06-13 Nov, 2012
small world
Comeuppance for the First 26/11 Terror Tourist?

Ram Gopal Varma is denied access to the attack sites for his movie

Soon after the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai, all of India saw Ram Gopal Varma doing some terror tourism at the Taj Mahal Hotel along with the then Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and his son Ritiesh. It led to a controversy that eventually cost Deshmukh his job. Varma clarified at the time that his intention was not to make a film on the attacks. He is, however, now hard at work on precisely such a movie. But in an ironic twist for the filmmaker who got such special access at the time, no one is allowing him to shoot at the original sites.

Chief Public Relations Officer for Central Railways VA Malegaokar says, “They had approached us for permission, but we refused as we don’t want any more emphasis laid on these terror attacks, especially for commercial purposes. Many railway officials also died and we don’t want any negativity attached to that.”

The authorities at Cama Hospital, where two security guards were gunned down by terrorists, too, confirmed that the filmmaker had been denied permission. “We have asked them to contact higher authorities in the government to attain permission,” says Dr Rajshri Katke, medical superintendent, Cama.

Moreover, reports have said that the Taj has also denied Varma permission to shoot in the hotel. Rumours, however, are rife that the innovative Varma is using another hotel in Juhu to parade as the Taj.

Varma maintains he is not exploiting the terror attacks. In a press statement, he had said, “My attempt now would be not only to capture the physical aspect but also behind-the-scenes aspects of what exactly happened from the time Kasab and the rest of the team landed on Amar Singh Solanki’s trawler in the high seas, till Kasab’s heroic capture by the late Tukaram Ombale at Girgaum Chowpatty.”

Varma has been working alongside Rommel Rodrigues, author of Kasab: The Face Of 26/11, for the film’s script. As for Kasab’s role, it is apparently a newcomer who has been cast, and not Ritiesh Deshmukh, as had been rumoured.

Take Two
The Upside Down Zee-Jindal Case
Usually, the media does the sting and industrialists sue for defamation

The Jindal reverse sting on Zee is like watching an avant garde French movie—everything is upside down, nothing makes sense and yet it is somehow seminal. It starts with the sting camera being in the opposite hand and ends with the defamation suit being filed from the other end.

The brief background is that in a meeting with Jindal Steel’s representatives, editors of Zee News and Zee Business asked for Rs 100 crore in advertisements in return for not filing negative reports related to the coal allotment scam. Once you get into details it gets complicated. First there is the question of the demand. There seems to be nothing specific being offered or used as blackmail. From the tape, it seems a general promise to not run negative stories. And Rs 100 crore for such a deal beats reason. The market cap of Zee News is just over Rs 300 crore. It would be easier for Jindal to put in Rs 200 crore more and buy Zee altogether.

Zee’s version of events is equally weird. Zee does not deny that the meeting did happen. Their defence, however, is that they were doing a sting when the camera was rolling for Jindal. Zee says a bribe was offered to one of the editors, and to get evidence of how they were being tempted, the two went to get a signed advertising contract. It’s a little absurd. An advertising contract is an advertising contract. One of the editors himself says in the clip that this is all transparent. The proof of the bribe should be the bribe. A sting is when a suitcase of money is exchanged. Also, when have you ever seen the editorial head of a channel or newspaper do a sting? Such dangerous work is for underlings who want a quick route to fame.

The amusing icing on this cake is Zee filing a defamation suit against Jindal. Usually it’s the other way round; industrialists go to court against the media. If a guess has to be taken about what did happen, then it is this: the Zee editors were making a sales pitch and using prevention of negative coverage as an incentive. Jindal chose to, cunningly and justifiably, interpret it as blackmail. We await a non-existent independent body to conduct a never-to-happen independent probe for the truth to be never known.

Alappuzha’s Cabinet Clout

Alappuzha in Kerala is probably the only district in the country which had sent 100 per cent of its members of Parliament (MPs) to the Union Cabinet. With the inclusion of Kodikunnil Suresh, MP from Mavelikkara constituency in Alappuzha in the recent Cabinet reshuffle, all MPs from the district now have a berth in the Union Cabinet. Three other MPs had found slots earlier. In addition to KC Venugopal representing Alappuzha, who is the Minister of State for Power, the district also has two Rajya Sabha MPs holding prominent Cabinet portfolios. Defence Minister AK Antony who hails from Cherthala and Minister for Overseas Affairs Vayalar Ravi, who comes from Alappuzha.