Sung by Uma Pocha, who died last week, the tune travelled to Sri Lanka and beyond, serving as a reminder that it’s impossible to predict how sounds travel.
Perhaps because it’s invariably performed alongside tunes like Galyan Sakli Sonyachi and Sonyachi Kavla, I’d always thought of Bombay Meri Haias a traditional Bombay Catholic tune. So I was more than a little intrigued when, deep into the graveyard shift at The Times of India in 1991, my Parsi colleague Roxanne Kavarana told me that not only did she know the man who had composed the tune, she was actually related to him. Over the next few years, I’d come to learn a little more about how Mina Kava came to compose the first-ever Indo-pop hit.
This photo was taken in 1958, when Mina Kava – peering out from behind the drums – was still a few years away from his burst of success (or at least success as defined by the standards of the tiny world of Indian dance music). It was shot at the Bandra Gymkhana when his band, the Music Makers, was staffed with best-known performers of the Bombay jazz world: pianist Toni Pinto, trumpet player Chic Chocolate and saxophonist Norman Mobsby. If you look closely, you’ll see that the photograph was signed at the bottom by two visiting American musicians: Dave Brubeck and Joe Morello. (Not pictured here are six men who were vital to the smooth functioning of the Music Makers and indeed, most Bombay dance bands of the time – well-muscled coolies. “Sure, we had to transport the piano from venue to venue,” Kava explained.)
The era of technology and social media brought us the possibility to have an open dialog with those whom we admire most. Now, we can follow our favorite people on Instagram, reply to them on Twitter and like them on Facebook. In that sense, we seem to be closer than ever to them being aware of what they do and say about a variety of subjects that touch us all. This kind of exposure has also affected the consciousness of those who want to use the global platform to promote their ideas on how to make our world a better place. American actor, producer, and activist Behzad Dabu is no exception. He is in love with his acting career, which is reflected in his constant expansion as a professional and a person. Behzad has a unique perspective on how acting can contribute to the general wellbeing and anything that has a positive intention is always a reason to celebrate.
If we go by their numbers, Parsis do not amount to more than a minuscule minority in the country. Their total population in India was around 61,000 according to the 2011 census. Unfortunately, the population of Parsis has been steadily decreasing and demographers say that by 2030, they may even cease to be a minority and may become a vanishing tribe.
There are several reasons behind it — the chief one being that Parsis are an insular community when it comes to matrimony. They marry within their own community and are quite strict about it. If anyone breaks this rule and marries outside the community, he or she may cease to be called a Parsi.
But barriers of caste and creed are now breaking down and the young generation of Parsis today do not always go by the strait-jacketed rules of their community. So, inter-religious marriages between Parsis and other communities now take place more often than ever before.
Parsis, unlike other communities of India, are not as procreative. “Be responsible — don’t use a condom tonight,” was a light-hearted advertisement inserted by the Central government in newspapers to encourage Parsis to be more procreative.
Aruna Irani with Amitabh Bachchan in Bombay to Goa.
Being Zoroastrians who faced Islamic persecution when Islam reached Persia, a large number of Parsis emigrated from Persia to India more than a thousand years ago and settled mostly in Sindh, Gujarat, and Maharashtra.
But in matters matrimonial, the community was orthodox right from the start which has not changed much even today. In fact Parsis are afraid of losing their identity by inter-marrying with people belonging to other religions in India. So, marrying within the Parsi community is the rule and marrying outside is an exception.
However, the importance of the Indian Parsi community lies more in what it has achieved in various walks of life than in its insignificant numerical strength.
Affluent, enterprising, and highly intelligent, Parsis have done remarkably well in the field of science and industry. Homi J Bhabha, Homi N Sethna, JRD Tata, and Jamshedji Tata are distinguished Parsi names. Godrej, Cowasjee, and Wadia are other well-known Parsi families in India owning massive business empires.
The Parsi contribution to Hindi cinema is also of considerable value. Hindi cinema in its initial years was greatly influenced by Parsi theatre, beginning from India’s first silent movie Raja Harishchandra (1913), which was a filmed version of a stage play of the same name, to the tales of Shirin Farhad, Leila Majnu and other such legendary lovers, the influence of Parsi theatre was clearly visible in the acting style. In fact, some actors of Parsi theatre switched to films when sound recording techniques enabled filmmakers to produce talkies (speaking films).
It was Ardeshir Irani, a Parsi, who created a sensation in 1931 by making India’s first talkie titled Alam Aara. The original film has been lost now, but Ardeshir Irani’s name shall remain immortal in the history of Indian cinema.
One of the earliest actors to come from Parsi theatre to the film industry was Sohrab Modi who not only acted in films but also produced and directed them. His first film Khoon Ka Khoon (1935) was based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
In this film, for the role of Ophelia, Sohrab Modi introduced Naseem Banu, mother of actress Saira Banu. His next film was Said-e-Havas (1936), also based on Shakespeare’s play King John.
In 1936, Sohrab Modi built his own studio called Minerva Movietone. He produced, directed, and acted in many memorable films based on fictionalised history. His notable films were Pukar (1939), Sikandar (1941), Prithvi Vallab (1943), Sheesh Mahal (1950), Jhansi Ki Rani (1953), Mirza Ghalib (1954), Kundan (1955), and Raj Hathh (1956).
In the 1930s, a Parsi named JBH Wadia, a post graduate in English literature with a degree in Law, entered the film industry. JBH Wadia had initially started his life as a lawyer, but he was soon won over by the world of movies and he worked hard to learn the craft of filmmaking.
He also had a flair for scripting film stories and he was joined by his younger brother Homi Wadia who together, set up their film production unit called Wadia Movietone on 13 April 1933.
Since talkies had now caught the fancy of movie-goers, Wadia brothers mastered the technique and started making action movies which in those days were known as “stunt films”.
At this time the Wadia brothers came across a tall and well-built Australian girl named Mary Evans, a trained circus artist who could perform breathtaking stunts. The brothers saw in her the future heroine of their stunt films and they gave her a new identity, renaming her Nadia — the fearless Nadia.
Nadia was cast as the dare-devil heroine in a number of Wadia Movietone films. Her outlandish looks, skimpy dresses, and speech in an anglicised version of Hindi fascinated the cine-goers. Her outstanding films were Hunterwali, Diamond Queen, Miss Frontier Mail, and many others.
The hero of most of her films was an Englishman named John Cawas who had learnt to speak Hindi and had thus made India his home. These movies made Wadia brothers the most successful filmmakers of their time.
Aspi Irani, a filmmaker of Parsi origin produced and directed many films in the 1950s and 60s. Among his well-known films, Oomar Qaid, Shirin Farhad, Smuggler, and Garam Masala deserve a mention. Faredoon A Irani was a star cinematographer of the film industry in the 1940s and 1950s reputed for his excellent lens skills.
To him goes the credit of cinematographing a large number of films produced and directed by Mehboob Khan. A few famous Mehboob Khan films for which Faredoon A Irani wielded the camera are Anmol Ghadi, Andaz, Aan, Amar and Mother India.
Two Parsi sisters joined the film industry as child artists in the 1950s. The elder sister Daisy Irani was the first Parsi child star whose performance in films simply bowled over viewers.
She was seen in numerous films of the 1950s as a child star, among which Ek Hi Rasta (1956) and Naya Daur (1957) are well known. Soon she was followed by her younger sister Honey Irani who too took to films as naturally as a duck takes to water.
Among Parsi actresses who have earned name and fame, Aruna Irani has had quite a distinguished career in Bollywood. She started her acting career as a child star with the Dilip Kumar-Vyjayanthimala starrer Ganga Jamuna (1961). In due course Aruna Irani graduated to adult roles in films.
In Bombay to Goa (1972), she was cast as the heroine opposite Amitabh Bachchan. As a versatile actress, having attempted both positive and negative roles with equal ease, Aruna Irani has acted in hundreds of films and TV serials.
Among the present day film stars of Parsi origin, Boman Irani is well known for his versatility, gaining fame with Munna Bhai MBBS and later, 3 Idiots.
In the role of a principal of a medical college being riled by a roughneck student from the streets of Mumbai, Boman Irani gave an outstanding performance in Munna Bhai and has since acted in numerous films and won accolades for his acting.
Choreographer Farah Khan and her brother Sajid Khan are also partly Parsi- their mother was a Parsi and their father a Muslim. Similarly, actor-director Farhan Akhtar is the son of Honey Irani and lyricist Javed Akhtar.
John Abraham is also of mixed parentage with his mother being a Parsi. Homi Adajania, a Bollywood director known for films like Being Cyrus, Cocktail and Finding Fanny is also of Parsi heritage.
Mehr Jasia former Miss India, Nauheed Cyrusi, a model and Bollywood actress, and Shaimak Davar, a noted choreographer are other noteworthy community members.
All in all, Parsis are creative people who have left their mark in all walks of life, including cinema.
Modern-day Bollywood divas Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone have established themselves as an international stars and, time and again, earned the appreciation for it too. However, that stardom is an extension of what they enjoyed in Bollywood. Long before they made their forway into Hollywood, there were many other Indian actresses who tried their hands at acting in international films. Some gave memorable performances, while a few others made us question our fandom. In focus, today, is a pioneering woman, Persis Khambatta, who belongs to the former set of ladies who gave us performances to cherish.
Persis was a former Miss India and model, who became an international sensation in 1979. She created history by appearing in the popular sci-fi film Star Trek: The Motion Picture as Lieutenant Ilia. For her character, Persis went bald in real life – a big deal for women in the 1970s. And, let’s not forget, she was also the first Indian to present an award at the Academy Awards.
Born in a middle-class Parsi family in 1948 in Mumbai – then Bombay – Persis first came into the limelight at the age of 13, through her appearance in a soap brand commercial. It wasn’t intentional at all. It happened after a well-known photographer from the city took her candid pictures and used it for this campaign. Thereafter, she was offered a number of modelling assignments. The Indian beauty, then, went on be the second winner in the Femina Miss India beauty pageant in 1965. After this, in the mid-60s, Persis became the third Indian to participate in the Miss World pageant in Miami. As per news reports, during this time, she was even offered a Bond film, but the beauty queen turned down the offer as she had promised her mother that she’ll return home. Now, that was the first version of the story. A few other news reports say Persis wanted to explore the Hindi film industry and hence, she returned.
Around the late 60s, she debuted in the Hindi film industry with Bambai Raat Ki Bahon Mein in the role of a cabaret dancer. But, soon after, Persis left for London to make a career as she found this industry unprofessional and boring. She went on to become a popular model in Britain and even worked in a bunch of international films thereafter –The Wilby Conspiracy, Conduct Unbecoming, Warrior of the Lost World and Mega Force.
At the age of 29, she bagged the challenging role of Lieutenant Ilia in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, for which she had to shave her head. Her courage and talent paid off and she earned a lot of appreciation for her character. It was after the film’s success that, in 1980, she got the opportunity to present an award at the Oscars and became the first Indian to present an award at the prestigious award ceremony.
Persis passed away in 1998 of cardiac arrest – five years after her last acting appearance, which was on an international TV show titled Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.
“It is my firm belief that good music is one of the most vital ingredients in creating a better world for all of us.” – Zephyr
Sail Away: Zephyr Khambatta
Zephyr Khambatta is a Singaporean singer, rapper, songwriter, record producer, actor, model and host who also plays the drums.
An engineering dropout from the National University of Singapore, it did not take long before Khambatta topped various classes at LASALLE College of the Arts across music and performing art disciplines. A creative force to be reckoned with, Khambatta most recently featured in Eric Khoo’s In The Room (2015), Mediacorp Channel 5’s Tanglin (2016) and launched “More”, his 1st single on 4th December 2015, [ ~ 6000 views on YouTube ]. His 2ndsingle “Sail Away” released 3rd December 2016, met with positive reviews across the Singapore music scene, and is set to be the song for his first official music video in 2017.
After graduation with a BA (Hons) Music and starting as an intern at Prime Focus World in 2013, Khambatta provided input on the final mix sessions for Nikhil Advani’s film D-Day (2013). In 2014, Khambatta composed and produced the music for and featured a rap performance in Ministry of Funny’s song and YouTube video, Snapback, [ > 40,000 views on YouTube ].
In 6 short years in entertainment, his body of work also includes performing on drums with musical theatre and percussion groups in Singapore, modeling, hosting and teaching drums. Khambatta also won 2nd place in the Band Category at the “IGNITE! Music Festival: Clash of the Bands 2012” competition. In addition to that, he was invited to play drums as part of Urban Drum Crew for “China-Singapore In-Concert 2010” which was screened to 100 million viewers.
Zephyr is currently working on new music for 2017 and on the acting front is working with brands and agencies like HBO, Citibank, HP, Mediacorp Channel 5, and YouTube/Facebook channels JUO Productions and Sure Boh? Singapore. He has previously also been profiled on Mediacorp Vasantham’s TV show, Mudhal Payanam, and in the Singapore papers Today, The Straits Times, Berita Harian etc.
Thursday, 22nd February | 7 PM Mazda Hall, Dastur Primary School, Camp
The Gathas are the prayers of Zoroastrianism, the monotheistic religion of Ancient Persia. These poems from philosopher and prophet Zarathustra date from about 3700 years. They are surprisingly modern, expressing the life, doubts and choices of a man. As there are no records of the way they were sung originnally, Franco-Iranian Ariana Vafadari composed every song according to radifs or oriental scales. It results in music that constantly vibrates between its Oriental mystic foundations and their matching Western opera. Ariana Vafadari and her musicians have a common trait, they unremittingly stretch musical boundaries. In perfect continuity with their cultural and musical backgrounds, they were trained by traditional Iranian, Ottoman and Moroccan music, jazz, Western classical music or opera, in their improvisations and the practice of their instruments, they travel freely from one world to the next.
The third edition of Bonjour India 2017-18 is a four-month-long mega voyage across India that will celebrate Indo-French partnership as well as shape the next decade of human exchange between the two countries.
This concert is organised in association with Poona Music Society.
Our brand new book is fresh off the press.
A unique take on a coloring book; it features 26 fun animals including a Uakari, a Viper, and an Iguana. It also has sets of 5 wild animals, 5 aquatic animals, 5 farm animals and 5 baby animals.
Printed on premium paper that is great for crayons but also
holds up well to watercolor!
Find it at our Etsy store for orders outside
The Woman Behind the Golden Globes Wants You to Take Them Seriously
No, the awards are not fixed—and more secrets from H.F.P.A. president Meher Tatna.
On a December day after the agencies and studios had closed for the holidays, one office in Los Angeles was still a whirlwind of activity. Inside a quaint English tudor-style building in West Hollywood, through a lobby decorated with Saltillo tiles and giant portraits of Elizabeth Taylor and Linda Evans,Meher Tatna, the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, was busy preparing for Hollywood’s giddiest night: the Golden Globes.
“It’s like 100 weddings in one,” said Tatna, a Mumbai-born reporter for the Singapore daily The New Paper, who was elected to run the organization of 90 international entertainment journalists in June. “The Globes are like a machine. We have a pre-show with Facebook. A post-show with Twitter. And then we have a Chinese platform coming this year. I wake up in the middle of the night thinking, I didn’t answer this e-mail, I better get back to this person.”
The Golden Globes are, frankly, relatively meaningless. But they are a damn good time—the most watched awards show besides the Oscars, and an opportunity for visibility in the entertainment industry. As head of the H.F.P.A., the oft-derided nonprofit organization that votes on the awards, Tatna is the evening’s unofficial hostess. In a way, she is also a perfect woman for this job at a moment when Hollywood is examining its own sexist, racist, dishonest habits. She has endured butt pinches as a waitress, offensive casting calls as an actress, and uncertain economics as a print reporter (Tatna declined to disclose her age). She’s interested in reclaiming the H.F.P.A.’s reputation, cemented years ago as a boorish group of semi-working, easily corrupted journalists. As acerbic Golden Globes host Ricky Gervaissaid during the 2010 show, “One thing that can’t be bought is a Golden Globe . . . officially. But if you were to buy one, the man to see would be [H.F.P.A. head] Philip Berk.”
During our interview, Tatna rejected many of the adages about the group. The idea that the H.F.P.A. nominates films and TV shows based simply on luring the biggest stars to its show? “No. Otherwise we would have had Julia Roberts this year [for Wonder],” Tatna said. That they are won over by lavish gifts from studios? “We have a rule that no gifts in excess of $95 can be given to us,” Tatna said. “That’s what we remind all the publicists every year. . . . In the past, we’ve returned things.” Last year, for instance, they gave back Tom Ford perfume intended to promote his movie, Nocturnal Animals.
Stakes are high for an entertaining show Sunday night—this year is the H.F.P.A.’s 75th anniversary, and the group’s broadcast rights contract with NBC is set to expire. The H.F.P.A. is also adding new elements, including an overflow room at the Hilton to accommodate the many people who wish to attend and can’t fit in the bustling main ballroom. “I have no idea whether it will be shut down by the fire marshal or nobody will come,” Tatna said. “No idea.”
The first major awards handed out in the #MeToo age, this year’s Golden Globes will likely be different than all that came before, with actresses pledging to wear black gowns and the usually frivolous red carpet taking on a new seriousness. “I am really glad that women are finally feeling safe enough to come forward and talk about their experiences,” Tatna said. “I am totally in solidarity with them. It’s not just in Hollywood that this happens. I was a waitress—the groping and pinching happened . . . back then, nobody felt safe enough to say anything. You thought you’d be fired; you thought you would be ostracized. So yeah, I’m really glad that they found that power, and I hope that this is a time of profound change.”
There have been some suggestions that the H.F.P.A. itself ought to evolve, including from actress Jada Pinkett Smith—who called out its members’ failure to attend a screening or to nominate her film Girls Trip. “We did have a screening of it. We were invited to the premiere as well. There was a junket in New Orleans that we didn’t attend, but we were invited to go,” Tatna said, in response to Pinkett Smith’s remarks. “We always look at the distribution in our territories. If the movie doesn’t open there, then people generally don’t need the press conference. . . . I myself saw it on a screener. I didn’t make the screening. There’s a difference between being a journalist and being a Golden Globe voter. I’m not sure if everybody understands that.”
Tatna did make it to a dramatic, last-minute screening of Ridley Scott’sAll the Money in the World after Scott raced to replace Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer in time for the group’s early December deadline. “We went over to Sony at 10 in the morning. It wasn’t totally 100 percent finished, it needed some color correction . . . but we’ve seen movies in that shape before. Silence,Martin Scorsese’s film, was not completely finished. So we are used to that.”
Tatna’s path to the Beverly Hilton ballroom has been a long and winding one. Her father imported liquor in India (“He was a lousy businessman,” she said) and she grew up with a particular affinity for Hollywood musicals, like My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music. She wanted to act—but as a compromise with her parents, who were skeptical of a career in the arts, she majored in economics on a scholarship at Brandeis University.
After graduation she moved to New York City and pursued acting, appearing on a soap opera and at one point voicing various Indian women on The Simpsons. “They always told me to crank up the accent,” Tatna said, of her acting days. “That was very annoying, but that was at a time when the only Indians that you saw were 7-Eleven clerks and taxi drivers, and that was what I was up for. And you either decide to do it or you don’t and when you don’t have too many choices, sometimes you do.”
Eventually, she moved to L.A., bought a Plymouth Reliant on a salvage license, and began to pay more of her bills with entertainment journalism than acting. The state of journalism, especially newspapers like the one that employs her and many of her colleagues in the H.F.P.A., is an issue that weighs on her mind. “A lot of us are finding that our outlets are shrinking and the work is not as much as it used to be,” Tatna said. “Now you are competing with the influencers and the kids who make videos rolling around in bed.”
When Tatna took on the H.F.P.A. president job, one of the first things she did was reach out to studio executives. “I would call up and say, give me 10 minutes, let me come say hello and tell you who I am. . . . Just give us more access, set visits, lift embargoes earlier for us. That kind of thing is important for the members.” She’s also eager for people to remember the H.F.P.A. is a nonprofit, which doles out much of the millions it earns from the Golden Globes TV rights to schools, theaters, and film preservation efforts. Though her Golden Globes votes are secret, she’s still a fan at heart—Game of Thrones and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel are two particular favorites.
On Sunday, Tatna will appear on stage at the Beverly Hilton for 45 seconds to deliver some remarks during the telecast—a rare moment in the spotlight after a decade toiling backstage in the press room, where reporters from some 200 outlets, including Vanity Fair, sit elbow-to-elbow. “I always have to watch the show on tape to write my article,” Tatna said. “I’m really looking forward to sitting in the ballroom this year.”
It gives me an immense pleasure to announce that after working tirelessly hard for months for countless nights, our team has launched #RedefineFashion social movement whose aim is to challenge the status quo that fashion is not just about glamour or trends, but in reality, is about the people who create it. People such as the artisans and craftsmen who give their blood sweat and tears to bring a designer’s imagination to life. These skilled people in our country and declining and so are India’s traditional crafts. So together, let’s recognize and support them as we truly believe that Individually we can make a difference, and collectively we will bring change.
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