|ARTS TRIBUNE||Friday, August 24, 2001, Chandigarh, India|
of Hindi theatre
Hannibal is the man we love to hate
Ilyasi back with ‘Fugitive ...’
Veteran of Hindi theatre
AS her daughter moves from drama to films, Nadira Zaheer Babbar, recipient of this year’s Sangeet Natak Akademi Award will continue on the stage, her passion for 30 years, as she "loves the auditorium."
While Juhi Babbar is all excitement over her lead role in the upcoming "Kaash Hum Aapke Hotei" which also introduces music wonderkid Sonu Nigam, the laid-back veteran of Hindi theatre is content to be on stage.
"It’s fine if people like branching out to something that takes them beyond an auditorium... But I feel happy in the theatre... Because I love the auditorium," says Nadira, the light behind the successful two decades of the Ekjute’ Theatre group.
However, she does have examples of people who just did not feel content with films, because "it cannot give what theatre can."
"Many come to me after doing serials or films and say they miss theatre much. There is a magic of live performance, an extreme passion, an intoxication about it...," says the actress, who was in New Delhi to play the title role in her new play "Begum Jaan."
"People have confessed to me that there is enough money in serials but not enough ‘maza’ (enjoyment). Some have said ‘It’s oh so boring to be there’," she says.
On the other hand, says Nadira, those who have done on the stage have a better chance of succeeding in television and films: "Its just a different medium. With a little bit of common sense one can succeed there too."
"What is important is to have confidence and ease of performance. The presence of camera should not detract you."
Of course, with around 30 years of experience behind her, she knows the nitty-gritties of acting.
It all started when one of the four daughters who was the "worst in studies" in a family of "committed Marxists and Communists", came from Lucknow to do "library science course" in Delhi University.
"A friend of my father, who was with the National School of Drama, told him that I should be admitted to the NSD instead of some library science course."
With two elder sisters yet to be married off, "I had to wait and spend time some way. I was keen to get married, magar kuch ho nahi raha thi (but nothing was happening)...!"
But when she heard of her father’s plan to admit her on the NSD, "I protested loudly. I just couldn’t act. So I cried and shouted."
But then, her father insisted and wanted her to try the NSD, at least three months. "If I don't like it I could very well take up the other course which was there anyway, he said."
But the initial months in the NSD changed everything: "After four-five months, I was into theatre, from head to foot."
The rest, as they say, is theatre history. She won the Akademi the year her Ekjute Theatre group celebrated its 20th anniversary with a Natyavasani drama festival in 2001.
Did the recognition come too late?
"Well it is a fact that recognition came quite late, but then, I am happy. Better late than never."
"I would have been happier had it come earlier. But that’s okay, I have survived, earned a reputation... Without any official or non-official financial assistance."
She survived because of "the support of some 25-30 young people who stood behind me, and my actor-husband Raj Babbar."
But the journey was not smooth. "After some time, I began feeling that not much was being done. We were doing convenient comedies, all housefull, for first five-eight years and we thought we were on the right path. Then there was a sudden lull."
"There is a point where you feel you are not satisfied. People in the group started saying we need change. We shook ourselves. We came out of it."
What she wanted to do was plays which give happiness, but at the same time give self-esteem; serious plays of course, but not ones nobody understands: "I did not want to do pseudo-intellectual plays. From my driver to my guru, everyone should understand my plays."
Then started the new face of Ekjute, with plays like "Sakubhai" and "Begum Jaan" which dealt on social issues, but with a refreshing mix of wit and humour.
Nadira Basheer still loves doing comedies. Out of her nine new plays, four are comedies. Even in more serious plays, there are strands of comedy.
But then, she agrees that Hindi theatre has not "quite caught up: "That’s because the country has not caught up. And theatre reflects on the country."
"We are going through an era of mediocrity. Why is another Ravishankar or a Birju Maharaj not born?
Hannibal is the man we love to hate
“The Cannibal” Lecter has been voted the “best baddie” in cinema history, according to an Internet poll of more than 17,000 film fans. Actor Anthony Hopkins’ Oscar-winning portrayal of the serial killer with a taste for human flesh beat ‘’Star Wars’’ bad boy Darth Vader and “Psycho” killer Norman Bates to claim the title. Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham from “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves’’ took the fourth place, followed by ankle-smashing Kathy Bates from Stephen King thriller “Misery”. A spokesman for www.Only-movies.Com, the website that carried out the survey, said it was Hannibal’s wit which made him so appealing. “People love Hannibal’s one-liners,’’ he said. The oldest villain to make the top 30 was Max Shreck’s Nosferatu in the 1922 movie of the same name. Other classic baddies included Christopher Lee’s “1958 Dracula”.
Actor Anthony Hopkins’ Oscar-winning portrayal of the serial killer with a taste for human flesh beat ‘’Star Wars’’ bad boy Darth Vader and “Psycho” killer Norman Bates to claim the title.
Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham from “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves’’ took the fourth place, followed by ankle-smashing Kathy Bates from Stephen King thriller “Misery”.
A spokesman for www.Only-movies.Com, the website that carried out the survey, said it was Hannibal’s wit which made him so appealing. “People love Hannibal’s one-liners,’’ he said.
The oldest villain to make the top 30 was Max Shreck’s Nosferatu in the 1922 movie of the same name. Other classic baddies included Christopher Lee’s “1958 Dracula”. Reuters
Desi style (Magnasound): Stylebhai cut his first solo album in India, "Stylebhai", way back in 1994. After that "Desi Style" is only his second solo album, although he has featured in "Roop Inka Mastana", "Wajah Muskurane Ki", "Oorja" and "Howzzat!". It features eight songs in various styles, such as hip-hop, patois, rap and techno.
The real name of the singer is Jai Menon. He originally chose the pseudonym Style, but later changed it to Stylebhai, perhaps to cater to Indian tastes. He was in New York in the 70s and grew up absorbing the influence of Michael Jackson, Debbie Harry and the likes. In 1991, he headed Bombay-wards to become an actor. In fact, he did sign a contract for a Hindi movie, but lost the role to the director’s nephew. (The film never got made.)
He switched to singing. His first album went gold. Later, he recorded several albums and also shared the stage with the likes of Sting, Spice Girls, Bon Jovi and No Doubt.
The title number is a gangster hip-hop song about love and deception in the underworld. Reggae dancer ... narrates one day and one night in the life of FBI (Full Blooded Indian), a name that Stylebhai uses for his English or international tracks.
But a majority of the songs are influenced by the Bollywood style. Tere saath karna hai pyar ... is almost a film song done with US-based singer Sheela Bellave. Also included is a cover version of a popular song from the film "Julie", My heart is beating ... in which his co-singer is Hema Sardesai.
The video for the album has been picturised on the song Tere bina ..., a soulful techno duet featuring Devan, who is the co-producer/arranger of the album.
Indian mantra (Sony): This is the Independence Day season and to coincide with it, Sony has come out with this compilation of patriotic songs. This tribute to Mother India features such legends as Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Shubha Mudgal, Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Pt. Jasraj, Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Jagjit Singh, Dr Bhupen Hazarika, Dr Balamurlikrishna and D.K. Pattamal.
The title track is from the album Vande Mataram 2, and was conceived as a mantra for the new millennium. Also included is Maa tujhe salaam ... from the album Vande Mataram.
The greatest musical maestros of the country have come together to render the instrumental version of the National Anthem from the album Jana Gana Mana. It is also there in a vocal version.
Young classical artiste Kaushiki Chakraborty renders a melodious tarana which was used in the film "Sacred India".
Jeeto (Moon Records): Punjabi pop is no longer as hot as it used to be, but albums of this genre continue to spin out of the assembly line with unfailing regularity.
This one is by debutant singer Romey Gill which is aimed solely towards the dance floor. The beat is fast and traditional lyrics have been westernised to suit modern taste. So, ever the traditional "bolis" take an angrezi avatar.
Ilyasi back with ‘Fugitive ...’
As for Ilyasi, he has a young, vibrant personality. He personally adapted for India, programmes of a similar nature he had seen on both British and American TV, and soon built up a large following.
There was a British Viceroy some time before Partition, I simply cannot recall his name, who wrote a book of poems entitled Other Men’s Flowers. And that, alas, has also been the fate of our amiable colleague, TV aspirant Manoj Raghuvanshi, who has consistently picked up other men’s programmes where they left off. First it was Rajat Sharma’s "Aap Ki Adalat", which Raghuvanshi adopted after Rajat had dropped it, and after some time it vanished without a trace. And now he is going strong, but not too skilfully, with Sohaib Ilyasi’s erstwhile very successful programme "India’s Most Wanted", which he collected after Ilyasi got into an unfortunate legal controversy, and DD being DD, followed rules and regulations and dropped the programme pending Ilyasi’s clearance from legal tangles.
Now the trouble with other men’s programmes is that they are usually built around the personality of the anchor, and Rajat Sharma attracted a vast following because of his smiling, relaxed style and the enormous homework and research he put into his questions which made the most smug of politicians squirm. As for Ilyasi, he has a young, vibrant personality. He personally adapted for India, programmes of a similar nature he had seen on both British and American TV, and soon built up a large following with a blend of reality, dramatic reconstruction, cooperation with the police, the palpable passion and sincerity with which he pursued his prey, involving viewers in the pursuit of criminals, which gave them a sense of participation. Both Rajat and Sohaib have what is an essential ingredient in anchoring, style. And this, unfortunately, is what Raghuvanshi lacks.
Taking only the example of "India’s Most Wanted", Raghuvanshi still seems confused about his role as anchor in such a programme, which should be involvement without taking over the role of the police, the interrogator or the prosecution lawyer. Raghuvanshi scowls, thunders, grimaces and goes through a gamut of aggressive changes of expression which are now part of an anchor’s role. Besides, his dramatisation lacks credibility because of poor casting, poor performances, monotonous backdrops and poor props. In last week’s episode, we had a succession of victims being threatened, beaten up and then eliminated in exactly the same way. These episodes were woefully brief because of the preponderance of endless advertisements which held up the action and broke up the continuity. The blood in his programme did not look even like tomato ketchup, but like light red ink. One could not help contrasting Ilyasi, in his come-back programme Fugitive Most Wanted which has started on Jain TV on Mondays at 10 pm. The first episode was not up to Ilyasi’s usual technical standards, captions were wrongly spelt (violence, Yadva for Yadav and Shuttel for Shuttle), but the youthful passion and dedication were intact, the characters and reconstruction of events convincing and the blood looked like real blood. Raghuvanshi had better watch out.
An interesting fallout of the first programme is that the head of the Shiv Sena in Delhi has asked the government to provide more security protection for Ilyasi.
Already, programmes such as "KBC" have been questioned for encouraging greed for money and its rivals on Zee and Sony carried consumer ambitions even further. The children's "KCB" with Amitabh Bachchan on Sunday’s has dropped all pretensions of being a serious quiz for children as are the earlier children’s quiz programmes on Zee and other networks where the winner is proud enough without winning crores or washing machines. But to their credit the newer quizes at least involve answering questions and a degree of genuine competition. But the programme "Khul Ja Sim Sim" on Star Plus is a pure guessing game where participants have to guess what is behind a closed door to win prizes which can range from nothing at all to a car, as happened last week. There is no brainwork of any sort involved, it is a pure game of chance and what look suspiciously like downright gambling. Surely there is some media ethics involved which deserves to be questioned?
Would like to pay a heartfelt tribute to the short interlude which
comes between overs on Sony Max during the India-Sri Lanka cricket
matches. It shows how ordinary India plays cricket, on busy streets,
on make-shift playgrounds, retrieving balls from under taxis and
chasing balls down little village lanes. I have yet to find out who
sponsored or who made this delectable film. Undoubtedly someone who
not only loves cricket, but also loves India.