It’ll be four-in-a-row for Michelin starred Chef Vikas Khanna at Cannes when the first look of his directoral debut “The Last Colour” that revolves around the widows of Vrindavan is unveiled on Wednesday.
“The film is about girl education and girl empowerment. I had written the (similarly titled) short story in 2011 when I was shooting in Vrindavan where I was researching around UTSAV (his culinary epic of Indian festivals),” Khanna told IANS in an email interview.
“More than the Holi celebrations, I was drawn to stories of some widows who were not playing Holi. I imagined, in my short story, the glorious day when their hope and faith will be filled with colours.
“In 2012, I saw on the American Yahoo homepage the stunning images filled with emotions when they played Holi.
“There were a million sentiments in those images, especially the one in which an elderly woman was lying on a ground smeared with colours. She was laughing and crying at the same time.
“That’s when I turned my short story into a novel. But the visits to the ashrams of Vrindavan and Varanasi gave me more stories for this celebration,” Khanna added, detailing the journey of the short story to a novel and now to a film.
Speaking about the production, how it was working with children, particularly the actor who plays Choti, the protagonist who befiends a widow, Khanna said he had auditioned many children through agencies, schools and NGOs but when he went to New Delhi’s Zeenat Mahal School, he “truly respected the energy” of the Principal, Meena Kumari.
“She was so encouraging for the girls and that reflected in the confidence of her students. There we did several auditions and then we met Aqsa Siddiqui. She was Choti. Our Choti.
“She is a topper in her class and very bright. She went through a lot of workshops before and during the shoot. Her innocence, brilliance and spontaneity were very inspiring for the crew.
“We used to take her to the ghats to observe and talk to the children and understand their energy, she picked up the role very genuinely,” Khanna explained.
The film is currently in post-production and will first do a round of film festivals. “And then, God willing, what will happen will happen,” Khanna said.
Khanna made his debut in 2015 at Cannes with the release of UTSAV, a limited edition 30 kg, 1,200-page labour of love that took 12 years to compile and was presented to a host of world leaders.
The 12th copy of the book was auctioned for Rs 30 lakh that went to feed 200,000 underprivileged children through an NGO he supports.
“In 2016, we premiered ‘Kitchens of Gratitude’, a short documentary that showcased the power of food and how it binds us. It was truly inspiring to be in the company of such great and legendary filmmakers from around the world,” Khanna had told IANS at the time.
In 2017, the trailer of “Buried Seeds”, a timeless story of passion, resilience, failure and rise as seen through Khanna’s eyes and which follows the journey of an immigrant past and overwhelming obstacles in achieving his dreams, made its debut at Cannes.
How does it feel to be featuring at Cannes for the fourth time in a row?
“It is very humbling. But at the same time it brings great satisfaction to be able to bring such diversified art to a platform like Cannes which is the epitome of art,” Khanna replied.
What’s cooking on the culinary front?
“A lot. Just working on research of ‘Sacred Foods of India’. Lots coming this year end on grains. A big global project to be announced,” he said.
What of the future?
“I have always believed in the Universe’s path. Where I started from two decades ago, till today, I have always worked on what comes my way. For reincarnation of the arts, it is necessary to walk on new paths.
Report: Food and spirits
She may be more known for her passion for fashion, but food is as much of a forte for Bollywood producer Rhea Kapoor, who finds cooking “spiritual”. In a free-wheeling chat with IANSlife, she shares how food helps get her closer to people. Excerpts:
Q) How big a foodie you are?
Hundred per cent. Not only do I take pleasure in food, I also seek inspiration from it. I look forward to travelling because I want to try new cuisines. I fall in love with people when they cook great food or their taste matches mine. I feel it’s at the core of my world, which is sad, but also good. Food is on my mind all the time.
Q) Your favourite cuisine?
My favourite cuisine keeps changing, but I love Indian food. I also love Thai, Italian, French cuisines. It’s too hard. I can’t pick one cuisine. But my current favourite is Italian.
Q) Do you cook?
I love cooking. And I cook really well, but I have so many chef friends that I am scared to cook before them. Though I’ve cooked only a few times in the past year because of all the work, but I really look forward to weekends when I can cook and I do everything from scratch. It’s like spiritual thing for me.
Q) When you buy food, do you read the label?
Whenever I buy food I try to ensure that the product is fresh and organic, and has less preservatives.
Q) You recently joined The Doers Club. Tell us about it.
Though I found the idea of collaboration with a chef to curate a menu interesting, I was a bit unsure of working with a scotch brand, because I have seen these commercials based on male bonding over whisky. Ironically, some of the best whisky drinkers that I know and that I like to drink with are women. But my love for the perfect old-fashioned whisky sour has evolved from the age of 21 to 32, and I love enjoying these cocktails with my girlfriends. So I thought it was cool that a scotch brand was reaching out to two women for collaboration and breaking the stereotype of bro-ship. Every cool girl that I know enjoys her scotch as much as a man and we discuss anything to everything while having it.
Eat your good way to keep your healthy eyes
Prolonged usage of mobile, laptop and TV screens is becoming a necessary evil. With screen-time becoming so essential to our personal and professional lives, taking good care of your eyes is equally important. Two dietitians suggest some nutritious food for your eyes.
Foods rich in vitamins can help eyes fight problems, says dietitian Deepti G. Dua, who is the co- founder of Mutation Diet Clinic. Our eyes require Vitamins A, C and E rich food. Citrus rich food, such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons and tangerines contain free radical-fighting antioxidants, which can keep our eyes healthy. Non-citric food like strawberries, peppers, peaches are also vitamin sources, she explains.
Researches show that eyes need high amount of Vitamin C to function well and can prevent or delay eye-related troubles like cataract, says Harshita Dilawri, a nutritionist at Know Your Nutrients.
* Leafy vegetables
Eggs and veggies like spinach, kale, turnip green, brocolli, peas are good sources of Lutein and zeaxanthin, two nutrients key to lower the risk of AMD (age related macular degeneration) and healthy eyes.
* Omega-3 rich food
Cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines are rich in good fats like Omega-3 and very good for dry eyes and macular degeneration. These are also rich in Vitamin D, which is equally good for healthy eyes. If you are not a fish eater or if you are vegan, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds are rich in omega 3 fatty acids and thus good for protecting eyes.
* Legumes and Beans
Many beans and legumes are rich in zinc, which is a very important mineral found in high concentration in eyes. Zinc is found in mostly all beans, including lima, black eyed beans and kidney beans along with lean meats, poultry and fortified cereals.
Tip: Good breakfast combinations might be whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk, eggs and toast with jam, porridge, oatmeal, or muesli. Drinking water can also be beneficial for your eyes in many ways. Nutrient rich food such as garlic, tomatoes and soy milk, depending on their amount of intake, too could be a major add on to your eyes’ health.
Ira Trivedi says, ‘Remaining fit is simpler than it seems’
Yoga instructor and author Ira Trivedi, whose tryst with the practice began not in India but in the US, feels that yoga has had a powerful comeback in the past few years in India, and remaining fit is simpler than it seems.
Trivedi, 31, says that even though yoga has been in the Indian culture and it originated from the country, it had a dip in its popularity. It, however, bounced back just about 5-6 years ago — owing to the governmental push and also as a greater public resistance against lifestyle problems.
“Problems like stress, anxiety, high or low blood pressure and diabetes come up because of the modern lifestyle, which is why yoga has become popular recently,” she told IANSlife in an interview.
The instructor-writer claims that sitting is the new smoking, and it is simple to stay fit.
“Prolonged sitting can lead to spine and mental problems. People can stay fit in simple ways: Eating correctly, moving with their spine, doing gentle spinal movements and walking. It’s very simple to stay fit, it just requires a habit and some amount of initial discipline.”
Trivedi’s personal journey with yoga began almost 15 years ago when she was a student at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.
“I was exposed to yoga more there because I saw so many celebrities doing it. I remember I walked into a yoga studio, but it was so expensive that I could not afford it as a young student. Then when I came back to India, I became curious.”
In her quest to develop an authentic yoga practice, Trivedi landed up at the doors of the Sivananda Ashram in Thiruvananthapuram, and has since let the art of yoga give her life a 360-degree twist — physically and emotionally.
“I feel like a better and more compassionate person, a more mindful person who cares about the world, people, environment a lot more,” shares Trivedi, who has yoga programmes on Doordarshan to her credit.
Among her books, Trivedi has authored “India in Love: Marriage and Sexuality in the 21st Century” — a 2014 book which explores the mating habits of young Indians, the changing face of Indian pornography and prostitution, India’s gay revolution and understands how the nation that gave the world the Kama Sutra could have a high rate of rape and violence against women.
Having worked hard on her flair for writing, she now balances both careers.
For the Lucknow-born yoga acharya, it’s all about the right techniques and interesting ways of teaching.
“I personally swear by the Shirshasana — the head stand. It’s one of the best and is achievable by most people. It looks difficult, but with the correct technique, becomes easy.”
Trivedi is the founder of Namami Yoga — an organization that brings yoga to a wide swathe of people. She also has a mobile application called Ira Yoga, which has bite-sized yoga and meditation modules for learners, especially those from the busy corporate world.
However, Trivedi feels that the sooner one adopts yoga in their life the better.
“Kids’ bodies are so flexible and capable of doing so much. But if you make them remain still in an ‘aasana’ for two minutes, an 8-year-old cannot do that. The West is actually innovating on yoga for children and making it exciting.
“If yoga was taught to children in the correct way, where it was looked upon at that age as more of a sport, it would be more exciting,” she added.
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