Monthly Archives: October 2015
Thank you, Chennai, for Eight Amazing Years!
TWO years ago, when Time magazine called millennials the ‘Me, Me, Me’ Generation in a special issue, we smirked. Reports said these individuals, born between 1980 and 1995, had short attention spans, didn’t get the cold realities of the workplace and wanted ‘instant’ results. They were called adventurous and thrill-seekers, the latter probably referring to the habit they were developing of climbing tall buildings to take selfies. No matter. For now these millennials are living exactly the way they want to and we could stand to take a few pointers.A job is a ‘life experience’ rather than something they stay put in for over three years. They enjoy short term assignments and global projects, make time for themselves and can be very direct about what they like and don’t like. How liberating, you say? Hotelier Priya Paul is bang on when she admits to us, “I envy these millennials!”
Take Shakthisree Gopalan, for instance. The popular Chennai vocalist started out as an architect, turned playback singer for composer A R Rahman, went on to win several awards, and became principal architect for Rahman’s dream project, the KM Music Conservatory. ‘‘When asked in college if I would be a singer or an architect, I used to joke that I would build for musicians. Strangely, it has come true. Besides KM, I have just renovated another studio and have done the interiors for a clinic owned by a dentist-cum-rock musician!’’ says Gopalan, 27, who is active on Instagram, has clocked 38 film songs, and now wants to take the indie route. Another singer, Sharanya Gopinath,22, tells me she didn’t think twice about her NIFT background and job at e-commerce giant, Myntra, when she turned playback singer for Kamal Haasan’s Uttama Villain, earlier this year. ‘‘I do not regret it,’’ she insists, laughing that ‘‘jumping into new things impulsively’’ may be the trademark of her generation.
This week, we mark eight fantastic years at Indulge. Read about 60 such achievers in cinema, art, music, fitness and so on. And elsewhere in this issue, we get you started early on the festive spirit with a sugar-swap experiment, celebrity style manuals and more.
We thank you for your support and look forward to another year in your company. Enjoy the issue.
Having introduced alternative methods of fitness training, this young tribe of professionals is hauling us off our seats
With the start-up boom encouraging many to become their own bosses, we find the fitness sector is no different. Wellness enthusiasts are moving away from general fitness to more focussed, fun and alternative ways of exercising. And the change is being spearheaded by young entrepreneurs who are offering everything from hot yoga and mixed martial arts to dance cardio and body-weight training. Encouraged by the change, Ajit Sigamani, the founder of Combat Kinetics, a city-based mixed martial arts and combat sports academy, says, “There are so many fad workouts like Zumba, which will be popular for some time and then fade away. But things like yoga and MMA will remain. If you want fun, choose the fads, but if you want to learn skills, then choose the game changing training classes.” Taking note of the spurt of alternate fitness modules in town, we look at some who have caught our attention.
Text: Arka Sengupta and Mayuri J Ravi
Adarsh Gopalakrishnan | 29 : Movement Inc: founder
No matter what we do, we move. And to most of us, movement does not always equal fitness. But Adarsh Gopalakrishnan has created a whole fitness regime out of it. “I sprinted and played cricket for my school team. I did the same when I was doing my graduation in bio-technology from 2004 to 2008. So I was always involved with movement and fitness,” says the multi-tasker who believes in trying out different things and brings that belief to his outfit, Movement Inc. However, he admits it took him years of doing the conventional before he opened his centre. After passing out of Vellore Institute of Technology, he honed his journalistic skills at Asian College of Journalism and worked as a business analyst in a newspaper. Then he did a U-turn and joined The Quad, a popular city-based boot camp, as an assistant coach. “I always wanted to start something of my own. And I found the trigger in our culture,” he says, explaining, “We are too inactive and most people find exercising boring. So, to let them have fun while exercising and to help them live a healthy life, I started Movement Inc last year, in July.” Of the belief that there is no one way to do anything, he offers customised routines that incorporate body weight training, resistance training and the like to strengthen and tone your body. Gopalakrishnan also practises what he preaches. “I do stretching and body strengthening exercises four times a week. I cook my own food to maintain a healthy diet and try to learn something new once in a while,” he concludes.
|Health fix: Know how much fits in your lunchbox. Most people don’t know how much they eat. So, this is the most pragmatic thing.
Mukund Venkat | 26: Slam Fitness: personal trainer
His love affair with muscles started at the age of 15. Today, Mukund Venkat is the top personal trainer and the assistant general manager at Slam Fitness. With over 450 registrations at the Chamiers Road branch, he’s spearheading the gym’s expansion plans—they have branched out to Anna Nagar and, in a month, will open on ECR, too. But crafting bodies is still his calling. Venkat—who came second in this year’s Mr Tamil Nadu (in the 75 kg category) and first place in Singapore Men’s Physique Open—is the go-to name for city big shots, like the owners of Sun TV, and fashion designers like Sidney Sladen, Kaushik Velendra and Vivek Karunakaran. He is currently training director Vijay. But success did not come easy for this Chennai lad. Having moved to Singapore to study tourism management in 2010, he shifted gears, almost immediately, to fitness and enrolled at London’s Kensington and Chelsea College to do a course in sports and fitness. After qualifying as a level three gym instructor and level two personal trainer, he moved back to India but found that his qualification did not count here, as “in India experience is more important”. But he worked hard at a local gym to achieve his goals. Talking about his style of training, he says, “I do a lot of high intensity workouts mixed with weight training, which helps build muscles and tones the body at the same time.” A CORE sponsored athlete, he is endorsed by Muscle Mutation, a Pune-based clothing brand for which he models, too. With plans to grow his fitness footprint, he is gearing up to launch an app soon and introduce various competitions in the city.
|Health fix: I have black tea, play a lot of football and practise my MMA.
Sarvesh Shashi | 23: Zorba – A Renaissance Studio: founder
He could have chosen to look after his family business, been a cricketer or even gone abroad for higher studies. But Sarvesh Shashi opted for yoga and went on to start Zorba – A Renaissance Studio. “I was 17 when I met my guruji, a yoga practitioner from the Himalayas, and it changed my life,” he says. “Since then I have been training under him and the amount of positivity I’ve gained in life is phenomenal. So I thought of spreading the word and that is how Zorba was born,” adds Shashi, who also co-owns a marketing and communications company called TakeOff. Believing in a happy and holistic lifestyle, he has incorporated that approach in his centre, too. In fact, he started Zorba’s Happy Course—a customised plan with specific asanas that leaves you in a happy state of mind—for that very purpose. Besides just launching the Zorba School of Healing and Yoga (which offers government-certified courses in healing), Zorba also offers courses in aerial yoga and posture-correction therapy. “We believe in the holistic development of a human being,” says Sashi, who has opened three studios till date and plans to expand across the country soon with another 12 outfits.
|Besides staying away from cigarettes and alcohol, increase your intake of liquids and green vegetables. Also, once a month, try the Shanka Prakshalana—a salt water treatment to cleanse the stomach.
Prashanti Ganesh | 25: Strength System: co-founder
Another journalist who switched to fitness training as a career, Prashanti Ganesh was inspired to open her own gym while writing a story on The Quad in 2012. “I joined Quad as a client first and then eventually an intern. I went on to become an assistant coach before leaving the company in 2014,” she says. A trip to the US this January, with co-founder Sandeep Achanta (a trainer from The Quad), helped shape her decision. “We travelled to 19 cities, visited various gyms and learnt many techniques and got certified. While doing that we realised that strength training in India is lacking when compared to the US. So, after coming back, we opened our own gym to train people in the things that we learnt there,” she explains. Having launched Strength System this June, Ganesh wants to educate people on how to make fitness training a sustainable part of their lives. Up next, she plans to hold a power lifting contest and, in the process, create her own power-lifting team to compete on a national and international level. She also plans to introduce a few speciality classes at the gym. “Sandeep is a certified MovNat teacher—a physical education regime based on natural movements. So we are planing to start MovNat classes on November 1. We will also conduct special power-lifting class,” she concludes.
|Health fix: I think detox is a myth. I do not believe in it. Just eat healthy.
Jagadish Kumar | 28: Viscosity Dance Academy: director
Being passionate about something is good. But turning it into a career, like Jagadish Kumar did, is even better. Having joined city-based Swingers Dance Studio at the age of 15, he soon made his way up the ladder to work as an instructor there for seven years. But the turning point in his career came when he got a chance to do a six-month course at the Broadway Dance Centre in New York early this year. Inspired by the level of dance and fitness he found there, he made up his mind to open his own dance studio. He started Viscocity Dance Academy soon after he returned, in July. Since flexibility is an essential part of being a dancer, and “to be flexible you need to be fit”, Kumar devised the High Impact Tanz-Fitness —a special fitness programme that combines pilates, body art, yoga and dance cardio into one hour. “I have seen many dance studios concentrate on only one form of fitness training. But that only improves one aspect of your fitness. My programme will improve every aspect,” says Kumar, adding that he plans to add pilates and yoga classes from early next year.
|Health fix: The High Impact Tanz-Fitness—30 minutes of body-weight workout followed by 30 minutes of a high-intensity dance workout, rounded off with 10 minutes of breathing exercises.
Syed Abdul Nazzeur | 20: Combat kinetics: coach
He may be managing the new Combat Kinetics: Mixed Martial Arts branch in Teynampet, but Syed Abdul Nazzeur’s claim to fame is as the National Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) champion and State-level boxer. The 20-year-old took to MMA after he spent half a year at home because he had broken his wrist in a college bout and was advised to hang up his gloves. “My friend introduced me to Ajit Sigamani (founder of Combat Kinetics) who trained me for a year and a half,” says Nazzeur. With five gold and one silver medal to his credit, he hopes to participate in international competitions. Currently nursing a broken rib, he says, “I was supposed to take part in the World Mixed Martial Arts Championship in Prague, but had to bow out due to my injury.” He’s already made plans to participate in the Ultimate Fighting Championship in the US next year. “No Indian has ever stepped into UFC before. I want to be the first,” he smiles. At his fitness studio, he teaches the basics of four disciplines—Muay Thai, boxing, sambo and jujitsu—and plans to set up a boxing ring there, after which, he says “it will become a true fighting club”. With people between the 20 and 45 being trained, he plans to open a training centre for children below 15 years soon. With regards to fitness, he wants to promote Calisthenics (an exercise form that uses only body weight) and hopes that more women will take up MMA, not just for fitness but for their safety, too.
|Health fix: For me it is staying at home, hanging out with friends and some dessert when I am not training.
Prakash in the house
Sunday, Forum Vijaya Mall
This Sunday, visit Forum Vijaya Mall for reasons other than shopping. At the atrium, catch the live performance of Mumbai-based singer Vijaya Prakash. The playback singer will perform Tamil, Telugu and Hindi hits like Hosanna and Kadhal Anukkal, among others, in an hour and a half-long concert. Details: 49049000
The Tribal Hearts Foundation is organising a day-long fundraiser, where you will have access to fancy pouches, bracelets and block-printed cotton fabrics made by women of the Narikuravar community. When you’re done shopping, learn to make headbands at their crafts station. Rs 350 onwards. Details: 9953761515
Weekend at The Park
October 30 and November 1 , The Leather Bar
Get ready for some laughter therapy, some wild partying and a Bleeding Heart martini this weekend. Stand-up comedians, Bengaluru-based Naveen Richard and Mumbai-based Hijas Moosa, are in town today. And tomorrow, let your hair down and sway to the grooves of New Delhi-based DJ Ash Roy and Chennai-based DJ Pooja B at The Leather Bar’s Red Bull Night Out. Rs 500 for Comedy blues. `1,000 for Red Bull Night Out. Details: 42676000
All season, Phoenix MarketCity
Restaurant chain Punjab Grill launches in Phoenix MarketCity this weekend. Known for its Punjabi food with an international twist, the menu includes dishes like tandoori guchchi and tawa asparagus. Rs 195 onwards. Details: 9962683666
All season, Online
This festive season, upgrade your
dinnerware to the new porcelain range from Azure. The tea sets, snack sets and single pieces (cups, teapots, etc) come with intricate designs, and a 22-karat gold rim. `850 onwards. Details: firstname.lastname@example.org
Three youngsters show us how a great idea and some help from social media can make a difference
Age is never a factor when you are doing something good. In fact, the younger the better. Chennai boy Arun Krishna was barely 17 when he started the Environmentalist Foundation of India, an organisation that focusses on conservation activities like sparrow reintroduction, herb plantation, composting and lake conservation. “When you are young, you are running high on positive emotions. It’s a lot easier to do things in such a state of mind,” says the winner of the 2012 Rolex Young Laureate Award. We look at a few others.
Text: Ponnu Elizabeth
Ekta Kapoor and Mugdha Jain, 21
Taali Bajaao: A campaign that shames eve-teasers & sensitises bystanders
Clap if you can’t slap. That’s the new decree for responding to eve teasing and you have two 21-year-olds to thank for it. Chennai-based Ekta Kapoor and Noida-based Mugdha Jain met while at Shiv Nadar University, Noida, and came up with the campaign, Taali Bajaao, with friends Ayush Bhattacharya, Hoshank Ailani and Akash Idnani. Kapoor explains, “Instead of targeting the perpetrators, we encourage bystanders to clap if they witness harassment.” The campaign, hardly a month old, has already picked up momentum. “We get letters from students telling us about how they can relate to the idea,” says Jain. “Everybody has either been a victim or a bystander at some point. Our aim is to empower the bystanders,” she adds. Though they did a street play highlighting the issue, they feel an online campaign is the most effective way of spreading the word. “They work no matter what your geographical location is and we hope the campaign will pick up momentum throughout the country,” says the duo. Next up, they want to use platforms like TEDx and INKtalks to highlight the campaign. “We’re gauging responses and planning to work on a global scale,” she concludes. Join them on Facebook. Details: email@example.com
Varuna Srinivasan, 24
Tribal Hearts: Encourages women from slums to be creative for a living
Varuna Srinivasan is a busy 24-year-old. But, more importantly, she is a happy 24-year-old. When she started Tribal Hearts (a community outreach programme that empowers women from slums through vocational training) this March, she knew she had chosen the right path. “We work with over 30 women hailing from the Narikuruvar tribe (originally fox hunters, they turned rag pickers when hunting was banned, and now live in a slum in Kotturpuram). When I asked them what they’d like to be trained in, they all voted for accessories and clothes,” says the MBBS graduate. Today, thanks to the volunteers at Tribal Hearts, the women make jewellery, tie-and-dye textiles, block-printed scarves, pouches and headbands. With 20 per cent of the sale proceeds going towards building a youth centre, the rest is put back into the project. They are hosting an arts and crafts event at MaalGaadi to launch a new line of products tomorrow (from 6-8 pm, details: 42103242). “We will also have stations with DIY crafts, to give you a idea of how we create our handmade products,” she shares, adding, “When we worked with the women, children flocked around us. So we thought of doing something for them too.” And now, after post-school art, theatre and counselling sessions, they are also planning to expand their reach through an online art platform called Art of the Matter. It hopes to connect artists and NGOs. To kick-start the initiative, they held an open call exhibition in the city. “There were about 200 works on display,” says Srinivasan, adding that all the works will be documented on their social justice blog, which will go up later this year and function as a visual diary of NGOs in the country. Details:facebook.com/tribalhearts
Sneha Mohandoss, 23
Food Bank: Distributes home-cooked food to the homeless
Sneha Mohandoss is glued to her computer, her fingers assiduously tapping while she checks her WhatsApp group. But don’t mistake this as the chat group of a 23-year-old, because Mohandoss checks her messages to inform volunteers to pick up food from homes and distribute it among the needy. “I used to spend a lot of time on Facebook. So I thought, why not use it constructively?” says Mohandoss. So, four months ago, she started a Food Bank, a one-of-its-kind initiative in the city, that provides home-cooked food to the homeless. The venture encourages people to make enough food for one extra person when cooking in their homes. “I believe the homeless deserve fresh home-cooked food and not leftovers,” says the Visual Communication graduate from Ethiraj College. Food Bank now covers 15 areas like T Nagar, Nungambakkam, Perambur and Adyar — and has also percolated to other parts of the country. Inspired by the initiative, people in places like Coimbatore, Madurai, Bengaluru, Pune, Delhi and Mumbai have started the same, with Mohandoss giving them inputs. Their Facebook page has over 8,100 members. “Conventionally, people do cook for others. They just needed some guidelines on how to go about it. You can cook any kind of food, but since we don’t know the food habits of people, vegetarian food is preferable,” she says, adding that she is looking for more volunteers. “It’s not a problem if you can’t cook. You can still help distribute the food,” she smiles. Details: facebook.com/foodbankchennai
Naanum Rowdy Thaan
Director: Vignesh Shivan
Cast: Vijay Sethupathi, Nayanthara
The film takes a satirical look at the underworld and a common man’s fascination with it. A cute love story between a wannabe rowdy and a hearing impaired girl is blended in. Shivan has packed his screenplay with colourful characters, and outrageously funny moments. The technical crew and cast pitch in their bit. Both Sethupathi and Nayanthara are splendid in their characters. The glitches are
minor and don’t mar the film’s entertainment value.
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Shahid Kapoor
The story is about Isha, the plump bride to-be and her stepsister Alia, an insomniac, struggling to get rid of her sleeplessness. During the wedding preparations, she meets Jagjinder Joginder (Kapoor), another insomniac. The rest of the movie tries to address the issue of body-shaming, insomnia and other things, but does so unsuccessfully. From the writer and director of Queen (Vikas Bahl), one would have expected the same brilliance, but unfortunately the movie with its cliches, becomes dull and unentertaining.
Rock the Kasbah
Director: Barry Levinson
Cast: Bill Murray, Leem Lubany, Kate Hudson, Bruce Willis
When Richie Lanz (Murray), a music manager, is stranded in Kabul, predictably without money or his passport, he discovers Salima Khan (Lubany). The rest of the movie is about getting her up on stage and making her famous. It is based on the real story of Setara Hussainzada, an Afghani who was threatened for participating in a reality show. The movie could have been better considering the star cast and the subject, but because of muted performances and a weak screenplay, it fails to deliver.
Ashok Selvan on attending 400 auditions, learning from veterans and wanting to work for an international audience
Smart, sharp and all of 26, Ashok Selvan can charm you with just a smile. But there is more to the actor who shot to fame in 2013 after his role in Soodhu Kavvum. While Selvan’s performances in Villa, Thegidi and Savale Samaali were also well received, the actor is now in the spotlight for 144, which has been directed by Manikandan. The youngster talks to us about his journey, his new release and lessons learnt.
“It is a comedy set in Madurai, with a new girl, Shruti, opposite me. The story is about four people going after gold. I took up this project because I was getting too many city-oriented roles and wanted to ensure I wasn’t getting typecast,” says Selvan, who will be speaking in a Madurai accent for the movie.
Starting from the bottom
With no background in the industry, this actor, who hails from a middle-class family in Erode, says, “While growing up, I wanted to be a lot of things. I wanted to be a policeman, then an army officer, a businessman and finally, a cricketer.” The idea to turn actor though, first struck him in college. “My friend Anisasi, director I V Sasi’s son, kept talking about how an actor could impact another person’s life. He was talking about himself, but in the process, he said,‘Even you can become one.’ That was when I playfully chose to begin acting.” But getting started as a film actor was not easy. Unfazed by the fact that he didn’t get a break, despite having attended around 400 auditions, Selvan began doing short films and theru koothu (street plays).
“Once, I got an opportunity to act in a film with a big star cast. I was overjoyed. So on the day of the film’s release, I spent few thousands on treating my friends before taking them to watch the film. We watched it only to realise that I wasn’t anywhere in it. They had cropped off my scenes!” shares the actor. But that was before Soodhu Kavvum, and though his true on screen debut was a small role in Billa 2, he will always be identified by the black comedy starring Vijay Sethupathi.
In the pipeline, he has Kootathil Oruvan, a coming-of-age, slice-of-life film that is about the average person and Pirai Thediya Naatkal, about which he says, “I’d like to call it a romantic ballad. It is a beautiful love story involving one physically challenged man and two women.” Selvan has also done the soon-to-release Sila Samayangalil, directed by Priyadarshan, with Prakash Raj and Sreya Reddy in the lead. “I’ve learnt a 1,000 different things from the veterans and most of it has been by observing. For instance, while working on this film, I observed how professional Prakash Raj was and how secure he came across. I saw how Priyadarshan had clarity on what he wanted. He might have been shooting the film, but I realised he must have watched that film at least 20 times in his mind, prior to making it. From Nasser, I’ve learnt how to stay calm,” says Selvan.
Love for cinema
Admitting that he started out watching cinema just for entertainment, the actor says, “There was this occasion when I watched Paruthiveeran, Braveheart and Crash one after another. It wasn’t planned but after watching these films, cinema had gained new respect from me.” And what about his wish list of directors? “I’m very greedy when it comes to this. First is Mani Ratnam, then there is Vetrimaran, Nalan Kumarasamy, Anurag Kashyap, Ramesh, Mysskin, Bala, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and David Fincher. There are many more but these are just a few names.”
Talking about the person who has inspired him the most, Selvan tells us about his father who had independently established the first ever Tamil magazine on imports and exports. Picking Kamal Haasan and Ajith among others as his favourites, Selvan adds, “Daniel Day Lewis is my biggest inspiration. The day I do one film like the ones he has done, I will retire.” Favourite comedies? He promptly says, “Kadhala Kadhala, Soodhu Kavvum (not because it is my own but because it is a good film), Sathi Leelavathi and Ace Ventura.”
Citing movies like Ameer’s Paruthiveeran, Anurag Kashyap’s Udaan or Vetrimaran’s Visaranai as films that have made an international impact, Selvan believes that they (foreigners) would have got to know about our culture, languages and us through these films. “I know it must sound quite ambitious but then, I want to do films that will be watched internationally. I may not be able to do that now but eventually, I want to get there,” the actor signs off.
|Need to knowWhen not shooting: “I’m a movie buff. I watch loads of movies. I also go for long drives.”
Music : “In school, it was film songs. In college, it was heavy metal. Then, it was soft rock. Now, I listen to everything from Indi pop to Indi rock.”
Travel: I want to travel but unfortunately, haven’t had the time. In 2010, I went to Ladakh for 18 days to shoot a short film. That trip changed my perspective on travel.
Sports: I am a sportsperson — a cricketer. I like to stay fit by going to the ground often.
In the kitchen: I am a terrible cook. I once tried to make a dosa and what came out was an uthaappam!
— Manigandan KR
There has never been a better time for the young and talented in Bollywood. As the gamut of films expands to embrace all genres—from mega-star blockbusters to content-driven independent films—the film industry and audiences are embracing new voices, ideas and stories. This year alone we have seen Bhumi Pednekar make size 18 cool in Dum Laga Ke Haisha and director Neeraj Ghaywan and writer Varun Grover put Varanasi on the world map with their Cannes-winner, Masaan. It won’t take much for Alia Bhatt to bounce back from the debacle of her latest release, Shaandaar. After all, she was the only one to get consistently positive reviews for her role in the film, which follows on the back of her successes in Highway and Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania. Varun Dhawan is on a high after Badlapur and ABCD2, and at 28, Kangana Ranaut’s achievements are commendable indeed. So far this year we have also seen the launch of new star kids Akshara Hassan, Sooraj Pancholi and Athiya Shetty, and impressive talents like Vicky Kaushal and Harshaali Malhotra. And we have another two months in which Bollywood might just spring a few more surprises.
Quite the spectacle
It was heartening to see Bollywood stars and filmmakers turn out in huge numbers to support Disney India’s foray into theatre, with the staging of the musical extravaganza Beauty and the Beast. From Ashutosh Gowariker and Sanjay Gupta, Sujoy Ghosh and Subhash Ghai, Vishal Bhardwaj and Imtiaz Ali to Nimrat Kaur, Soha Ali Khan and Kunal Kemmu, Emraan Hashmi with his family, and Shabana Azmi with family were there to watch a grand show that India has long been ready for. With wonderful sets and costumes and a range of talented performers (actors, singers, dancers) from across the country, Beauty and the Beast is a must watch for families. And in case you forget the lyrics, the programme helpfully carries the words to the title song.
Randeep keeps it real
It’s been a while since Randeep Hooda was seen on the big screen, but he’s back this week with Main Aur Charles, allegedly based on the life of
international criminal Charles Sobhraj. Directed by Prawaal Raman, it stars Richa Chadha as a law student in the 1970 and 80s who falls for Sobhraj’s legendary charm. She’s not the only one. Apparently several of the foreign ladies cast in various roles also fell prey to Hooda’s ways. The only one able to resist him was a Croatian actress cast as his lawyer who, naturally, had to be stoic and firm. Hooda, however, has left the berets and flared trousers behind to take on another biopic, Sarbjit, with co-star Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, in which he plays the titular role once more.
Writer-director Kanu Behl, the protégée of filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee, has been touted as one of the new talents to watch out for. His début feature, Titli, a hard-hitting family drama, opens today. Actors Ranvir Shorey and Amit Sial are joined by Shashank Arora and debutants Shivani Raghuvanshi and Lalit Behl (the latter happens to be the director’s father). The story of a dysfunctional family, Titli is the nickname of the youngest of three brothers who operate as carjackers in Delhi. Desperate to break away from his unhappy family life, Titli devises a scheme to escape. Even before Titli has released domestically, Behl has begun preparations for his second feature, titled Agra, a comedy about a man in love with a girl, his efforts to break free from his parents and the ensuing chaos. As for Arora, the actor playing Titli, he has also moved on and shot another independent film called B Naman, which also marks the movie début of industrialist Vijay Mallya’s son, Siddharth.
“There are the perks, but there are a lot of unreasonable expectations, too,” says Shruti Haasan, about being the daughter of actor Kamal Haasan. Despite a shaky start, Shruti has managed to carve an enviable niche for herself. She’s not just a singer for her films, but also playbacks for other actresses. Having honed her acting skills over the years, she is today a sought-after actress in not just Tamil films, but Telugu and Hindi, too. She attributes her success to a combination of hard work, good scripts, wonderful teams and directors. She surely has
done her father proud.
Show some moves
From singing Kuchikuchi Rakkamma as a child for his uncle AR Rahman to becoming one of the leading music composers of the day, GV Prakash has come a long way. Prakash also wears the additional hats of a singer, producer and now an actor of fair competence. Quiz him on the best compliment he has received and he says, “It was when Rajinikanth and Vijay complimented me on my dancing in Trisha Illana Nayanthara. It’s one I’ll always treasure.” Looks like there’s more to come from this young achiever.
A fresh take
Emerging from the shadow of a father like Vairamuthu, a renowned lyricist, is no easy task. But Madhan Karky has done just that. A lyricist with an individual style, Karky has penned lyrics for over 400 songs in the last five years. He has also worked on the dialogues for blockbusters like Nanban, Enthiran and Baahubali. “Instant feedback from social networking sites helps me keep up. I try to be different each time,” says Karky. Incidentally, he was born on the very day his father penned his first lyrics.
From R‘n’B in Tamil to a crowd-sourced horror film, these emerging stars of Tamil cinema know their audience and how to reach them
The new brigade in our film industry is all about breaking rules. Young actresses are not hankering after the lead role; in fact they can essay a mother in an ‘award movie’ and be a glamorous heroine in another. Professionals from other fields are jumping onto the bandwagon, with engineers making successful films. Even rejection slips from 40 producers do not stop a movie from being made, while an Indian-American trained in classical music switches effortlessly to ‘local’ film music. Meet the 20-something actors, singers and filmmakers of Tamil cinema, who are making quick work of clichés.
Text: Sharadha Narayanan
ALISHA THOMAS | 27
Big break: When this Indian-American sang the R&B-influenced song, Don-u don-u, in July’s Dhanush-starrer, Maari
It’s no surprise that singer Alisha Thomas calls her musical inspirations eclectic. There’s a staggering amount of musical and geographical diversity in this Indian-American, who is a Kerala Christian by origin, has trained in Carnatic music and whose claim to fame now, is an RnB-ish song, Don-u don-u, in a Tamil film (Maari) that prides itself for being ‘thara’ local. And she is in the city pursuing Hindustani music after dabbling in gospel at a church in Chicago for a couple of years.
“My entry into the film industry was not planned,” says the 27-year-old, adding that she keenly tracks Tamil film music despite not being able to speak the language. “In April, Dhanush and music director Anirudh were looking for a voice for the song, and my name just got passed around.” Little did she know that the song would become such a rage. Another song in director Bharathirajaa’s next, Om, has happened since. “If you are from the US, it is assumed that you are into Western pop in a big way. Frankly, I’ve done more Western music in Chennai than I did in the US,” she says of her hotel gigs and stage performances in the city. Having come to the city in 2014 for a year-long course at AR Rahman’s KM Music Conservatory, she has extended it by two years, and hopes to do more exciting work. Singing for AR Rahman and D Imman top her wish-list.
AISHWARYA RAJESH| 25
Playing a mother early in her career (Kaaka Muttai) has paid off for this former dance reality show participant
If I’m offered a role which has one powerful scene, I will gladly sign it,” says actress Aishwarya Rajesh. At another point in the interview, she says, “I look at any role as a dream role and give it my all. I’m not yearning for anything particular.” These may sound like the claims of an actor eager to land roles, but Rajesh walks the talk. You’re likely to remember her as the luckless mother of two boys in what is easily this year’s most talked about film, Kaaka Muttai. Measured in her words, but with an impressive clarity of thought, Rajesh, 25, says she is set to make a mark in the industry, and will not relegate herself to roles that only require her to dance around trees with heroes.
Ironically though, it was a dance show that put her in the spotlight. She was part of Maanada Mayilada, when she auditioned for Attakathi in 2012. She was a commerce student in a city college when the offer came. “By the time I had attended the audition, the crew had found the heroine. I got selected for another role in the film, she says,” referring to her role of Amudha. A few forgettable films later, she landed a role in Vijay Sethupathi’s Rummy and Pannayarum Padminiyum. The icing on the cake has clearly been her role in Kaaka Muttai. “I was unsure about playing a mom so early in my career, but I’m happy it paid off,” she says.
Rajesh has six roles in her kitty this year. The highlight will be Kutrame Thandanai, in which she teams with director M Manikandan for the second time, playing a cameo. “I do a guest role alright, but one with negative shades that is important to the story. This is very different for me,” she says excitedly. She plays a debater in director Seenu Ramasamy’s Idam Porul Yaeval, in which she pairs with Vijay Sethupathi, again. Then there’s a horror-comedy, Hello Naan Pei Pesaren, with actor Vaibhav. She is also starring in the remake of the National Award-winning Bollywood courtroom drama, Jolly LLB (featuring Udhayanidhi Stalin) and a remake of the Malayalam crime thriller, Memories (Arulnidhi plays the lead).
ANU CHARAN |29
Moving up: His Kirumi will premiere at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival next month
Sometimes, you can like doing something and still not want to do it all your life. Anu Charan, director and editor of the recent film Kirumi, will attest to that. An engineer, Charan confides that he really liked his job of designing surgical devices for a client in Kolkata, and yet, there was a void. He had a fascination for filmmaking, and after an epiphany of an interview in which Steven Spielberg said every director must be an animator, proceeded to study animation. Following that with about 20 videos in Australia, including short films, ads and a TV show, Charan decided to direct and edit Kirumi, which hit screens in September.
But making the movie was not as easy as the decision to turn filmmaker. “Of course, friends in the film industry helped. Like M Manikandan (director, Kaaka Muttai ). He passed on film offers that he came his way to me,” he says. Charan and Mani wrote the script of the movie. “It was shot in 50 days. Finding distributors was no easy task. People are raving about the climax in Kirumi, but we weren’t able to convince distributors with that ending, and so, shot another climax too. Thankfully, our distributor Madan (Escape Artists Motion Pictures) liked what we had done originally, and let it be,” says Charan, whose interest in filmmaking came about when he tried putting together photos and videos in college. And then, he found another love — editing. “It is the most underrated art form. 70 per cent of the film gets done at the editing table,” he says. Kirumi is slated for an international premiere at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival in November. Closer home, it has been selected for participation at the Mumbai Film Festival and talks are on to remake it in Hindi and Telugu. Up next is an entirely different movie with a huge star cast, says Charan.
VIDYULLEKHA RAMAN | 24
Multi-tasking: Often compared to Manorama and Kovai Sarala, this actor has several Telugu films coming up, including one in the horror genre
Actor Vidyullekha Raman does not nurture ambitions of playing a heroine. The 24-year-old, who had a dream debut in Neethane En Ponvasantham (NEP) three years ago, already has an enviable filmography of 25 films, including ones with stars like Ajith, Vijay and Suriya. As with most popular supporting actors, it all began in theatre for Raman, who had a seven-year stint on stage before entering films. There, she played it all — from the titular creature in Rumplestiltskin, to a frail grandmother. She also helped form an all-women theatre group, 14 Idlies, in her college, where she studied visual communication. “I got my first lead role in Hairspray, a musical by dancer-choreographer Jeffrey Vardon, but that is when I got an offer to act in NEP, too.” Not wanting to keep anyone waiting, she decided to opt out of the musical.
Now, the jaunty youngster is aware that she is filling a void in the film industry; one left by strong, supportive actresses like Manorama. “I get compared to her and Kovai Sarala all the time. It’s very flattering but I’m nowhere there yet,” she says. Also, I’m not just a comedienne, she says, with obvious disdain for the industry’s fondness to stereotype. “Santhanam wanted me to ward off that image and gave me a small, yet serious role in his film, Innimey Ippadithaan,” she says.
Raman has an exciting time ahead in the Telugu film industry, where she will play one of the five lead roles in a horror film, Raju Gari Gadhi. “The story is about five people who enter a haunted mansion and I am one of them,” says Raman, who is also in the remake of Tamil film Sundarapandian, besides Bhale Manchi Roju with Sudhir Babu. In Tamil, she is awaiting the release of Ajith’s Vedaalam, Vikram Prabhu’s Wagah and Thanni Vandi with actor Thambi Ramaiah. As for theatre, she says she has a couple of scripts that she wants to bring alive on stage. “I hope to take three months off films to do some more theatre,” she says.
SRINATH RAMALINGAM |28
Lesson on the job: Rejection from over 40 producers has inspired this horror-filmmaker to inspire others through internet videos
If director Srinath Ramalingam’s life were to be made into a movie, the highlight would be the scene of young Ramalingam and his father watching Rajinikanth’s Pandian at Kingsley Cinemas in Colombo. It would shift 23 years later, when his father would enter the cinemas a second time, to watch his son’s directorial debut, Unnakenna Venum Sollu. “Directing has always been my only ambition,” says Ramalingam, who was born and raised in Sri Lanka. As a child, he even memorised lines of the Tamil Shiviite hymns, Thevaaram, using film tunes. “I then went to the US to train in filmmaking and did several allied jobs too (production assistant, production coordinator, executive producer, head of creative work, editor) before coming to India in 2012 to work on my first Tamil feature,” he says. But nothing prepared him for the rejection he would face from over 40 producers who he approached with his script. “I had to take up a day job at my uncle’s flour retail business. Then, a visit to a Shiva temple in the Jadayudham forests near Rameshwaram changed my fortune instantly,” he says. On the day of his return, a friend from his days in America called and said he found investors to fund his film. And the investors casually handed out eight, crisp $1,000 bills during a cigarette break in their meeting. Everything fell into place after that and Unakkenna Venum Sollu, the horror flick that hit screens this September, happened.
His next film will be a rom com with a hero and three heroines, he says. “I’m in talks with three producers for this film. It should get rolling by February 2016.” In the meantime, with an aim to inspire more people to pursue their dream, Ramalingam has been making and releasing videos called YOLO (You Only Live Once) on the internet and in Tamil television channels. “This is an annual affair and we choose a specific location every year. It is destination Ladakh for 2016 — our third year,” he says.
ASHWIN SARAVANAN | 24
Working formula: The engineer-turned-filmmaker behind horror film Maya, says the genre will always find takers
Ashwin Saravanan, 24, might be agnostic about ghosts, but he cannot deny the lure of a horror film. “Some may believe in it, some may not. But it’s impossible to ignore it,” says the fan of films like Yaavarum Nalam, Eeram, Exorcist and the TV series Vidaadhu Karuppu (decades after its telecast, he still chooses to get spooked by watching episodes on the internet). Luckily for him, he found an actress, Nayanthara, who was a fan of horror films too. And thus the bilingual horror film, Maya, which is having a successful run in the box office, came to be.
As a student of engineering, Saravanan was inspired by Naalaya Iyakkunar, a TV show for filmmakers. And yet, he took up a job with Infosys after college, to pay off his education loan. “But I couldn’t take it beyond three months. It was just too mundane for me,” he says. It was then that he worked on the script of his movie. But finding a producer proved to be a toughie. “Many producers liked my script, but they did not trust my filmmaking ability. So me and my friends pooled in some money and shot a scene from the film. That pilot convinced a producer,” he says, referring to Potential Studios. Ask him if it is easy to make a film without working as an assistant, and he says “By not training under another filmmaker, I did not miss the craft. What I missed was the politics of dealing with people and convincing them to do the film you really want.” Saravanan is currently soaking in the adulation his film has received. “I knew the movie would do well with a multiplex audience. The surprise has been its greater, more universal appeal. This goes on to show that the horror genre always finds takers,” he says. Does this mean he will attempt another horror film next? “Oh no, I’m done with horror films for now. I travelled with the movie’s story for a few years. So I will not attempt anything like this for the next couple of years.”
Irreverent and unapologetic, a fresh crop of standup artistes are giving the city’s comedy scene a fun update
It’s a great time to be a comic. Across the seas, Aziz Ansari is just five spots below Jerry Seinfeld as the sixth highest paid comedian on the Forbes list. Closer home, even if they aren’t rolling in dough, standup artistes are making sure they are the flavour of the season. And if someone still wants to harp about our conservative tag, let Delhi-based comedian Papa CJ set the record straight. “During my recent show, Naked, a female audience member spanked my behind so hard her contact lens fell out. She had to step out, put it back on and come back in. Where is the conservativeness?” he asks. Though he hasn’t been able to catch the local comedy — “Chennai is like my mistress: I fly in, do my thing and fly out” — he says the upsurge of comedians is good for the scene “because sometimes life is s**t and we need to find the funny in it”. Here’s looking at seven comics who are getting the best laughs.
Text: Surya Praphulla Kumar
Aaquib Jaleel | 21
Jaleel likes to make people laugh, even if they are laughing at him “because I’m making a fool of myself”. The final year literature student at Loyola College, who has been a fixture at open mics since last year, claims he’s called the ‘mother of all jokes’—because “I make fun of my mother”. But he adds that everything can become material for him, “including this interview”. Excited that the comedy scene in the city is growing quickly, he wants to travel the country, doing comedy wherever he can, and try his luck hosting any of the city’s comedy nights.
Joke of choice: I do a lot of religion-based humour. And because I am a Muslim I can get away with the iffy, slightly insensitive ones, too. A Millennial is: Someone who, when he needs to finish a sentence, looks it up on Google.
Bhargav Ramakrishnan | 28
Bhargav ‘Baggy’ Ramakrishnan has been producing standup for four years. Yes, even the comics with Evam Standup Tamasha need someone to tell them what to do occasionally. But it seems it took a ticket to Vir Das’ Weirdass Pajama Festival last year and three days of watching 40 comedians perform, to make him think ‘I can do this, too’. “Put me on stage and I will make a joke work. But the writing is tough,” he sighs. “I keep at it. I keep voice notes and write at least three times a week.” Of course, life isn’t as tough as he makes it out to be. A ‘jokester’ all his life, he loves picking on the crowd. “I do a lot of crowd work, 50 per cent of my shows are improv,” says Ramakrishnan, who does seven to eight shows a month and uses his family as fodder (his parents’ introduction to smartphones may just be the tamest), as well as his ‘generous’ proportions. Looking at doing his first solo show next year, he is working on new content—on people studying engineering (drawing on personal experience) and being unemployed. We’ll get to judge the content at the show he’s planning with three other comics next month.
A Millennial is: He who turns down jobs that offer comfortable incomes and states he wants to become a full-time artiste.
Vaishnavi Prasad | 26
You and I may call it quits if our first show was met largely with silence. But not Prasad. After her debut bombed last September, she took tips from the city’s standup community on how to tighten her set, and went back on stage. “Reading good books can help, too, and I’ve started reading news more,” admits the freelance travel writer, who says generic content—like how India is the only country where people dress up to go to the beach—got her laughs in New Zealand. Not happy about the messed up ratio of comics (“there are only three to four regular women comics in the city”), she wants to help people understand women can be funny too. She also works on comedy videos. “I work with a channel called Ventuno Humour and our latest, on biker women in India, got 5,000 views in a day,” she concludes.
Personal best: I’ve performed in Chennai, Bengaluru and even Auckland. I had gone backpacking in New Zealand this January and took on a room full of foreigners.
Rib-ticklers: I joke on politics, my family and ‘mennism’ (jokes that support men, just because it is unexpected)
Learning curve: I’m a fan of Britisher Eddie Izzard and South African Trevor Noah. But now I also notice mannerisms, sentence structure and crowd interaction.
A Millennial is: Someone who tells you he is a millennial. We shove it in your face—don’t you see us in the papers every day?
Vikram Balaji| 28
I started standup because my wife complained that I didn’t talk about her,” states a poker-faced Vikram Balaji. Well, not really, but his wife is the star of many of his comedy sets. The fan of Jerry Seinfeld got hooked when he made “350 uptight chartered accountants laugh” early last year—at an event where he volunteered to be the ‘bakra’. And with his consulting job at Ernst and Young taking him around the world, he’s tried his hand at performing in places like Melbourne, Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia. “In Melbourne, my first international show, I remember spending 15 minutes in the loo ahead of my five-minute set,” he confesses. Now he’s performed with renowned US comedian, Tom Rhodes, got laughs at international comedy festivals and brings down globally renowned headlining comics to the city—the most recent being Matt Davis. And would you believe he had stage fright! “The first few times I kept looking down, as if my pants were slipping,” he laughs. Today, he heads Chennai Comedy, which organises open mics, creates comics under Mr Whipped comics, makes short videos and does plenty of private shows. “Most of my jokes are derived from the things I know—from marriage and airports to the corporate scene. And sometimes politics. Like with Rahul Gandhi—you don’t need to write a joke, just say his name,” signs off Balaji, who is planning a comedy tour of Singapore, Vietnam and Cambodia early next year.
A Millennial is: A person who might be wearing a watch, but still whips out his smartphone to tell the time
Rahul Sridhar | 21
Rahul Sridhar is proud that he goes to Sri Venkateswara College of Engineering—not because he loves studying electronics, but it’s a great avenue to pick up jokes for his work with the comedy ensemble, The Pundits. “I used to nail impromptu speaking competitions at school, and in college I joined theatre, with Crea Shakthi’s campus initiative. So when they held auditions for their comic startup, I tried out,” he shares. With close to 30 shows under his belt, he has no qualms admitting he’s bombed at a few—like the one he did for an IIM Calcutta alumni meet where the audience didn’t connect with him. But he adds that if a joke works there is nothing more addictive than the sound of laughter. “I am a kid and I settle for instant gratification,” he laughs. With satire as a speciality, he draws on what he knows—sex education in school to flatulence on trains. “I have a notes app on which I record punchlines and then I work backwards, to create a build up,” he says, adding that there is no original work anymore—everyone’s “inspired” by someone else and then re-contextualise. “I’m working towards creating solo content. And after giving my best yet, at the recent Pundit Comedy Festival (two weeks ago), I am planning to travel a lot with my jokes,” he concludes.
A millennial is: One who thinks Y2K is (Canadian American wrestler) Chris Jericho
Sudarshan Rama, 21
Rama didn’t know the city had a comedy scene until he stumbled upon a comedy writers’ workshop last year. Organised by Burma Bazaar Conspiracy, Bengaluru-based comedian Praveen Kumar gave him tips on how to write a joke. “My first show was bad. People laughed, but looking back, the jokes were cheap,” he says sheepishly, admitting that he has since tried his material out at open mics almost every week. Never short of a smart repartee, his jokes revolve around his family, relationships and observations. Next up, Rama is gearing up to perform with Evam Standup Tamasha (tomorrow) and has his eyes set on Bengaluru’s comedy scene.
Best known as: Soda
Remembered for: I arrive at the venue even before the mic set arrives. I’m the signboard—if people see me, they know there is an open mic
Big ticket: I’ve done over 70 open mics and won Slab Entertainment’s comedy contest last week
Doing the funny: I don’t write content for a specific audience. At my last show, two 40-year-olds were laughing at Tinder jokes!
A Millennial is: My friend who posts about cracking deals and meeting the ambassador of Sweden. And I don’t even
have a passport!
Saadiya Ali, 23
Women’s rights and religion—two things that’s kindling for an explosion. But Ali loves going where lesser mortals fear to tread. Just over a year old in the open mic scene, she says she is trying to be a full-time performer/comedian. “I have my own YouTube channel, The Other Inbox (which mostly features sketches), and I do a lot of theatre with groups like Thespian En, Theatre Nisha and Crea Shakthi.” A big fan of Louis CK, Ali usually bypasses punchlines, preferring a narrative style with plenty of histrionics. She has a few corporate shows lined up, along with more videos for her channel, and auditions for plays and films.
What next: I feel like a decently big fish in a small pond now. So I want to check out the Bengaluru circle next and then I want to take over the world—be ridiculously famous and own 10 cars.
Doing the funny: The life of a 23-year-old is pretty amusing. You have people asking you to get married, you have your parents, you have bras—a whole bunch of things to talk and rant about.
A Millennial is: My brother’s generation with their selfies. Not us cool ones who listen to Pearl Jam.
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