|HER WORLD||Sunday, June 16, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
daughters of celebrity parents
the beti, not the bahu
daughters of celebrity parents
and geniuses. That's what we are talking about. Creativity, they say,
often gets transmitted into the next generation, albeit in different
measure and form. And where else would one see examples of this but in
the goldmine of creativity—Bollywood? Just the mention of a few
names would suffice: Pt Dinanath Mangeshkar and the legendary Lata,
Asha, Hridaynath and Usha, S.D-R.D. Burman, Bimal Roy-Rinki
Bhattacharya, Shobhana Samarth-Tanuja-Kajol,
Harivanshrai-Amitabh-Abhishek Bachchan, Sardar-Anu Malik and so on.
Lately, there have been Jeetendra-Ekta Kapoor, Rakhee and
Gulzar-Meghana. But these are what one calls the 'established'
There are some who are the 'rising stars' of Bollywood or Tellywood. They have made an impact but they have to yet reach the peak of success and popularity. Like Antara Kak, daughter of Siddharth Kak (of Surabhi fame), who has won acclaim and an award for her debut venture: A Life in Dance-Daksha Sheth. Or Payal Mukherjee, daughter of yesteryear actress Moushumi Chatterjee who is the creative head at the Prime Channel that produces soaps like Gharwali Uparwali and Hum Saath Aath Hain. Or Pia Benegal, daughter of Shyam Benegal who has done costume designing for Zubeida, Dil Se, An English August and Bombay Boys.
Antara Kak's 49-minute film, A Life in Dance - Daksha Sheth, won her the IDPA (Indian Documentary Producers Association) award for the debutant director. Currently the supervising director for the popular cultural tele-magazine Surabhi-I, Antara started off as an assistant to her dad while she was still studying English literature at Mithibai College.
"Long ago, in Surabhi, we had featured Daksha Sheth, a Kathak dancer based in Kerala. She is a contemporary dancer who uses lot of martial arts and folk dance in her work," says Antara.
A Life in Dance... is a visual treat. Partly because of the subject -- Daksha Sheth, but chiefly due to the treatment given to it. "Making this film was a difficult experience," says Antara. "For Surabhi, we had to shoot just 7-9 minute episodes but here was almost an hour-long film on one subject. I shot it in seven days. Dad came for 2-3 days and left. The entire onus was on me."
The ultimate product speaks of her efforts. The highlight of the film is an 8-9 minute dance sequence where a couple dances on a rock surrounded by water. Antara has superbly shot their movements and the sensuality expressed through them.
She admits that dad has been a great influence on her but she does differ from him in her style of filmmaking. "He is a research person while I am more a hands-on or practical person. Also for this film, I shot and edited. That is something which dad doesn't do."
As for her other influences, she mentions Devissaro, husband of Daksha. Devissaro is of Australian origin and is a great photographer. "His lighting is superb. While shooting for A life in Dance..., I learnt a lot about it from him," she says.
Antara may just be one film old but she has already got her ideas of filmmaking right. "My main goal is to captivate my audience. I want to dabble in all genres. Today it's a non-fictional film, tomorrow it could be fiction and the day after a feature film and then I may again make a documentary," she says.
Currently, she is doing a film on science and technology in India for the Ministry of External Affairs. "One has to have a broad scope in mind to do different things," she feels.
As a child, Antara had dreams of becoming an air hostess because somebody in her relation was a flight pursor. And today? "My dream is to make an ad film at some stage," she says.
Way to go, Antara!
Going great guns in her field is Pia Benegal. Pia is currently based in New Delhi researching for a film funded by Sahara India Pariwar. It's based on the life and times of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. "The film on Subhasbabu is in the pre-production stage and I am working on its research and the insights that this kind of film requires to create that particular period," Pia says.
Strangely enough, Pia had never thought of making a career in costume designing. "I accidentally stumbled upon this career," she says.
After finishing her diploma in Mass Communication, she joined HTA. After a stint there, she was looking for other opportunities but somehow they did not materialise. "Then I decided to join my father and initially started handling production and administration on his documentary projects. Then one day, my father asked if I would be interested in assisting him in costumes and other allied areas. He always felt that I had an eye for detail, colour, aesthetics that could be utilised."
Pia's first film was Antarnaad and she quite enjoyed her work 'thanks to the freedom of creative statement given' to her. The experience took her to NIFT, New Delhi, where she did a diploma in fashion designing. Meanwhile projects kept coming—Mammo, Sardari Begum, Making of the Mahatma, Zubeidaa with dad and with other filmmakers like Mani Ratnam (Dil Se), Govind Nihalalni (Drohkaal), Dev Benegal (An English August) and Kaizad Gustad (Bombay Boys).
She remembers Antarnaad since it was her first costume designing experience—locations, working with a unit for the first time, interacting with different actors and so on.
"Making of the Mahatma also had its own special charm. Working with an international multi-racial unit, both in terms of stars as well as technicians, incredibly stunning locations in South Africa, and the research I had to undertake to keep the authenticity of the period in mind… that was unforgettable," she recalls.
As for Dil Se, her first big commercial venture, she says, "The experience of working with a very fine director like Mani Ratnam and, of course, Shah Rukh Khan and Manisha Koirala was very rewarding." Add to that shooting amongst the scenic beauty of Ladakh in the cold!
Pia admits that she has been greatly influenced by her dad's sense of discipline that he brings to his work whether he is dealing with his actors or technicians. "I try and incorporate the same sense of discipline with my work team, while keeping the interaction informal and friendly as he does too. We share the same commitment to our work and what we do… striving for constant perfection in our cinematic endeavours or otherwise."
One can't stop asking Pia if she eventually sees herself getting into filmmaking. "At present, no, but one has no idea about what the future holds… so let's see!" she says.
She is in her 20s but already enjoys a prime position in the Prime Channel, the company that produces soaps for television. But Payal Mukherjee need not flash the label 'daughter of Moushumi Chattterjee' anywhere. If today, she holds the post of creative head at the Prime Channel, it's on her own merit and hard work. She has proved it through the popular show hosted by Shekhar Suman - Movers and Shakers!
A sociology graduate from Mithibai College, Payal was introduced to good cinema by her parents Moushumi and Ritesh Mukherjee. By watching great Hollywood classics, she learnt a lot about filmmaking. But it was actually a two-year-stint in Sony as an executive producer that turned out to be a good foundation for her. "Movers and Shakers was a great experience -- setting up the whole show, being part of it - it was really interesting, something I always wanted to do," says Payal.
And yes, the show was a great success. She then worked at Inhouse with Jaaved Jaffrey. For the last two years, she has been with the Prime Channel, working on popular serials - Gharwali Uparwali and Hum Saath Aath Hain along with Nirja and Shrey Guleri.
Though born and brought up in a filmi family - her grandfather Hemant Kumar was a good singer and music director and her mom yesteryear popular actress Moushumi Chatterjee, Payal was never interested in acting. Moreover, in future if at all she wants to turn to commercial filmmaking, "It has to be a film with good thought. Today I see many people saying that they want to make different films. But I want to make films with good thought, they may not necessarily be different," she says.
Working for television ever since she completed her graduation, Payal admits that she is 'little tired today'. She has taken on a few assignments for the Prime Channel which she would finish in a year and a half. "After that I will free myself of TV and try my hand at films," she says.
As for mom, Payal says, "She always encourages me and gives her critical opinion on my work."
for the beti, not the bahu
"THE girl is too smart. I do not want a smart daughter-in-law. We want someone who can be moulded. Someone young and innocent who will fit into the family and not have strong likes and dislikes. Jaise dhaaleinge dhal jayegi. She is out." With a wave of her manicured hand the woman had dismissed off the pretty young girl whose only fault was that she was articulate and confident. If you thought that only the mothers of eligible bachelors behaved in such an irrational, arbitrary manner, you‘d better have another thought. They have conditioned their sons to echo their thoughts so perfectly that it is only a lone ranger who dares to differ and select a wife whom he wants to spend his life with.
Sample some of these snatches of conversation with young and "enlightened" bachelors.
"Oh! That’s not the kind of wife I want. She is too argumentative and she does not like to lose an argument. She was wonderful as a friend but as a wife I am not too sure. My parents too will not be able to put up with her stubborn streak. After all a daughter-in-law has to fit in …" As his voice peters off, the young engineer finds absolutely nothing wrong with his decision not to marry a girl who, on his own admission, he had vibed so well with for four years.
Another "eligible" banker has this to say: "I want to marry a girl who will adjust and adapt. She can work if she wants to but should not have an ego. After all, ours is a traditional family and I want her to respect my parents. Most modern girls are so selfish and rude. I am looking for someone who will be mild and docile."
"So what if you have a doctorate. Do not brag about it or let it hamper our relationship. You are required to be a good wife, daughter-in-law and mother and your Ph.D. is in no way connected with that." This is what an executive in a premier liquor company had told his wife, a CSIR fellowship holder, before marrying her on the condition that she would neither work nor flaunt her doctorate to gain an "upper hand."
"I’m in the merchant navy, so my wife will have to stay with my family most of the time. I’ve asked my parents to look for a girl who will fit into the family. After all, one has to be practical in these matters. Of course, the girl should not be very beautiful because otherwise I will be insecure about her and she might not be faithful to me." If that was not foresight what was it? I wondered at the clarity of thought the twenty-something-handsome merchant navy sailor revealed in a casual conversation.
One cannot help wondering when we are liberally bringing up our daughters as confident young girls who are articulate and have minds of their own and are proud of their success and independence, why do we do a turnabout when it comes to looking for a suitable bride for our sons? The prospective bride should preferably not have a mind of her own or else how will she be "moulded?" Better still is that she should also not have a voice that is too loud and shrill. An echo is what is preferred. It is almost as if families want a made-to-order bride who will fit in and not rebel or upset the family dynamics in any way. How the self-willed, independent daughter is expected to metamorphose into a compliant and shadowy figure who will uphold the family traditions even at her own cost is a mystery that only those who ask for the seemingly impossible combination of ‘modern and traditional’ can solve. She should be modern outside the four walls of the home so that she can be flaunted as a social asset. This modernity should not translate into independence of thought and action or spur the girl to seek self-fulfillment. If a girl is competent to manage her own finances, she is seen as being ‘worldly wise’, which is not an asset in the eyes of the in-laws.
How often have we come across the seemingly contradictory demands and expectations? A would-be bride is often supposed to be articulate and smart so as to be a social asset. All the more better if she rakes in a fat pay-cheque because that too adds to the family’s prestige. At work she is expected to be assertive and confident as well as a good manager who can effectively tackle work pressures. But the same girl must discard that assertive mantle and become a submissive, docile and amenable creature who has no mind of her own. How she has to affect this miraculous transition without losing her balance or good sense is anybody’s guess. She must be a quick-change artist or be a maverick who can do the tightrope walk between personal desires and social expectations with grace.
What she wants or wishes for is obviously put on the backburner because she must thank god or the god-like boy who has condescended to marry her. How many girls try ever so hard to mould themselves to adapt and to crush their own personalities only to feel disappointed? Despite the fact that they bend backwards over to seek approval, there is always something that is lacking and doesn’t find favour with an attitude that leaves a lot to be desired. The very same attitude that keeps a daughter-in-law constantly on trial and a daughter that is pampered and cosseted. Are these daughters not going to be somebody’s daughters-in-law? How then are they going to cope with this sudden change in yardsticks and how are they going to reorient themselves?
Also in the workplace the need is for self-assured girls who can deal with all the challenges effectively. Once they marry, are they going to go in for a dramatic psychological and mental makeover or are they going to lead fractured lives donning one set of ‘qualities’ for the outer world and another more acceptable social garb for the domestic sphere. Instead of subjecting the girls to such unrealistic demands that compel them to thwart heir own hopes wishes and dreams, since it is a groom’s market wherein the brides (even in the 21st century) have to find acceptance on the terms of the boy’s family, would it not be easier to tone down the demands charter?
If only we could change our social
attitudes and mould them rather than expect to mould the girls who
marry into our homes. More things change, more they appear to be the
same. And often in trying to expect people to be different from what
they are, we destroy them. If education has failed to work, the
miracle, would a self-critical gaze and effort of will do the trick?
Perhaps yes, perhaps no. All one can do is hope for the tide to turn
and wish we had the same set of standards for both, the daughter and
the daughter-in-law. Some wishful thinking, is it?
RECENT reports about the bitter marital experience of a staffer of Government Medical College, the stabbing of a wife over begetting a second girl child, etc, even in a so-called modern city like Chandigarh are indicators that as far as the status of women is concerned, we are still in the medieval ages. Widespread female foeticide and support for it is the most obvious symptom of the unequs al gender equation in this region. Male chauvinism or the earthy word that denotes it dhauns (can be loosely interpreted as male overconfidence) is apparently the primary factor but the reasons go deeper.
A few examples should suffice to bring out the extent of bias against the fairer sex.
My first born was a girl. When I came home with her, a neighbour called out, "Better luck next time." This was the response from someone living in a posh sector of Chandigarh. No nurse at the government hospital congratulated the family. Instead, people looked askance when I distributed sweets.
I had the opposite experience at the birth of my son.
On a bus trip to Hoshiarpur, I watched a father and mother drool over a small male baby, their two grown-up girls, meanwhile, sat unattended all the way. On a train to Delhi, I observed a family from Karnal. All that the parents were discussing were the needs of their son, who sat smugly while the sister was even asked to give him water.
In the public parks, I observe that generally the males have good quality shoes while the ladies accompanying them are walking stiffly in chappals. The National Human Development Report — 2002 has also stated that, in general, the status of women is better in the South. There is a need, therefore, to initiate a multi-pronged plan to move to more equitable gender relations.
The political leadership of the region has to play a major and active role in creating the right environment for sociological changes. The prosperity from agriculture and allied activities cannot hide the fact that material prosperity has not been accompanied by the desired level of improvement in our social outlook.
The sociological values of this region have a deeply rooted bias in favour of the male. This is, unfortunately, true even amongst the women and the bias transcends community, social, economic, gender and regional divides. The need for political leadership to be proactive is one way to resolve the issue, but the main objective is the need to create a mass cultural movement. One way to do this could be by building up success stories in the media and developing role models for emulation. The second way could be through education. From class I onwards, all lessons in civics must stress that both genders are equal. At the same time, teachers must be sensitised to teach this with emphasis and they must be made to internalise them. Women from similar social background who have overcome attitudinal barriers need to be brought to the forefront of sensitisation campaigns.
Administratively, the model to change mind sets should be preferably slow, methodical and should use the ripple effect, that is, sensitise one area deeply and then spread out to the nearby areas methodically. The tendency to announce a large programme should be avoided. Start small, but build on successes swiftly, should be the mantra for social campaigns.
A major factor contributing to female foeticide and backwardness is lack of education. Education needs to be easily accessible to the females and the NGOs and developmental staff of the government must launch intensive campaigns to enable girls to attend school. The easy access to a school, at least till primary level with the required staff would be a motivator also. In Himachal Pradesh, the major reason for social progress is the realisation by all segments of society about the value of education. This has led most parents to ensure that all children irrespective of gender attend school. A similar value system needs to be inculcated in the plains. The National Human Development Report — 2002 highlights the fact that Himachal Pradesh had the highest Gender Equality Index in the last decade. There is no reason to doubt that the north-west plains can also emulate the example from the neighbouring hill state.
Culturally, we can learn from the
southern region where debates on various aspects of religion, musical
concerts and plays etc are attended by both genders and it serves as a
valuable tool in creation of social awareness. A second important
aspect to learn is the habit of reading newspapers, books and
magazines by both genders and having respect for those who are aware.
The process shall be long and even wearisome but is needed in this
HOLIDAY time for kids. Well! That virtually means no break for moms. Summer vacation is one time when most mothers feel overworked and overexerted, especially if they’re working moms. A naughty bunch of kids turning the house topsy-turvy with their pranks and squabbles is any mother’s nightmare. So what do they do? Pack the toddlers off to a summer workshop or camp.
Summer workshops have become so popular that now there are many of them and it’s sometimes difficult to choose between them. The range of activities they promise is vast—from painting, theatre, personality development, dance (classical as well as western), clay modelling, to horse riding and quizzing, the Chandigarh kids never had it so good. But the question that arises is whether mothers, more so working ones, consider summer workshops to be a ploy to simply keep their children occupied and out of mischief or do they feel that their little ones really gain from these camps?
Harmeet Kaur, a lecturer, opines, " The day-to-day studies of children are so tough that there is scarcely any time for extra-curricular activities. The schools are also heavily into academics. The personality of the child never blooms. It is these summer schools which bring out the child in them".
Satinder, again a working mother, is of the view that summer workshops really help in a child’s personality development. "My son is a very shy child. I decided to pack him off to a theatre workshop and the results are showing," she proclaims with pride.
Summer schools don’t merely serve the purpose of a creche for working mothers. They have a more positive role to play, asserts Deepali, a dentist, " It is not as if I don't have any arrangement for my children when I go to work. I think everyone has some arrangement or the other. It is just that instead of watching television the whole day they should open up to new experiences and discover their potential. The confidence level of children goes up immensely when they interact with others at workshops."
Summer schools can actually be a fora for kids to cultivate or pursue hobbies. Gurpreet, who runs her own boutique, echoes this view, "I send my son to a dance workshop in the evenings. He is fond of dancing and holidays are the best time to learn. Whatever these children learn at this formative age is for a lifetime. Moreover, they work hard in their schools throughout the year, so this is the best way for them to unwind. It also helps them to become sociable and adjust with new playmates."
Children have so much energy that it is best that it should be used constructively. It is good that the children today have so many opportunities to discover themselves. Summer workshops make it possible to tap kids’ talents and may therefore be a boon for working parents, who owing to job constraints are not able to take their offspring out during the holidays.
But there is another side to the coin. There are mothers who have not had a pleasant experience of summer schools as they feel that these are just fora to make a fast buck and fleece parents. Says Kiranjot, " Summer schools just amount to a wastage of time and money. The children would be better off at home, developing reading habits or surfing the Net."
Sumeet couldn’t agree more, "The school I sent my child to would keep asking the parents to send one thing or another for craftwork. The items made by the children were also not too good. Had my child stayed at home, I could have taught her better things."
However, Poonam struck a balancing note, "A lot depends upon the kind of school you are sending your child to. A parent has to be ascertain which school is genuine and focuses on one aspect in a specialied way rather than promising a mixture of activities."
Therein lies the crux. Though most of the summer schools stimulate the children’s imagination and help them develop their talents and thereby a sense of self-worth, mothers have to be clear and cautious about which workshop they send their children to.
A survey of various summer workshops
to ascertain their genuineness is a must before deciding which is best
for your child.