Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mumbai Weekend Getaways: Diu

Mumbai Weekend Getaways: Diu

 | Last Updated: May 22, 2013 at 2:49 PM
Canons made of brass are places at strategic points in the fort to ward off enemies
A former Portugese colony, Diu with its historic fort, churches and colourful people makes for a postcard-perfect holiday
As the plane circles over Diu, among the Portugese colonies in India; that lies off the coast of Gujarat’s Kathiawar peninsula, you’ll see an island of green bordered by the Arabian Sea. The airport is about the size of an old colonial bungalow. There is no baggage claim — luggage is brought from the plane and delivered by hand. Spend three days on a bike travelling on every road within Diu and chances are that you’ll have a lot of petrol left from the Rs 200-worth you filled on day one.
At 40 sq km, Diu is as tiny as its name. It is perfect for a short getaway. Three days are enough to thoroughly explore the territory and get a tan on one of its empty beaches.
Colour me pretty
Like former Portugese colony Goa, Diu is all about colour. The airport building is pink! We barely recovered from that sight when we beheld a brightly-painted rickshaw. A few minutes later after looking at houses, shops, boats and flags on them, we realised Diu’s residents are very partial to bright colours, especially pink.
This colour gives the city a welcoming vibe that stays long after the sun sets. At night, artificial lights (coloured, of course) throw focus on the city’s main areas — the jetty area that beckons tourists to its restaurants, hotels and bars.
The fort is a large and impressive structure on the coast of the Diu island
Then there’s the imposing statue of former governor, Nuno de Cunha, and the former jail, Pani Kotha, that lies in the middle of the sea, and the bridge connecting Diu to Goghla. Cross the bridge and you’ll get a beautiful view of the city — it’s bathed in the glow of artificial light and watched over by silent figures on the spires of Diu’s churches.
The Portuguese influence
Diu has a few houses and structures that stand witness to its past. There’s the imposing Diu fort, a sprawling structure that was built in the 1500s. It’s best viewed when it’s lit up by the early morning or setting sun.
The three whitewashed churches in Diu in stark contrast to the colour in the rest of the city. And given the reducing number of Catholics in Diu, only St Paul’s Cathedral is functional. It has an ornate facade that boasts of being the most intricate in the country. But the interiors are crumbling, the paint is peeling and pigeons have built nests on top.
Visit the church on Sunday to see a glimpse of Diu’s Catholic population — old ladies in dresses, heads covered in veils and carrying fans, mothers admonishing daughters to pay attention and men loitering at the entrance.
The ruins of the walls, gateways, arches, ramps, bastions of the fort provide an impressive view of the extent of military defenses that the fort provided in the past
The St Francis of Assisi Church is now a hospital. St Thomas’ is an archaeological museum; the cloisters are used as guest rooms and an open terrace affords a great view of the sea and the spires of the other churches.
Life’s a beach
The best thing about Diu though is the quiet.  The roads are mostly empty, making travelling by cycles or bikes a breeze. The evenings are laidback; kids play on open grounds while elderly take walks or put out chairs and watch the world go by.
Diu is blessed with a wonderful expanse of beaches, most of which are clean — of dirt and tourists. An evening is spent sitting on sand, in the shade of hoka trees (a Portuguese import, unique to Diu), with a few strays for company, watching the waves retreat.
The Vanakbara beach is the farthest from the city and the emptiest. The currents here are strong and the sand is coarse. There’s a small fishing community nearby and the cargo that’s left out to dry stinks up the air. However, the flags, under-construction boats, and loading and unloading docks make for wonderful pictures.
In the main entry gate, there are five large windows with stone galleries on the main front wall
That’s the beauty of Diu. The entire city — sunset point, the white sands of the Chakratirth beach, the road leading to Fudam village, the market’s inner lanes — makes for postcard pictures, and memories to match.
How to reach: Nagoa is the nearest airport and Veraval nearest railhead. Mumbai Diu road distance is about 237 km.
Best time to visit DiuOctober to march is best season to visit Diu. However, Diu can be visited any time of the year if you can brave the humidity and heat.
The article was first published in the English daily DNA.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

'When Sanjay sir said 'yes', he said he would not go bald'

'When Sanjay sir said 'yes', he said he would not go bald'

By: Krutika Behrawala  
After 15 years as an assistant director, Karan Malhotra directs his own film, Agneepath. The debutant tells us how Sanjay Dutt got fed up of prosthetics and decided to shave his head, while his wife foresaw Rishi Kapoor in the character of Rauf Lala during their wedding reception

Why are you remaking Agneepath?
Honestly, Agneepath is not a remake. The revenge-based storyline is the same but the plot is woven around a whole new world and has a completely different approach. If I wanted to do the same thing, what is the point of making a new film?

How did you get Karan Johar to back the film?
Karan was once chatting with all the assistant directors about their favourite films; and Agneepath was definitely one of the top three films in my head. I have lost count of the number of times I had seen Agneepath as a kid. Karan asked me if this film could be remade and I said, 'Why not?' I requested him to give me a chance to develop a script.

Was adapting a classic a lot of pressure on you?
Absolutely. I still get nightmares and cold feet because people have given that film an aura. Mr Bachchan's
performance has such an impact.
Have you adapted this Agneepath to ensure its commercial success?
I have not adapted it to make it more commercial; I have adapted it the way I would enjoy watching it. And maybe I am a sucker for commercial films.
Tell us about Hrithik's character?
The biggest connect for Dharma's Agneepath is that Hrithik's character (Vijay) is much younger and more approachable. It is a character you will identify with and look up to. As ordinary people with aspirations, we love to see an ordinary character do larger-than-life things in films. Vijay conquers the villains who are larger-than-life.

Did you cast Priyanka as a Maharashtrian girl after seeing her in Kaminey?
Priyanka is a great actor and I didn't have to rely on Kaminey. She plays the daughter of a prostitute who stays in a brothel and has opened a beauty parlour within the brothel. Priyanka is the happy, light element in the film.
Was it easy to convince Sanjay Dutt to go bald to play the villainous Kancha Cheena?
When Sanjay sir said 'yes' to the film, he said he would not go bald. I told him we would do prosthetic makeup. We shot a scene in that makeup and it looked good. But that makeup takes three hours to put on and an-hour-and-a-half to remove. Finally, when we started shooting in Diu, it was so hot that Sanjay sir came up with a fantastic idea: 'Let's just shave my head.' Now it's much better than the effect the prosthetics would have achieved.

How did Rishi Kapoor agree to play the negative character of Rauf Lala?
A week after My Name Is Khan released, I got married to Ekta Pathak and Rishi Kapoor came to greet us at the reception because he was a very good friend of my dad, producer Ravi Malhotra. While we were standing on the stage, my wife nudged me and whispered: 'He should play Rauf Lala'. From that day onwards, I tortured him till he said yes. He thought I was cracked to offer him a negative role.
To what extent would you go to take revenge?
If I was evil, I would be as evil as Kancha, and if I was revengeful, I would be as revengeful as Vijay. The first film is the closest to any director's heart and his heart goes into every character he creates for it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Dark Lord of Bollywood: Sanjay Dutt

The Dark Lord of Bollywood: Sanjay Dutt
Posted on September 7th, 2011 in Hot, Movies, News, Stars

Ever since the launch of the Agneepath trailer, Sanjay Dutt’s bald and mean look as Kancha Cheena has been in talks not only in B-town, but also had the film traders prophecying that this role might turn out to be another great milestone in the actor’s career.

Sanju is very happy about the chance he got offered by producer Karan Johar and writer-director Karan Malhotra. “I was spellbound by the way Karan (Malhotra) conceived his Kancha Cheena and happy that I was getting a chance to show people what I was capable of as an actor,” he beams, adding that at first he was wondering “how I could play someone so chillingly evil”.
Well, he obviously could, and his co-star Hrithik Roshan is sure that Sanju’s Kancha Cheena will be as unforgettable a movie villain as Amrish Puri’s Mogambo (Mr India). A statement which makes Sanju smile: “Mogambo and Sholay’s Gabbar Singh are my all-time favourite bad men,” he assures. At the trailer launch he had named “Gabbar” Amjad Khan as his favourite villain actor.
Sanju also underlines Karan Johar’s statement that this Agneepath will not be a remake but rather a tribute to Mukul S Anand’s Agneepath (1990). It will be “more earthy, raw and grounded,” he says. Some of the old characters like Mithun Chakraborty’s role were dropped from the story while new ones like Rishi Kapoor’s Rauf Lala were included. This new Agneepath will be a new interpretation of the Vijay-Kancha story, not a copy of the old one.
That’s also why Sanju paints another Kancha Cheena portrait than the suave Danny Denzongpa in 1990, and the most obvious difference is Sanju’s clean-shaven head. “We’d earlier thought of going in for prosthetics but when we reached Diu it was so hot that the make-up started to melt. That was a problem because it took three hours to put it on and two hours to take it off. So, I decided to go bald. And when I looked into the mirror after my session with the barber, I got a shock because I’d never had a mundan (tonsure) even as a child,” he says and adds with a laugh that his twins Iqra and Shahraan at first were confused by their dad’s bald look. But they soon got used to it, especially as Sanju spent every weekend at home during the long schedule in Diu. “It was a long ride after a physically gruelling schedule but the children are too young and I didn’t want to disconnect with them for 60 days,” he explains and adds, “Now they are wondering why small, prickly hair have suddenly sprouted”. No doubt, Sanju is a very happy family man, and he knows whom to thank for: “Having Manyata as my wife is the best thing that could have ever happened.”

The first look of Agneepath was launched on August 29 and was immediately creating waves. “With over 80,500 hits within 48 hours of Agneepath’s trailer being uploaded on the official YouTube channel of Dharma, this is the first time that a movie trailer has generated so many views on a single site alone,” Dharma Productions happily reported. Besides Hrithik’s intensity, it was above all Sanju’s evil and menacing look which grabbed eyeballs even on many other websites. Many people compared his look with Lord Voldemort and are looking forward now to the Hrithik-Sanjay fight on January 13, 2012.
For a whole week after the trailer launch, Sanjay Dutt was trending on Twitter in Mumbai. But surely not only because of the “Dark Lord of Bollywood”. In those days people also got to see new promos of David Dhawan’s Rascals starring Sanju, Ajay Devgn, Kangna Ranaut and Arjun Rampal. “We had a blast shooting for Rascals,” Sanju says about his maiden home production which will be released on October 6, three weeks before SRK’s Ra.One where he will be seen in a cameo. And not to forget the first witty promos for Bigg Boss 5 showing Sanju and Salman Khan in a playful mood. “The chemistry between Salman and me is evident in the promos,” Sanju smiles. “He’s like the younger brother I never had and I’m glad he’s gone to the US for treatment. I pray that he returns soon, healthy and cured.”
Seems like Sanju is a jack of all trades nowadays. But surely he finds his biggest happiness at home with his wife and his cute twins who will turn one year on October 21.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A lion task: second home for Gir’s big cats remains mired

A lion task: second home for Gir’s big cats remains mired.

New Delhi, June 22 (IANS) India’s Asiatic lions are the most vulnerable of all the big cats as they live in a single area in Gujarat, making them prone to diseases as well as other threats, and yet calls for creating a second home by the scientific community have been repeatedly ignored, say experts.

The sprawling Gir National Park in western India is home to some 350 Asiatic lions, the last refuge for these cats. In the past, the lions had roamed in almost the entire Central Asia.

The Wildlife Institute of India (WII), a leading scientific organisation, recommended the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh for setting up a second home for the Gir lions.

But the Gujarat government rejected the proposal, saying it lacks scientific backing and security.

Experts believe Kuno in central India is part of the lion’s historical home range.

Gujarat says if Madhya Pradesh cannot protect their tigers, how can they protect the lions.

Supreme Court lawyer Ritwick Dutta, who has taken up the case filed by the Biodiversity Conservation Trust of India, a Delhi-based NGO, in the apex court for transfer of the lions, told IANS: “If the issue is not resolved, there would be a huge economic loss.”

“The 24 villages that were inside the Kuno reserve have been resettled elsewhere to make room for the Gir lions and an estimated Rs.15 crore has been spent on the project,” said Dutta.

However, with the recent admission by the Madhya Pradesh government that there are no tigers left in the Panna reserve, it might just assure the Gujarat government of its case.

But Faiyaz Khudsar, a wildlife biologist who heads the NGO and has worked in Kuno for the lion relocation programme, says, “Wild animals confined to a single area can spell death knell to their long-term survival, and this has been proved by science.”

“Some years ago in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, at least 25 percent of the African lion population there was wiped out due to the canine distemper disease, (a fatal viral disease) and the rest of the lions fell sick. This shows how a single epidemic can wipe out the entire lion population in the park,” said Khudsar.

The Serengeti Park, a Unesco World Heritage site, is spread across more than 14,000 sq km, whereas Gir has an area of just over 1,000 sq km. Despite the sprawling size of Serengeti, the African lions fell to the onslaught of the viral disease, he maintains.

Besides, inbreeding over a period of time can render a population confined to a single area genetically weak, as they don’t get the chance to mate with stronger partners from other geographical areas, making them more prone to diseases, he said.

Gir lions are also threatened by poaching, man-animal conflict and accidents. Many lions have died recently after falling into the wells created to provide water for flora and fauna of the park.

“If Gujarat says that there is a security issue in Kuno, then why are the lions straying out of Gir. Some of the lions are even reaching Daman and Diu,” said Khudsar.

“The only solution left is to create different populations in different areas. The geographical barriers might help the lions evolve stronger genes in the near future that would ensure their long-term survival,” he explains.

Gujarat said its lion population has stabilised and shown healthy growth from just 177 in 1968 to about 350 at present.

In 1956, attempts to introduce Gir lions in Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh “failed due to scientific shortcomings” and there is no scientific basis to show that the present initiative would be a success, Gujarat said in an affidavit to the Supreme Court recently.

“This project shall be pioneering and hopefully trail blazing,” it noted.

But Khudsar claims science has made tremendous progress since the first attempt in the 1950s.

“Now we have the technology such as ‘radio-collaring’ to monitor the lions. Besides, there are many other advances animal science has made.”

For now, the Supreme Court has referred the case to the Wildlife Board of India for its opinion. The next hearing in the case is on Aug 11.

(Sanjeeb Baruah can be contacted at )

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