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Things I hate about Indian film awards

Soon 2008 will dawn upon us. And the award season will start. Screen, Zee, Filmfare, Stardust and what-not film award functions will be held, all over Mumbai. All of them look the same, all seem biased to me. There was a time when I used to highjack my remote control for over 4-5 hours and patently see the entire function. Now, I hate them because they sound cliched amongst other things. Here are my reasons:


Variety entertainment
Award shows are less of awards and more of variety entertainment. They have now become, at least in the 20 years or so, a convenient platform to show off an actor's 'dancing' talent because 99% of the industry with all the famous directors, producers, etc are seated in the audience. So what better way to sell yourself to them than to show some of your so-called dancing "skills". Most of the dancing is horrendous with even the likes of salman khan doing some items there. It's a pain to watch them dance when they don't know the D of …

Touchy stars

If you ever want to know where to find the biggest egos - or at least amongst the bigger ones - in society, look no further than Bollywood. Recently Aamir Khan made a comment on the movie Black and mentioned in an interview that Black didn't work for him because it was insulting and humiliating to children. Beating a visually, hearing and speech impaired child to make her come out of her senses and learn the ways and walks of life is not his kind of cinema, he said. He also said that the performances of Black were over-the-top.

Now Amitabh Bachchan, considered by many as one of the best actors, got offended. He gave a rebuttal interview and said that maybe the performances went over Aamir's head.

Bollywood is full of ego personalities. They can't digest any criticism. Critics are retards they say because critics pan shit movies. Performances have gone over people's heads if people do not like the performances. Damm people, damm freedom of speech, if I am Amitabh Bachchan…

Taare Zameen Par

Striking the Right Cord

Barely missing the movie on one of my most hectic Saturdays in recent times, I am glad that I finally made it to Regal cinema and watched this masterpiece called 'Taare Zameen Par' (TZP). The movie takes a sympathetic look - or rather the way it should be looked - at dyslexia. Young Ishaan Awasthi (Darsheel Safary) cannot study like some of the other kids, he is poor in Maths, his language and vocabulary does not make sense nor can he make sense of it all, he does not show his red-inked report card to his parents, does not do homework and bunks classes. Fed up by his antics and his teacher's constant complaints, his parents, especially Daddy, banishes him to a boarding school, much against the little one's wishes.

Enter an angelic arts teacher Ram Shankar Nikumbh (Aamir Khan) who observes and identifies Ishaan's problems and mental agony. He takes it upon himself to set things right for the little one by creating a conducive atmosphere for th…

WHAT YOU SEE MAY NOT BE WHAT YOU GET

Can diversified equity funds tilt heavily towards mid-caps?

What does diversification mean for a diversified equity fund? Does it mean it will diversify across sectors and scrips or does it mean it will diversify across market capitalisation stocks?

Outlook Money looked at equity funds to check out how little scheme objectives can tell you about their potential action. To keep things simple, we checked out only diversified equity funds. We omitted thematic, sectoral, dividend yield funds. We also left out closed-end funds and equity-linked savings schemes since they usually have a higher allocation towards mid-cap scrips on account of a lock-in. Then, we examined the portfolios of short-listed funds across five time periods since July 2005 when mid-cap scrips were the flavour of the market .

MF schemes that call themselves ‘diversified’ had an unusually high proportion of their assets in mid-cap scrips. In all of them (top five mid-cap exposure schemes), the average mid-cap exposure was …

Playing the NFO game once again

MFs rush to launch multiple infrastructure funds with negligible differences

Can a mutual fund (MF) launch a new scheme with identical theme to an existing one? MFs say they can, provided one is open-ended and the other is closed-end. Despite its heavily-advertised and successfully existing open-ended UTI Infrastructure Fund (UIF), UTI MF has launched another infrastructure fund, UTI Infrastructure Advantage Fund – Series I (UIAF) that is closed-end, whose new fund offer (NFO) closes on 19th December.

Old wine in new bottle
Fund manager Sanjay Dongre told us that since UIAF is a closed-end scheme, it can invest significantly in mid-caps and remain invested, as closed-end funds do not see much redemption like open-ended ones. This is a frequently-used argument of MFs to launch closed-end schemes, but do closed-end funds deliver? UTI Equity Tax Savings Plan, an open-ended tax-savings fund but with a three-year lock-in, returned 39.5 per cent in the past three years underperforming the benc…

AMFI Guideline in the Dustbin

An NOC is still required to change agents despite an Amfi guideline that says it is not

On the heels of a story published in Outlook Money that highlighted mutual fund (MF) investors’ plight in shifting agents, on account of a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) requirement from the original agent (‘Consolidate Your Fund Folios’; 15 August 2007), and investor complaints alike, the Association of Mutual Funds of India (Amfi) issued a circular to all MFs on 5th September advising them to avoid asking for NOCs. Unfortunately, quite a few MFs have chosen to ignore the advice and still insist on an NOC.

Sticky trail
At the root of the problem is the trail commission that agents get. Also known as loyalty commission, MFs pay around 0.35 to 0.50 per cent of the prevailing investment value to the agents - in addition to the 2.25 per cent entry load at the time of initial investment – for as long as the investor stays invested.

MF sources told us that as soon as Amfi issued this directive, few unscrup…

News Channels I like

I am not an avid reader, I do not bury my head in books for hours and hours like some people I know. Except Harry Potter, Busybee and some on financial topics, I do not read books. But I read lots of newspapers, magazines and watch a lot of news on TV.

I watch only English new channels. Mainly because there is only one Hindi news channel on Indian television, NDTV India. Other Hindi channels that call themselves news channels, are not news channels to me; they are variety entertainment channels during the day and adult entertainment channels after 9 pm. Nothing wrong about it, but I think it would do us all good if they stop calling themselves news channels instead of what they truly are. Especially Rajat Sharma, who time and again, asserts on India TV that this is what the public wants to see and so they're showing it. But this piece is not about what I do not like. It is about the channels I like and watch.

My favourite channel is CNN-IBN. Starting from its editor, Rajdeep Sardesa…

The Afternoon is back, but...

One of Bombay's oldest and most well-known newspapers, The Afternoon is back.

On September 26, 2007, the newspaper closed down in the midst of an ugly battle between Farzana Contractor, wife of the late founding editor Behram Contractor and the single largest shareholder Mr Kamal Morarka. I do not know exactly what happened though I feel bad for Farzana because she and her late husband, who was fondly called Busybee, started this paper, when Behram and 30 people quit Mid-Day where Behram was the editor at that time, to start a new newspaper. Some people say it's a real-estate play, i.e. the building 'The Afternoon House' is what some moneybags are after. But who knows the truth, except GOD.

The Afternoon was a very insipid newspaper, especially as compared to its more illustrious competitor, Mid-Day, ironically founded by Behram himself years ago. Not that Mid-Day's quality was inspiring, it was and still is a very gossipy newspaper, oops...sorry tabloid, whose one o…

Witness for a witness!

In order to submit an acknowledgement to receive LIC pension every year, the pensioner must fill a form - an undertaking, that he is alive and therefore eligible to receive the pension. So for the pension to be received in, say 2008, the pensioner is supposed to sign an undertaking any one of these days (end of 2007).

On the form, the pensioner is supposed to sign that he has received the amount for the coming year (strangely, this amount will come to him only next year after he submits this form, duly filled). A witness signature is required to support the pensioner's claim of receipt of the money. Then, a witness is supposed to sign and verify that the pensionner is indeed alive.

You wouldn't believe what comes next. This witness signature's must be attested by another witness, to ensure that the first witness is genuine. It has been 60 years since India gained independance, but our administration's obsession about papers, witnesses, signatures and the works has not go…

Udwada and Navsari - Day 2; November 26, 2007

Mornings in Gujarat are cold these early winter days, as also late evenings and nights. So it was difficult to wake up at 6.30 am, yet schedule is sacrosanct. An early bath after having the morning cup of tea, set us up for a breakfast. This was the only minus point at Jamshed Baug. It's breakfast is very inadequate; no sev, rava, bread butter toast and jam. Only eggs (fried, scrambled or omelette, the choice is yours) and a cup of tea. That is not enough. Unfortunately, I was hungry after eating two fried eggs and tea. But the stay otherwise was very pleasant and the place was very clean and comfortable, so I do not hold anything against Jamshed Baug. Yes, I would stay here again.

Soon, we checked out and were in the rickshaw winding through the narrow and dusty streets of Navsari, on our way to Navsari Atash Behram. Navsari still looks the same as it did 20 years back. I feel it will look the same after 100 years too. I have spent many a childhood vacation here as my grandparents…

Udwada and Navsari - Day 1; November 25, 2007

A trip to Udwada and Navsari Atash Behram (there are eight such places of worship in Zorastrian religion; the highest in the hierarchy of Zorastrian Fire Temples) is always looked forward to, so when the Divine call comes, I pack my suitcase and rush to Bombay Central in time to catch the Gujarat Express at 6.45 am, like I did today, with Mamu (my neighbour Pheroze Bhathena, 79). The train was on time and by 10.00 or so we checked into a hotel there.

A sumptuous and delicious breakfast greeted us. Besides the magnificent Atash Behram, Udwada is also known for good food. The food, though, in most of the hotels is quite good. Unfortunately, the two most popular Parsi breakfast items Rava (better known as Sheera or Rava Kesari and made with Suji, milk and sugar) and Sev (fried vermicelli cooked in sugar syrup and sprinkled with raisins and lot of almond slivers) were not there at the place we went. But fried eggs, bread butter and jam, and hot tea were served. Stomach worship done, it was…

Toy bus by BEST

I welcome any legal and legible competition to the black and yellow (BY) taxis of Mumbai. Though there are honest and sincere taxi-drivers still left in this profession, I'm afraid they are now dwarfed by those who are corrupt, rude and insist on ferrying only long-distance passengers. The BY taxis that stand at Nariman Point are a classic example. They do not mind standing in the queue for hours, but would not take any passengers before Worli, on an average.

Enter the mini-bus from BEST. This is the latest innovation from BEST. These mini buses have been popular so far in suburbs around crowded station areas otherwise inhospitable for regular BEST buses to turn and maneuver. But now BEST is keen to bring them to downtown; they recently started one such service (route No 100) between Nariman Point and Churchgate. Thanks to all illegal encroachments like food stalls and BY taxis that are parked throughout the day there in numbers exceeding the permissible limit, only mini BEST buses…

I Knew An Angel called Burjor Gae

Professor Burjor Gae, one of my most favourite teachers and human beings, passed away on November 23, 2007, at approximately 8.00 am. He was 98 years old and was born on 14th June. He was one of the finest souls that have inherited Mother Earth. He passed away quietly at his residence and I am glad for him that he did not suffer at this age. An excellent mathematics teacher, he taught me Maths (algebra/mathematics/geometry/probability and the entire works) in 1994 when I was in F.Y.B.com and then later in 1998 when I was preparing for my MBA entrance exam.

He was damm good at his job. So brilliant was he that despite having a very weak eyesight (he must've been 88 years at that time), he used to excel. He could not write much as he could not see properly. So he used to close his eyes, work out the entire equation in his mind and dictate me, step-by-step systematically, the entire solution. If a train of 100 metres was travelling at a speed of 120 kms per hour and if another train o…

Selective frisking at airports?

As per a recent report on CNN IBN news channel, a select list of 24 people that the Central Government thinks as VVIPs, are exempted from being frisked at Indian airports. The peculiar aspect of this list - and something that has irked many citizens of India - is that the chiefs of the three defence forces, i.e. navy, army and air-force, are EXCLUDED. In simple words, the three chiefs, who are primarily responsible for the security of our country and citizens, will continue to be frisked at the airport. The list of 24 people, as per the news report, include the President, Vice-President Prime Minister, Cabinet ministers and Mr. Robert Vadera, Congress chief Ms Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law.

One wonders what the son-in-law has done for the country that has apparently earned a rare privilege, and therefore more respect, that those that have shed their own blood to protect the country from terror. And the cabinet ministers whose background, the Government thinks, is so pure enough to earn thi…

NOW, COMPUTER IS YOUR FUND MANAGER

Lotus MF launches India’s first quant mutual fund scheme

If you do not trust the abilities of a fund manager to consistently pick winning stocks, perhaps you would trust a computer to do the same. That’s what quantitative – or quant funds worldwide do – instead of allowing their fund managers to do stock-picking, they pick stocks based on a quantitative analysis by computer-based models. This is one of the growing breed of mutual funds (MF); in the US, the assets under management of quant funds are at $1.9 billion in 2007, up from $0.2 billion in 2003. Expect quant funds to slowly reach Indian shores as Lotus India MF has launched India’s first quant fund, called Lotus India Agile Fund (LIAF).

The formula
LIAF is an equity fund that will be passively managed and run purely on the basis of a mathematical formula devised by the fund house. For starters, it will consider only those scrips with a market capitalisation and floating stock equivalent to or more than the least market capitalisat…

Need to Do More

Sebi investment advisor guidelines are a necessary first step but inadequate

After suggesting a no-load option for direct mutual fund (MF) applications, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) issued a draft set of guidelines, in October, to govern investment advisors (IA). Mis-selling of financial products happens globally, but on account of a lack of the last mile guidelines in India, perhaps here it happens on a wider scale.

Outlook Money reader, C Rajay Kumar from Baroda and an MF investor for the past 20 years, wrote in to us saying that on a recent trip to a bank to submit his MF application form, the bank introduced him to one IA who Kumar claims knew nothing on existing schemes. Instead, she was hell-bent on “pushing” NFOs on flimsy grounds. Imagine if ill-informed advisers are present in droves in banks, what must be the quality of some 20,000 active Association of Mutual Funds of India (Amfi) qualified MF agents. Letters complaining about ill-informed advice reach us…

A choppy ride

Online railway reservation's website down most of the times

What started out as one of the most promising and widely appreciated ventures by the Indian Railways, has turned out to be a damp squib. The website that facilitates passengers to book their tickets online, www.irctc.co.in, does not work most of the times. Although the home page and a few other pages come up fast, I, invariably, get stuck at the page where I have to enter the station name and extract its relevant code, just before I proceed to select the chosen train I want to travel on and other relevant details. This has happened at several times and it's been a long time since I have seamlessly been able to book a ticket.

The Indian railways may have the intention to match the budget airlines and providing benefits of technological advances, to its passengers. But if the website does not function most of the times, what's the point in even trying? Don't the Indian railways know how many people use trains to t…

Teachers at Hindi Vidya Bhavan

Being a huge fan of the late Behram Contrator, the founding editor of Afternoon, I have read many of his legendary column, 'Round & About'. In one of them, he makes a poignant irony: that although teachers are our torch-bearers throughout our school and college days, give us education and make us capable of facing and surviving in this world, they would always remain in that one place, while their students would go places in thier lives. Like a teacher would still be at the bus-stop waiting for the bus, all throughout thier lives, while the child will grow in status and stuture and pass by in car. I found that to be very true, so I look back - the least I can do, and appreciate the teachers who have taught me and have a hand to make me who I am today. And while I am at it, let me also tell you about some of them who, unfortunately, I did not like.

I did my schooling (SSC)from Hindi Vidya Bhavan (HVB), Marine Drive, Mumbai. I passed out my school in 1992, so this post will …

One-on-ones OR press conferences for all?

Press conferences repeatedly hijacked by TV channels

This is a question I find myself asking time and again when I land up at press conferences (PC) of mutual fund (MF) houses. Let me explain.

MFs usually invite media people from newspapers, magazines as well as TV for their PCs when they launch a new product or make an announcement. The usual practice is that the PC opens with a welcome note, big talks about their MF being one of the best, smartest, and how they do not launch many NFOs unlike everyone else (what bull!), etc etc. Then follows a presentation. After the PC, there is a brief Q&A session lasting about 10 minutes, followed by either lunch, dinner or high-tea, depending on the time of the PC.

I usually wait for the Q&A to get over and then go over to them to ask them questions. I prefer exclusivity of the answers to my questions. However, MFs have a bad habit. In an attempt to get that extra publicity, they go in for a series of one-on-one interviews, AFTER the PC &…

Mobile number portability is finally here

If you have felt let down or under-serviced by your mobile phone operator but haven't switched to a new one because you could loose your mobile number, help will soon come to you. The Department of Telecommunications has mandated number portability among mobile phone operators in India, to be first introduced in the four metros, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai, by fourth quarter of 2008. In simple words, you will now be able to change your mobile operator and at the same time retain your old mobile phone number. No more contacting all your friends, family, relations, business / work associates to inform them about your new phone number.

As expected, the move was delayed on account of the opposition coming from GSM players. Popular GSM players in India are Vodafone and Airtel, among many others. They fear losing lakhs of subscribers to new and upcoming players, especially CDMA players like Reliance. However, justice seems to be prevailed and the customer will finally start to ben…

Om Shanti Om - entertaining

Amongst the two most over-hyped films of the year so far (Saawariya & OSO), at least OSO delivers. After watching Saawariya yesterday and left thoroughly disgusted by the experience, I didn't expect much from OSO. But despite having to wait outside the cinema hall for half hour and finally got extra tickets (not black tickets; extra tickets are bought by genuine patrons who happen to have extra tickets because of no-show or last minute cancellations by their friends/relatives, etc), it was worth the wait.

The story starts somewhere in the 60s or 70s where Shantipriya (Deepika Padukone) was a leading Bollywood actress and Om (SRK) was an extra working on the sets. Om falls in love in Shanti, and tries to express his feelings, but no one knows that Shanti is actually secretly married to her producer Mukesh (Arjun Rampal). Mukesh, however, has no plans of settling down with her and on being confronted with this fact and the fear that a married and pregnant actress will not be acce…

Saawariya - Boring to the Core

I came out of the cinema hall a couple of hours back after watching a three-hour torture called Sawariya. Coming from one of India's well-known film-makers, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, I expected much more that what I saw. No wait, I expected a movie, and all I was bombarded with, were songs, once every 10 minutes or so. Despite being a musical, a movie must still have a story. Else, it's akin to watching Channel [V] or MTV.

Boy meets girl, falls in love, girl loves someone else, boy dances, sings, prances around dreaming about her and trying to woo her with nothing but his smile, songs and dances. This is the movie's story.

Shot on a grand scale, thanks to the larger-than-life sets of a fairy-tale town, reminiscent of Moulin Rouge, the movie traces the "story" of a boy and his encounter and subsequent wooing of this girl that he first spots in a lonely street on a windy night. What transpires eventually, I can't tell you, purely out of ethics. Although you would pr…

BREAKING NEWS: Hindi news channels - waste of time

The worst thing to have happened to Indian television, after saas-bahu sagas, are some of the Hindi news channels. These channels are not interested in telecasting news and events from around India, let alone the world. All they seem to be interested in is titilation and garnering maximum eye-balls, HOOK OR BY CROOK. The result: Hindi TV news channels have increased thier "fan following" by leaps and bounds.

The pits
The worst of the lot, in my opinion, is India TV. You can hardly call it a news channel as the only thing it is interested in doing is spreading superstition and sleaze. From telecasting a half-hour program on a wedding of a dog with a bitch, in Ahmedabad, India, and moderating a debate between a warring husband and a wife undergoing a painful divorce for the entire nation to watch when actually the two parties should be doing this in the privacy of thier own homes, to telecasting numerous shows on ghosts and spirits, India TV has done everything that a responsibl…

Are they teachers or monsters?

Teachers beating students is old news. But of late, disturbing reports of brutality committed by teachers in some parts of India (this may be elsewhere in the world but since i live in India, I get to hear only Indian news on this subject) have started to come to light like here, here and here, and many more such instances.

These developments are very discouraging and shocking. What is wrong with our teachers? Teachers, our gurus, who are supposed to impart education to children, to teach the m to distinguish between good and bad, and to help them with the necessary tools to make it 'big' in life, are today assuming the role of monsters and harming them more than doing good. It makes me wonder whether the teachers who mercilessly beat young and innocent children are themselves good and capable teachers or do they commit atrocities merely to make up for the lack of their skills.

Something more disturbing in this is the attitude of the authorities of the school or education instit…