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Game Of B-Town Throne: Part 2

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Akshay Kumar Salman Khan

(Continuing with our series on contemporary Bollywood heroes, we focus on Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn who, after starting out as underdogs over two decades ago, emerged as mighty survivors in the industry.)

Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn had nothing yet everything in common when they started out. Akshay had arrived as a rank outsider, coolly flaunting his Purani Dilli roots and proudly announcing to the world how he had served tables and taught martial arts in Bangkok before Bollywood beckoned. Ajay belonged to the industry. He was ace action choreographer Veeru Devgn’s son, an industry ka beta.

Despite seemingly having nothing in common by way of roots, Akshay and Ajay straightaway shared a common plight: They were dubbed by industry watchers and pundits as the underdogs for the top spot in an era when three other budding stars – Shah Rukh, Salman and Aamir Khan – were clearly emerging as bigger box-office darlings. For Akshay and Ajay, a lifelong battle would begin right from day one, to emerge out of the constant comparisons with the Khan trio.

The two had another factor in common. In their early days both Akshay and Ajay were billed as action heroes. While Akshay consciously developed an image as a martial arts expert (also an expert dancer) right from his first film “Saugandh” (1991), Ajay Devgn’s iconic entry scene in his debut film “Phool Aur Kaante” (1991) – balanced atop two moving motorbikes – established him as a man of action.

The image of machismo was an instant hit for both. In no time, they carved a niche as mass heroes.

Survival in Bollywood, however, was a notion that changed over the years that these two actors grew in stature – from stars to superstars. By 2000, Akshay was tapping into the innate comic talent he had already showed in several films for a decade now, with Priyadarshan’s evergreen gem, “Hera Pheri”. Ajay had already won a National Award for the 1998 film, “Zakhm”. He would win another in 2002, for “The Legend Of Bhagat Singh”.

AKSHAY: THE SUPERSTAR OF REINVENTION

Between the two actors, Akshay’s metamorphosis has been more obvious through the years. His phases are clear cut. In his early years he was the action hero who could dance but impressed few as an actor. Then came the phase when he excelled as the comic hero who surprised all with his timing. Lately, he has been a bonafide actor with restrained skills and solid screen presence, who is a National Award winner.

At over 50 now, Akshay commands an unprecedented career high. Realising his Khiladi image was losing impact at a time when Bollywood fans were hunting for solid content, Akshay’s strategy to face Bollywood’s ongoing era of change, has been clear-cut. He has quickly moved onto making feel-good entertainers that address a social issue.

All his recent films have been riding strong nationalistic fervour, and highlighting societal commentary. If his latest release, “Mission Mangal”, encourages empowerment of women through the real-life account of ISRO’s Mars Orbit Mission of 2013, “Kesari” earlier fuelled belligerent patriotism by narrating the tale of the Battle of Saragarhi. “Pad Man” encouraged the use of sanitary napkins in rural India while “Toilet: Ek Prem Katha” was about the need to build pucca toilets in rural India. He has played the patriot who fights for the nation in “Baby” just as in “Airlift” he has thrived essaying the do-gooder NRI who helps rescue thousands of stranded Indians in a daredevil evacuation process from a war-ravaged foreign land.

Among his upcoming films are “Sooryavanshi” where he plays the cop on a mission, and “Laxmmi Bomb”, a comedy-horror that denounces superstition and blind faith.

Akshay’s strategy has always been to move with the trend. In an India that is politically charged as never before, he has been quick to understand the winning trick of the hour is to focus on issues and talk of social welfare through his films. It may not be the most sureshot idea to score the biggest hit of all time, but it is good enough to a strategy to make it to the “Forbes” list of highest-paid actors in the world – and win a National Award, too. Of course, throwing an occasional “Housefull” flick into the mix occasionally will keep the larger mass fan base happy, too.

Among all of Bollywood’s fifty-plus superstars, Akshay looks the best-suited to survive and thrive.

AJAY: FOREVER THE DARK HORSE

Being Ajay Devgn has always had an advantage. When you have such immense talent and understated persona, you can effortlessly juggle genres. Over the years, Ajay has been an action hero, an intense actor, a comedian and an antihero. Most pundits point out how he expresses with his eyes as few other actors can. Over the years, Ajay has learnt to use his gaze variously and with impact.

Ajay Devgn’s stature in his generation of top stars has been one of the dark horse, who is forever expected to spring a surprise. Lately, he has focussed on filmmaking too, though not with much success. His two directorial efforts – “U, Me Aur Hum” in 2008 and “Shivaay” in 2016 – were duds.

Over the recent months, Ajay has seen a decent run at the box-office with “De De Pyar De” – a film that raked in 102.4 crore at the domestic box-office, just short of being declared an all-out hit. His other release, ‘Total Dhamaal” was an above average fare given its budget. The film earned Rs 154.3 crore in at the Indian box-office.

Ajay’s last major hit was “Golmaal Again” in 2017, and the actor, now over 50, is falling back on a gameplan that has traditionally worked for him: Ajay Devgn believes in quantity. At a time when top stars, male as well as female, are cutting down on films, Ajay is all set to flood the market with four releases over the months of 2020.

In the self-produced period extravaganza “Tanaji”, he reunites with wife Kajol to essay the valiant Marathi warrior, Tanaji Malusare. “Bhuj” is a slice-of-life patriotism multistarrer where he plays the role of Squadron Leader Vijay Karnik. In “Maidaan”, Ajay will essay the role of Syed Abdul Rahim, the man widely regarded as the architect of football in modern India. And in Neeraj Pandey’s “Chanakya” he plays the title role of the Chanakya, the man universally accepted as the pioneer of economics and political science in India.

It doesn’t take long to understand Ajay Devgn’s gameplan, looking at that roster. He has latched onto the nationalist formula, which at this point of time is reaping rich benefits at the Bollywood box-office. His roles in his upcoming films are all about towering personalities who led in their respective fields.

For Ajay, a blockbuster is long due. Maybe, it lurks somewhere in his 2020 roster.

Both Akshay and Ajay, like almost every top actor lately, prefer producing their own films – at least the ones they consider important. So, over the coming months, Akshay co-produces all his major upcoming films. Ajay has signed up as a producer on “Bhuj” and “Tanaji”.

Clearly, acting spells big money, but producing your own film spells big business for our Bollywood stars.

(Figures courtesy koimoi.com)

COMING UP IN THE SERIES: THE NEW-GEN MAVERICKS

By : By Vinayak Chakravorty

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Aatmanirbhar Bharat: Tribal Affairs Ministry to ink 2 MoUs with KVIC

A Tribal Affairs Ministry source related to development said that the two MoUs will be signed later this week.

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Employment Generation programme

New Delhi, Jan 17 : Giving a major thrust to the government’s ambitious Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, the Tribal Affairs Ministry is all set to sign two MoUs with the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) for procurement of Khadi fabric for tribal students and for partnering with KVIC in implementing the flagship employment generation scheme – Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP).

The ministry will purchase over 6 lakh metres of Khadi fabric worth nearly Rs 15 crore for uniforms of tribal students studying in Eklavya residential schools across the country.

As part of the second MoU, National Scheduled Tribe Finance Development Corporation (NSTFDC), an agency of the Tribal Affairs Ministry, will be roped in as KVIC’s partner in implementing PMEGP scheme. NSTFDC is an agency that provides concessional loan schemes for economic development of tribals in India for funding entrepreneurial ventures of aspiring scheduled tribes in all sectors of the economy.

A Tribal Affairs Ministry source related to development said that the two MoUs will be signed later this week.

The MoUs are in line with the government’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan by creating local and self employment for Khadi artisans and the tribals. The huge purchase of Khadi fabric will create additional employment and income for artisans, a government official said. Similarly, roping in the Tribal Affairs Ministry with PMEGP will increase its ambit and also include more entrepreneurs from the ST community with local manufacturing.

Officials said the first MoU for purchase of Khadi fabric will be between NESTS and KVIC while the other one one will be between NSTFDC and KVIC.

The source said that the Tribal Affairs Ministry, which runs Eklavya residential schools where at present 75,000 students are studying, proposes to establish a total of 750 schools by 2022. He said that with 750 more schools, a total of 3.6 lakh students will be enrolled in these schools, which has been envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The source said that each school will have 480 students.

He further explained that the ministry has recently standardised school uniform design for the students in the schools with a distinct logo in partnership with National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) based in New Delhi.

The source said that keeping in view the focus of the government and the call of the Prime Minister to embrace Khadi as a philosophy and recently as a critical component of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat strategy, the Tribal Affairs Ministry felt it appropriate to source the fabric for uniforms of Eklavya residential schools from KVIC after several rounds of discussions.

He said that current requirement of around 6 lakh metres will increase in subsequent years as enrolment in the schools will go up.

“In order to take this forward, the Ministry through NESTS shall be entering into an MoU for procuring the fabric at an approximate cost of Rs 14.77 crore for 2020-21.”

The source further said that as two dresses are given each year and number of students will increase every year with establishment of new schools, this would be an annual affair and procurement is likely to multiply every year and expected to be of Rs 50 crore by 2022.

He also said that it would not only give quality dress material to the students but also give employment to thousand of artisans and workers across the country.

The source said that based on the success of school uniform initiative, other requirements of schools like bedding, towels, ‘dari’, and others can also be procured from KVIC in future.

“Therefore the proposed MoU between NSTFDC and KVIC will formalise this arrangement and will be a landmark initiative to bring synergy between NSTFDC and KVIC in reaching out to tribal entrepreneurs under the larger ambit of PMEGP scheme,” the source added.

The source further said that the MoU will be signed in presence of Union ministers Nitin Gadkari and Arjun Munda.

(Anand Singh can be contacted at [email protected])

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Horror of Jan 1990 continues to haunt migrant Kashmiri Pandits

For a common Kashmiri, both Muslim and Hindu, world has never been the same after January 1990.

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kashmiri pandit

Jammu, Jan 17 : The world for 70-year-old Autar Krishan Raina has never been the same place, not after he left his home in Srinagar in the aftermath of that horrifying night in January 1990.

“I never believed that old wounds could hurt so hard. I have often been jolted out of sleep as if those frightening slogans are still going on outside my home.

“We lived peacefully among our Muslim neighbours in Aaali Kadal area of downtown Srinagar. I had grown up alongside my best friend, Afzal, who would sit beside my mother like her second son.

“My mother loved Afzal like she would have if I had a blood brother,” Raina recalls the good old days walking down the memory lane to identify his home in Aali Kadal which today is a half-fallen ruin.

He now lives in Jammu city where his son and daughter grew up.

The daughter is a doctor while his son is working in Mumbai as a software engineer. Raina lost his wife two years after the family migrated with hundreds of other Kashmiri Pandits to take shelter away from home.

“My tragedy is that I did not only lose my home and friends. I have lost faith in the goodness of humankind,” he recalled with moist eyes requesting not to be pushed to relive the horror he has been through.

The exodus of Kashmiri Pandits has haunted both local Hindus and Muslims. For centuries, the two communities had co-existed with intertwined destinies. Eid and Maha Shivratri had been common festivals.

The shrine of Sheikh Humza Makhdoom atop the Hari Parbat hillock in old Srinagar city has wonderfully blend with the neighbouring temple of Sharika Devi.

Muslims and local Pandits have paid obeisance at these two places of faith to pray for brotherhood, love and mutual respect. Their societal interests have been common. Imagining life without each other was impossible till 1990.

All that was shattered and lost during the January of 1990. Slogans of ‘Azadi’ (Freedom) had achieved just one objective, Kashmiri Pandits lost their home and hearth while the local Muslims lost their innocence.

For a common Kashmiri, both Muslim and Hindu, world has never been the same after January 1990.

Local Muslims have suffered immensely at the hands of those who hated their lofty traditions and the ideals of religious tolerance. Local Hindus have become refugees in their own country.

“We lost our homeland. Living as refugees in your own country is perhaps a tragedy only the Kashmiri Pandit has suffered. The future of my children is safe, but they have lost their roots,” Raina ends his story as he closes the door of his house away from home.

Will Kashmir ever be the same as it was before January 1990? Might be it will, but the wounds in the hearts and minds of those who suffered the horror of those days and nights will continue to fester because some wounds are never fully healed.

(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at [email protected])

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Congress’s women wing to observe ‘Mahila Kisan Diwas’ on Monday

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi and former party chief Rahul Gandhi joined the protest march here on Friday to show solidarity with the protesting farmers.

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Mahila Kisan Diwas

The women wing of the Congress has decided to observe “Mahila Kisan Diwas” (Women Farmers’ Day) on Monday, to show solidarity with the thousands of farmers’ protesting against the three controversial farm laws.

All India Mahila Congress president Sushmita Dev said: “The All India Mahila Congress which has been at the forefront of the fight for women’s rights wholeheartedly welcomes this and will support this call to observe Mahila Kisan Diwas.”

The Congress’ women wing said that the farmers have played a critical role in the fight for justice and have shown the country the importance of women in agriculture and in revolution.

They have not only left their homes to protest against the farm laws, but also worked to ensure more awareness amongst people on how these legislations will destroy their livelihood.

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi and former party chief Rahul Gandhi joined the protest march here on Friday to show solidarity with the protesting farmers.

Speaking on the occasion, Rahul Gandhi said: “Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not respect the farmers… the party is in farmerss support till these laws are withdrawn.”

Slamming the BJP, the Congress leader said the government is working for businessmen and these laws are not in favour of the farmers.

The Congress on Friday staged protests at all Raj Bhavans (Governor’s House) across the country and demanded the withdrawal of the farm laws.

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