UNCANNY PAIRING OF HIDDLESTON AND WILSON PROPELS ‘LOKI’ TO A FASCINATING SPACE - The Daily Guardian
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UNCANNY PAIRING OF HIDDLESTON AND WILSON PROPELS ‘LOKI’ TO A FASCINATING SPACE

Murtaza Ali Khan

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The new Disney+ series “Loki” based on the Marvel Comics character Loki Odinson aka God of Mischief is yet another reminder why American television is on a roll. Loki is the latest proof that the small screen is going to be an important avenue for the further expansion of the major superhero franchises as we have already seen with WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Superman & Lois, and Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Loki takes place after the events of the film Avengers: Endgame (2019) with Tom Hiddleston reprising his role as the mercurial Prince of Asgard. The six-episode series also stars Owen Wilson, Wunmi Mosaku, Eugene Cordero, and Tara Strong in pivotal roles. Now, like always, Marvel isn’t providing the bingeing option and so a new episode would be released every week. Viewers in India can watch the series on Disney+ Hotstar Premium.

The first two episodes made available to the critics globally that form the basis of this analysis do an effective job of introducing the world and setting the things in motion. But most importantly they succeed in establishing the character dynamics really well, particularly between Tom Hiddleston’s cocky and mischievous Loki and Owen Wilson’s cool and zany detective character Mobius M. Mobius. There are few actors around who can claim to be as charismatic as Wilson. But, in the recent years, he hasn’t been as prolific as we have known him to be. And it’s understandable given the state of American cinema which has completely been transformed by the superhero decade with superheroes raining cats and dogs. Before the 2010s, nobody was so sure about the future of the superhero films. But it all changed with the release of Iron Man 2 (2010) following which the Walt Disney Studios agreed to pay Paramount a whopping amount for the worldwide distribution rights to Iron Man 3 and The Avengers. And the rest, as they say, is history. Naturally, the superhero phenomenon didn’t augur too well for maverick actors like Wilson. But now that the makers are willing to experiment with the genre it has finally got the likes of Wilson interested. After all, a character like Mobius ought to be far more interesting for an actor like Wilson to explore than anything he probably would have been offered in the superhero space during the course of the last decade.

Marvel seems seriously committed to expanding the universe via the long form storytelling route. And really as audiences caught in a global pandemic we can’t really complain. Loki is the third consecutive spin-off series from Marvel after WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. And just like the previous two it also takes place after the events of Endgame. Now, we all remember that the God of Mischief had reformed before dying at the hands of Thanos. Fortunately for him, when The Avengers went back in time during Endgame an alternate version of Loki succeeded in escaping which resulted in the creation of a new timeline in 2012. Now, owing to this, this version of Loki bypasses the events of Thor: The Dark World (2013) or Thor: Ragnarok (2017), which had reformed the original character before he was choked to death by Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War (2018).

So, obviously, this alternate version of Loki is the unreformed version of the God of Mischief. In other words, we have finally get our old Loki back after a long wait. After all, what’s the God of Mischief without his usual mischievousness and cunning? Who knows the unreformed Loki could have even got the better of Thanos? But, fortunately for Thanos, he never got to encounter this Loki. One wonders if this Loki would succeed in creating his characteristic menace in the new timeline. But, things are not as simple as he finds himself corned by the TVA. Yes, you read it right! No, TVA has nothing to do with Nick Fury or SHIELD (in case you are getting any wrong ideas). TVA basically stands for Time Variance Authority—a bureaucratic organization that exists outside of time and space and closely monitors the timeline. Basically they are the people you don’t want to mess with. But how do you do that? Well, it’s very simple! Just don’t try to mess up with time by being a “time variant”. Oh, Poor Loki! He simply has no idea that even the God of Mischief isn’t allowed to be mess up with time.

So this new Loki must now stand a trial as per the norms of TVA. Will he plead guilty? Or will he succeed in conjuring one of his famous mischiefs on the TVA? What role will Mobius, a TVA agent specializing in time criminals, play? Well, the first couple of episodes give us a fair idea where the series is headed. The uncanny pairing of Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson propels Loki to an unexplored but fascinating space. One hopes that the series will continue to explore the uncharted territories in the upcoming episodes as well. And with Michael Waldron, the Emmy-winning writer-producer of Rick and Morty, at the helm one shouldn’t expect anything less.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF EDTECH FOR GRADUATES STUCK IN A CAREER RUT

Noor Anand Chawla

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It has always been difficult for a large chunk of the Indian population to access good quality higher education, for a variety of reasons – inability to pay the fees, having to work in order to earn a living for themselves and their families, lack of interesting vocational courses or the paucity of seats at good universities. This is proved by the fact that only 26.3% of people in India enrol for higher education, as per recent studies. Fortunately, the rise of edtech platforms and people’s increasing access to and dependence on smart devices has finally offered a solution. 

New-Delhi based Learntoupgrade, an edtech startup helping graduates to upgrade their skills by learning courses that are relatively new to the Indian market, is a fine example of this. Launched in March 2019, their focus is on helping students develop an interest in courses in biotechnology and bioscience like medical coding, forensic sciences, cyber security, ethical hacking, drug designing and drug discovery, food microbiology, and pharmacovigilance. 

With a market reach that goes well beyond India, they have over 50,000 enrolled students, a large number of whom have attained certificates in various programmes. This success has enabled them to tie up with several colleges and universities to provide faculty training programmes as well.

“We launched Learntoupgrade with the idea of enabling students to become job-ready,” says the founder of the startup Hardeep Puri. With a Masters in Computer Applications and a background in management, people planning, business development, financial planning, and marketing strategy, he is well-placed to spearhead this edtech startup. 

“The vision of the company is to provide industry learning for every willing student. We came up with this idea during the pandemic when we hit a block and were not able to physically visit colleges to provide vocational training, which was our model earlier,” explains Diktesh Singh Puri, who is the advisor to the team.

He adds further, “We plan to remain virtual from now on, to reach the masses and if we need physical lessons for performing offline activities like lab experiments which are not possible online, we will look at avenues to have a physical setup for them in particular.”

Learntoupgrade works on the basis of a model where students are provided learning on a particular topic. Each topic falls under a different price ranging from $50 to $500. Flexible plans are in place to provide the courses as bundles for economic feasibility. For those who are unable to attend virtual live sessions for any reason, recorded sessions are provided. There is also a section dedicated to addressing the doubts of students and getting them resolved.

A panel of over 3000 professors and industry mentors provide a gamut of knowledge on varied subjects. These teachers are selected on the basis of interviews conducted by the team and also on the basis of any past online training experience they may have. 

Though free webinars are organised frequently to introduce the subjects to students, attendance to these webinars is not certified. However, there are other courses where certification is provided. The website displays details of whether the course comes with certification or not, upon completion. The wide range of courses includes options in management, engineering, biotechnology, life sciences, and pharma, to name a few. 

When asked if it has been challenging to attract students to the platform, Hardeep responds with, “To be honest we have been in this industry for six years and we were quickly able to reach 50,000 learners. If we maintain our current pace we should reach five lakh learners by 2023, so it has not been challenging for us.” They use social media and varied digital platforms to spread the word about their services.

Since they provide specialised learning to graduates, postgraduates and professionals, the ages of their students vary from 18 years to 45 years. Though India is the major operational base, they have students from Bangladesh, the Philippines, the US, Indonesia and Nepal as well. Edtech startups like Learntoupgrade are all set to revolutionise vocational education and in turn the job industry for graduates.

The writer pens lifestyle articles for various publications and her blog www.nooranandchawla.com. She can be reached on nooranand@gmail.com.

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MY CLOTHES ARE TRADITIONAL CHIC: SAWAN GANDHI ON HIS EPONYMOUS INDIAN-WEAR LABEL

Some of the prominent personalities that have adorned Sawan Gandhi’s garments include Madhuri Dixit, Sara Ali Khan, and Kriti Kharbanda, among others. The Delhi-based designer tells us more about his brand.

Noor Anand Chawla

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September brings with it plenty of festivities and fun. No industry celebrates this time of the year better than the fashion industry, with designers launching their exclusive winter-festive collections. Delhi-based Sawan Gandhi, Creative Director and Founder of his eponymous Indian-wear label, also launched his collection ‘Taahir’ this week. In a candid chat with The Daily Guardian, he shares insight into his design journey and his new line. Excerpts:

Taahir by Sawan GandhiNayaab by Sawan Gandhi

Sawan Gandhi – Creative Director and Founder

Q. Tell us about your journey in this business so far. What makes you stand apart in this competitive industry?

A. Soon after college, I decided to pursue my interest in the creative field and stepped into the fashion industry. With no prior experience or knowledge, I started my own label in 2011 with a few creations which I shared with my relatives and friends. I was always intrigued by my mother’s collection of lightweight chikankari sarees and their understated elegance, which is where most of my design inspiration stems from. My first showroom was launched in 2013 in Hauz Khas Village, followed by my flagship store in Mehrauli which was inaugurated in 2017, and now we also retail on our website www.sawangandhi.com.

I term my signature style as consisting of ethereal ensembles, soft colour palettes, and intricate craftsmanship and I believe these components give my designs a distinctive flair. My creations offer a young perspective to Indian attire while relying on beautiful old-world elements. I draw inspiration from vintage styles and combine them with our signature chikankari embroidery and sequin work. Also, I ensure that our garments are wearable and light. 

Q. What does label Sawan Gandhi stand for as a brand? 

A. Our philosophy is to make every occasion unconventionally beautiful. We do this by using soothing colours that are sure to make the wearer stand out in a crowd. Each outfit is designed so that it can be styled in multiple ways, which also engenders a sustainable approach towards fashion choices. Ever since I started out, I have tried to consciously step away from the heavy looks adorned by brides and grooms by using traditional techniques and contemporary hues to elevate each creation.

I believe a loyal client base is the bedrock of any label and word of mouth has been our primary source of PR since the beginning. My clientele includes customers from across the country and our collections are showcased at multi-designer showrooms like Aza, Ogaan, Pernia’s Pop Up Shop, and Fuel. Along with this, our brand also has an international presence in London, Jakarta, Bangkok, Dubai, Canada, and Los Angeles. 

Q. Tell us about your latest collection? What techniques have you used for this collection? 

A. My latest collection ‘Taahir’ has been curated specially for the new age Indian wedding. Breaking traditional rules of Indian weddings, the collection highlights the radiance of festivities and celebrations through lightweight attire, soft palettes, and flowy drapes. The colour palette is in themes of ivory, beige, soft pinks, blues, and yellows. It’s a fusion of traditional with chic with interplay of light and shadow, structure and fluidity, volume and lightness, to create subtle drama. 

Our outfits make people feel confident in their own style and individuality. An array of alluring colours, appliqué motifs, subtle tonal embroidery highlighted with Swarovski crystals and hand-dyed beads used by our studio artisans, gives each outfit a reflection of bespoke elegance. 

Q. Many celebrities and eminent personalities have been spotted in your clothes. What do you believe attracts them to your work?

A. Some of the prominent personalities that have adorned Sawan Gandhi garments include Madhuri Dixit, Sara Ali Khan, and Kriti Kharbanda, amongst a few others. I believe they are most attracted to the light wearability our clothes offer that allow them to look and feel gorgeous. It has been great to witness the evolution of our brand in the fashion industry and it makes me feel really positive and excited. 

Q. What have been your biggest challenges in recent times? How have you overcome them?

A. Lockdown weddings are a recent trend and now the focus has shifted from big fat Indian weddings to small intimate weddings. Fortunately, the excitement and happiness of the occasion is the same even though there has been an indefinite halt to larger gatherings and festivities. These micro weddings take place in more relaxed environments and in turn need relaxed outfits in beautiful colours to complement the various functions. 

Q. What have been the most rewarding moments for you so far?

A. Watching my designs being recognised in the Indian fashion industry and witnessing my collections being received so well internationally fill me with tremendous happiness and contentment. 

Q. What are you working on next?

A. Currently, I am working on my next cocktail wear collection which we’re hoping to shoot by the end of this month. 

The interviewer pens lifestyle articles for various publications and her blog www.nooranandchawla.com. She can be reached on nooranand@gmail.com.

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FORMAT OF PRIYANKA’S NEW SHOW, THE ACTIVIST, CHANGED

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WASHINGTON: After facing huge backlash, Priyanka Chopra Jonas’ new series ‘The Activist’ is now being reconfigured. As per Variety, the makers have shifted its five-episode format to a one-time documentary special. Many social media users slammed the show for being tone-deaf and insensitive. CBS and producing partners Global Citizen and Live Nation issued this statement, “The Activist’ was designed to show a wide audience, the passion, long hours, and ingenuity that activists put into changing the world, hopefully inspiring others. But it has become apparent the format of the show distracts from the vital work these incredible activists do in their communities every day. The push for global change is not a competition and requires a global effort. So we are changing the format to remove the competitive element and reimagining the concept into a primetime documentary special (air date to be announced), it will showcase the tireless work of six activists and the impact they have advocating for causes they deeply believe in. Each activist will be awarded a cash grant for the organisation of their choice.”

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CHRIS PRATT TO BANKROLL ‘STRANDED ASSET’

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WASHINGTON: Hollywood star Chris Pratt is all set to produce the action-comedy ‘Stranded Asset’, which is written by Sam Richardson and Jen D’Angelo.

According to Variety, the upcoming film reunites the trio after their successful collaboration on ‘The Tomorrow War’, which Pratt executive produced and starred in alongside Richardson. D’Angelo was the on-set writer for the sci-fi feature. Pratt will produce ‘Stranded Asset’ through his Indivisible Productions banner. Sam Richardson will also star in the film. More details of the project have not been announced yet. 

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TABU TO STAR IN VISHAL BHARDWAJ’S FILM ‘KHUFIYA’

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MUMBAI: Tabu is all set to work with ace filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj again in ‘Khufiya’, which will release on Netflix.

Based on an espionage novel ‘Escape to Nowhere’ by Amar Bhushan, ‘Khufiya’ is a a spy thriller. Excited to reunite with Bhardwaj, Tabu shared on Instagram, “Expect nothing but sheer thrill. Excited to announce my re-uniting with @vishalrbhardwaj for #Khufiya. Coming very soon on @netflix_in. Khufiya is a one of a kind project, extremely close to my heart and I am excited to be a part of this gripping spy thriller. As always, it’s a delight working with VB (Vishal Bhardwaj) again, and feels like homecoming.” ‘Khufiya’ is a story about Krishna Mehra, an R&AW operative who is assigned to track down India’s defence secrets. Bhardwaj is trying to create an edgy espionage film that contrasts the slow burn of intelligence and surveillance work with deep-rooted emotional conflicts. 

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BIG B MISSES PRE-PANDEMIC ‘SUNDAY DARSHAN’ WITH FANS

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MUMBAI: Waving to fans gathered outside his Jalsa residence used to be megastar Amitabh Bachchan’s Sunday morning routine. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Big B stopped the ritual. Taking to Instagram on Wednesday, Amitabh took a stroll down memory lane and expressed his sadness on not being able to meet his well-wishers. “Thank you well wisher .. yes .. when will those Sunday well wishers at Jalsa return,” he wrote. Alongside the note, Big B posted an image of himself surrounded by imaginary fans and he was seen embracing them as the human connection has gotten a bit lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, on the work front, Amitabh is busy hosting the new season of ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’. Speaking of films, he will be seen in ‘Good Bye’, ‘Brahmastra’, and ‘The Intern’ remake.

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