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Australian media suggested a reality check on the hype surrounding the much-vaunted Indian batting line-up

SYDNEY: The Australian media on Saturday suggested a reality check on the hype surrounding the much-vaunted Indian batting line-up after the visitors' humiliating innings defeat in the second Test, saying that they should ponder over whether the ageing stars can still deliver for the team.

The famed Indian batting line-up came a cropper in the two Tests against Australia in the ongoing four-match series and the local media wondered whether the ageing stalwarts were still an asset.

"On paper India boasts one of the most formidable batting line-ups ever seen in Test cricket, but reality suggests age is starting to overpower the benefits of their experience," the Australian Associated Press said.

"Dravid and Tendulkar are approaching 39, Laxman is 37 and India's recent whitewash against England and 2-0 deficit against Australia indicates something is significantly wrong. Writing off champion players is always fraught with danger, and India's big three, as well as Virender Sehwag and MS Dhoni, have shown patches of their prowess over recent months," it said.

According to the write-up, India's recent rise to No. 1 spot in Test before England dethroned them were due to the huge partnerships among the experienced but ageing players.

"India became No.1 team in Test because their stars had a knack of firing together and combining for huge partnerships to bat teams out of matches. That isn't happening at moment, and the question is whether their ageing heroes are in a position to see them back to top of world rankings," it said.

The media said the perception that India's famed batting line-up will deliver at SCG, Sachin Tendulkar's "favourite" ground abroad, in second Test was exaggerated.

"Rumours of an Indian pulse in Sydney had been greatly exaggerated. Inevitably, the tooth fairy (mythical creature of bounty) was revealed to be a fraud," a write-up in 'Sydney Morning Herald' said.

"While Tendulkar and Laxman were still at crease after lunch, there remained the faint belief the unsalvageable might be salvaged. The tourists' back was broken early afternoon with the dismissals of Tendulkar for 80 and Laxman for 66. The rest of afternoon was a victory lap for Michael Clarke's side," the write up in 'Sydney Morning Herald' said.

'The Australian' focussed on Tendulkar falling to the slow left-arm bowling of Australian captain Michael Clarke, which triggered the visiting side's collapse in India's second innings, leading to their innings and 68-run defeat in the second Test at the SCG.

Under the heading 'Indian cobras charmed again by Michael Clarke's tweaks', the newspaper wrote, "What is it about Indian batsmen and that Australian slow left-arm and occasional orthodox spinner? The sweet slicing artists of the subcontinent have made mincemeat from the finest rumps of Australian tweakers.

"Shane Warne has been reduced to a shivering mess at times and if it happened to him you can imagine how mere mortals fare. There is something about Michael Clarke, however, that an Indian batsman does not love.

"He only took one wicket but it may as well have been five, for when Sachin Tendulkar falls a trapdoor opens beneath the innings," it said.

'Herald Sun' praised the Australian team for winning the second Test also in four days after taming the highly-rated Indian batting line-up.

"For the second time in as many weeks, Australia twice disposed of the game's most feared batting line-up inside four days," it said.

Meanwhile, captain Michael Clarke got most of the credit from the local media for his 329 not out and dismissal of Tendulkar which triggered Indian batting collapse in the visitors' second innings.

Under the caption 'Pup tops Sachin, Clarke outshines Indian legend', 'Herald Sun' wrote, "Few people have ever upstaged Sachin Tendulkar. No one is likely to do it more completely than Michael Clarke did in this 100th SCG Test.

"Is there nothing Clarke can't do as captain? A triple century one day, the prized wicket of Tendulkar the next. Clarke's fairytale continued the Little Master's frustration," a write-up in the newspaper said.

"Just when it appeared no one was going to dismiss Tendulkar this week, or perhaps next, and his 100th international century looked a certainty, Clarke delivered a handful of kryptonite. And that was that. Tendulkar's last appearance in a Test at the SCG was over for a well-constructed 80," it said.

'Daily Telegraph' praised Clarke for not going for individual glory by declaring Australia's first ininngs when he was unbeaten on 329 and pooh poohed how the famed Indian batting line-up failed to deliver once again.

"Clarke's triple century in his hometown will be remembered for a long time - as will his decision not to pursue Matty Hayden's Australian record of 380 - while Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey whacked timely centuries," the newspaper said.

The media said Clarke earned respect as captain with his monumental effort with the bat and with his leadership skills.

"In just three days - the time it took to score 329 runs at the SCG - Australia's cricket captain has shed his image as a tosser and found what he craves most: respect. Pup is the toast of the nation. He has India on the ropes, his future assured and a new woman at his side."

2G spectrum case:Subramanian Swamy submitted the certified copies of documents

New Delhi: Seeking to make Home Minister P. Chidambaram a party to the 2G spectrum case, Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy today submitted the certified copies of documents and concluded his arguments. Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Judge O.P. Saini, after hearing Swamy's plea for prosecution of Chidambaram in the 2G case, listed the matter for Jan 21 for final arguments. "This evidence reveals the connivance, collusion and consent of the then finance minister Chidambaram in the decision taken by the then telecom minister A. Raja on the matter of fixing prices of spectrum licences and the matter of permitting companies who received licences," Swamy said. Chidambaram was the finance minister in the first United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government when the spectrum saga began. Swamy sought to make Chidambaram a party in the case, saying the decision on spectrum pricing was taken in 2008 jointly by him and Raja, who has been lodged in the Tihar Jail here since Feb 2. He alleged that Chidambaram and Raja were equally guilty of recommending spectrum prices based on 2001 rates.

Swamy had earlier submitted three documents for seeking the prosecution of Chidambaram. These included evidence extracted from a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report and other sources, and sought some time to bring more documents related to the scam.

Raja is among the 14 people, including corporate honchos, who have been arrested in the scam. Kanimozhi, a DMK Rajya Sabha MP and daughter of former Tamil Nadu chief minister K. Karunanidhi, was also arrested in connection with the case.

BJP should appoint an internal Lokpal :Congress

New Delhi: Taunting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the induction of tainted former Uttar Pradesh minister Babu Singh Kushwaha, the Congress today said BJP veteran L.K. Advani should launch another yatra to educate its cadres on corruption, adding the party should appoint an internal Lokpal.

"Advani should start another yatra to educate partymen about corruption. His yatra of 2011 has been successful as the tree of corruption in its backyard is bearing fruits now," Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told reporters.

Taking a further dig at the BJP, Singhvi said the party should have an "internal Lokpal to screen and allow only corrupt people into the party fold".

"The list of corrupt leaders supported by the BJP is a long one and includes names like former party president Bangaru Laxman, former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, Karnataka leaders Reddy brothers and many others," said Singhvi.

The Congress also suggested an understanding between the BJP and the Bahujan Samaj Party as the former accepted a leader thrown out by the latter after keeping him in for five years.

Congress sources said hammering the BJP on the Kushwaha issue is likely to help it expose the "double standards" of the saffron party on its anti-corruption campaign during the assembly polls in five states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa.

Current economic slowdown would be in the "short term":Montek Singh Ahluwalia

Bhubaneswar: Holding that the current economic slowdown would be in the "short term", Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia today said India could be the world's third largest economy in next 20 years as economic power seemed to be shifting from from industrialised countries to developing countries.

"Don't get too worried about the short term slowdown that the newspapers keep talking about," Ahluwalia said, in his address at the 7th annual convocation ceremony of the KIIT University here.

"There are very important global changes taking place right now with the shift of economic power from the industrialized countries from one hand to developing countries largely Asia," he said.

"We are not lagging behind everybody. We are just coming in second to China and people are looking at India. This is going to be some thing that will reach maturity," Ahluwalia said.

"There are many predictions that, say by the year 2030-2033, the largest GDP in the world will be China, second largest would be United States and third largest will be India," he said.

Delivering another lecture at the state-run National Aluminium Company Limited (NALCO) on its 11th foundation day, Ahluwalia said this year the economy has been slightly slow but added it was not only for India, but for other countries also.

"Around the world this is not a normal year. Therefore the current Indian economy must be viewed in that context," he said.

"When we approached to the 12th (Five-Year) Plan a few months ago, we had targeted about nine percent growth. I would say that nothing that we have seen right now suggest that nine percent is not feasible," he said.

CFSL sent the Bhanwari Devi ashes collected from a site in Jodhpur

Jodhpur: A team of the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) Friday sent the ashes collected from a site in Jodhpur to New Delhi for a DNA test to ascertain if they were the remains of Rajasthan nurse Bhanwari Devi, while a court extended the custody of sacked Rajasthan minister Mahipal Maderna, arrested for his alleged role in her disappearance.

Bhanwari Devi, allegedly shown in a compromising position with Maderna in a CD, had gone missing Sep 1, 2011.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) produced Maderna before the additional chief judicial magistrate, who extended the ex-minister's judicial custody till Jan 20.

Parasram Bishnoi, the other accused and a Congress legislator's brother, was also presented in court and his judicial custody was also extended till Jan 20.

Parasram is the brother of Luni legislator Malkhan Singh Bishnoi, who has also been arrested by the CBI for his alleged involvement in the case.

Meanwhile, a team of the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) Friday recovered some items from a canal suspected to be belonging to the accused who disposed of her body and the nurse herself, sources. The item include two guns, a gunny bag, a bat and some bone parts.

The CFSL sent ashes and these items collected from Jaloda village in Jodhpur to New Delhi for a DNA test to ascertain if they were the remains of Bhanwari Devi, sources said.

Bhanwari Devi's body was allegedly burnt by a gang of criminals led by Bishnaram Bishnoi in 30-feet deep carter near Jadola Sep 1.

A court here Thursday has remanded Bishnaram Bishnoi and his aide Kailash Jakhar to CBI custody till Jan 16.

Bishnaram Bishnoi was arrested near Pune in Maharashtra Wednesday while Jakhar, believed to be the owner of a jeep used to dispose the body, was nabbed in Rajasthan Tuesday.

The CSFL team arrived in Jodhpur Thursday along with CBI director A.P. Singh after the investigators Wednesday identified the spot where the nurse's body was allegedly disposed after her abduction Sep 1.

It is alleged that Bhanwari was burnt and her remains were then dumped in a nearby canal.

The forensic team has collected some ashes believed to be the remains of the nurse, sources added. The canal was also being examined by divers.

The CBI had taken Omprakash Bishnoi, an arrested accused, to a place near Jaloda village where the nurse's body was reportedly burnt.

In a chargesheet filed by the CBI, it was alleged that three men kidnapped the nurse from Jodhpur's Bilara area Sep 1, killed her and then handed over her body Bishnaram Bishnoi.

According to sources close to the CBI, Maderna and Malkhan Singh were hand-in-glove in the conspiracy as the nurse was blackmailing both of them.

Maderna was believed to be blackmailed on the basis of a CD showing him in a compromising position with the nurse.

The two politicians allegedly roped in Sahiram Bishnoi, who hired Sohan Lal, Balia and Shahabuddin for the task of kidnapping the nurse.

Apart from Maderna and Malkhan Singh, the three kidnappers and Sahiram along with Amarchand, husband of Bhanwari Devi, have been arrested by the CBI.

The CBI also arrested Malkhan's brother Parasram Bishnoi as well as two others - Umesharam and Omprakash Bishnoi.

Hyderabad: IAS officer Y. Srilakshmi surrendered before a court

Hyderabad: Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Y. Srilakshmi, whose bail was cancelled by the Andhra Pradesh High Court, surrendered before a court here today in the illegal mining case involving former Karnataka minister G. Janardhana Reddy.

She surrendered in the special CBI court after the Supreme Court rejected her petition to stay the high court order.

The special court remanded the bureaucrat to judicial custody till Jan 12. She was sent to Chanchalguda Central Jail.

Earlier, the Supreme Court, while refusing to stay the high court order, adjourned the hearing of her petition to Jan 16.

The high court on Jan 2 had cancelled her bail and had directed her to surrender before the special court by Jan 6.

The high court order came on a petition by the CBI. The special court had granted bail to Srilakshmi on Dec 2, a day after she was sent to jail.

Srilakshmi, who was family welfare commissioner at the time of her arrest by the CBI on Nov 28, was sent to CBI custody for three days. She was sent to jail on Dec 1 and was suspended by the state government the same day.

The 1988-batch IAS officer was secretary of industries in the Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy government when Obulapuram Mining Company (OMC) of Janardhana Reddy was granted leases for iron ore mining in Anantapur district.

She is the fourth accused in the case and is facing the allegations of showing favours to OMC in granting of leases.

Janardhana Reddy and his brother-in-law, B. V. Srinivasa Reddy are currently in jail in the illegal mining case.

2G case:Delhi High Court adjourned hearing on the plea of corporate honchos Asif Balwa

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court today adjourned till Feb 6 the hearing on the plea of corporate honchos Asif Balwa and Rajiv B. Agggarwal that the CBI officer investigating the 2G case be barred from attending their trial.

Advocate Vijay Aggarwal, appearing for the petitioners argued: "During the trial, the investigating officer, himself a witness in the case, can not remain present in court when the statement of other witnesses was being recorded."

Aggarwal further pleaded that he had raised the issue during the cross-examination of prosecution witnesses in the trial court also, but the special CBI Court had rejected his contention, saying it did not find anything wrong with the presence of the investigating officer in the courtroom.

Disagreeing with the petitioner, advocate Sonia Mathur appearing for the CBI said that some investigating officers were also witnesses in the case and hence, their presence during the trial was a must.

She further submitted that the petitioners at least satisfy the trial court first with their contentions. They could then approach the high court.

Balwa and Aggarwal, the directors of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd., have been charged with routing a Rs.200 crore bribe to Kalaignar TV in which DMK MP Kanimozhi, Sharad Kumar, both co-accused, and DMK chief M. Karunanidhi's wife Dayalu Ammal hold 20, 20 and 60 percent stakes respectively.

United Breweries Group chairman Vijay Mallya said its Kingfisher Airlines was "one thousand percent safe to fly"

Mumbai: United Breweries Group chairman Vijay Mallya today said its Kingfisher Airlines was "one thousand percent safe to fly" and that safety was the airline's top priority.

His assurance comes in the wake of reports that the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) was reportedly contemplating cancelling the airline's licence as its financial crisis could have a bearing on safe operations.

"Kingfisher is one thousand percent safe to fly. Safety is our absolute priority. We would never take the slightest chance or compromise," Mallya posted on Twitter.

Taking a dig at the media for the coverage on his beleaguered airline, Mallya said: "Looks like the over supply of Aviation journalists will have to take a pay cut if Kingfisher does not make daily headlines - correct or not!"

His comments come two days after airlines CEO Sanjay Aggarwal claimed that the DGCA had "no concerns with regard to safety" or any significant findings.

Reiterating that safety of passengers was of "paramount importance", Aggarwal also said Kingfisher Airlines had adequate number of pilots and engineers to operate its scheduled services.

"We reassure our valued guests that our scheduled flights will continue to operate with utmost safety in full compliance with regulatory requirements and stipulations in this regard," Aggarwal said.

Delhi Police had more than 100,000 SMS subscribers & Facebook followers

New Delhi: Delhi Police Commissioner B.K. Gupta said today that the force had more than 100,000 SMS subscribers and nearly the same amount of followers on social networking site Facebook.

Addressing the annual press conference of Delhi Police, Gupta said: "We have 107,264 subscribers of our SMS facility, 92,604 members on Facebook and 5,276 followers on Twitter."

According to Gupta, the initiatives have increased the police's connect with the general public, especially the net-savvy youngsters of the capital.

The Delhi traffic police constantly updates Delhiites on jams and provides other information via social networking sites and SMS services.

Followes on Facebook and Twitter can also upload pictures of traffic rule violators, errant drivers or obstructions on roads to get them redressed quickly.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni blamed the first innings batting collapse for loss in the second Test

Sydney: India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni blamed the first innings batting collapse for the innings and 68 runs loss in the second Test here today, but hoped for a turnaround against Australia in the third Test on a bouncy WACA track at Perth.

"We were down in the first session on the first day. A few batsmen got out to good deliveries and after that Clarke and (Ricky) Ponting batted really well. They built a great partnership," Dhoni said at the post-match presentation.

"It was a good track to bat on. Clarke played brilliantly. He got the pace of the wicket. It was difficult to contain him and he was well supported by Ponting and (Michael) Hussey," he added.

Dhoni said India can win the third Test starting January 13 at Perth.

"Of course, we can win there. It's not about what kind of start we have got, we will look to win in Perth," said Dhoni.

Dhoni said India will come out strong from their six straight losses in away Tests.

"In sport, you are not destined to only win. You'll lose at times. You will face difficult times. That improves you as an individual, and as a skipper. If everything comes easily to you, then you don't really appreciate the kind of hard work that goes into it (winning)," he said.

"This is a phase where I think the team will get stronger. Of course, it won't reflect in the result right now, but overall it will really help us know (recognise) the importance of winning and what needs to be done to keep the winning phase going," he said.

Dhoni blamed the batsmen for the team's second successive loss in Australia but was happy with the performance in the second innings when India scored 400, their highest score in away Tests in the last six months.

"If you see the last two series, including this one in Australia, we didn't score enough. We didn't put enough runs on the board. Of course, to win Tests taking 20 wickets is very important but also we need to give that cushion of extra runs on the board, so that the bowlers can plan the opposition out."

"It is a bit of a worry, but the good thing is we saw the batsmen score runs in the second innings. Of course, it was not good enough to save the Test, but we have seen in the last couple of Tests, everybody has scored at least a fifty. That gives us an indication that we need to convert those [starts] into big innings," he said.

Dhoni also lamented that pace spearhead Zaheer Khan was not getting appropriate support from the other end.

"With more exposure, that's what the bowlers must have learned in the last couple of games. We have looked to attack a bit more with Zaheer because he is our main wicket-taking bowler. We don't want him to look to contain any batsmen as such," he said.

"He (Zaheer) is someone who bowls very well according to the field. It's something that can't go just one way. You can't have four or five slips throughout the Test match. Ultimately, you have to score what the opposition scores too. It's a combination of both. You have to come up with strategies, what works the best."

"It's a balance between getting wickets and what kind of partnership the opposition is getting. If they score very quickly, you may have an attacking field but it will be difficult to get the amount of runs they score," he said.

Dhoni said the team needs to switch off from all the action before focusing on the third Test.

"They (the players) have got a fair amount of exposure to the Australian bowlers in the last two Test matches. What is important is to switch off from the game. You don't really want to overdo it. There may be a few individuals who want to spend a bit more time on the field, but I feel it's always important to switch off from the cricket. That really helps you de-stress a bit, and come back in a positive state of mind."

"I feel that rather than spending more and more time practising, what we need to do is spend some time off the field with some recreational activity and get some time off cricket," he said.

Soulmate set to perform at the 2nd edition of the Mahindra Blues Festival in Mumbai

New Delhi:Grammy award winners Buddy Guy and Taj Mahal Trio along with guitarist Robert Randolph, musician John Lee Hooker Jr, Serbian guitarist-singer Ana Popovic and Indian band Soulmate are set to perform at the second edition of the Mahindra Blues Festival in Mumbai next month.

The festival will take place on Feb 11 and 12, giving Blues lovers an opportunity to treat themselves to some of the very best from across the globe.

The participating names will not just entertain crowds with their performances, they will also host insightful workshops and deliver talks at the festival, to be held at the famous Mehboob Studios in Bandra, Mumbai.

The festival is an attempt to popular the genre of Blues music in the country, said Anand Mahindra, vice chairman and managing director, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd.

"Our presence in various international markets helps us in transplanting local performing arts to other geographies thereby connecting communities around the world. The Mahindra Blues Festival - now an annual event and in its second year - is one such endeavour that seeks to promote a genre that has yet to receive the recognition it deserves in India and around the world," Mahindra said in a press statement.

Chicago Blues veteran and multi-Grammy winner Buddy Guy will be on his second visit to perform at the festival.

The tickets to the Mahindra Blues Festival, promoted and produced by Oranjuice Entertainment, will be available shortly at

Raveena Tandon,says the current lot of actresses are under a lot of pressure to look slim

Mumbai:Raveena Tandon, who started her career with "Patthar Ke Phool", says the current lot of actresses are under a lot of pressure to look slim and in the process, are compromising on their health as a result unable to withstand the rigors of the job.

"After coming to this industry, we actresses face so much pressure to look thin all the time. We are working at erratic hours...we also go through such strict diet plans, it is important to have a strong base," she said.

"These days we get to hear news of actresses fainting due to dieting or working non-stop for 24 hours or for 36 hours. But touchwood, I have never fainted in my life till now," the 37-year-old actress added at an event to announce her as the brand ambassador of Seven Seas Cod Liver Oil.

Raveena feels actresses of her generation were a lot healthier as compared to the current crop.

"I did 'Patthar Ke Phool' when I was 16 and from that day onwards I have been shooting. That time people were not conscious about their looks to such an extent. We were very healthy back then. Me, Kajol, Manisha (Koirala) -- when we had come, we were strong, we looked like we belonged to healthy families," said the actress last seen in "Buddah Hoga Tera Baap".

Raveena had taken a sabbatical after her marriage to Anil Thadani in 2004 and made a comeback last year with "Buddah Hoga Tera Baap". Now she has signed a couple of projects and is currently shooting for "Gin Liya Aasmaan".

She will also be seen in "E-dil Sambhal Zara" and "Shovna Seven Nights".

Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman is abroad for his 46th birthday

New Delhi:Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman is abroad for his 46th birthday, but he has thanked his fans across the world for their good wishes.

He turned 46 today. In a video link posted on his Twitter page, Rahman has said: "Hi! This is A.R. and wishing you a very happy 2012. Thank you for all your wishes for my birthday. I won't be in Chennai this time, I am travelling abroad. So thank you for your kind wishes. God bless you all."

The composer has good things to look forward in 2012. He has in his kitty several southern projects like "Rana", "Yohan: Adhyayam Ondru", "Kochadaiyaan" and "Pookkadai" as well as an untitled Hindi movie with Yash Chopra.

For now, he is upbeat about a five-city tour of Babelsberg, a German film orchestra, that will perform orchestral interpretations of Rahman's film compositions. The orchestra will be joined by choir members from Rahman's KM Conservatory.

The concert will start on Jan 20 in Mumbai, followed by Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and Bangalore.

Actress Vidya Balan says that she believes in the institution of marriage

Mumbai:Actress Vidya Balan says that she believes in the institution of marriage and cannot avoid it for long, but she is not thinking about it right now.

"My career is going good. I am very happy. Emotionally and mentally I am in a very happy space, by god's grace. I am not thinking about marriage as of now, but I'm sure a right time will come for it also. I believe in the institution of marriage. I will not ignore it for a longer duration, but yeah, for now, I am keeping it aside. I will definitely get married," said Vidya.

The actress is said to be dating CEO of UTV movies Siddharth Roy Kapoor.

After the super success of her "Dirty Picture", Vidya is promoting her forthcoming film "Kahaani", directed by Sujoy Ghosh. She will also be seen in Nikhil Advani's "Chand Bhai" opposite Akshaye Khanna.

Vidya admits it's the greed for good roles that keeps her on her toes.

"I am a very greedy actor. I want to play different people, I want to do different kinds of films. Even if it means that the hero is the protagonist, as long as I have enough to do in the film I am more than happy doing it," the 33-year-old actress said during the launch of the first look of her new film "Kahaani".

"I am very happy with the kind of films being made today and that I am getting a chance to work in them. They are appealing to the audience as well, which is most important. Women-oriented films are being made since years, but it is only today that they are tasting success," Vidya added while sporting a fake baby bump during the launch.

She is not restricting herself to women-oriented films, says the actress who has done films like "Parineeta", "Ishqiya" and "Paa".

"I have not made any boundaries or limitations for myself. I have not dictated myself that if the script is women oriented only then I will work in it or anything. If the film is good, if the role is good I will definitely do it," she said.

Bigg Boss 5 :Mahek Chahal's brother saying all the rumours are "false and baseless"

New Delhi:From being linked to Salman Khan to being insulted about her jaw displacement, Mahek Chahal has been hounded by such allegations ever since she entered "Bigg Boss 5" house. However, the actress' brother has now come out in her support, saying all the rumours are "false and baseless".

"Obviously, all these rumours are false and baseless. They don't even make any sense and they sound funny to me," Mahek's brother Vikramjit Chahal said in a statement.

"Mahek on her own will left Norway so that she could make a career for herself in Bollywood, 10 years ago. Even my elder sister has just left Norway to join Mahek in the finale of 'Bigg Boss' and I will be returning to the country on the final day myself."

"All of it is just fake like the people spreading these rumours who can't mind their own business and let others live and be successful in life," he added.

Mahek was voted out of the Colors reality show by her fellow inmates, but returned as a wild card entry. The show, which started off with 13 contestants, has now five inmates - Mahek, Amar Upadhyay, Aakashdeep Saigal, Juhi Parmar and Siddharth Bhardwaj competing for the prize money of Rs.10 million.

"Rock The Shaadi" could have been the first zombie film in Hindi to hit the screens

Mumbai:"Rock The Shaadi" could have been the first zombie film in Hindi to hit the screens, but its lead actress Genelia D'Souza's wedding plans have pushed the film forward, leaving the fright field clear for the competitor "Go, Goa Gone" to romp to finish-line first.

While Navdeep Singh directed "Rock The Shaadi", which has Abhay Deol, Genelia and Kushal Punjabi, is being co-produced by Ekta Kapoor, Shobha Kapoor, Amit Kapoor and Sidhartha M. Jain, "Go Goa Gone" is Saif Ali Khan's production venture that stars his sister Soha and her beau Kunal Khemu.

Kushal says, "We wanted to be the first zombie film. And we're still trying. But yes, our schedule has been postponed. And I am starting another film in January, which I had earlier said no to because of the long 'Shaadi' schedule."

"Rock The Shaadi" co-producer Jain feels the competition from the other zombie films would have no impact on their film.

"Historically in Hollywood, among new genre films, subsequent films have benefited, due to more audience acceptability. Both our film and 'Go Goa Gone' have great directors, so the audience will want more, once they see the films. I personally think, the third zombie film featuring Luke Kenny will reap the best bounty," said Jain.

Apparently after hearing of the postponement of the long schedule of "Rock The Shaadi" from January to the end of the March, director duo Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK rushed for another long spell of shooting for their zombie film "Go Goa Gone" in Goa, thereby bringing the film's entire shooting to near-completion.

Kunal confirms the unit has just returned from shooting in Goa and that they've nearly completed the film.

"We've just about 10 days of shooting left. I don't know about the progress on the other film. But we're almost done and will be releasing soon," he said and also clarified that he is not in the cast of the movie because of his relationship with Soha.

"My doing this had nothing to do with Saif or Soha. I've worked with the co-directors Raj and Krishna before in '99' and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Coincidentally, that film had Soha opposite me. But we met much before '99', during a film called 'Dhoondte Reh Jaoge'."

As for "Rock The Shaadi", the release date will now be decided after the next postponed schedule in March-end. Geneila will reportedly tie the knot with co-star Riteish Deshmukh on Feb 4.

Sachin Tendulkar again fell short of his 100th international century

SYDNEY: Sachin Tendulkar again fell short of his 100th international century when he was dismissed for 80 in India's second innings of the second Test in Sydney on Friday.

Tendulkar looked on course to reach his elusive 100th ton before he edged spinner Michael Clarke to Michael Hussey at first slip.

The Australian players rejoiced wildly with the capture of Tendulkar's prized wicket in the middle session as India dug in to save the match after conceding a 468-run first innings lead.

Tendulkar was given a standing ovation by the small fourth day crowd at the Sydney Cricket Ground after he was out.

He was dismissed for 73 and 32 in the first Test in Melbourne and 41 in the first innings of the Sydney Test.

Tendulkar has been stranded on 99 Test and one-day international centuries since scoring 111 against South Africa in the World Cup in March.

His last Test century was 146 against South Africa in Cape Town a year ago.

The prized wicket capped a dream Test for Australian skipper Clarke, who scored an unbeaten 329 in Australia's massive first innings of 659/4 declared.

Korea Super Series :Saina Nehwal suffered a straight-game defeat

NEW DELHI: Saina Nehwal suffered a straight-game defeat at the hands of sixth seed Yanjiao Jiang of China in the quarterfinals to crash out of the Korea Super Series in Seoul on Friday.

The fourth seed Indian lost 17-21, 10-21 to the world number six Jiang in a 36-minute battle in the women's singles competition.

The 21-year-old started of well in the opening game and was leading 5-1 but couldn't sustain the pressure as the Chinese drew parity at 8-8 and then kept widening the gap, moving to 14-10.

Saina tried to come back, gaining a few points but Jiang managed to keep her nose ahead and pocketed the first game.

In the second game, Saina put up a fight but it lasted till 7-6 as the Chinese reeled off six points on the trot to surge ahead and held her fort to enter the semifinals.

The world number four Indian will next play in the Malaysia Open starting on January 10.

RSS and Congress leader Digvijay Singh photograph showing him sharing the dais with RSS leaders

New Delhi: The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and Congress leader Digvijay Singh on Thursday traded barbs over a photograph showing him sharing the dais with RSS leaders.While the RSS accused Singh of practicing "vote-bank and communal" politics, the Congress general secretary hit back, saying the Sangh should explain whether it ever praised him as it had done Anna Hazare in a recent book published by it."This recent expose of the photograph is the reaffirmation of the age old communal politics that Congress has been indulging in right from the beginning," RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav told reporters.

Digvijay Singh however thanked the RSS and BJP for "doing the research".

"This Virat Hindu Sammelan was called by Kanchi seer Shankaracharyaji and I had gone in that conference with the permission of Congress leadership," he said.

Former telecom minister Sukh Ram, who was to surrender in a graft case, has slipped into coma

New Delhi: Former telecom minister Sukh Ram, who was to surrender in a graft case, has slipped into coma, his counsel told a Delhi court Friday. The 84-year-old has been undergoing treatment at a hospital in the national capital.

"Sukh Ram is in coma after undergoing angiography, so he cannot move from the hospital," Sukh Ram's counsel D.S. Patiyl said.

Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Judge Dharmesh Sharma listed the matter for Saturday as the concerned judge is on leave.

The judge also added he cannot go beyond the Delhi High Court order, as the high court had asked Sukh Ram to surrender before the trial court.

On Thursday, Sukh Ram's counsel told the court the former minister could not surrender as he was undergoing medical treatment following angiography.

The 1993 telecom scam for which Sukh Ram has been convicted involved award of a contract to a Hyderabad firm for supplying telecom equipment to the government at exorbitant rates.

Sukh Ram was accused of showing undue favour to a cable supply company and accepting Rs.3 lakh in a bribe.

In 2002, Sukh Ram was awarded a three-year jail term under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

In another case, he was held guilty of possessing disproportionate assets worth Rs.4.25 crore in 2009.

The former minister's son Anil Sharma, who is a legislator from Mandi in Himachal Pradesh, told that his father has been feeling drowsy since he underwent a procedure in hospital in Delhi Thursday.

"He is not in a condition to move as he underwent angiography in Metro Hospital," Sharma said.

The doctors, he added, advised him complete bed rest for a few days. The former minister belongs to Mandi town and commands influence in the area.


CBI has arrested three people in a multi-crore scam related to the NRHM

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has arrested three people - two of them today - in a multi-crore scam related to the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) in Uttar Pradesh.

"We arrested Abhay Kumar Vajpayee, the former UP State Industrial Development Corporation (UPSIDC) managing director, on Thursday night; and then S.P. Ram, former director general, family welfare, and Sourav Jain, owner of a private firm, today morning," a CBI official told media.

The arrests came a day after the agency carried out inter-state searches at about 60 locations, including the residence of former Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) minister Babu Singh Kushwaha and his associates, in an effort to unravel the NRHM scam.

Ignoring police advice, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N. Chandrababu Naidu reached Warangal district

Hyderabad: Ignoring police advice, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N. Chandrababu Naidu reached Warangal district today amid shutdown and protests by pro-Telangana groups against his visit.

Tension prevailed in Warangal as Naidu's convoy entered the district with massive police security.

The former chief minister, who left Hyderabad in the morning, had to face protests from the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and other groups at several places along the 150-km route.

Windowpanes of one car in Naidu's convoy were damaged in the stone throwing by TRS activists at Aler in Nalgonda district. The protesters also threw slippers, tomatoes and eggs at the convoy at Aler and Rayagiri.

Protesters at Jangaon in Warangal district pelted stones at policemen deployed as part of the security for Naidu's visit. Police retaliated with baton charge.

Naidu, who is visiting Warangal as part of his 'rythu yatra', faced the first protest at Tarnaka in Hyderabad when students of Osmania University threw stones at his convoy. Police used teargas shells to disperse the agitating students.

Telangana Joint Action Committee (JAC), comprising the TRS and other Telangana groups, has called for a shutdown in Warangal district to protest Naidu's visit.

They want the TDP chief to first make his stand clear on separate statehood to Telangana before visiting the district.

The shutdown call has evoked total response in the district with shops and business establishments closed. Educational institutions also declared a holiday while most of the buses of state-owned Road Transport Corporation remained off the roads, fearing violence.

The superintendent of police of Warangal district had on Thursday advised Naidu not to visit the district in view of the tense situation. But ignoring the advice, Naidu embarked on the visit with a convoy of over 200 vehicles.

Police arrested several leaders and activists of the JAC, the TRS and other groups in Warangal district as a precautionary measure.

Royal Enfield launched a new version of its hot selling cruiser bike Thunderbird

New Delhi: Two-wheeler company Royal Enfield today launched a new version of its hot selling cruiser bike Thunderbird, with a more powerful engine and other features.

"The first generation Thunderbird launched way back in 2002 had a 350cc engine whereas the new bike would boast of a 500cc unit," Royal Enfield CEO Venki Padmanabham said at the Auto Expo here.

"The new version of the bike will sell along with the older version and would be available by March end," he added.

According to Padmanabham, depending upon the customer feedback, the new look might be carried forward to the older Thunderbird as well.

The new features include a black engine, split seats, LED tail lamps, redesigned exhaust pipe and digital trip meters.

The bike marque also previewed a wide range of Royal Enfield biking accessories like jackets, boots, gloves, helmets and jeans.

"These products have been made by the best in the world and will offer maximum bang for the buck. We want that when people buy an Enfield they should not go hunting for accessories. We will provide both under the same roof," he said.

The accessories would be available at select Royal Enfield showrooms in all major cities.

The 11th edition of the Auto Expo will conclude Jan 11. Held at the sprawling Pragati Maidan exposition grounds here, the event promises a slew of launches and first-time exhibits of vehicles in virtually every segment.

Asia's heavy reliance on trade was likely to make 2012 a difficult year

Washington: Events unfolding far from Asia's shores could shape the region's economic outlook for 2012, but Asian policymakers still have the room to respond aggressively to a deteriorating global economic scenario, economists with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have said.

"Despite the prevailing global uncertainty, Asia has until now, proven to be very resilient. It has boasted strong domestic demand, low unemployment, and factories working at near-full capacity. While credit growth has slowed from the torrid pace of early 2011, it remains robust in most economies," the media quoted an article on the IMF blog as saying.

However, Asia's heavy reliance on trade was likely to make 2012 a difficult year.

Asia is one of the world's most trade-dependent regions, exporting everything from commodities like metals and rice to sophisticated electronic products and cars.

Regional growth has already started to slow due to weaker demand, although domestic factors such as tighter macroeconomic policy stances have also played a role, especially in India and China.

Recent stresses in several regional financial markets suggest that financial channels of contagion also pose a risk for Asia, according to the article.

"Further financial turmoil in the euro zone would likely have a substantial impact on Asia by reducing access to credit. Euro zone banks are an important source of funding for many Asian banking systems, and play a crucial role in providing trade credit," it said.

But there was still sufficient policy space in the region, though less than at the start of the global financial crisis in some countries.

Some economies have already started monetary easing.

Fiscal policy consolidation could be appropriately delayed if external demand were to collapse, especially where low levels of public debt afford space for measures, it said.

Asia is home to some of the world's most dynamic economies, but several reforms were needed to sustain the region's excellent historical performance and reduce vulnerabilities to external shocks in the medium term.

India could not prevent an embarrassing innings and 68 runs defeat by Australia

Sydney: India churned out their best batting display overseas in the last six months but could not prevent an embarrassing innings and 68 runs defeat by Australia in the second Test of the Border Gavaskar Trophy at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) here today.

India were bowled out for 400 in the second innings 20 minutes shortly after tea on the fourth day as Australia won the 100th Test at the SCG and took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the four-match series. For India, it was their sixth successive Test loss overseas.

Australian captain Michael Clarke was the Man of the Match with his unbeaten 329, the highest score at the SCG, that took the hosts to a mammoth 659 for four declared in the first innings. Australia took a huge 468-run first innings lead having skittled India out for 191 runs in the first innings on the opening day of the New Year Test.

India, resuming at 114/2, came out on the fourth day determined to put on a respectable performance. They had a good first session scoring 129 runs, but lost way during the second when five wickets fell for just 108 runs.

It was local boy Clarke, who triggered the dramatic batting collapse by picking up the crucial wicket of Sachin Tendulkar (80), who again fell short of his much-awaited 100th international century.

Other notable contributors were Gautam Gambhir (83), V.V.S. Laxman (66) and Ravichandran Ashwin (62).

Pacer Ben Hilhenfaus picked up the important wickets of Laxman and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (2) in successive overs in the second session and finished with five for 106.

Peter Siddle struck early removing Gambhir, who missed out on a well deserved century, caught at point by David Warner.

But there was no respite for the Australian bowlers as Tendulkar came out and raced to his 65th Test half-century. The most notable partnership of the innings was the 103-run stand between Tendulkar and Laxman.

Tendulkar was patient when he walked out to bat Thursday and was unbeaten on eight runs from 42 balls, having allowed plenty to go through to the keeper.

But during the morning session's play, Tendulkar was in a hurry. The 42 runs he scored Friday morning to bring up his half-century came off just 47 balls. The batting maestro attacked the Australian bowlers with an array of majestic shots.

Laxman, who had scores of 2, 1 and 2 in the series so far, didn't look comfortable at the start. After surviving an early onslaught from the Australian quicks, Laxman got back his touch and looked like the player who had tormented the Australians during the past decade.

At a time when it looked that more history would be created at the SCG, Clarke struck with his left-arm spin to remove Tendulkar, whose outside edge deflected off the keeper's glove to be caught by Mike Hussey at first slip.

In 2008 against India, Clarke took three wickets in five balls in the dying overs to clinch the Sydney Test for Australia.

Tendulkar's wicket triggered a batting collapse as India slumped from 271 for three to 286 for seven. Virat Kohli (9) failed again and is likely to be replaced by Rohit Sharma in next week's third Test at Perth. Zaheer Khan blasted a quickfire 35 off 26 balls.

We have always put the team first said Australian captain Michael Clarke

Sydney: Australian captain Michael Clarke said today that the philosophy of always putting the team first was key in the innings and 68 runs win over India in the second Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) here today.

"We have always put the team first. I never thought about any milestone while declaring the innings yesterday. The only thing that I had in my mind was that India have a great batting line-up and we needed time to bowl them out," said the local boy, who was the Man of the Match with an unbeaten 329 at his home ground that was hosting its 100th Test.

Australia declared their first innings at 659 for four after a landmark triple century by Clarke. India made 191 in the first innings and were bowled out for 400 in their second shortly after tea on the fourth day of the second cricket Test.

Clarke praised his bowlers for the memorable win that gave Australia an unassailable 2-0 lead in the four-match series for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

"It was a tough wicket to take 10 wickets but our bowlers were brilliant. I've spoken about consistency and our guys are doing that now. In any team you need experience and youth and I think now this Australian team has it," he said.

The 30-year-old was also relieved after his predecessor Ricky Ponting ended his two-year century draught with a crucial 134.

"I was as relieved as Punt (Ponting). His attitude around the group has been exceptional," he said.

Clarke also cherished the crucial wicket of Sachin Tendulkar with his part-time left-arm spin.

"It (Sachin's wicket) is a very handy one to have," Clarke said, adding that Australia are contemplating unleashing a four-man pace attack on India in the third Test at the bouncy WACA in Perth.

India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said that his boys are capable of beating Australia in Perth.

"We were down in the first session on the first day. A few batsmen got out to good deliveries. It was very difficult to contain Clarke. We can beat this team in Perth," said Dhoni.

Shane Warne backed his former teammate Michael Clarke to emerge as one of the finest Australian Test captains

Sydney: Spin wizard Shane Warne backed his former teammate Michael Clarke to emerge as one of the finest Australian Test captains.

Warne was proud of his close mate, who was showing the world his wonderful talents.

"Michael Clarke has been one of my best friends for a long time. I have helped him out from gaining his first baggy green cap and helped him out as a friend over the years," Warne said.

"I was just very proud to see him play yesterday and do what he did, the way he played, the way he went about it and the way he has grown into a superb Australian captain," he said.

The 30-year-old Clarke struck an unbeaten 329, the highest at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) and took a selfless decision of declaring the Australian innings at 659 for four. The timely decision proved crucial for Australia in wining by an innings and 68 runs against India in the second Test.

Warne wants Clarke is to be himself.

"I suppose you go through different stages. No one stays on top. I've had my own ups and downs. I'm pretty happy with where I'm at. Contrary to what some of you (media) guys write, the public have always been fantastic to me. They've always got behind me through thick and thin."

"It makes you feel nice to know when you've got the (public's) support ... people always go out there and scream and want an autograph. And we always take the time out to do it too. All we can do is be ourselves and if people like you, great," he said.

"He (Clarke) has always been a wonderful player and I think we got to see yesterday what a talent he actually is. Hopefully, the people out in Australia, I think they've always liked him. He went through a stage where he copped a bit of a rough time unfairly," Warne was quoted as saying by The Age.

"It's nice to see now people are starting to see the real Michael Clarke. They like him. They enjoy watching him bat and watching him captain. That makes me feel pretty proud too," he said.

Movie review: "Players"; Starring: Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor

New Delhi:"Players"; Starring: Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Bipasha Basu, Bobby Deol, Omi Vaidya, Vinod Khanna, Shikander Kher, Johnny Lever; Directors: Abbas-Mastan; Rating:Good

They say birds of the same feather flock together: Charlie Mascarenhas (Abhishek Bachchan) and Riya (Bipasha Basu) are partners in conning and daredevil robbery.

As a last gift, Charlie's friend Raj (Aftab Shivdasani) reveals through a CD the possibility of a heist."Ten thousand crore rupees worth of gold would be transported from Russia to Romania."

Raj warns Charlie that this heist, an improbable feat, is not a one man job. He would need a team to execute it and the only person who can help him put up the team is ace thief Victor Braganza (Vinod Khanna).

Victor assembles the players - Riya, an expert machinist, Bilal Bashir (Sikander Kher), an explosive expert who likes foreign cars, Ronny (Bobby Deol), a magician, and Sunny Mehra (Omi Vaidya), a make-up artist. Naturally, the captain of this team is Charlie Mascarenhas and their goal - The Gold.

In today's age, with the complexity of the internet, the team lacked a hacker. Victor's daughter Naina (Sonam Kapoor) unsuspectingly offers help by suggesting ace hacker, Spider (Nitin Neil Mukesh), to the team.

In the show of one-upmanship, what follows the heist is a game of con and deceit at every moment of the film. For humour, there is MC (Johnny Lever) and his family.

Sleekly made with fine action, crisp razor sharp edits, speeding cars and exciting photography giving you glimpses of scenic Siberia, Amsterdam and New Zealand, the film reminds you of a Bond film.

The leggy babes with leotard and boots, the guys with stubble and leather jackets, the palatial villas, the elongated limousines, the long car chases, the heist on the train - everything looks glossy and out of this world.

The racy background score by Sandeep Shirodkar and the soundtrack by Pritam creates the adrenaline required for a thriller but unfortunately the well-intended choreographed numbers breaks the momentum.

Ravi Yadav's cinematography and Husain Burmawala's editing are worth a mention. Technically, Abbas Mastan have churned out a very fine movie.

Unfortunately, the film delivers without any emotions. It is evident that the actors have not put their soul to the characters; they have just walked through their roles. And it shows. The glycerine and the pancake take the applause.

Sikander Kher seems to have some promise. In certain scenes, Sonam reminds of Simi Garewal. Vinod Khanna, Neil Nitin Mukesh and Abhishek's performances lack energy. Omi and Johnny Lever are stereotyped with their comic dialogue delivery. Bipasha has nothing new to offer and Bobby Deol is wasted in the minuscule role.

Touted as the desi version of Hollywood film "The Italian Job", the script sticks to the basic plot but is unable to get into the recesses of its characters.

"Players" is a synthetically made formula thriller. It does not touch you emotionally. But a good watch nonetheless.

Anupam Kher's universe on the Twitter world is expanding

New Delhi:Anupam Kher's universe on the Twitter world is expanding and how! The actor's followers went over 500,000, and he is ecstatic.

"Crossing a milestone of half a million fans, friends and followers couldn't have been possible without your warmth and support. THANK YOU," Anupam posted on his Twitter page.

The veteran actor, who recently launched his book, 'The Best Thing About You Is You', is currently in Goa to shoot David Dhawan's tentatively titled "Chashme Baddoor", a remake of the 1981 film of the same name.

Superstar Shah Rukh Khan,whose mega-budget production "RA.One" has earned more than Rs.100 crore

New Delhi:Superstar Shah Rukh Khan,whose mega-budget production "RA.One" has earned more than Rs.100 crore, recalls the time when 100 days in the theatre was victory enough for film producers.

"Was discussing with my DDLJ ('Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge') friend how we wished for a 100 days for our film... rather than Rs.100 crore. Seems our days are truly numbered now!!" tweeted Shah Rukh.

The actor's last release "Don 2: The King Is Back" is also on its way to register earnings over the Rs.100 crore-mark.

After a relaxed holiday in Dubai with his family and friends, it seems Shah Rukh is now getting back into work mode.

"The excitement of working on a new script covers up the stress of daily chores. I think I was made to entertain... not be entertained," he added.

Arshad Warsi's movie sequel "Ishqiya" is going to be a cult film !

New Delhi:Arshad Warsi, whose performance in "Ishqiya" won him critical acclaim, says the movie's sequel is going to be a cult film.

"Spent New Year's (eve) chatting with Vishal Bhardwaj and Abhishek Chaubey, looks like ISHQIYA 2 is gonna be a cult movie... different in every sense," Arshad posted on his Twitter page.

He is set to play a rustic guy once again. In the first instalment of "Ishqiya", which bagged four national awards, Arshad essayed Babban, a hot-blooded, lustful man, who scoffs at the idea of true romantic love.

The movie released in 2010, and also featured Vidya Balan and Naseeruddin Shah in key roles.

Abhishek Bachchan's risky stunts in the forthcoming action-thriller "players" impressed Abbas-Mustan

Mumbai:It's Abhishek Bachchan's turn to show daredevilry and he did it in "Players" - the actor performed some risky stunts in the forthcoming action-thriller all by himself and it impressed the director duo Abbas-Mustan.

During the action sequence, the actor balances himself atop two trains, running at the speed of about 100 km an hour. Abhishek admits it was tough.

"Hanging between the trains...good fun, though it was a bit tough. To get the right positioning was tough but ultimately it was done, we got what we wanted so we are happy," the 35-year-old actor has said in the "Making of Players" released recently.

The action stunts, directed by Allan Amin, see Abhishek hanging through a harness and fighting for the gold. The actor even hit his head on one of the rods on the train but it didn't deter him from completing the scene.

"Abhishek has given a good shot. The trains are running parallel and he hung between the trains and gave a very real shot. We were a bit tensed as well as Abhishek struck his head on a rod," said the director.

The heist flick, releasing on Friday, also stars Bipasha Basu, Sonam Kapoor, Bobby Deol, Sikander Kher, Neil Nitin Mukesh and Omi Vaidya.


Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META), one of the leading theatre awards

New Delhi:India's unsung regional theatre will be at the centre of attention at the seventh annual Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META), one of the leading theatre awards, on March 7.

The awards,given for playwriting, set design, costume and light design, performance and lifetime's contribution to theatre, will be hosted by Kabir Bedi. The hosts, Mahindra & Mahindra, will close submissions for the award on Jan10.

The best play carries a purse of Rs.100,000 while the cash prize for the other categories varies between Rs.45,000 and Rs.75,000. A lifetime achievement award carries a Rs.500,000 kitty.

The entries, sent on DVDs, will be judged by a ex-member jury which will shortlist 10 for the awards in various categories after a period of intensive screening at the end of January 2012. The 10 best productions will be staged in the capital from March 1-6.

"We are looking at plays by groups of Indian origin in any regional languages of the country. Last year, we received more than 240 entries in 30 different languages from Assam to Kerala. The entries have to come along with a DVD -- and if the theatre group not have funds to make a DVD, then we, as the founding committee, will fund them," META creative director Ravi Dubey from Mumbai said.

The plays have to be new productions staged in 2011, said Dubey, a senior stage actor, theatre activist and a former corporate honcho.

Highlighting the importance of language theatre in META, Dubey said: "Last year, only three of the 10 productions were in English and Hindi."

"The rest were in regional languages," Dubey added.

"The jury has been planned in a way that it includes representatives from across the country," Dubey said.

This year, the jury, which is yet to be announced, is likely to include National School of Drama chief Amal Allana and filmmaker Shyam Benegal, Dubey said. Last year,the jury had brought on board Arundhati Nag, Mahesh Ekluncher, Anuradha Kapur, Utkarsh Mazumdar and Neelam Mansingh.

Theatre awards, which are a few compared to the exploding cinema awards across the country, help smaller groups to set goals for themselves, Dubey said.

"For example, META has become an aspiration for theatre companies even from the tribal areas -- they all want to qualify for it," Dubey said.

"META, when it was constituted, had tried to create two segments, emerging theatre and established theatre, to recognise young theatre as a separate category. But we had to drop the idea."

The principal problem in theatre was finance, Dubey said. "People who want to be in theatre say they cannot sustain themselves. A very senior theatre personality who was once a member of our jury said he did not have money to make a DVD of his production that he wanted to submit as an entry to META. There is no lack of talent or ability," Dubey added.

"We have no original scripts because we are constantly re-adapting. The crying need of theatre continues to be the original script," he said.

Jay Shah of sponsor Mahindra & Mahindra, who manages the company's cultural initiatives, said the biggest incentive that awards like META can provide to Indian theatre is a "platform to stage plays from the remote corners of the country".

"The whole idea of supporting theatre rests on the fact that we give it the right platform," Shah said.

The novelty of META this year will be its "quality and expanse of the entries".

"The word gets carried around the country through the diverse group of participants, jury, enthusiasts and the media," Shah said.

Last year, an 80-minute reality play in English, "The Interview", directed by Akarsh Khurana won the best lead actor, best supporting actor and best stage design awards. Badal Sircar, known for his radical Bengali plays, was awarded for his lifetime contribution to theatre.

Payal Rohatgi is dating "Survivor India" contestant, wrestler Sangram Singh

New Delhi:After making headlines for her romantic alliance with Rahul Mahajan on the reality show "Bigg Boss",actress Payal Rohatgi now reveals that she is dating wrestler Sangram Singh, whom she met on another reality show,"Survivor India".

"I am dating Sangram right now.I met him on the show and the chemistry struck. He is very down-to-earth and a simple guy. In fact, he is the complete opposite of me," said Payal, who was here to promote the adventure reality show that will go on air on Jan 6 on Star Plus.

"I get hyper and throw tantrums, but he is much more rooted. He kept me calm during stressful times in the show. Somehow we clicked. And to be honest, I feel I lasted in the show because of him and his friendship," she added.

Sangram won gold medals in wrestling in the Commonwealth Games and is also the recipient of the prestigious Arjuna Award and Rajiv Gandhi Award.

Payal says Sangram was favourite among the contestants, thanks to his strong physique.

"Being a wrestler, he was considered very strong. Everybody used to be after him because they knew they would need him during the tasks, till the individual challenges started," she said.

Now the couple is working together in a film called "Valentines Night", being shot in the capital.

"I am shooting for the project with Sangram in Delhi. It's a romantic thriller where both of us are playing lead roles," she said.

"Survivor India" is the Indian version of US adventure reality show "Survivor". The show has 11 celebrity contestants and 11 commoners.

Payal Rohatgi, Shilpa Agnihotri, JD Majethia, Sangram Singh, Abhinav Shukla, Karan Patel, Timmy Narang, Sylvester Rodgers a.k.a. Sylvie, Priyanka Bassi, Rajesh Khera and Munisha Khatwani are the known names in the show.

4% schools provide filtered water to students

New Delhi:Even as the Right to Education (RTE) Act bars corporal punishment, a survey of nearly 200 schools in 11 states revealed today that only five percent of them prohibit physical punishment for students.

The study, conducted by NGO Childline India, is based on a sample of 198 schools in Delhi,Uttar Pradesh,Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Manipur,West Bengal,Rajasthan,Kerala,Madhya Pradesh,Maharashtra and Goa.

The survey also says that only four percent schools provide filtered water to students.

Another 77 percent provided non-filtered water,while 19 percent had no water at all. Some 28 percent have no separate toilets for girls.

"Right to education is a wonderful act, but implementation is a challenge," Childline's executive director Kajol Menon said.

"India can't be faulted on policies. RTE has lot of inclusion for children, like it bars corporal punishment, but only when it is administered will it bring change," she added.

Childline conducted an extensive study of various spaces a child is exposed to and how child-friendly the places are.

The study focused on places like juvenile justice boards, police stations, health care centres and railway and bus stations.

"Children are citizens, and even though 44 percent of our population is under 18, they are not stakeholders in decision-making, and are highly ignored in policies," Menon said.

US State Department has posted a map of India which reflects the LoC in J&K with dotted lines

WASHINGTON, Triggering a fresh controversy, the US State Department has posted a map of India which reflects the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir with dotted lines, thereby projecting it as a disputed territory.

There was no immediate response from the Indian Embassy in Washington if it was satisfied with the latest India map posted by the US State Department on its website.

Following strong protest from the ministry of external affairs, the US State Department in November had removed from its website a map of India which showed a portion of Jammu and Kashmir as part of Pakistan.

A similar map from its travel website was also removed.

US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland had told reporters at that time that such an error was unintentional.

She said that the map had "some inaccuracies which were associated with the boundaries of some geographic features."

Meanwhile, Nuland today said that the US State Department has not posted a new map of India on its website and the one showing the 1972 Line of Control in "dotted lines" has been there previously.

"We have not yet replaced the maps that we had to take down that were incorrect. And when we do, we'll let you know, and we'll walk you through the whole thing," she said.

"I think the one that you're referring to is not a new map on the website," Nuland said when asked about the map of India and its neighboring country posted on the homepage of the South and Central Asia Bureau of the State Department.


Pooja Bedi says she has been asked to refrain from attending the grand finale of "Bigg Boss 5"

Actress Pooja Bedi says she has been asked to refrain from attending the grand finale of Colors' reality show "Bigg Boss 5", in which she was a participant.

"Have been informed by channel that I'm not to attend finale, despite it being mandatory in my contract! Wonder why! Any guesses?" Pooja posted on micro-blogging site Twitter.

"Have asked channel to state reason I cannot be there at finale to cheer my friends on! Also, till yesterday I was to do a medley! What changed?" she added.

The actress, daughter of veteran actor Kabir Bedi and Odissi exponent Protima Gauri Bedi, caught limelight for endorsing Kama Sutra in the 1990s, and she went on to be popular for her Marilyn Monroe skirt act in "Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander".

Pooja entered the "Bigg Boss 5" house Oct 2, 2011, and she was evicted towards the end of November.

Recently, the 41-year-old was in spotlight for her comments against "Bigg Boss 5" host Salman Khan, as she felt he hurt her fellow inmate and friend, Akashdeep Saigal aka Sky.

It is believed that perhaps her comments didn't go down too well with Salman.

However, in a host of replies to tweets from her fans, Pooja posted: "Never said anything derogatory about channel or production house! And its my perogative to react to contestants or host of my show. If anchors can be unfair or awful to contestants, contestants have a right to speak up in their or their friends defence!"

"I have requested an official explanation from channel, but they haven't given me one yet! Let them decide how to say it. Channel and production never had issues with any of statements I've made! If they had, they'd have intimated me immediately."

According to a tabloid, even Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan's plans of promoting Karan Johar's forthcoming film "Agneepath", on the show have been scrapped.

It is believed Hrithik and Salman share a cold war ever since the former reacted to Salman's comments against "Guzaarish" director Sanjay Leela Bhansali. So now, Imran Khan will perhaps attend the finale to promote "Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu", also produced by Johar.

Post the news, Pooja wrote: "Mumbai Mirror article today! Hrithik not allowed in #BB5 finale! Guess I'm not the only victim! Wow!"

The finale of the reality show is to be held Saturday. Among the final contestants are Juhi Parmar, Amar Upadhyay, Mahek Chahal, Siddharth Bharadwaj and Sky.

NRHM scam:CBI raided about 60 places across Uttar Pradesh and Delhi

Lucknow: The CBI today raided about 60 places across Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, including the premises of former minister Babu Singh Kushwaha and his associates, in an effort to unravel the multi-crore National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) scam.Expelled from the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh last November, Kushwaha on Tuesday joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)."The CBI registered five new cases on Monday in connection with the NRHM in Uttar Pradesh. Searches are being conducted today in 60 locations across Uttar Pradesh and in Delhi," said a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) statement released in Delhi.

According to CBI sources, many houses and commercial establishments owned by Kushwaha and his associates, including legislator Ram Chandra Pradhan, were raided by separate CBI teams in 12 districts, including Lucknow, Kanpur, Moradabad, Ghaziabad and Agra.

The residence and offices of the owners of the recently floated Hindi daily Jan Sandesh were also raided. The office of the daily is in a 12,000 sq ft. premises in Lucknow's prime commercial hub, Hazratganj.

Sources said Kushwaha's 'benami' properties in Mumbai were also under the scanner. The cases were registered on the directions of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court. The court has fixed a time frame of four months for completion of the entire probe.

The CBI is also investigating the murder of three chief medical officers who were closely linked with the implementation of the NHRM, between 2009-2011.

Kushwaha was the minister handling health and family welfare and was removed in April following his alleged involvement in the financial bunglings in the NHRM. He was expelled from the party in November.

"The enquiry and investigation in this matter is continuing," the CBI statement said.

The CBI said that NRHM funds to the tune of about Rs.10,000 crore were allocated to Uttar Pradesh by the union health ministry over the last five years since 2005-06 fiscal.

The funds were spent through 72 chief medical officers and other nodal offices all over Uttar Pradesh under various schemes approved by the central government, covering a large number of beneficiaries. A number of these works have been executed through state public sector undertakings and a large number of contractors and firms, it said.

73 percent children,in the financial capital of Madhya Pradesh are malnourished

Bhopal:Around 73 percent children below six years in 10 slum localities in the financial capital of Madhya Pradesh are malnourished,reveals a survey conducted by an NGO.

The NGO Deenbandhu Samajik Sanstha conducted the survey between July 2011 to December 2011.

"Urban poor in city live in adverse conditions. Moreover, denial of legal status to the slum settlements has made their situation precarious. Not acknowledging slum dwellers has pulled down the status of health and nutrition," said project head, Belu George.

The survey claimed that of the 730 children covered, 533 (73 percent) are under the grip of varying degrees of malnutrition. Of them, 187 (35 percent) are severely malnourished (first degree malnutrition), 219 (41 percent) are in the category of second degree, 93 (17.5 percent) are in third degree and 34 (6.5 percent) are in fourth degree of malnourished category.

The study showed 35 percent children are mildly malnourished,40 percent are moderate and remaining 25 percent are in severe malnutrition category.

The NGO has attributed non-availability of pure drinking water, healthy food and lack of facilities of anganwadis as major reasons for the high number of malnourished children.

Madhya Pradesh tops in the survey of the country's most malnourished kids below six years, accounting for 52 percent.

Bhanwari Devi case:CBI quizzed sacked Rajasthan minister Mahipal Maderna

Jodhpur: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today quizzed sacked Rajasthan minister Mahipal Maderna in a jail here in the case of missing nurse Bhanwari Devi, sources said.

Maderna who allegedly features on a CD in a compromising position with nurse Bhanwari Devi was confronted with the key suspects, Sahiram Bishnoi, Shahabuddin and Sohan Lal Bishnoi.

"The four accused were quizzed simultaneously in the Jodhpur Central Jail. The CBI had got permission in this regard from the court of an additional chief judicial magistrate," sources in the CBI told IANS.

Maderna was arrested by the CBI Dec 3 for his alleged role in the disappearance of the nurse Sep 1. He was also suspended from the primary membership of the Congress over his alleged role in the case.

He allegedly involved Sahiram Bishnoi, a small-time politician from Jodhpur, for the job.

Sahiram Bishnoi is accused of hiring Shahabuddin, Sohan Lal and Baldev Jaat alias Balia to kidnap Bhanwari on Sep 1.

"Sahiram, who is in CBI custody till Jan 6, was taken to Jodhpur Central Jail and was confronted with Maderna, Shahabuddin and Sohan Lal," said the sources.

They added that the agency wanted to verify some evidence that came up during interrogation of Sahiram.

The CBI has so far arrested Shahabuddin, Sohan Lal Bishnoi and Baldev Jaat, Omprakash Bishnoi, Sahiram Bishnoi, his friend Umesharam Bishnoi, Bhanwari's husband Amarchand and Malkhan's brother Parasram Bishnoi in the case.

The CBI also arrested Congress legislator from Luni constituency Malkhan Singh Bishnoi in the case on Dec 19. A court in Jodhpur on Monday remanded him in judicial custody till Jan 16. The CBI is also carrying out raids in search of Malkhan's sister Indra Bishnoi.

The CBI on Jan 1 carried out an aerial survey of Jadol area in the Jodhopur rural suspecting that the nurse's body was buried in the ground somewhere there. The area was videographed using helicopter.

Mamata Banerjee said she felt that the Lokayukta should remain a prerogative of the states

Kolkata: Denying any deal with the Congress on the issue of Lokayukta in the Lokpal bill, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday said she felt that the Lokayukta should remain a prerogative of the states."Some news channels were saying that there was a deal with the Congress regarding the Lokayukta in the Lokpal bill. But I want to say that there was no such deal. I don't believe in deals. I believe in transparent politics," said Banerjee while addressing mediapersons."We have clearly stated that Lokpal is the matter of the centre and Lokayukta is a matter of the state. The states should decide on the issue of Lokayukta. When our MPs protested in the Lok Sabha, they were told that an amendment would be done so that the states don't face any problem," she said.The amendment said that those states which did not want a Lokayukta could opt out. But if any state wanted a Lokayukta, then it had to follow the model given in the central bill, she said.

"Why will we follow that model? I can make a better model. I had spoken in favour of all the states and the federal structure of the country," said Banerjee.

"I think that Lokpal should be made in a good way and if necessary all the parties should be brought together for consensus and I believe it can be done," she said.

"The issue of Lokayukta should be handed over to the states and the model should be decided by the states and not by the centre," said Banerjee.

The Trinamool supported the passage of the Lokpal bill in the Lok Sabha but made a dramatic volte face just before the bill was to be placed in the Rajya Sabha by demanding removal from the Lokpal bill a provision empowering the centre to set up Lokayuktas for the states.

Banerjee cited a few central laws which were clashing with the interest of the states.

"There are certain laws such as right to education. The law says that no child can be detained till Class 8. My question is how will the parents know how much progress their child is making. As it was a central law, we also had to abide by it but we had said that there will be exam although there will be no detention of students till Class 8," said Banerjee.

"We have never abused Sonia-ji or Manmohan Singh-ji but we speak out on certain political issues which concern common man. Let the centre bring the Lokpal bill and the state governments decide on the Lokayukta," she said.

Rajasthan nurse Bhanwari Devi case:CBI has arrested a man

Jodhpur: In a major breakthrough in the case of Rajasthan nurse Bhanwari Devi, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has arrested a man who is believed to be the owner of the jeep used to dispose of the body and destroy evidence, informed sources said today.

With Kailash Jakhar's arrest, the 11th in the case, the CBI may have also identified the location where Bhanwari Devi was killed as being near Osian village in rural Jodhpur, about 60 km from here.

But investigators are unsure where the nurse, who disappeared in September, was burnt to death or dumped in one of the many lime kilns in the area.

"The man who owned the jeep which was used to take away Bhanwari's body has been detained by the CBI. Jakhar is alleged to be a member of Bishnaram Bishnoi's gang," the sources close to CBI told agency about the case that has seen former Rajasthan minister Mahipal Maderna and Congress legislator Malkhan Singh amongst those arrested.

"The location has almost been traced. Further investigation is on," a source added.

In a chargesheet filed earlier by the CBI, it was alleged that three men kidnapped the nurse from Jodhpur's Bilara area Sep 1, killed her and then handed over her body to a gang of criminals headed by Bishnaram Bishnoi, who has been absconding.

The jeep, sources said, was used in the disposal of Bhanwari's body Sep 1 after she was allegedly strangled to death by the three abductors, Sohan Lal Bishnoi, Shahabuddin and Baldev Jaat alias Balia.

A court had earlier issued an arrest warrant against Jakhar on CBI's request when the agency failed to trace him. However, the CBI has yet not officially confirmed the arrest.

According to sources close to the investigation, sacked minister Maderna and Congress legislator Malkhan Singh were hand-in-glove in the entire conspiracy as the nurse was blackmailing both of them.

Maderna was believed to be blackmailed on the basis of a CD showing him in a compromising position with the nurse.

The two politicians allegedly roped in a Sahiram Bishnoi, who hired Sohan Lal, Balia and Shahabuddin for the task of kidnapping the nurse.

Maderna, Malkhan, the three kidnappers and Sahiram along with Amarchand, husband of Bhanwari Devi, have been arrested by the CBI. Amarchand is presently under judicial custody.

The CBI has also arrested Malkhan's brother Parasram Bishnoi as well as Umesharam and Omprakash Bishnoi.

Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) has bagged Rs.289 crore contract from the Gujarat government

Mumbai: Engineering and construction major Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) today said it has bagged Rs.289 crore contract from the Gujarat government to construct bulk water transmission system.

"HCC has received a letter of acceptance (LOA) for a Rs.289 crore contract to construct a bulk water transmission system for Gujarat Water Infrastructure Ltd, a government of Gujarat undertaking," the company said in a regulatory filing.

"The work involves construction of a 57-km long water transmission pipeline between Dhanki and Maliya villages under the Swarnim Gujarat Saurastra-Kutch water grid programme," it added.

At the Bombay Stock Exchange, the shares of the company closed 7.27 percent up at Rs.17.70.

The project which is to be completed in 12 months also involves commissioning and maintenance for 5 years.

Rajasthan Police today arrested an accused in the infamous 1992 Ajmer sex scandal case

Jaipur: Rajasthan Police today arrested an accused in the infamous 1992 Ajmer sex scandal case in which over 100 schoolgirls were blackmailed on the basis of their photographs in compromising positions, officials said.

The girls were allegedly sexually exploited by a group of about 18 blackmailers.

The state police's Special Operations Group (SOG) arrested Saiyed Saleem Chishty, 42, from Khalid Mohalla in Ajmer town, some 150 km from Jaipur.

"Chisty is an accused in the 1992 case of blackmailing some schoolgirls in Ajmer. The victims were lured into coming to farm houses on the outskirts of the town at different times. They were sexually exploited and photographs with their being in compromising positions were shot by a gang of criminals," Additional Director General of Police (SOG) Kapil Garg told media persons.

The girls were then blackmailed on the basis of these photographs and were forced to repeatedly visit the farm houses.

"Chishty, who was one of the men who blackmailed these girls, carried a cash reward of Rs 25,000 on his head. We came to know that he was hiding in Ajmer. A trap was laid and he was nabbed today morning," said the officer.

About 11 others have already been arrested in the case. Seven of them were sentenced to life imprisonment by a court, the officer said.

"Chishty has told us that he was hiding in Bangladesh and Mumbai before he came to Ajmer recently. He has been booked under various section of IPC (Indian Penal Code) and those of the Indecent Representation of Women Act," said the officer.

Chishty will be produced in a court on Wednesday.

Centuries from skipper Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting took Australia to a commanding 349

Sydney: Centuries from skipper Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting took Australia to a commanding 349 for four in the first innings, in reply to India's 191, at tea on the second day of the second cricket Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) here today.

Clarke was unbeaten on 170, his highest Test score, while Ponting fell shortly before the tea break after scoring a well crafted 134 that ended a two-year drought since his last Test century. Mike Hussey was giving Clarke company having scored eight.

Clarke notched up his 18th Test century in the final over of the opening session while the 37-year-old Ponting achieved the 40th century of his 160-match Test career and his sixth at the ground shortly after resumption.

Ponting was finally dismissed for 134, caught by Sachin Tendulkar at point off the new-ball from Ishant Sharma, after a 288-run partnership with Clarke that helped Australia recover from 37 for three. Their valuable stand took Australia to a position of strength to take a 2-0 lead in the four-Test series.

The only time Ponting came close to being dismissed during his 225-ball knock, studded with 14 fours, was when he scampered for a single to get his 100th run off Ishant. Zaheer Khan fielded cleanly but his well-directed throw missed the stumps and had it hit Ponting would have been more than a half-metre short of his ground.

But the cricketing gods were on Ponting' side and former Australian skipper picked himself up after the dive and with his shirtfront covered in dirt he raised his arms skywards to celebrate one of his most cherished centuries. It was a career-defining innings and will help Ponting retain his position in the Australian team until at least the end of the summer.

Australia, resuming at overnight 116 for three, scored 120 runs in the first session and took a lead of 45 runs after the first session's play on the second day.

India failed to threaten the Australian batsmen and Clarke brought up his 50 on the first ball he faced this morning, clipping Zaheer off his pads to square leg to bring up his first half century of the series.

Shabana Azmi isn't letting her fractured shoulder be a hinderance in her work

New Delhi:Shabana Azmi isn't letting her fractured shoulder be a hinderance in her work.

"Shot for an entire day with fractured shoulder! Have performed Broken Images with a fractured foot in the past. Feeling rather heroic," Shabana wrote on her Twitter page.

Shabana is nursing a fractured shoulder since last month.

Lara Dutta, who is pregnant, is busy setting up house

New Delhi:Lara Dutta, who is pregnant with her first child due next month, is busy setting up house for the new addition to the family with her parents.

"It's fun having my parents here and getting the house baby ready! Anticipation and excitement in the air!:-) feels good 2 start 2012 like that," Lara wrote on her Twitter page.

Actress Raveena Tandon will be seen in a de-glamourised role

New Delhi:Actress Raveena Tandon will be seen in a de-glamourised role in her new film "Ginn Liya Aasman".

"Now headed for the shoot, last four day schedule of 'Ginn Liya Aasman'...turning out to be a sweet film, am in my Non glamorous avataar, the Day begins," Raveena wrote on microblogging site Twitter.

In the film, Raveena plays a mother to a six-year-old boy and wife to a naval officer who goes missing after a plane crash.

Saif Ali Khan production venture "Agent Vinod" has been completed

Mumbai: The long-delayed Saif Ali Khan production venture "Agent Vinod" has been completed and the film will release on March 23, says director Sriram Raghavan.

Raghavan revealed that the celebrity couple - Saif and Kareena Kapoor - shot for the last day of "Agent Vinod" on December 24.

"My shooting with Saif and Kareena is over. We are all done. Saif and Kareena did their last shooting for my film on December 24 and left for their holiday. We are now in post-production work. The release date is March 23," said the director known for making thrillers "Ek Hasina Thi" and "Johnny Gaddaar".

The Kareena-Saif wedding would follow in the last week of March or the first week of April and the next schedule of Madhur Bhandarkar's "Heroine" has been advanced from the end of February to the middle of February to accommodate the promotion and release of "Agent Vinod" into Kareena's clogged schedule, followed by the wedding and honeymoon.

"After the release of 'Agent Vinod', the wedding will happen immediately. Kareena and Saif don't want to delay it any more," said a source.

Bangalore University plans to educate thousands of undergraduate students to be responsible citizens

Bangalore:Alarmed by the increasing lack of civic sense in this garden city-turned-IT hub, Bangalore University plans to educate thousands of undergraduate students to be responsible citizens through a customised course at the undergraduate level.

"The course topics are practical and relevant and focus on manifestations and consequences of citizens civic behavior and the role of citizens," Priya Krishnamurthy, executive trustee of the NGO Children's Movement for Civic Awareness (CMCA) that is helping the university,said.

"Beginning with civic sense around behaviour like littering, spitting, defacing public monuments, dumping of household waste, wasting natural resources etc, the curriculum moves on to a more expanded understanding of civic sense which is active citizenship, with real-life stories and case studies of citizens actively engaging with the governance processes to bring about positive change," she said.

She added that the course would be introduced as a compulsory subject in all undergraduate courses in colleges under Bangalore University and would also include an examination and a compulsory project.

The examination will be only to test the knowledge the students have gained from the course and a pass in this subject will not be made a must to get one's graduation, a Bangalore varsity spokesperson said.

The university's academic council will meet later this month to consider the course material. If the material and other details like making attendance compulsory are approved, the course may be introduced in all the 654 colleges affiliated to the varsity from the academic session beginning later this year, the spokesperson said.

The idea to start a course in civic sense stemmed from the university's concern over the increasing unhygienic conditions in the city. As a precursor, it had in September organised a month-long civic sense campaign in all its colleges.

A massive and sustained drive to instil civic sense has become all the more urgent as this once paradise for retirees has become one of the fastest growing cities in Asia.

The city is home to Indian IT majors like Infosys and Wipro and BT firms such as Biocon. Several multinational firms like Honeywell, Oracle, Accenture and IBM have also set up huge offices attracted by the availability of a talented workforce, apart from the city's famed air-conditioned weather almost through the year.

The city's population now stands at around 8.5 million as it has become one of the hottest destinations for jobs for youth across India.

The rapid growth of the city since it turned into a tech-hub in the 1990s has left its infrastructure - roads to waste management - in shambles. For instance,the city generates 3,500 tonnes of garbage a day and has nearly one vehicle for every two persons.

Public toilets have become a rarity at most busy places and people relieve themselves at street corners making walking along these roads a stinking affair.

"In our mad rush to accomplish personal goals and material gains, somehow most Indians do not care much for civic sense, or civic sense as an ethic has become a low priority," the varsity statement on the need for such a campaign had said.

The statement noted that most people were oblivious to "implications of road rage, eve teasing, jay walking, general apathy and lack of compassion and love for fellow beings, littering, loud and rude behaviour, vandalizing public property. There are spit marks, urine, random garbage, eve teasing and stalking at every nook and corner of Bangalore."

Term-end examinations of the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) end

New Delhi: The term-end examinations of the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) held across the country have been completed successfully, an official said day.

"For the first time, the university was able to complete its December 2011 term-end examination successfully without any hindrance all over the country," the varsity's Vice Chancellor M. Aslam said.


CBI arrested JPPL vice-president, Vijay Sai Reddy , a close aide of Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy

Hyderabad: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday night arrested Jagati Publications Private Limited (JPPL) vice-president, Vijay Sai Reddy, a close aide of Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, in the illegal assets case against YSR Congress party chief.

The CBI officials were also searching the offices of "Sakshi", the Telugu daily and television channel owned by the MP, in his presence.

CBI Joint Director V.V. Lakshminarayana confirmed that Vijay Sai Reddy was arrested after day long questioning at Dilkusha guest house here.

"We arrested him at 7 p.m. and will produce him in the court tomorrow (Tuesday)," he said.

The CBI booked a case against him under seven sections of Indian Penal Code including those relating to cheating and abetment.

Vijay Sai Reddy, a close aide of Jaganmohan Reddy, is the second accused in the case.

This is the first arrest made in the case. As the auditor of the family of late chief minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy, Sai Reddy is believed to have all the information about their assets.

The CBI had registered a case against Jaganmohan Reddy and others in August last year following a direction from the Andhra Pradesh High Court.

The court direction came on petitions by state minister P. Shankar Rao and leaders of Telugu Desam Party (TDP).

The petitioners alleged that the investors who invested in JPPL and other companies owned and promoted by the MP at very high premiums were doing so as a quid pro quo for the favours doled out by his father and the then chief minister, late Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.

"Rockstar" Ranbir Kapoor & Telugu star Ileana D'Cruz much-awaited "Barfee" movie

New Delhi: "Rockstar" Ranbir Kapoor and Telugu star Ileana D'Cruz are believed to have delivered such an emotional performance in Anurag Basu's much-awaited "Barfee" that it left many crew members teary-eyed.

If a source from the sets is to be believed, "certain emotional scenes between Ranbir and Ileana were so intense and beautifully performed that they left many of us and other members of the crew in tears".

"We would all end up not engaging in too much conversation with each other even after the scene would be completed as we would need some quiet alone time to get out of that emotional zone," added the production insider.

Ileana is a popular name in the southern industry with films like "Pokiri", "Jalsa" and "Kick". "Barfee" also features Priyanka Chopra.

The film promises to be a powerhouse of strong performances with Ranbir playing a deaf and dumb character, Ileana's character of a translator that spans about 50 years and Priyanka playing the role of an autistic girl.

A UTV Motion Pictures production, the movie is expected to release mid-2012.

Abhishek Bachchan couldn't make it to the "Bigg Boss" set to promote his film "Players"

Mumbai:Blame it on the Delhi fog,Abhishek Bachchan couldn't make it to the "Bigg Boss" set to promote his film "Players". His flight from Delhi got delayed and instead of Friday evening, he landed here early Saturday morning.

"As per schedule, Abhishek was all set to proceed to Karjat to shoot for 'Bigg Boss' on Saturday morning with the rest of the 'Players' team without any sleep. But then the 'Bigg Boss' host Sanjay Dutt heard of Abhishek's agonizing travel ordeal.

"Sanjay behaves with Abhishek like a big brother. He ordered Abhishek to get some sleep and to leave the 'Players' promotion to the rest of the film's cast. I'll handle it, don't worry,' Dutt told the Bachchan Jr. And the matter ended there. Abhishek always listens to his 'Sanju Sir'," said a source close to the junior Bachchan.

Though Abhishek missed his appointment on "Bigg Boss", his co-stars Sonam Kapoor and Neil Nitin Mukesh featured on the semi-finals of the show.

Riteish Deshmukh and Genelia D'Souza's film "Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya" is all set for a Feb 24 release

New Delhi:Bollywood's latest to-be-couple Riteish Deshmukh and Genelia D'Souza's film "Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya" is all set for a Feb 24 release.

They are coming together on screen after seven years, after their 2004 release "Masti". Directed by Mandeep Kumar, it is a romantic comedy.

The film produced by UTV Motion Pictures and TIPS Industries Ltd is an endearing tale of how unusual circumstances bring people together and change their lives forever.


Question mark over Anna Hazare's plans to campaign against the Congress

Pune: Doctors here have advised Anna Hazare one month's rest, putting a question mark over his plans to campaign against the Congress in the forthcoming assembly polls in five states. The activist, admitted to a hospital with chest congestion, is also suffering from osteosporosis, a doctor said.

"For one week, he is advised complete bed rest. Thereafter, we will re-assess his condition. We have told him he should take rest for one month, not strain himself," physician Parag Sancheti, also the owner of the Sancheti Hospital, who is looking after Hazare, told reporters.

The doctor also said that he should not fast for a month at least.

Hazare, 74, was rushed to the hospital here from his village Ralegan Siddhi just before midnight on Saturday for treatment.

The doctor said his vital parameters were fine as were his lungs.

"He got up on time, he was looking fresh and had his breakfast normally. His pulse rate and blood pressure is normal though blood pressure was on the higher side yesterday night. Lung function test was carried out today morning, that is absolutely normal," he said. Hazare, he said, had a dry cough and would be administered antibiotic for five days.

Doctors will carry out further tests on his osteoporosis condition before deciding the next course of treatment, Sancheti added.

Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal is expected to call on Hazare in the afternoon to enquire about his health.

Sancheti said Hazare would be allowed no visitors, barring his aides and colleagues.

The doctor said the hospital is "bearing the total treatment expenses" for Hazare as it is a "social service".

Hazare has been suffering from a chest infection due to heavy coughing and congestion over the past couple of weeks, and a minor swelling was noticed in the chest, necessitating hospitalisation.

Owing to Hazare's ill health, a crucial Team Anna core committee slated for Monday and Tuesday was postponed.

On Dec 28, Hazare called off his proposed three-day hunger strike in Mumbai for a strong Lokpal on the second day itself due to his health concerns.

The exercise to hold assembly polls in five states -- Goa, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Punjab -- will begin Jan 28 and end on March 3.

Punjab Congress blamed the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal for some people showing black flags to PM

Chandigarh:The Punjab Congress on Sunday blamed the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal for some people showing black flags to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in the name of Anna Hazare's Jan Lokpal bill crusade, as he came out of the holiest of Sikh shrines, Harmandar Sahib, popularly known as Golden Temple, in Amritsar.

The prime minister was shown black flags by a group of 30-35 protestors as he came out of the Sikh shrine after offering prayers early Sunday on the first day of the New Year. They shouted pro-Anna and pro-Jan Lokpal bill slogans but could not come anywhere near the prime minister.Condemning the incident, Punjab Congress president and former chief minister Amarinder Singh said that it was unfortunate that a holy place was used "at the behest of the Akalis"."This whole episode seems to be the handiwork of the disgruntled and frustrated Akali-BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) leadership which wanted to gain cheap publicity. Some protestors, who were obviously Akali-BJP workers, had not only shown disrespect to a devout Sikh like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but had also violated the sacred sanctity of the Darbar Sahib," he said.

Amarinder said that even Team Anna had distanced itself from the black flags protest against the prime minister and blamed the Akalis for "stage-managing" it.

"It was simply the handiwork of the Akalis for seeking cheap publicity to make a handful of people to show black flags to the prime minister using the name of social activist Anna Hazare," he said.

He said that the Akalis had stooped to a new low in politics with this incident as they face imminent defeat in the ensuing assembly elections. A total of 117 assembly seats in Punjab go to polls on Jan 30.

"This was done only for scoring petty political points even if it meant violating the sacred maryada in the process. The Akalis will never be forgiven for this incident," he added.