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Screen On & Off

Just about justice

An Academy Award-winning African-American actress playing an Indian-American, in Hollywood' Although still in the 'will she, won't she' stage, rumours are rife that Halle Berry will be slipping into the role of lawyer Vanita Gupta, a crusader who helped overturn the verdict in one of USA's most controversial cases.

On July 23, 1999, 46 residents of the small town of Tulia, Texas, were arrested on drug-related charges. Forty of them were African-Americans and three were Mexican-Americans. The arrests were based on the word of undercover agent Thomas Coleman, also a member of the Ku Klux Klan and with a chequered past in law-enforcement.

No drugs, guns or money were found during the raids. Thirty-eight people were subsequently convicted and sent to prison, despite gaping holes in the prosecution's case.

The film, Tulia, will follow the 26-year-old Yale law graduate's efforts to free them, as the youngest member of an experienced Legal Defence and Educational Fund team, part of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People.

The case was widely reported in the media. In a PBS interview, Vanita Gupta said: 'I think the case of Tulia, Texas, presents the most egregious case that we've seen in recent times. I think... it's unheard of. You know, we hadn't heard of a case where one man had been able to bring down an entire community based on his word alone, with no corroborating evidence.'

Last year, all 38 were released after the judge in the evidentiary hearing described it as a 'travesty of justice'. On the Legal Defence and Educational Fund website, Gupta, a victim of racial abuse in the course of her upbringing in the UK, France and the US, says: 'The Tulia story is much more than a tale of false testimony and legal intrigue. Lives have been ruined, families have been torn apart and communities have been devastated'

Erin Brokovich was a winner for Julia Roberts. Will Berry break ground with this one' Watch this space for more.

The Kisna team at the music launch: Soulful journey

Kisna combo

December 6 saw the music release of Subhas Ghai's latest cross-cultural film, Kisna. Set in 1940s' north India, it is an epic love story starring Vivek Oberoi, British actress Antonio Bernath and debutante Isha Sharvani. The music was formally launched by Ghai, Vivek, Sharvani, Javed Akhtar and Ismail Durbar in Delhi.

Ghai launched the music with a small impromptu contest amongst those present. The guests had to identify songs composed by A.R. Rahman and Ismail Durbar from the eight mentioned on the forms handed out. The winners were announced at the end of the event.

Kisna has brought Rahman and Durbar together for the first time. Ghai said he was thrilled to work with such immense talent on his greatest project to date.

'It was fascinating, exciting and unique,' he gushed. This is also Akhtar's first project with Ghai, who described the lyrics as 'colourful and soulful'.

The delegates and the media brigade had got a flavour of the music at the opening of the International Film Festival of India in Goa, with Rahman and Sharvani, the danseuse in her first film, on stage. The grand finale was a ballet by Sharvani ' Kahe ujadi mori neend and a rope dance to Aham brahmasmi.

The musical journey of Kisna features 16 tracks, including a combination of instrumental melodies and mantras composed by the talented duo. The mantras have been chanted by Vijay Prakash and a chorus.

Artistes like Udit Narayan, Sukhwinder Singh, Hariharan, Alka Yagnik and Ustad Rashid Khan have lent their voices to the album. Rahman has also composed an English song, featuring Blaaze.

Jennifer H. Winget: Madonna mode'

Little big star

Meet Kaarthika. She is 16, attends Raga Music & Dance Academy in Goregaon and dreams of being India's answer to Madonna some day.

Meet Jennifer H. Winget. She is 19, attends Somaiya College and dreams of ruling the small screen.

Both are one and the same. For, Jennifer plays Kaarthika in the latest serial from the Balaji Telefilms stable. Jennifer was studying in Class V when she went for the audition of Raja ko Rani se Pyar Ho Gaya. 'Before I knew it, I was the daughter in the Arvind Swamy-Manisha Koirala family.'

The next few years, though, she shied away from the camera, attending school. When she returned, it was on the small screen. 'I have been lucky with the steady stream of work since then ' Shakalaka, Kanhaiya, Kkusum, Koi Mere Dil Me Hain' And now this title role,' says Jennifer.

In college and already a regular on the telly, the teenager has taken fame in her stride. 'I have three or four friends who are working in other professions as well. So it's not a big deal. Today, the standard of living is rising and young people want to make it early in life.'

Education, though, remains a priority. 'My parents never forced me in this regard. Unless studies are hampered, why should children not come before the camera'

Jennifer completely endorses Kaarthika's ambitions and refuses to label it a rat-race mentality. 'There is nothing wrong in dreaming big and making the best of opportunities.'

She cringes on being called a Divya Bharti lookalike. 'Maybe it is the hairstyle that does it,' she muses. Clearly, the compliment has worn out its appeal.

If there is one difference between Jennifer and her screen character, it is their musical talent. The wannabe Madonna is strictly a bathroom singer. 'The audience would run away if I sing. I am lip-syncing for a few film numbers like Jane kyon and Bhage re.'

Meet Jennifer as Kaarthika on Hungama TV, at 6.30 pm, from Monday to Thursday.

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