Arts & Culture Books Interview

‘The Lost Homestead’: A Cathartic Narrative

A film on India’s last Viceroy triggered a series of journeys to the sub-continent as Marina Wheeler attempted to come to terms with its partition in 1947 and the trauma that it caused to her mother. In this she succeeded admirably but could be treading on thin ice when it comes to what exactly caused the upheaval…writes Vishnu Makhijani.

“You are right that Partition was a traumatic event for our family (and indeed many others, including your own). My mother did not speak of it as a young woman, as her father had decreed that none of the family were to do so. After leaving India with my father, I feel the pain and sorrow of it was parceled away, along with the sadness of this ‘second displacement’, as she put it,” but the story nonetheless had to be told, Wheeler, a London-based barrister and ex-wife of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, told IANS in an interview of her book “The Lost Homestead” (Hodder & Stoughton/Hachette).

Her search led to six trips to India and two to Pakistan over two years.

“Yes, my journey was cathartic and brought some peace to us both. Talking to me and reading my text, I feel, helped my mother to come to terms with what had happened. It also helped me understand her better, which was a wonderful thing, at the end of her life,” Wheeler added.

“By November 2017, when I set off on my travels, the story had begun to take shape,” Wheeler writes in the book, which is subtitled “My Mother, Partition and the Punjab”.

“I could see two parallel stories I wanted to tell. Two stories of freedom. One of India’s, its fight for political freedom, for self-determination and its people’s right to govern themselves. The second was my mother’s, her quest for personal freedom, for autonomy and the ability to decide her own future,” Wheeler writes.

Over the course of these two years, her mother Dip (Deep), “spoke more openly about Nehru than about personal matters. Often she left me to read between the lines, into the gaps and the silences. She invited me to interpret, which I have faithfully done”.

“I filled in the picture with the writing of others. Wonderful books – by journalists, or scholarly works with footnotes, the product of years of research. I also read novels and attended lectures and literary festivals. I met people, knowledgeable generous people, who guided me on,” Wheeler writes.

So far so good.

As British India descended into chaos with its division into two countries was announced, the violence and civil unrest escalated for months. With millions of others, Wheeler’s mother Dip and her Sikh family were forced to flee their home in Pakistan.

Wheeler weaves her mother’s story of loss and new beginnings, personal and political freedom, into the broader, still debated, history of the region. The book follows Dip when she marries Marina’s English father Charles Wheeler of the BBC and leaves India for good (the second displacement) for Berlin, then a divided city, and on to Washington DC, where the fight for civil rights embraced the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi.

Where, however, the book falters is on the very act of partition.

Having begun with Gurinder Chadha’s film “Viceroy’s House”, Wheeler writes that aside from “quibbles about acting and plot”, she was “troubled by something more serious: how the film dealt with the foundational, historical question: Why partition? The answer, it claimed, was that, unbeknown to Lord Mountbatten, the outgoing Viceroy, Britain had a secret plan to partition the country, to secure oil supplies and advance its own geopolitical interests in the brewing Cold War with Soviet Russia”.

“Really? This didn’t tally with what Dip had told me or anything I’d read (which, at that stage, was not a great deal). But if it wasn’t true, why would the film say that it was? I understand that people can perceive the same events in radically different ways. But allowing for interpretation, judgement and opinion, there is still a place for hard fact. Did any serious historians support a secret plan thesis? I wanted to know,” Wheeler writes.

Admitting that Mountbatten’s role and the decision to partition India, as she discovered while researching the book “remains very contested”, Wheeler said during the interview: “I try, in the book, to stand back and report the areas of dispute and contention, only committing myself to an account where it seemed to have a solid historical base.”

“I didn’t find support for the thesis that the British planned partition early in the century (as some historians contend), indeed the consensus – as I read it – seemed strong that for the British and Indian leaders, partition was an option embraced at the eleventh hour to avert civil war. This was after other options, including the 1946 Cabinet mission plan, had failed to win the required support.

“I am well aware that while I read as extensively as I could, I am not a historian and am committed to keeping an open mind about these (and other!) historical events,” Wheeler said.

A potential civil war is thus a new element that has been introduced (though the possibility has often been alluded to).

Narendra Singh Sarila, on whose book Chadha’s film is based, does write that “the British favoured partition and workd successfully to achieve it because they did not trust a Congress government to provide a bulwark against Russian incursions into the area, adding that the general view was that “only a strong independent Pakistan could be relied on to protect the Himalayan frontiers and the rich oil fields of the Middle East” – but this just another of the many theories on the issue.

The debate is unending, but let it not detract from the true value of “The Lost Homestead” in recording what might otherwise have been lost to history.

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Business Interview Lite Blogs

Thinking About Starting A Business Amid Pandemic?

At a time when popular restaurants and cafes are struggling to get back to their feet, opening up a new venture when revenues are expected to be only about 30 per cent of pre-COVID levels, means preparing to bleed cash till business comes back to at least 80-90 percent, at which point a restaurant can make money, says Mayank Bhatt, Brand Head of SOCIAL. The chain of cafes owned by Impresario Handmade Restaurants has launched two new outlets in Delhi and Chandigarh.

IANSlife spoke to Bhatt to find out what it takes to start a new business amidst the pandemic, changes in its design sensibilities and the revenues it is expected to generate. Excerpts:

What is the trend that you see amongst restaurants as they open up across cities and what has the response been so far?

Bhatt: We are certain that diners will eventually come back to restaurants to celebrate milestone occasions and to socialise but the next few months are tricky. Tier-2 towns have been really great in the bounce back. In the first month, we’ve seen business start off at about 50 percent. It’s still early days, we still have to go through that two-to-three-month period where we’ll have to normalise dining out again. Chandigarh started off with 50 percent, Delhi started off with 30-35 percent, Bengaluru was at 25-30 percent. Each day, each week, we’re seeing these numbers climb up slowly and surely.

In terms of deliveries, we have seen a 300 percent increase in home deliveries, proving that new formats such as D.I.Try Kits (recreate classic SOCIAL dishes at home via DIY meal kits), SOCIAL Mixers (SOCIAL’s signature cocktails at home using its pre-mixes), and #SOCIALPartyStarter (a package deal of #eats + #drinks for a house part of six or more, along with a curated playlist and a bartender sent home), work in such times. Besides, in cities such as Chandigarh, we are seeing a flow of corporate executives, tired of Work from Home, coming in and using SOCIAL Works, a concept that’s designed to provide a safe and dependable workspace.

How will the restaurant industry adapt to the changing requirements of consumers? What major (permanent) changes wïll the industry see as result of the pandemic as new players come in?

Bhatt: We have seen exponential growth in brands that people trust. For SOCIAL and Smoke House Deli, we’ve seen the delivery business go up by 200 percent or in some cases even 300 percent (of pre-Covid levels). Whereas our cloud kitchen formats have seen a little bit of a drop because again trust is a major factor when it comes to people ordering.

Delivery or direct to the customer is definitely becoming a big component of how we consume. And it is not just about restaurants and food deliveries but it is about most businesses. Customers are now getting used to going directly to a brand’s digital storefront and ordering from there. This is coupled with the fact that there are third-party delivery solutions like Delhivery, Dunzo, Shadowfax also available.

Brands people trust and brands people are comfortable with, I think customers will start ordering directly from them and not just go through aggregators.


We hear Impresario Handmade Restaurants has launched its first Covid response ready outpost – Dwarka SOCIAL? Tell us about it.
Bhatt: By now we know the protocols: Social distancing, six feet distance, et al. But how do you achieve this through design? Dwarka SOCIAL offers a good prototype. The outpost is a blend of three ideologies that seamlessly come together to make this a reality: the streets and alleyway shops of Vietnam that have inspired the design, the intricate lattice arrangement of Dwarka’s various sectors, and a world that’s ready for the new normal’.

The entire point of communing now is about coexisting’ and not overlapping’. The maxim for this outpost is SOCIAL with distancing’, a space where we’re keeping the safety and hygiene of patrons and staff as our priority, along with SOCIAL’s signature irreverence. The space has been planned and designed in such a way that it is primed to promote social distancing in the best possible way.

With partitions strategically placed at six-feet nodes, the outlet is distributed into several zones. The entire space is transformative and malleable, with flexible doors and blinds that can be opened or closed according to the needs of patrons seeking more privacy or division from others. The outpost is also dotted with split-level booths — enclosed spaces stacked on top of each other — resembling the signature pay and stay’ housing structures of Ho Chi Minh city.

With all these sensibilities and design details at the outpost, Dwarka SOCIAL is paving the way for how restaurants of the future can be designed.

At a time when many popular restaurants are shutting permanently, what made you launch an outlet now when people are still hesitant about eating out?

Bhatt: Both our newly opened outlets, Dwarka SOCIAL & Elante SOCIAL have been in works before the pandemic devastated the economy. They were meant to open in May, but then the government locked down the country. We worked through this period to change the design language. We believe that COVID is here to stay for a long while, and the only way to get back to life is to adapt to these times and change the way we play the game. We are not going to see crowded bar nights, at least for now. People are not going to be able to hang around the bar. But they will come in to enjoy the night, the SOCIAL vibe, and the company of their friends and family.

What does it take to come up with a brand new one during a pandemic when there is less cash inflow?

Bhatt: We are clear operations are unlikely to be profitable with just 50 per cent occupancy, the capacity most states are right now ready to allow. Both our newly launched outposts have profitability written into the design code. Dwarka SOCIAL sprawls over 4,300sq.ft. In normal times, it would boast 138 covers (or tables). Designed as a response to a pandemic, it now has 126 covers, just about 12 less. In these two outposts, we have ensured that we design them in a way that it creates spaces of isolation, as per guidelines, but there is enough footfall to make it profitable. Add to that our format of Work from Social’ that has attracted traction from people tired of working from home, the leaner menu, the socially distanced kitchens which means lesser staff, a supervisor on the floor and not too many waiters, and the double-down on home deliveries, besides helping people host parties at their homes, and I think we are primed to create a whole new format of dining.

Expansion plans which had to be put on hold due to the outbreak of the pandemic will now slowly be dusted up. However, opening up a new venture at a time when revenues are only about 30 per cent pre-COVID levels means preparing to bleed cash till business comes back to at least 80-90 levels, at which point a restaurant can make money. But you have to view the restaurant business in terms of years, not months.

Tell us about your new campaign ThatOnePerson pan India.

Bhatt: #ThatOnePerson is our newly launched pan-India bar campaign to get loyal customers back to our outposts across the country. Now that the lockdown has ended, we at SOCIAL are inviting patrons to come by and celebrate responsibly with their best friend by offering their first drink together on the house. With this campaign, we want to destigmatise the act of finally going out and meeting your closest friends again and raise a toast to the good times ahead.

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Bollywood Interview Lite Blogs

‘Nothing Can Replace The Cinematic Experience’

Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar asserts that nothing can replace the cinematic experience, adding that releasing films digitally is only a way to adapt to the changing realities in the Covid-19 era.

Asked if he felt the same rush releasing his new film Laxmii on OTT as he feels with his big screen releases, Akshay told IANS that there is vast difference, adding that nothing can replace the theatrical experience.

“Farak toh padta hai (there is a difference). Cinema on the big screen… big screen is big screen, and an outing is an outing. Watching a movie at home on TV or a mobile doesn’t have the same charm as watching the movie on a big screen,” said the actor, who is known for picking right projects and hitting the right notes at the box office.

Akshay Kumar, ‘Bellbottom’ unit work double shift in Scotland.

“Watching cinema on a big screen has a charm of its own. Just like when you take this interview on the phone or virtually, it is not as much fun as it had been if it was face to face. It is exactly the same for us,” he added.

The actor continued: “In these Covid-19 times, ek doosre se milna mushkil ho gaya hai (meeting people has become difficult). Yeh waqt ka takaza hai, waqt jaise chalta hai uss hisab se humne chalna padta hai (It is what these times demand. We have to adapt to changing times). Just like you have to work from home, we also have to do this (release film on OTT).”

His latest release Laxmii was intended for the big screen, but the makers opted for a digital release due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The horror comedy is a remake of the Tamil blockbuster “Muni 2: Kanchana”. Raghava Lawrence, who had helmed the original, has helmed the Bollywood remake, which also stars Kiara Advani, and Sharad Kelkar.

Akshay Kumar: ‘Laxmmi Bomb’ made me more sensitive about gender equality.

Akshay plays a character who is possessed by the ghost of a transgender in the film.

Talking about the feedback after release, he said: “Not many critics have liked it. I do understand it. The original one also got one or one and a half stars. But the business was very good. Nevertheless, to each his own. Every critic has their own right to write what they feel. I made it, it is a very ‘massy’ film. So, obviously there will be different points of views.”

“The most important thing is the streaming platform that released the movie are very happy. That is one of the most important things,” shared the actor about the film that premiered on Disney+ Hotstar.

Akshay Kumar.

On the professional front, the actor is busy as ever. He has wrapped up the shoot of his upcoming spy thriller Bell Bottom, and is working on the period drama, Prithviraj. He will also wrap up Aanand L. Rai’s love story Atrangi Re this year, before starting work on Bachchan Pandey.

Akshay’s next release is Rohit Shetty’s Sooryavanshi. He plays a cop battling terrorism in the film co-starring Katrina Kaif.

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Interview Lite Blogs Social Media

Prajakta Shares Her Style Of Content Creation

YouTube sensation and influencer Prajakta Koli, popularly known for videos she creates for her channel ‘MostlySane’, says that at no point would she want her viewers to put on their headphones or pause her videos if someone older walked into the room. The 27-year-old has become a top YouTuber with over 5.74 million subscribers as on October 1, 2020…writes Siddhi Jain.

In a candid interview with IANSlife, Koli shares more about her process of content creation and lockdown inspiration for her channel. Read excerpts:

Q: What kind of content do you think works best with Indian viewers? Walking the tightrope between dumbing-down content and refining your content with time, how do you find a common denominator?

A: Any piece of content that people can relate and identify to is what works the best. It is not something you will get your pulse on from the moment you start creating content, however through trial and error you will eventually get an understanding of content and how people will react to it. Audience behaviour is extremely dynamic in our country and you will never really know what is going to work for sure. Over time however, you get a fair idea of what direction works best for your target audience.

Q: While we’re at it, please share how you shape your content keeping in mind the region, since everyone from Mumbaikars to the Indian diaspora watches you?

Prajakta Koli: I ensure content that you can watch with family.

A: I keep a diary with me where I add things that I find funny or humorous in everyday life situations and keep building on those ideas. When I usually script my videos I ensure I add instances and situations that happen to every family and not something that is region specific. Also, the language of delivery plays a very important role when making content.

Q: If you had to name the three must-have ingredients in a Prajakta Koli video.

A: One thing I ensure is that I create content that you can watch with your family. At no point would I want my viewers to put on their headphones or pause it if their parents or someone elder walked into the room. Second, I like my videos to be as relatable as possible. And third, is to try and make new ideas come to life every week.

Q: You’re diversifying your mediums, and your audience is loving that. What are your plans ahead?

A: I have been someone who has always made plans and stuck with it, but when my plan A didn’t work out and I took a leap of faith and started creating content I decided to go with the flow and take on each day as it comes. But there definitely will be more acting and writing in the future.

Q: The pandemic brought with it many hardships, but also a lot of content inspiration. Please share about both in your work’s context.

A: When the lockdown started my biggest fear was how will I still keep putting out content as I was so used to working with my team and relied on them heavily. Luckily things worked out and I was able to maintain my weekly release schedule. With the lockdown I got more time to think about new content and implement them which people loved so I am thankful in a way that the lockdown happened and I could churn out more content pieces than I would have otherwise.

Q: How has your audience changed during the lockdown, since most YouTubers registered a manifold increase in views.

A: Well, the audiences haven’t diversified that much since the lockdown; it is just the audience behaviour has changed wherein the viewers have started consuming more content on the internet than compared to pre-lockdown.

Q: Your thoughts on malpractices like buying views on YouTube, which must be a fair platform.

A: Major platforms like Instagram, Facebook, YouTube allow you to boost your posts and videos to reach a wider audience, this is legitimate and doesn’t violate any norms of social media, any other means of getting views should not be encouraged or indulged in.

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Arts & Culture Books Interview

“Meesha” Into Moustache” Grabs More Recognition

Hindu fundamentalists had panned his book on the dual discrimination that Dalit women face in Kerala’s Kuttanad region and the interplay of caste and politics when it was first published in Malayalam as “Meesha”, forcing its withdrawal. Now, with the Rs 25 lakh JCB Prize for Literature under his belt in its English avatar as “Moustache”, author S. Hareesh is confident it would be viewed in its proper context and that too by a wider audience that translations reach out to with such works…writes VISHNU MAKHIJANI.

“I am thrilled to have received the award. When the book was initially serialised, it had been subject to controversies and had been withdrawn due to the protest by Hindu communal forces. I felt that all the controversies that sprouted deprived it of proper reviews and reflections in a nature that I had hoped for it to have,” Hareesh told IANS in an interview.

“I believe that the recognition that the book has received on winning the JCB prize would give it the opportunity to be better understood and read. I also feel that a platform such as the JCB Prize would foster more translations from Malayalam and other Indian languages into English and other languages.

“Good translators are the key to this process. I was lucky to have had Jayashree Kalathil as my translator without whom the success of ‘Meesha’ into ‘Moustache’ would not have been possible,” Hareesh, who works for the Kerala revenue department and has also written two screenplays, added.

How did the book, the English version of which is published by Harper Collins, come about?

“I had (previously) published three short story collections. Like many writers, I had wanted to write a novel for quite some time. Vavachan who is the protagonist of ‘Meesha/ Moustache’, was a character whom I had known since childhood. When I learnt that he kept his moustache after he performed in a play, I was intrigued by this act and the idea of the novel sprouted.

S. Hareesh.

The region of Kuttanad, where my story is set, holds many distinct characteristics. I had always wanted to write about its landscapes and the fioloktales and myths embodied in the region. Vavachan’s story was one that made for the perfect mould to infuse all the distinct traits that made up Kuttanad,” Hareesh explained.

But then, landscapes only skim the surface.

“Like the many other regions in Kerala, caste-based hierarchies and such social systems were a part of the lexicon in the times that ‘Meesha’ is set. Though this may not be so evident at the onset now, scratch the surface, and a caste-based society is very much a part of all arrangements and transactions that comprise Kuttanad’s social fabric today.

“Within each and every community that exists in the region, there is a strong current of gender biases that gleam through and for that matter, were you to peer closely into the life of a Dalit woman, she faces a system that is discriminatory on two fronts – one that distinguishes her for her gender and one that does the same for her caste. Such a system of biases and distinctions that put down the individual is a thread that I attempted to enunciate through ‘Meesha’,” Hareesh elaborated.

Thus, he found he needed “great many materials and references to write the novel. I had travelled through Kuttanad extensively for this. I had several exchanges with people in several villages that comprise Kuttanad; many of the elderly people that lived around the region gave me the information that helped me write the novel,” he said of the three years it took him to finish the book.

It’s little wonder that the book struck a chord with the JCB jury, with one of its members, Aruni Kashyap, an Associate Professor at the University of Georgia, describing it as “an astonishing and very original book”.

“I don’t know any other novel that is actually written in this way. It is political but also a feat in storytelling. At first when I read the book I was a bit confused. It took me a while to realise that this is because we are so used to reading novels that are far away from Indian storytelling traditions. There are many references to the ‘Ramayana’ in this book but I would say that the novel behaves more like the ‘Mahabharata’.

“In ‘Mahabharata’ this is rampant; stories are within stories, people come and tell long stories. This is a very common feature in many Indian narratives. I think ‘Moustache’ will be discussed for sure for its representation of caste politics, magic realism or folklore, the community, history of… Kuttanad; but I will remember this book for its daring storytelling. I’m delighted that an unruly novel, a misbehaving novel that defies our conventional understanding and expectations of what a novel should be, is taking this prize,” Kashyap added.

How did the screenplays come about?

“My first screenplay was for ‘Eden’ by Sanju Surendran . ‘Eden’ was an amalgamation of three short stories that I had written. My second screenplay was for Lijo Jose Pellisserry’s ‘Jallikattu’. The movie was based on a short story I had written called ‘Maoist’. In my view screenwriting isn’t an art form in itself, the film being a directors medium , I see the screenplay as notes and etchings that help guide the film maker and the film making process,” Hareesh said.

How does he balance his government job with this writing?

“I usually do my writing after my work hours. I am presently on leave from my duties so I have more time to myself to carry on my writing,” he said.

What of the future?

“I don’t have elaborate plans. I am amidst writing my next novel. I would like to spare more time to focus on my writing. I feel that writing is what I am good at doing and I want to continue the practise,” Hareesh concluded.

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Celebrity Interview Lite Blogs Sport

Ritu Ready To Excite Fans

Wrestler Ritu Phogat shares her nutritional routine. (Photo: rituphogat48/ instagram)

Indian wrestling champion and rising atom weight star Ritu “The Indian Tigress” Phogat is an elite athlete. Her rigorous training schedule, which consists of multiple training sessions throughout the day, touching on disciplines such as Muay Thai, boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and wrestling, as such requires a strict and sustainable nutritional plan.

Phogat is a naturally strong athlete, her raw strength no doubt inherited from her father, Mahavir Singh Phogat, who is considered the patriarch of the Phogat wrestling clan.

Since moving to Singapore from India to train at the Evolve MMA, Phogat has had to change her diet, and upgrade in areas necessary to keep up with the growing demands of her world-class training regimen.

She shares with IANSlife her diet, health and fitness regimen, as well as some of her favourite things.

“My diet in India was a Pehlwan diet. Pehlwani in India is not just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. You train in Akharas, you eat organic food, you have lots of almonds, milk, and ghee. You train for six hours a day, and you eat, and you rest. That’s the mantra of being fit,” said Phogat.

“Over the years, I used to follow the diet but it would change when I started going to camp and international tournaments. So you have to adjust a little there. But one thing consistent is ghee, that is very good for your body. Even here in Singapore, when I came in last year, I ensured I ate home cooked meals as I find that tasty and healthy.”

Phogat is deep in training now, finalising her latest training camp in preparation for her next bout. She’s been living and training in Singapore since last year, when she joined Evolve MMA, all the way up to current, as she spent most of her time training in Singapore’s ecircuit breaker’ lockdown period.

While at home, Phogat says she’s enjoyed her time preparing her own food as a way to cope with stress.

Wrestler Ritu Phogat shares her nutritional routine. (Photo: rituphogat48/ instagram)

“I enjoy cooking. It is my stress burner. I made many new dishes during lockdown. Roti with ghee and kadhi are my favorite. Maintaining a proper diet is very important to pair with a workout routine, especially as a professional athlete,” she said.

“My diet has changed a lot. Back home in India, I had access to natural homemade foods and proteins. But since my move to Singapore, I have had to include supplements, multivitamins and protein powders in my diet. I follow a strict diet schedule that my coach has provided me with.”

Phogat returned to action with her win against Cambodian Kun Khmer World Champion Nou Srey Pov in a three round mixed martial arts contest.

In the main event, reigning ONE Middleweight and Light Heavyweight World Champion “The Burmese Python” Aung La N Sang of Myanmar defends his middleweight title against top contender Reinier “The Dutch Knight” de Ridder of The Netherlands.

Phogat is “more than ready”, and wants to show fans all of the improvements she’s made since her last performance, particularly with an exciting finish.

“I have been working on perfecting a lot of other techniques, but wrestling has formed the bedrock of a lot of my efforts in MMA. Techniques like the takedown are very easy for me. Initially, I had a lot of trouble with striking and jiu jitsu, but now I have improved all of this,” said Phogat.

“This third victory is important as it will bring me one step closer to being a world champion.”

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Bollywood Interview Lite Blogs Theatre

‘Digitizing theatre helps reach new audiences’

Films releasing on OTT not the solution: Makarand Deshpande.

Film and theater actor and director, Makarand Deshpande, feels that digitizing theatre helps reach new audiences and helps archive it as well.

‘Sir Sir Sarla’, a play written and directed by Deshpande, will be launched online by Zee Theatre. After winning audiences nationwide since its premiere in 2001, the play is now set for its television debut. The network released the trailer of the timeless classic that is premiering on October 31 on Tata Sky Theatre. The teleplay stars Deshpande, Aahana Kumra, Sanjay Dadhich and Anjum Sharma.

‘Sir Sir Sarla’ is the story of Professor Palekar and his student Sarla � the pretty, innocent young girl who seems to be enamoured by her mentor � and Phanidhar who shares a love-hate relationship with the professor. The play explores the bond between the students and their professor, which faces many ebbs and flows. Secrets are revealed, accusations are thrown, and the three lives remain interwoven for many years to come.

Writer and director Deshpande says, “This is a story about what appears to be a very morally upright and innocent relationship between a professor and student. It also shows how a student who loves literature goes on to feel the pain of reality. The play throws light on the pressure exerted on us by traditions and beliefs and how they stop us from speaking our heart out.”

Excerpts from an interview with IANSlife:

The play debuted in 2001, and in all the two decades till 2020, how has the play evolved?

Deshpande: The core has not changed. What must have evolved is, there are always layers behind what you actually say. Suppose, if I say, the meaning of words change with situations. This line, over a period of time, can give you in your own life, different contexts to understand it better. The language of this play, which has been written in a metre. Audiences who used to watch it during that time, had the play on their tips. The relationship between the three key characters in the play, I feel has gotten stronger and deeper. The play was first done by Rajender Gupta, Sonali Kulkarni, Abhimanyu Singh and Anurag Kashyap. I asked Anurag to channel his anger of a stuck film into the play.

I think the character of Phanidar evolved because of his anger. And then Sanjay Dadhich took on the role. Then it got embossed that this is Phanidar. Vijay Tendulkar saab, when he saw the play, he said he hasn’t seen such a character in many years. If this character is still working, I think there’s a truth in its writing. Over a period of 20 years, the play is evolved and they’ve become real people now. I think until a point I made the play, and after that, it made us. In 20 years, it became a river and a sea. I think it has tested the times, come up in Marathi and Gujarati, and I think will stand for the next 50 years.

It’s premiering on Tata Sky Theatre, which is digital..

Deshpande: It’s something new. We don’t know when we’d be able to perform live now, whether this year or next year. If you miss out on a play, you can see it on Tata Sky Theatre, so it becomes archival also. I’m looking forward to new, unreached audiences.

As a maker, do you think the beauty of a play lies in the live experience and physicality of it?

Deshpande: I’m sure there must be some. The entire team has made sure it looks like theatre, and have tried to take care of the live feel.

The theatre community has been affected massively…

Deshpande: It really is, what to say! It’s really been terrible. For how long can someone support somebody else? The theatre fraternity has people who work backstage and even actors, they’re all unemployed. The worst thing is there’s no ray of light. Theatre will open, whether people will come, the economics of it, it is painful. I hope we manage to do more plays digitally on Tata Sky Theatre and Zee Theatre.

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Food Interview Lite Blogs

‘Moving Back To Traditional Food Is Great’

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor says he has a dream of making Indian food the number one preferred cuisine in the world; but it’s not only a dream, but he’s also working towards it…Sanjeev Kapoor speaks with Puja Gupta.

“I’ve tried so many different types of cuisine and curated various international and local dishes. But I’d still say, nothing comes close to Indian,” he says.

We spoke to the veteran who shares his views on the journey of Indian food, nutrition, the future of the industry, while suggesting useful health tips that may help during the crucial times. Excerpts:

You have been very vocal about local food. Do you think in today’s time, people are moving back to local food or are they still inclined towards international food?

Today’s generation is fascinated with Western food and they are unaware about what grows locally in our own land being far more nutritious. Having said that, I also see a trend of people moving back to traditional food which is great. Nutritional benefits of Indian food have always been high, and give you complete nutrition that one needs. For example, besan – it is loaded with multiple nutrients and fibre. People are realising that traditional food can help us obtain wholesome nutrition, which in return makes us stronger from within and builds our immune system. I recommend one should include green leafy vegetables, dals, fruit and salads in their daily meals. Look for unpolished dals as they are untouched, and their nutritional value is higher.

Q: From a tourism point of view, do you think food can play an important role in bringing tourists from across the country and world?

On tourism, yes, of course it does! Food is such an integral part of tourism. Each city/region is famous for its own food and that is one major reason that adds to the experience of travelling to that place. Delhi is known for its fine selection of finger-licking street food, Mumbai for its regional cuisine, Lucknow has a variety of kababs, Hyderabad for its quintessential dish, the biryani, the list can go on!

Q: Can you shed some light on the journey of Indian food and nutrition through history?

There is a lot about Indian culinary heritage that people may not know. I’ve tried so many cuisines and curated various international and local dishes, but I’d still say, nothing comes close to Indian food. For instance, the Indian thali itself has sampann poshan (rich nutrition) and this is one of its most important part of Indian food history. The diversity of Indian food is the source of my motivation, to stamp my personal identity on each dish. I must also tell you that I have a dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and I’m definitely working towards it, non-stop!

Q: You have mentioned earlier that people still prefer restaurant food as compared to home-made food in India. Why do you think it is so?

A traditional home cooked Indian meal is well balanced, hearty as well as delicious for every palate. When it comes to health, you need not look beyond your kitchen shelves. People need to stop following trends and new food fads that keep coming up. When I got into this field, I saw a difference between homemade food and restaurant food. And when I dived deeper, I realised that we are deriding homemade food and giving more importance to restaurant food. We all have the knowledge about the benefits and goodness of various foods, but with time, some new fad comes in and we tend to forget the importance of the already existing ingredients and start taking it for granted.

Q: What eating habits would you suggest in today’s crucial time when we are fighting a pandemic?

A: Nutrition is a large part of health. ‘We are what we eat.’ We eat healthy, we stay healthy. One of the best things to include in your daily diet is haldi (turmeric). Haldi has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Add a pinch of it in everything you make. You can have a glass of hot water with haldi in it, add some tulsi and ginger too. You can also take haldi and jaggery, and make little tablets of it. Whenever you have a sore throat, have one of those tablets and you will be just fine. Also, take care of your sleep pattern as it is extremely important to boost your immunity.

Q: You have been one of pioneers of the Indian food Industry, do you think if you were not a chef, would you have been that successful?

A: Success is hyped. I believe in hustle. Whether a chef or not, I would have worked hard to achieve everything I might have dreamt of. Plus, I am one of those who could never follow, I could only lead! To be successful, all you need is the recipe of success and then it is only the right ingredients that matter!

Q: What you think about the future of Indian food industry?

A: We are facing a situation that none of us could have foreseen! Unprepared for a storm as big as this, understandably everyone is in a state of shock as the economy has been massively hit. The food service and hospitality industry too is drastically impacted and we all are bracing for major adjustments as we look at the number of the affected, growing each day. There is a major downfall in the industry with vast disruptions in the labour and supply sectors. Not to forget, employment issues too.

It will take some time to get back on the road and resume the businesses at the same pace again. The ‘virus’ is just another hurdle, in this race of life. Surely, it has brought changes that the world had never imagined, but, in no way has it affected the spirit. I’m sure we all can do it, fight the virus and win over it, together!

Q: You recently participated in the ‘Go Local for Wholesome Nutrition’ web symposium? What are your views about nutrition in today’s world?

A: The common goal of the “Sthaniya Aaharam Sampannam Poshanam” symposium by ICMR National institute of Nutrition and Tata Sampann was to educate India on nutrition that can be derived from the ecosystem around us. It also focused on discussing how India’s varied food diversity and locally available foods are packed with more than a punch to deliver not just the required RDA, but also to address most of the health issues faced by a majority of Indians. I really feel proud of our Indian food. It has so many dimensions, so much variety. I have always been vocal for local food. Coarse grains like kodo, ragi, jowar are more beneficial for health than polished grains. I was excited to be part of the symposium as it helped me voice my opinions and educate our people about the benefits of local food.

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor: Home-cooking is the healthiest cooking.

Q: Do you think by organising such webinars / sessions, we can create awareness about Indian food and its benefits?

A: Yes! As the symposium emphasised on the importance of local food for complete nutrition, I learnt a lot of new things through the 4 sessions. The Indian kitchen is full of health. The masala dabba we have in our kitchen is equivalent to a medicine box. Healthy and balanced eating has always been of importance, but the focus has increased now and educating and creating awareness through such webinars and sessions is the need of the hour. I would encourage for more such knowledge exchange platforms in future.

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‘Art Flourishes Anywhere With The Beauty In It’

Rasika Dugal. (File Photo: IANS)

Actor Rasika Dugal, who has recently narrated ‘Uncovidable’ (Hindi) – a pandemic-inspired humorous account by a woman who is told to stay put for 21 days in a nationwide lock-down, finds audio work to be a space free of people’s impression of an actor’s physicality …Rasika speaks with Siddhi Jain.
Excerpts from her interview:

What do you think is going to be the impact of Coronavirus on the quality and kind of content we are going to see now?

We are living in a Pandemic. Our lives have changed significantly. These have been uncertain times for everyone. But I am always moved and surprised by how quickly we adapt to new situations and reinvent ourselves. Till a few months back I hadn’t imagined that entire films or series could be shot from home, dubbed in the smallest room and promoted on Zoom. Many writers, creators, actors have responded to these dire times in a light-hearted way. ‘Uncovidable’ is one such example. It explores the experiences of a woman amidst the pandemic, but with a humorous, relatable twist, because God knows we could all do with some laughter now.

Your series on Audible traces WhatsApp voice notes exchanged between you and a friend. Please tell us more about it.

‘Uncovidable’ (on Audible) is the story of a woman whose life is turned upside down when she is told to stay put for 21 days during a nationwide lockdown, as a result of the Covid19 pandemic. The series is based on Vekeana Dhillon’s humorous and semi-biographical account of her experiences during the lockdown. The sudden halt in her daily activities has her taking a closer look at the situation around her and the behaviour of those she interacts with regularly. The story unfolds through a series of unanswered voice messages she leaves on her evasive best friend’s phone, while doggedly pursuing her for a response. She recounts the days she spends in confinement, along with her husband and brother. It is a light hearted, funny story and will resonate with many.

Rasika Dugal has 2 mega releases lined up on same day.

How was your experience working with an audio medium? What excites you about audio?

Usually, in acting work, there are so many tools at our disposal – voice, body language, props etc. All working together towards creating the desired impact. In audio books/series everything has to be created with your voice alone. I thought that would be an interesting challenge to take up. Prior to ‘Uncovidable’ (Hindi) I have also collaborated with Audible for an original piece ‘The Last Boy to fall in love’ written by Durjoy Dutta and the audiobook version of Aparna Jain’s ‘Like A Girl’. As actors, sometimes the roles you get offered get limited because of people’s impression of your physicality. For instance, if ‘The Last Boy To Fall In Love ‘ or maybe even ‘Uncovidable’ were to be made into a film then I don’t know how many casting directors/directors would imagine me in the role of Erika or Vekeana. This, unfortunately, is the frustrating truth about an actor’s life. But the audio book is a space which is free of that. How you look does not determine which characters you get to play! I am looking forward to exploring a range of characters through audio work.

Art flourishes in self-isolation. Would you agree?

Art flourishes anywhere. There are no rules to this one. And that is the beauty of it. Some artists like to get away to be able to work. Some flourish while in the middle of chaos. In my creative journey, I have learnt to embrace the chaos rather than fight it and channel that experience into my work, consciously or subconsciously.

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Ananya Enjoys New Lessons

Ananya Panday.

Young actress Ananya Panday says she enjoys learning and wants to be a student for life.

Ananya made her debut with “Student Of The Year 2” in 2019, and went on to star in “Pati Patni Aur Woh” and “Khaali Peeli”.

Talking about her journey as an actor so far, Ananya shared: “Every experience has been just so enriching and individually, a journey of a lifetime. I truly enjoy learning and I want to be a student for life. I want to experiment and grow with everything that I do and I definitely don’t want to get stuck in a zone or stay stagnant.”

“Starting from Shreya (her character in ‘Student Of The Year 2’) being a force to reckon with and up to Pooja (‘Khaali Peeli’), who as a character is completely out of my comfort zone, all characters that I have had the chance to play have been extremely different from each other yet, and each has acted as a catalyst in broadening my horizon,” she added.

The actress has two projects in the pipeline — Shakun Batra’s untitled film co-starring Deepika Padukone and Siddhant Chaturvedi, and “Fighter” alongside Vijay Deverakonda.

Ananya Panday: I want to be a student for life

“Taking all those learnings forward, I’m so excited for Shakun’s film and Puri Jagannath sir’s film, both because yet again, these projects are so different from each other and anything I’ve done before and would bring out a different side of me, different characters and bring different experiences”, she said.

Currently, Ananya is shooting for Batra’s film in Goa. Bollywood newbie Ananya Panday defines her style as “comfortable, easy and less is more”.

In a round of rapid fire the “Student of the Year 2” star reveals more about her fashion choices and essentials.

Your style? Your mantra to relatable fashion?

Fashion that appeals to my varied personalities and moods.

Your fashion preferences?

It depends on my mood. Lazy e comfy outfit, Mad weird – quirky outfit, Diva, glam e Elegant outfit.

Your go-to accessories?

Accessories that lift your looks e a fun watch and a stylish bag are my go to accessories.

Who do you think is the most stylish actor/actress in Bollywood?

I think everyone has their own unique style and sense of fashion but if I had to pick one it would probably be Deepika (Padukone). She’s experimental, chic and effortlessly cool.

Which fashion trend are you obsessed with?

Folds and pleats.

Your three fashion essentials?

A nice pair of fitted jeans, sneakers and of course a super chic watch to add some glam.

Ananya Panday

Your go-to outfit?

My go to outfit is probably shorts, oversized hoodie and sneakers.

Have you always want to do something like designing the Fastrack Ruffles Collection of watch and bags?

Yes, it is something that I’ve always wanted to take a shot at. This is the second collection that has been launched under this collaboration. The first collection called eFit Outs’, was meant for the fun and quirk-loving young girls while the Ruffles collection, will strike a chord with those unconventional divas who want to make a bold statement with a sophisticated and elegant flavour to it.

It’s perfect for the girls who revel in the spotlight and don’t care how many feathers they ruffle. The Ruffles collection of watches and bags from Fastrack is power packed with elegance and glamour. It’s inspired by pleats and folds in pastel shades, a popular choice for the chic young girls of today and a rising fashion trend.

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