Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW OF FARHAN AKHTAR BY KABERI D. CHATTERJEE
FROM CANADA FOR THE SOUTH ASIAN NEWS, CANADA

He directs, writes scripts, produces, acts, sings, dances and writes poetry. With that powerhouse of talent, he is increasingly getting compared to the other genius multi-talented persona of Indian cinema, Kishore Kumar. “It’s just one life,” he says. “It’s totally fine to not have to do just one thing for your entire life, if you can do different things which you are passionate about. You can follow those dreams and hopefully, even do well at them.” With Wazir soaring to the box-office ceiling and his cult film, Rock On! 2 coming up, he is increasingly being recognized as the most cerebral actor Bollywood has ever produced. Kaberi Dutta Chatterjee had a long-distance mid-night chat with the actor-director-musician-singer-poet-producer-scriptwriter, Farhan Akhtar.

 

Farhan-Akhtar

Farhan Akhtar needs no introduction. The IMDB website states in his profile that he worked as a cameraman in Yash Chopra’s Lamhe in 1991 and then in 1997 as assistant director for a strange film, Himalaya Putra.
With such a humble beginning, you’d hardly think this is the son of the famous lyricist Javed Akhtar and scriptwriter, Honey Irani. Javedji’s work as dialogue writer in Sholay and Deewar have set the benchmark for dialogues in the Hindi film industry.

After this inconspicuous start, Farhan arrived in Bollywood in style with his baby project, Dil Chahta Hai, which he wrote and directed and which is still thought to be one of the cult movies of Indian cinema.
There was no looking back for him after that as he soar to new heights with acting, singing and producing skills in Rock On! and directing iconic films like Lakshya, Don, (with Shah Rukh Khan) and Don 2. He acted in several noteworthy films, like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Luck By Chance and Karthik Calling Karthik, the latest being Wazir, where he plays an army protagonist in tandem with the legendary, Amitabh Bachchan. His upcoming film, Rock On!2, written by the same writer of Rock On, Pubali Chaudhuri, and directed by Abhishek Kapoor, has the country waiting in baited breath for another rock musical to hit the mass.

I was just lucky to catch the very busy persona as he had just completed the shooting of Rock On!2. Speaking to the actor-director-producer-singer at midnight (morning in Mumbai) was the most thrilling experience for me. He came across as a thorough gentleman, polite, patient with the questions and my excitement in talking to him, as not just a journalist, but also as a huge fan and admirer.

You direct, you sing, you write poetry, you dance, you write screenplays and you act with such intensity that you make each character etched in viewer’s minds and in the history of Indian cinema. Playing which role is most fulfilling to you? Which action makes you the happiest?

Farhan: You know, it’s quite an impossible question to answer. It’s all about (more…)

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I hadn’t flown with too many dreams to Canada. Though it had promised me to its lands saying a lot many things… A land of opportunities, education free, health free…. What it didn’t say was that it was jobs-free!!reporters

The first job I applied with my 20 years’ experience and a gold medal with my certification, was that of an intern. Where I was promised $100 per month. Those who are busy converting, let me remind you. $100 in Canada is just the number — 100… It is NOT the number 5000, or 20000, or whatever. With $100 you barely reach can work and back.

Very soon I realized getting a job in my field is going to be very difficult. There are two major factors: One, the traditional, big newspaper houses don’t hire off-the-block immigrants, because they are skeptical. I am not touching upon any subject of racism here. But they are more comfortable seeing less-knowledgeable people around them whom they can say: “Hell!! Canada is going brainless for people like you.” And they are more comfortable with people with whom they can gossip in the toilets.

The content quality of these newspapers, however, would be something I could use to clean my windows with. After hailing from big newspaper houses in India, disciplined drilled into our system, I was shocked to see how such newspapers glorified in utter nonsense and puffed-up no-news!

And let me tell you, people DO pick up free newspapers from the stands just so that they can clean their windows, wet snow boots, floors, and spread them on their kitchen racks. Of course, that’s after they take out the discount tags from them. I have tried a couple of times reading news from the much-haloed twinkling twinkilng Star’ry newspaper (ahem!), and found it just worthy enough to clean my windows with it. In my desperation to get a job to support myself, I would lie if I said I never tried to join them, and they did call me for an interview. But once I was out of the interview I realized I would have had to sell my soul if I had got the job.

Number 2: The South Asian media houses, which are selling like onions. But to whom? The advertisers. Oh, did I say selling?? My mistake. They all come only with an intrinsic price, and you can pick up as many as you want to show your neighbours: “Oye ji, mein nu feature huye hain is paper mein… dekho? Main nu kaisa lagta hoon?” (I am BAD at that language).

The South Asian newspapers have two advantages. India and Pakistan. The forever ring circus in the political scenario of  India and the everlasting blasts in Pakistan keep their press running at full throttle. So there are an uncountable number of South Asian newspapers, the owners of whom laugh all the way to the bank. Their advertisements, primarily from Hindu tantrics, astrologers, vaastu consultants, real estate agents and money-lenders, are a hit with the `Kyunji’ community.

However, the writing, content, the news sense, the layout, graphics and pictures would make any of us journalists thrust our fists into our mouths. It’s a ‘Catch 22’ situation. You think you can launch an intelligent magazine? There is no one to read it. You insert wads of Walmart ads in them, at least you can be assured of the newspapers getting picked. Be sure to look in the next trash bucket. You’ll find your newspaper there, sans the Walmart discount wads.

Most South Asian newspapers, in addition, have an allergy paying their staff. They know that they only need to make their ad providers happy, and get cheap layout done by some guy in some corner of India, who is dreaming big that his mentors are going to bring him to Canada one day. They pay the guy half of what they pay here in Canada, and all they do is get down on their knees to get ads and build network. Get one photo snapped with His Holy Highness Harper and they are set for life.

Lots of writers and journalists think this is a dream place to sit down and pen their novels. I say stop right where you are. I am planning to run back as I find this peace camouflaging reality and its sounds. It’s an artificial blob of happiness, and you can smell its putrefying scent the nearer it comes to you.

So I see my career is doomed in this country. When a country HAS no news, how can one CREATE news, and run a newspaper? That too, for how long? So all you journalists planning to immigrate, please make a u-turn, right now.

The Asiatic Gir Lion roars in Toronto

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Narendra Modi set the Ricoh Coliseum, Toronto, arena ablaze with his fiery speech!

TORONTO: The Indian Prime Minister need not wage a war against anyone. He could just walk in and trance a nation into submission!

That is what I felt after watching the charismatic leader, Narendra Modi, speak at Ricoh Coliseum, Toronto, in the presence of 10,000 spectators and a horde of Canadian ministers, including Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, and his wife, Laureen, on Wednesday night.

What should I call him? The yellow-striped tiger of India or the Asiatic Gir Lion of Gujarat? I am befuddled by the furor the crowd exuded.

It was as though they were watching a World Cup match, a Rockstar on stage or a Hollywood film actor perform. He walked lazily around on stage, basking in the adulation amid shrieks, whistles and foot stamping, as the audience swooned over him — women of all ages squealing, “I love you Modi!” and the crowd chanting “NaMo! NaMo!”

His dais turned to face the surrounding crowd leisurely, as the man himself leaned on it as if he was sitting and chatting in his living room. “You have made India get recognized in Canada, not me,” he said amid ear-splitting cheers from all four sides. Four humongous television screens hung above him, giving the arena a close-up view of the all-saffron man.

“When India celebrated Modi victory during the day, you celebrated it at midnight,” he said.

“It may now be taking about 14 to 17, at the most 22 hours to reach India from Canada. But it took 42 years for an India Prime Minister to reach Canada from India,” said the dramatic orator, while the crowd exploded.

Although we all know that Dr Manmohan Singh, during his tenure as Prime Minister, visited Canada from June 26 to June 28, 2010, at the invitation of the Prime Minister Stephen Harper. During his visit, Singh participated in the G-20 Toronto Summit and held bilateral discussions with Harper.

However, facts found it hard to bob its head above the sea of Modi madness on Wednesday. Even media had to search Google twice for such facts.

Talking about facts, let’s list any substantial outcome of this visit. One, Harper and Modi unveiled a $350-million deal for Canada’s largest uranium producer, Cameco Corp., to supply 3,220 metric tonnes to power India’s reactors over the next five years.

Two, Indo-Canadians will be included in India’s visa-on-arrival program, which was announced by Harper, but was not touched-upon by Modi himself.

Three, Indo-Canadians will now get a 10-year visa and a life-long OCI, while we all know that OCI and PIO status are now merged. This was announced by Modi himself.

Modi may have tad slipped in his magic back at home grounds, but with this ‘inflated’ bouquet for the Diaspora, he is all set to lure the NRIs and set the media on fire. He even promised a seat for the NRIs at the Planning Commission in India.

Amid the warm (read: HOT) welcome that he received in Toronto, Modi pitched his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper an enticing invitation to be a partner in his vision for India’s development, while stating repeatedly how his government is the visionary “cleaner” of India, cleaning up the rotten waste of the past governments.

Narendra Modi came. Saw. Conquered. The Diaspora hearts are softer than their Indian counterparts and we still believe that Modi is the change India needs desperately.

While it’s hard to please the radical Indians at home, the essential charming orator may still stand a chance with the Indian Diaspora if he concentrates on performing what he proclaims so hard.

(Published in The South Asian News, Toronto Edition, April 17, 2015)

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CAN  radicals now dictate who should wish in ? Comment!

Read Christmas edition of Citrus

 

No this is not the title of a bizarre movie I watched in Jaipur (of all places!) that was released sometimes in 2014. I don’t know what prompted Shah Rukh Khan and sweet Deepika to exist in that film. I just remember wanting to let the film skim over the top of my skull as the scenes went by, which is why my frail brain doesn’t have any memory of it today.

But I did try to watch ‘Dilwale’, since it featured my favorite actress Kajol in it. Well, she was my favorite… till I saw the film.

Surprisingly, ‘Tamasha’, took me off guard with its incredible storyline and touched the heart at the softest place. No wonder it didn’t make it to the box-office… Audience surely don’t want to feel that vulnerable.
Why am I talking of Bollywood films in this new year column?

Because otherwise the world looks bleak. The sadistic face of Kim Jong-Un laughing as he sets his “thrilling New Year sound” off the Pacific Ocean with a series of N-Tests, hit a pit in my stomach. So did Donald Trump’s recent views on Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein and Gandhiji. I am wondering where the world is headed when I watched a YouTube video about how a man gets bionic penis for the first time and he is set to lose his virginity with a celebrated UK sex-worker. They’ll probably now upload his live intercourse, making it a sensational scientific watch.

Somewhere something is not going right. As I always say, time doesn’t know it has become a New Year, it’s just another day for it. So I cannot stuff this shifting trend in a timeline box. But there has to be a line (‘Lakhsmanrekha’ as they say) somewhere, and the world is crossing that line a hundred times over.

Happy New Year readers!

(Published as Editor’s Column in The South Asian News, Toronto, January 8, 2016)new year

You drive Uber too?
I asked the taxi driver as he pulled up in front of my house when I called for an Uber.
“Yes, both,” smiled the driver cheekily.
“Matured decision,” I said as I sat down heavily with my two bags in the back seat.
No, it did not have the same experience as riding in an Uber. The seats were horribly dirty, much as a taxi is in GTA, smelling of food and the snow mats were all soggy with snow.
Yet, it’s good for everyone. The cab driver doesn’t need to leave his taxi, yet has listed himself with Uber. So he is getting the best of both worlds. Whereas, the passengers get to pay the low Uber fare and enjoy the security of a taxi.
With the advent of technology, and Uber taking the cab market by storm, it was foolishness for taxi drivers to pull the protest for so long. Sooner or later, they were destined to accept the change. And now with more and more experienced taxi drivers joining Uber, it’s almost a win-win situation for all. Mayor Tory has to just stand by and watch the merge happen!
I was informed by the same driver that more taxi companies will soon be joining the cab-wagon in GTA. That’s real good news for people like me who do not like driving and find driving annoying and not their cup of tea. It’s good news also for families who have just one car and have to all leave together in order to accommodate their work/school times.
Intense competition will surely keep the fare rates at bay and the car interiors clean and passenger friendly.
I welcome Uber and all such technologies that make our lives better and gives us an option. In fact, I am waiting for the self-driven cars to hit market soon, which will be the mother of all options and give the scariest competition to all working vehicles.

(Published as Editor’s Column in The South Asian News, Toronto, January 15, 2016)

File illustration picture showing the logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone next to the picture of an official German taxi sign

(Published in Asian ImageConnections, Page 1, Jan 26, 2013)

Kaberi Chatterjee

Will someone please tell the new immigrants how to build credit in Canada? Because it seems the banks and financial institutions are hell-bent on making life miserable for the newcomers and no one really offers you a comprehensive package about credit building, which is so very important in Canada.

It’s been three long years I am in Canada and I still don’t know what exactly I should do to have a good credit. Some say I should pay off my credit cards and keep them in a vault; some say I should use my cards and pay them off before due date; some say I should get more cards; some say I should not have too many cards.

Some say you should have a lot of money in the bank to get credit; some say millions of dollars in the bank won’t help. Some say all you need is a good credit payment history; some say you need to have a good paying job.  How do you expect a newcomer to have a good job when newcomers are not given jobs since they do not have the much-haloed ‘Canadian Experience’?

Immigrants are allured everyday by the government to come to Canada, an apparent ‘Land of Opportunities’ and then they are left to find out about struggling in Canada on their own.

I am sure, like me, a lot of newcomers are flummoxed as to what to do. The government and banks keep silent, and will hit you below the belt with a ‘Not Approved’ Line of Credit or housing loan, when you apply for one. And to top it all, your credit score goes down every time you apply for a loan. What the hell does one do then?

Like in other countries you are ostracized if you are a criminal, drug addict or a gay, you are ostracized if you do not have a good credit history in Canada. Hence, it is imperative for every Canadian bank to educate newcomers step-by-step of how to build credit; when to buy a house, how to buy a house, how to invest, what kind of jobs will affect their credit negatively and more importantly, remove the much-hypocrite “Canadian Experience” badge! Immigrants come here with years of experience, are much more experienced than major Canadians, and perfectly qualified Engineers, MBA’s and doctors do not need to haul packages at a factory or serve coffee at a restaurant to acquire “Canadian Experience”. This hypocrisy on the part of the government needs to stop.

Being a true place for social integration, Canada can rise to a much higher degree and can stop its citizens from fleeing off to other countries after they’ve taken full advantage of the generous government’s resources, if only immigrants are given the respect they deserve. If you are using the immigrant-manpower to fill up your census, you cannot blame immigrants from taking advantage of your full resources and then going off to greener pastures.