Can’t get enough!
The penultimate day of the Chandigarh Rose Festival saw a host of activities that drew huge crowds
Ashima Sehajpal

Kids at the ‘Rose Prince and Princess’ contest
Kids at the ‘Rose Prince and Princess’ contest
Photography exhibition
Photography exhibition
Gatka being performed
Gatka being performed. Photos: Vinay Malik

What a weekend it has been! Two days of Chandigarh Rose Festival gone, one left and the craving for more entertainment is still the same. You just can't get enough, even if a dozen cultural programmes have already been held. Saturday was no different and it must have taken a few minutes for everyone to decide what to see first, just as it took us!

We began with the stall on the extreme right, which had on display a photography exhibition. More than 50 pictures of the Sukhna Lake, gardens of the city, roundabouts, trees, Piazza, 'open hand' monument, together mirrored the beauty of the city. The exhibition captures the soul of the city. From the important landmarks to people of the city, policemen, traffic cops, even birds at the Sukhna Lake, the exhibition had it all.

Another major attraction was the 'Rose Prince and Princess' contest for kids. This being the most-awaited contest of the Rose Festival saw the participation of over 250 girls and 200 boys.

Simmi Malhotra, who has been taking part in the flower arrangement competition for the past four years sees a positive change in the way the festival is organised, "It's no more just about the flower arrangement contest or prince and princess contest; a lot has been done in the form of lighting arrangement, decoration and cultural programmes."
Preity Zinta enters Hotel Mountview on Friday
On a recce: Preity Zinta enters Hotel Mountview on Friday. Photo: Vinay Malik 

Thus, on one side, were Rajasthani artistes regaling people with their folk dance, and on the other, artistes from Haryana were performing Ghoomer. And that's not all; gatka was being performed as well. "It's good to see various folk dances of India at the same time and the venue," says Sonal Bajaj, who was in the city with her group of friends from Ambala. But, this doesn't mean that people missed out on Bollywood. The antakshri was a hit as usual and drew a huge crowd.

And what else can prove that the festival was a hit among people - Gulshan Rai, at the age of 95, was also a visitor! Kite-flying was another major event.

Everything was in abundance - cultural programme, exotic flowers, even the crowd…but the only thing amiss at the Chandigarh Rose Festival were enough roses!

Charting his own course

It doesn't happen with every actor that after his inclusion in the soap, the very title of the soap is changed! But it happened with Hussain Kuwajerwala, which he doesn't attribute to luck but his talent. The soap, Krishna Sharma CA, was then known as Krishna Arjun.
Hussain Kuwajerwala
Hussain Kuwajerwala

Kumkum was happening simultaneously, which had a woman actor as protagonist, but Hussein, as male lead, had an equally important role to play, "Unlike the Bollywood, the Indian TV industry is dominated by female actors. In this case, it's entirely the onus of the actor to get noticed. I think I managed the attention pretty well," says Hussain, in the city for the Chandigarh Rose Festival.

Six years after playing the role of Sumit in Kumkum, Hussain realised he needed to move ahead, "There's a saturation point for every actor, when he wishes to try something new and explore his potential. Nach Baliye gave me the opportunity I was looking for."

Winner of season 2, he in the next season anchored the show with his wife, "I realised I was being appreciated more for anchoring the show than acting in one. DPL rightly followed."

Hussain enjoyed working with Rani Mukerjee in DPL, "She is a wonderful actor, with no airs about her. You learn from such actors, how to stay grounded after success," adds Hussain. We believe he has grasped the lesson well!

Ashima Sehajpal

Piecing it together
Crime fiction writer Mark Billingham was in the city for a talk on “The Detective and the Criminal Mind” at the British Library—9
Manpriya Khurana

Crime fiction is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together, getting a rubik cube in place, connecting all the right dots, dealing with the criminal psyche, hooking broken links, predicting twisted mindsets, weaving a meticulous plot against a gripping backdrop…goes without saying, coming out with a book each year isn't easy!

"It's not like you have exact 12 months. If you come up with a new title every year, three months are spent travelling and promoting the work," says crime fiction author, Mark Billingham, here for a talk on “The Detective and the Criminal Mind”, at the British Library-9.

"A lot of authors can do that, that is, write while on the move, but not me," he adds. Nevertheless, he has nine titles on the shelves already and a couple of works are in progress. "My latest, Bloodline, out last August, involves a very twisted criminal where each dead body was found with a plastic clutch and how it connects the victims," adds the actor-cum-stand-up-comedian-cum-TV writer, who later got to crime tales.

He adds, "I'd write stories in school, plays for television, but what I never really got to write was a book." And when he got to, nine titles followed the bestseller Sleepyhead in 2001; Scaredy Cat, Lazybones, The Burning Girl, Lifeless, Buried, Death Message and the standalone thriller In The Dark. He's now concentrating on a series featuring London-based detective Tom Thorne.

He shares, "I would read Sherlock Holmes as a twelve-year-old, fell in love with him. I still do read a lot of crime fiction, rather I personally know a lot of crime writers." Perhaps, that points to the ideas and inspiration.

Here on a literature initiative by the British Council, as of now, it's actually implausible India! "I thought London was crazy and busy, but Delhi's unparalleled. But Chandigarh is quite quiet and calm," he adds. "I really can't comprehend the size of India, its like 100 countries," he signs off. 

Unusual combinations!
Johnson Thomas

Two films hit the marquee this week and both had quite a bit of money riding on them. Karthik Calling Karthik has Farhan Akhtar and Deepika in the lead roles, debutant Vijay Lalwani as director and Ritesh Sidhwani as producer, while Teen Patti has the never-seen-before combination of Amitabh Bachchan and Ben Kingsley. The movie has been directed by Leena Yadav (Shabd) and produced by the Hindujas. Expectations were high all around!

For KRK interest rode on the curiosity about the lead pairs alleged affair and for TP (Do not read as Time Pass) it had a lot to do with having the Hollywood (Ben Kingsley — actor, Ben Ramis — dialogues) connection. But both films were disappointments. One more so than the other!

Film: Teen Patti

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Ben Kingsley, Madhavan

Director: Leena Yadav

Director Leena Yadav's Teen Patti, whose previous attempt Shabd had us running for cover, once again proves beyond reasonable doubt that she just doesn't have what it takes to be a director. Teen Patti is extremely boring, underdeveloped, illogical and unviable. The writing is pedestrian; there is hardly any character build-up; the events is predictable (liberally borrowed from the original Hollywood hit 21); performances are hammy (an over-the-top Amitabh, clueless Kingsley and soul-less Madhavan) and the dialogues extremely ridiculous. Even the songs are tedium inducing.

I watched this film first-day-first-show and had a kitty-party gang-all Amitabh fans expecting fireworks, give a running commentary. At first eager and excited they were only too glad to have reached the theatre in time to see the opening credits but once the film began, they became rude and loutish in their derision. Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai was their constant refrain and for most of the film their loud comments helped the entertainment quotient when all of Leena Yadav's tricks were failing!

One fails to understand the need for this kind of copious copying. 21 was a hit in the US but it failed when released in India. It is not a subject that would find favour with the Indian audience, especially since it's central theme is based on a game.

Black Jack/Teen Patti is played in the dark alleys and the daru-ka-addas frequented by the people living on the fringes of society. Venkat Subramanian (Amitabh) is a retired professor from BIT and he is telling Perci Trachtenberg (Ben), a magician-turned-mathematician from Cambridge University, how his brush with gambling helped prove the probability theory that formed the basis of his thesis. Perci, in fact, is shown as inviting Venkat to Cambridge and the two meet up, exchange pleasantries and from ther on it is flashback time. And Venkat's tryst with gambling, along with a motley crewconsisting of a few students and another professor, while still a professor at BIT, is the central focus. The usual threats force the group to continue their winning spree and it's all for a price that they never expected to pay.

Lenna Yadav prefers to keep the audience clueless throughout, so you neither know the basics of the so-called probability theory nor the tricks used in winning the game away from several genius players. Even the emotions are expressed so amateurishly that it's all quite exasperating and extremely tedious.

There is a distinct lack of coherence in the plotting. Yadav tries to give the film a sophisticated look by using the same techniques used in A simple mind but what made sense there just doesn't make any here. The tone is too dark, serious and academic, the camerawork just a tad too wannabe, the tempo very flat and the sequence of events entirely uninteresting.

The youngsters are too self-conscious to do justice to their roles while the stalwarts Amitabh and Madhavan ham it up on all cylinders. Amitabh's accent keeps changing throughout the movie and Madhavan just makes a lot of faces. Ben Kingsley appears clueless, wearing a bland expression throughout and while mouthing Hindi dialogues that seem like mumbo-jumbo to him. The ladies behind me were past caring though. I found them snoring away to glory even before the interval!

Film: Karthik Calling Karthik

Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Deepika Padukone

Director: Vijay  Lalwani

This is an interesting film at best. Don't expect to be floored. The fresh pairing of Farhan and Deepika is quite an endearing factor and the interest generating plotting is even more so. It's the hasty and illogical finale that pulls the rug right from under your feet though. This is yet another film that romanticizes disability of some form. We've had a rush of them in the past few months, but none of them ever managed to give away the true picture.

Vijay Lalwani begins his film well. The psychological thriller format is put to good use and the tempo stays engaging while the tension creeps up a few notches. It's logic that plays spoilsport here.

Karthik (Farhan) is introverted and nerdy (supposedly he has cracked IIM and CA exams), yet is unable to communicate his to budding architect Shonali (Deepika) who works in the same office. He drafts a few hundred love emails, which he never ends up sending. Then within minutes into the film he gets a call from Karthik and voila he is transformed. Confused?

I was too. But you will get the gist. He becomes smart, snazzily dressed and sexy enough to win Shonali's heart. Their romance blossoms but then he tells her about his nocturnal calls and she insists he see a doctor. But he refuses.

Now, I am really confused. Karthik was shown as having sittings with a therapist for a long while so his refusal to see one appears ridiculous. A few reels later he agrees to see his Dr. Kapadia (Shefali Shah) and she agrees to make a nocturnal visit to his home all alone, at 4 am in the morning, to prove to him that it is his alter ego that is talking to him over the phone and not some friend with the same voice. All therapists will find this sequence untenable.

No one in the right mind would take up such a visit without talking it out with another colleague or accompanied by someone else. Frankly, it beats me how Dr. Kapadia got to this stage in the first place. Despite several professional sessions with Karthik, she appears clueless as to Karthik's real problem and even after being confronted by his hallucinatory behavior she is unable to diagnose the cause.

Even a layman who has been brought up on cinema would have been able to diagnose his problem as a mental disorder.

The narrative loses grip and reality from thereon.

Shonali's presence in Cochin, outside Karthik's doorstep, just when he has successfully consumed a bottle of prescription drugs is just the last straw. It goes totally against the run of play and destroys the entire mood, momentum and believability achieved before it.

This is a film that makes a lot of promises in the initial 50-odd minutes, but fails to deliver in the final moments. The performances, art direction, camerawork and sound design are of high order.

Even the music is quite engaging though there are moments in the film when it appears forced. It's the script that plays spoilsport here!

Emotional connect
Bollywood actor Shahid Kapoor spent his 29th birthday with his family

Contrary to reports, Bollywood actor Shahid Kapoor spent his 29th birthday with his family. He was especially delighted with the presence of his mother with whom he has "a great emotional connect".

Referring to all the plans that had been reported for his birthday Thursday, Shahid says: "Everyone made plans that I didn't know about. It was quite annoying. Even my guest list was prepared.

"But no, the truth was there were no plans beyond the family." About his mother's presence on this birthday, he says: "Me and my mom used to live together. Now we live separately. But we have a great emotional connect. So 'aal izz well' on that front.

"My brother Ishaan stays with my mom and we're always hanging out together. In fact, I was at his annual day hours before my birthday. I feel I'm terrible to my family and friends because I don't give them enough time."

During his 29 years, Shahid has only had a couple of birthday parties. "I had a party for my last birthday and it drove me nuts. If friends take over and have a party for me only then will I be part of it in future."

His earliest memory of a birthday goes back to when he was four in Delhi. "It was in a two-bedroom apartment. As a child, I'd embarrass my mom at my birthdays by snatching the gift from the guest, opening it and expressing my pleasure or displeasure about the gift. They were very regular, typical middle-class birthdays."

Regarding rumours of a link-up with actress Deepika Padukone, Shahid says: "I've met her a few times. I first met her at an awards function and then we bumped into one another at a couple of parties. She seems like a nice person. — IANS

Join the game

ActorShilpa Shetty is the latest celebrity to join the micro-bloggin website twitter, which is fast becoming a favourting haunt for for Bollywood stars like Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan. The 34-year-old, who has her own blog, joined the networking site yesterday. Shetty, who is also the co-owner of IPL team Rajasthan Royals, used the opportunity to promote her team.

"Hello Hello i am the newest inclusion to twitterdom! In London now..IPL Jitters kicking in.Launched the new mascot Moochu Singh too cute!! (sic)," the actress wrote. Shetty was welcomed by filmmaker Karan Johar, an avid tweeter, who had earlier encouraged Arjun Rampal, Ranbeer Kapoor and Shah Rukh Khan to join the website.

"Ok...@theshilpashetty in the house and joins the family...give her love!!!," Johar tweeted. — PTI 

Tarot TALK
P Khurrana

ARIES: The Knight of Wands reveals this is a week that would herald change and newness into your life. Property deal gets concluded. Domestic issues come up for urgent consideration. Have no worries your work is well under control. Youngsters may have differences with their parents. TIP OF THE WEEK: Be positive; you can make things happen out of the most unlikely circumstances. Lucky Color: saffron.

TAURUS: The Nine of Pentacles showers blessing on lovers. Romantic life takes an upswing. A good Monday to try your luck in speculative deals. The employed will be burdened with additional responsibility without incentive. Tip: Balance and perspective will lead you out of a problematic situation. Lucky Color: Rust.

GEMINI: The Queen of Cups brings romance poetry and dreamy quality in your personal relationships. Pay heed to wise counsel. Do not intervene in others dispute. Housewives: stick to routine activities. Those looking for job will receive suitable offer.

Tip: Listen to your voice of wisdom. Lucky color: Brown.

CANCER: The Chariot indicates that most of your money concerns would be resolved favorably An excellent but hectic week ahead. Students: do not become reckless. You should be careful about your own health and well being of your parents. Your pet is source of happiness. Tip: You must share responsibility with others before continuing. Lucky Color: Golden.

LEO: The Hermit card reveals business and professional affairs may take a backseat Single women should be careful from strangers on Tuesday. Consolidate your gains and do not run after new money spinning schemes. Hidden relationships prove a headache. Tip: Avoid loose talks at work as someone shall carry tales just when you are building fences. . Lucky color: black.

VIRGO: The card Strength says most of you would have to depend on the decisions of other people. Most of your time and attention should be centered on your personal life. Arguments with your spouse could become serious. Influential people will not be helpful. Avoid speculation. Tip: Play your cards close to your chest. Lucky color: Red.

LIBRA: The Prince of Cups says this week, you would be able to express what you want from your self, others and from life. Real estate deal should be left alone for the time being. Cheerful week for sportsmen. You will find new opportunities opening up for you. Maintain a low profile in the party on Saturday. Tip: Be careful not to go in too many directions at the same time. Lucky color: Peacock Blue.

SCORPIO: The Lovers inspire you with love and creativity. For business folk, financial transaction is likely to be larger. Your personal plans will meet with some stiff opposition. Heavy-handed approach required in matters of job. Tip: Be cautious in your action and speech. Lucky color: Pink.

SAGITTARIUS: The Knight of Swords instigates you to be active and clever. Money wise the week is slow. Friends may lose your confidence. Let your energy be turned towards artistic work. Your beloved may be in a lively mood. Women: avoid impulse buying. Tip: Don't try to end the deadlock at one go. Lucky color: Royal Blue.

CAPRICORN: The Empress takes you towards the fast and protective lane. An even better week than last. Go all out to improve your position at work. Chronic patients should seek doctor's advice immediately. Students will see new love relations form on the campus. Tip: Bury an old quarrel and be preparing to make a compromise. Lucky color: Peach.

AQUARIUS: The prince of Wands predicts there may be some changes at work A very important week from the work point of view. The atmosphere at home will be much improved. Discuss your financia1 situation with your mate. The time is auspicious if you are applying for loan. Tip: Do not be in the rush to spend extravagantly. Lucky color: Blue

PISCES: Two of Pentacles says the highlight of the week would be business, trade and chances to grow and flourish in the professional field. This is a good business week. Avoid hasty decisions. Family members may require your assistance. You may expect a bad news regarding your friend/ relative. Focus on information and education. Tip: Do not leave things up to chance. Lucky color: Orange.

In my own space
Neelam Man Singh Chowdhry all set to stage Ibsen's Little Eyolf in the city

The Company, Neelam Man Singh Chowdhry's troupe, is in its own city to stage their latest production — Little Eyolf/Little Abaan. "This is my first commissioned project in my own space, with my own actors, which makes it very special," says the renowned theatre personality. Little Eyolf by master playwright Henrik Johan Ibsen is a story of a lost child steeped in ambiguity and mystery.

A still from Little Eyolf
A still from Little Eyolf

"When the offer to do a play by Ibsen came, I was nervous for he is one playwright steeped in realism and naturalism, which is not exactly the kind of work I have been doing for years. I haven't read him since my NSD days, but from reading a lot of his works during college to this production, was a very very interesting journey," said Chowdhry.

Little Eyolf, a 98-page-long play was reworked to 23 pages, which in itself was not an ordinary task! "The play is steeped in Christian orthodoxy and is set in Norway. It was a challenging task to edit it without losing the meaning and the narrative flow," says Chowdhry.

"The most exciting are Ibsen's characters in the play, which are rounded and multi-layered and as illogical or unpredictable as we are in our own little ways," she says.

Also what makes Ibsen's characters appealing is that most of Freud's studies are based on them. "It was the character of Rat Woman — much inspired by Browning's Pied Piper of Hamelin, symbolising liberation from negativity — that was pretty difficult to contextualise," shares Choudhry.

"However, I found my solution in watta satta women who would take old clothes for the exchange of new utensils, which fitted the bill. Surjit Patar helped me chalk out the difficult character of Rat Woman," she says.

The play is rich in water symbolism, which is created by lots of water bodies on stage. Proud of her troupe, Chowdhry says, "We were a company based in Chandigarh so productions were easy that way. Now people have moved out, so it gets a bit tough to coordinate. Little Eyolf sees us all together in our own city once again."

She also has a word of thanks of praise for Payal Sodhi from PFA. "All thanks to Payal for doing the running around, which could make this play possible," she says. On her part, Payal says, "We increasingly organise art events to reach out to people and it's an honour to be associated with someone as eminent as Neelam Man Singh."

This play in Punjabi/English got rave reviews in Delhi Ibsen Festival '08, which was organised by Dramatic Art and Design Academy in collaboration with the Norwegian Embassy.

(On from March 3 to 7 at the Rock Garden from 7 pm onwards)

Matka chowk
At home in the city
Sreedhara Bhasin

My next candidate in the 'Faces of Chandigarh' series is comparatively new to Chandigarh. But he has very definite views about the city. His workplace is a busy and popular market in sector 19. Rabindra Nath Majhi, 51, who moved to Chandigarh one year ago from Midnapore, West Bengal, helps run a flower stall in the sector 19 market. Already, he is at home in his new city. My interview follows:

Why did you move to Chandigarh?

To help my son-in-law run the flower stall. The situation in Midnapore is not that good.

How many hours do you work here?

From six am to 10 pm.

What is the best thing about Chandigarh?

Cleanliness, roads, law and order.

How is Chandigarh different from your village?

There is no comparison. Our village is so over-crowded that one cannot think of selling anything on the footpath.

How are the Chandigarh people different?

Very rich and modern. They have better education here and spend a lot more.

What is the best food you have eaten here?

I have eaten some vegetarian food here like samosa and kulcha.

Do you know any of these landmarks of Chandigarh - The Sukhna Lake, Punjab University, Matka Chowk, Rose Garden?

I have seen the lake and the Rose Garden.

Have you heard of Le Corbusier or Nekchand?


Do you plan to settle here?

If the business does well, I will think about settling down.

Does your family live with you here?

My wife and daughters live in Midnapore.

What is a perfect Chandigarh Sunday?

There is no Sunday for us. We work every day. During wedding seasons and around Valentine's Day, we work extra hours

Straight talk
Neha Walia

In India, theatre artistes don't get treated like gods, while abroad people go crazy for you. You stay in seven-star hotels, drive the best of cars and enjoy an exalted status." The statement may not be an eye-opener, but in the city to walk for designer Riyaaz and Reshma's Libaas along with Shawar Ali, at the Rose Festival, Mreenal Deshpande flaunts a perfect attitude.

She doesn't believe in being diplomatic, "I love my glamorous and luxurious life. Who doesn't like to be treated well?" she says.

Well, the theatre and television actor has had her share of good treatment along with a steady career. She has done strong negative characters in serials like Kahin to Hoga, movie cameos in Vivaah and Runaway along with a dozen theatre plays. "I have been into theatre for seven years now and just finished up doing shows of Hum Le Gaye Tum Reh Gaye, a Hindi adaptation of a Gujarati play, along with Javed Jaffery, in the US," she says.

And Mreenal doesn't believe in planning, even if it is her career. "I value my work and don't want to be a part of the mad race. I am taking an off from television just because I don't identify myself with the kind of roles coming my way."

Even reality shows doesn't tempt her, "We all know the reality of reality shows. I agreed to do Rahul Dulhaniya Le Jayenge because of the money being offered, but later pulled out. But I would like to do something like Fear Factor," she signs off.

Water warriors

Imagine spraying water on your friends from a distance of staggering 40 Feet! This Holi, Zapak gives you an opportunity to do so. Zapak Games, the licensing and merchandising arm of Zapak Digital Entertainment Ltd., has announced the introduction of BuzzBee - Water Warriors, international water guns. Water Warriors is available in several variations - Shark, Steady Stream, Sting Ray, Barracuda, Renegade, Pulse Striker, Pulse Blaster, Equalizer and Expedition. These will now be available across all leading toy stores and large format stores in the country. In Chandigarh these products are available in: Rama stores, Chopra Bros.

Water warriors is available in blue, yellow and green colour and has a variety of hi-tech features from huge water holding capacity, power pumps, pressurized performance systems, chamber systems to adjustable nozzles. Water warriors can blast water up to a distance of 40 feet. To add even more fun you can choose a water gun of 3-5 nozzles. Pumps are also available to give the blast more power. This product is available for Rs. 399-1,999. These games are available for kids between 4 years to 14 years of age. According to Rohit Sharma, chief executive officer, Zapak Digital Entertainment Ltd, says; "With Water Warriors we want to offer the kids an innovative product which will boost the overall experience of the festival."

Spin that jazz!

All set to rock the floor with the jig bang. Everything in place, the lights, ambience, deejay, music…but, hey, not just any regular commercial number! If you want to set the flavour of the party, then scratch up, remix some new and young Bollywood numbers, and see the crowd go crazy.

We bet the ones with two left would also be enticed to step on the dance floor! What say? Dj Ashrafi, ready to jazz up the evening at Score on Saturday with some remix Bollywood tracks, is pretty sure that the fondness for Bollwyood remixes will never go out of trend.

Popularly known as the 'Queen of Bollywood remixes', she is now rocking Mumbai with her Club and remixes of course. "It is an essential ingredient of the party. It peps up the mood and sets the momentum," says Dj Ashrafi, who started her career as a sound engineer in Bollywood singer Sukhwinder Singh's studio in Mumbai.

Remixes, everywhere, are we going overboard with it? "I would still prefer to listen to an original number on a radio, but when I am in a discotheque I would, of course, want to dance to some remix numbers," adds the Dj zeroing in her preference for remix numbers. "I like to remix the new Bollywood tracks. I am from a newer generation, so, my choice would obviously be new."

Ashrafi has done gigs in India and across like Prive, F Bar, Manre, Hard Rock Café, Oliver Bar, Provogue Lounge, Elevate, Capitol Orange. "I am gung-ho about the track paisa paisa these days," smiles Ashrafi, set to rock with her spins on the turntable.

Jasmine Singh

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