Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Write-up on Asha Bhosale

Her younger brother says that she sings even when she is talking. And, it was there for all to see. As usual she charmed her way into the audience’s heart, with her candid and witty comments stringed together with her soulful singing.
A musical tribute, Rasik Mohini Asha was organised on Tuesday by Shirish Theatres in honour of the versatile crooner Asha Bhosale, who turned 75 last month.
Wearing dark goggles, the young at heart Ashatai began expounding her philosophy on life. “After I wore dark goggles, I realised their importance.
They gave me a chance to see life the way I want to lead it. What do I wish to see in life? I want to see happy people around me. I want to lead a life brimming with positive energy, surrounded by young people, encouraging them and getting rejuvenated in turn,” she sums up, humming the evergreen Marathi number, Tarun ahe ratra ajuni.
As if she realised that the atmosphere had become sombre, the irrepressible Ashatai turned to Dr Narendra Jadhav, Vice-Chancellor of Pune University and said, “See, how I managed to keep the audience in check. Not a sound from them. How about giving me a job as a teacher in one of your institution? I will be a very good teacher.”
Joining the audience in their laughter, Ashatai went on to reveal her secret desire that was recently fulfilled. Having studied till Std IV in a Marathi medium school, Ashatai envied those who received their degrees wearing a black robe and a hat. When Amravati University wanted to felicitate her with a doctorate degree, the first question Ashatai asked was if she would get to wear a black robe and a hat.
Describing the convocation ceremony Ashatai said, “I just wanted to hold on to that moment. But, I wondered if the students thought, ‘This Std IV educated lady doesn’t deserve a doctorate…’ I got scared that they might want to take away my robe and hat.”
To reassure myself, I sang Yuvati man darun ran ruchir. It’s a natysangeet composed by my father, Master Dinanath Mangeshkar. I continued holding on to the tassel of my hat, while I was signing,” Ashatai adds.
Moving on to her family, Ashatai, who was accompanied by her younger brother and singer-composer Hridaynath Mangeshkar, says, “I remember how I looked after Hridaynath, gave him his bath, fed him and how he yelled at me when he got angry. He is barely four years younger to me, but I feel that I am his mother. His presence here means that he has repaid my love I have showered on him.”
Ashatai, who had become slightly sentimental, now, proudly flaunted her necklace. It was her birthday gift from Hridaynath.
Another four years, and I will be accompanying Hridaynath and celebrating his 75th year,” she says.
But, as far as she is concerned, Ashatai says that she is not a day older than 75. “I am just 57,” she says. The audience disagrees. “You are still 16,” they yell back. She laughingly concedes, singing, Abhi to main jawan hun.

Valu and more

Visited Poman Pimpale village where Marathi picture Valu was shot.

Documentary la chala…came the shout and Poman Pimpale villagers slowly started gathering at the village square. The children were already there, jostling each other, eager to see the ‘documentary’ – Marathi film Valu, which was shot in this village, some 14 kms away from Saswad.
On the occasion of the film completing 50 successful days, the cast and crew of Valu, decided to host a special screening for the villagers on Saturday as a tribute.
As Umesh Kulkarni, the director of Valu says, “The movie is a collaborative venture of the villagers and myself. Valu is theirs as much as it is mine.”
You just need to mingle with the crowd to find out what Umesh says is true - it’s their movie that the villagers have gathered to see.
Pradeep Poman, a village elder, says that they enjoyed the whole film making process. “It had become a past time for us. Whenever we had some time to spare, we just went to see the shooting. In fact after the crew left, we all experienced a vacuum.”
Now with the film crew back in the village, the older as well as younger people bonded with their friends. The villagers surged around Umesh and his team asking, Olakhla ka? (Do you remember us?) to which the director laughingly responded, Ka nahi olakhnar?(How can I forget?)
Most of them were eager to see the movie. Naturally so because it was their moment of pride. Their houses, neighbours, school, cattle, sarees and even fake Ray Ban goggles had found their way on the big screen!
For us it was as if we had walked straight into the set of movie. On seeing the big banyan tree we wonder if this is where the panchayat was called by Sarpanch (Dr Mohan Agashe in the film); then there were children, looking vaguely familiar, running around.
We stop and ask them if they were a part of the film. One of them giggles and replies, “No, I did not act. But that boy in the yellow shirt was in the shooting,” he points out another child.
There is Yamuna Poman, who shares screen space with Forest, (Atul Kulkarni, who portrayed the role of forest officer) sitting with him in the jeep. Then there is Sumantai Kadam whose one-liner, Bayamansanche photo kadhtana laja nahi vatat hoy resulted in laughter while watching the movie.
Of course, one has to thank Raosaheb Tamhane for lending his fake Ray Ban goggles, which completed the look of Aaba, a political upstart played by Nandu Madhav.
If the village priest and his wife, played by Dilip Prabhavalkar and Nirmitee Savant, were living in flesh and blood, they would have really appreciated Umesh’s gesture of allocating funds to build a public toilet for the village. Prabhavalkar’s character, for the lack of toilet, had to often go out to the fields.
One person, who was missing from all the action was durkya or valu. However, nothing could dim the excitement of the Poman Pimpale villagers who shushed each other. The movie had begun…

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mad About Movies

Adjectives like wow and awesome fail to do justice to the black and white images of Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn or those of Ingrid Bergman and Veronica Lake. While sifting through hundreds of rare posters, your eyes fall on the cassette of Trial at Nuremberg and a shudder runs through you. And, then you see something which again gives you feeling of awe - a documentary Making of A Legend based on the Oscar award-winning movie Gone with the Wind. For a film buff, Vinayak natu's home is like Ali Baba's cave filled with

Hollywood posters, books, trivia, cassettes and DVDs. Natu, who calls himself a connoisseur of Arts, has 220 posters, 270 cassettes and DVDs and several books on Hollywood, Maratha history, philosophy, sociology and anthropology.

His mantra is, “Man should be rasik. He should enjoy Art in some form or the other. Merely hoarding money and collecting material possessions is not my cup of tea.
One would imagine that the 79-year-old Natu has spent half his life in collecting the film memorabilia. Not so. Of course, he has read and researched the topic of his interest, but he began collecting rare cassettes in the 80s. “I began collecting cassettes in the late 80s, when I could afford it,” says Natu. He spent three weeks in Australia searching titles, followed by another trip to US. “Thanks to late Vishram Bedekar (film director), I could lay my hands on some prints in US,” says Natu.
The first cassette which I got was The Hunchback of Notre Dame, followed by Sound of Music,he says. As for the books – The Image Makers, Spies and Spy Masters –Natu did not have to go too far. They were available, right in his backyard, Kunte Chowk on Laxmi Road to be precise. He used to regularly visit to the Hindustan Book Stall above the Cosmos Bank to get the latest coffee table books on Hollywood. Keeping pace with the latest trend he has also converted all his cassettes into DVDs, carefully numbered and stored in his cupboards.
His collection has been applauded by stalwarts from film industry like
Bedekar. Bedekar saw Casablanca for the first time at Natu’s place.
A matriculate, Natu voices his disdain over the way Hindi films are made. “Our film-makers should learn something from the West. The people out there are so systematic. A film was being made on Madame Curie and the production team sent the script to her niece for her approval. Do you see such things happening here?” he asks.
He is also full of praise for the way the West has recorded its special moments. “They have brought out a book named Kisses, which is interspersed with the scripts leading up to that scene. We do not see that kind of work happening here,” Natu says.
After all that criticism, Natu is also aware of the fact that not many youngsters of this generation have seen such rare works. He is willing to allow them entry into his Ali Baba’s cave, but they should understand what a movie is. He signs off with “A movie is something which moves you.”

A Day at NDA

I loved doing this story

Secret of a cadet’s energy!
His breakfast includes:
* 350 ml plain milk
* 30 gm butter
* 30 gm jam
* Porridge
* Five toasts
* Fruits – mostly bananas
* Non-vegetarian - two eggs
* Vegetarian - two cutlets

A soldier’s life is a tough one. If we needed any reaffirmation, we got it when we spent one day at the NDA trying to catch up with the cadets. This photo spread aims at giving you the big picture of a cadet’s life.
A cadet’s day begins with the Muster (6.15 am), where he recites NDA’s prayer, followed by the Academy’s Honour code. Then off he goes to attend the various activities lined up – horse riding and drill. The senior cadet attends session for his chosen service like Army, Navy and the Air Force.
In the second half he has classes to attend. Evenings are reserved for swimming, soccer, gymnastics and athletics

Cadet Speak
Nearly 3 lakh students strive to get into NDA every year. Only 300 lucky ones cross the hallowed portals. Once selected the cadets find themselves ‘cut off’ from the civilian world.
What makes them choose this career? What keeps them going through the strenuous but exciting three years?
We spoke to Academy Cadet Captain (ACC) Romen Yumnam, Squadron Cadet Captain (SCC) Karan Kochhar, Divisional Cadet Captain (DCC) Inom Jon, who is from Tajikistan, Cadet Rohan Batra and Cadet Karma Wangdi from Bhutan.
Karan Kocchar, who belongs to Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir, decided to join the armed forces after seeing the respect the army commanded in strife torn areas of Kashmir.
I come from Udhampur and the presence of the armed forces has left an indelible impact on our lives. Everything is so different about them – they commanded respect and I wanted to be like them,” says Kocchar.
What is his experience after going home?
Earlier, I used to look up at the army. Now, I experience the reverse feeling as my family and relatives look up at me,” he says.
From Kashmir, we move to North East. Romen Yumnam has something similar to narrate.
There is terrorist trouble in North East too. And, my getting into NDA is a matter of respect for my entire village,” says Yumnam.
Yumnam studied in Sainik School for two years, then he went to RMC Dehradun. In a way, Yumnam was already prepared for his life in NDA.
Don’t they miss out on college life?
We do miss our family, easy and carefree days. But, NDA is the best choice we have made. We know what our future is, unlike other young people we know. They are studying MBA and medicine, but are unsure about how their careers are going to shape up,” says Yumnam.
If others can get into armed forces, then why can’t I?”
Rohit Batra found his way into the armed forces through sheer determination. Batra, who looks up to his mother as role model, has an interesting anecdote about how his outlook towards basic amenities changed after his stint at NDA.
In Delhi I never bothered to close a running tap. Somehow, I did not think that it was important. But, when I returned home from NDA, I began to take notice of such things. I recalled how we craved for water during our runs and treks. I had changed in some ways,” says Batra.
Life in NDA doesn’t leave us time to do anything else…much less to regret anything,” Batra says.
What made Inom Jon and Karma Wangdi join NDA?
In Tajikistan, there is compulsory military service for youth and for Jon it was a natural career choice. More so, because his mother also wanted Jon to take up a career in army. Jon wants to learn the basics of the warfare at NDA and also improve his English speaking skills.
Interestingly, Jon is also a big fan of Bollywood movies. His favourite movies are Veer Zara and Namastey London.
Karma Wangdi, like Jon wants to brush up on his Hindi and English speaking skills. Drawing comparisons between his life in Bhutan and at NDA, Wangdi says, “There is not much stress on physical training in Bhutan unlike NDA.” He signs off saying, “I am proud to be a member of NDA.”

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

An interview with Mini Shrinivasan

I interviewed Mini Shrinivasan, who won Sahitya Akademi's inaugural Bal Sahitya Puraskar for her first book, Just a Train Ride Away.

Mini Shrinivasan, is a plain-speaking and no-nonsense mother. A child rights advocate, she works with teachers and children in rural areas. She doesn’t believe in frivolities, nor has time for inanities. No wonder this honest approach reflected in her first book, Just a train ride away, which fetched her Sahitya Akademi’s inaugural Bal Sahitya Puraskar.
The book, published by Tulika, has a plain-speaking and no-nonsense scientist mother; and the son (protagonist) Santosh, who has a humourous side to him. The author laughingly admits that Chitra (the mother) is a lot like her, who is particular about educating her son with “real experiences”. Her son, Sidhdarth’s humour and his way of looking at life has shaped Santosh’s character.
Listening to the stories of her own upbringing, one would expect the book to be full of values. However, Mini says candidly, “I want my books to entertain. The values should shape you unknowingly. They needn’t be ‘in your face’. And, that’s why the book deals with issues like that of single mother and Santosh’s search for his father or his desire to match up to his peers materialistic standards in a humourous way.”
The book, which begins with asantosh or discontent in Santosh’s mind, concludes with a content Santosh — he has a mother and a father. Just a train ride away also has lot of action — Santosh leaves for Kolkata by a train to stay with his mother’s film-maker friend. And, on this second-class train journey, Santosh is exposed to life’s varied and many truths through his fellow passengers — the very, very old man, very old man and middle-aged man, a young boy whose folks back home think he is rich, because he is staying in a Mumbai and Time-Pass, the street boy, who shakes Santosh out of his middle-class protective shell, with his coarse and hardened outlook.
How many urban, middle-class protected children would relate to Santosh’s travelling alone to Kolkata?” we ask.
Not many,” agrees Mini. “But the book is aimed at giving the urban kids an exposure of the ‘other’ life. And, the children staying in Mumbai or Kolkata are pretty confident and independent enough to travel alone on local trains and buses. That’s why these two cities feature in this book,” elaborates the Young Buzz writer.
Talking about the feedback for the book, Mini says, “One school in Kolkata had written saying that the students had found the book, ‘funny’, while the teachers had liked it for the ‘values it’s based upon’. That was the typical children and adult response I hoped the book would garner.”
The book, which was chosen over the works of Ruskin Bond and Paro Anand, has “overwhelmed” Mini, because she is a big fan of Anand.
I am overwhelmed by the award. And, the fact that my book was chosen over Paro Anand’s books has thrilled me. I have always been a very avid fan of Anand’s books and her style of writing. She also deals with issues like divorce, hatred and jealousy in a very unassuming manner,” says Mini, whose second book, Worms in my Family was published by Sakal Papers Ltd.
Mini's writings often deals with sensible parents vis-a-vis hyper, show-off, flamboyant adults. Does the subtle message — the parents are letting their kids grow up into adults too soon/they are hindering the growth of their children — reach them?
First of all, I don’t expect such adults or parents to read these kind of books. That’s not in keeping with their character. But, if they do I hope they get the message that let the kids be.”
She thinks that today’s children are bright, fiesty and fun and hence has recommended that they be a part of the jury, which selects the winers of Bal Sahitya Puraskar.
However, she also cautions, “There has to be a mix of adults and children, because it’s not necessary that the youngsters might be reading the right stuff.”
What should the children read?
Whenever I am visiting any book store, I observe which books parents are buying for the children. They mostly end up buying ‘informative’ books like facts, encyclopedia and GK. I would recommend parents to buy more story books because they help children visualise, dream and imagine. Unfortunately, most adults think that buying story books is a waste of money.”
What does she think of young (children) writers?
There are too many of them. I think before they become ‘writers’, it's necessary for them to have some experience of life — good, bad, lows and highs. The children should write, but not be in a hurry to publish it. Writing is like signing and dancing, the skill has to be honed. It has to be consciously improved. And, only life’s experiences can teach any to-be-writer to be a better writer,” concludes Mini.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A cup of tea with Vaidya Ajoba

This is an interview with Vinayak Vaidya and his grandchildren. The article was published in the children's weekly I work for.

We have had the fortune of meeting Vaidya ajoba a couple of times in our office. What struck us was Vaidya ajoba’s agility, his enthusiasm and keen interest in the well-being of his grand children. For us Vaidya ajoba became synonymous with adjectives like active and still raring to go. After talking to him, we realised that were not off the mark.
Born in Ahmednagar in 1927, Vaidya ajoba graduated in Bsc Agriculture in 1948. Ajoba then sought employment with Godavari Sugar Mills, Shirdi, where his advocate father had also worked. A thorough professional, ajoba took up World Bank assignment in Kenya.
Remembering his days in Kenya, the octogenarian says, “I had to teach Kenyans how to cultivate sugarcane and develop the area around the factory in addition to grooming my successor. I did all this in four years.”
Even now at the age of 81, Vaidya ajoba works in the capacity of consultant and travels across the country. Whew!
How were things when he was growing up? Was he active even as a kid?
In his growing up years, the outlook of boys was radically different. “In those days there was no pressure to excel, no cut-throat competition and no jealousy. We also didn’t face any peer pressure to own cycle or scooter,” ajoba tell us.
Life was very simple then. “We knew what our parents had sacrificed to put us through school and college. This thought – call it a sense of gratitude - prevented us from spending on luxuries. No eating out for us. Even after becoming a parent myself, I used to take my children to restaurants maybe once or twice a year and that too to the idli-dosa joints. Nothing fancy.”
Now, of course he enjoys going out with his both set of grandchildren every Sunday.
My grand children consider my life as a fairy tale,” says Vaidya ajoba, laughing.
What does he think about the gross commercialisation of values, children spending money on branded stuff?
“This gross commercialisation of values will never hold complete sway. I believe this phase will pass. I don’t believe in sermonising. Youngsters will realise it on their own. In fact, long queues outside Ramkrishna Math and Saras Baug Ganapati show that children are seeking direction at the right place,” says Vaidya ajoba.
Akshay and ajoba
Akshay, who is the eldest of the three grand children, thinks there is no generation gap between ajoba and him.
Ajoba doesn’t interfere in our lives. When you seek advice, he gives it.”
Ajoba helped me when I was confused whether to take up Spanish as my career. My parents were apprehensive and I couldn’t make up my mind.
When I asked ajoba, he said ‘Follow your heart.’ And, I am glad I listened to him,” says Akshay, who has cleared his Spanish diploma with distinction.
Ajoba is also okay with healthy interaction between boys and girls and doesn’t mind Akshay’s female friends.
Akshay, who has appeared for his Std XII from Fergusson College, says that he had to face peer pressure.
My classmates wanted me to smoke and drink. But, I didn’t give in; I just have one or two friends now and they are not really close,” he says.

Ajay and ajoba

For 14-year-old Ajay, Vaidya ajoba is like a friend, who protects him from his parents rath. “Sometimes when I don’t do well in my exams, my mother gets angry. But ajoba boosts my confidence saying ‘You have the capacity and potential to do well. Work hard next time.’ I feel better listening to it,” says Ajay.

Ajoba also supports the musical talent of his favourite grandson. Ajay, who has learnt guitar and synthesizer, once happened to play at ‘Jyeshtha Nagarik Sangh,’ which is frequented by ajoba and his friends.

The elderly gentlemen there had a few complaints. “Why did you play modern music? We don’t know most of the songs,” they said.
Ajay was nonplussed. But, as usual, ajoba came to the rescue. “Ajay is young and he played songs popular amongst his generation. We should try and learn new things,” said ajoba.
The friendly ajoba is not very happy with his grandson’s scruffy look. “Whenever I am going out, he usually tells me to dress smartly. In fact ajoba
taught me to iron clothes. Once I was getting late for school and my clothes were not ironed and I didn’t know how to use one. I was very upset. But, instead of criticising, ajoba got out the iron and taught me how to use it. Now, I can iron really well,” says Ajay, who studies in Muktangan English Medium School.
Priyanka and ajoba
Priyana, the youngest and pampered, feels that ajoba plays favouritism. “Ajoba takes side of dada when we fight. He says that I must have done something to provoke him. He is stern but nice,” says 10-year-old Priyanka.
Ajoba often tells me not to quarrel with mother, but to help her in arranging bed and folding clothes. He also encourages me to draw.