Monday, February 23, 2009
I remember that many years ago, when noted filmmaker Satyajit Ray was felicitated with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oscars, we all were proud of him. It was a moment of glory for every Indian film lover. The man who gifted us gems like Pather Panchali, Goopy Gayene Bagha Bayen and Charulata was recognized by Americans; unfortunately they realized it too late. In fact Ray was in his death bed, when he was conferred the award in Kolkata at Belle View Nursing Home. The director could barely speak, and whatever he could speak was certainly not his best speech. But still, we cheered and we celebrated with him. It’s an honour which we all cherish. We did the same when Bhanu Athiya won Oscar for her Costume Design in Gandhi. But when A R Rahman won Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire we just can’t stop praising this man.
Why are we going gaga over Rahman? We knew that he is a master. We knew that he has given the best tunes and tracks Indian cinema can ever expect. We knew that he is a genius in his own craft. But still we are talking about him because America has recognized his skill. For us, we feel proud when we get recognized by the Americans or British. I am so sure that now Maharashtra Government and even Government of India will felicitate Rahman, give him special honour and even announce award in his name. So, the yardstick of becoming a national icon is simple – get famous abroad. It happened with Rabindranath Tagore, Mother Teresa and Amartya Sen.
It’s high time that we start realizing the fact that we have better talents in our own country. We need to encourage them, we need to understand our strength and not wait for others to make us realize. If Gandhi wouldn’t have protested in South Africa, then would he be equally famous? Now, that’s something which can be a fodder for debate lovers. Mandela became hero in his own country for his ideology and work. He didn’t have to wait for Indians or Americans to acknowledge his talent. We fall for international claim and that’s what makes us weaker.
I know that even biggest of the filmmakers and producers eye for international fame. They would attend any short film festival, pull their strings and get some award and then make hoopla in media. They would pose with anyone and everyone in Hollywood. Tabloids would even mention Kim Sharma (who has done nothing in her life apart from dating cricketer Yuvraj Singh) if she is seen with any wannabe Hollywood actor.
We need to understand that we are much superior in terms of art and entertainment. Our content has always been the king and we have always made films which has become cult.
When films like Mother India, Sholay, Lagaan and Black are ignored by Oscar jury, we feel dejected. But why? We should not feel bad about the fact that these masterpieces didn’t win award at Oscars, it has won the heart of millions. We make films for our people and we are happy about the fact that our films are not like any other language cinema.
I am glad that Rahman has won Oscar and we must celebrate it. But we must not forget that we knew that he is a genius long back. It’s America who realized late… as usual. When world knows the magic of Rahman, they have just got exposed to his magical tunes.
Triva on Rahman – Jai Ho!
Rahman took just 20 days to compose the entire soundtrack. The song "Jai Ho" which won the Academy Award for the Best Original Song was originally made for the Hindi movie Yuvvraaj (2008), composed by A.R. Rahman and lyrics written by Sampooran Singh Gulzar, but the producer Subhash Ghai did not find it fitting in the movie for the actor Zayed Khan, so he let the song be used for this production.
Rahman was born to a Tamil Hindu family. His father R. K. Shekhar, was a composer and conductor for Malayalam-language films of Keralite cinema. Rahman lost his father when he was 9 years old, and his family rented out musical equipment as a source of income. He converted to Islam from Hinduism in 1989 along with his sisters.
Rahman served as a keyboard player and an arranger in bands such as "Roots", with childhood friend and percussionist Sivamani, John Anthony, Suresh Peters, JoJo and Raja. Rahman is the founder of the Chennai-based rock group, "Nemesis Avenue". He played the keyboard and piano, the synthesizer, the harmonium and the guitar.
At the age of 11, he joined, as a keyboardist, the troupe of Ilaiyaraaja, one of many composers to whom musical instruments belonging to Rahman's father were rented. Rahman later played in the orchestra of M. S. Viswanathan and Ramesh Naidu, accompanied Zakir Hussain, Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan and L. Shankar on world tours and obtained a scholarship to the Trinity College of Music, where he graduated with a degree in Western classical music.
In 1992, Rahman began his own music recording and mixing studio attached to the backyard of his house called the Panchathan Record Inn, which was developed into India's most advanced recording studio
In 1992, he was approached by film director Mani Ratnam to compose the score and soundtrack for Ratnam's Tamil film Roja.
The debut led Rahman to receive the Rajat Kamal award for Best Music Director at the National Film Awards, the first time ever by a first-time film composer. Rahman has since then gone on to win the award three more times for his scores for Minsaara Kanavu (Tamil) in 1997, Lagaan in 2002, Kannathil Muthamittal (Tamil) in 2003.
Rahman attached and opened a developed extension studio to his Panchathan Record Inn in 2005 called AM Studios in Kodambakkam, Chennai — considered to be the most developed, equipped and high tech studio in Asia.
In 1999 Rahman, along with choreographers Shobhana and Prabhu Deva Sundaram and a Tamil cinema dancing troupe performed with Michael Jackson in Munich, Germany, for his "Michael Jackson and Friends Concert." In 2002, he composed his maiden stage production Bombay Dreams (2002) following a commission from musical theatre composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, a success in London's West End. With Finnish folk music band Värttinä, he wrote the music for The Lord of the Rings theatre production and in 2004, Rahman composed the piece "Raga's Dance" for Vanessa-Mae's album Choreography.
He has three children, Khadijah, Rahima and Aman. Rahman is related(co-brother)to the southern Indian actor Rahman(Rashin Rahman). Rahman is the uncle of composer G. V. Prakash Kumar.
In 2006, Rahman launched his own music label, KM Music. Its first release was his score to the film Sillunu Oru Kaadhal. Rahman scored the Mandarin language picture Warriors of Heaven and Earth in 2003 after researching and utilizing Chinese and Japanese classical music, and co-scored the Shekhar Kapoor helmed Elizabeth: The Golden Age in 2007. His compositions have been reused in scores within India and have made appearances in Inside Man, Lord of War and The Accidental Husband.
In 2008, he scored the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack, for which he won two Academy Awards and many other awards. He becomes the first Indian to win two Oscar Awards For Best Original Score and Best Original Song.
Friday, February 20, 2009
My tryst with Awards started the very first year I shifted my base from Kolkata to Mumbai. Soon I realized that Bollywood Award nights are far beyond giving recognition to the latent talents of Bollywood. It’s more like a business proposal for the Film Magazines, who have created this platform to make money from the sponsors, advertisements and of course the satellite rights. When we have a high handed pressure of sponsors mounting on us, we tend to fall into their trap. It’s a constant fight between the editor and journalists (who wants to give awards to the genuine and deserving) and on the other hand we have sponsors and publishers who come with their wish list. A list you would not wish to see.
Of course most of the awards have jury members has hogwash act. It becomes easy to blame on the jury when the actor calls the editor directly. Don’t we all know the actual function and power of the jury members? In fact, the publishers and channel heads give strict instruction to the editorial team that if the actor is not present physically to receive the award (for the mainstream category) then they can change the name of the winner backstage and give it to someone who is present at the function.
Even Lifetime Achievement Award is also a big farce. Let me be precise, just to explain that how it works. The Award season starts with Star Screen Award, then Stardust Awards and Film Fare Awards. Finally it’s Zee Cine Awards and IFFA which completes the season. These are the five important awards, along with Lions Award, V Shantaram Award, NDTV Indian Award so on and so forth. One veteran actor mentioned me once that, “Every year they must be doing a Google search and looking at actors who were born in 1950s and then find out that they are still alive or dead. They will call them and make them sit through the award and after giving the award they will ask them to give short speech. Tamasha dekho tali maro aur ghar jao.” Which is true. I mean they started with Shammi Kapoor and Nimmi, but every year the find it difficult to find someone senior. So they eventually end up giving Prem Chopras and Mac Mohans of the world!
In fact most of the time the actors would call the journalists or the editor to get a confirmation about the award and then they would step out. They are not at all interested in joining the award show, cheering up others and celebrating the success. Like for instance any front line actors like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Akshay Kumar or Hrithik Roshan, they would never attend any award show unless they are winning the award or they are paid to attend the award. (Clarification: The actors are paid huge amount to perform and later they agree to grace the occasion with their presence.) For instance, this year Rani Mukherji was shooting somewhere in Chembur, but still she didn’t attend Star Screen Awards because she was not nominated in any category. But these stars take out time (they would talk to their secretary, director, producer) if they are confirmed that they would win an award.
So finally it boils down to the fact that are they winning the award or not? Like every year Filmfare Awards (without failure) give some award to Shah Rukh Khan. Amitabh Bachchan and Yash Chopra. If they can’t find any suitable category, then they would create a new award and give him a trophy. It seems that SRK clearly states the award organizers that he needs to win some award if he is attending the show. Same goes for Hrithik Roshan. Since his Koi Mil Gaya days, he has decided that he would either perform on stage (get few crores for his seven minutes act) or would attend if he or his family member is winning the award. In fact the year Hrithik didn’t have any release or nomination, some organizer planned to give Rakesh Roshan Lifetime Achievement award and then backed out last minute because Hrithik was not available and they wanted him to give away the award to his papa!
There are instances like this which I can rattle off in one go. There are actors who would call the editor and senior journalist to do some ‘miracle’ and get them the best critic’s choice award. There are producers who would even offer money to plug their film on the stage and also give their film some silly award.
This year Akshay Kumar made a fool of himself by dumping the Best Popular Actor Award at Screen Awards, which he won for his loud performance in Singh Is King. He thought that people will think highly about him if he dedicated the award to Aamir Khan for Ghajini. But now a tabloid published that he actually gave it to Aamir because he didn’t want the Popular Award, but he was eyeing for the Best Actor Award, which went to Hrithik Roshan.
This year even Priyanka Chopra would pull all her strings to win award for Fashion (deserving again). But she needs to lobby hard because Aishwarya Rai is a very strong contender. I am sure Arjun Rampal must have been as shocked as we are, when they announced his name as Best Supporting Actor for Rock On, while Anupam Kher and Jimmy Shergill were nominated for Wednesday.
Zee Cine Awards and IIFA sounds little weird for me because they basically focus on the entertainment value on stage. They would fly down most of the actors, and the front line actors would win awards. I even know small time actors who would ask for passes for the awards and would like to sit with the stars and get their photograph clicked. For award shows which happened abroad, the wannabe actors make the maximum use of their opportunity. They would get their PR act at its best and meet the top notch producers and directors.
Most of the time the awards become very predictable. Like don’t we all know that this year Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai will sweep away the awards for their outstanding performance in Jodha Akbar (truly deserving). Actors plan their lines, speeches and even their red carpet costume. They talk to their PR agencies and ask them to think of ‘smart plug’ which would help them in positioning better in the market.
Not just that, there are some actors who just bluntly refuse to give away the awards to technicians. “Aare yaaar, don’t call me for those silly categories.” That’s what they would say to the backstage event management people. And for your kind information, those ‘silly’ categories are the one which actually makes these dimwits pretty and presentable on screen!
So, the award nights are nothing but a kind of Business Fair, where everyone makes fortune. The actors dance on stage, few collect award, few host the show and the organizers make loads of money and go back home smiling. The channels make most of it, because they get badly behaved host like Sajid Khan to raise the TRP bar, while some get SRK and Saif Ali to spoof the entire film industry, while some are happy giving away the awards to newcomers (at least they would attend the function without throwing any tantrums). This is a money game, one must realize the fact that no one should take it seriously. While I was having this argument on commercial Bollywood awards, a senior actor suggested that barring National Award and Padma Award rest are all rigged!
To that, I remember how every year National Award is targeted for being biased. We have seen the films which won awards. In fact I was reading Business Standard, which stated that recently when playback singer Kumar Shanu met External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, he couldn’t find an appropriate song from his repertoire to sing for him, so he sang a Tagore song from Ray’s Charulata. Shanu however was not entertaining Pranab babu for fun. It seems that Government of India has started the process of selecting the Padma award nominees from Bollywood, so celebrities from Mumbai are making beeline to showcase their talent. Even Bappi Lahiri, Udit Narayan are also trying their luck. Not just that, Shanu had to even please Mr Minister’s secretary and sing Ek Ladki Ko Dekha from 1942 Love Story, before meeting Mr Minister.
The trend however is not new. Mithun Chakraborty tried his luck few years back when he visited South block to meet senior government officials, in fact the security of the government office in South almost collapsed as most of the employees, helpers, and clerks were scrambling for his autograph. Days are not far when we will see huge hoardings like Manikchand Padmasri Award and Paan Parag National Award all over the city. I am fine with everything, till the ‘saas bahu’ channel doesn’t ask our President or Prime Minister to a throw a fit on stage and create some controversy for TRP! I think even TRP king Sajid Khan will also agree with me on this…
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Today, I am doing to talk about a special person. Someone who has made a name for himself. This man is hated by most of the media persons, but frankly speaking, I really wanted to mention about him for a long time in my blog. The moment you utter his name, journalists intended to poke fun at you. “Arre tu toh uska dost hai? Woh kisi ka dost nahin ho sakta hai...” they would cite a sardonic comment. I don’t blame those journalists, because most of them have had terrible experience with his man. He has rubbed most of the journalists the wrong way and he has no qualms about that. “Big deal, if they can act pricey, I can be priceless!” he jokes. He is someone who comes across as a publicity monger and he has no qualms in accepting that he ‘demands’ such favor from journos. I know for a fact that most of the editors and journalists hate him because of his ‘control freak’ attitude, but very few can actually ignore him. I am talking about the (in)famous, Dale Bhagwagar! The young PR person from Bollywood, who ‘control’ the PR of stars like Shilpa Shetty, Hrithik Roshan, Shiney Ahuja and others.
My association with Dale started two years ago, when I was working for a leading daily and he wanted to meet me after I published an article on Hrithik Roshan. “I was really surprised to see that you were the only reporter to get Hrithik’s quote on his birthday, where did you get his number? How did you manage? Other reporters are jealous of you… everyone has to go through me!” he blabbered non-stop for two hours! I was pretty sure, that this man is not like other ‘jee haan’ kind of PRs. He is a bit weirdo, in his own way, and big pain at times too. He bitches about half of the world and spoke how manipulative he is, and now wicked he can become if needed. He wouldn’t even wink for a moment before attacking any journalist. He doesn’t fear the media, because he knows his cards well and plays it even better! A smart bugger!
One thing which I hate in Dale, is something which Dale loves most in him. His ‘control freak’ attitude and his ‘over reacting’ to any incident. While other PROs would just make a phone call to the editor and seek for a corrigendum, if they feel that their clients have been attacked, Dale would send mass e-mail to media persons all across the nation. “My e-mailing list is stronger than circulation of any publication in India,” he boasts. So, don’t get bogged if you are bombarded with Dale (e) mails from Dale. He would scan the article and put an ‘untrue’ stamp on his and circulate it with his ‘true’ statement. But why does he play such cheap gimmicks? “That’s me! It might sound cheap to you, but it works for me. I don’t want a corrigendum in the same publication. I want people to read how journalists misreport and they get away with it,” he puts his point across.
I must admit, most of the reporters in entertainment world, live on the information that are parted by the PRs. None of them admit, because they pretend that it’s their hard work, but actually, it’s the PR industry that indirectly rules the entertainment section. They literally bargain like any pot-bellied Baniya would even on a MRP product. “Kya tu front page dilaiga… tu nahin kar sakta hai toh bol, main kisi aur ko deta hoon!” this is exactly the way, the talk to a journalist while dealing with a story. Nowadays, they insist on using the same photograph which they mail us.
I can tell you from my personal experience that Dale might come across as a freak when he asks the reporter to mention his name in the article or tries to keep everything under his control, but then I guess that’s how things function in Hollywood, while filmmakers and actors are aping Hollywood, why blame Dale for doing the same.
I remember a colleague of mine wanted to interview Shilpa Shetty (post Big Brother fame) and Dale agreed to fix that interview on one condition, that he will make it happen on a conference call. After the interview, the friend called me to say, “It was really ridiculous that Dale was listening to all my questions and I was not comfortable asking Shilpa question that I wanted to ask her.” Later when I confronted Dale, he casually said, “That’s exactly the point. I don’t want my clients to get into trouble. Most of the journalists would call my clients for gushy talks and finally when they reproduce it, they end up making controversies. My recording their conversations, I keep them under control and they can’t put words in my client’s mouth.” Huh!
Dale lives in his own world and the best thing is that, he believes that the rest of the world will finally follow him. “I know that most of the journalist hates me, but then it’s PR that’s ruling and the face of PR has changed over last five years. Earlier they were treated like agents to supply the synopsis and the photo stills of the films, but now, they decide everything,” he said.
Few months back, when Dale was giving interviews in galore to electronic channels and print media regarding Shilpa Shetty’s number being leaked out by some fan, I noticed that he was getting the maximum coverage at the cost of Shilpa. “I have asked most of my clients to change their number, so that I can keep a track of everything that’s happening in their professional life. I don’t like to intervene in any personal relationship which a star shares with a journalist. But there are exceptional cases like when some journalist pretends to be a friend and then writes negative (read harmful) stories about my client in pseudonyms, I make it a point in tracking down those journalists and de-link his/her connection with my client,” he explains.
Dale has been working hard on achieving what he wants. Some of the publications have banned him, some refused to mention his name, some even gives him undue preferences also… but no one can ignore him. Recently when I asked Dale to provide some photographs of Shilpa Shetty and Hrithik Roshan for a website, he agreed on one condition that we will have to give him the credit for the photographs. It was a technical error from our end that we couldn’t upload his name when the portal was launched. He immediately sent a stinker e-mail (read legal threat) to the editor and copied the same to me, stating that he would take action against us. I called him immediately and he laughed it off saying, “Ignore the mail… I just wanted you guys to upload my name.” Silly, right? But then, that’s Dale, at the drop of his hat he sends legal notice and seeks publicity from everything. The only ‘spokesperson’ who gets more mileage than his own clients! Clever move, I must say!
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Travelling from Malad to Nariman Point has been really painful. I mean though I have a chauffeur, but still it seems like a never ending road. Be it Link Road, S V Road or the Highway (probably India's only Highway which has chocobloc traffic), the road just doesn't end. It's been more than two years that I have been requesting PNC's Chariman Pritish Nandy and Creative Director Rangita Nandy to shift their office to somewhere midway like Bandra. That would have solved a lot of problem. But I guess, they prefer South Bombay for some reason unknown to me. Travelling from Malad to Nariman Point takes nearly 3 hours (one way) and the same (or even more) while returning. Considering that most of the film industry offices are at suburbs, I really can't fathom the fact that why aren't they moving out. I mean, travelling has becomes wastage of time. Imagine if you are supposed to travel 6 hours (average) everyday? That's killing!!
But guys, don't get me wrong. I have nothing against South Mumbai. I have somehow landed up in working at organizations which has their base in South Mumbai. My first job in Mumbai was at Stardust - Film Magazine. 100/E Old Prabhadevi Road. Though I belong to suburbs, my memories with South Mumbai have been always sweet.
When I shifted my base from Kolkata to Mumbai, I was very excited. For me, Mumbai means opulence and glamour. I guess, that's a general conception. I was worried about my accommodation in Mumbai, but Mr Nari Hira (owner of Magna Publications) offered an accommodation at Prabhadevi. It was a studio apartment (actually a chawl) just next to Stardust office. It was a small one room apartment, just livable for a bachelor. In fact, I enjoyed staying in that building for more than two years. It was fun... and the neighbours were extremely good. And how can I forget the local stationary store owner, who would even cook lunch for me once in a while. My office was at walking distance and I remember how my colleagues used to envy me, all in good humor.
The first day when I reached office at sharp 9:30 am, no one was there. Mr Hira called me in his lavish office room and we discussed story ideas. Then I had a brief meeting with Ashwin Varde (a sweetheart) who also briefed me the kind of stories Stardust does and their expectation from me. Around 10:30 I met the editor of Stardust Sonali Kotnis Jaffar. I remember clearly that, Mr Hira had called all my colleagues Hiren Kotwani, Dhaval Roy, Archana Aitthal and Suguna Sundaram and he was very upset about the fact that none of then reached office on time. Basically, Mr Hira didn't want me to get the feel that no one comes on time to work. But he would be right on time everyday. They all were furious at me, because I came on time. Later it became a joke that I would come on time even if there is an earthquake. Once in a while when I used to be late, Sonali would jokingly say, "Bahut traffic tha?" But, frankly speaking it was just like an extended family, which I miss till today. I have grown in terms of experience, I am happy with the kind of work I am doing, but I feel that I miss all my colleagues from Stardust!
My colleague Archana would always bring in humour with her bitchy statement. She is someone whom I really like for what she is. The 'care a damn' attitude makes her loveable. Every time she would come to office, she would start her day with: "Uff... aaj train mein na woh ladki ne..." Yes, that's Archana. Full of energy and humor. She would narrate a very serious incident in a way which would bring in smile. She used to stay in a beautiful bungalow at New Bombay. For me, New Bombay was just a place, I didn't have any idea about the distance. I would listen to all her funny stories, about her co-passengers and her daily trauma. And if I would say anything, or even comment something, she would immediately stop me saying, "Tu chup kar, pudak ke office chala ata hai.. Mumbai ka traffic aur train ke bare mein koi bhi idea hai?" Though she would have hundreds of problem with train service, still she loved travelling in train. "Ab yehi sacchchai hai meri zindagi ki..." she would mimic in Meena Kumari style!
Hiren would come from Mira Road, Shashank would come from Vashi, Dhaval would come from Borivilli, Sonali would drive down from Andheri and Suguna would come from Goregaon. Soon I started realizing that they all travel from far, and I am blessed that Mr Hira has given me accommodation. Loads of memories, which makes me smile every time I pass the lane. From the kulfiwala to dosa stall, from the small Sai Baba Mandir to laudrywala, those are the little things which make that dingy lane really colourful.
Later when I decided to move out from Stardust and join Times of India (Mumbai Mirror), I had to leave the accommodation. I started looking for rental place around Prabhadevi, and realized that it was just beyond my budget. Any decent apartment would cost anything between 20,000 to 50,000 and chawls would cost 10,000 to 15,000. Finally, I decided to shift to Andheri Lokhandwala. My new one bed room apartment was at Montreal Towers. I was very happy with my new pad, it was small, but beautiful. But soon I realized that I had to travel from Andheri to Town. I had to join my office which was just opposite Victoria Terminus (VT). Now that's far beyond Prabhadevi. Each day, I would travel, I would feel for my Stardust colleagues. I realized that what trauma they must be going through. I guess lakhs of people across the city are facing the same problem. And we really don't have any solution.
From day one, I had this phobia of travelling in Mumbai locals. I preferred to travel by air conditioned bus. Now that used to be another experience. The bus would take the longest route to reach Churchgate. That helped me in understanding each and every lane of South Mumbai. From Mahim dargah to Mumba Devi, from Babulnath to Haji Ali, from Naaz Cinema to Fashion Street. The magic of South Mumbai was growing on me. Frankly speaking, it's actually South Mumbai or popularly known as Town, has its own characteristic. The Gothic buildings, the Victorian monuments... all add specific character to the city. But it would take more than 3 hours to reach office. I would immediately rush to Times of India canteen to have lunch. (They would serve 6 to 7 items at just Rs 2.)
Mumbai Mirror was also fun. I was reading Khalid Mohammad's blog where he aptly mentioned that his tenure in HT can be compared to a film production. Even my experience with my colleagues, editors, PRs, stars and their secretaries would make enough fodder for Page 3 sequel. But I decided to move on, and joined Pritish Nandy Communications. Meanwhile I got married, moved to Malad and now I am travelling from Malad to Nariman Point. The crowd that gathers during the lunch break. The stalls... having masala dosa with my colleagues and subway salads. We witnessed 26/11, we were scared, but then we all came back to our regular life. Nariman Point symbolizes the heart of Mumbai. The first impression on this city. Though, South Mumbai is far, but somehow it's close to my heart.
I look at the streets of Mumbai. I see everyone is travelling, from one end to other. People are frustrated with everything, from roads to trains to buses. But still we are travelling, doing our duties. Every face comes with a different story, every day has a different tale... we need to live with these stories. More cars, more traffic and still we will move. Nothing stops in life... its about how you decide to move. The one who knows the right step, lives longer. Others perish!
Monday, February 16, 2009
This seems really exciting. It's been a while that most of my pals and colleagues have been wanting me to write something. Something which people want to know. Some genuine stuff... and less of fluff!! This is my first step... I need time to get set with this medium. But I am sure that this platform will be interactive and honest.
Your ideas and suggestions are always welcome.