India Insight

India’s Oscar fight: Batra offers an apology, and some advice

(This post has been updated)

Ritesh Batra, director of the “The Lunchbox,” apologized to the Film Federation of India after accusing the group of corruption because it did not pick his movie as India’s contender for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2013 Academy Awards.

Batra said his intention was to participate in the “vigorous debate” that arose over the selection process for the country’s Oscars entry. His letter to the group came after the federation, which chooses India’s entry for the Academy Awards each year, demanded an “unconditional apology”.

The FFI’s choice of Gyan Correa’s Gujarati-language film “The Good Road” drew heat from the makers of “The Lunchbox”, a film with backing from prominent Indian directors and other producers. The movie screened at the Cannes, Telluride and Toronto film festivals, and was listed by several U.S. publications as an Oscar hopeful.

“I sincerely hope that the annual reactions to our Academy selections from the national press, and this year from even the international press, prompt a new policy for the selection. Sir, please use your good offices to give us a transparent, objective process with a public and not a secret jury,” Batra said in his letter, which his publicist shared with journalists.

Batra, as well as co-producers and directors in their own right Anurag Kashyap and Karan Johar took to Twitter, to complain about the snub. Kashyap deleted his Twitter account after several heated arguments.

Star gets fast and furious with U.S. shows on Indian TV

Star India wants to attract English-speaking audiences with a television channel that syndicates the latest seasons of American TV shows such as the counterterrorism thriller Homeland and the comedy Modern Family.

Several channels broadcast U.S. shows in India, but Star World Premiere HD is the first to broadcast episodes a day or two after they air in the United States.

Broadcast delays mean that sitcoms or dramas often complete their run in the United States before premiering in India. Fans, unwilling to wait for months, frequently download episodes from the Web.

Markets this week: Sensex falls 2.6 percent, Jindal Steel slumps 9 percent

After rising for four consecutive weeks, the BSE Sensex fell 2.6 percent in the last five trading sessions, as a surprise repo rate hike by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Sept. 20 dampened investor confidence and battered banking shares.

Rate-sensitive sectors were hurt — the banking index and the realty index lost over 7 percent in the week. YES Bank fell 14.5 percent, SBI lost 6 percent while shares of DLF slumped 13 percent.

While analysts expected the new RBI chief Raghuram Rajan to hold rates last week, expectations for monetary policy have suddenly shifted towards further tightening after the rate hike, a recent Reuters poll showed.

Social media not a game changer in 2014 elections

By Aditya Kalra and David Lalmalsawma

Political parties in India are relying more on social media ahead of the 2014 election as a way of increasing voter support, even though politicians in general do not expect such efforts to significantly influence election results.

Parties are trying to ride the digital wave by conducting workshops to teach leaders and foot soldiers how to improve engagement on websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The country of 1.2 billion people had around 165 million Internet users as of March, the third-largest in the world, according to data from India’s telecommunications regulator. But the number of social media users is likely to grow to about 80 million by mid-2014, a report released in February said.

Shashi Tharoor on Congress’ social media plans, digital presence of Gandhis

By Aditya Kalra and David Lalmalsawma

Political parties in India are relying more on social media ahead of the 2014 election as a way of increasing voter support, even though politicians in general do not expect such efforts to influence election results.

India Insight interviewed Shashi Tharoor, minister of state for human resources and one of the earliest adopters of Twitter in Indian politics. Here are edited excerpts of the interview:

Can social media be a game changer in the upcoming general election?
I think it can be a game influencer, but I wouldn’t go beyond that at this stage, because what we are discovering is that you need various ways of reaching out to the electorate, and social media happens to offer an additional way, not a substitute for any of the traditional means of campaigning.

Arvind Gupta, BJP IT cell head, on party’s social media plans

By Aditya Kalra and David Lalmalsawma

Political parties in India are relying more on social media ahead of the 2014 election as a way of increasing voter support, even though politicians in general do not expect such efforts to significantly influence election results.

India Insight interviewed Arvind Gupta, head of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s IT division, in July about social media and the party’s plans for the elections. Here are edited excerpts:

Why the recent social media push?
It’s not sudden for us. We have been engaged in social media for the last three to four years. It’s been a consistent effort. I think only in the early part of this year, people started realizing that this could be one of the accelerators. I don’t call it a game changer, but an accelerator in this election.

Gujarati film ‘The Good Road’ is India’s Oscar entry

The Good Road”, a Gujarati-language film, has been chosen as India’s entry to the 2014 Oscars, stealing attention from a critically acclaimed love story that was screened at the Cannes film festival this year.

Gyan Correa’s debut film about two children lost in the Kutch desert won a national award for best Gujarati-language film this year, but was a dark horse among the 22 movies in the running to be India’s official entry to the Oscars in the best foreign film category.

Expectations had been high for Ritesh Batra’s “The Lunchbox”, an Indian-French-German co-production that won the Grand Rail d’Or at Critics’ Week at Cannes in May.

Crowd-funded film ‘Lucia’ depended on the kindness of strangers

When filmmaker Pawan Kumar wrote an anguished blog post about not having enough money to make a movie, he didn’t expect hundreds of strangers to lend him their savings, no questions asked.

Eighteen months after that post — called “Making Enemies” — went viral, Kumar’s Kannada-language feature film “Lucia” opened in Indian cinemas.

The film, a thriller about an insomniac usher in an old theatre, earned 10.6 million rupees (about $170,000) in ticket sales in its first week in cinemas, outperforming its production budget of around 6 million rupees (about $95,000). The film’s television rights were sold for an additional 10 million rupees.

Movie Review: The Lunchbox

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

Even if Ritesh Batra’s “The Lunchbox” had been a film with a weak script, wayward direction and too long to hold your attention, there would be still be a reason to watch the film — Irrfan Khan.

Here is an actor who will mesmerize and transfix you while playing the most unassuming of characters.

Movie Review: Phata Poster Nikhla Hero

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

Rajkumar Santoshi‘s “Phata Poster Nikhla Hero” unapologetically harks back to Bollywood of the 80s. The characters include the upright mother, the loyal son and the air-headed but charming leading lady. Don’t forget the goofy humour, and the good vs evil fight.

As the protagonist Vishwas Rao (Shahid Kapur) tells a character at the end of the film: I have done everything by now – romanced the heroine, danced with the item girl, fought the villain, and helped the police. Santoshi certainly ticked all the boxes, and if he only knew where to stop, he might have ended up with a better-than-average film.

Shahid Kapur plays a small-town boy who harbours dreams of becoming a Bollywood hero. His mother Savitri (Padmini Kolhapure) has different plans. She wants him to become an honest police officer to atone for the sins of her husband, who was everything a police officer shouldn’t be. She sends him to Mumbai to fulfil her dream, but Vishwas is hell-bent on making a career as a Hindi film hero.

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