Two Indian films make it to Gulf Film Festival

Two Indian films are among the 14 movies that will compete for honours at the International Short Film category of the 4th Gulf Film Festival to be held from April 14 to 20 at Dubai Festival City.

Abhay Kumar's award-winning experimental film "Just That Sort of a Day" follows people randomly, only to find a common thread among them.

Chaitanya Tamhane's "Six Strands" is a character study inspired by the world famous Darjeeling tea industry. The film won accolades at the Clemont-Ferrand 2011, the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2011, and the Yes Indian Film Festival, among others.

Other flicks competing in the category include films from Germany, Spain, Brazil and Iran, according to organisers.

Shortlisted from hundreds of global entries, the movies are among the 150-plus features, documentaries and short films from around the region and the world screening as part of the festival.

The festival has become a platform to screen bold, experimental and contemporary cinema from the Arabian Peninsula and other countries.

From gritty crime capers to heartbreaking romances, the shortlisted international movies promise something for every taste, sources said.


Leela Samson appointed Chairperson of Central Board of Film Certification

Leela Samson
Leela Samson

Well-known Bharatanatyam dancer and choreographer Leela Samson has been appointed as Chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification in an honorary capacity from April 1, 2011 for a period of three years.

Ms Samson will succeed actress Sharmila Tagore, who has been holding the position since October 13, 2004.

An official press release said Mr Lalit Bhasin, a renowed lawyer, had been appointed as Chairperson of the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal for a period of three years.

Ms Samson is currently the Director of Kalakshetra, Chennai, the institute for the classical arts founded by the late Rukmini Devi Arundale, and also the Chairperson of the Chairperson of Sangeet Natak Akademi, India's national academy for music dance and drama.

As a soloist, Ms Samson has been known for her technical virtuosity and has taught Bharatanatyam at Shriram Bhartiya Kala Kendra in Delhi for many years. She has been awarded the Padma Shri for her contribution in the field of arts.

Mr Bhasin is the Vice-President of the Bar Association of India and the Chairman of the Services Export Promotion Council, established by the Ministry of Commerce and a Member of the ICC International Court of Arbitration apart from being a Member of the Task Force on Arbitration set up by ICC.

He has several awards to his credit which include Gandhi National Unity Award, 1991, the Plaque of Honour given by the Prime Minister for his outstanding contribution to the Rule of Law in 2002 and the National Law Day Award given by the President of India in 2007.

Ms. Deepa Dixit and Mr Gurjeet Singh Behl have also been appointed as Members of the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal for a period of three years, the release added.


Saeed Mirza named Chairman of FTII Governing Council

Saeed Akhtar Mirza
Saeed Akhtar Mirza

Well-known filmmaker Saeed Mirza has been nominated as the President of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) Society in Pune and the Chairman of its Governing Council.

An official press release issued here today that the Government had reconstituted the Society for a period of three years with effect from March 4, 2011 or until further orders, whichever is earlier.

The Government has nominated the following ex-officio members of the FTII Society. They shall remain members of the Society as long as they retain the office or status by virtue of which they became members of the Society:

(1) Joint Secretary (Films), Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (I&B) or his/her nominee not below the rank of Deputy Secretary, (2) Chief Executive Officer, Prasar Bharati or his/her nominee not below the rank of Deputy Director General, (3) Additional Secretary & Financial Adviser, Ministry of I&B or his/her nominee not below the rank of Deputy Secretary, (4) Chairman, Central Board of Film Certification 5) Managing Director, National Film Development Corporation, (6) Chief Producer, Films Division, Mumbai, (7) Director, National School of Drama, (8) Director, Indian Institute of Mass Communications, (9) Director, National Film Archive of India (NFAI), Pune, (10) Director, Film & Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune and (11) Director, Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute (SRFTI), Kolkata.

In the category of "experts representing the activities of the Central Government", the Joint Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Ms Leela Samson, Chairperson, Sangeet Natak Akademi and Director General, Doordarshan have been nominated as members of the FTII Society.

In the category of "persons of eminence connected with Films and Television Education, Journalism, Literature, Fine Arts, Dramatics, Performing Arts, etc.", the Government has nominated as members santoor maestro Shiv Kumar Sharma, playwright and theatre director Ratan Thiyyam, television journalist Shazi Zaman, documentary filmmaker Rajiv Mehrotra, actress Rama Vij, photographer Benoy K Behl and academic Kiran Seth.

Actors Zareena Wahab and Raza Murad, filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani and Subhash Chandra Sahoo have been nominated as members of the Society from amongst FTII alumni.


Vice President Ansari releases book on Ustad Bismillah Khan

Vice-President M Hamid Ansari released a book titled "Bismillah Khan: The Maestro from Benaras" based on the life of the late shehnai wizard Ustad Bismillah Khan authored by Ms Juhi Sinha here today.

The book was released at a function organised to mark the birth anniversary of the music legend.

Mr Ansari noted that the book focused on three aspects, the life of Ustad Bismillah Khan, the city of Benaras and the cultural roots of Benaras.

He said such works were very much needed and music lovers would learn a lot from the book.

The book provides an insightful look into the home and heart, muse and music of one of the greatest artistes India has produced and who had been honoured by the Government with the Bharat Ratna, the nation's highest honour.

It traces his journey from the small town of Dumraon to Benaras and thence to the world. It follows him as he grows from child to man, shagird to ustad and pupil to legend. It lovingly potrays the whims and foibles of Bismillah Khan – an artiste whose stature as a musical legend could never quite overshadow the wit, humour and charishma of the man.


Entries invited for 58thNational Film Awards for 2010

The Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF) has invited entries for the 58th National Film Awards for 2010 which will be presented in three sections - feature films, non-feature films and best writing on cinema.

The process was set in motion with the issuance of the notification to this effect, along with the detailed regulations, which can be seen on the DFF's website.

The DFF is a media unit under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.

The Natioal Film Awards are aimed at encouraging the production of films of aesthetic and technical excellence and social relevance contributing to the understanding and appreciation of cultures of different regions of the country in cinematic form, thereby also promoting integration and unity of the nation.

In case of Feature films there are 30 different awards which include: Best Feature Film, Indira Gandhi Award for Best Debut Film of a Director, Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment, Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration and awards for films in regional languages.

Non Feature Films carry 22 different awards which include: Best Non-feature film, Best Debut Non-feature film of a Director, Best Anthropological/Ethnographic Film and Best Biographical/Historical Reconstruction/compilation film

Only films certified by Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) are eligible for entry in these awards. In addition, there is also a National Award for Best Writing on Cinema which consists of two different awards – Best Book on Cinema and Best Critic.

The deadline for submission of entries is April 7, 2011. There will be a two tier system - a Regional Jury and Central Jury - for making selection for the various categories of awards.

The Government also gives Indian cinema’s highest honour, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, to a film personality for his/her outstanding contribution to the growth and development of Indian cinema.


Indian Ocean stages performance in Delhi to salute power of women

Indian Ocean performs at Main Shakti Hoon, Dilli Haat
Indian Ocean performs at Main Shakti Hoon, Dilli Haat

Popular fusion band Indian Ocean staged a rocking, inspirational and rousing performance at Dilli Haat here last night as part of the two-day International Women's Day celebrations organised by humanitarian organisation CARE India.

Apart from well-known numbers from its albums such as 16/330 Khajoor Road and their folk songs and ballads, which brought thousands of people in the audience to their feet, the band also staged a special tribute to Indian women.

This they did by rephrasing a part of their favourite number "Hille Le" to send the message that women can move the world.

The band members – Sumit Sen, Rahul Ram and Amit Kilan -- led the crowd to applaud the women power, as their three instruments – guitar, drums and table – melted into the soul-stirring fusion magic they are famous for.

CARE India, which has been fighting poverty by empowering women and girls, had organised the extravaganza titled "Main Shakti Hoon" on March 5 and 6 to commemorate the 100th International Women’s Day and the 60 years of its activities in India.

A slew of colour programmes like Rajasthani music and dance, exciting interactive games, photo exhibition titled Expression of Equality to highlight the changing facets of women, Dance with Mom competition, unique photo sessions and a street play by the group Asmita added tempo to the celebrations, as thousands of womenfolk tuned in to be part of it.

Television celebrity Joyshri Arora was among the number of well-known women leaders and personalities who showed up to express solidarity with the women of India. Several women achievers who made a difference to their lives and the society with the help of CARE projects were also present.


Bollywood stars begin voting for 12th IIFA Awards

Voting has begun for the 12th International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards here today.

Casting the first votes were director Karan Johar and actress Kareena Kapoor, who were followed by Anil Kapoor and hosts for the upcoming awards Boman Irani and Riteish Deshmukh.

Also casting their votes on day one were Arjun Rampal, Sonu Sood, Ramesh Sippy, Manmohan Shetty, J P Dutta, Yash Chopra and members of the film fraternity and public. Voting will take place over the weekend from today till March 6.

The 12th IIFA Weekend and Awards are slated to be held at Toronto, Canada, from June 23-25. The event will also showcase the works of Raj Kapoor.

"I believe the IIFA is getting better every year. This year’s IIFA will bring us to the north American market, a huge market for cinema. The awards have also strengthened the Indian film industry and made us like a family fraternity again," Johar told mediapersons here this morning.

The IIFA Awards and Bollywood films in general too are gaining in popularity among audiences beyond the sub-continent. Tickets for the Toronto IIFA were reportedly sold out in 30 minutes.

"There is a demand and craze for IIFA that we have never experienced. A lot of hard work has gone into making it a success, including creating the sets to planning the logistics to carry 600-700 people to foreign shores, and there is always a payback - we can expect it to be the best ever," Anil Kapoor said.

The votes for the awards will be tallied by top consultancy firm PriceWaterHouse Coopers (PWC), with popular categories open for global audiences to cast their votes.

"The IIFA Award is one that has not been rigged. It's not a case of only the ‘winners’ attending the event. I have given the IIFAs a miss in the past, and I still won ‘Best Actor’ and ‘Best Supporting Actor’ awards. It’s an important event to network with global players and Indian films are getting a lot of acceptance," Kapoor said.


Antiquities imported for display in private galleries exempted from customs duties

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today extended the exemption from customs duties given to works of art and antiquities to imports for exhibition or display in private art galleries or similar premises that are open to the general public.

Presenting the Union Budget for 2011-12 in the Lok Sabha, Mr Mukherjee said the Department of Culture would notify details of the scheme separately. At present, works of art and antiquities are exempt from customs duties when imported for exhibition in a public museum or national institution. 

Mr Mukherjee noted that, in recent years, many organisations had joined the cause of promoting and popularising both traditional and contemporary art.

He said some of them had been active in locating heritage works of Indian art and antiquities in foreign countries and bringing them back home.

"To encourage such initiatives, I propose to expand the scope of this exemption for works of art and antiquities to also apply to imports for exhibition or display, in private art galleries or similar premises that are open to the general public," he said.


India, Austria to set up second village museum at Mannanam in Kerala

Film director Shaji N Karun and National Museum Institute Vice-Chancellor C V Ananda Bose inaugurating an exhibition of photographs about the cultural heritage of Nako village in the Western Himalayas, at the National Museum, New Delhi, on February 19, 2011.
Film director Shaji N Karun and National Museum Institute Vice-Chancellor C V Ananda Bose inaugurating an exhibition of photographs about the cultural heritage of Nako village in the Western Himalayas, at the National Museum, New Delhi, on February 19, 2011.

The National Museum Institute (NMI) here and the Austrian Cultural Forum will jointly develop a "village museum" at Mannanam in Kottayam district of Kerala as part of an ongoing collaboration programme and on the lines of a similar museum set up by them at Nako in the Western Himalayas.

This was disclosed by National Museum Institute (NMI) Vice-Chancellor C V Ananda Bose, after jointly inaugurating a photo exhibition on Nako, along with renowned film maker Shaji N Karun, here on Saturday evening.

Dr Bose, who is also the Administrator of the National Museum, said India and Austria would sign another memorandum of understanding to identify further areas for collaborative research and cultural relationship.

Mannanam has been identified as the place for the next village museum putting together the cultural contributions, practices, and artefacts of this culturally-rich village.

As part of the continuing collaboration, the NMI and the Austrian Cultural Forum held a two-day round-table conference, attended by experts from both the sides. Apart from this, national award winning director Shaji also released a book "Heritage Conservation and Research in Indi- 60 Years of Indo-Austrian Collaboration," edited by Gabriela Krist and Tatjana Bayerová.

The exhibition "Nako-the Living Cultural Heritage in Western Himalayas", compiling photos taken by Stefen Olah who is teaching photography in the University of Applied Arts, Vienna, Austria, was jointly opened by Shaji and Dr. Bose. It will be open till March 20.

At the round-table, both sides agreed to continue the cultural cooperation by promoting common research in topics like museology, doctoral studies in museums, the documentation of (traditional) knowledge, and displaying the process instead of results. Both the sides will identify working groups to take the collaboration further.

The Nako Project, situated in Himachal Pradesh and just 7 km from the Chinese Tibetan border, included the establishment of a village museum by the Institute of Conservation, University of Applied Arts in Vienna, Austria, in close cooperation with the National Research Laboratory for the Conservation of Cultural Property Lucknow (NRLC), the Nako Buddhist Society and the Nako Youth Club, whose members are also responsible for the maintenance of the museum.

The museum was inaugurated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama during his visit to Nako in 2007.

A museum collection was put together, mostly consisting of contributions by the villagers. The Institute of Conservation provided training in collection care (inventory, conservation, display) and exhibition practices to the village and lama community as well as the members of the Nako Youth Club.

The Village Museum includes traditional artefacts used in the remote hill area of Nako, such as characteristic, beautiful woolen dresses, shawls and shoes, typical dishes and household items, and thangka paintings.


Bryan Adams concert in Delhi put off; organisers working on new venue

The concert of Canadian rock star Bryan Adams to be held in Delhi today has been rescheduled since overwhelming public response for the show made the venue unsafe, the organisers of the show, Netsurf Entertainment said today.

In a statement issued here, the organisers said they were working towards finalising an alternative venue and date for the rescheduled concert.

"The organisers are working towards finalising an alternate venue and date to re-schedule the Bryan Adams concert in New Delhi since public safety is a priority," Netsurf Entertainment said.

On the reasons for cancellation of today's concert, they said, "The unexpected rains coupled with the overwhelming public response for the show, has made the venue unsafe. However, Bryan Adams is keen to perform in New Delhi and not disappoint his fans."

They said the details of the new venue, date and time would be available later this evening.

"For customers who have booked tickets online and through retail outlets, please do not go to the NSIC venue to pick up your tickets," the organisers said.

All those who wished to cancel their tickets would be given full refund, they added.

"Should customers choose not to attend the rescheduled concert, their ticket purchases will be refunded. The process of ticket exchanges/ refunds will also be announced soon," the statement said.

The concert was scheduled to take place at the NSIC grounds in Okhla tonight but had to be postponed as the Delhi Police did not give the mandatory No Objection Certificate (NOC) on security grounds.

The Delhi Police also noted that the place chosen to organise the concert was not suitable for this kind of a programme as far as law and order and parking facilities were concerned.

In addition, bad weather was also considered a reason for postponing it.

Adams has a large fan following in India and attracted huge crowds at his concerts in Pune and Mumbai. He is currently on a five-city tour of India.


Bryan Adams' concert in Delhi postponed due to security reasons

The much-awaited concert of Canadian rock star Bryan Adams to be held in Delhi has been cancelled for the time being for failure to get the mandatory clearances from the Delhi Police.

Police sources said the concert, scheduled to take place at the NSIC grounds in Okhla tonight, had been postponed for now with no new date decided yet.

Sources said the Delhi Police did not give the mandatory No Objection Certificate (NOC) on security grounds and noted that the place chosen to organise the concert was not suitable for this kind of a programme as far as law and order and parking facilitie were concerned.

In addition, bad weather was also considered a reason for postponing it.

Bryan Adams has a large fan following in India and attracted huge crowds at his concerts in Pune and Mumbai. He is currently on a five-city tour of India.


Stamps released on six legendary Indian actresses

Minister of State for Communications Gurdas Kamat releasing the commemorative postage stamps on legendary actresses of India, in New Delhi on February 13, 2011.
Minister of State for Communications Gurdas Kamat releasing the commemorative postage stamps on legendary actresses of India, in New Delhi on February 13, 2011.

Minister of State for Communications Gurudas Kamat released a set of six stamps on legendary actresses of Indian cinema - Kanan Devi, Devika Rani, Savitri, Meena Kumari, Leela Naidu and Nutan here last evening.

Two renowned stars of yesteryears, Asha Parekh and Vyjanthimala Bali were amongst those who attended the function. Also present were Mr Tajdar Amrohi, a member of the late Meena Kumari's family, and members of Savitri's family.

Devika Rani was the star and late manager of Bombay Talkies, from where she dominated the first decade of the Indian sound film and set the standard for the post-1950 Hindi film heroine. Daughter of Col. Choudhury, surgeon of Madras, and grand-niece of Rabindranath Tagore, she studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and the Royal Academy of Music (London) and also held a degree in architecture and was a successful designer of Paisley textiles.

She married Himanshu Rai in 1929. Her first film, produced by Rai and directed by Osten, was as costume designer (and probably as an extra) for "Prapanch Pash" (1929). In Germany where the film was edited, Rani was able to see Fritzlang, G.W. Pabst and Sternberg at work and assisted Marlene Dietrich on the sets of "Deblau Engel" (1930). She also worked briefly with Max Reinhardt.

One of the early BBC broadcasts to India featured a Devika Rani recital (15th May 1933).When European co-production, especially with Germany, became difficult after 1933, the couple returned to India. She starred in Rai’s first sound film "Karma", made in English and sold as "the first Indian Talkie with English dialogue".

The couple started Bombay Talkies in 1934. In "Achhut Kanya", her arched eyebrows, beads and the vaguely Rajasthani-style,knee-length dress defined the "village belle" for Hindi cinema.

She and Ashok Kumar remained the studio’s stars until Rai died (1940) and she took over its management until she retired in1945. She later married the Russian émigré painter Svetoslav Roerich.

Kanan Devi, actress and singer, started with the name Kananbala. Debuting as child actress in Joydev, she worked under contract with Radha Films where she acted in Jyotish Bannerjee Films. P.C. Barua was unable to obtain her for his role of Paro in Devdas (1935) but she played the lead in his next film, Mukti, which made her a star and launched her long association with New Theatres.

The success of Bidyapati, and her duets with K.C.Dey, made her the top star of this studio (1937-40). An untrained singer when she entered films, she later studied briefly with Ustad Allah Rakha at Lucknow. She was employed as singer at Megaphone Gramophone and received further training from Bhishmaadev Chatterjee, who was possibly responsible for her distinctive Bengali style. She later learnt Rabindra Sangeet with Anadi Dastidar. She considered Rai Chand Boral to be her real teacher.

One of the few New Theatres lead players not to have a stage background, her impact on Bengali film paralleled Shanta Apte’s on Marathi cinema. Her singing style, usually in rapid tempo, is still identified with some of the biggest studio era hits (especially Binyapati, Street Singer, Sapurey). She resigned from New Theatres,(1941) and freelanced in Bengali and Hindi films. She turned producer with Shrimati Pics (1949) and later launched the Sabhyasachi collective with the film Ananya.. She wrote an autobiography Sabare Ami Nomi (1973).

Meena Kumari was born in Bombay, one of the daughters of the Parsee theatre actor, singer and music teacher Ali Bux and dancer Iqbal Begum, Having hit upon hard times and living near the Rooptara Studios, Ali Bux sought to get his three daughters into films. The middle daughter, Mahajabeen, was hired aged 6, renamed Baby Meena and cast by Vijay Bhatt in Leatherface. Later for Bhatt’s big musical Baiju Bawra she was named Meena Kumari .

She acted in mythologicals by Homi Wadia and Nanabhai Bhatt. Best known in the 50s for comedies (Miss Mary) and socials (Parineeta), she gave a stellar performance in Do Bigha Zameen. Her main persona was constructed through movies like Kamal Amrohi’s Daera, Bimal Roy’s Yahudi and Guru Dutt’s Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, culminating in her most famous film, Pakeezah. She married Amrohi, who directed some of her best work. The couple eventually completed the film they jointly conceived, Pakeezah, in 1971 just before her death. She wrote Urdu poetry using the pen-name Naaz, a collection of which , Tanha Chand ( The Solitary Moon), compiled by Gulzar, was published after her death and some of it was sung by her.

Nutan, top Hindi star of the 1960s, was introduced to films by her mother, Shobhana Samarth, in Hamari Beti. Her screen image was moulded by Bimal Roy (Sujata, Bandini) and by those who continued in the Roy tradition: Hrishikesh Mukherjee (Anari), Bimal Dutt (Kasturi) and Sudhendu Roy (Saudagar). She was known for an equal flair at performing in both serious and light-hearted cinema, shifting with ease from Saraswati Chandra to Tere Ghar ke Samne, from roles with Kishore Kumar and Dev Anand to Ashok Kumar and Balraj Sahni.

She performed romantic roles with a forthy uninhibitedness such as the Filmistan musical Paying Guest and could enact character roles of her later years with equal dignity. She brought a stunning authenticity to her roles in films such as Sujata, Seema and Bandini.

Savithri, Telugu- Tamil actress and director, was born in Chirravuru, Guntur District, Andhra Pradesh, into a wealthy family. She learnt music and dance under Sista Purnayya Sastry and gave some public performances as a child in Vijayawada. After working in a theatre company run by N T Rama Rao and K.Jaggaiah, she started her own group the Navabharata Natya Mandali. She acted in a play Atma Vanchana by Buchi Babu. After her debut with L.V.Prasad’s Samaram , she followed with K.V.Reddy’s Patala Bhairavi, and minor film roles until Pelli Chesi Choodu made her a star and Ardhangi and Missamma established her acting credentials. She acted in several films by the choreographer-director Raghavaiah.

She often starred with Gemini Ganesan and later married him. As director and producer (1968-71) she did not achieve much commercial success but is remembered for her roles in mythological and family dramas.

Leelu Naidu was an actress who starred in a small number of Hindi and English films, including The Householder, Merchant Ivory Productions’ first film. Selected Femina Miss India in 1954, she was featured in Vogue along with Maharani Gayatri Devi in the list of the world’s Ten Most Beautiful Women and is remembered for her classical beauty and subtle acting style.

Leela Naidu was born in Mumbai to Dr. Pattipati Ramaiah Naidu, a well-known nuclear physicist from Andhra Pradesh, and Dr. Marthe Naidu, an Indologist of Swiss-French origin. Naidu made her film debut alongside Balraj Sahni in Anuradha in 1960 (directed by Hrishkesh Mukherjee) a film that went on to win the National Award for Best Film, and garnered Naidu critical acclaim. She played an offbeat role as an adulterous wife in Yeh Raaste Hain Pyar Ke (1963), dirceted by R.K.Nayyar.

Naidu made a guest appearance in the Merchant-Ivory film, The Guru(1969). She returned to cinema in 1985 to play a Goan matriarch in Shyam Benegal’s period film, Trikaal and made a last appearance in Electric Moon(1992), directed by Pradp Krishen. Leela Naidu died in Mumbai on 28 July 2009.


Kathakali performance by 150 dancers mesmerises Kerala

As many as 150 Kathakali dancers staged a rare performance here yesterday night, combining the well-defined "mudras" of the classical dance-drama with the time-tested "asanas" of meditation for the first time first time in the history of the art form.

'Kathakali' by 150 artistes have created a world record in a performance, invoking the classical dance-drama to interpret the powers of meditation to heal the mind, in Thiruvananthapuram on February 12, 2011. UNI PHOTO
'Kathakali' by 150 artistes have created a world record in a performance, invoking the classical dance-drama to interpret the powers of meditation to heal the mind, in Thiruvananthapuram on February 12, 2011. UNI PHOTO

The dancers who staged the event at the Putharikandam Maidan are also seeking an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for their performance.

The captivating display was held in the presence of Art of Living (AOL) founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. The event, called ‘Natyavismayam’, was organised by the AOL Foundation as part of its attempt to promote Indian classical arts.

Choreographed and led by eminent Kathakali exponent Ettumanur Kannan, the dancers gave life to the subtle "asanas" and the devotional mood of AOL's meditation through classical "mudras" (gestures) and well-defined rhythmic movements.

The 150 artistes attired in colourful costumes of all the five classic "veshas" (make-up), namely "pachcha", "kaththi", "thaadi", "kari" and "minukku", moved in unison to create a rare experience for the art lovers present.

As many as 16 well-known Kathakali musicians, accompanied by percussion players on traditional instruments, added to the electrifying atmosphere.

The event’s organisers said observers from the Guinness Book of World Records were present on the occasion. The observers videographed the entire dance, they said hoping the event would soon get a place in the record books.

"It was an attempt to express the subtle nuances of ‘dhyana’ (meditation) through existing ‘mudras’ of Kathakali. It was an effort to interpret ‘dhyana’ as Art of Living is also basically a form of ‘dhyana’," according to team leader Ettumanur Kannan.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar with the Kathakali artistes.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar with the Kathakali artistes.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar honoured eminent Kathakali artistes Madavoor Vasudevan Nair, Nelliyodu Vasudevan Nampoothiri and Kalamandalam Gangadharan and chenda exponent Kalamandalam Raman Nampoothiri on the occasion.

He urged the people to dream of a slum-free and scam-free India and work towards this goal by taking a pledge against bribery. "Spirituality gives you a sense of belongingness, honesty, love,friendship. Thus the spiritual power eliminates corruption," he said.


Lata Mangeshkar to be first recipient of Swarbhaskar award

Melody queen Lata Mangeshkar will be the first recipient of the "Swarbhaskar Award", instituted in memory of renowned vocalist Pandit Bhimsen Joshi here on February 12.

Ms Mangeshkar will receive the award from well known classical dancer Sitara Devi.

The award includes cash of Rs 100,000, a trophy and a certificate, said city Mayor Mohansingh Rajpal at a press conference here today.

He said the award has been instituted by the Pune Municipal Corporation in memory of Pandit Joshi, who passed away here on January 24 this year at the age of 89. A three-day cultural festival will be organised annually, he added.

Sriniwas Joshi, son of Bhimsen Joshi, and other artistes will participate in the festival.


Indian classics now at affordable prices

Classic books evoke images of dusty tomes stacked in forgotten corners of libraries to be avoided at all costs by today's generation, weaned on Facebook and Twitter.

Thus, publication of slim, abridged versions of 14 books, ranging from the Ramayana and Mahabharata to "Building a New India" by former President A P J Abdul Kalam, at an affordable Rs 99 each by Penguin India, may very well lead to a change in this viewpoint.

According to the publishers, the first of the Penguin Evergreens series has been conceived building on its founder Allen Lane's philosophy. "We believed in the existence of a vast reading public for intelligent books at a low price," he had stated.

The selection includes The Kitemaker by Ruskin Bond, the storyteller from the Mussoorie hills who appeals to children and adults alike. Noted Urdu writers Ismat Chugtai with her controversial The Quilt Stories and Sadat Hasan Manto with Toba Tek Singh Stories figure in it.

Hindi literary icon Munshi Premchand is there with The Shroud, tales of rural life, some of despair, others of hope.

Satyajit Ray has his ever popular Feluda about a master sleuth on the lines of Sherlock Holmes solving many a mystery. Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore is represented by Kabuliwallah Stories. Who can ever forget five-year-old girl Mini's friendship with the Kabuliwallah? R K Narayan has his Malgudi Days with Swamy and friends making merry and Khushwant Singh's The Mark of Vishnu.

My Experiments with Truth provides a rare insight into the making of the Mahatma. Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book is also the one that cuts across the ages in its appeal with the antics of Mowgli and assorted characters. Valmiki Ramayana selection is The Book of Wilderness (Aranya Kanda). Mahabharata selection includes Draupadi's marriage. Vatsyayana's Kamasutra is also included in the list.

The publishers have also brought out book marks that declare "Writings that have stood the test of time" and a carrybag featuring the book covers of all the 14 volumes.


Mukherjee holds pre-budget consultations with film industry delegation

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee met a delegation from the film industry who accompanied Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni here today as part of his pre-Budget consultations.

The delegation consisted of about 20 members, including Yash Chopra, Ramesh Sippy and Mukesh Bhatt, representing the Films and Producers Guild, Amit Mitra, Secretary General, FICCI, L. Suresh, Vice President, Film Federation of India, Anuradha Prasad, Chairperson, AROI, Rajeev Waghle, Group CFO, UTV, Subhashish Sarkar, CFO, Reliance Big Films, Ashish Kularni, CEO, Big Animation and Puneet Goenka, CEO, Zee Telefilms.

An official press release said the representatives of different forums of the film industry gave their suggestions for consideration and inclusion in the General Budget for 2011-12, expected to be presented to the Lok Sabha on February 28.


Abhishek says it always felt just right with Aishwarya

A still of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan from the February 2011 issue of Vogue India.
A still of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan from the February 2011 issue of Vogue India.

Actor Abhishek Bachchan has said that he does not remember the moment when he knew his actress-wife Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was the one, but it had always just felt right.

"If you ask her, she will tell you the same thing— that the minute we came together, we both knew that this was something for keeps. So, there wasn’t just this ‘one’ defining moment, it always felt perfect!" Abhishek was quoted as saying by Vogue India magazine in its February issue.

In an article carrying the views about Aishwarya by the men who know her best, Abhishek says that the first time he met his future wife was in August 1997.

"I was on a recce for my father’s film, Mrityudata, in Switzerland, and she was shooting for her first film, Aur Pya Ho Gaya, with my dear friend Bobby Deol.

"I remember one evening Bobby invited me over to his hotel for dinner and Aishwarya and the rest of the unit were there. That was the first time I actually met her, although I had obviously seen her before, since she was Miss World and all that. I don’t remember the moment when I knew she was the one, actually, which is weird, but it always just felt right," he said.

Film-maker Karan Johar talks in the article about how the actress turned him down for his first movie.

"We have a great relationship. We always put up our feet and laugh at each other or talk about fun stuff. We enjoy ‘intelligent analysis’ (which is my new phrase). I have known her for years and though we have never worked together, I know we will be fantastic together on celluloid as actor and director," he said.

"She does not just have beauty, but also drive. All sorts of criticism has come her way, but she has only worked harder—in films in Mumbai and down South, endorsements and appearances in India and abroad. She has made a huge brand of herself," he said.

Johar said that not many people knew that he had approached nine actresses for the part eventually played by Rani Mukherji in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.

"All had detailed narrations; all said they loved it and would call me back. But of the nine, only Aishwarya called back and said she could not do it because her dates were given to Jeans. She had the grace to call back and have a detailed discussion, which was very encouraging for me as a first-time film-maker," he recalled.

Talking about his best friend of 20 years, Mumbai-based psychiatrist Zirak Marker said he and Aishwarya had been confidantes and best friends for more than half their lives.

"Her most special quality as a friend is her undying loyalty, which also comes from being a Scorpio. She is dedicated and committed to everything in her life, even to friendship. In spite of our lives going in such different directions and with our respective schedules, we always touch base on special occasions and, time permitting, we meet in Mumbai," he said.

He said that, like anyone else, they love eating, dancing and reminiscing about old times. "I have so many crazy stories from my medical school days that really crack her up. We share the same sense of humor and can laugh for hours on end. I think I am a great stress-buster for her. I have been there for her through her bad times and vice-versa. It is in those moments that you know who your true friends are," he added.


IAS officer Vipul Mittra publishes maiden work of fiction

Gujarat Tourism Secretary Vipul Mittra is out with his maiden book, "Pyramid of Virgin Dreams", portraying the humour in the life of an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer.

"Due to my other commitments, I rarely used to get time to write it. However, the idea behind it and my want to complete it finally made it happen," Mittra said.

The book is a work of fiction published by Rupa and it presents a glimpse into the world of hierarchies, promotions, fawning subordinates and vacuous privileges that accompany growing status.

Mittra, who has also served as the Director, Tribal Development in the Gujarat Government, said his book is about the unfulfilled desires of a young person whose life keeps oscillating like a pendulum.

"Every chapter will make the reader realise how a youth's life, here an IAS officer, moves between dreams and reality, between the past and the present," he said.

Quizzed if the book is inspired by his personal experiences, Mittra asserts, "Yes, it does talk of my experiences. For instance, the children of the protagonist relates to those of mine. They behave in the same way."

"The only message the book passes on is that life can be lived happily even in serious situations. It all depends on ones perspective," he said.

Mittra said the book not only talks of the dreams of the protagonists, Kartikeya Kukreja of Punjab, but imposed ones, too. "As his father used to work under IAS officers, he built a dream to reach a level even higher than his father's bosses," he said.

He also mentioned his next project, another book. "I have an idea in my mind. It will have instances from my college life. However, it is much early to say anything about it," he said.

Referring to the cover of the book, consisting of clouds, with some carrying a bureaucrat's Ambassador cars with a red beacon and others showing hearts expressing the love factor, attached through strings, the book's editor Stuti Sharma said, "It signifies how Kartikeya tries to relate his professional dreams with his love dreams and attach them together."


Reliance BIG Home Video showcases Dabangg on YouTube India

Reliance Big Home Video, a part of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG), has released the movie Dabangg on YouTube, the online video site.

The movie will be showcased on starting January 27, and will be available for free viewing to audiences in India, a press release from the company said.

Users will also be able to enjoy short clips from the movie like popular scenes, songs and other exciting footage from the making of the movie, it said

Produced by Arbaaz Khan’s Productions and directed by Abhinav Kashyap, Dabangg is the first Indian blockbuster to be released on YouTube in India on an advertisement supported model, the release said.

"The way consumers view content today is morphing and to keep pace with their expectations we are chaning our business models too. While we are market leaders in the DVD segment, we realize that the Internet is the new TV for the ever connected youth today," Ms Sweta Agnihotri, COO of BIG Home Video, said.

"Our vision is to make our content available to Indian consumers across any screen, any where and at any time of their choice. As a part of our digital foray, getting a blockbuster hit like Dabangg to YouTube viewers in India is a big step for us, in terms of experimenting with this novel distribution method. We look forward to a strong and ongoing partnership with YouTube India," he said.

According to Gautam Anand, Director Content Partnerships (Japan–Asia Pacific), Google, "We are very excited to partner with Big Pictures to bring the mega blockbuster ‘Dabangg’ on YouTube for free viewing in India. We have made tremendous progress in bringing long form premium content to our users in India from catch up TV to live streaming of mega sports event and now introducing mega blockbuster movies from Bollywood. This initiative marks a major shift in the way movies have been traditionally distributed and opens up a new business opportunity for movie producers and distributors alike."

Hindustan Unilever will be the exclusive sponsor for the movie on YouTube India. Commenting on this initiative, Srikanth Srinivasamadhavan, General Manager, Media Services, Hindustan Unilever said, "It is an exciting phase where Hindustan Unilever is looking at leveraging digital platforms and this is in line with our ambition to reach consumers through new platforms."

The channel will be only available to users in India and will be IP blocked in other markets of the world.


BIG Cinemas, Mudra Group present silent National Anthem

Big Cinemas and the Mudra Group, part of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, have released a new national anthem video across its cinemas that has been shot in sign language and enacted by children with hearing/speech impairment on the occasion of Republic Day.

The anthem has been directed by Amit Sharma of Chrome Pictures based on the concept by Mudra Group, a press release from the company said here today.

"The National Anthem is played in theaters before every movie. Our idea was to use the anthem to make people do more than just stand and sing, but make them feel a little differently about their country and while driving home a strong message about unity in diversity," Bobby Pawar, Chief Creative Officer of Mudra Group, said.

"The idea is centered on the thought, 'Patriotism knows no language' and it is brought to life by hundreds of special kids singing the national anthem with their hands. The film is the first part of a programme to engage people, on ground and on line, in a dialogue about how we can free our nation from the prejudices that can divide us," he said.

Amit Sharma, the director, adds, "What appealed to me most was the challenge this idea posed at me as a film maker. It needed to be handled very sensitively without losing out on the impact. I went and met these kids and was really touched by the spirit they showed. So I decided not to use any actors but got these real special kids to do. Special thanks to all the teachers and the kid for their cooperation and their spirit with which they displayed!"

Commenting on the initiative, Mr. Anil Arjun, CEO of Reliance MediaWorks said, "This silent national anthem is an evocative and moving expression on patriotism and we hope that the Big Cinemas' patrons across India and world would be able to identify with this unique composition."


I was not separated from India and Indians: painter S H Raza

In a sentimental reference to India and Indians, including his mentor Darial Singh Rathore, renowned painter S H Raza, who has recently returned to India after a 60-year sojourn in France, said he never left India and the country has always remained in his mind, heart, thoughts and even in his work.

The 89-year-old artist enthralled the gathering during his inspiring and emotionally charged interactive session with renowned poet Ashok Bajpayee at the Jaipur Literature Festival here last evening.

To a question from the poet, Raza said, "You ask me why I returned to India? But the fact is I never never left India, I lived in Paris for 60 years but never separated myself from the motherland, I have retained my Indian nationality and passport."

"India, Hindi and Hindu religion always remained close to my heart. At times, in free moments at night, I used to introspect and ask myself: I got recognition, fame, money but where is India in my works? I am now in India to get answer to the question," Raza said.

Recalling his childhood and early school days, Raza said, "I was a bad student, not very bright in studies and examinations. There was a phase when, due to weak performance in class, I was directionless and uncertain about fate and future. At such a point of time, my teacher, Mr Darial Singh Rathore of Jaipur, showed me the path and gave a direction to my life and that was the turning point."

Born in Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh in 1922, Raza returned to India last month after living for 60 years in Paris. He is one of the most acclaimed artists of the world presently whose paintings fetch very prices.

Raza's advice to teachers is: "Pinpoint interest, taste, capabilities and weaknesses of your child, ward and student and then show him/her the path according to his/her capability, choice and interest."


Urdu is not Pakistani language: Javed Akhtar

Noted lyricist and script writer Javed Akhtar today held that Urdu did not belong to any community or caste but represented Hindustani culture and life.

The Bollywood personality, who was in the Pink City to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) at the Diggi Palace here, spoke at length about Urdu language, literature, culture and said it did not belong to a particular caste or community.

"I want to dispel the impression prevailing in a section that Urdu is Pakistan’s language with clarification that the language has rich literature and work about Hindu religion, Purana(s), festivals, Hindu deities, Gods, Goddesses, Ram, Krishna, Radha and Ganga and moreover about Hindu culture, life and philosophy," he said.

Conceding the need and importance of English learning, the lyricist said, "English is essential but that should not take us away from our mother tongue, regional and national languages."

"It is true that English medium schools are making our children more competent but at the same time these institutions are taking us away from our mother language," he cautioned.


GoM finalises e-auction plan for FM Radio-Phase III

The Group of Ministers(GoM) on FM radio Phase-III has approved an e-auction model for award of over 700 private channels.

The format followed would be the one adopted for 3-G auction last year, sources in the Ministry said today.

The licence period for the radio stations is also understood to have been extended to 15 years from existing 10 years.

These decisions were taken by the GoM, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, at its meeting here yesterday.

The auction for Phase II of FM Radio had resulted in huge revenue for the Government.

When new licences are granted, the number of FM radio channels was expected to cross 1,000 as 245 channels are already operational. Moreover, All India Radio was getting ready to launch a total of 320 FM Radio stations.

As many as 216 cities and towns will get private FM radio for the first time in Phase III, which would cover mostly small cities and towns.

The private FM radio would be allowed to transmit news and current affairs programmes only as broadcast by AIR.


Big B no longer the brand ambassador of IIFA

File photo of Amitabh Bachchan addressing the media at the Idea IIFA awards press conference in June, 2009.
File photo of Amitabh Bachchan addressing the media at the Idea IIFA awards press conference in June, 2009.

Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan is no longer the brand ambassador of the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) as the academy says goodbye to the very concept of brand ambassador.

Mr Bachchan, who was associated with IIFA for a decade, could not participate in the IIFA Weekend Sri Lanka event last year due to unexplained reasons. Following this, IIFA aborted the concept of brand ambassador, a statement issued by IIFA said.

"Keeping in mind the huge respect that Wizcraft and IIFA have for Mr Bachchan and the deep relationship that we’ve always shared, we are not having anyone replace Mr Bachchan.

"The Bachchan family has been an intrinsic part of IIFA every year, and in this regard we have already shared with them a proposal about their participation this year, too. Mr Bachchan’s reason for non-participation is best known to him. IIFA and Mr Bachchan are inseparable. We will continue to pursue his participation for this year, too," the statement added.


Book exhibition from the Fort William College Collection begins in Delhi

Ms Vijayalatha Reddy, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, inaugurating a book exhibition organised by the National Archives of India in collaboration with the Iran Culture House, in New Delhi on January 12, 2011.
Ms Vijayalatha Reddy, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, inaugurating a book exhibition organised by the National Archives of India in collaboration with the Iran Culture House, in New Delhi on January 12, 2011.

An exhibition of books in Persian, Arabic and English from the Fort William College Collection began here today under the auspices of the National Archives of India in collaboration with Iran Culture Centre.

The exhibition will be on display till January 19 at India International Centre Annexe here, an official press release said.

The College of Fort William was founded in 1800 by Marquess of Wellesley at Calcutta to commemorate the decisive British victory over Tipu Sultan at Seringapatam. The college was a centre of training and general education for the East India Company’s young civil servants, though it had provision for the admission of the junior military servants as well.

Under Regulations passed on 10 July 1800, the Governor-General was the patron and visitor of the college, and the members of the supreme council, Judges of the Sadr Diwani Adalat and the Sadr Nizamat Adalat were to be its governors. The provost of the college was always to be a clergyman of the Church of England. The first provost and the Vice-Provost were Rev. David Brown and Rev. Clauddis Buchanan repectively. Some of the first professors and Teachers of the college were: Professors Hindustani Lanugage: John Gilchrist, Laws and Regulations: George Hilaro Barlow, Greek, Latin and English: Rev. Clauddius Buchanan, Sanaskrit and Hindu Law: Henry Thomas Colebrooke, Persian Language and Literature : Neil Benjamin Edmonstone and Francis Gladwin, Arabic John Baillie, Teachers: Modern Europen Lanuages: Du Plessy, Sanskrit and Bengali Rev. William Carey, Tamil : Rev. J. Peozold, Hindustani :

In course of time, the college turned into an important place of Oriental Studies where both the British and Indian scholars worked together on a variety of philological researches to help modernise different Indian languages.

Since the court of Directors always regarded this institution as an expensive experiment, it suffered from financial strains, especially after Marquess of Wellesley returned to home in the early months of 1806. Inspite of this conflict between the administrative and scholarly interests, the college could manage to continue as an educational institution for about thirty years. It functioned as a centre of examinations for the Company’s civil servants for another two decades, until its final closure on 24 January 1854. Although, the college was closed but in the course of its short span of active existence, it did succeed in giving a new direction to the Civil Service, besides enlarging the scope for interaction between the Eastern and Western Cultures.

The rich and unique collection of manuscripts and books of Fort Wlliam College began to be dismembered soon after the cessation of the college as an educational institution. In the process of dispersal, the Asiatic Society of Bengal received most of the books and manuscripts belonging to the Oriental Section of the library and the remaining books and manuscripts were given away to the Imperial Library (National Library, Kolkata) and Imperial Record Department (National Archives of India, Delhi). This distribution took place sometime during the first quarter of the 20th century.

The part available in National Archives of India comprises 742 rare books and 199 manuscripts which are useful work on Religion, Language, Literature, History, Medicine, Animal Husbandry, Astrology, Travelogues, Geography, Biography and on some topics of general interest, an official press release added.


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