Month: June 2019
Lucknow Admn Necessitates Scarves At Imambara
A girl takes a scarf after the order of district administration for women visitors to cover their heads and prohibit tme from wearing short clothes at Chhota and Bada Imambaras in Lucknow on Sunday.]]>
England Halts India's Unbeaten Track In CWC '19
England squad in a jubillant mood after winning the match against India in ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 at Edgbaston in Birmingham on Sunday. The hosts won by 31 runs in a high-scoring match.]]>
Modi Talks Water Crisis In Mann Ki Baat
In his first edition of the ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio programme after being re-elected, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday discussed topics like Emergency and water crisis, among others, while stating that he felt “empty” without addressing countrymen on the last Sunday of every month.
Prime Minister Modi started the address by saying that ever since the last episode was aired in February this year, he was missing his interactions with people.
“The rigours of Elections called for hectic preoccupation, but the one thing that was missing was the sheer joy of ‘Mann Ki Baat.’ For me, it was like experiencing a kind of void… Sunday, the last Sunday, at 11 o’clock, even I used to be uneasy, with a nagging feeling of a kind of emptiness… you too felt the same, didn’t you? I am sure you did,” he explained.
“Perhaps, this was not a lifeless programme…. I used to miss something every moment; when I express myself through ‘Mann Ki Baat,’ the one speaking is me, the words are mine, the voice is mine, but the story is yours, the ‘Purusharth’ pertaining to your pursuits and goals is yours, the ‘Parakram’, the achievement is yours. I just used my words and my voice and that is why, I was not missing the programme… I was missing you. I was undergoing a bout of emptiness,” he said.
In his address, the Prime Minister said many people wrote to him in the last few months, inquiring why he had gone to Kedarnath amid Lok Sabha elections.
“Amidst the rigours of the election, speculations on victory or defeat, before the polling was yet to start; I undertook the journey. Most people have derived political conclusions out of that. For me, it was an opportunity to meet myself. In a way, I undertook the journey to meet my inner self,” he shared.
The letters which steadily pour in for ‘Mann Ki Baat’, the inputs that are received are entirely different from routine government matters, the Prime Minister stated.
“I have seen for myself that in their letters, people go to great lengths in describing their problems; it is fascinating to see that in the same breath, they express directly or indirectly, a relevant solution or two, one suggestion or the other, or even an idea… Just imagine… a person writing to the Prime Minister of the country, but seeking nothing for one’s own self… it is a reflection on the lofty collective demeanour of crores of people in the country,” he said.
Prime Minister Modi went on to talk about the Emergency period, highlighting that there was an “outrage” in the “conscience of one and all”.
“When Emergency was imposed on the country, resistance against it was not limited to the political arena or politicians; the movement was not curtailed to the confines of prison cells. There was an outrage in the conscience of one and all. The collective torment on the loss of democracy was evident. Day and night, when one gets to eat food on time, one doesn’t realize what hunger pangs are,” he said.
“Similarly, in day to day life, it is difficult to savour the joy of democratic rights, unless they are snatched away. During Emergency, every citizen of the country had started getting the feeling that something that belonged to him had been snatched away. If what was snatched had never been enjoyed by that person, ever, it had to eventually precipitate into a painful inner agony,” he added.
Talking about the Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister Modi stated, “In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, India saw over 61 crore voters exercising their franchise. We can think of this figure as one ordinary but if I place it in a global perspective, if you exclude China, the number of people who voted in India exceeds the population of any other country in the world. The number of people who voted in the 2019 Lok Sabha Election is more than the entire population of America, close to double the figure.”
“In order to successfully conclude this ‘Mahayagya’, on the one hand, whereas close to three lakh paramilitary personnel discharged their duty; on the other, 20 lakh Police personnel of various states too, persevered with due diligence. It is on account of these people that this time voting took place on a larger scale compared to the previous Election. For the voting, there were around 10 lakh polling stations, more than 40 lakh EVM machines, over 17 lakh VVPAT machines… you can imagine the gargantuan task,” he added.
He also highlighted how in a remote area of Arunachal Pradesh, just for a lone woman voter, a polling station was created. “The world’s highest located polling station too, is in India. At an altitude of 15,000 feet, it is located in the Lahaul-Spiti region of Himachal Pradesh,” he added.
Prime Minister said that ever since he said ‘No bouquet, just a book,’ people have been offering books at many a place.
“Just recently, someone gave me a book entitled ‘Premchand Ki Lokapriya Kahaniyan’, popular short stories by Premchand. It was a great feeling,” he shared, adding, “I will still urge you in today’s digital world and in the time of Google Guru, to take some time out from your daily routine and devote it to the book.”
Muslims Gift Chariot To Lord Jagannath
In a bid to spread a message of communal harmony, Muslim community in Jamalpur city has been gifting a silver chariot to the Lord Jagannath temple of Ahmedabad from past 20 years.
This year also, a silver chariot was gifted to the priest of the temple, ahead of the 142nd Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra, which will commence on July 4 in Ahmedabad.
Rauf Bangali, the man, who gifted the silver chariot to the temple told ANI, “We have been gifting a silver chariot since Godhra incident to spread communal harmony. We have been doing this for the past 20 years. We have given the silver chariot to Dilipdasji Maharaj.”
Rauf believes that the Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra or chariot festival is observed across the country to unite people and foster peace and harmony in the world.
After receiving the silver chariot by Muslim community, the head priest of the Ahmedabad Jagannath temple, Dilipdasji Maharaj told media, “Since ages, Rauf Bangali has been offering a silver chariot to the temple. I would like to thank the Muslim community for their efforts to spread communal harmony. I pray to God that communal harmony stays like this.”
As part of Rath Yatra, the deities of Jagannath, his elder brother Balabhadra and younger sister Subhadra are taken out in a procession. Amidst religious rituals, dance and music, splendidly decorated rath or chariot with their idols are drawn by the devotees using ropes till the palace gate and then brought back to its starting point. (ANI)]]>
Bollywood Studios Fading Out
Times are a-changing in Bollywood as iconic RK Studio and Kamalistan, a key part of Indian cinema legacy, make way for real estate projects
Heart bleeds as one hums “Jaaney kahan gaye wo din…” from Raj Kapoor’s semi-autobiographical Mera Naam Joker (1970) on reading about the sale of R K Studio in suburban Mumbai where this song was filmed.
It ends almost seven decades’ cinematic pursuit that began with shooting of India’s first dream sequence, “Ghar aaya mera pardesi…” for Awaara (1951) when the studio was yet to have a roof above it.
With it has disappeared the famous red logo – derived from film Barsaat (1949) with Raj Kapoor holding a violin in one hand, and leading lady Nargis on another arm. Also gone is the statue of Charlie Chaplin whom Raj copied with unapologetic aplomb.
A key part of Indian cinema’s legacy, of four generations of Kapoors, arguably its “first family”, stretching nine decades, has vanished. This is even as Kareena and Ranbir, of its fourth generation, enjoy their careers’ high noon.
The 2.2 acre land with 33,000 square meter of saleable area reportedly went for ₹500 crores. Soon, a bunch of high-rise luxury apartments and office complex will be built.
Cineastes and city historians have wishfully proposed a modest memorial, something like “here stood…” It is likely Godrej, the new owner/developer, may oblige, given the Parsis’ penchant for cinema and the city they partly built. Otherwise, it will be “The End”.
RK Studios was a gurukul (learning ground) where Hindi cinema came into its own and acquired the strength to become world-class. Songs “Mera joota hai Japani” and “Awara hoon” are alive in people’s hearts and minds.
Cradle of some of the most iconic films, its long list must include, besides those of other banners, RK’s own Awaara, Shree 420, Satyam Shivam Sundaram and Bobby.
Beyond films, the studio hosted famous RK parties and the annual Ganesh festival and Holi revelry, the latter with colour and bhaang. Galaxy of actors and actresses called it their home.
The Kapoors are nostalgic, but not apologetic for parting with it. Fire had destroyed the main studio floor. Running the rest had become uneconomic.
The Kapoor family, by all reckoning, is an emotional lot, bonded by their shared heritage and place in the film industry. How late Raj Kapoor might have reacted is anybody’s guess.
Even as RK Studio has folded, Kmaalistan, another iconic studio built by legendary Kamal Amrohi along with his star-wife Meena Kumari, is being sold. This was where Pakeezah (1972) and Razia Sultan (1983) were made besides Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), Naseeb (1981) and Coolie (1983), as well as all of Sooraj Barjatya’s movies.
Of recent films, Salman Khan’s mega-hit Dabangg (2010), was shot here. Today, however, it is let out for weddings and events, ads and TV shoots.
With Kmaliastan will disapper 25 acres of little idyll in a congested city. Many times larger than RK, it must have fetched a sum that nobody is talking about. For Tajdar, Amrohi’s son, the parting is a relief, leaving behind a prolonged property dispute.
The stories of RK and Kamalistan are similar to Mumbai’s textile mills. Both required technological revamp for which the owners were/are reluctant to spend. And like the mills, the land the studios stand on is many times more lucrative for shopping malls and office complex.
Film historian Gautam Kaul traces the history of studios integral to 121 years of Indian cinema when about 44,000 films have been created so far in only about 74 film studios, now reduced to a half.
The first attempt at building a confined space to shoot indoor scenes, according to him, was by Kolkata’s Sen Brothers — Hiralal and Motilal – in 1899 for filming The Prince of Persia.
Years later, Dadasaheb Phalke, acknowledged “Father of Indian Cinema”, shot his first film, Raja Harishchandra (1913) at his bungalow before building a studio. Most studios that sprang up across British-India since are closed down, unheard today.
Times are a-changing in Bollywood that got its name from Bombay, now Mumbai, to rhyme – and compete – with Hollywood. According to realty consultants, two more prominent studios are planning to sell out.
Film industry representatives blame this on the changing business of entertainment. It can no longer afford to maintain old-style studios. While the big budget movie makers go for outdoor shoots and prepare their own sets, those with fewer budgets prefer smaller rooms and outdoor locations.
Unsurprisingly, Bombay Film Lab, Jyoti and Filmalaya have also shut shop over the last two decades.
A theatre is cinema’s end-product. Studios’ closure coincides with those of single-screen cinema theatres, among them Majestic, Kohinoor, Plaza and Hindmata that have dotted Mumbai for nearly a century. Of Mumbai’s 130 odd thatres, 70 have gone.
Among the marqee names, Regal, built in 1933 at the edge of Colaba, was closed to end its ₹10 million annual losses, but after saying its last hurrah as a host to the Mumbai Film Festival. This writer luckily saw the Vincent Van Gough film along with award winning film-makers Shyam Benegal and Gyan Correa.
Edward (1914) stood at Kalbadevi near Watson Hotel at Dhobi Talao where the first-ever film screening was held in 1897. Capitol that stood bang opposite the Victoria Terminus, Asia’s oldest railhead now called Chhatrpati Shivaji Terminus, succumbed to market pressures in 2011.
Eros, opposite Churchgate, another railhead, closed in 2017. Like Capitol, New Empire nearby has become a ghostly dilapidated edifice – till some builder/developer comes along.
This is part of a countrywide trend. Of the estimated 12,000 ‘talkies’ as they were called only about 6,000 remain. While the stand-alone ones had 800-1,000 capacity each, where “Silver Jubilee”, or running for 25 weeks meant success, the multiplex come with 200-400 seats.
They run multiple shows to facilitate a film’s “initial draw”, or happy earnings, over the first weekend. They offer the best screen and sound technology, besides fast food and beverages.
There are, however, some exceptional cases of turnaround. Metro at Dhobi Talao went multiplex a decade back after a period of closure. Its Art Deco façade with the scarlet-and-silver sign are retained — there is even a beautiful old-style wood and metal elevator in its office premises. But inside looks like any upscale cinema.
Ironically, this is at a time when the leisure industry, including Bollywood, has expanded. Though not the numbers (Hyderabad has them), Mumbai, still the unique Bollywood, is fast losing its landmarks. But then, its leading lights do not seem to care. History cannot be sustained on nostalgia of its fans. It is legacy which is neither cared for by the industry nor the city.
This is not surprising in a city where the transformation is transactional – where even bookshops are yielding place to beauty parlours and pubs. Mumbai, Urbs Prima in Indis, may have no memories to recall.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org]]>
New Delhi Will Never Cede Its Strategic Interests
India-US relations are on track but with Donald Trump at the helm, there will be flare-ups now and then; this is where the real test for Jaishankar and his MEA team lies
Will President Donald Trump’s obsession for reworking trade deals affect India-US ties? Is Trump ignoring the big picture for a quick fix solution to please his support base and losing the good will of new friends like India and old allies France and Germany in Europe?
The Modi-Trump meeting last week focused on both trade and Iran, two things uppermost in the US President’s mind at the moment. No breakthrough was expected on any of the niggling issues that has troubled ties between the two countries in recent months. But after all the hard work put in by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to smoothen a bilateral platform, Donald Trump once again sullied the atmosphere.
The US President tweeted about high India’s high tariffs before leaving Washington for the G20 summit in Japan, where a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi was scheduled: “I look forward to speaking with Prime Minister Modi about the fact that India, for years having put very high Tariffs against the United States, just recently increased the Tariffs even further. This is unacceptable and the Tariffs must be withdrawn!”
But India and the world is now used to Trump’s style of diplomacy, and taken this in its stride. Perhaps this is Trump’s way of putting pressure on Modi ahead of their meeting. Trump should know that Narendra Modi, now riding a popularity wave in India will obviously not be cowed down.
Pompeo’s trip to India was an attempt to smoothen the wrinkles in ties. Much of this has to do with President Donald Trump’s political message to his support base, to re-work trade ties and ensure that America is not taken for a ride. Meaning every other President before Trump has not bothered to look after America’s trade interests. In the process Trump has lumped Delhi with Beijing, though America’s trade deficit with India is a mere $24.2 billion (2018 figures), compared to $621 billion with China the same year. Putting India and China in the same bracket, as Trump keeps doing in his numerous tweets on trade issues is foolish to say the least.
The Trump administration increased tariff on aluminum and steel last year impacted India’s export to the US. India did not retaliate. Washington earlier this year ended the duty-free import from India under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP). That was done in the middle of the election campaign. India responded recently by increasing tariff on 28 items, mostly agricultural products that it imports from the US. This has angered President Trump.
Significantly, Eliot Engel, Chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote to Pompeo ahead of his Delhi trip saying that the Trump administration seemed to be coercing India on various issues instead of sitting across the table and negotiating with Delhi. As Engel pointed out, while most of the statements made about being defence partner and friends with India were all good, the administration’s actions did not match its laudatory comments. Both the Republican and Democrats support stronger ties with India.
In his public statements, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made all the right noises to flatter and disarm India as Jaishankar prepared the groundwork for the Modi-Trump meeting.
In fact, the process started when Pompeo delivered a major speech at the India-US business forum ahead of his two-day visit to India. Pompeo quoted Modi’s election slogan “Modi hai tu Mumkin Hai.’ And translated it as “Modi makes it possible. I’m looking forward to exploring what’s possible between our two peoples.” Flattering Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a good way to start the dialogue.
But no one need be fooled by the sweet talk, as the US drives a hard bargain. Pompeo put enormous pressure on India to concede. The Secretary of State known as a hawk on Iran, is hoping to shore up support for the US position as war clouds loom over West Asia. He described Iran as the “biggest sponsor of terror”, a claim that Delhi certainly does not agree with. Iran came up for detailed discussion during his talks with Jaishankar. India raised the issue of oil supplies. Aware of the consequences of doing business with Iran, India has stopped buying oil from Tehran.
The good news is that the two sides are taking stock of the hiccups in relations and are ready to discuss them further. “On some outstanding issues related to trade, I pushed for a constructive and pragmatic view. The real test of our intentions will be our ability to deal with this,” Dr Jaishankar said, at a news conference with Pompeo after talks on Thursday.
But India has clearly drawn the red lines. On certain issues which affect India’s strategic interests there would be no compromise. That message has gone out clearly to Washington.
But it is not just trade. Political issues like Iran and purchase of S400 missile defence system from Russia goes against American interests. Jaishankar has made it clear that India will not change its stand on five billion dollar S400 purchase order from Russia.
Luckily, Washington does not hold all the cards. At a time when the US-China trade war is on and Trump’s aggressive stand on Iran and the threat of war which can disrupt oil supplies through the Strait of Hormuz is making all countries nervous. Prime Minister Modi is not just meeting Trump on the sidelines of the G20, meetings are also lined up with China’s Xi Jinping as well as a meeting of BRICS leaders, which means Russia’s Vladimir Putin and President’s of South Africa and Brazil. A Chinese official was also reported as saying that Xi will discuss US protectionist policies and how the world can counter this at the BRICS informal get together on the sidelines of G20. India and China, together with France and Germany are vocal critics of Trumps protectionist trade policies.
Modi’s meeting with Xi is important, and a Wuhan type of informal summit is being planned later this year in India. Perhaps as a signal to China, Jaishankar made the point. “We had also a talk of – over lunch on the Indo-Pacific. On the Indo-Pacific, the point – the big point I made was that the Indo-Pacific is for something, not against somebody. And that something is peace, security, stability, prosperity, and rules.” This is certainly India’s attempt to reassure China that Delhi is not ganging up with the US against Beijing.
In brief India-US relations are expanding in ways which were not conceivable in earlier decades. The momentum which began with the landmark civil nuclear deal is gathering speed. But India, much like the US will look out for its strategic interests and guard its space. America knows well that India is no push-over. India however also knows that having US on your side opens doors. The Modi government is looking to US for investments. So during negotiations localization of data, the new e-commerce rules that affect US companies like Amazon and Walmart, will come up for discussion. The US and India will agree on certain issues but not on all. There will be give and take on trade. The relations are on track yet there will be flare-ups now and then which Jaishankar and his MEA team will have to fire fight. Overall however ties are on course.]]>