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The Khurranas buy a plush house in Chandigarh

Uday Pratap Singh

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Actor Ayushmann Khurrana has got a new family home. The Khurrana family — parents P. Khurrana and Poonam, Ayushmann and his wife Tahira, and Aparshakti and his wife Akriti — has bought a family house in Panchkula, a satellite town of Chandigarh.

“The Khurrana’s have got a family home! The entire family decided to buy this new home in which the entire Khurrana family can now stay together. We are looking forward to making new and beautiful memories in our new address” says Ayushmann.

A source from Chandigarh says, “The family was looking for a spacious home where the entire Khurrana family could stay together. The two sons Ayushmann and Aparshakti are now married plus Ayushmann and Tahira have two kids now… so, it was only logical for the family to invest in getting something bigger. They have just bought this property and it will take some time before they can move into it.”

On the work front, Ayshmann is riding on back-to-back eight hits in a row and his brother is also the talk of Bollywood with his power-packed performances.

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I want to play Kalpana Chawla on screen: Vaani Kapoor

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Mumbai: Actress Vaani Kapoor would love to do a biopic and says it would be an absolute honour for her to play astronaut Kalpana Chawala on screen. “Kalpana Chawla is a huge role model for women around the world and for anyone who has ever dreamt of being an astronaut. She’s an inspiration and her story is definitely one to be celebrated and told. I would really, really want to play her onscreen. It’ll be an absolute honour,” she said. Vaani feels she would love to take risks as an artiste and try her hand at doing the biopic and also experiment with several other genres. “I’ve tried to pick the best from what came my way and it feels amazing to have worked with some of the best in the industry. I have been able to get opportunities for roles so distinctive. From the small-town girl Tara in Shudh Desi Romance to a girl who is French in Befikre, to an independent single mother in War, to a completely different era in Shamshera, it’s been pretty good,” she said. Talking about what attracts her to sign a film, Vaani said: “It’s about connecting to a story and then to the character. I try and pick parts that can be diverse, yet meaningful, and exciting.”

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It’s a shame that Indians had to go abroad for acknowledgment: Adil Hussain

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Actor Adil Hussain says he has seen amazing talent in India. He feels it is a shame that many Indians had to fly out of the country to get acknowledgment. Adil stars in the film Pareeksha: The Final Test, which deals with the Indian education system.

“It is very important for us to know that there is a pool of talent across the country, I’ve seen amazing talent coming out from various regions of the country. I feel it is the duty of the current government to give these children, specifically from the economically marginalised section, equal opportunities across sectors education being primary,” said Adil.

“I feel it is a shame that many Indians had to leave the country and go abroad to get their acknowledgment, as the CEO of Google or for that matter the scientists working in NASA. I hope this changes and our film Pareeksha brings awareness amongst the ruling class and authorities that we still need to do a lot to let alone even acknowledge the talent in our nation,” he added.

The film is based on true events, and is directed by Prakash Jha.

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Sad to see people asking us to sing for free in Covid times: Sonam Kalra

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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!

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A tireless, strict but caring and equally endearing ‘Chacha’

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I have known Alkazi Saheb since my college days in Miranda House. It had been my dream to study in the National School of Drama and learn from him — a dream which came true over the next three years.

My time in NSD was spent in a haze with little awareness of the world outside. Alkazi Saheb kept our noses to the grindstone all day: Classes started at 9 am, went on till 3 pm, with rehearsals beginning around 5 pm and ending at 10 pm. The mess would close, we would have no time to eat or rest, but we never resented it. We would be exhausted at the end of the day though, and he would still be there looking fresh as a daisy!

 I remember he would come knocking on our hostel door, at 5 am on a freezing winter morning, asking why we were not up for our voice exercises yet! He travelled from his residence in Nizamuddin, which would mean that he would wake up even earlier to be there before us. During the exercise, he would teach us masterfully to project our voices (we did not use microphones then), demanding that he be able to hear the smallest whisper clearly.

It was eye-opening to learn from him. I assisted him on several productions as a director, and it was a treat watching him deal with actors. He knew how to shatter the egos of people who had a bit too much of it and draw out the more shy ones with equal ease. He taught us about art and music, casually hinting about books to read and films to watch, and telling us that learning theatre had to be a holistic experience.

He was also a stickler for punctuality, attendance, dressing well — but he was also the one to invite us in small batches for informal meetings and learn more about us over drinks. We would sometimes call him “Chacha” behind his back — out of affection, of course! He would quietly help students with money or secure them better scholarships. Once he took us along on a five-week tour of Haryana, where we went from town to town performing, putting up and taking down sets and travelling on a bus at night. He told us this is what we had to get used to if we expected to travel and perform as part of theatre companies. When it was finally over and we were returning to Delhi, all of us dog-tired, he stopped the bus at his farmhouse in Sohna, and treated us all to a spectacular lunch!

Alkazi Sa’ab was also very farsighted. He realised that theatre students would have to migrate to film or television eventually and sent us to FTII in Pune for a film appreciation course to round off our training. Even while we were there, he would visit us to see if we were being treated right and not being subjected to any stepmotherly treatment.

We were one of the last batches to be taught by him before he left NSD. There is no way I can contain all my memories of him in a few words. I thank you, Alkazi Sa’ab, for being there when I wanted to learn from you, and for your incredible generosity, compassion and gentle humour.

As told to Poulomi Paul.

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Ebrahim Alkazi: The biggest star in India’s theatre galaxy

Sunit Tandon

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By the time Ebrahim Alkazi finished his stint as the Director of the National School of Drama in 1977, he was already a legend. He had built up the NSD as an institution of the foremost calibre by any standards and become the acknowledged and revered guru of an entire generation of the most talented, motivated and exceptional theatre practitioners that has ever emerged in the compressed span of a decade-a-half.

Alkazi’s contribution was unquestionably the singlemost important impetus to modern Indian theatre, period. He imbued his students and disciples with a sense of deep professionalism, commitment, technical rigour and intellectual engagement that was attested by their extraordinary achievements. Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, Manohar Singh, Uttara Baokar, Surekha Sikri and countless other true stalwarts of the stage, many of whom went on to achieve wider acclaim and fame on television and in films, were all of the generation that carried forward the legacy of their training at the NSD from the time of Alkazi. The NSD repertory productions of that time were of a standard that has not since been surpassed.

Alkazi’s own iconic production of Girish Karnad’s Tughlaq was definitive for most people who saw it. And so were countless other productions, such as that of Dharamvir Bharti’s Andha Yug. All his productions were imbued with his sensibilities, honed in a deep grounding in the literature and all the plastic and performing arts of the world, combined with intellectual integrity and an insistence on the most exacting standards. He himself was an artist of considerable merit, as evidenced by a recent exhibition of his prints, sculpture and other artworks mounted recently at Triveni Kala Sangam, home to Art Heritage, the gallery he founded along with his wife Roshan, who designed costumes for his plays.

My own induction into theatre took place about the time Alkazi’s long tenure at the NSD was ending, but there was no escaping his larger-than-life presence in the world of theatre and the influence he exerted as the hallmark of the highest standards. In earlier years, before his stint at NSD, he had acted in a play with Joy Michael, one of my own theatre gurus, in a Yatrik production of a Moliere play. Joy was extremely fond of “Elk”, the nickname she used for him. Years later, I was to dig out a photograph of that production and include it in a book about the Yatrik Theatre Group, of which I was then Director. Working in theatre in Delhi, one constantly heard stories about Alkazi Sa’ab. Many friends had trained under him and all of them, without exception, held him in awe. Having missed the bus as far as the great man was concerned, I was fortunate to work or be associated with his extraordinarily gifted progeny, Amal and Feisal, both of whom carried forward different facets of his genius. When it was time to celebrate Alkazi Sa’ab’s 90th birthday, Amal asked me to do the voice-over for a film she had made on his life and achievements. It was a privilege for me to do this, as a small gesture to the titan of Indian theatre.

At the celebration at which this was screened, he was present, sitting quietly in his wheelchair, while a veritable who’s who of theatre and films came up to him to pay homage. By then, he was a shadow of his former self, but in all our minds, he loomed as large as the body of work and the legacy that he blessed all of us with. There is a deep and generous fraternal feeling among theatre practitioners, very unique to this art form. That evening, one could revel in its camaraderie, as all of us gathered to pay tribute to the titan who more or less single-handedly moulded the Indian theatre of the late 20th and 21st centuries.

 Sunit Tandon, a well-known TV journalist and former Director General of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, is currently the president of the Delhi Music Society, as well as the former director of Yatrik, the capital’s oldest theatre group.

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For Shakuntala promos, Vidya goes vocal for local

Anshu Khanna

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As the film Shakuntala Devi meets with critical acclaim, making it to the top of the charts in Prime Video, the onscreen Shakuntala’s offscreen stylists, Pranay Jaitly and Shounak Amonkar, make heads turn with the looks they have created for Vidya Balan.

Hand-woven saris, retro jump suits, elegant kurtas in indigo dyes, chiffons filled with Manchester florals… every look they created wins hands down in its sheer affinity to the reel character. At the same time delving deep to go “vocal for local” and support small, creative businesses facing near extinction in these Covid-19 times.

Shares the actor, “The idea for the campaign came from the pandemic. While Pranay and Shounak were contemplating the difference between want and need, sustainability and the craft our country offers, I was also experiencing something similar. I saw how many small businesses and brands were suffering the losses, especially those who had lesser to no means of bouncing back.”

And so Vidya Balan, when the promotions of Shakuntala Devi began, decided that she wanted to use her power to support the ones who needed that voice and so the promotion for “Vocal for Local” began in all earnest.

Both Pranay and Shounak have always been supporters of homegrown brands and this initiative gave the perfect opportunity to explore many such small businesses, weaver clusters and sustainable products while planning her promotion looks. From buying saris at the grassroots level to reusing jewellery and blouses they have put together a wardrobe which is sustainable in all ways.

“The wardrobe has been a range of established designers whose support to sustainability has been strong, to small/ medium businesses, upcoming designers and even directly from the artisans. Vidya wanted to be quite casual in her style, since she wasn’t stepping out. The looks have been a mix of classic saris which are Vidya’s comfort zone, but with experimental blouse styles, to dresses, maxis and jumpsuits,” informs Pranay.

From veterans like Anavila, Raw Mango, Urvashi Kaur to lesser known designers like Ayush Kejriwal, Punit Balana, Sreejith Jeevan to the younger breed like studio medium, Prama by Pratima Pandey, to saris bought directly from weavers in Coimbatore and Bengal, the range has been a mix of everything that is hand-made in India.

“The campaign has been started with the awareness that “with power comes responsibility” and what we have tried to achieve is to use their power in the right direction,” concludes Shounik.

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