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March 2020

Lockdown Day 2 – Day 1778

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Lesson: No panic

The following days apparently looked like normal days but something was not right, the roads looked more or less empty and wherever you went people discussed corona virus. Some said the fear was exaggerated and we should continue to live our lives as naturally as we do while some said caution was necessary and we must get ready to exercise restraint for a long, long time. Friends advised that I stock up the kitchen, the Frigidaire, banks advised that I withdraw money and keep it home for safety, driver advised that we fill up the tank and the chemist called to say if I needed to order more medicines.

I learnt that there was no need to panic but there was no need to ignore the suggestions either, so connected with the bank, the chemist, filled petrol and visited the groceries shop because he had no time to pick up phones forget about delivering the groceries.


Lockdown Day 1 – Day 1777

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Lesson: Be fair

The first time Prime Minister Narendra Modi makes an appeal on national television and asks us to stay home for the weekend, I thought it was going to be simple. The domestic staff will get the required rest and able to spend time with their respective families.  I was content to eat the food cooked by my maid and spent majority of the time punching on the computer. In the morning, I was happy to see my staff after two days and we quickly got down to complete all the pending chores both at home and outside.

I learnt that life has to be fair if all of us get the weekends off from our offices then why not the staff, I began wondering if I should give then at least a fortnightly off if not a weekly off. They say be careful what you think, feel and say because the universe has a way of making it come true.


Review – State of Seige – Day 1776

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 Thoroughly Engaging

State of Seige

Streaming on Zee 5

Genre: Action

Producer: Contiloe Pictures

Cast: Arjan Bajwa, Arjun Bijlani, Mukul Dev, Tara Alisha berry, Vivek Dahiya

By Bhawana Somaaya

In a dark alley of a neighbor land, a young lad limps his way to a jaded door carrying a basket of tea glasses. Fear grips you as he is cautiously led inside and emerges a while later, limping back into the darkness he came from. It is twelve years since the gruesome attack in 2008 and while the scars may never fade, we have sought justification through books, documentaries and some movies. A lot of questions have been answered but a lot still remains unanswered.

Contiloe Pictures State of Seige: 26/11 is inspired from Sundeep Unnithan’s Black Tornado: The Three Seiges of Mumbai 26/11 and gives a blow by blow account of how an ordinary day destroyed an entire city. Divided into eight gripping episodes the narrative begins in Pakistan where ten lads carrying military weapons in backpacks jump out of a boat in the darkness of night at the Indian shores and destroy our peace forever. They walk into the streets and divide into separate groups, travel by public transport to different destinations.

The first attack is at Leopold Café then CST station and before anybody could get a grip of what’s going on, the war is declared. The frenzy inside the café and the shot of a little boy inside the local train holding on to his ice candy staring at the terrorists prepare to shoot sends shivers down your spine.

Episode 3 where the terrorists jump over the gates inside Cama Hospital and confused why the building is plunged into darkness is the most sensitive and also the most terrifying because an operation is in progress and cannot be interrupted and a pregnant woman has that very moment gone into labour.

State of Seige: 26/11 is about the making of a terrorist where the fundamentalists in the name of jihaad manipulate young minds and turn them into criminals. By the time they realize they are manipulated, it is too late. The last two episodes capture the counter strike and the commandos. The rescue operation of the hostages is a replay of the news footage we have watched on television and it is all very painful.

Every frame is diligently designed, superbly shot on mostly real locations with natural lighting, the casting and writing are disturbingly realistic. The director is careful not to gloss over the violence or the tragedy, fortunately he does not sermonize on nationalism. The docudrama is effective because it tells the story without fuss or frill. All the performances are restrained and yet the impact is overpowering. The blood splattered on the Taj Mahal Hotel floor, the mayhem in the lobby and the carpeted staircase.

 Mobile and land line phones in different ring tones keep shrilling in the background as the camera travels different floors and rooms. Fear filled eyes of hostages hiding inside cupboards, beneath beds, below the table, dead bodies of Taj staff and guests strewn all over the place haunt you long after the episode is over…

Creative producer Abhimanyu Singh and team recreate a riveting account of 26/11 and perhaps the only demerit of the series is the pace, the editing should have been sharper but the sound, production design, art, costumes compensates for the few lapses. “It could have been different” the cop tells his colleague when it is all over. The colleague sighs, “Has it ever been different?” There is a feeling of unease mixed with  anger and contempt supported by suitable music, State of Seige is not an easy watch (recommend you to watch it in company) but here is pride too for our police officers, our National Security Guard and compassion for the young terrorists, specially Kasab for what awaits him.

When the cop comes to his wife after five days and breaks down, their little son watches his parents from behind the door. He is too young to comprehend what has occurred but he senses it is serious and he is terrified. Will we ever forget those 60 hours…the 165 lives lost… the 300 injured….? Probably not, will we ever be free of the anger and the sorrow, doubtful and most important, will we be better prepared in a similar situation again, I am not sure.  


Giving credit where due – Day 1775

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“In 1949 we would be shooting for fifteen days a month, and for that work junior staff used to get two rupees as lunch money, apart from our salaries”.

For a long time, Rajendra Kumar’s family had been feeling that the media had forgotten his contribution to Hindi films because whenever cinema was being documented they invariably left out Rajendra Kumar’s blockbusters. To an extent the family was right because while due credit was given to Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor and in the following decade even to Shammi Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar’s jubilees were mysteriously overlooked.

The family and his daughter Dimple particularly were looking for a suitable writer who would do justice to his body of work and author Seema Sonik Alimchand is the right choice because she is both an insider as well as the outsider. Outsider because she has been writing on cinema for a long time now and is the brain behind the popular audio album 100 Years of Hindi Film Music and insider because she is the daughter of noted music composer Master Sonik of the Sonik–Omi duo.


The man behind the Icon – Day 1774

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“The book of life turns its leaves, new leaves every day. This how my life in films started.”

There are many sides to a celebrity and Rajendra Kumar was no exception, he had his strengths and weaknesses as well.  He was aware he was not a great actor but he was hardworking. There were as many stories about his generosity as about his link-up with his heroines, not all these were true but some were and they created chaos in his life.

His peers admired his business acumen and consulted him when investing their money, his heroines depended on him for support on the sets and he was always gallant. Jubilee Kumar unwraps the many layers of an icon, a tale of struggle and stardom, fame and disillusionment, love and loss, a tale of an ordinary mortal who happened to be a superstar.

To be continued


60s Superstar – Day 1773

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“My father said his only desire is that I should conduct myself like a gentleman in the film industry. He said he had heard that Mr Prithviraj Kapoor is known as a perfect gentleman in cinema and I must be like him. “

Jubilee Kumar traces the life and times of 60’s superstar Rajendra Kumar. In his hey days there were many stories about him, his astute business sense and his equations with his filmmakers. The book throws light on the family of a superstar, their highs and lows and how they survive the scandals associated with show business.

For the first time the family speaks on their famous father and so do his colleagues like Manoj Kumar, Asha Parekh and Salim Khan. Based on the actor’s diary and some from video interviews recorded by his daughter Dimple, the book begins in Pakistan and ends in his holidays in London where he was recovering post fatal surgeries.

To be continued


Jubilee Kumar – Day 1772

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“I didn’t know where to go, what to do. Father in the meanwhile had become a cloth seller and my sister started stitching clothes.”

Rajendra Kumar better known as Jubilee Kumar was known for his blockbuster hits like Dil Ek MandirAyee Milan ki BelaArzoo and Sangam, among others. Filmmakers  signed him because his presence assured success and Jubilee Kumar is the so-far-untold story of the man behind the superstar – one who went from riches to rags early in life, but whose determination, prudence and humility saw him surmount countless hurdles and win the affection and admiration of colleagues and fans alike. 

A dispossessed refugee following Partition, Kumar’s struggles intensified as he travelled from Sialkot to Bombay to try his luck in films, suffering homelessness and hunger before he got a break as an assistant director. Overcoming both prejudice in the industry and his own insecurities, he eventually rose from playing small roles in films to unimaginable fame and popularity as a leading man and a respected producer.

 To be continued


Kuch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai – Day 1771

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Is it normal for an actor to get bored I had asked Anupam Kher when I met him at his acting school a year ago? He reflected for a while and said, “I don’t think I can ever get bored of acting because performing is a part of me but what can happen is that when you are doing the same thing for a long period, a monotony sets in and that is the time when the actor must redefine himself.”

Perhaps becoming a producer with Bariwaali was a break from the monotony Kher was experiencing in 2000. He had said Bariwaali is a statement on filmmaking, on film people who just take over a location and place during the process of shooting like they own it and normal people surrounding them allow this invasion partly because of the glamour and partly because they are never given a choice.

Bariwaali starring Kirron Kher in the title roleaddressed this issue, it told the story of a land lady in Kolkatta who lends her mansion for shooting and when the shoot ends, the film unit forget the promise made to her. It was a sad tale of an ageing lonely lady and the callousness of the film fraternity. 

That’s show business, Anupam had concluded and show business with all the heartbreaks and sparkle is a splendid experience. He was right because life continues and as he says, Kuch bhi ho sakta hai, so true, who would have imagined that Anupam Kher would celebrate his birthday with Robert DeNiro but he did and for three consecutive years, kaha na kuch bhi ho sakta hai!


Dilkhush Memories- Day 1770

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“Once you have admitted truth to yourself you need to distract yourself to a positive activity, it can be something to read, exercise, going for walks, for a drive anything that gives you joy. The idea is to find an outlet.

There was a time I went through a lean phase and I wanted to do something meaningful, something that gave me inner joy, so one day I walked across to Dilkhush School opposite my home and began interacting with the kids, I discovered  spending time with the kids gave me joy and I want to believe that I gave brought them joy as well…

Then there was a phase when I was not doing great films, so I shifted attention to TV shows and felt refreshed, because I was interacting with new people, discussing new topics. Then came the phase when I launched my own company, then my acting school and during all this I remained connected to theatre because I come from theatre and belong to theatre”.

To be continued


Anupam Kher: Flashback Flashforward – Day 1769

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Unlike other actors, Anupam Kher never shied away from his vulnerabilities, he admitted that awards were important to him, rather to all artistes but not all were candid enough to admit it. Kher did and explained why “I will never go seeking an award because my self-respect will not allow it but deep down every artiste always craves for appreciation and the bottom line is  that no matter how talented you are, you have to work very hard all the time,  you have to give your best shot all the time and someday the sun will shine.”

These days, Anupam hardly interacts with the Indian media but there was a time he was their darling and it was only because Kher spoke from the heart, he expressed without filters and discussed varied topics – he talked about artistes, their insecurities, their isolation and how they need to conquer these feelings.

“When I’m feeling low, I admit it to myself because denying the emotion is only complicating the problem. The only way I can help myself is to ride over it and I say this to my students. First admit truth to self and then go about finding the solution”.

To be continued