Saturday, 31 March 2012

Bollywood unveils its very own walk(s) of fame


 
Undeterred by constant accusations of ripping off everything its counterpart does out in sunny California, Bollywood has unveiled its very own ‘Walk of Fame’, styled on the iconic boulevard in Los Angeles.
The Indian version - called the ‘Walk of the Stars’ - was launched Wednesday evening on the seaside promenade in Bandra, Mumbai.
"We thought it would be a good idea for us to create something as a tribute to the biggest superstars of the industry," said Nikhil Gandhi, business head of the UTV Stars television channel, which has set up the walkway.  "The idea is to get fans closer to the superstars."
Like the Grauman's Chinese Theatre in LA, Mumbai's new pathway will bear handprints and signatures of numerous actors -- along with a handful of life-size brass statues depicting some of the industry's best-known stars.
The first of those to be honoured thus will be the famed Kapoor family, often called the ‘first family of Bollywood.’
Kareena Kapoor - star of such august rip offs as Agent Vinod and Ek Main aur Ek Thu - was the chief guest at the launch where the statues of the late Raj and Shammi Kapoor, her grandfather and great uncle respectively, were unveiled.
However, and this time not quite imitating Hollywood, facationalism has come into play on a project which is essentially about a footpath that will eventually be decorated with Paan juice and cow dung.
Ritesh Deshmukh, architect, actor, political heir and the man with the most peculiar gaze in Bollywood, is reportedly backing another walkway in the same part of the city.
Deshmukh said he has signed up 20 stars for his own path of fame, including Amitabh Bachchan and Salman Khan.
"I started collecting hand prints of actors over the past 10 months and these hand prints will be placed at Bandra promenade," Deshmukh told AFP. "The place will be called 'Legends Walk'."
Gandhi said he had heard about Deshmukh's project but denied there was any rivalry. "It's not about 'may the best man win'. It's a free of charge thing," he said.
- Poonam Joshi

Immigration can ‘push down house prices’

Even a small influx of people from overseas into an area can have a noticeable effect on the value of local properties as wealthy people move out, the study concludes.
The research, the first of its kind, contradicts the assumption that immigrants are pushing up house prices and making them unaffordable for those originally there.
In a paper presented to the Royal Economic Society’s annual conference, Filipa Sá, an economist from Trinity College Cambridge, compares local employment figures from the Office for National Statistics with property records from the Land Registry.
She found than an influx of immigrants equal to one per cent of the local population was linked to a 1.6 per cent drop in average local property values.
This was because about 0.9 per cent of the local "native" population moved out – usually wealthier people.
Miss Sá said: “This finding can be explained by two factors. First, there is some evidence that immigration has a negative effect on native wages at the lower end of the wage distribution.
“Second, natives who leave the city are at the top of the wage distribution.
“This generates a negative income effect on housing demand and pushes down house prices in local areas where immigrants cluster."
The pattern only applied in areas where the arriving immigrants were poorer. In areas where those arriving from abroad came from the top of the income scale – such as in the City of London – the pattern was often the opposite.
- John Bingham, The Daily Telegraph

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Shah Rukh’s KKR Cheer Leaders to cover up...in Saris!


Is Shah Rukh Khan finding it difficult to come to terms with the fact that he’s closing in on five decades of burdening the planet with turgid cinema?
First he blows a small country’s GDP on a shockingly bad film about an emotional robot.
Then he has an attack of the petulance, getting into a cat fight with some Bollywood sound technician (or was it a director?).
And now his IPL team Kolkata Knight Riders – a name which once again has the whiff of a ‘middle age crisis’ to it - has decided to do away with perhaps the one redeeming feature of the Indian Premier League; its band of rather fetching cheerleaders.
Beginning with IPL 5, which kicks off at some point this April, KKR cheerleaders will shed their flared hot pants (I think that’s what those things are called), ‘tank’ tops (how did they come to be called ‘tank’ tops?  Is it an allusion to an old double-barreled tank variety?) and instead don a garment which some consider to be the ultimate in modesty whilst for others is the epitome of sensuality; the Sari!
What’s more, out go the Pom Poms as well as the leaps and pirouettes, to be replaced by classical dance moves.
And the ersatz, frat-boy fans of the IPL have been dealt a final injustice with ‘foreign’ women barred from entertaining the crowds in any way at Cricket’s famed Eden Gardens, except for Amy Jackson who is reportedly buying a 0.0000000005% stake in the Kolkata Knight Riders for 5 billion pounds as a way of bolstering her burgeoning her presence in Bollywood.
Henceforth boundaries and wickets will be celebrated by several local women hired by KKR, draped in garish purple and gold saris, strutting to the music of Rabindranath Tagore; although it is doubtful whether the strutting will be even remotely vigorous.
Most interestingly, it remains to be seen whether their gyrations – irrespective of the level of vigour – will be inhibited by the saris.
Perhaps they should consult Madhuri Dixit.
-Tung in Cheeck

Monday, 26 March 2012

Atif Aslam, Sonu Nigam to light up London’s East End


If evidence was ever needed that not only could India and Pakistan merely get along but make beautiful music together, one need not look any further than the pairing of Atif Aslam and Sonu Nigam.
And the dynamic duo – arguably the finest singers in their respective countries – are all set to return to the O2 this April, bringing with them a musical ‘Dhamaka’ that will light up the East End and put all that Olympics nonsense to shame.
Aslam and Nigam will each perform live for 90 minutes during the show, set for Sunday 22nd April, and will be supported by – among others – the Bolly-Flex dance troupe off TV’s Got to Dance.
The event is a bit of a coup for organizer Naz Choudhury who failed to secure investment for a Bollywood events company on the BBC’s Dragon Den in 2010.
Two years later, he’s managed to bring together two sub-continental music superstars to perform at what is possibly the world’s greatest stage.  Choudhury says, "Dhamaka doesn't represent race, faith or culture, it's about the passion for music, dance and unity. I'm proud to say it's about time a show of this calibre has come to my home town, the East End of London.,"
For more information and tickets, visit :
www.dhamaka.co.uk, www.theo2.co.uk

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Home Secretary proposes tough new immigration rules

 
Home Secretary Theresa May is planning a crackdown on immigrants from outside the EU who “abuse” family visas to settle in Britain, the Sunday Telegraph reports.
The paper cited a letter from Mrs May to deputy PM Nick Clegg proposing a new minimum income of GBP25,700 for anyone seeking to bring a spouse or other dependent to the UK; nearly double the current threshold of GBP13,700.
The minimum income requirement could be revised up to GBP62,600 if children are to be sponsored.
Mrs May reportedly also wants a longer probationary period of five years before spouses or partners can apply to live permanently in Britain, and a higher level of English to be required.
The proposals could cut the number of non-EU immigrants allowed in by 15,000 a year - a significant step towards the Government's aim of reducing "net" migration to 100,000 people each year.
The Sunday Telegraph reports however that the Liberal Democrats will oppose the proposals.
In 2010, some 48,900 visas were issued under the spouse/dependent category.
The majority of those who come to settle in Britain using this method are women from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.
-    Staff Reporter

BBC to air new Dewani CCTV footage


BBC Panorama is to broadcast new CCTV footage of the hours leading up to the murder of honeymooner Anni Dewani in South Africa in 2010.
The hour-long documentary will be aired on March 29 and claims to investigate the case against Anni’s husband Shrien who is currently fighting a move by South African prosecutors to extradite him to Cape Town to stand trial.
A teaser for the show on its website said: “Did the wealthy businessman engage a taxi driver to arrange his wife’s death, or is he wrongly accused?
“The CCTV images reveal a different side to the couple than has so far been portrayed.”
Anni Dewani, 28, was fatally shot when a taxi she and her husband were using was allegedly hijacked in the notorious Gugulethu sector of Cape Town in November 2010.
Shrien Dewani said that after about 20 minutes of driving around he was kicked out of the car when the hijackers drove off with his wife.
Her body was eventually discovered on November 14 in the hijacked car.
The driver of the taxi, Zola Robert Tongo, later admitted guilt on a charge of murder in a plea bargain and was sentenced in December 2010 to 18 years in jail.
Tongo told the police that Shrien Dewani had offered him 15 000 Rand (GBP1400) to stage the hijacking and have Anni killed.
British Home Secretary Theresa May formally approved an extradition order against Mr Dewani in September last year.
He has since appealed the order to the British High Court.
- Staff Reporter

Shabana Azmi given Proclamation of NYC

PoorBest  Legendary actress Shabana Azmi has been honored by the Big Apple with a ‘Proclamation by the City of New York’ city of New York for her contribution to cinema and the film industry of the City.
61-year-old Azmi – the first Indian to receive the honor - was presented with the proclamation by Patricia Kaufmann, Executive Director of Motion Picture and Television Development of the New York Governor’s office.
The proclamation also applauded her work as a social activist, noting that apart from being a “highly respected” advocate for social justice, she has worked tirelessly for other causes, including funding for displaced Kashmiri migrants and relief for victims of the Latur earthquake.
“Coming from the city’s council in recognition of my work in cinema is obviously something that makes me very happy,” Azmi told Press Trust of India.
The proclamation added that her presence on the board of the arts organisation Indo-American Arts council (IAAC) has inspired hundreds of Indian film makers in the New York area for over a decade.
-   Staff Reporter

Konnie Huq gives birth to Baby boy

 
Former Blue Peter and Xtra Factor host Konnie Huq has given birth to a baby boy.
Huq, 36, and writer husband Charlie Brooker, are said to be “chuffed to bits” following the birth of Covey Brooker Huq at a Central London hospital.
Huq – whose parents are originally from Bangladesh – said: "A real cutie. We are chuffed to bits, he is absolutely gorgeous!!"
Konnie only revealed in December that she was expecting her first child.
The TV Presenter married the 41-year-old Brooker in Last Vegas in 2010 after dating for nine months.
-    Staff Reporter



Konnie Huq gives birth to Baby boy

Hello! magazine to launch Pakistan edition

 
Celebrity rag Hello! is to launch a Pakistan edition next month in a bid to deflect the world’s attention from the constant news stream featuring corrupt politicians, bent cricketers, assassinations and Islamic fundamentalists.
The magazine – renowned for its’ heavily airbrushed photos of major and minor celebrities and mundane events where the only prerequisite for entry is the ability to plant an endless stream of air kisses – will cover all areas of lifestyle and entertainment, from cuisine, culture, arts and fashion.
The new publication’s chief executive officer and publisher Zahraa Saifullah said Hello! Pakistan will be ‘socially responsible’ and be mindful of the conservative values that underpin Pakistani society.
Consulting editor Wajahat Khan told reporters: "The idea is not to celebrate the celebrity but to discover more (in Pakistan)."
He dismissed suggestions the magazine could have a problem with religious or radical groups although one of the stand-out questions at the press launch was whether the publishers “had obtained a No Objection letter  from the radical Jama’at at-e-Islami group?”
"We don't want to encroach upon the rights of anybody. We have to remain within the parameters of Pakistan,'' Khan said, adding that freedom of expression is allowed under the country's constitution.
Pakistani-Czech model and actress has been tentatively penned in to appear on the cover of the first issue of the magazine, featuring plenty of shoulder.
- Staff Reporter

Hello! magazine to launch Pakistan edition

Bollywood to make its presence felt at TIFF

 
Film-makers from Mumbai, home to India's thriving Bollywood, will be showcased at this year's Toronto International Film Festival (Tiff).
The festival's famed City to City section will showcase the emerging trends of Mumbai cinema, the festival artistic director Cameron Bailey says.
Mr Bailey says the idea is "to introduce the new generation of independent Mumbai film-makers to audiences and buyers in Toronto and help create a platform for their films in North America".
Tiff, which runs from 6-16 September this year, will premiere 10 films made by directors working in Mumbai.
Tiff is one of the world's top film festivals and is regarded as a gateway to the North American market.
"This is just the right time to showcase Mumbai's exciting new independent cinema to the world," says Mr Bailey.
Mr Bailey believes that the growing energy and innovation in the Mumbai movie industry in recent times has led to the emergence of local independent films that provide a contrast to the glitz and glamour of Bollywood's big banner extravaganzas.
'Historical overview'
According to Mr Bailey, Tiff's cinematic focus on Mumbai will see a marked departure from the previous three editions of the City to City programme in two crucial respects.
The selected Mumbai films will not necessarily be set in the city of their origin, unlike the entries that made it to the Tel Aviv, Istanbul and Buenos Aires programmes in the past three years.
"Past editions of City to City explored how film-makers represented their urban landscape. This year we'll shift the scope of the programme to showcase film-makers living and working in Mumbai, regardless of where their films are set," says Mr Bailey.
And, all 10 of the films in the 2012 City to City selection will be new.
"In the past, we included some older films in order to provide a historical overview of a city and its cinema," says Mr Bailey.
"In the case of Mumbai, however, I expect to find enough new films to fill up the whole section."
Mr Bailey also hopes that a majority of the films in the Mumbai package will be world premieres.
But, he is quick to add, "while we would certainly prefer each of them to be a premiere, one cannot expect every single film in the selection to be absolutely new".
The final line-up is scheduled to be announced in August. "We will select both fiction films and feature-length documentaries for the City to City programme," says Mr Bailey.
"Might be early days yet but we do have some film-makers in our sights. We are tracking the progress of their next films."
'Reflect diversity'
Though the final composition of Tiff's Mumbai package will take several months to emerge, among the Mumbai films that might be in the running are Anurag Kashyap's two-part Gangs of Wasseypur, Dibakar Banerjee's political thriller Shanghai and Reema Kagti's suspense drama Talaash, starring Aamir Khan.
City to City is now in its fourth year. But Mr Bailey's association with Mumbai goes back much further - to the early years of the new millennium, when he first began selecting Indian films for Tiff.
"In my initial years here, I would select only art house films, primarily from Kolkata and Kerala. A film like Ashim Ahluwalia's John & John would be rare. But that has now changed," says Mr Bailey, adding that somewhere down the line Tiff began programming star-studded commercial Bollywood films as well.
Big Bollywood titles that have played in Tiff include Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Singh is King and Dil Bole Hadippa.
The emergence of a new independent cinema in Mumbai has altered the canvas significantly and given Tiff a wider spectrum to choose from.
"We have in the recent past shown films such as That Girl in Yellow Boots and Dhobi Ghat," he says.
"The City to City selection will have both independent films as well as big, commercial productions," Mr Bailey says.
"It would be a mix that will reflect the diversity of the city itself."
-    Saibal Chatterjee, BBC News

Bollywood to make its presence felt at TIFF

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Pakistan bans Saif’s ‘Agent Vinod’

 
Pakistan’s censor board has banned Saif Ali Khan’s Bond-style caper ‘Agent Vinod’ citing the film’s references to the country’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency.
IMGC Global, the Pakistani distributor of the film - which also stars Khan’s real-life flame Kareena Kapoor - confirmed the ban in a statement, as did Atrium Cinemas, one of the biggest multiplex operators in the country.
The film had been slated for a March 23 release in Pakistan, a market which is an important one for Bollywood films.
There has been no official confirmation from the censor board but the Press Trust of India quoted sources as saying the film was banned as it contained references to ISI which “could hurt the sentiments of people in Pakistan.”
Reports say that Pakistani media outlets had been heavily promoting the film over the past two weeks but multiplexes ceased ticket pre-sales after learning of the censor board’s decision.
In its statement, IMGC Global’s chairman Amjad Rashid said, "Agent Vinod had been banned due to the contents of the movie.  Entertainment should facilitate the peace process between India and Pakistan and not disturb it. Now that India and Pakistan are extending cooperation on the business front, especially after the exchange of visits of both the Ministers of Commerce, this can jeopardise the business progress and environment."
Rashid further suggested that films "should not hurt either the religious or national sentiments of Pakistanis" or "decelerate the Indo-Pakistan peace-building process".
- Poonam Joshi

Pakistan bans Saif’s ‘Agent Vinod’

Norway kids row father makes dramatic sensation

 
The Indian father whose children were taken into care by Norwegian authorities, sparking a diplomatic furore between the countries, has sensationally declared that the children’s mother was suffering from “psychological problems”.
Anurup Bhattacharya and his wife Sagarika, from the southern Norwegian town of Stavanger, had thus far insisted their children - aged three and one - had been taken away in May 2011 by Social Services for ‘cultural reasons’, including them sharing a bed with the father and using their fingers to eat.
The claims drew widespread outrage in the Indian media and prompted the country’s foreign minister S M Krishna to demand the children’s return to the parents or relatives.
Norwegian officials however denied the parents’ claims and said that confidentiality laws prevented the disclosure of details surrounding the case.
"It was not just cultural bias that prompted the CWS (child welfare services) to act” Mr Bhattacharya told The Hindu on Tuesday.  “My wife has a serious psychological problem."
He further said he had decided to speak out after a row with his wife in which she allegedly attacked him, and that he had "concealed the seriousness" of problems within his family.
Mr Bhattacharya is now reportedly seeking full custody of the children.
A final decision on the case is to be taken by a Stavanger court on 23 April.
- Reporting by Sid Dharshan/Edited by Vijitha Alles

Norway kids row father makes dramatic sensation

Muslims, Sikhs attack government’s gay marriage plans



David Cameron’s plan to legalise gay marriage is “unnecessary and unhelpful”, the country’s largest Muslim organisation has said.
The leader of Britain’s Sikh community also attacked the proposal to extend the definition of marriage to same-sex couples, describing it as an “assault on religion”.
Senior Roman Catholic and Anglican bishops have already warned that the move will undermine social structures dating back thousands of years.
Mr Cameron is facing a backlash from his own supporters, with senior Tory MPs, including several ministers, expected to vote against the reforms.
However, he argues that the Conservatives should support gay marriage on the grounds that stability and commitment in relationships of any kind should be encouraged.
Last week, ministers published a consultation on how the changes to civil marriage laws will be introduced. The plans explicitly rule out alterations to religious marriage.
However, the Muslim Council of Britain said case for the government’s proposals was “strikingly weak”.
Farooq Murad, Secretary General of the MCB, said: “Whilst we remain opposed to all forms of discrimination, including homophobia, redefining the meaning of marriage is in our opinion unnecessary and unhelpful.
“With the advent of civil partnerships, both homosexual and heterosexual couples now have equal rights in the eyes of the law.
“Therefore, in our view the case to change the definition of marriage, as accepted throughout time and across cultures, is strikingly weak.
In common with other Abrahamic faiths, marriage in Islam is defined as “a union between a man and a woman”, he said. “So while the state has accommodated for gay couples, such unions will not be blessed as marriage by the Islamic institutions.”
Lord Singh, head of the Network of Sikh Organisations, said the proposed reforms represented “a sideways assault on religion”.
“It is an attempt by a vocal, secular minority to attack religion,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Sikhs believed in marriage as the union of a man and a woman and that changing the definition was an attack on the English language, he said. “We have total respect for gays and lesbians and we are delighted that there is a Civil Partnership Act. We believe that this gives gays and lesbians everything they need.”
Lord Singh’s criticism followed similar concerns from leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in the UK and the Church of England.
Senior Conservatives have also expressed their alarm at the plan, on which Tory MPs have been promised a free vote.
Writing in his Telegraph blog, the former Conservative Cabinet minister, Lord Tebbit, yesterday attacked Mr Cameron’s blueprint for a “politically correct new order”.
“No one seems to have thought through the massive legislative ramifications of the Prime Minister’s latest attempt to distance himself from that toxic Thatcherite Tory Party which kept winning elections,” he said.
“Mr Cameron's justification for all this is that he believes in it ‘because he is a Conservative’ is absurd. Conservatives do not turn over long-standing (several thousands of years across widely different cultures all over the world, in this case) with so little thought... Perhaps it is another contagion from his Lib Dem partners.”
However, Rachel Muers, a Quaker theologian and senior lecturer in Christian studies at the University of Leeds, said Quakers wanted to “affirm and celebrate” same-sex couples in a religious context.
“We are clear that we can't impose our beliefs on others,” she told the Today programme.
-    Tim Ross/The Daily Telegraph

Muslims, Sikhs attack government’s gay marriage plans

Preeya Kalidas to release next single in April

 
The ravishing Preeya Kalidas has revealed details of her latest music release.
Titled ‘Love Between Us’, the single is the follow up to 2011’s ‘ It’s A Problem’ and is described as an up-tempo urban ballad with a – wait for it! – Bollywood feel.
The song features a sample from the classic tune ‘My Name is Lakhan’ from the 1989 Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit masala smash ‘Ram Lakhan’, a film Kalidas grew up watching.
‘Love Between Us’ was co-written by Preeya and was produced by Davinche, the producer whose previous clients have included the phenomenal Tinie Tempah.
Davinche is one of a number of producers and writers Preeya’s been working with for her forthcoming debut album which she’s been working on in between stints as part of the ever-intriguing Masood family on Eastenders.
‘Love Between Us’ releases next month.
- Poonam Joshi

Preeya Kalidas to release next single in April

Rushdie decries “intolerance” in India


 
British author Salman Rushdie made it to his country of birth this week and reignited the debate about freedom of speech and tolerance in India, or what he claims is the distinct lack of both.
The scribe took his visit to the India Today Conclave in New Delhi to once again lash out at sub-continental politicians who continued to pander to “religious fanaticism” and indulged in “political opportunism”.
“A combination of religious fanaticism, political opportunism and public apathy is damaging that freedom on which all other freedoms depends: the freedom of expression,” Rushdie told the conference.
He also accused the ruling Congress party of trying to appease Muslim voters in the recent UP state poll.
“It didn’t even work Rahul. Years and years of kneeing down in front of every mullah you can find and it didn’t even work, it must feel sick,” Rushdie said in a dig at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi after the party performed poorly at the elections.
Rushdie also ridiculed Pakistan cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, who pulled out of a scheduled speech at the same conference due to Rushdie’s alleged anti-Muslim writings.
Khan had chosen “to demonise a book written 25 years ago and to make its author a bogey man with which to distract his audience from the immeasurable hurt of their actual lives”, Rushdie said.
Rushdie drew gasps of surprise from the India Today Conclave audience by asking: “Have you noticed the physical resemblance between Imran Khan and (slain Libyan dictator Moamer) Qadhafi?”
“If you were making a movie of the life of Qadhafi and you wanted a slightly better-looking version of Qadhafi you might cast Imran Khan,” Rushdie said with a grin.
“He would need to act of course, which would be a problem.”
The 64-year-old author said the re-emergence of controversy over “The Satanic Verses” was part of a trend in India of the threat of violence being used to silence opposing opinions and artistic expression.
“What is becoming more commonplace in India is a cultural war against all forms of art,” he said. “It seems almost every day now somewhere there is a piece of bullying by Muslims or Hindus of groups they believe offend them.”
Rushdie added that “immeasurable harm” was being done to Islam by terrorists and fanatics such as those who killed former Punjab governor Salmar Taseer, whose son writer Aatish Taseer was tasked with interviewing the author on stage.
Rushdie said common people were more sensible than their leaders and 95 percent of Muslims in India were not in favour of the violence and the things being said in their name.
-   UKAsian Staff (Edited by Vijitha Alles)

Rushdie decries “intolerance” in India

Majority of young Brit-Asians support ‘Honour Code’

 
A majority of young British Asians support implementing a code of honour in their families and communities, according to a poll conducted by the BBC’s Panorama program.
The study of 500 young Asians also revealed 18% thought physical beatings on women was justfiable for certain ‘crimes’, including disobeying the father or wanting to leave an existing or prearranged marriage.
Alarmingly, 6% of those polled said ‘honour killing’ was permissible.
Women’s Rights activist Jasvinder Sanghera – herself a victim of abuse – told Panorama it was time for Britain’s Asian community to speak out about the prevalence of the honour code:  “I’ve yet to see community leaders, religious leaders, politicians, Asian councillors give real leadership on this” she said.
“They don’t because they know it makes them unpopular.”
Nazir Afzal of the Crown Prosecution Service said “We don’t know the true figure of honour killings.  It’s anything between 10 and 12 a year in this country. I don’t know how many other unmarked graves there are in this country in our green and pleasant land.”
-    Staff Reporter (Edited by Vijitha Alles)
Panorama: Britain's Crimes of Honour: Monday 19th , BBC One, Monday 19 March at 20:30 GMT and then available in the UK on the BBC iPlayer.

Majority of young Brit-Asians support ‘Honour Code’

Becoming an abuse statistic in patriarchal India

 
Journalist Nita Bhalla recounts the lingering scars - physical and mental - from an assault on her and draws a wider lesson about violence against women in patriarchal India.
I stand in front of the mirror, surveying my face and body - still in shock at how it could have happened to me.
Six days on, the swelling on the right side of my face which he banged into the wall has subsided, the bruise under my right eye where he punched me has turned deep purple and those on my arms and legs where he grabbed and kicked me are fading.
The marks around my neck from when he tried to choke me, I conclude, are healing the fastest. Yet I still decide to wrap a scarf around my neck before leaving for work.
Globally, six out of 10 women experience physical and/or sexual violence - mostly committed by a husband or an intimate partner, says UN Women.
And India, the country I am based in, is not much better.
Around 37% of Indian women have experienced some form of abuse by their husbands - pushing, slapping and hair pulling, punching, kicking, choking or burning - according to the Indian government's last National Family Health Survey.
Activists say the actual figures are likely to be more than double this, but despite greater awareness and more gender-sensitive laws, few women are willing to come out and talk openly about the violence they face by those who purport to love them.
The statistics are not surprising for me. But being a statistic is.
Reporting on women's rights issues in South Asia over the last three years, I have covered the plethora of threats which haunt the millions of women who live in this deeply patriarchal region.
The violations are vast and varied - from the illegal abortions of female foetuses to the immolation of young brides by their in-laws for not fulfilling dowry demands, to brothers who murder their sisters for falling in love with "unsuitable" men.
I have visited villages in northern India where women hide behind veils and weep as they recount their stories of being sold and trafficked as brides, kept as slaves and beaten and raped by their husbands and "shared" among brothers.
I have spent hours in women's shelters buried in New Delhi's slums, interviewing battered women with blackened and burnt arms, after their drunken husbands' poured kerosene over them and set them alight.
I have spoken to health workers, gender experts, women's activists, and government officials on numerous issues - from the psychological reasons of "power and control" that lie behind gender abuse to the adverse impacts of the low status of women on India's development efforts.
While physical and sexual violence against women is unfortunately something that afflicts every society, the high levels to which it is acceptable in India are sometimes unfathomable.
The National Family Health Survey found that 51% of Indian men and 54% of Indian women found it justifiable for a man to beat his wife.
And the silence that surrounds such abuse helps perpetuate that acceptability.
Not the understandable silence of victims who are afraid or not empowered enough to speak out, but the incomprehensible silence of others - family, friends, neighbours and even passers-by - who choose to turn a blind eye.
Interviewing victims and hearing of how their families and friends knew, but did nothing, was something that I never really understood.
But now I have experienced that silence.
When he pulled my hair and kicked me as I lay on the pavement, there was a deafening silence from my neighbours who heard my screams but were reluctant to intervene.
I heard it from the group of young men walking past, who stopped a few feet away to watch as he beat me. And I heard it from the auto-rickshaw drivers who were parked at the stand across the road in the early hours of that morning.
The reasons for violence against women are many, gender experts say.
What I went through may have been about power - born out of an abuser's insecurity or frustration of not being able to control the female which he believes he owns - an issue relevant across the world.
The high levels of gender violence which persist in India, activists say, are mainly down to deeply-rooted, age-old discriminatory beliefs.
Despite the country's impressive economic growth and exposure to "Western liberalism" over the last two decades, women are still largely seen as objects to be exploited.
Poverty, illiteracy, a lack of enforcement of gender-sensitive laws, and few opportunities for women to empower themselves have allowed crimes, like the trafficking of rural girls to cities like Delhi and Mumbai for sex and domestic work or the high levels of rape and sexual harassment, to persist.
But other violations, such as female foeticide or so-called "honour killings" and "stove burnings" which occur here are often rooted in a culture where a female's sexual behaviour is linked to her family's reputation and a tradition where hefty dowries are expected to marry off daughters - a "burden" many can do without.
I still keep thinking: "This did not happen. This does not happen to women like me."
Most of the victims we read about in India are largely uneducated women from poorer backgrounds - reinforcing a general perception that domestic violence or intimate partner violence is more pervasive in groups of a lower socio-economic status.
Yet professional women in India also face such abuse, but rarely speak of it.
Some married women are afraid of being accused of "breaking up the family" and are expected to put up and maintain their silence, while single women I know are worried of being seen as "weak" as they strive to break through the glass ceiling in their male-dominated professions.
And so now it is I - a professional, educated, independent woman - who is standing behind a curtain inside the trauma centre in Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences, as a nurse makes me undress and examines my injuries.
She, like the doctor, my work colleagues, neighbours and friends, seems as shocked as I am.
They stare at my black eye, asking the same question.
"How could this happen to YOU?"
Horrifyingly, I realise, it can happen to anyone.
-    Journalist Nita Bhalla covers women’s issues in South Asia.  This article first appeared on www.bbc.co.uk

Becoming an abuse statistic in patriarchal India

Monday, 19 March 2012

Naseeruddin Shah’s ‘Michael’: Beautiful Tedium

 
The London Asian Film Festival – which opened 16th March at BFI Southbank – might be struggling to find its Raison d’etre, 14 years after its inception but the same cannot be said about its’ opening night film, ‘Michael’.
A film dealing with one man’s struggle to cope with tragedy could not have been more topical in a week when the news was dominated by the likes of PC David Rathband, US Army Sergeant Robert Bales, not to mention Bashar Al Assad and the ways in which they’ve dealt with personal misfortune, tragedy and a slackening grip on power.
‘Michael’ stars Nasseeruddin Shah as Michael Rodriguez, a single father and police officer in Kolkata who is called to do the bidding of a corrupt politician by opening fire at a peaceful rally against Communist rule in the city.
A 12-year-old boy is killed in the shooting and Michael is made the scapegoat.
His wilful concealment of the fact that his eyesight is failing is further cause for Michael to be dismissed from the force dishonoured and – worst of all – without a pension.
It’s a body blow for Michael and the film follows his travails to not only cope with the tragedy but his struggles with money and difficult relationship with his young son Roy.
The film is the directorial debut of Ribhu Dasgupta who also wrote the script.  Dasgupta says the story was variously inspired by Roland Joffe’s ‘City of Joy’, the Cat Stevens song  Father & Son as well as the director’s own relationship with his father. 
And all of those inspirations are strikingly palpable.
The relationship between Michael and his son Roy is – as with most father son relationships – at times aberrant but deeply emotional.  And, Kolkata – as it recently did in Kahani – plays one of the film’s most important characters; indolent and chaotic all at once, pushing some to despair and lifting others out of the doldrums.
The heart of ‘Michael’ though is the title character’s battle with the dreadful disintegration of his life and it is doubtful whether any actor on the face of the planet could have captured Michael’s anguish as well as Nasseeruddin Shah.  Michael’s swagger is directly proportional to the vulnerability he feels outside his police uniform and Shah captures that fragile bluster pitch perfectly.   The exquisite Mahi Gill, as a friend who helps babysit Roy, and the perennially funny Sridhar Vatsar help provide a slightly more cheerful counterpoint to the sullen Rodriguez.
But no matter how good an actor you are, your skills can only extend to what the writer dictates and after the first hour or so, the film begins to seem slightly plodding and sparks that age old debate about a film as a piece of entertainment or an exercise in creating something artistic whose level of engagement might be highly subjective. 
After an hour of empathising with Michael’s predicament however you’re left wanting for something to happen.
‘Michael’ was championed by Anurag Kashyap – and of course Nasseeruddin Shah – and is outstanding as an exploration of one man’s journey through despair.  And visually, it is stunning; in fact the whole movie segues from one beautifully textured image to another.
But you can only stare at a nice picture for so long before it becomes tedious.
-    Vijitha Alles

Naseeruddin Shah’s ‘Michael’: Beautiful Tedium

Indian former Mr Universe crosses a century on a life without tensions

 
A former Mr. Universe who has just turned 100 said Sunday that happiness and a life without tensions are the key to his longevity.
Manohar Aich, who is 4 foot 11 inches (150 centimeters) tall, overcame many hurdles, including grinding poverty and a stint in prison, to achieve body building glory.
His children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gathered Sunday in the eastern city of Kolkata to celebrate his birthday the day before.
Hindu priests chanted prayers while a feast was laid out to honor Aich, winner of the 1952 Mr. Universe body building title.
Rippling his muscles and flashing a toothless grin, Aich says his ability to take his troubles lightly and remain happy during difficult times are the secrets to his long life.
That, and a simple diet of milk, fruits and vegetables along with rice, lentils and fish have kept him healthy.
He does not smoke and has never touched alcohol, he said.
"I never allow any sort of tension to grip me. I had to struggle to earn money since my young days, but whatever the situation, I remained happy," Aich said, sitting in a room decorated with posters and pictures of his many bodybuilding triumphs.
Aich, who was born in the small town of Comilla in Bengal, was a puny youngster. But he was attracted to exercising and building his muscles when as a schoolboy he saw a group of wrestlers in action.
In 1942, he joined the Royal Air Force under India's British colonial rulers and it was there that he began his relentless pursuit of body building.
Encouraged by a British officer named Reub Martin, who introduced him to weight training, Aich earned praise for his physique from his peers in the air force.
Some years later, however, he was thrown into prison when he protested against colonial oppression.
"It was in the jail that I began weight training seriously. This helped me prepare myself for the world championship," said Aich.
"In jail I used to practice on my own, without any equipment, sometimes for 12 hours in a day," he recalled.
The jail authorities were impressed with his perseverance and he was given a special diet to help build his stamina.
India's independence in 1947 led to Aich's release from jail. Dogged by poverty, Aich and his wife struggled to put their four children through school. There was little cash to indulge his passion for body building, but Aich took up odd jobs to earn a little on the side.
His 1950 win of a "Mr. Hercules" contest spurred him to set his sights on the Mr. Universe tournament in London.
In 1951, Aich came second in the contest, and stayed on in London to prepare for another shot at the title. He returned to India after winning the title in 1952.
What followed were a host of awards, including top positions in the Asian Body building Championships. Over the years, he also earned the more popular title of "Pocket Hercules" due to his 4 foot, 11 inch-frame.
Six decades later, Aich helps his sons run a gym and fitness center and spends his days guiding juvenile hopefuls to reach the heights of body building.
A minor stroke last year robbed him of the ability to lift weights, but he keeps a watchful eye on young body builders training in his gym.
Although his two sons did not take up body building, Aich says his mentoring has earned him rewards. It has produced India's eight-time national champion, Satya Paul. Another protege, Premchand Dogra, snagged the Mr. Universe title in 1988.
Among his regrets, says Aich, is that he never had a chance to meet his more famous counterpart, a fellow Mr. Universe winner, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But Aich says he's seen many of Schwarzenegger's action films.
"I like the incredible stunts he does in the movies," Aich said.
-    The Associated Pres

Indian former Mr Universe crosses a century on a life without tensions

Ram Gopal Varma’s 26/11 film begins shooting in Mumbai


 
Filming has begun in Mumbai on director Ram Gopal Varma’s latest film, the first Bollywood movie to deal with the 2008 terror attacks on the city which left 166 people dead.
The controversial director – known for his films about the Mumbai Underworld – took to his Twitter account Friday, declaring it “the most important film of my career”.
Varma said the $8m film will be targeted primarily at the international market and would detail “every aspect of the carnage”.
The November 2008 attacks saw 10 heavily-armed gunmen storm targets in Mumbai including luxury hotels, a Jewish centre and a train station.
India blames the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant outfit for training, equipping and financing the Mumbai gunmen with support from “elements” in the Pakistan military.
A low-budget film based on the assault was released in 2010 but was panned by the critics and quickly disappeared.
Varma described the attacks as “one of the most important events that ever happened” and one that rivalled the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States for “sheer complexity”.
Jamshedpur-born Sanjeev Jaiswal, a theatre actor from Delhi will play the key role of Mohammad Kasab, the sole surviving gunman.  The baby-faced gunman became the public face of the attacks after he was caught on CCTV, Kaleshnikov nonchalantly raised, during a shooting spree at a train station.
49-year-old Varma, the director of nearly 40 movies, courted controversy soon after the attacks when he was pictured touring the burned out Taj Mahal Palace hotel in what was allegedly a trip to scout for locations for a possible film.
Reports say the as-yet-untitled film will be a multilingual affair with the characters speaking in a mixture of Hindu, Urdu, English and Marathi.
-    Poonam Joshi

Ram Gopal Varma’s 26/11 film begins shooting in Mumbai

US-Indian student found guilty of webcam hate crime

 
A US student who used a webcam to secretly film his room-mate in a gay encounter has been found guilty of hate crime and invasion of privacy.
Former Rutgers University undergraduate Dharun Ravi, 20, shook his head as the verdict was returned at a court in the state of New Jersey.
His room-mate, Tyler Clementi, jumped to his death from a bridge in 2010.
The case attracted national attention, including comment from President Obama, and prompted anti-bullying measures.
Ravi was found guilty of 15 counts as a whole, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation, which is a hate crime.
He was found not guilty of several subparts of the bias intimidation charges.
While Ravi was not charged in connection with Clementi's death, which occurred shortly after the spying, the suicide was mentioned by witnesses during the trial.
He will be sentenced on 21 May and could face up to 10 years in jail and possible deportation to India - although he has lived in the US legally since he was a young boy.
The trial heard that Ravi set up a webcam in his dormitory room in September 2010 and filmed Clementi kissing another man.
Ravi then tweeted about it and tried to catch Clementi in the act again two days later.
Prosecutors said about half a dozen students saw the video.
Days later, Clementi realised he had been filmed and leaped to his death, posting a status update on Facebook saying: "Jumping off the gw bridge, sorry."
The trial heard that Ravi had planned to "expose" Clementi's activity and that he acted purposefully and maliciously.
Prosecutors said there was abundant proof that Ravi had a problem with Clementi being gay.
But the defence argued that Ravi, a first-year student at the time, was not homophobic and was simply behaving like an immature "kid".
One of the many witnesses called during the trial included the man seen kissing Clementi, identify by his initials MB.
Ravi did not testify, but jurors watched video of police questioning him after Clementi's death.
Clementi's death was one of a string of suicides by gay youths, and the case received national attention.
Prosecutors were barred by the court from arguing that the spying had led directly to Clementi's death, while defence lawyers were prevented from saying Clementi had killed himself for other reasons.
Clementi requested his room be changed before his death, according to testimony, and he loaded Ravi's Twitter page 38 times during the last two days of his life.
One of Ravi's tweets said: "Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."
In the wake of his death, New Jersey legislators passed an anti-bullying law, and Rutgers changed its housing policies in attempt to make gay students feel more comfortable.
-    BBC News
-    Photo Credit: ABC News

US-Indian student found guilty of webcam hate crime

M.I.A. in Twitter bust up with CNN’s Anderson Cooper

 
Outspoken hip-hop star M.I.A. and CNN newsman Anderson Cooper have settled their differences following a war of words via Twitter.com on Wednesday over Sri Lanka's secret war with the Tamil Tigers.
The ‘Paper Planes’ hitmaker, whose father Arul Pragasam is a leading Tamil activist, has always been vocal about the plight of her people in Sri Lanka, accusing the nation's government officials of engaging in systematic genocide.
A new British documentary chronicling the ongoing secret war and the execution of Tamil leaders and their families, which aired on Wednesday in the UK, left her calling for action and taking aim at Cooper who she claimed had misrepresented her on his news show 360.
In a series of tweets, she wrote, "Anderson Cooper called me a terrorist for speaking out, and expressed support for the SLgov (Sri Lankan government) when this (killing) was happening... thought AC (Anderson Cooper) was a fair news reporter till (sic) SL killings took place and he kept his silent! (sic) Disappointed!"
She added, "Someone should make Anderson Cooper watch it/film it and show the world what happens when respected journos (journalists) get it wrong.
"You called me a lady Tamil Tiger when I talked about Tamil civilians dying, and u (sic) printed a retraction... in 2009 u linked to a articl (article) that was written about me with false info. There was a rebuttal on ur (your) 360 site... 2 months later 1ce (once) every Tamil had been silenced including me, the SLGOV carried out the killing of 40,000 civilians."
Her rant prompted Cooper to respond via his personal Twitter account. He wrote, "You are mistaken. I never called you a terrorist. I don't even know who you are other than the lady who sang at Superbowl... You've gone from saying 'I wrote', 'I called you,' to saying my CNN show blog had a link to an article. Big difference... we link to many articles with different viewpoints, and we gave you an opportunity to respond."
He added, "I can understand your frustration if someone wrote untrue things about you, and I'm glad you were able to respond... and the brutal war in SL has not gotten enough coverage in the US, and I know that (sic) very upsetting."
The Twitter war of words ended with M.I.A. urging Cooper to watch the new Channel 4 documentary, Killing Fields: "Anderson Cooper I'm glad u understand but please watch Killing Fields because this is what I was trying to say."
-    WENN.com

M.I.A. in Twitter bust up with CNN’s Anderson Cooper

Friday, 16 March 2012

‘Mauritian Nigella’ wins MasterChef 2012

 
Shelina Permalloo has been crowned winner of MasterChef 2012 after her exotic concoctions won over the pallettes of judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace.
The wonderfully named Ms Permalloo – whose parents are from Mauritius – beat off fellow finalists Andrew Kojima and Tom Rennolds after several weeks of intense competition.
She is only the second woman to win the BBC1 show in 8 years.
Ms Permalloo’s final menu featured an Octupus starter, a mutton curry and a dessert of mango cannelloni stuffed with lime curd.
Torode and Wallace said the 29-year-old, from Tooting, south London, brought ‘sunshine to a plate’.
A thrilled Ms Permalloo paid tribute to her mother who she said was her inspiration.  “I am completely and utterly overwhelmed. I never thought it was going to be me that would win.  My mum is a brilliant cook. I learnt everything from her. I'm basically her sous chef.  She taught me to cook by intuition: never by using scales, always by sight and taste. So I developed a strong palate from a young age.  I only ate Mauritian food growing up as it gave our family that affinity of being close to the island.'
She revealed to fans on her Twitter micro-blogging site that she was keen to set up her own venue.
She said: 'I would love to have my own restaurant. Hopefully one day. I don't have a cookbook yet but if I do there will be plenty of vegetarian and vegan recipies.
Miss Permalloo was an initially an outsider to win the competition but her popularity with the audience has grown in recent weeks.
- UKAsian Staff

‘Mauritian Nigella’ wins MasterChef 2012

Yash Raj Films denies new picture will be called ‘London Ishq’

 
Yash Raj Films has vehemently denied claims by - among others - some UK-based Bollywood ‘reporters’ that Yash Chopra’s upcoming film will be called ‘London Ishq’.
The reporters, who regularly claim to have “exclusive access” to film sets, stars and “informed insiders”, broke the ‘news’ several weeks ago but a YRF spokesman told the Times of India that the film - starring Katrina Kaif and Shah Rukh Khan - remains untitled.
The spokesman said, “Despite repeated confirmations that Yash Chopra's film still remains untitled, large sections of the media continue to call it London Ishq. This is completely baseless, inaccurate and detrimental to the film. Unfortunately, several individual denials on our part have also gone unheeded.”
She added, “We would like to acknowledge and thank those who have responsibly put out the true status after checking with us while requesting those who haven't, to please stop calling it by this name.”
The film began its’ first schedule of filming in February in London and has created enormous buzz among fans as it brings together some of the industry’s brightest talents; apart from Shah Rukh Khan, the production will feature the talents of A R Rahman and Gulzar.
The film is set for a Diwali 2012 release.
- Poonam Joshi

Yash Raj Films denies new picture will be called ‘London Ishq’

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Rubina Ali from Slumdog to appear alongside Anthony Hopkins

 
Rubina Ali, the angelic little slum angel from Slumdog Millionaire, is to appear in a new film starring Anthony Hopkins and Welsh rugby player, The Bachelor star and former Mr Charlotte Church Gavin Henson.
Ali, now 13, was plucked from poverty in Mumbai to play the role of the young Latika in the Oscar-winning movie directed by Danny Boyle in 2008.  The film brought fortune for her which led to a bitter feud within her family.  A year later the slum she lived in was destroyed in a fire.
She will reportedly be paid more than £20,000 for her role in the film which will be shot in England and India.  
- UKAsian Staff

Rubina Ali from Slumdog to appear alongside Anthony Hopkins

‘The Infidel’ to get the Bollywood treatment

The Infidel, Omid Djalili’s satire on Muslims, Jews, Brits and a solitary Iranian is to be given the Bollywood treatment.
A Mumbai-based production company has reportedly acquired the rights to develop the cross-cultural comedy, written by award winning screenwriter David Baddiel who will also executive produce the remake alongside original producers Uzma Hasan and Arvind David.
The 2010 original was a box office hit in the UK and starred Iranian comic Omid Djalili as a Muslim family man who discovers that he’s adopted and Jewish.
The Good Wife star Archie Panjabi and Little Britain’s Matt Lucas also starred.
The remake will reportedly focus on the chasm between India’s two main religions; Hinduism and Islam.
- Vijitha Alles

‘The Infidel’ to get the Bollywood treatment

Paresh Rawal’s ‘Krishan vs Kanhaiya’ to return to London

 
Irrepressible Indian comic Paresh Rawal is set to return to London this April, bringing with him the award-winning play Krishan vs Kanhaiya.
The production was warmly welcomed by audiences up and down the country when it first made an appearance in these shores back in May 2011 and Rawal says he’s coming back to offer a second serving of the play about religion and spiritual habit.
Rawal plays the role of Krishan; an avowed atheist in a deeply religious family who finds himself plunged into a journey of discovery after an earthquake destroys his beloved antiques shop.
Krishan vs Kanhaiya will be staged at a number of locations in and around South Asian communities in London, including Harrow, Wembley and Ilford as well as taking in Central London.
- UKAsian Staff

Paresh Rawal’s ‘Krishan vs Kanhaiya’ to return to London

British Money: Helping Bihar’s poor

 
The use of British aid money in India, with its rapidly growing economy and ambitious space programme, has critics in both countries. But in the state of Bihar, a carefully targeted aid project is successfully reducing corruption, and improving the lives of some of the poorest people in the world.
When they set up recently as advisers in Bihar state offices, British aid officials faced a rather immediate problem.
One of their targets was increasing the number of toilets and safe washing facilities out in the countryside - but they had not expected to need to provide them for their own staff first.
The government system had been so hollowed out during the previous corrupt administration that the most basic of facilities had gone.
Now signs of change are everywhere.
A courtyard has become a graveyard of manual typewriters, lying rusting and broken among discarded wooden cupboards, desks and filing cabinets.
Every piece of furniture and old Remington typewriter has a number painted in white on it, denoting it as state property, some dating back from the 1930s.
In one ministry, there were so few people actually working that the British advisers hired street sweepers to do basic administrative jobs.
They needed to start from scratch as if coming to a land recovering from catastrophe - although Bihar had not faced a natural disaster or conflict, but corruption.
Its previous administration was infamous for theft - stealing votes, and misdirecting government subsidies.
Bihar's problems were similar to those faced by many frail, post-conflict countries - lacking even the systems to spend money allocated to it from central government.
It is this capacity that Britain hopes to improve so that Bihar can access money from Delhi that otherwise is going to waste.
On a busy corner in Patna, I watched as people queued up to apply for certificates of income, caste and land title.
British aid money was behind this project too, helping citizens to access state services without having to pay middlemen as they did in the past.
This British scheme is even funding an Indian call centre. There was brisk business when I went to listen, as people phoned in to ask for the name of the individual official concerned with their case.
Failure to act within a certain period of time has led to civil servants being fined. Others have gone to jail for trying to continue the corrupt ways of the past.
This is a long way from the traditional image of aid as a handout, or payment for health, education or housing.
And the case that Britain retains its large aid budget to build the capacity of the Indian state may be a hard one to make to someone in the British public sector who has lost their job in the cuts caused by austerity at home.
But no-one could doubt the scale of the need.
If Bihar were a country, its per capita income would be the third lowest in the world. Only two countries in Africa would be below it.
In a slum of some 50 or so houses, wedged between a main road and a railway, backing onto a green fetid swamp full of mosquito larvae, Parbhatti Devi told me that she had lived here all her life.
She had lost all her fingers and toes to leprosy - and what she had, she earned from begging.
Wires snaked through the makeshift roof of her hut, with improvised attachments to overhead cables, lethal in the monsoon rain. She had no safe drinking water nor access to a toilet.
Some Indian politicians and diplomats do not like Britain's large aid programme because this is not the image of a land with global middle class aspirations they want to project. They live as if in another country from the lepers by the railway tracks.
Bihar has shaken off its past and is now the least corrupt state in India and from a low base its economy is growing at more than 14%. Given that, should it not now take care of itself?
The answer from the most senior civil servant in the state was simple. He told me that development would have come, but far more slowly without the British technical expertise that has changed the way they do things.
He said that millions would be lifted out of poverty far sooner because of the British help.
We met in his office in the Secretariat building that was the seat of British colonial power here until 1947.
On his wall hung a painting of the huge conical brick structure that still stands at the west of the city, built by the British to store rice after a devastating famine in the 1770s.
In another century, Britain has a relationship of quite a different kind here.
-    David Loyn, BBC News

British Money: Helping Bihar’s poor

Sujoy Ghosh’s ‘Kahani’ is sublime

 
A man with a good, twisted sense of humour is one who has invariably experienced some manner of trauma or tragedy and has lived to tell the tale.  Personal misfortune leads people to reassess their influence on others, to prove themselves to be different and then sit back and smirk as the world sits up disoriented and breaks into uncontrollable giggles.
Sujoy Ghosh is undoubtedly a man with a wicked sense of humour and who can blame him?  A self-taught filmmaker who was inspired by Satyajit Rai’s films, Ghosh’s first film – Jhankar Beats – was surprisingly successful.
His next two – the farcical ‘Home Delivery’ and the insipid ‘Aladin’ – were unmitigated disasters.  Aladin in particular, was widely hyped and promised a unique take on a much loved story and featured a Bollywood legend, a beautiful newcomer and enough tech to put Steve Jobs’ home office to shame.
The film however was panned by critics and audiences stayed away in droves and Ghosh – figuratively at least – went into hiding.
Reeling from his spectacular fall from grace, Ghosh went away and drowned his sorrows by penning his latest release ‘Kahani’, a film that has been three years in the making which is the equivalent of a millennium in Bollywood terms.
Set in Ghosh’s birthplace of Kolkatta, the film stars Bollywood’s woman of the moment Vidya Balan; fresh from her National Film Award success and still basking in the glory of her acclaimed turn as Silk Smitha in ‘The Dirty Picture’.
It’s not difficult to see why Balan is described as the industry’s most versatile actress as she sheds the anxiety and hedonism of the tragic south Indian siren and morphs into the slightly disoriented yet determined Vidya Bagchi.  Vidya is six months pregnant and has come to Kolkatta from the UK in search of her husband without so much as a phone number for a lead.  She’s encumbered, alone and confronted by a chaotic city teeming with cynical men.
It’s a thrilling pursuit, one which culminates in a quite sublime twist that will leave you breathless.  In fact, Ghosh's PR skills are excellent.  The UKAsian interviewed Ghosh in the run up to Kahani’s release but much of what was said about the movie during the conversation is redundant given the film’s extraordinary narrative.
It’s difficult to imagine the difficulty of Ghosh’s journey from the disaster of Aladin to Kahani but my word it is a triumph.  His direction is terrific, fusing the near-bedlam of one of the world’s greatest cities with the anguish of this mother to be and taking us all for a ride.
The city is as much a character as Vidya Bagchi and cinematographer Setu captures it in all its’ vibrant, grimy glory.  “When I wrote the film, I knew the city would play an important role and the only two Indian cities I know well are Mumbai and Kolkata.  I chose the latter, because it is the most unassuming city to set a crime in.  I needed to shoot the film during Durga Puja.  That's one time when all of Kolkata thinks like one and everybody's on the same frequency - happy, buying clothes, planning holidays, praying to Ma. The movie is the story of one woman pitted against this mass, the only sad soul in the midst of happy people.  That made Vidya's character stand out” Ghosh says.
‘Stand out’ is perhaps an understatement.
Balan once again alights from the screen and grabs you by the scruff of the neck.  Perhaps the most overriding characteristic of her acting style – one which most other actresses in Bollywood sorely lack – is the manner in which she elicits the empathy of the viewer.
That fact is nowhere more evident than in Kahani.  Her anguish is almost tangible and her resolve inspiring. It would be best if she prepared her acceptance speech for her next National Film Award.
Kahani is everything that hogwash such as Players is not: intelligent, thrilling, subtle and deeply moving.
It is cinema at its best.
-    Vijitha Alles

Sujoy Ghosh’s ‘Kahani’ is sublime

“I make movies to make myself happy. Nothing is more important.” - Vidya

 
Three years ago, a career which had begun promisingly enough was on the wane and Vidya Balan was considering chucking it all in.  There then came acclaimed roles in films such as Ishqiya and No One Killed Jessica Lal and of course the critical and commercial success of the sensational ‘The Dirty Picture’.
Balan’s terrific portrayal of the beautiful and tragic south Indian siren Silk Smitha garnered numerous accolades including this year’s prestigious National Film Award for Best Actress.
It has also led to Balan being recognized as Bollywood’s most talented and versatile actress, head and shoulders above her contemporaries.
Her latest role, as Vidya Bagchi in Sujoy Ghosh’s ‘Kahani’ continues in the same vein.  Balan plays a woman who arrives in Kolkata from the UK in search of her husband who has disappeared off the face of the planet.   Heavily pregnant yet determined, Vidya has to contend with the city’s teeming chaos and a suspicious and disobliging public.
The film is an intense ride with a sublime twist that will shock and thrill audiences and is certain to earn many more plaudits for Balan.
The actress spoke to Poonam Joshi about play acting, strong-willed females and a fascinating career.
It’s a terribly intense film.  What was it like playing this character on an emotional level?  
Physically it was a little demanding because I had to carry around this weight around my midriff but it wasn’t an intense experience.  I would say it was an incredibly liberating experience to go through a little bit of the anxiety that a woman would feel in a situation like this.  On a more practical level, the shoot was intense.  We would shoot for 3 or 4 days continuously because we had to keep the budget in check.  But it wasn’t emotional at all because the amazing thing about this character is that she has not lost her spirit; she is not helpless or hopeless, she is very hopeful, she is very positive, she’s got her smile intact, and I found that incredibly inspiring.  And it was entirely plausible because I know so many women who would react exactly the same way – remain positive and determined – faced with a dilemma like this.
You stayed in character whilst promoting the film...carrying around a baby bump...did people find that strange...?
No they didn’t as a matter of fact.  Actually, people seem to accept it as the sort of thing that I would do.  Also, it’s amazing that in this day and age a lot of information is overlooked.  There are so many films released every week and filmmakers need to think a little outside the box sometimes to draw people’s attention.  The easiest way to do that is by appearing in character.  It worked a treat!
Did anyone actually mistake you for being pregnant for real?
During the shoot it happened constantly.  In the small lanes and alleyways people would look at me and smile sweetly and their attention would be drawn to my stomach and they always had this look of total surprise!  Sometimes I would even play along!
You’re making a habit of playing strong, female leads.  Is this something that you consciously choose to do?  Strong-willed female characters aren’t exactly popular in Bollywood cinema...
I think that the strong female lead is becoming increasingly popular.  That’s the reality of the age and cinema must – and I think it does – reflect that.  And women are inherently, extremely strong so when someone asks why I play such characters I tell them that women are strong anyway and I don’t know them any other way.
And from playing strong, independent women, you’re going straight into doing an item number for Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Ferrari ki Sawari.  Contradictory...
It was fun!  It’s a combination of two forms of folk dance that I’ve tried in this which is Koli and Lavani.  It was great fun and I always wanted to do this because the moves are very aggressive and the face oozes sensuality.  It’s all enhanced by the fact that the woman is fully clothed – from head to toe.  It was also a chance to celebrate Mumbai, an ode of sorts to the city that I grew up in.  The greatest city on the planet!  Although I’m a little biased.
The evolution of your career has been really interesting to watch.
You’re arguably the best actress in Bollywood today; does that put pressure on you?  
I’m incredibly humbled.  I take expectation as a form of encouragement; having said that, I find happiness in my work, working to enjoy myself.  I always give it a hundred percent and try to be honest towards my work.  Beyond that it’s really up to powers that are beyond my control so I don’t bother too much with it.  I always hope that if I’m being honest and giving my best shot people will hopefully enjoy watching me and connect with what I play on screen.
Since 2009 your career’s been on this terrific upward curve.  The two years prior to that were much more difficult.  How did you cope with that and how did that shape you as an actor?
There were moments when I thought of giving it up, because I thought I was not fit for the film industry.  I was constantly questioning myself; maybe I didn’t have it in me, maybe I couldn’t cope with this space.
But I’m someone of immense faith and belief.  My faith is stronger than everything else in my life put together.  My faith in my own ability, my faith in the Universe, in a supreme power, in humanity and my passion to be these different people on the screen; that faith overpowers any moments of doubt.  I think I’m thankful to God for having tested me.  Clarity is incredibly important for anyone and if there’s one thing that that period gave me it was clarity.  It’s important if you are to accurately appraise your self-worth and that’s the most important thing.  Everyone needs to believe in themselves.
‘Kahani’ is now cinemas.
- Interviewed by Poonam Joshi

“I make movies to make myself happy. Nothing is more important.” - Vidya

Monday, 12 March 2012

First poster for ‘Jism 2’ causes a stir



When Mahesh Bhatt released the first-look poster of Jism 2, flaunting a nude girl wrapped in a wet white sheet, he was adding a new spin to the Bollywood mantra of hardselling sex.
The film, directed by Pooja Bhatt, flaunts porn star Sunny Leone as its heroine. No sooner that than the poster was out, it was revealed that the girl in the shoot, whose face is concealed, is not Sunny.
Bollywood buffs weren't, of course, complaining - or interested in knowing who the real model in the shoot was - since the poster was good enough to whet their appetite on what Jism 2 might have to offer once it releases.
'Jism was a love story for a mature audience. Jism 2 is for a mature adult audience. We are looking at raising the bar in every sense - emotionally and sensually,' Pooja Bhatt declared after revealing the posters.
Sex as a saleable tool is nothing new with the Bhatts. If the first Jism, released in 2003, turned Bipasha Basu into an oomph queen of sorts, Jism 2 heroine Sunny Leone is already a star, thanks to her stint on the last season of Bigg Boss when a smartly-executed PR drill ensured that the public was fully aware of Sunny's sexy calling.
In a well-planned move, Mahesh Bhatt had made a cameo entry in the Bigg Boss house to officially offer Jism 2 to Sunny. The erotic poster of Jism 2 is not a one-off case for the Bhatts.
After Jism, the posters of Murder had liberally flaunted Mallika Sherawat's bikini poses just as last year's Murder 2 unleashed Jacqueline Fernandes' sizzling bare-back pose.
There is more coming up. Director Vikram Bhatt, who got several early breaks thanks to the Bhatts' banner Vishesh Films, has taken a cue from his erstwhile godfather Mahesh Bhatt. In his upcoming production Hate Story, Vikram introduces budding Bengali actress Paoli Dam.
Like Pooja Bhatt's Jism 2, Hate Story's first-look poster doesn't make any mention of the film's hero but splashes Paoli in a bareback avatar. Accompanying stills feature a topless Paoli with a gun, sporting a tattoo in the small of her back.
'Such first-look posters help generate enthusiasm in the trade and also garner easy funding. Plus, they ensure a buzz even before a single scene has been shot. You could call it a cheap gimmick, but whatever sells is good enough to sell these days,' says a veteran producer, not wishing to be named.
Sunny will start shooting for Jism 2 from April 1 and the film is slated to release later this year. Co-starring with Sunny, as heroes of the film are Randeep Hooda and Arunodaya Singh.
While both actors are said to have plenty of steamy scenes with Sunny in the film, their mention has largely remained a footnote in various media reports about Jism 2, considering most of the hype has been built around Sunny and the first-look poster.
In fact, Sunny herself made it a point to create hype about her sex scenes in the film. 'At the gym working on getting fit for @Jism2. Lot of sexy scenes in the movie!… For everyone asking! Sex is illegal in movies in India!!!! (sic),' she tweeted.

- The Daily Mail



First poster for ‘Jism 2’ causes a stir

Sunday, 11 March 2012

BOL


UkAsian



Bol takes you through a journey into the life of this family...

Trishna




Freida Pinto

Michael - Bollywood Film Trailer


UkAsian

Naseeruddin Shah's pshycological thriller

Abhishek Bachchan to open 14th London Asian Film Fest



Bollywood star Abhishek Bachchan is set to attend the opening of the 14th London Asian Film Festival this week, organizers have confirmed.
The star of 'Players' and the upcoming 'Bol Bachchan' will help inaugurate this year’s Festival which opens with a screening of Ribhu Dasgupta’s psychological thriller ‘Michael’, starring Naseeruddin Shah.
The ‘Junior’ Bachchan will be joined by British actress Meera Syal at the opening of the ceremony.
The London Asian Film Festival – hosted by Tongues on Fire – runs from 16th to 24th March and features a range of exciting new films from the subcontinent which have made waves in the international film circuit.
Apart from Michael, the festival will feature ‘Trishna’, Michael Winterbottom’s reimagining of the Thomas Hardy novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles set in India.  The festival will also play host to a number of films from Pakistan, including ‘Transgender’, Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s acclaimed study of her country’s ostracized transgender community, ‘The Wedding’ a heartwarming film about mental health produced by Time to Change, an organization which encourages more open dialogue about mental health issues, the Bengali film ‘Meherjaan’ starring Jaya Badhuri (Mrs Amitabh Bachchan) and last year’s Pakistani box office sensation ‘Bol’.
LAFF features a number of other events outside its film screenings, including an acting master class by Abhishek Bachchan and a lecture by acclaimed film director Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
The London Asian Film Festival culminates with a gala awards ceremony at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts on 24th March.
For more information, visit www.tonguesonfire.com
-    Vijitha Alles

Abhishek Bachchan to open 14th London Asian Film Fest

Pakistan’s ‘Little England’


The city of Mirpur, in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, is known as "Little England" due to its large British Pakistani community.
Mirpur's connection with Britain has made it a place quite unlike anywhere else in the region. You can see it in the huge villas.
"Where could I get a place like this in the UK?" says Zahoor from Ilford, as we crane our necks to get a full view of his dazzling palatial creation, complete with terraces and towers.
But even that is nothing compared to his most recent foray into development Mirpuri-style. He has now finished building an entire "British street".
"It's a home away from home for UK Pakistanis," he says, proudly showing me the little semi-detached houses and their neat gardens that he hopes to sell on.
"They'll even have British-style rubbish collections."
Not far away is evidence of another Brit who has invested heavily here.
Rafay is rushing around his plush, four-storey bakery and restaurant, where he employs around 100 staff.
In the kitchens, he gives instructions on new cake designs. In the restaurant, he samples new dishes he has dreamed up.
"All my skills were learned in Yorkshire, taught to me by my father," he says.
"It's because of his hard work that I'm where I am now."
The story of Rafay's father, Saleem, is the story of Mirpur.
In the 1960s, the original town, where Saleem lived - along with scores of villages around it - was submerged.
With the help of an English firm, Pakistan had built a huge hydro-electric dam on the Jhelum River close by.
It meant that more than 100,000 people had to leave their homes.
But the British government needed more workers at the time, and decided to give many of the Mirpur evictees permits so they could go to the UK to work in factories in the Midlands and the north of England.
Rafay proudly shows us a picture of his father working in a textile mill in Yorkshire.
"He worked hard," he says, "and saved enough to open a small baker's shop in Bradford."
Saleem's firm expanded so much that it soon became one of the biggest manufacturers of Asian snacks across Europe - still based in Bradford.
Eventually he felt it was time to give back something to Mirpur and opened an outlet here.
So Zahoor invested in real estate in Mirpur, and Rafay's family in business. But many more expatriates over the decades have sent back money to their families here.
The Pakistani government says it was contributions like these which made it decide to allow Pakistanis living overseas to vote in national elections - even if they are second or third generation.
The electoral commission in Islamabad says that even a quota for a number of seats in parliament for British Pakistanis is under discussion.
The news seemed to have gone down well with listeners of Mirpur's radio station, Rose FM, whose phone-in programme is broadcast simultaneously in Mirpur and Bradford.
"It's like one community, just in two places," Aisha the presenter tells me. "People from both here and there participate.
"They all have views about what's right and what's wrong in Pakistan, so why shouldn't they all get the chance to be involved in how the country's run?"
Not everyone is in agreement, including that property developer from Ilford, Zahoor.
"How can we understand the issues unless we live here permanently?" he asks. "And politics in Pakistan is such a dirty, unpredictable business, it's better to stay out of it."
He has a point. No government in Pakistan has ever seen out a full term in office, and the administration of Prime Minister Gilani is teetering as we speak.
But then he raises, as he sees it, a bigger issue.
"I give it another generation or two, then these links will be over anyway," Zahoor says.
He feels a process of disengagement between Mirpuris in Britain and their place of origin has suddenly started to accelerate, thanks to problems in both countries.
"In the UK, money's become tight," he says, "and not so many can afford to spare enough even to pay the expensive fares to fly here, so young people aren't getting to know the place."
"And in Mirpur, the authorities have managed things so poorly," says Zahoor, "it will put people off investing."
Rafay, the baker, has similar worries.
"Look at the energy problems in Pakistan," he says.
"Gas and electricity are unreliable and it affects business.
"We're almost running our bakery here as a charity to help give people employment, but others won't be able to afford to do that."
Fear about security in Pakistan is also likely to be playing its part, and it could all spell the beginning of the end, at least, of Mirpur's reputation as a Little Britain in Pakistan.
-    Aleem Maqbool, BBC News
-    This program was part of the ‘From Out Own Correspondent’ series on BBC Radio 4

Pakistan’s ‘Little England’