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Strong women with strong message at JLF

The art can bring change – and does not have to be limited to playing a role of meager entertainment. In fact, these two goals can almost work concurrently, as can be experienced at the popular Jaipur Literature Festival which becomes an amalgamation of intellectual and social conversation.

It has also been a place where women – strong women, celebrity women – have used the opportunity to share relevant messages.

One of these celebrities was popular yet unorthodox Bollywood singer Usha Uthup. In conversation with Sanjay Roy, the singer shared her diverse journey as she built her career without any film background, and became a household name.

As she began, she lent her voice to jingles and even sang in a club in Chennai (then Madras). However, Bollywood was not far away. “RD (Burman) saw me perform at the nightclub, and was really interested.” RD invited invited her to record a song with none other than Lataji. “I recorded my anglicized version with Lataji, but later they recorded the song again with Ashaji.” She grabbed this first opportunity and made the most of it – Dum Maro Dum became an anthem for an entire generation.

Of course, the road ahead was not easy – her voice was very different to the prevalent, melodious, soft voices of the female singers. “Bollywood has good girls and they have certain songs. For bad girls, there are different songs, which came my way.” She still grabbed these opportunities and created a niche for herself.

It is not just her voice that separates her from the norm. She has a unique style sense – kanjivaram saree worn with a prominent bindi (red dot on the forehead) which almost puts her in contrast with the western and westernized songs she sings. In fact, this contrast helped her create a strong image for herself. But this wasn’t intentional, she says.

“Raised in a middle class south Indian family, I wore cotton sarees even when I sang in night clubs My bindi and my flowers in the hair – this is part of my south Indian heritage. I love my accessories including the bangles.”

Not to keep her uniqueness limited to sarees, she even pairs up her kanjivaram sarees with “kanjivaram sneakers” especially designed for her by a cobbler in Kolkata. If this is not chic, then what is?

If Usha Uthup is an example of an unconventional voice carving her own path, there was another Bollywood celebrity at the JLF who has shown that there are no limits to achievement, even when faced with a life threatening situation.

Photo: Bollywood Hungama

Manisha Koirala fought her way back to life and then back to movies, after recovering from cancer. Launching her book “Healed: How Cancer Gave Me a New Life” at the Jaipur Literature Festival, Manisha shared the choices she made along the way which helped her fight some of the “deathly” battles that showed up unexpectedly at the peak of her career in Bollywood.

Her diagnosis with ovarian cancer in 2012 was sudden and caught her and her family off guard. Cancer brings up thoughts of death for most of us, she says. “I was shocked. I had a restless night. I felt so lonely. My regular journey from Kathmandu to Mumbai seemed like never ending.”

Soon after the diagnosis, she grappled with the possibility of death. But instead of asking gloomy questions like “why me?”, she was asking more enabling questions to herself – how will I come out of it?

Immediately, she started doing extensive research on cancer, and took control of her treatment, rather than being a passive recipient of it.

She was proactively asking questions to doctors, and even started reading cancer-related material online.

Her advice to cancer patients is to be actively involved in their treatments.

“Take your own decisions and take control of yourself rather than relying on others. Also equip yourself with information about your cancer.”

In such difficult times, the immediate family members act as a crucial support system, and in Manisha’s case it was her mother, who stood by her like a rock.

As she was fighting her battle, she kept her head high, and made a promise to herself that if won this health battle, she would create more awareness about this – something that she found missing during her own struggle.

“The attitude matters,” says the goodwill ambassador for the UN Population Fund, and has been making public appearances to raise awareness.


Bollywood: Is beauty in the eyes of the beholder?

The recent demise (on 24 February 2018) of Bollywood superstar Sridevi has encouraged a frenzied discussion in Indian media about the dangers of varied fads related to Bollywood and overall glamour industry – ranging from unnatural crash diets to excessive cosmetic surgeries, use of steroids, and so on. These are driven by the obsession to look good at cost, at any age, at any time of the day. The common question being asked is – how far do we want to go with this, and is it worth it?

We live in an age where we are bombarded with images of women (and men) who are an epitome of Cleopatra – perfect looks and right clothes – if any.  And this beatification of women is not limited to traditional media – it is on social media too – which is mostly self-created content. The race to the most beautiful face on earth seems to be ongoing – 24 hours a day, across all continents, races, and media.

This race starts pretty much early in life – with parents putting up beautiful pictures of their babies – and those who are not able to or refuse to keep up with the norms or trends get trolled on social media. The pressure continues into college days which is full of official competitions based on looks and appearance. This leads into beauty pageants first at the college level, and then at regional, national and finally international level.

Women are stereotyped and certain social norms imposed on them – which are based on our collective preferences and prejudices. Such prejudices are epitomized in beauty pageants in India. In fact, the socio-cultural beliefs manifest well in such beauty pageants, which drove one researcher to study Indian beauty pageants in detail.

“When I started my research on campus beauty contests in South Bangalore in the 90s, many of my colleagues raised their brows with ‘Why? Aren’t beauty contests mere fun and entertainment? What is there to research in it?”, recalls Dr Sukanya Kanarally, a researcher and former associate professor at Bangalore University. “I had to argue that such contests, whether local, regional, national or international, need to be analyzed because they not only reflect social constructs of gender but also of nationalism and globalization.”

Dr Kanarally recently spoke at the Victoria University of Wellington at a seminar organized by New Zealand India Research Institute. Dr Kanarally completed her doctoral studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, India and has worked as Associate Professor at Bangalore University for more than 15 years. She conducted her research on the beauty contests held in a women’s college in Bangalore that she worked for along with some of the neighbouring colleges in south Bangalore for over ten years.

“I try to trace the changes in the very way such contests were organized, thus reflecting the larger socio-political scenario in India.”

Dr Kanarally believes that beauty pageants are not just for entertainment, but serve a wider purpose – creating consumers, and building a multi-billion dollar global beauty industry. “As we know, a strong correlation exists between pageants and free-market policy.”

For example, a Russian contestant won Miss World in 1992, soon after the Soviet Union collapsed and Russia agreed to open its markets to the West, says Dr Kanarally.  “Interestingly none of the countries in communist rule had won a beauty title (till then).”

Aishwarya Rai won the Miss Wold title in 1994

A similar trend could be seen in India as well, as we saw the likes of Aishwarya Rai and Sushmita Sen winning the international beauty pageants in the 1990s – the decade following India’s liberalization of its economy. The open economy, with growing consumerism, needed Indian models. After all, a Cindy Crawford would find less acceptance in the mind of Indian consumers. So Indian brands needed Indian models.

Ironically, the Indian beauty pageant winners became endorsing international brands than Indian brands in India.  Aishwarya Rai, for example, has never been a major endorser of Indian products, says Dr Kanarally. “Products like Coca Cola, LʼOreal, Lux International beauty soap, Longines (Swiss watches) are some of the brands endorsed by Aishwarya Rai who famously declared that if she won the contest, she would prefer to be the ‘cultural ambassador’ from India. Contrary to her statements she has even endorsed skin whitening products like White Perfect from LʼOreal.”

Commercial interests, it seems, dictate the norms of these beauty pageants. To that end, these contests need to feed to specific social expectations. After all, beauty is “not” in the eyes of the beholder, she says. “Beauty is a discourse that is politically shaped.”

Women expected to live as per societal expectations, and beauty pageants are no exception. In 1960, Argentinian Miss World Norma Gladys was threatened with disqualification for drinking alcohol, cites Dr Kanarally.  “Similarly, the 1965 Miss World (from UK) and the 1969 Miss World (from Sweden) faced prospects of being dethroned for posing nude.” And in 1973 and 1974, the Miss World winners from the US and the UK were dethroned for not ‘fulfilling their responsibilities’. “Their crime? One had multiple boyfriends and the other had dared to become a single mother!”, says Dr Kanarally.

Ms America Nina Davuluri (image courtesy: Instagram @ninadavuluri)

And our definition of beauty is also specific – tall, fair, thin, and of course, belong to a certain ethnicity and race. When Nina Davuluri won the Miss America title in 2013, most of the news headlines referred to her ethnicity: “Miss America Crowns Its First Indian-American Winner”, wrote Pop Sugar. Twitter went into a frenzy with racist remarks against the Indian origin winner. Some even went to the extent of calling her an “Arab” and a “terrorist”.

To the popular mind, the epitome of beauty has to meet the standards propogated over decades of media stereotypes.  There has never been a fat Miss World, even though thinness is not a cultural universal norm even in the West, says Dr Kanarally. “There has never been a short Miss World either. Even the Black Miss Worlds are light complexioned too. In other words, Miss World is useful shorthand for the representational relation between deeply unequal nations and seemingly equal contestants. Take the instance of Miss Nigeria of the 2001 pageant who was described as ‘a white girl in black skin’.”

Bollywood Entertainment

Film: Exploring the Indian Diaspora

What does it mean to be a diasporic Indian?
Shuchi Kothari, Associate Professor in Media and Communication at the University of Auckland, explores this in three short films which will be shown at the Auckland Art Gallery on 12 November.
Dr Kothari is an Indian New Zealander from Ahmedabad, Gujarat, who has lived in Auckland for over 20 years. She teaches screen production at the University of Auckland and has written award-winning films such as Firaaq, Apron Strings, and Coffee & Allah.
Among Dr Kothari’s three films screening at the Art Gallery is her directorial debut Shit One Carries. “My labour of love,” she says.
The 17-minute film, directed and written by Dr Kothari, deals with Avi, a middle-aged Silicon Valley engineer, who returns briefly to his childhood home in India to care for his bedridden father. Their prickly relationship is in contrast to the warmth Amrutdada shares with all his professional caregivers especially Natthu – a young attendant responsible for wiping bottoms and bedpans.
One afternoon, everything goes out of kilter when Amrutdada has diarrhoea and Natthu is not on call. Avi panics. He tries desperately to get someone – anyone – to clean up after his father.
“When forced to perform the unpleasant task himself, Avi realises that to clean his father’s shit, he must let go of his own crap,” says Dr Kothari.
Her other films screening are: Fleeting beauty – about an Indian woman giving her Pakeha lover an unusual history lesson with more than a hint of spice, and Clean Linen set in the summer of ’84 when a nine-year-old Kiwi-Indian boy discovers a family secret only to realise that some things don’t come out in the wash.

NZ Gets Pickled with 20 Years of Indian Ink

Kiwis have patronized and praised the now-legendary play Krishnan’s Dairy. And now Indian Ink Theatre Company has chosen to share the highly acclaimed The Pickle King with audiences across New Zealand, in this, their 20th anniversary year.

From 4 May – 9 September, ten centres throughout Aotearoa will experience the artistry and magic of an Indian Ink show as the relationships at the Empire Hotel are brought to life on stage. Touring to Napier, Gisborne, Whangarei, Hamilton, Tauranga, Christchurch, Dunedin, Nelson, Auckland and Wellington, this will be Indian Ink’s largest tour yet!

Once the finest hotel in town, the Empire is now as faded as the dreams of the piano player who haunts the lobby. Ammachy runs the Empire with an iron fist and has one big problem; her niece is blind and she will not be married. Sasha knows she must not marry because she is cursed – everything she loves dies. Jojo is a heart surgeon. However, as a recent arrival from India the only work she can find is as a night porter in the Empire.

Delving into love, death and what is worth preserving, The Pickle King, has been updated to reflect modern times with star of The Elephant Thief, Vanessa Kumar(Boys Will Be Boys, Peter Pan), stepping into the role of Jojo, and bright new talent Kalyani Nagarajan (The Brokenwood Mysteries 3, Polo) as Sasha. Both women will play multiple characters alongside Andrew Ford (Le Sud, The Lady Killers) as George. Multi-talented pianist Ayrton Foote, supports the action on stage.

Kalyani Nagarajan (in red) and Vanessa Kumar.

Kalyani and Vanessa have come through the same course at Toi Whakaari New Zealand Drama School, following in the footsteps of Indian Ink co-founder Jacob Rajan, who himself was the first Indian to graduate from NZ Drama School in 1994.

Indian Ink was formed when these two were only young, and the plays have become part of NZ drama history  – being studied at Secondary and Tertiary levels – an now they are starring in the 20th anniversary tour to 10 centres throughout NZ over 5 months.

First performed in 2002, The Pickle King enchanted audiences and reviewers alike with this sublime and ridiculous, simple yet profound tale. The show received a record seven nominations in New Zealand’s theatre awards, and won the highly contested supreme award, ‘Production of the Year’.

In 2003, Indian Ink took The Pickle King to the Edinburgh Fringe, winning the ‘Fringe First Award’, and in 2007, it played another successful two-week season at DBS Arts Centre, Singapore. Published alongside Krishnan’s Dairy and The Candlestickmaker, this trilogy is now taught as part of the NZ Secondary Schools Drama curriculum and at Universities.

Three of the original production team, Justin Lewis, Director, John Verryt, Set and Costume Designer, and Jo Kilgour, Lighting Designer, will be collaborating alongside the Music Director, Ben Wilcock, to create a vibrant theatrical experience.

Education Entertainment

Indian performers to visit schools

From Mumbai to Morrinsville – top Indian performers will visit New Zealand schools for public Diwali festivals and will also take to the road and visit schools in Tauranga and Waikato.

Folk-dance group Mudra Creation, from Mumbai, and a puppet troupe led by master puppeteer Mahipat Kavi, from Gujarat, are being hosted in New Zealand by the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

The performers will visit Tauranga Intermediate on Tuesday 20 October, and Greenpark School and Papamoa Primary the following day. They will then travel to Waikato on Thursday 22 October to perform at Morrinsville Intermediate that day, and Hillcrest Normal School the following day.

Asia New Zealand Foundation director of culture Jennifer King says the school visits are a long-running component of the Foundation’s Diwali programme, but this is the first time international Diwali performers have travelled outside Auckland and Wellington.

“These school visits give hundreds of New Zealand children the chance to learn about the traditions of Diwali, and to see the performers close up and ask them questions. It’s a fantastic way to learn about India.

“Often it also gives children from Indian families the confidence to talk about their own culture in their classroom. We’re excited to be able to take these visits to Tauranga and Waikato, where, like many parts of New Zealand, a growing number of people identify as Indian.”

Ms King says the Asia New Zealand Foundation is very grateful for the support of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, which has enabled the artists to travel to New Zealand from India.

Puppeteer Mahipat Kavi, from the western state of Gujarat, has been entertaining crowds for the past 50 years and also founded a puppet academy. His Puppet and Plays theatre company has animated some of India’s favourite stories, produced puppet serials for television and films for educational purposes.

Mudra Creation specialises in the folk dances of Maharashtra state, in India’s mid-west. The 10 dancers visiting the schools will perform a range of dances, including the lively lavani dance, often seen in popular Bollywood movies.

The two groups will also perform at Auckland’s Diwali Festival on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 October, at Hamilton Diwali Mela on Saturday 24 October, and then at Wellington’s Diwali Festival of Lights on Monday 26 October.

Diwali is an ancient Hindu festival celebrating the triumph of light over darkness and the renewal of life. Families celebrate with gatherings, clay lamps, fireworks, sharing of sweets, and worship to Lakshmi – the goddess of love, wealth and prosperity. Diwali is now also celebrated by other faiths in India and in overseas Indian communities.

Entertainment News

India’s largest lit fest ends on a high

The ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, advertised as the world’s largest free literary festival, attracted 2,45,000 footfalls over the five days ending 25 January – the highest ever in the festival’s eight-year history. The over-crowded festival compromised the quality of experience for many visitors who had to either share crowded standing space, or be disappointed as gates were closed for certain popular sessions.

This was no surprise as the festival saw a doubling of international visitors from 50 countries, according to an official statement, and a 40% increase in students attending the festival held at Diggi Palace in Jaipur.

While more than 300 authors (up from 240 in 2014), and 140 musicians participated, only a few authors dominated audience’s attention, while many struggled to attract enough numbers to their sessions. The crowds struggled to secure space even as 209 sessions were spread across 10 venues, including two new locations Amer Fort and Hawa Mahal. The festival also took some authors to schools in Jaipur, with 50 sessions taking place over two weeks.

– Electric sessions with Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam and Sir. V.S. Naipaul rocked the festival on the fourth day

– 40% increase in students visiting the Festival, with average age of visitor being 21 years old
– Dates for next year announced as 21-25 January 2016
– Festival set to travel to London, UK and Boulder, USA later this year

The sessions that attracted the most cheer and crowd were by Nobel laureate Sir V.S.Naipaul, and by former President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. The two speakers drew the biggest audience at the Rajnigandha Front Lawns with 5,000 excited book-lovers per event. Another sweet-heart of the crowd was legenday Bollywood actor Waheeda Rehman who launched her book Conversations With Waheeda Rehman, written by Nasreen Munni Kabir.

Similar crowds were also attracted by Bollywood actor Sonam Kapoor who was in Jaipur to launch film critic Anupama Chopra’s new book: The Front Row: Conversations on Cinema.

Anupama Chopra and Sonam Kapoor

Other highlights over the five days included Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton, renowned travel writer Paul Theroux, Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi as well as leading novelists Sarah Waters, Kamila Shamsie, Amit Chaudhuri and Eimear McBride.

This year the Festival awarded three prizes, including the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, which was won by Jhumpa Lahiri, the Ojas Art Award which was presented to Bhajju Shyam and Venkat Raman Singh Shyam, as well as the Khushwant Singh Memorial Prize for Poetry which was awarded to poet Arundhathi Subramaniam for her work When God is a Traveller.

However, the highlight of the festival was its programme that brought together a plurality of speakers from across the political, social, religious, artistic, and national divide, to create a cultural forum for discussion.

The festival also championed freedom of creative expression with daily drawings from DNA newspaper’s Chief Cartoonist, Manjul – prompting discussion and debate over the rights and responsibility of writers and artists in the current climate.

The concluding debate of the festival was titled “Culture is the New Politics” featuring Suhel Seth, Rajiv Malhotra, Arshia Sattar and Shazia Ilmi. The audience were also polled on the debate during the event, with 55.7% agreeing that culture is the new politics.

Encouraged by this year’s success, the organizers have decided to add two further editions of JLF across the world: first at the Southbank Centre in London this May, and then a third JLF festival in Boulder, Colorado, US in the autumn. The international outposts of the JLF festivals will be produced by Teamwork Arts, in addition to the 21 other festivals they produce in 11 different countries each year.

“Another year over and the next one just begun,” says Namita Gokhale, author and co-Director of the festival. “My head is already teaming with ideas, themes, concepts for next year. 2016 will be our best yet!”

Not wishing to rest, William Dalrymple, author and co-Director of the festival, is looking forward to the next year. â€œWe already have Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan, Noam Chomsky, A L Kennedy and Thomas Piketty confirmed for next year.”

Sanjoy Roy, Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, Producer of the Festival, said, “We have seen a record footfall across the five days.”

Entertainment News Travel

Top Must-Have Android Apps for Indians

Indians around the world use many Android apps either to stay in touch with what’s happening in India, or to take care of personal matters like banking, messaging, phone calls and so on.

The Global Indian profiles some of these best Android apps for Indians living abroad.


Saavn: This is by far the most popular and most entertaining music app for both Android and iOS. The music is free and includes not just latest Bollywood music, but also provides access to a collection of Indian regional, and even English music. The most popular feature is the staff-curated playlists for various genres.
From the newest songs to hard-to-find classics, Saavn’s catalog provides songs in Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu, Punjabi, Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, Gujarati, Malayalam, and Bhojpuri.



MakeMyTrip: Planning to book tickets for domestic travel by air or train? Use MakeMy trip app to compare fares and timings of trains and flights. It even offers options to book hotels, but you would be better off contacting hotels directly for bookings.


iXigo Trains: While Indian Railways‘ official IRCTC website is notorious for slow speed and downtime, this iXigo web app works much better. While this is not the official IRCTC app, it helps you find train tickets, find PNR status, and get accurate train running information. There are no ads in the app.  It even lets you find budget hotels in most Indian cities, classify them by area, get the best hotel deals and call hotels for free and book online! The makers of this app have even gone a step further – the app can scans your SMS for PNRs and provide PNR status change updates and delay notifications.


AskLaila: If you are looking phone numbers and addresses of local businesses, you can download AskLaila app for Android phones.



Indian festivals and holidays: Planning a visit to India and not too sure when the holidays and festivals are? Use this app for  a list of all the major Indian festivals and holidays.

1. Instantly know which holidays fall on which dates.
2. Short 4 line description of each holiday.
3. Link to Wikipedia article for the selected holiday for further reading


Salah Timings: This Android app provides Islamic prayer timings (Salat), and shows you the direction to Mecca from anywhere in the world. For devout Muslims, it’s a handy tool for religious observance.



Now NRIs can send gifts to India with a click of a button, thanks to many mobile apps developed by leading online shopping sites like Flipkart, Amazon and eBay. With growing competition among these online shopping sites, the prices are highly competitive. Some of these apps also show bargains and special offers.

Flipkart: Flipkart is by far the most popular shopping website for India and offers a range of products from apparel to books, kitchen appliances and much more.

Amazon: Now shop on via Amazon global shopping application


eBay: eBay is not yet big in India but in case you like something on eBay, you can use this app which provides listings on too.


Snapdeal: Snapdeal is not as big as leading shopping portals, but offers good customer experience and a range of products. Use this official app to shop on Snapdeal.



Indians’ love for cricket is legendary. It is no wonder that some of the cricket apps for Android are very popular among Indians. However, football and other games are also gaining popularity with Indian audience. Here’s our round-up of popular sport apps for Android.

Sports schedules including FIFA World Cup: The month-long 2014 FIFA World Cup action begins on 12 June. Catch every match with this football app for the 2014 Football World Cup – get game results on-the-go!

This app provides mobile guide to match schedules, standings, and venues. As the competition unfolds, the round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final match-ups will be revealed.


CricketNext Live: This is a very popular Android app for live cricket score and other updates.


Cricbuzz: Crickbuzz offers scores of popular cricket matches.


ESPNCricInfo: With comprehensive access to popular cricket matches, ESPNCricInfo has put some of the best information about cricket into this official mobile app.



Stay in touch with the latest news about India and Indians with some of the best mobile apps developed my Indian news media.

NDTV: You can watch news videos and live news updates from NDTV on this Android mobile app.

IBNLive for Android: This mobile app for CNN-IBN offers live news from one of the popular news channels from India.


MSN India News: For some unbiased news about India, tune in to MSN India news which is owned by Yahoo!

Times of India: Official Android application of the popular Indian daily.

Banking and finance

Many NRIs have accounts in India and would find it easier to keep track of their banking transactions with an Android app. Many of these apps let you complete netbanking transactions like paying utility bills, paying a relative in India, renew fixed deposits and request account statements.

You can also download applications for monitoring your stock market investments.

iMobile: Transact with your ICICI Bank account with this mobile app for Android users.

State Bank Freedom: Whether you have your PF with State Bank or your fixed deposits, you can access your details with this official mobile app for State Bank of India customers.


Citibank: Many customers of Citibank have accounts in India. You can access your account with this application developed by Citibank.


Standard Chartered Bank: This app lets you complete Netbanking transactions in your StanChart account with the click of a button.


ICICI Stock Watch: Use this app to get updates on various equity stocks trading on leading Indain exchanges including BSE and NSE.


Moneycontrol Markets: This Adroid application provides updates on not just Indian but also global equities markets in real-time. A must-have app for serious stock investors.


Did we miss any app? Please suggest your favorite Android app in the comments below.

Entertainment Lifestyle News

Women-only swim sessions irk some in NZ

Free swimming pools auckland new zealand

New Zealand’s Hamilton City may have a tough job on hand as it proposes to re-introduce women-only swimming sessions at the council-owned swimming facility.

Aimed at attracting more women to swimming, the proposal is being labeled as “man ban” by one of New Zealand’s largest news outlet – Stuff.

Stuff reporter Aaron Leaman says, “A man ban at one of Hamilton’s public pools is in the works to lure more women into the water, but critics have slammed the idea as “separatist thinking”.

Under a proposal being worked on by city council staff, men could be excluded from the Gallagher Aquatic Centre during twice-weekly women-only swimming sessions.”

It is ironic that a mainstream publication is labeling women-only sessions as “men-ban” plan, without clearly understanding the need for such sessions.

Similar line is towed by David Farrar on KiwiBlog. “That’s fair enough – so long as male ratepayers no longer have to fund the pool.” David overlooks the fact that many sporting facilities are funded by women-ratepayers and are predominantly used by male sportspeople.

The Stuff story has evoked strong reaction.

Disappointing headline to this article, says local community leader Anjum Rahman.  “To me, this issue is similar to women’s only gyms. It’s about providing access to people who otherwise wouldn’t be going to a swimming facility. I wouldn’t mind if the men had a similar session, if it meant more of them could access a pool.”

Agrees former race relations commissioner Joris de Bres. “If you frame stories like this, it’s no wonder you get a negative reaction. What’s wrong with “swimming sessions for women”. How tiresome. The separatist tag applied by the spokesperson for the residents and ratepayers is just silly.

“It’s perfectly permissible under the Human Rights Act; it’s done in a number of other centres. No one’s right to go for a swim is denied by this. I hope the Council goes ahead with the proposal.”

The article shows lack of cultural understanding of the media outlet. Hamilton is a diverse community, and it includes people from cultures where women traditionally wear loose garments and cover their heads, as well as women who have left countries which are not as peaceful as New Zealand is, says New Zealand-born Deborah Russell.

“Many of these women might like to swim, and would benefit from learning to swim, but do not want to wear the form fitting and really rather revealing clothing that New Zealanders usually wear when swimming.”

This is a classic example of people not understanding the difference between equality and equity and how treating people the same can marginalise people, says health professional Ruth DeSouza.

“I see this kind of thinking in health so often, where if a group has their unique needs met, there’s a zero sum game thinking mentality where if one group has something that responds to their unique needs, the fear is I will miss out, even though my needs are being catered to all the time.”

Many cities around New Zealand have already offered women-only sessions, including New Zealand’s biggest cities – Auckland and Wellington.

In fact, swimming lessons for Muslim women conducted at Auckland’s Cameron pool won the New Zealand Recreation Association Award for excellence, innovation and effectiveness.

The swimming programme was established in 2004 by the Auckland Somali Community Association, to help Muslim women improve their health, combat isolation and make connections within the community.

The successful programme attracts as many as 150 Muslim women from all over Auckland arrive at Cameron Pool every Sunday night just after it closes to the public at 6pm. For the next two hours, and for a nominal charge of $2, they get exclusive use of its facilities, overseen by specially trained pool staff.

Cameron Pool even provides ladies-only gym area and offers free sessions for women.

gym for women Cameron Pool Auckland


Bollywood Entertainment

VIDEO: First look of ‘Singh Is Bling’ revealed


Akshay Kumar wears turban again for his next film ‘Singh is Bling’ produced jointly by the action actor and his partner Ashvini Yardi, under their production banner – Grazing Goat Pictures.

Schdeuled to be released on 31 July 2015, the film is being directed choreographer-turned producer and director Prabhudheva.

Akshay Kumar, Bollywood movies

This is the second time Akshay will assume the lead role in his own production – earlier he played a cameo role in OMG! Oh My God.

The actor-director pair will have high expectations to meet after the success of their first movie together: ‘Rowdy Rathore’.

‘Singh is Bling’ is also Prabhudheva’s first film which will not to be a remake of a South Indian movie.

The other details of the film remain under wraps and the film is currently looking for its lead actress. Insiders however have revealed the film is a romantic action comedy.

“This film is going to be an outright entertainer and Akshay’s character in the film will leave an everlasting impression on the viewers,” says co-producer Ashvini Yardi said.

“There couldn’t have been a better title for the film and we are extremely excited that Prabhudheva will be directing Grazing Goat Pictures’ next Hindi feature film.”

Bollywood Entertainment News

IIFA photos: John Travolta shakes leg with Hrithik


For those generations raised on Hollywood as well as Bollywood movies, this would probably be the most unforgettable moment – watching John Travolta share the dance floor with Hrithik Roshan.

When the two of the biggest dancing stars in the world took to the stage at the 15th IIFA Awards (India’s Oscars), fireworks were in the offing.

And pictures tell a story of thousand words. So when Hrithik tweeted his picture on the floor with Travolta, the tweet went viral.

Here’s our selection of some of the exciting pictures from IIFA 2014, which was hosted in the United States for the first time.


Bollywood Entertainment

Hollywood, Bollywood join hands for India’s Oscars

IIFA 2014 winners

Tampa Bay in Florida has become the first city in the United States to host IIFA – India’s Oscars.

India’s film industry, Bollywood, worked closely with Hollywood teams to put together the biggest event in India’s entertainment calendar.

In its 15th year, IIFA – the International Indian Film Academy Awards – are expected to attract 800 million viewers, when it will be telecast on Indian television channels around the world later this month.

The four-day long event, for which many Bollywood celebrities missed voting in India’s general elections on 24 April in Mumbai,  concluded with the most coveted awards on Saturday night – 26 April.

Hollywood’s big star John Travolta was honoured at the event, and is reportedly considering a role in a forthcoming Bollywood movie.

On Wednesday, the first day of the event, an outdoor concert and dance festival at Curtis Hixon Park attracted 7000 people.

Thursday night featured the IIFA Rocks fashion show, which was an invite-only event with green carpet. Unlike Oscars which uses red carpet, IIFA is known to use green carpet.

Veteran actor Shatrughan Sinha received lifetime achievement award from his daughter Sonakshi Sinha.

Aashiqui 2 won best lyrics award, while Bhaag Milkha Bhaag was given nine awards in technical categories.

The List of Winners of 2014 IIFA awards

  • Best Entertainer of the Year: Deepika Padukone
  • Best Debutant Award: Dhanush for Raanjhanaa
  • Best Picture: Bhaag Milka Bhaag
  • Best Performance in a leading role (male): Farhan Akhtar for Bhaag Milka Bhaag
  • Best performance in a leading role (female): Deepika Padukone for Chennai Express
  • Best Performance in a comic role: Arshad Warsi for Jolly LLB
  • Best Performance in a negative role: Rishi Kapoor for D Day
  • Best Story: Prashoon Joshi for Bhaag Milkha Bhaag
  • Best Lyrics writer: Mithoon for Tum Hi Ho from Aashiqui 2
  • Best playback singer male: Arijit Singh for ‘Tum Hi Ho’ from Aashiqui 2
  • Best female playback singer Award: Shreya Goshal bags it for ‘ Sun Raha Hai Na Tu’ from Aashiqui 2
  • Best Director: Rakeysh Om Mehra for Bhaag Milkha Bhaag


Entertainment Lifestyle

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Australia with Prince George

Duchess Catherine Middleton in Australia 2014

Duchess Catherine Middleton in Australia 2014


Following their successful visit to New Zealand, the British royalty – Duke William and Duchess of Cambridge Catherine Middleton visited Australia and attended the annual Anzac Day dawn service at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also met three of Australia’s surviving Victoria Cross recipients at a reception hosted by the Governor-General.

Twitter was abuzz with the photos of the royal visit to New Zealand. Here’s a selection of photos, courtesy ABC News Australia.



Entertainment News

Jackson reveals the name of the final Hobbit movie

The Hobbit, lord of the rings, Peter jackson

The concluding film of The Hobbit Trilogy is almost ready. (Photo source: Peter Jackson)

The cut of the final film in The Hobbit Trilogy is ready and with it, celebrated director and producer Peter Jackson has revealed the name of the concluding movie.

Peter has decided to change the name of the third Hobbit movie set to release in December 2014, after completing the filming.

Sharing this “inside information” on his Facebook page, Peter says, “Our journey to make The Hobbit Trilogy has been in some ways like Bilbo’s own, with hidden paths revealing their secrets to us as we’ve gone along.”

In other words, the earlier title “There and Back Again” seemed incorrect as the crew progressed through the shooting of the third movie.

Explains Peter: “There and Back Again” felt like the right name for the second of a two film telling of the quest to reclaim Erebor, when Bilbo’s arrival there, and departure, were both contained within the second film.

“But with three movies, it suddenly felt misplaced—after all, Bilbo has already arrived “there” in the “Desolation of Smaug”

The first two of the trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s bestseller, were called “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” (released December 2012) and “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” (released December 2013)”

The decision to change the name was taken as early as at the time of the premier of the second movie in December last year.

“When we did the premiere trip late last year, I had a quiet conversation with the studio about the idea of revisiting the title,” says Peter.

But he wasn’t sure what the name should be. “We decided to keep an open mind until a cut of the film was ready to look at.”

They reached that point last week, and after viewing the movie, they agreed on one title that “feels completely appropriate”.

The new name of the third movie is “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”.

However, There and Back Again hasn’t been completely trashed yet.

“As Professor Tolkien intended, There and Back Again encompasses Bilbo’s entire adventure, so don’t be surprised if you see it used on a future box-set of all three movies.”

While the final cut is ready, there’s work to be done on the post-production which is mostly studio-based work.

“It’s been a nice quiet time for us—Jabez and I happily editing away in a dark cave in Wellington—but those halcyon days are quickly coming to an end. It will soon be time to step into the light.”

Along with the third movie, Peter also intends to further milk the second movie by releasing The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Cut. The Extended Cut will have 25 minutes of new scenes, all scored with original music composed by Howard Shore.

Bollywood Entertainment News

Fear Factor Khatron Ke Khiladi: Gauhar, Kushal separated

kushal Tandon Gauhar Khan in Fear Factor

Gauhar Khan and her boyfriend Kushal Tandon were separated in the latest reality show Fear Factor Khatron Ke Khiladi.

During one of the tasks, Kushal suffered an injury to his shoulder and had to seek medical help.

Despite the injury, Kushal not only completed the task but also won the stunt. This task was for episode eight of Fear Factor Khatron Ke Khiladi.

However doctors advised him not to take further risk. As such, Kushal had to quit the show after eight episodes.

Gauhar Khan boyfriend Kushal tandon ajaz khan

Kushal had not lost a single task during those eight episodes, and was not even nominated throughout his journey in Fear Factor Khatron Ke Khiladi.

However, even after quitting the show, Kushal stayed back in Cape Town where the show was being shot, so that he could be with Gauhar.

During the shoot, Gauhar and Kushal were seen to be inseprable. Their chemistry had began in an earlier reality show Bigg Boss 7, where the couple met for the first time and fell in love instantaneously.

The speculation that the couple were romancing for camera and to earn votes in Bigg Boss 7 were proven wrong, as Kushal proposed to Gauhar on the show, and she accepted his love.

When Kushal was evicted from Bigg Boss 7 for violence, Gauhar too walked out of the show. Giving in to her popularity, the show hosts invited Gauhar back in the show in less than two days. Kushal joined her a few days later.

Gauhar Khan Kushal Tandon

Adding interesting dynamics to the real-life plot was the entry of Ajaz Khan, we created a love-triangle in the mix. Gauhar Khan, who went on to win Bigg Boss 7, did not mince words in expressing her disapproval of Ajaz Khan.

Their animosity continued even after Bigg Boss 7 as the three of them expressed their strong opinions in the media. The fire was equally visible during the shoot of Fear Factor Khatron Ke Khiladi in South Africa, where Kushal threatened to walk out of the show if Ajaz was a participant.

It was only after the show host Rohit Shetty reportedly intervened that the tempers calmed down.

Both Gauhar and Kushal were the key drawing card of big boss season 7 and it seems they will be the charm of Fear Factor Khatron Ke Khiladi.

The show, which goes on air on Colors from 22 March, has other well-known names from the Bollywood as well as television industry including Karanvir Bohra, Mugdha Godse, Ranveer Shorey and Nikitin Dheer.

(Photo credit: Gauhar Khan)

Bollywood Entertainment News

When an Indian girl goes for honeymoon alone

Kangana ranaut bollywood

A girl that usually went unnoticed in the crowd could not have bargained for what unfolds as she steps out for her honeymoon – alone.

That’s the story of Rani, the protagonist in the latest Bollywood movie Queen. The typical middle-class, conservative girl has her dreams shattered when her groom leaves her stranded at the altar.

queen kangana lisa

Played by Kangana Ranaut, Rani decides to go on her honeymoon alone… since she had been planning her honeymoon while growing up. The girl who had never left her town alone now goes to Paris and Amsterdam on her own. What follows is a fun, quirky journey of Rani who discovers herself, while exploring the unknown.

lisa haydon queen

The sheer innocence, vibrancy and abandon that Kangana reflects in her body language and expression are reflected full-throttle in the promos and trailers of Queen.

One of the highlights of Queen is Kangana Ranaut’s desi retro magic in the re-mixed Asha Bhonsle master-piece ‘Hungama’.

A drunk Kangana shows some ‘thumkas’ at a fancy pub in Amsterdam. Hungama, re-mixed with musical finesse by Amit Trivedi, serves amply to zest up proceedings in Queen.

Tipsy Kangana throws caution to the wind and grooves her way into the hearts of audiences with her hot jiggie-wiggies.

Director Vikas Bahl, attempts to re-establish her career after abysmal performance of his directorial debut movie.  “Chillar Party (his first film as a director) is forgotten. This is as good as a
debut,” says Vikas.

National-award winner Kangana Ranaut who has made glamorous roles in movies like fashion, seems to be an odd choice of this girl-next-door role. “Who said Rani is de-glam?” asks Vikas.

“It is a very pretty character. She is girl in a group of 10, whom we think gets unnoticed. Every girl has someone who finds her the most beautiful and eventually falls in love with her. This is the story of one such girl in a group of 10. And I think Kangana is pretty, she has her own sense of style. We might disagree with that. I don’t think there is anyone in this world
who feels they don’t have a style. So de-glam is not the right term for it,” reveals Bahl.

Explaining why he zeroed down his choice to Kangana, the director discloses, “We spent 15-20 days of discussing and then narrowed down on her. Kangana belongs to Himachal and she is familiar with those (pahadi) girls – their accent, dressing, body language etc. So it became easy for me. What Kangana has done is real and not caricature-like.”

While the movie centres around Kangana in the role of the protagonist Rani, there is another actress who acts as a catalyst in the transformation of the screen character. Lisa Haydon, model and actress who green-lighted her career with Aisha, enacts Vijaylakshmi in Queen.

“The character of Vijaylakshmi in Queen is that of a very free-spirited girl,” says Vikas. “I met Lisa and I found her to be such an interesting person, that I re-worked the character of Vijaylakshmi. I tweaked the character to suit Lisa.”

“I thought that Lisa was way more free-spirited than what I could conceive as a person. So I was willing to re-look at that character and do it in such a manner that Lisa would do an even better job
of it, than what I had conceived.”

The Kangana Ranaut-starrer is directed by Vikas Bahl, and produced by Viacom18 Motion Pictures, Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap. Queen, releases 7 March. Queen premiered at the Busan Film Festival in October 2013.