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Whisperings from Beyond (Day 1102)

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My friend and author Laksmi Narayan began her career as a journalist with Times of India and went on to become editor of Flair and Eves Weekly. She worked in Dubai and Singapore as a journalist before returning to India again. Her book Bonsai Kitten won her critical acclaim.

Narayan’s new book Whisperings from Beyond is not like any book you have read so far. She offers a succinct thought for each day of the year, calls it a detox exercise, says it as important to clear the cobwebs from our spirit and writes because the mental pilgrimage will help us get closer to the Source.

Narayan confesses that this collection of thoughts has been coming to her on a regular basis from November 2008 says all of us have from time to time been plagued with questions – Who am I? What am I doing here? Where do I go from here?  But do we find the answers, perhaps not until we are destined to.

(To be continued)

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Bioscope Stories 1990-99 (Day 1051)

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Did you know that in 1990 when legendary filmmaker V Shantaram was breathing his last he was still calling out to his cameraman asking him to light the set? Or that Subhash Ghai’s Choli Ke Peeche/ Khalnayak in the year 1993 was protested by 42 political parties…?

There is more that at one point Tom Cruise and later Saif Ali Khan were considered for Shahrukh Khan’s role in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge…? Did you know that Shabana Azmi starrer Godmother released in 1999 was inspired by the life of Santokben Jadeja, who ran the Mafia operations of Porbandar, Gujarat and later turned politician?

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Bioscope Stories 1980-89 (Day 1050)

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Writer Sagar Sarhadi became director with Bazaar made on a shoestring budget of 13 lakhs. Post the release Supriya Pathak was paid 40,000 and Smita Patil was paid 1 lakh. In 1983 Govind Nihalan’s Ardh Satya based on SD Panvalkar’s short story, Surya, it is said was first offered to Amitabh Bachchan who refused the role.

On to Bachchan who did many films with Shashi Kapoor and always played his older brother even though Kapoor is younger to him. In 1981 Silsila was the first time Shashi Kapoor played elder brother to Amitabh Bachchan.

Few people know this that Raj Kapoor was keen to launch Shashi Kapoor’s daughter Sanjana Kapoor in Ram Teri Ganga Maili and signed Mandakini after Sanjna declined the offer.

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Bioscope Stories 1970-79 (Day 1049)

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It is said that it was writer Sachin Bhowmick who convinced Sharmila Tagore’s mother to let her act in Hindi films and that is how Shakt Samanta signed her for her first Hindi film. Amitabh Bachchan had suffered a row of flops and decided that if Zanjeer proved a hit all friends together will go to London for holiday. Zanjeer proved a hit and they left for London.

Did you know that Danny Denzongpa was the original choice for Gabbar Singh in the 1975 released Sholay? It is said that Amjad Khan was initially rejected because writers Salim Javed felt his voice was not strong for a villain, later of course the writers changed their mind.

In 1976 Parveen Babi hit the headlines when Time Magazine featured her on the cover. In the same year Sridevi was only 13 when she played the role of Rajnikanth’s stepmom in Tamil movie Moondru Mudichu.

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Filmein Urdu Bolti Thi (Day 1043)

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In the morning over breakfast at the hotel, Prem Chopra and I discussed if it was true that Urdu had disappeared from our films. We did not agree entirely and nor did the rest of the panelists in the Guest Lounge just before the session.

Out of the four speakers – Prem Chopra, Sharmila Tagore, Javed Siddiqui and me as moderator only  Javed Siddiqui is an authority on the topic and we let him travel us through the origin and the progress of the language in India and Indian films.

03.a. camera timeThere was a time, when the opening credits of every Hindi film appeared in three languages namely English, Hindi and Urdu… There was a time, when most big banners started with a couplet that went something like ‘Muddiin lakh burra chahe toh kya hota hai? Wohi hota hai jo manzoore khuda hota hai!’

I shared that as a child I did not understand the meaning of the heavy words but we liked the sound of actor Murad’s booming voice and it was an indicator to us to fasten the seat belts and get ready for an engaging narrative.

03.c.crowdOver the decades, slowly and steadily, we lost the voice-over, then we lost the three language credit titles and finally, we lost the fragrance and flavor of the extremely sophisticated Urdu language.

Siddiqui disagreed that we lost the fragrance, as long as our songs, ghazals continue, the fragrance lingers…

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One on one with Students (Day 1041)

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The universities have been in spotlight after what happened in Delhi recently but not all encounters at education centers have been controversial.  As part of my new book promotion I was invited to address students at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication and it was a delightful experience meeting Dr Surbhi Dahiya, Dean Students Welfare who is also an associate professor of journalism.

After a brief walk in the campus I was introduced to other faculty members Mayank Agarwal, Additional Director General and Professor Hemant Joshi. The trio briefed me about the college and the prospectus over a refreshing cup of masala tea and Kurkure and then it was time to meet the students.

01.a. IIMC facultyThe students, some tired, some distracted, some curious though still on the phone strolled into the room languidly and preferred to sit with friends on the back rows. Despite the teacher’s ample request urging them to move ahead, they continued to occupy the back benches, unsure of what to expect from me in the coming hour. I don’t blame them, they are exposed to lectures hour after hour and day after day and it is understandable that they feel brain tired!

So I did not give them a lecture, I shared my experiences, I shared my fears and anxieties as a journalist, my conflicts as a critic and my passion as an author and slowly I found a change in their body language. There was a twinkle in their eyes and questions on their mind.

Many met me outside to ask more questions, more details but by that time I was exhausted and looked forward to reaching my hotel.

Moral of the story: Never refuse an opportunity to interact with students. They teach you more than they learn from you.

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Celebration Time (Day 1033)

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Our hospitality partner The Club had laid out the best snacks for the evening and the guests relished the aloo tikkis with cholle and hot chai/ coffee.

In the excitement of the evening, we had forgotten to cut the cake so did it on our own and relished it.

With the chief guest gone, finally it was time to pose pictures with everyone connected to the evening: Alpa Mehta who put a lot of effort to make the ceremony special, singers Parthiv and Manasi Gohil and of course the Khannas and RJ Siddharth who proved a great host for the evening.

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Photographs and Goodbyes (Day 1032)

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When an actor opens up and shares his life it is very tempting to keep the conversation going but wisdom is in knowing when to discontinue. That evening there was magic in the air and the people invited for the book release could have listened to Bachchan talk forever but I had promised to relieve him at 8 pm and therefore called it a day.

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It is never easy for the photographers to let him go and had it not been for his personal security escorting him to his car the exit is always a special exercise.

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Bol Bachchan Part 2 (Day 1031)

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Bachchan said there is no favorite decade for him because every decade has made significant contribution in terms of content and artistes and to specify one would be unfair to the filmmakers. He said he was fortunate to be given a break in cinema, fortunate to be signed by good writers and directors and fortunate to be appreciated by the audience.  He said, “Somebody wrote things for me, somebody asked me to wear something, somebody asked me to walk somewhere and I just followed like a robot.  He recalled Hrishikesh Mukherjee who would never allow him retakes and when the actor insisted Hrishida said ‘Yes, provided you pay for the footage’. About Manmohan Desai Bachchan said there was a madness about him that was illogical but touched the audience’s heart which is why all MKD films were super hits.”

15.02.17. signing 1He said during his time, there would be just two women on the film set, the heroine and her mother. “But now, 50 percent of the work force on a film set is female. I think that is a huge change. When young girls handle the film set whether it is production, camera, continuity department as an actor I feel secure because women are more efficient than men and I know that as an actor I don’t have to worry about continuity”.

Bachchan elaborated on his recent film Pikku and described it as a relationship between a father and a daughter. About Pink he said the film has a strong identification with daughters in the world particularly in India.  “It’s a burning issue and needed to be addressed in the most powerful way and filmmakers did that. II am fortunate to be a part of the project. The film has an important message that ‘No means No’ and the audience has understood that.  Pink is no more a film it has because of the public reaction become a movement.”

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14.02.17 unveiling

Bol Bachchan (Day 1030)

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Amitabh Bachchan is a mesmerizing speaker and has the ability to hold his audience when on stage. He can speak on any topic and on any occasion and whatever he says is always from straight from the heart. Today he had to talk on a subject closest to his heart, cinema and became nostalgic.

14.02.17 unveiling iiHe said “I was born and brought up in Allahabad and in that part of UP Capital Cinema was the most famous theatre and everybody looked forward to visit the cinema hall. Every time there was a new release my parents would make inquiries from friends or watch the film themselves if it would make an appropriate viewing for kids before taking us to the movies.

My brother and I were used to this exercise and every time prayed that they will not censor our outings. The first film I watched in a theatre was Laurel and Hardy’s The Flying Deuces. The first film to have a major impact on me was a Children’s film called Jaagriti and the ticket those days was aath aana/50 paise

I have vivid memories when the first air-conditioned theatre came in Allahabad, it was called Niranjan Talkies. The first film I watched at Niranjan Talkies was a Dev Anand – Dilip Kumar starrer and though I watched many films in the same theatre for so many years the experience of the first film was unforgettable.

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