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  • 11/29/17--21:12: How to rent furniture online
  • Do you want all your state-of-the-art decor musings and wishlist wonders to adorn your home? Whether youre moving to a new residence or refurbishing your space, rental furniture is a great steal for a contemporary home.

    Give your home an aesthetic makeover thats easy on the pocket, while indulging in the seasons hottest trends. With convenient rentals at your doorstep, embrace the much-needed revamp, but keep these pointers in mind when renting furniture online to keep any design dilemmas at bay.

    Budget, space & requirement

    Keep a rough outline of your space in mind before renting any pieces, be it big or small. If youre not sure about the space specifications of the product and wondering if it will fit in your home, you can always seek help from Pinterest or any other design app. It will help you model your space wisely. At the same time, leave enough room for other elements in the space. Additionally, refine your choices by focusing on what you need as opposed to what you want, this eliminates impulsive purchases.

    Versatile furniture

    Furniture is always a bigger investment than most consumer durables and requires a lot of thought and planning. Whether space is large or small, it is the furniture that defines your abode and transforms it into a home that you want. Today, with rising skyscrapers and limited spaces, multi-functional pieces are economical options chosen by customers. Invest in a statement piece that will accentuate your nest and come in handy as well. Think a la mode trunks alternating as chic coffee tables and a trousseau trunk or statement sofas that welcome visitors by the day and becomes a cosy bed at night.

    The right marketplace

    Bespoke, luxury or economic rentals, always do due diligence on the reputation of the company you will be renting from. The quality and craftsmanship of the furniture are crucial as it reflects your personality. Moreover, it determines how immune it might be to scratch and spoil. Choose a good brand. The right brand helps you sail through your rental journey from the beginning to the end of your rental agreement. The right company makes refurbishing a hassle-free and a delightful experience. Look out for brands that also offer an array of customer-friendly options like design experts, quick delivery and free assembly to eliminate a cumbersome process and elevate your experiential experience.

    Happy designing!

    (The author is interior
    design expert, Pepperfry)

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  • 11/29/17--21:18: Is your home waterproof ?
  • Water damage is one of the most common and expensive disasters your home can experience. It costs lakhs of rupees to fix the problem. Safeguarding your most important asset against water damage and the complications that follow it is the top priority for most conscious houseowners. Water lodging into crevices could later lead to dangerous structural damage that could signal an imminent collapse.

    Water, water everywhere

    With 2017 being the wettest year in Bengaluru and with 1621.6 mm rainfall recorded till October 15, 2017, seepage and wall dampness are some of the most common issues faced in every building. Maintenance companies have noticed a 210% increase in waterproofing and seepage repair bookings as compared to the previous quarter. Bengaluru witnessed a 44% increase in the total request for water seepage and waterproofing in several low-lying areas of the city.

    Leaking pipelines through grouts in the bathroom and kitchen tiles signal water seepage. It can also cause dampness of adjacent walls or the ceiling downstairs along with bubbling and peeling of paint. Apart from being aesthetically unappealing, water seepage into electrical wiring can cause short-circuiting, which can result in potential electrocution and fire hazards.

    One of the most common and serious consequences of water seepage is the growth of mould and fungus, which can cause various health problems like asthma, allergies, nasal congestions, infections, etc. These can spread through ventilation and AC contaminating the rest of the house and causing further damage to furniture, carpets, walls, etc.

    As most of us tend to procrastinate on fixing these problems, we fail to realise that taking late action on water seepage problems would cost much more as the problem prolongs. It increases the extent of damage and puts the building and its residents on a high risk.

    Prevention is better than cure. So, waterproofing ones home is always better than facing the problems of fixing water seepage. Water damage also drives down the market value of the property and taking the right measures to ensure that your homes are safe from water damage is a lot less of a hassle than having to deal with the repercussions.

    Dampness in the wall and ceiling is caused due to poor quality construction and lack of appropriate waterproofing measures taken in the building. For example, dampness in the ceiling could be due to leakage from the terrace and dampness on walls could be due to the rising groundwater or seepage from exterior walls. Multiple waterproofing chemicals are available in the market which are mixed to replaster or repaint the wall to make it waterproof. Homebuyers increasingly call waterproofing specialists to perform specific surveys of their homes.

    With regard to arranging and executing waterproofing repairs, the climate is something one ought to consider. Rain can impact the ability to do both indoor and outdoor waterproofing work. Unlike with rainy conditions, extreme winter weather only affects waterproofing methods done outside the home. Experts say the best time for any water seepage-related repair work is right after the monsoons where owners know exactly which spots to target and facing the difficulties of the daily rains will not be an issue.

    So, the next time monsoon comes around, your home can safely embrace the rain.

    (The author is chief operating
    officer, Gapoon)

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  • 11/29/17--22:20: The crooning stars
  • Theres always been a crop of actors in Sandalwood who loved getting behind the microphone and the number only seems to be growing.
    Rajkumar sang most of his songs in his latter movies. Vishnuvardhan too crooned occasionally for his movies. The Kannada actors who are now keeping alive the tradition of acting and singing are Radhika Pandit, Yash, Meghana Raj, Puneeth Rajkumar and Upendra.

    While some actors take naturally to singing, others have to be given that extra push. Actor Yash says that he turned a singer with Annthamma for Mr and Mrs Ramachari. "Annthamma is a slang that is used by youngsters in the Mysuru and Mandya region. It literally translates to anna-thamma and is a popular way of greeting one another. The director was determined that I sing the song. It became very popular on social media," says Yash.
    Another song sung by Yash, Annange Love Aagidhe from Masterpiece, also became a superhit. "I dont think I am cut out to be a singer because there are trained singers out there. Sometimes there are directors who rope in actors to sing because it adds to the popularity of the project. I think that trend is here to stay," elaborates Yash.

    His wife and popular actor Radhika Pandit recorded a rap song for the title track of her movie Drama and again lent her voice to a song in Zoom. But she doesnt seem too enthusiastic about singing. "I dont want to rule out the possibility of singing, but Id rather stick to what I am comfortable doing rather than stray into an unknown territory. I am more of an actor than a singer," she says.

    Actor Meghana Raj first sang for Bahuparak. She later sang for Devaravane Bidu Guru and lent her voice to songs like Shuruvaaythu special classu in Jindaa and Yekaangi Neenaadeya in Liftman.

    "My father discovered this talent of mine when I was very young. I used to sing for some of his stage performances and that grew on me. Acting is easy but singing is tough because the actor has to emote according to how you sing. But thats a challenge worth attempting. I think I am getting better with every song that I sing," says Meghana.

    Actor Vasishta N Simha confesses that he moved from Mysuru to Bengaluru to become a singer. "It was my dream. I got my first big break in Kirik Party when I was offered the song Neecha Sullu Sutho Naalige," says Vasishta. He recently sang the unplugged version of Marete Hodenu in Dayavittu Gamanisi.

    "I want to be able to sing songs that challenge me. Voice modulation is an important part of being both an actor and singer," reasons Vasishta.

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  • 11/29/17--22:22: The countdown begins!
  • The Deccan Herald Theatre Festival 2017 presents a wonderful selection of genres, talents, and venues, all in namma Bengaluru. The festival curated by Sandbox Collective will present the best of Bengalurus talent on stage.

    The opening production, QTPs Mother Courage and Her Children, is written by one of the greatest playwrights in the history of theatre - Bertolt Brecht. Set in an unnamed future but relevant now more than ever, the stellar cast will take you on a journey of survival and hope in the toughest of times. This Mumbai-based theatre group, led by Quasar Thakore Padamsee, is known for their lavish productions and epic performances and the central character of Mother Courage is played by none other than Bengalurus own Arundhati Nag.

    Closer to home is Girish Karnads masterpiece Boiled Beans On Toast, a contemporary theatre production that promises to reconnect us with the city that we have chosen to call home. The metamorphosis of Bangalore is compellingly told through the lives of some of its citizens. Cutting across age, caste and class this production is directed by Prakash Belawadi who is best known for his work on both stage and in film.

    Another much looked forward to play is theatre and film director Pawan Kumars The Woman in Me. Best known for his crowdfunded film Lucia and more recently U Turn, his prowess in the theatre is matched only by his innovation in cinema. The Woman in Me hits you with its stark reality and dwells on how, sometimes, even the most progressive and liberal among us can be confronted by a startling new voice.

    In the midst of all ruminations about life, Tahattos play A Funny Thing Called Life is a comedy! It reminds you of the times life has used us as the punchline in various situations, and tells us that life is a bittersweet comedy.

    Vandana Prabhus A Little Calm Before The Storm is a different kind of comedy. Played out between three actors best known for their roles as Hitler, this play is delicately layered with dark humour. It tells us to laugh at everything, including theatre!

    Deccan Herald Theatre Festival 2017 opens on December 3 at Chowdiah Memorial Hall. Tickets are available on

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  • 11/29/17--22:24: One life, many roles
  • Sameer Bundela has been a part of the Indian cosplay world right from the start and has seen the fandom grow in leaps and bounds. From creating basic costumes from scratch to putting up magnificent displays that won him the Indian Cosplaying Championship 2017, the animation graduate has come a long way.

    Gearing up for the Bengaluru Comic Con that will be held on December 2 and 3, At8, as he is known in the alternate universe, talks to Rajitha Menon about costumes and life in them.

    How did you first become interested in cosplay?

    I was always inclined towards the arts and crafts like painting and sculpting. So in cosplay, I got a chance to incorporate all these things. Also as a kid, I always wanted that Shakthiman costume that everyone had and was interested in all the elaborate costumes I saw in the movies. All that drew me to this.

    First ever costume...

    It was a Rorschach for the very first Comic Con that happened in India. It was a very basic costume because we didnt have any idea about what materials to use and how to go about it. I made a mask by painting a duppatta and created a bloodstained brooch using nail polish. I was very proud of it at that time.

    Favourite costume so far?

    Definitely Chewbacca. I cosplayed him in 2015 when the seventh part of Star Wars was going to be released. I was really excited as I hadnt tried something like that before. It was a challenge but I loved making it.

    What was the response to the costume like?

    The response was the best part. I hadnt seen the movie while working on my costume. Few days before the event, I saw the movie in which Han Solo dies. I had planned to find a Han Solo cosplayer and go together for the event but after I saw this, I went alone and walked about with a sad face. People would just come and hug me!

    The costume that won you the Indian Cosplaying Championship 2017...

    That was my costume of Skywrath Mage; the most complicated one I had worked on till then. The wings were the most difficult part in that. Making them was not an issue; I had to wear them, move around and stand for atleast 5-6 hours. I had to remake the wings atleast three times before I got the perfect combination. There were many offers for it but I didnt want to
    sell it because I loved it so much.

    How was the experience at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, where you represented India?

    It was overwhelming; the level of cosplay I saw, the amount of detailing in costumes, was amazing. A reason for that is that the quality of the materials you get there is very good. There are also easily available unlike how it is in India. But the standards are improving here.

    To a novice, how would you explain the event?

    Everyone does cosplay for different reasons. I do it because I like the technical challenges involved (I am trying out prosthetics for the first time for my new costume). For others, it is a chance to connect with people with similar interests.
    You see a person wearing a costume of a Star Wars character and you know they are fans like you. My friend circle has primarily been of cosplayers ever since I started doing this. From different walks of life but connected by a love for fiction and the arts.

    Requirements to be a cosplay artiste?

    There is no requirement. Anyone can be a cosplayer. If you have ever cut paper and stuck it together, you have what it takes for a basic cosplay costume. But for competitions, you have to put in a lot of effort.

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    Theatre excites Quasar Thakore Padamsee like nothing else. He has directed and produced over 25 plays with QTP that include A Peasant of El Salvador, Project S.T.R.I.P., So Many Socks and Minorities. Quasar will be directing Mother Courage And Her Children, which will be staged as part of the Deccan Herald Theatre Festival that is curated by Sandbox Collective. The play will be staged on December 3, 7 pm at Chowdiah Memorial Hall.

    In a candid chat with Tini Sara Anien, the director talks about the festival.

    How excited are you to be a part of the Deccan Herald Theatre Festival?

    The festival has been a part of the psyche of Bengaluru. There are events which are a part of the cultural bloodflow of a city and this festival has been that. It feels nice to be a part of such an event.

    What is unique about the festival?

    Most festivals are centric to one or two venues. Each of the plays in the Deccan Herald Theatre Festival is being staged at a different venue which makes it really unique. This gives Bengalureans an opportunity to watch at least some of the plays. Across the country, people are trying to experiment with new formats. Festivals now are not just about staging a collection of plays but showcasing a range of work which is quite widespread.

    Why did you select Mother Courage and Her Children for the festival?

    I picked up the play about a year ago to use it as a text in a class I was teaching. When I was reading it, I was surprised that it was written in the 1930s in Germany but is still so relevant. The question in my head is not why this play, but why not? Nobody knows who is fighting who now, which is very fascinating. All the things that Bertolt Brecht talks about in the play apply to the current conforms.

    What are the points you look into when directing a play?

    If it is a play which already exists then it is about how good the play is, how it speaks to one and whether it hurts one in the gut.

    Theatre runs in your family. How did your interest develop?

    My interest in theatre happened by chance. I was sent to a boarding school where I was part of a couple of plays there. When I was acting in a play at the age of 16, in the middle of my part, I suddenly realised Oh my God, this is so cool!. I even forgot my lines for a brief moment because I was enjoying the moment of realisation.
    What is nice is that neither of my parents ever pressurised me. My work is different from my other family members. I respond strongly to form, my mother responds to content and my father responds to scale. We are not clones of each other.

    Has the theatre scene changed from when you started?

    Very much! Theatre in India is at a very exciting place now. There are more groups performing, more kinds of plays, more writers writing and more venues hosting plays. In Bengaluru, places like Ranga Shankara and Jagriti came up and even other venues are opening up, which is thrilling.

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  • 11/29/17--22:24: The crooning stars
  • Theres always been a crop of actors in Sandalwood who loved getting behind the microphone and the number only seems to be growing.

    Rajkumar sang most of his songs in his latter movies. Vishnuvardhan too crooned occasionally for his movies. The Kannada actors who are now keeping alive the tradition of acting and singing are Radhika Pandit, Yash, Meghana Raj, Puneeth Rajkumar and Upendra.

    While some actors take naturally to singing, others have to be given that extra push. Actor Yash says that he turned a singer with Annthamma for Mr and Mrs Ramachari.
    "Annthamma is a slang that is used by youngsters in the Mysuru and Mandya region. It literally translates to anna-thamma and is a popular way of greeting one another. The director was determined that I sing the song. It became very popular on social media," says Yash.

    Another song sung by Yash, Annange Love Aagidhe from Masterpiece, also became a superhit. "I dont think I am cut out to be a singer because there are trained singers out there. Sometimes there are directors who rope in actors to sing because it adds to the popularity of the project. I think that trend is here to stay," elaborates Yash.

    His wife and popular actor Radhika Pandit recorded a rap song for the title track of her movie Drama and again lent her voice to a song in Zoom. But she doesnt seem too enthusiastic about singing.

    "I dont want to rule out the possibility of singing, but Id rather stick to what I am comfortable doing rather than stray into an unknown territory. I am more of an actor than a singer," she says.

    Actor Meghana Raj first sang for Bahuparak. She later sang for Devaravane Bidu Guru and lent her voice to songs like Shuruvaaythu special classu in Jindaa and Yekaangi Neenaadeya in Liftman.

    "My father discovered this talent of mine when I was very young. I used to sing for some of his stage performances and that grew on me. Acting is easy but singing is tough because the actor has to emote according to how you sing. But thats a challenge worth attempting. I think I am getting better with every song that I sing," says Meghana.
    Actor Vasishta N Simha confesses that he moved from Mysuru to Bengaluru to become a singer. "It was my dream. I got my first big break in Kirik Party when I was offered the song Neecha Sullu Sutho Naalige," says Vasishta. He recently sang the unplugged version of Marete Hodenu in Dayavittu Gamanisi.

    "I want to be able to sing songs that challenge me. Voice modulation is an important part of being both an actor and singer," reasons Vasishta.

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  • 11/30/17--22:42: A purrfect retreat
  • The constant drizzle and overcast skies didnt dampen the spirit of dog lovers who came to participate in the 23 and 24 FCI International Dog Show that started in the city on Friday.

    Hosted by the Bangalore Canine Club, the three-day event, is set to showcase over 568 entries and 67 different breeds of canines from across the country.

    In addition to a good number of entries from the city, people have come in with their pets from Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai, Kerala and Guwahati.

    The atmosphere was one of fun and frolic as Great Danes, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Boxers, Mudhol Hounds and Salukis vied with each other for attention. Pet parents too were seen mixing with each other. Irene Holt and Deena Talbot came all the way from Ahmednagar in Maharashtra to participate in the show with their pets - a Saluki. "Saluki has its origins in the middle-eastern region. We liked this breed because they are hunter dogs and fast runners. They cannot be looked after in small spaces and require large areas. They also need a lot of care and attention," explains Irene.

    Yathish, who registered his nine-month old Great Dane for the show, says that he has been training his dog for the last one month for the show. "These shows test a canines strength, speed, body structure and movement. I own a couple of dogs and train them too. Theres a lot that you learn when you spend time with pets," says Yathish.

    The show had a good number of dog trainers who have been regulars for the show. Kareena B and Nina are Russians, who have been dog trainers for a while now. "We always look forward to coming for the show because it gives us an idea of the different breeds, training methods and we also get to interact with other trainers from across the country. We work with all kinds of breeds but prominent among them are Golden Retriever and Irish Setter," says Kareena. Nina pitches in "We chose to be dog trainers and we cant think of working in any other field." Deepshikha Aditya, a dog lover, flew down from Kolkata, to participate at the show. "I have brought my Golden Retriever for this show. He is one among the 40 dogs that I own back home. I am not a regular breeder but I love owning these pets. I have people who train these dogs and maintain them too. Show like these give both the dogs and their owners a good exposure of the latest in the world of canines," explains Deepshikha.

    The show is on till December 3 at the White Orchid, Manyata Tech Park from 9 am to 7 pm.

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  • 11/30/17--22:44: The globe on a platter
  • Tucked in an unassuming street of Gandhinagar is a cove - a culinary cove filled with little delights. Spice Cove is located inside IV Sanctum Hotel in Gandhinagar.

    The recently opened restaurant combines a classy setting with old world charm. An open plan, ample seating, glass top ceiling and a stunning view of the picturesque Race Course adds to the charm of the place.

    The menu is a multi-cuisine one which means that you can take your pick from Indian, Chinese, Continental and so on, though the staff claims Tandoori dishes to be a speciality. The elaborate menu includes both à la carte as well as buffet options.

    Since the place opens as early as seven in the morning, choose from their wide variety of breakfast items like paratha, dosa, eggs, croissants, muffins, doughnuts and more. Next in line are the pizzas with a good selection of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Ask for the Butter chicken pizza which is a chef special and a general favourite for the exotic mix of Indian and Italian flavours. The chef specials do not find a place on the menu but are suggested by the staff based on availability and preferences. The chicken leg stuffed with keema is another such novel experiment that one is sure to like.

    Next on the menu is an assortment of small bites like cutlets, roasted nuts, rolls, sandwiches and burgers. The burgers, both vegetarian and chicken variant, are a safe bet with the appetising filling that is a good combination of textures and flavours. The pasta derives strongly from Indian flavours to cater to the local palate though the garlic bread could do with improvement.

    Salads, appetisers and soups follow next. They are served only for a certain duration during the afternoons and evenings. The cream soup is a good choice as it is sure to tickle your tastebuds and whet your appetite for the feast that is to follow.

    In the starters, the hara bara kabab, which is minced vegetable mixed with flour and deep fried, is a good try for green lovers. The Paneer sizzlers are as much a treat for the eyes as for the tastebuds.

    For meat lovers, the Tandoori kalmi kabab and Mutton seekh kebab are a must try for the delectable taste. For those of you who like your meats to be a bit firmer, let the chef know; the meats may seem somewhat soft otherwise. The staff is open to suggestions so dont hesitate to voice out your requirements. A special shout out to the Chicken wings which is sure to please even the most hardened of foodies who set foot here.

    The biryani is a hit among all customers here and deserves a try, especially for the authentic dum aspect. The matar paneer or the traditional raita would be an ideal accompaniment for this. The in-house spices must be complimented for the unique taste of all the dishes here.

    Round off your meal with a beverage like the Lychee cooler or a sweet dish like the heavenly Papaya halwa. Other options include brownies, caramel, apple pie, fruit tart and so on.

    Spice Cove is located in IV Sanctum Hotel, 5th Main Road, Gandhi Nagar, Majestic.

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  • 11/30/17--22:48: Access denied!
  • "Disability is a matter of perception. If you can do just one thing well, youre needed by someone," said tennis player Martina Navratilova. True to these words, time and again, disabled individuals have proved that they are champions in their own way. With the International Day of Persons with Disabilities arriving on December 3 with the theme Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all, some Bengalureans voice their needs for better facilities.

    Madhumitha Venkataraman, a member of Diversity Dialogues, who has an orthopaedic disability, feels strongly about the need for accessibility. "Even the most accessible places like the airport dont have sign language interpreters or provisions for speech and hearing impaired. Also, people are not able to understand disability when it comes to individuals like me who dont use crutches or wheelchairs. Accessing roads and pavements are difficult for us yet the support system isnt good," she says.

    Madhumitha wonders what the purpose of ramps is when it can only be accessed after climbing some steps. "Many restaurants and some malls are like this. There are more ramps being set up now but how does one access them if some steps have to climbed before using them?" she asks.

    When it comes to public transportation, buses should have portable ramps in them so that passengers can board or deboard them easily, she observes. "Cab aggregators should make provisions for people who face challenges while boarding the cabs. It would be a good start," she says.

    Dhanya Ravi, a freelance content writer, who suffers from brittle bone disease, agrees that there needs to be more cab aggregators, which understand the special needs of disabled people and are available at economical rates.

    "Despite Bengaluru being the garden city, there are very few green spaces that are accessible for the disabled. Apart from ramps at the gate and pathways in parks, an inclusive park with safe instruments, where wheelchairs users can also play could be looked into," she adds.

    Dhanya, who had to be home-schooled, says that schools and colleges need to inclusive too. "All schools should be wheelchair-friendly," she says. "A proper channel for guidance regarding therapy and other medical support for disabled people should also be developed," she adds.

    Anuradha Patil, manager (LRC) with Cheshire Homes India, Bangalore, who works with disabled people, believes that navigating in public buildings like schools, colleges, hospitals, post-offices and government offices should be made easier.

    "If a speech-impaired person visits a hospital, he or she should be able to go through the formalities without any difficulties. For the visually-impaired, audio clips of the entire admission process and forms in the Braille script should be provided," she says.

    Madhumitha pitches in, "When there are instructions in public spaces in English, Hindi and Kannada, why not the Braille? This is what inclusiveness means," she points out.

    A lot of planning goes into activities like shopping at the mall or visiting a restaurant, as the availability of a ramp has to be checked, says Bhuvaneshwari A, assistant manager with an MNC. "Getting into buses or entering public spaces are quite a challenge," she says.

    Despite being a modern city, the peoples mentality also needs to change, she adds. "At many work spaces, there is a lot of rethinking done about assigning a disabled person with a fresh project or an off-shore assignment." She believes that everyone deserves a platform to showcase their abilities. "After all, its all mostly in the head, isnt it?," asks Bhuvaneshwari.

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  • 11/30/17--22:48: It's raining coffee!
  • The smell of wet earth and the heady aroma of coffee - it was a mix of this that greeted visitors on the first day of the fourth edition of the Coffee Santhe.

    With around 60 stalls showcasing various aspects of the brew, the festival is a haven for the lovers of the beverage. The Santhe showcases blends in the form of beans/roast and ground coffee, demonstrations for creating blends, food pairings, food made from coffee, plants, roasting and brewing equipment, coffee-based art and more.

    The other events include a yoga workshop, musical performances by local artistes, a panel discussion by international experts on some of the latest trends in coffee and more.

    Says D M Purnesh, ex-Coffee Board member, member of Womens Coffee Alliance India (WCAI) and managing director, Classic Coffees, "The event is bigger and better this year. Visitors can expect to see more brands of coffee, different kinds of brewing equipment and coffee products."

    The festival is an effort to raise funds by the WCAI to empower and uplift the women in the field of coffee by way of providing them with education and arranging health camps and a medical health insurance scheme for families.

    "Coffee Santhe is a manifestation of the spirit of the young generation of coffee enthusiasts. Its a good opportunity for the young and old brands to meet with coffee lovers," says Savyasachi Gowda, founder of ChikCoffee.

    The highlight of the festival is the Womens Brew master Championship that will see women baristas from across India engage in a brewing contest. The championship will be evaluated by an international jury from the US, Europe and Central America.

    The Coffee Santhe will be held till December 3, 10 am onwards at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath. Entry is free.

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  • 11/30/17--22:50: Ready to rock
  • He wants to work on films that will be remembered and doesnt mind being labelled choosy. Actor Sriimurali, who is back to entertain Kannada movie lovers with his latest release Mufti, hopes the film will impress one and all with his action-packed performance. In a candid chat with Tini Sara Anien, the actor talks about the movie and more.

    Youre back on the silver screen after a while. How do you feel?

    Theres a lot of excitement and tension in the air. My emotions are as varied as a rainbow. One moment, I am rubbing my hands together with excitement and at other times, I go blank thinking about how the movie will work with the audience.

    How do you prepare yourself for the release day?

    I dont do much. I try to spend good quality time with my family as they have always kept me grounded. I try to stay calm and focussed and dont let any negative thoughts seep in. I go on a switch off mode and stay indoors before a movie release.

    Is it a conscious decision to take things slow?

    While I wanted to finish Mufti fast and wanted it to release sooner, I do not believe in cribbing. That can only bring in negative thoughts. I am choosy with my movies though. I like taking things slow. I am not a quick learner and Im not a quick decision-maker either. When I am working with a new team, I like to take time as I want things to be smooth on the sets.

    This is your first film with Shivarajkumar. How special is that feeling?

    Working with Shivarajkumar is a dream come true. My brother had worked with him and I have always wondered if I would ever get a chance to do so. I always wanted to do a movie which will make a big impact and I feel lucky that it is happening with Shivanna.

    What is your chemistry with him?

    Though we are relatives, those sentiments have nothing to do when it comes to work. We are two professionals. We always knew that on the sets we were just actors and nothing more. He is a fun-loving person, calm and dedicated to whatever he does. He is one of the most inspiring and influential people one can work with.

    Has the movie been the hot topic in the family?

    Why just family, Mufti is the topic of discussion everywhere I turn my head to! From my uncles to younger cousins, everyone has been talking about it.

    What according to you are the strong points of the movie?

    The visuals are unique, the characterisation is fresh and the genre we have explored, will hopefully take Kannada film industry to greater heights.

    Tell us about an interesting moment from the sets.

    In a particular scene, I had to jump off a moving train. I remember telling myself, Ah! Thats not a big deal. After the scene, I realised that I would have gone under the train. I quickly got up and asked for a retake and everyone was stunned and worried if I was okay. I insisted on reshooting the scene and the vigour I had at that point cannot be explained. It was after I saw the scene on the monitor that I thought about my family and how risky the scene was actually.

    Now that Mufti is out, what more do you want to explore?

    I want to work in an epic or historical movie. Though I do not restrict myself to genres, I just want to keep doing good movies.

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    Thespian Arundhati Nag tells Metrolife about her association with the play and why it will always be relevant.

    What is the relevance of a play like Mother Courage and Her Children today?

    This is a universal tale of greed, courage and the marketplace, about how it dominates our lives. Its very relevant. It was written by Bertolt Brecht before the Second World War as a warning to Europe, that if you dine with the devil, you need to have a long spoon. It holds good even today, holds good any time.

    Can you tell us about your previous association with Mother Courage and Her Children?

    My association with this play is actually very, very old. When I was in college and all of 17, I did a one-act play called Zeenat ke hathiyar based on Brechts play. We based it on the Bangladesh War. Years later, Shankar (Nag) wanted to direct Mother Courage. The last conversation we shared in fact before we lost him was him asking me, "When we go back, will you act in Mother Courage? I said, Yes. And then he was gone. So, when I was in the hospital after the accident, my friend Surendranath adapted this play to the Karnataka wars, and we did Mother Courage in Kannada as a tribute to Shankar Nag on his first death anniversary. The entire theatre fraternity got together to do a play that a friend wanted to do (but couldnt) in his lifetime. And, now 26 years later this play comes to me again.

    What was the best part about working on this production?

    The chance to work with so many youngsters. Most of my co-stars are children of my friends. Quasar, the director is the son of Dolly Thakore and Aleque Padamsee, Ive seen him from when he was a child. Junaid is Aamir Khan and Reenas son, Abirs parents are my very good friends. Most of the actors are one third my age, I got this amazing chance to work with 18 passionate youngsters. I had to wipe out all my past experience and start learning afresh. Which is very interesting at my age.

    You had a cart in your farm, was this the one from Mother Courage and Her Children?

    It was. It was in my house on the farm for many years -- a hand-pulled cart. Then I moved it to Ranga Shankara and later, it disintegrated. Time takes a toll on everything material, but not ideas. An idea is like Mother Courage, it lives on in our minds. So the cart is gone, now Im working with a new cart. Its like this story by Ramanujam. A person says, "This knife has been in my family for 300 years. It is very old. Sometimes we change the blade, sometimes the handle, but essentially the knife is the same." Mother Courage is like that, you can change the language, adapt it to a contemporary setting but what continues to ring through is a resilience.

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  • 11/30/17--16:46: Why so funny?
  • That an institution like Kapil Sharma is feeding news almost 24/7 to the print and electronic media is a given. But behind the facade of the comedian who has grown from strength to strength, done a successful film, and has just released his second big-screen effort, Firangi, what is the real man like? What is happening to The Kapil Sharma Show and what about his annoying superstars from showbiz? What ails him that he needed a rehab at a popular Bengaluru ayurvedic centre?

    Science of comedy

    Too many questions and controversies - and just one Kapil Sharma to answer them! But the man makes our interaction lively enough. And so, somewhere at mid-point, we asked him: from Charlie Chaplin to Johnny Walker and Johnny Lever, every great comedian was or is actually a very serious person. What about him?

    "I am very serious only about my work," he replies. "The situations and the lines spoken by every character on my show are minutely filtered by me before they are shot. Otherwise, it all depends on the company, time and environment."

    Arising from that, how much of his popular show is actually impromptu? "Well, we do script the entries of the characters and so on," he answers. "But what happens later, especially with the celebrities on the show, is impromptu."

    Why do we occasionally feel that even the people who ask the questions are all pre-selected? "We have to do that sometimes," he admits. "For example, there was this guy who wanted to ask Kareena (Kapoor Khan) a question that was extremely improper. We had to tell him to change it."

    We share that his good friend from Class 9, Rajiev Dhingra, also the writer-director of his new film and also of many episodes of his earlier shows, has told us a good bit about him. "Zyaada bakwaas to nahin ki ussne (I hope he has not talked too much rubbish)?" he asks mischievously.

    Rajiev has informed us that Kapil was a very silent boy in school. How did this quiet boy metamorphose into someone as talkative as him who earns mega-money for himself and the two GECs with which he has been associated? And Kapil replies, "I was quiet because I did not know in which subjects I would flunk! Actually, theatre helped me shed my inhibitions, and after a lot of serious plays, I thought it was better to make people laugh when they are investing time and money in you."

    What was his first reaction when the story of Firangi came to him? "The story did not come, Rajiev did!" quips Kapil. He adds, "Rajiev wanted to do a film with me for long, but you cannot trust old friends, you know! So, it was only after he made a Punjabi hit film Love Punjab and offered this idea that I agreed, and he developed the script."

    Firangi is a light-hearted film against the Independence backdrop without showing any unpleasantness or violence. "The characters are serious, but the audience will laugh at their innocent foibles," explains Kapil.

    When will his television comeback happen? "We are working on something. But this time, I will call it The Khairati Lal Show!"

    And why would that be? He grins, "On The Kapil Sharma Show, I get the flak always! Look at how a scribe who saw Sumona Chakravarti smoking reported the news: Kapil ki biwi peeti hai cigarette (Kapils wife is smoking a cigarette)! Sidhu paaji says something and again I am blamed. When Kiku Sharda was arrested because he spoke against a godman, the headline was that Kapils Palak (his character on my show) had been put in jail."

    Clearing the air

    What about reports of his keeping big names like Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn waiting and inviting their wrath? "I have no PR to take care of me!" he replies. "And since I continue doing my work - I think now that I should reveal my side too! - people write anything about me that the stars I am supposed to have angered know is rubbish. I shot for Akshay Kumars show just yesterday. When I was not keeping well, Shah Rukh advised me to pay attention to my health first."

    Kapil explains, "Anybody familiar with our work will know that if a star is called at 7 pm, my team is there at least six hours earlier. We fine-tune our scripts, rehearse, do readings and so on."

    Bengaluru fans are especially eager to know how Kapil has done in his recent rehab at a famous ayurvedic centre here. Is he completely fit now? Kapil is honest: "No, I am not completely alright, though much better. There is still some weakness, but then I was neglecting my health in every aspect for months. When I went in, the first two days were like being in jail. But gradually, I began to enjoy the discipline, the diet, the massages that are done with everything possible from hot oil to rice and so on. I felt my strength coming back and strongly recommend the place to everyone."

    Kapil left the centre after just day 15 of the 40-day regimen as he needed to promote his film and release it. "But now, they are sending me medicines," he says.

    A little bird has told us that he has been offered an international comedy show by the people who made Big Mommas House. "Now, who told you that?" he grins. "Well, I have just received an offer over the phone. I need to go there and see what they have for me."

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    Its a scenario ripped from the headlines: a grief-stricken family member is summoned to meet the coffin of a fallen soldier, and complications ensue. And it brought Laurence Fishburne to tears. "I wept through the movie - I was so moved by it," he said of Richard Linklaters Last Flag Flying. "We struck the right tone. Although it deals with subject matter that is sombre and tricky, we were able to bring a lot of levity and humanity to it," Laurence says.

    In Last Flag Flying, Fishburne plays Rev. Richard Mueller, who has found God after a harrowing tour of duty in Vietnam. When his long-lost war buddies Doc (Steve Carell) and Sal (Bryan Cranston) unexpectedly appear during a Sunday service in 2003, he reluctantly joins them on a road trip to Dover Air Force Base, where Doc is to meet the coffin of his only son, a Marine killed in Iraq, and accompany it to Arlington National Cemetery. More echo than sequel, the film revisits characters originally created by novelist Darryl Ponicsan and adapted by Hal Ashby in the 1973 movie The Last Detail.

    In a call from Los Angeles, a few days before President Donald Trumps controversial condolence call to the Gold Star widow Myeshia Johnson, Fishburne talked about military sacrifice and the impact of his TV series, black-ish.

    Excerpts from a conversation:

    Last Flag Flying grapples with a complex, highly emotional situation...

    I think the film transcends the politics of the day in that it really deals with the camaraderie among men at arms and the way they are bonded pretty much for life as a result of having to experience combat together. It also illuminates beautifully the anguish of the loss that people feel when a loved one goes off to serve and makes the supreme sacrifice.

    Its comedic in many ways yet stars Steve Carell in an unusually serious role.

    When I say that Bryan and Steve are master actors, you must remember that we have these little symbols for the actor: the comedy mask and the mask of tragedy. Steve is perhaps best loved for his comedic work, but its not like he hasnt developed his skills for tragedy.

    Youre only nine years older than Anthony Anderson, who plays your son on black-ish...

    I was only (about) nine years older than Cuba Gooding Jr. when I played his dad, too, (in Boyz n the Hood). And I was cast in Apocalypse Now at the age of 14 to play a 17-year-old. Its my luck that I was born a bit of an old soul, and its served me well.

    How did the Apocalypse Now casting go?

    I had been acting for about four years when I met with Francis Coppola and Fred Roos, who produced the film. And Fred did all the talking, while Francis sat there quietly observing me. They asked simple stuff like, How old are you? And I lied and said 16. Then they asked, What grade are you in school? And I said, A freshman - I mean a sophomore. Then a receptionist walked in, and Francis finally spoke up and said, Do you think this kid could be 18? And she took a look at me and went, Sure, and walked out of the door. And the rest is history.

    black-ish has dealt with police brutality, the presidential election and even menstruation. Do you have any say about the issues that the creator, Kenya Barris, tackles?

    Kenya and his writing staff do their thing, and when I have an idea or a suggestion, we throw things at the wall and see what sticks. I trust his point of view because its not that different from mine. You have to remember that Kenya, myself, Anthony, any number of our producers - weve been black all our lives.

    And yet less than a quarter of black-ish viewers are black, according to a Nielsen study.

    Were trying to reach everybody that we can with the specificity of our culture and our experience, the joys and challenges and vicissitudes of what its like for us in this country at the moment. And if the numbers are any indication of how were doing, the reality is that our experience is universal.

    Youve been working for 16 years on an adaptation of Paulo Coelhos The Alchemist. Any other passion projects?

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  • 11/30/17--16:50: Magic of recreation
  • The trend, really speaking, began 15 years ago. But the proportions recreated songs have reached in 2017 is alarmingly high: 29 such songs have been used in movies! And what is most significant is that while many of these are hits, we have not had even half as many original hits in the 11 months gone by.

    Recreated songs are different from the now age-old remixes: an old song is given fresh tweaks with changes in lyrics, composition, arrangements and obviously vocals. With an anything goes rule, songs are tailored to new situations and vice-versa, genders changed in the filming as in Saara Zamana in Kaabil, rap and other features added, and what is very common is a complete disconnection between words and visuals!

    The insidious beginning

    Director Ananth Narayan Mahadevan experimented with 12 old R D Burman songs as the complete score of his 2002 Dil Vil Pyar Vyar (ironically, the title was derived from an iconic Laxmikant-Pyarelal (L-P) chartbuster), but perhaps the first true-blue example of a classic (!) recreation came in Don (2006), the remake of the 1978 blockbuster Don. The cult Kalyanji-Anandji-Kishore-Kumar-hit Khaike Paan Banaras Wala had some add-on passages and was sung by Udit Narayan.

    In 2010, Pritam created an original tune that also blended in the mukhdas (main lines) of two old R D Burman numbers, Duniya Mein Logon Ko (Apna Desh/1972) and Piya Tu (Caravan/1971). In 2011, the L-P hit Main Jat Yamla from the 1975 Pratiggya was rerecorded unchanged for Yamla Pagla Deewana, but rap was incorporated by rapper RDB. Another fresh composition that became a huge hit was Ooh La La from The Dirty Picture, beautifully reworked from Ooee Amma (Mawaali / 1983). In 2014, for the first time, a non-film Punjabi song, Samjhawan, was also recorded for Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania in the fresh voices of Shreya Ghoshal and Arijit Singh.

    Tanishk Bagchi, who is the go-to guy for such songs, did not reply to repeated calls and messages for this story, and neither did Amaal Mallik. However, lyricist Kumaar, one of the busiest names in original songwriting and the favourite re-creator today, states, "I cannot sit in judgement for this trend. It is the call of the producer and director as such songs have recall value and hence get an auto-push in popularity. There are times when there are better original songs in the same film, but they obviously do not stand the same chance."

    The lyricist admits he is flowing with the trend but feels it will pass off soon. He adds, "As of now, most such songs are working well, which is why they are being created. I have no qualms about writing them as if I do not, someone else will."

    The lyricist of brilliant original songs like Tu Bhoola Jise (Airlift last year), however, feels extra-responsible when such songs come his way. "I cannot destroy the sanctity of the original writing. When I wrote additional lyrics for Saara Zamana and Dil Kya Kare in Kaabil, I treated them as new assignments and made sure the connected parts not only made sense but also did not disrespect the work Anjaan-saab and Anand Bakshi-saab did on the respective older songs from Yaarana and Julie. I also insist on due credits to the original creators in and outside the film."

    Not all cases acknowledge the original creators, however, which is especially dangerous in view of upcoming generations that have never heard the originals. Another rampantly ridiculous tradition is of changing the billed name of the reworked song: Keh Doon Tumhein from Deewaar, for example, became Socha Tha (the first line of the original songs first antara) when reused in Baadshaho this year.

    Tributes or just easy money?

    Statistically, maximum recreations have been of composers Laxmikant-Pyarelal, R D Burman and lyricist Anand Bakshi, and the 70s and 80s remain favourite eras. But we have had recreations even from earlier times and as recent as from 2015-2016. T-Series, in their own productions, have made it a habit of having at least one recreation per movie, and film-makers Milan Luthria and Karan Johar have also had a fetish for such songs.

    Purists are obviously offended by the callous audiovisual (re-)treatment meted out to loved classics, also pointing out the fact that, forget credits, the original creators are unlikely to even get compensation, which may be gobbled up by music companies that claim to have all-pervasive rights in a country with shoddy implementation of copyright laws.

    They scoff at the idea that such offerings are "tributes" that also infuse new lease of life to classics, and infer that it is nothing but making second-hand money from someone elses creations that is the driving force in this anything-for-money-goes era. The songs are tried-and-tested, and the current generation is exposed to a better quality of lyrics and tunes that guarantee acceptance.

    However, besides the convenience (like Judwaa 2s use of Judwaas cult Oonchi Hai Building and Tan Tana Tan Tan Tara reworked, as the story itself was a reboot), the ingenious ways devised for reusing classics must be admired. Gourov-Roshin reworked Rajesh Roshans above-mentioned classics in Kaabil, with Rajesh doing the remaining original songs. The song recreated in Golmaal Again (Neend Churayi from Ishq / 1997) was once again filmed on Ajay Devgn.

    Segments of the original song are also technologically incorporated in a new song, as with O Meri Mehbooba (Dharam-Veer in 1977) in Fukrey Returns, where Mohammed Rafis voice is partly used for GenY actor Pulkit Samrat. Thanks to this, Bappi Lahiri and Anuradha Paudwal have sung for Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt in Badrinath Ki Dulhania!

    Will this trend fizzle out like so many others as Kumaar has predicted? Not so soon, we feel, for the simple reason that recreations as a trend have opened up a complete Ali Babas cave of limitless treasures that can be purloined freely!

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  • 11/30/17--16:52: She's a star maker
  • Shanoo Sharma is one of the top casting directors in Bollywood today and actors consider themselves lucky if she even notices them. Till date, she has introduced Ranveer Singh, Arjun Kapoor, Parineeti Chopra, Vani Kapoor, Bhumi Pednekar, and in a way, Alia Bhatt to the big screen. A popular figure in the film industry, Shanoo says she doesnt introduce people with the notion that they are going to be stars. She meets them thinking they would make good actors.

    In an exclusive conversation with Sunday Herald, she talks about what it means to be a casting director in the worlds largest film industry and more...

    Casting directors are very important to a film today. But not so long ago, they didnt really have a status to speak of...

    Earlier, scripts were not handed over, you were just expected to find people. When I first came into the industry, people would say, Arre, ladki le kar aayo, jo Rani (Mukherjee) ya Preeti (Zinta) jaisi ho, and I would be gobsmacked because they are two totally different people! I had to put my foot down to do things professionally. Today, I also groom actors and help them open up. So, the role of a casting director has certainly increased, and is an integral part of a film.

    Who do you see as your mentor?

    Most certainly Shekhar Kapur... he is my favourite person. When he discussed casting, I learnt so much from him that I felt like a director myself. While I had a chance to work with him on Paani, he opened me up to newer things and I learnt clarity of thought from him. And he has such youthful energy. I was floored when he asked me for my views because here was a film-maker who had made great films but it felt like he was a first-time director every time he sat in front of me.

    Has the industry become more professional over the years, where casting is concerned?

    Yes, of course. Scripts are given, characters are discussed and all actors are told their parts and are also given the freedom to say yes or no to the part. Today, there is social media. We inform newcomers about our Facebook pages. So, it is far more organised. But we do warn them about fake profiles that really are money scams.

    What would you say is the difference between Hollywood and Bollywood in terms of the casting process?

    I have heard that in Hollywood, the agent is God. He can bring stars, producers, directors, in fact, a whole film together. That is yet to happen in India.

    Are casting directors acknowledged by the actors that they introduce after they become stars?

    I have always been given love by those I have introduced. They still come up to me for opinions, which I find overwhelming.

    What is the relationship between a casting director and the films director?

    It depends on the director, really. And each one is different. I have a beautiful relationship with Shekhar sir, and very different ones with Manish Sharma and Karan Johar.

    Why dont you cast for other production houses?

    That is because I am an employee of Yash Raj Films. Its a decision I consciously took eight years ago. Karan Johar is the only exception because I started my journey with him. A lot of directors come to me and I do help them, but not professionally.

    Where do you go from here? Are you planning to direct a film?

    I am planning to direct a home....get married and live happily ever after! But who knows the future? I had never planned to become a casting director, so I cant really say for sure where it will take me.

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  • 11/30/17--16:56: Thriving in chaos
  • Bejoy Nambiar was being groomed to join the family textiles business - armed with an MBA degree from the UK - when he convinced his family to let him assist Mani Ratnam for a year. With no formal training in film-making, the Mumbai lad went on to assist the ace director in movies like Guru and Raavan. In 2011, he made an unconventional Bollywood debut with Shaitan as producer, writer and director. Although his subsequent films - David, a bilingual in Tamil and Hindi, and Wazir, starring Amitabh Bachchan and Farhan Akhtar - didnt break the box office, the "theatre person at heart" managed to make an impact with his deft storytelling, artistic use of silence and eclectic musical choices.

    His latest movie, Solo, a bilingual in Malayalam and Tamil, recently found itself in the midst of a controversy when the films climax was changed post-release, without Bejoys knowledge, to placate angry audience reactions. "It was unfortunate, but its done and dusted," is all the film-maker is willing to say about the incident. However, he is more forthcoming about his love for anthologies, the challenge of shooting with Amitabh Bachchan, and the process of writing. Excerpts from an interaction:

    Solo is an anthology, as was David. Why this fascination?

    I find the idea of multiple narratives and multiple story structures very exciting. Sadly, we dont make out and out anthology films. Solo has four stories, wherein Dulquer plays four avatars of Lord Shiva, exploring emotions of rage and love. And being a bilingual, the process becomes more challenging.

    What are the challenges of making bilingual films?

    Unlike David - half - of which was dubbed - with Solo, we shot the entire film in both languages. So, it was like making eight features! The story has to lend itself to more than one language. In this case, we thought the plot would resonate with Tamil audiences too. Besides, Dulquer has a huge fan base in both languages.

    How tough was it to get a break in Bollywood?

    It was a long, enduring process. Shaitan was supposed to be an English film. For a year-and-a-half, I was pitching it to everyone in Mumbai. Anurag Kashyap came on board as the producer just a week before the shooting was scheduled to start.

    Do you enjoy watching your own movies?

    I absolutely enjoy watching my films again and again. Im my audience first. When Shaitan was released, my girlfriend (now wife) and I used to watch the movie in theatres so often that Anurag once even told me to go home and do something else. But its difficult for me to let go, I feel attached to my work. I am an emotional film-maker.

    Did you ever aspire to be an actor?

    I once acted as a dead body in a play. But acting has never been an aspiration. Its exciting to see actors interpret your writing in their own way. I sit in coffee shops and write; I cant withdraw into a shell. Im someone who thrives in chaos.

    Why is music so integral to your films?

    I like writing music, collating and putting everything together. Its part of my writing process. I enjoy working with musicians. They are truly gifted. I listen to all kinds of music; language doesnt matter. Actually, my sister is a classical singer and she has sung a track titled Shiva Omkara for Solo.

    Is it tough to portray strong female characters on the screen?

    I hate writing token characters. Especially when it comes to the portrayal of women in my films, I like to keep it real. All the women in my life, whether its my mother, sister, wife or friends, are strong and independent. So, that always creeps into my writing.

    How was it like working with Amitabh Bachchan?

    It was great working with him on Wazir. The only issue is that you cant shoot with Mr Bachchan in live locations. Anywhere he goes, therell be a crowd of at least 10,000 people! So, that becomes a problem.

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    It is not an understatement to say that the heritage of handlooms in India is priceless and has existed since time immemorial. Did you know that the history of bandhini from Gujarat can be traced to the Indus Valley Civilisation? A legacy that has not only facilitated trade and commerce since the ancient times but has also been the inspiration for many a writer and poet. A look at the fabric map of India would tell you that almost every region and state in the country has its own distinctive history of weaving, making the handloom industry the largest cottage industry of the country. With millions of weavers in every nook and corner of the country working on creating some of the most unique textiles, handloom is the second largest unorganised economic activity in India, next only to agriculture.

    From pashmina in Kashmir to kanjeevaram in Kanchipuram, muga silk in Assam to the exclusive reza textiles of Rajasthan, the uniqueness of each fabric is an ode to Indias rich diversity. The lepcha of Sikkim, eri silk of Meghalaya, phanek of Manipur and kunbi of Goa are yet other exclusive fabrics that are fast gaining impetus. The tradition of weaving is so profound that there are several native handlooms found within a single state. For instance, Karnataka boasts of a rich tradition of textiles that include the molkalmuru saris of Chitradurga district and the Ilkal saris of Bagalkot in North Karnataka, apart from the world-famous Mysore silk saris.

    In the holy town

    In line with the countrys rich footprint of textiles, the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are also prominent torchbearers. Apart from the ikat, kalamkari, Gadwal and Narayanpet, the elegant saris of Mangalagiri have earned a special place not only in India but also abroad. The origin of these saris is the town of Mangalagiri in Guntur district, whose name translates into Auspicious Hill. Located on the Guntur-Vijayawada Highway, the town whose population is about a lakh, is situated about 15 km from Vijayawada and is synonymous with the Panaka Narasimha Swamy Temple that is located atop a hill in the town.

    With a majority of the population belonging to Padmashali community, whose traditional occupation is weaving and textile business, it is no surprise that weaving is the most important industry here apart from paddy cultivation. The town has over 5,000 weavers and over 50 outlets selling the famous Mangalagiri saris, dress materials and salwar sets in silk, cotton and cotton-silk. The weavers work out of indigenous sheds, many of which are located about 5 km from the town centre in an area called Ratnala Cheruvu, or from their homes in the nearby villages. They either work for dedicated wholesalers or supply to multiple outlets.

    Made from pure cotton yarn, Mangalagiri fabric is known for its durability, softness and elegance. This is due to the fact that most of the materials are made up of 80x80 count while few of them are of 60x40 count. The count here is a measure of the number of threads woven length- (warp) and breadth-wise (weft). Moreover, the fabric is woven tightly over pit looms with the weavers sitting at ground level with their feet firmly on the ground. This lends the fabric the soft texture and a characteristic sheen.

    "The fabrics are breathable, light on the skin and great for all climates including summer," says Durga, a native of the town who runs an outlet called Poorna Saris, along with her father.

    Another key feature of Mangalagiri saris is their famous traditional zari borders, also known as Nizam borders that are about two inches thick. The saris that are woven in bright hues have a thick gold border that has some very closely knit patterns like tiny inverted checks. The zari in these hallmark borders is superimposed by weaving them over the regular weave, unlike many handlooms where the zari itself is woven alone as the border. The body of the fabric has minute checks, stripes and devoid of any large woven patterns lending it a crisp, simple yet dignified look.

    The raw material, cotton yarn, is sourced locally, largely from Guntur, Andhra Pradesh State Handloom Weavers Cooperative Society (APCO), and some districts of Tamil Nadu, while the zari comes from various cities like Ahmedabad, Surat and Bengaluru. The yarn is first cleaned by removing impurities like seeds, oil, wax, etc, by boiling it with soap and soda. This also removes the stickiness of the yarn. It is then made ready for the most important step which is dyeing. While vat dyes are mainly used for coloured saris, white saris are bleached. The most important feature here is that the warp and weft are dyed separately. The yarn is then washed, dried and starched after which it is distributed to weavers. Next, it is loaded onto a charka where the yarn is transformed in thread forming the warp and weft with the help of shift bamboo, pirn and bobbins. "It is indeed a complex process and there is the handiwork of at least 30 people before the yarn is ready for weaving," says Durga.

    The traditional Mangalagiri saris are woven using pit looms wherein a pit is dug into the ground and the pedal of the loom is placed in the pit. The weavers, who normally acquire this skill from their ancestors, sit on the floor and use their hands and legs to operate the loom. With their feet firmly planted below the ground, weavers are able to apply the right kind of pressure to ensure the tightness of the weave that makes the fabric and zari thick and closely-knit sans any gaps.

    This is the quality that sets these saris apart and due to this fact, there is a high demand for these saris. "We have a very good turnover and due to the growing demand, we have partnered with vendors to sell our saris online," says Ramu of Srinivasa Handlooms, who works closely with weavers and procure as many as 50 saris a week.

    But like all handlooms, this is a laborious process that is labour-intensive. "Each sari takes about 1.5-2 days to complete and the workers earn around Rs 200 a day for their efforts. This is definitely not so lucrative and hence weavers are on the lookout for jobs that are easier and pay better. Since weaving using pit looms is tough, power looms have mushroomed these days. Using the latter, saris are churned out in large numbers and are less expensive, but they are not authentic," quips Durga.

    Outlets like theirs face competition from the ones selling saris using power looms, which is partially the reason why the number of outlets has multiplied in the last decade. "When we started in the early 2000s, we were only the second shop but now there are 52 shops here," adds Durga.

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  • 11/30/17--17:00: A designer for all seasons
  • Years ago, an eight-year-old girl was introduced to sketching. Her mother played the sitar, and her father played the flute. This young girl herself dabbled in classical Odissi dance, Hindustani classical music and more. Gradually, her love for arts transformed into a passion for fashion, and she decided to pursue it seriously. Armed with a degree in fashion design from FIDM, San Francisco, she stood at the cusp of the fashion industry, which in those days (1993), was still in its nascent stages, and according to her, "a time when designers were treated like glorified tailors."

    Its 2017, and that young girl is creating waves in the fashion industry with her designs. Meet Payal Jain, one of the top-rated fashion designers in the country today. Her designs, which are a perfect mix of desi and Western styles, have been donned by celebrities like Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra. Payals clientele also includes many hospitality and corporate firms, both here and abroad. A big fan of colours, Payal is partial to natural fabrics and loves working with cotton, silk, linen and wool.

    For Payal, the fact that the fashion industry never sees a dull moment is attractive. "The volatility, the constant evolution, the adrenaline rush, the highs and lows, the larger-than-life nature of each presentation, the amazingly crazy people who make up the business, the burning passion, the inevitable growth, the reinvention each season, and the fact that it keeps me on my toes is what entices me," she says.

    Excerpts from an interview:

    Whats your design philosophy?

    For me, fashion is a way of life. It is not only the clothes you wear, but also the destinations you travel to, the cuisine you enjoy, the furnishings you choose for your home, the choice of art you collect, and also the car you drive. My creations speak a global language, yet possess a strong Indian soul. I believe my designs have a Western body and an Indian soul. My creations are subtle, minimalistic, and strongly Indian at heart, yet appeal to global citizens and speak an international and contemporary language.

    My label is an extension of my personality. I work with Indian textiles and crafts and have always been passionate about creating fabrics from scratch. My deepest joy lies in being able to see what I have envisioned come alive on a weavers loom or an embroiderers adda. It takes a lot of time, patience, love and passion to wait and watch each collection slowly taking shape.

    How has the experience of designing for the corporate world been?

    I have been working with the hospitality and corporate sectors for the last two decades. Our first corporate design project was the Leela, Goa in 1995. Since then, we have designed the uniform philosophy for over 100 hotels and corporate houses. This takes as much passion and energy as high-fashion labels. However, the contrast between the two realms of design remains vast.

    Fashion on the ramp can be mad, eccentric, expensive, exquisite and delicate, but the fashion philosophy for a hotel or corporate house needs to be practical, versatile, durable, cost-effective and universal for all skin tones, shapes and sizes. Also, each corporate/hotel has its unique identity and brand philosophy, which must come across as the first impression.

    Whats your take on the evolution of fashion in the country?

    I feel blessed to have been a part of it. When I moved back from the US and started my label, fashion was a grossly misunderstood word in most peoples vocabulary. There were a handful of designers like Rohit Khosla and Ritu Kumar. Most people did not understand the relevance of fashion designers. I started my atelier in Hauz Khas village for Western couture and pret-a-porter ensembles.

    Most people who came there couldnt fathom why a well-structured, beautifully cut business suit in cashmere needed to cost more than an average silk salwar kameez. Working women wore only saris or salwar kameez for work, and western womenswear market was practically non-existent here. Today, thanks to the Internet and globalisation, Indian women have moved from saris and salwars to ball gowns and business suits. The evolution of Indian womens fashion aesthetics has been mind-boggling.

    Do you believe Indian textiles are finally getting their due?

    I feel we have made a beginning as far as promoting Indian textiles and crafts are concerned, but there is a long journey ahead. A lot of sustained work and commitment is required from everyone related to the fashion and textile industry for the lives of weavers and artisans across India to really begin to change. I am happy to see the government creating many new initiatives to promote textiles, and I sincerely hope this movement will build momentum and take the world by storm. We are blessed to have such a rich and varied heritage of textiles, where each state has something unique to offer from weaves to embroideries and prints.

    According to you, what are the fashion basics every woman should know?

    * Your fashion statement must be unique to you and be a representation of who you are.

    * Your outfit should bring out the best in you and be flattering to your body type, skin tone, hair colour etc.

    * Dont follow fashion blindly, create your own fashion language.

    * Experiment with your wardrobe, have fun with accessories, and mix and match separates. Have a versatile approach to dressing.

    * Enjoy the process of creating new looks. Dont stress about following trends and celebrities.

    What is your advice to aspiring fashion designers?

    Be passionate about what you do... You must eat, sleep, breathe, dream and love your work with an intensity that cannot accommodate failure. Strong technical knowledge, ability to reinvent oneself each season, skills to overcome hurdles, ability to take feedback in your stride, creative mindset, grit, willpower and resilience are the attributes you need to succeed in this business. The fashion industry is volatile, cruel, competitive, pacy and ever-evolving. It is important to be humble and learn to accept success with the same grace as failure.

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