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Interesting, how the tagline of “Kaun Banega Crorepati” (KBC) season 11 has virtually defined Amitabh Bachchan as an actor. ‘Adey raho (broadly translates to ‘be persistent) goes the slogan and, come to think of it, its iconic host has literally symbolised the trait through a career of 50 years.
KBC 11 ended this week and, given the recent health scare that the 77-year-old Bollywood icon has had, fans are keeping their fingers crossed in the hope that Big B will overcome all impediments and return on the hot seat next year.
For, even as KBC 11 ended on Friday, speculations took over, mainly triggered off by a cryptic blog entry the veteran actor made a few days ago. “I must retire… the head is thinking something else and the fingers another… it’s a message…,” he wrote on his blog in the early hours of November 27/28, sparking off a deluge of concern among fans.
Was Big B indeed hinting at retirement from cinema and television assignments? Sources close to the actor soon dismissed such notions, saying he simply meant that he was too tired to type – that it had been a long day and the word ‘retire’ alluded to retiring for the day, or going off to sleep.
Still, guesswork has continued. Most fans feel Big B, given his incredible energy will continue shooting for films. Film assignments, after all, would let him work at his own pace. The hectic schedule of a five-day quiz show, however, could be more demanding.
The point to note here is those hectic years mark a significant phase of Big B’s career graph. KBC after all marked his resurrection as an icon and a brad, at a time when he was struggling to reinvent himself as a Bollywood star.
The year was 2000. The year before, Amitabh Bachchan had four releases – “Lal Badshah”, “Sooryavansham”, “Hindustan Ki Kasam” and Kohraam”. Each of these tried rehashing Bachchan’s angry young man image to suit his advancing age, and each fared way below expectation. Coming after a 1998 roster that comprised of “Major Saab” (lukewarm at the box-office) and “Bade Miyan Chote Miyan” (where he was clearly outstripped by Govinda in the slapstick stakes), and the dud “Mrityudaata” in 1997, Big B was suddenly looking for a script to reinvent himself in the public eye. His last spate of solo superhits had happened in the early nineties, and his sojourn as an entrepreneur with ABCL has soured.
KBC season one happened around the time. Over a matter of weeks, Big B’s stardom suddenly witnessed rebirth. The angry young man of yore, who had redefined action and drama through the seventies and the eighties, was suddenly redefining home entertainment. KBC’s quizmaster par excellence was a charming gentleman with wisdom to share – far removed from the intense avatar he exuded in his heydays. From the larger-than-life action hero, KBC let Big B become the affable guy who would drop by in you living rooms every evening to serve an engaging spell of wisdom.
If the metamorphosis let Bachchan survive where every other actor of his era faded away long before him, the actor too gave KBC – as well as Indian reality television – a defining course. Not only is KBC regarded a cut above most other shows on television, Bachchan’s style of conducting it set the gold standard of show hosting in India.
It is a reason why, when the much-younger superstar Shah Rukh Khan tried hosting season three of the show, he could not quite match up to the Bachchan aura.
For the sake of Indian reality TV, we will hope all rumours of Bachchan retiring from television are indeed unfounded. (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,