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WHY EVERYONE SHOULD SING

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I often get asked this question by a gamut of people. Audiences at concerts, participants at lecture demonstrations, parents of young students of Music Vruksh, friends, acquaintances and even strangers who hear that I am a classical musician.

Since singing has been an intrinsic part of my growing up and has now evolved into my profession, I had, until a few years ago, never really thought about people who have a desire to sing and possibly an aptitude too, but never really got to learn formally or sing in public. Most of these people hide bashfully behind the identity of what they call ‘just a bathroom singer’. Bathrooms obviously signify extreme privacy, a place where a person can unleash his or her own Sonu Nigam or Shreya Ghoshal alter ego. With the showerhead as a mike, the soapy floor as the grand stage, and the buckets and soaps as audiences, the singer inside him or her blooms with full confidence. The mirror plays a very important role too. It is that special reflection that shows the person as a larger-than-life singer who can create magic in people’s hearts, the persona they desperately want but feel they can never acquire.

The desire to sing is actually a desire for many things morphed into one. It is the ego’s desire to be admired, looked up to and loved by people. It is the mind’s desire to express a whole gamut of emotions from love to hate. It is the spirit’s desire to expand and embrace life and its rich experiences through the magic that music is. It is the desire of our beings to touch perfection and beauty through our vocal cords even if for a brief moment of time.

But most people get lost in the belief that that music is a gift only a few privileged people can enjoy. They resign themselves to being the longing soul that desperately desires music but cannot touch it.

For these people, I have something very important to say. It is no doubt certainly a worthy goal to want to improve your singing skills. In classical music, we give immense importance to the skills of ‘Sur’ and ‘Taal’, and it is certainty a wonderful thing if your key can be a bit better, if your sense of rhythm can be a bit more polished. But there is something else that is far more profoundly important. Even in classical music, what differentiates a powerfully soul-stirring singer from a highly skilled one, is spirit. Only when skill is powered by spirit can music genuinely transcend. So yes, it is a great thing to start musical training and look forward to improving singing skills. But it is essential to not lose one’s spirit and essence in this pursuit, the spirit that compels one to cry, laugh and love through its voice.

The pursuit of perfection is a mirage. Just as when you love something or someone with your full heart, the object of your desire becomes perfect for you, the same is true of music. When you love what you sing and sing what you love, you feel the fullness of happiness as perfection. Perfection actually lies in the spirit of oneness. It lies wholly within us.  And when we sing with our heart, express with gay abandon and reach out to the divine through our love, we are perfect singers.

So, when I am asked the question ‘Can I sing?’, I have an unequivocal answer. Yes! Anyone can sing. Everyone should sing. Because it is every single soul’s birthright to be as grand as it desires. To be as happy as a singing cuckoo bird.  To be as united with the beauty and magic of the true spirit of music as any professional singer on this planet.

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Vidya Balan and Raj Arjun starrer ‘Natkhat’ exposes deep-rooted patriarchy in Indian society

Murtaza Ali Khan

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Short films offer a great platform for young and upcoming filmmakers to showcase their talents. But, making a short film is always a tricky proposition. For, the financial prospects are quite uncertain. However, the one thing that drives such productions is passion as the constant threats and fears often serve as fuel that end up stirring the deepest artistic urges of the filmmaker. One thing, however, is more or less certain. What these films lack in scope they more than make up for it in terms of vision. Of late, the short films are becoming more and more mainstream with big names from the Hindi film industry joining the bandwagon. Also, the pandemic has given a further fillip to this emerging trend of making short films with established stars. Natkhat, co-written and directed by Shaan Vyas, is a fine example of what storytellers can achieve using the shot film format.

Natkhat stars Vidya Balan in the role of a mother who takes it upon herself to teach her young son an important lesson about gender equality that he will never forget. The short, co-produced by Vidya Balan and Ronnie Screwvala, has already traveled to many international film festivals. Ever since its premiere at the ‘We Are One: A Global Film Festival’ last year, Natkhat has found a spot on many most-anticipated short films lists. The short film is now being streamed by Voot Select as part of Voot Select Film Festival—a direct to OTT Film Festival that will showcase more than 15 critically acclaimed movies across genres over an eight day period.

The Shaan Vyas directorial succeeds in singularly pointing why despite so many reforms and new laws patriarchy has still managed to endure in our society. Let’s try and examine the story of Natkhat to understand this better. The short follows Sonu (portrayed by Sanika Patel) who one day along with his friends at school decides to teach a girl a lesson she would never forget. At dinner time when the grown-ups discuss a female politician who is causing them some trouble, Sonu offers them a suggestion with the ghastly admission of the sinister act he committed at school. The bunch of boys had taught the girl who had dared to hit one of them a lesson by dragging her to the woods and threatening her to cut off her pigtail. When he offers the same advice to the grown-ups at the dinner table in order to teach the female politician a lesson, the father (essayed by Raj Arjun) gets up in a fit of rage to scold his young son but he is stopped by the grandfather (played by Atul Tiwari). The old patriarch consoles his enraged son by reminding him about the boy’s gender privilege: “Boys will be boys. What do you expect? Will you crucify him for this?”

Now, the servile mother (essayed by Vidya Balan) in a ghunghat is listening to the conversation from a distance. She is not even allowed to sit and eat with the men of the family even as she serves them hot food and rotis. She can only eat inside her room after they are finished. But even from within the ghunghat we can sense her dread and uneasiness on hearing her son’s ghastly admission of an act he committed at school. She is deeply disturbed by the toxic machismo her young son with an impressionable mind is in the process of inheriting from those around him. So she takes matters into her own hands and decides to teach her son the principles of equality using the age-old art of bedtime stories.

Natkhat is a powerful reminder that the root cause of all oppression that women are subjected to in our society is a direct result of patriarchy. What children see while growing up has a lasting impression on their impressionable minds. Their conditioning already begins long before they even realize it. By the time they grow up into adults the damage is already done. If, however, the parents can make conscious efforts to educate their children about the importance of gender equality then the dark influences of patriarchy can be greatly mitigated.

There is so much that remains unsaid in Natkhat and so the onus is on the actors to convey the same non-verbally and they are up to the mark. In particular, Vidya Balan, Raj Arjun and young Sanika Patel need to be commended for their brilliant performances in the short film. It’s really heartening to see a leading Bollywood actress like Balan taking such keen interest in a project like Natkhat and not just as an actor but also as a producer. While there still there is still a long way to go before the short films start enjoying the same reverence and recognition that’s generally associated with feature films, Natkhat proves that short film format is more than capable of delivering a strong message in a most effective manner possible.

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TAHIRA KASHYAP UNVEILS HER LATEST SHORT FILM ‘QUARANTEEN CRUSH’

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MUMBAI: After the success of ‘Toffee’ and ‘Pinni’, author-filmmaker Tahira Kashyap Khurrana unveiled her third short film titled ‘Quaranteen Crush’ as a part of Netflix’s anthology series ‘Feels Like Ishq’.

Tahira penned a heartwarming post to express her gratitude to the entire team. She captioned the post, “My happy place! Dekhna zaroor aaj #feelslikeishq @netflix_in par! Had the most amazing time making #quaranteencrush big thank you to the entire team.”

Having shot for the short film in just four days in Chandigarh between the first and second lockdown, ‘Quaranteen Crush’ depicts an innocent love story between two teenagers with the innate quirky zing of Tahira. Utilising her quarantine to the fullest, Tahira has been working on different things through the lockdown, including her book ‘12 Commandments of Being A Woman’, that released last year, ‘Quaranteen Crush’ and her upcoming book ‘7 Sins of Being A Mother’.

Tahira is also gearing up for her upcoming project, for the same the author-filmmaker was seen doing a recce in Chandigarh.

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AJAY DEVGN GETS NOSTALGIC AS ‘SINGHAM’ CLOCKS 10 YEARS

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MUMBAI: Reminiscing the movie that saluted the spirit of today’s frontline warriors – the cops – actor Ajay Devgn on Thursday got nostalgic as his action-thriller ‘Singham’ clocked ten years.

Taking to his Twitter handle, the actor shared a video that featured different shots of the film. Along with the video, he tweeted,”Jismein hai dum, toh fakt Bajirao Singham. Singham sirf ek film nahin hai, Singham ek jasba hai, emotion hai, ek salaam hai uss police force ke naam jo apni parwah kiye bina, imandaari aur sachhi nishtha se apna kaam iss desh ki seva mein kar rahe hain,” (Singham is not just a film, it is a passion, an emotion, A salute to the police force who are doing their work in the service of this country with honesty and true devotion, regardless of their concern)

“I want to thank the team and all the fans for the super successful 10 years of Singham. And dedicate it to all the frontline workers out there,” the actor added.

The video shared by the ‘Golmaal’ actor features different shots from the film, featuring the actor in the uniform of a cop. It showcases Ajay with Kajal Aggarwal who essayed the role of his love interest in the movie.

Directed by Rohit Shetty, ‘Singham’ is the first installment of the ‘Cop Universe’ and a remake of the 2010 Tamil film ‘Singam’. The film features Devgn in the lead role as Inspector of Police (S.H.O.), Bajirao Singham, and Prakash Raj as the antagonist. The sequel to the action-thriller, ‘Singham Returns’ was also released in the year 2014.

Inspired from the flick, a spin-off, titled ‘Simmba’, starring Ranveer Singh as the titular officer, ACP Sangram Bhalerao hit theatres in 2018. A second spin-off, ‘Sooryavanshi’, too, is slated for release in the near future, featuring Akshay Kumar reprise the role in the lead, with both Devgn and Singh reprising their respective characters Singham and Simmba in a climactic sequence.

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JACQUELINE FERNANDEZ SHARES SULTRY PICTURES FROM LATEST PHOTOSHOOT

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NEW DELHI: Setting the temperatures soaring on social media, Bollywood diva Jacqueline Fernandez shared stunning pictures from her latest photoshoot, accompanied with a powerful message for society.

Taking to her Instagram handle, Jacqueline shared a couple of pictures where she could be seen posing effortlessly in a bathroom while wrapping her body with a bright reddish-orange blanket. In the pictures, Jacqueline is seen sporting a high glossy make-up look while flaunting her flawless skin. With her luscious locks open, the actor showcased her toned body on Instagram.

She captioned her photoshoot pictures with a strong message about self-love. “You.. you’re not ugly.. society is #liveyourlifenow,” she wrote. With the post hitting the photo-sharing platform, it garnered more than one million likes. Scores of fans chimed into the comments section and left multiple hearts and raising hands emoticons in awe of the post.

“Damn right,” one user wrote. “The moment we remove context, we find our own process,” wrote another. Meanwhile, on the work front, Jacqueline has her kitty full with some interesting projects like, ‘Cirkus’, ‘Bhoot Police’, ‘Kick 2’, ‘Ram Setu’, ‘Attack’ and ‘Bachchan Pandey’.

She will also be a part of South star Kichcha Sudeep’s multilingual film ‘Vikrant Rona’, for which she recently shot a dance number. Additional details regarding her character in the film have been kept under wraps. 

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KARTIK AARYAN TO PLAY A PILOT IN HANSAL MEHTA’S ‘CAPTAIN INDIA’

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MUMBAI: Bollywood actor Kartik Aaryan is all set to headline RSVP and Baweja Studios’ ‘Captain India’, which will be directed by ace filmmaker Hansal Mehta. The upcoming film is inspired by one of India’s successful rescue missions from a war-torn country. Kartik took to his Instagram account to unveil the first look poster of ‘Captain India’ which features him in a never-before-seen avatar. The actor captioned the post, “When a man goes beyond the call of duty. With great pride and honour, we bring to you #CaptainIndia @hansalmehta sir @rsvpmovies @bawejastudios #RonnieScrewvala #HarmanBaweja.”

Produced by Ronnie Screwvala and Harman Baweja, the inspiring action-drama will star Kartik as he steps into the shoes of a pilot who spearheaded the operation and displayed exemplary bravery and courage in the process.

Speaking about the upcoming film, Kartik said, “Captain India is inspiring and thrilling in equal measure and it gives me great pride and honour to be a part of such a historic chapter of our country.”

“I have immense respect for Hansal Sir’s body of work and this was the perfect opportunity to collaborate with him,” Kartik further said about the filmmaker who is best known for projects like ‘Aligarh’, ‘Shahid’ and ‘Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story’.

National-award winning filmmaker Mehta said the film will revisit a moment where a man goes beyond his own pain. He said, “Captain India which is inspired by true events will revisit a moment in time where a man goes beyond his own pain and suffering to save thousands. I’m happy to collaborate with Ronnie Screwvala and Harman Baweja on the film and I look forward to working with Kartik.”

Talking about the film, producer Ronnie Screwvala said that ‘Captain India’ is “not just a story of one of the biggest humanitarian operations ever but also about the indomitable human spirit, one that rises above failure despite the odds.” He added, “Hansal Mehta is one of the finest filmmakers of our time and has always beautifully captured the true essence of humane stories. Kartik Aaryan’s fans are surely in for a treat as he steps into all-new territory with ‘Captain India’.” 

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A musician is never alone

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As I sat for my online concert last month, I was compelled to deliberate on how Covid isolation has changed the tapestry of the classical music concert scene. From the grand stage with fancy acoustics and live instruments, we have now moved to the Zoom or Facebook interface with our electronic sur peti, the itabla pro app and our electronic tabla box. In some cases, artists call some accompanists home to accompany them on the tabla and the harmonium for the live relay. But still it is a very different scene from the feel of a live concert with applause and cheer of live audiences.

Even so, I noticed some things still remain the same. Artists still have found a way around to reach their audiences and collaborate with other artists albeit virtually. Which means the instinct for music and artistry to be innately collaborative and social still remains. This made me ponder about the life of a musician and how it is shaped from childhood till late adulthood as a senior artist.

As a child one is always brought into the fold of music by a parent and a guru. The child remains under the aegis of the guru when she learns to grow her musical practice through training and influence of peers. There is an unsaid rule that overrides competitiveness and rivalry. The love for music itself and the desire to experience the grandeur and divinity of ragas is supreme.

As the artist grows as a musician, she learns to sing with the support of the accompanying artists on the tabla and the harmonium or in the case of Carnatic music, the violinist and the mrindangist. The three artists on stage learn to blend their music into a wholly fulfilling experience. Music is always taught and performed in social and collaborative settings.

Even as the student grows into a mature artist, he or she attracts more people to the process of making his music. Organisers, audiences, students, instrumentalists, artists from other genres, etc. The artist while on the one hand grows in his individual artistry, also grows in a community of art lovers and fellow artists. This testifies to the unifying powers of music. It testifies to the power that has kept music alive and growing in this lockdown.

Never before has music been so easily accessible. Never before have artists had the access to audiences all over the word so easily and so quickly. Never before has music been so omnipresent.

The musician is, was and will never be alone because she is engaged in something which is intrinsically all encompassing and divine. The nature of music is to connect people through the experience of collective emotions. Of joy, of sorrow, of happiness, of longing, and of grief and love. The musician is bound viscerally to humanity through his audiences, through his fellow artists, and through the music itself.

In this fact lies the beauty of music. A gift that music offers to those who choose to engage with it.

A musician will always remain from beginning to end in a bubble of positive energies of people around. A musician is never alone.

The writer is a vocalist of both Hindustani and Carnatic Classical music, with over three decades’ experience. She is also the founder of Music Vruksh, a venture to make classical accessible for its aesthetic and wellness benefits.

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