Film bomb plot uncovered

Two militants from Babbar Khalsa have been arrested and charged with the Jo Bole So Nihaal film bombings. Two others are still being sought:

… the Delhi Police today arrested two activists of the Babbar Khalsa militant outfit allegedly responsible for the crime and claimed to have recovered one kg RDX, Rs 2.94 lakh cash and two kgs of gold… [Outlook India]

The extremist group, previously thought to be nearly defunct, was accused of planning the Air India bombing in 1985 and assassinating Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh with a suicide bomber in 1995. The U.S. added Babbar Khalsa to its list of terrorist groups only last year:

Many leaders of the Babbar Khalsa, who are on India’s most-wanted list, are now based in Pakistan… [NDTV]

The militants had been in constant touch with Wadhwa Singh, the Pakistan-based chief of Babbar Khalsa International… [Outlook India]

The suspects seem to have learned from Al Qaeda tactics. They allegedly used plastic explosives to evade metal detectors and cavities in running shoes to smuggle the easily-molded explosives. Like the 9/11 hijackers, they allegedly plotted in a country away from the target, one perceived to have lax security. And there’s the ubiquitous Pakistan connection:

Balvinder and Jaspal had travelled to Bangkok on April 22 and met one Shahid to discuss about terrorist activities to be carried out. Though it was not yet clear which group Shahid was affiliated with, several militant groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir had been using Bangkok as a base lately. [Outlook India]

Police Commissioner K K Paul said they smuggled in the two detonators, two timers and wires in their underwear while the plastic explosives were carried in sports shoes. The explosives, possibly RDX, was in the form of four sheets wrapped in polythene which were kept in sports shoes which they had bought specifically for the operation…

On the day of the attack… the foursome came to the Liberty cinema hall in two cars, a Tata Sierra and a Hyundai Santro… The Sierra had special cavities to hide the explosives… Jaspal, Balvinder and Vikas entered Liberty while Jagannath waited outside. Jaspal prepared the bomb inside the toilet and gave it to Balvinder and Vikas who placed it under a seat in the front stall. Jaspal left the hall before the interval and the other two just afterwards. All four then went to Satyam where Jaspal and Jagannath went inside and placed the bomb in the toilet before exiting, Paul said. [Outlook India]

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Aren’t we uptight enough?

curry leaves.gif From the verdant paradise of my ancestors comes a story that has my head ringing with “You put your WEED in it!“– apparently, a needless slaughter of innocent, Idukki-dwelling Cannabis plants took place in Kerala…I ask you, where’s the outrage? ;) Oh, and what next?

The Kerala government will convert part of an 8,000-acre forest that used to be dense with cannabis plants into a tourist adventure and herbal park.
“Apart from the adventure park, we propose to convert the place into a herbal park as several species of herbal plants are growing in the area,” Forest Minister T. Radhakrishnan told reporters here Tuesday.

What’s an herbal park…without HERB? Sheesh.

If I had to guess, I would speculate that the park will be full of Karriveppilei, that sacred, venerated Malayalee houseplant that my mom would save from a burning building before any thought of me, my sister or my dog.

About 114,000 cannabis plants were destroyed.

Omg, they killed cannabis. Those bastards. ;) Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go veg to more Comedy Central, lest I run out of cute ways to blog things. :D Continue reading

Monkey see, Monkey do?

Monkey got props for his actions, too. (Thanks, bl00t!) A simian devotee of Shiva showed up bright and early in Orissa the other day:

Said Aniruddha Behera, a village resident: “The monkey folded his hands, observed silence, put vermilion on his forehead and also took the prasad from the devotees.”
“When we saw the monkey joining us we were surprised. We did not try to drive it out and it continued praying for nearly an hour amid hundreds of devotees,” Behera told IANS.

Villagers from Junia, Balasore district placed a garland on the spiritual simian before he left for a forest. Apparently the monkey was not familiar to those who witnessed the surprising scene, which went down on the day that a symbol for Shiva was being “formally inaugurat(ed)”.

“We have not seen any monkey around for the last two years. This is a miracle for us,” Behera said.

Over forty years ago, my mom’s family in Kerala had a parrot that famously prayed with everyone every day; in fact, if “evening prayers” didn’t commence exactly on time, the much-loved bird would chide my heathen mother and sonorously begin them for her. Yeah, I love stories like this. Continue reading

Rambo IV- Holy Wars

Just who is Rambo? From Wikipedia:

The first movie begins with the titular character – John Rambo, played by Sylvester Stallone – returning from the Vietnam War and searching for an old Army buddy. After discovering that his friend had died of cancer, and being escorted to the town limits by the local sheriff Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy) who “doesn’t like his type”, Rambo defiantly walks back into town. Sheriff Teasle arrests Rambo, and brings him to the station where he can be “cleaned up”. During a forced shower with firehose, where he is beaten, Rambo has a wartime flashback of his experience as a POW in Vietnam. Temporarily losing touch with reality, Rambo escapes from prison and hides in the local mountains.

So basically we have a guy with a lot of guns who has lost touch with reality and fled to the mountains (see here for example). Hmmm, where to send him next? Well why not have him shoot some Muslim terrorists, and film it partly in India? From Rediff.com (tip from Punjabi Boy):

The shooting for Rambo IV, also titled Holy Wars, is scheduled to begin in Sofia, Bulgaria, in January 2006.

Filming also scheduled in the US and — you better believe it — India!

…an early draft of Holy Wars, freely viewable online, revolves around a different race-situation, one which Stallone has been alluding to ever since 9/11 happened.

John Rambo, a committed family man, is an environmentalist working at the UN headquarters in New York. Suddenly, the UN HQ is besieged by Islamic terrorists. The sadistic fundamentalists are holding the world to ransom. There isn’t a better man to go after the bad guys than Rambo, but the tale sees a twist because he knows his Afghani-adopted son is part of the terrorist squad.

What the F%ck! The John Rambo I have grown to love could never be a “family man” and an environmentalist working at that sissy U.N. What is this crap? But it gets worse. Who will play Rambo’s adopted Afghani son if the filmmakers have their way? I’ll give you a hint. He has six fingers.

Rambo’s Afghani-American stepson (or his Afghani-adopted son, going by the draft we read) is slated to be played by — hold your breath — Hrithik Roshan!

The treatment note describes the character as similar to Altaf in Mission Kashmir, and calls him ‘in many ways, the Rambo for the twenty-first century.’

Talking about Hrithik, it mentions a resemblance between him and Stallone himself, and talks about how the young Indian stud currently has all the staying power needed to make the first truly big crossover Indian-American film.

Taking things into perspective, it’s important to remember than nothing has been signed yet — there have been no official announcements regarding the cast of the film, with the obvious exception of the inevitable leading man, Sly himself.

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A worldwide epidemic?

It always begins like this. The outbreak starts in one city or culture and slowly spreads. The youth are often the first to be infected. It builds slowly at first and then before you know it even you neighbors are infected. From MSN.com (tip from Amit):

westernbollywood.jpg

Johannesburg– They sing songs from “Sholay” and “Kal Ho Na Ho”, they dance, they emote, complete with the glitzy costumes so typical of Bollywood stage shows. But they are not Indian!

In fact, the team comprising a pair of Chinese American twins, one girl from Italy and two of French-German stock never fails to amaze audiences with its Bollywood-inspired performances.

And now twins Michael and Martin McNally; sisters Celeste and Joanna Richard, who are half German and half French; and Italian Victoria Satanassi are here.

They first met after becoming volunteers with the charity Action in Focus, which hosts medical camps and other social services to the needy in the East African country of Kenya.

“We wanted to help raise funds in whatever way we could, and we started with performances in pop. But then the Indian community in Kenya inspired us to look at Bollywood, which became a real hit.

I really have mixed emotions about this. Before, when I met a girl I was into, I used to take her to a nearby park and “test her out.” Could she run around the trees fast enough that it would be at least a minor effort for me to catch her? Could she sing a song in a voice strangely not her own? Now when I go to the park I feel like I am increasingly going to be surrounded by couples of other cultures doing the same thing. I am not sure if I can handle that type of change.

The group admits that during tours of Canada, Dubai, Britain, Kenya and even India the audiences always react with surprise at seeing an international group of white performers doing Bollywood items.

“The reaction in India was particularly amazing,” said Michael.

We met some people from the film industry there and were even offered a part in movies. But to be honest, we can make more money for the charity by performing as we do than in the time it would take for involvement in a Bollywood production.”

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Guru Dutt Comes to Washington

Perhaps it is because Time Magazine put one of his movies in its Top 100, or perhaps it is because his films are just plain good. Regardless, I am pleased to type that The Smithsonian Institution will be screening 5 of Guru Dutt’s works, each newly restored by the National Film Archive of India including Pyaasa, which was included in Time’s list. I liked Pyaasa, but I liked Kagaz Ke Phool and Chaudvi Ka Chand more. All three of these films will be screened, in addition to Mr. and Mrs. 55 and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. I haven’t seen either of the last two, but its Guru Dutt, so it should be good. If I was in DC, I would be most looking forward to Chaudvi Ka Chand. Think Moh’d Rafi and his amazing voice swoon, “Chaudvin Ka Chand Ho, Ya Aaftaab Ho…”. But I digress. The movies will be screened throughout June and the schedule is as follows: Mr. and Mrs. 55, Sunday, June 5, 2 pm. Meyer Auditorium Pyaasa, Friday, June 17, 7 pm. Meyer Auditorium Chaudhvin Ka Chand, Sunday, June 19, 2 pm. Meyer Auditorium Kaagaz Ke Phool, Friday, June 24, 7 pm. Meyer Auditorium Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, Sunday, June 26, 2 pm. Meyer Auditorium Continue reading

Debutante ball at Carnegie Hall

Imagine, if you will, being a desi kid with a passion for the claviers and chords of Western classical. You’d be sick of hearing, ‘Why can’t you be like Mr. Malhotra’s son, the doctor,’ for the last 20 years. Tired of uncles asking why you shave your head, where you disappear to all summer, why you’re never free on weekends. Isn’t it risky, a pauper’s life? Could you support a dutiful wife? I don’t know, beta, this whole thing is so phoren.

Imagine that in your 15-minute Warhol, you could perform in the most storied hall in America, painting away every doubt-hound dating back to high school. Your hands would throw auditory pottery, now throbbing delicately like gills, now stabbing angrily at imaginary boxers. Fifty pairs of eyes would look to your space needle for reassurance, tempo, tone. Just you, a riser and your musical crew: o captain my captain, carpe musicum, and they’d respond. A forest of swaying toothpicks, egg slicers and split-tongued shoots would churn buttery tones into a towering aural chasm.

On that day, you could be forgiven for feeling like Salieri even if you sounded like Mozart. So you’ll understand why I’m so proud to share with you my cousin Ankush Bahl’s Carnegie Hall debut. On Sunday, he conducted Brahms’ Tragic Overture for the best youth symphony in America. He did it without sheet music, a zipless conduct.

At 28, Ankush resembles bull-shouldered, shaven-headed entertainers from Yul Brynner to Ben Kingsley. The NYT reviews the performance:

… the Youth Symphony also promotes young professional musicians in the early stages of their careers. One example is Ankush Kumar Bahl, the group’s assistant conductor, who made his Carnegie debut leading an energetic reading of the Brahms overture with clear authority and enthusiasm…

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Showbiz round-up: Where to shoot without getting shot

Have camera, but where to travel?: Each year insurance broker Aon releases a map that highlights the risks of filming in every country on the planet (via Filmmaker Magazine). Filmmakers use it to avoid hotspots that could derail production, while reality television producers no doubt use it to locate trouble-ready destinations. This may explain why such programs are increasing their visits to India, which ranks rather poorly in the survey.

Kleenex shortage on the set: There’s a new desi independent film entitled “Anokha.” Based on the trailer, it appears to be about crying, and nothing but crying.

Letter arranging contest: The 78th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee is June 1-2. Catch all the dorky goodness live when ESPN broadcasts the event on Thursday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. EST. The cable network’s print ad is to the right.

Obligatory M.I.A. update: Here’s a torrent of her passing through the cone zone (Quicktime, 11 MB, 4 mins.). Requires a BitTorrent downloader — PC, Mac.

Revenge of the rack: Shilpa Shetty versus Mallika Sherawat. Discuss.

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Thwarted!

Drats. After years of dominating the Spelling Bee, Indian American kids attempted to conquer the globe by claiming the top spot at the National Geographic Bee. Victory was not to be but a hearty congratulations goes to fourteen-year-old Karan Takhar from Rhode Island who claimed second place and will rise to the throne if the first place winner gets his knee clubbed in a freak accident or something. From NationalGeographic.com:

The National Geographic Bee champion for 2005 is Nathan Cornelius of Minnesota.

The homeschooled 13-year-old from Cottonwood, in the southwestern part of the state, edged out Rhode Island’s Karan Takhar, a 14-year-old eighth grader at the Gordon School in East Providence, in a tense competition today at the National Geographic Society’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Samuel Brandt, 13, in eighth grade at Roosevelt Middle School in Eugene, Oregon, came in third.

All three boys are three-time winners of their respective state-level National Geographic Bee competitions.

The Hindustan Times reports on Karan:

The question that eventually foxed Karan but helped Nathan clinch the championship was: Name the dammed-up river that forms the artificial Lake Gatun in the Panama Canal system. The Answer: Chagres River.

Apart from Karan, two other Indian students, Bonny Jain and Tejas Raje, were among the 10 finalists in the competition, now in its 17th year.

Damn that Panama Canal system. IF ONLY we hadn’t given it back to the Panamanians when our lease ran out it would have been higher in our collective consciousnessÂ’ and Karan would have gotten that answer right. I hold that liberal President Carter responsible for this.

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9/29 — Dr. Venkataswamy Ramakrishnan Day

326649_020913144812.jpgNow we know all about the (over)active Desi communities in SF, NYC, LA, DC, H-Town, the Big D, Chi-Town, and a few others. But what about the brothers & sisters -in-arms in the Dakota’s? The Hindustan Times has a fun little article on this surprisingly active community -

Dakotas – comprising of two American States North and South Dakota – is at the bottom when it comes to Indian population. Of nearly 17 lakh Indians in the United States, as per 2000 census, North Dakota has 822 Indians, while South Dakota has even less 611. They are scattered all throughout the area, while the concentration is big cities like Rapid City, Fargo and Grand Forks.

Despite their small numbers, this humble seed stock is responsible for a

  • Hindu Temple
  • Cultural Association
  • Library
  • Cinema –
    Fargo, is probably the only place in both North and South Dakota where a cinema hall screens Hindi films at regular interval. People from various parts of North Dakota come to see the popular Hindi films.
  • Indian Students Association @ the S. Dakota School of Mines
    Besides providing supportive and homely atmosphere for Indian students, the Club also celebrates Indian festivals with fervour and gaiety.
  • and a Cricket Club

But the accomplishment I’m most proud of is this -

What could make any Indian proud is the performance of Venkataswamy Ramakrishnan in this Dakota land. Emeritus Professor of Civil Engineering at this mining school, State of South Dakota declared on Sunday, September 29, 2002, as Dr. Venkataswamy Ramakrishnan Day for his contributions to the state.

Toqueville would be proud. And I’ve marked my Calendar for next 9/29. Continue reading