Leisure http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure.rss en Sun Mar 13 11:23:11 IST 2022 https://www.theweek.in/privacy-an-settlement.html can-kannada-cinema-replicate-the-success-of-kgf <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/16/can-kannada-cinema-replicate-the-success-of-kgf.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/2022/4/16/71-Yash-new.jpg" /> <p>Adialogue by Rocky bhai from the Yash-starrer, KGF Chapter 2— “Violence, violence, violence. I don’t like it. I avoid. But violence likes me. I can’t avoid”—has set the internet on fire, ahead of the film’s pan-India release on April 14. It will be released in five languages—Kannada, followed by dubbed versions in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam— across 6,000 screens in India. In KGF 1 (2018), a hugely successful Kannada period-action film, the underdog Rocky bhai, rises from poverty to rule the Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) after felling the villain Garuda (Ramachandra Raju). In the sequel, Rocky will fiercely defend his empire from the antagonist, Adheera (Sanjay Dutt), and the country’s prime minister, Ramika Sen (Raveena Tandon).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After the gargantuan success of KGF 1, which grossed more than Rs250 crore at the box office, there is great anticipation over the sequel. This time, the film has been made on a larger scale and is expected to break all records, including that of S.S. Rajamouli’s RRR, which touched the Rs1,000 crore mark at the worldwide box office. KGF 2’s official trailer crossed 109 million views within 24 hours.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film, helmed by Prashanth Neel and produced by Vijay Kiragandur under the banner of Hombale Films, is bound to remind one of Rajamouli’s Baahubali parts 1 and 2, starring Prabhas. The cult film made the audiences in the Hindi belt sit up and take notice of south Indian films, while ringing in big moolah at the box office.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>KGF is not a film but an emotion, said Yash. Like the rest of the KGF team, he said the film will once again turn the spotlight on Sandalwood. What started off as a Kannada film for the Kannada audience grew into a mammoth project. Yash attributes the success to Neel’s “vision”, while Neel credits Yash for dreaming big. “When I narrated the story of KGF 1 to Yash, he saw huge potential for it to become a pan-India movie. But I did not believe him, as I saw it as a film for the Kannada audience,” said Neel. The movie, starring debutant Srinidhi Shetty as the leading lady, was shot in Hyderabad, Kolar, Bengaluru and Kadapa. The immersive sets by art director Shivakumar J., compelling visuals by cinematographer Bhuvan Gowda and music by Ravi Basrur have brought the dark world of Rocky alive on the big screen, with a riveting, almost haunting, storyline.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While Bollywood still reigns, regional blockbusters like Baahubali (2015), KGF, Pushpa (2021) and RRR (2022) have redefined the rules of the game. The larger-than-life southern heroes and their gravity-defying stunts are now going beyond home borders into the Hindi belt. It seems that the northern landscape has slowly developed an appetite for southern “masala” films. During media interactions, Yash repeatedly asks people to stop looking at films in silos. “It is not to be seen as different ‘woods’, but as Indian cinema,” he said. “The audience has moved on. As a viewer, I do not care whether it is a Hindi, Tamil, or Telugu film. I believe we are all one industry and we should stop using these titles (Bollywood or Sandalwood).”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While Kannada actors like Anant Nag, Girish Karnad, Arjun Sarja, Prakash Raj, Prakash Belawadi and Kichcha Sudeepa have made a mark in other film industries, it was post KGF 1 that the Kannada industry started looking at pan-India movies. Puneeth Rajkumar’s last multi-language film, James, which released on March 17 became the second Kannada movie to gross Rs100 crore at the box office.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>KGF has no doubt provided a template for commercial success and has brought recognition to the Kannada film industry. But can the KGF success be replicated? “For decades, Kannada cinema has won many national awards for its content-oriented films. But KGF has helped us reach a larger non-Kannada audience. It is an epic that has set a benchmark for Kannada films aspiring to go bigger, both in terms of content and reach. But to make them a success nationally, it requires huge finances, big stars, ace craftsmanship and a sound marketing strategy,” said award-winning Kannada filmmaker P. Sheshadri. Sharing a similar sentiment, Kannada actor-producer-exhibitor Rockline Venkatesh said, “Yash was already a star in Kannada cinema when he embarked on this long and arduous journey. Prashanth’s directorial debut Ugramm, too, had made enough noise, and Vijay Kiragandur showed courage as a producer to go on this venture. But not every film can be KGF.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Kannada film industry is facing unique challenges. Despite being one of the highest film producers (200 to 250 films a year) in the country, if the industry has consciously avoided a larger canvas for itself, it is with reason. The stalwarts protected it by resisting the dubbing of films. They realised early on that dubbing or collaborations would open up the market but eventually shrink the space for native Kannada films. It would also promote star-centric big banner films from outside the state. Sandalwood has always looked at its films not as money spinners, but as an ecosystem that supports creativity, nativity and the livelihood of thousands of film workers. It was business with social responsibility.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The film industry here is closely bound to the Kannada language and culture. Legendary actors like Dr Rajkumar, Dr Vishnuvardhan and Ambareesh made huge sacrifices to build and retain the Kannada identity. Despite being mega stars, they gave up big remuneration to support Kannada films. They also resisted the lure of working in other film industries. The pan-Indian films are no doubt bringing the industry into the limelight. But it is the smaller films that provide bread and butter to local talent, be it actors, directors, producers or technicians,” said Venkatesh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to him, Kannada films have always struggled to find enough screens for theatre release and have had to compete with non-Kannada films (English, Telugu, Tamil, Hindi and Malayalam) for prime-time slots in multiplexes. Last month, the Basavaraj Bommai government announced that the annual film subsidy of Rs10 lakh would be extended from 125 to 200 Kannada films. While the government support can build volumes, it takes the mad passion and craftsmanship of KGF to break the barriers, and dream bigger.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/16/can-kannada-cinema-replicate-the-success-of-kgf.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/16/can-kannada-cinema-replicate-the-success-of-kgf.html Sun Apr 17 08:24:58 IST 2022 rock-on-rocky <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/16/rock-on-rocky.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/2022/4/16/73-Yash.jpg" /> <p>Yash, who? This is the question that had kept actor Sanjay Dutt from acting in KGF 1. (He plays the villain in the second part.) After the enormous success of the film, Yash has become a household name. If you don’t know him, that reflects more on you than on him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like his KGF character Rocky, Yash, too, has a rags-to-riches story. Born to a bus driver and a homemaker, Naveen Kumar Gowda alias Yash had nothing to recommend him, save for his chiselled looks and acting chops. Yash and his younger sister, Nandini, spent their childhood in Mysuru. After completing his PU course from Mahajana Education Society, Yash came to Bengaluru to pursue acting. He joined Benaka, a theatre group founded by noted dramatist B.V. Karanth. Soon, opportunity came calling. He was picked for the Kannada television soap, Nanda Gokula (2004), where he met his future wife, Radhika Pandit.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He debuted in films with Jambada Hudugi (2007), but it was his second film, Moggina Manasu (2008), that brought him recognition. It got him the Filmfare award for best supporting actor. His first commercial solo hit was Modalasala (2010).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2012, after a couple of average grossers, Drama—a romantic comedy directed by Yograj Bhat—was a super hit and earned him his first Filmfare award for best actor. Googly (2013), Raja Huli (2013) and Gajakesari (2014) cemented his stardom. His next flicks—Masterpiece (2015) and Santu Straight Forward (2016)—were commercial hits, too. Yash the superstar had arrived. Yash and Radhika got married in 2016 and have two children—daughter Ayra and son Yatharv.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not just on celluloid that Yash has made a mark. His involvement in the rejuvenation of Tallur tank that provides drinking water to 20 villages in the drought-hit Koppal district has won him many hearts. He also ensured the supply of free drinking water to drought-hit villages in Kalaburagi and Vijayapura districts through his NGO, Yasho Marga Foundation (YMF).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yash has had his share of controversies, too. In January 2019, Yash’s name figured on the list of Kannada film stars and producers whose residences were raided by the income tax department for “suppression of income from the sale of audio, digital and satellite rights and unaccounted cash receipts from distributors”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yash’s hard work and involvement in every facet of film-making—from script writing, directing and acting to hunting for new markets and larger audiences— sets him apart as a fine actor and entertainer, say colleagues. He has won several prestigious awards including the Dadasaheb Phalke Award South (outstanding performance of the year) and Filmfare Awards South (best actor—Kannada) for KGF 1.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, one might not recognise the small-town boy who perhaps learnt to dream while riding a rented bicycle in his hometown. The world is now his canvas.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/16/rock-on-rocky.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/16/rock-on-rocky.html Sun Apr 17 08:24:04 IST 2022 choosing-the-right-laptop <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/16/choosing-the-right-laptop.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/2022/4/16/75-Machine-code.jpg" /> <p>Computers come in many shapes and sizes. I am not talking about the ones in your pockets or on wrists, but those that you usually refer to as computers—laptops, desktops and two-in-one convertibles. Choosing between a laptop and a desktop is often a straightforward decision because they serve specific purposes. Laptops and convertibles, however, are a lot similar in their forms and functions, and choosing either is often a lifestyle decision.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Clearly, people buy computers as per their requirements. These include power, portability, display quality and storage. Gamers, for instance, need powerful computers with excellent cooling systems. Content creators need powerful computers with big storage and good displays. A writer, on the other hand, might need only limited power but would like long battery life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is, however, a lot more than the ‘intended tasks’ that computers do these days, owing to the deeper integration of our lives with the digital world. For instance, a person who uses a computer mainly for word processing might occasionally want to edit a small video for social media. This might require slightly more computing power. Or someone who uses a computer mainly for working on spreadsheets might be using the same machine to watch Netflix; a better display would give a better viewing experience.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That is why it makes sense to look beyond the primary requirements while choosing a computer. But you need to strike a balance here because a better computer almost always means a more expensive one. The thumb rule is, always go for the latest processors, as they tend to improve in performance and efficiency with every new generation. Some extra memory (RAM) will always come in handy; if not today, tomorrow. Choose SSD over HDD; it can make a dramatic difference in performance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>More than a dozen companies (the prominent ones; there are many more not-so-prominent ones as well) make Windows computers. That is hundreds of models in various configurations and at different price points. Rather than going for a price bracket, select a few models that meet your requirements and choose the one closest to your target price.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Buying a Mac is a lot easier. Macbook Air is good enough for most people and you can select the storage depending on your requirement and budget. Though they are more expensive than most Windows machines, the price difference is negligible against comparable ones.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/16/choosing-the-right-laptop.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/16/choosing-the-right-laptop.html Sat Apr 16 12:09:46 IST 2022 india-art-fair-is-not-all-about-expensive-art-this-time-iaf-director-jaya-asokan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/16/india-art-fair-is-not-all-about-expensive-art-this-time-iaf-director-jaya-asokan.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/2022/4/16/76-Jaya-Asokan-new.jpg" /> <p>The 13th edition of India Art Fair (April 28 to May 1), one of the largest art fairs in South Asia, is special this year as it returns to <i>terra firma</i> after two years of the pandemic. But there are several reasons to cheer as the IAF now turns the spotlight on younger artists hit by the pandemic, seeks new collectors, digs deeper into smaller cities to find art and ropes in art foundations working at the grassroots. Helmed by Jaya Asokan<b> </b>for the first time since her appointment in April 2021, the IAF this year seeks to give audiences an opportunity to engage with the cultural landscape of India and the region at large. Edited excerpts from an interview with Asokan.<br> <br> <b><br> The</b> <b>India Art Fair is set to return to the physical format after a gap of two years. How excited or nervous are you?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I think the whole team has worked really hard to make this a celebration of Indian and South Asian art. And this time, in particular, we actually started doing active programming for five months before the fair, which we never do. We have had studio visits, online symposiums for younger artists, and many other things to build momentum for the fair this year.<br> <br> <b><br> The art world has had to adapt quickly when it comes to online access. How has the IAF evolved over the last two years in terms of business and organisational changes, and hard decisions you might have had to take?</b><br> <br> It was not so much about hard decisions as much as to pause, reset, and re-evaluate how we wanted to, or I personally wanted to, shape the fair going forward and what we needed to do to be current. So, I think the digital strategy where it applies to auction houses and galleries applied to us as well. Because I realised that it was a great time to start going online with our programming. We have the benefit of having a large and diverse demographic of an audience and we found ways of programming which engage with different sections of our audience. And I think the pivot for us was not to say that we went completely online, but to holistically look at the fair as being a 365-day affair instead of just a four-day event. And this edition is the culmination.<br> <b><br> </b><br> </p> <p><b>The IAF is such an experience-driven event and we have started using this phrase, “post pandemic”. How do you expect the audience engagement or expectation to change, now that they have come back to the fair?</b><br> <br> There is a big focus on the younger generation of artists in this edition of the fair. They have been hit quite hard by the pandemic, as you would imagine, because they were at a nascent stage in their career. So, it was very tough for them compared with the established artists who did very well and sold in the last two years. We can assure the people coming to the fair that it is not all about, say, expensive art. We have different price points and different benchmarks. We also have a series of workshops just for the visiting public if they want to engage with the arts in any way. We have the auditorium talks which address a lot of what has been born of the pandemic, whether it is NFTs or anything else in the last two years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How are you planning to make space for the advent of NFT and digital art pieces? They are making a lot of money internationally, but several art-watchers and artists themselves are not very impressed. </b><br> <br> <br> I think that NFTs have just expanded the discussion and the market for digital art and artists, which is continuing to grow. We are not going to sit here as a jury or judge its viability. Whether it is a bubble or not is not something that we necessarily want to speculate on. It is part of the conversation today. So, what we are doing is just giving them a platform to be part of the conversation, because they are now. But I agree that the prices have been quite something, including for Indian artists.</p> <p><br> <b>Is this edition a sort of leaner and meaner version of previous IAFs? Are there fewer exhibitors or collectors taking part compared with previous editions?</b><br> <br> From an exhibitor standpoint? No. In terms of international galleries, of course, there are fewer, because India just opened its borders and relaxed travel restrictions on March 30. And we plan six months in advance. So I would say that from the international collector and exhibitor perspective, there has definitely been an impact. But we look at it as a positive. It has really forced us to look inward. So, even from a collector's perspective, we have been travelling to south India, for example, because we feel that there are so many cities, tier II included, that have such an audience for art who do not come to the fair. So we have been focusing our efforts on that.</p> <p><br> <u><b>Five must-see artists participating in the IAF for the first time</b></u></p> <p>1.<u><a href="https://galerieisa.com/artist/haroun-hayward/">Haroun Hayward</a></u>, Galerie ISA,<br> Working with a unique abstract language, he will be showing panel works inspired by textiles, electronic music and Indian miniatures<br> <br> 2.<u><a href="https://www.galeriems.com/artists/shreya-pate">Shreya Pate</a></u>, Galerie Mirchandani+ Steinruecke<br> She will be showcasing architecturally inspired works cast in concrete and exploring everyday spaces and objects<br> <br> 3.<u><a href="https://www.shrineempiregallery.com/artist/divya-singh/">Divya Singh</a></u>, Shrine Empire<br> She will be showing psychologically charged, emotional and haunting paintings which ruminate on the pandemic and more, with views of domestic spaces that could almost be photographs.<br> <br> 4.<u><a href="https://www.stephencoxra.com/india">Stephen Cox</a></u>, Apparao Galleries<br> The British sculptor makes large stone monolith-like pieces, mixing Italian, Egyptian and Indian traditions.</p> <p>5.Anshuka Mahapatra</p> <p>Through an open call led in collaboration with The Gujral Foundation and Artdemic, the 25-year-old artist, currently an MFA student at the Sarojini Naidu School of Art at the University of Hyderabad, was selected to design the tent façade, perhaps the largest canvas at the 2022 fair.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/16/india-art-fair-is-not-all-about-expensive-art-this-time-iaf-director-jaya-asokan.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/16/india-art-fair-is-not-all-about-expensive-art-this-time-iaf-director-jaya-asokan.html Sun Apr 17 08:22:02 IST 2022 raveena-tandon-comeback-star-now-plays-prime-minister-in-kgf-chapter-2 <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/16/raveena-tandon-comeback-star-now-plays-prime-minister-in-kgf-chapter-2.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/2022/4/16/78-Raveena-Tandon.jpg" /> <p>Raveena Tandon, the fiery, sexy and chiseled-nose actor from the 1990s whose steamy song—‘Tip, tip barsa paani’—set the screen on fire, completed 30 years in Bollywood last year. Tandon said she loathes the term ‘Bollywood’. “We are quite done with it. I don’t recognise Bollywood as the way the media coins the term. For me, it is no longer Mumbai-centric. Rather, a pan-India integrated Hindi film industry, and in that sense a lot has changed over the years,” said Tandon to THE WEEK two days before the release of KGF 2, which has Yash playing the lead role as Rocky bhai. The film also features Tandon and Srinidhi Shetty in crucial roles. Based on Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) and the notorious gold mafia, the film will have Tandon essaying the role of prime minister Ramika Sen—the politician who orders Rocky’s execution, a role she was not sure of until the last minute, and especially since her role in part one did not materialise. “It was a wait and watch situation… I wanted to see how the character develops as the role had to be substantial. Given the kind of success that part one generated, I knew I had to do part two.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>KGF 2 is significant for two reasons: one, it is Tandon’s second Kannada film after Upendra (1999), and two, it marks her first big-screen outing after her 2017 release, Shab.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an ever-changing industry—known to be unforgivingly punishing to female actors once they cross their prime—Tandon held her own. After revelling in the limelight for over a decade and delivering some of the biggest hits back to back—Mohra, Andaz Apna Apna, Dulhe Raja, Laadla, Dilwale, Bade Miyan Chote Miyan—Tandon decided to step back and enjoy her married life with businessman husband Anil Thadani. She has four children, including two adopted daughters.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There was a time when Tandon was busy doing 30 films back to back, with six films a day. And then there were hiatuses followed by intermittent comebacks. Did she not fear falling behind in the race? There is a long pause. She is perturbed by the question and one can sense anger. “No, I don’t think so. Do you think?” she said, “Looking back, I was doing what I wanted to do at each stage of my life. I’m very content. In the 1990s I was in the race, but today I am very happy the way things have panned out because I don’t know what more I would want than being associated with Aranyak and KGF. I don’t know what else is a career-defining moment for anyone [than this] with such an extensive body of work.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aranyak (2021) was Tandon’s OTT debut. The eight-episode thriller—an engrossing whodunit from the Sippy stable—spelled karmic serendipity for the actor. Back in 1991, her first film Patthar Ke Phool was with Sippy Films.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aranyak became a significant turning point in Tandon’s career as it was the canvas she needed to prove her mettle as a character-actor. In the character of a police officer whose methods of investigation are old-school but effective, Tandon essayed one of her “most challenging” roles as Kasturi Dogra, thereby shedding off the haughtiness associated with stars. Yet, Aranyak was more of a fluke than a planned undertaking. “It was a gamble because a lot of shows that came to me earlier, and to which I said no, were successful. And I was like, I hope I don’t regret this decision of not saying yes to them and going with Aranyak.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The number of projects have now come down for Tandon, but it has also helped her focus. “I believe in quality. I would rather wait it out and do one film at a time, because I have been there—doing 30 films at one go. Now, I feel lucky and blessed that I can sit back and choose.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tandon is ready to experiment like never before. “I want to do some fun comedy now. And I really wish I also get the opportunity to work on a big budget period drama film of the Sanjay Leela Bhansali-type,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tandon said she had started getting bored of doing the same run-of-the-mill kind of films and stories. “I wanted something different in which I could add and incorporate a few things in the character. And I intentionally started to make the shift. For me, the character I am playing and the director are two of the most important things,” said Tandon. She won the national award way back in 2001 for Daman—a film on marital violence. Over the years, Tandon has gone from mini-skirt strutting girlfriend to a demure Bihari housewife, from a high-society brat to a robust cop, among others. And as she awaits, Tandon continues to be a doting mother to her four children—daughter Rasha, son Ranbir, and her two adopted children—Pooja and Chhaya.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/16/raveena-tandon-comeback-star-now-plays-prime-minister-in-kgf-chapter-2.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/16/raveena-tandon-comeback-star-now-plays-prime-minister-in-kgf-chapter-2.html Sun Apr 17 08:15:30 IST 2022 art-on-the-moon <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/07/art-on-the-moon.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/2022/4/7/63-Sacha-Jafri-new.jpg" /> <p>The first space art object on the moon has never really been verified. Yet, there have always been murmurs of the Moon Museum. It was apparently smuggled into the Apollo 12 lunar lander by a mysterious NASA engineer, “John F”, four months after Neil Armstrong landed on the moon in July 1969. The Moon Museum was a chip-sized “ceramic wafer” (or a tile) which had engravings by six leading lights of the Soho art scene from 1960s New York. One of them was Andy Warhol. His “stylish signature” on the chip bears a close resemblance to a penis. So, the famous American artist may have sent the first “dick pic” to the moon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>NASA does not recognise the Moon Museum. But 50 years after its last mission to the moon, it has officially commissioned British contemporary artist Sacha Jafri to create an everlasting canvas of sorts. ‘We Rise Together—with the Light of the Moon’ has a heart motif engraved onto a specially designed plate depicting a man and woman embracing each other.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“To withstand the conditions of the moon is a big deal. You have got to deal with radiation, gravitational pull, erosion through moon debris, meteorites, and the big issue that the moon is 123 degrees Celsius during the day, and it gets to -200 degrees Celsius at night,” says Jafri from Dubai in a Zoom conversation with THE WEEK. “Few things can withstand these conditions. The only way NASA can validate it as an official artwork being placed on the lunar surface is if it can last a thousand years, and if they could prove that, then it becomes eternity with regards to science. So, the canvas is made of a very special space alloy, similar to (alloys used to make) the nose cone of a rocket.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Why do we make art? What is an artist’s role in society? How can art change the world? How does it even fulfil the needs of a society? These are questions that Jafri, 46, has been deftly negotiating as an artist-philanthropist. It is not without reason that he has been chosen as the artist to place ‘The First Official Artwork on the Moon’. “Connecting with humanity” is a phrase Jafri often bookends his sentences with; it is the headline message for all his big-banner commissions. And pretty much all of them have an association with global blockbuster names.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The collectors of his work include a veritable hall of fame—from Hollywood A-listers like Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney, Will Smith and Eva Longoria to sporting icons like David Beckham, Virat Kohli and Rafael Nadal; from the British royal family to the Maharaja of Jaipur; from Sir Paul McCartney to Bill Gates, Madonna and Oprah Winfrey. Press statements say that Jafri has raised more than $140 million for charities across the world from the sale of his art.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jafri was not much heard of in auction circuits before he sold “the largest art canvas in the world” last year—a 17,000-square-foot work called ‘Journey of Humanity’—which was created over seven months during the lockdown in the ballroom of Dubai’s Atlantis, The Palm. It was bought as a whole by a French cryptocurrency businessman for twice the base price at an auction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The sale of the ‘Journey of Humanity’ at $62 million came right on the heels of graphic design artist Beeple’s NFT (non-fungible token) going for $69.3 million. And suddenly, Jafri’s journey became aligned with that of the highest selling artists in the world, with “the fourth highest auction price ever paid for a work of art by a living artist”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jafri is also planning to create a charitable NFT series for his moon artwork. They will be on four issues—education, health, sustainability and equality—and will be released simultaneously to honour crucial stages of the NASA mission, beginning with the rocket reaching the stratosphere. But surprisingly, Jafri does not think NFTs in the art world are here to stay. “Our future is not technology. Our future is human. NFTs are absolutely rubbish,” says Jafri. “I can say this very comfortably that within three years, 98 per cent of all NFTs will be worth zero, they won’t be worth $1,000, they won’t be worth $500, they’ll be worth zero. Because it is a Ponzi scheme, it should not even be legal.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But he knows how to give the devil his due. Last year, Jafri sold an NFT artwork titled ‘On the Wings of an Angel’ for $1 million in less than a minute at the amfAR’s annual Cannes Gala. “So, 2 per cent of the NFTs are meaningful projects with value,” says Jafri. “There is an opportunity here to change the model of the charity world. You can raise a huge amount of money through NFTs for real charitable projects.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He has now collaborated with UNESCO for a special exhibition called ‘The Art Maze’ featuring 30 of his original oil and acrylic works on heritage sites, as part of the 50th anniversary of UNESCO’S World Heritage Convention. After the Dubai launch, it will travel to all the continents through 2023. And if it were possible, Jafri hopes to plonk his artwork in front of the Taj Mahal in India as part of this roadshow.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I feel very British because I am a British-educated boy. I went to Eton and Oxford. One of my best friends from school is Prince William. But my heart is very much in India. Whenever I go to Delhi or Mumbai or Rajasthan or Jaipur, something happens to my heart. Something happens to my soul,” says Jafri, who identifies as quarter English, quarter French, and half Indian. Jafri’s father’s family is Indian. His grandfather, Fareed S. Jafri, was a journalist and diplomat whose final posting was in the UK where his father was born and went on to marry an English woman who was part-French.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But what explains this drive to serve humanity with his art? “I think it all began when I went on this five-year journey to visit 42 refugee camps around the world in 2004. I spent a lot of time with the kids. I created paintings with them. And then we sold a collection of 12 paintings at an auction and raised $12 million, which was a lot of money at that time. This money went to the kids. And when I revisited them three years later, I saw the difference. And that changed my life.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Back in 2009, he said he wanted to be remembered like Van Gogh and create art which will last through the ages. “I am nowhere near what Vincent Van Gogh is in this world,” says Jafri. “Sadly, in the name of post-modernism, we have thrust a lot of nonsense upon ourselves. Big names like Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Anish Kapoor might be remembered for another 50 years. If they are lucky, then 100 years. Van Gogh will be for a thousand years.” For now, he is definitely hoping to stick around on the moon for a thousand years.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/07/art-on-the-moon.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/07/art-on-the-moon.html Thu Apr 07 16:45:12 IST 2022 i-think-of-mujib-as-a-shakespearean-hero <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/07/i-think-of-mujib-as-a-shakespearean-hero.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/2022/4/7/66-Shyam-Benegal.jpg" /> <p>It has been 12 years since Shyam Benegal made a movie. His last was Well Done Abba (2010)—a political satire on the water crisis in a village. Now, at 87, he is helming Mujib: The Making of a Nation, a biopic on Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first president of Bangladesh and later its prime minister. Rahman was assassinated with most of his family in 1975; only two members of the family survived—daughters Sheikh Hasina, the present prime minister of Bangladesh, and Sheikh Rehana as they were both in Europe then.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What kept the ace director and champion of Indian parallel cinema busy for more than a decade? A number of things, he says, including a TV show and membership of committees and boards and the chairmanship of the Film and Television Institute of India, all of which he has now pulled out of to concentrate on filmmaking because “when one doesn’t have too much time left, one must do what one enjoys”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After a brief pause, he cheekily adds, “I was just not getting enough work. Basically, that was the truth. People don’t necessarily choose to be out of the public eye.” He smiles warmly as he looks at his core team that is seated on the opposite table inside the office of the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), which has collaborated with him on the project.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Benegal carries with him an enviable zest and passion that belies his age. At the poster launch of Mujib, he remains seated on a chair for over an hour and a half, answering back-to-back questions until at one point after an interview he politely asks for a cup of masala chai. He turns down a plateful of “healthy” snacks, requesting instead for “spicy, masaledaar samosas”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Known for classics such as Ankur (1974), Nishant (1975), Manthan (1976) and Bhumika (1977), Benegal has won several awards, national and international. His deep understanding of history and ability to dabble in diverse cinematic genres, including documentaries and biopics like the one on Mahatma Gandhi and Subhas Chandra Bose, with elan is evident in his body of work. Yet, by far, he says, Mujib remains one of his ambitious projects.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film’s live location shoot took place in Bangladesh, whereas on-set shoots happened in Delhi. The film’s cast is entirely from Bangladesh—Arifin Shuvo plays the title role, Nusrat Imrose Tisha plays the role of Rahman’s wife Sheikh Fazilatunnesa and Nusraat Faria Mazhar plays Rahman’s daughter Sheikh Hasina. “Behind the camera it is us, in front of the camera it is them,” says Benegal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rahman was no stranger to Benegal though. “I have a whole library of books about him in my office, most of it in Bengali, of course,” he says. “Among other things, one of the aspects about Mujib that impressed me were his oratorial skills, and in the film I have tried to recreate them in the exact manner as they were delivered.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ask him if he revisits any of his films and he replies with an emphatic “never”. “Films have the misfortune of becoming dated very quickly,” he says. “I can’t bear to see my own.”</p> <p>Excerpts from an interview:</p> <p><b>Q\ Do you think history has been A\ kind to Mujibur Rahman?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>History has not been unkind to him because he has been recognised for what he has done. But what was unkind to him was the fact that his life was cut short. There is no political figure who is not controversial because if a person who occupies a public chair is non-controversial then he or she is not worth thinking of. And, I don’t think they would have achieved anything either if they had remained non-controversial.</p> <p><b>Q\ Did you have to edit certain parts of his life from the film?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ No, I never did that. We were never asked to leave out any controversial parts or delete or cut any scenes. There was no kind of taboo. I was free to make the kind of film that I wanted.</p> <p><b>Q\What is your own understanding of the man?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ I think he was undoubtedly a statesman who was an exceptionally good orator. We have recreated two of his most famous public speeches that commanded large audiences. Those are also the highlights of the film. Personally, when I think of Sheikh Mujib, I always think of one of the Shakespearean heroes. To me, he was nothing less than that. There is a saying of his—’My greatest strength is that I love my people and my greatest weakness is that I love them too much.’ He has created a nation and that is his biggest contribution to history; nothing more is needed. That is good enough. Largely what we learnt came from the research done by my writers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Why did you choose Bangladeshi actors for the film? Did Shuvo do justice to the character?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ Even before he acted in my film, Shuvo used to re-enact Mujib’s speeches in Dhaka as public performances. I knew him, but I wanted to find out if he would be right for the role. He stood out in the auditions. We had auditioned a large number of people for the role. Shuvo is slightly taller than Sheikh Mujib, but I noticed the passion with which he wanted to do the role; he seemed so keen. He came to my hotel room in Kolkata where we were doing the auditions and said ‘I don’t know whether you will take me or not but this is one role I have to really do.’</p> <p><b>Q\ Last year marked 50 years of the 1971 war. Was the film initially slotted for that?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ Yes. It was meant to be ready then. But three things came in the way—floods, a dreadful locust swarm and the pandemic.</p> <p><b>Q\ Does your film treat Rahman with undue reverence?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ It is a human story. It takes the side of humanity. For me, the most important thing was the discovery of the man himself and all that he had achieved in his life before it was cut short by the assassination. He was only 55. There are two things when you are making a historical film about a person—what the impact of history has been on that person and how he, in turn, impacts history.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mujib fought for democratic values and principles. I have only tried to be as objective as possible. There was no reason to bring in my subjectivity into the picture, also because there was an element of empathy with the subject. This is not a confrontational or a controversial film. It is a balanced portrait. I remember when he was told that there could be attempts to kill him, he said, “Now what? Should I fear my own people?” It was this trusting nature of his and his undying love for his people that also became his tragic flaw.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/07/i-think-of-mujib-as-a-shakespearean-hero.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/07/i-think-of-mujib-as-a-shakespearean-hero.html Thu Apr 07 16:39:35 IST 2022 bicycle-kick <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/07/bicycle-kick.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/2022/4/7/68-Lt-Gen-Puri-new.jpg" /> <p>If regulations had allowed it, there would have been a signboard that said Flag Cycles, along with Flag Cars, in the parking lots of military stations where Lieutenant General Anil Puri has served.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On Wednesdays, when the Army allows the personnel in its headquarters to wear civvies, one may spot a smart gentleman, greying slightly over the ears, quietly parking his bicycle, walking up the front steps and returning salutes from the officers around. That would be the 59-year-old Puri, who pedalled the 90-hour, 1200km Paris-Brest-Paris circuit—France’s oldest cycling event—in 2019.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The three-star general is so passionate about cycling that his bicycles have clocked more kilometres than his car. The odometer of his 10-year-old car reads 25,000km; the odometer of his bicycles read 68,000km—around 1.7 times the circumference of the earth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There may be many Indians who think that all roads lead to Delhi. For Puri, all roads lead out of Delhi. He has pedalled at least 1,000km in all directions out of Delhi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“When I joined the Army, I played high-endurance sports like hockey, football and basketball,” he said. “These sports are close to the troops. But, as I got older I looked for a sport which is lighter on the body, yet would give me the results of high-endurance sports. I chose cycling.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At 50, when he rediscovered cycling, he gifted himself a cycle—“a Firefox which cost Rs14,000”. He started on short solo rides, until he met a group of cyclists who were doing a 200km ride. Undaunted by his rank, they knocked a sense of civilian discipline into the brass hat. They said: “Sir, you aren’t wearing a helmet.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Puri decided to join them and attempt his first 100km ride. “I practised for many days,” he said. “Then, on a Sunday I started with them an hour before sunrise, towards Nuh and Pataudi in Haryana. It took the whole day. We had punctures, cramps. But we learnt many lessons.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Since then, neither Puri nor the cycling group, the SpinLifers, has looked back. How can they? Their bicycles do not have rear-view mirrors. “With them, I started riding 200km, 400km, 600km, 1,000km, and even 1,200km,” he said, adding that with them, every occasion is “one for a ride”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His wife and children, too, have been bitten by the pedal bug. On weekends, the family can often be spotted on the roads leading out of Delhi. “For all personal work within a 5km radius, I take my bicycle,” said Puri, adding that the bicycle takes you closer to nature and to the human world around you.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It lets you count every stone, read every signboard,” said Puri, as he cut the cake on his 59th birthday. He had blown out the candle with a cycle pump amid applause from fellow cyclists. “It has taught me to be minimalistic. We take only what we can easily carry on a cycle.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Next year, on his 60th birthday, Puri wants to cycle the Paris-Brest-Paris with his daughter.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/07/bicycle-kick.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/07/bicycle-kick.html Sun Apr 10 10:31:34 IST 2022 crown-prince-of-jazz <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/07/crown-prince-of-jazz.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/2022/4/7/70-Jon-Batiste.jpg" /> <p>The death of his German Shepherd when he was nine years old is one of the formative memories of Jon Batiste—the music director of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert—who won five Grammys this year. The dog was run over by a car before they could even name it. He said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that the incident played a significant role in developing his empathy. “I was crushed,” he said. “My connection with dogs was over. For a long time, I did not want that bond to happen again.” But empathy is a funny emotion that way, difficult to contain, almost untameable.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Batiste soon got his back in a near-idyllic childhood in New Orleans, where many of his relatives were musical heavyweights, including free-jazz saxophonist Alvin Batiste and the drummer of the Meters, Russell Batiste. His childhood was as aromatic as the magnolia petals on his front lawn. He remembers playing video games with his cousins and forming a junior family band at age 10 called ‘The Batiste Kids’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Since then, he has come a long way. Today, he is the music director of The Atlantic and the creative director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. His score for Pixar’s Soul (2020) won him an Oscar and a Golden Globe. Still, his latest album, We Are, which won the Grammy this year for the best album, is not about who he is, but his journey of becoming that person.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Much of his childhood makes its way into the album, particularly in the song ‘Boy hood’, with P.J. Morton and Trombone Shorty. “Home is where the heart stay/ Where the Pelicans and the Saints play,” he sings. “When pop pop wouldn’t give me ends/ Grandma was a ATM/ Buying bubble gum and M&amp;Ms.” Although Batiste is mainly known as a jazz musician (he studied at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York), the album blends genres, from the piano ballads of ‘Movement 11’ to the political overtones of ‘Cry’ to the funk soul of ‘Tell the Truth’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“’Tell the Truth’ is so powerful in the sense of it being a mandate from my parents—my dad in particular—when I left New Orleans for New York,” he has said about the song. “It is the mandate that I would give to everybody in a position of power. The things that we march about, we just want transparency. Everybody wants to know what’s what and not be manipulated.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>More than anything, We Are is the story of an artist coming into his own, slaking the thirst of his soul with a musical repertoire that is more for himself than for anyone else. This penchant for positivity suffuses the title track, ‘We Are’, as well. “Joy, he won’t let it go/ Joy that he doesn’t know/ What he doesn’t know/ We are the golden ones/ We are the chosen ones,” he sings in the track.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a rousing anthem for humanity in a time of turmoil and uncertainty. As Colbert told The New York Times, “In the present darkness that constitutes so much of the national conversation, Jon, by his example and his spirit, gives me hope I might do my job and maintain my own humanity.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Recently, Batiste even got his dog bond back when he and his partner, Suleika Jaouad, bought a blind hound Labrador mix called Loulou, symbolising not a return of his empathy, but a culmination of everything that empathy has done for his music.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/07/crown-prince-of-jazz.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/07/crown-prince-of-jazz.html Thu Apr 07 16:44:03 IST 2022 puzzle-chase <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/07/puzzle-chase.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/2022/4/7/71-Liberty-After-Freedom-new.jpg" /> <p>One of the shortest articles in the Constitution has had the maximum juridical impact—Article 21. It captured popular imagination after the Supreme Court ruled that the right to privacy is intrinsic to the right to life and liberty.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As lawyer Rohan J. Alva explores in his book—Liberty After Freedom: A History of Article 21, Due Process and the Constitution of India—the backstory of the article is marked by several twists and turns, shrouded in mystery and marred by the intriguing disavowal of the ‘due process’ guarantee. What makes Alva’s book special is its attempt to answer the question that has puzzled both legal experts and students of law, as to why the drafters of the Constitution gave up the ‘due process’ guarantee in the context of exceptions to be made to the right to personal liberty, and their decision to opt for the much more supine phrase, ‘except according to procedure established by law’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book delves into the sequence of events starting from the initial discussions of the constituent assembly in December 1947 when the ‘due process’ guarantee was given utmost importance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Alva, it appears that the drastic change in the formulation of the right was an act of impulsive spontaneity unsupported by strong reasons. On the basis of the debates that followed as the constituent assembly took up the draft Constitution, Alva writes there was an odd change in B.R. Ambedkar’s stance on the ‘due process’ guarantee, from being the person who first introduced the concept to the assembly to moving to a position where he would not weigh in on the debates on it in any substantial measure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book tries to answer this and other unanswered questions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Liberty After Freedom: A History of Article 21, Due Process and the Constitution of India</b></p> <p><i>By</i> <b>Rohan J. Alva</b></p> <p><i>Published by</i> <b>HarperCollins</b></p> <p><i>Price</i> <b>Rs599</b>; <i>Pages</i> <b>289</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/07/puzzle-chase.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/07/puzzle-chase.html Thu Apr 07 16:42:57 IST 2022 time-to-play <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/07/time-to-play.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2022/4/7/71-Time-to-play-new.jpg" /> <p>It is common for watch brands to associate with mega sporting events by providing timekeeping expertise. The latest one that’s set to come into the spotlight is Longines, which is the official partner and timekeeper of the upcoming Commonwealth Games, to be held from July 28 to August 8, 2022, in Birmingham, United Kingdom.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was first in 1962 that Longines joined hands with the Commonwealth Games, and more recently, in every edition starting 2014 (going up till the future 2030 Games), Longines has been the event’s official partner and timekeeper. To commemorate the 2022 edition, the Swiss watchmaker recently unveiled the Hydroconquest XXII Commonwealth Games, a diving watch with a water resistance of 300 metres. A definitive sports watch albeit with a dressy edge, the 41mm piece features a sunray black dial with a date window at 3 o’clock. The colours of the Commonwealth Games logo—a spectrum of yellows, greens, and blues—make their presence felt on the unidirectional diving scale on the ceramic bezel, as well as on the minute track. Its hour makers and hands are filled with Super-LumiNova, and the watch has a screw-down crown and caseback. It is flanked by a stainless steel bracelet with a double security folding clasp with an integrated diving extension.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The automatic watch is driven by the self-winding movement Calibre L888.5, which has a silicon balance-spring to ensure high-precision and lesser wear and tear; it also provides the watch a 72-hours power reserve. Finally, to drive home the significance of the milestone, the caseback is engraved with the ‘Birmingham 2022’ logo, and the edition number of the timepiece. The watch is limited to 2,022 pieces.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/07/time-to-play.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/07/time-to-play.html Thu Apr 07 16:08:18 IST 2022 bollywood-is-run-by-immature-ones-vivek-agnihotri <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/02/bollywood-is-run-by-immature-ones-vivek-agnihotri.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/2022/4/2/63-Vivek-Agnihotri-new.jpg" /> <p>In Vivek Agnihotri’s The Kashmir Files, which trains its lens firmly on the barbarities meted out to Kashmiri Pandits in the valley, a 20-something student Krishna Pandit (played by Darshan Kumar) who studies at an elite Delhi university, stands confused as he sets out on the search for truth in the face of competing ideologies. On the one hand, there is his Kashmiri Hindu identity and on the other is the “leftist propaganda” that portrays Kashmiri Pandits as oppressors. In his protagonist’s transformation—from Arjun, the seeker of truth, to Krishna, the all-knowing—Agnihotri sees himself.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I am Krishna Pandit,” says the filmmaker in an interview with THE WEEK, at a time when his film has already grossed Rs200 crore at the box office.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Although the director has no familial connection to Kashmir valley, the film is personal for him in many ways. Krishna’s mother is named Sharda, after Agnihotri’s mother. Also, the death of Anupam Kher’s character in the film reminded him of the time when his father died in 2008—while shooting the scene he broke down and wailed his heart out.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ever since its release, the film has stirred the masses and set social media on fire. It has been called out for being a “lie” spreading “islamophobia” and for leaving out the “other side of the story”. But Agnihotri remains unfazed. “The problem is that the media is only highlighting the voices of those who are objecting to the film,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dressed in all black and seated inside a suburban studio, Agnihotri comes across as feisty, yet, calm. He is wearing close to half a dozen bracelets on his wrist—something that has been his trademark for many years now. “Each ring symbolises a religion: Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism and more,” he says. And then after a brief pause, adds, “It has nothing to do with The Kashmir Files. Perhaps, I was born with these.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Excerpts from the interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Did you anticipate this kind of reaction while you were making this film?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ No, I never anticipated this kind of box-office success. But from the day I met Punit Goenka of Zee Studios [who produced the film], I had maintained that this film will be a hit. But nobody believed me. Only after the film collected Rs100 crore did people start believing me. Today, many senior people are saying that after the Quit India movement, this is the first time something has stirred the masses.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Who did you have in mind as the audience while you made the film?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ I knew that women will connect with this film very strongly—mothers, housewives, students. I had this instinct and from day one I have been saying that it will be watched by housewives. I mean those women who are not as literate, and those about whom Modern India does not care much. And, that is exactly what happened. Because I believed in my late mother’s native intelligence. I think my mother’s instincts were always right, although she was only a Class 4 pass-out. So, those people who are natively intelligent—not those with ideologies—are connecting with the film strongly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Your film clearly states that in the 1990s, the state government used to bankroll the expenses of Kashmiri militants.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Yes, of course. Terrorism is the by-product of modern vote-bank politics. We have said in the film that the terrorists in Kashmir were sheltered by Farooq Abdullah’s party in their headquarters. And it is not my imagination; it has come from the documentation. I tweeted the picture of Ramesh Kumar, whose tongue they [terrorists] cut when Abdullah was the chief minister. Sheikh Abdullah used to call everyone a kafir; he said if you find a snake and a Kashmiri Hindu kill the latter and save the snake.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ There have been reports that the discontent between the Pandits and the Muslims at that time was the result of how the former had monopolised jobs in the valley.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ This is a big lie. Kashmir was a 100 per cent Hindu land. Before 1300, only Hindus lived in Kashmir. Ever since the Iranis and Iraqis invaded, they have been killing and converting Hindus under pressure. There have been seven exoduses of Kashmiri Hindus. How can they be the ones exploiting anybody? And how can a group which is reduced from a 100 per cent majority to a 2 per cent minority be the ones to exploit anybody?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yes, Kashmiri Pandits were more educated. When the fundamentalist Islamists were teaching their children how to throw stones, Kashmiri Pandits were teaching their children physics, math and science.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You chose to keep your film black and white with no room for grey.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ In the film Sholay, do you think there should have been a point of view of the villain Gabbar Singh and his family? Do you think in the film Schindler’s List there should have been a point of view of the Nazis? How can there be a perpetrator’s point of view? It has to be only the victim’s point of view because there are only two kinds of people in this world—those who kill and those who do not. And, then there is this third kind who provide conceptual and ideological support to these terrorists by saying that they deserve to be heard. I will not do that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Do you think if Pandits go back to Kashmir, the two can co-exist peacefully?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Yes. Because we have been co-existing in India forever now. When Muslims were persecuted, they came to Kashmir to seek refuge and Kashmiri Hindus sheltered them. For over a century, the two co-existed, but then they slowly killed all the Hindus. Kashmiri Muslims do not want to co-exist with Kashmiri Hindus. They said, convert to Islam or die. Hindus did not say it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Will the profits from the film be used to help the Kashmiri Pandits?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ My wife [Pallavi Joshi] and I run the IAmBuddha Foundation which has been doing charitable work for Kashmiri children for the past several years. We also raised thousands of dollars for Kashmiri people during the pandemic. To add to that, we did a lot of research— 700 video testimonials [of first-generation survivors], which the government of India and the so-called great media of India never did; neither did any historian or university. All these “thekedars [custodians] of morality” never did a single thing for this cause. I have given four years of my life to this film. I have not done any other work in the last four years. What I am going to do in the future is for me to decide.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Do you think Bollywood has been fabricating fake narratives on Kashmir in the past?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Yes. All these films which were made on Kashmir were fake. None of these seven to eight big films which have been made on Kashmir, and were set in the same period, ever spoke about the Kashmiri Hindu genocide.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Not many from the industry have come forward to support you.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ What is Bollywood I do not know. I have long resigned myself from there. I have left that lane and it has been 13 years now. I am an independent filmmaker.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bollywood is run by immature ones. They have no gyaan on India and only know the herd mindset. I have made three films. All three assume that the audience has intelligence. All three dealt with complicated issues—exactly the subjects which Bollywood refrains from.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Do you feel there is a threat to your life?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ I have not taken any security. They have given it to me. I am sure they must have found reasons for it. Yes, there are threats, but I am not scared. I am tired, my body is hurting. I am not eating properly and there is no rest. What also bogs me down is that people still count the number of deaths, and that pains me. Are we concerned about the destruction of Kashmir or the numbers here?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What are the changes you experienced post the release of the film?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ No change in me personally, but there has been a change in people’s perception of me. I have been provided security on all sides, so I have lost my freedom of movement. I feel I have been trapped inside a prison right now.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/02/bollywood-is-run-by-immature-ones-vivek-agnihotri.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/02/bollywood-is-run-by-immature-ones-vivek-agnihotri.html Sun Apr 03 11:04:57 IST 2022 matteo-bocelli-on-entering-the-world-of-his-father-opera-icon-andrea <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/02/matteo-bocelli-on-entering-the-world-of-his-father-opera-icon-andrea.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/2022/4/2/67-Matteo.jpg" /> <p>From the time Andrea Bocelli’s nanny gave him a record of the famous tenor Franco Corelli, his destiny was set. Music became “an unavoidable need, a way to give lightness to life”. Still, the 63-year-old Italian singing sensation, who is described on Spotify as “the most successful classical artist of all time”, did not have it easy. His family sold farm machinery and made wine for a living. Having learnt to play piano at the age of six, he paid for his music lessons by playing at local bars. At the age of 12, a sporting accident left him completely blind. His music career, “punctuated by disappointments and by doors shut on me”, took off in 1992, when he impressed Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti with the demo tape of his song, ‘Miserere’, which became a huge hit in Europe. Since then, he has recorded 15 albums of pop and classical music, sung for popes, presidents and royalty, won a Golden Globe and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like the sons of most famous people, Andrea’s son, Matteo, 25, had it both easy and tough. He could follow the path forged by his father, but while doing so, he would have to carry the weight of his father’s fame. “I never felt that my father put pressure on me, but when you have a dad who is world-renowned, it is hard not to perceive some external pressure to succeed,” says Matteo, who was in India recently for a collaboration with singers Amaal Mallik, Prakriti and Sukriti Kakar for his debut album.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Matteo grew up in the seaside town of Fortei dei Marmi in Tuscany, in a “pretty noisy household” where someone was always playing music. “Dad would take us with him to events and on work trips,” he says. “He was involved in a lot of work for his charity, the Andrea Bocelli Foundation, so there were lots of fundraising events with celebrities at our home. They were just normal people to us. My father was fun and playful and really wanted to connect with us. He tried and failed many times to get me into horse riding with him.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He might not have got his father’s love for horses, but he definitely inherited his musical gene. He was taking piano lessons by the age of six and “singing in secret” as a teenager. “I hadn’t really told anyone I was interested in singing…. I knew from a young age I wanted to go to music school and train properly, but I didn’t consider a career as a singer until much later,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Matteo was 18 when he debuted onstage alongside Leo Nucci and Sumi Jo to sing ‘Verdi’ at the Rome Colosseum. Since then, he has performed at iconic venues around the world, from Madison Square Garden to the Hollywood Bowl, and on TV shows like The Kelly Clarkson Show, Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show and Dancing with the Stars. He has performed for royalty and shared the stage with the likes of Elton John and Steven Tyler. He recently joined his father, Camilla Cabello, the Jonas Brothers, Norah Jones and more at the White House for a musical soiree.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It might look like a glittering resume, but Matteo has had his own personal dragons to slay, most evident in his debut single, ‘Solo’, which he says is about feeling alone and facing your fragility, especially during the times when his father was away touring. “Feeling so far away, but I gotta find my way, They tell me don’t go, But I know it’s time to go, ‘Cause I’m singing solo,” goes a line in the song. ‘Solo’ was released by Capitol Records in September 2021, and racked up more than three million global streams.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Matteo’s voice is not as full-bodied as Andrea’s; it betrays a note of tentativeness. If Matteo carries his music admirably, Andrea is carried by it. There is an abandonment which Matteo has yet to master. Still, his voice displays a maturity that has overshot his age. There is that curious phenomenon of joy born in pain. And an ability, like his father, to immerse you in his story. As Andrea once put it, “In order to sing well and convey emotions to those who are listening, it is necessary to have something to tell through singing. Therefore, to sing well, you must develop a passion for life.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Their voices complement each other in their single together, ‘Fall On Me’; one smooth as butter, the other strong and spirited, rising to a crescendo of hope and pathos. ‘Fall On Me’, which featured in Andrea’s 2018 album, Si, went on to soundtrack Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. The haunting track could well have been a paean they sing to each other, one asking the other to carry him along on the tidal wave of life. It might well have been Andrea’s response to his son when he sings, “Fall on me, With open arms, Fall on me, From where you are, With all your light.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/02/matteo-bocelli-on-entering-the-world-of-his-father-opera-icon-andrea.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/02/matteo-bocelli-on-entering-the-world-of-his-father-opera-icon-andrea.html Sun Apr 03 11:04:13 IST 2022 here-is-a-unique-list-of-ecofeminist-films-you-should-watch <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/02/here-is-a-unique-list-of-ecofeminist-films-you-should-watch.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/2022/4/2/68-An-Uncertain-Winter.jpg" /> <p>The best days of my life were those 14 days in jail,”exclaims Sudesha Devi, the protagonist of Deepa Dhanraj’s documentary, Sudesha (1983). A peasant woman from a nondescript village in the foothills of the Himalayas, Devi was one of the leaders of the famed Chipko Movement for forest conservation. And she perceived her imprisonment as a refreshing break from the domestic drudgery and the traditional roles dictated by a society steeped in patriarchy. The film, which portrayed how women became the driving force of one of the first environmental movements from the Third World, set the tone for Jacaranda Tales—a four-day film festival on women and nature held recently in Bengaluru.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Organised by the Bangalore Film Society (BFS), the festival showcased a unique list of both Indian and international woman-centric films. “If you look closely, women have [always] been in the forefront of protecting the environment,”says Jahnavi Pai of BFS. “But her courage and leadership role are often side-lined. The festival is an attempt to make these women visible.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jacaranda Tales brought together filmmakers, feminist writers, activists, conservationists and public policy experts to initiate conversations. “The discussions on documentary films as a community and as part of a collective are crucial to facilitate action,”says Manasi Pingle, filmmaker and member of Bengaluru Sustainability Forum. “The festival brings forth different facets of women’s relationships with the environment, and the films communicate cutting across cultural and language barriers.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This woman-nature relationship dynamic is quite apparent in self-taught indie filmmaker-screenwriter Yashasvi Juyal’s Garhwali film The Last Rhododendron (2021). It portrays the story of an educated young woman, Mamta, who goes to the city in quest of a good future, leaving behind her mother in an Uttarakhand village. The film explores migration, the fear of desolation, ghost villages and fragmented families in a world divided by strange notions of development.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not just the loss of land, but inspiring stories of reclaiming the land also were featured in the festival. American filmmaker Will Sardinsky’s short documentary, A Few Acres at a Time (2017), follows Lani Malmberg—known as the gypsy goat woman—who herds over 1,000 goats on Colorado’s ranches to control invasive weeds and reclaim the land and vegetation. She devised goat grazing as a natural alternative for chemical grass killers (weedicides) that poison fertile lands and pollute water bodies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Palmer Morse’s film Water Flows Together (2020) highlights the issue of American indigenous communities and migration induced by water scarcity caused by coal and uranium mining. In the film, Colleen Cooley, a female river guide on the San Juan River, says: “Most people do not know where their water is coming from.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Stirring the debate on food security—even as the world grapples with food shortage due to climate change—were two films: Seed Guardians (2017) by Kewekroza Thopi and Food from the Wild (2017) by Besutolu Shijoh. Seed Guardians showed how the women of the Chakhesang Naga community of Phek district, Nagaland, continue to save the best seeds after every harvest, resisting the easier option of buying seeds from multi-national companies. Whereas Food from the Wild portrayed the bond between women and the forest, and the abundance of uncultivated food in the forest.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Social activist Kavitha Kuruganti, who works with farmers on sustainable livelihood, says the Green Revolution initiated in the 1960s had decimated smaller islands of food sovereignty, robbing the tribal women and the marginalised sections of agency to decide on matters of food. “Food security was made an excuse to justify big dam projects and indiscriminate use of chemicals for farming,”she says. “But it is time to look at climate emergency as it is impacting the most disadvantaged sections of the society.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Krishnendu Bose’s Missing: The forgotten women in India’s climate plans (2014) and Munmun Dhalaria’s An Uncertain Winter (2020) were two films in the festival that spoke about the detrimental effects of climate change on women from the coastal belt and hilly areas respectively. Rajni Santosh, a corporate employee who took a plunge into climate activism, says the rural communities are already facing the impact of climate change but policymakers continue to engage in a flawed argument that development is necessary—the same argument that has been used in the past to advocate mega projects like the Sardar Sarovar Dam.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ali Kazimi’s 1994 film Narmada: A Valley Rise, documented the historic campaign, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), started against the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, which eventually displaced more than 3.2 lakh people. The movement could not stop the government from constructing the dam, but the NBA continues to resonate in resistance movements by masses threatened by power plants and polluting industries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The NBA may have failed to achieve its ultimate goal, but not every movement has fizzled out, as the women of Odisha’s Gunduribadi tribal village would tell you. Vandana Menon’s short documentary, Thengapalli (2020), speaks of the grit of these thenga (lathi)-wielding tribal women who take turns to keep a watch on 208 hectares of forest land. They successfully stopped the timber mafia from denuding the forest—their lifeline. “This is our forest. If they threaten us, I will show them my koturi (sickle),”says Kama, a member of the patrolling team, in the film.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Maheen Mirza’s Agar Woh Desh Banati (2018), a film that lends voice to the adivasi women of Chhattisgarh’s Raipur district, criticises the developmental models that generate wealth only for the capitalists while subjecting the local communities to deceitful land grabbing, displacement and subhuman living conditions. Towards the end of the film, there is a frame where men and women—both young and old—hold each other’s hands and perform the karma, a traditional dance. Can development be as egalitarian as the karma, ask the women.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/02/here-is-a-unique-list-of-ecofeminist-films-you-should-watch.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/02/here-is-a-unique-list-of-ecofeminist-films-you-should-watch.html Sun Apr 03 11:06:17 IST 2022 review-bridgerton-season-2-is-less-playful-and-more-intense-than-the-first <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/02/review-bridgerton-season-2-is-less-playful-and-more-intense-than-the-first.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/2022/4/2/70-Bridgerton-season.jpg" /> <p>After the first season of Netflix’s regency romance, Bridgerton, became a runaway success, there was much expectation riding on season two. Remarkably, it lives up to it, mainly because it does not attempt to copy the success formula of the first. Comparing the two seasons might not do justice to either because, beyond the bustles and the balls, the corsets and the chaises, the vicissitudes of the ton and the eccentricities of the queen, they do not have much in common. One could say that the second season is less racy and frothy than the first. The desire is hidden and forbidden, paving the way for the torture, the longing looks, the magnetic pull and the inability to stay away from each other—pure gold for a true romance lover.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The enemies-to-lovers trope, fortunately, does not prove to be the quicksand on which so many romances have sunk. Instead, it is only the starting point. Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley) is determined to keep her younger sister, Edwina (Charitra Chandran) away from the rakish Lord Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey), the viscount who is the elder brother of last season’s heroine, Daphne. Kate overhears him saying he only wants a wife to breed children and carry on the family name, and she wants better for her sister. Anthony—after interviewing a series of women who turn out to be nothing more than pretty airheads unsuitable for breeding purposes—decides on Edwina to be his prospective wife. Even as he fixes his attention on the younger sister, he finds himself fixated on the elder one, who is considered to be practically a spinster at the ripe old age of 26. Kate is determined to do everything in her power to keep her sister away from the vile viscount, but the question is, will she be able to keep herself away? Sparks fly, egos clash and verbal jibes are traded. After all, everyone knows that war, more than love, is fertile terrain for romance to bloom.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unlike many regency heroes, Anthony is more than a dandy whose life’s essence consists of ensuring his cravat is knotted properly. He is plagued by a sense of familial duty and determined to fulfil his obligations as the head of the manor. That might have made him boring, but thankfully, the brooding and burdened vibe works for him. It just makes his attraction to Kate even more magnetic. He has none of the levity of the first season’s hero, the Duke of Hastings, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. It does, however, make the show less playful and more intense.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most of the subplots ably aid the main narrative—especially that of Penelope Featherington’s unrequited love for Anthony’s brother, Colin; his sister Eloise’s budding feminism; and the endearing relationship between Kate and Edwina. In fact, Edwina’s coming out from under Kate’s shadow with a withering salvo aimed at her sister and suitor is one of the headiest moments in the series. At places, the show feels a little stretched. After all, for how long can you keep a couple who is desperately in love with each other to keep from realising that they are desperately in love with each other? Towards the end, you are ready to pull out your wig (in regency parlance) if you hear the word ‘duty’ one more time. Other than this, the passion is plausible for the most part. There is even a shirtless Mr Darcy moment thrown in for good measure, when it is not just Kate who wishes she had her smelling salts to keep from swooning.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/02/review-bridgerton-season-2-is-less-playful-and-more-intense-than-the-first.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/02/review-bridgerton-season-2-is-less-playful-and-more-intense-than-the-first.html Sat Apr 02 11:10:57 IST 2022 you-might-soon-be-able-to-fully-charge-your-phone-in-10-minutes <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/02/you-might-soon-be-able-to-fully-charge-your-phone-in-10-minutes.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/2022/4/2/71-May-the-power-be-with-you.jpg" /> <p>The importance of the battery in a smartphone cannot be overemphasised. Unfortunately, battery technology has been growing at a slower pace than the rest of the smartphone tech. In fact, the lithium-ion batteries that powered your old Nokia phones are the same ones used in the latest iPhones and Samsung Galaxies. Of course, they are much bigger now and managed better by the advanced processors and software. The biggest change that has happened to them, however, is how they charge.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Smartphone batteries these days charge much more quickly than they used to. This is accomplished by increasing the charging power and managing the heat generated by this increased power. All batteries have a positive side and negative side, separated by a liquid electrolyte. While discharging, lithium ions flow from the negative side to the positive side (when all the ions are on the positive side, the battery is zero per cent). While charging, they flow from the positive side to the negative side. A higher capacity charger can increase the rate of this flow from the positive side to the negative side.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Till a few years ago, the iPhones were charging at 5W and took more than two hours to go from zero to 100 per cent. Then Android phones came up with fast-charging capability, and Apple bumped up iPhone charging to 20W. It has been a steady climb since then, and now the Xiaomi 11T Pro has a 120W charger, which takes just about 17 minutes to charge its reasonably big battery from zero to 100 per cent. There is also a 240W charger in the works by Oppo, which would fully charge a battery in nine minutes. (Apple recommends charging the iPhone 13 models with its official 20W charger, though they are capable of charging slightly faster with higher capacity chargers.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many people are worried that fast charging would affect the life of the batteries. Phone manufacturers say it does not. If a battery can retain 80 per cent capacity after 800 cycles of charging, it is acceptable. Manufacturers claim all phones meet this.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/02/you-might-soon-be-able-to-fully-charge-your-phone-in-10-minutes.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/04/02/you-might-soon-be-able-to-fully-charge-your-phone-in-10-minutes.html Sat Apr 02 11:06:47 IST 2022 up-for-debate <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/27/up-for-debate.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/2022/3/27/nehru-the-debates-that-defined-india.jpg" /> <p>In August 1936, Jawaharlal Nehru braved heavy rain in Lucknow to reach the Ganga Prasad Memorial Hall, where he joined Muhammad Ali Jinnah on stage. They were to address an All India Students’ Federation event; this was the only time the two shared a podium.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jinnah praised Nehru for “his sincerity and genuineness of purpose”. He said that while they were speaking for different political bodies, their love for their “motherland was common”. Nehru was less conciliatory. He called Jinnah a “distinguished leader”, and done with pleasantries, went through a long list of issues that differentiated his vision of India from Jinnah’s.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nehru saw the communal question as a conservative reaction to progressive forces. He felt that employing religious identities as the primary driver in politics, as Jinnah did with his Muslim League, had made the latter “petty-minded”. It had also distracted him “from the real problems of the country”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The debates that had a role in shaping the future of the Indian subcontinent are now part of a book titled Nehru—The Debates That Defined India, written by academics Tripurdaman Singh and Adeel Hussain.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nehru was known for his immense capacity for argument, and he dove into debates with tremendous passion and presented his side with great articulation and unparalleled knowledge. Jinnah was one of his many intellectual jousting partners. The book also features debates that Nehru had with poet-philosopher Muhammad Iqbal, colleague Vallabhbhai Patel and ideological adversary Syama Prasad Mookerjee.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With Iqbal, Nehru had a long-running debate about the political wisdom of the talk of Islamic solidarity. Nehru believed in an inclusive nationalism and a democratic future with joint electorates. Later, Nehru claimed that Iqbal’s shift to socialism was visible in his later poetry and prose, and that he had realised that a separate Muslim state on Indian soil was not a viable solution to counter Muslim backwardness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book also explores the differences between Nehru and Patel on China. In a letter he wrote to Nehru on November 7, 1950, Patel deprecated the pathetic state of Indian diplomacy and called for a comprehensive review of Sino-Indian relations. “Recent and bitter history also tells us,” Patel observed, “that communism is no shield against imperialism.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With Mookerjee, Nehru had clashed in Parliament over the First Amendment to the Constitution—the verbal duel has been described as one of the finest oratorical battles in Indian parliamentary history. The First Amendment, which Nehru moved on May 16, 1951, was his way of constraining the fundamental rights that he felt were a roadblock to his plans of social transformation. An angry Mookerjee had countered the move by telling Nehru that he was “treating this Constitution like a scrap of paper”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nehru, as the authors of the book note, might no longer be alive to answer his critics, but his ideas remain locked in ideological combat, reviving debates that many thought were settled by history.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Nehru: The Debates That Defined India</b></p> <p><i>By</i> <b>Tripurdaman Singh and Adeel Hussain</b></p> <p><i>Published by</i> <b>Harper Collins</b></p> <p><i>Pages:</i> <b>275,</b> <i>Price:</i> <b>Rs599</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/27/up-for-debate.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/27/up-for-debate.html Sun Mar 27 11:30:44 IST 2022 merchant-of-happiness <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/24/merchant-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/2022/3/24/63-Robin-Sharma-new.jpg" /> <p>It is difficult to pinpoint the exact reason why The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, a fable about how to live your dreams, became such a big hit when it was released in 1996. Perhaps because it addressed the innate discontent in the human condition. Or perhaps because it promised to satiate what Sharma calls “the appetite to know the next mountaintop. To see how far we can go.” Whatever the reason, the world lapped it up. The book went on to sell more than four million copies, catapulting Sharma into the world of leadership and personal mastery. He would go on to write a dozen books and hold workshops for millions of people, including billionaires, titans of industry and clients like NASA, Microsoft and Yale.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Twenty-five years after The Monk…, Sharma is older and wiser. Gone is the idealism of his youth. One could perhaps say that he has come down from the rarefied stratosphere of eastern mysticism to the plains of the ‘everyday hero’. “I used to talk a lot about changing the world in my books, but now I am much more about the idea of an everyday hero,” he tells THE WEEK. “Some people can live big lives in small ways. Not everybody has to be a Gandhi or a Mother Teresa or a Nelson Mandela. If you are a gardener, a taxi driver or a baker, or if you are working in a shop on a busy street, that is as important as someone who evangelises the world. So, we can all be everyday heroes.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, his core philosophy remains the same, offering the pathway to “prosperity, vitality, happiness and inner peace”. He still says that the secret of happiness is about finding your passion and then directing all of your energy towards it. He still believes that tragedies provide the best opportunities for growth. He still emphasises how important it is to remain faithful to your ideals. However, he seems to have added nuance to his beliefs, as though life has aired them out, giving them space to breathe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The result is an overarching pragmatism in his latest book, The Everyday Hero Manifesto. There are concrete steps on how to actuate the principles. For example, in a chapter called ‘The Peak Productivity Strategies Pyramid’, Sharma talks about ‘The 5 Great Hours Promise’, in which he recommends that his clients work five hours a day—“five hours of undisturbed, fierce, steady and exquisite work”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The most productive people on the planet do not hustle and grind 24/7/365,” he says. “Instead, when they work, they work with supreme intensity…. They are serious. They are professionals, not dabblers. Specialists instead of generalists. They go super-deep versus really wide when they work.” In the chapter called ‘The Algorithm for a Beautifully Balanced Life’, he lays out eight steps you can implement in your weekly planning template, which include reflecting on your weekly story that explains in detail how you lived out each day of the week.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Everyday Hero Manifesto perhaps offers the most complete vision of his philosophy. It is the most personal of his books, in which he has “poured his heart and soul”. “The 5am Club was mostly about the morning routine of superstars,” he says. “The Monk… was in many ways about inner peace. But this book really is a complete formula for living a world-class life no matter what your life looks like right now….” There are chapters on how it is ok not to be ok, the joy of being laughed at, what trauma can teach you and how, sometimes, hard work is not enough.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the interim between The Monk… and the latest book, a lot has happened in Sharma’s life, including a painful divorce. He might have been knocked around a bit, but he has never been knocked off the game. “We can allow our difficulties to cause us to contract and become bitter, or we can leverage our trials for growth,” he says. “Through my difficulties, I tried my best to grow. In 25 years, I have learnt a lot, met a lot of people, experienced a lot, so hopefully, I am a wiser and better artiste since The Monk…. I feel safer in the world, more authentic and more comfortable in my skin.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In fact, his life can be measured in terms of its morals. There are no “surplus” experiences. Each one has taught him something. Perhaps that is why the principles he espouses in his latest book ring true; they have been life-proofed. He writes about how losing his journals, in which he had recorded years of personal introspections and creative observations, taught him to let go and accept what is and make peace with whatever happens. He writes about how losing the quietness and serenity of his neighbourhood to new housing projects, traffic and noise taught him that the changed outer conditions around his home were heaven-sent angels to activate his weaker parts and purify his character to meet the new conditions more courageously, easily and serenely.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are critics, of course—those who believe that what he advocates are feathery notions, not hard-and-fast rules; that life coaching is for the flimsy-minded; that personal mastery is not something that can be taught; and that leaders are born, not made. To his credit, Sharma does not defend what he does. He lets his work do the talking. And whether you agree with him or not, one thing is for sure—he means every word he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The Everyday Hero Manifesto</b></p> <p><i>By</i> <b>Robin Sharma</b></p> <p><i>Published by</i> <b>Jaico Publishing House</b></p> <p><i>Price</i> <b>Rs399;</b> <i>pages</i> <b>384</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/24/merchant-of-happiness.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/24/merchant-of-happiness.html Sun Mar 27 11:34:52 IST 2022 fire-in-her-bones <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/24/fire-in-her-bones.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/2022/3/24/66-Lisa-Calan-new.jpg" /> <p>When Lisa Calan—clad in a traditional white Kurdish gown and stylish turban—walked onto the inaugural stage of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) in Thiruvananthapuram to receive the first ever ‘Spirit of Cinema’ award, there was a standing ovation. Not many among the audience had seen her films, but everyone could feel the fiery spirit that stood onstage clutching a walking stick in one hand and red roses in the other. As she stood there, all smiles, waiting for the applause to get over, nobody could guess that she was limbless waist down. She stood tall on her prosthetic legs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I have travelled a long way to be here. My story is also long.... All I wanted was to make good films. But I lost both my legs in 2015 in an ISIS bomb attack. It took me years to stand up again. But now I am full of energy,” she said after receiving the award from Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. “As someone representing a society that is fighting for its survival, my films are my acts of resistance.” She dedicated the award to the victims of the 2015 massacre in the Turkish town of Suruç.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Calan, 34, exudes the confidence, grit and spark that ISIS bombs could not destroy. Even while recalling those dark days in her life, she is all positivity. “My legs were shattered. But I was not ready to give up,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The bomb explosion happened in 2015, at a massive rally of HDP, the Kurdish party—two days before local elections in Turkey. It was a continuation of the ongoing ISIS attacks on HDP offices and on Kurdish sympathisers, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We Kurds have been at the receiving end for quite some time. We are not even allowed to learn our own language,” said Calan, who stopped her studies to protest the government’s move to replace Kurdish with Turkish in all educational institutions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Her friends launched a global crowdfunding initiative to pay for her nine surgeries in Turkey and Germany. Still, she was unable to stand up. It was an Iraqi doctor, Munjed al-Mudaris, who inserted titanium implants in Calan’s legs in Australia. Calan now stands tall on those prosthetic legs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As soon as she was able to stand, Calan returned to the world of cinema. The Languages of the Mountains, her first film after the terror attack, has been screened at various film festivals around the world. Set against the backdrop of a school, the film depicts the lives and struggles of the Kurds, and the atrocities perpetrated against them by the Turkish government. She is also an actor, script-writer, editor and art director. “I am in love with the medium of cinema. I enjoy every aspect of it,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She also acted in the short film Hidden, co-directed the film The Colour of Nusaybin and was the editor of the short film The Voice of the Street. But Calan would tell you that her journey has never been easy in the deeply patriarchal society of Turkey. “I am a Kurdish woman in Turkey. Now I am also a disabled person. So, it has never been easy and it will never be,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When asked about how patriarchy tried to stop her from following her passion, she said, “As in many patriarchal societies, I was advised to take up a ‘woman-friendly job’, like teaching or medicine. Nobody supported me when I decided to be a filmmaker.” Calan is overwhelmed by the reception she has received in another corner of the world. “I am touched by the love and affection that I received. I am amazed at the large number of people who came to watch the films. People here love cinema so much….,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The terrorist attack happened when she was leading a vibrant cinematic life. Had it been any other woman in her place, she would have been still bedridden. But Lisa came back with a bang and has become an inspiration to all,” said Haritha Savitri, Calan’s novelist friend who was instrumental in bringing her to the IFFK.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Calan looks at the accident in her own sanguine way. “It has changed the way I look at the people around me. It has made me a better human being and a better filmmaker,” she said.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/24/fire-in-her-bones.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/24/fire-in-her-bones.html Wed Mar 30 13:44:35 IST 2022 scars-and-love <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/24/scars-and-love.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2022/3/24/67-Benedetta.jpg" /> <p>Benedetta Carlini was a 17th-century mystic in the Tuscan city of Pescia; she claimed to have visions of Jesus and would occasionally get stigmata (scars similar to those left on Jesus’s body by the crucifixion). She was also in love with a fellow nun. Carlini became the head of the abbey at a very young age as most people believed in her claims, until an investigation by the Papacy revealed that she was faking it. Benedetta, directed by Paul Verhoeven, is a retelling of the story of Carlini.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Carlini is admitted to the abbey at a very tender age. For years, she believes that she has a husband in Jesus, until she develops feelings for another nun. Carlini knows that unlike her affection for an imaginary husband, this love is forbidden, but gives in to it anyway. Her lover, Bartolomea, disapproves of Carlini’s claims of visions and mystical wounds, while the head of the abbey is suspicious of them. Carlini manages to hoodwink most people, and even those who do not believe her are silenced as the ‘miracles’ bring fame and wealth to the abbey. However, when a tragedy befalls the nunnery, it becomes increasingly difficult for Carlini to stay in character.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Benedetta, which premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, is a highly provocative tale of love, guilt, religious indoctrination and greed.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/24/scars-and-love.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/24/scars-and-love.html Thu Mar 24 15:08:55 IST 2022 the-warrior-monk <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/24/the-warrior-monk.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/2022/3/24/68-The-warrior-monk.jpg" /> <p>Like a pendulum, Vivek Jacob’s life has swung from one extreme to the other. As a member of the 9 Para regiment of the Indian Army—one of the most elite special forces units in the world—he operated with utmost confidentiality. Whether it was dodging bullets in the riskiest missions or staying undercover for months in hostile terrain, details of his professional life were kept a secret from friends and enemies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, he is a YouTube star whose talks have gone viral. “Many young people write to me on various issues, including relationship problems. I feel it is important to reply to all of them…. I feel I have a perspective that will heal them,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Post his retirement from the Army in 2017, Jacob has acquired unusual fame within a short span of time. His indomitable spirit, philosophical takes and candid replies on his special forces stint are a big hit. Walking the thin line between life and death in combat has played a major role in shaping Jacob’s spiritual leanings. “War or conflict makes you realise that you can leave this universe anytime,” he says. “Combat brought a lot of things into perspective in my life. Who are we? Why are we here killing each other? We could all live in harmony instead.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jacob has just returned from the Himalayas, where he had earlier spent time hunting down terrorists. This trip, however, was different. “It was magical. I experienced a lot of beautiful things,” he says. He is setting up a base there to encourage people to take up adventure activities and learn life skills. He, along with a few other Army veterans, run CLAW (Conquer Land And Water) which provides opportunities, especially for disabled people, to realise their dream of adventure sports.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We are a small group of people, but we are growing,” he says. “When I started out I had only one thing in mind—to fulfil a promise I made to an Air Force officer, paralysed from the neck down, who asked me if he could go scuba diving. I realised that to take him scuba diving, I would have to take a lot of other people, too. I had to turn it into an event as it required special equipment, doctors and so many other things. I also did not have the funding. Since there are many people with disabilities who have the same dream, I thought it would be easier if more people were involved. We travelled from Chandigarh to Lakshadweep for this purpose. We trained 120 paralysed people in scuba diving.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Special forces training is considered to be extremely gruelling, testing the physical and mental strength of the participants. A Malayali who grew up in north India as the son of a para commando, Jacob enrolled knowing well what he was up against. His training included physical activities like walking 60km to 80km within a stipulated time period, while carrying heavy loads. But what really drained Jacob was a pen and paper. “It is not easy to translate a Hindi newspaper into English at 1am from a hideout full of dirty water and mosquitoes,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Overcoming that and more, Jacob served for 10 years in the special forces. Like many Army veterans, the transition to civilian life was not easy. Years of being conditioned to fight in high-performance zones takes a toll on you. In the US, there have been many instances of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) driving Army veterans into taking their lives or going on a shooting spree. Jacob feels there is an immediate need for professional programmes which will provide psychological help to the officers, even after retirement. The senior leadership within the Army can do a lot in this area, he feels. “You have to be in a constant state of operational readiness. For years there is no relaxation,” he says. “When you enter civilian life that danger is not there, but you are conditioned to look at things like that. There should be counselling on how to adjust to the new life.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jacob adjusted by indulging in his love for carpentry, adventure sports and meditation. And now he wants to share his insights with the world.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/24/the-warrior-monk.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/24/the-warrior-monk.html Sun Mar 27 11:21:30 IST 2022 unlucky-in-love <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/24/unlucky-in-love.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2022/3/24/69-Eternally-Confused-and-Eager-for-Love.jpg" /> <p>A 24-year-old Mumbai lad eager for a steady date. What’s new, you ask? Rahul Nair’s Eternally Confused and Eager for Love brings up all the faults of Ray, the protagonist, front and centre. Ray has two friends—a girl he has known since school, and a work buddy. Then there is Wiz—a fictional character of whom he has a drawing, a key chain, and a statue. The series follows the self-conscious youth’s botched attempts to find a girlfriend, or to simply get laid.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Apart from his raging hormones and level of desperation, it is the Wiz that often gets him into tight spots. The attempt to capture all of this in a series is a little flimsy, but hilarious. Vihaan Samat as Ray manages to get the viewer’s sympathy vote. His confident buddies Varun (Ankur Rathee) and Riya (Dalai) are friends most of us have had or have in our lives. While the series is relatable on some level, the plot does not hook you beyond episode two.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Much of the show depicts the series of dates Ray goes on after being set up by his parents, friends and a dating app. From the too-good-to-be-true Pari to the annoying Komal, all the women he meets are realistic, but the only one who is well fleshed-out is Riya. His woes are multiplied by trouble with his hard-to-please boss, Pushpa. When it comes to women, it seems like Ray has got a raw deal. But then, Ray is not exactly a ray of sunshine himself.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Wiz, voiced by Jim Sarbh, does deliver some zingers, and he alone provides the comic relief in the series. Rahul Roy and Suchitra Pillai as Ray’s parents do not have much of a role. Scenes where they ask their son if he is gay, because he has not scored with a girl yet, are quite passe. When a project is helmed by Excel Entertainment associated with names like Farhan Akhtar, Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti, one has high expectations, but this one does not deliver. The series, raunchy in parts, fails to get the audience to root for Ray like they did for Sameer in Dil Chahta Hai or for Imraan in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The show might click with a section of Gen Z, but only if it picks up pace in season two. Otherwise, one might just swipe left.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/24/unlucky-in-love.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/24/unlucky-in-love.html Thu Mar 24 17:07:04 IST 2022 game-not-over <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/24/game-not-over.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/2022/3/24/71-Game-not-over.jpg" /> <p>If time is money, then I have invested a fortune in ‘The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim’, role-playing as the unstoppable wizard-warrior-dragonborn Dark Elf in the magical fantasy world that Bethesda Game Studios created.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What brought me back to this 2011 video game? A chance encounter with the YouTube videos of Young Scrolls, an extremely talented musician who makes banger beats remixing and auto-tuning the voice files of the Elder Scrolls games. From ‘Dagothwave’, a synth-wave track featuring the antagonist of ‘Elder Scrolls: Morrowind’ (2001), to Zoom, an album by the game’s flamboyant Daedric god of madness, Sheogorath (he adorns the album cover in a Louis Vuitton robe).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is hard to decide what is more impressive—the music or the lore behind it. Take Jiub, a former assassin and drug addict. Morrowind’s gameplay was often criticised for its pterodactyl-like ‘cliff racers’, who would attack players from the sky and could be difficult to manage in groups. Bethesda removed cliff racers from their next game, Oblivion (2006), presumably after player feedback. To justify the disappearance of an entire species, they added to the lore: Jiub, repenting his ways after prison, gave back to society by eradicating the cliff racers, a feat that nearly killed him. For his feats, the god Vivec christened him Saint Jiub.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From this fictional rags-to-riches story, Young Scrolls built an EP. In ‘Filthy Rich’, Jiub is flashy, wealthy and egotistical, rapping, “Chase the bag, kid, never chase a dame; I was grinding, you was dreaming, I don’t care to know your name.” (In Morrowind, Jiub is the first person to ask you your name, so that line does sting.) I named my Skyrim character Jiub in homage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Young Scrolls testifies to the potential of Machinima: The art of film-making using video game-generated footage. His music videos demonstrate just how far a game’s fan-base can take its lore and material, long after its release.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Take the web series Red vs Blue, made of footage from the Halo first-person shooters. It predates YouTube, having begun in 2003, and has now crossed 18 seasons. Initially made with Xboxes (circa 2001), the show dubs voiceovers over gameplay footage of nodding helmeted (therefore, faceless) characters. The absurdist and comedic result was compelling enough to create a storyline that has crossed 300 episodes—now blending movie-grade CGI animation with gameplay-generated footage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Microsoft, which owns the Halo franchise, shows like Red vs Blue act as a form of organic PR for their games, and testify to the dedication of their players. The Redmont-based company, unsurprisingly, is betting big on gaming, having gone on a spending spree picking up video game companies. It recently acquired Activision-Blizzard for $68.7 billion—a few billion shy of India’s 2020 defence budget.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the adage, “You have to spend money to earn money”, suggests that eye-wateringly large investments can pay off. In 2009, Disney acquired the rights to Marvel Entertainment for a paltry $4 billion. A decade later, by 2019, that investment had paid off over $18 billion at the global box office. But Microsoft makes $15 billion a year from gaming alone.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From Activision-Blizzard, Microsoft can claim the ‘Call of Duty’ games, among the world’s most popular first-person shooters with tens of millions of concurrent players across mobiles, PC and console; the ‘World of Warcraft’ MMO, whose in-game economy is considered among the pioneers of metaverses and virtual markets; and the ‘Candy Crush’ games, whose 27-crore monthly player-count dwarves most nations. There is also the $7.5 billion acquisition of Bethesda, completed in 2021.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim’ (2011), ‘World of Warcraft’ (2004) and ‘Candy Crush’ (2012) are old games. But that does not mean they cannot evolve—or make money when in the right hands.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/24/game-not-over.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/24/game-not-over.html Sun Mar 27 11:18:34 IST 2022 vidya-balan-and-shefali-shah-talk-about-their-roles-in-the-thriller-jalsa <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/19/vidya-balan-and-shefali-shah-talk-about-their-roles-in-the-thriller-jalsa.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/2022/3/19/63-Shefali-Shah-and-Vidya-Balan.jpg" /> <p>Around three decades ago, Vidya Balan and Shefali Shah kickstarted their journeys as television actors. It was the early 1990s when cassette players and recorders ruled the roost. Doordarshan, back then, had popular television serials that would bring families together at prime time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Balan and Shah tasted their first years of glory through popular television shows that got them noticed and eventually gave them the entry ticket to Bollywood. While Balan began her career with Ekta Kapoor’s television show Hum Paanch (1996) as Radhika Mathur before joining Bollywood, Shah started her journey around the same time with Campus (1993), which revolved around college life of the 1990s and enjoyed quite a fan following. Over the years, both women—self-made professionals, married, and in their 40s—have successfully delivered powerful and moving roles across genres with stories that have touched upon gender, power, masculinity, ambition, and more. Yet, they never met, professionally; except for some chance meet-ups at events. And that is why in the latest Instagram reels doing the rounds the bonhomie between the two women—dressed in flowing saris and hair buns—as they go about promoting their first-ever film together, Jalsa, a drama-thriller, is especially striking. Incidentally, the two have very few scenes together, even though they play parallel leads in the Suresh Triveni directed film, which revolves around the death of a young girl and a news channel investigating it. Balan essays the role of an investigative journalist, Maya Menon, while Shah is a mother to a teenager who works in Menon’s house. But, what if the two roles could be swapped?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an interview to THE WEEK, this question takes Shah by surprise. “This did not cross my mind at all until now. I think these roles were written with the actors in mind and I am very happy playing Ruksana, the mother,” said Shah. Then, after a brief pause, as if giving a second thought to the prospect of playing a journalist onscreen, Shah said her inherent curious temperament makes her ideal for such a role if it were ever to come to her. She recalled an anecdote from the sets of Jalsa when the entire crew wished her a happy birthday with a cake that had a big question mark on it. “That’s my personality. The urge to dig deep; to ask never-ending questions,” said Shah with a big laugh. Post-Jalsa, Shah is certain that a role similar to Balan’s is awaiting her, too. In Jalsa, both the women are shown to be powerful, principled, assured, and self-righteous, until a life-altering incident makes them see themselves differently and question their morality and beliefs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Said Balan to THE WEEK, “The film is a journey of self-discovery and rediscovery. It forces you to realise that you are not who you thought you were and you will never know who you are until you are in a particular situation. The characters are all grey and that is what appeals to me the most.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a way, the character of Menon also feeds into Balan’s hunger for such driven and meaty women-centric roles in which she has established her forte. Be it The Dirty Picture, Kahaani, Tumhari Sulu, Mission Mangal, Shakuntala Devi or even her last release, Sherni. In that sense, Jalsa only offers a continuation to the kind of scripts that have been adding to Balan’s filmography in the past years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“For me, what’s important is that I find a connection with the story. But I don’t think we should box it in the female-centric film category. I think when you see the story, you will realise that these two characters could have been men but I’m glad Suresh chose to tell it through the lens of two women. I anyway find female-led films far more interesting because I think there’s a lot more variety there. They are a lot more nuanced; they are a lot more fun. They are not one type of film. Unfortunately, the male-driven films are more or less the same.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While Balan found her space exactly as she wanted it, for Shah, the role of a mother-on-screen was not anything new given that she has been portrayed as a mother in many of her previous films—right from being a doting mother to leading stars including Akshay Kumar, to younger actors in Juice, Once Again, Delhi Crime, Human.... “I have zero qualms about who I am or what age I am. I am comfortable playing the role of a mother, but not to a 30 or 40-year-old as I had done earlier in my career. That does not sit well with me now. Also, the difference between the roles of a mother in the years before and now is that there is much more character to her now. It is not just the relationship that is emphasised, but the character of the mother herself is fleshed out well. Her own identity is given weightage and her individuality matters now,” said Shah, adding that motherhood also came to her as an instinct, given that she is already a parent to two grown-ups.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, Balan and Shah are at the prime of their careers. While Shah had six releases last year, she is already looking at completing another four projects this year, including Darlings, Three Of Us and Delhi Crime 2. As for Balan, who is known for completing one project a year—Shakuntala Devi (2020), Sherni (2021), and Jalsa this year—she is “enjoying working this much” and does not think that’s going to change.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shah feels lucky that the OTT boom has helped actors such as her get noticed. “(There was a time when) I would only be doing one project in two years and waiting it out most of the time for meaty roles to come my way,” she said. In that sense, she also draws a parallel to the way her career has evolved and society has changed. “Earlier who would have thought that a 40-plus woman would become the hero of a show or a film. Now in my 40s, I’m doing this well. It is mind-boggling,” she said.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/19/vidya-balan-and-shefali-shah-talk-about-their-roles-in-the-thriller-jalsa.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/19/vidya-balan-and-shefali-shah-talk-about-their-roles-in-the-thriller-jalsa.html Sat Mar 19 12:02:18 IST 2022 after-50-years-tulu-cinema-needs-a-new-lease-of-life <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/19/after-50-years-tulu-cinema-needs-a-new-lease-of-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/2022/3/19/67-A-still-from-Madipu.jpg" /> <p>In the national award-winning Tulu film Paddayi (2018) by Abhaya Simha, Madhava and Sugandhi, a newly-wed couple in coastal Karnataka, bring physical and psychological harm upon themselves, perhaps misreading a prophecy of Babbarya Daiva—the guardian deity of the Mogaveera (fishermen) community. The film is a retelling of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Paddayi was screened along with three other award-winning Tulu films—Madipu (2017), Bangar Patler (1993) and Gaggara (2010)—at the 13th Bengaluru International Film Festival held in early March in a tribute to the Tulu film industry which turned 50 in February 2021.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The five-decade-long journey of Tulu cinema (also known as Coastalwood) is a story of creative excellence as much as it is of resilience. Its first film, Enna Thangadi by S.R. Rajan, released in 1971; its first national award came in 1993, Bangar Patler. Since then, Tulu cinema has got six national awards and around 15 state awards. After S.R. Rajan, many stalwarts like K.N. Tailor, T.A. Srinivas, Richard Castelino, Ram Shetty and Sanjeeva Dandekeri forayed into Tulu filmmaking.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Karavali or coastal Karnataka is the land where the daiva (divine spirit) is revered as much as the deva (God). Tulu is spoken in the coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi in Karnataka and parts of Kasaragod in Kerala. The 2011 census estimates that 20 lakh people speak Tulu; linguists studying dying languages identify it as a “vulnerable” one.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, Tulu language is a treasure trove of Tulu oral literature, tradition and culture, replete with beliefs and rituals that are interwoven into the lives of the Tuluvas. It derives from natakas (plays), night-long performances of yakshagana (traditional folk theatre), and of course, cinema, which has provided a new dimension and expression to the cultural brew of Tulunadu.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the first colour film was made in India as early as 1937 (Kisan Kanya) and in Karnataka in 1964 (Amarashilpi Jakanachari), the first Tulu film in colour (Kariyani Kattandi Kandani) was produced by Aroor Bhimaraomade only in 1978, as lack of both funding and access to the technology compelled Tulu filmmakers to make movies only in black and white.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Soon, however, filmmakers started experimenting with scripts and technology. The Tulu film, September 8, directed by Richard Castelino, was shot in a day in Mangaluru, creating a record in world cinema. Castelino had used nine cameras with nine units at different locations to complete the film in record time. It did not do well at the box office though. Another similar experiment, Gaggara, by actor-director Shivadhwaj Shetty, won the national award in 2010. It was shot in 10 days on a shoestring budget of 010 lakh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“In 2011, Tulu cinema again started picking up pace and new trends emerged with a new generation of filmmakers foraying into the industry,” says Tamma Lakshmana, an art director who has been chronicling Tulu cinema in the last decade. “Covid-19 has been a major setback to the industry. It will take some time for it to recover and get back on track. Post pandemic, lifestyles have changed and the industry too should reinvent itself.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lakshmana, who has tracked the 50 years of Tulu cinema in his yet-to-be-published book, feels Tulu cinema is at an interesting turning point. “It began its journey anchored to the flourishing Tulu theatre, which is still hugely popular,” he says. “Today, it is expanding its market and audience base beyond the coastal region as it is being patronised in Bengaluru, Mumbai and the Gulf countries. Earlier, we could not carry the boxes of reel to overseas audiences. But with the advent of digital technology, we are now able to reach out to new markets.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chethan Mundadi, who won a national award for his debut film, Madipu, shares Lakshmana’s views. “I worked as an art director for Kannada serials and reality shows,” he says. “When I decided to make a film, I closely studied super-hit Kannada films of the 1970s and 1980s, especially those of Dr Rajkumar. I found that in all these films, the story was king and not the hero. Today’s films are being made for the hero, where the story just seems incidental. I always felt movies should be thought-provoking and not simply be watched and forgotten. The USP of Tulu cinema is the storylines that adhere closely to the Tulu ethos.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tulu actor and producer Shivadhwaj Shetty flags shortage of theatres, high tariff and competition from other languages as hurdles to the growth of the Tulu film industry. While single-screen theatres are not viable for low-budget Tulu films, as they charge a fixed rent on a weekly basis irrespective of the collection, the multiplexes work on a percentage basis and demand higher share in overall revenues. Restrictions on the number of screens to release non-Kannada films, and the higher tariff for screening “other regional language” films have been detrimental to Tulu cinema.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The average budget for a Tulu film is between Rs45-60 lakh. But the return on investment is not encouraging, owing to a restricted market. However, many producers are coming forward to make films out of passion for Tulu cinema,” says Shetty, adding that OTT platforms can help expand the reach of Tulu cinema.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The pandemic had its silver lining, too, as older Tulu films that had been overlooked got an audience on OTT. But Tulu films have to compete with other language films like Hindi, Kannada, Telugu and Tamil. While subtitles and dubbing rights help us expand, the action and horror thriller genres which are in great demand turn out to be too expensive for us to make,” explains Shetty.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mundadi adds that smaller OTT platforms do not have a wide reach and the bigger ones like Netflix and Amazon Prime pay only meagre amounts for film rights. The government should build dedicated theatres to promote films in regional languages like Tulu, Kodava and also Kannada, he says. “The lifeline for Tulu cinema is the Tulu audience. OTT can only prolong the life of the cinema. Only when the movies are watched in theatres do they become commercially viable for the producer,” says Lakshmana. “Our films used to run for more than 100 days. But today, it is difficult to see houseful shows.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/19/after-50-years-tulu-cinema-needs-a-new-lease-of-life.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/19/after-50-years-tulu-cinema-needs-a-new-lease-of-life.html Sat Mar 19 11:50:18 IST 2022 why-the-jlf-was-important-in-a-world-that-has-gone-virtual <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/19/why-the-jlf-was-important-in-a-world-that-has-gone-virtual.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/2022/3/19/70-Krist%C3%ADn-Ragna-Gunnarsd%C3%B3ttir.jpg" /> <p>Hope is the feathered thing—as Emily Dickinson put it. But on a Saturday afternoon at the Jaipur Literature Festival, it was a packed Durbar Hall. The session was a conversation between poets Akhil Katyal and Meena Kandasamy on The World That Belongs To Us: An Anthology of Queer Poetry in South Asia. It began with the reading of a poem of Ramchandra Siras, the Aligarh professor who took his life for being identified as homosexual. As the session ended, a boy stood up and asked Katyal to read a poem, shouting “I love you” when he did. The atmosphere was electric. The queue for the signing of their books was satisfyingly snake-like and stretched across the room. If there was ever an Instagram-worthy picture that could capture that elusive feeling of hope, it was that queue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Back after two years of the pandemic, JLF has stepped into a world that has been altered forever. It comes at a time when physical events struggle to remain relevant. The venue is no longer the magical Diggi Palace in Jaipur, where the drama of the building added to its charm. The Clarks Amer is very much a hotel—with sprawling grounds to turn it into a whimsical writerly world. In the past two years the virtual has come to dominate the real world. When authors are virtually accessible, on screen constantly sans their books, are on-ground festivals even needed? This was the question that hung in the air, unasked, even as readers thronged the grounds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The pandemic has been tough on publishing. The festival—which had been postponed to March—came at a time when Amazon has announced the closure of Westland Books. While reading is essential, the pandemic has proved that it does not necessarily turn into sales. But if a doubt ever existed, the 10-day-long festival—a week on the ground—reaffirmed the need for a books jamboree, not in its star limelight moments, although those are important too, but in the small, life-affirming acts that could only happen in a space for reading.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Everyone had such a favourite JLF moment. The time when Rana Safvi— historian, food lover and writer—met Nobel-winning economist and writer Abhijit Banerjee and got his recipe book autographed—very much as just a reader. “There is the element of chance,’’ says Krishan Chopra, editor-in-chief, Bloomsbury. “You don’t meet online. You can’t go up to an author as a publisher or just as a fan. Books are all about possibilities, about a spirit of adventure.” The Safvi-Banerjee meeting that captured that sense of possibility and became a poster-perfect moment found itself on Twitter. But there were those that never did.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“There was this moment when the blind flautist Rajendra opened the session on disability,” says Sanjoy Roy, managing director, Teamwork Art. “When asked if he faced any challenges, he said, ‘None’. He said he only wanted to pursue his education. Mohit Satyanand, an angel investor, immediately offered support.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But beyond the tangible—where hope is actually graspable—there are those moments where the change happens quietly, but is just as essential. “For me, that moment was at the end of Kristín Ragna Gunnarsdóttir’s session, where a young boy revealed an amazing philosophical and factual knowledge of Norse and Icelandic mythology,” says Namita Gokhale, festival director. “The audience clapped. It is the young at JLF who are the foundations of my inspiration.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Much more than the star writers and the charged debates, it is the audience and the energy—absent in virtual—that make the on-ground festival worth the trek. At JLF they thronged. At the Kolkata Book Fair, they bought books worth Rs20 crore. They came, they heard, they changed and were the change. And perhaps, the most moving moment was during Katyal and Kandasamy’s session, when a girl stood up and inquired whether asking for a public reading of a poem from the queer anthology would identify her as queer. It was a question that was brave and required courage. It was also one that singled her out for standing out—for wanting to be seen. It was a moment of acceptance, of the sheer power of poetry to be seen and of community. And one that laid bare the essential need for a physical festival. The question could never have had the same life-changing effect on Zoom. “People come and then, they step into life,” says Gokhale.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/19/why-the-jlf-was-important-in-a-world-that-has-gone-virtual.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/19/why-the-jlf-was-important-in-a-world-that-has-gone-virtual.html Sat Mar 19 11:43:42 IST 2022 meet-the-singer-who-might-be-indias-answer-to-bts <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/11/meet-the-singer-who-might-be-indias-answer-to-bts.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/2022/3/11/81-Armaan-Malik-new.jpg" /> <p>There is a line in Armaan Malik’s latest song, ‘You’, that goes, “All I do is think about how your leap of faith made me put my faith in you.” This, in essence, is Malik’s idea of love. He believes in romance of the old-fashioned variety, the kind that ends in a happily-ever-after. The song is described as portraying the “warm, fuzzy feeling” of finding your person. When was the last time you heard someone use that expression to describe love? Though clichéd, most of us know what Malik is talking about. But we live in a world where it is no longer fashionable to say what we think if what we think is not fashionable. Perhaps that is the reason for Malik’s popularity—no matter how idealistic you think his concept of love is, he believes in what he is singing about. He stays true to his musicality. “Never once have I done anything either in the Hindi or international space that is really far out from who I am as a person or a musician,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This comes across when you speak with him. His idealism is offset by his intelligence, which seems a curious combination. For a 26-year-old, he answers each question thoughtfully, never blowing his own trumpet, but neither shying away from acknowledging his huge popularity. Of course, with his cherubic face and a voice that matches—silky and soulful—he might be India’s answer to the BTS. His fan army of 50 million followers across platforms—otherwise known as Armaanians—would agree. After all, they are the ones who catapulted the young singer into uncharted heights; he has performed in more than 200 shows around the globe, including one at SSR, Wembley, when he was just 20. He is the youngest Indian singer to be a coach on The Voice India and the youngest recipient of Filmfare’s R.D. Burman Award for New Music Talent. He was the first Indian singer-songwriter to be featured on the Times Square Billboard in New York.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But success cannot always satisfy. He was coming to a crisis point in his life when playback singing was no longer enough. In 2020, he removed all his Instagram posts, except for one which went, “I can’t take it anymore.” Messages of concern poured in, but the words had an underlying meaning. They were not just a reflection of his mood, but also a line in his first independent English song, ‘Control’. In other words, they were the bridge between who he was and who he wanted to be. ‘Control’ was a pop up-tempo track about the dangerous pull a woman had on him. It was dark, metallic, edgy…. With ‘Control’, he was not just moving away from the Bollywood ballad space, he was also reinventing his chocolate boy image. The song took off immediately, climbing to the top spot on iTunes India. He also won an MTV EMA award for it. His next single, ‘Next 2 Me’, hit number one on Billboard’s Top Triller US and Top Triller Global charts—a first for an Indian singer. He followed it up with three more English tracks before dropping ‘You’ in January.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I have always wanted to be someone from India who goes global,” says Malik. “A lot of people said I’m deviating from a successful career, doing something that is uncharted which might not guarantee success, but it was a risk that I wanted to take because it has been a dream of mine since I was a teenager. I feel in the next few years we will have global superstars from India and I hope to be the one leading that movement.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With ‘You’, Malik—who is also known as the ‘Prince of Romance’—returns to the ballad space because he wanted to start the year with something that his fans know him for. Shot in Paris, the video depicts the initial stages of a relationship—the couple taking photographs of one another, holding hands on the street, having pillow fights…. “Love like this doesn’t come around all the time,” Malik sings. “Letting you get away would be a crime. ’Cause half of your heart makes a whole out of this heart of mine.” It is surprising if love like that comes around ever, let alone all the time. But despite its cheesiness, there is something uplifting about the track; it is a consummation of our deepest hopes. It offers a technicolour vision of love that belongs in a pre-Tinder era when it was less cynical, transactional and practical. As one of his fans described it, ‘You’ is not a song; it is a feeling.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are many popular players in the Indo-western fusion space: Dhruv Ghanekar, Apeksha Dandekar, Bombay Bandook and Paradigm Shift, to name a few. But there are hardly any prominent Indian musicians singing English songs. “A lot of people said I should try fusing both sounds,” says Malik. “I have, in a certain way, tried to bring a few Indian elements into my English music. For example, in ‘How Many’, I used a tabla under an R&amp;B hip-hop beat…. But I don’t want this to be the mainstay. I have never said I wanted to do fusion. I want to do global music that anyone can connect with….”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This places him in the big league, competing with the likes of Shawn Mendes, Charlie Puth and Ed Sheeran. Of course, he does think his Indianness—a certain flair or inflection he can bring to his music as an Indian—sets him apart. It might, and then again, it might not. But coming from an illustrious musical background—his grandfather Sardar Malik, father Daboo Malik and uncle Anu Malik are prominent Bollywood composers—and having sung in over 250 songs in more than a dozen Indian languages, it is impressive that he is willing to loosen the reins on his heritage. For a boy who only wanted to sit around a beach bonfire strumming the guitar with his friends, he has come a long way. And he might be destined to go a longer way still.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/11/meet-the-singer-who-might-be-indias-answer-to-bts.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/11/meet-the-singer-who-might-be-indias-answer-to-bts.html Sun Mar 13 11:24:30 IST 2022 why-there-is-interest-in-vikas-swarups-fourth-book-even-before-he-has-written-it <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/11/why-there-is-interest-in-vikas-swarups-fourth-book-even-before-he-has-written-it.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/2022/3/11/84-Vikas-Swarup-new.jpg" /> <p>On a Monday morning, diplomat and writer Vikas Swarup sits bathed in soft gold light—the kind reserved for Bollywood actresses. Spring—metaphorical and literal—has arrived. His garden is in full bloom. The new book has officially begun. “I have started writing again today,” says Swarup. His last book, The Accidental Apprentice, came out in 2013. (It was snapped up like the two before it.) He sold the movie rights to his books much before rights for books became a thing. There is interest in his fourth book even before he has written it. He has never had writer’s block—there are far too many ideas “jostling around” in his head.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The day begins early for Swarup, who is hoping to finish his book in six months. He is up at 5:30am. “I need a solid three uninterrupted hours when the world is sleeping,” he says. His cat, Rinki, a new addition to the family, sits quietly in his lap, only to vanish into the garden quickly. “She is four months old and there is interest in a tom cat,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is new beginnings. He has retired and moved home and his book, Six Suspects, has been made into a web series, The Great Indian Murder, that has done well on OTT. Quick-witted, accessible and always dapper, Swarup took over as official spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs from Syed Akbaruddin. Now, on the other side, Swarup is the host of Diplomatic Dispatch on Sansad TV, a programme about foreign affairs. “It helps me keep in touch with my subject,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Swarup’s books are like blockbuster Bollywood films, with a fast-paced narrative, but at their heart is the Indian dream. “I like my books to have a hook,” he says. “I also like them to have some kind of closure. I can write avant-garde books, but I like to wrap things up.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vividly written, sharp and keenly observed, his books do not sugar-coat the corruption or complexity of India. There is ambition and greed, but in the end, they are stories with a heart. Almost cinematic in their description, Swarup’s books are very much masala entertainers. If there was one way to describe them, the name of the main character in his first book, Q&amp;A—Ram Mohammad Thomas—sums it up. It is a name that represents an idea of India that is increasingly disappearing. “My books have a consciousness,” he says. “I see myself as a storyteller. I have acquired my craft only by reading.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Growing up in a family of lawyers in Allahabad, Swarup read voraciously, even as he studied to be a civil servant. “It was decided at an early age that I was not fit for engineering or medicine,” he says. “I did not want to become a lawyer, because my mother had expressly forbidden it; there were enough lawyers in the family. So, it was decided that I would be a civil servant and I trained to be one. But I was a reader. One of the advantages of the pre-internet age was that you could play sports or watch movies or read. I read a lot.” Movies were a communal experience, with the whole family gathering together to watch them on the big screen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Writing is not the only skill Swarup has acquired just by observation. He can play the harmonium, which he learnt while growing up. “I cannot manage anything with strings,” he says. His family is close-knit and his home bears witness to the skills of the Swarups. Wife Aparna is an artist and photographer. A large oil painting in blue of three women holds pride of place in their home. Her photographs are beautifully composed. Some idyllic, others powerful—they offer a glimpse into the worlds to which she has travelled. “The camera is power,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the edge of the room is a piano. “We transported it from Canada,” says Swarup. His youngest son, who studied history in Edinburgh, decided that the 9-to-5 world was not for him. “He wants to be a jazz musician on a piano,” says Swarup. After practising eight hours a day on the piano for a year, he is now studying in an exclusive music school that only takes ten students at a time. “He competed with kids who had been playing the piano since they were two,” says Swarup with evident pride.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/11/why-there-is-interest-in-vikas-swarups-fourth-book-even-before-he-has-written-it.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/11/why-there-is-interest-in-vikas-swarups-fourth-book-even-before-he-has-written-it.html Sun Mar 13 11:21:05 IST 2022 review-right-to-information-and-jurisprudence <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/11/review-right-to-information-and-jurisprudence.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/2022/3/11/86-Right-to-Information-Jurisprudence-new.jpg" /> <p>It is said that “information is power”, but when information remains limited to a select few, it corrupts individuals and governments, damages institutions and handicaps society by hampering the fundamentals of participatory democracy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Having spent 36 years in the Indian Police Service, former Central Information Commissioner M.L. Sharma knows how bureaucracy uses information as a source of power. He has witnessed it from close quarters while handling some of the most complicated cases of political and bureaucratic corruption during the 18 years he spent at the Central Bureau of Investigation. Sharma was CBI special director when he was appointed to the Central Information Commission (CIC) in 2008.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In his book, Right to Information &amp; Jurisprudence, Sharma explains the domestic and global perspectives of ‘Right to Information’, its evolution in India and why people will not be able to adequately exercise their rights as citizens or make informed choices in its absence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book is a commentary and compendium of 29 judgements of the Supreme Court, 374 judgements of High Courts and 156 decisions of the Central Information Commission, providing rich content and analysis for stakeholders ranging from RTI activists, public-spirited citizens/organisations and information officers and judicial authorities. It helps the reader navigate through hundreds of important verdicts, ending with the landmark CIC order in 2013 when it ruled that political parties came within the ambit of the RTI. The order reiterated the importance of transparency for all state organs, and also for political parties, which actually control them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sharma recounts the response of various political parties on the issue: the BJP and the Congress made a bland assertion that they were not public authorities; the CPI(M) disclosed some information regarding the land allotted to it by the Central government, but refused to concede that it was a public authority under section 2(h) of the RTI Act; and the CPI was divided on the issue. All parties contended that if they were deemed public authorities, their rivals would maliciously file RTI applications against them during elections, wasting their time and energy and affecting their functioning. The CIC, however, ruled that the validity of the statute cannot be questioned only on the basis of the presumption of its possible misuse. It felt that the statute would usher in an era of transparency in their functioning and strengthen democracy and democratic institutions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sharma’s book does not merely cover the journey of the RTI Act over 15 years, but clearly elucidates the importance of RTI jurisprudence. Justice A.K. Sikri, former judge of the Supreme Court, rightly noted in his foreword to the book that merely passing a statute and granting the “right to know” to the people is not sufficient. “Such right should not remain on paper and it necessitates proper and effective implementation of the provisions of the Act,” observes Sikri.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is where the role of jurisprudence, as explained by Sharma, comes in, making it imperative to have a detailed audit of this revolutionary enactment. Sikri says this would help in finding out whether the law has served its purpose and also what needs to be done to ensure its proper implementation and to thwart any attempt to meddle with its provisions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Right to Information &amp; Jurisprudence</b></p> <p><i>By</i> <b>M.L. Sharma</b></p> <p><i>Published by</i> <b>Vitasta Publishing Pvt Ltd</b></p> <p><i>Price</i> <b>Rs1,995</b>; <i>pages</i> <b>912</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/11/review-right-to-information-and-jurisprudence.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/11/review-right-to-information-and-jurisprudence.html Sun Mar 13 11:06:57 IST 2022 artists-in-ladakh-are-dreaming-and-carving-alchemies-in-ice <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/06/artists-in-ladakh-are-dreaming-and-carving-alchemies-in-ice.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/2022/3/6/83-ice-sculpture.jpg" /> <p>The list of tools might include a sturdy rubber apron, safety goggles, and industrial-grade earplugs. After all, the making of ice sculptures requires power tools like electric chainsaws and grinders for lopping off ice blocks from frozen rivers and lakes. This is the kind of ice carving you might imagine taking place in the higher reaches of Ladakh in the winter months, when temperatures hover between -25º and -30º Celsius, and the ancient Zanskar river freezes to a road.</p> <p>For a group of contemporary artists in Ladakh, representing the Kangsing Snow and Ice Sculpture Association, fastidiousness about proper equipment is hardly the right attitude to adopt. The idea is to make some headway in creating a winter wonderland in Ladakh, beyond spotting snow leopards or plying the Chadar trek on the Zanskar trail. And, there will be several hits and misses to that end. For this year’s Ladakh Snow and Ice Sculpture Workshop in Chilling valley, along the banks of the Zanskar river, sculptors, painters and ceramicists in their 20s and 30s wielded used gloves and goggles acquired from second-hand markets—hand-me-downs that the Army used in the Siachen Glacier. High up amidst the snow-capped mountains, they had basic, fuel-driven chainsaws used for agricultural purposes, along with tile-cutting blades. They improvised their ice-cutting chisels. Help poured in from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) that supplied shoe crampons apart from ropes and harnesses to safely walk the ice bed, in case it cracks. There were guides and workers from the Zanskar valley available to work as extra hands. And, together, they chopped, lugged, and transported 100 pieces of 28-inch by 15-inch ice blocks every day through January to finally create an ice cafe, some 40ft by 30ft, by February 10, now open to tourists who will also see it melting away. There were plans to create a fruit bar and a functional restaurant inside the cafe. But preparing the base of the cafe itself took so long that sunlight exposure on the chosen site increased from two to six hours as February inched forward. And once the sunlight lengthened, the translucently clear café began to appear whitish from the top.</p> <p>“We have a big dream to not only work with ice and snow from a particular region but also participate in world championships in ice carving. Eventually, we want to hold them in Ladakh. We couldn’t participate in the Winter Olympics in Beijing this year. But we want to be there in Italy for the next Winter Olympics,” says Chemet Dorjay who is one of the founding members of Kangsing, which means “snow lion”, a mythical animal in the Himalayas.</p> <p>Dorjay and Tsering Gurmet Kungyam—who were once students at the fine arts department of Banaras Hindu University—are trained sculptors. They would often wonder how they had worked with every material possible, from bronze and marble to granite and clay. “We grew up playing with ice and snow. We saw the incredible work being done with ice in China and Europe. And we’ve hardly done anything here in India,” says Gurmet, who also trained under Ravinder Jamwal, a veteran sculptor from Jammu known for statues of Dogra legends. After they had both graduated and returned to Ladakh, they began to seriously consider working towards creating ice art along with Stanzin Khangsar, a traditional artist from the region.</p> <p>Getting on with their regular drill as sculptors, painters or ceramicists is well-nigh impossible for the four months in winter when materials and medium harden with frost and there is hardly any running water from taps. The endless possibilities with ice became clearer after they saw the famed artificial glaciers built by engineer and educationist Sonam Wangchuk. In 2018, they convinced Wangchuk to let them create an ice sculpture inside one of the glaciers. The three-metre-high Changchup Chorten was thus born in Phayang village, some 15kms from Leh; it celebrated Wangchuk’s efforts in conserving water. From here on, frozen stupas and other small-scale figures like dragons would often come up in the Leh market to help gauge what one would call in academia reader-response. It was Wangchuk who later helped the artists get to Sweden to understand the making of the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi. Soon, in 2019, the original members of the Kangsing collective, including Dorjay and Gurmet, got accepted in the Harbin International Snow and Ice Festival in China—believed to be the world’s largest of its kind with its massive, mind-bending alchemies in snow and ice. Siberian Russia lies just a few hours north of Harbin. “We have all the government support here, but reaching the skill and calibre of China in ice carving will take at least 10 years,” says Gurmet.</p> <p>Seeing the best at play gave the artists a sense of the staggering investment required to build clear-eyed ice art.</p> <p>“A snow-making machine typically costs a hefty Rs26 lakh and a decent ice cutter is at least Rs80,000 apiece. No one knows how to make them in India,” says Dr Nordan Otzer, an ENT surgeon and social activist who also organises the Kangsing workshop.</p> <p>The budget was scaled down to Rs20 lakh (sponsored by Ladakh Police). “We had no other choice but to move ahead. With a wood cutting saw machine, we harvested ice from the Zanskar river bed and started building the cafe. It’s more like a colosseum. We also built a snow leopard on the way to Hemis National Park,” says Otzer. But if one were to overlook the logistical challenges, it is the act of chipping and moulding ice into intricate beings that have been the most rewarding.</p> <p>“Ice is one of the most interesting mediums. It is as fragile as glass and as heavy as a rock,” says Dorjay, who is also a member of international ice carving associations. Interestingly, while making ice sculptures, water is the only agent to fix two blocks together. “The upper layer of the ice, which is shiny and in contact with the sun, is quite slippery. Once you put a block over another, you have to throw water over it so the blocks stick. This technique is used around the world,” says Dorjay. But, most importantly, it is the only medium that does not last. “It is the idea of impermanence that is the essence of ice. And our lives, too. That everything beautiful or terrifying that you see and experience will melt away,” he says.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/06/artists-in-ladakh-are-dreaming-and-carving-alchemies-in-ice.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/06/artists-in-ladakh-are-dreaming-and-carving-alchemies-in-ice.html Sun Mar 06 14:38:17 IST 2022 k-jayakumars-new-book-reveals-the-path-to-a-simple-life <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/06/k-jayakumars-new-book-reveals-the-path-to-a-simple-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/2022/3/6/87-k-jayakuma.jpg" /> <p>Many years ago, Paramahansa Yogananda said, “Be as simple as you can be. You will be astonished to see how uncomplicated and happy your life can become.” The book, <i>Simple Life,</i> by K. Jayakumar—acclaimed Malayalam poet, writer and former civil servant—offers simplicity as a path that is accessible in a complex world. It gives compelling reasons why a simple, uncomplicated life is filled with joy.</p> <p>The author explains it all logically in the context of the sorcery of consumerism, the pitfalls of capitalism, the buying and brand mania based on the modern dictum ‘I shop therefore I am’, the cluttering of space (both physical and mental), the obsession with new technology, the leaning towards more and bigger and better, and then that sinking into the abyss of absolute materialism. He advises the reader to avoid these wrong signposts so that the whole plan of leading a simple life becomes logical and practical.</p> <p>A de-cluttered home is the first signpost on the journey towards a simple life. Clutter in our homes is essentially the antithesis of beauty. As Jayakumar writes, “While the anxiety about the future prods us towards senseless accumulation, the emotional attachment to the past is also a major cause of clutter.”</p> <p>He talks about simplicity at various levels—physical, emotional and mental—and differentiates between satisfaction and contentment. One is fleeting, the other is long lasting and comes from within. “The mind where thoughts and feelings of yesterday and tomorrow elbow for space can hardly accommodate the thoughts of today. The past and the future sandwich the present, which alone is real,” he writes.</p> <p>Many of the author’s insights are spiritual and his words have a poetic quality. I shared the book with three people from different generations: my father, who is 90 years old; my husband, who is a doctor; and my daughter, who is embarking on a teaching career. Interestingly, there was one strong common observation: the book is an eye-opener and a pressing need of the times.</p> <p><i>Simple Life </i>is universal in scope and holistic in execution. It encapsulates a beautiful vision of a simple life and kindly leads us towards it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Simple Life</b></p> <p><b>By K. Jayakumar</b></p> <p><b>Published by Shubhi Publications</b></p> <p><b>Price Rs295; pages 86</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/06/k-jayakumars-new-book-reveals-the-path-to-a-simple-life.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/03/06/k-jayakumars-new-book-reveals-the-path-to-a-simple-life.html Sun Mar 06 14:30:57 IST 2022 the-journey-of-music-prodigy-lydian-nadhaswaram <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/24/the-journey-of-music-prodigy-lydian-nadhaswaram.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/2022/2/24/65-Lydian-Nadhaswaram-new.jpg" /> <p>Lydian Nadhaswaram’s small studio, tucked behind a swanky bungalow in Chennai’s Saligramam, is as lively as his music. As the wooden door swings open, you are met with a picture of Ludwig van Beethoven gazing serenely at the Steinway grand piano in the room. A few string instruments hang on the side wall. A huge teddy bear sits on the grand piano.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Next to the many guitars and violins is a harpejji (an electrical, stringed instrument, which is a combination of a bass guitar and a lead guitar, but it is played like a piano). It was A.R. Rahman’s gift to Lydian. It is from this studio that Lydian recreated Illayaraja’s tough compositions (he is the maestro’s only student), composed his own music and practised for CBS’s The World’s Best, which he won in 2019.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lydian, 16, is synonymous with music. “I can’t live without it,”he says with a humble smile. “I learn every day. I learn from everyone around me, from every bit of music I hear.”Ask him why he was named Lydian and he replies, “In India, people know the nadhaswaram; it is a wind instrument. Lydian is a Greek word. It is a raga, a mode among the seven modes in music. In Tamil, we have the kalyani raga. My father used to say that Lydian is the kalyani raga. I have always felt proud about being named Lydian.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When he was a baby, his father, Varshan Satish, would make him listen to the song ‘Kaatril varum geethame’which is in the Lydian raga. The raga would always elicit a smile or chuckle from the toddler.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lydian began his musical journey at the age of two. When the family was celebrating his elder sister Amrithavarshini’s birthday, Lydian played a beat on the floor with his hands and two xylophone sticks. Amazed, Varshan gave him a makeshift card board box to play the beats. The next day he got Lydian a small Rototoms drum set. Since then, Lydian has been unstoppable.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His father used to take him for every orchestra and light music show after Lydian turned three, where he used to play the drums while watching others sing, play string instruments and the keyboard. Varshan always advised Lydian to be the “world’s best”at whatever he did. “Even if you clean a bathroom, you should be the best at it,”his father told him. It was a piece of advice that Lydian took to heart.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the age of 10, in 2016, Lydian successfully completed his grade 8 piano examination. At the Trinity College of Music, Lydian was the youngest in his batch. And he surprised everyone when he played Chopin’s ‘Petit Chien Valse’. One of the examiners, upon hearing Lydian play the Chopinesque rubato, wrote in his report that “this was played with both delicacy and gusto”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Since then, Lydian has gone on to win many awards like the Cicely Goschen Shield, the Amy De Rozario Cup, the P.P. John Memorial Prize, and the Rajagopal Menon Prize. And now, at the age of 16, he is the youngest in the elite club of musical greats like Illayaraja and A.R. Rahman who have composed for films.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After graduating from Trinity College, he went to A.R. Rahman’s KM Music Conservatory to learn the Russian way of playing the piano. At the college, when everyone else would get back to their rooms after the day’s learning, Lydian would go around listening to every bit of music played in every other room. Ask him what is the Russian way of playing the piano and he gets into action, sliding his hands in the air gracefully with his elbows up and fingers facing down.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He can play both the upright piano and the grand piano. There is an interesting story behind how he got the grand piano. At the age of 10, Lydian was invited for the first TED show in India, which was hosted by Shah Rukh Khan and produced by New York-based curator Juliet Blake. The show called TED Talks India Nayi Soch featured many big names. When everyone spoke, Lydian played his notes, impressing Blake. Upon his invitation, Lydian played a fusion piece on his piano along with Los Angeles-based violinist Gingger Shankar and Swiss drummer Carlo Ribaux.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After this, he was invited to be part of NBC’s Spanish-language TV show, Siempre Niños, in Miami in February 2017. When Blake took him to meet one of New York’s most powerful couples, John and Tina Novogratz, Lydian was impressed by the grand piano in their home. He went on to play Mozart, Liszt, Chopin and Beethoven on it, mesmerising everyone. Awed, the family promised to gift him a Steinway, which promptly arrived by the time he got to Chennai.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And then in 2019, he won CBS’s The World’s Best at the age of 13, which came with a prize of $1 million; he played 325 beats per minute. Though he can play the piano, drums, tabla, mridangam, guitar, melodica and the harmonica, he surprises everyone when he plays two pianos simultaneously.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He recently played ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara’and ‘Sare Jahan Se Accha’at the same time in two different pianos. In fact, it was this talent of his that impressed television host Ellen DeGeneres when he appeared on her show. Now, he is composing the music for south Indian superstar Mohanlal’s debut directorial, Barroz. He says Mohanlal himself called him after listening to Lydian recreate one of Illayaraja’s hits. He was attracted to the project because it is a children’s film with historical underpinnings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He first recreated Illayaraja’s ‘Karpoora bommai onru’. For Lydian, recreating is breaking every note of every musical instrument played in it. Lydian himself would play the music while his father and sister would sing. This was followed by ‘Thiruvasagam’and ‘Polla Vinayen’, a long and a tough piece.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lydian’s ‘Thiruvasagam’came to Illayaraja’s attention when his father posted it on YouTube. That is how he got a call from the maestro himself, thus fulfilling Lydian’s dream of discussing music with him. “Meeting him, I felt the faith and respect I have always had for him,”says Lydian. According to him, since he became Illayaraja’s student, it has been like holding the maestro’s hand while moving forward in his musical journey. And as I walk out of the studio, Beethoven still has his eyes fixed on the Steinway grand piano, watching Lydian being himself.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/24/the-journey-of-music-prodigy-lydian-nadhaswaram.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/24/the-journey-of-music-prodigy-lydian-nadhaswaram.html Sun Feb 27 10:05:06 IST 2022 tony-emmy-and-grammy-meet-oscar <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/24/tony-emmy-and-grammy-meet-oscar.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/2022/2/24/68-Lin-Manuel-Miranda-new.jpg" /> <p>It was September 2017, and Lin-Manuel Miranda was having a tough time because of Roger Federer. “Just stressed, watching Federer,” Miranda tweeted, with a picture of him and his son slumped against the couch as they watched an off-colour Federer plod through the second round of the US Open. The match was into the fifth set, and Miranda had had enough. “I gotta feed and tuck in this kid,” he wrote, “[so] pausing match and off Twitter for a bit.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Federer won finally, but not before Miranda crashed out. So, the Swiss great, long an admirer of the American playwright, responded to the picture soon after the win: “Just you wait…just you wait!”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was a deliciously beg-pardon, backhanded compliment. The line is from the opening number of Miranda’s Hamilton, a ground-breaking and culturally resonant re-telling of America’s founding father and first treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton. Culturally resonant, because it is a parable of modern-day America by a cast so racially diverse that it would have shocked—and even shamed—America’s original, all-white founding fathers. Ground-breaking, because it is a stage musical with no spoken dialogue; the storytelling is almost entirely through songs and rap. “My name is Alexander Hamilton/And there’s a million things I haven’t done/But just you wait, just you wait,” sings Miranda as he reveals himself as the scrappy Hamilton.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hamilton became a worldwide sensation after its premiere in New York in 2015. It received a record-breaking 16 nominations and 11 trophies, including Best Musical, at the annual Tony Awards—the Oscars of American theatre. Barack Obama, who was US president when the musical premiered, praised it as a cultural event that “reminds us of the vital, crazy, kinetic energy that’s at the heart of America”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vital, crazy and kinetic are three words that capture Miranda’s work rather well. In 2021, he made his debut as film director in tick, tick…Boom!—a semi-autobiographical musical on the life of Jonathan Larson, a composer and playwright who died tragically young, months before his rock musical Rent found Hamilton-like success in 1996. The ‘tick, tick’ in the film’s title is Larson’s desperation as he realises that time is running out for him to make a mark in the world; the ‘Boom!’ is, of course, death and triumph.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Miranda’s film-making is kinetic, powered by characters who would rather break into songs and dance than speak like normal people. “Musical films need a strong frame to allow the suspension of disbelief—when the camera’s right up here, it’s hard to buy someone breaking into song,” said Miranda in a recent interview. “So, my conceit was: as soon as his fingers touch the [piano] keys, we’re in the world of Jonathan Larson. That can be very real, and that can be as unreliable as we need it to be.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The past year has been phenomenal for Miranda—tick, tick…Boom! got two Oscar nods, and Miranda himself received a Best Original Song nomination for ‘Dos Oruguitas’, which he wrote for the animated musical Encanto last year. Dos oruguitas is Spanish for two caterpillars. Co-written by Miranda, Encanto (charm) is a Spanglish film about an extraordinary Colombian family. Its lively Spanish songs have broadened the idea of what a mainstream movie can be—a vital artistic achievement in a fast-diversifying America.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is Miranda’s second Oscar nomination for song writing, and the odds of him winning seem quite strong. He is on the cusp of achieving the EGOT—acronym for Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards for outstanding achievements in television, recording, film and theatre, respectively. Hamilton had swept most major entertainment awards except the Oscars (because it wasn’t a movie); it had even won Miranda a Pulitzer Prize. With ‘Dos Oruguitas’, he might finally achieve the grand slam of show business that only 16 people have so far won.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The stark reality is that the rest of my life is a post-Hamilton period,” Miranda said. “Thing connecting with the culture in that way, that happens once every 20 years. So, I took my inspiration once Hamilton happened from [filmmaker] Robert Rodriguez, who said the best way to avoid a sophomore slump is to do so much different shit that no one can tell what your sophomore project is.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Miranda’s staggering range, however, has not yet won him all-round love. Predictably, conservatives in America loathe him for being a mascot of multiculturalism. Miranda is of Puerto Rican descent and his work has championed the cause of Democratic Party’s progressive wing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Mirandas have in fact close ties to the party elite. His father, Luis Miranda Jr, has been a political consultant to top-rung Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer. Luis’s Mirram Group runs political campaigns for the party. It was Obama himself who heard and critiqued the opening number in Hamilton even before Miranda had fully fleshed out the musical.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hamilton has been criticised for playing fast and loose with history. It has been pointed out that the real Alexander Hamilton was hardly the benevolent visionary that Miranda’s play makes of him. Historians say he was an authoritarian leader who disliked democracy, encouraged monopolies, married into a slaveholding family, and traded slaves himself. Hamilton was often reckless as well; he was shot dead by one of his former associates.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Miranda’s play is one of the most brilliant propaganda pieces in theatrical history,” wrote Matt Stoller, author of Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy. “Hamilton [played a] central role in founding both the financial infrastructure of Wall Street and a nascent military establishment…. Had he succeeded [in realising his vision], Americans would probably be living in a military dictatorship.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That could well be true. But then, Miranda knows that one should never let truth get into the way of a good story. “I am not a politician or an economist,” he wrote after Hamilton became a smash. “I am a storyteller.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/24/tony-emmy-and-grammy-meet-oscar.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/24/tony-emmy-and-grammy-meet-oscar.html Sun Feb 27 10:03:40 IST 2022 amaan-and-ayaan-ali-bangash-collaborate-with-six-artistes-for-a-cause <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/24/amaan-and-ayaan-ali-bangash-collaborate-with-six-artistes-for-a-cause.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/2022/2/24/70-Amaan-and-Ayaan-Ali-Bangash.jpg" /> <p>As an instrument that is believed to be an amalgamation of the folksy Afghan rabab (or rubab) and Indian classical traditions, the sarod knows how to blend in, softly and seamlessly. And to those who see it as an extension of themselves, the sarod—there is melody even in its name—has an alchemic ability to make musical gold by mingling gently with different styles, be it rock or electronic dance music (EDM). At the forefront of this fusion today are string brothers Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash, the seventh generation of the Senia-Bangash Gharana; the sarod’s evolution from the rabab is attributed to the Bangash family.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The sarod’s soft power is quite evident in the duo’s latest EP (extended play)—We For Love—which, in Ayaan’s words, is an “eclectic, experimental album, because you have someone from the entertainment industry, someone from the classical world, someone from the EDM world, someone from the art world; it is a very unique line-up”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, you have the likes of music producer and multi-instrumentalist of Indian origin Karsh Kale, Indian classical vocalist Mahesh Kale, versatile performer and composer Shubha Mudgal, folk singer Malini Awasthi, filmmaker Karan Johar, sarod virtuoso Amjad Ali Khan and artist Paresh Maity, who did the cover art—all coming together for a cause. The proceeds from the EP will go to the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation and its Justice For Every Child campaign that provides legal and mental health support to child victims of rape and sexual abuse.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The family’s association with Satyarthi began in 2014, when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with activist Malala Yousafzai. Amjad Ali Khan and his sons performed at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and also at the concert.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The recent campaign resonated with the brothers for a very personal reason—Ayaan’s twins, aged nine. “After I became a parent, I felt even more passionately about what he was doing,”says Ayaan. Perhaps, it is unusual for a classical musician to talk about a cause like this, he adds. “But I think this was the time to create awareness,”he says. “Music is the greatest wealth we have in our family. So that is the only thing we can share with the world in order to create awareness for a cause like this.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Initially, Amaan and Ayaan thought of doing just one track—the title track with Karsh—but then they wanted to make it more special. They reached out to several artistes. “While some did not respond, some were very enthusiastic, and those who were became part of the album,”says Amaan. Adds Ayaan, “My father’s inclusion happened right at the end, because I realised that my father was Satyarthi ji’s choice of artiste when he got such a big award in his life. It would have been incomplete without his involvement.”And, the maestro came on board on one condition—his name should come last.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These were all artistes the duo would have loved to collaborate with at some point in time, says Ayaan. But Karan’s name in this musical line-up must have come as a surprise to many. “I was worried that people might think that Karan has done alaaps (vocals without words),”says Ayaan, laughing. “[Through his narration in ‘Together We Can’], he communicated the reality of what this cause is all about. We are very openly telling everyone to donate to the cause because that is what makes a big difference.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The duo started work on the EP in October last, when the Delta wave was receding, but then Omicron turned up in December. But like the rest of the world, they took the alternate route to function, using technology to send files. The brothers, who will be visiting professors at the University of New Mexico, think that they could complete the album in a short duration because of some divine intervention. “For us, it was all a kind of a prayer,”says Amaan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps, that is why each of the six tracks, though different in genre and treatment, has a soothing effect on the listener. While the title track by Karsh is an EDM track, Shubha’s ‘Fire Within’is a “hardcore classical track”. “It’s just alaaps happening in a traditional Raag Shree,”says Ayaan. “And then Malini Awasthi ji’s track [‘Divine Krishna’] again has the whole thumri colour and element. Mahesh Kale sings a beautiful traditional bhajan [‘Temple of Love’].”The EP ends with Amjad Ali Khan’s ‘Gandhi’s Hymn’—a no-frill rendition of Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite ‘Vaishnav Jan To’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The sarod makes its presence known in all the tracks, but it is subtle. As Amaan says, “We did not want it to look like we were trying too hard. We wanted it to be calm, quiet, pure like a child’s heart.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/24/amaan-and-ayaan-ali-bangash-collaborate-with-six-artistes-for-a-cause.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/24/amaan-and-ayaan-ali-bangash-collaborate-with-six-artistes-for-a-cause.html Thu Mar 03 17:54:19 IST 2022 no-one-took-us-seriously-say-makers-of-writing-with-fire <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/19/no-one-took-us-seriously-say-makers-of-writing-with-fire.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/2022/2/19/81-A-poster-of-Writing-With-Fire-new.jpg" /> <p>Adalit woman journalist stands next to a television in a stark green office in Chitrakoot, Uttar Pradesh. Before her sit around 20 women, faces eager, nervous, staring into a future in which their place is uncertain. The woman journalist, Meera Devi, is the bureau chief of Khabar Lahariya, India’s only newspaper run by dalit women. This meeting of the women might be a historic one for the 20-year-old newspaper, as it marks the shift from print to digital.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“If we don’t adapt, we won’t survive,” says Meera.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The women look reverently at their new mobile phones. “I have never used a mobile phone,” says one of them. “I’m scared of damaging it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The montage is at the crux of Writing With Fire, the first Indian feature documentary to be nominated for the Oscars. Initially, its makers, Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh, were conflicted about the focus of the movie. They tried many permutations and combinations before realising that the arc of the film was going to be the journey of the newspaper from print to digital. “That is also the reason why the film is very consciously chronological,” says Rintu. “Because after every 10 minutes something shifts dramatically. We wanted to give this illusion of time passing as you watch these women working. Yet, it is also highly intersectional—it is a film about gender, media, populism and patriarchy. We went deep inside. We went into their intimate stories.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The film was physically challenging—shot over four years in extremely dusty mining belts where temperatures are a constant 40 degrees, public transport is not easily available and you often have to travel with 12 people crammed into an auto-rickshaw. Because they had to walk an average of two to three hours every day with the journalists, the filmmakers shot the film hand-held, with no tripod; there would be only so much extra weight they could carry in their backpacks. “While we were battling with the physical aspects, the film’s themes were constantly playing out in our heads: the mechanics of the fourth estate, its true values, its independence, seeing things through a feminist lens, what citizenship and democracy can really mean,” says Sushmit. “Every time a scene would play out, we were like, how does this fit into the larger narrative of the film?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For the filmmakers, the journey began in 2016, when they took a train to UP after seeing a photo story of a lone Khabar Lahariya journalist walking through an arid landscape with a newspaper in her hand. They kept the crew small, it was only Rintu (co-director and sound recordist), Sushmit (co-director and cinematographer) and Karan Thapliyal (cinematographer). The music was done by Tajdar Junaid and Ishaan Chhabra.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Writing With Fire primarily follows three women journalists—Meera Devi, Shyamkali Devi and Suneeta Prajapati—each of them with unique pasts that have defined their personalities. The challenge was in earning the women’s trust. “They chose us to tell their story,” says Rintu. “During the first shoot schedule, we just shadowed them, we were very silent. We developed a language where if some situation was risky—inside police stations or illegal mines—they would give us a cue as to whether we could shoot or not. Soon, they figured we were not there to disrupt their work.” The effort paid off. The film has won over 30 awards, including two at the Sundance Festival, besides getting a 100 per cent score on Rotten Tomatoes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Interestingly, the filmmakers got married a year before the shoot for Writing With Fire started, “so the film has spanned the life of our marriage,” says Rintu with a laugh. The two met in film school in Jamia Millia Islamia in 2006, and worked together on their master’s thesis film, a short documentary called Flying Inside My Body, about how a gay and HIV positive photographer used his nude body to create photography that challenged notions of shame and acceptability. A year after graduating, they started their own film production company, Black Ticket Films. “We both come from very service oriented middle-class families, so this was a huge shift from everything I had imagined myself doing,” says Rintu. “We gave ourselves one year and said if Black Ticket Films does not do well in that time, we’ll disband it. We pooled our savings, registered the company, and for the first six to eight months, there was no work. We were too young in the eyes of people. They were like, ‘Your ideas are great, but where are your bosses?’ And that is when this hunger to create our own independent work began.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some of their well-known documentary shorts include Dilli, an 18-minute visual essay about Delhi during the Commonwealth Games, and Timbaktu which won a national award, about the shift of a small farming community in South India from its age-old practice of chemical agriculture to organic farming. “We have done a wide spectrum of films,” says Sushmit. “People ask us, are you interested in social justice stories, and we say, no, we are interested in deconstructing the world around us; that is the essence of our storytelling. So while the themes have been climate crisis, public health, women’s rights—these are intimate, human narratives first.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The triumph of Writing With Fire is that it goes not just deep into the lives of the Khabar Lahariya women, but also into the recesses of their minds. The film is a searing portrayal of their fears, hopes and dreams. Their success, it seems to imply, is not despite their caste or gender. It is because of what these factors have made them. Now, they are finding a way to create an alternative structure of power which is not based on aggression or antagonising people whom they don’t agree with, but rather on being firm and thorough professionals. “While mainstream journalists would report a road accident as a breaking news, a Khabar Lahariya journalist would ask the hard questions,” says Rintu. “What was the budget sanctioned to construct that road? How much of it has been used in the fiscal year? Why does the road keep getting damaged? No one’s asking those questions.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the documentary goes places, literally and figuratively, so have the women. Meera was at the Sundance virtual premiere. She presented the film with Rintu and Sushmit for the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. Khabar Lahariya collaborated with a German film festival for a three-day event on journalism. “Journalists from Berlin collaborated with those from the heart of Bundelkhand,” says Sushmit. “These are system-shifting conversations that are taking place.” After a lifetime of invisibility, these women are finally coming into the light.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/19/no-one-took-us-seriously-say-makers-of-writing-with-fire.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/19/no-one-took-us-seriously-say-makers-of-writing-with-fire.html Sat Feb 19 12:39:32 IST 2022 video-games-triggered-anirudh-kanisetti-love-for-history <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/19/video-games-triggered-anirudh-kanisetti-love-for-history.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/2022/2/19/84-Anirudh-Kanisetti.jpg" /> <p>It is a quiet Saturday. In the heart of the Deccan, at the foothills of the mammoth Golconda Fort, the Qutub Shahi kings lie sleeping, eternally peaceful, in a garden. The dynasty wrapped India in a shining fable much before a political campaign, through the Golconda diamonds. The mausoleums, like pale buttercream frosting, glisten in the afternoon sun and parrots burst out in a cloud of emerald.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“They are so cosmopolitan,” says Anirudh Kanisetti, 27, a historian-in-training, as he describes himself in his first book, Lords of the Deccan. “In the sense that you can see Indian design elements as well as stuff like dragons and pineapples that came from global trade.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is the story of the cosmopolitan Deccan—sumptuous, exciting and lush with details—that Kanisetti’s Lords of the Deccan: Southern India from the Chalukyas to the Cholas tries to capture. Paced like a thriller with the sprawl of a saga, the book is written very much for a Game of Thrones generation. This is no sanitised version of history; there is plenty of drama, blood, ambition, betrayal and family feuds to keep readers hooked. But it is not just the writing—which Kanisetti certainly has the gift for, describing the landscape and battle scenes in cinematic detail—it is the sheer depth of scholarship. The elaborate notes at the end of the book are testimony to his research.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Almost nobody thinks about the Deccan in global history,” he says. “What exactly were the kingdoms that ruled this vast region? The size of the Deccan is two-thirds that of Iran. When it first began to dawn on me just how vast and diverse this land mass was, and how many stories remained to be told to bridge the gap between what the academics have been discovering and what the general public know, there was no going back. I knew I had to tell these stories, which is how I came to write this book.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An engineer by training, Kanisetti pivoted to make history his focus; he had been interested in the subject and had written for a popular blog. His interest in history started with gaming. “When I was around 10 years old, my father or my uncle got me a copy of the ‘Age of Empires’,” he says. “Like the game suggests, you can build Greek, Roman and other European empires. It blew my tiny mind. I could never have imagined that. I began to realise that Greek and Roman history were fascinating, and it was very easy for me to look them up online and find all these resources. But when I wanted to do the same for the Mauryas, I could find very little. I had to read these extremely academic texts, and I soon found that I had a flair for understanding what the author was saying and then writing blogs in a very simple way.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Written over three years, Kanisetti brings alive the Deccan from the sixth to the 12th Century. He crafts this world beautifully. It goes beyond the journey of the battlefields, though there is plenty of bloody battles, and pieces together the history of the period through the show-stopper then—architecture. He writes about the emergence of temples on the landscape, focusing less on their piety and more on their power. The book starts with a description of the Kailashanatha temple of Ellora, made by the removal of “two million cubic feet of rock”, enough to fill two Olympic-sized pools —another comparison to bring home the point of just how the reconstruction of the past has been limited to just political history.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And the remains of the day have left out the concrete evidence—often temples. “When Trailokya-Mahadevi, the younger of Vikramaditya’s two sister-wives, gave birth to his son and heir apparent in the early 720s, she embarked on a project of astonishing scale. She ordered the construction of a Shiva temple at Pattadakal, so ambitious in scale that it sucked Chalukya-employed artisans away from their other building projects in the Malaprabha valley for no less than fourteen years,” he writes. She doesn’t live to see it completed, and her elder sister Loka-Mahadevi emerges as the most powerful woman. She administered two regions and built the grandest temple of the dynasty: the Lokeshvara temple, a temple for a queen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The past is clearly his passion—it leaps off the page. It is littered with references from literature, including the incredible Dasakumaracharitam (Tale of the Ten Princes) written by Dandin to teach his ward—the Pallava king, Narasimha-Varman II—the ways of morality and dharma. “It immediately shows you from the get-go that this is not a world that is like ours in any way,” he says. “Our compass of morality, even in the way we think of sex or duty, let alone the way we think about religion or history, has been completely transformed by colonialism. Reading about how different the world of medieval India is just hits you in the face. I will give you one example, of a long-lost prince coming back to his ancestral kingdom. There is this old couple who used to serve his deposed father with whom he stays. When the elderly wife meets him, the poet says milk welled up in her breasts. I was not expecting that turn of phrase. When she hugs him, she snips his hair. These two unique descriptions of body language are not even that racy. It just tells you the way that these people thought. Even the body language was so different from ours.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But more than anything else, the medieval world also has lessons for the present. The biggest: tolerance. “We know of Shaivite teachers, monks and poets who came and settled down here,” he says. “The only reason they could do it is because they knew Sanskrit. The reason they were being invited was because they brought with them a knowledge and a skill that local poets did not really have. I will give you the example of the one who bears the Sanskrit title of Madhumati—it was Mohammad Ibn Cheriyar, a Persian who was hired by the Rashtrakutas. They did this because of a rational calculation that being tolerant makes a lot more sense, and is more profitable than blindly hating on the basis of religion. They were proud of being globalised. They thrived at being multicultural.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lords of the Deccan: Southern India from the Chalukyas to the Cholas</b></p> <p><i>By</i> <b>Anirudh Kanisetti</b></p> <p><i>Published by</i> <b>Juggernaut</b></p> <p><i>Price</i> <b>Rs699</b>; <i>pages</i> <b>460</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/19/video-games-triggered-anirudh-kanisetti-love-for-history.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/19/video-games-triggered-anirudh-kanisetti-love-for-history.html Sat Feb 19 12:32:06 IST 2022 review-roy-phoenix-imaginary-world-in-alphabetica <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/19/review-roy-phoenix-imaginary-world-in-alphabetica.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/2022/2/19/87-Alphabetica-new.jpg" /> <p>From Hogwarts to the Hobbit, humans have been experts at creating parallel universes that lets them escape the drudgery of their own. The more different these universes are from the one in which we live, the more their chances of success in the reader’s mind.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Roy Phoenix, too, has created an alternate reality in his book, Alphabetica. His is called Planet Typewriter, in which he gives life to each character in a typewriter—the alphabets, numbers, punctuations and signs. They have distinct personalities and quirks. For example, the muscular-armed Alpha (the alphabet A) lives with Miss Buxom Beth (B) and Miss Congeniality Camel (C), who is also the class valedictorian, in Bungalow #1.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, a blueprint of the planet. There is Alphabetica, a city-state suspended on its Westerloo Wall; Numerica on the east; the word factory called the Underwood, where the inhabitants come to work in their “designated cockpits”; and Italics, the pub or the ‘inking hole’ where you let down your metallic hair and have a merry time. Planet Typewriter exists for the “Poet” who is the benefactor of the planet. Its purpose is to bring to life his little ditties.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The story really starts when the alphabet Y, or the screechy, preachy Ypsi, comes to know of the word share rankings of the 26 characters in the Earthlings’ Succinct Oxonian Lexicon. She grows jealous of the Vowels when she realises that they had cornered a whopping 38 per cent of the word share, despite being a minority among the Consonant majority. Thus, there is trouble in the planet, egged on by a trigger-happy Ypsi who is christened ‘Madame Leader Ypsi’ after the ‘Great Dictator’ (a thinly-disguised reference to Adolf Hitler, whose tenets are Ypsi’s guide to the annihilation of the Vowels.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We Consonants are not only the majority, but we are also the direct descendants of the 22 Phoenician Consonants who gave birth to this land called Alphabetica,” says Ypsi to her hapless roommates, Xi and Zayin, indifferent back-benchers in class. “Don’t confuse us with minority Greek Vowels. Ours is a proud heritage and a rich culture that was in vogue during the early Iron Age, and we have been the guiding light of this land for over three thousand years.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sounds familiar? Alphabetica is Phoenix’s take on the futility and danger of majoritarianism—what happens when we let the major many dictate terms to the minor few. In short, what we see happening in different parts of the world, including our own. Usually, a fantasy’s primary business is not to make a point. It is more escapism than education. That way, Alphabetica seems to fit neither in the category of fantasy, nor fully in satire. Still, it is mostly able to stand on its own. The story is built on a sound foundation and does not need an underlying message or moral to uphold it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some of the descriptions are impressive. “With ballistic catapults hitting the Ink Ribbon through a turret of a cylindrical fortress and pulleys ferrying a gigantic piston triggering an alarm bell, the magnificent Underwood was a battleground of creativity,” writes Phoenix.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite this, one feels he has not exploited the potential of his own world. Sometimes, you wish he would slow down and pause from the story telling just so that you can take in the view of this novel planet, with its metallic forests and workstations, outlandish characters and intoxicating ‘ink’ drinks, hors d’oeuvre of grease mousse and hardened soot missiles.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Alphabetica: A Satire on Majoritarianism</b></p> <p><i>By</i> <b>Roy Phoenix</b></p> <p><i>Published by</i> <b>Notion Press</b></p> <p><i>Price</i> <b>Rs549</b>; <i>pages</i> <b>209</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/19/review-roy-phoenix-imaginary-world-in-alphabetica.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/19/review-roy-phoenix-imaginary-world-in-alphabetica.html Sat Feb 19 12:25:21 IST 2022 the-yellove-revolution <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/10/the-yellove-revolution.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2022/2/10/65-Prabhu-Damodharan-new.jpg" /> <p>On January 30, when Indian Premier League team Chennai Super Kings (CSK) became India’s first sports unicorn, Prabhu Damodharan, a textile businessman from Tiruppur, Tamil Nadu, was immensely proud. Damodharan, co-founder of a CSK fan club, and his friends have not missed a single CSK match. For them, the team is synonymous with success and Mahendra Singh Dhoni.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The importance CSK fans attach to Dhoni is echoed by Damodharan’s friend from Visakhapatnam, Praveen Balusu, vice president of an IT firm in Mumbai (the two met through CSK). Balusu, who wrote a book—A Dawn in the Lawn—about Dhoni, cricket and the Indian team, said Dhoni’s conduct and captaincy helped him hone his own leadership skills.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The former India captain and the IPL team he has led to great success are both integral to Saravanan Hari’s life. Hari, a logistics professional, always paints himself yellow before going to watch a CSK match. Harnam Kaur has been a Dhoni fan since she was eight; she played cricket in her native Una, Himachal Pradesh, wearing the CSK jersey. She owns all official CSK kits.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Radha Gowtham, from Chennimalai in west Tamil Nadu, says CSK changed her life. “I was always told that girls and boys are different,” she said. “But, the first match I watched taught me what freedom means and that everyone is equal [as there were no divisions among the cheering crowd].” Now, she wants her little daughter to watch every CSK match to learn the same.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The people of Tamil Nadu were crazy about cricket long before CSK came into being. And though players like Krishnamachari Srikkanth, Lakshmipathy Balaji and Dinesh Karthik had played for India, the fans felt the lack of a cricketing superstar from the state. When the IPL began, most of the other teams had stars from the respective states. CSK bet on Dhoni from Jharkhand.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the time, it may have seemed reasonable to question whether Dhoni would be able to connect with the team’s identity. Now, “thala” (head/leader) is a ‘naturalised’ Chennaiite and embodies that identity. In its remarkable growth over one-and-a-half decades (its market cap is around Rs1,000 crore more than its parent entity India Cements), CSK has cut across barriers and forged lasting bonds with fans. This was key to its successful return after a two-year ban.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The team has over 30 million followers on social media platforms. Karnataka felt the full weight of this following when Cauvery protests forced CSK to shift home games to Pune. But, the team also has strong travelling support, even when the matches are outside India. Damodharan says that there were days in 2021 when he flew to Dubai only to cheer for the team during the IPL.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Dravidian identity that has been weaved into the team is a strong platform to connect with fans. Moreover, the birth of CSK was during a period of social transformation. The DMK was in power in 2008 and the calls for social justice and equality were rallying cries. It was also the time when the demand for Tamil to be declared a classical language and the Tamil way of life to be preserved as a unique tradition was being widely discussed. CSK’s symbol—the roaring lion—was also reminiscent of the symbol of the Pallava dynasty. It also helped that the theme song caught on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The most intriguing aspect of the CSK craze is arguably the colour yellow. It was alien at the start, but fans now call it “yellove”. There are stark examples of how much the colour means to fans. Hari’s body painting comes to mind. Then there was a CSK fan in Cuddalore who painted his entire house yellow. “I wear yellow whenever I go for a function or event,” said Damodharan. “I have even been successful in influencing my wife to wear a yellow sari or salwar when we go out.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/10/the-yellove-revolution.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/10/the-yellove-revolution.html Sun Feb 13 10:33:24 IST 2022 Inked-love <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/10/Inked-love.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2022/2/10/70-Prahlad-Kakkar.jpg" /> <p>Love letters can come with varying degrees of intensity, from the brisk tone of those from Johnny Cash to June Carter to the passionate note in those from John Keats to Fanny Brawne. These love letters have survived the wear-and-tear of time, bearing testimony to the immortality of the written word. Even when we have lost the ones we have received, some of them are seared into our hearts, marking various signposts in our romantic journey. In this month of love, four prominent personalities tell us about their experience with love letters.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Prahlad Kakkar </b>/ad guru</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>THE FIRST LOVE</b> letter I wrote was a poem. It was to a junior of mine from college. She was an English honours major, who herself wrote excellent poetry. She read the poem, looked at me and said: “It lacks in style, but not in passion.” I met her at a get-together in college. She came up to me and asked, “What sign are you?” I said, “Aries”. She had obviously been observing me for a while. She said, “Figures”, and walked off. I went after her and asked, “Why? Is it because I come across as too aggressive?” She said, “No. As too sheepish.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The first love letter I received was again in the form of poetry. It was while I was working. It was a reply to my Valentine’s Day message, something like an appreciation of the fact that I had remembered. It was only a paragraph or so, and it was very abstract. That’s the advantage with poetry. You can get away with saying something without actually saying it. In a poem, you don’t say, “I love you eternally,” or anything like that. You say, “The sky opens up and the birds sing better when you are around.” That way, even if she confronts you about what you are insinuating, you can pretend ignorance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are some very quotable poems that have often been used to profess love. Like T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. But you could only quote the first two lines, which went: “Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky.” Because after that, it grew morbid. The next line was, “Like a patient etherised upon a table”. Eliot’s poems were like that. They would take you to a high and then bring you down to earth. Another quotable poet was E.E. Cummings, who wrote only in lower case. He wrote very beautiful poetry about lost love. They were perfect to send to someone who had dumped you. You told them how hurt you were, hoping they would change their mind. But that never happens.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I had kept all my love letters in a suitcase, but when I shifted homes, I lost them. As I grew older, I lost the capacity to feel with that sharpness. Poetry is inspired, not deliberate. Only professional poets write about life. It is the average guy who writes about love, and to provoke him to write, there must be a degree of intensity. Today, youngsters are unable to write poetry because they don’t feel strongly enough. With the popularity of dating sites like Tinder and Bumble, you simply swipe to the left or right. The old-fashioned way of courtship—with chocolate, flowers and poetry—is fast disappearing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Vikas Khanna</b> / celebrity chef and author of Barkat</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>IN 2007,</b> I did an open Valentine’s Day tasting menu for the first time for a restaurant in Times Square called Purnima. The restaurant was popular because of the location, and also because Gordon Ramsay would often visit me and eat there. There were a lot of people who came by that day to have a meal and so many were single. I received 11 handwritten letters that day, from men and women, Americans and Indians. It was very unusual. I thought they must have liked the food, but the letters were all about love and affection. It was a such a busy evening and I did not even go out. But I remember receiving so much love. Now that I am on television, I get a lot of emails and gifts. But that was the first. It was very special.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Ma Anand Sheela</b> / Osho’s secretary and author of By My Own Rules and Nothing to Lose</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>IN THE 1980S</b> when I was at Rajneeshpuram, I used to get this love letter every morning from my Swiss lover and second husband, Dipo. He used to put it on my tea tray with a little note saying, “Good Morning. Love, Dipo,” with a little heart.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another set of love letters were from my time in prison. My German lawyer, Otmar, used to send me a love letter every day. He used to write very beautiful and romantic letters, each at least a page and a half long. He used to come without fail every day. Even on a Sunday! He was so in love with me he used to say: ‘When I see you, my knees shake like a leaf.’ And he used to declare that with such joy and love, it used to simply warm my heart and take away the cold of the prison.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>You can never be closed in love. Wherever you find love, open all the doors and windows of your being. You will feel instantly how enriching and beautiful an experience it is. When Bhagwan used to simply look in my eyes and say, “Hmm Sheela, you look beautiful”, I would melt instantly and become a puddle of water. Love is something one should not be afraid of. It enhances the beauty of life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Anuja Chauhan</b> / writer</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>THE FIRST LOVE</b> letter I read was the one Fitzwilliam Darcy wrote to Elizabeth Bennet (in Pride and Prejudice) and I remember being disappointed because it was so prim. The second was one I wrote myself in Class 11, asking a boy I liked to go out with me.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was a monsoon day in July and we were both new students at D.P.S., Mathura Road, who had been smiling silently at each other for weeks. He responded by showing up dripping wet in the rain in his white school uniform, and smiling goofily at me as I hung out with my girlfriends. We went out for a burger and coke then. He was a shy, incredibly sweet boy and we sealed our ‘going steady’ status with a firm handshake that was almost as prim as Darcy’s missive.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The first love letter I received was also from the same boy. He was not very good with words, so he just showed up in my classroom after I had gone home for the day (he could do things like that because he was in the hostel) and inexpertly carved ‘JW was here’ into my desk with a geometry box compass. (JW were his initials.) I still remember the high I got on sighting those three simple words. The pheromones hit me like a million exploding Diwali fireworks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My husband and I have written a lot of letters to each other. He’s very good about storing them carefully; I’m not. I tended to embellish mine with a lot of drawings and cartoons, and he typed out his because he was trying to learn to type when we first started dating. It is good we did this because we both have dreadful handwriting.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>—<b>As told to Sneha Bhura and Anjuly Mathai</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/10/Inked-love.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/10/Inked-love.html Tue Feb 15 14:07:21 IST 2022 in-his-memoir-remo-fernandes-takes-the-reader-into-the-life-of-a-desi-rockstar <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/05/in-his-memoir-remo-fernandes-takes-the-reader-into-the-life-of-a-desi-rockstar.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/2022/2/5/63-Remo-Fernandes-new.jpg" /> <p>For Indians who listened to the Bee Gees, The Beatles and Bono in the 1980s, the indie music movement in their own backyard was a revelation. On the radio, they began to hear their own countrymen not merely mimicking American pop-rock, but owning it with a desi touch. And nobody owned it like Remo Fernandes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fans of Hindi music would later know Remo to be the voice behind hits like ‘Jalwa’, ‘Humma Humma’ and ‘Pyar To Hona Hi Tha’, but he refused to be defined by his Bollywood numbers. Instead, India’s “original rockstar” popularised fusion on these shores. “If I saw the guitar as male, the flute was the female that completed it,” he writes in his recent autobiography, Remo.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fusion of cultures and genres that this Goan native introduced was scoffed at by ustads, “but perhaps all turned to it sooner or later”, he tells THE WEEK.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The autobiography was a project that was as close to his heart as his music. So much so he considers it a work of art in itself. Locked down during the pandemic in his hometown of Siolim, Goa—far from Porto, Portugal, the place he now calls home—Remo finally got down to completing the memoir he began writing 11 years ago.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Writing one’s story… helps you put your life into perspective like not much else can. How would you understand where I’m at today if I didn’t tell you where I’m coming from?” says the 68-year-old.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indeed, where he comes from is a large part of Remo’s identity and music. He goes into great detail to describe his roots and his childhood in easy, breezy Goa. His words hark back to a simple time in a beautiful state.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And it is with purpose, too. To remind young Goans of what they are missing. “Both [young and old] are surprised at my memory for detail. That’s a great advantage to being my age; to have known a Goa no one will ever know again,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Besides serving as an ode to a bygone Goa, Remo reminds us that musicians today have much to learn from this legend. Growing up in a time and place when youth were increasingly experimental, he writes about shouldering a moral responsibility to warn youth against “drugs, communalism, corruption” and “careless immature sex” through his music.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“When I was a teenager, my heroes from The Beatles to Eric Clapton were glorifying drugs, and that encouraged a lot of global youth to turn into addicts—and even die,” he says. “I, too, was inspired to get into the milder marijuana and hashish. But a lot of good lyrics were being spread through rock’n’roll too, notably anti-war, anti-racism and pro-ecology. And I decided to use music to spread positive messages, and to make being anti-heroin (among other things) cool for the youth who attended my concerts.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Over the 480-odd pages of his memoir, the musician takes us through the highs and lows, ecstasies and tragedies in his storied life. And there is no dearth of anecdotes either—be it about delivering his albums on a yellow scooter, tripping on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club, forgetting that he sang for ‘Humma Humma’ when the song was released, not knowing which chord was ‘E’ when asked, and venturing into fusion in 1975. Fusion, because he wanted to make music that would “make the body move”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Not to forget, it is an offering laced with humour: “If only, together with the yoga exercises stolen from India, Jane Fonda had introduced our toilet hygiene habits to the West, they needn’t have had all those squabbles and fights over paper rolls as long as they had plain water, soap and a (preferably) left hand,” he writes about people hoarding toilet paper at the start of the pandemic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He notes that he felt like a rock star for the first time when girls rushed on to the stage after his performances at the ‘Festival of India’ in the USSR in the late 1980s. Rajiv Gandhi wanted to project a “young, vibrant image” of India and Remo was among those chosen for the mission. Rajiv and Remo shared a mutual admiration for each other and the latter reveals he was deeply disturbed by the prime minister’s assassination.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Something that has perennially needled Remo is the lack of originality in the Indian music scene. He told THE WEEK in a 2004 interview that Indian rock bands simply copied the west. But he resisted it. In Remo, he recounts the time when Pepsi approached him to make a Hindi version of a Michael Jackson song for a jingle. They were unsure if Indians could make good rock and pop. Remo says he refused and instead made ‘Yehi hai right choice, baby’ which was instantly approved.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One would assume that a musician from that time would be fighting to stay relevant. But that is not Remo’s style. He is taking life as it comes and enjoying the work he still produces. He recently completed writing his modern opera, Mother Teresa and the Slum Bum, inspired by his meeting with the Mother in the 1990s.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As life slowed down for artists over the last two years, it helped him, too, as he delved into the creative depths of his mind and wrote this incredibly vivid memoir besides new songs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Creative artists have certainly used this ‘me’ time to create, away from the lure and demands of the commercial world. Those who merely copy and replicate bemoan their boredom and lack of income,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book is a journey. One to be read on those warm Sunday afternoons, just like you did listening to his songs on the radio.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Remo</b></p> <p><i>By</i> <b>Remo Fernandes</b></p> <p><i>Published by</i> <b>HarperCollins</b></p> <p><i>Price</i> <b>Rs799</b>; <i>pages</i> <b>508</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/05/in-his-memoir-remo-fernandes-takes-the-reader-into-the-life-of-a-desi-rockstar.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/05/in-his-memoir-remo-fernandes-takes-the-reader-into-the-life-of-a-desi-rockstar.html Sun Feb 06 11:30:20 IST 2022 ramachandra-guha-new-book-tells-story-of-7-britishers-who-fought-for-indian-freedom <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/05/ramachandra-guha-new-book-tells-story-of-7-britishers-who-fought-for-indian-freedom.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/2022/2/5/66-Ramachandra-Guha-new.jpg" /> <p>The bookcases are ceiling high. A blue bust of Ambedkar sits companionably next to Gandhi. “I don’t want to choose between them,’’ says Ramachandra Guha. It is a bright, blue-skied evening in Bengaluru. Outside Guha’s study, one can see a frangipani tree, its leaves glossy green—a serious historian’s perfect escape from poring over minute print.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And Guha is certainly that. His new book, Rebels Against the Raj, is a vivid portrait of seven foreigners who rebelled against the Raj, from the well-known ‘Mother’ Annie Besant to the lesser-known R. R. Keithahn. They came to India, got swept up in the freedom movement and fought against the empire. There are three women: Besant; Madeleine Slade, more popularly known as Mira Behn; and Catherine Mary Heilman, who became Sarala Behn and settled in the village of Kasauni in Uttarakhand to start a school for girls. “What binds them is that they all have a connection to Gandhi,” says Guha. “Each of their relationship with Gandhi sheds new light on him. All of them have interactions with him, which showed his many-sidedness—the visionary, the caring leader, and occasionally, in his private life, the stubborn, unfeeling and partly authoritarian figure. Of course, he was the towering figure of the age. So if you engaged in politics or activism, you had to reckon with him. This is what they all did in different ways.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is Benjamin Guy Horniman—the legendary editor of The Bombay Chronicle, who lived in a bungalow in Worli with his dogs. The man, after whom a well-known circle in the heart of the city is named, used to take a walk after lunch from his office at the Sentinel to the public gardens in front of the Asiatic Society with breadcrumbs for birds and change for the street urchins. But beyond the eccentricities, he was also a man who combined activism and journalism comfortably. The founder of the Press Association of India in 1915, a union for working journalism, Horniman represents the best of the trade—fiery, committed, wily, witty and entertaining. Deported from India in 1919, Horniman’s passport was impounded. It was Horniman who exposed the brutality of what happened in Jallianwala Bagh from England. After several attempts over years to get the Foreign Office to reissue it, he finally had to find a loophole to enter India, through Ceylon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book comes at a time when Bapu’s favourite hymn, ‘Abide With Me’, is off the playlist. The brand of nationalism now on display is homegrown, homespun and often shrill. “I think that the greatest aspect of our freedom movement was that it was open to ideas,” says Guha. “I talk of nationalism having two children—patriotism and jingoism. The Indian idea was patriotism, but now it has gone into jingoism and xenophobia. It has become about racial purity. I think the closest parallel today is Russia and Turkey. Two great civilisations like India, and like India, they have had deep philosophical, historical, architectural and cultural traditions, and yet they also have drawn from elsewhere. But Putin in Russia, Erdogan in Turkey and Modi in India want to cast themselves as returning the nation to its true original, unsullied past, which never existed. They are the symbol of this resurgence, but actually it is not a resurgence, it is a narrowing in. Both Turkey and Russia are cautionary examples, because about 20 years ago both had enormous potential. Turkey could have been part of Europe. Russia had enormous scientific infrastructure and natural resources. They could have been high-quality modern states. Instead they are fighting these battles—Turkey with the Kurds, Russia with Ukraine, and India with its own people. It is mystifying how more people don’t recognise the dangerous path xenophobia takes you down.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Guha has chosen his cast of characters carefully. Each of the seven was shaped by India and left behind a legacy. Apart from the fiery women, there is Benjamin Samuel Evans Stokes, an American who was a member of the Church Missionary Society. “Disgusted by the luxurious lifestyles of the European priests in India”, Stokes married an Indian, fought against the system of begar (forced labour) in Himachal Pradesh and introduced apples in the state. Philip Spratt, an active member of the Communist party who was later cured of the revolutionary left by Gandhi, married an Indian, Seetha. And finally, Ralph Richard Keithahn—who was also a man of the cloth, but worked out of the church.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The one person I was very familiar with was Annie Besant,” says Guha. “I thought of not including her. But then I felt that her story needed to be retold for a younger audience. Young people don’t know about her. They know her as a road in Bombay, and Horniman as a circle in Bombay. What is interesting is that the year she comes to India—1893—was the year Vivekananda went to Chicago, Gandhi went to South Africa and Ranjitsinhji ‘Ranji’ played for Cambridge at Lord’s. I thought that was a nice juxtaposition, so I decided to include her.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Guha paints a fascinating account of their life, work, and relationship with India. The political is at the heart of the book, but what makes it endearing is the personal. Mira Behn had decided to remain celibate. But she fell in love with Prithvi Singh, a “lapsed” revolutionary who chose to give up violence. It was unrequited; Singh wrote asking her to renounce her love. In a heart-breaking letter she writes: “You ask me to renounce my love, as if it were some kind of self indulgence, harmful to the furtherment of India’s service. You do not realise real love, love that rises from the depths of the soul, increases the power of service and is as sacred as religion…. To ask me to renounce my love is like asking me to renounce my faith in God and my strength to serve....”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These personal details—whether it is Spratt’s relationship with his wife or Stokes’s letters to his mother—are poignant and add texture. Guha’s Besant is not only the woman who was the inspirational, much admired Mother, but also vulnerable and alone—the political figure who founded the Home Rule, trying to grapple with a changed world at the end of her life. For too long, history in India has been dominated by stories of the leaders; it is time that the struggle for freedom also included other characters. Rebels Against the Raj fills this space perfectly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rebels Against the Raj</b></p> <p><i>By</i> <b>Ramachandra Guha</b></p> <p><i>Published by</i> <b>Penguin Random House</b></p> <p><i>Price</i> <b>Rs799</b>; <i>pages</i><b> 476</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/05/ramachandra-guha-new-book-tells-story-of-7-britishers-who-fought-for-indian-freedom.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/05/ramachandra-guha-new-book-tells-story-of-7-britishers-who-fought-for-indian-freedom.html Sat Feb 05 11:40:30 IST 2022 kapil-sharma-in-his-netflix-debut-finds-humour-even-in-stressful-situations <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/05/kapil-sharma-in-his-netflix-debut-finds-humour-even-in-stressful-situations.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/2022/2/5/68-Im-Not-Done-Yet.jpg" /> <p>While preparing for his standup routine, comedian Kapil Sharma stood in front of the mirror and kept repeating, “I’m not done yet”. The chant infuriated his wife, she threw a pillow at him and asked, “We've had two kids in a year and a half. What’s your plan?” His cook was no better than his wife. He would never ask Sharma what he wanted to eat. He would just tell him, “I’ve cooked eggplant.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sharma’s Netflix debut, I’m Not Done Yet, is sprinkled with confessions, anecdotes and interesting observations. The 54-minute standup special draws heavily from his own life. He says his infamous drunk tweet to Prime Minister Narendra Modi cost him 09 lakh, when he ran away to the Maldives upon finding himself in trouble. In his tweet tagging Modi, he had claimed that he was asked to pay a bribe of 05 lakh by an employee of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation “for making his office”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A man who does not ask for extra chilli flakes on his pizza just to avoid speaking English, Sharma says his relationship with the language is complicated. “It’s like a husband-wife relationship,” he says. “I love her, but I don’t really understand her.” He watches every film twice. The first time he reads the subtitles. The second time, he’ll watch the actors deliver the dialogues.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sharma is known for his slapstick comedy. His jokes are relatable and they make you laugh, think and feel better. He recounts his own battles with depression and alcoholism, and how he struggled to get help. While debuting on Netflix, Sharma could not help remembering the good old Doordarshan days. He grew up watching Krishi Darshan. It gave him insights on how to protect cotton crops from pests, though he has no land. Speaking of the population explosion in India, he says, “We birth the entire population of Australia every year and send them to Canada.” In his trademark style, he ribs Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi and Vijay Mallya. “One should learn from Vijay Mallya. You don’t need to go to a bank to loot it,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a career spanning 15 years, the 40-year-old has often found himself embroiled in controversy. His mid-air spat with Sunil Grover made headlines. He has been accused of sexism, misogyny, racism and body shaming. His comment that driving on a pothole-ridden road can help a poor, pregnant woman pop out a baby offended the sensibilities of many.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In I’m Not Done Yet, Sharma seems to be aiming for an image makeover. Except for the Covid joke right in the beginning that makes you cringe, Sharma delights us with clean humour. As a standup comedian, Sharma has had a checkered past. He revisits his days of struggle in Mumbai, shares his love story with college sweetheart Ginni Chatrath, and pays a glowing tribute to his late father who never got to see him as a comedian. His story is bound to strike a chord with all those who regret not spending enough time with their parents.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sharma, who aspired to be a singer, ends the show with a song in English dedicated to his father. His English is good enough to order an extra pizza!</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/05/kapil-sharma-in-his-netflix-debut-finds-humour-even-in-stressful-situations.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/02/05/kapil-sharma-in-his-netflix-debut-finds-humour-even-in-stressful-situations.html Sun Feb 06 11:29:05 IST 2022 after-facebook-meta-some-indian-companies-are-rolling-out-native-metaverses <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/27/after-facebook-meta-some-indian-companies-are-rolling-out-native-metaverses.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/2022/1/27/65-Cryptic-cosmos-1.jpg" /> <p>Delhi-based lawyer Aarti Manchandani wanted her wedding on January 30 to be a memorable event. But with Omicron playing spoilsport she had to shift the ceremony to sometime in February. Even so, she is determined to make the original date count. “My partner and I will exchange NFT rings in the metaverse,” says Manchandani, who will buy it off the blockchain.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She is holding her engagement on NextMeet, an immersive platform that enables real-time virtual conferencing and networking in an avatar-based 3D environment. In fact, it will be the first time NextMeet—which started in August last—will host a wedding in a customised 3D set-up. Till now, they worked with corporates and universities to organise conferences and events.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Recently, they hosted a birthday party and a reunion for a batch of doctors. But calling 100 guests to bless a couple in a party hall, where they can move around in their traditionally decked out “avatars”, laugh and chat in groups of three and four, watch a dance performance or a ring exchange ceremony, is something NextMeet cannot stop raving about. “Like how in PUBG you encounter and fight other people in a digital universe, here you will move around or sit back and enjoy the party,” says Manchandani.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pushpak Kypuram, founder-director of the Hyderabad-based NextMeet, believes that it is only a matter of time before the metaverse is taken more seriously. “Fifty years back people didn’t think websites were needed,” says Kypuram, who started out as a 3ds Max instructor in the 1990s.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When asked how the metaverse is any different from existing avatar-based gaming platforms like Fortnite or 3D modelling, he says that it is the combination of experience and commerce. “3D has been there for a long time,” he says. “So have grand three-dimensional visuals. But it is the next level Web 3.0 which promises decentralising of finance, tokenisation and commerce. Eventually within these games, one can do business, and those purchased items will get delivered home. Integration of blockchain, NFT and crypto in these gaming realities is what the metaverse is all about. Every brand will soon create a virtual store.” Kypuram has worked with the likes of Samsung, Michigan State University and ICFAI in Hyderabad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Justin Bieber, Travis Scott and Ariana Grande have all transmuted into avatars to perform in live concerts in the metaverse. Now Daler Mehndi, once the indisputable king of bhangra, will become the first Indian music star to regale audiences in the virtual world on Republic Day 2022. His fans can watch his avatar perform his beloved hits at PartyNite.io. No stranger to technological innovations, Mehndi is certain that showbiz will get new opportunities and a new direction in the metaverse. Mehndi tells THE WEEK, “If there is one name which can spread business faster than anyone else, it is that of Daler Mehndi. The biggest name in Asia (in the world of music) is Daler Mehndi. The metaverse chose me.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Since Facebook rebranded itself as Meta in the last week of October 2021, with a commitment to spend $10 billion in building its virtual platform, the world has been hyperventilating over the metaverse. Leaving aside all the marketing hype, what exactly does the fuzzy concept denote?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are plenty of explainers and video tutorials which loosely interpret it as a merger of our virtual, augmented and physical realities. Or a continuous network of virtual worlds which promise a more life-like extension of online social connection and digital economy. In a best case scenario, it involves an “interoperable” world where your avatar can buy a Starbucks coffee, go to an office, visit a restaurant and return home in a cab, all the while sitting at home punching buttons. But most Indian startups building into the metaverse do not mention any special head-set to enter this realm.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Metaverse is going to be most effective in the world of shopping and gaming. But for you to even experience that, you need Oculus, a VR headset. Once you wear it, you feel like you are in a different realm altogether. You can fly, jump, sprint, do whatever you want,” says Udit Goenka, founder of the SaaS products marketplace, Pitchground. “The then Facebook bought the company Oculus in 2013 and the idea of the metaverse has existed since. But internet penetration was not as pervasive back then. Even the product Oculus was in a beta stage. Now they are hoping more people will buy this device so more brands can start selling products on their social media platforms like Instagram.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He believes that the idea of the internet’s latest version, Web 3.0, which will contain the entire array of blockchains, crypto-assets and metaverses is very tempting from the point of view of decentralising commerce. But one needs to be careful of scammers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Everyone is making their own coins now. It takes 30 minutes to make one,” says Goenka. After a long wait, Facebook is set to launch its own currency, Diem, and power ahead with its metaverse ambitions. In December, Meta unveiled Horizon Worlds, a virtual reality social media platform where you can “explore, play and create in extraordinary ways”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But some Indian companies are already rolling out “native metaverses” with niche intentions. Like OneRare, “a foodverse game for Web 3.0,” set to go live in February. Supreet Raju, cofounder of the company, wants to bring the global F&amp;B industry into the blockchain. “We want restaurants and chefs to come on the platform, meet new audiences, create new restaurants, recipes and NFTs, which can eventually be swapped for a real dish. We may be in two different cities, but we can meet in the metaverse, get a local Domino’s Pizza outlet to deliver a real pizza. Our avatars can then sit at a table for two to enjoy the meal,” says Raju. Transactions will take place in their own currency, Orare.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Sunny Makroo, there are only two ways people run. On a treadmill or in the outdoors, amidst nature, traffic and pollution. “But anyone who runs on a treadmill will tell you how boring and monotonous it gets. We are creating a metaverse where you could be on a treadmill at home, but will feel like you are running the Boston marathon route,” says Makroo, founder of Zippy, which wants to be the metaverse for endurance sports like running, riding and cycling.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Real kinematics (or motion of objects or bodies) of runners can be tapped from fitness wearables. “There will be an avatar in the virtual world who will mimic you and your speed. You can meet your fellow runners, talk to them, poke them….” says Makroo, who launched his company in July last year. “We were doing what we are doing even before Facebook announced their metaverse intentions. This is not hype for us.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/27/after-facebook-meta-some-indian-companies-are-rolling-out-native-metaverses.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/27/after-facebook-meta-some-indian-companies-are-rolling-out-native-metaverses.html Sun Jan 30 09:49:55 IST 2022 book-review-lahore-begins-with-a-bang-continues-to-keep-you-gripped <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/27/book-review-lahore-begins-with-a-bang-continues-to-keep-you-gripped.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/2022/1/27/69-Manreet-Sodhi-Someshwar-new.jpg" /> <p>The Partition existed like furniture in her home. Manreet Sodhi Someshwar grew up in Ferozepur in Punjab, where both history and geography changed in 1947. It loomed large over the present and the future. “Every house had a Partition story or more,” said Someshwar from her home in the US. “You don’t pay attention to it. It is like the air you breathe. There were tons of stories growing up—it is a part of the furniture.” The rifts of the past—Ferozepur was a Muslim-majority town that changed to Hindu overnight—continued to loom large over the town. Her latest book Lahore, which recreates the last months before Independence, is thrilling, heart-breaking and poignant.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“In my adolescence, 1984 happened,” said Someshwar. “My father was a criminal lawyer. It was like Gulzar’s film Maachis (1996). You have those same scenes playing out. We had TADA [Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act] at that time. I saw it very closely. Curfews, schools suspended, colleges suspended. At that time in our town, the consensus was that it was 1947 all over again. Since then, I wanted to know how and why Partition and this spiral happened, and we never seem to break it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Someshwar managed to escape the town, but never the questions of the past. In 2000, she took a break from her corporate career living in spotless Singapore, where she chose to write.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lahore is an attempt to understand the present through the prism of life-altering, geography-changing, history-making events. Someshwar spent 20 years trawling through libraries, living with the characters in her head and trying to understand their roles. “I read about Jawaharlal Nehru, Lord Mountbatten, and Vallabhbhai Patel,” she said. “My daughter, who is 19 now, would joke, ‘My mother has some very old men as her friends.’ I used to spend my time in the library reading up about them. I have these fat files on ‘Jawahar’. I am saying ‘Jawahar’ because they were my characters—I knew them.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This book, however, is only the first part of a trilogy. Someshwar has two other books on the cards—Hyderabad and Kashmir, effortlessly blending fact and fiction to make it irresistible and accessible. “It is my town that made me a writer,” she said. “I think after I have done the Partition trilogy, I will say I have paid my dues to the land.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lahore begins with a bang and continues to keep you gripped. Paced like a thriller, the book has the sweep of a saga and cuts between Delhi and Lahore to offer the reader a glimpse of the hectic months leading to Independence. She has a vast array of characters—Dickie Mountbatten and his wife Edwina, Nehru, Patel, and his daughter Mani. Then, there are ordinary ‘Lauris’, fictional but feeling real, who bore the weight of Partition—Beli Ram and Mehmood, friends who grew up together and find the charged atmosphere spilling into their relationships. Kishan Singh and his three daughters, Malik, a sepoy, and his love, Tara.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unputdownable, the book is littered with tiny details that are painstaking work to create a vivid portrayal of those last few months—bringing the drama alive. Someshwar also carefully chronicles the madness that began before the Partition—the divisiveness—that continues even till today. “It is one thing to do research, but you have to craft it into a narrative that is as honest, and as truthful, but it also has to be a story that people will read,” she said. “With Lahore, time itself was a thriller. We are all just hurtling towards August 15. I was trying to capture that in the narrative in the way that it moves. The situation is just so inflammable. I wrote it breathlessly in four months.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Going beyond the violence, what Someshwar’s Lahore does is explore the complexity of the situation. “I would like to say we in India say, Partition was like the Holocaust,” she said. “It was to a very large extent. But it wasn’t either. In the Holocaust, it was very clear who was the enemy. You knew who the bad guy was. The idea of Partition came out from the Gangetic plains, but where it got implemented was in Bengal and in Punjab, which benefited enormously from the shared way of life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I can speak for Punjab, where people were living just as Punjabis. A Malik could be a Hindu, a Sikh, or a Muslim. The shared culture was so strong and the fact that Sikhism arose as a bridge between Hinduism and Islam—that is the handshake between those two. So, overnight you go and say this will run through this land. How do I know where the line is?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is a story not tinged with bitterness, but regret and with the dream of Punjab—bound by a common culture, of the poetry of Bulleh Shah of Heer—at its heart. Borders do not have to be boundaries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lahore: The Partition Trilogy</b></p> <p>By <b>Manreet Sodhi Someshwar</b><br> Published by <b>HarperCollins</b></p> <p>Price <b>Rs499</b>; pages <b>328</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/27/book-review-lahore-begins-with-a-bang-continues-to-keep-you-gripped.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/27/book-review-lahore-begins-with-a-bang-continues-to-keep-you-gripped.html Thu Jan 27 15:59:56 IST 2022 a-clarion-call <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/27/a-clarion-call.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/2022/1/27/70-Climate-Change-Science-and-Politics-new.jpg" /> <p>Some parts of Climate Change: Science and Politics are simple and others are complex, much like the issue itself. The truth is stark: we are living on a planet that is heating up. But what we have done with that truth is complicated. And that is what this book seeks to address.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It begins with the basics, explaining the earth’s climate system, natural greenhouse effect and the problem of rising emissions. Then it explains at length the impact of climate change on the planet, the history of climate negotiations (from the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to the Paris Agreement and beyond) and how carbon markets operate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the heart of the issue is the problem of climate equity. For decades, it has been the industrialised nations which are historically responsible for some 70 per cent of global emissions. Despite their annual emissions slowing down, they have not fundamentally shifted away from a carbon intensive economy. Hence, the developing countries claim that these nations should bear the larger responsibility of repairing the impact of global warming. But they are resisting, “hell-bent on erasing any mention of historical emissions from all texts”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is in this context that the push towards net zero assumes importance. The UN Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit in October 2019 saw 65 countries commit to the net zero concept. Many like the US, the UK, Canada and France have set a 2050 net zero deadline. But this is problematic on several levels. Several countries, for one, have not charted a clear roadmap on how they are going to meet the deadline. Others are resorting to carbon trading, but given the lack of rules for this under the Paris Agreement, it may not be the long-term solution.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At places, the book is too niche and might be of interest only to the specialists. Despite this, it is highly informative and a lot of effort has gone into the research and execution. The tone of the book is urgent. As Sunita Narain, the director general of the Centre for Science and Environment, writes in the preface, “Too much time has been wasted in denial, or plain laxity in getting our act together to move at the speed and scale that is needed. We do not have the luxury of time anymore. My generation has squandered the privilege away.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps this tone is warranted, given how it underlines the truth that climate change is one issue we cannot remain neutral about. After years of inaction and indifference, we are facing the heat—literally.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Climate Change: Science and Politics</b></p> <p>Published by <b>Centre for Science and Environment</b></p> <p>Price <b>Rs750</b>; pages <b>198</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/27/a-clarion-call.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/27/a-clarion-call.html Thu Jan 27 15:51:31 IST 2022 how-nandana-dev-sen-understood-her-mother-better-by-translating-her-bangla-poems <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/20/how-nandana-dev-sen-understood-her-mother-better-by-translating-her-bangla-poems.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/2022/1/20/63-Nandana-and-Nabaneeta-Dev-Sen-new.jpg" /> <p>In Nandana Dev Sen’s family, poetry is inherited, cherished and very much a daily affair. Her grandfather Narendra Dev, her grandmother Radharani Debi and her mother, Nabaneeta Dev Sen, were all poets. It is also part of tradition—instead of birthday cards, the family would write birthday poems. And this year was no different. On her mother›s birthday (January 13), Acrobat, a book that captures 60 years of Nabaneeta›s poetry, hit the shelves. A perfect present, one that her mother will never read.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nabaneeta died barely two weeks after the contract for Acrobat was signed. A feminist, writer and poet, Nabaneeta di—as she was known to her fans—could fill up a whole room; she left the world emptier in November 2019. For Nandana, losing Ma, whom she spoke with many times a day, came at a time when the world was about to stop. Poetry, which was a refuge for her mother, became hers, too. “I retreated into poetry,” she says. And Acrobat, which is a collection of her mother›s poems Nandana has translated from Bangla, became this tangible link to Ma.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is the hour before midnight. But across continents, on a bright day in New York, Nandana is at home. A picture of her mother is on the shelf behind her. “I still cannot see a video of her,” she says. “I am now at a point when I can look at her photos with gladness. Even that was hard for a long time. But I still cannot bear to see a video of Ma, or hear her recorded voice.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A fat, grey cat walks across the corridor. Lekhika, with a name worthy of a family of writers, loves books and computers. “I was keen to rescue a cat from a shelter,” says Nandana. “When she came to us her name was Lake (her wilder twin was called River). At one point in our Kolkata home, we had 17 cats.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Growing up in a home where everyone wrote, Nabaneeta believed that all grownups wrote books. She also wrote, every day, and deliberately in Bangla. Years later, she returned to Kolkata with her daughters, Nandana and Antara, after her divorce with Nobel laureate Amartya Sen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Poetry was inescapable for her, as much as it was an escape. “She often said, and wrote, that poetry had saved her many times; it had pulled her ashore when she was drowning,” says Nandana. “Now, I was translating her poetry at a time when I felt truly lost and disoriented by my own grief for her. I had never experienced this kind of all-encompassing sadness before. I think in the same way that poetry had worked as a coping mechanism for her, it became that for me, too.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tender, evocative, sad and deeply felt, Acrobat is a book that is life-changing and life-affirming. It is unflinchingly honest and impossible to forget. It is also a labour of love. “There were large parts of my mother’s life that I had not fully understood until I translated the poetry,” says Nandana. “I had not understood why my parents broke up. It happened when I was so little. They were wonderful people, wonderful parents, and till the end, remained wonderful friends. We were quite a close family, but I came to understand their estrangement and separation much better while working on Acrobat. The big difference between experiencing a poem as a reader versus as a translator was that you could not but “claim” it, almost as a co-creator, a conduit. Choosing those words and finding the language for her pain made me realise just how much pain there was.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Return of the Dead, the last poem in the book, captures Nabaneeta’s experience as a single mother in a city that was her home, but where she now felt a little unwelcome. “It has a vulnerability, an honesty that is true to all her poetry, but also, a kind of brutality of disappointment,” says Nandana. “It is not easy to be able to talk about your own feelings of betrayal in such a stark way. When my mother left Kolkata at 21, she was this incredibly glamorous young person the city did not want to let go of. A brilliant student headed for Harvard, a published author, a wonderful painter. She was also stunning, with a large coterie of suitors, and she was engaged to someone on the brink of stardom.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“But when Ma came back as a young mother with two kids and a marriage that was falling apart, she was met with an awkwardness that she was not expecting. Even in her liberal literary and social circle, no one knew anyone who had got divorced. Of course, she made a place for herself again soon enough, but the heartbreak of what felt like another rejection is so clear in this poem, which is why I end the book with it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The poems linger in your head and get lodged deep in your heart. “If she opened her heart in her prose, Nabaneeta continued to bare her soul in her poetry,” writes Nandana.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In The Lamp, Nabaneeta writes about a dialogue with her mother—to switch off the light and go to sleep while her mother wants to read one more, hinting at time running out. It is heart-breaking.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What makes Acrobat essential is that it is an act of love. It is a daughter’s tribute to her mother—the most beautiful woman in the world—through finding words for her pain while she grappled with her own. “I was holding Ma when she died; I can still feel her warmth in my arms,” says Nandana. “Because of the pandemic, I have not had a chance to go back to Kolkata to process and absorb the loss. It still feels very raw. On my birthday a few years ago, Ma gave me some of her children’s books—at least, I think that’s what they are—along with other gifts. She had wrapped it so beautifully; I had saved it to open later as a treat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I fished it out this year and I was going to open it on my birthday. I carried it to England. But then I carried it back. I could not open it. She had wrapped it with her hands, written a little note on it. So, I still have this present from my mother—if I open it, it would no longer be a surprise from Ma.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Acrobat</b></p> <p>By <b>Nabaneeta Dev Sen</b> (author), <b>Nandana Dev Sen</b> (translator)</p> <p>Published by <b>Juggernaut</b></p> <p>Price <b>Rs499</b>; Pages <b>184</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/20/how-nandana-dev-sen-understood-her-mother-better-by-translating-her-bangla-poems.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/20/how-nandana-dev-sen-understood-her-mother-better-by-translating-her-bangla-poems.html Mon Jan 24 19:20:40 IST 2022 an-insider-take <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/20/an-insider-take.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/2022/1/20/66-Kathmandu-Dilemma-new.jpg" /> <p>Who would have thought that Nepal, a country with which India has open borders, would become such a foreign policy headache? While the anti-India rumblings from Kathmandu have quietened in recent months, they are always there just below the surface, threatening to cause upheavals like some Himalayan temblor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Understanding the mind of the Nepalese, therefore, is important for India. And who better to explain this than Ranjit Rae, India’s envoy to Nepal during the time when bilateral relations hit an all-time high and then, slipped into one of the worst lows.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rae’s book covers mostly his ambassadorial tenure, though it often reaches into the past. He writes about the high of PM Modi’s first visit to Kathmandu in 2014, when he wooed polity and public alike and when “every sentence of Modi’s speech was greeted by loud and prolonged thumping of the desks by the Assembly members”. India-Nepal relations were at an all-time high, he writes. He then goes into the details of the fiasco over Nepal’s constitution, and the subsequent “blockade” of supplies from India. He also writes of the developments after his term, especially the 2020 border dispute.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book reads well. Rae gives an insider’s view of the developments, and how some misunderstandings blew up beyond proportion. It is a very detailed account of the past seven years. Rae’s writing style is easy and his anecdotes are revealing. He describes his visit to the PMO before Modi’s first visit, and how he gave a lowdown on his assessment of the bilateral, which the PM listened to quietly. Had he done his homework well? Obviously not. The only question the PM asked him left him stumped. How many shakti-peeths are there in Nepal, Modi asked, and Rae had to admit that he did not know.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The author gives a good analysis of the dramatis personae. His descriptions of K.P. Sharma Oli are insightful and interesting. He calls Oli possibly the shrewdest politician in Nepal. He writes that at one time, in the 1990s, Oli was India’s greatest friend. Obviously, his anti-India stance now is to pander to his own nationalistic image. Rae notes that after Oli developed this image, he never visited India for treatment, instead going to Singapore and Bangkok. And when he chose to have his second kidney transplant in Nepal itself, he won accolades from the public.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is an interesting anecdote in the book about how Oli once fumed over President Bidya Devi Bhandari’s tardiness for a dinner engagement, but when she did turn up, “he was full of charm... not a word of censure escaped his lips”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The best chapter in the book is the one explaining why the Nepalese love to hate Indians. Among the various reasons is a strong national pride and fear of being subsumed into the great Indian stream. He gives the example of the extremely uncomfortable and seemingly illogical practice of a second security check at the Kathmandu airport for those returning to India via an Indian carrier.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The check is conducted just before the passengers board the plane, a few rungs above the aircraft’s step ladder. It was introduced after the hijack of IC 814 in 1999, when India wanted to strengthen security at the airport. Rae writes, “The Nepalese were outraged. How could they permit Indian security personnel on sovereign Nepalese territory? It is then that a compromise was worked out. Indian security personnel would not stand on sacred Nepalese soil, but a foot above it and do their job!”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Kathmandu Dilemma: Resetting India-Nepal Ties</b></p> <p>By Ranjit Rae</p> <p>Published by Penguin Random House India</p> <p>Price Rs499; pages 237</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/20/an-insider-take.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/20/an-insider-take.html Thu Jan 20 15:15:58 IST 2022 man-of-contradictions <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/20/man-of-contradictions.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/2022/1/20/67-Atal-Bihari-Vajpayee-new.jpg" /> <p>It was the height of the BJP’s rath yatra in 1990. Chief ministers Lalu Prasad of Bihar and Jyoti Basu of West Bengal met Atal Bihari Vajpayee and urged him to ask Advani to stop the yatra. Vajpayee called Advani and said, “Advani ji, perhaps you should call off your yatra now? Problems are being created.”</p> <p>Advani replied that it had become very popular and that crowds were flocking to it. “Popular, is it?” Vajpayee said. “All right then, carry on.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“If the platform was popular, it acquired its own morality,” writes Sagarika Ghose in her new book Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Fast-paced, filled with anecdotes, and absorbing, Ghose’s biography attempts—and succeeds—in portraying a complex man, ambitious but ultimately a committed parliamentarian. As Ghose writes, Vajpayee’s career spanned the length of post-Independent India. He began his electoral career in 1955 and continued till 2004. He was the man who made hindutva palatable.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The book explores his contradictions—an RSS man who was a kuwara (bachelor) but not a brahmachari, and a poet who in high school delivered the high-octane “Hindu tan man, Hindu jeevan, rag rag Hindu mera parichay... [My body and soul are Hindu, my life is Hindu, entire being is Hindu, Hindu is my identity], which is almost a hindutva motto, as well as ‘Jung naa hone denge’ [We will not allow war], which he recited on a visit to Lahore in 1999, very much embodying liberal India. Ghose vividly portrays the man who could straddle these disparate worlds. It is not, however, a white-washing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vajpayee had indeed been a Sangh man, but Ghose writes—quoting N.K. Singh, former secretary in the Vajpayee PMO—that he “dealt with the RSS very deftly, keeping them at arm’s length”. Tracing his journey from his early days to him becoming prime minister in his twilight years, Ghose also delves into the personal—such as Vajpayee’s relationship with Mrs Kaul, whom he did not marry, but lived along with her husband; his adopted daughter Namita, whom he depended on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is in reconstructing his friendships and his personal life that Ghose offers a real peek into his life. His friendships cut across party lines—from Hiren Mukherjee and Indrajit Gupta to P.V. Narashima Rao, C.N. Annadurai and George Fernandes. She also offers insights into his fruitful partnership with Advani—a relationship that Vajpayee never referred to as friendship. The biography, as Ghose writes, uncovers “little-known facets of the complicated personality beneath the myths”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is not her first biography. Ghose’s portrait of Indira Gandhi, another politician who looms large in Indian history, has given her the understanding to provide context for a period of great churning in post-Independent India. And while trying to understand Vajpayee, Ghose also tries to shape his doctrine—Vajpayeeism, as she calls it—as the opposite of the modern-day Moditva. It is very much a book of an era gone by, one that is essential to understanding India today.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Atal Bihari Vajpayee</b></p> <p>By Sagarika Ghose</p> <p>Publisher: Juggernaut</p> <p>Price Rs799, pages 414</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/20/man-of-contradictions.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/20/man-of-contradictions.html Sun Jan 23 11:38:35 IST 2022 for-filmmakers-by-film-lovers-filmocracy-is-democratising-cinema <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/20/for-filmmakers-by-film-lovers-filmocracy-is-democratising-cinema.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/leisure/images/2022/1/20/68-Priya-Belliappa-Frayed-Lines.jpg" /> <p>In 2012, Babu Gangadharan, a Bengaluru-based advertising professional, came to Kerala with the dream of making his first feature film. While the pre-production phase went smoothly, he started losing control over the project as soon as the first schedule of shooting commenced.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While he wanted something that belonged to the world of independent films, the production controller took the project down the commercial filmmaking route. “Film sets in India are generally people-intensive,” says Gangadharan. “Artistes and technicians would bring (their own) sets of assistants. I envisaged a small-scale film, but still, the set had at least 85 people. A crowd that detested indie films hijacked my project.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After eight days of shooting, Gangadharan stopped the film; his producer (one of his close friends) lost close to Rs30 lakh and had no more money. The heartbreak forced Gangadharan to think about young filmmakers like him. And, this was his solution: Create a fully equipped film unit and make it available to promising talent—for free.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gangadharan, who is active in the film society movement, also co-founded Collective Chaos, which promotes alternative cinema. So, he shared his idea with friends within the film society movement. “The idea was to democratise filmmaking; thus, we formed our non-profit collective—Filmocracy—in 2016.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the 1980s, acclaimed avant-garde filmmaker John Abraham started a people’s cinema movement to support indie filmmaking through his Odessa Collective. Working-class people, who contributed their spare change, were the producers of his films. This crowd-funding model was one of the inspirations for Gangadharan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another inspiration was the minimum-crew model employed by European filmmakers like Nuri Bilge Ceylan. “One striking thing I observed was that his films are made with an agile crew that could fit in a car,” says Gangadharan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Several filmmakers, activists and critics soon joined Filmocracy, inspired by the novelty and scope of Gangadharan’s vision. Thinker Maithreyan, film-blogger Rajmohan and National Award-winning filmmaker Sanju Surendran were some of the earliest members of the collective.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2008, the Great Camera Shoot-Out by American company Zacuto busted the myth that only expensive cameras could produce the best cinematographic result. Subsequently, companies like Blackmagic brought out high-quality digital film cameras at affordable prices.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Along with minimal crew and budget, Filmocracy adopted smart and disruptive technology for filmmaking as its core philosophy, when it was formalised in 2016. The initial film unit of the collective was set up with donations worth Rs10 lakh. A six-member panel picks the beneficiaries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Don Palathara, who gained accolades at several international film festivals—including Moscow International Film Festival and International Film Festival Rotterdam—was one of the earliest beneficiaries. His second film, Vith (2017), was made with Filmocracy’s shooting unit. “Besides providing shooting equipment, Filmocracy helped me with crowdfunding, too, [for completing the post-production works],” says Palathara. Vith was shot with a 12-member crew. It also had minimalistic aesthetics, in tune with the Filmocracy’s ethos.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the last five years, Filmocracy has supported over 20 projects, including many feature films. This is remarkable, considering that earlier collectives like YUKT, Chitralekha or Odessa could not go beyond producing or supporting a couple of films.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The projects supported by Filmocracy have earned several awards, too. In 2020, Vasanthi, by the Rahman Brothers, earned the Kerala State Award for the best film. Frayed Lines, by Kannada filmmaker Priya Belliappa won the award for the best short film in the Bangalore International Short Film Festival and the Indian Film Festival of Cincinnati. Belliappa was also adjudged best female director at the Spain Moving Images Festival. An alumna of Film and Television Institute of Pune, Belliappa says the collective did not interfere in production or her vision.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Independent filmmakers have always had a sticky relationship with producers,” says Unni Vijayan, a National Award-winning filmmaker who was on Filmocracy’s script-selection panel in 2019. “Usually, the producer shows great enthusiasm for the script, but develops cold feet when it comes to shelling out money. Then, market needs begin to creep in. Either the filmmaker ends up making a film which is not his anymore, or he is left confused.” He says that Filmocracy frees the filmmaker to execute his vision.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vijayan says that a new script-selection committee is formed every year to ensure democracy and transparency. He adds that besides the merit of the script the main criterion is whether or not the applicant sees his film as a work of art.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A script mentorship programme is Filmocracy’s latest initiative. It helps filmmakers hone their scripts with the help of seasoned scriptwriters and filmmakers. It is in no way intrusive to the filmmaker’s vision, says the collective, but helps “structure the content and find a context to the form”. Filmocracy has plans to support indie film projects at the pan-India level. And, it hopes to make cinema a possibility for many young dreamers..</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/20/for-filmmakers-by-film-lovers-filmocracy-is-democratising-cinema.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/20/for-filmmakers-by-film-lovers-filmocracy-is-democratising-cinema.html Sun Jan 23 11:14:34 IST 2022 death-jabs <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/20/death-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/2022/1/20/70-Human.jpg" /> <p>There is a dialogue in the riveting series, Human, about drug trials on the poor. “But it is not uncommon for deaths to occur during drug trials,” it goes. “People keep dying. And anyway, what is the value of the lives of the poor? Zero. If they die due to drug trials, at least their miserable lives would have been put to some use. Whether they live or they die, it makes no difference.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This sums up the essence of Human, about the nexus between pharmaceutical companies, large private hospitals and government officials who, in a relentless pursuit of profits, use the poor as guinea pigs in illegal and unregulated trials of banned drugs. At a time when pharma companies are coming out with new drugs on a daily basis to counter the wrath of Covid-19, Human seems both timely and relevant.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Penned by Mozez Singh and Ishani Banerjee, Human has a racy plotline with a multiplicity of characters and layered narratives. It effectively juxtaposes the vaulting ambition of the rich with the acute vulnerability of the poor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A floundering pharma firm, VayuPharma, is desperate for a “successful” drug to shore up its profits, and for that it decides to push S93R—a drug which is banned in Europe—as treatment for heart disease in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite the initial trials on mice showing a high fatality rate, it presents botched data to the authorities and flouts the rules by directly opting for Phase 2 human trials.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Conspiring with VayuPharma are government officials and owners of big hospitals like Manthan, whose Dr Gauri Nath (Shefali Shah) will stop at nothing to achieve her selfish ambitions. There are state ministers who allow the trials to be conducted on poor and uninformed patients, many of whom lose their lives, never getting the money they were promised.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vipul Amrutlal Shah and Mozez Singh take turns to direct the ten episodes, which are strategically set in Bhopal, a city that is still reeling from the after-effects of the 1984 Union Carbide gas leak and which used to be a princely state where power was wielded by a succession of begums. Likewise, in Human, too, it is two women who lead from the front—Nath and her protege Dr Saira Sabharwal (Kirti Kulhari). While both are attracted to each other, Sabharwal opts out of a romantic relationship when she discovers that Nath had a hand in the deaths of innocent victims of forged trials.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A young Mangu (Vishal Jethwa) and his father (Sushil Pandey), part of a poor migrant family of four, fall into the clutches of the unscrupulous people running the drug trial racket. At the same time, in another frame, a mysterious head nurse, Roma (Seema Biswas), forces vulnerable teenaged girls into being guinea pigs for a lethal neurological experiment without their knowledge. The girls are treated worse than lab rats—they are kept under house arrest for days while being injected with the drugs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Social activist Omar Pervez (Aasif Khan) stumbles upon the shocking truth, and he tries to bring it out with the help of Sabharwal. Although the series is a gripping, binge-worthy watch, almost 500 minutes of sitting through it can make one weary. There is too much going on in every episode and one needs to be fully immersed to keep track of what is unfolding at a dizzying pace. It takes two episodes to get familiar with each character. The cast delivers an exceptional performance, even though the length of the series and a substantial part of each episode is too much to take at one go.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/20/death-jabs.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/leisure/2022/01/20/death-jabs.html Sun Jan 23 11:08:36 IST 2022