The Masters of Controversy

Through each of their professions, they have individually shaped the 20th and 21st century. Their professions, of course, delve deep into the chaotic realm of controversy: whether it is politics or cinema.

President George W Bush, whether you consider him to be a pariah, savior or a plain old fool, has attracted all sorts of attention and created perhaps the most controversy in the 21st century. Whether it is the hunt for the elusive weapons of mass destruction, the inability to converse, or good ol' fashioned greed, President Bush has had his fair share of controversy. There have been many writers, movie-makers and entertainers who have had caught on to his coattails and tailgated along for a boost in their career.

But Oliver Stone's career needed no such boost.

Stone's movies have always attracted attention from the media, whether good or bad and have made people think twice about the things they thought they knew so well. It was Stone's interest in Bush's controversial life that has brought about Stone's latest project W to life.

Stone was mentored by Martin Scorsese in NYU Film School, is best friends with Fidel Castro, has directed eight actors to individual Oscar winning performances and served in the US Army near the Cambodian border during the Vietnam War. It was here that he was wounded twice in action. His personal awards include the Bronze Star with "V" device for valor for "extraordinary acts of courage under fire", and the Purple Heart with one Oak Leaf Cluster. Stone would go on to make three movies about Vietnam, but more on that later.

His initial foray into screenwriting spread evenly across most genres, starting from his student film entitled Last Year in Viet Nam (1971), followed by the gritty horror film Seizure (1974), Midnight Express (1978), Conan the Barbarian (1982), and Scarface (1983). Stone won his first Oscar for Midnight Express (1978) and this was just the beginning of his career.

It was clear that the more controversial the matter, the more Stone's interest in it. He has made three films about Vietnam – Platoon (1986), Born on the Fourth of July (1989), and Heaven & Earth (1993). For Stone, these films are a very personal trilogy even though they are inspired by other people's stories. Platoon is a semi-autobiographical film about Stone's experience of war and combat. Born on the Fourth of July is based on the story of war veteran Ron Kovic. Heaven & Earth is derived from the memoir When Heaven and Earth Changed Places, the true story of a Vietnamese girl whose life is drastically affected by the war.

During this same period, Stone directed Wall Street (1987), which earned Michael Douglas an Academy Award for Best Actor; Eric Bogosian's Talk Radio (1988), and The Doors (1991), starring Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison. However, it was the film after this that truly cemented Stone’s career as a master of controversy. JFK (1991) was a star spangled cast of who’s who of Hollywood, with Kevin Costner leading the cast. Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Bacon, Gary Oldman, Jack Lemmon, Sissy Spacek, Joe Pesci, and John Candy all starred in this no holds barred look at one of the most shocking moments in America’s history, the assassination of US President John F Kennedy. In true Stone fashion, this movie is more than just the assassination of a political figure; it is about the assassination of a political ideal, or even, as some say, the assassination of democracy itself.

Stone then made Natural Born Killers (1994) starring Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Robert Downey Jr. and Rodney Dangerfield. The movie, an adaptation of one of Quentin Tarantino’s earlier screenwriting works, was the story of the love and hate relationship of the media and violence. Stone’s movie was a kaleidoscope of violence and satire. Blurring the line between funny and offensive, the movie was filled with gruesome scenes of violence, juxtaposed with scenes of comedic nuances—more specifically black comedy. Nixon (1995), with Anthony Hopkins and Joan Allen, earned nominations for the actors and Stone for screenwriting, but failed to recover its budget.

During this time, Stone had slowed down in his movie making. Even the subject matter had saturated from spicy to quite bland. U-Turn (1997) had a very interesting storyline but was perhaps more Hitchcock intrigue and less Stone’s controversy. Any Given Sunday (1999) saw Stone veer off into the world of American Football and it wouldn’t be until 5 years that we’d see the director come back and do a film that he’d wanted to do for a life time. Alexander (2004) is perhaps Stone’s most epic film to date. The story of the great king who had conquered most of the known world, perhaps echoed the story of the director who had come so far in life and was desperate to rediscover himself. Again, the film failed to find an audience and barely recovered its budget through international DVD sales.

It wasn’t until World Trade Center (2006) that Stone finally found rediscovered himself and found his voice. Starring Nicolas Cage, the movie finally cemented the director with audiences and critics alike. And now, with the upcoming W, Stone sticks with what he knows best and delves knee deep in controversial subject matter once again. In the much anticipated movie Stone revisits the tumultuous youth of a man who came from a wealthy, oil family and whose father, George H. Bush, was also president—and his rise to power. "I want a fair, true portrait of the man. How did Bush go from an alcoholic bum to the most powerful figure in the world? It includes his belief that God personally chose him to be president of the United States, and his coming into his own with the stunning, pre-emptive attack on Iraq. It will contain surprises for Bush supporters and his detractors," he told a Hollywood magazine.

As usual, Stone found the process of making a political biopic motion picture quite difficult. “Nobody wanted to finance this film,” Stone told AFP, “Every studio said no. You’d be surprised to know the number of people in the business who don’t want to have their name associated with politics. This thing almost never got made.” But it did get made and cheaply at that too, thanks to tax cut incentives for only $30 million.

Speaking on being neutral on the subject matter, Stone told AFP, “Fifty million people voted for him on two occasions, He was in the same league for a long time as Ronald Reagan, until he became so offensive.” He told USA Today he had "tried to stay human to this man. People get me confused with my outspoken citizen side. But I'm a dramatist first and foremost. I am not interested in that radical 15 percent that hate Bush or the 15 or 20 percent who love Bush,” he said. “That's not our audience. Those people probably won't come. I'm interested in that 60 percent in the American middle who at least have a little more open mind.'

But however, Bush wasn't the only real life personality portrayed in the upcoming movie. The cast reads like a who's who of politics and hollywood: Elizabeth Banks as Laura Bush, Thandie Newton as Condoleezza Rice, Jesse Bradford as Thatcher, a college buddy of Bush, James Cromwell as George H. W. Bush, Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney (originally, Stone was interested in Robert Duvall for the role, but he turned it down), Scott Glenn as Donald Rumsfeld, Ellen Burstyn as Barbara Bush, Ioan Gruffudd, Jason Ritter as Jeb Bush, Noah Wyle as Donald Evans, Jeffrey Wright as Colin Powell and Toby Jones as Karl Rove. Josh Brolin steps into the shoes of the American President and he spoke about the role to EW Magazine, especially about the mannerisms such as the walk, "It changes over the years, how he walks in his 30s, how he walks in foreign lands, before 9/11 and afterward. People hold their emotions in their bodies. They can't fake it. Especially him."

When news broke that W was in production, Stone told the movie industry newspaper Variety that the movie would ask a very simple question: 'How did Bush go from an alcoholic bum to the most powerful figure in the world?' Bush, a former Texas governor, has never hidden the fact that he once battled alcoholism, but says he quit after a particularly heavy night on his 40th birthday in 1986 and has not touched a drop since.

Stone is a three-time Oscar winner. His directed films have been nominated for 31 Academy Awards, including eight for acting, six for screen writing, and three for directing. Not only is he well suited for making a movie about one of the most controversial figures of the 21st century, he is also the most capable since throughout his career, controversy has played a vital part in Oliver Stone’s success.

President Bush's actions have secured him a place in history books for years to come, but it will be Stone's portrayal of his character that will truly immortalize the President.

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The Aunty Disco Project Tea Party

Underground band Aunty Disco Project's have surfaced with a new video, titled "Nazar". True to ADP style, it is quirky, surreal and – wait for it – commercial!

Omar Bilal Akhtar, the band's singer and songwriter, admits with a laugh, "Yeah, this is our first commercial video." The video itself may be commercial, but it sticks with the spirit of the band, "All we told the director, Umer Adil, was that we wanted it to be funny, which was very important to us," says the singer/songwriter. Although the video is funny, in a surreal way there is more to it than just that.

The track itself is very unlike ADP, a slow graceful number that reflects the band's true essence. "It was a different pace from what we do: hardrock covers, headbanging, but this was a very introspective track, and everybody on the band loves it. And it's quite personal to me."

Omar, or Oba as he is known, sounds much relaxed and calm about the fact that they are now veering into territory they thought they'd never venture into. "This is definitely one of the most easy listening tracks that we have, it's quite commercial." This is from the band that totally scoffed at the idea of anything commercial when they broke out with their self-released album, almost a year ago.

They did name drop a few directors back then, but it was pretty clear that they were steering clear from anything too commercial. Not anymore as Oba states: "Ali Alam's been a great influence on us, not just on our music, but as musicians. He was the one who introduced us to Umer Adil." And what about Alam's involvement in ADP? "We're negotiating at the moment," laughs Oba, "although we're writing songs and helping each other out, we're still touring together as a live act."

Before I can ask him, Oba gets one thing clear, "Imran is not a part of the band anymore." At first, one can assume that the separation was tumultuous, but Oba makes it absolutely clear: "He has his own career now and we have ours, but even with that we're helping each other out all the way through. We remain good friends." Even though they are one less Aunty, the band is adamant they are still ready to Disco it out.

From one Omar to another, Umer Adil, the director, has established himself with niche TV shows, from gardening, cooking to children's programs. Along with his wife, Beenish Waiz, the two of them came up with the concept of the video and presented it to the band. "When I first heard the song," says Umer, "I immediately had the image of the jester figurine [one of the first frames in the video] in my mind." He ran with the entire story of the video and it was pretty clear that they were meticulous with their storytelling. "We then expanded upon the fact that the jester is the storyteller and other nuances, so much that people will actually enjoy watching it over and over again."

The video opens on each band member, individually, from Oba's serenading on the guitar, to Omar Khalid's slumber on the hammock, to Yasir's chess playing. Seemingly each character is not connected, that is until we are introduced to the Tea Lady. Played by a friend of Oba, Natasha portrays a mysterious character, living in the middle of the forest, in what clearly appears to be an allegory to the Hut of Baba Yaga. And upon watching the video for the second time, I was picking up things I had not seen before. "That's the thing," states Umer, "it's open ended enough so that everyone understands it, but at the same time, it is open to interpretation and is multi-layered."

Shot on a farm outside Karachi, the video is one part costume drama and one part tea party satire. In it, the boys appear dressed in costume and get called upon by model Natasha, for tea. But nothing is what it appears to be, subtle hints dropped along the way, blink and you'll miss them moments and especially the twist ending, is what makes this video one to look out for.

The video is now airing on all channels. And now that the work is done both Umer and Oba are quickly getting on to other things. "I'm doing and will do a few documentaries at the moment," says Umer and I ask him about doing more music videos. "If the song is good enough," he replies.

Meanwhile, Oba and the group are busy writing new songs. "We've written quite a few now, they're interesting and different, but we don't want to do the same old songs over again. I think this is going to be a totally fresh start."

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Science Fiction or Science Reality

Science Fiction literature and entertainment have given us many awe inspiring visions of the future. From visions of space travel, to weird and alien life forms and advanced technology, Science Fiction and the minds behind it, have shown us the future.

But science fiction doesn’t stay science fiction for long, soon the dates mentioned in the stories come to pass and hardly a whimper happens. The scope of Science Fiction is such that it would take many articles to properly categorize and review each and every advancement or predictions; this is just aimed to be the first of some.

It would take an unprecedented amount of time to tally each and every timeline, since there are many, therefore only a selected few have been presented here. Along with a list of notable entries.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Perhaps the best known date in science fiction, Arthur C Clarke's magnum opus and Stanley Kubrick's defining cinematic venture, 2001: A Space Odyssey has been hailed as a motion picture before its time and one of the last century's defining science fiction work of literature. It has been labeled by unexplainable by some and one of the most intelligent murder mysteries of all time, but it is filled with technological advancements that thrilled and awed audiences of the late 60s.

But 2001 the year itself came and went. What were the advancements we were promised by Clarke and Kubrick? Many. First and foremost, the illusive Artificial Intelligence. In the story, one of the main characters is HAL 9000, a sentient computer that not only enjoys chess, but also a good conversation. Clarke denies he used a one-letter-shift from IBM to come up with the name.

January 12, 1997 is an important date in the novel, because that's when HAL 9000 is first activated. Computer enthusiasts celebrated this date without the birthday computer as we are light years away from a sentient, artificial intelligence. HAL is responsible for making sure that the spaceship Discovery continues with her missions safely and keeping its crew is proper hibernation.

That's another thing, suspended animation. Since the mission in space will take time, scientists today are working diligently to discover how life can be preserved long enough to make the time and distance traveled, but we are still miles and years away from the technology. Something we're relatively closer to are lunar colonies. NASA already plans on establishing a lunar colony by 2020 along the lunar poles.

In the story, sometime in early 2001 the alien monolith is discovered on the moon, kick starting the story but recently scientists have been trying hard to discover as little as water on the lunar surface, alien objects are still the stuff of science fiction.

Star Trek

Though Clarke and Kubrick told a great science fiction story, they didn't imagine the future. That was the job for futurist and TV writer, Gene Rodenberry. On September 8, 1966, Roddenberry went boldly where no one had gone before; the debut of Star Trek gave us strange new worlds and alien life, and a world the futurist hoped would come true.

Gene Roddenberry had a utopia in mind when he thought about the future, because the times that he lived in were setting up an apocalyptic and probably despotic future. Racial segregation, war in the far-east and the rise of the cold war between the US and the Soviets, were just some of the troubles brewing on the horizon.

Eugenics Wars begin when a group of genetically bred 'super-humans' seize control of one-quarter of the globe, plunging Earth into a terrible conflict. Some Trek historians refer to this as The Third World War and according to the character of Spock, some 37 million people lost their lives. As the Eugenics Wars end, the genetic tyrants are overthrown. One "super-human", Khan Noonien Singh, escapes into space aboard the SS Botany Bay. He would later on appear in an infamous episode of the TV series, "Space Seed" and an entire movie dedicated to him, Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan.

The 1990s are long gone now, and although we gladly didn't suffer any world wars, the 90s saw a myriad of conflicts that have reshaped the world. Firstly, the Gulf War began for the first time, a conflict that continues to rage on until today with no clear end in sight.

Strangely a certain aspect of this has come true. Genetic engineering and cloning are slowly emerging as the frontier of science with a big "WARNING" sign stuck to its fence. With such a list of conflicts and wars, perhaps the mythos of Star Trek wasn't that far off. But it was from the ashes of these fires that Roddenberry imagined mankind would be reborn from.

But the future Star Trek went on to present, came up with interesting concepts that are seeing the light of day. Communicators or Mobile Phones?

UFO: The TV Series

Not many people would know about Gerry Anderson, but they'd know about his TV shows, and amongst Terrahawks and Thunderbirds, UFO is one of them. Originally made in 1971, the TV series was set 10 years into the future, 1980, when a fictional organization is created to deal with an impending alien invasion. For only a ten year jump, the show's vision of the future was sleek and very tech savvy and it made many predictions, some came true others didn’t.

Car telephones for example, the series would often show cars with phones in them. By the early 1980s, technology had almost gotten the phone into a car by way of a small briefcase. We also got to see cordless telephones for the first time and they did come true by the early and mid 1980s. The show also predicted the widespread use of the computer, granted it didn’t look small, but even thought computers were well on their way in the 1980s, especially the Macs, the home computer didn't quite hit home until the mid and late 90s, all thanks to Mr Gates and his Windows operating system. Several other technological advancements were highlighted in the show, such as voice print identification systems; also, vocal analysis used to identify individuals in the same way as fingerprints. These systems didn't see the light of day until the later half of the 1990s, when privacy became such an issue. Another aspect, though not dealing with science, was the fact that racial prejudice was completely eliminated, something that has not seen the light of day even now and remains the stuff of fiction.

These were but some of the aspects of Science Fiction that have showed us the story of human potential. The imagination of a few authors, filmmakers, and artists have shaped the future of millions, the choice of making it come true however is only limited by our own potential and imagination.

Silent Running

Long before there was Inconvenient Truth, there was Silent Running. Living up to its name, this silent hit from the early 70s was one of the first movies warning about the effects of global warming. The movie was clever in the fact that its premise stated that in the near future, the Earth would not be able to sustain life.

Bruce Dern plays a botanist living on green houses on space freighters around the orbit of Saturn. He caters for the last surviving species of plant life within these giant green houses along with robot helpers. Even as we speak, NASA has gathered several species of plant like and is catering to them on the International Space Station. It isn't as epic as Silent Running, nor does it serve the same purpose, but it is a small step in what would be mass preservation of earth's ecology. Using the same thought, but on a much grander scale, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a secure seedbank located on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen near the town of Longyearbyen in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago. With support from a diverse financial institutions and donors like The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Vault's purpose is to preserve seeds of various plants from across the world. Although it's not in orbit around Saturn, the almost alien and frozen landscape of the northern hemisphere is as close to science fiction we'll get.

These are just some of the Science Fiction inventions, ideas, events that have happened in books or on the big screen. To capture each and every single invention, idea or event, would truly require an imagination of epic proportions…

The following is a list of inventions and technologies, discussed before their time, but now seen in everyday life.

1867 From the Earth to the Moon

Depicting man's journey to the Moon, Verne was responsible for predicting many interesting aspects of Space travel. From the fact that it was retro-rockets that carried man, to the strange coincidence that they would be launched from Florida.

1888 Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy

It has been rated as one of the most remarkable books of American literature, in it writer / lawyer Bellamy talks about many modern day inventions, such as Credit Cards and shopping Malls.

1889 In the Year 2889 by Jules Verne

Verne wasn't just about traveling to the Moon, in this book he talked about getting up to date news update long before the likes of CNN and even 3G mobile phones.

1895 The Crack of Doom by Robert Cromie

One of the earliest references of an Atomic Bomb.

1899 When the Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells

Famous for this Martian invasion and time machine, Wells dabbled with information and entertainment technology in this novel by showing inventions that pre-dated the iPod and conventional DVD and VCR players.

1911 Ralph 124c 41 + by Hugo Gernsback

This turn of the century novel talks about personalized news, much like we get with services like Google alerts to underground, undersea, tunnels, like the Channel Tunnel.

1920 R.U.R. by Karel Capek

Though we're quite far away from an actual Robot, the term 'robot' was first used here.

1923 Men Like Gods by H.G. Wells

Proving his consistency to imagine new technological wonders, Wells depicts Wireless Networks in this novel.

1931 The Prince of Space by Jack Williamson

In the novel's City of Space, we get to see a habitat where human live in outer space, much like they have started to do now with the International Space Station.

1934 Triplanetary by E.E. 'Doc' Smith

Wells described the system, but it was Smith that explored the possibility of the medium of entertainment as platinum discs. He was off about the material, but CDs and DVDs of prove that she was right.

1941 Methuselah's Children by Robert Heinlein

This novel by the scribe of Starship Troopers, this novel discusses the invention of genetically engineered food.

1948 Space Cadet by Robert Heinlein

Again, Heinlein shows his prowess for the imagination by showing off "portable" or mobile phones, as we now know them, in this story.

For further reading on what kind of inventions first appeared in the books of science fiction, visit http://www.technovelgy.com/

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Bangkok Dangerous: Too Dangerous To Watch

“My name is Joe,” says the all-too-familiar, droopy, slow voice. “And this is what I do.” If his calling is making Bangkok Dangerous a bad film, then he’s right.

A remake of a Thai thriller by its original makers no less, Bangkok Dangerous tells the story of a hitman, Joe (Nicolas Cage), who goes to Bangkok for a month-long assignment to kill four people for a gang lord. The original film’s main character is a deaf-mute hitman whose disability makes him a fearless, unflinching gunman. Unable to hear the mercy cries of his victims, he is a ruthless killing machine.

In the remake, we get Nicolas Cage who is anything but ruthless. Cage decimates people on screen with his guns blazing and audiences at home with his overt under-acting. It’s a shame to see him doing roles like these when we’ve seen him do so much better. Matchstick Men, Adaptation, City of Angels and Leaving Las Vegas are just a few that show off his acting prowess, and it’s not like he can’t act in action adventures either. Films like The Rock and the National Treasure franchise prove that he can bring his game even when the going gets tough. But frankly, Cage falls flat on his face here.

Joining Cage on the acting reins is Shahkrit Yamnarm who plays Kong, a petty thief who helps Joe along with small jobs. Yamnarm is an established Thai actor and holds up against the likes of Cage on screen, but with Cage doing such a bad job, it’s no wonder actors like Yamnarm are called “supporting” actors. To help with the “support” is Charlie Yeung Choi-Nei, a Hong Kong actress, whose character is Cage’s love interest and the obligatory pretty face.

The Pang Brothers directed the original and they’re no stranger to Hollywood re-making their originals. Danny Pang Fat and Oxide Pang Chun startled audiences with a new kind of horror with their hit, The Eye. Spawning two lackluster sequels, the duo sold the re-make rights to Hollywood and we got the terrible US re-make with Jessica Alba in the lead role. But for Bangkok Dangerous, they were given the opportunity by Cage to direct the remake themselves, since the Oscar-winning actor had purchased the rights.

Remakes are tricky business. Like the sword that cuts both ways, film-makers have to be careful with the amount of changes that they make or not. A bad example of a remake would be Godzilla. The 1999 film by the people that brought us Independence Day, Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, wasn’t much different and the acting was sub par, even by the CGI monster. A good example of a remake would be The Departed. Originally, titled Internal Affairs, this 2002 Hong Kong blockbuster’s remake in 2006 gave director Martin Scorcese his first Oscar and widespread critical and blockbuster acclaim.

Coming back to Bangkok Dangerous, this film is vastly inferior to the original. For one, Cage’s choice to star as the lead defeats the purpose of the original character. “We’d like to keep him the same, but we understand that from a marketing point of view Nic needs to have some lines,” Oxide Pang Chun told International Herald Tribune. And by giving his character lines they ultimately ended up changing the entire concept of the original plot.

For a moment let’s forget this is actually a remake. But looking at it from a completely open perspective doesn’t even change a thing. The film or perhaps the directors don’t ask anything from Cage. They have at their disposal one of the better actors (forget the fact that he makes bad film choices) and they let him sleepwalk through scene after scene.

It’s a shame to see Cage doing roles like these when we’ve seen him do so much better. Matchstick Men, Adaptation, City of Angels and Leaving Las Vegas are just a few that show off his acting prowess, and it’s not like he can’t act in action adventures either. Films like The Rock and the National Treasure franchise prove that he can bring his game even when the going gets tough. But frankly, he falls flat on his face in Bangkok Dangerous.

The story isn’t given time to develop, the characters appear and disappear which is disappointing as the best action films give their characters room to breathe. On the contrary, Bangkok Dangerous chokes the very life out of its characters with its plot threads.

Understandably, critics round the world have panned the film. Nahtan Lee of the New York Times writes: “Of all the shoddy, insipid qualities of Bangkok Dangerous, the most egregious is the most fundamental: The film is simply dreadful to look at. We have at long last reached the nadir of the Malnourished Mood at the cinema, that sickly palate of grimy greens and blues, ubiquitous since The Matrix, employed by thrillers with atmospheric pretensions.” The film looks like something is about to happen — you can feel the tension mounting only to have the bubble burst by the annoying pin of anti-climax.

Hollywood powerhouse magazine gives a similar critique, “Heavy on the spice and cheap on the meat, Bangkok Dangerous adds plenty of Thai seasoning to the Hollywood lone-assassin recipe, but the result is only mildly pungent. Rehashing certain elements — including striking location shooting — that marked their much grittier 1999 feature of the same title, Hong Kong’s Pang brothers increase the decibel level of the gunshots and the schmaltz level of the scenario, but such embellishments, not to mention a Nicolas Cage doused with Clairol, make this hefty remake seem less dangerous than incongruous. Low September B.O. body count should be surpassed by acceptable ancillary returns.”

The film grossed $7.8 million in its opening weekend, which was good enough for the studio to get its money back but not good enough for it to regain the entire $40 million. It was also the lowest grossing films to reach the No. 1 spot.

If you have to see a good action movie with Nicolas Cage in it, this is probably not the one for you. You’re better off trying to see Next which was released earlier this year or the National Treasure sequel which was surprisingly much better than Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

All in all, you’re better off renting Bangkok Dangerous when there’s nothing else to watch and preferably watch it with friends. At least that way there will be fun on the expense of Cage’s bad acting, receding hairline and haircut, and awful costumes.
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Soulspeakers: Kaavish and their debut album Gunkali...

“I can’t imagine us on billboards holding mobile phones or something,” scoffs singer/pianist Jaffer. Maaz, sitting next to me, shakes his head imagining it, “No way, that’s just not right.” Raheel would also agree with both his band members.

Sitting in Faisal Rafi’s studio, I’m flanked by two members of Kaavish. Drummer Raheel is at work but was kind enough to speak to me afterwards, and he too agreed: As a band, the last thing on their minds right now is fame. They are busy at the studio polishing away track after track of their debut album, Gunkali.

And what a time it has been. After a long and tedious wait the album is now in final stages of production. “Well, we did say that the last time and that was a couple of months ago,” quips Maaz, “but hopefully, we’ll get it out after Ramazan.” And the young guitarist seems confident that it will be so because Kaavish has come a long way from when the band first started to work on this album some six years ago.

Says Jaffer, “It wasn’t until two years ago that we figured out what we wanted to do with the album. Before that we hadn’t even decided that the sound was going to be live.” A fateful intervention by Omar Anwar introduced the band to producer Faisal Rafi, and it was then that the proverbial ball started to roll.

Rafi is responsible for the Indus Music Project. He usually maintains his privacy and shirks from the limelight. Jaffer recollects how they started the collaboration, “Faisal wasn’t doing any commercial projects at the time so we were lucky that he took an interest and helped us out.” With the start of the collaboration the band took a do-or-die attitude towards making the album. “We had no excuses after we had booked a shift with Faisal. We had to show up, play and get things done.” says Jaffer.

But getting things done was a bit tricky for Raheel. “It was my last year studying abroad,” the drummer says, adding, “I could only come back during the summers, which is when I’d lay down the tracks for the drums, do shows or anything else that was required.”

Though Raheel’s involvement was actually limited, it didn’t mean he was cut off from the group in any way. In fact, he was privy to a very interesting point of view, one that his fellow band members didn’t see. “When I came back and I heard the sound again, it was a vast improvement. The sound had progressed thanks to Faisal.”

Listening to the tracks, one can tell that the chemistry between the band and the producer is clearly there. The resulting sound is probably the most organic yet to be heard with every instrument being played live. This real sound reaches out to the listener and evokes a myriad of emotions...but more on the album later.

Faisal Rafi’s involvement changed the entire element of the album for the band. “Before we came here (to Faisal) we would ask friends, musicians to tell us about our music.” Jaffer relates. “Although our friends loved our music, we couldn’t get a critique out of them. That’s where Faisal came in. He critiqued us and we needed that.” Raheel adds, “We got a grander, richer sound as he opened us up as musicians.”

For Kaavish, live sound is important. “If it hasn’t been played by a real person,” Maaz says, “there’s just no feeling in it.” However, the sound isn’t what describes Kaavish’s music. I asked the band what would be that one word that describes it. Initially, all three of them didn’t know what to say as it’s not easy for them to limit themselves to one particular word. Then they went on to say how they’d like their music to ‘speak to the soul’.

The three tracks that have made Kaavish familiar to the masses underwent a re-thinking process. Says Jaffer, “It wasn’t a re-thinking, actually. What happened was that we were now looking at things from a proper recording process. We had access to a live recording studio and with that we just had to arrange the songs in a different manner, particularly towards a live sound.”

“It was just a tweaking of the instrumentations, and bit by bit the sound changed from electronic to live,” adds Raheel.

For Kaavish, live sound is important. “If it hasn’t been played by a real person,” Maaz says, “there’s just no feeling in it.” However, the sound isn’t what describes Kaavish’s music. I asked the band members what would be that one word that describes it. Initially, all three of them didn’t know what to say as it’s not easy for them to limit themselves to one particular word. Then the band members went on to discuss how they’d like their music to ‘speak to the soul’.

“We’re trying to revive tradition, of how they did it in the old days with the melodies and the compositions, and so on and so forth.” Jaffer’s sentiments are understandable, considering the fact that he is the son of Nayyara Noor, the venerable ghazal singer. And Maaz, having being friends with Jaffer for nearly a decade, echoes the singer’s sentiments. The discovery of Raheel — who also agrees to the acoustic sound — is what completes them as a band.

The conception of this album and of each song is a very interesting process. “We didn’t write the lyrics beforehand, all we had were compositions,” says Jaffer. “One of us would play something and we’d like the melody and then work the sound around it.” But Kaavish isn’t alone on this album. “Anwar Maqsood has written two tracks for us, my mother has written two tracks, and so has my father…and Maaz has written a track, too!” While Raheel was away in Canada, he had help back at home. “Gumby was kind enough to fill in the drums while I was away. He’s done a tremendous job.” Besides them, guitarists Shallum Xavier and Aamer Zaki also contributed.

Any musical band’s journey cannot be complete until they’ve recorded an album. After having signed a record deal, were Kaavish under pressure to release the album immediately? “They (the company) knew we’d been working on it for nearly six years now and that they might as well wait out the smaller delays.”

The band members usher me into the studio where we listen to six out of the 10 tracks. Sitting at the helm of the controls, Faisal Rafi doesn’t speak much about the songs but his mannerism shows that he’s quite proud of Kaavish. We hear Dekho first, a quiet, melodic track that not only showcases the talents of the band but also the sound. Listening to it, one can understand how such music would speak to the soul. Dil Mein is where we hear the classical sound, a sound from years past echoing its way towards the present where it meets with the contemporary, and a guitar solo by Aamer Zaki himself. Sun Zara, penned by Anwar Maqsood is the first upbeat song on the album. It is an optimistic track, quite appropriately titled since Kaavish wishes to speak to its listeners.

Speaking of the production, Faisal Rafi finally says, “It should sound like it’s performed live.”

Chand Taare is a song that stands out. “We needed to have a song like this,” Jaffer says about the need for at least one commercial track, “so we’ve put it in as the first track to get it over with as quickly as possible.” Bachpan is a track which was re-processed for the album. Says Raheel, “It was an older sound, we had changed so much with Faisal that we had to re-process it to fit it in this album.” Finally we hear Chaltay Rahe, a poignant track with traces of classical music but a powerful contemporary base.

Kaavish as a band has come far with Gunkali, an album that has been six years in the making. Both have seen tremendous change, along with the surroundings and the music industry, too. Now the only thing left is for audiences to listen to the sound that will, in all possibility, talk to their souls.
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