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Filmography and Fashion: The Life of Actress Sadhana Shivdasani

Remembering the famed actress from 70s Bollywood, Sadhana Shivdasani who impressed thousands with her charming beauty and popular films.

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Sadhana Shivdasani

The trend-setter of her day and age, Sadhana Shivdasani graced a number of films with her great performances from the time she entered Hindi cinema in the 60s. The top superstar of Bollywood, there was a time when she was the highest-paid actress in the country. Even though she retired quite early from acting, her career in the film industry spanned over 30 films, working alongside some of the greatest actors and directors. 

Born in Karachi on 2 September 1941, Sadhana dreamt of being an actress from early on in her childhood. Around the time she was seven years old, post-partition the family moved to Bombay. Named after her father’s favorite actor-dancer, Sadhana Bose, her aspirations to be an actor were encouraged by him too. In 1955 she played a small role in a song of Raj Kapoor’s “Shree 420” as a child artiste. It was during the promotion of the movie that she was spotted by producer Sashadhar Mukherjee, and soon joined his acting school. 

Before her major debut under Mukherjee, she had acted in India’s first Sindhi film called ‘Abaana’ in 1958. It was in 1960 that she debuted in the musical drama ‘Love in Shimla’. The film was a box office hit and was directed by R.K. Nayyar with whom her love affair too had blossomed on the set. She married him early in 1966 and their relationship lasted for thirty years until Nayyar’s death in 1995. 

‘Love in Shimla’, her first film, was fittingly the actress’ breakthrough film in the entirety of her career. Carrying the fringe haircut- inspired by the iconic Audrey Hepburn- Sadhana came to be known as ‘fringe girl’, setting a trend for the hairstyle that became popular after her name. Later, her body-hugging churidar-kurtas from Yash Chopra’s 1965 ‘Waqt’ came to leave a lasting impression on Bollywood fashion. 

Credits: YouTube (SeplFilmiDhamaka)

Following her first film, she went on to deliver many other hits like “Ek Musafir, Ek Hasina”, “Asli Naqli”, “Mere Mehboob”, “Woh Kaun Thi”, “Rajkumar”, “Aarzoo”, “Mera Saaya”, “Gaban”, and more. Recognised for playing the roles of mysterious women in the films of Raj Khosla, famously earning the title of ‘Mystery Girl’, Sadhana retired from the industry in 1994. In following up with the sobriquet, she refused to ever be photographed after the said retirement. 

As was (and still is) the norm in Bollywood, the movies offered to female actresses begin to diminish as they begin to age. In the case of Sadhana, it was also fuelled by some continuing health problems. She started to slowly ease out of the industry and its filmy spotlight after her 1974 film, “Geeta Mera Naam”, through which she had also made her directorial debut. 

At 74, she passed away in her Mumbai home in the early hours of the day on December 25, 2015. Safe to say, along with her image of a popular fashion icon, she left a lasting impact on the film industry with her acting, intelligence, and grace.

Credits: YouTube (RAJAN ADVANI)

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Celebrating Rashtrakavi Ramdhari Singh Dinkar’s 113th Birth Anniversary

This 23rd of September let us remember the old greats to define our patriotic spirits

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Ramdhari Singh Dinkar

Change happens in a society almost at the speed of light. Just blink and you miss it. Be it people, values, technology And yes, even poetry. There always seems to be some kind of contention between generations. With each party stubbornly convinced that their way of living is absolutely right. But what triumphs over our differences is our experiences-our shared history, heritage and feelings.

Today is a day when we pay homage to one of our nation’s greatest poets. And certainly, one who defined the spirit of nationalism for many to come — Ramdhari Singh Dinkar. His longevity is forever etched in public memory as we now remember him as a ‘rashtrakavi’(national poet). At a time in the world where we seem to be standing at the crucible of moral, environmental and political crisis; it’s worth revisiting a young man who got inspired to contribute to one of the greatest freedom movements of all time.

रात यों कहने लगा मुझसे गगन का चाँद, 

आदमी भी क्या अनोखा जीव होता है! 

उलझनें अपनी बनाकर आप ही फँसता, 

और फिर बेचैन हो जगता, न सोता है। 

रामधारी सिंह दिनकरी

Early Life

Ramdhari Singh Dinkar was born to Babu Ravi Singh and Manroop Devi in the Simaria district of Begusarai. He was a studious and noticeable student who from a very young age was exposed to the unfairness of living a life in economic discomfort. And as a student and connoisseur of poetry, he was greatly influenced by poets of all languages like English, Bengali, Hindi and Sanskrit. He was so passionate about poetry that he would translate Tagore, Milton, Igbal and Keats.

Adolescence is extremely absorbent, by the time Dinkar reached adolescence, the Indian Freedom struggle had gained formidable momentum. It was the nationwide protests against the Simon Commission which ignited his poet’s fuel and prompted him to pick up the pen. Inspired by the peasant satyagraha led by Sardar Patel, Dinkar wrote 10 poems which were published together as ‘Vijay Sandesh’ (Message of Victory).

दो में से क्या तुम्हे चाहिए कलम या कि तलवार

मन में ऊँचे भाव कि तन में शक्ति विजय अपार |

रामधारी सिंह दिनकरी

Poetry and Politics

Dinkar first saw Mahatma Gandhi in 1920 the same year in which he founded a library named Manoranjan Library. Although he deeply resonated with Gandhian philosophies of non-violence, he called himself a ‘bad Gandhian. Years of poverty and witnessing brutality had ignited something within him. Even in his works, he would always rally the people to not let the oppressors go unscathed and unaffected. By all means, Rashtrkavi Dinkar was a poet of the people.

He served our country in a parliamentary capacity as well. After doing two terms in Rajya Sabha, he was appointed the National Hindi advisor. One of the epochs of his poetic prowess is the work ‘Sanskriti ke Chaar Adhyay’ explores the four big cultural revolutions that India has seen. And through this magnum opus, he only goes on to show how India is an integrated and diverse melting point for all cultural identities. His poems on the tragic son of Kunti, Karn from the Mahabharat clearly shows his disdain for the caste system and the discrimination that came along with it.

As one can see, these are values that are adopted even today, even seventy-four years post-independence. Perhaps this was the quality that earned Ramdhari Singh Dinkar the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1959. As well as the Padma Bhushan in the same year. In 1974, the Rashtra Kavi passed away at the age of 65 leaving an indelible legacy for all of us.

सच है, विपत्ति जब आती है, कायर को ही दहलाती है,

शूरमा नहीं विचलित होते, क्षण एक नहीं धीरज खोते,

विघ्नों को गले लगाते हैं, काँटों में राह बनाते हैं।

रामधारी सिंह दिनकरी
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Celebrating the face of Carnatic Music for over 70 years: M.S Subbulakshmi

On her 105th birthday, take the time to glimpse into the life of M. S. Subbulakshmi, the leading face for Carnatic traditions in South India for a number of decades.

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MS Shubhalakshmi

M. S. Subbulakshmi, affectionately called the ‘Nightingale of Carnatic Music’, is one of India’s most revered and admired vocalists. Born in Madurai, on 16th September, 1916, she went down in history as the first musician ever to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour. Today marks her 105th birthday. 

Growing up, Subbulakshmi was first introduced to the world of music by her grandmother and mother. It wasn’t until much later that she realized that, in music, lay her true calling. At the age of eleven, she would go on to have her first public performance, alongside Mysore Chowdiah, on the violin, and Dakshinamurthy Pillai, on the mridangam, at the Rockfort temple in Tiruchirapalli. Her breakthrough performance, however, came two years later when she would perform at the Madras Music Academy, in 1929. Just thirteen then, Subbulakshmi, with that single performance, was recognized for her talent, garnering an immense amount of praise and recognition. 

Regarded, even by the most demanding scholars, as ‘the leading exponent of classical and semi-classical songs in the carnatic tradition of South India’, Subbulakshmi’s contribution to Carnatic music extends far beyond her own lifetime. Indeed, owing to her wonderful performances, M. S. Subbulakshmi had listeners not only in India but from all over the world.

Through the 60s, Subbulakshmi was invited to perform at multiple celebrated musical concerts, including the Edinburgh International Festival, in Scotland, as well as at Carnegie Hall in New York. She would later cap off her performance at Carnegie Hall, New York, by performing at the one in London.

Respected and adored by the likes of  the late Sri. Ravi Shankar, Mahatma Gandhi, Sadanand Menon and Lata Mangeshkar, M. S. Subbulakshmi was a legendary figure even amongst all the greats in history. Gandhi, according to the late Sri. Ravi Shankar, famously said that he would rather hear Subbulakshmi recite lines than hear someone sing it.. 

It wasn’t, however, just in music that Subbulakshmi excelled at. In fact, she also featured in a handful of Tamil films. Subbulakshmi’s debut, as an actress, came with the film ‘Sevasadanam’ in 1983. Her film ‘Meera’, in 1945, where she played the titular character, was a massive success at the time. Owing to its success at the time, ‘Meera’ would later be remade in Hindi. . 

In addition to being the first musician to receive the Bharat Ratna, Subbulakshmi was also the first Indian musician to be awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award, often considered Asia’s Nobel Prize. Known for her humanitarian and charitable work and contributions, Subbulakshmi would, often, donate the entire prize pools, for competitions and other performances, to wellness programmes and schemes.

It was, perhaps, a broken heart that brought an end to her musical career. When she was younger, Subbulakshmi ran away from her mother’s house, wanting to escape an arranged marital proposition. Eventually, in 1936, she would meet Kalki Sadasivam. Sadasivam was known to have been encouraging and supportive of Subbulakshmi during that period of time. The two would end up being married in 1940. When her husband finally passed away in 1997, Subbulakshmi stopped all public performances. 

M. S. Subbulakshmi passed away on 11th of December, 2004. It is important, today, that we take the time to reflect on her many contributions and legacy, both in and outside the world of music.

Credits: YouTube (M. S. Subbalakshmi – Topic)
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Of Courage, Valor And Selflessness: Vikram Batra

On the anniversary of his birth, let us take the time to reflect on the bravery and the selfless acts
of Vikram Batra.

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Vikram Batra

There has been a film made about him just recently. And while the film itself is an admirable adaptation of his life and the principles he lived by, it is crucial that we remember Vikram Batra in a more solemn manner. Awarded the Param Vir Chakra for his acts of valor during the Kargil War, Vikram Batra gave his life so that the men in his company could live. That singular act of selflessness and courage at the age of twenty-four is something that is worthy of true respect and reverence.

Born on 9th September 1974, in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, Batra was the third child of Girdhari Lal Batra, a school principal, and Kamal Kanta Batra, a school teacher. Before going on to attend the DAV Public School, in Palampur, Batra would receive his primary education from his mother. Batra’s childhood, by all accounts, was one of complete engagement, with him not only excelling academically but also representing his school in several national-level sports competitions. Batra was especially skilled at table tennis, with him and his twin brother, Vishal, representing their school in that particular sport at the All India KVS Nationals.

Having finished his Bachelor’s degree, from the DAV College, Chandigarh, Batra would go on to pursue a Master’s degree in English Literature from Punjab University, Chandigarh, while simultaneously preparing for the Combined Defence Services (CDS) examinations. During that time, Batra would actually attend classes, at his university, in the evenings and spend his mornings working part-time as a branch manager at a local travelling agency. The sole reason he did that was to help his family avoid additional financial pressures. In 1996, having passed his CDS examination and selected, Batra left university to join the Indian Military Academy.

Beginning his tenure at the Indian Military Academy in June of 1996, Batra would undergo a nineteen month training course before being assigned to the 13th Battalion of Jammu And Kashmir Rifles (13 JAK Rifles), being commissioned as a lieutenant in the Indian Army. Before his battalion’s eventual deployment to Dras, due to the outbreak of the Kargil War, Batra would serve at Sopore in the Baramulla district of Jammu And Kashmir. During his time there, he would just narrowly escape death when his platoon came into conflict with a group of militants.

Vikram Batra’s time in the Kargil War can majorly be traced through two incredibly important skirmishes, that of the capture of Point 5140, a strategically important mountain peak in the Dras Sector, and the capture of Point 4875, another strategically important peak in the Mushkoh Valley.

With the 13 JAK Rifles assigned under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Yogesh Kumar Joshi, a strategic plan to capture Point 5140 came into being. Joshi would attack Point 5140 with the help of Bravo Company, under the command of Lieutenant Sanjeev Singh Jamwal, and Delta Company, under the command of Lieutenant Batra. On June 20th, 1999, just after midnight, the two companies began climbing the mountain peak. It wasn’t, however, till late into the day, that the two companies had consolidated their positions and claimed their respective objectives. Batra would go on to be crucial in the capture of Point 5140, even being able to recover a heavy anti-aircraft gun from the Pakistani forces positioned there. Famously, Batra’s call sign, signalling the success of his company in achieving their directed goal, was ‘Dil Mange More’.

Shortly after the capture of Point 5140, the 13 JAK Rifles were directed to move from Dras to Ghumri to rest and recoup, before being deployed to Mushkoh Valley on the 30th of June, 1999.

Upon their arrival, the 13 JAK Rifles were placed under the command of 79 Mountain Brigade, tasked with the capture of Point 4875. The peak dominated the National Highway 1 route from Dras to Matayan and, consequently, gave the opposing army an incredible observational advantage of approximately thirty to forty kilometres of the national highway. It became critical, then, for the Indian Army to claim this peak. And they did just that.

The victory, however, was short-lived. An adjacent peak to Point 4875, codenamed ‘Area Flat Top’, had been captured on July 5th, 1999, by the Indian Army. However, an immediate counterattack by the Pakistani Army followed. When the commanding captain, NA Nagappa, was injured in the defense of ‘Area Flat Top’, the Pakistani Army seized the opportunity to further their advance. The Indian platoon positioned at ‘Area Flat Top’ needed reinforcements immediately so that they could adequately hold the position. It was then that Batra, despite being sick and in recovery from his injuries from the battle of Point 5140, volunteered to lead a force to provide reinforcements. Twenty-five men from Batra’s Company, moved by his courage, volunteered to go with him, despite no direct orders being given.

With the situation dire, Batra and his Delta Company began to make the climb. It wasn’t until much later that they became aware of enemy presence on a narrow ledge, running north of Point Batra, alongside his men, was instrumental in destroying the positions that the Pakistani Army held along that ledge. However, they were pinned down due to heavy machine-gun fire at a later junction.

Realizing there was no other way around, Batra personally charged into the fray, managing to make the enemy retreat from their position. However, he sustained numerous injuries in the process. Still undeterred, Batra noticed one of his men had been injured in the firefight that had just ensued. It was then that he decided to help evacuate the injured soldier, along with the help of Subedar R. Singh. Batra, however, was adamant in shielding the injured soldier and Singh from enemy gunfire, placing himself in the direct line of fire. It was during that attempt, to save
the lives of his men, that Batra was shot in the chest by an enemy sniper before a splinter, from an RPG, hit him in the head. Vikram Batra, finally, succumbed to his injuries.

Posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra, Vikram Batra served as a symbolic representation of the idea of selflessness and the pursuit of something greater than one’s own self.

Credits: YouTube (TEDx Talks)
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No Small Steps: India At The Tokyo Paralympics

With the Tokyo Paralympics coming to a close, take a look at the wonderful performances put in by the athletes of our country.

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tokoyo paralympics

India has had an eventful streak in the Tokyo Paralympics, to say the least. With a long list of medals and landmark wins, this year turned out to be quite favourable for many of India’s athletes. From golds to quite literally, going down in history for claiming medals for India in specific categories, there is no dearth of grit and determination displayed by the athletes, everything that calls for immense appreciation and admiration that these incredibly talented athletes deserve.

August 29

On August 29th, Bhavina Patel made history by being the first Indian to bag a medal in Table Tennis in the Paralympics. Patel lost out to Zhou Ying, from China, in the finals of the Women’s Singles Class 4 category.

In the Men’s T46/47 High Jump, Nishad Kumar went on to win the silver medal, with a 2.06m jump. This puts him on an equal footing with his own previous Asian record. Kumar, additionally, shared the silver medal with USA’s Dallas Wise, who made a jump of the exact distance. Roderick Townsend bagged gold, surpassing his former world record, with a jump of 2.15m.

Ram Pal Chahar, in the same event, set a new personal best, coming in 5th. 

August 30

Devendra Jhajharia made his mark in the history books after winning the silver medal in the Men’s Javelin Throw F46, with a personal best effort of 64.35m. This is Jhajharia third medal in the Paralympics, making him just the second Indian to have achieved that feat. In the same event, Sundar Singh Gurjar was awarded the bronze medal. Gurjar finished with a seasonal best throw of 64.01m. Ajeet Singh, in the same event, finished in 8th place.

In the Men’s Javelin Throw F64 , Sumit Antil not only won the gold medal but broke the world record, set previously by himself, thrice. Sandeep Chaudhary, in the same event, finished in fourth place.

Yogesh Kathuniya came in second, winning the silver medal in the Men’s F56 Discus Throw, with a throw of 44.38m.

Meanwhile, Avani Lekhara, in her debut at the Paralympics, became the first Indian woman to win a gold medal at the Paralympics when she went on to win the Women’s 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1 event. Lekhara’s score in the finals was the same as the current world record. Over on the men’s side, Swaroop M. Unhalkar just barely missed out on a medal, placing fourth in the Men’s 10m Air Rifle Standing SH1 event with a score of 203.9.

August 31

Singhraj Adhana won the bronze medal in the Men’s 10m Air Pistol SH1 event, while Manish Narwal finished seventh in the finals of the same. 

In the Men’s High Jump T63 event, Mariyappan Thangavelu came in second, winning the silver medal, clearing a distance of 1.86 metres. Sharad Kumar, in the same, won the bronze medal, with a jump of 1.83 metres. Varun Singh Bhati  finished seventh in the same event.

September 3

Praveen Kumar came in second at the Men’s High Jump T64 event, winning the silver medal, with a jump measuring a distance of 2.07 metres. 

Avani Lekhara won the bronze in the Women’s 50m Rifle 3 positions SH1, adding it to her previous gold medal. Deepak Saini, however, finished 18th in the qualification round of the Men’s 50m Rifle 3 positions SH1 event, missing out on advancing to the finals. 

In the Men’s Recurve event, Harvinder Singh became the first-ever Indian archer to win a medal at the Paralympics, bagging the bronze medal by beating out South Korea’s Su Min Kim. 

September 4

Manish Narwal and Singhraj Adhana won the gold and silver medals, respectively, in the Mixed 50m Pistol SH1 event. 

Four-time world champion, Pramod Bhagat, went down in history as the first Indian to win gold in Badminton at the Paralympics. Bhagat had been dominating his matches from the very beginning, beating out Manoj Sarkar in the opening match before going on to win his second Group A match, in the Men’s Singles SL3 category, against Ukraine’s Oleksandr Chyrkov.

Bhagat faced off against Daniel Bethell, of Great Britain, in the final round of the Men’s SL3 category, before bagging the gold medal.

With new records made and many old broken, Indian athletes have marked the Paralympics with remarkable feats in Tokyo this year.

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The Men And Women Of Tomorrow: National Sports Day

On this National Sports Day, let’s take a look at the distance we have covered so far and the long
journey that lies ahead.

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National Sports Day

The idea of ‘greatness’ inspires a lot of us. Not just being great, but to be ‘one of the greats’. Yes, that’s a reference to 2014’s ‘Whiplash’. ‘Whiplash’ has, in it, a tremendous amount of exploration into what truly turns people into artists and creators. The reason why I mention this is because this sentiment holds a special kind of relevance today. On this National Sports Day, it is important that we, while acknowledging the distance we have covered, recognize the journey ahead. India is home to over a billion people, yet, we, as a people, often, fail to truly recognize some of the greats living among us. We, regrettably, let them fade into time, their incredible achievements being reduced to nothing but a memory to them alone. 

When it was decided that Dhyan Chand’s birth anniversary would be celebrated as the National Sports Day in India, do you suppose that the people involved made a collective decision to support the growth and development of athletes and players in our country? The answer to that question is critical considering the sacrifices that our athletes and players put into their fields. Cricket, of course, is regarded as something of a national obsession in India. However, how many of us really recognize the equally talented and focused individuals that persevere through a sea of blood, sweat, and tears to be able to achieve the things that they want to? How many of us, for instance, recognize the name ‘Devendra Jhajharia’?

Neeraj Chopra just recently made headlines for being the first track and field athlete to bring in a gold medal for India at the Olympics. Bajrang Punia just bagged the bronze medal in the Men’s Freestyle 65 kg wrestling category. You and I cannot begin to imagine the scale or the scope of the training and sacrifices they have had to make to achieve what they have this year. The fallacy, however, lies in not recognizing others who have achieved similar feats. Take Devendra Jhajharia, for example. Jhajharia was the first Indian Paralympics player to win two gold medals at the Paralympics, his first medal being awarded in the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens and his second being in the 2016 Summer Paralympic in Rio de Janeiro. The irony lies in the fact that Devendra Jhajharia won his medals in a similar category as Chopra did. The javelin throw. 

This is not to take anything away from Chopra. This is to make you, the reader, realise that there is a world of possibility that is going unexplored in our country. As if to prove this point, consider Neeraj Chopra’s recent statement in a Time of India interview. Chopra asserts that we, as a country, cannot be satisfied with just one gold medal. We have to, explicitly, think beyond that.

Think of the hierarchies that inform the way in which sports and sportspeople receive recognition in India. This bias of popularity, fuelled somewhat by media coverage, is why you had more cheering mouths for India’s performance at the Olympics last month, while few are following the Paralympics 2020, which happened to begin this week on August 24th. India’s contingent in Tokyo, with 54 athletes, is participating in nine sports. And while the medal tally is yet to open, their performances have been incredibly impressive. Bhavina Patel, in a historic stroke, has crossed through the quarter and semifinals to compete with world No. 1 Zhou Ying on Sunday for the gold in table tennis. Rakesh Kumar finished third in the ranking round of Men’s compound archery, entering the pre-quarterfinals. While Sakina Khatun fared at an admirable 5th in the women’s 50kg powerlifting final. 

Consider then, for a moment, the idea of inclusion. Where does that lead us when we talk about athletes and sports in this country? There needs to be an examination of what true support and growth could mean for every athlete and sportsperson in India. State-backed programs, though existent, need to expand into scouting, recruiting, and training potential athletes and players on a larger scale. There is the need for an established regimen and structured training protocol, with all the financial provisions necessary. Perhaps, then, individuals, such as Saikhom Mirabai Chanu, wouldn’t have to rely on being given lifts, by supportive local truck drivers, to her training facility. Chanu, a Padma Shri awardee, was fortunate, in a manner of speaking, to have her dedication and training pay off. She deservedly received a hero’s welcome when she returned home. However, just think about what the circumstances would have been like had Chanu not been awarded the silver medal in the Women’s 49 kg category. Would that mean that all her work, until that point, had been for nothing? Would we remember her in the same manner as we do now?

For far too long, we have let the most dedicated and hard-working athletes and sportspersons, in our country, give up on their aspirations. Lack of provisionary guidelines, a dearth of allocated financial resources, and perhaps, most importantly, an absence of support and belief have led to India losing so many of its potential ‘greats’. It won’t be much of a consolation to the people who have lost out on their dreams, however, one would like to think that the emerging dreamers of tomorrow would be grateful to get the support that their predecessors could not.

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