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June - July 2007


Film, Art & Culture

by Kishan Sharma


I have mentioned it earlier also that nobody can beat super star Amitabh Bachchan, who has mastered the art of remaining in the news, be it positive publicity or negative. Some other artistes like Shilpa Shetty, Rakhi Sawant and Parvati Khan etc. also do not miss any opportunity to get their names in the print or faces appearing on the TV screens; but it is superlative when it comes to Amitabh Bachchan. Each time he feels that he is on the edge, he plans his publicity schedule in such a way that he jumps to the top position again and again and again. London journalists must not have forgotten the press conference Amitabh Bachchan was scheduled to address before the release of the film "Baabul", which ended abruptly within first few minutes only, because Amitabh did not approve of a question relating to his son Abhishek’s marriage with Aishwarya Rai and wrapped up the session, which was termed as the shortest press meet. When after some time the marriage took place in reality, Amitabh did not invite the press, but he made special arrangements on the other side footpath outside his bungalow for the TV crew and press photographers, and also took personal interest in getting tea-snacks-food etc. served to all of them. Every thing was being covered by the media from outside, and Amitabh was happy that he was getting publicity for every thing. The security guards kicked and punched the photographers and beat the taxi drivers on the road, which again became a big news involving Amitabh. Then he said "sorry" to the media, which also became a big news. He tried to show that he and members of his family including some very rich and powerful friends were visiting various temples in Mumbai, Varanasi, Tirupati and other cities on totally private trip without telling people but everywhere the press had the prior information and therefore large number of media people remained present everywhere. His and his family members’ photographs continued to appear everywhere on TV and in the newspapers. It was surprising that media persons made the marriage of Abhishek and Aishwarya, an out of the world unique event, in a manner as if no marriage took place before it and no marriage will take place after it. Who got the invitation, and who did not get the invitation also became every day’s news. Will one time very close family friend and Congress President Mrs. Sonia Gandhi be invited? If so, will she attend the marriage? What will Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilas Rao Deshmukh do, if he gets the invitation? And even news related to the Mehandi ceremony including the details such as who will be supplying Mehandi, where from will it come, who will apply it on Aishwarya’s and Abhishek’s palms, who is designing whose dress, what will be the cost of each dress, who will perform the traditional pooja at the marriage, who wants to play Shehnai or sing at the ceremony, and who cut her wrist outside Bachchan house claiming that she was married to Abhishek, were highlighted in press and on TV channels regularly; as if there was just no news around the world except the Bachchan wedding. Whose aircraft was used to reach Tirupati and who accompanied the Bachchans, and who conducted the 25 minute long pooja and what happened to the other devotees who were forced to wait for a long time to facilitate the VVIP guests at the temple etc. became much important news. Amitabh Bachchan, who calls himself "Big B" accused his neighbours of releasing the marriage photographs to the media. The news bulletin still continues with items like who returned the box of sweets sent by Amitabh after Abhishek-Aishwarya wedding, and who paid higher income tax, which UK channel grabbed the wedding rights, where the couple is headed to for the honeymoon, and who will be shooting with whom after the honeymoon etc. etc. There are also some news items about Amitabh’s relatives, who were not invited and also about the unmarried poor nieces of Amitabh, who have no money to get married. There are also news items on how those top actors-actresses reacted, who were not invited by Bachchans and what did they do together. It was also mentioned in news papers that Amitabh was named "Inquilab" by his father and it was the legendary poet Sumitra Nandan Pant who suggested the name "Amitabh". This news seems to have been published to raise the value of a book which is being released soon. The same way, much publicity was given some time back to the book being written by Amitabh’s brother Ajitabh, who reportedly said that he would expose his brother. Then there is Ramola Bachchan, the ex-wife of Ajitabh, who also gets much publicity whenever she is in Mumbai. There was also one news that Amitabh Bachchan is pressurising his producers to cast atleast his son alongwith him, or he would also leave the film. Then there was also a news that Amitabh has asked Ravi Chopra to change the script of his film "Bhootnath" to give him more importance since the film also has Shah Rukh Khan. When the Income Tax department declared that Hritik Roshan has paid the highest tax of Rs. 15.10 crore for the year 2006-2007 and Shah Rukh Khan has paid tax of Rs. 14 crore to become the second highest tax payer, Amitabh Bachchan protested and said that his family has paid tax to the tune of Rupees 25 crore, and therefore the AB family (consisting of Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Bachchan) is the highest tax payer. Incidentally Jaya Bachchan who had some time back fractured her ankle, is facing another problem as a member of Parliament. It is alleged that she has not declared full details of her property, while filing her nomination papers again for the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) seat, which she had to quit earlier, after the President of India asked the Chief Election Commissioner to take action against her. Politician Amar Singh, Industrialist Anil Ambani and Sahara Shree Sobroto Roy are the closest family friends these days. None from the past very very close friends of Amitabh, Abhishek and Aishwarya were invited to any of the celebrations, right from Rekha to Karisma to Salman to Viveik.; because now it is only AB & AB & AB everywhere – be it Amitabh Bachchan, or Abhishek Bachchan or Aishwarya Bachchan.



Amitabh Bachchan is not the only person trying to remain in news. The next name that immediately follows him, is that of Shilpa Shetty. After making it to the every day news through the "Celebrity Big Brother", she remains in the news for some reason or the other. No doubt, she has not gained anything in India through the press publicity, but she is said to be climbing the popularity ladder in the United Kingdom. She met the Queen of England at the Westminster Abbey in London and addressed an elite gathering of celebrities from all over the Commonwealth, including the British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Shilpa was being asked to star in the Australian version of the "Celebrity Big Brother" and as per reports, she had been offered double the money she got for the British edition of the show, but it is reliably learnt that she has turned it down. She has a plan to start a chain of signature restaurants to be called SHILPA SHETTY DINING HALL. The main restaurant would be in Central London with branches all over England. She is launching her signature perfume, and might take up a Broadway musical production. She is busy scouting for an apartment for herself in the posh Primrose Hill in London. Shilpa has understood that she has become a princess in Britain and not in India, where she is not considered a top grade actress. Incidentally, when Jade Goody came to Mumbai, people like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Hritik Roshan, Akshaye Khanna, Viveik Oberoi and Sanjay Kapoor attended the party hosted in her honour. Shilpa was certainly not present there. The UK tabloid "News of the World" exposed Akshay Kumar-Shilpa Shetty affair. The entire story is in bad taste and Akshay Kumar, it is said, has decided to sue the tabloid. But the Richard Gere-Shilpa Shetty kiss on the stage inflamed passions all over the country. Whereas Shilpa Shetty and some other so-called socialite ladies have said that there is nothing wrong in a kiss, a Jaipur court has issued arrest warrant against Gere and summons for Shilpa. The judge said that the kiss in the public was highly sexually erotic. Many TV channels showed the clippings for more than two days, making it a more sensitive issue. Many ladies said that when Shilpa had no objection to it, why should others create fuss over the kiss. Shilpa is said to have avoided her appearance in the court and suddenly the concerned judge has also been transferred. May anything happen, but Shilpa Shetty has succeeded in remaining in the news.


Visually challenged well-known Music Director – Singer – Lyricist Ravindra Jain gave memorable musical performance in the UK. His concerts were held at the Jubilee Theatre, New Cassetle; Hindu Temple, New Cassetle; India Centre, Cardiff; Geeta Bhawan, Birmingham; and Vishwa Hindu Temple, Southall, London. Gem Arts had arranged the New Cassetle concerts; and Vikas Kumar along with Ashok Sharma and Amrit Vadhera (Sunny) had taken pains to make the concerts successful. Dr. Kamlesh Ojha, Dr. & Mrs. Das, Dr. Singhal and Dr. Sinha were instrumental in arranging the concert at Cardiff. Pt. Dharma Dutt, Dr. Hemant Ojha, Dr. Abha Ojha, Dr. Hima Dadheech, Dr. Vinod Dadheech, Dr. Amar Verma, Mohan Lal Sudhera, K. K. Sethi, Anandvrat Chandan, and Manu Bhai Desai worked very hard to organise two very successful concerts at Birmingham. Incidentally, Ravindra Jain’s birthday was also celebrated at the second concert, where BBC’s Ashwini Malhi introduced the artistes. Sudarshan Bhatia, Saraswati Sharma, Santok Verma, Mangat Sharma, I. R. Sood along with Meghnath, Radhey Shyam, and Ranjita made all efforts in successfully arranging the concert at the South Hall Vishwa Hindu Temple. Incidentally, Ravindra Jain celebrated his wedding anniversary on that day, though his wife Deevya Jain couldnot leave India due to her son Ayushmaan’s examinations. Acharya Pandit Laxman Das ji Maharaj of Ayodhya was also present on the occasion. The last concert was arranged by Kiran Thakrar and Anuradha in London. Stage compere – singer – and journalist Kishan Sharma from Mumbai compered all the programmes in his inimitable style and also extended singing support to Ravindra Jain. Popular Tabla player from Mumbai Devendra Kumar was at his best. Keyboard player Kiran Thakrar, blind Sitar Player Balu, Dholak player Amarjeet and singers Pandit Vishnu Sharma and Anuj Sharma performed with Ravindra Jain at New Cassetle; while singers Shaila Wad, Prashant, Alka Jain (Ravindra Jain’s sister-in-law), Kaushik, Praful, Prashant, Sheena and Anuradha joined Ravindra Jain in the London concert. Mittal Purohit played on the Dholak and keyboard was played by Kiran Thakrar. London-based singer Sushma accompanied Ravindra Jain during the entire UK tour. Soon after returning from UK, Ravindra Jain and Kishan Sharma went to Thiruvananthpuram (Trivendram) in Kerala where Ravindra Jain was given the first G. Devrajan Memorial Award. Well known singer Dr. K. J. Yesudas and Ravindra Jain were asked by compere Kishan Sharma to re-create the scene of composing the popular songs for the Hindi film "Chitchor", which proved to be a real feast of melodious music for the large audience. The Kerala Chapter of Swaralaya had arranged the function attended by the Kerala Education and Cultural Minister M. A. Baby, Swaralaya Chairman G. Rajmohan, Secretary E. M. Najeeb , Co-ordinator R. S. Babu and many other distinguished guests, including playback singers P. Susheela, Madhavi and Uday Bhanu.

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