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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Deepika favourite for lead role in 'Robot'

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After a dream debut with Bollywood 'Badshaah' Shah Rukh Khan in 'Om Shanti Om', Deepika Padukone appears set to storm the south with a possible role opposite Tamil superstar Rajinikanth in the big-budget film "Robot".

Padukone's name is "on the top of the list of contenders for heroine" in the Rs 100-crore venture by director Shankar, sources in the film production unit here said.

Shankar, who directed last year's runaway hit "Sivaji - The Boss" also starring Rajinikanth, has already teamed up with the style icon and renowned music composer A R Rehman.

The 22-year-old model-turned-actress has received the Star Screen award for "most promising newcomer" and Stardust "Superstar of Tomorrow"" award.

Going by the mantra that actresses make a dent in Kollywood after starring opposite Rajinikanth or Kamal Hassan, the media began the buzz about Deepika acting in "Robot".

The speculation earlier was that Shah Rukh Khan would play the lead in the the film, to be made in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi, before Shankar succeeded in getting the Tamil matinee idol to agree.

Ash & Hrithik have no rivalry: Ashutosh Gowariker

Troubled and tired of all the controversies surrounding the release of Jodha-Akbar, Ashutosh Gowariker finally speaks from his bed where he's recovering from a back problem.

Is it true that a company dumped the music of Jodha-Akbar?
It's true that we were looking at an association with Big Music. But we didn't agree on certain rights issue for the music….so we parted.

UTV Music, a label that Ronnie Screwvala wanted to start later during the year, is being launched in a hurry to release our Jodha-Akbar music. We're having the music release function on the 9 Jan. An on 15 the music is in the stores.

The Maharani of Jaipur Rani Padmini, who's a direct descendent of Jodhabai, and her husband are flying down to release the music.

Is it true you're cutting two of the songs?
No. There're only five songs recorded for Jodha-Akbar. And we've retained all of them. I treasure every song that I record and wouldn't dream of cutting them for length.

Even if we had nine songs only two would wind their way into the charts.Though we've five songs I've worked on making each hummable.

How do you think the younger generation would react to the music?
The response to the first two songs has been surprisingly positive. People were expecting archaic songs. But they like the modern adaptation of the 16th century sounds.

The songs were never made to blare at pubs. Never targeted at the youngsters?
Why do you say that? When Pyar kiya to darna kya was created it was youngsters who were throwing coins on the screen. When Dev Saab sang Khoya Khoya chand it was the young who swooned.

And when Shammi Kapoor said Yahooo it was the young who responded. I'd say the film comes first. Whatever emerges from it should be suitably marketed.

The music of Jodha-Akbar can't be Bhangra and Hip-hop. Just because the film has Aishwarya please don't expect an introductory song and dance. It's not a star vehicle. It's about the characters.I'm showcasing Jodha and Akbar.

How will you be there?
I have to be there. It's a big function. And I have to manage in spite of a slipped-disc situation. I'm just grateful it didn't happen during the shooting. Imagine me being out of circulation on location in Rajasthan.

Have you strained or injured yourself?
No I strained my back while lifting a heavy bag.

Did the bag contain Hrithik?
(laughs) Well Hrithik, Aishwarya and I have certainly been carrying an awesome burden on our shoulders. I'd like to compare my struggle to release Jodha-Akbar to a video game where you play the first level very easily. As you go to other levels the game gets complicated.

What's the truth about Hrithik and Aishwarya not doing the publicity for Jodha-Akbar?
Not true at all. We now have a publicity plan for them. It had to be aligned to the music and film release.

And what about these stories of how the two couldn't get along?
Absolutely untrue! I don't know how and why this is being said. Aishwarya and Hrithik get along really well. Even at the wrap-party they were fine with each other.

There was no rivalry between them. Aishwarya is the most professional actress I've worked with. She never bought any guests on sets, or her cellphone for that matter.

There were stories about how she was asking a spotboy for chai while Hrithik was rehearsing. Yeh sab bachkani baatein hai.

Did Abhishek ever drop in?
Only when he was shooting in Karjat nextdoor for that song in Ra Gopal Varma's Aag. Even then he'd drop in before the shooting started, have chai and leave.

I just want to say both Hrithik and Aishwarya were extremely dedicated professional and sensible. They knew exactly what they had to do. It wasn't as if they were shocked by getting into a period piece.

Specially after Dhoom 2 it must have been tough for them to get into the Moghul era.
Yes, but even for Dhoom 2 they had to assume an alien body language and personality. In Jodha-Akbar too they've worked to create a new persona. That couldn't have happened if they weren't focused.

Did you miss Aamir Khan in Jodha-Akbar?
They were showing our old film Baazi the other day…I'm dying to see Taare Zameen Par. He came to visit me twice during my confinement. But I can't sit up for long hours.

When is Jodha-Akbar releasing?
We were very keen on Jan 25. But because of my back problem I was told to be in bed for 21 days. I couldn't go to Chennai for the background score. A R Rahman had to travel down to Mumbai. That delayed things quite a bit.

So my cabin in office was being used to prepare the background score. That was most inconvenient. Now we're coming on Feb 15. At the moment that's the date.

Valentine's Week for co-stars who aren't the least attached to one another?
(laughs) That sounds like a good idea for an intensely romantic film. So far we've been looking at festival weeks to release Jodha-Akbar…Eid, then Independence Day…Now any Friday when Jodha-Akbar releases is celebration week.

It's been a tough film for you.
I wouldn't say so. The process of filming Jodha-Akbar has been really enjoyable. I've no issues except the back problem. 'It's not going to be postponed any more.' That's my Hanuman Chalisa these days.

I ran screaming to Salman: Katrina

Currently Katrina Kaif is in Australia shooting for Vipul Shah's comedy Singh Is King.

Speaking from Australia Katrina says, "I'm here till the middle of December. And I do miss Mumbai. But right now I've my mom and sister with me. So that makes it so much better."

For Katrina Kaif it's been a somewhat different Diwali this year in Australia.

"Vipul had organized some awesome fireworks on the beach. So all of us from the unit, Indian and Australian, were down on the beach for Diwali. Then we went to an Indian restaurant. Luckily nobody played cards. The fact that we did sociable things rather than play cards made this Diwali very special."

Katrina has been entering the laughter zone once too often in her career.

Is she getting wary of doing comedies? "I wouldn't say that. But it's true that in our comedies the heroines have very little to do except smile vacuously and watch the boys have a good time.

However Vipul is very very special to me. I'd be a tree in his film if he wanted to be. It just so happened that the people who were comfortable working with me initially were dabbling in comedy.

My debut Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya, then Partner and now Welcome are all comedies. The territory is getting a bit too familiar with me. Initially it was important for me to get those commercial hits to my credit. Now that it's happened I'm consciously doing other kinds of films."

One non-comedy role that Katrina is currently shooting is Subhash Ghai's Main Yuvraaj.

"And I get to play the cello in Subhashji's film. The thing with the cello is, you can't completely learn to play it all at once, like the piano or the sitar. It's an instrument that takes years to master."

Katrina sat with an orchestra player in Bombay to get the body posture of the cello player right. "Luckily for me Subhashji's films have an ongoing theme piece running through the music soundtrack.

That's the one which I've familiarized myself with on the cello. I learnt the chords for that piece like a piece of choreography. When people see me doing that piece they wouldn't find me faking it.

We were shooting in a castle in Austria with a German orchestra conductor guiding my movements. When I got it right I ran screaming to Salman, Arjun and everyone on the sets. Subhashji had to calm me down. 'Theek hai, beta. Now the next shot.'

She describes Singh Is King as a complete comedy. "It'll be my funniest comedy so far, and for a change not slapstick. I've been doing quite a lot of comedies. This is my second comedy in a row with director Anees Bazmi after Welcome, and that too with Akshay Kumar again."

She admits Akshay's comic timing has been a learning experience. "You do learn from everyone you work with. He's the master of his genre. He knows what works best for him. And that for any actor is a big USP."

'I married Priyanka last year'

E Niwas could've been gone out of circulation after his last film Bardasht bombed at the boxoffice.

But Niwas married his sweetheart and his luck changed. "I got married a year back to Priyanka. It was a love marriage."

"I finished scripting two films. Then I approached Riteish Deshmukh who loved the script of the comedy De Taali. I thought after Bardasht he wouldn't want to work with me. But Riteish loved it.

And he said he wanted to shoot immediately. I for married on 9 August last year. We started shooting after ten days. We went for our honeymoon and I cleverly started shooting De Taali there for fifteen days.

I had warned Riteish De Taali would take time, that I'd do it between breaks for My Name Is Anthony Gonzalves which was a big responsibility for me since I was producing directing and launching a new boy Nikhil Diwedi. Riteish was game, And we completed De Taali in-between schedules of Anthony Gonzalves."

Niwas describes Anthony Gonzalves as a slice-of-life drama. "It's about dreams and ambitions and a friendship between a film struggler Nikhil and a much older man, a gangster played by Pavan Malhotra. These two opposites form the core of the plot."

Gonzalves and De Taali are both original scripts. "That's right. Shool was inspired by Zanjeer, Love Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega was taken from Fargo and my Dum was an remake of Telugu films.

But De Taali and Anthony Gonzalves are original works. I had to gain the confidence to do something that isn't inspired from other sources."

Nikhil Diwedi who plays the title role was Niwas' first and only choice. "As for my leading lady Amrita Rao, everyone wants to know why I've changed her image to a glamorous one after her traditional role in Vivah.

But I always saw Amrita as glamorous. When I asked her to do an item song she had no hesitation in getting into the grooves."

Interestingly Niwas works with three generations of actors in My Name Is Anthony Gonzalves.

"Mithun Chakraborty who plays a priest never let us feel his seniority although Pavan Malhotra was a junior and Nikhil was a kid. Mithuda was one of us.

He often had to wait for us on the sets. I needed this kind of support. Considering I was stepping into production for the first time."

I danced in TZP too: Darsheel

Darsheel aka Ishaan Awasthi, the child actor in Aamir Khan's directorial debut "Taare Zameen Par", did not dance on-screen to the song "Bum bum bole". However, the little actor danced during the retakes of the shots.

"I have trained in Shiamak's (Davar) school and I am a good dancer. Everyone in 'Bum bum bole' danced, excluding me. I was very upset. So, every time they shot a retake, I would start dancing," Darsheel wrote in Aamir Khan's blog www.aamirkhan.com.

Recounting memories of the shoot, he added: "Acting with Tanay and Sachet was great fun and partying with them was amazing fun."

In the film released Dec 21, Darsheel plays the role of a dyslexic child.

Aamir was at Darsheel's house for lunch with wife Kiran and wished one could have seen the boy's face as he read the blog posts.

However, before handing over his laptop to Darsheel, an overwhelmed Aamir penned: "I want you to know that I am absolutely thrilled with what I have been reading through your posts."

"Every stress and every pain-filled moment that I may have gone through to make TZP feels worth it after reading your responses. I am humbled with your generosity, and I feel stronger and filled with courage to do better and more challenging work in the future."

For the record, Aamir's post, which was largely about his films, attracted 532 comments from his fans.

Viveik Oberoi wanted my role

It almost didn't happen for the first debutant of 2008.

Nikhil Diwedi was almost ousted from his debut film My Name Is Anthony Gonzalves when the corporate house which director E Niwas approached to produce the film, insisted the director work with Viveik Oberoi instead of the newcomer.

When confronted with this historical trivia on the destiny of his debut Diwedi demurs. "I wouldn't like to name anyone.

But an actor who was very hot and happening a few years ago did want to do My Name Is Anthony Gonzalves. My director Niwas was very clear that the script would only work with a newcomer, and that too me.

He threw all caution to the winds and decided to produce Anthony on his own along with Sahara One," divulges Diwedi who claims to be a diehard Bachchan fan.

"I remember as a child watching Mr Bachchan in Suhaag. Today it's a coincidence that my debut film gets its title from a popular song in a film featuring with Mr Bachchan. That isn't all. No one knows this.

But I was actually supposed to make my debut with a small role that E Niwas had offered me in an Aftab Shivdasani-Esha Deol romance called Jaane Kaise Kab Kahan, again a song from a Bachchan flick.

I love that title, and I've asked Niwas to give it to me for a future film," gushes the newcomer who claims to be finely- tuned to every detail about Hindi cinema.

Fortunately for Nikhil, he desisted from playing the bit role of Esha's fiancé in the shelved film."What has to happen, will happen," philolosophizes the youngster with oodles of confidence.

Nikhil plays a bartender and a Bollywood struggler in My Name Is Anthony Gonzalves. He's all praise for his co-star Amrita Rao.

"Five years have passed since she came into the industry. Even today Amrita's hunger and anxiety to excel in every shot remains unchanged. I like that. Somewhere I too want to be insecure even after 25 films."

In fact Nikhil has already got three more films in his kitty. "One is a remake of Rahul Rawail's 1978 Sunny Deol starrer Arjun which Shivum Nair is directing and Anurag Kashyap is writing."

The original film about an unemployed youth being sucked politics and corruption is no longer valid. Kashyap is re-writing the script for Nikhil Diwedi.

"Unemployment is no longer a burning issue," opines Nikhil. "Today with so many avenues of work for youngsters like call centers, I think Arjun needed a new interpretation. Besides Arjun I have two other films to be produced by K Sera Sera and Sahara One."

Nikhil Diwedi seems to have found the most appropriate godfather in Shah Rukh Khan who apparently has taken the newcomer under his wing.

Nikhil apparently hangs around Khan quite often.

Surprisingly the debutant pooh-poohs the sugar-daddy theory. "I think too much has been made of Shah Rukh's interest in my career.

It isn't even a fraction of what it's made out to be. Sure his company Red Chillies is the line producer of My Name Is Anthony Gonzalves. But that's because he believed in the project Beyond that, Shah Rukh's interest in me and my career is, I think,reasonable and very sweet.

He did release the music of my film. Wouldn't he do that for any newcomer who requests him to?"

Clearly this newcomer has his act together. "I'm aware that 2007 had a large number of commendable male newcomers. Should I be happy to be coming in 2008 ? I don't think so. Every film and actor have their own destiny.

How I'm accepted by audiences doesn't depend on the competition but my intrinsic merits.I'll survive not because of competition or Shah Rukh's backing but only if audiences approve of me"

That we shall find out on Jan 11 when My Name Is Anthony Gonzalves releases.

'I can't do films with Sonam'

It has happened before. The parent is always wary of being seen with their star-child specially at the beginning of the newcomer's career.

Dimple Kapadia said no to Sanjay Bhansali's Khamoshi with daughter Twinkle and Dharmendra agreed to play Sunny and Bobby Deol's father in Apne after so many decades in the industry (Dharmendra did play Sunny's dad in his second film Sunny but they didn't have scenes together).

To no one's surprise Anil has turned down a chance to co-star with his daughter in her second film the much talked-about Dilli 6.

Says Anil, "It's true Rakeysh Mehra offered me a role in Dilli 6. But I regretfully declined. Who wouldn't want to work with Rakeysh after Rang De Basanti? Sonam is lucky to be working with him in her second film, after THE Sanjay Bhansali as her debut."

For now Anil has decided to stay away from offers to share screen space with his daughter. "In fact there have been 8-10 offers. But nothing that would tempt me into making this move right away.

Unless something really exceptional comes up I wouldn't like to work with my daughter at the moment. In fact she is even more against the idea than I am. She feels even more strongly about it. So I'd just like to wait."

He lights up at the mention of Saawariya. "The figures have come in straight from Sony Pictures in the US. And they're very heartening. I'd have been happier if the film had done even better in India. But it's done well enough.

Sonam has been appreciated unanimously. People like Amitji and Dilip Saab have praised her. Sonam couldn't have hoped for a better debut.

I'm very proud of my daughter. Yes, she has a long way to go. I think her second film is as exciting,if not more."

Adds Sonam, "I've done two shoots with my father and one AIDS feature.All through he was more worried about me than himself. So I don't think it's fair to him to put have me as a co-star.

Also, right now I'm too raw to separate my father from the character he'd play with me. Besides I wouldn't want to do any and everything with him. It has to be something special for both of us.

But if he produces a film that has a role for both of us I'd definitely want to do it. Because he produces only quality-conscious products."

I want to be a father: Johar

Earlier this week there was quite a scene at a multiplex in downtown Mumbai when one familiar grownup man sat sobbing in his seat long after a show of Aamir Khan's Taare Zameen Par was over, while another man tried to console him.

As curious onlookers moved closer to the emotional enclave they were surprised to see that the man so moved by the film was none other than filmmaker-anchor Karan Johar.

Karan who left on Sunday afternoon for Goa to bring in the New Year with his friends admitted Taare Zamen Par was one of the most emotional experiences of his movie-going life.

"I couldn't move from my seat for ten minutes after the show. I just sobbed like a baby. I was so moved by the story of the parents discovering the core of their child's spirit that I now want to be a parent.

I'm neither married nor have I ever intended to be a father in real life. But after watching Taare…I truly want to a father, to connect with a child on a level that only a parent can understand."

An ardent friend and fan of Shah Rukh Khan, Karan wholeheartedly praises the other Khan superstar.

"After seeing the film with a regular ticket-paying audience,I called up Aamir and told him that a sincerity of vision was part of his DNA.

He just can't help being the creator and the artiste that he is. It's hard to believe Taare is his first film as director. Look at the performance he has got out of the child actor Darsheel Safary."

Sighs Karan, "Taare Zameen Par is a landmark film. Definitely one of the best films I've seen in recent times."

Sushmita Sen in illegal deal

Sushmita Sen has distanced herself from the controversial illegal import of her Toyota Landcruiser, which has almost invited prosecution for the former Miss Universe.

In a reply to a notice issued by the Bombay High Court asking her to explain as to why appropriate action be not initiated against her for alleged illegalities committed in import of Toyota Landcruiser purportedly using fake documents and further manipulation for getting the vehicle registered, Sushmita has said that she had no intention to defeat any provision of law and that she was not involved in import of the Landcruiser.

The court had on October 11, 2007 upheld Sushmita's petition for quashing order of the BMC's Joint Commissioner asking her to cough up more than Rs 23 lakh towards octroi and ten times penalty for importing the car.

At the same time the court had taken serious note of allegations made against Sushmita, including non-payment of custom's duty, preparing false records, registering the new car as used one, importing it under transfer of residence, mentioning wrong engine and chasis numbers, undervaluing the vehicle and submitting false declaration to the registration authorities and had issued the notice to her.

In the reply Sushmita has also said that, she had not indulged in any irregularities or illegalities or in any blameworthy conduct, on the contrary as a law abiding citizen she had approached the Settlement Commission on her own, when the Custom's officials raised an issue of under-payment of duties, and paid Rs 20,33,386 to them.

Thereafter, she had duly paid the octroi amount of Rs 2,16,988 when the BMC issued demand notice, she has added in the reply.

Besides, the actor has also stated that all the papers with respect to the vehicle were prepared by M/s Jai Mata Enterprises proprietor Haren Choksey, who had purportedly offered her the Landcruiser, and signed by him on behalf of Vasu Thamala, the alleged owner of the vehicle and an allegedly non-existent person.

She has said, she was shown registration papers of the Landcruiser before it was handed over to her and categorically made it clear that it was not specifically imported for her.

Meanwhile, a division bench comprising Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice J P Deodhar today issued a non-bailable warrant against Vasu Thamala and adjourned the matter for further hearing after two weeks.

SLB burns his sets for money?

The Supreme Court Tuesday sought noted Bollywood film director Sanjay Leela Bhansali's response on a plea seeking resumption of his prosecution for allegedly setting fire to the sets of his film 'Black' in 2004 to claim insurance.

A Bench of Justices C.K. Thakker and D.K. Jain issued notice to Bhansali for his response on a plea by antique dealer Farida Husseinally, who had supplied furniture for the film set.

Husseinally, who claims to have lost antique furniture made of bronze, copper and other metals worth Rs.20 million in the fire, had earlier lodged a complaint in 2006 in Borivali's magisterial court, contending that the use of LPG cylinders, which led to the fire, was a criminal offence under the provisions of law regulating the use of petroleum gas.

The Borivali magistrate had ordered investigation of the case. But Bhansali had challenged the probe before the Bombay High Court, which suspended it.

Appearing for the antique dealer, advocate Vishwnath Chaturvedi contended before the apex court bench that the director was in the habit of setting his films' sets on fire to dupe insurance companies.

He made a fervent plea to the court to order resumption of Bhansali's prosecution after setting aside the Bombay High Court order.

Chaturvedi alleged that during the shooting of the film on Feb 18, 2004, the set was deliberately set on fire to seek hefty insurance compensation.

The antique dealer alleged that on enquiry she had come to know that before the fire, Bhansali had removed all the items supplied by her from the sets.

Shilpa's last resort to Fame?

Shilpa has also signed her first bollywood film after Big Brother back home. The film titled 'The Man' will be produced by Sunny Deol and has been written by Neeraj Pathak. In the film Shilpa plays a star who suddenly shoots to international fame.

A source associated with the project says: “Shilpa’s character in the film seems to be derived from her real persona. She plays a woman who suddenly shoots to international fame. In a way, the role is very biographical.”

Reports also have it that the film’s co-director, Neeraj, has decided to use in the movie the real footage of Shilpa’s experience in London after she won the Big Brother show last year.

‘The Man’ is set to go on the floors in the first quarter of 2008.

Isha gets steamy in bathtub

Isha Koppikar is back in news for her hot act. We hear that the sultry siren has shot a few hot sacene with a newcomer Arav Chowdhary in her upcoming film Right Or Wrong though she refused to kiss him.

One such sizzling scene shows Isha and Arav lying face-to-face in a bathtub. Isha raises her bare leg from the foam and begins caressing Arav’s bare chest with the toe of her foot.

While shooting this scene Arav wore nothing but shorts. Isha wore minimal clothes that were covered with foam to give the impression of nudity.

Apart from this, the duo has also shot a bedroom scene.

‘Right Ya Wrong’ is a story that raises some important moral questions. The film has Sunny Deol and Irrfan Khan playing cops. Konkona Sen Sharma plays a lawyer.

Himesh has slowed me down

Thanks to Himesh Reshammiya's decision to curtail his work, Bollywood's most prolific lyricist Sameer Anjaan who has written over 5000 songs, has reduced his work load.

"You see Himesh and I had formed a team. I did some of my finest and most popular work recently for Himesh in films from Tere Naam to Aap Ka Surroor.

But now that he has decided to compose only for his own starrers, I too have been forced to slow down. Yes I'm doing the words for Himesh's three films Karz, Kajra Re and A Love Ssssshtory."

For Karz Sameer will re-write the whole Anand Bakshi theme song Ek haseena thi. "I'll take the opening line as a starting point and then weave my own words."

Quite a tribute, coming from a self-confessed fan of Majrooh Sultanpuri and Anand Bakshi.

"Look at their body of work. How prolific they were! They were poetic and yet so accessible to the common man.

That's what I've been aiming to do all along, although I've been criticized and condemned for playing to the galleries. But when today Gulzar Saab write populist numbers like Ticket to Hollywood and Beedi he's praised for moving with the times.

When I've been doing the same I was accused of making compromises. But it's very important to keep up with the times. For a recent film Phir Hera Pheri I wrote All day all night which was in four languages Rajasthani, English, Hindi and Punjabi….That's the effect of globalization on cinema and our music. That's how today's youngsters speak. That's the spirit one has to capture in our film songs."

Sameer lights up like a gallery of diyas when he talks about his latest triumph in Saawariya.

"By the grace of God, the songs in Saawariya were appreciated for their poetry. When I'm pulled up for the lack of poetry in today's songs I want to know where are the creative artistes like Sanjay Leela Bhansali who demand and expect poetry in their songs?

When I was writing poetry for films like Aashiqui and Saajan in the 1990s I also wrote Main to bhelpuri kha raha tha in Coolie No 1. Because that was a song for a street-smart guy. One has to write according to the demand of the character and film.

I know my father (Anjaan) wrote poetry like Chandan sa badan in Saraswatichandra. But that was the demand of the times and the character. Today when Sanjay Bhansali offers me a chance to write songs like Jab se tere naina and Sawar sawar gayi I do it happily."

Sameer fondly recalls that historic moment when Sanjay Bhansali called him.

"He told me there are two songs of mine that tilted the scale towards me when there were so many more distinguished poets wanting to do the lyrics of Saawariya. Those songs were Tumse milna baatein karna in Tere Naam and Mohabbatein lutaoonga for Abhijeet Sawant."

Sameer wrote the first lyric Masha Allah for Saawariya in three days. "That's how long it took me to write each of the lyrics for Saawariya. I'm a fast worker. And I've survived so long because I know the art of writing lyrics. It's not enough to be a poet. You've to know how to connect your words with the common man."


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