KOLKATA: Souhardya De, art and culture columnist for The Sunday Guardian, podcaster, and a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of London, has recently been bestowed with the highest civilian honour of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, United States. “Dear Colonel De,
Congratulations on your commission! You are part of an exclusive group of individuals who are recognised for their contributions to their community and give to those in need” said Colonel Heather Campbell, Director of Colonel Relations at the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels after Souhardya was bestowed with this Order.
The Colonelcy of the Commonwealth of Kentucky is a State Order of Merit and the highest civilian honour bestowed to individuals who have, in ways that benefit citizens, served the society. It makes them Goodwill ambassadors of Kentucky’s culture and heritage internationally. Souhardya aims at revitalising and popularising the Indian heritage and culture through the means of literature and travelogues.
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You end up saying things in writers room that come out only during therapy: Garima Pura
Writer Garima Pura joined NewsX for a candid chat as part of NewsX India A-List. In the exclusive conversation, Garima, who is the co-writer of the Netflix show ‘Little things’ opened up about her journey of working as a screenwriter.
Garima started off by giving us insights about her fellow writers and sharing her experience of being the writer of a prominent show like ‘little things’ she said, “ The first and second season were written by Dhruv Sehgal, he is the original writer. When Netflix picked it up for the third season is when they asked for a diversity in the writers teams. Writers room experience per say was all heart. You end up saying things that come out only during therapy. Writing is a fairly personal experience. There is craft and technique but mostly there is experiences and emotions. So all the writers have to become friends and get to know each other well. You just put all those experiences in the mix on the table and then pick what is good for the show. She went to say that, ‘’This is not purely experience based, there’s fiction too
Talking more about her writers room experience and how she bagged the project, Garima shared, “Little things writers rooms was first few in the country. This concept is seen an advent with the advent of OTTs. At that time, I was already floating my work with the production houses to see if I get something or not. I was presenting and asking to be given an opportunity. That is when ‘Little things’ team went through my profile. We had to write sample scripts and a solid screening process post which we were picked. Then we found ourselves in a little writers room where we met day and day out.
Sharing about the overwhelming response from the audience on the third season of the show, Garima expressed, “There are so many talented people out there who deserve their writing to be showcased. Being in this position, I feel so honored and privileged that I got an opportunity so early in my carrier to contribute to an already solid show. I feel great and humble at the same time and it also inspires me to do better work and tell stories which are honest and people feel close to.”
When asked about her previous work experiences, the writer said, “ I have made documentaries in the past and I’ve been different types of writer at different stages. Till the time I was in studying in Chandigarh, filmmaking was no where in the horizon, I just wanted to be a writer. I had published poems and stories and enrolled in a media course to become a journalist. So there I felt like film making is a good vessel to share my experiences and be heard.”
For our final question, we asked Garima about her upcoming projects, to which she revealed, “ Right now I am doing dialogues for an 8 episode web show. I am extremely excited for this because it’s North Indian dialogues as I have a good command over this lingo. Next, I am working with Audible and a couple of short films here and there. I wrote a feature documentary “Sacred bond” which is about an orphan elephant who is being taken care of by human parents”.
No book ever said that the secret to a happy life is success: Samir Soni
Actor Samir Soni recently joined NewsX for an insightful chat as part of NewsX India A-List. In the exclusive conversation with NewsX, the actor shared insights about his book “ The diary of an introvert”. Read excerpts:
We started the interview by asking him about the idea behind his book. Samir replied, “ This book contains my actual diary entries. This book was more of a process of discovering myself starting from 10 years back. During this time, I learned why I was the way I was. Writing it down was just my way to get my stuff out of my system. Recently when we were hit by the pandemic and people were depressed and anxious, I was approached for a book. I told them that I have something written which is very relevant today and they absolutely loved it.”
“There are various passages in the book where I am going back to childhood telling stories and in between is the actual process of going through self-discovery. I experienced something first hand, wrote it down and allowed others to judge ”, he added.
When asked about how he dealt with being an introvert in this line of work, Samir revealed “The first step was to discover the issue and then I discovered that I was a classic introvert and that there is nothing wrong with being that way. In front of the media, you have to be a certain way. Nobody shows their pain and struggles because the audience doesn’t want that. I didn’t let people beat me up for who I was and my friends have now accepted me for who I am.”
Further sharing about the reactions he received from the audience on this book, the actor said that the most common reaction he got was people saying that’s so much like them. “Over the years, my fans have a pretty decent idea of who I am and the most common thing is that they love it. The aspect of relativity is very much there. Everyone is projecting what they aspire to be, and you might not be that person. So, in my book, I am not trying to be aspirational. No book ever said that the secret to a happy life is fame, money, and success. Everyone’s definition of success is different and everyone has a different journey. ”
Lastly, Samir shared who he was addressing in his diaries that he wrote 10 years back. “ I was going through personal and professional phases in my life where I wasn’t feeling good about myself and unlike other times when you distract yourself, I decided to stay silent. I didn’t read books or watch tv as much as I possibly could and my only outlet was writing. As I started to write it took me to all kinds of places in life.”
‘Dream Come True’: Akashdeep Sengupta on composing Sooryavanshi’s Mere Yaara
Music composer Akashdeep Sengupta joined NewsX for a candid chat as part of NewsX India A-List. In the exclusive conversation, Akashdeep opened up about composing a song for Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif starrer Sooryavanshi, his journey till now and much more.
Talking about composing the song, ‘Mere Yaara’ in Sooryavanshi, Akashdeep expressed, “It is a dream come true to be a part of such a big production, such a big casting, working with the likes of Karan Johar, Dharma Productions, Akshay Kumar, Rohit Shetty and such a big franchise. It is a dream come true. It is a lovely song. We always had that trust. Me, Kaushik and Guddu, they are my fellow composers in the song. It is a dream come true for me to compose such a track for them. It took some time for this song to come out but eventually it has.”
When asked how did he bag the project, Akashdeep shared, “It was something that completely happened because of Azeem Dayani. Azeem is the music supervisor for Dharma films. He supervises all the films for Dharma music. He had immense faith in the song and in us. He took this song a long time back. It was with him since 2017-18. He tried to put the best film with the best cast and the best people. He got it in Sooryavanshi.”
Talking about the response to song, Akashdeep said, “I am simply overwhelmed. It is a dream come true. Before this, it never happened but now that the song is out, people have messaged and congratulated me and my team. We have all been benefitted a lot from this song and people have really loved it. They have really welcomed us in the industry as music directors.”
On composing music for Amazon Prime’s Sherni and Modern Love, Akashdeep shared, “These projects came to me out of the blue. Aniket, who is the head of Amazon’s music studio originals, called me one day and he told me that he was interested in my profile and he wanted me to supervise music. I have been associated with Pritam Da for a long period of time as a assistant to him. I have been vocally supervising his songs, like dubbing singers and all. From there, he got to know about me and he called me up. I gave them some ideas of mine. Sherni happened. I supervised the title track of Sherni, got all the artists together like Raftaar, Utkarsh, Akasa. For Modern Love, it happened the same way. There was already a song called Setting Sail. He made the Hindi official cover for it. I got Zaedan and Lisa Mishra onboard for that song. It’s pretty much like you recruit the right artist, you choose the correct melody and you try to give a superb soundtrack to the audience. That’s how supervision works.”
Flexibility and adaptability with the customer have been the growth mantra: Harsh Khandelwal
Harsh Khandelwal is a young entrepreneur. He is the CEO of SGN Software. A visionary in his own right, Harsh has identified the opportunities for growth in the IT sector and has kept his company ahead in the industry. We hosted him for an interview for our latest series, NewsX India A-List. Below are the excerpts from the interview:
Our first question to Mr. Khanderwal was about the ethos of his company and how they identified the areas where they could capture the market, to which Harsh said, “The ethos for SGN started in 2009 when we saw a gap in the market in the SME space where we saw tech firms, MNCs working in the SME space.” For the second part of the question, he stated, “India’s SME market is huge, so we wanted to see if we can start our initiative on a practice where we can provide enterprise applications services at a cheaper cost. So that initiative started and then I saw we were the early entrants in the market working with leading software players like Oracle, SAP, Salesforce and we made it in the SAP market and we have grown the practice over the last decade working in eastern and northern India.”
We then asked Mr. Khandelwal how the IT industry landscape has changed since the pandemic began and how the transition has been for his clients. “The good thing about IT is the customers realised the importance of IT in the pandemic. While working from home, customers realised the importance of connectivity, real-time data, how to be connected with people, be it HR applications, be it Salesforce automation, be it banking integration where they know what is their incoming account receivable, payables,” said Harsh. He finished the answer by saying, “So, we have done a lot of projects remotely. It’s been a huge paradigm shift.”
Telling us about their plans for expansion, Harsh informed us that his organisation has invested in the upcoming Bengal Silicon Valley Tech Hub. “We have acquired a space there and we are looking to expand our IT footprints there,” said Mr. Khandelwal. He also said, “We are also looking to get into freshmen recruitment. Currently, we do not have any on-campus recruitment. We hire trained people, experienced people and deliver. But we have realised that we need to nurture new skills.”
Harsh then told us about his journey from an SAP consultant fresh out of college to the CEO of a consulting firm. He shared with us, “I started my career once I graduated from the US, I started my career as an SAP consultant, so I have been a consultant myself before I started this company.” He added, “So, I have been there, done that and know how consulting goes. I am hands-on, I look into the day-to-day affairs.” Harsh further said that coming from the ground up has taught him a great deal about consulting.
For our next question, we asked Harsh how SGN Software manages a globally spread out clientele, to which his response was, “That’s our MSP. We are an SME company and flexibility is our backbone.” “We have worked with companies, mostly family-run businesses and we show flexibility in our day-to-day delivery mechanism. My mandate to my team is, ‘Keep the customer happy,’ it’s customer first. We go by the word of reference.” He finished the thought by saying, “Flexibility and adaptability with the customer have been the growth mantra over here.”
Talking about talent in the IT industry, Mr. Khandelwal said, “What I have also realized is that we need to build talent. Talent still has a shortage and the new technology, be it machine learning, advanced data analytics, there are hardly any resources available. And if there is resource available, there are big guys in the market – the leading companies – be it the Accentures, the IBMs who hire them. For a small company like us, we need to build our own resource.”
‘Magic of 80s’: Raj Babbar & Padmini Kolhapure talk about their latest web series Dil Bekaraar
Actors Raj Babbar and Padmini Kolhapure joined NewsX for a candid chat as part of its special series NewsX India A-List. In the exclusive conversation, the duo spoke about their latest web series Dil Bekaraar on Hotstar, which is set in the 80s.
Speaking about what attracted him to the show, Raj Babbar said, “My first priority is my work. I give a lot of time to a lot of things but I thought this is my identity. If I am known as Raj Babbar, it is because of Mumbai and the Hindi Film Industry recognised me as a performer. No matter where I go, people recognise me as an actor and then other adjectives on whatever I am. I realise that I should give priority to the actor side of me, which gave me this recognition and gave me a place in the society. That’s why I feel my first priority is my work.”
He added, “When I heard this story, I remembered a book that I had read sometime in the past. It was a bestseller at that time. It was called, ‘Those Pricey Thakur Girls’ and it stayed in the mind. When I heard this story, I felt very nice, a very interesting subject and I am doing a very beautiful role in it. I found the innocence of 80s, magic of 80s in this. That romance, the comedy, all of this is beautifully captured in this. The USP of the 80s that people used to think is evil is the corruption and the corrupt is the evil. These fiery girls, my 5 daughters, they are brilliant and also very fiery and ambitious. It is this very interesting thing, which attracted me. When I heard the narration and got to know that Padmini ji and Poonam ji are doing this, I said okay. I got this confidence that we will be in majority. Meher and Akshay are beautiful actors. They are very energetic people and it was fun working with them.”
When the same question was posed to Padmini Kolhapure, she responded, “The first attraction was Mr Habib Faisal. I have seen his work and he is a brilliant director. After working with him, I realised truly how meticulous he is. This script and this story demanded a lot of nuances to recreate the 80s era, which he has done brilliantly. He has lived that era and knows a lot about it. We have been there and done that so it wasn’t very difficult for Raj, Poonam or me to do this. More challenging probably for the youngsters because they don’t know what the 80s era was. I am sure that they would have had to work on every little thing. Second thing was the production house, so it was Smriti Shinde and Sobo films and then the OTT platform, which was Disney + Hotstar, so what better could I have asked for. You have Raj Babbar, Poonam Dhillon, Akshay, Seher, Aditya. This entire ensemble cast and to top it all, my role. It being a web series, it runs into a couple of episodes so it was not like I am playing a primary character in it but I am playing a very important role. It is a very colourful role, which I was quite amused while performing. Every time I would finish my role, I would just look back and laugh. I’d say to myself, ‘what am I doing?’. It is really beautiful when you are an actor and performing such challenging roles. You realise what an actor you can be and what can come out. With a good director and co-actors, you can just create magic.”
GFI LAUNCHES INITIATIVE TO STRENGTHEN FARMER PRODUCER ORGANISATIONS
Grameen Foundation India (GFI) on Monday launched a special initiative ‘Catalyst Award’ under its MANDI (Market Enabled Access through Digital Innovation) project to support and develop the farmer producer organisations (FPOs) in Uttar Pradesh.
Speaking at the event, Prabhat Labh, Chief Executive Officer, GFI said, “Smallholder farmers, especially women, play the most critical role in ensuring food security in Uttar Pradesh. Grameen’s endeavour is to recognise the role of women smallholder farmers, and support them through linkage to markets, technology and finance in order to increase their incomes.” The MANDI project aims to strengthen the FPO’s capacity to connect smallholder farmers, especially women, to markets and finance, in order to improve farmers’ incomes and resilience. It predominantly works on four thematic areas such as financial linkage, access to market, FPO capacity building on day-to-day operation and compliance, and gender mainstreaming. It also focuses on leveraging data for decision-making and facilitates need-based modern technologies. The MANDI project is implemented by GFI in partnership with Walmart Foundation.
The Catalyst Award is a financial assistance program being offered to select FPOs to support their long-term institutional strengthening and growth. The financial assistance being extended to the FPOs would help them in serving their members, particularly women and smallholder farmers in a better and organised manner. The awards were given at a one-day workshop organized on Monday, 29 November 2021 on “FPO strengthening through Gender Mainstreaming” at the Shatabdi Krishi Prekshagrih, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi.
Addressing the participants, Mahendra Singh, Joint Director, Agriculture, Government of Uttar Pradesh said, “FPOs can become business entities serving needs of small and marginal farmers and focusing on women participation. FPOs should focus on market and financial linkages to benefit shareholder farmers.”
The day also saw the launch of another initiative on which GFI is collaborating with ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics). Under the collaboration, it has developed a support fund for the FPCs (Farmer Producer Companies) in response to Covid-19 pandemic mainly to cope better with situation brought on by the pandemic. FPC support fund (FSF) is being given for promotion and expansion of business activities being conducted by registered FPCs promoted under the MANDI project. A total amount of INR 4.5 lakh will be given to the FPCs.
The overall objective is to provide immediate support to FPCs which will help the project beneficiaries cope better with the pandemic while building resilience and bringing things back on track— by providing access to ‘working capital’ to the farmers through the FPCs, so that the farmers can continue with their farming operations uninterruptedly. This will also help FPCs for strengthening business activities, innovative product and services design and delivery which will help the farmer members of FPCs. The program is implemented through GFI’s subsidiary Grameen Foundation for Social Impact (GFSI) with support from ICRISAT and would cover four districts of Ghazipur, Varanasi, Mirzapur and Prayagraj and would benefit about 11,500 farmers.
This event is part of a series of activities being organised by the GFI for generating awareness among the stakeholders of FPOs, and creating an ecosystem to foster women’s empowerment in agriculture. It aims to sensitise stakeholders on increasing women’s participation in decision-making and in the entire FPO value chain.
About 146 attendees representing FPOs, experts from financial technology, markets and convergence participated in the event and subsequent workshop. The companies such as Blue Soils, UPPRO (State Level Federation of FPOs of Uttar Pradesh), EF Polymer also displayed their products and services.
Grameen Foundation India is a leading social impact organisation, working on financial inclusion, agriculture-based livelihoods and health and nutrition initiatives with the mission to enable the poor, especially women to overcome poverty and hunger. Inspired by the work of Nobel Laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus, Grameen provides works in partnership with leading development organisations in India to ideate, innovate and scale breakthrough solutions that reach underserved populations, particularly women.
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