Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bringing back the era of soulful music!

By Ankita R. Kanabar

Words have their own charm, and the romance that lies in it also has another effect all together. But, in the time of remixes and shortcut messages, sometimes we can’t help but notice the dearth of good words in our day-to-day life and also in the entertainment content that we consume, especially music. Hindi cinema is changing for good, and we’re slightly moving towards matching steps with the western culture. Having said that, sometimes I wonder, if our music is losing its authenticity and culture in terms of the quality of lyrics, with a few exceptions of course.

With solely the thought of reviving the culture of soulful lyrics, and making the youth aware of the rich Hindi literature that exists Goswami Shri Neerajkumaarji Maharaj, also known as Neeraj Madhav, has composed and rendered his voice to an album – ‘Prem Ras’ which has 11 songs, of which the first song, of the album, ‘Doodh jaisi chandni’ with singer Sadhna Sargam has released already. Not only does the composition take you back to the 50s and 60s, but also has a lingering, charming effect. So, here we have, Goswami Shri Neerajkumaarji Maharaj talking about this baby of his, and the thought which went into it...


Converting the poems by some eminent poets of India, into a melody…when did this thought occur to you, and when did you compose all the songs?
I had started composing during my college days, but I was apprehensive about how people would react to my music. Then, I used to make my uncle Shree Mukund Raiji Maharaj hear my compositions. When I got some appreciation from him for my work, I got the confidence to make my friends hear my composition, and slowly, I was a part of various music groups through my college. So, coming out with an album of this sort, has been my vision for a while now, and I’m glad I could do it, now that I’ve fulfilled various responsibilities and can spare some time. But yes, the idea came to me during my college days itself, because these are such beautiful lyrics, penned by the eminent poets of India, like Pandit Narendra Sharma, Dr. Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Dharamvir Bharti, Balbir Singh Rang, Gopal Das Neeraj, among others. So, as far as Hindi literature is concerned, my album will have a lot of weightage.

So, your aim was to bring back the culture of old authentic music?
I feel that good lyrics backed by a melodious composition, has totally disappeared from Hindi films. In fact, I remember a few days ago, Asha Bhonsale jee said that her only advice to young composers is to bring back good melodies. Iss album ke zariye, mujhe Hindi saahitya, aaj ki yuva peedhi ke hothon par laana hai. Tabhi Hindi ka prachaar acche dhang se hoga aur logon mein jagriti jagaa sakunga. 

You said you had composed these songs during college, so did you make any changes in the composition to suit the current trends?
No, these compositions are exactly the same as they were during my college days. Suresh Tale ji who has worked with Sa Re Ga Ma for 14 years, is my music arranger, and I gave him the creative liberty to use the instruments he wants, to suit the temperament on my composition. Ultimately I was there to guide. But the reason for getting Suresh ji on board, was to give my compositions a Bollywood touch, for making it suitable and adaptable to today’s times. Because, this isn’t really my style of music.

So then what is your style of music, and when will we get to hear it?
My style of music is semi-classical, and you will soon get to hear that too. Along with my album ‘Prem Ras’, which has all the songs with a Bollywood touch, I am working on another album all together, which is completely my style, and which will be made exactly the way I want it to be. That one has all my heart and soul. It will have me singing solo and only have all the Indian instruments used.

First song from your album, called ‘Doodh Jaisi Chandni’, which you’ve sung with Sadhna Sargam has already released, tell me something about it?
Just as the lyrics go, ‘Doodh jaisi chandni mein…ek nanhi naav par, hum tum kahin chal de’, I wanted to make sure that the flow of the composition is such that a listener is actually transferred to another world and feels he is travelling somewhere in a boat, on a beautiful peaceful night. Sadhna ji is a very good singer, and it was a good experience to record the song with her.

When will the entire album be out for the audience, including the semi-classical album?
‘Prem Ras’ has total 11 songs, of which three are still left to be recorded. Hopefully, I should be ready with it by December. The semi-classical album also should be ready by December. But after ‘Dood Jaisi Chandni’, I plan to release the other three duet songs with Sadhnaji first.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ten reasons to watch Grey’s Anatomy

By Ankita R. Kanabar 

Drama, thrill, adrenaline, philosophy, emotions, and lots of romance – Shonda Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy is brimming with all these ingredients. Little wonder then, that in the last 2-3 years, I’m thoroughly addicted to the show and how! Or wait, calling it just a ‘show’ would be an understatement. Grey’s Anatomy is love, it’s entertainment, it’s like a friend, and a bonding factor between some friends and me. So, here’s a list of reasons why I’d suggest you should watch Grey’s Anatomy (that is, if you still aren’t hooked to it), and if you are, then well, you can consider these reasons to love it even more :) 

1.       Mcdreamy 
Patrick Dempsey, Patrick Dempsey, Patrick Dempsey! Ladies, this man could be a reason enough for you to watch Grey’s Anatomy. And no, Dempsey doesn’t just lure you with his perfect hair, or dreamy eyes, or heart-melting smile, but his character, that of Dr. Shepard, is appealing in a way that you wish men like him existed for real…or doctors like him existed for real. Not to forget, seeing a man like him romance, is not something you’d ever want to miss!

2.       Mcsteamy
If Mcdreamy wasn’t enough, there enters Mcsteamy. Mark Sloan, is well, Mark Sloan. I better not reveal more. See it to know what I mean. And no, it doesn’t end just at Mcdreamy and Mcsteamy, all the characters are sketched so well, that you want to know each of them, their story, their struggle, and how awesome each one is, in their own may. Right from Meredith Grey, to Cristina Yang to Callie Torres, you’d love them all, eventually!

3.     To be a little less scared of hospitals
 Hospitals aren’t really a good place to be, and the thought of visiting a hospital, isn’t good at all. But you get so used to seeing a hospital with Grey’s Anatomy (not that hospitals for real are this good), that you are now a little less scared of a hospital

4.       You’ll learn medical terms
You’ll start knowing words like ‘aneurysm’, ‘whipple’ and ‘craniotomy’ which you would not otherwise hear, unless you’re a medical student.

5.       Emotional outburst
Okay, we may all pretend to be strong and all that, but let’s admit, all of us need to sometimes cry it out. We need to have an emotional outburst, and be able to vent it all out in the form of tears. Grey’s Anatomy makes you feel emotions, it brings tears, and exposes you to the various situations life may have to offer. So hey, let your emotions out to feel lighter may be?

6.       You are forever alone
Let’s be honest, not all of us will have someone all the time. No harm in admitting, we seem like we are forever alone. It’s okay to not have weekend plans, get comfortable on the couch and watch Grey’s Anatomy. And trust me, once you get hooked to it, you would want to watch it all day and still not get bored. Plus, it’s okay if there’s no romance in your life, watching Mcdreamy romance is a delight anyway!

7.       It’s not always about black and white, we need a spoonful of grey  
Sometimes, there’s no black and there’s no white. It’s okay to not be right sometimes. And more often than not, there’s no right or wrong. There’s a middle path. There’s grey. All the characters in the show, may not be perfect (unlike the righteous characters, like Aanandi we have on Indian soaps), but nevertheless, you don’t think they’re bad. People aren’t bad, just because they aren’t perfect. It’s good to discover that.

8.       It warms your heart
There’s no over-the-top melodrama, and dialogues like, ‘I can’t live without you,’ but simple things like, ‘you are my person’, make so much sense. Be it the friendship, or the love, or even emotions like anger, it’s all displayed in a manner that warms your heart, and is seamlessly real.

9.       We all need some pep talk
 Life isn’t perfect, but it’s important that we understand it our own way, because it is all about the perception. Meredith Grey’s voiceover, or some bits of a conversation between two characters, just seems so real, it totally fits into some situation of your life, and it helps you get a new perspective. And hey, don’t we all love some philosophical pep talk sometimes?

10.   There’s something for everyone
There are so many characters, and so much that each character goes through. Plus, there’s just so much fit into one, so gracefully, that even if you may not like the entire show, you will at least end up liking something. Either the surgical part, or the serious part, or the romantic sensual part, or the philosophical part. There’s something for everyone. So, there’s no harming in giving this one a try, you know!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Fawad Khan

“What I don’t like is too much attention and that people think is a bit arrogant of me”

By Ankita R. Kanabar

Mentioning his name on a social-networking site these days is like inviting women to start an admiration club. They are in awe of him. And no, this isn’t even a hyperbole. That’s the kind of hype around Fawad Khan – not just in Pakistan, but even in India. Tell him that, and he gets embarrassed and blushes, all at once. May be it’s his alluring looks, or the silvery voice and dreamy eyes, that make most go weak-kneed, but just as I meet the man for a tête-à-tête, I realise there’s also a lot more to him. In a white t-shirt-blue jeans-geeky spectacles avatar, he gives me a sneak peek to his intellectual, deep side, just as Khan talks about his maiden Hindi film, Khoobsurat, his craft, his process as an actor and a lot more. But first, by popular demand, I ask him what his name means. “It means heart,” he smiles. Presenting to you, FK in a freewheeling chat…  

So, there’s this whole hysteria around you, and that’s very evident on social-networking platforms as well. How do you react to all of this?
See, it’s endearing, it’s very heart-warming and I tend to blush at such compliments. But, having said that, I might dangerously add that I wish people would pull back a little. The reason why I’d say that, is because, abhi toh bahut kuch karna hai yaar. I’ve done so little, and if people react like this on just this much, then soon they might get bored even. I don’t want them to get bored too easily. I’d rather want them to keep the interest alive.

Being a star in your country, being popular among women, and now starting your career in the Indian film industry as well…amidst all this how do you maintain your sanity?
I come from very humble beginnings, and I’m living the same lifestyle now. That hasn’t changed me. Obviously, the thing is that the more money you make, the better you want to make your life, but that doesn’t change the person you are. For me, I still come from the same place, I still live with the same people. What I don’t like is too much attention and that people think is a bit arrogant of me. I’ll be honest. I love the attention that I get from the audience, but too much of it, enough that it’s always in your face, and getting in your private life, I don’t like. If that’s something which is arrogant about me, then so be it. I can’t change people’s mindset. I believe in being grounded, and the reason for it is that as easily as you rise, you can fall that easily as well, and you need to always keep that in mind.

The audience generally has no expectations from a debutant. But in your case, because people have been exposed to your work in the past, they have expectations. Does that work as an advantage for you, or does it add pressure?
I think it works as an advantage, as well as a disadvantage. The advantage being that more than a knock on the door, it’s become a foot in the door. The disadvantage is that when people see your work and appreciate it, their expectations are raised. I fear that! At the very least, you need to meet the expectations, if not surpass them. Most importantly, not fall below them, and that’s something which makes me very nervous. So, I’d say it has its pros and cons both.

What had drawn you towards doing Khoobsurat? Is it just the script which plays a major role in you doing a project?
I think what had drawn me towards the film, first and foremost, is the chance to actually get out of my comfort zone, which I’d been avoiding for a very long time. As an individual, your growth really depends on it. Seeing the world and exposing yourself to different kinds of people, meeting different kinds of people, getting an opportunity to work with them – that is educating and it’s liberating for me. So, I think that was the biggest reason. As far as a script is concerned, I wouldn’t say that the roles that I’ve done I was bored by, but they weren’t even the most exciting things in the world. Thus, my script scrutiny really depends on how coherent, the structure of the film is, and how much detail or depth can I add to the character that I’m playing. But in case of Khoobsurat, it’s a straight-forward fun film, it doesn’t have a lot of theory or an over-intellectualised content. I think at that point of time, when the film came to me, all these things came together, and I was like, yes, a lot of things are met in this one package, so let’s just take a dive and see (smiles).

I believe you also love to get into the technical aspects of a film, since you wish to be behind the camera someday, so what has your learning curve on this film been? 
As far as being behind the camera is concerned, yes, I do have a fantasy about that, because I feel it comes very naturally to me. Even screenplay for that matter, visualising and writing the screenplay, comes very naturally to me, in my own unique language. I think I’ve had the chance to express that side of me, in a couple of projects that I’ve done in the past. I’ve been good friends with some directors I’ve worked with, and I’ve asked them to let me do a couple of scenes and set up the shots and stuff. So, my learning curve on Khoobsurat has been the same. But this is my first project in this industry, so I thought it would be a bit brash of me to assume so much control. So, I was looking more at things like the production aspects of the film, rather than the creative aspects, so that I can do a whole 360 degree on how a film does work. As an actor, I keep learning and growing every day, and on the film-making front, I’m gathering knowledge with each project, so that at the appropriate time, I’ll be able to employ all those tools while making something of my own.

Most Hindi films are known for their larger-than-life quality and the song-and-dance sequences, whereas most work you’ve done so far has been very realistic….
I would love to do larger-than-life, very theatrical things. I believe in theatricality. A certain role requires you to do that. It obviously depends on the stylising of the films. When I say stylising, I mean, some things are meant to be played to the audience. It’s not something I don’t want to learn, I don’t disregard that, I love watching larger-than-life films, but I feel, everything has its own time and place, and that’s something I need to incorporate. Most recent example of that will be a promotional video we did for Khoobsurat, and I was just given three hours to practice. I just wish I was given more time for it. I need my time to get that right. Not the acting bit, because I started out as an extremely loud actor, so loud that I used to find my performances cringe-worthy. But this dance bit is something I want to really learn.

And as an actor, what’s your process of improvising like?
Whenever I can take advantage, whenever I feel I have that much leeway, I try to improvise as much as possible. I like to keep things real, and whenever I’m permitted, I like to apply that to my scenes, my lines. Whenever I’m caught acting on-screen, you can say that someone else has interfered (laughs). I believe in improvising, because I feel it’s about reacting and feeding off from your co-actors. Your performance is just as good as your co-actor’s, in any project. You cannot make the magic happen alone. And when you see isolated performances in films, it’s because actors are not co-operating with one another. The magic has to happen together. When people say that I cannot do this scene, more than 2-3 times, that for me is a bit bothersome, or disturbing. I feel if you want to do it the right way, you do it even if it takes 20 times. Obviously, there’s a limit to how far you can go, when it comes to re-takes, because after a point, it starts looking rehearsed and mechanical. So, I understand that limitation. But, it’s also important that you develop patience to do things again and again. That’s a part of the job. I totally believe in the art of improvising, and the more connect you have with your co-actors and team, the more you can do something unexpected on-screen, and it’ll click.

So are you self-critical?
Of course, I criticise my work, just because it is my work. I wouldn’t criticise someone else’s work. I’ve mostly done television in the past, and I’ve always felt that television for me is like a rehearsal ground, to sort of polish my craft. So, once I’ve done a project, the reason why I would watch my work again, was to actually see and analyse what I’m doing wrong, rather than what I’m doing right. And if I’m doing something wrong, I shouldn’t repeat the same mistake again, so that has been my learning curve as an actor.

When you spend so much time living one character, is it difficult to shed that image or traits and move to another?
You’re absolutely right! For me, it’s very difficult. A character sticks with me for a while. If there’s a persona that I dawn for a character, it’s very hard to shake that off. I’m beginning to shake off Prince Vikram now. I wish there could be a way that you could just go take a shower, and move from one character to another, but it doesn’t happen that way. A little bit of every character sticks with you, for your life to come, it’s very natural. For the average reader, a fair comparison would be, when an 18-year old goes to USA to study. They may have lived all their life here in India or Pakistan, but within four years of being there, their accent has changed. When they come back, it’s difficult for them to shake that accent off. It’s the same philosophy. When you are resuming a personality to put on display, later, the whole unlearning process is difficult because a character does tend to linger on.

Putting various emotions to display on celluloid may be difficult for some actors, especially the ones who aren’t open about their emotions in real life. How does it work in your case?
Because I’m so reserved off screen, when I’m on-screen, that’s my outlet. I become besharam in front of the camera. But that’s only possible when your director or co-actors don’t make you conscious. When you make your actors conscious, you destroy their ability to potentially perform 20 per cent or 30 per cent more than what they are actually performing. You need to take them into confidence, and they need to take you into confidence as well. When the whole team is open and comfortable with each other, nothing is really difficult on set, and you’ll get away with anything. When you know that nobody’s judging you on set, the performances tend to come out better, and I assure you, that happens to the biggest actors. If they go on set, and they feel some sort of tension, their work automatically speaks for themselves, because it’s not as good. So emoting on-screen for me gets easier, when I know that the people around me are people I am comfortable with. But my philosophy is that you can’t have a standard way, that this is how you have to cry in every film or show. There are ten different ways of crying. Some people are very sensitive but their way of expressing their emotions is being deadpan and that in its own is an expression. And then, sometimes, you just completely break down. That’s what adds originality to the character.

Over the years, through the ups and downs, how have you changed? Have you emerged strongly?
I think when you come out of defeat, defeat again is a word I’m using very subjectively, it does make everyone stronger, because you’ve conquered a bad time. Though there are times, when the feeling does linger on within you and you do have a certain regret. Though the best thing is to not have regrets, but the more you tell yourself that consciously, the less we act on it. But every time a downer hits me, I think I take it more calmly, as compared to the way I used to take it years ago.

Are there any other projects lined up for you after Khoobsurat?
In Pakistan, there are 2-3 projects that we are very seriously in talks about, but nothing is concrete now. Similar is the case in India, there are a few things that I’m being approached with, but again, it’s just table talk, nothing on paper. But I’d love to come out with it when the time is right. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Emraan Hashmi

“I don’t source much of an identity from stardom. I want a break from Emraan Hashmi – the actor, after the pack-up.”

By Ankita R. Kanabar

While he may come across as extremely flamboyant, thanks to the characters he’s played on-screen with utmost ease, that’s not how it is! Meet Emraan Hashmi, and you’ll discover a completely new side to him. He loves his craft, and is attached to it in every way he can, yet, he is detached from it as soon as it’s pack-up! Probably that’s the reason why he steers clear from getting affected by the tags bestowed on him, or the image people have of him. In the middle of a busy day while he promotes his upcoming film, he takes time out to talk about Raja Natwarlal, with Humaima Malick. Presenting to you, Emraan Hashmi, in an extremely candid, witty avatar!

 What was your interpretation of Raja Natwarlal when you read the script and now when the film has released?
People have expectations and they assume something when they realise that it has cons in it, but what struck me about the film in the beginning and what strikes me after it’s complete, is that Raja Natwarlal is a very strong emotional story. It’s a dramatic film, and has the technicality of how scams function, all over the country, but the central crux of the film is a very strong revenge story. It starts with a very sweet romance, and how things fall apart, how the hero has to undo something, and teach the villain a lesson, and he does this through the technicality of a scam. Yes it’s a great con film, and I don’t want to sound very boastful, but it’s one of the best con films that you’ll see, inherently because of the way the script is. But it’s a film that’ll make you laugh and cry, because there’s a very strong emotion attached to it. I’ve seen it, and the audience is in for a real treat. It’s got romance, dramatic, fun, great songs, hero v/s villain conflict, kisses, and everything that you’ll expect my films to have (smiles).

They say that the mark of a good actor is when you as a person don’t reflect in your characters. But do you think it’s also important to bring in your individuality to each character you play?
There’s always a part of you, in every character that you play. It cannot be devoid of that, because that’s what gives a character, its individualistic characteristic. If there’s no part of you in it, it’ll be superficial, and it has to come from inside to make it believable. There’s a part of me in every character I play. Even if I play a psychopath on screen, there’s a part of me. I may not be a psychopath in real life, but there are negative emotions in all of us. As humans, we feel hate sometimes. There are times, where I’ve wanted to do something like that, but the society and a part of the culture tells you, that this is wrong. So this is where, we have to, as actors, tap into those things within us. Fortunately or unfortunately, I’ve mostly portrayed negative emotions on-screen, which aren’t the things you should feel in real life. But, even revenge is a kind of negative emotion, but in our film, it’s done in such a flamboyant and entertaining way that revenge has never looked so good.

It’s also being said that acting is a lot about reacting, do you agree to that? And so, how was it working with Humaima Malick in this film?
It’s only about reacting. The best actors are actors who listen, and very few actors actually listen. Most actors are mouthing dialogues, but the moment they don’t have anything to say, they look blank on-screen. Very few actors listen to their co-actors’ dialogues. And really, Humaima’s presence in the film has enhanced my performance, she’s an actor with a lot of depth. She has an inherent charisma, good looks, and the makings of star. She is already a star in Pakistan, and I’m sure she’ll do very well in the Hindi film industry also. She’s playing a bar dancer, and that could turn downright vulgar, but that’s why we cast Humaima in the film, because she makes a bar dancer seem human, respectable, vulnerable, and you feel for her. She’s a bar dancer, and she does it out of need, not for the greed for money. She’s stuck in this particular world, and this man takes her out of that world. Humaima has played the character very well.

So, at this point, after doing a number of films, most of them, hits, what’s your criterion to choose a film?
I think it’s important to find a fair balance of experimenting with films, in terms of the different kind of audiences that I can cater to, as an actor. For instance, Shanghai was for a niche audience, but a film like Raja Natwarlal is for the masses. Even my other films like The Dirty Picture or Murder were pitched to a larger audience. It’s important to find a balance between these two cinemas and that’s when I grow as an actor. Raja Natwarlal is as important as Shanghai, and I will always do a film like Shanghai, even tomorrow if I have to. The trade will tell me ‘ki yeh film utni nahi chalegi’, but it’s fine for me. It has a niche audience, so what! It’s a great film, it’s something that I’m proud of, it’s something that I’ll show my kids in the future. It might not be commercial, but it’ll always be in people’s minds.

While you’re very much a part of the industry, you’ve also in some way managed to stay detached from it. How does that work?
I don’t source much of an identity from stardom. I want a break from Emraan Hashmi – the actor, after the pack-up. I don’t want to take him home. I don’t want to keep him as a part of the my consciousness, when I leave a film set, and the only way I can do it, and find some sanity is by finding another life which is away from films. So, after I pack up, then that’s my time. It’s the guy who is not an actor. So, I will not go to a film party, and get myself into a world that I’ve just been a part of. I don’t know, it might work for other people but it doesn’t work for me. I need to detach from films, for my own sanity. Films are not only my life. I have another life away from it, and I enjoy that, as much as I enjoy films. I don’t carry that weight of stardom around, I’m not one of those actors.

And does that also help keep you grounded?
Also, it detaches me from both – failure and successful films. It’s not like success doesn’t make me happy, or failure doesn’t make me sad. They affect me, but you have to understand that it’s just a film and you have to move on because there are better things waiting, and there are going to be hits and flops, you are going to make mistakes. I think it’s important to just keep running and not stop.

As an actor, which is the most difficult emotion to portray on-screen?
I think crying is difficult on-screen. For reasons, that I don’t cry too much for real, it’s an emotion that I usually conceal. I may want to cry, but I know how to control that emotion. That’s the kind of person that I am. So, it’s very difficult for me to cry on-screen in front of people, when for real, I’m not very open about that.

What’s your process like? Are you an actor who likes to prepare before a film?
I’m a bit of both – I prepare and then I leave it to spontaneity on a film set. I can adapt, mould and be flexible on a film set. But I can’t do that if I’m not prepared before I come on set.

Tell me about the line-up of your upcoming films…
Mr. X is about to complete now. It’s about a dark super-hero, and a man who becomes invisible. There’s Hamari Adhuri Kahaani which is a love story, there’s an international film, which is complete, and we’ll be showing it by the end of the year.