BABA AZMI’S UPLIFTING FILM ‘MEE RAQSAM’ ENCOURAGES US TO PURSUE OUR DREAMS - The Daily Guardian
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BABA AZMI’S UPLIFTING FILM ‘MEE RAQSAM’ ENCOURAGES US TO PURSUE OUR DREAMS

Murtaza Ali Khan

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Baba Azmi’s ‘Mee Raqsam’ was recently screened at the 3rd Azamgarh International Film Festival. The film, which was released last year on ZEE5, shares a special relationship with Azamgarh. Baba Azmi’s legendary poet father Kaifi Azmi had a deep desire to make a film in his native village, Mijwaan, situated in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh. But he couldn’t realise it during his lifetime. So Baba Azmi took it upon himself to fulfil his father’s dream. And he finally realised it by making ‘Mee Raqsam’. Now, the film is not just made in Mijwaan but it also has the bragging rights of discovering its lead actor from there. Young Aditi Subedi who plays the central role of Maryam in the film was handpicked by Baba Azmi for his film during a visit to Mizwaan. For four months, Aditi was trained in Mumbai while staying with Baba and family. The training also included learning Bharatanatyam.

Aditi Subedi responds to a question from … s her father (extreme right) looks on (Photo Credit: Twenty4 Frames)

‘Mee Raqsam’, which also stars Danish Husain, Shraddha Kaul, Rakesh Chaturvedi Om, and Naseeruddin Shah in pivotal roles, revolves around a young Muslim girl who aspires to become a dancer. But hailing from a small village like Mijwaan, Maryam faces great resistance as everyone questions her dreams and choices including her aunt and grandmother. After her mother passes away, she finds great support in her father (played by Danish Husain) who backs her in this journey, only to face a great backlash from the community. A poor tailor dependent on the community for work is suddenly ostracised on the commands of a powerful religious leader named Hashim Seth (essayed by Naseeruddin Shah) who strongly disapproves of a Muslim girl’s affinity towards Bharatanatyam—a dance form he considers alien to Islam and hence unworthy to practice.

But it’s not just Maryam’s community that’s against her learning Bharatanatyam. For, there are also people on the other side of the fence who find it difficult to digest the idea of a Muslim girl getting so involved with a dance form that’s so deeply rooted in spiritual practices closely associated with Hinduism. A rich and powerful patron named Jai Prakash (portrayed by Rakesh Chaturvedi Om) is hell-bent on derailing Maryam’s journey. So on one side, there are bigots like Hashim Seth and on the other side, there are hypocrites like Jai Prakash desperately trying to snuff out her penchant for Bharatanatyam. Will Maryam succeed in overcoming these insurmountable odds? Or will she too lose this battle against bigots like all those other girls whose dreams are ruthlessly crushed by patriarchy?

Written by Safdar Mir and Husain Mir, ‘Mee Raqsam’ may not be a film that can boast a big budget but it is definitely a film with a big heart. The various performances on offer are really the film’s USP. Naseeruddin Shah as Hashim Seth is in many ways the antithesis of his progressive ‘Maulana’ character from Shoaib Mansoor’s ‘Khuda Kay Liye’. Seth is a relic of a bygone era desperate to perpetually keep his community caged in the dingy recesses of bigotry for his petty political benefits. Interestingly, Rakesh Chaturvedi Om as Jai Prakash is not unlike Mullah Saidullah, the character he essayed in Anurag Singh’s ‘Kesari’. Although the two characters are separated by their religions, their minds are united by bigotry and hate. Kudos to Rakesh Chaturvedi Om for yet again succeeding in making a highly unlikeable character look so believable. Danish Husain is also superb as Maryam’s hapless but determined father. Those who saw him play the part of Taliban’s supreme commander Mullah Khalid in the Netflix series ‘Bard of Blood’ may find it a little difficult to recognise him here. Shraddha Kaul is menacing as Maryam’s regressive aunt who believes that women are incapable of stepping out of their households. When she forces Maryam to take up stitching classes to stop her from learning Bharatanatyam, she actually feels as if she is doing a huge favour to her dead sister by preventing her daughter from going astray.

‘Mee Raqsam’ is a powerful reminder of the patriarchy-driven prejudice propagated in the name of religion which tries to prevent women from pursuing their dreams. It is also a testament to a son’s commitment to the fulfilment of his great poet father’s dream. But there is another dream that the film fulfils. That of Aditi Subedi’s father to watch his daughter on the big screen in his hometown of Azamgarh and in front of his own people. When Aditi was invited by Shobha Akshar, Assistant Editor, Pakhi on the stage as part of the film festival’s post-screening discussion, everyone present there was on their feet. Aditi couldn’t hold back her tears anymore. Her father was equally emotional seeing her daughter cast a spell on all those present with her spellbinding performance. Who says dreams can’t be fulfilled? All that’s required is a desire, and a will to fulfil that desire.

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‘THE SARKARI KARYALAY’ ACTOR OPENS UP ABOUT HIS LIFE, WORK AND MORE

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Relatable content is always enthralling to the audience. Binge’s The Sarkari Karyalay is one such affair, where, taking a jibe at the challenges government officials make you go through for something as simple as updating one’s Aadhaar card, makers and cast of the show take you on a bittersweet journey with them.

Vaibhav Shukla, the male lead who plays Rohan in the show, in an interaction with The Sunday Guardian, shared insights from his personal and professional life. 

Being an NIT graduate with a decent job, Vaibhav decided to pay heed to his calling, which was, of course, acting. “I left my job and enrolled myself into a theatre group in Delhi and started to work towards my dreams, without ever looking back at what I left behind,” he said.

Hailing from Chhattisgarh’s Bilaspur, Vaibhav has had his share of hardships but he makes it all sound like a cakewalk. “Things finally started to fall in place after I got a job as a writer at The Viral Fever, after having served as an intern for a period of three months.”

According to Vaibhav, the first time he ever acted was for a Nukkad Natak in his college on a friend’s advice. After coming to Delhi, he faced countless auditions, rejections, ups and downs but what remained stuck in his head was the determination and eagerness to live up to his dreams. For his fanbase which is flourishing already, Vaibhav is currently working on a number of projects, one among them is his new show, Teen Tigaada.

As a fan of Shah Rukh Khan and Sushant Singh Rajput, Vaibhav believes that content is the king for a show. On the quick decisions he took in his life, he said that he never contemplated or gave second thoughts to his desires. “I just worked towards them as no matter how intense a situation gets, it still passes,” he said.

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AGE OF SAMURAI SERVES AS A VERITABLE PRIMER ON THE MOST TURBULENT PERIOD IN JAPANESE HISTORY

Murtaza Ali Khan

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Samurai cinema, also called “chanbara” or “chambara”, is the Japanese equivalent of the Western genre and it mostly deals with epic period dramas and swashbuckler films generally set during the Edo period or Tokugawa era (1600–1868 AD). Now, it was the Japanese master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa who first introduced the genre to the western audiences through a series of swashbuckling movies such as Seven Samurai (1954),  The Hidden Fortress (1958), Yojimbo (1961), and Sanjuro (1962).  Kurosawa’s samurai movies usually celebrated and glamorized the samurai tradition (pride, honor, and sacrifice as laid down by the code of Bushido) which basically made the samurai look cool. But there’s a flip side to every coin. Another master Japanese filmmaker Masaki Kobayashi presented a darker, grimmer, and perhaps a more realistic picture. His chanbara masterworks Harakiri (1962) and Samurai Rebellion (1967) are perhaps the earliest examples of realistic portrayal of samurai’s life in feudal Japan. Later on, however, Kurosawa did correct his course by making two of his finest masterworks—Kagemusha (1980) and Ran (1985). Both these films are evidently much closer to Kobayashi’s bleaker interpretation.

For most of the world, these films are an entry point to what it meant to be a samurai and there is hardly anything known beyond the scope of these films as well as others subsequently made by filmmakers like Yôji Yamada, Takashi Miike, and Takeshi Kitano. But what if someone wants to get into the intricacies beyond the scope of these films? What it really meant to be a samurai? What did it take to become one? Where did they come from? Well, if you too are looking for answers then you needn’t look any further than the six-part documentary series by Netflix titled “Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan”. Relying on graphic re-enactments, voiceover narration, and interviews of historians, the series tells the story of the bloodiest period in Japanese history when the country was facing a civil war with several powerful daimyo (warlords) vying for supremacy during the final phase of the Sengoku period in feudal Japan from 1551 to 1616.

Some of the key historical figures that the series brings to life include the unpredictable and bloodthirsty Oda Nobunaga who becomes head of the Oda clan upon the death of his father Oda Nobuhide in 1551. Nobunaga launches a war against other daimyo with the aim of unifying Japan. Ruling with an iron fist and showing zero tolerance for those who dared defy his authority, Nobunaga ingeniously devises an uninterrupted infantry fire (called the volley fire) by shooting arquebuses (an early type of portable gun) in rotating ranks. The ploy proves to be decisive for Nobunaga at the Battle of Nagashino (the battle and the resulting carnage forms the chilling climax of Kurosawa’s Kagemusha) in 1575 where his men decimate the formidable army of Takeda Katsuyori (the son of Japan’s pre-eminent daimyo Takeda Shingen, portrayed by the legendary Tatsuya Nakadai in Kagemusha). But, at the height of his glory, Nobunaga is eliminated by his own samurai general Akechi Mitsuhide in 1582. Mitsuhide in turn is killed by Nobunaga’s loyal retainer Toyotomi Hideyoshi at the Battle of Yamazaki, only a couple of weeks later.

Age of Samurai then follows Hideyoshi’s quest for supremacy. A peasant with no traceable samurai lineage, Hideyoshi had risen in stature under Nobunaga who unlike other warlords put merit about lineage. After Nobunaga’s death, Hideyoshi kills Mitsuhide and goes on to fulfill Nobunaga’s dream of unifying Japan. But soon he is consumed by power and in the year 1592 he sends his forces to invade Korea with the ultimate aim of conquering China. But after tasting some early success, his forces are unable to overcome the local Korean resistance and the invasion ultimately proves to be a suicidal mission. Unable to come to terms with the reality, Hideyoshi grows more and more delirious, refusing to call his troops back. When he breathes his last in 1598, his council finally withdraws the forces from Korea.

Hideyoshi’s death provides an easy passage to power to the cunning and calculative Tokugawa Ieyasu who has been waiting in the ranks for his turn to finally claim the throne for himself. After the decisive Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Ieyasu slowly begins to destroy all the opposing factions. In 1603, Ieyasu is conferred with the title of shogun, having outlived all the other great warlords of his times. The Sengoku period ends when Toyotomi loyalists get defeated at the siege of Osaka in 1615. The Tokugawa shogunate would rule Japan for the next 250 years until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

Age of Samurai has been criticized for leaving out some important events as well as for its several other minor inconsistencies such as inaccurate depiction of samurai hairstyles, armor, etc. Also, unlike some of the other documentary series relying on re-enactments, Age of Samurai provides little dialog to the actors portraying the various warlords and relies mostly on the voiceover and the interviews which somewhere distances us from these characters. However, despite the shortcomings, it serves as a veritable primer on the most turbulent period in Japanese history.

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Velvet Duck: Get ready for fun, frolic and frock

Anshu Khanna

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The name itself prepares you for its quaintness. Velvet Duck, a newest kid on the online fashion blog, is getting inundated with young girls queuing up for its peasant blousons and pinafore dresses. Not to forget easy to lounge in jumpsuits in the finest cotton.

Chic yet comfortable, stylish yet casual, well detailed yet understated, www.velvetduck.in emerges as the newest online fashion tale, launching with an endearingly beautiful collection of Western wear for women. Tailored and designed by Neetu Juneja, a fashion designer and entrepreneur, it makes available a range of silhouettes that one chooses from sitting in the comfort of their home. Fashionistas can click away, hand picking a smart shirt, combining with it a straight-lined skirt and adding cotton dress to their cart.

A quaint and chic fashion brand enriched by the evolved sensibility of Neetu Juneja, Velvet Duck is an ode to the comfy, chic, trending yet affordable clothing. Surprisingly well received from the word go, it has topped the charts in the visibility quotient, opening the floodgates of orders. Neetu attributes this acceptance to the fact that work from home culture has radically transformed fashion preferences across the world.

Over the last few months, as people were stuck to their homes, the need for comfortable apparel snowballed. “Work from home has removed all boundaries of formal and semi-formal attire. The office has moved from a chair to a couch to a bean bag and thus the shift to comfort clothing. Consumers’ preferences started gravitating towards apparel that were comfortable to work in yet presentable enough for virtual meetings and social-media appearances. Each of our ensembles meets this parameter,” shares Neetu Juneja, founder of Velvet Duck.

Sustainability too is at the core of this brand. “Fashion has emerged as a popular choice amongst new customers due to low-entry price points and rising popularity of social commerce.

We continue to expand our value fashion portfolio offering trending styles at affordable price points,” shares co-founder Manpreet Juneja.

Comfort is on top of consumers’ minds more than ever before. Consumers today are shifting focus from technicalities and performance to comfort-oriented silhouettes that promise versatility and utility. With an eye to fashion and an ear to history, Velvet Duck as a brand is constantly on a lookout for gems from Indian craft and culture.

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IS YOGA AN EFFECTIVE MEDIUM FOR OVERALL FITNESS?

Noor Anand Chawla

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Yoga has been our country’s preferred medium of attaining fitness since times immemorial. However, with new and more exciting fitness fads entering the market through Western channels, yoga is increasingly battling the perception of being an ‘easy’ and relaxing form of exercise—not one geared towards weight loss or achieving fitness goals. Paloma, a yoga teacher based in Mumbai, dispels these notions clearly.

Claiming that yoga is the universal answer to holistic well-being, she believes it is the ideal medium to promote physical agility while also enhancing mental wellness. Especially when it comes to women, yoga plays an essential role in keeping them healthy in the long run. And if women are healthy, it bodes well for global health both for present as well as future generations. Paloma claims, “Today, women are coming forth in every walk of life as a strong force to reckon with. At Paloma Yoga, we focus particularly on women’s health while looking at the effective reversal of many women related issues like breast cancer and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). My work is targeted towards the well-being of all my students, by building a balance between the body and mind in the most natural and organic way possible.” Yoga is a great way to remove stress, resulting in overall peace, harmony and a feeling of deep detoxification.

Paloma goes on to stress that yoga is a practise of emotional, physical and spiritual transformation. The physical part might take a long time to manifest, but it is a process, as with everything in life. Just as sculptors cannot create beautiful works of art in a day, yoga needs time and patience to allow you to look your physical best. When done correctly, yoga is the ideal medium to address both weight loss as well as adequate toning of the muscles of the body. Classical and hatha yoga practises require very agile movements from the body. These strong, even masculine, yoga postures work well on reducing body fat, burning them down with effective strength and movement. Further, the hatha and vinyasa yoga series are also aimed at weight loss—to get the body in shape while allowing it to build strength and stamina. These practices are especially known to do wonders for the core.

While explaining the effectiveness of the movements, Paloma says, “Anything that is methodical, technical, and result-oriented is slow and gradual by its very nature. Yoga is a subject that falls under this category. It is an alternative science that positively affects each and every bone joint, ligament and tendon simultaneously. We must remember that the body is made of millions and billions of particles and multiple organs, hence the practise of yoga takes a certain amount of time to show the desired result, but rest assured that throughout the process, you will feel a positive impact on your body.”

When asked about yoga’s efficacy at building one’s immunity, Paloma wholeheartedly affirms that as a practice, yoga was created entirely for that purpose. Whether through asanas or meditation—yoga is designed to work on the body’s immunity levels. In particular, surya namaskar or the traditional sun salutation, the practice of breath control through anulom-vilom, the cleansing breath work known as bhastrika; along with postures like trikonasana, camel pose, vajrasana and utkatasana work really well to increase the human body’s immunity. Ultimately, yoga is a healing science, and has been used traditionally and effectively for centuries to heal the human body and ensure overall fitness and wellness of the human body and mind.

For Paloma, yoga is a scientific method of healing the mind, body and soul all at once. Through her methodology and practice, she teaches postures with scientific precision and imparts an emotional understanding of the human mind and spirit. Specifically, she teaches medical yoga, which she believes is the need of the hour. This is done by identifying the source of physical pain and solving the problem pragmatically through yoga.

One can reach out to Paloma for a better understanding of their yoga-related doubts, or to learn the art of classical hatha yoga for overall wellness. She can be reached on email at palomagangopadhyay1@gmail.com or through her social media pages.

The writer is a lawyer who pens lifestyle articles for various publications and her blog www.nooranandchawla.com. She can be contacted on nooranand@gmail.com.

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A MAGNIFICENT ODE TO BANARASI TEXTILES

By offering fine Banarasi handloom saris, dupattas and lehengas, woven in pure silk, cotton, koras, georgettes and more, Tilfi has quickly become a name to reckon with.

Noor Anand Chawla

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India’s rich cultural heritage has always been a strong influence on the clothes we wear, despite the advent of Western trends. The success of Tilfi, an indigenous brand born in Banaras in 2016, personifies this idea to the core. By offering fine Banarasi handloom saris, dupattas and lehengas, woven in pure silk, cotton, koras, georgettes and more, Tilfi has quickly become a name to reckon with.

Aditi Chand, co-founder & CEO, Tilfi Banaras.

Aditi Chand, co-founder and CEO of the brand, is committed to highlighting and investing in Banaras’ rich past to ensure its exquisite handicrafts are valued by future generations. With the vision of establishing the concept of ‘Banarasi’ as the epitome of luxury handloom—the brand swears by its promise of purity, craftsmanship, artistry and durability.

Its signature piece Kashi, is a pure Katan silk Banarasi handloom saree. Made with the classic handwoven Banarasi technique passed down through generations of weavers, on pure Katan silk described as being ‘soft as butter’, it is their most hot-selling item. The glorious outline of Varanasi’s ghats are handwoven on to the borders of these resplendent silk sarees, with Roopa Sona or Gold and Silver zari work. The detailed designs mirror the splendour of Banaras viewed from the river Ganga. Additionally, the brand offers a multitude of sarees, suits, lehengas, jackets, dresses and off-beat ensembles through the wide selection on its website.

Having lived in various cities of India and abroad, Chand returned to India to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams. She claims that her years of professional experience of leading multicultural teams in high-performing environments, and her MBA degree from INSEAD, equipped her with the skills and expertise required to build an Indian artisanal brand. Her experience and desire were shared by her spouse Udit Khanna and his brother Ujjwal Khanna, who came from a family that had worked with Banarsi textiles for over 100 years. As wholesalers of handwoven textiles across Northern India, the Khanna family was firmly entrenched in this business, when things changed drastically in the late 2000s. Changing consumer preferences, the proliferation of creations made in power-looms and the gradual decline of weaving traditions in artisan families, resulted in a steady contraction of the business.

However, a chance conversation with a weaver inspired their journey back to their roots.

Chand says, “as the weaver lamented the unwillingness of his sons to follow in his footsteps, we suggested ideas to motivate them to pursue their “hunar”. Ironically, the old man asked us why we chose not to join our father and grandfather’s trade? A moment’s self-reflection made the inherent hypocrisy of our stance clear. How could they hope to preserve and further the cause of this beautiful art and persuade others to join the trade, if we would not do it ourselves?”

Soon after, Tilfi was born with a new vision. Modelled on modern business practices, the idea was not merely to encourage the survival of Banarasi handloom, but to have it grow and thrive. One of the biggest changes was the decision to go direct-to-consumer through online retail, bypassing traditional channels of sale that had long alienated consumers from the craft. The founders proudly declare that Tilfi was the first to adopt a digital strategy in the traditional space of luxury textiles.

Chand explains tacitly, “The brand was begun to fix the broken system that prevailed. Traditionally, the textiles were sold through multiple layers of intermediaries—this resulted in loss of value at every stage, with poor quality standards, a disconnect with the end consumer and a general lack of trust. In addition to this, competition from machine made alternatives and the absence of innovation had led to the craft losing its premium appeal. Unfortunately, the most impacted were artisans, especially during economic downturns.”

The founders of Tilfi attempted to address each of these issues. By going direct to consumers, they maintain complete control over the make and sale of textiles, ensuring impeccable quality and technically accurate communication. Shorter feedback loops help in keeping a finger on the pulse of the consumers. By investing in design and innovation, they are able to push the craft forward and create more demand.

Chand and her fellow founders, started the business with the belief that a small home-grown brand had the potential to introduce Banaras and its beautiful crafts to the world. Five years on, Tilfi has managed to do so. The conviction that local talent makes some of the finest textiles available in the world today, backed with operational efficiency, quality standards and a considered business model, has ensured the brand’s success.

Having lived in various cities of India and abroad, Chand returned to India to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams. She claims that her years of professional experience of leading multicultural teams in high-performing environments, and her MBA degree from INSEAD, equipped her with the skills and expertise required to build an Indian artisanal brand.

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KATRINA KAIF TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID-19, UNDER HOME QUARANTINE

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Katrina Kaif on Tuesday informed that she has tested positive for Covid-19 and is currently ‘under home quarantine’. The ‘Namaste London’ star confirmed the news on her Instagram story. “I have tested positive for Covid-19. Have immediately isolated myself and will be under home quarantine. I’m following all safety protocols under the advice of my doctors,” read Katrina’s statement. “Requesting everyone who came in contact with me to get tested immediately too. Grateful for all your love & support.” Urging fans to be safe amid the coronavirus pandemic, the ‘Humko Deewana Kar Gaye’ star added, “Please stay safe and take care.” 

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