Sohini Mitter
Sohini Mitter
I observe. I listen. I read. I write.

57th National Films Awards

Waking up to the news of someone’s death is one of the most unpleasant things of life. And when that someone is Rituparno Ghosh, whose untimely demise has left Bengal’s intelligentsia in a state of shock and speechlessness, it is all the more painful and disturbing. Scores of tributes have already poured in for the departed filmmaker and many more will follow. He meant much to the consciousness of Bengal’s post-liberalisation youth and moulded their perspectives with his writings, philosophies, ideals, and an unparalleled body of celluloid work.

Ghosh’s illustrious career spanned two decades and was lined by constant comparisons with Bengali and Indian cinema’s other luminary Satyajit Ray. Ray passed away in 1992. Ghosh made his first film Hirer Angti [a children’s feature] in the same year. It went mostly unnoticed due to logistical issues. In 1994, came the outstanding Unishe April [a loose adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata] which fetched him the first of his multiple National Awards.

Such compelling sensitivity, deft handling of human relationships, impeccable attention to detail and starkly real dialogues were distinctly Ray-esque. It was as if the baton of good filmmaking was passed on seamlessly from one genius to the other. Bengal had another ‘Renaissance Man’ in the making and he surely didn’t disappoint.

He made 18 films, seventeen of which were in Bengali and one (the sombre and soulful Raincoat) in Hindi. His last film Chitrangada won a special jury mention in this year’s National Awards. Some say the film was autobiographical and Ghosh (who played the lead) beautifully depicted the struggles of the LGBT community. His unfinished work, Satyanweshi, is a detective film adapted from a Byomkesh Bakshi story. One of his final tweets confirmed that he’d wrapped up its shooting a few days ago.

One of the most distinguished aspects of Ghosh’s filmmaking was his characterization and portrayal of women. His films almost always had strong female protagonists fighting for their rights, for acceptance and equality in an unforgiving, patriarchal world.

From the misunderstood danseuse and her reticent daughter in Unishe April to the molested victim and the teacher-activist in Dahan; from the lonesome landlady in Bariwali to the star-struck teenager in Titli; from the Miss Marple-like old aunt in Shubho Mahurat to the alluring widow in Chokher Bali; from the troubled muse of a prodigal poet in Shob Choritro Kalponik to the raw-turned-nuanced actress of Abohomaan—Ghosh’s cinema is a celebration of women and femininity and a voice to their concerns.

Another significant feature of Ghosh’s work is his interpretation of Rabindranath Tagore. Cultural commentators and critics acknowledge that no one understood Tagore as well as he did. The youth of Bengal, perhaps distanced from the greatest poet of their land, has discovered Tagore in various forms through Ghosh’s cinema—his eloquent adaptation of Tagorean tales, his brilliant use of Tagore songs and his delicate interpretation of Tagore’s sensibilities.

And last but not the least Ghosh brought the discerning Bengali cine-goer back to the theatres. Throughout the nineties, when audiences shunned inferior films by Tollywood’s listless directors, there was one filmmaker whose releases were keenly awaited. They were gala events for true connoisseurs of cinema. Ghosh promised gold and delivered each time. With him, Bengali cinema went international again.

There was Satyajit Ray. There was Rituparno Ghosh. And then there are none!

Venky Mysore [CEO & MD of Kolkata Knight Riders], widely regarded as the force behind KKR’s stunning turnaround in IPL, has been appointed the chief of Red Chillies Entertainment—KKR co-owner Shah Rukh Khan’s growing business empire. Venky (actually Venkatesh) replaces Bobby Chawla, Juhi Chawla’s (KKR co-owner) brother, who has been in a state of coma since April 2010 after suffering a massive stroke.

Venky takes responsibility with immediate effect. “I’m already in office,” he tells me on the phone. “But some technicalities are yet to be worked out,” he adds. He has led KKR since October 2010 and besides building a new team, has entirely corporatised the franchise, added new revenue streams and made it profitable since March 2012. (KKR is the first IPL franchise to make profits.)

In a press statement, Red Chillies said, “Venky Mysore has been appointed as the Chief Executive Officer. He will take full responsibility for all the operations of the production house. In addition he will continue in his role as CEO and MD of the Kolkata Knight Riders.”

Film production and VFX are the two most important businesses of Red Chillies, together constituting almost 70% of its revenues. The others are KKR (which is 55% owned by Red Chillies) and Idiot Box (a TV production unit which will soon shut down). Red Chillies has started making profits on gross revenues of about Rs 150 crore at the end of FY 2011-12, but for it to achieve the Hollywood-sized scale that Shah Rukh dreams of, it needs to have the right people in the right places.

Now, what makes Venky ‘the’ man for the job?

First, he brings in a two-decade experience from financial services (he served as the country heads for MetLife India and Sun Life Financial) and a robust, evidence-based approach to SRK’s sports and entertainment businesses. His unique team selection strategies bore fruit with KKR winning the fifth edition of the IPL after failing to make it to even the play-offs in the first three years (before he came in).

Second, his owner has full faith in him and his vision. In a conversation with Forbes India in late January, where SRK spoke about his businesses, he said, “Venky has not called me for the last two years. Since the time he’s come, I’ve done the least amount of work for KKR. He says, you don’t have to be running around in KKR T-shirts and selling the company. He’s made it easy for me.”

Red Chillies is in a state of transition from being a superstar-driven entity to a purely corporate organisation run by thorough professionals. “I want to be organised,” said SRK. And the first steps are being implemented. He understands that he needs suits in the business because the “creative types can’t do it”. People are being shuffled and roles re-designated. That includes moving himself out of the decision-making at Red Chillies and passing practically all of it to his CEOs.

And now, Shah Rukh envisions a wider role for Venky who has already scripted a success story with KKR.

Venky, himself, is quite happy being SRK’s general. “They [KKR] take good care of me,” he told me one evening, as we met at his plush sea-facing residence in south Mumbai. He spoke of how Michael Lewis’ iconic book Moneyball (based on American baseball team Oakland Athletics) influenced his strategies and decision-making in KKR. It seemed radical at that point, but he was working towards a plan and earned the whole-hearted support of owner Shah Rukh.

As he readies himself for a much wider role at one the most exciting entertainment houses in India, we are waiting for the results!

Year-end lists often tend to get repetitive. But we just HAD to do this one. For a country obsessed with Bollywood, ek aur hi sahi. Here are a few disclaimers.

First, this list is not reflective of a film’s commercial success. So, you may find many 100-crore films missing here. Second, most lists reek of some bias or the other. In this case, it is the bias towards good cinema, which is often found in the unconventional, unsung and unexpected. And third, this list is in order of a film’s date of release because it was nearly impossible to rank favourites.

So here goes my list of the best Hindi films of 2012:

Paan Singh Tomar: It is said that the film’s release was held back for two years as there were no buyers. When UTV eventually released it in February, the audience was floored by this biopic of a National level athlete-turned-Chambal Valley dacoit. The flawless Irrfan Khan (most definitely the king of all Khans with this performance) made the film immortal with his dignified portrayal of the man; the pathos in his eyes and the sorrowful tremble of his voice (when he tells a local reporter that despite being a seven-time National Games winner, nobody cared for him and only a few instances of kidnapping and murder had the entire nation baying for his blood) underscores a sad reality about the ill-treatment of sporting heroes in India. It was almost as if Irrfan was born to play Paan Singh, getting under the skin of the character and making it incredibly real and touching. Tigmanshu Dhulia’s brilliant direction and the authenticity of terrain, language and characters ensured that PST went down as one of the finest films of the year. (Farhan Akhtar has a lot of catching up to do with Bhaag Milkha Bhaag next year.)

Kahaani: The journey of a pregnant woman in search of her missing husband in a city defined by chaotic vibrancy during the festival of Durga Puja, turned out to be a taut thriller and one of the most gripping films of the year. A tight script with unforgettable characters, most notably Bob ‘Nomoshkar’ Biswas, brilliant cinematography (mostly hand-held camera to depict the tension of the plot and best bring out the cramped bylanes of a city) that personified Kolkata and nearly elevated it to the rank of a protagonist. First-rate performances from all actors, especially Vidya Balan, Parambrata Chatterjee and Nawazuddin Siddique, and Amitabh Bachchan’s haunting rendition of Tagore’s Ekla Chalo made Kahaani an engaging watch. But for the contriving climax, it would have been a perfect film.

Vicky Donor: A film that inevitably brings a smile on everyone’s face. Vicky Donor was without exotic locations, big stars, over-the-top item numbers or melodrama. The sharp and witty depiction of a story revolving around sperm donation took audiences by surprise with its sheer effortlessness and sensitivity; it was not for once preachy or stereotypical. Dialogues and scenes layered with humour, outstanding performances in character roles by Annu Kapoor and Dolly Ahluwalia, fine chemistry between the lead actors, a memorable Bengali-Punjabi clash of cultures, and a superb debut by Ayushmann Khurrana made this film highly watchable. Not once, but twice. Or even more. And that delicious love ballad Pani Da Rang still lingers on…

Shanghai: Adapted from Vassilis Vassilikos’ novel Z, Shanghai rode high on audience expectations that stemmed from Dibakar Banerjee’s track record and the cult status his earlier films have achieved; and he didn’t disappoint. The film held a mirror to the nation. A small town in India struggling to become big and glossy (like Shanghai) but has many hindrances in the form of political clashes, bureaucratic hurdles, growing corruption, adultery, petty crimes and much more. A fine ensemble cast, the director’s eye for the minutest detail, a pacy narrative, and Emraan Hashmi’s surprising-yet-brilliant departure from his usual roles made Shanghai a thorough entertainer. Everything but Kalki’s nagging voice was good!

Gangs of Wasseypur: Once in a while, there comes a film that makes you gape and gawk at its brilliance; your admiration lies in your silence, in your inability to find suitable words to describe it. GOW was one such saga of blood, gore, revenge and pure cinematic genius that will go down the annals of Indian filmdom as a masterpiece and a whacky one at that. Anurag Kashyap’s two-part tale of Dhanbad’s coal mafia stunned audiences with its detailing, authenticity in set-up, the flavour of language (including most definitely the profanities), the rustic musical score, extraordinary performances from Manoj Bajpai, Nawazuddin Siddique and Tigmanshu Dhulia, and the coming alive of Wasseypur on the large screen. The film is lengthy and almost like a discourse in rural revenge and the coal tales of Bihar.

Barfi!: This was perhaps the most lyrical and delicate films of the year, and also the most endearing one. But a long list of unattributed “inspirations” from world cinema brought down its value a tad bit. Nonetheless, Barfi! remains beautiful and magical, speaking in every frame despite the silence of its protagonist, and excelling in all departments from acting and direction to music and cinematography. Ranbir Kapoor, who seems to be setting new benchmarks with every performance, plays a deaf-and-mute boy without making it caricaturish. One moment, he inspires you to lead a happy and carefree life despite all limitations, disabilities, heartbreaks and humiliations; the very next moment, he makes your heart ache as he narrates (with signs and facial expressions) his tale of a tattered coat, a broken bicycle, unrequited love and utter helplessness. Darjeeling’s picturesque hills and Pritam’s mellifluous music serve as perfect accompaniments. And Phir Le Aaya Dil is arguably the best song of the year!

Oh My God: In a country obsessing over religion, OMG takes a long, hard and satirical look at God. The ever-consistent Paresh Rawal, in the role of protagonist Kanji who runs a shop selling idols, sues God because he can’t claim insurance for the damages caused to his shop by an earthquake. The supernatural calamity was a ‘godly’ deed and hence above human cure. The interesting premise of the film and the good performance of Rawal are undone by Akshay Kumar’s (who plays God) hideous outfits, and the unnecessary intrusion of item numbers and typical Bollywood theatrics. If you ignore these, OMG is a fresh (though adapted from a hugely successful Gujarati play) and pretty interesting take on God.

English Vinglish: Why is English so unavoidable? Why is it so overbearing that we judge people on their mastery (or lack of it) over the language? Why do we nourish a colonial hangover? Are you a lesser mortal if your English isn’t fluent? Do you deserve disrespect and condemnation at every step if you’re not English enough in your ways? These are some thoughts that this film left us with. English Vinglish is hard to bracket under a genre. At best, it’s the purest family film to come out of Bollywood in a long time. By family, I don’t mean one that is devoid of sex or swear words; but one which has that little bit of learning for each family member and one that teaches you to value the homemaker no matter how flawed (in your eyes) she is. Sridevi’s Shashi was many an Indian mother and her uncompromising family was many a selfish us. It was time to introspect and English Vinglish sparked off that process rather impressively. Special mention for French actor Mehdi Nebbou’s charming portrayal of Laurent – that one male friend every woman wishes to have in her life!

Chittagong: Chittagong ran the risk of becoming another inconsequential film like Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se (which chronicled the same episode of Indian history) but turned out to be a delight. Debutant director Bedabrata Pain’s account of one of the earliest chapters of the freedom struggle – the Chittagong uprising of the 1930s which was led by a school master Surya Sen – was exquisitely shot, well-narrated and superbly acted. It was a fine example of storytelling through the eyes of a ‘teeming-with-infectious-energy’ teenager who deserts his plans of foreign education and joins the revolutionary movement. The film beautifully brings out the vulnerability of the characters and the restlessness of the times; Manoj Bajpai and Nawazzudin Siddique pick up from where they left in GOW and deliver yet another memorable performance.

Talaash: It is safe to suggest that the first half of Talaash is so good that even a strong, satisfying climax (which the film didn’t have) may not have been able to redeem the second half which seems a drag in comparison. But Talaash is so fascinating pre-interval that it features in my list by virtue of that (and the rather absurd climax is forgiven). Not to forget fantastic performances from all three lead actors – Aamir Khan (that consistent frown and piercing gaze), Rani Mukherji (in a deglamourised role, and brilliantly enacted, after the dreadful Aiyyaa) and Kareena Kapoor (probably in her best performance since Jab We Met), the noirish frames of night-time Mumbai, Ram Sampath’s stunning background score and some awesome cinematography. There’s a strain of melancholy and fine cinematic language running through Talaash which makes it absolutely delectable!

Which were your top films of the year? Let us know!

Salman Khan’s Dabangg 2 which released on Friday is set to breach the Rs 100-crore mark, reckon film trade experts. (It netted Rs 21.1 crore on the opening day, in line with some of the highest grossing films of last two years.) At the end of Saturday, net collections stood at Rs 40.17 crore. Its “Sunday biz (sic) witnessed a massive jump,” tweeted film trade analyst Taran Adarsh. With Tuesday being Christmas, collections are expected to pick up significantly and by the end of the first week, the film could well become the latest entrant in the exclusive “100-crore club”.

Now, what really is this 100-crore film that seems to have become the new benchmark in Bollywood, and that which gets producers and distributors to leave no stone unturned in their attempt to break the barrier? Why has the 100-crore film become an essential element in an actor’s CV in order to establish him as a “bankable” star? Is the 100-crore film a myth and a product of impeccable PR machinery? Or is it a result of a transformation in the economics of the film trade?

Ghajini: First film to gross 100 crore

Ghajini: First film to gross 100 crore

And how, just how, did the elusive 100-crore mark become commonplace over the last few years? Though only a handful of Bollywood movies belong to this excusive and highly aspirational club, the buzz preceding the release of every other big-budget film has its mention. The term has become rather ubiquitous and everyone from the commoner lining the street leading to Film City to the spotboy on the set is talking about it. Let’s trace the journey of the 100-crore Bollywood film and figure out what happened and how.

Aamir Khan was the founder-member of the club in 2008, when his Ghajini became the first Bollywood film to gross 100 crore at the box office, taking only 18 days (less than three weeks) to do so. He followed it up in 2009 with 3 Idiots which took half the time (nine days) to reach the magical figure. Incidentally, 3 Idiots remains the highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time with worldwide collections of Rs 339 crore (domestic + overseas).

Bollywood's 100 Crore Club

If 2008 and 2009 had one 100-crore film each, 2010 saw that number double, with Salman Khan (Dabangg) and Ajay Devgn (Golmaal 3) entering the club. While the latter took 17 days to breach the mark, the former did it in 10 days.

In 2011, that figure rose to five films (Ready, Singham, Bodyguard, Ra.One and Don 2) with Bodyguard garnering 100 crore in a record-time of 7 days. Suddenly, every top Bollywood actor (including the Khans most definitely) was in a race to make it to the exclusive club. Salman Khan had breached the mark thrice in succession, while Shah Rukh was the last of the ruling Khans to get an entry into the coveted club.

In 2012, so far, eight films (Agneepath, Housefull 2, Rowdy Rathore, Bol Bachchan, Ek Tha Tiger, Barfi!, Son of Sardaar and Jab Tak Hai Jaan) have grossed 100 crore. Salman Khan, who’s become his own competition when it comes to box-office collections, bettered his previous record set by Bodyguard as his Ek Tha Tiger broke into the 100-crore club in five days flat. (The film is the highest grosser of the year with worldwide collections of Rs 246 crore.)

With about a week to go for year-end, Dabangg 2 could be 2012’s ninth film in the 100-crore club, and Salman’s fifth straight – a “historic record” as trade analyst Taran Adarsh puts it. Meanwhile, Aamir’s Talaash, which is still running in the theatres, has netted Rs 93.4 crore so far (by the end of the third week).

Ek Tha Tiger: Fastest to reach 100 crore

Ek Tha Tiger: Fastest to reach 100 crore

From one to two to five to eight [films], and from the Khans and Ajay Devgn to Hrithik Roshan to Akshay Kumar to Ranbir Kapoor – Bollywood’s 100-crore club has only grown manifold. While the number of films making it to the figure has increased, the time taken to achieve the feat has gradually come down. At this rate, 2013 should have many more films and many more actors inhabiting this club which is fast losing its exclusivity.

Here are some factors at work:

Inflated Ticket Prices: The average ticket size at a multiplex today is Rs 140-150, compared to Rs 60-65 in single-screen theatres, according to, a film trade portal. Prices at premium chains like Inox and PVR can be as high as Rs 300-350 on weekends (Friday-Sunday), which fetch almost 80% of theatrical revenues earned by a film. (The rest of the business happens during the “lean” Monday-Thursday period.) On festive weekends, multiplex operators undertake a 10-15% hike in ticket prices. For 3D films, the rate is even higher. In big cities, single screen theatres, too, have increased ticket prices. For instance, the average ticket price across single screens in south Bombay is Rs 90-100.

Growth of Multiplexes: Multiplexes have grown phenomenally in the last five years and completely changed the dynamics of the film business. There are close to 1,400 multiplex screens [India has a total of 12,900 screens] which constitute nearly 70-75% of a film’s box-office revenues. By 2015, the number of multiplex screens is estimated to rise to 1,925, according to the FICCI-KPMG Report on the Indian Media and Entertainment industry. Despite high ticket prices, multiplexes have become a preferred choice for cine-goers; the variety of films on offer, a better viewing experience, food and beverage counters and gaming zones etc ensure that audiences keep coming back.

Digital Prints and Wider Releases: Both are correlated. With the adoption of digital technology, more and more screens in India are becoming digitised from analog. This is allowing producers to have a much wider release of their films with a massive number of prints. (Digital prints save costs and can be attained fast.) For instance, in 1995, Hum Aapke Hai Kaun released with 500 prints which was a landmark then; in 2009, 3 Idiots released with 1,000 prints which was considered a huge number; in 2011, Eros released Ra.One in 3,100 plus screens and in 2012, Yashraj released Ek Tha Tiger with 3,400 prints in India and 500-600 prints overseas. This number will only grow and with releases getting wider by the day, sky-high theatrical revenues are becoming a routine of sorts.

Extended Weekends/Festivals: Most 100-crore films have utilised long weekends and festivals to the fullest, during which audiences drop in huge numbers and a film’s repeat value is high. Producers have often sacrificed a Friday (which was once sacrosanct as a release day) and tweaked their schedules to make the most of festivals by clubbing them with the traditional three-day weekend. For instance, Bodyguard released on a Wednesday and a five-day weekend surrounding Eid followed; Ek Tha Tiger released on a Tuesday and a six-day weekend with Independence Day and Eid followed; Golmaal 3, Ra.One, Son of Sardaar and Jab Tak Hai Jaan released on Diwali which fell in the middle of the week and a lengthy festive weekend followed; Ghajini, 3 Idiots and Don 2 released on the Christmas week, gaining heavily from the festive spirit and New Years’ holiday.

All these elements simultaneously create a 100-crore blockbuster. Gone are the days of silver jubilees and golden jubilees which measured the success or failure of a film. Today, the fate of a film is sealed on the opening day itself or at best, on the first week. The biggest of films have a run of only three to four weeks at the theatres as more and more new releases knock at the door and eventually push the incumbent out.

3 Idiots: Highest grossing Bollywood film

3 Idiots: Highest grosser at the box office

Some myths surrounding the 100-crore film need to be busted. The film trade, today, is mostly concerned about the gross collections at the box-office and not the real amount pocketed by the producer. After deducting entertainment tax (35%), the gross collection reduces; the exhibitor’s share of 49-52% (depending on the week) from the new amount further brings down the producer’s share. It is rare when a producer manages to pocket a profit on his film.

For example, Ra.One which netted Rs 107 crore in India failed to recover its cost of production (Rs 150 crore) from theatricals alone. But overseas collections and other ancillary revenue streams (satellite rights, home video and digital) helped it break-even. 3 Idiots, on the other hand, earned nearly four times (Rs 202 crore) its production cost (Rs 55 crore) at the domestic box office itself.

In an increasingly competitive film business, it is left to be seen how many films truly qualify as “100-crore” successes in the years to come.


Last night I ran an impromptu poll on Twitter asking people:

This question sprang from my own thoughts on what I’d miss reading most if the Mayans were indeed right about the world ending on December 21, 2012 (that is today). Now that we’ve averted doomsday and the world is alive and kicking, we have time to look into the interesting responses (and some justifications as well) I received to my question.


After having received 40-odd responses in an hour, I spotted some trends. First, epics, religious books and ancient texts ruled the roost. Second, books falling in the metaphysical genre turned out to be popular on the eve of a potential doomsday. And last but not the least, barring one or two mentions, there was complete apathy towards classics and romantic novels of yore (something I enjoy reading a lot).

Meanwhile, if the world was ending, I’d be torn between re-reading two books: Motorcycle Diaries by Che Guevara and My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk. Rabindranath Tagore’s Gora missed out narrowly.

What would you be reading if doomsday was nigh? Drop in a comment!

Forbes India Philanthropy Awards 2012 winners

Winners at the inaugural Forbes India Philanthropy Awards

A small but highly distinguished gathering attended the inaugural Forbes India Philanthropy Awards (FIPA) on Wednesday at Bangalore’s Leela Palace. The event was recognition of work done by leading businessmen, industrialists and entrepreneurs for social good. These awards will now be an annual feature.  

In his opening address, Forbes India editor Indrajit Gupta said the awards have been constituted to “recognise business leaders who have stepped up to the challenge of serving our people, especially those underprivileged who need the support.” We seek to identify “business as a force for good”, capitalism that is “conscious” and financial success that does not come at the cost of society, but that which seeks to grow by helping a community improve, he said.

The chill in the Bangalore air was soon replaced by warm stories of social good and community development, shared by some of the most illustrious business leaders of India’s IT city. Hosted by Forbes India Contributing Editor Mitu Jayashankar and Editor Special Features Peter Griffin, the first edition of FIPA rewarded ten eminent people, who have been change-makers, innovators and executors in the field of philanthropy.

Outstanding Philanthropist: Azim Premji

Outstanding Philanthropist: Azim Premji

Wipro chairman Azim Premji was awarded the Outstanding Philanthropist of the Year for setting up the Azim Premji Foundation, that seeks to contribute to quality universal education. Fifteen years ago, Premji was disturbed to see school teachers being used for election duty and wondered if “that’s the respect our Government gave to teachers”. The event inspired him to set up the foundation which has been active over the last decade. “We have also started a not-for-profit university and have to scale that up massively at the grassroots level,” Premji, who believes that his wealth belongs to society, said while accepting the award.

The Murugappa family, which set up the AMM Foundation (an autonomous charitable trust) through the $4.4 billion Murugappa Group, was awarded the Distinguished Family of the Year.  MV Subbiah, former chairman of the group, collected the award on behalf of his family and said, “Modern India doesn’t know that the Vysya community has always kept a part of their profits for the society.” He quoted the Thirukural, “Wealth and knowledge, if not shared, is useless.”

Corporate Catalyst: N Vaghul

Corporate Catalyst: N Vaghul

Former ICICI Chairman Narayanan Vaghul who is regarded as a pioneer in Indian banking was awarded the Corporate Catalyst. He helped start the ICICI Foundation and played a catalytic role in setting up Pratham which provides education to the children of slum-dwellers. He’s also on the board of the Azim Premji Foundation and GiveIndia. In 2010, he helped start the First Givers Club. Vaghul said, “Commitment is the most important thing for me,” adding that today’s youth is much more passionate about social issues “than our generation was”.

The Outstanding Corporate Foundation award went to the Tata Trusts, the largest philanthropy initiative in India with annual disbursements of over Rs 500 crore. They have the largest network of partners, or NGOs, to disburse funds. AN Singh, managing trustee at Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, accepted the award on behalf of the corporation. He said for philanthropy to grow “sustainability, focus and measurement tools” are needed.

The Good Company Award went to Jain Irrigation Systems for developing micro-irrigation systems that reduced water usage. Its methods have raised annual incomes of small farmers by up to Rs 46,000. The company’s founder-chairman Bhavarlal Jain, who accepted the award, said, “In agriculture, we propose and He disposes.” Despite naysayers, he stuck to the difficult sector and “worked for a cause that affected the lives of millions of farmers. That feeling was warm and fuzzy.”

NextGen Leader: Ashish Dhawan

NextGen Leader: Ashish Dhawan

Ashish Dhawan was recognised as the NextGen Leader in Philanthropy for setting up the Central Square Foundation, a venture philanthropy fund for improving educational outcomes for kids of low-income families. Dhawan deserted a promising career as a venture capitalist because he was “passionate about teaching”. He brings in “good people, objectives and business models” from his world of private equity to the field of philanthropy.

Former chairman of the ICICI Foundation Nachiket Mor, who had earlier worked with ICICI Bank, won The Crossover Leader award for providing a working alternative to the traditional micro-finance model. He serves as the non-executive chairman of the Board of Directors at SughaVazhvu, which provides rural healthcare services and is based in Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu. “The scale of problems is much bigger than I’d imagined,” Mor said. He believes that social change is a collective responsibility and “we should act as innovators and find a way to engage with the government”.

The Cause Marketing award went to Tata Tea (now a part of Tata Global Beverages) for their Jaago Re campaign, which was an effort to ‘wake up’ an apathetic nation to the issues that concern it. From the importance of voting to being awake to corruption, the campaign successfully used mass media to multiply the reach of its message. Sanjiv Sarin, regional president (South Asia) of Tata Tea accepted the award on behalf of the company. He said, “People actually want to engage but they get overwhelmed by so many systems around. The closer you get to their heart, the more they engage with you.”

Distinguished Non-Resident Philanthropist: Lord Raj Loomba; accepting the award from Biocon's Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

Distinguished Non-Resident Philanthropist: Lord Raj Loomba; accepting the award from Biocon's Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

Lord Raj Loomba was awarded the Distinguished Non-Resident Philanthropist for setting up the Loomba Foundation in the UK, along with his wife Veena. Since 1997, the foundation has been educating the kids of poor widows in India. Courtesy his efforts, the UN declared June 23 as International Widows’ Day, which also happens to be the day his mother became a widow in 1954. Loomba admitted that his widowed mother was the inspiration behind his philanthropic work and said, “If the cause is good, people will follow.”

The final award of the evening went to MindTree Consulting’s Abraham Moses who was recognised as the Good Samaritan. Moses leads a group which travels every month to engage with kids suffering from cerebral palsy, and to orphanages as well as homes for destitute. He’s also led an initiative by MindTree to adopt a school near Bangalore. “My organisation’s complete faith and support inspired me,” said Moses who serves as the company’s director, administration & facilities.

P.S – Here are some snapshots of the event. If you missed watching the live webcast, view the recording on

Bollywood battles are fascinating. The ongoing tussle between two production houses – Yashraj Films (YRF) and Ajay Devgn Films (ADF) – on the number of single screens allotted to their upcoming Diwali releases Jab Tak Hai Jaan (JTHJ) and Son Of Sardar (SOS) respectively have reached courts.

After the Competition Commission of India (CCI) rejected ADF’s plea against YRF (which alleged that YRF used its dominant position in the industry to arm-twist exhibitors and distributors to release JTHJ in maximum number of single-screen theatres, Devgn has approached the Competition Apellate Tribunal against the order.

Courtesy: Viacom 18 Motion Pictures

“We are shocked by the rejection of our legitimate case by the CCI,” a spokesperson from ADF films said in a statement.

Meanwhile, India’s foremost production house had earlier clarified that bookings for JTHJ were not monopolistic and did not disturb rules of competition. News agency IANS reported that officials at YRF were “shocked” over Devgn’s claims of manipulation.

“The case of ADF is that a producer/distributor/exhibitor cannot be allowed to enter into a tie-in arrangement which adversely affects competition. YRF has entered into a tie-in arrangement with the exhibitors in a manner that has made it compulsory for the exhibitors to exhibit the untitled movie of YRF on Diwali day and two weeks thereafter with all four shows,” said an official statement from the lawyers of ADF.

YRF claims that it has booked only about 1,500 screens out of the 10,500-plus single screens available in India. (There are about 1,400 multiplex screens in the country.) And this arrangement was easy because of the “goodwill” they shared with distributors and exhibitors.

Image Courtesy: YRF Pvt Ltd

“All the exhibitors, when approached by us earlier this year for booking their theatres, were happy to play out Yashji’s movie considering their long-standing and emotional relationship and goodwill with YRF of over 40 years. A Yash Chopra-Shah Rukh Khan movie, coming after a gap of eight long years, did not need any coercion for contractual screening,” a senior YRF official told the media.

Some sources in the film trade point out that screen bookings for JTHJ were completed in August as a part of a “package deal” with YRF’s Eid release Ek Tha Tiger (which went on to gross more than Rs 300 crore at the box office). Hence, when Devgn sought single screen exhibitors, most of them were already committed to JTHJ.

Such wars between big banners and stars are not uncommon in Bollywood. At a time when first-day box office collections nearly make or break a film, production houses try to ensure they have a smooth run at the theatres by clinically avoiding a release of their film with any other major release. And big banners leave no stone unturned to release their big-budget flicks as widely as possible, both in India and overseas. For instance, YRF’s last flick ETT was released with nearly 5,000 prints across the globe.

Additionally, festivals are a major attraction for producers. They are money-minting seasons where box office collections reach their zenith. The Khans have almost become synonymous with their festival releases. Salman owns Eid, Shahrukh rules Diwali and Aamir feasts on Christmas.

Hence Devgn’s dilemma lies in the fact that if he delays the release of SOS by a week or two, it clashes with another big banner’s big film with big stars: Excel Entertainment’s Aamir Khan-starrer Talaash is scheduled for release on November 30 and has already generated a lot of hype.

While sections of the media have made it out to be a war between two of Hindi cinema’s biggest and most bankable stars – Shah Rukh Khan and Devgn (who reportedly are not great friends), the latter insists that he’s being made out to be the villain.

“I had filed the complaint much before the demise of Yash Chopra. When this happened I was like people are going to target me and nobody is going to understand my point of view… I was a villain on both sides. I couldn’t withdraw it (notice) from the Competition Commission… It is not a normal court,” the actor-producer told news agency PTI.

Yash Chopra, SRK and Diwali

Image Courtesy: YRF Pvt Ltd

While the legal battle between YRF and ADF reaches a crescendo, here’s a look at how Diwali has been integral to both Yash Chopra (whose demise just weeks before the film’s release has added to the buzz surrounding JTHJ) and SRK (who thrives on the festival of lights).

JTHJ is Chopra’s and SRK’s third Diwali release together after Dil To Pagal Hai (1997) and Veer-Zaara (2004) which set multiple records at the box office. Meanwhile, SRK’s other Diwali releases (two of them with YRF) include Baazigar (1993), Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), Mohabbatein (2000), Don (2006), Om Shanti Om (2007) and Ra.One (2011). All these films have gone on to rewrite box office history and set benchmarks of various kinds. Without these Diwali successes, perhaps superstar SRK would never have been.

Only time will tell whether JTHJ will be an addition to this illustrious list. But for Devgn, whose last year’s Diwali release Golmaal 3 rocked the box-office, there’s a lot of legal ‘golmaal’ likely to ensue.

On a sleepy afternoon about two weeks ago (October 2 to be precise), the chirpy social media world started talking about the ‘Ei Shomoy TVC which was uploaded on YouTube that very day. The music video brings together Bengal’s most popular bands (Fossils, Cactus, Chandrabindoo, Lakkhichhara, Mohiner Ghoraguli) and Anupam Roy, and creates a montage of Kolkata’s most famous sights and sounds (Maidan, Victoria Memorial, Hooghly river, Vidyasagar Setu, Tagore and football) with words like ‘Ei Shomoy Amar Shomoy’ (This time is my time) strewn in along with a great dose of  infectious youthful energy.

YouTube Preview Image

This (click on the video) television commercial was The Times of India’s first major promotion of its Bengali newspaper Ei Shomoy which launches on October 15. They followed it up with another pre-launch campaign through 140 billboards across the city and a bevy of print ads too.

With Ei Shomoy, the Times Group marks its entry into an already saturated Bengali newspaper market (estimated to be around Rs 900 crore) which has thus far been dominated by the ABP group. It brings out two dailies: The widely read Ananda Bazaar Patrika (whose circulation exceeds six million copies according to the Indian Readership Survey) and the recently-launched tabloid Ebela which is targeted at the youth and has already hooked readers with its colourful content on film, sports and lifestyle.

While the Ei Shomoy TVC has received myriad reactions on the web, from being hailed ‘fantabulous’ to being termed ‘wannabe’, the more interesting story lies elsewhere.

The Times Group which is a leader in the English print market in India is on an expansion spree, and intends to spread its network to tap into the lucrative vernacular ad market. It has met with decent successes in Maharashtra (where it publishes the Marathi newspaper Maharashtra Times) and in Kerala (where it entered into a strategic relationship with Malayalam newspaper Mathrubhumi earlier this year).

But Bengal is a different ball game. At present, eight newspapers jostle for existence in this market, with Ananda Bazaar Patrika being the clear leader in terms of advertising and circulation. The others include Bartaman, Pratidin, Aajkaal, Uttar Banga Sambad, Ek Din, Ganashakti and the month-old Ebela.

While an ad war with ABP is imminent, especially in its run-up to the launch on the auspicious occasion of Mahalaya (the start of the Durga Puja festival which invites plenty of special ads), Ei Shomoy will take on ABP’s fairly high cover price too. At Rs 5 per copy, ABP is the most expensive Bengali newspaper compared to its competitor papers priced between Rs 2-3. Sources say that Ei Shomoy might be priced even lower, to start with.

TOI has also managed a prize catch in the form of veteran Bengali journalist and ex-ABP man Suman Chattopadhyay, who has been roped in as the editor of Ei Shomoy. In his last assignment, he served as the editor of his own newspaper Ek Din. 

Besides this, it is left to be seen how Ei Shomoy positions itself in the mind of the politically-conscious Bengali. While ABP has increasingly become critical of the ruling TMC government, Pratidin is virtually evolving into a voice of the TMC; Ganashakti is alleged to be the CPM mouthpiece and Aajkaal leans towards the Left as well; Bartaman, meanwhile, claims itself as fiercely independent and unbiased.

Amidst all this, Ei Shomoy (as the TVC suggests) looks to carve a niche for itself in the impressionable minds of young readers, who have modern sensibilities and wish to be a part of a new resurgent Bengal. Is it then targeted at the poriborton-obsessed Bengali? Can Ei Shomoy finally drive change in a state which is journeying into the past with each passing day? Or will it place itself elsewhere in the ideological spectrum? Only shomoy (time) will tell.

Sohini Mitter
I am a student of life. My professional interests lie in reading and writing on consumer-oriented businesses, brands, media and entertainment. Personally, I see the world in portraits through the lens of my camera. Literature, history, politics and sports are my other major interests. Direct your feedback to
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