The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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City Lights
Fair mirror to quirky society

Lie down on the street — saris, pearls and all. That’s the advice ad man Prahlad Kakar has for the who’s who of Calcutta’s ‘fairer sex’.

Because ‘fair’ isn’t all it’s cracked (or creamed, in this respect) up to be. To stand in the way of products promoting fairness and ads promoting regressive constructs, women must stand up and do something about it. Because the advertiser won’t. Because the client won’t. “As a client told me once, we are not here to change the world. We are here to sell soap.” And the men behind the camera and creatives, like Kakar, are “just trying to make a decent living”.

It is the Lalitajis (Surf’s successful, but highly grating woman brand ambassador) of the idiot box who are the most “insidious”, Kakar told his audience on Friday, at a talk entitled Saas, Bahu ya Sex Symbol, organised by the Ladies Study Group. “That is every man’s fantasy… To keep the women as ugly as they can, and in the home.” For Kakar, the only good ads featuring women as “multi-tasked” and successful have been made by women themselves.

Starting off by saying that women are “biologically superior to men”, he went into a straight-up assessment of the need of the hour from the women in power: Make yourself heard.

“If women like you gherao a fairness cream stall, it would embarrass the manufacturers enough to make a point,” stressed the man making a buzz with his work for Pepsi and Britannia. While he refuses to associate himself with fairness cream campaign, there are many campaigns which “bother” him besides. “But we always have a choice,” he adds, clearly driven by the creative call. “We are practising the art of seduction, working against the consumer knowledge that what we present is paid for.”

Kakar was quick to explain that advertising only mirrored society. “Advertising never breaks ground, we tread ground that is already broken”, adopting “the least line of resistance”. Citing an ad for a women’s magazine that has faced criticism for a campaign which featured women in a sexually aggressive role, he dismissed the notion that this was controversial at all in today’s context. “Today’s woman does not need to be told that she can be on top,” he countered. “Ten years ago, that ad may have been path-breaking.”

Despite all the talk about advertising contributing to the objectification of women, Kakar, who runs an NGO working on issues of marine ecology, a scuba-diving institute and a restaurant, seems to feel that the real action — real change — must happen away from the idiot box and on the streets. “Advertising is just the symptom of a society with all its idiosyncrasies.”

Paris calling

The standing ovation from an audience of 1,200 at De La Maison de Radio France still rings clear in the ears of Koushik Bhattacharjee and Rajnarayan Bhattacharya, months after their return to the city. Almost 30 years after legendary sitarist Nikhil Banerjee was invited to perform for Radio France, Koushik and Rajnarayan were called this summer. Both men in their early thirties have been trained at the Sangeet Research Academy in Tollygunge. While Koushik trained in vocal music under Pandit Arun Bhaduri, K.G. Ginde and Sunil Bose, Rajnarayan took tabla lessons from Samar Saha. The duo also runs three music schools in Andul, Girish Park and Kalighat.

“During a performance at the World Peace Thinkers Meet in Rabindra Sadan in February, an admirer took down our addresses and recommended us to Anne de Biran, assistante de production, France Culture. Within a week, the invitation was despatched and we were on the flight to Paris,” says Rajnarayan. The first performance at the grand Radio France auditorium saw the duo showcasing ragas Desh, Hansadhwani and Bhairavi beside individual rounds on the tabla.

“What was amazing was the placing of microphones over the heads of the audience. The French believe that an artiste should hear the claps from the audience clearly so that he becomes more charged. Never have we seen anything like this before,” says Koushik. Immediately after the recital at Radio France, the duo was picked up for more performances by the Association Ganapati (Bordeaux), Association Francoise de Amis de ‘I’ Orient (Paris), Association Samhati (Paris) and Theatre de la Ville (Gesvres, Paris). Radio France is back with a fresh offer to the duo at their annual festival in 2004.

On song

He has become the “hot favourite” of the city music event managers after the energetic showing during the BFJA awards at Netaji Indoor stadium. At Diksha Manjari’s ceremonial opening, also at Netaji, he clearly stole the show from the Babul Supriyos and Abhijeets. Now, Hariharan promises to be back in the city in January, singing a new tune.

“I have already experimented with it in Singapore. This could be categorised under World Music where I have blended classical bandishes, thumri and ragas on Hindi lyrics,” said the bespectacled singer, who added, shyly, that his film career too was flowering in the South. The January function to be held at Science City will see the talented Mahalakshmi Iyer accompanying Hariharan (together they have sung in quite a few films like Alai Payuthe).

Tune in

Good news for hundreds of ham radio operators based in and around the city. A local Hamnet has taken birth on the VHF ham frequency. Named [email protected], it can be tuned into between 9 pm and 10.30 pm. Any local hamnet is a “wave space” for the radio amateurs who can check in for a perfect “adda session” to discuss topics ranging from weather to traffic to the cricket score. Local hamnets, a concept floated by Captain D. Dasan, a co-pilot of the late Rajiv Gandhi, are gaining popularity in several pockets of the country.

The right answer

The show that has become a craze among students across the country has bagged back-to-back awards for the Best Children’s Programme. The Bournvita Quiz Contest, with participation from schools nationally and internationally, has been honoured at the first Indian Tele Awards and at the second Indian Television Academy Awards (where it won in the same category last year).

While the Indian Tele Awards was broadcast a few weeks ago, the Television Academy Awards, a star-studded gala held at a Mumbai hotel last Saturday, is being aired on Doordarshan on Saturday, and on Sony on Sunday, both at 9 pm.

“What makes this more special is that very few people have won all three awards — the two this year, and last year’s Television Academy Awards,” says Derek O’Brien, host of BQC and founder-director, KQ School Advantage. He appealed, in his acceptance speech, to principals in formal schools to develop integrated and inclusive schools, to create a space for challenged kids. Derek was also nominated for Best Host, which Naseeruddin Shah finally won for Super Selector.

Earthy roots

Bhoomi, the popular act on the Bangla band circuit, is going back to its roots. The folk group, which shot to stardom with their chartbusting maiden album Jatra Shuru, is tying up with Saregama India Ltd (formerly HMV) for a third studio album slated to hit the racks early next year.

“We tried a lot of complex arrangements in our second venture, Udaan. But since Jatra Shuru continues to rule the charts even now, we have decided to return to the basic sound of our first album. Simplicity will be the key this time round,” says drummer-vocalist Somu. “We are happy to be associated with Bhoomi, since Bangla band music is the happening genre now,” said Saregama business manager S.F. Karim.

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