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LAUNCHING A NEW, UNFORGETTABLE SAGA OF INDIAN CUISINES

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Recently launched and much talked about ‘SAGA: Cuisines of India’, a modern Indian restaurant, finally opens its doors to the public for a great overall culinary experience. A venture by food & beverage entrepreneur Vishal Anand in partnership with Michelin Star chef Atul Kochhar, standalone restaurant SAGA boasts of one of the tallest bar displays in the world and the cocktails they do does some justice to it. “Our focus on bar is as much as on our food. We wanted to curate a unique experience for our guest and had the advantage of a 56 feet high ceiling which led to conceptualising one of the tallest bar displays in the world,” says Vishal Anand.

This combination, topped with that of ace designer Raghavendra Rathore designing the uniforms for the staff, sets the tone apart for SAGA right at the onset. It is an ambitious project, but I would say that the ambition is well worth it for two major reasons: It’s got class and it’s got taste. The décor is extremely European with high ceilings and gives us a feel of Rome or Brussels, whereas the food is regional Indian with each item handpicked from the states, and the liquor has been sourced from all over the world. The seating areas are on the ground floor, upper-level, and the alfresco section, each of which has been cleverly planned to offer the finest view of the exteriors, the outlet, as well as the band playing at the altar. What was striking for a person in me was the choice of colour—a combination of black and white for the floor and blue and brown for the seating—very unusual and bold. The other thing that attracted me as a person of literature and arts was the attention to detail—whether it was the embroidered napkins, the tasteful cutlery, the movable chandeliers or the storyteller they have on board—each aspect brings out those fine touches of creativity and imagination.

I asked Chef Kochhar about the inspiration for the food at SAGA, to which he replied: “SAGA is a modern Indian fun dining outlet with its deep roots in the Indian food culture and hospitality. Its food is all about the cuisines of India. The recipes are inspired from different regions and flavours that have crossed the boundaries of the country and made their space in a more global space. We also take inspiration from what is happening around us and reflect the same emotion through our food. At SAGA, we believe that food is a journey that one takes and we would like to be a part of that journey with you. SAGA also represents the stories that gravitate around the food, which helped the dishes to make their emotional connection with people around the world.”

My picks for the food are the Dal Moradabadi, the dry fruit stuffed naan, the Parsi Salli Boti, the Kerala Meen Ularthiyathu (King fish masala) and the Mangalorean Ghee Roast Prawns. Even though I am not a dessert person, I was pleasantly surprised to have the Bengali Brûlée, which I think they have nailed in terms of the ingredients, taste and presentation. For a place that boasts about having one of the world’s tallest bars, the drinks menu has to be “tall”. Taking off from the cuisines of India, the beverage menu is massive and truly global. From the choicest single malts to champagnes to wines classified by countries, the alcohol menu is vast and impressive, but also affordable. However, their signature cocktail range is inspired from the regions of India, my picks being the Maharaja Sour with whiskey as the base, Mysore Mahal (gin and gooseberry) and Nishat Bagh (aged rum and raspberry liqueur).

Vishal Anand is a self-confessed music buff, which can be seen in the state-of-the-art equipment with installations of speakers and woofers at different levels in SAGA. The well-placed JBL concert speakers—the first-of-its-kind for any restaurant—are what sets the place apart. Even though the time of opening may have been slightly risky, they team has put in a lot of thought and taken the pains to go that extra mile to ensure that SAGA is here for the long run and it is all set to become one of the better-known places in the city for a great dining experience.

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Vidya Balan and Raj Arjun starrer ‘Natkhat’ exposes deep-rooted patriarchy in Indian society

Murtaza Ali Khan

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Short films offer a great platform for young and upcoming filmmakers to showcase their talents. But, making a short film is always a tricky proposition. For, the financial prospects are quite uncertain. However, the one thing that drives such productions is passion as the constant threats and fears often serve as fuel that end up stirring the deepest artistic urges of the filmmaker. One thing, however, is more or less certain. What these films lack in scope they more than make up for it in terms of vision. Of late, the short films are becoming more and more mainstream with big names from the Hindi film industry joining the bandwagon. Also, the pandemic has given a further fillip to this emerging trend of making short films with established stars. Natkhat, co-written and directed by Shaan Vyas, is a fine example of what storytellers can achieve using the shot film format.

Natkhat stars Vidya Balan in the role of a mother who takes it upon herself to teach her young son an important lesson about gender equality that he will never forget. The short, co-produced by Vidya Balan and Ronnie Screwvala, has already traveled to many international film festivals. Ever since its premiere at the ‘We Are One: A Global Film Festival’ last year, Natkhat has found a spot on many most-anticipated short films lists. The short film is now being streamed by Voot Select as part of Voot Select Film Festival—a direct to OTT Film Festival that will showcase more than 15 critically acclaimed movies across genres over an eight day period.

The Shaan Vyas directorial succeeds in singularly pointing why despite so many reforms and new laws patriarchy has still managed to endure in our society. Let’s try and examine the story of Natkhat to understand this better. The short follows Sonu (portrayed by Sanika Patel) who one day along with his friends at school decides to teach a girl a lesson she would never forget. At dinner time when the grown-ups discuss a female politician who is causing them some trouble, Sonu offers them a suggestion with the ghastly admission of the sinister act he committed at school. The bunch of boys had taught the girl who had dared to hit one of them a lesson by dragging her to the woods and threatening her to cut off her pigtail. When he offers the same advice to the grown-ups at the dinner table in order to teach the female politician a lesson, the father (essayed by Raj Arjun) gets up in a fit of rage to scold his young son but he is stopped by the grandfather (played by Atul Tiwari). The old patriarch consoles his enraged son by reminding him about the boy’s gender privilege: “Boys will be boys. What do you expect? Will you crucify him for this?”

Now, the servile mother (essayed by Vidya Balan) in a ghunghat is listening to the conversation from a distance. She is not even allowed to sit and eat with the men of the family even as she serves them hot food and rotis. She can only eat inside her room after they are finished. But even from within the ghunghat we can sense her dread and uneasiness on hearing her son’s ghastly admission of an act he committed at school. She is deeply disturbed by the toxic machismo her young son with an impressionable mind is in the process of inheriting from those around him. So she takes matters into her own hands and decides to teach her son the principles of equality using the age-old art of bedtime stories.

Natkhat is a powerful reminder that the root cause of all oppression that women are subjected to in our society is a direct result of patriarchy. What children see while growing up has a lasting impression on their impressionable minds. Their conditioning already begins long before they even realize it. By the time they grow up into adults the damage is already done. If, however, the parents can make conscious efforts to educate their children about the importance of gender equality then the dark influences of patriarchy can be greatly mitigated.

There is so much that remains unsaid in Natkhat and so the onus is on the actors to convey the same non-verbally and they are up to the mark. In particular, Vidya Balan, Raj Arjun and young Sanika Patel need to be commended for their brilliant performances in the short film. It’s really heartening to see a leading Bollywood actress like Balan taking such keen interest in a project like Natkhat and not just as an actor but also as a producer. While there still there is still a long way to go before the short films start enjoying the same reverence and recognition that’s generally associated with feature films, Natkhat proves that short film format is more than capable of delivering a strong message in a most effective manner possible.

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TAHIRA KASHYAP UNVEILS HER LATEST SHORT FILM ‘QUARANTEEN CRUSH’

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MUMBAI: After the success of ‘Toffee’ and ‘Pinni’, author-filmmaker Tahira Kashyap Khurrana unveiled her third short film titled ‘Quaranteen Crush’ as a part of Netflix’s anthology series ‘Feels Like Ishq’.

Tahira penned a heartwarming post to express her gratitude to the entire team. She captioned the post, “My happy place! Dekhna zaroor aaj #feelslikeishq @netflix_in par! Had the most amazing time making #quaranteencrush big thank you to the entire team.”

Having shot for the short film in just four days in Chandigarh between the first and second lockdown, ‘Quaranteen Crush’ depicts an innocent love story between two teenagers with the innate quirky zing of Tahira. Utilising her quarantine to the fullest, Tahira has been working on different things through the lockdown, including her book ‘12 Commandments of Being A Woman’, that released last year, ‘Quaranteen Crush’ and her upcoming book ‘7 Sins of Being A Mother’.

Tahira is also gearing up for her upcoming project, for the same the author-filmmaker was seen doing a recce in Chandigarh.

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AJAY DEVGN GETS NOSTALGIC AS ‘SINGHAM’ CLOCKS 10 YEARS

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MUMBAI: Reminiscing the movie that saluted the spirit of today’s frontline warriors – the cops – actor Ajay Devgn on Thursday got nostalgic as his action-thriller ‘Singham’ clocked ten years.

Taking to his Twitter handle, the actor shared a video that featured different shots of the film. Along with the video, he tweeted,”Jismein hai dum, toh fakt Bajirao Singham. Singham sirf ek film nahin hai, Singham ek jasba hai, emotion hai, ek salaam hai uss police force ke naam jo apni parwah kiye bina, imandaari aur sachhi nishtha se apna kaam iss desh ki seva mein kar rahe hain,” (Singham is not just a film, it is a passion, an emotion, A salute to the police force who are doing their work in the service of this country with honesty and true devotion, regardless of their concern)

“I want to thank the team and all the fans for the super successful 10 years of Singham. And dedicate it to all the frontline workers out there,” the actor added.

The video shared by the ‘Golmaal’ actor features different shots from the film, featuring the actor in the uniform of a cop. It showcases Ajay with Kajal Aggarwal who essayed the role of his love interest in the movie.

Directed by Rohit Shetty, ‘Singham’ is the first installment of the ‘Cop Universe’ and a remake of the 2010 Tamil film ‘Singam’. The film features Devgn in the lead role as Inspector of Police (S.H.O.), Bajirao Singham, and Prakash Raj as the antagonist. The sequel to the action-thriller, ‘Singham Returns’ was also released in the year 2014.

Inspired from the flick, a spin-off, titled ‘Simmba’, starring Ranveer Singh as the titular officer, ACP Sangram Bhalerao hit theatres in 2018. A second spin-off, ‘Sooryavanshi’, too, is slated for release in the near future, featuring Akshay Kumar reprise the role in the lead, with both Devgn and Singh reprising their respective characters Singham and Simmba in a climactic sequence.

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JACQUELINE FERNANDEZ SHARES SULTRY PICTURES FROM LATEST PHOTOSHOOT

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NEW DELHI: Setting the temperatures soaring on social media, Bollywood diva Jacqueline Fernandez shared stunning pictures from her latest photoshoot, accompanied with a powerful message for society.

Taking to her Instagram handle, Jacqueline shared a couple of pictures where she could be seen posing effortlessly in a bathroom while wrapping her body with a bright reddish-orange blanket. In the pictures, Jacqueline is seen sporting a high glossy make-up look while flaunting her flawless skin. With her luscious locks open, the actor showcased her toned body on Instagram.

She captioned her photoshoot pictures with a strong message about self-love. “You.. you’re not ugly.. society is #liveyourlifenow,” she wrote. With the post hitting the photo-sharing platform, it garnered more than one million likes. Scores of fans chimed into the comments section and left multiple hearts and raising hands emoticons in awe of the post.

“Damn right,” one user wrote. “The moment we remove context, we find our own process,” wrote another. Meanwhile, on the work front, Jacqueline has her kitty full with some interesting projects like, ‘Cirkus’, ‘Bhoot Police’, ‘Kick 2’, ‘Ram Setu’, ‘Attack’ and ‘Bachchan Pandey’.

She will also be a part of South star Kichcha Sudeep’s multilingual film ‘Vikrant Rona’, for which she recently shot a dance number. Additional details regarding her character in the film have been kept under wraps. 

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KARTIK AARYAN TO PLAY A PILOT IN HANSAL MEHTA’S ‘CAPTAIN INDIA’

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MUMBAI: Bollywood actor Kartik Aaryan is all set to headline RSVP and Baweja Studios’ ‘Captain India’, which will be directed by ace filmmaker Hansal Mehta. The upcoming film is inspired by one of India’s successful rescue missions from a war-torn country. Kartik took to his Instagram account to unveil the first look poster of ‘Captain India’ which features him in a never-before-seen avatar. The actor captioned the post, “When a man goes beyond the call of duty. With great pride and honour, we bring to you #CaptainIndia @hansalmehta sir @rsvpmovies @bawejastudios #RonnieScrewvala #HarmanBaweja.”

Produced by Ronnie Screwvala and Harman Baweja, the inspiring action-drama will star Kartik as he steps into the shoes of a pilot who spearheaded the operation and displayed exemplary bravery and courage in the process.

Speaking about the upcoming film, Kartik said, “Captain India is inspiring and thrilling in equal measure and it gives me great pride and honour to be a part of such a historic chapter of our country.”

“I have immense respect for Hansal Sir’s body of work and this was the perfect opportunity to collaborate with him,” Kartik further said about the filmmaker who is best known for projects like ‘Aligarh’, ‘Shahid’ and ‘Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story’.

National-award winning filmmaker Mehta said the film will revisit a moment where a man goes beyond his own pain. He said, “Captain India which is inspired by true events will revisit a moment in time where a man goes beyond his own pain and suffering to save thousands. I’m happy to collaborate with Ronnie Screwvala and Harman Baweja on the film and I look forward to working with Kartik.”

Talking about the film, producer Ronnie Screwvala said that ‘Captain India’ is “not just a story of one of the biggest humanitarian operations ever but also about the indomitable human spirit, one that rises above failure despite the odds.” He added, “Hansal Mehta is one of the finest filmmakers of our time and has always beautifully captured the true essence of humane stories. Kartik Aaryan’s fans are surely in for a treat as he steps into all-new territory with ‘Captain India’.” 

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A musician is never alone

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As I sat for my online concert last month, I was compelled to deliberate on how Covid isolation has changed the tapestry of the classical music concert scene. From the grand stage with fancy acoustics and live instruments, we have now moved to the Zoom or Facebook interface with our electronic sur peti, the itabla pro app and our electronic tabla box. In some cases, artists call some accompanists home to accompany them on the tabla and the harmonium for the live relay. But still it is a very different scene from the feel of a live concert with applause and cheer of live audiences.

Even so, I noticed some things still remain the same. Artists still have found a way around to reach their audiences and collaborate with other artists albeit virtually. Which means the instinct for music and artistry to be innately collaborative and social still remains. This made me ponder about the life of a musician and how it is shaped from childhood till late adulthood as a senior artist.

As a child one is always brought into the fold of music by a parent and a guru. The child remains under the aegis of the guru when she learns to grow her musical practice through training and influence of peers. There is an unsaid rule that overrides competitiveness and rivalry. The love for music itself and the desire to experience the grandeur and divinity of ragas is supreme.

As the artist grows as a musician, she learns to sing with the support of the accompanying artists on the tabla and the harmonium or in the case of Carnatic music, the violinist and the mrindangist. The three artists on stage learn to blend their music into a wholly fulfilling experience. Music is always taught and performed in social and collaborative settings.

Even as the student grows into a mature artist, he or she attracts more people to the process of making his music. Organisers, audiences, students, instrumentalists, artists from other genres, etc. The artist while on the one hand grows in his individual artistry, also grows in a community of art lovers and fellow artists. This testifies to the unifying powers of music. It testifies to the power that has kept music alive and growing in this lockdown.

Never before has music been so easily accessible. Never before have artists had the access to audiences all over the word so easily and so quickly. Never before has music been so omnipresent.

The musician is, was and will never be alone because she is engaged in something which is intrinsically all encompassing and divine. The nature of music is to connect people through the experience of collective emotions. Of joy, of sorrow, of happiness, of longing, and of grief and love. The musician is bound viscerally to humanity through his audiences, through his fellow artists, and through the music itself.

In this fact lies the beauty of music. A gift that music offers to those who choose to engage with it.

A musician will always remain from beginning to end in a bubble of positive energies of people around. A musician is never alone.

The writer is a vocalist of both Hindustani and Carnatic Classical music, with over three decades’ experience. She is also the founder of Music Vruksh, a venture to make classical accessible for its aesthetic and wellness benefits.

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