India Insight

Comic books try new ways to keep Indian readers hooked

For 11-year-old Jahanabi Prasad, it’s a busier month than usual. After eight hours at school, she returns home for a quick lunch before attending classes for her annual exams a few weeks away. Still, she always finds time to read her favourite comic book series.

“I like Tinkle … Its characters are funny. And the stories are nice. Unlike regular books, it is colourful too, easy to understand,” said Prasad, a resident of Noida, a suburb east of Delhi.

Some 600 kilometres to the south in the tourist city of Udaipur, 12-year-old Bhaskar Sinha buys comic books every two weeks. His favourite character is Shikari Shambu — a bumbling, faint-hearted jungle explorer who ends up trapping animals on the loose and saving people’s lives by accident.

Chacha Chaudhary and Sabu are also the best,” said Sinha, referring to the old man whose brain is said to run faster than a computer, and his giant-sized companion from the planet Jupiter. Both popular characters were created by cartoonist Pran Kumar Sharma.

Prasad and Sinha are among a new generation of comic book fans that gives some hope to India’s comic book publishers who are trying to keep their readers despite the lure of satellite television and the Internet.

Ashutosh gears up for Chandni Chowk race; talks about ‘biased’ media

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

Aam Aadmi Party’s Ashutosh might have been a TV news host, but now he talks like an experienced politician. “I am enjoying” being on the other side of the microphone, the former managing editor of Hindi news channel IBN7 told India Insight during an interview in which he discussed his decision to stand for Parliament.

It probably won’t be easy. He is taking on Kapil Sibal, a Congress party veteran and influential government minister. Sibal, a two-time member of the Lok Sabha from central Delhi’s Chandni Chowk constituency, has a knack for landing in controversies. From trying to police social media to trashing a popular upsurge against corrupt politicians in 2011, he often has become a target of public wrath.

Ashutosh, who goes by a single name, said the media is being manipulated by political parties and corporations to make sure that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi wins the prime minister’s race in May. Regarding his own former media company Network18, which accepted a large investment from Reliance Industries in 2012 in a complex deal, he had little to say. Nevertheless, he shared his thoughts on how he sees the media now that he is on the other side of the camera. Here are edited excerpts from the interview.

Using cloud computing to solve Bangalore’s garbage problem

Bangalore’s garbage problem stems from its two-decade transformation into India’s technology capital, so it seems appropriate that a new plan to clean up the mess is coming from an executive at one of the city’s technology companies.

Prashant Mehra has developed a cloud-based technology network, now being tested privately, that he hopes will make garbage disposal and recycling more efficient, provide better working conditions for people who collect and separate the garbage, and lead to city streets that don’t double as dumps.

“Bangalore generates about 6,000 tonnes of solid waste every day of which 15 percent to 20 percent is dry and recyclable,” said Prashant Mehra, who has the unusual designation of ‘Chief Architect of Social Inclusion’ at Mindtree, an information technology services company based in Bangalore and New Jersey.

Book Talk: Rana Dasgupta on a ‘vastly under-imagined Delhi’

Rana Dasgupta’s first non-fiction book is an investigation into what makes Delhi a city of unequal transformation, salted with ambition, aggression and misogyny. “Capital: A Portrait of Twenty-First Century Delhi” takes its shape from an “outsider’s” anxiety about not being able to understand a city that is primarily the by-product of refugees from India’s partition in 1947.

Dasgupta, 42, was born and raised in England, and belongs to a family of migrants whose roots are in the Lahore of British India, now Pakistan. In 2000, he flew to Delhi after quitting a marketing job in New York and fell “into one of the great churns of the age”.

The book, more than 400 pages long, documents personal lives of people from different socio-economic backgrounds, especially the “flourishing bourgeoisie” of Delhi, beginning about a decade after India liberalized its economy in 1991.

Car wraps lend colour to India’s drab auto business

Rohit Gulati always wanted to buy a car that would have enough space for all eight members of his family. But with his limited savings, he didn’t see that happening for some years.

In August, the 34-year-old Café Coffee Day supply chain executive, spotted a newspaper advertisement about a new car financing program. Four months later, Gulati was ferrying his family across New Delhi in a new Maruti Eeco.

EMI Free Car, the financing firm that helped Gulati, builds on the get-paid-to-drive concept in which owners are paid money to put up advertisements on their cars.

Movie Review: Highway

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

In an interview last year, Imtiaz Ali said he didn’t have a script when he set out to make “Highway”. All he had was a one-line draft and he wrote the film during the shoot.

The journey should influence you, he said, adding that is what should drive the film — not a pre-written script. This rather unusual method of filmmaking seems to have yielded unexpected results.

What you get is a complete departure from Ali’s usual fare — a film that is as  pristine as some of the locations it is shot in; almost meditative in parts and wonderfully understated.

from The Human Impact:

Ending the beatings, rapes, murders: Where are India’s men?

Violence against women is widespread across the world. Globally, 35 percent of women have been beaten by an ‘intimate partner’ or suffered sexual violence at the hands of a non-partner in their lifetime, the World Health Organisation says.

The same research suggests that almost one third of women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of their partner, and that some 38 percent of all murders of women are committed by their husband or boyfriend.

In India, the situation is little better. The International Centre for Research on Women reports that 37 percent of men surveyed admit to inflicting violence on their intimate partner.

Movie Review: Gunday

(The views expressed here do not represent those of Thomson Reuters)

Ali Abbas Zafar’s “Gunday” is a film set in the 1970’s and 80’s, amid the grime of the coal mafia. It is supposed to be a gritty film about two friends and their undying bond, which is broken when a girl enters their lives.

“Gunday” is a throwback to the cinema of the 70’s and 80’s when the wronged hero was still virtuous; the heroine was seductive but still coy; and the system was something you had to fight against to get what was rightfully yours. Director Zafar gives us a more polished version of those films.

Bikram (Ranveer Singh) and Bala (Arjun Kapoor) are friends who escape from Dhaka in the aftermath of the 1971 Bangladesh war and find themselves orphaned and homeless in Kolkata. They quickly discover there is money to be made in wagon-breaking — robbing coal from trains and selling it at subsidized prices in the market.

A Minute With: Ali Abbas Zafar on ‘Gunday’

Film-maker Ali Abbas Zafar made his Bollywood debut in 2011 with “Mere Brother Ki Dulhan”, a romantic comedy that was among the biggest hits that year.

For his second film as director, Zafar has switched genres to make what promises to be a dark and gritty 1970’s period film set in Kolkata about a pair of coal bandits and a cabaret dancer.

Gunday”, which opens in cinemas on Valentine’s Day, stars Ranveer Singh, Arjun Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra in the lead roles. Zafar spoke to Reuters about the movie and the challenges of filming a period thriller.

Railway Budget 2014: Highlights at a glance

Railways Minister Mallikarjun Kharge left train fares and freight rates unchanged on Wednesday, in an interim rail budget ahead of a national election due by May.

It wasn’t really a surprise. In 2012, Dinesh Trivedi was forced to resign as railways minister after his decision to raise passenger fares for the first time in eight years prompted a furious response from his own party — the Trinamool Congress — that was part of the Congress-led coalition government at the time.

The government did raise fares last year, this time with a Congressman at the helm of affairs, as a cash-strapped railways ministry tried to raise money to pay its employees.

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