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Padma hopes ‘male-dominated’ food industry to be inclusive

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India-born supermodel Padma Lakshmi says the “male-dominated” food industry needs to be more inclusive. “The professional food industry is one of the most maledominated sectors of our society. Probably the only place that’s more male-dominated is the military and so I would like to see that change,” the Top Chef host told Us Weekly. “Most of the food in this world is actually made by women and yet the professional food world is taken over by men, so I would like to see that disparity decrease considerably,” she added The 49-year-old hopes people in the industry, men specifically, take matters into their own hands. “It will only happen with paid maternity leave, better hours, better accountability for sexual harassment, equal pay between men and women and between ethnicities,” she said. The Emmy winner continued: “I would like to see big, white male chefs in our industry make a concerted effort to mentor and speak out for women and minorities — to mentor them and give them the same richness of experience and privilege that white males have had. I think that would go a long way. We don’t even teach African-American food in culinary school.”

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ROBERT DE NIRO INJURED OFF-SET WHILE FILMING FOR ‘KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON’

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WASHINGTON : Hollywood star Robert De Niro returned back home to New York after injuring his leg off-set in Oklahoma while filming for ace filmmaker Martin Scorsese’s ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’, in which he is starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio.

The Apple Original Films production has been shooting in Bartlesville, Pawhuska, and Osage County, Oklahoma. TMZ reported that De Niro flew back to New York on Thursday and would be seeing a doctor Friday. A news outlet reported this week that the streets of Fairfax, Oklahoma had been covered with dirt to give it the look of 1919, while antique cars were brought in and De Niro was photographed sporting a pin-striped suit with a fedora. De Niro was already planning to take a few weeks off the production, according to TMZ, and it’s not known whether he will be returning to the set at a later date.

The film is based on David Grann’s bestselling non-fiction book about the newly-formed Bureau of Investigation, which tries to solve the serial murder of members of the Osage Nation. The project also stars Jesse Plemons, Tantoo Cardinal, Pat Healy, and Lily Gladstone. “We are thrilled to finally start production on ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ in Oklahoma,” Scorsese said in a statement when production started last month.

Talking about the upcoming movie he added, “To be able to tell this story on the land where these events took place is incredibly important and critical to allowing us to portray an accurate depiction of the time and people. …We’re excited to start working with our local cast and crew to bring this story to life on screen and immortalise a time in American history that should not be forgotten.” 

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BOLLYWOOD’S LOW-KEY EID CELEBRATIONS

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MUMBAI: On the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr 2021, several celebrities took to their social media handles to pour their wishes and urged people to stay safe. While the big parties and celebration have been cancelled, everyone have to celebrate the festival following coronavirus protocols.

Celebrities have shared cherishing pictures and wishes for their fans. Sanjay Dutt celebrated the festival with his kids and wife Maanayata Dutt while Shahid Kapoor and wife Mira Kapoor shared their photos on their respective Instagram accounts wishing fans a happy Eid Mubarak. Bhumi Pednekar, Emraan Hashmi, Isha Koppikar and others tweeted wishes for fans.

Television celebrities like Aly Goni, Jasmin Bhasin and Divyanka Tripathi Dahiya also took to social media to share wishes. This year actors from Shah Rukh Khan to Salman Khan all have celebrated Eid in a low key.

Bhumi Pednekar who has turned a corona warrior by helping and funding people for treatment had a special message for fans. Bhumi, tweeted, “Eid Mubarak. Today’s plan is to eat sheer khurma and keep going on with tons of positive energy and strength 🙂 Am missing My Eidi and the excitement we would have as children on getting it #nostalgic #CovidWarrior.” Emraan Hashmi posted, “Eid Mubarak to all !! Wishing everyone good health and happiness ! Stay safe and stay strong.”

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RADHE: SALMAN AND DISHA LACK CHEMISTRY, RANDEEP HOODA SHINES

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MUMBAI: The makers of Radhe have decided to release the movie on OTT platform Zee5. The story of Radhe is of a suspended cop Radhe who is brought in for a mission and it is assigned to Radhe in order to tackle the drug cartel in Mumbai as school children are falling prey to the usage of drugs. The drug mafia is headed by Rana (Randeep Hooda).

Salman Khan and director Prabhudeva are back with “Radhe- Your Most Wanted Bhai”, based on the Korean action drama “The Outlaws” (2017).  Cinematographer Ayananka Bose has artistically captured the city’s locations. Radhe suffers a backlash due to its poor writing. The scenes are put together randomly to show the progress of the story. After a fight sequence, we get to see Disha Patani, who plays the role of Dia. Then comes a song and another fight sequence takes place and another romantic sequence and this goes on. The chemistry between Salman Khan and Disha is not effective. The movie lacks entertainment and one-liners that Salman utters are the repetition of Wanted. The action stunts composed by Korean director Myeonghaeng and ‘KGF’ fame Anbariv are worth a watch.

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‘SHADOW AND BONE’ HAS ALL THE MAKINGS OF BECOMING NETFLIX’S ‘GAME OF THRONES’

Murtaza Ali Khan

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It’s no secret that every major streaming platform and television network dreams to have the next Game of Thrones as part of its portfolio. The fantasy series Shadow and Bone is Netflix’s latest attempt to capture the space that’s been left vacant ever since the popular HBO series completed its epic run. Shadow and Bone is based on the Grisha novel trilogy (the first of which is the 2012 novel ‘Shadow and Bone’) and the ‘Six of Crows’ novel duology (comprising the 2015 and 2016 novels ‘Six of Crows’ and ‘Crooked Kingdom’, respectively) by the Israeli-American author Leigh Bardugo.

It all began when Netflix acquired the rights to the rights to Bardugo’s ‘Shadow and Bone’ trilogy. Bardugo was quick to suggest to Netflix that the Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Eric Heisserer (known for his work on films such as ‘Arrival’, ‘Bird Box’, and ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’, among others) had earlier tweeted to her about his love for Six of Crows and that he is someone who could be approached for Shadow and Bone. When Netflix contacted Heisserer regarding the series, he was quick to tell them that he doesn’t see a substantial plot without the characters of the ‘Six of Crows’ duology. Heisserer’s strong stand compelled Netflix to buy the rights to just ‘Six of Crows’ and its sequel ‘Crooked Kingdom’but also to Bardugo’s 2017 novel ‘The Language of Thorns ‘and her collection of short stories also set within the Grishaverse. It was enough to convince Heisserer to make the show for Netflix.

Now, the Grisha novel trilogy tells the story of an orphaned mapmaker Alina Starkov (essayed by Jessie Mei Li) who discovers she holds the unique power to summon light as powerful as the sun that can provide Ravka (a fantasy kingdom based on the Tsarist Russian Empire) with its first real chance of destroying the Shadow Fold, a massive and malevolent miasma of permanent darkness inhabited by carnivorous winged creatures known as Volcra separating East from West Ravka for centuries. Interestingly, ‘Six of Crows’, which is nothing like it, revolves around a feisty and disreputable gang of criminals called the Crows led by their scheming leader Kaz (Freddy Carter) along with the stealthy spy Inej (Amita Suman), and the uber-cool gunslinger Jesper (Kit Young). In his unique adaptation, which he describes as “Oceans 11 in a Game of Thrones world,” Heisserer doesn’t employ the two storylines in parallel but chooses to blend them together. Netflix as well as Bardugo were both a bit skeptical about Heisserer’s approach until he revealed his ingenious plan to integrate Kaz, Inej, and Jesper into Alina’s storyline without fundamentally altering it and without compromising the characters of Kaz, Inej, and Jesper.

The end result is what can best be described as a gift of long-form storytelling. To his credit, blending the two storylines isn’t the only change that Heisserer introduces in his adaptation. He also plays with Alina’s origins. In the books, she is purely Ravkan, presumably white and conforming to the Ravkan demographics. In Heisserer’s adaptation, Alina is half-Shu with her mother having hailed from Shu Han, a country based on Mongolia and China. Heisserer’s awareness to the pressing need of breaking stereotypes in a bid to push for diversity ensures that the story’s main hero is half-Asian. The western fixation for a hero with white skin, blonde hair and blue eyes is deeply misplaced. Alina’s mixed heritage in series is also pivotal to connecting her story with the broader diversity of the ‘Six of Crows’ characters — Inej is Suli, a hybrid of Romani and South Asian heritage, while Jesper is from Novyi Zem, a stand-in for sub-Saharan Africa.

The world of Shadow of Bone is divided into ordinary people and the Grisha who are gifted with special abilities. Every child is tested by the Grisha Examiners who send those endowed with special powers to train in the Little Palace. At a young age, Alina is able to fool the Grisha Examiners in order to be with her childhood friend Mal (Archie Renaux). It is for this reason that she lives an ordinary live until her true powers are finally revealed. Her mixed heritage further makes her inferior in the eyes of the Ravkans. When she is sent to the Little Palace to live with the other Grisha she continues to crave for a sense of belonging that has always eluded her. The presence of a writer named Christina Strain, who’s mixed Asian herself, helped Heisserer in finding the right voice for Alina. Other than the splendid world that’s on offer, it’s really the character dynamics that make Shadow and Bone tick. As I have already spoken about what the trio of Kaz, Jesper and Inej being to the table, I must at last draw your attention to the enigmatic General Kirigan (Ben Barnes) and his complex relationship with Alina as well as the deep bond Alina shares with Mal. Despite a slow buildup, the first season has opened up exiting possibilities for future seasons. Now, it remains to be seen for how long Heisserer can keep us hooked to Bardugo’s Grishaverse.

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Technology start-ups shine as beacons of light in the pandemic

Noor Anand Chawla

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With the second wave of Covid-19 continuing its large-scale devastation, citizens of the country have had to step forward and perform their duties in the face of glaring systemic failure. In the 21st century, lasting and effective change is only possible through the use of technology. A few visionary technology start-ups are paving the way towards this goal. Saurabh Singh, Director of Appinventiv, has taken the lead in this regard. 

Appinventiv is a Digital Transformation Agency that innovates software solutions for businesses and policy-makers to make them digital-first. One of their many initiatives is Daansewa, which aims to help people and communities that need support and upliftment. Singh claims expansively, “in a bid to align our actions with our values for the greater good, we have tried to contribute to society in multiple ways through this campaign by organising blood donation camps, and distribution of care packages along with many other initiatives. At the onset of the pandemic, we set up monetary donation drives for the less privileged of the society. We helped many people during these turbulent times. We have initiated campaigns to provide oxygen cylinders, medicines and injections to people in need.”

Apart from its humanitarian initiatives, Appinventiv focuses on caring for its employees. When the rest of the world resorted to downsizing, their employee strength grew at a steady pace. Despite the economic downturn because of Covid-19, Appinventiv continued to thrive and initiated a free Health Insurance Policy for each of its 650 employees during these difficult times. 

Further, they initiated the #SteppingUp campaign in 2020, through which they hired more than 200 people. Their firm support of women empowerment is reflected through their hiring ratio. Singh asserts, “we believe that women can be better leaders and drivers of change. Hence, we are looking forward to hiring even more female change-makers in 2021.”

With vaccinations opening up to all adults in the country, the team at Appinventiv initiated a vaccination drive for their employees. Further, they quickly instituted several humane steps to ensure that the loss of an employee’s life would not affect their family’s financial wellbeing. As a company, Appinventiv decided to extend support by offering 50% of the deceased’s monthly salary to the family, subject to a minimum of Rs 40,000 per month, for one year; they offered Rs 10,000 monthly for the education of school/college going children for two years; they gave mediclaim coverage to the family of the deceased for two years; and offered employment to the dependent/s of the deceased as per their qualifications and skillsets.

 Headquartered in India, Appinventiv has a presence in the US, Middle East, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Through their operations, they have successfully accelerated and driven more than 1000 businesses across the globe towards unprecedented growth, including Fortune 500 companies, governments and Silicon Valley start-ups. Their multi-hued projects have led to them being awarded the “App Development Company of the Year” by Entrepreneur.com.

Claiming that their clients include anyone who is looking to develop, invent or reshape an idea or process digitally, they have serviced clients from varied industries including retail, travel, e-commerce, education, hospitality, advertising, market research, manufacturing, consumer goods, logistics and non-profits. 

In the six years since their launch, Appinventiv has led the digitalisation of global brands such as IKEA, KFC, Dominos, KPMG, ABP Live, Vodafone, Oracle India, Asian bank, Pizza Hut, Baskin Robbins, Adidas, NASA and more. They have recently initiated an Entrepreneurship Campaign to help entrepreneurs deliver their ideas to the world.

As part of this campaign, entrepreneurs are hand-held from ideation to investment, till they successfully launch their products and are also provided tech support after the launch.

When asked about achieving the balance between manual labour and artificial intelligence, Saurabh Singh says, “there is no reason to create an ‘either-or’ distinction between human intelligence and AI-powered solutions. The future will see both working in conjunction effortlessly. I believe that AI and Machine Learning technologies have made their mark but for the actual running, one needs the hands, legs and brains together, therefore nothing can take the place of human intelligence.”

One can learn more about Appinventiv’s multifaceted work and support of social causes, on their website www.appinventiv.com. 

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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Emptiness is crucial for creativity

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This is a pattern that started years ago. During my musical journey, I would hit phases of complete apathy and even aversion to musical activities. I would sit for hours trying to start my riyaaz, but to no avail. I would stare at my music notes as if they were stale food in front of me. Even the sound of the taanpura would be disturbing. It was scary and embarrassing. A musician being put off by music? A singer not wanting to sing? A person who imparts musical education day in and day out being repulsed by sounds and teaching? It was downright frightening!

Any writer who might be reading this would know of the infamous writer’s block. The much-dreaded and unpleasant phase in the creative process is when the writer hits a wall of nothingness. No ideas, no inspiration and no output. It’s a phase of uncertainty. It’s like a feeling of being inside a dark tunnel not knowing where it ends. A place where there is no desire, no impetus and no energy.

To try to tide over this, one tries different things. Powering through and trying, despite the loss of creative energy, is one of them. Another is guilt-tripping or beating oneself up to move forward.

 I have observed that when I do any of these things, everything just gets worse. I feel myself going deeper into the abyss of zero creativity and feel progressively more dismayed and disheartened, which only complicates things. And before I know it, I am sucked into a whirlpool of self-doubt and flagellation. 

The solution is to let go and accept. Phases of creative block are periods when your mind and being are telling you to rest and rejuvenate. It is quite like sleep after an 18-hour workday. It is like the summer or winter vacation we take after months of putting our nose to the grindstone. It is like those campsites midway up a hill climb, where you eat, rest and ready yourself to climb further. A creative vacuum is a period where you stop and assimilate what has happened thus far, things that you need to pat yourself for, and lessons you›ve learnt. 

Interestingly, this is not a conscious exercise. Just as the body knows better than us when it needs rest, our creative minds know when to shut off and go into hibernation. If we try and power through this phase instead of resting and rejuvenating, strange things happen. In my case, powering through the phase left me with bizarre symptoms. I would develop vocal nodules in my vocal cords that force me to stop singing for some time. Or I would fall physically ill with a tummy bug or a fever that would force me to cancel all my appointments. As I said, our inner selves know better than us what we need.

And just as how sleep is the precious 8 hours when your brain and body reset and rewire, I have realised that these periods of creative lull are necessary for growth as a creative person. I have always emerged with better music after these lulls but only if I don’t argue with it or question my mind›s deeper wisdom in asking for that ‹time off›.

While this is more obviously true of people in the creative field, it is true of all processes of growth. Spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual growth all follow the same pattern of bursts and lulls. Other examples include growth plateaus in children and emotional numbness or withdrawal in adults after a life-changing event. We are innately spiritual beings, all in the process of growing, but in different ways.

As I write this piece, I am in the middle of one of my creative lulls. But this time I have acted differently. I have cancelled my appointments, taken a few days off and am sipping a cup of honey tea to soothe my strained vocal cords. I am looking out into a calming sight of the vast ocean and telling myself this – creativity is like the ocean itself. It is always there. Just because it is low tide doesn›t mean that the ocean is silent. The next big wave of creativity is just around the corner. I know, I trust and I wait patiently.

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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