Faridoon Shahryar's Blog

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Right Here Waiting A Cover By Faridoon Shahryar

Right Here Waiting by Richard Marx has been one of my all time favourite songs. I love the singing style of Richard Marx. The piano melody in this number is simply mesmerising. I was sceptical if I could do justice to this song by singing its cover. I practiced for three months, and shot some portions of the music video amidst the Pyramids and Sphinx in Cairo, Egypt. We also shot agaist the backdrop of the mediteranian sea in Alexandria (Egypt) and the ancient heritage structures in Luxor (Egypt). We also shot some portions in Srinagar (Kashmir). My friend Utkarsh Dhotekar has done the music arrangements, recording and mixing of this song. I am indebted to him for doing an awesome job. I hope you enjoy this timeless romantic number. Please do share, like, comment if you like it. Thanks!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Srinagar:A day worth a lifetime

It is unbelievable when you manage to pack in so much in the span of a day. It is as if a whole lifetime gets encapsulated in a few hours. We had a wonderful time listening to popular songs at Nageen Club near Kashmir University. It was our dinner attraction. The interaction brought the entire team together.

The day started with a morning run in the hotel campus. The chirping birds, and the moist fresh air was extremely relaxing. In the afternoon I came to know that this beautiful Hari Nivaas Hotel was actually the dreaded Papa 2 during the time when militancy was at it's peak. If you've seen 'Haider' then you'd know that Papa 2 was a jail-cum-interrogation center where militants (or were they innocent Kashmiris?) underwent third degree treatment. Many died in the same premises. All this came to an end in the late 90s and then it was refurbished. Now no one can believe that the plush walls were once witness to torture and cries.

It was wonderful interviewing Jackky Bhagnani in the woods, then we did a walk the talk segment near the Dal Lake, followed by a short segment on a Shikara as it lazed around in the Dal Lake. At the press conference in the Hari Nivas Hotel, Kashmiri journalists raised a pertinent question about an absolute lack of functioning cinema halls in Kashmir.

We went for a brief city tour in the afternoon which included a Shikara road in the Jhelum river. Houseboats dotted the sidelines of the river. There's an uncanny silence in the city for the tourists are few and far in between. I did a walk the talk interview with Jackky and Lauren in the busy market of Srinagar with gun wielding security guards from the Army following us. It was fun. Later we did another segment of my interview with Jackky and Lauren at the beatific Nishat Bagh. A vast stretch of Dal Lake stayed with us through the journey. It was extremely peaceful and calming.

In the evening I did a down the memory lane interview with Vashu Bhagnani ji. It is always a pleasure interacting with this smiling gentleman. We share mutual respect and he is very special for me. A well spent day but a day which was hugely enriching, spiritually and personally.

Friday, May 8, 2015

A day in Srinagar...tryst with pure beauty amidst glorious uncertainties

There's something about Kashmir that's irresistible. As the plane descended into Srinagar the snow capped peaks welcomed with open arms. The weather was pleasant in the afternoon. In fact it was slightly warm. I was comfortable in my T shirt. The journey from Airport to the hotel was dotted with remnants of the horrific floods. There's a strong presence of Army so you can't say everything is normal. An automatic-gun-weilding soldier was manning the traffic too.

The hotel is located in a lovely location surrounded by huge mountains, vast gardens, neatly manicured flower beds blessed with beautiful seasonal flowers. The food was simple yet delicious. It was served with a lot of warmth. Khahva had a pinch of Zaaffran and the aroma was very freshening. As I opened the tap, the cold water felt as if I've put my hands in a free flowing mountain stream.

In the evening I interviewed Jackky Bhagnani and Laurein, the stars of Vashu Bhagnani's 'Welcome 2 Karachi' on an open bus. It was fun to chat with them. The Shikara ride on the legendary Dal Lake was an awesome experience. It was here that I experienced a unique 'Online' shopping idea. Merchants approached us on their Shikaras and sold us their wares in a jovial manner. I bought something or the other from all of them. It was good stuff for sure but the intention was to help out the local Kashmiris who've been struck by terrorism and now the floods that has pushed them back considerably. The salesmen-merchants emphasised their 'Indian' credentials to Impress us. It was very obvious that more than any 'Azaadi' what they want the most is for opportunities for their businesses to flourish. And for that they desperately need Tourism to return to Kashmir in a big way. It is summer season, the paradise is blooming in full glory but the patrons of beauty are few and far in between.

We had dinner at Taj Hotel. Thankfully we got Wi fi there and were able to send our video footage. 3G connectivity is a problem. I was told that apart from the altitude, the security concern is the other reason for lack of 3G connectivity in Kashmir. I don't have any official confirmation on that though. After dinner I spent some time alone at the hotel garden observing a half lighted city. Wonderfully pleasant cold breeze caressed me. Extremely fresh and rejuvenating. All I can do is pray for this Jannat on earth and genuinely hope that the tourism gets revived in a big way. Good night!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Margarita With A Straw: Timeless Poetry on Celluloid

Margarita With A Straw: Timeless Poetry on Celluloid
By Faridoon Shahryar

When the lead character of a film is disabled and the narrative still manages to be naturally elevating, it holds the interest. Also, if the film unfolds sensitive and humorous layers of delightfulness then its a treat to watch. Shonali Bose directed 'Margarita With A Straw' is timeless poetry on celluloid. It is the story of Laila (Kalki Koechlin), (a girl afflicted with Cerebral Palsy) and how she discovers her Self after undergoing varied relationships along with the emotional baggage that comes along with it. The story makes you get sucked into a new world of enlightenment without being preachy or boring so if you are expecting vicarious pleasures and cheap thrills then don't watch this.

Laila believes she's a normal girl and she behaves like one, so what if her world is caged on a wheel chair. She is blessed with wonderful creative talents and she also has a fetish for watching Porn. Like any other young girl she has sexual urges and she's not apologetic about it. In fact she goes out and tries to buy a Vibrator, much to the discomfort of the shopkeeper. She falls in love, writes love songs and then the wretched 'sympathy' of the world breaks her heart. She regroups herself, goes to US on a scholarship and gets confused about her sexual orientation. But she's happy in the company of Khanum (Sayani Gupta), a blind but attractive girl who makes her feel sexually desirable for the first time in life. There's happiness in air. Laila always wanted to be independent. She achieves that. She also cheats, making her that much more human. And Real. Laila's relationship with her Aai (Revathy) is beautifully structured. The belief and support of the parents of the specially challenged kids is such a pillar in helping such patients carve a place for themselves in the society.

The lesbian interaction between Laila and Sayani will raise eyebrows. Since Deepa Mehta's FIRE, never has Indian cinema shown such literal depiction of sexual togetherness of two women. Full credit to Shonali Bose for having displayed a lot of sensitivity and courage in believing in her vision. Kalki and Sayani flow like an unstoppable free flowing stream. As I've mentioned earlier, there are no cheap thrills here. Two physically incomplete women complete themselves by merging in a Union of what they thought was Love.

Kalki has delivered one of the finest performances by an Indian actor ever. Her brave portrayal of a wonderfully strong girl with her share of shortcomings, ought to be watched by people from all across the world. The requisite body language, the wide gamut of facial expressions pronouncing myriad emotions and a total submission to the director's vision must have required a lot of courage. Many actresses would have turned wobbly kneed at the prospect of many scenes in the film but Kalki doesn't flinch at all. There's a toilet scene where she's helped by a guy. It's not an easy scene for the best of actresses to pull off with such conviction. When she asserts herself on a nurse who is careless towards her mom, it's a strong moment that stays with you. There are many such prized scenes.

Revathy brings in several nuances in her role. Her strength rubs off on her daughter. The inner turmoil that she is going through due to her own battles with life brings tears in the eyes. Sayani Gupta as Khanum is formidable. Like Kalki, she's inhibitionless. The high-spiritedness and the vaccum of loneliness is portrayed expertly. It's so real that the pretence fades away. The supporting cast is excellent. Kuljit Singh plays Laila's father. He is adorable.

'Margarita With A Straw' is blessed with brilliant writing. Director Shonali Bose is credited with story, script and dialogue. Nilesh Maniar is the co writer (also the Co-Director) while Atika Chohan has written the Hindi dialogue. The confluence of Hindi and English is a natural progression of most of the conversations that happen in the educated strata of the Indian society. What's slightly ambiguous is the fact that Laila's father is a Sikh but she calls her mom as 'Aai' and it's never established that Revathy is a Maharashtrian.

Anne Misawa's cinematography is minimalistic. The shots are simple and capture the essence very well. The love making scene between Laila and Khanum is shot very tastefully. Monisha Baldawa's editing ensures that the narrative flows like a river heading towards a definite destination. Some will find the pace slow but then its not a film for everyone. Mikey Mcleary's music is excellent. Prasoon Joshi's lyrics adds value to the depth of the matter. 'Dusokute' the only song by Joi Barua is an enticing soft rock nostalgic-college-anthem. 'Choone Chali Aasmaan' comes at an opportune moment in the film. 'I Need A Man' electrifyingly sung by Vivienne Poocha hits all the right notes of ecstasy. 'Laila's Theme' the instrumental piece is a regular likable companion that holds your hands throughout the film.

'Margarita With A Straw' is a milestone film that deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. Like 'Theory of Everything' the disabled protagonist is entertaining to the hilt and rises above the stereotypical norms that are harshly prescribed by a judgmental society. Shonali Bose has made a film that makes you smile, cry, think and introspect. It's a journey worth treasuring. Do yourself a favour by watching 'Margarita With A Straw'...it is an experience of a lifetime.

Star Rating: ****