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Monday, October 15, 2007

Sachin back into top 10 ODI batsmen rankings

DUBAI(ANI): Master blaster Sachin Tendulkar has moved back into the top 10 of the International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings for One-Day International (ODI) batsmen. In the latest rankings issued on Monday, Sachin moved up three places to sit at joint 9th, alongside Chris Gayle of the West Indies.

He is the only Indian batsman in the top 10. Vice-captain Yuvraj Singh is at 15th place, while captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni occupies the 16th position.

On the debit side of the ledger, however, former captain Rahul Dravid has slipped seven places and is now lies in 22nd place. India's highest-placed bowler in the relevant table is Harbhajan Singh, down in 29th position.

Australia's Andrew Symonds is within touching distance of top spot in the ODI batsmen rankings.

The powerful right-hander, who bludgeoned a brutal 107 from just 88 balls against India in Nagpur on Sunday, has rocketed up six spots to second place and is now just eight rating points behind his captain and team-mate Ricky Ponting.

That rise is a reflection of his outstanding form during the ongoing series as he is the leading run-scorer from either side with 365 runs at an average of 91.25 and a strike-rate of 110.94 runs per hundred balls.

Symonds, who has reached a career-high tally of rating points, forms an impressive Australian 1-2-3 at the top of the batting table, behind Ponting but ahead of Matthew Hayden, the winner of the ODI Player of the Year award at the ICC Awards in September and the second highest run-getter in the current series.

Three other Australians are in the top 11 - Michael Hussey (5th), Michael Clarke (8th) and Adam Gilchrist (11th).

The news is just as good for Ponting's men in the bowling list with left-arm wrist spinner Brad Hogg breaking into the top 10 on the back of being joint leading wicket-taker (alongside team-mate Mitchell Johnson) in the India series with 11 victims.

Hogg is one of three Australia bowlers in that top 10 with Nathan Bracken (3rd) and Brett Lee (9th) also featuring.

Consolidation is the new buzzword in Bollywood

If consolidation is the buzzword in India Inc, can the film industry lag behind? The fragmented entertainment industry, growing at a scorching pace, is seeing a lot of activity on the M&A front, sale of music rights and content, as well as in distribution rights.

With the industry's growth rate being pegged at higher than 9 percent year-on-year, the pace of consolidation is only expected speed up. The most important reason being that many entitles, with deep pockets, are entering the space. Most prominent among them being Citigroup Global Markets, which recently announced that it will underwrite a $100 million financing facility for Eros International.

The much-touted Citigroup deal will now enable Eros to go in for M&As and consolidate the fragmented Indian entertainment content sector: According to Eros chairman & CEO, Kishore Lulla: “This facility will increase Eros' firepower to create significant value for our shareholders and partners though the acquisition and production of Indian entertainment content.”

The company, in its 30th year, has already acquired a 51 per cent stake in a leading Tamil language film company, Ayngaran International. Eros not only producers and commissions films, like a studio, but it also distributes films across formats globally via cinemas, home entertainment, television formats and new media.

It has built a successful business model around the release of 30-40 new films every year and the exploitation of a film library containing more than 1,300 titles.

According to industry sources, Shah Rukh Khan has sold the entire rights, except music, of the forthcoming film Om Shanti Om from his home production, Red Chillies, to Eros for Rs 75 crore. The music rights are reportedly sold to T-Series for Rs 9 crore. Meanwhile, Eros and Sony Pictures Entertainment have entered into a non-exclusive agreement to coin vest in a slew of Hindi films, which will be released in India and abroad too.

While Sony Pictures is expected to distribute some of the titles in the US, Eros will use its established infrastructure to distribute the films in other international territories. There are a host of such deals happening across the industry. Shri Ashtavinayak Cinevision, which released Bhagam Bhag early this year and is now ready to launch Jab We Met with Kareena Kapoor and Shahid Kapoor; has tied up with TV 18 for the distribution of the film.

According to the grapevine, TV 18 has partly financed the marking of the film. But when we asked Dhilin Mehta, CMD, Shri Ashtavinayak Cinevision, he denied this: “TV 18 has joined us in the distribution of the film.”

Mehta, however, admitted that consolidation has become a necessity for the film industry at a time when a host of big production houses like Adlabs, UTV, Balaji Productions and others are making big moves in the sector. Asked whether he has any acquisition plans, he said: “Although we have no immediate plans, we are open to the ides.”

Times Infotainment Media, which is readying to invest substantially in the motion picture business through its subsidiary Mirchi Movies, has also expressed its wish to acquire ready motion picture content apart from producing and co-producing films. After striking a deal with Satish Kaushik and Anupam Kher's Karol Bagh Films, it is negotiating terms with other players in showbiz.

The Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) is also making its moves in the entertainment sector. While it is reported to be in advanced talks with film director, Nitin Desai, to either have a majority stake or buy out his movie studio, it has also hiked its stake in Saregama India, from nearly 7 per cent to 12.25 per cent for Rs 26.5 crore.

According to analysts, the deal shows how bullish the company is in the music space. The buzz is ADAG also has set it sights on the country's largest online movie rental company, Seventymm Services Pvt. Ltd. Interestingly, ADAG's arm, Reliance Entertainment, has itself launched an online movie rental store under the brand name Big Flicks.

The film industry is also finding suitors from various sectors ranging from real estate firms to exhibition companies. While Delhi-based exhibition company, PVR, is planning to produce six Hindi movies by the end of next year, another Delhi-based real estate firm, DLF, has declared plans to venture into multiplex through its arm, DT Cinemas. An official of the company recently told the media that DT Cinema was acquiring domestic multiplex chains to grow its business faster.

Following the footsteps of DT Cinemas, Future Media, the media company floated by Kishore Biyani of Future Group, has acquired onscreen media rights of all Inox Leisure multiplexes in the country for more than two years. The acquisition of multiplexes is not just limited to urban areas. Noted filmmaker Prakash Jha has tied up with Sanchojoy Investments even as he looks for private equity investors to funs his ambitious project. He has already tied up with ADAG”s Adlabs to set up 100 screens in small towns.

Meanwhile, in its bid to tap the Telugu film industry, which is the largest film market after Hindi, UTV Motion Pictures is set to make its foray in film production and land distribution deals. The company has signed on Telugu superstar Mahesh Babu for two productions, the first of which is likely to go on the floors in six months. Incidentally, Mahesh Babu's last released Telugu film, Pokiri, is the highest grosser in the Telugu film industry so far this year.

Besides, UTV Motion Pictures has signed a deal with Indira Productions to Co-produce two films, one of which will see Mahesh Babu in the lead. This apart, the company has acquired the Andhra Pradesh distribution rights for the forthcoming Telugu movie, Atithi, which is likely to be released end of the month. Interestingly, the company which plans to invest Rs 600 crore to launch nine TV channels over a period of 18 months has sold off its post-production house, UTV Software Communications Ltd (USL), comprising two leased facilities, to the post-production and VFX specialist, Prime Focus, at a reported price of $2 million.

Funds for the acquisition are likely to be raised by various funding options including ADRs (Americann depository receipts) and GDRs (global depository receipts).

I use media they use me:SRK

Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan says he is not cut out for politics and he is "too materialistic and too good-looking" to play the role.

"I really appreciate the youngsters who make a decision to join politics because it is a very self-sacrificing job. I'm too selfish and too materialistic to be a politician. I can't sacrifice my personal gains. I'm also too good -looking to be a politician," King Khan said at the HT Leadership Summit held here.

"I would also take this opportunity to apologise on behalf of the entire industry that caricatured politicians in their films. They are not as self-centred as shown in our films," he added.

Talking about his vision for future India, he said: "I would like see a more educated India because I feel there is no alternative to education. I would like to contribute to education of children."

The superstar is touched by the pitiable condition of Indian women who can't afford even the basic amenities.

"I respect women a lot and I feel ashamed when I am driving down in a remote area and see women don't have their privacy. I would like to build the basic utilities for them," said Shah Rukh.

He is quite media savvy. And unlike many, he doesn't think that media have been prying too much into celebrities' personal lives.

Shah Rukh said: "Sometimes media exaggerate things like my so-called rivalry with Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. But I cannot deny that I use media for my gains time and again. So, I cannot complain when they use me.

"We have a synergy here. I respect media, as it is a huge marketing device. For example, I don't have the Rs.300-400 million like Sony Pictures (who is producing and marketing 'Saawariya') to market my film, so I depend on the media for that."

When asked about things he is not comfortable doing on screen, SRK said: "The ban on on-screen smoking and drinking was narrow-minded. I don't like dark films, I don't feel comfortable playing a mean guy and using abusive language, especially after (I have had) my children."

The actor, who has starred in this year's biggest hits and does a lot of endorsements, has become one of the super brands of India. However, he says that he never worked consciously to achieve that.

"Brands are made by the conventional way of working hard. I never worked in a special manner to build my brand. I just worked hard."

Asked how difficult it is to maintain the brand image, he said: "Getting somewhere is easy but holding it is very difficult. Brands work if you think positively."

Marriage? No chance:Priyanka

It isn't for nothing that Priyanka calls herself a klutz. After injuring herself doing an intricate stunt for Drona in Mumbai, Priyanka has disregarded the doctors' diktat and done it again.

"The doctors had told me to let the pulled muscle in my abs heal for at least six weeks. But last week I was doing a stunt scene here in Namibia, the abs got wounded again. I can't do anything about it. Because the action scenes scheduled for Namibia have to be shot, come what may."

Priyanka is on pain killers and injections even as she continues to shoot her scenes. "Fortunately my mother is with me and she's looking after me quite well. Her being a doctor helps. I've no choice but to do my stunts through the injury. Once I get back to Mumbai I can let it heal.

As for signing Madhur Bhandarkar's Fashion, "The details including my dates have yet to be figured out. But yes. I'm on. Though I'm not sure when."

Apparently the dates for Fashion have to be co-ordinated with Karan Johar's production which starts in March.

About that Karan Johar film Priyanka says, "I'm really glad I'm finally working with Karan.It's a fun-filled young romantic comedy. I'm paired with Abhishek and John. It's always a pleasure working with these two guys. They are a barrel fun of fun. In fact I'm shooting with Abhishek now. It's a desert. But it's freezing."

So what does the 25-year old Priyanka aspire to do with her life? "Just work work work…. Marriage? No chance for a long while. Psychologically I'm still 16."

I can say No to Yashraj: Saif

Saif's basic idea of turning producer is to be creative. "If I've to work away from Yashraj I'd rather work for myself than other producers.

I want to produce anything from a period murder mystery which might not make too much money, to an off- the-wall romantic comedy, any slice-of-life film…. I'm not looking at making money here, though it'd be nice if my productions do make money.

But my partner and close friend Dinesh Vijen and I are making films that other people wouldn't want to make with me."

Saif has come to trust his partner in the last couple of years. It would be the partner's finances and Saif's creative input. "It's about setting the right tone for a movie."

Yashraj sets standards that Saif would like other production houses to equal. "My first film Parampara was with Mr Yash Chopra. So I know his style of working. Over the years I've been working with Yashraj. So it isn't as though I've begun to swear by them all of a sudden.

What do I tell you about some of the other people who come to me with assignments? They don't even have scripts. Some of the old producers are so resistant to change while the whole industry has moved on. Yashraj is so clear-headed about its intentions and motivations."

Much to Saif's delight Yashraj gives him the liberty to say no to a project. "I've heard stories about stars reluctantly doing Yashraj Films because they can't say no to them. I still have the power to veto the project.

I hate to be where I don't want to be. I do say no to projects I don't want to do. But some producers want me to re-think after I say no. But now I know how to say a firm no."

Saif thinks he has become a good judge of whom to work with. "If you see someone spitting in his own living room you obviously won't have any respect him.

'Tantrum Queen and a Gay Icon'

A story in a tabloid that Sonam Kapoor threw a royal tantrum on the sets of one of her promotional television programmes has the young debutante as embarrassed as another story declaring Ranbir to be a gay icon.

Says Sonam, "Yes, it's true that I re-shot one portion of one of my promotional programmes on Channel V. But please, there was no starry tantrum. I was very apologetic."

Sonam further explains, "I've been tutored in the Sanjay Bhansali school of filmmaking. Over there, we were taught to strive for the best, no matter what the medium.

For me a TV show isn't a chalta hai occasion. So after shooting the whole day if I re-shot for fifteen minutes does that make me a tantrum thrower?"

Ranbir Kapoor is even more embarrassed at being called a gay icon by the same tabloid.

"I'm just starting out. My first film isn't released. I'm in no position to be called any kind of icon. Once I prove myself I'd be happy to be loved by any community of people."

I kissed Konkona well: Kunal Kapoor

The term chilled-out could've been invented for Kunal kapoor, who knows! It's great fun sparring with this sassy spontaneous offspring of caprice who's determined to do his own thing even if it means staying home without work for months.

In a strictly tongue-in-cheek tete-a-te Kunal speaks about his first kiss and his last assignment for quite some time.

You do a lot of dancing in Laaga Chunri Mein Daag (LCMD)
I love dancing. But I'm not very good at it. I was intimidated by who I was dancing with. Abhishek and Rani are damn good dancers. Finally they made it easier for me. But you know what? You don't necessarily have to be a pro at dancing to enjoy it. You've to be shameless before the camera.

I believe you and Abhishek went to the gym together?
I didn't get that privilege. But we had super-fun on the sets. The minute he entered we knew he'd up to some mischief. I was relatively the well -behaved guy around.

Abhishek Bachchan wants to be as scrawny as you
He's a mad hatter. Scrawny is in. Every kid says, 'Main gym jaa ke scrawny banoonga.'

Like Kunal
Then we'll change it to lean. I've remained as lean as I was when I came in.

You have a kissing scene with Konkona in LCMD?
My first on-screen kiss. Konkona and I did it well, considering we did it in below-zero temperature in Switzerland with fifty people gawking.

Are you making excuses for bad kissing?
Ha ! No. Actually I got good reactions to it.

You are a huge fan of Jaya Bachchan?
Oh yes, and I couldn't believe it when I got to work with her. When you grow up watching and admiring someone and then you get to work with her, the feeling is unbelievable.

I got the same feeling when I worked with Aamir Khan. When we worked with him we became friends. But even today when I look at the posters of Rang De Basanti I can't believe that's me with him.

Jayaji fed us the best lunches on the sets. She used to bring lunch for fifteen people. I eat enough for five people.

LCMD is your first family film.
Yeah I guess my films so far have been unorthodox with me cast as loners. But you know what?I'm a very family-oriented person. I've grown up watching the family films of Sooraj Barjartya and Mr Yash Chopra.

LCMD is my first taste of a family film. I haven't done a conventional family film before. Here the sharp editing and other technique add rather than take away from the main drama.

Dada (Pradeep Sarkar) brings in a lot of technique without taking away from the main drama. I feel a film like LCMD hasn't come in a long time.

Good boy, that's you what you are supposed to say.
No seriously. I wouldn't endorse a product I didn't believe in. If I don't like one of my films I'd keep quiet.

Like Hat Trick?
I don't know why this belief went around. I liked Hat Trick and so did some people.

You're paired with Konkona again in Aaja Nachle
Yeah, again we're paired together, though there's a bunch of us this time. A third film with Konkona? I don't know…Konkona makes me feel like Salieri while she's Mozart.

You mean, like Bobby Deol and Upen Patel in Shaka Laka Boom Boom?
That I haven't seen. So I'll stick to Mozart and Salieri.

Are you admitting Konkona is superior to you.
That's an understatement. You know I'd come on the sets,do my rehearsals get my lines right, be fully prepared. She'd just come on the sets, casually inquire about the scene then read a book, and give a perfect shot.

That's exactly what Hrithik used to say about Kareena during Yaadein.
Did he? I really like to work on my shots, to make up for my lack of talent, though I feel I don't work hard enough.

What are you working on now?
Nothing after Aaja Nachle. I go by my instincts. It took me just a couple of minutes to say yes to LCMD and Aaja Nachle. If I've to convince myself to do a film then it's not worth doing.Maybe I'm being naïve. But I really see no point in doing a film just to be busy.

What will you do in the coming months?
I was supposed to do a play Baghdad Ka Ghulam with Barry John. I had worked with Barry earlier and this play had Rahuvir Yadav in it. Unfortunately it got postponed. I was excited about it because it was my first play after Rang De Basanti.

I'm hearing lots of scripts….I write poetry and I like to jot down my thoughts. They never seem to end, though. And I'm a passionately inquisitive person. So there's never a dull moment in my life.

No films at all?
It's in the pipeline. Whoever invented that term is a genius. Lack of work doesn't make me nervous.

What are you looking for?
I'll know when I get the next good offer. But whatever the role, lead or otherwise, it has to help me grow as an actor.

Gallery: Spicy Curves and Buxom Babes

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