Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gang of Wasseypur

Gangs of Wasseypur opens with two of my pet peeves: a voiceover, and an explanation of where we are and how we got there (it’s cinema, people, show me, don’t tell me!). But—and I’m not sure how he does this—director Anurag Kashyap uses these clunky props to pull off some of his best filmmaking yet, in a fantastic hour that situates us in Dhanbad, in Bihar’s (now Jharkhand’s) coal belt, the casual and systematic brutality of its mining industry, and the complicity of the state (both pre- and post-colonial) in all manner of oppression. Marking incident, place and time is Piyush Mishra’s gravelly voice, informing us that our special Purgatory is Wasseypur in the 1940s, south of Dhanbad, a Muslim-village locked in permanent struggle between the Qureshis (butchers by trade) and every other kind of Muslim. Shahid Khan (a Pathan; that is to say, emphatically not a Qureshi) won’t content himself with his position in the food chain below the Qureshis, and is exiled from Wasseypur to the coal fields of Dhanbad. Needless to say, things aren’t any better here. Kashyap showcases misery almost casually, with neither melodrama nor glee, almost as if he were a scientist showing us the many ways in which the strong might abuse the weak. The dramatic isn’t absent—the visual clichés of rain and mud are much used, but nevertheless manage to seem fresh—but it is drama as Mani Ratnam might see it, subdued, and seen from far away. It all adds up to a fine balance between the narrative– Shahid is murdered by his master Ramadhir, and Shahid’s son, the boy Sardar, swears revenge—and the far more interesting backdrop of the savagery legitimated by the state, and how it intersects with older antagonisms. Kashyap’s film does not take the easy way out: there is no contrast here between the colonial state and its post-independence successor; nor is there any sense of an Eden sullied by contemporary “criminalization of politics”. Rather, Kashyap shows us a world where the imperatives of capital and resource extraction have always been inseparable from criminality and violence. Moreover, Wasseypur’s age-old antagonisms show that while criminality and violence are hardly the sole prerogative of the state, they are imbued with new vigour by the greater opportunities—political, financial, and in terms of armaments—on offer courtesy modern industrialization and the business of politics. Perhaps Kashyap will never top Black Friday or the ugly vigour of Gulaal’s first half, but the same density, the same weakness for process that we see in the former (and that would have made a good noir director of Kashyap) enrich the first few reels of Gangs of Wasseypur. It’s the sort of procedural patience—chopped in vignettes to make for better cinema, the lesson all post-Iruvar Indian directors need to learn—I wish Kashyap’s one-time mentor Ram Gopal Verma had displayed in Company. It’s the sort of thing that could have made for a superb season-long TV series. Unfortunately, Indian television has nothing to equal HBO; and the large canvas docu-drama is a difficult format to pull off on the big screen, even where the filmmaker is clear about what (s)he is trying to achieve. Kashyap isn’t: at some point prior to the intermission, Sardar Khan, all grown up, takes centre stage. That obviously had to happen, but that also marks the point at which the film’s scope contracts, from representing a world to chronicling incidents. The latter are interesting enough—this film is never less than engaging—but are a far cry from the epic sweep promised by the film’s opening scenes, and by Piyush Mishra’s evocation early on of the Mahabharata. Kashyap’s film is well-served by a strong cast, three among which are notable for elevating their roles beyond the script. Jaideep Ahlawat (who plays Shahid Khan) is the first of these, and anchors the film’s first hour, suggesting misery, dignity, and sheer cussedness with an impressive economy. I missed him when he was gone, largely because his son Sardar, as played by Manoj Bajpai, is not his equal. Bajpai is certainly in reliably fine form, but those familiar with his Hindi film work will not find him much tested here; as such, he is content to give us minor variations of what we’ve already seen him do on more than one occasion. That’s a good thing, but not as fresh an achievement as I’d thought Bajpai capable of. The second is Tigmanshu Dhulia, the Bollywood director making his acting debut as Ramadhir: in the character's first few scenes (played by a different actor), I feared Ramadhir might end up a stock villain, but something more wonderful lay in store for me. As the narrative flashes several years forward (and as his character moves several notches up the food chain, ending up a MLA), Ramadhir has mellowed, his fleshy roundness hovering between passivity and anger. Yet even the latter is tinged with weariness, finding violent expression against his own son: Ramadhir expects his enemies to try and thwart him; only the incompetence of those who serve him seems genuinely painful. The third is Nawazuddin Siddiqui, playing Sardar’s second son Faizal. This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered his work—he was very good (albeit inconsistently so) in Kahaani—but I wasn’t expecting him to be one of the best things about the film, and much of the reason for anticipating Gangs of Wasseypur Part II in a few months’ time. Siddiqui is clearly from Irfan Khan’s school of acting, but minimalism is here married to a kind of impish persona that leavens Faizal’s seediness. The writers should have given Siddiqui more to work with (although, given the blandness that is the lot of Faizal’s elder brother Danish, perhaps he should be grateful), but even so, he is the best thing about the last third of the movie, as it wanders away from Sardar’s focus on Ramadhir and back to the tussle with the Qureshi’s that had initially exiled Shahid Khan from Wasseypur. Siddiqui has wonderful eyes: even if the boy Faizal hadn’t seen all that he’s seen, I would well believe that he sees something other than what’s there, right in front of his eyes. Perhaps not surprisingly, he is the only male character in the film to love cinema, channelling some of Amitabh Bachchan’s more wounded personae: never is cinema more simultaneously about what we can see, and what we cannot see (because it points to something off-screen), than in the figure of the star, especially one transcendent as Bachchan. There is something else out there, or perhaps under the surface—Faizal seems to know this in his best moments (as neither his father nor grandfather did), and whether that something else is the sordidness he caught a glimpse of when still a child; or whether it is the kind of pose Bachchan embodies; or whether it combines the two (the film he’s watching in the theatre is, after all, Trishul, another film featuring an abandoned mother and dreams of revenge; although Trishul is far more Freudian, in its claim that it is precisely the mother who is to be avenged, precisely one’s kin that must be defeated)—who can tell? There are others: Piyush Mishra is woefully under-utilized here, but his voice-over is itself a character, and a far more memorable one than the embodied one periodically wandering across our screens. Richa Chaddha curses her way through Naghma Khatoon with aplomb, and is wonderfully natural; it isn’t her fault that, Mahie Gill in Dev D notwithstanding, Kashyap has never been a good director of women. Reemma Sen (the extra “m” is not a typo) seemed new-born to those of us familiar with her roles in Malamaal Weekly and Dhool: there isn’t much acting she’s called upon to do, but the film imbues her with real presence, by way of a gaze that lingers upon her alabaster skin, but doesn’t know what else to do with her. On the other hand, Pankaj Tripathi is a disappointment as Sultan, Sardar’s Qureshi bête noire—the character comes across as almost comically inept, surely not an effect Kashyap could have intended. Despite its abandonment of a sustained representation of a “system” shortly before the film’s half-way mark, Gangs of Wasseypur might nevertheless have made much of the more traditional pleasures of character and personality (the now-legendary American cable TV series The Wire managed both, and not simply because its serial format afforded more time; it was simply better written). That is where Scorsese’s Gangs of New York ended up: intellectually slight, but held together by Daniel Day-Lewis’ terrific Bill “The Butcher,” a tour de force that doesn’t address any critiques, but makes them seem beside the point. Kashyap’s film falls short. More specifically, while the screenplay’s avoidance of a narrative centred on a Bigtime Star like Daniel Day-Lewis is intellectually the right choice, in theory opening up the film to a host of characters (inherently a more plausible state of affairs if one is creating a world: no-one imagines himself in a character role in the film of his life), this doesn’t work so well in this script. Most of the characters in Gangs of Wasseypur are under-written (writing credits are shared by Akhilesh Jaiswal, Anurag Kashyap, Sachin K. Ladia, and Syed Zeeshan Qadri), and not much more than the sum of their verbal tics. That meant that I found myself missing the charisma of an overweening Bill “The Butcher” in the ranks of the Qureshi qasaai, yet not having for consolation the wealth of more accessible personalities each character’s introduction had promised. In the absence of the requisite level of interiority, each character is thrown back onto the sort of lines designed to elicit titters from the audience. One housewife calls her husband a “randibaaz” (whore-monger); later on she gives him permission to pursue other women if he really needs to, but slops meat on his plate lest anyone cast aspersions on the sexual prowess of the family’s men—“baahar jaake beizzati mat karaana.” Cackling was much in evidence at my theatre at this and many other dialogues, and no-one, not even the greyer heads in the audience, seemed shocked by anything—if the potty mouth of Kashyap’s films was ever intended to jolt bourgeois complacency, that time is long past (the one exception: the silence in my theatre in the wake of Ramadhir’s wife’s instruction to her servant to use different dishes for the visiting Qureshis, presumably to avoid caste-pollution). Today, “bhosdee ke,” coded as it is by the social gulf that separates the characters on-screen from the audiences in the cinema halls, reinforces bourgeois complacency, which gets to be titillated and pat itself on the back for being edgy. The attempted rape of Salma Agha’s character in Kasam Paida Karne Waale Ki (watch Gangs of Wasseypur, you’ll see what I mean) never managed both of those. It’s no defence to argue, as the film’s promoters tiresomely have, that the sort of earthy language used is authentic to the milieu represented in Gangs of Wasseypur. That defence certainly deflects criticism on the grounds that the dialogues are “too” dirty, vulgar, what-have-you—were anyone in the media making such a criticism. The defence sets up a straw man, in a context where the film and its modes of representation are being lionized in the media. Anurag Kashyap has, in short, won the day, and needs to stop pretending that he is still waging lonely struggles against legal censorship as well as bourgeois tyranny. I don’t mean to suggest that the dialogues are ineffective. Far from it: they are piquant, earthy, and go a long way toward etching a plausible world, one that is different from the worlds inhabited by the film’s viewers, and yet familiar enough to spark recognition. The problem is a different one, namely that this familiarity is forged by a kind of anthropological cliché: no character ever surprises us, none ever says anything we wouldn’t expect “them” to (several dialogues mouthed by women certainly are of the kind we wouldn’t expect “our women” to be uttering). In short, the dialogue here, used as it is as a marker of authenticity, can only function as such by underscoring the distinction between “us” and “them,” by diminishing any claims the film’s characters might have on our empathy. The theatrical otherness of the bhaiyyas on display here, in permanent hyper-violent pantomime, might be authentic to Dhanbad and Wasseypur, but it places those locales under an eclipse: these people may be laughed or marvelled at; the violence of the region may be decried (although, Bihar’s place in the contemporary urban Indian imagination, as the villainous foil to the modernity the metropolitans among us are busily forging, ensures that any head-shaking is just a wee bit too comfortable); but they cannot be loved, admired, or befriended. The dialogues function in much the same way as the dialogues assigned the stock South Indian characters in the masala movies of decades past: as glue, to ensure the types represented by these characters don’t move from their places in our imagination. Much of the above isn’t an issue only where Gangs of Wasseypur is concerned, and I do believe some of these representational issues can be mitigated by deeper thought, and sustained labour, on the interiority of the characters. That work has not been done: we do not know how Sardar’s first wife Naghma feels, nor what makes his second wife Durga tick, nor even Ramadhir; we only hear their (more-or-less) salty tongues. Most unpardonable is Sardar Khan, denied any interiority beyond his desire for revenge against Ramadhir—as to the rest, he does and says things, seemingly devoid of any motivation: we can speculate that he helps rescue a young woman because he wants to stick it to the Qureshis, or that he agrees to Danish's marriage with a Qureshi girl because his son has prevailed on him, but nothing in the film either shows us these are likely motivations, or makes it an interesting line of inquiry. Sardar even goes years without ever seeing his eldest sons, and that just seems odd given how filial he otherwise is. One could go on and on. Sneha Khanwalkar’s music belongs to the film, and the album works a lot better than I had initially given it credit for— “I am a hunter, she want to see my gun” features Kashyap at his funniest, as he inverts the conventions of Bollywood double entendre by setting this song’s low lyrics to a backdrop of… gun-running. No song-and-dance routines for Kashyap, but “Womaniya” effectively punctuates more than one look of longing in this film. But my favourite is the insanely cheerful, almost perverse, “Teri Keh Ke Loonga,” suitable ditty indeed for Sardar Khan, the sort of man you can see coming a mile away. Satyamshot commenter Arturo Belano had once made the point that Kashyap’s male protagonists, “weaned on grand mythic narratives … try and “will” their lives “to be like those narratives….” That is, “it has become standard for Kashyap to have these ironic constructions in his movies where he has these protagonists who are given these unoriginal macho energies to release on screen but the movie gradually shows up the gap between their self-images and the reality of the kind of effect their behaviour is having on those around [them].” The point is a shrewd one, even if Kashyap doesn’t always seem sensitive to the ironies (witness Sardar’s death scene in the film; although heavily refracted through Sergio Leone’s work, it is about as straight as any masala film from the 1980s might have been)—either way, the charm of “Teri Keh Ke Loonga” means, he doesn’t have to be in the know. Rajeev Ravi’s lens is one of the heroes of this film, and if the interiors of mofussil residences in Hindi films have by now become generic, he may be forgiven: his shots of the coalfields recall grand Westerns and Kaala Pathar, and are nevertheless very much his own. The film has little scope for crowds, but my favourite is a shot contrasting those of Varanasi with the desolate external corridor that serves as the shot’s—and the shady arms dealer Yadav’s—vantage point. Ravi’s camera is generally indifferent to men, with the exception of Nawazuddin Siddiqui: that contrast between Varanasi’s crush and the languorous heat of the corridor is Siddiqui’s too, as the camera repeatedly finds him at once still and restless. And then there’s skin, or rather, Reemma Sen’s skin: her Durga seems clothed in moonlight. The trace of masala is not incidental: Gangs of Wasseypur is unthinkable without the legacy of several Hindi films, most obviously Kaala Pathar (1979) (following on the heels of a mining disaster in Dhanbad in the 1970s); Trishul (1978); and Deewar (1975) (specifically, the betrayal of organized labor at the film’s outset), but, more subtly, of a whole universe of signification that makes sense only the context of masala. Kashyap is too knowing to try and dredge up the mythical heroes of years past, a mode that many in his urban audiences now sneer at, except in the context of tongue-in-cheek cinema; but doesn’t seem to have any other mode worked out. That which we care about the most in Gangs of Wasseypur—this character’s death; that one’s suffering; these people sold down the river—comes to us from the masala film (toned down for sure, more Ratnam’s Thalapathi than J.P. Dutta’s Ghulami), and Kashyap gives it to us un-ironically. The result is significant unevenness of tone, as Kashyap uses the post-ironic techniques and incongruous comedy of Sergio Leone and Tarantino while resorting to masala cues to draw the audience in. Those filmmakers recognized that the gesturality of the past had run its course, but since any alternative trope would itself be provisional, the director ought to double down on cinema that is about gesturality itself—the question of what Kashyap recognizes is not answered by this film, leading to the uncomfortable realization that the film isn’t really “about” anything (or, not about anything beyond the evocation of a milieu the writer has known well, a place that is one’s own). If this is harsh, my defence is, Kashyap made me do it: the way the film begins, the well-written dialogues, the wealth of acting talent on display, mean that this is too good a film, has tackled too weighty a canvas, to be about nothing more than a grudge match. The film’s writers knew it too, which explains why the script starts out as it does. And although I’ll watch it again, I can’t help but feel they ought to have persisted.

Manmohan Singh - India's saviour or Sonia's poodle'?

Once credited with rescuing India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh now finds himself accused of abject failure Andrew Buncombe Monday, 16 July 2012 He was hailed as the man who saved India. Twenty-one years ago, with the authorities in Delhi obliged to fly 47 tonnes of gold to London to be secreted within the vaults of the Bank of England as collateral for an emergency loan for food and fuel, Manmohan Singh, then serving as finance minister, got to his feet in the country's parliament to deliver a budget that broke, shatteringly, with the past. "We shall make the future happen," said Mr Singh, announcing a series of liberalising measures that cut away India's notorious red tape and ended the so-called Licence Raj. "Let the whole world hear it loud and clear - India is now wide awake." The reforms introduced on 24 July, 1991 - the privatisation of some government companies, the reduction of import duties and the introduction of foreign investment - are credited with sparking the economic regeneration of the country and improving the lives of millions of people. In something of an air-brushing of history, Mr Singh received the lion's share of the credit, while the role of the prime minister of the day, PV Narasimha Rao, was omitted. But two decades on, the quietly-spoken Mr Singh, who studied by candlelight in a small village to secure a place at Oxford University and then the World Bank, finds himself accused of abject failure. Critics from business say his reforming zeal has evaporated and slowed the country's growth, while political opponents say he has overseen an administration that has revealed itself to be mired in corruption. From within his ruling Congress Party there are repeated, if oblique, demands for him to step aside ahead in favour of his presumed successor, Rahul Gandhi. Last week, in the latest insult heaped up the 79 year old premier, Time magazine, which only in April placed him 19th in its list of 100 most influential world figures, splashed the front cover of its Asia edition with a forlorn image of Mr Singh and the headline "The Underachiever". "India is stalling," the magazine claimed. "To turn it around, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must emerge from his private and political gloom." Indians are not unique in being more sensitive to criticism from afar than that directed at them domestically, but the magazine article hit a particularly tender nerve and the party's representatives took to television studios to defend the prime minister. Manish Tewari, an MP and spokesman for the Congress party, said the story had "deliberately" overlooked the solid and concrete achievements of Mr Singh's two terms including consistent high growth averaging more than eight per cent, a flow of foreign investment and a flurry of social programmes. "Stories that break on Sunday evening…acquire a certain momentum of their own," he said. Meanwhile, the main opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with its eyes on general election scheduled to be held by 2014, seized on the controversy. Spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said: "We are clearly of the view that in terms of economic management, inflation and our sense of direction, the government has failed. We did not need the verification of a foreign journal." In truth, the article contained nothing that was new but it refocused people's attention on a man whose reputation is at risk of being permanently damaged. Along with his ministers, Mr Singh, who first became prime minister in 2004 and is now in his second term, has received increasing criticism from various quarters as the country's growth has slumped from a soaring nine per cent in 2007-08 to a "mere" 5.3 per cent in the first three months of this year, the lowest since 2003. The administration has been accused of sitting on reforms that could bring in new foreign direct investment (FDI), such as the opening of the food retail sector, and failing to create a sufficiently stable investment, leading to a plunge in FDI of up to 38 per cent in the first part of the year. A decision this spring by the then finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee, to allow retroactive taxation of companies was seen as particularly harmful. Last month, the ratings agency Standard and Poor's threatened to downgrade India's investment category and pondered whether it could become the first "fallen angel" of the so-called Bric nations. Inflation is high and there is a trade deficit of around $13bn. A Delhi-based business source who works with both Indian and international firms, said India had slipped in the last couple of years from being a priority destination for any foreign firm looking to expand its business, to one of several potential locations including Indonesia, Brazil and Turkey. "It is still at the point where India can turn it around," said the source, over a pot of Assam tea in the lobby of a hotel. "[But] there has been no growth and no reforms but there is corruption and uncertainty." Observers say one of Mr Singh's problems is that he has no genuine political power. Rather, he owes his position to Sonia Gandhi, widow of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, mother of Rahul and Congress Party chairwoman, who to the delight of India's middleclass selected him for that role when her party won a surprise victory in 2004. This has meant he has sometimes been unable to even control his cabinet and his failure to more quickly address the actions of a coalition minister, accused of defrauding the country up to $40bn in a telecom licence scam, led to him being accused of further weakness. Those who defend the prime minister say he is caught in a difficult position. Against a challenging international climate, he has sought to continue his party's policies of reform while also trying to provide for the country's poor, overseeing employment, education and health programmes. They point out that for all the stories of "Shining India" that adorned magazines such as Time during the first half of the decade, the country still has hundreds of millions of people living in utter poverty. "The criticism of him in the media comes from one section of society, the business community, which thinks it should be given everything," said one former official who has worked closely with Mr Singh. If anyone is to salvage Mr Singh's reputation in the two years he likely has remaining, it can only be him. While he may unfairly have become the target for criticism of an entire administration, it is he who needs to do something if he wants to secure a favourable place in history. He says he intends to do so. As Foreign Policy magazine reported, on 27 June, a day after he handed himself the finance ministry portfolio following the resignation of Mr Mukherjee, who is now the party's candidate for head of state, Mr Singh's official Twitter feed claimed he intended to "revive the animal spirit in the country's economy". The monsoon rains have finally arrived in Delhi, creating a sticky backdrop to this latest political heat. In the cool interior of the red sandstone office on Raisina Hill, Mr Singh is said to feel that the US magazine article was "unfair". Aides have declined to comment directly on the controversy but a spokesman, Pankaj Pachauri, said the prime minister was confident he could turn the situation around. "There is unanimity that for the inclusion of India's poor in development, you have to have growth," he said. "How to achieve that growth is the challenge." The Path To Power 1982 Appointed Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, holding the post until 1985. Later becomes the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission of India. 1991 Elected to the upper house of parliament. Named Finance Minister by Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao. 1998 Leader of the opposition in the upper house of parliament while the Bharatiya Janata Party holds office. 2004 The United Progressive Alliance coalition – formed after the 2004 elections and led by the Congress party – nominates Dr Singh as Prime Minister. _the Independent, UK

Monday, July 16, 2012

From Pakistani Media- Coke Studio India Pakistan

Coke Studio’s Indian mystery — resolved By Rafay Mahmood Published: July 12, 2012 The writer is a reporter with The Express Tribune’s Life and Style section Mr Aakar Patel’s article of June 10, in this newspaper, “Coke Studio’s Indian mystery”, has highlighted a number of issues concerning the failure of “Coke Studio @ MTV” — the Indian version of the show. Being a Pakistani music journalist, I feel it is my duty to clear some misconceptions that he seemed to have regarding Pakistani music, “Coke Studio” and “Coke Studio @ MTV”. Firstly, the reason for the lack of popularity of “Coke Studio @ MTV” compared with its Pakistani version is not a mystery. I believe that the Indian version can easily do better and the solution is simple: remove Leslie Lewis as the programme’s producer. I fail to understand why Mr Lewis was handed the reins of the programme when there are countless talented musicians in India that could have done a much better job. Mr Patel discussed the Mekaal Hasan Band’s (MHB) music in some detail and I agree with him that the band’s music is great, but did it pioneer that genre of music in Pakistan? Certainly not. Who came up with the idea, which Mr Patel has described as “traditional Hindustani music made palatable for ears accustomed to listening to more popular music” is a question that is difficult to answer. I saw this happening years ago when Aamir Zaki introduced the now well-known Shafqat Amanat Ali, who did what the MHB does today, in an event that took place in the mid-1990s and whose coverage is present on Youtube. Let us draw a fine line between what Mr Patel calls ‘traditional Indian music’ and what we call folk music, or to be specific, ‘Pakistani’ folk music. I believe that the most popular songs that have been featured in “Coke Studio” cannot be clubbed under the genre of traditional Indian music. Instead, they can safely be termed as contemporary takes on folk melodies. One might identify some shades of traditional Indian music in them but that is not the same as classifying them under that genre. In fact, in the case of a song like “Peere Pawande Saan”, which is a Sufi kalaam by Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, you cannot exactly do much in terms of giving it a “popular interpretation” as Mr Patel calls it because Bhittai’s kalaams can only be sung in specific surs, as instructed by the great mystic himself. It should also be noted that similar attempts at giving a contemporary touch to folk melodies have happened long before “Coke Studio” came on the scene — Mohammad Ali Shaiki and Allan Faqeer’s “Teray Ishq Main” instantly come to mind. Mr Patel’s point about Pakistanis not willing to pay for music is certainly valid and quite sad. At the same time, I do not think that having a corporate entity like Coca Cola putting up some money for the Pakistani music industry’s benefit is a bad thing. But what depresses me is when a similar venture fails in culturally-rich India. I feel that brilliant Indian musicians, even if they are given a chance to produce music for such a venture, won’t opt for it because this requires creating an entirely new formula of music, different from the usual Bollywood item numbers. By following pre-determined formulas, Indian musicians are depriving the Indian audience of enjoying diverse forms of music. This may not hurt the Indian music industry financially, but it does mean that the industry is far from a versatile and diverse one. It is cruel to say this but it is true. Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2012.

From Pakistani Media

A cocktail of voices from India and Pakistan By Sher Khan Published: July 15, 2012 Arif Lohar and Sahir Ali Bagga tell The Express Tribune about their collaboration on the Bollywood movie soundtrack. DESIGN: SAMRA AAMIR LAHORE: Bollywood flick Cocktail has released worldwide amidst a steadily growing build-up — while some of it can be explained by cast member Deepika Padukone’s trendy outfits (and that red bikini!), most of it owes to the soundtrack. If the songs “Tum Hi Bandhu”and “Daaru Desi” have you tapping your feet, here’s something else that will make you smile: four Pakistani singers – Arif Lohar, Javed Bashir, Imran Aziz Mian and Sahir Ali Bagga – have contributed to the Cocktail soundtrack by giving it a new sound and feel. Arif Lohar, one of the biggest names in Punjabi folk music, tells The Express Tribune that the film has provided a bridge for singers and artists in India and Pakistan. Referring to his famous Punjabi track “Jugni”, Lohar says his track represents Pakistani music in a positive manner. “‘Jugni’ has had many versions,” said Lohar. “The situational context of ‘Jugni’ has been adapted in the past – even my father Alam Lohar had sung the song. But it can have different meanings.” He added that the soundtrack is important in showcasing the growing stature of Bagga, a young musician with great talent. He also said the involvement of Pakistani singers shows that entertainers from both countries can gain popularity across borders. Bagga’s entry into Bollywood has started out with a bang. With the launch of Cocktail, music critics in India have appreciated his song “Lutna”. Shedding light on the track, Bagga says it arises out of a sad and controversial situation in the movie that is filmed on Gautam, the character of Saif Ali Khan, and his girlfriends. He said that he wanted to take the modern situation but add a classical touch to it while keeping Pakistan in the loop as well by incorporating beats from the Punjabi-folk song Saiful Malook. “We have kept the Sufi touch to the music which I think represents Pakistan well,” adds Bagga. In light of his success, Bagga remains optimistic about how his talent could be used in B-town. “It’s an honour to start out in a blockbuster film in comparison to a low quality one. This does not usually happen,” Bagga tells The Express Tribune at his Lahore-based SAB studio. He explains that he earned the opportunity after his success in collaborating with Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, as well as the award he received at this year’s London South Asian Film Festival in which he won the best musical talent award for “Koi Dil Mai” from Tamanna. No visas for these voices The Cocktail team had planned an unplugged event in India where one would get to see the solidarity of Indian and Pakistani musicians. Unfortunately, the Pakistani singers could not obtain visas for India, and the music launch idea had to be scrapped. Talking about this controversy, Bagga says that creating music in India has become somewhat of an issue for Pakistani artists due to a local license that is a prerequisite. He says that singers like Atif Aslam, Shafqat Amanat Ali and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan have been recording outside of India due to legal requirements for artists recording within India. But Bagga continues to be optimistic about the collaboration. “In music, there is no war,” he says, adding that Pakistani singers are versatile and hence, producers in India have more options when fusing with them. Lohar feels that visa restriction has nothing to do with music and was “not a big deal”. “The issue was not from the Pakistan government, but every country makes their own rules. We should be more tolerant in these times because the masses want this [collaboration],” says Lohar. Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2012.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Operation No Namo

Congress plans sleaze campaign against Modi
Operation No Namo plans to “blacken the personal image of Modi”, reduce the BJP to less than 90 seats and restrict the CM to his state in the 2014 general elections.
MADHAV NALAPAT  New Delhi | 15th Jul
Narendra Modi waves at the crowd during the 135th Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra in Ahmedabad last month. PTI
arendra Modi is the target of a disinformation campaign run by a task force set up for the purpose in September 2011. This has been revealed by two of the Congress strategists involved in the initial phase of "Operation No Namo", which is designed to ensure that the Gujarat Chief Minister remains confined to his home state up to and during the 2014 parliamentary elections.
"Operation No Namo" is designed to reduce the BJP's seat tally in Gujarat to lower than three figures, ideally less than 90. "Any tally below that would be seen as the defeat of Modi," the source claimed, adding that "such a result would ensure that he remain confined to Gujarat". Should the BJP tally fall to around 90, Congress strategists calculate that the push within the BJP to bring Modi to the Centre will lose momentum. "The Congress leadership wants to avoid Modi becoming the BJP's Prime Minister alternative in the next Lok Sabha elections, hence the effort at seeing that the Gujarat CM remain confined to his state", a source claimed. Op No Namo's political strategy follows the "Uttarakhand and Karnataka models, of developing contacts within the BJP so as to incentivise dissidents into acts of sabotage against their party's chances", on the principle that the most effective foes are those within a party.
Congress leaders in Gujarat are giving "logistical and other help to anti-Modi elements, including within the state BJP". Keshubhai Patel is seen as the best bet. "Should Keshubhai damage the BJP, at least 17 Assembly seats will be lost to the BJP. This will enable us to succeed in keeping his tally to about 90 seats," a Congress source claimed. A bare majority in the coming elections would make it much more difficult for Modi to spend more time outside Gujarat. Strategists point out that the BJP got only half the total votes polled in the 2007 Assembly elections, and that in 109 seats, the Congress came second to the winning BJP candidate. "Our operations over the past nine months have had a huge effect on Modi's image, which after all is the trump card of the BJP."
More controversially, Operation No Namo has also a component designed to "blacken the personal image of the CM". Congress strategists, despite considerable effort, have failed to come across corruption by Narendra Modi or his close relatives, all of whom live in modest circumstances. They are, therefore, turning to the personal. A key strategist claimed that "a secret task force is engaged in using modern technology to create CDs" that purport to show the Gujarat CM in a bad light. According to a source, "An NDA office-bearer from Punjab and a starlet from Tamil Nadu have been incentivised to supply affidavits about their contact with Narendra Modi." The source claims that "both the women have been given flats in Mumbai, while the NDA office-bearer has also been given property in Chandigarh and the starlet roles in two Tamil movies", to induce them to agree to digitally-created CDs being released. Those familiar with modern technology say that it is "relatively easy", given sophisticated equipment, "to create whatever digital images or voices as are needed". Similarly, computers can be hacked into so as to create records of surfing pornography on the net, or lewd messages can be sent from a designated computer (belonging to the target individual).
Clearly, the Congress in Gujarat is taking its cue from Dirty Picture while working on strategies to reduce the BJP tally to 90 seats or less.

Spent guns target Modi

Spent guns target Modi

Aakar Patel at his idiotic best in the article.

Gujaratis have a name for leaders whose best days are behind them: ‘Futeli banduk’ (guns already fired).
Four such once-big guns have lined up to create trouble for Gujarat’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The men comprise two former BJP chief ministers, Suresh Mehta and Keshubhai Patel, one former BJP home minister, Gordhan Jhadafiya, and the BJP’s undefeated six-term MP from Surat, Kashiram Rana. These days, Rana sits at home because he wasn’t given a ticket by Modi to contest, despite his record. The four men want a return to their days of glory, denied to them by Modi who has taken away their influence in the Gujarat BJP. They are now threatening to defeat him when the state votes later this year.
The question is: will these guns fire? The answer is: no. On their own they’re lacking in capacity. They tried the same thing in the last elections when they backed some rebel candidates. But they failed to affect Modi’s vote.
The reason is that Modi has dismantled the old BJP in Gujarat and built a structure that is loyal to him personally. So total is his control that every single city’s leadership owes its rise to him. Keshubhai, Mehta and a third former BJP man Shankarsinh Vaghela were all chief ministers at a time when the party contained many leaders. Now there is only one.
Unhappily for the old men, the voters have still remained with the BJP because in India, castes vote as a block. The BJP is kept in power in Gujarat through the votes of the state’s biggest and most powerful community, the peasant Patels, who are supporters of Hindutva.
This is where the Congress has the opportunity to create some mischief. Two of the rebels — Keshubhai and Jhadafiya — are Patels and might be able to pull away enough votes from the community for the contest to be closer than it has been. As I said, they’ve tried this before and failed. The reason is that being out of power for ten years has depleted their resources. A little help from the Congress on this count might make them more effective than they are now. Congress should provide the ammunition for these spent guns. And by that is meant cash. More than half the money a candidate spends on elections in India is directly paid as inducement to voters (cash trumps caste).
This is an opportunistic thing to propose, but politics is allowed to be unprincipled in India and has always been. Already the Congress’ biggest Gujarat leader is a turncoat RSS man. This is former chief minister Shankarsinh Vaghela, who left the BJP after losing the chief minister’s job to Keshubhai.
There is no escaping it: parties must accept how Indians insist on voting. What is important, if one insists on being principled, is following a good policy once these parties come to power.
Another place the Congress should have been more pragmatic in, and, in fact, still can be, is Andhra Pradesh. There, a chief minister’s son, Jaganmohan Reddy, was not crowned after his father died because he’s not seen as being clean enough. He left the party, taking the entire caste of Reddys with him as recent by-elections have shown. There’s little gain and complete loss in the Congress trying to resist the pattern of Indian voting because of its principles.
Gujarat is a two-party state and the contest has always been between the BJP and the Congress, with a few independents. The BJP has a little over 45 per cent of the vote locked. This leaves Congress with little space in which to operate. The rebels are spent, but experienced. Kashiram has been winning elections ever since Modi was wearing shorts (which, as a swayamsevak, I imagine he would have been wearing even in his 40s).
The sorry truth is that these old men still want power. But it’s also true that they are seething for revenge. Congress should give it to them.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary Directed by Marc Webb Rating: *** It’s the same old story. Of the guy for whom they wrote the song (and we sang along) “Spiderman Spiderman, does whatever a spider can; Spins a web, any size; Catches thieves just like flies.” The Amazing Spiderman, the fourth in the series, doesn’t take things forward. It takes us back: to Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), the high school geek and how he is bestowed with unforeseen powers and discovered himself and his larger purpose in life. Yes, Peter is the same kid, raised by Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). As we learn of his parents’ deaths in a car accident, we also meet Dr Curt Connors, who is carrying on Peter’s father’s work. Connors mutates into a lizard while trying to regrow a lost limb. It’s on sneaking into Connors’s secret lab that Peter has his tryst with the spider, giving him the ability to shoot webs from his palms and swing from one skyscraper to another, and becomes the crime-busting superhero who saves the world. Yes, it’s that same old spiel about great power and greater responsibility, but director Marc Webb also romanticises the action man. Love is as important as action and SFX. Not surprising, since Webb gave us the charming relationship movie 500 Days of Summer. Webb’s Spidey is a nervous geek, a recluse who is bullied and can’t ask his girl, Gwen Stacy, out. Their delightful romantic encounters (minus that upside down kiss) are as important as the deadly combats with the lizard or the amazing flights across the city. The Amazing Spiderman may not be as amazing as it “preclaims” itself to be, but it entertains and is fun while it lasts. It’s a different matter that the film does not quite sustain for long in the mind’s eye once its over. Garfield makes for a hyper, twitchy, callow Spidey. It’s Stone who is self-assured and sexy as the girl who turns him into an emotional wreck. But the one who impresses the most is Rhys Ifans, the Lizard, at once evil and tragic. And yes, we also have our own Irrfan Khan as the Lizard’s boss Dr Rathi. And what about him? Well, he came, he went. Only we, the Indians, noticed. Another turn like Anil Kapoor’s in Mission Impossible 4? Or is there more chalked out for him in the sequel? High Fives Bollywood Teri Meri Kahaani Gangs Of Wasseypur Ferrari Ki Sawaari Rowdy Rathore Shanghai Hollywood Ted Magic Mike Brave Madea’s Witness Protection Madagascar 3 Pop Call Me Maybe (Carly Rae Jepsen) Payphone (Maroon 5) Somebody I Used To Know (Gotye) What Makes... (One Direction) Where Have You... (Rihanna) Courtesy: BoxofficeIndia.com

Don't Ruin your figure

Not so long ago, Kishwar Desai’s debut, Witness the Night, won the Costa First Novel Award. The novel was about female foeticide and it drew much attention, especially in the West. The theme in this second novel by Desai is surrogate parenting, or the renting of one’s womb to carry the child of others. The protagonist Simran Singh is a social worker of the cigarette-smoking, high-end variety who make spinsterhood fashionable. Simran is firmly against womb rentals. She comes across unsavoury examples in infertility clinics with alarming names like ‘Freedom’ and ‘Madonna and Child’. She meets Malti and Radhika and Preeti who are young surrogate mothers; Sonia, whose infertile husband forces her to have sex with his friend in order to conceive; and men with names like Pandey, Mehta, Sharma and Ganguly, all villains exploiting women towards the same end. The novel strings together stories about couples desperate for babies, young women eager to rent their wombs for money, doctors engaged in the practice of ‘creating’ babies, fixers and customs officials who want a share of the booty when artificially fertilised embryos are transported from UK to India for safe-keeping inside an Indian womb. There is a sperm donor in London and a British couple longing for parenthood, but one fails to understand why they are included the way they are. They do not add weight to the story. The womb of another woman is merely a rented room in which to park the valued foetus. While there are many cases of infertility where this can be justified, the rising tide of surrogacy is awash with examples of couples using it in order to avoid the unpleasant effects of a normal preganancy, to say nothing of a ruined figure. A writer who starts with a theme and then hangs a story around its neck will land in trouble unless she is telling it from inside-out. By humanising the characters. Kishwar Desai has strong views about surrogacy. She has exposed certain truths about a well-oiled medical industry that has bypassed ethical issues to provide couples with a baby that is ‘biologically’ their own. But the shocking indifference of medical bodies like the Indian Medical Association and the Medical Council towards such corrupt, unethical practices is not mentioned. The novel fails to navigate the difficult zones of disappointment, despair, social expectations and family values that envelop the issue of infertility. This lends a disappointing flatness to the story. The feisty protagonist goes all the way to London, posing as a woman in need of a sperm donor, god help her, but we do not feel any empathy towards her or any of the others. The undoing of this work is the form chosen by the writer. The facts revealed here are much like journalistic reporting and so it could have worked as non-fiction. As a novel, it does not. (Kavery Nambisan is a surgeon and novelist)

Israel India

DRIVING SOUTHEAST of Bikaner, Rajasthan, all that meets one’s eyes is the sand and shrubs. Vegetation is scarce, agriculture of any kind non-existent and the only green one can see are a few patches of grass in the sand. Two hours ahead, taking a left from the NH-65, on the road to Didwana, the dry brown landscape suddenly changes colour. Olive trees, around 14,000 of them spread across 30 hectares, dot the desert land. This is the Bakliya farms, one of seven such farms in Rajasthan, result of an Indo-Israeli agricultural venture. Oily Green Mask It started with Vasundhara Raje’s visit to Israel in 2006. The sight of an olive farm in a kibbutz in the Negev desert of southern Israel struck the former Rajasthan chief minister as something that could be replicated in her state. On her request, the Israel government agreed to help set up olive groves in Rajasthan, a hitherto failed experiment in India. The Israelis had developed a technology through intensive plantation and drip irrigation that allowed them to grow olive on arid land. Exactly what the then chief minister wanted for her dry state. The Rajasthan Olive Cultivation Limited (ROCL) was set up as a public-private partnership with investments from the Rajasthan government and expertise from Indolive, an Israeli olive farming company and Pune-based irrigation equipment manufacturers, Finolex Plasson Industries. In the next six years, seven areas in the state were selected for growing seven varieties of the plant. Cuttings of high yield olive plants were imported from Israel. Drip irrigation, another Israeli invention and a common Indian practice now, was also used. Fertilisers, cutting techniques, soil testing — all the expertise came from Israel. Kailash Kalwania, manager of the Bakliya farms, shows us around the olive groves. The flowering season is over, and small olives have started sprouting on the trees. “Of the seven varieties we planted, Barnea has been the most successful,” says Kailash. Jaipur-based Gideon Peleg, 68, the Israeli specialist in charge of the olive project in Rajasthan, adds that olive cultivation in the desert state has not been a cut-and-paste job. “It took us time to realise and understand what variety is best suited,” he says. The results have been quite impressive. Of the seven districts where the olive experiment took place, four have done well. Buoyed by the success, the Rajasthan government has declared huge subsidies — 75 percent on plant cuttings, 3,000 per hectare on fertilisers and chemicals, and 90 percent on drip irrigation — to promote olive plantation in the state. An olive oil refinery is also coming up in Lukhransar, north of Bikaner. “Last year we made pickles out of the green olives but after the refinery is ready we will make olive oil,” says Sitaram Yadav, supervisor of the Lukhransar plantation. The Rajasthan experiment has also given Israel the impetus to expand into other agriculture and horticulture segments across India. The first step has already been taken with the signing of the Agriculture Cooperation Agreement between the two countries in 2008. In December 2011, a three-year work plan was finalised between the Ministries of Agriculture of India and Israel, which included components like joint visits of agriculture experts, seminar and courses for farmers. The standout feature of the agreement is the Centres of Excellence for the set-up of “transfer of applied research and technologies to the farmers in various states across India”. The technologies to be transferred include irrigation, soil solarisation for disease control in plants, polyhouse farming, fertilisers, hybrid plants and seeds. While Israel has already entered into agreement with seven state governments to set up these centres, the most successful model has been Haryana. Varun Bajaj, 35, from Rehor Parwala village, 30 km from Panchkula, is a beneficiary of this Indo-Israel agreement. Bajaj has been growing seedless cucumber since January 2012. A retailer by profession, he decided to grow vegetables after visiting the Indo-Israel Centre of Excellence for vegetable in Ghauranda, Karnal. Impressed by the concept of protective agriculture, he approached an agriculture company to set up his farm on a turnkey basis. The first farm was set up on an area of 4,000 sq metres. Polyhouses were put in place for protective farming, drip lines and machines were set up. Bajaj got 90 percent rebate in installing drip irrigation, and 65 percent subsidy on polyhouse under the national horticulture mission and additional subsidy from the Haryana government. He has now added an additional 6,000 sq metres to his farm and supplies to retailers and the open market. “My farms have already produced 50,000 kg in just six months,” he says. It is not cucumber alone; the Gharaunda facility has seen a manifold rise in the yield of chilli, capsicum and tomato. The Israeli experiment has found many takers besides Rajasthan. Haryana, Maharashtra and Bihar are all eager to adopt it THE ISRAEL experiment has gone beyond vegetables. In Bhiwani district, Ramesh Tanwar has been growing kinnow on an area of six hectares with the help of the Centre of Excellence for Citrus Fruits in Sirsa. “The yield increased after we adopted various technologies from the centre,” he says. Haryana has also been trying to grow olive in the Sirsa centre, though it is still in the initial stages. Tanwar and Bajaj’s farms are part of the 200 acres in Haryana that have already adopted technologies from the Indo-Israel Centres of Excellence. “The target now is 10,000 hectares in five years,” says Satyavir Singh, Director General, Horticulture, Haryana. The state government expects business worth $1 billion from the Israeli agro-technology. Each centre has been created on a seed money of Rs 6 crore invested by the state government. Three new centres for mango, flowers and an apiary have already been set up. Not content with areas confined to Centres of Excellence alone, the state is setting up 14 versions of such centres on a smaller scale in villages. “This will truly ensure that technology reaches the farmer,” says Arjun Singh Saini, additional director, horticulture in Haryana. To be set up at a cost of Rs 25 lakh by the government on farmers’ land and under their ownership, Saini calls it the public-private-farmer partnership. The experiment doesn’t end with Rajasthan and Haryana. Maharashtra is already seeing results on mangoes. The latest state to have signed an agreement for such a centre is Bihar where the technology would be used for growing mango and citrus fruits. Uri Rubinstein, Counsellor, International Cooperation, Science and Agriculture at the Embassy of Israel, New Delhi, says that Israeli technology in agriculture is not all about being hi-tech. He points out the concept of seedling as an example. “The centres offer seedlings grown in soilless medium,” he says. “This is a technology that ensures the plant survives unlike direct seed planting.” Saini says there is a need for a second green revolution in India. “It is no more about basic agricultural produce,” he says. Rubinstein agrees: “Many of our needs are similar. Perhaps that’s why the Indian government decided to partner Israel under the National Horticulture Mission and not big countries like the US.”

Patna, Nitish Kumar, Bihar, Delhi, Boulevards, Civic, Bailey Road, Metropolis

Dear Nitish Sir, Before I write a word, I must state that you are one of the very few politicians whom I admire. The way you have brought ‘hope’ to the state of Bihar is remarkable. There is a visible shift in the perception towards a Bihari elsewhere and that in itself is a big ‘achievement’. ‘Law and order’ has seen positive changes and there has been some impetus in creating infrastructure in the state known to be ‘laggard’. However, these are known facts – and in ‘euphoria’ of the ‘turnaround’, we tend to overlook our shortcomings. I would like to draw your attention to some of the shortcomings which I observed in my recent visit to Patna. It is my belief that if Bihar has to attract investments then Patna needs to gear up for the task first. A capital city is the gateway to the state and for many the mirror to judge the state as well. Thus for Bihar to grow, Patna has to grow first. It is not that it is not growing – but is the growth taking place in the right direction and more importantly with right pace? As a non-resident Patna'ite who touches the city every now and then, I am always on the lookout for positive changes in my city. I, along with millions, see a huge potential in Patna – but my last visit to the city has left me ‘DISAPPOINTED’. Disappointed is a ‘huge’ word and is the direct adversary of ‘hope’. So, let me tell you why exactly I felt the way I did. I am sure that you would have seen Patna many times from sky during night – you would agree that Patna fails to cast a magnificent spell unlike other major cities of the country. One does not need to be Einstein to figure out the cause – Patna does not have an elaborate public lighting system. Just move out of the airport and you would be engulfed in darkness. The main thoroughfare of Patna, Bailey Road, does not boast of streetlights in its entire stretch – the stretch beyond Patna Zoo all the way to Jagdeo Path and beyond is devoid of something known as ‘light post’. While the shops in the area try to salvage some pride till 10 pm, the area plunges into total darkness beyond that hour. My question is how could you usher in the dawn of a new era through this darkness? Imagine how a non-resident would narrate this to others – how this could adversely affect any investment pitch for Patna. People may find lack of proper public lighting a small thing but I think it reflects the character of the city and its administration. A stretch of Bailey Road leading to your residence remains in the clutches of darkness - I wonder why someone of your stature would not show urgency in tackling the issue. Why the CM fund for urban infrastructure building has not been utilized for something as basic as providing lighting to the citizens of the state? One could easily imagine the scenes in other cities/towns if the ‘Rajpath’ of the state capital is going through such a phase? Point 1: You cannot promise ‘light’ to others if your own backyard is plagued with darkness. I will keep myself restricted to basic amenities in this address. Another important aspect which I think requires your administration’s attention is access to basic sanitation and hygiene. I think Patna can easily be a contender for one of the ‘filthiest’ Capital cities in the country – all thanks to the resource strained municipal body with a ‘who cares’ attitude. It is said that a picture tells a thousand words – I am attaching three pictures for your reference. These are taken a mere five days back and tell a very grim story – what is worse is that with just a few days away from Monsoon, the manholes are not properly covered. Another shocker is that these death traps are at a distance of mere 5 meters from each other. One can easily imagine how many such death traps lay strewn across the state capital and the state – I hope these are covered before the monsoon starts in the state. Also, regarding the heaps of garbage lying on various localities of Patna inviting diseases to the residents of the areas – Can’t you or anyone in your cabinet or bureaucracy see what an average Patna'ite see everyday? The municipal body governing Patna has been unable to deliver to the expectations of its citizens – in fact, it has not been able to provide the mere necessities. There has been an excuse to every misgivings – fund crunch, non-cooperation, lack of resources and what not. I wonder till when the city has to suffer due to this attitude? Patna could be the metropolis of the east – it could again be the ‘greatest city’ of the world. I know it has to cover a HUGE distance but the first step has to be taken immediately. I think you should take the initiative to guide it on that journey. Point 2: You cannot attract the best talents (required for the sustained economic growth of the state) by providing below standard civic infrastructure and amenities The one thing which I miss in today’s Patna is the greenery – widening of roads has left visible scars on the face of our city. Your recent stand on not allowing the trees of the zoo to be cut would be pleasing to many ears. I am also excited by the state government’s announcement of planting more than 25 crore trees in Bihar in coming years. These are excellent commitment to the cause of environment – however, I think Patna needs immediate strategic intervention. While a Delhi plans and plants a million tree in a month, we Patnaites are happy at planting 30000 more trees in next 5 years. I agree that Delhi is much bigger than Patna and has more space to offer but will Patna survive with 30000 more trees only? Lakhs of Patnaites suffering in this ‘murderous heat’ would agree with me that Patna requires much more trees in every part. The question remains – how? I think the state government would do well to take the services of the best city planners (as it did for the prestigious museum project) in the world to arrive at possible ways of planting trees across roads and streets of the city. It could be an innovative way or plain simple thing like planting trees along pavements (as can be seen in Kolkata). Trees would not only provide the greenery but if the plantation is planned effectively they can add to the aesthetics of the city. It is said that one should always dare to dream – Why couldn’t the Patna'ites dream to have a ‘city of boulevards’? It is said that ancient Pataliputra boasted of many boulevards – why can’t a modern Patna replicate the same? Once the plan of plantation is ready – involve public to the initiative. Let the citizens come forward and take the onus of giving their city a distinct identity. Point 3: When you are way behind others, find ways to differentiate and work hard and fast to that end I would like to end this letter by making a simple request – please accelerate the pace of the ‘turnaround’. We have a long way to go before catching up with others. While I have remained Patna specific in this address, the first steps would be to provide smooth access to basic amenities to all the citizens of the state. -Rahul Shanu
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