The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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City Lights
Beaming live & full of action

Shanti, the middle-class woman next door, who emerges as a symbol of strength as she invades Doordarshan drawing rooms five afternoons a week. A first.

Mandira, anchoring Extraa Innings, the World Cup show on Sony, bringing emotion and sex appeal to cricket coverage. A first.

Mandira, playing movie jockey, filling in the gaps during breaks of a blockbuster on Sony beam, with behind-the-scenes tit-bits. A first.

Mandira, retracing India’s road to the Cup finals, reliving moments from the high of Shoaib bashing to the low of Ponting bashed. A first.

A nameless woman, engaging the audience in a 30-minute soliloquy, with a chair as the solitary prop on stage, earning applause in Mumbai, Delhi and now Calcutta. A first for Mandira Bedi.

For someone who started out with the fear of “not making an ass of myself” or “not becoming a national fool”, Mandira Bedi is blazing quite a trail, first on the small screen and now on stage.

“It’s only when I look back, do I say, wow, not bad,” she announces, in the town of her birth on a three-day-four-show theatre tour.

The “not bad” could refer to Shanti (“the first five-day soap that sparked a whole new trend”), or to Extraa Innings (“which proved that there is a place for women in cricket coverage, and which others are bound to follow”), or to analysing an Amitabh classic between scenes (“an experiment that will grow bigger and better”), or to co-hosting India’s Road to the Finals (“which has given an incredible twist to the concept of match replays and thrown up some of the most fascinating cricket quotes”), or to Laughing Wild (“dark humour, with lots of home truths, that has taught me a lot”)…

And the key to it all — “in this phase of life” — is ‘live’ action. “Retakes are out,” announces Mandira. “I have said no to serials for the time being as the idea of fumbling a line, doing it all over again, irritates me now. And movies have never meant a big deal for me, though I’m doing one with my husband (Raj Kaushal). So, I’ll stick to live action on TV and to theatre.”

Living for the moment, playing life like one tennis point at a time, has become Mandira’s credo and that’s something she brings to GD Birla Sabhagar over the weekend, in her debut play directed by Raell Padamsee, co-starring Darrshan Jariwalla, and presented by Showhouse and Spandan. “My character, a nameless woman, is strange but real, what’s on her mind is in her mouth. She’s so different…”

That’s what binds the character to the actor. For, experimenting and doing things differently are driving Mandira on. But one thing constant is the Indian cricket shirt. “There’s no getting away from that now, and I’ve learnt to enjoy being so closely connected with the game,” says the star, signed and sealed by Sony for all things cricket. It helps when she gets Rahul The Wall Dravid to say, “Grown men cry, but they cry silently,” while describing the Indian dressing room at Jo’burg, after the Cup was crushed.



Guided steps

They’re back in town by public demand, and this time, too, twinkle-toed Calcuttans have signed up and put on their dancing shoes for a chance to shake a leg and have some fun. After the success of it’s “first ever Calcutta workshop” in April, Shiamak Davar’s Institute for Performing Arts (SDIPA) has been conducting workshops in the city since last month. And the instructors have been busy choreographing steps at locations on Loudon Street and in New Alipore.

There are around 200 students this time, aged eight to 40, slogging it out on the dance floor. The workshop commenced from August 9, with classes (now exceeding 18) on a twice-a-week basis. A group of instructors from SDIPA, Mumbai, are imparting training in jazz, salsa, rap, rock ’n’ roll and Afro-jazz styles. Exams and offices notwithstanding, the enthusiastic groups have been getting ready for the big night on stage.

The finale at Science City is on September 30. The master dancer himself will breeze into town on September 29 for a practice session. After dazzling his students, Shiamak will be present for the show the next day, cheering the budding dancers.

The singer-performer-turned-music director plans to organise another workshop here in October. And, after the two successive workshops are over, Calcutta in December promises to be the venue for a mega event by Shiamak.

Yards of wonder

Mooga from Assam, baluchari, kantha and tangail from West Bengal, kanjivaram from Tamil Nadu, paithani from Maharashtra, printed silk saris from Jammu and Kashmir…

The exhibition-cum-sale of silk saris at Swabhumi is a veritable treasure trove for sari-lovers. Silk Fab, organised under the aegis of the central government’s National Handlooms Development Corporation to promote small scale and cottage industries and revive the handloom and textile sector, contains the works of weavers from all corners of the country.

Skilful artisans have created individual pieces picturing the moods and images of Indian life. The expo, on till September 30, comprises a display and sale of a wide range of silk products from 55 agencies from 14 states. The exhibition is meant to highlight the ethnicity and exclusivity of the handloom industry.

The wide range of products includes madhubani, tassar and kantha from Bihar; tanchoi, jamdani and jamevar from Varanasi, UP; gathjora, patola and pannetor from Gujarat; gadwal and pochampally from Andhra Pradesh; kantha, tribal work and kosa silk from Chhattisgarh; malkalmur, chintamani, kasuti work, printed silk and dress material from Karnataka. There are also theme-based displays, made with the help of Weavers Service Centre, Calcutta.

Actress June Maliah at an AIDS awareness programme organised by Bhagirathi Neotia Women and Child Care Centre. Picture by Aranya Sen.

A year rolls by

Roopkala Kendro has had a busy first year. The Salt Lake film training school, which has as its focus development communication, has also produced a number of films and radio programmes.

The centre offers five post-graduate courses: direction, motion picture photography, editing, animation creation and direction and developmental communication. “We want to use the same skills that are used in marketing campaigns to build social awareness,” explained director Goutam Ghose, who conceived the Indo-Italian joint venture in the 1980s, at its first-anniversary update on Thursday.

Students have use of the production facility where documentaries and training films are made. So far, screen stars like Sabyasachi Chakraborty and Lily Chakraborty have acted in these projects, to be used for panchayat training and classrooms. At the institute’s sound recording room, a 52-part radio show is also being created for All India Radio.

Students from Jadavpur and Calcutta universities have undergone training at the centre, which is also designing short-term professional courses.

Puja sidelights

Adding to the pre-Puja excitement, the National Insurance Anandabazar Patrika Sharaad Arghya was announced recently. Open to Calcutta, Salt Lake and Dum Dum, three prizes have been lined up for puja committees, three for artisans behind the idol, lights and decoration and two prizes for Howrah pujas. The jury will announce its verdict on Ashtami.

The teams: Virendra Sehwag XI vs Jishu Sengupta XI. The venue: St. James School grounds. The date: September 30. The time: 2 pm to 5.00 pm. The aim: to add fizz to the festivities.

Coca Cola adds to the Durga Puja spirit by bringing brand ambassador Sehwag down for a festival cricket match on Panchami. The Indian opener’s team mates would be chosen through an internal process, while the Tollywood actor will lead a pack picked through a call-in contest on Red FM.

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