Multiple award winning singer and composer Sonam Kalra is trained in both Indian and Western traditions of music and is equally adept at both. She talks to The Daily Guardian about the Sufi Gospel Project, her initiative which brings together artists of different faiths, her musical journey, and how things have turned for worse during the Covid-19 pandemic, especially for artistes. Excerpts:
Q. Your music for the Sufi Gospel Project brings a mix of languages and religions to your audience. How important is it to support a culture of “fusion” at a time like the present one?
A. I think it is extremely important at all times, to support a culture of fusion, because that is what it essentially means to be Indian. We have a history of being multi-faith and multicultural, and therein lies our strength. The music I create within The Sufi Gospel Project is a fusion of ideologies — poetry and prayer and music from seemingly disparate cultures, traditions and regions. And I say seemingly because the more I look at our differences the more I find through them our similarities. To say that each of us has our own truth and you can find that truth in a temple, a shrine, a church or a mosque but the most important thing to remember, is that each truth is just as valid. My music is about equality, the inclusion of all beings and of acceptance and to say that many different calls to God can and must exist in harmony. I often say this: That religion is not God and that God has no religion.
Q. While a lot of artists distance themselves from overt political gestures, you haven’t shied away from speaking out about things. Do you think it is essential for artists to have a social and political conscience and express it in their work?
A. I think if you have a voice, it is your duty to use it — wisely and judiciously — to speak out, to make a difference, for change and for the greater good of society. As an artist, I believe it is our moral responsibility to speak out in solidarity when there is suffering or pain, or when society needs to be reminded of something. For instance, when I did my version of Faiz’s “Hum Dekhenge”, it was not meant to be a political reaction. I created that piece in the hope of peace and out of the desire to speak for what I believe in when there was so much negativity around us. I blended Faiz’s words with Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Where the mind is without fear’ as a quiet appeal to the people of our country to remind them of our freedom.
Q. Your new song “Log Down” addresses the state of artists in the aftermath of the Covid-19 lockdown. Tell us a bit more about that.
A. Artists have had absolutely no means of generating any income with very limited platforms for creative expression during the pandemic. The saddest part is that the arts have been listed not only as non-essential but also low on the list of non-essential items. I find that quite appalling to be honest, and would like to ask the people who made this list to try and live without art for even one day — to not listen to music or chants in the morning, to not watch anything on TV, to not read a book, and to not wear the fabrics woven by our craftspeople. India has such a wealth of incredible art and craft and it is very disheartening to see that artists have got no support.
So, I wrote the “Log Down” song because so many artists are struggling to make ends meet. And also because I was bemused by the number of people who would call artists including myself, to perform for free, completely ignoring the fact that we as artists also have families to feed and need a means of an income to survive.
Q. Is it true that you produced “Log Down” without leaving your home?
A. Yes, I recorded the audio at home, shot it at home, edited it, produced it, did the costumes, everything! In fact, it was shot in one take so there are no cuts and it didn’t need editing. I shot it on my phone with no one behind the camera — I just put it on a tripod and recorded it. For the music, I reached out to a couple of musicians who sent me their parts over email and another musician friend, Saptak Chatterjee, produced it for me. My dholak player, Tarit Pal, came to my house only for the shoot and was wearing a mask the whole time. Even the dogs in the video are mine and played their supporting roles very well.
Q. How do you see concerts and live musical performances happening post-Covid?
A. While a lot of concerts are happening online, the joy of engaging with a live audience is unparalleled. The relationship of love and the energy that fills an arena or even a small room is something artists and audiences are craving for at this point. So I do believe they will happen and when they do, they will be really special. I think for a while, event organisers will need to be creative in the way they present an artist or event, making sure they follow the norms of social distancing and safety, but they will figure out a way to make it happen. In some parts of the world, there are already drive-in concerts where the audience sit in their cars while watching a band perform on stage so I do see it happening, and hopefully soon!
Swara Bhasker is shooting in Delhi
Swara Bhasker resumed work in the Capital amid the pandemic and she says getting back in front of the camera always feels good. Swara shot for a magazine cover in Delhi following Covid guidelines and restrictions. The entire crew, along with Swara, wore masks, gloves and maintained social distancing on set. The actress only took off her mask during the shoot.
“The experience was wonderful. Getting back in front of the camera always feels good and I was missing it so much. It went on for 7 hours. I was shooting for two days back to back,” she said. The actress added: “There were not more than 12 people at a time. My personal staff included 3 people.”
Is there any pressure on her to return to Mumbai for work? “There is no pressure. I want to get back to work as soon as possible. Having said that, I also don’t want the Covid-19 virus to spread during any of the shootings. So, precaution is always better and that is what I am following,” she said. On the work front, Swara will be seen in LGBTQ+ drama ‘Sheer Qorma’, besides ‘Bhaag Beanie Bhaag’, where she plays the character of a stand-up comic.
Selena Gomez flaunts kidney transplant scar
Singer Selena Gomez has showed off her scar from a kidney transplant in a new social media post. She says she now feels confident and is proud of what she had gone through. The 28-year-old singer took to Instagram to post a photo of herself in blue swimwear. She is seen posing with one leg placed on a rock, which puts her inner thigh scar on display. She got the scar from an emergency follow-up procedure after her kidney transplant in 2017.
“When I got my kidney transplant, I remember it being very difficult at first showing my scar. I didn’t want it to be in photos, so I wore things that would cover it up,” she captioned the post. “Now, more than ever, I feel confident in who I am and what I went through… and I’m proud of that. T – Congratulations on what you’re doing for women, launching @lamariette whose message is just that…all bodies are beautiful.”
Why accuse wife for hubby’s game? Anushka slams Gavaskar
Actress Anushka Sharma on Friday slammed veteran cricketer Sunil Gavaskar for accusing her of Virat Kohli’s dismaying performance during Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) vs Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) at the IPL. He later responded to the allegations. Anushka had shared an open letter shared on Instagram, ‘it is 2020 and things still haven’t changed for me’. She asked Gavaskar to explain making ‘such a sweeping statement on a wife accusing her for her husband’s game?’. She is sure he must have respected the private lives of every cricketer while commenting on the game but don’t they deserve equal respect? The actress continued, “When will I stop getting dragged into cricket and stop being used to pass sweeping comments.” She added that he is a legend whose name stands tall in the gentleman’s game.
“Where am I blaming her? Where am I being sexist in this? I am just stating what was seen in the video. That’s the only thing I am doing,” said Gavaskar to a news channel. He mentioned that the only time Virat was seen practising was during this video on the topic of players not having got enough opportunities to practice cricket in lockdown.
Amid NCB’s Bollywood drug probe, Tia Bajpai takes a voluntary test
With Narcotics Control Bureau’s (NCB) ongoing drug probe into Bollywood, Tia Bajpai, a film and television actress took a voluntary drug test and shared the report online. The ‘Haunted 3D’ actress also urged her coartists and colleague to get a drug test done.
Sharing a video on social media, Tia wrote, “Not everyone is the same, and if any of my fellow artists don’t want to get generalised, get a drug test done and put it out in public domain. #NotAllAreDruggies #GetATestDone #SayNoToDrugs.” In the video, Tia can be heard saying, “Right now, the entertainment industry is being maligned because of certain people consuming drugs. That is why I have come out with my drug test today. I got a drug test done and as you all can see, it is all negative. I would request everyone to kindly not paint all of us with the same brush. Some of us are doing serious work and working hard to create a name for ourselves.”
Tia went on to say, “I would also request all my fellow artists to please get a drug test done and put it out in the public domain. Do it for yourselves, do it for your family, do it for your career and most importantly, do it for all the fans who love you unconditionally.” Tia’s post has come at a time when the NCB has summoned big Bollywood actresses like Deepika Padukone, Sara Ali Khan, Shraddha Kapoor and Rakul Preet Singh for questioning in drug probe linked to the Sushant Singh Rajput death case.
Vidyut Jammwal has a ‘dirty’ question
Bollywood action star Vidyut Jammwal seems to be in the mood to dissect what defines a dirty person. Vidyut shared an Instagram picture where he wears a robe and pours hot water in a cup. “Question? Do dirty thoughts make us dirty people..” he captioned the picture. Vidyut’s ‘Commando’ costar and friend Ad a h S h a r m a dropped a hilarious comment: “#SwachBharat# CleanIndia.” The actor recently spoken about his vision to popularise the indigenous martial art kalaripayattu through Indian cinema.
Timely and combustible ‘The Comey Rule’ serves as a veritable primer on US politics
If I were to ask you to pick your best scene ever in all of American television in the drama space, a lot of you would be tempted to either go with something from Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones. Some of you might go for The Sopranos, The Wire, or Mad Men. Others may pick a scene from Homeland or The Americans and so on. But, in my opinion, it’s really difficult to find a finer moment in the history of American television than when Jack Daniel’s American news anchor character Will McAvoy launches a lamenting tirade about the United States in the first season pilot episode of the 2012 HBO series The Newsroom, a monologue that he ends by declaring that “America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.” Of course, it’s brilliantly written by one of the greatest American screenwriters Aaron Sorkin but it’s how Jeff Daniels delivers it that makes it so impactful and unforgettable. In the new Showtime series (available in India on Voot Select), Jeff Daniels is back in his element, this time playing the part of the former FBI Director James Comey who got fired by Donald J. Trump just five months after his inauguration as the 45th President of the United States of America.
A two-part event series based on Comey’s book ‘A Higher Loyalty’, The Comey Rule is both adapted and directed by Oscarnominated screenwriter Billy Ray. It stars another Emmy winning actor, Brendan Gleeson as President Trump. Now, its first part focuses on Comey’s appointment as the FBI Director by President Barrack Obama in 2014. Two years into his tenure, the FBI is plunged into two highly controversial cases. Comey’s decisions on both these cases would have a long-lasting impact on not just his career but also the course of history.
The second episode mostly deals with the months that Comey serves as the FBI Director under President Trump. After Trump wins the US presidential election, a large section of Hillary Clinton’s supporters blame Comey for unjustly tipping the balance in Trump’s favour. Even as Comey deals with this, he must also find a way to work with Trump who demands “loyalty” from him. While Comey wants to maintain the neutrality his position demands, Trump wants him to be flexible in his dealings. This sets the two men on a collision course that ends with Comey’s ouster from the bureau. The series ends with a rather alarming note: “US Intelligence Agencies have now concluded that Russia is actively interfering with the 2020 US election, just as it did in 2016. The President has yet to acknowledge this finding.”
The Comey Rule is both timely and combustible. It presents a riveting account the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath. It shouldn’t be seen as a biopic of one man, for it tells the story of two powerful and diagonally opposite personalities. However, it’s important to highlight that the series doesn’t take an objective point of view on the turn of events as it’s told from Comey’s point of view who from the word go was suspicious of Trump whose very company made him feel a little uneasy. And despite trying his best to be accommodative, he ultimately failed to live up to his standards of loyalty and got sacked unceremoniously. Gleeson brilliantly succeeds in bringing Trump’s domineering personality and peremptory nature to the fore. Every dialogue he delivers feels like a piercing needle. Daniels, on the other hand, is grit and grace personified as Comey. One can feel the weight he carries on his shoulders. The scenes he shares with Gleeson are some of the finest that you will see on television this year. The Comey Rule offers a gritty, realistic take on an insider’s journey through the corridors of power, where decisions capable of changing the course of lives of millions are taken within seconds, simply to open up possibilities that can yield political gains or negate the gains made by the adversaries.
It’s all a game of one-upmanship where the likes of Comey act as pawns that get frequently sacrificed by those in seats of high power. With the 2020 presidential elections now just a couple of months away, the series can serve as a veritable primer on US politics for the uninitiated. Also, it proves to be a strong reminder of how small slipups can lead to major upsets in politics and so there are some important lessons to be learnt here for other democracies also.
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