Thursday, October 30, 2008

The drums of change

Anthony LoGerfo has achieved at a young age what most drummers dream of during their lifetime. After working with Gwen Stefani, he is busy recording for Eliana Burki’s next album. Mathures Paul met him backstage

Drummers can make concerts a roaring success or be responsible for poor reviews. At a very young age Anthony LoGerfo has set high standards, those demanded by rock stars; he has every element that goes into the making of another Ginger Baker, Brian Blade, Matt Brann or Matt Helders. Anyway, he’s almost there, courtesy Gwen Stefani on whose two albums ~ Love. Angel. Music. Baby. and The Sweet Escape ~ he has drummed like a man possessed by a passion. Not just Stefani, he is also the drummer for renowned Alpine horn player Eliana Burki and Elan Attias of The Wailers.
Being part of a group, one tends to get lost while touring and the vocalist steals the limelight. LoGerfo thrilled critics, promising that better music is on the way.
His association with Gwen Stefani was purely accidental. “She had just taken a hiatus from No Doubt, eager to work on her first solo album. Her transition as singer was seen in the move towards dance-oriented pop music with overtones of reggae, etc.,” says LoGerfo. Then came Love. Angel. Music. Baby., Stefani’s debut album, which was meant to be a side project but turned out into a large production. Her style was influenced by artistes such as early Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Depeche Mode, The Cure and Lisa Lisa.
“A high-class tour followed and it was a demanding time of my career because this was my first major gig. Each time I played I learnt that a minimum standard needed to be maintained and once I fail to live up to expectations, it would be over. When I was on tour, Gwen (at least for me) had reached a cult status. She was trying to reach another level. She is today a singer with integrity.” His collaboration with Stefani continued into The Sweet Escape.
His introduction to the who’s who of the music world came while he was still at Citrus College. “The music department was well connected and before I turned 21, I was meeting artistes who mattered.
“My teacher Alan Waddington knew No Doubt’s creative tour director Ray Woodberry and one thing led to another. At first there was a requirement (for drummers) for Hollaback. Alan and I arranged a few drummers before recording sessions went underway. My drumming was appreciated and next came the tour. Before I knew it, I was playing on her next album ~ The Sweet Escape.” Besides Stefani, the drummer spoke of his experience playing with Elan Attias, calling it a “mind blowing” experience.
Away from concerts, he fondly recalls some of the big shows he has played on ~ Saturday Night Live, David Letterman, Good Morning America, Ellen Show, Jimmy Kimmel, MTV-TRL, Teen Choice Awards, Billboard Awards, American Music Awards, Vivo, NRG Awards France and ABC’s Ski Tour.
“Playing with Eliana Burki has been an eye-opening experience because I had no idea what an Alpine horn would sound like. She is an innovator and a rebel. During concerts we always keep our music nice and groovy, giving listeners an experience of a lifetime. I hope her next album (on which he plays the drum) turns out to be a hit.”
Returning to Stefani, LoGerfo says, “She creates fashion statement and keeps everybody around her on their toes. Today, she is more into family life and I am not sure of her future plans. On tour we would have dinner but that’s that.”
Anthony LoGerfo is passionate about drumming and his easy-going attitude has earned him a good reputation in the industry. An extremely versatile drummer, he is fluent in all styles of music. Be it playing at Madison Square Garden, Angels Stadium, Anaheim Pond, Universal Amphitheatre or the Times Square, he is a rock star in the making.

Spinning out of control

DJ Sanj doesn’t fail to pump up the volume on his latest album, Bollywood Punk, writes Mathures Paul

The British R&B act Rouge, comprising, Laura Ismail (Egypt), Legha Joseph (Iran) and Amrita Hunjan (India), in the last few years has made rapid progress towards the top of European music charts, giving us the hit Don’t Be Shy, and is now working on their second album with Timbaland. Though the J-Nas mix of the track is enjoying considerable success, few know that he is also known as DJ Sanj, one of the more popular names among Indian artistes living abroad.
As DJ Sanj, he likes to stick to funky Bollywood numbers and J-Nas is the more glamorous side. The DJ/producer, a trendsetter in the ‘desi’ music scene, is not always satisfied spinning remixes of popular Hindi film numbers, making him look for something more. Always on the move, especially across North America, Sanj is currently based in Mumbai providing thumping R&B and club beats for Indian discotheques, besides promoting his new album Bollywood Punk (Universal Music). Before his session at Dublin, Sanj spoke to The Statesman.
Tracks from Bollywood Punk have been on repeat-play mode for weeks, creating psychedelic ambiences, especially when the video to Hum Tumhe Chahate Hai, inspired by the popular number from Qurbani, is played on television. But the track India is talking about is Hey Baby Girl, featuring the ever popular Sonu Niigaam. “This is the first time he sings in English, Arabic and Hindi. This is a pumped up Bollywood number. Once I arrived in Mumbai to discuss the plan with Sonu, he agreed immediately. For my albums I sit around with the lyricists and composers to ensure that it doesn’t turn out to be another Bollywood hotch-potch selection,” said the DJ. Another good mix is that of Kamray Mein Aja, featuring Stereo Nation’s Taz and Meri Jaan has a hip-hop feel. The first video to hit television screens is Hum Tumhe, which has been made with Hollywood’s acclaimed CGI director, Chris Ledoux, whose earlier works include Spiderman 3, Pan’s Labyrinth and Ironman. The video was shot under five hours in Los Angeles.
Sanj doesn’t restrict himself to collaborations in India, examples being works with the DJ Clue, US rapper David Banner, the legendary Rob Base, UK’s DJ Luck and MC Neat, Canadian pop stars Sugar Jones, reggae icon Shabba Ranks, UK girl band Rouge, Desert Storm, to name a few. Travelling primarily across New York, Los Angeles, Austria, Singapore, Dubai, Malaysia and Nepal, Sanj appeared on the music scene in India with his album Block Party, followed by Kamre Mein Aja, featuring Taz.
“Bollywood is obviously influencing the global music scene, something I wanted to checkout and thus moved to Mumbai. I prefer producing numbers and remixing rather than just concentrating on one aspect.” At the Dublin concert he played numbers from his new album and a few that haven’t been played anywhere, simply to find out the reaction of club hoppers. The ones he liked would be played over and over again when he tours the US in November. “Leaving out of hotel rooms and aeroplanes, I have become used to a hectic lifestyle. To win something, one needs to give up something. I chose music and DJing, this is where my heart lies.”

Friday, October 24, 2008

Surviving critics

Hanging around studio doors made Albert Moses a determined actor, one who wasn’t scared of crashing a tricycle carrying James Bond Roger Moore into props. The Mind Your Language star was born to be an entertainer and he’s not giving up, writes Mathures Paul

The “half-wit” Ranjeet Singh brushed up his English well enough in Mind Your Language to land roles in two James Bond films ~ bartender in The Spy Who Loved Me and Sadruddin in Octopussy. Mind Your Language was the opening chapter in the career of Albert Moses, aka Ranjeet Singh, who went on to star in numerous critically-appreciated films and television shows ~ The Man Who Would Be King, The Great Quest, An American Warewolf in London, Jungle Book II, East Is East. Watching good friends from the sets of Mind Your Language disappear, some into oblivion and losing a few to death, Moses trudged along to endear himself to audiences all over the world. The “Indian Gable” (as he was promoted after arriving in England) continues to be a busy bee, producing thrillers for the British television.
The British comedy Mind Your Language was originally aired on ITV between 1977 and 1979, with Albert Moses playing Ranjeet Singh, who never forgot to say “a thousand apologies” every time the teacher, Jeremy Brown (played by Barry Evans), scolded him.
“There was a big search for an actor for the part of Ranjeet Singh in the series. They auditioned more than 12 actors. Comedy comes to me naturally. After reading the script I was determined to land the part. So I approached a Sikh friend of mine to tie an authentic turban to fit my head and bought a beard, stuck it on and practised my lines for the audition in front of a mirror until I was sure I could convince the director and the producer and the casting director that I was the man for the part. I entered the audition room wearing the false beard and the turban, very sheepishly opening the door and peeping in and put on a heavy Indian accent and said ‘a thousand apologies for my intrusion but is this the right room for the audition’, all the time shaking my head. To my surprise I was an instant hit with all those in the casting room and they roared with laughter. The rest was simple. I introduced myself and did a whole scene with the casting director playing the teacher. That was it. Everyone in the room couldn’t stop laughing and I knew I had done it. The line ~ ‘a thousand apologies’ ~ was thought of by writer Vince Powell. The show was seen by 16.7 million viewers in the UK and sold to 23 countries. No other comedy has broken this record yet. Yes, such a comedy will be impossible to make in the UK. We have too many do gooders here now.”
The show was cancelled in 1979 by Michael Grade, then LWT’s Deputy Controller of Entertainment, who considered the stereotyping offensive. That did not stop the show from becoming popular in India, later inspiring the Hindi version ~ Zaban Sambhal Ke. The show continues to be aired on Zee Café in India.
Moses always wanted to be an actor and the sudden ending of the series did not dampen his spirit. “It was of course a difficult world to enter if you have no connections. I worked that out in everyday life singing, dancing and fooling around like an idiot attracts attention and you get noticed. That is exactly what I did and it paid off. It was not easy I hung around the entrance to the studios fooling around until I was called in one day. That was the beginning.”
The Sri Lanka-born actor, started his career in India, from where he moved to Africa to make documentaries and then to the UK. “My reaction on joining the Indian film industry was that it was very flexible and the system works like a factory turning out chocolates and sweets.”
Later he was selected for roles in two James Bond films. “The Spy Who Love Me was the first Bond film I did playing an Egyptian barman. By the time that film was made I had already established myself as a reliable actor in theatre, films and television. And the fact that I always had a smile for everyone made those responsible for the selection of actors feel comfortable. I had already worked in TV and commercials for the casting director of The Spy Who Loved Me. So, she introduced me to the producers and the director and went through the normal audition and they were happy. When the audition for Octopussy came up, there was fierce competition, even some Bollywood stars wanted the part of Sadruddin but it was the same casting director. So, I was called in for audition. I got the part because I was already known to the producers and the fact that I am an accomplished stunt motor cyclist clinched the deal. I also speak Arabic. In the end, of course, there was no need for me to speak Arabic in the film. Being in two Bond films puts me in the record books of ‘not once but twice’ and a clip from The Spy Who Love Me was included in the video 25 Years of Bond.”
On the sets of a Bond film, humourous incidents abound. “My memories of The Spy Who Loved Me was very unusual. The beautiful Barbara Bach, who played the Russian spy, was model acting in her first film and was very nervous about the goings on in the bar. To add to her nervousness the glass of drinks I handed her were knocked over and we couldn’t stop giggling. Shooting for Octopussy was again a memorable affair. A French motor cycle specialist was flown in to train me on a three wheeler. We got onto a three wheeler and he was supposed to drive me to the local park. We lost our way and went around sightseeing before taking help of a policeman for directions. Here’s more. I was driving a tricycle on the sets with Roger Moore. The handle got stuck as I took a turn and drove into the set. Needless to say it did not go down well but we all had a good laugh.”
Moses has worked with quite a few high-profile Hollywood directors, learning in each case something new. “John Glen is extremely meticulous. He tells you what exactly he wants and explains in details before rehearsals. Director John Houston has a completely different approach. I was happy he selected me for a part in the film The Man Who Would Be King (starring Sean Connery). He sat smoking his cigar and said ‘Okay, let’s have the rehearsal, action’. When we finished he said, ‘Good. Shall we try another one’. Next he approached us with more directions. He employed clever tactics to get perfect shots without hurting anybody’s sentiment.”
Being an Asian, it was not easy for Moses to land good roles in the 1970s and ‘80s. “I am sad to say that now we have a trend of producers bringing in Bollywood stars for films and even for TV, which is creating a lot of animosity. The livelihood of British-Asian actors is being threatened.”
Albert Moses is currently working on three-minute thrillers, which he has written. Two have been filmed in Malta and they should go on air early next year. He was recently made a Knight of the Order of St John.

Cracking the maze

Diwali shopping is incomplete without a visit to environs surrounding Cotton Street. You don’t need to stroll down a maze of lanes because people are always there to push you wherever, writes Mathures Paul

In Chitpur each lane has its own unique blend of personality. The spectrum comprises the flamboyant to the demure, the ideal to the repellent. And the people somehow manage to fit together, selling wares over chit chat. The photographer stood helpless, outnumbered, before the different varieties of ladoo, aloo dum, samosa, kachodi… thinking which to click, which to eat. As Diwali closes in, the bustle reaches a feverish pitch on the lanes hemming in Cotton Street. The festival of lights is more than bursting a few firecrackers. Here shopping means a little more than buying a sari or two. Chitpur needs to be divided into bits and pieces to get a rough idea about what goes on inside these narrow lanes. If historic buildings is your interest, there are a plenty for your eyes. Instead, Unplugged tried to mingle with the crowd to understand what Diwali shopping means. The few kilometre walk ended in discovering a strange fact ~ each lane has its speciality.
Cotton Street. Keep your eyes glued to display windows and you will not miss it. The sight of sewing thread and needles can only mean you are about to enter Cotton Street. Small baskets filled with cotton flakes greet visitors. The street name is an obvious pointer to the content of the shops that line the stretch. From pillow covers to pillows to bedcovers to mattresses ~ all this and more are available here at unbelievable prices. Youngsters may look after these stores but it’s the oldest member in his family who lays down the rules; his word is law. Without his consent, no business initiative is undertaken. A visit to these shops for a pillow or two doesn’t make sense. Bargain a little, look around for a while and you will surely come up with a set that’s prettier than those offered by designer brands.
If you can dodge zipping autorickshaws, continue walking down the lane. Every third shop on Cotton Street is that of a tailor, each one packed to full. While crossing Bharati Bastralaya and the likes, you will notice that tailors give way to shops selling jute bags. As the lane broadens, you will have three options ~ Mullick Street, Narayan Prasad Babu Lane and Kalakar Street, each special for a particular reason.
Every paan masala available at shops around Kolkata is found in Mullick Street. In this few hundred metre stretch cash flows like water. Nobody shops here for less than Rs 500. Names like BRC Jain & Co. and Shree Kant Stores will attract anybody who loves to chew a few masalas post lunch or dinner.
The stroll (or push) down Narayan Prasad Babu Lane begins on a boring note, with shops offering nothing new. But as the lane narrows, excitement increases. From a few hundred metres away the aroma of kachories and samosas fill the air. Excellent vegetable preparations to be had with big kachories are available in most of the shops. Everything is fried in pure ghee in your presence. Yet, the best part of the lane is that which houses Benaras Achaar (technically on Hanspukaria Second Lane). You are sure to spend a good 15 minutes here. Achars made just the way north Indian mothers make, are available here. There are at least 25 varieties to choose from, each being as different as chalk and water.
Coming back to Cotton Street and into Kalakar Street, here shops sell diyas, bangles, Diwali decorations are in plenty. Don't forget to bargain.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained, that's how the saying goes. Walking past nameless shops one cannot help but wonder what lies around the bend. With every dusty footstep, a new tale is told. Change hasn't robbed the lanes surrounding Cotton Street of its charm. Watching customers ponder over wares, one understands the true meaning of Diwali (and other festivals) ~ sharing with people you care.

The Wonder Years

Photograph from the Internet

Former Goethals Memorial School students relive Billy Bunter days as the institute’s centenary celebrations begin, writes Mathures Paul

Over the years you meet a lot of people. Some of them stick with you through thick and thin, some weave their way through your life and disappear but some earn a permanent place in your heart ~ your school friends. You don't need to study in your parent's school to understand the meaning of reunions, and the generation gap between two individuals is forgotten when they find out they are from the same school. In the course of the last 100 years, Goethals Memorial School has given birth to Olympians, scientists, actors, teachers and, most importantly, honest citizens. Established in 1907, the school begins its centenary celebrations.
This is probably the only Indian boarding school to have produced three Olympic gold medallists ~ Joseph T Galibardy (Berlin, 1936), Cyril J Mitchie (Berlin, 1936) and Chaman Sing Gurung (Helsinki, 1952).
Galibardy, the only surviving member of the trio, flew down from England without caring about his age. The 92-year-old is still fit as a fiddle. He never had to see a Chak De! to find inspiration and his dedication to the game will not be forgotten, at least not by the school, which will name its playground and pavilions after the trio.
"I ran away from school time and again and ended up working for the railway company. In 1934 I played for the B team and in 1935 I was selected for the A side. In two years I was skilled enough to be accepted in the team for the 1936 Olympics. Hitler was his usual self until we were four goals ahead. Forget receiving prizes from him, he left in a huff. The German team members were not good sports as they left the field without shaking hands," recalls Joe. "I would have played the 1948 and 1952 Olympics but my wife was expecting."
Another famed student of Goethals Memorial School who attended the programme held in the city was Dr Prakash Bhartia, a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Canadian Academy of Engineers, the Engineering Institute of Canada, the IEEE, and the Institution of Electronics and Telecommunications Engineers. To honour Bhartia's contribution towards electro-magnetic systems, a postage stamp has been released by the Canadian government. "I was on the opposite end of the spectrum and was the studious kind. Schooling was not about a few books or lessons. Three months of the year I spent playing cricket, when the rains came down I played football and between September and November it was time for hockey," says Bhartia, who was awarded the Order of Canada for his contribution.
Recalling his childhood days, Calcutta-born Bhartia says, "Goethals Memorial School was my home. There were a few students and everyone was a familiar face."
Goethals Memorial School was established and named in memory of the Archbishop of Calcutta, Rev. Count Dr Jean-Paul Goethals. On 29 April 1907, the then British Lt.-Governor of Bengal Sir Andrew Fraser travelled by the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways, which stopped at a specially constructed rail siding below the school.

Positioning astronomy

Photographs: Indranil Paul

A lot can be learnt from a 78-year-old scientist who just refuses to fade like the stars, writes Mathures Paul

Stars fade but Professor Amalendu Bandyopadhyay’s interest in them remains undiminished. With a small suitcase filled with a telescope and slides, he has travelled to every corner of India to give lessons in astronomy, to dispel misconceptions and put astrology in its right place.
A senior scientist at the MP Birla Institute of Fundamental Research, MP Birla Planetarium, Kolkata, he has been instrumental in introducing the postgraduate diploma course in Astronomy and Planetarium Sciences and can, in a few simple words, explain the complex movements of planets and stars (as readers of this newspaper will have have realised from his regular and exclusive contributions to these columns). The 78-year-old Bandyopadhyay has visited remote corners of the country to explain astronomical concepts to children — an activity that has won him accolades from the scientific community — and yet, ironically, while Indian youngsters have heard of Bill Gates they know little or nothing about him.
His contribution to Positional Astronomy in India started many decades ago. He goes on to explain the events that led to the formation of the Positional Astronomy Centre. The late MN Saha founded the Nautical Almanac Unit under the India Meteorological Department, government of India, in Calcutta on 1 December 1955. As one may be aware, Positional Astronomy is something that involves computing the various parameters involving the sun, moon, planets and stars. Saha’s dream was to create a centre for positional astronomy like those present in the USA, UK, France, Russia or Japan. After his death in 1956, his dream unit suffered negligence.
This was when Bandyopadhyay stepped in as scientific assistant. He took charge of the unit in 1968 after the retirement of NC Lahiri. His first job was to present the poor condition of the Nautical Almanac Unit before the late Hirendra Nath Mookherjee, then member of Parliament.
In 1976, Indira Gandhi set up a high-power committee to look after the promotion of various types of scientific work conducted by the India Meteorological Department and the workings of the Nautical Almanac. Raja Ramanna, then chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, invited Bandyopadhyay to New Delhi to present his case. Ramanna then recommended that this small unit be removed from the administrative control of the director of the Regional Meteorological Office, Calcutta, and be made an independent institute.
The recommendation was implemented with the help of the late AK Saha (MN Saha’s eldest son), who was then director of the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Calcutta, and a scientific member of the IMD Council. Thus was born the Positional Astronomy Centre and Bandyopadhyay became its first director. The PAC is the only institute in India that annually brings out Indian Astronomical Ephemeris. India’s neighbours depend on the copies of this publication for their astronomical works. During his tenure as its first director, he computerised computations of the elements of the Indian Astronomical Ephemeris.
Academic honours Bandyopadhyay has many — member of the International Astronomical Union of Paris, fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society of London, life member of the Indian Science Congress Association and more. But it is his dedication to the popularisation of science in India among students that is closest to his heart. Since 1970 he has taken upon himself the task of popularising astronomy in schools and colleges, and for this purpose he has travelled extensively in West Bengal, Assam, Nagaland, Bihar, Orissa, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. His popularity among students in remote corners can be understood by just one instance when, on 21 December 1997, he delivered a lecture in a remote West Bengal village before 15,000 people. After retirement from services in 1988, he spent about Rs 1.5 lakh of his Provident Fund earnings on three German slide projectors, expensive foreign bulbs for the projectors, a voltage stabliser, two plastic transportable screens and one four-inch telescope. Despite his age, he continues to travel and teach children all about astronomy. Till December 2006 he’d conducted over 6,000 slide shows on popular astronomy.
Another chapter in his life unfolds when he’s asked about his reaction on astrology. He has studied the subject and has found no rationality in its theories. His 17 November 1991 article in The Statesman — Do Planets Rule Our Lives? — was extremely well received and yet he and his wife were threatened time and again by a section of the community. In fact, The Statesman published a large number of Letters to the Editor after the publication of the article.
In 2000, the University Grants Commission decided to introduce a three-year graduate degree and a PhD level research degree in Vedic Astrology, dubbing it “Jyotis Vigyan”. As a mark of protest, Bandyopadhyay wrote a book in Bengali (which was later translated into English) — Jyotish Kee Adou Bigyan? Hirendra Nath Mookherji, impressed by the book, encouraged him to write the English edition, which even President APJ Abdul Kalam appreciated.
Another of his achievements was the development of the software for the project — Journey to the Sun. The West Bengal Renewable Energy Department Agency launched a new exhibit — Journey to the Sun — on 18 August 2003. It is a simulated ride.
Bandyopadhyay has written more than 2,000 articles on popular astronomy and has done numerous radio and television shows. In recognition of his outstanding contribution, the University of Burdwan conferred on him a DSc degree in 2003. Yet, how many youngsters appreciate his work? A lesson or two can be learnt from this scientist, only if we open our minds to scientific thinking.

Freedom song

Music is all about life, of the paths we travel every day. Before a splash, Lou Majaw speaks to Mathures Paul about the music scene in North-east India

It was beauty of the rains that inspired The Great Society to compose April Showers. The melody lingers on long after a meeting with Lou Majaw, one of Bob Dylan's most ardent fans.
“April Showers transcends time and can be played throughout monsoon. The Great Society composed it on my birthday. The song is an ode to monsoon," says Majaw, whose visits to Kolkata has dwindled over the years. An Ace of Spades concert (featuring Lou, Arjun Sen and Nondan Bagchi) at Someplace Else at The Park brought him to Kolkata, the city where he first heard Dylan, the city where he began his career.
Born into a poor family, Majaw and Shillong are synonymous. Every aspiring musician in Shillong knows him, has spoken to him sometime or the other on a street like Upland Road. The beauty of Shillong, the ageless Jacob's Ladder or the Laban hills, the rains… Majaw finds inspiration in the simple things of life. Wherever he lays down his guitar is his home.
"We couldn't even afford a radio. Whenever I got the opportunity I would tune into Radio Ceylon, the source for English and Hindi music. For people who had never heard Elvis or Bill Haley, it was a station that opened a window to a different world."
Eventually, he turned up in Calcutta in 1965 to be introduced to a phenomenon ~ Bob Dylan. "At my friend's house I heard Elvis and Bill Haley. They sounded great. And then a Chuck Berry record was spinned. It was 'aw man'. That was a man with raw talent. He sounded different from Elvis. Finally, Bob Dylan's song was played. His voice distinct, his lyrics deep. Blowin' In The Wind blew me away! When I heard Dylan's Mr Tambourine Man, I understood what the real world was about. The Dylan I grew up with is still very much there. From folk to rock to country… he is continuously experimenting. His music is about the freedom of expression, about a planet where no rules exist. He speaks about a free world."
In Calcutta he played at Moulin Rouge and Trincas and had been associated with Vanguards, Supersound Factory etc. "Calcutta was swinging. This was the music capital, at least, for me. The Anglo Indians made the city colourful. When they left, the magic was somewhat lost. The 1980s found the city dying, ready to be buried. Only in the 1990s did things start looking up."
Never a good student, Majaw moved wherever fate took him but he never forgot his dream ~ speak about a free world, a place where there is freedom of expression. "I visited Kathmandu in 1969-70. The flower generation was having a ball. The cats (girls) were cool; some of them were busy smacking the pack. Everyone was into music and poetry, all of them were chilling out. I stuck around and played the music I loved."
Little needs to be said about Lou Majaw and The Great Society. "As a member of Vanguards or other groups, we were not doing anything original. It was more of lip service for famous names and the activity was not fulfiling. This is when The Great Society came into being ~ a painting that was drawn in a different style."
Majaw often conducts workshops across India. "I especially like the one we conduct at St Mary's Convent. This year it was not conducted because of examinations. My idea is to inject music into the curriculum. Music is a part of life, a life beyond Algebra. Once you pass school, you know what life is. My schools are lanes, by-lanes and alleys."
He credits Nondon Bagchi and Abhijit Bose with the revival of Western music in Calcutta.
The Dylan enthusiast feels the North East is a breeding ground for young musicians working in various genres of music. "But all of them don't have the money to market themselves. I believe in the three 'e's ~ experience, exposure and earnings. Groups like Hemusphere should be given more opportunities. The political situation in Shillong has improved, which is conducive to the growth of the North-east music industry."

Blues Deluxe

The Other Side Of Dawn inspired a new generation of Indian singers. After having won a million hearts with original songs, Gary Lawyer is set to release a compilation. Is this a new chapter in the singer’s career, asks Mathures Paul

The past is untouchable, out of reach. Yet every time he puts on that old jacket, wiggles into a pair blue jeans and hums those lines, somehow you lose sense of time to relive the best years of your life. Here's one singer who could have lived in America to make pots of money. He decided against it. On the hindsight, a wise decision, for without Lawyer a chapter in Western music in India would have been missing. A home loving man, Lawyer is not the kind of person who shows off the rock star hidden inside. He is content to be himself.
Posters were up in Kolkata that Gary Lawyer was flying down to play at Park Hotel's Someplace Else, the home of quality English music. After dialling a few numbers, an appointment is made and we meet at the hotel's café. What followed was a journey through Lawyer's life.
On a casual note the conversation begins. "It's been a while work began on a compilation that will soon be released on EMI. This is something I always wanted. People know me for Nights On Fire but I have scored hits before that. With 20-25 songs selected for the compilation, we are having a difficult time cropping the list." Whether this will be a double CD compilation remains to be seen but hopefully the product will be accompanied by a detailed booklet.
Soon talks turned towards Other Side Of Dawn and Arrow In The Dust. "Our only drawback was the budget. We could have used a bigger and better studio. The albums were a quest for excellence." Since the start of his singing career in New York, quest for excellence has been the driving factor. Lawyer was a Green Card holder for eight years and it was during the end of his stay that he started singing. "It was a turbulent America I lived in."
In America he recorded a demo which was to be pushed. But as we all know, life works in its mysterious ways and Lawyer returned to India. "I became a father and I never looked back. For a brief period I said 'no more music anymore' and entered 'family business'. The singer in me was still very much alive. At a friend's concert I was literally cajoled into singing a Door's number. Next day papers wrote about 'the guy in red shirt' which led to HMV representatives calling on me. They heard my demo (it had songs like Distances, Forgotten Words and Before It Gets Dark) and signed me on. This Cannot Happen released and audience accepted it. We all cut our teeth in it and had a ball recording it."
Later he was told by an EMI representative to gather a following, which they knew was not a difficult task. Another milestone in his career was around the corner. Produced by noted producer Chris Bertoletti, The Other Side Of Dawn made Lawyer famous among a new generation audience listening to English music. The album was recorded entirely in New York and mastered at the famous Capitol Records in Los Angeles.
But the next few years of his professional life were not extremely satisfying. Arrow In The Dust too was recorded in America and it featured some soulful numbers. With Hindi pop songs becoming popular, the album was just about put on shelves. Unbelong suffered the same fate. "I am not bitter or angry. I simply have no words to express my feelings. The album had great material and immense scope." Let bygones by bygones. Publishing a few names who are responsible for the poor marketing of these albums will be fruitless. "Call me a family guy, a person who is not extremely ambitious. I am bound and this allows me to be myself. If I want I can walk into a store and buy a pair of jeans without raising hush-hush comments. I don't need to prove anything."
Lawyer's love for Elvis Presley numbers dates back to his childhood. "My mother was a Nat King Cole fan and I have all the LPs. Whenever father visited Rhythm he would pick up all the crooners... Even to this day, I don't practice every day. I simply pluck the guitar sitting in front of the television set. My daughters keep me in touch with contemporary music." With these words we part.
Hopefully the compilation will begin a new chapter in Lawyer's life. Success this time around would mean new albums from a singer who refuses to sell out to market forces.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Strangers no more

Harsha Bhogle shifts focus from cricket to travelling. A new show on BBC World News takes him across India. On the run he meets Mathures Paul

Taking a break from cricket, Harsha Bhogle recently travelled across India to shoot for a six-part travel show ~ Travel India ~ with a difference for BBC World News. He met strangers, whose lifestyle he had no clue about, whose language he could barely understand.
Bhogle started his journey from the desolate Rann of Kutch in Gujarat and then made his way to Bikaner. Moving on, he reached the Golden Temple in Amritsar before travelling to Kashmir where visited Wagah. Moving to a different part of India, he visited Delhi and the holy city of Benares. Without stopping, he headed towards Bihar and then to West Bengal to meet the tribes of the Sunderbans, before travelling to Hyderabad and Nashik (to take a crash course in winemaking). Harsha Bhogle speaks to The Statesman.

This is the first time you are hosting a travel show, a pleasant break from cricket commentary...
First, in live television, you don’t have time for a second take, you have to be right, or as right as possible, the first time around. And while that might seem more difficult, it makes you a different kind of person; someone who is really clued in to getting everything right. So obviously that was a challenge. Here I had to do it once, then again, then from another angle, then from another magnification, then again because someone had a hunch about another way of doing it and all along, I had no idea how it would look on air. And so I had to learn to have patience. Also I’ve travelled to most parts of India before but haven’t had the chance to explore them which I could courtesy this show. And most importantly I am not your ‘regular’ kind of host or guide doing a piece about the history, or other attractions, of a place. I am a visitor like everyone else, knowing as much or as little, and reflecting on what I see. So in that sense it was very challenging and interesting.

The six-part series takes viewers to religious sites, business hubs, places marked by poverty... How do you link the episodes to narrate one story?
We did that through voice-over so that it doesn’t look disjointed. But it is not meant to be a focussed “temples of India” kind of show. It is about normal places that a traveller would visit and it is presented from that perspective. To that extent, it is informal.

How is Travel India different from other similar shows...
Looking at these places from the perspective of a first time traveller, making your own discoveries, finding little nuances, interesting tit-bits about these places, interacting with the locals, stumbling upon their history and the place they live in and experiencing a whole lot of things along the way. So, in that sense it’s like a documentary chronicling a traveller on his journey through India. Hopefully it would provide viewers a different look at India, free of stereotypes. It doesn’t look like a packaged “places to see in India”. I hope it shows things that haven’t been seen before, from a human rather than a promotional perspective.
Hosting for BBC World and other channels... Is it difficult?
Not difficult at all because when we do cricket on other channels we are objective as well. It is not a qualification to be objective, it is a necessity. I didn’t notice any difference at all.

Some interesting things you learnt on visits to ‘often-visited’ places…
There are innumerable memories and experiences associated with this show. I went on this show with an open mind, not really sure of how I was going to go about things but we were a really good crew; that is important when you spend so many days together, and largely, I enjoyed it.

What lessons do you take back from this journey across India?
One of the things that I learnt was that there is so much to discover, so much to explore even in oft-visited places. This country provides such an amazing palette of colours, experiences, natural and historical beauty that you cannot but be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of it. I think the diversity in cultures, landscapes and the human warmth you experience is completely unique and inherent to India. I realized that we know very little of our own country! I met complete strangers, whose lifestyle I had no clue about, whose language I could barely understand and who are my countrymen. I always wanted to do something like this. I had never lived in the world of documentary film-making. All I ever wanted to do was a voice-over for documentaries ~ for no reason, just a whim. I got to do that but a little more as well.

Dance like a cricketer

Sushmita Sen finds out cricketers can dance and they are talented enough to land roles in Bollywood. Over to Mathures Paul

Wasim Akram came through as a thorough gentleman on Ek Khiladi Ek Hasina, the popular dance reality show on Colors. The show brings together two of India’s biggest passions ~ cricket and glamour, besides showcasing another side to Wasim Akram and Sushmita Sen, the judges. The show features Sreesanth (with Surveen Chawla), Harbhajan (with Mona Singh), Irfan Pathan (with Ashima Bhalla), Dinesh Karthik (with Nigar Khan), Nikhil Chopra (with Barkha Bisht) and Vinod Kambli (with Shama Sikander). Sushmita Sen speaks to The Statesman.

Dance and cricket don’t go hand in hand. Having been in the industry for long, how difficult is it for individuals with two left feet to pick up dance steps?
It’s hardly ever about getting the steps right. It’s more about the pressure one puts on his/her eyes watching somebody dance; it makes one petrified about dancing. The instant one learns the art of abandonment and dancing for one’s pleasure, rhythm takes over. Whether cricketers, or any other professional, dancing requires one to enjoy himself.

Parameters on which you and Wasim Akram judge contestants.
Our parameters were set by the participants! They took the show seriously from the word go, something that came naturally to them. Beyond that both Wasim and I needed to judge them only on their levels of enthusiasm of trying different dance forms and showing improvement in performance.

The legendary Wasim Akram. How difficult (or easy) is it to put up with a cricketer known for aggressive body language on the field?
Personally he is a splendid human being and a thorough gentleman. I’ve been an ardent follower of cricket and thus it is impossible not to admire the champion cricketer. I was overjoyed to work with him. His aggressive body language as cricketer has evolved into a charming one as judge!

Your maiden appearance on the small screen... How difficult was it to change gears? What are some of the lessons you learnt while shooting for the series?
Shooting for television is most certainly easier because I’m not required to play any character or learn any lines. It did seem dispassionate, as opposed to films, at first but I slowly understood the pace of the medium and soon I was thoroughly enjoying the experience.

Vinod Kambli is a surprise entry because he hasn’t been in the news lately. Do you think he fits into a line-up comprising young cricketers?
Besides Vinod, there’s Nikhil Chopra, who’s not currently playing for the national team. But both of them were never short on energy, attitude or commitment whilst competing with their younger counterparts. On many occasions Vinod stole the thunder from others simply because he’s a livewire. He came across as a wonderful human being with a never-say-die spirit.

Are the judges looking at any particular style of dancing?
The only thing Wasim and I were looking for was 100 per cent commitment (as cricketers like to put it) each time they came on stage. The cricketers were not expected to display different styles but to show an upswing each time they performed. Some of them are turning out to be contenders for roles in films (smiles).

Are you a cricket fan? Who are your favourites?
I do take cricket very seriously; at least watching it... I enjoy the sport thoroughly but prefer the shorter version of the game. ODI and T20 series turn my living room into a stadium and I don’t miss a single delivery. Some of my favourite cricketers are Imran Khan, Shane Warne and Dhoni.

What’s your take on ‘corporatisation’ of cricket? Do you think this is a good way to promote the sport?
I think it’s brilliant. Cricket means to India what football is in Europe. That we waited this long to have a league to promote competitive cricket and to make brands out of our international and domestic cricketers is unfortunate. But better late than never. We now need to do the same for the other sports.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Charging without electricity

Scare your boss or impress your juniors with mobile phone charging units that are not dependent on electricity

This is possibly the coolest gadget of 2008, a gizmo that could easily become the talk of the town. For owners of certain mobile phones, it’s time to trade in brick-like chargers for wire-free options! WildCharge Inc presents an option to recharge Apple iPhone, iPod Touch and Blackberry Pearl and 8800 without any wires. Sounds too good to be true? Not quite.
On ordering a WildCharger customers receive a mat with a few shiny chrome stripes, the heart of the charging unit. The flat charging pad delivers up to 15 Watts of power, capable of simultaneously charging up to four small devices, such as cellular phones, portable music players and other similar electronic devices.
Here’s how it works. Equip the mobile device with a WildCharge Skin and place it on the conductive surface, at any orientation. The WildCharger Pad can simultaneously charge multiple devices as long as they are WildCharge-enabled at a speed that matches the traditional way. The WildCharge adapter attaches to the device’s back cover. This adapter has tiny external “bumps” (contact-points) that come in physical contact with the pad. The geometries of the charging surface and the contact-points guarantee that regardless of where the device is placed on the pad’s surface, a closed electrical circuit is formed between the surface and the device. For RAZR users, for example, the phone’s battery-cover is replaced with one that already has the WildCharge technology built in. Once replaced, the connector at the end of the adapter’s “charging arm” is inserted into the phone’s power plug. Nothing else is required. As for radiation or magnetic fields that damage credit cards, etc., there is no chance of that. And if you try to touch the mat, power is cut off automatically. WildCharge CEO Dennis Grant says there’s no ‘trickle charge’.
The WildCharge RAZR V3 adapter looks like the phone’s original back-cover with a small semi-flexible charging arm attached to it. The skin for BlackBerry Pearl 8110/20/30 fits snugly over the body of the BlackBerry. Embedded into the back of the protective skin is the WildCharge contact module that makes electrical connection with the surface of the WildCharger Pad.
Although one cannot help but smile when a phone charges without wires, the gadget does not come cheap; it’s well over Rs 2,500. Is that a good price to pay when adapters are available in Chandni Chowk for as little as Rs 50? You decide.
-- Mathures Paul

Arranged introductions

Contrary to popular perception, arranged marriages have a fraction of the divorce rate of conventional love matches. Reva Seth tries to make sense of the institution called marriage in Asian communities in her book First Comes Marriage. Over to Mathures Paul

Finding Mr Right is easy if one is a believer in arranged marriages. Find a person and then fall in love! In India there has been a shift from arranged marriages to love at first sight, forcing most of us to believe that the trend in London or New York’s Indian community is similar. Not quite. Second generation Asians are tending towards “arranged introductions”, a compromise between the two. Trying to understand this philosophy is Reva Seth, author of First Comes Marriage.
Seth was eight when she first became interested in the subject of arranged marriages; after realising that her parents, unlike those of her friends or the people she saw on TV, had never actually dated. Like most of our parents, they had met twice before tying the knot. In 2000 Seth began interviewing women across Canada, the USA and Europe about their experiences in arranged marriages. What she learned from these interviews formed the backdrop of First Comes Marriage, and in the process helped her to meet her husband. Although not an arranged marriage, the couple met just seven times before becoming engaged. Married for almost five years, the couple has been blessed with a son.
By training Seth is a lawyer but her areas of specialisation includes communication consulting, freelance writing and policy research.
“I was born in Toronto but for several years I lived in a small town in New Jersey, USA, where I was probably the only Indian girl at my school, and certainly the only one among my friends whose parents had had an arranged marriage. This background made me conscious and observant of the arranged marriages that I saw. I was always comparing the couples who had had arranged marriage to those that didn’t since I wanted to see a dramatic difference between the two. But of course I didn’t. Even more confusing was that many of the arranged marriages that I was seeing, seemed quite happy and this seemed to go against everything that movies, television and Western culture were telling me about how love and relationships were supposed to be. This curiosity led to me start speaking to women about their arranged marriages.”
Figures show that arranged marriages have a fraction of the divorce rate of conventional love matches‚ and surprisingly, women in arranged marriages also report being happier and more satisfied with their partners. So what is it that makes these relationships seem to work so much better than modern marriages? “Over a five-year period I spoke to over 300 women about their arranged marriages. The results of my interviews were very surprising. First, the women I spoke with seemed confident, happy and secure in their relationship. Second, the advice and experiences of the women I was speaking with seemed applicable to many of the dating and relationship issues that women I knew (including myself!) were experiencing. It was this that led to the book.”
To make the book a success, friends and family members introduced her to people they thought would be of help. Her e-mails usually received promising responses. “The women I spoke with were actually forthcoming about their relationships and I can’t thank them enough for sharing so much of their lives with me!”
In Seth’s family, obviously, arranged marriages have been a routine affair. “Yes, certainly my grandparents had arranged marriages as did my parents ~ although several of my aunts did not have arranged marriages. But it was seeing these arranged marriages, as well as those of their friends, and my extended family that certainly fired my interest.”
The author feels the approach to arranged marriages is not very different in China, Japan and India. “Although some of the details are different to the culture, they also approach arranged marriages with a strong emphasis on families, common values, culture and community.”
Seth’s enthusiasm on the subject is never waning. Take for example one of her blog posting ~ Forget Sex & the City: What Carrie & Co Need To Do Is Take An Arranged Marriage Approach To Their Relationships ~ that makes for an interesting read: “If Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda (for the moment we’ll leave Samantha out of this) actually wanted to find the commitment, love and relationship happiness they spent all those seasons looking for, what they should have done is look to the arranged marriage model for tips. From learning how to take a more focused approach to dating to actually having realistic expectations from our relationships and partners, arranged marriages can definitely teach us a few lessons on how a slight change in our thinking can lead to big results in our lives.”
The reaction of Westerners to love being a subject of discussion after marriage is almost always that of amazement. “I think this idea that love can grow and be understood is very interesting to people in the West. In comparison to the Hollywood idea of ‘one true love’ and the idea of ‘hoping to find your soulmate’, I think there is actually something quite empowering about this belief.”
Yet, the question is whether more youngsters of Asian origin are shying away from arranged marriages. “I don’t have any statistics but from what I understood during interviews, and reading, more and more second generation Asians are tending towards ‘arranged introductions’, a compromise between the two.”
Since Seth is discussing her future projects with her agent, let’s hope it won’t take five more years to read her next book.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Glory days

Photograph: Rajib De
Rude shock greets former RAF man in city, writes Mathures Paul
Decades of indifferent and incompetent rule have robbed Kolkata of its past grandeur, leaving most hanging on to memories and a rude shock greets those returning after more than half a century. With an eye on a scrapbook of memories, and a box of Navy Flake Smoking Tobacco, Mr AW Holden tried to understand what went wrong since 1946 and whether any of his familiar places remain. The former RAF man spent his salad days in India, facing numerous problems, but the period between 1942 and 1946 remains his glory years. The 88-year-old is travelling across India ~ Calcutta, Shillong, Delhi ~ to find old acquaintances and pay homage to a few of his friends buried at Bhowanipore Cemetery.
In his scrapbook ~ a well maintained diary ~ are photographs of RAF aircraft landing on Red Road, Kolkata’s thoroughfare, and friends celebrating here and there. A menu card from Firpo’s, dating back to 8 December 1942, made Mr Holden speak his heart out. “There was comradeship everywhere. Everybody seemed happy even though those were troubled times. And everybody was proud of what they were doing… The Partition shouldn’t have taken place,” he said.
Joining the RAF in 1939 was his way out of a “factory-like” set up at one of his early places of employment. “I wanted to see the world and wasn’t afraid to be in war zones.” Photographs of the Hurricane landing on Red Road in 1942 and clippings from The Statesman fill Mr Holden’s scrapbook. The journey that brought him to India started when he left England in November 1941. Instead of enjoying Christmas in Durban (where he arrived on 22 December), instructions were given to sail for Bombay, where he arrived in January. From Madras he took a boat to Rangoon but after two months the Japanese “threw” them out. As part of the Woodpecker Squadron, Mr Holden’s task was to recover bits and pieces of airplanes and ensure the planes were always in the sky. “When the Japanese invaded we pushed ten planes into the sea.”
Life was tough and instead of enjoying his birthday on 20 February 1942, he was packed off to Kolkata. “In Asansol we had no airplanes but marking our arrival in Alipore two weeks later were nine planes. A bout of jaundice kept me away from action for a few weeks but then I arrived at Red Road where planes usually landed. The Japanese were bombing the docks but I’m not sure of their success rate.”
During the next few months he frequently visited Kolkata, understanding what made Firpo’s stand out. “While based in Kolkata our commanding squadron leader had an apartment at The Grand with ten beds. If one had too many drinks, the night was usually spent here. During a visit, I was asked to sleep in a room that was already occupied. Since the other gentleman was all wrapped up, I couldn’t see his face. Next morning I caught a glimpse of a Chinese general’s uniform lying on a chair. Slightly scared, I rushed through the breakfast that was for him (but he was still fast asleep) and left in a hurry!”
Mr Holden was to leave the squadron in 1944 but he was posted in Kanchapara to maintain Mosquito aircraft. After halting in northern Burma, he was off to Madras via Bombay. Finally he made it to Pune, halting at Karachi, from where he returned home. In 1975 Holden retired from the RAF.
He spends his days in Codsall, England, remembering the years spent in India.
Though slightly disappointed at the way we have maintained our city, Mr Holden is on a journey that few 88-year-olds would dare to undertake. He never fails to make us realise that some of the moments stay on for the long haul. And after all these years, he still looks back with wonder.

Stranger no more

Miss X released two numbers ~ S-E-X and Christine ~ both banned by the BBC in 1963. Who was she?
The better known record dealers in Kolkata’s Wellington area always suggest Miss X. Well, the 45 rpm doesn’t come in a sleeve and contains no information about the singer or the pianist. The two tracks on the vinyl are S-E-X and Christine, both numbers reminding one of records like Music for Making Love, etc. All you would gather from the label are the record company’s name and year of release ~ Ember (S175) and 1963.
This is the same decade when Pepe Jaramillo was going strong and his LPs flooded the market. The pianist heard on Christine sounds quite alike Jaramillo. Years of searching has finally provided a result.
Miss X was the nom de guerre of actress Joyce Blair, sister of Lionel Blair. Christine was banned by the BBC because authorities thought it referred to the John Profumo/ Stephen Ward case. This 45 rpm is available on the Internet for not less than 10 pounds and in makeshift shops (in Kolkata) for Rs 100 (don’t go by the price. Champs’ LPs sell for Rs 25). Christine made it to the charts in 1963.
But who was Joyce Blair (Ogus after marriage)? She was an actress singer and dancer, born in 1932 and died in August 2006. At a young age she lost her father and to support the family the brother-sister duo appeared in stage plays.
Blair had a small role to play in the London productions of South Pacific and Guys and Dolls. Among her better known works are Little Mary Sunshine and Dames at Sea. Besides films ~ Yield to the Night and The Wild Affair ~ she worked on numerous TV shows. In 1977 the two parted ways and it was years before there was any reconciliation.
If you get a CD featuring Miss X’s tracks, buy it. These are two superb numbers and would be a hit if a remix version appears in the market.
-- Mathures Paul

Ladies of Calcutta

Photographs courtesy: Ray Flight

Did Kal Kahn come up with this phrase, asks Mathures Paul
English people sleeping in the sun to get a tan,
Pouring oil upon their faces like a frying pan,
Funny thing about it is they all go rosy red,
Next day when the peeling starts they're crying in their beds...

A person by the name Kal Kahn murdered the English language, thought the British, when he sang Oh to be in England and Ladies of Calcutta. That 45 rpm brings back loads of memories, especially of those unforgettable music sessions that preceded Sunday brunches, followed by Musical Bandbox on All India Radio. Every week there would be one request for either of these Kal Kahn numbers. Whether he gave birth to the phrase "ladies of Calcutta" remains a mystery but he surely made it famous.
Making the album an endearing one is its sleeve, completely white. Water logging over the years has robbed many vinyls of their sleeves. Thus it became somewhat of a quest to find out who this Kal Kahn was. Why did he write Kahn? Didn't his pronunciation make him appear to be a singer of the sub-continent? Is he alive? Answers remain elusive to many of these questions, except one ~ Who is Kal Kahn?
Meet Bill Forbes. An Englishman helped me to Kahn's whereabouts. Out of the blue he responded to an e-mail that I had sent out many months back. He said Kahn lives in Huddersfield and provided a telephone number. Sadly, the telephone call did not mature. Yet, he provided me enough information to satisfy a childhood curiosity.
Forbes was born in Sri Lanka in 1938 and left for Britain in 1955. He always wanted to be a singing sensation, a dream that matured in the form of appearances at Bread Basket coffee bar.
At this juncture, it's important to introduce another famous singer into the article ~ Cliff Richard. Some of you may be aware that Richard was once a part of Oh Boy! show, which provided competition to BBC's 6.5 Special Teen Show. On the show singers like Sir Cliff Richard, Shirley Bassey, Marty Wilde and Billy Fury made appearances. On Oh Boy! Forbes was a regular.
He was to make his debut on 1 November 1958 after a string of rehearsals at Empire Theatre and Four Provinces of Ireland Club. But Tommy Steele's appearance postponed his entry to 13 December.
Between 1959 and 1962 he released tracks regularly on Columbia Records. His biggest hit was Too Young, a song that made him a hero in Sri Lanka.
Besides his 11 appearances on Oh Boy!, Forbes was seen in Cool For Cats (1959, BBC) and Thank Your Lucky Stars (1961, ABC). For a few years since 1963 he did the rounds of nightclubs and formed his band ~ The Contrasts. He settled for a life outside showbiz in1975.
Bill Forbes is an example of how a couple of songs can make a singer achieve immortality. And he wasn't incorrect when he called the "ladies of Calcutta" "bherry bherry pretty"!

Bill Forbes' Eight single releases in the United Kingdom
Columbia DB4232 1959 My Cherie/ God's Little Acre
Columbia DB4269 1959 Once More/ Believe In Me
Columbia DB4386 1959 Too Young/ It's Not The End Of The World
Columbia DB4566 1961 You're Sixteen/ Backward Child
Columbia DB4619 1961 That's It, I Quit, I'm Moving On/ Big City Boy
Columbia DB4747 1961 Goodbye Cruel World/ Next Time
Columbia DB4855 1962 Laughter Or Tears/ Like A Good Girl Should
Columbia DB945 1962 Poker Face/ Marianne
(Table and photographs courtesy of Ray Flight ~ hosted on

Friday, October 17, 2008

Grapes of gratitude

Keeping Americans in the know about which wine goes best with veal or other expensive preparations is Kolkata-born Rajat Parr. The master sommelier and wine director of world-famous Mina Group bends elbows with Mathures Paul

There was a time when good wine flowed primarily in the confines of elite Kolkata clubs. Yes, that’s true. Though we hear of wine appreciation sessions being held in the city from time to time, moving back a decade or two, this was but a figment of the imagination, a passage from a book, pictures displayed on a few television channels... Wine connoisseurs were few and far between and those in the know belonged to, till now, long forgotten clubs.
Rajat Parr never expected to be a master sommelier, let alone rub shoulders with Larry Stone at Rubicon. He was too busy building a career. But he struck with a dream at the back of his head. Today, the Kolkata-born Parr is wine director of Mina Group and its signature restaurant, Michael Mina. Michael Bauer, restaurant critic for the San Francisco Chronicle once wrote about Parr’s wine list in his September 2004 review of Michael Mina: “I can’t think of a list that’s more distinctive or exciting. The 1,500 selections crafted by wine director Rajat Parr are perfectly tailored to the complex combinations served at the restaurant.” It was in 2003 that Parr was named wine director of Mina Group where he is responsible for developing and managing the wine programmes at each restaurant ~ Michael Mina Bellagio (formerly Aqua Bellagio, Las Vegas), Arcadia (San Jose Mariott), Nobhill (MGM Grand, Las Vegas), Seablue (MGM Grand, Las Vegas) and Michael Mina (Westin Saint Francis, San Francisco). Before joining Michael Mina Group he was wine director of Aqua Development Corporation, where he oversaw wine lists for seven restaurants.
Parr is an authority when it comes to wine. The restaurant, which opened in 2004, and his wine list were given the Wine Spectator’s Grand Award in 2005. In fact, it was named one of America’s best by Bon Appétit and Gourmet.
“When I tasted my first glass of quality wine with my uncle in the UK, I had an epiphany. The mystery of the grape was all I thought about. I was fascinated how a mere fruit could produce something so complex. So, I started tasting, reading and studying on my own. It helped to have a great mentor (Larry Stone) who was wine director at Rubicon Restaurant at that time. He taught me and now I am honoured to teach others,” says Parr in an exclusive interview to Unplugged.
Born in Kolkata, Parr is invited to host seminars and panel discussions at several prestigious food and wine gatherings. He enjoys creating and hosting wine dinners. When in Kolkata he was not exposed to the world of wines. He left the city to learn cooking at the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, New York. Parr’s first love is food, wine is his passion.
It was at the Culinary Institute of America, jokingly called CIA, that he took to drinking wine more often. “While at CIA, I attended all the wine classes, read a lot and tried to taste as much as I could. I would buy dozens of wines and simply taste them. Then I would hand over the wines to other students to drink. It was fun.” After earning a bachelors degree from the Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration, Parr entered the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, New York. While at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, he had the opportunity to work closely with renowned guest chefs like Alain Ducasse and Jean-Louis Palladin.
He has been associated with some of the best names in the hospitality business, and one of them is our very own Taj Bengal. “I did a short stint at the Taj Bengal after I graduated from Wgsha in Manipal.”
Being a sommelier is not easy. “It is always a challenge to understand what the guest wants. It’s not always the same because there are so many variables ~ mood, company, budget and atmosphere. To be a great sommelier, you always have to be ON. Everyone wants to test you and get the better of you. This is a big challenge… At Michael Mina we list 2,500 different wines. The focus is on French wine, though we are also serious about Californian wine.” At Michael Mina Parr has the freedom to choose from a long list of wines to complement a menu that is any gourmet’s delight. “In building the cellar, we have put an emphasis on mature wines which have the depth to fully complement the cuisine. Nothing is more pleasing than finding the perfect pairing.”
Speaking of wines he says, “Red Burgundy is my personal favourite. There is something about Pinot Noir grown on limestone soils. The best wines are really aromatic and its texture is ethereal.”
Parr does not frequent Kolkata every year. It is only every three-odd years that we get to see him around. “I am not sure if I can move back to Kolkata but I would love to consult on a project.”
With wine becoming a popular choice at many restaurants, Parr says, “I am convinced that the Indian palate will adapt wine. I see a great movement towards wine becoming popular. I just hope the taxes and laws become more relaxed.”

Folk tales

Raghu Dixit has proved that folk-rock numbers have a market outside Bollywood and can be sung in a pub, like he did in Kolkata. Over to Mathures Paul
The arrangement for any Raghu Dixit composition is quite tight, making it impossible for any instrument to be left out, especially the violin that lends his songs an element of pathos. You are taken away from bustling city scenes to paddy fields caressed by a gentle breeze or sand dunes on which a group of folk musicians play. The arrival of Dixit (combined with Avial) marks another (after AR Rahman) beginning to an era of south Indian musicians setting new standards, only this time it’s not in the sphere of Bollywood. The eastern region with Rupam Islam, Skinny Alley and Neel Dutt is also stealing the spotlight from musicians settled in Mumbai or Delhi.
Raghu Dixit Project has been around for years but Kolkata hasn’t heard them, primarily because labels have refused to market folk-rock and Dixit was never interested in “filmy” music. It was once again left to Someplace Else to fly in a group that will define folk-rock music in the coming years. Strangely, Dixit and his team never touch alcohol or smoke cigarettes before concerts but they were playing where one sees the other through a haze, guzzling beer. This was one of the best concerts the pub has hosted this year.
Microbiologist, Bharatnatyam dancer and self-taught guitarist-singer-composer-songwriter Raghu Dixit has been playing for over 10 years and was told by music labels on numerous occasions that he was not good looking and his music was not “marketable”. Frustration got to Dixit and for a brief while he thought of throwing all his songs on the Internet for free download. Thank God, his friend Nisha Abraham intervened and introduced him to two “cool” musicians ~ Vishal & Shekhar. “I was thinking of doing some playback singing,” says Dixit. He approached the duo and played his original compositions. The reception was not positive, at least so thought Dixit. “Vishal leaves half way through the song and returns with Shekhar.” Into his second song, they start discussing something else. “That’s it, I thought. Instead, they suggested that I record these very tracks. These two amazing guys start their label with my album.”
The songs on his album were recorded in 2005 or thereabouts. “I never thought Kannada songs would find market where Punjabi music holds sway.”
The Raghu Dixit Project started when Antaragni disbanded. “It was tough to make other musicians believe in it. I had to take on the responsibility of making the group a success. The musicians were senior to me and one fine day we went our way. This is when I thought of collaborating with other musicians ~ no emotional baggage.”
The Raghu Dixit Project is an open-house set up, into which any musician, graphic artist, poet, musician can walk in. Nobody needs to stay forever (except Raghu!). “It is like dressing your child with new clothes and watching him grow! The group is based on mutual trust.”
Siva is a self taught drummer and percussionist. He is a tremendous bundle of energy on stage and a total riot off stage. Jithin Das, a violinist from Thrissur, Kerala, is product of passed-on-legacy in a family of legendary folk musicians of south India.
Vijay is the most recent addition to the project. He is a blues guitarist at heart and adds his own dimension to the band’s sound. Gaurav Vaz, bass guitarist, provides the solid base that the group’s music stands on. “He is the only guy who tunes his guitar at a coffee shop!”
Dixit’s powerful vocals, sung with a folksy twist are supported by an acoustic guitar. The melodies, interwoven with violin and flute notes are amped with a surprising pinch of blues and rock. The tracks are a blend of Western, Indian and Arabic grooves, making his music fall in the genre ~ “Indo World Folk Rock”. “That pretty much covers all genres. One shop even kept it under ghazals, perhaps the cover art motivated his decision.”
“Now we are playing at least 10 shows a month and hopefully will come to Kolkata more often.”
Dixit has done numerous jingles and was associated with a film ~ Psycho. He also scores for the dance troupe Nritarutya. Girish Karnad’s Hayavadana for TopCast and Black Coffee’s Body Catcher have been his most famous works that brought him critical acclaim as a composer for theatre productions.
“I don’t know anything about ragas. When my mood is right, compositions are in plenty. We have recorded enough songs to cut three or four albums. So, for the time being we will continue to focus on concerts. Also videos for every track will be made to ensure our popularity doesn’t dip,” rounds off Raghu Dixit.

Turning the tables

Language may not be a barrier when it comes to appreciating music but a mountain-high obstacle while interacting with musicians. Before calling on Shamur, Unplugged took the sentence “They just know English and Italian” (mentioned on the invitation) at its face value. Once the group’s members were on the other side of a phone, it was crying time! But the thought of listening to their album, Shardana, kept us going. Usually we speak highly of musicians living in Paris, for they get the opportunity to interact with artistes from across the globe. Italy is not way down the list. Music here is vibrant and highly influenced by American artistes and for DJs this is the place to be. Shamur boasts of a great combination ~ Italian producers Alessandro “Kortezman” Murru and Emanuele Marascia, and vocals provided by Teresa Solinas “Terry”.
Shamur presents Shardana on DSE Records, (Universal Music in India). In 2005 the group came up with a song that was a hit on every radio station (and it was a hit on the Indian club circuit). Let The Music Play became a rage, selling quarter of a million units of the compilation it featured in. The clubs were abuzz and were left wanting for more of Shamur. It took another three years to come up with a full-length album, which doesn’t disappoint. “Since Let The Music Play was released, we always thought of coming up with an album but DJing takes up most of my time. Every night I am busy spinning tracks at clubs and on weekends I get to concentrate on our projects.”
Shamur’s sound is a lethal blend of European dance rhythms with distinctive Indian vocals and instrumentation. After Let the Music Play came Gonna Make It, another dance floor hit. Shardana is filled with wicked tunes and infectious hooks, targeting dance floors yet again. The 14-track album is produced by Shamur and includes tracks such as Rock Your Body (Hu La La La), The One featuring .M.I.L.A.D. and Baby Boy. The album also includes the established hits Let The Music Play and Gonna Make It, besides new remixes featuring international star Lumidee and promising Indian producer Bobby B.
“Indian music is infectious. I heard a Punjabi track and called on Teresa. That’s how the single was born. The album cuts across genres, incorporating electro-pop, R&B, hip hop, bhangra, etc.”
The members met at a club and heard Teresa. “The next day he asked me to visit his studio and there was no looking back.”
Now that Shardana is out, Shamur is busy working on their next album. Two songs are ready and at the album’s soul is Indian music. “As a DJ in Italy, I like R&B and electro-pop. I compose most of the numbers, record and produce them. I also end up playing the instruments.”
So, what makes Shardana different? “The fun element. Music is music and is meant to be enjoyed.” The first video goes on air soon and Shamur does not rule out shooting another one.
During their trip to India, members of Shamur visited quite a few stores selling CDs. “We want to pick up as many titles as possible. Like I said, the music of our next album will have an Indian soul.”
As for DJing, “I use CDs and music is streamed from my laptop. MP3 tracks are of no use because of inferior sound quality. And all the instruments you hear on our tracks, I play them.” Shamur’s style is characterised by a blend of Indian and European contemporary music.
-- Mathures Paul

Rappers’ paradise

Some dogs, forgive the implication, take after their masters in terms of looks and behaviour, a fact evident in Roadside Romeo, a Yash Raj Films and Walt Disney Pictures presentation, to be released on 24 October. The story of three dogs ~ Romeo, Laila and Charlie Anna ~ has been narrated by Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Jaaved Jaaferi. In terms of looks and body movements, the three animated characters bear close resemblance to the voice artistes. Unlike most animated features India has produced, this one has top notch artwork, good voice modulation and great music, thanks to Salim-Sulaiman. Director Jugal Hansraj should be looking at a hit this Diwali. Salim Merchant speaks to The Statesman.
First, the story. Romeo is a “cool dude” living in a mansion, goes around in expensive cars and is considered by most somewhat of a “man” about town. Nothing could go wrong... well, almost. The family that owns him decides to relocates, abandoning Romeo on the mean streets of Mumbai. He is forced to come face-to-face with four idiotic stray dogs, who soon take to him. Next, Romeo falls in love with Laila. Finally, he encounters the villain ~ Charlie Anna. This is a typical Bollywood story told in animated form. By the way, Laila earns a living singing and dancing at Moonlight Nightclub, the chief patron of which is Charlie Anna. She, it goes without saying, is on the lookout for the “dog” in shining armour.
Scoring the soundtrack of an animated feature vis-à-vis a few tracks for a Bollywood film is quite a difficult task. “These are not real characters. Their dancing, singing and acting skills were left to our imagination. Animated films are usually seen by children and this means we had to come up with foot-tapping numbers, tracks with repetitive loops that kids can catch on to,” says Salim Merchant.
In animation film, background music is of extreme importance and during most of the running time, music in some form or the other is played. “Music alone takes a story forward. Background music in animation films create the environment, gives rise to certain situations. A good background score forces audiences to leave their seats and enter the film. The two of us started off as background music composers because we always thought this aspect was not paid enough importance in the Hindi film industry. Times are changing and Hindi films are becoming known by its background music.”
The brief given to the music directors was simple: a movie to be released around Diwali and would be watched by the entire family. “Looking at the characters one keeps adding to the soundtrack. We have come up with numbers that children would sing even in their sleep. The secret is simple ~ repetition of hook lines, of certain words, like ‘Romeo’ in the title track.”
Composing for a Walt Disney feature was not too much of a bother. “It doesn’t matter who we compose for ~ directors on shoe-string budgets or giants like Yash Raj Films. We always put in our best.”
A highlight of the soundtrack is Saif’s rapping. “He’s incredible. Since he has a sense of music, it was easy for him to rap an entire song in 17 minutes!”
After Roadside Romeo, we would hear the efforts of the two music directors in films like Fashion, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and Aashayein.
By the way, please don’t think Romeo bashes up the bad guy himself. He takes the help of his sidekicks ~ Hero English (Kiku Sharda), who was born in a slum, Guru (Vrajesh Hirjee), the oldest of them, Interval (Suresh N Menon), a film buff, and Mini (Tannaz Irani), who “refuses” to be a cat! Charlie Anna is protected by Charlie?s Angels and Chhainu (Sanjai Mishra), a spy.
-- Mathures Paul

Spotted near Shop Around The Corner

Location-based social search is no longer a theme for Hollywood films, writes Mathures Paul

Coffee prepared with condensed milk is best served in Bangkok, egg yolks prepared with jam is a must-have in Macau, kati roll can only be enjoyed at Nizam’s... While travelling we have difficulty in finding restaurants or markets that fit our budget and for tourist guides we are easy targets. Imagining a world without these nagging problems is impossible but there are ways to make journeys comfortable, like logging on to Fire Eagle (and sites supported by it) or giving Mozilla Geode a try.
First, an explanation of the concept. Let’s visit Rummble (in April 2008 the service went into limited open Beta), which is as addictive as FaceBook. The location-based social search and discovery tool allows users to “recommend content for a location”. Simply sign-up with a valid e-mail address and keep “rummbling”, that is, tag places near your house or office, your favourite hangouts, movie halls or restaurants. Provide a brief description of the place, perhaps the address and its photograph. Here’s a question: ‘Why should I take the trouble?’ Is there any particular reason why people smoke or drink? Call it addiction. Applications such as these can be added to FaceBook and while users are scrapping friends, they might even tell them about important places. Say, your friend from Coimbatore is travelling to Mumbai and she wants to listen to cool jazz or electronica. Mark a club like Blue Frog on the map, provide an address or contact details. Another question: “Does it matter if 10 people in America are rummbling?” Think again. Log on and find your best friend addicted to such applications. Millions are using similar applications and several important places in India have already been spotted.
Another popular portal is, which sadly restricts service to a few US cities. But The Statesman’s ‘geek department’ tried the application by signing up with a mobile phone number. Voila, a message was sent from the US saying the user was near Maple Street (that was the information provided) and asked what he was looking for.
Yahoo’s Fire Eagle is a portal worth visiting which supports several applications. Using Google Map users need to identify his/her location (provide zip code or city). Next, add other applications.
Taking things further is Firefox’s Geode, a service that would send your location data to your Internet browser. “You pull out your laptop, fire up Firefox, and go to your favourite review site. It automatically deduces your location, and serves up some delicious suggestions a couple blocks away and plots directions there,” reads a note on “Future versions of Firefox plan on supporting the new W3C Geolocation Specification, which adds the native ability for websites to request, and you to optionally grant access to, your location. We’re still working out the specifics, but we’re hoping that location will be provided by one or more user selectable service providers and methods, example GPS-based, WiFi-based, manual entry, etc. You’ll be able to play with this in the upcoming beta releases of Firefox 3.1, as well as alpha releases of Fennec.”
Such applications have immense potential, cutting across sectors ~ banking to retail. Our lives are all set to become a little more dependent on technology and perhaps little less on face-to-face interaction.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mystery girl

Shaheen Sheik’s new album forces listeners to think and provokes discussion, writes Mathures Paul

With her sultry vocals and soulful lyrics, it’s only a matter of time before Shaheen Sheik finds herself being compared to Natalie Imbruglia and the likes. The success of Rock Candy only fired her creativity to record rEvolution. Shaheen Sheik’s music is full of mystery.

The state of mind you were in when work on rEvolution started…
In terms of what I wanted to achieve on this album, my ultimate goal was to most honestly express who I am and the place I’ve come to through my life experiences. Some producers call it “finding your sound.” That is why I opted to work on my own for this album and to self-produce it. I wanted no creative filters between my brain, my ears and my talents and the recordings I came up with. Normally I have another producer with me and other musicians, but this time, everything was ‘me’, aside from the guest musicians who graciously added some creative icing.
In terms of what I wanted to express on rEvolution, it really boils down to the phrase I use to close my album liner notes, “Be happy. Be alive.” For whatever adversity I faced, I think what I’ve learned along the way is to enjoy the good times and relish each moment because they can be fleeting and nothing is guaranteed. There is much to celebrate, even through the rocky times or less than ideal situations.

How far is rEvolution removed from the folk-rock feel of Rock Candy?
Rock Candy has such a tender place in my heart. All those songs are sweet and beautiful, particularly when played acoustically with just me and my guitar. There is an intimacy on that record that I truly love. During the making of Rock Candy, I was feeling vulnerable and wanted to draw people in to my world. On the other hand, while making rEvolution, I felt emotionally fulfiled and tended to so I had lots of energy to give out to people. That’s definitely why the songs are so playful.
The continuum of Rock Candy to rEvolution really pivots on the closure of one part of my life, perhaps I can best describe it as the closure of my young adulthood, and the blossoming into this next phase as a woman and artist.

Numerous challenges must have come your way while recording rEvolution. You also produced it...
Definitely! Let’s start with having to figure out how to make the equipment put out sound! When I first set up my studio, nothing was coming out of my speakers. In a panic I called up Jay, my dear friend and co-producer on Rock Candy because I had no sound! He very gently reminded me to make sure that all was plugged in!
I think the other challenge was keeping myself motivated to stay on schedule. Since there is no one else to be accountable to other than yourself, it’s so easy to procrastinate, which is really a form of fear. For me that fear was basically a fear that the music and songs would be total garbage. But then, I read a great book ~ War of Art ~ by James Pressfield and it was the swift kick on the backside I needed to stop letting fears rule me.

Personal experiences too must be playing an important role in the compositions...
After Rock Candy, I wanted my songs to be less cathartic. Instead, I wanted to offer my reflections on society and culture as a way to make people think or provoke conversation and debate. For example, when I went to India to launch Rock Candy in 2006, I was struck by the growing indifference society has as a whole to the underprivileged and the suffering, including those living with HIV in India. So I wrote the title track, rEvolution, to highlight that injustice. Another example is the track Coconut. That song is based on a story shared by a ‘desi’ friend who was told she was not “Indian” enough. I wanted to reclaim the term “coconut” as a fun, positive term rather than a slur against ‘desis’ instigated by intra-community/culture prejudice.

The going was not easy on the family front. Your mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Also being a South Asian singer in the USA throws up another set of challenges.
The day Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer was the most devastating day of my life thus far. I was unbelievably afraid for her, for me and for our family. But soon I took a step back and got educated and found that there were amazing options for her healthy recovery. Thankfully she is in remission now and thoroughly enjoying her retirement. But that experience taught me that life is not guaranteed and at any moment all can be taken away. So while it’s here, look at the world through joyful happy and compassionate eyes and make it better through that outlook. This attitude became the driving force as I completed the album.
As for being a South Asian singer in the USA, on this album I finally found the delicate balance of expressing my South Asian identity and my American one. So for now, this no longer feels like a challenge. I’ve really settled into my skin fully on this album. I think that’s just part of growing up.

How do you plan to promote the album outside the USA?
I’m definitely proud of this album and believe that it will speak to so many people, beyond culture, nationality, or any other man-made lines. My aim is definitely to come to India and perform. Plans are in the works but nothing concrete as of yet.

Is it too early to speak about your next album?
Actually, I have started thinking about the next album. I have three albums building up in my head! A very sexy lounge album. A fabulously fun techno/electronica album. And a completely acoustic album. In terms of topics or album themes, I’m not quite sure yet. I suspect much of that will depend on what life experiences rEvolution brings me. And I guess that goes back to your question about where one album ends and the other begins. Thinking about it now, all follow-up albums are built on the happenings created by the preceding album. Perhaps there is no end or beginning. Perhaps it’s all one long continuum or more likely, a circle.

Play to the bone

Lead actor of Bones, Emily Deschanel never fell prey to mudslinging representatives of American tabloids. She tells Mathures Paul about the popular television character Dr Temperance Brennan

What motivates advertisers to spend millions on any Indian television show remains a mystery. Abroad, the weirdest of shows are well researched (save for the likes of Bold and the Beautiful) before any network presents pilot episodes. While shows are on air, stars get together during weekends to discuss plots for weeks ahead. Since time is money, directors of most international serials detest going on sets without proper planning. Be it Friends or CSI or Bones, every show pans out like a well made movie. Differences in the Indian and international scenario became clearer after speaking to Emily Deschanel, better known as Dr Temperance Brennan of the popular TV show Bones, shown on Star World. Deschanel speaks to The Statesman.
Bones is an investigative drama inspired by a real-life forensic anthropologist and explores the humanity behind scientists who investigate “horrific crimes”. Dr Brennan is an in-demand forensic anthropologist who moonlights as a novelist. When investigators fail to identify the badly decomposed body of a murder victim, she is called in to read clues left behind in the victims’ bones. She teams up with Special Agent Seeley Booth, essayed by David Boreanaz. Unlike her, he believes in good old-fashioned investigative work; digging up truth by questioning witnesses and suspects. Their styles prompt clashes and on-screen chemistry.
“What excited me to sign on the serial is the relationship Dr Brennan and Booth share. The sexual tension is strong with a hint of humour. She is confident, brilliant and not at all ‘girly’. At the same time, both are trying to discover their romantic lives. Besides, I am interested in forensic sciences and have been drawn to the sciences since school,” says Deschanel.
Bones may draw comparisons with X-Files or CSI but the three have different storylines. “The rating of the pilot episode quenched that fear. The characters here are smart and speak about their personal lives. CSI is mostly about crimes. In Bones you get to know more about relationships characters share. There’s humour to an extent and investigations revolve around bones, which tell much about how a person lived and died.”
Deschanel comes from a family of actors and singers. Her father is a well known director and sister a singer and actor. Thus, growing up was fun. “We were always performing plays. And we were kind of like boys, fighting at times. Now, all of us are busy with our professional lives.”
A section of fans would like Dr Brennan and Booths to become a unit, which may turn out to be fatal for the show’s storyline. “There is sexual tension now. In season three things will get slightly physical. But the show is doing well and the need to unite them hasn’t arisen.”
The theme of Bones can be called “dark” because the plots deal with the morbid side of life. “Bodies show on Bones don’t scare me anymore. Finding a real body, of course, would freak me out... But the show takes a toll on all of us. We were discussing the topic at the end of season one. In America we push death away. Once a person dies, he or she is immediately moved to a cemetery. We must realise that everyone dies. This allows us to think of death as a part of life.”
Returning to more cheerful matters, she speaks about the research that goes into Bones. “I bought a good deal of books dealing with forensic anthropology. I have also had to understand certain formulas. Imagine, a few facts gathered from bones can decipher mysterious circumstances in which some people die!”
Her relationship with David on the sets is that of between good friends. “He is not at all moody. We all have bad days and he is not an exception to the rule. Sometimes we showcase our competitive side and at times we try to be supportive.”
Deschanel is one star who doesn’t find place in gossip rags. “I don’t like to party. People who attain much at a young age get trapped by a section of the media. My work is Bones and once home, I am busy with my life. Parties can wait.”