Tuesday, August 29, 2006

My only dream was the India cap: Tendulkar

After surviving more than 16 years in media spotlight, Sachin Tendulkar is set to put into words his incomparable drive and passion for cricket. Lauded as the best batsman since Sir Donald Bradman, he reveals in his forthcoming book Tendulkar's Opus how he evolved from being an unmanageable child to India's youngest-ever Test player.

"Cricket is something very, very special to me. It has never been about owning this or that car and the other things that come with this life. My parents taught me that it is important to live everyday of your life with grace and honour," the ace batsman says in the book to be published at the end of next year.

"An obsession with money or worldly matters was always thumbed down. My only dream was to wear the Indian cap and the Indian colours. In that respect, my childhood dreams have come true."

However, Tendulkar says cricket wasn't his only love. He also played a lot of tennis and believes he was pretty good at it too.

"My big-time hero was John McEnroe. I just loved that guy. All my friends and family would support Bjorn Borg. I was the only one supporting John McEnroe - everyone used to call me 'Mac' because I styled myself on him.

"I made my father buy me the same headbands and sweatbands and even grew my hair long. You wouldn't believe the pictures of me from that time. I was also extremely naughty. Very, very difficult to handle."

"I would climb the trees around the apartment complex and polish off all the guavas and mangoes. The fruit trees were strictly off limits, but I used to time it to perfection by waiting until nobody was around, normally in the evening when everyone was inside watching television.

"I had a nanny who used to run after me virtually 24 hours a day, because I never wanted to go home," he says.

Tendulkar says he settled down when he started playing a lot of cricket in his early teens - "all my calories were being burnt on the cricket pitch and my energy was being focused.

"I have my brother Ajit to thank for that - he guided me into the game. He used to watch me play downstairs with my friends, without me realizing. He figured out that I could bat by watching my swing, the way I connected with the ball and my consistency.

"He's almost 10 years older than me and had played at a decent level himself. He told me that professional cricket could be a future for me and convinced my father to let me change schools, to help me play more," he says.

"My father, who died in 1999, was never a cricket fan, not at all. He was a writer and a poet: he taught Marathi, my mother tongue, at the local university. But he understood exactly how to get the best out of me. He always encouraged me and told my mother that he had full faith in me. It was probably reverse psychology, but as I got older I felt like I could not misuse that trust.

"He warned me against taking short cuts and told me to just keep playing, despite the ups and downs. When it came to choosing between cricket and going to university, he said: 'You can play cricket, I know that is your first love, so go for it'."

Tendulkar says his parents were extremely happy when he became the youngest player to play for India, at 16.

"At first they were a little worried. In India, cricket is almost a religion and they had some apprehensions over whether I'd be able to cope with the demands and pressure at that age. Some of the players were almost twice my age and I was living away from home for most of the year. But it all went smoothly in the end."

In excerpts of the book published in The Sunday Times magazine, Tendulkar says "I now have my own family, daughter who is eight and a son who is six, so there's that other half of the coin to look at. I need to strike the right balance between cricket and family.

"I try to follow my father's lead and give my kids the freedom that I had in my family. Having children brings back all my old childhood memories, wonderful years. Now, every minute is measured and calculated. I still dream - without dreams, life is flat, you stagnate. I don't go to the temple every morning, but I do pray. I thank God for everything He has given me, because life has been good to me," he says.

As a child, Tendulkar says he always knew he would play cricket for India. The batting maestro says he received his first cricket bat when he was seven.

"My big sister gave it to me after returning from a trip to Kashmir, which is known for its high-quality willows. It wasn't the best bat, but it was like a piece of gold to me. I used to imagine myself batting for India, hitting fours and sixes, the people cheering. I used that bat until it broke when I graduated from playing with a tennis ball to a hard, seasoned ball."

Reminiscing his childhood, Tendulkar says he grew up in an apartment in central Mumbai, a nice middle-class area, the youngest of four children - "I have two brothers and a sister. There was a private green at the front of our building where I used to spend all my spare time playing with friends.

"Virtually every morning, evening and afternoon, playing football, volleyball, hockey - and cricket, of course. Batting came naturally to me, probably because of my physique. There were bigger guys who chose to bowl, and there were smaller guys like me who had no option but to bat."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Kamal Hassan's interview

Kamal Hassan talks about making films on his own terms

Excerpts from the Itnterview:

Why have you been maintaining such a low profile?

I'm 50 now. I have suddenly realised how much time I've wasted. I should've planned my dream Maridunayagam more carefully. I need 40 more years as a filmmaker. Although it may seem so, I'm not a workaholic. I took one entire year (1990) off thinking I could afford it. I'm one of the few filmmakers in Chennai who takes every Sunday off.

You've been around for 30-odd years as a leading man. What changes do you notice in the film industry?

I'm still trying to execute those dreams that I had at 19. I agree that the Tamil industry is quite stagnant. But as long as I live to tell the story, I guess I'm going to do so.

Aren't your films very expensive?

All the films I do for external productions are within the budget. When I did Hey Ram on my own, it cost as much as Shankar's Hindustani, although it was a bi-lingual. When it comes to my films, the forthcoming film has to be better than the earlier ones.

Are your dreams getting bigger?

No. I don't believe in daydreaming. But Maridunayagam remains one of my dreams. Now, I can get most of the finance in India, but only if my next few films do well. Luckily, portions where I'm supposed to look younger have all been shot so that my growing older in person would become a part of the narrative.

Is it becoming difficult for you to make films on your own terms?

It's always difficult, whether on my own or on others' terms. But I've no complaints. I'm a pampered technocrat. Filmmaking is not an isolated endeavour; it's like fighting a war. You can lose any time. Your soldiers might fail you. Your courage might fail you.

Singing is an abiding passion for you, isn't it?

I've sung about 50 songs for my films and majority of them are in Tamil. My father wanted me to become a singer, a classical vocalist. I learnt classical singing but not to the level he wanted. Due to my other pursuits, I couldn't take up singing seriously. Now, my daughter Shruti is learning Hindustani classical music.

What do you feel about another Kamal Hassan coming up in the industry?

They're already there, though they aren't my direct offsprings. My replacement is probably smiling at me and calling me passe. I only hope I can groom him without jealousy (laughs). I remember commenting on my seniors's performances. We'd look at MGR and Sivaji Ganesan films and wonder why they did some of the films that they did. Of course, we became eager chelas once we entered the industry.

Where are the replacements for you and Rajnikant?

Earlier, people used to say that no one could replace Sivaji Ganesan, and he would modestly say that his replacement would arrive. It took a long time for Sivaji saab to see a spark in me —he took me seriously as an actor after 17 years. I'm being realistic when I say a replacement will come. There are so many gifted new boys. And I'm eager to encourage them.

What do you enjoy the most—acting, producing, screenwriting or directing?

That depends on which of these capacities are required for, at any given time. I was a reluctant actor who was cajoled into acting. Now I enjoy it too much to give it up. There's so much applause you get. But if my visiting card read 'Kamal Hassan, Actor' I'd be slightly perturbed.

When your ex- wife Sarika had a near-fatal fall you subconsciously recorded the incident for future reference?

That's a common trait among actors. Though I can detach myself from tragedy, no one is immune to tears and fears. As an actor I've recorded a number of tragedies for reference. But this was one crisis where I kept the actor completely at bay. However, the child within me remained curious about the fall and wanted to know the technical details. That didn't in any way, diminish my affection for my wife. But the truth is, I was seeing a bizarre screenplay in my mind. I went from shock to gloom within no time.

So you realised that audiences' tastes couldn't be trusted?

No, the same audience that accepted me in this film also wanted to know when I would do more films like Moondaram Pirai, Thevar Magan and Appu Raja.

What about your Hindi films after Ek Duuje Ke Liye?

Some were obvious failures. But they didn't affect me. I did them out of friendship. My failure in Hindi cinema was more conspicuous because those Hindi films took longer to finish. If they were completed on schedule I would have done 50 films during the same time. I chose to stay away from Hindi films because I've a short life and there's lots of work to be done. Some of my best friends took forever to make their films. Ramesh Sippy took two years to make

You have a formidable acting reputation to back up your films in Mumbai.

I'm just a musafir (traveller) in Mumbai. I drop in once in a while and shake up the statusquo as I come and go. I'm not present in the market to generate faith in my standing. So when I do come with a film they say, "Ah phir aa gaya?!" But in Tamil Nadu it's another story. Alabandhan is being looked upon as a huge event.

Is there a Dravidian prejudice in Mumbai, because Madhavan too is facing the same kind of stumbling block.

But Madhavan is facing a stumbling block in Chennai as well. If in Mumbai he's seen as a Madrasi boy, then in Chennai he's the Bombay guy. It's unfortunate to enounter so many parochial attitudes. To a large extent, Tamil cinema is free of those biases.

Many of your fans feel that Mani Ratnam's Nayakan is your best film till date.

It's an important film. But even Mani Ratnam would say his best is still to come. Now when we're thinking of working together again we're scared whether we'd get an equally powerful script.

Was Nayakan designed as a desi Godfather?

Yes, both Mani Ratnam and I are great fans of Mario Puzo and Francis Coppola. All the same, we wanted to get away from the Hollywood stereotype and remake Nayakan into our environmnt.

Were you offered the Hindi remake of Nayakan?

No. Feroz Khan wanted to do it. That's why he bought the rights. As for my opinion of the Hindi version, Mani Ratnam and I share the same opinion—they missed the point.

What do you think about the frenzied fusion of cinema and politics in Tamil Nadu?

It started with the DMK who wanted a propaganda tool. When C N Annadurai started the DMK party, it was not a contesting party. Annadurai was also a screenwriter. When he died, Karunanidhi was unanimously chosen as his undisputed successor. After 1967, Tamil Nadu hasn't seen a single non-cinema Chief Minister. Even NT Rama Rao in Andhra Pradesh saw the close link between cinema and politics through MGR. NTR played almost every role in Telugu cinema that MGR played in Tamil and also had a religious aura to his personality.

Why have you and your guru Sivaji Ganesan shied away from politics?

I have. He hasn't. He won several elections and even started his own party. He lost his focus on cinema for a while. How could I advise him against it? How can you tell the headmaster to run the school? We disciples humbly murmured our disapproval.

What do you think about Rajnikant as an actor?

When we were still in our 20s I had asked him why he was so stylised on screen. He said that's the secret of his future success. I assured him that my style would also be a winner. He turned around to say, 'Fair enough. You do your thing and I'll do my own.' Rajni is a phenomenon too. Both of us were young actors who started from scratch. We didn't have fathers to make movies for us. But we had the same godfather K Balachander. It's quite strange, but our paths as actors were always intertwined. We made our way up together.

Are you keen on doing a film with Rajnikant?

It depends. He said if we do a film together he wouldn't direct it. It has to be either me or someone else. It would be interesting to do a film with him. At the Thenali silver jubilee function Rajni recalled an incident when he was riding pillion on my bike. When the bike skidded Rajni asked if I knew how to ride a bike! I assured him that even if I fell, I wouldn't let him fall. I was so touched when Rajni said at the function, 'That's what happened in our careers. He never let me fall. In 1983, when I wanted to leave everything behind it was Kamal who cajoled me back to the material world.' I guess we'll do a film together. We're worried about the expectations.

You're accused of becoming increasingly self-indulgent in your films.

I was self-indulgent earlier. I am an actor who can do Bharat Natyam and Kuchipudi, skid on a motorbike and select films from different languages for a remake. Is that being self-indulgent? I don't think so.

Anil Kapoor has done a large number of your Tamil films in Hindi.

Somewhere he must admire the way I conduct my career. Maybe he wanted to use some of my career tricks. But no re-make can be the same as the original. Even Moondram Pirai and Sadma aren't the same though they were done with the same cast and crew. Just as Shakespeare's Othello is played by so many actors why can't two actors in India interpret the same character in two languages? I was offered the chance to do the Hindi remake of my Swathi Muthyam (which Anil Kapoor eventually did as Eeshwar) by Raj Kapoor. If I had taken the offer I'd have belonged to one of the most illustrious film families in India, just as I belong to Sivaji Saab's family.

Where do you think our cinema stands globally?

It's time for our films to move ahead of V Shantaram's musical milieu. I may not succeed playing a vigilante. It's not enough for a Mani Ratnam or a Kamal Hassan to change the status quo. We need more celluloid reformists. It happened in Karnataka through a governmentsponsored scheme. Suddenly, I was very proud of a neighbouring state. I'd run to Karnataka just to be part of the cinematic revolution at a time when Tamil Nadu was making crappy commercial films. Just being in B V Karanth's house was comforting. I feel the same movement can start in any part of the country. Why should we depend on Mumbai for it? I think our cinema has never grown up since Shantaramji's days. But I'm trying.

Why this aversion to songs and music?

I've this Guru Dutt-like background. I used to be a dance composer. In four years, I must have choreographed about a hundred songs. As an actor I've done about 500 songs. To me songs make commercial sense, in the same way that whores make sense to someone in the prostitution business. As an actor, songs often seem stupid. I played a psychopath in the Tamil film Red Rose. Everyone expected me to go on stage and sing a pop number with girls. I told my director that a serial killer doesn't sing. In our films everyone from a dentist to a follower of Vinobha Bhave sings and dances. I'm fed up of bringing music into every aspect of life on screen. We don't need to mix genres. At the moment we're cooking up a strange gypsy dish made up of leftovers and disposable food.

Do you feel music is a huge impediment to our cinema' progress?

Yes. My greatest disappointment was when my hero Shyam Benegal succumbed to the song trap in Zubeidaa. See how the film industry is coercing some of our greatest filmmakers. When I first saw his work. I remember meeting him after Ankur and I asked him the name of his next film. He said, 'We don't have to name the film now since we don't have to sell our songs." I admired him for that. Now I can understand his desire to be market-friendly. We all have to change. He's still my hero.

Your fans want your talent to be recognised in the West.

They should stop dreaming of an Oscar for me. Oscar isn't the ultimate reward for an Indian actor. Hollywood doesn't allow us to participate on an equal level; we can participate only as foreigners. It cannot be a world endorsement of cinematic excellence. It doesn't even endorse American cinema fully. My dream project is to create a film festival like Cannes in Chennai where the top prize would be one million dollars. Then we'll have Hollywood participating without reservation.

Do you think our cinema is finally being noticed abroad?

We need to take our cinema forward and free it from bigotry. I'm bored with what we're doing. I've my own sensibilities as a filmmaker. I want to apply these to international standards. Hollywood comprises multi-cultural talent. Likewise, we need to wear our cultural badge and still look cosmopolitan.

There's a lot of speculation about your personal life.

A broken marriage isn't a crime. In Tamil Nadu, the press seems to respect my feelings. I'm a child of the Tamil industry. I've gone through grief. I repeat, give me my privacy. It's my fundamental right.

Your problems have made you compassionate.

I always believe there's no such thing as luck for those who deserve it. You've to work hard for it. I paid the price for wanting to be a director. I lost money but I gained critical fame. Now I wonder if the bargain was worth it. As a struggler, I dreamt of owning several cars, living in an air-conditioned home etc. I was paid Rs 15,000 per film and I was doing 10 films at the time. I wanted to cross the Rs 100,000 bracket and act in only one film at a time. Today I've many luxuries and liabilities including alimony. But my dream of making films hasn't died.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A R Rahman Interview


�I�m starting my own music label�

Musical genius A.R.Rahman tells Shana Maria Verghis why he is starting KM Music,
why he missed out on working in Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann�s latest project, his
collaboration with a famous guitarist, why musicals are the next big thing in Indian cinema, how much Heath Ledger liked the Bombay Theme, why he has a new haircut and the next Elizabethan saga from Shekar Kapur.

Last time we met A.R.Rahman, he was sporting his trademark shoulder-length
hair., This time it was cropped short because he recently went on a Haj pilgrimage. Wearing a beige Van Heusen jacket, white shirt and jeans over patent leather shoes. Rahman, who has just
been anointed WorldSpace�s brand ambassador, was in Delhi for a brief stopover. We buttressed him into talking about chalk and cheese.

WorldSpace got you into four new adverts. Your second TV commercial after Nokia.
You also composed the jingle for WorldSpace�s latest campaign which is built around you
and includes concert shows.

I have been using the radio for four years. The video was shot in Kannur. The music is inspired
by sounds of nature.

Spike Lee chose Chaiyyan Chaiyyan (from Dil Se) track for his heist film, Inside Man, which
stars Jodie Foster. And one of your tunes will appear in Nicholas Cage�s Lord of War. Did you
get paid?

Spike Lee is an undergraduate professor at a US University. He saw the film and contacted us
for the song. He wanted to put rap in it, but I made a specific condition he couldn�t touch it.
Mani Ratnam�s company was paid for it. Nicholas Cage�s film uses the Bombay
Theme song.

You are working on the soundtrack for Mani Ratnam�s Guru, based on the life of
textile tycoon Dhirubhai Ambani. In the background was an anthem on TB for United Nations.

It has been changed to anti-poverty. Gulzar is collaborating on Guru, that
should be good.

What about the Sholay sequel?

I'm not in it anymore.

And Mani Ratnam�s Mahabharata trilogy?

That is still in the idea stage. But I�ve got Shootout at Lokhandwala, Woodstock
Villa, Dus Kahaniyan and Alibaug, all produced by Sanjay Gupta, who wrote the script for
the last. I�m also working with a great guitarist.

Carlos Santana? Since every new album of his is with collaborative artists?

(Smiles) I�m not telling.

But there is a lot more work in progress�

Yes, like Shekar Kapur�s two sequels to Elizabeth. The first, The Golden Age, is already
happening. It�s going to be an IMAX film and there is a project with Farah Khan starring
Shahrukh Khan. Period films, The Golden Age and Jodha Akbar.

What music are you listening to�.

Classical, like Bartok.

What about when you travel, do you collect music?

You can get form an iTunes store.

What do you think of Himesh Reshamiyya?

He�s okay. We were co-jurors for a show on Channel [V].

You are known for keeping unearthly work hours. Do you still do?

Depends on work. I�m at it from 9 pm till 3 am. Then I sleep till three in the afternoon.

Is there a lacuna in the music scene?

The lack of an extraordinary male voice.

What is your definition of �extraordinary�?

Like Mohammed Rafi. Not that Shankar (Mahadevan) and Sonu (Nigam) aren�t good
but one looks for a timeless voice.

Followed the World Cup?

I don�t know a thing about it. I am beyond sports!

Are you in touch with your guru, music composer Dakshinamoorthy?

We are collaborating on an album based on Kairadu Master�s poem.

How did the collaboration with violinist Vanessa Mae happen on Choreography?

She would come to Shekar Kapur�s flat and ask me to arrange something for her album. I was
supposed to do three tracks. In the end I only did Raga�s Dance.

You arranged music for Kevin Wallace�s mammoth musical Lord of the Rings. It premiered in
Toronto and opens in London next year. At $12.5 million, it is supposed to be the most
expensive musical to be staged in London.

It has been a lot of work. It covers all three of the movie versions. I worked on it with
Finnish folk musicians Vartinna.

Have you taken up new instruments?

I bought an accordion during a trip to Prague.

You are happiest doing live show. What do you think about music now?

It�s a shame most Indian�s listen to music that is only film, film. There is so much more.
Western classical, new age, South Indian classical. That is why I am launching a new music

A label of your own?

KM Music. KM stands for something holy and lucky for us. I�ll be producing, not distributing.
We will get all kinds of people and composers, focusing mainly on unknown voices. Music in the
market is something most relate to. I first listened to Bade Ghulam Ali saab on the Mughal-e-Azam soundtrack. I doubt I would have listened to him otherwise. Recently, in Delhi, I was listening to a nine-year-old who sang on a talent show and blew everyone out. It�s good
that�s there�s so much talent around.

Going back, how did you end up composing for the Chinese film, Warriors of Heaven and Earth?

Sony, my producers, wanted me to work with Joshua Bell who had appeared on the
Red Violin. While talking they mentioned this project.

You nearly landed up working on Baz Luhrmann�s next film�

Unfortunately, they checked out the list of my projects on the IMDB website and
got scared because my name was next to thirty. They don�t like the idea of working with
someone who has too much on his plate. Baz Luhrmann has three proposals still lined up.

There seem to be more musicals with you composing Shyam Benegal�s Chamki
Chameli, about a BSF officer and a gypsy girl.

There are going to be more musicals in the future. I�m also composing for Naresh
Iyer�s London Dreams about two composers and the Punjabi underground music scene. And for Rockstar with Sushmita Sen and Shiney Ahuja.

Your take on remixes?

I don�t think all are bad.

What do you present when you land an international project?

I don�t show them I�m Indian or anything. I let them listen to the melody. It
should match the scene. Like my score for Ring Theme in The Lord of the Rings was cyclic. They aren�t interested in ragas. The Bombay Theme was popular in Hollywood actors� make-up rooms as a stress buster. I met Heath Ledger at the premiere of Shekar Kapur�s Four Feathers and he loved it.

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