Saturday, December 29, 2007
The economic prosperity of India and the technological advancement are in very sharp contrast to poverty and chagrin in Pak.
The death of Benazir is a blow to not only Pakistani citizens but in India too.I personally feel a deep sense of anguish and anger over the blatant unruliness and mess in Pak which terminated Benazir.
The theories propounded are Al Quaida and Taliban are ambiguous,the real picture will emerge in some time to come.The hope less situation in Pak is a security and stability threat for the subcontinent.
India is in a precarious state with turbulent neighbour hood like Sri Lanka,Nepal,Bangladesh,Pakistan,Afghanistan and China.
Srilanka is perennially hit by Tamil terrorism with terrorist hitting with Aircraft's too,Suicide bombings are common event in a Lanka's diary!
Nepal is still coming to terms with Maoism terror and fight for democracy!!
Bangladesh is a breeding ground of hardcore Islamic terrorists with close tie ups with Al Quida!
Myanmar is a military Junta with open support from Beijing?
Afghanistan can be hardly claimed to be stable in any sense!!
China has its own military and territorial agenda which is hidden but evident!
And now this violence and terror in Pakistan!!
The Indian intelligence agency the BSF the Army and the whole security apparatus has daunting task of averting the inevitable.May god help in prevailing peace and tranquillity.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
The attack killed more than 20 people and left several others injured.
Following Bhutto's death, a high alert has been sounded in Pakistan. President Musharraf has convened an emergency meeting of top advisors. Shops and petrol pumps have closed in many cities fearing violence.
According to preliminary reports, Benazir finished the rally at 5:30 pm and was on her way back to Ralwal. She got into the car and was soon after attacked by two people with AK 47s. A suicide bomber blew himself up next to car.
Nawaz Sharif described Benazir Bhutto's assassination as the most tragic incident in the history of Pakistan.
''I myself feel threatened,'' says Sharif, whose party temporarily suspended the electioneering in the wake of the assassination.
''Are things in control now? Had things been in control, would this have happened?'' he said, adding that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf would have to give answers.
''I also feel unprotected and the lady must also have been feeling very unprotected,'' Sharif said.
Criticising Musharraf, he said, ''If Musharraf can spend crores on his own security, could he not spend some amount on the security of Bhutto.''
Fifty-four-year-old Benazir was rushed to Rawalpindi general hospital, where she was pronounced dead nearly 40 minutes later.
''We are traumatised. People all over are crying. Everyone is saying that this Army has killed Benazir. There is going to be more bloodshed. Will the world now finally wake up? said a distraught Asma Jehangir, Chairperson, Pak Human Rights Commission.
''It is very tragic. It has shocked every Pakistani,'' said Ayaz Amir, columnist.
Prof. Bhim Singh, Chairman of the National Panthers Party and Member of National Integration Council (NIC) while condemning the brutal assassination of Benazir Bhutto Pakistan's foremost political leader and the former Prime Minister termed it as most cowardice act of the terrorists and total failure of Pakistan government.
Bhutto is survived by her husband Asif Ali Zardari and three children. Before she returned to Pakistan in October, Benazir Bhutto told that she was not afraid of the threats.
In the first reactions coming in from New Delhi, Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma said, ''We are shocked and saddened by this. Benazir was a promising leader with her own stature in Pakistan. It has happened at a time when the people of Pakistan were looking up to her. We offer our condolences to her bereaved family members and friends.''
The funeral is likely to be held on Friday in Bhutto's hometown Larkana.
National and provincial assembly elections in Pakistan are due on January 8.
In October some 130 people were killed in an attack on Bhutto's cavalcade when she returned to the country.
It was one of the worst incidents of violence in a year of deteriorating security in Pakistan.
Monday, December 24, 2007
In 2007, Bollywood's fortunes swung like a wild pendulum. The industry was buffeted by a slew of potential blockbusters that fell way short of trade expectations.
The under-performance of big-ticket films like Tara Rum Pum, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Eklavya, Nishabd, Laaga Chunari Mein Daag and Saawariya could have left the dream factory in the doldrums. It didn't. Two men - Shah Rukh Khan (riding the crest of an unstoppable wave) and Akshay Kumar (with a hattrick of hits) -- came to Mumbai moviedom's rescue.
The box office bloodbath began early in the year. Barring Mani Ratnam's Guru, an epic drama loosely based on the life of Dhirubhai Ambani, and the breezy Namaste London, an East-meets-West love story, no big Hindi film found takers in the first quarter of 2007.
Vidhu Vinod Chopra's stylised thriller Eklavya - The Royal Guard (India's controversial Oscar entry) and Ram Gopal Varma's Lolita-inspired drama Nishabd, both starring Amitabh Bachchan, were complete washouts.
To make matters worse, Nikhil Advani's Salaam-e-Ishq keeled over under its own weight. Suneel Darshan's Shakalaka Boom Boom, Milan Luthria's Hattrick and Vikram Bhatt's Red and Life Mein Kabhi Kabhi also sank without a trace. April-end saw the release of Tara Rum Pum, starring Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukherjee. The first of Yash Raj Films' five releases of the year did nothing to lift Bollywood's sagging spirits.
Succour came from completely unexpected quarters. First-time director Sagar Ballary's Bheja Fry, which opened in mid April, had no saleable star names and rested on an unconventional plot premise - the film was inspired by Francis Weber's French satire The Dinner Game - but it clicked big time.
Bheja Fry, driven by a clutch of fine actors who aren't saleable stars, wasn't the only offbeat film that achieved commercial success. The substantial domestic gross of Mira Nair's English-language The Namesake, a fine adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri's novel, gave UTV Motion Pictures much cause for cheer. Another surprise hit from the UTV stable in 2007 was Anurag Basu's freewheeling Life in a... Metro.
Debutante Reema Kagti's Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd., a lively comedy of manners produced by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani's Excel Entertainment, recovered its cost - and more.
By far the biggest disappointment of 2007 was Sanjay Leela Bhansali's self-indulgent Saawariya, co-produced by Hollywood major Sony Pictures Entertainment. Critics pilloried the film. Moviegoers stayed away. No other Bollywood film of 2007, with the exception of RGV Ki Aag, was as universally disliked as Saawariya.
Reverses that YRF suffered in the shape of Tara Rum Pum, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Laaga Chunari Mein Daag and Aaja Nachle were somewhat offset by the superhit Chak De India.
Directed by Ram Gopal Varma prot? Shimit Amin and scripted by one of Bollywood's most gifted screenwriters Jaideep Sahni, the film was as offbeat as a mass entertainer can ever get. The tale of a hockey coach who has a point to prove and a bunch of women who have nothing to lose may have had shades of Lagaan, but it was driven by its own rhythm and logic. Shah Rukh, for a change, shed his starry mannerisms to come up with one of his most convincing screen performances ever.
The second Shah Rukh starrer of 2007, Farah Khan's Om Shanti Om, bettered the stunning box office performance of Chak De India. OSO, produced by the superstar himself, hit the screens on the same day as Saawariya and romped home with ease.
The appeal of the crowd-pleasing fantasy about a 1970s film extra enamoured with a female star hinged on stale plot devices and infantile in-jokes, yet the film hit bull's eye owing to Shah Rukh's matchless ability to inveigle the masses with his unabashed hamming.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
THE EMOTIONAL PITCH
This was one of the most-emotional elections that India has witnessed. Modi wanted this election to be fought on emotional issues and not on real issues. He assured a 'riot-free Gujarat' to all when there was no imminent threat of riots. His speeches sent the clear message, 'I am promising you Gujarat's progress, which will be free from communal tension.' His unspoken message said, 'Under my rule, disruptive elements, including jihadis, will be repressed by any means.'
The Hindu majority in urban areas liked what Modi promised. The chief minister may have looked bold and fearless, but his election strategy was actually cautious and conservative. He did not let himself be trapped in idealism. He knew clearly that his development agenda could not by itself win him the election and that the anti-incumbency factor would corrode his electoral platform.
Indeed, Modi's development message neither lacked clarity nor credibility, but he did not dare to dilute his own brand of Hindutva. He wanted this election to be fought on emotional issues and his theatrical and melodramatic performances were deliberately calibrated to sustain a high level of synergy between him and the public.
It was a no-holds-barred war; Modi and even the Congress used, abused and relished all weapons available with them.
THE PERSONALITY CULT
Modi carefully built up his image. His photographs, his shampooed-conditioned hair, his crystal clear, anti-glare spectacles, his watches, his crisp kurtas -- everything was part of his package aimed at building up mass hysteria. Not many would comprehend that there is a wide difference between the perception of Modi in public life and his real self. But the public perception of Modi -� what he means to the people -� has so outgrown all else about him that it has become a reality.
The real Modi (who is not counted as a hardcore Hindutva leader) looks pale by the side of the public perception of him, and may have become, arguably, pointless -� including, perhaps, for Modi himself.
The real Modi has scripted a certain image of himself for public consumption. It was merely a strategy to win the election or garner influence in his party. And, what success he has earned in doing so!
The media, unknowingly and knowingly, helped him. His last six years of power made his agenda easier. He got hold of resources needed for creating a wave for himself. In the era of television personality cults, it is not difficult to build up a public image if you know how the mindset in television newsroom functions.
Modi's personality of being a macho man with a 56 inch-size chest, a leader who toils for Gujarat, a politician who will get things done in New Delhi and the Hindutva hero who will keep Muslims under control -� all these, each in its own way, has helped him win the votes of a majority of Gujaratis.
People who are entrepreneurial and hardworking loved their chief minister who would attend office from morning till late in the night. Also, his decision to sack one-third of the sitting MLAs proved advantageous. He thus overcame anti-incumbency factor in a big way.
THE ANTI-MODI MEDIA HELPED MODI
In Gujarat many people wondered: "Look, how powerful is Modi. He can even defeat the media."
Today, the common belief is that the corporate media wields power. And the media, too, has come to believe in its power. But Modi has punctured the vanity of the corporate media. He ignored the media barons. Modi is the first Indian politician to transcend India's corporate media. The result was predictable. He got so much bad publicity that the people started sympathising with him, concluding that he was a victim of the 'power-wielding' media.
When the media delivered brickbats to Modi, BJP supporters gave him bouquets. His image of being a lone ranger also came in handy for Modi even as the media mauled him with epithets. The common man felt, "The poor fellow -- the media is just not allowing him to work for Gujarat's progress."
The Congress's biggest mistake was to believe the anti-Modi propaganda. Some of it was actually planted by its leaders. They were trapped in their own web when they started believing the so-called logical arguments and not looking at the emotional fervour within the masses.
BJP REBELS, A SPENT FORCE
Modi's men always maintained that the anti-Modi brigade within the BJP, led by Keshubhai Patel, was a "spent force". Modi ridiculed the dissidents with confidence because he believed that the so-called Patel leaders, who were with Keshubhai, were corrupt and the people knew it. But he was careful to give tickets to Patels so that no anti-Modi campaigner could monopolise the Patel votes. Equally, he was careful to send the signal that he was not anti-Patel.
Modi trumped the caste card by playing the caste card with elan.
THE CONGRESS FAILED TO PROJECT LEADER
The Congress, fearful of being overwhelmed by Modi's popularity, made the fatal error of not projecting even a weak leader under its banner. Fear does not win you power. The absence of a Congress chief ministerial candidate proved expensive.
Modi filled up the vacuum by pitting himself against Sonia Gandhi [Images]. He has thereby raised his stature in national politics.
In corresponding terms, Sonia Gandhi's stature was diminished once she found herself with no choice but to take on Modi in her speeches.
When people are emotive, the local hero always has an edge over a leader, no matter how tall a figure s/he is in national politics, who cannot even speak the voter's language. Sonia Gandhi's speechwriters should be sacked for clumsy political writing.
How can you keep talking about the issues people don't want to talk about?
When one talks about the 'fear factor' in Gujarat, one is talking about the plight of Muslims. Certainly, that has to be an issue and it must be talked about in an election campaign. But you need credibility amongst the majority when you talk to them about the plight of the minority.
Sonia Gandhi's usage of the phrase 'maut ke saudagar' has proved to be no less foolish than Rajiv Gandhi's 'nani yaad dilayenge' remark. After that remark, whenever Congressmen resorted to anti-Modi rhetoric, many Gujaratis took it to mean anti-Gujarat remarks.
MODI EVOKED REGIONAL PRIDE
Modi's cunning political acumen turned Sonia's wordcraft to work in his favour. He played his regional parochialism card astutely that anything said against him began to take on the resonance of being 'anti-Gujarat.'
TRIBALS REMAIN SAFFRONISED
The tribals of Gujarat took up the Ram Mandir issue after 10 years of hard work by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. It seems the tribals want to remain connected with the Sangh Parivar. The Congress seems to have decisively lost the tribals of Gujarat to the BJP.
MODI, A LIKABLE LONER
Modi exudes raw energy. His behaviour, his speeches and style conveyed to the youth and women a direct compelling message: 'I am a karmath (doer). Come, help me to build a rich and prosperous Gujarat. See, I live alone without a family. You are my family. I don't enrich myself and I don't allow others to indulge in corruption.' This message in public was peppered by innumerable anecdotes, which have become the stuff of folklore -- that he writes poetry, he eats vegetarian food (mostly khichdi), he likes yoga and, of course, that he is a lonely soul.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Mother of Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, Teji, on Friday died in a hospital in suburban Mumbai after prolonged illness. She was 93.
Wife of Hindi literary great Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Teji was in the Lilavati Hospital for almost the whole of this year and was shifted to the ICU last month after her condition became worse. Details of the cause of her demise were not immediately available.
Earlier, members of the Bachchan family, including sons Amitabh and Ajitabh, grandson Abhishek and his wife Aishwarya, arrived at the hospital after learning that her condition deteriorated.
Family friends including Samajwadi party leader Amar Singh and Anil Ambani also visited the hospital.
The body is likely to be taken to the Bachchan residence in Juhu before the last rites are performed.
The second wife of Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Teji was an amatuer actor as well as a singer. Harivansh Rai, himself a renowned Hindi poet, died in 2003 at the age of 96.
Born as Teji Suri to Punjabi parents, she married Bachchan in 1941 after the death of his first wife. She was also close to the Nehru-Gandhi family while the Bachchan family was living in Delhi in the late 1950s.
Teji's illness had resulted in the Bachchan family curtailing celebrations at their Juhu residence for the past few years on occasions like Holi and Diwali.
Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai had visited her in the hospital prior to their wedding earlier this year to seek her blessings. All major family events were usually conducted after seeking her blessings.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
"We will call the parents and speak to them once again on the matter. We will ask them why they did not reveal these details to the police," says ACP BU Bhange.
The cops also want to trace the phone call that the parents received from his friends shortly after his death.
Earlier, cops had said the boy committed suicide probably because of low scores in the exams. The Dalvis, however, insist that they don't want the cops to investigate the matter any further.
"We don't want the police to trace the identity of the children involved in the game, as we believe they were ignorant of the consequences of their actions. We spoke to the press only because we want other parents to be aware of such games," says Mondira Dalvi, Gaurang's mother.
The Dalvis say that, after the incident, they heard from Gaurang's friends that he was involved with a group of boys who were playing the "choking game" in which youngsters temporarily cut the oxygen supply to the brain in order to get a high. They say, in this instance, it resulted in death.
According to Police Commissioner (Navi Mumbai), the incident came to light on December 18 when the woman went to a private hospital for some treatment.
It was there, the Commissioner said, she confirmed she was raped by an unknown person who offered her a lift the previous night.
The case was immediately referred to police and initial investigations suggested the woman was drunk and was trying to find an autorickshaw to take her to her place of stay.
However, when she couldn’t find a public transport, she reportedly sought a ride from a passer-by who allegedly drove her to an isolated location and raped her.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
On its fifth anniversary in January 2008, the Mumbai Marathon will fly the Silver Label. The Silver Label is awarded to marathons having a minimum of five elite athletes and who have recorded timings below 2:12 for men and before 2:32 for women in the preceding 24 months. It also takes into consideration stringent details regarding the conduct of the marathon that should measure up to the best events in the world.
The Mumbai Marathon, started in 2003, has gained immensely in popularity. There are six categories: Full Marathon; Half Marathon; Dream Run; Corporate Challenge; Senior Citizens' Run; Wheel Chair Event. This year 55,000 applications had already been received for 30,000 running places. And the half marathon category was oversubscribed, claimed the organisers. This year the number of athletes from different countries has gone up too. It's 54.
However, the Mumbai Marathon did not qualify for the Gold Label. "Our timings are a little off gold label mark mainly because of the hot climate," explained Vivek B Singh, Jt MD, Procam International, the promoters of the event.
This event is also touted as the single largest charity event in India, today. Last year, close to Rs 8 crore was collected in the kitty. "This year we have a bench mark of Rs 10 crore," said Arup Banerjee of Give India, the official charity organisation for the event.
For the first time there will be a Mumbai Marathon Expo, four days before the event, at the World Trade Centre in Mumbai. The expo will show case health, fitness and lifestyle products.
While actor John Abraham is the event ambassador, his colleagues from Bollywood like actors Rahul Bose and Suchitra Krishnamurthy and dance guru Shiamak Davar will be participating as Dream Teamers, running for their favourite charity.
Rejecting the prosecution plea for capital punishment, Additional sessions judge S P Davare said "the murder is not a rarest of rare cases and therefore death need not be indicted. This is not an extreme case of grave culpability".
The sentence was pronounced a day after Pravin(48) was convicted on charges of murder and house trespass with the intention to commit a serious offence.
In addition to the life term for the murder, Pravin was sentenced to five years' rigorous imprisonment for house trespass. Both the terms will run concurrently. The convict was also ordered to pay a fine of Rs 15,000 and Rs 5,000 for the murder and trespass offences respectively.
Pravin was convicted of shooting Pramod three times with his licensed revolver at his Worli residence on the morning of April 22, 2006, Pramod succumbed to his injuries in a city hospital 12 days later.
Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said the prosecution would appeal in the high court for an enhancement of the sentence after studying the judgment.
"We will read the judgment after which we will seek an enhancement of the sentence from the Bombay High Court," Nikam told reporters outside the court. He said the murder fell in the rarest of rare cases category since he has killed the "concept of brotherhood."
Pramod Mahajan's family said justice has been done in the case though they had sympathy for the wife and children of Pravin who were suffering for his acts.
During arguments on quantum of punishment, the prosecution sought death sentence for Pravin, saying he deserved no leniency since he had murdered his brother "in a brutal manner with total disregard to human life."
Nikam said Pravin deserved death sentence as the whole case fell within the purview of "rarest of rare" category due to its brutality and cold-bloodedness.
Nikam later told reporters that there is also some attitudinal problem with Pravin as he kept blaming his brother even after his death. "These blames were made to torture the family of Pramod Mahajan. Death sentence is the appropriate punishment to end this crookedness. We called it rarest of the rare because it was pre-planned," he said.
The defence counsel, however, argued against death penalty saying the case did not fall within the ambit of "rarest of rare" category.
He said the prosecution has failed to establish the motive behind murder. Hence, awarding death sentence in the absence of vital information would be improper because if at some later stage, some other information comes up then life cannot be brought back.
Pravin was convicted under section 302 (murder) and section 449 (house trespass with an intention to commit an offence punishable with death) of the IPC.
The court relied on the statements of Pramod's widow Rekha, domestic help Mahesh Wankhede and Pramod's statement made to BJP leader Gopinath Munde while on his way to the hospital, which was treated as a dying declaration.
The judge also considered the medical evidence, ballistic reports, the handwriting expert's report and Pravin's statement, recorded in-camera after the prosecution claimed it could be defamatory to the Mahajan family.
Nikam also said the offences committed by Pravin was compounded by his act of "deprivity" when he levelled allegations against Pramod's character.
Munde, who was flanked by Rekha and Pramod's two children--Rahul and Poonam, said it was up to the state government to decide on appealing for enhancement of the sentence. Munde is also Pramod's brother-in-law. "It is the court's decision that punishment should be of what type and amount but he was convicted and that it is important for us," Munde said
"The act of the accused(Pravin) is unfortunate. Both the families(Pravin and Pramod) have suffered a lot due to his crime. But we have no bad feelings to his wife, children but our sympathies are with them," he added.
Munde said Pramod's mother suffered a lot after the crime and she wished that "the murderer of his beloved son should be punished."
Monday, December 17, 2007
Concerned over Indian resistance to change and antiquated laws that do not match those of world-class cities, the World Bank has advocated an FSI policy like New York — the FSI is the ratio of the total floor area of buildings on a certain location to the size of the land of that location, or the limit imposed on such a ratio.
Senior World Bank officials, who visited Mumbai last week for meetings with government officials, have expressed concern over both issues. “It is a controversial place... there are a dozen different opinions argued very strongly,” Constance A Bernard, World Bank’s Director, Sustainable Development Unit, South Asia Region, told The Indian Express. “It is inevitable in a democratic process... but we find that the pitch is very high here.”
The World Bank has expressed concern over the “noise” made by the media, environmentalists and people in general whenever new projects are announced. Bank officials feel that Mumbai can be transformed into a world-class city, but there are too many laws that need to be amended — some by the local government, others by the federal government to facilitate development on par with metropolitan cities in the world.
“Take for instance, the problem of housing the ever increasing population. There are too many people competing against one another for buying a house. This has to be changed and the housing stock has to be increased,” said Songsu Choi, World Bank’s Lead Urban Economist. “Here there are too many regulations. In New York, the minimum FSI is 8 while in Mumbai it is 1.33.”
He said since land is scarce, Mumbai should grow vertically like New York to make builders compete with one another for wooing buyers. The Bank, he said, was “reasonably satisfied” with the pace of work in Mumbai and Maharashtra, but a lot of things needed to be done.
On water supply and sanitation projects in urban and rural areas, Bernard said that the major challenging tasks in urban areas like Mumbai included slums and the water delivery system. “Access to drinking water in urban areas has reached 90 per cent, but the system is not financially sustainable and the water quality is a problem,” she said, pointing out that such urban operations survived largely on subsidies and capital grants. She said there was need was for a reliable source of water which was affordable and sustainable, financially and environmentally.
According to Bernard, there’s need to improve accountability in service delivery systems and the state or urban local bodies can do it either through public or private or combined efforts. “We have left it to them,” she said, adding that the Bank would consider launching an awareness campaign to educate people on new projects.
Maharashtra Chief Secretary Johny Joseph, when contacted, said: “It is true that there is too much noise made by the media, environmentalists and NGOs over new projects. People file PILs and there are agitations, but it is inevitable... ours is a vibrant democracy. We have to take into account environmental concerns. We also need to see things from a global perspective.”
He said the government was aware of the problems and reforms were in progress. “There is an economic boom all over the world and Mumbai should take advantage of the situation,” he said. “The government is open to their suggestions (on FSI). We need to provide world-class infrastructure. If we want investors to come, where will they stay? There are not enough hotel rooms in Mumbai. There are 1.25 lakh hotel rooms in Dubai and only about 5,000 in Mumbai. It is true that the FSI policy in the US is different from ours. In Manhattan, the FSI is 15. We need to study these things.”He said that the Bank had sent 24 senior managers to interact with the state government which was committed to improve the situation by taking “appropriate decisions”
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Governor S M Krishna had ordered Raj Bhavan employees to unplug for an hour and the first citizen of Mumbai, mayor Shubha Raul, switched off the power at her Prabhadevi bungalow 15 minutes before the clock struck 7.30 pm. Citizens, celebrities, corporates and even NRIs chipped in to put an end to climate change but it was light as usual at the BMC and Mantralaya headquarters as well as hoardings across the city.
"We normally watch soap operas during this hour but today we took a break," said a housewife from Prarthana Samaj, one of the residents from the Chowpatty area who unplugged. The family instead played housie by candlelight. "We bonded over the game and it was a unique experience," she said.
Schools and colleges took note of Batti Bandh hour too. Juhu-based school Narsee Monji asked students to spread the message at home. "My teacher told me to go home and tell my parents to switch off lights for the noble cause," said Ria Rane, a student of the school while at Xavier’s College the campus was dark with the evening commerce classes being conducted with just one tubelight on.
While restaurants like Indigo Deli, Busaba, Gaylords, Shiro, Rock Hard Cafe and Mocha outlets cut down on their power consumption, either partially or totally, corporates like Bank of Rajasthan, Essar, Inox, Citibank, HDFC, Vodafone, Air India, Pidilite too supported the cause. While Essar incorporated the ideals of Batti Bandh in their founders’ day conference, Bank of Rajasthan switched off lights in branches across the country. A group of NRIs staying in the Netherlands, who emailed TOI, too showed their support by switching off all electrical appliances there.
It was also an opportunity to bond and to show support for the cause in various ways. In housing societies like the Raheja Hillside Society in Powai and Ashoka Building at Napean Sea Road people gathered to play a round of antakshri while members of student organisations showed their solidarity in the form of a human chain in Ghatkopar. Around 100 rickshaw drivers along with dhol players also held a peace rally at Kalamboli, Panvel and Navi Mumbai. Students of St Xavier’s College formed the Batti Bandh logo while the Bombay Catholic Sabha held a street procession from Sahar to the airport to show their support for the cause.
City-based rock bands performed on the Marine Drive and Carter Road promenades. Al Gore’s documentary film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ on global warming was screened at the Bandra amphitheatre at Land’s End and members of Ideal Drama and Entertainment Academy enacted a Hindi play to woo street audiences. Hard Rock Cafe in Lower Parel also hosted a candle-lit unplugged performance by rock band The Other People.
But there were several who didn’t unplug. "We did not know it was a voluntary movement. We thought the power would be cut off at the specified time," said the manager of a coffee outlet. Resident of Santa Cruz (E) Shubhda More went around the neighbourhood asking people to switch off their lights. "But most said, ‘how does it matter?" "It’s such a great cause, I expected much more," added Suhail Rajpal, who was at Marine Drive.
"On an average, the city consumes 550 MW of power on a Saturday between 7.30 pm to 8.30 pm. Even if only 10% of electricity consumption is reduced, 55 MW is conserved which is equivalent to 37.8 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide not being emitted in the air. This in turn means 73,000 cars being taken off the road. The exact figures will reach us tomorrow, but we are positive about the response being more than 10%" said founder-member of Mumbai Unplug: Batti Bandh Keith Menon.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
It is Bollywood. The killer application is not the hardware of Sony or software of Google or Microsoft but the mindware of Shahrukh Khan and Rajnikant. Having realized this, a host of companies have moved quickly to secure a beachhead in this race to ensure that no matter where the audience is, filmed entertainment is never too far away.
Since the race has just begun it has start-ups like Mauj or TinselVision, heavyweights like Reliance Entertainment, incumbents like Rajshri and even entertainment product leaders like Sony.
The large companies, predictably, are trying to build scale and do it quickly. The incumbents think they know a thing or two about the audience and are using focus to be viable quickly; later, they will go for scale. Startups are using a mix of approaches.
But let us start with the game device makers who have used film characters or music to a telling effect. Consider Singstar Bollywood, Sony’s most successful game in India for its Playstation product. Singstar Bollywood is an Indian rendition of the popular international title has been the largest launch for any PS game in India with 3,500 pieces sold on day one.
This has been twice as much as any other title sold in India. “Singstar Bollywood is about competitive music where two players sing with microphones against each other. In India a lot of the TV programs are around competitive singing. It is only natural to marry the gaming element with it for the Indian market.
We license the music using a combination of royalty and access fee,” says Atindriya Bose, country manager, Sony Computer Entertainment. The console game has a catalogue of tracks that the players can choose and sing along to. When they have been through all the songs, more can be downloaded for a fee.
Singstar CDs which have Hindi film songs, retail for Rs 500, three times the price of any film music CD, and even if the film companies gets 50% of the revenues from the sale, the money should be substantial.
Kreeda Games is using a similar approach to hook people to what they call, ‘massively multiplayer online games’ with their initial title, Dance Mela. This game allows the players to dance, on an electronic mat which acts as a giant controller, against players across the world.
Install the program on an internet PC and find opponents online to dance against. CEO Quentin Staes Polet says that he licenses the Bollywood music at an enormous fee. “I pay for about 10 songs at a time. Each song can cost Rs 5-10 lakh each,” he says, adding, “I do the same thing an ad producer would do (to get songs for the game). I go to them (content owners) and ask them to synchronise their music with my game. Being a new medium it is treated as licensing is to an ad-producer and you need to negotiate each deal. There are no preset rates right now. This may happen further down the road.”
Friday, December 14, 2007
Sudhir Mishra and Sanjay Gupta have as much in common as Madhuri Dixit and Konkona Sen. And yet they both were joined creatively at the hip-and-trendy last week.
They both dared. Dus Kahaniyaan gave us 10 fast-paced, sensitive stories about love, sex and sin one after another in rapidfire rhythms. I heard people in the audience grumble, “We hardly get into one story, and it’s time to move into the next.”
At the beginning of the year we had another very fine episodic film Salaam-e-Ishq which all the knowledgeable critics slammed for no reason. This one was cursed for the opposite reason.” So many stories and such lengthy ones. Who has the patience?!”
My favourite episodic film of the year was Vikram Bhatt’s Life Mein Kabhi Kabhie . A quaint yet powerful story of five young friends who follow different paths in life, the transition from script to film wasn’t as smooth as we’d have liked it to be. This one deserved better.
It’s strange, how different films in similar predicaments generate different reactions among the country’s opinion makers. And yet filmmakers continued to push the envelope in big and small ways throughout the year. If Sanjay Leela Bhansali abandoned his trademark operatic style to make the symphonic Saawariya , Sanjay Gupta gave up guns for the roses in Dus Kahaniyaan .
And Sudhir Mishra known for his hard-hitting intense political sagas suddenly went moist-eyed and romantic on us in Khoya Khoya Chand. 2007 was the year of uncharacteristic outbursts from the silver screen. Who would have expected Samir Karnik to emerge with Nanhe Jaisalmer, a film that delineated a dark yet light-hearted relationship between a little Rajasthani boy and a film star. Critical for exploring, the age-old star-fan relationship, Nanhe Jaisalmer was completely ignored by critics and audiences. Sadder still was the plight of Manish Jha’s second film Anwar which was the first release of 2007. Jha fell flat on his face, probably because he ‘dared’ to release alongside Mani Rathnam’s Guru.
In 2007 I also loved Milan Luthria’s episodic Hat Trick. It was funny and insightful and had some terrific performances from Nana Patekar, Danny Denzongpa and Kunal Kapoor. From Tara Rum Pum to Aaja Nachle , it was a tame year for Yash Raj Films. I’m still wondering why the Saif-Rani marital drama Tara Rum Pum didn’t work. Was it because the film’s concept of poverty (kids in Manhattan unable to afford pastries) didn’t jell with Indian audiences?
And why did Yash Raj’s Laga Chunari Mein Daag get the thumbs down from one and all? Didn’t like a nice middleclass girl getting into prostitution, eh?
Sure, these things don’t happen in real life....do they? Of course not. Nice girls in our movies get burnt todeath and resurface in their next janam as bubble-gum popping bimbos.
Robbie Garewal’s Mera Pehla Pehla Pyar and Bhavna Talwar’s Dharm came on the same Friday. Robbie made a cute modern day Bobby with very real moments between the puppy-lovers. Dharm according to me was the most neglected film of the year. And to even mention it in the same breath as Eklavya for the Oscars was utterly ridiculous. I suggest the entire nation go back to Talwar’s film one more time.
Sob! Vishal Bhardwaj’s Blue Umbrella ......sigh! What were we thinking when we decided we didn’t go to see this nascent nugget? What goes wrong with a film that’s as delicately perched on the edge of divinity, craning its neck out to make its presence felt among the works of art that touch the soul.
Pritish Nandy Productions’ Bow Barracks Forever with rivetting performances by Lilette Dubey and Victor Banerjee stunned me.
And would someone please tell me what was so wrong in Willard Caroll’s Marigold? Maybe we as a nation dislike cross-cultural relationships where a gora –mem-sahib steals one of our bhola-bhola chokra?
So, two genres of cinema that are strictly no-no are episodic dramas and cross-cultural romances? Got that? Now let’s move on......
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
And though Hollywood likes to think of itself as the world's biggest movie town, those billion-plus movie-mad Indians are served by a home-grown movie industry — the entertainment machine some refer to as Bollywood — that annually puts out more than twice as many movies as its U.S. competition. Hollywood, no surprise, is hungry for a piece of that market.
At first, American studios tried a strategy that has worked in almost every other overseas market: dubbing Hollywood blockbusters into the local language. That approach brought only limited success.
"Culturally, India is much more connected with our own movies and our own stars, much like our food," says Uday Singh, managing director of Sony Pictures in India. "Here, 95 percent of the business is local film. So if you want to be a meaningful player ... you have to participate in that big chunk of business."
That's why Sony became the first major Hollywood studio to produce a Hindi-language film. They chose a script called Saawariya, or "Beloved" — a romantic tale based on Feodor Dostoevski's short story "White Nights." Back in New York, Sony executives loved it.
"I think that it's a magical vision," says Deborah Schindler, president of Sony Pictures' international production arm. "It is a fabulous, romantic, passionate tale of youngsters finding true love."
The movie was shot in India, on studio sets that evoked an aqua-and-blue version of Venice or St. Petersburg, with dark canals and low-lying bridges. The scenes call to mind the glamour of '40s and '50s Hollywood; there's even a lovesick actor singing in the rain.
Sony put all its corporate muscle behind the movie. There were billboards, promotions on Sony-owned TV stations, and plenty of radio airplay for the title song.
Sony scheduled Saawariya to open on the weekend of Diwali, a holiday that, like Christmas, is a big moviegoing time. Unfortunately, this year's Diwali season wasn't big enough for two major movies: On the same weekend, one of India's biggest stars premiered a film called Om Shanti Om.
Shahrukh Khan is to Hindi film as Brad Pitt is to Hollywood. All over the country, everyone was talking about billboards featuring Khan in an open shirt, revealing newly minted six-pack abs. And the title song from Om Shanti Om was just as big a hit as Saawariya's.
But Om Shanti Om had more than 30 major Indian stars in its cast. A sendup of the last 30 years of Hindi moviemaking, it was what Indians call a masala film, meaning it had a little bit of everything: comedy, tragedy, romance, drama, music, and a plot that turned on reincarnation.
In other words, it was as flashy as a Hollywood blockbuster like Pirates of the Caribbean, and Sony's first foray into the Indian market — the arty, literary, Bergman-esque Saawariya was hardly a match for it at the box office. The Indian media went to town: newspaper headlines, special reports on TV, and adjectives like "debacle" and "disaster."
"Sony stepped into territory which it doesn't understand," says Komal Nahata, editor of the Mumbai-based Film Street Journal. "And they did not think it fit to take the opinion of people who understand, because they wouldn't have made this mistake otherwise."
Audiences came out in record numbers for both films on opening weekend. But as the reviews poured in, ticket sales tapered off for Sony's movie and kept rising for Om Shanti Om. Megastar Shahrukh Khan suggested in interviews that seeing his film was a way to fight against a Hollywood giant trying to take over the Indian film industry.
Sony's experience may prove a cautionary tale for all the other Hollywood studios eyeing the Indian film market — Warner Bros., Fox, Viacom and Walt Disney among them.
Disney's Roadside Romeo, its first animated feature for the Indian market, is due in summer. There's already an early trailer, with the lead character — a dog named Romeo — trying out for a part in a movie.
Disney's strategy is different from Sony's. Animated features are new to India, and Disney — internationally known for its animation — partnered with one of India's best-known studios, Yash Raj Films.
"When we go to animation, that is an area that we don't have expertise in," says Yash Raj CEO Sanjeev Kohli. "We felt the need, and it would bring a lot of value to the product if we tied up with the world's leader in that area. And there is no better name than Disney at all."
The consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts that India's film industry will more than double in size over the next four years, from just over $2 billion dollars in revenue to close to $4.5 billion. With numbers like that, it's no surprise that all the big American studios want a cut.
Despite Sony's rough entrance, Film Street Journal editor Komal Nahata actually wants the Hollywood players to keep trying.
"I just hope that this one bad experience doesn't put off Sony or other studios," Nahata says. "Of course, anyone who is investing in Bollywood is great news for Bollywood."
Not to worry: Sony executives say they plan on making more movies in Mumbai. There's even a sense that one of these days, movies from India may become as much of a force in the world as Hollywood pictures.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Hundreds of commuters boycotted train services on the suburban line of Western Railways on Monday to protest against shortage of rail services to suburbs beyond Borivali.
The boycott was called by 'Pravasi Adhikar Aandolan Samiti' (PAAS) between 6 am to 6 pm on Monday, which is demanding more trains between Churchgate in South Mumbai and north-west suburb of Virar, a route that is normally crowded with lakhs of commuters travelling on it daily.
"The protest will be peaceful and no attempt will be made to stop trains or people from boarding them," Shailendra Kamble, convenor of the PAAS said.
"The organisation would protest through slogan-chanting and picketing outside stations between Mira Road and Virar to protest against the inhumane conditions faced by commuters daily," he said.
On a busy Monday morning, trains from Virar to South Mumbai are usually packed but the scenario was distinctly different on Monday with most trains running with comparatively fewer passengers.
Unlike, earlier protests which turned violent, there were no incidents of violence but there were reports of agitators forcing out commuters from the trains originating from Virar.
Some protestors blocked the tracks near Virar and there were reports of emergency chains being pulled on trains to disrupt services. There was strong police presence at stations from Mira Road to Virar with almost 40 to 50 police personnel at each station, railway police said.
Chief Public Relations Officer for Western Railway Pranai Prabhakar said all trains were running on schedule. "There was an incident at Virar at 8:15 am where some protestors blocked tracks but they were cleared by the police. The services remain unaffected," he told PTI.
Western Railways had quadrupled rail tracks between the suburban stations of Borivali and Virar, inaugurated earlier this year, and had increased suburban services to Virar, but PAAS is protesting against "under-utilization of the available infrastructure " and is demanding a greater frequency of trains on the route.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
The boycott form is chosen this time because ALL the people living in Mira Road-Virar region have to participate in the protest. If each one of us decides to sacrifice one days wage or casual leave and be a part ,it will be a protest of 30 lakhs people! Such a massive protest on International human rights day is bound to attract the national and international media.Thus exposing the daily "torture" of the commuter.All the political and social organisations have pledged there support.
Adding few services here and there will not solve the problem!!
If we satisfy ourselves with the negligible increase in services,Virar locals will continue as Torture chambers for many generations to come! As is evident time between two Virar trains is more than 10 minutes.Though there are are some Bhayander and Vasai trains.But there are very few.
Most of the commuters of Vasai, Mira Road, Naigaon rely on virar locals.Getting into the Virar local in Nalasopara itself is a big battle,what to say about the four
One Virar Local every 5 Minutes.Fulfil this demand right now!
The Railways authorities should acknowledge the fact that passenger traffic in Vasai-virar sector is much more than in Andheri-Churchgate sector.Logically therefore suburban train frequency in the Andheri -Virar sector should be more.
We have given our suggestions:
1.Speed up rakes procurement and give Virar sector the due preference in allotment.
2.Convert all Bandra Churchgate services and some Andheri -Churchgate locals to Virar locals.
3.Deploy motormen at both ends of the Virar locals so that waiting time of trains at Virar be reduced.
We will not suffer in silence any more!
AS per Railways own estimate,in peak hours trains 16-17 commuters are compelled to huddle together in one square meter of floor space for an hour and more!
It is a misery forced on commuters by the insensitive administration which cares nothing about safety,health and dignity of its tax payers!!
The continuance of theses torture chambers is not acceptable to us. Millions of people living in suburbs can not ans should not be treated as worms anymore!
This is the declaration of rail boycott.All commuters and the real Mumbaikars must support this campaign.
(Original text as it appears in the leaflets distributed by the commuters )
Thursday, December 06, 2007
The remaining sum will meet the ends for few days only,after this another long wait for the next postal money order which use to take 10-15 days to reach. I have seen poor villagers pay an illegitimate commission to the post master and the post man. The one not complying to the ransom will have to run around to get his money in time!
Consider the scenario today with the advancement in technology and the penetration of the Internet in village have given multiple options to send money or receive money.The ways of money transfer are many, bank account to account,visa card to visa card,transfer through phone etc.
The real beneficiaries are the parents of the NRIs who can get instant money transfer to India from abroad.Like a guy based in USA can pass on a prepaid visa card to his parents in India which can be used at any visa ATM around the world.That means to send money to India one need not go through a time consuming and expensive old way.
The new secured and visa certified website are reliable and profesional,though one must be discreet in on-line transactions to maintain the confidentiality and security.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Satyagiri Shipping, which has been awarded the contract for the development of the service by 2009, is planning to introduce a hovercraft ambulance and will enter into talks with prominent city hospitals regarding it soon, Dinesh Joshi, director of the company, said.
"This will be the first of its kind in the city and we believe it will be a lot faster than road transport which often takes a lot of time in case of emergencies," Joshi said.
The hovercraft service, to be developed at an estimated cost of Rs 300 crore, is to be operated along the west coast of the city for ferrying people between suburban Borivali and the business district of Nariman Point in South Mumbai, with stops at western suburbs on the route.
The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) had recently awarded the project to Satyagiri Shipping, who will bring in hovercrafts and construct infrastructure for operating the service on a Build-Operate-Own-Transfer (BOOT) basis.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
An "AIDS kit", comprising a car calendar and fliers on testing and counselling tied neatly with a red ribbon, was distributed ahead of World AIDS Day on Saturday.
"The kit was attached to empty lunch boxes and delivered to about 100,000 clients' homes," said Raghunath Megde, leader of the lunch couriers, known as "dabbawallahs".
Some 5,000 dabbawallahs deliver 200,000 meals from their clients' homes all over Mumbai to their workplaces every day, a famous system studied in prestigious international business schools as a model of efficiency.
They collect lunch boxes from homes, sort them out using a system of colour codes and letters, travel by train and even carry massive wooden trays holding up to 35 tiffin boxes for delivery at offices.
Their error margin is said to be one in six million deliveries.
Megde says companies such as Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft and Coca-Cola have invited them to speak about their work.
Health groups sought the dabbawallahs' help for Friday's anti-AIDS campaign in order to be able to use their delivery mechanism.
India has the world's third biggest caseload of people living with the deadly virus. After originally estimating some 5.7 million were infected in India, the U.N. reduced that estimate to 2.5 million.
It says the global prevalence of HIV infections has levelled off, in part due to effective health programmes.
The repealing of Ulcra is likely to open up around 17,000 acres of land for development in the Mumbai alone. As many as 330 private firms, including large corporate houses such as Godrej, Wadia, Birla and Wadhawan, stand to benefit from the release of large tracts of prime real estate in the country’s financial hub.
Industry sources estimate that various corporates and trusts — including Godrej group firms such as Godrej Industries and Godrej Consumers, Wadia group’s Bombay Dyeing and various Wadia trusts, Birla-owned Century Textile and Wadhawan-owned Housing Development and Infrastructure (HDIL) — hold around 6,000 acres of developable land in Mumbai.
“It will free up a lot of land for development. We believe that the move could free up 15,000 acres to 17,000 acres. Some 338 private land owners, including many corporate houses, are sitting on large tracts of developable land,” said Pranay Vakil, chairman of real estate consultancy Knight Frank India.
Though some of these lands are facing slum encroachment problems and other legal issues, in the next three to five years, around 4,000 acres to 5,000 acres of land will be available for development in Mumbai, he said.
As the news trickeled in, stock prices of real estate firms soared on BSE, with HDIL gaining more than 8%. Among others companies that witnessed a jump in their share price include Godrej Industries, Akruti City, Century Textiles and Bombay Dyeing.
“Apart from the fresh land that will be made available for development, developers will be able to get on with their construction work, without losing any time. Normally, a no-objection certificate (NoC) from the government under Ulcra is required for any kind of development in the city.
NoC takes up to three months. With the removal of the Act now, we can save a lot of time,” said HDIL managing director Sarang Wadhawan. He, however, refused to divulge the size of the land bank that his company is sitting on. Industry sources pegged the size of land held by HDIL under Ulcra at around 500 acres.
Godrej group chairman Adi Godrej sounded optimistic too. “It is an extremely good move for Maharashtra and will help develop and use a lot of properties. Most of the states had already abolished the Act and it is time Maharashtra did too. The move will help free a lot of land in Mumbai and Pune for development purposes,” he said.
Analysts believe that the move would primarily help companies that own land but could not sell because of the restrictions. Apart from Mumbai, thousands of hectares of land will be released for development in other crowded cities such as Pune and Nagpur.