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By Sandeep Bamzai
In today’s times we all have to sing for our supper, says Amitabh Bachchan, as he completes 50 years of acting, in an exclusive interview with IANS.
The voice in your ear has a certain crispness to it, over time, it has become gruffer, sand papery and rasping. It is one of India’s most precious baritones, a ne plus ultra, mono typical and unique. As he mouths a dialogue for his new thriller ‘Badla’, the growly voice resonates in my echo chamber: ‘me vo 6 dekhu jo tum dikha rahi ho ya vo 9 jo mujhe dekhna hai”! It has a different quality about it, you don’t need surround sound to support it, it stays with your residual memory. Amitabh Bachchan and his craft has captivated several generations now, ageless as he is, the thespian has completed 50 years in an industry which he straddles like a colossus.
At the outset, Mr Bachchan in his interview with IANS wanted to send a message over something that has caused him great pain and distress in recent memory: “Before all else, come laden with our hearts and mind in condolence and prayers for the brave hearts we lost in Pulwama, and the brave hearts that fight and protect us each hour for our safety and security!”
During the course of the interview, there are many matter of fact, phlegmatic and perfunctory replies from one of the most popular film stars of our time, the strong underpinning of modesty coming through at all times. Very clear that the aura and adulation is undeserved, he reckons, but fanboys and fan girls think otherwise. Epithets, hyperbole and verbosity have come his way, but he wonders why, such is the self-effacement and humility. Yet people remain in his thrall. The Inquilab in him (name given to him at birth by his father Harivansh Rai Bachchan, but later changed to Amitabh at the behest of Sr Mr Bachchan’s poet-friend, remains undimmed searching for fulfillment as an actor.
*How would you describe your 50-year journey from the time Abbas Saheb picked a young man from Calcutta to be one of Saat Hindustani? To Sujoy Ghosh and Badla…
Another day another job then … But I have worked in the past with Sujoy, I liked the story and the director, the element of suspense and thrill in the story line got to me. Sujoy has made Kahaani and is restless, seeking perfection from his artistes, very clear in his thought process and how he wants to roll with it. He is understands the grammar of cinema intelligently.
*A fulfilling journey where you have worked with great directors and actors, would you say Hrishida and Pran are your favourites, they were both lucky for you in different ways…you made 10 films with Hrishida?
Every director, actor, writer, producer, colleague that I have worked with shall ever remain my favourites …
*Lots of top American actors pursued the method acting model as crafted by Lee Strasberg whom we then saw as Hyman Roth in Godfather 2 pitted against his pupil Al Pacino, it was riveting cinema. When you hit your strides, did you take acting classes or consciously or unconsciously imitate someone or does anyone influence your work?
No, I never took any acting lessons, nor did I consciously or unconsciously imitate someone, unless asked by my makers to do so .. and there were a few such occasions! I have no idea on the method of acting, and have never taken or hit any strides.
*Whose work do you admire in Hollywood? Christopher Plummer is ageless and seems to be getting better…ditto for Clint Eastwood more as a director though? Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, James Dean …
*One hears of Ranveer Singh living and breathing his roles these days…or getting into character, I am sure many of your roles would have required major preparation, for instance ‘Pa’ or ‘Black’, if you could explain your craft for such difficult roles?
I have no craft and no idea of what the others do in what they do so brilliantly .. I have followed as diligently as possible the written words of the writer, and the direction given to me by the directors! For ‘BLACK’, we learnt the sign language of the differently-abled! ‘Badla’ is a different genre, a thriller which for years now has hooked us, for someone of my generation, ‘Mahal’ remains embedded in memory recesses since it was a cult film from 1949 starring Ashok Kumar and Madhubala with seminal music. They have been part and parcel of Hindi cinema’s strong fabric. Obviously Alfred Hitchcock was the master of this genre. Thrillers are an integral part of the history of universal cinema. (In his formative years Mr Bachchan himself acted in two very powerful suspense thrillers — ‘Parwana and Gehri Chaal’.)
*You have always said that you have been fortunate in your acting career — me akela hi chala ja rha tha, log judte chale gaye aur karvan banta chala gaya — is that the credo that has determined your life?
I do not know the meaning of credo in my profession .. I do know that I have been fortunate …
*During a large part of your peak years, you actually had a very difficult relationship with media, including a major part when media boycotted you…and you now have a fabulous relationship with media. Explain this paradox, and did you work towards bridging the divide, what led to it in the first place?
I am certain you are more than aware that one can never be too close to the media or too far away from them! The media is the fourth estate, the conscience of the nation. I shall have the capacity, or the audacity to live with my conscience, but not that of the media’s. It would be foolish of me to think so.
*Fifty years of greasepaint and yet the fire remains undiminished. Where do you get your energy from? Or is it respect for work which defines your underlying ethic?
I am at loss as to why you or many others ask me this question?
*In the immediate years after ‘Saat Hindustani’, there were many flops but some seminal work even in a small role in Sunil Dutt’s ‘Reshma aur Shera’, memories of that experience and any other before ‘Anand’?
Just the desire to be able to get another job. Most of the times there was failure …
*Back in Sherwood, did you do any Shakespeare in school, somewhere in your baritone and acting, there is a touch of the thespian which emerges in many of your recent films, is it right to make this connection?
No, never did Shakespeare in school …
*Now that you have completed 50 years of acting, is there a memorable character beyond the ubiquitous Vijay, one that is embedded in your memory recesses and why, I have many favourites
No I have none …
*Is Hindi cinema in good hands with a New Gen of young directors and actors and middle-of-the-road cinema and actors like Ranveer Singh, Ayushmaan Khurana, Alia Bhatt, Rajkumar or even the Sher from ‘Gully Boy’ telling simple tales that resonate with people? Biopics or true life stories with a slight amount of poetic licence seem to be doing well, Akshay has perfected this art form, you too are doing ‘Jhund’ with Nagraj Manjule. Tell us if this is due to the absence of original scripts or they are the flavour of the season.
Times and circumstances change. They change for every profession too. Films are no different. The present generation is an audacious package of incredible talent! I am in immense admiration of them, and am fortunate that I get to play a small part in their company. It is an education for me. They provide a different and alternative world-view and this is educative. Never ever underestimate the credibility, dexterity, adroitness and skill of the writers and makers of today’s entertainment world. They have been the reason and cause of the flourish and proliferated blossoming in our creativity for the past 100 + years! To have a meaning and standing after 100 years is not a joke. It deserves respect and dignity. Originality is a dichotomous terminology. It needs to be used and expressed most carefully!
*Do you get irritated with the fact that now actors have to sing for their supper as in market and promote their films aggressively and devote a lot of time and energy which wasn’t the case when you were the undisputed ‘Shahenshah’. How and why have things changed in tactics?
Look around and about you, dear sir .. not just actors, but does not everyone in today’s times have to sing for their supper?
*From eight releases in a year in your time, the stars now do one movie in a year or even two years, is this a function of New Age commerce?
It is a recognition of better management, both financial and personal. The good thing is that music and melody are back in Hindi cinema, Music is enjoyed by one and all, music plucks the chords and strings of our souls.
*From the age of parallel cinema to small cinema like ‘Raazi’ and ‘Badhai Ho’ taking on pulp, how has Hindi cinema evolved? Has the palate of Hindi filmgoers changed or has the definition of pulp itself changed?
I do not know what is ‘pulp’ or ‘parallel’. Cinema is cinema — size and girth, small or big are measurement tags on apparel. The palate of every generation in every corner of the world, changes, not just for film but for every walk of life!
*Any memories of ‘Geraftar’ for that is probably the only movie where Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan and you shared screen space?
It was an honour, privilege and a most humbling experience, to be in the same film as Rajni and Kamal. (IANS)
Great historic events that have shaped the world and changed the outlines of countries are often not recorded in memory, or so we think. Wars made sure to destroy evidence and heritage, and the ones who survived told the tale of what really happened. Folklore, albeit through oral tradition kept alive many such stories, hidden in verse, limericks, and rhymes.
Ringa-ringa-roses, a common playtime rhyme among children across the world, is an example of folklore that has survived for many centuries. It tells the story of the The Great Plague of London which ravaged the city between 1665-1666.
The Plague broke out from improper disposal of garbage and poor sewage conditions. Fleas from the rats that lived in the sewers spread the disease that killed more than half of London's population. Many people fled from their homes as there was no medicine available for those who were infected.
Beak-shaped masks worn during the Great Plague of London Image source: wikimedia commons
It was around this time that masks began to be invented. The first masks were shaped like beaks, and were worn not to protect the wearer from the disease, but to the prevent them from being able to smell the decay and death around them, which they called 'miasma'. The beaks were filled with floral herbs that allowed doctors and nurses to tend to the sick without being reviled from the smell.
Children are often seen forming circles by holding hands and reciting loudly,
Pockets full of posies
We all fall down"
An illustration of the Great Plague of London, 1665 Image source: wikimedia commons
When the last line is sung, they break the circle and fall down. The roses and posies are believed to be the preferred fragrances inside the masks, and a single sneeze (a-tishoo) was enough to infect the one who was exposed to the disease. Consequently, they fell down, ill, and later died.
An alternative version of this rhyme is sung about the fall of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the aftermath of World War II. The roses and posies are interchanged with geranium and uranium, to symbolise what was used in the atomic bomb. But this version is not as famous the original.
Keywords: Rhymes, Ringa-ringa-roses, Great Plague of London, WWII, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Folklore
In modern times, many social movements aim to bring reform to the society we live in, on the basis of certain existing patterns. Patriarchy is something that many aim to cleanse our cultures of, to usher in the era of social and gender equality. Despite all these so-called movements, in southern India, certain societies that patronise matriarchy have existed since before India's independence. The Nairs and Ezhavas of Kerala, and Bunts and Billavas of Karnataka are matrilineal societies that continue to thrive in a patriarchal country.
Kerala remains separate from the rest of India in many ways. Be it literacy policy, form of government, or cultural practices, this state does not always conform to the ideal that India is known for. Even so with their social structure. Certain tribes have remained matrilineal, where the decision-making power rests with the eldest female of the family.
The Nairs and Ezhavas of Kerala, and Bunts and Billavas of Karnataka are matrilineal societies that continue to thrive in a patriarchal country. Image source: wikimedia commons
A male member, who is the close confidante of the matriarch is chosen. He plays a crucial role in representing the male members of his family, and his opinion is highly valued. He is called karavanan. The men reside in separate rooms or in separate houses, and do not interfere in the upbringing of children. Property is also passed down along the lineage of the eldest female. Among the Nairs, matriarchy is more prominently adhered to than the Ezhavas, who have some patrilocal connections.
In Karnataka, the Bunts and Billavas belong to the Tuluva ethnic group. They are also a predominantly matriarchal society, founded on the belief in a legend. Their matrilineal descent is known as Aliyasantana.
The story is told of a demon who threatened to destroy a kingdom if the king did not sacrifice his sons, but the king's sister comes forward to offer her children in sacrifice for the sake of the kingdom. The demon is touched and does not destroy the city. Since then, the kingdom, or the property is inherited through female lineage.
In Karnataka, the Bunts and Billavas belong to the Tuluva ethnic group. They are also a predominantly matriarchal society, founded on the belief in a legend. Image source: wikimedia commons
In the recent past, many of these matriarchal societies have been reduced to matrilineal societies by certain governmental laws. They fall under the patriarchal scheme of the rest of the state but have reserved the right to pass on property and heritage through the female line. In the North east of India, matriarchal dominance is far more resilient than the south.
Keywords: Bunts, Billava, Nair, Ezhava, Aliyasantana, Matrilineal, South India, Karnataka, Kerala
Apple inc. Is an American multinational tech firm specialized in consumer electronics, computer programs, and internet services founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne in 1976 to manufacture Wozniak's Apple iComputer. It is the world's top tech company in turnover (totaling $274.5 billion in 2020) and its most valuable corporation. Apple is the fourth-largest PC seller by unit sales and the fourth-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world.
Apple has revealed a slew of new products at a special launch event that has been long-awaited. On the day of the live event, Apple announced the iPad mini, Apple Watch Series 7, iPhone 13 mini, and iPhone 13, as well as the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max.
Apple has revealed a slew of new products at a special launch event that has been long-awaited. | Photo by Daniel Romero on Unsplash
In the first major product announcement during the event, Apple introduced the newest edition of the iPad and a 5G-capable iPad Mini.
iPad: The 10.2-inch iPad is equipped with a solid A13 processor that delivers 20 percent quicker performance than the preceding version. According to Apple, it is now three times faster than a Chromebook. A new 12MP ultra-wide camera with Center Stage, which utilizes machine learning to optimize the front-facing camera during FaceTime video chats, as well as more incredible accessory support, including compatibility with the first-generation Apple Pencil, are among the new features. For 64GB of storage, the iPad costs $329.
iPad Mini: In addition to reduced borders and more rounded edges, the 8.3-inch iPad mini also has improved front and back cameras. A liquid retina display, USB-C compatibility, magnetic support for the Apple Pencil, an enhanced speaker system, and new hues such as pink and purple are all features of the new Apple iPad Mini. The starting price is $499.
In the first major product announcement during the event, Apple introduced the newest edition of the iPad and a 5G-capable iPad Mini. | Photo by Leone Venter on Unsplash
The other major unveiled products include:
iPhone 13 and other variants: The iPhone 13 range is almost identical to the iPhone 12 lineup, with a 5.4-inch iPhone 13 Mini, a 6.1-inch iPhone 13, a 6.1-inch iPhone 13 Pro, and a 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max. It was also revealed that the Watch Series 7 has a smaller "S7" processor, which may allow for a bigger battery or other components to be housed in a smaller footprint. The gadgets have a revolutionary design that includes a dual-camera system, placed diagonally. Apple's iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini have longer-lasting batteries than the previous generation of devices. In addition, Apple claims that the iPhone 13 will have a battery life that is 2.5 hours longer than the iPhone 12, and the iPhone 13 mini will have a battery life that is 1.5 hours longer. A more energy-efficient display, an upgraded 5G chip, and functionality called "Cinematic Mode," similar to the famous Portrait mode function but is only available for movies, are among the other enhancements. The A15 Bionic chip present in the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini is also used in the 6.1-inch iPhone 13 Pro and 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max, also 6.1-inch devices. However, it also has a five-core CPU, which promises graphics that are 50% quicker than previous models. Other notable features of the Pro devices include a brilliant Super Retna XDR display with a higher refresh rate and long-lasting battery life. Now, for the price, it will start at $699 for the iPhone 13 mini with 128 GB of storage, $799 for the iPhone 13 with 128 GB of storage, and the Pro and Pro Max have starting prices of $999 $1,099, respectively.
Apple Watch Series 7: The new Apple Watch Series 7, which is smaller and has a larger screen than its previous model, was introduced by Apple on Wednesday. There is a 20% increase in screen size over Series 6 on the new watch. A complete keyboard that you can touch or slide to write out text messages can show 50% more text. It starts at $399.
Keywords: Apple, iPad, iPad Mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone Mini, Apple event 2021