It’s been 50 years since people have been enjoying pakoda platter, keema parartha and pudina chai at Cafe Samovar in Jehangir Art Gallery. Artists, students, lovers and officers all have gone to this place with a view to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya and none has come back disappointed. At Cafe Samovar, poets found their poetry and lovers their love.
But soon it’s all going to be a thing of the past. Some fond memories and a coffee table book will be the only thing left of the cafe after this month.
The cafe which is being shut to allow the expansion of Jehangir Art Gallery next to it, was opened in 1964 by Usha Khanna to create a peaceful space in Mumbai for artists to meet patrons.
Khanna said she started Samovar to address the pressing questions of life in Mumbai, ” Where would artists meet their patrons? Where would poets sit and write without being disturbed? Where would young homesick executives get their ‘home food'”
Christened ‘Samovor’ by the legendry actor Balraj Sahni, Usha Khanna’s maternal uncle, the cafe has been an ‘ oasis for several generations of youth sometimes dreaming, but always struggling to make their mark in the city’ according filmmaker Shyam Benegal.
The end of Samovar is sure to break many hearts in Mumbai and two of them will obviously belong to Mr and Mrs Bachchan senior, who went to the Cafe in Kala Ghoda on their first date.
Mumbai, Jan 6, 2017: Did Om Puri have a premonition about his death when he spoke about it to IANS just a fortnight ago? In retrospect, it would seem so, because he talked about “leaving the world” and that his legacy would be “visible” once he departed.
His comments on leaving the world have become a reality too soon.
In one of his last interviews, which took place at a hotel here on December 23, 2016, Om Puri told IANS: “My contribution as an actor will be visible once I leave this world and the young generation, especially film students will watch my films.”
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The 66 year-old actor died of a heart attack at his residence here early morning on Friday.
Today, as he leaves a void in the world of cinema with his untimely demise, the film fraternity is looking back at his vast contribution to showbiz. Theatre, television, Indian and British films, Hollywood and Pakistani cinema — he did it all and left a lasting impression. His legacy, celebrities said, will live on.
A lover of alternate cinema with socially relevant themes at its core, Om Puri said: “For me, the real hard-hitting cinema was between 1980s and 1990s where Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Basu Chatterjee, Mrinal Sen and Gulzar made some remarkable films.”
He worked in multiple projects with Nihalani and Benegal — films like “Aakrosh”, “Ardh Satya” and “Tamas” which catapulted him into the realm of great actors. Both the directors were overcome by emotions when IANS contacted them after news of Om Puri’s death broke. In shaky voices, both said it was too early to talk.
Just days earlier, he was happily interacting with young scribes to promote his upcoming political satire “Rambhajan Zindabad”. Casually dressed in a pair of baggy jeans and a black shirt, he was, as was his style, devoid of any airs about his stardom — a position not defined by fanatical, frenzied fans, but by the sheer following of his nuanced performances and undying passion for art.
He was — as the biography by his former wife Nandita Puri — rightly says, an “Unlikely Hero”.
The veteran actor, a recipient of Padma Shri, started his journey as an actor with a Marathi film “Ghashiram Kotwal” in 1972. If he featured in some intense dramas, he also balanced out his filmography with movies like “Mirch Masala”, “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro”, “Chachi 420”, “Hera Pheri”, “Malamaal Weekly” and more.
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“There are two kinds of cinema — one is just for entertainment, the other touches your heart. Both have their own purpose,” Om Puri had told IANS.
When he was chairman of the National Film Development Corporation, Om Puri was focussed on encouraging meaningful films. The National School of Drama alumnus was also president of Cine and TV Artistes Association.
More recently, he featured in Bollywood films like “Ghayal Once Again” and “Mirzya”, as well as in Pakistani film “Actor In Law”. He even used his distinct baritone for the voice of black panther Bagheera in the Hindi dubbed version of Hollywood film “The Jungle Book”.
Age did not slow him down. He was busy dabbling in multiple projects like “Viceroy’s House”, “Tubelight” and “Manto”.
The two-time National Film Award winner was bestowed the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award, in 1990.
His international career took off as early as 1982 when he featured in a small role in Oscar-winning film “Gandhi”. It also set the stage for him to explore more on foreign shores — his British films were “My Son the Fanatic”, “East Is East” and “The Parole Officer”, and his Hollywood movies included “City of Joy”, “Wolf”, “The Ghost and the Darkness” and “The Hundred-Foot Journey”.
In 2004, he was made an honorary officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to the British film industry.
While he had a glorious journey in the film world, his personal life went through turbulence. In 2013, his wife had filed a case against him, alleging domestic violence. They separated, leaving him with only visitation rights to their son, Ishaan.
He was frank and blunt about his views — and just last year, he faced the brunt of it when a police complaint was filed against him for his comments that were found to be insulting to Indian soldiers. In 2015, he spoke on the issue of cow slaughter in India. In 2012, he had landed in a bit of a soup after he called Naxals “fighters not terrorists”.
But Om Puri remained fearless till the end — in his works and his words. (IANS)
In the scorching heat, amidst the placards and posters sit the students of FTII, the fraternity that nurtures upcoming storytellers and producers. For the past 68 days these students have been sitting diligently in a protest against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the institute’s Chairman or rather the saffronization of the institute.
The protest which is being termed as the FTII Mahabharta, saw a new yudh yesterday when the police arrested 5 students around midnight for rioting and alleged mishandling of Prashant Pathrabe, the director of the institute. The latter had lodged a complaint against a few students who had gheraoed and “mishandled” him.
With the arrest of these students, the social media was ushered with sundry responses. While Kejriwal offered the students a temporary space to conduct classes, prominent celebrities have come forward to express their solidarity with the students.
Former FTII chairman, Shyam Benegal, for example, in an interview with The Indian Express, said,
“This is the worst thing that could have happened. The worst thing. This is something we have been preventing for a long time, even when I was chairman. Twice I was chairman, there were strikes but we never ever even once invited the police into the campus. And I believe that whatever problems the institution might have between the powers that be and the students, I don’t believe a third-party is necessary there at all”,
on being asked what does he feel about Pune police swooping down on the protesting students and a few being arrested.
In an article to India Today Anupama Chopra mentions,
“Not just market pressures and structural changes, FTII is beset with a whole lot of problems.”
The article is clearly loaded with the problems FTII has been going through and that the whole thing has now taken a political inclination.
Barkha Dutt tweeted- “what’s happening at FTII is so unbelievable it would be a bad film, if it weren’t for the sorry fact that it’s all true midnight crackdown”
Clearly the political and administrative intervention in this premier institute is taking it to the dogs. No respite or solution has hitherto been achieved. The entire institutional impasse and the lingering protests of the students bring to fore the larger question about a state’s power to transgress on an educational institute’s working.
And this endeavor by the film personalities and media journalists in favor of FTII students makes a huge difference and should hopefully do some good to the artistic values of FTII for which it’s known.
Treading upon the cock-a-hoop street of Jantar Mantar, with drops of sweat trailing down their nose, their cries attuning to the vigor of an unfinished battle, hollering – “Inqelab Zindabad”- the protesters, hailing from across the board, holding placards, reiterated their demands for an accredited chairperson being officiated at the helm of affairs at FTII.
The protest which kicked off on the 12th day of June exemplifies a relentless effort put up by the students of FTII, who have been incessantly demanding the removal of Ganjendra Chauhan- the present chairperson of the renowned filmmaking institution.
Not giving in to the nonchalance of the central government on the entire issue of how Gajendra Chauhan despite being ineffective and not worthy of being the chairperson of FTII, around 80 students of the institute staged a protest at Jantar Mantar today. Filmmakers, academicians, and renowned theatre personalities were seen flocking the burning grounds.
“We are not against any particular ideology, all we want is the government to look into our demands. Gajendra Chauhan isn’t suitable for the post of a chairperson. He doesn’t bear the required credentials which were borne by the former chairpersons like Saeed Mirza, Shyam Benegal etc,” said an FTII student.
Taking a dig at the central government’s high headed move, Kavita Krishnan, Secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, fleshed out her take on the issue, “The government thinks that every institute of this country on a drive to undo the Indian culture. They are trying to unleash a monochromatic culture. The appointment of Ganjendra Singh is nothing less than an attempt at scuttling the multi-dimensional aspects of art forms like filmmaking, theatre and even education. The government will be forced to give in to the demands of the protesting students, they cannot let loose the students for one Gajendra Chauhan.”
Tuning into a similar line of thought, Arvind Gaur, the creative director at Asmita theatre Group, ruminated on the surging dictatorial attitude put forth by the government, “One cannot delimit the tenets of art and culture. One requires understanding the multifaceted nature of art itself. Further, he sounded his attempt at bringing forth a change through a string of street plays.
Hoping for a fruitful outcome, the vociferous cries of the protesters would continue reverberating the capital city until the awaited demand comes into being.