India Insight

Need good roles but need money too: Manoj Bajpayee

In a career spanning nearly 20 years, actor Manoj Bajpayee has oscillated between brilliant and mediocre performances, winning acting honours while also getting brickbats for his poor choice of movie roles.

Bajpayee, whose performance in “Gangs of Wasseypur” (2012) and “Special 26” this year won him critical acclaim, plays the villain in Prakash Jha’s “Satyagraha”. The Bollywood film opened in cinemas on Friday.

The 44-year-old actor spoke to Reuters about how he nearly wrecked his movie career, the time when he had no work and why he is no longer content with just good roles.

Q: You’ve worked with Prakash Jha in several films, but most of them have been rather negative roles. Does he see the negative side of you?
A: This question surprises me. We think that the character standing opposite the hero is negative. But that is not true. I have never gone to receive awards where I was in the villain’s category. Just because my character was opposite Ranbir Kapoor in “Raajneeti”, doesn’t put him in the negative category. It is defined that all brothers are fighting for their rights, but it is never defined who is wrong or right. “Aarakshan” was different. It was completely negative because he is using education as a way to make money. There is no morality there, whereas my character in “Raajneeti” had loads of morality. My character in “Satyagraha” is in every sense a villain. Everything that is wrong about a person, is there in him. He is cunning, he is shrewd. He doesn’t have good intentions. In “Satyagraha”, he (Jha) has given me a negative character and yes, I have taken it up, for my association with him for the last three films.

Q: Do you do roles because of your association with certain filmmakers or because of the merit of the role itself?
A: I have done “Shootout at Wadala” and “Chakravyuh” and this. No more.

Pricey dollar puts South Africa, Australia on Indian tourists’ maps

When Aparupa Ganguly visited South Africa in 2007, the country’s topography and wildlife made such an impression on the communications professional that she couldn’t wait to come back. Ganguly got her wish six years later – thanks to a stable rand.

Foreign-bound Indian travellers such as Ganguly are realizing that holidaying in countries such as South Africa and Australia offers value for money as their currencies have been largely stable in recent weeks and haven’t appreciated as much against the rupee, when compared to the dollar or the euro.

Data shows the South African rand and the Australian dollar have gained around 10 percent since May, compared to a near 30 percent surge in the U.S. dollar which hit a record high above 68 per rupee on Wednesday.

India’s parliament gets its groove back, at least for now

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

India’s notoriously disruptive parliament has been going through a productive phase in the past two days. Bills are getting passed, politicians are discussing the state of the economy and for a change, members are listening to each other as they deliver well-researched speeches.

For a house with one of the poorest records of accomplishments in Indian history, the last two days were downright atypical.

On Monday, parliament debated a $20 billion plan for nine hours to provide cheap food to two thirds of the population. For a change, the government got the main opposition party on board by incorporating some of the changes that its opponents proposed.

Piecing together the ‘Great Tamasha’ of Indian cricket

The Great Tamasha” is a book about cricket, but it is also a tale about the rapid rise of modern India and the corruption that plagues it. A series of scandals in the Indian Premier League (IPL), the glitzy Twenty20 tournament run by the country’s cricket board, got James Astill hooked to the game in India. What followed was the 40-year-old journalist’s first book – an account of India’s rich cricketing tradition, politics, religion and the emergence of the cash-rich IPL.

Astill takes the reader from the slums of Mumbai to a village in north India, places where cricket is as much tamasha (spectacle) as it is religion. Bollywood stars, business tycoons and cricketers, both past and present, feature in “The Great Tamasha”. So does Lalit Modi, a former IPL chairman, now an outcast in India’s cricketing circles.

Astill spoke to India Insight about his book, cricket and its celebrity culture. Here are edited excerpts.

Bharti Airtel, NTPC top Sensex losers this week

By Sankalp Phartiyal and Ankush Arora

The BSE Sensex recovered on Thursday and Friday after the index lost around 700 points in the first three trading sessions of the week. However, the index still ended down 0.4 percent as a weak rupee, concerns over foreign flows and uncertainty over the end of the U.S. Fed’s stimulus plan kept investors on the edge.

As a worsening current account deficit and inflation loomed large, the rupee hit fresh record lows below 65 per dollar in the week ending Aug. 23. However, gold prices and bonds rallied.

Fitch Ratings has warned Asia’s third-largest economy of a downgrade if the government fails to soothe tensions in the financial market. JP Morgan and HSBC downgraded Indian shares to ‘neutral’.

Reactions on Twitter to the Mumbai gang rape

A photographer in her early 20s was gang-raped by five men in India’s financial capital Mumbai on Thursday, evoking comparisons with a similar incident in Delhi in December that led to nationwide protests.

Here is a compilation of politicians and other celebrities reacting on Twitter:

Amitabh Bachchan, actor: Appalled and most disgusted with the recent rape of a young photo journalist in the heart of city .. day time .. shocked !!

Nirmala Sitharaman, BJP politician: Despicable! We are shamed! How long & God forbid, how many more before the criminals are punished? Wake up, India!

Not so safe in Mumbai any more

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

When the Delhi gang rape made headlines last December, most Mumbai residents thought such a thing could never happen in their city.

A girl raped during daylight hours in a public place in a posh area? Nah! Not possible in Mumbai. This is a city where women can walk the streets alone at night and not feel threatened.

It all changed on Thursday. A photojournalist in her early 20s was gang-raped by five men at around 6 p.m., while on assignment with a male colleague. Her friend was tied up while the men took turns raping her, media reports quoting the police said.

Photographer gang-raped in Mumbai

A 22-year-old photographer was gang-raped by five men in India’s financial capital Mumbai on Thursday, evoking comparisons with a similar incident in Delhi in December that led to nationwide protests.

The incident took place near the posh Lower Parel area when the woman, a photojournalist with a magazine, was out on assignment. She was accompanied by a male colleague, media reports said.

A case has been registered at Mumbai’s N.M. Joshi Marg police station.

“An FIR has been registered … nobody has been arrested so far,” a head constable at the police station told India Insight. He gave no details.

from India Masala:

Bachchan upset over fake video that shows him praising Modi

Amitabh Bachchan has threatened legal action over a YouTube video that apparently shows the Bollywood actor championing Narendra Modi as India's next prime minister.

Bachchan described the online video as "fake" on Wednesday and expressed outrage on his Twitter and Facebook accounts.

The 70-year-old actor said the video featured footage from a 2007 'Lead India' newspaper campaign but added visuals to suggest he was promoting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader.

India’s TV import duty taxes travellers… and grey markets

India on Monday imposed a 36 percent duty on flat-screen televisions that travellers bring back from other countries, seen as another step to support a falling rupee. The move, however, will do little to help the economy but will cheer television manufacturers in India and hit grey markets, experts said.

India has taken various measures in recent months to deter the import of commodities such as gold as Asia’s third-largest economy tries to tamp down its current account deficit and a weak rupee that touched record lows below 65 per dollar this week.

The duty will not have significant effect on the rupee or on the current account deficit, which is estimated at 3.7 percent of the gross domestic product this year. With only seven months’ worth of foreign exchange reserves, India is taking a number of measures to narrow the gap between its imports and exports, though trying to discourage television purchases in foreign currency might not do much more than set an example.

  •