India Insight

His name is Khan and he is misunderstood

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

When Bollywood heart-throb Shah Rukh Khan shared his views on religious stereotypes in an article in Outlook Turning Points magazine, it turned heads as the editors likely expected. Some media outlets criticized Khan, saying he sought “refuge in Muslim victimhood.”

Hafez Saeed, founder of Pakistan’s banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and a suspect in the Nov. 26, 2008 attack on Mumbai that killed 166 people, said Khan should move to Pakistan if he feels unsafe in his country.

Khan’s column in fact is a frank account of what it’s like to be the subject of stereotypes in a country you love, but that doesn’t always love you.

“Stereotyping and contextualising is the way of the world we live in: a world in which definition has become central to security,” wrote Khan, who has a Hindu wife, and practises the rituals of both religions. “We take comfort in defining phenomena, objects and people — with a limited amount of knowledge and along known parameters.”

It’s all in the family: India’s love for dynasties

Rahul Gandhi is now vice president of the Congress party. Anyone who has been following Indian politics will know that this was inevitable. Despite royal titles having been abolished, Indians can’t seem to give up on the idea of dynastic rule.

Whether it’s politics, business, or even Bollywood, Indians seem to have trust issues with anyone who is not their offspring, preferring to hand over the reins to their sons and daughters, irrespective of whether they might be deserving or not. The desire to make it merely on the basis of family name is reflected in a commonly heard boast at parties or dinner conversation: “Do you know who my father is?”

The Nehru-Gandhi family is of course the most prominent political dynasty in the country with four generations of the family having ruled the country, but they are not the only ones. There are several dynasties across party lines all over the country. Here are some of them:

from India Masala:

Bollywood and sex education

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

A couple of weeks ago, I watched a Marathi film called "Balak Palak" (Children and Parents). A new crop of film-makers is portraying the burgeoning Indian middle class with its own set of problems and "Balak Palak" is no different.

Director Ravi Jadhav chronicles the lives of four school students and their first encounter with adult literature and how it alters their friendship. In the background is middle-class morality, which prevents parents from talking openly about the birds and the bees with their children, considers any such talk "dirty" but is clueless about dealing with their curiosity.

Responsibility or censorship: why Bollywood should pick

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters Corp.)

The mother and father of the 23-year-old Delhi gang-rape victim were cremating their daughter’s body around the same time I discovered Honey Singh, now lately known for his notorious song, “Ch**t,” or “Cu*t.” The song revolves around the singer’s vision of satisfying a woman’s lust, followed by beating her with a shoe and then moving on to other things.

While India convulses over its people’s shameful treatment of women, its inadequate rape laws and questions about how to change an entire society, Singh’s star has been rising in Bollywood. The industry apparently likes what it hears.

Banning Bollywood item numbers is no solution

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

The gang rape and death of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi last month has made many Indians take a hard look at how they behave as a society.

What is the Bollywood film industry’s role in creating or perpetuating that behaviour, particularly the callous treatment of women at the hands of men? Some argue that the film industry’s portrayal of women is derogatory, particularly in “item numbers” — songs with sexual overtones in movies, often inserted with no relevance to the plot.

Kate Middleton topless photos: why it wouldn’t happen in India

People in Europe and the United States are blazing away over the topless photos of Princess Kate, Duchess of Cambridge. So they should. The ingredients in this recipe are:

1 royal
No clothes
Liberal dash of good looks, to taste
1 fancy title (Duchess of Cambridge preferred)
1 husband, must be possible heir to British throne.

In India, you could serve the same dish, but without the spice.

Here’s an example of a hot story: Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai took great pains to shield her daughter Aaradhya, AKA “Beti B” from the shutterbugs. But they found her! And took pictures! Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!

No ‘Dirty Pictures’ please, we are Indian

Indians woke up on Sunday to front page newspaper ads announcing the TV premiere of “The Dirty Picture”, a National-award winning film that was both critically acclaimed and successful at the box-office.

The film, based on the life of soft porn star Silk Smitha, was one of the most popular Bollywood movies of 2011, and its success catapulted lead actress Vidya Balan into the big league.

It was a glaring example of how Indian audiences, torn between traditional values and rapidly Westernising cities, have come to accept films with bolder themes.

Bollywood stars kick up a fuss with real-life rumpus

Pow! Biff! Bang! Dishoom! Real life action by Bollywood celebrities has caught the nation’s eyeballs. Shah Rukh Khan was accused of roughing up Shirish Kunder some days ago and made ripples as he brought the media’s gaze from corruption scams and the election circus to the one thing that never fails to draw attention — a spicy brawl.

Now, Saif Ali Khan diverts attention from Vijay Mallya’s king-size woes for beating up a certain businessman in Mumbai’s Taj hotel. Saif was booked for assault, arrested and later bailed — insisting that he was only defending himself.

Salman Khan has lost his temper on many occasions, and so have many others from Bollywood. Shah Rukh and Salman engaged in a verbal duel some years ago, and it would have ended ugly had Shah Rukh’s wife Gauri and Salman’s then girlfriend Katrina Kaif not intervened.

from Photographers' Blog:

India’s touring cinemas under threat

The sleepy Indian village of Ond comes alive for a week every year when trucks loaded with tents and projectors reach its outskirts. The tents are pitched in open fields, converting the trucks into projection rooms for screening the latest Indian blockbusters to exuberant villagers, who otherwise have few chances to see a film at all.

Photographer Danish Siddiqui travels to these "talkies" to document the decades-old tradition. View the multimedia below for an in-depth look or click here to read the full story.

Travelling Talkies from Vivek Prakash on Vimeo.

from Photographers' Blog:

Come, fall in love

I first encountered the 52-year-old Maratha Mandir movie theater while I was on one of my walks to explore Mumbai. Being new to the city, I do this often. It was just a casual walk down the lanes of the city when I saw a huge billboard promoting a film outside the cinema. The billboard proudly advertised it as the longest-playing film in Indian history.

A cinema goer buys a ticket for Bollywood movie "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" (The Big Hearted Will Take the Bride), starring actor Shah Rukh Khan, inside Maratha Mandir theatre in Mumbai July 11, 2010.   REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

The film "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" (The Big Hearted Will Take the Bride), starring Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, is a simple romantic film shot in Europe and India, where a boy meets a girl and falls in love with her - girl is about to get married in India - boy takes the journey from Europe to India to win her over.

I still remember when the film was released in 1995, it became an instant hit amongst the youth. Fifteen years down the line it’s unthinkable that people still love to watch it and in a cinema to boot!

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