|ARTS TRIBUNE||Friday, July 13, 2001, Chandigarh, India|
Khan to go back to films
The great media
Abel is indeed
Sanjay Khan to go
back to films
SANJAY Khan’s story is the reverse of most of Bollywood stars: from films to TV serials and back to the silver screen with a big bang.
The mega star of the ’60s is planning a mega film based on the epic Ramayana and with icons like Amitabh Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan in lead roles.
"Maryada Purushottam’, a mythological film based on the life of Lord Rama will have Amitabh Bachchan as Dasarath," said the actor-director-producer, in the Capital recently to promote his historical megaserial "1857-Kranti".
While he is tight-lipped about rumours that Bollywood heart-throb Hrithik Roshan, his son-in-law will be Rama, it is currently the industry’s worst-kept secret.
"I cannot make a statement about Hrithik doing the role right now. Hrithik to mera bachcha hai... (he is my son). He is very busy now."
Then he hastens to add: "For Rama, we are looking for a man with beautiful eyes, good physique and a charisma that suits the role." If not Hrithik, who else is he talking about?
"Jackie Shroff will be doing the role of Ravana, and with the production experience we have acquired over the years through television, we can assure you the film will be a visual feast."
He is not merely boasting, going by how the people have received his serials like "The Sword of Tipu Sultan," "Jai Hanuman", "The Great Maratha", "Shohrat" and "Jannat".
Khan has two more films and a couple of serials like "Maharathi Karan" and "Alladin" lined up.
The next film that he is planning will see yet another star son debut: "Zayed Khan is a graduate from London School of Acting," the proud papa informs.
While family soaps in designer households with almost the same "saas-bahu" storylines rule, Khan has chosen his own path of historical and mythological serials, renewing his commitment with the saga of India’s first war of independence in the serial "1857-Kranti." Why?
"In the age of low cost family dramas, what I tried to attempt in ‘Kranti’ was a serial that has got quality of an epic, and has cinematic values."
"What we see in channels is just superfluous. There is no depth in these family soaps," says Khan, who opened the genre of historical megaserials to Indian television with the highly successful "The Sword of Tipu Sultan."
"Except a few programmes, the channels are full of rubbish," he alleges. "I cannot contribute to this way of thinking. So I chose a different path."
"People watch programmes not for channel loyalty, but for its quality. The gameshows are becoming too much and boring," says the man who feels a product must speak for itself, more than the promos.
For him, "1857-Kranti", a 104-episode megaserial that started on June 2 in DD-I, was a challenge indeed: "The idea to make a serial on the first war of independence or what the British called Sepoy Mutiny was in my mind from the time I was working on Tipu Sultan.."
The serial is not strictly historical, as "we had to fictionalise a little to create a few dramatic moments."
All events in the serial had been shot on location. "Not a single set was made for the shots. Because I feel the sets do not convey the full momentum of the events."
It being a mega project, the budgets are equally high: "We are working on an estimated budget of Rs 2.5 crore. In the long run, each episode will be shot under a budget of around Rs 13 to 14 lakh."
Two more serials are in the pipeline, a mythological based on the life of Karna "Maharathi Karan" and another based on Arabian Nights "Alladin."
"The story of Karan, I feel, is for all time. We have already shot the childhood and adolescence of Karan. Aladdin is basically for children. In it we have in store some great post-production special effects."
An established director-scriptwriter
with his own production company Numero Uno, Khan is an ace businessman
who also runs a successful spa business in the city of his birth,
Bangalore: "My spa business is quite successful, which, I dare
say, has made Bangalore the spa capital of India." PTI
PAKHIYAN VE PAKHIYAN (Sony): Gulzar has been on the refined Urdu scene for so long that many of his fans do not even know that he is a "pucca" Punjabi. Nor that he has been writing much in Punjabi. This album is one of the rare ones where he weaves the magic in his mother tongue.
He studiously stays away from complicated stuff. In fact, if his photo did not appear on the jacket, it would be difficult to guess that some of the eight songs here are his creation. The brilliant touch is best seen in Jutti Kasoori... number, where he twists the traditional lyrics admirably: Jutti Kasoori, aa gayee poori….
The name of the composer has not been mentioned but the music resembles that of the Hindi films of Gulzar, including "Maachis".
The singers include Bhupinder Singh, Shafqat Ali Khan, Rajender Malhar, Chitra and Ranjhna. Traditional songs maintain their purity.
SAJNAA (Tips): By now, Hema Sardesai has made room for herself on the cinema bandwagon. But it is standing room only. Big success has eluded her. As if to showcase her talent, she has teamed up with star maker Jawahar Wattal to come up with this album of nine songs of various hues. These have been penned by Sameer and are more or less film songs for all practical purposes. However, since Wattal is not sold out to Bollywood, there is certain freshness about the creations.
One song where she is out of depth is Dilbar jaanam …. The problem lies with her banshee-like shriek of the word "Jaanam". Obviously she is trying to emulate Shweta Shetty, conveniently forgetting that her voice is not up to it. Otherwise, she has done a good job.
One would have expected her to chart her own course in the traditional Duma dum mast Kalandar …, but she has decided to stick to the template finalised by Pakistani singers.
RASBHARI BAJAYE BANSURI (Ninaad Music): This title is a part of the Krishna series that includes various musical forms, including classical, semiclassical and folk.
Young maestro Sanjeev Abhayankar is a worthy torchbearer of the Mewati Gharana. The disciple of Sangeet Martand Pandit Jasraj presents six compositions based on various ragas. Shringara is the predominant mood in which Krishna is depicted as a mischievous, playful lover.
Sanjeev’s singing portrays the way
Krishna affects the women who fall in love with him, the pain of
separation from him and the love that is triggered by his mesmerising
flute. He delineates elements of love, pain and mischief with élan.
SELDOM has the Indian media gone so overboard over Indo-Pak relations as over this summit. Certainly not during the bus ride to Lahore and only over Kargil, for very different and valid reasons. The amazing coverage from home bases as well as the Indian media doing curtain raisers from Pakistan, has to be seen to be believed. Even professional media-watchers, such as your columnist, are finding it almost impossible to keep pace. But it is not merely the quantity but also the variety and the unexpected which keep one fascinated.
For instance, Pankaj Pachauri’s "Hot Line to Pakistan" bringing face to face for a dialogue Farooq Abdullah and Sardar Abdul Qayyum of "Azad Kashmir". Like long-lost brothers in a "desi" film, it ended in brotherly bonhomie and invitations to visit each other. One had barely recovered when there was Begum Musharraf, the President’s mother (who once worked for the United Nations) saying that one thing about her son: "He never bears grudges and he never keeps things within himself; he always speaks out". Then there was Barkha Dutt in Islamabad, doing an open-air "We the People" with about 20 participants, editors, professors, students talking about what they expected of the summit which was, in a nutshell, Kashmir, and asking, as they always do, what happened to the UN Resolution? I am glad Barkha reminded them about that bit about Pakistan vacating "Azad Kashmir" first and the UN Secretary-General saying it no longer applies and also that there are more Muslims in India than in Pakistan. One cannot forget the diehard Editor of an Urdu paper who said in the most blunt terms: "Larke liya Pakistan, larke lenge Kashmir".
All this, and I include channels like Aaj Tak and Zee also doing their bit, showed admirable media enterprise, admittedly spurred on by competition. But a deafening silence from the Pakistan electronics media. Because PTV, alas, has no competition and is so government - dominated that DD almost seems avante garde in contrast. The Pakistan press has done much more, including self-analysis, much of it reproduced in Indian papers. And visiting media people such as Hameed Haroon have certainly spoken with detachment and reason. So if the eternal experts in panel discussions are partly playing a guessing game with great seriousness or whistling in the dark, one cannot help wondering whether all the excessive media hype will not mean coming down with a bigger bang when the talks, as many people think, will lead to little which is either exciting or positive and we go back sadly to square one.
Then, in the middle of all the political bickering and hair-splitting, the page 3 style stories about food, hotels, havelis, ayahs and other social trivia. One would think there was no Kargil or whose brain-child it was. Or the need to ask why the cream of youth on both sides are dying in Siachen. Because in the final analysis, it is ordinary people and not politicians or their sons who go to die on the war front.
So if there is one thing I wholeheartedly support in the media coverage, it is the way common people from both sides are expressing their anguish about the human aspect. Of separated relatives, of mothers who lost their sons in Kargil, of wives from earlier wars whose husbands have been in Pakistani prisons for 30 years and for whom hope is eternal. Of the Kashmiri Pandits, Sikhs and other minorities in Kashmir whom General Musharraf seems to have forgotten, so stuck is he on the Hurriyat. It is the media which is highlighting the plight of poor people unable to make it to Islamabad from Karachi (mostly Mohajirs with relatives in India) or from Mumbai to Delhi to get visas. Or the hopes of crossing the border without visas, as the Americans and Canadians do, as neighbours should. Of ordinary people on both sides who wonder why the cream of their youth has to die cruel and needless deaths in Siachen. I think our media should present the Pakistan President with video-cassettes of these programmes, so that he realises what is being done to innocent human lives and what a great responsibility lies on the shoulders of both the leaders.
It is embarrassing enough at live Press conferences, but disastrous on
TV when our MEA spokesperson not only visibly reads out her script
woodenly at dictation speed, but does so like a child at a nursery
school. Surely, she can do better than this? After all that diplomatic
experience? Here again, the sophisticated and confident Pak
spokespersons are scoring over us, as is their PR, in contrast to our
government’s lackadaisical approach, all the more so because we can
do equally well, if not better.
HE walks down the road with an air of confidence and dignity. Most pleasantly, his appearance compliments his understated yet enigmatic personality that he bears as an artistic individual. Roystan Abel is one of the rare species who silently observes, assimilates and absorbs as if almost effortlessly, only to establish his complete understanding and power of retention at a moment when it might be least expected. Roy (as he is fondly known) enjoys being a patient listener and enters into a conversation only when he deems it necessary. With an accentuated passion for meaningful and creative theatre and a zeal to enjoy the best that life has to offer, Roystan Abel shared certain special moments and experiences so far, while on his maiden visit to Chandigarh, a couple of weeks ago.
Question: What got you enwrapped into the world of drama?
Answer: " Back in Kerala , when I was growing up , the so-called impressionable years of my youth (1988-89) witnessed the epitome of the indigenous theatre movement. Spurts of brilliant and socially relevant plays were performed by known theatre buffs of the region. Coupled with this was the charged atmosphere of the state itself that lent a different sort of intoxicating enthusiasm for youngsters like myself. In other words, my being vociferous about the kind of theatre that I indulge in professionally, stems basically from such strong and everlasting impressions and influences from my younger days.
Q. Do you subscribe to the notion that there is something called contemporary Indian theatre and that it is distinct from what has been existing?
A: " I feel that India as a country has been quite unsuccessful in promoting theatre as an art form. An expression from the self cannot be dismissed as ‘nautanki’. Sadly, that is how many of us perceive Indian theatre. And a concerted effort towards reducing this misconception is in itself an uphill task for many committed people from dramatics. It is difficult to term or label theatre as A -type since the very context of it changes with time and situation. I direct theatre not so much as a form of art but as a communication link for my conviction regarding a particular theme/issue. I take it as a tool that needs to be applied for rendering my sense of change and the need to re-evaluate the goings on of human life."
Q. Your previous productions such as "Othello" and "Much Ado About Nautanki" seem to reflect your fascination with the great Bard of all times?
A. These plays and some more were from my second phase of work when I related most to the ‘Shakespearean flavour of a theatre curry.’ However, both "Othello" and "Much Ado….." were distinct in their characterisation as theatrical representations. While the former was more of a reactionary play, the latter was a very expensive musical with a huge star cast.
Q. Do you script your own plays?
A. Well, yes, usually I script and devise the entire production having conceived the basic idea and structure of the play. But as is often the case with an artiste, influences, innovations and improvisations pave their way simultaneously. As a result, what I had originally planned or thought of, gets revamped completely and the final product only bears a glimpse of the initial design.
Q. It is learnt that you are taking a fresh play for the forthcoming French Theatre Festival in Edinburgh in August this year. What is the production all about?
A. This happens to be my first play of the third phase of my work. I have named it "A Beggar’s Opera." The idea for which was inspired from my accidental encounter with a world of forgotten folk artistes living in one of Delhi’s largest slum dwellings, popularly known as ‘Katputalinagar’. A majority of its residents are migrants from Rajasthan who have converted themselves into puppeteers out of sheer compulsion of sustaining themselves and their families.
This is similar to what happened to thousands of traditional Maharashtrian folk artistes as a consequence of the 1959 Bombay Beggary Act. All of them turned into paupers and began leading a life of oblivion and humiliation for no fault of their own.
For my latest production I personally auditioned 1,500 performing artistes of this colony and short-listed 12 adults as part of the cast. As for the plot of the play, it revolves around an Englishman’s (played by Barry John) search for a particular character that will help him understand the elusion that India is, Exotica — the myth and the actual. It can be looked upon as a paradigm shift in my career as a theatre director.