Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Artist attacked over nude paintings

An Indian artist has been assaulted in a gallery in the capital, Delhi, where he is exhibiting a number of nude paintings.
Pranava Prakash said five men barged into the gallery in the Noida district on Sunday, saying the pictures were "against Indian culture".
He said he was thrown to the floor and a number of pictures were damaged.
Hardline Hindu groups have in the past protested over art works they say offend their beliefs.
The attack also comes in the wake of an intensified debate over artistic free speech, with controversial UK writer Sir Salman Rushdie abandoning plans to attend a literary festival in Jaipur amid security concerns.
Mr Prakash told Agence France-Presse news agency: "Five guys came in on Sunday and started yelling at me, saying, 'Your paintings are against Indian culture, we cannot tolerate them'.
"They slapped me twice, threw me to the floor and then began pulling down the paintings, damaging three of my pictures."
The nude paintings in the Espace Alternative Gallery include depictions of Bollywood star Vidya Balan, Pakistani actress Veena Malik and model Poonam Pandey.
The latter painting features Ms Pandey with words written on her bosom, while Ms Malik appears with the Pakistani flag painted on her back.
Mr Prakash said: "There is a certain section of people who think they alone are the custodians of Indian culture, and anyone who disagrees with them is the enemy."
Hardline Hindu groups have protested in the past over art works they regard as offensive, including by late artist MF Husain.
Valentine's Day has also come under attack for being anti-Hindu.
Sir Salman lashed out at extremists who he said were undermining free speech after an attempt to address the Jaipur festival by video-link were abandoned amid threats of violence by Muslim hardliners opposed to his book, The Satanic Verses.
-    BBC News

Taalash raises expectations and temperature!

After helming – in various guises – a string of small, critically acclaimed motion pictures as part of his reinvention, Aamir Khan returns to the silver screen in the New Year in a form familiar to fans of his pre-Lagaan days.  Talaash – the trailer for which was released this week – sees Aamir join forced with the hottest property in Bollywood at the moment – Kareena Kapoor – and an actress who laid claim to that title not many years ago but is in need of a bit of a reinvention herself; Rani Mukherjee.  
The film has been written and directed by Reema Kagti who was rave reviews for her debut ‘Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd’ back in 2007.  Talaash is described as a psychological thriller with Aamir playing a troubled cop and at first glance the actor/producer/Bollywood darling’s time as the industry’s commercial and critical king seems set to continue; proper Bollywood joie de vivre coupled with a not-implausible narrative and well rounded characters.
‘Talaash’ releases worldwide 1st June 2012.  Click Here to watchTalaash Trailer

-  Poonam Joshi

The unsung heroes of Brick Lane at Rich Mix

Rich Mix Arts Centre in Bethnal Green – East London’s favourite spot for Brit-Asian cultural activities – has announced a new photographic exhibition honouring the long-unsung chefs of Brick Lane’s world renowned Indian curry houses.
The exhibition features a series of portraits by street photographer Jeremy Freedman, of the previously unseen faces of these award-winning chefs as well as the personal narratives of the Bengali community of Brick Lane.
The chefs featured in the exhibition will put their usual friendly rivalry aside for the exhibition’s opening night on Thursday 23 February where they will present guests with their signature dishes.
Among the chefs featured will be Abdul Tahid of Papadoms, Daras Miya of Cinnamon, Jamal Uddin of Bengal Cuisine, Mohammed Salik of Eastern Eye Balti House, Abdul Forhad of Monsoon and Rana Miah the longest serving Curry Chef on Brick Lane.
The exhibition’s photographs are featured in the forthcoming book, Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author, published by Saltyard Books, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton on 1st March.
Photographer Jeremy Freedman’s ancestors were also immigrants, coming to Spitalfields from Holland in the eighteenth century. His great-great-great-great grandfather was one of the founders of Sandys Row Synagogue in 1854.
In the weeks leading up to the exhibition Rich Mix will host an online photo competition, asking people to tweet pictures that best represent their own Brick Lane curry experience.  The photos will be displayed on the Rich Mix Facebook as well as on the opening night with the winner receiving a curry-tastic prize.
Tweet your pictures to @richmixlondon or email info@richmix.org.uk .
Spitalfields Life Exhibition
The Curry Chefs of Brick Lane; Photographic portraits by Jeremy Freedman
23rd February – 29th March 2012
Rich Mix, 35 – 47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6IA

-   Vijitha Alles

Tea Master Class with Jane Pettigrew at Asia House

Thursday 09th February 2012 – 18.45 – 20.45
Join tea specialist Jane Pettigrew as she wonders through the journey of tea from leaf to cup; explore the history of tea, where everyone’s favourite tipple is grown, learn to distinguish between the myriad types of tea and of course how to make that perfect cuppa!
To book tickets, visit teamasterclass.eventbrite.com

Of Snooker and Male Bonding

Ishy Din is not your average Oxbridge-educated playwright. He’s a 43-year-old Middlesbrough taxi driver who started jotting down thoughts inspired by his customers. He never expected much to come of it. ‘But then Tamasha theatre company gave me an opportunity to develop my work,’ he says, ‘so  I moved to London and attended workshops.  I knew no one so I’d return to my hostel at night and continue working on the script.’
Snookered, Din’s debut play, is set in a snooker hall in an unnamed Northern town. Four Pakistani Muslim boys have met to shoot some pool, swap affectionate expletives, knock back some drinks and remember their dead friend. As tongues loosen, tensions rise and secrets are revealed, the joshing turns nasty. The result is raw, sad and visceral.
‘I’d always wanted to write something about friends getting drunk together,’ says Din, ‘because it was the type of thing I did.’

Over a break in rehearsals, Din and his director, Iqbal Khan, are discussing why men find it so hard to be honest with themselves and why really truthful descriptions of blokes – especially Asian ones – are so hard to find in theatre, film and television.
‘I wanted to show the camaraderie, the wit, the cruelty and the oneupmanship we have, whether playing pool or driving a car,’ says Din, a father of three. ‘My characters are boys trying to become men. It’s about finding your place in modern British society. But underlying all that is a vulnerability. Men can’t admit things to themselves or each other. The play is very Northern in that respect.’
‘Male friendship can be pretty extreme in terms of language and opinions,’ agrees Khan. ‘Maybe it’s a response to the growing strength of women but men these days want to appear very fair. But in private they are as unfair, cruel, funny and as obsessed with sex as women are. We find it entertaining to dramatise those appetites among women but we’re not quite so comfortable doing that in a male context, unless you are Neil LaBute or Patrick Marber.’
Tamasha is an Asian company; Khan’s family comes from Pakistan; Din’s from Kashmir. Din – who has been awarded a bursary by Manchester’s Royal Exchange, yet sees himself as an outsider from British theatre culture – is quick to point out that his gobby, earthy characters are men first and Asian second. Yet while they encounter universal pressures, some of these are specific to Asian communities.
‘Shame is a big thing among Asians and a lot of the boys are dealing with shame in a big way,’ says Khan. ‘One of the characters can’t admit he is having IVF. The specifics for these boys are religion, the pressures of family and the pressures of the tribe. What is your loyalty to the tribe? Or is it better to leave and strike out?’
Din always wanted to confound expectations of what a play about Asian men would be like. He says he owes his punchy, untempered dialogue to the fact he had no idea how people were supposed to speak in plays and wrote what he heard.
‘And I didn’t want to fall into the cliché of arranged marriages,’ he says. ‘I didn’t want to go: oh look, this character is going to become a terrorist. Because these subjects are just highlights to sell newspapers. They might be entertaining and simple but they are nothing like the truth. The truth is often more dangerous and exciting.’
‘Because of the times we live in, to represent Asians on TV the way this play does would be dangerous,’ says Khan. ‘It would be an enormous risk because the play doesn’t necessarily give a positive view. The boys say ugly things. Ishy is not uncritical of them. To see four Muslim boys getting hammered is a very radical thing to put in a dramatic context. There is a fear of upsetting, of giving offence.’
Both Khan and Din agree that ‘representing’ ethnic minorities is fraught with difficulty. Characters from ethnic backgrounds often can’t just be themselves, they have to stand for something. Define yourself as an Asian theatre company and people expect a certain aesthetic ‘fingerprint’.
Khan’s own career is varied: he started at Leicester Haymarket and most recently directed Antony Sher in Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass.
‘It’s slightly easier in theatre,’ he explains. ‘Take the example of a film such as East Is East. It was great but, in my view, it softened the truth of the play [Khan revived Ayub Khan-Din’s original 1996 comedy at  Birmingham Rep in 2009]. To my mind there hasn’t been anything more radical than My Beautiful Laundrette in British film.’
Both Khan and Din are equally  cautious about the term ‘Asian theatre’. ‘I just see it all as theatre,’ says Din. ‘It [the term] is a necessary evil,’ says Khan. ‘It’s been necessary to advocate for Asian work – although it feels as though a certain kind of work is still not encouraged. But my life as a theatre director is to just  get a script and the best actors and do it as well as I can. What’s  wonderful about theatre is that you don’t have to cast types and you can allow people into a story that goes beyond their superficial exterior and appearance.’
Snookered’s British tour starts at Oldham Coliseum on February 2.  www.tamasha.org.uk
- Claire Allfree/METRO

Monday, 30 January 2012

Ranbir, Vidya continue winning streak at Filmfare Awards

Zoya Akhtar's Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara swept the 57th Filmfare awards bagging top honors including best film, best director and best supporting actor.

The film won seven awards and Zoya Akhtar walked away with the best film, best director and best movie (critics) awards at the glittering ceremony held at the Metropolitan Hotel in New Delhi 29th January.

Actor-filmmaker Farhan Akhtar bagged the best supporting actor and best dialogue awards. Carlos Catalan won best cinematography award and Bosco-Caesar got an award for their choreography in the popular Senorita number from the film.

Actors Ranbir Kapoor and Vidya Balan continued their winning spree in the best actor male and female category award for Rockstar and The Dirty Picture respectively.

While Rani Mukherjee won the best supporting actor (female) award for her portrayal of a competitive TV journalist in No One Killed Jessica, Priyanka Chopra won best actor female (critics) award for 7 Khoon Maaf.
Ranbir's Rockstar won five Filmfare awards - best actor, best Actor (critics), best music director, best lyrics and best playback singer (male).

In the music category, Rockstar bagged several awards -- A R Rahman bagged best music director award, Irshad Kamil won best lyrics award for Naadaan Parindey, Mohit Chauhan best playback singer male for the track Jo Bhi Mein.

The best playback singer (female) award was given to Rekha Bhardwaj and Usha Uthup for Darling from 7 Khoon Maaf and Ranjit Barot won best background score award for Shaitan.

The R D Burman award for best upcoming talent in music was given to Krishna for Tanu Weds Manu.

Best screenplay award was handed over to Akshat Verma for Delhi Belly and Sanjay Chauhan won best story award for I Am Kalam.

Priyanka Chopra's cousin Parineeti took home the best supporting actress award for her performance in Ladies vs Ricky Bahl, best debut (male) award was won by Vidyut Jamwal for Force and Abhinay Deo won best debut director award for Delhi Belly.

In the technical category, Shahrukh Khan starrer Don 2 won two awards -- best action (Mathhias Barsch) and best sound design (Nakul Kamte). Aamir Khan's home production Delhi Belly won two awards -- best editing (Huzefa Lokhandwala) and best production design (Shashank Tere).

Best costume design award was given to Niharika Khan for The Dirty Picture.

The lifetime achievement award was given to veteran actress Aruna Irani who has been in the industry for around 51 years.

"This is a very touching moment in my life, it's the happiest moment. Thank you Dilip Kumar saab for introducing me to the wonderful world of films at the age of nine. The industry taught me acting, dance, work, and gave an uneducated woman like me a platform. I came into the industry to execute a responsibility. I would like to thank my family and fans," Irani said.

Also, a special filmfare award was given to child actor Partho Gupte for his performance in Stanley Ka Dabba and best scene of the year award was given to The Dirty Picture.
- Reports

Amir Khan finally scores knock-out!

Amir Khan may have been pipped by Lamont Petersen but Bolton’s favourite boxing son scored a knock-out when he became engaged to 20-year-old New Yorker Faryal Makhdoom at the Wanderers Stadium Sunday night.  Khan - a renowned lover of all these flashy and bling - presented his wife-to-be with an engagement ring set with three impressive-looking stones said to be worth more than £100,000.  He also reportedly spent more than £150,000 entertaining 1000 friends and family at the home of his beloved Bolton Football Club.
Makhdoom is of Pakistani descent like the boxer and had met him last July.  She has since visited Khan’s family at their home in Bolton and spent five days meeting his nieces, nephews and cousins.
Guests at the bash in his Lancs hometown included former boxing champ Ricky Hatton and ex Wanderers skipper Kevin Nolan.
“Faryal is so humble. Anybody who meets her is going to fall in love with her. She’s got no edge, she’s just a terrific person,” he said.
After the party Amir tweeted: 'Amazing day, I'm so tired and my fiance faryal looked so beautiful and was very patient, everyone loved it, I love my ring faryal got me x' (sic)
Last night the happy couple posed for pictures as they were showered with rose petals after the ceremonial exchanging of rings.
- UKAsian Staff

Sharukh Khan beats up Farah Khan's husband

It was a fight that had a long history to it. On Sunday night-Monday Morning at the Aurus restaurant in the suburbs of Mumbai,Sanjay Dutt hosted a party to celebrate the success of his Agneepath role and film.
Guests were having a ball when at around 4.30 am Shah Rukh Khan entered the venue straight after the Filmfare awards with three bodyguards. According to eyewitnesses he was apparently in an inebriated condition.
Soon, he headed towards filmmaker Shirish Kunder and roughed him up.
Says an eyewitness, "We didn't know what was happening. We saw SRK enter. Then we saw him head towards Shirish from behind the director. SRK pulled Shirish down to the ground by his long hair. We were all shocked. We had never seen SRK behave this way before. Before anyone could react Baba Dewan the owner of Aurus ran in and intervened. SRK told Dewan to keep out . Dewan said the place belonged to him and he must intervene. The fight would've been prolonged had Sanjay Dutt not pulled SRK away from the ugly scene."
The shell-shocked Kunder apparently left immediately. We tried to probe the cause for Shah Rukh's provocation.
Says a source close to Kunder, "Shah Rukh was smarting since Kunder made a sarcastic comment on SRK's Ra.1 when it released.But the immediate provocation was apparently a comment that Kunder made about SRK and Priyanka Chopra at the party that SRK overheard.But that is hogwash. Kunder didn't say anything about Priyanka. Why would he? Everyone was there to celebrate a success, not to create ugliness. "
Kunder and Shah Rukh have a history , of course. Kunder's wife Farah Khan was one of Shah Rukh's closest friends. They fell out a year back. Kunder, we believe, faced the brunt of SRK's pent-up wrath at Dutt's party.
Farah who was shooting all night for Bela Sehgal's Shirin Farhah Ki Nikal Padi got to know of the fight only when she returned home in the morning.
Shocked and hurt Farah says, "Shah Rukh has always told me that physical abuse is the worst way to sort out a problem,and that it means the person who's hitting has either a personal or professional crisis going on.It saddens me to see him doing the same."
A theory doing the rounds is that Sanjay Dutt too joined Shah Rukh to bash up Shirish Kunder.
Rubbishing this rumour Dutt told me, "I didn't join in the fight. I sorted out the fight between Shah Rukh and Kunder."

Friday, 27 January 2012

The UK Asian stalks Imran Khan

Imran Khan has left mumbai to promote his film Ek Main Aur Ek Tu. He will be travelling to Dubai and London. The Uk Asian will keep you updated on all his moves till he arrives in London where you can meet and greet the star at the Feltham Cineworld on the 31st of January!!! Keep watching www.ukasiaonline.com for more updates.

Harsh Chhaya’s ‘Chooran’ leaves a lovely taste in the mouth...

Among the legion of working actors on Indian TV, Harsh Chhaya is perhaps the most ubiquitous. Over a career spanning more than a decade two decades, the versatile and prolific actor has built up an extraordinary body of work and established a reputation as a measured, introspective personality. And now he has turned his hand to writing, with ‘Chooran’ his first collection of short stories. Chooran is a digestive widely used in India and the variety of tastes – from tangy to bitter to sweet – that erupt in the mouth when ingested has meant that ‘Chooran’ is used as an adjective to describe a wide variety of things in parts of Northern India.
That theme is carried into Harshs’ collection of observational novelettes. In a literary landscape dominated by often cynical viewpoints, ‘Chooran’ is a funny, delightful departure, with the author casting a far more sanguine eye on myriad personalities and societal influences that shape and influence his life.
In the process, Harsh draws on experiences from a wide variety of settings; from the mundane – a new fridge or TV arriving at home; the hilarious – holidays at the grandparents house; the melancholic – the hideout where he escapes to from his parents’ wrath and not forgetting the characters that flow in and out of his life on a daily basis; the paanvala, the cook, the driver, the neighbour and of course, the neighbour’s wife.   Harsh’s style is acute and intimate, sentimental and funny and at times, profound.
In between publicity work for the book, the budding author had a quick chat with The UKAsian.
Tell me about your inspiration for 'Chooran' and the process of putting together your first collection of short stories?
An actor’s life is mostly spent paused by intermittent intervals between work, waiting, for work, for inspiration, waiting for the lights to go back on and a scene to be shot. With all that time in hand I more often than not prefer to choose something that feels useful to me than spending time gossiping or partying. The book was not planned; in fact it started with Facebook, after I got into the habit of writing now (in)famous ‘updates’. I would put down whatever came to my mind, whether I was sad, raging, funny, satirical and people began gradually following, reacting, responding and even egging me on to start a blog. So I started blogging even though I was apprehensive, imagining that no one would pay any attention to what I thought about the world or how it should be shaped and run. After about a year of that the blog was voted as one of the 50 most popular in India and at that point I had the idea of collating all those thoughts and giving it the shape of a book. And hey! Everyone fancies writing a book isn’t it?
Your book touches on the dynamics between strangers, acquaintances, servants, a paanvala and so forth. About people who are integral to your life and yet who are not seemingly significant to you. What got you thinking about those dynamics?
Lets put it this way; we go and buy a shirt and we like it, we feel good. The next thing you know, the guy tells you is you are getting two more shirts free as a promotion. So you’re drawn in further. There is this sudden change in you. Something like that happens with little moments with strangers. We have everyday friends, relatives whom we like to interact with and it feels good. But how often do we experience a pleasant encounter with a complete stranger? An unplanned chat on a train or a bus? It’s something that could hold tremendous charm. That’s the kind of thing that I wanted to highlight in the book; for people to read it and go “...cool. I never thought of it like that!”
Every story seems to transport the reader to another world but it’s immediately apparent that those worlds are the everyday worlds that we inhabit. Do you think most of us are guilty of not paying enough attention to the world that surrounds us? Do we take too many things for granted?
We all have our own lives and thats what matters by and large unless something catastrophic happens that affects society as a whole. Even then, you just jump back into your everyday routine the very next day. But there’s no point in complaining about that. If I’ve succeeded in getting a reader to become more attuned to the things and people around him, then I’m happy.
You seem to have been inspired by everyday characters. But what about the more well known characters that you work with day in day out on TV, in the theatre? Did they fail to inspire you or did you make a conscious decision to NOT ruffle anyone’s feathers?
When you live with something day in and day out, it becomes ever more mundane. The process of writing the book allowed me to totally depart from what I know and do every day. That was liberating. And I don’t think it ever crossed my mind to ruffle any feathers! However, there is an idea that germinating inside me, to write about the world that I inhabit, the people and the way it works. But I’ve never been known to bitch about anyone so I don’t intend to do so in the future. I think being positive about things is far healthier. Even if I were to take off someone’s clothes, I would dress them up nice and well by the end!
What are your thoughts on the reaction you’ve had to the book?
I’m thrilled with the reception the book has received. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that I could write as well! It’s made it far easier to sail through the mid-life blues! And I hope I can find the time and inspiration to write more. 
Poonam Joshi

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Tony Singh celebrates Burns and Tagore

Scottish Indian chef Tony Singh went down a firestorm as Scotland celebrated Burns Night 25th January with his unique – not to mention inuendo-laden – take on some traditional local dishes. 
The award-winning gastronome – hirsute and resplendent in Pagri and Tartan – entertained guests at his restaurant Oloroso in Edinburgh with a number of wonderfully innovative dishes, including ‘Cock-a-Leekie Kebab’, ‘Clootie Samosa’ with Whyte and McKay and the startlingly named but doubtless delicious ‘Haggis with Neeps and Tattie Tikki’. 
The concoctions had added meaning for Chef Singh for not only were the Scots celebrating their most beloved poet but India celebrates the 150th Birth Anniversary of that country’s greatest poet Rabindranath Tagore, who was said to have been inspired Burns.  In fact, one of his most beloved songs ‘Purano Shei Diner Kotha’ (Memories of the Good Old Days) was an Indian response to Burns’ Auld Lang Syne.
“As a Scot myself and a lover of all things food and drink, Burns Night is a date on the calendar I always look forward to,” says Tony. “As I also raise my glass to Rabindranath Tagore, it seemed appropriate to design a Burns menu which combines the two gastranomical traditions.”
Scots and Indians, he adds, have much in common. “We both love a tipple and a good laugh,” he says, “and haggis has always had a spice to it.”
For more information visit www.oloroso.co.uk
Haggis with a Neeps and Tattie Tikki
Serves 6
600g of prime meat haggis, cooked in boiling water and kept hot for service
3 large boiled-in-their-skins potatoes (Desiree are ideal)
Salt to taste
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 x egg
For stuffing:
200g drained, mashed neeps
½ tbsp chopped ginger
¼ tsp garam masala
¼ tsp salt
Red chilli to taste
1tsp coarsely ground, dry-roasted cumin seeds
Oil for pan-frying
1. Place mashed turnip in a bowl and add all of the stuffing ingredients. Mix well.
2. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and keep aside.
3. Peel the potatoes and mash them very finely into smooth mashed potatoes. Add salt and pepper and knead until properly mixed.
4. Divide it into 10 equal portions.
5. Now wash and dry your hands and rub them with a little oil. Take each portion of potato mixture and make a ball.
6. Taking one at a time, gently flatten each ball into a round patty of about 1/2-inch thick and place a portion of turnip stuffing in the centre.
7. Fold the edges together very finely so that mixture does not come out.
8. Now very gently flatten it into a 2-inch patty. (Repeat the procedure for all pieces.)
9. Heat 1 tsp oil in a non-stick pan.
10. Slip in the patties and pan-fry on both sides till crisp golden brown.
11. To serve, place the Tikki in the centre of a plate and place a ball of Campbell haggis on top.
- Vijitha Alles

Pakistani documentary in Oscar contention

A film about acid attack victims in Pakistan has become the country’s first ever to be nominated for an Academy Award. 
Director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s ‘Saving Face’ was nominated in the best documentary short subject category of the 84th Academy Awards to be held 26th February.
The film – shot entirely in Pakistan - highlights acid attacks on women and chronicles the work of acclaimed British-Pakistani plastic surgeon Mohammed Jawad as he travels around the country performing reconstructive surgery on scores of victims.
Chinoy said she is "speechless" to receive the nomination.  "An Academy Award nomination is stuff dreams are made of. It has reaffirmed my belief it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from, if you put quality work out there, it will be appreciated. I hope I can make Pakistan proud by bringing home an Oscar," she told the BBC.
According to government officials, there are approximately 100 acid attacks in Pakistan.  Activists however say that is a gross understatement with the actual number of attacks at several times the official figure. 
- Vijitha Alles

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Rushdie slams Indian Govt

Author takes to social networking site to criticize Indian authorities over Jaipur fiasco The author of ‘The Satanic Verses’ said the government was “pandering” to extremist Muslim groups and failed to protect freedom of speech after alleged threats of violence forced him to withdraw from the Jaipur Literature Festival, the largest in Asia. A subsequent appearance by the Booker-prize winner via video link at the Festival was also cancelled at the last minute after organizers received death threats and police warned of violence inside the venue. Local media, quoting eye-witnesses, said a group of Muslim men had infiltrated the crowd shortly before the session and were seen intimidating members of the audience to leave. Organizers were aghast over how the group managed to enter the venue which had been secured by private security personnel as well as a police cordon. In a TV interview Sir Salman said he believed the government had sought to stop him from appearing at the festival to win Muslim votes in its key Uttar Pradesh state election campaign and had fabricated intelligence reports of assassination plots to stop him to force his withdrawal. He said the arts were under assault from both Hindu and Muslim extremists and that “if it goes on, India will cease to be a free country.” India had been the first country in the world to ban his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, ahead of Muslim countries which denounced it as ‘blasphemous’, and today lagged behind countries like Turkey, Egypt and Libya which have lifted the ban. Commentators said his forced withdrawal from the festival was a "black stain" on India’s reputation as the world's largest democracy, while one adviser said it had raised serious questions over the festival's future. David Godwin, one of Britain’s top literay agents told The Daily Telegraph, "This is a watershed moment for the festival. How can it go forward and where can it go forward? It is an issue now and must be resolved. They have built a huge festival and it is terrible to see it jeopardised but these are serious issues." Sir Salman had originally been slated to be the festival’s headline author alongside the likes of Sir David Hare, Tom Stoppard and Oprah Winfrey but was forced to pull out after India’s most influential islamic seminary called on the government to stop him entering the country. Plans for him to appear at the end of the festival were also abandoned after police intelligence reports claimed a team of hired assassins were travelling to Jaipur to kill him; those reports were later revealed to be false. - Vijitha Alles

Bollywood looks for a fight

After the IPL and Formula One, Mixed Martial Arts is set to take India by storm
After bankrolling glamorous cricket and motor sports leagues in India, Bollywood has turned its attention to the world of mixed martial arts with a series of events featuring local fighters squaring off against international opponents.
Actor Sanjay Dutt and entrepreneur Raj Kundra have launched the Super Fight League with events scheduled for Mumbai, Chandigarh and New Delhi.
The first event in Mumbai on March 11 will be headlined by veteran kickboxer and mixed martial artist Bob 'The Beast' Sapp and English fighter James Thompson.
Kundra, who with his actress wife Shilpa Shetty owns the Rajasthan Royals franchise in cricket's Indian Premier League, said the SFL was signing up established MMA fighters from across the world to take on local talent.
"I am very passionate about all sports. I enjoy football, cricket and I have been watching mixed martial arts for the last five years," Kundra told Reuters in an interview. "It is coming for the first time to India and I am confident it will be big."
Kundra accepted that initially it would be difficult to realise financial gains from the full contact combat sport in India but he believed its growing global popularity made it a good long-term investment.
After struggling to gain mainstream acceptance, MMA has become one of the world's fastest growing sports with sponsorship and media revenue starting to pour in.
The U.S.-based Ultimate Fighting Championship, the world's biggest MMA promotion, signed a seven-year multi-media deal with TV network Fox in August that will net a reported $90-100 million in rights annually.
Asian promotion ONE Fighting Championship, which has hefty financial backing from Middle East investors, is also capitalising on MMA's growing popularity and tied up lucrative deals with sponsors and broadcasters across the region.
"Honestly, I am really not doing this because of business since it is not like cricket where you can go, sell and make your money back," Kundra said.
"This is going to be a long-term view and I don't think I am going to really recover anything in the
next few years.
"This is more of setting up the brand and then we will go into valuation afterwards."
Sports & Entertainment
League revenues will come from advertising and sponsors while deals with websites and broadcasters were being worked out, Kundra said. The idea was lucrative enough for established fighters to sign on the dotted line, he added.
"Each fighter has a different deal. The fighters that are contracted to us get X amount of dollars per fight to turn up and next to win," he said.
"The big international fighters could charge anything between $20,000 to $1 million to turn up and fight."
The Indian Premier League dazzled fans with the exciting Twenty20 format, player auctions, post-game parties and heavy advertising.
Celebrity owners play a large part in pumping up the IPL's image and include Reliance Industries chief Mukesh Ambani, Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, as well as spirits and airline magnate Vijay Mallya.
Shah Rukh also became the co-owner of the Mumbai franchise in a recently launched motorsport league.
Kundra, whose business ventures and investments range from mining to real estate and renewable energy to entertainment and hospitality, said the SFL would be similar to the cricket league in terms of being an attractive mix of sports and entertainment.
"I own a cricket team and I own this league as well. The biggest difference between the two is that cricket happens over two months and my league will be once a month," he quipped.
"There are 10, 20, 30 movies that get released every month end. So mine let's just say this is another movie that comes out once a month."
-  Sudipto Ganguly/Reuters India

‘Ammi’s Curry in a Hurry’

Affordable and eclectic Sri Lankan food served with a twist
A favourite aphorism of immigrants from the Indian sub-continent is “there’s nothing like my mother’s cooking” as they delve into a KFC Bargain Bucket or a (Tuesdays only) half-price vegetarian deli at McDonald’s.  Much as the indigenous population are given to complaining about the eternally inclement weather and exaggerate the achievements of it’s supposedly ‘No 1’ Cricket team, South Asians have made an art out of getting all nostalgic about ‘Momma’s’ or ‘Ammi’s (Sri Lankan for ‘mother’) – cooking.
And now a new Asian restaurant in London is preparing to draw on that nostalgia with a mixture of authentic South Asian dishes prepared swiftly at a cost that would put the Saver Menu at McD’s to shame; both in terms of flavourful variety and price.  ‘Ammi’s Curry in a Hurry’ on Kilburn High Street launched 21st January and will serve up a myriad array of curries, mains and ‘Short Eats’ as they are called in Sri Lanka; from such stables as mutton rolls and fish cutlets to ‘Ammis Chicken Curry’ – prepared according to an age old recipe concocted by Ammi dearest and handed down the generations – and Kottu Roti; the ultimate in Sri Lankan street food.
The concept is the brainchild of Niroch Fernando, a graduate of Corden Bleu and a chef formerly attached to no less a corporate culinary behemoth as Caprice Holdings who, not content with forging a career with the company behind such gastronomic institutions as Daphne’s, Jay Sheekey, Scott’s and Le Caprice, decided to up sticks and return to his roots.  Niroch says, “I grew up partly in Sri Lanka and my taste in food has always been coloured by the eclectic dishes of Sri Lanka and the amazing food cooked at home by my mother and father.  The most amazing thing about Sri Lankan food however is the fact that every single person has their own, unique interpretation about how to prepare and serve any of the numerous dishes that make up Sri Lankan cuisine.  My intention is to put my own twist on these amazing dishes”.
The individuality in the dishes is immediately apparent as the guests tuck into the tasting menu prepared by a furiously focussed Niroch and his team.  Alongside the usual suspects such as the beautifully meaty mutton rolls and fish cutlets, there are delightful little miniature ‘Pol Roti’ – flat breads made of flour and coconut shavings – bathed in ‘Lunu Miris; Sri Lanka’s famed onion and chilli based concoction.  Mains included the usual suspects – from chicken and mutton curry to cashew salads and fried aubergines – all prepared not only with a modern twist but with an eye on healthy living as well, with minimal use of oil and coconut milk; two ingredients considered essential in the preparation of Sri Lankan food but whose effects on the waistline are far more profound in the relatively sedentary lifestyle of foodies in London.
And in a move that will no doubt be welcomed by Sri Lankans as well as all Londoners, the menu at ‘Ammi’s Curry in a Hurry’ also features some surprising delights long associated with mothers in Sri Lanka including Iced Coffee and Chocolate Biscuit Pudding, here made with dark chocolate as opposed milk chocolate and to exquisite effect as well.  And to boot, the menu will indeed not burn a hole in your wallet, especially in these straitened times.
Sri Lankan restaurants in London are among the most disappointing in the capital, weighed down by a lack of competition and a resultant dearth of innovation or excitement about food preparation and service.  It is a great shame, particularly given the fact that Sri Lanka boasts such great culinary traditions.
At first glance and in a seemingly single sweep, ‘Ammi’s Curry in a Hurry’ is set to change the entire landscape.
-    Vijitha Alles

‘Chinaman’ wins 2012 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature

Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunathilake has won the 2012 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature for his critically acclaimed novel ‘Chinaman’.  The $50,000 prize was presented to Karunathilake during a ceremony at the Jaipur Literary Festival which closed Sunday.  
The title of the novel refers to the relatively rare breed of spinner in Cricket, a game which enjoys near divine status in Karunathilake’s homeland.  At the heart of ‘Chinaman’ is the legend of the peculiarly named Sri Lankan bowler Pradeep Sivanathan Mathew and cricket itself which the author uses as a fitting metaphor to explore a lost life and a muddled history.  
Accepting the prestigious award, Karunatilaka said the fortunes of his novel were very closely linked to the fortunes of his country's cricket team to whom he wished to dedicate the win. “We have performed dismally this past year. The time we lost the World Cup was when my novel was accepted for publication,” he said.
The Guardian review of the book says, “No knowledge of or interest in the game of cricket is strictly necessary to appreciate the power and the delights of this novel about a dying alcoholic and retired sportswriter WG (“Wije”) Karunasena, who decides that he will use what remains of his life to make a documentary about Sri Lankan cricket and, in particular, about a neglected but brilliant figure from its margins: PS Mathew. Wije's obsession with Mathew may form the spine of the book, but it does it in a way that makes it possible to focus on the obsession rather than the cricket if you're so inclined.”
The president of the jury, writer and commentator Ira Pandey, said the jury's decision was “unanimous.”  She said the jury received 52 books in June last year. “Seeing the pile some of the jury members almost fainted! We finally made a short list of 6 books. It took us just half an hour to reach a unanimous decision. This has been a most congenial and delightful experience which taught me a great deal about the South Asia region,” Ms. Pandey said.
Besides Chinaman the final short list included U.R. Ananthamurthy's Bharathipura, Chandrakanta's A Street in Srinagar,Usha K.R's Monkey-man, Tabish Khair's The Thing About Thugs and Kavery Nambisan's The Story that Must Not Be Told.
Jury members included Dr. Alastair Niven, Principal of Cumberland Lodge, Windsor, Faiza S Khan a columnist and critic, author Marie Brenner and Fakrul Alam, Professor at Dhaka University.
According to the organisers, “the prize brings South Asian writing to a new global audience through a celebration of the achievements of South Asian writers, and aims to raise awareness of South Asian culture around the world.”
- Vijitha Alles

‘Foodistan’: Culinary diplomacy on TV

It's being billed as an "epic battle" between India and Pakistan.
But instead of being fought on the battleground, it's being fought in the kitchen.
The armies comprise eight professional chefs from each country, fighting to conquer the taste buds of judges.
This is Foodistan - a new show that begins on Indian television channel NDTV Good Times on Monday night.
The programme-makers say it's a cook-off between "highly talented chefs from Asia's two most culturally rich countries".
"India and Pakistan are two nations which share a common passion for good food," says Smeeta Chakrabarti, chief executive officer of NDTV Lifestyle.
"And this love for food is something that binds the two nations in spite of their numerous differences."
Actress Ira Dubey, one of the hosts of the 26-part show filmed over 40 days in October and November, told the BBC: "The atmosphere on the sets was bubbling, quite literally.
"It's an India-Pakistan show, so there was crazy competition, but there was also a crazy kind of brotherhood. There was great rivalry, but at the end of the day we are also brothers."
The participants were all professional chefs with at least eight years of work experience and the food they were asked to cook was the sub-continental cuisine popularly known as Mughlai food.
Among the contestants was India's Nimish Bhatia, who has been a chef for nearly a decade now.
"It was good fun to be part of this competition, it was very exciting, very enjoyable. It was also very nice to meet people from across the border. We have the same food, the same culture, but we are separated by this border."
Mr Bhatia said there was a lot of bonhomie on the sets and it was not about winning or losing, but it was about having fun.
"There was competition in the kitchen, but it was not a competition between good and bad, it was a competition between good and good."
Pakistan's Mohammad Ikram is the chef de cuisine at the Dumpukht restaurant in Lahore. He says they were made to feel very welcome in India and were well looked after. "It felt like we never even left Pakistan," he says.
"The judges appreciated my cooking a lot. They loved my ras malai (a milk dessert), my rice biriyani and my fish tikka."But Mohd Ikram's butter chicken, the staple in many Indian and Pakistani restaurants, didn't go down well with the judges.
"The food in Pakistan is different from the food here," he said.
"The Indian curry looks more colourful, whereas we fry our gravy a lot more so our butter chicken looks and tastes different. The judges are more used to eating the Indian variety so they didn't much like what I cooked."
'Incredibly competitive'
Well-known Indian food critic Vir Sanghvi, one of the three judges on the show, said they tried as much as possible to level the playing field by asking the contestants to cook food that's shared between the two countries.
But, he said, it was "like a competition between English and European cuisines".
"Pakistani cuisine is essentially Punjabi with influences of Sindhi, Afghani and Balochi cooking. But the range and variety of Indian cuisine is more diverse. There are 26 different kinds of cuisines in India. Indian food uses coconut and tamarind and many other things which the Pakistani chefs have never used."
Mr Sanghvi says there was a lot of bonhomie between the chefs from the two sides but once the action shifted to the kitchen, "it became incredibly competitive".
"It was quite intense. Passions ran high and they fought to the last pinch of salt.
"We had chefs crying on several occasions, we even had one chef walk out of the set. One of the contestants was very dismissive of British judge Merrilees Parker; one Pakistani contestant accused Sonia Jehan (Pakistani actress and judge on the show) of not being patriotic enough.
"There was a lot of drama."
With 16 chefs, three judges and two hosts, the "culinary encounter between India and Pakistan" promises to be "an exciting battle".
The food fight has begun.

- Geeta Pandey, BBC News, Delhi

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

“India is greatest show on Earth” Oprah

“India is greatest show on Earth” - Oprah US chat show queen has called India “the greatest show on Earth” as she wound down her trip to the sub-continent.
Speaking to CNN-IBN during a visit to the Jaipur Literary Festival - Asia’s largest - Oprah gushed, “You can't see India in two weeks ... India is so complex, I would have to say it's the greatest show on Earth. I've never seen anything like it. India, I'll be back again and again."
 Dressed in a colourful Salwar suit, Winfrey greeted a large crowd of book lovers at the festival, exclaming that it was “One of the greatest, if not the greatest, experience I have ever had.”
"I came to India with open mind and expanded heart," said Oprah. "The sight of an ox pulling heavy steel beams, a man riding a donkey, and another one on a motorbike using his cell phone," said the world's best known TV talk show host. "India is a paradox.”
Oprah spoke about her own life experiences and struggles as the mostly female audience listened in rapt attention. “The fact I was born in segregated southern US in Mississippi in 1954 to a teenaged unmarried mother, during the time of apartheid, has influenced me into becoming what I am. Fortunately, I had never been put into a segregated school. But all my life I had to fight everyone. To be born a girl child is not safe," she said.
 "But for me, education is the most important thing. I have been from village to village in Africa looking for girls like myself... and families desperate for education. I was raised by my grandmother in poverty. She did not live to see me become an educated woman," said Oprah.
One of the highlights of her sojourn to India was a trip to Vrindavan - the city made famous as the home of banished, poverty-stricken widows from across India; it was a visit that clearly moved Ms Winfrey. "I have spoken for years for women to own their voices. Just because your husbands have died, you cannot become second class citizens. This thing should be eradicated from earth," she said.
 And of course she made her political preference clear with the US Presidential Election less than a year away: "Obama is a man... and not god. And only a man makes mistakes. The world forgot we were on the brink of a depression. I strongly feel he should remain in office for the next four years."
 - Vijitha Alles

7 Welcome to London: a Bollywood drama with British sensibilities

Mainstream Bollywood – with its often stale formulas and dearth of originality – has undoubtedly taken off on the wrong foot in the New Year with audiences and critics alike finding ‘Players’ as welcoming as a long-dead rodent in your take-away Tesco sandwich. It is encouraging then that 2012 seems set to be the year which sees the triumph of UK-based filmmakers marrying Bollywood sensibilities with Western innovation and storytelling.
Days after the unveiling of ‘Nachle London’, the first in a series of ‘Bolly-Brit’ films, which aim to combine Bollywood narratives and British creative talent, comes news of ‘7 Welcome to London’; a British production helmed by popular British-Indian TV presenter Asad Shan.
Shan – who directs and stars in the film – describes his debut feature as one which offers the quintessential flavor of Bollywood whilst retaining a true British heart; and if there’s one genre of film that the Brits get consistently right it is the edgy thriller, which is an apt description of the film with plenty of Bollywood-esque romance thrown in.
The movie centers around the struggles faced by a young immigrant from India who arrives in London intent on personal and professional glory. Once in the capital he finds love in the Underground but soon encounters trouble in the form of some unsavory elements. The film follows the indomitable hero as he attempts to keep his wits about him and overcome numerous obstacles.
Much like Nachle London, 7 Welcome to London boasts a slew of homegrown talent both behind and in front of the camera. UK-based model and actress Sabeeka Imam stars with Asad Shan – who also co-wrote the screenplay – alongside British star Rob Thorne. The film’s production team includes Oscar and Bafta award winning editor Chris Dickens. 7 brand new tracks for the film have been provided by Access and underground rocker Zuj Jibran among others.
7 Welcome to London hits cinemas in the UK 09th March 2012.
-       Poonam Joshi

Monday, 23 January 2012

Jay Leno attracts wrath of US Sikhs

Indian officials have expressed anger at a comment by US talk show host and comedian Jay Leno about the Golden Temple of Amritsar; the shrine considered the centre of the Sikh religion.  
In a skit for Leno’s long-running ‘The Tonight Show’ the thick-jowled comedian showed the Temple as the summer home of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.  Mr Romney has faced questions over alleged tax evasion in recent days and many Sikhs are angry the Temple has been depicted as a place for the rich.  
The Sikh community has launched an online petition and an Indian minister called the comments "objectionable".  Indian External Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi said the Indian embassy in the US would take up the matter with the State Department, according to the Press Trust of India.  
Mr Ravi added, "Freedom does not mean hurting the sentiments of others... This is not acceptable to us and we take a very strong objection for such a display."
The online petition organised by members of the US Sikh community says Leno has been guilty of derogatory comments on Sikhs before. It adds that "Jay Leno's racist comments need to be stopped right here".
Petition signatory Simran Kaur says: "Jay Leno must apologise and promise not to make any direct or oblique references to Sikhs or their places of worship."
Leno has not yet commented on the matter.
Mr Romney has been criticised by rival presidential candidates over his reluctance to release taxation records, which will reveal his earnings and the taxes he pays.
On Sunday he agreed to release his income tax records for 2010 and estimates for 2011.

- Vijitha Alles

Sonia Deol to leave BBC Asian Network

Popular radio presenter Sonia Deol – host of the mid-morning show on the BBC Asian Network – is to call it a day, the station announced today.
Ms Deol is reportedly leaving the digital network and heading to Vancouver, Canada where she is set to settle down after getting married.  Her last show will be broadcast 2nd March 2012. 
Sonia said: "It's with mixed emotions that I announce I'm leaving the BBC Asian Network. Although it's a very happy time for me and I'm looking forward to the next chapter of my life, I am going to dearly miss my fantastic radio family, both on and off-air. We've been through so much together over the years and shared some fantastic achievements. I'm proud of the fact that we've made the station the most listened to Asian service in the country."
Vijay Sharma, Head of the BBC Asian Network, said: "I would like to offer a heartfelt thanks to Sonia from all of us, for her wonderful contribution to the Asian Network. Her understanding of our Asian audience has been a real asset to the station over the years and she has always connected with them in an authentic and sensitive way. I am sure that there are projects in the future where we would love to see her on stage or behind the microphone for the Asian Network, keeping that link with our audience who are certainly going to miss her."
Having started her career with the BBC Asian Network in 1996, Sonia has been a constant presence at the station, leaving occasionally for short breaks to work elsewhere in the BBC or in the commercial world. Whilst on the network, she hosted a variety of programmes, including its daily discussion show, breakfast, documentaries and her current mid-morning show.
She has been an ambassador for the station on stage, during numerous Summer Melas and has hosted many of the network's partnered concerts, including Asha Bhosle and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. In addition to presenting many of the station's In Conversation with.events, Sonia has also brought the audience exclusive interviews with a host of Asian names, including the only interview with Mirza Tahir Hussain after his release from Pakistan's death row.
Sonia has also presented a range of programmes across BBC TV and Radio, including Network East, BBC Breakfast, Heaven and Earth, The Big Questions, The Politics Show, BBC London Radio and BBC Radio 4.
Sonia is currently presenting BBC Asian Network Gold on BBC's Red Button until Sunday 29 January - iconic Asian music from over four decades.
A new mid-morning presenter will be announced in due course.
- Poonam Joshi

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Rushdie: Indian Police fabricated threats

A furious Sir Salman Rushdie has accused Police in the Indian state of Rajasthan of fabricating death threats which led to the Booker-prize winning author staying away from the Jaipur Literature Festival.  Sir Salman tweeted Sunday “I’ve investigated and believe I was indeed lied to.  I am outraged and very angry”. 
He also said he did not know who gave the orders to police to come up with the threats, adding “I guess (it was) the same police who want to arrest Hari, Amitava, Jeet and Ruchir”; referring to authors Hari Kunzru, Amitava Kumar, Jeet Thayil and Ruchir Joshi who read passages from Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses on the first day of the festival following Sir Salman’s withdrawal. 
The Chief Minister of Rajasthan Ashok Gehlot however refuted Rushdie’s allegations, telling reporters, “The government had made all arrangements for his security because it was our duty.  If we get an advisory from the Central Government about a threat to the life of a certain person then we have to make arrangements for his security.”
Sir Salman’s visit to Asia’s largest literary festival was cancelled following threats made by – among others – the Darul Uloom Deoband Islamic Monastery in India, one of the most powerful bodies in the Islamic World.  Following the threats, state officials are reported to have persuaded Festival organizers to cancel the appearance citing “massive security concerns”. 
The author’s 1988 novel The Satanic Verses provoked outrage throughout the Islamic world, leading to the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa calling for his death over claims made by the novel’s narrator that disputed verses in the Koran had been disclosed by the Archangel Gabriel.  The Satanic Verses was banned throughout the Islamic world, including India, which has a Muslim population of nearly 200 million. 
The cancellation of the author’s visit to the Jaipur Festival meanwhile has elicited widespread criticism, particularly from the literary fraternity.  Author Hari Kunzru tweeted that Rushdie’s absence from the festival is “a stain on India’s international reputation” whilst writer and analyst Salil Tripathi said, “Writers should not need armies to protect them in a free society”. 
There have also been reports the threats to Salman Rushdie by Muslim Groups may have been motivated by political compulsions with politicians actively seeking the Muslim vote ahead of local government elections.  None of the main political parties in the country have spoken out against the Muslim groups. 
The failure of the government to ensure security for the internationally celebrated author has led to many critics to question India’s claim to being the world’s largest democracy and charge that an increasingly prosperous India is becoming ever more intolerant. 
- Vijitha Alles

Ritesh, Genelia confirm wedding date

Bollywood funnyman Ritesh Deshmukh has announced he is to wed long-term love Genelia D’Souza 3rd February. 
The film duo first met on the set of ‘Masti’ in 2004 and has bucked a Bollywood-wide trend by shunning the limelight and avoiding being splashed over the tabloids; although they did choose to declare their love for each other publicly via social networking site Twitter last year. 
Deshmukh – son of the Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh – said the wedding will be held at the plush new Grand Hyatt in Santa Cruz, Mumbai.  The nuptials will be preceded by a pre-wedding party on 24th January, hosted by producer Sajid Nadiadwala and actor Fardeen Khan whilst the traditional Sangeet will take place 31st January at Bandra in Mumbai. 
The actor is one of the most popular figures in Bollywood and that will certainly be reflected in the guest list for the wedding with the likes of Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar and Abhishek Bachchan in attendance. 
Ritesh and Genelia’s next release – ‘Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya’ – is released 24th February giving the newlyweds plenty of time to celebrate their union in an exotic location with plenty of white sandy beaches and turquoise seas. 
- Poonam Joshi

Friday, 20 January 2012

BFI celebrates Bollywood Legend Raj Kapoor

The British Film Institute has announced details of a new festival of film celebrating the life and work of Bollywood legend Raj Kapoor.  A series of 8 recently restored films of the oft-venerated actor and director will be screened at the BFI Southbank Centre as part of the festival which will also feature a King’s College lecture from Rachel Dwyer and a four-day workshop entitled ‘Super Tramp Hindustiani-style’.  
Kapoor is widely considered one of the giants of Bollywood and was instrumental in the ascent of Bollywood cinema as a rival to its counterparts in the West; in particular Hollywood.  This selection of new 35mm prints is taken from the touring programme ‘Raj Kapoor and The Golden Age of Indian Cinema’; curated by Noah Cowan, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival.  
Largely unknown in Europe and North America, Kapoor was nonetheless revered not only in his homeland but throughout the former Soviet world, the Middle East and beyond.  He began his acting career with his father Prithviraj’s famed Theatre Company before taking on film roles beginning in 1935.  After a string of hits, Kapoor founded RK Films in 1948, becoming a producer, director and star for the first time with ‘Fire’, in which he shared the screen for the first time with the sultry actress Nargis who would become his long-term muse.  
Deriving his screen persona from the smirk and swagger of Clark Gable, the heightened emotions and showmanship of Gene Kelly, and – most importantly – Charlie Chaplin’s underdog heroism and sense of pathos, Kapoor rapidly became the biggest superstar in Indian cinema. Chaplin’s Little Tramp is the clear precursor for Kapoor’s most famous screen character: the vagabond in a too-tight suit, observing the bustling world around him with wide-eyed wonder. Unlike Chaplin, however, Kapoor moved his Indian-ised tramp (variously known as Raj, Raju or Rajan) up and down the social ladder, and into surprisingly unpleasant incarnations: self-obsessed artists, whiny rich guys and, in his maudit masterpiece My Name Is Joker (1970), a distinctly unfunny clown whose romantic yearnings verge on the pathological. Meanwhile, Kapoor’s stylistic innovations as a director helped set the template for the Bollywood film as it is today.

The Raj Kapoor Season at the BFI Southbank gets underway 1st February.
For more information, visit www.bfi.org/whatson
The Raj Kapoor Season: Film Schedule
This selection of eight new 35mm prints is from the touring programme Raj Kapoor and The Golden Age of Indian Cinema, curated by Noah Cowan, Artistic Director, TIFF Bell Lightbox and organised by TIFF, IIFA and RK Films with the support of the Government of Ontario.

Fire Aag
Wed 1 Feb 17:30 NFT1
Sat 4 Feb 20:20 NFT2
India 1948. Dir Raj Kapoor. With Raj Kapoor, Nargis, Kamini Kaushal.138min. Hindi with EST. U
Kapoor’s first film as director and star, the brooding, noir-ish Fire often feels like a 1930s Hollywood melodrama with an expressionistic twist, and with a distinct influence from Citizen Kane in its complex flashback structure. Kapoor stars as a theatre producer obsessed with the twinned ideas of ideal beauty and self-sacrifice, who meets and falls in love with three women named Nimmi at different phases of his life. In each instance she is taken away from him, destroying his dream of playing opposite her on stage for the rest of their lives.
Monsoon Barsaat
Fri 3 Feb 19:45 NFT2
Sun 5 Feb 15:00 NFT2
India 1949. Dir Raj Kapoor. With Raj Kapoor, Nargis, Prem Nath. 171min. Hindi with EST. U
Kapoor’s first mega-hit shuttles between the stories of a romantic idealist and his more carnally-driven best friend, who both meet and romance the daughters of innkeepers. Set in part against the gorgeous landscapes of Kashmir, Monsoon is beautifully shot, its black-and-white images constantly moving into deep focus and silhouette and elevating the star-crossed lovers to objects of veneration. The film also foregrounded the whisper within Indian commercial cinema, a type of intimacy and emotional dimensionality barely known on screen at the time.
Super Tramp Hindustani-Style
Tue 7, 14, 21 & 28 Feb 18:30 Studio
Course fee £30.00
Writer and programmer Behroze Gandhy leads a four-night course to complement our season of newly restored prints of the films of Hindi megastar, producer, director and all-round showman Raj Kapoor, whose influences included Chaplin, Capra and Vittorio De Sica, evidenced in his films’ humour and social critique. With his creation of a picaresque Indian tramp in a newly independent India, and his formal innovations, Kapoor played a pioneering role in making Hindi cinema the industry that it is today, and he is long overdue an international reappraisal.
Rachel Dwyer on Raj Kapoor
Thu 9 Feb 18:00 NFT3
Tickets £5
Raj Kapoor dominated Hindi cinema for four decades yet, although much is known about the man and the Kapoor acting dynasty, there is little writing about his films. The black and white films from the 1940s and 50s, starring Raj Kapoor and Nargis, form a group where the hero seeks a place for himself in the newly independent India. Mixing socialist ideals with Hollywood glamour, and their famous songs, it is their depiction of romance and passion that is his major legacy to Indian cinema. Rachel Dwyer is a leading expert on India and Professor of Indian Culture and Cinema at SOAS, University of London. Her critically acclaimed books include

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Vidya Balan to headline Zee Cine Awards 2012

Katrina Kaif may have captivated and scandalized in equal measure with her raucous gyrations in ‘Chameli’ and ‘Sheila’ but it seems organizers of Bollywood’s biggest viewer’s choice awards only have eyes for a less than obvious choice to burn up the stage at the 2012 edition of the Zee Cine Awards: Vidya Balan.
The equally captivating and immensely talented Balan, who was the toast of Bollywood for her outstanding performance as South Indian starlet Silk Smitha in ‘The Dirty Picture, will raise a toast to India’s southern sirens at the awards ceremony which will be held in glitzy, glamorous Macau this year. The inimitable style of the queens of South Indian cinema will be brought to life by Balan in the highlight of the awards ceremony in a move that aims to bridge the chasm between Bollywood and its counterpart in South India and celebrate the wonderful variety of Indian cinema as a whole.
“My performance this year at the Zee Cine Awards will be inspired by the immensely entertaining styles of some of the most iconic southern sirens including Silk. Let’s hope the audience has as much fun as I do when I perform live at The Venetian Macao!” said Vidya. Ms Balan is also a hot contender in the Best Actress category at the ’12 awards ceremony for her uncompromising, electric performance in ‘The Dirty Picture. She is up against Priyanka Chopra for Saat Khoon Maaf, Kareena Kapoor for Bodyguard, Kangna Ranaut for Tanu Weds Manu and Katrina Kaif for Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.
In the men’s category, Hrithik Roshan, Ajay Devgan, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Ranbir Kapoor will be vying for the Best Actor honors.
Quite apart from Vidya Balan’s performance there are a number of other surprises in store for fans at the Zee Cine Awards 2012; chief among which is a dancing tribute by Shahid Kapoor to the late Dev Anand. Hosted by the Don-2 duo - Shah Rukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra – the Awards are set to attract a record audience of 600 million Bollywood fans from across the world.
Enjoy the sneak peak Curtain Raiser and Red Carpet free on Zing, Sky 789 and the main extravaganza on Zee TV, Sky 788.
- Poonam Joshi

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Salman Rushdie cancels Indian visit

Appearance at Jaipur Literary Festival called off following threats by Muslims
Organizers of one of the biggest literary festivals in India have been forced to cancel an appearance by Sir Salman Rushdie following demands by the government of Rajasthan who fear major protests by Muslims at the event, according to reports from India.
The booker-prize winning author of Midnight’s Children was set to be the major draw at the Jaipur Literary Festival.  However the author’s trip has been cancelled following a demand made by the Darul Uloom Deoband Islamic Seminary – one of the most powerful bodies in the Islamic world.  The vice chancellor of the seminary publicly demanded the government in Delhi refuse a visa to Rushdie who in turn tweeted that he didn’t require an entry document to the India as he was categorized as a ‘Person of Indian Origin’. 
Soon after Rushdie’s tweet, jittery state officials are reported to have persuaded Festival organizers to ask the author to cancel his visit, due to “massive security concerns”.  Anxiety in political circles has been heightened in Rajasthan state as well as Delhi due to impending local government elections, reports say.
Sir Salman’s 1988 novel The Satanic Verses provoked outrage throughout the Islamic world, leading to the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa calling for his death over claims made by the novel’s narrator that disputed verses in the Koran had been disclosed by the Archangel Gabriel.
The Satanic Verses was banned throughout the Islamic world, including India, which has a Muslim population of nearly 200 million. 
- Vijitha Alles (17.01.2012)

Eve Teasing in India.

Assault or Harrassment by another name?
It's an unfortunate truth that women are sexually harassed, and sometimes assaulted, the world over. But in the Indian state of Maharashtra, there is an increasing determination to stamp out "Eve teasing", as it is called here, for good.
It was afternoon and we had just finished filming. My colleague and I were piling into a rickshaw, heading back to the bureau. And that's when it happened. We were suddenly surrounded by a group of boys, barely teenagers.
At first the whole thing seemed harmless, if a little predictable - the cheery interest of a group of bright eyed, smiling boys.
Their approach was not unusual, foreigners and cameras make for an unmissable attraction in India.
But it was only a matter of minutes, possibly seconds, before the smiles turned into a blur of pawing, grabbing hands. Their indecent behaviour was punctuated by cheers, laughter and explicit comments in Hindi.
And that was it. I had been Eve-teased. Or as we describe it in the West, sexually harassed. In broad daylight, on a street in a busy business district of Mumbai.
We managed to get away. Our rickshaw raced down the street in fits and bursts.
But those moments stayed with us - something unpleasant, unacceptable and from our perspective, unforgivable had just happened.
But we also felt the irony of what had just happened.
This kind of harassment, often described in India as innocent play, is commonplace. Yet this is a country in which the predominant Hindu religion worships female deities and claims to respect women.
I remembered that incident a few weeks ago, when I attended a candlelit vigil for two 20-something young men.
They had been fatally stabbed while defending their female friends against a gang of Eve-teasers. This crime took place in the evening on a crowded street full of restaurants and bars.
At the vigil, hundreds of people gathered in a park not far from where the incident took place, to show support for the families of Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandes.
A slideshow of photographs documenting their young lives played on a big screen. And woven through the chords of the accompanying music were the sobs of a frail, old lady. Keenan's grandmother was crying hysterically into her hands.
But there's more than grief to all of this. The way the investigation and legal proceedings have unfolded has generated a lot of disquiet and shed a bright light on the failings of India's legal system.
One man who wants things to change is Valerian Santos, Keenan's father. In an emotional speech at the vigil he urged the ordinary Mumbaikar to be more active in the pursuit of social justice. To stop when they see someone being harassed, to stand up for women's rights and name and shame those who sexually harass them.
But Mr Santos also said change must be backed up by a legal system that works with victims and their families and not against them.
Valerian and a growing group of campaigners across the city are calling on the state government to overhaul the way in which it deals with crimes of a sexual nature. They say that it should not be possible, as it currently is, for the accused to come face to face with witnesses.
And neither should suspects be allowed to shave off facial hair or change their hairstyles while in custody - also allowed. Campaigners say this makes successful identification hard and weights justice in favour of the accused.
This shocking, violent case has made headlines across India. But it has also generated a new, welcome conversation about the treatment of women across the country.
The government here in Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, says it will work to make laws tougher and ensure that public areas are policed more vigilantly.
But as I've witnessed - and unfortunately experienced - it may be some time before things really change.
I was once told by a complete stranger: You can wear a trench coat and be covered from head to toe in the depths of an Indian summer but a man with indecent intentions will still try his best to ruin your day.
- Nidhi Dutt.  BBC News.

Anglo-Indians in strife

Sitting on his own in his front room in Calcutta is writer Melvyn Brown.  On the wall are four clocks showing the time in the UK , the USA, the Netherlands and Canada.
These are places where members of his family now live.  Like him, they like are all Anglo-Indians - a group that dates back to the days of the British Raj and where originally the father was European and the mother Indian.
The community also includes people of British descent born or living in India. They are thought to be the only group of people in India that has English as their mother tongue.  But their numbers are declining.
Thousands left after India's independence and every time Mr Brown looks at the wall he feels "sad and sentimental" as he has no family left in India.
It is a story that can be repeated by many Anglo-Indian families here.  And it prompted Calcutta-based politician Derek O'Brien to call for a census to be carried out to establish how many Anglo-Indians are left in the world's largest democracy.  "It is disappointing that nobody knows the exact number," he says.
Experts estimate there are 100,000 Anglo-Indians left in India, with most now living in Calcutta and Madras.  But Anglo-Indian leaders joke they have no idea how many people they represent. Mr O'Brien wants to know where exactly is home for the Anglo-Indians.  "Is it India, England or somewhere else?" he asks.
He is so confident that most will say that they live in India that he wants the community to be re-named Indian-Anglos - with the emphasis on India - rather than Anglo-Indians.  This, he argues, would reflect the fact that their Indian identity is now more important that their English connections.  There have been attempts to undertake a census before, but no success.
Liberal attitudes
The most recent push comes at a time when many elders within the community in Calcutta are concerned that their culture may soon die out.  More and more Anglo-Indians are marrying outside the community.  That is a cause of concern for Philomena Eaton, the convener of the Anglo-Indian Service Society which organises dances and social events for younger members of the group.
Noel Cradenberg shares her concerns.  "Our culture will die out because of these intermarriages," he tells me, adding that he fears that in the next 10 to 15 years traditional Anglo-Indian dances will disappear because there will be so few members left.
But while the elders worry about their heritage surviving, younger members are busy trying to establish themselves in India's growing economy.  To deal with that, they have to fight against a number of stereotypes resulting from their more liberal attitudes to alcohol and marriage.
Hindi cinema has traditionally shown them as drunks.  Many Anglo-Indians says they are often called the "Three Ds" because of their so-called love of drinking, dancing and dressing up.
Natasha Choudhary, 16, comes from a mixed background.  Her father is an Indian Hindu while her mother is an Anglo-Indian Christian.
“Anglo-Indians still have European values and are much more free thinking than conservative Indians," she asserts.
Tricky issue
But this stance has led to problems.  "Many Indians have looked down on the Anglo-Indian community," she said.  "Because of that many youngsters are now trying to do better academically because they feel that they are being ostracised."
Her brother Lauren Mario Choudhary works as a human resources manager in Bangalore.  "While the numbers are dwindling, the community is now doing better economically," he says.  "Post-independence there were fears, but now Anglo-Indians are a much more confident group."
But for many the issue of marriage remains tricky.  Some youngsters - like Zubin Manning and Tanya Cradenberg - are keen to marry other Anglo-Indians because they feel that would make it easier to relate to their partners.
But many others think that this is not a good idea.  They argue that with so many members of their community living abroad it is becoming difficult to find partners.  Natasha Gaspar laughs when I ask her if she will marry an Anglo-Indian.
"We are trying to merge in... it's not as issue for me," she says.  Back at his home Melvyn Brown is still looking at his clocks.  He is trying to work out when he can call his family abroad.
If he had the chance, he says, he would to join them.  He tells me that many other families feel the same way.  The fear is that if more leave, the sun could set on the Anglo-Indian community just as it set on the British Empire.
- Rahul Tandon.  BBC News