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WHO DUMPED KAKA?

The exciting conversation from the meeting of SK Sharma and late superstar Rajesh Khanna. Rajesh was fondly remembered as the ‘first superstar’ of the Indian cinema and was born on 29 December 1942.

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The year was 2001. The date was 27 December. In those days, I was the Secretary of Delhi Assembly. The election of three Rajya Sabha members from Delhi was due for which there were 70 MLAs as electors. Hence, the EC had appointed me as Returning Officer to conduct and oversee the election. Since it was a quite cold evening of late December, my entire joint family consisting of my brothers, sisters, their spouses and children had lit bonfire in the spacious aangan (courtyard) of our parental house (in Delhi’s urban village Kilokari). Some neighbours and tenants also joined us. The beat of dholak and collective singing of popular Hindi songs enthralled everyone. Being a pre-Lohri occasion, moongfali, gazak and rewari were being served to everyone.

Suddenly, my mobile phone rang. I went a little farther from the din and cacophony to take the call. After confirming my identity, the caller announced, “Sir Rajesh Khanna Sahab baat karenge, please hold kariye” almost stunned and pleasantly shocked, I muttered, “Rajesh Khanna! film star! wanting to talk to me, a sarkari babu! But why?” He was not an MP, MLA or Mantri who invariably called me at odd hours for some official work or to seek a clarification. Then why Rajesh Khanna? “Sharma Sahab, Namaskar. Mein Rajesh Khanna,” came the voice from the other end, which I instantly recognized. It was `Kaka’s voice, without doubt.

I recalled his Punjabi background, and felt comfortable to switch over to that language. “Pairi pona Bhapaji”, I said showing due deference to his celebrity status. Greatly astonished, he shot back “Mein, aur Bhapa ji?” “Ji Sir, you may be a “Kaka” for your parents, elders and buddies. But for me you are an elder brother. Sir, how dare I can call you a `Kaka’?” Sheepishly, he came to the point and imitating me spoke softly in Punjabi, “Sharma Sahab, tuhade naal ek personal kam hai. Kal shaami Panj vaje tusi mere ghar Sarvodya Enclave (a South Delhi Colony near Malviya Nagar) aa Sakde ho?” “Ok Sir, your word is my command. But I will be a bit late say by 6 pm or so because till 5 pm, I will be busy in office due to some important Election Commission assignment.”

Kaka’s call and invitation took away my night sleep as he had not spelt out any reason or purpose for the meeting. So, I kept on guessing and making conjectures. Abruptly, with a glint in my eyes, I nearly jumped up from the bed whispering “wow” Eureka’. Got it”. He could be a Congress Candidate for Rajya Sabha Election 2002 (for which EC had appointed me the Returning Officer). Sure of my conclusion. I threw my head on the pillow and attempted to sleep. The very thought of a one-to-one meeting with Kaka was thrilling and invigorating. During my college days, I had umpteen times bunked classes to watch his movies. To be honest, also lurked somewhere in the back of my mind was an exciting feeling of getting an opportunity to have a private tete-a-tete or to be in close proximity of his charming and gorgeous wife and oomph girl Dimple Kapadia who, in her debut movie `Bobby’, had set the silver screen on fire, courtesy Raj Kapoor.

The next day was 28 December. As promised at 6 pm, I reported at Kaka’s South Delhi home where, in the outhouse, his secretary Anil Bhardwaj, (who happened to know me already and who had, later on, become an MLA from Tri Nagar, received me warmly and ushered me into Kaka’s drawing-room. He also introduced me to another waiting gentleman one Mr. x, Secretary to the Election Commission. My face fell as the bungalow- cum-flat was nearly deserted. Only others present included two attendants– cum servants.

Kaka entered the room, wearing a nightgown over his kurta- pajama, accompanied by his secretary Anil and shook hands with me. The Election Commission gentleman stood up and addressing Kaka said, `Sir, Sharmaji has come. We in the Election Commission, have appointed him as the man in the Cockpit. We have given him the charge of conducting the entire election. Henceforward, he will be your EC. He will answer all your remaining queries. I came at sharp 5 pm, hence am already late’. So saying, he shook hands and departed. I looked around, cursorily and surveyed the house and for a moment pitied Kaka. What kind of life he is leading? The poor fellow, once heartthrob and maddening craze of millions, is living in this barren flat without his wife and children. So sad, I thought. A servant appeared in a waiter’s uniform carrying a tray containing bowls of dry fruits, snacks, ice cubes, two empty designer glasses and placed them gently on the table before us. Now only I and Kaka were there. I turned to Kaka and enquired : “Khanna Sahab, have you got any signal from your party that you may be a Rajya Sabha Candidate?” Kaka did not answer in words. He simply half-closed his eyes, smiled, feebly, and replied giving a usual jerk to his head (as he often used to do in his movies) while lip-syncing songs such as “mere sapno ki Rani kab Aayegi tu”. Obviously, Kaka’s reply was in the affirmative. “This is wonderful news”, I said expressing joy. “Sir, `you take care of formal and final clearance of your candidature and I promise to take care of your nomination form the documents required to be annexed and other formalities”. You don’t worry. I will ensure that your nomination is not knocked out due to any technical flaw or infirmity. Sir, `you are a luminary. Lok Sabha is certainly not the place for you and you know it well being once a Member of LS from New Delhi Constituency. Every morning, hundreds of constituents will throng to your house making all kinds of demands – school and college admissions, ration cards, bus tickets, railway reservations, police cases, local issues. Bijali, paani, sadak, sewer, community hall, and so on; someone’s buffalo has died. Someone’s bicycle has been stolen. Even problems concerning the area Councillor or MLA are brought to LS MP for resolution, so much so that even husband–wife disputes. Kaka, repeatedly nodding his head and making a lip pout, kept listening attentively.

“During election time, you have to make rounds of Jhuggi- Jhopri clusters, open stinking drains and nullahs, dust and rubble, slums, and gandi bastis, broken pathways, dilapidated roads, hear and swallow all kinds of adjectives and epithets, freely hurled, tolerate awkward embraces and hugs of many drunkard voters reeking with country liquor or infected otherwise – all because you need their votes. Hence you cannot afford to annoy or displease them. “But no hassles if you become a member of Rajya Sabha, called the House of Elders. On the contrary, too many plus points for a celebrity like You’.” I enjoyed inflicting sermons on Kaka. “For an RS Candidate, no going around from door to door, no begging for votes, no tantrums of party workers, no morning assembly of hundreds of constituents attempting to gatecrash your house demanding favours as if their birth-right. The constituency and party work is also comparatively negligible’. “There are many other gains and advantages that will accrue. Lok Sabha’s term is for 5 years; can be cut short earlier also. Rajya Sabha’s fixed for 6 years; the powers privileges and immunities of both are the same.MPLAD Development Fund is also the same. Election for three RS seats from Delhi will be held separately, and not in one go. As such, whichever candidate gets 36 votes in a 70-member House, will be declared elected. Since your Party commands a strength of 53 members, the election of all 3 ruling party candidates is 100% certainty.’

`Sir, based on my experience in the institution of Parliament and DelhiAssembly I, or my part, will suggest, though I know your party may adopt different yardstick, that at least 2 persons from Delhi eminently deserve to be nominated for upper House. One is a local Veteran Jagparvesh Chandra, the grand old man of Delhi. He has spent half a century doing local politics only.

He has held every elective office, is a crudité, scholarly person and has a reputation of being incorruptible and an ajatshatru. Now turned octogenarian, he deserves to end his political inning in Parliament before hanging his boots. The other day, he made known his hidden desire to me in private. He shares with me many of his secrets being MLA from my area and having family ties also’.

`The second person I have in mind, and I say this very candidly and at your face’ is you. Because you are a superstar, a charismatic personality, a crowd puller, and a vote catcher. You can be a real asset to the party. Your popularity and appeal travel beyond regions and religions. The party in its wisdom, should use you as a star campaigner, whenever it needs.”

If you finally make it, a six-year term is assured. If, thereafter, the party finds your performance satisfactory and repeats you, then 12 years. And if, God willing, you yet a third term also, it will be 18 years. Just think”. `Sharma ji, you have intensified my temptation,’ Kaka said looking up at the roof above, his eyes half-closed and face glowing. `But Khanna Sahab, one request. Please don’t go by hearsay or what your sycophants tell you. Start regular interaction with your high command and those party big – wigs who matter, from tomorrow onwards. I find your party culture so weird. One who, in the beginning appears to be a front-runner, gets pushed back to become a back- bencher later. One who is not at all in the reckoning emerges from nowhere to become a dark horse. And Sir, please beware of treacherous and saboteurs in your party masquerading as well-wishers,” I enjoyed inflicting lecture on him on diplomacy and statecraft. `So please make it a do or die mission. Don’t hesitate to pull all your influential wires’. I finished my unsolicited advice. “One minute Sharma ji,” Kaka abruptly stood up as if reminded of something, went into the adjacent room and returned holding a thick file. It contained dozens of appreciation letters, commendations, certificates and communications from PCC Presidents, Chief Ministers, AICC functionaries and so on, eulogizing Kaka as a star campaigner and acknowledging his contribution in ensuring party’s victory in State Assembly elections. Kaka pulled out a particular letter. Putting his index finger on it he showed it to me. It was a personal communication from his Party President addressed to Kaka in which she had profusely thanked Kaka and given rich credit to him for party’s victory in Orissa Poll “Twanu ki lagda hai Sharma Saheb. Party mainu haley vee na Kar Sakdi hai ?” asked Kaka bubbling in confidence.

`Sorry Sir, can’t comment on your internal party matter. But still, my advice would be “No lethargy, No slackness. Lobby hard. Make it a do or die mission,” so saying I went silent.

Digressing from the topic, I then told Kaka “Sir, I feel very comfortable and at ease interacting with you in Punjabi. Strangely Sir, the other day I overheard in Central Hall of Parliament House that even non-Punjabis such as Dr. Karan Singh and Farookh Abdullah speak fluent and impeccable Punjabi.

`Oh! You mentioned Farookh Abdullah. I tell you Sharmaji, this man is a gem of a person, a great guy and a wonderful personal friend. Many years ago, when he was Chief Minister and I was neck-deep in films, I had taken my Bauji and Chaiji (Dad and Mom) for Vaishnodevi Darshan. Farook Abdullah extended all courtesies and hospitality. Even placed the state govt plane at our disposal. I can’t forget what he did for us.”

As he said this, Kaka’s esteem in my eyes went up by a few notches. He had candidly acknowledged and generously acclaimed the gratitude and virtues of a friend in his absence. “Manana padega Yeh banda yaaron ka yaar hai,” I muttered under my breath. Sir, pleasant to hear that you call your parents as `Bauji’ and `Chaai ji’. I, too, address my in-laws likewise. My words reflected my sycophancy also. You have two daughters; I have two sons. You were earlier in Parliament House for five years as an MP, I also operated from that building for a long time as a staffer and as an official before joining Delhi Assembly. On top of it, our common link – Amritsar. “Twahnu pata nahi, Khanna Sahab, merey Sorrey Vee Ambarsariye ne”. (you don’t known my in-laws too are Ambarsarias’) I brashly broke the news to Kaka. Kaka smiled mischievously, came a bit closer and nearly whispered into my ears as if avoiding being heard by others “yaar Sharmaji, tusi Jija banan di koshish te nahi kar rahe ?” Kaka’s lively and hilarious banter brought the house down. We both sprang up almost simultaneously guffawing and striking each other’s palms above our heads producing a loud clap sound. The boisterous burst of laughter instantly changed the room atmosphere (mausam badal gaya).

When Kaka enquired about the area in Amritsar where my `Sasural’, was located, I expressed plain ignorance since I had visited Amritsar once and that too on an official assignment. I however told him that my in-laws hailed from a place called Dera Baba Nanak (now across the Amritsar border). Soon after my marriage and when he was alive, my father-in-law (Kishore

Chand) had once boasted that he and his childhood-buddy Amar Nath (whom we all children used to reverentially addressed as `Pitaji’) had, as teenagers, associated and hobnobbed with the activities of revolutionaries, the likes of Chandrashekar Azad, Bhagat Singh. But when such activities came to the noticed of police and an arrest warrant issued against him, he fled to Lahore and hid in the house of a relative for several months. My father-in-law had also once narrated to me the deplorable event that took place on 30 January, 1948. When the news of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi was announced on the radio, he and his revolutionary friend

Amar Nath (Pitaji) rode on their by-cycles pedaling from their residence in Delhi University area to Birla House for Bapu’s antim darshan’. This incident, as personally narrated to me, makes one thing clear that revolutionaries too, considered Mahatma Gandhi to be the tallest, most

revered and the unquestioned leader of Indian masses.

As the room atmosphere became softer and lighter, I decided to take the liberty to confirm from the horse’s mouth some titillating stories about Kaka. So I asked, `Khanna Sahab, is it a fact that in your heydays, your female fans often painted your white car red by planting lipstick marks all over and many even sent you letters written in their blood? Kaka didn’t answer straight but went nostalgic and blushed. Giving a friendly fist-blow on my back remarked: “Choddo yaar, kyon puraniya gallan yaad dila rahe ho.” As I finished my drink in one last gulp and put the empty glass upside down, Kaka didn’t like this. Showing annoyance and expanding his nostrils he said “what is this”? I apologetically explained, “Pardon me Sir, I take only occasionally and have already given you company”. Still furious, Kaka took me to task with the remark “Tusi merey dushman ho”? Yaar ek te dushman layndey ne,’. Kaka sounded quite serious. With a sheepish grin, I hastily overturned my empty glass this time downside up, saying `Ok Sir, if you insist, I will have another one’.

More than three hours had passed and we still enjoyed chatting non-stop. Strangely Kaka remained undisturbed by any phone call or appearance of any visitor during the period.

Suddenly, my mobile phone rang. The caller was my wife who questioned me for being late. I looked at the wall clock above and remarked “OMG! Sorry, aata hoon, kisi jaroori meeting me tha”. “Sharma ji your facial expression and body language tell me that the caller is your wife”. `Yes, Sir, today she will definitely take my class and give me left and right for being so late’. Kaka suggested an alibi `Do one thing (1Ek kai karo Tusi keh dena Rajesh Khanna de ghar gaya see, Bandey ne hillan hi nahi ditta, pakad ke bithaye rakka Mein ki karda’?

`What will happen if I do so? I questioned his logic. “Nothing much’ Kaka replied. “Jhaad te pucca payegi, par thoda ghat paigi” (you will definitely receive firing but a bit milder).

I heartily laughed admiring his sense of humour and timing. As I began to pick up my belongings to leave, Kaka made me sit to proudly share a hitherto undisclosed secret. “Sharma ji, kal 29 December hai aur mera birthday hai. Coincidentally kaal hi meri bitiya Twinkle da vee birthday hai. I have to make arrangements for her gift also. I wished Kaka in advance, also expressed surprise that both father and daughter share the common date of birth. Kaka stood up suddenly became sad and looked gloomy and sullen. He then stared motionless at the roof above. Gradually, he transformed, into a morose and melancholy man. Tears welled up in the corner of his eyes which were visible making a feeble attempt to control, he said in Hindi “Sharma ji, mein apani betiyon se bahut pyaar karta hoon, miss bhi karta hoon’. (This fact stood testified after his death. He had left behind a WILL bequeathing his entire property to his daughters Twinkle and Rinkie, as his legal heirs. This included his bungalow `Ashirwad’ also).

My heart ached. OMG ! what a longing of a loving father for his daughters! India’s unmatched No. 1 Superstar rotting all alone in this empty flat yearning for the love, affection and company of his family. Uff! It became increasingly unbearable to restrain the silent weeping of an affectionate father. Still making a fragile attempt to control I said, “Sir, mein bhi ek baap hoon Aapki feelings samajh sakta hoon. Yeh to hamara culture hai, hamare, samaj ki reality hai. Har pita beti se hi jyada pyar karta hai. Aur betiyan bhi apney pita sey hi emotionally jyada attached hoti hain’. I half-filled the glass with plain water and offered to sobbing Kaka. Then raised my little finger (cheechi ungli) and headed towards the loo leaving Kaka, alone to hold back his emotional flooding.

During the return journey back home. I repeatedly mulled over Kaka’s plight. What was particularly disturbing was his broken and shattered family life and the pangs of separation that he was undergoing. Why the estranged couple could not stay together under a common roof with their children was too sensitive and personal a matter concerning the spouse only.

By raking up that issue, I did not want to put Kaka into discomfiture and myself appear stupid and brainless. So, I kept quiet. During my nearly four hours of chitter-chatter, I carefully avoided making any reference to it. But his loneliness, without doubt, anguished me beyond words.

The author is former Secretary of the Lok Sabha and Delhi Assembly.

The article is part one of the two-part series.

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HAL TO EXPORT ADVANCED LIGHT HELICOPTER TO MAURITIUS

BK Tripathy General Manager Helicopter Division HAL and OK Dabidin Secretary of Home Affairs Prime Ministers Office Government of Mauritius signing the contract

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Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has signed a contract with the Government of Mauritius for export of one Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH Mk III) which will be used by Mauritius Police Force.

The Government of Mauritius already operates HAL built ALH and Do-228 aircraft. “With this contract, HAL and Government of Mauritius have further strengthened the long standing business relations spanning over three decades,” HAL said in a statement. The agreement is in line with the Government of India’s vision to boost defence exports to friendly foreign countries.

The contract was signed by BK Tripathy, General Manager, Helicopter Division-HAL and OK Dabidin, Secretary of Home Affairs, Prime Minister’s Office, Government of Mauritius recently at HAL’s Transport Aircraft Division, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh.

The ALH Mk III is a multi-role, multi-mission versatile helicopter in 5.5 tonne category. It has proven its mettle in various utility role including numerous lifesaving missions during natural calamities in India and abroad.

More than 335 ALHs have been produced till date logging around 340,000 cumulative flying hours. HAL also ensures technical assistance and product support to the customer to ensure healthy serviceability of the helicopter, the statement said.

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Dream come true: Akashdeep Sengupta on composing Sooryavanshi’s Mere Yaara

In this exclusive interview as part of NewsX India A-List, Akashdeep Sengupta opened up about composing a song for Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif starrer Sooryavanshi.

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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 is 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.”

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ON REPUBLIC DAY, DALER MEHNDI WILL STAGE INDIA’S FIRST VIRTUAL LIVE CONCERT IN THE METAVERSE

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Daler Mehndi, the star of the original Green Screen technology revolution in Indian music back in 1998, is all set to present the nation with its first Metaverse concert on Republic Day. His fans can expect to have an unforgettable experience at PartyNite.io, where they will be able to view his avatar in a larger than life virtual concert.

While it might not seem like a big deal at first glance, it is fairly important anyone who takes part in this online concert will have the chance to be more immersed than watching a live-streamed video. Instead you will be able to attend the concert as yourself in an exotic metaverse landscape as your customized avatar so you can groove with Daler Mehndi. From your mobile or PC, you can take part in this experience at home or wherever you are, on your own terms and invite friends along too. Daler Mehndi will be performing his evergreen hit albums, like Namoh Namoh, India India & Jago India! Dedicating an exclusive and first special performance to Shri Narendra Modi on this special occasion, Mr. Mehndi is all ready for what promises to be an unforgettable experience geared up to entertain thousands of fans all eager to let loose at ‘PartyNite!’

Selected NFTs will also be dropped during this event. Daler Mehndi’s deep ties to Indian soil made it the perfect choice for PartyNite to showcase its Indian Metaverse. Gamitronics, a Hyderabad-based game studio, has created this blockchain powered Metaverse which offers playable NFTs. The Pre-Alpha version of Party Night is a 2GB game install available for download on the internet.

The core of the Metaverse is based on parties and celebrations where brands and celebrities will reach the direct audience. Life is a party, get a life here! PartyNite offers various settings like island, campfire, amphitheater, lounge, cruise ship, Dragonpur from Chhota Bheem etc where each individual can have their own avatar as per their preference. People can buy & sell exotic locations, claim and mint NFTs, play to earn while having all the fun. One of the best features of this is that it is based on a blockchain and NFT game, which means you can earn NFT while playing it, which will be credited to your ApnaDao wallet. NFTs are digital goods that can be purchased, sold or exchanged for the same value on a blockchain. In this game, the blockchain is ApnaDAo Wallet, where your NFTs are stored. “Daler Mehndi is the voice of the nation. His voice reaches the god and common man with the same intensity. We wanted to launch our Metaverse with the very same sentiment, voice of India and global icon so when the world sees him in India ka Apna Metaverse, they feel the big huge roar of Digital India that YES, WE HAVE ARRIVED,” said Rajat Ojha, CEO, Gamitronics.

Gamitronics has used state of the art AI technology to use various behaviors and patterns of Daler Mehndi using various video sources and created his virtual avatar with lifelike animations.

Daler Mehndi becomes the first Indian performer to join the list of artists who have already performed in Metaverse virtual concerts, which have only occurred 4-5 times in terms of size and scale at this point in time. Other performers include Travis Scott, Justin Bieber, Marshmallow and Ariana Grande. India certainly needs more production like this. Much like augmented reality and virtual reality mediate between digital and physical realities, they are opening up new possibilities for pop music online by bridging connections between foreign artists who want to collaborate across borders or even trade show recordings of concerts with their fans all around the world. Metaverse concerts are also great because artists can perform live from anywhere in the world while audiences watch them from the comfort of their own homes. The Metaverse gives musicians a sense of creative freedom. As the creators and owners of the worlds they build, Metaverse offers users an immersive 3D experience that is shaped and transformed by their own content. The Metaverse is not owned by any one company but rather established as a peer-to-peer network where anyone can connect with one another.

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CHILDHOOD MEMORIES ON CANVAS

‘I would like viewers to forget the hustle bustle of their metropolitan life and get back into flashbacks of their own childhood memories and start smiling and laughing, enjoying when they stand in front of my paintings.’

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Artist Shiv Kumar Soni’s exhibition, Treasure Trove of Childhood Memories, is going on at The Project Café in Goa. The exhibition is a cohesive presentation of art, food, music and design woven around the curated polychromatic artworks of the young artist. The exhibition is being curated by Kirti Parihar. It is co-hosted by Samira Sheth, an independent Art curator from Goa. The exhibition is on until 31 January. Soni spoke to The Daily Guardian.

Excerpts:

Window of my dream homeArtist Shiv Kumar Soni

Puppy on the Drive

Flying with kites

Butterflies over the face of puppy

Q: Tell us something about yourself.

A: I was born in 1992 in a goldsmith family in Churu district of Rajasthan. During my school days I used to draw on walls of my house using a chalk or pieces of bricks. Day by day that interest increased and I enjoyed the process. After my schooling I joined Rajasthan School of Arts, Jaipur and completed my Bachelors in Visual Arts in 2013. Along with my Bachelors I participated in group exhibitions in Jaipur in 2011 and 2012 organised by Jawahar Kala Kendra and Lalit Kala Academy. Since then I have done many solo and group exhibitions, some of my key shows are

Q: What made you become an artist?

A: My first choice was to draw and paint when I started to understand things around me. During my school days I would do more artwork than homework of other subjects. Doing art was like a routine for me since my early adolescent days. Eventually I bunked classes and came back home to do something creative and that would give me immense joy. So my art practice started quite early; I don’t remember how and when I chose to become an artist, I think it was my everyday ritual which is followed till now. I love working full time as an artist and would want to enjoy my time in this field.

Q: Tell us a little bit about “Treasure Trove of Childhood Memories”. What inspired you to create this work?

A: During my childhood I would stay on the terrace most of the time and while sitting there for hours I would draw/paint the birds, clouds, rainy sky, kites etc. I was mesmerised by them in my childhood so I decided to paint those things in my compositions. For my current series I worked on these compositions as I think childhood memories and dreams are no less than a treasure of life for human beings. Curator Kirti Parihar and I discussed to exhibit them and I started working on it for the exhibition.

Q: How much time did it take you to complete the art pieces for the collection?

A: It depends upon the design of the creation. Sometimes a painting finishes within one week or so and sometimes it takes two-three weeks to a month, so it totally depends on the concepts and objects in the painting.

Q: Each painting from the collection has a different story, tell us which one is closest to your heart and reminds you of your childhood.

A: Butterflies on the face of the puppy is my favourite amongst this collection. One fancies a particular thing in their childhood and wants infinites of those, for example, toys. A child would not be satisfied with one or two but would want to have a number of them. Likewise, I was enchanted by butterflies in my childhood and wanted to have a number of them around me, hence this is my favourite of all works. It truly shows the objective of my collection.

Q: Your views on the art world and the art market in India. Do you accept that art is instinctively an elitist activity or are things changing in India?

A: Yes, as we know that art market in India is very small in comparison to other developed countries. Main reason of this is that art education is not a part or a priority in the syllabus. So it should be improved, and to an extent now art is being accepted by parents as a career. However, in today’s times, through print and social media interactions people are engaging with art and artists a lot and I can see the contemporary art market gaining momentum in a few years. Also, the notion of art being an elitist object has got cracks in it and more and more millennials are buying art and showing interest in making art a part of their portfolio.

Q: Tell us about your latest exhibition at The Project Cafe? What is the one thing you want each visitor at TPC to take back with them after going through the art pieces?

A: I would like viewers to forget the hustle bustle of their metropolitan life and get back into flashbacks of their own childhood memories and start smiling and laughing, enjoying when they stand in front of my paintings. I am sure everyone who visits my show will relate to at least one of the artworks, and this has happened. During the show I got feedback from the curator that some people related to the curly hair and some to the innocent flamboyance of the protagonist “puppy”. It gives me immense joy to see that all age groups connect to my work some or the other way.

Q: Why did you choose The Project Café Goa to showcase your work? How did it help you as an artist?

A: The location of the project cafe is good and Goa is a very good place for holidays, tours and people are in a relaxed mood. Also, many people have moved to Goa post the first wave and are doing their up homes. Moreover, the curated audience in The Project Cafe is always remarkable. I have seen their past exhibitions and what I like about their presentation is that it’s an experiential space and not a regular gallery. They create multidisciplinary events around art which makes it even more interesting and engaging with the viewers, so we planned to do a show here.

Q: Is there a subtle message for our society that you are trying to convey through your work, “Treasure Trove of Childhood Memories”? What are your future plans?

A: I just wish that during tough times people remember some good memories from their childhood days, something that can bring a smile to their face and can make them time travel to those days for a few seconds. That’s what I try to do with my work and that’s what I wish for all.

So far I haven’t planned anything in specific for myself but wish to work till the last breath of my life.

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‘I had tears in my eyes’: Saqib Saleem reveals Mohinder Amarnath’s reaction to his performance in 83

In an exclusive conversation with NewsX as part of NewsX India A-List, Saqib Saleem revealed Mohinder Amarnath’s reaction to his performance in 83 and much more.

Priyanka Sharma

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Garnering praises for his stellar performance in 83, Actor Saqib Saleem joined NewsX for a candid chat as part of NewsX India A-List. As part of the exclusive conversation, the actor opened up about the response to his latest film 83, Mohinder Amarnath’s reaction to his performance and much more.

Speaking about the release of 83 and the response coming his way, Saqib said, “I have been working for the last 10-12 years but it feels like it is my first film because the love I have gotten for this, I have never gotten in my life for anything. It is just so overwhelming that the kind of messages I have been getting whether it is from the fraternity, whether it is from people on social media, my friends, my relatives and I don’t know how to react. Like I said, I have never gotten a response like this, so I don’t know what to say or what to do. I didn’t know that I was so bad at taking compliments. It is the first time I have realised that I am bad at taking compliments.”

When asked about the best compliment that he has received so far for his performance in the film, Saqib revealed, “If I had to tell you the best compliment I have gotten is from the man himself- Mohinder Amarnath. It was at the premiere of the film and I was very nervous about how he would see it. I had already the seen the film so I knew the film was good but I really wanted his review because I was playing him. When the premiere was on, I was slyly next to his seat, trying to gauge his reaction as to what he is thinking but I was getting very anxious. I was like I can’t do this to myself. I have to let him enjoy the film. I have to just disconnect from the film right now. I went out of the theatre. I had a couple of more black coffees and I got more anxious. When the film got over, I came back in. I went to him and I don’t know why but I had tears in my eyes. I looked at him and all I said was that ‘Sir, I am really sorry if I did something that was wrong’. He looked at me with his trademark smile and said, “Are you mad?”

“He had a red handkerchief that he would always carry himself in the 1983 world cup. He was wearing a red pocket square. He took out that pocket square and put on my jacket and said, “This is yours from now. You have made me 10 years younger.” I couldn’t stop crying. I had never in my life, my acting career had a more honest moment. I felt so connected to my own self at that time. Now, no review matters, no box office matters, nothing matters. The man himself appreciated it and that is the biggest validation I could have asked for, “ he added.

Check out the entire interview on NewsX YouTube:

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ITA Awards 2021 will be held in March this year: Anu Ranjan

In the exclusive conversation with NewsX as part of NewsX India A-List, Anu Ranjan gave us an insight into ITA, her association with ITA and the preparations for this year’s ceremony.

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As the countdown for ITA Awards 2021 begins, Producer Anu Ranjan joined NewsX as part of NewsX India A-List. In the exclusive conversation, Anu Ranjan gave us an insight into ITA, her association with ITA and the preparations for this year’s ceremony, especially amid a Covid scare.

Speaking about her association with ITA 2021 and what has the journey been like, Anu Ranjan said, “This is our 21st year. I started it and I have been there since its inception. It is just that because of what has happened the previous year, we have been running a few months late. Ideally it should have been last year but we had 20th awards last year so 21st would be held in March this year. I just love it. No other words for it.”

Talking about the inception of ITA awards, she shared, “It was an idea told to me by my friends while we were walking on the beach. They were saying that there are no TV awards and that was in 2000. That time, it was just a thought. I used to live in America and I moved to India after I got married. The Emmy’s was something that we had always seen so I said ‘Okay, let me try doing it’. It just so happened that TV started at the same time. All of a sudden, things started happening on television. All the KBCs and K Series etc, all started and ITA was launched the same year. TV from no where; people not recognizing who the TV stars were, became household names exactly that year onwards.”

When asked what has changed in the past 2 years considering the Covid-19 outbreak and the protocols that have been put in place, Anu Ranjan responded, “Last to last year, it was fab. There were 10-15 thousand people. We had it in Indore. It was perfect. Last year, we had to have it a studio. What we did was instead of having a 3 hour live show, we kind of extended it over 2 days. We did one act and let them all go. We had 10 awards with just 30 people and then continued. We did managed to do it. In the edit, we had put everything together. What we did in 3 hours, was spread into 20 hours. It worked pretty well that way too. This year, god willing, we have it in March. If things work out well, which I’m sure they will, then it is going to be another super year. “

On recognising actors who have amazed the audiences in the OTT space in ITA Awards 2021 nominations, she said, “This year, we have got OTT at par with TV. So far, TV was 80% chunk and OTT was 20%. Now, what has happened is that it has become 60-40. TV is still a little heavier. There is a lot happening here and the good thing is that all the artists, more or less, the same. Whether you are doing television, films or web, it is the same people and they are very widely recognised and accepted by all. That has made a very big difference. We started OTT 3 years ago and that time we had 14 show entries. This year, it goes into 100+. Every single network, all 8-10 of the platforms, all actively participating  in the ITA awards.”

Check out the entire interview on NewsX YouTube:

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