India Insight

Need good roles but need money too: Manoj Bajpayee

In a career spanning nearly 20 years, actor Manoj Bajpayee has oscillated between brilliant and mediocre performances, winning acting honours while also getting brickbats for his poor choice of movie roles.

Bajpayee, whose performance in “Gangs of Wasseypur” (2012) and “Special 26” this year won him critical acclaim, plays the villain in Prakash Jha’s “Satyagraha”. The Bollywood film opened in cinemas on Friday.

The 44-year-old actor spoke to Reuters about how he nearly wrecked his movie career, the time when he had no work and why he is no longer content with just good roles.

Q: You’ve worked with Prakash Jha in several films, but most of them have been rather negative roles. Does he see the negative side of you?
A: This question surprises me. We think that the character standing opposite the hero is negative. But that is not true. I have never gone to receive awards where I was in the villain’s category. Just because my character was opposite Ranbir Kapoor in “Raajneeti”, doesn’t put him in the negative category. It is defined that all brothers are fighting for their rights, but it is never defined who is wrong or right. “Aarakshan” was different. It was completely negative because he is using education as a way to make money. There is no morality there, whereas my character in “Raajneeti” had loads of morality. My character in “Satyagraha” is in every sense a villain. Everything that is wrong about a person, is there in him. He is cunning, he is shrewd. He doesn’t have good intentions. In “Satyagraha”, he (Jha) has given me a negative character and yes, I have taken it up, for my association with him for the last three films.

Q: Do you do roles because of your association with certain filmmakers or because of the merit of the role itself?
A: I have done “Shootout at Wadala” and “Chakravyuh” and this. No more.

Pricey dollar puts South Africa, Australia on Indian tourists’ maps

When Aparupa Ganguly visited South Africa in 2007, the country’s topography and wildlife made such an impression on the communications professional that she couldn’t wait to come back. Ganguly got her wish six years later – thanks to a stable rand.

Foreign-bound Indian travellers such as Ganguly are realizing that holidaying in countries such as South Africa and Australia offers value for money as their currencies have been largely stable in recent weeks and haven’t appreciated as much against the rupee, when compared to the dollar or the euro.

Data shows the South African rand and the Australian dollar have gained around 10 percent since May, compared to a near 30 percent surge in the U.S. dollar which hit a record high above 68 per rupee on Wednesday.

Bharti Airtel, NTPC top Sensex losers this week

By Sankalp Phartiyal and Ankush Arora

The BSE Sensex recovered on Thursday and Friday after the index lost around 700 points in the first three trading sessions of the week. However, the index still ended down 0.4 percent as a weak rupee, concerns over foreign flows and uncertainty over the end of the U.S. Fed’s stimulus plan kept investors on the edge.

As a worsening current account deficit and inflation loomed large, the rupee hit fresh record lows below 65 per dollar in the week ending Aug. 23. However, gold prices and bonds rallied.

Fitch Ratings has warned Asia’s third-largest economy of a downgrade if the government fails to soothe tensions in the financial market. JP Morgan and HSBC downgraded Indian shares to ‘neutral’.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Despite rising India-Pakistan tensions, little planning for the next big crisis

In the very early days after the Sept 11 attacks on the United States, some in India, for the briefest of moments, believed Washington might be coming around to its point of view: that the problem and source of “cross-border terrorism” lay in Pakistan. Instead, an aggrieved India was forced to look on as Washington turned to its old ally Pakistan to help it fight the war in Afghanistan.

It was in that sour mood that New Delhi reacted with increasing anger to Pakistan’s support for Islamist militants targeting India in Kashmir and beyond. In October 2001, nearly 40 people were killed in a suicide attack on the legislative assembly of Jammu and Kashmir state in its summer capital Srinagar. When militants attacked the Indian parliament in Delhi on December 13, 2001 - an attack blamed on the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed - India mobilised for war.  Soon close to a million men were deployed on either side of the border in a tense standoff that was not resolved until the following summer, and only then after intense U.S.-led international diplomacy.

To those of us who witnessed the build-up to the 2001-2002 standoff, the rising tensions between India and Pakistan - with both sides accusing the other of escalating fighting on the Line of Control dividing disputed Kashmir - bear a troublesome resemblance to that time. Then and now are bookended by the U.S. presence in Afghanistan which began in 2001 and is due to end in 2014.

India’s energy price reforms face hurdles

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

India has raised gas prices and also made it easier for power companies to pass on the rising costs of imported coal to customers – two policy steps aimed at boosting fuel supplies and helping to minimize the country’s chronic power shortages.

However, the reforms are unlikely to be a quick fix for India’s blackouts. It may take at least two years for the gas price rise to boost fuel supplies as investments in output and import facilities bear fruit, but even then the key to the plan may lie with distribution companies.

The state-owned distributors – known as discoms – will have to find money to buy the more expensive electricity from power stations. But passing on too much of the costs to consumers will be politically unpopular and the discoms may opt instead to simply halt supply.

India’s Telangana fight explores new frontiers in political attack ads

(Note to readers: contains slightly graphic language and an aggressively provocative image.)

Dear American political consultants: you might think you know how to produce negative political attack ads, but you have much to learn. Caravan magazine’s senior editor Jonathan Shainin on Sunday shared on Twitter what he called “Unquestionably the greatest political poster of all time.” I admit that I have made no broad study, but this ad, coming from Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh, seems to me to break some kind of sound barrier in the business. (Correction: I cannot confirm that this ad appeared in Hyderabad. A readers whose comment appears below tells  me that the ad appears in Tanuku in West Godavari District)

The Telugu-language ad features a local politician scolding Lok Sabha parliamentarian K Chandrasekhar Rao, a proponent of splitting Andhra Pradesh into two states. Reuters explains why creating a new state, Telangana, is controversial:

Deficit? What deficit? India makes a golden version of everything

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

Indians use gold for all sorts of things. As the world’s biggest gold consumer, its citizens use coins, bars and jewellery  as gifts, dowries and investments that are literally more solid than a share in a company. The ill effect that this has on India’s current account deficit has led the government to try to curb demand.  Here are a few examples of demand that nobody can seem to curb.

This week, gold importer RiddiSiddhi Bullion’s subsidiary Dia Jewels unveiled India’s first gold-plated motorbike. About 35 to 40 kilograms of silver went into making the miniature two-wheeler model, which is gold plated and studded with diamonds, and took six months to make, said Mukesh Kothari, director of Riddisiddhi Bullions.

“It was my dream project to make such a bike, which has never been made before in the Indian markets … Moreover it’s not for sale, so neither have we priced it nor have we marketed it,” Kothari said. The bike cost around $100,000.

Markets this week: Coal India, ITC top Sensex losers

The BSE Sensex lost 3 percent in the week ending Aug. 2, extending its losses from the previous week and marking its biggest weekly fall since mid-March.

Markets remained on the edge on uncertainty over how long the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) would continue measures to defend the rupee. The rupee fell 3.4 percent over the last five trading sessions and ended at a record closing low on Friday.

The central bank left the repo rate and cash reserve ratio unchanged at its policy review on July 30, but said it will roll back recent liquidity tightening measures when stability returns to the currency market.

Tracking Sensex: L&T top loser this week

By Aditya Kalra and Sankalp Phartiyal

The Sensex lost 2 percent and the Nifty slipped 2.3 percent in a tough week for stocks as Indian markets remained cautious ahead of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) policy review on July 30.

The benchmark Sensex, which ended in the red for three of five trading sessions, touched a 2-1/2 year high during the week as consumer goods shares surged.

The rupee continues to be in focus as it hit a five-week high on Friday. The RBI tightened liquidity further on Tuesday to support the rupee and the central bank is likely to hold rates at its policy review next week.

A look at some of India’s cheap food schemes

Nearly 70 percent of India’s population lives on less than $2 (around 120 rupees) a day, according to World Bank data. The country, the world’s second-largest producer of wheat and rice after China, is also home to a quarter of the world’s hungry.

Helping the poor has always been on the ruling government’s agenda since independence. India, which currently spends 900 billion rupees on giving the poor access to cheap food, hopes to increase it to 1.3 trillion rupees ($22 billion) and widen its scope with an ambitious food security programme launched this month.

The problem is many of the intended beneficiaries don’t realize they’re missing out on existing schemes.

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