Monthly Archives: February 2015
Music concerts, cultural discoveries, some aikido and hot coffee to go, all along the coast this week
Green thumb alert
Look out for a vegetable, flower and fruit show as part of the 29th Farm Fest organised by the department of agriculture of Pondicherry. Expect flower rangolis, installations and decorations. Also on display, are high-tech farming equipment and machinery. Seeds and plants will be on sale too. At AFT ground on March 6, 7 and 8. From 11am to 8 pm. Details: 0413 2336945
Chocolate picnic, anyone?
Cafe Ole in Pondicherry, offers a range of coffees, sandwiches and desserts. Check out their new menu that includes green tea latte, vegan coffee and Hawaiian hot chocolate. What caught our fancy were chocolate sandwiches made with Venezuelan cocoa paste and French praline,
chocolate dipped slice cakes and walnut gateaux. Priced from `70 onwards. Details: 0413 2220107
The 12th annual Freedom Jam- Pondy Music Festival 2015 will be bringing in artistes from Pondicherry, Chennai and Bengaluru.Participants include child prodigies, V take Off, hip hop artiste Xtacy Stash and Tamil pop rock band Oorka. There is also an electro classical concert by vocalist Mahesh Vinayakram with DJ Astro Black. Prakash Sontakke will perform Hindustani neo-classical music.
At the Gandhi Thidal, starting today.
Till March 1. Details: 0413 2358570
Celebrate togetherness with an annual festival, Rtu Samrit. This year’s focus will be the North East. Eight groups of artists from eight states will be giving a demo on cane weaving, creating baskets and boxes. There will also be textile weaving, folk music and dance and the screening of Integral Yoga – Psychology, Cosmology & Transformational Practice a video on Sri Aurobindo’s work. Organised by the Minstry of Culture Bhopal and the Auroville Bamboo Center. At Bharat Nivas, till February 28. Details: 0413 2622055
Catch the acoustic pop band Emergence performing on home ground. Specialising in genres like pop, blues and fusion, the band consists of four members—Krishna Mckenzie, owner of the restaurant, on vocals, Karthik Iyer on the violin, Mishko M’Ba on bass and Rahul Gopal on the drums. At Solitude Kitchen, tomorrow, from 7 pm onwards. Details: 0413 2622068
Those into martial arts look out for the Aikido workshop at the Pitanga Cultural Center. Andre Palmeiri, an Auroville based martial artist, will be teaching you the basics of the Japanese art. From 7 pm onwards, on Mondays and Wednesdays. While you’re there, also look out for a music and mediation satsang with recorder artist Shastro on the clarinet and Ashaman on the guitar. 10.30 am onwards. Details: 0413 2622403
Besides the talks and seminars, what you must check out at the city’s first heritage festival
Shoppers have much in store. First up is an exhibition of paintings by local artists on the heritage of Pondicherry. “There will be at least 15 painters who have something special just for the festival,” says Mandeen, adding, “We’ll also have terracotta, papier-mâché, stone carvings and leather crafts. After a short demo, these products will be on sale.” Look out for city-based painter, Ejoumale Djearamine. At Craft Bazaar, from today till March 1.
To the drum beat
The festival starts off with a parade featuring 10 drummers from Svaram, an organisation that designs instruments and holds sound healing sessions in Auroville. “We are arranging a truck with drummers—both international and local—who will stop at different spots inside the city and perform. Expect some fast numbers that will grab the attention of the locals. Most of the equipment is designed by us,” says Aurelio,
the musician who started Svaram.
The parade is at Gandhi Thidal , today.
One of the concluding performances of the festival will be a pantomime by Dhrupad Gaonkar from Goa. “Mine would be a one hour performance consisting of smaller plays. There will be one theme-based performance which will talk about heritage, and others will revolve around human elements, comedy and general topics. I was also part of the Goa heritage society so this festival is close to me,” he says. At Maison Columbani, on March 1.
Bells and metal
Singing Stones is part of Svaram and comes recommended by Aurelio. The concert will feature a stone weighing
80 kilograms as an instrument. “We want to show that through stones there are vibrations which can also be music. While there are two main performers, there are eight accompanying
artistes who play the temple bells,”
says Aurelio. On March 1, at Gratitude.
“A night in Paris on the river, is beautiful. All the facades are lit up and the heritage buildings look spectacular. We hope to create the same effect with this night heritage rickshaw tour,” says Mandeen. The tour will be conducted by Ashok Panda from INTACH who will take us through the French quarter of the city. At the northern end of Beach Road. Tomorrow. Each tour can accommodate up to 40 people. The tour starts at 9pm and registrations are compulsory.
Founders of Golden Bridge Pottery— Ray Meeker and Deborah Smith will have an open house to showcase their ceramic collection. The duo will be talking about Pondicherry’s heritage of ceramic pottery. The two have been working together since 1970. At Rue Dumas, on March 1.
Also recommended by Mandeen is a spectacular performance by Veenapani Chawla’s Adishakti, the space for theatre arts and research. According to Vinay Kumar K J, a dancer, the 50 minute show will be by seven members from the theatre group. “We will be playing the Kerala drum (mizhavu) made of copper. The sound that comes out of the mizhavu produces different structures of rhythm used for dramatics. Each tune will show an emotion. It is a seamless dialogue between the instrumentalist and the drum,” says Vinay.
From today till March 1. Details: email@example.com
ALL roads lead to Pondicherry this weekend. Bringing the first Heritage Festival, organisers Kakoli Banerjee (owner of hotel Gratitude) along with Sunaina Mandeen (from PondyCAN, an NGO) and INTACH hope to celebrate a rich and diverse heritage, which includes architecture, culture, history, traditions, art in all its forms, nature and spirituality. The three-day event is packed with sitar recitals, Odissi dance performances, songs of Subramania Bharati and expert talks by historian S Muthiah and restorer, Kiran Rao. Actress Revathy is expected at the inauguration today and scores of Chennaittes have already made plans to drive down. Some of the highlights:
Text: Mrinalini Sundar
Actor and theatre artist, Venkatesh Harinathan decodes his style of comedy
In the upcoming full-length comedy, Moone Moondru Varthai, comedian Venkatesh Harinathan will be seen playing Karna. “I’m a man without a job who decides to start a business with his friend. What happens next is the crux of the story,” begins the 27-year-old. Directed by Madhumita, of Kola Kolaya Mundhirika fame, the movie also sees newcomers Arjun Chidambaram and Aditi Chengappa, besides singer SP Balasubrahmanyam and veteran actor, Lakshmi. Recalling his tryst with the producer of the film, SPB Charan, Harinathan shares, “We met at the audio launch of Sutta Kadhai in Geneva , in 2013. He is a very chilled out, fun and professional producer.” Besides Sutta Kadhai, Harinathan has also been a part of Selvaraghavan’s Irandam Ulagam (2013).
“While Santhanam is known for his pop culture counter responses or ‘counters’, Vivek’s comedy is like a social commentary. On the other hand, Vadivelu mostly plays with situational comedy and expressions. I’m not sure what my style is, but I know I can’t do punch lines. I like taking comedy out of a scene.
I work better with body language and reactions,” says Harinathan, who is well known in the theatre circuit as Step Step Mani—with a signature checked lungi narrating Tamil songs as part of Enna Da Rascalas.
A theatre artiste for the past seven years, Harinathan was also a part of ASAP productions and The Little Theatre. Comparing theatre to films, he says, “In theatre, everything is in the actor’s control. But in films, there are so many departments and it is quite difficult. You might have shooting today and then nothing might happen for the next three months. So it is not predictable.”
Desperate to move out of the comedy genre, Harinathan is choosing his films carefully. “It is not like I don’t like comedy. But I’d like to try different things, too,” says the actor. Fortunately, in his next untitled film, he will be seen playing a deaf-and-dumb person and there is nothing funny about it.
Moone Moondru Varthai is scheduled to release next month.
Just for laughs
Favuorite comedians: Nagesh and Guru Somasundaram from Aaranya Kaandam.
Comedy pick: I hope to work with Sundar C, who made Ullam Kollai Poguthae. Winner and Michael Madana Kama Rajan are epic.
Inspiration: From weird to funny—Jim Carry is the man.
Comic hits: Self-inflicted comedy is always a hit. I like this line, ‘‘This much money, this much acting”
Actor Arjun Mathur talks about his new film Coffee Bloom, first time directors and typecasting
Rjun Mathur is quite an oddball. To begin with, he does two consecutive gay roles in the I Am films and Migration, and then proceeds to play the side-kick in Luck By Chance and My Name Is Khan, goading Bollywood to typecast him. But Mathur doesn’t let it affect him. “After playing a homosexual and a supporting actor, I got calls to play the same role. It is a constant fight and I like it. I’ve been following Rajkummar Rao’s work, right from Ragini MMS, and he is my inspiration,” says the son of a hotelier, who has no connections in the film industry, no chiseled physique to show off and a penchant for offbeat scripts. The actor has come a long way since his last outing, Fireflies (2011), which came at a time when Mathur’s three-year-old marriage had fallen apart. His latest, Coffee Bloom, directed by Manu Warrier also sees Sugandha Ram and Mohan Kapoor. “I play Dev Anand who meets his long-lost love Anika when he visits his coffee estate and is forced to face his hurtful past,” begins the 33-year-old, who incidentally, is not a fan of the beverage.
Break the rule
The Delhi-based actor still feels like an outsider. Calling the film industry a moneymaking machine, Mathur, a product of the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, New York, says, “I find it difficult to relate to some of the latest releases. There is no mainstream, independent, art or commercial cinema. It is good or bad cinema. First time directors are willing to take the risk. And I’m glad to be an outsider, as once you fit in you start doing what everybody else does.”
Born in London and having worked with a few international directors like Mira Nair, he has strong opinions about the two industries. “People are willing to share information in Hollywood. I think the mindset of people has to broaden here. I don’t like it when people associate themselves with one camp. Not many know who Tom Hank’s son is or what he is doing. The movie Whiplash shows how a lot of people struggled to be what they are today,” he says. Commenting on trends in Bollywood, Mathur states that the old rules don’t apply any more. “The films with the biggest of stars fail sometimes. Then there was Queen, which won all the awards last year. I have deep respect for Aamir Khan and have also assisted him in two films (Rang De Basanti and Mangal Pandey: The Rising) but I personally couldn’t relate to PK,” he admits. Moving on, Mathur tells us that he has Couching Tiger Mannu. It’s his first comedy and he plays Mannu, a man who discovers couch surfing. Then there is Angry Indian Goddesses and Anu Menon’s next, where he plays actress Kalki Koechlin’s husband.
Coffee Bloom is scheduled to release on March 6.
— Mrinalini Sundar
The BAY’s workshop teaches decision making, money management and more, so kids can have an edge in the entrepreneurial race
It will probably take a while before you hear about Cakes Around The Clock. But when you do, be informed that it is a cupcake venture by 11-year-old baker Rishika Bajaj, who was inspired by the workshop of entrepreneur Ruchi Mohunta and happiness coach Murali Sundaram. This duo, who started the week-old The Business Academy for the Young (or The BAY), will be conducting two-day workshops for eight to 14 year olds who would like to start a business of their own. And going by the long list of ideas from the 23 children who participated in the inaugural workshop last weekend at Savera Hotel, we can expect a new crop of entrepreneurs involved in everything from milkshakes and lending libraries to bookmarks and art.
Post modules on goal-setting, communication, understanding failure and taking responsibility (among others), the session winds up with “money management, where the children are taught to put aside separate piggy banks for investment, savings, play and charity,” says Mohunta, a former teacher who also runs an activity centre and outbound training centre for kids. The children even sit down and create their own business cards and promotional material towards the end of the workshop, after which the academy will continue to mentor and guide them for a year, helping with their business. The duo are also planning to organise a bazaar at the end of the year, where children can showcase their start-ups. While the next workshop is scheduled for the end of March (maybe March 28-29 and once in two months post that), Mohunta shares that they plan to come up with a mentorship programme for those above 14, by tying up with places where the children can get hands-on work experience.
Workshop and annual membership at `9,000 per child. Details: baypreneurs.com
Take off from 3,500 feet and sail over the Vagamon valley, at the 7th International Paragliding Adventure Carnival
A location that’s endorsed as the ‘Scotland of Asia’, pilots coming in fr-om Russia, Romania and Switzerland, and temperatures that drop to as low as 5°C — the 7th International Paragliding Adventure Carnival has plenty going on for it. While the ongoing festival (February 21-March 1) is put together by the Kerala Adventure Tourism Promotion Society, Fly Vagamon, a 10-year-old paragliding club based out of the hill station, is organising the flights. “We have pilots coming in from across the country, including teams from the Indian Armed Forces and 15 pilots from outside the country. But there is no competition here. It is for both the paragliders and spectators to enjoy,” says Vinil Thomas, festival director and one of the founders of the club.
Hitch a ride
When Thomas says “enjoy,” he means watching people float at heights of four to five thousand feet before sailing into the valley below — if you’re too scared to sign up for a ‘tandem joyride’ that is. “As long as you have no heart-related issues, injuries or high blood pressure, anyone above 15 can participate,” Thomas assures us, pointing out that while their oldest pilot is 70, they even had a 70-year-old civilian from Kochi sign up for a ride last year. “The pilot will take you for a ride that usually lasts 20 to 25 minutes,” he says, adding that one must be fit enough to handle the bit of running that is involved in taking off and landing.
Being weather dependent, the sport starts anywhere between 11 am and 2 pm (depending on wind conditions), and winds up, latest by 6 pm, as the sun goes down. With a majority of the crowd (plenty of groups from the IT sector, we’re told) coming in from Chennai, Coimbatore, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and of course, all over Kerala and bordering districts in Tamil Nadu, it helps that people can also indulge in some rafting and kayaking in beginner rapids located just 25kms from the festival site. And as far as accommodation goes, there are plenty of resorts and home stays just five kms from the site — a few even certified by the Kerala Tourism Department. If you miss the festival that lasts just nine days, Fly Vagamon also trains enthusiasts during mid-October to mid-November and the end of December till mid March.
Entry to the festival at Rs 10 per head. Paragliding at `3,500 per person. Details: flyvagamon.in
● Indus Paragliding, in Kamchet (110 kms from Mumbai), conducts tandem joyrides from November to May. Rs 2,500 per person. Details: 07798111000
● Friends Tours and Treks based in Bir-Billing (Himachal Pradesh), organises three-day tours that include paragliding (Rs 5,500 per person) and trekking. Details: 09418088453
● Paragliding Manali organises what they call a ‘Long Fly’ from Gulaba (near Rohtang Pass, around 51 kms from Manali) to the Solang Nala valley. Rs 4,000 for the 30-minute ride. Details: 9816296241
— Ryan Peppin
Man in uniform
All set to hit theaters this weekend is Sivakarthikeyan’s first cop-film Kaakki Sattai. It comes after his series of seven comic-capers. His teaming with Sridivya follows their successful screen chemistry inVaruthapadadha Valibar Sangam. The film produced by Dhanush, is directed by debutant R S Durai Senthilkumar. The duo had collaborated earlier with Sivakarthikeyan in Ethir Neechal.
Fighting the system
The boys of Pasanga and Goli Soda are back again. Sriram, Kishore, Pandi and Kuttimani who were engaging in their earlier films, team together again for Vajram. The film (releasing today) directed by Ramesh Selvan, is a take on corruption in the educational system. It’s about a school that’s to be demolished to pave the way for a star hotel. And about the four students who fight against it.
We’re all ears
He’s written, produced, directed, acted in the lead, and also essayed supporting roles in various films. He found his forte in playing comic characters and revealed in them, never mind if most of the jokes were at his expense. And now Powerstar Seenivasan takes a different avatar. That of a singer for a dance number in Sutta Pazham Sudadha Pazham. The song has been picturised on him and Abhinayasri.
Fans, critics and filmmakers have curiously been waiting to see what Nimrat Kaur decides to do after making a stunning debut in The Lunchbox. She sprung a surprise by signing up a season of the award-winning American TV drama series Homeland, which earned her further accolades. Her other film, Peddlers, does not seem any closer to a release two years after it premiered at the Cannes film festival, but the Delhi girl is not waiting. She has begun shooting for her first big budget Bollywood thriller in Mumbai. In director Raja Menon’s Airlift, Kaur plays a millionaire’s wife, enjoying a privileged life and designer riches. Her character, Amrita, is married to billionaire Ranjit Dayal, played by Akshay Kumar. Airlift is based on the true story of a businessman who planned the evacuation of Indians trapped in Kuwait when the Iraqi army laid a sudden siege on Kuwait City in 1990. It is regarded as the world’s largest civilian evacuation (over 170,000 Indians) and was spearheaded by Kuwaiti billionaire, Ranjit Katyal. The film will be shot in Mumbai, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE.
Cricket in Bollywood
Bollywood is visiting India’s other great passion—cricket—through films. Emraan Hashmi has been cast to play Mohammed Azharuddin and Prachi Desai his first wife in a film on the life of the former Indian captain whose career and life have been dogged by controversy. Sushant Singh Rajput, as is also well known, will play MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar plays himself in a docu-drama about his life. Add to this the possibility of Arjun Kapoor being roped in to interpret Kapil Dev on a film on India’s historic World Cup win in 1983.
Now that’s a lot of cricketing action, Bollywood style.
The odd couple
Ayushmann Khurrana’s last film, Hawaizaada, might have failed to gain flight, but he’s surely hoping that today’s release, Dum Laga Ke Haisha, will connect with audiences. Director Sharat Katariya’s film also introduces an unlikely leading lady for a Yash Raj Film that favours svelte heroines like Anushka Sharma, Priyanka Chopra and Vaani Kapoor. Bhumi Pednekar, who was formerly a member of the production house’s casting department, makes her debut as Prem’s (Khurrana) “oversized and mismatched wife” Sandhya. Prem and Sandhya make for an odd couple from a small town. No prizes for guessing that the mismatched couple will turn out to be made for each other as Sandhya will add to Prem’s poise! As for Pednekar, she’s no doubt hoping that some of Parineeti Chopra’s luck rubs off on her. Chopra worked in the marketing department of the production house before being cast in Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl. Interestingly, it was Pednekar who first auditioned Chopra for the part.
Striding up the ladder
Another The Lunchbox and Gangs of Wasseypur actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui has been making steady and solid strides in Bollywood. First, he upstaged Salman Khan in last year’s Kick and last week he outshone the comparatively under-experienced Varun Dhawan in Badlapur. Critics have been almost unanimous in their praise for Siddiqui whose own life story is like a Bollywood fantasy come true. Siddiqui started out in independent films and once declared that he will only act in films where he plays the lead and not compromise on quality. In an interview at the time of the release of Gangs of Wasseypur, Siddiqui told me, “I’d rather go hungry or go back to my village than do meaningless films. I will do commercial films like 3 idiots, Rang De Basanti, Lage Raho Munnabhai; I will dance and do comedy also, but not meaningless formula films.” And then there was Kick! His forthcoming films include Bajrangi Bhaijaan with Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan, Raees with Shah Rukh Khan and Farzi with Shahid Kapoor. Added into this commercial mix are the smaller budgeted Ghoomketu and Mountain Man.
Bringing exhibitions and workshops to Chennai, the Auroville Festival reintroduces us to its multicultural society
None of us are strangers to Auroville. After all, a quick visit to the township is part of many a weekend spent in Pondicherry. However, the organisers of the Auroville Festival, which begins in the city on March 1 (and goes on till April 12) think otherwise. “Since it is a working township, it is difficult to see the life there. This is a way of reintroducing ourselves. Moreover, there are a lot of interactions between Auroville and Chennai that the public is not aware of—like how one of our initiatives, WasteLess, has introduced a garbology course in eight Kendriya Vidyalayas schools in the city,” says Krishna Devanandan, one of the organisers.
The festival encompasses several events—from exhibitions, seminars and workshops to markets and presentations—spread across several venues. “Around 40 artists will be showcasing their works across nine galleries, including Lalit Kala Akademi, Apparao Galleries and Art World,” says Marco Feira, a painter and curator. “The uniqueness of their work is that they explore ideas, materials and expressions but with a global sensibility as they are from all over the world.”
Another key event will be the ethical market (at Amethyst, March 5-7), which will showcase 16 Aurovillean units. “While some of them, like Wellpaper and Matrigold are familiar to many, almost 70 per cent will be new to Chennaiites,” admits Tejaswini Mistri-Kapoor, an architect and the force behind Woodscape, which designs organic wooden furniture. “Look out for Light Fish, which makes 100 per cent recyclable lighting solutions, products from Sedab, our rural development programme, and also our in-house publications,” Kapoor adds. Other highlights include a choir concert (March 7, at Sir Mutha Hall, from 7.30 pm), the Giftival at ReStore (March 14) and a tour of Auroville farms (March 18-21).
—Surya Praphulla Kumar
JustUs Repertory’s new production rediscovers Sita, the Aryan princess
Gowri Ramnarayan is quite clear: Sita is a character that’s been done to death. “Mainstream traditions have reduced her to a puppet, but there’s so much more to her. She is an Aryan princess who showed survival strength in Ashokavanam, counselled Lord Rama whenever she felt he needed it, and argued with and rejected Ravana, one of the most powerful kings of the time,” begins the playwright-director.
When scripting her latest production, Aham Sita (I am Sita), Ramnarayan was also swayed by folk traditions and 20th century women poets like Indumati Kaushik and ‘Ambai’ CS Lakshmi, who see her as a figure of resistance. “In Kaushik’s work, Asveekaar, Sita rejects Rama, while in Ambai’s Crossing the River, she is determined to live life on her terms and create a rajya of her own. I found that very interesting,” she says.
The big five
The one-and-a-half hour production explores five crucial moments in Sita’s life: when she falls in love; asserts her will and insists she’ll accompany her husband on vanavas (exile to the forest); her life in Ashokavanam; her counsel to Rama not to fight the rishis’ battles; and finally, when she says enough is enough. “I dropped Ravana’s abduction because I don’t think she was as shattered by that as she was when Rama spurned her after the war,” says Ramnarayan, adding that she has also explored how the other women from the Ramayana—like Urmila, Ahalya, Surpanakha and Mandodari—see her and react to her actions. “It is my interpretation of what they’re feeling and another way of looking at Sita from many perspectives,” she says.
Blending dance, music, dialogue and poetry, the production sees Vidhya Subramanian donning the role of Sita, Ramnarayan setting the scene with monologues and Nisha Rajagopalan exploring the character through music. “The dance, which also has elements of theatre, reflects Sita’s progression—not just through subtle costume changes, but also through movements and expressions,” says Subramanian, who found the experience cathartic as she had always struggled with the “concept of Rama as the perfect human, while this tells the story from the woman’s perspective”. For Rajagopalan, the challenge of bringing a character to life through music was the highlight. “We’re exploring various facets here too—from composing original music to adapting a Carnatic kriti, using poetry along with excerpts from the Ramayana and bhajans to tell the story,” says the singer, who signs off with the hope that they’d be able to take Aham Sita to other cities in the country.
On March 6, from 6.30 pm, at Bhavan’s Dr Preetha Reddy Auditorium, Mylapore. Free entry. Details: 9840089030
Surya Praphulla Kumar
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