Cup of Tea (Day 1224)

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Jitendra Rai started with theatre legend Makarand Deshpande and has over the decade built a reputation for himself in the theatre world. He has worked extensively with NGOs related to children and frequently conducts workshops with Aseema, Dhai Akshar and Blind Association Center children in Mumbai.

In the film world, some know him as a casting director, some as a writer and some as an assistant director. His favourite filmmakers rely on his acumen for and the award-winning films are a result of them. Stanley Ka Dabba , Hawaa Hawaai with Amol Gupte and Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola with Vishal Bhardwaj were cast by Rai.

Of the many hats he adorns, Rai likes to think of himself as a visualizer, the first of his written directed film Cup Of Tea releases on 121 November online.

I shared a cup of tea with Rai and watched the film and loved it. So will you


Aruna Irani : Gunga Jamuna to television (Day 1163)

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Aruna Irani started her career as a child star in Gunga Jamuna and when she grew up she danced in the chorus or did brief roles till Mehmood spotted her in a crowd scene and launched her as his co-star. She was a good actor and did many powerful supporting roles in many films be it Upkaar, Naya Zamana or Carvaan.  It was Mehmood who launched her as a heroine opposite his prodigal Amitabh Bachchan in Bombay to Goa.

ArunaIrani g 90s partyRaj Kapoor launched her as a dancer in Bobby and there was no looking back for Aruna Irani recognized as a complete entertainer who could fit into any role or character in any film.

aruna cake 2In the 80s when the film offers reduced Aruna Irani got busy with Gujarati films not just as an actor but also as a producer and director. In the 90s she was back in Hindi films with her unforgettable role as Anil Kapoor’s mother in Beta.

2000 onward Aruna Irani became the most in demand actor on television starting with Desh Mein Nikla Hoga Chand to her latest offering as Sau Bhagyalaxami in 2016.

Wishing Aruna Irani a productive and creative year ahead…

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Mr Dhokla (Day 1134)

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Driving from the venue I realise I have not tasted the dhoklas brought for me because Parthiv Gohil’s musicians have finished them backstage. I feel deprived and call up Sohan Kalsariya. He promises to bring a parcel for me at the hotel in the morning and as promised arrives with neatly packed different types of dhoklas. Utpal Bhayani and I are tempted to carry the boxes with us to Mumbai and even though our bags have no space, Hitenbhai helps us to adjust the boxes amidst our clothes.

Over breakfast served at the hotel restaurant, we discuss the plus and the minuses of last night event. All good organisers must do this in order to retain the quality and content of the show. It is am and time for us to leave for the station. Hitenbhai cannot take the risk of me finding the bogey on my own and escorts me to the station. There is still time for the train to arrive and I am excited to notice coolies eating/ drinking/ washing face in exactly the same way that Manmohan Desai had projected Amitabh Bachchan in his film Coolie. Close to the bridge on the same platform I spot a shoeshine boy and think that so many years have gone by but Salim Javed’s Deewar but the character is still visible on the streets even today.

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My journey back home is as comfortable and I spend time observing people on the trains, most of them are either sleeping or reading, some are on the phone discussing GST what else. I am hungry but I will not open my dhokla box in front of strangers, so wait patiently to drive home…



Yours Sincerely (1133)

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The English publishers usually release their books without any fanfare but the Gujaratis have a culture to combine a literary event with entertainment and the audience loves it. All of them organise a new release with drama and music, some sher-o-shairis from the anchor and some terrific word flow from sparkling speakers. Image Publishers are a front runner in this genre and make a star of an author overnight. All their events are innovative and a house full, not surprising that their members eagerly look forward to all Image events.

11bToday, the auditorium is packed with the who’s who of the city and everyone is prepared for a larger than life release. A 6feet tall book cover is wheeled on stage which I am expected to unveil.  It is a mammoth task and I include author Ajita in the process, we open the cover together housing many copies books and present them to all on the dais. It is time for group pictures, more smiles and more poses.

Finally, it is time for the author to make her speech, to tell all of us what made her turn into a writer. “I have everything a woman can ask for but there was something missing, something I could not define but it is called an identity beyond the many roles I play in life and I was searching for an outlet when came this opportunity and I grabbed it”.

Ajita is nervous and has a prepared speech so that she does not make a mistake. Hesitantly, she begins to tell her story, how the idea of the book came about and how her friends encouraged her to share her thought process. She remembers to credit everyone who made this dream possible, her team, her immediate family, her friends and finally, then the speech is over, Ajita looks visibly relieved.  She can finally heave a sigh of relief and enjoy the concert performed by Parthiv Gohil and his team.


I don’t wait for the concert because I have food on my mind, more on this tomorrow…

Sanjeev Kumar Auditorium (Day 1139)

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As our car drives inside the Sanjeev Kumar Auditorium, I recall all my meetings with the actor and suddenly feel emotional. If he was alive today he would have felt so proud of this hi-tech, fully equipped with the latest technology auditorium built by the BMC in honour of their Surat celebrity. There is still time for the show to begin and I am introduced to the Mayor, the MP and the minister of the state. I am told that no function in Surat begins on time because the business community packs up work late and never leaves home without dinner.

11 aAt 9:30 Finally, the evening begins with a mono act based on the book to be released today. This is just a trailer for the larger picture to follow but before that, some formalities have to be observed so all the honoured guests are invited on stage and what follows are speeches. The minister makes a diplomatic speech, the motivator packages a social presentation and as the chief guest, I entertain my audience with stories from the film world. The topic for the evening is women and I pay tribute to all the women in the film fraternity who have influenced my worldview as a journalist.


It is imperative that I speak about the author Ajita Italia who has courageously penned her intimate thoughts as a diary in the form of a book. It is not as simple or easy as it seems. I’m curious to know what made her write Yours Sincerely, curious to know her conflict and anxiety during the process and curious to know what she is feeling at the moment but for that, we have to first release the book and for that, you will have to wait till tomorrow…



Bhuj Express to Surat Day 1138

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I am invited by Image Publishers to inaugurate a book by a debutant author in Surat. I realise it is not as simple to travel by train because all the roads are dug up and it takes an eternity to reach the station. I am scheduled to reach Borivali at 3 pm for my 3.30 train but at 315 I am still navigating the suburban traffic. Hiten Anandpara the organiser of the event is aware that I am not familiar with travelling by railway and has sent his expert assistant, Sejal Pondaa, writer and an actor of repute to facilitate my travel. Sejal warns gently that there is a possibility that I may not be able to get on to the train and we need to think of travel options. At 3.20 by a stroke of luck, my driver makes it to Borivali and Sejal rushes me on the bridge and then the platform to almost run to find our waiting bogey. I make it just in the nick of time.

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It is a comfortable three hour drive to the city of diamonds and I spend time looking out of my window, reading and also sleeping. At Surat Station another assistant of our host, Naveen has come to fetch me and drives me to the hotel. We have some time before the show and I decide to have tea with Parthiv Gohil who is performing at the show. In his room, he introduces me to two dynamic boys Vishvesh Sanghvi and Shaival Desai has revolutionised digital media with their super successful portal called CityTadkSurat. I tell them I have a craving for dhoklas and they immediately phone a friend.

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By the time Parthiv and I have changed to attend the show, CityTadkaSurat friend MrDhokla is waiting in the lobby for us. More about him and the event tomorrow.

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7x 3 =21 Season 3 Day 1123

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Manhar Gadhia Productions is back with season 3 of his very successful play 7×3 = 21 and this time the theme is Desire.  Written by 7 writers and performed by seven actors, director Prateik Gandhi travels you through fascinating journeys of seven extraordinary women – two single, three mothers, one soul and a star.

TinderThe single girls Ami Trivedi/ Apeksha and Toral Joshi/ Tinder are independent women who believe in dating their prospective grooms before deciding if they are worthy as partners. Apeksha is an interior designer, apparently artistic but who loves everything entertaining. Her frustration is that she is unable to express her choices in a world of hypocrites. The second marriage in candidate in Tinder is more pragmatic and willing to compromise for some luxuries of life.  She is ready to prove her skills in the kitchen provided her partner matches her aspirations in the bedroom, does that happen, does it ever happen in any relationship??.

There is a story of a haunted soul/ Indo enacted by Shradha Musale desperately seeking salvation, a cruel story of rejection. A story of loneliness and anguish/ Madhubala inspired from the life of the 50’s superstar abused by the family and isolated by those she loved to die a painful death. And finally stories of three mothers: Bhai Bhai/ 21 mu Tiffin and Jhankhana struggling for survival in compelling circumstances.

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Who is the real Sadhguru (Day 1121)

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The session past noon but the audience is not ready to go as yet. They have questions to ask and are hungry for answers. The volunteers run with microphones and Sadhguru answers as many devotees as he can, he sometimes passes their questions to  Karan Johar and Johar who is by now begun to thoroughly enjoy the session treats it like his TV shows playing to the gallery with the rapid fire round and his fans are cheering him.

The stadium is bursting with people and downstairs, the latecomers have parked on the floor resting against the gate door. The capacity of the venue is 8000 and as I look around I don’t see a single vacant seat.

16.06.2017 iiWhen the session closes, there is no rush; no pushing and the guests walk out peacefully from the auditorium. The volunteers who welcomed us with folded hand in the morning are still waiting and smiling as we walk down the long corridor. Outside there are more volunteers to help us locate your vehicles. As I wait for my car I chat with some of them and they tell me that after we are gone they will assemble in the theatre and collectively fold up all the chairs and clean the place for the next show.

As I drive home, I think about the selfless and hardworking volunteers, there be must something about Sadhguru to compel them to such dedication! Is it that he is ranked amongst the fifty most influential people in India or something else? Have they been able to figure out if the man they worship is a yogi, a mystic, a visionary or just a self-styled guru? Some call him commercial, some say he is a healer, his devotees’ think of him as an artist, his detractors call him a publicity hound!!

Undoubtedly he is articulate and learned which is why he is invited to all the significant forums. He is well versed in sports/ politics, poetry/ ecology even music and aviation which is one of the reasons his foundation is hosting a series of In Conversation with celebrity hosts from different fields. Probably the idea is to explore the many moods of the mystic and my concern is which out of all these avatars is the real Sadhguru?

Maybe all, maybe none, maybe nobody knows and only time will tell…


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Marriage is co-habitation (Day 1120)

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The session is more than half way through and Johar has gradually dropped all his guards and become his natural self. He probes if there should be a limit to one’s love and emotions and Sadhguru stump everyone with his answer, “Love must be experienced without abandon and without brakes. Love is quality, not quantity so it’s not something that will get over because we have over used it. On the contrary, the more you experience love, the more it is available to you and the only time there must be a break in love is when you die.”

The following question is about marriage and Sadhguru predictably has an unconventional reply, “Let us understand that all of us are single. We come single and we depart single, the fact is marriage is just co- habitation. If you have responsibilities, then you are fortunate. It means that you have something to distract yourself from your madness. It means that you have chosen to respond to a particular person or situation and even the experience of commitment can be joyous”.

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He explains that if we wish to be free ourselves from unnecessary thoughts, then we have to implement on it not just express it. I have spent my entire life in that quest…I have strived to bring spirituality from the Himalayas to the streets…Unfortunately today, we associate all the negative things with the street – like drinks, prostitution, all the vices, but if we make up our minds and work collectively we can alter the  connotations, not immediately but some day for sure.”


Sadhguru has been working on it for over three decades, which is why he founded Isha Foundation, a non-profit organisation supported by over seven million volunteers in over 250 centres worldwide. Some of the volunteers are present today at the venue, smiling, spreading positive vibrations their way to make this a perfect experience for all of us!

(To be continued)

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Confidence and Clarity (Day 1119)

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The mood is vibrant and Sadhguru despite his jetlag is full of energy. He answers questions raised by Karan Johar, sometimes counter questions him and sometimes wanders to unrelated topics, it is only gradually one understands that all the fragmented thoughts are connected and there is a reason why he meanders before answering the queries directly.

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Probably this is the reason why he is called mystic; he is called outspoken too and also contemporary. He is savvy and has a way of grabbing attention, he is charismatic both in his persona and his conversations, is palpably passionate and a great orator too, he says, “Confidence without clarity is dangerous…” and warns that never look up to someone because “When you do that, the value of the person goes down and they end up as a hanging on the wall. So look at people for what they are and the real value will emerge”.

One of the reasons why Sadhguru appeals to all generations is because he speaks from all perspectives without judgments, sample this “As a parent do not try to make your kids a reflection of yourself. Let them evolve. Don’t be rigid about teaching; let your children figure out their world”.  They are not empty words he puts them practice too, shares that he doesn’t care if his daughter does not know how many fingers exist in a human hand as long as she knows what to do with her fingers. The important thing is to be consistently joyful; every act no matter how mundane must depict joy that is of utmost importance.

 (To be continued)

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