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PRIYANKA CHOPRA: Taxing Experience: From Ambassador to Suspect
PREITY ZINTA: 'Guinness World...' Perfect Platform for TV Debut
A.R. RAHMAN: Two Oscar Nominations
AAMIR KHAN: Oscar Disappointment
ANUSHKA SHARMA: Bankable Actor
AJAY DEVGN: Fun Loving Guy

Taxing Experience: From Ambassador to Suspect

Priyanka Chopra In “Anjaana Anjaani.”

Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra, whose premises were searched by the Income Tax department had only last year starred in a short promotional film aimed to spread the message of tax compliance.

Chopra along with actors Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar had featured in a 20-minute-long documentary by the I-T department which was unveiled by Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on July 24 in New Delhi to mark the first ever “Income Tax Day.”

The actors in the film had appealed to the public to pay their taxes diligently and honestly.

In an interesting twist of fate, I-T sleuths swooped upon Chopra's apartment in suburban Versova while the residence of her father, Ashok Chopra, in suburban Lokhandwala, was also raided besides the premises of the actor's secretary Chand Mishra.

The searches were conducted as the department suspected tax evasion on brand endorsements, offshore assignments and private appearances by the actor who has starred in films like Dostana, Anjaana Anjaani and Kaminey.

I-T officers are now checking her income received from advertisements, foreign assignments and guest appearances.

"The I-T department had approached the actors including Chopra for the documentary as they are considered youth icons and Aamir (Khan) and Akshay (Kumar) were amongst the top tax payers in the film industry," a senior I-T officer said.

But, when it comes to professional duties, the department will conduct inquiries against anyone and everyone, the officer added.


PREITY ZINTA: 'Guinness World...' Perfect Platform for TV Debut

Preity Zinta in “Heroes.”

Bollywood actress Preity Zinta, who is all set to make her debut on small screen as the host of the Indian version of “Guinness Book of World Records,” feels the show is an ideal launch for her on television.

The dimpled lass will host the show, “Guinness World Records — Ab India Todega,” to be aired on Colors from the beginning of March.

"This show is the perfect platform for my television debut. There is also a feeling of pride in hosting a show that will put India on the international pedestal and will bring fame for Indians," Preity said.

"The show reflects my ideology to push oneself and compete with the best. I am sure viewers will have a good time watching the show," she added.

The desi version of the show that has enthralled audience across 90 countries is being produced by Miditech Pvt Ltd.

According to the channel, the 35-year-old actress echoes the concept of the show and represents the spirit of new India which is willing to take on the world and prove its place under the sun.

"Preity is the perfect choice as both she and Guinness World Records are debuting on the Indian small screen. Preity's enthusiasm will encourage participants to go all the way in breaking international records and make our country proud. She would re-instill in them the pride and joy of being an Indian," said Ashvini Yardi, programming head, Colors.

Recently, Preity shot the promo of the show at Film City and tried to break an international record herself of pulling a truck. "So what if I was unable to do the stunt... now Indians will show that they can do it and make a world record," the chirpy actress said.


A.R. RAHMAN: Two Oscar Nominations

A.R. Rahman

After his double win at the 2009 Academy awards, India's music maestro A.R. Rahman has a chance to repeat the feat this year, winning two Oscar nominations for his music in Danny Boyle's film 127 Hours.

“If I Rise,” the 45-year-old singer-composer's collaboration with British pop star Dido, has been nominated in the Best Song category.

Rahman will also be competing for the Best Original Score trophy with John Powell (How to Train Your Dragon), Hans Zimmer (Inception), Alexandre Desplat (The King's Speech) and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (The Social Network).

The nominees in the Best Song category are “Coming Home” from Country Strong, “I See the Light” from Tangled and “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3.

The Mozart of Madras first won the award for his music in Boyle's Mumbai-based potboiler Slumdog Millionaire in 2009. He had lost out on the golden trophy last year, after his song “Na Na” (from Couple's Retreat) failed to get a nomination despite being in the long list for the Best Song category.

Rahman has already won a Critics Choice award this year for the film, which has received good reviews for its "haunting tracks" and "wonderful crescendos," and is in the running for a Best Original Music BAFTA for the same.

Rahman, who was honored with a Padma Bhushan last year, had enjoyed a golden run at the 52nd Grammy Awards, where he had again bagged two awards for his music in  Slumdog Millionaire.

127 Hours stars James Franco as real-life mountain climber Aron Ralston who cut off his arm to escape from beneath a boulder after being trapped for more than five days. The film  has won six nominations including best film.


AAMIR KHAN: Oscar Disappointment

Aamir Khan in “Taare Zameen Par.”

Peepli Live, India's official entry to the Oscars in the Best Foreign Language Film this year, is out of the race with the movie failing to make it to the final nine.

Producer Aamir Khan said he was disappointed that the film failed to make to the final list but felt honored to have his film in the pool of 66 films that were considered.

"The 50-60 films that were selected are such good films that to just be there is an honor in itself...But yes, we are disappointed that we could make to the top five," said Aamir.

Peepli Live was selected from 27 movies including Raajneeti and Udaan to represent India at the Oscars. Aamir had won an Oscar nomination for his 2001 film Lagaan. His Taare Zameen Par (2007) also returned empty handed from the Academy awards.

Directed by debutante Anusha Rizvi, the film is a satire on media's trivialization of farmers' suicide and stars a host of theatre actors.

The nine films were selected out of 66 films that had originally qualified in the category. The list will be winnowed down to the five nominees by the Academy voters for January 25 Oscar nominations.

The films that are still in the Oscars race are -- Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Mexican film Biutiful, starring Javier Bardem; Algeria's Hors la Loi  (Outside the Law) by director Rachid Bouchareb; Canada's Incendies by Denis Villeneuve; Denmark's In a Better World by Susanne Bier; Greece's Dogtooth by Yorgos Lanthimos; Japan's Confessions by Tetsuya Nakashima; South Africa Life, above All  by Oliver Schmitz; Spain’s Tambien la Lluvia by Iciar Bollain; and Sweden's Simple Simon by Andreas Ohman.

The 83rd Academy Awards will take place Feb. 27 at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood.



Kareena Kapoor in “Golmaal 3.”

Leaving behind a not-so-great 2010, Bollywood star Kareena Kapoor is all set to explore various genres in the new year with five films in the pipeline.

While RaOne with Shah Rukh Khan is the biggest of all, there is also Bodyguard with Dabangg star Salman Khan.

The 30-year-old actress will be seen opposite boyfriend Saif Ali Khan in Agent Vinod and Imran Khan in Short Term Shaadi. She is also in talks to star with Aamir Khan in a yet untitled psychological thriller.

Considering she has one hit Golmaal 3 and two flops, We Are Family and Milenge Milenge in 2010, the new year holds a lot of excitement for the actress.

"There has been a conscious call to pick different genres from the films that excite me most. Earlier also I have done films like Omkara and Chameli which weren't exactly mainstream. Last year's We Are Family was a difficult role. Now 2011 would have a mix of different subjects and films as well," Kareena told PTI.

She took the industry by storm turning size zero for Tashan and Kareena says she won't stop experimenting with her looks and body.

"Everyone would unanimously agree and state that this was one actor who tried hard. I have constantly tried to reinvent myself. One has to because there is no formula for what would eventually work and what wouldn't. You can't gauge that when you first take a plunge," she said.


ANUSHKA SHARMA: Bankable Actor

Anushka Sharma in “Band Baaja Baarat.”

Anushka Sharma may just be three films old in Bollywood but after the success of Band Baaja Baarat, the actress says that the industry now looks at her as a bankable actor.

The 24-year-old who has till now only been seen in movies by the Yash Raj banner, is eyeing a fourth hit with her upcoming film Patiala House directed by Nikhil Advani.

"After Band Baaja Baarat people are looking at me differently. I am seen in a new light. Now, I am seen as a bankable actor. There are a lot of good things and a lot of appreciation coming my way. I am feeling comfortable right now in the industry," Anuska told PTI.

The actress has given three back-to-back hits right from her debut film Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi to Badmash Company and Band Baaja Baarat. And in Patiala House she is paired opposite Akshay Kumar.

"It feels great to me that all my three films have been liked by the audience. I am looking forward to the release of Patiala House and I hope it becomes a hit. Post the success of BBB I have got a lot of offers but I am very choosy. I do only things that excite me," Anushka said.



Mallika Sherawat

Bollywood's own dancing diva Urmila Matondkar has replaced actress Mallika Sherawat as the judge of reality show Chak Dhoom Dhoom.

The Rangeela star will be seen sharing the judges' panel with Jaaved Jafferi and Terrence Lewis on the second season of the Colors show to find the best dancing group.

"I am really excited to be back on television and with a brand new season of Chak Dhoom Dhoom, I will bring my own style and craft to spot talent on the show. The main reason for me to be associated with the show is my passion for dance. It will be interesting to work with Jaaved and Terrence," Urmila said in a statement.

Even though the show kickstarted with Mallika as the third judge and she sat through the auditions, the Hisss star has been removed amid rumors that show bosses were miffed with her tantrums on the set.

Urmila will now be seen in the jury chair for the gala rounds to be aired from Friday onwards.

"Urmila is someone who is closely associated with dance and being a great dancer herself we are confident that she will prove to be an honest and fair judge," said Ashvini Yardi, head of programming, Colors.


AJAY DEVGN: Fun Loving Guy

Ajay Devgn and Shazahn Padamsee in “Dil Toh Bachcha Hai Jee.”

Shy and brooding, these are the words often used to describe actor Ajay Devgn. But the Bollywood star says that the image is far from the truth and now he wants to set the record right.

And he has already started work on it. The 41-year-old's next is his first romantic comedy Dil Toh Bachcha Hai Jee and he is also making a much hyped appearance on Karan Johar's talk show Koffee with Karan.

"Karan has been trying to convince me for years. And I thought, 'Well it will be fun', so I said yes. I am a fun loving guy and I had a great time shooting and I think Karan was rather surprised that I did," Devgn told PTI in an interview.

Devgn plays Naren, a reserved middle-aged guy, who falls for a much younger and gregarious girl in the comedy.

The actor who has made his singing debut in the film and also danced to a salsa tune, says that he has been plagued by questions about similarities between him and the character, much to his surprise.

"I play a shy divorcee who falls for a gregarious woman half his age and the generation gap between the two results in some very funny situations. And there is really no connect with my real life except that people believe me to be a very reserved person and my wife is very chirpy," said the actor.



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India Honors Diaspora: Pravasi Bharatiya Divas
president Ashok Gupta joined 2,000 expatriate Indians to celebrate the 2011 Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in New Delhi.

Cancer Chronicler:
Siddhartha Mukherjee
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A Siliconeer report.

Peace through Music:
Unity Jam 2011
Abraham’s Vision and the Samina and Salman Global Wellness Initiative’s “Unity Jam 2011” concert drew a diverse crowd at a music jam that promoted kinship between people of all faiths, writes Ras H. Siddiqui.

EDITORIAL: Pravasi Divas
SUBCONTINENT: India's Indigenous Fighter Jet
PHOTO ESSAY: India's Republic Day Celebrations: Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, CA
PHOTO ESSAY: Glimpes of India's 62nd Republic Day Parade in New Delhi
SURVEY: BBC Global Poll: India Pakistan Issues
SUBCONTINENT: Scrapping Big Bills
RECIPE: Veggie Thai Crunch Salad
BOLLYWOOD Film Review: Dhobi Ghat
TAMIL CINEMA: Review: Kavalan
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BUSINESS: News Briefs

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