TV anchor FLORENCE HANDIQUE RABHA is thrilled to meet five Bollywood stars. She writes how meeting them inspired her to dream again
I was trying to get on with life after my father expired recently. He had been a great inspiration for me. I was obviously depressed and not interested in anything for a while. I had recently completed a long shooting schedule for a new Assamese TV serial – ‘Ejak Xopun Jen Boroxhun’. (My forays into the world of talk shows and TV serials give me welcome breaks from my daily routine of managing my kindergarten school.) But then there was this charity dinner in aid of UTSAH (Universal Team for Social Action and Help – an NGO for child protection) coming up on April 19 which I had to attend as promised to my good friend Miguel, Chairman of UTSAH.
Bollywood celebrities Farhan Akhtar, Rahul Bose, Shoojit Sircar and Ronnie Lahiri were to be in town for this charity. As a part-timer in the media and film industry, I was faintly hoping to meet them from close quarters. So I was thrilled when Dipannita asked me to interview these celebrities for her TV channel – DY365. I felt as if my father had made my little wish come true with his blessings from heaven. My papa wanted me to smile and move on… Bingo!
On the morning of April 20, I was informed by the organisers of Brahmaputra Valley Film Festival – 2014 that the guests had agreed for their interviews at the Pragjyoti ITA Auditorium, Guwahati. With hardly any time, I did a quick research on these stars. I informed my TV channel and asked my one-man camera crew, Gautam, to reach on time. I finished my makeup, wore a ‘camera-friendly’ maroon coloured top over black trousers. I felt smart and rushed to the venue.
I was slightly nervous when I arrived. Rahul Bose arrived promptly at 1.05 pm. Our set was ready so we immediately started after a brief introduction. Gosh, the guy spoke so well. I could easily realize that Rahul was an intelligent and a ‘thinking’ actor. He was so intense and involved throughout that I couldn’t pause to direct the camera for changes in angles and frames. I was curious to know about his journey from rugby to advertising to acting. He spoke candidly about his love for acting from the age of six, his sports and career in advertising while continuing with theatre as a hobby. His first offer in films came through English August. After its release he left his job and took to acting full time. He acted in A Mouthful of Sky (India’s first English TV serial) and hosted TV shows such as Style and Great Escape (on BBC) to earn his living. Rahul agreed that his stint on television was great due to the wide ‘visibility’ that it offered to him as a new comer. I was quite taken aback at his frankness when he described A Mouthful of Sky as “below standard” but he admitted learning a lot during his work in it. He refused TV serials after that but continued with art films to fuel his passion – gaining recognition for his role in Aparna Sen’s Mr. and Mrs. Iyer. He also tried direction with Everybody Says I’m Fine. His mainstream Bollywood films like Jhankaar Beats, Chameli (opposite Kareena Kapoor) and the romcom Pyar Ke Side Effects (with Mallika Sherawat) got noticed too.
The interview had to end after twenty minutes as Rahul was called on stage. I observed Rahul going to the washroom to refresh himself before the interview and also before his presence on stage. I felt amused as I have the same habit…!
By now, I had regained confidence and was on familiar territory – all set to interview Shoojit Sircar and Ronnie Lahiri (director-producer duo of Vicky Donor and Madras Cafe). Shoojit and Ronnie were cool and down to earth.
Shoojit spoke fondly about his first film Yahaan which was shot in Kashmir. He had been inspired by a newspaper article on a love affair between a local girl and an army officer when militancy was at its peak. Yahaan showed how difficult it was for a girl from a conservative background to fall in love with a soldier, who equally had to prove his loyalty before his seniors. Shoojit shared his concern for the problems faced by innocent citizens during insurgency in Kashmir. We also picked his hit film Vicky Donor which captured the issue of stress-induced male infertility with such stylish humour and sensitivity. Ronnie spoke about his NE connection through his upbringing in Nagaland. When asked about the critically acclaimed Madras Cafe, Ronnie explained that contrary to the notion that it was politically motivated, it was just a film on the vision of Rajiv Gandhi who was killed while following his dream. While both are keen to work in the Northeast with local artists, their ultimate aim is to make meaningful films in Bollywood.
The next day, I was on edge. I was very eager to interview the great Anurag Kashyap, of Dev D and Gangs of Wasseypur series fame but there was no confirmation. So imagine my glee when I was finally informed of his consent. We rushed!
I greeted a smiling Anurag Kashyap. He spoke effortlessly about his passion for films, his early struggles in Mumbai in 1993 (with dreams and Rs 5000) and ultimately, success in Bollywood – which has now granted him the freedom to express his views. He also remembered to mention that he loved the regional cuisine of the Northeast, especially bamboo shoot…
Local icon Adil Hussain was a surprise at the BVFF and I was delighted to meet him. I just love his baritone voice and the way he speaks. We touched a familiar chord while chatting about work, family and relationships. He talked about his interest in theatre, his performances in English Vinglish (with Sridevi), Agent Vinod (with Kareena), Life of Pi (directed by Ang Lee), Assamese film Raag and Kaanchi.
We went on to discuss his diet, taste in clothes and style. Adil avoids rice but enjoys salads. He is not fond of branded clothes and likes to dress up casually. He was at his charismatic and charming best and my day was made! In fact we kept chatting even after the camera was switched off.
I thanked God for fulfilling my desire. The interviews were telecast after the elections and were well-appreciated. I am hopeful of meeting more interesting people and enjoying more such work in future.
Florence Handique Rabha is a children’s educationist and electronic media professional with a gamut of experience on TV – anchoring English news, talk-shows, acting and producing serial programmes, radio-jockeying and also writing. She draws from her experience of having grown up and lived in various parts of India. She is keen about issues pertaining to children, women and social causes. Presently, she runs her kindergarten school – ‘Scholars Home Public School’ at Maligaon, Guwahati (Assam) for students from humble backgrounds providing them with affordable English medium education.