The news in India - As understood by me...
A famous French radio asked me, as a French speaking expat, to prepare for an interview about my daily life and the news in India. Well... how to put it? I abhor newspapers and I don’t have TV... I thought I would manage with my daily life you see. But when my turn cames the anchor woman said "And to comment the world-wise news..." I started panicking!!
Thankfully I had spent a few hours to complete (or even create) my knowledge of cricket, Bollywood and politics. This was no small task believe me and I hope I won’t write/say too much nonsense!
The press already talks about next year elections, with the candidates of the two largest parties fighting each other (Modi for the BJP and Rahul Gandhi, and his mother Sonia Gandhi, for the Congress, which is currently leading). OK it is not much but I write more about this in a next post!
India and China
Very recently the Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang visited India. This happened after Chinese troops walked 20 km in the Indian territory a month ago. Indo-Chinese relations are not cordial – to be politically correct. The two nations have to solve the conflict of the Northern border, the question of Tibet with India welcoming refugees, the antidumping laws to impede imports from China etc. I remember also the time India sent thousands of Chinese workers back home (because they are still a cheaper labour than Indians). And Indians find Chinese dirty… And Chinese think likewise!
But I dug a little more to understand the geopolitical (oh how I dislike this word!) relations in the area and here is what I understood... The India-China relations date back thousands of years, with silk trade, Buddhism and all that. Except that one side we have a very militarized people with an authoritarian tendency and on the other side a rather non-violent people with a tendency to anarchy (I schematize you will forgive me...).
After the Second World War, the United States got closer to Pakistan, their anti-Communist pawn in the area, even though they never really take a stand against India in all the conflicts, despite the pro-Russian tropism of the latter.
In 1962, the Chinese annexed, just like that, a part of the Kashmir territory, a tight slap for India that called the US to the rescue but by the time they arrived China had announced the end of the war... China then got closer to Pakistan, its pawn against India, helping it to armaments and nuclearization (which did not really please the Americans...).
In 1965, the Indians and the Pakistanis fought for Kashmir. While the United States warned China that they were prepared to support India, a ceasefire was signed through the Soviet mediation.
In 1971, Bangladesh wanted its independence from Pakistan. India favoured the idea and signed an agreement with the Soviet Union for military back-up in case things would go wrong. The United States supported Pakistan but still stopped providing weapons to Islamabad during the conflict. And India waited for the winter to avoid China, always ready to nibble a piece of Kashmir (even if it is not involved in this conflict), coming to help Pakistan.
Since 2011 Pakistan seems to have lost its poise, and all of his "allies" come to hit on India (Hillary Clinton in 2012, Li Keqiang this year)...
And so far as Kashmir is concerned, it's still a powder keg ready to catch fire. Its strategic side lies in the fact that it is a region of glaciers, with water. And that it is on the road to Xianjing with its mineral and agricultural resources essential for China.
Cricket and scandal
A lot has been written about the IPL (Indian Premier League) scandal. Three cricket players from the of the Rajasthan Royals team acknowledged they had been paid to cheat. I am not telling you the turmoil – Indians are pretty much used to corruption (to say the least) but cricket is sacred!
When cricket meets Bollywood… The press gave a lot of importance to the fact that Shah Rukh Khan (a Bollywood megastar who co-owns the Kolkata team, Kolkata Knight Riders) is still not allowed to attend matches in Mumbai – he was banned from the stadium for five years for an altercation with the security forces, who would have pushed his son. His buddies of Bollywood are demonstrating but the authorities are holding on tight...
There is a huge drought in Maharahstra (and other states) but the press doesn’t talk much about it. Except when some movie starts take interest in the catastrophe (like Salman Khan who is said to have given 2,000 tanks whereas he was not even promoting a new movie). To the point that I have friends in Mumbai (in Maharashtra state) who do not know that there is a drought...
It is in fact the biggest drought since 1972 – some may recall that at the time Indira Gandhi had asked Nixon for humanitarian assistance; he had first agreed to send food and then stopped because he could not stand her.
In 1972 there was no ‘famine’ recorded, and neither this year. 12,000 villages have no more water and must be supplied by tankers. The situation is catastrophic (with risks of epidemic emigration to the cities, inflation of basic ingredients etc.).
And the worst is that in 40 years, Maharashtra has become number one in number of dams, apparently suffering some management issues...
This year we celebrate the 100 years of the Indian cinema: the first Indian film, Raja Harishchandra by DG Phalke, was indeed released in cinemas on May 3rd, 1913 (just 8 years after the cinematographe had been patented by the Lumière brothers in France). It was a silent movie featuring an episode of the Mahabharata, an epic of the Hindu Mythology.
In France we almost only know about Bollywood (the film industry of Bombay, with its megastars and movies shot in Hindi with their dances, bad guys beating up good guys, family and love dramas and a maximum of kitsch). And it seems that it is not only in French that Bollywood means Indian cinema… Which is funny because in fact the film industries of Kollywood (of Chennai) and Tollywood (of Hyderabad (even if Tollywood also refers to the industry of Kolkata) produce each almost as many movies every year (approx.. 200).
Each industry has its specialities – for example, Mollywood (of Kerala) movies are often comic and based on family and political disputes (many dialogues, situational comedy and no songs).
And there are also “normal” movies that have started to make some noise (apparently they are called independent film) even if the audience is very limited for now. Which is not really surprising when you know that it is a (Tamil and not a Hindi one) movie called Enthiran - The Robot (see the pic) that was the biggest grosser ever.
This year, India is the guest of honour at the 66th festival de Cannes, where only one Indian movie (Neecha Nagar by Chetan Anand) has ever won the biggest prize (and that too it had to share it 9 other movies) in 1946, the first year of the festival. No Indian film in the official selection this year but some selected in other categories and the projection of Bombay Talkies (four short films commissioned to celebrate the 100 years of the Indian cinema) at the gala, and an Indian actress (Vidya Balan) in the jury.
Sources (Indian cinema, Bollywood) :