| Tuneful trio: (From left) Shallum, Imran and Shafqat
It may be a while before Sachin Tendulkar faces up to Shoaib Akhtar on home ground, but Indian homes may soon rock to Fuzon, Pakistan’s hottest musical sensation since Junoon. And why not' Their debut album, Saagar, is being launched in the Indian market. The recording label is Virgin, the company that also brought Junoon’s Sayonee track to the Indian dance floor.
The three-member band has been playing the brand of music it calls raag ’n’ roll for barely two years and a half. But that has been enough to earn it a following in Pakistan, and beyond. Saagar was released last year in Pakistan, Dubai and England and is “still selling like hot cakes”.
“We’ve been to England twice. Wembley was memorable — packed with fans from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Some of them had even hopped over from Germany,” recounts Shallum Xavier, the guitarist, over telephone from Karachi. But India is where they are “dying to come”.
“I don’t know what is happening between the two countries. I hope all this is straightened out,” is the plea from vocalist Shafqat Amanat Ali.
It is not just taking the Indian stage that is on the Pak trio’s mind. Their common list of favourite contemporary voices includes a long line of Indian names — Suresh Wadkar, Shankar Mahadevan, Hariharan, Sonu Nigam… So far, the band has shared the stage with one Indian artiste — pop star Anaida. “She had come over to take part in a peace concert in Karachi three-four months back in which all our top national acts performed. She approached us backstage and requested us to pose for a photograph with her. We were so flattered by the words of praise she had for our music,” recounts keyboardist Imran, the youngest of the group, sporting a goatee and hair dyed blonde.
Talking about the music scene in Pakistan, Imran says Hindi pop has been around for long and this is where the stars come from. “Film scores are slowly coming up. The hit number from our album Ankhon Ke Saagar is being used in a recent film.” But Bollywood films are what arrest the audience (Imran has not heard about any government ban on Indian channels on cable TV).
So it is with great expectations that the Fuzon boys are waiting for a reply from Mahesh Manjrekar. “We have sent a demo to Maheshji for his next production, Rakt,” Imran informs. The Karachi boy is a big film buff himself. “I love Aamir Khan, Big B, Ajay Devgan,” he laughs. “Indian artistes are hugely respected here. Daler Mehndi got a fantastic response when he came.”
Fuzon has set itself an aim. Says Shafqat, son of the legendary Ustad Amanat Ali Khan and the seventh generation of the Patiala gharana: “Classical music is dying in Pakistan. The youth did not know what khamaj or madhubanti were before we used the ragas in Aankhon ke Saagar and Aye Chand Aa Chhup Ja. Once they listen to the sound, they go back to find out about the ragas.” Shafqat feels Indian artists with a big following should do the same. “It is no use singing pure rock or pop. There are hundreds of artistes in Europe to do that. Why should they notice us'” he argues.
The other objective in their cross-border venture is to act as “peace ambassadors”. The band’s song Deewane has been chosen for the UN peace project Getting Closer. And they are sure it is just a matter of time before they belt out Seeno mein leke jasbaat/ Haathon mein lekar haat ao bolo... on an Indian stage.
— Sudeshna Banerjee
To celebrate the 50th year of diplomatic relations between India and Poland, the Indo-Polish Friendship Society has plenty of events lined up. And this time, they begin right here, in Calcutta, because “everyone always comes here last, which is not right”, according to Malgortzata Wejsis-Golbiak, first secretary, embassy of the Republic of Poland.
The show starts on October 18, with a concert at Calcutta School of Music, in association with the Indian Council of Cultural Relations. The performance comprises Polish translations of a few Tagore poems, set to western classical music composed by a Polish musician, and a piece from an opera. While Malgorzata Salacinska, a Tagore fan, provides the vocal input, Wejsis-Golbiak, an accomplished pianist, will be on the piano.
From October 20 to 22 is an exhibition of paintings by Ryszard Sawicki at Indian Museum. The list of 45 works includes creations inspired by his trips to India. A speciality of Sawicki is his pictures on metal plates, a combination of oil paintings and etchings.
The concert and exhibition will travel to Delhi as well. A Polish film festival is also being organised, besides those that will be screened during the film festivals.
The embassy will open a consular office in Calcutta by the end of this year.
| Churni Ganguly at a story-telling session at The British Council. Picture by Aranya Sen
Room to groom
It’s not the first, nor, in all probability, will it be the last. But in Calcutta’s burgeoning community of grooming schools, primarily targeted at wannabe actors and models, this one is, perhaps, a little different, with a faculty comprising seasoned professionals in their respective fields, conducting the Krysalis courses.
Modelling, TV presentation and film acting are the jump-start classes on offer. Teachers include stage veteran Sohag Sen, television personalities Sudeshna Roy and Suchita Roychowdhury, choreographer Ashish Banerji, model Pinky, director Abhijit Dasgupta and speech therapist Barun Das.
Along with lessons on how to act or walk the ramp, there will be personality development, diction, body movements and style sense, from make-up tips to matching the attitude with the outfit, at the school’s Bondel Road address. The maximum number in a batch is 20, the stress is on individual attention, and the applicants will be screened before admission.
The aim, the professionals claim, is to groom the rising stars, giving them an edge in the industry. “No one has time to teach anyone anymore, unlike when we learnt on the job,” says Pinky. Sen echoes: “Now, life is too fast-paced. We like new faces, but complete novices are hard to work with.”
Basic training, in life and the arts, is what Krysalis is offering. Technical jargon, like frames and shots, will be part of the training. The advantage — being taught by industry professionals who know exactly what is required. Besides, placement opportunities, too, are possibilities. “I will definitely be on the lookout to launch new faces,” says Banerji.
But at Rs 5,000 for 16 classes in two months for modelling and Rs 6,000 for TV presentation, and Rs 7,000 for 24 classes in three months for acting, turning into a butterfly doesn’t come cheap.
Rhyme and reason
Chhadas, or rhymes, are so much a part of our culture that they survived globalisation and even the banalities of MTV culture that is often blamed for every evil in existence. Over the years, many efforts have been made to collect and compile these, for they existed in our collective memories and were passed down the ages, adding vitality to our oral tradition. Poets, too, have found their rhythm irresistible and have created chhadas of their own.
Chhadas hark back to an age of innocence when childhood was everlasting. Such is their magic that they transported one in a trice to a world of mystery where logic failed. Yet, they did not exist in a vacuum. They certainly reflected contemporary social mores. The standard version of Bengali chhadas is available in bookshops but the illustrations of this old version are not good enough to stir one’s imagination.
Now here comes a magical collection entitled Chhabi O Chhada. These are all traditional rhymes that used to be in currency even some time ago. The format is large and the pictures are stunning. Edited and collected by Prabir Sen and Biman Sinha, the excellent illustrations that make all the difference are by Krishnendu Chaki. A limited edition publication, only a hundred copies of this hardcover were produced on the letterpress that is almost history now.
With one page per chhada, the text is in bold type, ideal for this literary form. The illustrations in bright red are a major component of the publication containing 14 chhadas. This should be coveted by every child and the child in every adult.