Monthly Archives

January 2019

Mera Joota Hai Japani (Day 1519)

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The museum may be about Raj Kapoor but it has a bigger vision and includes other superstars from other eras as well so there is Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Waheeda Rehman, and Sharmila Tagore to name a few. And since the museum is based in Pune there is a section devoted to Marathi cinema as well and the statues include the stalwarts from Dada Phadke to from Dada Kondke and the heroines from Jayshri Gadkar to Smita Patil.

Not all the molds are well sculpted and easily recognizable but this is not a problem because there is a framed picture of the actors on the walls for guidance. Superbly preserved and maintained like a shrine, the museum is squeaky clean and open for the public without an entrance fee.

Lit up in sparkling chandeliers there is a sound track of popular songs and dialogues from RK movies as you walk down the never ending lanes inside the museum.

The RK cottage where the showman stayed when in Loni is adjoining the museum. The entrance to this cottage resembles the entrance to their home in Chembur. Come inside and you are struck by the high ceiling and the sprawling rooms exactly like in RK films.

To be continued…

@bhawanasomaaya

Chalia Mera Naam Chalna Mera Kaam (Day 1518)

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What is attractive about the museum is the faraway location.  It is so remote from the city that it is almost surreal. Outside it is lust trees and sound of the chirping birds and inside it is a world of fantasies. The museum chronicles the bibliography of Raj Kapoor, the actor and the filmmaker, his career, his family.

Interestingly, the museum also highlights the milestones of Indian cinema and therefore features statues of memorable stars and films over the decades like Mother India and Aaradhana.

Besides scenes from RK movies, there are flashes from other classics like Pakeezah, Guide and Abhimaan to name a few. Built like a Pagoda and on the theme of Indradhanush the seven sections of the museum are distinguished by the seven colors of the rainbow. The walk from one section to another is like a maze, which has a quality of dream sequence and is very intriguing.

 

Besides a theme in colour the museum follows a theme of genres, as a result there there are sections devoted to villains Raj Kapoor worked with in his long career and melody so there are statues of all the regular musicians and singers of RK Films with Lata Mangeshkar holding centre space.

To be continued…

@bhawanasomaaya

Jeena Yahan Marna Yahan (Day 1517)

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I looked forward to visiting the world’s largest dome of Saint Shree Dnyaneshwara World Peace Prayer Hall and World Peace Library and of course the place I most wanted to see, Raj Kapoor Memorial.

We make such a deal about the Wax Museum in London and all over the world, we are overwhelmed when internal museums host the statues of our heroes and here is an entire museum dedicated to the work of the biggest and the brightest filmmaker, a sheer genius who created history and we pay no attention to the extra-ordinary efforts made by experts to retain his glory in a museum in India which is both sad and shameful.

The RK Memorial was developed a few decades ago under the guidance of Sanjay Sing, Sanjay Chatterji and Prashant Valukar, directors of Indian Traditional Cultural Centre; these directors are the same who created the Ramoji Fim City and designed The Theme Park in Chennai and Hyderabad.

What is special about the Raj Kapoor Memorial is that it is built on the land of Kapoor which after his demise was donated by the family to the Institution to build a museum that would befit the glory of the showman and it does!

To be continued…

@bhawanasomaaya

Lone Farm, RK Museum (Day 1516)

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Recently MIT College Pune invited me to be part of their annual day celebrations and to make my visit memorial suggested that I must visit their extended campus involving various cultural activities situated at Loni farms, some miles away from the city.

The name rang a bell. In 1978 when I was a budding journalist magazines often reported about how RK disappeared to Loni to plan his next film. He had purchased a vast piece of land beyond Pune where he had intentions of creating another natural studio surrounded by trees/ lakes/ narrow pathways/ fountain/ forest that would enable him to shoot an entire film without moving out of the location.

Gradually one got to know that RK was building another cottage in Loni where the family can go for a holiday and when he was shooting it could house the lead stars and family.

So when MIT asked my escorts to take me on a guided tour to Vishwashanti Gurukul Rajbaug in Loni  I was excited.

To be continued…

@bhawanasomaaya

Movie Review: Manikarnika

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The Queen is back   

Film: Manikarnika -The Queen of Jhansi

Date: 25 January 2019

Director: Radha Krishna, Jagrlamudi, Kangana Ranaut

Cast: Kangna Ranaut, Jisshu Sengupta, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Danny Danzongpa, Ankita Lokhande

 

Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi chronicles her journey from the place where she grew up, Bithoor to be married to the king of Jhansi, Raja Gangadhar Rao Newalkar /Jishu Sengupta and becoming the Rani of Jhansi who fought a war against the East India Company.

It is a story about Jhansi’s royal family and internal politics but mostly about the historical events during 1800.

The first half concentrates on the historical premise and the second half mostly on the battlefield.

A film of this scale is not possible without creative liberties and Maikarnika is no exception. The production design and the sets are exaggerated, the costumes far from authentic and the dialogues though powerful devoid of Maharashtrian dialect. The pace is slow and the special effects not up to the mark.

The merits are the engaging story-telling, the sparkling action, the refreshing characters, and the inspiring message. War stories become a tedious watch after a point but the screenplay effectively balances the battlefield sequences with family conflict and have you gripped. Lyrics by Prasoon Joshi and music by Shankar Ehsaan Loy add to the narrative.

The worst performances come from the British characters who come across as caricatures, except Sir Hugh Rose. The supporting cast comprising Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Danny Denzongpa/Ghaus Khan, Ankita Lokhande/ Jhalkaribai, Atul Kulkarni/Tatya Tope are competent but have no roles except Jishu Sengupta who makes an attractive king.

There is a softness to the film that extends to relationships, environment, and animals, an altered gaze where the king wears bangles not because he is effeminate but because he wants to remember that he has not vanquished his enemies. The queen fights on the battle with her baby strapped on her back because it is the safest spot for the prince in the palace.

Kangana Ranaut looks delicate but exhibits enormous strength. From her introductory scene to the finale, Kangana has you mesmerized with her regality and erect posture. She rarely raises her voice but her presence is overpowering. Her gaze is never lowered and the tear expertly controlled to never drop from the eye, not even when she is soaked in blood and bathed in the fire!

This is easily Kangana Ranaut’s best as an actor and impressive debut as a director.

I rate Manikarnika: Queen Of Jhansi with 3 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya

Keshava: A Magnificent Obsession (Day 1515)

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In 2008 I trans-created Krishna: The God who lived as Man from Kajal Oza’s Gujarati into English. In 2018 exactly a decade later, I am fortunate to offer another book to my Lord titled Keshava: A Magnificent Obsession. It is not just the men and women who come into contact with the deity who are obsessed with the lord but everything that breathes is fascinated with him. It is his charisma that draws everything in the universe to him

The book talks about eight such wonders in nature – The Peacock because of the feather he wears in the crown, the Flute made out of the bamboo and that is forever on his lips, Kamdhenu, the wish fulfilling cow who follows the lord where ever he goes, the Kamal or the lotus flower, his and his consort Devi Lakshmi’s favorite, the Tulsi plant without which no offering is accepted by the Lord.

Then there is the Kadamba tree beneath which he romanced Radha, the Peepal tree, sitting beneath which he went into Samadhi and the Shankha/ the conch that replaced the flute in his life when he agreed to be the saarathi of Arjuna in the Kurukshetra battle.

 

All of them believe that Krishna is closest to them and loves them the most, that is Krishna’s charisma.

 

To be continued…

@bhawanasomaaya

Felicitation (Day 1514)

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The book has been offered to the deity but before we go back to the concert there is a felicitation. The colorful flowers I have admired all along on the deity’s neck is now being offered to me as a blessing. Can this be real? This is the first time I am allowed to cross the boundary of the railing and stand up-close to the statue.  Can this be real?

 

It is His blessing that I am able to conceive the idea, pen this book. It is his blessing that led me to my dance guru who inspires me that age is no bar and that I can dance if I choose to.

 

It is an absolute honor to perform Shabdam– a dance devoted to Lord Krishna recounting his misadventures with mother Yashoda and the gopikas.

 

If you will it my Lord I will write another book on you and perform again in your presence.

 

To be continued…

@bhawanasomaaya

Deity Offering (Day 1513)

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The authorities tell me that this is the first such a function has been approved in the temple and it is an instinctive decision. Early in the year I released my 14th book and second presentation of Lord Krishna titled Keshava: A Magnificent Obsession. I had brought the advance copy to be blessed by the Lord. At that time, I did not know that I would be dancing and also releasing the book in this very space.

 

After a few performances, it is time for aarti and post the aarti time to offer Keshava to the Lord.  A chaab/ large tray filled with flowers, prasad and my book wrapped in silk is offered to Srinathji…The sound of the bells, the chanting of the shlokas and the elaborate ritual later, the head purohit offers the book to Srinathji. It is a mesmerizing moment…

 

To be continued…

@bhawanasomaaya

Devotees settle down

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There is energy about the temple that is unmistakable and this energy is stimulated by the excitement of the devotees, who come day after day for the darshan of their Lord. Some come twice a day and some have devoted their life to a service of the Lord so they spend most of their waking time in service of their Thakorji.

 

They are always in time before the curtain is lifted and then charge inside to catch a glimpse. The Lord changes his costumes more than five times a day and the devotees keep a track of the details. Srinathji sringar is a mastered skill, Srinathji mala, his flower decoration, unique art that adds to the ambiance.

 

Today, as Madhuparna Dance & Research Academy students gather in this sacred place for an unconventional performance the excitement is palpable.

 

The devotees have settled down and the music started, it is now time to present the navarasas

 

To be continued…

@bhawanasomaaya

Performing at the Temple (Day 1511)

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When something wonderful has to happen it happens without signal or warning.  More than five months ago my dance guru Madhuparna Kumar and I had visited the Srinathji Haveli in Juhu proposing a tribute to Lord Krishna for Janmashtami.

 

For some reasons, it did not happen. Then out of the blue, a new person, Bakulesh bhai probably going through our application, saw a potential and contacted us. This time the processes and the formalities were so simple and without any glitches.

 

One meeting discussing the date/ time/ items and we parted peacefully to meet only on the day of the performance. There is an aura about the temple and as the dancers strolled in one by one, all in their glittering costumes and hair, it was as if Lord Krishna was himself beckoning us to come and entertain him

 

To be continued…

@bhawanasomaaya