I was always taught to be myself: Akasa Singh

Gifting the nation with its selfie anthem last year ‘Tu kheench meri photo’ singer Akasa Singh, shares her story of doing a duet with pop sensation Ricky Martin recently.C4JlbNqUYAAs8Gi

Tell us about your childhood, growing up in a family with musical background…

As my father is a singer, there was always something or the other going on in my family. Growing up with that, before I knew what a career is, I already knew that I wanted to be a singer. I got my dad’s voice, and I pursued singing under his guidance, eventually, I started my career with Mika Singh. He would often come to our home and he used to make me sing and asked me to join the band with him and perform live.

Please share your experience working with Mika

Working with Mika was great. I was in a band at a very young age, I was the only girl in the band which had about 10 male members over the age of 40! Very early on I got to experience a lot. I got a chance to travel the whole world to perform for different audiences. Basically, working with him sort of moulded me, because he is one of the best performers of the country, and I learned a lot from him . Whatever I do on stage today is because of how Mika ji groomed me. I learned the best thing from the best person.

Your performance is quite versatile. How did you work on your charming onstage persona?

I was born and brought up in a Sardar family, I grew up with only brothers. While growing up, I never hesitated for anything,  thinking whether it would be inappropriate to behave in a way since I’m a girl. I did what I saw my brothers do. So, with that confidence, I never hesitate onstage about how I’d look while rapping, or whether I have to behave/perform in a particular way since I’m dressed in a lovely ghagra choli. I was always encouraged by my parents to be myself, I was never taught to behave in any particular way just because I am a girl. Growing up that way I explored many opportunities – if I wanted to rap I could, if I wanted to jump onstage or crack jokes I could – it sometimes does not go with the way I look or with people’s expectation, but it’s because I was always taught to be who I am. People do get a little shocked sometimes when I crack little jokes in the middle of my performance or jump…

Did you ever have stage fright?

I used to have that sort of fright before my exams! (laughs) When I used to study for exams, I would think Yaar Geometry chhodo, main stage mein 5000 logon ke samne gana ga dungi. I never experienced stage fright on the stage, because I felt at home on stage. I always wanted to go on stage hold a mic and interact with the people when my dad used to perform. But I was really young, and I could not sing properly. When my dad asked, what would you sing if you go on stage, I’d say ‘I don’t know, just get me on the stage, give me a mic and let people watch me and I’ll interact with them. Since the time I saw my dad perform on stage in front of a huge audience, I guess that stage fright was wiped off even before I had it.  In fact, I feel more at home on the stage even if there are 50,000 people in the audience rather than meeting new people. All thanks to my dad jinki performance dekh dekh ke woh dar nikal gaya.

How did you get your first Bollywood break?

Himesh Reshamiya was the mentor of a show I did – ‘India’s Raw Star’. When he heard me sing for the first time he promised me that he’d give me a break in Bollywood. After the show, a lot of people asked me whether I got a chance in Bollywood. An acquaintance gave me Himesh’s contact number and pushed me to talk to him. I messaged him ‘Hi Himesh ji, Akasa here. Hope you are well’ and in reply, he texted, ‘Hi Akasa hope you are well, come to the studio tomorrow, we’ll dub a song’. It was as if I reminded him about his promise. When I went to the studio the next day, he told me, Tum apne tarike me gao. That was the best part, and I sang the song, ‘Tu kheench meri photo’ from Sanam Teri Kasam in that ‘masti wala’ tone. He liked my tone and that’s  how I got my break in Bollywood. Kafi filmy kahaani hai meri! (laughs)

How did your collaboration with Ricky Martin for ‘Vente Pa Ca’ happen?

Another break that happened before this break was me signing up with Sony Music. Sony is his label. They told me that there’s a Spanish single of Ricky Martin, and that he was making an English version of it and whether I would like to lend my Hindi voice to it.  I got so excited that I agreed at once. My vocals were recorded and sent. Ricky really liked it and that’s how I collaborated with him on the duet, ‘Vente Pa Ca’.

What have you learned from this experience?

Unfortunately, I have not met him in person yet. When we were discussing the song, we exchanged e-mails where he explained me the feel of the song, how to sing it and a little praise. But the fact that I have a duet with him is a big deal for me. I hope that I get to meet him in future and work more with him.

Any Bollywood heroine you’d like to lend your voice to? Aaj

Aaj kal actually itna talent aa gaya Bollywood mein, that some of them are singing themselves. I cannot decide on any one particular person. I love Alia Bhatt, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra… In fact, I would like to sing for any of the heroines! They all are absolutely beautiful, I can sing for any heroine. Sometimes I think it’s better to be the heroin and sing my own songs! (laughs)

Would you like to share any memorable moment?

Recently, I did a show called ‘MTV Angles of Rock’ with three other Bollywood singers – Jasmine Sandlas, Shalmali Kholgade, and Anusha Mani. It was a women empowerment oriented show for which I wrote and composed two songs for the first time in my life. I also performed them for the people I had written for. That feeling of them appreciating, getting emotional and loving my songs is something that I’ll never forget in my life, which is why I don’t just want to sing but also want to compose and write so that I can touch people’s lives in more ways.

What are your hobbies?

Well, other than singing, I love to dance and read. I have a passion for bullet motorbike, so I’m trying to convince my mother to buy me a bullet. I’m also obsessed with animals – a pet lover.

 

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What a joke!

Googly must now be a kid with a pair of glasses on her little nose staring intently at a book or doing her homework for school, but once this little girl was my playmate or rather a live toy living downstairs to our apartment. There was no logical reason to name her Googly, it was simply my obsession with cute little things that drove me and still drives me to call out puchu/puchi/ googly-poogly on seeing something absolutely adorable! And thus I have a couple of cuties under my aegis named Puchi and Googly.

It is funny how children respond to jokes made by adults. It was as if Googly had suddenly discovered that she could rotate her head and she was frantically spinning her head with an audience consisting of a hysterical me and my grandma. Granny stared at her for a second or two and with a concerned layered in her voice she said, “Eki eki, matha ta khule pore jabe to erom korle!!” (uh oh, your head will fall off if you spin it so much)(The translation might not seem very funny, but trust me googly’s reaction was priceless.)

To this, a slightly tipsy Googly stopped suddenly, and lightly tossing from side to side she checked the position of her head with both hands to see if it had fallen off in real!

Being a restless child myself I have heard of my monkeying around from everybody in the family, and to get me seated quietly was quite a challenge until one could come up with good stories or I could sit with some colour pencils and scribble sceneries- my favourite topic for painting. One fine day I remember drawing a large multi petalled flower with a fresh set of wax crayons that I had received from a relative that day itself. Maa came in to check what I was up to, and I showed her my piece of art. Seeing the flower, she commented that petals of a flower are usually one-coloured and unlike the one I had made in order to utilize all the shades of colour in the set. My rainbow flower also had black, since I had run out of other colours to fill in the last petal. In my defence I explained Maa that the flower is how I have created it, so it can be multicoloured, after a pause, she enquired about the black petal. I answered smartly, “Oi papri ta poche geche!” (That petal is rotten!).

I can’t recall what Maa’s expression was to my explanation, but now when I think of my straight cut replies and suggestions given to people around me during my early years of life, I simply can’t figure out how people put up with me or children with similar attributes.

With the fascination for colours that children have, they often tend to create a brightly coloured world around them. It was during one of our science classes at school at the age of 5-6, when we were asked to draw and colour a cat each. “One cat only, mind it! I don’t want to see five cats in one copy,” ordered Shivani ma’am, the strict teacher everyone was scared of. The reason for this command was that we were so fond of Science and Environment classes (particularly because of the amount of drawings we were allowed to do) that we would produce endless masterpieces for the teachers to inspect and give beautiful remarks. But little did the scary woman know that the kids would produce their artworks in a different form. I saw round moon-faced cats being sketched everywhere around me. And then the cats were painted red, yellow, green and blue by their owners! I had been sitting sadly looking at my monochrome cat- other than a pinch of black in her tail and ears my cat was simply white- colourless.

Then started the inspection when the teacher would come around to check everybody’s copy and give marks or remarks for their drawings. Shivani ma’am was furious and maybe she was laughing in her head witnessing the colourful blunders. She pulled the ear of the boy sitting next to me with a red cat, “Where have you seen a red cat? Tell me do you have red and green cats around?” she questioned him and the other rule breakers innocently gazing at her wide eyed.

 

Demanding Change!

 

“Change nei hai madam, toffee le lo,” (We don’t have change madam, take some candies) is often the well-versed suggestion shop attendants give when you are unable to pay them the exact amount. Now to make the most of your money you are forced to buy a couple of useless toffees which get dumped and forgotten inside your bag until that rare day when you decide to de-clutter it!

Is the availability of change so rare that they always keep a jar or two handy to stuff some colourful wrappers into your hands with a smile? At times there may be crisis of the jingles but there are also situations when some vendors willingly or lazily hand over little somethings to round off the bill. Where do all the coins go? Have they stopped making coins in the mints or are there some voracious coin collectors who desperately grab them all and never let them go? Who are the members of this chillar party?

While a child, I remember to be extremely happy when a shopkeeper used to be generous enough to give me candies rather than unnecessary coins which always used to slip off between the fingers and made me hover around over and after the rolling metals. Similarly now when children are sent to shops to collect some items they come back with some more, happily.

Suddenly the other day I discovered that there is somewhere a child within me that craves for these candies! As the man behind the counter gave me some unknown candy I demanded to know whether he had the ones I liked. He stared at me for a while as if to confirm that it was me who enquired, the same way some websites need you to type irrelevant codes to clarify you are not a machine! Then he went around looking for the one I had asked for and finally came up with a shameful smile declaring that he does not have it. Exactly at that time from the corner of my eye I saw it deep inside a jar full of miscellaneous candies and I pointed it out with great enthusiasm. To this, he looked both defeated and relieved, and struggled to get it out from the jar for me. It somehow felt special, as if choosing the forced gift was a right to be enjoyed by one and all. If they are making you buy one, you better get the best of the lot, uncompromisingly. Yet again, it is not worth it, since you have to remember to have them or they would just rot somewhere in a corner.

There are also some firm customers who stick to what they need and come up with a no-nonsense face declaring that they won’t accept unimportant titbits like candies and shampoo sachets. That is when the hidden treasure comes jingling its way out. Another and very frequently practiced custom is to remember or note down the amount to be received by either parties, and eventually rounding it off on the next purchase. But this practice is only viable when you have developed a cordial relation with the shop attendant.

This menace of ‘demanding change’ is not new and is not restricted to shopkeepers alone. In cities like Kolkata where travelling short distances is easy via autos the auto drivers create a pandemonium in case you are unable to pay him the exact amount. Similar cases happen in Delhi with customers and regular office goers when the vendors and rickshaw pullers complain of not having enough change. Either you keep losing Rs 5 everyday or you argue and find a way out (which usually nobody does, due to lack of time).

With this menace dancing around the country, it is time to get a ‘change’ and control the change crisis before it gets too late and we are left to suffer the ill balanced eco(nomic)-system with the extinction of coins.

Destroyed

He snatched away the only treasure she had- Happiness

Robbed and destroyed she stood hoping,

Stood there like the tallest tree against the toughest hurricane

Scorned, ridiculed and scared, she waited with hope for change

Impatient, incompetent, unworthy,rude they called her…

She stood tall absorbing the words, still trying

And when she spoke, they marked her ineligible

Destroyed, she curled into a ball with the hardest shell, unbreakable

Then happened the miracle one day! She stopped.

She stopped hoping, complaining, believing and attending.

They had finally succeeded, they thought

But little did they realize that, she had killed everyone of them

Each of them had been burned and chopped and fed to the Devil

Pushed off the limits, she was reborn to murder

Murder everyone who contributed to her death

“You took away the only thing I wanted,” she said,

“I’ve taken away your capability of wanting,” she smiled with her violently sparkling eyes.

Robbed and destroyed she walk away… for miles and miles away form her own kind

To somewhere she can set up a new world…

Hope had yet again crept into her

But she had killed everyone, and every emotion and every light

She had woven a thick blanket of nothingness around her

And she cursed with her fiery eyes and spat with her sharp tongue at every potential threat

 

Beware of Idolators!

Humans have believed in the supernatural ever since creation of the human race. Ways of believing and worshipping the Almighty may differ in various ways. Some religions accept idol worship while some do not. But the prime matter of trust and faith in God is and should be the same. In many cases the prime cause of worshipping God results from fear in the supernatural and other fears of Sin and religious rituals preached by Religious leaders. There is always another way to reach a spot, and every individual has the right to choose their own path and not follow the herd, or call names to someone who chooses a different route.

Moving on to a more lucid topic, idol worshippers have several concepts and ideas. There’s this concept where the idol is given life and allowed to be resided by God during pujas, and after the ritual is complete, comes the part of visarjan or idol immersion. The idea of visarjan is not just drowning the idol, but first allowing God to leave that idol or the body in which God was residing during the puja. After visarjan, the value of the idol subsides drastically.

Another group of believers think that one must always pay respects to idols of God and Goddesses wherever and whenever they can be seen.

There’s nothing wrong with Idol worshipping, but the concept must be clear. That supernatural power you believe in resides everywhere, in everything and every being. But for a better focus and concentration of thought we choose to have an idol in front of us for an effective and satisfying form of spiritual communication.

One of the best and peaceful way to be lead a blissful life is to not get too involved into the materialistic world, which is next to impossible for the normal humans… So, we are mostly not so blissful. Jokes apart, there is no reason whatsoever to allow anybody to think that the people who make these idols are lowers beings. And neither to the gods and goddesses come flying down from the sky, they are man-made, and not always following very convenient and cheerful ways. For example the photograph below.

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This cute and unfinished Ganesa idol was left to dry by the side of a road, next to which is a stinking garbage dump.

So people, when you disregard other forms of life by looking down upon them or stigmatizing them, keep in mind that all the idols and photographs of God, that you worship have spent time in worse conditions and situations as well. Hence when you can’t disrespect that form of God, do not disrespect the other more prominent forms either.

Types of Guys…

…From the perspective of a woman. (Some of the categories also match for women.)

The Mr. Showoff

He’ll go on declaring himself to be the best and the most intelligent one. And in 99.9% cases, these sorts of people are fake. They just need attention. They can tell stories and make up events in their minds to grab your attention. No matter what you are discussing about, he will pop in to participate with false and imaginary events. Initially he will seem like a very knowledgeable person but with another deep question you will discover that he was pretending to know things! Just shut him up by exposing his stupid pretence.

The Narcissist

He is practically not much helpful or noticeable. But he will cross mountains to make his presence known. He loves himself a lot, not only for his looks but also for his ‘intellect’! He thinks that he is always right, which he is mostly not. And this man may be a selfie freak as well!

The Intellectual

Pretty much like Mr. Showoff, he is full of information. Even though he is knowledgeable, his overflowing talent may make you ill. He has the habit of pronouncing every word with extra care and attention which makes him sound like a machine with an annoying feminine voice! He will purposely wear a proud and intelligent look- thick framed glass, ruffled hair, and an unshaved dirty sweaty face. To complete the package, he speaks of philosophy and movies that no one can understand. God save you, if he is a would-be movie maker. All his ideas will be based on the depressed society and cigarettes! And ofcourse he is boring, none of his ideas make much sense. (But a real intellectual never looks like one. He is smart and never boasts about his abilities. A perfect gentleman, like our last category.)

The Mr. Dumbo

In short he knows nothing and understands nothing. His language and communication skill are terrifying.

The Confused Soul.

He never knows what to do. Either he’s too much involved with work or with family life or with simply nothing. He’s always depressed and wears a sad sympathetic look on his face. But he may not be so sad and sympathy deserving. In most cases cold blooded criminals match this category of men. They usually weave good emotional blackmails and win hearts of many, and with that confused state of mind goes on a crime spree! They can be serious criminals or just be harmless really sad individuals. It shall be hard to tell which one, until you can actually study that man closely.

The Despo!

He is physically or/and emotionally desperate. He NEEDS a girlfriend or a wife to spend time with. If life provides an opportunity he’ll date 10 girls simultaneously and be his best with all of them. Basically he’s a womanizer, and therefore girls maintain distance from this sort. This genre of men do not feel much, hence the irrational behaviour.

The Nagging one…

No matter how many times you have explained him nicely and kindly that you are not in love with him, he will simply go on and on nagging you to be his ‘girlfriend’. And then there will be one point of time when you will burst out in anger and shove him out of your life absolutely forever. Yet again he might try to nag to ‘get back your trust’ and ‘be friends again’!

The Good Guy!

He is decent and understanding. He may or not be very intelligent but will hold a good heart and hence will make a very good friend or even a lover. He will be loyal and true to you. He is also the one to not judge people and listen to almost everyone patiently before commenting on an issue. This guy can win hearts with his logic and sense of humour, which pretty much many of the other categories can, but yet he is the genuine one.

The Complete Package!

And hence the best in the lot, but rare to find. And even if you find one he’ll probably be engaged in a serious relationship. Or he’ll be too sober to make a move. OR… he may be there still waiting for the right moment and the right place to prove his worth to you. He is intelligent, sensible, understanding, and sober and everything else you would use to define a perfect person. He knows what to do and what to say in the right time. He is the exact model person you have dreamt of. He has spot-on perfection of sense of humour, tastes, logic, music and movies. Needless to say he attracts a lot of pretty women and several male haters! Some dislikes him for no reason and some for their own inabilities to match his capabilities.

Now there you go with my categorization of guys in the world I have met till date. If you have any further addition of subtraction to make to or from the list, please feel free to do so. And men if you think you belong to one of the ‘not-so-good’ category please don’t fight. Someone else may have a different perspective to pamper your beautiful thoughts about yourself.

How to be beautiful…

Can you be more beautiful to others? Well, I’m not an expert in suggesting that… but with what little experiences I have gathered till date, it is for sure that people love to laugh! And everybody loves a beautiful person…

If you can make someone laugh, you’ll be considered as a near important or very important human being among your peers. And if someone holds the ability to make you laugh or lighten up your mood in dark times, you better give that soul some importance, because he/she is special!

The one who listens patiently to all your problems and complains, and understands you, is as well a very crucial character in your life. You learn to depend on and love that person, ask for his/her opinion and gradually become the closest minds.

To be beautiful, you don’t really need to be good looking. You would not need to have large pretty eyes or pouty lips to be beautiful. Those are mere parameters to measure one’s prettiness.  Rather you just need to be you. Trying to be someone else all your life, you’ll just remain a ‘wannabe’. You cannot be someone else. But you can be a better YOU. I guess that’s a better consideration. A genuine smile and true eyes can make you the most beautiful person on earth.

To find the perfect person for you, listen to your heart, but also do not forget to look into the clues and facts that your brain is pointing out to. The one whose wavelength matches with yours, the one who laughs at the same jokes like you do without pretending, and the one, who has similar choices like yours, is the right person. That individual may not be good looking, but he/she’s that beautiful soul you’ve been searching for all your life.

You may not be able to impress others by these simple qualities initially, but trust me, people are not stupid. Okay! They are, but not for long, initially human beings are always attracted to glass and not gold, but with time and experience everyone develops the ability to differentiate deceptive from genuine, and glass from gold.

Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder and also in the eyes of your character.

Sweetness extended- The journey from a sweet shop to a Bank!

Even though Bengalis have had a poor impression throughout India for being ‘lazy’ and ‘crab minded’ there are some terrific examples of Bengali entrepreneurs and successful business men, who will blow your mind away. Dwarakanath Tagore was the pioneer in setting up a series of business ventures line banking, insurance and shipping companies in partnership with British traders. He became the first Indian bank director in 1828 and in 1829, he founded the Union Bank in Calcutta.

The myth of ‘business is not for Bengali Babus’ has been proven wrong once again as Bandhan, India’s largest Micro finance company received a banking license from RBI recently. Bandhan, was founded by Chandra Shekhar Ghosh in 2001 for lending money to low income women entrepreneurs, Self Help Groups and small scale businesses. Ghosh was raised with limited resources as father had just a small sweet shop as the only source of income.  Ghosh started out as a worker in a NGO in 2001, giving tiny loans to the poor in Konnagar.

In the early days of Bandhan, Ghosh had only two staff members and the group started to give small loans, to poor borrowers in Konnagar and nearby Kolkata suburbs.

Now, Bandhan has 2022 branches operating in 22 states in India while in the race to becoming a bank, Bandhan has beaten some of India’s top corporations and industrial houses.

Among other inspirational Bengali perons, we have Barun Sengupta the founder of Bartaman, Ashok Sarkar the founder of Ananda Bazaar Patrika and Pronnoy Roy, co-founder of NDTV, all successful in the media industry. Amar Gopal Bose founded of the Bose Corporation, famous for its home audio systems worldwide. Arundhati Bhattahcarya, also a Bengali was the first woman to be a chairperson of SBI.

These personalities have taught the world, that all you need to succeed is a strong will power and dedication.

Rain Rain…Remain…

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At times when the summer heat really annoys us we pray for the sun to hide behind the clouds and let us live in peace, but seldom do we worship the monsoon… We complain about the muck and puddles everywhere… but neither of us let out that feeling on social networking sites as we go on posting quotes of other people about rain!

It’s funny how relative things can be… while a farmer in a distant village worships rain, an IT employee at Salt Lake Sector 5 probably curses the phenomenon for flooding the streets. While the passengers in a large bus thanks god for being under a shade, the man riding a bicycle or a rickshaw hates every large vehicle that passes his transport giving him an unwanted shower of a blissful mixture of mud and stone chips.

As the little girl suffering from fever watches from her window how the big boys are enjoying the rain playing football, she wishes she was not in confinement… or what if she were a boy, who could get all muddy and not have to answer what the society may think of his activities…

As She watches the raindrops drip down her window glass she recalls the well exchanged emotions that people call love, but which never really lasted for her… while He wonders walking in the rain why could he never overcome distance and preserve the bond… Both listen to their favourite music in the rain, feel connected, but never talk… ‘She should approach’, thinks he. ‘He should approach’, thinks she… and years have passed by…

The other guy thinks why he can never get close to his best friend, while the girl picturize them kissing in the rain, but as soon as they look at each other in the eye, all they see is a happy pair of faces that are absolutely content with being ‘friends’…

That little plant by the road over there, dreams of achieving great heights someday, on the arrival of rains, like that large tree across the street… but it barely knows that it’s going to get trampled or eaten by the larger and more important being of the food chain in a couple of days! While the birds that had a nest on the large tree lost their home due to the arrival of monsoon since the owners of the tree thought of chopping its branches for a better growth…

You know monsoon has arrived when you can go to the terrace carefree, dancing and pirouetting on the temporary splashy surface without anyone ogling! Even the shyest of the souls can open up their desires and minds in the rain and dance to the tune of bliss.

Rain gives a feeling of freedom and confidence… often short lived, but potent. If utilized correctly, it may help you attain great elevation. Rain makes you recognize yourself. Rain broadens your mind and cleanses your soul.

Get out and enjoy the drizzle while you can, because one day you may regret never having experienced the beauty of nature…

The Untold remains Unsaid…

In a documentary titled India’s Daughter, one of the accused of the Nirbhaya case said on camera that girls are “far more responsible for rape than boys”.  That man also added that women should be blamed for going out late at night and “attract the attention of gangs of male molesters.”  According to him, women must not protest to rape rather allow it for the sake of their lives. According to him only 20% girls are good and that the crime that they had committed was a mere accident. The interview had cooked up a storm in the country.

The film was to be telecasted on 8 March, International Women’s Day, but our government stalled it, for exposing the Indian mindset regarding rape. Women are treated as men’s property and objects for fulfilling fetish. The Delhi Police had registered an FIR pertaining to “insult to provoke breach of the peace” while MIB (Ministry of Information and Broadcast) has issued an advisory against screening it on television channels. If the interview in the documentary is a cause of shame for the country, so are the living criminals who are fed and bred in prisons in the name of life-time imprisonment!

Safety for women in India has been an issue forever, but without proper punishment for the unlawful activists, and overlooking of the major cases as minor incidents have given rise to the criminal activities in the nation. And now we have the government trying to cover up their shame! People have the right to know what is in the mind of a potential rapist/ molester. It will act both as a caution and helpful information of the present times. Hence, it is always a wiser option to allow the screening and let the debate begin, for a more strict punishment for offenders. Crime must be nipped at the bud rather than being raised with care disguised in the form of prejudice and chauvinism. The plague must end before it results in ultimate destruction of mankind.

The director, Leslee Udwin had the courage to film the documentary when she followed the news of extensive protests from the mass. She had herself faced sexual assaults at an early age, even then she thought it to be an important task to portray the mind of the accused in her film.