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(Disclaimer: This cartoon does not mean to mock religious sensibilities; it questions the use of Bollywood dance numbers during a religious festival)

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

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Movie Review: Mary Kom

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

At a crucial point in Omung Kumar’s biopic of MC Mary Kom, the boxer’s husband urges her to get back to the sport after giving birth to their twin sons. He eggs her on to train while he handles household responsibilities and in one scene, tells his wife to have a glass of milk to gain strength. Mary Kom stops him right there and says, “Don’t add any sugar, I am going to use Sugar Free.”

A still from "Mary Kom"Immediately, any empathy you were feeling for this character and her struggle is lost. Kumar’s retelling of one of India’s sports success stories is replete with such examples. Not only do they take away from the story’s authenticity, but also cheapen Mary Kom’s real-life struggle, reducing it to a hackneyed Bollywood script.

Mary Kom’s story starts from the time she’s an angry teenage schoolgirl picking fights with her classmates. She stumbles upon a boxing coaching centre and a coach who trains her. Kumar chronicles her rise on the boxing circuit, her love story with football coach Onler (played by Darshan Kumar), and her return to the ring after the birth of her twin sons.

Darshan Kumar says he is the hero of ‘Mary Kom’

darshanbhaiEven though he is not playing the lead in Mary Kom“, debutant actor Darshan Kumar calls himself the hero of the film.

Kumar plays Onler Kom, the on-screen husband of India’s best known female Olympic medallist – portrayed by Priyanka Chopra – and is on the lookout for “meaty” roles.

Conscious about whether his hair was in place and regretting that he didn’t put on some make-up, Kumar met me at a Gurgaon hotel to talk about Chopra and the film.

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.

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.

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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.

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