Utpal Borpujari

June 30, 2009

Cannes: Taste of High Life

Filed under: Cinema,Deccan Herald,Film Festivals,Media,Tourism — Utpal Borpujari @ 3:17 pm
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By Utpal Borpujari in Cannes

Cannes, they say, is a place to be seen at. To be seen at, during the 12 days in May when it plays host to the world’s most-glamorous and biggest film festival. But it is also a place to see, particularly during the rest of the year, when the madness of cinema and its associated glam-quotient is missing. But that does not necessarily mean that the high-life in the city abutting the azure blue waters of the Mediterranean is any less during the non-festival times.

Cannes is not the place to be for anyone interested in exploring its nooks and corners during the days of movie madness. And the city, just a small fishing village till Britain’s Foreign Minister Lord Henry Peter Brougham settled here in the early 19th century, lured by its sunny climate, has a lot more on offer than just movies. There are numerous joys to be discovered in Cannes. Of course, that is apart from the sandy stretches of attractive beaches which lure the sun-seekers by the drove.

The Romans have been attracted in the ancient times by the beauty of the place, and so has been Napoleon in his time, and it still continues to work its charm on countless visitors, many of whom also descend on the town during the film festival just to catch a glimpse of the hot Hollywood stars and go back with memories of not only those starry glimpses but also the smells and sights of the place.

The charm starts working on you as soon as you get out of the Nice “Côte d’Azur” (blue coast) airport. Nice itself is one of the happening cities in southern France, attracting the moneyed for reasons same as that of Cannes – the high-life and the beaches. The 26-km drive to Cannes is replete with glimpses of the sylvan surroundings of the region, as you pass some beautiful settlements surrounded by lush vegetation on an undulating topography.

Cannes, located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, is among the hot spots of European tourists because of its mostly-sunny appearance – unlike the northern areas where the weather remains gloomy for a significant part of the year. Quite naturally, the beaches at Cannes are choc-a-bloc with sunbathers, the one along the Croisette being the most popular.

As soon as you reach Cannes, the first thing to dazzle you would be the luxurious yachts and boats anchored along the Vieux port. Rarely would one see such an array of dazzling beauties at one single place. But it is practically impossible to step onto any of these, as most of them are privately-owned. That is when reality dawns upon you, and you decide to explore the city instead. That is after you dump you luggage in your chosen accommodation, which could be a studio apartment, a hotel room, a guest house, a palatial hotel or a country house, depending on how deep your pocket is. Handy information for casual tourists: accommodation rates are officially hiked during the film festival period to up to 4-5 times the normal rates.

For those with a tongue for new tastes, Cannes is heaven, as it is a place replete with joints offering the finest of French food. Though a bit heavy on the pocket, some of the eating joints offer heavenly delights. As a film critic covering the film festival, I had an opportunity to taste the purest form of local cuisine, at a lunch organised by the city mayor on the lawns of Musée de la Castre, the local museum on a hillock in the old quarters known as the Le Suquet. The menu comprised the best of local cuisine: cod unsalted during the previous 48 hours and then steamed and dressed with olive oil, steamed zucchini, carrots, string beans and potatoes with olive oil and hard-boiled eggs, and Aiolo sauce comprising smashed garlic, olive oil and smashed potato mayonnaise. Of course, all of it accompanied by a supply of some of the finest French wine, including some of the best Rose or pink wine you can ever get to taste. In fact, local food in the Cote de Azur region is known for its delicate structure, garnished with basil, garlic and black olive, which sets it apart from food from elsewhere in the country.

After you have your fill of waltzing down the Croisette, one of the most famous beach-front roads perhaps in the entire world thanks to its association with film festival, and feasting your eyes on the legendary Carlton and Martinez hotels, you move to Rue d’Antibes,
another street nearby on which stands showrooms of perhaps all of the world’s most luxurious brands, and, not to forget, shops selling bakery items and chocolates. Of course, it is after you have had your fill of gawking at the Palais des Festivals et des Congress, the main venue of the Cannes Film Festival known the world over for its red carpet walks by top film stars, and that you do even when it is not the festival time and the stairs are barren and empty! And not forgetting to visit the adjacent Allees des stars where you can see hand imprints of famous film stars cemented on the pavement. La Croisette and the streets abutting it are also the hub of Cannes’ nightlife, which for many extends till the sunrise.

Next it is time to walk ahead and visit Le Souquet, and to do that you have several winding alleys going up the hillock. It is a heaven for pedestrians, and you can walk up and down the roads, visiting the ramparts of the old city, the Musée de la Castre housing archeological objects from all around the Mediterranean as well as other continents, the 12th century square watch tower, the clock tower and the religious buildings, apart from, of course, getting an extraordinary view of the whole bay of Cannes and the Lérins Islands off the coast. One place that is not to be missed is the Forville market, because it is here you get a feel of the vibrant, local food stores selling bakery items, wines, fish, meat and vegetables. Best time to visit it is early in the morning, when fresh items are offloaded onto the shop racks. Other markets that are worth exploring are Gambetta, La Bocca, Allées (selling flowers), Bygone Times Market (for antiques), and the arts and crafts market.

Cannes for a tourist has a dream location, because from here it hardly takes an hour to reach some other high-interest places, such as Grasse, considered as the perfume capital of the world, Antibes, which houses a museum that has many of Picasso’s works, and, of course, Monaco, the world’s Formula One hotspots. Then there is Vallauris, “the capital of pottery” where Picasso, Cocteau and Jean Marais achieved some of their finest creative peaks. The old town of Mougins is another place of interest, offering some breathtaking views of blooming flowers as well as the numerous art galleries.

One can also take a ferry to the Lérins Islands, or to the Saint Honorat island, a wild pine-forest sanctuary with winding paths and private creeks. It also has a medieval monastery that owns a vineyard producing some of the finest red and white wines, “blessed” by the resident Cistercian monks. The Sainte Marguerite island is another attraction for tourists, with its remnants of an ancient Roman settlement and the Fort Royal castle where the never-identified Man with the Iron Mask was imprisoned for 11 years. You see, Cannes is not only about the film festival, but it is quite happy with the tag of being the venue for the world’s biggest such festival.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 28-06-2009)



Reviving lost memories

By Utpal Borpujari

“Aap Ki Nazron Ne Samjha” (Lata Mangeshkar, Anpadh), “Hum Se Aaya Na Gaya” (Talat Mahmood, Dekh Kabira Roya), “Na Tum Bewafa Ho” (Lata Mangeshkar, Ek Kali Muskai), “Kar Chale Hum Jaan-o-Tan Sathiyo” (Mohammad Rafi, Haqeeqat), “Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho” (Mohammad Rafi, Hanste Zakhm), “Phir Wohi Shaam” (Talat Mahmood, Jahan Ara), “Jhoomka Gira Re” (Asha Bhosle, Mera Saaya), Naina Barse (Lata Mangeshkar, Woh Kaun Thi)…..the list could go and on, when one talks of a particular music composer who went by the name of Madan Mohan. One of the greatest-ever music directors Hindi cinema can boast of, he was a man who died young, with a career spanning 25 years behind him. A career which could have had a much longer span had he not died an untimely death at the age of 51 on July 14, 1975.

That he was a sheer musical genius needs to reemphasizing – the proof of it lies in the all-time classics he composed, songs that leave you with goose bumps every time you hear them. Proving his talent are over 100 films, many of which have got lost in the mist of time, but their songs still remaining dew fresh.

For all those who love pure melody and are fans of the master composer, here’s some good news. Thirty four years after his death, a new album has brought to life 15 of his compositions from never-released films, five of them never heard before and even the other ten heard by probably just a handful of old timers. The album, “Tere Bagair…” is the result of a devoted son’s dedicated approach to keep alive the memory of his father’s artistic creativity, and the son, Sanjeev Kohli, who was till sometime back the CEO of Yashraj Films and is now a consultant to the company, is justifiably ecstatic about it. “Madan Mohan the father is more etched in my memory than Madan Mohan the composer. The composing legend, that he has now become, was something I discovered only after he was gone. Today the younger generation is listening to very little of old film music. Even the older generation is not really buying old film music, rather they are more into downloading and copying. So old film music do not stand a chance really. And though it is all new as it has never been heard before, but finally it will be slotted as old film music. But then my aim is not to make money, what I am doing is as proud son who wants people to remember Madam Mohan’s genius through these unheard songs sung by some of our greatest singers,” says Kohli.

The album, released by YRF Music, has two CDs, one comprising the 15 songs and one piece illustrating how Madan Mohan used to compose, and the other showcasing the making of the music of Yash Chopra’s “Veer-Zaara”, which used the great composer’s tunes to great effect a few years ago. The songs have been culled out by Kohli from the spools lying at the family residence, all comprising unused songs recorded with singers like Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Mohammad Rafi, Talat Mahmood and Kishore Kumar, and tunes composed and hummed onto the tapes for future reference by Madan Mohan. “I don’t even know the names of the films for which these recordings were made, as people associated with them are either gone or the songs are from so much way back in time that nobody really remembers the names of the films. So, I decided not to even hazard guessing the names of the films and have just listed the singer names in the album,” says Kohli about the album launched on June 25, the 85th birth anniversary of his father.

The songs are all in their full versions, and not cut, as he had had to do when he had brought out a limited edition LP record just a couple of years after Madan Mohan death under the Polydor label, comprising ten of the numbers included in this album. “That album was not heard by many as it was a limited edition one, and soon LP records became a thing of the past,” says Kohli. The album opens with a Rafi song, “Kaise Kategi Zindagi Tere Bagair”, setting the mood for a journey into a masterly composer’s mind. This is followed by Madan Mohan himself humming “Mere Ashqon Ka Gham” as he was composing it, followed by the same sung by Lata Mangeshkar. Following it is songs of various genres sung by Rafi, Talat Mahmood and Kishore Kumar. “We have digitally remastered the songs from the spool tapes, and added some instruments where the original instrument sound had got damaged, so as to make the listening pleasure maximum,” says Kohli.

Reminiscing about olden days, he says, “When my father died, I was just 18. We were not allowed to touch the master tapes. In those days, very few spools were available, so if a song had been recorded in 1961, another would have been recorded over it in 1965, which means some pieces might have got lost also. I discovered the spool versions of songs like ‘Lag Ja Gale’ and then I also heard songs never heard before of films that had got stuck. I put together ten of them for the Polydor album titled ‘A Treasure Revealed’, which are included in this album.”

Kohli says he still has about 150 tunes composed by his father with him. “I will have to think how to use them. Maybe I will think of sharing it with filmmakers who might want to use them, but I will ensure that I am part of the creative process too, as I don’t want to simply sell the tunes as for me, they are a part of me,” he says. Coinciding with Madan Mohan’s birth anniversary, Kohli has also launched a website on his father, www.madanmohan.in. “It is something that is my passion, and I am putting up on it everything I know and have been able to gather about my father. There are very few living relatives, and my mother too had died a few years after my father. And you never tend to ask your parents about their childhood. Now whatever I have gathered, I want to share with people. It will also include all his photos in our possession, all of his spoken voice, all his radio programmes, and write ups on by various colleagues like Lataji, Gulzar, Manna Dey. I will also try to put up excerpts of all his songs for identification, since I cannot put up whole songs as the rights are owned mainly by Saregama,” he says.

It might be son’s tribute, but “Tere Bagair”, excavated from the master tapes of Madan Mohan, and comprising songs composed when he was at the peak of his creativity between 1964 and 1972, is meant for any lover of great Hindi film music. The songs have been selected reflecting the wide repertoire of the composer, from his strong points like ghazals and melancholic songs to romantic numbers, ballads, and even ‘item’ songs.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 28-06-2009)


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