Monday, 23 April 2012

Madhur Jaffrey to return to TV screens this year

Three decades after she introduced Indian food to the UK, curry queen Madhur Jaffrey is set to return to TV screens with a new series exploring the impact of Indian cuisine in Britain.

The 10-part series – titled Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Nation – will see the chef visiting cities across Britain; from London to Leicester, Birmingham to Glasgow.

Jaffrey will cook alongside members of the UK’s Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities to learn about their different techniques, as well as offering her own take on classic dishes.

The idea that Indian cooking does not have to take hours will be a theme that underpins the series.

Indian-born Jaffrey fronted her landmark program ‘Indian Cookery’ for the BBC more than 30 years ago.

She has written numerous cookery books and even appeared in films and TV shows, including in Eastenders.

In 1965, she won best actress at the Berlin Film Festival for her performance in Shakespeare Wallah and is said to have introduced film-making partners James Ivory and Ismail Merchant.

Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Nation will air at the end of this year.

- Staff Reporter

Madhur Jaffrey to return to TV screens this year

World’s Oldest Marathon Runner hangs up his boots, aged 101

A man said to be the world’s oldest marathon runner has decided to hang up his running shoes after completing the Virgin London Marathon on Sunday.
On a sunny afternoon in London, 101-year-old Fauja Singh finished the 26.2-mile run in a time of 07 hours 49 minutes before posing for pictures with some very glamorous cast members of The Only Way is Essex.
Mr Singh, of Ilford, says he will continue to take part in ‘short races’ of up to 10km.
The great-grandfather, originally from the Punjab, had taken up running after watching the London marathon on television 12 years ago, when he was 89.
Since then he has participated in a total of 8 marathons, including runs in London, New York and Toronto.  He has attributed his fitness to a regime of up to 10 miles of jogging or walking a day and a simple vegetarian diet.

Whilst his feats have inspired others to take up running, his rise to fame hasn’t been without its difficulties.
He has found himself embroiled in a row with Guinness World Records who have refused to acknowledge his claim to being the oldest marathon runner in the world as he doesn’t hold a birth certificate, much like millions of others in rural areas of the Punjab.
Mr Singh’s trainer Harmander Singh has even accused the organization of racial discrimination, saying that Guinness’ insistence on a birth certificate excludes much of the developing world.
Harmander told the Daily Telegraph: “I don’t think Guinness are racist intentionally but their processes are institutionally racist because they are clearly and deliberately saying that a birth certificate is important. If he wasn’t issued with a birth certificate, it wasn’t his fault, and we the British were in charge of India at the time.
“A recent United Nations report on children said that 40 per cent of children born in 2008 didn’t have a birth certificate, meaning developing countries. If people nowadays still don’t have birth certificates, what do you think it was like 100 years ago?”
Guinness however remains unmoved.
The furore has left Mr Singh bemused.  Through his trainer, Mr Singh told the Telegraph: “I did not even know what the Guinness Book of Records was until someone told me. It doesn’t matter to me as I just enjoy the running and everyone I know has been so pleased or inspired by it, and that is all that matters. I can’t read, anyway.”
- Staff Reporter

World’s Oldest Marathon Runner hangs up his boots, aged 101

Rowdy Rathore: Akshay’s return to action, with some retro surprises!!

After the tremendous success of ‘Housefull 2’, Akshay Kumar has been busy preparing for his next mega-bucks release: ‘Rowdy Rathore’.
Produced by the unlikely duo of Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Ronnie Screwvala of UTV, the film is directed by South Indian star Prabhu Deva and stars Sonakshi Singh alongside Akshay.
The film has a distinctly retro feel and what is said to be a suitably outlandish plot involving the ‘One Man Army’ Rowdy Rathore.  What’s more, it marries Akshay Kumar’s action man roots with his new-found talent as a comic: the film’s tagline, “Dooon’t Angry Meeee” is sure to join the 2012 lexicon of best one-liners.
Although it has not been confirmed yet, ‘Bebo’ herself, Kareena Kapoor, has reportedly filmed a song and short cameo in the picture as a goodwill gesture for close friend and ‘Rowdy’s’ assistant producer Shabinaa Khan.
Insiders on set have revealed to The UKAsian that it will be a very glamorous shoot by Kareena; currently one of the hottest properties in Bollywood, not to mention the industry’s highest paid actress.

Bebo however isn’t the only one making a surprise appearance in the film; director Prabhu Deva is better known for his dance moves – leading some to anoint him the ‘Indian Michael Jackson’ – and skill as a choreographer and he will be appearing in a song, matching steps with Akshay Kumar in a bid to appease fans of his dancing.
Production insiders say the pair shot some dance sequences together for the title track of the movie and Prabhu Deva says fans will “love it”.
Given the director’s dancing background, it’s hardly surprising to hear Akshay commenting, “Whatever he told me during the shoot, I just went and rehearsed it.  We would start rehearsing a week before the shooting.  His steps are not so easy that you can do it immediately on the sets.”
The film’s heroine Neeraja is played by the delightful Sonakshi Sinha.  ‘Rowdy’ is just her second film – after 2010’s ‘Dabangg’ and it’s evident that her star is on a very rapid rise in Bollywood.  ‘Rowdy’ marks the start of a jam-packed release schedule for 2012 for the 24-year-old actress who will be appearing once again with Akshay in his next release ‘Joker’ as well as Lootera, Son of Sardar and the sequel to Dabangg this year.
And as he does prior to the release of all his films, the seemingly tireless Akshay Kumar has already embarked on a publicity blitz in support of ‘Rowdy’.  The actor and TV presenter made a surprise appearance on talent show Dance India Dance 3 to dish out cash prizes to the show’s five finalists.
For his appearance, Kumar morphed into the Rathore character, complete with retro moustache, garish yellow pants and even kitschier bright orange shirt and descended onto the main stage in a Khatiya.
The promotional work will no doubt prove a success.  Trade analysts have already backed ‘Rowdy Rathore’ to break the records set by ‘Housefull 2’.
Taran Adarsh told The Hindustan Times: "Approximately Rs. 250 to Rs. 300 crore is riding on the next crop of releases. Rowdy Rathore is Akshay Kumar's return to action and it's being directed by Prabhudheva. That's a good combination.”
Bollywood analyst and journalist Amod Mehra meanwhile said “This film, with its rural to metro appeal, may bring Akshay Kumar his biggest opening ever."
While Kumar may not win over many critics with his releases these days, ‘Housefull 2’ has proven that his simple, masala formula is hugely popular with audiences across the world.
Rowdy Rathore is sure to continue that trend.
- Poonam Joshi

Rowdy Rathore: Akshay’s return to action, with some retro surprises!!

Young Bolly actress brutally murdered by fellow actors

An up and coming Bollywood actress has been murdered by two other actors in a kidnapping gone bad.
Meenakshi Thapar, 26, who had appeared in the horror flick ‘404’ in 2011 was reportedly kidnapped and beheaded in an attempt to extort £20,000 from her family.
Police officials say the kidnapping was carried out by lovers Amit Jaiswal, 36, and Preeti Surin who had decided to kidnap Ms Thapar after hearing her boast about her family’s wealth in Dehra Dun in the foothills of the Himalayas.
The duo allegedly invited her on a trip with them to Gorakhpur, a small town close to India’s border with Nepal and known for its Buddhist temples, where they held her hostage and sent a message to Ms Thapar’s Nepali parents demanding 1,500,000 Rupees (£18,000).
Reports say Ms Thapar’s fellow actors warned her mother they would force her daughter to participate in a pornographic film if their demands were not met.
Her mother paid 60,000 Rupees (£730) into her daughter’s account for her kidnappers to withdraw, but the actress was allegedly killed soon after.
She was strangled to death, beheaded, and her body was dumped at two different sites as her killers made their way back to Mumbai. Her torso was dumped in a water tank and her head thrown out of the bus window in a bag on the road to Mumbai.
Jaiswal and Surin were later caught in possession of Ms Thapar’s mobile phone SIM and confessed to the murder.
According to police, the couple had fled to Mumbai from their home in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, after Jaiswal’s wife discovered their affair.
They had moved to Bollywood in search of stardom.
-    Staff Reporter

Young Bolly actress brutally murdered by fellow actors

Susheela Raman and Lahore’s Mian Mir Qawwals: Musical nirvana

I had never been to a Susheela Raman concert before her performance at Alchemy 2012 on 16th April nor had I explored her music to any extent.  In spite of growing up in Sri Lanka – or perhaps because of it – Tamil music had not registered in my radar and my first encounter with Raman had been in the bowels of the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the day of her performance at the Festival. 

She looked harried but spoke softly, her intense eyes bearing down at you over a perfectly crafted nose.
It almost felt like a volcano was preparing to erupt in a few hours’ time. 

For the uninitiated, Raman – born in Britain to South Indian parents – is a Mercury Music Prize winner who has enjoyed success around the world; from the UK and France to India and Australia. 

Her unique, visceral arrangements of Tamil songs from Southern India are unlike any Tamil song that’s ever come out of South India, or anywhere else for that matter. 

The Tamil language may be as old as time itself but it isn’t the most mellifluous in the world. 

There’s a jarring quality to it, the words seem to collide with each other rather than flowing from one syllable to the next. 

As those syllables emanate from Raman’s mouth however – with the strum of Sam Mills’ acoustic guitar as the backdrop – they seem to transform, like sharp-edged stones on a beach morphing into beautifully rounded pebbles by the ocean tide rushing over them endlessly. 

The set began with ‘Paal’, a devotional song which begins with a whimper before reaching a crescendo of such terrific fury you’re left aghast.  Raman seems to enter a trance-like state before each song, living each word and chord.  There’s an almost primeval, Amazonian quality to her as she swirls around the stage, waving her hair, impassioned, furious and brooding.  It’s a remarkable spectacle.

Next up was a cover of Voodoo Chile – unlike any cover of the iconic tune you have ever heard, even darker and moodier than the original and inspired by the music of Ethiopia according to Raman. 

She was then joined on stage by several artists who would conspire to take Raman’s music to an entirely new level.  First up were Rajasthani singer and harpist Kutle Khan and Nathoo Lal Solanki, arguably the world’s preeminent exponent of the thrilling ‘Nagara’ drum.  Halfway through her set Raman was also joined by Lahore’s Mian Mir Qawwali troupe who managed to take the level of energy up by several notches whilst at the same time tempering the fury and despair that seems to characterize Raman’s songs.
The audience began to abandon their seats and make their way hither and thither, swaying and jumping in the aisles and entering the dream-like state that Qawwali music evokes.  It was beautiful and kept soaring to unimaginable heights. 

Just when you thought the furious strumming of the guitar, the frenetic beating of the Tabla and Nagara, or the singing could not continue any further, the Qawwals would find yet more summits to conquer.

It was the perfect hybrid; a fusion of Raman’s fury and the joy of the Qawwals colliding like some extra-terrestrial atom inside the Large Hadron Collider; the energy it generated was staggering. 

The men from Lahore however, triumphed on the night.  Susheela Raman enjoys a terrific following in the UK but her music is not everyone’s cup of tea. 

The Qawwals seemed to take her to a much wider audience. 

Raman has collaborated with dozens of artists over the past 15 years and has enjoyed some not insignificant success. 

It’s arguable whether this collaboration will be surpassed. 

-    Vijitha Alles

Raghu Dixit and Bellowhead at Alchemy 2012: Left wishing for more…

The UKAsian was fortunate enough to be a part of the Raghu Dixit Project’s first tour of the UK in 2012 as we followed the band around England on a week-long sojourn that was as frantic as it was fraught.
The figurehead – Raghu – arrived at Heathrow, mid-afternoon on Saturday 14th April.  He was already battling a sore throat after traveling the entire length of India for several gigs in a matter of 4 days.  On arrival in London, he and the band were whisked off to Wiltshire for an appearance at OneFest.  He was soon into his signature stage costume – better suited for balmy Goa than freezing Marlborough – and getting the crowd moving.
Even as his vocal chords faltered, Raghu fought hard to retain the earthy emotion that is so distinct to his voice and his charismatic stage presence; earning rapturous applause from the audience, most of who had never heard of the band.
He and the band then returned to London the same night, and Raghu appeared on the Andrew Marr show early the next morning before going through four days of grueling rehearsals with English folk band Bellowhead for the performances on 18th and 19th April at Alchemy.
That kind of schedule is sure to take a toll on anyone and despite stuffing himself silly with honey, yogurt, turmeric, more honey and myriad varieties of Lemsip, Raghu remained less than 100% as the two groups took to the stage at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.
They had found the perfect subject matter for this, their newest collaboration: a story based on Thomas Mann’s ‘The Transposed Heads’ – which in turn was based on the myth of Hayavadhana.
It’s a tale of friendship and a terrific triangle of love, further dramatized by an infusion of Eastern and Western music.

The two bands had had all of 9 days – 5 in Delhi late last year and 4 days in the lead up to their performance at Alchemy – to put together the hour-long show.  I watched and filmed those final four days of rehearsals and it was fascinating to watch the process of refining and fine-tuning.  In fact, on the days of the actual performances, the two bands were still making last minute tweaks.
A narrator sat at the front of the stage, telling the story of Kush, Deva and the exquisite beauty they are both in love with: Lavanya.  The narration is interspersed with a dozen or more songs whilst a set of dancers – led by the Southbank’s resident artist Gauri Tripati Sharma – played out some of the scenes.
Raghu and his Project have long been known for their clever fusions and that musical originality was on full display: marrying Indian folk, retro Bollywood, Parth Chandiramani’s exquisite flute and even some operatic guitar riffs courtesy of Bryden Lewis with Bellowhead’s immense brass section, Celtic fiddles and Pete Flood’s amazing percussion.  The Hindi and English vocals were shared between Raghu and Bellowhead’s Paul Sartin and Rachael McShane.
The ingredients were certainly there and in isolation they were all excellent but despite it being pregnant with promise, the production as a whole lacked cohesion, feeling very much like a work in progress.  Gauri Sharma and her dancers had three days to come up with a routine but failed to find one which embodied the story’s drama.  Even the lighting effects failed to capture any of the shifts in the story.
On the first night, Raghu attempted to provide fans with something more familiar by returning for a set of the Project’s own songs to much raucous cheer but had to give up after two songs as his voice caved in and he had to implore bassist Gaurav Vaz to take up singing duties.
On the second night he didn’t even attempt a second set and you could tell that he was well below par; those segments where he did sing were still very emotional – particularly the soulful Yaare Bina – but the usual aura that his voice exudes was absent.
A vast majority of fans The UKAsian spoke to, enjoyed the collaboration between the two bands but left wishing they experienced more of Raghu Dixit and the Project in all their glory.
It’s going to be a busy few months for the band and they will be making several trips back to England in 2012; Raghu will in fact, be performing solo at the Queen’s Golden Jubilee concert in June before the band perform at several music festivals in the UK and Western Europe.
Here’s hoping that those insufferable vocal chords are mended by then.
- Vijitha Alles

Raghu Dixit and Bellowhead at Alchemy 2012: Left wishing for more…

Mahatma Gandhi personal effects auctioned for GBP128,000

A collection of personal items belonging to Mahatma has been auctioned off in Shropshire for £128,000 with his iconic spectacles fetching more than GBP40,000.

The sale featured 27 items associated with Gandhi and attracted interest from across the world.

Ghandi’s family had branded aspects of the sale ‘morbid’ after it was revealed a piece of blood splattered earth on which Gandhi was standing when he was assassinated in 1948 would go under the hammer.

Auctioneers Mullock’s said three items had been snapped up by the same buyer via a proxy bidder.

A spokesman for the auction house said, “The spectacles which sold for £40,900, Gandhi’s wooden charka which sold for £31,300 and the casket containing the blood stained soil which sold for £12,040 were all bought by the same person.

“The bids came in over the phone and the buyer used a proxy bidder. I’m not sure where the bids were coming in from and we can’t reveal their identity.

“Another item which attracted particular interest was Gandhi’s prayer book which sold for £12,640. Bids for these items came in from six different sources over the phone. Some online bids were also made.”

The lots were given a pre-auction guide price of £80,000.

- Staff Reporter

Mahatma Gandhi personal effects auctioned for GBP128,000