Situated merely 11 kilometers Eastwards of the archaeological destination of Mandu, their ancestral land of Jamnia constitutes the rich forest belt that is home to India’s many indigenous tribes, such as the Bhils and Gonds. Both, Veerangana and Shubhangana Jamnia grew up admiring their father, the younger Rajkumarsahib of Jamnia as he championed several social welfare causes that directly impacted the people of and around his Jamnia. In tandem with that, their proximity to tribal areas and wildlife deeply inculcated values of sustainability and environmental awareness in them.
Shubhangana Jamnia (L) and Veerangana Jamnia (R) with their father in the backdrop
Environmentally-friendly sanitary napkins
Shubhangana and Veerangana Jamnia during a distribution drive
A postgraduate student at the London School of Economics, her country’s astonishing lapses in public policy led Shubhangana to take up the subject as her specialisation. Her sister Veerangana is an Economics major from Mumbai’s St. Xavier’s College and endeavours to work in the world of sustainable fashion. Together, they have launched a series of social welfare initiatives for social welfare and wildlife conservation, the most recent one being Dor. Inaugurated earlier this year in October, Dor is a sustainable fashion initiative that generates proceeds for social welfare causes in Madhya Pradesh.
“The name ‘Dor’ literally means thread, and we aim to use it to connect the people of today to jointly unfurl a better tomorrow. With about 68% of Indian population living in rural areas, I wish to build my career in policy making for rural empowerment. Even though the number of developing villages is on the rise, we are paying a heavy price for this development through a depletion of our ecosystem. Urbanising villages isn’t the real empowerment of villages. Instead, real empowerment results out of natives being able to preserve their surrounding environment”, says Shubhangana.
Dor made a promising start by collaborating with Sanitree, a Scottish company that devices sustainable and ethical means of tackling period poverty and stigma around the world. It uses crowdfunding to finance a Jaipur-based co-operative of hundreds of local women who produce reusable cloth pads that are then freely distributed amongst India’s rural belts. Incidentally, Scotland has appeared in fairly recent news bulletins for being the world’s first country to make menstrual pads free of cost. One hopes for other countries to soon follow suit in a similar prioritisation of social welfarist policies.
Since its inception, Shubhangana and Veerangana’s initiative is on its way to channelising these reusable and environmentally friendly pads to 89 villages in Madhya Pradesh. Made entirely from organic materials, Sanitree’s pads do not contain the slightest trace of plastic and are fully biodegradable. Thus, true to their familial values, Shubhangana and Veerangana are effectively pioneering a cause that ensures rural empowerment and environmental conservation go hand in hand. “With only 2-3% of rural women using sanitary pads in India, profits from Dor are channelised to make sanitary pads available to them. What’s more, each kit can be reused for upto two years!” Shubhangana adds.
In recent times, India has seen a meteoric rise in its native manufacturing of sustainable menstrual hygiene products. Brands like PeeSafe, Carmesi, Heyday and Saathi are amongst the growing number of environmentally friendly sanitary napkins that cater to the hypoallergenic and environmentally conscious segment of menstruating girls and women in multiple urban centers. However, most of these are limited by the price component that limits their affordability to the nation’s elite and upper-middle classes. The stark disparities between urban and rural India’s access to menstrual hygiene is a contingency that has been glaring us in the face for decades. Poor menstrual hygiene due to poverty and taboo has caused many women serious illnesses and recurrent infections. Some of these even bear the potential of being life-threatening. The negation of women’s menstrual rights hygiene in our tax reforms also made for a dismal sight, but the government’s exemption of tax on sanitary napkins has been embraced as a welcomed, albeit a grossly delayed change.
The development sector has made some commendable effort in distributing disposable sanitary napkins to the poor while also gaining employment, but the story wasn’t as rosy as shown in Akshay Kumar’s blockbuster film ‘Padman’. Budget factors and the subsequent inferiority of manufacturing material are two of the multiple constraints in these models. However, initiatives such as Sanitree prove the possibility of garnering welfare collectives to champion the cause. And the fortification provided by young, local elites such as Shubhangana and Veerangana Jamnia is vital in ensuring that these initiatives percolate into the rural grassroots of India. To date, almost 25% of India’s girls abstain from attending classes during their menstrual period. This is merely one of the many statistics implying the challenges that await us, and delaying action only adds to the issue. Many CSR initiatives too have recently expressed vocal support for the cause of safe menstrual hygiene. For example, Rajasthan Royals carrying a sanitary brand sponsor’s name on the top of their jerseys during this year’s IPL was a revolutionary step in its own right. True to their example, the Jamnia girls prove that small scale enterprises following similar suit and undertaking social responsibilities is as easily possible as it is fulfilling.
“While menstrual hygiene is just the first cause taken up by Dor, our next aim is to reduce the impact of Covid-19 on child education in rural areas. Additionally, we run a parallel initiative for wildlife conservation-Tails of the Forgotten by creating social media awareness around animal rights and their protection”, the two sisters conclude.
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Bundi: The legacy continues
The sleepy town of Bundi awoke with great anticipation on the morning of the Navsamvatsar. It was the 2nd of April 2022 coinciding with the first day of the Hindu month of Chaitra which heralds the New Year in North India. The beginning of the year 2079 of the Vikram Samvat, a year filled with hope and revival, especially so, after the two years of the pandemic. However for the people of Bundi it was the eagerness to participate in an ancient tradition of the anointment of the titular Maharao Raja of Bundi that excited them even more. Hoardings and posters announcing the Royal Event had sprung up all over the city. The last Maharao Ranjit Singh died childless in 2010. He left behind no heir to succeed him and as per tradition, the Gaddi must not remain vacant as the ancient lineage must continue, therefore after a wait of 12 long years it was finally decided by the members of the former nobility of Bundi including the late Maharao Brijraj Singh ji of Kota that Kr Vanshvardhan Singh of Kapren is the deserving candidate since he is the nephew and the closest surviving kin to the late Maharao Ranjit Singh and shares the same Royal bloodline, hence he should be anointed the titular Maharao Raja of Bundi.
Royal retainers tie turbans and gear up for the grand ceremony.The magnificent Taragah Fort and the Garh Palace dominate the skyline of Bundi town in south-eastern Rajasthan.Vanshvardhan arrives for the Raj Tilak accompanied by royal retainers.Jagirdars or members from the former nobility of Bundi seated for the raj tilak ceremony.Puja and havan being conducted by royal priests
The former kingdom located in the South-Eastern part of Rajasthan was amongst the 22 princely states that comprised erstwhile Rajputana. A 17-Gun Salute state, Bundi was founded in 1242 AD by Rao Deva ji, a descendant of Rao Visaladev the Chauhan ruler of Ajmer who also happened to be the ancestor of the illustrious Prithviraj Chauhan. The Bundi Royals are the head of the Hada branch of the Chauhans and claim descent from the Agnikula or the Fire clan of Rajputs. Maharao Bhadhur Singh ji was the last ruler of Bundi and upon Independence signed the treaty of accession thereby formally merging the State of Bundi into the Union of India in 1949. Maharao Bhadhur Singh ji had been adopted by his predecessor Maharao Ishwari Singh ji, who did not have any issues, and thus in his lifetime adopted two sons, Bhadhur Singh ji and his brother Kesari Singh ji from one of the Jagirdar or Nobility family of Bundi. Maharao Vanshvardhan Singh is the grandson of Maharaj Kesari Singh ji, brother of the Late Maharao Bhadhur Singh ji. An alumnus of Daly College Indore, Vanshvardhan graduated from De Montfort University in Leicester UK. A keen cricketer he has also represented MP in the Junior National Shooting Championships.
The Garh Palace complex and below that, the Moti Mahal Palace complex were the primary venues for the splendid Raj Tilak Dastur. The Taragarh Fort and the sprawling Garh Palace complex pretty much dominate the skyline over the medieval town of Bundi. Built over 400 years by successive rulers of Bundi, a series of palaces, gardens, temples, fortified mansions and other magnificent structures exist within this astounding 500 meter high, hill side fortification that have each been named after the ruler who built them. However, the Forts, Piece de resistance is most definitely the stunning Chitrashala that boasts of some of the finest wall paintings and frescoes in Rajasthan. Executed by the ateliers of the Bundi School of miniature art, these exquisite paintings depict scenes from the life of Lord Krishna and his consort Radha, religious and military processions, Shikaar scenes, festivals and local folklore. The use of blue and green hues is predominant in most of these creations.
Customary rituals commenced right from daybreak and continued until sunset. Kr Vanshvardhan arrived with much fanfare from his Ishwari Niwas residence to the Mataji ka Chowk within the Moti Mahal complex. After the ceremonial bath and cleansing ceremony, Pujas, and Havan were performed by the raj purohits or the royal priests. This was followed by darshan, abhishek, and paying obeisance at the Royal Family deities at the Ashapura Mata and the Rangji temples. Meanwhile in the open courtyard of the Moti Mahal Palace the invitees to the Raj Tilak had already begun to assemble and were directed to their ordained seats. In the centre of the garden-courtyard, a large canopy was erected, below which the Royal Gaddi was placed. On the left of the canopy was a large area designated for the Jagirdars and members of the families of the former Nobility of Bundi, and important dignitaries from the town.Immediately flanking the two sides of the canopy were seats reserved for the visiting Royalty that included the Maharaja of Bikaner, Maharao of Sirohi, Raja of Khilchipur, Yuvaraj of Kutch and Raghogarh and then there were special seats for the Maharaja of Alwar and his son who are directly related to the Bundi royals. On the right of the canopy was a section that had been earmarked for the Kotah nobility, special guests, and family members. Directly facing the canopy at a little distance was the enclosure for the ladies who were attending the coronation ceremony. At the auspicious hour Vanshvardhan reached the venue accompanied by liveried attendants bearing the Royal Standard, the Insignia, the Chhatri and the fly-whisks. Once he had taken his seat, the Paag of the late Maharao Ranjit Singh ji was brought from the Rangnathji temple and placed over the head of Kr Vanshvardhan by HH Maharaja Jitendra Singh of Alwar. This was followed by the Raj Tilak Dastur that was performed by the royal priests. Once this ceremony was concluded it was time for the Nazar & Nazrana ceremony that was performed by the visiting Royalty and subsequently by all the members of the families of the former Jagridars of Kotah, followed by rest of the invitees and guests.
Post noon, the focus now shifted to the imposing Garh Palace where the next set of ceremonies were to be held. The traditional Darikhana, exclusively organised for the Bundi Jagirdars at the Diwaan-I-Khas within the Garh Palace precinct had been a major topic of discussion. The Darikhana, an age-old feudal practice is primarily a congregation of the nobility in the presence of the ruler and held on special occasions such as festivals, birthdays or coronation ceremonies. The nobility attending the Darikhana have to adhere to the strict dress code and are seated as per their hierarchy and pecking order. Vanshvardhan now climbed onto a bedecked horse and rode up to the fort followed by his retainers and others on foot. Resplendent in the customary brocade achkan and a safa adorned with an exquisite family heirloom—a stunning Sirpech or turban ornament, he took up his position on the marble throne at the Diwaan-I-Khas. On either side were seated members representing the 40 Jagirdar and Kotdiyat families that included Kapren, Junia, Antarda, Bada Kheda, Jajawar, Peepalda, Thikarda, Savantgarh, Indergarh, Balwan, and Khatolia mongst others. As per the protocol, all the Jagirdars then performed the Nazar & Nazrana; simply a social gesture to acknowledge the anointment of the new titular Maharao Raja of Bundi and reposing their loyalty and allegiance to him.
Last but not the least it was time for the stately elephant procession that now began to wind its way through the old town of Bundi. The new ‘Maharao Raja’ mounted atop the beautifully caparisoned elephant, steadily navigated the 3 km long route that was overwhelmingly greeted by the enthusiastic townsfolk. Post sunset and amidst chants of ‘Long Live the Maharao Raja of Bundi’, the procession finally culminated at Ishwari Niwas thus putting at rest the uncertainty and the speculation that had prevailed for the past 12 years and further ensuring the continuity of the 780-year-old legacy of the Hada rulers of Bundi.
‘Paper Jewels Postcards from the Raj’ by Omar Khan is a congregation of 518 vintage postcards that give you a visual tour of India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
Images from the Raj era are like visual delights that are like veritable art forms. Remnants of the Kodak era when the world was just about discovering the pleasure of photography. When German and French presses located in Kolkata and Mumbai were reproducing works of masters. I stumbled upon this jewel of a book titled ‘Paper Jewels Postcards from the Raj’ by Omar Khan. It is a congregation of 518 vintage postcards that give you a visual tour of India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, and co-published by Mapin Publishing and the Alkazi Collection of Photography.
‘Paper Jewels Postcards from the Raj’ cover.
Postcards were to people in 1900 what the Internet was to the world in 2000. These were the world’s first mass transfusion of color images. We went from thousands to billions of postcards in a handful of years. The finest painters and graphic artists from India, Austria, Britain, France, Italy, and the US were involved. It is the story of postcards during the Raj era and the first book on the subject that uncovers gems including early postcards of the great Indian painter M.V. Dhurandhar, Ravi Varma Press in Mumbai, exceptional work of an early Austrian lithographer in Kolkata, a British photographer in Peshawar, and Indian studios in Jaipur, Kashmir, Delhi, Lahore, Madras, Karachi.
Organised by place into a dozen chapters, the essays cover key themes crucial to postcard publishing: religion, dancers, teas, and soaps, famines, fakirs, humor, warfare, and the role of postcards in the Independence movement. It tells the stories of the first postcard publishers of the subcontinent between 1892 and 1947, most of whose images have not been seen since they were published a century ago.
‘Paper Jewels’ relies almost entirely on new primary research in archives and private collections in India, Pakistan, Europe, and the US, and explores the many artistic, business, fashion, political, and technical developments that contributed to the rise of a medium—the postcard—that is still very much with us today.
There were many reasons for the appearance of the picture postcard in the 1890s. These included the invention of photography—photographs were common by the 1870s, and the mass-produced Kodak camera came out in the 1880s and greatly democratised the form. There were more liberal international postal regulations and printing technologies like rapid press lithography were being exploited by small workshops and artisans in European and Indian cities. The growth of shipping and railway lines exemplified by cards like City Line To & From India contributed to a fertile tourist market. Postcards, as a messaging system, were literally built on an iron communications network. At the same time, the spark that proved the concept came from advertising. It was business and marketing that helped underwrite the initially rather high costs for printing postcards.
The selection of postcards in the book is eclectic and reflective of the many facets of the Raj era. The gallantry of the Indian forces is captured in a poster by Nestle’s Swiss Milk that celebrates the 20th Punjab Infantry, a successful British Indian Army regiment on the North-West Frontier. There are lilting images of the Southern peninsula. An endearing series by Singer Sewing Machine on the singer families. A very rich imagery of the Devadasis… yet another series of nawabs and kings posing like brown sahibs.
Especially interesting are those sent from the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in Bombay, which opened at the height of the postcard craze in the city in 1903. A postcard produced by the hotel is one thing: clean, purchased on the rack at the hotel shop, A postcard with instructions sent by J.C.G. Goodrich to the Editor of a Seattle, Washington newspaper on Christmas eve is quite another. Other times the writing overwhelms a beautiful card, as in the case of Bombay.
DECODING THE SAGA: MAHARAJA’S LOST DIAMOND NECKLACE RESTORED AND HOW
American YouTuber Emma Chamberlain recently appeared for the Met Gala wearing a ‘very gilded’ necklace around her slender neck. It allegedly belonged to the Maharaja of Patiala and was restored to its original brilliance by the Paris-based jewellery house Cartier.
T he world’s eyes once again got trained on our majestic maharajas and their jewels. All thanks to the appearance of social media queen and American YouTuber Emma Chamberlain who appeared for the Met Gala this year wearing a ‘very gilded’ necklace around her slender neck. Now, the theme of the gala was ‘Gilded history’ and the collar she wore could not have been more historic. Given that it allegedly belonged to the Maharaja of Patiala and was restored to its original brilliance by the Paris-based jewellery house Cartier not so long back. Netizens went to town calling it ‘colonial appropriation’. Popreset, who calls himself the pop culture god and is followed by 11k Instagrammers, claimed, “No shade to Emma since she is the Cartier Ambassador but, this is a very important historic piece that should have been returned to the Patiala royal family and not made into a fashion statement.” In defence of Cartier, leading author and historian Cynthia Meera Frederick claimed, “Cartier never said that it is the original choker or a reconstructed piece. There is no official statement on that.” To which yet another Instagrammer claimed, “There is nothing Indian about the necklace except that it was bought by an Indian potentate.”
Emma Chamberlain and Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala.
Indeed Cartier’s official press room has not made an official statement on its originality. It was in 1889 that Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala spotted and bought the seventhlargest diamond in the world, mined a year before in South Africa at the Paris Universal exhibition, gest diamond at the time. Bought from De Beers, it had a 428 carats pre-cut weight, and it weighed 234.65 carats in its final setting. It is the largest cushion-cut yellow diamond and the 2nd largest yellow-faceted diamond in the world. In 1925, the Maharaja travelled to Paris, bringing with him numerous trunks of precious stones: diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, pearls and rubies of the highest quality set in antique Indian settings, which he decided to have reset at Maison Cartier. The Maharaja commissioned Cartier to turn the De Beers diamond into an heirloom piece and make a ceremonial necklace with the diamond being its centrepiece. It was finally completed in 1928. The necklace has five rows of platinum chains embellished with 2,930 diamonds, including as its centrepiece the world’s seventh-lar. The necklace also contained seven other large diamonds ranging from 18 to 73 carats, and a number of Burmese rubies. This was the most expensive piece of jewellery ever made in history and it would have cost some US$ 30 million dollars today in its original form. The necklace disappeared from the Royal Treasury of Patiala around 1948. In 1982, at a Sotheby’s auction in Geneva, the De Beers diamond reappeared. There, the bidding went up to US$ 3.16 million, but it is unclear whether it met its reserve price. In 1998, part of the necklace was found at a second-hand jewellery shop in London by Eric Nussbaum, a Cartier associate. The remaining large jewels were missing, including the Burmese rubies and the 18 to 73 carats diamonds that were mounted on a pendant. Cartier purchased the incomplete necklace and after four years, restored it to resemble the original. They replaced the lost diamonds with cubic zirconia and synthetic diamonds and mounted a replica of the original De Beers diamond. The fate of the choker worn by Emma though remains unknown. And, no one knows whether it disappeared with the necklace or if it was sold. It was the collar that Emma wore and what would have seemed like a proud moment for the Maharaja era, turned into another reason to scowl at ‘Imperialist Europe’. History has it that the Maharajas came out into the durbar flaunting the family jewels that were not just objects of desire but also a way to reflect the Princely state’s affluence and political well being. The Patialas were known for this practice and like their coffers, many toshakhanas went empty post-independence, especially when the privy purses got banned by the then government. As Cynthia admitted, “So many royal pieces were either sold or dismantled. This is, unfortunately, a sad reality which cannot be denied.”
Unveiling Vijaydan Detha’s ‘Timeless Tales from Marwar’
‘I’ll tell you a secret . . . A writer’s own experience, craft, imagination and thought have a limit, but the stories heard from the mouths of men and women have neither a limit nor a boundary. Neither a limit to storylines nor to the collective thought processes. Neither a boundary to the imagination nor to experience.’ – Bijji
A chronicler of Rajasthani culture and fondly known as Bijji, Padma Shri Vijaydan Detha’s collection of Rajasthani folk tales, the classic Batan ri Phulwari, have been produced as retellings in Timeless Tales from Marwar. Batan ri Phulwari, meaning ‘Garden of Tales’, is a fourteen volume collection of folk stories collected and written over nearly five decades. The literature of Rajasthan is usually thought of in the binary of khyaat and baat. Khyaat are the chronicles and praises of kings and rulers, while baat are imaginary tales that need not be historical. This collection falls into the latter category.
Vijaydan Detha was born in 1926 in Borunda, Rajasthan, in the Charan caste of bards and poets. One of the country›s most prolific and celebrated voices, his writings include more than 800 short stories, several of which have been translated into multiple languages. Detha’s timeless classics have also been adapted into major plays and movies, some notable ones being Paheli, Charandas Chor and Duvidha. Bijli collected all the stories in Batan ri Phulwari from Borunda and its surroundings. They were told by men who would sit around at the village chowk after nightfall, chatting and telling stories to one another.
In the book›s introduction, social activist Aruna Roy talks about this rich ‘oral tradition’ of storytelling in Rajasthan—one whose “every retelling adds textures, from one generation to the next for hundreds of years”. Vishes Kothari, who has translated the stories from Rajasthani to English, has attempted to conserve as much of the text›s regionality and orality. He has also sprinkled several Rajasthani words throughout the prose to keep it as close to the original as possible—for instance, mandana (a type of rangoli or mural art made on floors or courtyards in Rajasthan), choorma (a traditional Rajasthani dish made of crushed wheat flour dumplings with ghee), khejdi (the state tree of Rajasthan) and jharokha (an enclosed, overhanging balcony—a common feature in Rajasthani homes).
The stories range about everything from fortresses to castles, havelis and mansions, landlords, farmers, kings, constellations, trees, ghosts and animals. Each story begins with a quote talking about Bijji›s foray into the world of Rajasthani literature, progressively tracing his journey—from the time when he decided to start writing in his mother tongue, went back to his village and nurtured the craft and what he learned from his gurus. The book is also sprinkled with quotes by folklorist and oral historian Kamal Kothari providing his personal insights on collecting folktales.
Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She is the author of ‘Wanderlust for the Soul,’ an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world.
All her published work can be accessed on her blog www.nehakirpal.wordpress.com
STAYING HIP WITH KAMAKSHI SINGH
Meet Kamakshi Singh, the hip and fit scioness from the house of Trilokpur in Himachal Pradesh. A few years ago, this Himalayan princess adorned the arid sands of Rajasthan with her jovial charm as the kunwaranisab of Pokhran and is the mother of a beautiful little boy. The intense transition caused by her familial and maternal responsibilities gave Kamakshi a special impetus to renew her twin passions of fitness and culinary indulgence. Not only has she redefined the meaning of a healthy life, but has done so while retaining unapologetic food indulgences within her fitness routine. Rajputana Collective is honoured to feature the diva in her own words:-
“The two things that I couldn’t do without were sweating it out in the gym; and eating delectable restaurant-quality food. For more than two years, I had been working out consistently and was able to derive progressive results without switching to supplements or starving myself out.
I followed the simple technique of creating a caloric defict, not by eating less but by burning more. This way, I was eating whatever I wished to, and my affinity towards hitting the gym increased by manifolds.
In this pandemic scenario, I, like many others was devastated to be barred from the gym and eating out. In time, I realised that keeping priorities at bay and being ‘aatmanirbhar; was the best way forward. Hence, I began a home workout program with the online support of my fitness trainer. I also educated myself about callisthenics and was surprised to learn the scope of what I could achieve at home with minimal or no equipment.
Alongside this, my knack for experimenting in the kitchen made me try new recipes at home that were received very well by my loving family. I churned out an increasing range of treats under the label of EatWeaveLove and am motivated to share my handiworks with my friends and family. My husband is delighted to be at the receiving end of rich, fudgy brownies that he complimented me by equating with Theobroma!
Thus, it is the subtle art of health and wellness that has enriched my lifestyle and kept me driven throughout the lockdown.
Kamakshi readily shares one of her seasonal favourites for us all to try out in the kitchen and more importantly, to share the fulfilment that she derives out of baking:-
Mix 200 grams of ground Digestive biscuits with 100 grams of melted butter, and refrigerate this mould as a base. For the filling, mix 3 ground mangoes with 200 grams of cream cheese, 200 grams of whipping cream, 150 grams of powdered sugar and 15 grams of gelatine. Pour this filling into the biscuit base and refrigerate overnight!
ACTOR CHANDRACHUR SINGH ON HIS SPLENDID COMEBACK WITH ‘AARYA’
In 1996, he virtually made an entire generation groove to the pulsating beats of Chhappa Chhappa Charcha Kare in his debut film, Maacchis. His portrayal of a disillusioned, soft-hearted terrorist in the same film received many accolades including the Filmfare Best Debut Award. His second release, Tere Mere Sapne also proved to be a box office hit, and there was no looking back for Bollywood’s new chocolate boy ever since. A string of stellar performances followed, such as Daag – The Fire with Sanjay Dutt, Josh alongside Aishwarya Rai and Shah Rukh Khan and Kya Kehna in tandem with Preity Zinta. It would be no exaggeration to state that each one of these films gained the status of cult classics, and what was once a new face had, within the span of four years, evolved into Bollywood’s teen sensation and heartthrob. And thus, Chandrachur Singh had arrived.
However, just when the young star was gliding upon his wave of success, a serious shoulder impairment, coupled with a series of box office setbacks relegated the critically-acclaimed and commercially lauded actor into an indefinite sabbatical. But Singh knew in his heart that a true actor must know how to sustain hiatuses in his/her career as long as he stayed true to his art. And just like the unyielding fizz in a cauldron of uncertainty, Singh would continue to rise.
His decade-long wait ended when Mira Nair cast him in her film, The Reluctant Fundamentalist. The following year, Kumar’s Zila Ghaziabad showcased Singh’s mettle, which had only strengthened over the years. But before he could heave a sigh of relief, his patience was fated to extend over another seven years before he dazzled his audience in his digital debut as Tej Sareen opposite Sushmita Sen in the currently trending web series Aarya on Disney+Hotstar. Ram Madhwanis ‘Aarya is loosely inspired by the Dutch drama series Penoza by Peter Bart Korthuis and has received tremendous praise for its finesse. Shot on locations in and around Jaipur, Udaipur and Mumbai, Aarya is a multi-layered project which delves way beyond its professed crime-thriller theme.
When asked about his pilot web series, Singh exclaims- “It was a wonderful serendipity! I have always been a huge fan of Ram Madhwani, so when the opportunity arose to be part of Aarya, I instinctively accepted the offer.” He goes on to share that incidentally, Madhvani had designed Aarya much before his signature hit, Neerja, and pictured Kajol in the lead. Singh was to collaborate with Sushmita Sen on three separate projects but all failed to materialize. “So I was rather pleased when I finally got a chance to be her co-star. I am a firm believer of the divine and feel that there is always a right time and place for everything”, he graciously adds.
In tandem, Singh concludes by sharing his perspective on the recent boom of OTT (Over The Top) media services: “Good quality work doesn’t necessarily need to be defined by any one particular medium. The OTT boom has definitely put the focus on stories; there is a lot of content-driven material that is coming out now. It is an interesting time for an actor, for there is no longer any typecasting as was the scenario earlier.
On the contrary, web series enable one with the liberty to enrich a character with multiple dimensions and creatively speaking, that is very fulfilling for an actor”.
A cinematic buff would be able to spot striking similarities in Singh’s account with Sam Mendes’ 1917, which won worldwide praise for its iconic cinematography and its singularly shot narrative, sans any cuts or retakes. Similarly, Anurag Basu’s Barfi! represented the commercial enchantment of Bollywood upon adapting various scripts and commanding them with instinctual spontaneity. Aarya is the understated national variant of a similar style, and displays the tremendous possibilities that artists know not only how to seize, but also create.
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