India Insight

from Photographers' Blog:

Bollywood dreams

Mumbai, India

By Danish Siddiqui

The Hindi film industry or Bollywood can make a star, a household name out of anyone overnight. It can bring instant money, fame and the fan-following of millions from across continents.

Bollywood is an addiction for many that attracts thousands of aspirants to the breeding grounds, the city of Mumbai, everyday. I was keen to look at this other side of the glamour world. The side that entails the struggle to enter the world of aspiring dreamers and their struggles to become a star.

There is no time limit to becoming a nationwide sensation, a star in Bollywood. As one of the aspirants told me it's a gamble you take, forgetting all your worries about the results.

To shoot this story I had to do a lot of research. A lot has been written about these 'strugglers' but they haven't been photographed yet, as ironically, they are camera-shy. Nobody wants to have a record of their struggle because they believe one day when they make it big, these records could be an embarrassment.

During the course of my assignment, I met at least thirty people who had different, amazing stories to tell about their struggles, but they had a common goal - to become a superstar.

Updated: Delhi police helpline: if your stalking case is not urgent, please press 1

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

Citizens First: those are the two words at the top of the Delhi Police department’s website. An alternative could be: “first come, first served.”

I called the stalker line after receiving some text messages and telephone calls that made me feel unsafe. The upshot: a dispatcher routed my call to three police stations, none of which have a record of the complaint. Furthermore, it will take several days to get back to me with the results of any investigation. This is happening when the police are under intense criticism for not doing enough to prevent rape, harassment and assault, not to mention reports of their views on women. This latest incident was not an inspiring episode.

No consensus on sex, violence and censorship in Bollywood

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

Getting directors, producers and activists into a room to figure out Indian cinema’s connection to violence toward women, rape and crudeness in society can be like a family gathering. People shout, get angry and fail to solve fundamental problems because they can’t agree on anything.

The Siri Fort auditorium in New Delhi recently presented the latest forum for the debate. India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting held a six-day festival there to celebrate 100 years of moviemaking, and there was little agreement on how much responsibility Bollywood and the film industry bear for the poor attitude toward women that many people evince. It was perhaps a more pressing discussion than usual, given the name of the three-day workshop, “Cut-Uncut,” which dealt with official censorship in India, the role of sex and violence in movies and the influence of films on society.

Just another rape in India. Are we becoming numb?

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

A grim parlour game sometimes comes to mind when I read the latest story about someone raping a woman or a child in India. Is this the one that’s going to change everything? Is this the one that’s going to keep me up for days contributing to the news media’s coverage? Or is this just another rape?

There is no such thing as “just another rape” for a victim. Beyond the sexual violation, there is the torture. The physiotherapy student who was raped on a bus in New Delhi last December died as the result of injuries sustained by being penetrated with an iron rod. Everybody knows this, and everybody got angry, but anger runs out.

Book lovers in India lap up myths with a makeover

Mriganka Dadwal knows everything about the Ramayana, the ancient Hindu epic that tells the story of warrior-god Rama and the abduction of his wife Sita by the powerful demon king Ravana.

The journalist-turned-entrepreneur says she would love to read the epic from the point of view of the vanquished Ravana. And now she can.

With several mythological tales getting a modern makeover and imaginative retellings crowding bookshelves, Dadwal and millions of urban, educated Indians who prefer to read in English have more choices than ever before.

Samsung Galaxy S4 lands on Bangalore, hundreds get in line

By Sayantani Ghosh and Supantha Mukherjee

“I’m very excited. I’ve been waiting a couple of hours; I couldn’t get any sleep last night,” said Arif, an employee of UK retailer Tesco. He was near the front of the line of hundreds of people to line up at the UB City Mall in Bangalore to buy the new Galaxy S4 smartphone.

The phone went on sale at the Samsung store on Saturday, and Arif waited for about two hours for the privilege of spending 41,500 rupees, or about $763, on the new model, which comes with a 5-inch screen and 13-megapixel camera, and runs on Google’s Android platform.

Samsung is trying to increase its lead over Apple, a possibility for the South Korean company, considering the preference of many Indian shoppers for a good discount over products priced at the top of the line compared to their competitors. Both companies are now handing out discounts on some of their older models. The S4 also is competing with other phones on sale in India such as the HTC One and the BlackBerry Z10, not to mention Apple’s iPhone 5 — its primary rival.

Ponzi scheme in West Bengal flames out, embers linger

Suicides, thousands of duped investors, hundreds of laid-off journalists, bickering politicians, protests slack regulation, one suspected mastermind arrested: it’s Ponzi scheme time in West Bengal, and it looks likely that little will change after the drama ends.

The latest fleecing of poor and middle-class investors brought in an estimated $730 million, according to media reports, though public interest litigation filed in the Calcutta High Court by one lawyer says the amount is as high as Rs. 300 billion. ($5.5 billion) The head of the Saradha Group and accused mastermind of the scheme, Sudipta Sen, was arrested in Kashmir on April 23 after two weeks as a fugitive. He has maintained his innocence, and reportedly threatened suicide, saying he might not be able to repay investors.

Sen started out as a small-time property dealer in the late 1990′s in Kolkata. His Saradha Group in the past decade had interests in real estate, tours groups and newspapers and television stations, and eventually owned nearly 100 companies.

Shamshad Begum: A tribute to a voice long gone

(Hindi translations by Ankush Arora, with help from Havovi Cooper and Uzra Khan. Punjabi translation by Vineet Sharma.)

How do you pay tribute to a singer who faded from public memory, only to revisit the headlines when she died? I was wondering this today after learning that playback singer Shamshad Begum died in Mumbai on Tuesday, just 10 days after her 94th birthday.

I heard her voice for the first time not too long ago: her duet with Lata Mangeshkar in “Mughal-E-Azam” (“Greatest of the Mughals”) – Teri mehfil mein qismat (“My destiny in your court”) — is my favourite song of hers. In this song from the 1960 blockbuster movie, the two greats lent their voices to Anarkali (played by Madhubala) and Bahar (Nigar Sultana), who are vying for Prince Salim’s (Dilip Kumar) affections. The tension between the two characters is almost palpable, accentuated by Mangeshkar’s softness and Begum’s unorthodox, mature voice.

Zubeen Garg: not Assamese enough for separatist group

(Note: paragraph six contains graphic language)

When in Assam, sing like the Assamese do. That was the message from the separatist group United Liberation Front of Assam to singer Zubeen Garg. The 40-year-old singer, born in Jorhat in Assam, irked ULFA last week when he sang Hindi songs at a Bihu festival.

That’s a poke in the eye for the rebel group. Bihu is a major cultural festival in Assam, taking place three times a year. It’s a big deal for the most populous largest state in northeast India, and ULFA didn’t like Garg’s decision to sing in Hindi (check his song “Ya Ali” here) because its leaders consider doing that an erosion of Assamese culture.

“Zubeen is a talented singer but that does not mean he should consider himself an ambassador of Hindi and go all out to promote it. If he continues to do so, we shall not be responsible for any consequences,” the group wrote in a letter to the Press Trust of India wire service.

Delhi rape case reignites police reform debate

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

I live in India’s rape capital where rape cases are as common as power cuts used to be a few years ago. Even reports of police misbehaviour have become routine.

While all rape cases do not get media attention, the recent rape of a five-year-old girl is in the limelight, especially because of the way the police handled the case.

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