Thursday, November 20, 2008

Queen of hearts: Sara Raza Khan (Sa Re Ga Ma Pa participant from Pakistan)

An hitherto unknown Sara Raza Khan of Pakistan was in the limelight recently for her participation in the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2009, where she lost but impressed all, writes KK Moidu

Teenager Sara from the city of gardens, Lahore, Pakistan, is the first Muslim girl to take the big leap by competing in a musical reality contest like Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2009, in spite of stiff opposition from people of her community.
Although, Sara from the ‘Heart of Pakistan’ didn't win the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2009 trophy, her mind-blowing and soulful performance will surely take her a long way. Her great voice and expression not only placed her among the top eight contestants in the prestigious contest, but she also won plaudits from all corners. Sara was eliminated in Episode 37, on Nov. 7.
Eesha Koppikar and Sonu Sood were also present on the occasion to promote their film Ek Vivah Aisa Bhi and the stage was decorated like a marriage hall. Himesh and Shankar represented the “bride's side” and Aadesh and Pritam were on the “bridegroom’s side.”
Sara rendered to perfection the popular film song Bole Chudiyaan, in her sweet voice, and everybody showered praises on her. Her singing improved a lot in the course of the competition, but she still became a victim of public voting. Her melancholic and innocent voice and modest attire made her stand out among the participants.

Sara, who hails from Pakistan’s cultural centre sang like a professional. The judges were impressed with her unique voice and expressions but also pointed out the wrong pitching.
After her elimination on the basis of SMS voting, Sara said a big thank you to the audience for their support and appreciation.
‘Pak Ki Mallika’ Sara is the daughter of late Qadeer Ahmed Khan and Kulsoom Jehan Qadeer. Her father was an engineer and her mother is an Urdu teacher. She has two elder brothers, Ahmed Raza Khan and Hassan Raza Khan and a younger brother, Mujtaba Raza Khan, a class I student. Her elder sister Ayesha Raza Khan is a singer and television anchor and the family’s financial support since her father died three years ago.
Sara was overjoyed when she was selected for the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa 2009 competition, but her mother and relatives were hesitant to send the teenage girl to a culturally liberal country like India to participate in the contest. Their main objection was to the kind of image one is expected to acquire, to gain mileage in the entertainment industry, like revealing costumes. This, they said, went against their culture and religion.

However, Sara's mother finally agreed to send her daughter for the competition after an assurance from the channel that they would not make her wear clothes that were revealing. Her relatives, however, were not happy about her participation in the contest. They feared that a music competition held in a country like India where boys and girls intermingled openly and rehearsed together would give her opportunities to befriend male participants. Another major hurdle was that the girl would have to sing Hindu devotional songs during the competition.

Then there was the possibility of her being treated as an outcast by other participants. Sara’s relatives also objected to the fact that she and her mother were living in a big city like Mumbai, without the presence of a male relative.

However, Sara overcame these hurdles. She talks about her dream to become a legendary playback singer. Here are some excerpts:
Who was the first to recognise your musical talent?
My lovely mother recognised my musical talent and motivated me. My best music teacher Sir Abdul Rauf, encouraged and supported me by training me in classical music.

What is your background in music?
I have no musical background, I am the first girl in my whole family to learn classical music. I want to be successful with my God-gifted talent.
I started learning classical singing just two years ago from Sir Abdul Rauf, a teacher at the prestigious Al Hamra Arts Council, Lahore. After a month's training from a sincere teacher like Sir Abdul Rauf, I got a chance to perform in front of General Pervez Musharaf, former president of Pakistan. He appreciated me a lot and also invited me to his birthday at the President House. After that people started recognising me, I got many opportunities for anchoring, singing and also performed in many live shows on different TV channels.

Tell us about your selection to Sa Re Ga Ma Pa?
Legendary singer Ghulam Ali Sir selected me for the audition of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa from Lahore as the only and first girl from Pakistan (Pakistan Ki Beti which now known as Pak Ki Mallika).

What were your relatives’ and neighbours’ reactions to your participation in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge?
Well! Reactions of my relatives were a mixture of positive and negative comments. But the majority were extremely happy and excited for Pakistan Ki Beti, and now in Pakistan, people are excited and warmly welcoming me. And one more thing, my country is also very happy that it appreciated me and motivated me a lot.

What was your experience in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa like?
It was really awesome, superb, outstanding, mind-blowing history. Ya, it was! Because I just dreamed to be in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa and when it really happened, I thank the Almighty and the audience for their prayers.

Tell us about the judges and audience?
All the judges of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa 2009 are very sincere, talented and motivating persons. They all are very successful in their fields and I want to work with them.
Audience! wow! I think that it's really very astonishing for me that the audience from all around the world loved me, appreciated me and blessed with their votes and prayers. I was very attached to my viewers and I am taking a lot of beautiful memories back with me! The way the audience chanted my name, took my autographs, also wrote plenty of mails to me and all these memories always make me emotional. I pray to God that all the viewers always love me and remember me! I am sure that today all India Loves Me!

What do you plan to do now?
My future plans are to learn more classical music, be a great playback and live show singer, to earn a lot of respect and be one of Allah's favourites.

What is your biggest dream?
My biggest dream is to be a great singer and earn money and fame to make my elder sister the happiest woman in the world. I also want to help those strong women, who are divorced and are alone with their little babies at a young age.

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2009

The musical reality show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2009 airing on Zee TV every Saturday at 8.30pm has reached a very crucial stage. The final contenders are competing with each other for the coveted title of Challenge 2009 at a global level. The musical war with unmatched talent and quality was launched on July 8, with 32 contestants, selected from five regions and 25 countries like India, Pakistan, Australia and Middle East.
Popular host Aditya Narayan lends his own voice to the show with his personal style of putting the participants at ease and gently providing them with the required encouragement, making him special. Another attraction of the show is the participation of celebrity guests like Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Ajay Devgan etc.
The programme is not only a musical reality show but also a contest between four musical maestros; Adesh Srivastava representing Jai Gharana, Dhoom Gharana's Pritam Chakraborty, Shankar Mahadevan's Lakshya Gharana and Himesh Reshammiya retains membership of the Rock Gharana.
Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge recently changed its format in its 13-year history. In the new format all participants from each Gharana will perform and the disqualified participants are eliminated. The decision was taken after a heated argument between the judges. Finally, it was decided that it would not favour the selection of the best participant among some exceptional singers. But this sort of arrangement is appropriate from the SMS point of view because the listeners may forget some good singers and the current weak singers will be on top of their minds. According to the new format, all the participants get an opportunity to sing in two episodes and one of them is eliminated every week.
Although the programme is 14 years old with Himesh Reshamiya, Shankar Mahadevan, Adesh Srivastava and Pritam as the mentors, the same format was running for the past 13 years. The talent hunt Sa Re Ga Ma Pa has contributed some names to reckon with in the music world like Sonu Nigam, Shaan, Kunal Ganjawala, Shreya Ghosal etc.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Best for laughs: Cochin Haneefa

KK Moidu talks with versatile Malayalam film artiste Cochin Haneefa on his roles in films and new projects, while he was in Dubai recently

Director-actor-scenarist Cochin Haneefa was roped into the UAE by the organisers of Gulf Mappilappattu Awards 2008 as the chief guest. The ishal night held at Al Nasr Leisureland in Dubai on Oct. 31 honoured the veterans and latest talents of Mappilappattu (Muslim songs).
Despite of the fact that Haneefa was tired after the journey, he managed to chat without showing any sign of discomfort. This shows his personality, a very humble man indeed. He is one of the most popular comedians and a favourite among children and young audience. Although he entertains all kinds of audience with his stylish wit and humour as an actor, he also won the hearts of family audiences for years as a director-scenarist. He has directed seven Malayalam films and six of them were re-mad e in Tamil. His superhit movies like Valsalyam, Veena Meettiya Vilangukal, Moonnu Masangalkku Munpu, etc. are indeed the pillars of family oriented Malayalam films. However, his last directorial venture Bheeshmacharya, a commercial film, unfortunately bombed at the box-office. Haneefa plays second fiddle to superstars in the last couple of years, but he has proved his mettle as an actor by playing all kinds of roles. As a comedian his unique style of dialogue delivery and his flexibility in donning any kind of role made him closer to the audience. His special skills for making the audience laugh in any kind of role; like an ordinary man or a senseless police officer makes him different from other comedians. His role as Dharmendra in Pulivaal Kalyanam, Philippose uncle in Swapnakoodu, Vikraman in CID Moosa, Thrivikraman in Meesa Madhavan, Kittunni in Narendran Makan Jayakanthan Vaka, Veerappan Kurup in Ee Parakkum Thalika, Sundaresan in Friends, Gangadharan in Punjabi House, etc. are only few examples of Haneefa's touch. Even after gaining popularity as a comedian, he managed to create a deep impact by playing a negative role like Victor Sebastain in Dubai. He also played a full length title role in CI Mahadevan Anchadi Nalinchu as a police inspector. "The low budget film was a commercial success at the box-office" says Cochin Haneefa. Although former screen villains like Bheeman Raghu, Janardhanan, Rajan P Dev etc. won appreciation by playing comedy roles, none of them succeeded like Cochin Haneefa in handling comedy. He continues his comedy ride with recently released Malayalam films like Kurukshetra, Thirakkatha, Thaavalam, Parunthu etc. Cochin Haneefa is equally popular in neighbouring Tamil Nadu and has won appreciation for his performance. He has done prominent roles in recently released Tamil films like Aegan, Poi Solla Porom, Jayam Kondaan, Pattiyal. He won rave reviews for his role as Sami in the Arya-Bharath starrer gangster film Pattiyal and the land broker role in the Karthik Kumar starrer Poi Solla Porom directed by Vijay. His hands are full with offers for several Tamil films like Aa Aa Ee Ee, Mothi Vilayaduthu etc. and also important roles in forthcoming Malayalam multi-starrer films like Twenty Twenty and Mammootty's Pattanathil Bhootham. Haneefa developed an early love and passion for acting and mimicry. He won many prizes in mimicry and drama in his school and college days.

He was adjudged the best actor of Kerala University and remained the best for four years in school and five years in college. His mimicry skills and acting talent earned him an easy entry into filmdom.

He made his film debut as an actor in Azhimugham directed by P Vijayan as a boat driver. Madhu and Jayabharathi played the leads and the film was an average hit at the box-office. Haneefa was a first year degree student at the prestigious St Alberts College and got the opportunity to exhibit his mimicry talent in the debut film. "I appeared in a small role in the film, my imitation of late Tamil heroes MGR and Sivaji Ganesan was enough for gaining the attention of audience," says Haneefa.
He sailed with the passage of time and managed to evolve in other aspects of film making, like script writing and directing.
He has acted in around 300 films in a variety of roles in more than two-and-a-half decades. He terrorised the audience as a screen villain in several films and was a favourite for directors in negative roles especially in Vadakkanpattu films.
Haneefa always made his presence felt in the films he directed. As a director, he could have easily made his roles bigger in films but always preferred to appear in small roles, this shows his passion for film making. "I never did roles which I don't deserve in my films or other director's films. I could have easily made my little roles longer at least in my films like Valsalyam. But that appearance was enough for the character and why should I drag my role," says the actor, with his trade mark laugh.

As a successful director he did not face any problem in finding a producer. He is planning to direct films in the future either in Tamil or Malayalam. He added, "at present, I am busy as an actor in Malayalam and Tamil. But I will direct a film in one of these languages in the near future." He is not ready to disclose the story and details of the film because he fears others will make the films with the subject.
His real breakthrough role came in 1989 as a street rowdy in Kireedam. Mohanlal played the lead in the film directed by Sibi Malayil and written by Lohithadas. "The transformation from villain to a comedian was accidental. "My role in Kireedam was welcomed by the audience as a comedian. After the success of the film, directors started casting me in comedy roles and as an actor I have succeeded in satisfying the audience," says Haneefa.
Kireedam, released in 1989, was recently remade into Tamil and Telugu languages and Haneefa played the same role in both the versions. He has succeeded in making the audience laugh with his humorous performance but the actor said, "the character lost its originality in a jeans costume."
Tamil remakes of his successful Malayalam films put his name on the top directors lists. His three Tamil films scripts were penned by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi.
Haneefa is a regular in the films of famed director S Shankar. He proudly said, "S Shankar is one of the best film makers and it is my luck to play roles in hit films like Vikram-starrer Anniyan, Rajinikanth-starrer Sivaji The Boss etc. I am playing an important role in the forthcoming big budget film Robot directed by Shankar. My co-artistes of the film are superstar Rajinikanth and the former Miss World Aishwarya Rai."

Cochin Haneefa not only had the luck to play important roles but also shared screen space with senior and young heroes. A good friend of legendary actor Kamal Hassan, Haneefa made his Tamil film debut in Kamal Hassan-starrer Mahanadi by frightening the girls as a pimp.
The multi-talented actor is trying his luck as a singer in a Mappilappattu Album, which will be released next month. He said, "I love Mappilappattu and it is my first attempt, I am singing six songs for two albums."
pics: Nisham A Manaf/The Gulf Today