The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A vow to woo, in uniform

A vow to woo, in uniform

(Left) Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Prada and Akshay Kumar on the sets of Khakee. (Above) Arnab Chakraborty, the voice of Akshay in Vaada raha... Drummer Nondon Bagchi with participants in the Calcutta School of Music’s Young Talent Contest. Picture by Aranya Sen

Vaada raha… are the words we hear. Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai are the faces we see. But behind the glitz and the glam of the much-hyped Khakee, are two young faces — and voices. The title track features two new stars with a Calcutta connection. While Shreya Ghoshal is a familiar name by now, having sung her way to fame as Ash’s voice in Dola Re (Devdas), the voice behind the brawny Akshay is Arnab Chakraborty, a home-grown young talent.

Two years ago, Arnab was spotted by two talent watchers: First in the MTV Video Ga Ga contest after which he was featured as one of the guys to watch in Metro’s Star Spot. Now, the 26-year-old is keeping his fingers crossed that this is just the morning, showing the day full of great things to come.

“This is the best break I could have imagined. Khakee is one of the biggest projects of the year and it is sure to get noticed,” says a happy Arnab, over the telephone from Mumbai. He has been settled there for the past few years and will complete a master’s degree in live music at Mumbai University, besides working.

Some live shows, title tracks for serials, ad jingles and regional movies aside, the guy from Salt Lake has also sung under Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s direction for Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai. “But that was in a group, so my voice was not noticed,” explains Arnab, who is also working on his own pop music album.

The Khakee proposition came quite by chance, explains the 1999 graduate from Jaipuria College. He had gone to visit music director Ram Sampat, who asked him to “sing a scratch”.

The fresh voice won Sampat and director Raj Kumar Santoshi over, and Arnab bagged the song now flashing on all channels, along with the trailer for the multi-starrer, boasting names like Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgan, Lara Dutta' and Tussaar Kapoor'.

He feels things are set to change. Vaada raha is a slow romantic number in a classic outdoors wooing setting, and the soundtrack has already made its way to the bestseller charts across the country.

The signs are all pointing up, with lots of industry folk checking out the new kid on the Bollywood block.

“I have been speaking to some music directors now… Let’s see,” says Arnab, who now has a song to his name that can provide him with some leverage to market his album.

The crowd in filmdom can be a little overpowering for the best of them, as Arnab was quick to discover.

“I went to the audio release of the film but couldn’t meet any of the stars.” Though Arnab has sung in Assamese and other regional language cinema, he has not yet been approached by any Tollywood director.

“I would love a chance to sing for Bengali cinema. I would love to sing in my mother tongue,” he confesses. Like Shreya Ghoshal, who has sung for a number of Bengali films, though the Mumbai-based 19-year-old grew up in Rajasthan.


Kids’ carnival

It was Diwali revisited at the Salt Lake stadium complex on Children’s Day. The venue was The Stadel, the swanky hotel that has come up under the galleries and the ramp in front of Suraksha Hospital. About 100 children had thronged Lord’s, the hotel auditorium, for a hand shadowgraphy show. As soon as the lights came on at the end of the programme, the kids pounced on the scores of balloons that had been bunched up in corners, brought them down on the floor and starting stamping on the fat colourful balls. The effect was deafening as the balloons burst one after another, sending up squeals of delight.

One or two like Soumya Bajaj, of Pratt Memorial, had a trying time. The balloon she had picked kept slipping from under her tiny feet. But no one was complaining. The morning had already produced enough fun.

The children were from schools in and around Salt Lake. Accompanied by their teachers, they had come to see the fingers of the hand shadowgraphy duo Amar-Sabyasachi in action. Not only did they watch the adventures of a duckling come to life live on the screen, but they were also taught a few tricks. “We never thought shadows can be so much fun,” chorused Arushi Dhupia and Oindrila Chakraborty, Class IV students of Our Lady Queen of the Missions.

The occasion of the gathering was the launch of the special children’s menu in the restaurant, First Innings, which is where the children headed after the balloon-bashing binge. “We have devised a range of items keeping in mind children’s preferences,” explained Anil Bhutoria of The Stadel, pointing at a colourful spread including cheesy pasta, christened Jerry’s Choice, and spinach paneer with roti, called Popeye’s Secret.

“When a family goes out to dine, the children have to choose from the same menu as the adults. This gives rise to problems of portions and composition. An order from our children’s menu is automatically made non-oily and non-spicy and is just enough for a child’s consumption.” The restaurant has kept in mind even the needs of smaller kids. There are high chairs and rockers that will allow the mother to rest a baby. The tots and teens can keep themselves busy till the food arrives with word games and puzzles that come to the table with the children’s menu card. The crockery, too, is special for the juniors, decorated with fun figures.

“This is a wonderful idea,” said Suranjita Sarkar, a teacher in Mother International and a Salt Lake resident, taking a tour of the restaurant.

There is more in store. “We have kept aside 10,000 sq feet of open space where we are planning a children’s play area on a specific theme. A crèche, complete with an attendant, is also on the cards,” added Bhutoria.


Censor talk

The students of Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication (SIMC) held a seminar on Censorship in Media: An Insult to Intelligence, at Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad, on November 15. This seminar was the fourth of its kind held in the city by the students, and forms part of their course.

Theatre, literature, cinema and media personalities spoke at the event, where the director of SIMC, Keval J. Kumar, was also present. Nearly 250 students from city colleges also had the chance to interact with the speakers.

Speaking about censorship in theatre, Rudraprasad Sengupta of Nandikar observed that theatre faced a censorship imposed by its audience. It is the only form of media where the culture of the country plays a crucial role in the censorship.

Abhijit Das Gupta, director, Sukriti Productions, felt that TV is a medium where self-censorship becomes important. He related interesting anecdotes on the battle between creativity and marketing pressures. Programmes relating to feng shui, reiki, astrology and the like should not be aired, he said, as they gave “concocted information”.

Writer Buddhadeb Guha spoke of the censorship in literature, using Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen as an example. He hailed her as an honest and gutsy woman and did not see any reason to ban her books. Jatin Sarkar, director of Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, gave insights into censorship with reference to cinema. With the entrance of new media, censorship is redundant, he held. The former head of the eastern region Central Board of Film Certification applauded directors for practising self-censorship.


Fiesta for a cause

Don Bosco School, Liluah, held Children’s Day celebrations with an extra splash of love. Students of the day school, along with their parents and teachers, took part in the Fun Fiesta 2003, the proceeds of which are to go towards the development of the under-privileged students of the night school. The Past Pupils Association organised a similar fete for the night school students, bringing delighted smiles to the faces of over 600 children from nearby slums, with the help of the Friends Youth Group members.


Self-help show

An exhibition was held on November 14 and 15 at Loreto College by Ankurkala, a women’s self-employment training centre that works for the rights of destitute and marginalised women in West Bengal. The display showcased a variety of products ranging from batik handicrafts, stationery, ready-made garments for women and children, bags and accessories. The women of Ankurkala specialise in chemical-free jams, sauces, pickles and squashes at affordable prices.

Suchi Arya,

Ist year, English, Loreto College

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