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An inspiring tale of Dr Ranju Sinha who has penned down the song FanAnthem into Bhojpuri.
By Shillpi A Singh
In the sweltering heat, a FAN that is scorching the charts will cool the heart and soul of Bhojpuri music lovers
If you are a die-hard Shah Rukh Khan FAN from the eastern part of India where Bhojpuri is the native language, chances are that you would love to see the superstar groove to a Bhojpuri song. Lo and behold, it has happened sooner than expected. The FAN Anthem from upcoming Shahrukh Khan-starrer has also been recorded in Bhojpuri among other languages. The peppy version has been sung by versatile Manoj Tiwari. It has been penned by none other than Dr Ranju Sinha, a noted lyricist, producer, director, and story writer of Bhojpuri cinema.
It is Sinha’s first outing in the Hindi cinema, and she has managed to create waves with her lyrics. Retaining the essence of original FAN Anthem in Hindi, she has peppered the song with her nuanced choices of frequently spoken Bhojpuri words which has helped the Jabardast fan song strike a chord with Bhojpuri speaking youngsters, making it a big hit in Western Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand.
A renowned name in the Bhojpuri cine circuit, life is a beautiful coincidence for Sinha. Born in a middle-class family in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district on March 15th, 1962, she was married off at the age of 16 to Neelmani Kumar Sinha, a Bihar government official. “I was married off soon after Class 10 exams. I thought marriage meant the end of my academic and creative pursuits. But my parents-in-law and husband proved me wrong. They ensured that I continued my studies and finished my Class 12th, Bachelors, Masters and even got a doctorate,” she said with a lot of pride.
Armed with a doctorate, she joined Raj Narain Singh Inter College, Muzaffarpur, as lecturer in home science department in 2002. By then her two children — daughter Pooja Priyanka and son Pancham Priyam — had been packed off to New Delhi for schooling.
In 2005, her daughter moved to pursue an undergraduate program in audiology and speech therapy at Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for the Hearing Handicapped, Mumbai. “My daughter was all alone in Mumbai. She was homesick, so I thought it would be a good idea to move to Mumbai; Pooja would get to stay at home with me and would be able to focus on her studies.”
A homemaker who mostly spent her days and nights taking care of her home and family in Muzaffarpur, Sinha shifted base to Mumbai only to give company to her daughter. She had planned to return home after Pooja completed her studies. As they say, man proposes, God disposes. “Initially, I did not know what to do with a lot of free time in this city. But it made me discover the creative side of my personality which has been the biggest takeaway of being in Mumbai.” She was fond of writing, and for the first few months, all that she did was to contribute articles for magazines and newspapers in Mumbai. Her penchant for writing made her explore options as a lyricist in the film industry. A movie buff, Sinha enjoyed watching the latest releases but she had zilch knowledge about the craft of film-making as she admits today. But she was destined to be part of the film industry.
She said it was her elder brother, Mumbai-based businessman Raman Kumar Bachchan, who helped her in settling here and then in looking for a meaningful creative engagement in the Bhojpuri film industry. “I started my career by penning devotional songs in Bhojpuri for ‘Chhatt Maharani’ for T-Series.” Dhananjay Mishra had composed the music and songs were sung by Manoj Tiwari and Anuradha Paudwal. “It was a good start for a newcomer. Renowned singers such as Manoj Tiwari and Anuradha Paudwal lent their voices to my words. I was overwhelmed.”
There was no looking back for Sinha after her debut as a songwriter for this devotional album. Buoyed by the success of this venture, she went on to pen devotional songs for two more albums — ‘Chalo Re Sai Dham’ and ‘Sai Base Hain Kan Kan Mein’. Today she is a sought-after lyricist and story writer in the Bhojpuri film industry, having penned songs for hit movies such as Sautan, Ajab Devra ke Gazab Bhaujai, Niruha Banal Don, Rangbaaz and Jai Ho Jagdamba Mai. But that’s not all. She successfully forayed into film production and direction under her home banner, Gauri Shankar Arts Private Limited. She has produced half-a-dozen movies, notable among them being Jai Ho Jagdamba Mai, Chandrika, Preet Bada Anmol, Paro Patna Wali and soon-to-be-released Hindi movie, Raazdariyan.
“In a way, I am in the best phase of my life. My children are doing well. Pooja is married to Dr Shashank Kumar, a dentist here in Mumbai, and the couple has a two-year-old son Dhwanit. My son Pancham is currently working as Project Manager in NIIT Technologies in London.” So does she intend to leave Mumbai and return to her roots? “As of now, my hands are full. There is so much to do that I can’t even think of doing so by any means. I can’t even afford to take a break from work.”
Recalling her long association with Tiwari, Sinha said, “We go back a long way. His voice has the Midas touch. It did wonders to my just launched career way back in 2006. I am blessed to have him lend his voice for the Bhojpuri version of FAN Anthem.” Lauding his contributions in promoting the language across the world and making it popular even among the non-Bhojpuri speaking population, Sinha said, “Manoj is a talented person. He can sing, dance, act and not just that, he is an active Parliamentarian too, representing BJP from North East Delhi constituency in the Lok Sabha. He is doing a lot for making Bhojpuri popular, both among the masses and classes.”
Tiwari, whose “Jiya Ho Bihar Ke Lala” for Anurag Kashyap’s critically acclaimed Gangs of Wasseypur was his first Bhojpuri song for a mainstream Hindi movie, seemed quite impressed with Sinha’s style of writing. He said, “Ranju has entered Bollywood with a bang. She has used catchy words, which have an instant connect with youngsters, and that is what will help catapult Bhojpuri songs in the big league,” adding, “Her words show her intellectual depth and command over the language. Ranju has managed to carve a niche for herself in this industry in a short span of time, and that is quite commendable. She has brought credibility and respect to Bhojpuri with her songs, something which was lost over the years, thanks to vulgar, double-meaning songs penned by some lyricists.”
Like Tiwari, Sinha too is proud of her roots and said, “I owe my success to my language. I am what I am because of Bhojpuri.”
However, the call from Yashraj Films was quite surprising for both artistes. While Sinha initially dismissed it as a prank call, Tiwari couldn’t believe that he had actually got a call from YRF for singing a song for their upcoming movie. “When I checked with the production house, I realized it was indeed true. I was over the moon,” he said.
Both Tiwari and Sinha are self-proclaimed fans of SRK. The Bhojpuri FAN Anthem is popular among the masses. Nowadays, Tiwari is flooded with requests to sing the FAN Anthem during his stage shows. He said, “People start screaming, ‘E dilwa tohre jabardast ab toh fan ho gayil’, on seeing me. The crowd goes berserk. I am just cashing in on this popularity.”
Talking about her FAN moment, Sinha said, “It is a dream come true for someone like me to write a song for the superstar. SRK’s forthcoming movie is about how a fan makes a star. In my case too, I would say, FAN has made me an overnight star.”
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
As kids growing up in different states, Shoba Narayan and Michael Maliakel shared a love of one favorite film — "Aladdin." Both are of Indian descent, and in the animated movie, they saw people who looked like them.
That shared love has gone full-circle this month as Narayan and Maliakel lead the Broadway company of the musical "Aladdin" out of the pandemic, playing Princess Jasmine and the hero from the title, respectively.
"Growing up, there was such little South Asian and Middle Eastern representation in the American media, and Princess Jasmine was really all I had. She was a huge role model to me as someone who was intelligent and strong and independent and beautifully curious, and that's who I wanted to be," says Narayan, who grew up in Pennsylvania.
The pair arrived at "Aladdin" in very different ways. Maliakel is making his Broadway debut, but Narayan is a musical theater veteran, having made her Broadway debut in "Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812" and touring with "Hamilton" as Eliza Hamilton.
She was in "Wicked" as Nessarose when the pandemic shut down Broadway in March 2020. Her agent called in April with the prospect of auditioning for Jasmine. She sang "A Whole New World" over Zoom on gallery mode, pretending to be on a magic carpet. "It was a very unique experience," she says, laughing.
Disney producers flew her to New York to meet face-to-face and go through the material again. Narayan was asked to read with different Aladdin potential actors. She got the gig: "I went from a wicked witch to a Disney princess. Can't complain."
Maliakel, a native of New Jersey, came from the world of opera, a baritone who studied at Johns Hopkins University and the 2014 winner at the National Musical Theatre Competition. He trained his voice to be flexible, waiting for the right window to open.
"I didn't really see a lot of people doing what I wanted to do in the world," he says. "There just wasn't a whole lot of representation. So it's really hard to imagine yourself in those scenarios when you have no one to look up to as a role model or an example of how it could be done."
He played Porter and understudied Raoul in a national tour of "The Phantom of the Opera," which ended its run in Toronto just before the pandemic hit.
"I always dreamed that Broadway might happen someday," he says, laughing. "I'm just kind of dipping my toes into the waters in one of the biggest male roles in the business right now, and it's kind of surreal."
'Aladdin' featured as a Broadway Musical with a cast of Indian origin playing the main roles Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Broadway's "Aladdin" is a musical adaptation of the 1992 movie starring Robin Williams. The musical's story by Chad Beguelin hews close to the film: A street urchin finds a genie in a lamp and hopes to woo a princess while staying true to his values and away from palace intrigue.
Key Alan Menken songs from the film — including "Friend Like Me," ″Prince Ali" and "A Whole New World" — are used. The lyricists are the late Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Beguelin.
The show — and it's two new leads — had a few performances to celebrate Broadway's return from the pandemic this fall before it was forced to close for several days when breakthrough COVID-19 cases were detected. The actors say the safety of the cast, crew and audience are paramount and closing was the smart move.
"This is how we keep theater going in the pandemic," Maliakel says. "The other option is to just not do it at all. And that's not an option. A week's worth of lost performances, when we look back on things in a year or so, I think will just be a little blip on the radar."
They both look back with heart-thumping appreciation at the early performances when they welcomed back theater-starved audiences, who gave the company 3-minute standing ovations just for singing "A Whole New World."
"It is every brown girl's dream to be singing that song on an actual flying carpet," says Narayan. "And the fact that I got to do it on Broadway in the full costume with the lights and the 32-piece orchestra beneath me — oh, my gosh, I really had to hold it together. It was emotional overload for me."
Maliakel recalls that he and his brothers wore out their VHS cassette version of "Aladdin." He remembers having lunchboxes, pajamas and bed sheets with the film's theme. Aladdin was "every little brown kid's prince." Now he is that prince.
"Now, finally, to get to get paid to do it on the world's largest stage — it's not lost on me how crazy that is," he says. "The responsibility of my position right now feels really great. This moment sort of feels bigger than me in some ways, and I don't take that lightly. I think it's a really exciting time." (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Aladdin, Broadway, Musical, Indian Descendant cast,
Jack Daniel's is the world's most popular whiskey brand, but until recently, few people knew the liquor was created by Nathan "Nearest" Green, an enslaved Black man who mentored Daniel.
"We've always known," says Debbie Staples, a great-great-granddaughter of Green's who heard the story from her grandmother. … "He made the whiskey, and he taught Jack Daniel. And people didn't believe it … it's hurtful. I don't know if it was because he was a Black man."
But people believe it now — in large part because Brown-Forman Corporation, owner of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, has acknowledged the foundational role Green played in the brand's development.
"The truth of the matter is, Nearest Green was the first head distiller of Jack Daniels whiskey," says Matt Blevins, global brand director for Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey. "We're very proud of this story and are very committed to amplifying it and acknowledging that. In the past, we did not amplify it the way that we could have in earlier eras, but we're about the future and moving forward."
America's first-known Black master distiller
The story begins in Lynchburg, Tennessee, current home of the Jack Daniel Distillery. In the mid-1800s, Green's slaveholders hired him out to a local preacher named Dan Call. Green, who had a reputation as a skilled distiller, made whiskey for Call, using a sugar maple charcoal filtering process that is believed to have originated in West Africa. Daniel, a boy who worked for Call, became Green's apprentice and learned the special technique that gave the Tennessee whiskey its smooth taste.
After emancipation in 1863, when all enslaved people were freed, Daniel purchased Call's distillery and hired Green as Jack Daniel Distillery's first master distiller.
"The best knowledge that we have is that they had a mentor-and-mentee sort of a relationship, and I would say, a friendship," says Blevins. "The stories that have been passed down [talk] about the care that Jack Daniel took to always acknowledge … the Green family."
Historic photo of Jack Daniel (in white hat) seated next to George Green, the son of Nathan "Nearest" Green Image source: VOA
There are no known pictures of Green, but there is one of Daniel with Green's son, George, sitting next to Daniel, rather than being relegated to the back.
"That photograph shows the respect that they had for one another and for their families," says Stefanie Benjamin, an assistant professor of tourism management at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. "To be not only allowed in that photograph, but also positioned in the foreground and sitting right next to Jack Daniels himself."
Search for the truth
Green's role in the history of the brand was uncovered by a writer and entrepreneur named Fawn Weaver, who became fascinated by Green's unheralded contribution to the world's most popular whiskey. After extensive research, including interviews with Green's descendants, Weaver shared her documentation with the company.
"I was very pleasantly surprised when they embraced my research and updated their records to reflect that," Weaver told VOA via email. "I think it said a lot about the character of their company that they moved that quickly to course correct."
Jack Daniel's has incorporated Green's contributions into the official history of the brand, but Weaver has gone a step further. She invested $1 million of her own money to establish Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, which is now the fastest-growing independent American whiskey brand in U.S. history.
Fawn Weaver (center in red) with her leadership team at Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, including master distiller Victoria Eady Butler (far left), the great‐great‐granddaughter of Nearest Green. (Photo courtesy Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey) Image credit: VOA
The company's master distiller is Victoria Eady Butler, Green's great‐great‐granddaughter.
"Uncle Nearest is the most-awarded American whiskey or bourbon of 2019, 2020 and 2021, and the fact that it is the bloodline of Nearest Green blending and approving what goes into our bottles is something I marvel at regularly," Weaver says. "Victoria is an absolute natural when it comes to blending, and to watch her work is to see something pretty darn close to perfection."
Seven generations of Green's family have worked at the Jack Daniel Distillery, a tradition that continues today with Staples and two of her siblings. But the Green family did not benefit when the Daniel family sold the Jack Daniel distillery to Brown-Forman for $20 million in 1956.
"Although they [the Green family] were very well off in terms of finances [in the 1800s] in that time, they were not the owners or co-owners of the Jack Daniel distillery," Benjamin says. "And so, those millions of dollars have been passed down through generations of the Jack Daniel family, and not necessarily the Green family."
Maturing barrels of whiskey in a barrel house on the grounds of the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. (Photo courtesy Jack Daniel's) Image credit: VOA
Weaver's Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey has joined forces with Jack Daniel's to launch a program that provides support, expertise and resources to African-American entrepreneurs entering the spirits industry.
Staples says her family is thrilled their great-great-grandfather is finally being recognized.
"It's kind of mind-boggling … and we are so proud," Staples says. "And to think that from here to Africa, that recipe goes all the way back. And to think that he played such an important role in establishing this company. It sometimes seems unreal. It really does."
Because of Weaver's tenacity, Green's story, although left untold for more than a century, will not be lost to history. But that's not the case with so many other stories of Black achievement and contributions to the nation.
"Part of telling his story and sharing his legacy is to give credit and to give attention to a person who, if it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have the Jack Daniel whiskey as we know it today," Benjamin says. "It showcases yet another example of how formerly enslaved people, Black people, African American people who have really built this country, are left out of the dominant narrative that we tell." (VOA/RN)
(This article is originally written by Dora Mekouar)
Keywords: Jack Daniel's, Whiskey, Nathan Green, Slavery, Black achievement
Cricket fans can now book the ultimate experience with the official accommodation booking partner for the ICC Men's T20 World Cup, Booking.com. The T20 Pavillion, a bespoke cricket-themed luxury stay that transforms the Presidential Suite at Grand Hyatt Mumbai Hotel and Residences into a classic cricket stadium.
The suite offers guests an all-inclusive once-in-a-lifetime experience during the India vs Pakistan ICC Men's T20 World Cup match on October 24, 2021, packed with quirks and luxuries that is sure to satisfy even the biggest cricket enthusiast. Additionally, as a part of the experience, guests will also have the exclusive opportunity to meet Bollywood actor Shraddha Kapoor at The T20 Pavilion.
The booking window that opens at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and will be booked on a 'first come, first serve' basis with check-in date on October 24, 2021 and check-out on October 25, 2021. | Photo by Alessandro Bogliari on Unsplash
For one night only, guests can soak in the energy of a roaring stadium to enjoy the epic match on a life-sized screen while seated on comfortable sofas -- just like the luxury box seats at the stadium. They can also head to the locker room (dining room) next to the field (living room) to have some energy drinks, just like a cricketer would do or head to the bedroom, transformed into a net practice area. It's got the field, the pitch, the locker room, pitching nets and cricket memorabilia infused in every element of the room.
The booking window opens at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and will be booked on a 'first come, first serve' basis with check-in date on October 24, 2021, and check-out on October 25, 2021. The T20 Pavilion is priced at Rs 6666 only in honour of all the great sixes smashed at the T20 World Cup. The T20 Pavilion can accommodate up to four guests. Cricket fans can visit the website or mobile app to book this cricket-inspired stay. (IANS/ MBI)