After featuring in blockbuster films like Gold and Kabir Singh, Nikita Dutta is now winning hearts with her performance in The Big Bull. On the day of the film release on Disney+Hotstar, Nikita Dutta joined NewsX for a candid interview as part of NewsX India A-List.
Talking about her incredible journey so far, Nikita said, “When I was in school and college, I didn’t have acting on my mind. Like every other academically-oriented kid, I had plans of preparing for the IAS. It happened to me with Miss India when I just randomly decided to take part in it and from there my journey started. Right after that, once I was done with college, is when I got into television. Television was one of those things that came to me and it seemed interesting. I didn’t want to say no. After I said yes to my first show, that’s when I fell in love with acting. Slowly and steadily, after doing three television shows, I said yes to my first film Gold, which worked well and that’s how Kabir Singh also happened. From there, I started getting more chances to be a part of some really beautiful films and that’s how it has come along all this while.”
When asked about her time on the sets of The Big Bull and how was the experience of working with Abhishek Bachchan, she expressed, “Well, I had a fabulous time on the sets of The Big Bull. Abhishek, as a person, is extremely entertaining, especially off-camera. You can catch him in his best elements then. He is out there to make sure no one on set feels left out. He’s going to pull everybody’s leg. He’s gonna make sure he rags you a little bit. I’ve been a victim of that but that is what makes shooting so much more fun with him around. There’s so much I got to learn from him as he is way more experienced than me. Overall, working with Abhishek and Kookie sir and shooting for this film was fabulous.”
Nikita tested positive for Covid-19 before the release of the film. Sharing her thoughts on the experience, she said, “I was feeling very sick before I tested Covid positive. I was shooting for something and that’s when my co-actor tested positive and we decided to halt the shoot. That’s when I got tested for the first time. It came negative. Within a day I started feeling very unwell but when I got my second test done that also came negative. It was only in the third test that I tested positive for Covid-19. I got it done just for safety as I wanted to travel. So, by the time I tested positive, I had already started to feel much better and with passing days my health kept getting better. Covid-19 is inevitable now, especially for those working outdoors. They are somehow going to catch it.”
Expressing her views on the vaccination drive in India and whether it should be rolled out to every adult in the country, Nikita stated, “India is a highly populated country so it is right to prioritise how they have been doing. Though, I also feel it should be fast as, at the end of it, we all want to make a livelihood. We all step out to earn money so the soonest this can be done, the better it is for the country and everybody.”
On doing Rocket Gang opposite Aditya Seal, she expressed, “I am damn excited about it. We started this project back in 2019. Then, the pandemic happened. In December 2020, we were in the last leg of finishing the film but, unfortunately, we had to halt it again due to Covid cases on the set. But, I am looking forward to the release as it is an out-and-out dance-based film. I have never danced in front of the camera and there is a lot of dancing in this film.”
Throwing light on her other upcoming projects, Nikita said, “I am doing a horror film Ezra with Emraan Hashmi that’s scheduled to release this year. It is a completely different genre and I am playing an interesting character. I am elated with the kind of palette that I have in the coming year that the audience is going to get to see.”
On a concluding note, she shared a piece of advice for all the young girls who wanna make it big in Bollywood. Nikita said, “I have always followed one principle, that is, go with what your heart says, don’t get influenced by anybody who tells you how something needs to be done. Do what you think is right. This is one principle I have followed from day one. When I had said yes to television, there were a lot of people who said, ‘You are making a big mistake, don’t do this. You are gonna stuck over here and will never be able to be a part of films.’ When I wanted to do films and took a break from television, some people said, ‘You are saying no to a constant source of income. With films, you have to be patient and you just never know when you will get the next film.’ So I have heard all these things but one thing that I have always maintained is to follow my heart, do good scripts, good work and that’s all that matters in the end. Success, or whatever you do in the future, will follow accordingly.
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‘PAK IN ECONOMIC CRUNCH DUE TO IMRAN’S ANTI-PEOPLE IDEOLOGY’
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Sunday said that Pakistan is facing economic destruction due to the “anti-people ideology” of Prime Minister Imran Khan, The Express Tribune reported.
“Prime Minister, you used to blame corruption for Pakistan’s state of affairs. [Look how] the country has been destroyed economically due to your anti-people ideology,” Bilawal said in a statement. “You have amnesty schemes for the elite and food charity centres for the poor. This won’t work,” Bilawal added.
Highlighting rising poverty in the country, the PPP chairman said, “850 million Pakistanis are standing on the edge of the poverty line.”
He claimed, “15 to 20 people are committing suicide every day due to the situation, while medicines have become costlier by 100 per cent. The poor have no one to look up to,” The Express Tribune reported.
Earlier, PPP chairman had warned that the country is moving towards another flour crisis as there are less than 20 days of wheat stock left in the country.
According to Dawn, Bilawal lamented that Pakistan, which was known as a wheat-producing country, is now importing wheat, adding that the ruler of Pakistan (Imran Khan) was unfortunately not even familiar with “alphabets of the word agriculture”.
Meanwhile, the worsening COVID-19 situation in Pakistan does not seem to abate just yet, as the country recorded 3,785 new cases in the last 24 hours.
With the 118 new deaths, the total coronavirus death toll in Pakistan reached 18,915. However, the total COVID-19 cases reached 58,026 on Sunday. Citing the official data by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), Geo News reported that 40,736 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours out of which 3,785 tests came positive.
Will US support during India’s crisis strengthen Quad?
Several experts have opined that China’s increasingly aggressive behaviour and US support during India’s COVID-19 crisis will make the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) – a security alliance between India, the US, Japan and Australia – more robust.
Terry Wu for The Epoch Times writes that the growing threat from China would bind the geopolitical factor strongly in the long run and political factors drive the long-term regional outlook. “Our (US-India) relationship is still very strong. If anything, the US support to India has made the partnership even stronger,” said Major Randy Ready at the US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM), adding that the COVID-19 outbreak had no impact on security operations between the two nations.
Srikanth Kondapalli, professor in Chinese studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, said that the second wave of the crisis will play a part in strengthening the Quad cooperation by highlighting the importance of the vaccine partnership that is the centrepiece of the dialogue, The Epoch Times reported.
“The future for the Quad is pretty bright,” said Rahul Mishra, a senior lecturer at the University of Malaya, adding that the four countries are keen in strengthening and institutionalising the initiative, while European powers are also showing interest.
“The Quad should be about how to maintain liberal democracy and the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Tosh Minohara, professor of US-Japan Relations and Diplomatic History at Kobe University.
The professor further said that the US will defend Taiwan as America’s world leadership is at stake and expressed hope of seeing a new US administration in 2025 that is more aggressive on China.
“The Indo-Pacific is the most consequential region for America’s future. It hosts our greatest security challenge, and it remains the priority theater for the United States,” said commander Admiral John C Aquilino at the new USINDOPACOM.
“Although everybody calls it COVID-19, everybody knows that the virus originated from Wuhan,” said Kondapalli.
Under the former President Donald Trump’s administration, ties between Washington and Beijing had deteriorated.
CHINA RELUCTANT TO CLEAR $6 BILLION LOAN FOR CPEC PROJECT
China has shown reluctance to clear a $6 billion loan for the single largest project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) due to the growing concern over mounting debt.
The cost of the Mainline-I (ML-I) railway project was initially USD 9 billion but later it was reduced gradually to USD 6.8 billion. According to a report in The Express Tribune, Chinese authorities are wary of Pakistan’s ability to service its debt. “Beijing conveyed its concerns during a meeting held on March 30 to discuss financing modalities of the project,” the Pakistan government officials said as per the report.
“The Chinese side have sought clarification regarding the possibility of raising further debt by Pakistan during currency of the IMF program. The Pakistani side clarified that debt situation is being monitored and there is no restriction under the programme to raise debt for viable projects,” Deputy Chairman Planning Commission of Pakistan Dr Jehanzeb Khan told the Pakistan daily.
Amid lack of progress on several CPEC projects, subtle signs of unease have emerged between the two countries over the future direction and funding of mega projects, under increasing scrutiny of media and the public.According to a report published in Modern Diplomacy, the outcome of recent meetings between the two countries reveals significant scaling down of Pakistan’s expectations regarding the inclusion of more projects under CPEC phase II.
Fabien Baussart in an opinion piece for Modern Diplomacy last month had said, “While the country has for long portrayed USD 6.8 billion Main Line-I project to be the main artery of the Pakistan Railways and tried to convince China for financing the project, the Chinese side has tried to avoid any commitment for funding.”
Pakistan has been unable to secure any favourable consideration including the concessionary loan at an interest rate of one per cent, said Baussart while adding that China is only willing to offer a mix of commercial and concessional loans to fund the rail project backed by suitable guarantees by Pakistan.
In 2015, China announced an economic project in Pakistan worth USD 46 billion. With the CPEC, Beijing aims to expand its influence in Pakistan and across Central and South Asia in order to counter the influence of the United States and India.
The CPEC would link Pakistan’s southern Gwadar port (626 kilometres west of Karachi) in Balochistan on the Arabian Sea to China’s western Xinjiang region. It also includes plans to create road, rail, and oil pipeline links to improve connectivity between China and the Middle East.
LARGE-SCALE VIOLENCE GRIPS AFGHANISTAN
Security officials in Kabul said that the Taliban in the past week tried to take over some strategic areas in at least six provinces of the country, but Afghan forces repelled their offensives.
KABUL: Amid the ongoing drawdown of US troops from Afghanistan, the war-torn country has seen a spike in the incidents of violence in recent weeks, leading to casualties of Afghan security forces and civilians.
Afghan security officials on Saturday said that the Taliban in the past week tried to take over some strategic areas in at least six provinces of the country, but security forces repelled their offensives. Over 1,000 Taliban terrorists have been killed and wounded in several encounters with the Afghan security forces during this period in Kandahar, Helmand, Farah, Herat and Baghlan provinces, said General Yasin Zia, the Afghan Chief of Army Staff.
Alongside Ghazni city, Khawja Omari, Jaghato, Waghaz and Khogyani districts have also faced deadly battles in the past days. Meanwhile, local officials in Baghlan said that hundreds of people have taken up arms to fight the Taliban.
Afghan Ministry of Defence said that offensive operations have been launched to eliminate the Taliban in areas under their control. It added that at least 250 Taliban fighters were killed in at least seven provinces in the last 24 hours and thousands more in the last four months.
The Taliban, however, has rejected the Afghan Defence Ministry report that they had suffered significant losses due to heavy fighting over the first four months of this year.
According to the ministry’s data, the period in question was the deadliest for the Taliban, as 6,320 group members were killed and 2,790 others were injured in clashes in different provinces across the country. The highest number of casualties in the past four months — 2,099 — was reported in the southern Kandahar province, as reported by Sputnik.
The Taliban on Saturday rejected the Afghan Defence Ministry report that they (Taliban) had suffered significant losses due to heavy fighting over the first four months of this year but the Ministry maintained that the figures of Taliban casualties were accurate.
Amid this surge in violence, US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on Friday had said that the United States will stand with Afghans who support the Republic if the Taliban do not choose peace.
“If the Taliban do not choose peace, a future based on consensus and compromise, then we will stand with Afghans who strive to keep the Republic intact,” Khalilzad had said in a tweet.
Leading UN officials on Saturday condemned the deadly bombing outside a high school in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, which led to the deaths of at least 30 people, including several school children.
Most of the casualties are reported to be girls, who were leaving the building at the end of the school day, UN News reported, adding that the city was full of shoppers, ahead of the Eid-al-Fitr celebrations.
“UNICEF strongly condemns the horrific attack earlier today near the Sayed Ul-Shuhada high school, in Kabul, Afghanistan,” said Henrietta Fore, the Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF.
“The attack claimed the lives of dozens of schoolchildren, mostly girls, and severely injured many more. Violence in or around schools is never acceptable. Schools must be havens of peace where children can play, learn and socialize safely.” The UNICEF chief added that children must never be the target of violence, and that the UN agency continues to call on all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan to adhere to international human rights and humanitarian law.
Volkan Bozkir, the President of the General Assembly described the blast as “an abhorrent and cowardly attack”.
Building a meaningful marital relationship
The pandemic and ensuing uncertainties have greatly impacted couples who’ve been recently married. In some instances, with quick court marriages or extremely private gatherings, cancellation of plans, curtailing ceremonies and celebrations, absence of bickering relatives and fun with friends, many feel deprived, disappointed and unhappy having had to compromise on a significant life event.
Living together as a couple is life-changing. The settling in period is crucial as no one likes changes. We may outrightly resist, react with displeasure or find a way to cope. But invariably it leaves us feeling unsure and dissatisfied with an emptiness of having lost a way of life. So it’s important to willingly adjust, adapt and mutually compromise to settle differences that may arise from everyday interactions.
A new set of parents – from having to manage one set of parents and their emotional baggage, suddenly you inherit another! How do you address them? Are they involved in your marriage? How lonely is the struggle to adapt? Coming from a nuclear setup does the extended family structure overwhelm you? Do you sense disappointment that your maternal parents are alone and left out?
New House indicates the pressure to fit in. What is often overlooked is that the in-laws too must accommodate an unknown new person! Instinctually the girl attempts to recreate her maternal home and lifestyle while the in-laws insist on the unsaid rules and regulations of their lives. A clash is evident as each manipulates the other to accept their way of life.
Food – a necessity to live well. Is your palate shocked into having to develop a taste for a fish head, spicy food, vegetarian diet or bland ‘healthy’ meals? Do you find cooking destressing? Are you experimental or long for mom’s cooking? Are your kitchen management skills criticised? Inter-caste marriages can add to the pressure and this dissatisfaction gradually extends to other areas.
Sleeping habits – Are you an early riser or a night owl? What do you like to do before going to bed? Are you expected to wake up early? Do you sleep hugging a pillow or lie on your stomach? Do you move constantly in your sleep or snore? Does your partner question how much you sleep?
Sex rituals are as stressful as the inability to reach orgasm. What’s your attitude towards sex? Who initiates lovemaking? Are you free to say no? Is foreplay important? Do you rush to clean up after sex or stay engaging in pillow talk? Do you cuddle or like space?
Bathroom habits – Do you prefer a clean and dry bathroom? Do you read the news or play games in there? Do you screw back the toothpaste top or want the shampoo name facing the front after use? Do you forget to switch off the geyser or leave the wet towel on the bed? Do you fart or burp unconcerned or worry about your bowel movements?
Shopping – Do you shop armed with a checklist or enjoy window shopping and buying whatever fancies you? Is shopping relaxing? Do you shop at full price or only during sale season?
Personal style – Do you dress for comfort, to be presentable or follow fashion religiously? What is your grooming ritual? Do you love jewellery? Does your wardrobe cater to different occasions or do you dress the same wherever you go, no matter the occasion?
Entertaining patterns can bring anxiety. What’s your idea of socialising? Do you regularly entertain? Are you always left cleaning up? Does it annoy you to constantly entertain the same people?
Choice of relaxation – Do you like to laze with a book, binge-watch or ‘do nothing?’ How sacrosanct is ‘me time?’ Are you an indoor or outdoor person? What’s your ideal holiday? Are you adventurous or prefer a scheduled itinerary when travelling?
Money matters – Money gives a sense of power, position, control and stability. Do you discuss money and share financial responsibilities? Do you feel you contribute more? Should money be saved for a better future or spent on being happy today? Attitude towards money and what it means to you individually can greatly impact relationships.
Religious rituals – Each family has its way of praying, celebrating or making an offering. How tolerant are you of your partner’s religion? Do you bathe before praying? How often do you visit your place of worship?
Work from home has also meant no respite. Do you work long hours? Are you expected to take on household responsibility? Is your work considered important?
Building a life of togetherness can be fun or an exhausting battle. To reduce conflict and ease into togetherness, it’s important to have open communication and create a shared understanding of values. Emotional engagement, romance, humour, trust, stress-reducing conversations, forgiveness and acceptance can strengthen the commitment and intention to achieve personal and couple goals and dreams.
The writer is a mental health counsellor. The views expressed are personal.
Building a life of togetherness can be fun or an exhausting battle. To reduce conflict and ease into togetherness, it’s important to have open communication and create a shared understanding of values.
HOW PANDEMIC POLITICS IS A BIG DISSERVICE TO THE NATION
As a nation, the need of the hour is to rise beyond the trivial issues and rally behind our leaders, who have been working towards Covid recovery and India’s overall development.
India is reeling under the disastrous influence of Covid-19. This is a viral disease that caught the world by shock and surprise during 2020 and the virus mutated time and again to enlarge its catchment, even as we thought that the impact is reducing. A recent variant has taken India, the second-most populous country in the world, by sheer surprise. And its impact is devastatingly large.
As has become a tradition of unthoughtful opposition in the country, fingers are being raised on the Prime Minister himself. In the eyes of the irresponsible opposition, unfair international press, and polarised communities, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in person, is responsible for every shortcoming in the country. If a person is infected, if someone had to wait for an hour for the vaccine, if someone did not get an ambulance or gas cylinder or bed, if someone’s Aadhar Card was not read on the computer, if a vaccine registration data that was wrongly entered did not respond in time, whatever be the grouse that is big or small, the blame is squarely placed on the Prime Minister, which is totally unfair.
The most popular person in the country today is also the most targeted person. This unfair blame game has not helped any process of addressing any problem. Since it is being propelled by vested interests, it is just serving some lowly political strategy of the opposition. But as a nation, the need of the hour is to rise beyond these trivial issues and establish fundamentally strong arrangements for providing relief for the suffering.
Indeed, some errors may have occurred in arresting the widely spreading nature of the virus. It is a large nation of unique challenges and it is almost impossible to take into account every caution in developing national strategies and implementing the local actions of these wider programmes. Often, people also do not cooperate unless excessively forced a discipline upon them. More than all, the virus is new to the world and our historic cumulation of knowledge has not given enough understanding about the behaviour of this microscopic beast. Most modern researches, including the invention of the vaccine, are only a few months old and we are yet to discern the long term effects and effectiveness of the measures being prescribed and adopted. As such, the policy-making horizon at the national level also does not have an accumulated experience to bank upon and derive from.
If you analyse the matter in sum total, India has actually done much better under the circumstances than even many advanced countries in the world. Firstly, many western countries including the USA allowed civil protests on wearing masks and people argued there to the extent that imposing mask is against their fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution. India has imposed the mask rule much more sincerely than any country in the world. As for social distancing, India imposed very stringent guidelines and very meticulously implemented it in every place of people’s congregation. However, there is a view that this regulation could have been better followed in election rallies and religious congregations. With cooperation from people and political outfits of all hue and colour, this could have been coordinated better though.
Vaccine production is one important and primary response to the pandemic that India did better than any other country on the planet. India invested heavily in this and brought out very effective vaccines at very affordable prices. India also became a global leader and philanthropic in vaccine distribution and shipped millions of doses to the countries in trouble. Many countries including the US kept for domestic use what it produced, without shipping out a vial whereas India worked under the principle of ‘Vasudaiva Kutumbakam’ and stood by the troubled States. The public vaccination programme also was a very systematic one in India and it began from the most vulnerable sector of the society. In Germany, senior citizens registered for vaccination in January 2021 are still waiting to get their first dose. In a minuscule population of Switzerland, the vaccination programme that started in December 2020 has still covered only 8% of the population. The Netherlands with a population of 1.7 crores is hoping to cover its citizens only by July or August this year. Italy, which suffered hugely during the Covid first wave, is still embroiled in awarding contracts for procuring vaccine and politics has broken out around AZ, Moderna, Pfizer etc. and the country is in indecision. We can take up the case of each of the 193 countries in the world and see how they have badly fared, while India has done exceedingly commendable work in comparison.
However, India is shown in a bad light, all the while, which is a trend in international one-upmanship, to which even Indians in India and abroad greatly contribute. If the per-unit population death by the virus is computed, India has the least number of deaths per crore of population. While Italy has 57, France 47, Germany 38, and the USA 29, India has recorded only 26 deaths per crore. It is only that India is visible because of our large population and the absolute numbers of affected. Also, we are visible because of the dramatic footages of rituals of cremation of the dead while the rituals in other communities may not be that dramatic looking. Especially the burning of the dead bodies in India, which may stir up emotions when pyres are seen on the television screen, is one of the best methods to destroy and annihilate the virus so that it does not re-enter human society through ecological recycling.
China is determined to show India in poor light because as a nation, it was isolated in the first wave and the virus was popularly called as Chinese virus. Now, it will benefit China if the second wave virus could be called as India virus and most allies of China and vested interests will provide fuel to this terrible conspiracy. Indian opposition and mindless Modi haters will only give on a platter the food for India bashing if they continue to play into the hands of international cartels that want to see India underdeveloped and politically chaotic. By highlighting and constantly filling the television channels and social media with negative information of the tragedy India is undergoing and completely hiding under the carpet the enormous amount of positive work India is doing towards the mitigation of the pandemic, we only stir up anarchic conditions and delay recovery.
This is the time for us to come together as a nation and rally behind our leaders, who have been single-mindedly and apolitically working towards Covid recovery and India’s development. If we don’t recognise that ‘citizen role’, we just turn out to be our own enemies within the nation and spin within the negative spiral that we ourselves create, knowingly or unknowingly.
The writer is Chairman, Khadi & Village Industries Commission, Government of India. The views expressed are personal.
Indeed, some errors may have occurred in arresting the widely spreading nature of the virus. It is a large nation of unique challenges and it is almost impossible to take into account every caution in developing national strategies and implementing the local actions of these wider programmes.
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