India Insight

Representing Manipur: Priyanka Chopra on playing Mary Kom

Priyanka Chopra is not a Bollywood actor who waits around for assistants to mic her up, set a TV camera’s white balance and tell her where to look during an interview. When I met her on Tuesday at a posh hotel in Gurgaon, she used the paper I brought with my questions on it for the white balance, told the assistant how and where to set up the mic and opened a bottle of cough syrup, sparing the poor staffer who was struggling with it for her.

“I can get things done,” she said. Indeed, the latest evidence that the 32-year-old superstar is telling the truth is her portrayal of Mary Kom, the Olympic medallist and five-time World Amateur Boxing champion who comes from the far-flung state of Manipur in India’s northeast, an area that is far away from the heart of the country and home to many of its ethnic minorities.

The decision to cast Chopra in the role of Kom has led to accusations that the film’s producers preferred to go with a bankable star rather than another actor from Manipur or elsewhere in the northeast, and has prompted a new round of discussion about the nation’s marginalizing of people from this region. Chopra discussed this and other aspects of playing Kom in our interview.

(Answers have been edited for clarity)

Q. How do you portray a real, living person? Are you left with any creative licence?
A. Of course you can’t imitate or mimic someone … I spent a lot of time with her. I got to know her, and the character that I play is my projection of what I have understood as Mary Kom. I don’t know how right or wrong it is, but according to me it’s the closest I could be to what her personality is.

Q. Wasn’t this movie challenging? On a physical level as well as others?
A. It was very, very challenging at many levels, you are right. But I like things that push me. It’s a film that I know, if I go wrong, then it would be really hard on me because I have put two years of my life into this. But fingers crossed, all that I had has gone into this movie as a creative person.

Segway’s India business pegs hope on tech-savvy Modi

By Shashank Chouhan and Ankush Arora

People ride self-balancing Segway transportation devices past the Indian home ministry in New Delhi January 5, 2014. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee/Files

Among the companies hoping for tax credits from the business-friendly Bharatiya Janata Party since its election victory in May is the Indian distributor of the Segway Personal Transporter. The company hopes that the government will recognise the battery-run two-wheeler as a green vehicle, a move that could spur sales of the expensive device in a country where many people today cannot afford it.

The U.S.-based Segway Inc. was founded by Dean Kamen based on a vision to develop “high-efficient, zero emission transportation solutions” that are manoeuvrable and can be operated on sidewalks and pathways.

In 2002, Segway, adapted from the word segue that means “to transition smoothly from one state to another”, got the right to operate in over 30 states in the United States. By 2007, the New Hampshire-headquartered company had a worldwide presence in 60 countries, according to a report. It made its India debut in 2010.

Reema Abbasi and a glimpse of Pakistan’s Hindu past

“Historic Temples in Pakistan: A Call to Conscience” is a book-length attempt to record in pictures the history of an Islamic country’s Hindu past, especially as extremist activity mounts against Pakistan’s religious and ethnic minorities, including Ahmadis, Christians, Sikhs and Shia Muslims.

Reema Abbasi, the book’s author, travelled the country to write this narrative of about 40 old religious sites, including Hindu temples in the jagged terrain of the western state of Balochistan. She also visited the Thar desert and the Indus River valley in the state of Sindh, as well as Karachi, Lahore, Punjab and dangerous stretches of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, along the border with Afghanistan.

Born a Pakistani in the Netherlands, she went to school in England, college in Karachi, and then worked as a journalist. A self-described “spiritual Muslim,” she has aspects of most religions in her home, such as an idol of Sai Baba, the cross and quranic verses.

Movie Review: Raja Natwarlal

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

Kunal Deshmukh, going by his filmography, loves two things – Emraan Hashmi and cricket. After “Jannat” – a movie about cricket and match fixing – and the caper film “Jannat 2″, director Deshmukh seems to have combined the storylines for his latest offering – a caper film about cricket starring Hashmi.

Raja NatwarlalRaja Natwarlal” is a flimsily written and half-heartedly directed film, which falls short of its lofty ambitions because no one associated with it seems to have any concern for detailing or authenticity on celluloid.

Hashmi plays a cocky, but good-hearted con man, who decides to rob 8 million rupees from a gangster. When his partner-in-crime Raghav (Deepak Tijori) has a change of heart and decides to return the money to Varda Yadav (Kay Kay Menon), Raghav is shot dead.

Markets this month: Tata Motors, M&M top Sensex gainers

By Ankush Arora and Sankalp Phartiyal

The BSE Sensex jumped 2.9 percent in August, the seventh consecutive monthly gain for the benchmark index in 2014. The broader Nifty closed 3 percent higher, its fourth straight month of gains.

A man looks at a screen across the road displaying the election results on the facade of the BSE building in MumbaiThe Indian stock market hit multiple record highs in August, helped by relentless foreign buying, easing of geopolitical tensions and continued optimism about the domestic economy’s revival.

On Friday, India will release GDP growth data for the April-June period. Asia’s third-largest economy likely grew at its fastest in two years in the first quarter of the current fiscal year, a Reuters poll predicted.

Sketchy Details

Something Doesn't Fit

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

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Interview: Rani Mukerji on playing “Mardaani” roles in Bollywood films

In 1997, when the top-grossing Bollywood films were a mix of fluffy romantic comedies and maudlin love triangles, a barely 20-year-old Rani Mukerji made her Hindi film debut playing a rape victim who is asked to marry her tormentor and faces innumerable challenges in her quest for dignity.

ranimukherjiRemembering that and the other films where she played a strong female character, a newly married Mukerji told India Insight she likes to strike a balance between what she calls substantial roles and those written only for entertaining fans. Her latest film “Mardaani,” (“Masculine”) produced by her producer husband, sees Mukerji in the role of a tough police officer out to bust a child-trafficking ring.

“I have always tried to portray strong women in all the films that I have done because I do feel that when people see movies they get very moved and they do feel inspired,” she said about the roles that she prefers.

Markets this week: Cipla, BHEL top Sensex gainers

A man looks at a screen across the road displaying the election results on the facade of the BSE building in MumbaiThe BSE Sensex closed 1.2 percent higher in a week that was marked by two successive record highs for the benchmark.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech and easing wholesale inflation boosted sentiment earlier in the week. Buying of Indian equities by foreign investors and a slide in Brent crude prices to near 14-months lows also helped.

Foreign portfolio investors have poured $12.2 billion in Indian shares this year on hopes the new BJP-led government and the Reserve Bank will revive flagging growth and lower deficit.

First pictures of Taj Mahal to ‘Hairy family of Burma’: subcontinent photos from 1850-1910

A new exhibition in India’s capital showcases some of the earliest photographs from South Asia, taken between 1850 and 1910 when the region was under British rule.

Around 250 images from India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Nepal are on display at the “Drawn from Light: Early Photography and the Indian Sub-continent” exhibition in New Delhi.

Dr. John Murray’s images of the Taj Mahal are recognized as the first-ever photographs of the monument. The surgeon, who was employed with the East India Company, took the pictures between 1858 and 1862.

Movie review: ‘Katiyabaaz’ transforms banal reality into gripping tale

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

In one of the many tragicomic moments in “Katiyabaaz” (Powerless), a woman earnestly remembers her gods in the darkness, mumbling something that roughly translates to “Dear Almighty, please bring back the light”. ‘Light’ here means electricity.

katiyaaHer prayer sounds absurd but her misery is real. As a resident of Kanpur, the invocation is probably made after several hours without electricity or even clean water in the sweltering and often lethal heat of a north Indian summer.

The award-winning documentary by Fahad Mustafa and Deepti Kakkar takes a compelling look at the problem of chronic power outages that the industrial city of Kanpur has suffered for decades. The film-makers focus their lens on Loha Singh and Ritu Maheshwari, two unusual but highly engaging heroes.

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