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.


Reliance MediaWorks launches India’s largest Hollywood-benchmarked studios

Reliance Media Works Studios
Reliance Media Works Studios

Film and entertainment services company Reliance Mediaworks Ltd (RMW), a part of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, today announced the launch of its studio operations.

A press release from the company said the RMW studios comprise eight sound stages spead across a 7-acre area within Filmcity in Mumbai with a total built-up area of 200,000 sq ft.

The studios will be a comprehensive resource for feature films, television, commercials, music videos, new media, gaming, special effects and special events, it said.

Built over a period of two years, the first phase of three sound stages has become operational from this month and the second phase comprising five sound stages will be operational by mid-2011.The RMW Studios' capacity equals to 25% of the Mumbai studio market, the release said.

According to it, the studios have been built as per strict Hollywood compliant design specifications by Wylie Carter & Associates, who are Studio Specialist Architects from Los Angeles and have worked with Walt Disney Studios, Raleigh Studios, and DreamWorks SKG's Playa Vista Studio.

They were supported by Los Angeles-based specialist consultants like Nadel Commercial Architects, John A. Martin Assoc. Structural Engineers, Levine & Seegel Mechanical Engineers and KSG Electrical Engineers.

Reliance Media Works Studios - Sound Stage
Reliance Media Works Studios - Sound Stage

The release said the RMW Studios were the first in India to have advanced technological features like super silent ‘"sync sound", 55 feet height, enormous "live load" bearing capacities and elephant doors which allow full truck access on to the stages. The fire safety and security measures at the studios are as per Los Angeles County Fire Department regulations, it said.

The studios are connected to an Optic Fiber network which links it with the Reliance

MediaWorks' film post-production facilities in Film City, animation unit in Pune, television commercial post and broadcast post facilities in Andheri and international offices in Los Angeles and London and hence offer tapeless solutions from "origination to post production to playout", the release said.

"The launch of RMW Studios is a natural extension of the film and media services we’re already providing in the entertainment space. There is a severe shortage of high quality infrastructure in Mumbai and this need gap becomes more acute every year with the constant increase in big budget film, broadcast and advertising commercial productions. These studios are a one-stop solution that blends infrastructure with technology, experience and aesthetics and a prominent step in a strategy to increase our footprint across the entire entertainment services value chain," Mr. Anil Arjun, CEO of Reliance MediaWorks, said.

Reliance Media Works Studios - Make up Room
Reliance Media Works Studios - Make up Room

Along with the studio infrastructure, RMW also offers end-to-end pre-production services like film cameras, multicam equipment, automated lights and LED walls for broadcast shows and events and expertise of a technically qualified team along with the equipments. It also has state-of-the-art post-production facilities for feature films, broadcast shows and television commercials, making it a one-stop solution for film makers, the release added.


PM announces Studio Theatre Scheme for Performing Arts Groups

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today announced a "Studio Theatre Scheme" under which the Ministry of Culture would provide generous support to theatre groups to set up functional spaces for both rehearsals and performances.

In a message on the occasion of the 13th Bharat Rang Mahotsav, the annual theatre festival organised by the National School of Drama (NSD) here, Dr Singh, who also holds the portfolio of Culture, said the resurrection of theatre activity urgently required such functional spaces.

"A year ago, I had spoken about the need for ‘Studio Theatre’ or small and more intimate performing spaces as a long felt need of the theater community," he recalled.

He said the Government had addressed this need with all seriousness and the scheme announced by him would give a much-needed helping hand to artistes and allow them to concentrate on creative expression.

An official press release said the scheme sought to address a long-felt need of creative groups engaged in the performing arts and followed several years of demands and discussions.

"Serious theatre, like serious cinema, thrives on the support of smaller but more appreciative audiences. Small, non-proscenium rehearsal-cum-performance spaces, which can accommodate 100 to 200 viewers, is what the contemporary theatre most requires," it said.

Under the scheme, with generous support from the Government, going upto 60 % of the project cost, performing arts groups will be helped to build their own "creative spaces". The grant from the Ministry of Culture can go upto Rs. 50 lakhs in metro cities and Rs. 25 lakhs in other places, if the groups contribute their share of 40% of the project cost.

The annual salary grants for the artistes and "gurus" in the performing arts have already been enhanced, and this Studio Theatre scheme, it is hoped, would help these groups attain substantial "economic independence", so that they are able to pursue their creative talents, without over-dependence on sponsors or the government, the release said.

The concept of smaller, experimental rehearsal spaces that will double up as performing spaces, being promoted and supported under this new Studio Theatre scheme, will facilitate theatre and other performing groups concentrate their energies on creativity rather than finding sponsors, help the performers draw better inspiration from more involved audiences, and, thus, benefit the cause of theatre, dance and music, it said.

Titled as the "Scheme of Building Grants, including Studio Theatres", the scheme replaces an existing scheme of the Ministry, which was known as the "Scheme of Building Grants to Cultural Organizations" and provided for construction of formal, conventional auditoria and concert halls, but offered no scope to promote such innovative, non-conventional creative spaces as Studio Theatres.

Besides, that scheme was plagued with several inherent operational problems and offered a limited assistance of upto Rs. 15 lakhs only.

Apart from highlighting the importance of supporting Studio Theatres, the scheme being introduced today makes many other improvements over the existing scheme.

The release said the scheme targets all kinds of cultural spaces for performing arts and specifically includes Studio Theatre as an innovative, cost-effective model of rehearsal-cum-performing spaces. The scheme will thus have two components. While one will cover the conventional performance spaces like concert halls, auditoria, and so on as in the existing scheme, the other will cover such non-conventional, experimental performance spaces as Studio Theatres.

While the existing ceiling of Rs. 15 lakhs on assistance for any particular project is being raised to Rs. 25 lakhs, it provides a higher cap of Rs. 50 lakhs for the projects that involve new construction or purchase of built up space in the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, in view of higher costs of space in the metro cities.

Subject to the ceiling of Rs. 25 lakhs or Rs. 50 lakhs, as the case may be, financial assistance from the Central Government will be upto 60% of the project cost (as against 50% in the existing scheme). Thus, the applicant organization’s matching share is being reduced from 50% to 40% of the project cost.

Under the existing scheme, grant is sanctioned for the construction of a building, but not for the purchase of a ready built space. Looking to the current scenario of urban development, especially in bigger cities, in the new scheme, it is proposed to allow purchase of built up space, as an alternative to the construction of a building.

The requirement of approval of building plans and cost estimates by an Executive Engineer of PWD has been done away with. Now cost estimates and building plans approved by any Registered Architect would be accepted.

Substantial procedural simplifications have been introduced in the new scheme. The list of documents required to be furnished by the applicants has also been reviewed and rationalized.

With the introduction of the concept of Studio Theatre, the focus of the revised scheme would shift from civil structure to the technicals like electricals, lights and sound, interiors, equipments, and so on. With this change in the focus of the eligible projects, the existing ceiling of Rs. 2.50 lakhs on the purchase of equipments has been dispensed with. Now there would be no cost sub-ceiling for the equipments.

The release said a Peer Group appraisal has been introduced for achieving a more realistic assessment of the project proposals. To ensure proper utilization of the funds, a physical inspection will be insisted upon before the release of final instalment.

The system of release of various instalments of the sanctioned grant has been suitably modified and the condition that the building must get completed even before the final instalment is released has been dispensed with.

Besides registered societies and trusts, not-for-profit companies will also be eligible for assistance under this scheme.


Tamil Nadu theatre owners to stall release of Vijay's new film

The Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners Association today announced that it would stall the release of popular actor Vijay's coming film "Kavalan" as well as his future releases.

A press release from the Association here said a resolution to this effect was adopted at their meeting.

Theatre owners across the state have suffered losses by screening Vijay's earlier film "Sura", it claimed.

The Association had urged the actor to compensate the losses they had suffered, on humanitarian grounds. But as the actor did not respond favourably,the Association decided on this course of action, the release added.


Cultural show "Chennai Sangamam" to be held from January 12-17

"Thamizh Maiyam", a non-governmental organisation that promotes indigenous culture, will hold its annual show, "Chennai Sangamam" here from January 12 to 17.

As in the past four years, the fifth edition of the show will be held during the traditional "Pongal" festival. This year, the organisers have also given space to children from slums, the differently abled and transgenders to exhibit their skills in traditional art forms.

Announcing the 2011 edition of this immensely popular celebration of Tamil heritage, Thamizh Maiyam founder Jegat Gaspar Raj and its convener and Rajya Sabha member K Kanimozhi said some "very meaningful" new components had been added this year.

To give it a cosmopolitan or pan-Indian image, artistes from neighbouring states like Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka, and Orissa would also be part of the show, they said.

They said the folk art forms of the state would get the predominant place again and the classical artistes would get the unique opportunity to connect with the afficionados at the venues.

More than a hundred poets, writers and speakers will also showcase the rich Tamil literature, lined up by "Tamil Nadu Iyal Isai Nadaga Mandram", they said.

This year the curtain would go up on the programmes at all venues simultaneously even as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi presides over the grand inaugural function at the Island grounds with a spectacular show involving hundreds of folk and contemporary artistes.

Indigenous Tamil cuisines would also continue to be an important aspect of the event. A Tamil documentary festival was also being planned, they added.


Bollywood delegation meets Chavan to brief him about industry's woes

Representatives of cash-starved Bollywood, reeling under the impact of several big-budget movies flopping at the Box office, met Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan here last night and drew his attention to various problems confronting the film industry.

The delegation led by film-makers Mahesh Bhatt and Ramesh Sippy discussed with the Chief Minister various grievances, including the high entertainment tax in the state, harassment by political parties and high-handedness of police at the government-run Film City at Goregaon.

They also demanded that immediate steps be taken to review the Film City functioning, their spokesman told UNI today.

The delegation handed over a letter, signed by veteran producer Yash Chopra, Mr Sippy and Mr Bhatt, listing their grievances.

At the meeting, also attended by Industries Minister Narayan Rane, Mr Chavan assured the delegation that he would look into their grievances and said more discussions would be arranged to resolve issues affecting the industry.


Film producers call off proposed "bandh" on copyright issue

The Film Federation of India (FFI) today deferred their call for a proposed "bandh" in view of positive development on the issue of Copyright Amendment Bill following their meeting with Central Ministers in New Delhi.

The Bill is to be tabled in the Lok Sabha early next year.

Leaders of the FFI, Film and Television Producers Guild and producers from southern India had met leaders including Mr Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni and Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal in New Delhi yesterday.

Announcing the deferment of the strike, film-maker Mukesh Bhatt said the producers and distributors fraternity was ready to hold dialogue with the film industry’s composers and lyricists regarding royalties.

He said the government was also open to hearing both sides of the issue before taking any step.

"We have got a positive response from the government and an assurance that the matter will be decided on the basis of principles and not personality. We now need to engage authors and composers and work out a fair and practical solution without jeopardising any stakeholders," he said.

The advice to ban lyricist Javed Akhtar, who proposed changes in existing copyright laws, by FFI on December 27, will, however, still stand.

According to existing copyright laws, the sound recording rights remain exclusively with the producer who receives 50 per cent royalty as first owner of recording rights. The publishing rights account for 25 per cent, while performing rights account for another 25 per cent.

The amendment proposed by Akhtar calls for equal division of the performing rights between the lyricist and composer. The publishing rights remain with the producers.

Producers have strongly resisted the changes on the grounds that they are entitled to the copyrights, as they take the risks of the market. With heavy taxes, and the film industry on a decline with 95 per cent of films not recovering their costs, the producers are firm in their conviction to protect what they perceive is their turf.

The producers, however, added that their stand was not confrontational and that the call for the strike was to highlight their plight.

"What we will be focusing is on the law regarding lyricists, composers and producers. We have felt since last year that our rights will be taken away from us, and the government was taking steps without consulting us. We have now presented our case to the government. Talks are on with Javed Akhtar," producer Ramesh Sippy said.

The producers said that with the government receptive to their stand, a proposal was being formulated by lawyers, that would be soon presented. The proposal would also include heavy taxes imposed on the film industry pay, resulting in its decline.

"Making a film is like building a house and the producer is the owner. All those involved in building the house are paid accordingly. The house and everything inside remains with the owner," FFI President T P Agarwal said.


Air Force Brass and Jazz band enthralls people at India Gate in Delhi

Hundreds of people were treated to a performance by the 30-member Indian Air Force Brass and Jazz Band for the general public at India Gate in the capital.

The audience was greated to soulful tunes ranging from Mozart's Symphony No. 40 to "Ame Mere Watan Logon" and from "Havana" to "Waka Waka". The programme concluded with a rendition of "Vante Mataram".

An added bonus for those who turned up was a performance by the Air Warrior Drill TEam.

The first Air Force Band was raised in the year 1944 at the Royal Air Force Station, Kohat, in North Western Frontier Province. Today there are eight bands in the Indian Air Force.

Progressing from the delightful martial music, successive conductors of the bands enhanced the range of its repertoire to include arrangements of symphonies, overtures and concertos as well as other forms of contemporary music including the Indian classical. These bands have been performing at various ceremonies and official functions.

A member of the worldwide Military Music Society, the Air Force Band has performed in India as well as abroad in Thailand, Finland, France and Italy as well as at the Kuala Lumpur International Tattoo, ILA Berlin Air Show, the French National Day Celebration and recently on India’s Independence Day celebration in Dhaka, Bangladesh.


CBFC has not cut scenes in "No One Killed Jessica": Sharmila

File photo of Sharmila Tagore
File photo of Sharmila Tagore

Refuting claims that some scenes of the film "No One Killed Jessica", said to be based on the Jessica Lal murder case trial, were either beeped or deleted, Censor Board of Film Certification (CBFC)chairperson Sharmila Tagore has said the board has not cut even a single frame from the film.

Reacting to media reports, quoting the director of the film Dibakar Banerjee as saying that the CBFC had deleted a scene and beeped a word from the film, the CBFC chairperson told UNI, "These are all false reports. I don't know why Dibakar Banerjee, the director of 'No One Killed Jessica', is making this statement."

"The truth is, we have not cut even a single frame of 'No One Killed Jessica'. The deletions were made only for the television promos of the film as television guidelines do not allow certain visuals to be telecast. The media seemed to have confused this to mean that scenes from the film have been deleted," she said.

Media reports had quoted Banerjee as saying that the CBFC had deleted a scene and beeped a word from the film despite certifying it as "Adults only".

Blaming the filmmakers for announcing to the world that their films had been banned or censored whereas the reality was quite different, Ms Tagore said that ever since she took over as the chairperson of the Board, she had made efforts to make it more proactive.

"A lot of times, we have allowed scenes from films to be retained if we feel that deleting them would infringe on the creative freedom of the filmmaker. And, in a majority of the cases, I have received the support from the Ministry," she said.

In this context, she again cited the example of "No One Killed Jessica", in which a shot of Rani Mukherjee smoking was retained despite the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in this regard.

"It was just a single shot. We felt that the smoking scene was necessary as it helped differentiate between Rani Mukherjee's character and that played by Vidya Balan. It brings out the innocence of the character of Sabrina (played by Vidya Balan)," the CBFC chairperson said.

A scene from No One Killed Jessica
A scene from No One Killed Jessica

She also termed as "untrue" claims that Ashvin Kumar's documentary on Kashmir "Inshallah Football" had been banned by the CBFC.

"It is true that examining committee of the Board refused a certificate to the film in national interest. The review committee in Mumbai, which saw the documentary after the examining committee, also was in favour of refusing a certificate for the film. However, the CBFC officer in-charge present at the screening felt that there was nothing wrong with the film and that it should be seen by another Revising Committee. So, I have set up another Revising Committee for the film," she said.

On the Ashwin Kumar stating on Facebook that the film had been banned, Ms Tagore said, "It is not true. Any decision on the film will be taken only after the second Revising Committee watches the film. In fact, there is an opinion that if films like 'Lamha' (based on the situation in Kashmir), 'Parzania' (based on the Gujarat riots) and 'Black Friday' (based on Mumbai bomb blasts) can be passed then 'Inshallah Football' should also be cleared."

On the controversy surrounding another film by Ashvin Kumar called "Dazed in Doom", Ms Tagore said the Board had cleared it subject to the condition that the filmmaker submit an affidavit that he is the "sole owner of the property."

She said Doon school, which commissioned the film for its 75th anniversary, was in dispute with Mr Kumar over the final version.

She said the headmaster had recently written to the Information and Broadcasting Secretary asserting that Doon school was the co-producer of the film.

While admitting that the acceptability norms for films needed to be revised from time to time keeping in view changing audience tastes and preferences, Ms Tagore said there had been a commensurate change in the guidelines of the Board with passing time.

"We realise that what was unacceptable, say, a decade or two ago, may be acceptable today and have made commensurate changes in our criteria for revising the films. At the same time, I would say that a lot of vulgar and obscene stuff that is made today in the name of creativity comes to us. Ultimately, we have to ensure that what is exhibited is in good taste," she said.

She said she had been forced to issue clarifications to the media after unjustifiable statements by filmmakers and producers of their so called victimisation by the Board.

"I want to say that we at the Board are cognisant of our responsibilities. I have had several decades of experiences in cinema. I have, as far as, possible tried to ensure a just and fair certification of the films coming to us," Ms Tagore said.

A scene from No One Killed Jessica
A scene from No One Killed Jessica

"After all this, I am pained to witness such unwarranted criticism of the Board and its officials. As members of the Board, we are following the guidelines laid down for the certification while lending our own sensibilities to ensure no injustice has been done to anyone. Barring some margin of error, I feel the Board has been quite fair in its approach. And, I am the first one to admit it when we make a mistake," she said.

In this context, she says that in hindsight, she now felt giving a UA certificate to "Ghajini" was a mistake.

"I was the first one to admit, despite being warned against it by friends and well wishers that we made a mistake in not granting an 'Adults Only' certificate to 'Ghajini'. Many other filmakers which came to the board with their films after 'Ghajini' expected that having granted 'UA' certificate to 'Ghajini', their films would also be granted the same treatment. However, having made a mistake once does not mean we make a mistake again," she added.


Uday Prakash, M P Veerendra Kumar among Sahitya Akademi Award winners

Eminent journalist Uday Prakash and writer-cum-politician M P Veerendra Kumar have been selected for the Sahitya Akademi Awards 2010 along with 20 other writers.

In all, eight books of poetry, three of short stories, four of criticism, a novel, a travelogue, an autobiography, a play and four novels have won the award this year in 22 Indian languages, a statement issued by the Akademi said yesterday.

While Janata Dal (Secular) leader Veerendra Kumar's travelogue "Haimavathabhuvil" has been chosen in Malayalam, well-known Hindi writer and journalist Uday Prakash has won the award for his collection of short stories "Mohan Das".

The poets honoured with the award are Aurobindi Uzir (Bodo), Arun Sakhardande (Konkani), Gopi Narayan Pradhan (Nepali), Vanita (Punjabi), Mangat Badal (Rajasthani), Mithila Prasad Tripathi (Sanskrit), Laxman Dubey (Sindhi) and Sheen Kaaf Nizam (Urdu).

Others who have won for short stories include Manoj (Dogri) and Nanjil Nadan (Tamil).

Keshada Mahanta (Assamese), Rahmath Tarikere (Kannada), Basher Bashir (Kashmiri) and Ashok R Kelkar (Marathi) have got the award for their books in the criticism genre.

An autobiography and play have been selected in Oriya and Santali language category respectively. Awards in Maithili and Telugu language would be declared later.

The award in the form of a casket containing an engraved copper plaque, a shawl and a cheque of Rs 1,00,000 will be presented to the authors at a function to be held on February 15 during the Festival of Letters.


Musical Instruments Gallery at National Museum reopened

A view of the Musical Instruments Gallery which was reopened in the National Museum in New Delhi on December 18, 2010
A view of the Musical Instruments Gallery which was reopened in the National Museum in New Delhi on December 18, 2010

An enthralling recital by sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, reopening of the prized Musical Instruments Gallery, launching of a travelling exhibition, and the completion of the first phase of renovation marked the 50th foundation day celebrations of the National Museum here today.

The world-renowned artiste kept an audience of music lovers spell-bound for over an hour with the "ragas" streaming out of his sarod heralded the reopening of the Saran Rani Backliwal Musical Instruments Gallery packed with rare 17th century instruments, among others.

Presiding over the function, Culture Secretary said the government was taking several initiatives to preserve the cultural heritage of the country.

"Not everybody can have a National Museum as the repository of musical instruments. Musical instruments are scattered all over our country. The Centre has earmarked Rs 105 crore to help 36 museums in the country collect rare artefacts and expand their collections,’’ he said.

Mr Sircar also said the museum was also trying to preserve the vast number of audio-visual records and manuscripts and the government had launched a programme to collect instruments and objects from the individuals to add to the repository of the museum.

National Museum Administrator C V Ananda Bose said the museum was well on the track of revival. "We are committed to produce results. With the support of the Government, we will bring in results, reflecting the glorious cultural heritage of the country," he said.

While acknowledging it as an honour to perform in the National Museum, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan requested the Secretary and the Museum authorities to invite young scholars to research on the classical musical instruments, especially on sitar, sarangi, and santoor, and publish their research works.

The acclaimed performer then rendered a captivating recital to the packed audience. After starting with raga "alhaiya bilawal", he moved on to "jaunpuri" and then "bhairavi", the concluding piece.

The reopening of the musical gallery, mainly consisting of the rare instruments gifted by India’s first and foremost woman sarod guru Sharan Rani Backliwal was witnessed by her art scholar husband Sultan Singh Backliwal and their daughter Radhika Backliwal Narain, who herself is a known art collector.

The gallery, in the name of Sharan Rani Backliwal who passed away a couple of years ago, has a large collection of musical instruments, both folk and classical, and many of them are from the 17th and 18th Centuries. The collection was donated by Ms Backliwal in 1980 and 1987. Most of the Indian instruments belong to the period between the 17th and 19th centuries. There are also a few 19th century Western instruments. The objects have been divided into different categories like string instruments (veena, sitar, santoor), percussion instruments (tabla, dholak) and wind instruments (flute, trumpet).

A view of the Musical Instruments Gallery which was reopened in the National Museum in New Delhi on December 18, 2010
A view of the Musical Instruments Gallery which was reopened in the National Museum in New Delhi on December 18, 2010

The museum has also completed the first phase of its architectural renovation with better lighting, designs and aesthetics. As part of the modernization, display patterns in the foyer, corridors and galleries have improved.

"We have set the target of reopening of the three closed galleries to bring back the glorious past of the country’s heritage into limelight. The music instruments gallery is ready in 60 days while the two galleries of wooden carvings will be reopened for the public by the middle of the next month," Dr Bose said.

The museum also announced a travelling exhibition called "Heritage Him-sagar", which will cover the entire stretch of the country from Kashmir to Kanyakumari on road, giving a glimpse of the country’s heritage, rare artefacts and richness of culture to the people.


"Portraits in a Sea of Lies" bags Suvarna Chakoram at IFFK


Colombian film "Portraits in a Sea of Lies" by Carlos Gaviria bagged the "Suvarna Chakoram" (Golden Crow Pheasant) award, at the 15th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), which concluded here last night.

Argentinian director Julia Solomonooff got the '"Rajata Chakoram" (Silver Crow Pheasant) award for best director for the film "The Last Summer of La Boyita".

The "Rajata Chakoram" for the best debut film was awarded to Turkish film "Zephire" by Belma Bas.

The "Swarna Chakoram" carries a prize money of Rs 15 lakh and the "Rajata Chakoram" for the best director Rs 4 lakh. The best debut director gets Rs 3 lakh.

Announcing the awards, Jury Chairperson Julie Dash said all the films exhibited social commitment.

"I Am Afiya Megha Abhimanyu Omar" directed by Onir Anirban was selected for the best Asian film for the Network for the Promotion of Asia Film Centre (NETPAC) award and the NETPAC award for the best Malayalam film went to "Veettilekkulla Vazhi" (The Way Home), directed by Dr Biju.

The FIPRESCI award for the best film from Asia, Africa and Latin America, chosen by the Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique for films, went to "Buried Secrets", directed by Raja Amari and the FIPRESCI award for the best Malayalam film went to "Makaramanju" by Lenin Rajendran.

The Hasankutty award for the best Indian debut film went to "Chitra Suthram", directed by Vipin Vijay.

Presenting the awards, Cultural Affairs Minister M A Baby said that a film complex would be set up in Thiruvananthapuram. He also said that a classic film would be screened in all schools in the state from next year.

The 15th edition of the IFFK offered 207 films under 16 categories.

The jury comprised Kazakhstan director Ermek Shinarbayef, Mexican film maker Maria Novaro, Thailand director Apichapong Weerasethakul and script writer Sooni Taraporevala from Mumbai.


PM meets top musicians, discusses steps to revitalise classical arts

Eminent musicians meeting the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi on December 08, 2010.
Eminent musicians meeting the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi on December 08, 2010.

In a rare interaction, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is also the Minister for Culture, met a group of of eminent musicians from the Hindustani and Carnatic traditions and discussed with the various issues, including the possibility of a dedicated television channel for the classical arts.

The meeting was organised by the Ministry of Culture under the aegis of the All India Musicians Group (AIMG).

The musicians included Ajoy Chakrabarty, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Zakir Husain, Rajan Mishra, Shivkumar Sharma, Ravikiran Chitravina, T N Krishnan, Sudha Raghunathan and U Shrinivas.

Arvind Parikh was the convener, and Vijay Kichlu, Sajan Mishra and Ashok Vajpeyi attended the meeting as observers.

According to an official press release, the AIMG raised a number of issues. These covered the "Guru Shishya parampara", the need to inject public sector and corporate funds for the classical arts; the revitalisation of State and other academies; re-emphasizing of music education in schools and developing a national repository of the performing arts of India.

Dr Singh said he recognised their contribution to taking forward the cultural heritage of India. He stated that it was necessary to have in place adequate institutional arrangements to support these arts. He mentioned that classical arts were the soul of India and their presence reminded everyone of the great cultural and civilizational tradition of India.

The Prime Minister agreed with the delegation that India’s emergence as an economic power could only be completed when the country’s profile adequately reflected its "soft power" as reflected by its achievements in the cultural field. He also said that funding of the projects suggested by the AIMG should not normally be a problem and he looked forward to another meeting with the Group, after some work had been done on their suggestions.

Dr Singh said the Ministry of Culture should consider what it could do to carry forward the "Guru Shishya" tradition. The Ministry’s scheme for professional groups and individuals engaged in performing arts may be revisited so that the eminent Gurus and maestros are facilitated in nurturing fresh and upcoming talent, he said.

He said a re-look was also necessary at the artiste pension scheme, under which the Ministry grants a monthly honorarium of Rs 4000 to old artistes living in indigent circumstances, with a view to make it more effective.

He also supported the idea of a National Artiste Welfare Fund which should be flexible to accommodate the needs of the artistes. The suggestion of encouraging contribution from senior artistes, and the corporate sector apart from the Ministry of Culture and the National Akademies was a useful one and should be built into the proposed Fund, he said.

He said the Ministry would take up with the Ministry of Human Resource Development the issues regarding the inputs of culture into education such as putting in place the recommendations of the NCERT for a national curriculum framework and those of the Central Advisory Board on Education and SPIC MACAY to promote education of music and other liberal arts in schools.

Dr Singh said the development of a dedicated television channel on culture could also be examined, especially since the advantages of such an initiative in the present age may outweigh the costs involved.

He assured the Group that he would also take up with the Chief Ministers the matter of strengthening of State Academies of art and culture and institutions of music and and remind them of their responsibilities in the cultural arena, including the preservation of many dying Gharanas/ schools of music.

The meeting felt that Corporate Social Responsibility could also be channelized through the National Culture Fund of the Ministry which could be imaginatively utilized by various corporate bodies and PSUs. The scope of the National Culture Fund could be enlarged by the Ministry of Culture to go beyond its present support to monumental heritage and could encompass the living heritage of India, including projects of music and dance, the meeting felt.


India, Poland to enhance cooperation in arts, archives

India and Poland have agreed to enhance cooperation in areas like performing arts, archives, visual arts, museums and conservation of objects like paper art and oil paintings.

At a meeting between visiting Polish Minister of Culture and National Heritage Bogdan Zdrojewski and Culture Secretar Jawhar Sircar here recently, the two sides also discussed the active participation of India in the Theatre Festival of Malta and the Summer Festival of Theatre.


An official press release said here today that both sides also agreed to cooperate in conservation and digitization of archival materials, collaboration in transfer of technology; exchange of reciprocal exhibitions,; sharing of Indian experience in stone art with the Polish side; management of World Heritage Sites; modernization of museums and sharing of best practices; joint collaboration in translation of famous literary works as also restoration of modern art.

India and Poland had signed a Cooperation Programme for the years 2010-2013 in September this year.


Astro to launch Hindi 24x7 food lifestyle channel with chef Sanjeev Kapoor

Astro All Asia Networks of Malaysia has entered into a joint venture with Turmeric Vision Pvt Ltd (TVPL) for a specialised 24x7 Hindi food lifestyle channel called FoodFood to be launched in early 2011.

TVPL is a television company owned by celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor and his wife Alyona Kapoor.

The venture is part of Astro's plans to diversify its media investment portfolio to India and marks its entry into the Indian media broadcasting industry.

According to a press release from the company, FoodFood will be a "gastronomically loaded lifestyle and entertainment concept available across television, mobile phones, internet, etc."

The release said the channel would be based on the concept of Cooking+ Food +Food-lifestyle and would feature "Hinglish" content that will be produced and packaged in India, making the shows relevant to the Indian audience.

Among other things, it will feature shows about food and food lifestyle like "Sanjeev Kapoor’s Kitchen", "Firangi Tadka", "Sirf 30 Minute" and "Ready Steady Cook".

Prominent personalities from the entertainment and food industry will feature in the various shows.

"Food is the new entertainment! Over recent times, content has started to reflect this with food playing a central role in game shows, reality shows, travel and lifestyle shows and instructional shows where viewers learn to cook or hone their culinary skills, or just vicariously experience new cultures and cuisines," Mr. Raghvendra Madhav, Executive Director of India and South Asia for Media, Astro group, said.

"Our core target is the middle class Indian in urban towns and cities," he said.

"Our association with Chef Sanjeev Kapoor for this channel will be a value addition. Sanjeev has over the years, made a mark for himself in the culinary world, and carved out a special place in every household. He is the perfect choice for the channel. We will have the support of his creativity and popularity, for the channel to connect with the core audience," he said.

Mr Kapoor said food in India was synonymous with entertainment, with people meeting and bonding over food.

"All our celebrations centre around food. The channel offers an ultimate lifestyle destination for Indian foodies who want to make some quick, easy, balanced meals as well learn about interesting world cuisines. With food being the central element, the shows will offer a variety of lifestyle and entertainment content, and different themes and recipes that the Indian viewers can connect with," he said.

"It has been my dream of having a channel like this ever since I started my career. The partnership with Astro is a natural culmination. I am very excited to see my dream turning to reality," he added.

Astro is an integrated cross media group, with presence in Malaysia, India, the Middle East, Australia and international markets. It is primarily engaged in the provision of direct-to-home subscription television services, radio services, film library licensing, multi-media interactive services, and television content creation, aggregation and distribution.

In India, Astro has a stake in Sun Direct and South Asia FM Limited. It recently acquired a significant stake in Get It Infoservices (a yellow pages directory business ) and has a JV with Mogae Digital mobile content and online portals.

The company has also recently bought a 49% stake in lifestyle channel, NDTV Good Times, the release added.


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