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Goodbye, Kaka…

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Goodbye, Kaka…By Firdaus Ali

We seek our Gods in different places.

I found my celluloid God at age four, staring at me with twinkling eyes and a magical smile from the colourful billboards of Bombay. His boyishly charming face made my heart aflutter. And, the tiny multitude of flutters turned into a die-hard crush that lasted four decades and more.

I remember often being chided by cousins at family dinners about being a die-hard Rajesh Khanna “phanka.”  Like all his female fans, I often dreamed of growing up and seeking my dream screen idol some day.  Avidly jealous of all the heroines who sang and danced with him, I never forgot to tune into their interviews to find out if they would name the magical potion that would make Khanna mine forever.

I remember sticking colourful images from film glossies on my closet door and often whispering secretly to him about all the trials and tribulations I was facing as a little girl and all the boys who had unsuccessfully tried to take his place during my adolescent and teenaged years. Relatives and friends, realizing my frenzied craze for the star, would add to my collection of Khanna Memorabilia.

For many years my sun rose and set with his name. I, somehow, never found the courage to marry one of his photos, as many before me had done. Films that had villains beating him to pulp, were nowhere on my to-see list. Anand and Safar that ended in his death, left me want to immediately immortalize the star.

As years passed on — like Newton’s law of gravity, Khanna’s fame and popularity, which had once soared higher than the clouds, now plummeted to an all-time low. While, friends can co-fans changed loyalties and took to other “Gods” I remained faithful to mine, secretly praying for a miracle that would make the star hot and happening once again. A small part of me even believed that his failure would help our imaginary romance come to life!

He was one of the reasons I took to film journalism. And, my dream of meeting the star in person became a reality as I set up an interview with him for a local newspaper in Mumbai. With trembling knees and my voice coming out in hoarse whispers, I sat next to the king of romance asking him how it felt to be the first ever super star of India.

Khanna being the sensitive human being he was, realized my nervousness and put me at immediate ease, speaking about the mystical times of mid-sixties to mid-seventies that made him the envy of many men and the darling of many women.

He smiled modestly, as I recalled the times when newspapers published reports of female fans marrying his photograph, slashing their wrists at seeing him and writing him letters of love in their own blood. He preferred to keep his private life his own, choosing to speak of his films and the reality of life, instead.

Born Jatin Khanna on December 29, 1942 in Amritsar, Punjab – he was nicknamed Kaka by the Bollywood industry. Winning three Filmfare awards for best actor, he was among the few actors of his time to be nominated for the prestigious award 14 times.  He also received a Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005 for his incredible contribution to Indian cinema.

Fans were reported to mob him at streets and public spaces, chanting his name for hours on end with girls covering his MG Sports car (and other cars) with lipstick marks.  BBC later made a film on him titled Bombay Superstar in 1974 and a textbook prescribed by Bombay University contained an essay, “The Charisma of Rajesh Khanna.”

Khanna, who started off as a stage actor, was the first superstar to grace the doors of the Indian film industry. He gave a record of 35 golden jubilee hits in a span of less than 10 years. Khanna made his film debut in 1966 with the film Aakhri Khat, directed by Chetan Anand.  Few may know that the film entered the Oscars for Best Film in a foreign language at the 40th Oscar Academy Awards in 1967.

Since then he appeared in over 160 films, of which he was the male lead in 128. Celluloid hits like Aradhana, Kati Patang, Anand, Do Raaste, Safar and Amar Prem among others saw his popularity rise swiftly. There were Anand pressure cookers and fans and his admirers could not enough of this rising star.

Off-beat films like Raaz, Doli and Ittefaq brought him initial fame. In one interview he revealed that his inspirations include Dilip Kumar’s intensity and dedication, Raj Kapoor’s spontaneity, Dev Anand’s style and Shammi Kapoor’s rhythm. Indeed an incredible mix for success.

Co-star Mumtaz one said that as a newcomer, she would get noticed and people would ask her for an autograph in her early years, only because of their failed attempts at meeting with the super star. Sharmila Tagore, another co-star revealed that she had never seen anything quite like the craze there was for Khanna. He always needed police protection due to girls lining up by the hundreds outside film studios, hotel room and his home.

But, like all stars that rise to fall one day – Khanna’s fame and fortune soon left him and as a fading actor and politician, he later avoided being in the public eye — living a reclusive lifestyle in his Bandra home “Aashirwad” until the very end.

All through his roller-coaster film journey, I remained a devoted fan, praising him for good films like Avataar and admonishing him when he rendered mediocre to poor performances. For many years, I continued to talk to the invisible star, who had graced my closet and heart for many years.

Many fans like me were horrified to see Khanna looking gaunt and frail at a recent film award event.  While, his looks clearly showed that there was something terribly wrong with his health, he still had the same penchant for Urdu poetry, the same lilt in his voice as he recited a few lines of shayari that rekindled my old, magical romance like only he could.

Out came the flooding memories from my childhood — right from the very first time he first looked at me from that billboard with the same irresistible twinkle in his eyes. Time seemed to have frozen and the forty-odd years seemed to have caved in and vanished altogether.

The king of romance may have died but his legacy will forever live on!

My heart is living proof!

Bollywood

Sridevi dies at 54 of cardiac arrest: India, Bollywood in shock

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SRIDEVI-DEAD

Sridevi no more, and a part of my childhood dies with her

Sridevi died on Saturday night after suffering a cardiac arrest at the age of 54. Called the first female superstar in India’s male-dominated film industry, she made over 260 films in a career spanning 45 years.

As a starry eyed schoolchild, I would spend hours trying to get the steps of Morni Baagan Maan right, in front of the mirror. As a girl, not even 7, I was too young to understand the complexity of the lyrics or the depth of the feeling that the Lamhe song held within it, but it was she, Sridevi, her fluid dance moves and the play of emotion in her face that had me entranced. I would try to turn just like Sridevi, get her hand mudras right. Again, it would take me years to understand there was nobody like Sridevi. The twinkle in her eye, the charm she could switch on as cameras turned towards her or the movie star charisma that was part of her personality — Sridevi lived what her Mr India song said, Bijli Girane Main Hoo Aayi.\

Sridevi as a child actor in Thunaivan.

Sridevi as a child actor in Thunaivan.

My experiments in front of the mirror were not extraordinary, nor were they one of a kind. Lakhs of children across India were trying to emulate Sridevi — for some (like me) it was her dance, for others it was the fact that she was a superstar when women rarely had the word super attached to them in any form in the industry. And for almost everybody, it was her ability to light up the frames she inhabited.

My romance with Sridevi began long before I understood how to tell good films from bad; at that age I either loved them or hated them. So, when, early on a Sunday morning, as I got up to incessant messages, tweets and Facebook posts full of grief, I went back to my childhood. It was a child again who was mourning the loss of her star.

Sridevi as the quintessential Yash Raj heroine in Chandni.

Sridevi as the quintessential Yash Raj heroine in Chandni.

Indeed, Sridevi’s death has taken away something crucial with it — a part of my childhood. Whether it was her act as a child-woman in Sadma, the luminous double role in Lamhe, the quintessential Yash Chopra heroine in Chandni or the bubbly Hawa Hawai of Mr India, Sridevi managed to bring a certain je na sais quoi to every role she played.

Among the yellowing photographs and fading memories is a photo of me with my friends with a fruit hat a la Sridevi in Hawa Hawai. Maybe it was a day during summer vacation when time hung heavy on our hands. But I remember how disastrous the first attempt with a straw hat and a bowl of fruit was. We were rescued when the friend’s mother emerged and gave us a tongue lashing that only mothers are capable of. Then, being a Sridevi fan (who isn’t?), she helped us fashion the hat.

For every Lamhe, Sridevi also did duds like Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja but managed to bring a certain charm to it.

For every Lamhe, Sridevi also did duds like Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja but managed to bring a certain charm to it.

Then came Madhuri Dixit, and the gaggle of girls divided into Team Madhuri and Team Sridevi. I was a staunch member of the latter and many a evening, we would spend in fraught debates on who was better. Sridevi had been around for decades. Starting as a child artiste at the age of 4, she had worked in Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada films before she decided to shift her focus to Bollywood. She was a star here as well. Madhuri, IMHO, was a novice.

There were chinks in her career but it was still 90s Bollywood and actresses — even the one called the first female superstar of Bollywood — had to take the good with the bad. The pulpy papers of those times were full of how the leading actors of those days would cower before her. They may or may not have been true but they fuelled my imagination as a fan.

SRIDEVI FAMILY

SRIDEVI FAMILY

She definitely left a stamp on my career. I believe that years of defending her against Madhuri fans (you know who you are) made me pick up the job of an entertainment reporter. I came across her on many occasions in my career and always found her a picture of grace and poise, standing out in the sea of beauty that is Hindi cinema.

And today, she is gone, in a moment that appears was written by an unfeeling screenwriter. Or maybe, it is the fan inside me who is not ready to say goodbye. Oh, what it would be to watch her once again in a dark theatre with the lights dimmed.

Sridevi made 264 films over 45 years, and while not all of them will stand the test of the time, her charisma will. I would remember her as the effervescent Chandni, the middle class mother in English Vinglish but mostly as Hawa Hawai — who wore fruit hats and solved crimes as an intrepid journalist.

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The Great Sanjay Leela Does Disservice To Cinema With Propaganda And Dishonest Portrayal Of History In Padmavat

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I saw the film more than a week back and I was flabbergasted and disgusted by what I had seen.

It wasn’t until my mentor and friend Promod Puri, the founder an former publisher-editor of Canada’s oldest South Asian English language newspaper  The LINK, wrote his review online that I felt compelled to add to the debate about one of the worst forms of propaganda in a Bollywood film I’d ever seen.

The great Bollywood writer-director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has basically put himself in the gutter with this outrageous Rajput Hindu propaganda that glorified the individual suicide the Sati (mass suicide as in Padmavat called Jauhar).

Looking back at the Hooliganism and blockade of the film by extremist Hindu and Rajput groups – it seems like a conspiracy given that the film actually shows the Muslims as evil blood thirsty monsters and I’m not even talking about the actually monstrous Khilji played by Ranveer Singh.

It should be the Muslims who should be appalled and disgusted at the polar opposite portrayals of Muslims and Hindus. It’s the Muslims who should be protesting and saying the film should be banned!

Padmavati

Given that the film is produce by Viacom India which is now 51 percent owned by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, I think the “Show” if extremism might have been planned ahead so that Muslims in India don’t actually think the film is anti-Muslim which it clearly is.

Writer-Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali is a good if not great filmmaker but here he comes across as Hitler Propagandist  filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl who made pro-German propaganda films during Adolf Hitler’s reign.

Films like Padmavat are extremely irresponsible at a time in India where there continues to be a divide among Hindus and Muslims  in Modi’s India.

sanjay-leela-bhansali

And the film is really laughable as it tries to reconstruct history from a Hindu perspective when in reality the great but blood thirsty madman Khilji defeated the Rajputs. And no matter how much the film may try to sugarcoat it, the Rajputs were no match for the brutal strength of Khilji at a time in human history when brutal and maniacal strength was the Warrior’s code.

Take the brutal rulers of Europe and Asia – they were no different than Khilji!

I lost a lot of respect for director Bhansali as it seemed like he was just a puppet pulling someone else’s strings with much dishonesty and disgrace!

 

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Aamir Khan say there is no Intolerance in India, urges Modi to reign in people spreading hatred

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Aamir-Khan-say-there-is-no-Intolerance-in-India,-urges-Modi-to-reign-in-people-spreading-hatred

Days after his intolerance remarks, Bollywood star Aamir Khan today said India is “very tolerant” but there are people who spread hatred and appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to rein them in.

The actor also believes that he still continues to be country’s brand ambassador even though the government may have discontinued his services, saying India is his mother and not a brand.

“Our country is very tolerant, but there are people who spread ill-will…Those who speak of breaking up this vast country, such people are present in all religions, only Modiji can stop them. After all, Modiji is our PM, we have to tell him,” he told Rajat Sharma in his ‘Aap ki Adalat’ show on India TV, according to a press release issued by the channel.

Aamir said a sense of security comes from the justice system, which should ensure speedy justice, and from elected representatives who should raise their voice when something goes wrong.

“After all, law is equal for all, and nobody is above law. Unfortunately, there are some people who spread negativity and hatred. If I am not wrong, our Prime Minister has also expressed concern. His slogan is ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’,” he said.

The actor, who hit headlines with his remarks that his wife was thinking of leaving India over growing intolerance, also replied to megastar Amitabh Bachchan’s remark that he damaged India’s brand identity by his statement, saying there was a feeling of insecurity due to growing intolerance.

“I had said in my interview that there was a sense of depression, a sense of despondency, a feeling of insecurity and intolerance was growing. But these are entirely two different things,” he said.

He added that he was “wongly quoted” and said, “I never said India was intolerant, I was wrongly quoted…To say about rising intolerance and to say India is intolerant are two different things.”

Claiming to continue serving as India’s brand ambassador even after government discontinued him, the superstar said, “For me, my motherland is my mother, it cannot be a brand. I can never view my mother as a brand. It could be a brand for other people, but not for me. Till this date, I continue to be India’s brand ambassador, even the government may have discontinued me.”

He said for 10 years he was brand ambassador for ‘Incredible India’s Atithi Devo Bhavo campaign’ and never charged a penny for all his public service campaigns for the country and nor will he charge in future.

Aamir also asked media and news channels not to air news about violence on TV as it creates an atmosphere of fear.

“Every Indian is infected with fear. I would also appeal to media not to highlight such violence, as it creates a sense of insecurity and fear among common people,” he said.

On his wife Kiran Rao expressing her intent to leave India due to insecurity, Aamir said he and his wife were not going anywhere and have been born here and will die in India, but said, “After all, Kiran is a mother, a mother always worries about her children.”

“Often we speak so many things among ourselves, but that does not mean, we take 100 per cent action on them. Now was that our intention. Kiran has actually expressed a feeling, an emotion, and we were born here, and we will die here. We are not going to leave our country, let me make it clear,”he said.

The superstar went on to say that whenever people try to divide, “we should become alert, and should beware as to why we are being reminded that we are Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh. After all, we are all Indians. We have to be on our quard.”

Seeking to clarify that there was intent on his or his director’s part on purportedly denigrating Hindu religion in his film ‘PK’, he said, “It was only a character playing the role of Shiva in a play, who was made fun of, in a particular situation. After all, Lord Shankar is Almighty, how can we dare to make fun of him?.”

The actor said he fully empathised with the cause of Kashmiri Pandits. “My heart cries even today for them. It is shameful, and I appeal to people living in the Valley to bring the Kashmiri Pandits back.”

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