Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW OF FARHAN AKHTAR BY KABERI D. CHATTERJEE
FROM CANADA FOR THE SOUTH ASIAN NEWS, CANADA

He directs, writes scripts, produces, acts, sings, dances and writes poetry. With that powerhouse of talent, he is increasingly getting compared to the other genius multi-talented persona of Indian cinema, Kishore Kumar. “It’s just one life,” he says. “It’s totally fine to not have to do just one thing for your entire life, if you can do different things which you are passionate about. You can follow those dreams and hopefully, even do well at them.” With Wazir soaring to the box-office ceiling and his cult film, Rock On! 2 coming up, he is increasingly being recognized as the most cerebral actor Bollywood has ever produced. Kaberi Dutta Chatterjee had a long-distance mid-night chat with the actor-director-musician-singer-poet-producer-scriptwriter, Farhan Akhtar.

 

Farhan-Akhtar

Farhan Akhtar needs no introduction. The IMDB website states in his profile that he worked as a cameraman in Yash Chopra’s Lamhe in 1991 and then in 1997 as assistant director for a strange film, Himalaya Putra.
With such a humble beginning, you’d hardly think this is the son of the famous lyricist Javed Akhtar and scriptwriter, Honey Irani. Javedji’s work as dialogue writer in Sholay and Deewar have set the benchmark for dialogues in the Hindi film industry.

After this inconspicuous start, Farhan arrived in Bollywood in style with his baby project, Dil Chahta Hai, which he wrote and directed and which is still thought to be one of the cult movies of Indian cinema.
There was no looking back for him after that as he soar to new heights with acting, singing and producing skills in Rock On! and directing iconic films like Lakshya, Don, (with Shah Rukh Khan) and Don 2. He acted in several noteworthy films, like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Luck By Chance and Karthik Calling Karthik, the latest being Wazir, where he plays an army protagonist in tandem with the legendary, Amitabh Bachchan. His upcoming film, Rock On!2, written by the same writer of Rock On, Pubali Chaudhuri, and directed by Abhishek Kapoor, has the country waiting in baited breath for another rock musical to hit the mass.

I was just lucky to catch the very busy persona as he had just completed the shooting of Rock On!2. Speaking to the actor-director-producer-singer at midnight (morning in Mumbai) was the most thrilling experience for me. He came across as a thorough gentleman, polite, patient with the questions and my excitement in talking to him, as not just a journalist, but also as a huge fan and admirer.

You direct, you sing, you write poetry, you dance, you write screenplays and you act with such intensity that you make each character etched in viewer’s minds and in the history of Indian cinema. Playing which role is most fulfilling to you? Which action makes you the happiest?

Farhan: You know, it’s quite an impossible question to answer. It’s all about (more…)

The Asiatic Gir Lion roars in Toronto

modi

Narendra Modi set the Ricoh Coliseum, Toronto, arena ablaze with his fiery speech!

TORONTO: The Indian Prime Minister need not wage a war against anyone. He could just walk in and trance a nation into submission!

That is what I felt after watching the charismatic leader, Narendra Modi, speak at Ricoh Coliseum, Toronto, in the presence of 10,000 spectators and a horde of Canadian ministers, including Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, and his wife, Laureen, on Wednesday night.

What should I call him? The yellow-striped tiger of India or the Asiatic Gir Lion of Gujarat? I am befuddled by the furor the crowd exuded.

It was as though they were watching a World Cup match, a Rockstar on stage or a Hollywood film actor perform. He walked lazily around on stage, basking in the adulation amid shrieks, whistles and foot stamping, as the audience swooned over him — women of all ages squealing, “I love you Modi!” and the crowd chanting “NaMo! NaMo!”

His dais turned to face the surrounding crowd leisurely, as the man himself leaned on it as if he was sitting and chatting in his living room. “You have made India get recognized in Canada, not me,” he said amid ear-splitting cheers from all four sides. Four humongous television screens hung above him, giving the arena a close-up view of the all-saffron man.

“When India celebrated Modi victory during the day, you celebrated it at midnight,” he said.

“It may now be taking about 14 to 17, at the most 22 hours to reach India from Canada. But it took 42 years for an India Prime Minister to reach Canada from India,” said the dramatic orator, while the crowd exploded.

Although we all know that Dr Manmohan Singh, during his tenure as Prime Minister, visited Canada from June 26 to June 28, 2010, at the invitation of the Prime Minister Stephen Harper. During his visit, Singh participated in the G-20 Toronto Summit and held bilateral discussions with Harper.

However, facts found it hard to bob its head above the sea of Modi madness on Wednesday. Even media had to search Google twice for such facts.

Talking about facts, let’s list any substantial outcome of this visit. One, Harper and Modi unveiled a $350-million deal for Canada’s largest uranium producer, Cameco Corp., to supply 3,220 metric tonnes to power India’s reactors over the next five years.

Two, Indo-Canadians will be included in India’s visa-on-arrival program, which was announced by Harper, but was not touched-upon by Modi himself.

Three, Indo-Canadians will now get a 10-year visa and a life-long OCI, while we all know that OCI and PIO status are now merged. This was announced by Modi himself.

Modi may have tad slipped in his magic back at home grounds, but with this ‘inflated’ bouquet for the Diaspora, he is all set to lure the NRIs and set the media on fire. He even promised a seat for the NRIs at the Planning Commission in India.

Amid the warm (read: HOT) welcome that he received in Toronto, Modi pitched his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper an enticing invitation to be a partner in his vision for India’s development, while stating repeatedly how his government is the visionary “cleaner” of India, cleaning up the rotten waste of the past governments.

Narendra Modi came. Saw. Conquered. The Diaspora hearts are softer than their Indian counterparts and we still believe that Modi is the change India needs desperately.

While it’s hard to please the radical Indians at home, the essential charming orator may still stand a chance with the Indian Diaspora if he concentrates on performing what he proclaims so hard.

(Published in The South Asian News, Toronto Edition, April 17, 2015)

citrus Nov 132994737_131n muslim-santa peshawar sadhu

CAN  radicals now dictate who should wish in ? Comment!

Read Christmas edition of Citrus

 

No this is not the title of a bizarre movie I watched in Jaipur (of all places!) that was released sometimes in 2014. I don’t know what prompted Shah Rukh Khan and sweet Deepika to exist in that film. I just remember wanting to let the film skim over the top of my skull as the scenes went by, which is why my frail brain doesn’t have any memory of it today.

But I did try to watch ‘Dilwale’, since it featured my favorite actress Kajol in it. Well, she was my favorite… till I saw the film.

Surprisingly, ‘Tamasha’, took me off guard with its incredible storyline and touched the heart at the softest place. No wonder it didn’t make it to the box-office… Audience surely don’t want to feel that vulnerable.
Why am I talking of Bollywood films in this new year column?

Because otherwise the world looks bleak. The sadistic face of Kim Jong-Un laughing as he sets his “thrilling New Year sound” off the Pacific Ocean with a series of N-Tests, hit a pit in my stomach. So did Donald Trump’s recent views on Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein and Gandhiji. I am wondering where the world is headed when I watched a YouTube video about how a man gets bionic penis for the first time and he is set to lose his virginity with a celebrated UK sex-worker. They’ll probably now upload his live intercourse, making it a sensational scientific watch.

Somewhere something is not going right. As I always say, time doesn’t know it has become a New Year, it’s just another day for it. So I cannot stuff this shifting trend in a timeline box. But there has to be a line (‘Lakhsmanrekha’ as they say) somewhere, and the world is crossing that line a hundred times over.

Happy New Year readers!

(Published as Editor’s Column in The South Asian News, Toronto, January 8, 2016)new year

You drive Uber too?
I asked the taxi driver as he pulled up in front of my house when I called for an Uber.
“Yes, both,” smiled the driver cheekily.
“Matured decision,” I said as I sat down heavily with my two bags in the back seat.
No, it did not have the same experience as riding in an Uber. The seats were horribly dirty, much as a taxi is in GTA, smelling of food and the snow mats were all soggy with snow.
Yet, it’s good for everyone. The cab driver doesn’t need to leave his taxi, yet has listed himself with Uber. So he is getting the best of both worlds. Whereas, the passengers get to pay the low Uber fare and enjoy the security of a taxi.
With the advent of technology, and Uber taking the cab market by storm, it was foolishness for taxi drivers to pull the protest for so long. Sooner or later, they were destined to accept the change. And now with more and more experienced taxi drivers joining Uber, it’s almost a win-win situation for all. Mayor Tory has to just stand by and watch the merge happen!
I was informed by the same driver that more taxi companies will soon be joining the cab-wagon in GTA. That’s real good news for people like me who do not like driving and find driving annoying and not their cup of tea. It’s good news also for families who have just one car and have to all leave together in order to accommodate their work/school times.
Intense competition will surely keep the fare rates at bay and the car interiors clean and passenger friendly.
I welcome Uber and all such technologies that make our lives better and gives us an option. In fact, I am waiting for the self-driven cars to hit market soon, which will be the mother of all options and give the scariest competition to all working vehicles.

(Published as Editor’s Column in The South Asian News, Toronto, January 15, 2016)

File illustration picture showing the logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone next to the picture of an official German taxi sign

(Published in Asian ImageConnections, Page 1, Jan 26, 2013)

Kaberi Chatterjee

Will someone please tell the new immigrants how to build credit in Canada? Because it seems the banks and financial institutions are hell-bent on making life miserable for the newcomers and no one really offers you a comprehensive package about credit building, which is so very important in Canada.

It’s been three long years I am in Canada and I still don’t know what exactly I should do to have a good credit. Some say I should pay off my credit cards and keep them in a vault; some say I should use my cards and pay them off before due date; some say I should get more cards; some say I should not have too many cards.

Some say you should have a lot of money in the bank to get credit; some say millions of dollars in the bank won’t help. Some say all you need is a good credit payment history; some say you need to have a good paying job.  How do you expect a newcomer to have a good job when newcomers are not given jobs since they do not have the much-haloed ‘Canadian Experience’?

Immigrants are allured everyday by the government to come to Canada, an apparent ‘Land of Opportunities’ and then they are left to find out about struggling in Canada on their own.

I am sure, like me, a lot of newcomers are flummoxed as to what to do. The government and banks keep silent, and will hit you below the belt with a ‘Not Approved’ Line of Credit or housing loan, when you apply for one. And to top it all, your credit score goes down every time you apply for a loan. What the hell does one do then?

Like in other countries you are ostracized if you are a criminal, drug addict or a gay, you are ostracized if you do not have a good credit history in Canada. Hence, it is imperative for every Canadian bank to educate newcomers step-by-step of how to build credit; when to buy a house, how to buy a house, how to invest, what kind of jobs will affect their credit negatively and more importantly, remove the much-hypocrite “Canadian Experience” badge! Immigrants come here with years of experience, are much more experienced than major Canadians, and perfectly qualified Engineers, MBA’s and doctors do not need to haul packages at a factory or serve coffee at a restaurant to acquire “Canadian Experience”. This hypocrisy on the part of the government needs to stop.

Being a true place for social integration, Canada can rise to a much higher degree and can stop its citizens from fleeing off to other countries after they’ve taken full advantage of the generous government’s resources, if only immigrants are given the respect they deserve. If you are using the immigrant-manpower to fill up your census, you cannot blame immigrants from taking advantage of your full resources and then going off to greener pastures.

 

Image

Essentially known to the world as a non-biased and self-absorbed nation, the pristine face of Canada changes dramatically as the controversial seal hunt begins in the waters and on the ice floes off Atlantic Canada right as spring begins. The bloody images of baby seals clubbed to death, the heated rhetoric, the impassioned defenses, the gory stories in graphic details make world headlines and the communities furious. They all combine in a familiar rite that pits Canada governments and sealers against animal/human rights groups.

Yet, I am not fully aware why the Canadian government continues to perform this barbaric act in an otherwise civilized society. Few facts in this debate go unchallenged. All sides agree on where and when. But the answers to how, why, and even how many aren’t as clear. It is a brutal, bloody and barbaric massacre of seals. Most of them are babies — just days or weeks old. Last year, over 40,390 seals were reported killed, even cut open while still alive. For what?

For seal fur hats and sealskin gloves and other luxury items no one needs? It is well estimated that 70% of the baby harp seal population died last year.

Even the language of the action is chosen carefully. ‘Hunt’ or ‘slaughter’. ‘Sea mammals’ or ‘baby seals’. ‘Cherished tradition’ or ‘economic disaster’. ‘Cod-eating nuisance’ or ‘adorable innocent’.

The images of the hunt are even more powerful, and seal hunt opponents know it. Most people find the pictures difficult to watch, but supporters say the same kind of thing happens in slaughterhouses — places where cameras aren’t allowed.

There are seal product import bans in 30 countries, including the European Union. Recently Russia, too, banned the trade in harp seal skins. The time has come to acknowledge that the world does not want or need cruel seal products.

Here is an excerpt from a U.K. reporter during a past hunt… ‘The baby seal looked into the eyes of her executioner. Barely a flicker of emotion showed on the fisherman’s face as he smashed a steel-lipped club into her mouth. She lay whimpering on the ice, blood pouring from her jaw and nose. But she wasn’t yet dead, so the sealer hit her in the face another four times before slamming a hooked hakapik club into her stomach and dragging her across the ice towards the ship’.

 

Here are a few of the questions swirling around the debate and how the big stakeholders respond.

Why the hunt?

The economic value of the seal hunt is one of those things that is open to interpretation. The federal government says the landed value of seals exceeded $16.5 million in 2005, providing a “significant” source of income for thousands of sealers — benefiting them and their families at a time when, according to the DFO, “other fishing options are unavailable, or limited at best, in many remote, coastal communities.”

Quick facts:

  • The European Union typically accounts for about 15 per cent of Canada’s seal exports.
  • In 2007, Canada exported more than $13 million worth of seal products, including meat, oil and skins.
  • South Korea and Japan were the largest consumers of seal meat, while China, South Korea and the United States bought the most seal fat and oil from Canada.
  • When it comes to seal skins, about 80 per cent are sent to Norway.
  • Source: 2007 data from Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • The DFO says the 2005 seal catch ranked fifth in value of all the species it monitors, after snow crab, shrimp, lobster, and cod.
  • The DFO also says the 2006 seal catch was one of the most profitable in memory, a combination of a higher allowable catch and a high price for pelts. Since then, however, the total allowable catch has been cut by 100,000 seals and the price for the best pelts has dropped from $105 in 2006 to an expected $15 in 2009.

 

Where does the Atlantic seal hunt take place?

The hunt usually opens in March in the “Gulf” areas around the Magdalen Islands and Prince Edward Island. The main hunt on the so-called “front” usually begins in April off the east coast of Newfoundland. It’s pretty much over by May.

How many are they allowed to hunt?

There are federal quotas for three types of seals: harp seals, hooded seals and grey seals. Most of the hunt is for harp seals. The 2009 harp seal total allowable catch has been set at 280,000, up slightly from the previous year. That’s down from the 2006 quota of 325,000, and about the same as the quota set from 1997 to 2002. The catch in 2001 was 226,000. In 2000, it was 92,000 seals.

The 2009 total allowable catch is 8,200 for hooded seals and 50,000 for grey seals.

Are seals skinned alive?

Yes. Upto 45 % are skinned alive. The IFAW charges that seals are often “skinned before being rendered fully unconscious” and said its observers found that few sealers check for a blinking reflex to confirm brain death before skinning begins. However, a 2002 report in the Canadian Veterinary Journal found that “the large majority of seals taken during this hunt … are killed in an acceptably humane manner.”

Regarding the “skinning alive” charge, the DFO says appearances can be deceiving. “Sometimes a seal may appear to be moving after it has been killed,” the DFO says. “However, seals have a swimming reflex that is active, even after death. This reflex falsely appears as though the animal is still alive when it is clearly dead — similar to the reflex in chickens.”

Furthermore, the DFO says the club, or hakapik, used by many sealers is “an efficient tool” that kills “quickly and humanely.” The Royal Commission on Seals and Sealing in Canada found that clubbing, when properly performed, is at least as humane as killing methods in commercial slaughterhouses. Opponents say clubbing often isn’t “properly performed.”

What is made out of the seal?

For hundreds of years, seals have been hunted for food, the lamp and cooking fuel made from their oil and their warm pelts. Seal products nowadays include leather, meat for animal and human consumption and seal oil, which is rich in Omega-3.

That’s a lot of explanation and pretty luxury items derived from the hunt, for an inhumane act we can do without. And it is also proved that cod and seals can co-habit, an essential excuse why seals are hunted.

Animal welfare groups have been outraged after the federal government announced this week a 400,000 pelt quota for this year’s seal hunt began last Monday.

Fax Prime Minister Stephen Harper at 001-613-941-6900 and/or visit http://www.ifaw.org and help to stop this cruelty.