Sushmita Sen Talks About Daughter Renne

Renne Looking Pretty in a Red Frock with Mom Sushmita Sen

Renee is a special child...
"Renee understands her mother has to work. We share quality time together. The good thing is that I don't make her claustrophobic - I believe to be a good mother, you don't need to be hovering around your child round-the-clock. There will soon come a time that your child will start hoping you were not around. I want my child to be happy when she sees me come back home, and Renee is thrilled to have me home. Being close to my daughter physically and emotionally is most important to me."

On Mother's Day ...
"Once Renne made a lovely card for me with 'Renee' signed at the bottom.The card had stars, moons skies and all complicated things beautifully drawn on it. Her masi got this beautiful heart shaped pendant with Allah written on it and space for two small pictures. I am so blessed that she understood the concept so beautifully."

When I am with Renee...
"When we are together, we spend time making figures and cartoons of clay, narrate stories or watch video films that we've shot together. She loves repeating her set of favourite stories and poems. Of late, she's also developed a knack for opposites -ask her what's the opposite of flamboyant or biological, and she'll rattle it off in a jiffy."

Renee loves watching films...
"She watches television like any other child; she loves the songs and the promos they keep airing. She keenly watches the steps, time and again, and loves telling me all about it."

Renee, my best critic...
"She's bursting with excitement on seeing me on television. She gathers everyone in the household, all the domestic helpers and anyone else she finds around when she spots me on the television. And when the promo or the song they are showing is over, she screams for more. She wonders why I come and go and can't stay on the screen throughout. "My mamma, my mamma", she goes on and on! If she is too insistent, I have to play a tape of my movie for her to sit and enjoy. Renee is my biggest fan."

Dreamscapes & the Common Journey

A little while back, I found myself -- rather through the invention of necessity -- exploring the surreal in a clown performance I created and performed. Lately I've been wondering if that experience might have opened up a new avenue or two in my creativity, as I fantasize about more and more bizarre images on the stage of my mind. This is new-found. You could always describe me as a bit weird, but outright "surreality" has never been a thing I've been interested in creating, much less for the sake of itself. I love the absurd, the sublime, and am just as psyched for the opening of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus as the next guy, but using it in theatre is a terribly delicate balance. And I have been burned, many, many times before, my friends.

And yet. Yet I find myself dreaming of some particular world that's more a dreamscape than anything specific to history or the here-and-now. It's influenced by a lot of things, and may prove easily categorical, but for now it seems to me to be unique. This is not my idiom, and so I feel a little at-sea. Delighted, too, of course; otherwise why would I be returning to it again and again? I'm challenged by it. I keep looking for a story in its midst, something on which to hang my hat. Surreal or no, I can't bring myself to stick with something creatively unless I'm somehow meeting an audience halfway. So, you know: no worries there, O my vasty Audience.

The surreal or fantastic really is just an idiom, not a goal or even a path. It's become a bit elusive in recent years, as fiction in every genre has accepted everything from "science fiction" to "magical realism" into its official ranks. Things that used to be sublime are given categories and named. And I love those domesticated notions, don't get me wrong. It just makes it a bit trickier to make something to a surreal effect.

The trick, I think to making a successful yet surreal bit of art is to aim not for the "surreality." Rather, aim for a pure connection with the audience. Maybe there are glowing eyeballs replacing your old ones (to take an example from my little piece) and maybe that is really interesting to think about in an allegorical way, but what the audience is there for is a connection that allows them to identify with you and be reminded of themselves. So it's not about how cool glowing eyes are, but how they make you feel and function, and what then you do with them. Actually, more immediately and most importantly, it's about your instinctive response to them. This I think might be my favorite part of Terry Gilliam's movies -- amidst all this strange, inexplicable stuff is a continuum of watching people respond in specific ways, emotionally, instinctively. That's the scalpel of the sublime, after all. There's little-to-nothing of a cultural commonality, so you damn well better have a human one there.

How shocking that a born-and-raised U.U. like myself would find that situation appealing.

This is part of why the silent comedians were so successful within the idiom of the surreal. (And if you disagree with me about that, shut up, you're stupid.) The formula -- if you can call it that with all the pioneering they were so busy doing -- is of a low-status, accessible character getting into big trouble and struggling to win out over it all whilst incident after incident happens to her, and she has to react. We have to react, instinctively, no matter how little sense may apply to what we perceive. Heck: How much sense could it make to be watching projected shadow and light and be having a hysterical response to it? (Just as much sense as it did to have the same reaction to performers on a stage, or Plato's cave shadows, to answer my own rhetoric.) The supposedly surreal surrounds, and it's a fool's game to try and create it from nothingness. All it takes is a little nudge of people's perspective.

I may be nudging soon. We'll see. It's what my brain wants, anyway. Come along?

Introducing the New Kid on the Block, Shraddha Kapoor, Shakti Kapoor's Daughter

WHO: Shraddha Kapoor
WHAT: Talking about her Bollywood experience so far
WHERE: On the sets of Teen Patti

Shraddha Kapoor, Shakti Kapoor's little girl

She's a celebrity kid, all of 20 and set to make her big screen debut in Leena Yadav's next film, Teen Patti early next year 9 (and no, she's not been paid Rs one crore for the film as has been rumoured!). She has a lot of things going for her and she's terribly excited about her first media interview with CS. Here's introducing the new kid on the block, Shraddha Kapoor, Shakti Kapoor's little girl

Filmi fundas
Although I've only worked on one film so far, I feel I have already grown as an artiste. Teen Patti has helped me broaden my vision and has been a great source of learning. Directed by Leena Yadav, it stars Amitji (Bachchan), R Madhavan and three other new guys -- I'm sorry I can't talk more about the project just yet. But I can say that I am not charging Rs 1 crore for the film!

Bollywood dreams
I want to make a special place for myself, not only in the hearts of the audience, but also in their lives. I want to be remembered by the roles I play. Movies have always been a very important part of my life, ever since I was a little kid. I used to devour my dad and aunt's (Padmini Kolhapure) films. I also love foreign cinema. I watch a mixed bag of films -- my all time favourites would be Pyaasa, The Shawshank Redemption and Central Station, which is a Portuguese film.

Papa the great
I'm not sure if I've inherited a comic streak from my dad. I'll only find that out when I'm playing a role like that. But, I do love to laugh and be a part of a funny moment. I also thrive on comedies. My dad not only rocks as a funnyman, but he is also an awesome father to me. I value his advice since he's such a seasoned actor. But, he always leaves the decision-making to me. One advice that he's given me is to always stay true to my craft and let go of my inhibitions. After observing him I've learnt that there is no substitute for hard work. I can't wait to put these lessons into practice!

Source: Mid-day

Nyuck Nyuck OOF! Bleaah...

One of the things I find interesting about the silly season is how miraculously it makes me multi-task to the point of forgetting really basic priorities. It's a little bit like how I remember skiing to be, back in my gilded youth when I skied somewhat regularly. I would get going on the up-and-down of it all, five o'clock would roll around and I'd begin to wonder why I felt dizzy and my eyes had dried up in my head. I don't forget to eat and drink around Christmas, but it's close. I was fortunate enough last week, however, to have a nice, centering ACTion Collective event to anchor me in spot for a bit. Just long enough to plant a cream pie in my merry face.

This, our third event -- ACT III: Nyuck Nyuck Nyuck -- was an intimate and rather relaxed affair. The "cocktail hour" period was spent with all in a single, spontaneous circle of chairs, which was a first. We had a total of about nine there, including Andrew and myself, partly a result of three last-minute cancellations due to holiday complications. None of this was surprising, of course. We wondered in planning ACT III whether it made sense to adhere to our not-yet-a-schedule in the face of everyone's holiday, and decided we should, for a variety of reasons. Several of the people who did attend last Thursday's event specifically scheduled their holiday plans to make time for it, and we learned a lot as a result of the smaller group.

The goal of the evening was to play comic two-hander scenes as well as possible when they are selected at random. We emailed the scenes in advance, save a couple that Friend Nat brought in that evening, and asked everyone to have a passing familiarity with them so they wouldn't be handed a scene with absolutely no context. Of course, how much of those attachments people chose to read was out of our control, and it seemed that some were more familiar than others. Nevertheless, no one was quite out to sea, and some people really brought on some interesting work . . . both intentionally, and accidentally. Nat himself chose a scene from Moliere's Tartuffe that, for reasons of an error in transcription, switched the roles midway. He and his scene partner rolled with it, though, and it was a very nearly seamless transition -- it became practically a deconstruction of the scene. Moreover, with the smaller group everyone had a moment or more to really shine and create something memorable.

Our game mechanics did not function quite as well as I had hoped they might, and it's difficult to identify exactly why that might be. Certainly part of it was that very few people were willing to repeat a scene that had gone before, which led to a deflation of a big part of our idea: that actors would build on one another's work. I had every title in the hat twice, to safeguard against this possibility, but it quickly became evident to me that there was in our group no enthusiasm for repetition. I think we'll return to this idea with a different (and stronger) structure, because I'm excited by the possibilities in collaborative character-building and scene-work. When it is the focus of an event, I think we'll have some very interesting results.

The exercises were bookended by a set-up and a payoff (though I muffed the timing of the set-up a bit by brazenly forgetting to mention it until we had already started). We started (almost) out by mentioning that, by the end of the evening, someone would be hit in the face with a pie. This was Andrew's idea at some stage of brainstorming, but I was 100% behind it. Zuppa del Giorno has been trying to incorporate pie fights into our shows for years, and I was eager to see it in action. Fortunately for me, I was eager to see it from any perspective. What we did not reveal until later in the evening was that it was a choice between myself and Andrew as victim of the pie toss, and that everyone was going to vote. It would seem I was a little too expressive of my enthusiasm for this idea, however, because the decision to have me picking shaving cream out of my nostrils 60 seconds later was in fact unanimous. Pow. Right in the kisser.

Ba-Dum. Ching...?

Comedy is profitable. It's true. Everyone wants something different from their entertainment, and everyone's sense of humor is uniquely calibrated to some extent, but I think we can all agree that everyone feels better after a good laugh, and few people actively seek to avoid a situation in which they might be tempted toward laughter. It is possibly the most socially acceptable form of catharsis, ranking right up there with the sneeze as a fairly uncontrollable expression of release. Sure, there are "inappropriate" laughs galore, but we're generally pretty forgiving even of these . . . especially in situations in which social pressure to be moral is at a minimum. As a result, comedy is very bankable.

I have mainstream comedy (Define my terms? Heck no -- let's keep this as subjective as possible.) on my mind lately owing to several factors, not the least of which is that the next ACTion Collective event is devoted to comic two-hander scenes. You better hang on with both hands: It's going to be a crazy one. As a result, I've been gathering one-liners and dialogue-based comic scenes from a variety of different traditions, and it's got me thinking both about how important comedy is to business, and how much the two have intrinsically in common. Don't agree? How many major television studios have banked on trained actors for sitcoms, and how many have banked on up-and-coming stand-up comedians? Your honor, the defense rests. Bitterly.

Both comedy and business are modeled on a fairly direct interchange, one related to profit. For one it's money and the other, laughs, and in both cases if you're not growing then you're in trouble. As I read through comic dialogue from the recent past all the way back to the 17th century, I'm struck by how little has changed in all that time. The individual lines have gotten shorter (unless part of the joke is about how long someone speaks) and of course the phrasing has changed, but the rhythms and effects are frankly standard. Particularly looking at two-person scenes, in which communication is really broken down to some pretty basic, ping-pong dynamics. (Hacky-sack would be a better analogy [parenthetically].) A couple of people bat something around until a certain synergy is reached, which results, we hope, in some payoff.

Is this all that different from tragedy and non-profit organizations? (Not that I'm relating the one to the other, mind. [That's for a separate 'blog post {parenthetically}.]) Is tragedy not interested in profit of a different tender, and organizations in payoff in less materialistic ways? Certainly. And then again, no. It's less accountable with these forms, more subjective, and the structures are more complex. We can tie all sorts of genres and business models into this, but there's something about commercial business and comedy that goes naturally hand-in-hand. If for no other reason than because funny makes money.

Certainly that proves true in my own life, because I'm outrageously wealthy. Wait . . .. It does relate, in some way. I just had it. Damn. Oh well . . .

OH RIGHT. I mean to say, in terms of the jobs I've attained. See, in this context, the work is its own payment; which may be why I'm not - parenthetically - outrageously wealthy. Huh. Oh well, I'll figure that all out tomorrow. The point is, I think that the comedies I've been in outweigh anything else by a ratio of something like 5:1. It's what the people want, and I am more marketable as someone who can repeatedly fall on my ass than I am as someone who can make you think of your mother/father/first girl-and-or-boyfriend with a twinge of heretofore unacknowledged regret. Them's the breaks, kid.

Fortunately for us, comedy is a hell of a lot of fun to do, usually. Business, too, if you can get in the right mindset. Lately I've been trying to perceive my money-making as a night of comedy. Thus far "farce" might be a better term, but I'm slowly edging toward"parody," in hopes of eventually hitting "satire" and am confident that -- someday -- I'll have them rolling in the aisles over pure, profitable comedy.

Farah Khan and Her Triplets Anya, Diva and Czar Spotted at a Suburban Mall

Farah Khan and her children Anya, Diva and Czar along with three maids were spotted in the games area of a suburban mall on Saturday.

The choreographer-director was playing mommy to the hilt making them sit on every ride and indulge in the games.

Picture: Farah Khan With her daughters Anya, Diva

Farah Khan With her Son Czar (R) and daughters Anya and Diva (L)


Whenever Farah Khan is seen in public places, young girls come up to her hoping for an audition for her next film, Tees Maar Khan.

As she has announced that a nationwide hunt is on to find a new face opposite Akshay Kumar, aspiring girls are giving her their portfolios.

Farah jokes, "I have been telling these young girls not to approach me and that my hero will decide on the casting!"

Zuppa: The Next Course

Traditionally, we know what our Zuppa del Giorno show is going to be at least a year in advance, if not more. That seems funny to write, especially with how much I write about the process starting from nothing at the beginning of the rehearsal process. Yet both are true. We never start out with a show, and we always end up with a show, yet at least a year in advance we know what the show is going to be "about." The first would be about updated commedia traditions, the second about the Marx brothers, the third about silent film comedians, etc. One needs to know that much in advance so one can research, and plan, and gather materials for the horrifying moment when one finds oneself in an empty space without a single indication of where to go next, surrounded by folk who have as little clue (and at least as much anxiety) as you do.

In effect, Zuppa has officially now skipped a year. Owing to the ambitious nature of our last original work, and a focus on advancing our study abroad program, In Bocca al Lupo, we took a little break. Recently, however, David Zarko asked us to pool some ideas for the next endeavor into wholly original (or at least creatively stolen) show material. Here is what I emailed him, off the top of my head and verbatim:
  • Mummer's (or guiser's) Play: adaptable to public spaces, most characters performed in disguise or with mask - Wikipedia link. They usually have to do with good versus evil, and involve some element of resurrection. Prepare an original show utilizing style elements; perform in a different space every time. If at ETC, in ballroom, second stage, shop, lobby, abandoned rooms, etc. Scranton, all over, including weirdness like bowling alleys. In Italy, piazzas, but also tourist spots and museums.
  • Show set in a circus. I've resisted this for some time, but we really should attempt it some time. Doesn't have to be circus intensive, but can include stilt-walking and other street-theatre conducive elements.
  • The Great Zuppa Murder Mystery. Classic isolated scenario, names after Scranton locales and exit signs (Lord Dunmore Throop). Either played straight, or played a la coarse theatre -- more a play about players trying to put on a murder-mystery play, but not having their act together. OR, totally meta-: a real murder is supposed to have happened during a performance of a murder-mystery play that is being put on by coarse actors who are incapable of getting anything right.
  • A play about religion. I don't know -- religion is funny. Maybe a play about mythos and superstition, as well, or instead of. Zuppa's vampire play.
  • Another silent show, but based in something besides silent movies. This isn't really an idea. Sorry.
  • Collaborations with mixed media: visual artists, musicians, writers, dancers. The idea being that we highlight the ways in which everyone uses improvisation by performing alongside folks, united by some storytelling commonality.
  • Oh and also: A really real vaudeville show (There were some plans to incorporate a significant vaudeville presence into Prohibitive Standards, but they never crystallized. - ed.). With guest artists.
I'll probably have more ideas over time and, as is perhaps evident, I'm not especially sold on any of these in particular. Zuppa's mission statement when it comes to our original shows (in as much as we have one) is to illustrate the living traditions of the commedia dell'arte that permeate our culture, and inspire our audiences to learn more about that interconnected culture. Hence ideas that hearken to older forms, or hang on the twin cousins of homage and parody.

So what do you think, Gentle Reader? Seriously -- Which of these ideas would you like to see our merry, rotating band of "creactors" make a whole new show of? Or, better yet: What are your ideas...?

Chunkey Pandey With his Wife and Daughter.

Chunkey Pandey seen with his wife and daughter during the premiere of movie 'Paa' at Imax, Mumbai. Also seen in the photograph is Mehr Rampal, wife of Arjun Rampal.

Jackie and Ayesha Shroff's Son Tiger to Make Movie Debut in 2012

Jai 'Tiger' Shroff is getting ready for a filmi debut. Jackie and Ayesha's 19-year-old son has already been getting lot of attention. A sport enthusiast presently training in martial arts, Tiger has already recieved several film offers. However, mom Ayesha thinks he's too young and wants to wait another two years before he debuts.


Describing him as an all- rounder Ayesha says, "Tiger is an outdoor guy and an extrovert. He loves his sports and has played everything from basketball to golf. At the moment, he's taken to parkour and is busy getting in his best shape. Right from his school days, he's been attracted to sports, so fitness is in his blood."

Better options

Is being an actor a natural progression for him? "Actually we had sent him to the US to try and be a professional basketball player. But he got homesick and wanted to come back. All his friends are here, and he didn't want to be away from them. Now, he wants to get into acting, but it's going to take a while before that happens. The advantage is that since the industry is like family, he will have better options and avenues than someone else."

Manager in place

Ayesha has already got a manager for her son. "We want to go the professional way and make sure he gets it right. Since we get so many inquiries for him, I have got a manager to handle his work. Today's style of working is very different from the time Jackie started off." He is also taking diction classes. She continues, "His style of speaking Hindi is very like his father, so we need to polish it a bit. Besides that I also want him to come on the sets of my under-production films so he gets a first hand account of what it's like to work in the indu
stry. It's not as hunky dory as it seems."

Narmmadaa Ahuja, Govinda’s Daughter says "I Want to Start As a Glamour Doll"

‘Actors are born, not made’. Keeping this phrase in mind, there are many of course, who harp about how they were ‘born to act’, though the lesser said the better about their acting skills. This is what makes me cynical about newcomers, especially, with filmi backgrounds. But one evening, when in a not-so-pessimistic mood, I met up with a newcomer who’s waiting to exhale in the land of films.

Waiting, because she’s yet to give her first shot in front of the camera, though she’s got some impressive stills shot as part of her portfolio (see the images to believe). But that doesn’t mean she’s not well-versed with fame. There are rumours that she’s going to make her debut opposite Shahid Kapoor. Reportedly, big filmmakers like David Dhawan, Abbas Mustan and few other big names are keen to launch her; sources believe that even Salman Khan has taken the responsibility.

All this superficiality is tempting enough to know what lies beneath. And this is what makes her the kind to be interviewed even before she’s through with her debut project. Narmmadaa, daughter of Entertainer No.1 Govinda, is confidence personified when I meet her at a five-star hotel in suburban Mumbai. We sip icy colas as the tape rolls to capture Narmmadaa talking the talk in her first-ever full-fledged interview.

Some speak of their desire in flowery words. Many never say it. Maybe because they feel they can never live their dream. And there are others who go on running after their goal, heads down, without any grand declarations. When other star kids stepped into tinselville with a lot of gung-ho, fervour and hyped-up hullabaloo, one girl quietly went about her work and is almost all set for a stunning debut.

Self-admittedly an introvert, this girl says, “You will have to really get things out of me since it’s my first proper interview.” I accept the challenge as I hand over my dictaphone to the talented and enigmatic Narmmadaa.

“I always wanted to become an actor,” Narmmadaa reveals. “At 17, I was through with the fact that I wanted to become an actor. When the time came to actually tell my parents, I was very much sure and put it across to them. And they were pretty cool about it. They said, ‘No problem. First finish your studies and at the same time, start getting ready to be trained as an actor’. My father (Govinda) informed me about the pros and cons of the profession. He told me that I have to be very patient.”

Does Narmmadaa feel that somewhere her parents’ expectations from her were different? “I’m really blessed that they always gave me my space. They never forced me to do anything. Even if I wanted to become a fashion designer or an actor or any profession of my choice, they were with me.

If I want to get into films tomorrow, that doesn’t mean I’ll stop enjoying. I think it’s not good to stress yourself. One should enjoy life also. It’s my age to be with friends, go for holidays and parties and have fun. At the same time, I’m equally focused and working on all the necessary aspects that would qualify my standing as an actor. It’s always good to be a slow learner than just trying to take everything in one day,” she reveals her thoughts.

Narmmadaa’s upbringing was like any other star kid. “I was never treated as a normal kid,” she says feeling very privileged. “My friends and teachers used to treat me as Govinda’s daughter. And I used to take full advantage of that and run away from school in lunch breaks. My dad never forced me to study. In that sense, he was a very good dad,” she laughs out loud. “I never used to get tensed thinking about the results simply because I knew that I didn’t want to become a doctor or an engineer. I did my 12th and I did a basic fashion designing course because I was very much into fashion. But my father didn’t want me to become a fashion designer.”

Narmmadaa has learnt film-making abroad. Did she do well in her years of studying film direction? “Oh yes. It was dad who suggested that I go abroad to learn film-making. I went to London and America, and learned lighting and few other aspects of filmmaking. I also did a make-up course.” But why didn’t she learn proper filmmaking? “That’s because the institutes abroad are quite different from Bollywood. I mean their method of teaching and the syllabus is different. It’s better to assist a good filmmaker first rather going abroad and doing it theoretically. It’s always good to have an experience than just going to a school,” she explains.

Does that mean she would begin her career by assisting a big film-maker? “I don’t mind doing it because most of the debutants actually assist first to understand the behind-the-scenes world better. But my father would never ever let me assist any film-maker. I asked him once but he strictly refused because he knows what kind of work the assistants have to do. Frankly speaking, I won’t be able to do it. Sometime back, there were stories that I was going to assist some film-maker. My father would prefer to take me to his shooting locations. He would rather make me sit in one corner to observe what’s happening. He didn’t want me to work as a labourer.”

Being a concerned father that Govinda is, doesn’t she think that at times, his over-protectiveness could also hamper her decision-making process? “It could be and it couldn’t be also,” Narmmadaa thinks for a while and answers. “He’s protective like every other father. Being in the industry for so long, he knows what is right and what is wrong. That’s why he guides me a lot. It always happens when a star kid is coming, especially a girl. People always take star kids for granted considering that it’s an easy game. I really don’t like this thought. I have to break this norm. I want people to take me as a normal girl. My dad is quite chilled out with me going for parties, or going out with friends. People make a big issue in the industry, I don’t know why,” says the doting daughter.

Which director would Narmmadaa love to debut with? “He should be a good film-maker, somebody who knows his job. I don’t expect him to make a blockbuster. I don’t even mind starting with a new film-maker. Among the veteran film-makers, I would love to work with Rakesh Roshan, Ashutosh Gowariker, Mani Ratnam, Priyadarshan, Abbas Mustan, Imtiaz Ali, Anurag Kashyap, Madhur Bhandarkar, Karan Johar, Rajkumar Hirani, Aamir Khan and David Dhawan.”

That’s quite an impressive list. “Hmmm…wait, not David uncle,” she rectifies and laughs. “Not that I don’t respect him as a film-maker. It’s just that I don’t want to start with him; I’ll work with him after my debut film. I know David uncle since I was a child. He’s like a family member.” And what about the king of romance Yash Chopra? “Oh yes, Yash uncle too,” grins Narmmadaa. “How can I forget him? In today’s times, we see film-makers diverting from the beaten path to venture into newer script ideas and subjects, which wasn’t the case a few years ago. I don’t really need an option to choose because everybody comes up with their own unique style and different school of film-making. As an actor, I’m open to working with all of them.”

Usually, newcomers start off with love stories; the recent examples being Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone. But Narmmadaa disagrees, “Most of the newcomers in the recent times have achieved success because they debuted with different scripts and not just romantic films. You could find the romantic angle in almost all the films, whether action, comedy or thrillers. Asin debuted as a sweet girl-next-door in ‘Ghajini’ but then that’s an Aamir Khan film,” she informs.

“At least for the starting three or four years, I won’t be doing something that is de-glam. See, I’m not doing films to make money or to prove a point. It’s wrong if you go ahead with that intention. I’m doing it because I like cinema. So initially, when I start, I would prefer to be choosy and go slow. I want to do films that would make me happy. Besides the subject, the movie should have good songs.” Just like her dad’s films? She smilingly agrees, “Yes, I would love to do something like that because I want to enjoy the entire process.”

What if a film came up where she’s needed to act with her father? Would she be inhibited to perform in front of him? “Of course yes, because in that case he’ll be the actor Govinda first. And for a newcomer, it’s certainly a big deal. He’s such a senior artiste. Frankly speaking, I consider and respect him as a teacher more than a father. When I was young, half the time he would be busy shooting. We couldn’t spend time with each other. So he’s more like an actor to me in that case. Whatever little time we get for each other, he would teach me. Many people have asked me this question. I have always told them that I would love to work with him only after I’m two or three films old.”

Does Narmmadaa think that her dad could launch her, though he’ll always be there as a father? “I wouldn’t mind if he launches me,” she laughs. “For a debutant, it’s very important for everything to fall in place. Even if I get launched by any small director or in a small-budget film, the subject has to be really good. Agar Daddy nahi bhi launch karte toh bhi I don’t mind.”

So what does it take to be an actress? After a long pause, she says, “You always have to be very plastic,” she laughs. “Besides, you need to be size-zero and you should always be in the news for link-ups and controversies.” Bigger the controversy, bigger the star? “As long as you know what the truth is,” she makes it clear.

Does Narmmadaa know her assets and limitations? “Yeah, I’m still working on them. I work very hard on my diction, because I believe good diction enhances your performance. I have discussed it with my father. He helps me. But at the end of the day, it’s always good to know your strengths and weaknesses yourself and work it out. So the process is all going on,” she nods her head giving me a feeling that she’s leaving no stone unturned to appear as a good actor on screen.

Criticism can be a scary word in the dictionary of a newcomer. Had Govinda inculcated in her the repercussions of coping with the bouquets and brickbats? “Yeah, I’m well prepared for that. But I really don’t care about these things because I have seen ups and downs in my father’s career.

When I was young, there was a time when my father’s films weren’t doing well. It used to hurt me a lot. I don’t really care now because I’ve learned to overcome all that during my growing-up years and learn to move on in life. He taught me how to take things as and when they come. In fact, if somebody criticises you, you should think about it and work on that,” says Narmmadaa.

Has it ever happened that her father narrated a scene to her and asked to enact it? “I have asked him but whatever he teaches me, I just can’t do it. He’s too perfect. If you explain a scene to him, he’ll do it exactly the way you want him to or maybe better. I really don’t understand his kind of cinema because it’s very different. He keeps on doing new things every time. The good thing about dad is that he’s a very good observer.

He observes people, their way of talking, mannerisms, behaviour and if he comes across any funny character, he tries to incorporate that in his film. Once, he had given me a dialogue, which was like ‘Maine toh kabhi aisa socha hi nahi tha ki tum mere saath aisa karoge. Main tumhe kitna pyaar karti thi.’ He asked me to do it. So I tried my bit. But the dialogue was too filmi that I couldn’t stop giggling, and my mother was staring at me from far. Even she started laughing. Eventually, it turned out to be a big comedy scene,” Narmmadaa recollects.

Now that she’s getting into films, does she pay attention to how her father deals with people and manage things? “I do observe and try to learn. But he’s quite a senior actor and has been doing all this for a long time. It might help me when I reach that position,” says Narmmadaa.

Govinda is known as a versatile actor. But Narmmadaa would soon be embarking in a different league altogether. So who would she look up for advice? “I can talk to my parents; besides that there are friends also.

It’s always good to take advice from as many people as you can,” she says it diplomatically. That means she has a lot of friends from the industry. “I don’t want my friends to be disclosed,” she grins. No female actor friend? “No,” she adds. Govinda and his wife Sunita are known to be quite conservative. Will he be open to her doing glamorous and intimate scenes? “I wouldn’t do something that would hurt him or I’m not comfortable in. If something is making him upset why would I do that? He’s quite open in that case,” she clears.

Govinda is mostly known for his unique comedy films. Can she do comedy too? “I would love to do comedy and it’s not just because my father is very good at it. I think it’s very easy for an actress to do a comedy film because such films don’t have enough scope for an actress. The male actors take away the cake. Girls are only there for dancing or maybe a few scenes here and there.” I’m surprised as she gets into technicalities. But what if she’s given a lead comedy role like her dad? “Well, I don’t mind but after one or two films. I want to start of as a glamour doll,” reveals Narmmadaa.

Does Narmmadaa think it’s the right time to debut, because somewhere her father is also working hard in his second innings? “I’m doing my part. I won’t be upset or get worried even if I take more time to sign my first film. My father has become very cautious. He takes decisions after thinking twice. So I can’t do something wrong myself,” she elucidates.

Does she think it’s an added advantage being a star daughter or a drawback? “It’s actually both. People go by the feeling that we don’t need to struggle as much as other girls. But then there are more people to criticise. You come with a lot of expectations and responsibilities to prove when you’re a star kid. There’s a lot of pressure,” states Narmmadaa.

Govinda has always been a controversy child. During her growing up years, how did she cope with her father’s various link-ups? She says, “Sometimes it does hurt because you feel it’s enough, and sometimes you feel like taking it with a pinch of salt. I ignored it in most of the cases and moved on, because I was aware of the truth. None of us in our house gave a damn. I was quite okay with such ridiculous news because I know that’s a part of an actor’s life. I have seen that, all my life. So I never over-reacted. He’s not a man who would hide things from his family or children because he’s a true gentleman,” says the daddy’s girl.

Now that she’s all set to face the arc-lights, what is the
image she’d like to portray? She gives me a few examples of actresses she would love to be like. “Actresses like Sharmila Tagore, Hema Malini, Saira Banu and Nutan amongst others. I always liked such high-glam and beautiful actresses.”

Last year, Narmmadaa accompanied Salman Khan to an awards function and that’s when the media even linked her with the actor. How did she take this? “I didn’t pay much attention because it’s not true,” she strikes back. “The media can create any story. All this has also happened with my father. So I am used to it,” Narmmadaa clarifies. Did Salman react? Did he call her after the incident? “No, we met the same night for his movie screening and just laughed about it.”

Unfortunately, Narmmadaa met with an accident five years ago, which was a major turning point in her life. How did she cope with it? “I wasn’t traumatized as such. Fortunately, when the accident happened, I was sleeping. So I didn’t realize what it was. But when my father got me to Mumbai, he informed what I had gone through, which really scared the daylights out of me. I’ll always be very grateful to him because without his support, I wouldn’t have been able to come out of it. He helped me to move on in life. It was a turning point because I had to start fresh,” she informs.

In the world of the Deepikas and Sonams, how does she think she’s going to survive? How would she stand different in the race and what does she have to offer to the viewers? “People would get to see that in my first film. I can’t say anything beyond that now,” she states decisively.

There is a lot of speculation about her debut film. “Such things are happening since the time I expressed my wish to become an actor. When I did my acting course, the media also reported that. But that time people didn’t consider the fact that I was very young and the process is still on. And they made a huge buzz about it. Now that I’m prepared, I’m meeting people. I’m reading scripts. I don’t want to rush into it just because I want to get into films. Everything is changing now. It’s just up to destiny where it takes me.” Luck favours the brave, as I assure her and prepare to leave.

By the time the interview ends, I see Narmmadaa as her own person. The confidence and enthusiasm remains intact. Though it’s still some time before we can see what Narmmadaa can do, it doesn’t diminish the potential she promises with her sincerity. With a zealous smile, she promises confidently, “It will be certainly worth the wait.”

*Courtesy: Stardust

La Commedia e l'Aula

Dear God, do I ever hope I've written that title right.

Day the last, I taught once again for one of Suzi Takahashi's classes at City College -- a "Movement for Actors" class that consisted of actors and non-actors alike, and I had less than a couple of hours in which to introduce them to the commedia dell'arte, in particular about how it can apply to physical characterization and character archetypes. I type a sentence such as that and it occurs to me that it must sounds dreadfully boring to the average Joe or Jane, one unaccustomed to seeing this work. That's a danger of "studying" commedia -- it all starts to seem academic at best, irrelevant and inaccessible at worst, and these are not adjectives that should ever have anything to do with the form, ever. So I try to avoid study, and focus instead on practice, which is an effective strategy in general for getting young men and women fresh from four days of eating and loafing to be involved.

I love guesting into Suzi's classes, and yesterday was no exception. The students were willing, focused and fun to be around (after a bit of a gradual warm-up period) and I found several applications that will be useful in future workshops. For example, I gave a generic pose for the three basic status types -- a deep stance for zanni, a lifted straight one for innamorati and a bent one for vecchi -- and periodically shouted out one of these types, for which they'd rush to assume the pose. It worked great for keeping them alert, teaching them the classes and getting them thinking physically (in particular because the Italian names had no literal meaning yet, so they could just be immediately associated). Having to abridge my usual material to make good use of time led to some interesting discoveries as well. A quicker pace kept the students from getting too wrapped up in right and wrong, so when it came to creating their own Capitano character they were more apt to drop the form elements they had already learned in favor of observed behavior.

There is something about teaching workshops that really fulfills me, and I often wonder if I would lose some of that feeling if the occasions to teach were more frequent, less special. Certainly there's a lot about regular teaching that a workshop instructor gets to be exempted from: long-term lesson plans, getting to know the students well (by which I mean, by name) and dealing with any amount of administrative concerns. The consequences, too, are mitigated by the brevity, which can also cast a bit of a glow on a workshop teacher as something new and fleeting, to be valued somehow more intensely than the teacher one sees day after day. Yeah, jeez: there's a lot of liberty in being a workshop leader. Yet the thing that gives me a sense of fulfillment more than any tricks I figure out or insights I have has more to do with the students than the class.

What's really amazing about sharing the commedia dell'arte perspective with people is watching them take it in their own way, at their own individual paces, and then suddenly run with it. That's got little to nothing to do with me, or even the material, and everything in the world to do with an individual person finding through the process a spark that lights them up. Maybe it's a moment of "I get it!", or perhaps it's one of "I give myself permission...", but whatever it may be for a given person, you can watch it happen around the classroom like popcorn. Here's where the commedia workshops and the acrobalance ones converge, in this infectious energy that spreads around in different patterns every time, but always results in more trust and bravery, and somehow, a new sense of community. It's really inspiring.

I've had a lot of experiences in the past year that have been seeming to say to me something literal and specific: Make community. That's it. There's a whole lot of different ways to do that, and I'm actively involved in a few of them, from starting up The ACTion Collective with Friend Andrew to working to stay better connected with all my friends, far and wide. Soon there'll be directing a show to add to the community-building pile, with a little luck. From the rehearsal studio to the Internet to visiting home (and other homes) it's a bit of ground to cover. I'm grateful that the small space of a couple of hours in a classroom can be part of that, too.

Bal Thackeray's Grandson Rahul Justifies Mother Smita Thackeray's Interest in Congress

Rahul Thackeray, grandson of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, has justified his mother Smita Thackeray's interest in switching sides from the party to join the Congress party.

Smita Thackeray has reportedly expressed willingness to join the Congress party, and she had also showered praises on party President Sonia Gandhi and General Secretary Rahul Gandhi. "She also has expressed certain views towards joining politics. Her views have been basically mentioned within the Sena. She does not receive a proper response from the Sena, so she has kept herself open to other options," Rahul Thackeray said.

Rahul also said that her mother has all the respect for the Shiv Sena supremo.

Meanwhile, the state unit of Congress has welcomed Smita's interest in joining Congress, but said that the party is yet to receive any formal request from her side.

"She has to take an initiation. A request should come from her side stating her interest to join Congress. If we receive any application from her, we would definitely think over it," said Manikrao Thackeray, President of the Congress committee in Maharashtra.

Smita, estranged wife of Jaydev Thackeray, was a power centre in the Shiv Sena over a decade ago and was known to be one of the closest associates of the Shiv Sena chief. (ANI).

Chiranjeev (Jeeva), Yesteryear Villain Ranjeet's Son, Spotted at an Event

Chiranjeev (Jeeva), yesteryear villain Ranjeet's son, was spotted at an event with his dad. Is he B-Town bound, too? Time will tell.

Ranjeet is married to Alokaa aka Naazneen and the couple has two Children, Divyanka, his elder daughter, is a prize-winning fashion designer and son Chiranjeev is a keen Formula One race driver. 'He's still young but in the next two years he will certainly be in films. I have a script in mind for him,' Ranjeet informs.

Nana Patekar Intends To Direct Son Malhar in His Second Directorial Venture

Nana Patekar intends that his second directorial venture should be based on autism. Nana had earlier directed Prahaar in 1991.

The film, which will mark the debut of Nana’s son Malhar as an actor, will be produced by Prakash Jha, who had reportedly broken off all professional ties with Nana because of the actor’s hotheadedness. A source claims that Nana is in talks with Reliance Big Pictures to be the presenter of his film.

A source said, “Nana wants a prefect and ambitious launch for his son. The film will go on the floors in February next year and is about the relationship between a father and his autistic son. The film also stars Nana, Om Puri, Atul Kulkarni and Naseeruddin Shah. They are looking for a new female face opposite Malhar.”

While Prakash Jha confirmed the news about producing the film, the spokesperson of Reliance Big Pictures said, “These are speculations and we do not wish to comment.”

Nana remained unavailable for comment.

Source - Mumbai Mirror

Sonakshi Sinha's Debut film 'Dabang' Starring Salman Khan and Arbaaz Khan Launched

Salman Khan, Sonakshi Sinha and Arbaaz Khan at a bash to launch their film Dabang.

Sonakshi Sinha

Salman Khan

Arbaaz Khan

Katrina Kaif, Arpita Khan and Sohail Khan, who were were also at the event held at a Juhu nighstpot, made an early exit. Dabang has Arbaaz as producer with Salman and Sonakshi in the cast.

Theatre: The Original Social Media

Teenagers are not dumb.

The movie adaptation of Interview with the Vampire came out in theaters in late 1994, plopping it right into my senior year of high school, and bringing Friend Davey and I to Springfield Mall one fine day to see it. Malls, at the time, were one of the few social milieu available to us in our particular environment -- not that we ever talked to anyone there, but that was more us than the environment, I think. At any rate, Springfield was well-waned in popularity at the time, making room for the cleaner, generally fancier Fairfax Mall, so it was strange that as we were leaving the movie I thought I saw someone I knew. Thought, that is, only for a moment. Where at one moment I thought I had seen a familiar pair of eyes and a flash of radiant hair, there was nothing when I checked back. Well, that wasn't so odd. I had just spent a couple of hours in the company of some rather charismatic vampires, after all.

These kids today, with their so-called vampires, glimmering and psychic and whatnot . . .
I have zero insight into what social conditions exist for the teenagers of today. They have ten thousand methods of communicating, but who knows how well that works, unless you're one of those who is newly double-digited in age? What I do know is that it's in our teenage years that it grows imperative that we become social creatures, and that a lot of our energy is spent solely on figuring that out. Not all that long ago, a teenager wouldn't be allowed out to a movie without a guardian or chaperon of some kind, terrified as we were of the assignations that might occur. Apart from serving as a rather absolute method of birth control, I can't see that there'd be much point to such restrictions anymore -- they'll only go and render 3D avatars of themselves on 2nd Life and get on with getting to know one another as well as any teenagers could ever hope to.

"Social networking media" has changed a lot of things about our methods of communicating, though it remains to be seen if the content and intention of that communication has changed dramatically. Truth be told, it is in many ways returning us to older forms. Facebook, for example, seems like a kind of oddly tiered public forum until one considers that for years upon years the borders of social circles were similarly enforced, only by money and class instead of who you know (as though the concepts were so extricable). MySpace felt like a sort of coliseum of kill-or-be-killed customization and lecherous advertising by comparison, and Twitter is . . . uh . . . man, I still don't know what Twitter is supposed to be. It feels a bit to me like the one-liner exchanges detectives on a stake-out have, or hunters gathered around a fire, except every single person everywhere is there.

They are all public forums, and there's a mistake in supposing this is something new. An easy mistake, really, because for a long time we've all been pretty focused on privacy. There's nothing wrong with that, obviously. I like my privacy too, but all things in moderation. Time was, being entertained was a social occasion. (I'm about to blow your mind.) A theatre was the place that one would do all this stuff we're now excited to do through computers. Performers and audience alike would have all kinds of dialogue, assignations and accidental encounters. They'd chat, they'd collaborate; I'm sure some of them even occasionally tweeted. That was part of the point -- not to hollow out our private space and be polite to those around us and avoid physical contact, but to engage. We all want to engage. That's what theatre is for.

Now, I'm not going to turn this car around if you all don't start using theatre for what it's for (but give your brother back his shoe, or I will). However, I like the world much more when we're all more engaged. Going to the movies to be alone is ridiculous, in other words, and one cannot live by Netflix alone. By God, yes, please: 'blog & tweet & Xbox & make that avatar dance. It's great stuff. But also, every so often, do something to see and be seen in the flesh, because when we just seek to entertain ourselves in isolation we are little more than soulless bloodsuckers, feeding from our own veins.

I should end it there, and the girl I glimpsed outside of the movie way back in 1994 might remain a figment of our collective imaginations.

On Sunday night that girl and I did some very out-of-character things. First among these was that we were out on a Sunday night; second was that we were seeing a movie; and third was that we were seeing a hopelessly, shamelessly (and I do emphasize here the utter lack of shame) popular movie on its opening weekend. These things are bad enough anywhere, but particularly redolent with practical difficulty in New York City, so I bought tickets in advance and cased the joint to find out where the inevitable line might form, and we spared just enough time to get a little oxygen out of our bloodstreams before joining said line well in advance of the opening of the doors. It was kind of nice, actually. Everyone knew why they were there, and some of us seemed more embarrassed by it than others, but no one could judge; not really. As happens with this sort of meme, this zeitgeist, casual conversations formed amongst strangers. Is this the line for tickets, or a seat? Did they say when the doors would open? I got here just in time, I guess. Look: No one's under 25 here, and there are guys! Lots of guys!

Oh, they try hard to give us plenty of material with which to accuse, but it's true: Teenagers, they are not dumb.

The Horror, The Horror...

Do you think anyone has yet mashed up Brando's famous delivery in Apocalypse Now with shots of men in traditional Jewish garb dancing traditional Jewish dances? If they haven't, the Internet is a failed experiment.

Sunday last I participated in a staged reading of Friend Nat's latest playscript: Pierce, or, A Ghost of the Union. The story is a ghost one, surrounding the presidency of Franklin Pierce. Nat excels at creating these unlikely mash-ups of supernatural tropes and (supposedly) more lofty and academic material; he's a smart guy who loves Japanese horror films and the work of Stephen King, and his previous plays have included Any Day Now (kitchen-sink drama and zombies) and The Reckoning of Kit & Little Boots (classical tragedy and time-bending magical [sur]reality). So as unlikely as the combination may seem, it really rather works in the hands of someone who can encompass all the contributing factors, such as Nat.

It reminds me of Friend Geoff, who is lightly obsessed with the hope that a stage play can be genuinely terrifying, and not just existentially, but immediately as well. I've seen two shows that scared me rather well: one was The Pillowman, the other a smaller-scale production but awfully well done from Friend Avi's group, Creative Mechanics: Fall of the House of Usher. Pillowman served up a series of shocks, in effect, that cumulatively broke my sense of trust in the narrative, whereas Usher was all-around creepy, seeping into me throughout by way of some incredibly weird and committed performances. Pierce is fascinating to me because it seems to adhere so directly to the rhythm of a horror movie, the way such movies often function like roller-coasters, undulating and setting you up over and over again for bigger and bigger drops. This is a far more delicate feat in the theatre than on the screen, though. It takes pitch-perfect balance. It's almost like comedy in its daring: Nowhere to hide or obfuscate your intentions -- you are there, and everyone knows this, to make people laugh. Or in this case, shudder with fear.

Theatre used to do this, you know. Theatre used to do it all, even with equivalents to the glorious orangey fireballs and computer-rendered creatures. It did it all, because it had to. It was all we had, and then just as now we liked being scared, made sad, laughing, and all the good junk in between. Somewhere up the line there started to come these other vicarious, verisimilitudinous experiences, and somewhere not too far beyond that theatre started to place a priority on distinguishing itself. By and large, I think this was good for theatre; I love exploration and a pursuit of specificity, and one of my favorite admonishments I received in college was to, damn it, find what theatre can do that no other medium can. That has served me well, and I'm still making discoveries in that vein. However, it irks me somewhat when specificity leans its way into limitation, and anyway movies do not have exclusive domain over anything having to do with entertainment, with the possible exception of having made and spent astronomical figures on it.

So: Fear. It makes for some pretty powerful catharsis. That's what all the scary movies are about, after all -- inciting some kind of visceral, emotional response from us that we somehow find comfort in (or at least afterward). As with any play or movie, the catharsis needs a good story on which to hang its hat, even if it's a very simple one (such as, mildly troubled family stays in hotel, gets stranded and violently disintegrates) and Pierce achieves that with a variety of contextual details such as slavery and impending secession, government and politics, and the strange evolution of the idea of "the media." Perhaps most satisfying, absolutely every character is changed by the events that unfold. In that sense, horror could be called a curious combination of comedy and tragedy (perhaps the eleven-fingered love child). It progresses with a comic rhythm of set-ups and deliveries, yet results in a tragic change, a horrible finality.

Then again, my favorite horror movies have that coda in which it is implied that the horror, the undeniable lack of control, is inescapable and cyclical and bound to repeat itself. Human behavior, at its most horrible. Now who wouldn't cast politicians in such a story?

The ACTion COLLECTIVE: ACT II - A Tale of Two Screens

On Monday Andrew Elliott and I hosted the second ACTion Collective event and, despite some initial concerns about the responses we received to the invitations, it turned out to be even more rewarding and fun than the first event. It looks like we can learn after all!

We had about a dozen in attendance, which means we would have had more than for our first, had not a few unfortunate last-minute cancellations come our way (wash your hands and sneeze into your elbows, kids). Of that group, nearly half were new attendees, either folks we'd invited before who couldn't make ACT I, or "second generation" ACTors, who were invited by folks who were in attendance for ACT I. (We like the word "ACT.") This time around, the scenes were much shorter, and pulled from draft film and television scripts. We changed the names and such to help camouflage the sources somewhat, gave everyone about twenty minutes to rehearse, then presented them. We also had a gimmick for deciding who went next, granting whomever could guess a given movie quote the power to choose the next group to perform. This worked remarkably well in a number of ways, but perhaps the best result was that we had time to do two rounds' worth -- and fortunately, Andrew and I had prepared enough scripts for this.

ACT II really acquired the feeling of a party as the evening progressed; the good kind, the kind where you not only know almost everyone, but you're also really glad to have a chance to reconnect with them. We served drinks and small food again, and there were groups of two or three who knew one another to begin with, but the atmosphere didn't really develop until everyone had watched and done a little work. Then there developed a sense of gamesmanship, and play, and the simple enthusiasm for exploration that comes of exploring together. It was great. By the end we were gently ribbing one another over our respective abilities (or lack thereof) for celebrity imitation, and laughing aloud at impromptu pratfalls. Oh yeah: And I got to see some seriously cool acting.

It really was a tremendous time and, in addition to that stand-alone reason to feel encouraged to continue, it resulted in a lot of specific clarifications in what The ACTion Collective's ever-evolving mission statement and function should be. There was definitely a spirit created by the room that I found myself wanting more of, a sense of play that encouraged more work and more risk-taking. This is a very important aspect of creating good work, yet it is an oft neglected one as well when it comes to the rehearsal process. It's definitely a component of our ambition with this project, to provide fellow actors with more of what they need. It may seem odd to non-actors that we sometimes need to be reminded of how much fun what we do can be, but I think this is true of almost any work. And acting, in addition to being play, is most definitely work.

Now Andrew and I are feverishly collaborating to come up with a best-of-both-worlds event for December, and I am excited by the prospects. It's a somewhat dodgy time, what with being between holidays and during prime party season, so attendance may be a problem. No work is ever wasted, however. Especially when you're having a good time doing it.

LeT’s ‘Rahul’ is Mahesh Bhatt’s Son

LeT’s ‘Rahul’ is Mahesh Bhatt’s son

Rahul Bhatt had befriended alleged Lashkar operative David Headley at a gym, but cops say he probably had no idea of the man’s real identity

The mysterious name, Rahul, mentioned extensively in LeT operative David Coleman Headley’s e-mails to handlers in Pakistan has finally been identified. It’s neither Shah Rukh Khan nor Rahul Gandhi, but the son of famous filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt.

And nor is Rahul Bhatt, 25, a fitness instructor and a body builder, on the LeT hit list; he is in fact a friend of Headley who was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Chicago last month.

However, investigating agencies, who have already questioned Rahul, have almost given him a clean chit, saying that he appears to be innocent.

An officer privy to the investigations said, “He has admitted to being friends with Headley. But, in all probability, he didn’t know Headley’s actual background and took him to be a foreign national in India on a job. That was exactly the guise Headley had been living under in India between 2006 and 2009.”

It has also come to light that it was Rahul who helped Headley rent a flat near Breach Candy hospital.

The two met at a gym where Rahul who at one point weighed 122 kilos, had come to lose weight and get fit.

Rahul Bhatt

Rahul Bhatt at that time was supposed to be launched in a film, Suicide Bomber, under his family banner Vishesh Films, based on the London bombings which was eventually scrapped.

Headley, a US citizen of Pakistani origin who had been arrested by US’s Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) on October 18 with a Canadian citizen of Pakistani origin Tahawwur Rana, at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, had told FBI interrogators that Rahul was a prominent Indian actor. Headley had been arrested on the information that he was planning terror attacks in Denmark and India.

The two men became friends and when Headley expressed that he was looking to rent a flat, Rahul even helped him get one near Breach Candy through a property broker. All this while, say investigators, Rahul was not aware that Headley had LeT links.

During his stay in Mumbai, Headley was ostensibly functioning as a consultant for an immigration firm in Tardeo. That was, possibly, the only identity that Rahul knew of Headley. Earlier, there were theories among intelligence agencies that Rahul could be a code word either for Shah Rukh Khan, who has played several character by that name, or even a place that could have been a terror target.

When contacted, Rahul’s father Mahesh Bhatt neither confirmed nor denied that his son had been questioned by the police in connection with the Headley case. He simply said, “This is an issue of national security and not something trivial related to Bollywood. Ask agencies that deal with national security. I will not say anything more.”

All efforts to reach Rahul failed as his phone was switched off. Text messages sent to him did not elicit any reply till the time of going to press.

Investigators also suspect that Headley may be holding dual passports of US and Pakistan (as Pakistan allows it) and thus escaped the scrutiny of immigration officials as he may have travelled to Pakistan using his Pak passport while to India using his US passport.

The rahul emails

In a few e-mail conversations with an LeT operative, Headley has mentioned Rahul several times. The FBI affidavit notes: In an e-mail on July 2009, Headley told Lashkar-e-Taiba Member A that “I think when we get a chance we should revisit our last location again and say hi to Rahul.”

A reply from LeT Member A on the same day read: “To see Rahul is a good idea coz have some work for you over there too. Matters are good enough to move forward...”

On July 9, Headley writes again: “When you say ‘move forward’, do you mean in the north direction or towards Rahul...” To this Member A replies: “Towards Rahul.”

On July 10, Headley writes another mail to Member A: “The visit to Rahul’s place, is it for checking real estate property like before, or something different and if so please tell what you can please. Also is it in Rahul’s city or different one?” To this Member A replied: “There are some investment plans with me, not exactly at Rahul’s city but near that. Rest we can decide when meet according to your ease.”

Investigations handed over to NIA

Meanwhile, the union government has asked the National Investigation Agency to probe Headley’s activities during his stay in India.

The NIA has registered a formal complaint, charging Headley and his accomplice Tahawwur Rana for plotting terror attacks in India. Sources said, the complaint does not mention any suspicion of Headley’s involvement in 26/11 attacks.

An NIA team is expected to shortly arrive in Mumbai to start investigations. The Crime Branch will assist the team after it arrives here.

Notably, the Ministry of Home Affairs team that had visited the US to interrogate Headley was not allowed to do so by the FBI.

The agency argued that it was technically not possible as no offence against Headley had been registered in India. However investigators have come across a list of 24 places in India of which arrested LeT suspects David Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana may have done recee, which also includes targets in three cities of the state, namely Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur.

During the seven visits the two made to India from 2006 to 2008, the two are suspected to have done recee of these targets, but the investigating agencies in the US have not come across any video of the India targets during the search of Headley’s possessions after his arrest.

According to sources, apart from Indian Military Academy in Dehradun, the two are suspected to have visited Siddhivinayak and Mahalaxmi temple in Mumbai, the Bombay Stock Exchange, the Southern Command headquarters in Pune and also perhaps the RSS headquarters in Nagpur.

Rana is a bigger catch

Sources said Tahawwur Hussain Rana was a bigger catch than David Headley since Headley was merely executing what ever directions Rana gave. Headley was shown as an employee of First World Immigration Services, a company used as a front by Rana to hop across the world.

Posing as owner of the company, Rana had visited several countries including India and Denmark on the directions of the LeT bosses, while Headley’s expenses for travel and living, which Rana used to bear, were legitmised by showing Headley as an employee of the firm, sources added.

According to information available with central intelligence agencies, even the e-mail accounts of Headley were operated at times by Rana. During one of his visits to Denmark, Headley had placed an advertisement for his immigration company in a Danish newspaper.

The FBI has found that when represenatives of the newspaper replied to Headley on e-mail, the IP address of the computer from which the response was given was traced to Rana.

How they made e-mail IDs

Rana used to guide Headley on creating e-mail Ids. In an e-mail to Headley, Rana once wrote, “One of my brothers is Brigadier Movadat Hussain Rana and the other is Sibte Hasan Rana Monie. They are in Rawalpindi.

I really admire e-mails making it instant ‘half mulaqat’ specially Yahoo as it seems superior to Hotmail.” Subsequently Headley started using email with the ID, drawn from first names of Rana’s brothers.

In another mail, Rana had directed Headley to use e-mail ID and told Headley that in subsequent e-mails, he should keep liyaqatwing and change the digit by multiplying it by two and substracting two out of it. Headley then used

Incentive, Product and Paying to Play

The ACTion Collective certainly has me thinking in some different directions these days. "What?" you ask, cautiously curious. "What? What is this 'the ACTion Collective' of which you speak?" Oh, Gentle Reader, how can I explain it? I could direct you here, here or here for mentions of the good ol' AC on this here 'blog, of course, but why do that when I can just as easily send you to...

Why indeed?

One of the primary concerns Andrew and I were discussing that led to forming the ACTion Collective was the way in which actors end up paying for their craft. True, the more dedicated ones often get paid for practicing it, and would never consider literally paying for the privilege; would they? The sad fact is, we do. Even working professionals pay for classes (either to study, stay in practice or network), pay for memberships and pay for the various expenses related to being one's own business, always looking for new work. In fact, even when we are paid for work, many of us (certainly a majority) are taking a generous cut out from some more profitable thing we maintain between acting jobs. Thus the overall effect: we are losing money. It can be hard to enjoy your work under these conditions, much less thrive in it.

In a short five days, we will have our second event, and Andrew and I are hoping to keep a growing momentum with these events. Ultimately, we want the thing to be a bit more self-sufficient so we can have events more frequently, open it up to members to take initiative and generally get the "action" part fulfilled. To that end, we've begun discussing the possibilities for non-profit business models, as well as methods of presenting and marketing the ACTion Collective to people. And amongst those people we effectively have to "sell": actors.

This seems odd at first, but the more I think about it the more sense it makes to me. At a first glance at our fledgling organization, an actor might think, "What's the catch?" And that's at best; at worst, s/he might think, "Poppycock (or other expletive - ed.). I'll not waste my time and energy on something other than getting that part in that play / movie / commercial / showcase." We're used to being used in some way, frankly, and so focused on getting paid for something, anything we do that free stuff doesn't make much sense to us. Sometimes, we don't even value it. Because it's free. This is human behavior stuff, and actors are a really stubbornly human bunch, we are.

So, at least until we gather ourselves in the comfortable folds of some kind of reputation, for now we are examining the incentives and potential products of our homespun organization. One of the things that I really like about it (dangerous that - liking things only leads to misery when things have to change, as they inevitably do) is the intention of combining play with craft, and the balance of those two elements is something we spend a lot of time discussing. Because we can always hang out a banner that reads, "Free wine!" We'd probably get half of New York's actors to every event. Similarly, we could make that banner simply say "art," and get a tremendously interesting influx of crafts-folk. But we want it all. (We're actors.)

How do we put games into the craft, so that both combine to create synergy? How do we invite the social aspect to foster real connections between people, so that we're getting somewhere substantial with our fun? What will draw people in, both to participate and invest? What do we produce, ultimately? Fortunately, there's no shortage of ideas for events. We've also gotten a very positive verbal response from almost every person we've invited to join in on the community, and many of them have submitted ideas and requests. The great thing is, that's my main incentive. Just making some kind of contact with great people is motivating; actually getting to be involved in their work is a uniquely rewarding form of payment.

Causal Coincidence

Oh. Hello. Been waiting here long, have you? Here, let me just get out my keys, and . . . . Wow. Which one is it again? Oh right: "Aviary." That makes sense. And to the door which is now, open again. Huzzah! Hello! Welcome! Your back-order of ponderous pontification awaits!

Theatre and technology have in my mind of late been taking interesting waltzes together. This is owing largely to my new adventures in administration with the ACTion Collective, which incorporates a lot of models from Internet media and business, because Collaborator Andrew and I are raging geeks. It also, however, has a thing or two to do with personal discoveries I've been making about my interactions with others. For example, in acknowledgement of finally emptying my inbox (upon purchase of a so-called "smart" phone) I decided that from here on out I would reply to every single email I receive. Previously, I did not, because I saw it as a waste of time and a furthering of compulsive behavior. Now I'm finding that I get much better responses and results from the people I'm corresponding with when I always reply in some way, not to mention the better results I get from myself by always trying to find something to add. It's a very basic idea. It's also a core tenet of good acting.

Look for a future post regarding my ideas about theatre being the original "social media." Breathless anticipation, thy name is 'blog . . .

One particularly interesting overlap I find in the folds is the way in which theatre and electronic mediums of communication reflect our social behavior back to us in often startling and crystal-clear ways. I recently read an alarming article (link to some salty language and disturbing behavior) that addressed the strange privilege we all seem to feel now to be reporters rather than people involved in what's going on around us. We've always been drawn to vicarious experience, even before YouTube and video games, and some of us are drawn to involvement in the creation of such experiences. The voyeur impulse is strong in all of us, I think, because we continually need to refresh our sense of belonging -- self-awareness can be oddly isolating. Do others feel things the way I do? If only I could see into other people...especially when they think they're alone.... There's more to it than that of course. It's all really rather complex.

Which brings me to a term I'm using lately to describe a phenomenon I've particularly noticed lately: causal coincidence. It's difficult for me to discuss this idea without getting inured in issues of philosophy and religion, but it's not my aim here to expound on those aspects. No, I'm just standing back and marveling at the way Twitter works, and how similar I find it to the way in which acting work comes my way. To (t)wit -- a large number of tiny incidents, relatively unrelated, somehow culminate into a large or significant effect. I say "relatively unrelated" because it's difficult (impossible?) to determine all the interactions in something with as grand a scope as Twitter's network, or the casting community of New York. I think of fractals, Escher progressions and helices -- tiny, basic elements that develop seemingly of their own accord into complex structures. Issues of cause and effect seem almost meaningless in this context.

In 2003, I decided that a good way to spend my birthday would be by starting it out going to an audition, so I did. In spite of a strong audition, it didn't seem I'd get the part -- they were looking for someone who played the piano -- but through a series of incidents, I did. We ended up incorporating my circus skills, which took it in quite a different direction. That show led to returning to work with the same theatre in subsequent summers, and seeing a show that involved my costar from the first show. That show grabbed my attention, and I mentioned admiring the work to the director. Years later, I was invited to join their new project, in which I became deeply involved for a couple of years. A lot of change went on for me during that time, including both rather seriously injuring myself, and acquiring the most raw strength I've ever had, and much as a result of both I made a return to circus studies, which in turn has me now seeking out playwrights and performers to create my own circus theatre.

And off of all that, myriad other unexpected challenges and opportunities. You could point to any one action in my career and see how it indirectly led to things amazingly other, and maybe that's just life, but it's brought into sharp relief when you consider the question of cause, or coincidence. I see it as both. More specifically, I see coincidence -- that is, any correlation between (relatively) unrelated actions or events -- as often being causal, and I see a certain mass effect when these causal coincidences coincidentally accumulate.

Maybe another definition of the whole question is in order, but I'm not going to be the one to make that happen. What I'm going to do is embrace the function, however it functions, and make the most of it. To be involved, and not merely reporting.

Though the reporting can be pretty great, too.

In the Name of Action

Last Thursday The ACTion Collective made its big debut, rounding up roughly a dozen incredibly talented and daring actors for an event that invited them to bring scripts to be performed that very same night with minimal preparation, in most cases working with someone new-to-you. It was an experiment, a game, and I think a rousing success. Certainly preparing for it and the results we achieved roused enthusiasm in me for another such event, and so far the feedback has been positive enough to warrant that response. People had fun, and people have ideas for more fun along similar lines. As I've stated before, I'm a big fan of beginnings and the energy they engender. I think I'm becoming more and more appreciative of continuity, though -- particularly when it's my work I'm talking about, of course.

Our work, I should say, because a lion's share of the preparation for Thursday and for laying the groundwork for ACTion Collective at-large was achieved by Friend Andrew. It's been frankly inspiring (and only a little frightening at times) to work with such a reliable and responsive collaborative partner. We all have our projects, and we actors are notoriously wicked when it comes to neglecting one to serve seventeen others, and I am certainly guilty of letting slide a thing or two, here or there, from time to time . . . uh . . . over and over. I never realized before, however, that this occurs most often because I don't receive a response on my outgoing work soon enough. Such is not the case with Andrew, even remotely. It probably helps that we're both geeks (and getting geekier by the hour). We may as well call the Gods of Google our silent third(s?), and Andrew's a Mac, I'm a PC.

The event itself ("ACT I," we've taken to calling it) was a giant collaboration, in fact, which is part of why I wanted to do it in the first place. Fostering a sense of collaboration empowers actors, I believe, and also lends us some perspective on the many reasons that people with other jobs in creating theatre (or film, or what-you-will) may not always understand us. I was concerned about ACT I feeling too much like a potluck, without structure, yet wanted to allow room for participant contribution in a social setting. We found a nice balance -- people even contributed food and drink without prompting, and took every challenge we threw out at them with grace and eagerness. I think next time we'll feel more at ease to structure, leaving the freedom up to folks' own sense of proportion. The experiment is ongoing, but it definitely feels as though it's going forward.

Some of the contributing ideas to ACTion Collective, in no particular order:
  • It's called a "play" for a reason. (This is paraphrased from somewhere - Dario Fo, perhaps?)

  • Actors need to be empowered, because much of the audition and rehearsal processes can and do (intentionally or non-) relegate the actor's craft to a low priority.

  • Unlike other creative artists, actors need other people in order to act, because without them the equation isn't balanced, and the work is incomplete.

  • As actors, we can instinctively be in competition with one another, but this sabotages what we want to achieve in myriad ways -- see above.

  • The typical model of work-flow for a working actor largely puts him or her in the position of relying on others' decision-making for when they work and what they work on.

  • An actors' work is always, always better when s/he can combine the relaxation of game-play and experimentation with the desire to work toward the most effective expression of a script, which one doesn't always have the time or permission to achieve in a necessarily short rehearsal period.

  • Acting takes practice; good acting takes regular practice.

  • It's fun.

  • Most actors are willing to work for the sake of the work, but we must resist it in the interests of a sustainable career; being free to focus on the craft on a regular basis, without such worries, empowers us to make sure we value the rest of our efforts as we should.

  • Networking is not enough; we need a community.

  • Action begets action.

It's exciting work in an exciting time. At first, I was going to describe a bit of what happened, the little challenges and victories that came about, the laughs, and of course the pumpkin fudge, which doesn't sound natural but is an amazing and delightful adventure of the taste buds. But the fact is, it loses something in translation. Words will not suffice. It's not enough to hear about it, or even witness it.

To know it, you have to do it.

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