Who was the first Indian actress to act in an American Film?

Who was the first Indian actress to act in an American Film? No, she was not Persis Khambatta or Aishwarya Rai Bachchan or Freida Pinto. Nah, Merle Oberon or Anna Kashfi (Marlon Brando’s wife) were technically India-born British actresses! Then, who was she?

My search took me to an old newspaper report from India News Bulletin (Issued by the Embassy of India in Washington, Dated January 11, 1950) and I found an unexpected answer. She was Radha Sri Ram, who played an important role in well-known director Jean Renoir’s classical film The River in 1948.

Radha Sri Ram was not some unknown entity, rather a revered one in India. She was the president of the Theosophical Society from 1980 until her death in 2013. But her brief contribution to cinema, had been forgotten.

Early in 1951, Radha Sri Ram married Raymond Burnier, a Swiss photographer, and became Radha Burnier. Raymond had come to India in 1932 to photograph temple art, and met young Radha at BHU in Benares. It seems like Raymond Burnier played a great role in introducing her to cinema and that’s how Jean Renoir discovered her for his film, The River.

“Mrs. Burnier played a major role in the well-known director Jean Renoir’s classical film The River (Le Fleuve), based on Rumer Godden’s novel. The film was made in only five months, and was released in 1951. The producer, Kenneth McEldowney, made four trips to India in a year and a half, trying to cast the role of Melanie, because most Indian women were not permitted by their families to perform in a film, especially in a role that involved a kiss.”

“When he met Radha, he was skeptical until he saw her dance. He said – She was magnificent. She is like a goddess.”

His wife Melvina wrote, “I never knew a goddess could have such a delightful sense of humor, such honest intelligence, such understanding of people and still be so young.” Her family’s broad-minded view of culture permitted Radha to accept the film role.

Shortly after her marriage, the Burniers travelled to Beverly Hills, and then to New York with the Renoirs.

The film was well received and was influential to several Indian and American filmmakers.

During this time she met some famous people such as Charles Chaplin, with whom she shared a meal. Rahdaji was offered to participate in movies produced by Hollywood but declined the offer.”

Wikipedia

Jean Renoir once remarked about her – “Outside of beauty or talent there are unknown reasons which make a man or a woman fit with the camera; I call them “screen animals” and I more and more believe that Radha is a screen animal.”

Unfortunately, Sri Radha’s marriage did not last and her screen career ended as well. Soon, she got involved in many cultural, educational, and spiritual activities and organizations and emerged as a leader in those fields as well.

Well, I have always loved unearthing and researching old newspaper reports to know about old forgotten entities and their stories. And the latest venture has been well worth the effort. I am sure this research will help in setting the records straight about the first Indian actress in the US.

(Images courtesy Google)

Kangana’s crusade against Bollywood and the System!

Kangana Ranaut had come across as a typical frivolous starlet, when I first transcribed her interview for my news channel a decade ago.

In those days, there were a lot of spicy, blind items on her antics and she was termed ‘difficult’ to work with in Bollywood (just like the late Sushant Singh Rajput).

But the Kangana I see now is a revelation! Fearless, rebellious, eloquent, aggressive, angry and ready to take on ‘Bullywood’ and the political system (Shiv Sena) all by herself. She is the new rebel icon of India!

It seems her seething anger against the injustices in Bollywood had begun to built up much before its eruption at Karan Johar’s Koffee show, where she targeted nepotism in Bollywood. And the bad treatment meted out to talented outsiders.

And this year, when a popular actor and talented outsider #SushantSinghRajput died allegedly by suicide, she created a storm after declaring that he was murdered by the nepotists and druggies of Bollywood.

That was the turning point in the Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case.

The public applauded her fearlessness. Seeing the public approval for Kangana, news channels brought up the murder angle. And #justiceforsushant and #cbiforsushant became a global movement. It is still ongoing and everyone wants to know the truth related to Sushant’s death.

Meanwhile, it has been interesting to watch the reactions of social media, media, politicians and Bollywood in relation with Kangana.

Social Media:

Kangana Ranaut’s greatest support comes from the social media (most importantly Twitter) and she has learnt to use it to her advantage. She has dismantled the rosy image of Bollywood and showed their dirty picture.

The fans are no longer servile towards film stars, rather they are judging and critical of them – the film entertainers (no longer stars).

For the first time, social media users have realized their immense power. They can change the system by fighting for any cause (eg, Sushant case)! And they are not going to stop. Move aside politicians, media or celebrities, social media icons have the new power control. And Kangana is one of them.

Media:

The mainstream media, barring a few TV channels, has behaved abnormally during the coverage of Sushant’s death case and the Kangana uprising.

Initially, senior journalists like Rajdeep Sardesai, condemned the obsessive news stories following Sushant’s demise, stating it was a smaller issue compared to bigger problems like the pandemic and economy at hand. But soon, he went on to grab ‘TRP generating’ interview of the accused Rhea Chakraborty, forgetting to ‘walk the talk’.

Kangana has been made the false ‘Queen’ of media as of now because she has the people’s approval. Who knows she might be termed a ‘charlatan’ as soon as the approval ends!

People hardly know whom to trust with journalists losing their integrity and channels changing news angle every moment.

Politicians:

Ironically, Kangana profited from the recent demolition of her office building by BMC at the behest of politicians.

It was clearly an act of vengeance against the actor by powerful politicians in the Maharashtra government because she threatened to reveal the drug nexus, questioned the Mumbai police and condemned the irregularities in relation to Sushant case.

After the incident, #bharatforkangana trended on Twitter and the lady’s approval rate tripled overnight.

Clearly, a very bad PR move by Shiv Sena and cronies who are allegedly a part of the drug syndicate.

Also, Kangana Ranaut might be getting offers to join politics by the opposition. Although, she has expressed disinterest for politics, joining a party might actually be a good safety move for her.

Bollywood:

Now, let’s analyze the powerful land of Bollywood, which was once inhabited by hunk kings and purrfect queens with giant, inflated egos.

They screamed and cried out from every social media tower. And posted sun-kissed pictures in skimpy gowns, dresses and lingeries, ‘ooh-aahing’ over each other’s post, expressing undying fake love for each other. Twitter, Instagram or Facebook – they dominated everywhere blinding commoners with their cheap glitter.

They monetized on social causes and played with public opinion, made films funded by terrorists and mafias while enjoying their debauched lifestyle.

And the public was in trance and so much in love with them. Until Corona and Kangana happened!

Corona hit the financial edifice while Kangana hit their ‘underbelly’ after the unnatural death of Sushant Singh Rajput.

And the loud, chattering, gossiping Bollywood bigwigs went into the silent mode.

They were incredulous that a puny virus and a ‘haramkhor’ woman can do so much damage. But the damage is done and they are facing many uncomfortable questions –

Why are the big actors who were so vocal about everything, suddenly silent?

Why very few from Bollywood spoke on Sushant’s mysterious death case?

Who is behind the unnatural deaths of Sridevi, Sunanda, Jiah Khan and Disha Salian?

Why are Kangana’s questions not being acknowledged or answered?

Who are the druggies in the film industry?

What is the role of the mafia in financing movies?

There are hushed murmurs and a few retorts here and there against Kangana and in favor of Rhea Chakraborty with hashtags like ‘smash the patriarchy’, but nothing upfront and direct.

They know the moment they speak up, they will have to answer very uncomfortable questions. And one wrong answer can cost them their ‘debauched lifestyle’.

The fate of recent flop films like Gunjan Saxena (Jhanvi Kapoor) and Sadak 2 (Alia Bhatt) that suffered due to public outrage, is a warning to the industry. But are they paying attention or just silent till the storm passes?

It’s time for them to do away with old, redundant, debauched ways and adopt new progressive system that integrates outside talents seamlessly.

Already the appeal of the big stars are fading and OTT platforms are on the rise. Bollywood really needs to reinvent itself.

Meanwhile, Kangana Ranaut is not only supported by the public but also by the likes of Arnab Goswami and Subramaniam Swamy.

And she really deserves kudos and applause for taking on and silencing the mighty biggies of Bollywood and the government – a classic repeat of the David vs Goliath tale. And who doesn’t love it when David wins!

What a transformation Kangana, from a conformist to a woman of substance. Way to go!

(Images courtesy Google)

Is the Bollywood Mafia strategically eliminating the talented outsiders?

This post is not about the tragic death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. This is a post about nepotism or bhai-bhatijawaad in the Indian Film Industry. Nepotism was always there in the glam world but the existing ‘Bollywood Mafia’ (as Kangana Ranaut chooses to say) is extremely vicious and we, the viewers need to tackle them.

Why only ageing heroes and half-baked star sons and daughters star in high budget films? Why do we see the same old crafty faces at film award ceremonies? Why does the film industry stink of staleness? Simple! the Bollywood Mafia has been strategically eliminating the outsiders – real talents.

Rajput was an outsider too. There may have been many causes for his suicide, but nepotism was definitely one of them. He was constantly being pushed out of the centerstage, where he belonged. But a group of muscle-flexing, pretty boys and skimpily clad, surgically enhanced, starlets tried to edge him out of sight.

How can real talent survive when they are forced to stay back and remain on the fringe? Let’s think about last year’s Hindi films! Except some of the Ayushmann Khurrana films, what we have been watching are trashy movies. ‘Dabangg 3’, ‘Student of the Year, Housefull 4, Bharat, Kalank… all these films are not worth more than one or two stars. Would you watch any of these again? The below third-rate quality of our films is all due to nepotism.

The industry has been serving concocted success stories of half-baked star sons and daughters. The media is funded by the mafia to carve glorious images for the non-deserving relatives of stars. And they are projected as great actors just after working for one or two films.

Supporters say that nepotism only works for the initial break of the star kid and hard work matters after that. But the point is, despite delivering flops they are privileged to stay around in Bollywood. However, for the talented outsiders, it’s extremely hard to get into the industry and extremely easy to get chucked out.

They have no ‘Godfathers’ to hang on to…and then, there are filmy vultures ready to feed on them. The privileged people of the industry get to stay despite flops after flops. They just refuse to move or make room for talented outsiders.

You and I have seen so many fine and popular actors getting restricted to character roles because they would not be offered main roles. Yes, there are examples of some success stories that survived nepotism…Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, John Abraham, Ayushmann Khurrana…they have been extremely lucky.

And as Ram Gopal Verma said, the outsiders do become insiders of the industry in the long run and promote their family, it happens with every industry. But Verma should remember that every industry is not film industry. Here, the public matters the most! AFTER ALL, WE PAY FOR THE TICKETS TO WATCH YOUR FILMS!

So, we, the viewers should get to decide which actor or actress is deserving. Not Bollywood, Not Media, Not the PR people….!

We, as viewers have the right to expect quality films but what we have been getting is trash after trash. Our regional cinema is more artistic, imaginative, creative and supple than mainstream, which seriously suffers from stagnation and draught of ideas. Every other YouTube or TikTok star seems more talented than our film actors. And look at our performance at international level, our films are pathetic as compared to world cinema. The system needs to be overhauled!

We, the viewers should demand for anti-nepotism policies in the film industry…no son, daughter, spouse, friend or relative should be given privileges. Almost, every organization has anti-nepotism clause then why should it not apply to the film industry?

Only talent should matter, only talent should thrive! Very soon, the film industry will suffer from a public backlash, and we the viewers will run the show biz. It is time the Public takes the power back from them. The revolution has begun… we have the social media on our side to begin with.

(Images courtesy Google)

Small Things#23 – Trier is the best!

Have you heard of the word Trier? Probably not! The word Trier is rarely used in conversations. Why? Because we are so obsessed with tags like ‘Winner’ or ‘Loser’ that ‘Trier’ has been pushed out into irrelevance.

The word got new perspective after watching the latest Hindi film ‘Chhichhore’ with family. The older one watched with interest while the little one cosily slept on papa’s lap.

‘Chhichhore’ like Aamir Khan’s ‘3 Idiots’ presents all shades of college life. It juxtaposes past and present of the main characters (team of losers in a hostel) to underscore the importance of trying. It is an emotional, fun film with a message that ‘Trying is more important than winning or losing’.

The older one got excited about the film and created a way to express the message (check the image above). And appreciation from his teacher was icing on the cake.

And it got me thinking – why is winning so important that trying does not count? What is wrong in losing? Losing is important for learning, right? And for experiencing life? Why do we push our kids harder and harder that life becomes nothing but a competition? Why don’t we simply say to our kids – Be A Trier instead of Be A Winner?

So many kids as well as adults would not take drastic steps like committing suicide or getting into drugs, if obsession with winning ends.

Not only kids, ‘being triers’ work for us too. It kind of reminds me of the powerful concept of Nishkama Karmayoga ie desire-less action!

I guess we should try working on ‘being a trier’ and then probably the word will find its way back to relevance and conversation.

Masala Dialogues of Hindi Films!

Mere paas ma hai! This morning, #Twitter is abuzz with ‘bhari bharkam’ cliched, melodramatic dialogues of Bollywood that were once created to inspire intense emotion, nostalgia and ardent admiration. But these days the audience get tickled and chuckle at the excesses! Replying to Tara Deshpande’s Tweet about sharing favorite Bollywood dialogues, #Twitterati reacted with enthusiasm. Sharing some of my all time favorites!

 

Those iconic dialogues are tadka of our masala films. Whistle, whistle and more whistles for these!!! Which is yours? (To read, what Twitterati has to say – go to @Tara_Deshpande

(Images courtesy Google)

Who cares for superstars when masses are celebs!

Who cares for Katrina Kaif’s rosy pout when the girl next door looks like a goddess in her digitally enhanced sun-kissed selfie? What is great about Arijit Singh’s renditions when the paanwala seems to sing better than him on StarMaker?

There is nothing exotic about filmy naach-gaana anymore when Indian marriage functions on YouTube present world class song and dance performances. Move away, Bachchans, Khans and Kapoors, for the glamour power is now in the hands of the masses! The public is rising again, this time, dismantling the carefully manicured images of film stars and seeing them as human beings rather than ruling gods.

Post independence, after the end of royalty in India, film stars slowly gained popularity and came to be worshipped owing to the heroics and glamour surrounding them. Their impenetrable, glittery and unapproachable aura made them rule hearts.

But today, surfeit of information about their life has stripped them of the glory. Every other person can abuse them on Twitter, judge their style sense on Instagram and form an opinion on their films and arts in a blog. They have become approachable and thus, very, very vulnerable! A popular saying in English holds so true here – ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’. The celebrities are so approachable and so deliciously dissect-able by anyone who wishes to do so.

And real stardom has been ceased by the masses – your crooning teenager or the dancing street urchin or the neighborhood shopkeeper or the average homemaker… everybody holds the power to stardom… all thanks to the revolution called – INTERNET.

The general public has apps that can make them beautiful and present their dancing, singing, acting, directing, creating… any talent on the world stage. Bloggers like us, who would have been secluded diary writers a few decades back, are now self published authors! It is a very curious age we are living in!

As of now, the masses are copying the celebrities but very soon originality will take over.

But the question I am interested in is – when each one of us becomes superstar, who would be the fan? Who would we look up-to? Who would be the new class of rulers? Seems like a riddle but for now, we are living a dream – where anyone from anywhere could be a star!

(Images courtesy Google)

Indian Beauties in Soap Ads

Soap advertisements (especially Lux) have showcased Indian beauties of all times in the most glamorous light. Here are a few of my favorite ones, who is your favourite Soap Beauty?

Ebullient Madhubala!

Elegant Waheeda Rehman

Stunning Suraiya

Charming Asha Parekh

Gorgeous Hema Malini

Sensuous Helen

Striking Saira Banu

Cute Tanuja

Mysterious Rekha

Beautiful Sridevi

Radiant Aishwarya

Charismatic Katrina

And of course, Desi Girl Priyanka Chopra!

(Images courtesy Google)

Listening to Sonu Nigam at Minneapolis concert!

PAGE-SANKARA-SONU-NIGAM-SAN-JOSE-CONCERT-03-DSC_0721Abhi Mujh Mein Kahin – when Sonu Nigam crooned this song at a concert in Minnesota, the crowd went still. The singer’s voice had an amazing melody and depth that soothed the over enthusiastic, frenzied crowd and made them listen, intently. Before the singer’s entry, the concert was average, where upcoming singers mostly performed on the latest, peppy Bollywood remixes, but he transformed it into something special. When he sang, it was clear, he did not need additional accompaniments, suggestive dance moves and props to spice up his performance, his voice had it all!

Even when not singing, his voice, carried the same melody. And he did miracles with his song – lifting, lowering, extending, shortening, pausing – unpredictable twists that made the audience respond with thunderous applause. At one point of time, during the concert, the audience went so overboard that they blocked the fire exit, the singer had to make a request to restore order. The security had a tough time containing the crowd who had come to listen to one of the most well loved singers in Bollywood.

Sonu Nigam and Neha Kakkar, the two biggies of Indian Music Industry, are currently performing in a number of cities in the US and Canada. And we had the good fortune of attending one of those concerts in Minneapolis on Saturday, with our lovely family friends. It was a night to remember in amazing company!

neha

Now talking about remix queen Neha Kakkar –  she definitely had the crowd eating out of her hand, as she wriggled and danced akin to Shakira, but was not melodious. She had a shrill and powerful voice, that entertained, but did not really touch the heart. It was her latkas and jhatkas that entertained more!

Coming back to Sonu Nigam, his dedication to music seemed real, palpable and fame seems to be just one part of it. Small wonder then that he has held his own for decades despite a crowd of eager, fresh singers striving in Bollywood and changes in music style. Plus the guy doesn’t seem to age at all! To my great joy, someone in the audience requested to sing ‘Bijuriya’, and he sang with an amazing alacrity, giving it a perfect end with the famous ‘Moonwalk’ step!

If you ask for my personal favourite from his bunch of songs that included – Suraj Hua Madham and Hans Mat Pagli, I would say the song mentioned in the opening line of this post – Abhi Mujh Mein Kahin. That song was sublime!

As I watched the singer’s performance, one thing seemed sure. He did not belong to that rising group of people, who do passable work for instant fame. Unfortunately, the ‘chalu’ type of work has invaded all arts across the world. Integrity, dedication and hard work increasingly replaced by quick something for social media fame. Thankfully, the singer seems to belong to a select, small group of people, who practice art for sake of art!

IMG_9289

I have been listening to Sonu Nigam’s songs right from my teenage years and have always liked him. But it was a different experience to hear him live. In between the songs, the singer paused and remarked – ‘when I’ll die, this song will be played for sure.’ And he sang – Har Ghadi Badal Rahi Hai Roop Zindagi from ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’. Well, none of us would like that to happen, ever. May he continue to enthrall us all with his soulful singing!

(First Two Images courtesy Google)

My Meetings with Film Actors

During my stint as a journalist, I had the pleasure to meet many bigwigs of Indian Film Industry. It was always fun to observe and analyze them in person. At that time, I had thought of putting all that in writing. Today, I have managed to write about some of those meetings. Read on!

Amitabh Bachchan ( Book Launch event) – He was charismatic, humble but closed. I saw Amitabh Bachchan, the hugely successful actor rather than Amitabh Bachchan, the person. It was difficult to see beyond his carefully polished demeanor – typical Libran trait! What was really nice about him was his gallant, charming manners. Considering his family background…it’s expected from him! But the most outstanding thing was the awe he inspired and the connect he had with crowd. Also, it appeared that he did not take success for granted. He seemed truly grateful for the overwhelming attention. Or was it all just an act?

Aamir Khan – He was the first celebrity we interviewed at our office. He had come to promote one of his films. And I was on cloud nine for the opportunity to interview him. Unlike Amitabh Bachchan, his personality was not amazing. He looked small and approachable. But what was really wonderful about him was intelligence. Nothing escaped his eyes as he scanned the studio and studied everything in detail. Some of our questions took him by surprise, but he maintained his composure. His focus was to promote his film and that was it. He smiled politely, talked gently and looked far younger than he was but…one got the feeling that he was a real tough guy. His brain was working overtime exploring opportunities while he exchanged pleasantries.

Kareena Kapoor – I met her during an event promoting a cosmetic brand. And what an event it was! She looked better in person than she looks onscreen. The first feeling I had on seeing her was that she really believed that she was a queen, destined to rule hearts. A wave here, a flutter there, reveling in adulation and admiration, but hungry for more. But one rude question from one of the journalists, rubbed her the wrong way. Her rouge stained red cheeks, colored even deeper, eyes flared and hair got tossed even more. She gave her piece of mind there and then. The best thing about her – She is always Kareena Kapoor no matter what! The event came to an end soon after as she left fuming.

Katrina Kaif – Well, when she entered the office for a film promotion, there was complete chaos. I saw gentlemen behaving like gully boys to catch a glimpse of the diva, who wore a business suit to perfection. She was beautiful undoubtedly and oh so, professional. The masque of professionalism never left her face. She hardly smiled and answered in a matter of fact way. Attention stayed on her looks and people had no interest in knowing the person.

Sanjay Dutt – What was striking about Sanjay Dutt was he had no pretenses about him. He was friendly and easy going. I really wondered why this non complicated looking person lived such a tumultuous life. Probably the upcoming biopic (Sanju, Ranbir Kapoor as Sanjay Dutt) would unravel some of the mysterious about him.

Vidya Balan – I did not met her directly but transcribed her uncut interview. She appeared wise, witty and intelligent. In those days, she was dealing with criticism over her figure and dress sense. And she still had to prove her acumen as an actress. Now that I see her, I think she has finally accepted her body type and developed her own dress style.

Kangana Ranaut – Again I did not meet her in person. But her uncut interview did make me think about her being quite flighty. Her answers were immature and vague. But now when I see her on TV, it is a huge transformation. Somewhere along her career, she has found her confidence and the courage to speak her mind.

I also met a lot many actors but not as famous as the above mentioned. And then there were quirky, fascinating authors too. Someday, I’ll write about them. Meanwhile, if you enjoyed reading kindly share the post.

Images courtesy Google

Sridevi – My Muse

When I was a kid, Sridevi was my favourite face. The actress was everywhere – on magazine covers, newspapers and advertisements. And how I loved to draw her! My sketchbook had a lot of rough sketches of the beauty. She was an artist’s dream with large vivacious eyes and gorgeous demeanor. Her sudden, accidental death by drowning has left all her admirers in deep shock. Now, after so many years, I sketch her one last time as a tribute to her. #RIP Sridevi

Nepotism Sucks!

There are thousands of talented artists all over India, who have been struggling to make it big in the film industry. But eventually, they fail to shine because the arch lights are always on star kids and those with ‘right connections’. They elbow out everybody else. And the recent crassness deliverd from the IIFA 2017 stage by director Karan Johar, actors Saif Ali khan and Varun Dhawan, as they ganged up against Kangana Ranaut, shows their agressive attitude against the ‘outsiders’. They yelled – ‘Nepotism Rocks’ sounding high and mighty. 

But if we, the cinema goers, take away the lights and their surnames from them, they do not stand a chance even as decent human beings.

I hope some law comes up to check this nepotism menace so that the deserving get their due. And the standard of our Hindi films improves. It is because of nepotism that we lose out on international stage. 

Do have a look at the list below to recall the extent of nepotism in the Indian Film Industry. This is how they gained entry in films –


Karan Johar via Yash Johar

Varun Dhawan via David Dhawan

Saif Ali Khan via Sharmila Tagore

Salman Khan via Salim Khan

Aamir Khan via Tahir Hussain

Tiger Shroff via Jackie Shroff

Hrithik Roshan via Rakesh Roshan

Ajay Devgan via Veeru Devgan

Ranbir Kapoor via Rishi Kapoor

Shahid Kapoor via Pankaj Kapoor

Arjun Kapoor via Boney Kapoor

Sanjay Dutt via Sunil Dutt, Nargis

Abhishek Bachchan via Amitabh Bachchan

Sooraj Pancholi – Aditya Pancholy, Zarina Wahab

Ladies


Kareena Kapoor via Randhir Kapoor, Babita

Shraddha Kapoor via Shakti Kapoor

Sonakshi Sinha via Shatrughan Sinha

Alia Bhatt via Mahesh Bhatt

Sonam Kapoor via Anil Kapoor

Athiya Shetty via Suniel Shetty

Kajol via Tanuja

And the list is swelling. Looks at the instagram follows of would be star kids! Some of the aforementioned actors like Aamir Khan, Kajol are talented but most of these are useless, fake people – pompous with low IQs!

Exceptions like Akshay Kumar, Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, Irrfan Khan, Nawazuddin… have made it on their own. But they are just a handful and even they have to appease the nepotistic dons. Kangana called a spade a spade, therefore she has been a target since by the likes of Mr Johar.

We repeat, Mr Johar and the likes… Nepotism Sucks! That’s the very reason why our films lack originality.

Images via Google