Sonali Desai

Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

‘I still remember dancing on the kitchen slab as a kid’

In Interviews on July 3, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Multitalented artiste Jyotsna Rao knew very early that she was going to be a dancer and choreographer, she tells Sonali Desai

It is one thing to be acclaimed dancer. Quite another to be one who also writes, draws and plays instruments. Jyotsna B Rao, who has won rave reviews for her contemporary dance performances in India and abroad, is all this and more.  

She holds a Diploma in Movement Arts and Mixed Media at Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts, Bangalore (2006-07), and has also passed the Talavadya senior exams from Bangalore University in tabla. She has also participated in a theatre workshop by New Active Theatre in 1999 and worked in productions with directors like B Jayashri, Suresh Anagalli, Prakash Belawadi, Pramod Chigao, Maltesh Badigere, N Ravi Kumar and R Nagesh. She was invited by the Brouhaha International Street Festival for a 25 days Exchange Programme; and she performed at South Port, Derby Park, Princes Park, Contemporary Urban Centre and Unity Theatre in Liverpool, UK- 2008.

Born in Frazer Town on December 27, 1981, she remembers her childhood as one that revolved around everyday adventures and films. At the age of 14, Jyotsna began dancing with Genesis, a cinematic dance troupe and made a journey through theatre, dance and music to finding herself in contemporary dance. She is also a qualified psychologist, which explains why she choreographed a contemporary dance piece on a theme as unusual as Abraham Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ theory for Genesis in June 2011. She is currently studying drums and also conducts classes in movement for children at the Core Pilates studio, Koramangala.

Excerpts from the interview:
You began dancing at the age of 14. Did you always dream of becoming a dancer?
I still remember dancing on the kitchen slab as a kid and showing off my moves to my sisters. I was barely five or six years old when I fell in love with dancing, and though it’s been that long I’m still in love with dance. I always wanted to be a choreographer; the idea of creating a dance piece thrilled and fulfilled me.

How would you describe your childhood days?
My childhood revolved around adventure and films. I was a proactive and inquisitive child who loved playing on the streets with friends and often getting into trouble because of the free spirited child I was. I loved games and spent a lot of time with my cousins; watching movies were a popular choice with my family as my aunt and uncle belong to the film industry. We would watch movies at family get togethers and night shows at theatres. In those days, there were drive-in theatres open to the public and I remember vividly watching a Sridevi movie.

You are a qualified psychologist, a tabla player, a theatre artist and a choreographer. How do you manage your time?
Well, I don’t think I do anything to manage my time. I just take each day as it comes. I love doing nothing at times. But the eclecticism adds to the way I think and create my work.

What do your parents have to say about your work today?
They are proud of my choice. My parents saw the premiere of Spirit at National Gallery of Modern Art recently and my mom told me that it was good, but also said that not many people would understand it. So she hinted that I do some popular dancing.

Your interest in dance is very much evident from the number of performances you have had. But, how would you explain your interest in Psychology?
Psychology… for life, I guess, and I apply it in my work as well. I like to find a balance between my academic interest and my profession which is dance. I’ve found a way to combine these two aspects in my work. Recently, I choreographed a contemporary dance piece on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory with seven dancers. So, consciously I blend the two knowledge systems in my work.

What is your definition of ‘Dance Psychology’?
Research on movement/dance and effective utilisation of psychological principles to find a new movement.

 You are also trained in Kalaripayattu. Tell us more about that.
Kalari derives its name from ‘kalloorika,’ a Sanskrit word that means ‘school.’ Kalari was developed as a science of warfare to train warriors. It is presumed to have originated from different people like Drona and Parashurama as its original teachers. The intention of Kalaripayattu is not fighting but training the body and mind. They say that ‘body is all eyes’ or ‘mey kannaakuka’ in Malayalam. Kalaripayattu can be further classified into northern and southern styles. I trained in the northern style with Dilsagar at Attakkalari and also received instruction from Satyan Gurukkal of CVN Kalari during my training period. Kalaripayattu changed me as a person, my attitude towards life and taught me discipline.

How was your experience of performing abroad?
It’s a wonderful feeling to be travelling to different destinations and performing before a new audience and to connect your performative persona with them. The reactions from audiences have always been overwhelming. After each trip, I checked in a new lesson and a fond memory. It touches me to see the humaneness pervading through art and its transcending power that reaches the hearts of a foreign connoisseur, has made me feel blessed to do my travels.
Tell us more about the workshops that you have conducted so far.
Phew! Workshops to me are a combination of planning, homework and a challenge. I’ve had the opportunity of working with the best movers, fresh attitudes, enthusiasm and variety from 3 to 60 years of age, whether they have been children, teachers, professional dancers, corporate executives or students. Sometimes it is picture perfect and I love each moment of it.

Do you think there is an audience for contemporary dance in Bengaluru? How has been the response so far?
Definitely, I think Bengaluru is growing fast when it comes to contemporary dance with places like NGMA, Alliance Francaise and even KH Kalasoudha in South Bengaluru reaching out to the audience with contemporary performances. However, in comparison to classical dance it is still minimal. In the past, I’ve heard people say, “Chennagittu, but enu artha aaglilla” (It was nice, but I did not understand anything). Now they ask, “Was it about the soul and its journey? Or something spiritual?”

What are your future plans?
I want to continue dancing.


“When you are passionate about something, you usually find a way”

In Interviews on June 1, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Old-timers quickly lapse into nostalgia when they talk about the bygone days of Bengaluru. The work of Christina Daniels, whose evocative photographs of old Bengaluru was recently on display, shows you why.

Sonali Desai

She was not born in Bengaluru, but has vivid memories of the city’s charm while growing up here. In her own words, “When I think of my childhood, I see tree lined roads along which we cycled to school, occasional cars, sprawling bungalows aplenty, neighbourhood games that broke up lazy afternoons and the genial feel of a small town where everybody knew each other.”

It’s the magnificent old Bengaluru that was that inspires Christina Daniels, whose visual documentation of the city’s architectural heritage was recently on display Koshy’s. Her evocative photographs are a must-see anyone who wants to relive the memories of the Bengaluru of yore. Titled Cantonment Fables, her exhibition of photographs on Bengaluru’s colonial era architecture was also followed by an informal session when several old residents of the city shared their recollections of the Bengaluru of yesteryears.

Born in Thiruvalla (in central Kerala) in 1976, Christina moved to Bengaluru with her parents as a four-year-old. She now works at Dell as a part of the company’s Marketing Communications team.

 Excerpts from the interview:

You have been documenting Bengaluru’s architectural heritage in photographs for some time now. When did you start?

I first began working on photographic documentation of Bengaluru in 2000, but it really picked up momentum only since the last two years.
Why ‘Bengaluru architecture’ as a theme?
I am interested in architectural photography. And then, Bengaluru is my first love. So Bengaluru’s architecture has become my primary focus.
How would you describe your recent multimedia presentation Cantonment Fables at Koshy’s?

I think it was an interesting evening that combined a sharing of visual memories through photographs with the narration of different oral histories of the city.

Tell us some of the interesting stories narrated by long-time Bengaluru residents at Cantonment Fables.
The older residents at the event shared slices of life from the past that gave us a glimpse of life in Bengaluru in the 50s, 60s and 70s. They touched on themes as diverse as the transport system, the abundance of urban wildlife in those times and a whole bunch of stories around a particular house on St Mark’s Rd that was owned by two sisters, and lies deserted to this day. Jacqueline Colaco also shared her photographs of growing up in the 70s.
Finally, old Bengaluru was often shrouded in historical myth that related to the British Empire. KVK Murthy brought in a touch of that when he narrated how many years ago he had discovered the Sarawak House in Bengaluru. This was of course a reference to James Brooke who defied the East India Company and set himself up as the Rajah of Sarawak. It’s worth asking what could have been the connection between that legendary figure and this faraway outpost of the British Empire.

How did you develop an interest in shooting pictures of old Bengaluru?
My interest in this area – photography of old Bengaluru, and specifically in the Cantonment – was inspired by a talk that I heard many years ago by Narendra Pani, given at Select Bookstore. Peter Colaco’s work here has also been an inspiration.

Did you always have an eye for photography?
Well, I was interested in photography since the time I was in high school. But I owned my first SLR only in my mid-twenties, and that’s when I began to explore my interest in photography. Much of this expressed itself in my documentation of Bengaluru’s architectural heritage.

What do your parents have to say about your work?
My mother has always encouraged me with this project. In fact when I lose my focus, she always reminds me that I need to continue my work on this project. My father died before I discovered my interest in photography.  But he has always encouraged me to dream and follow my heart.

You’re also a writer and communications professional. How do you manage your time?
It is difficult sometimes, but when you are passionate about something, you usually find a way. This might often involve sitting up late into the night!

What do you write?
Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, travelogues, film reviews, book reviews, marketing communication. A better question would perhaps be whether there are any genres that I haven’t dabbled in!

Tell us about your schooling and college days…
High school was in Bishop Cottons and college in Jyoti Nivas. The 80s and mid-90s were some of the best times to be growing up in Bengaluru.

What are your hobbies, apart from photography?
Writing, reading, theatre, music, travelling, dancing…

What plans do you have for the future?
I would like to take my work on photographing Bengaluru into a book that brings together Bengaluru’s many histories, futures and cultures.

‘I am completely happy with my direction’

In Interviews on May 24, 2011 at 11:36 am

Actor and debutant director Ganesh, despite the many ups and downs in his career, is calm about everything. He speaks to Manju Shettar about his new movie Cool and his passion for cinema.

Manju Shettar

For someone who is surprisingly relaxed despite the many controversies that plague his career, the title of Ganesh’s latest is movie couldn’t be more apt. The actor-filmmaker has a lot of hopes for Cool, his second home production despite skepticism in the industry about its box office potential. Gandhinagar believes that Ganesh’s recent movies failed at the box office because of the many controversies he got entangled in. But the actor himself strikes an optimistic note when he says, “Controversies are natural when you are a celebrity. But I believe in good scripts and I have enjoying whatever I have been doing so far.”

Excerpts from the interview:

You have a put a year’s effort into Cool. How has the response been so far?

So far the collection and the public’s opinion about the screenplay is good despite the fact that there were many IPL matches during the first week of its release. I think my movie ‘Cool’ is a refreshing break this summer and audiences are enjoying it.

Are you happy with your debut direction after watching it on screen?

Yes. I am completely happy with my direction. As everyone knows, I had decided to direct a movie only after 10 years but it just happened unexpectedly. I think I have done my job properly.

What do you have to say about the reviews, which have been mostly negative?

I have seen mixed responses and reviews about the movie but I don’t have any comment on them because it is their view. But while making the movie I had revealed that it is not centred entirely on the story. But the screenplay is prominent, and also completely entertaining.

What do you enjoy more, acting or direction?

I enjoy both because both are equally challenging jobs.

Diirector Mussanje Mahesh was supposed to direct the movie initially. Did you wish to change anything about screenplay when you decided to direct or even later, after watching it on screen?

No. I didn’t think so because it seemed to me that everything was fine including the technical work. And once a movie is released, I never think about it again.

Are you thinking of directing another movie?

I am committed to the three forthcoming movies in which I’m acting, but the script work is going on for my new direction, which will be shot next year.

According to a survey, it’s mostly young girls that like your movies. Is this true?

I don’t think so (laughs)! I have seen all kind of audiences and when I visit colleges in the city, I find that both male and female students like my movies.

Sandalwood insiders say that you are getting less offers compared to other actors because your remuneration is too high…

I don’t believe it. People in Sandalwood know very well about me and how I’m busy with my projects.

Both your home banner productions Maleyali Jotheyali and Cool had heroines from outside. Don’t you believe in encouraging local talent?

It was the choice of directors and depends on the needs of the script. Of course, I personally believe there is talent here but when we need them they are usually busy.  Being a Kannada filmmaker, I prefer Kannada actresses who can speak the language well.

Sometimes, celebrities use controversies as publicity stunts. What is your view on this?

I don’t want to identify myself through such cheap gimmicks. I always want to be far from these controversies and I don’t need them in any way. No celebrity is non-controversial, but I see it as a part of my job”.

‘I guess filmmaking runs in my DNA’

In Interviews on May 23, 2011 at 11:51 am

Anand Alagappan travelled to the US from Chennai more than a decade ago to do his Masters in Computer Science. Today, he is better known as the director of the award-winning crossover film, Anything For You.

Sonali Desai

Having come from India with its tradition of joint families, relationships in the US intrigued Anand Alagappan, who was there to do his Masters in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Arlington. He decided to look deeper into the issue, and his enquiry, combined with his love of writing and cinematic narrative is what led to the film Anything For You, which was recently been given the prestigious Silver Ace Award at the Las Vegas Film Festival.

Anand’s film tells the story of an Indian-American doctor who is entangled in a love triangle between his wife and an American girl, who wants him at any cost. How the doctor gets out of this situation forms the main plot of the film that features Juliana Fine, Pooja Kumar and Sam Ghosh. Anything For You has been produced by New York Talkies (founded by Anand Alagappan, Ravi Gavva and Mahender Musuku). The film has an interesting cast and crew that comprise of both Indians and Americans. The lead actors of the film are Sam Ghosh, Juliana Fine, Pooja Kumar and Aaron Mathias. Karthik Raja, (South India music legend Ilayaraja’s son) has scored music for the film while Alphonse Roy is the Director of Photography.

Anand talked to City Buzz about his passion for writing filmmaking and politics. Excerpts from the interview:

You are from Chennai. Take us back to your school and college days; did you ever dream of becoming a filmmaker then?
My friends now tell me that they thought even though I used to keep talking about film making I would never pursue it. Now they are surprised with my perseverance and patience and are really happy for me. They were a good support always, encouraging since the days I did the TV show We Love India, then in the journey to short films and now feature films.

What do your parents say about your film making career?
Parents initially had reservations but when they saw me on TV hosting We Love India episodes for 14 weeks, they thought it’s not a hobby but he’s going fulltime and serious. They are fine now since they have seen my work.

You are an engineer by profession, how did you develop an interest for cinematic narration?
I started writing initially when I went to do my Masters in USA. America was fascinating in all aspects and it got me into writing journals and personal diaries. One of my friends who read it said that I write really well with a lot of imagination and that I should put it into a visual format and see. That’s how it all started.

Tell us more about your five minute short-film No Exit which was screened at many film festivals.
The short film No Exit was again from my personal experience of waiting for customer service forever. One such time, I thought why not write a comedy while waiting for them. It connected very well with audience, most of whom went through the nightmare every day. They laughed all through the way while watching.

When did you start working on Anything For You and how was the experience?
I had written the screenplay for Anything For You and kept writing more stuff. One of my friends who accidentally read it liked it a lot and without wasting time wanted to bring it on screen.

Your movie talks about love and relationships. Do you relate yourself to any of the characters in the movie?
Love and relationships is an aspect that every human being has experienced. How we handle it makes our lives happy and sad. Not only me, all of us can relate to it.

How did you come up with the name for the film?
I stared writing the screenplay without having a title in mind and as the story developed the characters spoke lines like “I love you and I’ll do anything for you.” That’s when I thought, why not keep the title as Anything For You.

What are the challenges you faced during the making of Anything For You?
The whole experience from writing, raising funds and finding a distributor was very challenging. But the quality of the product made these challenges and hard work worth it success and I should thank everyone involved with the film. At the end of the day, film making is a team effort.

How did you enjoy filming with the RED Camera?
RED was a great boon to independent filmmakers, putting them on par with established filmmakers. The quality is amazing given the low amounts involved in owning or renting the camera.

How has the audience responded to your film?
The audience in US, without any exaggeration, loved it. The liked the spiritual element attached to the story. We all are bound by relationships and people found how complicated and interesting relationships can be.

Who are your inspirations when it comes to filmmaking?
Akira Kurasawa, Satyajit Ray, Zhang Yimou and Ridley Scott.

Apart from writing and filmmaking, what else interests you?
I guess as an Indian filmmaking runs in my DNA. I’m a big dreamer and I put all my thoughts, dreams, and experience into writing. Other than writing I watch lot of international cinema and am interested in Indian and global politics for I believe if politics lost everything is lost. It is also a way of giving back something to society. I also watch sports; especially cricket and basketball.

What are your future plans?
My future plan is to keep making movies and may be get into active politics at some point in time.