Even if you’re not familiar with classical Indian music you’ve probably heard of the global sensation, composer and musician Ravi Shankar. At the age of 90 ‘Pandit’ Ravi Shankar began to write his only opera -Sukanya, which is a love letter to his now, Widow Sukanya Rajan.
Sold as a semi staged production the story is a tiny segment from the ancient Indian epic Mahabharata. With an amalgamation of a fifty-five piece London Philharmonic Orchestra, five Indian musicians, nineteen BBC Singers, an international cast, dancers from the Aakash Odedra Company and libretto from Amit Chaudhuri, you no doubt walk into the auditorium with plenty of expectations.
Sukanya begins and we’re introduced to Chyvana, an old sage who sits to meditate for so long that he becomes cocooned by an ant hill. When the unaware Princess Sukanya stabs at the ant hill she accidently blinds Chayvana. To make amends her father King Sharyaati offers his daughter to the sage. The loving marriage is disrupted when two jealous demigods challenge Sukanya, asking would she still recognise her own husband if he was of similar resemblance to them. She declines the challenge but her husband accepts on her behalf.
Admittedly there was a sneaky dread that Sukanya may become lost in its own grandness, thankfully this wasn’t the case. The Opera was beautifully directed by Suba Das who made his Royal Opera debut. The six singers sang their roles well, the demigod duo (Aswini Twins) singers Michel de Souza and Njabulo Madlala enjoyed great chemistry. The choreography and dancers were effortlessly perfect, mesmerising us with their swirls, turns and stamps.
The magnificent Welsh conductor David Murphy was also making his debut. The Easter and western music effortlessly danced into the air in perfect harmony, there were moments you could have easily closed your eyes and be lost in the magic. The musical utopia gave you shivers down your back and goose bumps on your arms.
The stage was designed as three staircases, with the central staircase including steps large enough to allow performances to sing or dance on, which worked perfecting when a fifty-five piece Orchestra sat at the base. I’m very fond of video imagery, the mood and space is created perfectly and quickly. However there were times when the imagery projected on performers and the background was not the background, which was a little off putting if you want to be lost in the world of the story. Saying that, one of my favourite visual moments was when the ant hill formed around Chyvana, it was a greatly effective and creative use of video projection.
Although there is love for a fusion of music and an admiration for a multicultural cast, I’m not sure it worked so well when Keel Watson (King Sharyaati) a black singer and actor played the part of a white Susanna Hurrell’s (Sukanya) father. It did lead me to ponder over questions of lack of opportunities and representation. The brilliant Alok Kumar who played Chyvana is a beyond capable singer and performer but it was clear that this character was referred to as ‘old’ and then begins the spiral down questions of where are the mature actors? Does it make a difference? How old is old? Should it make a difference?
During the interval a white lady turned to me to say “I didn’t even know you had opera” I had to get her to repeat two more times, purely because I didn’t understand the statement. It was evident my repeated ask unintentionally made her and her friend very self conscious and unintentionally I allowed an uncomfortable politically incorrect feeling fill the air.
She didn’t know I had opera?
What I concluded from that was “I” meaning “we” meaning South Asians did Opera. To be honest nor did I, but if it comes my way looking and sounding anything close to what Sukanya did, I’m not going to complain.
Excited for the future development of Sukanya and hoping the full production will be alive and touring in the very near future.Read more
Authentic Lahori food can be enjoyed at the Pind restaurant in Bradford.
Watch our review here:
Finding Fatimah is a fresh take on the great British Muslim matrimonial crisis. How to find love (and get married) as you approach your 30's while keeping it all strictly 'halal'.
The film starts with Shahid, played by Danny Ashok, approaching the big Three-Oh, trying to make last ditch efforts to get a printing business running, a business that he would eventually have to sell and worse of all, he is divorced already! After failing to find a suitable partner in his own circles , Shahid, like a true blue millennial turns to the internet.
What is British Muslim online dating all about? Shahid finds out pretty soon. After a few dates go horribly awry, Shahid almost gives up but just before he does, he finds a young doctor called Fatimah, played by the beautiful Asmara Gabrielle. There's only one tiny problem though - Shahid hasn't told Fatimah that he was previously married! Will the misunderstanding be resolved in time? I'll let you watch the film to find out.
Both Danny and Asmara do complete justice to their parts, as they play characters with their own complicated backstories. There's something endearing about seeing them together as they navigate their relationship and the people around them.
Finding Fatimah does have its shortcomings though. The execution of the comic scenes could have been better as I felt a lot of the situations that might have potentially been hilarious on paper turn out to be a bit blah when played out. That shouldn't stop you from watching it. If nothing else, it will open up a window into a very real struggle that a lot of young British Asian Muslims are going through.Read more
If you aren't a Riz Ahmed fan already (WHY aren't you by the way? but more on that later) you will be by the time you walk out because Riz is the brightest thing about the otherwise slow crime thriller set in London.
The story revolves around ace private detective, Tommy Akhtar - an obedient and caring son to his ailing father - who gets himself embroiled into a case that requires him to investigate the circumstances surrounding a missing prostitute.
The director, Pete Travis, whose previous works include, Vantage Point, has tried his hands at this noir piece of cinema that succeeds in showing London, in all its multicultural, multiracial glory. This is the London that is rarely shown in mainstream cinema. It is gritty and grimy and yet it is warm and interesting. There are dark alleys and neon signs and a living, breathing city.
The premise of the film has everything going for itself, on paper at least. We have the ghosts of the last hanging over the main characters like thick, invisible clouds, the policemen you can't really trust and religious fundamentalists preaching their own brand of religion.
Where the film suffers greatly is the pace. The story takes a while to unravel and by the time it gets to the climax, you might not care anymore. And that is not the sign of a film that calls itself an edge of the seat thriller.
This is not Riz's first mainstream cinema outing. He has recently starred in Rogue One, the HBO mini-series The Night Of and Mira Nair's The Reluctant Fundamentalist, all roles where he has been recognised. Ahmed has also been admired for his speech in the parliament on the need for British TV to reflect the diverse reality of the people who make up modern Britain (hear, hear). City of Tiny Lights is definitely carried through by Ahmed and is sure to get him acting accolades and critical acclaim.
The supporting cast tries its best to add something special to the film. Billie Piper as Ahmed's love interest from the past is brilliant but sadly doesn't have much material to play with. One of my favourite characters has to be Ahmed's dad, played by Roshan Seth. Roshan is a treat in the few scenes that he is in.
Overall, City of Tiny Lights is a film that audiences who are fans of noir cinema will enjoy. Others might want to go in with some extra patience!Read more
Phillauri is Anushka Sharma’s second home production, and much like her first, NH10, it tries to tell a different story. The film has a simple storyline. It starts off in the present day, as Kanan Gill (Suraj Sharma) returns from Canada to get married to his childhood sweetheart, Anu (Mehreen Pirzada) in a big fat Punjabi wedding. There is a problem, however. The priest tells the family that Kanan is ‘Manglik’ which means that he has to symbolically marry a tree first in order to ward off evil influences that might affect his life with Anu. Much against his will, Kanan agrees and gets married to an old tree. Unknown to anyone though, the tree has a resident ghost, Shashi (enter Anushka Sharma) who now considers herself to be married to Kanan. Thus, begins a Love Aaj Kal-esque love story where the past guides the present through, to find the real essence of love.
Shashi shares her backstory in flashback and we are taken back to pre-partition India, more precisely to a small village called Phillaur, which is steeped in tradition. Shashi lives with her strict brother, who is a doctor who believes that music and arts are tabooed pastimes and must be avoided. The doctor, who has a sympathetic corner for the freedom fighters of the time, is unaware of the fact that his own sister Shashi is a talented poetess whose poems are loved by readers all over Punjab. Keeping in line with her brother’s beliefs, Shashi keeps her identity hidden and writes under the pseudonym ‘Phillauri’. All is well until she comes face to face with Roop (Diljit Dosanjh) and what follows is a beautiful love story that will make your heart skip a beat.
Shashi and Roop’s love story offers audiences a window into a very different world. A world where love isn’t transient, it holds and lives on through distances where all lovers have are stolen glances and infrequent letters from the other. In that regard, Phillauri’s tale of love will appeal to audiences of all ages; in today’s age people may not believe in love that lives on beyond death but the idea is still an endearing one. The director Anshai Lal lends subtlety to the romance, which I wish he brought to the modern day couple of Kanan and Anu as well.
While Phillauri’s basic premise may have shades of Tim Burton’s ‘Corpse Bride’, the treatment is different. Phillauri is also much more than just a love story as the writer, Anvita Dutt, adds a lesson or two about the importance of letting women pursue their dreams and the value of respect and dignity in a relationship, but without making the narrative preachy and that is always a win!
Phillauri is a musical treat. Shashwat and Jasleen have put together an album that takes influences from folk melodies and gives them a refreshing feel. From the soulful Dum Dum to the melancholic Sahiba, the music is hard to forget; a much needed, pleasant break from the auto-tuned songs that we have been subjected to of late. Anvita Dutt’s meaningful lyrics add to the magic.
In the acting department, Anushka Sharma is a clear winner. She delivers her hilarious wisecracks with a straight face and does an equally good job emoting the pain of love lost. During the flashbacks, she looks every bit a strong, yet vulnerable girl. A special mention must be made of the costumes – from the traditional shalwar suits to the silver jhumkas – everything adds to the authenticity of the story. Diljit, who brings honesty to his role shines as a kohl-eyed musician who is transformed by love. Mehreen Pirzada doesn’t have so much to play with but she still makes an impact – I particularly liked her in the second half. The only let down is Suraj Sharma, who albeit brilliant in his Hollywood outings, just could not express himself in Phillauri. So much so that in the first half it feels like he pretty much has the same expression of bewilderment on his face.
Overall, Phillauri has more positives than negatives and despite its weak moments, it is a film you need to watch, especially if you like love stories. You will leave the theatres with a smile on your face!Read more
By AYESHA BABAR
Before I go on to the film itself, a small note: Udta Punjab has had more than its share of controversy. First, the censor board refused to pass it without substantial cuts and even a name change (they insisted on ‘Punjab’ being dropped from the title – the producers, thankfully, held their ground). Eventually the Mumbai High Court ruled in favour of the film’s release with only minor changes. Just as the makers breathed a sigh of relief, and resumed promotions in full swing, it emerged that the full movie had been leaked online. While it remains to be seen who was behind the leak, the pirated downloads will definitely affect the film’s business – both in India and abroad. I would urge readers to see the film at the cinema – you will not be disappointed!
Udta Punjab is not your typical Bollywood family entertainer. That, however, doesn’t mean that Abhishek Chaubey’s film isn’t a great piece of cinema. Abhishek takes the audience on an emotional journey, which offers scenes of stark realism. There is no sugar-coating and no fluff – just good, dark raw cinema.
The story revolves around the separate yet entwined lives of a Punjabi rockstar, Tommy Singh (Shahid Kapoor), a migrant worker, Kumari (Alia Bhatt), a doctor, Preet (Kareena Kapoor) and a police officer played by Diljit Dosanjh. The four characters live seemingly separate, imperfect lives that are impacted in one way or another by drugs.
Udta Punjab shows you another side of the state of Indian Punjab, a place that is best known for its rich food and strong sense of joie de vivre. The drug menace is eating away at the heart of the land which was once the agrarian centre of India, brimming with optimism. What makes the film such a success is that director, Abhishek Chaubey, doesn’t shy away from the hard-hitting reality and sheds light and makes great effort to elaborate on the nexus between the different forces at play without preaching.
While the director paces the movie well overall, there are a few sequences in the second half that could be edited shorter. Even these do not take away from the bigger picture that makes Udta Punjab some of the most heart-felt cinema I have seen in a while.
Punjabi superstar Diljit Dosanjh makes his Hindi movie debut playing a Sikh cop. Kareena Kapoor is her usual A-list self as a doctor who looks after addicts and is working on a report to lend awareness to the cause. The two standout performances for me, however, belong to Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt. Shahid, has emerged as an acting powerhouse, glimpses of which we have seen in a slew of films that the actor has done. If you thought his phenomenal portrayal in Haider set a benchmark then Udta Punjab will leave you floored. There is not one flawed frame where Shahid’s acting is concerned.
Alia Bhatt might not be the first name that comes to mind when one says ‘Bihari migrant worker’ but the actress takes the character and makes it her own. Alia might be one of the youngest in her generation of
Bollywood actresses but is fast cementing her place as the finest. Abhishek Chaubey once again extracts a performance to remember from Alia. Many scenes, Alia reminded me of a young Kareena in ‘Chameli’ with her earnestness and honesty playing the role of Kumari.
By the end of the film, I was shaken and stirred. Somewhere in my mind, I am still thinking about the characters whose journey I felt I was a part of. And of the countless others who have become mired with the menace of drugs. For me, this is what cinema should be.Read more
By AYESHA BABAR
Fan has a very basic premise – there’s Gaurav, a middle-class boy from Inder Nagar in Delhi who is obsessed with a Bollywood superstar called Aryan Khanna. The highlight of Gaurav’s year is winning a ‘Super Sitara’ talent competition in his colony (or clony as he calls it) – his special act being imitating his idol to get much love and applause from the society residents.
Gaurav feels that he has a special connection with Aryan Khanna. Firstly because of the uncanny resemblance that he shares with Aryan Khanna and also because Aryan himself grew up in Rajinder Nagar, another locality in Delhi, not much different from his own. Gaurav’s bedroom is a shrine to the star who he worships. For Aryan’s birthday, Gaurav decided to finally go to Mumbai to give a personal gift Aryan.
The scenes that follow change the mood of the film, taking it a few notches darker – as the fan in Gaurav pits himself against his idol. There is major drama, action sequences but surprisingly, for a Shah Rukh Khan film no songs!
As you see Gaurav’s obsession take on unhealthier shades, you can see an underlying creepy viciousness while at the same time your heart goes out to him when he somewhat naively carries on with his actions without much thought to the consequences. It is in these parts that we see the Shah Rukh of Darr and Baazigar and oh, how good it feels to witness that again on the big screen.
Even when the screenplay and story become a tad tedious in the second half, it is Shah Rukh Khan’s powerhouse performance that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The challenge is two-folded: to play the 25 year old fan so that he comes across as menacing yet vulnerable and to play a superstar, essentially himself. Shah Rukh smoothly slips from one into the other giving keeping his portrayal of both highly nuanced and making it look much easier than it was.
Shah Rukh is in every frame of the film and completely owns his space. You cannot help but feel emotionally invested in the journey which makes the film stay with you long after you’ve finished watching. Add to this the excellent editing and the crisp storytelling and you can see the genius of the director, Maneesh Sharma!
After acting in films that did no favours for his acting skills for the better part of the decade, Shah Rukh finally seems to have found a good balance when picking scripts. This one is definitely one of his career best performances.
Fan is triumphantly different to any other Bollywood film I’ve seen recently - go watch it to see a vintage classic! We give it 4 out of 5 stars.Read more
One thing you could never accuse Cabana of being is boring. Tucked away next to the ever-bustling hub of Trinity Kitchen in Leeds, its bright and multi-coloured front beckons in passers-by with the lure of authentic Brazilian barbecue, street food and tasty drinks. Founders Jamie and David set up Cabana back in 2011 with the aim of bringing a bit of the eccentric, communal dining nature which Brazil cherishes so much to the UK, in relaxed surroundings. The chain now has restaurants in ten locations across the UK, from South London all the way up to a soon to open store in Newcastle upon Tyne.
We visited on a fairly busy Thursday evening and were immediately seated by enthusiastic staff, who remained very helpful and knowledgeable all evening. The interior of the restaurant has a high focus on recycled and ‘upcycled’ elements, giving it a fun and interesting look. The unique hanging light covers are handmade from old copper pipes, seats are upholstered with pre-loved denim jeans all the way from Sao Paulo (complete with pockets!), and the seating centrepiece in the middle of the establishment is an authentic Cabana hut, rebuilt lovingly to provide a large and airy space for groups.
The menu is fairly diverse and has many elements of traditional Brazilian tastes. We enjoyed ‘Pão de queijo’ – or cheesy dough balls with garlic butter, to you and me – and chargrilled pitta bread with a firey chimichurri dip to start off with. The dough balls in particular are incredibly moreish, especially when paired with the chilli oil provided on each table.
There are a nice range of vegetarian, vegan and gluten free starters, with staff more than happy to talk us through the options when asked. All chicken used throughout the menu is halal, as well as the lamb dishes, the rib-eye steak, and all of the desserts on offer, providing a wide range of options for all diets.
Cabana has a very extensive drinks menu, specialising in Caipirinha cocktails – a tantalising mix of sugarcane rum, lime, sugar and fruit juices. They also provide a great selection of ‘Refrescos’, non-alcoholic mixed drinks with proper Brazilian tastes. Faced with an overwhelming amount of choice, we went for the Amazon Iced Tea (Homemade tea, mint, wild leaf cordial and apple juice) and Super-Suco Smoothie (Amazonian açai with banana and strawberry), which were both perfect accompaniments to our meals, and very generous sizes!
Onto the mains, and both my dining companion and I decided we couldn’t very well visit a Brazilian BBQ without trying some proper chargrilled meat! Skewer dishes are cooked delivered straight to the table on their large cooking spikes, ensuring hot meat fresh off the grill every time. The Spicy Malagueta Chicken [pictured above] is a best seller, consisting of grilled chicken thighs and red pepper coated thoroughly in Cabana’s own marinade, a sticky, sweet tomato based sauce with hints of spice throughout. The biro-biro rice and crispy sweet potato fries are perfect accompaniments, rounding off a satisfying main course. We also opted for the amusingly named ‘Chilli Chilli Lamb Lamb’, a chilli and cumin flavoured skewer cooked alongside deliciously soft Palm Hearts. With more of a kick to it than the chicken, the lamb is thoroughly tender, spicy and enjoyable, although perhaps a little smaller portioned than one might expect for the price.
Other main course options include burgers, steaks, ribs, salads and stews, ensuring that there is something for everyone here. Vegetarian and vegan mains are a little thin on the ground, however what is offered has clearly been well thought out, with uniquely cooked vegan stews, halloumi burgers and palm heart super-salads all up for grabs.
Dessert is certainly not a half-hearted afterthought for Cabana, who approach it with the same vibrancy and sense of fun as everything else they do. Frozen yoghurt is the main star here, with peanut butter and caramel flavours on offer in Leeds. These both come with unlimited free toppings, which you may as well indulge in, as the yoghurt itself is 100% fat free.
We treated ourselves to a Caramel Flake Sundae made with this tasty yoghurt, and a ‘Nega Maluca’, a type of flourless chocolate cake which was dark, dense and delicious. It may be a small portion, but believe me when I say that it’s more than enough to satisfy!
Overall, Cabana has a relaxed and yet vibrant atmosphere perfect for groups, families and casual evenings out with friends. Its central location, friendly staff and wide-reaching menu really hit the spot for a bit of a different dining experience in central Leeds.
WIN: A Meal for Four at Cabana Leeds
We're giving one lucky reader the chance to win a fantastic evening out at Cabana in Leeds with a meal for four people. Simply answer the question below before midnight on the 22nd April, and you could be in with a chance of winning!
Which continent is the country of Brazil located on?
a) North America
b) South America
Send your answer to email@example.com or post to Asian Style Magazine, 18 East Parade, Bradford, BD1 5EE. Don’t forget to include your full name, contact details and address. Entry closes at 22nd April at midnight.
Winner will be selected randomly from all entries which adhere to the above guidelines. Winner must be able to attend meal at Cabana's Leeds location. Standard Asian Style Magazine terms and conditions apply.Read more
BY Ayesha Babar
At the outset, Ki and Ka looks like a fun concept – the classic case of role reversal – the woman is the ambitious breadwinner and the man, the home-maker. Kia, who is a young executive in a firm meets Kabir, an intelligent man whose goal in life is to manage a household much like his late mother, on a flight. There is instant chemistry and attraction and soon enough there is talk of marriage. This is where the story really begins.
While Kia focusses her energies outside, Kabir is busy redoing the interiors and making sure everyone gets good food on the table and yes, even hosting the odd kitty party. It is not that Kabir does not have it in him to make a career for himself – it’s just that he think it is a bit of a worthless pursuit!
A concept like this is very vulnerable to caricature and exaggeration and that is what Ki and Ka falls prey to again and again. When Arjun Kapoor makes no bones about wearing a ‘mangalsutra’ you cannot help but think – is this really necessary? It doesn’t add dramatic effect and it definitely doesn’t add comedy. The ‘mangalsutra’ is a token of love, worn by the wife for her husband – regardless of the wife’s profession or the husband’s ambition. My gripe with Ki and Ka is that it lets Kia and Kabir’s profession (or lack thereof) define their identities. This was a brilliant idea but dampened and let down by the treatment and the patchy writing.
The first half of the film is actually quite funny – it is light and the dialogue is short and relatable. It is the second half, when things become serious and the screenplay is tested that the cracks appear.
Not to say that it is a bad film -there are scenes and dialogues every now and then that make you sit up and take notice and it is these bits that make the film worth-watching.
Kareena is spot on as Kia and really shows why even after a string of playing second fiddle roles to the superstar heroes, she still deserves to be in the league of top actresses. Ki and Ka was a meaty opportunity to display her acting prowess and she makes the most of it.
Kudos to Arjun for being brave enough to experiment with Kabir’s character. I cannot think of many mainstream actors who would be willing to play a part like this and Arjun has done well to accept the challenge. He is able in most parts in a role that arguably does not have much of a reference point to follow. There is also a heart-warming cameo in the film by Amitabh Bachchan and wife, Jaya.
The director, R Balki has always tried new and novel concepts – whether it is Cheeni Kum or Paa or Shamitabh. The experiments might not have always worked but they get conversations going – and that is important for any modern day filmmaker. This is another attempt to handle an interesting concept and put across a point, even if the film sometimes suffers from this burden
It is because of the unique idea, the light-hearted moments and the acting (particularly Kareena’s) that we give this feel-good film 3 stars – you will definitely not be worse off for watching it this weekend!Read more
By Ayesha Babar
‘It’s a family film’ is probably the second most abused phrase in Bollywood after the ‘we are just friends’ line. It is always with some scepticism, then, that I go watch a film for which the word ‘family’ has been thrown around during the promotions so much. But Shakun Batra and team bowled me and scepticism over within the first thirty minutes of the film!
The Kapoors are just like your regular family. There is Daadu (Rishi Kapoor) who is the light-hearted head of the family, the Mom and Dad (Ratna Pathak Shah and Rajat Kapoor), the perfect elder son, Rahul (Fawad Khan) and the younger son Arjun (Sidharth Malhotra)who is struggling to come out of the shadow of the older brother. They have all come together after many years. Daadu is unwell and the parents cannot stop bickering about finances with some hints towards infidelity thrown in.
It’s the relationships that we don’t get to choose that most often bring the most joy or sadness into our lives and it is no different with the Kapoor family. The basic plot might not seem novel but it is the script and the direction and the treatment of the story that make Kapoor and Sons such a treat to watch. Shakun Batra’s modern take on the Indian family (or any desi family really), which wanders far away from the Sooraj Barjatiya type will warm the cockles of your heart.
Kapoor and Sons also shows what a difference good writing can make. There is little melodrama and the story flows from one scene to the next. A special mention to the dialogue writer for keeping it real – the dialogues are witty, simple and most importantly honest.
For once the characters are so beautifully etched and layered – as Fawad says ‘ yahan koi bhi doodh ka dhula naheen hai’ (no one is without fault). In fact, it is these flaws that make the characters so easily likeable. When they are in pain, you cry for them. When they are happy, you smile and laugh.
Watching the Kapoors on screen makes you feel that they are a part of your family. The scenes could very well and probably have been situations that you have lived through. As Sid’s character tells Alia – ‘my family doesn’t behave like this, well, correction, my family doesn’t behave like this in public’.
The casting of the film works tremendously well in its favour. Rishi, Ratna, Rajat and Fawad all excel in their roles. If I had to choose my favourite bits they would have to be the interaction between Ratna and Fawad. The actors bring so much love and pain to the relationship of mother and son that you cannot help but feel the realness of the situation. Sidharth and Alia’s breezy chemistry will make you smile – It is those unfinished sentences and the half smiles that make for some of my favourite bits in the second half.
This one holds up to the promise of an entertaining film for the whole family. The Kapoors will leave you with smile on your face that will last a while. Shakun and Karan Johar prove that is it still ‘All about loving our family – but this time with all their flaws!’Read more