IN THIS ISSUE
Drought College : Virtual University for Farmers
BY DEEPAK GOYAL
Hard Disk Breakthrough : Nanoscale Magnetic Sensors
By JOHN DELLA CONTRADA
A Place for the Family : India Community Center
BY SHAFQAT JAMALI
Publishers Note Infotech India
Law: Marriage and Property
Celebrating India: Zee Heritage Festival
Auto Review: 2003 Acura RSX Type-S Coupe
Bollywood Meets Internet
Bollywood Tamil Cinema
Recipe: Cola Cake
Hyderabad is one hot town now. You’ve got HITEC city, a plush new institute of information technology has come up as well as a business management school with U.S. affiliation. With his widely-publicized fondness for all things digital Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N.Chandrababu seen to be one cool dude.
Yet the oft repeated cliché “digital divide” comes to mind when you take a step out of the tech-savvy state capital. In recent years Andhra Pradesh’s cotton farmers have been shattered by drought, leading to unheard-of farmer suicides. So you have to ask: what kind of IT revolution are we talking about where the lives of the vast masses are untouched by all the IT hoopla?
Deep socio-economic divides, it turns out, will not be effaced by all the hyped IT business activity in the world. What is needed is for civic leaders, scientists and policymakers to come together and independently address this divide which is as much social, economic and political as it is digital and the first thing that needs to be done is to creatively fashion programs that integrates technology to fit the needs of ordinary people.
This is precisely what an international agri-tech organization is seeking to do in Andhra Pradesh. As our cover story shows, following up on a pilot project in an A.P. village, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics is setting up a virtual university which will use the latest information technology tools to provide state-of-the-art support and mass education to rural farmers on how to tackle drought. We laud the program and hope this sets an example of how society and IT can work together.
Yet away from all the media glare and the IT hoopla, something is happening in this sleepy little Andhra Pradesh village that could profoundly affect the life of millions of rural folks not only in Andhra Pradesh but far beyond, in the drought-prone nations of sub-Saharan Africa.
Recent drought in Andhra Pradesh has left harrowing tales of desperation and misery in its wake. Farmers, driven to financial ruin, have committed suicide, the Andhra state legislature has been rocked by concern and angry cries of outrage.
This is when the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics decided to step in. ICRISAT set up a project in Adakkal village which empowered villagers to cope with drought through open distance learning. It shared information and knowledge on crop-livestock management with villagers under a scenario of rainfall and groundwater inadequacy. It also developed off-farm knowledge and skills for viable livelihood opportunities.
ICRISAT is a non-profit, apolitical, international organization for science-based agricultural development. Established in 1972, it is a Future Harvest center of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research. It is one of 16 centers, and is supported by more than 50 governments, foundations, and development banks.
ICRISAT has joined hands with Tamil Nadu’s M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation to set up a Semi-Arid Tropics Virtual University.
“Using information and communication technology tools, the first of its kind Virtual University in India will reach the critical information to farmers and support them to tide over this year’s drought,” ICRISAT says.
ICRISAT director general Dr William Dar says the virtual university will take the right information to the right people at the right time, using new and conventional communication tools, and it will help the central and state governments to tackle drought.
“To mitigate the effects of drought there is an urgent need for sustained information, education and social mobilization effort among the strategic sectors of society, especially among the most vulnerable rural communities,” he said.
Eminent agricultural scientist Prof M.S. Swaminathan, chairman of MSSRF, is co-hosting a roundtable for working out a plan of action for the SAT-VU.
“This is a novel initiative and we need to use modern science through the SAT-VU to help the poorest of the poor,” said Prof Swaminathan.
Important national bodies including the Indian Council for Agricultural Research and the India Meteorological Department will take part in the Roundtable. Senior representatives from the governments of Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh; Indian and Sri Lankan national open universities; and the state open universities of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan are also attending.
The virtual university is also likely to draw from the expertise available with Commonwealth of Learning, the International Water Management Institute and other international development agencies. The lessons in India will be used to implement this virtual university initiative in sub-Saharan Africa.
It will work with the existing drought action programs in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. Some of these states are expecting drought to be severe in 2003.
It will also network with the national open universities of India and Sri Lanka, and state open universities of Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. At the roundtable, the prospective collaborators will work out a plan of action, which will lead to the setting up of the facility.
The aim is to launch the SAT-VU on World Environment Day June 5. A task force will be established for this once ICRISAT governing board endorses the concept.
The virtual university concept envisages a consortium of institutions using IT applications to work together to deliver content and programs to learners. Unlike a conventional university associated with a single institution, the SAT-VU will be a seamless organization linking the expertise from many institutions.
The SAT-VU will explore ways to innovatively interface the Internet and satellite technologies with conventional print, radio and television media. All this will be used for mass-based learning and social mobilization.
It aims to develop climate literacy and drought preparedness among rural communities, development workers, service providers and policy makers. It will also communicate information on climatic trends like monsoon behavior and methods of drought management for community mobilization and disaster preparation.
Like in the earlier occasions, ICRISAT will help the national drought preparedness efforts by imparting the best farming practices under the adverse conditions. It has also transferred to various national agricultural research systems seeds of drought tolerant varieties of pearl millet, sorghum, chickpea, groundnut and pigeonpea.
Despite the remarkable advances made by agricultural research in past years, poverty, food insecurity, and malnutrition still remain as the most critical challenges facing the semi-arid tropics (SAT). The region is home to 38 percent of the developing countries’ poor, 75 percent of which are in the rural areas. Also, over 45 percent of world’s hungry and more than 70 percent of the world’s malnourished children live in the SAT. Even with growing urbanization, the challenges of poverty, food insecurity, and malnutrition will continue to be greatest in the rural SAT due to the vagaries of climate, pervasiveness of risk, complexity of poverty, degrading natural resource base, poor infrastructure, and changes in demand and production patterns. Agriculture will continue to be the backbone of SAT economies in the foreseeable future. As most of the poor in the SAT are farmers and landless laborers, strategies for reducing poverty, hunger and malnutrition should be driven primarily by the needs of the rural poor and secondarily, the urban poor.
Vision and Strategy 2010 articulates the new vision: a food secure world for all. The goal is to reduce poverty, hunger and malnutrition. Its strategy is embodied in seven core planks to: focus on reduction of poverty, hunger, and malnutrition in developing countries; bring modern science to bear on difficult productivity and institutional problems; give highest priority to the research needs of South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa; adopt a regional approach to research planning; diversify and closely integrate its partnerships; adopt a task force approach to the organization and delivery of CGIAR products and services; and serve as a catalyst, organizer, coordinator, and integrator of global efforts on key opportunities and constraints in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. ICRISAT’s Vision and Strategy to 2010 is strongly guided by these seven planks.
ICRISAT’s new vision to 2010 is improved well-being of the poor of the semi-arid tropics through agricultural research for impact.
ICRISAT’s new mission is to help the poor of the semi-arid tropics through science with a human face and partnership-based research and to increase agricultural productivity and food security, reduce poverty, and protect the environment in SAT production systems.
ICRISAT’s new mandate is to enhance the livelihoods of poor in semi-arid farming systems through integrated genetic and natural resource management strategies. ICRISAT will make major food crops more productive, nutritious, and affordable to the poor; diversify utilization options for staple food crops; develop tools and techniques to manage risk and more sustainably utilize the natural resource base of semi-arid tropics systems; develop options to diversify income generation; and strengthen delivery systems to key clients. Partnership-based research for impact, gender sensitivity, capacity building and enhanced knowledge and technology flows are integral to this mandate.
Interested readers can find more information about ICRISAT at www.icrisat.org.
Deepak Goyal is a freelance writer.
“After receiving vague information from sister organizations that an unidentified person was impersonating as Dr, Kalam, on e-mail ID firstname.lastname@example.org, from an undisclosed location, the cyber cell got into action, keeping close watch on the activities of the Pune engineering student in the World Wide Web,” joint commissioner of police Sridhar Wagal told reporters.
“We kept a tab on cyber cafes in the city as well as in Kolhapur, Nipani and Pune as the accused hails from Nipani in Belgaum district,” he said, adding that it was a major success for cyber cell sleuths to physically nab a person in such cases.
The impostor had mastered the skill of creating, authoring and sending bogus e-mails in the name of non-existent persons and also the president, Wagal said.
The culprit was also running an academy at his native place for which he collected Rs. 150,000 from a Bahrain-based organization by stating that he was close to the president.
He also claimed to have contacts with prominent scientists in the country.
Paul, the first leader of an Indian company to be invited as a keynote speaker at this high-profile event, spoke on the globalization of services, a company statement said.
Students from all branches of engineering are being lured by software firms which offer high wages compared to the “old economy” sectors, said the initial findings of the study, based on placement data available with IIT-B since the early 1990s till date.
As many as 350 to 400 under-graduates and 350 postgraduates pass out of various engineering streams annually from IIT-B.
“We have taken IIT-B as a sample for IITs in general. The trend of a majority of the graduates moving to IT firms is common even in the Regional Engineering Colleges and other engineering colleges across the country,” Anand Patwardhan, associate professor, Shailesh J. Mehta School of Management, IIT-B, who conducted the study, said here.
He said in the last three years, nearly 75 percent of M-Tech from IIT-B have got IT jobs.
“The IT job hiring pattern more or less meets the forecast by the National Association of Software and Services Companies that the industry will have a one million workforce by 2005,” the study said.
TCS CEO S. Ramadorai said the continuation of benefits as well as the proposal for continuation of tax benefits even in the event of a change in the shareholding pattern are very welcome.
Steps for the automation of the Ministry of Finance are also a step in the right direction, Ramadorai said, adding that Finance Minister Jaswant Singh should be complimented for the overall proposals in the areas of biotechnology, R & D, and reduction in tariffs in the IT and telecom sectors.
“It was heartening to note the attention Jaswant has paid to the newly-emerging biotech sector as also linking it to the pharmaceutical sector, both of which have the potential to make India a force in emerging technology areas,” he said.
Wipro executive vice-president and CFO Suresh Senapaty said: “We are happy that the government has valued its commitment which has been reiterated in the Finance minister’s speech.”
Sticking to the commitment, procedural simplification of imports, exports and direct tax administration are some of the highlights of the budget, he said.
Senapaty said the government’s thrust on healthcare and infrastructure which will create demand for the industry apart from creating world-class infrastructure and provide higher health assurance to people at large is a significant step in the right direction.
Stating this, Governor T.N. Chaturvedi said, “The time has come for the state to focus on the hardware sector to complement its growth in the software sector and also to cater to the hardware requirements of the country’s IT and telecom industries, besides opening up vast employment opportunities.”
Addressing a joint sitting of the state legislature, Chaturvedi also said the government proposes to come out with a revised state textile policy soon.
In view of globalization and for the overall development of the sericulture industry, the Karnataka Silkworm, Seed, Cocoon and Silk Yarn Act, 1959, was to be amended in consultation with the concerned stakeholders, he added.
The Science and Technology Department, the governor said, proposes to establish a science city and space museum in a 100-acre plot close to Bangalore and a regional science center in Dharwad.
An agreement to establish the center, which would develop patented software for foreign customers, was reached between Shenzhen Software Park and Zensar recently, Xinhua news agency reported from Shenzhen.
According to the agreement, application software, mainly on telecom and finance, meeting CMM level 5 the highest global software quality standard will be developed at the center.
Experts believe the projected center will help Chinese software developers improve their software engineering capacity and in turn help more of them elbow into the international software market.
The center is expected to export $20 million of application software annually within two years of operation.
Though China’s software industry saw rapid growth in 2002, it still needs development, State Council Information Technology official Qu Weizhi said, addressing a national conference on software industry in Beijing this week.
The U.S.-India workshop, funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, included academics from universities in the U.S., Hong Kong, Singapore and the United Kingdom, besides from the Indian Institute of Managements and Indian Institute of Technologies.
The father figure of Indian software industry and Tata Consultancy Services vice-chairman F.C. Kohli participated in a panel discussion on “ICT Innovation, and Economic Development” March 4.
Thaksin announced the appointment at a banking software technology seminar hosted by Infosys and chaired by Murthy. The two men had previously met in India during a visit there by Thaksin.
Thaksin, a telecommunications tycoon before he entered politics, said he was impressed by Murthy’s ability to put his company among the world’s leading software developers in just a few years and to help make Bangalore “the Silicon Valley of Asia.”
He said he wanted to tap that ability to help develop Thailand and Southeast Asia’s information technology capacity.
Thailand has a 10-year plan from 2001 to 2010 to develop IT in all areas of economic activity and government, he said.
Infosys said in a press release here that it has identified Thailand as a key target market for its Finacle banking solutions suite and has entered into a partnership with Thai companies Datamat and Yip In Tsoi to market its product in Thailand and the region.
Finacle is already used by 67 banks spread across 21 countries, it said.
He has been selected for his pioneering work in understanding the regulation of gene expression, malaria parasite biology and identification of new drug targets.
Instituted by the Department of Biotechnology, the award is given for utilizing the expertise of active superannuated scientists who have made outstanding contribution to biotechnology, an official release said March 4.
It carries a maximum amount of Rs. 26,000 per month as honorarium and a contingency grant of Rs. 50,000 per annum. The tenure of the awardee would be initially for a three-year period but extendable up to two years based on the review of the work undertaken by him.
In association with Chennai Online
Hard Disk Breakthrough:
A simpler and more reliable manufacturing method has allowed two materials researchers from the University at Buffalo to produce nanoscale magnetic sensors that could increase the storage capacity of hard disk drives by a factor of 1,000.
Building on results obtained last summer, the new sensors are up to 100 times more sensitive than any current alternative technology, according to researchers Harsh Deep Chopra, UB associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Susan Hua, director of UB’s Bio-Micro-Electro-Mechanical-Systems Facility and adjunct professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.
The breakthrough could impact significantly the multi-billion-dollar storage industry. Their work is supported by the National Science Foundation.
As reported in the February issue of Physical Review, Hua and Chopra’s latest experiments with nanoscale sensors produce, at room temperature, unusually large electrical resistance changes in the presence of small magnetic fields.
“We first saw a large effect of over 3,000 percent resistance change in small magnetic fields last July,” Chopra explains. “These latest results show that what we reported at the time was just the tip of the iceberg, pointing to beautiful science that remains to be discovered.”
The largest signal they have seen is 33 times larger than the effect they reported last summer, which corresponds to a 100,000 percent change in resistance, the researchers say.
As stored “bits” of data get smaller, their magnetic fields get weaker, which makes individual bits harder to detect and “read.” Packing more bits onto the surface of a disk, therefore, requires reliable sensors that are smaller, yet more sensitive to the bit’s magnetic field.
Hua and Chopra’s nanoscale sensors seem to be ideally suited to the task. The sensors produce much more distinct and reliable signals than current technologies do, which would enable the bit size to be shrunk dramatically.
Chopra and Hua’s sensors have another advantage over other experimental techniques: Because of the sensors’ high sensitivity at room temperature, they could be adapted more easily to work with existing hard-disk drive technologies used by the $25 billion data storage industry. Chopra predicts that their sensors would permit disk capacities on the order of terabits (trillions of bits) per square inch.
Hua and Chopra’s novel work with magnetic sensors already has attracted industry interest. The Forbes/Wolfe Nanotech Report cited their research as one of the top five nanotechnology breakthroughs of 2002, and Industry Week selected Hua and Chopra as one of the 21 top research and development stars of 2002.
“There are many scientists pursing this type of research,” Chopra says. “Our continued success is due largely to our (Chopra and Hua’s) overlapping backgrounds in materials synthesis and magnetics, which creates a unique synergy within our research group.”
Their success builds on an effect called “ballistic magnetoresistance” (BMR). “Magnetoresistance” measures the change in electrical resistance when a device is placed in a magnetic field, and many types of magnetoresistance are being explored for sensors that might find use in hard-disk drives. The magnetoresistance effect goes “ballistic” when an electron must cross a channel so narrow that the electron shoots straight through without scattering. In a normal wire, an electron zigzags its way through the material, called “diffusive” transport.
Chopra and Hua created their ballistic-effect sensors by forming nanoscale nickel “whiskers” between two larger nickel electrodes. Their current experiments include confirmation of the structure and composition of the whiskers with scanning electron microscopy.
The researchers suspect that the ballistic effect stems from pinch points, or constrictions, in the whiskers produced during manufacturing. The new manufacturing method, which also allowed them to reliably produce nanosensors with the desired effect, is a key to Chopra and Hua’s latest success.
Chopra and Hua modified and adapted a method of producing controlled nanoscale wires originally developed by Arizona State University’s Nongjian Tao. Tao’s electrodeposition method allowed Chopra and Hua to specify in advance the resistance they wanted from their nanoscale whiskers. They now can reproduce their contacts reliably and simply, as opposed to the hit-or-miss method they had used previously. “We have been consistently able to produce contacts with BMR effects of several thousand percent,” Chopra says.
These types of sensors also may have biomedical applications. For example, the sensor’s electrical properties might be used to detect biomolecules in solution, even in low concentrations, according to Chopra. By attaching itself to the sensor, each type of biomolecule would impart its own “fingerprint” by changing the electrical signal of the nanocontact.
John Della Contrada works with the
A Place for the Family:
ICC now is the largest community center serving the Indian population and their surrounding community. Its founders say the center is designed to promote Indian culture and values by providing social, cultural, and recreational and community programs that unite the Indian community and raise awareness about Indian culture within the local community.
“Unlike other Indian special-interest groups organized along professional lines (e.g., TiE, IBPW), religious lines (e.g., temples, gurudwaras, mosques), and regional lines (e.g., Gujarati, Tamil), India Community Center is a non-religious, non-regional, non-political and non-profit organization,” its founders announced. “Its goal is to represent the diverse cultural heritage of India, and promote social, cultural, recreational, and community activities for all Indians regardless of region, religion, age and socio-economic status.”
“ICC has an opportunity to make a real impact on the community, and will be an institution that we will come to cherish over the next decade,” says Silicon Valley entrepreneur group TiE Global chair Kanwal Rekhi. “This reflects the community coming of age and putting its roots down.”
“The ICC is about to embark on a journey that ultimately will positively effect countless numbers of families in the Indian and general community for many generations to come,” said Sandy Blovad, former executive director, Jewish Community Center, Palo Alto. “As a result of the creation of the ICC in the Bay Area Indians of every age will experience on a daily basis a life enriching experience.”
For just $30 a month (it’s a nominal $6 a month for seniors) the center offers a vast array of programs including:
ICC will provide learning programs for over 1,000 kids and teens with 200 offerings each year. 3,000 adults will attend ICC classes, events and fitness programs annually. ICC will serve 25,000 subsidized meals to seniors through its subsidized meal program each year.
For the past decade, the Indo-American Community Service Center fulfilled community needs in the Bay Area with essential programs for seniors, teens, and other members of the Indian community. Founded in 1991 to provide resources and community to émigré Indian seniors, ICSC expanded their community service offerings to service the entire Indian family. Until recently, services have been provided through ICSC’s 1,200-square foot Santa Clara facility.
In recent years, the rapidly-growing regional Indian population despite its educational and financial successhas complex new needs that demand a greater role for the community in their everyday lives.
As a result, the India Community Center was founded in July 2001 and merged with ICSC in 2002.
“Today, India Community Center represents the culmination of these efforts, operating the largest India-focused community facility in North America,” its founders say. “The facility offers a wide variety of programs and services including classes and seminars, a dedicated senior center, fitness room, crisis and counseling services, and is supported with a state-of-the-art Web-enabled IT infrastructure to help build virtual communities. Membership is open to all for an annual fee, with subsidized membership for low-income families and senior citizens.”
Shafqat Jamali is a freelance writer
Marriage and Property:
Marriage is a major transition in life, and along with exuberant hopes of happiness, it also requires a rearrangement of one’s financial circumstances. With a bit of prior planning and attention to detail, this can be taken care of with ease.
Conscientious accounting is a useful good habit that will stand you in good stead anytime things go wrong. Try to make it a life-long practice.
What kind of issues can come up? Well, take the case of Maneesh (not his real name). Here is what he asked me recently.
Q: I am an adult and purchased a house with 2 of my friends 5 years back, when I am single.. The property has appreciated in value now, now I am married and I want to sell my share to a third party, and get the net proceeds. How will I take the title to the property.”
A: When you purchased the property initially with your friends, you had taken the title as joint tenants or tenants in common. The interest in the property can be severed when one party wants to sell the share. If there is mutual agreement the process is simpler. Otherwise, you can seek legal proceeding.
You must know the purchase price, the balance in the mortgage payment and the current market value. The equity can be calculated depending upon the percentage of ownership in the property. If you have 1/3 of interest in the home, either the friends or any third party can pay you 1/3 of the equity in the house and take title to the property.
Whenever there is a transfer between non-married couple, there can be a transfer tax. It is better to get tax consultation.
If you had purchased the property before marriage and if there is no contribution from the community funds to the property for mortgage payments or any other expenses related to the house, even during the marital time the property will continue to have the separate property nature. If the property is sold during the marital time, the funds from the sale can be deposited in a separate account in the individual name, and it will continue to have the separate nature, as long as the amount is not commingled with other community bank accounts.
It is good to maintain good accounting. In the event the separate funds are utilized to purchase a new family residence during marital time, and if the title is taken like community property, except the down payment, all the interest in the house will be considered like a community property. In the event there is a marital problem later, the down payment can be taken out as separate property and the balance in the equity will be divided equally between the parties, provided the owner did not give away the interest to the other as a gift.
During marital time, husband and wife could take title as joint tenants also. When there is a marital dissolution, the joint tenancy will be severed and it will function like a community property.
This theory of community property law is applicable in a California marital dissolution proceeding, if the parties purchased the property during marital time, in any other place like out of state or out of country. It is possible for the parties to stipulate the jurisdiction of the California court to divide the interest, or they can also stipulate to give the jurisdiction to the place of the real estate.
Raji Rajan is an attorney based in Sunnyvale, Calif.
“Previously, India-related festivals have been one-day events put together by community organizations. We are excited to take that concept to a much higher level by introducing significant corporate sponsorship and a professional event management staff into the mix. These aspects, combined with the fact that we are holding two-day events in five of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., makes this an unprecedented venture one we are certain will be an enormous draw for not only South Asians, but also non-Indians interested in the various facets of Indian culture,” said Rushi president Shishir Misra.
The festival, which brings together centuries of Indian heritage and culture, will be held in New Jersey, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C., over a six-week period beginning in mid-May and ending in mid-June.
Rushi, Inc., a Virginia-based multimedia entertainment company, has once again teamed with South Asian television giant Zee and money-transfer company Western Union, to create two-day festivals that provide both South Asian and Western audiences with windows into Indian culture. From food stalls serving traditional cuisine from different regions of India to live stage performances of centuries-old dances to handicraft and artifact booths reminiscent of a bazaar on the busy streets of Delhi, the festivals will offer family entertainment and enjoyment on a grand scale.
While the festivals are a terrific opportunity for families to view the vibrant mosaic that is India, they also afford a tremendous business opportunity to sponsors and vendors seeking exposure to an affluent and strong consumer base. In fact, according to Misra, many vendors and sponsors from the 2002 festival, held in Gaithersburg, Md., have expressed strong interest to participate not only in the Washington-area festival, but in all five cities, due to the success of the 2002 festival.
“In terms of sheer exposure and sales opportunities, nothing compares to these five festivals. It’s not only a great opportunity for local vendors catering to South Asians, but also for India-based companies seeking a new consumer base. At last year’s festival, over 35 percent of our audience was composed of non-Indians,” Misra said.
“Partnering with Rushi in Heritage India reaffirms our commitment to the South Asian community in North America. Both Heritage India and Zee TV take South Asians through a nostalgic journey back home. Heritage India is fast becoming a phenomenon that is spreading across North America and Zee is proud to be an integral part of this growth,” said Dheeraj Kapuria, president of Zee TV USA, based in Arlington, Tex.
“Western Union recognizes the significance of cultural events to the South Asian community in the US,” said Arti Kumar-Caprihan, marketing manager, Western Union, South Asian region. “By supporting Heritage India, Western Union is demonstrating its support to the community and its commitment to preserving South Asian culture abroad.”
Based on figures from the 2002 festival and the increased brand awareness of the Rushi and Heritage India Festival name, Misra estimates attendance at the events to reach a combine 100,000, with an additional 1.2 million South Asians learning about the festival and sponsors via the strong media campaign.
For the 2002 festival, held in Gaithersburg, Md., Rushi was awarded three separate citations from the state of Maryland, Montgomery County as well as the city of Gaithersburg for its work in creating a more “ethnically-diverse community.”
San Francisco Bay Area:
Los Angeles/Southern Calif.:
Auto Review: 2003 Acura RSX Type-S Coupe
If you have your druthers, take the Type-S as we did recently. In fact, to judge the Type-S’ breeding, we took it to many really neat places. Both trims are relatively the same with the Type-S having a rather large jump in performance architecture, much of which has been quietly embezzled from the NSX. The brakes are larger, the power muscled up and the suspension made taut and responsive.
What really blew the minds of some of the knowledgeable car buffs around town was the 200 horsepower the Acura has extracted from the same engine as in the RSX. Both are 2.0-liter, in-line 4-cylinder engines and are normally aspirated with the RSX rated at 160 horsepower. The powerplants are motivated by a sophisticated combination of VTEC (variable valve timing and lift control) and VTC (variable timing control) Acura calls iVTEC. The real secret of the S’s rather grand leap in power comes from the highly tuned exhaust and flexibility with its 6-speed manual shifter - automatics not allowed. Both RSX models meet the standards for Low Emissions Vehicle-II (LEV-2).
Another rather pleasant feat accomplished by Acura is the price tag. The Type-S comes practically with a full-load of standard equipment, including exotics such as leather-trim seating, moonroof, speed-sensing wipers, and Bose sound and more at a price tag of $23,270. In the mechanical department the Type-S comes with 4-wheel ABS, torque-sensing steering, front and side airbags for front passengers, and so forth.
This return to the hatchback configuration that seems to be building again in this country is a good idea. I recently was gifted with a neat bike but had to transport it home. With the RXS large hatchback door and fold-flat rear seats it was a piece of cake. This also brought to my attention the rather tight rear seats, a coupe DNA. The front highback seats are comfortable and holding, but lacking in enough thigh support for long trips.
Naturally, with any driver-posited vehicle the reality is fun and pacing. The art of pacing is an important element of automobile racing, but is a concept that can be an enjoyable function of finding the car’s highest level of performance. Symmetry plays another important part, as well. Find yourself a roadway with a multitude of challenges with up and down, fast slalom-like bends, off-centered corners and wide-open curves. Push the car to its limit without breaking the rhythm of the road and hope the machine maintains its flat relationship and grip to the road.
The Type-S is a dancer with sensitive and quick responses to ever-changing factors. The short-throw 6-speed shifter was an essential partner as we up and downshifted for each challenge. Along with this shifting give-and -take was the long run we could make in each gear with the honest 7400 redline. If there is a caveat it is the Type-S’ tendency to a slight body-roll as the twists and turns came faster and faster.
The 2003 Acura RSX Type-S is a nicely balanced, hot machine that competes honestly with many of the Bavarian threats - and at a very low price, in comparison. Quiet muscle can be such a treat and pleasant surprise, even at the petrol pump.
Al Auger, our automotive editor has been writing about cars for over 30 years.
Bollywood Meets Internet:
“It is about time that Bollywood fans around the world had the ultimate voice in choosing the Best of Bollywood”, said Raj Baronia, president of INDOlink an ethnic web-media company based in San Ramon, California. INDOlink has been running the People’s Choice Awards on the Internet for last 8 years via its entertainment web-portal PlanetBollywood.com.
The success of Devdas and Monsoon Wedding in North America and Europe has proven that overseas markets for Bollywood films is not only huge, but the overseas audience has its own distinctive likes and dislikes.
“Various old-style award shows held in Mumbai are increasingly becoming very biased, and rarely reflect people’s choice especially the overseas audience. Therefore, it is only appropriate that all these people from various parts of the world have equal opportunity to participate in selecting the Best of Bollywood. And of course, Internet is the best medium to connect such a diverse global audience,” said Baronia.
Even voters get to win prizes if their selection matches all or most of the winning nominees. To participate, Bollywood fans can go to the Web site www.planetbollywood.com and select from a list of nominees under various categories such as best film of the year, best director, producer, etc. The online voting will continue for about 6 weeks. At the end of the polling period, all the votes will be electronically tabulated and the nominees receiving the maximum number of votes will be declared winners of the “People’s Choice Awards.”
“The exponential growth in the number of online votes reflects the magnitude and popularity of People’s Choice Awards - from 3000 votes in 1995 to over 300,000 in 2001,” say organizers. “This year approximately half million votes are expected to be in before April 22 deadline.”
In comes model-turned-hunk John Abraham, and beats up the guy nearly unconscious.
Think this is some scene picked out of a cheesy masala Bollywood movie? Think again. This actually happened in a posh Juhu eatery recently where John and Bipasha had gone out. Bobby Deol, Fardeen Khan and Saahil Khan were also there.
Apparently all that sizzle in Jism is coming back to haunt Bipasha. As for John, he denies he hit the guy, but he makes no apologies.
“I didn’t beat the man who tried to mess around with Bipasha,” says the beefcake film star. “I taught him a lesson. I will do so with anyone else who tries to do the same.”
Bipasha, we are told, was so upset that she cried for a long time in the restaurant after the incident.
However, this time he is giving a pass to Shah Rukh “Devdas” Khan and seriously thinking of roping in teenage heartthrob Hrithik Roshan. Which is actually good news for Hrithik, because heartthrob or not, he has had a poor run at the box office after his initial smash hit debut.
Does that mean Paro isn’t in the picture either? That we cannot say yet.
Well the beard is going to go in a new film he has signed. Rajkumar Santoshi has just signed him for Khakee, and Amitabh will play a police officer. Nobody has ever heard of a cop with a beard (unless he is a Sikh), so Santoshi has asked him to shave his beard.
The film, which also stars Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgan and Aishwarya Rai, just had its muhurat March 6 in Mumbai, but Santoshi will do most of the shooting in Pune.
Just when we were beginning to get used to the new Big B avatar, off goes his beard. But his commanding presence will remain, his well-wishers hope.
Old timers are wondering if this is a Bengali thing. Years ago Mala Sinha and Sharmila Tagore drove director Joy Mukherjee bananas when they used to go at each other. Things came to a head when Mala slapped Sharmila. Rakhee had a similar testy relationship with Sharmila during the shooting of Yash Chopra’s Daag.
Well, let’s not get into ethnic stereotypes. Don’t forget that Rani and Kareena got along just fine, and neither Shabana Azmi nor Smita Patil are Bengali, but that didn’t stop them from getting into a catfight during the shooting of Mahesh Bhatt’s Arth. And Sridevi and Jayaprada weren’t exactly bosom buddies when they shot eight films together. In fact, they didn’t exchange a single word.
Obviously that leaves his filmmakers in limbo. That includes two of his own filmsFarah Khan’s Main Hoon Na and Aziz Mirza’s Chalte Chalteas well as Karan Johar’s Kal Ho Na Ho.
But you know the nice thing about it all? Not only are Shah Rukh’s friends standing by him, but Farah, Karan as well as old buddy Juhi Chawla have promised to visit him in London. Doesn’t that remind you of a typical Bollywood masala film happy ending?
While it is true that Bipasha and Sushmita used to great chums who loved to shoot the breezein Bengali, of courseit isn’t that way any more.
Recently at a party Sushmita ran into Bipasha and is seemed that as far as she was concerned Bips didn’t exist.
Bollywood watchers are wisecracking that it’s the slender pickings that both are chasing that has soured their friendship. And by that we don’t mean dates, but good, off-beat film roles that can move their careers onto the fast lane.
Now that’s something we can all understand. Bollywood may churn out potboilers like Henry Ford’s Model T factory, but good roles are rarer than hen’s teeth.
Not Abhishek. Despite the string of duds, filmmakers continue to make a beeline to him. The list of directors who have signed him reads like a who’s who: Goldie Behl, Gurdev Bhalla, Rohan Sippy, Anupam Kher and even Ram Gopal Varma. On top of that a whole new generation of talented filmmakers want to work with him. Rakesh Mehra and Vipul Shah are two other directors who want to sign him.
Cynics are beginning to say that there is only one thing Abhishek has going for himhis last name. But even that will go only so far. So for his sake we hope he manages to kindle some enthusiasm in the box office soon.
Instead of the usual bash with food, music and film stars, Ghai handed out stationery to school kids of Mumbai schools at a simple function at the Bombay Petit Municipal School in Bandra.
Helping him out were the film’s leading stars Sanjay Dutt and Govinda along with Ghai, director David Dhawan and CMD - Super Cassettes Industries’ Bhushan Kumar and Super Cassettes Industries director Krishan Kumar.
And we are not talking small change here. About 11,000 sets of stationery were given out.
Showcasing their support towards the noble cause and marking the release of the film’s music, the leading stars of ‘Ek aur Ek Gyarah’, gave away the stationary to students.
At the event Ghai was as ebullient as ever. “Ek Aur Ek Gyarah promises to be David’s hilarious best and is going to keep the audiences in splits,” he boomed. “Perfectly complimenting the mood of the film is the music created by Shankar Ehsaan and Loy which is sure to top charts after their resounding success with Dil Chahta Hai.”
That’s ancient history now. The inadvertent party pooper, it turns out, is Ashutosh Gowariker. He had offered Rani a role in Lagaan, a film that went on to be not only a smash hit but which also won an Oscar nomination.
Rani didn’t accept then, but she made no mistake when Ashutosh wanted her for his upcoming film Swadesh. Little did she know that her friend Ash was also keen on the role, and so a cool wind is blowing now between the two Bollywood stars.
Hindi Film Review
S.J. Suryah manages to all of these things and here’s the surprise: He does this with a film that is a remake of a Tamil and Telugu version. Now intelligent cinema is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Tamil or Telugu cinema, the exciting industry that gave us the likes of Silk Smitha and Nylon Nalini. Whatever stimulating thoughts there are tend to get buried under the mounds of flesh in ample display as buxom belles show their talent and much more.
Happily, Suryah begs to be differ. Backed by bubbly spontaneous performances by Fardeen and Kareena, the film has a novel take and is executed with a degree of flair that singles it out from the run-of-the-mill Bollywood stuff that we would rather avoid. Oscar material it ain’t, but it’s a pleasant, tolerably clean bit of fun, and in these desperate days that’s no mean achievement.
The film has an intriguing premise that turns the standard Bollywood plot on its head. The conventional boy-meets-girl in Hindi cinema has to deal with a lot of challengesirate parents, mean villains, unlucky circumstances. In this film, the boy and girl are themselves their worst enemies. Ego-driven and given to petty fighting, they are quite oblivious to the fact that they are really made for each other. Some crisp and witty dialogue enlivens the proceedings and Fardeen and Kareena do the rest.
Karan (Fardeen Khan) and Khushi (Kareena Kapoor) are the darlings of their parents. Apparently God has created them for one another. We get to know this because God himself tells us this. I kid you notand appropriately it’s the Big B who lends his voice to pass on the message.
Karan and Khushi are even physically together for a few moments in infancy as their parents sit next to each other at a shop, unaware of each other’s existence, a funny touch.
When they reach early adulthood, God gets into the act again. Against all odds, they come face-to-face in a Mumbai college. They meet, become friends and help a couple who are their friends get married against the opposition of the girl’s father, who is a don.
However, the romance of their friends doesn’t rub off on them, as they continually fight each other. The rest of the film deals with the circumstances that unsurprisingly leads them to the realization that they are indeed, made for each other.
Fardeen has improved considerably since his last foray, so he can look on to a bright Bollywood future. Kareena has already established herself as an actress who brings considerable charm and vivacious energy, but she needs to lose her “Poo” attitude because it is getting old.
The film is backed with novel touches and that rarest of qualities for desi filmmakersbrevity. Suryah keeps an iron grip on the proceedings, and so the film is not hobbled by events that drag on. However, a dash of insecurity mars the film: the relatively sophisticated humor was brought several notches down by the egregious Johny Lever and his appalling impressions of Asha Bhosle and Ricky Martin. Amrish Puri did a good job, while others were adequate. Anu Malik’s music was not bad, but it did little to further the story.
Over all, the film is light-hearted fluff, to be sure, but at least it’s told with a degree of class and is mercifully clean.
Now how many recent Bollywood films can make that claim? For this alone, Suryah and producer Boney Kapoor deserve a pat in the back.
Rating: **1/2 (Good)
Tamil Film Review:
Right now, director Hayath is surely a strong contender for this dubious distinction. The man deserves to be strung up and hung in public for inflicting this despicable little ode to bad taste on the movie-going public.
There is a whole lot in this film to raise the testosterone level of male viewers with a lascivious bent, but precious little to make give their gray cells a workout. But if the cash registers keep ringing, who really cares?
Here’s how the story goes: Singhamuthu fusses over his two brothers, while the duo consider his excess attention to them a pain in the neck. Singhamuthu decides that all three brothers will marry three sisters, and searches around for a family with three daughters. But his plans go haywire for several reasons. First, his cousin Chinnathaiy loves him, and will brook no other girl in his life. Second, his two brothers are in love with the daughters of Padmini, a widow. How the matter is reconciled forms the rest of the “story,” if you wish to dignify this pathetic excuse of a plot with that term.
The casting, the antics of the characters, the uninhibited titillating movements of the buxom heroines in front of the camera, all go on to make viewing a painful, embarrassing experience. The love-track between widower R. Sunderrajan and widow Shakila a take-off on the Kamal Hassan-Jayapradha scenes of Salangai Oli only adds insult to injury. Quite honestly, there’s no single redeeming feature in this film.
It’s appalling that such films are being made. This film just about manages to stay this side of the sleazy, shady label, and that too only if you are an expansively generous. What on earth is Pandiarajan doing here? The man may be no Charlie Chaplin, but he has given decent comedies in the past. There’s no reason why he should stoop to acting in such films, even if the excuse is survival.
Recipe: Cake with a Difference
Slowly add the mixture to the paste and add cola. Beat gradually.
Now add condensed milk to the mixture and beat gradually to make a fluffy and smooth batter.
Grease cake pan and dust with flour. Pre heat oven to 389 degrees F / 180 degrees C. Pour batter into cake pan and place in center of oven. Bake for ½ hour.
Refrigerate the cake.
Garnish with canned cherries, and dry fruits.
Seema Gupta is a homemaker
March - April Horoscope
Bay Area-based astrologer Pandit Parashar can