Tag Archives: Farhan Akhtar

The Sky is Pink is an Emotional Rollercoaster

Mom: “Why are you crying?”

Son: The teacher scolded me in class.

Mom: Why?

Son: Because I colored the sky pink. She told me it’s blue, not pink. Change it to blue.

Mom (after a short pause): Make the sky whichever color you want to. If your sky is pink, make it pink. Don’t let anyone tell you what color your sky should be.

This is one of the powerful opening scenes that lends this heartfelt film its title. The Sky is Pink is based on a true story about young Aisha (Zaira Wasim), who is suffering from severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), a rare genetic disorder in which the body has no immunity to fight any kind of external infection. Most persons born with such a medical condition have almost no hope to live. With no proper cure for the disease in India in the 1980s, the girl’s parents, Aditi (Priyanka Chopra) and Niren (Farhan Akhtar), decide to go from their home in old Delhi to London for her treatment. Through a desi radio show in London, they manage to procure funds from kind listeners to help operate the girl, as a result of which her life is extended by a few years. 

A biopic is a great way to bring awareness about an issue or retell an important story, which would otherwise have remained unknown, unnoticed, or forgotten amid the pacing annals of time. The film’s director, Los Angeles based Shonali Bose, has dealt with the subject of maladies earlier as well—most recently with her 2014 romantic drama Margarita with a Straw, about a teenager with cerebral palsy, based on the life of her disability-rights-activist cousin Malini Chib. In that sense, the theme seems a little repetitive. However, while The Sky… feels more mainstream Bollywood than her previous film (with a bigger star cast and shoot locations that move seamlessly between old havelis of Chandni Chowk to metropolitan London and posh farmhouses of Chattarpur), it’s equally sensitive in its treatment. Bose’s inspiration to make the film was the crumbling of her marriage that happened after she lost her own 16 year old son, Ishan. Bose said in an interview that Ayesha’s real-life parents, Niren and Aditi Chaudhary, asked her to make a film on their daughter after she died, and added that it was Ayesha’s dying wish to watch Margarita with a Straw

Through strong performances by the lead pair, the film manages to capture well the angst and frustration of the parents who are perpetually struggling to keep their daughter alive, while trying to earn a livelihood to pay for all her expensive medications. In one scene, Aditi has an anxiety attack as she is unable to sleep for days—which seems very real for someone who is faced with such a stressful situation. Added to this, is the brave front they have to constantly put up in front of their children to always keep them cheerful and optimistic.

The Sky… is a ‘comeback film’ of sorts for PC, who returns to Bollywood after a hiatus of three years, during which she went through several significant life events, such as working on the international TV show Quantico, starring in Hollywood films, and getting married. The collective experiences seem to have lent maturity to her acting, and she plays the role of a mother to two teenagers convincingly well. Dangal girl, Zaira Wasim, too delivers a power-packed performance as the ailing Aisha, who despite her illness, is just like any other girl her age—nursing heartbreak, falling in love and wanting to live. It’s sad that the talented actor recently decided to quit acting, making this her last film—and giving audiences another reason to watch it.

Here’s what I thought The Sky… missed. The film fails to address the larger issue of the complexity of the family’s situation getting further complicated had the socioeconomic indicators differed. In this case, the family had some financial issues in the beginning. But with the support of donations and the privileges of education and property, they surmount the financial challenges through career progression. What do families with no financial means do under such circumstances? Does society or the government support them in the eventual choice they make? Unlike western economies, the Indian state does not provide any long-term financial assistance or support to such persons. 

Nevertheless, even when they know that time is running out for their daughter, they hope against hope (as any parent would), and decide to make all her dreams true—whether it’s in the form of holidays, pets, or crushes—in the short lifespan that she has left. The bittersweet takeaway is loud and clear. Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

THE SKY IS PINK. 2019. Director: Shonali Bose. Screenplay: Shonali Bose, Juhi Chaturvedi. Players: Priyanka Chopra, Farhan Akhtar, Zaira Wasim. Hindi and English. Distributed by RSVP Movies, Roy Kapur Films and Purple Pebble Pictures.

Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in New Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul, an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world. You can read all her published work on www.nehakirpal.wordpress.com.

This article was edited by Culture and Media Editor Geetika Pathania Jain.

Photo credit: The Sky is Pink facebook page.

 

Eye-opening Concert by SEL+F

Who knew that it would be the memory of Sankara Eye Foundation (SEF) Founder Murali Krishnamurthy singing that would stay in my heart after the Shankar Ehsaan Loy and Farhan Akhtar 2018 concert?

“Jyot se jyot jagate chalo, prem ki ganga bahaatay chalo.” (Light another’s lamp with your own, let the river of love flow.)

During the event, Murali Krishnamurthy presented the progress of the organization to the event attendees. He thanked them for their support and announced that three hospitals in India have now become self-sufficient and two more are close to becoming self-sufficient. He also talked about extending capacity in India by partnering with highly qualified organizations to reach the remotest places in India. Together, SEF will be performing more than 200,000 free surgeries this year.

“It is always a pleasure to associate with SEF. Every time we meet people working for the cause, we feel so insignificant. They give us so much inspiration. Along with music, if we can be a part of this cause, we are looking at a bigger picture of what music can do.” Shankar Mahadevan spoke passionately about the association of Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy with SEF.

Credit: Rupali Gupta Photography for SEF

The SEL trio promised that the show will be a high-energy show and they did not disappoint. Their excitement to perform together for a noble cause was evident on their faces. Everything was bigger, grander, filled with energy, and a sight to behold as the crowds danced their hearts out. The concert was an eclectic mix of soul-stirring romantic songs and foot-tapping dance numbers. Songs from the movie Dil Chahta Hai were the clear favorites, but the poetry recital by Farhan Akhtar set the mood. His occasional narration of anecdotes from his life had the audience in splits. With every song, the atmosphere got better, brighter, and happier.

“San Jose! My engineering friends!” Shankar Mahadevan called out after commenting on the inverse relationship between the volume of the cheers and the distance from the stage. He was hinting at his own education as an engineer, before his love for music claimed him. The crowd roared as the call and response proceeded. Shankar Mahadevan was his effervescent self and brought his humorous side to the stage. The crowd was putty in his hands, as his musical virtuosity blazed through.

Loy played a beautiful rendition of the song ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’. Ehsaan mesmerized with the guitar. A packed house came alive when Shankar sang the song ‘It’s the Time to Disco’ and ‘Galla Goodiyan’. Farhan Akhtar’s singing was not bad, but clearly he was sharing the limelight with musical giants of a much higher caliber. Curtains came down on the show with the trio performing with Farhan Akhtar and the audience came alive, even at the tail end of the concert. The atmosphere became celebratory when Shankar Mahadevan mentioned that the day marked the trio’s 22-year anniversary and thanked fans worldwide for supporting them and being instrumental in their success.

A few patrons shared their amazing experience at the SEF organized event. Madhvi Pratt, Nigel Pratt and Jay Visvanathan from Los Altos were there “for the wonderful music and to support Sankara Eye Foundation.”

Madhvi Pratt, Nigel Pratt and Jay Visvanathan at the concert.

Shamik Mehta was there to see Farhan Akhtar, whose films, he felt, were superb at depicting deep friendships. Raj Vakil from Santa Clara was hoping to hear ‘Gallan Gudia.’ Farhan Akhtar fan Neha Desai had eyes only for her ‘Farru,’ official eye candy of the show.

Volunteers Lata Malviya, Hema Rambia and Matha Tallam were handing out brochures with information about SEF.

SEF Volunteers

The last strain as I walked away from the San Jose State University event center was ‘Ay vatan,’ a nostalgic number from Raazi. Swaying concert attendees mouthed the words, singing along with their friends as the concert wound down and the performers took a bow.

ABOUT SEF:

Established in the Bay Area, SEF is a nonprofit organization that has been working for the past 20 years for the cause of eradicating curable blindness in India. Driven by this truly inspirational vision, SEF currently has 9 super specialty hospitals and is working on three new hospitals – in Hyderabad, Indore, and Mumbai. The tireless efforts by the SEF team since inception has enabled over 1.75 million people to receive the gift of vision, absolutely free of cost. The organization has maintained the top rating from Charity Navigator for sound fiscal health and commitment to accountability and transparency. SEF will host a Dandia extravaganza this year featuring Falguni Pathak.

Article cover photo credit: Rupali Gupta Photography for SEF

Puzzled by Gossip

Is there anyone left in the world who has not yet heard that Priyanka Chopra is engaged to Nick Jonas? As we gladly fritter away our precious time and attention on these manufactured stars in distant constellations, searching for new tidbits of information written by entertainment journalists trading in gossip, the nature of celebrity, gossip and fandom is in question once more. And for anyone bemoaning the state of journalism in today’s world, a reminder that we get the media we deserve.

Yes, media is an industry. And some of these industrious gossip columnists remain etched in our memory. In the bohemian 70s of Bollywood, Stardust magazine and Neeta’s Natter exemplified chatpata film gossip. Neeta’s Natter, “honed by the raillery of Mohan Bawa but presented by a bejewelled black feline, was mostly about catfights and who was sleeping with who” mentions Roshni Nair in a recent article. Neeta and her gossippy natter was a creation of free-lancer Mohan Bawa and Stardust’s very own Nari Hira and Shobha De.

So, what is the nature of fandom and how have gossip columnists learned to give us what we clamor for? How is it that we actually care about these celebrities and their lives? In Sorry to Bother You (2018) we see how telemarketers literally land with a thud in our living rooms, interrupting the flow of our day. How did Irrfan Khan’s sad news land in my heart? Why did I care that Irrfan Khan has got cancer, the Emperor of All Maladies? It is a puzzle.

Which brings me to Puzzle (2018), the latest film with Irrfan Khan. Irrfan with an extra r. There is sheer intelligence behind Irrfan’s laconic delivery of the sardonic dialogue. In Piku (2015), he delighted with his barbs to the beautifully stressed out Deepika Padukone. But it was in Lunch Box (2014) that his curmudgeonly Saajan Fernandez tugged at our heartstrings.

Is Puzzle (2018) the Hollywood version of Bollywood’s The Lunchbox? Both are about desperate housewives trapped in unfulfilling domestic roles. Both could be seen as an “under-appreciated housewife’s private escapist dream.”

It seems that marital infidelity is on the menu again.

Direct journalistic descendants of Neeta’s Natter might discuss films on stepping out of the shaadi ka pavitra bandhan (holy matrimony) so:

“Meowww… Marital infidelity is like, so cool lately, yaar. Lunchbox (2014) won best film award at the Filmfare awards, though — get this — they never meet! But this wife is like, ready to run off with this old dude and go live in Bhutan or whatever. Like, they must get advance copies of the Kinsey report or something. There’s Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (2006). And there’s this antebellum lust triangle in Twelve Years A Slave (2013), and the villainous white master dude has the hots for this black slavegirl, and his wife is just wearing her frilly dress and looking on and pursing her lips and totally hating on her enslaved rival, right? And she’s not in the most enviable position, right? So, she’s not much better than a slave, right? (Gathering steam) In a way, right? And she’s the white mistress and everything, but, like, she’s not that much better off, right? And in Puzzle (2018), Kelly MacDonald is like, “I’m not your servant” when her husband is looking for his warm dinner and she’s been AWOL. So it’s these institutions(!) slavery and marriage  — so confining, yaar.

So marriage is like, such a hapless institution, like total umar-qaid, (life imprisonment) right? But if you find yourself crying while dying the easter eggs, as Kelly MacDonald does in Puzzle, a closer look at the state of your marriage seems merited. And in Shaadi ke Side Effects (2014), like, no one has an actual affair affair, but Farhan Akhtar is apparently having an affair with a younger, single version of himself. Which is obviously confusing and everything, but, whatever. And his wife, Vidya Balan, is like, you’re never around, and she’s digging on the neighbor, right? But nothing happens! Right? So everyone’s been true to their wedding pheras or whatever… from one cat to another, meeowww till next month”

Marriage therapist Esther Perel could tell us a thing or two about marital infidelity in her book Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic (2006). Wouldn’t it be just like Catty Neeta to suggest that very book as a wedding present to Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas, who are jumping into matrimony just as so many of the filmic characters are trying to jump out.

Catty Neeta and the gossip industry might find a jolt of recognition in Rita Skeeter of the Harry Potter franchise, or the Aunties who are speculating about the state of Swara Bhaskar’s marriage in Veere di Wedding (2018). The aunties collectively end the gossip session with a wholehearted Saanu ki! (None of our business!)

But gossip is, in fact, big business. What can we learn from the trade of gossip? In our interpersonal relationships, we learn about the importance of safeguarding confidences, of treating information that is handed to us with care. It is precisely the breaking of this trust, of trading in the embarrassing details of people’s lives which is the currency of the gossip columnist. Because they are disseminating information that belongs to someone else. And that brings us to today’s dilemma, of social media networks taking our information and peddling it carelessly, selling it to others without our knowledge, which accounts for our outrage at this betrayal. So perhaps Facebook is now the biggest gossip of all.

I wish Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas many happy years of togetherness (please nobody tell him about Saat Khoon Maaf (2011), where femme fatale Priyanka disposes off husband after husband, including an endearing Irrfan Khan). A small reminder that trust is a fragile thing. Puzzle was about marriage partners losing trust in each other. Facebook reminds me that there are other betrayals.

 

WIll they? Won’t they? Marital infidelity is on the menu in Puzzle.

 

Geetika Pathania Jain is Culture and Media Editor at India Currents. She wrote a gossipy article about Priyanka Chopra in 2016 that got an award.