India Insight

Book Talk: Rana Dasgupta on a ‘vastly under-imagined Delhi’

Rana Dasgupta’s first non-fiction book is an investigation into what makes Delhi a city of unequal transformation, salted with ambition, aggression and misogyny. “Capital: A Portrait of Twenty-First Century Delhi” takes its shape from an “outsider’s” anxiety about not being able to understand a city that is primarily the by-product of refugees from India’s partition in 1947.

Dasgupta, 42, was born and raised in England, and belongs to a family of migrants whose roots are in the Lahore of British India, now Pakistan. In 2000, he flew to Delhi after quitting a marketing job in New York and fell “into one of the great churns of the age”.

The book, more than 400 pages long, documents personal lives of people from different socio-economic backgrounds, especially the “flourishing bourgeoisie” of Delhi, beginning about a decade after India liberalized its economy in 1991.

In a phone interview with India Insight, Dasgupta talked about writing about Delhi’s super rich, the “war against women” in India, the lack of successful women entrepreneurs, and a city that is “vastly underimagined”. Here are edited excerpts from the interview:

Q: The title of your book is a financial term. Would it be fair to say that your book looks at Delhi largely through the sphere of money?

Car wraps lend colour to India’s drab auto business

Rohit Gulati always wanted to buy a car that would have enough space for all eight members of his family. But with his limited savings, he didn’t see that happening for some years.

In August, the 34-year-old Café Coffee Day supply chain executive, spotted a newspaper advertisement about a new car financing program. Four months later, Gulati was ferrying his family across New Delhi in a new Maruti Eeco.

EMI Free Car, the financing firm that helped Gulati, builds on the get-paid-to-drive concept in which owners are paid money to put up advertisements on their cars.

Movie Review: Highway

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

In an interview last year, Imtiaz Ali said he didn’t have a script when he set out to make “Highway”. All he had was a one-line draft and he wrote the film during the shoot.

The journey should influence you, he said, adding that is what should drive the film — not a pre-written script. This rather unusual method of filmmaking seems to have yielded unexpected results.

What you get is a complete departure from Ali’s usual fare — a film that is as  pristine as some of the locations it is shot in; almost meditative in parts and wonderfully understated.

from The Human Impact:

Ending the beatings, rapes, murders: Where are India’s men?

Violence against women is widespread across the world. Globally, 35 percent of women have been beaten by an ‘intimate partner’ or suffered sexual violence at the hands of a non-partner in their lifetime, the World Health Organisation says.

The same research suggests that almost one third of women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of their partner, and that some 38 percent of all murders of women are committed by their husband or boyfriend.

In India, the situation is little better. The International Centre for Research on Women reports that 37 percent of men surveyed admit to inflicting violence on their intimate partner.

Movie Review: Gunday

(The views expressed here do not represent those of Thomson Reuters)

Ali Abbas Zafar’s “Gunday” is a film set in the 1970’s and 80’s, amid the grime of the coal mafia. It is supposed to be a gritty film about two friends and their undying bond, which is broken when a girl enters their lives.

“Gunday” is a throwback to the cinema of the 70’s and 80’s when the wronged hero was still virtuous; the heroine was seductive but still coy; and the system was something you had to fight against to get what was rightfully yours. Director Zafar gives us a more polished version of those films.

Bikram (Ranveer Singh) and Bala (Arjun Kapoor) are friends who escape from Dhaka in the aftermath of the 1971 Bangladesh war and find themselves orphaned and homeless in Kolkata. They quickly discover there is money to be made in wagon-breaking — robbing coal from trains and selling it at subsidized prices in the market.

A Minute With: Ali Abbas Zafar on ‘Gunday’

Film-maker Ali Abbas Zafar made his Bollywood debut in 2011 with “Mere Brother Ki Dulhan”, a romantic comedy that was among the biggest hits that year.

For his second film as director, Zafar has switched genres to make what promises to be a dark and gritty 1970’s period film set in Kolkata about a pair of coal bandits and a cabaret dancer.

Gunday”, which opens in cinemas on Valentine’s Day, stars Ranveer Singh, Arjun Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra in the lead roles. Zafar spoke to Reuters about the movie and the challenges of filming a period thriller.

Railway Budget 2014: Highlights at a glance

Railways Minister Mallikarjun Kharge left train fares and freight rates unchanged on Wednesday, in an interim rail budget ahead of a national election due by May.

It wasn’t really a surprise. In 2012, Dinesh Trivedi was forced to resign as railways minister after his decision to raise passenger fares for the first time in eight years prompted a furious response from his own party — the Trinamool Congress — that was part of the Congress-led coalition government at the time.

The government did raise fares last year, this time with a Congressman at the helm of affairs, as a cash-strapped railways ministry tried to raise money to pay its employees.

In India, grassroots comics rule where media cannot reach

Devender Ojha was a student in high school when he created a comic strip about a headmaster who used to turn up to class drunk. The teenager made copies of his work and displayed them in his village in Uttarakhand. It wasn’t long before it got noticed.

“After that, that headmaster was sacked from the school and new headmaster came there,” said Ojha, who is now 24 and has turned his adolescent doodling into a career as a newspaper cartoonist.

Ojha was trained at a World Comics India workshop and is one of thousands of volunteers working with villagers in India’s heartland. They organise workshops where people learn to draw and depict topical issues — such as genetically modified cotton or radiation exposure — on A4 sheets joined together to make four-panel strips. The organization’s founder, Sharad Sharma, describes them as “grassroots comics“.

Markets this week: BHEL, TCS top Sensex losers

By Sankalp Phartiyal and Ankush Arora

The BSE Sensex ended down 0.7 percent in what was a slow week for Indian shares. The week began with the benchmark index sliding 1.5 percent on Monday as foreign institutional investors (FIIs) continued to sell as part of a slump in emerging markets.

Investor sentiment remained subdued despite a survey on Monday showing that Indian factories started 2014 on a high note, with manufacturing activity growing at its fastest pace in nearly a year as domestic and overseas orders increased.

The remaining four sessions saw the Sensex ending marginally in the green. The benchmark is, however, down 3.7 percent so far this year.

Movie Review: Hasee Toh Phasee

(The views expressed here do not represent those of Thomson Reuters)

Vinil Mathew’s “Hasee Toh Phasee” has the trappings of a conventional Hindi romantic comedy — the big fat wedding; the quirky extended family; two lost souls; and much song and dance.

Yet, Mathew manages to combine these elements into an unusual film that sparkles with humour and witty repartee, and despite a few bumps along the way, makes for a fun ride. The humour is reminiscent of TV sitcoms, and draws on several modern Indian pop culture references, including campy Bollywood songs and cult TV favourites like CID, to draw laughs.

At its heart, “Hasee Toh Phasee” is about Meeta and Nikhil, who meet a few days before he is to get married to her sister. Nikhil is stressed because his fiancée wants him to be successful and rich, while he is struggling with his event management business. When Meeta — who gets mysterious phone calls from China; compulsively gulps down mysterious pills; and seems decidedly neurotic — returns home, Nikhil is asked to take care of her and ensure she doesn’t ruin the wedding.

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