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A true maverick wizard

Dhruv Jagasia is a music whiz, entertainment professional, film producer and add to that the reluctant role of a star creator who can turn dust into gold.

Anshu Khanna

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If winning an award for avatar makeovers was a reality, the one person who would win it hands down is Dhruv Jagasia, kingmaker, music whiz, entertainment professional, film producer and a maverick at heart. Add to that the reluctant role of a star creator and you have someone who can turn dust into gold yet if given half a chance would simply retire to the hills forever and be lost in the vast universe he has within. Though ‘forever’ is not a word he likes to acknowledge and ‘day after’ a day he leaves to mortal confusion. As he puts it, “All I know is that I have a few calls to make tomorrow, a meeting to attend. Beyond that is up to the universe.”

Dhruv is the founder of the highly successful entertainment and talent management firm, Big Bad Wolf. A name his wife, a criminal lawyer, gave. Though Dhruv suspects it was “Big Bald Wolf” that she had in mind.” With artists like Vir Das, Prateek Kuhad, Indian Ocean, Kubra Sait, Kamakshi Khanna, amongst others in his repertoire, he now turns a producer with the film Choked, also handling the image and career graph of acclaimed director Anurag Kashyap.

Dhruv Jagasia
Dhruv Jagasia

A practising Buddhist and a born survivor whose office has this quirky poster that proudly proclaims, “Soch mat kar de”, Dhruv’s life is a story of someone who jumped first, thought second. And luckily for him each leap of faith got him deeper into the reservoir of his own inner talent.

 Before treading into his incredible trajectory one must first highlight the fact that if someone whom he calls his mentor, Sanjoy Roy, kept the wordsmiths busy with their beloved authors during this lockdown, Dhruv swept the world of independent artist with his magical stroke of LIVE FROM HQ, an online festival where young and acclaimed artist held private shows from their own handles and interacted with their audiences right when the lockdown call was made and humans were getting mentally ready to crawl into the quarantine mouse trap.

He recalls, “I was walking to my office, which is a brisk 8-minute walk when this eureka of an idea hit me. Why not get the artists to go live and entertain their fans at 8 pm each day.” He shared it with his team whom he calls the real custodians of the brand. And each one of them “Pallavi, Aniruddh, Yama, Pritam and Abhishek (Dhruv insists on naming each adding that he is lucky to have these bright minds who indulge all his waywardness) lapped it up. Ashish Hemrajani, the CEO from BookMyShow, was in too. The team put together a DIY poster, lined up the artist and voila the act was alive.”

 Dhruv the explorer has now turned LIVE FROM HQ into a platform that will scout new talent and give them a voice. “Honestly it is my ulterior motive of listening to something new, something fresh,” he laughs.

 So how does he view the world of entertainment in these bleak times when congregations are not going to take place and festivals are out? He sends all preconceived notions out of the window when he retorts: “If festivals are the only parameter of survival how do you explain the billions who listened to Kolaveri Di on a loop? Or who made Gangnam style such a rage.” If that is not logic enough, he adds, “The pandemic is not a question, it is a fact. What we need to find is an ecosystem to overcome this reality. Just like in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, we have to also bring all the pirates together, to make the ecosystem robust. We need to talk to each other.”

To the eternal question of how will the economics pan out, he turns on an intense tone: “An artist is an ‘alag sa’ being. By opting for this path he has taken the empirical decision to be judged for the rest of his life. Whether it is a singer, songwriter, or a guitarist, people wait for that one wrong note to make them fall. Artists are simple-minded people who face a slew of difficulties. Today they have to turn the narrative from ‘why me’ to ‘why not me’. This pandemic has united the world like never before and we entertainment people also have to unite to walk that extra mile for each other.” He insists, “While brands cannot position themselves as just sponsors, artists too have to take a step or two extra.” And above all he hopes that this reverse engineering will filter down to the folk artist who is in the real doldrums.

A kingmaker, Dhruv calls himself just a carpenter! “I did not carve the figurine but I sure do make the cask that transports his work to its audience.” Ask him how did he master this carpentry, and he blames it on his life in school as a backbencher that made him acquire skills to the nonce. Once again distracting you from his brilliance, he insists he was a “useless student” whose father taught him to respect every realm of work. “All through New Year eve I would be working at the packaging department of his factory with the workers.” His mother, a friend first, prodded him to work as an apprentice with Sanjoy Roy whom he openly calls his real mentor.

“Just imagine the delight of this Punjabi boy. There he was working with a maverick boss who let you think, wore his salt and pepper hair with élan, told you that you were actually in the business of ‘carving dreams’ and appreciated you when you got your ears pierced!” That to him was a game changer. At Teamwork was born this energy house that acted, directed, played radio jockey and even hosted a show on Vintage cars for NDTV Goodtimes.

 It’s incredible what made him a reluctant artist. “I replaced Randeep Hooda in a play last minute when he got a role in Monsoon Wedding and our attempts at casting failed. It was the role of a loud Punjabi boy, which I could mime easily but trust me I almost escaped before curtain call out of agripping stage fright. If it weren’t for a kind co-star, the late Pooja Mukherjee, who first introduced me to the power of chants, I would have run for my life. Literally thrust on stage with a comforting opening line of ‘oh f**k!’, Dhruv charmed the audience and went on charming his way through acting for the next 40 productions and 400 shows he took part in.”

 It was after jockeying for Radio Mirchi, anchoring for Goodtimes and being a line producer for films that he found his company which today works with most success stories including Indian Ocean, Karsh Kale, Karan Singh Magic, etc.

His newest avatar, that of a film producer, also follows the trajectory of getting into a realm by default. Anurag knew of him due to Indian Ocean and met him at the time he had come for the screening of a documentary on the band made by Jaideep Verma. However, it was his pal Zoya Hussein who inadvertently re-triggered the tie by inviting him to the screening of Mukkabaaz and then to Kashyap’s home for dinner. There when asked by Anurag to rate the film he responded: “From a layman’s point of view I liked the movie but wished my pal Zoya had a bigger role.” To which, “In the most surreal experiences, Anurag read me a whole new script.” This was followed by Kashyap’s request to handle Zoya’s career. He waited that thought out and agreed once she acknowledged a route that he mapped for her in a two-page letter.

Then he met Anurag again and found himself in the middle of his meeting with Bira Beer. “I was with Anurag at that time. I knew these guys well and I simply rattled off with them to see myself negotiating the waters for Anurag who was now playing on his phone.” Next came the offer to handle Anurag to which another two-page letter was written by Dhruv and Anurag accepted all points…

The role as producers was a natural corollary and today he works closely with the director whom he calls a “fantastic institution. A man who lets you charter the route.” As for Dhruv, his eternal quest for asking a million, hapless questions continues and the universe’s un-satiating desire to give in to his question continues too.

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Bollywood goes OTT: Big releases lined up for August

Priyanka Sharma

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The month of August is going to be an exciting one for filmi bugs. If you despised the time in lockdown because there weren’t enough ‘new’ films online, your wait ends now. From Independence Day special releases to big banner Bollywood films featuring actors like Sanjay Dutt, Alia Bhatt, Aditya Roy Kapur, Janhvi Kapoor, Bobby Deol, Vidyut Jammwal, OTT got it. Let’s begin, shall we?

 SADAK 2 (Disney+Hotstar)

 On Thursday, the makers of Sadak 2 unveiled a brand new poster and finally announced the release date of the film. Touted as the sequel of Sadak, which originally starred Sanjay Dutt and Pooja Bhatt, Sadak 2 will see Alia Bhatt and Aditya Roy Kapur as valuable additions. The film has been primarily shot in Ooty, Mumbai, Mysore and Uttarakhand. Directed by Mahesh Bhatt and produced by Mukesh Bhatt, the film marks the former’s directorial comeback after 20 years. Interestingly, it also marks his first collaboration with daughter Alia.

Class of 83 (Netflix)

Another one of those much-anticipated films, Class of 83 stars Bobby Deol in a lead role. Interestingly, the makers of Class 83 also announced today that the film will be premiering on August 21, 2020. In the film, Bobby Deol will be seen essaying the role of a police instructor named Vijay Singh. Sharing the announcement on social media, Bobby hinted at the premise of the film by writing, “It’s not which side you are fighting for, it’s what you are fighting against.”

Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl (Netflix):

An out and out empowering story, the film marks Janhvi Kapoor’s return on Netflix after Ghost Stories earlier this year. In this one, she brings to the light the heroic story of Gunjan Saxena, who was one of the first female pilots in India to fly in combat and played a vital role in the rescue operations during 1999’s Kargil War. Since the film is releasing over Independence Day weekend on August 12, the film is surely going to strike a patriotic chord.

 Khuda Haafiz (Disney+ Hotstar)

 Starring Vidyut Jammwal and Shivaleeka Oberoi in lead roles, Khuda Haafiz is another film slated for an Independence Day release and will premiere on August 14. Considering the film stars Vidyut, who is known for his action stint, the film is going to be high on adrenaline.

 Grab some popcorn and sit tight because you are all set to witness an entertaining ride ahead!

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Cameron Diaz opens up on why she quit acting

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Los Angeles: Former actress Cameron Diaz feels peaceful after retiring from films. On Gwyneth Paltrow’s series, In goop Health: The Sessions, Diaz opened up on her decision to quit films, reports cnn.com. “I just decided that I wanted different things out of my life. I had gone so hard for so long, working, making films and it’s such a grind. I didn’t really make any space for my personal life,” Diaz said. “A peace. I got a peace in my soul. I finally was taking care of myself,” she answered when she was asked about the changes she witnessed in her life post quitting films. Diaz married musician Benji Madden in 2015. The two have a daughter, Raddix, born in January 2020.

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News of rape and murder cooked up: Disha Salian’s dad

Priyanka Sharma

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Amid the ongoing media speculation around late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s case, Disha Salian’s father Satish Salian has ended his silence on Thursday and slammed reports that claim her daughter was raped and subsequently murdered. In a letter to Maharashtra’s Assistant commissioner of police Dilip Yadav, he said that his family has been continuously harassed by the media in relation to his daughter’s death and it has taken a huge toll on their family’s health.

He stated that the news of her involvement with any politician or attending parties with big names of the film fraternity, rape and murder are all false and fabricated. The stories hold no truth and are tarnishing his daughter and family’s reputation, says her father.

 A day after SC reprimanded Mumbai Police in the death probe, Disha’s father, on the contrary, expressed that he is completely satisfied with the investigations conducted by them and does not suspect any foul play.

Satish Salian’s reaction comes a day after former Maharashtra CM Narayan Rane alleged that Disha Salian was raped and murdered. Claiming that the Maharashtra government is trying to save the culprits, Rane also alleged that Disha’s family is under pressure.

Meanwhile, a PIL has also been filed in the Supreme Court urging the transfer of Disha Salian’s case to CBI stating that both the cases are interlinked. Several reports have hinted at Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray’s son Aaditya’s involvement in the whole matter. In response, Aaditya recently released a public statement in which he said that some people are unnecessarily dragging him into the matter and the reason might be their political failure or rather success of Maharashtra government.

Rubbishing his involvement in the matter, Aditya called the attempt of politicizing the dead ‘a blot to humanity’. He added that he is the grandson of Hindihriduysamrat Balasaheb Thackeray and won’t act in a manner that will affect his image.

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I want to play Kalpana Chawla on screen: Vaani Kapoor

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Mumbai: Actress Vaani Kapoor would love to do a biopic and says it would be an absolute honour for her to play astronaut Kalpana Chawala on screen. “Kalpana Chawla is a huge role model for women around the world and for anyone who has ever dreamt of being an astronaut. She’s an inspiration and her story is definitely one to be celebrated and told. I would really, really want to play her onscreen. It’ll be an absolute honour,” she said. Vaani feels she would love to take risks as an artiste and try her hand at doing the biopic and also experiment with several other genres. “I’ve tried to pick the best from what came my way and it feels amazing to have worked with some of the best in the industry. I have been able to get opportunities for roles so distinctive. From the small-town girl Tara in Shudh Desi Romance to a girl who is French in Befikre, to an independent single mother in War, to a completely different era in Shamshera, it’s been pretty good,” she said. Talking about what attracts her to sign a film, Vaani said: “It’s about connecting to a story and then to the character. I try and pick parts that can be diverse, yet meaningful, and exciting.”

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It’s a shame that Indians had to go abroad for acknowledgment: Adil Hussain

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Actor Adil Hussain says he has seen amazing talent in India. He feels it is a shame that many Indians had to fly out of the country to get acknowledgment. Adil stars in the film Pareeksha: The Final Test, which deals with the Indian education system.

“It is very important for us to know that there is a pool of talent across the country, I’ve seen amazing talent coming out from various regions of the country. I feel it is the duty of the current government to give these children, specifically from the economically marginalised section, equal opportunities across sectors education being primary,” said Adil.

“I feel it is a shame that many Indians had to leave the country and go abroad to get their acknowledgment, as the CEO of Google or for that matter the scientists working in NASA. I hope this changes and our film Pareeksha brings awareness amongst the ruling class and authorities that we still need to do a lot to let alone even acknowledge the talent in our nation,” he added.

The film is based on true events, and is directed by Prakash Jha.

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Sad to see people asking us to sing for free in Covid times: Sonam Kalra

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Multiple award winning singer and composer Sonam Kalra is trained in both Indian and Western traditions of music and is equally adept at both. She talks to The Daily Guardian about the Sufi Gospel Project, her initiative which brings together artists of different faiths, her musical journey, and how things have turned for worse during the Covid-19 pandemic, especially for artistes. Excerpts:

Q. Your music for the Sufi Gospel Project brings a mix of languages and religions to your audience. How important is it to support a culture of “fusion” at a time like the present one?

A. I think it is extremely important at all times, to support a culture of fusion, because that is what it essentially means to be Indian. We have a history of being multi-faith and multicultural, and therein lies our strength. The music I create within The Sufi Gospel Project is a fusion of ideologies — poetry and prayer and music from seemingly disparate cultures, traditions and regions. And I say seemingly because the more I look at our differences the more I find through them our similarities. To say that each of us has our own truth and you can find that truth in a temple, a shrine, a church or a mosque but the most important thing to remember, is that each truth is just as valid. My music is about equality, the inclusion of all beings and of acceptance and to say that many different calls to God can and must exist in harmony. I often say this: That religion is not God and that God has no religion.

Q. While a lot of artists distance themselves from overt political gestures, you haven’t shied away from speaking out about things. Do you think it is essential for artists to have a social and political conscience and express it in their work?

 A. I think if you have a voice, it is your duty to use it — wisely and judiciously — to speak out, to make a difference, for change and for the greater good of society. As an artist, I believe it is our moral responsibility to speak out in solidarity when there is suffering or pain, or when society needs to be reminded of something. For instance, when I did my version of Faiz’s “Hum Dekhenge”, it was not meant to be a political reaction. I created that piece in the hope of peace and out of the desire to speak for what I believe in when there was so much negativity around us. I blended Faiz’s words with Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Where the mind is without fear’ as a quiet appeal to the people of our country to remind them of our freedom.

Q. Your new song “Log Down” addresses the state of artists in the aftermath of the Covid-19 lockdown. Tell us a bit more about that.

 A. Artists have had absolutely no means of generating any income with very limited platforms for creative expression during the pandemic. The saddest part is that the arts have been listed not only as non-essential but also low on the list of non-essential items. I find that quite appalling to be honest, and would like to ask the people who made this list to try and live without art for even one day — to not listen to music or chants in the morning, to not watch anything on TV, to not read a book, and to not wear the fabrics woven by our craftspeople. India has such a wealth of incredible art and craft and it is very disheartening to see that artists have got no support.

 So, I wrote the “Log Down” song because so many artists are struggling to make ends meet. And also because I was bemused by the number of people who would call artists including myself, to perform for free, completely ignoring the fact that we as artists also have families to feed and need a means of an income to survive.

Q. Is it true that you produced “Log Down” without leaving your home?

 A. Yes, I recorded the audio at home, shot it at home, edited it, produced it, did the costumes, everything! In fact, it was shot in one take so there are no cuts and it didn’t need editing. I shot it on my phone with no one behind the camera — I just put it on a tripod and recorded it. For the music, I reached out to a couple of musicians who sent me their parts over email and another musician friend, Saptak Chatterjee, produced it for me. My dholak player, Tarit Pal, came to my house only for the shoot and was wearing a mask the whole time. Even the dogs in the video are mine and played their supporting roles very well.

Q. How do you see concerts and live musical performances happening post-Covid?

A. While a lot of concerts are happening online, the joy of engaging with a live audience is unparalleled. The relationship of love and the energy that fills an arena or even a small room is something artists and audiences are craving for at this point. So I do believe they will happen and when they do, they will be really special. I think for a while, event organisers will need to be creative in the way they present an artist or event, making sure they follow the norms of social distancing and safety, but they will figure out a way to make it happen. In some parts of the world, there are already drive-in concerts where the audience sit in their cars while watching a band perform on stage so I do see it happening, and hopefully soon!

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