India Insight

A Minute With: Rajat Kapoor on ‘Ankhon Dekhi’

Over the past decade, film-maker Rajat Kapoor has found a niche for himself in Bollywood, writing and directing movies that rely more on unusual plots than glamorous movie stars.

His latest film, “Ankhon Dekhi”, has actor Sanjay Mishra playing a man who refuses to believe anything that he hasn’t experienced himself. The film opens in Indian cinemas on Friday.

Kapoor, 53, spoke to Reuters about “Ankhon Dekhi” and why he doesn’t work with Bollywood movie stars.

How did the film come about?
The idea was very simple. It was that a man decides ‘I will not believe anything I have not experienced’. It is the journey of a man who one day decides that the only truth is the truth of his experience. It happens to us all the time. If you have heard about a particular dish, or a person before you have tasted it or met them, your idea of them has already been coloured. But when you experience it for yourself, you might find it is not as you had thought it would be. “Ankhon Dekhi” doesn’t mean just trusting your eyes, but your experience.

How do you make a film based on such an ambiguous premise?
This was the starting point. For two-three years, the idea was hanging in my head. I have always wanted to make a film on a joint family. Then it became a story of this family and how it comes apart thanks to the lead character Bauji’s madness and obsession. I grew up in a joint family and it’s been a great desire to make a film in that setting. For me, it’s nostalgia. My father’s family had six brothers and two sisters. So we had uncles, aunts, cousins, everyone. All of “Ankhon Dekhi” has at least 20 people in each frame.

Photo gallery: The body as an art form in India

Bodhisattva Head, 1st-2nd century AD (Lucknow State Museum)

Bodhisattva Head, 1st-2nd century AD (Lucknow State Museum)

‘The Body in Indian Art’, on exhibit at the National Museum in New Delhi, is a pan-India project showcasing over 300 artworks from 44 institutions. The show is an exhaustive study of the body’s myriad representations in Indian art, roughly covering a period of 4,000 years across regions, religion and culture.

The exhibition has been put up in eight adjoining galleries, each with a specific theme such as death, birth, divinity or rapture.

Chances are you may get lost during the tour as the show is cyclical in its set-up, representing the circle of life the body stands for.

Writer Khushwant Singh dies at 99

Khushwant Singh, one of India’s best-known writers and columnists, died of a heart attack on Thursday. He was 99.

Singh was the founder-editor of Yojana and served as the editor of the Illustrated Weekly of India, the National Herald and the Hindustan Times. He practised as a lawyer before moving to journalism and writing, eventually authoring as many as 85 books.

In his last days, Singh had been interested in political developments ahead of the general election in April, his son Rahul told reporters in New Delhi on Thursday.

Blind foodie seeks Braille menus in Delhi restaurants

Baldev Gulati loves to eat out. Friends and family often join him, but sometimes he likes to go on a date with himself. There’s one problem — Gulati is blind.

The 43-year-old businessman, sightless since birth, was tired of asking waiters and fellow diners to read restaurant menus out loud. Gulati’s food choices were restricted and he couldn’t experiment with cuisines. That’s when the thought struck him — why not get restaurants in Delhi to introduce menus in Braille?

“[Eating out] was always a pain to me. When I am paying equally to the restaurants, why restaurants are not taking care of my needs?” said Gulati, the owner of a department store in west Delhi that employs the visually impaired.

Markets this week: Infosys, Sesa Sterlite top Sensex losers

The BSE Sensex closed in the red twice this week, eventually ending with losses of 0.5 percent. The week began with the benchmark index touching an all-time high of 22,023.98 points in trade on Monday, aided by strong foreign buying.

Shares retreated from record highs as investors booked profits and by Friday, some caution was setting in about the pace of recent gains.

Key economic data released this week showed prices cooling as wholesale and consumer inflation eased and industrial output rose slightly, raising hopes that the Reserve Bank of India would leave its key interest rate unchanged at its policy meet in April.

Movie Review: Bewakoofiyaan

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Nupur Asthana’s “Bewakoofiyaan” deals with money, its effects on modern-day relationships, and how couples deal with societal pressures.

But the treatment of the film is quite outdated. There are autocratic fathers who don’t trust their daughters, and grown men who are out of a job but splurge on vacations and designer clothes.

None of the lead characters invite your sympathy or attention — whether it is Mayera (Sonam Kapoor), a spoilt, petulant girl who thinks her boyfriend’s credit card limit is a sign of growth; Mayera’s loud, blustering father (Rishi Kapoor) who doesn’t think twice before spying on the boyfriend; or Mohit Chaddha (Ayushmann Khurrana), the boyfriend in question.

A Minute With: Ayushmann Khurrana

It’s been two years since Ayushmann Khurrana made an unconventional Bollywood debut with “Vicky Donor”, playing a sought-after sperm donor at a fertility clinic.

Despite its bold theme, the romantic comedy was a hit in conservative India and helped Khurrana, a known face on Indian television, gain a foothold in a competitive Hindi film industry.

The 29-year-old actor and singer has three films lined up for release in 2014. “Bewakoofiyaan” opened in cinemas on Friday, starring Khurrana as an ambitious man who loses his job but has to impress his fiancee’s (Sonam Kapoor) cranky father.

Photo gallery: Inside is everything in Subodh Gupta show

Dada (2010-13) (grandfather)

Artist Subodh Gupta’s exhibition in New Delhi features images from everyday Indian life on a grand and theatrical scale. The cycle rickshaw, the sewing machine, utensils and the Mumbai taxi are some of the motifs that dominate his work in ‘Everything is Inside’.

The show, on view at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, is an artist’s journey to the “inside” of his home and his roots. His preoccupation with utensils stems from his passion for cooking. And in ‘Bihari’, painted around the time he moved to Delhi in the 1990’s, the 50-year-old artist seeks to assert his regional identity.

Gupta’s work acquires an earthy quality in an installation put together with cow dung and wood. Titled ‘My Mother and Me’, it is also his favourite. Another is a virtual kitchen, called the ‘Family Portrait’.

Movie Review: Gulaab Gang

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Soumik Sen’s “Gulaab Gang” wants to assure us, through its promos and marketing campaigns, that it speaks of women’s empowerment and the power they can wield against a corrupt and insensitive system.

On the contrary, this is a movie that does women’s empowerment a huge disservice — it depicts the protagonists as one-dimensional characters; equates justice with mob violence; and would have you believe that the punishment for a heinous crime is to slice off the perpetrator’s body parts.

There is so much sanctimony stuffed into “Gulaab Gang” that you find it hard to take anything in this 135-minute film seriously. Madhuri Dixit plays Rajjo, the fierce leader of a women’s group that has its own justice system and aims at standing up for victims of domestic violence or those oppressed by the dowry system. She locks up government officials who refuse to provide the village with electricity — and minutes later, breaks into a choreographed dance number.

Strange weather: how a bad monsoon could be good for India

By Mayank Bhardwaj and Jo Winterbottom

A bad monsoon in India is the one that fails to deliver enough rain … most of the time. This year, a lack of rainclouds could be the silver lining that the government needs. India has no place left to store more grain, and can ill afford a hefty payout to farmers for the truckloads of produce that another monsoon could produce.

The annual four-month monsoon rains begin around June 1. More than half of the country’s arable land relies on the monsoon to grow the crops that help feed the world’s second-biggest country by population and put India’s rice and sugar on the global market.

But India’s last drought was five years ago. Food stocks have swelled so much since then that government warehouses, which house the grain sold at very low prices to the poor, are overflowing. Much is wasted, rotting or eaten by rats. The last thing that the government needs is another big crop yield.

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