There were enough highs, lows in Savitri's real story: Director Nag Ashwin


Director Nag Ashwin, whose labour of love "Mahanati" -- on the life of late legendary actress Savitri -- will release on Wednesday, says there was no need for any "cinematic liberty" for the movie as her own life was so full of highs and lows.

"The film is very honest. Whatever was going on in that period is what we have tried to reflect. When she was younger, there was a certain mood and a certain way she behaved and the way the world was around her. When she became successful, how was it... And when she was in a sort of spiral, how was she and how the world was around her...

"That way, there's no purposeful cinematic liberty in 'Mahanati'. We have not forced any unnecessary things because there were enough highs and lows in her real story. We just had to space it out correctly. There was no need to add any heroism to it," the director told IANS over the phone.

A bilingual project, the biographical period film on Telugu cinema's multi-faceted talent, is titled "Mahanati" in Telugu and "Nadigaiyar Thilagam" in Tamil. She acted in award-winning films and had a flourishing career as a director and producer too, apart from being known for her philanthropic ways, but the latter part of her career saw her battle financial problems and alcoholism, which led to her decline.

Savitri started her career young. How did the team zero in on the aspects of her life to highlight in the biopic?

"It's quite hard actually...the writing process of a biopic. When you write a real story, it's always harder. But mostly if you see any biopic made in India or abroad, it's mainly about a part of the person's life. It's not the full story of birth to death as mostly, the film medium doesn't help. A TV series or now web series is a good medium.

"But for us, trying to fit that into a film was quite hard... It took a lot of writing and trial and error. We managed to map it. So, that way, it's a unique biopic because not many people do a full circle," explained Ashwin, applauding Keerthy for having undergone a lot of transformations for her look in the film.

Produced by Priyanka Dutt of Swapna Cinema and presented by Vyjayanthi Movies, the movie features an ensemble of well-known actors, with Keerthy Suresh playing Savitri and Dulquer Salmaan essaying Gemini Ganesan. There are also Samantha Akkineni, Naga Chaitanya, Vijay Devarakonda, as well as a slew of other celebrated actors from the southern film industry.

Getting together such names from the industry "was quite stressful", but a "complete pleasure", says Ashwin.

"All of them were no-hassle and super talented actors. They made the film better. I think all of them came on board out of pure love for Savitri garu and the history that the film wants to show... So whether it was a lead or non-lead, people became a part of it without inhibitions."

At this point, he is more excited than nervous to see what the audience thinks of the movie.

As far as the industry is concerned, he says there's a sort of reverence people have for Savitri, and so, "there's a lot of positivity".

Ashwin says he is not nervous because he is confident of what he has created.

"From the beginning, we just had one thing in mind -- we wanted to keep it as honest as possible to her spirit, her story, to the facts... As far as that goes, we have achieved what we set out to do. There will obviously be people who had expected more or less, but I think we have done our bit. That way, there's no pressure...because sometimes when you don't do enough, then there's pressure and you think what will happen? But because we did what we set out do, we think it's up to our expectations."


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Dance movies set to take a 'step up' in Bollywood


Is every Bollywood movie a dance movie? How does one define a dance movie? Dance has always been an intrinsic part of films in India. But choreographers like Shiamak Davar and Terence Lewis sense the brewing of a new movement to their advantage -- all thanks to Remo D'Souza's "ABCD: Any Body Can Dance".

Late actor Shammi Kapoor prancing around to energetic numbers, Mithun Chakraborty's pelvic thrusts in "Disco Dancer" and Govinda's dance moves in songs like "Sarkaye liyo khatia jada lage" and "Ankhiyon se goli mare" -- Bollywood has always had an affair with dance.

Now, fast forward to the present, and the rendezvous has got more sophisticated.

"'ABCD: Any Body Can Dance' is the start of dance movies. It is a movie which shows hip-hop and street. I don't see exactly a 'Black Swan' (in the future), but (we are) going into that space. We have dance troupes going on seven-month-long tours as a contemporary dance company because we don't have that kind of audience here," Ashley Lobo told IANS.

"There will come a time when that kind of work will be in films," added Lobo, who has choreographed in movies like "Rockstar" and "Guzaarish".

Choreographers Lobo, Melvin Louis, Terence Lewis and Ganesh Hegde spoke to IANS on behalf of Sony PIX, a channel which often showcases different instalments of popular dance film "Step Up".

National Award-winning choreographer Davar, who has made icons like Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Kevin Spacey and John Travolta sway to his steps, appreciates the growing culture of dance films.

"I think choreographers have a great vision and the ability to translate that into movement or film. It is great to see films that have dance as its core essence. It is a great opportunity for dancers also to find a larger platform and see themselves on the big screen," Davar told IANS.

After D'Souza hit jackpot with the "ABCD" franchise, a bevvy of dance films charged up with star power of names like Varun Dhawan, Katrina Kaif, Sooraj Pancholi and Isabelle Kaif have been announced.

Louis feels it is all about staying in sync with the trend.

"Basically everyone wants to make money. It is no more just about passion. It is also because they want commercial success and it is a big market," Louis told IANS, pointing out that the new age dance-based films are captivating the younger lot.

Terence, who specialises in Indian folk, contemporary and neo-classical dance forms, said, "All our films are dance films if compared to international films".

"It is not a new concept in Bollywood," said Terence, expressing the hope of seeing better quality dancing in the movies to come in the future.

In fact, the choreographers are working on their own version of dance films.

"I'm in the process of writing a dance film based on choreography. It is not in a genre of works which happens in India but more on what happens overseas," Lobo said, sharing that it will be about what an Indian company does on foreign shores.

The idea has found its way into the mind of Louis as well.

"I'm always thinking about it. It is on my bucket film. I will make a dance movie which will be a crazy dance movie. It will not be stereotypical. I will take it into a very different dimension."

Terence, who has choreographed international stage shows, Bollywood shows, Broadway Western musicals and music videos, is also writing a dance film and promises it will be very different.

But Hegde doesn't understand what the fuss is about.

"We had 'Disco Dancer', there was Shammi Kapoor in 'Teesri Manzil' who was looking like Elvis Presley. He was a performer. Just because our stories do not revolve around dance that does not mean that dance movies were not there," said Hegde, known for his work in films like "Black", "Koi...Mil Gaya" and "Khamoshi: The Musical".

He feels if a plot is about dance, then it limits the range of the project.

"Because someone who is 60 or 70 might not be interested in who wins the dance competition. It might not be a universal subject for everyone."

The dance guru feels one should not "concentrate more on making a collage of various dance moves and various dance episodes throughout the film".

"It should be a movie first and then dance should help the movie. It should not be about how beautifully you have shot six dance sequences," added Hegde, who hopes to make a movie which stays long in the minds of people.


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Radiant in red, Sonam Kapoor gets married to Anand Ahuja

Bride Sonam looks bright in red on her D-day
Actress Sonam Kapoor, who has earned the 'fashionista' tag in Bollywood with her experimental taste, chose a traditional bright red lehenga with heavy jewellery for her wedding day as she got married to long-time beau Anand Ahuja at a ceremony here on Tuesday morning.
Sonam wore a lotus-motif ensemble by designer Anuradha Vakil and looked every bit the Punjabi bride with her hands adorned by a deep maroon colour of henna, both wrists full of the 'chooda' and 'kaleere'. She wore a statement maatha-patti.
The groom, a Delhi-based businessman, too looked dapper in a Raghavendra Rathore creation, a beige sherwani. He paired his sherwani with a beige and cream 'saafa' along with pearl and ruby strings.
The wedding took place at Sonam's aunt's place in Bandra here, with a slew of close family and friends of the couple in attendance.
The wedding proceedings were closely guarded as even Sonam arrived at the venue in a car with curtains hiding her look from the media. 
Later, an official photograph of the actress in her bridal avatar was released. However, curious fans of the actress were filled in with inside photographs and video snippets via social media.
A short video showcasing Sonam walking the aisle saw the actress being accompanied by her brothers, led by Harshvardhan and cousin Arjun.
Sonam's father and veteran actor Anil Kapoor and brother Harshvardhan looked smart in sherwanis while cousins Janhvi, Khushi, Anshula, Shanaya and Arjun were dressed in ethnic designer wear for the special day. 
Other family members Boney Kapoor, Sanjay Kapoor and Maheep Kapoor too were present for the occasion.
From the film and fashion industry, Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Karan Johar, Jacqueline Fernandez, Rani Mukerji, Swara Bhasker, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Karisma Kapoor, designer Masaba Gupta and stylist Pernia Qureshi were present.
The actress' "Veere Di Wedding" co-star Kareena looked elegant in a soft pink ensemble as she walked colour co-ordinated with husband Saif and son Taimur.
Sonam, after debuting in Bollywood with "Saawariya" in 2008, has featured in movies like "Delhi-6", "Aisha", "Raanjhanaa", "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag", "Khoobsurat", "Prem Ratan Dhan Payo", "Neerja" and "Pad Man". 
Her performance in "Neerja" won her a Special Mention at the National Film Awards.
Sonam is known for her unique but impeccable taste in fashion and is known to be quite a trendsetter.
Before what seems like bringing red back in fashion with her bridal outfit on Tuesday, Sonam chose to go with subtle colours for her pre-wedding ceremonies.
For her mehendi function on Sunday, she chose a peach and grey sharara ensemble by Vakil, and for her grand sangeet celebrations on Monday, she was elegance personified in a heavy ivory lehenga by Abu Janu-Sandeep Khosla.
The newlyweds will make an appearance together for the media on Tuesday evening at a reception at The Leela here.
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How art found me and the upsurge in opportunities

This is the fourth part of the "Shifting Sands of Culture" series, in which five noted personalities address diverse issues and trace the changing dynamics of India's culture in articles written exclusively for IANS. In this article, Anubhav Nath reflects upon the power of the arts and the increasing opportunities in the sector.
Since childhood, I have had a keen interest in the arts -- coming from a family with a strong tradition in arts and crafts, this was not surprising. Growing up, I visited museums and emporiums on customary school trips and saw a lot of it in my home and family-run stores.
While in the US for my undergraduate studies, I started looking at art -- both there and here, in India -- mostly via the Internet. On graduating, I returned to India and joined the family business. Dealing in jewellery and handicrafts was interesting, but clearly not enough. I found myself drawn to the contemporary visual arts scene. The main attraction was the conversations with artists, historians and curators that transported me back to the university atmosphere that I missed.
I believe "art found me". My first project, which evolved rather organically, started with organising simple art workshops for young inmates at Tihar Jail and resulted in being a first-of-its-kind exhibition by jail inmates and contemporary artists -- all displayed in the same exhibition. The exhibition was a big success with a large number of visitors, good press coverage and great feedback from the artists, who said that visiting the prison was an unparalleled experience. One of the participating artists explored the Panopticon experience and presented the work internationally.
The next art project explored the notion of Mahatma Gandhi and entailed travelling with artists along the Dandi March route. The resulting exhibition also travelled to London, Washington, D.C., and Port of Spain. After having gained this experience of two major exhibitions, I started a permanent gallery space. There was a paradigm shift in the kind and number of exhibitions to be put together -- worked with some master artists and organised a few typical contemporary shows, all of which were great learning experience but did not compare to the involvement that I was used to.
Art has a bigger social good is a childhood belief and I saw art at work in changing the lives of communities through the economic independence and sustainability that it had the potential to provide. Also, the self-respect that the Tihar Jail inmates felt was gratifying for all of us who worked on the project.
In 2009, Maybach Foundation announced a mentorship residency for young photographers wherein the winners were to spend six months living and working in NYC, photo-documenting the reconstruction of the World Trade Centre. Ramchander Nath Foundation nominated Vicky Roy, a young photographer who grew up at the Salaam Baalak Trust; he was among the four selected from across the world and this six-month experience resulted in a paradigm shift in his work and personality. Today, Vicky is a motivational speaker at conferences and his artworks are a part of FotoFest 2018 in Houston.
A few years back, I met some accomplished Gond artists in Delhi and was inspired by their art and the history behind it. Subsequent reading and visits to Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal revealed a lot. The genre has thousands of years of recorded history and is probably the oldest surviving art form along with the Australian Aboriginal art.
There was immense pedagogical material available on the history but not much on the current scene. Of course, there were other institutions in the vicinity that showed artworks by contemporary Gond artists but not much was available in terms of books and catalogues. There was not sufficient recorded contemporary history being created, like for the mainstream counterpart artists who were graduating from art schools in Delhi, Mumbai and Vadordra and having shows in galleries. Also, the price-points varied greatly.
Keeping commercials aside, I felt that the contemporary tribal and traditional artists must get greater visibility and have exhibitions in galleries with publications. This would also help collectors and institutions look at these artists more seriously.
With these thoughts, we proposed an Ojas Art Award -- a holistic concept -- to the organisers of the immensely popular and well-attended Jaipur Literature Festival. Annually, indigenous artists will be honoured at the festival along with a display of artworks in Jaipur with a potential audience of more than 250,000 visitors followed by an exhibition and publication at the gallery in Delhi and an exhibition overseas.
Since 2015, Ojas Art Award has had four editions and has done surverys in Gond, Madhubani-Mithila, Bheel and Bengal Patachitra with great feedback from all stakeholders -- especially the artists. The award and related activities helped the artists earn respect, recognition and has reassuringly empowered them.
Bhajju Shyam, our first Ojas Art Awardee, was recently conferred with the Padma Shri, making him the first Gond artist ever to receive this high civilian honour.
(Anubhav Nath is the Director of Ojas Art and a Trustee at the Salaam Baalak Trust.)

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People failed to slot me as an actress: Soni Razdan


Filmmakers were not as willing to experiment as they do today, says veteran actress Soni Razdan who feels she got "stuck" somewhere as she was as "different" as being a "grain in rice".

Soni, who will soon be seen sharing screen space with her talented daughter Alia Bhatt in "Raazi", says though she is eager to do more work, she does not get offers often.

She told IANS in an interview here: "I don't get any role. People do not come and offer me (roles). Maybe they don't think of me at all. Like my audience, even I wonder why I do not get offers more often. I think my career is of a big perception of others.

"Once Alia became a successful actress, people started thinking that I am only travelling around the world with her. In my young days, people failed to slot me anywhere as an actress.

"When I started, though I worked in some of the good films, in those days, the difference between the commercial cinema and art-house cinema was pretty distinct. The industry was ruled by beautiful actresses like Hema Malini and talents like Smita Patil among others. The fact is, I neither look as glamorous as a commercial heroine did back then nor like a conventional village girl of an art-house film.

"People were not ready to experiment as they do it today. So, I got stuck somewhere."

Born to a German woman and a Kashmiri man, Soni grew up in Mumbai. She says she has culturally deep roots in India.

"I am very much of an Indian by heart. My mother is a German who was brought up in the UK. So, there is so much cross-cultural exposure I had as a child. But Mumbai is my city. India is my country, and it fascinates me all the time to discover something new," she said.

The actress underwent formal education in theatre.

Asked if she is satisfied with her career as an artiste, Soni said: "I was really a very ambitious young girl when I started studying drama and performing art. I love acting in films. I have done mostly what I wanted to do in life. However, I think I did not get the success that I thought I deserve and (was) capable of achieving."

"I wanted to work in the Hindi film industry much more than what I was offered. But if you are a grain of rice in a wheat field, it is not your fault... You are just different. That's what exactly has happened to me. I was different in my time."

The actress has been a part of films like "36 Chowringhee Lane", "Mandi", "Trikaal", "Monsoon Wedding", "Page 3" and "Patiala House" to name a few.

In the forthcoming thriller spy drama "Raazi", releasing on Friday, Soni will essay reel mother to her real-life daughter Alia.

Describing it as a nice and emotional experience, she said: "I am very proud to be associated with the film because it is a very good story that the world should experience.

"I shot in Kashmir and during those days, I had some intense scenes to shoot. I was much focussed. Though it sounds like a mother-daughter having a great time together, it was actually not the same. But yes, after the shooting got over, we had a great time of food and quality time. We spent it well."


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Adoor Gopalakrishnan says boycotting of National Awards 'understandable'

Veteran filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan says the sentiments of those who boycotted the National Film Awards ceremony as a mark of resentment that the President wasn't handing over a chunk of the honours, are natural and understandable.

Gopalakrishnan, who in his glittering career extending close to five decades, has won 16 National Awards, said here on Monday: "The feelings that they expressed are only natural and are understandable."

"If the President is able to be present for one hour only, then the programme could be held over two days. Everyone would certainly wish to receive the award from the President," added the 76-year-old, who is a Padma Shri and Padma Vibhushan awardee.

Last week, President Ram Nath Kovind gave away the awards to just 11 winners, while the rest of those who attended the event received the honour from Minister of Information and Broadcasting Smriti Irani.

From among the fairly big contingent of award winners from the Malayalam film industry, veteran playback singer K.J. Yesudas and director Jayaraj, after expressing their displeasure against this decision, went and collected their award.


Big B remembers shooting at Tagore's residence


On Rabindranath Tagore's 157th birth anniversary today, megastar Amitabh Bachchan went down memory lane remembering shooting at the Nobel laureate and poet's residence and described it as "pious precincts".

"It is Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore's birth anniversary for the seventh of May and as I recollect I am driven to those moments at Thakur Badi (home) in Kolkata, my rendition of the National Anthem and its shooting inside the pious precincts of the residence of Tagore," Amitabh, 75 wrote on his blog.

The cine icon said Tagore's writings and contributions to art and literature are inspiring.

"His genius in his thoughts his writings and his contributions to the arts and literature are inspiring and legendary now, but as you travel through those doors and rooms of his place of residence you feel blessed that such a man walked the face of this earth. How does one acquire such wisdom?

"How does one acquire such writing... How does one acquire this sense of music...How does one acquire his artistry in its sketching, his creation of the Shanti Niketan and its wonders," wrote the son of the celebrated writer Harivansh Rai Bachchan.

On the acting front, Amitabh's film "102 Not Out" has just hit the big screen. The movie also stars veteran actor Rishi Kapoor.


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Three renowned dance-drama groups to perform at Kendra Dance Festival


Every summer, Shobha Deepak Singh, director of Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra curates a ballet festival that has poignantly portrayed the contemporary relevance of Indian mythology and folklore through majestic dance-dramas like "Meera", "Durga", "Krishna" and others.

But in a pioneering initiative, the Padma Shri awardee has for the first time invited choreographers and performers from outside the Kendra's domain.

Titled "Kendra Dance Festival," the festival will this year witness three dance-drama ballets -- "Samudranatanam-Jalam" choreographed by Madhu Gopinath and Vakkom Sanjeev (Kerala), Choreography works in Bharatanatyam by Justin McCarthy (Delhi) and "Movement And Still" choreographed by Kumudini Lakhia (Ahmedabad) -- apart from the Kendra's in-house and ever-popular dance drama ballets.

"The reason for inviting outside choreographers this year was to give a platform to these very talented yet seldom seen performers in Delhi. Also, it will be a new and unique experience for Delhi audience to see a diverse range of dance-dramas, ranging from mythology to folklore, from the history of dance to conservation and environment, from traditional dance forms to varied contemporary styles," Shobha said.

The Kendra Dance Festival will be held on May 9 (Meera), May 11 (Kaalchakra), May 12 (Shree Durga), May 17 (Samudranatanam- Jalam), May 18 (Choreographic works in Bharatanatyam), May 19 (Movement And Still) at the Kamani Auditorium here.


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Richard Gere throws wedding party


Hollywood star Richard Gere and his new wife Alejandra Silva threw a wedding party with family and close friends on May 5 to celebrate their marriage. He reportedly welcomed several Tibetan monks to the celebration.

The intimate gathering was held at Gere's estate here, reports

Richard is a Buddhist and is considered one of Dalai Lama's most high-profile followers. Silva also converted to the religion after hitting it off with the "Pretty Woman" star.

Actress Saundra Santiago was also in attendance for the celebrations and praised the bride in a sweet Instagram post.

A source had earlier told that Gere and Silva tied the knot "weeks and weeks ago" in a civil ceremony.

Richard, 68, and publicist-activist Silva, 35, first started dating in 2014. Spanish magazine HOLA! had first reported the news of their marriage.

This is Gere's third marriage. He first tied the knot with supermodel Cindy Crawford, who he was married to from 1991 to 1995. The actor later welcomed his only son, 17-year-old Homer, with his second wife, Carey Lowell.

Lowell and Gere married in 2002. Their divorce was finalised in 2016 after separating in 2013.

For Silva, this marks her second marriage after welcoming 5-year-old son Albert in 2012 with then-husband Govind Friedland, a mining executive, as per HOLA!, reports


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Creating international platforms for Indian arts

This is the third part of the "Shifting Sands of Culture" series, in which five noted personalities address diverse issues and trace the changing dynamics of India's culture in articles written exclusively for IANS. In this article, Sanjoy K. Roy addresses the challenge of taking Indian arts abroad.
In 1999, as part of a British Council showcase programme, I travelled to the Edinburgh Festival and that set in motion the idea of creating platforms for Indian contemporary and classical art forms across the world.
Working closely with the Festival Fringe, the International Film Festival, the Edinburgh Tattoo and the Edinburgh International Festival, we created an annual offering of work, enlarging our presence from six productions to 16 in a short period. Many thought we were mad, but our long-term objectives paid off in more ways than one. We presented an array of artists: Aditi Mangaldas, Daksha Sheth, Birju Maharaj and Malavika Sarukkai. Mrigaya, the world music group which went on to win the Herald Angel Award at Edinburgh in 2002 and a 5-star review from The Scotsman, Indian Ocean, Lillette Dubey and the Primetime Theatre Group, Adi Shakti, Lushin Dubey, Dadi Pudumjee and the Ishara Theatre Company, are some more names I recollect who were on our entourage. Shah Rukh Khan made his way to Edinburgh in a celebration of the best of Indian arts.
It took some convincing to get the Edinburgh International Film Festival to agree to move Shah Rukh's "In Conversation" with Nasreen Munni Kabir to a larger venue. They cited examples of having presented the biggest stars, including Sean Connery, in a 300-seat venue. Tickets went on sale and sold out minutes after the box office opened, only to be resold at £100 a ticket! The news made it to The Times front page and the festival organisers, somewhat embarrassed, moved the venue to a 1,000-seat auditorium. Huge crowds gathered at the festival venue. At the after-party, we had to barricade Shah Rukh in a corner, with tables and bouncers guarding him. The Edinburgh festivals hadn't quite seen something like this before! They were ignorant of work from India as very few shows had ever travelled out.
The year we presented Ishara Puppet Theatre's "Transposition", the infamous liquid bomb incident took place at Heathrow as we landed. Having being evacuated from the airport and shipped to Gatwick, we finally arrived in Edinburgh after a 16-hour delay, only to find that 24 of our 30 outsized puppet boxes and bags had been lost! Each day was spent at the airport warehouse searching for luggage. Five days and three cancelled shows later, the BBC ran a story on our predicament. Hours later, a passenger telephoned Dana Macleod, our coordinator in Edinburgh, to say strange-shaped bags were going around the carousel with stickers bearing her name. The show was back on the road!
Investments in shows and festivals in those early days meant that year-on-year, our balance sheets were red. Co-presenting with existing festivals led to some degree of success, with annual presentations in Singapore, Wellington, Perth and Melbourne. Much of this was a result of networking at the Edinburgh festivals and setting out a plan for collaborations, a strategy we adopted for the next few years. As our footprint grew through Asia to include Hong Kong, Korea and Indonesia, we began to look westwards.
Prompted by our then Consul General, Navdeep Suri, we set up the Shared History Festival in South Africa, to bring about an awareness of a new India and the many opportunities it offered, amongst the one-million strong Indian diaspora. We collaborated with the city of Johannesburg's annual festival, Arts Alive, to bring about resurgence in the crime-infested Central Business District (CBD) area of New Town. The city planned to use the arts to re-populate the CBD and reduce crime and bring back the local populace. With audiences returning to theatres, New Town has now seen a rise in property prices, new businesses opening and residential blocks being re-built. In Durban and Johannesburg, the arts community and the diaspora who had earlier rejected everything Indian began rediscovering and celebrating their roots. Driven by their need to trace their history many have, since then, travelled back to India.
We sought new opportunities in Austria, Germany, Italy and Spain, working through agents and driving box office sales to make projects economically viable.
We produced "Bollywood Love Story", a musical, to reach new audiences. We were amazed to discover how small towns like Einbeck, Stuttgart, Eindhoven and larger ones like Florence, Barcelona and Stockholm had a huge appetite to celebrate and embrace Indian culture. Local arts-attending audiences came to our celebration dressed in Indian attire, belting out words of songs they didn't understand and eating their versions of Indian food. Exporting Bollywood should be the mainstay of our foreign missions in order to capture hearts and minds of people across the world. From Russia to Egypt and China through Canada I have seen an increasing appetite to present and understand the best of Indian culture.
In today's polarised world, it is imperative that we use the arts as a window into other cultures, traditions, history and a way of working. The arts know no language and have a universality that allows the viewer to seamlessly absorb and appreciate new experiences. A few years ago, the Globe Theatre, as part of the Cultural Olympiad, commissioned an array of exciting productions played out from Afghanistan and India to Romania and Belarus. Each was distinct and brought to the fore, cultural differences and yet was bound together by the universal language of theatre and performance. Audiences who attended may not have understood the nuances of the languages, but this did not detract them from enjoying what they were witnessing. Pia Behrupiya by Company Theatre was a brilliant piece of original stagecraft. Based on Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night", the ensemble cast sang, danced and created magic at the Globe. Last year as part of "India70@UK" we were able to present some of the finest of contemporary theatre, dance and music at premium arts venues including the Royal Festival Hall, Barbican Theatre and the Globe.
As the Indian economy continues to grow, the world is curious about India and everything Indian. From exotic locations: Ladhak to Hampi and Ajanta & Ellora to Murshidabad and Varanasi, to a diverse, dynamic and an extremely alive cultural matrix, we have a lot to offer. India needs to create a counter-narrative to that of rapes, murders and religious extremism, absconding businessmen and less then scrupulous business practices that make headlines the world over. The arts can be an anchor for this emerging narrative; not only do they create jobs but also educate and enlighten.
As the third industrial revolution fades away and we look to the fourth, which will be the coming together of creativity and technology, India is well-placed to be a world leader. Unfortunately, our policies and government are yet to seize the moment and set in place incentives and a route map to the future.
(Sanjoy K. Roy, an entrepreneur of the arts, is the Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, which produces over 25 highly acclaimed festivals across 40 cities worldwide and includes the world's largest free literary gathering -- the annual ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival.)

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Ranveer Singh lends voice for Hindi version of 'Deadpool 2'

Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh has lent his voice to Ryan Reynold's Deadpool in the Hindi version of Hollywood film "Deadpool 2".
The film tells the story of an adult superhero with a twisted sense of humour. Based on Marvel Comics' most unconventional anti-hero, "Deadpool" is the original story of a former Special Forces operative who turns into a mercenary. "Deadpool 2", brought to India by Fox Star India, will open on May 18.
The studio wanted a star who would resonate with Deadpool's personality and Ranveer's wit and edgy personality was a perfect match, read a statement to IANS.
"Like Deadpool, Ranveer is known for his smart, witty with irreverent humour. He's a hugely daring and powerhouse actor and we absolutely relished having him on board for our biggest superhero film," said Vijay Singh, CEO Fox Star Studios.
The Hindi trailer, released on Monday, is also A-rated as the studio wanted to stick to the tone of the English film which has Reynold mouthing cuss-words.
The sequel also features Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Karan Soni, Zazie Beetz, Brianna Hildebrand, Stefan Kapicic and Leslie Uggams.
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Adnan Sami claims staff were called 'Indian dogs' at Kuwait airport

Popular singer Adnan Sami has claimed that his staff members were mistreated and called "Indian dogs" at the Kuwait airport immigration. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj took cognisance of the issue.
Adnan, who was in Kuwait for a live performance, drew attention to the matter via tweets on Sunday.
"We came to your city with love and our Indian brethren embraced us with it. You gave no support. Kuwaiti airport immigration mistreated my staff for no reason and called them 'Indian dogs'! When you were contacted, you did nothing! How dare the Kuwaitis behave like this with arrogance," Adnan tweeted to the Indian Embassy in Kuwait.
Later, he also tagged Union Home Affairs Minister Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj.
Sushma Swaraj acknowledged Adnan's message, and asked him to "Please speak to me on phone."
Adnan thanked her for the "ever so prompt reply".
Later, when the Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju wrote to Adnan, assuring him that the "most dynamic" Sushma Swaraj was looking into the matter, the singer replied: "Thank you so much for your concern my dear. Sushma Swaraj is a lady full of heart and she is in touch with me and is looking after our people.
"I'm so proud that she is our foreign minister and looks after us all over the world."
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India's comedy space gaining a lot of momentum: Adnan Nalwala


Comedy is gaining a lot of momentum in India and the challenge lies in monetising this space, says comedian-entrepreneur Adnan Nalwala, adding that comedians in this country need to come out of their "local" shells if they are to make a mark on the world stage.

"The comedy space (in India) is gaining a lot of momentum. There is a tremendous amount of talent that is there in India and it is going to continue to grow. I think the challenge lies in monetising the space and it will take some time for the industry to figure out the mechanism," said Nalwala, born in Oman to Indian parents who have lived in eight countries and who describes himself as an entrepreneur by day and an entertainer by night.

At the same time, he felt "the topics and the creativity existing in the Western cultures is more evolved and mature".

"The mindframe and tolerance levels towards humour is higher in the West, which allows more comedic freedom. If that happens (here) a lot more can evolve in the industry. The other aspect of the comedy is that most of the Indian comedians more focused on local content rather than global issues. If those topics are also touched upon then the world can be their platform to perform", Nalwala told IANS in an email interview.

He felt the Indian audience is one the best to perform in front of.

"They are most accepting and are also well-informed. If you talk about things that relate to the Indians, they jump in on it and laugh really hard. They have the appetite and intelligence to take a joke well -- and yes, they can laugh at themselves well. If you involve them in a joke they get really excited and the best part is, after shows, many a time people ask you for a photograph or a quick video which feels great," said Nalwala.

With a rare mix of management and creative skills, Nalwala has a BA in Supply Chain Management from Arizona State University and an MBA from Boston University. He splits his time between Dubai and Oman as the Executive Director of his Al Ansari Group family business.

Nalwala launched his stand-up comedy career a decade ago and has performed across the Middle East and India, including at The Comedy Store and Canvas Laugh Factory. He was part Vir Das' "Unbelievablish" in Dubai attended by over 1,200 people. He performed on several tours with the Indian Comedy Club and is a regular at Canvas Laugh Club; his solo act "This Thing That Thing" has been well received. His latest endeavour is RJing for Times FM 95.4 in Oman, hosts a show where he shares with listeners his funny insights to current affairs.

He is currently performing (Thursday-Saturday) at Mumbai's Canvas Laugh Club in Lower Parel.

About his journey, Nalwala said he started out doing comedy in Mumbai when it was in its nascent stages with very few good comedians in the market.

"The concept was relatively new as there were not many venues for it. Over the last decade, several comedians have come up and there are many more venues that promote comedy. My first professional gig in Mumbai was in 2009.

“However, my first attempt on stage was at Jazz by Bay in Mumbai in 2009. I was performing in front of a crowd that had come to watch musicians and so for the crowd to accept me was a big winner. Two things happened -- one of the guys in the front row nearly fell off his chair laughing, and second, after I finished my set, one audience member asked, 'When is your next gig? I will bring my friends'. That really made me believe in my comedy," Nalwala said.

Adnan, experts in the field say, is deft in turning social subjects into humour and has an effortless way with observational humour and impersonations.

What's the difference between the two?

"Observational comedy is something that could occur in front of you or something that you have experienced and you see the funny side of it. Incident-based comedy is something that actually happens to you and you narrate the experience," he explained.

How does he juggle his performances in different countries?

"At the end of the day," he explained, "jokes are subjective and many things differ on a cultural level. Human behaviour and the mind frame tends to overlap, which means some jokes are universal. Jokes on relationships are liked by all parts of the world. I have had the good fortune of living in eight different countries where I have been exposed to different nationalities and languages which has enabled me to pick up the subtle differences and present them as facts and people enjoy it a lot more."

"In India, I also tend to say many of my punchlines in Hindi as this would sit a lot better with the crowd and the relatability factor increases," he added.


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I have no legacy to leave behind: Amitabh Bachchan

Actor Amitabh Bachchan at the studio of Star Sports to promote his upcoming film
Actor Amitabh Bachchan at the studio of Star Sports to promote his upcoming film "102 Not Out", in Mumbai on April 28, 2018. (Photo: IANS)

The world knows him as Bollywood's "Shahenshah", but he prefers to be known as the son of late eminent poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan. Megastar Amitabh Bachchan says he has been in public life from the day he was born but has no legacy of his own to leave behind.

The actor, who has successfully transitioned from Bollywood's "Angry young man" to its "Shahenshah" to its most globally known ambassador during his over four-decade-old career, says his father's "public presence is far greater than" his.

"It is coming on to 50 years in public life... That is as far as I am personally concerned... But I have been in public life from the day I was born. I was always the son of Dr Harivansh Rai Bachchan, the eminent poet, litterateur, having a public presence far greater than mine," Amitabh told IANS in an email interview from Mumbai.

"I have no legacy... My father's legacy is what I am interested in, and I shall try always to further it."

Amitabh, who is looking forward to the release of his next film "102 Not Out", has time and again penned his feelings and thoughts about his bond with his father in his elaborate blogs. Earlier this year, he had also expressed displeasure over the stipulation in the copyright law which allows exclusive rights to heirs of original literary work for 60 years after the author's death.

The 75-year-old, who also enjoys reciting his father's works, especially "Madhushala" at public events, hopes he has passed on his father's wisdom to his son and actor Abhishek.

"Memories of my father and time spent with him are personal... But, yes lessons learnt from him would certainly be passed on to Abhishek," added Big B.

Asked how these were being passed on to the grandchildren, Amitabh said: "These are family oriented. Each family has their own conduct and behaviour, and they are executed in a manner where the next generation continues the legacy of the past. One prays and hopes that this temperament continues for posterity too."

Amitabh started his journey in showbiz as one of the seven protagonists in "Saat Hindustani", and then went on to feature in the Rajesh Khanna-starrer "Anand". But once he got noticed in 1973 with "Zanjeer", there was no looking back.

Some remember him as the towering lead in films like "Deewar", "Zanjeer", "Don" and "Sholay"; some appreciate his work in "Black", "Paa" and "Piku", and some just love to watch him bring characters of myriad shades alive on the silver screen and the small screen.

From touching the pinnacle of stardom to facing failure to his days of bankruptcy to bouncing back in the game and seeing a meteoric rise -- Big B has seen it all.

"I never dreamt of being where I am today, not that I am in some special space now, but dreams of the young are never constant, at least mine were never. We keep imagining according to prevailing circumstances. And circumstances keep changing rapidly," he said.

The cine icon feels it is very important to taste failure to value success.

"Criticism," he says, "is healthy. If not, we would all be living in a Utopian world, and we know that is not possible. Abuse, negativity, criticism is a most important element in our growth. We must know what the rest of the world is thinking of us and our work and learn from those outputs. It's like a failure; unless you fail, you will never know what success is."

In Umesh Shukla's "102 Not Out", Big B is seen as a centenarian father to his 75-year-old son -- essayed by Rishi Kapoor -- who wants to break the world record of being the oldest man alive. The record is held by a 118-year-old Chinese man. The old man feels his son's morose attitude would not help him achieve the target and takes the step to move his son to an old age home.

Produced by Sony Pictures Entertainment Films India, Treetop Entertainment and Shukla's Benchmark Pictures, the film opened on Friday.

"Our experience comes from the design of the story and the script. We tried to do what the script demands, and we hope it has been done to audience's satisfaction," said the actor, who will also be seen in "Thugs of Hindostan".

Clearly, there is no slowing down for Big B as he listed the projects in the pipeline.

"There are a few. Ayan Mukerji's ‘Brahmastra', Sujoy Ghosh's ‘the Guest' (tentative working title or 'Badla'), R Balki's next and a few more... Then there is 'Kaun Banega Crorepati'," he said.


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India changed in the 1990s and the cultural milieu changed with it

(This is the first part of the "Shifting Sands of Culture" series, in which five noted personalities address diverse issues and trace the changing dynamics of India's culture in articles written exclusively for IANS.)
The cities of Bombay (Mumbai), Madras (Chennai) and Calcutta (Kolkata) had deep cultural roots and urbanised commerce and industry even during the colonial period, possibly because a diversified and robust economy is important for the growth of cultural activities, beyond the purely traditional forms. Delhi has had the cultural institutions created by the government -- but not the eco-system in which culture thrives. Till the 1980s Delhi was predominantly a bureaucratic town.
For Delhi, the big change came via cable TV, expectedly offering a window into foreign soaps. Primetime telecasts of "Santa Barbara" and "The Bold and The Beautiful" re-set the clock for Delhi's social set. Delhi gorged on cricket, fashion, cinema, ice cream and potato chips. Stand-alone classical music and dance events and theatre productions that had comprised the Delhi cultural scene were all grappling with the lack of affordable performance spaces, vanishing sponsorship support and dwindling audiences. There was a sense of collective pessimism. Delhi deserved better.
We sensed the potential. The problem was hugely constrained supply of supportive spaces and facilities. It was against this somewhat bleak backdrop that we at Habitat World were privileged to take the opportunity and create an ecosystem for culture at the India Habitat Centre. It has worked very well. The pent-up demand for such cultural facilitation was embraced with joy and relief by artistes and performers. Our calendar of events is a directory of the greats of India's performing arts.
We were careful to align our programmes with the demographics of our members and the broader potential audience. Some data mining helped. Nothing intrusive. Just second-guessing their aesthetics and proclivity from their age, education, income and location.
For those missing the good old days, we replayed the familiar favourites and they blessed us. For those who had never thought of an evening of performing arts as a leisure option, plays with a recognisable "star cast" that straddled cinema and theatre was the lure for a first foray. Film screenings and book launches, with an opportunity for a Q&A and an autograph (this was before the selfies age) with star directors, authors and actors (including the Big B himself) were teasers to enlarge the habit of enjoying a cultural evening. Out-of-the-box workshops for children and adults, cinema, art and music appreciation courses provided a predictable and steady stream of events to plan for.
Our outreach was primarily through our monthly calendar that was mailed to our 7,000 members; posters in other performance spaces and clubs and via insertion of the event listings in the city magazines and papers. For ticketed plays, the extra push that would make all the difference would be the coveted Page 3 interview or pre-show write-ups. At the time, paid-for news insertions were not the norm as they are today. If resources permitted, an advertisement in the newspaper was the exceptional add-on.
Our broad range of programmes enabled us to tweak the composition towards progressive acceptance of the more avant-garde and contemporary. New choreographies, fusion music, stand-up comedy, play scripts collectively created through workshops and indie cinema soon became part of our mainstream offerings. All this led up to "festivals" catering to specific art forms -- festivals of music, dance, theatre, film, food, collegiate theatre, documentaries and shorts, comedy, environment, women directors... the possibilities seem endless.
So, what changed? Just as India changed in 1990 and opened its doors and windows to the world, in the noughties, digital technology upended both performance spaces and forms. Internet, Facebook, Youtube, Whatsapp, Twitter, Instagram and blogspots, connectivity, access, mobility... a mind boggling network that spun a whole new culture of excellence. Today, the audience can come prepared to watch a classic play after watching the international greats do the same play on YouTube. Audience expectations have increased and the cultural scene is responding. Importantly, the digital economy has created an entirely new audience of socially concerned persons looking for "time out" outside a beer bar and with the means to pay for culture. Demand has created its own supply of new-age customers and practitioners.
Digital technology empowered a new generation of creativity by reducing the cost of producing good art and accessing audiences. Work can be uploaded and sent out into cyberspace and, on occasion, can garner recognition overnight. New audiences and new stars were born without putting a foot onstage. The arts were now online. Artistes, events and festivals can be discovered, researched, followed, booked and publicised online.
The other big lifestyle change that the age of connectivity has ushered in is the travel trend. Over the last two decades, Indians have begun to travel like never before. The one annual holiday that was planned and looked forward to all year has turned into a series of shorter forays to new destinations, and long weekend getaways are par for the course. The more unique and experiential the package, the more its allure. Travel is a driver for wider cultural engagement of a personal kind. It encourages choice and competition and often deep commitments to what was earlier an exotic culture. On the supply side, it has generated a more aware, experimental and appreciative audience, which we at Habitat World are delighted to cater to.
Today it is psychographics and not demographics that provide a better insight into what the audience wants and how it can be persuaded to see multiple truths of the same reality. Cultural curators have recognised the potential of this aspiration and created a brand of experiential culture travel opportunities. If you have a mind to be a serial culture vulture, you could pack in a festival a month and still not cover a half of them.
There is new talent and enormous energy surging through the arts. An energy that is supported by the government, individual and corporate well-wishers. The good news is that we have merely scratched the surface. Consider: Arts and culture is one space which is the most resistant to the invasion of robotics -- a major threat to job creation in the near term. India has a glorious tradition of art and culture; we should leverage it to create good jobs, great art and happy audiences.
Vidyun Singh has been the Head of Programming at Habitat World, India Habitat Centre, since its inception in 1997.

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National Film Awards marred by presentation row

President Ram Nath Kovind presenting the Best Actress Award to Sridevi (posthumous). The award was received by her husband Boney Kapoor and daughters Jahnhvi Kapoor and Khushi Kapoor, at the 65th National Film Awards, in New Delhi on May 3, 2018.
President Ram Nath Kovind presenting the Best Actress Award to Sridevi (posthumous). The award was received by her husband Boney Kapoor and daughters Jahnhvi Kapoor and Khushi Kapoor, at the 65th National Film Awards, in New Delhi on May 3, 2018.
Controversy marred the 65th National Film Awards ceremony here on Thursday with several awardees protesting against the whittling down of the number of those to be honoured by the President to a select 11.
Upset over breaking from the long-held tradition of the President giving away all the awards, around 60 awardees wrote to the Directorate of Film Festivals, the President's office and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting over the "discrimination".
The name plates of the absentee winners were placed facing down at the Vigyan Bhawan, where several others from across the length and breadth of the country congregated to celebrate the diversity of India and Indian cinema.
Celebrated names like K.J. Yesudas and A.R. Rahman, apart from actors Riddhi Sen, Divya Dutta and Pankaj Tripathi and a host of others attended the gala.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani and Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore handed out the remainder of the 125 awards at the event, which was also devoid of a musical performance unlike every year.
The prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award -- the country's highest cinema honour -- was given posthumously to Vinod Khanna, whose wife Kavita Khanna and son Akshaye Khanna received it. It was an "emotional and proud moment," Akshaye said.
Another posthumous honour went to Sridevi, whose powerful performance in her last film "Mom" fetched her the Best Actress Award. Her husband Boney Kapoor and two daughters -- Jahnvi and Khushi -- took the stage together to receive what was Sridevi's first National Award in a career of 50 years.
President Ram Nath Kovind, who joined the ceremony in the latter half, said: "We will miss them forever... More than just box office successes, they tugged at our hearts and captured our emotions."
He said India's strength lies in its diversity, and cinema celebrates it by having a unifying voice which transcends regions. He spoke about the "transformational times for cinema" and how "India is gaining traction as a filmmaking destination".
Irani also hailed the noticeable presence of regional cinema and talent and also drew attention to how over 20 women were honoured at the stage.
All the officials who took to the mike thanked the President for his presence. However, the question many were left with after this edition of the ceremony, is why all the winners were not felicitated by the President.
In the letter, the protesting awardees said they felt "dejected rather than honoured" for their work.
It was on Wednesday that the awardees were informed that a large segment of the awards will not be presented by the President. They discussed the matter with Irani the same evening and were promised a reply.
"In the circumstance of not receiving a response for our grievance, we are left with no option but to be absent for the ceremony. We do not intend to boycott the award, but are not attending the ceremony to convey our discontent...
"It feels like a breach of trust when an institution/ceremony that abides by extreme protocol, fails to inform of such a vital aspect of the ceremony with prior notice. It seems unfortunate that 65 years of tradition are being overturned in a jiffy.
"...We are disheartened to know that we will be deprived of the honour of this appreciation of a once-in-a-lifetime moment of pride and glory that the National Film Awards had promised us."
The President handed over the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, Nargis Dutt Award for Feature Films on National Integration, Best Book on Cinema, Best Direction (non-feature film), Best Jasari Film, Best Male Playback Singer, Best Music Direction (songs and background music), Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Direction (feature film), Best Feature Film and Best Editing.
Singer Shashaa Tirupati felt "terribly disrespected".
Shashaa, who bagged the Best Female Playback Singer for "Vaan varuvaan" from "Kaatru Veliyidai", told IANS: "It's like the thrill of it is gone now... National Awards and the President go hand-in-hand. For 64 years, they have been given by the President. When you speak of the National Award, automatically people visualise the President handing over the award to the recipient." 
Riddhi Sen, the Best Actor winner for the film "Nagarkirtan", received the honour from the President. But he found the decision for others unfair.
"This is discrimination and this is absolutely unfair."
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I refuse to be a witness to reduction of Hinduism by ignorant and illiterate people: Pavan Varma


Launching his latest book "Adi Shankaracharya: Hinduisms Greatest Thinker", former diplomat and author Pavan K. Varma refused "to be a mute witness to the reduction of such a great religion (Hinduism) to its lowest common denominator by ignorant and illiterate people who think they are the self-anointed protector of Hinduism".

A well-researched account of the life, times and philosophy propounded by the child-seer who not only gave a form and structure to Hinduism but also travelled across India to set up monasteries or mathas to establish its influence, the book was launched by Murli Manohar Joshi and Karan Singh. Also in attendance were senior political leaders and MPs including P Chidambaram and Manish Tewari, among others.

Referring to the "self-anointed protectors of Hinduism," Varma called them "ignorant and illiterate people," even as he attacked them for reducing the faith to its lowest common denominator.

"I want to proudly say that I am a Hindu, but I want to say that for right reasons. I want those traditions to be respected- of inclusion, not exclusion; of assimilation, not hatred; of dialogue, not violence. I believe we need to have the knowledge of Hinduism and its great philosophy and if we don't, it's like to be reduced to that level," he said.

The book includes a select anthology of Shankaracharya's seminal writings; and most importantly, examines the startling endorsement that contemporary science is giving to his ideas today.

It reminds readers about the remarkable philosophical underpinning of Hinduism, making it one of the most vibrant religions in the world.


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Satyajit Ray's 97th birth anniversary celebrated with fanfare


Numerous admirers and fans of Satyajit Ray gathered at his Bishop Lefroy Road residence here on Wednesday to pay tribute to the legendary filmmaker on occasion of his 97th birth anniversary.

According to Ray's son Sandip Ray, the excitement among the film enthusiasts and youngsters to get a glimpse of the collection of works by the Academy Award-winning director was remarkable, like every year.

"It is a huge thing. People have started coming since early morning. I really have no idea to what extent this trend will rise as every year the footfall is increasing.

"Not just that this visits started as early as 7 a.m.... it will go past midnight," he added.

Besides being an eminent filmmaker known for classics like "The Apu Trilogy: Pather Panchali, Aparajito, Apur Sansar", "Charulata", "Teen Kanya", "Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne" and many others, Ray was also a remarkable screenwriter, calligrapher, music composer and author, most notably of the Feluda mystery series.

With supernatural elements having been a part and parcel of Ray's works, Sandip Ray denied his father believed in ghosts. "No, I don't think he believed in ghosts but he enjoyed reading and writing about them.

"His horror film 'Monihara' deserves a special mention, as when I watched it for the first time I literally shivered," he said.

"Then his work 'Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne' is another milestone in horror films. He has also written horror stories and his library is also filled with such books.

"My father was an open-minded person and be it occult or paranormal activities, he had interest in varied topics. His wide interests are reflected in all of his works," he added.


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After 'Shiraz', keen to compose music for 'modern ' films: Anoushka Shankar


Anoushka Shankar's maiden project as a film music composer was unique. After scoring for the restored 1928 Indian silent period drama "Shiraz: A Romance of India", the British Indian sitar player is enthused about taking up more film projects, albeit with "modern" narratives and "normal conversations".

"I really loved getting to score my first film, and as everyone in the film would tell me, what I started with was especially challenging because it was a silent film. So it was a really big project to take on.

"It was difficult, but I found it very fulfilling. I really look forward to hopefully doing more kind of modern films with normal conversations," Anoushka told IANS in an interview from Mumbai.

For the Grammy-nominated artiste, working on the music for Franz Osten's classic 17th century-set "Shiraz...", was a one-of-a-kind experience. She conducted live scoring with an orchestral ensemble alongside the film's screening at four cities in India last year.

The London-based sitarist, daughter of the late globally-renowned sitar exponent Ravi Shankar, was in Mumbai last week for a "pit-stop".

She was waiting to get back home, to her two sons, after two months of being out for work.

Are her sons Zubin and Mohan, whom she had with her now-estranged husband, "Darkest Hour" director Joe Wright, inclined towards music?

"Well, they seem to be pretty musical and they seem to be interested in listening to all kinds of music. My older boy has started doing piano and stuff like that... He is still not interested in the sitar... So we will have to see," Anoushka said.

There's a difference between the perception and reality as far as the youth being attracted to classical music in India is concerned.

Anoushka affirmed, "Indian classical music has got a really strong audience whether in India or abroad".

"I think the perception (that classical music doesn't have an ample audience) is interesting because it's to do with popular culture. When we look at the mainstream culture, it's easy to think that classical music doesn't have a strong audience because it's not really represented or reflected in our mainstream media and visible culture.

"You have to look elsewhere to see how many festivals, how many audience members there are. And I think that's much more to do with the media and lack of representation for our classical arts... That needs to be looked at," she said.

Music can make a difference, believes Anoushka, whose last album "Land Of Gold", released in April 2016, was written in response to the refugee crisis.

"I think that we all have an opportunity of making a difference in our own fields and in our lives in whatever way we can, and one of those is through the arts. I do think, on a more subtle and potentially spiritual level, music has the potential to make a positive difference in the world."

She does her own bit to make a difference in people's lives through social media, where she often shares life musings.

In an Instagram post last month, Anoushka, who split from Wright earlier this year, shared a post about first loves, heartbreaks and the lessons they teach.

Reflecting on it, she said: "I frequently share personal thoughts on social media and I am always very open. Sometimes when I have a feeling, I think maybe there's something in it that may be helpful to somebody else. So then I tend to share it. And it seemed like that was a case... a lot of people seemed to respond to, and have resonance with (that feeling or thought).

"I think that can be a really nice opportunity to connect with people and something that helps people engage with themselves. I find it really interesting to connect with other human beings like that... It's an interesting part of being in a job that's rather public."


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'Treasures' takes you on a wondrous tour of Allahabad Museum


Enjoying rare books in a museum is common, but you can now enjoy the Allahabad Museum through a book - "Treasures", which lists its assets and recounts its history.

Part of an initiative by the Ministry of Culture's Museum Reforms Programme, the book highlights the many treasures of the museum, which has a rich and diversified collection of art, antiquities, paintings, sculptures, coins, ceramics, archaeological objects, illustrated manuscripts, decorative art objects, arms and armour, textiles, natural history specimens, photographs, prints and personal collections.

Located in the Civil Lines area, the heart of the Allahabad city, the museum was first inaugurated in 1878. "For unforeseen reasons, the museum closed down in 1881," the book says.

It was reopened in 1931, but its turning point came in 1986.

"Realising the significance of the diversity of its archaeological artefacts, the museum was taken over by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, after constituting an autonomous body called Allahabad Museum Society, and it was declared a museum of national importance," the book says.

The artefacts in the museum are displayed in 16 different galleries, including an exhibition in the Memorial Hall.

"Treasures, of Indian Museums, is a series that reflects the aesthetic sensibilities of Indian artists and their patrons, through the ages. Indian art is rooted in different philosophies. This series of museum publications aims to share this extraordinary repository with the world," Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma says in a message in the book.

The book contains information on the date and provenance, as well as a brief introduction of each object. There are, for instance, over 200 weapons in the Allahabad Museum, some of them from as far back as the 17th century. Among them is a light machine gun from the First World War.

The Museum also has a vast collection of items related to the freedom struggle. There is the pistol that Chandrashekhar Azad used in his last shootout with the British police in Allahabad in 1931, in which he died, and a collection of photographs starting from the first war of independence in 1857 to the country's independence in 1947.

It also has in its possession the sword and costume of Maulvi Liaquat Ali Khan of Allahabad, one of the heroes of the 1857 battle.

The brass casket in which Gandhi's ashes were taken to the Sangam in Allahabad is also displayed. The large Ford lorry used to haul the cortege carrying Gandhi's ashes for immersion in the Sangam is parked outside the museum. It's in perfect working condition -- and retraces the journey every year on February 12.

Among the other rare collections at the museum are coins from various dynasties, including those of Kanishka 1 (1st Century), Septimus (2nd Century), Samudra Gupta (4th Century), Chandra Gupta (4th Century) and Akbar (16th Century).

A fair number of Mughal paintings from Delhi and Lucknow -- the principal centre of Mughal art -- are also displayed in the museum.

"All the schools of Rajasthani art are represented in the museum -- including Buni, Malwa, Mewar, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Nathdwara and Kishangarh," the book says, adding that a rich collection of the Bengal School of paintings is also a part, along with 19 works of Russian painter and philosopher Nicholas Roerich.

Title: Treasures: Allahabad Museum, Allahabad; Author: Malavika Singh, Rajesh Purohit; Publisher: Niyogi Books; Pages: 190; Price: Rs 995


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Actress Sonam Kapoor, Anand Ahuja to marry on May 8

Sonam Kapoor and Anand ahuja
Sonam Kapoor and Anand ahuja
Bollywood actress Sonam Kapoor will get married to Delhi-based businessman Anand Ahuja here on May 8, the family has confirmed following weeks of speculation around the wedding.
A statement on behalf of the Kapoor and Ahuja families was issued on Tuesday.
"The Kapoor and Ahuja families take great joy and pride in announcing the marriage of Sonam and Anand. The wedding will take place on May 8 in Mumbai," read the statement.
The families have said it is an "intimate affair" and have requested the media "to respect the family's need for privacy".
"Thank you for all your blessings and love, as we celebrate this special moment in our lives," the statement read.
Sonam and Anand have been dating for some years, but it is only since a few months that they have been open about their moments and travel diaries together on social media.
The lighting and decorations outside the Kapoor residence here added fuel to the speculation about the wedding.
Veteran actor Anil Kapoor, Sonam's father, reportedly commented at an event last week: "Media has always been with me and my family when we began our careers. We will share everything at the right time. You all will know very soon. We won't hide these details. You will know why there is lighting outside the house."
Sonam, after debuting in Bollywood with "Saawariya" in 2008, has featured in movies like "Delhi-6", "Aisha", "Raanjhanaa", "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag", "Khoobsurat", "Prem Ratan Dhan Payo", "Neerja" and "Pad Man". Her performance in "Neerja" won her a Special Mention at the National Film Awards.
Now just days before her next film "Veere Di Wedding" releases on June 1, she is busy preparing for her own wedding.
A week after her D-day, Sonam will be seen at the 71st Cannes Film Festival red carpet to fulfil her commitment as a L'oreal Paris brand ambassador on May 14 and May 15.
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Five books to look forward to in May 2018


It's the dull season in the literary space and most known writers are currently doing what they are meant to do -- write.

Shuffling between literature festivals and promotional events from mid-September to March, the harsh summer months provide the much-needed space for writers to focus on their craft as their minds are not shattered by constant invitations and events.

Rumour has it that Vikram Seth is about to finish his much-awaited sequel to "A Suitable Boy" -- and even publishing insiders are eagerly awaiting it. Namita Gokhale has started working on what she calls "a fascinating novel", Jeet Thayil, Manu Joseph, Amitava Kumar and Anjum Hasan, among other prominent writers, are all absent from the limelight and are, perhaps, silently working on their next offerings.

Meanwhile, here are the five most anticipated books in May 2018:

1. Daughters of the Sun by Ira Mukhoty (Aleph)

Ira Mukhoty's last book was the immensely popular and critically acclaimed "Heroines: Powerful Indian Women of Myth and History" and this time she returns with an equally appealing title.

In 1526, when the nomadic Timurid warrior-scholar Babur rode into Hindustan, his wives, sisters, daughters, aunts and distant female relatives travelled with him. These women would help establish a dynasty and empire that would rule India for the next 200 years and become a byword for opulence and grandeur. By the second half of the 17th century, the Mughal Empire was one of the largest and richest in the world.

The Mughal women -- unmarried daughters, eccentric sisters, fiery milk mothers and powerful wives -- often worked behind the scenes and from within the zenana, but there were some notable exceptions among them who rode into battle with their men, built stunning monuments, engaged in diplomacy, traded with foreigners and minted coins in their own names. Others wrote biographies and patronised the arts.

"Daughters of the Sun" is billed as "the very first attempt to chronicle the women who played a vital role in building the Mughal empire".

2. The Glass House by Chanchal Sanyal (Rupa)

What makes a house a home?

College professor M.B. and his designer wife, Roshni, are a yuppie couple living in the ever-expanding, smog-encrusted, roiling city of Delhi. They have finally achieved their dream of buying their own apartment in an up and coming builder's complex in Gurgaon (now Gurugram). The problem is, it looks like it is going to be up and coming for a while.

Along with this woe, come tumbling a hundred others. M.B. is sure his wife's growing distance and disaffection has less to do with the stalling on the house front, and more because she is finding solace in the arms of Rocky, the stud son of their Punjabi landlord.

A darkly comic take on the big, bad city of Delhi, its many moods and characters, "The Glass House" presents a look into the ideals of urban happiness, and the pitfalls and prices that come along with its pursuit.

3. Koi Good News? By Zarreen Khan (HarperCollins)

This "hilarious private journal of a highly public pregnancy" has already been optioned for a feature film by a major production house and has come with rave endorsements. Swati Daftuar, Commissioning Editor at HarperCollins says "Zarreen's is one of the freshest and most exciting voices in Indian fiction in English that I've read in a while. It's effortless, irreverent and entirely contemporary. This is the Indian urban life, laid out in all its hilarious glory - warts and all! We're so glad to be publishing her."

When Mona Mathur of Dehradun married her college sweetheart, Ramit Deol of Amritsar, there were two things she wasn't prepared for: 1. The size of the Deol family -- it put any Sooraj Barjatya movie to shame. 2. The fertility of the Deol family -- they reproduced faster than any other species known to mankind.

It's been four years since their wedding, and Mona and Ramit have done the unthinkable - they've remained childless. Of course, that also means that they've battled that one question day in and day out: “Koi Good News?”

Now, the truth is, Ramit and Mona had been trying to conceive for the past one year. But having a baby isn't as easy as it's made out to be. Finally, aided by the wine at their highly glamorous neighbours' party, Mona gets pregnant. And so begins a crazy journey -- complete with interfering relatives, nosy neighbours, disapproving doctors, and absolutely no privacy!

4. The Forgotten Cities of Delhi by Rana Safvi (HarperCollins)

After the conquest of Delhi by Mohammad of Ghor, many dynasties ruled over it. Each of them either built a new capital or expanded the existing one, giving Delhi a living history of over 1,500 years. Today, these erstwhile cities remain as neighbourhoods with remarkable character -- Siri, Jahanpanah, Tughlaqabad, Firozabad, Dinpanah, Shergarh and Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti -- giving Delhi a unique soul incomparable to other state capitals.

In The Forgotten Cities of Delhi, Rana Safvi takes us on exploratory trails of the remains of these cities -- monuments and tombs that have survived the onslaught of urbanization and apathy - and gives us a soulful introduction to their histories, blending her narrative with stirring Sufi couplets.

The result is an in-depth tour that's full of awe and pathos and makes us marvel at remnants from an era that was possibly the richest in Delhi's archaeological history - an era of kings and courtiers, poets and saints, princesses and philosophers.

5. Life Over Two Beers and Other Stories by Sanjeev Sanyal (Penguin)

An entertaining and surprising ride through an India you thought you knew Sanjeev Sanyal, bestselling author of Land of the Seven Rivers, returns to enthral readers with a collection of unusual stories. Written with Sanjeev's trademark flair, the stories crackle with irreverence and wit.

In ‘The Troll', a presumptuous blogger faces his undoing when he sets out to expose an internet phenomenon. In the title story, a young man loses his job in the financial crisis and tries to reset his life over two beers. In ‘The Intellectuals', a foreign researcher spends some memorable hours with Kolkata's ageing intellectuals.

From the vicious politics of a Mumbai housing society to the snobbery of Delhi's cocktail circuit, the stories in Life over Two Beers get under the skin of a rapidly changing India-and leave you chuckling.


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Google celebrates 148th birth anniversary of Dadasaheb Phalke with a doodle

Internet search engine Google today celebrated the 148th birth anniversary of the Father of Indian cinema, Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, popularly known as Dadasaheb Phalke.  
Born on this day in 1870 at Tryambakeshwar in Nashik district of present-day Maharashtra, Phalke joined Sir J. J. School of Art, Mumbai in 1885. Later, he continued his studies at Kala Bhavan, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda.
He developed a keen interest in the arts and studied at various points, photography, lithography, architecture, engineering, and even magic. After stints as a painter, draftsman, theatrical set designer, and lithographer, he chanced upon Alice Guy's silent film, The Life of Christ (1910).
Already deeply influenced by the works of painter, Raja Ravi Varma, Phalke resolved to bring Indian culture to the silver screen. He travelled to London to learn filmmaking from Cecil Hepworth, Google said in a write-up.
In 1913, India’s first silent film, Raja Harishchandra was released. Phalke’s magic touch with special effects and mythology made it a huge hit, and it was followed by a dozen more.
In 1969, the Government of India paid homage to this visionary filmmaker by establishing the Dadasaheb Phalke award recognizing lifetime contributions to Indian cinema.
“Today’s Doodle by guest artist Aleesha Nandhra shows a young Dadasaheb in action as he went about directing the first few gems in the history of Indian cinema,” Google said.
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Art can develop a child's mind, but don't impose it: Paresh Maity


Art plays an important role in a child's development and enables children to develop a sense of aesthetics and beauty from an early age -- but it should not be imposed, says noted artist Paresh Maity, whose vast oeuvre includes India's longest painting at 850 feet.

"The most important thing to developing a child's mind through art is to not impose anything. Let them grow in their own way... an innocent mind will develop its own identity and possibilities. The medium allows them to express themselves and explore their creative side and develop a sense of aesthetics and beauty from an early age," Maity told IANS in an email interview.

It was in this spirit that he conducted a day-long session at a Mumbai school on Friday and termed it a "learning experience".

"It was a fantastic experience to meet and conduct a session for students of Mount Litera School International as part of their ongoing Meraki art week. It was astonishing to see the creativity in them and the fabulous exhibition they had curated. My visit to the school was a learning experience for me as well because when the mind does not have any preconceived ideas, I learn a lot.

"While this wasn't a first-time effort and I have been to different cities and schools, it was great to witness the truly extraordinary art displayed by the kids," he added.

"Art has a crucial role to play in the holistic development of young children through its integration of fine motor skills, language development, conceptual understanding of math and other subject areas. Children learn to bring all these together through using their hands, visualisation and through words to express what they have drawn or created. Art has its own language, which is universally understood," Ruchika Sachdev, head of the school's primary section, told IANS in an e-mail.

The school visit also prompted Maity, 53, to reminisce about his own four-decade journey in the world of art.

"I was seven-years-old when I saw artisans in my native village -- Tamluk in West Bengal -- making idols of Goddess Durga. I was mesmerised and decided I wanted to be an artist. It has been a burning desire since then," said Maity, who has almost 80 solo exhibitions to his credit.

At the age 16, after his matriculation, he wished to get admitted in Calcutta's (now Kolkata) Government College of Art and Craft but his father's colleagues persuaded him to appear for joint entrance exams for medical and engineering.

"I was never attentive towards my studies as my mind would always wander towards art. Finally, at the age of 18, after my higher secondary education, I took an admission to the Government College of Art and Craft in 1983.

"Since I was a little child I have been inspired by miniature and tribal art. My first influential mentor was nature and people that I used to interact with on my commute to college. I would travel for four hours each way to reach my college from Tamluk since I did not have enough money to stay in Kolkata. I did this for six years," he said.

"My journey, like that of any other individual, has been full of ups and downs and filled with good and bad experiences. We all go through it. I will be the happiest if my journey with art continues till the last day of my life," Maity added.

As for "Indian Odyssey", which is displayed at Terminal 3 of New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport, he said when he was first approached, he did not think it would be possible to create it.

"It depicts India's people, places, history, colours, festivals, culture and integrity in a unique way. When I was first requested eight years ago to make this painting, I was surprised because I could not believe an artist could make such a big painting, measuring approximately 850 feet. I expressed a desire to see the original place where the painting would be installed. It took me a year to complete the painting and was a truly extraordinary experience," Maity explained.

What of the future?

"I am currently busy designing large installations for public places as well as some large paintings where I wish to experiment a bit while staying true to my roots and identity," Maity concluded.


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'Bollywood on a Boat' - tourism promotion initiative rocks Amsterdam's canals on King's Day


‘Bollywood on a Boat, a novel initiative to promote tourism to India, was launched in Amsterdam on Friday, the Kings Day, the biggest national holiday of the Netherlands.

The Indian Embassy said it was a huge success with around 50,000 revellers in boats and on the banks of the Canals enjoying the performances.

The boat with the dancers and Dhol players sailed through the three main canals of Amsterdam - Herengracht, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht covering more than 100 km for over five hours.

An initiative of the Embassy of India in The Hague in association with India Tourism and Jet Airways, the Boat was decked with banners of Incredible India and Jet Airways on the two sides and upcoming International Yoga Day celebrations on the stern. The boat evinced great interest of the crowds who were captivated by the colourful performances.

Dancers from the Netherlands Marathi Mandal staged Dhol, Lavani, Bihu, Bhangra and Ghoomar (folk dances from different parts of India) while members of the Bollylicious Troupe showcased Bollywood dances on the boat.

The boat was flagged off in the morning by Ambassador Venu Rajamony and prominent members of Amsterdam's Indian Community.

April 27 is celebrated as King's Day, a national holiday in The Netherlands in honour of the birthday of King Willem-Alexander. The day is marked with nationwide parties, flea markets and concerts.

In Amsterdam, the streets and canals burst with orange - the national colour - as the "Amsterdammers" enjoy the biggest street party of the year. This year the "Bollywood/Folk Dances on a Boat" was a colourful and novel addition to the canals of Amsterdam which are the most popular tourist attraction in the country.


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