India Insight

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.

Set in a village that is home to rival clans, “Ram Leela” unfolds much like the layers of the embroidered skirts worn by the women in the film. Bhansali paints each frame painstakingly, filling it with just enough colours for it to look alive, but never garish. Ram (played by Ranveer Singh) is carefree and a flirt, and Leela (played by Deepika Padukone) is feisty and fearless. They fall in love, but know that their families would never permit it, especially after an incident that sharpens the rivalry. An attempt to elope fails, and the two lovers are kept apart by their families.

Leela’s mother, a ruthless matriarch (played brilliantly by Supriya Pathak) wants to get her daughter married, but Leela refuses, saying she is already married to Ram. But her lover is mired in the politics of his clan and seems unable to break out of it. At this point, the plot falters. There are too many incidents crammed into the second half, and it drags on. The misunderstandings between Ram and Leela seem contrived, and their motives are ambiguous at several points in the film.

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.

State Elections in India: Opinion polls and 2008 results

India will hold state elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Delhi, starting November 11. The polls are seen as a warm-up for next year’s national elections.

Three of these five states – Mizoram, Rajasthan and Delhi — are governed by the Congress party, while the Bharatiya Janata Party rules in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. These state elections will serve as a popularity test for Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat and the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 national elections.

(Also read: Schedule of assembly elections in five states)

RAJASTHAN: In 2008, Congress swept the Rajasthan elections with 96 seats, adding 40 seats to its 2003 tally of 56. Ashok Gehlot took charge as chief minister, replacing Vasundhara Raje of the BJP. However, a recent opinion poll by India Today Group-ORG said Raje will make a comeback this year, with her party expected to win 105 seats. A Times Now-CVoter poll predicted BJP will win 118 seats in the 200-member house.

India negotiating to bring back stolen antiques: ASI

India plans to step up its efforts to bring back Indian artefacts from other countries after the recent repatriation of a 10th century “Yogini” stone sculpture from Paris.

Illegal trade in paintings, sculptures and other artefacts is one of the world’s most profitable criminal enterprises, estimated at $6 billion a year, according to Global Financial Integrity, a Washington-based advocacy group. India is one of the biggest targets for smugglers, who ship stolen antiques and other culturally important artefacts abroad to sell to art dealers and museums.

India Insight spoke to R.S. Fonia, Director (Antiquity) at the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), about the black market for Indian artefacts and what the ASI is doing to bring Indian antiques back home. This interview has been lightly edited.

Markets this week: Sensex loses 2.7 percent, SBI falls 7.5 percent

Hurt by profit-taking in blue chips, the BSE Sensex posted its worst weekly decline since August as it lost 2.7 percent in a holiday-truncated week.

On Thursday, shares were hurt after ratings agency Standard & Poor’s said it will review the rating of Asia’s third-largest economy after the new government lays out its policy agenda next year. The agency’s outlook on rating remains negative.

However, Goldman upgraded its view on India to “marketweight”, with a Nifty target of 6,900 points. The investment bank noted optimism over political change is trumping economic concerns.

Movie review: Satya 2

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

To expect Ram Gopal Varma’s “Satya 2” to be even half as good as the original is unfair, given the filmmaker’s recent work, but even Varma’s staunchest supporters would find it difficult to defend his latest atrocity of a film.

In “Satya 2”, Varma intersperses gruesome violence with titillating song sequences, ludicrous dialogue and a surreal story. He does it with the brazenness of a man who either is confident of his mastery of the craft, or one who has stopped caring about it.

Either way, the result is bad. Really bad. It might be “tops-them-all” bad.

Anand, and India, stand in Carlsen’s path to chess glory

Magnus Carlsen is the world’s number one chess player but that counts for little in India, where he’ll have to conquer local favourite Viswanathan Anand to become the first world chess champion from the West in nearly 40 years.

Anand, the undisputed world champion since 2007, has slumped to eighth in the rankings but has the experience of five world titles to thwart his 22-year-old Norwegian rival. If Carlsen wins the title this month, he’ll be the first champion from the West since American Bobby Fischer’s reign ended in 1975.

Media interest in the 12-game chess series billed as the “War of the Wizards” has been unprecedented, despite reams of newsprint and TV coverage devoted to Sachin Tendulkar’s swansong series happening concurrently in cricket-crazy India.

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