India Insight

Movie Review: Bhoothnath Returns

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

The one thing to be said for Nitesh Tiwari’s “Bhoothnath Returns” is that it has impeccable timing. At a time when India is caught up in election fever, and every TV news channel is celebrating “the dance of democracy”, the film delivers the same message, albeit with a higher budget and a stronger medium than public service advertisements.s

Combining a children’s film with a sermon on the importance of voting couldn’t have been easy, and at times, the film falters. Yet, you cannot help but warm up to the characters and the rather uneven storyline, thanks to the generous dose of honesty that director Tiwari brings to the table.

Amitabh Bachchan reprises his role as Bhoothnath, an amiable ghost in the land of spectres, depicted in the film as an idyllic European village with meadows and towering castles. Ridiculed because he couldn’t spook earthlings in the first film, Bhoothnath is sent back to scare a few kids, so that he can fulfil his ghostly duties.

Once on Earth, however, Bhoothnath forgets his original mission, thanks to his encounter with Akhrot, a wisecracking urchin in Mumbai’s biggest slum, and the everyday hardships of the poor in Indian cities. Akhrot convinces Bhoothnath that the best way to make use of his supernatural powers is to contest elections against the local builder-cum-politician-cum-gangster, Bhausaheb (Boman Irani), who has prospered for long, did nothing for his constituents and is the stereotype of a typical Indian politician.

The concept of a ghost contesting elections might seem far-fetched, but thanks to the crackling chemistry between Parth Bhalerao (who plays Akhrot) and Bachchan, the plot seems to work. Sanjay Mishra, who plays the friendly neighbourhood lawyer, also adds to the great cast and scenes featuring the trio are among the film’s best.

Young professionals in Bangalore favour Modi’s promise, shrug off riots

As far as Vinod Hegde is concerned, Indian prime minister candidate Narendra Modi bears no responsibility for the 2002 Gujarat riots. More to the point, Hegde doesn’t care.

Hegde, a 26-year-old stockbroker in Bangalore, said that for people like him, the Gujarat chief minister is the only choice to lead India after countrywide parliamentary elections that began this week.

Allegations that Modi failed to stop or even allowed deadly riots in 2002 don’t sway his vote, Hegde said. And if the ruling Congress party’s candidate is Rahul Gandhi, the choice becomes even clearer.

New book describes crimes against civilians during Mizo uprising

The two-decade-long Mizo rebellion from 1966 to 1986 remains the only conflict in which the Indian government used war planes against its citizens. Few written records exist on the conflict in which the Mizo National Front (MNF) revolted against the government, trying to establish an independent country.

A new book by a former militant in the Mizo National Army (MNA), the armed wing of the MNF, recounts the air bombings and the government’s “grouping” policy, under which villages in what is now Mizoram state were burned and civilians relocated to guarded centres called Protected and Progressive Villages.

“Untold Atrocity” by C. Zama deals with incidents in which civilians suffered or were allegedly killed by security forces. The book also assumes significance today because the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which allowed security forces an almost free hand in arresting or shooting anyone during the insurgency, is still enforced in Jammu and Kashmir and some areas of India’s northeast.

Bandhan eyes India’s banking league with RBI licence

Kolkata-based Bandhan Financial was little known in India’s corporate arena. But a new banking licence from the Reserve Bank has given Managing Director Chandra Shekhar Ghosh and his 13,000 employees a reason to cheer.

“This is a different type of win. In the last 13 years they (employees) have been working hard and now they have got the recognition,” said Ghosh. “I hope that this is not a big challenge, the challenge is to develop the skills of the staff, it will take some time.”

The Reserve Bank of India on Wednesday granted provisional bank licences to Bandhan and infrastructure lender IDFC, preferring them over bigger corporate applicants and paving the way for new banks in India after a decade.

Facts and figures for India’s 2014 general election

Voting in the 2014 election begins on April 7. More than 814 million people — a number larger than the population of Europe — will be eligible to vote in the world’s biggest democratic exercise.

Voting will be held in 10 stages, which will be staggered until May 12, and results are due to be announced on May 16. Elections to state assemblies in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim will be held simultaneously.

Around 930,000 polling stations will be set up for the month-long election using electronic voting machines, first introduced in 2004.

Movie Review: Main Tera Hero

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

When you think about it, David Dhawan’s latest comedy is more tragic than comic. In almost every frame of “Main Tera Hero”, you see glimpses of a film-maker desperately trying to restore his former glory by using the same gags in a newer, more polished setting — and failing miserably.

When Dhawan hit box-office gold in the 1990’s, the humour in his films was often crude and irreverent. His most successful leading man, Govinda, often played a flashy, street-smart but pudgy hero.

In “Main Tera Hero”, Dhawan’s leading man — his son Varun — has a perfectly sculpted body (which he is not averse to showing off; even the film’s credits show him flexing muscles and working out) and there are holier-than-thou lectures on how men should stop objectifying women.

Post-release marketing helps ‘Queen’ rule box office

Vikas Bahl’s film wasn’t supposed to make so much money. “Queen,” made on a meagre budget of 170 million rupees ($2.8 million) without the trappings of a big-ticket Bollywood movie, was initially slotted as a niche film that would hardly threaten Indian box-office records.

“Queen” didn’t have a leading male star, a key ingredient in the recipe for box-office success. It also had an unusual storyline, about an Indian woman who is jilted at the altar and goes on a solo trip to Paris and Amsterdam.

Bollywood audiences have traditionally shunned women-oriented films. And “Queen,” released on the eve of International Women’s Day, had a dismal first day, earning 15 million rupees ($250,000) in domestic box-office receipts.

Revised India tax code proposal targets foreign companies, wealthy people

Companies with as little as 20 percent of their global assets in India could find themselves facing tax bills in deals involving their domestic units under changes to the tax code that the government proposed on Tuesday.

The government’s Direct Taxes Code 2013 recommended the change along with a new income tax bracket that would require rich people to pay higher taxes.

A previous recommendation in 2010 said that indirect transfers should be taxed in India if the companies involved have at least 50 percent of their assets located in the country.

Dharavi’s once-booming leather industry losing its edge

A busy street in Asia’s largest slum Dharavi leads to a quiet lane where Anita Leathers operates its colouring unit. As children play near shops that sell everything from mobile phones and garments to raw meat and sweets, the mood at the leather unit is sombre.

The leather business is one of the biggest contributors to the Mumbai slum’s informal economy, estimated to have an annual turnover of more than $500 million. About 15,000 small-scale industries, spread over an area of 500 acres, deal in businesses such as pottery, plastic recycling and garment manufacturing.

But the leather trade has been hit hard by increasing competition, an influx of cheap Chinese goods, rising raw material costs and labour shortages in recent years, leading to a decline in demand and dimming prospects of the once-flourishing business.

Colour is India’s over-hyped commodity, fashion designer Rahul Mishra says

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

Rahul Mishra is the man of the moment in fashion. He just brought home the international Woolmark Prize, the most coveted prize in the fashion world, and one that has gone to some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Karl Lagerfeld.

Mishra, who made his debut at the Lakme Fashion Week in 2006, has created a new kind of fibre from Merino wool that can be worn in the summer. Mishra’s fashions will be on sale at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, Harvey Nichols in London, 10 Corso Como in Milan, Colette in Paris and elsewhere.

Mishra spoke to Reuters on day three of the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week in New Delhi. Here are excerpts from the interview.

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