology, we need to make the experience as personalised as possible. The customer will have to be included in each step in the process of making a garment, so that they know we are taking enough precautions in terms of safety and sanitisation. If a customer in London or California wants to know how a fabric feels, we must invest in courier services to send her samples. Earlier, maybe we were not so personally involved with our customers.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/12/through-the-looking-glass.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/12/through-the-looking-glass.html Fri Jun 12 11:34:24 IST 2020 spell-mell <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/12/spell-mell.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/2020/6/12/69-Spelling-the-Dream.jpg" /> <p>For more than a decade now, Indian-Americans have been dominating a time-honoured white American tradition. Twenty-six of the last 31 winners of the prestigious Scripps National Spelling Bee—a televised annual contest in which whiz-kids from across America take on the dictionary—have been from the community that makes up just 1 per cent of the US population.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Something clearly is going on here that needs to be better understood,” says the narrator of the new Netflix documentary <i>Spelling the Dream</i>. Sadly, Netflix is not in the ‘understanding issues’ business; it is in the content-packaging business.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Spelling the Dream</i>, therefore, is just another sleek specimen of the sports-drama genre. The documentary is crammed with information, but never demands your full attention; it features fascinating people, but they are portrayed as instantly forgettable characters; its workman-like filmmaking culminates in the kind of stirring denouement that is customary for the genre, but it leaves you empty and unsatisfied.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is, however, much to relish if you are a desi culture warrior. The documentary has approving voiceovers of how India’s civilisation and ethos foster a flair for languages; and montages that show white, black and Latino children struggling to spell words as simple as capsule, while Indian-Americans romp home with ‘echolalia’ and ‘scilicet’. Netflix is so focused on making Indians happy that it even shows India’s map with China- and Pakistan-occupied parts of Kashmir as undisputed Indian territory—a first for a foreign production like this.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, why is Netflix risking a controversy? Perhaps the streaming giant knows that <i>Spelling the Dream</i> would be streamed only by Indians. Given this cynical audience targeting, how can you expect <i>Spelling the Dream</i> to capture what modern bee-movie classics like <i>Akeelah and the Bee</i> (2006) and Oscar-nominated documentary <i>Spellbound</i> (2002) did?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The best sports movies are often a nod to the power of the collective, but the Netflix documentary focuses too much on the struggle of individuals. Its storytelling form is the very antithesis of the spirit of the bee and its etymology. (The word has its roots in the medieval community get-togethers where people helped each other with their work—as in quilting bee or apple bee.) Instead, we get moments such as where the taciturn parents of an Indian-American prodigy talk about their secret database of words that will help their son win. “We are sharing this database only because this is our last year, and so far we have kept this as a family trade secret, and that gives [our son] a competitive advantage,” says the father proudly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most Indian-American parents in the film come across as fiercely competent and selfish, with insular views of what they owe to their adopted country. “The goal for [my son] would be to be a good citizen,” says one father. “So, whatever he does, whatever he learns, it should benefit the community, the country, the world. Something like Microsoft, for example.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is annoying that the filmmakers paint this hackneyed picture at a time when Indian-Americans are making their presence felt in almost every sphere of American life, and not just in technology and medicine. “Something is clearly going on” indeed with Indian-Americans, but this incredibly lazy film about incredibly hardworking children proves that Netflix does not quite get it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Spelling the Dream</b></p> <p>Available on Netflix</p> <p>Rating: 2/5</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/12/spell-mell.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/12/spell-mell.html Fri Jun 12 11:20:01 IST 2020 decoding-an-enigma <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/12/decoding-an-enigma.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/2020/6/12/70-Sridevi.jpg" /> <p>In the first chapter of <i>Sridevi: The Eternal Screen Goddess</i>, author Satyarth Nayak talks about the actor’s dual personality—the one who was reticent and soft-spoken, and also the one who danced with abandon. This duality would become synonymous with Sridevi’s image going forward. It is as close to reality as it could get.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet, there is a slight apprehension in picking up the book. One wonders if it is too soon, as it released in less than two years after her tragic death. Will it do justice to her 50-year-long illustrious film career? Will it be hagiographical, what with her husband, filmmaker Boney Kapoor, being the force behind the book?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But with a linear narrative that begins with Sridevi’s early days in life and in acting (as Lord Murugan in <i>Thunaivan</i> (1967)), Nayak moves on to her process, her collaborations and her rise to the top, becoming the most revered female actor of her time. Nayak, a graduate in literature from St Stephen’s College in Delhi, makes it a convincing retelling of her life. The fan in the author never takes a backseat, but the objectivity remains intact. “I am a Sridevi admirer,” he says, “But I have also been critical about aspects of her career. Like, how many of her film choices were questionable and how her performance in films like <i>Roop Ki Rani Choron ka Raja</i> almost borders on caricature.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The most insightful segment in the book is the actor’s early years in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada film industries, her acting stint with former Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa and her rivalry with Jaya Prada. “I was very clear from the beginning that I have to cover her 50-year journey and not just Bollywood,” says Nayak. Regarding her Bollywood foray, he raises important questions like how she never explored parallel cinema with art-house directors. Or, how in the later years she was restricted in her film choices.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another plus is that Nayak has used Sridevi’s archival interviews and spoken to “70-odd people who have worked with her over the years”. His initial idea though was to hear it all from her instead of archival interviews. In 2017, he got in touch with Boney during the release of <i>Mom</i>—Sridevi’s 300th film, which also marked her 50th year as an actor. “But Janhvi had just signed <i>Dhadak</i> (2018) and while Sridevi agreed to do the book, she wanted to focus on Janhvi’s film at the time,” Nayak said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, the book was pushed further. Then in February 2018, she died. “I was in deep shock, like so many around me. But a friend texted me saying, ‘You owe this book to her since you promised.’ He said the only difference now is that your book will have a last chapter [chronicling the last chapter of her life].”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A Lucknow lad, Nayak was 13 when <i>Gumrah</i> (1993) released. “I became a huge fan of hers after watching the film,” he says. Earlier that year, <i>Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja</i> had tanked at the box-office. ‘Fall of a star’, ‘Is this the end of Sridevi?’ were the kind of articles doing the rounds then. But <i>Gumrah</i> changed all that; she was ‘Back with a bang’. That is when Nayak’s interest in her piqued. “I got really interested in how she came out of her adversity,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That was the time when he started collecting old magazine copies with Sridevi’s interviews. “I collected them just as a fan, but that collection became a big resource for me,” says Nayak. “It gave me a chronology of her career, her thoughts about her life and career—what was her mind space in the 1980s, in the 1990s. In her absence, those quotes have become a voice in the book.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book has some interesting snippets. For instance, how Sridevi was “bored sick” of doing <i>Solva Sawan</i> (1979) that was a remake of a film that she had already done twice, in Tamil and Telugu. Or, her confession of being a “quintessential child-woman” in a cover story of the magazine, <i>Movie</i>. “I was very sure that the book should be something where you discover things that you don't know,” says Nayak. He was surprised to discover that senior actors like Dharmendra and Amrish Puri would stand up when she entered the sets. “That was the level of adulation that she enjoyed,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the same reverence, there is much deliberation in the book on her acting, her comic timing, which was pitch perfect, and her vivacity in front of the camera. And, Nayak strikes a balance between her work and personal life with anecdotes, like Kamal Haasan recalling how Sridevi’s mother would often discuss her marriage with him. “She would joke with me that maybe I should marry her daughter,” said Haasan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even if the tone of the book is adulatory to an extent, it is a sincere effort in putting together the life of an actor who remained an enigma till the end.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>SRIDEVI: THE ETERNAL SCREEN GODDESS</b></p> <p>Author: Satyarth Nayak</p> <p>Publisher: Penguin eBury Press</p> <p>Pages: 296; price Rs599</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/12/decoding-an-enigma.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/12/decoding-an-enigma.html Fri Jun 12 11:15:18 IST 2020 work-play <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/12/work-play.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/2020/6/12/73-Mithila-Palkar.jpg" /> <p>In one night, Mithila Palkar went from being anonymous to famous, all thanks to her Marathi version of the Cups (song). And then came digital shows like Girl in the City (2016) and Little Things (2016), followed by films like Karwaan (2018) and Chopsticks (2019). Palkar, who started out with backstage production work in Quasar Thakore Padamsee’s theatre group and followed it up with acting on stage, has some interesting work lined up.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You seem to be doing a lot even during the lockdown.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ I am someone who cannot sit idle.... I am working out and am back to my kathak classes (online). Apart from that, I have The Behens Are Back, an improvised version of the play Dekh Behen, which is being performed for digital platforms. We are finding ways to keep theatre alive. I am also spending a lot of time with my grandparents. That’s the most valuable thing during this lockdown. Their only entertainment was to watch the world go by from the balcony, but there is no world going by right now. So, they are a little perplexed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You have Tribhanga coming up soon on Netflix.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ It was fantastic to work on the film. I got to work with phenomenal women like Renuka Shahane (director), Kajol and Tanvi Azmi (actors).... I have always been in awe of Shahane. I absolutely enjoy her writing and admire the things she stands up for. It was surreal to share screen with Kajol. It took me two days to even talk to her off-camera. I was so nervous. She was too chilled out. The inhibition was my own. The same had happened when I met Irrfan (Khan) sir for the first time on the sets of Karwaan. I was intimidated, not because he made me feel that way, but because I have admired him for years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Have you come to terms with his death?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ I didn’t even know how to articulate my thoughts on the day he passed away. It was numbing. People who have not even met him—the only introduction they have of him is through his films—they, too, felt it as a personal loss. For people who have worked with him, it has been too hard. But his legacy will live on. When we were doing Karwaan in 2017... Irrfan sir was still getting a hang of the internet, trying to understand the new world of entertainment. He was so inquisitive about my work. He asked me, “Jo tu kaam karti hai, woh kahan dikhta hai [Where does the work you do get featured]?” He was such a curious person all the time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You studied advertising in college. Do you think that helps you build your brand?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ I studied mass media and brand management, and marketing was a part of our curriculum. These things come handy because you present yourself as a brand. Even while collaborating with someone [for brand promotions], you know how to present that. I believe that no education goes waste.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/12/work-play.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/12/work-play.html Fri Jun 12 10:51:52 IST 2020 the-puppet-master <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/the-puppet-master.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/2020/6/4/shoojit.jpg" /> <p>There have been many cyclones,” proclaims Shoojit Sircar in a telephonic conversation from Kolkata, a few days after Cyclone Amphan hit West Bengal and Odisha. “The first was [the death of] Irrfan (Khan).” It was Sircar’s heart-breaking tweet that intimated many about it in April. “It took me so much time to come to terms with that,” he says. “I have not been able to, though. In his final days, as his health deteriorated, we were trying to figure out what was going to happen. I was still hopeful that he would fight back. I still feel his presence all around me.”</p> <p>Then came Cyclone Amphan which, he says, has been devastating. “You feel so helpless looking at the devastation, and you cannot do much,” he says. “Villages have been wiped out completely. But people are doing their best to help, and that is what matters.”</p> <p>In between these two tragic events came the announcement of Sircar’s upcoming film, <i>Gulabo Sitabo</i>, which is set to release on Amazon Prime Video on June 12. The news rattled multiplex owners; one chain even threatened “retributive measures”. The film was supposed to have a theatrical release in January, which got pushed to April, and then it was impacted by the lockdown. “At some point, the [owners] will have to understand, and they will,” he says. “We will also talk to them.” He says that everyone has to adapt to the situation as no one has experienced such a pandemic in their lifetime.</p> <p>“I have a habit of taking the film to the audience as soon as it is ready,” he says. “We are not a big production house, we make and release one film at a time. I did not expect the rattle that followed, but I have tried explaining to the theatre chains that this is not the only film I am going to make. There are going to be many.”</p> <p>The film reunites him with Ayushmann Khurrana, with whom he had worked in <i>Vicky Donor </i>(2012), and Amitabh Bachchan, with whom he had worked in <i>Piku </i>(2015) and <i>Shoebite </i>(unreleased). Also onboard were frequent collaborator and writer Juhi Chaturvedi, cinematographer Avik Mukhopadhyay and music director Shantanu Moitra. Sircar says that before making any film he gauges if the story is challenging enough for him to enjoy the process. Initially, when Chaturvedi introduced the idea for <i>Gulabo Sitabo</i>, Sircar thought it could be an enjoyable process and started fleshing out the script, still unsure whether to set it in Delhi or Lucknow. But as the story took shape, Lucknow seemed like a better fit.</p> <p>The title of the film was inspired by the Gulabo Sitabo puppet theatre, an art form that is synonymous with Lucknow and revolves around two women, one older and the other younger, usually trading insults in a humorous way. The film tells the story of the conflict between an elderly landlord, Mirza (Amitabh Bachchan) and his young tenant, Banke (Ayushmann Khurrana).</p> <p>Sircar says that it was not easy to get Bachchan onboard. “He takes a little time [to agree],” he says. “But I think he trusts me. You cannot go to him with simple characters. You have to go to him with ones that really challenge, steer and exhaust him. I believe this character is one of the most exhausting ones that he has done.”</p> <p>Bachchan is shown to be an old, bent man with a jutting nose. “The most difficult part of creating the character of Mirza was [ensuring] that nobody would recognise him as Mr Bachchan,” says Sircar. “I always wanted him to be recognised as Mirza. We have achieved that quite well because he really looks like a character from old Lucknow. We started by referencing the looks of [the Pashtun leader] Abdul Ghaffar Khan and a portrait by the Russian pencil artist Olga Larionova. We just kept improvising until coming to the final look in the film.”</p> <p>But his ultimate aim was always to create a believable and distinct world. “My films are always about the world,” he says. “In Piku, it was all about that. There was no plot as such. You place the camera in front of a family and just see the <i>zindagi ka tamasha</i> (circus of life),” says Sircar, who is trying his hand at satire for the first time with this film. “Watching the trailer, you might think that the film is just about property disputes and material attachments, but it goes much beyond that.”</p> <p>For Sircar, who started his journey with advertisements, it is the experimentation in filmmaking that keeps him going. “There is no point in doing the same thing without challenging your philosophies,” he says. Maybe that is why he makes such different films, from a political one like <i>Yahaan </i>(2005) set in Kashmir, to the delightful <i>Vicky Donor</i> and <i>Piku</i>, to the heart-wrenching <i>Madras Cafe</i> (2013), and the solemn <i>October </i>(2018). Although he keeps juggling genres, it is not that which drives him, he says. Rather, it is always the stories. The challenge, he says, is in knowing when not to cross the line. In <i>Vicky Donor</i>, for example, it would have been very easy for it to become slapstick humour. He had to be careful about it.</p> <p>The trailer of <i>Gulabo Sitabo</i> has got more than 40 million views on YouTube, which is the most he has got for any of his films. Yet, people have told him that it was not funny enough and should have elicited more laughter. “I told them they should watch TikTok for a laugh,” he says. “I cannot guarantee laughter in this film, but I can assure you that there will be a smile throughout.”</p> <p>His next film, <i>Sardar Udham Singh</i>, starring Vicky Kaushal, is tentatively set to release next January. For now, he is enjoying the lockdown at his home in Kolkata. “I am not in a hurry to do things,” he says. [Lockdown] has given me time to be with myself without having to deal with the world’s commotion. The only thing I regret is not being able to go and meet Irrfan for the last time.” &nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/the-puppet-master.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/the-puppet-master.html Thu Jun 04 15:37:04 IST 2020 looming-threat <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/looming-threat.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/2020/6/4/NoLoveLost.jpg" /> <p>Well… this year’s Eid had been like no other Eid in my memory. In my lifetime, I hope I will never spend such an Eid. My loom was silent and sad. So was I. Our entire mohalla was silent—had been silent for two months now, after all our orders got cancelled, and the money owed to us by those who had already taken our sarees and lehengas, was not given by the middlemen. They had simply thrown up their hands and said there was none to give.</p> <p>Everything collapsed overnight. Thank God I had some cash in the tin box—an advance given by a tourist—a memsaab from phoren. Imagine, this mem wanted to get married in America wearing my saree! I had sold many of my weaves to these goralog in the past, when they came to Benaras as tourists and were brought to our mohalla by guides to show how we worked. But this order was different. Her name, she told me, was Angelina—she wrote it down. But I found it hard to pronounce, so she said, ‘Just call me Angie’. That was easy.</p> <p>I called her ‘Madam Angie’, and she laughed, saying, ‘No madam. Just Angie!’ Such a big memsaab and so humble. She had a special request—she told me the other weavers in the gully had refused to take her order as they didn’t want to deal with extra double-double work. They’d told her—‘Go to Azarbhai—he is mad! He may do it for you.’</p> <p>That’s how Angie came to me and asked, ‘Will you weave a special saree which has my love story in it? I will pay extra for the trouble.’ I immediately liked the idea, and asked my loom. Both of us agreed it was unique and a challenge we could meet if we worked very hard. She wanted it for her wedding in June. She told me it was a good time to get married in New York because the weather was always very fine at that time. We negotiated a price—I was most reasonable. I also offered her jalebis and special milk tea, which she enjoyed....</p> <p>Slowly, carefully, an emotional story was created and a fresh amount fixed. I didn’t overcharge her, though I could have, since this saree required months of hard work. But my loom and I were already hearing the shehnai! I started weaving Madam Angie’s saree after seeking Allah’s blessings and offering dua to her and her future husband, Mark Saab. After she left, we kept in touch over WhatsApp, with me using Ali’s smart phone, and sending her pictures as the saree progressed on the loom.</p> <p>Throughout that period, I only listened to Ustad Bismillah Khan saab playing the shehnai as only he could. I feel a weaver’s mood and state of mind affects what he creates. This was a very precious responsibility given to me by a good woman. I wanted her saree to be a masterpiece! Nothing less.</p> <p>While I was halfway through it, something terrible befell the world. At first, I ignored what I was hearing, and continued to weave. I told myself, these are just stories. In India, we are used to all kinds of diseases. In Benaras life and death have always co-existed through centuries—we take both for granted. I had grown up seeing funeral pyres and corpses burning on the ghats all day and all night. Death did not frighten me. But what Ali was sharing with his friends and sometimes with his ammi and me, was something far worse—it was an unknown harbinger of death and suffering. Maybe he did not want to scare us by discussing this topic. But from the little I could make out from what they were showing on television, I knew it was a major calamity... and the whole world was getting infected by... some said an insect, some said a bat, some said a chemical. But all said it came out of China.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>­<b>—Extracted with permission from&nbsp;</b><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">No Love Lost and Other Stories:</b></p> <p><b>Lockdown Liaisons Book Two,&nbsp;</b><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">published by Simon &amp; Schuster.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No love lost &amp; other stories</p> <p>Author: Shobhaa De</p> <p>Publisher: Simon &amp; Schuster</p> <p>Pages: 51; price Rs89</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/looming-threat.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/looming-threat.html Thu Jun 04 15:27:13 IST 2020 social-distancing-is-anti-humanity <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/social-distancing-is-anti-humanity.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/2020/6/4/shobhade-new.jpg" /> <p><b>Q/ You wrote Lockdown Liaisons during lockdown. Is this your quickest book?</b></p> <p>A/ The honest answer: it is still a work in progress. Book 1 has been launched and hit the number one spot on day 2, which was such a thrill. Book 2 will be launched on Saturday (June 6). And then on to Book 3, 4, 5, 6. I will continue to write the stories organically as they form inside my head, as the world responds to new challenges. I was compelled as a writer to document these tumultuous times in my own way. Imagine being felled by a microbe! How could I let this dramatic moment in history pass without writing about the emotional havoc it has caused in all our lives? I didn’t set out to become a literary Formula One racing driver and create a speed record! But the sense of immediacy the pandemic unleashed propelled me to go ahead and keep at it. It was great when Simon &amp; Schuster got cracking, and in under two weeks, we launched Book 1 on the last day of lockdown 4.0. Timing is everything!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Did any specific incident push you to write the book?</b></p> <p>A/ The world had/has turned upside down in a blink! There is turmoil, insecurity, suspicion, despair, confusion, anger and frustration. We are re-educating ourselves, unlearning so many staples we could once take for granted. Most of us felt trapped and claustrophobic, stuck in a gigantic prison. It took me a while to realign my feelings and get into a new emotional grid. Social distancing is anti-humanity! Human beings are social animals. We thrive on human engagement. We like the sensual aspects of our existence—touch, feel, hugs and kisses. In the post-pandemic universe, we will still be groping for answers that don’t exist. There was no specific incident as such—the trigger came from listening to different voices that were all around me. Each of us carries a unique story within our minds and hearts. The more I tuned in, the more I observed, the more I wanted to share. It is about empathy. Nothing else is as important during these stress-filled times.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What are the issues that you deal with in the short stories? Is there a common thread that binds them?</b></p> <p>A/ Yes, it is love. These are not conventional ‘love stories’, but they explore the complex nature of love itself. All the stories are written in first person. They are monologues in which the narrator replays the mysterious passage of ‘love’ in an unfiltered way. This level of introspection is driven by extraordinary circumstances created by the pandemic. The representation of love in the stories varies. It goes from tender to brutal. I occupied many skins in the process. The voices are raw and authentic as protagonists question their deepest feelings. The language is frequently rough and abusive. As masks fall off, strange things happen. Marriages collapse. Sex dies. Hostility surfaces. Memory plays games…. But it is also about compassion and understanding. I would say these stories are about love, loss, longing and lust—passionate and deeply felt.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The one good thing that has emerged from the lockdown, personally and otherwise?</b></p> <p>A/ The only good thing that has emerged is how we look at the post-pandemic scenario, with a greater emphasis on earth’s limited resources…. Personally? (Laughs) so many self-discoveries, big and small. The virus can never kill human hope and imagination. My imagination is on fire! And I have finally discovered my inner Garbo! Happy to be left alone.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/social-distancing-is-anti-humanity.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/social-distancing-is-anti-humanity.html Thu Jun 04 15:20:48 IST 2020 hear-hear <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/hear-hear.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/2020/6/4/Suchitra-pattnaiknew.jpg" /> <p>Vijay Vikram Singh has covered enviable ground as a voice artist. He has been the voice of the popular Indian TV series Bigg Boss since 2007, and provided viewers with a compelling aural experience in reality shows like <i>MasterChef India</i>, <i>Indian Idol</i>, and <i>Sa Re Ga Ma Pa</i>. Yet, nothing could have prepared Singh for the audiobook-reading gig that came his way in 2018 by way of Swedish company Storytel.</p> <p>His first book was <i>Chandrakanta Santati</i>, a six-part magnum opus by popular Hindi novelist Devkinandan Khatri. The book series was a sequel to <i>Chandrakanta</i>, which inspired the blockbuster television series of the same name in the 1990s. “The sheer scale of the story, with a cast of at least 100 characters, completely blew me away. The story and writing were better than <i>Game of Thrones</i>,” says Singh, who took more than two months to complete the narration, voicing all the characters. “It was unlike anything I had done in my entire career.” He would take 15-minute power naps after every 30 minutes of narration in a tiny recording studio, just to get back a sense of control over the multiple voice textures. “I get a pittance for audiobooks compared with ad films and TV voiceovers. It is exhausting. The motivation to take this on has to come from somewhere else,” says Singh.</p> <p>During lockdown, Singh managed to record <i>Neem Ka Ped</i>, another book that inspired a drama series in the 1990s. The story revolves around a bonded labourer and the neem tree that he plants as a running metaphor of his life. “I had to voice the tree too as a narrator,” says Singh, who narrated the book in sparkling Awadhi. He recorded the entire book over 20 days, starting at 6am every day, when his kids were asleep. “The thrill of doing this every morning trumped every inconvenience.”</p> <p>In India, where even e-books have failed to make a mark, there should have been little hope for audiobooks in lockdown as they are essentially commute-consumption friendly. But quarantine brought about slow, invisible changes in lives and people counted on more things to keep themselves engaged. Major English publishing houses have ramped up their audiobook plans, and platforms like Storytel and Audible are witnessing a steady uptick in listenership. But what good is an audiobook if the storyteller is not leading listeners into the story with subtle and seamless narration? Thankfully, there are a few who have charmed listeners with their impeccable authorial voice.</p> <p>Screen actor and a popular face in Mumbai’s theatre circuit, Shernaz Patel has been voicing for ads, corporate films and movies since college. Audiobooks came as a natural transition. She has narrated over 20 titles for Audible such as <i>Wuthering Heights</i> by Emily Bronte and <i>Panchatantra</i>. Fiction can be challenging when you have to voice multiple characters, while non-fiction can get dull and insipid. But Patel knows one thing about showing commitment to the subject and the characters. “When I was very young, someone told me that when you are on a mic, always think that you are speaking to one person,” says Patel. “Whether it is for an ad or a book, this approach will always bring greater intimacy, truth and connectedness with listeners.”</p> <p>Suchitra Pillai, actor, model, anchor and former VJ, has voiced books for Audible with mostly women as powerful, central characters including <i>Adultery </i>by Paulo Coelho and <i>The Forest of Enchantments </i>by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. “There are no special effects, everything depends on the voice,” says Pillai. “You learn to change between Sita and Surpanakha. You don’t throw your voice out like in a drama, but learn to be controlled and get all your inflections, intonations, pronunciations correct.” Pillai recalls taking on the voice of an adulteress in a Hindi translation of Coelho’s <i>Adultery </i>right after playing Sita for Divakaruni’s book. “It was a very amusing experience reading Coelho’s book in translation. It was my first ever Hindi audiobook and I had to find translations for words like orgasm (hastamaithun),” Pillai says and laughs.</p> <p>But Sonal Kaushal, a voice artist for children, talks about interesting conundrums in the world of audiobooks. Her sweet, lilting voice has vocalised characters like Doraemon, Chhota Bheem and Powerpuff Girls for long. “But [doing] books for kids is more work to keep them engaged,” says Kaushal. “You always have to be chirpy and bubbly. Even if I am [voicing] a monster, I can’t be so evil that they are scared off. I can play a boy, girl, mother, father, tree and a bird... everything. But if there are three kids who are chatting away like friends... I need to be so careful about the differentiation so that kids don’t get confused.”</p> <p>And what happens when authors themselves read their books? Mythologist and author Devdutt Pattanaik recently released the Mahabharat as a six-hour audio show under Audible Suno. Pattanaik insists that his Mahabharat as an audio tale is very different from reading a book. “It’s sort of extempore,” he says. “There are pauses, some awkwardness and mistakes too, just like when we are speaking. The whole idea was to create a natural storytelling ecosystem.”</p> <p>Pattanaik condensed the 18 chapters of his book into 18 Hindi episodes of 20 minutes each; he recorded it in a studio he set up at home during the lockdown, with the help of a sound engineer. With this reading, his own book revealed itself to him in newer ways. “But I don’t think I would enjoy reading from a book,” Pattanaik admits. “When you write, the sound is very different from when you are narrating the story. Especially my books, which are written in a rather staccato manner. I am not like Shakespeare, which has to be read or heard.”&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/hear-hear.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/hear-hear.html Fri Jun 05 16:10:00 IST 2020 beast-of-prey <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/beast-of-prey.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/2020/6/4/68-Jeffrey-Epstein.jpg" /> <p>Few people know who Jeffrey Epstein really was. To the famous, he was rich. To the rich, he was brilliant. To the common man, he was a Jay Gatsby-like figure. But to his victims, he was the devil incarnate. The disgraced American financier had an obscene amount of money, enough to live recklessly as a paedophile and an international child sex trafficker, and leave his lawyers to cover up his tracks.</p> <p>But J<i>effrey Epstein: Filthy Rich</i>, a four-part documentary, isn’t so much about Epstein as it is about giving voice to the many women who were lured into his “sexual pyramid scheme”. His procurers targeted vulnerable underage girls to give him massages at his various residences, and he would either abuse them for cash or pay them to bring their friends, who in turn would then bring their friends and so on.</p> <p>While there is a lot of emphasis on whom the good-looking and suave Wall Street mogul hung out with—from Harvey Weinstein to Donald Trump and Bill Clinton—we also are told that many of his unnamed powerful friends were offered illegal sexual services and later blackmailed. Only Prince Andrew’s alleged crimes are spoken about. The weekend after the series released, news of Trump’s alleged involvement in the Epstein sex scandal resurfaced on social media.</p> <p>There are no shocking revelations in <i>Filthy Rich</i>. It lets the survivors control the narrative, bolstered by interviews of journalists, attorneys, investigators and child psychologists to give us the full picture. It depicts the extent to which Epstein’s reach—from the state attorney to the FBI—could hush things for over 11 years. The failure of the criminal justice system rings loud and clear; with so much damning evidence, Epstein was still elusive for so long.</p> <p>Numerous conspiracy theories sprang up after Epstein’s mysterious suicide in jail in 2019. The last episode addresses that, but more importantly talks about how the battle is far from done. The question of who Epstein really is, is eclipsed by other pressing ones like when his co-conspirators will be tried and who are the ones to whom girls were trafficked. The Epstein story is not over.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich</p> <p>Available on Netflix</p> <p>Rating: 4/5</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/beast-of-prey.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/beast-of-prey.html Thu Jun 04 14:59:02 IST 2020 beyond-redemption <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/beyond-redemption.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/2020/6/4/69-Young-Ahmed.jpg" /> <p>Thirteen-year-old Ahmed is an extremely devout Belgian. He detests his mother and sister as he feels that their lifestyles are un-Islamic. He refuses to shake hands with his teacher, Ines, because he believes that such an act is against his religion. Influenced by a militant imam and the videos that he watches on the internet, Ahmed is ready to kill for his religion.</p> <p>Ahmed, presented by director siblings Luc Dardenne and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, appears to have gone beyond the point of redemption at a tender age. Until a month ago, he was a regular teenager who loved his video games.</p> <p>When his imam tells Ahmed that Ines is an apostate, the youngster feels that this is his chance to wage the jihad that he always wanted. His inspiration is his cousin who gave up his life for jihad. Against the advice of his imam, he attempts to kill his teacher. Ahmed ends up in a rehabilitation centre where the counsellors try to bring him back to a normal life, but his convictions can hardly be refixed.</p> <p><i>Young Ahmed</i>, which won the best director award at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, is a chilling tale of a teen disoriented by the doctrines that he consumed without questioning.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/beyond-redemption.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/beyond-redemption.html Thu Jun 04 14:56:36 IST 2020 virtual-vacations <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/virtual-vacations.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/2020/6/4/69-Causeway.jpg" /> <p>It was inevitable: Humankind has found a way to combat the Covid-induced travel hiatus—using Google Maps and virtual reality technology. So, get ready to experience the world’s most popular tourist destinations from the comfort of your home. Here are five options to get you started:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Northern lights</b></p> <p>Patience and luck were prerequisites for anyone who wanted to enjoy these unpredictable, luminous, atmospheric displays. Not anymore. The virtual tour by the Lights Over Lapland project features every detail, at your convenience.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Louvre Museum</b></p> <p>The world’s largest art museum has a collection of about four lakh pieces; though only a tenth of it is on display. Still, it is said that it would take three days and two nights to walk through the entirety of the Louvre, if you do it non-stop. Now, with the virtual tour offered by the museum’s official website, take all the time that you need to study every exhibit, including the iconic Mona Lisa.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Machu Picchu</b><br> </p> <p>Peru’s most famous landmark; a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the new seven wonders of the world, Machu Picchu continues to reveal the mysteries of the Incan Empire. Be sure to check out the 360-degree street view of the Inca Trail (a 4-day, 3-night hike to Machu Picchu) by Google Arts &amp; Culture.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Great Barrier Reef</b><br> </p> <p>The Australian tourist attraction is the world’s largest coral reef system, made up of close to 3,000 individual reefs. Google, in collaboration with Catlin Seaview Survey, now allows people to explore some of the top dive sites. Although filmed for 3D, it is worth a watch even without a virtual reality headset.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Giant’s Causeway</b><br> </p> <p>One of Northern Ireland’s best-known natural wonders, Giant’s Causeway is famous for its hexagonal interlocking stone columns of layered basalt. A tourist hotspot and the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in the country, it has been called “a portal into the Earth’s most ancient past”. Step into the mythical land of giants with the 360-degree panoramic tour by the National Trust for Ireland.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/virtual-vacations.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/virtual-vacations.html Thu Jun 04 14:53:50 IST 2020 the-mob-miniaturist <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/the-mob-miniaturist.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/2020/6/4/70-Soma-das.jpg" /> <p>Mughal miniatures have elegant, manicured gardens. Soma Das’s paintings unfold against insipid urban sprawls. Traditional Indian miniatures have kings and courtiers with their stately elephants and glittering forts. Das’s paintings contain hoi polloi in their slapdash huts and tenements. Ancient miniatures portray exquisitely bejewelled women waiting in love and longing. Das paints scruffy women all knotted up in the exhausting drama of everyday living. But there is bold, vivid imagery in both, a riotous interplay of colours and gatherings, and much handsome detailing. “I have imbibed all the techniques of detailing, arrangement, narration and aerial perspective from the tradition of miniature painting,”says the 41-year-old Kolkata-based artist, who quotes the quotidian in her canvas in the style of a neo-miniaturist.</p> <p>Drawing inspiration from south Asian miniature art, Das has been consistently reinventing the genre to reflect her own struggles and memories with equal parts irony and pathos. Her most recent work, made in lockdown, is a simple, one-room house. It could just as well be a shelter, crammed to capacity in a time of social distancing, with three kids, a homebound father, grandparents, utensils, furniture and a mother bent over a hot tub of oil, deep-frying batter. “I saw this scene near my house,”says Das. “It is a difficult time. But still, there is a sense of elation in this family stuck at home.”</p> <p>She recalls her own conservative upbringing. Born in New Barrackpore, West Bengal, to a carpenter father, Das grew up with restrictions aplenty. But she was fond of drawing and sketching, and eventually found her way out of the confines of house arrest to study visual and fine arts at Rabindra Bharati University in Kolkata. It is in the university’s library that she was first exposed to the illustrious world of miniature paintings. The fine-grained rigour and discipline of executing traditional motifs and patterns of a miniature seeped into her artistic style. “Even though I haven’t been trained in the exact techniques of miniature painting, by studying the ancient folios and plates, reading and researching in museums and galleries, I have found my own language and interpretation,”says Das. Hence the traditional handmade wasli paper meant for miniatures is replaced with Nepali paper, and gilded borders of illuminated manuscripts have slipped off from Das’s oeuvre. “The Nepali paper, also handmade, is just like me,”says Das. “I can relate to it; it is very absorbing, and borders falling away from my paintings depict my gradual discarding of boundaries and restrictions which had earlier impeded my growth.”She has been officially represented by Kolkata’s Emami Art gallery for modern and contemporary painting since January 2019.</p> <p>Das does not yet know how the artist in her will respond to the recent super cyclone that devastated her city. She is still sifting her thoughts about it. Her previous works offer clues. She draws our attention to a canvas in mustard with a large black umbrella tipped with a stray, pillowy cloud. Under the canopy of the giant umbrella is an assortment of strangers awkwardly huddled together. “A bonhomie is created when they are suddenly stuck in pouring rain in the middle of nowhere,”says Das. In a stunning blue tableau titled ‘Hell in the Earth’, she translates a medical inferno into a carefree, chaotic hospital ward with harried patients splayed out in one large bed, alongside anxious relatives, with poker-faced doctors and nurses prowling amidst corpses, cats and cockroaches. In a 2016 canvas, migrants from a neighbouring country, unable to breathe in their poky, makeshift houses, spill out on to the railway tracks and learn to cook, wash, clean, dry and dream under the arch of the summer skies. “There is delight and hope in everything,”says Das.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/the-mob-miniaturist.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/the-mob-miniaturist.html Thu Jun 04 14:13:29 IST 2020 role-reversal <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/role-reversal.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/2020/6/4/72Sonu.jpg" /> <p>Sonu Sood, best known for his negative roles, has now emerged as a real-life hero. He has helped thousands of stranded migrants return to their homes.</p> <p><b>How grave is the migrant crisis in Mumbai?</b></p> <p>Migrants are looking for a means to return to their native place. More than 10,000 migrants are still stranded in Mumbai. I have sent around 35,000 people to their respective states so far.</p> <p><b>What is your typical day like?</b></p> <p>I am out on the field for almost 20 hours, finding out where they are, sending them food and making arrangements for their travel back home. I have not slept for the last four days. I just take a nap for half an hour when I get tired. Monsoon and cyclone could spell more trouble for the migrant workers. I have to ensure that they reach home safely. I wish I had 30 hours a day.</p> <p><b>What motivates you to help them?</b></p> <p>The smile on their faces makes my day. It makes me work harder.</p> <p><b>How did you raise funds for the ‘Ghar Bhejo’ project?</b></p> <p>‘Ghar Bhejo’ was started by my friend Niti Goel and me. Initially, we dipped into our savings. Now people are coming forward and pitching in.</p> <p><b>How difficult has it been to get the paperwork done?</b></p> <p>It was really hard to get the paperwork done. Besides getting permissions from the police and the district magistrate, one even had to get a fitness certificate from a registered medical practitioner initially. Now medical certificates are not required. Still the process involves a lot of paperwork and it is really tiring.</p> <p><b>A man recently shared a video on Twitter and said, ‘You are no less than a God.’ Do you find it overwhelming?</b></p> <p>I am so touched by people’s responses. I feel like my family has grown. Now I have near and dear ones in Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and every part of the country.</p> <p>One migrant named her boy Sonu Sood Srivasthav. That was very special. There is a man whom I helped reunite with his mother. She called me the other day. She kept crying and I was at a loss for words.</p> <p><b>Rumours are rife that you will enter politics.</b></p> <p>No. I don’t have any such intention. I am happy where I am now.</p> <p><b>Does your family fear for your safety?</b></p> <p>They are worried about me. But someone has to come forward and help these people. That’s what I tell them. I try to maintain social distancing and take all the precautions.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/role-reversal.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/06/04/role-reversal.html Thu Jun 04 14:05:02 IST 2020 eats-shoots-and-tweets <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/28/eats-shoots-and-tweets.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/2020/5/28/65-Anurag-Kashyap.jpg" /> <p>Anurag Kashyap has much to say. And his followers on Twitter have been listening intently over the last two months in lockdown. Most of the time, the Bollywood director tweets to express his disappointment with the Central government's action (or inaction) over various issues. Occasionally, he praises the "surprisingly" good governance of Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. And then there are times when, like a true cinephile, he suggests good movies to watch. From the classics of Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Josef von Sternberg and Martin Scorsese to the 2019 Spanish film The Platform, a range of genres finds space on his Twitter profile.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is only fitting then that his next film, Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai (a Netflix original streaming from June 5) seems like a confluence of many films while still having the Kashyap stamp. It is the opening score that strikes. Inspired by Federico Fellini’s 8½, the track sets the tone for the story of a bank cashier, Sarita (Saiyami Kher), who is often cash-strapped and frustrated with her unemployed husband, Sushant (Roshan Mathew). When she discovers a stash of cash flowing out of her kitchen sink every night, it brings new meaning to her life. But things take an interesting turn when the demonetisation is announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One wonders if the film is too personal for Kashyap, who has been a vocal critic of the demonetisation as well as the Modi government. "For me, it is a very emotional film," Kashyap tells THE WEEK on video call. "A lot of people would think that it is personal, but it is not." He adds that Choked was inspired more by films like The Lunchbox than anything else. "We wanted to tell the story of this couple in love. The script had come to me in 2014-2015," says Kashyap about the story presented by Nihit Bhave at FICCI Frames’ Script Bazaar. “By the time we got to making it, demonetisation happened and it had to be a part of the film. We brought that into the script."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But he did not want to thrust his political ideologies into his characters, but rather explore the humane aspect of two lower middle-class people struggling to survive. "I have seen so many stories of couples coming to Mumbai to live their dreams," says Kashyap. "Sometimes they make it, most times they don’t. What happens then? Have you seen Abhimaan? I love that film. Those films have been the inspiration, and then I tried [making] it like a thriller. It is about love. It is about the power equation in a marriage when a wife is working and is let down by the husband, who holds on to his artistic ego and does not want to be lesser than what he thinks he should be. I call it a Sai Paranjpye thriller."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a surprise, however, that the trademark Kashyap angst, prominent in most of his films, is not the driving force of this one. “I think you find humour at some point in your life. That is the case with this one. I was very objective while making it,” he says. Getting a new perspective on life and finding newer stories are also the result of his collaboration with other writers, something he seems to have embraced in the last five years, starting with Manmarziyaan that was written by Kanika Dhillon. “I thought I was making one kind of film all the time, because of which everybody expected one kind of a film," says Kashyap. "Like you said, the angst was missing. I wanted to explore ideas that go beyond me. So, I had to find writers who are socially aware and always in context to tell a whole lot of stories."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film has turned a new chapter in Kashyap’s life in another way, too. It is the first from his new production house, Good Bad Films, after shutting down Phantom Films in 2018. But nothing much has changed in terms of its functioning. "I am not in a zone where I want to make a studio," Kashyap says. "What it does is it lets me explore all kinds of genres that I want to do as a filmmaker without the fear of having to run a studio. It also has to have some value. It is all about what I want to do. The whole idea of making a big company and ruling the world [does not interest me]. It is [rather] a place of convenience for like-minded people to come together and do things in whatever scale, small or big. Kaam karenge, acha karenge. (I will do my work and I will do it well.)”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The director gives a sheepish grin on the mention of his recent acting stint in Ghoomketu. He plays a rather amusing character in the Nawazuddin Siddiqui starrer that released on May 22 on ZEE5. Kashyap has made on-screen appearances in films such as Akira, Happy New Year and Luck By Chance, but it is not something he likes. “I keep getting pushed for acting and I am also emotionally blackmailed into acting. I try to keep the power in my hands so that nobody does that, but then somebody like Vikramaditya Motwane comes and says you will have to do AK versus AK... and you have no way out," he says about Motwane’s upcoming film starring Anil Kapoor and him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Right now, he is focused on his health regime, cooking and writing. “I have content for the next five years. I have been able to spend enough time thinking of ideas that can be fleshed out,” he says, even as one wonders how he manages to make time for work, personal life and his regular Twitter activism. "I have limited my time on social media," says Kashyap. "I have very strict rules. I work, write and do a lot of other things. I only go on Twitter when my friends draw my attention to a certain issue." He adds that on the political front right now, everyone is under a cloud of uncertainty, trying to figure out what is going to happen. "Everybody is struggling," he says. "Some places you see intention and some places you see self-preservation. That is the politics going around the world."</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/28/eats-shoots-and-tweets.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/28/eats-shoots-and-tweets.html Thu May 28 19:15:07 IST 2020 the-joe-rogan-revolution <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/28/the-joe-rogan-revolution.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/2020/5/28/68-Joe-Rogan-new.jpg" /> <p>On Tuesday, audio streaming service Spotify announced a licensing deal for US-based comedian Joe Rogan's podcast. Joe Rogan Experience (JRE) will be available on the platform starting September 1; it will become a Spotify exclusive later in the year. Post the announcement, Spotify's shares surged eight per cent. Neither the platform nor the podcaster have released the contract details, but the multi-year deal is estimated to cost the streaming company around $100 million.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is hard to overstate the impact of Rogan's move. Apple, with iTunes, has a virtual stranglehold over the nascent podcasting industry, which is expected to grow in advertising revenue to over $1 billion by 2021. Spotify hopes to overturn the monopoly by signing Rogan, who is the biggest name in the field by quite a distance. JRE started a decade ago and has since transformed into a behemoth—the show is downloaded in the millions each month and constantly features among the top podcasts on Apple's charts. On YouTube, he has over 8 million subscribers, and every podcast hits at least a million views within a day of release.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"A musician would need to generate 23 billion streams on Spotify to earn what they're paying Joe Rogan for his podcast rights,” wrote music writer Ted Gioia on Twitter, adding that this means "Spotify values Rogan more than any musician in the history of the world".</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The deal catapults Rogan—a trained martial artist, former Fear Factor host, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) commentator, marijuana enthusiast, and, now, a man with enough influence to make or break a US presidential candidate—reportedly to the position of the highest paid broadcaster in the world. That too without the backing of a single major corporate or production house.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>WHAT IS THE JOE ROGAN EXPERIENCE</b></p> <p>When it was launched a decade ago, the Joe Rogan podcast had an informal tone to it, like a conversation between two close friends—full of inside jokes and private moments. As it evolved over the years, spanning 1,000-plus episodes, it was the same format—one he personally emphasised as “listening and learning”—that elevated him to superstardom. Each episode spans anywhere from two to three hours, and Rogan owns an additional channel where clips of the long-form conversations are uploaded.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On his show, Rogan was a regular, mild-mannered “bro”—armed with an almost naive enthusiasm to understand how the world worked—and his audience were crafted in his image. The conversations were mostly thoughtful and intimate; he rarely pushed back against his guests who ranged from politicians, academics, philosophers, comics, journalists and your garden variety internet cranks. There were no gotcha moments. There was no artificial conflict. He spoke, sometimes high under mind-altering stimulants, on an ocean of topics ranging from alien abductions, martial arts, elk meat, cooking steak, DMT experiences, the universe being a simulation, fellatio and crazy ex-girlfriends.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He criticised feminism and bemoaned the destructive nature of "identity politics". He lashed out against lying politicians and the fraudulent 'left-right' political systems, he listened enthusiastically (often agreeably) to every single guest on his show, and bashed mainstream media as “biased, agenda-driven and divisive”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For his disaffected male viewers, Rogan was nothing less than a cult guru—an internet father figure who sternly told them to clean up their act, work out, prepare for the harsh realities of life, and embrace “personal responsibility” as their lord and saviour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If, one day, Rogan engaged patiently with a guest who claimed that earth was flat, and that inter-dimensional child molesters were on the prowl, the next day he would listen wide-eyed to the Many Worlds Theory and the intricacies of quantum physics with Caltech Professor Sean Carroll. The same malleability is a feature that defines most of his audience. And this is what makes Joe Rogan one of the hottest internet commodities on the face of the earth. For advertisers, Rogan commanded an army of ultra-loyal young viewers; for politicians, there was a unique, open-minded demography—ones who defined their ideology as 'Joe Rogan's politics'—that they could “reprogram to their wavelength”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In September 2018, Tesla founder Elon Musk smoked marijuana with Rogan on his show; days later, Tesla shares fell nine per cent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2019, US presidential candidate Andrew Yang, then a marginal figure, credited an appearance in Rogan's podcast with a massive surge in popularity and fundraising. “After the appearance in the Joe Rogan podcast,” said an aide of Yang, “everything went right."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2019, the then US presidential candidate frontrunner Bernie Sanders made an appearance on his show, promising to tell Rogan the truth about aliens if he is elected president; the episode currently has around 12 million views on YouTube. In a subsequent show, Rogan hinted that he supported Sanders and that he would vote for him. The Sanders campaign shared a clipping of the “endorsement” on all their social media platforms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rogan is also a highly controversial figure. When Sanders touted the comedian's endorsement, the former faced a lot of backlash; several trans-rights groups came out against Sanders, pointing out Rogan's problematic comments on transgender athletes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He has been called everything from a purveyor of toxic masculinity to a white nationalist and a racism enabler. He has addressed most of the criticisms on his show, explaining that his politics was to the "left of centre" and that he was a supporter of policies ranging from universal healthcare to free college education.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Usually, whenever a big independent broadcaster switches platforms, the conversation revolves around how much audience the broadcaster stands to lose. But, in Rogan's case, the often-asked question is how much YouTube stands to lose, such is the devotion that he commands from his massive base. And how much Spotify stands to gain.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What the future holds for the podcasting industry, Joe Rogan, Spotify and YouTube remains to be seen. For now, only one thing is for sure. A media revolution is on the horizon, and, be assured, it will be televised.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/28/the-joe-rogan-revolution.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/28/the-joe-rogan-revolution.html Thu May 28 19:11:03 IST 2020 bond-on-air <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/28/bond-on-air.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/2020/5/28/70-Ruskin-Bond.jpg" /> <p>Hello, Bond here.” There are very few sentences that have an ability to instantly lift spirits. The voice of Ruskin Bond—clear, warm and calm—rings out from a chilly afternoon in Landour in Uttarakhand, bringing with it the whoosh of fresh mountain air. He has just woken up. “I am the world’s greatest sleeper,’’ he chuckles. “I sleep at all times of day and night.’’ It is exactly four o’clock. The heater is on even in the middle of May in the hill station that Bond calls home. Vividly recreated in his writing, Bond has transported children for decades to his world—filled with ghosts, small gestures of kindness, of birds, walks, flowers and forests. Bond turned 86 on May 19. But, he has the energy of a three-year-old. The frequent naps aside, he has just finished reading the biography of Edgar Allan Poe. A new book, Miracle at Happy Bazaar, is out. And he will also be waking up children and putting them to bed, courtesy All India Radio. The series, called 'Bonding over Radio', will be broadcast at 7:10am and 10:10pm every day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“All I have to do is to pick up the phone as I am doing now in my right hand and hold the book in my left hand,’’ Bond says. The radio, which had been part of his childhood, is no longer his companion. “But I am getting a lot of feedback,’’ he says. “A lot of kids and older people are writing back, which are relayed to me. I have been enjoying it. I like reading out aloud. I do it at noon.’’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The lockdown has turned him towards TV. He “roams the news channels,’’ he chuckles. “You want to keep up with what is happening. I used to watch television, but sports mostly. But, now there is not much sport, unless you want to watch Mohinder Amarnath in the 1983 World Cup.’’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bond’s life, however, has not altered much. “As a writer, I have always worked from home,’’ he says. “Most of my adult life I have written sitting at my desk in the bedroom,’’ he says. But the quiet has brought alive a different world. Even in Landour, which in a way has defiantly survived the onslaught of the fast-paced world, the odd horn outside his window has become silent. “Early morning there are all sorts of birds coming,’’ he says. The view from his window in his bedroom is familiar to anyone who has read him. A bit of everything: road, the valley, the hills and the rivers. Birds, that used to stay away, are no longer shy and find their way to his window. “The birds are having a great time. So, we have been seeing orange minarets,’’ Bond says. “All kind of small birds, wagtails.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bond has this ability to use the everyday ordinariness of life to turn it into philosophy. His writing, like his conversation, is peppered with humour, gentle observation and his childhood. “I have a good memory of the childhood,’’ he says. “Of growing up in Jamnagar, Dehradun, in Delhi during World War II.’’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Miracle at Happy Bazaar, published by Rupa, is a peek into his childhood again. He writes about his father, his death, the relationship with his mother and “Breakfast to Barogue’’ to create an enchanting world. In the foreword to his book, Bond writes, “I grew up too quickly. By the time I was 13, I was no longer a boy. By the time I was 16 I was earning a living—and a year later I was living on my own.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His childhood, brief as it may have been, has allowed millions to be forever young. His memory is still vivid.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bond has not visited Shimla or Barogue for 20 years. “I like to recall those days and recreate the atmosphere. The older you are the more you have to write about,’’ he says. Bond, certainly does.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/28/bond-on-air.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/28/bond-on-air.html Thu May 28 19:07:13 IST 2020 forbidden-love <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/28/forbidden-love.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/2020/5/28/71-Forbidden-love-new.jpg" /> <p>It was a scandalous love story. With independence from the British just a breath away in 1947, the single, well-educated and dashing maharaja of Cooch Behar—Jagaddipendra Narayan—fell in love with and married Hollywood actress Nancy Valentine. There was opposition not only from Narayan's mother, Indira, but also from the government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All this and more makes The Star of India a delicious and racy read. Set in one of India’s most tumultuous periods, the book is by Diana R. Chambers, who has been living with the story in her head for decades. "The government was very afraid that Valentine as a foreigner could transport a lot of valuables out of the country," says Chambers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Buried in gossip columns is this story that shocked India and delighted America. Valentine was ambitious and beautiful, and swept off her feet by a real-life prince. "She was the product of the studio system," says Chambers. "They took these unsophisticated young people and trained them. She came out of it a more sophisticated, worldly person that met the maharaja."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chambers conjures up the glamour, the dazzle, the intrigue, the danger and the seamier side of the period in this lush fictional version of the story. It is the decaying world of the Indian royals with all its stereotypes colliding with the ultimate Hollywood fantasy that Chambers brings alive with descriptions. "I think there is an arc in Nancy’s character," she says. "She was a young woman thrust into a world way beyond her background. For her to come all the way to the royal world and the expectations she had to meet, she had to really grow into that. I admire her for that."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The romance of Valentine and the maharaja is true, but to add to the texture, Chambers added other elements: a communist plot, a cursed Mughal ruby and palace intrigue. At the heart of the book, however, is the impossible love story and a woman who never forgot. Chambers spent considerable time with Valentine before she died. She left Chambers her memoirs and photographs as well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Valentine left India pregnant. Her daughter was stillborn. She and Narayan never met again. Letters were exchanged, but they both knew when she left India that their fate lay elsewhere. Valentine married again, but hung the prince's portrait above her bed. Even the skin of the tiger that Valentine had shot in India was kept in her closet. "These were the most precious memories of her life," says Chambers. "Despite having two daughters later, she loved him."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>THE STAR OF INDIA</b></p> <p>Author: Diana R. Chambers</p> <p>Publisher: Penguin Random House</p> <p>Pages: 424; price Rs399</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/28/forbidden-love.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/28/forbidden-love.html Thu May 28 19:04:54 IST 2020 inspiring-act <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/28/inspiring-act.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/2020/5/28/72-Aahana-Kumra-new.jpg" /> <p>Aahana Kumra started with theatre before making her debut in the limited edition series, Yudh. She moved on to the big screen, finding fame with Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016). Kumra, who stars in the recently released Netflix show, Betaal, has had a long journey as an actor. There have been struggles on the way, but she would not have it any other way.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What drew you to Betaal?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ It is a genre that I have never done before. I have never been part of a zombie-horror-thriller series and I think it is extremely fascinating that India has made its first. [Also] I have never played an army officer. And, I was thrilled to go through the training process. I was also excited to work with everyone in the show, especially with Suhani Kanwar (co-writer), who has also written Lipstick Under My Burkha.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Do you like the horror genre in general?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/I absolutely love horror…. I have watched a lot of horror films in theatres because I want the sound system, the darkness around you that is kind of eerie for a horror film. Zee Horror Show, I think, ruined my childhood—the signature tune still haunts me. Chucky from Child’s Play, [too]. I removed all the dolls from my room. Then, there was Evil Dead, The Exorcist, The Omen. Why am I even talking about these films? I am not going to sleep tonight (chuckles).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/You have had your share of struggles in the industry. Have things changed over the years?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Things have not really changed, but they have become streamlined. With over-the-top services coming in, things happen through auditions. That is how I got Betaal. People are ready to work with new talent…. It is a fantastic time for all content creators.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When I started working in this industry, I realised that there was so much struggle even for writers and directors…. But now, with the advent of OTT, so many new and young directors are getting their break.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I had my struggles, but they are something I am proud of. I am going to talk about it for years to come [in the hope] that some girl from Lucknow or Kanpur [gets inspired]. Even if one girl is able to make the kind of choice I have made, that, for me, will probably be the greatest compliment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/What has been the effect of the lockdown?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/It has affected me in a way that I do not have a social life. I was travelling a lot in the last few years and that has come to a standstill. I miss being in different places, eating different food, meeting different people. My life has been on sets. Man, I miss that. I miss the rehearsals, my co-actors, directors, producers, everyone. It feels like a hollow situation. But I have had two releases in this period, Marzi for Voot and Betaal, and I am really grateful for the love that I have got.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/28/inspiring-act.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/28/inspiring-act.html Thu May 28 18:58:35 IST 2020 the-virtual-act <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/22/the-virtual-act.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/2020/5/22/63-Digital-stage.jpg" /> <p>Two pairs of finger puppets appear on the phone screen. In the Instagram live chat, the screen is divided into two windows, the host taking the top spot and the guest, the one below. Over the last two months, since the lockdown began, Instagram has become a hotspot for holding chat sessions, interviews and live shows.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The puppets jibber-jabber as viewers’ comments start pouring in. Soon, actors Shikha Talsania and Priyanshu Painyuli will take centre-stage as their characters Shikha and Priyanshu. An Instagram chat has been cleverly turned into two rooms with two people sitting by their windows on adjacent floors of a building. In this makeshift virtual world, Shikha is working on an assignment, trying to record a voice note on her phone. As she fumbles, Priyanshu shouts out from below, trying to help her. They soon strike up a conversation. Priyanshu is stuck in a flat within days of coming to Mumbai. Shikha offers to help him with anything he might need. The enacted flirtatious conversation becomes candid and intimate. Soon, the virtual aspect of it starts fading and it seems just like a play being performed on a phone, with its share of improvisation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With auditoriums and theatre venues shut, many theatre artistes have embraced digital platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Zoom to perform live plays. Talsania and Painyuli performed as part of BookMyShow’s Theatre Live initiative, which has had an enviable line-up of theatre artistes reading and performing plays, and doing question and answer sessions. In April, Anhad India hosted poetry and prose reading sessions with many artistes like Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah, who performed Vikram Seth’s The Elephant and the Tragopan, and Shabana Azmi, who read the poems of Kaifi Azmi. D For Drama, a Mumbai-based theatre group, too, has had those like Geetanjali Kulkarni perform from her play, Gajab Kahani. For Mumbai Theatre Guide, Sushama Deshpande performed a fascinating rendition of her play Vhay! Mee Savitribai, based on the life of the educationist.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It has not been easy. “But unique situations require unique measures,” says Painyuli, who, apart from the live performance, did another show, Aram Nagar ke Sapnay, for Akarsh Khurana’s AKVariousLive, in which, while playing the djembe, he takes the audience through his decade-long life in Mumbai. Kommune’s Lockdown Love is an adaptation of Jonathan Rand’s Check Please, about two people (Painyuli and Shriya Pilgaonkar) finding love through a dating app in the time of a pandemic. The play, conceived by Roshan Abbas and directed by Sheena Khalid, is being performed on Zoom with multiple artistes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We were looking at how we could do a play that was relatable in these times through video call and chat,” says casting and assistant director of Lockdown Love, Tess Joseph, during a post-performance discussion of the play, hosted by the credit card payment app, Cred. The next day, the app hosted a spoken word poetry session by actor Kalki Koechlin, followed by a discussion on acting.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To control the pandemic, it is important that we practise social distancing. And thus, digital platforms become key for the live entertainment industry to flourish. “Artistes across genres have welcomed this move,” says Albert Almeida, COO of Live Entertainment, BookMyShow. “The format has enabled them to witness a phenomenal demand for their performances across music, comedy, theatre and more. With the number of offerings having significantly increased since we first started on March 25, the customer engagement and size of the community have grown steadily. More than two million consumers are viewing these events already. This number continues to steadily rise.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Saurabh Shukla says that during the initial part of the lockdown, many people contacted him to do live chats. “But I soon realised that everybody was saying the same thing—to be positive,” he says. “That is right, but if everybody is saying the same thing, then what is the point?” He went on to do live interviews with fellow artistes and readings of his plays like Barff for Oxford Kolkata. And then, when BookMyShow called him for Theatre Live, he felt he was done with play readings. “I told them I wanted to step up,” he says. He contacted Jayati Bhatia and planned a brief performance from Jab Khuli Kitaab for Instagram. “Of course, we do not have the lighting, nor the sound, set, costumes, or any other aspect of a live performance,” he says. “We are sitting in our homes. But two actors performing would always be better [than a reading].”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Khurana would attest to that. Ordinarily, he would have been planning the 20-year celebration of his theatre group, AKVarious Productions. He had started planning performances leading up to a bigger festival in December. But then the lockdown began. “If you lock up an artiste, he will come up with creative ways to keep the art alive and engage with the audience,” he says. Though it began with BookMyShow’s Theatre Live, now Khurana has a new page, AKVariousLive, with performances on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, which he plans to continue even after the lockdown.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“This is a really unpredictable time,” says Koechlin, remarking on how platforms like podcasts have opened up the scope to experiment. “It is time we not be rigid and think in different ways. It is fantastic that we have this kind of productivity today. I don’t know when we are going to go back to sets, but online performances are going to pick up in an amazing way. We have to keep expressing our art.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, monetising these platforms may take time. “The first question is why somebody would pay to watch something on the internet, which has limitations, when Netflix is open to you, which is full of visuals,” says Shukla. “You must not forget, the moment you come on screen you have straight competition with films. And, cinema has a totally different language than theatre. It is a great challenge. Good, bad or ugly, everything will give people an experience. Then, in some years, it may become a totally different art form. It will not be theatre, but it will come out of theatre and take its own form.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/22/the-virtual-act.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/22/the-virtual-act.html Fri May 22 22:24:41 IST 2020 canine-evangelist <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/22/canine-evangelist.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/2020/5/22/66-Shirin-Merchant.jpg" /> <p>Dogs don’t look at appearances, they look for kindness,” says canine behaviourist and trainer Shirin Merchant. “Dogs communicate so much without a word being spoken. What pet owners need to do is to learn to listen to the unspoken language.” Shirin is the first person in Asia and one of only nine people in the world to gain accreditation in Companion Dog Training and Behavioural Training from the KCAI Kennel Club of England. “I applied and passed a stringent exam by the Kennel Club of England's Accreditation Scheme for dog trainers and behaviourists. In doing so, I also got qualified by the city and guilds,” she says. “The exam included practical training sessions and a rigorous theory exam. The Kennel Club sent a representative from England to assess me. I am the only person outside of Europe to have achieved the accreditation till date.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Born into a dog-loving family, little did Shirin know that she would take up canine training as a profession. In her early 20s, she met the English canine behaviourist and trainer John Rogerson when he came to India to conduct a course. The meeting changed the way she looked at dogs. “Initially people told me it is a waste of time. They said Indian women can’t train dogs. But I chose to ignore everybody,” says the Mumbai-based canine trainer who, in 2018, won the Government of India’s ‘First Ladies Awards’ for women who have transcended barriers to achieve a milestone and are declared to be the ‘first’ in their respective fields. According to Shirin, there is a big difference between a dog trainer and a behaviourist. “A trainer is a person who can help with basic training of a dog like teaching manners and obedience. But a behaviourist is a notch up—a person who is qualified to help pet parents struggling with behaviour issues such as aggression, separation and fear,” she says. In 1998, Shirin and her husband, Junaid, set up Canines Can Care to train companion dogs for the elderly and people with disabilities, and search and rescue dogs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Bhuj was struck by the devastating earthquake in 2001, Shirin and Junaid drove from Mumbai to Gujarat with two of their dogs that were trained in search and rescue. “Our dogs kept sniffing through the piles of debris and rubble,” she says. “I distinctly remember how a small boy wearing tatters came to us when we were leaving and offered a packet of biscuits for the dogs. It was probably the last bit of food that he had and he wanted the dogs to have it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not just sniffing that dogs are good at; they can do everything from opening doors to fetching medicines and even bringing help in time of an emergency. For 21-year-old Karann Shah, who has type II spinal muscular atrophy (a genetic disease that affects the motor nerves), his female Labrador, Angel, is more than just an assistance dog. Karann’s movements are restricted and he is confined to a wheel-chair. “The disease claimed Karann’s elder brother at the age of 14,” says Shirin. "He was devastated after that, but Angel brought a ray of hope. Not only does Angel fetch the newspaper, she also removes Karann’s socks, puts away his shoes, calls his mother on command, brings the phone when it rings and also puts the trash in the bin.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to her, most people do not do proper research before owning a pet. “They bring the dog home and then suddenly realise it is not for them. Pet ownership is all about responsibility, time and commitment,” she says. The dogs are trained through play and reward and relationship-based method, and clicker method. Among these, the clicker method is considered to be most effective; it is based on a positive reinforcement reward system. A simple plastic box with a metal tongue, the clicker emits a sound when compressed. It is sounded when the dog is in good behaviour. It helps the dog identify the precise behaviour that the trainer desires and try harder to achieve it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When it comes to achievement, Shirin has a lot in her kitty. She started India’s first canine magazine and pioneered the concept of ‘Canines for Corporates’— offsite training camps where office-goers could learn about trust-building, leadership and empathy. She also produced Asia’s first educational dog TV show, Unleash! With Shirin Merchant, in Sri Lanka. Accolades aside, all that Shirin wants is to make the world a better place for all the pups out there.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>TOP THREE DOGGY MYTHS</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>You cannot train an older dog:</b> Obviously, it would not be as easy as training a puppy, but it is never too late. Another myth is that you can’t train a dog until it is six months old. This is also not true. Guide dog puppies all over the world start their training as young as six weeks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Eating meat makes dogs vicious:</b> One of the main myths about dog is the food they eat. People believe that meat-eating dogs would turn vicious or that if an animal tastes blood, it can kill people. A balanced diet that suits the breed of your dog should do just fine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A dog cannot live in a flat:</b> The size of the house also does not really matter if your dog has an exercise routine outdoors. It becomes unhealthy when parents restrict their dogs to the balcony of their apartments. So, as long as your pet gets its exercise outside your house, keeping dogs in apartments is absolutely fine.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/22/canine-evangelist.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/22/canine-evangelist.html Fri May 22 17:26:55 IST 2020 tech-no-bar <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/22/tech-no-bar.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/2020/5/22/68-Gul-Panag.jpg" /> <p>The entertainment industry, right now, could be neatly divided into two categories: people who realise and advocate the power of the digital mediums, embracing the manifold opportunities that the internet has brought, and people who are still fighting for and sticking to traditional mediums.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Actor Gul Panag is clearly the former. In just two years, she has done four shows (The Family Man, Rangbaaz Phirse, Pawan &amp; Pooja and the recent Paatal Lok) on three streaming platforms and one theatrical film (Bypass Road). Then, there is a podcast, Special Mission with Gul Panag, that presents true stories of soldiers and their families. “I was pretty much working the whole year,” she says. Moreover, during the lockdown, she made use of Instagram Live chats—one titled Cool Tech, where she spoke to celebs including A.R. Rahman, R. Madhavan and Anil Kumble on how to remain productive using the technology at hand, and another titled What’s Echoing, where she highlights the work of Covid-19 frontline warriors.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Technology has had a special place in her life for long. “I was an early adopter of Twitter as well, back in 2009,” says Panag. “I was on Twitter with only five-six of us ‘public figures’. I always found it was a very democratic way of having conversations. You were able to express yourself freely.” She adds that earlier, one had to rely on media houses to put one’s views across, and there was no guarantee that it would be reported the way they said it. “I had an opinion and still have an opinion on everything. And I was able to put out my thoughts,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the days after the lockdown was first announced, she was overwhelmed by the chatter all around. “Not a lot of people were making sense to me. There were conversations that were not going anywhere,” she says. So, she introduced Cool Tech to bring structure to the sudden shift to working from home. She then realised the need to bring out stories of warriors battling Covid-19. It started with talking to her vegetable vendor, who switched from a static stall to a small Tempo truck to cover about 500 societies in a week so that people do not have to step out. She followed that up with interviews with Mumbai Police senior inspector Shalini Sharma, and with Punjab Police sub-inspector Harjeet Singh. “I feel like a reporter waiting till the [last minute to know] whether I will get my guest tomorrow or not,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Every experience has been stirring for her, especially with the good traction she got. It is not incumbent on her to talk about certain topics, but she knows that for a person like her, it is important to discuss issues that matter. Perhaps, that is why she liked the script of Paatal Lok. “[I liked it] for the kind of picture it paints, and for the fact that it has so much subtext,” says Panag. “I enjoy content with subtext. I want to look for themes between the lines.” She plays the wife of Jaideep Ahlawat’s Hathiram Chaudhary, who is a police inspector in Delhi. “Even if we see cop dramas, we don’t really see much of their family life. Either it is too elevated or presented in a simplistic manner. I like the complexities and challenges that the character has and how she tries to keep her family happy with the grim circumstances around her all the time,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Panag has been around in the industry for over 20 years, and acknowledges the significant change that streaming platforms have brought to the entertainment space. “Earlier, our audience had to buy tickets to go to a theatre, and then rush to and from the venue,” she says. “Rewind to years ago when television [picked up]. I didn’t want to wait for a week for the next episode.”</p> <p>Panag says that her husband, professional pilot Rishi Attari, and she are always on the move for work, and it is almost impossible to schedule things around television shows, or rush in and out of theatres, being the film buffs that they are. “As a viewer, I waited for years for the game to change with the internet delivery mechanism, [which has started now] with the algorithms and other things,” she says. She thinks that has changed how casting is now done based on an actor’s ability to play a character, instead of the viability of a star or the commercial draw.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As for her personal life, she is able to organise her time and do a lot more now than she could do in the initial days of the lockdown. After working late nights, she would have to wake up at 6am because her two-year-old son started waking her up in the mornings. “But I am grateful that I am in this lockdown with my husband, who is an incredibly hands-on father and partner,” says Panag.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Motherhood clubbed with the lockdown has given her a better perspective on life. She has been thinking about how her parents, especially her mother, would have raised her brother and her in times like these, sometimes in one-room accommodations in the middle of nowhere. “I wonder how she did it. We are far more privileged than our parents were,” she says. The pandemic may have turned things upside down, but it has been a huge learning curve for her.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/22/tech-no-bar.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/22/tech-no-bar.html Fri May 22 22:21:08 IST 2020 a-viper-named-salazar <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/22/a-viper-named-salazar.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/2020/5/22/70-Zeeshan-A-Mirza.jpg" /> <p>At last, Salazar Slytherin has a snake named after him. A stunningly beautiful green pit viper with an “orange to reddish stripe running from the lower border of the eye” to the tip of its tail. The Salazar Pit Viper (Trimeresurus salazar) was found in the lowlands of western Arunachal Pradesh by Zeeshan A. Mirza, Harshal S. Bhosale, Pushkar U. Phansalkar, Mandar Sawant, Gaurang G. Gowande and Harshil Patel.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It was sort of a hat tip to J.K. Rowling for colouring my childhood,” said Mirza, lead writer of the paper that described the snake. “Childhood is a magical time in many ways, and she just made it more so for me and many others. People tend to think of scientists as nerds. We are not locked up in our labs forever! We live a normal life. And, Harry Potter is very much part of that life. I can still read all of the Potter books with the same amount of joy as I first read them.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Author J.K. Rowling had imagined the fictional Slytherin as one of the four great wizards who founded the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In 2017, Rowling had tweeted that Slytherin’s first name came from the Portuguese dictator Antonio Salazar. In the early 1990s, she had taught English in Porto, Portugal, got married there and had her first daughter there as well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of Slytherin’s gifts was that he was a Parselmouth, a wizard who could talk to reptiles. He also established the namesake Slytherin House, with its coat of arms featuring an erect silver serpent against a field of green. For the record, Potter, too, was a Parselmouth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Field biologists say that the morphology of green pit vipers makes it difficult to identify new species, especially in the field. Perhaps, one needs a touch of magic to do it. Mirza first got an inkling about this snake when a friend sent him the photo of a green pit viper from Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh’s East Kameng district. “I immediately felt that there was something different about this snake,” said Mirza.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, the scientists set off on a 41-day expedition, which ended on August 5, 2019. “During the expedition, near Pakke Tiger Reserve, we collected two specimens of a green pit viper, which resembled T. septentrionalis (Northern white-lipped pit viper) and T. albolabris (White-lipped pit viper) in the number of dorsal scale rows and colouration,” Mirza wrote in the April issue of Zoosystematics and Evolution journal. The orange stripe was the only hint that these snakes could be new to science.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Most green pit vipers are quite similar visually,” Mirza said. “Only the male Salazar’s pit vipers have the stripe. The females are virtually indistinguishable from other females, I would say. While the stripe’s colour is brilliant in young males, it tends to dull with age. Interestingly, the stripe disappears in preserved specimens.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There was more magic waiting in the wings. This February, Mirza travelled through Europe, visiting natural history museums. At the Natural History Museum of Denmark, he was shown a list of specimens in storage and was thrilled to notice two specimens from Assam. When he was taken to the specimens, he felt a thrill—they were Salazar’s pit vipers, wrongly labelled as white-lipped pit vipers. “A Danish naturalist had collected these specimens from the region in the 1800s. As the region was called Assam in those days, the specimens got tagged thus. And the snake waited all these years for me,” quipped Mirza. “I also heard that two other papers just got rejected. They, too, were trying to describe this snake.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mirza feels that a common mistake made in taxonomy is to compare a specimen with a book description. “A book is a book, a starting point,” he said. “It was written by another human being. So, it is prone to errors or influenced by the conditions in which the writer viewed the specimen. One can only be sure when one is in the field with a live specimen and when supporting evidence like molecular data comes in.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An Andheri boy, Mirza is pursuing a Master’s by research at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bengaluru. The NCBS is a part of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. Bhosale and Sawant are with the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS). Phansalkar is studying at the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun. Gowande teaches at Pune’s Fergusson College and is pursuing a PhD at MES Abasaheb Garware College. Patel is a research fellow at the Veer Narmad South Gujarat University, Surat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Salazar’s pit viper is the second new species of snake to come out of the 41-day expedition. The first one was described by Bhonsle, Gowande and Mirza. They found the non-venomous burrowing snake under fallen logs inside Tally Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, Arunachal Pradesh. It was named Trachischium apteii in honour of Dr Deepak Apte, marine biologist and director of BNHS. The description of a possible third new species is also in the pipeline.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping the world, scientists are back in the limelight. And, Mirza is thrilled. “I have always felt why a sportsman or an actor should get all the adulation,” he said. “A scientist who brings you a new medicine is as much a rock star as any of them.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The recent discovery of many new species in north-eastern India underlines the rich biodiversity of the region. It also shines the spotlight on potential infrastructure projects that threaten this Eden in the east. This year the Arunachal Pradesh government cleared a Rs2,500-crore project to build a 693km-long highway which will run through Pakke Tiger Reserve. And, last year, the Union government greenlit the Rs28,080-crore Dibang hydropower project in the state. When completed, it will be India’s largest hydropower project and the world’s tallest concrete gravity dam. It will also submerge 8,865 acres—much of it will be forests.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/22/a-viper-named-salazar.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/22/a-viper-named-salazar.html Fri May 22 22:19:21 IST 2020 quarantine-comedy <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/22/quarantine-comedy.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/2020/5/22/72-Danish-Sait-new.jpg" /> <p>Danish Sait, best known for his role in the Kannada sociopolitical satire Humble Politician Nograj, has been busier than usual during the lockdown. His fun take on quarantine worries and little joys of life have been grabbing eyeballs on YouTube. His ‘Conversations before and after Modiji’s 8pm speech’, uploaded on May 13, had more than 12,000 views in two days.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/What is your typical day like?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/I wake up by 11. I call my mom the moment I am up and kick-start my day with three cups of black coffee. That gets my motor running. Then I play with Red, my cat, for a while. That’s how I warm up for work. Post brunch, I sit down and come up with an idea. I discuss my ideas with Vamsi, my friend, before shooting the video. And then I have some interviews or work conversations. By the time I realise I didn’t work out, the day is gone.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/You have managed to make quite a few videos during the lockdown. Tell us about your process.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/I just use whatever is around me without troubling too many people. I shoot the videos on my phone and use iMovie to edit them. I think people like my videos because they find them relatable.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Humble Politician Nograj has been the need of the hour. What does the movie mean to you?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Humble Politician Nograj is a fictional character who mirrors the image that I have of politicians in my head. The movie is a satirical take on politicians. Nograj has no qualms about the frauds he has committed. Neither does he care about saying things that probably run on people’s minds.... I had good fun working on the film. Its sequel is now being made in the form of a web series.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Do people avoid you, fearing you will make jokes at their expense?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/My friends, relatives and maid don’t mind it. I am truly blessed in many ways. I just did a video wherein I roll out the carpet and welcome my maid home. I think that is something people can easily relate to as everybody is waiting for their domestic help to come back.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/You had a troubled childhood and have opened up about how you battled depression. How did you make peace with your past?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/I had two choices. I could either choose to cry and complain or get over it and move on. I didn’t want my past to dictate so much of my present and so I chose the latter. Accepting and understanding your problem is half the solution. That makes it easier to think your way out of it. So I have been to psychologists and psychiatrists and continue to take anti-anxiety tablets. That said, looking back, I have no regrets. I am grateful for all the blessings in my life. My sister has been incredible in terms of her support.... People around me have been very kind. What more can I ask for?</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/22/quarantine-comedy.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/22/quarantine-comedy.html Fri May 22 22:17:23 IST 2020 jo-steals-the-show <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/14/jo-steals-the-show.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/2020/5/14/67-Jyothika.jpg" /> <p>Tamil Nadu may be struggling to contain an epidemic explosion in the state, but the crisis was not enough to distract many from a twin storm involving actor Jyothika. First, social media users in the state attacked her when a clip of her speech at a recent award ceremony went viral. In it, she asks why hospitals and schools are not receiving donations as much as temples do, after her experiences while shooting for Raatchasi (2019). Her husband and actor-producer Suriya stood by her, issuing a strongly worded statement saying “let us sow love”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Only days later, the couple were involved in another controversy after it was announced that her new film Ponmagal Vanthal would have a digital release on Amazon Prime in May, skipping its theatrical release. It resulted in a war of words between producers and theatre owners in the state as the couple silently fought to create a new normal for digital releases of small-budget films. The exact release date is yet to be announced as theatre owners have threatened to boycott all future Suriya’s movies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the eye of both storms is a soft-spoken woman with an impeccable reputation in the industry. Seldom has an actor been so admired by Tamil women that she commands a fierce loyalty, even in her 40s. But Jyothika is a rarity, and has inspired many homemakers in the state, particularly after making a comeback in 2015 following a lengthy break.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“For every actor, director and producer, it is a dream to have their films released in a theatre. It is an accolade, seeing the fans cheer the movie in a theatre,” she tells THE WEEK. “But when the situation is extraordinary, my contention is ‘Let us all face it’. By the time Covid-19 ends, the smaller films might not get enough space in the theatres. So, I feel it is fair to give small films a platform. I feel OTT is a podium for small films during such difficult situations.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ponmagal Vanthal will see Jyothika take on a character she has never played before—an advocate who fights a male chauvinistic society. Her fierce role is in stark contrast to that of the cute, bubbly characters with which she made her name in the early 2000s. Jyothika debuted with Priyadarshan’s Doli Saja Ke Rakhna (1998) before entering Kollywood in Vaali (1999), playing a second heroine. She came to be known as Jo among her new crop of fans; post-Vaali, her film career rose steadily. She played lead roles opposite Suriya and Vijay and then with Rajinikanth in Chandramukhi (2005) and Kamal Hassan in Vettaiyadu Vilayadu (2006).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She faded out a couple of years after her marriage to Suriya in 2006 and the birth of her two children. But in 2015, when their beloved Jo was only remembered as a yesteryear actress who married a leading hero, she was back for round two. While many women actors make such returns only to play supporting roles as sisters or mothers, Jyothika chose strong characters that would fit her age and physique. “It is God’s grace that I got an opportunity to work in a film like Ponmagal Vanthal,” she says. “I am really thankful to director [J.J.] Fredrick for making me play the character. But I am also on a look out for such films that have strong characters.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Her second stint began with 36 Vayadhinile (2015), the remake of the Malayalam film How Old Are You? (Incidentally, the original had also marked the return of Malayalam star Manju Warrier after a 14-year break.) Though the movie did average in the box office, it laid the foundation for Jyothika’s resurgence. It was a movie that invigorated Tamil homemakers who yearned to go beyond their household duties.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was a period when the Tamil film industry saw a wave of women-centric films, a rarity in the region. The women usually played second fiddle to a popular hero or a loosu ponnu (impressionable girl). Jyothika’s new avatar provided a boost for scripts with women in the lead. “To me, as an actor, there is nothing called women-centric or male-centric,” says Jyothika. “The protagonist is played by a female artist and not a male. Women are always equal to men. We can perform heavy roles or light roles like heroes when we have the confidence in ourselves.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She ensures that she gets her scripts at least two months before the shoot commences, especially since her comeback. She wants to go into the sets fully prepared. “For Ponmagal Vanthal, I did extra homework and memorised all the dialogues, because I was up against [R.] Parthiban in a courtroom drama. There are a lot of lengthy sequences,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The second film after her comeback was Magalir Mattum (2017), where she played a young documentary maker, who takes her mother-in-law on a surprise trip to reunite with her friends. Next was ace director Bala’s Naachiyar (2018), where she was a foul-mouthed, aggressive cop who made her fans flinch. She prioritised this over an offer to play the character that Nithya Menen eventually did in Vijay’s Mersal. By doing this, she once again signalled her intent to only play characters that challenged her. She had a highly successful 2019 with Raatchasi, where she played a school headmistress, then as a tough cop again with Revathi in the comedy Jackpot, and finally in the family drama-thriller Thambi, with her brother-in-law Karthi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Jyothika has definitely broken the [mould] in Tamil cinema with her comeback,” says film critic Sreedhar Pillai. “No actress has had a successful stint like hers after a break. If Ponmagal Vanthal does well on OTT, she becomes a star on this medium and her career gets extended. She has taken a wise decision.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When asked about women being abused on social media, in light of the recent attacks on her, Jyothika says there is an imbalance of sorts. “When a woman talks about equal rights she is labelled as a feminist, which itself is a wrong term,” she says. “We don’t say we want every right above men. We only say equal rights. Generally, women’s terms are always exaggerated. It is an imbalance I feel.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/14/jo-steals-the-show.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/14/jo-steals-the-show.html Thu May 14 18:38:37 IST 2020 breaking-the-mould <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/14/breaking-the-mould.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/2020/5/14/70-Jaideep-Ahlawat.jpg" /> <p>He is a man at odds with life, vulnerable and unsure about everything. Professionally and personally, Hathiram Chaudhary is down and almost out. No one expects anything from the Delhi police inspector. But then there is an attempt to murder a high-profile, prime-time journalist. Four suspects are nabbed. And surprisingly, Chaudhary is asked to investigate the case, gradually revealing the twisted tales from media and bureaucracy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jaideep Ahlawat, who plays Chaudhary in Amazon Prime Video’s new series Paatal Lok, says, “Hathiram is so vulnerable that you will start loving him, sympathise with him. He is fighting really hard to be sincere in what he does. He is fighting for the space he deserves.” It was interesting to study the perseverance of Hathiram, his need and determination to always keep looking for the truth. The role, he says, often reminded him of his father, a teacher (now retired) in Kharkhara village in Haryana and also a common man struggling with his day-to-day life. “I have picked up his traits, the way he walks, his body language,” says Ahlawat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Paatal Lok, reportedly based on Tarun J. Tejpal’s The Story of My Assassins (not credited in the show), takes the audience to the dark alleys of the political and the powerful, exploring the depths of human and societal immorality.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Ahlawat talks of Chaudhary’s struggles, it seems like he is alluding to his journey in the entertainment industry, a journey that has been often marred with typecasting. He graduated from the Film and Television Institute of India in 2008, and started his film career with a negative role in Khatta Meetha (2010). While his portrayal of Shahid Khan in Gangs of Wasseypur (2012) was noticed and applauded, it did not boost his career. And, he had to contend with playing a string of negative characters in films like Commando and Vishwaroopam (both 2013). The negative streak came to an end with Raazi (2018), where he played Khalid Mir, the Intelligence Bureau training officer. Though it was a positive role, Ahlawat was still the tough guy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I was always the sure one,” he says of the characters he has played so far. “I think that people often take my physical traits—tall and broad—at face value. Maybe that’s why I am always cast in such roles.” But strong men can be vulnerable, too, says Ahlawat. “We all go through weak moments and (such) life experiences are enough to tap into the vulnerable aspects of a character,” he says. “It is good that finally someone else also thought that I could play a character like this, something that no one could explore so far.” All he hopes for is getting something new in every film. “Because every film has a tendency of stereotyping you,” he says, adding that after Raazi, he was offered roles that were similar to Khalid Mir. “Even now I know that I will start getting cop roles. It is not that I won’t do another cop role. I will do it by bringing a new twist to the character.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But Ahlawat did not always want to be an actor; he dreamt of donning the olive green. But his Army dreams were shattered when he could not clear the entrance exam. Theatre helped him cope with that failure, and paved the way for his acting career. Unlike many who would talk of their struggles in this industry, Ahlawat chooses to see it all as a “nice experience”. “To be honest, I never thought I would become an actor. Fauji banna tha, aur actor ban gaye [I wanted to be a soldier, instead I became an actor],” he says. “Since then, I have had no other life but that of an actor. It’s good, isn’t it? Sometimes, I feel it could have been better. But this is a part of life.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Being too eager and rushing through your journey, he believes, may not work. “There are many examples of people who rushed and failed, while there are also examples of people who took it slow and excelled. Hum bhi maan lete hain ki hum lambi race ke ghode hain, iss liye thoda dheere chal rahe hain [I also believe that I am in for the long run, and therefore I am taking it slow].”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Growing up, Ahlawat used to entertain villagers with his dance performances, sneaking into any and every wedding or celebration. “I love dancing. I still dance. Maybe not everywhere, but I find it a form of expression, a way to liberation,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No one in the film industry, however, has discovered his singing, dancing side. “There are times I feel that people should just stop the [serious] roles they are giving me and instead give me something fun where I, too, get to dance, romance a girl, do comedy,” he says, laughing. “If someone has found the vulnerability in me, I am sure soon people will also find the light-hearted guy that exists in me.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He will next be seen in Tryst With Destiny, which recently won the best screenplay award at the Tribeca Film Festival; Maqbool Khan’s Khaali Peeli, and a short film for Netflix directed by Shashank Khaitan. For now, like most of us, Ahlawat is home, rereading his huge collection of Hindi literature and binge-watching shows like Lucifer and Unorthodox.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/14/breaking-the-mould.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/14/breaking-the-mould.html Thu May 14 15:32:15 IST 2020 eye-on-visibility <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/14/eye-on-visibility.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/2020/5/14/72-Alaya-Furniturewala-new.jpg" /> <p>This January, Alaya Furniturewala made a smashing debut with Jawaani Jaaneman. But her debut was followed by a global pandemic which restricted the things she could have explored. But she has found ways to keep herself busy. Excerpts from an interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Growing up, you were not keen on being an actor. After all that reluctance, how has been the experience so far?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ It was that one moment when I was acting and I remember feeling so much joy while doing it. It was so rewarding to see people watching me and then giving me feedback…. I am normally a planned and organised person. This was the most impulsive thing I did. I dropped out of filmmaking school and went into acting without even knowing if I could do it. And it all paid off.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You come from a family of artistes (mother Pooja Bedi, grandfather Kabir Bedi, grandmother Protima Bedi). They say star kids have it easy. But you said you faced a few rejections.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Everyone’s struggle and journey is different. Some people get a film right after school, some people struggle for years. When you get into this industry, you are never sure where you fall in this spectrum. It also depends on luck, so much work, and a combination of so many things that you cannot control. I was just very vocal about my story and what my journey was…. I am glad that it took a lot of people by surprise. I am glad a lot of people listened.</p> <p><b>Q/ You also changed your name from Alia to Alaya to avoid being confused with Alia Bhatt.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ It didn’t make sense to keep the same name. I could have, but I just wanted my own identity. I couldn’t change it entirely because people have known me as Alia for my entire life. But I thought if there can be a Ranbir and a Ranveer, there can be an Alia and Alaya.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Of late, you have been very active on social media. How difficult is it to be creative now?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Honestly, I finally have time to be on social media…. I kind of lost what my identity was on social media and focused more on learning my craft, which I am glad I did. With the lockdown, social media is the only way that I can be visible right now…. It has given me time to put thought into it and create things that people really enjoy. But sometimes it gets irritating that you have to constantly post. These are very privileged struggles…. It feels stupid even saying it, knowing what the situation is out there and how people are having such a hard time. There are so many problems. But one has to keep oneself productive and engaged, otherwise mental health suffers.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/14/eye-on-visibility.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/14/eye-on-visibility.html Thu May 14 18:30:46 IST 2020 role-reversal <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/08/role-reversal.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/2020/5/9/65-Lara-Dutta-Rasika-Duggal-and-Monika-Panwar.jpg" /> <p>In 2006, creator-writer Devika Bhagat pitched a film to producer-director Aditya Chopra about an overweight girl who is unaffected by criticism of her appearance, and lives life on her own terms. Chopra turned it down because there were few female actors who would gain weight for the role and, more importantly, helm a film on their own. Four years later, Bhagat’s story found its space as a 25-episode TV series,&nbsp;<i>Mahi Way</i>, with the inimitable Pushtie Shakti playing the lead.</p> <p>Writer Ruchi Narain struggled with something similar in 2013, when she wrote a story about undue privilege and societal biases, but found no male actors to take the role. It would take her another seven years to make and release&nbsp;<i>Guilty</i>&nbsp;as a Netflix original. Bhagat, who has written films like&nbsp;<i>Manorama Six Feet Under</i>,&nbsp;<i>Bachna Ae Haseeno</i>,&nbsp;<i>Aisha</i>,&nbsp;<i>Ladies vs Ricky Bahl</i>, says she has tried to pitch stories with women lead roles of all ages or financial statuses, many times over. “It is just that people have not been so open to it,” she says.</p> <p>The grouse is not new.&nbsp;Films with women in central roles are scarce. There are the occasional bursts, like the early 2010s that had films like&nbsp;<i>The Dirty Picture</i>,&nbsp;<i>Mary Kom</i>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<i>Queen</i>.&nbsp;“Most people still think that male-centric films are sure shots at the box-office,”&nbsp;says Bhagat.</p> <p>Yet, there is a reason for people like Narain and Bhagat to cheer.&nbsp;Within two months of&nbsp;<i>Guilty</i>, the Hotstar series&nbsp;<i>Hundred</i>&nbsp;released in April, for which Narain was cowriter and codirector. The series has two lead women played by Lara Dutta and Rinku Rajguru. And Bhagat is basking in the success of the second season of Amazon Prime Video’s (APV)&nbsp;<i>Four More Shots Please!</i>, which lays bare the vulnerabilities and biases that women go through.</p> <p>“What has changed is that all of us, the women who were striving to find a foothold in the film industry for 15 to 18 years, have reached our late 30s or early 40s,” says Bhagat. “We are in a position in our careers where we can control what we make. More importantly, digital platforms like APV and Netflix have women running the development department, which works in our favour. They are looking to us to bring them stories that are women centric.”</p> <p>Narain thinks that something more has changed in the social fabric as well. Movements like #MeToo have sensitised people. Perhaps, that is also why even Hotstar, which is mostly led by men, could appreciate the rebel female characters Narain had written.&nbsp;It is encouraging, she says, but she also points out that it is still a man’s world.</p> <p>When Narain narrated the story to Dutta, she was expressionless. “Later, she called to tell me that when she joined the industry, she had never dreamt of being offered a role that is so real, that too in her 40s,” she says. Dutta, who says she was only offered eye-candy roles in blockbuster films overpowered by male superstars early in her career, was surprised by the offer. “In&nbsp;<i>Hundred</i>, I love the fact that the character is quite flawed, badass and sarcastic,” Dutta says. Streaming platforms have given the opportunity to Narain to write a story and character that she says she would not have had the guts to write for a theatrical release.</p> <p>Actor Monika Panwar, who made an interesting turn in Netflix’s&nbsp;<i>Jamtara</i>&nbsp;in January, is at her candid best when she says,&nbsp;“The thought of always portraying stereotypical women disturbs me a lot.” She often wondered why people were not writing something special. “Why does a woman always need to look beautiful, listen to everybody, and if not that, end up a vamp?” says Panwar, who plays a spoken English teacher in&nbsp;<i>Jamtara</i>, titled after a district in Jharkhand that became known for its phishing scams.</p> <p>“When I read Gudiya’s character for the first time, I was amazed. She is complex. Being from a small town didn’t make her simplistic,” says Panwar. She adds that digital platforms have created space for deeper characters and parts that do not always require known faces or certain physical traits.</p> <p>It is no surprise then that the petite&nbsp;Rasika Dugal, who found it difficult to get suitable roles for over a decade, has become a favourite across platforms with strong roles in&nbsp;<i>Mirzapur</i>,&nbsp;<i>Delhi Crime</i>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<i>Out of Love</i>. “The entertainment space has gone through a tremendous change over the last couple of years,” she told THE WEEK while shooting for the second season of&nbsp;<i>Mirzapur</i>. “There is an abundance of work. It is encouraging. The kind of writing and content creation that the digital space is encouraging is also informing films.”</p> <p>Like Dugal,&nbsp;Sobhita Dhulipala has also found a mixed bag of projects. She was applauded for her ambitious role of Tara in&nbsp;<i>Made in Heaven</i>&nbsp;on APV, and in Netflix’s&nbsp;<i>Bard of Blood</i>, where as an intelligence officer, her character exposes gender biases.<b>&nbsp;</b>“Most women already go through life having to prove their place even before their merits are actually assessed,” Dhulipala had said during the release of&nbsp;<i>Bard of Blood</i>. “That gender struggle is always prevalent and I am glad that I could play a character that taps into the average sentiments with regards to the gender dynamic.”</p> <p>Aparna Purohit, head of originals, APV India, says that the digital world is “so democratic and so liberal that there is space for all kinds of stories”. “I think the fact that there are so many women at the creative helm now gives space to more female characters for better representation, more engaging plots and characters that have never been portrayed before,” says Purohit.</p> <p>This principle cuts across platforms. Alt Balaji’s shows like&nbsp;<i>The Test Case</i>,&nbsp;<i>Mission Over Mars</i>&nbsp;and the recent&nbsp;<i>Mentalhood</i>&nbsp;explore premises that put women at the fore. “A lot of times the arc of a female character is in showing her strength,” says actor Maanvi Gagroo. “But strength is not always when a girl leaves her husband or walks out of her home. Of course, that requires strength. But even a woman living a normal life—running her house, having an important job and managing it all–that for me is the real strength of a person. I enjoy playing those characters and I wish there were more.”</p> <p>Srishti Arya, Netflix India’s director of international originals, calls the current times “a golden age of entertainment in India” with a greater variety and diversity of stories being made for every mood and member of a family. “On Netflix, 60 per cent of our series and films in India have women in central characters. Audiences want to see diverse stories about women, on issues that relate to women, or with women in central characters,” says Arya, who is thrilled to see a more central role for women behind the camera too, which according to her means there is a greater flourishing of stories across genres. “Several upcoming stories by Netflix have women in leading roles in front of and behind the camera:&nbsp;<i>Bombay Begums</i>&nbsp;(directed by Alankrita Srivastava),&nbsp;<i>Kaali Khuhi</i>&nbsp;(directed by Terrie Samundra),&nbsp;<i>Bulbul</i>&nbsp;(directed by Anvita Dutt and produced by Anushka Sharma’s Clean Slate Films),&nbsp;<i>Tribhanga</i>&nbsp;(starring Kajol, Mithila Palkar and Tanvi Azmi) and&nbsp;<i>Masaba Masaba</i>&nbsp;(starring Masaba and Neena Gupta). We are excited about what lies ahead,” she says.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/08/role-reversal.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/08/role-reversal.html Fri May 08 23:48:41 IST 2020 healing-strokes <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/08/healing-strokes.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/2020/5/8/68-Nishant-Jain.jpg" /> <p>When Kolkata-born, US-based illustrator Nishant Jain sketches the city of Chicago, he might as well be reading aloud from Carl Sandburg’s poem on the midwestern metropolis: “Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive, and coarse and strong and cunning.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On an Instagram entry, hash-tagged ‘art of isolation’, Jain brings alive the South Loop neighbourhood of Chicago. As a lockdown ritual there—started in early March—residents blast radio songs, and sing, dance and wave flashlights every evening at 8pm from their balconies. To Jain’s surprise, the tradition of singing and dancing continues to this day. The spirited response of his neighbours to Covid-19 has found an expression in his vivid sketches. In another Instagram post, Jain had&nbsp;surreptitiously&nbsp;drawn an ambulance under the same apartment building.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“In this city, you cannot run out of creative inspiration,”says Jain. “It is one of my life’s big missions to publish a big book of ‘Sneaky Art’made in Chicago, because I find every corner of this city worthy of art.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jain—who ditched his PhD course in neuroscience to become a writer-illustrator—has perfected a method of sketching that involves recording accidental revelations in unfamiliar sights and scenes. The 32-year-old calls his style of sketching as ‘Sneaky Art’, for the illustrator is unobtrusive in his ways of capturing the outstanding details in the ordinary. And the sneaky artist is gradually sneaking into the limelight. Some of his works have now found place in the iconic Blackstone Hotel in downtown Chicago. His works have also been published in newspapers including&nbsp;The Times&nbsp;in London. Jain was an official artist at the Jaipur Literature Festival’s international edition in Boulder last September, and his current projects include a number of private commissions across the US.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was while living in an obscure part of the&nbsp;Midwest—Eau&nbsp;Claire, Wisconsin—that he shaped his signature style. His pen-and-ink sketches on&nbsp;Eau Claire&nbsp;resulted in a book titled&nbsp;Sneaky Art of Eau Claire. “I set about understanding this utterly foreign environment with my sketchbook,” says Jain. “I would sit in the parks, cafes and bars to observe people and their activities.&nbsp;Sneaky Art of Eau Claire&nbsp;was started as a way to continue my self-education, but soon evolved into a cathartic exercise.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jain started a stick-figure webcomic in the final semester of his bachelor’s degree at Manipal University.&nbsp;XKCD&nbsp;by Randall Munroe was the first webcomic that caught his attention apart from&nbsp;Wondermark&nbsp;and&nbsp;Hark, A Vagrant.&nbsp;He counts the works of graphic novelists Alan Moore and Jacques Tardi among his inspirations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While lockdown has hampered his natural style of working, Jain has found ways around it. He draws live interviews and conversations from Twitter and Instagram. He teaches ink-art on social media. He has also started a free, work-from-home series where fans send him photos of their DIY set-ups in home&nbsp;quarantine. Physicians on after-work Zoom calls, people jostling for workspace between pets and kids, or the jerry-rigged workstation of a Wisconsin local radio host who records in the closet with clothes over her head to dampen outside sounds—all find their lambent likeness in Jain’s illustrations. Some have insisted on paying, but Jain is using his art as a healing tool. “For so many people, the home-office separation is sacred, so these times are especially stressful. I am glad I can give something to them that&nbsp;alleviates this.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/08/healing-strokes.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/08/healing-strokes.html Sun May 10 18:19:57 IST 2020 the-flagship-and-the-killer <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/08/the-flagship-and-the-killer.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/2020/5/8/69-OnePlus-8-Pro-new.jpg" /> <p>Every fall, Apple sets the benchmark in mobile phones with a new iteration of the iPhone, leaving the competition to play catchup for the rest of the year. OnePlus, which once was called the Apple of China, however, saw the whole game in a different light. It called its first phone, the OnePlus One released in 2014, the ‘flagship killer’. It was the perfect antithesis to the swanky, expensive iPhone—comparable features at half the price.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It repeated this every year. While the iPhone 11 Pro released six months ago costs about Rs1 lakh in India, the OnePlus 7T Pro, released around the same time, comes at just about Rs53,000. Two weeks ago, however, things turned upside down. Both Apple and OnePlus announced their new phones, and for a change, the OnePlus 8 Pro looks like a flagship and the iPhone SE a flagship killer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The iPhone SE is powered by the same A13 Bionic processor that debuted in the iPhone 11 Pro, which guarantees outstanding performance and also OS updates for at least five years. The real draw, however, is the price. It starts at Rs42,500. Of course, corners have been cut, such as the dated design (it looks like the 2017 iPhone 8), the inferior display and an inferior camera system. But none of these is a deal-breaker.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The OnePlus 8 Pro, on the other hand, is a proper flagship. It comes with arguably the best screen on a mobile phone, the latest Snapdragon chip, lots of memory and all the bells and whistles. At 054,999, it is also the most expensive OnePlus phone ever. While there is no doubt that the OnePlus 8 Pro is worth every penny you pay for it, your penny was worth a lot more when you bought the OnePlus 7T Pro or the OnePlus 7 Pro.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That makes a strong case for choosing Apple’s flagship killer. Not just over the OnePlus 8 Pro, but over any flagship.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/08/the-flagship-and-the-killer.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/08/the-flagship-and-the-killer.html Fri May 08 17:09:18 IST 2020 frames--fame <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/08/frames--fame.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/2020/5/8/70-A-protester-throws-stones.jpg" /> <p>The Kashmir valley has been on edge since August 5, the day the Centre revoked Article 370 and imposed a lockdown to contain the backlash. The days were reminiscent of the militancy era of the 1990s, and journalists found it hard, more than usual, to report on the ground situation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Years of life under conflict, however, had given them the tools to navigate the tense terrain. And on May 5, three of the journalists—Associated Press photographers Dar Yasin, Mukhtar Khan and Channi Anand—won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography for documenting life under lockdown. While Channi had captured images in Jammu, Yasin and Khan did so in Kashmir.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The duo in the valley often took cover in strangers’ homes to avoid security forces, and had to conceal their cameras while working. They then copied their work in pen-drives and disks, rushed to the airport and requested passengers to deliver it to their colleagues in Delhi. It worked, and other journalists followed suit. The government later set up a media centre in a Srinagar hotel.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The news of the photojournalists winning the coveted award brought cheer to people in Jammu and Kashmir. WhatsApp groups of journalists were filled with congratulatory messages since 3am on May 5, when Kashmir woke up for the traditional meal before Ramzan fasting.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yasin told THE WEEK that he was happy, but was not authorised to talk further until his organisation permitted it. A resident of Downtown in Srinagar, the 45-year-old father of two has won many national and international awards for his stories from Kashmir. “It’s overwhelming to receive this honour,” wrote Yasin, an engineer by training, on Twitter.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The passion for photography runs deep in Yasin’s family. His younger brother, Rafiq Maqbool, who works with AP, had recently got attention for recording his life in quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yasin’s wife also chipped in with the camera, capturing some moments of celebration at home.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His colleagues describe him as a perfectionist. “Once I covered a night protest in Soura after the removal of Article 370,” said photojournalist Umer Asif. “He clicked only two pictures after spending hours there.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mukhtar Khan, the other winner from Kashmir, told THE WEEK: “I was not expecting that my colleagues and I would be selected for this prize.” A resident of Fateh Kadal in Srinagar, Khan is married with two children and has more than 20 years of experience in the field. Known for his sense of humour and for keeping a low profile, he said the clampdown was one of his biggest challenges. “Once we stepped out for assignments, we had no clue about each other’s well-being,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The third winner, Jammu-based Anand, put up a WhatsApp status that read: “Thank you so much, everyone, for the congratulations and appreciation. It’s been a long journey and kudos to those who stood by my side.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anand has had a career that spans more than two decades, and his colleagues describe him as hardworking and honest.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indeed, hard work has continued to pay off.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/08/frames--fame.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/08/frames--fame.html Fri May 08 17:03:24 IST 2020 diva-goes-digital <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/08/diva-goes-digital.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/2020/5/8/73-Raveena-Tandon-new.jpg" /> <p>Actor Raveena Tandon has embraced the digital world and how. Even as she is having fun making TikTok videos and taking Instagram challenges with her daughter, she is also using social media platforms to talk about issues that matter. In the last week of April, Tandon started a digital campaign to sensitise people about the violence against Covid-19 frontline warriors.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What was the idea behind #JeetegaIndiaJeetengeHum campaign?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ When I started seeing these incidents [of frontline workers being attacked] on news platforms.... I thought, ‘What’s going on?’ It was very disturbing. What level has humanity stooped to? It was important for us to raise voices and condemn what was happening. It was not just a simple thank you, but also the fact that we need to tell people not to fall victim to any kind of religious brainwashing, rumours and fake news.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ And, it has received a lot of support.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ It is amazing how humanity just rises when there is a need. It is something that is close to a lot of people. I had asked people to give small [video] messages, but a lot of people have done long videos explaining things. It works to a certain extent. You have [videos by] Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh, Shilpa Shetty and then there’s [one by] a really young boy—one of my Twitter followers. The message is reaching the masses and I am glad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You have been quite vocal on Twitter, be it against the Kumaraswamy wedding or the opening up of paan-gutka shops.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ I am not raising my voice against any government order or official. I think paan-gutka shops will lead to spitting. At a time when we are trying to get a certain sort of civic and hygiene sense, it is important to stop people from doing things that can lead to the spread of Covid-19.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How do you think the entertainment industry is going to come out of this?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ A lot of things are going to change. It is not going to be an easy year ahead for a lot of us. I am sure we will all find ways of surviving, innovating and [bringing] some novelty in the kind of entertainment we provide.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What projects are you working on?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ I finished shooting for K.G.F: Chapter 2 and I was to start shooting for Ahmed Khan’s next film. There is a web show that we are prepping for. As soon as the lockdown is lifted and we get permission to work, we will start working on that. I love the creativity that comes with a web series. One can explore so much more. I am also producing two more web shows. And I am looking forward to it.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/08/diva-goes-digital.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/05/08/diva-goes-digital.html Fri May 08 16:58:10 IST 2020 streaming-strong <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/30/streaming-strong.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/2020/4/30/63-Streaming-strong-1.jpg" /> <p>In 2018, Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former chairman of Walt Disney Studios, founded Quibi. The new streaming platform offered bite-sized, quality content designed exclusively for mobile devices. Users could watch a video both vertically and horizontally—which requires everything to be shot both ways. Preparing for a 2020 launch, Quibi roped in the biggest names from Hollywood; investors in the platform included Disney, NBCUniversal, Sony, Viacom and WarnerMedia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In India—one of the most promising countries for the growth of digital platforms (650 million internet users!)—Katzenberg’s past and future would face each other in a strange way. Almost two decades ago, Katzenberg had turned Disney’s fortunes around. Now, Disney was writing its own streaming story with Disney+ (rebranded as Disney+ Hotstar). Disney+ Hotstar launched in India on April 2 and Quibi on April 6.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But even as new plans were being made by the platforms, the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world. Disney was planning to launch Disney+ Hotstar simultaneously with the start of the Indian Premier League on March 29. They had to reschedule after the IPL was put on hold.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The good news, however, is that the world in lockdown is consuming more OTT content. About 17 lakh people downloaded Quibi in its first week.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The audience measurement firms, BARC-India and Nielsen Media Research, revealed that the consumption of shows and films on streaming services grew by 51 per cent worldwide during the lockdown. Netflix is forecasting 7.5 million new subscriptions in the April-to-June period. However, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings recently said that the company is expecting the “viewing to decline and membership growth to decelerate as home confinement ends”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Neeraj Roy, founder and CEO, Hungama Digital Media, says that consumer sentiments are changing, and every platform is on their toes to change the programming and packaging to suit it. Considering the fact that children are spending more time at home during the lockdown, ZEE5 recently launched a new bouquet of kids’ content. “There is no doubt that these are challenging times,” says Aparna Acharekar, programming head, ZEE5 India. “But to bring lightness to the situation, an interesting mix of content has been made available for free through the initiative #BeCalmBeEntertained. It includes a mix of free and premium content. On the premium front, we launched an original, State of Siege: 26/11, along with the film Bamfaad and a short film festival consisting of nine unique films across genres.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The other home-grown platforms like MX Player, Voot and ALTBalaji are also following a similar pattern by launching a newer line-up of content. Voot Select, the premium model of Viacom’s streaming service that was launched on March 3, has benefitted as viewers got hooked to its shows like The Raikar Case, Asur, Marzi and Illegal. Asur is now one of the top ten shows on streaming services as per the BARC India-Nielsen report. ALTBalaji has witnessed an increase in digital subscriptions with an average of 17,000 subscriptions added per day post lockdown, as opposed to an average of 10,600 in the pre-lockdown period. “This [lockdown] situation will introduce a wider set of audiences to OTT, and we believe they will continue the consumption,” says Nachiket Pantvaidya, CEO, ALTBalaji.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not a surprise then that most of the platforms are sticking to their original plan of launching newer content. The heavy dose of promotion that preceded the launch of a show or a film may have taken a backseat, but the launches continue. The fourth season of Money Heist (Netflix) is on top of the heap. Amazon Prime Video’s Panchayat, an endearing show featuring the Indian hinterland, is also on the list of most-watched shows. “That is the beauty of the OTT service. We can provide such a wide range of stories,” says Aparna Purohit, head of Indian Originals, Prime Video.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The growing competition with the launch of newer services like Quibi, Disney+ Hotstar, Apple TV+, or the entry of Flipkart into the content space, is hardly a matter of worry for others, it seems. “There are so many audiences and customers, and at any given point, they have different needs,” says Purohit.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Roy is in agreement when he says that India is not a singular market. “It is, in fact, a bouquet of several diverse markets, each with its own complexities and behaviour patterns,” he says. “Eventually, each platform and each piece of content finds its audience.” Roy adds that with regard to the current situation, the industry could face a gap in content creation until the lockdown lifts. “We might see some changes in the digital release of some big-ticket films in the future though,” he says. “Most streaming platforms release movies around three months after the theatrical release. However, this area will see some experimentation. The time gap between theatrical and digital release might reduce, or some films may be offered on digital in a pay-per-view model on day one itself.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/30/streaming-strong.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/30/streaming-strong.html Sat May 02 20:18:11 IST 2020 bull-run <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/30/bull-run.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/2020/4/30/68-Michael-Jordan.jpg" /> <p>The 1990s Chicago Bulls basketball team that stormed its way to six NBA championships in eight years was more than just a team of supreme athletes. "They were a fascinating assortment of personalities," says an interviewee in the The Last Dance, a 10-part documentary series that chronicles their final hurrah. Central to it is the story of an enigma named Michael Jordan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the 20th century sporting world, many greats stand out. But in terms of global image and brand equity, Jordan was second to none. He could sell a hundred different products from buttons to Chevrolets with the same ease that he stunned opponents and audiences with his dunks, jump shots, steals and midair acrobatics. And yet, since he hung up those Air Jordans, the world has seen or heard very little of Jordan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, when he started to feel that his image of an all-time great was under threat— thanks to LeBron James hitting peak form in 2016—he finally agreed to part with never-before-seen inside footage of that final 1997-98 Bulls season. Prior to the season, the Bulls gave a film crew unprecedented access to film them for the entire year, and Jordan was given full control over it. But, for nearly two decades, multiple producers approached the legend with proposals, but none of them got close to the reels. Producer Mike Tollin eventually presented an irresistible proposal, and Jordan let him in.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The series depicts how a middling team that was barely able to fill its stands rode high on the Jordan revolution. And how it went from being a one-trick pony after Jordan's arrival in the 1980s to a near-invincible stallion in the following decade, thanks to a team built around him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Given Jordan's daunting presence and the absence of any such work on him, one cannot blame Tollin and director Jason Hehir for making it as much a documentary about Jordan as it is about the Bulls. Ironically, it also emphasises that the multiple title-winning Bulls team was more than just Jordan. In a non-linear storytelling format, it carefully weaves in the backstories of key members of the group and how the dynasty was built. The interviews with players and coaches of both the Bulls and their opponents give fresh insights to many iconic moments.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At some points, it does seem like they tried to fit too many themes into the series. But it is worth the build-up to that successful yet chaotic season that eventually ended with the disbandment of the core team. Available on Netflix, it is a series made purely for the sports fanatic. It was scheduled for a June release, but was brought forward to target the millions stuck at home craving sporting action. Another business decision that Jordan would be proud of.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/30/bull-run.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/30/bull-run.html Thu Apr 30 19:29:34 IST 2020 tube-lights-up <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/30/tube-lights-up.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/2020/4/30/70-Bhuvan-Bam.jpg" /> <p>On March 21, YouTuber Bhuvan Bam posted a video busting myths around Covid-19. Through three of the many characters he has created for his BB Ki Vines, he cheekily takes on family WhatsApp groups for the wrong information they spread. “Mummy, Jaadu ho kya? Agar dhoop sekne se andar ka virus nikal jaata toh sab log sadko par hote (Mummy, are you Jaadu? If sunlight could eliminate the virus, then everyone would be out on the streets),” he says in the video, alluding to the alien in Koi... Mil Gaya that survives on sunlight.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But unlike most of Bam’s videos that easily cross the 10 million mark within days of upload, this one remains under the mark even after a month. “Maybe because there was a lot of similar content being created around the virus almost by everyone,” says Bam. Before the lockdown was announced, he thought that it would be the best time for him in terms of content creation, but he has not been able to create as much as earlier, says the YouTuber with one of the highest number of subscribers in India—17.1 million.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But there is a silver lining. According to a report by Mindshare India and Vidooly, there has been a steep increase in digital content consumption during the lockdown. Google-owned YouTube has seen a surge of 20.5 per cent in subscribers. A lot of newer viewers are discovering Bam’s content. “It includes a lot of uncles and aunties,” he says, laughing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The pattern of consumption on YouTube is amusing. Ashish Chanchalani, with 17.5 million subscribers, can vouch for that. In one of his videos, titled Lockdown With Parivar, he makes random conversations with a friend. The video got more than 21 million views. In another, he taps into the growing popularity of Ludo over the last few weeks. The 49-second video almost went viral. “It was such a surprise. I hadn’t thought it would do so well,” he says. While he says his “business” is doing well, there are challenges, like lack of equipment. “It has taken me back in time, when I had just started making content for YouTube,” says Chanchalani.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Agrees Prajakta Koli aka Mostly Sane, who says that she has made her “least produced video ever” in these times. Thoughts of Your Fridge, a simply shot video with the camera placed inside the fridge, revolves around the idea of what a fridge would say if it could speak. “There was no mic or other equipment. I am back to basic,” says Koli, who has more than five million subscribers. “But it’s been a lot of fun.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not all hunky dory though. American YouTuber Bradley Burke (SwankyBox) tweeted his concerns over how the earning per thousand views (around $80/thousand views) on YouTube has dipped over the last few weeks with suppressed advertising revenue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But Gurpreet Singh, COO and cofounder of One Digital Entertainment that manages over 3,000 content creators, says that the earnings of a lot of YouTubers with a considerable subscriber base are not limited to just YouTube. “Their source of revenue also comes from their engagement on platforms like Instagram, TikTok and other places,” he says. He adds that while sectors like travel and tourism may have cut their advertising budget, a lot of other sectors have reached out for tie-ups with YouTubers—mostly for marketing of essential items, like Lifebuoy and Dettol.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Singh also says that there has been a sizeable spike in subscribers because the number of uploads have picked up. A case in point is Chanchalani, whose regular videos have got him seven lakh new subscribers in this period, surpassing Bam’s subscriber base.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gaurav Taneja, a pilot-cum-YouTuber, was not sure if he would be able to create videos in these times. When he started putting up moments with his family in Kanpur where he was quarantining, people responded positively. “I think it gave them a sense of home and nostalgia,” he says. A few days into the lockdown, he had fever, started throwing up and had dry cough as well. Fearing it could be Covid-19, he went for a test; it came back negative. He captured the entire experience on camera, and his videos led to a lot of interaction. “I have realised that if you have interesting stories to tell, you don’t necessarily need a foreign trip to get viewers on your channel. There are many ways to do it,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And, more creators are joining in. Then there are actors like Alia Bhatt and Jacqueline Fernandez, who already have YouTube channels. Other actors may follow suit. Would it be a matter of concern for existing YouTubers? “Hardly,” says Sejal Kumar, who started her channel in 2014 with videos on fashion and music. “If anything, it would bridge the gap. It would merge two spaces without any differentiation like a YouTube creator or a Bollywood star and would lead to more collaborative efforts. In the end, we are all here for the same thing—interesting content.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/30/tube-lights-up.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/30/tube-lights-up.html Thu Apr 30 17:35:13 IST 2020 arresting-stereotypes <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/30/arresting-stereotypes.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/2020/4/30/73-Lara-Dutta-Bhupathi.jpg" /> <p>Actor Lara Dutta Bhupathi makes her online debut with a cop drama series, Hundred, on Disney+ Hotstar. She talks about her role and the widespread misogyny in the police force and the film industry.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Saumya in Hundred is very different from the roles you have played.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Yes, which is one of the reasons [I opted] for a show like Hundred, making it my digital debut as well. I love the fact that the character is quite flawed, badass and sarcastic. The idea of playing a cop has always been attractive, but most of the time you think of cops as the super cops or the ones who nab the bad guys and change the society. But here, Saumya is a parody of a cop. She is many other things than just a police officer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ We are seeing an increase in the portrayal of women police officers. And, these are not just replicas of male cops but nuanced representations of female cops.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ That is really important. All the women officers I interacted with while prepping for this role say it is a highly misogynistic environment as the police force is male-dominated. A lot of them told me that there is no space... you cannot have a weak moment, and you cannot show any kind of emotion either. It is looked upon as ‘Oh, she is weak’ or ‘She is a woman’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You have also spoken a lot about the misogyny in the film industry. But are projects like these that portray strong women a result of the changing times?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Yes, of course. In my career, I have had huge films like No Entry (2005), Masti (2004) and Partner (2007), and one could say there was a lot of misogyny in them as well. But as actors, we are working in prevalent conditions that include current trends and thought processes of the society that dictate the kind of films that are made. When we play these parts, it need not necessarily [reflect our own views]. I have always spoken up for issues that I thought were relevant and prevalent, whatever it was—#MeToo, inclusion, pay parity, all of that. When women start speaking up, you see how that impacts society. The mindset changes and it translates into the writing and the kind of films that are made.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Have there been any change in your routine because of the lockdown?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Not really. As it is I am a homebody. Just that my husband (ex-tennis player Mahesh Bhupathi) is there now, 24 hours in my face. More than anything else, we are now learning to give each other enough space!</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/30/arresting-stereotypes.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/30/arresting-stereotypes.html Thu Apr 30 17:11:36 IST 2020 fast-forward <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/23/fast-forward.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/2020/4/23/64-Pankaj-Tripathi.jpg" /> <p>When the poster of <i>Fukrey Returns </i>(2017) was released, it had four actors and a lion on it. Pankaj Tripathi had never really cared much for being on a film’s poster, but his absence on this one disappointed him for the first time in his career. He was more important than the lion, he thought to himself, and messaged one of the executive producers about it. Karan Anshuman of Excel Entertainment got back to Tripathi, asking him not to lose heart. “Let the film release. People will see your work and talk about you,” Anshuman told him.</p> <p>A year later, billboards in major Indian cities prominently featured Tripathi. This time as Kaleen Bhaiya, the patriarch in gangster drama <i>Mirzapur</i>. Anshuman is the showrunner, and the second season will drop soon. Another year later, as the second season of <i>Sacred Games</i> released, Tripathi as Guruji dominated posters again, alongside Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Saif Ali Khan. His character also became a hit on social media, thanks to various memes and GIFs.</p> <p>By giving him central characters, streaming platforms have made him a star, he concurs. Something that may have been difficult in the mainstream film industry. But there is more that the shows have done. It has exposed him to an international audience. This week, he makes a brief appearance as a drug lord in the Hollywood thriller <i>Extraction</i>, starring Chris Hemsworth. The Covid-19 lockdown was preceded by the release of <i>Angrezi Medium</i>, which also had Tripathi in a cameo role. If he did <i>Angrezi Medium</i> because of his respect for Irrfan Khan, he did <i>Extraction</i> because the team showed him a lot of respect. “They came to me with a proposal of doing this character that has a small part on-screen but remains relevant throughout the film,” said Tripathi from his Madh Island home in Mumbai. “I took the offer as a form of appreciation for my craft.”</p> <p>His balcony overlooks a vast patch of greenery, instead of Mumbai’s concrete jungle. Looking at it, he says he longs for the village life he led, growing up in Belsand, Bihar. “The village inside me refuses to leave,”</p> <p>he said. But for now, living in Mumbai is important for his work. Last year, he shifted from Malad to Madh, an area far from the Andheri-Bandra stretch where the bulk of the film fraternity lives. “I am okay with travelling a little extra if I come back to a home that gives me the feel of home and familiarity to my roots,” said Tripathi.</p> <p>He was not always this spoilt for choice. In 2004, after graduating from the National School of Drama, he moved to Mumbai with his wife, Mridula, and could only afford a one bedroom-kitchen setup. He had already played small roles in the Kannada film <i>Chigurida Kanasu</i> (2003) and in the Hindi film <i>Run</i> (2004). His wife worked as a teacher to support the family as Tripathi stood in queues for auditions. Years passed with him doing bit parts in films and slogging it out for television shows. This was until casting director Mukesh Chhabra suggested him for the role of Sultan in Anurag Kashyap’s <i>Gangs of Wasseypur</i> (2012). That changed everything.</p> <p>If not for the lockdown, Tripathi would have had a packed schedule till the end of August. “I don’t take too much pressure on acting. The only pressure I have is the schedule,” he said. Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, who gave Tripathi his first comic role in <i>Nil Battey Sannata</i> (2015) and another delightful role in <i>Bareilly Ki Barfi</i> (2017), had earlier told THE WEEK about how she wanted Tripathi to play an important character in <i>Panga</i> (2020) as she considers him her lucky charm. Tripathi agreed to do it straight away. But in the months preceding the film’s pre-production phase, he failed to block dates for her film. “He is so sweet that he could not say no to me,” said Tiwari, who eventually excused him from the project. Tripathi suggested Rajesh Tailang as his replacement, who eventually played the role. “That is an endearing quality to possess in an industry with cut-throat competition,” said Tiwari.</p> <p>A feeling of brotherhood is important, Tripathi said, as it “helps you grow”. With this sudden break imposed on humankind, he realised that everyone has been busy running around to achieve elusive dreams. “I keep giving <i>gyaan</i> (advice) about living life and taking it slow,” he said. “But I think I was also chasing [my dreams]. I had not taken a break in the last seven-eight months! I will take it slow now, once things are back to normal.” Then he pauses and adds: “The kind of work I did in the last six to eight years was really important after the long period of struggle. But I think I have achieved enough and there is no limit to dreaming.”</p> <p>Priorities will probably change in the post-pandemic world. But for now, Tripathi’s line-up of upcoming projects is enviable. It seems he may be in even more demand than he was before the pandemic hit us. His mixed bag includes big-budget mainstream spectacles, indie films and socially relevant ones (<i>Gunjan Saxena, Mimi </i>and <i>Kaagaz</i>), besides the second seasons of <i>Mirzapur</i> and <i>Criminal Justice</i>. He is hesitant to talk about his roles but, on insistence, says that his next few characters will be interesting, especially his role in 83 on India’s 1983 cricket World Cup victory. He plays the team’s PR manager, Man Singh, which is going to be “revelatory for many”. “I think I have done something that is very different from my work so far,” said Tripathi.</p> <p>To prepare for the role he not only learnt about the sport for the first time, but also met the real Man Singh in Hyderabad, which he said was like attending a class. “It was full of fascinating anecdotes and learning along the way,” said Tripathi, who eagerly looks forward to the release. For now, he is busy cooking for his family and the support staff in his society, providing essentials for the 300-odd people and reading <i>Indian Method in Acting</i> by theatre director Prasanna.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/23/fast-forward.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/23/fast-forward.html Thu Apr 23 15:36:55 IST 2020 the-art-is-going-nowhere <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/23/the-art-is-going-nowhere.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/2020/4/23/70-Shenaz%20Treasury.jpg" /> <p>On April 9, Shenaz Treasury posted a video of a time when she ate ice cream made of 23-carat gold when transiting Dubai. The former MTV video jockey, now one of the most sought-after travel vloggers, dropped her "Black Diamond" ice cream adventure on Instagram in the middle of the lockdown. Whipped up with Italian truffles, Iranian saffron and edible 23-karat gold flakes, the ice cream costs Rs60,000 a scoop. Apart from Black Diamond, Shenaz also tucked into some gold chicken nuggets and fries. Shenaz goes on to narrate that she later painted the airplane restroom gold, thanks to a rumbling tummy. Her post is indicative of a shift in how relentless travel addicts are adjusting to being grounded. At a time when the tourism industry has taken a brutal drubbing, how are travel influencers remaking their identity as eternal wanderers?</p> <p>Shenaz, known for her peppy travel videos, has never been the kind to panic. Her flirtatious effervescence is now being channelled into dating advice for men, quirky travel stories, motivational talk on mental fortitude and performing comedy. The new videos are doing even better than her travel videos. The 38-year-old has never been busier with all the housework, writing her scripts and shooting them, doing yoga by her balcony and catching up with family and friends. "You know what, maybe we human beings are the virus and we are being kept in our homes because we have been destroying Mother Nature,” says Shenaz. “Nature does not need us. It is the other way around.” Her fifth-floor balcony is now her only escape into leaves, sunshine and birdsong. Shenaz says she only needs her mental health and creativity to remain sane and sparky.</p> <p>This is the way of the traveller and steadfast explorer. They are used to working alone, even when they travel. In travel psychology, the real wanderers are independent, full of energy, have little fear, breathlessly crave novelty and are mostly self-driven. So, are travel junkies also more resilient? “This is probably the worst time to be a digital nomad,” says Shivya Nath, who quit her corporate job at 23, left home and sold all her belongings to travel the world indefinitely. “A traveller without a permanent home to go back to. That is how I have lived for over six years—out of two bags, working on the go, exploring a place for a month or three, then moving on. It took me a while to make peace with the fact that I suddenly have nowhere to go.”</p> <p>Her transformation into a free bird, documented in her blog, The Shooting Star, landed her a book deal with Penguin and established her as a rising star of travel writing. She knows the future of travel blogging is highly uncertain unless people rethink and adapt. "I realised that all these years on the road have made me pretty adaptable,” says Shivya. “I quickly began to think of all the things I have been putting off and threw myself head-on into them. Despite the uncertainty and panic, I am enjoying uninterrupted hours of working on my blog, reading Murakami and experimenting with vegan recipes.” Shivya’s last trip was to the remote villages in Chhattisgarh just before the lockdown. She is optimistic about going back to Iran, Japan and Guatemala someday. “I hope my travel writing work, which focuses on offbeat and sustainable travel, will bounce back,” she says.</p> <p>Now that the eternal vacationer is back home, a popular travel couple, Savi and Vid, has serious goals to offer on their Instagram account called Bruised Passports. “This is the time to slow down and recharge our batteries,” says the journalist-photographer duo. “We have always advocated living a slow life that is about self-development and nurturing relationships with our family, friends and fellow human beings. And this pandemic, while not ideal, has given everyone the perfect opportunity to do that.”</p> <p>As one of our most-loved travel writers Pico Iyer says in <i>The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere</i>, it is only our inner landscape and how we process our memories of travels and the many encounters that can really uplift and illuminate us.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/23/the-art-is-going-nowhere.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/23/the-art-is-going-nowhere.html Thu Apr 23 21:42:23 IST 2020 love-will-set-you-free <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/23/love-will-set-you-free.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/2020/4/23/71-portrait-of-a-lady-on-fire.jpg" /> <p>Marianne, a young artist, arrives in a beautiful island in Brittany, France, in the late 18th century. She has been commissioned to paint the portrait of Heloise, who is to be married off to a nobleman in Milan. Heloise is an unwilling muse. Neither does she wants to get married, nor does she want to move to Milan. Besides, her family is still recovering from a tragedy.</p> <p>Heloise and Marianne become friends as the former is led to believe that the artist is her walking companion. Marianne has to observe her muse by day when the two go out for walks, and paint her at night—a task that she finds extremely difficult. When she completes the portrait, she is not happy about it, and when Heloise finally sees the portrait—because Marianne insists that she sees it—she too is disappointed and asks the artist, “Is that how you see me?” She then willingly poses for Marianne, and gradually their friendship takes a different turn.</p> <p>Director Celine Sciamma and cinematographer Claire Mathon narrate a tender tale of love and longing through frames that often remind viewers of mesmerising pieces of paintings. <i>Portrait of a Lady on Fire</i>, which was screened at several film festivals, including Cannes, is a brilliantly crafted movie about love, self-discovery and companionship.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/23/love-will-set-you-free.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/23/love-will-set-you-free.html Thu Apr 23 14:14:57 IST 2020 meaningful-music <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/23/meaningful-music.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/2020/4/23/73-raftaar.jpg" /> <p>Born Dilin Nair in Thiruvananthapuram, rapper, music producer and television personality Raftaar has been creating waves in the Indian music circles since 2013. At a time when the hip hop industry in India was still in its nascent stage, Raftaar managed to carve out a brand of desi hip-hop catering to urban millennials. He has just come out with a 16-track album, with songs which are inspiring, personal and reflective. Like ‘Damn’, in which he talks about not allowing criticism to get in the way of accomplishment. Or ‘Main Wahi Hoon’, in which he highlights the importance of not changing your value system.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Since your debut song, how has your journey in music been?</b></p> <p>A/ Since my debut, I have been able to learn a lot more about music, like getting into the intricacies of it, technically and sonically, knowing the chord progressions, knowing what keys can be added together to create a beautiful melody, understanding how melodies are made, how is something made catchy, how is something arranged.... It has been a big learning curve for me, the entire journey. From then, I have only tried to grow really more technical with my music.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You have tried your hand at so many things, what are the major life lessons you have learnt from them?</b></p> <p>A/ A major life lesson has been self-dependency.... learning along the way, being able to keep up with the trends. Understanding what the young generation is thinking, how to be more relatable to them.... so that is something that has been a big pillar for me. Along the way, the more you learn, the more you cater to people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Can you describe the songs in your album, and which are the most meaningful ones for you?</b></p> <p>A/ Well, you can consider each song a different phase of life, so I have tried to bring in as many emotions as possible, and the most meaningful ones are the ones that will connect to you in that duration.... like if you are going through a breakup, you’ll connect to a different song. If you have just fallen in love, you will connect to a different song. If you are proud of yourself, and if you have done great for yourself in life, or you want to do great for yourself in life, you will latch on to one of the songs. I cannot choose the most meaningful ones, but for me, the opening and closing tracks are very meaningful because they connect together, and they describe my life.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/23/meaningful-music.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/23/meaningful-music.html Thu Apr 23 14:12:26 IST 2020 creativity-unlocked <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/17/creativity-unlocked.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/2020/4/17/Ali-Fazal.jpg" /> <p>If saving Tom Hanks is not enough motivation to develop a vaccine, we are all doomed.” This was one of the many memes that popped up on social media after the actor and his wife, Rita Wilson, tested positive for Covid-19 almost a month ago. They were, perhaps, the first celebrity couple to catch the infection. But they remained calm and shared video messages of precautions to take while in quarantine. The couple, now recovered, is back to doing what they do best—entertain.</p> <p>From the confines of her room, Wilson grooved and laughed while recording a remix of the hip-hop trio <i>Naughty By Nature’s Hip Hip Hooray</i>, the proceeds from which will go to the Covid-19 relief fund. Hanks, meanwhile, turned host (for the 10th time) on <i>Saturday Night Live,</i> a first from home via Zoom, as multiple guests joined in from their homes. And, he was on a roll. Calling himself “the celebrity canary in the coal mine for the coronavirus”, he joked: “Ever since being diagnosed, I have been more like America's dad than ever before, since no one wants to be around me very long and I make people uncomfortable.”</p> <p>But Hanks is not the only celebrity to let his guard down and give a peek into his personal space—his kitchen this time. In an Instagram video, Justin Bieber took up his wife’s ‘floor is lava’ challenge. He hopped from one couch to another, stepping on chairs and skateboarding to reach his bedroom, only to fall and fail the challenge barely a few inches from his bed. Reese Witherspoon, meanwhile, has been baring her soul online, addressing the challenges she is facing amid the lockdown</p> <p>At a time when almost everyone is boxed in, artistes, especially of the celebrity kind, are in a quandary like never before. They are used to juggling schedules, managing meetings and in between posing for photos and selfies at airports and gyms, but with shoots halted and auditoriums and theatres shut, they have found themselves with a void that is difficult to fill. But they are opening up bits and pieces of their lives for their followers online.&nbsp;</p> <p>In India, it began with Bollywood celebrities making “how to wash your hands” and “what to do, what not to do” videos. There has been some amusing stuff, too. Like the video of Salman Khan having breakfast with his horse at his Alibag farmhouse, where he ends up eating the grass he is feeding his pet. Vicky Kaushal has mastered the art of turning an omelette, while his supposed girlfriend Katrina Kaif has made some progress with making pancakes.</p> <p>But gloom is in the air, too. In the first week of the lockdown, actor Richa Chadha, who is living with her brother, would get all anxious—the first thing she would do after waking up was check the death toll. But now she has taken up meditation. “At times like these, where unprecedented events are happening all around us, we tend to get stressed. Meditation definitely helps, regardless of the pandemic,” she said. For someone who started by watching films like <i>Contagion </i>and shows like <i>Pandemic</i>, Richa has now switched to “happier stuff”. She has also been taking tribal fusion dance classes online, reading a lot of books and is even planning to develop scripts to make better use of her time at home.</p> <p>Her wedding with actor Ali Fazal, which was reportedly slated for April end, has been postponed. While they are cooped up in separate houses, there is a synchronicity between the two. Fazal, too, has taken up meditation. He said it helped him in this tough, trying and interesting time. “I think it is also heartening to see so much positivity coming from at least the crowd that is self-isolating,” he says. “It has been a time of introspection, too. I am doing every little household chore, from cleaning to cooking. It is like my boarding school days have come back into play and things are easy and doable now.” With a sense of achievement, he informs that he has finished watching almost everything on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, and has read books that include <i>Malice </i>by Keigo Higashino, Uta Hagen’s <i>Respect For Acting,</i> <i>The Principles of Uncertainty </i>by Maira Kalman. His current read is Poetry of <i>Belonging: Muslim Imaginings of India 1850-1950 </i>by Ali Khan Mahmudabad.</p> <p>Meanwhile, actors Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh, even while locked up in their Mumbai home, are giving major couple goals. Almost on a daily basis, they share things they do for each other or with each other on Instagram. Padukone has started an Instagram series—<i>Productivity In The Time of Covid-19!</i>—chronicling the things she has been doing at home, from her self-care routine and diet to her exercise regimen and household chores like cooking and labelling kitchen commodities. “I always find something to do, even in the busiest times or even in a time like this to keep my mind engaged,” she said in a note by her publicist.&nbsp;</p> <p>A self-claimed ‘Indian Marie Kondo’, Padukone said that she had always been proud of her home maintenance. But the pressure cooker scares here, she confessed. Perhaps that is why she has kept away from Indian cooking. But she is determined to try her hand at it during this lockdown.&nbsp;</p> <p>Even as celebrities try to find a sense of accomplishment in doing household chores and staying fit, they have also been criticised for being tone-deaf when the world is going through a crisis. But maintaining a routine in such times is as important as being aware of the situation.</p> <p>Perhaps that is one reason why Alaya Furniturewala, who made a promising debut with<i> Jawaani Jaaneman</i> this January, is making sure not to laze around in her pyjamas. “I get up like I would do on a normal day, shower, wear fresh clothes and keep myself occupied throughout the day by creating content for my Instagram, drawing, and even cooking a little,” said Furniturewala, who finds her calm on the canvas. Also, the lockdown has helped her spend some quality time with her family, which she was not able to do in the past few months, with her mother, actor Pooja Bedi, staying in Goa and brother, Omar, in the US. “I am just glad that I am here with my family safe and sound,” said Furniturewala.&nbsp;</p> <p>Her contemporary Ananya Pandey is using this time to do everything that she has been missing out on earlier. “I am baking cookies with my sister, spending time with my dog and also catching up on movies that I could not see in recent times,” she said. She has also got back to reading and working out. “Since my friends and I cannot meet we have decided to work out via video calling,” said Pandey. She has even signed up on <i>QuizUp</i>, an app that is helping her “learn so many fun facts and keep up with general knowledge”.&nbsp;</p> <p>There are some, though, who are yet to embrace the digital medium, like veteran actor-musician Raghubir Yadav. He is, however, not averse to the medium, saying if the lockdown stretches to a longer period, he will consider doing a live music session. But for now, Yadav is digging deep into his memories of working in the Parsi theatre two decades ago to write a book. He is also spending a lot of time in his workshop, giving finishing touches to musical instruments like flutes and rababs that he has made from scratch. While shooting in foreign locales, he would go looking for instruments that would make a suitable addition to his workshop at his Mumbai home. “I have hundreds of them now,” he said, laughing. And now seems to be a good time to use them, he added.</p> <p>Actor-singer Namit Das is not really kicked about the idea of being productive in this period. “The moment you try to set yourself up for productivity, the truth is that you are going to fall short,” he said. “This is an unusual situation. Human beings are dealing with a lot in the world outside.” But he agrees with Yadav’s thought of making the best use of resources one has. Last December, Das bought a turntable and started collecting LPs even as his parents wondered when he would find the time to listen to them. “I did not know that I was setting up for the lockdown. But every day now, I have been listening to one LP,” he says. Das has also been sharing videos of the records he plays on Instagram, with a footnote and trivia about every album. From Vilayat Khan, Prabha Atre, Jagjit and Chitra to Amy Winehouse and Miles Davis, Das’s collection is comprehensive.</p> <p>But in the cosy confines of their high-rises, there is much to worry about, too. Author-filmmaker Tahira Kashyap Khurrana has taken to Instagram to tell fictional stories related to coronavirus. The stories, emotional and stimulating, reveal the daily challenges of common people during lockdown. “I thought why not have a series where the commonality is the lockdown,” she said, even as she works on her fourth book, <i>The 12 Commandments Of Being A Woman</i>. “I just wanted to share stories that each one of us would be living at some point or the other. The situations are very relatable, the characters, too.”</p> <p>She has been having serious conversations with her husband, actor Ayushmann Khurrana, about the dwindling economy and its eventual impact on various art forms. But they have found reassurance in the fact that everything will settle down. “And I think art is… a potential form of happiness for everyone and we are very fortunate to be artistes because this way I feel we have the inherent responsibility of spreading happiness around us and we can do that,” she said.</p> <p>In a webinar recently organised by media measurement company ComScore, there was agreement among the participating heads of all multiplex chains in India and global analysts that convincing the audience to go to a theatre would be the most challenging thing post lockdown. They estimate the current loss for just Bollywood to be more than 0400 crore a week. According to data shared by Event and Entertainment Management Association that has taken into account the various cultural and sports live shows into account, the loss so far amounts to Rs40,000 crore. No doubt, it is a worrisome situation, and plans are being reassessed and restructured.</p> <p>“We are living in a consumerist world and in the world of capitalism,” said Fazal, who even between all his book readings and household chores was digitally promoting a Vishal Mishra song that he starred in. “You have to eventually bring what you have created to the people, the rightful audience of this little piece of work. Also, if somebody somewhere can break bread and earn their living [by changing the plans of promotions], why not? It works.”</p> <p>It is no surprise then that it is not just shows like <i>Saturday Night Live</i>, music concerts and standup acts that have moved to the digital space. In between playing his LPs and doing live sessions for his fans on Instagram, Das is trying out various apps to dub for his next show, Arya, which will stream on Hotstar soon. “I don’t think theatres are going to open that easily,” he said. “It is going to take its time. People are not going to visit enclosed spaces for some time because there will be a fear of the infection spreading. And that is going to be directly related to our profession. Art is going to adapt itself to this new situation.”</p> <p>According to actor Sharib Hashmi, people have already started innovating and experimenting with ideas and themes. He certainly has. It was while promoting his show, Asur, on Voot, that the lockdown came into effect. But that did not slow him down. He is now busy acting in<i> A Viral Wedding</i>, “India’s first micro series”. Conceived and created by his costar from <i>The Family Man,</i> Shreya Dhanwanthary, the series was put together after long meetings over video calls. “She discussed the idea with us a few days into the lockdown, and we all thought that this is the time to innovate,” said Hashmi, who shot his segments on the phone, sometimes with multiple takes, with help from his teenaged son.</p> <p>Dhanwanthary, said Hashmi, is now talking to streaming services to find an apt platform for The Viral Wedding. He, on the other hand, is discussing a possible script for a short film that will be shot from home. “It is going to be the new normal,” he said, with a word of caution that while this is happening, everyone is trying their best to keep the quality of the content intact. “Since it will become a global phenomenon, one has to think through everything that is put out there. Compromised quality only means a failure of the effort.”&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/17/creativity-unlocked.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/17/creativity-unlocked.html Sat Apr 18 09:57:10 IST 2020 the-art-of-solitude <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/17/the-art-of-solitude.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/2020/4/17/65-Tetsuya%20Ishida.jpg" /> <p>American artist Richard Estes, 87, considered to be one of the founders of the international photo-realist movement of the 1960s, painted Madison Square on a “vacant and quiet Sunday morning” in 1994. The place is empty except for a couple of shadowy figures crossing the road; their presence, ironically, amplifies the absence of others. Incidentally, Estes started out in Madison Square as an illustrator of ad campaigns in the 1960s, paid to “realistically misrepresent reality”. In a way, that is what he did later in his career as well, as an artist. He created hyper-realistic cityscapes with photographic precision. Except that his paintings have a depth and detailing that a photograph could never capture.</p> <p>Some might say that his work was prophetic. Madison Square today, in the age of quarantine, might much resemble the Madison Square of his painting—almost as if the stillness of the streets has leaked from the canvas into reality. The painting is one of the 16 works put up by Hunar TV—an Indian web channel for the arts—as part of an ongoing series on quarantine art.</p> <p>“We wanted to put up art not by the masters, but by middle-rung artists from the mid-20th&nbsp;century onwards, who might be lesser known but whose work has a lot of value,” says Dhiraj Singh, cofounder of Hunar TV and curator of the series. “We were looking not for Renaissance artists, but rather for those who had situated their work in the modern urban scenario that would have a resonance with people today.” He says that in the beginning of the 20th&nbsp;century, artists were mostly sketching commissioned portraits of rich people in elitist settings. But by the latter half of the century, there was a shift triggered by technological innovation and urbanisation when artists started focusing on scenes of ordinary life, set in spaces available to everyone.&nbsp;</p> <p>What is interesting about the works is how diverse the scenes are and yet how universal the underlying theme of isolation and loneliness is. You are not alone in being alone, the artists seem to be saying. Australian artist Sydney Nolan, for example, created a portrait of Ned Kelly, the country’s best-known outlaw hero, in 1946. Except that you can only see the backside of a hunched man atop a horse, as though he is weighed down by his own heroism. On the contrary, the shepherdess in Egyptian artist Mahmoud Said’s 1959 work,&nbsp;Shepherdess in Alamein, sits ramrod straight on a sheep, but there is something brittle about her, as though if she moves, she will break. Whether it is Iranian artist Ghasem Hajizadeh’s portrayal of the isolation of exile, or Japanese artist Tetsuya Ishida’s depiction of lonely patients in a hospital, scenes of quarantine—what we are living out now—are not new; they have always existed in time. Solitude, one is tempted to say, has been a perennial part of the human condition. The silence in the world today might simply be a spillage of the silence in the human soul.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/17/the-art-of-solitude.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/17/the-art-of-solitude.html Sat Apr 18 09:56:53 IST 2020 the-sounds-of-silence <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/17/the-sounds-of-silence.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/2020/4/17/68-stuart-fowkes.jpg" /> <p>On the day of the Janata Curfew, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the nation to clang utensils for five minutes at 5pm in solidarity with those on the front line of the Covid-19 battle in India. Around the same time, in Brazil, people banged pots and pans and screamed from their windows and balconies. “Fora Bolsonaro!” they yelled. Get out, Bolsonaro! Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right president of Brazil, had dismissed the pandemic as “hysteria and fantasy” and advised people against social distancing. As of April 15, Brazil had reported 25,684 cases of Covid-19; 1,552 patients had died. A global collaborative sound art project, called Cities and Memory, captured this relentless rage of cookware set against desperate anti-Bolsonaro cries that drilled through the darkness of the night. In an 11-minute sound piece recorded on a Zoom H5 recorder, downtown Belo Horizonte, Brazil's sixth largest city, howls like a wolf in despair. The project's #StayHomeSounds collection has more than 200 lockdown sounds and stories recorded and mapped from 38 countries.</p> <p>“This is a unique moment in all our lives, and the world has never sounded like this, and may never again,” Stuart Fowkes, the creator of Cities and Memory, told THE WEEK. “So it is important now to share these sounds and stories so people can feel that there are others in India, Argentina, the US or Italy all going through the same thing together and, in doing so, feel a little more connected. But it is also important to document these incredible changes for posterity, so we can look back on the project as a record of importance.”</p> <p>Cities and Memory began collecting city sounds in 2014, and the current project is open for submissions as long as the global lockdown continues. Pointing to the several categories of lockdown sounds in his online archive, Fowkes whittles them down to four most recurrent themes. The novel sounds that never existed before, such as the anti-coronavirus songs, applause and appreciation for health workers and protests at how governments are handling the crisis. Then there are sounds of nature, wildlife and birdsong, which are more distinctly audible now than ever before. The third type is atmospheric sounds of previously crowded urban spaces that are now deserted. And the fourth contains the sounds of family, of home and hearth, of how people are keeping themselves sane and connected.</p> <p>Anyone can contribute to Cities and Memory's #StayHomeSounds project as long as they have a good-quality recording, with the exact location and story behind the audio piece. There are 13 sounds from India so far, including a morning prayer from the Tibetan Bonpo community in Dolanji near Solan in Himachal Pradesh. But the most evocative one is a Mappilapattu by a 73-year-old from Pattambi in Palakkad district, Kerala. Mappilapattu are traditional folk songs from the Malabar region, sung in the colloquial Mappila dialect. The Kerala lockdown sound in Cities and Memory, sung by septuagenarian artiste Vidal K. Moidu, was recorded by one Ihsanul Ihthisam as part of a collection of corona songs being sung by the Mappila Muslims. These songs offer a general awareness of the outbreak, along with its religious connotations, ultimately putting forth a belief in the goodness of a higher force. Vidal, who has been performing for the past 55 years, only recently became popular with an anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act song, with its lyrics penned by Badaruddin Parannur. A father of nine, he became a singer when he met a Sufi saint as a 17-year-old. Since then, Vidal has been singing songs penned by others who come to him for his sonorous voice, which makes instrumental backup unnecessary. “But because of coronavirus, not many songwriters are coming now,” Vidal said. “I have begun writing my own songs.”&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/17/the-sounds-of-silence.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/17/the-sounds-of-silence.html Sat Apr 18 09:56:39 IST 2020 camus-in-the-time-of-corona <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/17/camus-in-the-time-of-corona.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/2020/4/17/70-albert-camus.jpg" /> <p>Much has been written about French-Algerian philosopher and writer Albert Camus’s novel <i>La Peste (The Plague)</i>. Multiple media outlets have looked at the relevance of La Peste in the time of Covid-19. The BBC reports that sales of the book have gone up in France, Italy and Britain this year, and that it is currently in reprint.</p> <p><i>La Peste</i> came out in 1947. Having read the book once again this week, I am not on the lookout for philosophical, metaphysical, or even literary gains from it. My focus is simply on key insights that can make us smarter in these times, as well as later in life.</p> <p>The novel is set in the plague-hit town of Oran in Algeria, and records the response of the town, including the medical community and volunteers. The story is narrated by Dr Bernard Rieux, a doctor who is treating plague victims. Though the central theme is the epidemic, the novel tries to widen its scope to include ‘pestilences’ in general, both natural and manmade, and the resultant human suffering and resistance.</p> <p>Here are three key insights from<i> La Peste</i>.</p> <p><b>The larger historical landscape</b></p> <p>Through Rieux’s narrative, Camus, in the initial chapters, positions the Oran epidemic in a larger context by giving details of previous plagues in history. This includes historical accounts of the Justinian Plague of Constantinople, the Black Death of Marseilles, the Great Plague of London, the Great Plague of Milan and the Plague of Athens. Also, in the final chapter, the author clearly mentions the possibility of such epidemics recurring in future. Thus, Camus offers a model of understanding the catastrophe as an event in history, rather than a singular challenge outside of time. This is important because, to us, the current pandemic appears as an all-encompassing topic overriding all other events. We are fully consumed by thoughts of it while Camus suggests that this need not be the case. Plagues are a part of human existence. Disaster preparedness would be one of our best responses.</p> <p><b>Optimal use of time</b></p> <p>The author offers a defence against the repetitive and unpredictable calamities which threaten our existence: a proper use of the time available to us. To illustrate this, he uses the examples of Rieux’s silent and relatively unexpressed love for his mother and his relationship with his friend, Jean Tarrou, who had died “without their friendship’s having had time to enter fully into the life of either”.</p> <p>Camus opines that love is perhaps the most precious and fulfilling entity that one can attain in an unpredictable world. For people with greater and more abstract aspirations, time is a limiting factor. Our lives are inherently unpredictable, with the possibilities of recurring plagues and calamities. Hence, finding time for love and happiness is crucial.</p> <p><b>The significance of a chronicle</b></p> <p>In the book, many volunteers fighting the plague succumb to it, including Jean Tarrou, Magistrate Othon and Father Paneloux. When the epidemic finally comes to an end, the dead are forgotten in the egoistic but necessary celebrations of the living. Rieux decides to compile a chronicle amid the celebrations to “bear witness to those plague-stricken people, so that some memorial of the injustice and outrage done them might endure”. Also, he wants to state “quite simply, what we learn in a time of pestilence”.</p> <p>The medical information website Medscape is making a list of all the frontline health care workers who succumbed to Covid-19. It is an effort to remember, and remember we must.</p> <p>The book offers many more important insights. In conclusion, one is compelled to add a small conversation between journalist Rambert and Rieux.</p> <p>“Who taught you all this, doctor?”</p> <p>The reply came promptly.</p> <p>“Suffering”.</p> <p><b>The author is a consultant psychiatrist.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/17/camus-in-the-time-of-corona.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/17/camus-in-the-time-of-corona.html Sat Apr 18 09:56:29 IST 2020 show-time-girls <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/17/show-time-girls.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/2020/4/17/71-four-more-shots-season-2.jpg" /> <p>The first season of<i> Four More Shots Please!</i>—the home-grown version of<i> Sex and the City</i>—ended on a dramatic high. With a heavy dose of sex, alcohol, glamour and chaos, the show was messy in its closing. The ideal place to pick it up in the second season would have been when things are rosy again, so that the series could go back to its template of four city girls bonding over shots of fancy liquor.</p> <p>It is not a surprise then that the second season begins with a desperate call for help from one of the women, which brings all of them together in Istanbul. The grind is the same—each has her own issues. There is the investigative journalist Damini (Sayani Gupta), who, after struggling for a while with a news start-up, is now writing a book on a judge’s sudden death. The two men who fight over her—Dr Warsi (Milind Soman) and the ultra-rich bartender Jeh Wadia (Prateik Babbar)—are good eye candy for sure, but nothing more. The rivalry between them culminates in a brawl which is amusing but pointless, not adding any depth to the story.</p> <p>There is nothing much to surprise you in the story of Umang (Bani J) as well, a runaway rebel from Ludhiana who comes out as being bisexual in the first season. However, if the conversations about the LGBTQIA community in the first season sounded gimmicky, they have more authenticity in the second. A lesbian relationship between Umang and Samara (Lisa Ray) is treated in a nuanced way, and that is the good part.</p> <p>Just like in the previous season, the most enjoyable and believable story is that of Anjana (Kirti Kulhari). She has to contend with gender bias at work while, as a recent divorcee, striving to be a good single mother. In the second season, she is more at peace with how things are. Kulhari’s subtle portrayal brings alive the insecurities of a single mother, and the vulnerability of opening yourself up to a new relationship. Samir Kochhar plays a delectable part opposite her, elevating her story arc.</p> <p>However, the real surprise in the show this time is Maanvi Gagroo as Sidhi Patel. Her entry is loud, with oodles of uninhibited sex. But the evolution of her character over the 10 episodes is revelatory. She comes of age in the truest sense, realising the power of saying no, understanding the dichotomies of life and confronting difficult situations.</p> <p>The show, in this season, has improved and shed its contrived outlook. But there is still a lot that is needed to make it more relatable. And perhaps it will be in the next season, if the cliff-hanger in the end is anything to go by.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Four More Shots Please! 2</p> <p>Available on Amazon Prime Video</p> <p>Rating: 3/5</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/17/show-time-girls.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/04/17/show-time-girls.html Sat Apr 18 17:18:46 IST 2020