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Exclusive: Success and Failure are nothing but an illusion for actor Pankaj Jha 

Pankaj Jha is also an accomplished painter, who has had two solo painting exhibitions to his credit so far, and will soon come out with a compilation of his poems.

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Pankaj Jha, actor, painter, poet, photographer, singer and composer
NewsGram presents an exclusive tête-à-tête with the cast and crew of this year’s National Award winning Maithili film, Mithila Makhaan. In the third part of the series, actor Pankaj Jha gets into a freewheeling chat with Shillpi A Singh and successfully manages to clear all the confusion regarding his other creative pursuits — painting, poetry, singing, composing and photography. He takes his dalliance a notch higher with every character that he essays on screen, and in his upcoming films, he is bound to spring another surprise.       
 “I know where I’m going, and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want.” This quote by late boxing legend Mohammad Ali sums up the free-spirited, outspoken, multi-faceted and versatile actor Pankaj Jha. He has scorched the big screen with his performances in Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding, Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday and Gulaal, Sudhir Mishra’s Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi and A Thousand Desires Like These, and Manish Jha’s Matrubhoomi: A Nation Without Women. He also starred in two of Ram Gopal Varma’s gangster trilogy, Company and D.  His other noteworthy performances include Chameli, Teen Patti, Lahore, and Anwar, among many others.
For the uninitiated, Jha is also an accomplished painter, who has had two solo painting exhibitions to his credit so far, and will soon come out with a compilation of his poems. Is that all? No, there is more than meets the eye. Jha sings and composes as well and deftly handles the camera to capture the verdant beauty of nature.

A still from film ‘Bankey Ki Crazy Baraat’

For the naysayers, Pankaj has in a way managed to “clear all the confusion” in his last big screen outing, in 2015’s laugh riot Bankey Ki Crazy Baraat and may take it a notch higher in his upcoming Udanchhoo. Mithila Makhan, his next in the regional language cinema, has already created ripples by winning the National Award for the Best Film in Maithili this year. Directed by Nitin Neera Chandra, it is expected to hit the theatres after the monsoon. “But the best is yet to come. My today is better than yesterday and tomorrow will surely be much better than today,” he said.
The Fine Arts of Acting
Jha hails from a nondescript village in Saharsa, Bihar, and is the youngest of four siblings. “Our parents were simpletons, and they were always encouraging but never pushy when it came to education and career. I was fond of acting and mimicry from early years. In the village, I formed a small theatre group and used to stage and act in street plays.” After completing his schooling, he moved to Patna for his undergrad degree in fine arts.
He continued to dabble in theatre and went on to join the premier theatre training institute in the country, the National School of Drama in New Delhi, to perfect the art and craft of theatrics. At NSD, he was part of the Repertory. “The exposure and experience were quite enriching,” he extolled. They came in handy when he decided to enter the tinsel town with Monsoon Wedding in 2001. And the rest, as they say, is history.
A Portrait of the Artist 
Having spent his early years in the company of nature, he yearns to be out there with it whenever he can. This longing is also reflected in his other creative pursuits — paintings, poems and photography; and the common thread in all three is nature that serves as the perfect muse. The actor has an art studio in Pune, Maharashtra, and he escapes from the humdrum of Mumbai to be in the company of colour, canvas and loads of creativity.

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A still from his forthcoming film, Udanchhoo

With two solo exhibitions to his credit, Jha often lets his paintings do the talking. He has also done on the spot paintings at various places and left the audience amazed with the nature of the artwork that he happened to produce in a jiffy. “It shows his mastery over the paint and brush,” said Nitin Neera Chandra, director of Mithila Makhaan.
In the past, Jha had contributed his illustrations for leading publications such as Navbharat Times, Hans and India Today.
The Word Smith
The stroke of creativity extends to poetry as well. A poem is the product of his everlasting love affair with words which dance to his thoughts to soothe the senses. The actor said that writing was his habit, and it soon turned into a hobby. His poems are mostly about nature and its beauty, myriad human emotions and, of course, the mortal being.
The thought springs from his minute and detailed observation of people and their behaviour, the good, bad and ugly, all three find a place of pride in his verses. “I ask questions that a poem won’t answer. But maybe they illuminate the question.” A recitation of his compositions titled Qudrat was held to a packed house in Pune in September last year.
He has an excellent collection of photographs that again show his closeness to nature — the blue sky, flight of birds, bright dawn, emerald green forests, water gushing down the rocks — beautiful moments beautifully captured on camera.
The Role Call
In Mithila Makhaan, he has essayed the role of Brahma Singh, an unscrupulous and ruthless fox nut trader in the village, who believes in “doing things silently and not violently.” About his portrayal, Jha said, “Brahma Singh is just a character in the larger picture. He happens to behave in a particular fashion because he feels threatened. There is nothing good or bad about a character to be called a hero or villain. And calling someone hero or heroine is highly misplaced.

Film poster. Image source: Champaran Studio
A still from his forthcoming film, Udanchhoo

An actor merely portrays a character onscreen.” He added, “I have come across people like him in real life so being one like them on the big screen wasn’t difficult. His mannerisms, body language, dressing, dialogue delivery, all of it happened effortlessly.” The select few who have watched the screening of the film in Pune, Patna, New Delhi and Toronto have appreciated his role in the film. “Brahma Singh’s character stands out because of Pankaj Jha. He has done full justice to the role,” said Amrita Jha, who watched the screening at the National Film Archives of India, Pune.
Cinematic Limits
He is a mainstream actor and his outings in the regional language cinema have been limited to Mithila Makhaan in Maithili and Deswa in Bhojpuri, both produced by actor Neetu Chandra’s production house, Champaran Talkies. Jha told that he agreed to do these films for Neetu Chandra and her brother Nitin, who has directed Mithila Makhaan and Deswa. “I got this opportunity to do something in Maithili and Bhojpuri, and I lapped it up.

Award
Film Poster of Mithila Makhaan

Today, I feel proud to be part of an Award-winning film in regional language.” He quickly added that language does not bind good cinema. “Sairat in Marathi is a beautiful movie. It is realistic and not a make-believe portrayal of an idealist world. Language becomes a second fiddle to creativity.” And not just Mithila Makhaan, Jha has been part of many award-winning films — Monsoon Wedding, Matrubhoomi, Very Very Silent Movie, etc. — in the past as well. “Awards give instant recognition, and they have a greater recall value,” he said.
What Next?
In his next — Vipin Parasher’s Udanchhoo — Jha will be seen as a Haryanvi policeman Chatur Singh Sherawat. A con-caper, it also stars Ashutosh Rana, Rajneesh Duggall and Saisha Sehgal. Another two upcoming projects include Gun Pe Done that stars Sanjay Mishra among many others and Running Shaadi.com that will be directed by Amit Rai and will be produced by Shoojit Sarkar.
The actor, painter and poet may get into production and direction. “If things work out as planned, it may happen sometime soon,” he said.
He signed off on a beautiful note about success and failure. “Success and failure are nothing but an illusion. He who succeeds today had tasted failure yesterday and he who has failed today will surely succeed tomorrow.”
(In the next part, we will get up, close and personal with the male and female lead of the award-winning film. So watch out for this space!)
-by Shillpi A Singh, a freelance contributer at NewsGram and can be contacted at  shilpi.devsingh@gmail.com 
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1 COMMENT

  1. Very first memory i have of Pankaj was during very early ’90’s.

    “BATA” was a famous footwear brand in India with more penetration in rural areas and a symbol to showcase – you have moved from lower middle class to middle class status (BSC to Bata).

    Bata had a famous model known as “Jubilee” – a typical red colored sandal. I use to have one (kid’s version) and somehow i broke the straps. I was visiting Pankaj’s house (Nariyaar Road, Saharsa). He saw it and brought his tool box, i was amazed how this man having all these tools (I was very young in age). In his tool box i found his very first art work in which he colored the passport size black and white photograph. I was in total confusion, whats going on, how this man is doing this all.

    …………………….to be continued.

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Gram Art Project: Innovative way to voice Indian Farmer’s Issues

Land art was used in Maharashtra under The Gram Art Project to voice the farmer’s ache through creativity

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A distant farm
A distant farm. wikimedia
  • The Gram Art Project, last year created a portrait of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the field, it was their way of asking him to ‘Grow in India’
  • There are many issues being faced by the community, yet they have not come together as one
  • Last year, artists from across India discussed contemporary problems of farming with the farmers of the village at the Gram Dhara Chakra Utsav

Nagpur, Maharashtra, August 4, 2017: The Gram Art Project is a praiseworthy initiative in which Land Art was used to voicing farmer’s issues. The term Land Art means, creating art which is made directly on the landscape by sculpting the land and making structures in the landscape.

It is done by using natural materials such as rocks or twigs etc. The term originated from the art movement in the U.S.A in the 1960s and 1970s.The Gram Art Project was in the news last year as well after it created a portrait of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the field, it was their way of asking him to ‘Grow in India’.

The collective has been since then involved in working with farmers and highlighting issues of the rural, agrarian economy using art in the village Paradsinga, near Nagpur, Maharashtra. Its volunteers and artists (mostly natives of the village) were present in Delhi to talk about their work.

“Last year, artists from across India discussed contemporary problems of farming with the farmers of the village at the Gram Dhara Chakra Utsav, organised by volunteers, after which seven images for land art were drawn out and grown on the fields,” said Shweta Bhattad (who initiated the project), mentioned Indian Express Report.

One of the images was grown by artist Ganesh Dhoke. He made an Indian map with a farmer and his bull inside. “India is primarily dependent on agriculture and, without it, there will be no food. People need to understand that farmers are leaving the profession and youngsters are not joining it. This message is for the government, too,” Dhoke said. He is the only youngster in his village to be a full-time farmer.

Mumbai-based artist Kalyani Uday’s land art consisted of two adjacent pyramids, with one of them in reverse. It had a leafy legume accompanied with the slogan Kisan Ekta Zaruri Hai.

Tanmay Joshi, a volunteer said, “There are many issues being faced by the community, yet they have not come together as one. They are at the bottom of the pyramid, so we wanted to show that the reverse of the equation is possible.” Satyabhama Manjhi, an artist belonging to Odisha, created a small Land Art – the local village school and the students.

Adarsh Dhoke said that earlier many people used to urinate near that school wall, so they decided to grow a toilet seat with plants, resulting which the practice stopped. His parents are into farming but he never wanted to do the same. During his interaction with school children, other children echoed his view, though he tried to change that. “Nobody wants to pursue farming but, after I spoke to them, they started thinking about it,” he said.

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Gram Art Project also promotes chemical-free farming and use of native seeds in Paradsinga. The volunteers are involved in activities like building machans and providing the daily weather forecast.

Ganesh Dhoke has reached out to other like-minded people and a road was built that connects 50 fields. It made locomotion in monsoon easier. Similarly, Vednath Lohi recognized the need that there was no place for children to play. With the help of the artists, they converted a land, called Gothan, which was earlier used for bad practices like defecation and gambling and they turned it into a playground for children. Also decorated it with sustainable sculptures near which children can play.

The condition of Indian farmers is quite problematic as many farmer’s suicide due to the heavy loan’s on them which they are not capable to pay off or poor financial condition in general. So, initiatives like this are a positive step towards highlighting farmer’s issues.

– prepared by Kritika Dua of NewsGram. Twitter @DKritika08


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What is a Poem’s Purpose and Why is Carefree Life of a Poet most Adored?

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 – by Saket Suman

New Delhi, July 24, 2017: Of all romanticism associated with poetry, the ethereal and carefree life of a poet is perhaps the most adored. But is this — the state of a poet’s being — the reason for the existence of poetry, and, more so, what is a poem’s purpose?

There are no wars to be won through poetry, no great intentions behind a poem’s composition and it is more of a compulsion for self-motivated souls than a mere hobby, says Kiriti Sengupta, a gifted Indian poet, who has more than 17 books of poetry to his credit.

“I think writing poetry cannot be defined as a favorite pastime for a writer. An honest poet writes poetry out of sheer compulsion. Poets write poetry when they think it will do justice to their thoughts or expressions. There are several other ways for conveying messages, observations, and experiences, but poetry is written only when poets think they can do no better without indulging in this genre of literature,” Sengupta told IANS in an interview.

Elaborating, the much-acclaimed poet from West Bengal said that he had no “great intention” when he started composing poetry and even now he does not entertain ideas of “changing the society” through his poems. “Poetry does not change anything. It does not initiate a change either. Poetry makes you think, makes you aware, and it makes you revisit your concerns, which may include your agonies as well,” he added.

Sengupta’s “My Glass of Wine” is almost autobiographical and is now a part of India’s first poetry trilogy, “Dreams of the Sacred and Ephemeral”, which also bears two other works, “The Reverse Tree” and “Healing Waters Floating Lamps”. In the first two collections, one finds verses placed alongside prose. Sengupta stressed on the fact that he wanted to eliminate the apathy of a common reader towards poetry and thus a mix of prose and poetry was the immediate option.

But poetry is considered to be one of the finest expressions of literature and, even today, it is widely read and adored. How fulfilling is the experience of a poet then?

“You have a definite purpose when you write a poem. You either convey a message you intended to, or you showcase your cerebral prowess to juggle words. Whatever be your objective, if you do it well, you are happy at the end of the day. Prose writing is generally more time-consuming, but then, there are poems that, no matter if they are long or short, take days and even weeks to write and finish,” quipped the poet.

And then there is the writer’s block. Like all creative people, a poet is no stranger to this rather depressing phenomenon, but Sengupta says that one has to live with it as it is a part of the journey.

“I’ve my share of non-productive days when I fail to write. After publishing more than 17 books I don’t find it stressful or alarming anymore. I just feel bad about it, but it is only when I read other poets’ work. See, it is extremely important to keep abreast of the latest happenings in the field of poetry, especially when someone is seriously engaged in it,” he maintained.

Sengupta also contested the idea that poetry has taken a backseat in recent years and said that the reality is actually contrary to popular belief. There has been a rise in poetry consciousness across India, he said, and we have more than one organization in every city promoting poetry among new readers, especially youngsters. It is, however, debatable whether they promote quality work and enhance the availability of quality work.

He also emphasized that it is indeed impossible “to earn a living from writing poetry” in India. “Poets are self-motivated souls who write poems for the joy derived from creating a work of art,” said the poet, whose upcoming chapbook of verses is titled “Solitary Stillness” and is due to be published in August. (IANS)

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Stanford Study Ranks India among the Laziest People in the World

A recent study by a group of researchers at Stanford have revealed that Indians are among the laziest people in the world

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Laziest People
Indians average just 4,297 steps a day. Wikimedia
  • A Stanford study has ranked India 39 in the world for the laziest people 
  • China, and particularly Hong Kong, has the most active people
  • The research also found out that Indian women walk even less than men

July 17, 2017: Researchers at Stanford University carried out a study on 46 countries to find out the levels of laziness. In its finding, Indians ranked 39 and thus among the laziest people.

Indian people average only about 4,297 steps a day. It was also observed that women in India walk much less than men. While men registered an average of 4,606 steps daily, women averaged 3,684 steps.

The world average is 4,961 steps. The Americans stood at an average of 4,77,4 steps daily.

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The most active people, according to the research, are the Chinese and mainly the ones in Hong Kong. Other notably active people are from Ukraine and Japan. The people in these countries walk more than 6,000 steps daily, mentioned ANI report.

With a daily average of just 3,513 steps, the Indonesians ranked as the laziest people in the world. Other laziest countries include Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. These countries have an average of fewer than 3,900 steps.

The researchers at Stanford University installed step-counters in smartphones and used that information for the research. 700,000 people from 46 different countries were part of the research, which has been published in the journal called Nature.

– Prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394