Monday, 10 October 2011

K.K.Raghava - The man with five lives

In 1996, a sixteen year old approached his father, with utmost conviction and said ‘Dad, can I quit school and be a cartoonist?’ Thus began K.K.Raghava’s remarkable journey of art and expression that till date remains unconfined to any particular genre or medium.

“Sweet Jesus! This kid has already begun!”

K.K.Raghava’s first drawings in second grade – the bust of a nude by Michelangelo – won him a trip straight to the Principals office. Today, his art takes him across not just geographical boundaries but also those of culture, age, discipline and art itself. He has travelled the world exhibiting and collaborating with people for his work which includes painting, sculpture, performance and film.

It was his mother, Leela Kalyanaraman, whom he describes as a ‘bit of a hippie’ who taught him to draw. Raghava started drawing when he was very little but he began to make an identity for himself as an artist only in the ninth grade; he recalls how his talent for caricaturing teachers earned him a spot on the school notice board and popularity among his schoolmates. At sixteen, making an earnest promise to himself and his father to be ‘disciplined, curious, eager to learn, hard working and self sustained’ he dropped out of high school to pursue a career as a cartoonist.

“I would do birthday parties,, weddings, divorces…anything!”

Raghava began his life as a cartoonist drawing over 30,000 caricatures for anybody who needed his services. He was a member of the successful collective ‘Cartoonists Unanimous’ and his work was fast gaining popularity. He worked with many national dailies like The Indian Express, The Asian Age and The Times of India.

It was during this time that he also started teaching cartooning to children, thus uncovering a new passion. “…and from them”, he says,” I learnt how to be spontaneous and mad and crazy and fun...” When he was just 18, he started a cartooning school. Although he was so young, Raghava filled the shoes of a teacher as easily as he did that of an artist and continues to work closely with children in India and abroad. Most recently, he spent time with children at the Bronx, New York, where he designed a library in collaboration with the Robin Hood Foundation.

In 2001, a controversy created by one of his cartoons, titled Bite of the Big Apple, a tongue-in-cheek interpretation of the events of September 11, cost him his job and reputation and left him where he started. He was shunned not just by angry readers but also by members of the American cartoonist community. Disappointed with the realization that the freedom of expression was ‘only a token idea’, Raghava decided he needed a fresh start. He shut his school and went travelling.

Although one cannot ignore the hint of sadness in his voice while speaking of this incident, it gave him the opportunity to reinvent himself and start the second leg of his experiments with art. He took to painting.

“In the night I die and in the morning I am born again.”

These words, spoken to Raghava by Italian artist Luigi Ontani, who was a great influence, kick-started his journey as a painter. Having received no formal training whatsoever, Raghava, using inputs from friends, children and billboard painters, taught himself how to paint. On his travels he has interacted with several other artists and drawn inspiration from their lives and work. These include Claude Viallat in Nimes, France, founder of the Surface Art Movement and avant garde sculptor Alain Kirili from New York. Using fresh, unconventional methods and mediums and collaborations with other artists he developed his own style of painting. Raghava wanted his work to be ‘larger than life’ Raghava’s experiments included painting with watercolour on large canvases with his bare hands and feet. . “I want to dance while I paint’ he says.

His body of work consists mainly of abstract art. He encourages us to look at his works as a series of paintings rather than in isolation.” Over time, a family of artwork is born, randomly connected through use of the same, few, chosen pieces of vocabulary.”

He has collaborated with fashion designers, models, sculptors and dancers to create works that literally come alive with colour. He has created performance art piece ‘When Paintings Dance’ with the Velocity Theatre in California and has also worked with flamenco dancers.

His most important collaboration, he says, was with wife Nethra Raghava who he met when he was nineteen. Nethra took an active interest in his work and went on to become his manager. Their wedding, a traditional south Indian ceremony in Bangalore, was an installation by various artists with the clothes and décor, all being works of art, most of them done by Raghava himself. They have a son Rudhra, together and currently live in the United States.

In February 2010, K.K.Raghava shot to instant fame after his talk at a TED conference in Long beach, California titled ‘Five lives of an artist.’ He spoke about his evolution from a child into the man he is today. He was praised for the ‘honesty and vulnerability’ with which he spoke to the audience which included the likes of Bill Gates, James Cameron, Google’s Larry Paige and Sergey Brin and Will Smith. The 18 minute talk went viral on the internet and soon CNN was calling him one of the ten ‘most fascinating people the world is yet to know of’.

Raghava has received grants from the Robin Hood foundation to exhibit his works in the Bronx and also from the American India foundation to premier his performance art piece Anthropomorphism in California. He was most recently invited to the Musee d’art Contemporain to exhibit his works. He was also recently awarded a grant by the American India Foundation. Apart from this, he has given lectures at several art institutes, including the New Hampshire Institute of Art (Manchester, NH, USA) and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts (Nimes, France). He also frequently holds art exhibitions in Indian cities. He has also developed an Ipad application, Pop-it at Home, which introduces a new form of story telling and also teaches open mindedness to both children and parents.

He has spoken out for the cause of freedom of expression and has also shown considerable interest in gay rights – protesting all along, using his art as a medium. He speaks of how the more provocative his art became, the lesser buyers he had for them. This is a battle which perhaps every artist fights – the one between survival and personal expression. Raghava has fought this battle beautifully, emerging from every fall (And there have been many), like a phoenix.

Raghava currently resides and works in India and in the United States with his family. He is looking forward to working with children in the Congo. There are talks about a children’s book for which he is working with Al Gore.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Nawab of Pataudi... and Hyderabad

First published in First Post on 23 September 2011

“When I saw the English bowling,” was Mansur Ali Khan’s pat reply to a British journalist at a press conference immediately after his maiden Test hundred at Madras against Ted Dexter’s visiting England side in 1961. The question had been about when after the loss of one eye he had started believing he could play Test cricket again.
In his autobiographical Tiger’s Tale, Pataudi recounted how he decided to have some fun in the middle in that game. “The crowds here have rarely seen Indian batsmen take the aerial route,” he told his batting partner and skipper Nari Contractor, and proceeded to play some delightful lofted shots, including a couple of sixes, in an innings that broke away from the defensive mould of the time.

Pataudi was the first superstar of Indian cricket, arguably more charismatic than anyone before or after him to don India colours. The reasons were not far to seek: his brilliant wit and repartee as much as his striking good looks, superb athleticism and positive cricket.

He was inarguably the first Indian captain to demand consistently hard work in the fielding department, though there had been the occasional flash in the pan before his time. He set a marvellous personal example, patrolling the covers with lissome authority—those fortunate enough to watch the early Pataudi believed that he was not only a genius of a batsman but also a world class slip fielder, before he became blind in one eye. One of the first things he is said to have told his team after taking over as Sussex captain was: “Gentlemen, let’s see some scuffed trousers and bruised knees and elbows.”

Acknowledged as one of the world’s best fielders of his time, he was once invited by a television channel to compete in a fielding contest with Colin Bland, South Africa’s original Jonty Rhodes, to be telecast live, but Tiger declined because it involved getting up early on a non-match morning!

I write this hours after his death and almost every tribute I have watched has stressed his major influence on the self-belief of Indian Test cricketers hitherto known for their defeatist attitude (though Tiger himself was known to have acknowledged the role played by such predecessors as GS Ramchand).

Add all these ingredients and what you get is the magic of Tiger Pataudi, whose heroic exploits in a losing cause once earned him the newspaper headlines His Excellence The Nawab of Headingley. This was during the 1967 tour of England and he made 64 and 148 as India scored 510 after following on, forcing England to bat a second time. Next year, he was leading India in Australia, where after being forced to miss the first Test by a hamstring injury, he earned the sobriquet of Captain Courageous with his brave batting in the remaining three Tests—“with one good eye and on one good leg.”

It has been suggested that his 2793 runs at an average of 34.91 are ordinary figures, but these statistics have to be seen in the right perspective. For the major part of his career he averaged around 40, which was not far behind the performance of the leading Indian batsmen of his period. His failure against the West Indies at both the start and end of his career it was that brought down his average considerably. At the peak of his career, he modestly dismissed any excessive praise of his batting by claiming that most of his runs were scored against medium pace bowling! In rare moments, he however admitted that with two eyes, he might have equalled the great batsmen of the game.

I had the privilege of playing for Hyderabad when he was still a member of the team, with my first season his last. I walked on air the whole season, thanks to the sheer joy of sharing the dressing room with the likes of Tiger, my captain ML Jaisimha, Abbas Ali Baig and Abid Ali. I wonder if there has ever been a more glamorous outfit in domestic cricket than the Hyderabad side of the 1970s. I was very lucky to win the approval of these nawabs of Hyderabad cricket, even if the sojourn was all too brief, for Tiger and Abbas retired after that season and Jai and Abid soon afterwards.

Two memories linger from that season: one a totally unexpected cameo by him in a match against Andhra, when following an off-drive off my bowling, the batsman MN Ravikumar dived back to his crease after starting a second run as he saw Tiger pick up the ball in a feline swoop and fling it—feign a throw, in fact—only to see him walk up to where the ball had actually stopped on a damp outfield and retrieve it casually; another a masterly 198 against Tamil Nadu after demanding a promotion in the batting order and promising the captain a double hundred.

I remember suggesting to Pataudi that his decision to retire from Test cricket at the end of the 1974-75 series India lost 2-3 to Clive Lloyd’s West Indies. His reply was heartbreaking. “I don’t want to be killed on a cricket field, Ram,” he said, referring to his inability to see the express deliveries of Andy Roberts and Co.

In the midst of the swirling surge of emotions the news of his passing has caused, my thoughts keep going back to a moment at the end of my first Ranji Trophy season. We were sitting on the terrace at the Wankhede Stadium after losing to Bombay a match we should have won. I had had a good match personally, and Pataudi was quietly happy about it in the manner of a kindly senior. “Seven wickets against Bombay!” he repeatedly muttered, but adding a disclaimer. “Next year, wickets will be harder to come by, because every batsman will take you more seriously.” Prophetic, those words turned out to be, though I did not take them seriously then.

What he said next devastated me. “All the best, Ram. I won’t be playing next year. I am announcing my retirement from first class cricket.” It was Hyderabad cricket’s irreparable loss then. Today, cricket is poorer without him.

The author was MAK Pataudi’s Hyderabad teammate in the 1975-76 season. An off-spinner, he played in the Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy, Deodhar Trophy and Irani Cup.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Editor, be not proud

Pathfinders is the name of a book on Indian art, literature, music, dance, theatre and cinema brought out by Ace Publication of Mumbai, to which I have made a small contribution, doing some half a dozen profiles of Indian classical musicians. Along with me, S Janaki, Executive Editor of Sruti, the magazine I edit, and Gowri Ramnarayan—who contributed substantially more than I did—were the other two writers from Chennai featured by the book.

The book is really mammoth in size, weighing 5.5 kg as it does, and is a visual treat. It has contributions from some very eminent artists besides critics and experts. It is by and large readable and rich in content. It should be a collector’s item that will make its owners proud, if only they make a suitable stand on which to place it and turn its pages. It was released in Mumbai sometime last year, when I got to browse through it.

Last evening, the publishers collaborated with Taj Coromandel to launch the book in Chennai, amidst some fanfare. The programme started half an hour late, unusual for Chennai book releases, with a jugalbandi concert by Rakesh Chaurasia (flute), Purbayan Chatterjee (sitar) and Satyajit Talwalkar (tabla), a pleasant enough affair appropriate to the occasion.

This is when Shashi Vyas, musician-music critic and son of eminent vocalist Pandit CR Vyas—whose brainchild the book was—took over. Welcoming a number of celebrity guests from the music world seated in the front row, he went on to thank a number of people who had helped bring out the book. He also made frequent references to Vijayabai, who was like a mother to him and who was writing her biography (“She’ll fire me [sic] for revealing this secret”), leaving everyone in the audience who did not know Vijaya Mehta, the theatre personality, guessing Vijayabai’s identity. He also went into raptures about the greatness of Vikkuji, (Vinayakram) and Sriniji (Mandolin Shrinivas), but missed out on Lalgudi GJR Krishnan who sat next to Shrinivas in the audience. Later, he spotted Chitravina Ravikiran in the audience, thanked him for accepting his invitation, and recalled the exciting interactions they had had at the National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai. Followed speeches by Ravikiran and Vijaya Mehta, which were well received by the audience.

Now I come to the central part of the evening’s proceedings: the book release.
Vyas had both Vijaya Mehta and Vinayakram release the book, in the presence of all the celebrity guests who were asked to ascend the stage. Shrinivas was very reluctant to do so, but we soon found out he was only drawing attention to the noticeable lack of an invitation from Vyas to GJR Krishnan to join the crowd on the dais. Once this omission was repaired, both Krishnan and Shrinivas joined the star spangled daispora—to coin a word—of the evening.

Now Vyas launched into a fairly comprehensive vote of thanks, in which he expressed his gratitude to a number of actors—from the publishers and Taj Coromandel to the stenographer and the light boys—before condescending to mention the editors and at long last the writers from Chennai. He finally remembered the name of Gowri Ramnarayan and of course “her husband Mr Narayan.” Some of us then loudly reminded him that he had omitted to mention the name of my Sruti colleague and fellow contributor S Janaki.

Obviously horrified to realise what he had done, Vyas then went into overdrive and profusely thanked Janaki and Sruti (we had helped the book with many photographs from our archives). “How can I forget Janakiji and her Sruti Foundation for all their help, blah, blah, which was all very well but for his obvious ignorance of the fact that besides being Mr Narayan, Gowriji’s husband, I happen to be the editor of the magazine which gave him permission to use all those photographs.

As it happens ever so often in life, here was another instance that brought me down heavily from whatever imaginary perch of self-importance I had assigned myself.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Coaching industry – A parallel education system

I am sharing the link to my article that got published in The Tribune today. The whole page including the photograph, counter argument (by Poonam Soni) and the students' opinions has been compiled and edited by me. (But sadly, some of the lines in my article were removed by the Editors due to space constraints which makes the article a bit incoherent.)

You can read the article here  - Coaching industry – A parallel education system.

Image Courtesy:
My dad and his cellphone :)

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Ravanan Worth A Watch

A stellar performance by the lead actors and tip-top cinematography makes the otherwise tedious and drab “Ravanan” worth a watch.

Directed by the seasoned Mani Ratnam, the film, a modern day take on the timeless epic Ramayana, explores the age-old tussle between good and evil in a new light. The script, co-written by Mani and his wife Suhasini, attempts to flay the traditionally held notions about Ram and Ravanan. Set in a picturesque tribal village, the film narrates the exploits of the local don Veeraiyya who kidnaps Ragini, the wife of the Superintendent of Police Dev Prakash, to avenge the rape of his sister Vennila. Vikram and Pritivraj, who don the modern day avatars of Ram and Ravanan, display considerable histrionic talent playing the lead roles of Veeraiyya and Dev Prakash. The film depicts Ram as hard-hearted and opportunistic, while Ravanan is portrayed as a kindhearted and magnanimous man. The movie draws a parallel between Ragini (Aishwarya Rai) and goddess Sita, Venilla (Priyamani) and Surpanaka, Gnanaprakasham (Karthik) and Lord Hanuman, and Singham (Prabhu) and Kumbhakarna.

The scintillating camera- work by V.Manikandan and Santhosh Sivan has breathlessly taken the medium of cinema a notch higher. The use of natural lighting in cinematography has created pure magic. The breathtaking greenery of the forest and the ethereal beauty of the waterfalls captured on camera is a feast for the eye. The impressive picturisation is complemented by an appealing background score. Synergy is achieved in the songs, ‘Usure Pogadhey’, ‘Kattu sirukki’ and ‘Keda keda kare adupalla’, penned by Vairamuthu and tuned by A.R Rahman. The resplendent art work by Samir Chanda further enhances the cinematic experience.

Sreekar Prasad’s slipshod editing seems to be the only weak link in the movie, apart from the rehashed script and the drab dialogues. The mad rush of images and the constant tossing of sequences from the past and present confuse the viewer and induce tedium. Although “Ravanan” is a far cry from Mani Ratnam’s magnum opus, “Roja” and “Bombay”; it is one of his technically finest movies.

Death of an Era

On June 9, 2011 Maqbool Fida Hussain, one of India's consummate artists, bid farewell to the world and was buried in London far away from his homeland. The indomitable fighter, who was never deterred by the controversies he was mired in, finally bowed out at the age of 95, succumbing to a heart attack.

The painter from Pandharpur, Maharashtra, who was hailed as the 'Picasso of India’ by the Forbes Magazine was born on September 17, 1915 to a poor Muslim couple, Fida and Zunaib. After his mother died when he was an infant, his family moved to Indore where he studied at V.D Devlalikar's Art School. At the age of 20, a young ambitious, Husain moved to Bombay nurturing a dream to be an actor. But the wish did not materialize and he had to earn a living by painting cinema hoardings and designing and building toys. Husain joined the Sir JJ School of Art and came into contact with the Austrian expressionist Langheimer and art critic Rudy Von Leydon, who introduced him to 20th century Western art. In 1947, his painting 'Sunhera Sunsar' won an award at an exhibition held at the Bombay Art Society. In the following year he became the co-founder and secretary of the Progressive Artists Group, headed by Francis Newton Souza, which aimed to encourage an Indian avant-garde. Though M.F Husain gained international acclaim and fame with his solo exhibitions in Zurich and Prague in 1952, the crowning moment of his glittering career came in 1971 when he was sent a special invitation along with the legendary Pablo Picasso to attend the Sao Paulo Biennial.

Husain soon became the leading international face of modernist Indian art in the 20th century and was hailed for his multi-dimensional talents, creativity and cubist and abstract depiction of figures in Indian art. One of M. F Husain’s most famous paintings was ‘Between the Spider and the Lamp’, and his paintings were largely based on the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, Indian culture, women, nature, horses and music.

M.F Husain made a foray into the world of cinema by directing his first film, ‘Through the Eyes of a Painter’, in 1967 which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Husain continued to use cinema as a medium to showcase his artistic ability by directing critically acclaimed films like ‘Gaja Gamini’ starring Madhuri Dixit in 2000 and 'Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities’, with Tabu playing the lead in 2004. Husain shared a close bond with the members of the Indian film fraternity and was especially charmed by Bollywood beauties. Incidentally, Husain considered Madhuri Dixit to be his muse and made her the subject of a number of his paintings titled 'Fida'.

Husain's invaluable contribution to art and cinema brought him laurels from far and wide and he became India's highest paid painter. He was honoured by the Indian government with the Padma Vibhushan. He became a member of the Rajya Sabha in 1986. In 2008, he was bestowed with the Raja Ravi Verma award by the government of Kerala and his name was included in the list of "500 Most Influential Muslims in the World' issued by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Jordan.

However, Husain’s splendid career was marred by controversies, court cases and hate campaigns. Unfortunately he ran into the saffron brigade who took offence on his depiction of Hindu goddesses in the nude. Husain hurt the sentiments of Hindus by painting goddesses like Durga, Lakshmi, Sita, Parvathy and Saraswati in an offensive manner. Although he apologized and withdrew paintings each time he outraged religious feelings, he was hounded out by Hindutva groups and his art exhibitions were vandalized. Husain who felt insecure within his own nation went into a self- imposed exile in 2006. In 2010 he accepted the citizenship of Qatar and died after a prolonged illness in London.

The iconic painter’s death was termed as a “national loss” by the Indian Prime Minister and the artistic fraternity mourned the demise of the “marathon man with no expiry date”. Anjolie Ela Menon recalling her long-time association with Husain said that she “always thought Husain as immortal” and that “his place in the Indian art world is secure forever”, while noted painter Satish Gujral, said that he considers Husain’s contribution to art as “unmatched and the most powerful” and that he “created a legacy”.

M. F Husain is survived by four sons and two daughters and his paintings continue to charm the world. Popularly known as the barefoot artist because for a number of years he discarded footwear, Husain was the epitome of simplicity and humility. Even though a few of the controversies he was embroiled in were self-created, the orchestrated violence he was subjected to was unwarranted. M.F Husain’s life and death are testimony to how artists are denied the right to freedom of expression and are at the receiving end of attacks by the so-called moral police. The death of India’s most charismatic and celebrated artist has brought the curtains down on a golden era.

Monday, 25 July 2011

from the pre-conscious

The city was new to me as it is to hundreds who pour into it every day from different parts of the country. In my school days I never dreamt of being in this city. Finally the time came when I did land in it. It was the monsoon season when I arrived. Monsoon was at its peak. Rain fell in torrents. Never before had I waded through the monsoon floods in a city like this. It had turned sultry and uncomfortable. Well, it is Mumbai, the city of limitless possibilities with its fast-paced lifestyle.
July 4, 1996: It was the first day of my college. In the morning I put on the best clothes which I had kept ready for the day. I tucked my shirt in, put on white shoes assured to survive the rain. I looked myself several times in the mirror and made sure that I looked just like a college student. For a student from Mumbai I would have looked more like someone working in our office.
Well, with a file folder and an umbrella [in my hand] I cautiously set out for the college. The streets were inundated by the incessant rain. In most places the path was not visible under the murky water. In some places weak branches from trees had fallen in the heavy rain obstructing traffic. Motorists who usually tried to push themselves through the traffic and others who tried to make their way through because they were running behind schedule only caused further traffic jam. I had to zigzag in order to protect myself from the two-wheeler riders who drove recklessly. Some pedestrians were soaked/splashed by two-wheeler riders who tore through the floods.
My worst fear was falling into an open manhole. I was nearing the college and for a moment I thought, “Ah, here am I; I have almost reached college.” No sooner had I said this to myself than disaster struck. My left leg had plunged down an open drain up to the thigh! By now I knew that I was not going to look my best on my first day at college. I knew that the shoe that hit the bottom of the gutter would be covered with dirt. But, when I actually pulled it out I was simply delighted to see that the shoe came out looking much brighter! This lifted my spirit and I was glad again!
I entered the college campus feeling happy, and my self-esteem had risen with the brighter shoe! All was fine until I reached the corridor of the college. Soon I began to hear a strange and clumsy sound. I hoped that it was not coming from me, but alas! It did indeed come from the shoe that had developed a hole in the sole during the inadvertent landing in the gutter! Every time I took steps to move about, the air was being sucked in and pushed out resulting in ‘beep’ sound. I tried cleaning the shoe but it did not help. I tried to walk lightly but that only added to the awkwardness. I wonder how I managed to spend the day in college. By now my only aim was to get back home and change. I promptly bought a new pair of shoes and discarded the old. I tried to forget the harrowing first day of my college but it only became one of the unforgettable days in my life!

while walking through...

The street is busy and it belongs to all. There is litter all over the street. People buy their vegetables at the market, located at the end of the street. Fruit shops are making a brisk business. A four-storied garments shop is bustling with shoppers. Kids’ specialist shops around the corner are lively with children checking their favourite outfits. The hawkers too have their field day. Some display pants, shirts and T-shirts as they woo the potential buyers. Others who have exhibited second-hand coats and jackets call the customers to buy them. Electrical and hardware shops make a slow but sure business. The electronic stores have the latest collection of CD/VCD/DVD players, and video and photo cameras. Youngsters throng the cell phone centres that have displayed the latest gadgets. Posters and cut-outs of popular politicians have ‘added colour’ to the street! Although the street belongs to all, everyone is in his/her own world!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Rang de Basanti - Review

Making realistic movies is not new to Bollywood. There have been a number of realistic movies based on the underworld, politics, freedom struggle and a variety of other subjects. But a movie that is fictional and realistic at the same time along with being linked to a real historic past is definitely rare. Rang de Basanti is what one could call an extra-ordinary imagination of Rakesh Omprakash Mehra.
Mehra tries to portray the general mentality of the Indian youth and the way it is molded into an altogether different sense of patriotism and responsibility is worth applauding. One amazing factor of the movie is the fact that it had imbibed a number of ideas and aspects into one synchronized story that touches the audience.
The story begins with a British documentary film maker Sue McKinley enacted by Alice Patten, wanting to film a documentary on a few Indian freedom fighters. Sue’s grandfather had held a post in the British Indian Army and had written an account of his experience in a diary which had enthralled Sue and inspired her to fly down to India to find a cast for her film. Soha Ali Khan, who plays Sue’s friend Sonia in the movie, helps her with the casting. Sue meets Sonia’s friends in the course, whom she thinks fit for playing the characters in her movie.
Daljiit, played by Aamir Khan, Aslam (Kunal Kapoor), Sukhi (Sharman Joshi) and Karan (Siddharth Narayan) are extremely reluctant about acting in the movie. They do not really have a sense of patriotism and don’t think highly about the freedom fighters Sue was asking them to enact. There is also Atul Kulkarni alias Laxman who is a political activist also plays a part in Sue’s movie.
Daljit plays the role of Chandrashekhar Azad, Aslam of Ashfaqullah Khan, Sukhi enacts Eajguru, Bhagat Singh is portrayed by Karan and Atul plays Ram Prasad Bismil for the documentary.
After a lot of toil, the team completes the shooting and just when they are basking in the glory of its successful completion, Flight Lieutenant Ajay Rathore, who is portrayed by R Madhavan and is Sonia’s fiancé, dies in a MiG 21 crash.
This disturbs everyone and when the government puts the blame on Ajay, all these friends decide to stand up for their friend. With the roles played for the documentary, all of them are absolutely motivated and work on the lines similar to their roles in the movie.
The movie is amazingly woven with innumerable concepts interlinked together. Rakesh Mehra has shown astounding imagination and vision in scripting the story. With the story of a few college friends, it shows a glimpse of our freedom struggle, the way the youth relates to it and the life of a young fighter pilot whose ideologies are far different from that of his friends.
Along with a unique storyline, the music given by A R Rehman and Prasoon Joshi’s lyrics fit in flawlessly. The kind of songs that play through the movie just gives it perfect meaning and interpretation. The youth can easily relate to the kind of language used in the movie. Although the story did not demand extraordinary locations and cinematography, the kind of set-ups chosen in the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Rajasthan and Punjab does help the output look merrier.
An excellent acting effort by the cast, an incredible story, brilliant music and the playback of veteran Lata Mangeshkar, the movie is definitely a smash and rubbishes the failure of his previous movie, Aks.

- Vinaya Patil

Bhimsen Joshi – A Profile

The auspicious occasion of Ashadi Ekadashi reminds music lovers of the legendary vocalist Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. The name is synonymous with Music. It is usually a human mind and soul that likes or adores an art, but with Bhimsen Joshi it was vice-versa; with the kind of singing and the quality of music he produced, it almost felt as if Music revered him as much as he worshipped it. With a powerful voice and an amazing breath control he made a mark in Hindustani Khayal Music of the Kirana Gharana. Bhimsen’s “Majhe Maher Pandhari”, a song praising Lord Vitthal transmits the listeners into a different world of worship and entwines them with the Lord himself. A concert ‘Bolava Vitthal’ will be held on the occasion of Ekadashi and will be marked by the songs which were originally sung by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi.
As a child, Bhimsen found his love for music in the bhajans and aartis, in processions and in any kind of music that his young ears could hear. His parents first spotted this interest when he laid his hands on the tanpura that his father had tried hiding from him. His father, Gururaj Joshi, was a school teacher and wanted Bhimsen to get a sound education and grow up to become a doctor. However, Bhimsen ran away from home and began his search for a guru.
Bhimsen was born on the 4th of February, 1922 into a Brahmin family of Gadag in Karnataka district. His childhood was spent in Gadag until he ran away to Gwalior. He spent few years learning from various gurus in Gwalior, Rampur and Lucknow. His father, now knowing the capability and dedication of his son, brought Bhimsen back and arranged for him to learn under the guidance of Sawai Gandharwa of Kundol, Dharwad.
From there, he began his journey towards being an undisputed icon in the music industry guided by Sawai Gandharwa, his music guru, in a typical guru-shishya setting. Sawai Gandharwa was a disciple of Abdul Karim Khan, who along with his cousin Abdul Wahid Khan was the founder of the Kirana Gharana of Hindustani music. Gharana is a school of music in which Bhimsen achieved excellence. Just like his tutor, Bhimsen’s thirst for knowledge was tremendous and what we hear is the output of his dedication and consistency in learning.
A song like “Kannadathi thaye Baa” won him immense admiration in the state of Karnataka. Since his first live performance at the age of 19 in 1941 there was no looking back for him. He released his own album of Hindi and Kannada devotional songs. The turning point of his career came when he shifted to Mumbai; it wasn’t a cake walk though. He began to earn as a radio artist in Mumbai. It was his performance at the ceremony of Sawai Gandharva’s 60th birthday that won him many accolades and recognition among the music faculty. A festival dedicated to his guru, called the “Sawai Gandharwa festival” was initiated by Bhimsen and is held in Pune in the month of December every year. This festival is looked forward to by the masses and receives overwhelming response.
He was a singer of an era where many brilliant singers co-existed; few of them were Shreedhar Kulkarni, and Deelip Kulkarni. His colleagues often described light moments shared with him. It is also known that if time be, Bhimsen would not even mind sweeping the stage before a performance. Such was the innocence and courtesy of his character. Celebrated by masses and critics alike, Joshi made a mark – a unique and astonishing one. His music was spontaneous, dazzling, sometimes fast paced and sacred. The kind of music that came from him was beyond the reach of commoners and yet touched a chord with the masses. The magic of his music touched every soul who experienced it. It was this magic that led him to the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award conferred by the Government of India. He was the most celebrated exponent of the Kirana Gharana and his renditions of Hindustani Classical Music have left music lovers all over the world wanting for more every time they heard him sing.
There are many raagas composed by this stalwart and are now widely used in a number of compositions. Along with raagas and abhangas, another genre that reminds people of him is that of a couple of patriotic songs. Mile sur mera tumhara and vande mataram are the two songs that have received his playback along with many other accomplished singers. As he sings the famous Hindi song, “Piya ke milan ki aas”, for the ‘n’th time, his audiences are still captivated and amused with his unblemished singing.
What most well-known figures in the field of music have observed and tried to learn from him is his amazing breath control, the accurate grasp of fundamentals and the right sense of music. A few of his students are Anand Bhate, Pandit Upendra Bhat and a number of others.
Along with his undoubted passion for music, he also had a liking towards cars, along with an expertise in swimming, yoga and football in his younger years. Mr. Joshi had publicly admitted his weakness in alcohol which he later quit due to grave health problems. However, he succumbed to a heart disorder in January 2011, after leaving an everlasting mark on the entire portrait of Indian Music.
- Vinaya Patil