Actor-turned politician Sunny Deol escaped unhurt after his vehicle was involved in a collision with three cars on Monday, police said.The mishap occurred after one of the tyres in Deol’s sports utility vehicle burst near a ‘Gurdwara’ in Sohal village, Gurdaspur Deputy Superintendent of Police (rural) Manjit Singh told PTI. A total of four vehicles collided with each other in the accident. Mr. Deol’s cavalcade was going towards Fatehgarh Churian where the BJP candidate had to campaign, the DSP said.“Out of four, one vehicle belonged to a villager, rest other vehicles were part of Mr. Deol’s cavalcade,” he said. Nobody was hurt in the accident, he added.After the accident, Mr. Deol resumed his journey to Fatehgarh Churian for poll campaigning, the DSP said. Mr. Deol is pitted against Congress candidate and sitting MP Sunil Jakhar from Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat.
Verve and venerationAlarmel Valli, 57, Classical DancerBecause She has umpteen prestigious awards dotting an illustrious 50 years in dance, a three-decade-old dance school and hundreds of celebrated international performances.And yet, Alarmel Valli chuckles at the idea of a planned career progression.”When I went on stage for my arangetram, I was,Verve and venerationAlarmel Valli, 57, Classical DancerBecause She has umpteen prestigious awards dotting an illustrious 50 years in dance, a three-decade-old dance school and hundreds of celebrated international performances.And yet, Alarmel Valli chuckles at the idea of a planned career progression.”When I went on stage for my arangetram, I was nine-and-a-half years old and a career in professional dance had not crossed my mind,” she says.”Those days, you learned dance for the love of it and because it enriched your life. To be able to perform was not an important consideration,” she adds.Because It has been 50 years since Valli started dancing and her seasoned approach to the art stands as a strong point of reference to Bharatanatyam tutelage today.With an obstinate desire to transcribe the value she has imbibed,Valli takes great care in teaching her own students at the Dipasikha Dance Foundation with the same spirit that she saw in her gurus.Afew of the forums that she has worked in include Spic Macay in India, the Societa Italiana del Flauto Dolce, The Philharmonic Society in Rome, the international Summer Tanzwochen in Vienna,The Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society and universities across the US.Because As one of the youngest dancers to be awarded the Padma Shri,Valli views her most prestigious accolades including the Padma Bhushan and Chevalier of Arts and Letters Award from the French Government as welcome acknowledgements of her contribution to dance. “Ultimately an artiste’s biggest accolade comes from the rasikas; those who follow you fromsabha to sabha to watch you perform or save money throughout the year to attend your best shows during the December season,”says Valli. She adds, “As an artiste, I would love to see a day when one’s art alone drives home an award.”advertisementNURTURING NUANCE Today,Valli sees a change in the way students are taught natyam. She recalls an adage her guru had coined in her head over the years – ‘more sarakku than minukku’, which loosely translates to more content than embellishment. “Today, packaging often overshadows content. Success calls for not just artistic talent, but PR skills as well,”she says.Valli believes this generation is dangerously dependent on technology.”DVDs and Skype classes may make dance more accessible, but cannot capture subtext.And nuances are what give dance its soul,”she says.Springboard storiesCharukesh Sekar, 28, Independent Film-makerBecause When 28-year-old Charukesh Sekar had approached in vain,more film producers than his brain could register, he decided to demonstrate his craft to the industry by plunging into what he describes as his “most honest story till date”, on a zero budget.”I wanted them to see what I could create, instead of just hearing me out like they do with hundreds of young, wide-eyed aspirants.”The result was Puzhu, an 11- minute short film about two grievously injured friends who oscillate between emotions of love, nostalgia, betrayal and revenge, and eventually try to kill each other. It gave him 1,000 YouTube views in three days – which is unique for an art house film-and a prospective association with Bench Flix – a coveted platform for short film makers to showcase their work and get it distributed, run by director Karthik Subbaraj. The film also went on to gain appreciation from senior film critic and founder of madaboutmoviez.com, Sethumadhavan.Because Good talent can never go unrecognised in this age of social networking. His last film,Life and Death of a Rebel,was shot in the breathtaking expanses of Ladakh and starred actor Ashok Selvan, who went on to act in Pizza 2: The Villa and Thegidi.The film is about a terminally ill patient who takes off to a faraway land to help his loved ones cope with the eventuality.”Previously, if I were to show my film to a potential investor, I would have to pass through 100 middlemen who would only slow down the process,”says Sekar. He adds,”Now with the advent of social networking and video platforms like Youtube and Vimeo, there is no limit to how far your content can go.Afew shares after that and your film can be watched across continents!”he beams.Because Charukesh started young. Amechanical engineering graduate, he traces his love for stories to his early school days, when he would sit with his Tamil language teacher,Mrs. Sujatha, for hours and pen down stories for his school skits. “She taught me how to write a script – to fold a paper in half, write the scene description on one side and the dialogues on the other- I found the process so beautiful,”he says.advertisementALEARNING EXPERIENCE “I am an independent filmmaker; I know the maddening routine of shallow questions, unreturned phone calls and painfully procrastinating timelines that follow our efforts to get a film produced,”says Valli. “But what I’ve learnt is that not all these are unproductive hindrances.They are in fact repeated opportunities for you to raise the bar.” Shekar believes that young filmmakers who are in need of funds to make content oriented, off-beat films must be prepared to use limited resources, as this eliminates any risk of loss for the investors.”If there’s a way your film can see the light of day without any compromises being made on your style and content, it is perfectly okay to cut a few corners,”he explains.THE BIG PICTURE Shekar’s trademark style lies in portraying known concepts in novel sensibilities; he is heavily inspired by directors like Mysskin, Balaji Sakthivel and Rajumurugan who have attempted to show people of the third gender and sex workers in a fresh new light through their films (Onaayum Aattukkuttiyum, Vazhakku Enn? and Cuckoo respectively), in an industry that has used them as comical characters.”That’s how we end up stereotyping them on the streets. But when a mass medium like cinema offers a change in our approach to the subject changes,”he says.Strength in serviceDr V. Shanta, 87, Chairperson, Adyar Cancer InstituteBecause In 1954 in Madras, when most 27-year-old women were building their lives around marriages or learning new vocations, Shanta was armed with a fresh M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) degree, and had decided to join a scantily-equipped, 12-bedded cottage hospital specialising in cancer care.Started in Adyar,Madras, it was the second hospital of its kind in independent India.Not surprisingly, she was perceived as whimsical and over-ambitious, but six decades on, her decision has successfully transformed thousands of lives.Cementing her conviction was another visionary- Muthulakshmi Reddy, the first woman medical graduate of the country and the first Indian woman legislator – who founded the cancer institute and took her in.Because She found the impetus she needed from hardships.”Dr.Reddy had lost her sister to cancer in 1923.When her son,Dr. Krishnamurthi, returned from the US, she wanted to start a cancer hospital. She had an extremely tough time getting the required permission, and more importantly getting people to see what she saw.They did not understand cancer and there were no facilities for its treatment in the country,”reminisces Shanta.There was a challenge involved in addressing the issue and creating awareness about it.”People were dying of cancer and science was developing parallelly. It was a part of medicine that had not been explored and I saw this as an opportunity,”she says. Because The Cancer Institute’s most significant milestone is its undeterred adherence to its motto,’Service to All’, and Dr. Shanta stands at its helm. Her dedication to the cause has earned her the Magasasay Award and the Padma Shri. Even at 87, she’s available anytime in case of emergencies.advertisementThe Cancer Institute stands as the foremost medical institution to offer highly subsidised and free treatment to almost 60 percent of its annual patients.”I have always worked towards the reintroduction of ideas like empathy and compassion.We work on the basis of service; we don’t earn in lakhs and are discerning about our work ethics and use of resources,”she says.”But the government is still very apathetic,”she adds.OVER THE YEARS Today the institute has earned a reputation for its success stories. Dr. Shanta has watched the scene evolve, as a doctor, subsequently the institute’s director and now its chairperson.”The first cobalt unit – a revolution in radiation oncology – came to us in 1956 from the Atomic Energy of Canada.We’ve seen advancements since then and today I can say that 40 per cent cancers are preventable and curable if detected early,”says Shanta.Into the wildRomulus Whitaker, 71, Wildlife ConservationistBecause He now stands high as the country’s most revered herpetologist and wildlife conservationist.On any given day, he’d be glad to share a Kodak moment with a reared-up king cobra or a fully-grown gharial. But Whitaker’s fascination for these seemingly implacable creatures is no more a surprise today, almost four decades after he started the Chennai Snake Park. Whitaker first came to India as a boy of seven,when his family had moved to Mumbai in 1951. But his attraction to snakes began much earlier, when he spent time catching and petting non-venomous snakes back at home in the US.”Here in India, I was lucky to spend most of my school days in Kodaikanal. I was a lousy student but the forests around me were like heaven.That’s where I really learned the jungle lore-both on my own and from the local tribals and hunters from the hills,”says Whitaker.Because The new headquarters of the snake park in Guindy saw one million visitors in the first year alone, including celebrated ones such as Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi,Sonia Gandhi,Margaret Thatcher and Satyajit Ray.About six years later in 1976,Whitaker gave the country the first crocodile gene bank in all of Asia- The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology.Today, the centre harbours 18 species of crocodiles, 14 species of turtles, and many lizards and snakes. It also remains one of the best institutions for herpetological research in Asia.Because He is involved in extensive research, conservation and public education on the king cobra and the gharial. In Agumbe,Karnataka, where he recalls encountering and catching his first king cobra in 1971,Whitaker has set up a forest field base, the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station, to do research and conservation “and some chilling too!”. “We have an MoU with the National Center for Biological Sciences in Bangalore and in exchange for their support, their scientists and students use our base for field work,”says Whitaker. In addition to this, he has also made three documentary films on the king cobra for National Geographic, BBC Natural World and Animal Planet and one film on the gharial for the BBC and Animal Planet.THE REPTILE GUY He shared a special camaraderie with the Irula tribals as a child, which became a major impetus for him to start what became a milestone in his rehabilitation work-the Irula Snake-Catchers Cooperative Society.”In the 1970s, the snakeskin trade was booming but also getting out of hand.Abunch of us campaigned to stop it, which it eventually did and all snakes came under India’s Wildlife Protection Act,”says Whitaker. But, he was unconvinced about the condition of the Irulas who were the main suppliers of snake skins in South India and had been hit hard.”These expert trackers and hunters were my gurus and taught me more than I ever learned in college.To repay them, I came up with the idea of setting up the society,”he says. While the Irulas were getting rehabilitated,Whitaker was also working on setting up India’s first reptile park-the Madras Snake Park in 1969, in a village on Velachery Road, south of Chennai.”With the help of my sister and brother, Nina and Neel Chattopadhyaya, and a bunch of our crazy friends, the snake park was set up. But it was pretty far out of town and the 25 paise entry tickets didn’t help us pay salaries or feed the hundreds of snakes.I approached then Chief Conservator of Forests in Tamil Nadu, K.A. Bhoja Shetty, who graciously gave me half an acre of the beautiful Guindy Deer Park (now National Park) on lease to set up the snake park.How the land was given to an American citizen (I only got my Indian citizenship in 1975), I’ll never know,”recalls Whitaker.BACK TO THE ROOTS Whitaker believes that there is a lot of scope.”The biggest threat to the environment is a combination of human greed and the inability to understand what needs to be done. But the positive aspect is that there are beautiful, functional models of ideal forest and wildlife conservation around the planet.There is no need to reinvent the wheel when we can learn and borrow from such success stories,”he says.Crafting careersDivya Jhaveri,30, Ritu Jhaveri,25, Designers and founders,Wild RoseBecause The entire profit from the sales at Wild Rose is kept aside for the education and upliftment of underpriviledged girls. “The idea of educating girls came forth from both of us. We’ve both been brought up with a lot of luxury. While we’ve always been encouraged to achieve, we’ve never even had the pressure to earn for the family. And the idea that kept repeating in our heads was,’Wouldn’t it just be great if other girls did not have to carry the burden of education?”say the sisters.Because What started as a creative necessity for the older sibling Divya five years ago has become the driving force for the sisters to imagine, explore and showcase new design sensibilities to make beautiful home accessories under their brand,Wild Rose. In addition to filling her fashion void, Divya was also creating pretty decor items for home, which her mother loved displaying.”But then I took a break for four years and was introduced to the Bihar School of Yoga, where I saw the beauty and fulfillment of seva – or selfless service.People worked hard and helped for one another unconditionally, and I was deeply inspired,” she says. By the time she returned to Chennai, the philosophy was ingrained in her head and she started looking at it as a prospective business-cum-philanthropic idea. She took in her younger sister Ritu to further give shape to it and started the brand Wild Rose that could give them the platform to design and also help the underprivileged.BecauseThe sisters plan to reach out to deserving girls through known, trustworthy sources and focus on aiding their higher education and possibly, employment opportunities.”We are looking at financing girls at the college level or at a point where they can become breadwinners of the family.We have now been connected to a girl from Assam, who wants to do a teacher training course.After looking at her mark sheets,we will provide her with the necessary aid.We are also working closely with the schools supported at our ashram,”says Ritu.NURTURING IDEAS Ritu believes that the nobility of the founding idea has helped the store grow.The sisters owe their gratitude to their gurus-Sw.Satsangi and Sw. Niranjan of the Bihar School of Yoga and Shri Parthasarathy Gopalachari of Ramachandra Mission Chennai. “People often wonder how we have managed without any formal training or employing any labour. But we’ve constantly been guided in the right direction. For instance, our drivers also act as carpenters for our merchandise and they have taken up a keen interest in mastering the craft.Our maids help us in the embellishment of the products and love the creative outlet it provides them.We have a warm, informal working environment where we share ideas and give them shape,”says Divya.SHOW AND TELL Wild Rose now largely caters to marriages and corporate events with a wide range of gifts and home accessories.They make candle holders, tissue boxes, bags and finely embellished clocks and mirrors.Their signature style uses a lot of shimmer and mirror work and their products are priced from as low as Rs 350.The brand has already been showcased at five exhibitions this year, with another one coming up at The Park in September.”Exhibitions remain our prime focus this year.We want our products to reach out to as many people as possible, so that we have a steady flow of clientele and can make profit.We believe with effort and goodwill, there’s a long way to go,” says Divya.Tune inVishal Chandrashekhar, 29, Music DirectorBecause He has worked in over 400 short films, 40 national ads and four feature films and also composed the song for Kingfisher IPL this year within just a few hours.Though he started composing for films in 2001, it wasn’t until Satosh Sivan’s film Ceylon in 2013 that Chandrashekhar started believing that he was on the right track.”I sat there for four-and-a-half hours, not even blinking. I watched every frame and heard every tune; it was amazing and unnerving all at once,”he says.Though the film was pulled out of theatres within days of its release, owing to its sensitive story that followed the Sri Lankan war, Chandrashekhar’s own spirits remained high.Because His music for latest sci-fi film Appuchi Gramam opened to critical reviews from leading webzines and the media.”I see no conflict creating music for commercial films,” he says.”After you have learnt the finest aspects of music, a commercial film can challenge your potential to produce with versatility. Striking that balance is a lesson in itself and I’m lucky to have learnt it from the right people,”he says. Because In an industry where creative differences between directors and music composers are constantly put on the table, Chandrashekhar has honed himself to be honest, flexible and yet uncompromising.”What results in the end is of most importance; as individuals, we can never become bigger than that,”he says.MODEL STUDENT A student of AR Rahman’s KM Music Conservatory, Chandrashekhar owes a significant part of his evolution to the training he received at the celebrated institute.At this point, the young composer drew his own innate style from the cultural influences he witnessed while growing up.”I studied in 17 schools and my teachers came with demographically varying sensibilities.Today, I can see all their styles influencing my music,”adds Chandrashekhar.SPIRITUAL SOUNDS Chandrashekhar hopes to compose an album on Lord Shiva someday.”That would be something I do for myself and the grace that has brought me where I am,”he concludes.The godfatherVidyaakar, 61, Founder, Udavum KarangalBecause The calm, 10-acre facility in Thiruverkadu that serves as a haven for 630 abandoned children, children with disabilities and mentally challenged and destitute men and women, is proof to the sweat and service that Vidyaakar has invested in it for the last 14 years.However, his association with humanitarian work began much earlier in 1980, when he started collaborating with a local charity in NSK Nagar to help the poor understand their rights and avail them. In about three years, his efforts elevated with his first case – an abandoned child who was left behind at a cinema hall after a night show.”When we couldn’t find any takers for him, I decided to foster him myself at home. It soon became an impromptu centre for anyone who needed help after that,”says Vidyaakar, who registered it as Udavum Karangal in 1983. It was only nine years later in 1994, when they relocated to the bigger campus in Thiruverkadu.Because As of today, his work has touched more than a 5000 lives,many of which are restored with well-paying jobs, families, businesses and marriages. March this year saw Abhilash, a B-Com student from Udavum Karangal, receive the Outstanding Performer Award from his alma mater, St.Thomas College of Arts and Science.Another resident, Nithya Kalyani, received a gold medal for her degree in social work from the Madras School of Social Work, and is now happily married. While such success stories are many, their inspiration is always their only parent – ‘Pappa’Vidyaakar.Because In the last five years,Udavum Karangal’s focus has intensified towards rehabilitation.”We don’t take in abandoned children anymore. Instead we send them to Childline India Foundation for adoption. The children we house here are mostly those born to psychiatric patients,”he says. Further facilitating the NGO’s motto of restoration and value-creation is Udavum Karangal’s school in Thiruverkadu, which is open to both in-house children and children from outside.Another successful initiative is Jeevan – their community outreach programme, which includes services like a school for nursing, student sponsorship programme, day care centre, computer centre, school for special children, school of tailoring, a crche and legal services.THE DEVELOPMENT DIMENSION “We are now solely working on empowering communities. Even when we find women who are destitute,we try to trace them back to their families, where they are restored, so long as it favours their wellbeing,”he says. He adds, “If our kids don’t fit into mainstream schooling, they can opt for private education.” Every single person here must be on the track to development.Rib-ticklersKarthik Kumar, 36, Bhargav Ramakrishnan, 27, Founders, Evam Standup TamashaBecause Even though it has been assumed for years that Chennai is unforgiving about the digs taken at its cultural conditioning and lifestyle choices, Karthik Kumar and Bhargav Ramakrishnan saw remarkable scope in some healthy home-grown humour and came out with Evam Standup Tamasha in 2012.This of course after a few months of treading carefully with little spoonfuls of experimental humour they called ‘comic monologues’, which were performed at “pubs, dingy bars, auditoriums and drawing rooms of friends before launching officially,”as says Kumar.Because After their first comic monologues series turned out to be a hit, the duo decided to rope in more talent and started looking for new performers who could hold an audience with their tales. “Standup comedy is a truly unique and extremely challenging art form.We were quite reluctant to go about calling ourselves standup comedians early on.We instead called it comic monologues, slice of life comedy and many other things before branding ourselves as standup comedians,” says Ramakrishnan.Because Their work offers younger audiences a great forum to share social, political and cultural ideas.”It’s the closest one can get to pop culture wherein the youth absorb new values and ideals through a show.And believe it or not,most standup comedians are peace loving, diversity embracing artists,”says Kumar.The duo ventured into the space with self-scripted pieces, which were also autobiographical in nature.”We started telling tales that would be cathartic when narrated-and catharsis could lead to some great laughter and emotional release in an audience.When we learnt to channelise this release with comedy as the final filter, it led to an organic segue into standup comedy,”says Kumar.MAKE ‘EM LAUGHThe performers of Standup Tamasha draw instances from their own lives, which helps them personalise the jokes and also put them across with ease. Popular references include relationships, girlfriends,hometowns, new towns, offices, bosses, sports, Indian-isms and politics. “Life is boring and tedious until we choose to paint it with comedy, and then everything just becomes ‘material’ for the show. For instance,my first set in 2010 was all about how Sathyam Cinemas had removed the separators between the urinals in the men’s room.Though this was a small event, it had left many men in the city confused and disoriented,”laughs Kumar.NO FUNNY BUSINESS They have also had to face some not-so-amused audiences who have made their displeasure evident. “I remember an aunt coming up to me after my first show; she stayed back half an hour to lecture me on how I must never do this again, ever,”says Kumar. Interestingly, the audiences they remember most are always the ones that didn’t take the show well. “From drunk hecklers, scandalised bosses and enraged oldies to people who did not share our point of view,we have been through the lot and that has made us tougher performers,”says Ramakrishnan. “But whenever we are doing a show,we always ask ourselves where, when and for whom are we doing it.That discretion we’ve learnt and maintain,”he adds. But despite these minor disapprovals, this group of young performers has remained unstoppable.TRICKAND TREAT They earn the credit for breaking into the city’s long-preserved mould against standup comedy, which rarely any other group has been able to penetrate. Evam Standup Tamasha now has autonomous operations in Singapore, having done over 10 shows there already.They recently completed their seven-show debut tour in the US and will be heading back there for a five-week, 25 shows tour in October.Apart from Chennai, they have also launched in Mumbai,Coimbatore,Kochi and Bangalore.”The secret is to customise and re-contextualise the issues.We have understood you must be one among your audience and yet different from them; it’s a strange combination, but remains the most effective one,”says Kumar.