Saturday, May 28, 2011

Shaktiman in Marathi film

Mukesh Khanna aka Shaktiman, who's starring in his first Marathi film, Ardha Gangu Ardha Gondya, mouths dialogue “Maazi takat” - from the movie - flexing his muscles for effect.
Watch out for this dialogue. It will be on everyone's lips after the movie releases on May 27th,” Khanna, dressed in white shirt-trousers with a beige stole draped around his shoulders, tells Sakal Times.
Khanna, who is essaying the role of a municipal corporator, and has also produced the movie, says Ardha Gangu and Ardha Gondya is a tribute to Dada Kondke's brand of cinema.
Dada Kondke's entry in the movie is the hatke factor,” claims Khanna, while digging into butter roti, dal and subji.
Telling us briefly about the story, Khanna says, “Dada Kondke's atma is the guiding force for the “duplicate” actors who want to make it big in the film industry. There's a film within a film. Govinda is a struggling actor who makes it big towards the end with the help of Kondke and his mother's wishes.”
The relationship between mother and son is also a hook of the picture. Taking a leaf out of Kondke's life, where his mother couldn't see Kondke's success, in the film Govinda's mother's willpower permits her to bask in the son's glory.
Kondke's role has been performed by Pramod Nanawade, a close associate of the comedian.
The movie, which will be released first in Pune, will be later screened in other cities and towns depending on the initial response.
We have just two prints of the movie. We will first release it in Pune and then move to other areas. I want people of Sangli, Ichalkaranji to come and see it because they will identify with the aspiration, struggle and migration to Mumbai to fulfill dreams as depicted in the film,” says Khanna.
It is the “migration factor” that has prompted the popular TV star to open his first film institute, Shaktiman Film Institute, in Jaipur.
In our times, there was just one film institute in Pune and all the aspiring actors and directors would flock to FTII. I plan to open one acting/film institute in every city of the country so that the youngsters can study under their parents or guardian's supervision,” he says.
The creator of the original Indian superhero reveals that Shaktiman will soon be broadcast on television as an animated series.
Big Animation, a studio in Pune, is handling the animation part. I also hope to release the serial with 3D effects. We are shooting some episodes in that format. And, of course I also want to make a superhero film,” says Khanna.
Talking of his connect with children because of Shaktiman, Khanna says that he wants to form a corporation of children's films, which will produce movies for kids and also finance them.
When we asked him about Bhishma-pitah like role, Khanna says, “I don't want to grow my beard anymore. Most of the mythological roles require the actors to wear long hair and beard and I don't want to do it. So mythological roles are passe now. But, in case there's a good offer, I might consider it.”
He, however, seems excited about acting in his second Marathi film, which he refuses to name.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Book Review

Name: Swayamvara
By: David Hair
Pages: 313
Publication: Penguin Books India

Rebirth and the evil force chasing the good souls is the theme of Swayamvara. How does it end? Predictably, with the good spirit's triumph over the evil force. But, almost 8000 years later from when the chase first started.
The Swayamvar is the second book in the “The Return of Ravana” series and since I haven't read the first one, I don't know what exactly happened in Mandore, where the story first begins with Aram Dhoop (Vikram Khandwani), Madan Shastri (Amanjeet), Darya (Deepika), Padma (Sunita Ashok) and Ravindra (Shiv Bakli).
What begins in Mandore continues in the 12th century Rajputana, Delhi, British India and 2010 Rajasthan, Mumbai and Delhi. Aram Dhoop and Madan Shastri keep meeting each other as Chand Barda and Prithviraj Chauhan and in modern day as Vikram Khandwani and Amanjeet. Darya is Prithviraj's Sanyogita and Amanjeet's Deepika. Padma meets Chand Barda as insane Gowaran and in 2010 is Sunita Ashok's whose hand Vikram tries to win in the reality TV's swayamvar.
In all the previous births, except the last one, Ravindra has defeated Vikram in his other avatars. Vikram, in all his rebirths, has tried to reunite Madan Shastri and Darya. Sometimes he has been lucky, while in most cases he was not successful.
In this janam too, he tries to woo Sunita to draw out Ravindra. He succeeds. But the chase doesn't end. Vikram, Amanjeet, Deepika and Sunita (who is alive in Rasita's body)
are now being chased by the police for the murder of Shiv Bakli and Sunita. That's the plot of the third book.
To go back to the second book, it can be an enjoyable read if you are a student of history and mythology. Historical events and characters are linked to the present day happenings like the reality TV and all the histrionics associated with it.
In addition to so many references to the past and the characters from the pichle janam, the author also throws in supernatural, demons, gore and macabre. While that may be still believable, I found it hard to digest that Vikram fells his enemy with arrows.
The entertaining bit, of the book, is the back stage happenings of the reality TV's swayamvar. References to the elimination round, fixing of the show, the newspapers lapping up the gossip fed to them and “milking” the moment are very accurate descriptions of the what we see on the television these days.
The book would have made a coherent reading if the author had tried to introduce less number of characters. Or read the books in series to make sense of them.

She Cycles Everywhere

Nirupama Bhave and her scooter were inseparable till the age of 52. A chance meeting with her husband's colleague, who cycled from his home in Pashan to his workplace at Wadia College, piqued her curiosity. Twelve years later, the 64-year-old feisty woman cycles everywhere – in the mountain passes of Leh-Ladakh, the southern coastline, desert of Rajasthan, Pune-Mumbai highway and of course on roads of Pune.
I rarely cycled in my school/college days as we lived at a short distance. Once I started working as a professor of Statistics and then Mathematics, the scooter was my preferred mode of travelling,” says Bhave.
Her first cycle rally was from Wagah border to Agra, a distance of 650 kms.
I had just joined Pune Cycle Pratisthan when I heard the members discussing about the cycle rally. I evinced interest in it the rally and started preparing for it by cycling to Bhor and Ranjangaon. During the rally, I was slow compared to others. But I managed to successfully complete the distance,” she reminisces.
Since then Bhave has cycled from Goa to Cochin, Jodhpur to Ahmedabad and from Chennai to Kanyakumari. This year, in January, she cycled to Madhya Pradesh.
In fact, last Sunday, she accompanied her nephew on cycle, from Pune to Dombivli.
It took us 11 hours to reach Dombivli. Now I have the confidence to cycle 150 kms in one day,” says Bhave, relishing the experience.
Looking at her fit, energetic and alert frame, one wonders about her exercise regimen.
I should thank my parents for my physique. But to maintain my fitness levels, I do pranayam and breathing exercises for 40 minutes. Then I climb Hanuman Tekadi followed by 45 minutes of gymming everyday,” she says.
Bhave, who was part of the Mt Everest expedition and has also participated in Enduro's amateur category five times, believes in the “Slow and Steady Wins the Race” mantra.
When I go on a cycle rally, the other members are younger to me by a decade or two. They obviously cycle ahead, but I meet them when they stop to catch their breath. I like cycling non-stop and to ensure that I match the rhythm of pedalling and breathing. When I realise I am getting tired, I push myself to cycle further for seven-eight kms,” she explains.
Bhave along with her friends is supporting the cause of cycle.
We approach families, who have unused cycles, to convince them to pass on the machine to those who need. Cycles should always be in use,” Bhave concludes on a firm note.


1) “Recently, I participated in rock climbing and rappelling at Tail Baila. I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience. My love for adventure sports grew and multiplied with cycling.”

2) “I drink lots of water to keep fit. I eat big portions when I participate in the cycling rally, because two hours of cycling aids in digestion and burning the calories.”

Interview with Lamat Hasan

Intro: In an e-mail interview with Ambika Shaligram, Lamat Hasan sheds light on the Pakistani society, what they think of us and the stereotypical images the neighbours have of each other

Box: Lamat Hasan and her husband are Indian Muslim journalists living in Pakistan. Lamat's husband has been posted in Islamabad while she is on a sabbatical. Their blog,, talks about the good, bad and the ugly side of our neighbour.

1) When did you move to Islamabad? And, when did you start blogging?
We moved to Islamabad in September 2007 after my husband was posted there. We wanted to start blogging about our experience of being Indian in Pakistan, which we think is unique, as soon as we had settled in. However, we ended up sitting on the idea for almost two years as we wanted to blog not just about the good, but also the bad and the ugly.

2) Did you have any stereotypical image of Pakistani society before your posting? Did it undergo any change after living there for sometime?
I had not imagined Pakistan to be a deeply conservative society with women being veiled and men sporting long beards, so I was not shocked to meet modern men and women from various walks of life. If there is was a Umme-Hassan (Principal of the notorious Jamia Hafsa/Lal Masjid), there was also a Veena Malik (BigBoss) in Pakistan. But what threw me off was when I first heard Pakistani Hindus and Christians referring to their festivals as “Eid” and their prayer as “namaaz”, a case of cultural assimilation, I suppose.
On a lighter note, the only thing that shook me up was when I noticed a bootlegger on our street and young girls and boys pulling up to buy alcohol in this Islamic Republic, which prohibits consumption of liquor.

3) How did they view Indian women? Did you have to try and break certain image mould or give them something to chew on?
Most of the Pakistani women are glued to the saas-bahu serials and think that their counterparts are extensions of those roles. So if you are married, you get asked - Where’s the sindoor? The ones with little exposure still believe that India is a land of Hindus and that Muslims are being crushed by the majority. We often end up telling them that there are more Muslims on the other side of the border and that we are doing well and they need not worry about us. We tell them we have had Muslim Presidents, our top actors are Muslims, one of the richest men is also a Muslim and that Muslims are excelling in every field.

4) Can you give us a brief idea about how Pakistani women live? What's their day like in terms of career and home-makers vis-a-vis Indian women?
I find that Indian women are more goal-driven and more rights-conscious. We also have pro-women laws that work to our advantage. Since India is a vibrant economy there are more avenues for women to prove their worth. Also, our man-woman roles are more dissolved. Pakistan is behind in this respect. When we do spot women in an odd profession (they have bus hostesses here) heads turn. Women cops are stared at, so are usher girls - something we are so used to in India.

5) Do you particularly admire Pakistani women? Can you mention names and the work they are doing?
In my blog, I have written about the Taseer sisters (Sara and Shehrbano) who kept the fire burning after their father, Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab, was gunned down for opposing the blasphemy laws of Pakistan. The girls have been threatened on several occasions, yet they remain undaunted. Among the bigger names, I admire Mukhtaran Mai, who was ordered to be gang-raped by the village council because her 12-year-old brother had allegedly misbehaved with a woman of a superior tribe. Mukhtaran has fought against the system for years and just last week all but one of her rapists was let off by the Supreme Court. She was in tears, but she is not giving up yet!

6) Is there any movement or demand for women's reservation in Pakistani politics?
Reservation for women was introduced in 2002 and they comprise 20 percent of Parliamentarians. Yet there are some who have not taken advantage of the quota and contested elections on their steam. Hats off to them!

The Man, The Melody

I had reviewed this book for the Sunday supplement.

KL Saigal: The Definitive Biography
By: Pran Neville
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 211
Price: Rs 299
I haven’t heard KL Saigal sing. But, I have heard my mother humming two of his songs: the haunting lullaby — So ja rajkumari so ja and Ek bangla bane nyara. Whnever there were talks about favourite music composers and singer-actor, my mother’s generation swore by the modern-day Tansen’s voice. His repertoire was big: bhajans, ghazals, thumris and film songs. However, Kundan Lal Saigal’s greatest legacy was his rendition of Ghalib’s ghazals.
It is therefore with great interest that I began reading KL Saigal: The Definitive Biography by Pran Neville. The highlights of the book are: comprehensive list of Saigal’s songs, translations of his Urdu couplets, information about his mentors and associates at the New Theatres in Calcutta, his heroines, complete filmography and even the reviews published in Filmindia.
Although Saigal was a national icon in the 1930s and 1940s, there was an aura of mystery associated with him. There are no diary entries, no letters and just one interview to Jayathi, a Bengali magazine, where Saigal said: "I am not a singer. I can only be called a phraser. I have had no classical training except what I heard and remembered. I think of meaning of the words and wrap the tune around it."
This biography, which hopes to fill in the gap between his personal and professional life, doesn’t quite succeed. There are tidbits about his family life: his mother, Kesar Devi, an accomplished singer of bhajans, thought that Saigal had inherited love for singing from her. Chaman Puri (actor Amrish Puri’s brother) reminisces about "bhaisaab’s" culinary skills. His intimate circle of friends remember Saigal as an introvert and a modest man. But all of that doesn’t quite suffice to elaborate more on the man.
The book doesn’t have conclusive information about how he got his break with the New Theatres, the then leading production house of Calcutta. One version says that the late Pankaj Mullick heard Saigal’s audition at the Calcutta radio station. Mullick was so impressed that he recommended Saigal for the role in the New Theatres, Mohabbat ke Ansoo. Rai Chand Boral, music director at the New Theatres, met Saigal through Harish Chander Bali and was completely mesmerised by him. Boral then spoke to BN Sircar, the head of the production house, about employing Saigal.
It was known that "gane ka badshah’s" drinking habit had hastened his death in 1947. However, it’s not clear when he took to bottle. There are contradictions in the biography. In the chapter on Saigal’s Ghalib, the author says, "Saigal’s devotion to the bottle and a detachment from his own life and environment could be attributed to Ghalib’s influence on him. Both were gentlemen to the core and drank to stimulate their creative genius." However, in another chapter, there is a mention of Nitin Bose blaming himself for Saigal’s drinking habit. Bose and Saigal had shared a special affinity at the New Theatres and the former had said that he would always cast Saigal in his movies. However, when the role in both Hindi and Bengali version of Dhoop Chhaon was bagged by Pahari Sanyal, a heartbroken Saigal took his first drink, which later became a habit.
The biography’s biggest strength is that it succeeds in describing the aura of the times Saigal lived in: the transition from silent movies to talkies, singing girls, kotha culture, gramophone celebrities, the intellectually stimulating Calcutta and crassly commercial Bombay. This description is also the book’s weakness, because there is so much "period" information that you forget the book is on Saigal.

Byomkesh Babu is Back


I am thankful to the FB for this one instance. I am rarely interested in reading other people’s updates like "Click on this fortune cookie," to "Life sucks", and "Hey! My wife made the best paneer butter masala in the world". But this particular update had me jumping out of my chair: "Watched Byomkesh Bakshi on DD. Caught the first episode on Tuesday..."
I had missed the first episode of the Bengalee detective in action, but I have been glued to my television set every Tuesday from 10 pm. In fact I have even started updating my FB status to "Watching Byomkesh.." and even calling and texting friends who I know revel in the good old Doordarshan days.
I was eight or maybe nine when the series was first aired. Watching it after almost two decades, I can quickly point out the "old treatment" to the series: drab interiors and props, the plainly-dressed protagonists and dialogues delivered with low-key emotions. Basu Chatterjee had made the serial on a shoe-string budget. But who cares! It’s a real treat to see Byomkeshbabu with his "Watson", Ajit Banerjee, dressed simply in dhoti or pants (not trousers!), delivering dialogues with a straight face with little or no ear-shattering background music and no prominent "zoom-in" and "zoom-out" movements of the camera.
The biggest plus-point is that there are no commercial breaks. (Psst... maybe the advertisers haven’t caught on that there is a market for the old TV series. Whatever! It’s a blessing for the viewers though). With no major distractions, I can peacefully settle down to assist the detective in solving the cases with my helpful clues!
After watching the series, I have also come up with a cure for the "restless fingers syndrome". I don’t switch the channel/s, hence my fingers and the remote control panel get rest! It’s the same for another friend too, who "can’t even dream of" flicking channels during the tete-a-tete with the Bengalee detective.
The reason is because the less-pretentious and more realistic treatment really works. It focuses more on the story and lets the characters talk without any embellishments. Content is king! Think of other gems of the 1980s and 1990s like the He-Man!, Kacchi Dhoop, Oshin, Malgudi Days, Neev, Tamas, Phoolvanti and Kille ka Rahasya! They all had just one agenda: to tell a story. And, they told it well. Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s was fun!
Maybe the DD should start rerun of all these serials. They can give the new soaps and reality shows a run for their money.