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Balam, it's Taalam

Taal will become Taalam; director Subhash Ghai wants to dub it in Tamil.

The story is about this rustic lass who falls in love with a city slicker who's got a heart of gold but a family of some base metal. So one thing leads to another and she's ditched. She then goes to the big city and becomes a pop singer thanks to a music composer who behaves suspiciously like Anu Malik. Two men want her hand now, one has to beat it! That's what Taal's all about.

The musical is already running all over India. A R Rahman is an already sold proposition in Tamil. And Aishwarya Rai's got her own southern following too.

Spice Girls Brahma dead

Paul Herbert, 57, the man who originally brought together the Spice Girls, died in a car crash on 9 August.

The Spice Girls said in a statement: "We were all shocked and saddened to hear the news. Our deepest sympathy goes out to his family. We know he will be sadly missed."

The group got together in 1993 when Bob Herbert and his son advertised through Stage newspaper. Known then as Touch, the five girls, Melanie Brown, Melanie Chisholm, Victoria Adams, Emma Bunton and Geri Halliwell lived together and the Herberts acted as their manager. Geri Halliwell has since broken away; she recently cut her solo album Schizophonic.

But in 1996 they changed their name, and also their manager. They signed up with Simon Fuller, manager of Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics, and hit instant fame with their single Wannabe.

The Herberts did achieve success through the boy band Five last year.

Paul McCartney is a disc jockey now

He was one of the high priests of rock and roll. Three decades on, the BBC presents him in another avatar. Paul McCartney will spin discs for a four-part World Service radio series to be broadcast in mid October.

The former Beatle will play his favourites and tell listeners why he likes them. The four-part show will be recorded at his home in England.

The Beatles were all about teen energy, and Paul is now a knighted musician with a worldwide following. There has also been talk of the three surviving Beatles coming together for a show.

Hindi cinema from Javed Akhtar's balcony

Javed is a star poet; two decades ago, he was a star script writer. Along with friend Salim, he wrote that raging hit, Sholay.

Critics described it as a "curry western", a spicy Indian version of Hollywood adventures like The Five Man Army and The Magnificent Seven.

"There is some truth in it... I would say there is some Mexican blood in Gabbar. He's a bandit, not a daku," says Javed. He admits the idea of sending mercenaries to avenge a personal injustice is also Western. Sholay created memorable lead characters in Jai (Amitabh), Viru (Dharmendra) and Basanti (Hema Malini) and smaller but equally colourful supporting characters in Surma Bhopali (Jagdeep), Samba (Mac Mohan) and the Jailer (Asrani).

Oxford University Press has just published a book of conversations with Javed. Nasreen Munni Kabir chats with the celebrity writer, and gets candid quotes out of him.

"After Amar Akbar Anthony, I don't think Amitabh discovered anything new in himself as an actor. People kept seeing what they had seen before, and enjoyed it thoroughly. That's why he remained a superstar for so many years," says Javed. He believes big stars are afraid of falling and so prefer safe roles.

Did you know: Both Amitabh and Sanjeev wanted to play the role of Gabbar. Of course the role went to a young actor called Amjad Khan, whom Javed had noticed in a college play.

Talking Films: Conversations on Hindi Cinema with Javed Akhtar Oxford University Press
Rs 295

And the best singer award goes to...

Sanjeev Abhyankar!

Yes, this year's best male playback singer award goes to a classical vocalist. Sanjeev, disciple of Pandit Jasraj, wins the award for a song in Godmother.

Music composer Vishal Bharadwaj, known for his score in Gulzar's Maachis, also wins an award for Godmother.

A resource centre in honour of M S

The Chennai-based Sruti Foundation has set up an institute to archive music and dance material.

The foundation also runs Sruti, a magazine devoted to classical music and dance. It has named its new institute after M S Subbulakshmi and her husband Sadasivam.

The Subbulakshmi-Sadasivam Music and Dance Resources Institute (Samudri) will operate from a 1.5-acre campus at Siridavoor, 10 km from Mahabalipuram.

Besides building up an archives, Samudri plans to produce learning material, conduct workshops and culturally educate young Indians.

Entertainment giants merge

CDNow, a leader in music and video commerce, will merge with Sony and Columbia House to form a new company.

The merger will create a major entertainment, e-commerce and direct marketing company, a press note from Sony India said. Columbia House is owned by Time Warner.

Music-related web sites of Sony and Time Warner will link to the new company's web sites, enabling music lovers to sample content and buy online.

The press note, however, gives no date for the merger.

Musicians we've lost

A Anantharaman: Also known as Ambi Sir. Singer and veena player. Propagated rare compositions of Dikshitar. Founded Guruguha Gana Vidyalaya in 1943 and popularised Karnatak music in Calcutta. Born 2 December 1927. Died 6 November 1998.

Jitendra Abhisheki: Famous Hindustani vocalist and composer of Marathi theatre songs. Popular teacher. Worked for AIR Bombay till 1959 and composed sugam sangeet. Lived in Pune. Died 7 November 1998.

Neelamma Kadambi: Veena player who learnt under Venkatagiriyappa. Learnt vocal music from Mysore Vasudevacharya and T Chowdaiah. Fond of singing of devaranamas. Was 90 when she died on 14 December 1998 in Mysore.

Ramarao Nayak: Trained under Ustad Faiyyaz Khan, doyen of the Agra gharana, and settled in Bangalore. Also learnt from Ustad Ata Hussain. Sang rare ragas and compositions and trained many young vocalists. Loved to sing the Haridasa compositions. Died a week after presenting a concert of thumris. Was 89.

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