Leisure http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure.rss en Fri Mar 13 16:36:23 IST 2020 https://www.theweek.in/privacy-an-settlement.html power-between-the-lines <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/18/power-between-the-lines.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/2021/3/18/121-Queen-Gandhari-and-King-Dhritarashtra.jpg" /> <p>For once, she is able to see things with clarity—the devastation of war, the deceit of the throne and the audacity of the lies that surround human life and relationships. Queen Gandhari, wife of Dhritarashtra, the blind king of Hastinavati, is staring at a bleak future as her 100 sons (Kauravas) are now dead. There is gloom, misery, remorse and anger in the Kuru clan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Veda Vyasa’s epic, the Mahabharat, Gandhari is the virtuous woman who blindfolded herself when she finds out that the man she is going to marry, Dhritarashtra, was born blind. In Parva, the latest theatre experiment of Mysuru-based Rangayana, a government-funded repertory, Gandhari yields to Krishna’s request and removes the scarf blinding her eyes and confesses her darkest secret before the world. “I blindfolded myself out of contempt for my blind husband as I was coerced into marriage by Bhishma, my father-in-law,” admits Gandhari.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Parva, the seven-and-a-half-hour play adapted from the eponymous novel by renowned Kannada writer Dr S.L. Bhyrappa, has been directed by Prakash Belawadi. The audience response has been overwhelming for the long-format drama with three coffee breaks and a lunch break. It is a landmark production, which has witnessed the 800-seater Kalamandir in Mysuru running full house since the first show on March 12.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“In my last four decades in theatre, I noticed Maharashtra, West Bengal, Kerala, NSD Delhi and the Bhopal Rangmanch have had a strong presence in Indian theatre with their unique experiments,” said Addanda C. Cariappa, director, Mysuru Rangayana. “After I took over as director a year ago, I was keen to produce a play that could draw attention to Kannada theatre. Rangayana has previously produced plays based on legendary Kannada writer Kuvempu’s Malegalalli Madumagalu and Sri Ramayana Darshanam. I chose S.L. Bhyrappa’s Parva for its sheer strength, progressive thought, strong message and appeal.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bhyrappa readily agreed to Belawadi directing the play. Cariappa said the team started work on the script during the lockdown and Bhyrappa not only approved the script, but also sat through four rehearsals to fine tune it. He added that Parva is the first adaptation of a modern retelling of the Mahabharat in Indian theatre. In 1985, British playwright Peter Brooke’s Le Mahabharata was staged in France.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a first, the Karnataka government has announced a grant of Rs1 crore to take the play across India. “We plan to tour the country,” said Cariappa. “The play has three parts—Adi, Niyoga and Yuddha parvas. It will be staged as separate episodes of two hours each from Thursdays to Saturdays and in the marathon format on Sundays.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The challenge for Belawadi was to transform a 696-page literary work into a play that could be narrated within a few hours, with a small team of 32 actors, 10 technicians and five musicians. Each actor is playing more than 10 roles, as there are more than 120 characters in the script.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The novel was conceived by Bhyrappa during a casual discussion with a friend. During his travel to the Himalayas, he was intrigued by a village in the Gadhwal region that practised polyandry. The locals claimed it was a tradition since the “Draupadi era”. Bhyrappa was engrossed in his research on Vyasa’s epic for the next five years, as he tried to comprehend the last phase of the Vedic period, its social, economic, religious and political facets. Subsequently, he extended his travel to places that found mention in the Mahabharat. It took him another 14 months to write the novel.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I tried to imagine the magnitude of the war and the size of the army from the expanse of the battlefield,” writes Bhyrappa in the introduction. “Though we believe that Pandavas fought to uphold dharma (truth), I realised a sizeable majority fought against the Pandavas in the ‘Dharma Yuddha’. So, I decided that my story of the great war will not just focus on the Arya dynasties, but also on the non-Aryan clans, their traits and the impact of war on their lives.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Parva is the extreme of consciousness narrative,” said Belawadi. “It is a monologic narrative translated into dialogue, to make it a human drama.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bhyrappa’s novel has seeded new thought and new interpretation of the Mahabharat. The adaptation has a strong narrative that amplifies the voices of ordinary women and men in the epic, who were overshadowed by the powerful heroes. Here, time is the enchantress and the rest mere pawns.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The characters in Parva, be it Krishna, Bhishma, Karna or the Pandavas, are more human than divine. Parva approaches the Mahabharat as history and not myth. The play opens symbolically with the last scene in the Mahabharat with a blindfolded Gandhari freeing herself to see a post-war Hastinavati, as though hinting at the audience to take another look at the popular story with a new perspective. Parva unravels the unspoken travails and tribulations of Draupadi, Gandhari and Kunti, which are missing in Vyasa’s Mahabharat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The stagecraft and the minimalist stage help you transcend time and space even as the play oscillates between the past and present to establish the link, familiarises you with the kings, kingdoms, warriors, landscapes, minds and mannerisms of people, the socio-political hegemony and the politics of discrimination.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The format of the play engages the audience by stirring debate on ethics, morality and justice. The wavering stance of the allied kingdoms when asked to choose between Pandavas and Kauravas in the war opens up a debate over what is dharma (truth) and adharma (non-truth). It also mocks the social order that accords high status, power and privilege to the sons of the king and queen but denies dignity to the sootha putras (born to the king and his slave).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To accusations of Rangayana propagating the BJP’s hindutva agenda by promoting the work of a rightist writer, Cariappa responds: “We chose Parva for its progressive thought. You may call Parva as a leftist writing by a rightist writer. The story has a feminist perspective, a strong voice questioning the social order. It deals with consequences of war as devastating not just to the powerful kings but also to the commons. Art is always democratic.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/18/power-between-the-lines.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/18/power-between-the-lines.html Thu Mar 18 21:11:10 IST 2021 even-steven <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/18/even-steven.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/2021/3/18/124-Spielberg-and-Ted-sarandos.jpg" /> <p>Size matters for Steven Spielberg. For 40 years, he has been filming leviathans in motion—a monster truck chasing a car (Duel, 1971); a great white shark hunting revellers (Jaws, 1975); enormous reptiles wreaking havoc (Jurassic Park, 1993); mammoth tripods invading earth (War of the Worlds, 2005); a big friendly giant saving a girl (The BFG, 2016), and so on. Even his ‘smaller’ and supposedly character-driven films—Lincoln and The Post, for instance—have titans towering over ordinary mortals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Spielberg’s fascination with size is the reason that he came out against Netflix in 2019. The Netflix model denies filmmakers control over screen size, which auteurs like Spielberg consider unacceptable. Cinema, in their view, is a communal art form in which “people leave the safe and familiar of their lives and go to a place, sit in the company of others, and have a shared experience—cry together, laugh together, be afraid together—so that when it is over, they might feel a little less like strangers.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the time, Spielberg was member of the governing board of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, best known as the home of the Oscars. He wanted the academy to stop nominating films made for streaming platforms. “Once you commit to a television format,” he said, “you are a TV movie. If it’s a good show, you certainly deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like many in Hollywood, Spielberg felt that Netflix was gaming the Oscars system, which is a complex network of interest groups whose activities skew more towards politics than art. The academy, for instance, is made up of more than a dozen “branches” related to the craft of filmmaking—one branch each for actors, directors, writers, producers, cinematographers, editors, costume designers, visual effects artists, and so on. Each branch sends three members to the academy’s governing board, the apex body that effectively steers the world’s most influential film industry.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though largely decorous, the power tussles and ego clashes within the academy—branch against branch, member against member, board against executive—would put a pork-barrelling politician to shame. Case in point: Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s co-CEO who oversees all content for the platform, has long been shut out of the board. Sarandos spends more money on movies and employs more academy members than several veteran producers combined, but when it comes to a seat at the high table, he is quite the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s court.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Spielberg, close to the head of this table, fears that the Netflix model will wipe out theatres. “The greatest contribution we can make as filmmakers is to give audiences the motion-picture theatrical experience,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In March 2019, weeks after Netflix’s Roma had lost the Oscar race for best picture to a less well-received film that was theatrically released, Spielberg and Sarandos decided to have dinner together. Sarandos, too, is someone who appreciates size—in terms of budget, if not screen size. He spends around $20 billion a year on content for Netflix—a sum adequate to send 300 spacecraft to Mars, and several times more than what traditional Hollywood studios spend on their films. After the meeting, Spielberg issued a statement “clarifying” his position. “I want people to find their entertainment in any form or fashion that suits them,” he wrote. “Big screen, small screen—what really matters to me is a great story…. But I want the theatrical experience to remain relevant in our culture.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A year later, as the pandemic forced theatres into hibernation and Netflix subscriptions boomed, Sarandos was elected chairman of the board of trustees of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. His flagship project in that position: overseeing the construction of a 3,00,000-sqft museum dedicated to the history, technology and business of filmmaking. The irony is quite delicious. Thanks to streaming platforms, changes in filmmaking are coming so thick and fast that the academy will have no shortage of additions for the museum.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This year’s Oscar nominations are the most visible sign of the ongoing paradigm shift in Hollywood. Artistically, the Oscars have transformed itself from a “very local” event (as a prominent South Korean director once described it) to a truly ‘international’ one. The nominations have led to a playing field that is unprecedentedly diverse and inclusive—so diverse that only one white American has been nominated for Best Director (David Fincher, Mank).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are other remarkable firsts: A Muslim and an Asian American are up for Best Actor (Riz Ahmed and Steven Yeun); a woman of colour has been nominated for Best Director (Chloe Zhao, Nomadland); more than one woman is up for Best Director (Zhao and Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman); a black woman has received a second Best Actress nomination (Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom); a black actor has been nominated posthumously for Best Actor (Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s); and an all-black team of producers has been nominated for Best Picture (Judas and the Black Messiah). There is even a Danish drama in contention in a main category.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The biggest change, though, is something that Spielberg would have balked at in 2019: Netflix, and not a traditional Hollywood studio, has bagged the most nominations (35). Ten of these are for Mank, which only had a limited theatrical release—that, too, mostly for critics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the times are so changing that Spielberg is unlikely to complain. In fact, Netflix has just given him reason to smile, by helping him realise a long-pending dream. In 1982, Spielberg had bought the film rights to The Talisman, an acclaimed fantasy novel by Stephen King and Peter Straub. He has for decades been wrestling with the book’s length and complexity to make it into a feature-length film. “I am hoping to get this movie made in the next couple of years,” Spielberg said in 2018. “It is something that I have wanted to see to come to theatres for the last 35 years.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Netflix will now help Spielberg produce it lavishly—not as a film for theatres, but as a multi-episode series exclusively for the platform. Work on it will begin sometime later this year, perhaps just in time when Sarandos will be ready to welcome Hollywood nobility into the academy’s new museum.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/18/even-steven.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/18/even-steven.html Fri Mar 19 12:27:00 IST 2021 nature-symphony <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/18/nature-symphony.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/2021/3/18/128-dhee-new.jpg" /> <p>It is hardly a surprise that the Tamil song ‘Enjoy Enjaami’ has clocked in more than 25 million views since its release last week. It is the independent single of Dhee, the singer who was behind the ‘billion big’ ‘Rowdy Baby’ from 2019. Colombo-born Dhee, who currently lives in Chennai, is the first core artist to release a song under A.R. Rahman’s new-age label, maajja. Shot in collaboration with rapper and lyricist Arivu, known for his deeply political work, ‘Enjoy Enjaami’ pays homage to our ancestors. Pegged for big things, the 22-year-old talks to THE WEEK.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ How did ‘Enjoy Enjaami’ happen? Who came up with the idea?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ Maajja asked if I’d be interested in doing a song for YAALL festival prior to my album that maajja was also producing. I was super excited about the idea, and thought it would be amazing to do my first independent song in Tamil. Meanwhile, Arivu and I had spoken about collaborating and this felt like the perfect opportunity for us to work on a song together along with Santhosh appa (Santhosh Narayanan, film composer). We discussed with Manikandan sir (director), who inspired the song immensely. This song has a piece of all three of us. We wanted the song to celebrate nature, our roots, ancestors and all life forms, not just humans.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ How do you feel about the state of Tamil independent music? Who are the artistes you are excited to work with?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ There is an abundance of talent here. It is true that it is not big at the moment, but the potential is huge. The hope is that a platform like majjaa can start transforming the scene and, we also hope, create opportunities for artistes and producers. Right now, I am particularly excited by ofRo’s work; he is a music producer based out of Chennai. Aditya Ravindran’s an amazing musician. I have always loved and admired [playback singer and music director] Pradeep Kumar’s work. I think his albums Yodhakaa and Poorvaa are monumental in world music.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ How do you look back on the success of ‘Rowdy Baby’? Did you have any inkling when you recorded the song of what was in store for it?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ I did not have any expectations! It is amazing and surreal. It was a catchy song, but I did not expect it to be a billion big. I am always surprised when I see how much children adore the song. Again, I just feel really lucky and grateful to be a small part of ‘Rowdy Baby’.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/18/nature-symphony.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/18/nature-symphony.html Thu Mar 18 16:00:51 IST 2021 pretty-evil <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/10/pretty-evil.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/2021/3/10/wandavision.jpg" /> <p><b>M</b>arvel Studios does what it wants and millions worldwide lap it up; that is clear from its record since Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) began in 2008. Thankfully, with its latest offering <i>WandaVision</i>, the studio has experimented a little. The nine-episode miniseries, which had its finale on March 5, explores grief and identity metaphysics, while disguised as a superhero story.</p> <p>The very first shot, in monochrome and a 4:3 aspect ratio, makes it clear that this is different from anything else in the MCU. Sitcom tropes supply humour and just as you start getting used to the weirdness of it, the show gives you a peek into the dark undertone. And not much more, at least not immediately.</p> <p>It continues in the same vein for some time and would have been boring if not for the commitment to the format—the show jumps through decades with each episode and the first seven episodes recreate the feel of different classic US sitcoms. Its biggest strength is making viewers feel like they, too, are trapped inside this alternate reality.</p> <p>Soon, the “real world” catches up. But, apart from one brilliant sequence at the start of episode four, it is a disappointment. Filled with MCU clichés, it is only salvaged by some good performances. Thankfully, the aspect ratio changes to widescreen when the show jumps out of the alternate reality—a warning that formulaic writing follows.</p> <p>Elizabeth Olsen is brilliant. Her ability to replicate performances from the old shows deserves special mention. She is already being considered a contender for an Emmy. And she looks set to play a major part in the MCU in the near future.</p> <p>Through <i>WandaVision</i>, Marvel has managed to salvage the character played by Olsen—Wanda Maximoff aka the Scarlet Witch. One of the most powerful characters in the MCU, it felt almost as if she was written out of the latter parts of the Infinity Saga (Phase One to Phase Three) which ended in 2019. If not, the more popular, evidently less powerful, heroes may not have got the closure their character arcs warranted.</p> <p>Interestingly, <i>WandaVision</i>—the start of the MCU’s Phase Four—invokes, and explains, the ship of Theseus thought experiment. The MCU has had snippets of philosophy under the surface, like Captain America’s deontological ethics (emphasis on relationship between duty and morality of actions) and Thanos’s consequentialism (belief that actions should be judged on the basis of consequences). But, here philosophy got screen time amid an action-packed finale.</p> <p>Hopefully, this reference to identity metaphysics and the acts of pure evil by the show’s grief-stricken heroine indicates that MCU characters will be more layered going forward.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>WandaVision</b></p> <p><b>Available on Disney+ Hotstar</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 4/5</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/10/pretty-evil.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/10/pretty-evil.html Wed Mar 10 19:12:57 IST 2021 the-feminine-mystique <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/10/the-feminine-mystique.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/2021/3/10/shruti-haasan.jpg" /> <p>Shruti Haasan will be seen next in Netflix’s four-part Telugu anthology, <i>Pitta Kathalu</i>. It is a woman-oriented project, with each story exploring the life and mind of a female character. The anthology, in which Haasan plays an emotionally-charged character called Divya, is a searing take on patriarchy, gender bias and prejudice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Tell us about </b><i><b>Pitta Kathalu.</b></i></p> <p><b>A\ </b>I was really excited about <i>Pitta Kathalu</i> as I loved the concept. I always wanted to work with the director and I thought this concept was really relevant to the things we are going through right now. So it was win-win for me.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Your presence in Telugu cinema continues to grow, with Gopichand Malineni’s </b><i><b>Krack</b></i><b> soon to release. Do you feel more accepted in the Telugu film industry?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>The Telugu industry has always been special to me. It is the first place where I enjoyed acceptance and success and that feeling grows! I am also really glad I could dub in Telugu for myself for <i>Pitta Kathalu</i> and I look forward to doing that more.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Can we expect to see more of you in Bollywood this year?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>Yes. I am currently working on a Hindi series to be aired on Amazon Prime. I am excited about it and cannot wait for people to see it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Tell us about your upcoming film, </b><i><b>Laabam</b></i><b>, in which you play a lead role?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b><i>Laabam</i> is a film deeply rooted in an important social message. I am looking forward to people connecting with that and also so happy about the response to ‘Yazha Yazha’, the single from the film that just released. It is a beautiful song and I feel really happy to have sung it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ How would you compare your love for singing with that for acting?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>They both work as beautiful ways to express my artistic thought and emotions. They work in different ways but, within me, complement each other to make me feel emotions comprehensively as an artiste.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ How do you assess yourself as an actor?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>I don’t. I don’t analyse my talent in the traditional way. I enjoy the process and I work and grow to be better connected to my understanding of the human emotion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/10/the-feminine-mystique.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/10/the-feminine-mystique.html Wed Mar 10 19:09:35 IST 2021 a-poets-minstrel <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/10/a-poets-minstrel.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/2021/3/10/harpreet-1.jpg" /> <p>Harpreet remembers that light of early dawn four years ago when he suddenly woke up at around 4:30am. Instead of going back to sleep, the singer groggily reached for his guitar. For almost a year, he had been mulling a poem called <i>Ghah</i>, a Punjabi rendition by Paash, the pen name of poet Avtar Singh Sandhu. Paash was a revolutionary Naxalite poet who was killed by the Khalistanis in 1988. <i>Ghah</i> translates to ‘Grass’, and the poem was originally written by Swedish-American poet Carl Sandburg to underscore the futility of war and the transience of man.</p> <p><i>Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.</i></p> <p><i>Shovel them under and let me work—</i></p> <p><i>I am the grass; I cover all.</i></p> <p>The Punjabi translation of the poem had greatly stirred Harpreet and he carried it with him everywhere. References to Sangrur and Ludhiana in Paash’s version had great resonance with the young singer who was born into a farming family in Haryana’s Karnal district. He would read and re-read the poem to get to its essence, think about its fullness and make it respond to his surroundings. And then that morning, while dreamily strumming his guitar, the tune caught hold of him unbidden. “It was almost as if the song had been always floating in the wind,” says the singer and musician on a Zoom call from Mumbai, a day after his performance at this year’s Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF).</p> <p>Harpreet, 33, has carved out quite a following for himself over the years as an independent musician singing classical Hindi and regional poetry, just like our most cherished ghazal singers enliven and immortalise Urdu poets. Now he is often spotted at some of the foremost music, art and literary festivals in India, including the Mahindra Kabira Festival, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale and JLF.</p> <p>At the digital version of the Jaipur Literature Festival this year, Harpreet regaled audiences with compositions based on the works of mystics like Sant Kabir, Baba Bulleh Shah and Gorakhnath. Serenely gazing out from the screen, with a man-bun and a face framed in round, owlish glasses, Harpreet almost seems to exude the same self-possession of these poet-seers. His placid, soft-spoken manner might belie his fiery, insurgent riffs on the “resistance” poetry that he is inexorably drawn to. But this is how it is with Harpreet for every poem, song or composition. He never strains or tries too hard for inspiration, but rather waits for the right time. Turning <i>Ghah</i> into his own song was one such exquisite journey. “I am Grass. I will grow back after every adversity you wreak”, goes one line of the poem. “The fire in these lines is too much for me. They were written in the 1980s, and at a certain time in history. But for me it is timeless,” says Harpreet.</p> <p><i>Ghah</i> also brings alive Harpreet’s own childhood spent in a bucolic farm near Nilokheri in Haryana. Harpreet strings together <i>khet</i> (farm), <i>hariyali</i> (greenery) and <i>bagh</i> (garden) in one sentence to describe his home, with a river running through them. His father would shuffle around the house, humming old Bollywood songs while looking into his son’s eyes. That is how Harpreet learnt to bask and shimmer in music.</p> <p>When he was five or six years old, his father got a keyboard for his elder brother who never took to it. That was Harpreet’s first ever introduction to a musical instrument. His father sent him off to study music at the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya in Delhi, where he got besotted with the tanpura and immersed himself in the study of classical music. In 2018, Harpreet spoke about his serendipitous encounter with the instrument. “The sound of tanpura close to my ears changed my understanding of music.... I lacked [the] discipline [to] study theory of classical music but I started responding to the sounds of music and poetry, as I never did before. The tuning of the tanpura tuned me to my inner being,” Harpreet said to an online news publication.</p> <p>Since then, he has been merging his feverish guitar arrangements with a voice that often roars and rages, enacting the powerful symmetry of poems by those like Suryakant Tripathi, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Shiv Bahadur Singh Bhadauria, Gurbhajan Gill, Kaana Singh and Bhawani Prasad Mishra. He gave his first public performance in 2011 for a play called <i>Kutte</i>, where he composed and sang the titular song. That same song was picked up by Dibakar Banerjee and Yash Raj Films for Kanu Behl’s <i>Titli</i> in 2015. Noted for his impassioned interpretations of the 17th century Sufi poet Baba Bulleh Shah, Harpreet can be a refreshing and more energising update on perennial favourites like Rabbi Shergill and Indian Ocean who have similarly paid homage to the ‘kafis’ (the classical form of Sufi music) of the man widely regarded as “the father of Punjabi enlightenment”.</p> <p>During the lockdown, Harpreet learnt to read sheet music for the piano. Otherwise, 2020 was no different for the singer used to spending most of his time in his home studio. Even as he preps for more travel this month and a concert with a live audience, he is constantly toying with half-realised designs. He sings a song called ‘Ram Rahim ki aisi Holi’ over video for an upcoming movie starring Pankaj Kapur. He hopes to sing the poems of Sufi poet Amir Khusrau soon. The poem which is keeping him awake at night is Bhawani Prasad Mishra’s <i>Geet Pharosh</i>. And for the longest time, he has been wanting to compose a song of gratitude for the farmers. While he digs into his repertoire to find relevant ones if he were to perform at the farmers’ protests, he suddenly remembers. “But yes! <i>Ghah</i> is already there, ready to be sung.” </p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/10/a-poets-minstrel.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/10/a-poets-minstrel.html Wed Mar 10 11:48:10 IST 2021 corporate-ltd <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/10/corporate-ltd.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/2021/3/10/alankrita.jpg" /> <p><b>M</b>ummy, why did Eve eat the forbidden fruit and why should anything be forbidden anyway? Was she not free to eat the fruit that she found most juicy? Do all women have to lie to themselves to survive? These and more such reflections by a 13-year-old narrator form the essential subtext of <i>Bombay Begums</i>, a six-episode series that hit Netflix on Women’s Day. On the face of it, the show—created, co-written and directed in parts by Alankrita Shrivastava—seems to fall under her favourite smash-the-patriarchy trope. But this time the plot is set in the snake-pit of corporate India, where four urban women and a teenage girl from diverse backgrounds battle against society’s intrinsic patriarchy, entitlement and barriers to win freedom for themselves and their bodies. Where does one look for refuge when one’s own body is a battleground, with #MeToo, menstruation, motherhood, menopause and a messy head? A deep-seated yearning to be heard and understood in an unforgivingly chauvinistic society continues to plague all of Shrivastava’s women, be it the 20-something Dolly in <i>Dolly, Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare</i> (2019), 60-year-old Buaji in <i>Lipstick Under My Burkha </i>(2016), Tara Khanna from <i>Made in Heaven</i> (web show; 2019) or Ayesha (Plabita Borthakur) in <i>Bombay Begums</i>, whose frustration as a single woman from a small town struggling to make it big in Mumbai, is relatable at so many levels.</p> <p>In <i>Bombay Begums</i>, Shrivastava weaves a single story of hope, ambition, despair and resilience with an ensemble cast: Rani (Pooja Bhatt) as the CEO of a bank who zealously guards her hard-earned turf from bigoted men, Fatima (Shahana Goswami) as Rani’s smart and ambitious associate, who is torn between work and family, Ayesha, the junior-most employee who struggles to establish professional standing while grappling with sexual harassment at the workplace, and 13-year-old Shai Irani (Aadhya Anand), Rani’s painfully reclusive step-daughter whose voiceover in an ongoing monologue with her dead mother gives a peek into her own agonies as well as that of the other women in the show. Adding an element of colour and drama to this sanitised corporate milieu is Lily (Amruta Subhash), a bar dancer-turned-sex worker and single mother who tries to give her only son a shot at a better life. Lily’s path crosses with that of the corporate women when Rani’s teenage son, Zorawar, knocks down Lily’s son.</p> <p>As in her previous projects, Shrivastava has chosen to set her lens firmly on women, stringing together relatable, real and rooted stories taken from life as it pans out day after day across a multiplicity of themes, including love, desire, infidelity, motherhood and more. All five of her women are complex, layered and take pride in their flaws, rising above their wounds to march ahead in life. “I wanted to explore how the personal and professional lives of women intersect and play off each other,” Shrivastava, 41, tells THE WEEK. “There are always judgments around women who are ambitious but not so for men. I am not in filmmaking just for the heck of it. I think there are enough filmmakers already. I feel I have to make films on stories I am very passionate about, which essentially happen to be women-centric. I am genuinely not interested in perpetuating the status quo, which tilts towards the male hero universe.” Her narratives for male characters in <i>Bombay Begums</i>, as in her past films, are seen to be operating in extremes and almost always from the periphery. They are either downright evil and voyeuristic or play second fiddle to their women with a striking passivity.</p> <p>Much of the inspiration for her stories come from her upbringing at home, educational institutions that were largely all-women and her readings of books by leading women authors from across the world. Each of the six episodes of <i>Bombay Begums </i>is inspired by the title of a book written by a female author. “My mother is from IIM Ahmedabad; she passed out in the 1970s and something she told me really made an impression on me. She said there were only four or five women in her batch and not one of them pursued the corporate career full-on,” says Shrivastava, who made her debut with <i>Turning 30</i> in 2011. “This is in stark contrast with her male colleagues, despite all of them having the same education. So, I think that conversation with my mother got me thinking.” Ahead of the release of <i>Lipstick Under My Burkha</i>, Shrivastava took on the censor board and has also put her privilege to good use by aiding the #MeToo movement in India.</p> <p>Yet, one cannot help but wonder why almost all her women take to causal sex, incessant drinking and use cuss words to reinforce their liberated femininity. “I do not feel anyone is simple,” she says. “If you just pass women by, you will know that nobody is that simple. I like to pause and look into a character’s eyes and look very deeply and the moment you do that you realise that there is a lot of complexity. I do not like superficial glances.”</p> <p>While <i>Bombay Begums</i> is an interesting take on the diverse lives of its characters, the series as a whole is not entirely gripping. There are moments where one cannot help but fast forward, like in episode 2, when Rani does a Karva Chauth commercial to promote bank loans to buy jewellery or when Shai fakes a period to get her crush interested in her—“I can smell you are growing up,” her crush comments. The narrative does get clunky at times, yet the actors do a commendable job in portraying some very nuanced and complex characters. The message is clear: “Burn the queen at the stake if you will,” as Shai puts it, in one of her monologues with her mom. “You can’t destroy her.”&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/10/corporate-ltd.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/10/corporate-ltd.html Wed Mar 10 11:38:34 IST 2021 a-love-story-like-no-other <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/04/a-love-story-like-no-other.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/2021/3/4/63-Matthew-McConaughey.jpg" /> <p>It is Cinderella hour on a weeknight, and Matthew McConaughey is on a Zoom call, fully shirted. There have been very few actors who have been shirtless on screen as many times as McConaughey.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Post pandemic, the world has changed, and travel has reduced. Stars are the ones in the sky, and now midnight phone calls from a Hollywood actor can happen in the comfort of a home a continent away—where Texas is shivering and Delhi is beginning to feel the heat of summer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>McConaughey has a new book out—Greenlights—his first. A memoir, it is like no other celebrity reminiscing. He writes openly, often with raw honesty about growing up. His first introduction to his parents is the messiness of their lives—twice divorced and thrice married to the same person.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He recounts an incident of his father stalking his mother for not getting a hot meal. “It was on. My brothers knew the deal, I knew the deal,” he writes. “Mom knew the deal as she ran to the wall-mounted telephone on the other side of the kitchen to call 911.... As he closed in, Mom grabbed the handheld end of the phone off the wall mount and raked it across his brow. Dad’s nose was broken, blood was everywhere.... They circled each other in the middle of the kitchen, Mom waving the twelve-inch blade, Dad with his bloody broken nose and snarling incisors....” His father threw ketchup on his mother and finally as they stared at each other, they moved “towards each other and met in an animal embrace. They dropped to their knees, then to the bloody, ketchup-covered linoleum kitchen floor… and made love. And a red light turned green”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are deliberately no filters, and his good, old-fashioned Southern drawl leaps off the page even while you read it. There is no pretence, the book opens with confession, such as him being molested at 18 by a man while being unconscious in a car, bribing for sex and about resisting arrest as he played bongo drums naked in his house.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It is all a love story, even the ugly stuff,” says McConaughey. “It is all a part of the love story. It wasn’t hard, it wasn’t, ‘I have to go deep to share that.’ My family is transparent about those parts of our lives. We all still retell those stories at dinner. My family doesn’t want to brush any of those stories under the covers. They are not trying to hide those. I have never gone out and shared them with the world, but I mean, when I did, my family is fine with it. They understand it is part of the beauty, of how we see life, how I see life. It wouldn’t have been as much fun or true to not share those. I see it as a love story.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is no shying away from the messy; McConaughey bares it all. He writes about his strained relationship with his mother when he became a celebrity. “She wanted a piece of my fame,” he writes. “It was a woman who was more enamoured with my fame than I was.” His fear, his doubts, his self-searching—a lot of it without clothes and diving into nature—is all there to read.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, was it hard? “It was actually the easiest thing,” says McConaughey. “It is ironic because that is what so many people say, ‘What I love about your book is how brutally honest and vulnerable you are.’ This is the truest extension of me. I didn’t want filters.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book is also about learning—note-taking is serious for him. Even in the course of the 25-minute interview, he opens a notebook and jots down thoughts. He has been writing since he was 14. “Recently, I worked up the courage to sit down with those diaries,” he writes. “I found stories that I had experienced, lessons I learnt and forgot, poems, prayers, prescriptions, beliefs about what matters and a whole bunch of bumper stickers.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>More than just a glimpse into his life—while his story propels you forward—it is a little book of wisdom, philosophy and “wise words”, as Pico Iyer, writer and now fellow philosopher tweeted. It is not every day that Iyer chooses to tweet: “I have always gotten away with more in life than in my dreams”—the Stoic philosopher Matthew McConaughey, in his book of apothegms and wise words.” And like The New York Times bestseller list, on which McConaughey has been for 17 weeks straight, the tweet is an acknowledgement that Greenlights is not just fluff.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But more than everything else, it is a great story. And, McConaughey is adept at telling it engagingly; he is a raconteur. “You had to be a good storyteller in my family to get a word in at dinner because my dad would tell a great story, my older brothers would tell a great story, even my mother could tell a good story,” he says. “I was the youngest. If I found a bit of a pause in the conversation, I wanted to interject myself. It was a daunting task. I knew I better be good. Because if what I was saying wasn’t propelling the story, or if it wasn’t a good story that caught everyone’s attention, they would just move me and bowl over me.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is distilled wisdom on relationships. He describes the honeymoon period thus: “It’s a 120-watt bulb that burns too hot to last.” To people, McConaughey’s Greenlights is not a self-help book, but really ideas about life. He uses the metaphor of traffic lights, red to reflect and green to press on the gas, to offer a perspective to live life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The story is propelled ahead by his life—from his Australia stint, when he stayed away from his family for a year, living in a tiny town with a family who were the town crazies; his father dying when he was making his first film; his break and his finding his feet and choosing to go beyond to find the right kind of discomfort.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He writes about wanting more—reinvention and redefining success constantly, which is what he did when he chose to move beyond the easy—to his Oscar win for Dallas Buyers Club. He turned down dozens of offers for romantic comedies. The offers went higher—from $8 million to finally $14.5 million. He kept turning it down. “I didn’t lose faith that I was going to be okay. I just didn’t know if I was ever going to work in Hollywood again,” he says. “So, after about 15 months with no calls, I started to get a little comfortable with the fact that ‘Oh that you may never work as an actor in Hollywood again, but will find purpose in something else.’ That’s when I started to think about careers, to become a high school coach, a teacher, an orchestra conductor. As time went on, when I was getting no roles or no offers, the deeper I got. Also, strangely enough at 20 months when the offer did come, I was most confident that I would find something else to do in life. That’s when life came back and said now. There is some serendipity in that.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And, he will continue to pen his thoughts. “I shall still write. But who am I going to be with zero filters in life? I believe it is somewhat a teaching leadership position,” he says. “I have been discussing with people, people have been discussing with me. Politics. I don’t know whether that is my category. Because I need to be a certain amount of free agent. With politics, you lose a lot of your free agency. They have to redefine their purpose.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>McConaughey is one of the few actors who wears his faith comfortably on his sleeve. “I have thought about ministry,” he says. “That really excites me. I am a bit of an evangelist. I love to evangelise ideas. I think this book is an evangel for approaches, just even perspective. I think I have been given a gift and would love to work on it. I have been told I can inspire people. I am still working on learning.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Greenlights</b></p> <p>By Matthew McConaughey</p> <p>Published by Hachette India<br> Price Rs799; Pages 289</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/04/a-love-story-like-no-other.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/04/a-love-story-like-no-other.html Thu Mar 04 17:50:43 IST 2021 delhi-belly <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/04/delhi-belly.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/2021/3/4/67-Anuja-Chauhan.jpg" /> <p>Someone once said, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.” But it takes a special kind of skill to deftly make the two tango in a screwball murder mystery. Anuja Chauhan, in her sixth outing as a novelist, effortlessly achieves this delicate balance in Club You To Death.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Her sparkling narrative prowess takes readers on a breezy ride through Delhi’s high society shenanigans played out in a doddering old exclusive club—“the capital’s oldest and finest”. At the Delhi Turf Club (DTC), perfectly manicured Zumba aunties giggle and glad-eye their heartthrob of a gym instructor who “bench-presses like a beast” and has a wildly popular YouTube channel called ‘Lose it with Leo’. Pot-bellied husbands regard the muscled charmer as nothing more than a “bloody PT master!” But one morning when Leo is found pressed under a barbell stacked with plates weighing 120kg—a day after he punched a belligerent uncle at the club’s bumper tambola—the posh and pristine DTC starts to come undone, revealing its web of dirty secrets and noxious class politics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book opens with the Dogra family cringing about the shameless canvassing by club members for the upcoming DTC elections. Soon we are led to boisterous scenes from the kitty party game of tambola at the club lawns, where we are first introduced to the ravishing Leo before he is bumped off. Investigating cops discover that the darling body-builder’s protein shake was poisoned with a trending drug cocktail called Pinko Hathni, which can make one fantasise about copulating gorillas. No one is spared scrutiny at the hands of a genial, not-so-Dabangg ACP Bhavani Singh and his uptight sidekick who is mostly distressed about finding the right girl in an arranged marriage. Estranged childhood sweethearts—rich and perky Bambi Todi, and suave and successful Kashi Dogra—get a chance to rekindle their relationship as they help the cops gain inside access to question an uproarious cast of finely-etched characters. Chauhan’s firm grip on north India’s anarchic slangs combined with her impeccable comic timing offer some very punchy dialogues as demanded by Club You To Death.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From Karishma ‘Cookie’ Katoch with her business of Swarovski-studded Shiva Lingams to Lt General (Behra) Mehra who never fails to gloat about how he turned a deaf ear to his superiors while taking on the “Pakis” at the LOC, to Mukki Khurana who struts around in in an ensemble which includes suspenders and a cravat around his podgy neck, to Leo’s devious friend and porno-addict Randy Rax who gleefully eyes ladies of the “Delhi Turd Club” at a funeral service, Chauhan rounds up a stellar line of caricatures as possible suspects, cleverly laying bare their hypocrisies and entitlements.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And the book really does make you chuckle. It is quite evident that the comedic crime fiction was born out of being trapped in our own little bubbles last year. It implores you to stay indoors, hit the couch and stop fretting. And lose yourself in a wicked, wisecracking world which Delhi denizens will all too easily recognise as vividly real.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Club You To Death</b></p> <p>By Anuja Chauhan</p> <p>Published by HarperCollins</p> <p>Price Rs399; pages 432</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/04/delhi-belly.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/04/delhi-belly.html Thu Mar 04 14:34:53 IST 2021 dawn-of-new-cinema <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/04/dawn-of-new-cinema.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/2021/3/4/68-Don-Palathara.jpg" /> <p>Filmmaker Don Palathara, 34, is a simple man, unlike his characters. The daring and unconventional storyteller’s films have been praised at several international film festivals. Currently, two of his films—1956, Central Travancore and Santhoshathinte Onnam Rahasyam (SOR)—are being screened at the 25th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK). It is rare for two films by the same director to make it to a major film festival in the same year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>1956… is a period drama that portrays life in Kerala just before the land reforms changed the socio-economic milieu of the state. The film had its world premiere at the 42nd Moscow International Film Festival. In an email to Peter Attipetty, a former media specialist at the Milwaukee Area Technical College, Wisconsin, master filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan praised 1956.... “There is a certain style and consistency in his work…. Very good, it is getting the right attention,” he wrote.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Palathara’s latest flick, SOR, had its world premiere on February 14 at the IFFK. The 85-minute-long film, starring Rima Kallingal and Jithin Puthenchery, is a relationship drama shot completely inside a car, with the camera fixed on the dashboard. SOR, filmed in one continuous shot, is a milestone in Indian film history. Such one-shot feature-length films are a rarity in world cinema itself.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I wanted to give a constraint both temporally and spatially for this film,” says Palathara. “One space, one time and one shot—that was the idea.” Kallingal and Puthenchery learned by rote each dialogue before the shoot began. “Don was clear about his idea,” says Puthenchery. “Before the shoot, we had rehearsals and a workshop. During our first rehearsal, random situations were given to us to perform. Don shot the whole thing. Almost a month after that session, Don sent the final draft of the script to us.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though it was scripted, Palathara gave his actors the freedom to improvise during the takes; he gave dialogue credits to both Rima and Jithin. Five takes were shot, and he turned the best one into the final version. Shooting finished in six days.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film’s title is a reference to the first joyful mystery—the annunciation to the Virgin Mary—in the rosary prayer of Catholics. All his films are either placed against a Catholic backdrop or have references to Christian philosophy, theology, literature and art. For instance, the main plot of 1956… revolves around two brothers—a reference to the recurrent motif of sibling bonds and rivalries in the Bible. His critically-acclaimed debut film, Shavam (2015), portrayed the funeral rite in a Syrian Christian Catholic family. His second film placed the conflicting values of a father-son duo against a Catholic backdrop.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I come from a highly religious community and family,” says Palathara. “The church has had a major influence on our family. There are many priests and nuns from my family. From nursery to high school, I studied in Catholic institutions. So, this power relationship with the church was always there.” He adds that as a kid he used to read a lot of Biblical stories in comic-book format. “Before the age of 10, I had even wished to become a Catholic priest,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But Palathara’s destiny was not to become a priest, but a filmmaker. He got to look at his faith and religious community objectively when he went to Australia for his higher studies. He is not a staunch follower of Catholicism now, but he feels that there are still many Catholic elements in him. “Because I come from a family deep-rooted in the Catholic faith, a lot of things in my work are still Catholic,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Palathara has a masters in information technology from the University of Tasmania, and an advanced diploma in filmmaking from the Academy of Film, Theatre and Television, Sydney (formerly International Film School Sydney). To afford film school and to repay his educational loan, he did several jobs—including working in a factory and petrol station—after his postgraduation. His first job after getting his degree was as a baker.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Film school made him technically strong and developed his filmmaking style. Analysing his style, Peter wrote that he “does not use any of the usual techniques to emotionally manipulate the audience”. He also said that “the actors do not act, but behave naturally. Characters are kept at a distance, [and] camera movement is minimal to nothing.” One would also find an ingenious use of static shots and minimal use of musical score in his works.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, the most notable element in his first three films was that they were all in black and white. “While shooting 1956… I asked Don whether we can deliver the film in colour,” says Alex Joseph, the film’s cinematographer. “But Don did not want his audience’s attention to go to any particular colour or element in the screen. He wanted it completely on the characters.” However, his latest flick, SOR, is in colour. When asked about it, Palathara said that now he feels he has more control over colours. Masterfully-crafted films like Andre Rublev (by Russian auteur Andrei Tarkovsky) and Satantango (by Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr) have influenced his film aesthetics. But as a storyteller, Palathara draws from his own roots.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The filmmaker hails from the small village of Karunapuram in Kerala’s Idukki district. His house was the prime location for his first film, Shavam. His grandfather Thomas, to whom 1956… is dedicated, was his greatest source of stories. “My grandfather’s tales had both realistic and fantastic elements,” says Palathara. “And, he had the talent to deliver both myths and real-life stories in the same fashion.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Palathara is also a treasure chest of stories and legends. And, he has already proven that a Rs100-crore budget or a star-studded cast are not required to make a good film. A powerful story is the only requirement.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/04/dawn-of-new-cinema.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/04/dawn-of-new-cinema.html Thu Mar 04 14:30:37 IST 2021 sweet-girl <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/04/sweet-girl.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/2021/3/4/72-Freny-Fernandes-new.jpg" /> <p>Chef Freny Fernandes has worked with multiple Michelin star restaurants. She made the desserts for Priyanka Chopra Jonas’s bridal shower. And now she has come up with India’s first contemporary dessert bar and bistro, Moner (a portmanteau of her parents’ names), which will dish out gourmet desserts in three and five courses. Think vegan Pavlova with fresh seasonal fruits, floating meringue on crème anglaise and traditional apple tarte tatin.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Why did you come up with a dessert bar and when did you visit your first one?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ After having lived in New York and travelled to other parts of the world, I realised that all the big cities like New York, London and Singapore had plenty of dessert bars, but my city, Mumbai, still did not have one. That is when I decided to open a dessert bar, to share my knowledge and experience from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and the places that I have worked at. My first dessert bar experience was in New York, at the ChikaLicious dessert bar. But the place that [truly impacted me] was Noma. While at Noma, we would constantly interact with guests; that is something that I felt was truly missing in all of my years working at other places in New York.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ What are some of your new ideas and approaches to baking and dessert-making?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ The whole concept of a bistro turning into a dessert bar in the evening is, I think, very different. Plated desserts are not given as much importance in restaurants. Usually, it is just something basic and not well thought of, complementary to the main savoury food instead of being something exclusive. My desserts are not your usual chocolate cake and cheesecake. Anything I do is either my take on a classic or a different idea altogether. I like to bring together multiple flavours and textures. I believe there is a lot of complexity in simplicity, and although aesthetically my style is minimalistic, a lot is going on in each dessert in terms of flavour and technique.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ What are some of the offerings at Moner which will not be found anywhere else in India?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ Moner’s focus is solely on desserts; we offer plated desserts in three and five courses along with tea, coffee and beverage pairings with each course. The five-course menu is designed in such a way that it is not too heavy. We start with an amuse-bouche or a palate cleanser, then move up in terms of heaviness and finish with my show-stopper—Jardin du Rose. The plated desserts and the petit gateaux are all creations straight out of my head. Every creation takes months to conceptualise and put together.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/04/sweet-girl.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/03/04/sweet-girl.html Thu Mar 04 14:24:58 IST 2021 lad-and-the-road <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/25/lad-and-the-road.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/2021/2/25/68-striding-into-the-wind.jpg" /> <p><b>Kun is in</b> his final year at film school. He is a talented sound recordist—in fact, more talented than his sound effects lecturer. Kun is carefree and prefers goofing around in the city to sitting in class.</p> <p>The lad is constantly at odds with the world. The film opens with a scene where he abandons his driving test and goes on to buy a clapped-out Jeep. He dreams of going on a trip to Inner Mongolia in the Jeep. He does get a chance to take a ride to Mongolia with a pretentious filmmaker, Ming, and his crew, but things do not go as planned.</p> <p><i>Striding Into the Wind</i> by debutant filmmaker Wei Shujun is an idiosyncratic road-movie that depicts contemporary China. The film depicts how Chinese youth are pushing their limits and embracing free-spiritedness under the nose of an authoritarian regime. The film has a unique visual language. The director keeps Kun’s happy-go-lucky nature in the foreground and more serious conversations in the background, showing the contrast between his nature and the world around him. This semi-autobiographical film premiered at the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival last year and was an official selection at Cannes 2020.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/25/lad-and-the-road.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/25/lad-and-the-road.html Thu Feb 25 14:47:31 IST 2021 the-king-comes-clean <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/25/the-king-comes-clean.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/2021/2/25/70-pele.jpg" /> <p>Much of Pele’s modern-day legacy is limited to his phenomenal achievements, be it the 1,279 career goals or the three FIFA World Cup victories. While these should prove sufficient to establish his greatness, some Brazilians look at him as the man who was silent in the face of oppression in his country.</p> <p>A new Netflix documentary,<i> Pele</i>, goes beyond the legendary tales of his goalscoring prowess to paint a picture of a disturbed man in an equally disturbed society. Pele is now 80, needs walking assistance and is frequently hospitalised. In the twilight years of his life, he reveals what transpired over half a century ago.</p> <p>The documentary is a straight-forward one; ordinary, compared with the mastery of Asif Kapadia in <i>Maradona</i> (2019). That has largely to do with the fact that Pele led a rather ordinary life—unlike the mercurial Argentine—and that there is limited footage available, given that his was a time before the television boom.</p> <p><i>Pele</i> benefits tremendously from an extensive interview with the man himself, but it is more than a hagiography. It is almost like a revisionist take on the golden era of Brazilian football.</p> <p>There are a few startling revelations. His admission of infidelity is limited to a passing mention, and rightly so. What is shocking to learn is that his decision to play in his career-defining 1970 World Cup was a result of political pressure.</p> <p>The 1960s was a dark period for Brazil. Following morale-boosting World Cup wins in 1958 and 1962, a military coup that overthrew the elected government in 1964 would cripple the nation for the next two decades. The ignominy of Brazil’s early exit in the 1966 World Cup made matters worse and Pele reveals he decided to never play in the tournament again.</p> <p>For all the criticism that Pele remained neutral to the political developments, it was almost as though two realities existed simultaneously in Brazil. One of torture under dictator Emilio Medici, and another of joy provided by ‘King’ Pele with his local Santos team. Medici ensured the entertainment never stopped and insisted that Pele play in 1970. The footballer admits to being helpless in such an environment and “not understanding politics”.</p> <p>No matter how famous Pele became, journalists testify that he was always mild-mannered and gracious with everyone. But, on the inside, Pele was a deeply emotional man. In 1958, he bawled on the field after the final. In 1970, overwhelmed by the weight of expectation, he cried in front of his teammates just before the final. And, he still tears up when he recollects that day. “At that moment, I didn’t want to be Pele,” he says.</p> <p><i>Pele</i> shows us that to Brazilians the footballer was truly a larger-than-life superman. It is also a reminder of the tightrope such supermen have to sometimes walk when forced to choose between condemning political oppression and protecting their own interests.</p> <p><b>Pele</b></p> <p><b>Available on Netflix</b></p> <p><b>Rating: 4/5</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/25/the-king-comes-clean.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/25/the-king-comes-clean.html Thu Feb 25 14:45:24 IST 2021 chromebooks-time-has-come <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/25/chromebooks-time-has-come.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/2021/2/25/70-chromebook.jpg" /> <p>Chromebooks, laptops powered by Google’s Chrome OS, have been around for a decade. But they mostly existed on the periphery of the laptop market. Last year, however, Chrome OS staged a coup of sorts by replacing Apple’s macOS as the second most popular computer operating system.</p> <p>Chrome OS had a 10.8 per cent market share in 2020, according to IDC, a consultancy that has been tracking trends. Interestingly, macOS's market share also grew from 6.7 per cent to 7.5 per cent in 2020. That means that Chrome OS grew at the expense of Microsoft Windows. Windows, however, remains the most popular operating system by far, with an 80.5 per cent share of the market.</p> <p>Schools and colleges had largely been the buyers of Chromebooks owing to the price factor. Then the pandemic hit, and Chromebooks became the first choice for those who wanted a second device for the homeschooled child or the working-from-home spouse. And there is a growing clientele of business users as well, thanks to some refined machines designed by Samsung, HP, Acer and Asus.</p> <p>Chrome OS is a web-based operating system. You do most things on a browser. After a slew of updates by Google, it can do most things that a PC or a Macbook does. And, it supports Android apps. There are catches, though. Programmes that are written for Windows and macOS do not work on Chromebooks.</p> <p>Against Macbooks, what Chromebooks offer is the substantial price advantage. The case is not as strong against PCs. But here is the deal. You can buy a nifty Chromebook for about Rs35,000. But you will get only a mediocre Windows machine for that money. And you know how mediocre Windows machines work.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/25/chromebooks-time-has-come.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/25/chromebooks-time-has-come.html Thu Feb 25 14:41:31 IST 2021 outside-in <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/25/outside-in.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/2021/2/25/73-jatin.jpg" /> <p>The rise of the digital space has also thrown up many talented actors. One of them is Jatin Sarna, seen recently in the Rajinikanth-starrer <i>Darbar</i> (2020). He shot to fame as the gangster, Bunty, in <i>Sacred Games</i> (2018) and will be portraying veteran cricketer Yashpal Sharma next in the sports drama <i>83, </i>alongside Ranveer Singh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\How was it sharing screen space with Rajinikanth?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>It was a dream come true. I am a big fan of his work. Rajinikanth sir’s acting and style have always been an inspiration for many of us who know how he does something extraordinary in each of his films. His hold over his art is amazing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\As an outsider, do you feel the industry is impartial and respects talent?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>I wholeheartedly agree. I feel talent is fully respected in this industry as you will only survive here if you have it, even if you come from a filmy background. However, patience and luck have got their role to play for outsiders like us.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\How has life changed for you after Sacred Games?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>It has completely changed for me. Because I have been part of many films earlier, like <i>Meeruthiya Gangsters</i> (2015) and <i>Saat Uchakkey </i>(2016), which did not do well. But <i>Sacred Games</i> changed the scenario for me overnight, which really inspired me to do better work and evolve as an actor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\Was Yashpal one of the toughest characters to portray?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>The film was tough, not just for me but also for the entire crew, because we had to train almost eight months prior to the shoot to get into shape and then maintain the physique. We actually had a very rigorous training session of four hours every morning. I had to endure pain on my shins because the turf was really hard. We had to stay on the field for several hours during the shoot and it got really hard on occasions. Yashpal Sharma is a real-life character, so I tried my best to portray him accurately. I had to mimic his unique gestures and posture to get it right. So yes, it was tough, but I absolutely loved the challenge.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/25/outside-in.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/25/outside-in.html Thu Feb 25 14:36:08 IST 2021 chopra-2-0 <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/24/chopra-2-0.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/2021/2/24/63-Parineeti-Chopra-new.jpg" /> <p>Parineeti Chopra is a nervous wreck these days. Her film The Girl on the Train releases on February 26 and she has her fingers crossed in the hope that her fans acknowledge her “sincerest attempt at new acting” that aims to “shock and stir”. The film, written and directed by Ribhu Dasgupta, is the Hindi adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ eponymous murder-mystery novel. The trailer that Netflix released in the first week of February gives a peek into Parineeti’s fierce and dark avatar as Meera Kapoor, far removed from her usual peppy, girl-next-door roles.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Meera is a young woman who becomes obsessed with the near-perfect life of a young couple; she sees their home from the train she takes every day. In their expressions of love, she pictures her own fairy tale bliss, even as she battles her demons and struggles through a failed marriage, amnesia and addiction. “This is the most intense character I have played,” Parineeti tells THE WEEK. “It is a departure from all I have done before, and a way of surprising audiences who think I can only do a certain genre and do not know how to portray such impassioned characters.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the 2016 Hollywood adaptation, Emily Blunt played the protagonist, for which she was nominated for three awards, including an Academy Award. Comparisons with the Hollywood star are inevitable, but Parineeti remains unfazed. “I just want to have a similar impact [as Blunt],” she said. “That same level of performance, but in my unique style. This is not about good acting as much as it is about different acting.” The two films are set against different backgrounds but originating from the same source material. It is as if Dasgupta took the original and dunked it into an indigenous spice mix to titillate the palate of the Indian viewer. “There is no point in remaking a film unless you can do something new with it,” said Dasgupta. “It is our version of the film and the book. I have retained everything which I loved from the book and the film but have digressed at certain parts, too, to give it a new narrative.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the film’s poster, with Parineeti donning a fitted white shirt, flowing locks and dark kohl-lined eyes, we see a redefined version of the actor, or as Dasgupta puts it: Chopra 2.0. “The expressions on screen are emotions and nuances she always had within, but discovered while playing this character,” said the director. “Though she will be compared with Emily Blunt, as a maker I had to create a new language for the actor; give a new skin to the character. Something which is ours, which we can own.” The emotional and physical toll of certain scenes left Parineeti drained for days after shooting. For instance, for a scene where she is drunk, she was required to scream, shout, cry and express deep provocation, which led to her dropping to the ground after eight or nine takes. “I guess the adrenaline was so high that I was shivering and started crying,” she said. “Ribhu, too, realised that it was taking a lot out of me emotionally. My heart started beating faster and I had to do some deep breathing exercises to cool down.” But there was no other way of doing it and this is where Parineeti’s talent as an actor, of immersing herself into the character, came out.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This year, Parineeti completes a decade in Bollywood, which she is quick to point “is not long at all”. She completed a triple honours degree from Manchester Business School, following which her life took a very different, and fortunate, turn. Her first role in Ladies vs Ricky Bahl (2011) came to her when she was working as a 22-year-old in the marketing team of Yash Raj Films. She won six best debutant awards for it. That was followed by her National Award-winning turn in Ishaqzaade (2012), which established her as an actor in her own right.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The motivation to act came from cousin sister, Priyanka Chopra, whose advice she carries with her all the time. “The audience expects enough out of you, so whenever you are in a film, you should always give them that,” Priyanka had told her. “Do not do nothing in a film, and do not give them an average performance.” The sisters grew up together, albeit in different homes. The entire Chopra clan would get together in their hometown of Ambala, Haryana, at least once a year. Both sisters, says Parineeti, share an “aggressive and unwavering” drive to excel, and Parineeti’s list of achievements is long: In college, she aced economics with 97 per cent and bagged the president’s award; she has several state-level trophies in sports and drama; and she even holds a BA honours in music. Parineeti was focused on becoming an investment banker in London, but her visa expired after her course and she had to return to India. “Later, acting happened, when I least expected it to,” she said with a laugh. “But even now, I am still a&nbsp;very academic, organised and punctual person. Even now, I do not do things like an actress but like a corporate person.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/24/chopra-2-0.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/24/chopra-2-0.html Thu Feb 25 14:57:11 IST 2021 lal-la-land <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/24/lal-la-land.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/2021/2/24/66-Mohanlal.jpg" /> <p>Georgekutty is back. And how. In a rollicking sequel to the super-hit Malayalam crime thriller Drishyam (2013), Mohanlal reprises the role of the affable cable TV operator (who is now a theatre owner) who will go to any lengths to protect his family. It was not easy to make the film during the pandemic. “We followed every government protocol,” says the actor. “Everyone on the set was wearing gloves and masks except the actors, which put us at high risk. The smallest headache or cough would trigger fear. Still, when we heard, ‘start, action, camera’, we forgot all that and gave our best.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And it has paid off. Drishyam 2 that was released on Amazon Prime Video on February 19 has been getting rave reviews, with the Malayalam superstar’s army of fans coming out—all guns blazing—in adoration and praise of his performance. With good reason, too. Mohanlal delivers a flawless performance of a deeply flawed character. It is clear as the film progresses that Georgekutty is not the complacent man who seems to have forgotten all about his ‘perfect crime’ six years ago. But then, who is he? He has been putting on a front for so long that it is difficult to understand the man behind his alter ego. The actor himself admits to not fully understanding his character.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“When we planned Drishyam 2, I first began thinking about what I should concentrate on,” says director Jeethu Joseph. “Since it was a continuation, I wanted it to be organic. How would the characters be living years later? How would they be dealing with their inner demons? How does society view them? I explored all angles. The character of Georgekutty is an ordinary man with a touch of the extraordinary. He is a fighter. I wanted to maintain that. Every actor, when you give them a character, would harness their life experiences and mould themselves to that character. Lalettan (Mohanlal) must have done that. He instinctively understands what I need from him and what the role requires. Unlike some of the newer actors, he does not question me too much about the character, but intuits it, maybe because of his experience or maybe his talent.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There has been some criticism, too. Especially of the plot being too unrealistic, but Mohanlal brushes it off lightly. “What can I do about it now?” he asks. “The film is made. We cannot now go and reshoot the unrealistic parts. Besides, is not cinema all about make-believe?” And that is just it. The consummate actor that he is, Mohanlal takes you into the land of make-believe and then makes it believable. In that way, the actor is much like his character. It is difficult to get to the core of them both, but the mystery only adds to the appeal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Surely, his prodigious talent alone cannot have been the reason for him retaining his superstardom for over 40 years. Could it then be his versatility? From the harassed house owner of Sanmanassullavarkku Samadhanan (1986) to the eccentric doctor of Manichitrathazhu (1993) to the lovable detective of Nadodikkattu (1987) and its sequels, it is difficult to understand where Mohanlal ends and the character begins. Or is it his deep understanding of the human psyche? Like the way he brings out the turmoil in the minds of some of his iconic characters like Neelakandan of Devasuram (1993) and Sethumadhavan of Kireedam (1989). There are so many scenes from his movies seared into the minds of Malayalis—licking the shoe of a British jailer in Kalapani (1996), weeping over his father’s body in Spadikam (1995), handing out imaginary ‘Singapore dollars’ in Kilukkam (1991).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The actor himself claims not to know the essence of his appeal. “I do not think about those things,” he says. “I wake up in the morning, go to the set, give my best and come back. I do not lose sleep over how I have evolved as an actor or how my career graph looks. That is for others to judge.” So does he re-watch some of his cult movies of the past? “Only when they play on TV,” he says. “Sometimes I watch them and feel sad about how many people in those films are now no more. I remember them so fondly. I hope when I go, people will remember me like that.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But when you become as big a star as Mohanlal—he has won five national awards and nine state awards—there is always the risk of sinking in the quicksand of your own stardom. Mohanlal almost did so in the 2000s, with a slew of larger-than-life, mega-macho roles in movies like Praja (2001), Onnaman (2001), Thandavam (2002) and Chathurangam (2002). Most of them tanked at the box office, and he was forced to do some soul-searching. After that, he seemed to be experimenting a lot with his roles. Some worked, some did not. But along with Malayalam cinema’s other superstar, Mammootty, Mohanlal’s popularity only grew. When asked whether he has ever wanted to do any of Mammootty’s roles, he quips. “Yes, all of them.” And then answers on a more sober note. “He has done some brilliant cinema, but I have never felt like they were meant for me. Every movie that I have done, it is not like I hankered after it. It came to me and I did it; that’s it. That is the case even with all the recognition and awards that I have received. I accept them, I feel happy about them, and then I let it go.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There probably comes a point in every artiste’s life when they question themselves and their craft. What is it that makes them tick? Who are they performing for? There was a time when Mohanlal tried to be the demigod that his fans made him out to be, to disastrous effect. That is why the Drishyam films are so appealing. In them, he does what perhaps gives a performer the greatest sense of purpose: staying true to himself.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/24/lal-la-land.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/24/lal-la-land.html Thu Feb 25 14:51:31 IST 2021 cause-for-pause <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/19/cause-for-pause.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/2021/2/19/64-Neelesh-Misra.jpg" /> <p>A month ago, Kajal Gupta, 40, left her high-paying job of eleven years with a renowned multinational to be able to lead a “slow life”. At the height of her career, she “quietly” moved from Delhi to the small and sleepy town of Vrindavan to “slow down for a more meaningful existence”. “So far, I have spent my time making a living,” she says. “Now, I will spend the rest learning how to live.” Other than buying a house there, Gupta has not planned for anything. All she wants is to “explore slow living”, and take each day as it comes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She is not the only one. Six years ago, Neelesh Misra, a popular radio presenter-turned-audio storyteller went down the same path when he traded the chaos of Mumbai for the quietude of a small hamlet near Lucknow. Now, a laptop and a 24x7 high speed wi-fi connection is all he needs to remain connected with his audience across the world. Right outside his palatial bungalow, situated amidst an expanse of mustard fields, Misra sets up a cot, sips masala chai, and gets into the ‘slow interview’ mode with some of the biggest names from the world of films and sports, including Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Suresh Raina, Sanjay Mishra and Taapsee Pannu. In one episode, when he asks actor Pankaj Tripathi about the slow life, the latter is quick to confess that he is trying to come to terms with his struggle “to live a slow life in a city that values speed and is famous for its hurried ways”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a world moving in ‘fast forward’ mode, when every moment feels like a race against the clock, a growing community of people is struggling to slow down. The lockdown further added to this sentiment when it forced people to stop and reflect on what they wanted from life and re-examine what would give them a sense of fulfilment and well-being. Those little changes they made to their ‘lockdown lives’ are now spilling over to the ‘new normal’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Having started as a resistance movement in Italy against the trappings of western culture and cuisine in the 1980s, the slow movement, in its present form, is a protest against the notion that speed means efficiency, especially in today’s internet-driven ‘fast’ age.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Carl Honore, a champion of slow movement in the west, puts it succinctly in one line: “In a world addicted to speed, slowness is a super power.” Honore explained to THE WEEK how the concept of ‘slow’ is more about doing everything at the right speed and rejecting the diktat that faster is always better. “It is about doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible,” he says. “It is about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is not a new concept. Some of the most famous people in the world have spoken about the wisdom of slowness. Albert Einstein spent hours staring into space in his office at Princeton University and Charles Darwin described himself as a “slow thinker”. So, if you are the kind who replaces white salt with rock salt, consumes clean food, finds all shopping malls to be the same, cringes at loud news anchors and enjoys long drives, you are slowly turning slow, says Misra, whose brand ‘Slow’ offers a plethora of products and experiences for a slow-paced life. “This is not a fad,” he says. “It is basically a counter-narrative. In India, especially, we have taken to the experiential form of the movement. Here, unlike in Italy or elsewhere, slow is no longer just confined to food or fashion. We have adapted it in every [aspect of our lives].”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is not to say that the only way of slowing down is to quit one’s job, move to the country and grow organic produce. As Honore puts it, you can be slow anywhere because slow is a state of mind. It is like changing a chip inside your head. As a result of his lockdown reflections, Sorab Sabherwal, 41, who is the group head of the creative team of Sony Pictures India, recently discovered the pleasure in everyday living that had so far eluded him. Every morning, since December, he has been cycling 16 kms to the nearby Aksa beach to catch the sunrise. He has developed a “loving relationship” with the dogs in his neighbourhood, has rekindled his passion for photography, and has completed a few online courses that he had been long putting off. “With the kind of demanding job that I have, I never thought it was possible to find joy in the simplest things, because we have been conditioned to regard them as a waste of time,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, in fact, it is just the opposite, says Yamini Sharma, a radio presenter and ex-news anchor who considers herself “far removed from the world of speed junkies who want to fit in more and more in less and less time”. “Taking it slow does not make you any less ambitious,” she says. “It is because I do things at my own pace that I am able to write, sing, play music, practise yoga, work as a clinical therapist and an RJ, all at the same time.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The question is, how easy is it to give up the adrenaline rush that speed offers, especially these days when, as actor Carrie Fisher once put it, “even instant gratification takes too long”? In this post-Covid world, the slow movement has come to acquire a new meaning across various realms. Take, for instance, the slow food movement. Chef Kelvin Cheung believes that this is important now more than ever before, as it focuses on buying, using and consuming ingredients that are good, clean, and more importantly, ethical. “[In the time of a pandemic], this means better health, in addition to preserving our food culture and history,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pursuing simple pleasures, such as walking the dog, taking a bubble bath or swinging on a hammock, have never assumed more significance than now. After all, life is to be savoured, not sped through.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/19/cause-for-pause.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/19/cause-for-pause.html Fri Feb 19 12:05:23 IST 2021 the-personal-postman <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/19/the-personal-postman.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/2021/2/19/67-Onaiza-Drabu.jpg" /> <p>Long before newspapers and pamphlets, there was the newsletter. Believed to have originated in ancient Rome around 59 BCE, ‘script newsletters’ were handwritten and often read aloud for the empire’s literate adults interested in current affairs. Julius Caesar launched a widely read one—Acta Diurna Populi Romani (Daily Acts of the Roman People), which was often posted in bathhouses as well. Government affairs, crime, catastrophes, shenanigans of the rich, gossip and weather—Acta had it all.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After evolving over two centuries, newsletters started disappearing with the fall of the Roman empire. When script newsletters made their reappearance in 14th century Europe, it became an effective political tool for espionage and propaganda from competing interests. No amount of government control could stop its spread in city-states, even if the circulation numbers were low. Newspapers did prove to be its nemesis for a while, until newsletters bounced back by riding on the internet to serve specialised content.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Newsletters in our inbox attest to our discriminating choices and define the kind of news stories we are interested to read and invest in; it helps us cut through the social media clutter. Free newsletter tools and services like TinyLetter and MailChimp have helped publications and writers reach out to loyal followers on email.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But a new platform has caused a flurry of excitement. Substack, a less-than-four-year-old American tech company, is gaining ground among newsletter disciples seeking a seamless, no-fuss way to promote their essays and recommendations with greater creative and financial control. Last year saw the company open up its paid subscription model for India-based writers. But money is hardly the reason why more and more people are migrating to Substack.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For author Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, newsletters are a throwback to a simpler way of communication. It is also a way for her to own her social media. “On Twitter and Instagram, you are at the mercy of algorithms. And if you are giving away your content for free, which I still do, you might as well do it on a platform that is completely your own brand. Email newsletters are a good way to have a more connected and involved audience,” says Madhavan, whose The Internet: Personified featured among the top five newsletters to follow on Substack last year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She switched to Substack after TinyLetter failed to deliver her newsletter a couple of times. She also faced problems with affiliate links. But Substack reminds her of blogging on Medium. “It is really easy to send your thing there. There is no formatting required. You can copy paste images and it looks professional,” says Madhavan, who in 2007 snagged her first book deal—You Are Here (Penguin)—based on the popularity of her blog, Compulsive Confessions. She is hoping Substack will further her authorial ambitions by offering serious readers deeper dives into her writing. “But I will only start charging for the newsletter once I grow my subscriber base,” she says. She has a little more than 1,000 followers on Substack now. But even with a much larger following on social media, Madhavan says Substack provides the highest and most productive engagement for her as a writer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Since February is the month of love, author and anthropologist Onaiza Drabu showcased the love letters of educationist and social reformer Savitribai Phule to her husband Jyotiba in her weekly Daak Vaak. Born in 2017, out of the personal readings and research of Drabu and her friend and co-creator Prachi Jha, Daak Vaak delivers quaint, lesser-known snippets from South Asian history, art and culture as charming postcards in inboxes and also on WhatsApp.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though their highest engagement now takes place on Instagram, Drabu says her newsletter is here to stay. “Once it goes into your email, even if you don’t read it, newsletters build familiarity, or in branding terms ‘recall’, because it is causing you to pause even if for a few seconds,” says Drabu, who switched to Substack from MailChimp last year. She says Substack is the easiest free software, and she is not interested in getting followers to pay for Daak Vaak.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rohini Kejriwal’s The Alipore Post, a newsletter on art, poetry and music, has some 4,500 subscribers. On Instagram, it has more than 45,000 followers. But Kejriwal says, “It is what it is. I don’t see people unsubscribing from email, so that is good.” Started six years ago, The Alipore Post is named after Kejriwal’s Kolkata address. Her curation of contemporary versifiers are presented with sumptuous paintings and illustrations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Being a boarding school kid, she has always looked forward to reading and sending letters and replicates a similar spirit in her newsletters. She started with sending curated emails on recommended listening, podcasts, poetry and art through her Gmail account and then switched to TinyLetter after crossing 500 followers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Last year, she moved her newsletter to Substack. “There was one newsletter which TinyLetter did not send on time. They don’t have customer support. I still haven’t heard back from a complaint I made,” says Kejriwal, who feels the familiarity of WordPress and all its good parts on Substack. “They don’t allow texts to be centre-aligned, but I have made my peace with that…. I like the aesthetics of Substack.” She, too, does not wish to charge her readers for The Alipore Post, even though it is now her full-time job.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For graphic designer Veer Misra, Substack was his first-ever introduction to newsletters last July when he launched Mush, a monthly that identifies common variables unifying the South Asian queer experience. “Substack has a very direct, easy, minimal approach to newsletters. They create an archive for you, they give you statistics to monitor readership. They even offer to create a website for you,” says Misra, 24, who wants to reach out to the teenager navigating identity with family, modern love or just the pressure of getting through life. Mush allows LGBTQ+ stories to unfurl without being constrained by word limits—Misra has published a 7,000-word essay by a single writer as one newsletter. He is using newsletters to offer greater privacy and freedom of expression. “It is free because it needs to be. I want Mush to act like an elder queer sibling,” says Misra. “Every time I publish these stories, I keep thinking about that 16-year-old. No one needs to know that they are subscribing to it.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/19/the-personal-postman.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/19/the-personal-postman.html Fri Feb 19 13:58:46 IST 2021 most-wanted-plants <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/19/most-wanted-plants.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/2021/2/19/70-Lavender.jpg" /> <p><b>Adding some greenery maybe the easiest way to brighten up your home. If you agree, and are planning to Google houseplants, save yourselves the trouble. Here are the top 10 most-Googled houseplants. Search data from 2010 to 2020 was considered to weed out fads</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Lavender</b><br> </p> <p>Annual searches: 99.51 lakh</p> <p>Its aroma is said to be able to reduce stress and even help you sleep</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Aloe vera</b></p> <p>Annual searches: 1.93 crore</p> <p>Style and substance—it looks good and has medicinal properties</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Snake plant</b></p> <p>Annual searches: 72.94 lakh</p> <p>Perfect for those without a green thumb—it can go weeks without being watered</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Venus fly trap</b></p> <p>Annual searches: 43.53 lakh</p> <p>Capable of rapid movement—to catch insects. Has bright colours and exotic looks</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Money tree</b></p> <p>Annual searches: 53.43 lakh</p> <p>Luck with leaves, or so they say. Flourishes if kept in the same spot</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Fiddle-leaf fig</b></p> <p>Annual searches: 45.25 lakh</p> <p>The “decorative statement” can grow up to 10ft indoors, but is very high-maintenance</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Jade plant</b></p> <p>Annual searches: 44.23 lakh</p> <p>Miniature, tree-like appearance adds to decorative appeal; resilient and lives long</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Swiss cheese plant</b></p> <p>Annual searches: 40.40 lakh</p> <p>A climber—providing something to cling on to can lead to beautiful displays</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Peace lily</b></p> <p>Annual searches: 56.33 lakh</p> <p>Low-maintenance and said to be particularly good at cleaning air</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Spider plant</b></p> <p>Annual searches: 39.89 lakh</p> <p>Suitable for a hanging basket. Said to be effective air purifiers, in large numbers</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Note: Some of the plants mentioned are poisonous to pets</b></p> <p><b>Text: Karthik Ravindranath/ Source (statistics): Flowercard</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/19/most-wanted-plants.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/19/most-wanted-plants.html Fri Feb 19 11:36:30 IST 2021 music-for-the-soul <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/19/music-for-the-soul.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/2021/2/19/72-Shilpa-Rao-new.jpg" /> <p>Grammy nominee and Bollywood playback singer Shilpa Rao’s mesmerising voice has held many in thrall. Some of her memorable hits include ‘Manmarziyan’ from Lootera (2013), ‘Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo’ from Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016) and ‘Ghungroo’ from War (2019). She has worked with almost every big name in the industry, from A.R. Rahman to Anoushka Shankar. As a belated Valentine’s Day gift to her fans, she came out with the song ‘Roz’ this month, in collaboration with the alternative rock band, The Yellow Diary.</p> <p><b>Q\ Tell us about ‘Roz Roz’.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ The song is about two people in a relationship that is at the brink of falling apart, because they cannot express what is going on in their minds. It captures a couple that cannot bridge this distance between them. I was excited about the song’s concept and collaborating with The Yellow Diary has been a creatively enriching experience.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Your favourite song that you have sung so far and why?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ That would be my first song, ‘Tose Naina’ (from the 2007 Manish Jha film, Anwar). The way it was written, I could not have asked for a better first song.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Being a playback singer in the competitive space of Bollywood must be tough. How do you unwind or relax?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ I do not look at it as a competition. Whenever I go to a studio to record a song, it is always me against me. With every song, I try to be a better musician and better artiste, and try to do better than what I did five or ten years ago.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ A typical day in your life.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ There is no ‘typical day’. My life is very erratic. On some days, you are just sitting there doing nothing. On others, you are so busy that many things don’t get done. But I love every moment of it. I would not change a single day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Your sonic range and ability to traverse various genres are legendary. How do you do it?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ You should have an open mind to all genres. If you can accept them all, you will listen and learn from them, and you will incorporate them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ You have won numerous awards and come a long way as a singer. What is left in your bucket list?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ There is so much. There are many more expressions of love, peace and human emotions that I still want to capture and share with my fans. Musically, you can never be done.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ What more can we expect from you in 2021?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ I am starting my first-ever TV show with Zee—The Indian Pro Music League. There will be a lot of live performances of all my songs. I am really looking forward to people enjoying them.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/19/music-for-the-soul.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/19/music-for-the-soul.html Fri Feb 19 11:07:33 IST 2021 first-families-of-theatre <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/11/first-families-of-theatre.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2021/2/11/63-faisal-alkazi.jpg" /> <p>Most of the siblings in the Padamsee family had met their future partners through theatre in 1940s Bombay. In an amusing courtship scene in the book&nbsp;<i>Enter Stage Right</i>, the three boyfriends of the Padamsee sisters hang around a bus stop from where they can see the balcony of their lady-loves. One of the suitors is Ebrahim Alkazi who will change the course of Indian theatre; the second one is Hamid Sayani who goes on to become a legend in the world of radio and advertising; and the third is Deryck Jefferies, the lighting maven of the Theatre Group founded by the precocious, Oxford-returned Sultan Padamsee who died aged 24 in 1946.</p> <p>While the three Romeos expectantly wait for their Juliets to appear, Ebrahim pretends to read a book, Hamid rehearses magic tricks and Deryck ruminates on the next electrical invention. One day the father of the ladies, Jaffer Ali Padamsee, simply explodes at the boys: “Get out of here and do not come back to my house, you are spoiling the name of my daughters.”When the boys return next, it is with the proposal of marriage.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>How does one write a family memoir? Does it have to be a tell-all account to please the reading public? How does one accord dignity and respect to siblings, grandparents, lovers and friends without being blindingly biased? At the hands of theatre doyen Feisal Alkazi, the genre acquires a brightly vivid and endearing tone. Measured and candid in equal parts, Feisal effortlessly chronicles the trajectory of one of the most influential alliances in Indian theatre in&nbsp;<i>Enter Stage Right: The Alkazi-Padamsee Family Memoir</i>&nbsp;with an insider’s intelligent discretion.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I told my editor from day one, ‘You are not looking at some no-holds-barred book, because I am not that kind of person’. I think people have a right to their private life,” says Feisal, son of Ebrahim Alkazi. Chirpy and gracious on a sun-dappled February morning, Feisal plays the perfect host in a purple kurta-pyjama paired with a Nehru jacket&nbsp;in his south Delhi home’s, ‘Teesri Manzil’, which is also a performance space. “One does not want to upset people or be unpleasant in any way. Too much of writing is like that,”he says.</p> <p>The result is a seamless account of two families on top of the most exciting cultural revolutions in 20th century India. The book creates an enchanting air in the way it does not just make theatre the whole and sole of the memoir project. From architecture to the visual arts, cinema to advertising, fashion to the progressive writers’ movement, the lives and legends from the Padamsee-Alkazi clan have enjoyed a unique vantage point in the arts industrial complex. And, Feisal pays homage to this historicity by interspersing charming family anecdotes. In the chapter ‘Companions for Life’, Feisal describes how eight close friends saw him through his teenage years in Delhi—Yusuf Mehta, artist Tyeb Mehta’ son; the feisty and troubled Pablo Bartholomew (renowned photojournalist); painter Krishen Khanna’s daughter Malati and photographer Ram Rahman were all part of the Delhi gang.&nbsp;There is the mad Saturday night dancing at The Cellar in&nbsp;Connaught Place. Another episode has M.F. Husain bundling these kids and their parents into his Fiat—adorned with his horse sketches—for a joyride to see Helen dancing in <i>Inteqam</i> at Golcha Cinema in Old Delhi. Or, how Feisal would listen to his uncle Ameen Sayani’s deeply refined voice hosting <i>Binaca Geetmala</i> on the radio. These vignettes coalesce with morning theatre rehearsals and Ebrahim Alkazi manning the National School of Drama in the backdrop. “I wish more people of my generation who belong to these families wrote. I have been trying to convince them to write about their stories too. It will be such a rich tapestry of voices,” says Feisal, who is currently completing a biography of artist F.N. Souza, who with poet Nissim Ezekiel and Ebrahim Alkazi lived and studied in post-war London, often counting their pennies over tomato or pea soup.&nbsp;</p> <p>Feisal writes most evocatively when he portrays the women in his family. His formidable grandmother Kulsumbai, his elegant mother and costume designer Roshen and his aunt, actor and thespian Pearl Padamsee (theatre personality and ad-film maker Alyque Padamsee’s first wife) are the characters which stay long after you shut the book. While due reverence is accorded to the larger-than-life persona of Ebrahim Alkazi and the tremendously huge role he played in the development of Indian theatre, he is not treated like a demi-god. “Women were very prominent in our lives,” says Feisal, who jokingly recalls how writer Madhu Kishwar anointed him an ‘honorary woman’ back in 1980. “Anyone who knew my grandmother knew her to be a very unusual woman for her generation, very forward-thinking, progressive, comfortable in her personality. Similarly, with Pearl, and her journey; she just walked into the biggest roles possible for her age in Indian cinema. For years, I have only been doing plays where women are the protagonists.”</p> <p>Two recent plays written and produced by him, <i>Noor</i> and <i>A Quiet Desire,</i> also revolve around women characters—Mughal empress Noor Jahan and Rabindranath Tagore’s sister-in-law Kadambari Devi. Currently, he is writing a murder mystery novel set in the Covid-locked GK-2 neighbourhood in Delhi. “It has a 60-year-old Punjabi lady, Mrs Malhotra, as the detective,” he chortles as he points to the window of a Mrs Malhotra-like neighbour he befriended during the lockdown.&nbsp;</p> <p>Feisal wears the Alkazi mantle with a light touch, never having suffered the burden of expectations in a family where theatre is a way of life. “We have all grown up like this only,” he says. “Talking about shows, reading scripts, characterisation, stitching fabrics and drapes for the stage is common everyday parlance. As long as that remains, the continued nurturing of the theatre scene, the legacy will always be alive.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Enter Stage Right: The Alkazi-Padamsee Family Memoir&nbsp; </b></p> <p><b>By Feisal Alkazi</b></p> <p><b>Publisher: Speaking Tiger Books</b></p> <p><b>Price: Rs699&nbsp; Pages: 246</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/11/first-families-of-theatre.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/11/first-families-of-theatre.html Thu Feb 11 15:39:18 IST 2021 poster-boy <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/11/poster-boy.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/2021/2/11/68-Jahan.jpg" /> <p>Film posters inadvertently reveal a lot about the country where they are made. Take Japan, for example. It has a splendid tradition of eccentric posters. The fact that Japanese posters of Indian films often bear little resemblance to what the films are about only adds to their charm. Take the Japanese poster for <i>Anjaam </i>(1994), starring Madhuri Dixit and Shah Rukh Khan. It is gloriously chaotic, with a fire-breathing goddess framed by skulls, lotuses and frightening birds.</p> <p>And it is not just Japan. Russian posters of Indian films from the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s have “really abstract and avant-garde art,” says Jahan Singh Bakshi, who has collected more than 150 foreign posters, including 50 physical copies from around the world. His Instagram page, Posterphilia, where you can find images of all the posters, has 12,000 followers. “Sometimes you see the posters and you're like, What? For this film? Really? Like the Thai poster for <i>Salaam Bombay </i>(1988), which is lush, floral and colourful, very unlike the tone of the film.” According to him, American posters are the most boring and text-heavy.</p> <p>Bakshi says he had no idea that so many foreign posters existed for Indian movies. “There were a few obvious ones of Satyajit Ray films,” he says. “And some Raj Kapoor ones. But the others, to my knowledge, had never been documented. So often, the filmmakers themselves are not aware of them.” Now he wants to do in-depth research to get more cultural context on these posters and collate them into a book.</p> <p>Bakshi, a film subtitler and creative marketing consultant who has worked on films like <i>Masaan </i>(2015), <i>Lipstick Under My Burkha</i> (2016) and <i>Newton</i> (2017), finds these posters online “through a chain reaction of searching”. Sometimes, they are on websites that are not even in English. “Occasionally, I might find a Russian poster that definitely looks like it is for an Indian film,” he says. “Then I type out the Russian title and reverse translate it to find a match. Once, I saw this Russian poster of a man with a noose around his neck, with a glamorous cabaret dancer in the foreground. He looked a lot like Guru Dutt. It turned out to be a poster for <i>Aitbaar,</i> the 1985 Hindi remake of Hitchcock's <i>Dial M For Murder, </i>starring Raj Babbar and Dimple Kapadia.”</p> <p>There are certain prominent trends in these foreign posters. One is the obvious touch of exotica. The British poster for <i>The Lunchbox</i> (2013), for example, featured chillies in bright pink, orange and red, although the tone of the film was sombre. In others, the heroine is magnified, as her beauty and glamour are a big draw. In the Japanese poster for <i>Om Shanti Om</i> (2007), (“which out-blings the Indian version with oodles of glitter, a floral border and lots of tiny details”), Deepika Padukone stands out like a “shimmering goddess”. Sridevi dominates the Russian poster of <i>Mr India </i>(1987) with Anil Kapoor rendered as a tiny figure in the background.</p> <p>Some of Bakshi's favourite posters include a “completely original and very expressionistic” East German poster for <i>Awara</i> (1951), which he bought from a seller in Germany; a Hungarian poster for <i>Nishant </i>(1975) which features a huge portrait of Shabana Azmi with dragons wrapped around her face; a Czech poster for <i>Apur Sansar</i> (1959), which bears an uncanny resemblance to a Jamini Roy painting; and two Russian posters for <i>Khoon Bhari Maang</i> (1988), one in hot pink with a crocodile with painted nails and another, a close-up of Rekha with a serpent like a <i>maang tikka</i> on her forehead.</p> <p>Bakshi has scoured the internet so many times for these posters that he feels he is nearing the end of what is available online. “I have written so much about posters that when I search for something, my own articles keep popping up,” he says with a smile. “Still, I keep checking auction sites. I want to reclaim this legacy which will be lost if someone does not document it.”&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/11/poster-boy.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/11/poster-boy.html Thu Feb 11 15:26:32 IST 2021 return-to-funk <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/11/return-to-funk.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/2021/2/11/69-Medicine-at-Midnight-new.jpg" /> <p>For rock music purists, Foo Fighters is a band that is fashionable to look down upon. Since its emergence in the 1990s, helmed by drummer Dave Grohl of post-Nirvana fame, the alt-rock band became famous for its ear-worm riffs, catchy hooks and melodic rock. Detractors termed their music pop on steroids and basic rock, yet the band had cultivated a cross-genre popularity unrivalled by its peers. And it has remained so for over two decades.</p> <p>The band’s latest album, <i>Medicine at Midnight</i>, is a return to basics (sort of) for Grohl. After the androgynous mess that was <i>Sonic Highway</i> (2014) and the relatively more coherent <i>Concrete and Gold</i> (2017), the latest offering is an unabashed return to the band’s pop roots. In a pre-release interview, Grohl said the album was inspired by David Bowie and 1970s dance music.</p> <p>The nine-track set was written pre-pandemic and supposed to be released last year, for the band’s 25th anniversary, but Covid-19 played spoilsport. Many critics questioned why the album was not released nevertheless, but the reasons become clear once the listener gets two tracks into the collection. The songs are arena-rock at its finest, all funk, groove and massive infusions of the Grohlian energy. This was an album made to be performed live, before hordes of foot-stomping fans.</p> <p><i>Medicine at Midnight</i> beautifully blurs the line between disco and rock. Drummer Taylor Hawkins’s imprint is present in every song, but none more so than in the opening track, 'Making a Fire', which sets the tone for the album. Brimming with energy, Grohl lets his guitar wail, as he screams that he has “waited a lifetime to live”. The female backing track—a first for the band—is a fixture throughout, for the most part harmonising and texturing the songs beautifully.</p> <p>The second track, 'Shame Shame', is the strangest Foo Fighters song yet. It is all guitar riffs and bass, slowly building up and making you expect an epic chorus, which does not quite come. 'Waiting for War' is the most quintessential Foo Fighters song of the album—a comfort food for old-school Grohl fans. There is punk rock and gospel in the soaring 'No Sons of Mine'.</p> <p>To sum up, <i>Medicine at Midnight</i> is for the Foo Fighters fan, a foot-stomping, head-banging celebration of their 25 years of rock and roll. If you want introspective lyrics and intricate musicology, this album is not for you.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/11/return-to-funk.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/11/return-to-funk.html Thu Feb 11 15:15:00 IST 2021 its-raining-accolades <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/11/its-raining-accolades.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/2021/2/11/73-abhishek-banerjee.jpg" /> <p>Abhishek Banerjee made his acting debut with a cameo role in <i>Rang De Basanti</i> (2006) and rose to fame with more impactful roles in films like <i>Phillauri</i> (2017),<i> Stree</i> (2018), <i>Dream Girl</i> (2019) and <i>Bala</i> (2019). He has also featured in the web shows <i>TVF Pitchers</i> (2015), <i>Mirzapur</i> (2018) and <i>Typewriter </i>(2019). Last year, he essayed the role of a brutal criminal in <i>Paatal Lok</i>, which earned him many accolades and a nomination for best supporting actor (series) at the Critics’ Choice Awards.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Were you expecting the nomination?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>Not at all. I started my journey as an actor long ago. My film <i>Stree</i>, too, got a lot of nominations. But the one for <i>Paatal Lok</i>, coming from the critics themselves, makes it even more special.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Did you think your role in </b><i><b>Paatal Lok</b></i><b> would be a game-changer?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>No. I only expected filmmakers and others who have seen me do comedy to see me in a different space altogether, so that I get to do a variety of films [in other genres, too]. So that was the expectation, but I have received much more than that. When I was offered the part in <i>Paatal Lok</i>, I was doubtful whether I would be able to pull it off successfully. Giving it my best was my first aim, and the second was to know if my best would be good enough to give the character the grandeur he deserved.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ How are you juggling being a casting director and an actor?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>Ours was the first company in the casting space that was not an individualistic one. It was a brand in itself. Anmol Ahuja and I founded it, and now we have an entire team of associates who are managing the work. My job has become simpler over the years because I do not have to physically take auditions; my team does that. I suggest my own name to my team sometimes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ You have worked in acclaimed projects like </b><i><b>Stree</b></i><b> and </b><i><b>Mirzapur</b></i><b>. Which film is the highlight of your career?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>I think it has to be two projects—<i>Stree</i> and <i>Paatal Lok</i>. <i>Mirzapur </i>was a filler between these two. Because I was a nice, sweet boy in <i>Stree, Mirzapur</i> added that element of surprise, since I was a violent [person] in it. It gave me that extra mileage as an actor. <i>Paatal Lok</i> sealed the deal for me, because it helped me show off my skills as an actor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Future projects?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>There are two films which I shot for in 2018—<i>Helmet</i> and <i>Aankh Micholi</i>. I also shot for <i>Rashmi Rocket</i> during the pandemic, which is slated to release this year, and I’m part of two anthologies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/11/its-raining-accolades.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/11/its-raining-accolades.html Thu Feb 11 14:34:55 IST 2021 food-for-the-fight <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/04/food-for-the-fight.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/2021/2/4/63-Community-kitchens-new.jpg" /> <p>Parasdeep Singh has been stationed with his industrial-grade popcorn-maker at the Singhu border for over a month. He is a graduate who discontinued his master’s in history at Punjabi University, took a three-week training in physiotherapy and became a “patient caretaker” more than a year ago. The onset of the pandemic quelled his private physiotherapy gig. That is when he bought a popcorn machine to stay afloat. “Where are the jobs with my qualifications? I have no money to pursue further studies,” says Parasdeep, as he cups a handful of popcorn and offers it to a gaggle of children waiting with outstretched palms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He wanted to set up langar at Singhu border when the farmers’ agitation started, but he did not have the means to organise one. So, with help from a few friends, he managed to procure a truckful of corn and towed his machine on a motorcycle and reached Singhu to support his brethren. Though he was supposed to leave last month, he got a call from the village sarpanch who asked him to continue with his sewa. “He [sarpanch] will take care of my daily expenses,” says Parasdeep. “Big corporations will acquire corn at the lowest price from the farmers, store it, then sell popcorn to us for Rs100. This protest is not just for the farmers; it is for everyone.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Food has always played a pivotal role in revolutions. There is a reason why they are called “weapons of mass consumption”; food is everything with its markers and connotations—religious, cultural, consumerist, subsistence, personal, and identity-based markers. It was the self-immolation of a Tunisian fruit and vegetable vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, which triggered the Arab Spring in 2011.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While one could partake of free hot dogs at the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, a shop owner was inspired enough to sell tear-gas-flavoured ice cream made of black peppercorns. While denouncing corporate culture during the Occupy Wall Street protest (in 2011), agitators were fed corporate food like free Ben &amp; Jerry’s pints and McDonald’s burgers. Climate activism-centred Extinction Rebellion (XR) kitchens in London would cook conscious food like vegan chilli, vegetable couscous, “scrap salad”, Chelsea buns and flapjack in military-precise community kitchens behind Trafalgar Square. While his diet conformed to his political beliefs, Mahatma Gandhi undertook and encouraged fasts in India’s freedom movement. Abstaining from eating food, by itself, was also a major force of resistance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chapatis have always been associated with rebellion. Just before the 1857 mutiny against the rule of the British East India Company, a mysterious and ever-growing distribution of chapatis started in the villages of north India, carried surreptitiously by watchmen in their turbans. The British surmised that the “chapati mystery” had secret messages embedded within, while the Indians thought it was the handiwork of the Britishers themselves. Chapatis reached the state of Kerala during the Vaikom Satyagraha (1924-1925) against caste discrimination in erstwhile Travancore. It was introduced by a group of Sikh protesters who came from Punjab and set up a langar there.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The community kitchen at Shaheen Bagh fed the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protestors all through the day. Packets of biriyani, mostly prepared in nearby Chandni Chowk, would be available to students, dadis and families camping there in biting cold, apart from fruits like chikku, figs and dates for those observing the Ramadan fast. One could not dismiss the variety from their “rebel kitchen”, from rajma rice to samosas.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The current agitation against “market-friendly” farm laws does not preclude market-friendly food like pizza and pasta at the protest site. And, why should it? When the crux of a movement is about ensuring the welfare of the keepers of India’s granary, food in all its diversity is bound to be the hallmark of it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Near the makeshift laundry, complete with washing machines and iron-boxes, there is a langar where Ranjit Singh Rana from Sultanpur sits, next to a pile of cauliflowers. He is unable to fathom why a “Pizza langar” at a protest site should raise hackles. “We have served excellent langar during the Nepal earthquake and even the Bihar floods. We have served a langar in Syria. Nobody had any problems then?” says Ranjit. “Now when we are fighting for our rights, questions are being raised about the food being served here.” He recounts the religious origins of the system of community kitchens called langar. “When Guru Nanak spent his 20 rupees—meant for selling goods at a profit—to feed hungry sadhus as a ‘sacha sauda’, the tradition of feeding others irrespective of caste, community or religion has only grown,” he says. “All this food is emerging from that fixed deposit.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An article in The New York Times last year hailed the Sikh community for feeding both New York City hospital workers and protesters marching against the killing of George Floyd.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sukhwinder Singh from Karnal has been manning one of the busiest langars since the last week of December at Singhu. Missi roti and sarso da saag are served with home-made butter and ghee, green chillies, chunks of jaggery and buttermilk to a snaking queue, as tractors playing blaring disco music cart in bottles of drinking water. “We will continue to make this here until the [farm] laws are repealed,” says Sukhwinder.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sulakhan Singh shows off the technical prowess of a bulky, automated roti-maker while pointing out mechanised boilers, vegetable cutter and potato peeler which has helped to feed thousands of protesters every day. He wakes up at 4am and is on his feet all day, preparing four meals every day. “I have never cooked in my house. But here I am cooking every day,” he says with great pride.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/04/food-for-the-fight.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/04/food-for-the-fight.html Fri Feb 05 15:49:29 IST 2021 reel-life <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/04/reel-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/2021/2/4/66-Niharika-new.jpg" /> <p>Niharika N.M., a comedy content creator on Instagram’s Reels, the short-format story-telling feature, has a question: Are not people who upload cute couple pictures on social media not afraid their relatives will see them? “Also, first of all, where are you finding these girlfriends and boyfriends?” she asks. “One Pooja will upload a picture from Paris with her boyfriend and go like, ‘Wanderlust with babe’. My mom won’t let me go to the supermarket after 6pm. ‘I’m so glad I made the first move and met my boyfriend on Bumble,’ [she’ll say]. I also downloaded Bumble and made first, second move, but didn’t get a boyfriend. What to do, maybe I’ll swipe again.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is as much Niharika’s delivery, in a ‘pukka’ South Indian accent, as her cutting-edge wit that leaves you in splits. For the 23-year-old, it was overnight fame. She is one of Instagram’s fastest-growing content creators who grew her account from one lakh followers to over 10 lakh in two months. The Los Angeles-based influencer rose to fame with her funny and relatable desi content. “I had always been an over-enthusiastic child who got into trouble for talking too much or just being too naughty. My parents always wondered when I would calm down,” says Niharika. “I never did! Now, I use all that excess energy in my videos.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Niharika has made videos on a number of everyday subjects, from irritating airplane behaviour and facing road rage to loud mothers, and hairy uncles who make gargling sounds. The Bengaluru girl has nailed her annoying South Indian persona so perfectly that it is almost difficult to believe that she is putting on an act. In a short span of time, she got noticed by the glitterati, with some of them reposting her reels in their stories. “Macha, I was really overwhelmed by the response. Growing up, I was the fat kid in my group of friends, so I used to crack jokes just to fit in,” she says. It was in college that her friends encouraged her to try out something on the YouTube comedy space. Niharika has also made a guest appearance on Netflix’s YouTube show, Behensplaining.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When the TikTok ban was announced in August, Instagram launched Reels as a replacement. It offers millennials and Gen-Zers a space to create catchy, short and sharable clips. Though the TikTok copycat feature got mixed reviews in the beginning, with some calling it a ‘dud’, creators say the feature has become a secret weapon to supercharge their growth and engagement. Whether it be on fashion, travel or food, Instagrammers are loving the videos. However, when it comes to favourites, comedy tops the list.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And it is encouraging to see so many women in the comedy space. Anisha Dixit, another popular influencer, was one of the first independent female content creators in India. Unlike Niharika, however, the path to fame was narrow and rocky for her. “I was an aspiring actor who, like others, was trying to make it in Bollywood,” she says. “I used to go for auditions day in and day out. After facing more than 500 rejections, my then boyfriend Caleb, who is now my husband, suggested that I explore YouTube.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When she started out in 2013, there were hardly any independent creators in India. From YouTube to Instagram, Anisha’s journey has been quite eventful. She deals with everything from relationships and menstruation to health problems and cultural differences in her videos. From Zoom parties to hopeless New Year’s resolutions to work-from-home woes, her videos are relatable and spot-on. Careful attention has been paid to all aspects, from the background score to the setting to the costumes, so that the clips have a polished and complete feel to them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“From making movie reviews in rickshaws to creating full-fledged comedy sketches and funny reels, my content continues to evolve as that is the key to surviving in this dynamic industry,” she says. According to Anisha, content creation is a very rewarding space if it is done in the right way. “My advice to all content creators is to not compromise on hard work.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The best thing about humour is that it comes in so many different forms. There is satire, slapstick, slice-of-life, stand-up…. And then there is musical comedy, like Mayur Jumani’s. The Mumbai-based musician, music director and composer shot to fame with his catchy musical reels. His unforgettable mash-up of Donald Trump’s epic ‘Vivekamunand’ moment at Ahmedabad is still trending on social media. Mayur had been composing music and playing instruments since he was a child. It had always been his passion to pursue music, but never thought it could be a career until five years ago when he did his masters in music production and technology from the Berklee College of Music. After graduating, he worked on a few projects in Los Angeles and then moved back to Mumbai. Mayur, 28, started doing mash-ups during the lockdown. His ‘mujhe drugs do’ Arnab Goswami video took his follower count from 3k to 152k. “I was expecting a backlash,” he says. “But the overwhelming response was awe-inspiring. I felt like I could convert this into a new trend, and that is how it started.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mayur’s modus operandi is that he never repeats a single idea. Every reel has a new concept, element or prop. “Sometimes I watch something and the melody immediately comes to my mind,” he says. “And then there are days when I sit with a blank canvas. I play around with my piano and [music] software to try out different variations. Ultimately, good content revolves around the rhythm of the dialogue and a melody line that blends well with it.” His aim, he says, is to keep trying new things and pushing his boundaries. “The best is yet to come,” he says.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/04/reel-life.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/04/reel-life.html Thu Feb 04 16:43:53 IST 2021 puppy-luxe <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/04/puppy-luxe.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/2021/2/4/68-Pets-get-their-own.jpg" /> <p>Velvet bedspreads, 24-hour medical care, Belgian beer (non-alcoholic!), standard to deluxe to balcony suites, a salon and spa with Spanish perfumes, and a cafeteria for wedding and birthday parties—these are some of the features of Critterati, India’s first ever five-star hotel for pets. The Gurugram-based hotel was founded by Jaanwi and Deepak Chawla in 2017.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The 12,000 sqft-hotel was categorised an ‘essential service’ during the lockdown. Owners who were either stuck abroad or otherwise unable to take care of their pets, were unwilling to settle for home or farm-based boarding. Their pooches, they felt, should be quarantined in luxury.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Chawlas say that Critterati is the “epitome of unquestionable affection and ultimate luxury” and that it proved its worth during the pandemic. “For a vast majority, dogs are just like their children,” says Jaanwi. “Amidst the Covid-19 crisis, when pet parents were stuck abroad or under quarantine, they wanted a convenient and comfortable stay for their pets. For many, it is luxury, but for these pets and their parents, it is their lifestyle.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The couple started Critterati after almost three years of extensive research on pet hospitality in the US and Europe, and they have raised the bar of the still-nascent pet hospitality segment in India. Sample this: Critterati’s floors are made of special material to reduce stress on pet paws. The swimming pool is sterilized using UV technology to avoid the use of chlorine, which is harmful for animals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like all luxury resorts, this hotel, too, has a wide selection of rooms. A standard room comes with premium bedding, padded floors, two meals, two leash-free play sessions and four potty breaks. For more discerning guests, there are a variety of suites which come with a private balcony, a TV screening special dog programmes, daily swimming sessions and a private webcam link for owners.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“These are not our pets, but our children and we try to give them the best and pamper them,” says Shefali Shukla, one of the patrons. “My Lucy is a little wary of travelling, and most of the time it is not feasible to take her along. The boarding houses across the NCR are horrible, [rampant with] diseases, illegal mating and even critical infections. We zeroed in on this place two years ago, and ever since holidays have been relaxed and fun for both Lucy and me. She comes here not just for boarding, but for her fortnightly outings, dinners and play dates.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Noida resident Anvay Shrivastava says that the hotel was a godsend during his sister’s wedding. Because of the pandemic, the wedding took place at home and many arrangements had to be made. “We checked our dog in at the hotel and got through the wedding without having to worry about him being taken care of,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In addition to boarding, the hotel offers day-care and spa services, a boutique, pet clinic, play area, lounge and transportation. Critterati also organises birthday parties, training sessions and photo shoots for pets. While the pooches get groomed, pet parents can socialise with like-minded people at the pet café.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/04/puppy-luxe.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/04/puppy-luxe.html Thu Feb 04 18:53:07 IST 2021 one-move-blunder <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/04/one-move-blunder.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/2021/2/4/70-One-move-blunder.jpg" /> <p>After PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds: Mobile (PUBG: Mobile) was banned in India, Fearless And United - Guards (FAU-G) was announced, touted by Akshay Kumar as a beacon of Atmanirbhar Bharat in desi game development. Twenty per cent of money spent on in-app purchases go to the Bharat Ke Veer fund. In FAU-G, you play as the head of an elite Indian fighting unit thrust behind enemy lines after the stand-off in the high-altitude Galwan Valley.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite the rhyming name, developers nCore Games stressed that FAU-G would be no PUBG clone. Rather than being a shooting game, it seemingly respects the rules of engagement (RoE) that Indian and Chinese troops adhered to during the battle at Galwan Valley. That is, all the fighting is in the form of fisticuffs, with the occasional crude weapon thrown into the mix.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The problem is that FAU-G has taken only one aspect from PUBG: Mobile, and that is the weak melee combat system. There is only one button to attack, and mashing it is the only way to beat your enemies. Every fight feels the same as the last, as the weak enemy AI and shoddy controls detract from the normally fun third-person brawler format.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chinese soldiers, once hit, will not retaliate if you keep smashing the attack button. They do nothing as you bludgeon their comrades to death, provided you do not bump into them during the process—like in action films, the enemy prefers to take you on one-at-a-time rather than all-at-once. However, the game does not let you pick your opponent—in the midst of punching one hapless enemy, you might suddenly swing at another, giving you two opponents instead of one.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After growing bored of the combat, I found out that FAU-G is at its most fun when you break its mechanics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All characters, including your own, assume a fighting stance when near an enemy: Preventing you from running, but also restricting all opponents to the same pace. While in this pose, if you hold the block button and circle around the enemy, you can hop backwards through their camps with the Chinese soldiers in tow—like a Bollywood dance number with dozens of Chinese soldiers posturing as your posse.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The soldiers lose interest in you the moment you leave their camps, allowing you to run to the next one. While this would have been a fun and non-violent way to clear the game, sadly, you cannot clear objectives without beating up all the soldiers in an area. Back to the grind.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A clunky time-limit system gives you only 25 minutes to clear your objectives—not enough time to beat everyone up and recover your health as well. Worse, every soldier you defeat dramatically falls in slow motion. This gets old real quick.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The game has scope to grow, promising multiplayer Battle Royale (like that of PUBG’s) and Deathmatch modes in the future. Guns are an inevitability in such formats, and hopefully, their gameplay will be more fun than the single-player campaign mode.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/04/one-move-blunder.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/04/one-move-blunder.html Thu Feb 04 16:22:43 IST 2021 winds-of-change <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/04/winds-of-change.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/2021/2/4/73-Kirti-Kulhari.jpg" /> <p>Kirti Kulhari recently gave a noteworthy performance in her latest, Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors, opposite Pankaj Tripathi. Since her first film, Khichdi: The Movie (2011), Kirti has acted in acclaimed films like Shaitan (2011), Pink (2016), Indu Sarkar (2017) and Blackmail (2018). In 2019, she acted in the super hit films, Uri: The Surgical Strike and Mission Mangal. She recently took to the digital space with successful shows like Four More Shots Please! (2019) and Bard of Blood (2019). Kirti has several exciting projects lined up—the third season of Four More Shots Please!, the Hindi remake of The Girl on the Train, Shaadistan, and the short films Charu and Inside Out.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Your character, Anu Chandra, in Criminal Justice has been critically acclaimed.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ I loved the character as she had so much to offer me as an actor. It was different and dark, and I really had to find ways to do this and not take any of it with me. It was a challenge to separate my personal life from that of the character.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ You have worked in films with strong female characters that did well, both commercially and critically.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ Strong, empowered women have always been around in society, [although] it is only now that we are talking about them in our films and shows. With the audience maturing, we now have people being represented for who they really are. The OTT platforms have opened up the world for actors like me, as the demand for good stories has increased sharply. I have been waiting for this forever and finally it is happening. These platforms are more liberating. We can now have characters who are as grey and dark as possible, with access to a worldwide audience and no censorship. Also, Bollywood has always been male-dominated, and the audiences are as much responsible for that as those within the industry. Now that the whole shift is happening, I am grateful that I stuck around and survived. Now, I am ready to be one of those who could take this shift forward.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Is there a certain unwritten hierarchy among actors?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ There is a hierarchy of stars which I cannot fight. I am not as big. But when that comparison is in your face, I get uncomfortable. And I have had such experiences in the past. But I can say with authority that nobody in this industry can intimidate me as an actor. If I have to compete in the star system, I cringe because I know I am not in that top hierarchy, and don’t know how to fight that. There is a clear difference between actors and stars.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/04/winds-of-change.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/02/04/winds-of-change.html Thu Feb 04 16:17:27 IST 2021 scars-and-sketches <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/28/scars-and-sketches.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/2021/1/28/63-GenBipinBakshi2.jpg" /> <p>On New Year’s Day 2016, a group of terrorists from across the border, dressed in military uniforms, attacked the Air Force Station in Pathankot. In the 15-hour-long gun battle, India lost three soldiers, and four of the militants were felled. Now came an even tougher challenge—the “sanitising” operation to clear the area of grenades and other explosives, especially those around the booby-trapped dead bodies of the militants.</p> <p>Lt Col Niranjan E.K., from the National Security Guard’s bomb disposal squad in Manesar, Haryana, was tasked with leading a team quickly assembled for this mission. Bomb disposal is an exacting task. One wrong move could cost you your life. Niranjan took the lead in clearing much of the area, finding two of the dead militants and removing the hidden explosives on them. When he was searching the third body, however, a concealed booby trap exploded, spraying shrapnel all around. Niranjan was fatally injured. However, his valour provided a safe passage for the intervening troops and ensured the neutralising of two more terrorists. He was posthumously awarded a Shaurya Chakra.</p> <p>Although the incident happened just five years ago, Niranjan has faded from public memory. Yet, his is just the kind of story that would be kept alive in the west through a graphic novel, film or video game. Boys in India do the same, too. They read Commando Comics, watch war movies or play virtual games like PUBG. Unfortunately, most of their heroes are western ones. <i>Niranjan: The Bomb Buster</i>, however, is one of a slowly growing number of graphic novels on Indian soldiers. Written by Major General (retd) Bipin Bakshi, this 36-page paperback is packed with adrenaline and tells, in gripping detail, about the man, his mission and his valour. It makes the story of Niranjan accessible to a generation that does not read much. The simple, conversational language is so much more relatable than official citations. “We grew up reading Commando Comics. They were of World War II vintage, and distanced from us in both time and space. Yet, they were so engrossing and inspiring,” says Bakshi, who strongly feels Indian boys and girls should be introduced to their own, more recent heroes, so that they are more relatable.</p> <p>“I was posted to the NSG in Manesar a few months after this operation. We later named an auditorium after Niranjan and unveiled his bust at the premises. I felt that his story needed to reach the younger generation,” says Bakshi, a former para engineer and now, deputy director, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. He is also the author of another graphic novel on Lt Gen P. S. Bhagat, India’s first recipient of the Victoria Cross. Bakshi met Bhagat’s daughter, Ashali Varma, several years ago, when an enclave in Ganganagar cantonment, Rajasthan, was being named after the hero. The idea to do graphic novels came out of that encounter.</p> <p>Bakshi collaborated with Rishi Kumar, illustrator and publisher of Aan Comics, which focuses exclusively on graphic novels on Indian heroes. “The book on Lt Gen Bhagat did so well that I later brought out a Hindi edition, so that the troops could read it, too,” says Bakshi.</p> <p>Kumar, 39, was yet another of those youngsters whose childhood diet consisted of Commando Comics. Sketching figures of soldiers, guns and tanks was his hobby. “I had not realised that a childhood hobby would unfurl into a full career,” says Kumar, who has now published around 40 such books, some written by himself, many in collaboration with other writers. “It is still a very niche specialisation,” he says. “I notice that, while in cantonment schools these books do well, there are fewer takers in the civilian world. The effort is, therefore, to increase outreach.”</p> <p>Independent India’s war stories are aplenty. There are tales of grit and valour. However, these are either chronicled in heavy-duty prose or taken out of context when translated to the silver screen. Making graphic novels on them is a recent phenomenon. Perhaps the first of these was Aditya Bakshi’s <i>‘Yeh dil maange more!’ Capt. Vikram Batra, PVC</i>, published by Om Publications in 2008. Major general (retd) Ian Cardozo came out with an eight-book series, <i>Param Vir: Our Heroes in Battle</i>, illustrated by Kumar and published by Roli Books. In 2015, Amar Chitra Katha, too, had brought out a special volume on the 21 Param Vir Chakra awardees.</p> <p>There are, however, so many unsung heroes. Take the story of Col Chewang Rinchen, who became the youngest ever recipient of the Mahavir Vir Chakra at the age of 17. “He captured around 800 sqkm of land for India in Turtuk in 1971,” says Kumar, who is now working on a novel on him. This year marks the golden jubilee of the 1971 war; it will be a year when battle stories will be told and retold. Kumar plans at least four stories on the war, two from battles in the eastern theatre and two from the west.</p> <p>The format may be a graphic novel, but the research is thorough. Unlike cinema, no literary licenses are taken in these narratives. Thus, it takes time to get the requisite permissions and to do the research. “It is exacting work,” says Bakshi, who is ready to tell a few more stories, soon.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/28/scars-and-sketches.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/28/scars-and-sketches.html Thu Jan 28 14:41:23 IST 2021 guns-and-glory <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/28/guns-and-glory.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/2021/1/28/66-Lamchar-.jpg" /> <p>Aristocratic Rajputs hardly ever wielded guns in Jodhpur paintings, not until the second half of the eighteenth century. An officer with the British East India Company, James Tod, wrote in the nineteenth century: “The Rajputs who still curse those vile guns which render of comparative[ly] little value the lance of many a gallant soldier, and he still prefers falling with dignity from his steed to descending to an equality with his mercenary antagonists.”</p> <p>Robert Elgood, an expert on historic arms, has referenced this quote and elaborated on Rajput’s disdain for gunpowder weapons vis-à-vis the Mughals in the sumptuously produced <i>The Maharaja of Jodhpur’s Guns</i> commissioned by the Mehrangarh Museum Trust—perhaps only to further accentuate the stunning range of Indian matchlocks, sporting guns, shotguns, revolvers and automatic pistols that reside in the Jodhpur collection. This book offers a richly illustrated account of historic Indian arms with its splendid interspersing of 350 crystalline images of guns and Rajput paintings sourced from private collections by Elgood.</p> <p>The section 45(c) of the Arms Act, 1959, allows ownership of weapons of “an obsolete pattern or of antiquarian value or in disrepair”. Elgood takes care to mention at the very outset how during Indira Gandhi’s prime ministership, guns in the Jodhpur armoury were perforated with holes in their breeches to make them defunct. What follows is a fascinating account of gilded weapons in war and peace.</p> <p>There is the “big and long” <i>lamchar</i> which is the Jodhpur name for a 10-foot-long matchlock, usually carried by two men. Mounted on stands when used, they are seen in Akbar’s siege of Ranthambore, painted in 1569 in the <i>Akbarnama</i>. The stands were first created in Europe, the author informs. One was even designed by Leonardo da Vinci. Elgood talks about the hefty Mughal bullets used in these guns, and how once it caused the death of 32-year-old prince Daniyal Mirza, the third son of Akbar. On a hunting expedition, the alcoholic prince had asked his friends to conceal liquor in a gun barrel; the residual lead left in the barrel might have caused death by lead poisoning.</p> <p>The Mehrangarh armoury has an excellent collection of patterned “Sindhi Jezails”; they have the best Damascus barrels, often with the owner’s name etched in gold. The staggering collection cannot be complete without the mention of the British gunmaker R.B. Rodda &amp; Co. Next to the image of a cased Colt self-loading and gold-plated pistol, Elgood recounts how the company was famously robbed of 50 Mauser pistols and 46,000 rounds of ammunition by the Jugantar faction of a Bengali revolutionary outfit called Anushilan Samiti.</p> <p>While the details can often get bulky and overwhelming, much like the guns on display, the book is an enviable collectable for readers keen to appreciate the magic and the menace of firearms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>The Maharaja of Jodhpur’s Guns</b></i></p> <p><b>By Robert Elgood</b></p> <p><b>Published by Niyogi Books</b></p> <p><b>Price Rs4,500; pages 368</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/28/guns-and-glory.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/28/guns-and-glory.html Thu Jan 28 14:31:17 IST 2021 a-tale-of-grief <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/28/a-tale-of-grief.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/2021/1/28/67-a-white-white-day.jpg" /> <p><b>Ingimundur, a cop,</b> is grieving the loss of his wife in a tragic car accident. Though he barely speaks of her, it is clear that he misses her. He is unwilling to let go of her things, but refuses to confront his emotions during his therapy sessions. When Ingimundur decides to go through her things one last time, he realises that she was cheating on him with a neighbour.</p> <p>Ingimundur wants to understand why his late wife would do that to him, while he was always faithful to her. When he tracks down and confronts her paramour, one feels puzzled by the strangeness of his questions.</p> <p><i>A White, White Day</i> is a slow burner. After the agonising yet stunning opening sequence, director Hlynur Pálmason takes his own sweet time to develop Ingimundur’s character, even as he builds the suspense before the final confrontation. The movie, which was screened at Cannes and was the Icelandic entry for best international film at the 92nd Oscars, is an intimate look at a man whose grief and rage consume him. More of an existential drama than a revenge flick, <i>A White, White Day </i>might test your patience a bit, but it is every bit worth it.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/28/a-tale-of-grief.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/28/a-tale-of-grief.html Thu Jan 28 14:26:14 IST 2021 indian-museums-need-to-rethink-their-story-telling-approach <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/28/indian-museums-need-to-rethink-their-story-telling-approach.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/2021/1/28/68-vinod.jpg" /> <p>An Australian citizen of Indian origin, Vinod Daniel is known for his work in heritage preservation, both in Australia and overseas. He is chairman of the Board for AusHeritage and member of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), Paris, and has worked in over 55 museums globally. Here, he talks about how we can improve Indian museums and how the pandemic has impacted them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Q/ <b>How would you compare museums in India with those in the west?</b></p> <p>A/ In the developed world, museums have tried to become more relevant and connect with what is happening around the world—whether it is climate change, forest fires or Covid-19. Before, the definition of museums used to be very static—to collect, conserve, research and provide knowledge. But right now, it is all about how you become relevant to society. India is far behind in these approaches. China, for example, went on a campaign to develop their museums. They got experts and pumped enough money to build between 200 and 400 museums every year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Q/ <b>How has the pandemic impacted museums?</b></p> <p>A/ During the pandemic, the museum sector really took a hit. It is not a very nimble sector anyway. The Met closed for six to nine months and went on a downward spiral. Its annual budget is around $400 million. For a big museum anywhere else, it would be $3 to $4 million. When museums like the Met struggle, the ripples are felt very far. I don’t think any substantial shows will come from the west until middle of this year.</p> <p>In India, nearly 100 per cent of the museums are government-funded. So closure might not be an issue, but the operational aspect would be. There would not be enough money for employee salaries, gallery openings, public programmes and a host of other things.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Q/ <b>How can we improve the condition of museums in India?</b></p> <p>A/ We have to redesign how we are going to approach story-telling. This is a good opportunity for the government to rethink how they run museums. Do they still want it to be 100 per cent government-funded? Or should we have a balance, where the government gives a grant, but sets up an independent board so that museums can have a degree of flexibility to be innovative.</p> <p>Indian food and films are a major component of our soft power, but not our collections. These occupy a very significant part in museums around the world, right from the Met to galleries in Paris and others. We should use them to celebrate India and see that our story is conveyed globally.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Q/ <b>But we do not have the kind of resources that China has to improve our museums.</b></p> <p>A/ A museum does not have to have a large corpus of funding. The sugarcane industry, for example, could have a small museum somewhere. Or the tea industry. There could be an old police building that is no longer used. How do you convey a story through that? We don’t need to copy the western model of doing blockbuster exhibitions, but we need to be clear about what story we want to say and make it very simple. We should have many more interactive elements—like talks, concerts, performances and lectures. Then the sector will become vibrant and will survive.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/28/indian-museums-need-to-rethink-their-story-telling-approach.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/28/indian-museums-need-to-rethink-their-story-telling-approach.html Thu Jan 28 14:22:13 IST 2021 a-star-is-born <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/28/a-star-is-born.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/2021/1/28/73-adarsh.jpg" /> <p>Everyone is talking about <i>The White Tiger</i>, the Netflix adaptation of Aravind Adiga’s book, starring Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Rajkummar Rao, and directed by Ramin Bahrani. And you cannot talk about the film without talking about the cunningly slick central character, Balram Halwai, played by Adarsh Gourav. Recently nominated for best actor at the Independent Spirit Awards, Gourav talks to THE WEEK about his role and how he prepared for it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\How did you bag the role of Balram?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>In June 2019 I got a call from [casting director] Tess Joseph’s office to audition for Balram’s part. Even thinking about getting the part was out of the question, because it was a huge film and [the role] would be way out of my league. I had read the book when I was 14, so I had the context to the character and the story. So I gave the audition, which was followed by four to five rounds of rigorous auditions, at which Ramin was also present. After a month, Ramin went back to New York, and following a discussion with Netflix US, he called me and offered the part. It was unreal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\You have received critical acclaim for your stellar performance. How did you prepare for the role?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>The first thing I did was, I packed my bags and went to a small village called Chalkari Basti in Jharkhand, where I stayed with a friend. The villagers thought I was helping my friend to write a story about the village. The idea was to get people to be themselves and trust me, so that I could get a sense of what their worldview was. After that I went to Delhi and worked at a small food stall. I had asked the stylist to send me some of Balram’s clothes. I would not bathe very often, so I was looking kind of worn out. My beard was overgrown and my hair was oily, and I had been practising my accent as well. For two days I roamed the streets of Saket looking for a job. On the third day, I found a person outside Saket court who let me clean plates and run errands for him. I worked at his stall for around two weeks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\How was it working with Priyanka and Rajkummar?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>Fantastic! I have grown up on Rajkummar Rao’s films and am a huge fan of ones like <i>Trapped </i>and <i>Newton.</i> They have helped me understand how an actor thinks. Priyanka made us feel at home and was very grounded. She was born in Jamshedpur and I grew up there, so we had a lot to talk about. Ramin, too, is a genius to work with. He gave us so much space to find our own truth. He never called out ‘action’ or ‘cut’. He would always say [to start] whenever we were ready.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/28/a-star-is-born.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/28/a-star-is-born.html Thu Jan 28 14:16:09 IST 2021 riding-the-k-wave <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/21/riding-the-k-wave.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/2021/1/21/63-Crash-Landing-on-You-new.jpg" /> <p>They say a society’s humour reveals a lot about itself. If that is so, then the Korean drama, Crash Landing on You, which premiered on Netflix in December 2019, reflects a country that knows how to see the lighter side of things. Crash Landing on You is about the romance between a South Korean heiress, Yoon Se-ri, who crash lands in North Korea after a paragliding accident, and a North Korean soldier, Ri Jeong-hyeok, who gives her refuge.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The series had the highest ever ratings in Korean cable history and featured on Netflix India’s top 10 list. In a nuanced manner it shows the complex dynamics of the relationship between the two Koreas, and the gulf that divides them, without being moralistic or taking itself too seriously. You cannot help but smile when, despite the gravity of her situation, Yoon asks Captain Ri for “scented candles” for her bath, or when a North Korean lieutenant misses his commander’s orders over radio because he is too engrossed in a South Korean soap. From the grim and graphic world of Hollywood, K-dramas offer a refreshing change.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I started watching K-dramas in college almost 10 years ago,” says Anjitha Cherian, who works with the Indian Railways and is an avid fan of all things Korean. “We used to get it on pen drives from our seniors. They were so different from the excruciatingly dramatic saas-bahu shows from India. The synergy between different elements—the script, the casting and the soundtrack—is brilliant. Unlike Indian shows, K-dramas are only 16 to 24 episodes long. Since I first started watching them, K-dramas have evolved a lot, especially the cinematography whose progression can be compared with that of the South Korean economy. From sci-fi to fantasy to noir, there are K-dramas in every genre.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Cherian says her favourite K-drama is Mr Sunshine, which is about Korean independence fighters in the early 1900s. She has been learning Korean for four years now because she feels it is a language that lets her express her emotions beautifully.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Korean culture started gaining popularity in India during the 1990s, as part of the Korean cultural wave called Hallyu, when the South Korean government aggressively promoted Korean music, art, cinema and food across the globe. Hallyu has had a tremendous impact on the South Korean economy, boosting it by $12.3 billion in 2019. But Hallyu peaked during the pandemic in India, mainly due to two factors—South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon Ho’s film, Parasite, becoming the first foreign-language film to win the Oscar for best picture and the K-pop band BTS becoming the first since The Beatles to become number one on the Billboard 200 with five consecutive albums. According to an estimate cited by The New York Times, the seven-member boy band contributes $3.5 billion annually to South Korea’s economy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many K-dramas, including Kingdom (S2), Crash Landing on You, The King: Eternal Monarch and It’s Okay to Not be Okay, have featured on Netflix India’s trending lists since the lockdown began. The viewership for K-dramas on Netflix in India increased more than 370 per cent in 2020 over 2019. A Netflix spokesperson said they are “doubling down on investment in Korean content”. After English and local language content, Spanish, Korean and Japanese titles are most viewed on the platform.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The popularity of K-dramas has led to the flourishing of many Korean fandoms in India, like YouTuber Scherezade Shroff’s K-Drama Club on Facebook, which has over 3,000 members. Or the K-Wave India Group, a K-pop and K-drama fandom founded by Korean interpreter Sanjay Ramjhi in Chennai.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I started K-Wave India Group in 2010 with eight to 10 members,” says Ramjhi. “Then, with the increasing popularity of all things Korean, it just blew up and now has over 1,000 members. It grew especially during the lockdown, when many of my friends started exploring K-dramas in search of good content. They are all crazy about them now.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to him, one of the appealing things about Korean entertainment is that there is no distinction between television and film actors. Everyone does everything, unlike in India, where you will never find an Amitabh Bachchan or a Shah Rukh Khan acting in television. “You will find some of the lead actors of Parasite in many K-dramas,” he says. “Because of this, the acting quality is high and so are the technical skills. They also have higher production budgets.” Ramjhi started by exploring Asian culture in 2006 and then got drawn into Korean. He was so fascinated by it that he studied in South Korea for a year. “It was a great experience,” he says. “Once the Korean bug bites you, there is no going back.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yoo-kem Anna Heo, a Busan girl who had been to India, says that there are many commonalities between South Korea and India. “Many of the storylines from K-dramas are used in Indian movies,” she says. “Just like in India, we place a lot of importance on education and are family-oriented. Earlier, South Korea used to be a patriarchal society, but now that is changing. The younger generation is more straightforward. Unlike in India, though, arranged marriages are becoming rare, although divorce rates are going up. Marriageable ages, too, are much later than in India. We mostly get married only in our 30s. We are also not multicultural like India. We have one culture and language. As it is a small country, trends catch very fast.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Interestingly, Yoo-kem says that they are taught the Korean language through the Korean culture, so there are many pop culture references to K-pop and K-dramas in their textbooks. One trend that has been spreading in South Korea during the pandemic is the increasing popularity of a musical genre called trot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Trot is traditional Korean music that used to be popular among middle-aged Koreans,” she says. “The lyrics are (filled with hope), straightforward and from the heart. Now, the younger generation, too, has taken to trot. Trot auditions are held across South Korea.” Considering how fast everything Korean trends in India, it is probably only a matter of time before you hear a Tiger Shroff or an Alia Bhatt humming a trot melody.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/21/riding-the-k-wave.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/21/riding-the-k-wave.html Thu Jan 21 15:44:15 IST 2021 i-spy-a-skeleton <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/21/i-spy-a-skeleton.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/2021/1/21/66-A-representational-model.jpg" /> <p>On September 26, 1935, F.H. Gravely, superintendent of the Government Museum in Madras, wrote to the secretary of the Australian Museum about an “aboriginal skull”. Gravely was an acclaimed botanist, zoologist and a student of archaeology at the time and was known to have advanced the scientific study and preservation of the museum’s collections. In exchange for this adult, male “aboriginal skull” from Newcastle in Australia, Gravely confirmed that the museum in south India would be sending a “fairly typical skull” of a “Male Telugu (one of the four main Dravidian speaking peoples), 30 years of age”. There was no mention of the provenance of this Telugu skull.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Later in an internal mail of the Australian Museum on this exchange, dated October 31, 1935, the director rues the complete lack of upper teeth in the male Dravidian and how the “skull’s usefulness is prejudiced” for researchers looking at “comparative dentition”. The Australian skull was evidently better preserved. Be that as it may, both the museums got their share of the exchange. But like the aboriginal skull, how many more such specimens of human remains exist in the storage vaults of the Government Museum in Chennai today? Or, in old Indian museums at large?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This question has vexed Indian-Australian museum expert Vinod Daniel for quite some time now. Associated with the Australian Museum for over 15 years, he first came across official letters on the cranium exchange when a set of Indian ritual objects—acquired by a missionary in Erode—was being repatriated by the Australian Museum in 2000. “That is when I came across information that there was this exchange done of human remains back in 1935,” says Daniel. “There was some interest to see whether remains of the aboriginal person could also be arranged. But we worked on such short time-frames back then. The fact remains, though, that museums are no place for human remains anymore.” Daniel is well apprised of the evolving museology discourse around repatriation of material heritage unjustly acquired, and by extension human remains which were once extensively procured for “scientific research”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Daniel pegs an approximately 70-year time period, from the late 1800s to the 1940s, when there was a great deal of movement on human remains like old skeletons, bones and bone parts. Sought after by anatomists, anthropologists and osteoarchaeologists to understand their origins, old diets, ancient diseases and what not, colonial-era museums (often attached to university departments) became custodians of human remains. They were also displayed in glass cases for educational purposes. There are two schools of thought on the matter: the dualistic and materialistic institutions bent on advocating the cause of science, academicians who are alleged to have treated human remains as products, objects and things for their selfish ends. The other is more concerned with the animistic, indigenous communities who do not consider the dead any different from the living; they think that when ancestral remains are unfairly ripped out of their cultural contexts, there is “disconnection”, disrespect and lack of closure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The second school of thought has gained tremendous precedence in recent years. The United States has the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (1990), which facilitates the mannerly return of Native American human remains, funerary and sacred objects, and other specimens of “cultural patrimony”. In Australia, there is a government programme on the return and reburial of aboriginal remains called the International Repatriation Programme. The UK is believed to harbour a large collection of human remains in its institutions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Under their Human Tissue Act (2004), nine national museums were once made to “deaccession” human remains from their collections, based on certain conditions. In October 2020, Booker-winning author Hilary Mantel called for the return of the bones of 18th century Irish “giant” Charles Byrne. At 7ft 7 inches tall, Byrne had a genetic defect of gigantism. He wished to be buried at sea when he died, but his skeletal remains were acquired by surgeon and anatomist John Hunter, who displayed it in his museum. Two centuries later, Byrne’s bones are still with the Hunterian Museum, London. In India, there has been no formal or informal survey undertaken to map the extent of human remains in museum collections. Daniel stresses for a policy change at the national level, which needs to endorsed by the states. “The first step is to do an analysis of how many museums have these remains by scanning old hardcopy records,” says Daniel. “There must be storage spaces in the museum where they are rotting away. With this data, one can enact a law, so that it is illegal to collect and display human remains for museums, and that it is only appropriate to return the existing ones. A great deal of work is required in terms of finding the provenance of these remains. Who is alive from those cultures that can receive it? It is up to the community to put a closure according to their customs.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The Indian Museum, Kolkata, and the Government Museum, Chennai, because of their antiquity, are places likely to have human remains,” says Venu Vasudevan, former director-general of the National Museum, New Delhi. “The most important human remains on Indian soil are the mummies. We have six in the country, including a 4,000-year-old one in the Indian Museum. Egypt has already made a claim for all stolen mummies to be returned to their homeland.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Repeated calls and emails for a response on human remains in the Indian Museum went unanswered.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Interestingly, the only human remains considered ethically appropriate for display anywhere in the world are mummies. “You may question the how and why of it but that’s a debate for another day,” says Daniel.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/21/i-spy-a-skeleton.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/21/i-spy-a-skeleton.html Thu Jan 21 17:23:12 IST 2021 tortured-genius <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/21/tortured-genius.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/2021/1/21/68-Diego-Maradona-new.jpg" /> <p>An Argentine truck driver who had a part-time job advising the local youth football team chanced upon a group of kids playing in an open field. He noticed a boy with mesmerising skill and a magical left foot. This is a gift from God, the driver said to himself, as he watched little Diego Maradona. It is a gift Maradona used to conquer the world. His rise from the slums of Buenos Aires to the pinnacle of the beautiful game is the stuff of dreams. But, Maradona, who died aged 60 in November 2020, had his share of nightmares, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His troubles are well documented. Perhaps a shade too well; so much so that as years go by, his genius may get overshadowed by the problems—ranging from drug and alcohol addiction and “connections” to the Mafia to his temperamental nature and “gargantuan” ego. But, it would be grossly unjust to paint Maradona as a prima donna based on what is little more than hearsay. We need all the facts. And that is exactly what the new Discovery Plus documentary What Killed Maradona? offers. All the facts, painstakingly researched and concisely put together.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>People who knew Maradona, those who followed his career closely and medical experts talk about factors that contributed to Maradona’s addiction and lifestyle and its effect on his health. His prodigious talent made him a target for fouls on the pitch and “dubious characters” off it. Maradona was 10 years old when he suffered his first major injury. He signed for Argentinos Juniors at 15 and became the youngest player to play in the first division; he was perhaps too young for the limelight.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As his career progressed, his income increased and so did the pressure to support a growing number of dependents. The teenager was already the head of the family and had relocated them to finer living quarters. Family was everything to him and that weight of responsibility made Maradona relentless in his pursuit of footballing greatness. But, he was suffering at some level, says psychologist Dr Pippa Grange in the documentary. By 1982, Maradona had started to ascend from exciting prospect to global superstar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the pressure mounted, he coped by thinking of himself as two people. He kept Diego separate, as a place to retreat to. But, at that point, Diego had no inkling how big Maradona would become. As desperate opponents continued to foul him, injuries and the use of painkillers became more frequent. The painkillers may have made his injuries worse. But, more significantly, the path from dependence on painkillers to drug addiction is well established. This has been explained in detail.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 1982, Maradona signed up with Barcelona for a world record fee. It was a huge move for his career, but the 22-year-old was lonely in Spain. But, loneliness was not the worst of the problems he suffered at Barcelona. In 1983, Athletic Bilbao defender Andoni Goikoetxea, also known as the Butcher of Bilbao, found an easy way to deal with Maradona—break his left ankle. It was a different era in football and the flair players did not enjoy the protection they now get from the referees.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Maradona was out for three months, but he would suffer for the rest of his career and life. His left foot was never the same again, but the expectations of him continued to increase. Cocaine became a crutch. Maradona’s former personal trainer, Fernando Signorini, says in the documentary: “He said one day, ‘I was kicked to the top of the mountain, but they left me alone and nobody explained to me how to survive.’” In 1984, Napoli, then close to the bottom of the league, broke the world record again to sign him. The religious and football-loving people of Naples got a new saint, says the documentary.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The adulation lifted the lonely Maradona’s spirits; he had a new family. Giuseppe Bruscolotti, who was Napoli’s captain when Maradona arrived, says that the Argentine became one of the people. “He always fought for them against everybody,” he says. “He defended the south against the [footballing] power of the north (Milan, Turin).” With drugs numbing his pain, the little genius fed off the love of the people and inspired his team to win the Italian league twice. But, the hero worship soon became so relentless that it put him under stress again and his substance abuse worsened.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Mafia also established a relationship with him. His life in Naples was defined by him having to make himself disappear from the suffocating atmosphere and then resurface to perform on the pitch. If the love in Italy was too much, the hate would destroy him. After singlehandedly winning the 1986 World Cup for Argentina, getting fouled 53 times in the process, he led his country to a second consecutive final at Italy 1990, knocking out the hosts along the way. Maradona’s Italian fans lashed out against him. For a man who thrived on adulation, it was traumatic, says the documentary.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As he got older, Maradona’s life became a vicious cycle of health problems, rehab and relapse. In a society which tends to oversimplify addiction, What Killed Maradona? reminds us of the importance of supporting those struggling to stay sober. It is a must watch, not only for football fans, but for anyone who wishes to understand an often underappreciated problem—the pitfalls of fame. For future generations of football fans, it is a comprehensive guide to the legend of Diego Maradona, without simplistic labelling.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/21/tortured-genius.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/21/tortured-genius.html Sat Jan 23 13:49:55 IST 2021 girl-power <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/21/girl-power.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2021/1/21/72-kajol-new.jpg" /> <p>Kajol, who plays an Odissi dancer in Netflix’s recently-released Tribhanga, a film about mother-daughter relationships, talks about her relationship with her own mother and daughter, and about what has changed in the film industry in the last two decades.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ What kind of feedback have you got for Tribhanga?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ The reviews are good. At least, we feel we made a good film. I loved the script. Renuka (Shahane, the director) knew exactly what she wanted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Was there a personal connect with the film?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ Yes. It was definitely relatable. Nayan (Kajol’s mother in the film) is a very strong, individualistic and creative person. My mother is also like that. She makes unconventional choices and has strong opinions on everything. And so is Anu (Kajol), who is very clear about what she likes and what she does not. She is very passionate as well. So yes, there were a lot of parallels. But the relationship which they share [in the film] is different from the one I share with my mother. We have a fabulous relationship.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Are there any similarities between your reel daughter, Masha (Mithila Palkar), and your real daughter, Nysa?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ I definitely see the similarity in their relationship, because Nysa and I have a great relationship; at least I think so. We chill and talk a lot. She is also the one who introduced me to social media and pushed me to be better than what I am. But as a person, she is very different from Masha.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ You look great in the film, but you have never been this conscious about your appearance. What changed?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ I think in this day and age, there is so much emphasis on looks that you cannot ignore it. So yes, I do have an opinion today on what looks good on me and what does not, and how I would like to be seen and shown.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ You have been part of the industry for over two decades. How have things changed?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ Today, there is so much emphasis on everything. We think and involve ourselves so much in the nitty-gritties that we tend to miss the bigger picture. On the sets, the biggest difference is that today there are many more people in specialised roles and people do not come to have fun anymore. They just come for work. Earlier, one person would do what ten people do now. So the more people there are, the more time it takes for everybody to get on together.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/21/girl-power.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/21/girl-power.html Thu Jan 21 17:19:43 IST 2021 master-of-drapes <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/14/master-of-drapes.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/2021/1/14/65-satya-paul-new.jpg" /> <p>To be creative means to be in love with life,” Osho once said. “You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” Osho might well have been describing a loyal follower’s creations. A Satya Paul sari encompassed all of this—poetry, beauty, music, dance…. His saris were conceptually strong, technically sound and imaginatively rich. But what elevated them was something else, that elusive quality that Paul himself was seeking all his life. His saris had soul.</p> <p>Paul, who died on January 6 at the age of 79, was born in Leigha, Pakistan, and came to India during the Partition. He is credited with starting L’Affaire, India’s first sari boutique, in 1980. His spirituality spurred his creativity. In fact, it was upon his return from the Osho commune in Oregon—where he had gone with his family in 1982, after selling his export business—that he entered a phase of unbridled creativity. Subsequently, he launched his brand in 1985. He viewed life as a playground of ideas, and was inspired by everything from Japanese calligraphy, Picasso paintings and the Ramayan to Disney films and Calvin and Hobbes comic strips….</p> <p>He was the first designer to introduce choreographed collections in India. Each of his collections, whether it was the Museum, the Rainbow, or the Signature Collection, was thematic and told a story. He was also one of the first to design concept saris. Much before Masaba Gupta or Monisha Jaising, Paul introduced sari dresses, dhoti-style saris and sari gowns into the fashion landscape. International runway model Poonam Nath, who has modelled for the brand, says that the way his drapes fall is impeccable. “His saris felt like second skin to me, they draped so beautifully, and were always an eye-catcher,” she says. “I own a multi-toned green, tie and dye masterpiece by Satya Paul. I can run, jump and dance in it, and I do.”</p> <p>But in the end, his spirituality overrode everything else. He gave up his design empire in 2010 and became a life-long disciple of Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, ultimately breathing his last at the Isha Yoga Centre in Coimbatore. He was a seeker all his life, and he mined art to find what he sought from the cosmos.</p> <p><b>RITU KUMAR</b></p> <p><b>The visionary</b></p> <p>With his graphics and prints, Satya Paul set a different tone for fashion in India, and showed us what textiles could be transformed into. He was a master at experimenting with the heritage of textiles in India and making it contemporary. I met him occasionally at NIFT openings and other functions. Those were the days when there were no ramp shows or too much exposure. He was a nice, gentle person, very old-school and media shy. He let his work speak for him. Those days, I was involved in my revival work and in locating older textiles, while he was doing something much more futuristic. But India was so dynamic then that there was no need for two people to be doing the same thing.</p> <p><b>ANJU MODI</b></p> <p><b>The re-inventor of saris</b></p> <p>Ever since I started my journey in fashion, I have looked up to Satya Paul. His vegetable dye prints were very inspirational. The way he married the abstract, modern storyline into the sari will be his lasting legacy in fashion. He did not let go of the traditional sari, but reinvented it with prints, weaves and colours. I own a Satya Paul tussar sari, which has been a treasured possession for the last 20 years.</p> <p><b>RAJESH PRATAP SINGH</b></p> <p><b>The rule breaker</b></p> <p>I first met him as a fashion student in 1993. My final collection was inspired by the opera costumes of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. I needed opulent fabrics for it. Satya Paul sponsored that collection and got me special hand-woven fabric from Banaras. That was extremely generous and kind of him. As creative director of Satya Paul, I want to make the brand more contemporary while retaining the same values and DNA. Since 20 years ago, visual references have changed. There is new-found optimism in Indian textiles. I want to retain the same bold and colourful [aesthetic] to create different conversations.</p> <p>Satya Paul understood rules and technology, but he did not follow them, which was brilliant. His approach to colours and motifs, as well as his relationship with craftsmen and weavers, were unique. By breaking rules, he created new rules.</p> <p><b>GAURAV GUPTA</b></p> <p><b>The Andy Warhol of saris</b></p> <p>If you are Indian, there is no choice but to know about the legacy of Satya Paul. There was a sense of liberation in his saris, with their polka dots and their post-modernism. I consider him the Andy Warhol of saris. All of us got his printed saris for our mothers and our friends in college. It is admirable that he based his brand on a specific segment and made it known across the country. He struck a great balance between couture and ready-to-wear.</p> <p><b>SHARMILA NAIR</b></p> <p><b>The artist-designer</b></p> <p>We grew up hearing the name Satya Paul; it was everywhere. He was the first designer to bring art onto his saris, and I always saw him as a true artist. He also collaborated with other artists and fused their works onto his saris, thereby revolutionising the fashion economy. He has inspired the fashion artist in me to create fashion with a cause that involved highlighting personal and social issues through my saris. It was Satya Paul’s saris that made me think of designing saris as a tool to express my art.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/14/master-of-drapes.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/14/master-of-drapes.html Thu Jan 14 13:56:04 IST 2021 run-baby-run <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/14/run-baby-run.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2021/1/14/73-taapsee-pannu.jpg" /> <p>Taapsee Pannu trained like never before to prepare for her role as a Gujarati athlete in her upcoming film, <i>Rashmi Rocket,</i> directed by Akarsh Khurana and co-starring Priyanshu Painyuli as her husband. The film is scheduled to release later this year. Pannu talks to THE WEEK about her physical transformation for the role.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\How was your experience training for </b><i><b>Rashmi Rocket?</b></i></p> <p><b>A\ </b>It was life-changing, because I have never done it before and I am not sure if I will do it again. This is because one really needs to have a solid goal and motivation to achieve it, which probably this film gave me. I think athletics is the most extreme sports to endure physically because of the kind of intensity it demands for those few seconds.... To give your maximum muscle capacity in 20 seconds, you really need to train your muscles hard for months. Thankfully, I am only doing it for a film, so I have the liberty to train less.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\How did it feel to complete a shooting schedule during the pandemic?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>For me, the journey actually began on January 23. We were to start shooting in March through mid-May, so I gave myself three months to train for this film. Fortunately or unfortunately, I had to also shoot for other films at the same time. As a female actor in this industry, you need to do multiple films in a year. We are not paid anywhere close to what a male actor is paid for such kind of a film. And nor do we have those insane budgets for a female-driven film, where I can use VFX to alter my body and thus look perfect onscreen. I had to do whatever I had to do myself.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\How did the physical transformation happen?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>I honestly never thought I could, but I did it with the support of my trainers, [who helped me with everything] from training to nutrition, and so it is a credit to them. I used to get up at 5am in the bitter cold of January and train outside. The only motivation for me at the time was that there were a bunch of people who had invested money in me. There were people who were sitting there the entire day and whose only job was to train me for those two hours. There was a lot of investment in terms of human energy and money from the producers. I really did not want to let it go to waste, so that is what drove me every day.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/14/run-baby-run.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/14/run-baby-run.html Thu Jan 14 13:35:48 IST 2021 gender-mender <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/07/gender-mender.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/2021/1/7/63-tapsee.jpg" /> <p>Early last week, a poster of Kangana Ranaut’s upcoming film <i>Dhaakad</i> was released, showing the actor firing a machine gun in the spy thriller. In a statement to the media, Ranaut said that the film is a “one-of-a-kind female-led action film” that would be a “turning point” for women in Indian cinema. Around the same time, Taapsee Pannu posted pictures of her physical transformation for the lead role of a sprinter in the upcoming sports drama <i>Rashmi Rocket</i>. Kajol, dressed as an Odissi dancer, too, had shared the trailer of her web debut with the Netflix original, <i>Tribhanga</i>, a drama revolving around three women belonging to different generations in the same family.</p> <p>As Bollywood emerges from the ruins of a crushing year and steps into the warm embrace of the next decade, an interesting statistic gives reason for cheer: 2021 already has about 20 scheduled films or web shows that have a strong female presence and gripping narratives that go beyond a typical Bollywood director’s dream-girl stereotype.</p> <p>These include biopics (on Saina Nehwal, Mithali Raj and J. Jayalalithaa), dramas, thrillers and action-packed content across platforms. The trend, say experts, is driven by the hunger for female-driven content and the bankability of female stars like never before. The last year, too, saw the release of several films and series in which women took charge of their stories. Deepika Padukone’s <i>Chhapaak</i> and Pannu’s <i>Thappad</i> enjoyed theatrical releases before the lockdown. They spoke about issues that are central to the everyday lives of real women. Content released across OTT platforms found takers across the country, be it <i>Bulbbul</i>, in which a child bride grows up into an enigmatic woman, or <i>Aarya</i>, about a woman’s tryst with the drug mafia, or the biopics of <i>Shakuntala Devi </i>and <i>Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl</i>.</p> <p>“We have always had films in which women have played an integral part,” says Taran Adarsh, film critic and trade analyst. “For instance,<i> Mother India</i> (1957), was the first full-fledged feature film with a very strong female narrative. Although a female-centric film by itself is not a new trend, what is exciting is the frequency and volume with which these are being dished out now and the way the audience is lapping it all up. That is unprecedented.”</p> <p>Earlier, when Bollywood was hero-centric, only one or two women-led films were screened in a year. Rekha in <i>Ijaazat</i> (1987), Shabana Azmi in <i>Fire</i> (1996) and Tabu in <i>Astitva</i> (2002) are some examples. In recent times, there have been at least four big releases a year, and the double figures of 2021 comes as a new high. Moreover, the plots and roles written for women are also relatable to the realities of women across class, caste and location.</p> <p>With the #MeToo movement further adding spark to the conversations around feminism in cinema, movies are now giving a voice to the woman who is at the heart of the conversation—be it the manual scavenger, the harassed bride, the sex worker, or the transgender woman.</p> <p>The last decade began with one strong and memorable woman-centric story every year—Priyanka Chopra’s <i>Saath Khoon Maaf</i> (2011) and Vidya Balan’s <i>Kahaani</i> (2012) set the trend. With the release of <i>Queen</i>, <i>Mardani</i> and <i>Highway</i>, 2014 was a big year for women. Thereafter, films such as <i>Piku</i> (2015), <i>Lipstick Under my Burkha</i> (2016) and<i> Period. End of Sentence.</i> (2018) changed the dynamics of filmmaking in favour of the lady. The commercial and critical success of these movies then went on to motivate writers to ideate—and female actors to demand—more substantial roles. “Critical acclaim and box office successes of these projects were enough to convince filmmakers to cash in on the trend and then a further boost came in when digital platforms and digital screening entered every nook and corner of the country,” said Adarsh. “Now there is more content on women, and by women, than ever before.”</p> <p>More than half of the Hindi films and series released on Netflix have had women that play complex and strong characters. “With <i>Tribhanga</i>, <i>Bombay Begums,</i> <i>Mai</i> and more, this year we hav e a long lineup of content focusing on women,” said Srishti Arya, director of international Original films, Netflix India. “Half of the world is women and it is about time the control went to them as well. We are seeing that more women creators are feeling empowered to tell stories from their point of view and about issues faced by real women in society.”</p> <p>The case of Tisca Chopra is an intriguing one. The actor had started out years ago by playing supporting roles before coming into her own with critically acclaimed short films like <i>Churri</i> and <i>Chutney</i> on YouTube. Chopra recently took the plunge as a director with another short film, <i>Rubaru,</i> in which she plays an ageing female star gradually fading from the screen. “It is more about acceptance and skills,” said Chopra. “Women are more than just beautiful faces, and acting is a talent which is gender neutral. I think women are now braver in their choices of roles, and the plethora of platforms available now are only making us much more assertive than ever. There is no age for talent and as women we are discovering this only now.”</p> <p><i>Thappad</i>, which is about a wife’s protest of domestic violence, has been a symbol for the change we are witnessing in society in relation to gender norms. “I suspected that I would miss out on the male audience before the film went on floors, but it was surprising to see that men comprised a huge chunk,” said <i>Thappad</i> director Anubhav Sinha. “Of course, there were those who said it was anti-male, that it patronises women, and on the other end of the spectrum there were men who were ashamed of themselves after watching the film. So, yes, there is huge market for women-centric films because it pulls at a lot of heartstrings and is commercially viable too.”</p> <p>OTT platforms have added vigour to the frequency, quality and delivery of female-driven content. Anvita Dutt who wrote <i>Bulbbul</i> (2020) sums it up in the message she writes for “every woman: Be Durga. Be Kali. Reclaim your story”. For actors like Aahana Kumra, Kriti Kulhari, Rasika Dugal and Saiyami Kher, OTT platforms have been a blessing that led them to showcase their hitherto hidden talents. It has also been an affirmation from the audience that they wanted to see real women who are flawed, yet gritty and liberated. “Now, there is no struggle for budgets, no reluctance from the audience and no hiccups by the filmmakers either,” said Kulhari. “Today, actors like me are in demand, after years of waiting, because there is a large canvas for creating stuff.” The actor, who started her Bollywood journey with<i> Khichdi: The Movie</i> in 2010, shot to the limelight with <i>Pink</i> (2016), and followed it up with <i>Indu Sarkar </i>(2017). She admits to have felt “overshadowed by a hierarchical star system which she could not fight”.</p> <p>Likewise, Aahana Kumra, best known for her performances in <i>Lipstick Under...</i> and <i>Khuda Haafiz</i> (2020), was surprised that the audience lapped up stories like <i>Veere Di Wedding </i>and <i>Four More Shots Please!</i>. “It was telling of a mindset change and a cultural change we as a society are going through,” she said. “There have been men’s stories for so long that it is time for them to take a step back. Earlier, I would get smaller roles which were mostly set for pretty faces and vamps. I am a trained actor and substantial roles that value acting were tough to come by.” Kumra, recently won Best Actress in a Leading Role at Asian Academy Creative awards for her performance in Voot Select’s <i>Marzi</i>.</p> <p>Filmmakers and actors also admit there have been many female-led films that were huge box-office duds. Bhumi Pednekar’s <i>Durgamati</i> (2020) is one such example. But, Pednekar, who is known for playing roles that address issues like self-image in <i>Dum Laga Ke Haisha </i>(2015) or hygiene in <i>Toilet: Ek Prem Katha</i>, said that a one-off hit or miss cannot rewrite the entire narrative. “The horror-thriller genre in <i>Durgamati</i> is the first of its kind, that too led by a woman. The audience needs to be open to consuming different concepts and being experimental,” said Pednekar.</p> <p>Even as opportunities for female characters, female directors, DoPs and editors have opened up significantly in India’s entertainment landscape, mostly due to the entry of the OTT platforms, the age-old debate of equal pay still holds true. “It became more feasible financially to market a woman as the overall expenditure becomes lesser. That is one of the reasons why female-centric content started booming,” said Pannu. “The sad part is that we as female actors are paid one-tenth of the salary of a male actor.”</p> <p>A well-known actress now in her 40s said that all the change is happening only in the case of younger women. “Older women are still relegated to the back burner even as older men continue to act with someone much younger to them,” she said. “It is when we get our time on celluloid, that we will believe that the change has indeed taken place.”&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/07/gender-mender.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/07/gender-mender.html Thu Jan 07 14:50:01 IST 2021 memoirs-of-a-diplomat <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/07/memoirs-of-a-diplomat.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/2021/1/7/a-ringside-seat-to-history-new.jpg" /> <p>Ambassador Pascal Alan Nazareth’s book,<i> A Ringside Seat to History</i>, is an autobiographical account of his life in the Indian Foreign Service from 1959 till his retirement in Mexico City in 1994, and life post-retirement. Written with a delightfully light touch, the narration is frank and honest, with no effort to hide the unpleasant or awkward situations in the 35 years of his distinguished diplomatic career.</p> <p>Jawaharlal Nehru, who was then prime minister, took great interest in foreign policy and the chosen officers were given an audience with him. The author’s initiation into diplomacy is presumed to have begun with his brief encounter with Nehru when the latter remarked that “a diplomat should not lie, but there is no obligation on his part to tell the truth either”. For Nazareth, serving the nation as a diplomat was a call of duty and honour. He dispels the commonly held belief that a diplomat’s life abroad is all about wining and dining, but shows that it is a multitasked role that is shaped by hard work, devotion, experience, observation and reflection. The silent sacrifices of a diplomat’s family—having to adjust and adapt to postings abroad, frequent travels, and making new associations and friends—are all unrepentant commitments in the service of the nation.</p> <p>The author provides a ringside view of global developments, showing how Indian diplomacy, conditioned largely by non-aligned foreign policy, navigated the Cold War rivalry and defended interests of the newly liberated and independent countries that looked to India for leadership and support. Nazareth’s postings were often challenging, tricky and delicate, but he managed to resolve issues with presence of mind, tact and foresight. He gives insightful accounts of his meetings with several world leaders and their geopolitical implications for India. He also touches upon the crossing of the Dalai Lama into India; the revival of a devastated Japan post World War II; the liberation of Bangladesh; the military coups in Burma, Ghana and Chile; and India’s relations with the US, the UK and Russia.</p> <p>The author believed that India’s ’soft power’ lay in its rich and composite culture and took advantage of his posting as Director General of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) to organise several cultural events, including the Festival of India in Paris in 1970. He also opened several Indian Cultural Centres abroad. Nazareth continued to be active after retirement, giving enriching lectures on Indian culture and philosophy abroad. His strong conviction in Gandhian values made him establish The Sarvodaya International Trust and write two books on Gandhi.</p> <p>The penultimate chapter, about the author’s personal tragedies, was touching. His immense sorrow at the sudden death of his younger daughter, Seema, makes an emotional connect with the reader. He worked tirelessly to keep her memory alive by instituting an annual award in her name for young journalists and also by helping the underprivileged girl child with educational scholarships through an endowment.</p> <p>The Indian Foreign Service today is much larger and richer with officers from diverse backgrounds, including a significant number of lady officers who are placed in vital roles at headquarters and abroad. For IFS officers, the book provides useful insights about what makes a successful diplomat, while for others it provides a close ringside view of history. Nazareth aptly encapsulates in his book that zest for life comes from being passionate about doing what one truly believes in.</p> <p><b>Dammu Ravi IFS was Nazareth’s colleague at the Indian Embassy in Mexico from 1992 to 1993</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b><i>A Ringside Seat to History</i></b></p> <p><b>By Pascal Alan Nazareth</b></p> <p><b>Published by Konark</b></p> <p><b>Price Rs648; pages 280</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/07/memoirs-of-a-diplomat.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/07/memoirs-of-a-diplomat.html Thu Jan 07 14:34:49 IST 2021 the-last-directive <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/07/the-last-directive.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/2021/1/7/68-pranab-new.jpg" /> <p>It was Republic Day in 2013. President Pranab Mukherjee had prepared a speech that dealt with the Nirbhaya rape and murder case. But prime minister Manmohan Singh gently advised against an elaboration of the incident. “Given the prevailing situation, I thought it was a wise suggestion and accepted it,’’ Mukherjee writes in his posthumous book <i>The Presidential Years. </i>“Barring this speech, I never had issues with the UPA government in my other speeches.”</p> <p>The horrific crime, he writes, “had troubled my conscience as well”, but as president, he needed to “demonstrate calm and dignity”. The book, which was at the centre of a controversy when Mukherjee’s son tried to block its printing, is a masterclass on the Constitution. Mukherjee speaks his mind in his usual professorial, almost grandfatherly, manner. His concerns as president, which are peppered throughout his speeches, are dealt with in the book; they include disruption of Parliament, disintegration of the question hour, the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru being under threat and concerns about the environment. He also writes that he was not “enthused” by the scrapping of the Planning Commission, but he did not wish to rake up a controversy by opposing it publicly. “I personally feel it was a mistake, a blunder,” he writes.</p> <p>He says that he had a cordial relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “However, I did not hesitate to give my advice on matters of policy during our meetings. There were several occasions when he echoed concerns that I had voiced. I also believe that he has managed to grasp the nuances of foreign policy quickly.” The demonetisation—and the manner in which it was done—seems to have got his approval. “I learnt of it along with the rest of the country,’’ writes Mukherjee. He opines that demonetisation could not have been done with prior consultation because the surprise, necessary for such announcements, would have been lost. There is, however, a comment on how the prime minister’s office is growing more powerful under Modi.</p> <p>He offers advice to Modi: “PM Modi, now in his second term, must take inspiration from his predecessors and provide visible leadership. He must listen to the dissenting voices and speak more often in Parliament. He must use it as a forum to disseminate his views to convince the Opposition and inform the nation.” He says that the Congress has to “evolve a different approach” and that he firmly believes his presence in active politics would have helped the Congress avoid the drubbing it got in the 2014 general elections.</p> <p>There are thoughts on the judicary—he believes that there should be more frequent interactions between the executive and the judiciary. He also talks about how he dealt with mercy petitions. Mukherjee rejected 30 mercy petitions, including those of Ajmal Kasab, Azfal Guru and Yakub Memon. “I was constantly aware while handling such cases that... his life was in my hands,” he writes. “It was not an ordinary, routine government file I was dealing with. I used to take more than a week to read the case history and the court judgments.” Mukherjee also admits that parts of the established process, such as informing family members and arranging a visit from them, were perhaps “not fully adhered to” in the case of Memon and Guru.</p> <p>The book is littered with anecdotes. He writes about president Barack Obama’s visit for a Republic Day parade. It rained and the American secret service refused to let Obama ride in the same car as Mukherjee. He talks of the special relationship with Bhutan, and of lecturing Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal that he should not behave like an activist.</p> <p>As president, he travelled extensively. It was in close consultation with the prime minister. Modi always had a meeting with him before he went abroad. Mukherjee was entrusted with delivering the message of India’s staunch support to Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin, says Mukherjee, understood India’s concerns of Pakistan being given weapons. Mukherjee raised the issue of Pakistan’s terrorism internationally, as he felt it that it needed to be done. But Pakistan, he says, is not an enemy. The surgical strikes got his support, but he did not approve of the “overspeak” about it.</p> <p>He also writes candidly about China. The importance of the Dalai Lama and Tibet is not lost on Mukherjee. One of the few presidents who met the Dalai Lama in person, he writes that the meeting was personal and that he made it clear to China during his visit in May 2016. It was one of his last visits as president and he narrates a delicious anecdote about a conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Xi, writes Mukherjee, began a discussion on historical issues and asked him to explain the functioning of the Indian government in its constitutional framework. He had a host of questions and Mukherjee, being a student of the Constitution, had all the answers. They spoke in English and the interpreter was used only rarely. None of the guests had an inkling what was being talked about, he writes.</p> <p>Mukherjee has also focused on domestic issues, even on the controversial aspects of his tenure, and on the constitutional crisis in Arunachal Pradesh. He says Article 356 is one of the “most contentious provisions’’ in the Constitution.</p> <p>He points out that Modi did not “invent the wheel”. India had a great relationship with Japan before Modi. Demonetisation was also toyed with by the Congress. He also says that he opposes expressions of personal friendships (Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called Modi his most dependable friend) because friendships are between countries. He writes: “I do not subscribe to the belief that such special friendships have any worth when it comes to international relationships, where every relationship is impersonal.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b><i>The Presidential Years 2012-2017</i></b></p> <p><b>By Pranab Mukherjee</b></p> <p><b>Published by Rupa Publications</b></p> <p><b>Price Rs695; pages 197</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/07/the-last-directive.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/07/the-last-directive.html Thu Jan 07 14:28:35 IST 2021 exit-amrita-enter-egan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/07/exit-amrita-enter-egan.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/2021/1/7/victor-egan.jpg" /> <p>As a young girl living in Sardarnagar village in UP’s Gorakhpur district in the 1970s, Juliet Egan and her elder sister would often ask their father, Victor, a puzzling question: “Why did you give away all of Amri’s paintings to the National Gallery of Modern Art? You did not keep anything! We could have sold them later.” Appalled and amused in equal measure, Victor would retort, “Lord, I did not know I had two greedy daughters.”</p> <p>Victor Egan was the man who married Amrita Sher-Gil, one of the greatest painters of the 20th century, considered by many to be India’s Frida Kahlo. While reams have been written about Amrita, who was born of a Sikh father and a Hungarian mother, there is scarcely any information about Victor—Amrita’s doctor cousin and best friend whom she married in 1939 in Budapest against her mother’s wishes.</p> <p>Little is known about Victor’s life after 1941, when Amrita suddenly died in Lahore in undivided India. They did not have any children. At the time of her death, Amrita was all of 28. Amrita’s mother, Marie Antoinette, an opera singer who wanted her daughter to marry someone rich or into Indian royalty, had shot off nasty letters blaming him for her death.</p> <p>Juliet, who was born in 1964 in Sardarnagar, 10 years after Victor remarried, recalls asking her father why he did not clear the air, since a lot of rubbish was being written about him. “But he did not want to talk about it because he was so heartbroken,” says Juliet, now 54, from her home in Nashik’s Deolali town. “It all happened so fast. They grew up together, and he was totally in love with her. He said those who were close to him knew the truth behind her sudden death, and he did not need to clarify anything.”</p> <p>Late last month, Amrita Sher-Gil’s Portrait of Victor Egan—painted by her in 1939 as a parting gift to her husband’s family in Hungary when the couple were leaving Europe—sold for approximately 010.86 crore at an auction held by AstaGuru. Juliet remembers how the painting cracked when it was brought to India from Hungary in the 1980s in an “uncle’s suitcase”. Following Victor’s death in 1997, it was sent for restoration to Delhi and later brought to Deolali, where Juliet had moved with her son and her widowed mother, Nina Egan. “After it was restored, my mother completely lost interest in the painting,” says Juliet. “The picture does not look like my father. He was very fair. In the painting, he is brown-skinned. She did not feel happy looking at it up on the wall. So she sold it off to the Vadehra Art Gallery.”</p> <p>Amrita was born into Jat aristocracy. She belonged to the Majithia clan that had sprawling factories and other properties in Uttar Pradesh. When World War II broke out, Victor, a Hungarian, was declared an enemy subject by the British. It was the Majithias who pulled the right strings to bring him back from Lahore to Sardarnagar to start afresh. They even built a hospital for him to practise medicine and put him in charge of the workers at their sugar factory in Gorakhpur.</p> <p>Juliet recalls how her father, a busy doctor, would often go up to Nainital for summer reprieves in the 1950s. That is where he met Nina, who would come there from Lucknow during her school summer breaks to meet her mother. “My grandmother, a British lady, was a matron at the All Saints’ College in Nainital,” says Juliet. “People thought there was something going on between my grandmother and Victor. Because ‘Uncle Victor’ could not be drawn to little Nina who was 23 years younger than him.” But ‘Uncle Victor’, who was fond of the girl’s bunny rabbits and other pets, did ask a 16-year-old Nina out for a movie at the Capitol cinema one day. They married in 1954.</p> <p>Juliet has fond memories from her happy and peaceful house in Sardarnagar. She recollects how her father was often short-tempered at work. “Patients would say that half their ailments would disappear when they heard his booming voice,” Juliet says with a chuckle, as she recalls his funny encounters in broken Bhojpuri in the village.&nbsp;One day when Victor was getting into his jeep to go to the hospital, he slipped on moss and broke his hip. His health never really improved after a hip-replacement surgery and he died on 30 June 1997, just a month after Juliet's marriage ended.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I was the apple of his eye, the youngest in the house, the one with a more complicated life and with more illnesses. He was always protective of me,” says Juliet, who has often tried to correct bloggers who publish wrong details about Amrita’s death.</p> <p>Victor never went back to a communist Hungary after the end of World War II. There was no Amrita there. India was his adopted home. He was cremated according to Sikh rites and his ashes were scattered in Punjab. “Deepti Naval (Indian-American actor) had come to our Sardarnagar house in the 1970s for a movie on Amrita; it never got made. But everything was about Amrita, of course,” says Juliet with a shrug. For Juliet, Victor was the “bestest, awesomest daddy in the world”.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/07/exit-amrita-enter-egan.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/07/exit-amrita-enter-egan.html Fri Jan 08 13:44:22 IST 2021 a-sparkling-debut <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/07/a-sparkling-debut.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/2021/1/7/seema.jpg" /> <p>Actor Seema Pahwa, known for films like <i>Bareilli Ki Barfi </i>(2017) and <i>Shubh Mangal Saavdhan</i> (2017), recently made her directorial debut with <i>Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi</i>, starring Naseeruddin Shah, Vikrant Massey, Konkona Sen Sharma and Vinay Pathak. It released on the big screen and has been receiving rave reviews. In an interview with THE WEEK, she talks about her directorial venture and more.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ How was your experience as an actor-turned-director?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>I was very nervous because this was the first time I was venturing into direction. But my experience in theatre helped me a lot. Also, I am a very methodical person and have always been aggressively into pre-production. That is my strong point. I know how things work in that area fairly well. So, my homework was good. But the challenge was to get a grip on the workings of the camera and the dynamics of various lenses.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ The film has a stellar star cast. As an actor, you have worked with many of them. How difficult was it to instruct them to do what you had in mind?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>That was the bigger challenge. By now, we have all become such great friends that it was difficult to come out of that comfort zone and sit on the director’s chair. To tell them what they were doing was not exactly what I wanted was difficult. Because as an actor, I know that every actor has an ego and it becomes very challenging to get them to feel valued and not offended for the slightest things. But I was lucky that we all had camaraderie and were very comfortable with each other.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ You released the film on the big screen in the time of Covid-19. Were you sure that people would turn up at the cinema halls?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>No, I was sceptical. I could not decide whether this move was right or wrong. But in hindsight, I think it worked just fine. We have seen a tremendous response at the box office and a number of shows are full. All this while we have been at home and have known the importance of relationships, and now we want to see a film that mirrors it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ When you came up with the storyline, did you want to act in it or direct it?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>I wanted to act in it, of course. But when I approached directors with the script, they said I would be the best one to direct it because they did not know Lucknowi culture like I did, and that actually was the essence of the film. So I had to make the choice—either I direct it or I act in it. I chose the latter because there was no one else to do it. Of course, I was also excited about dabbling in something new.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/07/a-sparkling-debut.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2021/01/07/a-sparkling-debut.html Thu Jan 07 14:00:27 IST 2021 moving-mountains <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/31/moving-mountains.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2020/12/31/67-Purja.jpg" /> <p>The most treacherous of the 14 ‘death-zone’ mountains in the world is said to be K2. Considered the last frontier in the climbing world, it is the only one among all the 8,000m-plus peaks that has not been climbed in winter. But high-altitude climber Nirmal Purja, aka Nimsdai, says he considers himself “next-level crazy”. He spoke to THE WEEK from Nepal before his December 20 ascent of the ‘Savage Mountain’. “We are only limited by our own imagination,” says the 37-year-old former Gurkha soldier. And, it might just take a climber of Purja’s boundless imagination to accomplish what nobody has before.</p> <p>His experiences in some of the world’s sketchiest combat zones as part of the UK Special Forces can explain his incredible mountaineering feat in 2019. Purja summited all 14 of the 8,000ers in less than seven months, smashing the previous record of seven years and 11 months. All of these peaks are in the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges spanning India, Nepal, Tibet and Pakistan. Some 40 mountaineers have managed to scale them all since the legendary Reinhold Messner first did it in 1986. While most of them took years, Purja’s speed and agility conjure up an image of a Super Mario leaping from peak to peak. He had good financial backing, bottled oxygen and Sherpa guides, but mountaineering experts still laud the remarkable speed.</p> <p>“I put my own fixed lines and do it for others too,” says Purja. “I have rescued many others along the way, and if anybody does it the way I have done, by raising sponsorships, taking care of the logistics and politics, and dealing with the health of my mom, all at the same time, then we can talk. If you have not been in my shoes, then do not comment from outside.”</p> <p>He represents a new-age climber who is ambidextrous. He is social media savvy, good with the camera—the 2019 photo of the long queue on Everest was his—talks about partying in the base camp and completes a memoir in just nine months. “Quitting is not in my blood, even in a near-death crisis. I was not a sheep waiting to be prodded by the shepherd; I was a lion and I refused to walk and talk with the rest,” Purja writes in his memoir, <i>Beyond Possible</i>.</p> <p>The youngest in a family from Dana village in west Nepal, Purja says his inspiration does not come from the mountains. “Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee and Usain Bolt, they all inspire me. Look at their background, their lives were amazing,” he says.</p> <p>There are two styles of high-altitude climbing: siege and alpine. The siege style of climbing involves a large support staff being employed at the base camp with equipment, gear and food. These are large expeditions with porters and Sherpas who open routes and provide help all the way to the top. Purists do not respect this method of mountain climbing. The Alpine style used by Messner requires a more technical set of climbing skills, and is carried out with no support staff or supplemental oxygen.</p> <p>“The skill-set required to climb an 8,000er depends on how he or she wants to climb. Is it solo or alpine in a small team, expedition or guided?” says Brig Ashok Abbey, president of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, which has been seeing a lot of interest in 8,000ers from young Indian climbers. He would not attribute it to the Purja effect, although it has caught their imagination.</p> <p>He wants to urge young Indian climbers to develop their skills in a playground of mountains in the Indian Himalayas, where 340 peaks have been opened up and more are on the way. “Our climbers should do their own route opening, ascend in small teams, care for the environment and climb the mountain on their own steam. They will be able to replicate these on other bigger mountains,” says Abbey.</p> <p>Chewang Motup Goba, president of The Himalayan Club and founder of Khardung La Challenge, says climbing became commercialised in the mid-1990s. He first climbed a mountain when he was 13 and even tried to climb Everest solo in 1985. Things have changed a lot since then. “You do not need to be a very good climber,” says Goba. “We know people who have climbed Everest but have never climbed in their lives before. There is much advancement in terms of weather forecasts, logistics and equipment that few things remain a big challenge, except avalanches and rock falls.</p> <p>Goba says one glaring hurdle for Indian mountaineers keen on 8,000ers is the political challenge. “Five of the 8,000ers, including K2, fall in Pakistan or Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir,” he says. “It is very difficult to get permits. That is one of the reasons no Indian has managed to do it yet.”</p> <p>But that does not stop Noida boy Arjun Vajpai from dreaming. At 16, he became the youngest in the world to climb Everest. The 27-year-old now wants to become the youngest to summit all 14 peaks within the next three years. He has already climbed six of them by participating in 12 expeditions. He&nbsp;was once rendered paralysed after developing a medical condition at Cho Oyu.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;“China and Tibet will not be a problem. They still hold mountaineers in a different regard,” says Vajpai about the political hurdle. “About the remaining five in Pakistan, four of them are in the PoK region which is actually part of India.&nbsp;If we ask for permission, [we give up our claim on the land].&nbsp;For K2, I hope the relations between the two countries [improve], but I have alternatives to actually go about this. I will go there in disguise if need be!”</p> <p>Vajpai considers Purja a brother and friend. “You have to meet this guy in the flesh to believe how crazy one needs to be to pull this off,” he says of Purja. “His feat is unlikely to be replicated in the next two decades.” He says high-altitude climbing is perhaps the most expensive extreme sport with each peak requiring an investment of Rs35 lakh to Rs50 lakh. Last year, Vajpai had to turn back 291m away from the summit of Annapurna (8,091m) because of bad weather. “If I do Annapurna next year without oxygen, I will be the first Indian to do so,” says Vajpai.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/31/moving-mountains.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/31/moving-mountains.html Sat Jan 02 15:38:22 IST 2021 all-the-webs-a-stage <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/31/all-the-webs-a-stage.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2020/12/31/70-last-poet.jpg" /> <p>Habib Jalib was once the&nbsp;<i>awam-e-shayar</i>&nbsp;(people’s poet) of Pakistan. Born in Hoshiarpur village of undivided India in 1928, a 19-year-old Jalib migrated to Pakistan after partition and started working in an Urdu daily edited by the venerable Marxist, poet and author Faiz Ahmad Faiz, whose influence propelled him to join the Progressive Writers’Movement. His poems of resistance and dissent have taken on military dictators like General Ayub Khan and General Muhammad Zia-ul Haq, leading to his multiple arrests and detentions. The verses from Jalib’s poem, ‘Dastoor’, decrying the rise of fascism, was fervently sung by Indian students leading protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.&nbsp;</p> <p>In a 1987 interview in the&nbsp;<i>Herald</i>&nbsp;magazine, Jalib describes one of the many methods employed for his arrests. This one time a police officer scaled the walls of his house in the dead of night and sat on the edge of his bed. “My wife was suddenly awakened and the sight of a stranger in the house frightened her. She woke me up and then the intruder uttered the words I was to hear again and again: ‘Consider yourself under arrest’,”said Jalib in the interview, which also has testimonies from his wife.</p> <p>As a dramaturg, researcher and writer, Sarah Mariam has mined many such testimonies on lost poets through history to distil her thoughts and sentiments while scripting her first piece of “cyber-theatre”,&nbsp;<i>The Last Poet</i>. It is a play which mounts an eerily whirling city on the web with floating rooms where denizens recall and reminisce about an endlessly fascinating poet who abruptly went missing for speaking truth to power. Directed by inter-media artist and director Amitesh Grover,&nbsp;<i>The Last Poet</i>&nbsp;is a multi-layered art form with theatre, creative coding, digital scenography, film and live performance. It is India’s first genre-bending broadcast of theatre-on-the-internet, commissioned by SA Virtual of Serendipity Arts foundation. It went live on the internet from December 18 to 21 and is prepping up for several repeat shows in 2021.</p> <p>“The whole show is arranged in such a way that you can put any actor in any room in any way and still the same story will emerge,” says Mariam. “You can start and end at any point and you will still go away with a similar kind of experience of having heard all these little impressions, memories, rumours and anecdotes of this one man who we never meet or see. Mariam met with digital scenographers, coders and programmers to understand the fluid architecture of her virtual city. The result is an immersion in a world strangely dystopic yet quietly reaffirming with its compelling multi-monologues, disorienting in the way one feels lost in a void but also redeemed upon encountering pieces of a protagonist whose absence fuels our endless search.</p> <p>“This play is meant for repeat viewings and each time the audience will discover something new and deeper,” says Grover, whose work has melded theatre, performance and interactive art since 2009. He studied digital theatre in London more than 10 years ago, when few in India envisioned ways to expand the art form on the web. He is currently the artistic director for International Theatre Festival of Kerala, and teaches at the National School of Drama, New Delhi, and Shiv Nadar University, among other places.&nbsp;</p> <p>“All my experience of creating works for and on the internet has come to fruition in this project,” says Grover. “The core concept in this play is also referencing the idea of hyperlinks. As you go to a Wikipedia page and you read one article, it seems incomplete and you click on something else within the article to go to another page…. And that idea of navigating the cyberspace became the core navigation strategy for this work.”&nbsp;</p> <p>He says that cyberspace demolishes the age-old performance convention of the fourth wall which exists in physical theatre and cinema—an imaginary wall which assumes that audiences can see through while the actors cannot. “The fourth wall is meaningless in digital theatre because there is no one else except the performer and the person who is watching at both ends of the screen,” he says. Two hundred people can log in simultaneously for a single screening of&nbsp;<i>The Last Poet</i>.&nbsp;Grover would provide instructions through a chatbox accessible to all members of the audience while interactive polling tools embedded in the screen would help the actors communicate with the audience.&nbsp;</p> <p>“All the actors are looking into the camera and performing,” says Grover. “And the audience members are looking into their screens and receiving the performers’ gaze, and sometimes also being provoked into responding. They never lose eye-contact.” He adds that no such piece of theatrical work exists in the western world right now. In the last four shows, says Grover, audiences from Europe, the US, Australia, Singapore and Pakistan have also logged in, and a well-known theatre scholar, teaching at The New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, plans to take it up as a case study for her next semester on digital theatre.</p> <p>&nbsp;Actor-director Atul Kumar has been searching for new ways of expression—a third dimension which is neither live theatre nor cinema—for the last one year. So, when&nbsp;<i>The Last Poet</i>&nbsp;happened to come along, he jumped right in. In the play, he is somewhat like a part-sombre, part-whimsical soothsayer who introduces the audience to the legend of the poet’s curse in the city. Kumar says the sooner we stop comparing cyber-theatre to other kinds of live performances, the better. “This is [like] entering a whole new realm where I am not looking for that live audience,” he says. “When I am looking at that tiny little camera, I am midway speaking with one person, gazing into his or her eyes, and at times, it would feel like, through that hole, I am entering into a sort of labyrinth where I am meeting hundreds of people sitting there. So, it is like audiences are there, but they are not there.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Just like the revolving city and its never-ending stream of stories, there is a lot to discover about this new form of theatre.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/31/all-the-webs-a-stage.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/31/all-the-webs-a-stage.html Thu Dec 31 13:10:07 IST 2020 colouring-the-world <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/31/colouring-the-world.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2020/12/31/72-vikas-new.jpg" /> <p>In 2015, just before a scheduled interview with THE WEEK at a hotel in Mumbai, celebrity chef Vikas Khanna was engrossed in an animated conversation on the phone. He was narrating the script for a film to a Bollywood director. The New York-based Khanna had just arrived in India in a desperate attempt to find the right people who could give his story on the widows of Varanasi a form and shape on celluloid. But it did not work out. “He (the director) said he would come on board only if a young, good-looking female protagonist led it,” said Khanna. “I told him we cannot cast a Sunny Leone in the role of a widow from the ghats. Once that fell through, I decided to take up the task of writing, directing and producing it by myself.”</p> <p>Five years after that call, <i>The Last Color</i> released in several cities around the world before entering India in December 2020. Neena Gupta is the face of the film, featured on the posters as a gentle, smiling widow in a white sari celebrating Holi. “My grandfather was a big fan of Neena <i>ji</i> and her striking charm,” said the chef. “He called her Noor and I made sure to retain that name for her on screen, too.” Khanna was speaking to THE WEEK from New York. He says that had it not been for the pandemic and his severe asthmatic problems, he would have flown down to India and even taken a dip in the Ganges at the ghats of Varanasi, where the idea for the film had first dawned on him.</p> <p><i>The Last Color</i>, based on Khanna’s novel of the same name, is a gripping story of an unusual and endearing friendship between an ostracised, elderly widow at the ghats and a cheerful nine-year-old tightrope walker, who is also used to discrimination as a dalit. Chhoti, the girl, inspires Noor to forego abstinence and embrace life in its myriad colours. Set against the backdrop of the “shunned, neglected and colourless” lives of widows in Varanasi, the film is a multi-layered rendering that addresses caste, class and gender discrimination. It has a nuance that is unusual from an industry debutant, let alone from a Michelin-starred chef who has cooked for the who’s who of the world. Khanna, a renowned TV host and author of several books, has been making documentaries on Indian food for years. His last one, <i>Kitchens of Gratitude</i> (2016), premiered at Festival de Cannes and was even showcased at the White House.</p> <p>But he admits that making <i>The Last Color</i> has been a different experience. At a time when most established chefs take the Instagram-YouTube route, here is an “outsider” who gatecrashed into a highly guarded industry with a full-fledged feature film slotted for a big-screen release. Did he come prepared? “I know there are gatekeepers in the film industry and they will not let me enter,” said Khanna. “They are about favouritism, nepotism and dynasties…. But I am not giving up. I also bring along the baggage of influence as a chef, and I put myself out there despite the criticism.”</p> <p>Khanna is not new to witnessing the many ways in which artistic liberty gets hijacked by an unforgiving culture of stereotyping. “Time and again, I have been asked to go back to the kitchen,” he said. “But how many times and in how many more ways can I make paneer makhani? I admire Sanjeev Kapoor who has [inspired] an entire line of chefs, but I cannot be a clone. I can continue doing those studio kitchen shoots for 24 hours, but what am I adding to your kitchen that you did not know already? The time has come to stay in the news and stay relevant and this is the way to go about it. Foray in new waters.”</p> <p>The biggest challenge was in getting the right people to play Chhoti (Aqsa Siddique) and Anarkali (Rudrani Chettri), who is a transwoman and sex worker. It took eight months. Poonam Kaul, the film’s coproducer says the team auditioned more than 2,000 children but they all seemed “too sophisticated” to play Chhoti. “We were looking for a rough-looking chirpy girl whom one often sees playing along the ghats,” said Kaul. “It was difficult for us to explain to the casting agents and it was not cheap.”</p> <p>Siddique, says Khanna, looked disinterested when the team arrived at her school in Shahdara, Delhi, for the auditions. “She was sitting at the back, complaining that a master chef had come to the school without bringing anything to eat,” said Khanna. “I heard her and just as she got up to leave, I zeroed in on her. We took permission to block her for three months, during which we trained her for tightrope walking and speaking slowly because she spoke very fast!”</p> <p>Khanna’s film was launched at the Palm Springs film festival in California and has been screened in over 20 other film festivals. But reviews have been mixed, with some critics saying that the film lacks flow and focus. “We are rookies, of course, but at the same time this film is of a different genre,” said Kaul. “[Director] Shyam Benegal said that the way the film was shot reminded him of Satyajit Ray. It is a nuanced film and appeals to an audience that values emotions and visual brilliance.”</p> <p>Meanwhile, Khanna has already started work on his next film in New York, has launched a luxury range of gold-encrusted tableware, has three books in the pipeline and is working on establishing the Indian Culture Centre in midtown Manhattan. “America has given me a lot and it does have an influence on me, but all my stories are entirely based on India,” said Khanna.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/31/colouring-the-world.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/31/colouring-the-world.html Thu Dec 31 13:04:50 IST 2020 meaning-in-material <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/31/meaning-in-material.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2020/12/31/74-vida-heydari.jpg" /> <p>Most spaces have an aura about them. At the new contemporary art gallery in Pune started by Iranian-Canadian curator and gallerist Vida Heydari, one gets a sense of stillness, as though it has barricaded the chaos outside from streaming in. It is a minimalistic space with clean lines, high ceilings, small niches and subdued colours. “For many years, I had been leading a nomadic life,” says Heydari, who has 14 years of experience in the global art world. “But once the urge to travel had gone, I knew I wanted to settle down and start a gallery. I wanted to have an international space where local and foreign artists could collaborate.” Alongside the gallery is a restaurant with a menu designed by Mumbai-based chef Ajay Chopra, where one can relax with a plate of Belgian pork belly or a marinated kale pizza.</p> <p>The lightness of the gallery space is beautifully complemented by the physicality of the artworks. The inaugural exhibition, <i>Origins of a Perennial Bouquet</i>, has been curated by Bose Krishnamachari and features the works of artists Sudarshan Shetty, Benitha Perciyal, Manish Nai, Sumedh Rajendran and Tanya Goel. “I wanted to understand how materiality and science go together,” says Krishnamachari. “Not science in terms of technology. Take the work of Tanya, for example. The way she mixes colours is an experiment in materiality. Her studio is almost like a laboratory.”</p> <p>This element of craftsmanship is evident in all the artworks. Like in Benitha Perciyal’s bust of “the mysterious visitor”, made of frankincense, myrrh, cinnamon, clove, bark powder, lemongrass, cider-wood essential oil and re-used Burma teak wood. Perciyal makes meaning out of her materials. “Materials like cinnamon and clove are everyday ingredients present in every house,” says Perciyal. “They are used at auspicious events to take away negative vibes. They are also ritualistic materials used in puja rooms, mosques and churches from time immemorial. After a while, these elements disappear without a trace, and only their memory remains.”</p> <p>What is also interesting is how the artists have used the solidity of these materials to create an illusion of lightness and buoyancy. Take Sumedh Rajendran’s teak wood and marble work, <i>Honour Cracks, </i>outlining several figures facing different directions. They seem to be suspended in mid-air and yet, there is something very rooted in their postures. This same illusion of fluidity is created by Sudarshan Shetty in his teak wood cupboard of everyday items like rolled-up bedding, a few utensils, a bulging laptop bag…. The way he makes the wood ‘slither’ is poetry in motion. Like the dent he has carved in a pair of shoes lying askew in the cupboard. There is a potent sense of immediacy in the work, as though someone—perhaps a middle-class office goer—has just removed them and they are still warm to the touch. Multiple stories lie untold in each of the exhibits, perennially framed in the stillness of the gallery.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/31/meaning-in-material.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/31/meaning-in-material.html Thu Dec 31 11:38:54 IST 2020