|ARTS TRIBUNE||Friday, March 29, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
in the making
in the making
A young and enthusiastic artiste-photographer of Shimla, Mayank Ranjan, has carved out a niche for himself in the production of documentary films. It is due to his dedication and hard work that he has earned a name for himself in a short span of seven years. He is running his own production house in Shimla and is an active member of the Indian Documentary Producers Association.
His first documentary film, "Apple — Pride of Himachal", was presented at the International Shoot Film and Video Festival — 2000 held in Germany and was highly appreciated. In this documentary, the Himachal apple is shown as a symbol of prosperity, which has revolutionised the hill economy. The documentary traces the history of Himachali apple orchards. It depicts how apple was brought to Himachal, the contribution of local people who helped in developing the quality of apple and transforming Himachal Pradesh into the "apple bowl of India." It details how apples are grown and its products are distributed in retail market throughout the world. This documentary film was screened on the Doordarshan network during October, 1999.
When asked about this documentary, the soft-spoken artiste said: "Himachal Pradesh is one of the most picturesque states of India, with a rich cultural heritage, where horticulture plays a pivotal role in improving the socio-economic condition of the hill people.
His documentary film, "Image behind the Image", which got him recognition and appreciation, was screened by Doordarshan in February 1999. In this documentary, he has portrayed the life of ‘cut-out artists’, who draw larger-than-life images of known figures. These artists can be seen hanging huge cut-outs of film stars, politicians, but people hardly know about this art and the struggling artist behind it. In this documentary the "cut-out artists" narrate their style of working, working conditions, livelihood, the attitude of other professional artists towards them and about the slow death of this art as lesser people are venturing into this field. This documentary talks about the cut-out artist, who is the "image behind the image."
The talented youngster got laurels for yet another documentary film "New Frontiers", a beautiful picturisation of the women bus conductors of Hyderabad and the hardships faced by them in day-to-day life. The documentary portrays the courage and conviction with which they are boldly pursuing their career and emerging victorious in the daily struggles. Mayank has also made corporate films for the Himachal Road Transport Corporation and for Gujarat Ambuja Cement.
Mayank’s rendezvous with production began in 1993, when the state government assigned him to cover Shimla’s famous Summer Festival. Here Mayank got an opportunity to exhibit his talent and gain experience. It was at that time that he got the opportunity of covering a fashion show in which former Miss Universe Sushmita Sen had also participated. She had, then, yet to acquire the Miss Universe title. Talking about Sushmita, Mayank recalls: "Sushmita was most professional in her performance and had expressive, photogenic looks which paid her dividends."
Born and brought up in Shimla, Mayank got encouragement and inspiration for photography, painting and film-making from his parents. His father, a well-known photographer, had also been making documentary films for the state government. His late mother, a lecturer in fine arts at Government Girls College in Shimla, too motivated him to pursue his creativeness. Mayank started painting while in school and graduated to photography during his college days.
After doing PG diplomas in personnel management and journalism and mass communication, Mayank obtained a diploma in television production from Hyderabad Central University. His creativity blossomed during his stint as assistant director with the Zee Production House in Mumbai.
When asked about his ambition in life, Mayank says: "As a film-maker, I will aim to make documentaries brimming with information, education and entertainment". He aims to capture the Himachal’s scenic beauty, rich cultural heritage and hidden treasures of the legends on the screen.
When asked about his future plans,
Mayank said he wished to establish his own studio and serve his state
and country by making art films, serials, parallel films and
documentary films. Mayank is also fond of trekking, reading books,
watching movies. Listening to folk songs and classical music is his
favourite pastime. As he reveals, Music inspires me the most".
Tum Aaye (Sony): Javed Akhtar’s "Tum Yaad Aaye" was a big success. Here comes a sequel in which Hariharan and Alka Yagnik engage in a musical dialogue of his exalted poetry. The lyrical quality of ghazals is wedded to Indian ragas to make it a mellifluous combination.
Simplicity is the hallmark of the pen of Padma Shri Javed. So, the emotions that he portrays have a universality about them. He elevates the union of two souls to a sublime level in the title track. Mujhe aaj … and Tum jo mile … speak of the magical chemistry that develops through a mere touch of hand or just being in the presence of a lover. On the other hand, Iqraar … is a look at the bitter-sweet memories that almost every lover has to accumulate.
Composer Raju Singh has made sure that there is no cacophony of sounds to distract from the subtle emotions. Light percussion and flute are a delight. Threads of western classical instrumentation have been gently woven into the delicate embroidery by the 32-year-old Raju, who has now also moved into films with "Paagalpan" besides doing a lot of background scores, including the critically acclaimed "Chandni Bar".
BARKAT SIDHU LIVE IN CONCERT AT INDIA GATE (Music Today): Listening to Barkat Sidhu when he sings timeless poets like Bulle Shah, Shah Hussain, Baba Farid and others can be a soul-stirring experience, considering that his voice is simply one with Sufiana poetry. The magic gets magnified particularly during live programmes. In this live recording done at India Gate, he along with Ajit Pal (dholak) , Jaswant Singh (mandolin), Ghulam Ali (sarangi), Prashant Dwiwedi (tabla), Ajay Prasanna (flute) and Lovely Sharma (keyboard) takes one to a Sufiana high.
Barkat was born at Kaniya village near Shahkot in Jalandhar district in 1946. His musical journey started at a very young age but formal training started only when he was 17, under the guidance of Ustad Kesar Chand. Eight years of devotion turned him into a fine exponent of Patiala Gharana.
Here he also sings traditional Heer and lok geet Chand badlan … in his unique style.
SAMEER DADA (Magna): This album goes the whole hog while picking up rap from the USA. The rat-tat-tat of verbal abuse is full of "Mawali" language used in Mumbai. It stops just short of using four-letter words.
The Indian media’s habit of going over the top when any international event approaches is now sadly familiar. It can be cricket, Miss World and most recently "Lagaan" and the Oscars.
Star News alone had three major programmes on the same day. Barkha Dutt’s tedious and trite "Bhaji on the Beach" interview with Aamir was recorded in advance. Rajdeep Sardesai’s Big Fight which had a line-up of participants, with the honourable exceptions of Amit Khanna and Mahesh Bhatt, pussy-footing round the Oscars. So busy were they glorifying the "desi", or should one say "bhasha", cinema, which stands quite tall on its own both qualitatively as well as quantitatively. As if it needed this Oscar nomination to decide whether it has arrived or not. Not one participant, bar Mahesh Bhatt in every programme in which he appeared, made three vital points: that America (and therefore Hollywood) does not give a damn for India. That all those excuses such as "over three hours", "too many songs" are balderdash. And, most vital of all, the foreign Oscar is a purely political award, a form of American patronage strictly subject to political scrutiny.
When the BBC’s movie-man in New York did his Oscar tour of India, I first asked if he had seen "Lagaan". Yes, in two instalments, the second the night before he landed in Delhi. Then I read out to him a list of 10 Oscar-winners over three hours in length: "My Fair Lady", "The Sound of Music", "Dr Zhivago", "Lawrence of Arabia", "Gone with the Wind", etc. I also told him that so emphatically was the foreign Oscar a political prize, that there were long years when Japan, China and Iran could not have had a look-in. And that if either Afghanistan or Pakistan had made a film they would surely have been in the running this year. And given the choice, both films being equal in merit (I have not seen "No Man’s Land") the judges must have found the Bosnian theme topical, the film easier viewing length-wise, about a part of the world about which the USA was more directly concerned, as contrasted with "Lagaan" choosing a period of history, a sport and a locale far removed from their experience. Also, it was a tiny film-making country, which judges try to encourage, not to speak of the small budget of the film. If the political factor might have weighed, the film still had enough other aspects to it.
If anyone showed up well on the media it was Aamir Khan. From first to last he spoke calmly, reasonably and was sporting as well as dignified in defeat. But the casualness, if not contempt, with which the Academy treats the foreign award and other countries was all too evident throughout. The cameras focussed everywhere in the audience except where the Indian aspirants were seated. The award was announced at such speed on the stage that one barely took it in. The director and screening (if any) got a small fraction of the time given even to short film winners. The final insult came when, with characteristic mindlessness and arrogance, the In Memoriam section paid tribute to "The American heroes" who died on September 11, completely ignoring the 200-odd Indians, 100-odd Germans and Britons, Pakistanis, Japanese, Latin Americans and other non-American heroes (and surely heroines) who had died at the same time.
Yes, the Oscars remain an excellent example of American show-biz at its glamorous best. But the stories of rank commercialisation, corruption, backstage intrigues and shocking slander campaigns should sober us up in India. It was far more prestigious and internationally important when the eminent French film historian Georges Sadoul went rushing to the Cannes jury, insisting they watched "Pather Panchali", saying they had a masterpiece on their hands, than a belated Oscar given to Satyajit Ray on his death-bed. The Indian cinema now makes an impact at international film festivals. And if the BBC (Western) world forgot to mention that the Berlin Festival jury chairperson was an Indian (Mira Nair), the loss is entirely theirs. And if their man in New York curiously covers Hollywood fro macros the continent, it is strange he overlooks Indian films and films made by expatriate Indians, getting top ratings even in US cinemas. Or that Jim Ivory and Ismail Merchant are based in New York or that Mira Nair visits frequently. They are all the same.
So, Oscar or no Oscar, perhaps we should learn to hold our heads high and say we, too, don’t give a damn for American assessments of our cinema.
most cautious comments, before and after the Oscars, were by those who
had suffered earlier. Shekhar Kapur ("Bandit Queen", shot down
by the industry and Arundhati Roy) and Bobby Bedi ("Bandit
Queen" for same reasons). And Shekhar Kapur ("Elizabeth"
this time) shot down by Miramax. And he was an Indian. As someone said
on TV, time the industry in India organised itself to sponsor, publicise
and push its films for Oscars and other awards.