Guys... stupid, super-conscientious me!! We were taking a flight to Bhuvaneshwar at the crack of dawn on the 27th. And there I was keying in this column at close to midnight on the 26th.. Today is Holi - not my favourite festival - I refer to it as ''legitimised leching." Yesterday, We were in a totally different zone, reliving the enchantment of looking at a jumbo sized full moon rising above the magnificent Jagannath Temple at Puri. Just a few hours earlier, I had addressed 10,000 tribal children in a school a few kilometres away from the city centre at B'War. It is the only such school in Asia, and is run by an extraordinary individual called Dr. Achyuta Samanta. These children from the poorest of poor areas of Orissa will never be the same again - their lives have been transformed forever. Would you believe it, thanks to the intervention of an enthusiastic rugby coach from England who came to B'War to teach the game to these kids , they now play rugby across the world - and hold your breath, have won the under-14 world championship! I met the respective captains of the Boys' and Girls' teams. Their body language said it all! Confident, upright, ready to take on the world. These kids live on a fantastic campus and the entire funding for their education is taken care of by Dr. Samanta's incredible revenue model. If you want to find out more about the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS), you can log onto www.kissorissa.orgn
I desperately want Dr. Samanta's highly inspirational story ( from penury to creating two outstanding institutions KISS and the impressive KIIT University) to be made into a film by someone like Vidhu Vinod Chopra. I had sent all the material on him to Vidhu's wife Anu, a few weeks ago. But this is when divine signs kick in - last night at Anil and Tina Ambani's glittering function to announce BIG Films ( studded with BIG stars - Mr. B with his parivar, SRK, Rekha, Sridevi .....)I ran into Vidhu and Anu again. I spoke to them about what I had seen and experienced at KISS first hand the previous day. They looked impressed... and interested. The rest is in Lord Jagannath's hands.
Pranabda – Superstar!
Amazing how rapidly perceptions change about people in power. People like Pranabda who is the reigning Superstar of the Financial Box Office right now. India was going gaga over just two individuals last week – Sachin and Pranab – in that order. Sachin created cricket history, while Pranab knocked the socks off corporate India with a Budget that was universally ( if one can overlook that unnecessary walkout by the Opposition) dubbed progressive and pro-growth. The India story is suddenly looking pretty good, thanks to these two men. In a strange way, both their respective achievements are very much for the ‘aam janata’ and their constituencies are the same . Brand Sachin has no equal. It is extraordinary how fine- tuned that brand is. Unlike others striving to get into the elite list of top brand ambassadors, Sachin has picked his ads meticulously, even brilliantly. Not a single endorsement is out of sync with what he stands for in the minds of a billion plus Indians. I cannot think of anybody who would dare challenge Sachin’s supremacy in his chosen field. As a sports’ star he has no equal.Ditto for his private life. With his squeaky clean reputation, all he now needs is a halo.
In Sachin, one can see the perfect balance between tradition and modernity. This was on my mind as I had participated in a lively debate on the subject in Bangalore, and shared views with Karan Johar, along with other eminent people. Take Karan. Another wonderful example of someone who has managed to marry tradition and modernity in his films and life. He has taken several startling and bold decisions, when he could have stuck to a safe and lucrative trajectory, making mushy romances his loyal audiences adored. But something within him changed all of that and he put his money where his heart is by making films like MNIK and KANK. I was fascinated with the narrative, since we took the same flight back to Mumbai, and managed to cover a lot of ground, most of it about the perplexing but entirely enticing world of movies. During the panel discussion, Karan had candidly and transparently admitted that his earlier films embarrassed him as they were rather ‘silly’ and ‘illogical’. It takes confidence and guts to say so in public. He also said he took criticism in his stride, which is one hell of a bonus in an industry filled with thin skinned people, suffering from delusions of grandeur. I watched as he willingly signed autographs at the airport and posed with complete strangers who gushed and cooed about how much they admired him and how they’d adored MINK. At one point, he turned to me and grinned , “ See….. this is why we make movies.” If he is aware of his considerable star value, he doesn’t show it.Significantly, he remains on great terms with practically everybody in Bollywood, with not a harsh thing to say about anyone. His insights into people, especially Bollywood’s leading ladies (I’m not telling!) are sharp and incisive, but never malicious. This is a fine art and Karan has mastered it instinctively. He confessed he was nervous about his latest avatar – Karan has just turned into a B.T. columnist ( welcome to the club, honey!) . Nervous and Karan?? I half-believed him! When Karan takes on something, you bet he has thought it through. I told him he’d be great at it, given that he is essentially a writer – a bloody good one, at that. But he was wondering about an entirely different problem - would he be able to keep it up, week after week after week?? Sustain a column and hold his readers’ interest, the way he does his viewers’? Aaaah – now there’s a challenge for you KJO. Tell me about it five years down the line. Then we’ll talk!