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Raj Kaushal: A Nice Man To Know and Dino Morea Agrees!

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 49 is no age  to go. I  got to know Raj Kaushal when he directed a  film called Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi in 1999. It was  a  sweet, if not a remarkable, take  on  first love featuring an all-new  star cast  of Rinke Khanna(Twinkle’s kid sister who  just couldn’t stop  raving about  the film and her role), Sanjay Suri, Shweta Salve and Dino Morea.

My old friend Dino is inconsolable, “I’ve just left the crematorium. Very saddened by this.Raj was such a  fun jovial guy, full of life. How  could this happen to  him at such a young age?”

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Both Raj and his wife Madira Bedi were  most health conscious  and fitness adherents.

Recalls Dino  sadly, “My first movie experience  with Raj was Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi  All of us Sanjay Suri, Rinke  Khanna, Shweta Salve were  so young.Two of the songs  from this film Musu musu hasi and Wohpehli baar are hummed even  today.”

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Dino remembers spending a lot of time  back then with Raj. “We were  always together  while promoting Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi. He was  such a  great guy.And  to be now gone at just 49…”

 Five  years after Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi , Raj Kaushal directed Shaadi Ka Laddo which gave  the  neglected  Sanjay Suri  a chance to shine.

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I still remember  Suri’s  gratitude  for the opportunity. “I will remain indebted  to Raj Kaushal for this  opportunity. He  respect talent and hard work.”

 Then came  Raj’s best,  Anthony Kaun Hai  a pseudo-noire film which  was sassy original and  utterly  likable. In my review  of the  film I wrote: “First questions first: is this an original film? If it is, then this is one of the finest, sassiest and most sparkling scripts one has encountered in recent months.A fine central performance by the ever-competent actor Arshad Warsi playing a victim of destiny’s high-handedness, gives that extra edge and simmering sparkle to what could have been a precariously stylish pretext to film Thailand like never before.Hemant Chaturvedi’s cinematography is top-notch. Use of sepia and brown shades in the first half and more flamboyant colours in the second half gives director Raj Kaushal’s film that certain edge of delicious irony and under-stated ecstasy, generally denied to Hindi commercial cinema.Indeed one of the films USPs is the subversion of cinematic conventions. The device of the victim Champak Chaudhauri, aka Champ (Arshad) narrating his story to a child-like gangster (Sanjay Dutt, and how many times has he played the gangster to perfection!) gives the narrative a chance to repeatedly jump the grin and the gun to give us a dollop of devilish delight that seems original and intelligent.Sanjay as Arshad’s sounding board reminds us how much Hindi cinema can benefit from its traditions, if it only stops being slavish to convention.Sanjay often “corrects” Arshad’s narrative about his life. Watch that wickedly funny moment where Sanjay slaps his story-telling hostage and tells him to woo his girl in the way they do in Yash Chopra’s films.

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Yup, the hit-man is a movie buff. Predictably, he falls for his intended victim’s love story. Why not’ The romantic scenes between Arshad and Minissha Lamba, who has vastly improved from her earlier outings, are done up in a believable warm and endearing style.”

Raj’s appreciation for my appreciation was heartfelt.During Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi I teased how about stealing the title  from a  Bappi Lahiri song in Chalte Chalte.After Anthony Kaun Hai  I teased him about the unrevealed  ‘source’ for this clever film.

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Raj was  always  smiling laughing. Now  looks who’s having the last laugh.

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Abhishek Bachchan’s Must-Watch Films

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Abhishek Bachchan

Happy Birthday …Abhishek  Bachchan’s  Must-Watch Films

  1. Naach(2004):  Naach in fact carries the Abhimaan theme forward. On a simplistic level we can take heart in Abhishek doing an overdriven version of his dad’s compromised and jealous musician’s part in Abhimaan.But the dynamics are far more intricate in Naach. The protagonists are no longer driven apart by their ego. They are victims of a well-oiled machine of power and passion that inflicts a certain self-annihilating rejection of a standard code of morality on their lives.When we first see Rewa she’s sitting at the roadside impervious of passing traffic. As the music in her head plays a pounding invitation (remember Urmila Matondkar’s opening song in “Rangeela”?) she jumps to her feet and performs an enigmatic seductive and yet personal dance that has no definition.Antara Mali’s Rewa dances to an indeterminate rhythm that goes well with the film’s restless unanchored hitherto-unexplored man-woman axis. The camerawork by newcomer Kiran Reddy is so anguished and passionate you begin to see the characters as dancers caught in a dance of self-destruction.Varma catches them to stop them from falling to the ground. Abhi’s love for Rewa is redeemed, though personally I’m not convinced by the happy ending to their turbulent and short-fused relationship.If she refuses to be compromised by the murkiness of showbiz, he sees assimilation and surrender as the means to further his career as an actor. If initially she’s a choreographer who has never choreographed a dance, he grins and says,  “I’m an actor who hasn’t acted”.As you share their mutual sneers, you get ensnared into their world of heavy-traffic ambitions. The sounds and fumes of Mumbai’s roads qualify the Rewa-Abhi relationship as much as Reddy’s poetic cinematography which captures Abhishek and Antara in the most aesthetic kiss I’ve ever seen on an Indian film.The relationship grows with an animal passion and then gets stymied as Abhi’s ambitions carry him away from Rewa.It’s the first half where their relationship grows that holds you. Small details from the couple’s lives and their intense focus on dance crowd the canvas without toppling over the narrative.The second half about the couple’s ‘groaning’ disenchantment is laden with angry dance numbers where Abhishek’s grimace and growl are offset by Riteish Deshmukh’s gentle attentions towards Antara. In the film’s less weighty moments there’s a touch of Varma’s Rangeela.Naach is perhaps what Rangeela couldn’t be. An anxious and passionate look at the compromises that showbiz demands from the wannabes.There are only two principal characters and some well-etched passers by providing a beguiling backdrop to the tale. Both Abhishek and Antara perform their parts with a conviction that comes straight from the most unexplored areas of their talent.Naach escapes the blind alleys that Hindi cinema chooses to wander in.Naach is Varma’s most personalized and sensitive film ever. In it he creates an untried synthesis of realism within the morally suffocating world of showbiz and a freewheeling fantasy where both the struggling protagonists find success on their own terms.
  2. Yuva(2004): Abhishek Bachchan blossomed into a formidably engaging actor .Yuva is that rarity which can be watched both as an entertainer and a vehicle for projecting socio-political ideas.The easiest thing in the world is to sneer at someone who attempts to be unconventional through conventional routes. In that sense, Mani Ratnam and Michael Mukherjee, his protagonist in his latest film, share the same predicament.A riveting blend of social message and entertainment is what sets Yuva apart. Like Ratnam’s first Hindi film Dil Se, Yuva is an extremely restless film about young characters who are on the lookout for a relevance to their existence.While Michael wants to use student power to change the festering fortunes of Indian politics, the loutish Lallan (Abhishek Bachchan) just wants a decent life for his wife Shashi (Rani Mukherjee) and himself, and never mind if it’s through indecent means. You can almost read between the lines that Ratnam crosses from one protagonist’s life into another. The effect is of sea waves lapping against the shore and receding to leave behind tempting tides of significance.The three-tiered plot creates a sense of lyricism in the plot. Every character fits in the Kolkata milieu without stretching in the larger picture. Yet the existence of the binding cosmic force that keeps watch on Ratnam’s world and the world beyond his creation, looms large over the narrative.The gangster Lallan and his volatile blow-hot, blow-cold relationship with his wife Shashi echoes Manoj Bajpai and Shefali Chhaya’s rapport in Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya.But beyond that echo of familiarity is an aching originality in every frame, nurturing the characters through a remarkable process of self-discovery.Unlike Dil Se, whose narrative couldn’t really hold the audiences, Yuva keeps us glued to the goings-on till the very end, not because it tells a remarkably original story but because the characters come alive here as complete people, full of little gestures and understated personality traits that we may miss at first.Yuva is like a visit to a strange and warm tropical island. At first the sights and sounds may appear too familiar for excitement. But every shrub and every rock hides a new experience.It’s that subterranean experience that Yuva brings to the surface.Ratnam goes from one level of characterisation to another, weaving in and out of three lives without creating an autonomous self-contained world for each protagonist. The men who tower over the plot are also the tools in the hands of destiny.
  3. Sarkar(2004):  What makes this film the most special achievement of Varma’s career? It’s the father-son combination of Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan, furnishing Varma’s ebony vision of the world gone awry with a kind of blazing and bridled intensity that one last saw when Dilip Kumar and Amitabh played father and son in Ramesh Sippy’s Shakti.Sarkar is a far more complex jigsaw of patriarchal intensity, filial crises and familial obligations. Its ethical complexities go far beyond politics and cinema to embrace a kind of multi-dimensional secularism where religion is not about gods but definitions of goodness.Who’s the real villain? The people who rape society, or the ones who check crime and corruption by means that are extra-constitutional? The socio-political issue becomes more tangled in the light of the septic corruption that has crept into the governmental structure.Into this world comes Bal Thackeray, the Shiv Sena chief. Thackeray’s name is changed to Subhash Nagare in the film. But the power and the socio-political positioning of the man remains unaltered in the movie version of his life.No other actor in the universe could’ve played Thackeray’s screen version, or done the astonishing things that Bachchan has done to the character. Bachchan plays Nagare, the frail and yet all-powerful man.Marlon Brando’s The Godfather act provides a prototypical starting point for Subhash Nagare, one of the most entrancing heroes ever in Indian cinema.Varma brings out the protagonist’s power and glory through a demeanour that never screams for attention. Little gestures and nuances, agreeable and yet sinister, swathe the screen in a splendid arc of life and vitality.Abhishek as Shankar, the quietly faithful, duty-bound younger son destined to take up the strange family business — a role that has its roots in Al Pacino’s character in The Godfather — is in-sync with his character and the senior Bachchan’s prismatic persona.Abhishek’s delicately balanced facial expressions, his projection of the character’s fierce unquestioning loyalty towards his father’s politics, is done with such rare care and sensitivity that you cease to look at the actor.
  4. Antar Mahal (2005): Abhishek Bachchan uses his eyes and inward-drawn body language to create a socio-economically oppressed prototype. He almost seems like a distant kin of Om Puri in Satyajit Ray’s Sadgati. With less than 20 minutes of screen space, Abhishek’s eyes pierce a hole in the narrative’s sepulchral vision.In the bowels of feudalism there cries a female heart… The deep anguish of desolation has never created a more piercing and indelible dent in our soul. The refined, evenly defined resonance of Ghosh’s new Bengali work of art leaves behind the awkward rhythms of his last film in Hindi Raincoat.In Antar Mahal, he gets it right. The astonishing grace with which the director steals Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay’s skimpy short-story and turns it into a scintillating study of feudal and patriarchal oppression immediately links this work to some of the greatest literary adaptations from Bengal.The lonely wife Madhabi Mukherjee in Ray’s five-decade old film was more flirty. Soha Ali Khan as the child-bride, who is smothered in ritualistic subjugation in the inner chambers of a feudal household, is far more tender, fragile, vulnerable and heartbreaking. Images of her peeping anxiously and forlornly from behind filigreed curtains just sweep your heart away.Soha resembles the child-bride in Ray’s Devi — with a difference. Ray could’ve never imagined going into the graphic scenes of sexual subjugation. He was too much of a puritan to project sex in anything but silhouette.Ghosh brings feminine oppression out of the closet. In resplendently lit scenes of poetic languor (cinematographer Abhik Sen creates a lilting and magical play of light and shade), director Ghosh conjures images of unbearable pain and torture, as the heir-hungry decadent zamindar (Jackie Shroff, aptly cast) heaves and thrusts into his child-wife while the lascivious priest chants ritualistically to plead to the gods of procreation.The contrast between love and sex, male oppression and tender ministration is brought into the frames with teasing sensitivity when the Bihari sculptor Brij (Abhishek Bachchan) arrives in the sepulchral mansion to create a ripple effect in the lives of the brutish zamindar’s two wives, the doddering and crumbling elder bahu (Roopa Ganguly) and the sweet and heartbreaking younger wife (Soha).You can’t forget Roopa’s look of erotic longing as the Bihari sculptor shivers in his sleep in the outer courtyard. You cannot forget the bonding between the two wives, deeply but diametrically reminiscent of Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das’s camaraderie of desolation in Deepa Mehta’s Fire.But Ghosh doesn’t dwell on the bonding. He sweeps across the burning ghats of emotional desecration, entering the enchanting embers of simmering discontent only long enough to sweep us into the vortex of these demoniacal emotions. We are then pushed out of the inner chambers like unwanted guests.But the hospitality while it lasts, is overpowering. This is a film that invites you into fascinating folds of emotions, creating pockets of intangible feelings for us to savour… and live with forever.The doomed characters wrench us out of our habitual repose to evaluate the space and sound of cinema in a novel light.Though Ghosh’s film is exceptionally literate and articulate, it doesn’t do away with that cinematic quality of emotions which make the characters seem to be simultaneously sublime and obtainable. The anguish of the women is handled with a graceful delicacy unequalled in the work of any other Indian director. You cannot forget Roopa Ganguly and Soha Ali Khan’s collective desolation, or their shared unexpressed passion for the soft and kind sculptor, or the way they handle the suffocating brutality of their household.
  5. Manmarziyan(2018):  While Tapsee and Vicky give to their robust parts, it is Abhishek Bachchan, whose quiet character creates a space in the heart of the plot and lodges itself in the library of the luminous by respecting the character’s need to remain noble without seeming over-sweetened or simply stupid.Manmarziyan takes the traditional love triangle to a new level of expression, articulating an idiom that cannot entirely avoid tedium. After Rumi marries Robbie the narrative runs out of steam. There are repetitive scenes in the second-half which could do with some serious pruning. In spite of its flawed flow due to its extended length Manmarziyan is a winsome romantic tale which dares to ask a very basic question from diehard romantics: love is all very well, but what else? Imagine if Mani Ratnam had sex in his mind for Moun Ragam. Yes, the same story that Sanjay Leela Bhansali made into Hum… Dil Chuke Sanam about a marriage of inconvenience where the kind patient husband desists from consummating the marriage until the wife comes out of her earlier relationship.Imagine if the wife can’t come out of her stuporous obsession with her first love because, hell, the sex with Vicky (Kaushal) is toooooo good.The girlfriend-wife is played by Tapsee Pannu who seems to get more confident with every film. Her Rumi is no walkover for sure. Nor is it someone you would want as your wife, or your son’s wife or even as son’s friend’s wife. She is an unabashed epicurean… and the fact that Tapsee can play this super-annoying selfish woman without making us cringe is in equal measures a triumph of writing (Kannika Dhillon) and performing.Take the sequence where Tapsee’s Rumi rides a mo’bike to her future husband’s home and tells him, sorry, she can’t marry him. But hey, she can talk to him on Facebook. And she rides off.Outrageously self absorbed Taapsee plays Kangana’s smalltown harridan from Tanu Weds Manu multiplied by 10. She is vixenish yet spontaneous, arrogant in her selfishness and yet not unlikeable. Tapsee brings out all the contradictions in her character. She spares us none of Rumi’s churlishness. By the time she heads to Kashmir for her honeymoon with her husband on the rebound, I was hoping someone would slap this unapologetic self-server hard.Fate does that. The trouble with a pleasure-seeker like Rumi is, she is given a lot of leeway by the people around her. Her Punjabi joint family consternation at her sickeningly self-gratifying behaviour with Vicky comes through in spurts of hurt and indignation.Not that Rumi cares. She is arguably the most annoyingly self absorbed romantic heroine seen on screen. Vicky Kaushal as her cheesy DJ lover has worked hard on looking his part. The hair and the clothes and the body language exude a sense of selflimiting rebellion. It is never very clear whether the passion between Vicky and Rumi is all about sex, or something more.
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Nawazuddin’s Dream  House Turns Into A Nightmare

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Nawazuddin

Brick by brick, Nawazuddin  Siddiqui  constructed his own Taj Mahal in Mumbai. Gleaming white  and  custom-built, Nawaz  is rightfully house proud. Nawaab, Nawaz’s home named after his father, has  six  bedroom  , two large  halls, two spacious  lawns .On the first floor Nawaz has a large space to grow trees. Nawaz loves greenery. He want my home in Mumbai to  remind me  of  my home in my  village .

His voice  beaming with  pride and joy, Nawaz said, “I had  an exact map  of  every inch of my  dream  house in my head, and I would not compromise  on even an  inch of that  vision. If during my absence something  was built wrongly I  came back and  broke it. There have been many demolished walls before the  house happened.I wanted every inch of the house to be the way I had designed  it in my mind.I must thank my  brother who helped me  a lot ;during my  absence he supervised the construction.”

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When  I  had mentioned  that people were comparing his home  Nawaab  with Shah Rukh Khan’s Mannat  Nawaz demurred, “There is  no  need to compare the two. That is his dream home.  This is mine. Sabke sapne alag alag hote hain(to each his  own dream).I’d like  you to come to see my home.It is on Yari Road in Andheri.”

And now the same home has turned  into  a veritable  horror castle where his wife  is fighting an ugly  property battle with Nawaz’s  mother .

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The wife  Aaliya who has apparently been locked out of  the bedrooms  and  other private areas in the sprawling palace allegedly by Nawaz’s mother , has  made the livingroom sofas  the  temporary(?)  home for herself  and her children.

Nawaz’s home Nawaab is swarming with cops and lawyers while he is  nowhere to be traced, and rightly so. Whatever Nawaz  says at the moment will be  held against him. Whichever side he chooses he will be seen as a traiter  and a man who won’t own up to his  responsibilities.

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So where is  Nawaz? According to friends, he  has moved   into a  hotel  for now. There he has remain until his lawyers  sort  out the mess  at his home.

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Almost Pyaar With DJ Mohabbat Is  Anurag Kashyap’s  Mellowest Most Meditative Movie In  Many Years

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Almost Pyaar With DJ Mohabbat

Almost Pyaar With DJ Mohabbat

Written & Directed  by Anurag Kashyap

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Rating: *** ½

That annoying cackle! In one of the two  love stories that are fused together  in Anurag Kashyap’s fascinating new work of  heart, Yakub, the  intellectually  dim  loverboy has  a laugh like  a hyena on heat which is hard to beat  and anything but a treat.

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Silly impetuous Yaqub(Karan Mehta) stalks silly adventurous underage Amrita(Alaya F).  Somewhere  in London another a struggling musician Hameet(Karan Mehta, again)  is stalked by Ayesha(Alaya F), again underage  , the rich  spoilt pampered  lonely daughter of a Pakistani millionaire  who, according to Ayesha, bangs  everything that moves.

In one of the film’s most beautifully conceived  sequences  Ayesha tells the  introverted Harmeet why she cannot help being his  little lamb, why she goes all mushy when she looks at him.

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It’s  a memorable monologue  brilliantly performed by Alaya . She is most certainly a  better actor than her grandfather Kabir Bedi  and her mother Pooja Bedi.Karan Mehta is a notable find.He will find his way eventually.

The  narrative scampers  from Dalhousie to  London and back again without skipping a beat.  There is  a virile fluency about the narrative quite difficult to pinpoint and define. But it’s there underlining  almost every  scene.

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What doesn’t work at all is  Vicky Kaushal’s  DJ act. Mouthing gyan and Gulzar  as  if he owns them, Kaushal is  as annoying as  Yaqub’s laughter. The  film needed  a far more sturdy and centralized  narrator. Not this  idiot in a  headband trying to  be cool but  remaining just a fool who has probably never been to school.

That  apart, Kashyap packs in quite  a punch  in both the love stories. He lets the  couple make massive blunders in their relationships and  doesn’t judge them. The mistakes  in fact  add a luster of  unvarnished  credibility to the going-on. Oftentimes, especially in the  Indian segment,  the lovers are shown to be muddled headed and  reckless. But that, says Kashyap, is  what makes them  so  much in  love.

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Almost Pyaar With  DJ Mohabbat is  a charming mix of fluid fantasy and  raw realism.Sometimes  it is  hard  to tell the  fantasy  from the  reality. The coincidences especially the one that ties the  two couples, are  a bit too much Gulshan Nanda in Shakespeare. But that’s what  makes  love what it is. A puzzle which only Gulzar’s lines can define: Sirf  ehsaas hai yeh  rooh se mehsoos karo pyar ko pyar hi rehne do koi naam na  do. Touche.

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Faraaz : We Are The Champions

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Faraaz

Faraaz

Directed  by Hansal Mehta

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Rating: *** ½

 Compared  with  Hansal Mehta’s other two  films on  global terrorism ,Shahid and OmertaFaraaz is a mellower more  lenient  and  forgiving work. It is  predominantly  a discourse on true Islam and  its subversion by  terrorists as embodied in the two main characters Faraaz(Zahan kapoor) and  Nibras(Aditya Rawal).

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The  dialogues between the two are sharp and relevant. Most importantly these dialogues  never overstay their welcome, hence the film, though largely confined to a café  held  hostage  by a bunch of misguided  youngsters, never gets verbose.Instead Hansal Mehta brings in a sense of reined-in anxiety.

The agony  of  those  outside the  sealed café, whether the government officials  or parents of  the hostages(Juhi Babbar Soni, Amir Ali are  both superb , though the former has a  far more dramatic scope than the  latter) is given as  much  priority as  the  terrorized  hostages  inside the  café.

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Unlike  the several 26/11   films, the latest being the Adivi Sesh starrer Major, Faraaz is not too keen on generating thrills out of a  real-life tragedy. Hansal Mehta  doesn’t  edit out the brutality and suddenness of the attack, but  he  does humanize  the  young terrorists , specially Nibras, played with compelling restraint  by Aditya Rawal S/O the extraordinary Paresh.

 In  the  years to come,  young Rawal will be an actor to watch.

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Faraaz has  a lot of young talent to galvanize  the  story of one  blood-bathed night in  a  café in  Bangladesh . Many young  people went for an evening of recreation and  conversation. Several  never came out. This  is the story of one  braveheart who said he won’t run for his life without  his friends.

It’s  a disturbing moving tale of true heroism told with feeling rather than flourish.

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