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

RUBINA’S RADAR | DESI GIRL PRIYANKA CHOPRA’S OFFICIAL NEW CHOKRA IS PARDESI BOY NICK JONAS

RUBINA’S RADAR

There’s been a lot of hip-holding of Priyanka Chopra’s pageant-winning waist by American musician Nick Jonas in New York, Mumbai, Brazil, Singapore and London that made for super photographs splashed across tabloids in recent months. Chopra was, after all, the Jealous singer’s and erstwhile Disney actor’s new love – he being the guy who’d dated Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, Kate Hudson, maybe even the stunning Kendall Jenner and former Miss Universe Olivia Culpo before her. Chopra had only been dating the Dallas-born Nicholas Jerry Jonas for a haute second, and then, bam! An engagement!

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Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas | Photo: Instagram

She played desi girl to the hilt with her pardesi boy Jonas flying down to Mumbai with his parents, Denise and Paul Kevin Jonas Sr for the roka ceremony. The pre-wedding ceremony held at her Juhu home was all about honouring Indian family traditions and culture and loving an American guy, amidst family and friends. More family, less friends. It was attended by the 55th richest person in the Forbes World Billionaire list 2018, Mukesh Ambani, and his wife Nita and daughter Isha and Bollywood’s almost number one actor, Alia Bhatt among others. Bollywood’s presence of popular faces was minimal here. Even Karan Johar who is literally everywhere, was on foreign shores and couldn’t strike a pose and pout for the assembled photographers on the Juhu street, but his congratulatory bouquet of flowers did make it to the photo grids. Same difference. The claims that Chopra and Jonas wanted to keep it private and low-key don’t quite match up with the calculated release of information and photographs by the machinery. A supposedly quiet visit to an orphanage, St. Catherine’s in Mumbai the morning after the ceremony not only had pictures circulating, but videos of the same posted by Jonas himself. Millennial super girl Kylie Jenner fell in love with Travis Scott, made baby Stormi and racked up billions during her pregnancy more discreetly than the engaged adults here. And closer home, Salman Khan is being human sans any visual mementos of his philanthropy.

Chopra has a definitive style when it comes to her fashion stakes, aided by Hollywood stylist Cristina Ehrlich and of late, Mimi Cuttrell, the 25-year-old primary stylist to Palestinian-Dutch-American model Gigi Hadid. Interestingly, there was no fashion to talk about really at the ceremony or the subsequent party by Chopra, but the loved-up photographs of the newly-engaged couple made for the ultimate fashion statement here, with diamonds of course.

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Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas | Photo: Instagram

To go from being in love with an Indian man on the right side of 50 to a JoBro of 25 was a bit sudden, if anything. As far as her love life went, there was no talk of it in the West prior to her Jonas coupling, although Mumbai knew very well of a love affair, albeit unofficially, that was storming inside of her, never mind where she lived or where she worked – Bollywood or Hollywood. But she’s now spoken for and all that Bollywood tumult seems behind her today. And as their initials NP go, there seems to be no problem or objection to this coupling, aside from some favourable and unfavourable comparisons to her last unofficial superstar boyfriend.

Chopra conquered Bollywood armed with her Miss World crown and winning smile only to power through Hollywood headlining a television series, Quantico, and now, with this East-West coupling, she seems like she’s going to be settling down happily ever after in Grammywood. She wants it all – crowns, endorsements, films, television, music, love, marriage – and is sure getting it all too. The newly-engaged couple are looking to wed on Jonas’ 26th birthday on September 16 after he popped the question on her 36th birthday on July 18 in London. There’s no word on the city, country or venue of their wedding yet and what place on Earth they will call home either.

The future Mr and Mrs Jonas are sure to make great music together, and make even better pictures in the times to come. The very fact that she’s an accomplished singer herself having cut a few tracks of her own, to fall for a musician, comes as no surprise really. And, he’s handsome and clearly smitten by her charms. I’m sure Chopra will not just be content cheering on her fiancé from vantage points at his live shows and performances but will be making some real music with him soon. I can’t wait to hear the single or album they’ll cut. And better still, a duet for a Bollywood film too.

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

RUBINA’S RADAR | THE FIRST WEEK OF 2018

RUBINA’S RADAR 

2017 ended with a thunderous affirmation of Salman “Tiger” Khan being more than just alive with ₹300 crore and counting at the box office with Tiger Zinda Hai. 2018 opened with a worldwide reverberation of Oprah Winfrey’s acceptance speech, in Atelier Versace in Time’s Up black at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards in Los Angeles. Add a celebrated Sri Lankan/Japanese masterchef to that and the first week of 2018’s been all about film, fashion, food and fiercely female.

Sri Lankan chef, Dharshan Munidasa of the famed Ministry Of Crab in Colombo, Sri Lanka, is finally bringing his restaurant to Mumbai in May 2018. Munidasa, of both Sri Lankan and Japanese descent, owns Ministry Of Crab, one of the World’s Top 50 Restaurants 2017, alongside business partners and cricketing legends, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakarra in his home country. The masterchef was in the city for a day with Jayawardene to announce the opening of the restaurant, in collaboration with Gourmet Investments Pvt Ltd at the newly opened, The Runway Project, in Phoenix Mills. The signing of the partnership amidst flashbulbs was rather unfashionably Trump-esque, but aside from that, it was a mirthful evening. There’s always a story behind everything and everyone famous today, including Munidasa. India’s best known wine connoisseur, Sanjay Menon, chanced upon Munidasa’s culinary skills at his standalone Japanese restaurant, Nihonbashi in Colombo, about a decade ago, when Ministry Of Crab did not even exist. Menon is a friend Munidasa values highly as his word of mouth, and a private pop-up dinner at the ITC Parel that he organised with Munidasa in the kitchen some moons ago, created the Munidasa magic that subsequently led to the opening of the first Ministry Of Crab. Mumbai will be the second outpost of the restaurant, the location of which still being a classified secret, and the third is slated to open in Bangkok, Thailand later this year. Mumbai is ready for some “crab excellence” Munidasa style, this summer.

A new resto-bar, Mashhad is opening this January at a first-of-its-kind location in Mumbai. Mashhad is situated right inside the entrance corridor of the Taj Santacruz hotel at the city’s domestic airport in Santacruz. Comprising of Persian-Lebanese-Indian cuisine, it is an unusual spot to open a fine-dining, only by reservation, restaurant and lounge. Mashhad was scheduled to open on Salman Khan’s birthday on December 27th, with him as the guest of honour, but it had to be postponed to January due to unforeseeable circumstances. Khan will be at Mashhad on opening night, supposedly on the 10th of this month, alongside a smattering of celebrities and wannashines who’d like to reaffirm their own existence in the presence of the elusive Tiger.

And the United States created fiercely female history that stands testament to the fact that America is a land where dreams and aspirations come true. Oprah Winfrey received the Cecil B. DeMille Award Lifetime Achievement Award at the 75th Annual Golden Globes in LA with an acceptance speech that will reverberate for years to come, not to mention the long standing ovation she received from everyone in the room at the Beverly Hilton. Winfrey is the first African-American woman to receive this award, bestowed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment”. “In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for Best Actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope, and said five words that literally made history: ‘The winner is Sidney Poitier.’ Up to the stage came the most elegant man I had ever seen. I remember his tie was white and, of course, his skin was black. And I’d never seen a black man being celebrated like that. But all I can do is quote and say that the explanation in Sidney’s performance in Lilies of the Field, ‘Amen, amen. Amen, amen’. In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille Award right here at the Golden Globes, and it is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award. I’d like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association because we all know that the press is under siege these days, but we also know that it is the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice, to tyrants and victims and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this: what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories,” said Winfrey on stage.

If the rumblings of Winfrey running for the US Presidency 2020 are true, and she does run, I will be the happiest girl in the world. I too, was once a little girl, watching The Oprah Winfrey Show every chance I got, being mesmerised by her work, her kindness, her humour and laughter and her unflailing faith in the fabric of humanity. I learnt a lot from her talk show – right from serious issues plaguing the world, exposes on the macabre practices of mankind, every fun fashion and makeup item on her favourites list, what books to read, Maya Angelou poems, her philanthropic work across the world and every celebrity I should know of, and wanted to meet, through her show. She made me believe I could do anything I wanted to, and in the greater tomorrows to come.

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