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Monthly Archives: February 2017

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    Australian-Indian actor Pallavi Sharda on making her way to Hollywood while keeping her desi ties intact

    Pallavi Sharda is the perfect example of what it means to be a global Indian. With interests ranging from musical productions (Shruti Merchant’s Taj Express) to beauty pageants, this 28-year-old lawyer-turned-actor is anything but dull. Since her spectacular entry to Bollywood with My Name is Khan, Pallavi has been noted for her eclectic mix of roles aimed at breaking the mould of ‘just another NRI girl’. With her breakthrough Hollywood film Lion set for its India release today, the Australian-Indian actor opens up about the perks of having a cross-cultural heritage.
    About Lion
    Working on Lion was a great experience. Aside from the fabulous star cast and exceptional director, it is a truly cross-cultural story about a boy who is searching for his identity. The theme resonated very strongly with me as a person, being an Australian-Indian with dual heritage.
    Hollywood vs Bollywood
    Working in the West is a very egalitarian experience in which everyone has equal standing on set, be it the lead cast, supporting actors, director or crew. That’s not to say I don’t love Bollywood—it will always be the place that enabled me to start my career as an actor. I love its quirks.
    Her role in Begum Jaan
    I star in Srijit Mukherji’s Begum Jaan with a spectacular group of female actors, in particular, Vidya Balan. Being able to perform alongside her reminded me so much of why I chose to become an actor in the first place. It is a story of human triumph centred around women, which is unlike anything I have done before.
    Women on screen
    Taking on a role like the one I am portraying in Begum Jaan was a very conscious decision. I have always played very strong female characters who hold their own. I have previously shied away from overtly dealing with issues pertaining to sexuality, due to my own upbringing as a ‘good Indian girl’, but no more. Now I realise that if I didn’t explore the full spectrum of what it can mean to be a woman—both in Indian society and Western society—then I was only letting myself down, as well as my audience.
    Fitness regimen
    I believe in the power of movement meditation through dance and yoga. Yoga is a fool-proof way to maintain physical and mental fitness. It requires flexibility, balance and strength—a triumvirate which is a metaphor for leading a good life.

    — Arya P Dinesh

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      Inside Chanakya’s Mind

      Radhakrishnan Pillai isn’t quite done with his fascination for Chanakya, not even after a handful of best-sellers — Chanakya in Daily Life, Chanthe-ceo_finalakya in You, and Corporate Chanakya — all based on the 4th Century royal advisor’s treatise, the Arthashastra. While Pillai has firmly established his position as the modernist disseminator of Chanakya’s teachings, his latest release is a management guide, historical chronicle and self-help handbook all rolled into one, focussing on the concept of “aanvikshiki” or “the ultimate knowledge of self-realisation”. Easy to read, with youngsters in mind, no doubt, this is “ancient wisdom, modern gyan”, as one jacket blurb puts it, treading on being mildly pedagogical over matters such as of “Human and Divine Thinking”. For all its analytical wealth, yet, we’re holding on to our copies of Chanakya Neeti by BK Chaturvedi. Penguin Random House India, `350.
      — Jaideep Sen

      The CEO Who Lost His Head

      The esoteria laced into this whodunnit by former editor of DNA Mumbai, Aditya Sinha, is its biggest undoing. Sinha sacrifices subtlety for luridness, not least with his characters unimaginatively named Buster Das (“Bastard” for short), and the police officers Sandesh Solvekar and Mona Ramteke. Sinha appears to be nursing personal jollies over his unceremonious ousting from DNA in 2012, and there might well be a few riant former employees toasting his book as a last hurrah of sorts. For the rest of us, though, the story of a murdered newspaper CEO — evidently based more on whim than genuine research — suggests little more than a plot gone wrong at the very beginning. Pan Macmillan India, `299.

      Jaideep Sen

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        This week’s latest releases from the worlds of technology, fiction and children’s fantasy

        The Upstarts

        The tag line of this
        book by Brad Stone, a senior executive editor for technology at Bloomberg News, reads: “How Uber, Airbnb and the killer companies of the new Silicon Valleys are changing the world”. Stone profiles the most radical companies of Silicon Valley, in the spirit of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, looking at a new generation of brilliant entrepreneurial upstarts and idiosyncratic founders looking to rewrite the traditional rules of business, and spark the next cultural upheaval through technology. Penguin Random House, Rs 699.the-house-that-spoke-390x599

        9780241288047Three Daughters of Eve

        Elif Shafak, the most widely read female writer in Turkey, presents a sweeping tale of faith, love and friendship set across Istanbul and Oxford. The story begins with Peri, a wealthy housewife, on her way to a dinner party, when a beggar snatches her handbag. In the struggle, an old Polaroid falls out, taking her back to Oxford University, as an 18-year-old sent abroad for the first time. One of the most influential intellectuals of her time, Shafak is a public speaker, and
        a women’s and LGBT rights activist. Penguin Random House, Rs 599.

        The House That Spoke

        This debut novel by 15-year-old Zuni Chopra, daughter of film critic Anupama Chopra and filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra, is set in Kashmir. An avowed fan of Lewis Carroll, Zuni tells the story of Zoon Razdan, a youngster in a magical house, where she talks to the fireplace, the books, and even the portraits. When a force of darkness returns to the home, Zoon has to claim her right as guardian of the house, and subsequently, Kashmir. Penguin Random House India, Rs 299.

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          Few people have known of the scandalous love affair between Jinnah and “Ruttie” Petit, until now

          tHE inside story of Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s courtship with the 16-year-old Rattanbai “Ruttie” Petit has taken as long as the history of independent India and Pakistan to resurface in the public sphere, with a new book by Sheela Reddy, the former books editor of Outlook magazine. Soundly researched and vividly detailed, the book foregrounds the regalia that enveloped the couple’s scandalous affair, in a time fraught with nationalistic struggles. Reddy’s narrative is faultless, treading sensitive material with care, and sidestepping political affairs to focus on the account of the girl, Ruttie, and her shortlived union with Jinnah; she died aged 29, leaving him with a daughter. Before you delve into the emotional wrangling that Reddy astutely dissects, to the point of working a genuine romantic saga, here’s the prelude to what ought to be one of the most infamous, and widely recounted love stories of the age. An excerpt from the book —jinnah

          BY THE beginning of June, before the rains started to swell the rivers and make the roads impassable, all of Bombay’s rich and well-to-do returned home to their city in fashionable flocks; and with them returned the Petits and Jinnah, separately. Almost instantly, the strange and fascinating story of Jinnah’s and Ruttie’s romance began to do the rounds. Within a fortnight, even a stranger attending a public meeting in Bombay heard about their love story. After being introduced to Jinnah at a public meeting at the Bombay Presidency Association, Kanji Dwarkadas, then a young man of twenty-four, found out the gossip doing the rounds of the city on why the otherwise reserved Jinnah was currently in such unusually high spirits: ‘The reasons for Jinnah’s cheerfulness at the Association’s meeting — I found later. He had spent the two months of summer vacation in Darjeeling with Sir Dinshaw and Lady Dinbai Petit and there he fell in love with
          their 16-year-old beautiful daughter, Ruttie. As they returned to Bombay in early June, all Bombay heard of their impending marriage but the parents did not like the
          idea of their daughter marrying a Mohammedan. Ruttie was a minor but she was determined to marry Jinnah.’
          Kanji, like every other young man of his circle, had worshipped Ruttie from a distance since his student days. Walking on a cold afternoon two years ago across the Bombay Oval, he had caught sight of Ruttie riding in a small carriage driven by a pony. He could not take his eyes off the fourteen-year-old beauty, and watched the carriage and its occupant till they disappeared from sight. He never forgot her face, and discovered who she was from a photograph that appeared in a newspaper three months later. As for Jinnah, Kanji knew of him as a popular leader, without having ever seen him before. Which is why when Kanji saw a dashing man ‘in check
          trousers, black coat, hair parted on the side and moustache, addressing the meeting with great confidence and everybody listening with
          rapt attention’, Kanji turned to his neighbour to ask who this impressive figure was, earning the retort: ‘You don’t know Jinnah?’
          Clearly, Sir Dinshaw’s snub had not cooled Jinnah’s ardour, which was again very unlike the Jinnah the world knew. He had never been known before to chase a woman, especially not one as young and enchanting as Ruttie, preferring to avoid them at the few parties he attended, where he hated the dancing and music, choosing instead to retreat to a quiet corner and engage any man who was interested in what was so far his only passion: politics. But now here he was, wherever Ruttie appeared — at the races, at parties and even the fashionable Willingdon Club where everyone went for the dancing and the live music—talking to her openly, oblivious to people’s looks and whispers. How much his persistence had to do with Ruttie was a matter of guesswork, because she now seemed to be doing all the chasing, going up to him and looking up at him with such open adoration that it would have been beyond even Jinnah’s iron will to resist her had he wanted to. They became the talking point of all Bombay — he for having the audacity to stand up to her father and she for her forwardness. In hindsight, it was hardly surprising that fashionable Bombay was so excited about what could, after all, have fizzled out as a mere teenage crush. But Bombay wanted their love to be something more than
          a passing fancy.

          Mr and Mrs Jinnah: The Marriage That Shook India by Sheela Reddy, Penguin Random House India, Rs 699.

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            Embracing seascapes with a dash of poetry

            “We are all little pockets of seas that have learnt how to live on land…
            A mother makes a small sea inside of her, Her child.
            A watery home where we are nutured.”

            The verse above summarises her new collection of paintings, offers the artist Gayatri Shantaram. In her travels and shows over the years, between her hometown Chennai and Paris, Gayatri has marked a clear shift from figurative pieces to large-format abstracts.
            008At her solo show, A Sense of Touch, of paintings on canvas and paper, Gayatri speaks of a newfound sense of maturity, having begun the current series a couple of years back, just before the birth of her son, Luke.29
            “This series I hold very dear to my heart,” she says, adding that the subject she’s dwelling on currently is essentially of water bodies. “I have represented the Bay of Bengal and the Buckingham Canal,” says Gayatri. While not quite primed for comparison with say, Turner’s frames on the River Thames, Gayatri does keep up a strong personal sense of style. “The sea always comes back to my work as a point of reference,” she explains.
            “To me, the sea nurtures, energises and renews,” offers Gayatri. “I have always grown up by the sea,” she adds, without specifying the stretches of the Marina Beach. “Working while being pregnant, it was quite a challenge,” she explains. “It was a new and empowering experience,  and I enjoyed every moment of rolling around with a big tummy around my works!”
            Paying close attention to her paintings, over the roar and crash of the suggested surf, one might even sense a wistful hint of the jazz classic, Garota de Ipanema (The Girl from Ipanema), eternalised by Frank Sinatra, for its lyric, “But each day, when she walks to the sea, she looks straight ahead, not at me.” Without having to say much, that’s just the lasting effect of living, and working, by the sea.

            A Sense of Touch is on display at Artworld Chennai, Sarala’s Art Centre, until February 24.
            Details: 24338691.

            — Jaideep Sen

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              D Dhasan’s eye for detail captures the expanse of possibilities in nature

              THE INSIDE word is that D Dhasan, the up-and-coming artist from Chennai, has quite the makings of the next Manish Nai. While that is high praise indeed, and conveys a rather long career trajectory for Dhasan to measure up to, the likeness is easy to ascertain — especially, when seen alongside the Gujarati artist Nai’s series of cyclical, craft-based installations that are based on concepts of material origins.
              Dhasan doesn’t, as yet, have the benefit of elaborate didactic passages and illuminative art theory to ascribe to his work — and that might work to his advantage. His mixed-
              media creations are simplistic, perhaps misleadingly so, as it requires a trained eye to tell apart the intricacy, complex measure of detail, and adept craftsmanship that distinguish his creations.

              Knots and crosses
              Dhasan, in fact, sticks to the elementary in descriptions about his driving interests, artistic vision, and aesthetic motives. His intention, as an artist, is quite simply “to communicate the unseen energy of the universe”, he says.
              The name of his solo exhibition, Shunya and Beyond, is in keeping with the underlying theme of nothingness, as seen in several recent works by both emerging as well as prominent artists across the country, and in the West. In much the same vein, the theme resonates just as strongly with the essence of inward exploration in any form of music, be it classical or jazz.dhasan-artwork1
              “I love nature,” offers Dhasan, disregarding humdrum expositions about the cosmos, the human soul, and creationary ideology. “The beauty I enjoy in life has no words to express, which I want to share through my artwork,” he explains. The impressions that he seeks to conjure in his abstracted creations are inevitably of natural phenomena, such as of landscapes, skyscapes, waterfalls, and such.
              Naught to everlast
              The limitless possibilities that Dhasan sees — and hopes to convey — are as much about a vast sense of emptiness, of the manner that one might experience in the lap of nature, as it is about getting deeply engrossed, and perhaps even entirely consumed, in holding one’s gaze up to his creations. The show offers a refreshing change in an art world starved for predefined lines of appreciation. Dhasan’s works ultimately gain the edge of a crystalline decorative aspect, clean-cut and trim, luminescent in colour, and minimalistic too — nevermind the high-minded connotations. In every way, the dexterity that Dhasan wields in his works emerges from a certain simplicity of thought, a worthwhile quality in itself.

              Shunya & Beyond is on display at Apparao Infinity and The Leela Palace until March 14. Details: 28332226

              — Jaideep Sen

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                A show of wildlife and travel photography by Pooja Chordia (inset), from Chennai, of landscapes of Africa and its wildlife, across the countries of South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya. “The thrill one gets when close to nature is something that can change your life,” enthuses Pooja, 27, naming David Attenborough and Jane Goodall as her role models. “To see a wild animal and try understanding them by looking in their eyes is an amazing experience,” she says. “At a time when so much is happening in the world, I want to do my part and help in any way I can. Photography is a tool I’d like to use to make a difference.” Proceeds from the show will go towards conservation efforts. Curated by Saravana Kumar,
                founder of Evanescence Studios.
                Opens on March 2nd, 6.30 pm. Until March 4th. At Art Houz Gallery. Details: 24992173.

                From Pain to Paint
                An exhibition of artworks by students of the Bindu Art School, which works to benefit the lives of people affected by leprosy, hosted by the Austrian Artist Werner Dornik and social activist Padma Venkataraman, daughter of former Indian President R Venkataraman. The show’s opening will include a screening of an 8-minute documentary on the Bindu School. The stated aim of the show is to get the students to attain financial independence. (In pic: a painting by P Vadivel.) Inauguration on February 28, 5 pm. Until March 7. At The Alternative Art Gallery, Mamallapuram. Details: 9962823092. Visit www.bindu-art.at

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                  Feisel Alkazi brings out the theatrical best in kids at the next edition of Kadhai Carnival

                  THE third edition of Kadhai Carnival will feature two of New Delhi-based Feisal Alkazi’s plays, featuring more than 350 kids from KC High School in the city. “In these two scripts, I have worked with
                  children right from classes one to 10,” says the 62-year-old thespian and son of the influential theatre director Ebrahim Alkazi. Titled The Princess Who Became King and Face/Off, both plays deal with matters of social stigma and personal quests for identity.
                  The Princess Who Became King will be performed by students below class six, and Face/Off will have a cast from classes seven and above. “The fact that they
                  are children adds a natural factor. As kids, we never emphasise uniformity, or anything in particular. This makes the play interesting,” explains the
                  veteran director.
                  Freely adapted from an Indian tale, the script blends aspects of love, adventure and intrigue. It deals with Prince Ravi and Princess Parijata, who flee from their palaces on the eve of their wedding. The princess, during her escape, reaches the forest and is surrounded by animals. “The script focuses on gender issues, individual independence and the relation between man and animal.
                  The play also has some plastic humour and subtle messages of accepting who you really are,” offers Alkazi who, apart  from being a theatre and television director, is also the author of popular books for children, such as The Danger Within: An Activity Book On Occupational Health Hazard, Naina’s Village, The Raindrop and Chilka Lake Adventure, among others. His theatre work, in fact, ties in with his pursuits as an educationist, counsellor, trainer and a costume designer.
                  On the other hand, Face/Off focuses on a cynical and temperamental teenager, who meets with a terrible accident and has to undergo plastic surgery. “As we get further into the play, it highlights how society treats a person who has an uncommon face because of a surgery. Towards the climax of the story, the boy finds out how some people have accepted and befriended him, whereas the others have just ignored him,” says Alkazi. In a nutshell, that’s ample reason for audiences to sit up and take notice.
                  On February 25 at Chinmaya Heritage Hall.
                  Tickets from Rs 250 onwards. Details: 24473551

                  —Nishad Neelambaran

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                    Phil Keoghan played cricket with the Mumbai police and says he wants to watch a T-20 match the next time he’s in the country

                    PHIL Keoghan, the host of The Amazing Race, is nothing short of amazing. No question. How else do you pull off 29 seasons of a show that isn’t studio-based and is unscripted. Did we mention Emmy Award winning? The host of The Amazing Race takes us behind the camera for a glimpse into the chaos between the airport and back. Runways might just be for ‘running toward’ for this TV host.

                    After visiting over 120 countries, you probably perceive travel a little differently from most people…
                    I think what I take away from it is the understanding of the fact that we are different but that is okay. Wherever I go, I like to respect the customs and culture of the place. So I say to people that it’s not much different than visiting someone’s house and them asking you to take your shoes off. It may not be that way in your house, but you’re a guest.

                    How many passports have you been through so far?
                    Initially, I was on my mother’s passport. And then, I think, I got my own when I was about six. At the time I was living in the Caribbean, in the island of Antigua. I remember we were trying to get a passport quickly for some travel with my parents and we couldn’t get access to a New Zealand passport, so I ended up getting a British passport for about six weeks just for this one trip.
                    Nowadays, I always have two (passports) when I’m working on The Amazing Race — one for travel and another for getting visas. So…gosh, I must have two dozen passports at least so far (laughs).

                    Do you pick up an artefact or collectible from each place?
                    My keepsakes are boarding passes that I’ve collected from the last 20 years!

                    You’ve had some fans who want to be on the show from as early on as 10-years-old. Is there a special fan moment you recall?
                    A positive and feel-good show tends to correlate to a lot of lovely fans. And so, I have great moments where I get stopped at airports and fans want to take a picture. Or if I move too quickly, people tend to think that I’m running on the race and they yell out to me: ‘Hurry up Phil, you don’t want to be last!’

                    What has been a highlight while in India? We heard you got stuck behind an elephant once!
                    When I was in Mumbai, we were doing a piece with the police cricket team. Playing with them was memorable. One thing I haven’t done yet is watch a T-20 match in India, so that’s next on my list.

                    How long does it take you to pack a suitcase?
                    (Laughs) I can tell you that I make my family quite nervous, because I pack very late before a trip. For the show, I have a wardrobe person who polaroids every single outfit that I wear. So I don’t have to think about what jeans go with what shirt.

                    Is there a prep routine you have developed to gear up for all the madness while shooting?

                    We start our research of the places well ahead. I also try to get as physically fit as I can before a trip—running, cycling and working out. Also, I don’t drink when I’m on the road. Except for a lot of water of course.

                    You shoot 12 episodes in 21 days. Do you ever sleep?
                    I have found a way to be able to sleep whenever I can, and absolutely anywhere. I mean, even in the loudest of noise. I just breathe deeply and shut everything out and drift off, and it’s the best feeling ever.

                    AXN airs Season 26 -28 of The Amazing Race every Monday to Friday, at 9 pm. Season 29 is slated to premiere in India next year.

                    — Sonali Shenoy

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                      A 17-year-old school girl rubs shoulders with celebrities in this new online show

                      Hanee Chavan sounds like any other teenager — she goes to school and is studying English, visual art and business in her 12th grade. But Hanee also has a YouTube channel which has over 78,000 views. On the channel, she interviews Sunny Leone, Sonam Kapoor and everyone in between. Impressed? So were we.
                      Unplugged with Hanee Chavan is a candid chat show where celebs unwind and open up as Hanee asks them questions about love, life and their teenage years. Her skittish energy is contagious and makes all the celebs feel at ease and giggle as they answer her frank questions. “I love talking to people, socialising and making friends,” says the 17-year-old.
                      An out-and-out Mumbai kid and a lover of movies, she feels she has been lucky to get a response from all the actors whom she approached. The content is different and is something that people have liked. “In the Indian circuit, there wasn’t anyone my age I could relate to. I wished there were more people to address teen issues and other relevant topics,” she explains about how the channel was conceptualised. “I’ve been using YouTube since I was little. For teenagers today, social media plays an integral role in their lives. My YouTube channel was a natural progression.”
                      The Sunny Leone episode was very popular as the actress spoke about her teenage years and the problems she faced as a kid. From playing pictionary with Malaika Arora to having a stayover with TV personality Shibani  Dandekar, the chat show is a treat for Bollywood fans. Although she feels a little nervous, she says she is confident about her content. But when asked to pick her favourite, Hanee chooses heartthrob Ranveer Singh. “I will always have a special place in my heart for my episode with him. He was the first one who agreed to do this, without even a background check, and he fully trusted me with my concept,” she signs off.
                      Search for Unplugged with Hanee Chavan on YouTube.

                      — Anagha M

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