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Reel life Krishna stays spiritual but promises to stay away from politics

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Chakravyuh5

By Nishtha

Nitish Bharadwaj, who played the role of Krishna in the popular television series, ‘Mahabharata’ is back in action. After dabbling in film direction, he is reprising the same character which made him a household name more than two decades ago. Bharadwaj is essaying the role of Krishna in Atul Satya Koushik’s  play Chakravyuh, based on the story of Arjun’s son, Abhimanyu. The play was recently staged at Kamani auditorium in New Delhi.

In a conversation with NewsGram, Nitish Bharadwaj talks about his career, Mahabharata, spirituality, his tenure as a Member of Parliament and why he will never go back to electoral politics. Excerpts from the interview.

Nishtha: You were working as an assistant veterinarian in Mumbai before you joined the film industry. As professions, being a vet and films are poles apart. Why did you decide to pursue acting?

Nitish Bharadwaj: I am trained in the Marathi theatre as an actor and director but I never knew I would take it up as a profession. In 1985, I felt stagnant in the field of veterinary medicine so I decided to pursue my hobby and make it my career. Then I started doing theatre professionally and also performed at Prithvi theatre. I did a couple of films in Hindi and Marathi, then came Mahabharata and everything changed. I was performing a play at Prithvi theatre called ‘Gul-e-Gulzar’, which was an adaptation of ‘Importance of Being Earnest’ by Oscar Wilde. From Prithvi theatre’s office my name was recommended to BR Chopra. They called me for a screen test which I was not keen on. I felt I was young and less experienced to play Krishna. In spite of saying no, the role kept coming back to me. My mother encouraged me to take up this role saying that this one of the best roles and since I have read about it through literature, I shouldn’t be worried. So, I took a plunge.

N: Playing Krishna in Mahabharata, a show which was immensely popular in the country, did you experience any instances where people touched your feet or addressed you as ‘Krishna’? Does it continue even now?

NB: It happened even then, it happens even now. People have the memory of Krishna’s portrayal done by me engraved in their minds and they have accepted it. ‘Aastha’ (devotion) of this country is unmatchable with anywhere in the world. It goes to the extent of blind belief. It is up to the individual to maintain that people’s ‘aastha’ or break it by commercializing it. I have maintained that respect for the people and my fans.

N: You have been touring for the play ‘Chakravyuh’ for a few months now and also reprising the role of ‘Krishna’ nearly after 25 years. So how has been your experience? Is it nostalgic to play the same character that made you a household name?

NB: It is nostalgic because after Mahabharata for BR films, I did Vishnupuran and Ramayana with Smiriti Irani but I always refrained from repeating my performance of Krishna. There was one opportunity where a channel had told Ravi Chopra to create Mahabharata where I would play Krishna again. But I said I do not want to compete with my same performance. But after two decades when Chakravyuh was brought to me, this was a new format of theatre. It is very poetic. It has extensive use of poetry which I had never done before in Marathi or Hindi theatre. I can remember prose and dialogues but had a difficult time in remembering poetry so I took this up as a challenge.

N: Playing a powerful and intense character like ‘Krishna’, did it change your belief systems personally? Were you drawn towards spirituality?

NB: The character impacted me tremendously. I was a very religious man before, now I am a spiritual man. I practice the philosophy of Bhagwad Gita. Many people say that it is a Hindu book but I disagree, it is a book of spirituality. It is a book about art of living. It is a book of managing your life and your afterlife. I believe that by doing right things in this birth, my next birth is going to be easier.

N: You were also a Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) Member of Parliament from Jamshedpur. How was your experience being  a representative of the people?

NB: In my tenure, I had to fight with wrong beliefs and wrong traditional values within the society. For example, I don’t believe in caste system whereas in Jamshedpur I encountered so many people who strongly believed in it. But it was a satisfying experience doing good things for people. I delivered speeches in the Parliament whether it was on civil aviation, atrocities against women and children, uniform civil code among others. It was a good platform but I was a little disheartened because I would prepare for Bills and debates but then something  used to happen and the Parliament used to adjourned. Then those Bills never came up for debate again. The job of the MPs and MLAs is to talk, debate and legislate policies. The entire preparation would go down the drain, so I used to be a bit disheartened. But overall, I had a satisfying tenure as an MP.

N: You ended your association with the BJP in 2007, what was the reason behind quitting politics?

NB: After my tenure as an MP, I was in Madhya Pradesh looking after the organizational part of BJP. I was also the party spokesperson. I felt that the party had not used me to a level of my full potential. The educational background, the kind of exposure I have had in my life, the hard work and sincerity I had put  in my job, it was not reciprocated by the party. I had given about 13 years to the party and thought that I was wasting my time. So, I quit electoral politics in 2007. But, I am a loyalist by character and I still have a strong belief in the political ideology and philosophy of the BJP.

N: Any word of advice for the struggling actors out there who are still looking for their big break?

NB: Struggle is inevitable for everybody in every field. Eventually, your talent will sail you through. My advice would be to hold on to your art and polish your art before you come to film industry. Because once you enter in the cinema world, the craft is so demanding that if you want to survive you have to be the best. If you don’t deliver you won’t be given another chance. So make your foundation strong.

N: There have been several attempts to remake Mahabharata on television but it failed miserably. What do you think went wrong?

NB: The first reason is the changed scenario of Television, In our time Doordarshan was the only channel for the entire country, so it was a forced viewing. There was a certain amount of newness and freshness to the medium. People from the film industry with high achievements were doing TV so the production value was great. Also, since no special effects were available, the focus was on writing and the content. Now, the content seems to be diluted or compromised with more emphasis on special effects.

The failure is not because of the writers but due to commercialisation. At our time, writers had to create content for a one hour programme every week. Now they have to churn out a 30 minute long programme daily. Creativity is not a factory line product and you can’t expect writers to write fast and give you quality content. In creative arts, quantity and quality do not go hand in hand.  Even for the actors today, television has become a medium for making money, barring a few. For us, there was hardly any money but we were passionate about what we were doing.

N: So what is next for you? Will the audience see you in a commercial Hindi film or would will explore your talent on the stage and behind the camera?

NB: I am shooting for a big budget Hindi movie now but can’t divulge into details. I have already completed another feature film called Yaksh where I am playing the titular character. It is physiological thriller and will be released soon. I have also finished the screenplay for my next film, which hopefully will be in Hindi. I will be also doing more shows of ‘Chakravyuh’.

N: In the future, any chance you would consider going back to politics and contesting elections?

NB: No, that is done. On one hand, I have an opportunity to showcase my art and talent to the people and get their direct responses. On the other hand, in politics, even if I display my talent, there are so-called middlemen who decide my future. I have taken that right from them. They will not decide my political future. When I showcase my art, if I can act well they accept me or else they reject me. It is a direct conversation between the masses and myself, which I prefer.

 

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Films Reflecting Fashion Trends

Now, there are no barriers between film fashion and real-life dressing. In fact, films reflect real-life fashion as that is more identifiable to the movie buffs. It is mostly about denims, jeans, hot pants and what have you. But, to break the monotony and provide some comic relief, we have Ranveer Singh and his outrageous dresses

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films, cinema
The importance of short films in India rises up. Pixabay

BY VINOD MIRANI 

There always used to be a debate till not long ago whether films and filmstars inspired fashion in society or do they merely reflect fashion and trends in general.

Come to think of it, there has been no noticeable influence of films and filmstars on creating trends that the people followed except in certain phases. Initially in films, the men mostly followed western trends. Usually, they were dressed smartly in suits when it came to urban stories. Otherwise, Dhoti was the norm. And, the majority of the male urban population, by then, had adapted western garbs while the women still stuck to sari. Even the traditional Punjabi garb of women – the Shalwar Kameez – was still a long way away. Later, it came to be known as dress! If a woman was not wearing a sari, she was wearing a dress.

As for women, it was limited to a Sari whether she was romancing or playing a housewife. Tradition ruled. If there was an influence of Hollywood films, it was limited to male stars. All sorts of films were being made and a hero even donned a hat, which was not Indian. As it were, few followed filmstars when it came to trends in fashion. Society was too traditionally ingrained in customs.

So far, there was no debate on the people following fashion trends from films.
There was a single trend that was common to filmstars as well as youth of the 1950s and ‘60s.

I cannot say for sure who picked it from who. There was this hairstyle that actors like Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar sported, as did the men in the real life. This fashion must have been timebound since both the actors, Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand, changed eventually.

As far as I can recall, Dev Anand changed it midway through the filming of his movie, “Guide”, and went on to retain the new hairdo for the rest of his life.

One would reckon that the debate over films followed life trends or whether the public followed films started roughly around the 1970s. In most cases, these were not followed as fashion. Rather, picking up an odd something that a hero did in a particular film.

South, Actors, Regional
The Indian film industry may be the biggest in the world and the South film industry, combined in itself, outnumbers the Hindi films produced. Pixabay

The best example here was the checked – rather, designer – hat that Dev Anand sported in his musical hit, “Jewel Thief”. Actually, female stars inspired more fans to follow their hairstyles. The one that became a craze was filmstar Sadhna’s Chinese Cut with the patch of hair falling on her forehead. It came to be known as Sadhna Cut.

The other female hairstyle was called bouffant, a fluffy hairstyle, which was dubbed Chidiya Ka Ghosla (bird’s nest) in Hindi. Most heroines used it and so did women in real life, especially on special occasions.

The hat from “Jewel Thief” became such a rage that every next young lad was seen wearing it. After all, despite his seniority, Dev Anand had always been a youth icon. In fact, in Mumbai, he was known as the Matinee Idol. In those days, cinema halls ran four shows a day between 12 noon and 9 pm for new films. But, they screened old Hindi films in, what was called the matinee show, which started at around 10 am. These old films were screened at half the admission rates and were popular with collegians. Dev Anand, films were the most sought after. (In North, matinee shows meant 3 pm shows.)

India did not have the system of franchise when it came to film fashion or memorabilia as it happens in the West. Hence, the “Jewel Thief” hat, which would have sold in lakhs, brought no profits to the production house.

Another product that drew attention was the Rajdoot mini motorbike used in the film “Bobby”. The bike was a hit as was the film. However, the craze for the bike did not last long due to technical reasons, which only bike riders could define. Having experienced a ride many times, I tend to agree.

The thing about bikes was that, they were popular with the collegegoing youth but, their decision to ride a bike and the buying power rested with parents. Another product that took off after “Bobby” was the Bobby hairpin for girls. Sold in millions, it ensured no gain for the filmmaker.

Imitating star fashion was back with superstar Rajesh Khanna. The actor established himself as such a legend as an icon of romance, that just about everything about him was an inspiration for his fans. Rajesh Khanna’s costume designer devised a special kind of kurta for him because tucked-in shirts did not look good on him since he had big backside! The kurta he wore came to be known as the Guru kurta and became a rage. This was one fad that lasted for a long time.

movies
Of late, even the films that are being made and are working at the box office are those promoting social issues and nationalism. Pixabay

Khanna fans also tried to imitate his hairstyle. So much so that even actor Dharmendra decided to appoint Khanna’s hairstylist for himself.

While costumes and hairstyles did not always create trends, the stars’ costume designers (as their tailors were known), as well as barbers (known as hair stylists) benefitted the most. Stylo, Kachins, Lifestyles, Bada Saab were the prominent costume designers.

Kachin’s was the designer for Amitabh Bachchan. Usually, they preferred open collar shirt with a jacket for the hero. Costume designers were good at camouflaging the shortcomings of their stars. Bachchan, it was said (and seen), had a hugely drooping left shoulder. Kachins did well to pad it up. However, open collar was not made for frail Indian male physic and never caught up.

The sari was replaced with shalwar kameez for female stars. Yet, it did not get through to the women of the world. Finally, it did, with the era of tight churidar and tastefully designed kurtas which helped accentuate a heroine’s body. The mandatory chunni was done away with.

The best ambassador to carry these churidar kurtas in those days was Mumtaz, a huge star in her own right. The change to sari was made with a sexier way of wrapping it just above hips thereby making the woman’s hips more prominent. That has stayed.

Besides Mumtaz, Zeenat Aman and Parveen Babi were considered the most fashionable who could both carry any kind of dress. Also, influenced by Muslim social films, gharara and sharara became popular for a while but these were not day-to-day fashion and remained limited to special occasions like weddings.

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Can’t say if it is because of films or tradition, but the Punjabi Dress, as shalwar kameez are known, has been accepted as the all-India alternative to sari. That is, even most of the schools from the North to deep South, have accepted the dress as the school uniform for it covers the whole body even better than the sari does.

In between, there were other flashes of fashion that were much discussed in the media as well as public. One of them was Sharmila Tagore sporting a bikini in the film “An Evening In Paris” (1967). The other was Shashi Kapoor wearing bell bottom trousers in “Suhana Safar” (1970). Both created a debate. The thing with Bikini was that it did not have much use to Indian women while, when it came to bell bottoms, they were already in with the college lads; Shashi Kapoor may just have given them further boost.

Now, there are no barriers between film fashion and real-life dressing. In fact, films reflect real-life fashion as that is more identifiable to the movie buffs. It is mostly about denims, jeans, hot pants and what have you. But, to break the monotony and provide some comic relief, we have Ranveer Singh and his outrageous dresses. (IANS)