India Insight

Stan Lee bets on India for latest superhero success

Legendary comic book writer Stan Lee has someone in mind that he would like to popularize as much as his 1960s co-creation “Spider-Man”: “Chakra, the invincible!” said the 90-year-old Lee, his voice booming with the excitement of a freshman working on his first project.

The American comics veteran, who collaborated on the creation of superheroes such as Thor and Iron Man, helped create an Indian superhero in partnership with Graphic India. Chakra will make his debut as an animated feature on Cartoon Network in India later this month.

The teenaged character Raju Rai, who lives in Mumbai, will tap into the ancient Hindu belief of chakras or centres of energy in a human body. He and a scientist develop a suit that activates these mystic wheels, giving superpowers to Raju, who fights crime in India’s financial capital.

Even though Lee has never done anything in India before, he told me by telephone from California that he knows enough about local legends and backgrounds to venture into the market.

“Coming up with any superhero — whether American, Indian, or Chinese … it’s always a challenge. People all over the world seem to react favourably to superheroes. So it’s just the case of coming up with another superhero, but finding a way to give it an Indian flavour. And it was fun,” he said about the challenge of working on a different culture, likening it to a crossword puzzle.

Indian superhero should have been created long time ago – Stan Lee

Best known for his comic book superheroes that have been adapted into big Hollywood movies, veteran American writer Stan Lee is set to make his India debut.

In partnership with Graphic India, Lee has created a TV animation feature called “Chakra – the Invincible.” The teenaged superhero is based in Mumbai and taps into ancient Indian Hindu beliefs to gather his superpowers.

In an interview from California on phone, Stan Lee tells India Insight how his latest creation has him all excited, why he thinks the digital age is no threat to comic book characters and why his superheroes are not cardboard characters.

Sharad Devarajan has big plans for Stan Lee’s Indian debut ‘Chakra’

Sharad Devarajan is no stranger to the animation and comic book scene in India. He was responsible for bringing DC Comics, Marvel and the publishing activities of Cartoon Network to the country, and worked with Marvel on an Indian avatar of the Spider-Man in 2004, the first “trans-creation.” Devarajan is also launching a series on Bollywood superhero franchise Krrish.

He heads a U.S.-based digital entertainment company, Liquid Comics, which creates original graphic and animation content for various media. The company’s Indian arm, Graphic India, worked with Stan Lee‘s POW! Entertainment and developed the American cartoonist’s first Indian superhero, Chakra.

(Also read: Indian superhero should have been created long time ago – Stan Lee and Stan Lee bets on India for latest superhero success)

Mumbai police look to Bollywood for image makeover

Mumbai’s police department has deployed an unusual strategy to revamp its sagging reputation and to counter criticism that it hasn’t done a good job at solving crimes against women in the city – it called the biggest game in town and asked for help.

Top city police officers, including the police commissioner, have asked Bollywood producers, directors and writers to portray them in a more positive light than they usually do.

While films like “Ardh Satya” spoke of the pressures and frustrations of policemen, many mainstream films, which have the most reach, aren’t kind to the force. The police also have asked the studios to change how they portray the women in their films, hoping that this would cause men to behave better toward women.

Rumours trigger panic-buying of salt in northeast India

Rumours of an impending salt shortage led to panic-buying in India’s north-eastern states and parts of West Bengal state on Friday, officials and media reports said, with a kilo of salt being sold for as much as 200 rupees ($3) compared to average retail selling prices of about 20 rupees (around 35 cents).

Witnesses reported people queuing up at grocery stores to stockpile salt packets, with several shops running out of the usually cheap and plentiful product a day after similar rumours surfaced in Bihar state.

On Thursday, the Bihar state government said that there was abundant supply of the condiment after panic-buying in several districts and state capital Patna following rumours of a reduced supply from Gujarat state, India’s biggest producer of salt.

Movie Review: Ram Leela

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

The lovers in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s “Ram Leela” are a bundle of contradictions. They speak of posting pictures on Twitter in the same breath as they speak of murder, blood and age-old rivalries. They have the mindset of urban Indian youth while living in Gujarat’s remote Kutch region in an environment where hate festers, people don’t think twice about shooting at a child and the rule of law doesn’t stand a chance. Meeting these people in the real world would be next to impossible.

Yet, they seem to fit right into the make-believe world built by Bhansali. There are gardens with peacocks flitting about, palatial houses, and breathtakingly beautiful costumes. Every scene, every song, every frame is lit up, awash with the inherent drama the film-maker brings to his projects when he’s at his best.

In “Ram Leela”, you might see snatches of “Devdas” and “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam”, but this not a demure love story by any means. Unlike Bhansali’s earlier films, where love had spiritual tones, and was equated with sacrifice, this one is all physical and in the moment. Ram and Leela cannot keep their hands off each other, and the fact that they belong to feuding families seems to heighten their passion.

Doctors seek home-grown deterrents in India’s diabetes fight

From yoga and fenugreek powder to mobile messaging, diabetes experts in India are searching for local and cost-effective methods to fend off the disease as it affects ever more numbers of people in the country.

India is home to more than 60 million diabetics, a number that the Research Society for the Study of Diabetes in India (RSSDI) estimates will cross 85 million in 2030, or nearly 8 percent of the country’s population today.

Among the reasons for the rising number of cases is an increasing tendency toward sedentary lifestyles that have accompanied growing economic prosperity, as well as genetic predispositions in a country already known for its sweet tooth.  Doctors told India Insight that in 1975 — when India’s GDP was around $100 billion — only about 1.5 percent of its population had diabetes. Today’s percentage is more in line with developed nations such as the United States at 8.3 percent and France at 5 percent.

Sachin Tendulkar: What his peers said over the years

By Sankalp Phartiyal and Aditya Kalra

Sachin Tendulkar’s 200th test match, against West Indies at the Wankhede Stadium, will also be his last as the ‘Little Master’ brings the curtain down on a glittering 24-year cricket career at the age of 40. (Click here for main story)

Here’s a look at how Tendulkar’s peers on the cricketing field have described him over the years:

    The nature of the cricket fans in this region is such that if a player tries to prolong his international career they tend to forget him soon after he retires – Javed Miandad (Nov. 2013) I have seen God. He bats at no. 4 in India in Tests – Mathew Hayden (1998) Don Bradman is the greatest, there is no debate. Don is the No. 1 and then come the rest. And among the rest, Tendulkar probably is as good as anyone. So legitimately, he may be the second best cricketer to have played the game – Steve Waugh (March 2010) I played 122 tests alongside Sachin, I never threatened his place as a batsman but he threatened mine as a bowler. He was a natural with leg spin – Anil Kumble (Nov. 2013)

Real estate offers lure some Indian buyers

For around a year, Girish Kale was flirting with the idea of buying his dream house. His budget of 3.5 million to 4 million rupees ($56,000-$64,000) wasn’t going to work for Mumbai, where the kind of house the auto industry professional wanted would cost upwards of 10 million rupees.

Kale, who currently lives in a rented flat in Kandivali suburb, turned instead to Pune, a university city 150 kilometres away, with a plan to opt for a so-called 80:20 payment scheme. Such schemes allow the buyer to pay 20 percent of the property’s cost initially and the remaining amount on possession after construction.

However, when the Reserve Bank of India issued a directive on Sept. 4 restricting some of these schemes, Kale’s broker put them on the back burner. The central bank’s directive might have disappointed buyers, but some still want to invest in property.

“Maybe when in six months I would like to get married … my expenses will go up. That is why I was interested in 80:20,” said Kale, who is still on the lookout for a similar offer that will fit his budget. “It will be difficult but still I will go for it. I want to invest in real estate … if I delay it for maybe one or two years further, the price will go up”.

Remembering Reshma, Pakistan’s ‘first lady’ of folk music

Folk singer Reshma was born in 1947, the historic year when India and Pakistan gained independence from British rule. She was born in India, but her family migrated to Pakistan when she was a month old. Small wonder, then, that Reshma’s unconventionally husky voice won admirers on both sides of the international border.

Reshma, who died earlier this week after a battle with throat cancer, was best known for her distinctive rendition of Punjabi folk songs. For her fans, she was the “Nightingale of the Desert” and her death at the age of 66 was a fresh blow to the arts in Pakistan, coming a year after ghazal singer Mehdi Hassan’s death.

Despite her fame, Reshma was modest. She dressed conservatively in a salwar kameez and was rarely seen without a dupatta covering her head. And her mehfils (public performances) were devoid of histrionics.

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