Bhawana Somaaya


Day 59

by bhawana somaaya on Sep.14, 2010, under Showbiz

There was a time film folks seldom appeared in the mainstream papers except for a rare occasion like either a National Award or a lapse on income tax issues. These days of course the mainstream papers cannot do without dragging show business into one story or the other, more often negative headlines than positive news.

In just one month there have been four property matters, two death threats, one rape and robbery, one payment denial and one stalker who have been arrested. Read on the following you will understand what I mean.

In a temporary reprieve for Bollywood actor Aditya Panscholi and his family, the Bombay HC stayed a 1995 court order to evict them from their bungalow at Juhu which they had rented out some time ago. The bungalow was owned by the Hatte family and the small causes court in 1995 had ruled in favor of the landlord directing the Panscholi family to vacate the premises. They didn’t and to make sure nothing went wrong the house is being occupied by Panscholi domestic staff.

Dimple Kapadia lived in the Birla house in the early years of her career. That is where she got married and returned after her divorce with Rajesh Khanna. The legal battle on the property began in 1978 when Laxmi Properties, whose managing director is now Yash Birla, moved the small causes court to recover possession of its property. The Birla company said it had given the ground floor premises on a 11-month leave and license for Rs 2,000 per month to Killick Nixon which used it for the residence of its ‘managing director’ Chunilal Kapadia, Dimple’s father now no more. The trial court was told that it was “friendship between the late R D Birla and late Kapadia” that prompted “only a temporary accommodation” of his family and so both sides are gearing up once again for a bitter battle in the court.

Veteran film heroine and superstar Sadhana Nayyar, who had accused builder Yusuf Lakdawala of threatening to kill her if she doesn’t vacate her Santacruz home, approached the commissioner of police, Sanjeev Dayal, on Saturday. The actress had lodged a complaint at the Santacruz police station last month, but despite several visits to the police station, the local police has taken no action. “So she has taken up the matter with the Commissioner.” Sadhna’s lawyer, Vaibhav Krishna told DNA.

Veteran filmmaker Ravi Tandon has lived in Nippon society for decades now. There are stories that he wants to put up his home for sale but Nippon Society is not permitting the filmmaker to carry out any deal because five years Tandon apparently extended the premise illegally to include more space. Nippon Society reported the matter to BMC but nothing came of it. A few years later when Ravi Tandon tried to register Tandon House in his daughter Raveena’s name, Nippon Society filed a court case challenging the illegal construction.

In the olden days nobody received threats but today it is a daily occurrence and most of the time the blackmailer is known to the person. Film producer Rakesh Upadhyay received a threat call from an unknown caller over redevelopment of the building in which he lives with his family at Vile Parle (E). Upadhyays have filed a police complaint at the Vile Parle Police Station. When we such incidents on television serial like Thoda Hai Thode ki Zaroorat Hai we feel it is an exaggeration but truth is stranger than fiction.

The more powerful the post like the IMPAA elections the uglier it gets. After its Vice President Sushma Shiromanee received death threats to withdraw her nomination from the upcoming IMPPA elections, the cops called in Harish Sugandh for interrogation and from what appears Sugandh is a close associate of Shiromanee. Bravo shiromanee for not giving up and fight it through till the election time.

Wonder when our strugglers will learn that casting couch is not the way to success. In the olden days the oppressed strugglers preferred to keep silent but not any longer. Seventeen year old wannabe actor has accused Marathi actor Ramesh Bhatkar, director Ashok Londhe and Congressman Bhagwan Vairat for rape. The trio was discharged by the district and sessions court in a case of seeking sexual favours from the girl by promising her a role in a Marathi movie. In her complaint, the girl has exposed her uncle and aunt for taking her to the director and others involved in the racket.

Thieves think it is easiest to rob film stars because they have in excess but what they don’t realize is that it is easier to nab a culprit at a celebrity home because it makes first page news. Perizad Zorabian who was last seen with Amitabh Bachchan in Ek Ajnabee was in for a shock when sash and jewellery worth Rs 55 lakh were stolen from her home in Seven Apartments, Pali Hill. The police suspect Zorabian’s domestic help Karan, who’s been missing since the incident.

Most of the times when big production houses don’t pay actors the stars choose to ignore it. Esha Deol however has filed a complaint in CINTAA (Cine & TV Artistes’ Association) a year ago against Ram Gopal Verma for not paying her dues. Verma did not respond to the letters. The case then reached the FWICE (Federation of Western Indian Cine Employees) which Ramu once again ignored. So the Federation referred the dispute to ‘Non Cooperation Matter’.

I wonder if it has to do with the kind of roles she plays on screen but a man called Bharadwaj had been stalking actor Kangana Ranaut for some time. She was worried for her safety and took the right step, reported the matter to the police. The man has been nabbed and taken in to police custody. That all these made headlines within a month makes truth stranger than fiction…

One thing is for sure that the media relishes masala more than the readers and this is evident even when they report something as non controversial as festivals. The best example of this is Salman Khan unfairly trapped on an innocent statement on 26/11. Khan is being made to apologise by the Shivsena in exactly the same way they did to Jaya Bachchan before the release of Drona and Karan johar before the release of Wake Up Sid. Had everybody taken a united front the very first time this would probably not happen time and again.

It does make me wonder though that what is it about Salman Khan that every time he touches high professional scales something in his personal life invariably pulls him down.

Bhawana Somaaya

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Day 58

by bhawana somaaya on Sep.07, 2010, under Life, Showbiz

For many years now Hema Malini has been performing a Krishna ballet on the auspicious occasion of Janmashtami at Isckon temple, Juhu. Last year she performed Yashoda Krishna and this year she enthralled the audience with Radha Krishna choreographed by Bhushan Lakhandri and music composed by Ravindra Jain.

On this auspicious occasion she also released the third edition of my English translation of Krishna- The God who Lived as Man from Kaajal Oza Vaidya’s book in Gujarati published by Pustak Mahal.

In 2007 I did a biography on the actress titled Hema Malini-Authorised Biography published by Roli and released by Lal Krishna Advani in Delhi. I reproduce below excerpts of my biography on the actress discussing her journey of ballets on stage.
In 1986 Hema Malini was introduced to a 20- year-old dancer portraying the role of Ram in a dance ballet she watched on television and it was a meeting that changed two destinies.

Their debut ballet The Bride Of Brindavan was the first of its kind in India. “Classical dance does not appeal to a universal audience, but ballets do, particularly to the rural audience. It’s because ballets involve three art forms: dance, drama and music. When these three forms are well synchronized the presentation is a success. When the combination is disproportionate, the audience gets restless. Performing artistes need to understand this. Only then can we fight for a rightful place for ballets in entertainment.”

The ballets ushered a new phase in her dancing career. Hema was often asked why she only chose mythological subjects. She said, “Mythologies offered her scope to incorporate different dance forms like Odissi and Mohiniattam. My face and demeanour is traditional and I like to perform an item that suits me, rather than blindly follow trends.”

Hema chose Meera because she liked the story of total surrender to God in the face of adversities. “The legend describes the circumstances that lead Meera’s husband to force her to consume a cup of poison and how she survives this injustice. “My love for Meera is an extension of my love for my guruma. She always emphasized on the virtue of surrender. Meera belonged to the sixteenth century but lived life on her terms. Her love for her Lord was selfless and flawless. We choreographed the ballet in Kathak because Meera heralds from North India and Bharatnatyam would not have been appropriate.”

In Radha Krishna the choreography attempts to bring to light a few notable events during Lord Krishna’s sojourn on earth, particularly, his youthful leela for which he is venerated. The stage presentation depicts the Lord’s mischief with the gopis of Brindavan, the special bond between Radha and Krishna and incidents depicting the Lord using his extraordinary powers to annihilate demon Arishtasur. “Radha Krishna are the eternal lovers. I have been performing various avatars of Krishna since my childhood. Krishna is an alluring God because he is a parakrami. For more than two decades it has been a tradition for me to perform on the Janmashtami day at the Iskcon fund raising concerts. Dancing on that day for me is a spiritual experience.”

Geet Govind is a poem of lyrical beauty composed by Jayadeva in the 12th century. It describes the many layers in the extraordinary relationship between Radha and Krishna.
From their physical attraction to the spiritual bonding the poem is a full circle when the Lord accepts Radha into his fold, more as a devotee than as a companion. “It is intriguing that only Radha is the recipient of Krishna’s affection even though all the gopis love him equally. The Madhurya Rasa, alias the mood of erotic love, is my favourite. I love the moonlit night and the humming bees when Radha and the other gopis come alive on stage.”

Her recent addition Yashoda Krishna is a tribute to universal motherhood. Yashoda was not Krishna’s biological mother but loved him to a point of obsession. Krishna was the life of Dwarka and the joy of all the gopis. He harassed them, robbed their clothes and when they complained to Yashoda, he pleaded non-guilty. The ballet elaborates on Krishna’s leela … his pranks and miracles. “Krishna reappears in all my ballets because he is alluring and leaves an impact in all the roles he plays – as a son, friend and lover. Yashoda Krishna is slightly different from my other ballets in the sense it is based on folklore and designed for a wider section of audience.”

Hema has held successful dance shows all over the world and traveled with a large group all around the world. Her chorus dancers who have worked with Hema for years say that she is never weighed down by her popularity. After so much power and success, there is still a child like quality to her and before the show she is all the time revising her steps.

Choreographer Bhushan Lakhandri who has been associated with Hema’s banner for over a decade and choreographed all her ballets from Nritya Mallika and Meera right to Draupadi says it has been an enriching association. He says it is not easy sustaining a creative relationship for such a long duration without conflicts. They have been able to do so because Hema does not impose herself as a producer. “She has been dancing for more than three decades but even now she is still as enthusiastic.”

Bhawana Somaaya
Available at stores-Krishna- the God who lived as Man Rs 350/-
Hema malini- Authorised biography Rs 450/-

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Day 56

by bhawana somaaya on Aug.26, 2010, under Showbiz

The idea of forming an association of film writers first originated at the Sunday cultural and literary meetings held at the residence of Shri Anil Biswas, the music director, in the year 1950.

Towards the end of 1950, a meeting of film writers was held in the Shree Sound Studios to form a film writers association, electing D.N. Mandhok as it’s President, Mahesh Kaul and Pt. Sudarshan as Vice Presidents, Madhusudan as General Secretary and Shakeel Nadayuni as Treasurer. The members of the executive committee were, Kamal Amrohi, Dr. Safdar Aah, Narendar Sharma, Inder Raj Anand, Arjun Deo Rashik and Ramanand Sagar.

One of its earliest actions is related in a news item in Screen, dated November 9th, 1951 and published immediately after the release of film industry commission report:
“The Film Writers’ Association, Bombay, passed a resolution deploring the lack of representation for Screen Writers on the proposed film council. It asked the Central Government to provide adequate representation to them”

Story, script, song and dialogue writers of all languages belonging to the Bombay film industry were invited to attend a meeting organized by the Film Writers’ Association to be held at Shree Sound Studios on Saturday, May 29th, 1954.

Thus on August 7th, 1954 the newly formed Film Writers’ Association of Bombay elected the following executive council for 1954-1955: “Ramanand Sagar (Hon. General Secretary), Vishwamitra Adil and C.L. Kavish (Joint Secretaries), Pt. Sudarshan (Treasurer).

“The Executive Council members are: K.A. Abbas, D.N. Mandok, P.L. Santoshi, Mahesh Kaul, I.S. Johar, Rajendar Singh Bedi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Sahir Ludhanvi, V.P. Sathe, Shakeel Badayuni, Krishna Chandra, Kamal Amrohi, Rajendar Kishen, Ali Raza, Nabendu Ghosh.”

One of the earliest and most important objectives of the association was to ensure a minimum wage for screen writers. A letter dated 3rd January 1961, signed by the then President of F.W.A., K.A. Abbas, addressed to I.M.P.P.A. records the fixed minimum wages as follows: Rs. 2500 for a story, Rs. 2000 for a screenplay, Rs. 3000 for a dialogue and Rs. 500 for a song.

In keeping with changing economic conditions these rates were, of course, revised from time to time. The first such revision came in August 1962 after a rather arduous struggle.

In the following years the members of the Association seemed to be divided on the question of registering the body under the Trade Union Act. This issue was discussed in the meeting of the organization committee of the Association held on May 15th, 1955, but it was only on February 26th, 1960 that the General Body meeting of the F.W.A. decided to register the F.W.A. as a Trade Union. The members authorized to complete these formalities were K.A. Abbas, Qamar Jalalabadi, Sahir Ludhanvi, Shashi Bhushan, Vijendra Gaur, C.L. Kavish and S.R. Basar.

Over the years the Association has given the film fraternity many talented writers and these writers have built the credibility of the association. A dramatic change has taken place in the lyrics and screenplays, as in the levels of payment for this work. Gradually writers became more aware of their rights and slowly began to speak in a collective voice.

The year 2007 saw the first seminar held by the Film Writers’ Association, at F.T.I.I in Pune, where prominent writers spoke on a variety of subjects. In the following year 2008 the Association held a two day seminar at Mumbai’s Film City, dedicated to the greatest Indian poet of the Twentieth Century, Vijay Tendulkar.

This year FWA holds a seminar at FTII, Pune on ‘The Uniqueness of the Indian Film Script’ to be held in August 28-29, 2010

India is today the world’s largest film producing nation with a total output, in various languages, of more than 1000 films annually. The film industry led by the Bombay based Hindi film now has a global reach, and Indian films are screened and released in more than 90 countries worldwide. Its expansion has been so widespread that mainstream Hollywood film companies like 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, and Warner Brothers have begun to invest in the production of Indian cinema.

It is noteworthy then that the development and form of Indian cinema has continued to retain its identity as distinct from the dominant form of Hollywood cinema. Right from its genesis and early influences to its flowering into an independent and full-fledged economy, Indian cinema has had a unique identity, almost a different language of film, in terms of content, form, presentation and performance.

The reason being that in its early form, Indian cinema was largely influenced by local and indigenous traditions of performance that flourished in the late 18th and early 19th century. These would include Parsi Theatre, Sanskrit Dramaturgy, Nautanki, Tamasha, the Ram Lila, the Raas Lila, and folk cultural forms of various regions. Mythology and Indian epics also provided inspiration for early Indian cinema.

The first full-length motion picture in India, made by Dadasaheb Phalke, brought together elements from Sanskrit epics in his Raja Harishchandra (1913). It is largely agreed that the Bombay-centred Parsi Theatre played the most influential role in the genesis and early form of the Hindi film. The first Hindi and Indian cinema talkie, Alam Ara (1931) was based on Joseph David’s popular Parsi Theatre play. The phenomenal success of Alam Ara made it mandatory for Indian cinema to have music, song and dance.

Following its success, playwrights from the Parsee Theatre became much in demand: amongst them, Agha Hashr Kashmiri, proved to be the most influential in shaping the Indian film. His comic sub-plots, and the use of rhetoric became so popular that they, too, became mandatory for the Indian film.

By the time of Indian Independence, the essential features of our cinematic form (song and dance, rhetoric and melodrama, comic subplots) had been firmly entrenched and were considered obligatory for the box-office success of a film. Hindi filmmakers like Raj Kapoor, Mehboob Khan, Guru Dutt, Bimal Roy, and K. Asif, to name a few, integrated all or most of these features into their stories and gave Bombay cinema an indigenous identity.

Following this, the journey of Indian cinema has been rapid and reflective of developments in Indian society, economy and politics. The content and form of films have transformed, but without discarding entirely its earlier and original facets. Newer kinds of cinema have emerged during this almost 100-year journey with films from the ‘parallel cinema movement’ that strove for an almost opposite expression to the more ‘mainstream’ cinemas. We stand today, the largest and most dynamic film industry in the world with films being regularly produced in up to 13 languages, with a wide global reach. We make a variety of films that are diverse in every way and reflect a far wider range of influences than ever before.

It is at this juncture, on the occasion of the golden jubilee of the Film and Television Institute of India Pune that FTII and the Film Writers Association Mumbai (FWA) are organising a seminar. This conference is an attempt to revisit our legacy, reflect over our current conditions and gauge the future of the Indian film.

The film script is the foundation of any cinematic presentation, and this includes not only the story, screenplay and dialogue but music, song-n-dance, emotional impulses and likely mis-en-scene as well. In short the term script is used in its broadest sense to include all aspects of film form and content.

Conceived as a series of talks and panel discussions with scholars, academics and practitioners, the conference will broadly make the journey of Indian film from its genesis to its current phase. The seminar like the previous years promises to examine the early form of Indian cinema and its major influences. It will analyze current trends (1995-2010), explore what the future holds for the Indian film script and examine the contribution of significant individuals who have made indelible marks on the Indian script. The seminar is set to focus on two distinctive features of Indian cinema- Music and Melodrama.

More when I get back from Pune.

Bhawana Somaaya

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