I Am A Remote Addict: Amitabh Bachchan #Bollywood #Throwback

Towards the end of the 1990s, Amitabh Bachchan’s fortunes were at its lowest ebb. His venture, Amitabh Bachchan Corp Ltd, stared bankruptcy in the face. Worse, his films were flopping. India’s greatest superstar’s days appeared numbered. The public, who had worshipped him for over a quarter century, seemed to be tiring of him. And then Kaun Banega Crorepati happened. Both television and Amitabh’s fortunes changed irrevocably with the quiz show. A decade later now, he returns to the living room of India as the host of the reality show Bigg Boss. His pay cheque for the laity series is rumoured to be Rs 1.5 crore per episode. Aside from being on the tube on a daily basis, by way of peddling designer threads to cars to hair oils, to the infinite reruns of his 70s smash hits to the controversies that make him national news today, Bachchan actually likes watching television. Back in Mumbai after spending time in Singapore with friend Amar Singh who was recuperating from a kidney ailment, Bachchan talked to Rubina A Khan about the small screen, friendships, relationships and his blog which terrifies journalists.

KBC changed TV dynamics forever. You are now back as pop philosopher on Bigg Boss. What do you expect from the show? 
I expect nothing more than being able to do the job assigned to me in as efficient a manner as possible. ‘Changing dynamics’ are for the producers of the show to assess. I am not aware what they mean. It will make me happy if the show does well. When the fruits of your labour taste good, it is a fulfilling experience. 

If you had a choice, whom would you put inside the house from the film industry? 
No one!

KBC prompted many film stars to follow suit. There was Govinda, Shah Rukh Khan and now, Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar. Whose hosting style do you like the most? 
Stars from film hosting shows on the small screen gave the viewing audience an opportunity to see and hear their favourites as they were in real life. They were not playing an assigned role written for them by someone else. People liked what they saw and applauded them. So for the viewing audience, each host was appealing, because they were able to see a facet of the actor hitherto unknown. Govinda, Shah Rukh, Salman, Akshay are known to me. I know what they are in real life away from the sets and camera, and they are all very appealing to me. Asking whose style of conducting a show I like, would be asking me to categorise their appeal to me. That would be wrong and unfair. They have all worked with me and have always shown me immense respect. Tell me, how does one give marks to respect?

You are an ardent follower of the international series, The West Wing. What do you like about it? Which character would you have liked to play in the show, if you were asked? 
I have liked the very concept of the format. Who would have imagined that the office of the President of the United States of America would be material for a TV serial! The whole excitement of being able to position yourself inside those hallowed portals is enough to keep one glued to the proceedings. Then as the events unfold, the speed with which incidents occur and are addressed, is an education in screenplay writing and performance acumen. Each situation, each performer is so perfectly crafted that it is impossible to find even a minuscule flaw. It’s absolutely brilliant! Just observe the camera movements on shots. It is incredible how they have operated them with such finesse and élan. The timings of the artists, the entries and exits, the lighting and the steady cam movements are done to perfection… And what of the artists! They are all simply brilliant. Each chosen and performing to such perfection that it is ompossible to imagine any other in their place. I would have been happy to play an ‘extra’, or ‘junior artist’ as we address them respectfully here in India, in the background, making my ‘passing shot’ on the odd cue, just so I would get an opportunity to watch and observe how magnificently each episode was recorded.

How many hours of television do you watch in a day? 
Depends what kind of show I am watching. A sporting event would occupy me for the entire duration of the game, a serial perhaps for the duration of the episode or not even, news and debates till the topic is over and horror shows not even a few seconds!

Which Indian show is your favourite? 
I like the debates and panel discussions and sports activities. On occasion, the History Channel and National Geographic are of great interest to me.

Do you stick out a whole show or are you a channel surfer and a remote addict?  
I am a remote addict. Though if you were to disturb a sporting event that I was watching, you’d be in serious trouble.

What’s your favorite TV dinner / snack? 
Popcorn, wafers, chura, chikki, cranberry juice, khakra..

The media dreads your blog in case they are next on your flog list. What do you make of that? 
 This is a most exaggerated assumption. The media dreads no one, and most certainly not someone of my insignificance. The media is the conscience of the nation. It would be a sad day for any nation if their conscience lived in fear. My blog is not a flog destination. It is a medium that allows me to talk to myself, with a few listening on. If I have found inaccuracy in the reported media, I correct it. If I have found merit in their writing, I have applauded it. The media has always been the one that asks the questions, and in doing so has the ability to put the one that gives the answers on the defensive. Observe Prabhu Chawla, Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai, Prannoy Roy, Arnab Goswami, Deepak Chaurasia and a host of other most efficient interviewers on television. Their entire body language and demeanour is one of great authoritative superiority. Pan the camera now at their ‘meal for the day’ sitting opposite, and you shall find all of us quivering there like rats soaked in water, ready to be devoured. My blog gives me an opportunity to ask the questions and for the media to answer them. This is a reversal they have not faced and are therefore wary of it. But why should they? In a free and liberal society, I have equal right to question. And I now have a medium where I can be heard without the intrusion or the tacit permission of the Fourth Estate. If you are not afraid to question, be not afraid to answer too. For far too long, the celebrity on interview has almost pleaded with the interviewer ‘I hope you are going to write something good about me’. I will not hesitate to admit that there is a sense of poetic justice now, when I hear from some rather prominent journalists who come to interview when they say, ‘I hope you are not going to write about us in your blog, we’re very scared of what you will say!’ Let the media be the watchdog of society. We must welcome that. But who’s watching the dog? Or does the watchdog not deserve to be watched?

Bollywood’s a place of fickle friendships and pseudo relationships. But you have been with your friend Amar Singh for months while he was being treated in Singapore. For an extremely busy person, how do you juggle it all so well and make it seem so effortless? 
I do not know the meaning of ‘fickle friendships’ nor do I have any knowledge of what ‘pseudo relationships’ mean. Someone is either a friend or not a friend. What are fickle and pseudo doing there? There is no room for them. I also do not like the word ‘juggle’ that you have used. It conveys a manual physical act, deployed to manoeuvre a condition, which in my reckoning requires nothing more than heart. I do not see any reason for me to justify my desire to be with Amar Singhji. To me, he is not a friend, he is a member of my family. I was aware of his medical condition and was aware of the amount of time it would require for him to heal. I therefore finished all my work by end June and came to Singapore to be with him for as long it would take for him to get back. I have not taken on any work and I have no films on hand. Only recently, on seeing his progress and his possible discharge, have I taken on a TV programme that requires my involvement from October. I have been by his side for almost three months now and not moved out for a single day. You say I have made it ‘seem so effortless’. Dear lady, the day I shall have to make an effort in friendship, it will be the end of the relationship!

Abhishek and Aishwarya shot for the Oprah Winfrey show recently. Will we see you and Jaya on her show sometime soon? 
How’d I know? Ask Oprah!

This feature first appeared in OPEN on September 26, 2009 and is a part of my #Bollywood #Throwback series 

©Rubina A Khan 2018

Dilip De’s Smartphone School Of Art Exhibit, Celebration Of The Unexpected, In Mumbai

Dilip De is an adventitious artist, but with no less an ardour and depth in his paintings than any creative being in the world, with his Picasso-esque digital imagery on smartphones revolutionising the art world globally. Transcending his love for art from collecting art to creating art today has been the most serendipitous turn De’s life could have taken. And all it took was an innate desire to paint an orchid on his smartphone for the love of his wife, author and columnist extraordinaire, Shobhaa De. His first solo show as a digital artist, Celebration Of Love, was held at the Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai in 2016 and his second show, Celebration Of The Unexpected, opens on January 26, 2018 at the same gallery.

Rubina A Khan in conversation with Indian shipping magnate and digital art trailblazer, Dilip De:

How did you chance upon an alternative creative stream of a smartphone artist, not to mention being recognised as the first person in the world to ever do so?
It is indeed wonderful to be accorded the honour of being the first smartphone artist in the world. In 2015, as I was standing in my orchid gardens in Alibag, I felt the urge to draw the beautiful flowers on my smartphone for my wife, Shobhaa. It took me a while to learn how to use a phone stylus as a ‘brush’ and ‘dip’ it in the colour box, my purported palette, which is an integral part of the smartphone. Soon, much to my delight, I started drawing the outlines of an orchid flower on the tiny screen – 5.2 x 4 inches which came to be my ‘canvas’! Regrettably, in my initial enthusiasm, a few of my paintings disappeared from the screen forever as I had unknowingly put extra pressure on the screen whilst drawing on it. Gradually, I mastered the required skill and surprised Shobhaa with a painting of a Japanese sakura! I discovered, through my accidental foray into digital artistry, that art is omnipresent; an artistic expression can be realised at any place and at any time. Art is no longer just confined to a studio, but is truly the product of spontaneity and creativity achieved at one’s leisure.

What kind of smartphone did you use for your first art creation and what do you use today?
My initiation into digital art was with a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and then I graduated to the Note 5 and I am using the Samsung Note 8 nowadays.

What do you enjoy most about this medium?
I have been an art connoisseur and collector for a while but I was humbled when I realised I’d inadvertently pioneered a new school of art, aptly called the Smartphone School Of Painting, with the orchid flower painting I’d created on my smartphone for Shobhaa. This is a painstaking process and requires extreme concentration and control over the stylus, which I seem to have mastered and enjoy tremendously. The largest global platform launched by Intel and VICE Media, www.creatorsproject.com to celebrate creativity featured my paintings. I have secured Copyright registrations of my paintings in this “new school of art” from the Union Commerce and Industry Ministry of India. My point was, and remains simple today – an artist cannot produce art on an empty stomach. My new dream is to make every budding artist in our country realize how easy it can be to follow a dream and turn a hobby into a joyous reality. Smartphone art is yet another frontier in technology that has made things more accessible and affordable to those who love art. I want my fellow Indians to start loving and collecting artworks easily in their lives. This will also teach them to respect and cherish beauty.

What do you do with the money generated from this “new job” of yours as a smartphone artist?
As you know, I gave away the proceeds from my first exhibition, Celebration Of Love, which was held in Mumbai on August 16, 2016 to the Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA). I respect the devotion of YK and Rekha Sapru and their dedicated CPAA team. My wife Shobhaa is also associated with them. This time around, I have decided to contribute the proceeds to the Jehangir Art Gallery – the iconic art establishment in Mumbai – for the promotion of art and the modernisation of their galleries.

Your second exhibit, Celebration Of The Unexpected, alongwith a charity auction of your work, opens on 26th January 2018, at Jehangir Art Gallery, with Amitabh Bachchan as your chief guest in attendance again. Why him?
Amitabh and I met in the 60s in Kolkata as young mercantile executives engaged in the business of international shipping. I suppose we have an old “Calcutta” connection and bond that formed many years ago. At that time, I found him to be an immensely gifted stage actor who went on to scale dizzying heights in his career, and continues to create new frontiers in his field. We also share a warm Bong vibe as his wife, Jaya, is a Bengali. I’ve known him for 51 years now. For me, and the multitude of his fans across the world, Amitabh is undoubtedly the ‘Ultimate Superstar of Bollywood’! His achievements make me proud. There’s a surprise pertaining to Amitabh in this exhibit of mine which he has, in his own words, described as “outstanding”.

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Amitabh Bachchan

Your wife is of the written word and you seem to be visually inclined…
Shobhaa creates and tells stories through the magic of her words and I express my emotions and inspirations through my images. We express ourselves in different disciplines, but we are both storytellers nevertheless. One day, I must attempt to reproduce the essence of one of her stories in the form of images. That’s a colossal ambition, but I will definitely give it a try.

Celebration Of The Unexpected is on view from January 27 to February 3, 2018 at
Jehangir Art Gallery, 161 Kala Ghoda, Mumbai 400001 from 11AM to 7PM.

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2018

 

I Get This Amazing Positive Energy From Salman Khan And I’m Very Inspired By Him, Says Indian Fashion Designer Vikram Phadnis

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Salman Khan

Indian designer Vikram Phadnis has held fashionable ground, and successfully at that, in the Indian fashion industry’s fiercely competitive and evolving landscape, for the last 25 years.

It is a prodigious victory, transitioning from a film choreographer to fashion designer, that called for a celebratory commemoration of the same with a special runway show held in January in Mumbai. None other than Bollywood legend, Amitabh Bachchan, walked as the designer’s showstopper, amidst enchanting and glamourous attendees.

Phadnis’ impervious and composed countenance and his single-minded focus on actualizing his dreams of dressing up the world in his designs, contributed largely to this accomplishment, but not without a few steadfast friends, Bollywood superstar Salman Khan being the most formidable influence in his life. In Dubai for the Aaraish show, the designer spoke exclusively to Rubina A KhanGulf News tabloid!

What is your biggest strength, surviving and thriving for 25 years in a ferociously competitive and predominantly Bollywood driven fashion business in India?
I don’t think I can call it my strength as such, but I am a very driven and ambitious person inherently, and I think inadvertently, that has become my strength over the years. Whatever I have achieved in my life as a choreographer in the entertainment business and the last 25 years as a fashion designer, is due to my ambitious drive and that I am almost never satisfied or content with my work. If you are not driven or focused and are not willing and able to deliver every single time, and slip up, there are a dime a dozen people ready and waiting to take your place. You have to keep at it constantly, be consistent and innovative and strive for new goals and benchmarks with each collection or outfit. Like in a Bollywood actor’s life, Friday is the most important day at the box office for every film of his to determine his value and worth, for a designer, it is every single time he makes an ensemble or puts a collection together for a showing. It is a constant endeavor every day.

Did you feel taller than Amitabh Bachchan, who was your showstopper, on your very well-attended commemorative show, Adhvan, in January?
I just felt completely humbled and I felt so blessed walking down the runway with him. I have worked with him on films like Waqt, Hum Kisi Ke Kum Nahin and Bade Miyan Chhote Miya and I can just say that there are no more men like him anymore. He is truly exceptional. He’s the only man I call Sir in the world.

Would you consider yourself among India’s top three talents in fashion?
I don’t know. There are far more commercially viable and well-known names in India’s flourishing fashion business than me and I have never measured my success with the strength of others’ success. There’s always someone ahead of you and there’s always someone behind you in the business. It depends on the perspective you see it from really.

Who, according to you, are the top designers of India?
Tarun Tahiliani, Sabyasachi, Anamika Khanna and Monisha Jaising.

Who were, and still are, your biggest supporters in your career path?
People like Hemant Trivedi, Mehr Jesia-Rampal, Priyanka Chopra, Malaika Arora-Khan, Kareena Kapoor-Khan in a big way, have supported me enormously, and still do, and are a very important part of my successful journey as a fashion designer and undoubtedly Salman Khan, without whom I don’t think I would be who I am today.

How has Salman Khan impacted your career?
Whatever I am today is really because of Salman. He showed me a whole new world, when no one understood me. I worked with him for 13 years as a designer, and he gave me so much without expecting anything back. He gave me a standing in the entertainment business, his professional support and backing, and personal strength. When I wanted to quit choreography and go and study at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, USA, he convinced me to stay back in India and helped me find a footing as a designer. He took me in all his film projects, and opened my first store in Mumbai. He was never selfish about anything, allowing me to work with other actors alongside working with him, not restraining my creative freedom, and gave me more than even I could imagine. Till today, there’s a picture of Salman that hangs in my cabin in my office. I am inspired by Salman and get this amazing positive energy from him, always. Salman is the older brother I never had. He made me travel worldwide with him and introduced me to people everywhere. In fact, the first time I traveled abroad was to Dubai with Salman! I had never sat in an aircraft before or had any idea of what a plane even looked like from the inside, and I had obviously never been outside India either. This is 30 years ago! It was a stage show Salman was doing back then that he had taken me for. Dubai was not even remotely like what it is today. It was on the verge of the modern and magical explosion that Dubai is today. Dubai feels like home to me and every time I travel to Dubai, it has a newer dimension to it.

What, or who, has been a constant muse for your designs?
I don’t create clothes with one particular muse in mind. I make the garment according to the person I am working for, or the collection that I am putting together. I don’t think a single inspiration or muse can transpire into an entire collection or a garment for different kinds of people.

Which is your favourite, and most memorable contribution, as a designer to the fashion world?
I think everything that I have designed and created for Salman Khan – be it the dhotis, hot shorts, sarongs… made an impact on Indian fashion, because prior to him wearing them, no one was wearing these garments on screen, and the fact that he carried them off so well made them extremely popular and on trend all of a sudden. Also, getting the opportunity to dress up international model Naomi Campbell, the South African President Jacob Zuma and cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar in my clothes have also been memorable moments for me as a designer.

Is there anybody rich and famous in India who does not wear you?
There are so many people who have not worn my clothes! And I do not run after the rich to wear my designs or even think like that. You never know who your ultimate buyer is when you’re creating a garment anyway. I like to make wearable and affordable clothing that is essentially commercially viable. I do not make impractical clothes for the runway that a person can’t wear off it. I like to see people, all kinds of people, wearing my clothes in the world, and not see them hanging on the walls of my studio.

What is it about Dubai fashion that intrigues you?
Fashion is more forward in Dubai than in most other countries. Like I said earlier, Dubai is the first international place I set foot in and it is home to me and I feel I understand the fashion landscape here quite well. When it comes to fashion, the people in Dubai know it all and more! And the best part of Dubai is dressing up its women! They are just so fashion forward and clued in, that it keeps me on the edge constantly and drives me to give them my best. And it also helps that I have a great fashion network and database in Dubai.

Are designs in Dubai driven largely by what Bollywood is wearing, or your designs and craftsmanship?
No, I don’t think the fashion in Dubai is necessarily driven by Bollywood trends. The taste here is very diverse – some like their fashion ethnic, some prefer fusion, some go for the quintessentially traditional designs and some stick to haute couture. There is not one set pattern that the fashion here adheres to and that is what keeps it, and makes it, so fashionably exciting. It’s like a year-round fashion runway, from prat to haute couture, celebrating fashion globally.

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on 13 February, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016

An Evening Of Pandeymonium With Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar And Piyush Pandey!

Amitabh Bachchan launched Pandeymonium, a book  written by India’s most lauded, awarded and loved advertising creative, Piyush Pandey, on 14th October, 2015 in Mumbai amidst a large gathering of the city’s intelligentsia.

Amitabh Bachchan / Getty Images

Amitabh Bachchan

The conversations between Amitabh and Piyush about the world of advertising and how they worked together for eight long years on a campaign to make India Polio free or how they did their respective mothers’ shraadh in Sidhpur (the only place in India where one can do so) in Gujarat whilst filming the Gujarat Tourism campaign or how Piyush had to make Power Point presentations (his first and last!) for Amitabh for the Cadbury campaign or how Amitabh has stopped disclosing things to his wife Jaya as it is never good enough for her, made for an engaging and amusing insight into their world.

Sachin Tendulkar / Getty Images

Piyush Pandey, Amitabh Bachchan and Sachin Tendulkar

Sachin Tendulkar spoke about his experiences, working with Piyush as a 16-year-old boy who knew nothing about advertising or looking good, only cricket, in a vein most humorous. A delightful evening indeed, spent amidst the greatest Indian luminaries from the world of film, cricket and advertising.

Sachin Tendulkar / Getty Images

Sachin and Anjali Tendulkar with Piyush Pandey

All images are subject to copyright and can be purchased on Getty Images

©Rubina A Khan 2015