North East »» RIMS employees to face trial for embezzlement on April 3•••Nagaland Parliamentary Secretary visits spot of murder•••Miscreants plant grenade at RIMS premises•••State »» Assam-Arunchal border issue•••Anomalies in child labourers’ schools in Nagaon•••Three-day exhibition-cum book fair gets under way•••National »» Clamour for action against VK Singh grows•••Treat leak of letter as high treason: army chief•••Court takes cognisance of Tejinder Singh’s defamation case•••International »» Pakistan addicted to playing around militant groups against India: Pentagon•••Pakistan SC says Gilani may face second contempt case•••‘Romney policies resulted in outsourcing of jobs to India’•••    
  National News
 Clamour for action against VK Singh grows

New Delhi, March 29: The chorus for strong action against army chief Gen. VK Singh grew louder on Thursday following reports that he had sought a CBI probe on graft allegations against a serving officer based on a letter written by a Trinamool Congress MP. While the BJP voiced doubts on the timing of the army chief’s disclosure, the RJD said Singh has lost people’s confidence and demanded his sacking.

The army chief, who had taken on the government over his age and whose letter to the prime minister on shortcomings in the forces has triggered outrage, opened a fresh front by forwarding a letter written a year ago by Trinamool MP Ambika Banerjee against Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag to the Central Bureau of Investigation. While the Left said it wants the government to investigate the matter to ascertain who is behind the leak, United Progressive Alliance partners Trinamool Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party supported the government.

“The complaint of the MP that the army chief has sent to CBI should be probed. The time chosen by the army chief after one year raises questions and doubts on his behaviour,” BJP leader Balbir Punj said. He demanded a public reply by the army chief on the delay.

The letter by the Trinamool MP of May 2011 alleges ‘procurement scams’ in the ‘secretive’ Special Frontier Force (SFF), when Lt Gen Dalbir Singh was its inspector general. The SFF is under the administrative control of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the country's premier foreign spy agency.

Hitting out at VK Singh, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav said: “He (V.K. Singh) has lost his face, no one in the nation will trust him," and added that he should be sacked”. Another RJD leader Ramkripal Yadav said: “He is out of his mind... I think he is working under some motivation. I want to urge the government that there should be action against him without delay.”

The Samajwadi Party and the Janata Dal-United had on Wednesday demanded sacking of the army chief after his letter to the prime minister on shortage of ammunition in the forces was leaked to the media. The Congress, meanwhile, said the issue should be left for the defence ministry to handle. (IANS)


 Treat leak of letter as high treason: army chief

New Delhi, March 29: Rejecting allegations that he had leaked his letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, an ‘outraged’ army chief General VK Singh on Thursday said the leak should be treated as ‘high treason’. A statement by the army chief said he was ‘outraged’ that the letter, about the shortage of arms and ammunition in the forces, had been leaked.
The source of the leak should be found and punished ruthlessly, VK Singh said. “The leaking of letter should be be treated as high treason. This cynical approach to tar my reputation should be stopped. The source of leak has to be found and dealt with ruthlessly,” he said in a statement.  Gen. Singh, in his letter to Manmohan Singh, has pointed out a shortage of arms and ammunition in the armed forces. According to reports, the letter, which was written March 12, 2012, states that army tanks have run out of ammunition. The letter emphasises the need to bridge the shortcomings and bring the army to a fighting level. (IANS)


 Court takes cognisance of Tejinder Singh’s defamation case

New Delhi, March 29: A Delhi court on Thursday took cognisance of a defamation case filed by Lt. Gen. (retd) Tejinder Singh against army chief Gen VK Singh, who has accused him of bribery. Metropolitan magistrate Sudesh Kumar listed the matter for recording of evidence for April 10.

Tejinder Singh has requested the court to summon and initiate proceedings against the army chief and others for making the libellous statement in media. He approached the court after the army chief named him as the person who offered him Rs.14 crore bribe in exchange for clearing a tranche of 600 sub-standard vehicles for the army. Tejinder Singh has refuted the bribe allegations.

Tejinder Singh told the court that from March 1 to March 4, various media reports carried the allegations of illegal off-the-air monitoring of call records of senior officials. He added that on March 5, a press release issued by army headquarters levelled serious allegation against him.

Tejinder Singh told the court that the media cannot be addressed directly by army officials. He denied all the allegation against him and said that neither any investigation was conducted nor any case registered against him in the case of Adarsh society, where he has been allotted a flat.

Tejinder Singh’s counsel Anil Aggarwal and SM Pandey also termed the allegations levelled against their client as baseless. They said the allegations were levelled against the retired Lt General without any proof.

Alleging that the officers misused their official position, power and authority to level false charges against him, the retired Lt General in his complaint has also named SK Singh (vice-chief of Army staff), Lt Gen BS Thakur (DGMI), Major General SL Narsimhan (Additional Director General of Public Information) and Lt Col Hitten Sawhney (GSO-I Directorate General of Public Information). (IANS)


 India to continue to engage with Norway on NRI siblings

New Delhi, March 29:  The government on Thursday said it would continue to engage with Norwegian authorities on the issue of Indian siblings, Abhigyan and Aishwarya, who have been taken into foster care in the Scandinavian country on grounds of alleged negligence by their parents. “The government will continue to engage with Norwegian authorities on this matter. We hope this is only a temporary delay,” Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur said in the Lok Sabha. The minister was replying to a Calling Attention notice on the issue.

She said an alleged family dispute had dealt a setback to its efforts in getting the two Indian children back with their parents Anurup Bhattacharya and Sagarika Chakraborty, an NRI couple residing in Stavanger in Norway.

India has “sought the early return of the children to India to enable them to be brought up in familiar surroundings under the loving care of their family which was in their best long-term interests”, Kaur said. She said a Norwegian court hearing ‘would have considered this solution (but the hearing) was postponed after certain developments that led (the Norwegian Child Welfare Services) to conclude that the parents of the children and their families were not united’. “This has led to a setback to the entire process of the resolution of the case,” Kaur said in the house.

The kids, aged three and one, were taken away from their parents by the child welfare services of the local municipality and placed under emergency foster care in May 2011. After the Indian government’s intervention, the authorities had agreed to recommend to a court in Norway on March 23 that the children be placed in the custody of their uncle Arunabhas Bhattacharya. However, that did not happen after reports of marital discord between the parents of the children.

The minister narrated the sequence of events leading to the separation of the two Indian children from their parents.

She said that the court hearing was set to take place in June now and hoped that the children would be brought back.

Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj said India as a sovereign nation should ‘stop all business relations (with Norway) as a counter-measure’ to get the children back. “Time has come for us to take counter-measures not only on this issue, but also on issues like Italian security guards killing two of our fishermen. We cannot even get our children back,” Sushma said. (IANS)


 China says Dalai Lama stoking extremist views

New Delhi, March 29: China on Thursday blamed the Dalai Lama for stroking extremist views and thanked India for taking ‘effective and concrete’ steps to curb Tibetans during President Hu Jintao’s visit. Luo Zhaohui, Director-General of the Department of Asian Affairs, regretted the loss of innocent lives in and around Tibet but said Beijing opposed ‘pro-independence Tibetan activists’. Answering a query about the death of a young Tibetan protester in New Delhi Wednesday, Zhaohui said loss of innocent lives was always regretful. “On the other hand, we look to emphasise that Dalai Lama and so-called pro-freedom Tibetan activists pushing extreme radical views by glorifying extreme behaviour is not consistent with Buddhism,” Luo said. Jamphel Yeshi, a 27-year-old Tibetan, died Wednesday after setting himself ablaze to protest Hu's India visit for the BRICS meeting. Luo said India recognises Tibet as a part of China. He said it was ‘regretful’ that Tibetan protestors created trouble for the Indian government. The “Chinese side appreciates effective and concrete measures taken by government of India,” he said. Authorities clamped prohibitory orders banning the gathering of four or more people in the capital and arrested many Tibetans to prevent possible trouble during Hu’s trip. (IANS)


 Army chief targeted for not toeing government line: Team Anna

NEW DELHI, March 29: Team Anna on Thursday extended full support to Army Chief V K Singh, alleging that he was targeted for not ‘toeing’ the government line on issues. Activist Arvind Kejriwal alleged government has killed almost every institution by ‘planting its loyals’. “Those who refuse to toe govt line, like army chief and CAG, are targeted. We fully support army chief’s struggle. We are proud of him,” Kejriwal wrote on micro-blogging site Twitter. He said government appeared to be at war with the armed forces and the people of India. Referring to the remarks against the army chief, he said, “Politicians, rather than discussing precarious security preparedness of India, are playing politics.”  Another Team Anna member Kiran Bedi said it appeared that the Army Chief was surrounded by ‘senior officials with doubtful integrity’. “Had evidence but did not know how to fix it? Now he has! Laws of nature work when nothing else does. Trust in nature. Those riding on corruption and abuse of power will see their end sooner than later,” she tweeted. (IANS)


 Maoists to free Italian if government fulfills three demands

Bhubaneswar, March 29:  Alleging that the Odisha government is indifferent towards the Italian hostage crisis, Maoist mediators on Thursday threatened to pull out of talks if no response is received on the demands of the rebels who said they are ready to release the foreigner if three of their 13 conditions are met.

The state government also suffered a setback in its effort to free abducted BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka as the Maoists turned down a fresh request by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to name their negotiators for talks to resolve the crisis. The negotiation was suspended for the second time on Wednesday after the chief minister claimed to have received additional demands from the abductors of Puri-based Italian tour operator Paolo Bosusco. Finally we have sought intervention of the chief minister and he is now taking time,” Sharma pointed out.

As 54-year-old Paolo Bosusco completed a fortnight in Maoist captivity since abduction from Kandhamal on March 14, Dandapani Mohanty asked the state government to fulfil at least three demands for the immediate release of the Italian.

The three demands are: assurance to initiate criminal action against police officials involved in fake encounter, custodial death rpt death and rape, release of persons re-arrested by police after being acquitted in different cases and release of innocent persons booked on charge of Maoist activities.

“We have already informed Home Secretary U N Behera about three basic demands of Maoists for the release of Bosusco,” Mohanty said. “The ball is now in the government’s court,” he said.

Terming as ‘misleading and unfortunate’ the chief minister’s claim that some additional demands had been made by the Maoists, Sharma and Mohanty said not a single demand had been added to the 13 conditions put forward earlier. The chief minister had tried to mislead people at one stage by claiming that representatives of the abductors had pulled out of talks, Mohanty alleged. He asserted there was no basis in the claim and that the discussion resumed only a day after Patnaik’s ‘incorrect’ assertion. Both Sharma and Mohanty said the state government must be sincere and serious about resolving the hostage crisis instead of adopting an indifferent approach.

The state government, on the other hand, was yet to come out with a response.

The situation was equally unclear in the Laxmipur legislator’s abduction episode. While the state government was waiting for the abductors of the 37-year-old Laxmipur MLA to name their mediators, the Koraput-Srikakulam division of the CPI (Maoist) in a letter to the media stuck to its stand of not joining the talks through mediators to resolve the hostage crisis. The letter asked the government to fulfil at the earliest their demands which include a halt to all types of anti-Maoist operation, release of the jailed rebels and stoppage of rallies and demonstrations for the release of the MLA, abducted on March 24.

The government would be held responsible for any eventuality in case there was delay and attempt to buy time, the letter, addressed to Chief Minister, wife of the abducted legislator and several other leaders, said. The communication came after the chief minister on Tuesday night made a fresh request to the ultras to join the negotiation process to resolve the issue and name representatives quickly. A senior official said it would be tough to settle the complex issue without talks. “The rebels must understand that it is a highly sensitive issue which can be settled through face-to-face talks,” he said. (PTI)


 Congress downplays issue of deputy CM in Uttarakhand

Dehra Dun, March 29: After winning the crucial trust vote, Uttarakhand Congress on Thursday said it has not officially received any proposal for creating post of deputy chief minister, though union minister Harish Rawat stuck to his demand for creation of the post. When asked whether senior party leader Harak Singh Rawat would be inducted as deputy chief minister, Singh remained non-committal saying let such proposal come officially. On the vacant single cabinet berth, he said it was upto the Chief Minister to take a decision. “This is the discretion of the Chief Minister. He can keep the post vacant for months together,” said Singh. Significantly, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna had on Wednesday said there were many aspirants for the berth and the party high command would take a decision on the matter. Meanwhile, Union Minister Harish Rawat, who reached here on the invitation of Bahuguna, maintained that he wanted at least one post of deputy chief minister in Uttarakhand. “I still stand by my stand that there should be a deputy chief minister in Uttarakhand,” he told reporters. (PTI)


 CPI(M) blames Congress for Parliament disruption

New Delhi, March 29: The CPI(M) on Thursday blamed the ruling Congress for ‘disrupting’ Parliament proceedings on the Telangana issue, saying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Leader of Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee, present during the uproar, did not make any effort to pacify their party members. “As a result, major people’s issues like unemployment could not be taken up. The government does not want any focussed discussion on important issues concerning the problems faced by the people,” senior party leader Basudeb Acharia told reporters here. “It is quite surprising that the disturbances came more from treasury benches than the opposition. Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House were present when Congress members trooped into the well and disrupted proceedings. They made no effort to pacify them or to clarify the government’s stand on Telangana and the House was adjourned,” he said. “The Government is suffering from inaction. It is dithering to take a stand on this issue,” Acharia said. CPI(M) is opposed to creation of Telangana. He said the Left parties have not been able to discuss the problems of the people like unemployment, which is being listed in the agenda for the past three days. Another major issue listed in Thursday’s agenda was on Centre-State relations which also could not be discussed, he said, adding that states powers were being "‘encroached’ upon by the Centre on issues like setting up of National Counter Terrorism Centre. (PTI)


 Kerala High Court orders release of Italian ship

Kochi, March 29: The Kerala High Court on Thursday ordered release of Italian ship Enrica Lexie, detained off Kochi port for over a month in connection with the gunning down of two Indian fishermen allegedly by marines aboard the vessel. Allowing the plea of ship owners Dolphin Tankers, Justice P S Gopinathan directed the state government and police to release the ship, subject to the owners executing a Rs 3 crore bond before the deputy conservator of Cochin Port Trust. The court also directed the shipping company to give an undertaking that the vessel, its master and crew would appear as and when called upon by competent authorities with three weeks' prior notice. On the argument of Advocate General K P Dandapani that other marines (on board the ship) could also be required as part of the investigation, the court said release of the vessel should not interfere with the probe. The owners argued they could not take responsibility of the marines as they were not part of the ship’s crew and they were deputed by the Italian navy for security. (PTI)


 CID to probe Maharashtra legislators ‘fake signatures’

Mumbai, March 29: The Maharashtra Legislative Council on Thursday ordered a CID probe into allegations made by a Shiv Sena member claiming her signature had been forged on some papers. Taking serious note of MLC Neelam Gorhe's claim that her signature had been forged with an intention to hold a debate in the council, Chairman Shivajirao Deshmukh ordered the investigation. Gorhe, who is also one of the spokespersons of the Shiv Sena, said some unknown persons had faked her signature and then filed documents with the Legislature Secretariat to conduct a debate in the house. However, Gorhe, who hails from Pune, said some alert security officials brought the matter to her notice and she raised the issue as it amounted to a security breach. Later, she told mediapersons that similar instances of fake signatures of other members like Ramdas Kadam, a former leader of opposition, Parshuram Uparkar, both from Shiv Sena, and Nationalist Congress Party member Kiran Pawaskar had also come to light in the past. (IANS)


 Bahuguna proves majority amidst walkout

Dehradun, March 29: The Vijay Bahuguna-led Congress government Wednesday proved its majority in the assembly amidst a walkout by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The request for a vote of confidence was moved by the chief minister when the session began. Saying the election of the speaker was a testimony enough that his government enjoyed majority in the 70-member house, Bahuguna said it would still be prudent that a vote be taken. Bedlam followed as the BJP demanded that a debate be taken up first. BJP members walked out once the request was not yielded. The BJP legislators, led by former chief minister Ramesh Pokhariyal Nishank, then staged a sit-in at the gallery, raising anti-government slogans. (IANS)


 No reunion, but union possible in subcontinent: Pakistani writer

New Delhi, March 29: The subcontinent can become a paradise in the region by retaining cultural, social and political identities of countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, says former Pakistani Army officer, journalist, writer and commentator Abdul Rahman Siddiqi, an old Dilliwallah from Ballimaran in Chandni Chowk. “After all, we are all very poor countries. And we are not apes, but humans in essence. But we have sold our freedom to the US,” said 88-year-old Siddiqi, who retired in 1973 as the head of Inter-Services Public Relations.

Recalling India’s reaction to the US post-9/11, Siddiqi said: “Jaswant Singh, the then defence minister, offered everything to the US, including naval bases, even before (then joint chiefs of staff committee) General Colin Powell and the US president telephoned India for help.” “But they called (then Pakistani army chief and president Pervez) Musharraf, after which he pledged support,” Siddiqi said, pointing out the difference.

The writer, who is in India to launch his book, Smoke Without Fire, a memoir of his pre-partition days in Chandni Chowk published by the capital-based Aakar Books, left India in 1947 for Pakistan to work as a journalist. An alumnus of St Stephen’s College, Siddiqi is the author of East Pakistan: Endgame: An Onlooker’s Journal (1969-1971).

Siddiqui said he was in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1965 with his best friend General Osmani known as Bangabir General MAG Osmani. Osmani, who had retired from the Pakistani Army in 1967 trained the Mukti Bahini and commanded it during the 1971 liberation war. Commenting on the communal harmony inherent in Indian society, the writer said: “The culture is still Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb (the co-existence of Hindu and Muslim cultures of northern India).” “There will be no improvement in relations between India and Paksitan till India tries to stop saying that Pakistan is responsible ... (for terror),” he said.

Siddiqi said Delhi has not changed much over the years because the people still relieve themselves under the sky. “My home is still there. I became emotional when I visited it, but I knew I couldn’t stay there for more than a night. But there is no nostalgia left,” he said. Siddiqi said “his home in Ballimaran had one lavatory - without a flush - for the entire family”.

The Siddiqi clan of Punjabi Saudagar Muslims from Multan and Punjab, was the most affluent in old Delhi and lived in Haveli Hissamuddin Haider - a Punjabi traders’ citadel, the writer said. Old Delhi has left an indelible mark in Siddiqi’s early education. “I was getting proper education but I had to join the Oriental College at Fetehpuri Mosque (after his grandfather objected to his regular education), where I studied Persian, Arabic and Urdu. I was in the company of Pathan students and joined an akhada (wrestling club) for one and a half years,” he recalled.

The publication and the launch of Siddiqi’s book in India, an initiative of the Policy and Planning Group, is an attempt to bridge the divide between India and Pakistan, said Diljeet Titus, the Group’s secretary. (IANS)


 SC gives time to Centre to decide on national monument status for Ram Setu

NEW DELHI, March 29: The Centre was on Thursday granted more time by the Supreme Court to decide whether the mythological Ram Setu could be declared a national monument. Appearing before a bench headed by Justice H L Dattu, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Haren Raval submitted that consultation was needed on the issue with the competent authority and sought more time to file an affidavit on it.

“Take a decision whether or not to”, the bench said, while granting the government two weeks time to take a decision. The bench then posted the matter for further hearing on April 19.

The bench was hearing a petition filed by Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy seeking the court’s direction to declare Ram Setu a national monument.

Earlier, the bench had on March 27 directed the government to file an affidavit regarding its decision within two days. “If you say you don’t want to file counter affidavit, we can go ahead with the arguments in the case,” the bench had said.

The case relating to Ram Setu came under judicial scrutiny after a batch of petitions were filed in the apex court challenging the ambitious Sethusamudram project, which was alleged to cause damage to the mythological bridge. Sethusamudram project is aimed at constructing a shorter navigational route around India’s southern tip by breaching the mythological Ram Setu, said to have been built by Lord Rama’s army of monkeys and bears to the demon king Ravana’s kingdom Lanka.

As per the Sethusamudram project, the shipping channel is proposed to be 30 metres wide, 12 metres deep and 167 kms long. (PTI)


 Ruskin Bond returns with ‘Rusty’

New Delhi, March 29: Indo-Angian writer Ruskin Bond’s lovable character ‘Rusty’ is set for a comeback after 15 years with Ek Tha Rusty-2 ready to hit the small screen. Rusty - the fictional avatar created by the Mussorie-based writer to impersonate himself in his stories - will come to Doordarshan in a 52-episode serial, Ek Tha Rusty-2, nearly 15 years after its successful run in the mid-1990s. The 26-episode Ek Tha Rusty-1 had captured Rusty as a youthful writer at 22, struggling to find a toe-hold in 1940s Indo-Anglian literary firmament. The new serial, based on 10 of Ruskin Bond’s short stories, follows writer Rusty’s life at 33 when he has established himself as a “writer of repute”. It tries to bring out the adventurer in Rusty through the stories he encounters on his turf. Rusty will be played by the popular face on the small screen Bipul Gupta, Singh said. The cast includes Ayub Khan (The Sensualist), Suhashini Mulay (Ms Bean), Gaurav Sharma and six Sikh actors from Delhi and Chandigarh to play the sardarjis in Rusty’s adventures. However, the star of the show is Shristi Bond, the great grand-daughter of Ruskin Bond - whom Singh describes - as a ‘dark beauty with high cheekbones and an exotic face’. Shristi plays the 12-year-old mysterious Kamala, who captures Rusty’s heart.  (IANS)


 Angkor Vat replica to come up in Bihar

Patna, March 29: A bigger version of the famous 12th century Angkor Vat temple in Cambodia is set to come up in Bihar’s Vaishali district. And with some help from corporate houses and rich Indians abroad, it aims to be the world’s largest Hindu temple. The proposed temple will be named Virat Angkor Wat Ram Mandir. It will house the idols of Radha-Krishna, Shiva-Parvati, Ganesh, Surya, Vishnu and the Dashavataram, the 10 incarnations of Vishnu. It will take up to five years to build and another five years will go into the finishing touches. Acharya Kishore Kunal, a retired police officer and the man behind the mega project, said it was initially decided that the temple would be built with public donations. Piyush Sompura, an Ahmedabad-based temple architect, has been roped in to design it. Sompura said it was a matter of pride for him to be associated with this project. Sompura said he will go for quality material from across the world for the temple. To be built at a cost of Rs 100 crore, it would be a recreation of the iconic Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia. The five-storey, 360-ft long, 360-feet wide, 270-ft tall temple will be one of the tallest structures in the world, he said. It is a listed Unesco-world heritage site. (IANS)


 ‘Independent music getting recognition’

New Delhi, March 29: Singer Nikhil D’Souza, who is the voice behind popular songs Mere Bina, and Gubbare, says the time is ripe for independent music composers as people are appreciating their work and there is a demand for it. “These are very exciting times in the field of music. Previously it was ruled by Bollywood, but it is nice to see that independent artists are coming out and doing well,” D’Souza said. “It is good to see that original music is being taken seriously and supported by music festivals. Earlier bands used to play covers because people liked it and enjoyed it, but now most of them are playing original music,” he added.

Born and brought up in Mumbai, D’Souza began his musical journey by doing live performances with various bands and creating jingles for advertisements. He has his own band called KNAP with Adrian D’Souza (drums), Kenneth Rebello (bass) and Pozy Dhar (guitar).

He feels that musicians are not shying away from experimenting. “The new generation of musicians are experimenting with music a lot and have been appreciated by all,” he said.

D’Souza's big break came in 2010 with Aisha in which composer Amit Trivedi made him sing Shaam and since then he has sung songs like Mere bina in Crook, Main jiyunga from Break Ke Baad and most recently Gubbare in Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu.

“Ever since 'Aisha I have been working continuously. It is nice to see that everything is going smoothly,” he said and added that he is happy doing playback singing in films and has no plans to become a composer. “I am not confident about composing. It is not an easy thing as you have to cater to the demands of different kind of people involved in the film and make them happy. I don’t think I would be able to do it,” he said.

The singer would be seen in Big CBS Spark’s new show The Gig Under The Sky, going on air from Friday. “More such shows should come up as it helps audience know that we exist. Such shows provide a platform to establish our existence,” he said. (IANS)


 Regional flavours on tube; Gujarati shows dominate

New Delhi, March 29: Gujarati culture came right into Indian drawing rooms with the popular television show Ek Mahal Ho Sapno Ka in 1999 and, after more than a decade, it is still one of the strongest flavours on the tube. Those based in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan and Maharashtra too abound on the small screen. Be it a weekly or a daily soap, the regional flavour is everywhere. But Gujarati shows dominate. Shows like Saath Nibhana Saathiya, Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashma and Ram Milaayi Jodi are continuing the trend that started 13 years ago and has seen Gujarati family dramas like Baa Bahoo Aur Baby and Khichdi.

Ekta Kapoor’s Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi took things a step ahead and was followed by a long list of Gujarati culture-based shows - Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai, Teen Bahuraniyan, Jasuben Jayantilal Joshi Ki Joint Family, Hamari Devrani, Bandini, Mukti Bandhan, Krishnaben Khakhrawala, Gulaal, Papad Pol and Sanskaar Lakshmi.

From showing a typical Gujarati household to their festivals, functions and colourful wardrobe, the shows spread the vibrant colours of the state to the remotest parts of the country. Actor-director Jamnadas Majethia, the man behind Khichdi and Baa Bahoo Aur Baby, said: “I believe out of all, Gujarati and Punjabi cultures are the ones that almost everyone recognizes. They are very colourful communities with a rich literature and the scope of entertainment is also much more than others. Shows based on these cultures get more TRPs. So for makers it becomes easier to do a show with a Gujarati or a Punjabi background.”

Thanks to these shows, popular Gujarati dishes like khakra and thepla have become popular among the masses. Other regions have also been highlighted.

Ekta’s long running popular show Kasauti Zindagi Kay and Tere Liye revolved around Bengali families, while Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin, Geet...Hui Sabse Parayi and Preeto were about Punjabi families. If Maryada is set in Haryana, Na Bole Tum Na Maine Kuch Kaha is set in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. Mann Kee Awaaz Pratigya is based in Uttar Pradesh and Afsar Bitiya is the story of a Bihari girl.

For producers, placing a show in a specific region or a culture makes it easier to decide on the sets, costumes and storyline.

If people sitting in Bihar or Jharkhand these days know about Gujarati or Marathi culture, it is to a large extent because of these daily shows.

The shows have broken barriers and brought people together,” Suzana Ghai, creative director, Star India, said. “If the audiences are from that region, they know about it and watch it with more interest. If they are not, they want to know about different cultures and watch the show. So both ways, the shows gain popularity,” she added. “The makers are always in search of new ideas and keep experimenting. So we will see more shows based in Uttar Pradesh or Bihar or other regions,” she said.

It’s not that generic shows have stopped coming. “Bade Acche Lagte Hain and Kuch Toh Log Kahenge are general in approach. The focus is more on the story instead of the regional background. But I believe this trend will take some time to take over. Till then regional shows will continue to hog the limelight,” Shahi said. (IANS)


 Lady Gaga is Poonam Pandey’s idol

Mumbai, March 29: Poonam Pandey,who is often in news because of her steamy videos, almost nude pictures and controversial statements, looks up to the ‘Queen of Quirks’ Lady Gaga for inspiration. Poonam wished the American singer and songwriter on her birthday on Twitter. She also thanked Gaga for instilling confidence in her and giving her the courage to be herself. Happy Birthday Lady Gaga! Thank you so much for showing me that being different is beautiful and giving me the confidence to prove myself,” tweeted Pandey on the micro-blogging site. Lady Gaga turned 26 on March  28 2012 and Poonam is not the only person whom she inspires. ‘Mother Monster’, as she is fondly called, has her own NGO ‘Born This way Foundation’, which focuses on youth empowerment and issues like self confidence, well-being, anti-bullying, mentoring, and career development. (Agencies)


 Salman Khan to do item song in Son of Sardar for free!

Mumbai, March 29: It is a well-known fact that Salman Khan is one of the few actors in the industry who doesn’t think twice about going out of his way to help his friends in need and once more, the Dabangg Khan has proved that his heart is as big as his biceps. Sources claim that Ajay Devgn, who has starred alongside Salman in two films viz Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and London Dreams wanted his friend Salman to perform a peppy dance number for his film Son of Sardar and Sallu readily agreed to do so, without charging a single penny for the same. A source was quoted to have said, “Since Ajay is a good friend of Salman, he called and offered the song to him and knowing their friendship, Salman agreed immediately. In fact, Salman is doing it for free as a goodwill gesture for a friend.” Since the past few years, Devgn and Khan have formed a mutual fan club and Salman also raved about Devgn’s impressive physique when the promos of Singham went on air. On his part, Devgn and Sanjay Dutt have done cameos for Salman Khan’s Ready at the latter’s request. (Agencies)


 Fame isn’t perpetual: Big B

Mumbai, March 29: Even at 69, megastar Amitabh Bachchan remains one of the most sought after actors in Bollywood, but he feels fame is not perpetual and will eventually fade away. “As we drive to the eatery, I sit in the front seat - the ladies being at the back and I notice that there are still some passerby’s on the street that fling a recognition with smile. Recognition and compassionately so, does wonders for morale,” Amitabh wrote on his blog. “But there have been many occasions when interested has faded from the celebrity. Has happened to me on many an occasion. It is a bit discomforting, but it must be known that this glory and recognition shall all fade away one day,” he added. “Some take it kindly, some do not. It is hard and harsh both to see adulation favour away from you and settle on another. Better then to not be too enamoured by it when it serves you. Life is transitory as is fame... Be gracious in accepting that it has gone away, elsewhere,” he said.  (IANS)


 Bring on more comedy, says Asin

Mumbai, March 29: After Ready and the forthcoming Housefull 2, Asin Thottumkal will be seen in yet another comedy Bol Bachchan. The actress is enjoying the genre. “I like all sorts of film genres. Its sheer co-incidence that three of my films are comedies. But they have been a lot of fun... they have had a good set of actors, good directors... I like comedies, and I don’t mind doing more,” Asin said. “I just take what comes my way and if I like it. I hope Housefull 2 is well-recieved,” she added. (IANS)


 ‘It would be great if Heroine or Inkaar go to Cannes’

Mumbai, March 29: Actor Arjun Rampal says he would be happy if Madhur Bhandarkar’s Heroine or Sudhir Mishra’s Inkaar are showcased at the forthcoming Cannes film festival. “There is a Sudhir Mishra film as well that I have just finished, which is also perfect for Cannes. So yeah, if I can showcase that, great,” the 39-year-old said while being presented as the brand ambassador of alcohol brand Chivas. The actor is expected to make an appearance at this year’s Cannes festival, which begins on May 16 as Chivas is the official partner of the event. While Heroine stars Kareena in the title role, Inkaar has Chitrangada Singh opposite Arjun. Talking about his association with Chivas, he said that initially he was sceptical about being associated with an alcohol brand but he strongly believes that life is about experience. Arjun also reveals that he didn’t drink till he was 21 and had a strong reason for it.  (IANS)


 Go for stylish holiday wear this summer

New Delhi, March 29: Planning a holiday? Go for asymmetric hem shirts and wrap dresses, says designer Kiran Uttam Ghosh who feels vacation wear needs makeover in terms of cuts and designs. “The Indian vacation wear line is limited to sarongs, jump suits, kaftans and short dresses in same style and pattern. But its time to make your vacation wear refreshing and stylish. My latest collection in cruisewear line elevate the woman within, adding not just glamour but a look that creates something simple yet fabulous,” Ghosh said. Her collection especially designed for holiday season comprises of asymmetric hem shirt dresses to wrap dresses in fabrics like chiffon and georgette. From tangerine, bright canary yellow, orange to ivory and red, her collection boasts of all summer colours. (IANS)


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