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 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 queen-of-hearts <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/31/queen-of-hearts.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/2020/12/31/77-anna-todd.jpg" /> <p>A<i>fter We Collided</i>, a romantic drama starring Hero Fiennes, Dylan Sprouse and Josephine Langford, was trending at number four on Netflix soon after it released in October. The film, about the relationship between two college students Tessa and Hardin, is the sequel to <i>After</i> (2019), an adaptation of Anna Todd’s eponymous book which catapulted her to overnight fame. After getting millions of reads on Wattpad, the social story-telling platform on which <i>After</i> was released, Todd is now <i>The New York Times</i> best-selling author of the <i>After</i> series, <i>The Brightest Stars</i> and <i>The Spring Girls.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\What do you think is the reason for the success of the </b><i><b>After</b></i><b> series?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>I would love to know (laughs). I think it was a mixture of me updating regularly on Wattpad and writing a story with a lot of twists and turns. The drama is what people love about the series.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\What do you think about your work being compared with the </b><i><b>Fifty Shades </b></i><b>trilogy?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>I personally love <i>Fifty Shades</i> and, regardless of anyone’s opinion, it liberated millions of women. The plot lines are not the same, so sometimes that is a bit frustrating, but overall it is an honour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\How did you get the idea for </b><i><b>After?</b></i></p> <p><b>A\ </b>I wanted to write the kind of book that I wanted to read. I love drama and chaos (in fictional form) and I could not find anything that was catching my attention as much as before, so I decided to write a chapter, and then the story just began to pour out of me.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\Do you think the Netflix film has done justice to the book?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>I don’t think films ever do justice to any books, except <i>Harry Potter.</i> I am honoured to have a movie series, but I am much more of a book person. I like details and conversations and not rushing the plot, so adaptations can be hard for me to love.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\Are there any incidents in the </b><i><b>After </b></i><b>books that are drawn from your own life?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>There are some parallels. My marriage is much less dramatic than Hardin and Tessa’s relationship, but I got married young, so we had some growing pains as well. I drew a lot of inspiration from my life for the parents of the characters, especially Ken and Tessa’s father.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\What, according to you, is the recipe for a successful book?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>I have not figured that out yet! But for me, writing from your heart and not writing to get attention is a major factor. Only write what you feel you would want to read and do not try to follow trends.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/31/queen-of-hearts.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/31/queen-of-hearts.html Thu Dec 31 11:26:41 IST 2020 honey-i-shrunk-the-screen <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/24/honey-i-shrunk-the-screen.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2020/12/24/bollywood-bg-new.jpg" /> <p>The biggest disruptor last year has been, well, the year itself.</p> <p>There is no doubt that 2020 will be remembered as one of the worst years for any industry. For the Indian entertainment industry though, it has been the most uneventful, unsuccessful and cruel year. Bollywood, especially, has seen it all. With cinema halls remaining shut for almost an entire year, there was hardly any box-office collection. Projects were halted midway, and many lost their jobs. Then came allegations of nepotism, abetment to suicide, toxicity, debauchery and drug rackets following the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. With hashtags like #BoycottBollywood trending, the film industry’s image got a major beating. Also, close to 20 veterans died last year.</p> <p>Even before cinemas had shut shop in March following the lockdown, 2020 witnessed the most number of flops in the first quarter of any year. Big-ticket films like <i>Chhapaak,</i> <i>Love Aaj Kal </i>and <i>Panga</i> failed miserably at the box office. Low-budget films, including <i>Street Dancer 3D</i>, <i>Shubh Mangal Zyada Savdhaan</i> and <i>Thappad,</i> were no crowd-pullers, either.</p> <p>But the industry, like many others, was not ready to give up or give in. It adapted, with filmmakers, actors and other artistes exploring newer forms of storytelling and experimenting with different platforms to deliver content and reach out to the audience. Films like <i>Gulabo Sitabo,</i> starring Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana, Vidya Balan-starrer <i>Shakuntala Devi</i> and Janhvi Kapoor’s <i>Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl </i>bypassed theatres and premiered directly on digital platforms. And it is this instinct for survival, for staying put at a time of uncertainty with the promise that entertainment will find a way into the homes and hearts of the audience, which is the key takeaway for the industry as it steps into the next decade.</p> <p>The 2021 platter is already looking quite full, with an assortment of big-ticket films waiting to hit the big screens. There is <i>83</i>, starring Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone, <i>Sooryavanshi</i>—Akshay Kumar’s first film with Rohit Shetty, Shoojit Sircar’s <i>Sardar Udham Singh,</i> Viacom18 Studios’ <i>Laal Singh Chaddha</i> starring Aamir Khan and Salman Khan-starrer <i>Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai,</i> all of which were originally scheduled for a grand release in 2020. After months of lockdown, multiplex owners are gung-ho about a return to normalcy in 2021. They hope people will warm up to the idea of stepping out for entertainment despite the ongoing pandemic. “We are offering our customers industry-defining standards of safety and hygiene, and have also initiated the ‘PVR Private Screening’ option in which the whole theatre can be booked privately for a memorable experience at a nominal price,” says Deepa Menon, senior vice president, corporate communications at PVR Cinemas. After the Union government allowed theatres to reopen, PVR announced the release of two new films—<i>Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari</i> and <i>Break The Silence: The Movie.</i></p> <p>According to Gaurav Verma, COO of Red Chillies Entertainment, a production company established by actor Shah Rukh Khan, the pandemic year got a huge chunk of public to devour content like never before and it is this ever growing greed for good content that will boost the entertainment business in 2021. “I think in these trying times what has emerged as good news is that an average consumer’s time spent on watching content has gone up significantly,” he says. “Which means tomorrow if one more avenue opens up, they are definitely going to go all out for it. We may not have been able to put as many projects on the floor in 2020, but we utilised this time to develop quality content and that gives us a lot more to produce in 2021.”</p> <p>What is evident is a change in consumer’s outlook not just for the 2021, but for the entire decade, says blogger and film writer Jaideep Pandey. “As we move into the next decade, what will stand out will be the manner in which filmmakers will keep pushing the boundaries to make better and fresher content,” he says. “While the 2010s witnessed a steady rise in issue-based cinema, with films like <i>Aligarh</i>,<i> Masaan, Pink, Article 15</i>, <i>Badhaai Ho </i>and <i>Bala</i>, the next 10 years will continue the trend with more aggression and strong narrations.”</p> <p>As content evolves, so will the strategies employed to watch and consume it. According to experts, the pandemic did witness a rise in the sales of home projectors, suggesting that people are open to communal screenings at home.</p> <p>“One thing that has been fantastic so far has been the emergence of marquee producers, whether it be Pooja Entertainment for <i>Coolie No 1</i> or 2D Entertainment in the case of <i>Soorarai Pottru </i>or Rising Sun Pictures for <i>Gulabo Sitabo </i>or Abunduntia Entertainment for <i>Shakuntala Devi.</i> We want to see how well film studios take our content and present it to the audience across the world. So I am hoping more producers see what we are trying to build here and give the opportunity to collaborate with them,” says Jackky Bhagnani, producer of Varun Dhawan-starrer <i>Coolie No 1,</i> which will soon have a DTS release on Amazon Prime Video.</p> <p>With freedom of experimenting with plots and mediums, no budgetary restrictions and the audience open to diverse content, strong, independent voices can now showcase their work more frequently. The Royal Stag Barrel Select Large Short Films YouTube channel enabled actor Tisca Chopra to make a directorial debut with <i>Rubaru</i>, a short film. She had earlier worked in two of their short films—<i>Chhuri </i>and <i>Chutney</i>. “Onwards and forward from here. We are accepting diverse stories and mediums and that is what is exciting about the coming year and the next decade,” Chopra tells THE WEEK.</p> <p>Actor Rasika Dugal, who popped up on our screens quite often this year in projects like <i>Mirzapur S2,</i> <i>Out of Love </i>and <i>Delhi Crime </i>that won an Emmy recently, says that it is the openness of taking risks that will set the tone going forward in the coming years as against the usual formulaic filmmaking. At least now there will not be any dearth of work for deserving actors, she adds.</p> <p>And, OTT platforms are going all out to woo viewers. A look at Amazon Prime Video 2020 content slate tells you that it has ensured that there is something for everybody—from gangland drama (<i>Mirzapur S2</i>), musical (<i>Bandish Bandits</i>) and socio-political drama (<i>Paatal Lok</i>) to a show dedicated to urban female friendships (<i>Four More Shots Please! S2</i>) and a sports documentary series (<i>Sons of the Soil: Jaipur Pink Panthers</i>). Experimenting with inclusion is another emerging trend, especially on digital platforms. Be it Umang, a bisexual woman in <i>Four More Shots Please! </i>or Karan Mehra, a gay man living in India at a time when homosexuality was illegal, in <i>Made In Heaven,</i> there has been a desire to document authentic journeys and bring to light voices that have not had adequate representation before. And, this need to include diversity is not just restricted to characters, but also extends to the people who play them. For instance, Mairembam Ronaldo Singh, who played Mary Lyngdoh aka Cheeni in <i>Paatal Lok</i>, is a transwoman.</p> <p>Regional cinema, too, has come of age, with different platforms chasing stories that connect with a wider audience. “At Amazon Prime, we have content in 10 languages (Hindi, Marathi Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Kannada, Gujarati, Punjabi, Malayalam and English),” says Aparna Purohit, head of India Originals Amazon Prime Video India. “India boasts one of the largest Amazon Originals production slates among our many international geographies (second largest, after the US). Today, Prime Video in India has approximately 55 Amazon Original Series in various stages of development and 31 in different stages of production.”</p> <p>As the demand for regional content goes up, producers and platforms are bolstering language-specific original content offerings. On Netflix, there is <i>Paava Kadhaigal,</i> featuring short films by popular filmmakers like Gautham Vasudev Menon, Sudha Kongara, Vignesh Shivan and Vetrimaaran. Amazon Prime Video, too, will have an anthology of five short films with Gautham Menon, Kongara, Rajiv Menon, Suhasini Mani Ratnam and Karthik Subbaraj. Disney+ Hotstar, meanwhile, will acquire its first regional language film that is skipping theatrical release owing to Covid-19.</p> <p>“What we are seeing is a chapter in the continuous evolution of the Indian cinematic narrative, and it will be interesting to see how it unfolds in the future,” says Pandey. “The suspense-thriller genre is going to remain hot. Horror-drama, too, seems like a nice bet, despite being relatively less explored. We might also see a jump in the number of biopics and remakes with a view to attract the younger audience.”</p> <p>Spoilt for choice, are we? </p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/24/honey-i-shrunk-the-screen.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/24/honey-i-shrunk-the-screen.html Thu Dec 24 15:46:55 IST 2020 sense-and-sensuality <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/24/sense-and-sensuality.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/2020/12/24/70-Shakeela.jpg" /> <p>Richa Chadha and Ali Fazal seem to have had a fairytale romance. They met on the sets of <i>Fukrey </i>(2013), and hit it off. It was while they were watching the Robert Downey Jr-starrer <i>Chaplin </i>(1992) at Richa’s house that she told him she loved him. It took him three months to say it back to her. The couple announced their relationship at the premiere of Ali’s film <i>Victoria and Abdu</i>l (2017) in Venice. Then came the perfect proposal–at a small island in Maldives, over post-dinner champagne. “My love. It was indeed the best night–to be with you,” posted Ali on Instagram on Richa’s 34th birthday on December 18. “And to be able to tell you how beautiful and lovely you are among other rather lengthy adjectives.”</p> <p>In stark contrast is the story of the person Richa is portraying in her latest film—south Indian adult film actor, <i>Shakeela.</i> Hailing from a Muslim family, Shakeela was forced into prostitution by her mother. She started her film career at the age of 20 with the Tamil film, <i>Play Girls. </i>She soon dominated the ‘B-grade industry’ of the 1980s and 1990s, and acted in over 100 films in Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu and Tamil, many of which have been dubbed into Chinese, Nepalese and Sinhalese, among other languages. Although she claimed to have received more than 100 proposals from filmmakers and producers, the 41-year-old siren remained single.</p> <p>“Shakeela’s personal life was so full of challenges and so cinematic, including everything from sabotage to an assassination attempt, that I thought it would make for an interesting film,” says Richa. “She herself is quite unapologetic about her choices, so I felt it would be fun to do this part.”</p> <p>What interested Richa about Shakeela was that she was not bitter about anything in life. “She has a childlike innocence that can almost be described as ‘cute’,” says the actor. “She has some energy about her which makes you want to look out for her and protect her. I tried to use that vulnerability in the film. There has to be vulnerability, because when you do not get what you want from your family, you carry that around your whole life.”</p> <p>The film is scheduled for a theatrical release on December 25. According to Richa, Shakeela’s story was spicy enough without the makers having to include any explicit scenes describing what she did. “Of course, we have recreated some iconic scenes from her films, like the waterfall sequence, but other than that, her story, with its many betrayals and rejections, [needs no adorning],” says Richa, adding how she gained weight for the role and learnt certain mannerisms of Shakeela’s, like biting the lower lip.</p> <p>But Richa did not have to worry too much about capturing Shakeela’s sex appeal, because sensuality is something that comes naturally to her. “I guess all actors have to be somewhat sensuous,” she says. “We have to enjoy the sight, sound, smell and touch of things, because that is how we portray what we do. Visually, what an actor does is really feel things and then express them.”</p> <p>Perhaps that gives a glimpse into the secret of her “inbuilt fire”, as a critic described her performances. In fact, she got the name “Ms Fire” for her energetic portrayal of Nagma Khatoon in <i>Gangs of Wasseypur </i>(2012). She is a natural performer who refuses to be typecast. From her debut role as the bar dancer Dolly in <i>Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! </i>(2008) to the foul-mouthed don of her highest-grossing <i>Fukrey</i> films (2013 and 2017) to perhaps her most praise-worthy performance as a small-town girl in <i>Masaan </i>(2015), Richa does not just stick to what she knows. She seems to have quite the Midas touch as, even when her films have tanked, her performances have received critical acclaim, with a few rare exceptions like <i>Chalk n Duster </i>(2016).</p> <p>Richa and Shakeela might have led radically different lives, but both have experienced “the tyranny of the male gaze” in their own ways. If one has faced patriarchy’s blatant exploitation in the entertainment field, the other has been subject to its subtler variants.</p> <p>“It is there in the most well-intentioned people,” says Richa. “When they tell you certain things like how actresses have shorter shelf lives. Or how you have to play glamorous parts and look nice all the time. It is there at every stage. Your casting director will tell you at the age of 20 that you are not getting any younger. And that person will be really ugly and bald and in his late 50s, but they appropriate the right to tell you these things.”</p> <p>Richa has been extremely outspoken about the objectification of women in the entertainment industry, even opening up about how she became a bulimic as a result of the blatant scrutiny she was perpetually subjected to. “I was told I should gain weight, then lose weight, fix my nose and inflate my lips, get a boob job, lose the puppy fat, grow my hair out, or cut it, get highlights, or fake eyelash extensions… get fake gel nails, run in heels, wear Spanx, pout while talking, focus on dilating the pupils, and listen attentively. I crumbled under pressure like a wrecking ball had hit me,” the actor had said in a 2016 TEDx talk.</p> <p>In fact, says Richa, during her 12-year journey in Bollywood, her biggest struggle had been to attain a sense of self-worth. If her confidence and the courage to stand up for her convictions today is anything to go by, she has certainly won the battle. The young girl who used to love doing mimicry because it “validated my need for attention” lost her voice when she came to showbiz. But when she regained it, it thrummed with a power that it never had before.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/24/sense-and-sensuality.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/24/sense-and-sensuality.html Thu Dec 24 15:27:32 IST 2020 crocs-and-conservation <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/24/crocs-and-conservation.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/2020/12/24/73-dhritiman.jpg" /> <p>His photograph of a male gharial ferrying its babies on its back across the Chambal River was highly commended in this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. An award-winning nature photographer, Dhritiman Mukherjee is a conservationist at heart. He spends around 280 days a year in the field, clicking everything from snow leopards in Ladakh to marine life in Antarctica or the lava lake in Congo. Excerpts from an interview:</p> <p><b>Q\ Tell us about the gharials you came across in Chambal.</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>Gharials are a critically endangered species. Male gharials mate with seven to eight females. Males guard hatchlings. They are reclusive and shy. But during breeding time, they become aggressive. If you go close to their offspring, they will attack you.</p> <p>I came across the gharial and his babies during a photography tour to Chambal in 2017. Initially, I didn’t take any pictures. I would go to the riverbank and simply watch them. They got comfortable with me as they realised I wasn’t a troublemaker. Only then I started taking pictures.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ How did you manage to shoot those breath-taking pictures of the snow leopard in Ladakh?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>While chasing the snow leopard, I made a hideout that blended in with the rocky terrain. The snow leopard had killed a zho, a hybrid of a yak and a cow. My hideout offered a view to the kill. At night, the snow leopard would come and eat its prey…. I stayed in my hideout for eight days. On the ninth day, I found myself face-to-face with the snow leopard as I came out. It looked at me for a while. By then, it had accepted me.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\How can photography be used for conservation?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>I consider photography as a tool for conservation. I document species that are most likely to disappear. In 2018, I, along with a group of scientists, went on an expedition to Arunachal Pradesh. It was called the Abor expedition…. Rare species of animals and reptiles were rediscovered during the expedition. Similarly, I spent days on a tree at Narcondam, a remote island in Andaman, to photograph hornbills. Hornbills are endemic to Narcondam. The scientific community relies on these photographs for evidence.</p> <p>At one point, large-scale hunting had caused the decline of Amur Falcons in Nagaland. Community-led initiatives helped a lot in sensitising people against cruelty towards them. Photographs played a significant role in these campaigns.<br> <br> </p> <p><b>Q\ What’s next?</b></p> <p><b>A\ </b>I want to explore Indian caves.&nbsp;I am also planning an expedition to the northeast, where not much work is done. I am fascinated with tree canopies, lakes, rivers, and freshwater ecosystem.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/24/crocs-and-conservation.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/24/crocs-and-conservation.html Thu Dec 24 15:16:13 IST 2020 fantastic-worlds-and-where-to-find-them <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/17/fantastic-worlds-and-where-to-find-them.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2020/12/17/140-fiction.jpg" /> <p>On September 28, 1896, the Shimla Meteorological Office published a report: A massive cyclone—the worst and the most dangerous in years—would devastate Bengal in two days. Fear gripped the city, and nobody slept at night as the mercury plummeted. But, on the dreaded day of October 1, after a few drops of rain, the sky cleared up. Scientists were astounded. Where on earth had the cyclone disappeared to? This was the premise of <i>Niruddesher Kahini</i> (Tale of the Disappeared), a short story by celebrated Bengali physicist Jagadish Chandra Bose in 1896.</p> <p>As interesting as the plot is the circumstance under which the story came to be. Entrepreneur Hemendra Bose, creator of the Kuntalin brand of hair oil which was quite the rage across eastern India, stumbled across an innovative way of marketing his product. He instituted the Kuntalin Purashkar, a literary prize conferred to the best short story that featured the hair oil and promoted it. J.C. Bose’s story went on to win the maiden award.</p> <p>The second part of <i>Niruddesher Kahini</i> delves into the mystery behind the missing cyclone; the protagonist of the story is a balding man, recovering from a long illness. He is convalescing onboard a ship in the Bay of Bengal around the time the cyclone forms. Upon understanding that violent death awaited him in the form of crashing waves and apocalyptic winds, he panics and recollects his daughter’s parting words. She had told him that she had packed a bottle of Kuntalin for him. A scientific article, which postulated that oil, being lighter than water, rises to the top and calms the tension on the surface, flashes across his mind. He quickly empties Kuntalin into the sea. The cyclone dissipates.</p> <p><i>Niruddesher Kahini</i> is an important, if slightly overlooked, chapter in the subcontinent’s literary history. If you discount Jagadananda Roy’s 1879 short story <i>Shukra Bhraman</i> (Travel to Venus), Bose’s story is the first piece of science fiction—coming under the broad umbrella of the Speculative Fiction and Fantasy (SFF) genre—to appear in any Indian language.</p> <p>What is SFF? Simply put, one could define it as a blanket term for literary genres that explore worlds and phenomena beyond our current human understanding—tales that envision possibilities in any tense other than the present. Writer Margaret Atwood of <i>The Handmaid’s Tale</i> fame defines it as “fiction in which things happen that are not possible today”. It could be futuristic or dystopian science fiction, horror, mythology, or any number of different fantasy genres.</p> <p>Why are we talking about SFF now? At a time of great churn, amid a global pandemic and political turbulence on an unprecedented scale, the genre is finding immense resonance and mainstream acceptance. Gone are the days when SFF—which has a long and storied history in India—was generally (and erroneously) pigeonholed as third-rate low art featuring sentient green monsters and bedsheets-with-eyeholes ghosts; Atwood, in the early 2000s, brusquely dismissed science fiction as “talking squids in outer space”. Now, in 2020, the boundaries between reality and fiction have been blurred like never in history. Even the literary scenario is shifting: In India, and across the world, young and iconoclastic authors are expanding the frontiers of the genre, stepping into spaces and worlds and timelines that no one has explored before. All major publishers are opening fresh listings for speculative fiction, eyeing keenly each new work that comes their way.</p> <p><b>Changing terrains of SFF in India</b></p> <p>India’s SFF market is largely dominated by mythological fiction. If it was Ashok Banker’s Ramayana series in the 2000s, Amish (Shiva trilogy, Ram Chandra series) and Anand Neelakantan (<i>Asura</i>, <i>Vanara</i> and <i>Penramayanam</i>) have all hit gold with books on different and unique interpretations of the Indian epics.</p> <p>But there is also another side to SFF in India—a rapidly evolving tradition of dystopian horror and razor-sharp political and social critiques, highlighting oppression, inequality and authoritarianism through the prism of SFF.</p> <p><i>The Wall</i> by Gautam Bhatia, a lawyer and editor of the prestigious Hugo-nominated SFF journal <i>Strange Horizons</i>, was released in August. The novel is set in an imaginary city of Sumer, isolated behind gigantic, impassable walls that have been a fixture for whole generations. The novel delves into the conflict between Shoortans, powerful priests set on maintaining the status quo and preserving the wall, and Tarafians, a group of rebellious youngsters dead set on crossing over to the other side. “I had no particular political motif in mind, but an exploration of the meaning of freedom,” says Bhatia.</p> <p>Tashan Mehta’s 2017 <i>The Liar’s Weave</i> tells the story of a Parsi family in 1920s colonial Bombay, a boy who was born without a birth chart; in his life, unmapped by the stars, every lie becomes a reality.</p> <p>Prayaag Akbar’s <i>Leila</i>, since adapted into a Netflix series, speaks of a mother’s search for a missing daughter in a highly segregated, repressed society where purity is held up as a high ideal and mixed faith/background kids are kidnapped and taken to rehabilitation centres.</p> <p>Indrapramit Das’s <i>The Devourers</i> switches between modern Kolkata and Mughal India for an unsettling tale of werewolves in Shah Jahan’s kingdom, with sprinklings of Norse mythology, and is replete with graphic examinations of violence and bittersweet explorations of love’s different realms.</p> <p>Anil Menon’s 2016 <i>Half of What I Say</i> yanks at the threads of the suspicious death of a politician and the existence of a powerful, dubious governmental anti-corruption department in Lokshakti, and pulls you into a maze of characters and political intrigue that hits close to home.</p> <p>In <i>Analog/Virtual</i>, Lavanya Lakshminarayan explores a futuristic Bengaluru—the ‘Apex City’ split in half by the Carnatic Meridian. In this highly segregated world where meritocracy and technarchy are keywords, those outside the Meridian are considered outcasts—the ‘Analogs’ are afforded none of the technological comforts like climate shields and clean water that their ‘Virtual’ contemporaries have access to. “I wanted to explore the transition of the city of Bengaluru over the years—its growth as a technological hub, and the dichotomies and the inequalities that are laid bare outside of the bubble we are living in,” says Lavanya.</p> <p>Worldbuilding—creating a cogent universe (imaginary or otherwise) with no internal contradictions, with a focus on sustaining physical laws and social systems—is a crucial part of the SFF writing process. It is also one that allows the writers to see past the redundancies and internal contradictions of the ever-present normative social influence. In <i>The Wall</i>, relations and marriage are strictly controlled on the divisions of class. In an attempt to control over-population in a bounded society with resource restrictions, same-sex relationships are encouraged and called “pure love”. Says Bhatia: “If you have a closed world, what would be the functions of gender roles and the significance of sexual orientations? What we see in our current society (homophobia or patriarchy) are prejudices grounded in material circumstances.”</p> <p>US-based Mimi Mondal, one of the best known Indian SFF writers, says all choices in the worldbuilding process are deliberate. “What interests me the most about fictional worlds is their economy, which eventually leads to the question of sources of power. What are the power centres in this world? What are the limitations, both in the sense of the physics of the world, and the individual capacity of a character? I work my way through these questions first, and the individual storylines of the characters emerge in response to them,” says Mondal, whose works have been shortlisted for both the Hugo and Nebula awards.</p> <p>This segues into the knottiest question of them all: What constitutes ‘Indian SFF’? Like Afrofuturism or Silk Punk (as author Ken Liu defines it, fantasy that takes “inspiration from classical East Asian antiquity”), can there be a separate label for speculative fiction drawing from the Indian subcontinent? Would the defining boundaries of that sub-genre be geographical? Cultural? Where would that leave the diaspora writings and those by foreign authors?</p> <p>In India, one of the earliest SFF works was the Hindi epic fantasy novel <i>Chandrakanta</i> by Devaki Nandan Khatri, published in 1888; with its roster of queens, empires, magicians and royal intrigues, its TV series adaptation became one of the most popular shows for a generation. In 1905 came <i>Sultana’s Dream</i> by Begum Sakhawat Hussain, one of the first works in English. Post-Independence, a slew of works appeared in Bengali (Satyajit Ray’s supernatural Professor Shonku being one example), Urdu and Hindi, with notable English language works like Amitav Ghosh’s <i>The Calcutta Chromosome</i>—a medical thriller spanning continents—in 1995, Samit Basu’s <i>Gameworld Trilogy</i>, Anil Menon’s <i>The Beast With Nine Billion Feet</i> in 2009, and more.</p> <p>“India does not have a classic example of culture-specific literature like Manga in Japan,” says Menon. “There is no such conceptual entity. It mostly comes down to Indian writers. We still don’t have a sense of what interests us as Indians. I could say writings by authors of Indian origin would classify as Indian SFF.”</p> <p>But where does that leave authors like British-origin Ian McDonald, whose 2004 science fiction work <i>River of Gods</i> describes a futuristic India, with ancient traditions and cutting-edge future tech, and divided into a number of clashing federations. Works by foreign writers have often been criticised for commercial exoticisation and single-dimensional portrayals of a complex landscape. Says Menon: “When I was at Clarion West Workshop [a renowned six-week workshop for aspiring writers at UC San Diego], we would be given [blind] descriptions by Indian, Indian-origin and foreign authors on a topic like [say] the Manikarnika ghats. We would be asked to identify who wrote what. Based on the way the scenario is described, we could almost always identify [foreign writings].”</p> <p>Like almost everything else in and of India, SFF from the country is polyphonic, with historic regional and linguistic factors playing their part. Even pre-independence, science fiction grew in Bengali, Marathi (promoted by the world-renowned astrophysicist and Padma Vibhushan awardee Jayant V. Narlikar) and Hindi. Contrast that with the deep south. Malayalam has next to zero instances of such a tradition; instead, its SFF is deeply influenced by the magical realism that gripped Latin America. One of the reasons for that, as Menon mentioned in an interview with author Vandana Singh, could be the fact that Kerala was relatively unaffected by the British colonial presence.</p> <p>The colonial era played a big part in the evolution of the genre. According to <i>Other Tomorrows</i>, a study on the history of science fiction in India by Suparno Banerjee at the Louisiana State University in the US, pre-independence, everything Indian was associated with (mainly Hindu) spiritualism and everything European, connected to science. Hindu nationalists often exploited this divide by extending the religion/science binary as Indian/European binary. Then came the emergence of the reformist Brahmo Samaj, Dayananda Saraswati’s (Arya Samaj) connection of Vedic knowledge (vimanas) with modern science (airplanes), and rationalist movements helmed by leaders like Swami Vivekananda which re-projected science on to the Indian past and presented it as something essentially Indian, as the study points out.</p> <p>All the variables aside, there is one constant that sticks out in the story of the historical evolution of Indian SFF—it has always been subversive. Be it Kylash Chander Dutt’s 1835 <i>A Journal of Forty-Eight Hours of the Year 1945</i>, which details a fictional uprising against the British colonisers in the future, or J.C. Bose’s <i>Niruddesher Kahini</i>, which speaks about the “heart of British empire”, or Begum Hussain’s <i>Sultana’s Dream</i>, a feminist fantasy which envisions a world controlled by women, the genre has always retained a sense of defiance and rebellion against the status quo. Even Khatri’s works, though outwardly very sanitised, had provoked a huge debate in its time. Khatri wrote in clear, readable Hindi that made ample use of common Arabic and Persian words. It was those days of institutionalisation of Sanskritised Hindi, preferred by the literary elite. Khatri’s style, in spite of its huge popularity, was then not deserved to be considered literary Hindi, but rather only merited the designation “Hindustani”, a vehicle fit merely for light and frothy creations and too close to Urdu to be respectable, according to the study Culture and Power in Banaras published by UC Press.</p> <p>Keeping the great traditions to one side, what is the genre’s standing in India currently? There is obviously a growing culture of SFF, driven by readers, writers and publishers, but is it enough? According to Salik Shah, editor of <i>Mithila Review</i>, an internationally renowned SFF journal published out of India that celebrated its sixth anniversary this year, Indian SFF is making great strides forward and he expects a significant shift in the literary scenario in five years. But, on the flip side, he says, finances were so difficult that keeping the magazine alive was a statement in itself. <i>Mithila Review</i> stands alone as an India-based publication in a global stage of renowned journals like <i>Clarkesworld</i>, <i>Analog</i>, <i>Asimov’s</i>, <i>SF&amp;F</i>, <i>Strange Horizons</i>, <i>Lightspeed</i>, <i>Fantasy</i> magazine and more.</p> <p>“We started with this quest for ‘freedom, dignity and justice’ at a time when there was a crackdown on students and abuse of state power,” says Shah. <i>Mithila Review</i>, according to him, is a global publication attempting to decentre science fiction in an Anglo-centric, Euro-centric milieu. “There is no such thing as a singular Indian or national identity anymore. Everything has become so globalised. Every person has his own journey, and <i>Mithila Review</i> is a reflection of my own journey and struggles as a citizen of this new world.”</p> <p>But, what does it mean to decentre the genre from the west? In the global publishing world, the western readership—once all-important—is now a growingly small fraction in the market, says Mondal. “In China there are bestselling speculative fiction authors who write in Mandarin and have the size of readership larger than writers in English without even being translated. So, whose future are we talking about? The world minus the Mandarin readership? If we’re asking to decentre the literary canon from the west, we also need to ask why we still need to use the west as the anchor to measure how far that de-centring has succeeded,” Mondal said.</p> <p>The Indian publishing industry is also growingly bullish on SFF, says Menon, who has a collection of short stories coming out next year. “Numerous publishing houses are interested in SFF,” he says. “Editors are also actively seeking out original works.”</p> <p>For the writers, the existing scenario poses unique opportunities, and also raise challenges. Author Samit Basu calls publishing a novel during the pandemic a “deeply strange experience”. His novel <i>Chosen Spirits</i>, which came out in April, describes a deeply dystopian Delhi set 10 years into the future, replaced with augmented realities, mass technological surveillance, “reality controllers” and the sparks of a resistance with references to Shaheen Bagh protests. “A lot of the things I had predicted would happen over the next decade actually started happening during the course of writing the book,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever rewritten a novel anywhere near as often as I had to with <i>Chosen Spirits</i>, and part of pushing the publishers to release the book mid-pandemic was the worry that the world would change so much over the course of any week that the book would seem not to be futuristic at all if we held it back waiting for some kind of normality to return.”</p> <p>The technological acceleration spurred on by the pandemic is as unmistakable as the economic divides that it brought into contrast. Globally, according to a study conducted by the University of Miami, we are now “living through an industrial revolution, with computing at the core of it”. On the flip side, extended global lockdowns have dragged many poor countries back several decades, with child starvation and poverty emerging as two of the biggest concerns.</p> <p>The current global churn is, to borrow obliquely from J.C. Bose’s short story, something akin to a mixture of water and oil. Deeply uneven, cresting and troughing, accumulating to its absolute threshold at some points and completely hollowed out in others. Like a territory war between the past and the present, warping the laws of nature that all of us take for granted.&nbsp; </p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/17/fantastic-worlds-and-where-to-find-them.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/17/fantastic-worlds-and-where-to-find-them.html Thu Dec 17 21:58:03 IST 2020 sff-in-iIndia-still-in-early-growth-stage <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/17/sff-in-iIndia-still-in-early-growth-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/2020/12/17/142-samit-basu-new.jpg" /> <p>Samit Basu is an author and filmmaker who strode into the speculative fiction scene in India with his internationally acclaimed <i>Gameworld Trilogy</i>. He co-directed the Netflix movie <i>House Arrest</i>, and his book <i>Chosen Spirits</i> was most recently shortlisted for the prestigious JCB Literary Prize. Excerpts from his conversation with THE WEEK:</p> <p><b>From what was predominantly a myth fiction-heavy market to the political, surreal and subversive beast that it has now become, how do you evaluate India’s SFF evolution? Where do you see it going in the future?</b></p> <p>There is certainly a large market for muscular fantasy works that retell Hindu religious stories, especially if they have covert or overt nationalistic themes and visions. I think this is an offshoot of the wider mainstream rise of majoritarian nationalistic religious/cultural expression rather than anything to do with genre fiction publishing. And I don’t think any of the political/subversive/surreal fiction that is separate from this stream of fiction has been exposed to a market in any way similar in size to this religious/myth fiction. Speculative fiction in India is published and reviewed and read as a subset of literary/general fiction, so it is a separate beast altogether. I think this subset has made considerable progress in the 18 years I have observed it.</p> <p><b>Have India’s traditional television production houses failed to react to the growth of the science fiction and fantasy market?</b></p> <p>Unlike in the West or East Asia, where the sheer size of the fandom for a popular book might propel it into production, in India you have to depend on selling a pitch as you would for a completely new idea—and it doesn’t help that very few people in film/show universes actually read anything. It is also expensive and difficult to produce SF/fantasy shows and films, and producers are reasonably risk-averse both in terms of expense and in terms of untested ideas/genres. I think that has much more to do with the lack of SF/fantasy shows in India that aren’t overtly religion/myth themed than anything else.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Your works (in our subcontinent) were one of the first to introduce Indian and non-white characters into the global SFF milieu. How difficult a task was it to gain mainstream acceptability for a little-known genre back then? How far have we come since?</b></p> <p>India doesn’t really operate on the basis of genre. Speculative fiction is still published by general/literary fiction imprints. We have examples of magazines and conventions and fan groups and other features that are common in the west and in East Asia, but all of these are in their early stages. So, what we are seeing now is the slow growth of something interesting. As far as acceptability is concerned, I have to say it hasn’t been much of a problem in India, but maybe it was because I was lucky and my first novel did well both among critics and in terms of sales, and there have been kind readers down the years.</p> <p>It is also relevant that India is a vast country, and most of the writers working in speculative fiction are writing things that are very different from one another, so we’re still very firmly in the early-growth stage, and we will only get to have a clearer picture when there are, say, about 20 books coming out every year from major publishers. That is when the space becomes mappable.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/17/sff-in-iIndia-still-in-early-growth-stage.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/17/sff-in-iIndia-still-in-early-growth-stage.html Thu Dec 17 21:50:26 IST 2020 storm-and-calm <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/17/storm-and-calm.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/2020/12/17/16-joe.jpg" /> <p>For 31 years, Joe Foster’s life ran parallel to the shoe company that he built. Until his shoes outpaced him. “It had become a big company that was being run by numbers,” he tells THE WEEK. “And I was just taking it light—getting picked up in limousines, meeting nice people, having nice meals…. By that time, the challenge was gone. The journey, for me, was at an end.”</p> <p>It all began in 1942 when seven-year-old Joe won a Webster’s dictionary at an athletics event in Bolton, his hometown in northwest England. The dictionary was to come in handy 18 years later, after he and his brother, Jeff, started a shoe company called Mercury, only to realise that the name had already been taken by Lotus and Delta, a division of the British Shoe Corporation. They were advised to “choose a made-up name, something nobody else would have thought of”. A disillusioned Joe flipped through the dictionary, his finger trailing random names in it. Mamushi? Mamzer? Redwood? No, no and no. Until he came to Reebok: “A light coloured antelope”. Perfect. It was short, catchy and easy to pronounce. It suggested light, but fast and agile.</p> <p>Reebok’s journey, however, was neither light nor fast and agile. There were seemingly insurmountable hurdles. Like when they got a winding-up petition from a patent office wanting to close down the company. Or when Lawrence Sports, the worldwide distributors of Reebok, went bust. Or when faulty manufacturing by Bata caused the mid-soles of around 20,000 pairs of Reebok to collapse. But when a door closed, a window always opened. Joe first met Paul Fireman at a trade exhibition in Chicago in 1979. Fireman was key to Reebok’s success in America. Five years later, Fireman, along with Stephen Rubin, the CEO of ASCO, a subsidiary of the Pentland Group, would buy the company from Joe.</p> <p>“I sold the brand for what at the time was a reasonable figure…. None of us in our wildest dreams thought Reebok would go on to become a multi-billion-dollar company,” writes Joe in his new memoir, <i>Shoemaker: The Untold Story of the British Family Firm that Became a Global Brand</i>. “If I had an inkling that it would, then, yes, maybe I would have retained some kind of share. But there is no point in looking back at unknowables.”</p> <p>In many ways, Joe measures the milestones in his life through specific Reebok shoes. There was the Aztec, for example, that opened the door to America. The nylon and suede shoe which came in blue, red and yellow was one of three Reebok shoes that was given a five-star rating by the prestigious <i>Runner’s World</i> magazine in 1979. Those days, the magazine’s rating was the acid test to determine the success of a shoe in America.</p> <p>But it was really the Freestyle that propelled Reebok to global fame in 1982. It was the idea of a Reebok sales agents, Angel Martinez, who noticed, while joining his wife at her aerobics sessions, that women did aerobics either barefoot or in uncomfortable trainers. He quickly recognised the need for specialist aerobics shoes. The Freestyle, made with soft glove leather lined with adhesive nylon, was the first fitness shoe specifically designed for women. It was an immediate success, with everyone from celebrity fitness guru Denise Austin to Hollywood actor Jane Fonda endorsing it. The shoe played an instrumental role in Reebok’s sales skyrocketing from $1.5 million in 1981 to $13 million in 1984.</p> <p>Success, however, came at a price. Joe’s family life suffered and his first marriage ended in divorce. “As with my dad before me, and his before that, work and family were separate entities, linked only by the one providing necessities for the other,” he writes. “Business gain was my driving force, or rather my obsession.” It was a tough trade-off, especially when his daughter Kay, to whom the book is dedicated, died of leukemia in 1988. “It was the last day that my heart would ever be whole,” he writes. In fact, after her death, the tone of the book changes, striking a softer and sadder note. The high-octane life of glitz and glamour gives way to the gentler one of retirement and rest. “I started living at my pace, instead of Reebok’s,” says Joe, currently settled in the Canary Island of Tenerife with his second wife, Julie. “Yes, I would have liked Kay and my brother Jeff to see the success of Reebok,” he says. “It did not happen, but you can’t change that. You wish you could, but you can’t.”</p> <p>Joe is content with his life now. “I enjoy sitting out here and just being still,” he says. It took him some time to get used to it, though. Initially, he would wake up thinking, when is the next plane? He recounts how Nike’s founder Phil Knight was once asked what was left on his bucket list. He replied that if he could do it, he wanted to do the journey all over again. Not Joe, though. For him, the memories are enough. “It was fantastic to have done it, but great to come out of it,” he says. Still, you can take him out of Reebok, but you cannot take Reebok out of him. “It is like the [lyrics of] Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’,” he says with a chuckle. “You can check out, but you can never leave.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Shoemaker: The Untold Story of the British Family Firm That Became a Global Brand By Joe Foster</b></p> <p><b>Published by Simon &amp; Schuster</b></p> <p><b>Price Rs699; pages 319</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/17/storm-and-calm.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/17/storm-and-calm.html Thu Dec 17 18:13:45 IST 2020 a-subdued-melody <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/10/a-subdued-melody.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/2020/12/10/65-Pradip-Kumar-Palit-new.jpg" /> <p>When Pandit Rameshwar Prasad Mishra started training under his guru, Bade Ramdas Mishra of the Benares gharana, memory was his only aid. “We would practise in the morning and evening. My elders would say that the pets would be fed, but not me if I skipped riyaz. Every raag had to be mugged. There were no notations or recordings to fall back on. My guru would say that music is not a grocery list that can be noted [down]. It needs to seep into one’s being,” says Mishra, 75.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For classicists like him, the use of technology in any form is abhorrent to the spirit and purity of music. The lockdown and the loss of earnings have not changed this view. “Technology is a bad master,” he says. “It enslaves one. You put on an electronic tanpura (an instrument that provides support to the singer with a harmonic drone) and it plays on monotonously, leaving no room for improvisation. And what if the electricity goes off? You are suddenly clueless,” says the Lucknow-based vocalist who still practises with the manual tanpura, which lies neglected since the advent of its electronic counterpart.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Classical music is an acquired taste, its cadence, lilt and melody lost to an untrained ear. Of all the luxuries that have taken a beating during the pandemic, music is amongst the worst hit. Even for those who have adapted to teaching digitally, there has been a steep dip in the number of students. The pandemic’s moral obligation to pay household help or factory employees did not extend to such fine arts teachers. Many who grapple with the intricacies of performing in online concerts do so only to remain in the public eye, mostly without any remuneration.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Classical music feeds off the energy from the close bond between guru and shishya. Thus, face to face interaction is its most vital element. It is an oral tradition which requires time and patience. Critics believe such rigour limits its appeal. Chandrima Roy, 45, a sarod player from Delhi who trains under Pandit Narendra Nath Dhar, says that the greatest benefit of learning in the tradition is that it compels a disciple to be “100 per cent focused”. “You cannot just switch on and off,” she says. “The class continues beyond the physical environment. Music is an art unlike any other. You cannot, say, as in a painting, touch up a mistake. The guru progresses as per the student’s ability. One needs to be very sure-footed. If you pick up something in a hurry, you can carry the mistake for the rest of your life.” Roy adapted well to the demands of lockdown–both learning and teaching digitally. On her guru’s birthday, she and her peers hosted a ticketed online concert by him to raise money for other struggling musicians.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Not keeping in touch with students would have been disastrous,” she says. “Finding the correct note and pitch is a challenge with new students. As is the time lag in the transmission of sound (due to internet bandwidth). Online teaching has to be doable, not intricate. On the upside, I have been able to reach out to audiences and students from overseas, something I would never have imagined possible.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Pramod Upadhyay, 50, a student of Pandit Mishra, the struggle to learn how to teach online was compounded by the haggling of the students’ parents. “They tell me, ‘you are saving money as you do not travel to teach, you must reduce your fees’,” says Upadhyay. According to him, such demands are unlikely to have been made of, say, tuition teachers. To supplement his dwindling income, Upadhyay started a tiffin service. He mentions peers who have been forced to sell vegetables to stay afloat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But classical music’s troubled tryst with technology is not new. With the advent of mobile apps, for instance, one can do away even with the electronic tabla. Voices can be tuned to a perfect pitch, making even the most technically deficient singer sound melodious. “It is no longer a sadhna (disciplined learning). Parents come to me and their first question is, by when will our child be ready to perform in a concert? I tell them music is not a time-bound contract,” says Upadhyay, who will not let either of his two children pursue a career in music despite their talent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Between Upadhyay’s and Mishra’s generations the use of the tanpura has almost vanished. Upadhyay himself rarely practises with one. “This generation cannot even tell the difference between a tanpura and a sitar,” he says. Even among classical musicians, the worst affected are those who play accompanying instruments, such as the harmonium, as their income was derived from the main artiste’s earnings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Howrah-based harmonium player Pradip Kumar Palit, 53, lost all his students during the lockdown. “Online classes cannot fill in for the chemistry between a teacher and a student. The way a guru moves, the way he breathes, are all part of the learning. The meeting of souls is not possible”, says Palit, who has tried to befriend technology.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The work of an accompanist is more difficult as he or she needs to adapt to the mood and nuances of the main performer. A bad accompanist can ruin a recital,” says Palit, who is waiting for his students to return. He has tried in vain to look for other work. In Lucknow, Pandit Mishra says that time is all powerful and the pandemic will not last forever. But whether it will drown the melody of classical music is a question only time will answer.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/10/a-subdued-melody.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/10/a-subdued-melody.html Fri Dec 11 11:21:32 IST 2020 criminally-good <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/10/criminally-good.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/2020/12/10/68-Richie-Mehta-new.jpg" /> <p>On November 24, Delhi Crime brought India its first-ever International Emmy. The series told the story of the investigation into the horrific 2012 Delhi gang rape. For its writer and director Richie Mehta, the award goes beyond its category and caption. The Canadian filmmaker of Indian origin says it is a celebration of “justice, hope, courage” and the inherent goodness within those who are hell-bent to bring the convicts to book and restore faith in humanity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mehta was in India when the crime took place. Four years later, all the while shuttling between India and Canada, he finally put together his research and script for the series. In the gut-wrenching and incisive crime drama, Mehta does not show the incident at all. This leaves the most violent moments in the show to public memory of the actual event.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The conviction to execute this Netflix Original came in two forms: one, “a calculated probability of goodness”, and two, from former Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar, who first planted the idea of Delhi Crime in Mehta’s mind and introduced him to the cops that worked with him on the case. At the end of Mehta’s interviews with each police officer, Mehta would ask them if they still believed in the goodness of people. Every cop answered in the affirmative. “They explained this statistic of probability which said that out of 80,000 police officers in Delhi, even if a thousand turn out to be bad apples, the force can collectively keep peace in the city of two crore people,” said Mehta. “It is this inherent goodness of the police force that led me to look at the story from their lens and reinstate faith in resilience and humanity.” Mehta expresses this sentiment beautifully in the last episode in the words of Bhupinder (Rajesh Tailang), who responds to Vartika’s question of how he goes home smiling after dealing with criminals all day. “It helps when I look at the statistics,” he replies. “Ninety-nine per cent of people are decent. It is just that we never get to meet them (as police officers) as we only deal with scumbags.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While Delhi Crime remains Mehta’s most recognised work internationally, in terms of Indian content, it is by no means his first. Siddharth, a 2014 Indian-Canadian drama film, which was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and for which Mehta was awarded best original screenplay, was based on a ten-minute conversation he had with an autorickshaw driver in Delhi. Two years after that, he celebrated the richness of everyday India by compiling footages of a day in the life of different people from across the country to make India’s largest crowdsourced documentary. “India is a storehouse of stories,” Mehta told THE WEEK over a call from the UK. “As a filmmaker, what interests me the most are relevant stories from humanity, and this is very raw in India. You can walk down the street for two minutes and your life would change. India, to me, is just an amazing place to try and discover humanity.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Among his friends and peers, Mehta is known for possessing a nose for stories and a razor-sharp intuition for capturing them. This is also what sets him apart from his contemporaries. “As a director, Richie is very meticulous and personally involved in each aspect,” said Shefali Shah, who brilliantly plays Vartika Chaturvedi, the lead investigator. “A couple of days before DC’s release, we were screening the show for a select audience, so by the end of the evening we all would get together. And even in the middle of a party, he would be working on the subtitles in a corner. (There is normally a dedicated team that does this.) He saw to it that every word and every breath was perfectly timed to the visual. He chose me not as an actor but as a collaborator, giving me all the freedom I needed to create my version [of Vartika].”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mehta seems to have an innate ability for creative storytelling, which has been further polished by a university education in arts and art history and a stint at TIFF in 1997, when he first entered cinema as a teen volunteer. It was also at TIFF that his very first feature film, Amal, debuted and won three awards. Amal was adapted from his brother Shaun Mehta’s book. “Going forward, I might just get inspired by some of the very amazing stories he has been writing,” said the director.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Almost every film that Mehta has worked on has been a response to things that affect him emotionally. The sci-fi thriller I’ll Follow You Down was in a way a response to his parents’ divorce, he says. In this tale of time travel, Erol, a 21-year-old budding scientist, negotiates his way through life, which has been forever altered by the disappearance of his physicist father. “Life experiences do it for me,” said Mehta. “Even now, if I have a life experience that says inside me that I have to do something about it, I will do it.” One project he is working on happened because there was a strike and he had to walk instead of taking the metro. “On that walk, I saw something that [impacted me],” said Mehta. “It will take me another three to four years to do it. Till then, fingers crossed.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/10/criminally-good.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/10/criminally-good.html Thu Dec 10 18:20:02 IST 2020 the-family-man <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/10/the-family-man.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/2020/12/10/70-The-family-new.jpg" /> <p>For years, as a small child, Ishaan wanted to become a pilot,” actor Om Puri, who passed away three years ago at the age of 66, once said about his son. “Now, he wants to become an actor. Once, his mother jokingly asked him, ‘So you want to be a hero?’ No, I want to become a good character actor like baba, he replied. It was one of the proudest moments of my life.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ishaan, 21, still wants to become an actor like his father. After he returned from the sets each evening, Om used to relax with a drink. He would call Ishaan and give him lessons on acting, with examples from his own career. It is still in the evenings, when Ishaan’s classes finish—he is learning business studies at the London School of Economics—that he misses his father the most. “He would tell me that whatever I did, I must work hard at it,” says Ishaan. “And above all, to be a good person.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is to celebrate Om’s life, legacy and philosophy that Ishaan and his mother, journalist and author Nandita Puri, launched a YouTube channel, Puri Baatein, recently. Initially, the channel featured a few celebrities like Illa Arun and Sonu Nigam wishing Om on his 70th birthday, along with an introductory video by Nandita and Ishaan recounting a few memories of Om. Like how, whenever they used to fight, Om would get livid at Nandita for using difficult English words. “What does the word ‘zilch’ even mean?” Om, who hailed from a village in Punjab, would ask. When Nandita explained it meant zero, he would be bemused. “Then why can’t you say ‘zero’, you convent-educated woman?” he would yell.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Currently, six episodes have been uploaded on the channel, including a tribute to Om by Salman Khan. According to Nandita, they will get various people whom Om worked with, from Shyam Benegal to Steven Spielberg, to talk about him on the channel. In addition, Puri Baatein will showcase his work and feature discussions on various topics that were close to Om’s heart. “It will be a virtual Om Puri museum and beyond,” says Nandita. Interestingly, Nandita and Om, who met on the sets of City of Joy (1992) when she went to interview him, had a tumultuous relationship which ended in a judicial separation. Reportedly, Om was not happy with Nandita’s expose of some of his past relationships in her 2009 biography of him, Unlikely Hero. But Nandita says that is all water under the bridge. “A lot of it was made up by the media,” she says. “Ultimately, I remained his wife. People can say what they like.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some of Ishaan’s best childhood memories are of visiting his father on the sets of his movies—of breaking into a raga for Pakistani singer Farida Khanum and of chatting with Amitabh Bachchan in his vanity van. “We still call each other ‘buddies’,” Ishaan says with a laugh. But he also knows that by following in his father’s footsteps, he has large shoes to fill. “It does feel daunting to pursue a career in acting,” he says. “I feel the weight placed on my shoulders. There is no way I could match up to my father.” If possible, he wants to start his innings in Bollywood with a Kabir Khan film. “My father used to call Shyam Benegal an encyclopedia because of his vast knowledge,” says Ishaan. “He saw a similar quality in Kabir Khan. He would call him a ‘mini encyclopedia’.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/10/the-family-man.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/10/the-family-man.html Thu Dec 10 15:23:14 IST 2020 battling-the-menace <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/10/battling-the-menace.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/2020/12/10/71-A-Thousand-Cranes-for-India-new.jpg" /> <p>It was on a family holiday in Hiroshima that the morning bulletin on her phone brought Pallavi Aiyar the news of eight-year-old Asifa Bano’s gangrape.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a benumbed world—an apt word to describe the aloofness that most people feel to the horrors in the newspaper—she found that her “body revolted’’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I felt winded, emptied of words, stripped of succour,’’ she writes. A Thousand Cranes for India: Reclaiming Plurality Amid Hatred, an anthology, is the result of this heaviness and despair. An anthology edited by Aiyar that aims to fight to reclaim her India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Strangely, it was another girl, a victim in another tragedy in Hiroshima, Sadako Sasaki, that gave Aiyar the idea to fold “the depravities of the world’’ to transform it into a “weightless being of beauty’’. There is a legend in Japan that if you fold one thousand paper cranes your wishes will come true. Sadako was two when the atom bomb was dropped on her city in 1945. Sadako lived, but only to die later with leukaemia. As the cancer slowly hollowed her out, Sadako folded paper cranes in the hope for a prayer. She did not beat the cancer, but her cranes became immortal—the symbol of healing and hope. Each year school children and people fold them in solidarity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bringing together the best writers in India to use their words, Aiyar has chosen to fold away the assault on the idea of India into a crane—to offer resistance her way: with words.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The anthology has 23 pieces. Tishani Doshi, Annie Zaidi, Anjum Hasan, Sudeep Chakravarti, Shovon Chowdhury and Prajwal Parajuly are just some of the writers. Each writer uses the crane to create powerful pieces. Each piece is beautiful and some linger in your head for days. The crane flies across each piece as a motif—in the centre—or a metaphor, reinterpreted in different ways.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The anthology took over two years to be born. But Aiyar has managed to cram in something for everyone in it. It brings together different genres.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like India’s diversity, the collection, too, has reportage, poetry, polemic. There have been many anthologies that deal with plurality, but there are few that have been as heartfelt. Jonathan Gil Harris writes about his mother Stella Freud and her Chinese chest. It lies in the sparse living room of their house in New Zealand, hiding the secrets of her mother’s childhood. Then, there is Samrat Choudhury’s piece that talks about friendship with Aziz, a Pakistani from Gilgit and their visit to Hiroshima. Filmmaker Natasha Badhwar, who travels with her daughter, writes about “depression that clings like a weight around my ankles, slowing me down, holding my back”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Heart-warming as well as heart-breaking, the anthology is an antidote for anyone who felt helpless—there is a tribe, and for once it is not just on Twitter but in the comfort of black and white—but it is also very much a battle plan. These, then became the weapons to fight for her India as Aiyar writes. It is her army of words marching out in the world. The only way forward is hope.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Every bookshelf needs a battle plan. It is simple: gentleness, kindness and action.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A Thousand Cranes for India: Reclaiming Plurality Amid Hatred</b></p> <p>Edited by Pallavi Aiyar</p> <p>Published by<br> Seagull Books</p> <p>Price Rs499; Pages 162</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/10/battling-the-menace.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/10/battling-the-menace.html Fri Dec 11 11:14:52 IST 2020 sentenced-to-rap <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/10/sentenced-to-rap.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/2020/12/10/72-MC-Stan.jpg" /> <p>MC Stan, aka Altaf Tadavi, is as much a by-product as a pioneer of the hip-hop scene in Pune. He is one of those rare hip-hop artists who produces and writes his own music. Throughout 2020, he had been releasing singles from his soon-to-be released album, Tadipaar. Tadipaar is the act of being sentenced to live outside the limits of one’s city, usually due to a police case. The album narrates the rapper’s life-changing experience of tadipaar from Pune to Mumbai.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ How and when did you start rapping?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ I was introduced to hip-hop when I was 12 years old by my elder brother. Initially, I was drawn to b-boying and beatboxing, before being finally elevated to rapping, which is the third element of hip-hop. I wrote my first song ‘Bhalti Public’ in grade 7. I kept a low profile and preferred staying underground. My older songs like ‘Galat Scene’ and ‘Trippin’ used to spread via WhatsApp, before fans uploaded them on YouTube.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ What are some of the topics you keep revisiting in your songs?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\I usually talk about humans and their behaviour, along with my experiences and things I have seen on the streets. And my experiences with women, too. I always ask my audience to understand my music by thinking practically and not emotionally. I have a lot that I want to do, but it feels like nothing will ever really change around us. We have got to sort out our mentality first.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Which hip-hop artists inspire you?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ My childhood revolved around the qawwali music that was played at home. Later, I drew inspiration from hip-hop artists like Lil Wayne, Slim Shady, Rakim, 50 Cent, LL Cool J, Eazy-E and Tupac, though KRS-One and Young Thug had the most influence on me. New-school artists who inspire me are Tyler, Uzi Vert, Lil Baby, YG, Roddy Ricch and Gunna.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Tell us about the songs you have come out with this year. Which one is your favourite?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ I have put out stuff this year that I consider to be experimental. I do not really have a favourite among them, but if I had to choose I would say ‘Amin’ and ‘Tadipaar’, the last two tracks from my soon-to-be-released album that are dropping soon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ What can we look forward to from you next year?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ I am looking forward to blending pop and hip-hop from different cultures. I feel like the music I am going to make will be ahead of [time for] the current generation.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/10/sentenced-to-rap.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/10/sentenced-to-rap.html Fri Dec 11 11:13:54 IST 2020 life-after-boris <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/03/life-after-boris.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/2020/12/3/63-mareena.jpg" /> <p>Ask Marina Wheeler what her most vivid childhood memories are, and she will recount a supper where she, her sister and her parents took turns to say what they were good at. When it was the turn of her mother, Dip, her father, Charles, prompted her with: “You are good at cleaning the lavatory.” A frustrated stay-at-home wife, Dip did not appreciate the joke. Instead she insisted he take it back or she would pour ketchup on him. He went on laughing so she kept her word. “It really was something seeing his shock and all this red goop on his white hair,” Wheeler says.</p> <p>Her father Charles, one of Britain’s most distinguished foreign correspondents, was then based in Brussels as the BBC’s Europe correspondent. Now, decades later, after the death of both her parents, Marina has written a book about her mother called <i>The Lost Homestead: My Mother, Partition and the Punjab. </i>“I wanted to bring her out of my famous father’s shadow,” she says.</p> <p>It is hard not to see the parallels. At 56, Wheeler might have spent years as a renowned barrister as well as bringing up four children, but she is better known as the long-suffering wife of Bonkin’ Boris, whose rise to becoming the British prime minister was accompanied by a string of extramarital affairs, all splashed across the tabloids. Wheeler may never have poured ketchup on that famous blond mop, but she often changed the locks on their Islington home in London and kicked him out.</p> <p>Now, after two turbulent years that have seen the end of her marriage, her battle with cancer, the death of her beloved mother and her ex moving into 10 Downing Street and acquiring a much younger fiancée, a rescue dog and another baby, Wheeler has, she says, finally moved on.</p> <p>Indeed, the door of her new terraced house in a trendy, cobbled part of east London opens to reveal a woman with a wide pixieish smile, fashionably dressed in a taupe silk shirt, swishy black pants with broderie hems and lace-up boots. She looks every inch the glamorous divorcée.</p> <p>She shows me through to a vast, brightly-lit room lined with bookshelves. On the coffee table is a cafetière and a tray of pastries. She bought the house after her divorce came through in February and moved into it in June. “I feel excited,” she says. “This, for lots of reasons, is quite a pivotal moment in my life. My long marriage ended, my last two kids off at university, my parents no longer around, the shifting around of places.... I feel I am free to pick how I spend my time in a way I have not been for decades.”</p> <p>She is also celebrating the publication of her book. It is set during the Partition in India in 1947. The story is told through the eyes of her mother’s family. Because of her name, light olive skin and dark hair, people often assume Wheeler is Greek, but her mother, Dip Singh, was Indian.</p> <p>Her book had a difficult birth. Last year, her plans for going on a writing trip with a friend were upended when a routine smear test revealed abnormalities. When a doctor at London’s Whittington Hospital told her she had cervical cancer, her reaction was, “I have no time for this. Quite apart from anything else, I have a book to write.”</p> <p>The diagnosis and three subsequent operations put paid to a writing trip to Russia. A reaction to the gas used in keyhole surgery made her appear like a “balloon... I looked like I was recovering from an amateur facelift”. After she had recovered, her mother died of bowel cancer in February. Then the pandemic hit, and in April, Johnson was diagnosed with Covid-19 and placed in intensive care.</p> <p>Wheeler’s mother was born in the Punjabi town of Sargodha, the fifth and youngest child of a Sikh doctor who ran a clinic for the poor. He was also president of the municipal committee that helped the British rule the town. A prosperous man, he owned farmland and an ice factory. They lived in an opulent house with Italian marble floors, many bedrooms and rose gardens, which Dip described as “idyllic”.</p> <p>When Dip was 14, however, the family was forced to flee during Partition, when their part of Punjab ended up in the newly created Pakistan. They left behind their comfortable life—and the bike she had just been given for her birthday—and moved to Delhi.</p> <p>The project came about after she mentioned her family history in a review she wrote of the film <i>Viceroy’s House</i> in 2017 and an editor contacted her suggesting she write a book on it. The result is a charming memoir that weaves the story of Indian Independence and the tragedy of Partition with that of her mother’s escape from an unhappy marriage and daring quest for personal freedom. Eventually she married Charles, whom she met while he was posted in Delhi.</p> <p>I mention the parallels between her mother living in her father’s shadow and her own marriage. She immediately stiffens. “That is my least favourite subject,” she says. It is not hard to understand why. Johnson had a long-standing affair with Petronella Wyatt, his deputy at <i>The Spectator</i>. Then came the art dealer Helen Macintyre, with whom he has a child, and Jennifer Arcuri, the Californian tech entrepreneur who gave him “IT training” in her Shoreditch flat in London. And now, of course, he is engaged to Carrie Symonds, who at 32, is only five years older than Johnson’s eldest daughter.</p> <p>Johnson and Wheeler finally separated in the summer of 2018, just before he resigned as foreign secretary over Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Infidelity, apparently, had been a recurring theme in Johnson’s parents’ marriage, too. A new book by Tom Bower claims Johnson’s father, Stanley, had a string of affairs.</p> <p>Wheeler’s childhood, however, was far more stable. When she was a toddler, they moved to Washington, where her father was posted, a time she describes as “idyllic”. It was a fascinating time. Charles made his name covering the race riots, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, the protests against the Vietnam war, and Watergate. After Washington, the BBC sent her father to Brussels, and the girls went to the European School there. This is where she first met Boris, who was her same age and studying there while his father was head of the European Commission’s newly established Prevention of Pollution division. Back in the UK, the family moved to Garden Cottage, a country home in West Sussex that her parents had bought years ago. The two girls were sent to the independent school Bedales, in Hampshire.</p> <p>She read law at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, did a master’s in EU law in Brussels and began working there as a barrister. There, she again crossed paths with Johnson, by then <i>The Daily Telegraph’s</i> Brussels correspondent. He was in the process of breaking up with Allegra Mostyn-Owen, his first wife and fellow Oxford graduate. Wheeler was already eight months pregnant when the couple married in 1993. In his usual chaotic fashion, Johnson managed to get his divorce papers signed just in time. Lara Lettice, now 27 and a fashion journalist, was the first of their four children. Then came Milo Arthur, 25, Cassia Peaches, 23, and Theodore Apollo, 21.</p> <p>It cannot have been easy juggling work and raising four children? “If you talk to my kids they will each regale you with horror stories of things I failed to do,” she admits, laughing. “I forgot Cassie’s induction day, so she arrived at school when everyone else had already made friends. And I remember taking Milo to watch his Christmas play, thinking, ‘great, I am so efficient’, but it turned out he was actually meant to be in the play.”</p> <p>Johnson began his affair with Wyatt around this time. When the news came out, he denied it as “an inverted pyramid of piffle” until Wyatt’s mother, Verushka, lost patience and went public. It was the first time Wheeler changed the locks and took off her wedding ring. When I ask her about this, she stiffens. She is more interested in talking about her mum, she says.</p> <p>Her mother, who got a degree in Russian and then, years later, an Open University degree in experimental psychology, sounds like a remarkable woman. She worked for years at Amnesty International as a researcher, catching the 7am train to London each morning. Though she wore saris and cooked Indian food, Dip never talked about her life in India. Thus began a quest involving six trips to India and two to Pakistan, as well as many visits to her aging mum, who lived alone in Sussex following Charles’s death, to try to get her to open up. She shows me a childhood photo of her and her sister on the SS France with her parents, and her grade two cello certificate that she found recently while sorting through her parents’ papers at the house in Sussex.</p> <p>Once she is finished with that, she has many more projects planned. Now fully recovered from cancer, she wants to become involved with the Eve Appeal—UK’s gynecological cancer research charity—and raise awareness about the need for regular smear tests, particularly during the pandemic. She also wants to work with refugee women and perhaps write another book—though not on life with Johnson. “I think my marriage is the least interesting thing about me,” she says. Like her mother, poised with that ketchup bottle, she refuses to be defined by a man.</p> <p>THE LOST HOMESTEAD: MY MOTHER, PARTITION AND THE PUNJAB</p> <p>By Marina Wheeler</p> <p>Published by Hodder &amp; Stoughton (Hachette India)</p> <p>Price Rs699; pages 336</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/03/life-after-boris.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/03/life-after-boris.html Thu Dec 03 17:34:50 IST 2020 the-green-new-feel <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/03/the-green-new-feel.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/2020/12/3/68-preeti.jpg" /> <p>Shilpa Kapoor had barely moved into her new house in Port Blair when the lockdown was announced. The gregarious Kapoor found herself all alone, her husband had his duties, she had nothing to do. That is when she took another look at the garden adjoining her house, a neglected space, and turned her attention and energies towards it. “I have never had a plant with me, not even the customary tulsi. It had never occurred to me that plants would come to my rescue,” she recalls.</p> <p>Kapoor began with a cutting of morning glory in a pot. As she watched it grow and flower, her fascination with green life took root. A total garden illiterate, she experimented freely, taking help from the internet occasionally and finding her way through trial and error.</p> <p>Given the shortage of vegetables on the island, she thought it would be a good idea to grow them; and she grew little saplings from seeds collected from vegetables. Then, she realised the island soil was not very nourishing, and she dug a compost pit. Once, she saw her bell pepper saplings infested with ants. Taking an internet tip, she sprayed them with a cooking soda solution. “I may have gone wrong with the concentration because the leaves turned brown at the tips,” she says, recalling her rescue mission. She fed the plants with rice congee, a powder of discarded multivitamins, and whatever she could think of. As she looks with pride at the little peppers growing, she knows that she did something right, finally.</p> <p>She sings and dances for her plants, and during the fortnight when she was bedridden with an injury, she got the household help to take pictures of her garden for regular updates. “I guess I have gone a bit crazy, but I know that there is no turning back now, even after the old life gets back on track,” she says.</p> <p>This year has been one of learning and discovering. With the pace of life having slowed down, and people spending so much of their time at home, the home itself has become a place of discovery. Gardening has become such a craze over this year that in the Philippines they have even coined a word for it—“plantdemic”. It started with lockdown restrictions impacting supplies and people thinking of growing their food, and it has reached a level where people are now stealing precious plants from protected gardens.</p> <p>The plantdemic may not have reached “criminal” proportions everywhere, but globally, there has been fresh interest in gardening, even if the garden means just a few potted plants on a balcony or window sill. There is a joke about the new normal of pandemic times when it is not surprising to be talking to your plants but to contact a shrink only when you think the plants are talking back. Well, for many gardeners, their plants have always conversed with them, in a distinct vocabulary that the gardening muggle does not understand. Now, though, many more urban beings are learning this tongue. “During the lockdown, I knew every new leaf growing on my plants. One can develop a relationship with plants in difficult times and they see you through,” asserts photographer Ambika Bhatt from Mumbai.</p> <p>While new converts discovered the joys of chlorophyll and petrichor, the experts upped their skills, making homemade fertilisers or trying out terrariums and bonsais. Bhatt tried her hand at microgreens, and with her inborn artistic flair, has turned even these planters into eye-catching table pieces—the microgreens poking out of a bed of white pebbles, waiting to be plucked and strewn over soup and salad.</p> <p>Padmaja Parulkar took her gardening love to a new level when she began composting kitchen waste. With so many restrictions on movement, she also decided to spend her time dabbling in garden art, painting Tibetan prayer flags on the walls behind her pothos collection.</p> <p>Preeti Bhambhani from Bengaluru tried her hand at&nbsp;Kokedama,&nbsp;with the help of a friend who is a specialist in this Japanese garden form, where plants are grown in a tight ball of peat and moss, tied together with string. A new convert, she loves this growing style, which allows her to have a mobile garden.</p> <p>For Bengaluru-resident Archana Amaresh, too, it was a surprising discovery to know she has green fingers. For her, it began with a stick of <i>ajwain patta</i> (Indian borage). She stuck it into a pot of soil and watched the plant sprout shoots and leaves, till it was a healthy herb ready for further propagation. Amaresh then found a discarded plant and “rescued” it. That, too, thrived and was ready for propagation, soon.</p> <p>“Forget green fingers, I used to have black ones,” rues Arati Rajan Menon. “I killed every plant I touched, sometimes through neglect, sometimes by overwatering.” Then the pandemic happened, and for the first time in her adult life, Menon found herself homebound. She still does not understand how she turned from killer to carer, perhaps it was her more intensive engagement with her plants and their needs that changed the relationship.</p> <p>For Reshma Varghese from Kochi, gardening has begun as a way to stem the restlessness of work from home. The plants the gardener tended did not have any connect with her, till she began sticking money plants into bottles and cauldrons. The hobby grew, and there is not a single spare vessel that has not been upcycled into a planter. And she believes she has been smitten for good. “I used to ridicule my parents for their habit of taking a plant clipping from anywhere they travelled,” she says. “Recently, we went for a holiday to Peerumedu, and here was I, actually taking a cutting myself.”</p> <p>Now, as the world goes back to normal, many might not find the same time with their plants again. But as Bhatt says, plants are forgiving—even when you ignore them, they only do you good. “If you forget about a scrawny plant in a corner of the balcony and see it after a couple of months, some grow to thrice their size, some revive so beautifully, [and] you will be amazed. There is something about forgetting a plant and then finding it again—it is magical,” she says.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/03/the-green-new-feel.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/03/the-green-new-feel.html Thu Dec 03 14:49:38 IST 2020 the-priest-act <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/03/the-priest-act.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2020/12/3/70-corpus.jpg" /> <p><b>Daniel wants to</b> become a Catholic priest after undergoing a spiritual awakening in the juvenile detention centre where he was serving time. However, his criminal record prevents him from joining a seminary. After his release from the detention centre, he goes to work at a sawmill in a remote town. Circumstances offer him a chance to don the collar and persona of a priest. The ailing local vicar of the town seeks his help to run the parish while he is away for treatment.</p> <p>While Daniel is not exactly a con artist, it hardly takes any effort for him to put on a show and pretend to be a priest. He wins over most of the people in the town who have been struck by a recent tragedy. However, his past catches up with him sooner than he expects.</p> <p>Directed by Jan Komasa, the movie, which was screened at several festivals including the Venice Film Festival, and was the Polish entry for the best international film at the 2019 Oscars, is said to have been inspired by true events, however far-fetched they may seem. A tale of grief, loss and redemption, <i>Corpus Christi</i> is an intriguing watch, despite a few over-dramatic moments in the third act. </p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/03/the-priest-act.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/03/the-priest-act.html Thu Dec 03 14:37:42 IST 2020 a-full-kitty <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/03/a-full-kitty.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/2020/12/3/73-rohan.jpg" /> <p>Within a year of graduating from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Rohan Gurbaxani, 23, bagged over seven feature films in 2019, including four acting roles in <i>Chick Fight,</i> alongside Alec Baldwin and Bella Thorne; <i>Knuckledust</i>, alongside Moe Dunford; <i>Red 48</i>, alongside John Malkovich; and <i>Confession</i>, alongside Sarah Hay.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Without any family background or connections in the film industry, what made you take up acting as a profession? When did you first know you wanted to become an actor?</b></p> <p><b>A\</b> I definitely did not have an epiphany moment. I always say, for me, acting is a cultivated passion, a gradual realisation. From the very beginning I used to perform as a dancer.Looking back, I guess I unknowingly always had a knack for performance, but no inclination towards acting at all. Fast forward to when I was a teenager and my mother randomly enrolled me in the Jagriti Theatre in Whitefield. I would not say that was the turning point, but perhaps that was when the seed was planted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\You have worked with a host of Hollywood A-listers. Who has been your favourite co-star?</b></p> <p><b>A\</b>They were all fascinating in their own, unique way. I would not be able to pick one. I am just grateful and blessed I was able to be in their presence and learn from them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\Would you like to work in Bollywood?</b></p> <p><b>A\</b>Definitely. I look up to many directors in the Hindi film industry like Imtiaz Ali, Zoya Akhtar and Anurag Kashyap, to name a few. My favourite films change with time, but currently, I would say <i>Rockstar</i> and <i>The Lunchbox</i> are high up on my list.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\What is your dream role and why? Who would you like to act opposite you in that film?</b></p> <p><b>A\</b>Rather than a specific role, I dream about being a part of stories that explore the human condition. If a role reveals something about me, perhaps a secret that I was not conscious of, that is gold.</p> <p>I would say Shia LaBeouf would be a fascinating person to work with. I think we would connect spiritually and artistically.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/03/a-full-kitty.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/12/03/a-full-kitty.html Thu Dec 03 14:28:54 IST 2020 sneak-pick <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/26/sneak-pick.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/2020/11/26/63-Shruti-Kasat-new.jpg" /> <p>Shevvangi Saxena is a chirpy 26-year-old from Udaipur who cannot hide her exuberance. She is prepping up for her destination wedding on November 30; the guest list, though, has been slashed to 50. But she is most excited about a pair of sneakers—a peachy, flowery affair in sequins and zardosi. “This is going to be the highlight of my wedding. I am so excited to wear them with all the henna, jewellery and makeup. My parents don’t know I will be wearing them. It will be a surprise for them when it comes. Although I am more worried about the reaction of my in-laws,” says Saxena with a nervous laugh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A former Ms Udaipur, Saxena is 5’8”, athletic and was a national-level tennis player, having won gold medals while studying at Amity Business School. “Remember Channel V’s P.S. I Hate You? I was in it. I also have a few background scenes in the film Yeh Jawaani hai Deewani,” she prattles on. Saxena eventually wants to grow her jewellery brand Boho Banjaran. She currently works in a Dutch human resource consulting firm in Gurgaon, where she met her future partner in a nightclub four years ago. It was in that same club last year that he popped the question. “We won a free, pre-wedding photoshoot offer in February from a wedding planner Instagram page. That had to be cancelled because of Covid-19,” says Saxena with a sigh. “When I told my fiancé this morning that I would be wearing sneakers with the bridal sari, he was like ‘Are you mad?’ But I told him this is what I am most comfortable in. How else do you expect me to dance all night?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sporty, bubbly, daffy and daring, it is possible to work out a personality type for women who pair sneakers with their saris and lehengas on their wedding day. The trend of brides ditching high-heels and strappy sandals for snug sneakers surely has not picked up in a pandemic year. The quirky bridal style has been around for the last two years. Saxena recalls how Deepika Padukone danced in white sneakers at her wedding reception. More often than not, wedding sneakers are custom-made, gold-sequined; sometimes they are winged metallic Jeremy Scotts and rarely phosphorescent bright with LED lights.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fashion designer Shruti Kasat’s one-year-old company, The Saree Sneakers, is going swimmingly in a lean wedding season. “After September, the business has been great,” says the mother of one from Kolkata, who remembers wanting to wear sneakers with her sari at a friend’s wedding last year. “Primarily because I had to run after my one-year-old toddler,” she says. She could not find the appropriate design to match her outfit and, hence, embellished her own sneakers. That is also how her company was born. It now retails online throughout India with prices varying from Rs3,500 to Rs8,000.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Out of all the metros, Kasat says, Mumbai brides are the most sneaker-savvy. Her karigars (craftspeople) have carved the bride’s initials on the back of a shoe. “One bride wanted her maiden surname, Singh, on one shoe and, Reddy, on the other,” says Kasat. “Some put the names of both partners and their wedding dates. I have embroidered words like ‘Gundi’ and ‘Pataka kudi’. Another wanted the Harry Potter spell ‘protego maxima’ for shield charm and magical protection.” She says Swarovski-laden sneakers are modern heirlooms. “They have to wear it for their wedding. They are more saner than I am,” says Kasat. “I got married eight years ago. I would have had so much more fun with sneakers.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With degrees from NIFT Kolkata and Domus Academy in Milan, Kasat started off with her apparel brand, Origgo, and later added The Saree Sneakers as an accessory outfit. Wedding exhibitions are where she really gets to showcase her lavishly embroidered shoes. “Why were you not there when I got married?” is a reaction Kasat often gets in fairs and exhibitions. The look of surprise on faces of mothers and daughters is source of great pride for her.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But Gaurang Shah is unimpressed with sneakers. His saris at the Lakme Fashion Week have sashayed from monochrome colours to khadi with pallus of Raja Ravi Varma paintings in 600 shades of natural dyes. “As a traditionalist, I would never explore beyond traditional juxtaposition. The sneaker is certainly a non-starter for me,” says Shah. “If you wish to make a statement, you can still make it with a beautiful sari which speaks much more about your personality than a sneaker.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Eshna Kutty, the 24-year-old hoop dancer whose ‘Genda Phool’ video in sari and sneakers became a viral sensation in September, does not own fancy footwear. Just “juttis” and sneakers. In fact, she prefers to wear sneakers everywhere with any outfit. “For me it is an upgrade that I am not wearing my bathroom chappals,” she jokes. For her, pairing sari with sneakers is either very cool or just not cool enough. “It is unconventional, quirky or bold, yes. I get that a lot,” she says. “But on the flip side, it is just not stylish enough. You kind of went a little too casual below and did not wear something expensive or fancy.” She has not attended too many weddings, but has gone to temples in saris. Outside the temple, her sneaks are not in blacks or greys, but one eye-popping explosion of colours amidst a sea of chappals. “And my grandparents would go like ‘Aiyyoyo, why are you wearing this? All the gods won’t be happy.’”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/26/sneak-pick.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/26/sneak-pick.html Thu Nov 26 17:39:18 IST 2020 virus-on-screen <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/26/virus-on-screen.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2020/11/26/66-The-Gone-Game.jpg" /> <p>It seemed to be nothing less than a freakish coincidence that Netflix’s terrifying docuseries, Pandemic, which revolves around the global spread of a killer virus, premiered in January, just as the novel coronavirus was beginning its rampage across the world. It was almost as if the six-episode series, which follows doctors and researchers on the frontlines of the battle against influenza, issued a clairvoyant call alerting the world about the risk of a new global virus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The real-life resemblance is stark when, minutes into the first episode, infectious diseases expert Syra Madad lays out a hypothetical situation in which a traveller arriving at the New York airport triggers the spread of a deadly virus which could paralyse the entire city in a matter of days. Or when Dr Dennis Carroll, director of the Emerging Threats Unit of the US Agency for International Development says, “It is a guarantee that another version of that killer flu (referring to the Spanish flu of 1918) will reappear.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Never has the demand for pandemic-themed films and web series been as high as it is now. Even as scientists and researchers race against time to find a Covid-19 vaccine, experts say there has been an upsurge in the demand, production and consumption of pandemic-themed films and web series. Cooped up in their homes, it seems viewers are hungry for a glimpse into the dark world of pathogens.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even as an unending list of engaging and scarily realistic content about pandemics and zombie apocalypses remains available, it is the films and shows made in 2020—the year of the coronavirus—which come across as the most relatable and realistic. They come with a melange of sub-plots and real-life drama. Interestingly, all that has gone into the making of this content is a smartphone, remote technical collaboration and, of course, a gripping script. Take, for instance, the film Banana Bread, by actor couple Rasika Dugal and Mukul Chadda, which was shot at home during the lockdown.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The twelve-minute short film explores the grim realities of the lockdown, while bringing into sharp focus a potpourri of emotions—from loneliness and a yearning for conversation to distrust and the paranoia that came to define our lives in the early part of the lockdown. Interestingly, the couple, who co-wrote and acted in the film, shot it in just two days in their Bandra apartment using four phones. “It was our way of responding to the grim scenario in which we all found ourselves,” says Dugal, whose experiments with baking banana bread during the lockdown gave the film its title.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Two months after Banana Bread released in June, The Gone Game—a shot-at-home thriller series inspired by Covid-19—went live on Voot. Directed by Nikhil Bhat, this was one of the first Indian series based on Covid-19 to release during the lockdown, thereafter giving rise to a new sub-genre on streaming platforms, especially at a time when most high-profile film projects failed to launch. “It was in April when there was chaos all around that a few filmmakers continued doing what they do best—tell stories. All the actors were directed on Zoom. We were instructed to shoot from home and attend online workshops on the use of FiLMic Pro, an app that helps build content. We were a one-man army doing our own hair and make-up, costume and styling,” says Shriya Pilgaonkar, who acted in the four-part series alongside Shweta Tripathi and Arjun Mathur. “We had to plan our shots to ensure that they did not interfere with our family’s routines,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At that time, even as many others awaited a return to normalcy, director Kanwal Sethi and his team decided to go all out and shoot India’s first mainstream OTT feature film, London Confidential, in London because that was the only city which, at the time, allowed shooting to resume. A spy thriller starring Purab Kohli and Mouni Roy, the story deals with the outbreak of a virus deadlier than Covid-19, which was released by the Chinese and is spreading fast across the Indo-China border. It also hints at what the post-pandemic world might have in store for us.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Getting back into action after he and his family contracted the virus was not easy for Kohli. “I felt privileged to be part of the first few productions to shoot in London at a time when there was gloom all around. There definitely was, however, a certain amount of fear, dread and paranoia to be on the sets again. Of course I had already contracted the virus along with my wife and two kids,” says Kohli.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the pandemic rages on, filmmakers are trying to set their plots as close to the Covid-19 experience as possible. Although occasionally failing, most of these efforts are a success. A few months ago, Odia producer Jitendra Mishra got together with Italian producer-director Ulisse Lendaro for a 15-minute short film titled Human O.A.K. Inspired by Covid-19, it was shot in Italy during the lockdown. Actor Sanjay Mishra is also coming up with his film, Andaman, which revolves around a quarantine centre in a remote village. The film is a poignant take on people losing their jobs during a pandemic and its repercussions on their mental health. Even as the industry braces itself for a return to normalcy, these pandemic films will serve as a nifty time capsule in the years to come.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/26/virus-on-screen.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/26/virus-on-screen.html Thu Nov 26 19:49:38 IST 2020 the-honourable-gangster <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/26/the-honourable-gangster.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/2020/11/26/68-Barack-Obama-new.jpg" /> <p>Barack Obama does not like salt, apparently. One of his big moves in the last year of his presidency was a sweeping health care reform to make Americans reduce their abnormal sodium intake. His plan: Encourage companies to lower the salinity of salamis, sausages, fries, granola and other packaged food, and help people lead healthier and happier lives.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>A Promised Land</i> sticks to that vision. Coming as it does after a bitterly fought election, the first part of Obama’s long-awaited presidential memoir works like low-salt comfort food. At 768 pages, it is a satisfyingly large pack of flowing prose and revealing pictures, of lofty ideas and soothing insights, all peppered with wit and political wisdom. Conspicuously absent, though, is the salt that turns all good biographies into great ones—a self-critical gaze at one’s motives and deeds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The new memoir differs from Obama’s earlier (and more intimate) ones; it is not a Gandhi-esque story of his struggles and experiments with truth. Rather, some of his observations in <i>A Promised Land</i> are so cloying that readers may feel the need for more than a pinch of salt. Like the part where Obama rates his own presidency: “[Michelle and I] took satisfaction in knowing that we’d done our very best... the country was in better shape now than it had been when I’d started.” Curiously, the thought crosses his mind while he is on his last trip on Air Force One, days before Donald Trump’s inauguration as US president.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Obama’s vivid prose and scholarly recollections bridge these truth deficits to a large extent. His descriptions of people and situations are so masterly that they could rival any great novelist’s. Joe Biden, Obama writes, “genuinely enjoyed people. You could see it as he worked a room, his handsome face always cast in a dazzling smile (and just inches from whomever he was talking to), asking a person where they were from, telling them a story about how much he loved their hometown (“Best calzone I ever tasted”) or how they must know so-and-so (“An absolutely great guy, salt of the earth”), flattering their children (“Anyone ever tell you you’re gorgeous?”) or their mother (“You can’t be a day over forty!”), and then on to the next person, and the next, until he’d touched every soul in the room with a flurry of handshakes, hugs, kisses, backslaps, compliments, and one-liners.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>A Promised Land</i> also reveals Obama’s unusual talent for reading people, perhaps because he himself is a guarded man well aware of his strengths and weaknesses. During his personal interactions, he discovers that Dmitry Medvedev is no ordinary Putin parrot (“I noticed a certain ironic detachment in his delivery, as if he wanted me to know that he didn’t really believe everything he was saying”); that Recep Erdogan’s “commitment to democracy and the rule of law might last only as long as it preserved his own power”; that Angela Merkel “was a combination of organisational skill, strategic acumen, and unwavering patience”; that Manmohan Singh was “a man of uncommon wisdom and decency”; and that Sonia Gandhi’s power “was attributable to a shrewd and forceful intelligence”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Obama also cleverly mixes his insights with self-deprecation. As in the account of him chiding his wife for the apparent breach of protocol that happened when she put her hands around Queen Elizabeth II. “You should have taken my suggestion and worn one of those little hats. And a little matching handbag!” Obama quips. Michelle kisses him on the cheek and replies brightly, “And I hope you enjoy sleeping on a couch when you get home. The White House has so many to choose from!”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The trouble is that the book is not padded with enough humour to couch Obama’s flagrant power grabs. His account of how he pushed through a deal in the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen is a revealing example. Under Obama, the US was bent on protecting its own interests in the summit. When he found out that the leaders of India, China, Brazil and South Africa were working together to protect their own interests, Obama tracks them down and barges into the room where they are holding talks in private (watching “the Chinese leader’s face drop in surprise”). He shakes hands, exchanges pleasantries and threatens them about the consequences of rejecting his deal. “I’ve got my own megaphone,” Obama tells them, “and it is pretty big. If I leave this room without an agreement, my first stop is the hall downstairs where all the international press is waiting for news.” Obama then tells them that he would use his influence to publicly discredit their plan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most of the leaders are suitably cowed (“[Manmohan] remained impassive”), but a visibly offended Chinese environmental minister begins to speak in protest. The US president suppresses his “urge to laugh” and later succeeds in forcing the deal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a triumphant Obama prepares to fly back to Washington, an aide congratulates him: “I gotta say, boss, that was some real gangster shit back there.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The summit happened just two months after Obama was declared the Nobel Peace Prize winner.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a way, the basic problem with the new memoir is that it does not explain how the ‘Yes, We Can’ dreamboat became the ‘No, You Cannot’ dealmaker. We may have to wait for the second part of the memoirs to know that. But meanwhile, there is still much to savour in<i> A Promised Land</i>. Like the implicit meaning of the book’s title. If Obama’s earlier books had big words like ‘audacity’, ‘hope’, ‘believe’ and ‘dreams’, his latest has ‘promise’ in the past tense.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He, too, knows the truth perhaps.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b><i>A Promised Land</i></b></p> <p>By Barack Obama</p> <p>Published by<br> Viking</p> <p>Price Rs1,999;</p> <p>pages 768</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/26/the-honourable-gangster.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/26/the-honourable-gangster.html Fri Nov 27 10:42:30 IST 2020 battle-for-the-nation <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/26/battle-for-the-nation.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/2020/11/26/70-The-Battle-of-Belonging-new.jpg" /> <p>The year was 1982, and Shashi Tharoor, who headed the UN office in Singapore, was in conversation with Khmer nationalist politician and one-time prime minister Son Sann, who lamented India’s support for Vietnam in its conquest of Cambodia in 1979. “You Indians have allowed yourself to forget that there is such a thing as Indic civilisation. And we are its last outpost,” Son Sann told him. The writer says he has been musing about the nature of Indian nationhood since then.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“He was bewildered that India, the fount of his country’s heritage, should sympathise with a people as distinctly un-Indian as the Vietnamese.... Given that Vietnam’s invasion had put an end to the blood-soaked terror of the rule of the Khmer Rouge, I was more inclined to see the choice politically than in terms of civilisational heritage. But Son Sann’s words stayed with me,” writes Tharoor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The question of what it means to be an Indian has been a recurring theme in Tharoor’s writings. The Battle of Belonging retraces the evolution of the Indian nationalism and analyses the present-day churn on the topic. The book, well researched and scholarly, provides a historical background of the genesis of the idea of nationalism in a western construct, before going on to focus on the essential questions related to Indian nationalism.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tharoor’s musings have led him to conclude that the idea of India has evolved much beyond Indic civilisation. He describes it as ‘civic nationalism’, as embodied in the Constitution, “sanctified by Indic civilisation and suffused by an ethos of pluralism”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This, he says, was the Indian nationalists’ answer to the challenge posed by the partition. “On the other hand, the alternative was the hindutva idea of a Hindu country, espoused today by the BJP/RSS, the mirror image of the idea of Pakistan—a state with a dominant majority religion that seeks to put its minorities in a subordinate place,” writes Tharoor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Moving to more contemporary developments, Tharoor makes a comprehensive critique of the ruling dispensation. He says that the “Hindutvavadis’ critique” of the Constitution is a fundamental one as their idea of its flaws lies in their core belief in the Hindu nation of their dreams as opposed to the civic nationalism enshrined in the Constitution of India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tharoor notes that, powered by Modi’s popularity, the BJP-RSS carries on with its hindutva project, and that nationhood now has to be seen through the prism of the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens. The construction of Ram Temple, the ban on triple talaq and the revocation of Article 370, as recognised by Tharoor, form the cornerstones of the regime’s success in achieving the hindutva goals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tharoor’s critique of the Modi regime forms a much-needed chronicling of the contemporary developments. However, while Tharoor recognises that the fight back has to be essentially political, he does not go into the specifics of what needs to be done. He simply says in the end that the book is a call to action by those who see the merits of civic nationalism.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The Battle of Belonging: On Nationalism, Patriotism, And What It Means To Be Indian</b></p> <p>By Shashi Tharoor</p> <p>Published by<br> Aleph Book Company</p> <p>Price Rs799; pages 462</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/26/battle-for-the-nation.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/26/battle-for-the-nation.html Thu Nov 26 17:12:55 IST 2020 documenting-dissent <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/26/documenting-dissent.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/2020/11/26/71-Inquilab-new.jpg" /> <p>The mass protests of the past decade in India before Narendra Modi became prime minister were largely about corruption, women’s security and corporate greed. After he came to power, protesters were concerned over a “New India” where the sangh parivar ideology was spreading. The book Inquilab: A Decade of Protest chronicles these voices of protest.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Actor-activist Swara Bhasker’s foreword sets the mood and context for this compilation of protest letters, lectures and speeches. She observes that throughout the past decade, the state machinery “existed in a… state of paranoia with regards to citizen’s self-expression”, and that the Modi government took the paranoia to new heights, criminalising dissent, using draconian laws against protesters and branding them as anti-national.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book notes that the most characteristic feature of the protest movements across the world in the past decade has been their “close relationship with technology—namely phone cameras and social media”. It recalls that the Nirbhaya movement of 2012, Not In My Name (against mob lynching) of 2017, and the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act movement had all begun with clarion calls on social media.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From the violent demonstrations that erupted in the Kashmir Valley in June 2010 to the Shaheen Bagh sit-ins that started last December, the book offers a timeline of mass protests in the country in the past decade. It also documents the most relevant excerpts of protest texts of each movement—from Rohith Vemula’s suicide note to Nabiya Khan’s poem from Shaheen Bagh, ‘Ayenge Inquilab Pehenke Bindi, Chudiyan, Burqa, Hijab’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book is a reminder that voices of dissent are crucial for democracy to thrive. It is also a testimony that “woke India” is finding creative ways to carry on its fight against fanaticism.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Inquilab: A Decade of Protest</b></p> <p>Publisher: HarperCollins India</p> <p>Pages: 205, Price: Rs399</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/26/documenting-dissent.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/26/documenting-dissent.html Thu Nov 26 17:08:57 IST 2020 masked-avenger <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/26/masked-avenger.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/2020/11/26/71-Masked-avenger.jpg" /> <p>In December 2012, after the brutal gang-rape of a physiotherapy student in Delhi, Indian-American filmmaker Ram Devineni joined protests over a police officer’s comment that no good girl would walk alone at night. Such misogyny provoked him into creating Priya, India’s first superheroine. Shunned by society after being raped, Priya encounters the Hindu deities Shiva and Parvati. Strength renewed, she rides a flying tiger, Sahas, to fight gender crimes. Her superpower? An ability to persuade and create empathy in people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The augmented reality comic book, Priya’s Shakti, was an instant success, with five lakh digital hits and more than 30,000 printed copies distributed in schools, NGOs and comic book conventions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After defending acid attack survivors and victims of sex trafficking in Priya’s Mirror and Priya and the Lost Girls, India’s favourite superheroine is back. This time, she will tackle Covid-19 and its impact on the youth in Priya’s Mask.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The comic book will be accompanied by a short film, with actors Mrunal Thakur and Vidya Balan voicing Priya and Sahas, respectively. Both the book and the film will be out on December 2.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fans will also witness a collaboration between the first superheroines of India and Pakistan—Priya and the Burka Avenger. It might have taken a virus to bring together the two warring nations, but who’s complaining?</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/26/masked-avenger.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/26/masked-avenger.html Fri Nov 27 10:39:32 IST 2020 the-language-of-music <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/26/the-language-of-music.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2020/11/26/72-neeti-mohan-new.jpg" /> <p>Neeti Mohan is one of the most versatile singers in India today, having sung in Hindi and seven other languages. She won Channel V’s reality show Popstars and became popular with her song ‘Ishq Wala Love’ in Student of the Year (2012). Her rendition of six jazz tracks in Amit Trivedi’s Bombay Velvet (2015) was critically acclaimed. In the Netflix animated musical comedy Trolls World Tour, dubbed in Hindi, she lends her voice to the lead character, Poppy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ After dubbing for Poppy, you are being called ‘Poppy Mohan’. How was the experience?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ Poppy’s philosophy is that she loves music and positivity. She is free-spirited, fun and crazy, with pink-coloured hair, and I relate to her in every way. When I am onstage, I feel this electrifying energy that comes from the audience. Because I relate to Poppy so much, I became Poppy Mohan while dubbing for the character. Poppy sends out the message that every girl is a queen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ You sang three tracks in the film. Was it easy to translate the songs from English to Hindi?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ The three tracks are ‘Koi Geet Gao’, which is a romantic number, ‘Iss Pal Ko Jio’ and ‘Trolls Toh Karenge Fun’, which is the peppy title track of the film. This was done just 15 days before the lockdown and we were anticipating the release in April. But then, everything went silent, and so the fact that it is releasing now means a lot to me. People think that translating songs from English to Hindi is simple, but the fact is that the entire poetry has to be changed. So, for example, an ‘I love you’ does not necessarily translate to ‘Main tumse pyaar karta hoon’. It has to be poetically correct and the lip sync has to be perfect.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Which of your songs is closest to your heart?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ The love I have for ‘Jiya Re’ from Jab Tak Hai Jaan is immense. People still call me the ‘Jiya Re’ girl. It was path-breaking for me in terms of my launch as a singer in the industry. It really changed my life. I am also very grateful for ‘Ishq Wala Love’ as these two songs happened back to back and people found my voice to be very versatile.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/26/the-language-of-music.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/26/the-language-of-music.html Fri Nov 27 10:38:41 IST 2020 samosa-savvy <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/19/samosa-savvy.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/2020/11/19/98-samosa-party.jpg" /> <p>What is common among samosas stuffed with mac and cheese, kadai paneer and manchurian or chilli chicken? One might balk from taking a bite or feel overwhelmed, but they represent the vaunted ambitions of a few newly minted entrepreneurs who would like to see the ancient stuffed triangle become as playful, adventurous and slick as a hard-charging startup.</p> <p>“You know we could have done a pasta samosa, but why have white flour again inside fried maida? It does not work for an Indian palate,” asserts Nidhi Singh, who co-founded Samosa Singh with her husband Shikhar Veer Singh. The Bengaluru-based couple’s bid to “standardise” one of India’s favourite street snacks got validation with a series A funding of $2.7 million (about Rs19 crore) earlier this year. Corporates and airlines rely on their quick and consistent samosas. “Normally, the shape, size and taste of the samosa depends on the mood of the <i>halwai </i>(confectioner). But we have special rollers. Everything has science involved in it. Our samosas are crispier than the regular ones. We do not have to call our samosas healthy, but they are proven to have 57 per cent less fat. And we have the proprietary infrastructure to make our samosas,” says Nidhi, who was working in a US health care company until 2016. Her husband was a scientist at Biocon. Their samosas come with their brand logo embossed on them. “It is like a mark of responsibility for us,” she says proudly. “We are the largest manufacturers of samosas in south India. We have the capability to roll out one lakh samosas a day.” Her company recently won a standalone slot at the Bengaluru international airport, beating 180 other bidders. The business is also expanding to Hyderabad.</p> <p>Ibn Battuta, the 14th century explorer, has given a sumptuous account of “sambusaks” in the court of Muhammad bin Tughluq. A royal treat stuffed with minced meat, almonds, pistachios and walnuts, they used to be served before the third course of pulao. Sufi poet Amir Khusro has also noted the piquant charm of the central Asian import. With the introduction of potatoes by the Portuguese, the samosa got truly Indianised, spreading, in no time, across the subcontinent. Today, from college and office canteens, to tea stalls, neighbourhood sweetmeat shops, restaurants and hotels to weddings, parties, airports and Cafe Coffee Days, the samosa is omnipresent. And patrons like it fried and flawed. So what is the fuss all about?</p> <p>“It is everywhere yet nowhere. It has never been somebody’s whole soul project, you know. It has always been a by-the-way item,” says Diksha Pande of Samosa Party, which she set up in 2018 with her partner Amit Nanwani. “The time has come to elevate the total experience, from eating in local shops to better hygiene, ambience and ‘product consistency’,” says Diksha, who worked with the Oberoi group for 10 years. Her partner is an IITian and they talk in terms of “IP recipes”, supply chains, packaging innovation, brand identity, delivery under 30 minutes and end-to-end automation. “We are building the world’s first Punjabi samosa-making machine which will be 100 per cent automated. For that, we are researching with a couple of companies in the Netherlands. Once the pandemic is over, we will hopefully be able to travel and bring our machine to life,” says Diksha, excited about her idea of robotising samosa production. Her multiple cloud kitchens in Bengaluru have achieved 75 per cent automation. And the founders want to work with cutting-edge technology to erase hand-rolling of doughs. On a regular day, they make 10,000 samosas and have sold five lakh pieces since the lockdown. They engrave the names of each of their variants—like corn and cheese, mutton keema, barbecue chicken and kachori masala—on the samosas so that clients who buy assorted boxes do not get confused.</p> <p>But for Prabhjot Singh, who has eight outlets of Samossay in the Delhi-Gurugram belt, machine-made samosas are a deal-breaker. He has a team in his base kitchen to hand-roll the samosas and dispatch around 1,000 of them in air-conditioned vans to the other outlets. He also stocks an in-demand Maggi variant and will soon diversify into frozen cocktail samosas weighing 20gm each. His “gourmet” samosas typically cost anywhere between Rs89 to Rs109 for a plate of two. “Our partner is a top chef who has designed the whole menu,” says Prabhjot, who has invested an initial capital of Rs2.5 crore into building Samossay.</p> <p>But he might not have been doing this had his plan to set up a sports bar on Sakhalin Island in the Russian Federation worked out. He was 21 when he landed in Russia and worked his way up to become a trader in the oil and gas sector. In his last three years there, he was stationed at Sakhalin, off the north of Japan. He was about to set up his own bar with a Delhi chef, offering a range of Indian finger-food in the touristy island, when one of the three partners pulled out. Fluent in Russian, and having traversed 34 Russian cities in 10 years, Singh is now about to release his funny travel memoir called <i>Baanya’s Birds and Booze and Another Three Reasons to Live in Russia</i>, where Baanya is a reference to a local sauna. “One day, I hope to roll out samosas with Russian cabbage and pork,” he says wistfully.</p> <p>Rahul Parihar, 29, from Indore, also had many other business ideas before someone else implemented them. He used to be a supervisor at the solid waste management arm of the Indore Municipal Corporation, but always had an enterprising streak. In 2018, he became the proud owner of The Samosa State, which produces 29 different varieties of the snack every day. “If not for Covid-19, we would have introduced 15 more this year. Nobody makes samosas like me in the whole of central India,” says Rahul. “Corona has scuttled my plans. But one day, I want to become the McDonalds of samosas.” &nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/19/samosa-savvy.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/19/samosa-savvy.html Thu Nov 19 16:49:49 IST 2020 the-cult-of-diana <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/19/the-cult-of-diana.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/2020/11/19/101diana.jpg" /> <p>In the just-released fourth season of Netflix’s <i>The Crown,</i> former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher is invited to spend a weekend at Queen Elizabeth’s Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire. Not used to hobnobbing with royalty, Thatcher is perplexed as to what to wear to the ‘drinks’ session at 6pm before dinner. She decides nothing less than her best will do, and, just as the clock strikes six, makes a grand entrance in pearls and silk. Only to find the royal entourage mud-splotched and dirty, fresh from a stag hunting expedition.</p> <p>“I think we failed that test,” a bemused Thatcher later tells her husband.</p> <p>This gap between the ways of royalty and the rest of the world had always existed. Until Princess Diana arrived on the scene. She believed, right from a young age, that she was “destined for greatness”. She was the perfect bridge between the two worlds—the kindergarten teacher and ‘upper-class cleaner’ who lived in Kensington Palace. The ‘rebel’ with a heart of gold. The free-spirited royal who was also charmingly self-conscious and camera-shy. The doe-eyed beauty who visited the sick in couture.</p> <p>If she was idolised and adored while alive, the ‘Dianamania’ that was unleashed upon her death was unprecedented, resulting in countless books, documentaries and shows offering various perspectives on her life. But, for a people who love to write their leaders’ obituary at the slightest whiff of controversy, why did a princess who starved herself almost to death, played games with the press and was famous for her temper tantrums, remain so unscathed? Was it because she was malleable enough to fit her own myth? Or because she was a distraction from the wear-and-tear of ordinary lives and broken dreams? Perhaps we will never know. And there will always be another show or book—just around the corner—that will help keep alive the cult of Princess Diana.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/19/the-cult-of-diana.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/19/the-cult-of-diana.html Thu Nov 19 16:36:20 IST 2020 apu-departs <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/19/apu-departs.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/2020/11/19/102-apur-sansar3.jpg" /> <p>In 2012, when legendary Bengali writer Sunil Gangopadhyay died of cancer, I called his dear friend Soumitra Chatterjee. “I am feeling down, and do not know how to react. Almost all of my friends have left me. I feel really lonely,” the actor said.</p> <p>Perhaps he became indifferent to the idea of death after the loss of so many friends, because at the age of 85, he chose to return to the film set while Covid-19 was reaping lives in the hundreds every day. His argument was that Covid-19 would stay but life could not stand still. Sadly, fortune did not favour this brave man; he died on November 15, a month after being infected.</p> <p>Chatterjee was theatre’s gift to the silver screen. Mentored by Sisir Bhaduri—the father of modern Bengali theatre—Chatterjee was a theatrical prodigy as a student of Calcutta University. His talent caught the attention of many luminaries, including actor Utpal Dutt.</p> <p>In 1957, when Chatterjee was 22, he was called up by Satyajit Ray, who was scripting <i>Apur Sansar</i>, his third film of the <i>Apu</i> trilogy. Soumitra fit the role of Apu—he was tall with attractive eyes and an innocent but intelligent look. His performance and the film attracted much critical acclaim from around the world. In 1960, when it was screened in Washington DC, US president John F. Kennedy was in attendance as he had read glowing reviews of the film in British newspapers.</p> <p>In Apur Sansar, Chatterjee gave us one of the finest moments of Bengali cinema when his character Apu learns of the death of his wife in childbirth—an expression of bewilderment, followed by intense grief that leads Apu to disown his newborn son.</p> <p>Chatterjee follows it up later in the film with another powerful bit of acting, when Apu realises that his wife continues to live through the son that he rejected. Ray’s imagination and powerful direction coupled with Chatterjee’s spellbinding performance gave us a classic. That was the beginning of the Ray-Chatterjee partnership that lasted for three decades and 14 films.</p> <p>“It was the first Indian film I had seen in my life,” Argentine filmmaker Pablo Cesar told THE WEEK. “After that, I saw every Satyajit Ray film. I cried profusely watching <i>Apur Sansar. </i>What a performance by Soumitra Chatterjee!” Actor Aparna Sen said that she feels Ray would not have made <i>Apur Sansar</i> without Chatterjee.</p> <p>Similarly, Ray’s <i>Charulata</i> (1964) starring Chatterjee, too, won plaudits. <i>Charulata</i> was preserved by Academy of Film Archives in Hollywood in 1996 as a world cinema classic. The film depicted the suppressed physical desire of Bengali women, who were restricted to their homes. Chatterjee’s Amal mesmerises Charu (Madhabi Mukherjee) with his poetry and beautiful voice as he recites Rabindra Sangeet. The chemistry between the two actors made the film memorable.</p> <p>Chatterjee was the intelligent face of Ray’s pathbreaking films till <i>Ganashatru</i> (1989), where he beautifully essayed the role of a doctor who could not survive the pressures of religious dogma. Another notable role was in Ray’s <i>Ghare Baire </i>(1984), with a controversial portrayal of the many sides of an Indian freedom fighter.</p> <p>When he became Ray’s detective Feluda, Chatterjee’s brilliance made it one of his most memorable roles. In the detective series that Ray wrote, the sketch of Feluda looked a lot like Chatterjee, though Ray made only two movies out of the numerous Feluda stories he wrote.</p> <p>Despite playing serious and intelligent men in Ray’s classics, Chatterjee was equally successful in commercial Bengali cinema, too. Be it Tapan Sinha’s <i>Kshudhita Pashan </i>(1960) or his comic portrayal in <i>Teen Bhubaner Pare </i>(1969), Chatterjee made an indelible mark in every film. He had the gift of fitting into any type of character he was given.</p> <p>He was an outspoken actor, too. One of his most famous dialogues, “Fight, Kony, fight!” from the film Kony (1986) was his mantra. He plays a swimming coach who trains a girl to become a champion by overcoming various political hurdles. Chatterjee was a lifelong Marxist and did not hide it. He was an active participant in the Indian theatre movement. But despite being close to communist stalwarts Jyoti Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, he never joined politics.</p> <p>He was a Bengali purist, who spent most of his time writing stories, painting and reciting Tagore’s poetry. Admittedly, towards the end of his career he worked in a few films that did not really appeal to him. But, for his pathbreaking roles, he will go down not just as a legend of Indian cinema, but of the world.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/19/apu-departs.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/19/apu-departs.html Thu Nov 19 16:28:45 IST 2020 unholier-than-thou <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/19/unholier-than-thou.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/2020/11/19/105-kuldeep-ruhil.jpg" /> <p>Kuldeep Ruhil travelled extensively and lived in <i>deras</i> to research MX Player’s <i>Aashram</i>, starring Bobby Deol, for which he wrote the screenplay and dialogues. He is now rewriting Mahesh Bhatt’s <i>Arth</i>, which is being directed by Revathi and will release next year. Ruhil talks god-men and religion with THE WEEK.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ What inspired you to take on </b><i><b>Aashram?</b></i></p> <p>A<b>\ </b>They say that either you find the story or the story finds you. When the story of <i>Aashram</i> came to me—written by Habib Faisal and conceptualised by MX Player—I felt like it was about my life and the people I know. When I got the chance to work on <i>Aashram</i>, my mind was full of flashbacks from my childhood and my memories of <i>deras</i>. All around Haryana, where I am from—whether in Punjab, UP, Delhi or Rajasthan—the landscape is dotted with <i>aashrams </i>and <i>deras.</i> Members of my extended family also visit these <i>aashrams</i>.... I felt I had an insight into writing about the social structure that exists today—who gets exploited and why, and what makes them more susceptible to being taken advantage of.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ What were the challenges of writing the show’s screenplay?</b></p> <p>A\<b> </b>In India, we have countless god-men and their exploits have been well covered. While writing a screenplay about something that people are familiar with, you have to introduce a certain element of humour, thrill, pain and drama. That was always at the back of my mind and at the forefront of my discussions with MX Player.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ What insights about India and religion did you draw from to write a show about cheating god-men?</b></p> <p>A\ All the babas from different parts of the country have one thing in common—their proclivity for sexual exploitation alongside financial, physical and emotional exploitation. [Also], their ability or power to pull people. People become enamoured of someone who they think has all the answers. We treat god-men like heroes, and the aura—fabricated or otherwise—around them is what really pulls people in.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ You are now working on the modern remake of </b><i><b>Arth.</b></i><b></b></p> <p>A\ Life has indeed come full circle…. I started my film career with Bhatt saab and today, I am re-writing <i>Arth</i>, his most celebrated film till date. My name was recommended by the producer [to write the script]. Revathi had already been roped in to direct the classic. I met with her, we discussed our interpretations of the movie and she liked my ideas.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/19/unholier-than-thou.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/19/unholier-than-thou.html Thu Nov 26 15:46:33 IST 2020 desperate-measures <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/13/desperate-measures.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/statescan/images/2020/11/13/bring-me-home.jpg" /> <p>Medical professional Jung-yeon and her husband, Myeong Guk, have been searching for their son ever since he went missing six years ago at a playground. Life has never been the same for them since then. Myeong Guk has been driving around the country looking for their son. He also frequents a missing persons bureau in the hope of getting some information.</p> <p>One day, Jung-yeon gets an anonymous call about her son. The caller tells her that the son has been spotted in a fishing village on a remote island. She arrives at the village only to meet resistance from the hostile villagers and a corrupt cop. Realising that the villagers are hiding her son, Jung-yeon decides to take them on, armed only with her impeccable knowledge of lethal drugs.</p> <p>A masterfully crafted thriller, Bring Me Home will remind you of Bedevilled—another Korean thriller set on an island. Directed by Kim Seung-woo, Bring Me Home, which was screened at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, is a suspenseful watch, with plenty of riveting plot twists and some great performances.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/13/desperate-measures.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/13/desperate-measures.html Fri Nov 13 15:26:42 IST 2020 queen-to-the-fore <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/13/queen-to-the-fore.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/2020/11/13/Queen-to-the-fore.jpg" /> <p>It is not every day that Garry Kasparov consults for a web series. That itself should evoke curiosity about The Queen’s Gambit, the seven-episode drama series on Netflix. The series is based on Walter Tevis’s eponymous novel published by Random House in 1983.</p> <p>It is the story of how chess prodigy Beth Harmon—who was orphaned at nine and committed to the care of the state—literally played her way out of an orphanage’s basement to the biggest stage there is. En route to dizzying heights, Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) meets tranquillisers, alcohol, marijuana, lingerie and lovers. But, chess remains her biggest addiction; director Scott Frank makes that clear.</p> <p>The series is in a way similar and dissimilar to chess. There is no slow easing into the game. The storytelling is racy, without compromising on the filmmaking. The attention to detail is such that all games in the series were picked by Bruce Pandolfini, veteran US chess player and coach. All the matches played between Harmon and others were taken from the history of chess; actors had to memorise games for the series. Chess is unforgiving, so are chess fans. Frank &amp; Co have done well to remember that.</p> <p>Chess is not a cinematic sport. So the appeal for the average Joe lies exclusively in the telling of the story. Like Mira Nair’s The Queen of Katwe (2016), which was more about Phiona Mutesi than chess itself. So, this optimum mix of life, chess, attention to detail and a spoonful of CG is what elevates The Queen’s Gambit from just another chess miniseries to one of the most successful Netflix Originals of 2020.</p> <p>For example, there is this bit where a young Harmon starts playing chess in her mind at night. As she lies in her bed, a chessboard appears on the ceiling of the orphanage dormitory and shadowy pieces slither silently across the battlefield. You feel a prickle of fear, as if you were a helpless bystander in the corridors of power. It does feel like Game of Thrones for a moment. It is in fact that, is it not?</p> <p>Set against the backdrop of the Cold War, The Queen’s Gambit has the familiar thread of US vs USSR. Yet, not everything is predictable. For the general public, the only woman superstar of chess is Judit Polgar. Yet, here we have a female protagonist beating the clinical Vasily Borgov (Marcin Dorocinski). The series also brings to the fore a black saviour, Jolene (Moses Ingram), Harmon’s friend from the orphanage, and highlights the rifts within families in America’s picture postcard suburbia.</p> <p>If you are a car enthusiast, there is much porn for you. There is a Chevrolet Corvair, a Citroen DS, a Mercedes Benz W111, a Volkswagen Beetle, a rare Chaika from Russia and many Fords.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/13/queen-to-the-fore.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/13/queen-to-the-fore.html Fri Nov 13 11:21:58 IST 2020 call-me-queen <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/13/call-me-queen.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/2020/11/13/call-me-queen-thumb.jpg" /> <p>The first song of Svetha Yellapragada Rao, known by her stage name Raja Kumari, came from her first heartbreak. She was 11 or 12 and had a crush on an Indian boy in California, where she grew up. He, however, liked the typical American blue-eyed blonde. “That was the first upset for me. He is supposed to like me, I thought. I am Jasmine to his Aladdin. He is not supposed to go after Cinderella. Cinderella has her own movie,” she says with a self-deprecating laugh. “My first music came from not feeling good enough or beautiful enough.” Still, she got over it because of a deep-rooted love for her culture, born of learning classical Indian dance from the age of seven. “I loved where I came from too deeply,” she says.</p> <p>This translated into an innate confidence that suffuses her music, which she describes as a sonic bridge between the west and the east. “It is the way that I have translated my American and Indian experience and wanting to be included on both sides,” she says.</p> <p>She could not have put it more succinctly. Her music videos are full of this dichotomy—mythology with technology; gritty, guttural lyrics with flowing, classical dance moves; sparkly body suits with half-saris; bindis with crop tops; eastern bling with western minimalism; an exaggerated femininity in the overwhelmingly masculine world of hip-hop. There is rebellion in her music. Years of others trying to tame her into a well-defined category has made her untamable. As she sings in her breakout song, ‘Mute’: “I had to put them on mute… Same old thing, different day… I had to feed these fools… I had to go home and regroup….”</p> <p>Her latest song, ‘Shanti’, is the first Hindi single that she is releasing. Some might say that ‘Shanti’ is the first stop on the spiritual journey that she has undertaken. “In the music industry, you can get swept up in a lot of the devils that accompany levels of celebrity, and I have found peace in meditation, yoga, sound healing, and more,” she says.</p> <p>Everything about Raja Kumari is intense—from her infectious laughter to her determination to make the most of each moment. This need to find happiness was born out of much suffering. “Growing up, I did not really see anybody that looked like me,” she says. “That was a challenge in itself, to find an identity and to find somewhere to be comfortable with my Indianness. [Later], I was pressured to simulate an American, especially in the beginning of my career. My managers would tell me to dye my hair, wear less clothes, change the way I spelled my name. But I just stuck to it. I envisioned myself as a devi, a kind of Indian superhero. I was a little girl obsessed with the Mahabharat. My favourite character while dancing was Draupadi.”</p> <p>Her hard work paid off! She has written songs for some of the biggest names in the music industry, including Fall Out Boy, Iggy Azalea and Gwen Stefani. She has also written music for the hit Fox show,&nbsp;<i>Empire</i>&nbsp;. She received a Grammy nomination for her work with Azalea and a BMI Pop Award for her work with Fall Out Boy. She has guest-starred in the Bollywood movie,&nbsp;<i>Gully Boy</i>&nbsp;, judged India’s first rap reality show,&nbsp;<i>MTV Hustle,&nbsp;</i>and hosted and curated her own show,&nbsp;<i>The New India.</i></p> <p>The rapper credits Stefani for inspiring her to move to Mumbai and bring out her first EP,&nbsp;<i>The Come Up,&nbsp;</i>in 2016. “I grew up watching her,” she says. “In a strange way, she was the only person who gave an Indian representation in the Western space. [There were the small things like how] she loved wearing bindis. Growing up, even though I wore it at home, it was the only time I saw someone wear a bindi on TV. It took a white woman to make me comfortable with my culture.”</p> <p>Moving to Mumbai for three years was like coming home for the first time. “It was so wonderful to be among my own people,” she says. “India was a magical playground of colours and sensory overload. Whenever I am in America, I am just trying to replicate India out of this dark, grey and desolate place.” Her first big performance in India was at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender in 2016, when she was a guest on rapper Divine’s headlining set. Three years later, in 2019, she got to play her own headlining set at the NH7 Weekender. “When I first started performing, there were hardly any girls in the crowd,” she says. “At the end of my tour, after 30 shows, I could see so many more women coming to the shows. In a way, I feel I have created a safe space for them. They knew that there would be flowers and jewellery and hip-hop. It would not just be all guys and dangerous.”</p> <p>She is one of the best-known names in hip-hop today. But she is also a 34-year-old single woman coming from a culture that believes a woman’s primary role in life is to marry and start a family. Does she feel that responsibility? “Of course I want a family, have little babies and teach them about the Mahabharat and how to meditate with stones,” she quips. “But I also feel a commitment to my music and to myself.” She jokes about how, when she informs her parents that she is on the cover of&nbsp;<i>Vogue&nbsp;</i>or&nbsp;<i>Rolling Stone</i>&nbsp;, they reply that if she does not get married, all of that does not matter.</p> <p>Yes, there have been many heartbreaks along the way. Underlying that is a perpetual longing to belong. In fact, that is why she chose hip-hop in the first place. “Hip-hop has always been the voice of the sub-culture,” she says. “It was a vehicle of communication for the under-represented, and I felt at home in hip-hop in a way that I did not feel at home in America.” This combination of fearlessness and vulnerability adds complexity to her music. It also makes her brand of hip-hop unique; it has Raja Kumari stamped all over it. She is truly the queen of her universe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>INDIA WAS A MAGICAL PLAYGROUND</b></p> <p><b>OF COLOURS AND SENSORY OVERLOAD.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/13/call-me-queen.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/13/call-me-queen.html Fri Nov 13 11:11:56 IST 2020 click-and-trek <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/13/click-and-trek.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/2020/11/13/insta-traveller.jpg" /> <p>one minute you are sitting in your office cubicle and in the next, you are teleported to the serene Hampta Pass in the Himalayas. No, we are not talking about some wacky sci-fi movie. This is what a few hugely popular ‘Insta-travellers’, or travel bloggers on Instagram, can do for you. In these troubled times, when actual travel is difficult, their Instagram pages have been viewed millions of times. Thanks to them, the most beautiful beach resorts, wildlife sanctuaries and picture-perfect hill-stations are just a click away.</p> <p>Akshaya S.’s Instagram page, ‘The Careless Indian Traveler’, for example, is full of travel stories from Europe, the UAE, Italy, Spain and more. “I had no skills at all,” she says. “My father gave me a camera four years ago. But I did not know how to use it, so I left it at home and went to Singapore to do my master’s. Afterwards, my best friend taught me some of its basic settings and I was good to go.” An engineer during weekdays and a wanderer on weekends, the 28-year-old is fiercely independent and is inclined towards budget travel. “I was very particular that I would travel with my own money and not depend on my parents,” she says. “So I look at cheap bus or flight tickets, pick up my camera and just take off.”</p> <p>Abhimanyu Dalal, 25, uses photography skills to make his page come alive. “You can click some amazing photographs on your phone,” he says. “You just need to know how to do it properly.” His Instagram page, ‘Outside My Rucksack’, has over 25,000 followers. Initially, travel was a form of escapism for him. “I never used to travel a lot as a child but in my final year of engineering, I was in a bad place and wanted a break,” he says. “It was a trip to Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh that changed my life.” The travel bug bit him so hard that he spent all his savings on buying trekking gear.</p> <p>One of the highlights of his account is the 15-second reels that he puts up with good mood music. From crossing the river at Kheerganga to the enjoying the meadows near Bhrigu Lake in Himachal Pradesh and visiting the world’s highest post office in Hikkim, his short videos are fascinating. “The first photograph that blew up on social media was one from my trek to Kedarkantha, Uttarakhand. I was tired and dehydrated, but that caught the attention of many. The Instagram page was initially my personal account before I changed it to ‘Outside My Rucksack’ in 2018,” he says. “People might not remember my name, but they do remember a good Instagram page.”</p> <p>Samuel Soundararaj agrees. “A good photograph always has an impact on the viewer,” he says. His Instagram page, ‘Window Into My Vision’, is a treat for all nature lovers. He started his journey 17 years ago with his grandfather’s old Yashica film camera. “I was about 11 at the time and we used to go on an annual family trip. I always watched my father take a lot of photographs and eventually I picked it up,” he says. Now a businessman, Samuel lives in Kotagiri—the third largest hill station in the Nilgiris. He says he does a lot of business travel, and each time he tries to squeeze in time to explore non-touristy places. “I want to introduce people, even the locals, to places one can visit and things one can do during short or long trips,” he says.</p> <p>However, travel blogging and photography are not all fun and easy. Each traveller has to face her own devils. For Akshaya, the challenge is mostly in being a woman. During international trips, she has often faced sexism and racism. “Some people think that just because you are brown and have black hair, you are uncultured and poor,” she says. Samuel, on the other hand, has to contend with the language barrier. “I speak only English and Tamil, and sometimes that is not enough to fully experience a place and its people,” he says. “I also have asthma and travelling alone can be risky at times. But I have trained myself to be careful over the years.”</p> <p>All three of them are sure of one thing—that they want to make the travel experience as authentic as possible for their viewers. “We work on capturing the beauty of a place in such a way that the viewer gets its essence,” says Samuel. After all, our desire to travel is not selfish; it lies deep in the human psyche, dating as far back as when nomadic tribes explored the world for new resources.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/13/click-and-trek.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/13/click-and-trek.html Sat Nov 14 12:35:53 IST 2020 pursuit-of-happiness <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/06/pursuit-of-happiness.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/2020/11/6/65-Tahira-Kashyap-Khurrana-new.jpg" /> <p>The divide between my boy and me was increasing by the day. I remember one time when my husband was nominated for the best debut actor. So there I was, walking the red carpet, conscious about how I was looking, trying to remember the designer I was wearing, blinded by the lights. And suddenly I could not feel the warmth of his hand. He left me behind and was up ahead, surrounded by the press. There were many such episodes and we only survived them because of how long we had been together.... But all my fears came back with his next film, Nautanki Saala! in which sir participated in one of the longest kisses in the history of Indian cinema... I was burning with jealousy. My anger and insecurity crossed Virat Kohli’s runs....</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In her no-holds-barred book, The 12 Commandments of Being a Woman, Tahira Kashyap Khurrana opens up about the highs and lows of her relationship with national award-winning actor Ayushmann Khurrana. She gives out delightfully vivid details of their eventful journey as a couple, from being participants in an interschool drama competition to courtship, romance and finally marriage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I learnt early on, as a 25-year-old who was getting into marriage, that no matter how many years you have dated the person, when you are marrying him, life starts from absolute zero. So there were a lot of things I came to know about him only post marriage,” she says, as she sips coffee in the comfort of her living room. “As a young, newly married bride, when I came down for the first time from Chandigarh to Mumbai, where he was living as a bachelor, I was expecting him to do at least something for me, but I had to quite literally buy my own basic cutlery.” This is why she titled one of her chapters, ‘You need patience and courage to not kill each other right after marriage.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Both Tahira and Ayushmann hail from the same town in Chandigarh, got married while they were in their mid-twenties and pretty much ticked all the boxes of a typical Yash Chopra film. “Except that alongside an expanse of mustard blossoms, cactuses, too, remain hidden,” she says with a laugh. “Nobody from either of our families was even remotely associated with the film industry in any capacity, forget being a hero. So I was confident of marrying him. At the time he was an RJ, and even though he wanted to be an actor I was sure he was not going to be one, at least going by his looks at the time. And when he did become an actor, I had a huge problem because all the pretty women around him made me feel inadequate.” But that feeling was only a phase, as she found out after years of learning and self-realisation. Tahira’s journey­—her battles from adolescence to her 30s and her struggle to move away from Ayushmann’s stardom and come into her own—z has been brought out beautifully in the book. Ultimately she finds peace after setting out on a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I would be dishonest if I said that I am over all my complexes and am the most perfect version of myself today, but I am glad that I fought those battles and have the courage and acceptance to talk about it and make fun of myself,” she says. That desperate desire to weigh less than 50kg affected her health, both mental and physical. Weighing over 60kg, with a towering height of 5’8”, Tahira had self-worth issues for the longest time. One reason was that Ayushmann was more or less her height. “As I kept chasing 59kg on the weighing scale, I pushed myself to an insane level, resulting in many negative repercussions which I am still facing,” she says. “I have so many intolerances right now. There was a time when I gave up wheat and rice and ate only watermelon and peanuts. I ended up sadder than before and my irritable bowel syndrome was out of control. I reached a point where I was crying five to six hours a night and hopelessness was getting the better of me.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In September 2018, Tahira was diagnosed with cancer. The diagnosis did not break her as much its timing. “When I was extremely happy and ready to be healed, when I felt amazing for the first time in 10 years, did not have stomach cramps or bloating, and my gut was recovering so that I could get back to being my older, stronger self after aggressively taking to diets, I was diagnosed with stage zero breast cancer and needed mastectomy as the cancer had spread across the whole breast,” she says. Chanting and Buddhism, she says, helped her deal with it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tahira and Ayushmann have two children aged eight and six, both of whom, she says, were super excited to see “mumma’s new book”. “My daughter even took a few blank sheets of papers, stapled them and began writing her own book,” she says with a smile. “The husband showed mixed emotions. He was startled by some of the revelations and asked if I really had to be that detailed, but at the same time, he was unconditionally supportive of the book.” The 12 Commandments of Being a Woman is the fourth book she has authored. She has also directed two acclaimed short films, Pinni (2020) and Toffee (2018).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite her accomplishments, she is honest enough to admit that she is not perfect. “I will still not be able to tell you for sure if I am completely in love with myself,” she says. “Attaining that feeling is a state of nirvana, but that stage itself is a work in progress, I believe. What has changed for me is that I have truly become much more aware now than ever. Even on low days, I refuse to go down this vortex of negativity.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The 12 Commandments of Being a Woman</b></p> <p>By Tahira Kashyap Khurrana</p> <p>Published by<br> Juggernaut</p> <p>Price Rs299, pages 200</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/06/pursuit-of-happiness.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/06/pursuit-of-happiness.html Sat Nov 07 11:46:59 IST 2020 the-tibet-watcher <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/06/the-tibet-watcher.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/2020/11/6/69-Claude-Arpi-new.jpg" /> <p>Claude Arpi does not much care for Twitter. The 71-year-old Tibetologist, is convinced that the ongoing India-China border dispute cannot be discussed in 280 characters. The Frenchman has also been resisting invitations for webinars and virtual panels. But, he could not avoid the virtual event on October 16—the release of the last part of his quadrilogy on India-Tibet relations (1947-1962); Tibet: The Last Months of a Free Nation (2017), Will Tibet Ever Find her Soul Again? (2018), Tibet: When the Gods Spoke (2019) and The End of an Era, India Exits Tibet. Arpi dug into difficult-to access archival material to spotlight India’s Tibet policy then, the blunders therein and how it complicated boundary relations leading to the 1962 Indo-China War.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For over 10 years Arpi has used his blog to offer incisive takes on the geopolitics of Tibet, China and the Indian subcontinent. Arpi has often received alerts like “the state is monitoring your emails” on Gmail. “But at least Google is informing you,” he wryly remarks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, the author and historian, who graduated as a dental surgeon in France, is quoted in most Indian newspapers, magazines and defence journals as one of the foremost Tibetologists living in India. He holds the Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa Chair of Excellence at the United Service Institution of India for research on India-Tibet relations. From how China lost a friend in Ladakh to lessons from Galwan to the origins of the secretive Special Frontier Force (SFF), Arpi’s 40-year-passion for all things India-China-Tibet is most resonant now.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was in the early 1970s that a young, college-going Arpi first saw French filmmaker Arnaud Desjardins’ two-part documentary The Message of the Tibetans—believed to be the first ever filming of the Tibetan community-in-exile to be allowed by a young Dalai Lama back in 1960s Dharamshala. Intrigued by their struggle for independence and their eventual escape, Arpi wanted to meet the sages and the great living masters of the Tibetan people shown in the documentary. He made his first trip to India in 1972 and by 1974, after an adventurous trip across France, Italy, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and the foothills of the Himalayas, Arpi decided to settle in the “universal city” of Auroville, Pondicherry. The doctrine of sanatana dharma, as espoused by Sri Aurobindo, was more appealing than settling in Dharamshala where the Dalai Lama’s sister had once insisted he work as a dentist in the Tibetan Children’s Village, says Arpi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Arpi, border issues, war and tactical calculations can go hand in hand with a spiritual life. “Whether it is the Gita or Buddhism, both say that dharma has to be defended,” he says. “Young Tibetan jawans in the SFF—of which company leader Nyima Tenzin was killed in a landmine blast in the border standoff this year—are all Buddhists,” he says. “Even in the Kargil War, the Ladakh Scouts unit against Pakistani forces were all Buddhists. The night before their takeover of Pakistani posts they went to meet the Dalai Lama, who was in Ladakh, to seek his blessing.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Emotionally, Arpi says, the Tibetans are very much on the Indian side on the border issue and hopes that in the current crisis, the Dalai Lama and India are on the same page. “I hope they are talking even if it does not come out in public,” he says. “Because you cannot speak with a country like China, especially if they want something. China jumped into this Ladakh adventure without understanding the implications. China did not expect India to resist. Now, if they come back defeated, Xi Jinping will have questions to answer. He cannot afford to lose face.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Arpi dismisses the notion that there might be a common engagement ground for India, China and the Dalai Lama to de-escalate border tensions, that there is possibility of a ‘Tibet Card’ at the negotiating table, that the Dalai Lama is the last hope for friendly border relations between India and China. “The Dalai Lama has no chance to sign a deal with China,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Arpi is hopeful that more files from the ministry of external affairs will be declassified for Indian scholars and researchers. “The main issue with archiving is how so few files are transferred from the MEA to the National Archives, even the ones pertaining to the 1950s and 1960s,” he says. “It makes it difficult to study the past. I have complained and written letters to every foreign secretary. It is just laziness, lack of competence and human resources at the MEA. Most files can be declassified; there is no big secret after 35 to 40 years.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, it is hard to define who a Tibetologist is, in the absence of declassified documents, a competent grasp of the Tibetan language and an inclusive knowledge of Tibetan cultural history among “experts”. Says Tenzin Lhadon, a research fellow at Tibet Policy Institute, “Most Indian scholarship and public discourse on Tibet is largely driven by India-China conflict.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Arpi got special permission to access the Nehru Papers—letters, speeches, reports and other correspondences of Jawaharlal Nehru—at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, for writing his quadrilogy. But access was not enough. Arpi struggled through some 1,500 unindexed volumes, often spending two to three hours to get to one letter. He says that people are reluctant to spend time on original documents. “You need a passion to do this; there is no money or quick celebrity,” says Arpi, whose typical day starts at 4am, scanning Chinese newspapers on Google Translate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He lives with his Punjabi Indian wife, Abha Tewari, and their 30-year-old daughter, Smiti, in Auroville, where he has lived for more than 40 years. Arpi has not gone back to France for four or five years now. India is home. “It is a stupid generalisation. But, I certainly feel people here live in their heart,” he says. “In the west, they live in their head.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The End of an Era: India Exits Tibet</b></p> <p>By Claude Arpi</p> <p>Published by<br> Vij Publishers</p> <p>Price Rs1,950 (hardcover), pages 608</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/06/the-tibet-watcher.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/06/the-tibet-watcher.html Sat Nov 07 11:46:21 IST 2020 selling-the-dream <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/06/selling-the-dream.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/2020/11/6/70-The-Making-of-Aadhaar-new.jpg" /> <p>After having rolled out Aadhaar successfully, Ram Sevak Sharma, the first director general of the unique identification project, moved on to join the Jharkhand government as chief secretary in March 2013. He looked forward to a post-retirement life in Ranchi. However, he was back in Delhi in May 2014 as secretary of the department of electronics and information technology, which coincided with a change of guard at the Centre. In his book, The Making of Aadhaar, Sharma notes that the BJP’s victory was the direst existential threat to Aadhaar as the party had promised to review the programme in its manifesto.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Minister in-charge Ravi Shankar Prasad’s angry response to a meeting Sharma called on Aadhaar only strengthened his fears. However, at a review meeting Narendra Modi had with various departments, Sharma got to wax lyrical about the need for Aadhaar for an attendance system that the prime minister wanted. It was a ray of hope for Aadhaar’s survival.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sharma’s book is the most authoritative account of the Aadhaar journey, documenting the scrappy beginnings, internal turmoil, constant improvisation, opposition, legal challenges and the ever-expanding use of the unique ID.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sharma recounts how in the beginning it was only him and UIDAI chairman Nandan Nilekani sharing a room in the Planning Commission building, going around like “salespersons” making presentations to government departments. Sharma’s experience as a bureaucrat helped the project get over governmental impediments.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sharma gives a frank account of the clash between those who joined from the private sector and the officers from the administrative services. “These fissures disturbed me. Nandan had also expressed his disappointment.... [The] good thing was, we never took sides,” he writes. He also admits that the absence of a law backing UIDAI became a debilitating factor for Aadhaar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He also writes about his decision to post his Aadhaar number on Twitter to prove there were no privacy concerns. “Of course, when the hackers tried to show they could cause me some harm, I did take a few precautionary steps,” writes Sharma. “For example, I changed my passwords and hardened them on my back accounts, social media accounts and email accounts.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The Making of Aadhaar: World’s Largest Identity Platform</b></p> <p>By Ram Sewak Sharma</p> <p>Published by</p> <p>Rupa Publications</p> <p>Price Rs595; Pages199</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/06/selling-the-dream.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/06/selling-the-dream.html Fri Nov 06 17:05:30 IST 2020 from-the-nizam-table <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/06/from-the-nizam-table.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/2020/11/6/71-Mohammed-Anees-Ul-Hussain.jpg" /> <p>It has been 72 years since the nizams made way for democracy in Hyderabad. The erstwhile rulers have all but disappeared and the 200-year-old administrative stamp they left behind has faded over time. But, if you want a taste of that era, there is still hope. Hameedi Confectioners and Co., owned by the Hussains, has been serving Hyderabad for three generations. This tiny shop in the city’s old quarter was once granted the royal warrant for sweets by Mir Osman Ali Khan, the last nizam.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In fact, Mir Osman Ali Khan personally named the shop and he continues to remain alive in the shop in many ways. A round sweet available at Hameedi still carries the inscription that was on the ashrafi—the nizam’s gold coin. The original royal warrant is a prized possession of the current proprietor, Mohammed Anees Ul Hussain, 42. And, the shop’s signature dish is the jauzi halwa, the last nizam’s favourite sweet.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Legend has it that Hussain’s great-grandfather migrated to Hyderabad, most probably from Turkey, to join the army. He died early, leaving his teenage son, Mohammad Hussain, to fend for himself. “My grandfather and two others, who were good at making traditional sweets from the Arabian region, started the shop,” says Hussain. “This was almost 120 years ago. He was only 12 when he started selling the jauzi halwa, which became a hit among the locals.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>About 20 years into his business, Mohammed Hussain made a smart move to capture the attention of the nizam. “Whenever the nizam’s cavalcade passed, the shops in that area would close down voluntarily,” says Hussain. “When the seventh nizam was passing by our shop, my grandfather kept the shop open and brightened the lamps to attract his attention. When the nizam stopped to enquire, he offered him the halwa. The nizam liked it so much that he gave the nameless shop legitimacy by naming it Hameedi [after Abdul Hamid II, arguably the last Ottoman sultan].” The royal warrant soon followed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite its Turkish roots, over time jauzi halwa has come to be known as a Hyderabadi sweet. The making of the halwa takes eight hours and ingredients include oat milk, nutmeg, dry fruits, saffron and generous lashings of ghee. Through its two branches, Hameedi sells between 100kg to 125kg of the halwa every day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite Hyderabad’s rich food culture, Hameedi does not have competitors when it comes to jauzi halwa. “Many of them tried to make it,” says Hussain. “My own cooks deserted me and started their own outlets. Their version was inferior. There is very less profit in this dish as it has expensive ingredients. Many of them did not see a point in toiling and selling it for narrow margins.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, that alone does not seem to be the reason. When we probe a bit, Hussain admits to having a secret mix: “Only our family knows about a secret ingredient. It is a combination of two to three dry fruits and it enhances the taste greatly.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hussain also credits providence. “My grandfather was blessed by Sufi saints,” he says. “They told him that our family will benefit for generations from this sweet and nobody can harm us. That is the reason why even our extended families could not replicate jauzi halwa and beat us in the business.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hussain says that Hameedi’s future is uncertain, but he is hopeful. His brother exited the business and migrated to Canada. “I want my sons to make use of their education to expand our business,” he says. “I did not set up more stores or give out franchises because I am worried that we will not be able to retain the taste.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hyderabad’s jauzi halwa has travelled far and wide, including the Middle East and the west, from where Hussain gets orders. Has he tried to trace the sweet’s roots in Turkey? “Yes, I did,” says Hussain. “They do not make this anymore. Some modified versions have come up. What you will find in my store will always be the original.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/06/from-the-nizam-table.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/06/from-the-nizam-table.html Fri Nov 06 19:04:08 IST 2020 bass-with-class <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/06/bass-with-class.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/2020/11/6/73-Nucleya-new.jpg" /> <p>Nucleya, the trailblazer of the desi bass sound, recently released a song in collaboration with global dance music act, Major Lazer, in which three-time Grammy-winning DJ and songwriter Diplo was involved. Called ‘Jadi buti’ and sung by Rashmeet Kaur, the song is part of the new Major Lazer album, Music Is The Weapon. Nucleya tells THE WEEK about his work in a lean year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ What is the new track ‘Jadi buti’ all about?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ If you have heard the track, it will not be too hard to tell what it is about (laughs)! [Rapper] Raftaar wrote very interesting lyrics for the song and I believe it is something to be taken light-heartedly, because it is just a song. ‘Jadi buti’ is fun, cheeky and groovy, with very faint hints of age-old Bollywood sounds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\What have been the key takeaways from working with Diplo?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ There is no doubt that Diplo is one of the most talented producers around. I think one of the biggest takeaways is his passion for the right project. He is hell bent on finding the right sound and aesthetic for things and is okay with the fact that it takes time to make that happen. But when it does, he puts in everything he has to make sure it is executed brilliantly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ How did you keep yourself busy this year? Have you been working on some new music?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ You know, I miss the feeling of being on the road and playing for our audiences, but I am incredibly grateful to have had this down time. Plus, there is the added component of having time to work on new music and new projects that have kept me going. I think we have got some exciting things lined up and I cannot wait for you guys to see what we have been up to!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ How do you see electronic dance music evolving in India after 2020?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ Honestly, I think the most beautiful thing for me is that I see different artists finding their own unique sounds within the genre itself. I think that trend is only going to continue and I see that as being supremely beneficial to the growth of the space. Our hope has been to attract larger audiences to the style, and I think with the diversification of the sounds coming out of the country, we are definitely set to grow.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/06/bass-with-class.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/11/06/bass-with-class.html Sat Nov 07 11:42:54 IST 2020 light-comes-alive <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/10/29/light-comes-alive.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/2020/10/29/119-aishwarya-sridhar.jpg" /> <p>And just like that, a myrobalan plum tree from Bhandardara walked into the exhibition space in the National History Museum, London. Bedecked with a million fireflies and framed by a star-speckled sky, the tree from Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district will now travel the world as part of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year (WPY) exhibition.</p> <p>The life-changing moment for the tree came on a regular June night in 2019, when a 23-year-old Panvel girl scrambled through leopard country to photograph it. The night changed Aishwarya Sridhar’s life, too, as the image put her on the path to becoming the first Indian woman to win a WPY award.</p> <p>As the moonlight drowned the golden glow of the fireflies, Aishwarya spent the night on the hilltop waiting for the magic moment between moonset and sunrise. She took 27 images in 24 seconds, and then used focus stacking to produce the award-winning image.</p> <p>Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards are given by the National History Museum, London. The 2020 edition attracted over 49,000 entries. Among the 100 finalists, only 15 win top prizes—two grand title winners and one winner each from the 13 categories. Hence, the coveted “Highly Commended” status for the 85 runners-up across categories; these awardees, too, receive a plaque and a certificate. Their entries will be exhibited alongside the winning images at the Science Museum in South Kensington, London, from October 16, 2020 to June 6, 2021.</p> <p>This year, the title awards—Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year—were won by Sergey Gorshkov of Russia and Liina Heikkinen of Finland, respectively. Gorshkov won it for his “ethereal image of a Siberian tiger scent-marking a gnarled (Manchurian fir) tree in the Russian Far East”. Heikkinen’s entry was a “dramatic picture of a young red fox fiercely defending the remains of a barnacle goose from its five rival siblings in the wilds of Finland”.</p> <p>Aishwarya’s entry—titled ‘Lights of Passion’, depicting the courtship of fireflies—was “Highly Commended” in the behaviour (invertebrates) category. “Aishwarya can be justifiably proud of her ‘Highly Commended’ image, which brings to light a very difficult subject,” said Shekar Dattatri, wildlife and conservation filmmaker, and judge of WPY competition 2020. “While excellent photographs of India’s birds and mammals abound these days, I can’t remember the last time that I saw such a striking image of fireflies. By exercising both her imagination and technical prowess, Aishwarya has created a rare and breath-taking image of these ephemeral winged wonders. The word photography means “drawing with light” and that is exactly what this picture has achieved!”</p> <p>A graduate in mass communication from Pillai College of Arts, Commerce and Science (Autonomous), Mumbai, Aishwarya is the only child of Rani and Sridhar Ranganathan. Sridhar retired as a vice-president of Vodafone and Rani quit the advertising industry to become a homemaker. The Ranganathans hail from Kerala’s Palakkad district and are settled in Panvel.</p> <p>Dr Aarti Sukheja, associate professor of economics at PCACS, remembers Aishwarya as a student who was “focused, self-driven and high on her academic scores”. “She did not leave any opportunity to fine-tune her skills,” said Sukheja. “We were all very sure that her commitment, passion and interest in photography would bring her laurels. She had also won international awards as a student.” She was referring to Aishwarya winning the Sanctuary Asia Young Naturalist Award in 2011 and The Diana Award in 2019, instituted in memory of the late Princess of Wales. The young photographer was also the youngest member of the state wetland identification committee, which has just turned in its report to the administration.</p> <p>A Canon EOS Explorer, Aishwarya has also branched out into film-making. Her maiden venture, <i>Panje: The Last Wetland</i>, was telecast by DD National and is available on YouTube. Environmentalists are mounting a spirited fight to save Panje as the original owner, City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra, has transferred it to Reliance Industries for a real estate project.</p> <p>“I have seen Uran transform from blue and green to brown,” Aishwarya said. “One by one the wetlands have disappeared. Panje is the last patch.”&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/10/29/light-comes-alive.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/10/29/light-comes-alive.html Thu Oct 29 21:25:52 IST 2020 laughs-and-jabs <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/10/29/laughs-and-jabs.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/2020/10/29/122-borat2.jpg" /> <p>In 2003, billionaire-businessman Donald Trump was mooted an idea. “Me idea is to come out with these ice cream gloves that make the ice cream not go on your hands and make it all well sticky,” the man sitting next to him in wannabe gangsta-rapper attire bounced off his business plan to Trump, in a London black vernacular. Sensing that something was amiss, Trump walked out of the “meeting”. It was <i>Da Ali G Show </i>and the man sitting next to Trump was Ali G, one of the alter egos of British actor Sacha Baron Cohen.</p> <p>A lot of water under the bridge and many alter egos (Bruno, Borat, and the many characters in the political satire, <i>Who is America</i>?) later, in 2018, Cohen reprised his Ali G self after President Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was convicted of fraud. “Yesterday it was proven in de courts dat u iz a crook—respeck! U iz a genuine gangsta,” an open letter from Ali G to Trump read. This year, Cohen slipped into his Borat Sagdiyev avatar—an outrageously offensive, racist, sexist and homophobic fictional journalist from Kazakhstan—once again in <i>Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.</i> The film is a follow up to his 2006 mockumentary-comedy, <i>Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.</i> Released on October 23, on Amazon Prime Video, the film ridicules Trump and his supporters, scoffs at conspiracy theorists and Holocaust deniers, and taunts Facebook.</p> <p>Despite Cohen’s repeated insistence that he is a comedian and actor, and not a political commentator, he is deeply political, and has always been, in his own words, “passionate about challenging bigotry and intolerance”. In <i>Borat Subsequent Moviefilm</i>, the actor-writer has no qualms in revealing which side of the political narrative he chooses to be on. His most audacious stunts—barging into a Conservative Political Action Conference in a “Trump suit” to gift his daughter to “Vice Premier”, Mike Pence, making Trump supporters chant, “Inject him [Obama] with the Wuhan flu”—are directed at Trump and his cronies.</p> <p>In yet another release in October, <i>The Trial of the Chicago 7</i>, the actor played the defiant Abbie Hoffman, an icon of the anti-war movement in the United States in the 1960s. Cohen embodied the spirit of a man unwilling to cow down to an authoritarian state and a complacent judiciary in Chicago 7, while in the second coming of Borat, he is the indecorous “alien”, who spouts uncomfortable truths about the establishment.</p> <p>Cohen waltzed into popularity in 1998 as Ali G, interviewing popular figures and getting their goats with annoyingly inane questions. Bruno and Borat followed Ali G, establishing Cohen as a master of disguises. From nearly causing a riot by kissing a fighter in a cage as Bruno to getting two US Congressmen to endorse KinderGuardians—a programme that proposes to arm toddlers with machine guns—in <i>Who is America?,</i> Cohen has showed the world how laughable people can be, including those in a position of power. In <i>Borat Subsequent Moviefilm</i>, he gets a cake shop owner to write “Jews will not replace us”, seeks assistance in getting the best tool to “murder gypsies”, and admits to a pastor that he may have impregnated his daughter only for the pastor to come up with the response, “God does not make accidents”.</p> <p>Cohen explains that through his alter egos, he tries “to get people to let down their guard and reveal what they actually believe, including their own prejudice”. He develops a backstory, and does enough research to be on top of the situation before slipping into a facial prosthesis or retreating into one of his oddball characters.</p> <p>“My aim here was not to expose racism or anti-Semitism. The aim is to make people laugh, but we reveal the dangerous slide to authoritarianism,” he had said about the second coming of Borat. Cohen may continue sending in the clowns to lampoon those in power and mock the intolerant as long as society remains intolerant and bigoted.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/10/29/laughs-and-jabs.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/10/29/laughs-and-jabs.html Thu Oct 29 14:21:55 IST 2020 one-more-for-little-ones <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/10/29/one-more-for-little-ones.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/2020/10/29/123-hansraj-jugal-new.jpg" /> <p>If masks have become inevitable after Covid-19, publishing has had to adopt another way for survival: the celebrity writer. And, Jugal Hansraj is the latest to join the bandwagon. The boy who has never quite grown up in the mind of the Hindi movie buff—to remain frozen in time as the good-looking boy with big green eyes, from <i>Masoom</i> (1982)—has written, befittingly, his book for children.</p> <p>There were more than a few rejections. “Tougher than writing is getting someone to like your work and publish it,” he says, over a Zoom chat—his eyes still the same—on a socially distanced holiday. Hansraj moved from Mumbai to the US a few years ago.</p> <p>Out next year, <i>The Coward and the Sword, </i>is not Hansraj’s first attempt at writing. In 2017, he wrote <i>Cross Connection: The Big Circus Adventure </i>for young children. “Since I was a child, I was a voracious reader. At about six or seven, I became a librarian in school so that I could read books. I think writing happens organically and it was a natural progression,” says Hansraj.</p> <p>His new book, however, is deeper—more reflective—a tale of true courage. Written after his son was born and inspired by a quote from Nichiren Buddhism, it is certainly more personal. “My son is almost three,” he says, “I am reading toddler books for him. I really hope he becomes a reader.”</p> <p>The book is about being brave and finding answers that lie within. “I took my time with it,” says Hansraj, “There were six months when I stopped writing because I didn’t know how to end it. I was stuck. So, I waited, and ruminated (over it).”</p> <p><i>The Coward and the Sword</i> will be published next year by HarperCollins India.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/10/29/one-more-for-little-ones.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/10/29/one-more-for-little-ones.html Thu Oct 29 14:15:43 IST 2020 catwalk-in-cloud <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/10/29/catwalk-in-cloud.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/2020/10/29/124-pero-lfw.jpg" /> <p>A short film called<i> Counter-intelligence</i> starts thus: “She was given the code name Mary and her task was to insert herself into the inner circle of Washington’s political set....” Shot with a rotating cast of glamorous secret agents dressed in parkas and polkas, the film is inspired from the book <i>Betrayal: The Secret Lives of Apartheid Spies</i>. But <i>Counter-intelligence </i>is not a screening at a documentary film festival. It was a digital showcase by South African designer Thebe Magugu at the Spring/Summer 2021 ready-to-wear segment of the Paris Fashion Week this year. In a series of close-circuit frames, models re-enacted the life stories of spies. Magugu conducted interviews with ex-spies who had either worked for the Apartheid government or had defected. The designer interwove fingerprints and the zig-zag lines of polygraph tests from these interviews into a collection devoid of cliches like trench coats and slogan T-shirts.</p> <p>It was a similar story at the Lakmé Fashion Week 2020 which concluded on October 25. Labels which really stood out told their stories through astute fashion films rather than recreating an FTV-grade broadcast with a line of models parading down the ramp. Sanjay Garg of Raw Mango made ‘Moomal’, a heartfelt, sepia-tinted homage to his native Rajasthan in a festive collection which saw models pirouette and play in traditional Marwari and Rajput clothes, including a mother’s tie-dye wedding <i>odhna, poshak</i>-inspired long blouses, kurtas with <i>choli</i> cuts and lehengas with <i>gota</i> work in bold colours. The film’s visual language distilled the languorous rhythms of sunlit havelis in Bikaner, Barmer and Shekhawati, complete with an original music score. His own sister played the bride in the campaign. Aneeth Arora of péro introduced a fluffy pink confection called ‘Locked in Love’, based on Kawai Japanese street style culture of Harajuku fashion.</p> <p>“Even though it is in a video format, one can easily see the movement, fluidity, silhouettes, textures and craftsmanship of the clothes. They are highlighted a lot more,” says UK-based designer Urvashi Kaur, who was part of a multi-designer showcase film on crafts like <i>ikat</i>, block prints, <i>jamdaani</i> and <i>khatwa</i>, alongside leading designers like Abraham &amp; Thakore, Payal Khandwala, Anavila and Suket Dhir. She showed an unpretentious, trans-seasonal collection of blazers, overlays, easy dresses, jackets, and comfortable separates which can be paired in multiple ways. Her segment in the film was shot in a stark, grungy backdrop with a more workroom aesthetic to emphasise the artisanal labour involved. “I was very curious to know how this would translate into real business. But I think post-Covid, consumer behaviour has shifted and everybody is comfortable shopping from home. I think there is a big future with this format,” says Kaur, who coordinated the shoot of her film, at Mumbai’s St Regis hotel, from the UK.</p> <p>The Business of Fashion and McKinsey &amp; Company’s The State of Fashion 2020 report projected the Indian clothing market to be worth $53.7 billion in 2020, making it the sixth largest globally. When the lockdown began, industry experts opined that the pandemic would set the clock back by a decade at least. But Sunil Sethi, chairman of the Fashion Design Council of India, senses a definite shift away from the days of fashion famine. “It is all coming back,” he says. “Festive and celebration season is in the air. People feel good about finally going out and looking good. The business will grow in the coming months. If retail picks up, it will be back at 80 to 90 per cent of sales for many people in the fashion industry.” The FDCI, within a month, organised two fashion shows this year—the digital India Couture Week 2020 and a “phygital” Lotus Make-up India Fashion Week (LMIFW) Spring/Summer 2021, which concluded on October 18. “We did not have a single show-stopper or celebrity,” says Sethi. “We only did pure fashion in 41 shows [at LMIFW]. We had 25,000 to 1,20,000 views within five days of the show. The direct stockroom sale had 50,000 consumers log in.”</p> <p>Jaspreet Chandok, head of lifestyle businesses at IMG Reliance, which organises the Lakme Fashion Week, also believes that sales are now improving and the industry is slowly getting back on its feet. “The digital architecture that we have created this time is not just restricted to streaming from websites or social media,” he says. “We wanted to go a step further. Our technology interface allows one to shop the look and make-up while the showcase is on. People can choose camera angles for the best possible view.”</p> <p>Even if one were to take these “success” stories around digital fashion weeks with a pinch of salt, there is no denying how it has offered a creative burst of opportunity for designers and models confined to their homes. “The new format is fun in so many ways. True, there is no high of a live audience, but you get a chance to re-do the faux pas in a shoot,” says Donna Masih, a Delhi-based model who showcased collections for multiple designers at FDCI’s shows. “It is also a lot more work. In live shows, we walk down the ramp once and it is over. Now, you really have to get the feel of the garment, understand the designer’s vision... and depict that in your body language. You could not cheat at a show earlier, but you definitely cannot cheat at shoot-formatted shows.”&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/10/29/catwalk-in-cloud.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/10/29/catwalk-in-cloud.html Thu Oct 29 16:24:28 IST 2020 hunger-for-life <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/10/29/hunger-for-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/2020/10/29/129-khan_kamal-new.jpg" /> <p>Kamal Khan, an actor of South Asian descent, was born in Germany and grew up in the UK. He speaks Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and Swahili fluently. He had a recurring guest role in Mike Flanagan’s <i>The Haunting of Bly Manor,</i> one of the top ten shows on Netflix currently. Khan has played the lead role of Tony in <i>West Side Story </i>and Romeo in the West End production of <i>Romeo and Juliet</i>. He has also produced a Bollywood music album, ‘Jazbaa’. He talks to THE WEEK about his various passions and how he balances them all.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Tell us about </b><i><b>The Haunting of Bly Manor</b></i><b> and your role in it.</b></p> <p><b>A/ </b>It is a gothic love story. Mike Flanagan adapted it from the book, <i>The Turn of the Screw, </i>by Henry James. I play an older version of one of the characters. I give a speech in the beginning that sets the stage for the story. There are elements of loss, too. [As I say in the show], “To truly love someone is to accept that the work of loving them is worth the pain of losing them.” It was also great to work with Mike. I love that he does not cast actors based on their descent or accent. It does not matter what colour you are.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Does that mean that being an actor of South Asian descent has caused you problems earlier?</b></p> <p><b>A/ </b>I have not seen it as a problem, but rather as an opportunity. You have to accept who you are. For me, what matters is bringing the characters to life, no matter whether they are American, English or Indian. So far, I have not really been typecast. I was the first South Asian to be cast as Romeo in the West End production. It is really about perseverance and following your passion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Would you like to work in Bollywood?</b></p> <p><b>A/ </b>Yes, definitely. One of my favourite actors is Aamir Khan. He does everything with a difference. I love his style, innovation.... I am also a fan of Yash Chopra and A.R. Rahman. I grew up listening to songs by Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar and started singing Rafi songs at the age of seven.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Other than modelling, acting and singing, you have also done voice-overs for games. You are currently working on an audiobook and writing a film script. Are you very experimental by nature?</b></p> <p><b>A/ </b>I am full of life. I don’t want to waste a single moment. Life offers so many opportunities, and I have got the energy [to explore them]. I only wish I did not have to sleep to survive (laughs). If you love something, you should follow your heart and pursue it. I always say that some people dream of great things, and others stay awake and do them.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/10/29/hunger-for-life.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2020/10/29/hunger-for-life.html Thu Oct 29 13:41:18 IST 2020