There is a complete mismatch in what PM says and his party, the Bhartiya Janata Party, does. While his oratory is filled with messages of inclusiveness, unpalatable actions of the BJP and its associated wings cause unnecessary consternation amongst a section of the society thereby raising questions like, ‘Is there a hidden agenda?’. West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh are under their radar.

The dust in Aligarh, kicked up by the BJP insistence on celebrating the 128th birth anniversary of Jat King Raja Mahendra Singh on AMU campus, had barely settled down when the union minister from Fatehpur Niranjan Jyoti made an unwarranted statement during campaigning in Delhi. Her rural and poor background (as quoted by the prime minister while seeking pardon for her behaviour ) can hardly justify her use of abusive language in denouncing those who don’t believe in Lord Rama.

Behind both, the reasons are purely political. Ironically, in Aligarh the BJP saw the caste of the leader while coolly ignoring the fact that the Raja was also called Peter Peer Singh because he had imbibed three religions. The game plan was clear in Aligarh, to keep the Jat-Muslim wedge simmering till the 2017 Lok Sabha elections as the unity of the two dominant castes could prove politically dangerous for the saffron brigade.

But why defend the indefensible like union minister Niranjan Jyoti, whose popularity is waning in her own Lok Sabha constituency. But then how can the Prime Minister drop her when his party is out on its woo-OBC-Dalit mission. On this December 6, instead of observing Shaurya Diwas, the saffron brigade was celebrating Ambedkar Jayanti in Uttar Pradesh.

Now, we have this news about a conversion camp held in Agra.

On a day prime minister Narendra Modi won hearts at a rally in Kashmir by saying, ‘They want Android smart phones and not AK 47’, a group of Dharam Jagran and Bajrang Dal volunteers were converting 57 Muslim families to Hinduism describing it as the homecoming of those who had embraced Islam only 25 years back. Knowing the bullying character of these organisations, it is hard to know whether these Muslims were forcibly converted to Hinduism under their ‘Hindu Bachchao, Hindu Banao’ campaign.

While making it clear that these conversions camps will continue, the volunteers held hawan amidst Gayatri Mantra for the purification of those ‘coming home’ and handed over deity of Kali for worship.

The families were from Kolkata and claim to be happy with their new identities. The very next day, accusing Bajrang Dal of tricking them at a religious event denied conversion to Hinduism. But by then the rumour mill had started working across the country.

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“After he got award for Abhiman he said ‘Shankar, thank you. But there is one thing I will tell you, I did not spend any money. I got it genuinely.’ Maybe it was in his mind that Shankar-Jaikishan must have done something, bought a huge number of copies of Filmfare to fill in the votes, or something like that, as they had won in the previous years rather frequently. There was an interview on the Internet with Pyarelal in which he admits that Lakshmi-ji had told him to buy copies of Filmfare and fill the forms, nominating themselves. He said, ‘It made kachra of us, devalued our worth and integrity a lot, but after the award, we got a lot of work.’

This is SD Burman in Sathya Saran’s latest book, ‘Sun Mere Bandhu Re- the Musical World of SD Burman.’ I anchored Sathya’s session on her two well-researched and riveting biographies at Lucknow Literature Carnival last weekend and to the audience shock came to know that even greats like SD Burman had doubts about the credibility of awards in the good old days. Then why should we raise questions over Aamir Khan or Ajay Devgan’s decision to stay away from award ceremonies.

Sathya Saran has authored two brilliant biographies on giants of the film industry – SD Burman and Guru Dutt (Abrar Alvi’s journey). Incidentally, both the stalwarts had to wait for recognition even after giving several hits to Indian cinema. Abrar had directed Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam and was not merely a front man for GD, as many had so believed, he was also the guy who discovered Waheeda for Pyasa.

Of course, the books also talk about their personal lives – GD’s relationship with all-time popular Waheeda Rehman and SD’s with his son RD Burman who many thought had composed ‘Roop Tera Mastana’ for Aradhana. SD was even accused of lifts, of plagiarism.

These facts are revealed in Sathya’s book in Burman’s words, ‘‘You have heard my famous song in Aradhana, ‘Safal hogi teri aradhana, kahe ko roye’. It is composed on a simply Baul melody. Then there is the famous Guide song, ‘Wahan kaun hai tera musafir jayega kahan’. That too is done on Bhatiali lines. What’s more surprising is that the rather jazzy sort of hit song ‘Roop tera mastana’ sung by Kishore Kumar is but a beautiful folk melody that I happened to hear a long time ago. I remembered the tune because of its peculiar effect. It merely uses two notes and has a very special influence on the senses.”

So how did RD get to compose music for ‘Hare Rama , Hare Krishna’.

Despite media reports to the contrary, it was not Dev Anand who chose Pancham for the film’s musical score. It was SD Burman who decided his son would handle the film. For one, the elder Burman disapproved of drugs and the filming of such scenes. He was not sure of its impact. Besides, he felt someone younger would be more in tune with the kind of scene Dev would shoot and be able to deliver the music better.

After the session Sathya left for Mumbai – to finish her another first – a book on Jagjit Singh.

While I attended the session with the giant of Indian cinema Shyam Benegal – an adorable guy who is going to turn 80 in two weeks time. We, the fans of his films like Junoon and Ankur, couldn’t have asked for more when he shared with the audience his ambitious plan of making a film that will touch the knotty issue of land acquisition, most probably one to be shot in Uttar Pradesh. Since then I have been wondering if another Mother India in the offing? The wait, for me, begins.

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The Uttar Pradesh government on November 18 allocated Rs 556 crore for toilets in state’s villages. Media was quick in linking it with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Clean India campaign. Read more

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My friend walked into my home in a flurry on the Diwali day. Instead of festival hug and greetings, she said with excitement, ‘I have become a Modi fan’. Incidentally, she is a Muslim and wife of a retired colonel. The couple strangely had this weird idea of leaving India and settling somewhere abroad when the news about Narendra Modi’s crowning came after BJP’s spectacular victory in 2014 general election. Read more

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As many wives will take offense, I have a humble submission : Continue with your traditional fast but not for someone who has been a beast, even if he is your husband. Read more

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Some musings from poll bound Maharashtra where electioneering picked up after the erstwhile poll partners turned into arch rivals – may be only for about a fortnight- each vying to acquire the single largest party status that can take them closer to the throne.

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I heard Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s passionate speech to an equally emotionally charged audience at Madison Square Garden. As he talked about clean India, I wondered how he will make it a mission possible? Have a look at India’s financial capital Mumbai, where I am spending some time at present. There is no dearth of money here, yet it is so messy. If PM Modi can get this sorted out, I feel he can make any other part of India clean. Read more

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Where does the voter count in elections? Watching closely the Maharashtra political scenario, one can only say, ‘nowhere’.

Barely 22 days before Maharashtra goes to the polls, the two political groups were engaged in seat sharing talks. It’s not unusual for the political parties to bargain or bulldoze their way in seat sharing talks. Read more

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Perhaps it will be politically premature to read by-poll reverses as a comment on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governance, but it will certainly have a bearing on the upcoming assembly polls in the country. For the simple reason because elections in democratic India is as much a battle of perception as of poll management.
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I recently read two news reports that came as a big relief to someone who has gradually, over the years, fallen in love with UP, my adopted state. Read more

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