Leisure http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure.rss en Fri Dec 10 16:30:40 IST 2021 https://www.theweek.in/privacy-an-settlement.html indias-best-literary-editors-spill-the-beans-on-what-goes-into-a-great-book <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/19/indias-best-literary-editors-spill-the-beans-on-what-goes-into-a-great-book.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/2021/12/19/122-Manasi-Subramaniam.jpg" /> <p>It was London in the 1980s. Bret Easton Ellis of <i>American Psycho</i> fame had just sold his first book. Sonny Mehta—who loved his Scotch, cigarettes and had a bloodhound’s nose for a good book—was his editor. One day, Ellis was at Mehta’s for dinner. They had just finished drinks when Mehta, one of India’s best-known literary editors, asked him what he would like to eat. Ellis promptly said ‘sushi’, “not really grasping the culinary limitations of mid-1980s London, expecting that Japanese restaurants and sushi bars were as popular there as they were in Los Angeles,” says Ellis, in his tribute to Mehta. A distinct silence fell over the living room. It took Mehta 45 minutes to find sushi in London, and an hour later they were all seated. Ellis was “mortified”, he told his host. Only to be told by Mehta that he was the writer, and “the writer always comes first”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Whim-satisfiers, hand-holders, collaborators, counsellors, first readers, complete believers, and always, always champions, editors might remain invisible in a book, but they are at the heart of the project. “I know I am doing my job well if you don’t know that I have done my job,” says Manasi Subramaniam, executive editor and head of literary rights, Penguin Random House.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But more than words, it is about trust. “It is a time of vulnerability for many writers,” says V.K. Karthika, publisher, Westland Books. One of the most sought-after editors in the business and the last one to have a Booker Prize under her belt, she has the ability to bring out the best from the toughest writers. “They let the editor into their lives and speak their minds in the knowledge that it is safe to do so. Trust—I guess that is the crux of it. And it lasts long after you have stopped working on that particular book. Like old friends, you can usually pick up the conversation where you left off,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Editing is almost always about love. It is a feeling at the pit of the stomach, as an editor put it. And often, like love, it requires pursuit, especially when the writer is committed elsewhere. Chiki Sarkar, publisher, Juggernaut, remembers calling actor and author Twinkle Khanna and saying, “I have to have you. I can’t let you be published somewhere else.” Khanna had asked her for advice about her contract with HarperCollins India. Sarkar spoke with her, liked her, read her pieces on her way to work and knew that she had to have her.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Years later, Sarkar and Khanna are still an item. “One of the things I tell my authors is that, while the book is getting published they can call me any time,” says Sarkar. “They can send me emails at 10pm or 11pm, or at midnight. Typically, I reply immediately. I am on the phone with my authors a lot. Alex, my husband, says he can tell when I am speaking to an author. He says that I have a ‘Twinkle’ voice. You talk a lot to your authors outside work. It is 24x7, every day of the week.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Responsible for bringing the stars to the shelves, Sarkar is probably one of the few editors who have managed to make Bollywood saleable outside the big screen. It takes a lot of skill, proper pitches, finding the perfect fit and a mantra that Sarkar has perfected. “You never take the first no as no,” she says. “You take it as an entry point. People often say I don’t have time. If Kareena [Kapoor Khan] had said no, I would not have pushed it. But, say, with a businessman. You would find me saying, ‘Sir, can you give me 20 minutes and I will see if I can charm you.’ If you say that, they won’t be churlish.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then there is the question of the right ghost writer, the right questions and hard work. “When I was editing [actor] Sunny Leone’s book, we were working on the story of a girl who liked nice underwear and was sleeping around,” says Sarkar. “She said, ‘Here is this girl who is so particular about what she puts on her body. Don’t you think she would care a little about who she would sleep with?’ In another, we were doing a story about a girl at a hill station boarding school. She said that she did not want anyone fantasising about underage girls in her stories. You know, she shamed me. I should have thought of that.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But often, it takes years of quiet wooing, a gut instinct and jumping through many hoops. Many times, it is also about going the whole hog. Milee Ashwarya, publisher, Ebury Publishing and Vintage Publishing at Penguin Random House India, was a passionate supporter of publishing debut authors much before it became fashionable. She remembers sitting by TV personality Cyrus Broacha’s dining table and getting him to write. “It was difficult,” she says. “His handwriting was atrocious. He used to tease me saying that it was only his mother and I who had been able to get him to write. I used to have to transcribe it onto notebooks and then edit.” The hard work paid off. It was a big hit for its time, and it set a trend. “We became friends with him, his family and his dog,” she says. “We went on to do two more books together. I have seen him evolve as a writer.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If Broacha needed to be coaxed to write, editing those who can is not always easy either. Krishan Chopra, editor-in-chief, Bloomsbury India, remembers how he had the idea in 1997 that became a super hit book, <i>India 2020</i>, by Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who was then the scientific advisor to the defence minister. He had a hectic schedule travelling across the country to research labs. The book came chapter by chapter, and it was a race against time to get it published. In the last leg, Chopra, along with two other editors, sat in a flat in Chanakyapuri to proofread the manuscript just before it went to print. “There were three of us—Udayan Mitra, Paul Vinay Kumar and me—sprinting through the text at eye-popping pace to correct as much as we could,” he says. “The taxi had been kept waiting, and the last set of pages was sent to the typesetter near midnight.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This was a relationship Chopra nurtured and built. “Publishing is among the toughest businesses,” he says. The lockdown has made it tougher. It may have been a difficult time for the industry, but it has been a golden time for reading. Two of the hottest books of 2020—<i>Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line</i> by Deepa Anappara and <i>A Burning</i> by Megha Majumdar—were edited by Subrabaniam. “I think there is a point in everyone’s publishing career when you realise that you have a burden of responsibility about what goes out in the world,” she says. “It can be anxiety inducing and nerve wracking. I am using this in a positive sense, because that pressure is what keeps me on my toes. It is a very exciting kind of anxiety. I get to do this, it is a privilege. With great power comes great responsibility.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This has also changed the way relationships between editors and writers are built. “We did a lot of phone and video calls,” says Ashwarya. “I feel that we got closer and, in some inexplicable way, we were thinking through things. But human connection is very important for books.” More than just the job, the pandemic also changed perspective. “The tragedy that unfolded during Covid had a much deeper effect than just re-looking at routines,” says Chopra. “The effects of that churn, I am sure, will be reflected in publishing lists, too, going forward.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ritu Menon, of Women Unlimited, writes about when Taslima Nasrin invited her for lunch. Menon—who, along with Urvashi Butalia, had set up ‘Kali for Women’, a start-up feminist publisher—published Nasrin’s first work in English, My Girlhood. Nasrin had been exiled from Bangladesh and was living in Delhi. “I hesitated [about accepting the invitation], but then agreed because it would be rude to refuse,” writes Menon in <i>Address Book: A Publishing Memoir in the time of COVID.</i> “She cooked the most elaborate, utterly delicious meal, huge quantities of it, and watched with obvious pleasure as I, and a couple of her friends ate. ‘It’s my birthday,’ she said, ‘and I wanted to cook for my friends. That’s what I used to do in Dhaka’.” Writers always come first.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/19/indias-best-literary-editors-spill-the-beans-on-what-goes-into-a-great-book.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/19/indias-best-literary-editors-spill-the-beans-on-what-goes-into-a-great-book.html Sun Dec 19 13:28:09 IST 2021 infinity-and-beyond <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/19/infinity-and-beyond.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/2021/12/19/128-infinity-and-beyond-new.jpg" /> <p>Martin Scorsese does not like Marvel films. He made it clear that it is “just not cinema”. “It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being,” said the legendary film director, equating Marvel films to “theme parks”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When quizzed about Scorsese’s comment, Robert Downey Jr, who famously played Tony Stark/Iron Man, said that he respected Scorsese’s opinion, but begged to differ. Yet, he went on to add: “There’s a lot to be said about how these genre movies denigrated the art form of cinema. When you come in like a stomping beast and you eliminate the competition… it’s phenomenal.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The actor is both right and wrong. He is right about the behemoth that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has become. There is not a single film franchise that can hold a candle to Marvel’s success on the critical-commercial graph.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I’m not surprised [by the success], because many of the comics were great, and superhero films have been getting steadily better since the 2000s,” said science-fiction novelist Samit Basu. “This long-running, multi-directional collaboration is as impressive as anything on the creative front.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Basu, who has been on the shortlist for the prestigious JCB Prize, lauded Marvel Studios for entrusting its films to directors and teams with distinct voices. The depth of field and multiplicity of vision in the franchise are inherited from the comics. And that is where Downey Jr is wrong, in seeing them as ‘genre movies’—films that can be pigeonholed into one of the ‘lower’ genres such as action, sci-fi or horror.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Over the course of the 26 interconnected films and several spinoff series, we have witnessed a variety of genres and themes on play—be it the comedy of <i>Guardians of the Galaxy</i> and <i>Thor: Ragnarok</i>, or the fantasy of the recent <i>Eternals</i>, the commentary on race in <i>Black Panther</i> or even the strong emotional drama in <i>Captain America: Civil War</i>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet, intriguingly, it is the franchise’s slow march towards another genre that is redefining it. Incorporating a myriad of complex elements and arguments, the MCU is toying with the laws of physics, transitioning to brain-racking science fiction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is unprecedented. Because when German physicist Max Planck propounded the theory of quantum mechanics, he certainly would not have imagined his theory or his name making it to a superhero film. “Quantum fluctuation messes with the Planck scale, which then triggers the Deutsch Proposition. Can we agree on that?” says Tony Stark on the plausibility of time travel.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a different matter that quantum computing pioneer David Deutsch denies the existence of a “Deutsch Proposition”. But Stark needed to invoke the Planck scale—aka the universal limit, beyond which the currently known laws of physics break—in an intense discussion on whether the quantum realm could be the key to bringing back those who perished when Thanos ‘snapped’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ever since the concepts of the quantum realm, time manipulation and the many-worlds theory were introduced in <i>Ant-Man, Doctor Strange</i> and <i>Endgame</i> respectively, the MCU has been on a trajectory that has made the films and shows that followed unexpectedly complex. The franchise reached a crescendo with that last Avengers movie, and then burst into multiple universes—aka the multiverse.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The <i>Loki</i> series happens along the main timeline, but it culminates in the sudden splintering of the MCU’s ‘Sacred Timeline’; <i>Spider-Man: No Way Home </i>drags in nemeses from previous iterations of the slinging hero, and next year’s <i>Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness</i> will be… well, it is self-explanatory.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The multiverse steps they are taking now will definitely lead to yet another upscale in the scope of their ambition,” said Basu. “Time travel and multiverses are not particularly hardcore sci-fi—there are large mainstream audiences that understand both.” That said, he added that the MCU making sci-fi understandable to unfamiliar audiences does not mean the makers are watering down the science. “It is just good storytelling,” he said. “The arrival of smarter algorithms and sharper storytelling have made broader audiences more open to trying new things.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The gripping overarching narrative, the minute details and the odd Easter egg have drawn viewers into conversations of not only what transpires in these films, but what could have been. And Marvel is milking this level of engagement for what it is worth. Case in point, this year’s totally unnecessary yet well-received <i>What If…?</i> animated anthology series, which reimagines key moments so far in the MCU in a multiverse of countless possibilities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of fan theories, there has been no end. Consider the months leading up to the release of <i>Endgame</i>, where theories of what we should expect were as many as Doctor Strange’s 14 million possibilities in which the Infinity War could be played out.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And over the past two months, the only question on everyone’s mind is if Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield will arrive from other universes to fight alongside Tom Holland in <i>No Way Home</i>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We have been warned that the average 21st-century mind has the attention span of a goldfish and indulges in largely mindless content, i.e. doomscrolling through social media. But perhaps the popularity of the MCU proves that many of us still relish complex arguments and conversations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In fact, after the release of Endgame, the director duo Russo brothers were bombed with doubts that ranged from the scientific principles deployed in the film to potential plot holes. The pair released a document answering many of the biggest questions in detail. They were, and are, aware of the discourse their films are generating.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the pitfalls of such an approach lurk as the MCU ventures into the dense forest of science fiction. As each piece of work in the franchise weaves its way around each other, filling the blanks and creating new mysteries and questions, the complex could slip into the complicated without due care. Then, you not only lose those casual fans who are unfamiliar with the MCU’s catalogue, but also loyalists who turn disillusioned.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are already early warnings of this because, according to BGR.com, even people at Marvel Studios are starting to get confused by the goings-on in the grand narrative. Marvel reportedly has to hold meetings to figure out its own multiverse rules. Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios and primary producer of all MCU films, plants members of his core team in each project and they frequently converge to ensure each project is on track in the grand scheme of things.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rules that dictate the workings of something like the multiverse are not set in stone. Canon is fluid. This takes us to the next pitfall: retconning.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Sherlock Holmes was supposedly killed off at Reichenbach Falls while locked in a battle with James Moriarty, there was pandemonium among the fans. “Bring him back!” they demanded of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The writer obliged and resurrected his famous detective, revealing in <i>The Adventure of the Empty House</i> that Holmes’s death was staged. This is one of the earliest examples of retroactive continuity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘Retcon’ is a science-fiction tool to rewrite events in the past or to twist them in a way to make a point belatedly. E. Frank Tupper wrote that “retroactive continuity ultimately means that history flows fundamentally from the future into the past”. But when misused, retconning can be disastrous. A bad retcon is a loyal reader/viewer’s nightmare.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Marvel Studios’ decisions and plans are no doubt commercially driven. Should it reach a point where the tap of fresh ideas runs dry, and the studio resorts to desperate retconning to revive interest, this could almost certainly lead to the entire franchise’s descent into entropy. When X-Men <i>Days of Future Past</i> wiped out the events of all prior movies, fans went ballistic and demanded that DOFP be omitted from canon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I never mind a retcon if it’s done right,” said Basu. “The MCU could have its own X-Men moment at some point, probably after the multiverse makes anything possible. Canon should always be fluid, as long as the steps forward are actual improvements.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In fact, Feige has already retconned his grand plan several times. Despite having a five-year rolling plan for the franchise, the producer is not averse to veering away from the blueprint if a better idea pops up. The recent <i>Black Widow</i> is an example of a good retcon, giving the character a well-deserved send-off. It is Feige’s oversight over the last 15 years that has ensured consistency in the franchise.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This level of flexibility and planning is where the MCU has scored over the DC comics’ extended universe. The lack of cohesiveness and the rush to assemble a band of superheroes has hurt the DC movies, despite owning two of the biggest superheroes of all time—Batman and Superman.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I think one of the issues is that Marvel had consistent leadership for the last 15 years or more, whereas DC hasn’t,” screenwriter David S. Goyer told<i> The Hollywood Reporter</i> in July. “There have been all of these changes in terms of who is running DC. That is fundamentally very hard. It’s hard to make any headway when leadership is changing.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Goyer wrote <i>Man of Steel </i>and <i>Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice</i>, and even co-wrote Christopher Nolan’s <i>Dark Knight trilogy</i>. He said that <i>Man of Steel </i>was born out of a writer’s block that he and Nolan hit during the making of <i>The Dark Knight Rises.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And while fans hoped that Nolan would merge his Batman series with Superman’s new origin story, the director was firm that he would not allow it. He “godfathered” <i>Man of Steel </i>before stepping away, leaving fans wondering if the DCEU would have been a worthy competitor to the MCU if Nolan stayed on. “What If…?” they ask to this day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the meantime, the MCU juggernaut rolls on. The mix of market-driven content and fresh editorial insight is curated by geeks who are not restricting themselves to any one genre. “What’s evolved down the years is a slow cultural transformation and familiarisation, and people who grew up being very fond of the comics becoming old enough and powerful enough to make studio-level decisions,” said Basu.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The pandemic disrupted the scheduling of the movies, and so the interconnectedness meant that post-production went on for ages as the chronology had to be followed. The situation is such that while <i>Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania </i>completed filming in November, there are six other films that have to be released before it sees the light of day in 2023.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This could have a cascading effect. Nevertheless, while the studio sorts it out, audiences will be drawn into the multiverse with its nuances and mysteries. Whether it is complex or simple, it surely qualifies as “cinema”, regardless of what outsiders feel.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/19/infinity-and-beyond.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/19/infinity-and-beyond.html Sun Dec 19 13:19:46 IST 2021 start-camera-no-action <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/19/start-camera-no-action.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/2021/12/19/136-Haider-1.jpg" /> <p>Evergreen film songs like <i>‘Tareef karun kya uski’</i> (<i>Kashmir Ki Kali</i>, 1964) and ‘<i>Chahe koi mujhe junglee kahe</i>’ (<i>Junglee</i>, 1961) immortalised Bollywood’s love affair with Kashmir in the sixties. Thanks to films shot in the valley, people across India could immerse themselves in the beauty of places like Gulmarg and Pahalgam, and their lakes, gardens and snow-capped mountains.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was the militancy in the 1980s that ended the affair. When the violence finally subsided, Bollywood films began focusing more on the valley’s ugly political turmoil than on its ravishing beauty.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha wants Bollywood to fall back in love with Kashmir. In August, he launched the Union territory’s new film policy in Srinagar, in the presence of actor Aamir Khan, director Rajkumar Hirani and other major Bollywood players. “The new policy will transform Jammu and Kashmir into the most preferred film shooting destination, reviving its halcyon days of being a cinematographer’s delight,” said Sinha.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The policy offers a slew of incentives to filmmakers, ranging from hassle-free grant of permissions and security arrangements to subsidies of up to Rs50 lakh, if five or more local artistes are hired for a project. The incentives are also available for producing televisions shows, web series, documentaries and content for over-the-top platforms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While they have welcomed the new policy, local producers and artistes fear that it may not be adequate to revive the regional television and film industry, which was dealt a crushing blow when Doordarshan shut down DD Kashir in 2011. Many artistes and technicians have been struggling to find steady jobs since then.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nazir Josh, a comedy actor known for his work in popular TV serials such as <i>Hazar Dastan</i> and <i>Jum German</i> in the 1980s, said artistes have been in an existential crisis since the closure of DD Kashir. “The government must frame a separate policy for regional TV and cinema. Otherwise, the future looks bleak,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Josh, it would be easier for Kashmiri artistes to work in Bollywood once they have made a mark in the regional industry. He cited his own experience in 2012, when filmmaker Mahesh Manjrekar cast him in a film shot in a Kashmir. “We had never met,” he said. “But he had heard about me and offered me a role in the film. I had a small role initially, but when he saw my acting, he gave me a bigger role.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Veteran actor Zameer Ashai, who has been in the industry for 38 years, said the new policy may not widen the field of opportunities for local producers and artistes. “There is no work because of the closure of DD Kashir,” he said. “The government needs to formulate a separate policy for supporting regional television and cinema.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ayash Arif, a prominent actor and director, pointed out that the film policy was ambiguous about how the government would support regional television. “It talks about the film development council. The council’s role needs to be clarified. The government should create a financial body to provide funds and subsidies to regional producers, like it does in other states,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A senior actor who did not wish to be named said the provision for subsidising projects that employed at least five local artistes would not make much of a difference. “Filmmakers who invest big money on their projects will not be enticed by incentives. They don’t need local technicians or writers either,” he said. “We have people who have invested in lighting equipment, editing suites, cameras and sound systems, but all of that has been lying idle since DD Kashir was closed.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Artistes for whom acting was the only source of revenue are now forced to do small-time jobs to provide for their families. There are people like Pranna Shangloo, an award-winning actress, who need help from relatives and charities to survive. In her sixties now, Shangloo began her theatre career soon after graduating in the 1970s. She became so famous for her performances in television serials in the 1980s that she played Indira Gandhi, albeit for a very short time, in the 1999 Bollywood film <i>Heeralal Pannalal</i>. Shangloo’s husband died in 2009, after which she fell on hard times. “Since the death of my husband, my daughter has been paying the rent of the house I am living in,” she said. “I have had to sell many household items just to survive.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to actress Safiya Maqbool, artistes find it difficult to land jobs in other fields because of their fame. “People treat us like celebrities and are reluctant to offer jobs,” she said. “And we have not been paid for our work because Doordarshan withheld payments to producers.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Producer Mushtaq Ali Khan said Doordarshan left local producers like him in the lurch. “They are not releasing the payments they owe us. The government must come to the rescue of people who earn their living from this field,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Will the new film policy help in this regard? “At least someone has thought of a film policy,” said Khan. “The previous government neglected this sector altogether.” According to him, the policy will help boost the local economy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Maqbool, though, if the government really wanted to help people in the entertainment industry, it should have revived DD Kashir. “I have been an actor for 20 years, but for the last 12, I have been unemployed,” she said. According to her, DD Kashir not only gave artistes like her opportunities, but also played an important role in promoting Kashmiri language and culture.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lack of opportunities in the valley has been forcing artistes to relocate to cities outside the Union territory. “There is nothing for actors in Kashmir,” said actress Saniya Miraj. “I shifted to Mumbai nine months ago; it has helped me get great opportunities.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to playwright Arshad Mushtaq, the film policy is intended as surrogate advertisement for tourism, and is designed to benefit middlemen in the logistics business. The aim, he said, was to show that everything was hunky-dory in the valley. “If the government is serious about promoting cinema in Kashmir, then it must focus on cinematic art,” he said. “The government should train local people and provide a platform for regional cinema, like Tamil and Malayalam films. There is also the question of censorship. Will they allow films like Omar Mukhtar, and those based on local narratives, to be screened in Kashmir?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite criticism, the government remains hopeful that the policy will attract filmmakers to Kashmir. “At the launch event, producer Mahaveer Jain announced that his upcoming project will be shot in Jammu and Kashmir,” said a government official. “A web series by Rajkumar Hirani’s son, Vir Hirani, will also be made in Kashmir.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/19/start-camera-no-action.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/19/start-camera-no-action.html Sun Dec 19 12:28:41 IST 2021 in-his-new-book-sugata-srinivasaraju-chronicles-deve-gowdas-remarkable-journey <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/19/in-his-new-book-sugata-srinivasaraju-chronicles-deve-gowdas-remarkable-journey.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/2021/12/19/140-Deve-Gowda-book-new.jpg" /> <p><b>Twenty-five years ago, H.D. Deve Gowda reached the pinnacle of his political career when he took charge as India’s 12th prime minister on June 1, 1996. He was in power for barely a year, but the plain-speaking farmer leader from Karnataka had a lasting impact on the polished power corridors of Lutyens’ Delhi.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>In his new book, <i>Furrows in a Field: The Unexplored Life of H.D. Deve Gowda</i>, author-journalist Sugata Srinivasaraju chronicles Gowda’s remarkable journey that made him one of India’s most improbable prime ministers. An excerpt from the chapter ‘Gowdanomics, Kisan Raj and Chidambaram’s debut’.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>The very fact that Gowda had picked Chidambaram as his finance minister was an indication that he chose continuity over disruption. However, for a day, prime minister-elect Gowda was in a dilemma if he should pick Murasoli Maran as his finance minister or P. Chidambaram. He had mentioned this to his party colleague and later parliamentary affairs minister, Srikant Jena, but had quickly concluded that Chidambaram was a better fit. Maran, whom Gowda categorized as a ‘highly dignified gentleman’ was perhaps Gowda’s Plan B in case the Left parties opposed Chidambaram’s appointment.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Chidambaram himself had not expected to be named finance minister. He thought like Rao, Gowda would prefer an expert from outside. He recalled: ‘It was not the decision of the coalition partners or my party chief to make me finance minister, it was that of the prime minister. Even before he was sworn in, Gowda made it clear that I would be his finance minister. We were some eight or nine people making decisions. From my party, that is the Tamil Maanila Congress, it was Moopanar and myself. From other parties, there were Sharad Yadav, Lalu Yadav, A.B. Bardhan, Harkishan Singh Surjeet, A. Raja, C.M. Ibrahim, Murasoli Maran, T.R. Baalu and others. In their presence, he made it clear that he had decided to make me the finance minister. I had thought he would bring in an outside expert or an academic. When he mentioned my name, nobody opposed it. The other portfolios were still under discussion at that point. Under Gowda, people were nominated by parties, and portfolios were decided thereafter. In coalition set-ups after Gowda, this process was reversed, portfolios were distributed to parties and parties nominated ministers.’</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>That was Chidambaram’s debut stint as finance minister, and he was relatively young at fifty. Gowda had watched Chidambaram closely as a commerce minister under P.V. Narasimha Rao. He had also watched him resign during the Harshad Mehta securities scam because of his investments in a Bangalore firm that had come under investigation. From parliamentary exchanges, it is also apparent that Gowda had assessed Chidambaram to be closer in spirit to Manmohan Singh than to Rao. In December 1993, he had remarked sharply in the Parliament when discussing the securities scam: ‘Yesterday the whole argument of Chidambaramji was only to protect the finance minister and not the government. I could see that.’ All this was before Chidambaram quit the Congress in early 1996 to join the Tamil Maanila Congress under G.K. Moopanar, protesting Rao’s alliance with J. Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK in Tamil Nadu. ‘It was uppermost on my mind to signal continuity of policy to industry and investors. I knew the economic situation was not very bright, the oil pool deficit was rising, foreign debt was not looking good either. The World Bank and IMF conditionalities were also rather tight. I had observed all this as a chief minister. Therefore, when I had to pick my finance minister, I knew instinctively that it should be Chidambaram. I was aware his thinking differed from mine, but that was small compared to his ability to handle the situation,’ Gowda recalled.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Differences in worldview and approach cropped up early between Gowda and Chidambaram. When Chidambaram brought the draft of the budget for discussion, Gowda was not happy with the slant it had acquired. By then, the finance ministry had put queries and raised objections to some things Gowda had tried to do or had announced in public: ‘I was not very happy with the negative approach of the officials. I had not done anything that was not within my purview and powers. Therefore, I told Chidambaram in front of everybody that he should first understand that he was the finance minister of a thirteen-party coalition government and not a Congress finance minister. “Do not get me wrong, but what is the message that you are trying to give through this budget. How does our budget differ from the ones that Manmohan Singh has presented?” I asked. I also told him bluntly that he should have overhauled the finance ministry as soon as he took over because advisers and officers who worked with the previous regime would only perpetuate old ideas and old attitudes. Our government stood for something, and it had a common minimum programme too. I wanted the budget to reflect this and have a new imprint. I wanted it to signal hope to the poor and rural masses. I could see Chidambaram did not take my comments well. He was upset. When he and the officers were speaking, I used to shut my eyes but would be listening carefully. They thought I was drowsy. But when I said I cannot accept this budget, nor can I convince the coalition partners to accept it, they became alert.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘<i>Chidambaram left the meeting without saying anything. The next day he came in the morning and asked my private secretary how my mood was that morning? He was informed that I was sitting with Meenakshisundaram and disposing of files. After a while, the private secretary walked in and said the finance minister was waiting for the past fifteen minutes. I got angry with him, I asked why he hadn’t told me before. I got up and went myself to bring him in. “Why are you sitting here? You are one of the senior ministers, you should have just walked in.” I took his hand and led him into my room. We had a cordial exchange on all issues that I had raised the previous day. I handed over a document that I had kept typed and ready. I said I would like to see all this covered in the budget. He agreed to include them.’ To put it across through an economic platitude, Gowda had ensured that Bharat made space in India’s budget. That is rural India had found adequate representation.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>—<b>Excerpted with permission from Penguin Random House India</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Furrows in a Field: The Unexplored Life of H.D. Deve Gowda</b></p> <p>By Sugata Srinivasaraju</p> <p>Published by: Penguin RandomHouse India</p> <p>Pages: 562 <br> Price: Rs799</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/19/in-his-new-book-sugata-srinivasaraju-chronicles-deve-gowdas-remarkable-journey.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/19/in-his-new-book-sugata-srinivasaraju-chronicles-deve-gowdas-remarkable-journey.html Sun Dec 19 12:07:55 IST 2021 bharti-kher-weaves-a-bolder-exploration-of-the-body-that-is-human-magical-and-animal <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/09/bharti-kher-weaves-a-bolder-exploration-of-the-body-that-is-human-magical-and-animal.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/2021/12/9/63-Cloak-for-MM-new.jpg" /> <p>In a 2016 work, British-Indian artist Bharti Kher cast her mother in plaster. Two years later, in a widely acclaimed group show titled Sculpture, Colour and the Body (1,300-Now) at The Metropolitan Museum in New York, the mother sculpture sat atop a wooden stool in her naked form. Her eyes were closed in a quiet, meditative pose with the plaster poignantly capturing every sag and swell of her ageing body.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In her latest show, Strange Attractors, which opened at the Nature Morte gallery in Delhi on December 5, Kher breaks apart the sculpture of the mother in a work called Pieta. It obliquely references the Renaissance sculpture Pietà, which Michelangelo carved from a single block of marble. Housed in St. Peter's Basilica, it shows the Virgin Mary supporting the figure of the dead Christ—a young mother and the male child as seen in medieval Christian art. Michelangelo was often criticised for making the mother look younger than she would have been when her son died.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Strange Attractors, Kher depicts her mother's cracked plaster frame as lying down on a rectangular block of wax, which almost resembles a glazed slice of layered cake. It is almost delectable. In this plaster and wax sculpture (69x30x30 inches), femininity and motherhood are not cast in the language of heroism and grandeur. Plaster and wax have their own purpose as medium and material. Kher often breaks objects in her studio, never to convey a sense of brokenness but to probe and reveal what is hard to see on the surface.</p> <p>“[Through Pieta] I am saying this is my mother and she is the old female ageing body. I wanted to engage with the idea of an old woman politically as well. She is not the revered goddess. I am not making her bigger than she is physically, but emotionally and psychologically this work is gigantic because our mother is the most significant person in our lives,&quot; says Kher to THE WEEK, just a day before the preview of her show that refers to a mathematical concept elaborated in Chaos Theory that all matter is unique<br> </p> <p>There's always that method in madness, a sense of orderly disorder, in the disruptive installations of Bharti Kher---one of India's foremost contemporary artists. Her life-size sculpture of a dying elephant, entitled The Skin Speaks a Language Not its Own, created in 2006, remains one of her most iconic works and endures as a benchmark of maturity for contemporary art in India. The poignantly slumped fibreglass elephant, whose hide was created from thousands of white bindis, fetched a record $1.5 million (Rs 6.9 crore) at a Sotheby's auction in 2010, making Kher the top-selling contemporary artists of her time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With her recognisable triumvirate of &quot;bindis, bodies and saris,&quot; Kher has charted a dramatic oeuvre of collage and juxtaposition that never fails to mystify and bewilder, captivate and repel. Her strange, surreal &quot;hybrid beings&quot; will defy descriptors. Like in The Intermediaries, 4.8m high, at Regent’s Park in London in 2018, three half-broken figures, almost resembling deities, fused into a family of a father, mother and child. Or the giant heart of a blue sperm whale whose anatomical mysteries were manifested in a whorl of bindis in An Absence of Assignable Cause (2007). In the 2004 Hungry Dogs Eat Dirty Pudding, an everyday domestic object like a vacuum cleaner is defamiliarised as it lies covered in animal hide and is attached to the face of a dog.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Surrealism, futurism, abstract expressionism, impressionism, do these isms matter? I pick and choose from wherever I want to and create my own language,&quot; says Kher, dressed in a slick shirt paired with jacket and trousers, looking rather officious, smoothly navigating last minute corrections and clarifications before the show.</p> <p>In Strange Attractors, there is a centrepiece called A Natural Unity of Opposites, where a resin-shiny sari is neatly folded on the trunk of a buffalo hanging from a rope and is offset against circular wood beams, often chipped at the edges. A separate enclosure reveals the Animus Mundi, where a lissom white figure of a goddess is gracefully spilling out the folds of a sari from her mouth but her head is that of an animal. &quot;Animus Mundi is the centre of the universe where all things converge. A connection between all living things, the vital force in a world that carries all human and animal energies,&quot; says Kher about the work.</p> <p>In Benazir, the artist recalls the powerful political figure who foretold her own assassination, who was equally loved and hated. Benazir Bhutto was shot five times and the sari folds accordingly go in and out of an absent body, almost in a large mangled heap. In Cloak for MM, made in sari, resin and metal, Kher pays homage to her dear friend and famed sculptor Mrinalini Mukherjee, who died six years ago. She left behind an incredible collection of saris, which Kher bought from her estate and transformed into art. &quot;She was a great collector and wearer of the most fantastic textiles. This is for her. The idea of this work is that the body becomes somehow a cloak, she could be invisible, magical, somehow she can have the power of something else,&quot; says Kher, almost feeling her friend's fantastical presence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;I want to seduce and detract. I want to push you and pull you away at the same time. I want you to come into the work and then go away, look around. And feel something guttural,&quot; says Kher on the fascinating duality of her works, which can only be experienced in person.</p> <p>There is the idea of flux that Kher continually mentions in the course of her conversation. How everything is in motion, objects in space, the negative space around objects, counterbalances, weights and the ever-increasing correlation between the arts and the sciences. She geeks out on the ideas of the universe, telescopes, developments in quantum theories, gamma rays, the possibility that the universe is constantly expanding and contracting.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In what would now be considered prescient and prophetic, Kher had started a 30-year project in 2010 called The Virus Series, which will end in 2039. Every year, she creates a swirling mass of bindi artwork that is accompanied by text where the artist gives her predictions. She makes them once a year and it is usually shown in a museum.</p> <p>For example, part of the text for Virus XII 2021, says, &quot;Male birth control pills will be made available, making this the most significant contraceptive for men since the condom. New hybrid fully autonomous flying cars will be seen in the skies, avoiding traffic congestion on the roads….”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Virus 2022 will be shown in London. &quot;For me, Virus is just an amalgamation of all the different interests that I have. Being alive, living, sexuality, contemporary politics, so many different things. And every year its marked by how old I am. The project started when I was 40 and will end when I am 70,&quot; says Kher, now 52.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In her sisterhood of Strange Attractors, disparate ideas and signs from multiple sources play off each other. And her women too are continually shape-shifting. &quot;Flux, that's the mire of the universe. What are you looking at? Are you sure you know,” Kher asks before pointing to the title piece Strange Attractors, which is surreal slightly fearsome form of a monkey with a flowing mane at the back (its tail jutting forward balancing a tiny house sculpture), “Have you ever seen anything like that before? Neither have I.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/09/bharti-kher-weaves-a-bolder-exploration-of-the-body-that-is-human-magical-and-animal.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/09/bharti-kher-weaves-a-bolder-exploration-of-the-body-that-is-human-magical-and-animal.html Fri Dec 10 16:34:18 IST 2021 rapper-raftaar-admits-mistakes-says-he-will-mend-them <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/09/rapper-raftaar-admits-mistakes-says-he-will-mend-them.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/2021/12/9/66-Rapper-Raftaar-new.jpg" /> <p>The first two lines of rapper Raftaar’s latest track, ‘GOAT Dekho’ (released on November 30) goes: Lo aya asli gangster back. Lo suno jisney suna nahi gangster rap. (The real gangster is back. Here, listen, those who have not heard gangster rap.) This could have been confusing to Indian listeners a few years back. Is he confessing that he is a criminal, at least some may have wondered.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, over the last decade or so, hip-hop culture has spread rapidly in India and the native rap audience now knows that G (gangster/gangsta) and OG (original gangster) have been adopted for use outside the gang culture and have become positive appellations in hip-hop. So, an OG is a senior hip-hop artist. Raftaar, 33, an OG on the Indian scene, believes that hip-hop has evolved fast in India as compared with the west. “If you look at the new ads and jingles, movie music and independent music, there is so much hip-hop,” he says. “All these clothing lines, sneakers, the demand is through the roof. It is because of the hip-hop culture, because it includes the sneaker-culture.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Raftaar was born as Dilin Nair to a Delhi-based Malayali couple. His stage name, meaning speed, is based on the pace and flow of his rapping. He started his rap career in the late 2000s, when the genre was finding its feet in India. In the early 2010s, he started working with Punjabi band RDB and, in 2013, he released his debut mixtape, WTF (witness the future). His 2014-song ‘Swag Mera Desi’ with Manj Musik (Manjeet Singh Ral, formerly of RDB) won the Brit Asia TV Music Award for the best urban single.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Raftaar made his Bollywood debut with the Saif Ali Khan-starrer Bullet Raja (2013). He says he has worked selectively in Bollywood (around 20 credits as singer, lyricist, or both, till the 2021-Vidya Balan-starrer Sherni) and loves the work he has done. ‘Dhakaad’, Dangal (2016), ‘Mantoiyat’, Manto (2018) and the title track for Andhadhun (2018) are his favourites. And he is proud of his work with A.R. Rahman and Arijit Singh. Raftaar has also churned out hits for multiple corporate music labels.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, his most important work, arguably, is what he does with his independent music and his label Kalamkaar (a portmanteau of kalam, meaning pen, and kalakaar, meaning artist). These are the tracks which are generally lyrically stronger, and typically, less popular. “When I do independent music, whatever happens, I am going to promote songs with the right lyrics,” he says. “My money is invested into the kind of music I believe in.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, rap has, at times, promoted the wrong ideas, too, like misogyny. Raftaar has also made mistakes. He does not shy away from admitting them. “There are things I do regret,” he says. “But, I did my wrongs at the right time. Every mistake I made was at the beginning of my career.” He says that he can try to mend his mistakes for the rest of his career. He adds that we, as a society, have always had a problem with admitting our faults. “Whatever artists are saying in their songs, even if it is a party number and they are saying some random things, that is definitely happening in society,” he says. “That is the bitter pill nobody wants to swallow.” However, he also says that it is the duty of artists to make sure their content changes mindsets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His “bitter pill” argument rings true when you consider that lyrically limited ‘party songs’, the videos of which, more often than not, stereotype or objectify women, are the biggest hits in India. “[After the mistakes earlier,] I have done everything possible to keep the lyrics, the videos and the mindset clean,” he says. “I have tried to give the right messages.” This has also been a general trend in Indian rap; meaningful work is emerging more frequently as the genre evolves.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of Raftaar’s earliest raps with a message was ‘Mother Nature’, released in 2014, soon after ‘Swag Mera Desi’. The song, which calls out inaction in the face of the climate crisis, has over 7.61 lakh views on YouTube. In comparison, ‘Swag Mera Desi’ has over 4.46 crore. His most popular commercial tracks have more than 20 crore views on the platform and his most popular independent song—the diss track ‘Sheikh Chilli’—has over 12 crore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Does the disparity frustrate him? “No, never,” he says. “If a song like ‘Mother Nature’ provokes thought, that was the job. If not, you move on.” Such songs, he adds, you listen to only once, whereas pop music plays at weddings, in cars, clubs and on radio. “There are so many others attempting the same (songs with messages) and everybody is reaching a different mass,” he says. “So, everybody together still does the job.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Raftaar has reiterated the need for togetherness multiple times. His willingness to promote young talent has been widely recognised and appreciated. “I want artists who dedicate their lives to rap being fed by it,” he says. “I want every rapper to have food on his or her table.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘GOAT Dekho’, which is a part of his Bar’ish EP (extended play), is about fighting negativity, he says. His fans say that he is the GOAT (greatest of all time) in the Indian rap scene. What does he feel about it? Firstly, he says that for him, it is not greatest, but ‘greatests’, because there are people who have reached the same level of greatness. “Like, if Nas is a GOAT, so is 2Pac,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“That is the fight; where we are walking towards,” he adds. “There is G, then OG, the next step is being a GOAT. And GOAT is a title that people give you. I have seen a lot of people write that for me. That is when I made the song. I would have never started calling myself a GOAT.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/09/rapper-raftaar-admits-mistakes-says-he-will-mend-them.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/09/rapper-raftaar-admits-mistakes-says-he-will-mend-them.html Thu Dec 09 16:10:52 IST 2021 the-storyteller-dave-grohls-memoir-is-a-warm-affable-dissection-of-an-eventful-life <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/09/the-storyteller-dave-grohls-memoir-is-a-warm-affable-dissection-of-an-eventful-life.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/2021/12/9/68-The-Story-Teller-new.jpg" /> <p>How did an “underachieving” boy from the suburbs of Virginia, completely untutored in his chosen instrument of drums, climb to the very summit of rock n’ roll fame? In his memoir, The Storyteller, former Nirvana member and current Foo Fighter, Dave Grohl, goes deep into his life. He charts his path from a slightly over-stimulated child who used to grind his teeth rhythmically to the current musical institution that he is.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He was introduced to the world of rock n’ roll while visiting his cousin in Chicago; he attended his first punk rock show there, by Naked Raygun. Grohl was immediately hooked. His first instruments were sofa cushions; before long, he had dropped out of school (defying a disapproving father) and was touring with the punk band, Scream.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Grohl was never your archetypal rockstar. His confessions would not include salacious details of sexual romps, drug-addled escapades or high-profile police arrests. Although Grohl once spent a night in jail, for driving a scooter under influence at the Big Day Out festival in Australia. And he did develop an addiction (coffee); he stopped when health issues surfaced.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In public, Grohl has a reputation for being truly genial—someone you think would be fun to hang out with at a party. This affability, a clear love for his family (especially his daughters), and a zest for even life’s small blessings, shine through in the book. While detailing life as a punk rocker with Scream, he speaks about the cramped spaces and the tight schedules of a musician on tour. And about the time he was pulled out from the band to perform alongside his hero, Iggy Pop.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He speaks about his exit from Scream, and his early days as a drummer at Nirvana. He would sleep on frontman Kurt Cobain’s couch and would gorge on Cobain’s signature ‘Shit-on-a-shingle’ (canned tuna and toast). Then came their debut album, Nevermind, and a meteoric rise unparalleled in music history.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is the only aspect of the book that might disappoint the reader. One of the major attractions of any memoir written by a remaining Nirvana member, be it Krist Novoselic or Grohl, is Cobain, whether you like it or not. Universally idolised as the man who brought grunge rock to the forefront in the 1990s, Cobain was Nirvana; Nirvana was Cobain.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are still many questions about the man. What was Cobain like? What was the darkness that drove the moody and reticent musician? Disappointingly, Grohl does not delve into the more private aspects of their relationship. He hints about Cobain’s heroin addiction and about the mental devastation he suffered after the icon’s suicide, but that is about it. Maybe he was right to do so. Maybe he did not want to reopen old wounds. Maybe he wanted to de-hyphenate himself from the man whose shadow still hovers over Nirvana.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even without ‘tell-alls’ and risqué exposes, Grohl’s memoir is entertaining and extremely human. He narrates how he did the séance at the age of 17, pleading with the soul of John Bonham for rock n’ roll stardom. He speaks about an offer to join Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers after Cobain’s death and Nirvana’s dissolution; he snubbed them and formed his own band, The Foo Fighters.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Grohl’s writing is clear, honest and entertaining. There is an understated sense of humility and an overwhelming aura of warmth and grace. This is Grohl’s story, in the man’s own words.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The Story Teller</b></p> <p>by Dave Grohl<br> Published by: Simon &amp; Schuster</p> <p>Pages: 384 Price: Rs799</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/09/the-storyteller-dave-grohls-memoir-is-a-warm-affable-dissection-of-an-eventful-life.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/09/the-storyteller-dave-grohls-memoir-is-a-warm-affable-dissection-of-an-eventful-life.html Fri Dec 10 16:31:13 IST 2021 the-utterly-butterly-milkman-a-great-tribute-to-verghese-kurien-father-of-white-revolution <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/09/the-utterly-butterly-milkman-a-great-tribute-to-verghese-kurien-father-of-white-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/2021/12/9/69-The-Utterly-Butterly-Milkman-new.jpg" /> <p>Verghese Kurien, fondly called “the milkman of India”, was once in a meeting with a British delegation. Kurien was explaining the projects that the National Dairy Development Board had submitted to Britain through the Union government. The leader of the delegation interrupted: “Dr Kurien, your projects sound fantastic, but how do you propose to fund these fancy projects?” His response was quick: “Since we have common pockets, the fund will never be a problem for me.” He spoke with amazing charm and wit, says R.K. Nagar—Kurien’s work associate for 30 years—in the book The Utterly Butterly Milkman.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Curated by Kurien’s daughter, Nirmala Kurien, the book commemorates the birth centenary of the legend who made India the world’s largest producer of milk with his Anand Model, and Amul one of the most respected brands globally. It offers rare anecdotes about Kurien’s life and interesting details about the White Revolution he engineered. The book is divided broadly into eight segments, each one exploring a distinct facet of Kurien’s life through the eyes of friends, family and former colleagues.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nirmala writes her Dada was ruthless when it came to protecting the interests of farmers; he had faced roadblocks, resistance and even treachery at every stage of his professional life, but took them as “puzzles” that needed to be solved. From middlemen, who wanted to break the cooperative movement in the dairy sector, to multinational companies who wanted to stall Amul’s growth, his adversaries were aplenty.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He faced difficulties from ministers and bureaucrats, too. He was denied a government grant of Rs30,000 to start the NDDB, so he had to borrow the money from Amul. Former Union agriculture ministers like Jagjivan Ram and Rao Birender Singh wanted to fire him from the NDDB. But nothing stopped him, and by the time he left the NDDB in 1998, its coffers were richer by Rs3,000 crore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though born into a conservative Malayali Syrian Christian family, Kurien turned out to be an atheist. His grandson, Siddharth Sheth, shared a common joke in Kerala: The only time Kurien entered a church on his own was to marry his beautiful wife. Nirmala says that her father believed in the farmers of India, and that that was his religion. The Utterly Butterly Milkman surely is a great tribute to the good fight of faith that Kurien fought at the service of his farmer gods.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The Utterly Butterly Milkman</b></p> <p>Curated by Nirmala Kurien</p> <p>Published by: Westland Books</p> <p>Pages: 328 Price: Rs699</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/09/the-utterly-butterly-milkman-a-great-tribute-to-verghese-kurien-father-of-white-revolution.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/09/the-utterly-butterly-milkman-a-great-tribute-to-verghese-kurien-father-of-white-revolution.html Thu Dec 09 15:58:35 IST 2021 tahira-kashyap-khurrana-has-left-nothing-unsaid-in-her-latest-book <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/09/tahira-kashyap-khurrana-has-left-nothing-unsaid-in-her-latest-book.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/2021/12/9/70-The-7-Sins-of-Being-a-Mother-new.jpg" /> <p>Tahira Kashyap Khurrana—author, filmmaker and the better half of actor Ayushmann Khurrana—is a woman with a message: that you do not need to let go of your individuality once you become a mother. Instead, you need to learn to celebrate yourself. On the face of it, this might seem like a cliché that one finds in a self-help book or a motivational talk. The difference is that, for Tahira, this has been a hard-learned lesson. That is why, when she writes of her guilt about her caesarean delivery or stopping breast-feeding at an early stage, it rings authentic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I haven’t stopped making mistakes,” she writes in The 7 Sins of Being a Mother. “From dropping the kids to school on a public holiday, to giving them the wrong dose of medicine, to putting on the baby’s diaper the wrong way, to wearing the wrong-coloured T-shirt on sports day and supporting the rival team instead, to missing Zoom birthday parties—my list of blunders is endless. Some things haven’t changed, but one thing has—today I am more forgiving of myself!”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fortunately, the book does not come across as preachy or pedantic. Mostly because of two factors. One is her quirky writing. She does not take herself too seriously, and that is not an easy task when you are trying to communicate a strong message. Second, she has laid bare her soul in the book. Her life is her raw material. From forgetting her baby at a restaurant to having sex in an airplane and flirting with the idea of cheating on Ayushmann, she has not held anything back.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is not new terrain for Tahira. In her past books, too, she has adopted this confessional style of writing. In The 12 Commandments of Being a Woman, for example, she wrote about being intensely jealous while Ayushmann was shooting the “longest kiss in the history of cinema” in Nautanki Saala (2013) and, in another place, about making out with him in the cinema theatre while watching Shah Rukh Khan films. Nothing, it seems, is off-limits for this plucky lady.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But honesty comes with a price. In this case, she had to face a less-than-enthusiastic reaction from her family. “My father refuses to read my books. Beyond a chapter he just cannot take it. I guess I can understand. You don’t really want to know about the details of your daughter’s sex life,” she told THE WEEK, adding that this does not negate the pride he feels when he hears how her books are impacting others.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ayushmann had a more mixed reaction. “He went through all the chapters, laughed at some places, scrutinised others carefully and gasped at some bits. ‘You wrote this also,’ he exclaimed. ‘What is wrong with you?’” But, ultimately, she says he never tries to curtail her individuality and gives her the freedom to express herself in whatever way she chooses.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are parts in the book that are more sensationalism than sense. Some of the scenes, for example, belong more in the bedroom than in the book. That said, it takes real skill to express your deepest vulnerabilities with the lightest of touches. However, Tahira herself is not so sure. What she writes, she says, can only come from two places—either that of courage or stupidity. “I don’t know which one is true for me,” she says with a laugh. “But the end result is an unfiltered version of me that I truly cherish now.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The 7 Sins of Being a Mother</b></p> <p>By Tahira Kashyap Khurrana</p> <p>Published by: Juggernaut</p> <p>Pages: 168 Price: Rs299</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/09/tahira-kashyap-khurrana-has-left-nothing-unsaid-in-her-latest-book.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/09/tahira-kashyap-khurrana-has-left-nothing-unsaid-in-her-latest-book.html Thu Dec 09 15:53:01 IST 2021 mods-must-be-crazy <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/09/mods-must-be-crazy.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/2021/12/9/71-Mods-must-be-crazy.jpg" /> <p>At a supermarket in Thiruvananthapuram, as my eyes roved greedily over the magazine rack nearest to the checkout counter, I spotted a DVD for a video game that should not exist—Grand Theft Auto: Chennai Express.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The album art was the poster for the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Chennai Express (2013), with the logo of the open world Grand Theft Auto series superimposed on it. Next to it was another hitherto unheard of GTA title, Grand Theft Auto: Amritsar, which sat next to a zombie-themed Grand Theft Auto: Long Nights.</p> <p>Since the release of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas in 2004, developer Rockstar North have added two sequels and a handful of expansion packs to the franchise, but none of them were based in India, or involved hordes of the undead.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The GTA series is a byword for open-world, explore-and-do-anything video games, with many imitators but no equal. But its detailed vistas that imitate and parody Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami and New York may feel alien to non-American audiences. And thus, the ‘modding’ (modifying) community steps in, adding regional touches for a bit of a laugh and giggle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From a YouTube search, I gathered that the Amritsar and Chennai mods for San Andreas were little more than the addition of a few character models, renamed places, and occasionally, some Tamil dubbing overlaid onto a custom mission. Modders have yet to recreate the Chennai experience in a GTA game, but that does not mean that they cannot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mods can transform a game into a totally different experience. Some five decades of video gaming have shown us the extent to which talented programmers and artists can take the aged clay of an outdated game and reshape, retexture and re-imagine it into new form. Many YouTubers amass lakhs of views simply by playing popular games retrofitted with bizarre and entertaining mods.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While some mods exist for mirth’s sake (a popular Minecraft mod replaces the sun with a photo of Nicholas Cage), many seek to improve the experience. If you thought the graphics, music and gameplay of Doom (1993) seem prehistoric today, you should check out the Brutal Doom mod, which adds more gore, better graphics and punchier weapons; it won praise from Doom’s designer, John Romero.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) seems passé today, there are more than 40,000 mods to choose from that can make the game look like a next-generation title. When gamers grew tired of waiting for Valve to remaster Half-Life 1 properly, they decided to do it themselves—the resultant product, Black Mesa, was so good that Valve approved it for commercial release.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some of the biggest games in eSports today—Counter Strike: Global Offensive and Defense of the Ancients—began as mods for older games like Half Life and Warcraft.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The modding community shares parallels with the free software movement, releasing most of their work for free or under open-source licenses. But it also has tendrils in piracy, with modders sometimes porting games from one platform to another, and in cheating, with many mods allowing players more abilities and access to unique hacks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Modding is not without risk. In 2019, Japan cracked down on this in a bid to protect intellectual property, and laid down a five-year prison sentence and a fine of five million yen for modding game data and consoles. Publishers like Rockstar—while beneficiaries of some of the largest modding communities in the world—have also been hostile to modders, forcing makers of GTA Underground (which sought to unify three GTA games into one playable super-world) to shut down and remove all download links.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/09/mods-must-be-crazy.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/09/mods-must-be-crazy.html Fri Dec 10 15:19:32 IST 2021 I-love-the-people-of-india-says-singer-yohani-of-manike-mage-hithe-fame <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/04/I-love-the-people-of-india-says-singer-yohani-of-manike-mage-hithe-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/2021/12/4/63-Yohani-De-Silva.jpg" /> <p>You know you have made it when Amitabh Bachchan shares a meme of him dancing to your song. It happened in August, when Bachchan’s granddaughter Navya made a meme replacing ‘Jahan Teri Yeh Nazar Hai’, the original song from his film Kaalia (1981), with the Sinhalese number ‘Manike Mage Hithe’. Bachchan said that the song was on loop the whole night and it was “impossible to stop listening” to it. Hours later, the meme went viral. Several Bollywood stars shared their own Instagram reels of dancing to the catchy tune. Today, the song has got more than 400 million views on YouTube and spawned thousands of Instagram reels and TikTok videos.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Meet Yohani De Silva, the woman behind the song. She is the first Sri Lankan female musician to get over three million subscribers on YouTube. Yohani was in India recently, performing live in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai. She even appeared on a TV show with Salman Khan. Clad in a red shirt with butterfly sleeves—a pixie hair cut framing her delicate features—Yohani is all smiles as she sits down for a chat with THE WEEK. In her husky contralto, she hums the tune of her viral song at our request. After a few lines, she bursts out laughing. “Music is everything to me,” she says. “My career, my passion, my dream and my life.” She says she loved her trip to India—the food, the people, and especially the fact that there are so many women in music here.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yohani’s musical journey began when she moved to Australia for higher studies. Born in Sri Lanka to an army officer father and an air hostess mother, music was not part of her childhood. She grew up during the civil war in which her father fought. After the war, Yohani moved to London with her family. She finished her high school there, and later came back to Sri Lanka. While in Colombo, Yohani learnt to play the piano at a nearby centre where her mother would drop her for daily lessons. She learnt to play the guitar on her own through online videos and tutorials in Australia, where she went to do her graduation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“No one in my family has learnt music,” says Yohani. Her sister, Shavindri, is studying medicine in Russia, while her father is still with the Sri Lankan army and her mother is now a homemaker. Yohani did her bachelor’s in logistics, and it was while she was waiting for her exam results that music came calling. As she travelled all over Australia with friends, her creative pursuits became a compulsion. She came back to Sri Lanka in 2019, but her mind was full of music. “I can express my feelings better through music,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After completing her master’s in accounting, she took up music professionally and started working with an independent music company called Pettah Effect in Sri Lanka. Later, she collaborated with producer Chamath Sangeeth for the song, ‘Sitha Dawuna’. Since then, there has been no looking back. “But I always had a Plan B ready, of taking up accountancy if I did not succeed in music,” says Yohani, 28, with a smile.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, her Plan B has been gathering dust since ‘Manike Mage Hithe’. Ask her how the song happened and the singer-rapper chuckles. “It happened as it happened,” is her diplomatic reply. She, however, calls it a team effort, recounting the work of Sangeeth, Satheesan Rathnayake and Dulan ARX, who made the original ‘Manike Mage Hithe’ in 2020. It was Satheesan and Dulan who invited her to sing the cover version. “What do I say? I am so happy and excited,” she says about the song going viral, adding that she has watched almost every TikTok video and Instagram reel made on it. The most popular is an instrumental version of the song by Carolina Protsen from the US, who performed it on the streets. There are Bengali, Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam versions of the song.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, Yohani has a packed schedule. But she spends most of her time in her studio, where ‘Manike Mage Hithe’ was recorded. She says she can spend days together in there, experimenting with pop, R&amp;B, hip-hop and alternative music. In Sri Lanka, there were the days when the popularity of cricketers like Sanath Jayasuriya, Arjuna Ranatunga or Muttiah Muralitharan crossed national boundaries. But this might be the first time that a Sri Lankan musician has turned into a sensation. In fact, when she returned home after her trip to India, her rendition of ‘Ape kollo’ (Our boys) was part of a video made before the World Cup to cheer the Sri Lankan cricket team.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That is not her only reason to celebrate. On November 11, she released her latest single, ‘Moving On’, through the US-based label, Red Bull Records. Written and directed by Dilanjan Seneviratne, the song is about moving on in life after a painful breakup; it has got nearly three million views on YouTube. “Lies are your ABC/ Blinded I couldn’t see/ Changed myself right here/ All for you my dear/ In another life/ Maybe I’ll love you twice/ Goodbye tonight,” go the lyrics. In the video, Yohani is no longer the shy, hesitant debutante. She is confident, bold and determined to take on the world. ‘Manike Mage Hithe’ might have made her, but she has moved on!</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/04/I-love-the-people-of-india-says-singer-yohani-of-manike-mage-hithe-fame.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/04/I-love-the-people-of-india-says-singer-yohani-of-manike-mage-hithe-fame.html Sun Dec 05 10:31:37 IST 2021 book-extract-shashi-tharoor-on-the-idea-of-india <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/04/book-extract-shashi-tharoor-on-the-idea-of-india.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/2021/12/4/66-The-struggle-to-remain-Indian-new.jpg" /> <p><b>Author, MP and THE WEEK’s columnist, Shashi Tharoor has published more than 20 books, both fiction and non-fiction. His latest, Pride, Prejudice &amp; Punditry, is a compilation of his best published works as well as fresh pieces written specifically for this volume. From articles on diplomacy and international relations to personal essays and a selection of his most famous speeches, Tharoor covers a vast array of subjects in the book.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>An excerpt from the chapter, ‘A Congenital Indian Nationalist’:</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The question of nationality and nationhood is not, for me, a purely theoretical issue, the stuff of political philosophy or intellectual argument. It is an intensely personal matter. I was born in London, in 1956, to Indian parents who carried the passports of their newly independent country, just six years after the establishment of the Republic of India. Thanks to the laws prevalent in the United Kingdom, I was eligible from birth for a British passport, an option I have never exercised. The choice remains available: not to make that choice is, therefore, a decision I have consciously taken.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The issue has arisen at various stages of my life. When I won a scholarship to go to graduate school in the United States, at the age of 19, in 1975, I planned to stop in London to visit relatives and friends on the way over. I duly applied for what, in those days, was known as an ‘entry permit’, and settled down in the waiting room of the British deputy high commission in Calcutta (as it then was) for my turn to pay the requisite fee and collect it. Instead, to my surprise and consternation, I was singled out and summoned to the office of the deputy high commissioner. Wondering what I had done to merit this, I nervously entered the dignitary’s enormous office, only to be told,</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘I’m afraid we can’t give you an entry permit.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘What have I done wrong?’ I stuttered. ‘Was there any mistake on my application form?’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘No, not at all,’ he said with a smile. ‘You see, your birth certificate means that you are entitled to a British passport.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘But I don’t want a British passport!’ I expostulated. ‘I just want an entry permit.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘I understand that,’ said the deputy high commissioner. ‘But, you see, we can’t give an entry permit to someone who is entitled to a passport. That’s against our rules.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was stumped by this unexpected development. ‘Are you saying to me that I can’t visit London? Unless I take a British passport?’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘No, I’m not saying that,’ he hastened to assure me. ‘We can’t issue you an entry permit, but they cannot deny you entry into London when you have the absolute right to live there. Just go to London and show the immigration officer that you were born there, and they will let you in. They won’t even stamp your passport.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I nodded somewhat dubiously at this assurance, but since he refused to accede to my pleas to issue me a permit anyway, went off clutching my Indian passport and hoping for the best. It worked exactly as he had said it would: I landed at London Heathrow and was waved in without any trouble, the immigration officer even helpfully telling me that in future I could use the much shorter lines for British nationals, since, as far as they were concerned, I was one.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This happened a few more times until, in 1979, Margaret Thatcher became prime minister and decided that the entry permit system for Commonwealth citizens was too lax and that we would all require visas. When I checked with the British consulate in Geneva, the city I was based in at the time, I was told there was no provision for exceptions. So, I applied for a visa, paying the extortionate fees the British were charging in order to discourage potential immigration from the Commonwealth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the attractions of theatre, cricket, books, and family friends—all of whom were just an eight-hour drive and a Channel-ferry ride away from Geneva—meant that my wife and I kept going rather often to Britain, and repeated applications for a visa became a rather expensive proposition. I returned to the charge, raising with the friendly British consul in Geneva the paradox of my being eligible for a passport but having to pay through my nose for a visa every time I wanted to set foot in a country in which I was legally entitled to live.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She admitted this was irrational, and a flaw in the rules—but there was a possible way out. While tightening entry policy, Thatcher’s government had also created something called a ‘Certification of the Right of Abode’, intended principally for people of British descent, whose parents and grandparents had been born in the colonies, and who would, therefore, not be eligible under the new law for automatic entry to, or residence in Britain, even though they were plainly of British stock. Though I was not of British stock, she thought perhaps the same certificate on my passport would eliminate my problem.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A couple of head-scratching weeks later, the call came from her office: her proposal had been rejected by London. ‘The problem,’ she said apologetically, ‘is that under British law, we cannot certify an entitlement that is yours by right.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I threw up my hands at that wonderfully British statement of principle, affirming a status while preventing its practical fulfilment. (I was all too aware that Indians have inherited this wonderful bureaucratic talent, too, thanks to British colonialism!) But the consul, a woman of great empathy as well as creativity, was not deterred. In a few days, she asked me to come back to her office. ‘I have a solution for you,’ she said cheerfully. She stuck the certificate in my passport, pulled out her pen, and crossed out the word ‘Certification’. Then, in her own hand, she wrote the word ‘Confirmation’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘There,’ she beamed brightly, handing me my passport. ‘I cannot certify your birthright, but there’s no rule telling me I can’t confirm it. You can use that instead of a visa.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It worked: For a couple of decades afterwards, I was able to breeze in and out past British immigration with the Confirmation of the Right of Abode certificate in my passport, testifying to the fact that I was entitled to more than I was willing to claim. Then, computerization and standardization came in, the rules once again had to be applied with no ambiguity, and I was once again required to pay visa rates for a printed certificate (with no handwritten emendation), this time needing to be renewed every five years at an ever-stiffer fee. At one renewal, a British consular officer in New York helpfully reminded me that (at that time) it only cost 15 pounds for a passport whereas my certificate cost 65 pounds. I replied: ‘I’m happy to pay for the privilege of remaining Indian. I may have been born in Britain, but when I look in the mirror, I see an Indian.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is difficult to explain this nativism in one who has spent a lifetime acquiring and embodying a cosmopolitan, even globalist, sensibility, so unfashionable today in a world of growing hyper-nationalism. But, from a young age, when some of my classmates at school in Bombay teased me about my foreign birth, I have found myself consciously interrogating myself on the question of who I was. My father was an idealist of the generation that had won freedom—though, at not-yet-eighteen when Independence came, he had not personally fought for it, he had supported the nationalist movement, and, heeding Mahatma Gandhi’s call, had dropped his caste-derived surname.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 1948, he had gone to London straight from his Kerala village, with his elder brother’s sponsorship, in much the same spirit as other Keralites starting out in life might have tried their luck in Bombay or Calcutta. Arriving as a student not yet aged 19, he had soon begun his working life there, representing Indian newspapers that still maintained offices in the old metropolitan capital. But, after a happy decade in London, he and my mother chose to return to India, because they believed that was where they belonged.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ironically, as India descended into an increasingly corrupt and poorly functioning state, where highly taxed salaried professionals like himself found it increasingly hard to make ends meet, my father sometimes regretted that decision. But, having come back to India, he imparted to me, his first-born son, a passionate sense of belonging, not just to a physical country called India, but to the idea that it represented in the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That idea—of a magnificent experiment in pulling a vast, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic population out of poverty and misery through democracy and pluralism—was one that engaged and captivated me, and which I have, in one way or another, explored in over 20 books, both fiction and non-fiction. I did so even while living abroad and working for the United Nations for 29 years, which further complicated the issue for me.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For nearly three decades I was that rare animal, an ‘international civil servant’, meant to serve not my own country’s national interests but the collective interests of humanity; but I had joined an organization where my nationality defined and limited the very prospects of entry, since the recruitment of the central United Nations staff was subject to ‘geographical distribution’, and national quotas determined whether you could be recruited to a vacancy for which you were qualified. (Indeed, it was because Indians were considered ‘over-represented’ in the UN proper that I joined the UN system in the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, an agency or ‘programme’ of the parent body where no nationality quotas applied.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If this were not contradictory enough, I found myself serving refugees who had fled their own nation states, negotiating with governments to permit other countries’ nationals entry into their territories, and later, as a peacekeeping official, interceding in wars between and within nations. At UN headquarters I worked with teams of colleagues whom I knew by their skills, talents, specializations, and peccadilloes, rather than their passports. They were ‘the field guy’, ‘the admin whiz’, ‘the brilliant draftswoman’, ‘the legal eagle’, and so on, never the Brazilian, the Japanese, the German, or the Kenyan—in the service of the blue flag, their nationalities simply did not matter.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When that career ended, after an unsuccessful though close run for the top job of secretary-general, I had the option of staying on abroad, and acquiring permanent residence in one of three possible countries. I did not. I could not. I came home, to plunge myself into the maelstrom of Indian politics, thereby making my own modest contribution to the evolution of that great Indian experiment. Leaving the world of the UN to enter Indian politics, where public figures wore their patriotism on their sleeves, I swapped my UN lapel pin for the Indian tricolour and learned to stop saying ‘we’ when I meant the international community. I was a full-fledged nationalist again.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But what did that mean? Today, as I write these words during the second term of the Bharatiya Janata Party government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, I see much of that noble national experiment gravely threatened by a fundamental challenge to the very essence of Indian nationalism—the ‘idea of India’ that was built up in the course of a seven-decade struggle for independence from Britain, and another seven decades of post-colonial governance that consolidated the nature and character of Independent India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Modi’s BJP has spent its years in government contesting this remarkable and irreplaceable embodiment of the country’s essence by arguing that there can be an alternative idea of India, promoting an assortment of political, social, and cultural elements that would convert a pluralist, multi-religious democracy into a ‘Hindu rashtra’, and delegitimizing dissent through labelling disagreement with its actions and statements as ‘anti-national’. The frequent use of that term has raised the corollary—if my disagreement is anti-national, what then is truly nationalist?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>—<b>Excerpted with permission from Aleph Book Company</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>PRIDE, PREJUDICE &amp; PUNDITRY:</b><br> The Essential<br> Shashi Tharoor</p> <p>Published by<br> Aleph Book Company</p> <p>Price Rs999; pages 574</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/04/book-extract-shashi-tharoor-on-the-idea-of-india.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/04/book-extract-shashi-tharoor-on-the-idea-of-india.html Sat Dec 04 12:32:11 IST 2021 you-might-be-buying-the-wrong-phone <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/04/you-might-be-buying-the-wrong-phone.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/2021/12/4/69-shutterstock.jpg" /> <p>Android is by far the most popular smartphone operating system in the world, with about 70 per cent market share. iOS, the operating system on iPhones, accounts for most of the rest. In India, Android has an astonishing 95 per cent market share. In the US, however, iOS enjoys a 60 per cent market share.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Android’s market dominance in India, and in the world, to an extent, is the result of the availability of Android phones at almost all price points. You can buy the decent Nokia C01 Plus 4G phone for about Rs7,000 and you can buy a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 for Rs1.8 lakh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the other hand, the cheapest iPhone is Rs29,999 (after discounts offered by sellers). Flagships with all bells and whistles from some Android phone makers cost only as much, making themselves the first choice for even buyers with higher budgets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is, however, a catch. Android phone makers usually offer two OS updates, and only a few of them offer three. That means, a phone shipped with Android 10 would get Android 11 a year later and 12 a year after that. You might or might not get security updates from the manufacturer for another year or two.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>iPhones, on the other hand, get OS updates for a far longer period. iOS 15, the latest, is offered even to iPhone 6S, which was launched in 2015. Apple supports these phones for a period even after the last OS update.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Phones these days carry a lot of sensitive data, from private photos to bank account details. A phone with a dated OS and obsolete security features is a sitting duck for cybercriminals. It may still be taking great photos and connecting all calls, but it is no longer as safe as it was.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even if you pay a premium upfront while buying an iPhone, you will earn it back if you use the phone long enough. iPhones are built to last and Apple makes sure the software measures up by providing long support.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is very little that separates Android and iOS when it comes to capabilities. The flagships from the likes of Samsung and One Plus are as well built as the iPhone and offer even better features. If only they offered longer updates.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/04/you-might-be-buying-the-wrong-phone.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/04/you-might-be-buying-the-wrong-phone.html Sun Dec 05 10:29:52 IST 2021 india-macaron-queen-pooja-dhingra-is-ready-to-flip-the-next-chapter <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/04/india-macaron-queen-pooja-dhingra-is-ready-to-flip-the-next-chapter.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/2021/12/4/70-Pooja-Dhingra-new.jpg" /> <p>In Henrik Ibsen’s famous play The Doll’s House, ‘macaroons’ symbolise defiance and independence. In the very first scene of the Norwegian play, which first premiered in Denmark on December 21, 1879, Torvald teasingly inquires if his wife Nora has been indulging her sweet tooth while out on Christmas shopping. Nora is first shown eating ‘macaroons’ before quickly erasing all traces of her guilty pleasure in the company of her authoritarian husband.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The ‘macaroons’ come as the first hint of Nora’s little rebellion against her suppressed existence in the “doll’s house”. While Ibsen’s ‘macaroons’ most likely did not look like the coloured sandwich cookies we see at French patisseries, he definitely was referring to a version of the dessert made with almond flour and meringue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Mumbai-based pastry chef Pooja Dhingra, often dubbed the “macaron queen of India”, the dainty confection also proved to be a consequential act of rebellion. After quitting law school, she opened India’s first macaron store—Le15, in 2010—as a 24-year-old when no one thought it had the commercial potential. With her Le15 brand of patisseries, the chef and businesswoman has charted an extraordinary course with a 30 under 30 achievers tag, six cookbooks, social media stardom and an online retail line of cookies, chocolate and pre-mixes with patrons in 90 cities across India. She was the first food influencer in India to hit the one million mark on Instagram. And she continues to craft the soft and crunchy French cookies in a panoply of colours.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is a macaron ice cream sandwich on the way on store shelves. “This little bite of indulgence gives me so much joy. It’s light and perfect with my coffee. The process of making it is the most meditative thing. The egg-whites, colour, piping… all of it is therapeutic,” giggles an effervescent Dhingra on the phone, exuding the joie de vivre of her heart-warming profession.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Coming Home, her most personal cookbook yet, the macaron maven takes a step back to rediscover the unvarnished joy of baking at home after the city favourite, Le15 Colaba, became a Covid-19 casualty and shut shop in March last year. “I still miss my cafe. Every aspect of it. Just going there, sitting with a cup of coffee and dessert was enough,” says the 35-year-old, even as she plans to unveil new shopfronts outside Mumbai in the coming year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Not in the least perturbed by how so many other Indian pastry chefs have followed hard-selling macarons in her wake, Dhingra wields the same passion and optimism around making it more visible when she first started out. “I was everywhere when I started. I would have stalls at food markets, malls, supermarkets, give out free samples. Word of mouth is a better publicity than anything else,” says Dhingra, who has achieved great success with her “eggless” macarons. Her approach inspired French pastry chef and chocolatier, Pierre Hermé, to create his own vegan macarons. Hermé was adjudged the world’s best pastry chef back in 2016 by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On her first weekend in Paris, where Dhingra had gone to train at the Le Cordon Bleu, a friend had gifted her a giant macaron cake from Hermé. The Ispahan had all the delicate flavours of rose, raspberry and litchi. “Every bite was like a party in my mouth,” writes Dhingra in the book. That must have been the proverbial penny drop moment. And in two years, Dhingra had her own macaron store.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In September this year, famed luxury French bakery and “macaron specialist”, Laduree, opened its first ever India store in Delhi’s Khan Market. The storied bakery—159-years-old, and world-famous for its double-decker macarons—is present in 25 countries. Its Delhi outpost occupies a three-storeyed building spread over 1,800 square feet. A cheerful Dhingra can hardly feel threatened. She sounds even more excited about how far India has traversed in embracing the petite concoction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I am a big fan of Laduree. I have their macaron keychain with my house keys on it. I always ate there when I was in Paris,” remembers Dhingra. “It is indicative of how big the Indian market is. If a luxury French patisserie has done their market research and opened in India, you obviously see potential. They kind of started macarons in France. They are like the inventors. It took me so long, so much effort to educate people on what macarons were. It is great that they are here. The pressure of educating people about the dessert will be off me,” says Dhingra who grew up in a family of aspiring bakers such as her aunt and her grandmother. Her own mother has a large collection of cookbooks, which Dhingra devours like storybooks. “My mother, too, wanted to go to Cordon Bleu and be a baker herself. She couldn’t do it; I fulfilled that dream for her,” says a beaming Dhingra.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If there is a dessert of the decade, what could be next after cupcakes, cheesecakes and the macaron? “It could be entremet-like glazed cakes. They are really picking up in India,” says Dhingra, referring to the multi-layered mousse cake with a shiny surface. For her part, Dhingra would love to revive the pineapple cream cake from her childhood. Currently obsessing over the butter cookies in Apple TV comedy-drama Ted Lasso, she rues the absence of standalone baking shows from India on OTT platforms. “I am waiting for someone to offer a show. I will do it tomorrow,” she says.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/04/india-macaron-queen-pooja-dhingra-is-ready-to-flip-the-next-chapter.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/12/04/india-macaron-queen-pooja-dhingra-is-ready-to-flip-the-next-chapter.html Sat Dec 04 12:23:21 IST 2021 union-minister-smriti-irani-makes-her-writing-debut-with-a-crime-thriller <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/11/25/union-minister-smriti-irani-makes-her-writing-debut-with-a-crime-thriller.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/2021/11/25/62-Smriti-Irani-new.jpg" /> <p>At home, Smriti Irani has plotted a thriller. A pug keeps a wary eye on the office of the Union minister for women and child development at 28, Tughlaq Crescent, New Delhi. Chloe, distinctly unimpressed with new entrants, is sunning herself on a day when the Delhi winter does not seem like a death sentence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The driveway is dotted with green—date palms, fragrant parijat, a row of champa and sweet lime in full bloom. Sitting under a date palm is the last ring of security, Sheru—black as the nights in Himachal Pradesh, from where he was found on a road and rescued.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Irani’s debut novel, Lal Salaam, is out next week. It is 10:30am on a weekday and Irani, 15kg lighter—“Covid,” she offers as explanation—sits behind her favourite painting, Durga on a tiger. Every conceivable contemporary Indian master’s work—from Jamini Roy’s cat to Anjolie Ela Menon’s jewel—hang on her walls. As do a pantheon of gods that greet visitors at the entrance, with a fresh dot of marigold flower at the base of their portraits.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I think life came full circle at a very young age. I was barely 36-37 when I became a cabinet minister,” she says. “I think there was a lot of reflection on the fact that there has been nothing that I have put my finger on that I have not managed to do. I was an audacious child. I remember my mother giving me a tight whack when I was around 10. Because, I was absolutely confident that I was going to be somebody. It was at a time when we were struggling financially. She looked at me and said, ‘Just look around you, what makes you say that you will.’ I just said, ‘Don’t worry, I will.’”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And she did. It is this self-assurance, with a little bit of defiance—often too easily mistaken as brash by her opponents—that has become Irani’s signature. Irani, 45, has proven, time and again, that she is a survivor. “I have had a political obituary written about me in 2016,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A natural storyteller, Irani shares the childhood anecdote within minutes of the interview, ensuring you are hooked and rooting for her. Irani, the politician, is sharp, articulate and combative; Irani, the writer, is disarmingly chatty, sharer of Delhi insider tips on where to find a bargain. Her extended family includes actors Boman Irani and John Abraham, and writer Anosh Irani.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One other politician who dared make the leap into fiction was former prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao (not while he was in office). The Insider—complete with political treachery and steamy scenes—created more controversy than anything else. It was believed to be loosely modelled on Rao’s political career. There was a sequel, which was never published.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Irani’s is not a thinly disguised version of her life in politics. There will be a few characters that are easy to distinguish, but none of them politicians. Lal Salaam is an all-out thriller, very much in the Bollywood style. Vikram Pratap Singh, a young officer, is posted in the heart of Naxal land and is tasked with avenging the killing of 70 CRPF officers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Written over two years, Irani’s slim book is a twisty page-turner. So much so that it kept her editor V.K. Karthika’s 80-year-old mother awake at night. “I write as the world sleeps,” says Irani. “The fact that I have insomnia helped.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book was born out of a TV debate in 2011—high-octane, emotional and, as always with Irani, immensely quotable. “I was so outraged,” she recalls. “One of the panellists said that security personnel know when they wear their uniforms that they are to die. I was furious. I said, ‘Imagine if somebody who loves them is watching us now. Can you imagine how thankless we seem?’ The fact that the rage sustained over a decade, speaks volumes of how I felt at that moment. I wanted to do it in a very fictional [style] and [with] many characters steeped in satire.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Irani paints a vivid picture of the Naxal area, offering readers the complexity of the situation—not preachy, but with masala. It is clear who the heroes are, and the villains; but there are shades of grey. There is even a young, fiery, honest journalist.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This may be her first book, but it is not her last. There are two others in the pipeline, completely different from her first. The second is almost halfway done. The book found its way to publishing like everything with Irani, a little unusually. A frequent visitor to Khan Market and BahriSons—booksellers to politicians across the divide—Irani found herself an agent, Anuj Bahri, and the book an editor, Karthika, who has under her belt the last Indian writer to win the Booker Prize, Aravind Adiga.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I love my editor because she would not let a word by just because I am Smriti Irani,” she says. “We are ideologically poles apart. So, for us to come to a conclusion on a book is genuinely a sign of a healthy relationship between an author and editor.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is difficult to fit Irani into a stereotype—she always finds a way not to. A beauty contestant aspirant, Irani went on to become one of the biggest names in the television world, playing a traditional bahu in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi (2000). Tulsi—complete with a vermillion streak—became a phenomenon, an upholder of the Indian family values, and Irani, the highest paid actress.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet, it was Irani who chose to “trust Indian families” and took her on-screen son to jail when he raped a woman. It was a scene Irani wrote herself, tearing up what writers had worked on for seven days. “From I am going to die, it just turned around to Tulsi telling her son that there is nothing manly about [rape]; that it makes you a napunsak (impotent). Ekta literally choked,” she says, laughing. “But she let it fly. It became the highest-rated scene.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a politician, Irani keeps alive her Tulsi image—a mother of three, the dutiful wife who eats last—but she is not squeamish about ambition. “I don’t have any guilt as a mother,” she says. “I saw what guilt did to my mother—that your whole life is only [about] your relationships…. That I love my family is not disputed. That I do not have an empty nest syndrome is true. That I will not fall apart if everybody leaves is also true. That is just me.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She ventured into politics very much as an outsider. Very much like her career in acting. Eighteen years later, with many firsts to her name from her career in television and politics, Irani is still very much a loner in politics. But that does not seem to bother her. She works 18 hours a day—a skill she learnt on the set.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She keeps to herself, does not have an entourage—something she is very proud of—grants very few interviews and guards her privacy fiercely. “I think most of the critique of my political being was very personal,” she says. “It was never about a policy decision. I think it is because I would not mollycoddle anyone. I am not somebody who has cultivated journalists.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This was probably a piece of advice that she was given by Jaswant Singh that she ignored. In 2003, “Jaswant Singh, the legend” called her for a cup of tea. “He said, ‘I want you to understand that you need to be nice to a particular set of journalists for you to be covered well. You have potential, but you need that support,’” she recalls.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I had that lovely cup of tea. I enjoyed the company of Jaswant Singh. Gawked at him. Asked him everything about geopolitics that I have ever wanted to ask him. And I said a stout no. He said, ‘You know you won’t survive.’ I said, ‘I will.’ I did it when I was in the media business. I did not have a PR agency. I did not have a manager. So, I said, ‘Don’t worry, I will manage in politics just fine.’”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Irani thrives on rising to the challenge, the more impossible the better. “It is one life. You live it,” she says. “You bear the consequences for it. So, the decision of how you want to lead it better be yours. I decided that when I was 17.” Each time her career was written off, she rose to fight another day. She has had the heaviest portfolios—human resource development, and information and broadcasting—where she pulled off a successful International Film Festival of India. While the two portfolios were dropped, the schemes she had initiated continued.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Irani, however, stayed on in the cabinet, with the textiles and the women and child development ministries. Though the textiles portfolio has been dropped, she still is a powerful voice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But it has not been easy. Her first election was fought in Chandni Chowk in 2004, when she was still very much the favourite bahu. Irani gave it her all, but lost to Congress stalwart Kapil Sibal. In 2014, she was pitted against Rahul Gandhi in Amethi. She lost, but refused to forget. Her team—handpicked and available—worked hard. And, Irani transformed from the bahu to the didi of Amethi to finally become the giant-killer in 2019.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I don’t have an entourage,” she says. “I don’t walk around with this whole bevy of cars or people. I still remember when I went to fight the Amethi elections, there was this youngster who said, ‘You know, didi, there is a problem with your politics. Aapke paas bhaukal nahi hai.’ I asked, ‘What do you mean by bhaukal (pageantry)?’ He said, ‘When you walk, you should have 50 cars behind you.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I said, ‘Can you imagine how reduced an individual I would be if I needed a bevy of cars to resonate with people as a politician.’ People don’t want representatives far removed from them. They want somebody who is empathetic, someone who is approachable.” Irani wants to be just that. It is clear whom the barb is meant for.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Irani’s power is people. Whether it is her audience or voter, she knows, she knows the pulse of the people and just the right pitch. It is no different with her book.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lal Salaam: A Novel</b></p> <p>By Smriti Zubin Irani</p> <p>Published by Westland</p> <p>Pages 256, price Rs399</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/11/25/union-minister-smriti-irani-makes-her-writing-debut-with-a-crime-thriller.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/11/25/union-minister-smriti-irani-makes-her-writing-debut-with-a-crime-thriller.html Mon Nov 29 10:09:03 IST 2021 no-jealousy-in-romance-it-is-complete-surrender <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/11/25/no-jealousy-in-romance-it-is-complete-surrender.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/2021/11/25/67-Mohanlal.jpg" /> <p>A conversation with Malayalam superstar Mohanlal is almost like talking to a spiritual guru. One gets to hear words like “love”, “divinity”, “happenstance” and “providence” multiple times. And, Lal testifies that a sort of “detached attachment”—almost in an Osho sort of way—is very important to him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a career spanning over 43 years, Lal has acted in more than 360 films in different languages, winning hearts and accolades. In a chat with THE WEEK, he opens up about life, relationships, politics and the next release, the much-awaited Marakkar: Lion of the Arabian Sea, which will hit screens on December 2.</p> <p><b>Q\ After a gap of almost two years, your film is going to hit the theatres. What are your thoughts?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ A film on Kunjali Marakkar has been a dream that Priyan (director Priyadarshan) and I have shared for the last 25 years. Marakkar is one of our earliest freedom fighters and the first naval commander who fought for our country. But not many people know about him as not much has been written about him. It remained a distant dream for many years. But as destiny would have it, it is happening now after a series of hurdles.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ You are said to be a ‘natural actor’. How did you prepare for this role?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ Kunjali Marakkar was a real person. Even though the story may have happened in the past, the emotions of people are the same. People get angry the same way; people love each other the same way. This Marakkar has been performed according to my perspective, and we arrived at it after years of research and subtle detailing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ You have a decades-long association with Priyadarshan.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ We have mutual respect. We understand each other so well. He knows what I am capable of, and I understand what he wants. We trust each other completely. He has pan Indian exposure and is one of the most sought-after filmmakers in the country. He has grown with every film. It was destiny that brought us together.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ There were rumours that Marakkar’s producer wanted to release the film on an OTT platform.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ We always wanted a theatre release, as it is a movie for big screens. But in the Covid-19 scenario, there were some apprehensions. It will be released later on OTT platforms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Your previous film, Drishyam 2: The Resumption, was produced exclusively for OTT platforms and was a super hit. How do OTT platforms impact content and production?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ OTT platforms opened up new opportunities for hundreds of people and helped many families survive the pandemic. A traditional Kerala Christian name like Georgekutty (the protagonist of Drishyam 2) became popular across the country; this was possible only because of the OTTs. It does impact content as there is not much censorship and allows more creative freedom.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ You have done several characters that glorified toxic masculinity in your career.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ A movie becomes a hit when common people identify with the characters. When a hundred people watch a film, there will be a hundred perspectives. Those films had great storylines, and all those dialogues had a context. A dialogue becomes toxic only when we place it out of context. Context gives value to every scene. And if one look closely, love is camouflaged in all such films... But is there any point in performing a post-mortem on films that I did 25 years back?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Dramatic changes happened in Malayalam cinema in the last decade. Now Mollywood has more female-centric films and female characters who are bold enough to say “sex is not a promise” to the hero. I asked the previous question in this context.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ The whole world is changing. Male-female equations also have changed. It is good that things are changing. As I said earlier, everything looks awkward when taken out of context. I am a performer, and my responsibility as an actor is to do justice to the character. That is my social commitment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Kerala is a state where people have strong political affiliations. But you seem to be an exception.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ I am socially conscious and observe what is happening around me. I have no proximity to any party, or rather, I connect with all parties. My ultimate affiliation is towards my country only.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ You have a close relationship with both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan—two leaders who are diametrically opposite in their ideologies.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ Modi is our prime minister and Pinarayi Vijayan is my state’s chief minister. They are in those positions because people trust them. Both want the best for the people of this country. My relationship with them is not political but personal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Coming back to films, what are your criteria for choosing a film?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ I hear many stories daily. I do a film if the script thrills me. It is best if the director himself is the scriptwriter. If a bad director gets a good script, we may still get a good film. But if a good director gets a bad script, the final product can still be bad. So, the script is ultimate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Late actor Srividya once said that Mohanlal was born to be an actor. When did you realise that you want to be one?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ Everything in my life is a coincidence. I entered films because a friend applied for an audition on my behalf. I have had the luck to be part of some good films of many great filmmakers like Aravindan, Bharathan, P. Padmarajan, Blessy…. I just go with the flow, bowing to the sublime’s plans.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ You are said to be a die-hard romantic—both onscreen and off-screen.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ Yes, I am. In the play Chayamukhi, Bhima says: “It is easy to love anyone, but what is difficult is to make others love us.” If we love someone, we need to go to any extent to look at things from their perspective. Love, for me, is complete surrender, not dominance. Many have misunderstood love and romance. Love is mundane, while romance is a beautiful state of mind. There is no jealousy in romance; it is complete surrender. Possessiveness comes out of fear.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Are you insecure—as a person or as an actor?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ An uncouth person like me survived in the film industry for these many years. That itself is the handiwork of the divine. I have never planned [my career], but have always gone with the flow. One becomes insecure only when one has unfulfilled dreams. The maximum that can happen to us is death. Then, what is there to be insecure about? My life has been a combination of happenstance and divine interventions. All I feel is gratitude towards the sublime.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/11/25/no-jealousy-in-romance-it-is-complete-surrender.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/11/25/no-jealousy-in-romance-it-is-complete-surrender.html Sun Nov 28 09:42:31 IST 2021 marakkar-is-on-a-scale-bigger-than-baahubali-says-priyadarshan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/11/25/marakkar-is-on-a-scale-bigger-than-baahubali-says-priyadarshan.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/2021/11/25/69-Mohanlal.jpg" /> <p>Priyadarshan and Mohanlal form arguably one of the most successful director-actor combos in Indian cinema. And, cinephiles across the country have waited too long for their magnum opus, Marakkar: Lion of the Arabia Sea. It was originally scheduled to release in March 2020. The film, “a collective dream” shared by the duo for over 20 years, is finally hitting the screens on December 2, across 3,300 screens worldwide.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The dream of making a movie on Kunjali Marakkar—one of the first freedom fighters in our country, and certainly the first naval commander who fought Portuguese invasion—has been with us for more than two decades,” said Priyadarshan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As per the available history, there were four Kunjali Marakkars, and it is believed that their bloodline ended with the fourth. “What I did was to take the basic thread of his story from a text I had learned when I was in school and give it my spin,” said the director.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was during the shoot of Kalapani—a 1996 classic by the Priyadarshan-Mohanlal combo—that the idea of a film on Marakkar took birth. According to the director, the lack of ample historical writings was one reason that the film took these many years to become a reality.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Another hurdle was the huge budget it required,” he said. “Also, the fact that almost half the story is set in the sea posed bigger challenges—we needed to recreate war galleys of the Portuguese and the battle sequences in the sea.” Sabu Cyril, art director of the movie, is said to have done a wonderful job in recreating the past, and the film set of Marakkar is now one of the most popular attractions in the Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film, which was made with a budget of Rs100 crore, boasts breath-taking visuals and graphics. It won three accolades–best feature film, best special effects and best costume—at the 67th National Film Awards. Siddharth, who won the award for special effects, is Priyadarshan’s son. “We are the first father-son duo to get national awards together. It was a proud moment,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mohanlal said he considered it a blessing that he got to play a historic figure like Marakkar. “He was an expert navigator and that is the reason we have dubbed him the Lion of the Arabian Sea,” he said. “Marakkar is the story of a man who fought valiantly for the country and failed. Such stories also needed to be told.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Covid-19 derailed the release schedule of the film. “We went through lots of ups and downs,” says Antony Perumbavoor, producer. The film’s release had courted controversy as there were rumours that it would be released on OTT platforms and not in theatres. Film exhibitors in Kerala, who had been waiting for a superstar movie to come out of the Covid-induced meltdown, opposed this move. Subsequently, the Kerala government got involved in the tussle, and finally it was decided that the movie would have a theatre release.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“This is a movie which has to be seen on the big screens,” says Perumbavoor. “As a producer, it was my dream to release it on the big screen despite the financial compulsions.” The film will be released on OTT platforms later.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When asked about the comparisons with S.S. Rajamouli’s Baahubali, Priyadarshan said: “Marakkar is on a scale bigger than Baahubali. The former was fiction, while this is history. We Indians are way behind others in celebrating our patriotic spirit, except in cricket stadiums. We must celebrate our heroes.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He added that Marakkar’s secular character was a huge attraction for him. “He was a Muslim who fought under a Hindu king for our country,” said Priyadarshan. “Marakkar proved that love for one’s country is more important than love for one’s religion. He is someone every Indian, especially the Muslim community, would feel proud of.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/11/25/marakkar-is-on-a-scale-bigger-than-baahubali-says-priyadarshan.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/11/25/marakkar-is-on-a-scale-bigger-than-baahubali-says-priyadarshan.html Sun Nov 28 09:41:20 IST 2021 art-show-lokame-tharavadu-celebrates-diversity-even-in-its-search-for-oneness <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/11/25/art-show-lokame-tharavadu-celebrates-diversity-even-in-its-search-for-oneness.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/2021/11/25/70-Lokame-Tharavadu.jpg" /> <p>There is a tense stillness in Tom Vattakuzhy’s works exhibited at Lokame Tharavadu (The world is one family), a larger-than-life art show taking place in the port city of Alappuzha in Kerala. In one, a blazing sky hovers over a house, threatening to engulf it any moment. Even in the stillness, one can sense the suppressed motion. As though the clouds are on their way from the canvas to some unknown destination. Somewhere nearby a storm is brewing. The colours used are stark—an angry grey bruising the skyline. The house might be a metaphor for the artist’s mind, a bulwark against life’s chaos.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Bose Krishnamachari, who conceptualised the show, ‘home’ represents the universal spirit of humanity. “A Malayali’s nature is like that of a chameleon,” he says. “They merge with the surroundings wherever they go. That is why I called the exhibition, ‘The world is one family’. I wanted to capture this spirit of acceptance.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram, from tea shops in small rural pockets to urban drawing rooms, Krishnamachari went searching for his artists. Kerala, he says, is the most receptive place for ideas and ideologies. Malayalis are raised on Kafka and other philosophers, and this is reflected in the surrealism of their works.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Krishnamachari has provided the perfect space for these works—musty warehouses and dilapidated factories transformed into gallery spaces with architecturally smooth lines and a maze-like flow to them, like grooves in which thought is trapped. The show is spread out across seven venues in a 2sqkm area. They have already sold works worth Rs3 crore, says Krishnamachari.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Interestingly, for a show that is hinged on the theme of oneness, it is the diversity that comes through. Whether it is in the themes (gender, identity, memory, society, patriarchy, inequality and migration) or the mediums (digital works, photography, videos, assemblages, paintings, augmented reality and graphics). Perhaps what binds is the inward gaze, a meditative search for emancipation from a world of ‘isms’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Take the work of C. Bhagyanath, an artist based in Kochi. As a migrant from a rural to an urban space, his cityscape is a sphere of restless activity, with people striving to climb to higher platforms. Yet, each platform seems brittle, breakable. Any moment it might all give way—the edifice of dreams, hopes and ambitions—into a collective heap at the bottom. Against the inky blackness, the people are pinpricks of light. But, being birthed from the dark, can we really be creatures of light?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While some artists like Bara Bhaskaran personalise the political—his ‘Chambers of Amazing Museum’ imagines the lives of the women who were widowed during the Punnapra-Vayalar revolt of 1946—others politicise the personal. Like artist Indu Antony, who has collected discarded photos of women found on the road and in antique shops. These women, says Antony, have become a part of herself. But these photographs are ephemeral, much like the abandoned women. Before they fade into nothingness, she stitches their edges with her hair. The only part of the photographs that will remain, the hair will frame the empty spaces where once inhabited people with everyday concerns, habits, expressions, personalities…. “Weaved with my hair, this poem is a reflection of a journey and a time,” she writes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The exhibition showcases both the works of established artists like K.S. Radhakrishnan, Jalaja P.S. and Jitish Kallat as well as those who are relatively newcomers. “I chose artists based on their creativity and consistency,” says Krishnamachari. “Whether they were poor or well-off, or whether they had won awards or not, did not matter to me.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Much like the people of Kerala, one can witness an amazing diversity in the exhibits. There are political, ideological and nostalgic works, and those suffused with the wonderful whimsy of magic realism. Some are a social commentary, like the works of Blodsow V.S. In one, he captures the travails of saleswomen in textile shops by showcasing a spectrum of vivid blouse materials. The work also highlights the struggle of lower caste women in erstwhile Kerala for the right to wear a blouse. The fabrics provide a portal to connect the past with the present, while at the same time making a statement about body, control, labour and gender constructs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“While I was working at the Cholamandal Artists’ Village in Chennai, I came to Kerala one Onam to visit my girlfriend,” says Blodsow. “I happened to visit a textile shop with my girlfriend and mother. When I saw the materials for the blouse pieces, immediately the idea struck. During my research on the spectrum series, I came across the work of Ellsworth Kelly and this series is a tribute to her.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Smitha G.S., the desolation of the pandemic led to a brilliant series of paintings in which she conceptualises the world as she wishes it could be. The reddish-gold hills fade into an impenetrable future and the rocks are relics from her childhood. “During Nipah, I used a colour palette of grey,” she says. “I don’t know why. The colours are a representation of my mood. I don’t choose them. They choose me.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As you make your way outside, the blinding sun silhouettes clusters of people—laughing students grouped on the sidewalk, looking like they walked straight out of a college catalogue; men smoking beedis in shaded spots; passers-by who seem to know exactly what they want and are headed towards it. One walks out into the bustle of life, as though released from the floodlit corners of these artists’ imagination.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/11/25/art-show-lokame-tharavadu-celebrates-diversity-even-in-its-search-for-oneness.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/11/25/art-show-lokame-tharavadu-celebrates-diversity-even-in-its-search-for-oneness.html Sun Nov 28 09:38:55 IST 2021