Monthly Archives

February 2018

Beauty in cinema (Day 1274)

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In 2005 Hindustan Unilever Ltd had invited me to Umaid Bhawan, Udaipur to make a presentation on Beauty & Skin in Cinema over the years. The presentation must have gone very well because this year I was invited to their plus office to make a similar presentation.

It is interesting how all of us have selective memories of our experiences and what I remember of my Udaipur trip is interacting with very bright HUL girls and all of us sharing wine and dinner at Umed Bhawan.

The following day was all work and no play for everybody as the girls got down to preparing for their innumerable sessions while I sat in my room and brushed up on my presentation. Hindi Cinema is a fascinating subject and when I went down memory lane I could not help but feel passionately about every decade.


Movie Review: Pad Man is revolutionary

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Film: Pad Man

Date: 09 February 2018

Writer/Director: R Balki

Producer: Funny Bones Production

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor, Radhika Apte

Gayatri/ Radhika Apte is on the giant wheel with her husband when she senses something amiss…

In another city, Rhea/ Sonam Kapoor is in the middle of a concert when she suddenly turns pale…

For both, it is that time of the month and as always it has come unannounced.

Pad Man is the story of Gayatri, Rhea and millions of women but primarily the story of Lakshmikant/ Akshay Kumar who lives in a remote town with his aging mother, wife and two sisters.

It is the family tradition that a menstruating woman must stay 5 days in isolation. Lakshmikant disapproves of this. He wants to safeguard his wife and sisters from infection and taboo but he is scoffed at and shunted by everybody.

In my opinion, there are 4 major reasons for watching the film:

  1. Path-breaking subject: Subjects like these are usually featured as documentary or as adv films. Producer Twinkle Khanna pitches Tamil Nadu’s social activist Arunachalam Murgunanthanm as a mainstream hero and makes Pad Man world’s first feature film on menstrual hygiene.
  2. Spreading awareness: For centuries we’ve cloaked the topic in intrigue and superstitions, for the first time comes a film that liberates a woman from age-old conventions. Pad Man spreads awareness in villages and small towns, enlightens men, empowers women, educates children, engages professionals as in doctors/manufacturers in a techno- digital new India.
  1. Raises issues: Yes, it is the story of a woman’s biology but the one fighting for her dignity is a man. Lakshmikant Chauhan challenges his family, neighborhood, society/ religion/ tradition, willing to be ostracized but unwilling to give up on his goal.
  1. Performances: As Gayatri, Radhika Apte and as Rhea, Sonam Kapoor are effective foils to a courageous protagonist Akshay Kumar who absorbs Lakshmikant without the slightest inhibition and breaks the audience’s defenses as well.

R Balki’s Pad man is sensitive, emotional, engaging, responsible, courageous and entertaining. It is a film you can watch with your entire family.

I rate Pad Man with 4 stars.


Pad Man was envisioned to an be awareness film without focusing on commercial aspects. The producers’ main agenda was to reach out to a wide audience to create awareness and eradicate prevalent superstitions in India surrounding sanitary pads.

Khan saab & I Part iii (Day 1272)

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As we are chatting more people walk in and join the session, they appear interested in music because when Khan saab to explain a point breaks into an alaap there is a smile on everyone’s face. He says he started learning when he was only four or five years old and was put on the stage for his first solo performance when he was only 12 years old. His father Ustaad Haafiz Ali Khan was also his guru and he learnt to submit to his father and guru as a little child.


“Many times parents of young musicians ask me if their children will make a name for themselves, now this is an impossible question to answer because how can one determine who fortune will favour. Today, the musicians are after success whilst all we hankered for was approval from our gurus. Their ‘Shabash’ was our award. Today, the guru shishya parampara is not what it used to be.  They want to ape the gurus and expect instant success but that’s not how it happens.


“I say this at all my seminars that classical music is not for the greedy and the impatient. You need years of practice and dedication to become a credible musician and there is no guarantee that no matter how good you are, you will be successful”.


To be continued

Khan saab & I Part ii (Day 1271)

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Venue: Kala Ghoda Arts Festival. My conversation with the maestro continues…


Few people know that Amjad Ali Khan’s family gets its music lineage from Miyan Tansen, the maestro has never talked about it. He says that the future of Indian classical music will always be bright because we are fortunate to have had strong pillars of music as in Swami Haridas, Swami Purandara Das, Swami Mutthuswami Dikshitar, Syama Shastri, Swami Thyagraja, Swathi Thirunal and the Baiju Bawra of our country.

“Indian classical music has always been and continues to be an integral part of our identity. It does not belong only to the world of entertainment, music is in fact a way of life, it is based on surrender, on faith, on spirituality and most important on discipline, which is the reason why the guru shishya parampara is a part of our culture.

It is impossible to learn music without first submitting to your guru. The Amighty comes after the guru because it will be the guru who will lead you through the dark tunnel and make you see the sunlight at the end of your training”.


To be continued

Khan saab & I Part i (Day 1271)

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It is my privilege that I was asked to interview sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival. We were asked to assemble at the David Sasoon School at 530 pm and as expected Khan Saab was present before time. After a brief chat over lemon tea in the adjoining room we were escorted to the Garden decorated with art and fairy lights.

kg close 3Amjad Ali Khan began talking about music and emphasized that India is the only country in the world which has two traditions of classical musc- those of South or Carnatic and of North or Hindustani. The basis of all music in the world is the same seven notes- Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni in Indian classical music and Do Re Me Fa So La Ti in Western classical.


And the beauty of music is that it connects the whole world, it does not belong to any one race or religion.


To be continued

Happy Birthday Abhishek (Day 1270)

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I met Abhishek for the first time when he was literally knee high. He was playing with his friends in the garden of Pratiksha, their bungalow in Juhu when I entered the house with his mother, Jaya Bachchan. Abhishek spotted us and came running to meet his mother and then looking at me shyly folded his hands into a polite Namaste.

A year later, I met him again when we were shooting a family picture for the magazine I then edited. The shoot was conducted at their home and the photographer and I both that out of the four members Abhishek was the most self-conscious in front of the camera.

When Amitabh Bachchan’s company, ABCL at that time went through a rough time, Abhishek took the decision to opt out of college and assist his father in production. The film was Major Saab and we got to spend a lot of time chatting at the location shooting in Bangalore.

Soon he was launched by J P Dutta in Refuge and in the years to come did all genres of films. A decade later he got married, became a father and continued to   do films.

Today Abhishek has expanded his canvas beyond cinema and is the proud owner of Kabbaddi and Football teams.

The beauty about Abhishek is that after all these years and so many films, he is still the little boy I met in the 90s and even today wherever he meets me, he folds his hands into a Namaste and becomes a little boy again.


Maestro Amjad Ali Khan (Day 1269)

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Amjad Ali Khan is one of the undisputed masters of the music world. Born to maestro Haafiz Ali Khan, he gave his first performance at the age of six and is credited with reinventing the technique of playing Sarod.


Over the course of a distinguished career spanning more than six decades, he has won numerous accolades including a Grammy nomination and three Padma awards. He has performed all over the globe with the best of artistes and remains as passionate about music as when he started as a little boy.

IMG-3809Many books have been written on Amjad Ali Khan but in the latest published by Penguin Master on Masters Amjad Ali Khan talks about the influences on his life.




Chaudvin Ka Chand (Day 1268)

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Today the graceful Waheeda Rehman of the Black and White and color movies turns 80. In an interview to me she said her generation of artists was not exposed to advanced technology and only relied on their instincts. “We worked at a slower pace and prided in our spontaneity.  “In those days it was unthinkable for a director to start a new scene on the same day. It was always a new mood and a new scene on the following day. Today so many disconnected scenes are shot on the same day and competently so. The post-production happens simultaneously at different places in different stages but this hasn’t diffused the magic of cinema which is wonderful. I feel we are making great films today and have terrific actors and technicians. I feel proud to be a part of Indian cinema that has completed more than 100 years and it is indeed a privilege to be born as an artist and lived such an enriching life.”

wr 2 @bhawanasomaaya

Surviving show business (Day 1268)

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Show business had a restricted interpretation when I became a journalist but today it has a wider appeal and wider connotation. It involved the media, the celebrities and the star brands. I have been writing about the film world for more almost four decades now and feel that insecurity is an overwhelming emotion in any creative profession.  In the media and the film fraternity, it is more so. Film stars are peddlers of emotion and, therefore, there are more emotional wrecks in the film world than in any other place. There is shame and scandal, exhibitionism and eccentricity, but there is also energy, a fatal attraction about the world of cinema that is obsessive. Once you’ve been a part of it you feel incomplete without it.


In the olden days the media meant just the print today we have electronic, digital, radio and more. I had never imagined that I would engage my audience in any other language except English but  2009 took me to not just another language/ Hindi but another medium/ Radio and though it was initially very difficult I eventually made friends with the microphone and love the idea of reviewing films/ talk shows on 92.7Big Fm.


Post my talk I drive to our Hyderabad studio and Jyoti has lined up an interview for me that goes but it is not all work and no play because post interview Jyoti treats me and my friends to an awesome lunch.




Ghalib to Gulzar (Day 1267)

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The students have had an overdose of lectures and the professors feel they need to be entertained so Dr. Chinnadevi Singadi has worked on an audio-visual presentation of the lyrical journey of songs from Ghalib to Gulzar.  For the first time in all day, the hall is house full and every song is welcomed with claps and whistles. They are having a good time and it does not matter to anyone that the show has gone beyond their dinner time. That’s the power of entertainment.

During dinner, everybody is happy and still discussing the film scenes and songs. One of the students asks me what is my subject of talk the following morning and I say that since I am from the show business it is natural that I will talk about show business.

This is the third time I am sleeping in a university campus. The first time was at FTIII in Pune and the second time at JNU in Delhi, both large campuses surrounded by trees. The trees look very beautiful during the day but at night if you are not used to such quiet surrounding it can be rather scary.