Despite the misses, Abhay’s JL50 holds promise for the future of Indian sci-fi films - The Daily Guardian
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Despite the misses, Abhay’s JL50 holds promise for the future of Indian sci-fi films

Murtaza Ali Khan

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JL50, the new Sony LIV series created and directed by Shailender Vyas, was originally meant to be a science fiction movie but now it has been released as a four-part miniseries with each episode clocking roughly 30 minutes. The sci-fi thriller series revolves around a CBI investigation of a flight crash in the hill town of Lava situated in West Bengal. The investigation takes a shocking turn when it is discovered that JL50 which crashed a week ago is the same aeroplane that had mysteriously disappeared after taking off from Kolkata (erstwhile Calcutta) 35 years ago.

JL50 stars Abhay Deol, Pankaj Kapur, Piyush Mishra, Rajesh Sharma, Amrita Chattopadhyay, and Ritika Anand who is also one of the producers on the series. While Deol plays a CBI officer named Shantanu, Kapur plays a professor of quantum physics who holds the key to the mystery surrounding the crashed aeroplane.

Now, as evident from the aforementioned storyline, the theme of time travel is central to the series. According to Wikipedia, the concept of time travel involves “movement between certain points in time”.

It is widely accepted that even though time travel may be theoretically possible, it is beyond our current technological capabilities. But that hasn’t stopped the science fiction writers from exploring the
different aspects of time travel. If we talk of cinema, film franchises including Star Trek, Back to the Future, X-Men and Avengers have depicted humans arrive in the past or future, almost at will. Each time a new time travel theory is put into effect. Generally, the most popular means of time travel involves a time machine— originally made famous by H. G. Wells’ 1895 novel The Time Machine.

Over the years, we have become more sophisticated when it comes to time travel. Take, for example, the concept of wormhole (aka Einstein–Rosen bridge). A wormhole can be visualised as a tunnel that links disparate points in spacetime. So, if we enter the tunnel which is connected to the present at its opening we can effectively travel into the past or the future connected to its other end. It’s like taking a shortcut in time.

JL50 too relies on the wormhole concept to explore the possibilities of time travel. It is heartening to see serious sci-fi finally working out reason- ably well in India. In the past, we have seen the concept of time travel used ludicrously in films like Fun2shh and Action Replayy, but JL50 finally brings some dignity to time travel. Credit goes to creator-director Shailender Vyas and actor-producer Ritika Anand for the belief and commitment to their vision. Abhay Deol and Pankaj Kapur also need to be commended for backing a project like this.

The series has all the right ingredients and yet it falls short of attaining brilliance. And it’s mainly because of two reasons. Firstly, it lacks the deep exploration that the long-form narrative requires. The ending is too quick and slick. While it may have worked for a movie, it leaves a lot to be desired within the construct of a miniseries. Secondly, the makers appear to take the viewers for granted when they choose to go easy on science and the concept of time travel. Gone are those days when the Indian audiences weren’t exposed to international films and series. Viewers of today, especially those on the web, are well-accustomed to watching sci-fi films and series. For example, a viewer who has seen Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is bound to feel a bit let down by JL50. Why stick to the elementary stuff when the audiences have an appetite for more?

Despite the misses, JL50 holds a great promise for the future of sci-fi films and series in India. Pankaj Kapur’s riveting performance is the strongest point of the series followed by Abhay Deol’s long-awaited return to form. Kapur is right up there with the very best actors in the country. He plays a Bengali professor specialising in quantum physics with such effortless ease that one can seldom associate with a non- Bengali actor essaying a Bengali part. And he makes the character delectable to watch. Every time he is on the screen the show attains a different level of brilliance.

As for Deol, he finally brings his A-game to the fore ever since he lost his mojo during the 2010s. He did essay some truly amazing characters during the 2000s but then the last decade wasn’t so productive for him. One hopes to see his best work yet during the 2020s. And this series is certainly a good start.

Also, the performances of Ritika Anand and Rajesh Sharma are solid. Amrita Chattopadhyay also makes her presence felt during her short but memorable appearance. The couple of scenes she shares with Deol are quite intense. If you are a sci-fi lover then JL50 will certainly not disappoint you as long as you don’t approach it with very high expectations.

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‘I GOT INSPIRED BY PRABHUDEVA SIR AND GOVINDA’

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Dancer and choreographer Paul Marshal currently seen in Dance Deewane season 3 has been part of many reality shows like DID, Dance Plus, Nach Baliye, India’s Got Talent and has choreographed in ABCD 2. The Daily Guardian spoke to Paul Marshal who shared with us his journey.

How has the journey been as a dancer and choreographer and how did it start? After finishing my schooling, I started with back dancing when I was in FYJC and also I used to do drumming for 4 years in boarding. Then gradually started with Marathi shows as a folk dancer and later on did my first stage show as a back dancer . Then did my first reality show as a contestant (Krazzy Kiya Re 2) and since then I have been doing different reality shows on different channels back to back. Not sure about the exact number but somewhere around 25 reality shows and still adding. My first reality show was as an assistant choreographer Dance India Dance Little Master season 1 with Dharmesh. First movie song as an independent choreographer was Happy Hour- ABCD2.

Who has been a motivation for you in dance? My initial dream was to open my own Art Gallery as I love sketching and painting. But somewhere watching movies, I got inspired by Prabhudeva sir and Govinda.

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VIDYA BALAN’S COMPELLING PORTRAYAL OF A FOREST OFFICER HELPS AMIT MASURKAR DELIVER THE PERFECT FOLLOW UP TO ‘NEWTON’

Murtaza Ali Khan

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After a hiatus of 4 years, Amit Masurkar, the writer-director of Newton, has finally returned with his next film, Sherni, released as an Amazon Original. The film stars Vidya Balan in the lead role of an honest and tenacious forest officer caught at the centre of human-animal conflict. If Newton was a satire on the power dynamics that governs the lives of the tribal people inhabiting the Naxal-prone areas across India then Sherni can best be described as a satire on the power dynamics that governs the lives of the village people living in the periphery of densely forested regions of the country and the forest officers guarding them. Sherni, based on a screenplay co-written by Aastha Tiku, Yashasvi Mishra, and Masurkar himself, also stars Sharat Saxena, Vijay Raaz, Mukul Chaddha, Satyakam Anand, Neeraj Kabi, and Brijendra Kaala in pivotal roles.

Just like Newton Kumar, Vidya Vincent is a person of principles. When Newton’s father tries to marry him to an underage girl he protests. While serving as a presiding officer during a seemingly impossible mission to conduct free and fair voting in a Naxalite territory, Newton doesn’t leave any stone unturned to ensure that every eligible individual is able to exercise their right to vote. For, he is someone who follows the rules to a tee. And the fulfillment of his duty means everything to him. Vidya, on the other hand, is quick to hand over the notice to a contractor when she finds out that he is not filling up the waterholes which are a lifeline for lifeline for wild animals in the scorching heat. But she also knows when to avoid a confrontation.

In Balan’s own words, her character in Sherni is “passive-aggressive”. As an actor she has played countless strong female characters over the years. But, unlike those characters, Vidya Vincent’s true strength lies in her passive aggression. She is a doer but she doesn’t believe in boasting about it. When a villager gets mauled by a tigress she is quick to defuse the situation by engaging with an ex-legislature on the spot which allows her team to collect the all important DNA samples from the dead body. That’s what makes Vidya Vincent a more complex character than Newton Kumar. And fortunately for Masurkar his casting was spot on. For, a lesser actor would have struggled to make Vidya Vincent so believable.

While working with Masurkar on Sherni, Balan had to let go of her old methods in order to embrace the director’s unconventional shooting style. As part of her preparation, she spent time with real-life forest officers and did forest trails with them to acclimatize herself. She also watched documentaries and read books in order to get a deeper insight into her character. Also, for the first time in her life, she lived in a tent as part of the shooting schedule. All the hard work and preparation has resulted in a compelling film with both Balan and Masurkar going the extra mile to make things look as realistic as possible.

Also, the other actors have played their parts really well. The veteran Sharat Saxena shines in the role of an egotistical hunter, Pinto Bhaiya, who is only concerned about his hunting records. “Just by looking into the eyes of a tiger I can tell if it’s a man eater or not,” he brags. Vijay Raaz is equally brilliant in the role of Prof. Noorani who assists Vidya and her team in capturing a tigress on a killing spree. While Bijendra Kala, essaying the part of Vidya’s superior, succeeds in occasionally delivering some much needed laughs, Satyakam Anand portrays the part of an opportunistic politician with menacing glee. Mukul Chaddha looks believable in the part of Vidya’s husband during the limited screen time he gets. However, Neeraj Kabi is a tad bit disappointing in a rather clichéd role. He certainly ought to choose his roles more carefully.

Sherni is deliberately paced and takes some time to set up its world and the characters that inhabit it. But the narrative picks up pace after a rather slowish first half paving the way for a suspense filled final half an hour. Masukar isn’t merely interested in making a film about a tiger hunt. He aims for something much bigger and succeeds to a great extent in examining the power dynamics and socio-politics that governs the lives of those inhabiting the forest areas. And he does so with a touch of his trademark satire that made Newton so memorable. Had Sherni released in theatres then perhaps it wouldn’t have succeeded in drawing the crowds at it isn’t really that kind of a film. While it is no Tarzan or Jungle Book, it is certainly a kind of film that the OTT audiences wouldn’t mind watching as it would come across as a breath of fresh air amidst the run of the mill content that gets churned out day in and day out.

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KARTIK SAYS SOMETHING DIFFERENT IS COMING WITH NEW POST

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NEW DELHI: Bollywood actor Kartik Aaryan, who was recently speculated to have been ousted of filmmaker Anand L Rai’s upcoming film, on Friday created a sensation among fans by posting a picture of himself in a new mysterious look on social media.The actor took to his Twitter handle and along with the photo tweeted, “Aa raha hai kuch ALAG SA. Take a Guess.” In the photo, the 30-year-old could be seen standing in front of a graphical backdrop, while wearing an overcoat and holding something like a shaft in his hand. Though Kartik’s face was hidden in the dark, his long hair was clearly visible. The foreground of the photo had the date 20.06.21. Coming back to his work front, Kartik recently completed 10 years in Bollywood with his debut film ‘Pyaar Ka Punchnama’ and will next be seen in ‘Dhamaka’ which has been directed by Ram Madhvani. The film will follow a news anchor reporting a hard-hitting incident of a bomb blast in real-time. Kartik’s character will be subjected to circumstances grappling him between tough choices, abidance to his career, or awakening the humanist within. Apart from ‘Dhamaka’, Kartik will also be seen in ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2’. Earlier, he also made headlines when reports speculated that the makers of ‘Dostana 2’ dropped him from the film.

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‘HUM DIL DE CHUKE SANAM’ COMPLETES 22 YEARS

Shweta Verma

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It’s 22nd anniversary of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s iconic film ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’. With his flair for storytelling, cinematic sense, lavish sets, and soulful renditions, the ace filmmaker transported the audience into a different world in 1999. Not only did the film became a massive box office hit, but it also left critics awe-struck as it was the first time anyone had witnessed Bhansali’s grandeur sense of cinema. Even after 22 years of its release, the film still remains fans’ all-time favourite.

The film featured one of the brilliant performances by Salman Khan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, and Ajay Devgn. Be it Sameer’s fun attitude and style, Nandani’s innocence and unparalleled beauty, or Vanraj’s love and generosity, each of Bhansali’s character resonated with the audience and evoked empathy for their pain. Known for his soulful and beautiful music, it was with Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam that Bhansali brought to the table a taste of music that was completely new in Bollywood.

While Dholi Taaro and Kai Po Che delivered the flavour of folk music and became cult festive songs, Nimbooda became the dance anthem for every function. Similarly, the beauty and essence of unconditional love in the title track Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Jhoka Hawa Ka touched everyone’s heart. The brilliant rendition of Tadap Tadap also struck a chord with every broken-hearted lover. The concept of love, separation, patience, and sacrifice, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam received roaring applause from everyone across the nation and bagged several awards, including Filmfare Award for Best Film and Filmfare Award for Best Director.

Now the fans across the nation are super excited to watch Bhansali and Ajay Devgn collaborate again after 22 years. The celebrated filmmaker’s next highly anticipated film, ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi,’ will mark the reunion of this iconic duo, and it will also be interesting to see Ajay and Alia Bhatt together sharing the screen.

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INTERNATIONAL YOGA DAY: LET’S CHERISH WHAT WE HAVE

When the world is looking up to India as a global cultural icon for yoga, it is paradoxical that our educational institutions do not have them as part of their health and value education.

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A huge pan-India yoga and nutrition workshop was organised by a renowned Indian educational publisher on the occasion of International Yoga Day with celebrity health and fitness expert Dr Richa Sood. Over 3000 educators joined the session live on social media channels along with their students and their parents, as a bright start to Monday morning and for the theme “Yoga for Life”, which was the positive side of online education. It was heartening to see so many children, parents and teachers joining in with the expert and asking questions about the impact of yoga in their drastically changed lifestyle during the pandemic, as well as its impact on people’s mental and physical health. Dr Sood also gave nutrition and anti-ageing tips, apart from simple exercises for the eyes, neck, head and back, all of which are affected due to this work from home and online education scenario. She also spoke about the right nutrition in both adults and children which has become extremely important today due to various health issue diagnosed in children like obesity, eyesight, headaches, back pain and so on.

One of the main highlights of the event was about yoga being imbibed into our lifestyle for a healthier and happier life across all age groups, be it children, adults, or the elderly. It has often been a myth that yoga is only for middle-aged and older people who have health issues. On the contrary, yoga needs to become integrated with learning right from our childhood to make it part of one’s daily routine so that it can help prevent a lot of lifestyle-related diseases in the long run. The truth is that yoga is an art form with so much grace and creativity and science because precision is the key.

The NEP 2020 states that students of all levels of schools will be allowed to participate in physical activity and exercise, including sports, games, yoga, martial arts, dance, gardening, and more, following local availability of teachers and facilities. The pluralistic choices of Indians in the integrative healthcare education system makes it imperative to give a basic understanding of yoga with allopathic, ayurveda, sidhha, unani, homoeopathy, community medicine, and paramedical system of medical education (section 17.4).

 Geetika Sahu, aged 11, from DAV Public School said, “This happened for the first time and it is indeed very exciting for all my classmates and friends. Our teachers are doing yoga with us and Richa ma’am has answered our questions too on better concentration and headaches that some of us get due to screen time.”

This is an era of instant gratification. There’s no patience or excitement for anything any longer since those aren’t needed: at the touch of a button and some payment, everything is available at the doorstep or on our screens. With the online education and work from home space making up most of our daily routines, our lifestyles have changed radically with sleepless nights, fatigued days and cravings that most of us have of all kinds. The solution is also the problem: while these apps have tried to make life easier, they’ve ended up making us more lethargic with loads of health issues, stress, and obesity.

Nutrition and yoga go hand in hand. Unless the nutrition is right and local, seasonal produce isn’t part of one’s diet, bad health will reign and cause major health issues later. Eating a balanced diet with simple, home-cooked food with lots of fruits and vegetables, is the key to feeling better and living smarter. This pandemic, we have seen numerous young and dashing CEOs who have been extremely fit, but lost their lives: some to Covid but many others to stress and anxiety due to job losses, pay cuts, and others. The ability to deal with silent killers like stress through meditation and yoga is the new mantra for times to come. It should well become part of our lives, even after this pandemic is over, not only for our body but for our mind and spirit as well.

Sports and yoga not only make students keep up their physical stamina, but also helps to develop the habit of obedience, discipline, the determination to win, willpower — all of which are essentials of life. Academic learning and sports education complement each other; they resemble the two sides of the same coin. If sports education is accompanied by the academic curriculum, the overall personality of the student is increased to quite an extent: qualities of leadership, sharing, team spirit, and tolerance are learnt from sports. 

Yoga and team sports can teach inner strength, calmness, concentration, teambuilding, equality, discipline, inclusion, perseverance, and respect. It has the power to provide a universal framework for learning values, thus contributing to the development of soft skills needed for responsible citizenship. Therefore, it is imperative to integrate fitness, sports, classical music, classical dance, and yoga into formal education.

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UNIQUE GIFT IDEAS FOR FATHER’S DAY 2021

Noor Anand Chawla

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It is that time of year again — a specific day invented by card companies to honour fathers. Though in reality, the celebrate the bond between father and child should be celebrated every single day, there is no harm in demarcating one specific day for an extra celebration. The occasion can be marked through culinary treats or through an exchange of thoughtful gifts. If there is one thing most of you would agree on, it is that men are notoriously difficult to shop for. Some men hate shopping, tending to hold on to their precious favourite things for years on end, till they are in tatters! Even when asked what they want or need, most often the simple answer is ‘nothing’. This year, one should consider giving them something useful as well as unique — customised ayurvedic hair care products based on their individual needs from the Vedix brand. 

The way it works is, you take a quick dosha quiz on their website vedix.com, along with your father. Based on his responses, you receive customised hair care solutions for him, which can be purchased in a beautiful gift hamper, to make sure that your father has an effective hair care regimen, formulated especially for him. Here is a little glimpse of the products on offer. 

Most men of a certain age are battling variations of male pattern balding. Even if they are blessed with a fine head of hair, they often have to deal with a slowly yet steadily receding hairline. What then will they appreciate the most? A hair re-growth serum that is easy to use, with no smell or grease. The Vedix Men Care Hair Re-Growth Serum, retailing for Rs 1299 treats follicle roots on a micro-level. 

Since it is water-based, the serum is easily absorbed into the scalp for maximum effectiveness. This helps the hair follicles absorb the benefits of the herbs and essential oils directly, and keeps the hair healthy, bouncy and shiny. The product contains gunja to promote hair growth, kumari to repair damaged hair, grapeseed for conditioning and cedar for its anti-inflammatory properties, along with japa for thickness, bakuchi to control greys, and bhringraj to make the hair lustrous – a mix that ensures healthy growth of hair.

For those men who battle dandruff, the Vedix Men Care Hair Re-Growth Serum with Dandruff Control is the best option. It prevents dandruff through hand-picked anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal ingredients. The serum is quick-absorbing and non-greasy and easy to apply. It contains nimba which is a proven cure for dandruff, doorva to cool the scalp, tulsi to prevent scalp infections, along with gunja, kumari, grapeseed and cedar. 

For those on a tight budget with the desire to gift their father something he would truly appreciate, the Vedix Men Care Anti-Hairfall Shampoo comes in at just Rs 499. It is free of harmful ingredients like sulfates and parabens and is a natural coconut-surfactant shampoo with no added synthetics that cleanses the dirt, pollution, excess oils, dust and other particles thoroughly. It also works well in conjunction with the Vedix oil and serum. This product contains yashtimadhu to treat patchy baldness, kumari, gunja, bhringraj, and quinoa protein to add shine. 

The shampoo works best when used with the Vedix Hair Conditioner, which is also made from herbal ingredients and protects the hair from external damage. It contains aloe, bhringraj, brahmi, and hibiscus for hair growth, and shea butter, cocoa butter and mango butter for tangle-free hair. It is designed to keep your hair bouncy and voluminous all day. 

The last of the products that can be added to this Father’s Day gift hamper, is the Vedix Men Care Anti Hair Fall Oil Aloe Vera + Licorice. It is well known that oiling the scalp is an essential step in a holistic ayurvedic hair growth regimen. The Vedix Anti-Hair Fall Oil is customised with 12 herbs that work together to nourish the hair and keep it healthy. This product contains yashtimadhu, kumari, shatavari to arrest hair fall and reduce scalp dryness, amalaki to promote hair growth, and tagara to reduce hair fall caused by hypertension and stress.

This Father’s Day, gift your dads a hair-care range made uniquely for them, and they will never forget the gesture!

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

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