Get subscribed to our newsletter
Get interesting updates to your email inbox.
From Covid-induced pandemic to natural calamities to severe economic crunch, 2020 has been the worst year of this century so far. The year seems to be jinxed for the entertainment industry, too.
Closure of cinemas has affected business. More importantly, the year has already seen the demise of many luminaries in quick succession, much to the shock and sorrow of fans.
Follow NewsGram on Twitter to stay updated about the World news.
Here are a few Indian celebrities we have lost amid the Covid lockdown:
NISHIKANT KAMAT, August 17
The filmmaker passed away in a Hyderabad hospital. He was 50 and battling liver cirrhosis for the past two years. Kamat was known for directing Bollywood films like the Ajay Devgn-Tabu starrer “Drishyam”, Irrfan Khan-starrer “Madaari” and the John Abraham films “Force” and “Rocky Handsome” among others. His Marathi films, “Dombivali Fast” and “Lai Bhaari” won critical and commercial success cutting language barriers. Beyond direction, Kamat also acted in several films including “Rocky Handsome”, “Bhavesh Joshi” and Julie 2″ and the Marathi film “Fugay”.
PANDIT JASRAJ, August 17
Legendary classical vocalist and Padma Vibhushan recipient Pandit Jasraj passed away in the US at the age of 90. The news about his death was confirmed by his daughter Durga Jasraj. Born in 1930 in Haryana, the celebrated classical singer presented the Mewati Gharana to the global music connoisseur. With a career spanning 80 years, Pandit Jasraj’s oeuvre ranged from the world stage to Indian film music.
JAGDEEP, July 8
Best known for his role of Soorma Bhopali in Ramesh Sippy’s blockbuster “Sholay”, veteran Bollywood comedian Jagdeep passed away owing to age-related health problems at 81.
Jagdeep started his career as a child artiste in BR Chopra’s 1951 release, “Afsana”, starring Ashok Kumar, Veena and Pran. Later, he made a mark with roles in films such as “Bhabhi” and “Barkha”. His golden run began with GP Sippy’s 1968 film “Brahmachari”, starring Shammi Kapoor. His comic role in the film was widely appreciated. His last-released film is “Masti Nahi Sasti” in 2017.
SAROJ KHAN, July 3
The veteran Bollywood choreographer passed away following a massive heart attack at the age of 71. Khan was fondly called Masterji in Bollywood, and she had choreographed over 2000 songs spanning over three and a half decades. Her most famous collaborations were with Madhuri Dixit (“Dhak karne laga”) and Sridevi (“Hawa hawai”) among many other hits. Her recent work includes “Tabaah ho gaye” from the 2019 film “Kalank”, picturised on Madhuri.
SUSHANT SINGH RAJPUT, June 14
The most controversial Indian celebrity death in years, the reason of Sushant’s demise is yet to be ascertained. What is known so far is that the 34-year-old actor was found dead at his residence in Mumbai. Initial reports stated it was a suicide, and that his body was found hanging, but these theories have now been questioned. While Mumbai Police had concluded the case to be a suicide, a CBI probe has been ordered into the death on Wednesday by the Supreme Court.
The case has taken several turns already. While initially it was thought Sushant took his life owing to depression because he was a victim of Bollywood nepotism, fingers have subsequently been pointed at his girlfriend, actress Rhea Chakraborty, her family and her associates. A political angle in the death is also not being ruled out.
Want to read in Hindi? Checkout: सुशांत मामले की जांच का हाल दाभोलकर हत्याकांड की जांच जैसा न हो : पवार
Sushant rose to fame as Manav Deshmukh in the TV series, “Pavitra Rishta”. In 2013, he made a transition to the big screen with “Kai Po Che!” and was then seen in a string of films such as “Shuddh Desi Romance”, “M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story”, “Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!”, “Drive”, “Kedarnath”, “Chhichhore” and “Dil Bechara”.
BASU CHATTERJEE, June 4
The legendary filmmaker passed away at 93 owing to age-related ailments. Chatterjee is considered among the pioneers of middle-of-the-road cinema from the seventies to the nineties. He is among the filmmakers who made the common man a hero of Hindi commercial cinema, shedding his larger-than-life aura.
The nonagenarian is best known for films like “Rajnigandha”, “Chitchor”, “Khatta Meetha”, “Priyatama”, “Shaukeen” and “Chameli Ki Shaadi”. His last directorial was the 1997 film, “Gudgudee”.
WAJID KHAN, June 1
Bollywood composer-singer Wajid Khan of the popular sibling composer duo Sajid-Wajid passed away on June 1. On June 5, his family informed that Wajid had died due to cardiac arrest.
Sajid-Wajid, best known for their songs in the “Dabangg” films, recently composed a couple of songs for Bollywood superstar Salman Khan during the ongoing lockdown. The first, “Pyaar karona” was a pop anthem encouraging all to fight the coronavirus. The song released in April was sung by Salman and also featured the actor in the video. The other song, “Bhai bhai” released on Eid.
RISHI KAPOOR, April 30
In 2018, the veteran actor was diagnosed with cancer for the first time, following which he was in New York for nearly a year to undergo treatment. He returned to India in September 2019.
Post return to India, his health has frequently been in focus. The actor was admitted to hospital in quick succession in February. Amid speculations about his health, he had been hospitalised in New Delhi in early February, while on a visit to the city.
Rishi Kapoor shot to fame playing a teen icon in his debut film “Bobby” and went on to carve his niche as a romantic icon in numerous hits of the seventies, eighties and the nineties. Over the past decade, he also impressed with negative roles in “Agneepath” and “D-Day”.
IRRFAN KHAN, April 29
Acclaimed actor Irrfan Khan passed away a day before Rishi Kapoor. Irrfan was admitted to Mumbai’s Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani hospital with a colon infection. He was only 54. The actor had been battling neuroendocrine tumour for several years and had been under medical attention.
Irrfan carved an alternative route to success, defying traditional mainstream diktats in Bollywood. He was equally at ease in commercial entertainers as “Hindi Medium”, “Angrezi Medium” and “Life In A Metro”, as he did with more profound fare as “Maqbool”, “Paan Singh Tomar” and “Qissa”.
NIMMI, March 25
Yesteryears actress Nimmi passed away at her residence in the city in March. She was 88. Lately, Nimmi was suffering from breathing problems and had been in and out of the hospital.
Nimmi, whose name was Nawab Banoo, made her Bollywood debut in Raj Kapoor’s 1949 release, “Barsaat”, which was the Showman’s first major hit. The film co-starred Nargis. Through the fifties and the sixties, the actress worked in films with most top actors, notably the Bollywood Triumvirate of the era — Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand. One of her earliest releases was Fali Mistry’s “Sazaa” starring Dev Anand in 1951. The same year, she worked with Dilip Kumar and Ashok Kumar in Nitin Bose’s “Deedar”.
She would go on to work with Dilip Kumar again in films like Mehboob Khan’s ambitious “Aan” and Amiya Chakravarty’s “Daag” the next year. By the time she reunited with Dev Anand in Chetan Anand’s 1952 release “Aandhiyan”, Nimmi was already a popular Bollywood name. Her other notable films include “Uran Khatola”, with Dilip Kumar, the Ashok Kumar-Kishore Kumar starrer “Bhai-Bhai”, Sohrab Modi’s “Kundan”, and the Rajendra Kumar-starrer “Mere Mehboob”. Among her memorable works also are Mehboob Khan’s “Amar” starring Dilip Kumar and Madhubala, and Raja Nawathe’s “Basant Bahar” co-starring Bharat Bhushan.
Nimmi’s last release was K. Asif’s much-delayed “Love And God”, a retelling of the Laila-Majnu story. Asif started the project in 1963, and the film released long after his death in 1986, after several changes in the cast and crew. The released film had Sanjeev Kumar and Nimmi in the lead roles.
Bollywood fans also lost yesteryears’ actress Kum Kum, TV actor Sachin Kumar, actor Mohit Baghel, filmmakers Rajat Mukerjee and Harish Shah, and lyricists Rahat Indori, Yogesh and Anwar Sagar this year. (IANS)
Facebook says it plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to work on a new computing platform.
The company said in a blog post Sunday that those high-skilled workers will help build "the metaverse," a futuristic notion for connecting people online that encompasses augmented and virtual reality.
Facebook executives have been touting the metaverse as the next big thing after the mobile internet as they also contend with other matters such as antitrust crackdowns, the testimony of a whistleblowing former employee and concerns about how the company handles vaccine-related and political misinformation on its platform.
In a separate blog post Sunday, the company defended its approach to combating hate speech, in response to a Wall Street Journal article that examined the company's inability to detect and remove hateful and excessively violent posts. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Facebook, Metaverse, Augmented and Virtual Reality
As children, singing the rhyme Rock A Bye Baby was a fun thing to do. It was a statement of thrill and adventure to imagine a child climbing to the top of a tree and rocking to sleep. Especially in the Indian context, rocking a baby to sleep by attaching the cradle to the tree is quite a common thing. But the origin of this rhyme, or lullaby, seems rooted in other histories.
The most popular notion associated with this lullaby is of women leaving their babies tied to tree branches, rocking to sleep with the wind. It is believed that at the time this lullaby was written, it was inspired by a coloniser who saw the Native American women tie their children in birch bark cradles to the trees. The babies went to sleep rocked by the gusts of wind while the parents went about their tasks.
A Native American wooden cradle Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Another interpretation of the rhyme is that it is an allegory to Betty Kenny, or Kenyon, as some versions record it. The Kenyons were a tree-dwelling family, and they used to live in a yew tree. They had carved the tree branches to fit their babies and allowed them to nestle there during the day. The part of the rhyme that talks about falling off the tree is a little scary in this context, but the speculation is that the tree branches were quite low.
The final interpretation of the lullaby has political allusions. King James II of England, was the last Catholic king. He had no heir and reportedly used another baby to impersonate his own. But he was found out and exiled in the Glorious Revolution that took place after he was deposed. The act of falling down from the cradle is a metaphor for those who make mistakes from being overconfident or proud.
The many versions that exist of the rhyme/lullaby make it confusing to really know why it was written in such a strange and morbid manner. Each version points to a different time in history where certain practices were prevalent. However, despite all the various interpretations available, the lullaby itself works wonders in rocking babies to sleep, and perhaps that is the only reason it has survived.
Keywords: Lullaby, Rhyme, King James II, Kenyons, Native Americans, Colonisers
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,