Against all odds
Former minister of state for tourism, forests and environment, Haryana, Kiran Choudhary was in the city for a mass marriage function organised by Choudhary Surinder Singh Memorial Club
Nonika Singh

The world may know Kiran Choudhary as the former minister of state for tourism, forests and environment, Haryana, the daughter-in-law of political heavyweight Chaudhary Bansi Lal and the widow of Surinder Singh. Perhaps, nay obviously, people can also see a beautiful woman. However, make no mistake, Kiran, MLA, is much more than just a lovely face who strayed into politics by virtue of her family antecedents.
Photos: Vinay Malik
Photos: Vinay Malik

In the city to organise a function in the memory of her late husband, social work alone is not the extension of her personality. A Gemini, by her own admission, she is five persons rolled into one. So she not only paints, writes poetry but also designs her wardrobe. Yes, those lovely Patiala look alike salwars are very much her trademark.

The woman with a keen aesthetic sense wears custom made jewellery conceived by her and her alone. no doubt her impeccable choice in clothes adds to her glamorous persona. She smiles, "Of course, I like to be different even though what I wear is strictly traditional."

On colours making a comeback in her attire, she exclaims, "What is this notion that you have to wear white to show you are grieving?" Losing her husband in a tragic accident was without doubt "a shattering experience".

And time, she shares, does not heal deep wounds, "Things don't get better, only worse". More so, since it was her husband that was the driving force in her life and constantly egged her on to study after marriage and practise law, which she did for several years.

Her entry into politics of Haryana she attributes to the vacuum created by her husband's untimely demise. Kiran's absence also made her look inwards and to be less materialistic. The world might be circumspect of a politician doing charitable work, but she truly believes in what she is doing. Thus was born the Surinder Choudhary Memorial Club, which she proudly shares has done commendable work including blood donation camps of over 35,000 workers and roping in thousands of eye donors.

She is equally proud of her political work at the grassroots level in Delhi, which she did at the behest of late Rajiv Gandhi whom she held in high esteem. Of course, her stint as the Haryana minister, which won her the Best Tourism Minister Award from PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association), is of great significance to her. With unconcealed pride she lists out her stellar achievements such as the development of Tikar Taal, resurrection of Bheema Devi temple and the renovation of the Morni fort.

Environment, anyways, is a subject closest to her heart. Thus, environment ministry, she feels, was the best thing that happened to her. Together she and her daughter have seen virtually every wildlife sanctuary in the country and abroad, and she gives full marks to Kanha National Park. Bandavgarh and Sunderbans also figure on her 'my favourites' list.

And she can never have enough of adventure tourism. On the anvil is a trip to Kenya. And mind you, she doesn't do the regular wildlife circuit, but believes in the rough and tough, deep into jungles sojourn. She recalls how as a child she was quite a tomboy unlike her daughter Shruti Choudhary who is trained in Indian classical music and also in Odissi. The proud mother also shares how Shruti, now an MP, unlike the modern children of today is really grounded, spiritual and above all very caring.

As a mother she rates herself a nag but quips, "That is because you want the best for your children." Nah, she didn't push her into the hurly burly world of politics. She says, "But her father always wanted her to join politics and she did accompany him on his political campaigns."

In a state where women are rarely given their due, Kiran has ensured her daughter's emergence not only as the inheritor of her father's political legacy but more pertinently in the social matrix by making her don the pagri, which is traditionally reserved only for male heirs.

Women from political families, she agrees, start on position advantage but thereafter she insists, "It's hard work that takes you through." And being easy on the eye … does that help? She is candid, "In the beginning its an excess baggage. In people's eyes, good looks automatically translate into absence of grey matter but once you arrive everything is an additional qualification." Perfect… hmmm… she tells you "Life can be anything but that."

Oh yes, but she does feel that one can, rather one must, make the most of it. Just as she has!

Overcoming personal tragedy, here is a woman who has defied many odds to find her niche. The private and public life she may rightly feel are two different domains, but she has the courage to be herself in both realms.

No high flier this
Johnson Thomas

This week's biggie is Kites, the long awaited (more than one-and-a-half years post production), over publicised, Filmkraft production that has ambitions of making it into mainstream international market riding on a Brett (Rush Hour) Ratner remixed version.

As expected, there are no small releases jostling for screens so Kites has a royal run. But it's not the kind of film that will get the audience into the theatres beyond the first weekend - despite Hrithik's overwhelming charisma, over eager PR regarding his alleged affair with lead actress of Mexican descent, Barbara Mori, Anuraag Basu's new age directing credentials and a reputed budget of over 60 crores - not withstanding the rumour that big cinema has bought the rights to the film for an alleged Rs 130 crore. Yes, the film has already recovered its costs but the audience will finally decide whether this film really deserves to be haloed as a hit!

Film: Kites

Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Barbara Mori, Nicholas Brown, Kangana Ranaut

Director: Anuraag Basu

Anuraag Basu's Kites looks more or less like a poor man's 'Notebook'. It's been projected as a searing love story between the lead characters J and Linda/Natasha played by Hrithik and Barbara Mori, respectively, but it fails to rouse even a modicum of passion.

There is not much of a story to speak of either. J, a small-time conman, uses his citizenship status in the US to generate a sizable income by marrying illegal migrants and helping them procure a green card. One such client of his happens to be Linda, for whom he develops a soft spot later on. J also teaches dance at a club and one of his student's Gina (Kangana Ranaut) is obsessed with him. J does not lose out on an opportunity to hook up with the girl after he learns that her father (Kabir Bedi) owns a famous casino and is literally rolling in moolah.

The script is wafer thin and the primary focus is on the love story between J and Natasha appears forced and uninteresting. The way Anuraag Basu frames the love story between a Mexican who knows no English and an Indian American who has zero knowledge of Spanish, isn't believable because not enough screen-time is set aside its development.

Hrithik and Barbara also lack chemistry; individually their looks are nurtured with care but when they appear in the same frame there are no sparks.

Anuraag Basu also tries to turn around the male-female archetypes for a bit. J gets shot in the back and we are treated to some painful histrionics from Hrithik and there's an even more ridiculous sequence towards the end where Hrithik is shown sobbing his heart out on hearing of his lost love's final escape. Anuraag's narrative style is more suited to a crime caper than a love story set in the backdrop of crime.

Far too stylized and coldly technical in execution, the narrative interconnects and reconnects far too frequently for comfort. Also, sequences are repeated television style, which leaves the viewers quite dissatisfied. Basu tries to show-off his technical pizzazz while losing out on cohesive and coherent narration. The visuals are beautifully composed, every scene meticulously planned and executed, but put together it doesn't translate into a cohesive whole. Well short of a soaring experience this!

Tarot TALK
P Khurrana

ARIES: The Empress takes you towards the fast and protective lane. Professional rapport with your superiors as well as your subordinates will be very smooth. Money matters may weigh heavily on your mind. You may pick up an argument over budget with your spouse. Tip of the week: You will not get away with wrongful doings so don't even try. Lucky colour: Peach.

TAURUS: Nine Cups is full of light lotus blossoms. There may be a lot of things on your agenda on Tuesday. Your need for love, companionship, friendship and sharing will be very strong now and you will feel like enjoying the beautiful side of life. Tip: Don't make impulsive decisions in personal relationships. Lucky colour: Pink

GEMINI: You draw tremendous energy from The Hermit. You will be flooded with offers where your skills can be utilized to the optimism. Advance preparation would save you from mental stress. An Arian will be moody but supportive. Tip: There are times in a relationship when it is wiser to be silent. Lucky colour: Golden yellow.

CANCER: The card The Moon brings quickening and many changes and insights. Serious planning with respect to your finances may be necessary. Do not spend on things that you do not need. Children will do remarkably well in sports and studies. Tip: Spend time meeting experienced people. Lucky colour: Sky blue

LEO: The Temperance inspires you to climb new heights. Your love will be your priority, and you will pamper your sweetheart to the hilt. Check your e-mails and reply the queries on time. Good news is on the cards. Tip: Don't waste an opportunity by not exploiting a contact even if it is from your past. Lucky colour: White.

VIRGO: The Knight of Discs supports you through a busy and turning week with healing and earthy energy. You will have the tenacity to bring in a new and successful business strategy. Remember; appearances are deceptive; so do not misjudge a person who gives you a lucrative business offer. Tip: Take time before reacting. Lucky colour: Bottle green.

LIBRA: Ace of Pentacles reveals the seed of prosperity and material gain perhaps as yet unseen. Tuesday is a good day to clinch deals related to real estate. You may be at the threshold of a new relationship, and may see this as a long-term prospect. So take it easy and present your best. Tip: New offers must be put on hold, as their outcome is uncertain. Lucky colour: Silver grey

SCORPIO: You make an impact and shine like The Star. There is a strong prospect that Friday will blossom into an extraordinary evening. You will bask in the love and affection of your beloved and your health will be perfect. Tip: Consolidate your gains instead of throwing security to the winds. Lucky colour: Red

SAGITTARIUS: Ace of Swords pulls you in opposite direction when making a decision. The week is perfect for an outing or a picnic. You would like to contact your old friend or someone close to your heart and may spend some time together. You may also want to make a short pleasure trip to somewhere. Tip: Minor official pinpricks are better ignored. Lucky colour: Ebony

CAPRICORN: The Princess of Cups infuses you with a youthful disposition. You may look for emotional support from your spouse, friends and family. The day is good to discuss intense issues concerning your life with those who are close to you. Tip: Be positive, you can make things happen out of the most unlikely circumstances. Lucky colour: Yellow

AQUARIUS: You draw Four of Swords. Multitasking will be the feature of the day. You will mix business with pleasure besides spending quality time with your family. You will try to improve the relationship with your heart today. Everyone, including your parents will appreciate your efforts. Tip: Spending quiet time alone will help you relax. Lucky colour: Ebony

PISCES: Your card The Hierophant takes you through a variety of experiences. You are likely to spend lavishly on luxuries. Relationship with parents will improve. Businessmen will sign new contracts and agreements. Tip: Look at the overall cost of things and try to balance your budget. Lucky colour: Brown 

Soulful notes
Shehnai exponents Sanjeev and Ashwini Shanker were in the city for a performance
SD Sharma

Among Indian classical musical instruments, the Shehnai holds its own. And when this ancient mangal vadya was almost on the verge of extinction, Shankar bandhus — Sanjeev and Ashwini — restored its lost glory and carried forward the 400-year-old legacy.

Hailing from the family of Shehnai maestro Daya Shankar, the disciple of Anant Lal of Benaras gharana, both Sanjeev and Ashwani manifested their affinity towards music at the tender age of seven and five, respectively, under their father's tutelage. Both are pursuing M. Phil. in music and are presently under the tutelage of legendary Pandit Ravi Shankar.

In the city, on the invitation of S Lavasa, for a performance at a SPICMACAY concert at the IMTECH auditorium, the trio, led by Sanjeev, share views on contemporary music and their future plans.

Do you hope to live up to the standards set up by your family?

Despite heavy odds, we are putting in our best effort. We have received positive feedback of our performances at all major music venues in the country and abroad. We attribute our success to our guru Pandit Ravi Shankar.

How did you become his disciples?

In fact, after learning Shenhai I turned to Sitar playing and hoped to be his student, but he advised that I stick to Shehnai and nourish the age-old family legacy in partnership with Ashwini Shanker. Panditji is an institution unto himself and every moment spent in his company is a learning process for us.

What was the special contribution of your forefathers to Shehnai 'vadan' as well as yours now?

My grandfather Pandit Anant Lal pioneered the playing of bada khyal gayaki ang on Shehnai while my father Pandit Daya Shanker introduced the Sitarkhani ang of Maihar gharana style. Adept at the western fusion genres, we have partnered with the Grammy award winning American band Ozomalti and also with Irish band Nymsofiyan for international projects.

Why is Shehnai is no longer used in Bollywood films?

Now, Shehani effects are devised from the keyboard. But a few producers still invite us. I used Shehnai music for an Israeli film Letters from Rishikesh.

The Number Game

The city is vibrating with the force of population. All of us are engaged steadfastly in individual and gainful pursuits, too preoccupied to peek into the myriad lives around us. I am no different, always propelled by deadlines, and often missing the big picture and signs that are glowing and trailblazing a future that awaits India.

I was at sector 27 the other day to get number plates for a vehicle. That is an interesting sector if you have the time and the fortitude to hang around and observe man's affinity for the automobile unfolding in multi-dimensions. The sector is a hub of all vehicular paraphernalia. You can find here, car mats, car battery, car seat cover and many such things, including car perfume that smells like pistachio. The place is usually teeming with automobile aficionados who are engaged in 'decking' up their cars, sometimes in the most outrageous manner. By the way, most men I know who are fond of their vehicles prefer 'she' as the chosen pronoun for the car.

However, the job of new number plates has been made easy. Now they use peel off and stick alpha-numerals. The job took no more than ten minutes. Two young boys fished out those random numbers and stuck them on swiftly. Since I was forced to wait, I decided to talk to the boys. One of the boys rather guardedly admitted that this business was temporary. He was actually pursuing college in the city and planned to get a degree in hotel management. His friend who was disillusioned with the hotel business in America was going to return and the two of them would set up their own "thing." He said - "The future is here. India mein bahat kuch karneka hain, bahat paise bana sakte hain." He was so taken by my interest; he offered to refund 20 rupees. I urged him to keep it and wished him luck in all his future endeavors.

Yesterday, I ventured into one of the flower shops in sector 34. A young man sat in a corner steadily reading what seemed like a textbook. When I completed my purchase, I glanced at the book he was reading, it was on computer networking. On asking, I learnt that he attends courses in a local institute and aspires to be a computer technician. I encouraged him effusively and left, with a lot more optimism in my heart than I usually carry. The American political scientist Karl Deutsch, considered one of the greatest social scientists of the post-World War II era, said "My life's aim has been to study politics in order to help people overcome the four chief dangers of our time: large wars, hunger, poverty, and vast population growth." What do you get when you mix education, information, communication and aspirations? 

Beer it

The good-old position of the ale taster is being resurrected by a London market, which calls it the "best job in the world". The holder of the voluntary post will have to sample beers from London pubs to "test for quality".

The job has been reintroduced by Spitalfields Market, which was set up in 1683.

Wellington Market Company, which manages the market, is inviting applications for the post.

"Although the attraction of the role may seem obvious at first, the 21st century version would incorporate many more responsibilities than the original," company boss Malcolm Ball said.

According to Ball, the winning candidate would have to have a "sound knowledge of local, regional, national and international beers", and that "he or she must be passionate about the subject".

Minissha’s Mr Right

Bollywood actress Minissha Lamba, who is happily single, wants her Mr Right to be a self-made and quiet man. Although the 25-year-old star, who has previously been linked to actors Aftab Shivdasani and Abhay Deol, insists she isn't ready to mingle soon, she did not hesitate to share what qualities she is looking for in her guy.

"I want a self-made man. Someone who is confident but quiet about it and doesn't run after girls," said Minissha.

However, when it comes to being emotional, the actress prefers to be a little detached as she feels it helps people to deal with the difficulties in life more strongly.

"There are lots of things in life that bog us down and distract us from the real issues and I feel that emotional attachment is something that gets you worked up unnecessarily. It becomes much easier when you stay a little detached and deal with things strongly," she said.

Meanwhile, after playing a village girl in Shyam Benegal's Well Done Abba, Minissha will now be seen doing some comedy in Sagar Ballary's (of Bheja Fry fame) new film Hum Tum Aur Shabana.

"I am really enjoying doing comedy. It is a genre that I have never explored before. I am bit scared for it and hope that I get my comic timing right," she said.

The film also stars Tusshar Kapoor and Shreyas Talpade.


Katrina Kaif
Katrina Kaif

Cricket is considered to be a gentlemen's game, but Katrina Kaif defied all rules when she played the game in a saree on the sets of her new film Raajneeti.

During the shooting of the film, Katrina often joined Arjun Rampal and Ranbir Kapoor in a game of cricket.

When asked whether she was comfortable playing in a sari, the actress said: "I was quite comfortable in the sari. Anyone who wants to learn to play cricket in a sari can come to me." — IANS

Some quality time

Hollywood actor Tom Cruise was recently seen spending quality time and enjoying basketball game with son Connor. The father and son team visited the Staples Centre in Los Angeles to watch the LA Lakers play basketball.

The Hollywood star, who will be seen in the action comedy Knight and Day along with Cameron Diaz cheered for the Lakers along with Conner and was seen having a great time with the teenager.


Made for each other

She is a globe-trotting Hollywood actress married to a equally busy singing star, but Nicole Kidman says that she and husband Keith Urban never spend more than three days apart.
Keith Urban & Nicole Kidman
Keith Urban & Nicole Kidman

The couple who have a 2-year-old daughter Sunday Rose together, put their family before everything and plan accordingly.

Kidman, 42, schedules her film roles around her husband's successful career as one of America's top selling country music artists while he accompanies her on overseas shoots.

"I think I've reached a point in my life where I've slowed down a lot, so it's not difficult. My priority is very much keeping my family together and not being away from them," she said.

The ex-wife of Tom Cruise, revealed her recipe for a happy marriage while in Hong Kong to attend a fundraising banquet for the UN Development Fund for Women.

She was accompanied by Urban who she wed in Sydney, Australia, in June 2006.

But the marriage appeared to be in trouble less than four months later when New Zealand born Urban checked into a rehab clinic to fight his alcohol addiction.

Kidman admitted the crisis so early her marriage was 'deeply painful' but vowed to stand by her husband.

"It was very painful, deeply painful. We were in a very, very, bad, painful place, and have managed to step through it," she said. — PTI

Heavenly experience

Hollywood superstar Julia Roberts is a doting mother who loves to watch her children wake up every morning and thinks they are completely 'angelic and wondrous'.

The 42-year-old star, who is married to cameraman Daniel Moder, is mother to three kids - five-year-old twins Hazel and Phinnaeus and Henry, two.

The Pretty Woman star finds this whole experience of having her children around her 'heavenly'.

"They are really angelic and wondrous. It's so heavenly and kind and dear just to have that," she told talk show queen Oprah Winfrey.

And the Oscar-winning actress especially loves to watch her children wake up every morning.

"The chaos that goes on in our house and then the quietude that goes on... My favourite thing is just watching them wake up and watching them realise the day come upon them. It's just, I don't know, it's fascinating to me," Roberts added. — PTI

Noble cause

Oscar winning actress Penelope Cruz has raised $333,000 for the Haiti earthquake victims by selling her designer dresses.
Penelope Cruz
Penelope Cruz

The 35-year-old and jewellery maker Chopard raised the sum by organising an auction for the Jenkins-Penn Haitian Relief Organisation at the Cannes Film Festival.

Other than Cruz, Hollywood stars Anne Hathaway, Julia Roberts, Gisele Bundchen, Charlize Theron and Salma Hayek donated for the cause. Hayek raised $21,000 for her burgundy Gucci gown, the first from the Italian brand's new couture range.

Some other celebrities who gave outfits included Naomi Watts, Diana Kruger, Scarlett Johansson and Gwyneth Paltrow.

The Jenkins-Penn charity was created by Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn as a response to help Haiti in its recovery from two earthquakes in January that killed around 230,000 people and left about a million homeless.


Working mum

Popstar Dannii Minogue has signed a deal worth USD 652,100 to return to the judging panel of the hit talent show The X Factor, just eight weeks after giving birth. The Australian beauty's role as a judge had been in question after she announced that she was expecting her first child during the auditions for this year's show.

However the 38-year-old singer, will return to work two months after the arrival of her baby in July with the help of her boyfriend, former rugby league player turned model Kris Smith.

The younger sister of pop princess Kylie Minogue will appear in the 'judges houses' segment of the show where she will help whittle down the hopefuls, alongside the other judges Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Louis Walsh and then return for the live shows, filmed in London. — PTI

Simply Simpson

Singer-actress Jessica Simpson is back in shape after she employed fitness trainer Danny Musico, who created an exercise regime just for her. "It's a 60-minute, interval-based workout. The best part is the punching, it gets a lot of aggression out!" says Simpson.

Musico, who was a professional boxer, also trains Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio, singer Justin Bieber and Simpson's dad, Joe Simpson.

"She's getting leaner and told me she went down three dress sizes. She's pushing herself to new levels. She'll run for three minutes as fast as she can, then rest for 30 seconds, then box for three minutes and so on," Musico said.

"She's at the gym, she always gives 100 per cent," he added. — IANS

Do it in style
Neha Walia

Just luxury is not enough, for the ultimate driving experience safety and strength are two major requirements. So, when Mercedes Benz put its ML-Class, GL-Class, C-Class and E-Class cars on road for test of 'spirit', fun seemed a lesser adjective to describe the package!

Combining essential elements of driving on various road situations and highlighting safety features, the Stardrive at the Indradhanush Auditorium- 5, Panchkula, focused on the technological advancements and the dynamics of the vehicle. The participants were told about the tangible benefits of key safety technologies like pro-engineering package and Airmatics by a team of German experts and Mercedes Benz's in-house technical experts.

Working on their motto of 'react, adapt and innovate', the launch of CGI technology, which aims at reducing engine emissions and increasing output, is a step further. Its features like 'actively body control' can automatically adjust the chassis to the driving conditions.

The pre-safe is linked to systems like brake assist and sensors, which identify critical driving manoeuvres and activate preventive protection measures.

The automatic rollover bar protection is particularly important for open-top vehicles in case of accident situations. The six-airbags for protection can effectively adapt their deployment according to the severity of the collision. On minor impact, only one stage of the two-stage airbag gas generators are fired. The window curtain airbag offers additional head protection over a large area for both the front and rear occupants.

The 'after-an-accident' safety system is designed to help prevent further damage after the collision. The car's fuel tank is located in the protected area in front of the rear axle, while the engine is automatically turned off after a serious collision. It also helps prevent follow-on accidents and makes it easier to locate the accident vehicle by automatically activating the hazard warning lights. The doors unlock automatically and are easy to open, which can speed up rescue time.

So, while you drive a Merc, you know that with style, comes safety!

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