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Kolkata’s Jazz Fest 2017, featuring Erik Truffaz, Amyt Dutta, was a showcase of the genre’s experimental potential

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“It’s Glastonbury without the mud,” chuckled Miti Adhikari (the noted music producer who started his career at the iconic Maida Vale studios recording bands like Coldplay and Radiohead) as it started to rain in earnest on day two of the Kolkata Jazz Fest 2017. What started off as a light drizzle soon became a steady, relentless shower that showed no signs of letting up. Wondering if the music festival would get washed out, I carefully watched the audience’s reaction. Though it did manage to scatter some people who grudgingly got up and headed to the food stalls for shelter, it didn’t succeed in doing much more than that. A handful opened out their umbrellas to shield themselves, a few others pulled up jacket hoods or covered up with shawls. Curiously, very few people left.

The abundance of reasonably priced alcohol no doubt played its part in keeping people warm and in high spirits. By the time Eric Truffaz took the stage with Riatsu to bring the evening to a close, the rain was completely forgotten. Fans surged back towards the stage from all directions, trading their dry corners for a closer glimpse of the trumpeter who was back in Kolkata after 10 years. He did not disappoint, performing this time with the young ambient electronic artist from Mumbai Riatsu (Shadab Kadri), vocalist Neil Gomes and percussionist Anand Bhagat. As Neil rapped and sang I was fascinated to recognise a few lines from Kabir’s well known doha (couplet) ‘Kal Kare So Aaj Kar‘. Anand brought the beat to this ensemble through a variety of different instruments, including the Middle Eastern doumbek, the djembe (Africa), the bongo (Afro-Cuban) and the didgeridoo, an indigenous Australian instrument. The result was hypnotic. Even though the venue was large, it felt like an intimate gig. Truffaz seemed to be enjoying himself as much as the crowd. Referring to the day as “rainy but dreamy”, he danced and clapped, coming to the front of the stage and drawing the audience in as they delightedly responded, swaying and holding up their drinks, completely mesmerised by the performance.

(Clockwise) Erik Truffaz, Jivraj Singh, Riatsu and EYM Trio were part of Jazz 2017's line up. Images from Facebook

(Clockwise) Erik Truffaz, Jivraj Singh, Riatsu and EYM Trio were part of Jazz 2017’s line up. Images from Facebook

The elements of the unexpected that characterised this set reminded me of the conversation I had had with Amyt Datta right after he got off stage. He opened the festival this year along with the city’s favourite young drummer Jivraj Singh, and Reinhard Kleist, the German graphic artist. I asked him what he was trying to achieve with his performance and he said he was “trying to reach out to listeners with tunes they haven’t heard before. People like listening to what’s familiar to them. I want to move away from the standards. Jazz is broad enough to take anything under its umbrella.”

Interestingly, this seemed to emerge as a major feature of this year’s festival. As Munir Mohanty, a live music enthusiast and long-term patron of the Jazzfest pointed out, the line up was getting more experimental every year. He remarked on the aspects that were borrowed from other genres such as rap or electronic. “This year in fact seems to be almost all new as opposed to at least one or two acts that are completely straight up jazz.”

Historically jazz originated in African American communities in New Orleans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and has its roots in blues and ragtime. As it spread around the globe, it was impacted by various local music cultures and the definition broadened to include many different influences. What characterises jazz is its fluidity. As a genre it is marked by improvisation and collaboration.

In keeping with the evolution of jazz the festival this year was notable for its cross-genre collaborations. The EYM trio was joined by Mirande Shah who sang folksy tunes in Bengali and Hindi. C.A.R from Cologne played a blend of EDM and jazz with doses of ‘Krautrock’.

My personal favourite, Kefaya had a unique and eclectic sound, drawing from traditional folk music across the globe. One could detect different influences in each song; for example one tune would have a strong Middle Eastern vibe while the next was rooted in Indian Classical. What intrigued me most was how they arrived at that sound with only western instruments. Speaking to band member Domenico Angarano I learnt that what had sounded so much like sarod was in fact Giuliano Modarelli on guitar. “He uses different techniques to get different resonances; it’s like a language, you pronounce it differently even if the letters are the same and it sounds like it belongs to another culture.”

What set the festival apart was its atmosphere. “I always enjoy it,” acknowledged Jivraj Singh, adding “It’s a relaxing festival!” Unlike huge, impersonal festivals this was informal and intimate, allowing you to get up close and personal with the music and interact with the musicians. Jazz Fest 2017 was a unique treat for music lovers.


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Suriya at Thaanaa Serndha Koottam success meet: ‘The film has shattered a lot of stereotypes’

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The success meet of Suriya’s Thaanaa Serndha Koottam was held in Chennai on 18 January. Suriya, who was conspicuous by his absence during the beginning of the event due to food poisoning problems, made a sudden entry towards the fag end of the function to the surprise of everyone.

“I haven’t missed any event for Thaanaa Serndha Koottam. That’s why I decided to come down despite asking for an excuse. The road trip in Andhra Pradesh took a toll on me, especially the spicy food (laughs). We traveled nearly 1000 KMs covering Rajahmundry Vijayawada, Bhimavaram, Guntur and visited some 10 to 15 theatres. It’s my first multi-city theater tour in Andhra Pradesh although my films have been regularly getting a Telugu release in the past twelve years,” said Suriya.

Suriya in Thaanaa Serndha Koottam.

Thaanaa Serndha Koottam has become an important film in my career,” says Suriya

Talking about the extremely encouraging positive feedback from across the board, Suriya said, “TSK has become an important film in my career. Although it’s my 35th film, I’ve received a lot of responses that it’s a completely different movie in my career. The unanimous feedback, from audiences to the media, is that TSK is quite unique from my previous outings. Everyone opines that a lot of stereotypes concerning my makeover have been shattered in this film. The entire credit goes to director Vignesh Shivan. He meticulously took care of all the minute details.  He kept exploring various options, which made me convinced.”

Suriya said he’s happy with the film’s performance at the box-office although he doesn’t delve into exact numbers. “I usually don’t go into box-office collections. But somehow the information reaches my ears. The Sunday figures are higher than the opening day (Friday). And the Monday numbers are said to be higher than Sunday. It’s mainly because of the family audiences who watched the film, after the opening,” he said.

“Anirudh’s songs have taken this film beyond borders,” says Suriya

Suriya showered praise on composer Anirudh Ravichander for delivering a great album and excellent background score for the film. “Anirudh’s songs have taken this film beyond borders. Every technician has played some crucial role in the movie’s success. Everyone was lifting the whole experience by contributing something. We all had a lot of positive vibes while shooting the film. We were very sure that the film should be a celebration because it’s been eight years since my last festival release. And, I witnessed all the celebration in theatres firsthand by visiting screens like Kasi and Brinda, where people were enjoying everything on screen. For every film, there will be an inevitable difference between how the media and public respond. But, for Thaanaa Serndha Koottam, there was a unanimous opinion,” stated Suriya.

“There was a lot of pressure on Vignesh Shivan to deliver an entertaining film,” says Anirudh Ravichander

Composer Anirudh Ravichander talked about his magical working experience with Vignesh Shivan and reasoned why their combo clicks. “When Vignesh Shivan decided to do a film with Suriya sir after Naanum Rowdy Thaan, there was a lot of pressure. NRD was a small-scale film, and it opened up the opportunity to bag Thaanaa Serndha Koottam. So, the fate of Thaanaa Serndha Koottam would decide his future since it’s a big-star film on a big canvas. Despite the considerable pressure, Vignesh utilized the offer correctly and delivered an entertaining movie, which didn’t receive any negative reviews at all. I don’t know how our combination works. He extracts the best of out of me very casually. We used to keep chatting something, and in between, he will take the right scores from me. Our sessions have always been candid and very nonchalant.”

“Though the music was a hit, we wouldn’t remember the experience fondly if the end product is not good. It’s what I’ve learned in my small career. If the film doesn’t work well, we won’t have any pleasant memories associated with it even if the album was a chartbuster. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the movie with audiences in theaters,” added Anirudh.

“Suriya sir gives his 100% to the script, and that’s his biggest strength,” says Vignesh Shivan

Vignesh Shivan said Suriya’s absolute commitment to the character he plays was one of the reasons for producing the output he had desired.  “When I received this offer, I was a little hesitant about the ‘remake’ part. But, it’s a precious opportunity to direct a big hero. So, I did my best to make the film more interesting. Suriya sir gives his 100% to the script, and that’s his biggest strength. He understands the role thoroughly and gets into the skin of the character with utmost commitment,” said Vignesh.

Published Date: Jan 19, 2018 12:16 PM | Updated Date: Jan 19, 2018 12:16 PM


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Supreme Court upholds acquittal of Peepli Live co-director Mahmood Farooqui by Delhi HC in rape case

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The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the acquittal of Peepli Live co-director Mahmood Farooqui in a rape case by the Delhi High Court, after hearing a plea by an American woman challenging the high court verdict.

During the hearing before the apex court, the woman’s counsel told the bench that a new argument of alleged consensual relation was advanced by Farooqui’s lawyer before the high court and claimed that this issue was not raised before the lower court during the trial.

The bench, however, observed that it was not a case where strangers came, met and did something as both Farooqui and the woman were known to each other.

File image of Mahmood Farooqui. GettyImages

File image of Mahmood Farooqui. GettyImages

“This is a very hard case. We would like to say that it has been decided extremely well (by the high court),” the top court said.

When the woman’s counsel said the issue was whether there was any consent, the bench observed that there appeared to be a “positive response” which, according to her, was faked by her. “People give false smiles. How would the other person know that it’s a false response? This is very difficult to understand,” the bench said, adding, “she appeared to have responded in a positive manner”.

When the petitioner’s counsel referred to the email conversation between the woman and Farooqui, the apex court said the record reflects that they were good friends. The bench also referred to one of the communications between them and asked whether she had said “I love you” to Farooqui in one of the emails after the alleged incident.

“How many rape cases you have gone through where the prosecutrix (woman) has said I love you to the alleged accused much after the alleged incident,” the bench asked the counsel and also posed several other queries including how many times the woman had visited Farooqui and had drinks together.

The bench was not satisfied with the answers given by the counsel and dismissed the plea, saying no question of law was involved in the matter.

“We will not interfere with the high court verdict. It is a well-written judgment,” PTI quoted the Supreme Court as saying.

In September 2017, the Delhi High Court had acquitted Farooqui, saying he was entitled to benefit of the doubt as the testimony of the victim was not reliable.

Justice Ashutosh Kumar had set aside the trial court order which had awarded a seven-year jail term to Farooqui after convicting him for the alleged rape of a 30-year-old American researcher at his south Delhi residence in March 2015.

The high court, in its 85-page judgment, had directed that Farooqui be released forthwith.

It had held that the woman’s testimony was not reliable and the accused can be given the benefit of doubt. “Whether such an incident happened, if it has happened, it did happen with the consent of the prosecutrix. This remains in doubt,” the court had said.

Farooqui had challenged his conviction and the sentence given by the trial court.

During arguments, Farooqui’s lawyer had denied the allegation of rape levelled by the woman and had said, “no such incident took place on that day”.

His counsel had referred to messages exchanged between his client and the woman before the case was lodged and contended that the two were in a “relationship” since January 2015.

The argument was opposed by Delhi Police’s counsel, who had said that rape had taken place and the trial court had given reasons while convicting and sentencing 45-year-old Farooqui.

A trial court on 4 August last year had sent him to jail for seven years, observing that he had taken advantage of the situation when the victim was alone in his house.

The court, which on 30 July, 2016, had held Farooqui guilty of raping the American woman in 2015 in a drunken state, had also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on him.

The police had on 19 June, 2015, lodged an FIR against Farooqui on the woman’s complaint after which he was arrested.

On 29 July, 2015, the police had filed its chargesheet against Farooqui, alleging he had raped the research scholar from Columbia University at his Sukhdev Vihar house in South Delhi on 28 March, 2015.

With inputs from PTI

Published Date: Jan 19, 2018 12:46 PM | Updated Date: Jan 19, 2018 13:48 PM


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Naya Rivera’s estranged husband Ryan Dorsey drops charges of domestic violence against Glee actress

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The charges of domestic violence against Glee star Naya Rivera by her estranged husband, actor Ryan Dorsey, have been dropped after he decided not to press charges, as reported by Daily News.

Naya Rivera and Ryan Dorsey. Facebook

Naya Rivera and Ryan Dorsey. Facebook

Rivera had been arrested and charged with domestic battery last year following a complaint by Dorsey when she had struck him on the head and the bottom lip while on a stroll with their two year old son. The charges have been dropped by Kanawha County Magistrate Court’s office, as reported by Daily News.

The incident had occurred on 25 November, 2017 and the actress was believed to be intoxicated at the time. The fight between the couple had erupted over an argument over their son. At the time the actor known for his role on Pitch had tweeted a statement, “This is a difficult time for everyone in the family especially for Naya and I. This isn’t some reality show, this is our life, and I ask that everyone especially ‘the media’ please respect our privacy and treat us/this situation how you would want a loved one to be treated. Perhaps with kindness, respect, without judgement, and as negative a situation like this is, with positivity and love. Thanks,” as reported by US Weekly.

After her arrest, Rivera had filed for divorce a second time, from Dorsey since November 2016, which she had dismissed, as reported by Daily News.

Published Date: Jan 19, 2018 12:48 PM | Updated Date: Jan 19, 2018 12:48 PM

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