India Insight

How the Bollywood numbers game works

On Nov. 23, along with its usual glut of interviews and news about Bollywood stars, the Bombay Times featured a solemn announcement: “Box Office column discontinued.”

The column, written by Priya Gupta, editor of Times of India Metro Supplements, said it was getting increasingly difficult to get good numbers for how films are doing at the box office because filmmakers and production houses “jack up their numbers.”

“While filmmakers have no hesitation in picking up the phone and trying to convince us about their false data, they will not send formal emails confirming the data as they are scared of subsequent expose,” the column said.

The Times of India is India’s most read newspaper, and its entertainment supplement is a crucial part of the package, often used as a platform for Medianet, the newspaper’s service where individuals or entities can buy front-page coverage.

But the fact that even the Bombay Times was forced to shut down its column goes to show the lack of credible box-office figures in the world’s largest film industry. Figures disseminated by studios and collated by trade analysts and those in the business almost always differ, and there is no credible authority to authenticate these figures.

Reactions on Twitter to the Supreme Court judgment on gay sex

The Supreme Court on Wednesday threw out a 2009 ruling by a lower court that had decriminalised gay sex in India, in a major setback for the cause of gay rights in the world’s largest democracy. For full story, click http://reut.rs/18TsR0U

Here are some reactions from India on Twitter (lightly edited for clarity):

Shashi Tharoor, Congress minister
The Supreme Court has urged Parliament to delete Section 377 from the statute book. As an MP, I am strongly in favour of doing so.

Shruti Haasan, actress
Second 377, it’s frightening how someone else decides how, when and who you should love – basically freedom of choice isn’t legal anymore.

Business of new and worn banknotes thriving in Delhi

Rakesh Kumar is not like most of the street vendors in Old Delhi. The hand-painted sign on his wooden counter, “exchange damaged, old notes,” reveals a different story. He sells money.

For the past 40 years, Kumar has offered customers new banknotes for soiled or damaged ones for a fee that earns him about 100,000 rupees ($1,600) a year. It has also helped him pay for the marriages of his three children.

“We charge commission depending on the condition of the note,” the 58-year-old Kumar said while examining some 1,000-rupee notes nibbled by rats. “Around 30-40 people come to us daily.”

White-collar jobs for rural women needed to enhance gender equality – new book

Family planning, health and education programmes have done a lot to improve the lives of women in rural India, but getting more young rural women to work in jobs that don’t involve wage labour is the next step for gender equality and the country’s economic health, according to Dr. Carol Vlassoff, author of a new book, “Gender Equality and Inequality in Rural India: Blessed with a Son.

Vlassoff, 69, has been studying the village of Gove in Satara District of Maharashtra state since 1975. She determined through her work there that bringing rural women into the modern economy in India means making more job opportunities available to them, particularly professional, white-collar jobs.

Doing this also could lead to slowing population growth in India, one of the world’s most populous countries with an estimated 1.2 billion people. She found, according to a press statement accompanying the book, “that self-employed and professional rural women were more likely to use contraceptives and delay having their first child than unemployed women with the same amount of schooling.”

Markets this week: Sensex gains 1 percent, Tata Power surges over 10 percent

By Ankush Arora and Aditya Kalra

The BSE Sensex ended with gains of 1 percent in the week ending Dec. 6, as investor sentiment was boosted after exit polls indicated the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), seen by many as being more business-friendly, will win four of the five state elections conducted recently.

State elections are seen as a semi-final before the national polls next year. Elections are the key theme for the first half of 2014 and the recent rally in the stock market implies that a BJP government is no longer viewed as a low-probability scenario, UBS said this week. The investment bank has set a 2014 target for Nifty at 6,900.

Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) inflows for the year have crossed 1 trillion rupees, regulatory and exchange data showed. They have made net purchases of around $18 billion so far this year, Deutsche Bank figures show.

Reactions from India to the death of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela, who emerged from 27 years in apartheid prisons to help guide South Africa to democracy, died on Thursday.

Mandela had been inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s decades-long non-violent resistance to British rule. India’s revered independence leader had also spent some of his early political years in South Africa, where he was involved in the struggle against racial discrimination.

The Indian government, which in 1990 honoured Mandela with its highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, declared five days of official mourning on Friday. Both houses of parliament were adjourned for the day.

India state elections: Exit polls give BJP the upper hand

By Aditya Kalra and Shashank Chouhan

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is likely to win in four of the five states that went to polls over the past month, exit poll surveys conducted by Cvoter and the India Today-ORG group showed. Such a victory will be a boost for the party and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi ahead of the 2014 general elections.

The results for all the states, except Mizoram, will be announced on Sunday. Here’s what the exit polls forecast:

MADHYA PRADESH: The BJP has been ruling the state for 10 years, and exit polls indicate the party will retain power in the 230-member assembly. The Congress party’s campaign, led by Jyotiraditya Scindia, helped it improve its tally as compared to 2008, but the BJP still has the upper hand, polls showed.

Movie Review: R…Rajkumar

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

Prabhu Dheva’s “R…Rajkumar is the latest in the series of “masala entertainers” that Bollywood seems to churn out with alarming regularity. Watching one is like watching another, and reviewing one is like writing about all of them. Here are the five commandments that filmmakers follow while making these excuses for movies. We have used “R… Rajkumar” as our test case.

Hero’s raison d’être: win girl, annihilate villain
Romeo Rajkumar (Shahid Kapur) is obsessed with Chanda (Sonakshi Sinha), calling her his “lollipop”, making lewd kissing noises (that sound like a sink is being drained out) and stalking her everywhere. When his mob boss (Sonu Sood) falls in love with Chanda, Rajkumar decides to fight him and his village gang. Couldn’t they just elope to the city and live a peaceful life? No. Romeo has to beat up people with wooden horses and waste litres of fake blood.

Leading lady: spunky and independent. Turns into a doormat when she meets hero – Sonakshi Sinha
Not just in this film, but pretty much every film she’s done. She starts by beating the daylights out of cat-calling men. When Rajkumar stalks her, she shoos him away with a nonsensical song. Then she falls in love with her stalker, runs to him for help when the villain makes advances, and reaches the height of submissiveness by standing and shedding quiet tears while the love of her life is beaten to death.

No end to suffering for Bhopal gas victims

Twenty-nine years have passed since a poison gas leak from the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal killed thousands of people. For the estimated 100,000  survivors and their children who cope with birth defects, illness and a variety of other health problems, it might as well still be the 1980s.

It was 12 a.m. on Dec. 3, 1984 when 40 tons of toxic methyl isocyanate leaked from the plant. In the J.P. Nagar neighbourhood that was worst affected, many people died instantly. The death toll is more than 5,295, according to the Indian government though projections based on an Indian Council of Medical Research study put the figure as high as 25,000. An estimated 574,372 people have been affected in some way by the gas; health activists say more than 150,000 have been seriously affected.

Lung and eye complications are common among people in this area. Many also suffer from loss of limb function along with severe palpitations and recurring chest pain.

Connecting borrowers and lenders: Indians try peer-to-peer model

Srinivas Porika tried for months to get a loan of 250,000 rupees ($4,000) to pay for his sister’s wedding, but every bank he tried turned him down. The problem: Porika’s employer, a tech start-up company, was not on the banks’ lists of pre-approved companies.

“They were ready to give me a credit card, but were not ready to give me a loan,” said the 28-year-old from Hyderabad, who met several bank managers and officials to plead his case.

The wedding went ahead in 2012, but only after Porika dipped into his savings and borrowed from friends. With an insufficient bonus at work and pressure mounting to pay off his debts this year, Porika turned to a peer-to-peer (P2P) lending website.

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