B-TOWN FORCED TO LIFT WRITING STANDARDS DUE TO OTT’S SUCCESS, SAYS RICHA CHADHA - The Daily Guardian
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B-TOWN FORCED TO LIFT WRITING STANDARDS DUE TO OTT’S SUCCESS, SAYS RICHA CHADHA

Actress Richa Chadha talks about her new release, ‘Madam Chief Minister’, and how the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the nature of Hindi cinema and the film industry.

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Actress Richa Chadha joined NewsX India A-List for an exclusive conversation. The actress is best known for her roles in Gangs of Wasseypur which earned her a Filmfare award, Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, Fukrey, and her debut in a leading role with the drama Masaan, among others. 

Post-Covid Richa’s Madam Chief Minister, directed by Subhash Kapoor, had a theatrical release. Talking about her movie and reviews, she said, “One can never really be sure at screenings. I have no objectivity as far as this film is concerned as I’m attached to it. I’ve been waiting for responses. I don’t read reviews because they can be really good and really bad and I don’t want my peace of mind to be disturbed by any of that.” She is one of the first few leading actresses whose film has released and hit theatres across the country during this pandemic.

“As we’re all attempting to slowly get back to the normalcy of what the version of normalcy was. Cinema plays a huge part in taking some steam off, letting some pressure out. I hope that people are choosing to go to the theatres and watch this film. I know a lot of people have already done that. I’m excited to hear what they think. I definitely know that this will be talked about for better or for worse,” said the actress who has several critical appraisals for her bold roles. “It was a great part to be in the movie, and I thought that it would be foolish to turn it down. It’s risky but also an experiment. It’s risky to have a whole new look, a new set of skills you need to acquire, be in a new headspace and it’s a new genre hence I wanted to do it. I was happy that they considered me for it,” Richa added.

She shared her lockdown lessons from the year gone by, “The year was tough and we had lots of tragedies occurring around us. The state of the migrants when they were walking back home and those times are very difficult when you as a human race had to deal with such misery or like when somebody passed away and you could not even mourn properly or see them one last time. Such things were really difficult for sure. I think no good ever comes from partying and if you’re having a great year the chances of you sitting down to introspect are very less. But when we were all indoors, shut down and by ourselves, it forced us to think. Sometimes, all it takes is for you to disconnect on social media or go for a walk. The simpler things in life are a big lesson from the lockdown.”

The actress shared with us her thoughts on the current state of the film industry and anticipations for the year ahead as after a tough year for the film industry, where many releases were halted, films are slowly releasing in theatres later this year. “I think everyone’s attempting to get back to work and lots of projects are now on floors, particularly series because in the lockdown the growth of OTT has been phenomenal because it’s got a captive audience and what it has done in turn is creating a space where there is no box office pressure or opening week pressure. We get to see fantastic performances and the work of amazing actors. These things are a positive change and also having to compete with something which you can watch on your phone or your laptop is so much that film industry people are now forced to lift their standards of writing. I feel this year should turn out good and like with everything else we must hope to be optimistic and create things that stand the test of time.” 

Recognised as one of the biggest achievers in the field of entertainment and cinema, Richa shared her game-changing film, “I don’t know what was game-changing at all. I don’t know, the game has been changed. I don’t look at my life in terms of points on a graph. I think it’s more like a meandering journey where I’m having new experiences, doing new things, and keeping myself entertained. I hope to continue doing that as at the end of the day it’s also about how I feel. I realised that as an artist primarily you also want to experiment and flex your muscles when you get things. But breaks are important as I got Gangs of Wasseypur and thrown into this world and that would have been something life-changing in a sense.”

On a concluding note, she shared a piece of advice for the budding actors who look up to her, “Just tighten your seatbelts, be very patient, grow a thick skin, and try to keep yourself happy.”

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HEAVY RAIN CAUSES HAVOC IN HIMACHAL, 14 KILLED, 387 ROADS CLOSED, SAYS CHIEF SECRETARY ANIL KHACHI

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Heavy rain caused havoc in Himachal Pradesh during the past 24 hours, 14 people killed, 387 roads closed, river drains in spate and there is a warning of heavy rain in the next 36 hours as well. In the most affected districts of Himachal Pradesh’s tribal region Lahaul Spiti, heavy rain, flash floods, and cloudburst incidents caused huge destruction. A total of 10 people died due to flash flood and drowning.

A total of 14 people have died in the state during the last 24 hours, and some people are still missing. Heavy rain has caused maximum damage in Udaipur of Lahaul where a sudden flood took dozens of people in its grip. Out of which 10 deaths have been confirmed. Four people have been washed away in Kullu. Anil Khachi, Chief Secretary, Himachal Pradesh Government said that there has been a loss of crores due to rain in the state. 387 roads in the state are closed. Maximum 70 roads are closed in district Kullu. But the national highways have been opened. Water supply has stopped at 175 places. There is power failure in many places as 345 transformers have been affected. During the last 24 hours, 10 houses have completely collapsed in Himachal Pradesh while 31 houses have been damaged.

Khachi further added that there have been landslides, trees fell, houses collapsed, and dozens of vehicles were washed away due to fresh rains in Himachal Pradesh. For the next two days, an orange alert has been issued in the state, while even after that a warning of a yellow alert has been issued by the Meteorological Department.

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ELECTION COMMISSION BEGINS PREPARATIONS FOR 2022 ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS

Ashish Sinha

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Different political parties have already started their preparations for the Assembly elections of five states, that will start next year. Meanwhile, the Central Election Commission has also started brainstorming about its preparations for the upcoming elections. The Election Commission of India, on Tuesday, held a review meeting on advance planning for forthcoming elections with the Chief Electoral Officers of the five states: Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh at Nirvachan Sadan.

The Election Commission has issued a press statement and said that the preliminary meeting held was focussed on various thematic issues including Assured Minimum Facilities (AMF) at the polling stations, ease of registration arrangements for voter facilitation, electoral roll, timely resolution of grievances, arrangements of EVMs/VVPATs, postal ballot facility for senior citizens (80+) and PwDs, Covid mitigation plan, training of polling staff, and extensive voter outreach amongst others.

Chief Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra, in his address, said that transparency and impartiality are the hallmark of the election process. He added that issues and challenges may be different in each state but election planning needs to have a voter-centric approach and participative decision making involving all stakeholders.

CEC Chandra, while interacting with the CEOs, said that states should learn and adopt innovations and best practices in election management from the states where polls have occured or other States/UTs.

The CECs from the five states gave a detailed presentation on various aspects of conduct of election including health of electoral roll, availability of budget, manpower resources, planning, polling station arrangements, and IT applications, etc, the press statment said.

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MAJOR FINANCIAL JUMBLE SURFACED IN CHANDIGARH’S BIRD AVIARY

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Region’s first Bird Aviary in Forest area, out of zoo, has fallen under the scanner of financial fraud. The under construction project ‘Bird Aviary’ situated inside City Forest adjoining Sukhna Lake surfaced with a major financial jumble by Chandigarh Forest and Wildlife Department. The Audit Department clearly says in its official report that the expenditure being made on this project is not justified and if in future anyone moves to court against the department, the latter would have no answer to these financial flaws. This case has been revealed by My Tree Foundation founders Prem Garg, Rahul Mahajan, and environmentalist Ashok Tiwari on Thursday.

These financial flaws, that have surfaced under General Finance Rule 2017, says, “In order to initiate any construction, the department has to sign a contract agreement with the agency hired for construction services.”

“Despite these rules, on 10 January 2020, the Chief Conservator of Forest Office of the department of Chandigarh Forest and Wildlife initiated an e-tender for the “Fabrication work of the Bird Aviary” and did not sign any agreement with the Disha Associates before allotting Rs 3.38 crore of work allotment to them on 2 March 2020,” says Garg.

UNDUE FAVORS TO DISHA ASSOCIATES BY THE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL

In this period, the Department of Forest and Wildlife favored Disha Associates blindly. This can be seen as Disha Associates submitted Rs 16.90 lakh as performance guarantee and has to renew it after 28 February 2021 but Disha Associates did not resubmit the money and renew the performance guarantee that is a clear loss to the government treasury. “Besides these favors, the department did not levy any fine on the agency as the latter did not complete the project within the time limit which was 2 September 2020 and did not even relax the time limit for the agency on the official documents. There is exaggerated use of 37.348 metric ton steel without permission,”says Mahajan.

Interestingly, there was an estimate of using 256.78 metric tons of steel in constructing the structure of Bird Aviary, whereas the Disha Associates claim to have used 37.348 metric ton above the estimated figure and for this, the agency has spent 14.54 percentage of more expenditure of the sanctioned budget without seeking any prior permission.

PERTURBATION IN FOUNDATION OF BIRD AVIARY

There has been evident perturbations in the construction of foundation of Bird Aviary as well as this job was too allotted to Disha Associates for which the department of Chandigarh Forest and Wildlifedid not levy any condition of performance guarantee which is standing as an outstanding of Rs 39.05 lakh.

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‘Is he a terrorist,’ lawyer asks after Kundra denied bail

Urvashi Khona

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A metropolitan magistrate court in Mumbai on Wednesday dismissed the bail plea filed by 45-year-old businessman and Shilpa Shetty’s husband Raj Kundra. Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Sudhir Bhajipale was hearing the bail plea filed by Raj Kundra represented by senior counsel advocate Abad Ponda. On hearing both the sides, the magistrate rejected Kundra and his aide Ryan Thorpe’s bail plea in a case related to the alleged production and distribution of pornographic content. While submitting his side, advocate Abad Ponda asked: “Is Kundra a terrorist? Has he terrorised anyone?”

Advocate Abad Ponda filed the bail plea on the grounds that this was an old case where chargesheet was filed and nine other accused were out on bail and Kundra has been cooperating in the investigation; thus his custody is not required. Abad Ponda submitted, “Charge-sheet in the case is filed already in April 2020 and maximum punishment is seven years. All the accused are out on bail. So I plead bail should be granted.”

To this Mumbai Police, opposing the bail plea, submitted in the court that if Raj Kundra is granted bail, then tampering of evidence can happen. Also, as some statements of victims are yet to be recorded, they may fear to come forward and Kundra can use his money and muscle power on them. Investigating Officer, police Inspector Kiran Bidve standing in the witness box told the court, “Kundra can destroy evidences once he’s out. Last night in Malwani police station, the case was registered; so slowly victims are coming forward. If Kundra is out, he can use money and muscle power to silence the victims. He can tamper with the evidence and witnesses. If he gets bail, then victims will fear to come and speak, If bail is granted ro Raj Kundra, he can help his brother-in-law Pardeep Bakshi and Ryan, who was the IT head. We have seized electronic devices, Ryan can destroy the evidence. We need to probe with the help of Ryan. The accused are active in the case and victims will fear if bail is granted and at this point their statement needs to be recorded and financial transactions need to be probed. Thus, we appeal not to grant bail for Raj Kundra and Ryan Thorpe.”

To this, Kundra’s counsel Abad Ponda replied, “Am I a terrorist??? has any of the victim till date from February to date in charge-sheet or statement said that Kundra has threatened or so!!” Police said that Kundra is a British national and so could flee the country to avoid prosecution. Ponda replied: “Police knew even when they filed the charge-sheet in February that he was a British national and his passport is already with the police. Further terms and conditions can be imposed.”

Public prosecutor Ekanath Dhamal argues that the accused are rich and influential, and said: “Needy women were being forced into this crime. Many victims are coming forward and that if bail is granted to Kundra, then they might not come forward. The accused are rich and influential people.” 

Meanwhile, trouble for Kundra increased as, according to sources, four of his employees have turned witnesses against him. The Mumbai crime branch has lodged a fresh FIR in connection with a pornography case and named producers of businessman Raj Kundra’s company as well as actress Gehana Vashishth in the new case, a police official said on Wednesday. 

The case was registered by the crime branch’s property cell at the Malwani police station on Tuesday after an actress approached the police and alleged she was forced to shoot for a pornographic film for the HotShots app. The FIR was registered under various Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections, including 420 (cheating), 392 (punishment for robbery), 393 (attempt to commit robbery), and provisions of the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act and the Information Technology Act, the official added.

Kundra has also filed a petition in the Bombay High Court, challenging his arrest in the case and calling for an “immediate release”. The petition claims that his arrest is “illegal”. On Tuesday, the Bombay High Court had adjourned the hearing; the matter will be heard again on Thursday.

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PARAMILITARY TROOPS TO TAKE OVER DISPUTED AREAS IN ASSAM AND MIZORAM

After the Centre held a meeting with senior Assam and Mizoram officials on Wednesday following violence along their border, both Assam and Mizoram have agreed on the deployment of paramilitary forces in disturbed border areas along the National Highway 306.

Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla chaired the meeting which was attended by Assam Chief Secretary Jishnu Baruah and Director General of Police Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta and their respective Mizoram

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After the Centre held a meeting with senior Assam and Mizoram officials on Wednesday following violence along their border, both Assam and Mizoram have agreed on the deployment of paramilitary forces in disturbed border areas along the National Highway 306.

Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla chaired the meeting which was attended by Assam Chief Secretary Jishnu Baruah and Director General of Police Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta and their respective Mizoram counterparts Lalnunmawia Chuaungo and SBK Singh.

Both state governments have agreed to the deployment of a neutral Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) at the disturbed interstate border along the National Highway 306, a home ministry official said, news agency PTI reported. The neutral force will be commanded by a senior officer of the CAPF. Also, in order to facilitate the functioning of the force, both the state governments will work out arrangements in coordination with the Union Home Ministry within a reasonable timeframe.

After the meeting, Mizoram Chief Secretary Lalnunmawia Chuaungo said that their forces were being withdrawn from the disputed site. “We are going to maintain peace,” he said.

The latest flashpoint in the decades-old border dispute between Assam and Mizoram led to violent clashes in which at least six people died and over 50 individuals were injured.

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Ram temple construction gathers pace, 50% foundation work done

Ashish Sinha

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As much as 50 percent work of filling the foundation of the Ayodhya Ram temple has been completed. Ram Mandir Trustee Dr Anil Mishra said that the target is to complete the foundation filling work for the construction of the Ram temple by September end. So far, 23 layers have been constructed. The work of drying the layer that has been made is being done. The foundation filling work has been interrupted due to rain. The work of construction of all 44 layers will be completed by September; immediately after that, the work of construction of plinth will start. A large amount of field material is being used in the temple construction work in Ramjanmabhoomi.

The foundation is to be filled in total 44 layers out of which about 50 percent, that is, 23 layer laying work has been completed. On the other hand, the preparation for the plinth construction has also intensified. The supply of Mirzapur stones used in the plinth is being done continuously. A batch of workers has also arrived. 

Meanwhile, the white marble of Makrana, which is installed in the sanctum sanctorum (Garbhagrih), has reached Ayodhya. White marble frames of Makrana will be installed in Shri Ram Janmabhoomi temple. So, about 30 door frames will be installed in the temple being built in 2.7 acres of land. The front part of the white marble door frame in the sanctum has been carved in a very beautiful way. On both sides of the upper part of the stone, the conch is embossed on the stone, which is a representation of Lord Vishnu. There will also be carvings on the pillars of the door frame, in which the shape of the flower is embossed. Similarly, in the three-storey temple, the sanctum sanctorum, the doorway of all the Gudmandap will be made of white marble of Makrana. 

On 15 July, speaking to The Daily Guardian, Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra trust’s general secretary Champat Rai said: “Date has been fixed for getting darshan in Ayodhya’s grand Ram temple. In 2023, Ramlala will be established at the sanctum sanctorum of the Ram temple. By 2025, the vision of the Ram temple complex in the entire 70 acres will be completed. The decision has been taken in the meeting of the Ram Mandir Trust in Ayodhya.” 

Rai had earlier said that three different types of stones would be used in the construction of the Ram temple. Different stones will be used in its base plinth, the spire, including the temple and the walls, in which its base plinth will be made of four lakh cubic stones of Mirzapur and stones of Banshi Paharpur of Rajasthan will be used for the construction of the temple.

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