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Aamir loses control over Dhobi Ghaat

Aamir Khan is a worried man whenever he leaves town to shoot for Raj Kumar Hirani’s Three Idiots. And, his concern is not for the of the happenings on the sets of the film but for his wife’s Dhobi Ghaat, which she is shooting simultaneously in Mumbai.
Rumour has it that Kiran had even worked out a schedule in such a way that it would not clash with Aamir’s shoot for Three Idiots. And now that he has shot for his cameo in his wife’s film, he feels cut off from his own production. He has been calling up other unit members on the sets to figure out the daily progress, but wife Kiran refuses to take his calls on the sets as she doesn’t want to be distracted. Moreover, she's now asked her unit hands to concentrate on the shoot rather than fill their producer in with the latest updates. So Aamir, who usually has control on every producer’s sets, doesn’t have any on his own.

'Slumdog...' kids dance to 'Jai Ho' at WIFW

New Delhi: With wide smiles, immense confidence and effortless twirls, Rubina Ali Qureshi and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, the child stars of Oscar winning film "Slumdog Millionaire", Thursday walked the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WIFW) ramp and performed a jig on the film's hit song "Jai ho". The audience was left mesmerised as the two children from the shanties of Mumbai entered the show area with gleam in their eyes and literally refused to budge from the head of the ramp. They happily obliged the shutterbugs even as the audience kept waiting for them to finish feeling like the ultimate stars of the show.

They stood still until designer duo Ashima-Leena Singh, for whom they walked the ramp, led them away. But the audience kept clapping and cheering the duo for their confidence and innocence.

While Rubina,9, wore a gypsy skirt and a sleeveless embroidered top with stone-work and accesorised with a trendy maang-tika, Azharuddin, 10, sported a black sherwani with red Palestinian embroidery.

"I gave Rubina a gypsy skirt because it goes well with her look. And the maang-tika brought an Indianness to the entire look," Ashima said after the show.

Before the show, both children, who are enjoying their newfound fame after the film by British director Danny Boyle won eight Oscars recently, said that they weren't nervous, but were excited to be at the event.

Cameramen didn't want to miss a single opportunity of capturing the several poses that the young stars went on striking until they were taken away. While Azharuddin stood with his chin high and hands folded, as if he were megastar Amitabh Bacchan, little Rubina kept twirling to show off her skirt.

Apart from these star attractions, other designers gave a thumbs up to Ashima-Leena's collection, which comprised flared trousers, full-length gowns, kaftans, capes and jackets in vibrant colours like red, peach, blue, green et al.

The fabrics used were lustrous and ranged from silks to velvets to georgettes and had motifs of Ikat and Chintz, images of antique weaves and embroideries, stamped on them. These were reworked with fine beads, sequins and threads.

I got 'Gulaal' role totally by default: Ayesha Mohan

Mumbai: Anurag Kashyap's "Gulaal" has got rave reviews and Ayesha Mohan, the hitherto unknown leading lady of the film, has also come in for much praise. The newcomer, who was actually the director's assistant, is thrilled as she landed the role "by default". "That's true. I got the role totally by default. I was assisting Anurag. When he asked me to do the role I was zapped. But I was game for it. I had no idea how complex the character was. I went blindly by Anurag's interpretation," Ayesha said.

When Kashyap first started making "Gulaal" about six years ago, Antara Mali was supposed to do the role. But she apparently lost interest in the movie.

Konkona Sen Sharma was then approached for the layered part of a scheming small-timer who's part Lolita, part-Lady Macbeth. But then Konkona too showed no interest and Kashyap is said to have signed on his assistant in an impulse.

Not only was Ayesha roped in without any acting experience, the song she always sings also found place in "Gulaal".

"That's also true. The character plays the guitar and sings because I do," laughed Ayesha.

"I go everywhere with my guitar. So when Anurag heard me he said, 'What's that song you keep singing and playing?" I said it's 'I'm a Big Big Girl'. Anurag immediately incorporated the song and guitar into the character."

More than essaying the nuanced character of Kiran, looking up at the lead actor was a problem for Ayesha.

"My leading man Raj Singh Choudhary is so tall I got a sprain in my neck gazing into his eyes," she said.

Ayesha says her appetite for acting has been whetted by "Gulaal", which also starred Kay Kay Menon.

"Anurag made me realise I could act. After 'Gulaal' I've done an English language film called 'The Pool' directed by Chris Smith with Nana Patekar," the actress said.

Ayesha describes "The Pool" as a film about slum children – a "Slumdog Millionaire" without the drama.

"It's already been released and has been well received abroad. I'm now looking at other roles. I also write and sing. So I think I'm quite a gypsy at heart," Ayesha said.

Film director Raj Aditya hangs self in hotel

Hyderabad: Film director Raj Aditya was today found dead in a city hotel, sending shock waves in the Telugu film industry. The police said it appeared to be a case of suicide. The body of Aditya, 38, was found hanging from a ceiling fan in a hotel room in Secunderabad.

He is believed to have taken the extreme step Friday night. The cause of the suicide is not known.

"Mallee Malle", a film directed by Aditya and starring newcomers Skandha and Kalyani in the lead roles, was released Saturday. He had written the story and screenplay for the film.

He began his career in Telugu films by directing "Ishtam", produced by Usha Kiran Movies. He shot into fame with the direction of another Telugu film "Pourudu" starring Sumanth and Kajal.

Aditya, whose real name is Rajakumaran Thambi, was the son of Malayalam film producer and director Sreekumaran Thambi. Born in Kerala, Aditya grew up in Chennai and worked under director Priyadarshan for four years.

Aditya, who acted as a child artist in some Malayalam films, also worked as an assistant to several eminent directors in Bollywood before launching his career as a director in Telugu films.

Maoists blow up rail track in Bihar

Patna: Suspected Maoist rebels blasted a railway track in Bihar's Gaya district, disrupting train services on the Gaya-Mughalsarai section, officials said today. Railway sources said a group of armed Maoists blew up the track between Guraru and Pairayya stations in Gaya this morning.

Railway police also recovered a live bomb near the track.

The tracks were being repaired, said East Central Railway (ECR) chief public relations officer A.K. Chandra

Ban on meetings in school, college grounds lifted

Agartala: Giving in to the demand of political parties across the country, the Election Commission has lifted the ban on election rallies in school and college grounds, it was announced today. "The commission has stipulated six conditions on the use of school, college and university grounds by political parties," Additional Chief Electoral Officer Dilip Acherjee said.

He said a notification lifting the ban was issued Friday evening.

"Political parties will have to get 'no-objection' certificate from the concerned educational institutions and they will not be allowed to disturb the academic calendar in any way," Acherjee said.

The parties cannot also damage the grounds. If they do, they will have to pay compensation, he said.

Mumbai: Wing of toy aircraft falls on kid, kills him

In a bizarre incident, a 10-year-old school boy was crushed to death in Mumbai when the wing of a model aircraft made out of cement collapsed on him.

Praveen Jamadale had gone to the Juhu garden in Santacruz in the evening with his parents.

A portion of the toy plane's wing fell and hit the boy. He was taken to the Cooper hospital but was declared brought dead.

No case of negligence has been registered against anyone so far. The park has been a popular hangout with children for 25 years now.

Kasab reading Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography

Mumbai: Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone terrorist captured in the Mumbai terror attacks, is getting an insight into the life of the apostle of peace, Mahatma Gandhi.

Kasab, kept in isolation in the high-security Arthur Road prison in central Mumbai, is reading Urdu translation ofMahatma Gandhi's autobiography My Experiments With Truth.

"Prisoners are generally given books as part of reforms and recreation programmes. Jail authorities have told us that Kasab has been given Urdu translation of Gandhi's book and he is reading it," TRK Somaiya, Programme Coordinator of Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal Gandhi book centre, said.

"I hope this will evoke a sense of regret in the mind of Kasab," he said.

Sarvodaya Mandal also conducts Gandhi Peace Exams and screening of the films on the Father of the Nation in jails of Maharashtra. "Recently, Mandal conducted Gandhi Exam in the Chandrapur district jail where some of the inmates appeared for it. We have received encouraging feedback from the inmates," said Somaiya.

Kasab was part of the group of 10 terrorists which attacked Taj Mahal Hotel, Oberoi Hotel, Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus Railway Station and Nariman House on November 26 last year. Over 160 people, including foreigners and policemen, were killed in the attacks.

BSP candidate robbed of Rs 25 lakh in Madhya Pradesh Press Trust Of India

Bhopal: Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate from Tikamgarh Lok Sabha seat Gayadin Ahirwar was allegedly robbed of Rs 25 lakh by two unidentified persons in neighbouring Raisen district, police said on Saturday.

The incident took place on Friday night on National Highway 66 under Kharwai Police Station when Ahirwar was on his way to the state capital from Tikamgarh in his car, they said.

In a statement to the police, Ahirwar said two motorcycle-borne men in police uniform stopped his car on the pretext of checking it and took the bag containing the cash and asked him to follow them, they said.

The BSP candidate said his driver followed the motorcycle for some distance, but later the robbers disappeared in the darkness with the cash bag.

UPA breaks in Bihar, Cong to contest 37 seats

New Delhi: United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has almost collapsed in Bihar with Congress deciding to go alone in the state. The party is ready with a list of 37 candidates for the state.

The party decided to field candidates in 37 seats of Bihar after Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad and Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJSP) supremo Ram Vilas Paswan left just three seats for Congress.

"Congress has decided to contest on 37 seats in Bihar. Soalition dharma has been violated and we are upset with this. We have no alliance with Lalu as of now," Congress leader Sushil Kumar Shinde, who heads the Screening Committee for vetting party candidates from the state, said.

RJD got the lion's share on 40 seats and will put up candidates in 25 seats while Paswan's party will be contesting on 12 seats.

Meanwhile, former RJD leader Sadhu Anirudh Prasad Yadav alias Sadhu Yadav met Congress President Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on Saturday morning.

After the meeting Yadav said that he has full confidence in Sonia Gandhi and Congress and he would do whatever is possible to ensure that Congress wins more seats in Bihar.

Yadav, who represents Gopalganj, the home district of Lalu Prasad and his wife and former chief minister Rabri Devi, joined the Congress on Tuesday, along with Banka MP Giridhari Yadav and former Bihar minister and Dalit leader Ramai Ram.

Yadav quit the RJD accusing party chief and his brother-in-law Lalu of "kneeling" before Paswan and declaring that he would contest elections from two seats in the seat.


Bebo’s First Content Partnership In India With Real For Sarkaar Ki Duniya

News 24 has learned from reliable sources that AOLs social network Bebo is going to launch in India with a content partnership inked with Real Global Broadcasting, for the TV Show Sarkaar Ki Duniya; Mumbai based AOLs content production team based has been working on the deal. Bebo will host communities around Sarkaar Ki Dunia’s TV content. An AOL spokesperson has declined to comment on the development.

Sarkaar Ki Duniya is a show modelled on Survivor, and has headlined the launch of Real, a new general entertainment channel from the Turner- Miditech joint venture. Real was launched earlier this month, and it looks like someone has already put up videos from Sarkaar Ki Duniya on DailyMotion.

Real recently launched its website a few days ago, with a separate site for Sarkaar Ki Duniya - with very little by way of interactivity, apart from a weekly quiz.

Last month at FICCI Frames, Francisco Cordero, GM (Australia and New Zealand) for Bebo had announced the companys plans to launch in India in March - so we should expect something in the next fortnight. Cordero had pitched for media partnerships, and highlighted Bebo as a Social Media platform (as opposed to a Social Networking Site), with conversations around content, rather than personal interactions between users.

Who Has The Community?

For the partnership to achieve anything of note, they need the TV audience to log online for the community, and for the online audience to tune in for the TV show. Given that both are new in the Indian market - does either have a large community for the other to benefit from? In this context, do note that MIH’s social network Ibibo has been fairly aggressive with talent hunt initiatives and TV partnerships.

It’s Official: Bebo Launched In India; Partners With Real Broadcasting

A somewhat quiet launch for Bebo in India: if you’re accessing the site from India, you’re shown an India specific page, and a background that confirms what we had reported last week: that the AOL owned social media site has partnered with Real Global Broadcasting, a joint venture between Turner- Miditech. The background features the Real and Sarkaar Ki Duniya (India’s version of Survivor) logos.

You may access the community that Bebo has created for Sarkaar ki Duniya, here, featuring photos, videos, comments, forum, polls, blog, and just 9 fans. The site is still fairly new, and there appears to have been limited activity on the site. But, these are tough times, and there’s no harm in the two startups (despite their lineage) coming together for building a community.

For other promotional content, they’ve also partnered with Bollywood content network Saavn, a company co-owned by Hungama.

Going Easy On the Marketing Spends?

Sure looks like Bebo is going spend conservatively for the first year - and we don’t think that’s too bad an idea. Nicole Vanderbilt, VP International, Bebo told Business Standard that they’re looking to do promotional campaigns using AOLs reach, and will primarily focus on viral marketing in the first year of operation.

Bebo India has now been linked to from AOLs India homepage:We do wonder, however, if Bebo would have been better off partnering with a more established player in the Indian market - perhaps Colors, Channel V or MTV India. MTVs reality show Roadies is believed to be the most successful reality show on TV among the youth, but they’ve already partnered with Google’s social networking site Orkut.

North-East TV Group launches HY TV in Hyderabad

The North-East TV Group, which has a bouquet of channels like NE TV, NE Bangla, NE Hi-fi, Hamar TV and Focus TV, has launched its first channel in South India, called HY TV, on March 20. The channel will showcase events occurring in the southern states of India in English, Hindi and Urdu languages.

HY TV has been floated under the banner of HY Media and Entertainment and has been launched to cater the cosmopolitan people across the globe. While Hyderabad is the helm of affairs for the channel, the company is setting up bureaus in other southern cities like Bangalore, Chennai and Trivandrum.

Former Union Minister Matang Sinh, who is the chairman and managing director, the North-East TV Group, spoke exclusively to about the integrity of HY TV and about the current market conditions.

Explaining the USP of HY TV, in an already cluttered news market, Sinh says, "Our strategy is to present responsible news while being creative in different languages like Hindi, English and Urdu. We focus on the problems of development, health, women and children, minorities, dalits and everything under the roof. We are here to solve the common man's woes and take it to the government."

Detailing more on the concept of having bulletins in three languages, he says, "We have Hindi, English and Urdu bulletin of half an hour each. The idea behind having English and Urdu is that the local news should reach a wider section of audience. There are a lot of non-Telugu speaking people in Andhra Pradesh, who regionally need to know what's happening."

Sinh continues to explain, "Many of the bureaucrats who are policy makers are non-Telugu's and they also need to know the ground realities, and the HY TV Hindi and English bulletin is meant for them. The Urdu-speaking population also requires a dedicated news source about the Old City, which is a neglected area."

When asked about the risk to start a new channel during the recession period, Sinh says, "We planned to launch our news channel even before the recession started. Though, we were apprehensive in the beginning, we are confident that we can sustain through this period via our strong fundamentals. Infact, we are well prepared for the next two years and have more than enough financial and manpower resources."

HY TV, which is headed by director Rama Raju, will showcase the history, heritage and colour of South India. Apart from the regular news features, the channel has a basket full of infotainment programs, reality shows and travelogues. Krishna Mohan is the marketing head of HY TV.

Several news channels in Andhra Pradesh market are often known to sensationalise the news. To safeguard against it, Rama Raju says, "We have taken an oath to stay away from sensationalism of news. We will not lie or manipulate visuals, but report only facts, as we have a reputation to uphold."

HY TV shall be beaming off the INSAT 2E satellite for its worldwide distribution. For distribution in India, HY TV shall be placed on the leading DTH platforms like Dish TV and cable television networks.

Sinh, a former Congress leader, was a minister in the P. V. Narasimha Rao government. He is from Tinsukia and was elected to Parliament as a member of Rajya Sabha from Assam in 1992. He became the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs of the late Narasimha Rao government in 1993.

Brazilian man crashes stolen plane into a mall

(Sao Paulo), Brazil: A Brazilian man kidnapped his daughter, stole a small private plane and after being pursued by the authorities crashed it into a shopping mall in Goiania city, Bandeirantes television reported.

Both the man and his five-year-old daughter died in the incident, the network said Thursday. Evidently, nobody on the ground was injured.

The man, whose identity has not been announced by authorities, abducted his daughter in Luziania, a town in Goias state, and afterwards stole the single-engine plane from the local airport.

The plane was pursued by a police helicopter and, after performing several dangerous manoeuvres, it crashed into the parking garage at the Flamboyant shopping mall.

Before stealing the plane, the man threw the girl's mother out of the vehicle in which she was riding, injuring her severely. She was taken to a hospital in Brasilia.

The Brazilian air force, which has a major base in Goiania, ordered military aircraft to overfly the city to support the police helicopter that began pursuing the plane, Bandeirantes reported.

According to the network, firefighters extinguished the blaze caused by the crash and prevented the spread of the flames that destroyed a score of vehicles that were parked at the mall, where some 5,000 people were shopping and working.

Authorities have not yet determined the reasons why the man kidnapped his daughter.

Varun replies to EC, BJP disowns statement

New Delhi: Varun Gandhi replied to the Election Commission notice on the hate speech case on Friday morning in New Delhi. The reply was filed before the three-member Election Commission by his lawyers who accompanied Varun to the Commission's office.

Sources told CNN-IBN that Varun's lawyers in their reply argued that tapes of the speech have been doctored and that the speech was not made with an intention to incite communal feelings. Varun's lawyers claimed the speech made was against communal forces in the country.

Sources also said that the lawyers said that technically Varun had not yet filed nominations so that doesn't make him a nominated candidate of the party.

Therefore anything that he said doesn't go under Model Code of Conduct, the lawyers argued.

Meanwhile, in a new twist to the Varun hate speech case, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to completely disown the statements of the young leader.

In its reply to the notice issued by the Election Commission, BJP took the line that the views expressed by Varun Gandhi - in a speech which he allegedly gave during an election rally in Pilibhit targeting the Muslim community - is not of the party.

The party also maintained that the public meeting where speeches were made was not a party function as the BJP has still not given its election symbol to Varun Gandhi.

It also asked the Commission to deal with Varun Gandhi as an individual and not to bring party in this issue.

BJP also claimed that since no notification has been issued for Varun's constituency, there cannot be a violation of code and that it wasn't an election speech but merely an address to the party workers.

BJP sent its reply to the Election Commission through fax.

Earlier, Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami made it clear that the onus of proving that the video CD - containing the inflammatory hate speech - was tampered with rests with Varun himself.

"We have seen the videos. It is for Varun to prove that it has been tampered with. The question of disqualification arises only when nomination starts," N Gopalaswami said.

The young Gandhi has himself remained defiant saying the CD has been doctored with.

Varun, the 29-year-old son of five-time Pilibhit MP Maneka Gandhi, has created a storm by adopting a fanatical pro-Hindu stance in his speeches.

An unfazed Varun asserted on Wednesday that he was a "Gandhi, a Hindu and an Indian" and insisted that the CD showing him making inflammatory speeches was doctored.

The poll panel served notices to Varun Gandhi, BJP President Rajnath Singh and Uttar Pradesh BJP Chief Ramapati Ram Tripathi to explain why they "disregarded and violated the provisions of the model code of conduct".

Varun has already moved the Allahabad High Court with a petition seeking to quash the FIR filed on March 17 at Barkheda Police Station in Piliphit under Sections 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion) and 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by a public servant) of Indian Penal Code and Section 125 of the Representation of the People Act.

He also approached the Delhi High Court seeking anticipatory bail with his counsel telling a Bench headed by Chief Justice AP Shah that there was apprehension of his arrest since the provision for anticipatory bail was not available in Uttar Pradesh.

Two more cases have also been filed against him in Pilibhit for distributing money.

IBNLIVE report

Cong using Slumdog... for political gains

The Congress has dismissed charges that it was politicising the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire after party President Sonia Gandhi met the film's child actors Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail on Thursday.

The children spent a day at the Congress office, posing for the shutterbugs and waving pictures of Sonia Gandhi. The Congress, which has already bought the rights of Slumdog Millionaire's hit song Jai Ho for Rs 1 crore, now plans to get the child actors to campaign for the party.

The question that was being asked on CNN-IBN's show Face the Nation was: Is Congress exploiting Slumdog Millionaire for political gains?

On the panel of experts to try and answer that question were Editor-in-Chief of Outlook Vinod Mehta; MP and Congress Spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi; and member of BJP's Election Strategy Sudheendra Kulkarni.

It seems that the Congress is worried that despite the song and the dance around it, the party might just end up being the best supporting actor in these elections.

Opening the discussion, Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, "This is a clear case of storm in a teacup and it is sensationalising a non-issue. As far as buying rights are concerned then it is a free country. Jai Ho is a beautiful nationalistic song and the others are ruefully scratching their heads because we bought it first. Regarding the children, they called up the Congress President who met them. Obviously times are busy and so they had to wait a little while."

The party in the past has reportedly indicated that films like Slumdog Millionaire have been made due to good governance in the country, which the Congress believes it has created in its five-year rule along with a great atmosphere in the country. Now it seems as if the party is planning to cash in on such films and say it is because of them.

"I have said that on one hand you have an achieving India which includes Chandrayaan, the 123 Agreement and several other achievements. And in this climate of civility provided by the Government you have certain other achievements, not by the Government but of which every other Indian is proud of. Slumdog Millionaire is one of those achievements and as Indians, we are proud to revel in them. So it is nothing to do with the Government achieving the Oscar. There is nothing political about it," Singhvi stated.

The song and the children associating with Sonia Gandhi may just boost Congress' image as a pro-poor party and then the party would get to tom-tom their National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, loan waiver to the farmers and RTI, thereby proving that they are a Government of the people - an ideal situation in election times.

To this Sudheerendra Kulkarni said, "I don't think the Congress has exploited anything by using this song. But it is a very bad and bizarre choice as an election campaign matter. As far as Congress being pro-poor goes, then let me remind all that in Dharavi way back in 1985 - on the occasion of the Congress' centenary session - the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi announced a Dharavi Development Project. Now it is 2009 and the condition of people in Dharavi has worsened."

Many experts have said that if Congress is so pro-poor then slums should not have been in the country in the first place. They also want to know how much of a difference will a song like Jai Ho make. Observers say 70 per cent of India's voters belong to the rural sector and that these people may not be able to relate to a movie like Slumdog Millionaire at all.

"It may make a marginal difference," said Vinod Mehta stated.

"After the film won an Oscar everyone wanted a slice of the Oscar pie. Even the Marxists congratulated the film and its makers. Now it makes for a good photo opportunity for these children to go to Sonia Gandhi's house. I don't know who gave them the pictures of Sonia, but this photo op had a feel good factor. But I would not blame the Congress for trying such things. I remember Harold Wilson in the late '60s was re-elected the prime minister of Britain because England won the World Cup," he said, hastily adding, "Though I don't think something like that will happen here."

However, Mehta had reservations about the children campaigning for the Congress.

"I am not happy about the fact that the Congress will use these kids for campaigning. The Child Rights Commission may have something to say about all this. The children are underage and they should not be allowed to do these things," he said.

To know more visit IBNLIVE.

Pak report blames foreign hand, cops for Lahore attack

Karachi: The preliminary report by the government investigators into the attack on the Sri Lankan cricketer in Lahore has blamed senior police and security officials for the March 3 incident.

According to Geo television channel, the preliminary investigation report had been sent to the Interior Ministry for further action.

After the attack in which six Sri Lankan players and their assistant coach were also wounded, several agencies were given the responsibility of probing into the attack that has cast serious doubts over the future of international cricket in Pakistan.

The channel claimed that in the report investigators had said the attack took place because senior police officials posted for VVIP duty with the Sri Lankan team didn't fulfil their responsibilities properly.

The report said that these senior police officers neglected their duties which led to the attack despite Sri Lankans being assured state level security for the tour.

In the report, investigators have also said that around 10 to 12 gunmen were involved in carrying out the deadly attack near the Liberty roundabout just 500 metres from the Gaddafi stadium where the Test was being played.

The investigators noted that due to slackness of the police officers posted on VVIP duty none of the attackers could be arrested. They said five persons, said to be accomplices of the gunmen, had been arrested and were being questioned.

The families of the six security officials along with the bus driver who were martyred in the attack will be awarded Rs 5,00,000 each and the officials who were wounded will be given promotion.

The report has said the possibility of a foreign hand in the attack cannot be ruled out.

Interestingly the Pakistan Cricket Board has lodged a protest with the International Cricket Council (ICC) against match referee Chris Broad who alleged police officials had abandoned the match officials during the attack.

Broad had also said that proper security was not provided to the Sri Lankan team and match officials which allowed the incident to take place.

Pakistan's sports minister Pir Aftab Shah Jillani has also told a foreign newspaper that they were clear lapses in the provision of security cover for the visiting players and officials and that the government would looking into this.

IBNLIVE report


Lalit Modi accused of taking IPL out of Jaipur

Jaipur: Rajasthan government has hit out at the Indian Premier League (IPL) Commissioner and Chairman Lalit Modi for taking the League out of the state.

The government claims it had a problem with some dates that clashed with polls and not the entire tournament.

Rajasthan Home Minister Shanti Dhariwal has called Lalit Modi "a cheat" and has said Modi was responsible for pulling IPL out of Jaipur.

"The way they've pulled out the matches from Jaipur it puts a question mark on their intention to hold them in Jaipur in the first place," Dhariwal said. "It's an arbitrary decision for which people will not forgive Modi. The people of Rajasthan are feeling cheated."

"We had only asked for two dates out of six to be rescheduled," he said. "Rajasthan has been given biased treatment. We were preparing for the IPL matches to be conducted in Jaipur when we got to know that the matches have been pulled out of Jaipur that too through newspapers. It's shocking that there has been no communication with the State government on this."

The IPL commissioner, however, has distanced himself from the controversy, saying it's a matter that needs to be sorted out between the Home Ministry and the state of Rajasthan.

"About Jaipur you have to ask the Home Ministry," Modi said.

"We had scheduled the dates but there were issues with the paramilitary forces because of which the Home Minister asked us to scrap the dates. It's up to the Rajasthan government and the Home Ministry to decide; it is between them and not between us," he said.

The Union Government is yet to give security clearance to the IPL as it is clashing with 15the Lok Sabha elections.

Varun Gandhi has to prove tape lie: EC

Kolkata: Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami on Thursday said it is for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Varun Gandhi to prove that the tape, which allegedly shows him delivering inflammatory speeches, was 'doctored'.

"We did not prepare the tapes, they were broadcast by a television channel. We have taken it from them," Gopalaswami told reporters.

"We have seen the video that we got. It is for Varun Gandhi to prove that they were doctored. We are not in the business of probing other people's case," he said.

Asked if the Election Commission will allow Varun Gandhi to contest the elections, the CEC said: "that question will only arise once the nominations start".

Varun, the 29-year-old son of five-time Pilibhit MP Maneka Gandhi, has created a storm by adopting a fanatical pro-Hindu stance in his speeches.

An unfazed Varun Gandhi asserted Wednesday that he was a "Gandhi, a Hindu and an Indian" and insisted that the CD showing him making inflammatory speeches was doctored.

The poll panel served notice to Varun Gandhi, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Rajnath Singh and Uttar Pradesh BJP chief Ramapati Ram Tripathi to explain why they "disregarded and violated the provisions of the model code of conduct".

Asked about the action taken by the commission against Varun Gandhi and the BJP, Gopalaswami said: "Regarding Varun we have already taken action against him. As far as BJP is concerned, we will decide when they reply to our notice."


Jade Goody views sunset, asks for Coke cans

London: Cancer-stricken British reality star Jade Goody, who is breathing her last few days at her residence here, defied all odds to view the sunset and asked for cans of Coke Monday night. "The doctors are amazed. Jade managed to see the sunset and was asking for cans of Coke. She's an incredibly strong woman," quoted a friend as saying. Goody not only propped up in bed to see the sky at night, she was equally eager to catch one last glimpse of sunny fields before she dies. The tragic reality star, 27, braved it all to lift her head and enjoy the view from her dining room bay windows. At one point, she even summoned her 21-year-old husband Jack Tweed and said: "Sit me up and let me look out over the fields." According to the report, Goody managed a smile as she enjoyed the sunshine at her home in Upshire, Essex. But the moment was short-lived as she slipped into a deep slumber soon.

India confronts global crisis 'from a position of strength'

Washington: Directors acknowledged that the sizeable fiscal stimulus undertaken in 2008-09 should help to support economic growth. However, they stressed that, given the high ratio of public debt to GDP, significant further expansion of the deficit could raise concerns about fiscal sustainability. They encouraged the authorities to use the limited available fiscal space only for high-quality infrastructure and poverty-related spending, and for bank recapitalisation if needed. Commending India's strong economic performance in recent years, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said "India confronts the current global economic and financial crisis from a position of strength." India's strong economic performance in recent years "reflected sound macroeconomic policies and continued progress with structural reform, the IMF Executive Directors said in their assessment after their annual Article IV Consultation with New Delhi. Observing that there have been spillovers from the global crisis, they commended Indian authorities' "swift and comprehensive policy response, but underscored the downside risks and called for maintenance of a flexible, pragmatic, and proactive policy stance." According to a summary of the IMF report released Tuesday, directors agreed that a key short-run policy objective should be to sustain liquidity and credit flows. "They believed that monetary and structural policies will have to continue to carry most of the burden of adjustment, given the high public debt-GDP ratio." Directors welcomed the central bank's actions to ease monetary policy and stimulate bank lending. A number of directors saw scope for further monetary easing, in light of the projected decline in inflationary pressures and the need to reinforce confidence and sustain bank credit. However, a number of other directors saw merit in the authorities' wait-and-see approach, given the highly uncertain economic environment, it said. IMF supported the authorities' flexible exchange rate policy, which will help the economy to adjust to the global downturn, while commending "the strength and resilience of India's financial system, reflected in favourable financial soundness indicators." The directors however, "stressed that rising credit risk and liquidity pressures could put the financial system under strain, while negative feedback loops between the real and financial sectors could turn out to be strong." They therefore encouraged the authorities to take additional preventive action, including identification of potential bank re-capitalization needs and measures to promote early loss recognition, full disclosure of bad assets, and filling of information gaps, the report said. They underscored the importance of persevering with reforms to deepen and further strengthen the financial sector, develop the corporate bond market, and improve banking efficiency. IMF Directors broadly supported the authorities' gradual and cautious approach to capital account liberalization. They encouraged further progress, observing that liberalisation could help to ease external financing constraints. Directors also welcomed the authorities' commitment to trade liberalization. Directors stressed that medium-term fiscal consolidation remains a priority, and should continue to be anchored in a fiscal rules framework to be backed by comprehensive expenditure reforms and measures to broaden the tax base, the IMF said.

Fight over smoking ends in airhostess' death

Mumbai: A 20-year-old airhostess allegedly killed herself by jumping from an apartment building after a fight with her male friend, who wanted her to quit smoking.

Anupama Acharya, who worked for Jet Airways, allegedly fought with her friend, a pilot with Jet, and jumped off the fifth floor of Dil Darshan Apartments in suburban Powai, police said.

An official of the Powai police station said the pilot had been detained for questioning. The police claim Acharya become “very agitated” during the argument and jumped into the stairwell of the building.

Acharya, who had been working with Jet Airways for about a year, was taken to a hospital where she was declared dead on arrival.

I'm a Gandhi, a Hindu and an Indian: Varun

New Delhi: Breaking his silence on his controversial speech targeting the Muslim community allegedly made during an election rally in Pilibhit on March 6, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Varun Gandhi on Wednesday morning issued a clarification saying he was a Gandhian and the CD of his speech had been tampered with.

“I am proud of my faith and not apologetic of it. I am a Gandhi, a Hindu and an Indian in equal measure. I'm a victim of political conspiracy,” Varun Gandhi said refusing to apologise for his provocative speech.

"Nothing I have said was intended to incite anyone. There is no question of my having any ill feeling towards any community. My attempt is to instill confidence in a community which feels it is under siege in their own country," he said.

Claiming that the CD was tampered with, Varun said, "Those are not my words, that is not my voice. I want to ask the nation to stand by me. It was intended to insult. I am pro-India, not anti anybody."

Varun also applied for an anticipatory bail. An FIR had been filed by the Pilibhit District Magistrate on Tuesday following a directive by the Election Commission.

Varun allegedly made a hate speech against Muslims in which he reportedly said that he would cut the hands of those who target Hindus.

"They have scary names - Karimullah, Nazarullah - its scary to see them at night. I have a cousin - my aunt's daughter - she saw a pamphlet which had photos of all candidates. When my cousin who is seven-eight years old, saw Samajwadi Party's candidate's photo, she said Bhaiya (big brother), I didn't know that Osama Bin Laden is fighting from your constituency," Varun said in his speech.

"This is not a "hand", this is the power of the lotus. This will cut the head of the Muslim. Jai Shri Ram. If anyone raises a finger towards Hindus, or if someone thinks that Hindus are weak and leaderless... if someone thinks that these leaders lick our boots for our votes... if anyone raises a finger towards Hindus - then I swear on the Gita that I will cut that hand," he said.

Varun's speech has created fissures even within the BJP with Syed Shahnawaz Hussain on Tuesday demanding that the young leader issue a public apology for branding all Muslims as Osama bin Laden.

Anoth Muslim leader of the BJP Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi admitted that the controversial speech had damaged the party.


The IPL-MSM spat continues; NDTV in race for the League too

One reason that the second edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) would be remembered is for all the troubles that it has had to face. The IPL braved the slowdown significantly, only to fall into a to-and-fro match with the Home Ministry over matters such as security and getting apt dates for the match to be played in different states. Amid that impasse, the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) and telecast partner Multi Screen Media’s (MSM) disagreements are now out in the open too. On March 14, 2009, the BCCI terminated its telecast rights contract MSM.

MSM wasted no time and got an injunction from the Bombay High Court restraining BCCI from talking to any other channel for telecast rights. The IPL has called this petition “invalid”. Following an inconclusive round of arguments on March 16, 2009, the hearing in the case was adjourned to March 17, 2009. In the meanwhile, sources close to the situation state that there is a good chance that MSM would lose the telecast rights of IPL. MSM did not offer any comments to exchange4media, but industry sources informed that MSM officials had been busy ensuring advertisers and media agencies that all was well.

In the meanwhile, it is understood that one key contestant that is in the running for the IPL is the NDTV Group. A senior industry source said, “At present, there is just as much chance of NDTV airing the IPL as there is of any MSM channel. However, much is dependent on which way the case swings on March 17, 2009.”

The BCCI has evidently been planned in its approach. The loophole that BCCI is “taking advantage of” is of (WSG) World Sports Group, which is the second partner of the consortium that bid and bagged the IPL telecast rights for the first 10 years. The other partner of the consortium was MSM. Following the bidding last year, MSM was given the telecast rights for the subcontinent, and WSG has the international rights for IPL. Another source said, “BCCI signed a new contract, where it has given the rights to WSG Mauritius and this opens the league to be present on any channel now.” This is one of the arguments that MSM’s legal team is challenging.

One is reminded of former MSM CEO, Kunal Dasgupta’s, words just a few days before exiting the company, that there was a chance that the BCCI would terminate the IPL telecast rights deal with MSM. While MSM’s interim CEO Man Jit Singh had said that this was untrue and that the two partners had resolved their differences, it does appear that MSM missed something at some point for the matter to be in court now.

With over Rs 17,000 crore at stake, most industry observers are keenly watching which way the IPL would turn. Many had said that given the political pressures, IPL might not air at all this year, and even if it did, where would it air was another question. If the script couldn’t have been better for the first season of the IPL, the second season has been nothing short of a googly, and that too even before the first ball has been bowled.

Varun Gandhi plays communal card, BJP taken aback

Pilibhit (Uttar Pradesh): The strident communal overtones of the campaign being run by "the other" Gandhi son, Varun, contesting his maiden Lok Sabha election from this constituency, has left even workers of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) shocked. The 29-year-old son of Maneka and the late Sanjay Gandhi - younger son of former prime minister Indira Gandhi - was on Sunday issued a notice by the district authorities in Pilibhit, the constituency so carefully nurtured by his mother who gave up the seat to ensure his easy entry into the Lok Sabha. That she did so was no surprise for political watchers here. What has come as a shocker is his staunchly pro-Hindu and rabid anti-Muslim vitriolic that his opponents and supporters say could trigger a communal clash. From taking up issues like the ban on cow slaughter to asking a Sikh leader to leave a Hindu meeting, Varun Gandhi has been ruffling feathers everywhere. Though just one offensive remark captured by a TV channel drew the attention of the local authorities, the scion of the estranged Gandhi family has been busy making such statements all over Pilibhit. While "Jai Shri Ram" is his battle-cry at all roadside meetings or assemblies, some of the other slogans being used are "Gau hatya rukwana hai, Varun Gandhi ko jitana hai" (Cow slaughter must stop, Varun Gandhi must win) and "Varun nahin yeh aandhi hai, doosra Sanjay Gandhi hai (Varun Gandhi is like a storm, he is another Sanjay Gandhi)". Varun Gandhi has already addressed three 'Hindu sammellans'. While the district administration has taken cognizance of his utterances at a meet in Barkhera on March 8, those at earlier meetings in Dalchand on March 6 and at Lalori Khera locality on Feb 22 have almost gone unnoticed. On March 6, he said at the Dalchand meeting: "Agar kissi galat tatv ke aadmi ne, kisi Hindu pe haath uthaya ya hinduon ke upar yeh samajh key ki yeh kamzor hain, unke peeche koi nahi hai... hinduon ke upar haath uthaya, mein geeta ki kasam khake kehta hoon ki mein uss haath ko kaat daaloonga. (If somebody lifts a hand against Hindus, or thinks they are weak, there is nobody behind them, then I swear on the (Bhagvad) Gita that I will cut off that hand)." It has left even leaders who are working for his victory flabbergasted. Naresh Verma, a popular BJP leader in Puranpur ? within the constituency ? said, "I am a BJP activist and a Hindu too. But I am not in favour of launching a communally charged campaign. If Varun Gandhi persists with such style of campaigning, I would be compelled to keep myself away from it." Added another BJP veteran Gurdial Singh: "Varun is going out of hand. If he is not restrained, this election could end in a bloody communal clash." The 70-year-old Sikh froom Ramnagar village was even asked to leave one of the Hindu meets being addressed by Varun Gandhi. "He neither has respect for any other religion nor even for elders. In his arrogance, he has gone to the extent of forgetting that his mother was also a Sikh before her marriage." If the BJP is alarmed, other parties are determined to ensure that this stops. "We have audio-recordings of the provocative language used by Varun Gandhi to run down Muslims," claimed Haroon Ahmad, a local Samajwadi Party leader. "We have been restraining our people from retaliating because that will lead to a clash, but how long can we stop people from reacting?" he asked. Varun Gandhi's Congress rival V.M. Singh said he was "going to make a detailed complaint in this regard to the Election Commission". Asked why he had not done so far, Singh said, "I have been gathering all the evidence against him so far but now I am going to make a written complaint. "The highly objectionable slang used by Varun in his reference to Muslims could just spark off a violent communal clash here."

Nine killed in Pakistan suicide blast

Rawalpindi: At least 15 people were injured in the attack, Rawalpindi police chief Nasir Khan Durrani said. The blast appeared to be a suicide car bomb attack, he added. At least nine people were killed and over a dozen injured in an apparent suicide bombing outside a hotel in Rawalpindi Monday evening, Geo TV reported. The blast occurred near Pir Wadhai Chowk at Ghousia Adda area on the outskirts of Rawalpindi, according to the police. TV grabs showed a number of cars and roadside stalls destroyed in the explosion in the garrison city. The blast comes on the day when a major opposition march was called off after the government announced the reinstatement of deposed judges, including Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. No group claimed responsibility for the blast immediately. Rescue work at the scene was under way.

EC slaps notice on Varun for anti-Muslim speech

New Delhi: Varun Gandhi's hate speech against Muslims has landed him in trouble with the Election Commission sending a notice to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader after CNN-IBN showed his speech.

The Election Commission will meet on Tuesday to discuss the issue and has also asked for the tapes to review his speech.

CNN-IBN on Monday showed Varun making a provocative speech targeting Muslims.

On the campaign trail, Varun had reportedly said that he will cut the hands of those who target Hindus.

"They have scary names - Karimullah, Nazarullah - its scary to see them at night. I have a cousin - my aunt's daughter - she saw a pamphlet which had photos of all candidates. When my cousin who is seven-eight years old, saw Samajwadi Party's candidate's photo, she said Bhaiya (big brother), I didn't know that Osama Bin Laden is fighting from your constituency," Varun said in his speech.

"This is not a "hand", this is the power of the lotus. This will cut the head of the Muslim. Jai Shri Ram. If anyone raises a finger towards Hindus, or if someone thinks that Hindus are weak and leaderless... if someone thinks that these leaders lick our boots for our votes... if anyone raises a finger towards Hindus - then I swear on the Gita that I will cut that hand," he said.

Varun had been sent a notice by the District Magistrate on Sunday but he denied the charge in his written reply to the District Magistrate.

"I did not make any communal comments. It's been misquoted," he said.

The issue came to light when a local group filed a report which claimed Varun had made provocative speeches with communal undertones during his election rallies. Varun is contesting from Pilibhit seat from where his mother Maneka Gandhi was elected in the last Lok Sabha.

Constitutional expert Subhash Kashyap said prime facie the speech is a violation of the Model Code of Conduct.

"Once enquiry results are out then only it can be decided if action can be taken against Varun Gandhi. The speech is a violation of Model Code of Conduct," said Kashyap.

Copyright : CNN IBN

Aliens in space? ISRO discovers extraterrestrial life

Pune: In a major scientific breakthrough Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) claims to have found three unknown species of bacteria about 40 kilometres above the earth's surface.

An ISRO research balloon found the three unknown species of bacteria which could mean that there is alien life in space.

Terrestrial microbes fight to survive at heights where the three species of bacteria have been discovered as ultraviolet rays kill most of them.

So are they really alien? Scientists say they could be mutant forms of earthly bacteria. Tossed into space by exploding volcanoes, they could have evolved to survive in a hostile world.

One of the new species has been named Bacillus Isronensis recognising ISRO's contribution in the experiment, while another is called Bacillus Aryabhata after India's ancient astronomer Aryabhata.

The third is called Janibacter Hoylei after astrophysicist Fred Hoyle.

A 459-kg scientific payload, which was launched from the National Balloon Facility in Hyderabad, collected air samples at heights between 20 to 41 km, and was later parachuted down and retrieved.

The samples were analysed at the Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad and the National Center for Cell Science (NCCS), Pune before revealing the startling results.

But it is not the first time scientists have claimed to find signs of life in space.

In 2008, the Phoenix Mission found evidence of liquid water on Mars. An astronaut aboard Nasa's Discovery Mission in 1989 reported an encounter with an alien spacecraft and in 2004, Mars explorer Spirit captured images of bigfoot, a human like form on the planet.

Copyright © IBNLive

TDP chief ropes in NTR clan to counter Chiranjeevi

Hyderabad: Junior NTR has been roped by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) to counter Chiranjeevi's star power even as the Praja Rajyam leader brought in his brother, another filmstar, into the electoral fray.

Large crowds were a signature of any Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao, popularly known as NTR, election campaign. Now two generations later TDP's latest entrant and NTR's grandson Junior NTR seems to be an equally big hit.

Junior NTR is the latest star campaigner for TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu and he pulled massive crowds as he made his political debut in a customised van in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh recently.

The popular actor was roped in after much persuasion and is already drawing comparisons with the flamboyant NTR.

"Junior NTR started from Srikakulam. The response is extremely well and that itself is an indication that people are with us," said Naidu.

Naidu has convinced the star-studded NTR family to step out for TDP and Junior NTR's father and uncle Harikrishna and Balakrishna have also hit the campaign trail. Nadu believes it is the only way he can tackle Chiranjeevi's star power.

"Certaibly Chiranjeevi's ciner glamour, party base and his charisma as film star has certainly triggered off a kind of necessity for the TDP to kind of balance Praja Rajyam's film glamour with some kind of film glamour," said political analyst Nageshwar Rao.

While the seven-month old Praja Rajyam Party is banking on Chiranjeevi's fan following, it's also making sure it capitalises on all its Tollywood power.

Chiranjeevi's younger brother Pawan Kalyan, also a popular Tollywood actor, is out campaigning full throttle for his brother.

The Praja Rajyam chief is aware that in Andhra Pradesh star quotient matters.

The upcoming Lok Sabha elections in Andhra Pradesh will prove if it is all in the name.

From Junior NTR to Balakrishna to Pawan Kalyan, while political parties try and place their best star forward, voters only hope that this desperation of political parties to connect with them stays even after the star dust settles down.

Pak crisis over; Zardari is the biggest loser

islamabad: Is Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on the way out in the wake of the government's capitulation on the lawyers' demand for reinstating the Supreme Court and high court judges who were sacked in 2007?

Even if he stays, one thing is for sure: his reputation is in tatters and many of his powers could be taken away from the presidency and restored to the prime minister's office.

This apart, analysts point out that the threat to Zardari also comes from three other quarters. The first is the statesman-like stature Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has acquired with his handling of the crisis, from which he has actually emerged stronger at Zardari's expense.

The second is Gilani's improved equation with Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, who led the lawyers' long march for the restoration of the judges then president Pervez Musharraf had sacked after imposing an emergency on November 3, 2007.

Gilani announced on Monday that Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury and the 60-odd judges of the apex and provincial courts would be reinstated, resulting in the long march being called off.

The PPP and the PML-N, along with two smaller parties had formed the coalition after they emerged the two biggest parties after the February 2008 general elections.

They had even agreed on a governance agenda, which included the restoration of the sacked judges and the repeal of the controversial 17th amendment that Musharraf had pushed through in 2003 transferring key powers to the presidency from the prime minister's office.

Zardari's reneging on the promise prompted Sharif to pull the PML-N out of the coalition. Till now, the nine portfolios allotted to the PML-N have remained unfilled.

While the demand for repealing the amendment was on the lawyers' agenda, it was not immediately addressed, but this could happen in the very near future, analysts pointed.

Once the amendment is repealed, the powers to appoint the service chiefs and the chief justice and to dismiss the federal and provincial governments would be taken away from the presidency and restored to the prime minister's office.

This would leave Zardari with only ceremonial powers.

The third, or rather fourth, threat to Zardari would come from the restored chief justice.

Given his judicial activism in the past, Chaudhury could well re-examine the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) Musharraf had promulgated in 2007 to facilitate the return from exile of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and her husband Zardari by closing the corruption cases against them in this country.

Even if Chaudhury doesn't walk the last mile on this immediately, the Sword of Damocles, as it were, would constantly be hanging over Zardari.

It was for this very reason that Zardari had been dragging his feet on the judges but the manner in which events have unfolded in Pakistan have shown that the President has driven himself into a corner from which he would find it very hard to extricate himself – if his own PPP and the people of Pakistan let him.

Rift widens as Jaitley skips party meet again

New Delhi: The rift is out in the open. On Tuesday, BJP General Secretary Arun Jaitley skipped the meeting of the party's Central Election Committee (CEC).

The meeting was being held to finalise Lok Sabha candidates for the states of Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.

The CEC meeting, chaired by BJP President Rajnath Singh, was attended by senior leaders L K Advani, Venkaiah Naidu, Sushma Swaraj, Gopinath Munde and Bal Apte.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi also attended the meeting.

The differences between Jaitley and Rajnath Singh came out in the open Friday when the General Secretary skipped a key meeting of the party's central election committee.

Jaitley, in charge of the party's Lok Sabha election campaign, is reportedly miffed over Rajnath Singh's move to appoint Mittal as in-charge of the poll campaign in Assam and joint in-charge of campaign in the northeast without consulting him. He wants Mittal removed from the post.

Mittal is said to have played a key role in finalising the seat-sharing agreement with the Asom Gana Parishad in Assam.

Jaitley meanwhile has made it clear that he would not attend the meetings of the CEC till his demand is met.

He skipped the earlier meeting of CEC on March 13. Efforts to mollify him have proved futile.

The BJP President, who has appointed Mittal - a close associate of late party leader Pramod Mahajan - to the post, has also refused to go back on his decision.

Party sources say Advani - with the help of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh - was making an effort to resolve the differences between Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley.

Paradigm shift: India shines with gaming culture

India has long been known for a community where games are only left to be played by the growing-ups; 'anti-gaming culture' is what one prefers to call it. But over the past few years, with the advent of better gaming consoles, the whole scenario is in for a paradigm shift.

As per an PEW Study, 66 per cent of all adults, aged 18 years and above, play video games on consoles or the computer. The figures suggested that the percentage of video gamers amongst those aged 18-29 was a staggering 81 per cent, while those between 30 and 49 stood at an incredible 60 per cent.

The survey findings also revealed that the average age of today's Indian gamer has risen to 28 years – much above even the so-considered maturity age of 18-20 years. Technology has managed to move the real world of many into the virtual zone, and advertisers are now eyeing the video gaming industry as the next prospective arena for advertising and increasing brand awareness.

With investments on in-game advertising forecasted to touch a $ 1.8 billion by 2010, the future for those willing to bet heavy on this platform looks brighter than ever. Today, it is possible to analyse the effectiveness of every portion of advertisement rupee that an agency invests in online gaming, with the help of various algorithms drafted into games. All these analytics help them in designing better ads and placements.

Companies like Massive, a subsidiary of Microsoft, have developed a powerful algorithm that use the Internet connection to transfer data back to the agencies, informing them about the gamer's state of mind, amount of time spent on the current level, the kind of accessories a gamer uses, the time of day and many more.

A number of games also use billboard-like ads and product placements to create a more life-like, realistic environment. In this regard, advertisements in virtual worlds and MMORPGs like Second Life and Sim City has become a common buzz.

As per a survey conducted by Gamasutra, in-game advertising increases brand recall by 44 per cent and positive brand association by 33 per cent. Over 60 per cent of those surveyed felt that the ads caught their attention and made games more realistic without interrupting gaming experience.

A traditional example would be the Starwoods Hotels and Resorts that established an aloft hotel in Second Life. The real world hotel is yet to open-up, but an early preview to the gamers provides early feedback to designers from prospective guests and also help in spreading awareness about the same.

Integrating dynamic advertising into video-game environments gives brands a measured lift in consumer awareness and opinions of the players. And women are not excluded from the target segment here.

Ravi Kumar, country head, Gamloft, explains, "Those games which appeal to women are threats to popularity of TV. As casual mobile and other forms of gaming grow in popularity, TV as an entertainment medium will surely stand challenged."

According to Gamasutra, around 82 per cent of consumers feel that games are almost as enjoyable with or without advertisements, and this only points out to one fundamental issue – game developers need to make brands a part of their game and not just simply stick branded logos around.

Big trouble: Can Sony Max broadcast the IPL 2 ?

Lalit Modi, chairman and commissioner, Indian Premier League (IPL), has recently admitted that he constantly has to juggle his timings in order to get a few hours of rest.

No wonder then, the deal that the World Sports Group (WSG) signed with World Sports Group-Mauritius, with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) as the third party, happened at 3 am, IST.

IPL shot off a letter to Sony Entertainment Television (now Multi Screen Media) at 10.44 pm (IST) on Saturday night, March 14, terminating its contract with the channel and five and half hours later, on early Sunday morning, sealed the deal with WSG-Mauritius for a whooping Rs 4,700 crore. WSG-Mauritius is a separate legal entity and isn't directly related to WSG India Pvt Ltd.

Without the knowledge that BCCI had already inked the new deal, MSM India, on Sunday, sought an injunction in Bombay High Court anticipating that BCCI were in talks with other parties which they claimed wasn't acceptable. When the case was brought for hearing on Monday afternoon, it then came to light that the deal had already been signed.

"The 3 o'clock agreement.'' exclaimed Iqbal Chagla, the counsel representing MSM in the court, further arguing that the termination notice was served so late on Saturday keeping in mind that the court will reopen only on Monday.

The counsel said as per the January 2008 Media Rights License Agreement (MRLA), MSM had paid a bank guarantee of Rs 220 crore and another advance of Rs 90 crore to the BCCI-IPL which was accepted by the latter unconditionally.

To this, the BCCI counsel, V Tulzapurkar, replied saying that the termination clause, 10.1, according to the contract between the two parties, had to be evoked because of a series of breaches of contracts to which there had been no re medial procedures brought in place on MSM's behalf.

V Tulzapurkar further added that "termination is always a unilateral act and not bilateral,'' which in turn means that unlike signing of a contract, the termination of a contract does not require a reciprocal right or the acceptance of any receipt.

Thus, a fax was sent to MSM India on the night of March 14, which merely mentioned that the contract had been terminated. The BCCI, their counsel said in court, had sent notices to MSM 14 days before termination of the contract, citing eight issues pertaining to breach of contract to which they claim there was no reply from the latter.

"The licensee gets the rights back on termination of contract,'' he appealed to the court. The court will hear both parties again on Tuesday.

Should the newly signed deal between IPL and WSG-Mauritius stay, the latter will have to look for a broadcaster in the country with more than a 60 per cent reach to further sub-lease its terrestrial rights. The deal between IPL and Sony being on a sticky wicket was first reported in on February 20.

For the record, WSG-India Pvt Ltd bought the telecast and production rights of IPL in 2007 for $ 918 million for a period of 10 years and had in turn leased it to Sony Max (from MSM India stable) for five years for a sum that neither party wants to disclose. Sony Max had signed a back-to-back agreement with WSG for the TV broadcast rights, while any new media right would remain with WSG.

In November 2008, BCCI blamed Sony for its Rs 137 crore on ground sponsorship deal with Reliance ADAG's Big TV , which was being terminated. It is widely believed that it was after the fallout of the Big TV deal that the rift between BCCI and Sony widened.

BCCI had further asked MSM to convert Bharti Airtel's exclusive on-air deal as a presenting sponsor for about Rs 30 crore to a consolidated ground and on-air deal for a further amount of about Rs 70 crore.

Big TV, which had picked up ground rights sponsorship with BCCI, had objected to the Sony-Bharti deal and later walked out of the deal citing discriminatory pricing by the broadcaster. Sony officials always maintained that they did follow BCCI rules by offering Big TV the first right of refusal for on-air sponsorship.

Also, it is believed that Kunal Dasgupta, CEO, MSM India quit on account of the fallout of the sponsorship deal between MSM and Big TV, though he has maintained that he quit for 'personal reasons'.

For now, the possible new partners for BCCI include NDTV Group, state-owned Doordarshan, and ESPN Star Sports. Other prominent sports broadcasters, Ten Sports and Zee Sports, are out of the race since they form part of the rival Indian Cricket League (ICL), owned by the Essel Group. That leaves Nimbus Sports, which may not have the wherewithal to acquire IPL's broadcasting rights.


Pakistan reinstates judge to ease political tensions

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani reinstated the country's sacked top judge ahead of a showdown with opposition parties and defiant lawyers that threatened the stability of the country. The announcement was made by Gilani in a televised address to the nation. Iftikhar Chaudhry, who was sacked by former military strongman Pervez Musharraf, would take over as chief justice of the Supreme Court Saturday, immediately after the present top judge retires. The reinstatement of Chaudhry came as tens of thousands of people were heading toward Islamabad to hold a sit-in for an independent judiciary that they vowed to continue until Chaudhry was reinstated. The rally, dubbed the "Long March" and headed by two-time prime minister and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, was called off immediately after the government announced the restoration of the deposed chief justice, Aaj television reported. Asif Ali Zardari, who replaced Musharraf, initially had promised to reinstate the sacked top judge but did not do so, turning himself into an unpopular political figure. The demonstration, which started Sunday from the eastern city of Lahore, triggered fears of civil unrest in Pakistan, a key battleground in the international fight against terrorism, raising concerns in Washington and other Western capitals, which have intervened to defuse Pakistan's political tensions. "I announce the restoration of Mr Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and all sacked judges on their posts," said Gilani, who sought reconciliation with the opposition parties. The former chief justice and his colleagues had been sacked in November 2007 under emergency rule proclaimed by then-president Pervez Musharraf and immediately before they were to rule in a case involving Musharraf. Chaudhry's removal triggered a mass movement against Musharraf, resulting in the defeat of his political allies in last year's elections and ending his nine-year military rule. Pakistan's army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, held meetings with Gilani and Zardari late Sunday and reportedly pressed the two leaders for a deal to avert instability. Nabeel Gabool, a member of Gilani's cabinet, attributed the apparent detente to "America, army and Allah." The prime minister also indicated a reversal of a court ruling that barred Sharif and his brother, Shahbaz Sharif, from elected office and dismissed their party's provincial government in Punjab. The United States welcomed the Chaudhry's restoration. "This is a statesmanlike decision taken to defuse a serious confrontation, and the apparent removal of this long-standing national issue is a substantial step towards national reconciliation," said a statement released by US embassy in Islamabad. "Now is the time for all Pakistanis and their political representatives to work together, with the support of their friends and allies, to peacefully strengthen their democracy and ensure a positive dialogue as they move forward to deal with the many issues confronting them," it added.

Want a Nano? First, pay for applying

Application forms for the Nano, the much-awaited Rs 1 lakh car, will not come for free. Tata Motors is likely to charge around Rs 300 for every application.

“This is for the first time that a manufacturer will charge for an application form. However, it will be refunded if an application is rejected,” said a senior executive at a public sector bank.

Bookings are expected to start by the last week of March. The forms, say sources, will be collected through various channels but transferred to the State Bank of India (SBI). “All the forms and the collected money will be transferred to SBI, where they will be processed, and loans will be given through various banks within 90 days,” said a source at a public sector bank.

“This is being done to manage the applications efficiently, as Tata Motors is expecting a large amount of bookings,” the source said. When asked, an SBI official said he could not share any details on the subject.

A senior executive with a large bank said the interest rates could be cheaper than the existing auto loan rates. So far, SBI and Punjab National Bank have announced tie-ups with Tata Motors, and others like Bank of India, Union Bank of India and Bank of Baroda are expected to follow.

“We are in talks with various public sector banks to provide the widest possible range of financing options to the customers of Nano,” said a source.

© 2009 Business Standard

I am not married and have learnt to deal with rumours: Freida Pinto

This Mumbai girl has made India very proud. From Hollywood projects to being a brand ambassador along with being featured in every leading fashion magazine, Freida Pinto has arrived. She spoke to CNN-IBN's chief entertainment correspondent Rohit Khilnani about her herself, Slumdog Millionaire future projects, personal life and more.

Rohit Khilnani: It has been a long journey for you. Tell us about it.

Freida Pinto: It has been wonderful ever since I started on Slumdog Millionaire. It has been rewarding, we have had our ups and downs but I have learnt a lot in the last one-and-half years. And I know I wouldn’t have been able to do so had I not got this opportunity. In terms of growth it has been very helpful.

Rohit Khilnani: When did you realise that you had really hit gold with this film?

Freida Pinto: I don’t know about everyone else but for me it took a really long time to sink in. I remember at the SAG Awards I wasn’t expecting us to win. We were up against Milk and so many other big films. And all of a sudden when Anthony Hopkins announced Slumdog Millionaire for best ensemble cast that is when something just woke up within me. That is when I thought the big time has come. But there are times when I still take some time off and breathe in and wonder what just happened to me.

It is uncanny or surreal for me to walk around and see my face on the cover of Vogue and on posters and hoardings.

Rohit Khilnani: You have traveled a lot with the Slumdog cast. How was your equation with Rubina, Dev, Azhar and the all the others?

Freida Pinto: It was wonderful and this is what someone else was also saying. You know sometimes one is shooting a film and you feel this positive vibration circulating around the sets of the film and its cast. It is like magic happening. Though, none of us knew the magic would turn out to be the Oscars, BAFTA, Golden Globe and everything else.

There was a family bond in which everyone was encouraging each other. Nobody was pulling any person down. There was absolutely no ego issues. Everyone worked as a team and now when I think of it in retrospect, so much honesty was put into that film.

When we had to say goodbye to everyone it was very emotional. We had spent so much time together. I am still in touch with the kids because they are from Mumbai as well. They are busy with their examinations right now. They all are very ambitious and determined and I want to wish them the very best.

Rohit Khilnani: So the Slumdog team will always be in touch.

Freida Pinto: Yes, in fact we have already started making plans. I was speaking to Ashutosh and Tanay and they both were like “lets make a plan for September to Goa after our Board exams are over.”

Rohit Khilnani: How was life before Slumdog? What was Freida Pinto upto?

Freida Pinto: Before I auditioned for Slumdog I was hosting a travel show. I traveled all over South East Asia and I thoroughly enjoyed it. That was another experience that really made me grow. I had to take charge and go out there and in fact do exactly what you are doing. So I don’t regret anything. The struggle has made me understand all this a lot more and made success even sweeter.

Rohit Khilnani: Are you a real Mumbai girl?

Freida Pinto: Absolutely. I love the local trains, I love the auto rickshaws, I love the rains on Marine drive during monsoons. I have done everything that a proper Mumbaikar could do, I have been to rock concerts, I have bunked college and gone for movies at Regal, Metro, so yeah, I am.

Rohit Khilnani: Yeah, I have read that you are famous at catching the very famous Mumbai locals?

Freida Pinto: I think I am, I think they should make a film on how to get into Mumbai locals.

Rohit Khilnani: How has life changes after Slumdog, have your cousins, friends started treating you differently?

Freida Pinto: No, they all are surprised. For them, the little Freida, who was a drama queen, who would blow things out of proportion, I mean every response of mine would be a dramatic response, so they are kind of used to the dramatics. But for this, they are very proud that one of their family member has achieved so much. They keep encouraging me to go out and continue to do what I have been doing.

Rohit Khilnani: Once you were there, which of your favourite Hollywood actress did you meet?

Freida Pinto: I did meet many of them, and every meeting was a revelation that these were the people whom you have watched and here they are before you and they look so different. For me Forest Whitaker came as complete shock, because if you see the last king of Scotland, he’s played a bad character , but when I met him, he is the sweetest most enduring person ever. He has this lovely smile, he congratulated us, he enjoyed the film, he enjoyed watching the kids, he said we did a fantastic job and I was even happier at that point of time that I was part of it.

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BCCI-Home Ministry meet on IPL inconclusive

New Delhi: The fate of Board of Control for Cricket in India-promoted Indian Premier League (IPL) is still uncertain with security issues dogging the Twenty20 cricket tournament.

However, the meeting between the BCCI officials and the Home Ministry, which took place in New Delhi on Monday, failed to break the deadlock regarding the schedule of the second season of the Indian Premier League.

"We had discussions and Home Ministry expressed its concern and we have also conveyed our concerns and issues and that of the stakeholders to the Home Ministry," said BCCI Secretary N Srinivasan after the meeting.

Home Ministry sources said that they expressed their concern on the security and will also talk to the state governments on the issue

"The revised schedule that IPL came up with did not have many changes except for that of the Vishakhapatnamand the state governments were not consulted while making the revised dates," said a source.

Five BCCI officials went into the crucial meeting to discuss the internal security in the mega event which is clashing with the election dates.

The Union Home Ministry plans to ask the IPL organisers to hold proper consultations with the states in which they want to hold the Twenty20 matches.

Most of the states have voiced their inability to provide security during the matches due to General Elections.

However, IPL Chairman and Commissioner Lalit Modi said that before coming out the new fixtures, all states concerned had been taken into confidence.

Reports suggest that West Bengal may be taken off from the schedule as the state was demanding deployment of 30 companies of central para-military forces.

With IPL clashing with 15th Lok Sabha elections and security continuing to be a major issue, the options before IPL are limited.

The first option for IPL is to shift matches from main venues to smaller venues like Dharamsala, Cuttack, Raipur, Ahmedabad and add the number of grounds they already have.

It will mean logistically they can conduct more matches every day keeping security concerns in mind and also the willingness of the states involved.

The second option is a fall-back option in which the IPL board may split the championship into two parts. First half of will take place in April-May and second half of it after India's tour of the West Indies in July.

However, the second option will be a logistical nightmare in terms of availability of international players and cost of the tournament.

In the third option, the IPL can be truncated and a shorter version agreed upon where teams play seven matches on neutral venues instead of home and away basis.

However, it will mean sponsors will not get value for their money and will be forced to return part of it.

This option can cost IPL close to Rs 400 crore and franchises may have to shell out some of their personal sponsorship money.

The last option is of course to cancel the IPL but it will lead to a huge financial loss.

Meanwhile, in more trouble for the league, Bombay High Court on Monday restrained IPL from discussing the broadcasting rights with any other company. The court has also asked IPL to produce more documents.

Sony TV has taken the IPL to court for discussing telecast rights with other channels.