India Insight

Movie Review: Shahid

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

The best thing about Hansal Mehta’s “Shahid” is that the filmmaker tries to tell a fascinating story. In a way, it is the story of the city of Mumbai — beginning with the riots that followed the 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, and leading up to the attack on Mumbai that killed 166 people in 2008.

These events are depicted through the real-life story of Shahid Azmi, a teenager who gets caught up in the Mumbai riots, and a few months later, finds himself in Pakistan at a training camp for militants. A disillusioned Azmi returns to India but is tortured and imprisoned under the country’s anti-terror laws.

Azmi completes his schooling in jail, and after his release, studies law to help defend those he believes were wrongly accused and jailed on charges of terrorism.

Azmi, who was from a poor family that lived in a slum for a while, got as many as 17 people acquitted before he was shot dead in his office in the suburbs in 2010, while he was handling the case of a defendant in the Mumbai attacks.

Given the source material Mehta has, this is a film that promises to be gripping, and thankfully, the director doesn’t over-dramatize events. He uses a restrained, subtle narrative to tell the audiences Shahid’s story, rarely judging his motives or intentions. Mehta touches all aspects of Shahid’s life — his strained marriage, his relationship with his mother and brothers — never lingering for longer than necessary, and giving us a glimpse into a world not many of us are exposed to.

Liquor retailers toast online model in India

When Dhruv Khandelwal started working as an equity research analyst after finishing his MBA in the United States, he wanted to start an Indian financial services website. That changed when Khandelwal and his friends ran out of beer on a Sunday afternoon.

Letsbuydrink.com, a website launched by Khandelwal six months ago, offers imported alcoholic beverages for sale in India. The website has 2,000 registered members and averages monthly sales of 150,000 rupees ($2,460).

“It’s just a point of convenience for (customers) and that’s the target market,” said 29-year-old Khandelwal. “This is an industry where you need to build a brand image and you have to build confidence.”

Movie Review: Boss

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

There are some movies that are worth your time and money and the effort of writing about them. And then there are movies like “Boss.”

Anthony D’Souza and his team have obviously put in minimal effort in making this film and they don’t expect audiences to exercise their brains either. Juvenile jokes abound and slow-motion shots of Akshay Kumar running and slamming the villain’s head into the ground make up about half the film.

Kumar is the “Boss” in this hare-brained film, a gangster who only beats up people to the beats of loud music and with nubile dancers dancing. He’s estranged from his upright father (Mithun Chakraborty) who thinks his eldest son is guilty of a horrendous crime. This doesn’t stop the father from using muscle power when a powerful politician and police officer threaten his other son. Talk about double standards.

Interview: Modi’s bubble will burst before 2014 elections – Kapil Sibal

By John Chalmers and Devidutta Tripathy

(This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

Telecommunications and Law Minister Kapil Sibal, a senior Congress party leader, spoke to Reuters in an interview at his office in New Delhi. Here are edited excerpts:

What do you think of the impressive rise of Narendra Modi?
I don’t know about both the qualitative expression ‘impressive’ and the word ‘rise’. Because normally, the law of nature is that he who rises falls. And the quicker he rises, the quicker he falls. So, I don’t know how the laws of nature are going to work as far as Narendra Modi is concerned. I do believe that a lot of this, a lot of this, is hype and it’s based on a private army being employed by Narendra Modi to disturb the cyberspace in his favour. And we’ll see if he moves forward at all or not. Because at some time or the other, as you know all bubbles burst, that’s again the law of nature. This bubble too will burst.

Do you think it would burst before the elections?
Oh, I’m sure it will. Because bubbles can’t last this long.

Photo gallery: A walk through Mayawati’s Dalit park

On a hot Tuesday afternoon, I walked into the recently reopened Dalit park in Noida, outside New Delhi. This is the park built by Mayawati, the 57-year-old former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, as a memorial to the class of people long known in India as “untouchables.” A Dalit herself, Mayawati is a symbol of what traditionally oppressed classes and castes in India can do with their lives.

Of course, Mayawati has been accused by her political opponents of wasting money — lots of it. She seems like an easy target, especially when she has commissioned statues of herself. For a senior Congress politician, erecting one’s own statue was an act of ‘megalomania’. But the symbolism that this structure seeks to attach itself with — asserting Dalit identity and acknowledging “sacrifices” made by people of backward classes — is hard to miss.

The high central chamber of the Dalit park, which is a short drive into Uttar Pradesh from Delhi, draws heavily on Buddhist architecture. It houses statues of B. R. Ambedkar, who helped draft India’s Constitution; Kanshi Ram, founder of the Bahujan Samaj Party that Mayawati now heads; and the former chief minister herself with her ubiquitous handbag, an uncommon thing for a living politician to do.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

From Mogadishu to Mumbai, managing urban conflict

At first glance it is an unlikely comparison – the 2008 attack on Mumbai by Pakistan-based gunmen and the disastrous 1993 operation by U.S. troops against a Somali warlord in Mogadishu.

But David Kilcullen, a former adviser on counterinsurgency in the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, compares the fighting in the two cities in often unexpected ways in his new book “Out of the Mountains” to convince people to think more about urban conflict.

In the case of Mumbai, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group behind the attack turned the city to its advantage. It spent months getting to know its layout and dynamics, with Pakistani-American David Headley carrying out detailed reconnaissance. The 10 gunmen who snuck in by sea from Karachi and went on to kill 166 people were able to hide among the many boats plying smuggling routes. They landed in Mumbai’s coastal slums where nobody thought to report them to the police. “They didn’t get in there secretly; it is just that people thought they were smugglers,” says Kilcullen.

Markets this week: Sensex gains 3 percent, Tata Motors surges 10 percent

The BSE Sensex rose 3 percent during the week, ending in the green for four of the five trading sessions. Improved guidance from Infosys, hopes of a U.S. deal to avoid a default on its debt and the RBI’s decision to cut a key overnight interest rate helped sentiment.

Data released on Thursday showed India’s trade deficit narrowed to a two-and-a-half-year low in September, raising hopes for a significant reduction in the country’s current account deficit.

The rupee ended at 61.07/08 per dollar, helped by good dollar sales by corporates and as emerging currencies rose with risk sentiment improving.

Interview: Srinivasan Narayanan on the Mumbai Film Festival

The Mumbai Film Festival has the parts that its organisers need to make the show a big deal on the international film circuit: appearances by world-class directors such as Costa-Gavras and Oliver Stone, screenings of films like “The Social Network” and “The Fifth Estate,” and the backdrop of a city that is home to the world’s largest movie production business. And yet, it isn’t enough. Festival director Srinivasan Narayanan spoke to Reuters about his roadmap for the festival and the hurdles in his path.

What is your ambition for the Mumbai Film Festival?
I want the festival to take shape in such a way that it emerges as one of the best festivals – getting the best films and the important celebrities to participate…

Any international festival that you are looking to emulate?
Why do people want to go to Berlin and Cannes and Toronto? The minute we demonstrate an ability to put films under a global film festival, only then can we aspire to be a global film festival. Right now, I am trying to give some sort of national promotion to film-makers and films, and even that is proving to be a daunting task because there is limited coverage in India in the electronic and print media, because most of the media in India is, well, commercial. In the sense, paid news. And as of now, the festival doesn’t have the kind of financial muscle to do that kind of promotion.

Stamp collecting stages quiet comeback in India’s digital era

Rajjesh Mittal spends 20 minutes each morning placing bids for postage stamps on eBay. The IT entrepreneur began flirting with philately, or stamp collecting, two years ago, and has become such an ardent collector that he wants to demonstrate his love for postage by getting a tattoo of independent India’s first commemorative postmark.

Mittal is part of a generation of urban, educated Indians celebrating all things postal in the age of e-mail and Twitter. Though numbers are hard to come by, philately appears to be staging a revival in India, with estimates ranging from 25,000 to over 100,000 active collectors. Like Mittal, working professionals are taking up the hobby, joining stamp-collecting clubs and fostering friendships with enthusiasts from all walks of life.

“I want to have fun with philately,” says Mittal, 41, who helped found the Philatelic Society of Delhi and is working on three books on the hobby. “My wife hates it. The money which I spend, I have to give her equivalent money … It’s another thing I don’t give her the exact numbers.”

Raj Kumar to play real-life lawyer after ‘Kai Po Che’ success

When Raj Kumar signed on for his first Bollywood acting role, the director asked him to lose weight. Kumar was fresh out of film school and determined to make it big, so he started running. And he’s been running for an hour each day since, come rain or shine, even on the notoriously congested roads of Mumbai.

Since his 2010 debut in Dibakar Banerjee’s Love, Sex aur Dhokha, Kumar has worked with some of India’s best known filmmakers but it was his turn as the quiet and industrious sports goods entrepreneur in Kai Po Che this year that got him noticed.

The 29-year-old actor’s next release sees him play the real-life role of lawyer and human rights activist Shahid Azmi who was shot dead in Mumbai in 2010. Azmi had spent a few years in prison under India’s anti-terror laws before studying law to help defend those he said were wrongly accused and jailed on charges of terrorism.

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