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September 2005

Hollywood Beckons?Yet Again!

Gurinder Chadha's Bride & Prejudice may not have lived up to the hype in this country, but desi filmmakers continue to make a beeline for Hollywood. Jay Chandrasekhar's The Dukes of Hazard, despite poor reviews, has done well at the box office, where it grossed about $44 million in the first week alone. And M. Night Shyamalan has reportedly started work on a movie called The Lady in the Water. At the same time, there are increasingly ambitious attempts to interest mainstream audiences in India-themed films such as Ketan Mehta's Mangal Pandey ? The Rising and Asif Kapadia's The Warrior. Ashok Amritraj is becoming a Hollywood mogul, now that his production company will make a slew of films over the next five years for 20th Century Fox. The estimated budget is $1 billion and, according to him, one pending project is set in India. Other films continue to explore Indian diaspora themes, including one that is based in France (Vijay Singh's One Dollar Curry). Upcoming movies include Mira Nair's The Namesake, Paul Berges's The Mistress of Spices, Jagmohan Mundhra's Provoked, Varun Khanna's American Blend and Rajeev Virani's My Bollywood Bride.

Groundbreaking Animated-Cum-Live Action Film

While on the subject of cinema, it's worth mentioning that Bhaggmatti ? Queen of Fortunes is being touted as India's first animated-cum-live action film. At the Zee Institute of Creative Arts (ZICA) in Mumbai, 120 animators worked on 700,000 sketches for the 95-minute animated section of a film that's 2 hours and 40 minutes long. Of the three song-and-dance numbers in the film, which was conceived and directed by Ashok Kaul, three are fully animated. "Milind Soman essays the role of Qutab Quli Shah, while Tabu is the beautiful dancer Bhagmatti," notes Asian News International. "Legend has it that this fourth ruler of the Qutab Shahi dynasty built the city of Hyderabad at the behest of his ladylove and that the famous Charminar is the symbol of their intense love."

100 greatest Indian movies ever

Incidentally, cinephiles may be pleased to know that and DISH Network are jointly sponsoring a contest to select the ?100 greatest Indian movies ever'. Cash prizes amounting to $1000 will be awarded and the best reviews by participants will be published in a book. For more information, visit

Nilgiri Railway Declared A World Heritage Site

Going to a hill station on an aging yet still agile mountain train remains a thrilling experience for numerous travelers in India. In 1999, the picturesque Darjeeling Himalayan Railway had been declared a World Heritage Site by UESCO. And now, with the inclusion of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR), India has become the only country in the world to have two such transport sites on the list. Built more than a century ago, it's the world's oldest and steepest rack rail system that's fully operable. "This railway, scaling an elevation of 326 m to 2203 m and still in use today, represented the latest technology of the time," according to UNESCO. "It was highly significant in facilitating population movement and the social-economic development in the British colonial era." The journey on this scenic route takes about 4 hours and the train continues to be powered by a steam locomotive. A unique feature is the saw-toothed rack bar, which lies on the sleepers as a third rail for a good portion of the way. There are a total of 250 bridges, 208 curves and 16 tunnels, with longest one being about 317 feet.

An Indian Journey For History Buffs

Gem in the Lotus: The Seeding of Indian Civilization

By Abraham Eraly

Phoenix Books, 2005

Paperback, 496 pages

Chennai-based Abraham Eraly, who has taught in India and the U.S., has already completed two volumes in a planned tetralogy on Indian history. His first book, The Mughal Throne, deals with a period that ranged from the 16th century to the early 18th century. The second volume, Gem in the Lotus, now available in paperback, is concerned with an earlier era that began with the Indus Valley/Harappan Civilization and ended with the fall of the sprawling Mauryan Empire. "The central focus of the book is on the life and teachings of Buddha, whose compassionate wisdom would, over a millennium, transform the very psyche of Asia," notes the publisher. "The closing chapters of the book deal with the fall of the Mauryan Empire, the largest and most rigorously organized empire in Indian history, and portray the life of its great philosopher-king, Asoka, whose emblem, the Buddhist wheel of virtue, today adorns the national flag of India."

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