The lone sultana

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Bollywood’s biggest female sufi voice talks about why it’s a great time to be a singer

LAST month, singer Sona Mohapatra initiated an important discussion on her social media page, asking why female performers can’t headline events sans the entourage of men. Having headlined several concerts and gatherings across the globe herself, singer Harshdeep Kaur agreed with a sigh. “Sona is speaking from experience. I think it’s subjective, however, because we see people flocking to say, a Sunidhi Chauhan concert as well,” she says, not wishing to blindly lay a stamp. Basking in the success of her latest number for the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer RaeesZaalima, the Mumbai-based artiste talks about the changing tide in the country’s music fraternity and why reality shows may not be the tickets to success they once were.

Collateral damage

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A still from the song from Raees (2016)

She may have sung for a Pakistani film before, but hasn’t had an experience of the studio environment there, considering she recorded through Skype, lending her voice to Mahira for Balle Balle from Bin Roye (2015). Talking about the difference in the characters of the two fraternities, she points out a blatant difference in the barter of talent, saying, “Artists from there have come here and made a huge name for themselves, but the flow back from us to Pakistan isn’t balanced. That does, however, even out if you look at the popularity of our content and performers there.” Meanwhile, she also throws light on how times have changed for performers across the spectrum. “Today, people look at the comfort of singers a lot more than they used to before. For instance, earlier, the track was prepared and we had to go and sing over it. Now our individual pitches and scales are also considered, as are our timings,” she points out, referring to how Arijit Singh and she recorded their parts for Zaalima separately.

 

Quantity over quality
Winning two reality shows left her with the title ‘Sufi ka Sultana’ and a string of chartbusters that cemented her position in the mainstream. However, she insists that the glorious days of reality show successes are nearing the end. “We have five to six shows going on at the same time. Usually, we had one show that we would dedicate all our time to. Now that’s not possible. So that affects recall value. The number confuses the audience,” says the Heer singer. Busy with her concert schedules for the next few months, Harshdeep will be seen crooning for a number in the Naseeruddin Shah-starrer Irada. She also hints at a few independent singles this year.

Published link: http://indulge.newindianexpress.com/the-lone-sultana/section/66259

I haven’t stopped trying to take chances: Abhay Deol

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Back on the big screen after two years, Abhay Deol is excited about his forthcoming release. Happy Bhaag Jayegi is a romantic comedy that follows Happy (played by Diana Penty), a bride who runs away from her wedding, crosses borders and gets into acool-abhay-deol-wallpapers_3788 whole lot of trouble along the way. The Mumbai-based actor plays Bilal Ahmed, a submissive, foreign-educated Pakistani who doesn’t relate to his people or surroundings. We catch up with him in the midst of the film’s Mumbai promotions.

Second coming

“The characters were written so well by Mudassar (Aziz), the director, that I just had to live out what he had already sketched,” the 40-year-old says. The movie also marks Deol’s second collaboration with producer Anand L Rai, having worked with him earlier in Raanjhanaa. Though pundits have touted this film to be his comeback, the star is unfazed. “There’s Anand L Rai and Eros. So I am nervous, yes, but secure that nothing is riding on me, which is the case otherwise,” says the Shanghai actor.

Formula vs offbeat

But Deol admits that all films finally boil down to commerce. Talking about the concept of commercial and non-commercial cinema, he says, “I think even an offbeat film strives to be commercial; every film needs commerce.” And for someone who rose to fame with unconventional movie choices like Dev D and Ek Chalis Ki Last Local, a commercial film does fuel some fears. “People might start thinking that I’ve stopped trying to take chances. I haven’t. It’s just that it’s very difficult to be doing that, despite success,” says the actor, adding that India isn’t opening itself up to different cinema as much as it should. happy-story_647_082016034745

“For any parallel movement to survive, it needs to be a movement. And by movement I mean groups of people who support each other. If real change was happening, we wouldn’t be seeing all actors and actresses trying to out-dance and out-six-pack each other,” he admits. Tightlipped about his future projects, Deol shares, “I have read a script that has the superficial trappings of a commercial film, but with the kind of edge you saw in Dev D. I’m hoping someone finances it.” He also plans on returning to producing films soon.

Happy Bhaag Jayegi is set to release on August 19.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/entertainment/hindi/2016/aug/05/Return-of-the-Deol-1505745.html

Journalist diaries

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Tanishaa Mukerji on her upcoming movie and being a director’s actor.

img_0161Making a comeback after five years, Tanishaa Mukerji is brimming with excitement. Anna, the biopic of anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare, will see the actress back on the silver screen after Be Careful, in 2011. She plays the role of a journalist in the movie. “This film is an attempt to inspire everyone and is not meant to stir any controversy,” clarifies the Mumbai-based actress. Tracing Anna’s life from his days in the army to the recent Lokpal campaign, it tries to demystify the motivation behind Anna’s stand.

For her role in the film, she intensively researched mainstream TV journalists in the country and says that director Shashank Udapurkar’s clear vision also helped her a lot.

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With Anna Hazare during her film’s promotions

“You have to be a mix of a director’s actor and one who lives the role on their own terms. One doesn’t exist without the other,” the 35-year-old star adds. Talking about shooting for the film, she says, “Sequences at Anna’s village were the most memorable. It is humbling and inspiring to see so many people turn up to be a part of this project just because of one man’s conviction.”

 

Mukerji, who made heads turn during her stints in Bigg Boss and Khatron Ke Khiladi, looks forward to television projects as long as they pose a challenge. “Be it films, TV or even a web series, I am open to doing anything,” she concludes.

Published link: http://indulge.newindianexpress.com/journalist-diaries/section/56213

Raise the lid

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The next time a friend visits from Hyderabad, I will have to ask for something other than a parceled portion of the famed Paradise biryani, because now we have our own outlet in the city. From a tiny canteen in Secunderabad six decades ago, Paradise has grown to become a biryani powerhouse —with 16 outlets in the country, the latest located down OMR. With a seating of over 160, the restaurant has simple interiors with brick walls featuring photographs of all the food from their menu. We are joined by head corporate chef, Vijay Bakshi, who hails from Hyderabad. He introduces us to his list of Paradise’s specials, starting with an assorted platter of kebabs, in varieties like chicken tikka, kalmi and hara bhara. Vegetarians have a subz aur moongphalli seekh to try, a first for all their outlets.
As we are discussing the legacy of kebabs and their oath keepers in Lucknow and Old Delhi, our biryanis arrive, after being cooked in handis for over six hours. I choose the double spice variant of the mutton biryani for a piquant smack. Its tender meat falls apart easily and the signature masala flavour—which is made centrally in Hyderabad—turns out to be worth all the hype. From desserts, I opt for the popular qubani ka meetha—a quintessentially Hyderabadi dish. The apricots are well soaked, with a semi-solid jammy consistency, which along with the sugar syrup, provide a lasting aftertaste. Bakshi says it’s best had with ice cream and I couldn’t agree more.
Meal for two from Rs 600.
Details: 45566713

http://indulge.newindianexpress.com/raise-the-lid/section/56151

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