Sunday, May 2, 2010

Current Events-India

Slumdog Millionaire: "Jai ho" at Oscars

Rags-to-riches romance Slumdog Millionaire scooped up eight Oscars, the most of any

movie this year, including best motion picture. Among the Slumdog honours, Danny

Boyle was named best director for the often dark but ultimately hopeful tale about a

poor Indian boy who competes for love and money on a TV game show.

Slam dunk Slumdog

Hit British film 'Slumdog Millionaire' has won the top prize at the Academy Awards,

winning eight Oscars including best director and best picture. The film, set in the slums of

Mumbai, also won the ones for best

adapted screenplay, cinematography,

sound mixing, film editing, best

original score and best song. Kate

Winslet won the best actress Oscar for

'The Reader' while Sean Penn won for

his role as gay rights activist Harvey

Milk in "Milk'.

But the dazzle of the glittering awards

ceremony unarguably belonged to

'Slumdog Millionaire', the rags-to-riches tale that has enchanted audiences around the world.

A. R. Rahman became the first Indian to win two Oscars for his scintillating music in

Slumdog Millionaire which swept the Academy awards by winning eight with one going to

sound engineer Resul Pookutty. Rahman shared his second Oscar for best original song for

the film's theme number "Jai Ho" with noted lyricist Gulzar.

Rahman praised the city which inspired the book, and subsequently the film. He hailed "all

the people from Mumbai and the essence of the film, which is about optimism and the power

of hope and our lives". The achievement is perhaps best seen in perspective when we

consider that before this only two Indians had received the honour–ever. Veteran filmmaker

Satyajit Ray was awarded a lifetime achievement Oscar in 1992 and prior to that Bhanu

Athaiya won an Oscar for costume design in Richard Attenborough's Gandhi in 1983.



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And this time alone, there are three awards–and three Indians–in the honours list.

There was more good news as Smile Pinki, the tale of a Uttar Pradesh girl and her fight

against the social stigma of a cleft-lip, won the Oscar award for Best Documentary (Short).

Directed by Emmy-award winning Megan Mylan, the film was shot in Mirzapur and

Varanasi of Uttar Pradesh. So what does Slumdog's unprecedented success hold in store for

the Indian film industry.

"The resounding success of Slumdog is a nod to what Bollywood has been accused of

making mindlessly for decades on end — its escapist fare. Slumdog is as escapist as they

come, its central protagonist rising from the deep bowels of a slum to win the big ticket to

fortune, a fantasy tale where, despite abject poverty, everyone wears a smile like a badge.

More than escapism, however, it is an acknowledgement of the powerhouse of talent

available in India: superb actors (in impossible roles acted convincingly), prodigious musical

ability, great storytelling, and the potential of cinema to cross geographies and surmount the

hindrances of language and culture", says the editorial in Indian daily Business Standard.

The making of 'Slumdog Millionaire'

The movie that swept the 81st Academy Awards, almost ended

up not being made as a movie. If there was one movie that

was destined not to sweep the Oscars, surely it was Slumdog

Millionaire. It had none of the publicity budget of its rivals:

just flying Brad Pitt around the world cost its producers nearly

as much as the entire primary shooting budget of Slumdog.

There wasn't even a recognisable star for non-Indian

audiences — no Sean Penn or Angelina Jolie here.

Instead, Slumdog... had Dev Patel, a lanky, geeky-looking lad

from the Indian-inhabited London suburb of Harrow as its

male lead. And Freida Pinto, a Mumbai model in her first movie role, was picked to play his

love interest. The film was based on a book written by a part-time writer — Indian diplomat

Vikas Swarup, who made the best use of his free evenings to come up with Q & A. Finally, a

quarter of the movie is in Hindi.

The odds seemed stacked against "Slumdog...". Distributors Warner Independent, an arm of

Time Warner, folded up in May 2008, leaving the film's hapless producers considering the

graveyard option of making a direct-to-DVD movie without a full cinema release. But just

when it looked like curtains for "Slumdog", up stepped Fox Searchlight–a tiny arm of Rupert

Murdoch's News Corp. known to back the small boys - with an offer to distribute.



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Warner Independent, which had put in $5 million to distribute "Slumdog..." in North

America, thought the film could be sold to small Indian-origin communities in the US and

Canada, as well as art-house theatergoers, and hoped to gross $12 million to $16 million.

Released in November by Fox Searchlight, the movie has raked in roughly $150 million

worldwide. It was made for $13 million — a tenth of the production cost of its Hollywood

rival The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Its filmmakers came under fire in the media for allegedly not properly paying or caring for

the child actors who played slum-dwellers in the film. In response, distributors Fox

Searchlight flew the children to Sunday's Oscars ceremony in Hollywood.

Origin of the Slumdog

Vikas Swarup: Career diplomat basks in Slumdog glory

There's a strong South Block connection to 'Slumdog Millionaire' and that's Vikas Swarup.

The movie is based on Swarup's first novel, Q and A, and he is

currently India's Deputy High Commissioner to South Africa.

What inspired him to write the book? Swarup was inspired by the holein-

the-wall project, where a computer with an internet connection was

put in a Delhi slum. When the slum was revisited after a month, the

children of that slum had learnt how to use the worldwide web.

This got him fascinated and the writer in Swarup realised that there's

an innate ability in everyone to do something extraordinary, provided they are given an

opportunity. "How else do you explain children with no education at all being able to learn to

use the Internet. This shows knowledge is not just the preserve of the elite," Swarup said.

The concept of project is in itself as interesting as the story of Slumdog's success. NIIT chief

scientist Dr Sugata Mitra had carved a 'hole in the wall' that separated the NIIT premises

from the adjoining slum in Kalkaji in 1999. Through this 'hole', a freely accessible computer

was put out for use and with no prior experience, the children learnt to use the computer on

their own.

Moreover, the 'Who wants to be a Millionaire' quiz format was a huge global success, with

Amitabh Bachchan hosting Kaun Banega Crorepati in India on prime time television, when

streets used to be deserted in India. All these developments spurred Swarup to pen his first

novel. The screen adaptation of Swarup's novel is bit different. Boyle changed the title from

'Q&A' to 'Slumdog Millionaire'. The ending is also different. Danny thought the hero should

be arrested on suspicion of cheating on the penultimate question, not after he wins as Swarup




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The British producer made friends into brothers, axed Bollywood stars and Mumbai

hoodlums and left thrilling subplots on the cutting-room floor. Crucially, they changed the

lead character's name from Ram Mohammad Thomas to Jamal Malik, thereby losing

Swarup's notion that his hero would be an Indian everyman, one who sounded as though he

was Hindu, Muslim and Christian. Instead, they made Jamal a Muslim whose mother is killed

by a Hindu mob.

Swarup's conceit was that an uneducated hero becomes a contestant on 'Who Wants to be a

Millionaire?' and, through the sort of miraculous fortune, is asked a series of questions that

he can answer. Ram's success makes everyone suspicious. How can a slumdog know who

Shakespeare was? Q&A's retort is that Ram's adventures in orphanages and brothels, with

gangsters and Bollywood celebrities, have taught him the answers to each question. The

novel's seductive opening sentences are: "I have been arrested. For winning a quizshow."

Before Q&A, Swarup's last published story was written half a lifetime ago. It was called

'The Autobiography of a Donkey'. His second novel, 'Six Suspects', was published last year.

Full list of winners

Best picture: 'Slumdog Millionaire'

Best director: Danny Boyle for 'Slumdog Millionaire

Best actor: Sean Penn for 'Milk'

Best actress: Kate Winslet for 'The Reader'

Best supporting actor: Heath Ledger for 'The Dark Knight'

Best supporting actress: Penelope Cruz for 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona'

Best original screenplay: Dustin Lance Black for 'Milk'

Best adapted screenplay: Simon Beaufoy for 'Slumdog Millionaire'

Best animated feature film: 'Wall-E'

Best animated short film: 'La Maison en Petits Cubes'

Best foreign language film: 'Departures–Japan'

Best documentary feature: 'Man on Wire'

Best documentary short subject: 'Smile Pinki'

Art direction: Donald Graham Burt and Victor J. Zolfo for 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'

Costume design: Michael O'Conner for 'The Duchess'

Make-up: Greg Cannom for 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'

Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle for 'Slumdog Millionaire'

Best live action short film: 'Spielzeugland' (Toyland)

Visual effects: 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'

Sound editing: Richard King for 'The Dark Knight'

Sound mixing: Resul Pookutty for 'Slumdog Millionaire'

Film editing: Chris Dickens for 'Slumdog Millionaire'

Best original score: AR Rahman for 'Slumdog Millionaire'

Best original song: Gulzar for 'Jai Ho–Slumdog Millionaire'

Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award: Jerry Lewis



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Oscar trivia

When the first Academy Awards were handed out on May 16, 1929, movies had just begun to talk. The

best actress and actor awards went to Janet Gaynor for "Seventh Heaven" and Emil Jannings for "The

Last Command."

The Warner Bros. film "The Jazz Singer" was honored with a special award as the "pioneering

outstanding talking picture, which has revolutionized the industry." The Academy had ruled that it was

ineligible for competition for best picture because it was thought it would be unfair to let sound films

compete with silents.

The 1959 epic "Ben Hur" set an Academy Award record by winning 11 Oscars, a benchmark matched

nearly four decades later by the 1997 blockbuster "Titanic," which reaped 11 awards from 12

nominations. 2003 movie "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" also won 11 Oscars from 11


U.S. actress Meryl Streep holds the record for most acting nominations, 15 including for the 2008 movie

"Doubt," and she has won twice. Katharine Hepburn earned 12 nominations but won four times. Ingrid

Bergman is next with three Oscars. Jack Nicholson is the most nominated male star with 12

nominations and three wins. Walter Brennan also won three, but from only four nominations.

Current Events-Sports

Murali is highest wicket taker in ODIs as well as tests

The spinner is harder than ever for batsmen to read

Muttiah Muralitharan became the highest wicket-taker in One-Day International cricket at the

Premadasa Stadium, Colombo on Feb 06, 2009. The Sri Lankan is already the leading

wicket-taker in Test cricket with 769 scalps.

Muralitharan surpassed former Pakistan paceman Wasim Akram's ODI mark of 502 wickets

when he had Gautam Gambhir caught by 'keeper Kumar Sangakkara. Nicknamed

`Motormouth' for his non-stop words and humour in the dressing room, the Lankan offspinner

is motoring past landmarks on the cricketing highway.

It is this attribute of his bowling, resilience, that former Sri Lankan coach Dav Whatmore

talks about passionately. "Muralitharan is patient, doesn't lose focus, and can come back at

any stage of the match or spells," says Whatmore.

The cricketer from Kandy, who began as a paceman, has adapted remarkably well to all

forms of the game. He brings about subtle changes in his bowling, uses the width and the

depth of his crease to flummox batsmen. His control over the extent of spin he puts on his

deliveries beguiles the best of batsmen. The flight and the natural dip in his bowling pose

more challenges to the batsmen. Muralitharan is hard to read, varies his trajectory and speed

cleverly. The 36-year-old Muralitharan achieved his ODI feat in 328 matches while Akram

needed 356 games to scalp 502 batsmen. The Sri Lankan's feat is remarkable in the era of big

bats and smaller boundaries.



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The significance of Muralitharan's achievement is reflected in the fact that the next spinner in

the list of top wicket-takers in the ODIs is India's Anil Kumble with 337. Interestingly,

Muralitharan began his ODI career against India at the same venue – Premadasa Stadium – in

1993. His returns of 10-0-38-1 were impressive for a debutant. Praveen Amre was his first


Ceat award for Wasim Jaffer

Lifetime achievement award went to batsman late Ashok Mankad

Mumbai skipper Wasim Jaffer was declared the 'Ceat India Cricketer of the year 2008-09'.

Dhawal Kulkarni was declared 'India bowler of the year' while Cheteshwar Pujara was

declared 'India batsman of the year'. The Ceat cricket rating for domestic competition was

instituted three years ago. Jaffer scored 1260 runs in 10 Ranji Trophy matches at 84.00 with

four centuries including a 301 against Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy semifinal at Chennai,

five half centuries and also played a significant role in Mumbai winning the National

championship for the 38th time. He received a trophy and Rs. 2 lakh from Harsh Goenka,

vice-chairman, Ceat.

Mumbai seamer Dhawal Kulkarni (42 wickets at 19.35 in nine matches) was declared the

'India bowler of the year' and Saurashtra's prolific run-getter Cheteshwar Pujara (906 runs at

82.36 with four centuries) was declared the 'India batsman of the year'. Kulkarni and Pujara

received Rs. 1 lakh each. Left-arm seamer Saurav Netravalkar, Mumbai's successful bowler

in the Cooch Behar tournament was adjudged the 'India under-19 cricketer of the year', the

prize being Rs. 1 lakh. Late Ashok Mankad was selected for the Lifetime achievement award.

Financial meltdown update: Obama's package & the row over bankers' bonuses

While the amount earmarked for the stimulus bill is

not the problem the way Obama's administration

intends to spends it has invited sharp criticism

from experts and accusations of partisanship from

political rivals. Another contentious issue is the

bonus banks surviving on govt bailout funds intend

to dole out. Experts advocate a change in the pay

structure rather than an across the board ceiling on


Barrack Obama Tim Geithner



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Obama's $789 billion stimulus package

Barrack Obama's $789 billion stimulus bill was passed by the US Congress recently. The

President outlined a plan for fixing the financial mess engulfing the US economy.

Treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, unveiled the broad plan in the Congress. It was eagerly

awaited as a spark of hope in the world's biggest economy could potentially have broken the

spiral of uncertainty and gloom that is gripping investors, producers and consumers across the


Experts are satisfied with the amount of money earmarked but are disappointed with the

nitty-gritty of the rescue plan. The plan became a battleground for Republican and the

Democrats. The plan that should have had broad support from both parties became a divisive

partisan battle. Geithner's financial-rescue blueprint was touted as a bold departure from the

incrementalism and uncertainty that had plagued the Bush administration's Wall Street fixes.

Experts aver that it looked similar to former President Bush's timid efforts to rescue the

economy. Despite talk of trillion-dollar sums, stock markets nosedived reflecting investors'

lack of trust in the efficacy of the plan. The plan has clearly failed to boost confidence.


The fiscal stimulus plan has some obvious flaws. Too much of the boost to demand is likely

to occur only in 2010 and beyond. The compromise bill seems to

be giving priority to pet projects dear to Democrat lawmakers'.

Experts fear this will lower the efficiency of the spending. The

"Buy American" clause is another worry. It sounds protectionist

and sends wrong signals to trading partners.

Inadequacy of the financial rescue plan is regrettable. Fiscal

stimulus cannot create a lasting economic recovery in a country

with a broken financial system. The lesson of big banking busts,

such as Japan's in the 1990s, is that debt-laden balance-sheets must

be restructured and troubled banks fixed before real recoveries can

take off. History also suggests that countries which address their

banking crises quickly and creatively (as Sweden did in the early 1990s) do better than those

that dither. This is expensive and painful, but cautious, penny-pinching governments end up

paying more than those that tread boldly.

Banks are in deep mess

By any recent historical standards America's banking bust is big. The scale of troubled loans

and the estimates of likely losses—which are now routinely put at over $2 trillion—suggest

many of the country's biggest banks may be insolvent.



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Their balance-sheets are clogged by hundreds of billions of dollars of "toxic" assets—the

illiquid, complex and hard-to-price detritus of the mortgage bust, as well as growing numbers

of non-housing loans that are souring thanks to the failing economy.

However banks' balance-sheets are only one component of the credit bust. Most of the

tightness of credit is owing to the collapse of "securitisation", the packaging and selling of

bundles of debts from credit cards to mortgages.

Fixing this mess will require guts, imagination and a lot of taxpayers' money. Geithner's

roadmap fails to inspire that the Obama administration has a judicious plan to revive the

flagging economy.

Banks' balance-sheets are clogged with toxic junk precisely because they are unwilling to sell

the bad debts at prices hedge funds and other private investors are willing to pay. For nervous

investors and worried politicians, desperate for details and prices, the "plan" was a grave


Row over bankers' bonuses

A dismal failure

Geithner's vagueness is being interpreted as a reluctance to take tough decisions. This

includes asking for more cash from the Congress, if required. Experts say more money will

surely be needed to clean up America's banks and administer the financial fix the economy

needs. Experts recommend creation of a special bank that takes over bad assets of banks and

allows them to make a fresh beginning. Government guarantees to cover losses in the "good"

banks could also boost investor sentiment.

Bankers' pay

The outbreak of anger about bankers' bonuses in times

when banks are trying to stay afloat on government

sponsored bailouts has intensified. Experts say a cap on

banker's bonuses across the board is not the appropriate

answer to the problem.

The way that many bankers are rewarded needs to

change. But bashing the industry about pay is gross


Barack Obama's blunt criticism of bonuses that have been awarded for the past year's results

and his plans to impose pay limits on senior executives at some banks may help to overcome

opposition to further bail-outs.



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Many recent instances demonstrate that the flak is not unwarranted. The Royal Bank of

Scotland, which survives on government funds, wanted to pay out £1 billion in bonuses in

spite of losing an expected £28 billion in this fiscal year. Where bonuses are guaranteed by

previously signed contracts they need to be honoured. Otherwise they should be scrapped. In

any other industry, when a company goes bankrupt, workers lose their bonus whether or not

they helped cause their company's downfall.

Other practices also need to change. Too many banks set bonus pools as a percentage of

revenue, not profit. Too few banks allocate internal capital and funding at rates that properly

reflect the risks being taken.

It would be a mistake to impose broad pay caps. A better option is to revise the structure of

pay. A prudent step would be pay bonuses in shares and pay them over longer periods.

Bonuses earned on excessive risk taking should be curtailed. In short bankers should be

rewarded for exceptional performance, not the rising tide of

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