Wednesday, 22 June 2016

400 French Scholarships for Indian Students

Our CorrespondentKolkata: The French embassy in India has offered nearly 400 scholarships under its flagship Charpak programme for students pursuing master’s degrees, exchange semesters and research internships in France. 

During prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit to France last April, both countries had agreed to allow Indian students to stay in France for two years, one for the period of studies and one after completion of the course to acquire professional experience, with a reciprocal arrangement for French students in India.

France, which ranks third among the world’s most innovative countries, is also among the top three most popular destinations in the world among international students.

Every year a pre-departure orientation session, along with a scholarship award ceremony, is organised for students about to visit France.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Bengal Chamber Kicks Off Cyber Insurance Campaign

Our CorrespondentKolkata: With internet security threats burgeoning each passing day, cyber insurance has emerged as an important measure to mitigate the risks and is being increasingly adopted globally.  The Bengal Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BCC&I), launched a cyber security campaign for citizens of the city recently, in this regard.

Ambarish Dasgupta, president, BCC&I, said: “Experts are still carrying out research on cyber insurance, which has already been adopted by many organisations.” 

BCC&I has published ‘A Thought Paper on Cyber Security’, to reach simple strategies on being more secure in the digital space, to the masses,

Arnab Basu, chairperson, emerging technologies committee, said: “Cyber security is a multidimensional problem that transcends the risk management and response capabilities of various communities like technology, law enforcement, defence, public policy and business.”

 “Cyber security is a burning issue not just in India, but globally as well. Digital threats are abundant, and individuals and corporations alike need to be careful with confidential information to make sure it is not hacked into, or misused,” Dasgupta added.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Bourne & Shepherd Downs Shutters

Aritra SinghaKolkata: One of the world’s oldest running photographic studios, Bourne & Shepherd, has shut shop because of acute financial crisis. The imposing four-storied Gothic structure on SN Banerjee Road stood almost unnoticed even though it was on the verge of closure for over the past decade. There was no one around to notice or even say goodbye on 16 June when the store quietly called it a day after 176 years in operation.

Bourne & Shepherd was established in central Kolkata's Esplanade area in 1840 by famous British photographers William Howard, Samuel Bourne and Charles Shepherd. It went on to become one of the most revered photographic institutions of the world, preserving some defining moments of the British Empire and Kolkata’s history. 

Prem Shankar Prasad, who worked at the store for more than three decades, said that business was very poor and it became financially unviable for the owners. “I left the studio in March,” he told WPC.

"How can you expect a studio to operate when everyone is clicking photos on their mobile phones and digital cameras? People do not even want to take a printout. They just post it on social media," said another former employee of the studio. “None from the administration cared to bother that we are dying slowly,” he rued.

A landmark on the heritage map of Raj-era Kolkata, the Bourne & Shepherd building will be deserted from now on. The store was once frequented by people like film director Satyajit Ray and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, among others.

Jayant Gandhi, the current owner of the studio, said: “It is not possible for us to run the store anymore. A heritage establishment like this needs a lot of time and devotion. It is no longer possible for me to carry on due to my advanced age.” 

Bourne & Shepherd was known for its portrait images, even that of well-known religious leaders like Ramakrishna Paramhansa, clicked by them, besides many British photographers.

"I had bought by first DSLR from there. It's a great loss to the city's heritage," said photography enthusiast Dipankar Mitra.

"Things are not the same anymore. Technology has changed and we could not adapt to it," said Gandhi.  

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Bengal Joins Unicef Programme

Our CorrespondentKolkata: West Bengal has become the second state in the country, after Assam, to observe Child Protection Day. This year, the theme of the day will be ‘Stop Child Labour, Start Education’.

Asadur Rahaman, chief, Unicef, West Bengal, said: “The state government is already doing commendable work to ensure that children go to school and complete their education.” Education is the key to ensure that every child gets the best start to their lives and grow to their fullest potential, he told reporters in the city recently.

“In order to remove child labour, each one of us has to play a critical role. The government or the Commission alone cannot ensure that. We, as citizens and as advocates of child rights, have to raise our voice and take action every time we see child labour,” added Ashokendu Sengupta, chairperson, West Bengal State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

India's Oldest Ethnic Tribe 'Jarawa` living in Andaman & Nicobar

India's Oldest Ethnic Tribe 'Jarawa` living in Andaman & Nicobar:
The Jarawa's first interaction out side their community people.This picture taken on 1997.
The Jarawa (also Järawa, Jarwa) are one of the Adivasi indigenous peoples of the Andaman Islands in India.
Their present numbers are estimated at between 250–400 individuals. Since they have largely shunned interactions with outsiders, many particulars of their society, culture and traditions are poorly understood. Their name means "people of the earth" or "hostile people" in Aka-Bea.

Himalayan Crocodile Salamanders

Himalayan crocodile   Salamander :
The animals in the salamander order look like a cross between a lizard and a frog. They have moist, smooth skin like frogs and long tails like lizards. The term "newt" is sometimes used for salamanders who spend most of each year living on land. 

June to Exploit Men in Romantic Noy

For the first time in her career, June Malia is all set to play a dark character in Romantic Noy. In a candid chat with Aritra Singha, she tells us what to expect from the film

Aritra: Your character in Romantic Noy reportedly has shades of William Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth. How similar or different it will be from the original?

June: The main difference is that Lady Macbeth’s ambition centred around her husband whereas my character in the film is exploitative in nature. The similarity is that both are very polished from the outside but their inner soul is just the opposite. The film also stars Saheb Bhattacharjee, Sayani Datta and Parthasarathi Chakraborty among others. It explores the dark underbelly of male prostitution in Kolkata.

Aritra: Why did you choose such a character?

June: Well, I never played such a character before. The script is very realistic. You will find a lot of similarity between the characters in the film and people around us. There are many scripts that border on the absurd. They don’t appeal to me. But scripts that revolve around our daily life are the ones that interest me. 

June (left), Saheb (centre) and Sayani at the launch of the film
Aritra: You are a very romantic person in real life. Does your character have any shades of romanticism?

June: No not all. The film’s name says it all. Yes, I am extremely romantic in real life (sighs) and that’s exactly the reason why I liked this character. It’s very easy to express or portray what you are. But it’s very challenging to portray what you are not. That’s why I took up the challenge.

Aritra: You said that the character you play may be linked with the modern day escort system.

June: Yes, to an extent. But not fully. In most cases women are forced to come to this profession just for the easy money. However, my character in the film is not forced to enter the trade. Rather, it’s her nature to exploit men.

Aritra: How has been the experience of working with a debutant director?

June: Rajib (Chowdhury) is an old friend and it feels great to work with him. I have seen him as assistant director and am sure he will emerge as a good director. He has the blessings of director Sandip Ray who has promised him all help.

Aritra: How about working with Saheb, Sayani and Parthasarathi? 

June: All of them are great actors. I am extremely excited to work with them. Their roles are very challenging. Saheb plays a small town youth. Many people come to Kolkata from the villages to realise their dreams. They are completely new to the city and easily fall prey to people like the character I play in the film. Sayani plays Saheb’s love interest. Parthasarathi plays a boy who considers himself a girl. It looks comical at first, but as the film progresses, it becomes a serious issue. There are many boys who can’t even come out and breathe properly being afraid of the society. They are mocked and jeered. In our society we have marked certain actions exclusively for women and if any man shows these traits, they are called effeminate. Caring is usually associated with women but where is it written that men can’t show a similar attitude? Saheb is an absolute prankster on sets. Rajesh (Sharma) plays a very important role in the film.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Railways to Get $140bn Investment: Prabhu

Our CorrespondentKolkata: Union minister for railways, Suresh Prabhu, has said that the government will invest around $140 billion over the next five years to fuel the growth of Indian Railways. The focus will be strongly on infrastructure development, which should comprise 11–12% of GDP, he said on the sidelines of an event in the city today.

“The most important benchmarks are quality of service, passenger safety, a shift to clean energy, and increased accountability,” he said on his vision for Indian Railways by 2030. 

The railways have set up a new directorate to enhance revenue from non-tariff sources and to shift away from the usual system of one-third revenue from passengers and two-third from freight setup.   

“Public-private partnership models and plans for joint ventures and foreign collaboration with at least 13 countries have been taken up to make the railways really viable,” Prabhu said.

Hemant Kumar, member, mechanical, Railway Board, said: “There is a huge requirement of about 60,000 coaches and 2,40,000 wagons every year.” Referring to the high speed corridor, he spoke about redesigning the coaches to ensure speed.

AK Mittal, member, engineering, Railway Board, pointed out that the expenditure on new lines has been doubled this fiscal. He said that the planned outlay has increased from ₹34,400 crore in 2015–16 to ₹49,950 crore in 2016–17, out of which around ₹4,000 crore has been allotted to projects in West Bengal.

Eyes Wide Shut and a Doobta Censor

89 cuts recommended to Udta Punjab, brings to light the Jurassic age our filmmasters are in. Prabuddha Neogi takes a look at the circus played 
out by the Censor Board

For nearly a century now, films have been the biggest brand ambassador of our country on the global stage. Bollywood especially has been a major component of New Delhi’s track II diplomacy, marshalling enormous soft power from Kabul to Kentucky. While the film industry deserves all encouragement and support from the official quarters, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has decided to tread the contrarian path. The board, chaired by Pahlaj Nihalani, has unleashed the worst kind of license raj and its latest victim is Abhishek Chaubey directed Udta Punjab, a dark and gritty thriller about the drug menace in the northern state. To the horror of the country’s entire film fraternity, Nihalani and his brethren at CBFC has suggested a whopping 89 cuts to the film. No wonder Udta Punjab producer Anurag Kashyap compared the state of affairs to that of North Korea.

But there seems to be a larger political gameplan behind CBFC’s move, which reportedly wants to sever all references to Punjab in the film, including its cities and towns. It, in fact, has recommended deleting ‘Punjab’ from the film’s title. Imagine how just ‘Udta’ will sound. It forges a visual imagery of a person flying aimlessly in the air. Or as if an ‘Udta Ullu’ will solve the state’s drug problem. CBFC’s recommendations are clearly related to the upcoming assembly elections in Punjab where drug abuse is a key issue. The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, an ally of NDA in the Centre, has objected to the film’s content and title. A political party whiplashing what should be the content of a film is proof of everything that’s wrong with our film certification. 

Nihalani, ever since taking over as the CBFC chairman last year, has been playing a tragicomedy with most directors. At a time when swearing is almost a part of common conversation, Nihalani and his draconian Censor Board have brought out their daggers against even innocuous expletives. Well, they have already been waging a war of sorts against kisses that they felt were ‘too long’, not to mention of sex scenes that left them squirming in their seats. They even raised objections against the word ‘virgin’ in Finding Fanny. Nihalani and gang seem to be suffering from the Kolkata minibus syndrome. Hop on to any one of them and you are sure to be told by the conductor, ‘Dada, pechoner dike egiye jan’ (Sir, please move forward to the back). Come on guys, this is 21st century cinema. What do you want us to see? Amar Chitra Katha?

But among all these nonsensical brouhaha of the Censor Board, hope floats somewhere like cirrus clouds. Shyam Benegal has been appointed as the head of a committee formed to reconstitute CBFC as a certification board and not a censor. It has recommended that the board should stop waving menacing scissors and issue classifications like suitable for children above 12 years, or for adults only. The reforms need strict and prompt implementation. Else, hang a notice on the Censor Board doors that only so-called sanskari cinema will be approved for public viewing, eyes wide shut. 

Bollywood heavyweights like Amir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan, and filmmakers Zoya Akhtar, Imitiaz Ali, Sudhir Mishra, and Ashoke Pandit have spoken in support of Udta Punjab. “We can’t turn into a Saudi Arabia where there is opulence but no free thought in society,” said filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, whose daughter Alia is playing a crucial role in the film, alongside Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Diljit Dosanjh and Satish Kaushik.

Kashyap has already moved the Bombay High Court against CBFC. Udta Punjab is slated for a 17 June release. 

The writer is the chief editor of WebPressClub

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Nayak Meets Jotugriha Meets Abhimaan

Prabuddha Neogi catches Praktan on a lazy afternoon to witness the much hyped on-screen reunion of Prosenjit and Rituparna

A train, some forced moments of tension between the lead pair, and two veteran actors reduced to reciting poems and complaining about the lack of maintenance in a first class compartment, is what makes and spoils Praktan, directors Shiboprosad Mukherjee and Nandita Roy’s film on marital discord. The much publicised return of the once megahit pair of Prosenjit Chatterjee and Rituparna Sengupta, turns out to be a dampener in the face of mounting expectations.

Exactly half a century ago Satyajit Ray had converted a non-story to a celluloid masterpiece in Nayak, in what became Uttam Kumar’s career defining performance, supported by a superb ensemble cast that heightened the drama. Shiboprosad-Nandita tries to tread a similar line with disappointing results. Praktan thrives on clichés that it’s the woman in a marriage who has to make compromises. 

Prosenjit as Ujaan and Rituparna as Sudipa play a former couple travelling to Howrah from Mumbai. Prosenjit boards the train from Nagpur, and the two meet each other for the first time since their divorce. Till then Rituparna, unbeknownst of her, was sharing the compartment with Ujaan’s now wife Malini (Aparajita Auddy), who gives her lessons on how to survive a marriage. Sadly, none gives such lessons to Ujaan, who is reduced to a cheap chauvinist in most of his scenes with Sudipa. The film flashes back frequently for the marital discord part. The pair clearly lacks their once-electric chemistry. Their fights are hackneyed and look imposed as both try hard to emote. Interestingly their last screen outing together was 16 years ago in Rituparno Ghosh’s Utsab which had a largely similar theme of a couple trying to save their marriage. Utsab, of course, was brilliant in treating the subject in all the subtlety it deserved. 

Rituparna retains her hideous front curls from Srijit Mukherji’s Rajkahini, not surprising that shooting of both the films happened at the same time. But why the directors allowed it to be repeated remains a mystery. It’s nevertheless a clever ploy of aging actresses to hide their age and look younger. 

The editing too is a big letdown with visuals of either the running train, or the ticket checker used to join scenes. Unnecessary scenes, like the antakshari, ruin the film. At nearly two and a half hours, Praktan is at least 30 minutes too long.

The film has a few winning moments though. Watch it for Aparajita Auddy as the loud and garrulous second wife of Prosenjit. She steals the show along with Biswanath Basu as a gross and obese newly married man returning from his honeymoon, wife in tow. Soumitra Chattopadhyay and Sabitri Chatterjee are wasted as an elderly couple having nothing much to do. Only her typical north Kolkata Hindi elicits a few laughs.

But the film is a technical treat. Gopi Bhagat’s sweeping camerawork is stunning and so is the sound design. But some of the quarrel scenes between Prosenjit and Rituparna, at different times, are shot from the same angle, and worse still, with the same light.  The set of the train by production designer Nitish Roy is minutely detailed. Music by Anupam Roy and Anindya Chatterjee is outstanding and so are the songs. 

Praktan has a wafer thin plot and is badly written. The narrative suffers as a result. None of the actors tries to restore it. There have been several brilliant films on marital disharmony, including Tapan Sinha’s Jotugriha, Gulzar’s Ijaazat, and Hrisikesh Mukherjee’s Abhimaan. All these were classics in their own right. The directors have borrowed heavily from all of them with the train journey thrown in as a connecting thread. Praktan, in the end, boils down to a collage of some haphazardly shot scenes, with the only motive to bring back the Prosenjit-Rituparna pair. Nothing more, nothing less. 

The writer is the chief editor of WebPressClub

Sunday, 5 June 2016

The Troubled Legacy of Muhammad Ali

Children from the legendary boxer's four marriages could be soon involved in a legal battle over his fortunes. Prabuddha Neogi peeks into the family album of Muhammad Ali 

He was undeniably one of the most popular sportspersons ever. But outside the rink, legendary boxer Muhammad Ali followed a distinctly mortal private life which saw him marry four times and father at least nine children. It has now left behind a divisive and complex legacy which threatens to tarnish his memory.

Family disputes, some years before Ali’s death, came out in the open between his younger brother Rahman, his estranged son Muhammad Ali Jr, and Ali’s last wife and widow Yolanda “Lonnie” Williams. 

Charlotte Waddell, a relative of Ali, claimed in an interview a couple of years ago that Lonnie controls all of Ali. “I can’t stand to be around her,” Waddell said, adding that it won’t take her two seconds to spit on Lonnie’s face.

Lonnie married Ali in 1986, after she moved to California to be the ace boxer’s full-time nurse, three years after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. She allegedly used her power of attorney over the various affairs Ali had, and separated all unwanted family members from his complex web of relationships.

Muhammad Ali Jr, in a separate interview, claimed to be living in a loft at a Chicago ghetto. He alleged that he was almost entirely quarantined from his father since 2004. 

Rahman Ali, himself a professional boxer who is said to have had six wives, was a key member of his brother’s entourage. Rahman, now 72, was allegedly thrown out of their mother’s family home by Lonnie, into a tiny apartment. 

But Lonnie’s supporters, over the years, have credited her for restoring order into Ali’s chaotic life. Ali had made and lost fortunes in equal measure and stability was restored only in 2006 when he sold his global image rights for £30 million. 

Ali had no children with Lonnie but the couple adopted five-year old Asaad Amin, who they raised as their child. Lonnie was reportedly at Ali’s bedside when he died, along with Laila Ali and her sister Hana Yasmeen. Laila and Hana were children from the boxer’s third marriage to Veronica Porsche which lasted from 1977 to 1986.

Laila became a career boxer and remained close to Ali. He was often present at her fights, including the 2001 bout with Jackie Frazier-Lyde, the daughter of Joe Frazier. 

Ali became involved with Porsche when she worked as a poster girl for adding glamour to his ‘Thrilla in Manila’ fight with Joe Frazier in 1975. It effectively ended Ali’s marriage to his then wife Belinda Boyd, who was renamed as Khalilah Camacho-Ali, following her conversion to Islam. Ali and Camacho-Ali had four children from their marriage which lasted from 1967 to 1977. Boyd was only 17 when she caught Ali’s eye at a Kentucky bakery. The couple had three daughters, Maryum (who was also reportedly at Ali’s deathbed), Rasheda, Jamilla, and their only son Muhammad Ali Jr.  

Camacho-Ali had tried hard to prevent her husband from straying. But she could not break the boxer’s infatuation with Porsche. Camacho-Ali, after her divorce with Ali, worked as an actress and appeared in The China Syndrome. 

Ali, while married to Boyd, had two love children. Miya, the first, was born on 1972 of Patricia Harvell. Khaliah, the second, was born in 1974 to 16-year old Wanda Bolton. Khaliah was later renamed as Aaisha Ali. She and her mother lived at the boxer’s then training pad where Boyd shared the parenting. 

There were many others who claimed to be Ali’s children. In 2014, 35-year old Kiiursti Mensah Ali from Houston, claimed to be Ali’s son. His mother, Barbara Mensah, was supposedly in a relationship with the boxer during his heydays.

Ali was married four times, including his childless first marriage to 23-year old model Sonji Roi. He met her in 1964 when she was a cocktail waitress. Their 16-month marriage was turbulent. Roi complained of the tremendous pressure she had to face regarding converting to Islam and wearing Muslim dress codes. Roi died in 2005.

The writer is the chief editor of WebPressClub

Saturday, 4 June 2016

New Delhi Commited to Stand Beside Kabul Against All Odds: Modi

Kabul: Prime minister Narendra Modi has asserted that India would extend all-out cooperation to all parts of war-torn Afghanistan, regardless of the barriers of geography, politics and terror attacks. Jointly inaugurating the landmark Afghan-India Friendship Dam with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, at the strategically important Herat Province today, Modi hailed the people of Afghanistan for denouncing terrorism. He warned that division among them would help those wanting to “dominate” the country from outside. 

Modi said: “It was a war not of Afghan making, but it was one that stole the future of an entire generation of Afghans.” The brave Afghans, he said, are today sending a message that the destructive forces of “death, denial and domination” cannot prevail. Afghanistan will be much “safer and beautiful”, once the country succeeds to completely defeat terrorism, he added.

The Friendship Dam was earlier known as Salm Dam. The ₹1,700 crore dam has been built by India on the Harirud river, at Chist-e-Sharif, in western Herat. The dam will generate 42 MW power and irrigate around 75,000 hectares of land. 

More than 1,500 Afghan and Indian engineers were involved in the dam’s construction that took several years to build under trying conditions.  

Modi, in his speech, hailed the Afghan peace process and the reconstruction activities in the country. Afghanistan’s success, he said, is the desire of all Indians.  

Ghani, on his part, said that the two countries have decided to jointly build and grow, negating all efforts of chaos and destruction. 

Modi had visited Kabul on 25 December during which he inaugurated a $90 million swanky Parliament complex, built by India.

All material and equipment for the dam’s construction were transported to the Bander-e-Abbas port of Iran from India, through the sea route, followed by 1,200 km on road to the Iran-Afghan border at Islam Kila. From there it traversed a further 300 km by road to the site at Herat.  

IMA Campaigns for Vitamin D Awareness

Our CorrespondentHooghly: The Indian Medical Association (IMA) recently organised a continuing medical education programme (CME) in the district to discuss the concern about the growing prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among the Indian population. It was an initiative under IMA’s Rise and Shine campaign and was attended by leading doctors of the city.

The Rise and Shine campaign is a national movement initiated by the IMA. It aims to create sensitivity amongst its 2.5 lakh members across 30 states and 1,700 branches over a period of two years about the need to raise awareness of vitamin D deficiency.

Anuj Kr Roy, president, IMA Konnagar branch, said: “Vitamin D deficiency prevails in epidemic proportions throughout the Indian subcontinent, affecting people of all age groups and genders. One of the common causes of this deficiency is inadequate sun exposure and the consumption of a poor and predominantly vegetarian diet.”

Senior physician Ambrish Mithal, said: “Adequate vitamin D levels help in the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth, have a protective effect against multiple diseases and conditions such as cancer, type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis and help regulate calcium and phosphorus absorption.”

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Pallavi Chatterjee Turns Producer With Game Plan

Our CorrespondentKolkata: Noted Bengali actress Pallavi Chatterje has turned producer for the first time with Game Plan, for which she has also written the story. The film will be directed by Anindya Sarkar and the cast includes Mahesh Thakur, Krishnakishore Mukherjee, Amitabh Bhattacharya, and Chatterjee herself.

Thakur, Chatterjee (centre) and Sarkar (right)
The film is a thriller and is about the life of a married couple Akash and Madhu, and their son Tobo. Their lives take a turn when an accident occurs while Akash and Madhu are on a vacation. Akash is killed and Madhu is taken captive by unknown assailants. She is framed for her husband’s murder. Madhu realises that her son’s life is in danger and escapes her captors. The rest of the film narrates Madhu’s journey to rescue her son and also unearth the truth behind her husband’s murder.

Sarkar said: “The film has been extensively shot in the scenic locations of Vishakhapatnam.”

“I always wanted to pen a thriller and Game Plan is my first effort towards that end as a producer,” said Chatterjee.

The script has been written by Amitava Bhattacharya, while Magi Natesh is the director of photography. Amit–Anjan has scored the music for the film.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Max Fashion Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Our CorrespondentKolkata: Max Fashion recently celebrated its 10th anniversary in the city, with children from Child Home, an NGO. Puzzles, quiz, and a drawing competition was held for the children. Cactus frontman Sidhartha Sankar ‘Sidhu’ Ray was present at the event organised at Diamond Plaza. There were surprise gifts for the participants. The Max Little Icon logo was later unveiled. Sohini Chakraborty, assistant manager, marketing said that the company wants to strengthen its ties with the people of West Bengal, focusing on the need of the masses in the world of fashion, lifestyle, quality and society.