India Insight

Bollywood re-creates life of Indian erotica writer Mastram

A new Bollywood film traces the fictional journey of a real-life writer of erotica whose racy low-cost works in Hindi spurred sales at bookstalls and pavement shops across India in the 1980’s and 90’s.

The identity of the author, who used the pseudonym Mastram, was never revealed, but the film’s director Akhilesh Jaiswal said he remembers sneaking the books in as a teenager, one of millions of adolescents in conservative India with little access to erotica before the Internet made pornography widely available.

Mastram’s works included “Yauvan ki Pehli Baarish” (First Rains of Youth), “Sexy Nurse” and “Manchali Bhabhi” (Salacious Sister-in-law).

“Every time I read the books, I used to wonder who this man was and what on earth he must be telling his kids about what he did to earn a living. Did his family know?” Jaiswal, 28, told India Insight in an interview.

Jaiswal, best known in the Hindi film industry for co-writing the 2012 revenge thriller “Gangs of Wasseypur”, chose Mastram as the subject for his debut film as director.

Markets this week: BHEL, Hindalco top Sensex gainers

By Sankalp Phartiyal and Ankush Arora

Indian shares rose around 2 percent on heavy buying by foreign investors in what was a holiday-truncated week. Foreign investors have been net buyers of cash shares in each of the previous 10 sessions, with net inflows totalling around $600 million, exchange and regulatory data show.

In the currency market, the rupee closed at 61.75 per dollar on Friday after the unit strengthened to its highest in more than a month.

GDP data for the December quarter on Friday showed the Indian economy grew at a slower-than-expected 4.7 percent, dragged down by slowing manufacturing and mining activity.

Real change arrives in small steps for rural India

By Jo Winterbottom

This sepia-toned landscape could have been painted a century ago. A lazy sunset tints bullock carts, women in bright red and turquoise saris thresh rice by hand. Farmers swirl golden staves of corn in the fields.

But for millions of Indians, it is no rural idyll. It is a picture of poverty where farming techniques for many remain unchanged for decades, and the millions of farmers who just have enough land to make a living wouldn’t dare dream of a different future.

In Kushalpura village in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, people have little hope for change in their future. Cheap food and guaranteed temporary jobs that New Delhi offers are little better than a bandage on a big wound. There isn’t any electricity here and there are barely any toilets or latrines.

Movie Review: Shaadi Ke Side Effects

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

Saket Chaudhary seems to be a fan of sitcoms and SMS jokes. He combines the two to put together a script and make “Shaadi Ke Side Effects”, a movie about the modern Indian marriage, where men are trying to escape and women are obsessed with their children.

Chaudhary, who also directed the film’s 2006 prequel “Pyaar Ke Side Effects”, resorts to a heap of clichés and jaded jokes, most of which you have heard before and some which might seem offensive. Sporadically, the film manages to find a funny spot, thanks to Farhan Akhtar’s comic timing, but for the most part, “Shaadi Ke Side Effects” is a series of sitcom episodes strung together to make a full-length movie.

Sid and Trisha are the “yuppie couple” whose marriage is chronicled from their carefree days to their transition to parents and caregivers. Chaudhary chooses to tell the story from the man’s point of view, making Vidya Balan’s character purely ornamental, except towards the end.

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.

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.

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