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    His is a familiar face on the small screen with TV series like Hum Aapke Hain In Laws, Bahu Hamari Rajni Kant and Punar Vivah - Ek Nayi Umeed, along with the Bollywood film Wedding Pullav. Popular actor Karan V Grover has now expanded his artistic horizons and was recently seen in a web series Spotlight 2, presented by Vikram Bhatt and Viu, a premium video-on-demand service.

    The VJ-turned-celebrity talks about his tryst with acting in an affable chat with Rajitha Menon.

    How was the experience of acting in a web series?

    The fundamentals of acting remain the same but the digital space is definitely unpretentious. It allows every artist and creator to portray scenes, dialogues and characters a lot more honestly and realistically as compared to other mediums.

    Tell us a bit about Spotlight 2.

    It is the story of a talented singer whose descent begins when success gets to his head. How he tries to resurrect his personal life and career with the help of his soulmate is the story. The cast, specially Aditi and Ruhi, have done a phenomenal job while the musicians, singers and director Sidhant Sachdev have been exceptional too. Master storyteller and our writer producer Vikram Bhatt adds his magic to the entire thing.

    The show deals with a struggling musician. How do you look at failure personally?

    To me, success and failure are two sides of the same coin - you cannot enjoy one without going through the other. In order to be successful, one has to learn to fail gracefully.

    What is the flip side to being a celebrity?

    Sometimes your jokes and most of the times your clothes are taken
    too seriously.

    A misconception about the entertainment industry that you find ridiculous...

    Most people feel that all the actors, models, directors and producers know each other personally. Hence a lot of them mention names randomly and say "you must be knowing him/her, even he/she is an actor!" I find this funny; its something like saying all doctors should know each other.

    A role you would like to essay in the future...

    A superhero, a military major, an alien, a time traveller, a psychopath, a clown - the list goes on. I wont be content with just one.

    A weird habit you picked up after entering the industry...

    My level of sarcasm has been heightened.

    An instance where you caught yourself speaking or behaving like a character you played on screen...

    This happens to me very often. Once Suhasi Dhami, my co-actor in my Zee TV show, complained that I had started behaving like my onscreen brash and rude character Ranchod. Even during Spotlight2, the director Sidhant felt that I was constantly behaving in an arrogant and destructive manner, just like my character.

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    As Finance Minister Arun Jaitley considers different expectations for the Union Budget 2018-19, there is one sector that can help him hit the bullseye of accelerating GDP growth in the shortest possible time. Yes, the critically important real estate industry is a vessel that carries along with it housing, finance, construction, roads, steel and a multitude of other industries.

    Given the governments dual mandate of sticking to a disciplined fiscal situation and pump-priming private sector capex, a budget boost to real estate is one of the easiest ways to achieve the desired outcome without tinkering government finances.

    Raise housing loss set-off limit

    We unequivocally believe that the housing loss set-off limit of Rs 2 lakh should be increased to levels that accurately reflect the ground realities. At present, a homeowner will only be able to set off such losses only up to Rs 2 lakh from income under the head income from house property. However, if the loss is more than Rs 2 lakh, it can be carried forward for eight subsequent years for set-off. Since housing loans go on for 20-30 years and rental income is generally lower, it is unlikely that rental income will suffice to absorb interest of the current year and the losses carried forward of the previous year. Raising the Rs 2 lakh limit will boost the confidence of property buyers and could set off a virtuous cycle of buying-building-growing for the real estate sector.

    Lower GST rates for affordable housing

    The governments Housing For All, RERA and affordable housing reforms have been far-sighted moves from an economic standpoint. Yet, the existing GST rates for affordable housing can cap the future gains. For the price-sensitive affordable homebuyer, every rupee counts. The Budget 2018 can take an affirmative step to make affordable housing truly pocket-friendly by reducing the 12% GST rate on affordable homes. The reduction in the same would provide a major boost to lower income group (LIG) and middle income group (MIG) buyers.

    GST should subsume stamp duty

    The landmark GST policy is helping India transform into a single unified market since July 2017. Currently, GST has subsumed service tax, VAT and other local taxes. However, stamp duty is out of the purview. The effective cost goes up by nearly 20% on the agreement value of the home. While stamp duty is a state tax, the central government has shown its resolve and execution skills by hammering out an agreement when it comes to state taxes previously. We hope that the Budget 2018 will take a step forward in subsuming stamp duty and benefit all stakeholders of the real estate sector.

    Hike deduction for repayment of home loan principal

    Home loans and EMIs are driving property purchases. The principal portion of the EMI paid for the year is allowed as a deduction under Section 80C. The maximum amount that can be claimed is up to Rs 1.5 lakh, which is, at present, inadequate. There is a need to hike this limit by Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh. Considering the property prices in metro cities, there is a need to enhance this for housing properties immediately.

    Higher budget allocation towards interest subsidy under PMAY

    The Budget 2018 should also consider giving a boost by way of interest subsidy. In the financial year 2018 (FY18), about Rs 1,600 crore was disbursed towards interest subsidy schemes. This figure is low since it would fund only 80,000 such applications. Since affordable housing is a key agenda of the government, a higher interest subsidy under PMAY should be approved for FY19.

    Lower tax for real estate AIFs

    The real estate sector needs multiple sources of funding. Alternative investment funds (AIF) play a big role in financing. The Budget 2018 needs to lower the tax burden of real estate AIFs and promote a more vibrant investment vista for these investment vehicles. Overall taxation on any investment effectively is around 45% since the special purpose vehicle (SPV) pays tax at 34% and dividend payout or buyback is also taxed. As the government is giving a major push towards this sector, and since this vehicle provides long-term capital, there should be lower taxation for investors in real estate AIFs. Unlike a going concern or entity-level investments which are exited through sale of shares, real estate projects are exited through project cash flows. So, the significant tax burden on investors acts as a deterrent.

    JDA taxation method for non-individuals

    The joint development agreement (JDA) is a useful legal arrangement. However, there is ambiguity around the JDA method of taxability for assessees other than individuals and HUFs. The Budget 2018 should prescribe a clear pathway for this purpose. JDAs where the landowner (all assessees) receives constructed property (flats in the building constructed by the developer) in consideration of transferring development rights on land, the landowner should be taxed in the year in which he receives the constructed property. This will help in removing any confusion that exists in the marketplace. In conclusion, the Finance Minister is on the cusp of boosting and transforming the fortunes of the whole Indian economy with small changes in the countrys real estate market. Like always, we are confident that India will balance pragmatism with progress.

    (The author is director & head,
    Motilal Oswal Real Estate)

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  • 02/04/18--02:52: Music and dance reviews
  • Music and dance reviews

    Pleasing "Sukhabhumi"

    The Bangalore Environment Trust is working hard to bring awareness to the city. It had organised a special programme called "Sukha Bhumi" - "a concept to engage in the awareness of the eco-balance of the society". A music and a dance programme was organised last week, which was also a fundraising programme in aid of mentally challenged children.

    Kannada lyrics - both popular and folk - were presented by 4 vocalists, lead by Pustakam Rama. All the compositions were on the river Kaveri, captioned aptly "Kaveri Patha", Namo Namo Kaveri Thaye, Hasirige Usiru Ithavaru and also an English poem (We thank you, God). They sang in unison spiritedly.

    Dance drama

    Agasthya, "the great sage who stabilized the ecosystem of the earth" (concept by the Bangalore Environment Trust) was brought on the stage like a dance drama, with nearly 25 artistes, beautifully choreographed by the senior danseuse Veena Murthy.

    Opening with the sacred Gayathri Mantra, it was divided into 7 scenes right from the birth of Agasthya; covered his knowledge in mathematics, astrology; his concern for socio-economic development; Lopamudra, chanting of "Vathapi Jeernobhava"; birth of the river Kaveri, through the mystical story in 3 episodes and concluded with the present day deteriorating state of the ecosystem etc. etc. With beautiful choreography (Veena Murthy) and melodious music (Raghunandan R. and P. Rama), it had a good message for the society.

    Colourful kinkini

    Mohiniattam, Odissi, Kathakali, Kuchipudi and Kathak programmes apart from Bharathanatya were held in the annual Kinkini dance festival.

    Navya Natarajan, who gave a Bharathanatya recital, is a disciple of Late Padmini Ramachandran and has performed in both India and abroad, several times. A post graduate in science, Navya is also a recipient of "Yuva Kalabharathi" Award. The "Navarathnamalike" of Shankaracharya on Parashakthi gave Navya Natarajan a pleasant start. The Asta ragamalike varna of Ponnaiah Pille "Saami Ninne Kori" - is a master piece. For a senior dancer like Navya it was not a difficult task to execute those well woven jathies. Her graceful Abhinaya came to fore especially in Pada (Yaru kaga) and concluded with a fine thillana of Lalgudi, in the raga Desh. The accompanists who inspired music by R. Raghuram, natuvanga by Prasanna Kumar, mridanga by Harsha Samaga and flute by Mahesh Swamy.

    Salutation to Tyagaraja

    Nine students of Nupura presented few selected keertanas of Saint Tyagaraja, in the "Tyagaraj Sannuthi". Popular and meaningful compositions like Melu Kovayya (Bhouli), Sri Rama Raghurama, Brova Baramma (Bahudari), etc. They performed with practised ease and good expressions. But connoisseurs may not agree to join three keertanas in different raga and "Bhava"! Vasudha Balakrishna (vocal), S.V. Balakrishna (mridanga), Madhusudhana (mridanga) and Mahesh Swamy (flute) - supported from the wings.

    Dancer from the USA

    Akhilandeswari, who gave a Bharathanatya recital at the Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan, is the Director of Kalagangothri, USA. Originally from Bengaluru, she is a disciple of Revathi Narasimhan and continued her training under Uma Rao and has passed her vidwat examination also. She has completed her "Ranga Pravesha" in 1999 and has received the Purandara Anugraha Prashasthi from TTD and an "outstanding performer" award in U.S.A. She is teaching young aspirants in her institution Kalagangothri and has performed in many countries along with her students.

    Akhila, in the current programme performed along with few young students of Kala Sindhu. She had chosen "Dasa Marga", based on devaranamas of different Haridasas. After performing few padas in the format of Pushpanjali, Alaripu, it was followed by Jathiswara and Shabda in ragamalike (Sharanembe Vani). She crowned her programme with a detailed "Aada Hodalli" in which Kalinga Mardhana, Shakatasura etc. were beautifully performed. She excelled in both nritha and nritya. With her impactful expression and pleasing abhinaya she stole the show.

    -Mysore V Subramanya

    A scene from Agastha,


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    Computer maker Dell Technologies Inc has said that it was considering a public offering of its common stock or a combination with business software maker VMware Inc , its publicly held subsidiary, as it seeks new avenues for growth.

    The worlds largest privately held technology company is under pressure to boost profits after its debt-laden acquisition of data storage provider EMC Corp for $67 billion in 2016 failed to meet its financial targets, hurt by higher component costs and pricing pressures.

    It also faces increased competition in its core hardware businesses - PCs, servers and storage equipment - from cloud-based services provided by Inc, Microsoft Corp and others.

    "As part of our ongoing multi-year strategic planning, Dell Technologies is evaluating a number of potential business opportunities," founder Michael Dell said in a blog post. "We do this from a position of strength, with a desire to grow Dell Technologies and its businesses even faster and thrive in the very dynamic IT marketplace."

    Reuters had reported that Dell planned to review a possible reverse merger with VMware, as well as other options, including an IPO or asset sales. Sources told Reuters that VMware was likely to form a special committee to consider a combination with Dell.

    Round Rock, Texas-based Dell went private five years ago in a $24.9 billion deal with private equity firm Silver Lake.

    Dell said that nothing had been decided and that the company might end up continuing to operate under its current structure.

    Shares in VMware, which is 82% owned by Dell, were up less than 1% at $126.50 on Thursday.

    VMware said it would not speculate on the outcome of Dells review.

    "The board of directors follows sound corporate governance practices, and will continue to do so in connection with any potential transaction involving our controlling stockholders," VMwares lead director Paul Sagan said in a company statement.

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  • 02/04/18--20:06: Hosting the avian guests
  • Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Ashram in Mysuru could easily boast of the largest Twitter account in the district, in the real sense of the word, as it hosts around 2,200 birds, all from the parrot family.

    The cacophony of chirping birds is at its best in the mornings and can be heard from afar when the macaws, parakeets, lorikeets and cockatoos, in a riot of colours, herald the dawn with their coos, caws and croaks. This ashram has an aviary, Shuka Vana, which houses birds from various parts of the world and cares for the injured ones.

    Aviary in ashram

    This ashram has been attracting a stream of visitors, mainly nature lovers and school kids, in the recent years. Spread over 35 acres, it has been hosting around hundreds of species of these colourful birds in a 60-foot-high aviary made of a meshed enclosure, allowing flight for these exotic birds. The aviary was conceived a few years ago when someone brought a pair of injured macaws to Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swami, the founder pontiff of the ashram.

    A nature enthusiast, he designated some space in his ashram to care for these injured birds. Soon, devotees of the ashram from around the world began to gift exotic birds. The numbers grew to hundreds and within no time the aviary had over 2,000 of them.

    The aviary was named Shuka Vana, which translates into parrot park in Kannada. Parrots are mostly found in temperate regions of the world. India has only a few species of parrots, the larger and more colourful ones are found in Latin America and the Australasian region. They generally have a lifespan ranging from 25-50 years. However, the Major Mitchells cockatoo could survive up to 75 years. They have a salmon-pink plumage and are from Australia. The aviary has a pair of these.

    It also has a pair of military macaws that grow up to 70 cm. The scarlet macaw is, however, the cynosure of all eyes in the ashram. Sporting bright red, blue and yellow colours, the bird could measure up to 90 cm, a major portion of it being the tail.

    Bird-keepers point out that the Congo African grey parrots are the most intelligent among the birds in the ashram. With a walnut sized brain, they can mimic the human voice or other sounds instantaneously. Gifted with a long and stout beak, channel-billed toucans could measure up to 48 cm, a fourth of it being the beak itself. One of these birds in the aviary is currently under veterinary care.

    Protecting the birds

    The blue-winged macaws, which are known to live up to 50 years, are black-billed and have a red or yellow-feathered underside. They are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list of endangered species. And, the galah cockatoo, gifted by an Australian visitor is an extremely friendly bird. The bird-keeper informs that they can live up to 70 years in the captivity with the provision of a good diet.

    A few palm cockatoos too regale the visitors with their fan palm plumage and strong beak that can break thick sticks from live trees and splice them into thin strands to line its nest. They can even split palm fruits. The bird, which can weigh up to 1,200 grams, is said to be the largest bird of Australia. Besides those in the cages, a few sit in the central pavilion for a photo opportunity for bird lovers and visitors.

    The aviary was mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records last year for hosting such a large number and variety of birds. The rehabilitation centre of the aviary generally has 30-40 of these birds under care. According to Dr Dasari Srilakshmi, the veterinarian at the unit, new birds are quarantined upon arrival for a few weeks to get them used to the new place.

    The unit has a few blind birds which are cared for. Feather-picking birds are also treated here, by fitting a small plastic disk to their necks. Thereby, preventing their beaks from reaching the feathers. The facility is equipped with an X-ray machine, diagnostic and DNA lab and other equipment that an ideal vet-care unit would require. It also has an isolation room for birds with infectious ailments.

    For food, the birds in the aviary are treated with a sumptuous spread of nuts, fruits, berries and sweet corn. These birds are also released from their cages for a designated period for some flying and exercise during the day. Curiously, most of them return to their cages by themselves. The ones found to have lost their way, are led back to their perches by the staff.

    The fact that one gets to see the bewildering diversity of parrots in one place, triggers the spirit of exploring nature among young visitors. No wonder, the aviary has emerged as an education centre for students and nature enthusiasts.

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    Karwar, on the Konkan coast, is an idyllic town with a blissful blend of the sea, sand and sunshine. Caressed by River Kali on one side, the waves of the expansive Arabian sea on the other, and bordered by hills covered with greenery projecting onto the bay, the Rabindranath Tagore beach is a picturesque bounty of nature. It is said that Tagore was inspired by the beauty and serenity of this beach, so much so that the place grew on him, prompting him to pen his first poems while staying with his brother in Karwar.

    On this beautiful beach rests the famous warship INS Chapal - renowned as the valiant hero of the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war. This ship has been converted into a museum - a befitting memorial. What makes this museum unique is that, it is one of the three ship museums in India. The other two are located in Essel World (INS Prabal) in Mumbai and on the Ramakrishna Mission Beach in Vishakhapatnam (INS Kurusura).

    At its peak

    INS Chapal, the Russian-made small missile ship, that has a weight of 245 tonnes and length of 38 metres, played a significant role in the 1971 Indo-Pak war, paving the way for Indias victory. The crew of this ship were awarded two Param Veer Chakras and eight Veer Chakras for their gallantry. INS Chapal was decommissioned in 2005, after serving the Indian Navy for over three decades. Its last post was decided as Karwar beach where it now stands as a warship museum. The ship is fixed on to a concrete base so as to avoid damage when the waves engulf the beach during the monsoon months.

    An arched gate with the signage, Warship Museum, stands on the roadside at the entrance of the museum, through which one reaches a beautiful garden laid out around the ship. On the deck of the ship, there are four missile launchers, two in the front and two at the back. The direction radar projects onto the sky. It is said that these guns had the capacity to fire 3,000 rounds per minute within a 4 km range.

    Information galore

    Below the deck, there is the captains control room, the engine room, small cabins for the crew, kitchen, dining room and washrooms, all kept intact. An interesting feature here is the installation of life-like wax models on various parts of the ship. These figures are depicted in action.

    The captain, in full uniform, is standing in the control room, looking out to the sea. A sailor is shown driving the ship. On both sides of the deck, in the ammunition rooms, fighter sailors are loading missiles into the launchers. A statue of an officer having breakfast is placed in the dining room. Adjacent to that is a small kitchen, with life-size statues of cooks. In the two cabins meant for the crew, sailors are sleeping. All these provide an actual feel of the warship to the visitors. The whole interior is air-conditioned and well-lit. Signboards and photographs of the ship in action during its service days provide detailed information about each section.

    In a room below the deck, the visitors can watch a 20-minute audio-visual presentation of an informative documentary on Indias naval history along with the scenes of launching missile attacks. This room also displays photographs depicting various warships owned and used by the Indian Navy. The museum provides detailed information to the visitors on sea warfare and operations related to it.

    During long weekends, festival holidays and vacations, a large number of tourists visit this museum. Suffice to say that a visit to this Warship Museum is like taking a stroll down history to experience the glory of the retired war hero. The museum is open on all days from 10 am to 1 pm and 4. 30 pm to 6 pm.

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  • 02/04/18--20:44: Stories depicted on walls
  • It is common to see murals that embellish walls and ceilings in many religious and heritage structures in the State. Most of these paintings are spiritual in nature, depicting gods and goddesses, and incidents from the epics and other religious texts. Some also show the life and times of various rulers.

    Temples in Karnataka fall chiefly into three groups - architecturally prominent, sculpturally significant, and those famous for murals. Though not much discussed like the other two, murals enhance the aesthetic beauty of palaces and places of worship. They were largely employed to add charm to the structure and to highlight the architectural details.

    Painted shelters

    The earliest forms of painting were found in caves and rocks. Some of them can be seen in Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal and Hampi. There are more than a dozen sites of interesting painted shelters in this area alone. The peculiar drawings and unusual geometrical designs, it is said, date back to the Mesolithic period or even earlier. They are mostly depictions of animals, humans, hunting, group dance etc., which provide insights into the life of ancient people and their culture. Mineral colours like red, green or white have been used to execute them, red being the most common hue.

    In an edition of Mysore Gazetteer, published over eight decades ago, author C Hayavadana Rao has devoted a special chapter to the murals found in Princely Mysore. "In what has been left of the paintings in the temples of the early period, there is evidence of the careful study of nature, of animal life and human emotion," he writes, referring to the paintings in the temples of Princely Mysore.

    Elaborate decorations of different colours were employed in the Rangamantapas. Some parts of the paintings were gilded to boost their charm. These paintings were taken care of and redone whenever necessary. Folk designs were also used.

    Chitrakaras were permanently employed by the rulers and noblemen for this purpose. Names of such expert artisans and their expertise are mentioned in the historical records. The images that were produced by the chitrakaras of the period were called chitrabhasa as they resembled chitra, a natural image.

    Examples of elaborate fresco work can still be found in structures in the Mysuru region. The prominent ones being Dariya Daulat, Prasanna Krishnaswamy Temple, Varahaswamy Temple, Jaganmohan Palace and Mysore Palace. Partial colour may be observed in the ceilings of some Hoysala temples, particularly in the Bhuvaneshwaris.

    Hayavadana Raos list of structures that were known for their murals include Siddalingeshwara Temple in Kunigal taluk, Vailappa Temple in Gubbi taluk, Padmavathi Temple in Chikkamagaluru district, Someshwara Temple in Magadi, Divyalingeshwara Temple in Chamarajanagar district, Chamaraja Wadiyar Janma Mantapa in Chamarajanagar, Mallikarjuna Temple in Mudukuthore and Manteswamy Matha in Mandya district. Similarly, there were murals in North Karnataka in places like Nippani, Naragunda, Raichur and Ballari. Brilliant wall paintings decorated the Rajawades in Nippani and Naragunda.

    The earliest murals found in the caves of Badami were executed in the 6th century under the early western Chalukya kings, who held sway over the region. Buddhist influences are traced in these fragments of paintings that are still surviving. From an inscription there, one can understand that these kings continued the decorative tradition of Ajanta paintings. One of the large panels reveals a palace scene showing the performance of dance and music, while another one reveals a court scene. There are two other fragments of panels as well.

    The next big works seen are from the Vijayanagar period. An excellent example of the Vijayanagar art can be seen in the famed Virupaksha Temple in Hampi. The ceiling of the Virupaksha Mantapa reveals a series of fabulous paintings. The masterpiece among them is the one representing the long procession of Sri Vidyaranya. Another interesting mural is that of the wedding ceremony of Rama and Sita.

    The Vijayanagar style of painting is spread over the old Mysuru region and is found in fragments in temples. Divyalingeshwara Temple at Haradanahalli in Chamarajanagar district is illustrated with paintings on the inside walls and on the ceilings of the sanctum sanctorum, depicting Shiva Puranas. These paintings are said to be at least 200 years old. The ceilings of the mukha-mantapa in Terumalleshwara Temple in Hiriyur are painted with scenes from the Shiva Purana and the Ramayana.

    After the Vijayanagar rulers, credit should go to Krishnaraja Wadiyar III for embellishing temples in his kingdom. Besides having his own palace richly decorated, he got works executed in many temples.

    Mallikarjunaswamy Temple in Mudukuthore stands atop a 200-foot high Somagiri hillock on the banks of River Cauvery. The mantapa in the spacious enclosure, said to have been built over 150 years ago, was known as Chitra Mantapa on account of the paintings on its walls. These paintings depict scenes from the Shiva Puranas. Sibi Narasimha Temple in Sira taluk is adorned with paintings of the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Dashavatara and Krishna Leela. They continue to be the main attraction of the temple in spite of their erosion over time. Care is being taken to regularly restore and maintain whatever left of the frescoes.

    The paintings are in the same artistic pattern of Dariya Daulat, the palace of Tipu Sultan in Srirangapatna. They are in three rows, the first row depicting Krishna Leela, the second row showing a scene from the royal court of Krishnaraja Wadiyar III, and the third row is a scene from the court of Hyder Ali Khan and Tipu Sultan. The ceiling of the main entrance is adorned with the images of Lord Krishna playing on the flute, and Tipu Sultan fighting a tiger, horses and elephants.

    The Jain Math in Shravanabelagola has beautiful murals as well. Its walls are decorated with paintings showing mostly scenes from the lives of some Jinas and Jain kings. The panels have frescoes representing the Dasara Durbar of Krishnaraja Wadiyar III, figures of Pancha-Parameshtis, Neminatha with his Yaksha and Yakshi, and a figure of the Guru of the Math with his disciples. The north wall illustrates Parshvanathas Samavasarana, and on the south wall, scenes from the life of King Bharata. Panels also reveal scenes from the life of the Jain prince, Nagakumara.

    Distinct motifs

    The Golden Temple in Bylakuppe is a recent Buddhist structure. It is decorated with intricate works of Buddhist themes. In many Muslim prayer halls and dargahs, we can see beautifully drawn creepers, flowers and flower vases. One example is the famous Tipus Palace in Bengaluru. Similarly, in most of the churches, we come across beautiful paintings on window glasses, walls and ceilings.

    Unfortunately, many of the murals are lost to posterity today. Failure to maintain and restore them in time has resulted in their peeling off and gradual fading away. Even if they are found, they are, in most cases, either in poor condition or in fragments. The lack of awareness about the value of such old murals, executed with meticulous care and devotion, either on the walls or on the ceilings, during various periods of history, has resulted in obliterating them, most often with a fresh coat of paint.

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    The celebrations of Mahamastakabhisheka will begin from February 7, 2018 in Shravanabelagola with the initiation of Panchkalyanak Mahotsav, the celebration of the five stages in the life of a tirthankara.

    During the event, consecration of the new idol is done at the hands of the Pratishthacharya, who is well-versed with the traditions. Religious authorities known as Bhattarakas (or acharyas) also lead the consecration. Although the ceremony celebrates the five stages of the life of a tirthankara, the whole celebration can last anywhere from three to 15 days. Each day, a particular aspect is chosen. The beginning of the celebrations is marked by using holy water carried in the kalashas. These kalashas are carried in a procession to the temple.

    The acharya then purifies the place with holy water and begins the function. A flag is also hoisted. In Karnataka, Panchkalyanak Mahotsav is celebrated with much aplomb. A stage is erected for this purpose. All the key characters in the life of the tirthankaras are enacted by common people.

    At times, people bid to get a chance to enact certain roles and the amount
    accrued is utilised for development purposes. The characters wear suitable costumes and the whole scene is played out for the audience. It is a joyous occasion to see the events unfolding on stage. The scenes depicting the mother of the tirthankara having auspicious dreams is a treat to watch. Young girls hold placards depicting the 14 dreams.

    The birth is celebrated by decorating the cradle. The Rajyabhisheka of the tirthankara is an event that symbolises his success in the world before renouncing it. The event is marked by a procession on elephants and horses. On these occasions, the acharyas and munis hold discourses. While these events help bring the members of the community together, they also spread the significance of the life and works of the tirthankaras in the young minds.

    It is believed that all the 24 tirthankaras exemplified similar traits, not only during heir lifetime, but also before their birth, when their mothers had the same 14 dreams that indicated that the baby to be born would change the course of humankind for the better.

    The five stages in a tirthankaras life include:

    n Garbha Kalyanak: The phase when the soul of a tirthankara leaves the past birth and enters the mothers womb.

    n Janma Kalyanak: The event of his birth.

    n Diksha Kalyanak: The event when he accepts monkhood.

    n Kevalgyan Kalyanak: The event when the tirthankara attains omniscience
    (keval gyan).

    n Moksha Kalyanak: When the tirthankara leaves the mortal body and attains salvation.

    The Panchkalyanak Mahotsav is conducted whenever a new Jain temple or basadi is built, and even in old ones where a new idol has been placed. However, once in every 12 years, a Laghu Panchkalyanak is organised in all basadis.

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    While some people show concern about rivers getting dry within months after the monsoon season, some just blame it on various factors. Rare are people who dont limit themselves to such blame games, but work towards improving the situation. One such effort was made in Hosangadi village in Dakshina Kannada district. A group of people comprising students, villagers and members of Rotary Club joined hands to build a mini check dam, locally known as katta, across River Phalguni. The idea of building a katta occurred to Hariprasad, a member of Hosangadi Gram Panchayat. "Earlier it was common to build kattas across streams and rivers in the coastal region. While they retained water in the river basin, they also helped enhance water level. Gradually, this practice disappeared due to the easy availability of water. As a result, our wells would also dry soon after the monsoons," he says.

    Rotary Club in Moodbidri decided to collaborate when the members heard about the plan. Similarly, students of NSM Polytechnic came forward as volunteers. The check dam was built using sandbags (gravel and sand filled in plastic bags) and soil. The team could build a 70-metre long katta in just one day. The work has started yielding results with water getting stored at some points in the river.

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    In his 1959 lecture titled Theres plenty of room at the bottom, Richard Feynman envisioned the possibilities of manipulating and controlling things on a small scale. Today, controlled manipulation of nanoscale objects, whose sizes are about a billionth of a metre, is a vast area of research. Manipulation of such nanoparticles requires trapping forces that can be focused and translated precisely. In a recent study, researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, have designed a novel approach to trap and manoeuvre objects as small as 100 nm.

    Mobile nanotweezers

    A major problem faced with conventional trapping techniques is their inability to hold extremely small sized objects, also called cargo. Imagine picking up grains of salt using only a pair of needles! What makes it tough is that the force required to capture a particle reduces as its size decreases. So far, plasmonic tweezers - nanosized tweezers made up of noble metals - are used to trap such small-sized cargo. When illuminated by light, these tweezers create a strong electromagnetic field around themselves that can attract and trap nanoparticles that are close. However, plasmonic tweezers have a limitation. With a limited range of influence and being fixed in space, these tweezers can only capture nanoparticles in their vicinity. Hence, they are inefficient. "So, it is necessary to design a technique that has the efficiency of a traditional plasmonic tweezer but, at the same time, is manoeuvrable," says Souvik Ghosh, a co-author of this study.

    In this study, which was published in the journal Science Robotics, Souvik, along with Professor Ambarish Ghosh from Centre for Nanoscience and Engineering, IISc, have designed a new class of nanotweezers, that combines plasmonic tweezers with micro robots to design mobile nanotweezers (MNTs) that bring together the best of both world. These nanotweezers can be driven to the target objects with precise control to capture, transport and release small sized cargo made of various materials with high speed and efficiency. "Microbots can carry or push objects very quickly, but do not work well for sub-micron objects. By combining the functions of these two technologies, we can not only trap but move very small objects very quickly," adds Souvik.

    The design of these MNTs are inspired by microorganisms. Akin to a bacterium that moves by rotating its helical flagellum, these ferromagnetic, helical nanostructures can be moved by a uniform, rotating magnetic field, which moves and rotates along the direction of the magnetic field. By controlling the magnetic field, the motion of the nanotweezers can be controlled. The researchers have designed two similar MNTs made of silicon dioxide. Silver and iron, combined with the nanostructures, provide plasmonic properties and magnetic properties. While the first design contains silver nanoparticles distributed across its surface, alternating layers of silver and iron are combined within the structure of the second.

    The researchers tested the two designs in a fluid chamber containing some cargo particles. They magnetically steered the nanotweezers towards the cargo and when the chamber was illuminated, they observed that the nanotweezer trapped the cargo which was subsequently manoeuvred and released by decreasing the illumination intensity. "The first design works very well for particles that accumulate near hot places like silica particles, while the second is very general and does not care whether the particles like heat or not. For a general application, the second design is preferred," says Souvik. In addition, the researchers observed that when two particles of different sizes are present in the cargo, by decreasing the illumination, the smaller particle can be released, whereas increasing the frequency of the rotating magnetic field would release the larger particle. This unique sorting behaviour allows the transport of nanoparticles of different sizes by simply varying the two influences.

    The researchers also tested their devices beyond plastic and glass particles. They successfully trapped and transported Staphylococcus aureus bacteria and subsequently released it by turning the illumination off. Illumination intensities required by these nanotweezers are almost two orders lower than that can damage living bacteria. Also fluorescent nanodiamonds, an excellent candidate for quantum sensing, was manoeuvred using the MNTs. "From being able to carry live bacteria to placing very small objects like nanodiamonds at specific positions on a device, their applications could range from biomedicine to quantum technologies and more," signs off Ambarish.

    (The author is with Gubbi Labs, a
    Bengaluru-based research collective)

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  • 02/04/18--21:26: How the brittlestars 'see'
  • Seeing doesnt always take eyes. The brittlestar Ophiocoma wendtii, a relative of starfish, can scan the seafloor, thanks to light-sensitive cells scattered across its skin, rather than by using eyelike structures, a study suggests. The research, published last month in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B1, upends a long-standing hypothesis about how Ophiocoma sees its surroundings.

    Although it has no brain, this reef-dwelling animal - consisting of five arms joined to a central disk - can detect light and move away from it. Ophiocomas skeleton, which is draped in a thin layer of skin, is covered in beadlike crystal structures, which scientists thought worked together as a big compound eye. By focusing light onto nerve bundles that researchers thought ran below these microlenses, the arrangement would allow the animal to form an image.

    But when a team of evolutionary biologists took a closer look at the brittlestars skeleton, they realised that the tiny crystal structures probably had nothing to do with vision. The latest study offers striking evidence that contradicts this previous interpretation, says zoologist Gordon Hendler of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, USA, one of the first scientists to come up with the idea of a compound eye in Ophiocoma. "Its a good example of how nature surprises us," adds Todd Oakley, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, USA, who wasnt involved in the research. "Sometimes, the closer we look, the more unexpected things we find."

    Skin deep

    The researchers first confirmed that Ophiocoma could respond to visual cues. "Not only do they move away from light, but they can pick out a dark shade at a distance of about 40 cm and move towards it very rapidly," says neurobiologist Lauren Sumner-Rooney at the University of Oxford, UK, who led the study.

    When the team peered into the brittlestars body, they saw that the nerve bundles ran between, rather than below, the crystal structures - contrary to what they expected. Because of the crystal structures location, its unlikely that they can focus light onto the nerves, as previously thought, Lauren says.

    Whats more, the researchers spotted plenty of cells packed with light-sensitive molecules in the skin covering the skeleton of the brittlestars arms, but no such cells at the base of the skeletal crystal structures. Because these light-sensitive cells are in close contact with nerve bundles, they might be the ones responsible for detecting visual cues and sending the signal along the nerves, Lauren says.

    Exactly how the nerves produce a response, such as moving an arm away from light, is still unclear, says Elizabeth Clark, an evolutionary biologist at Yale University, USA. A larger question is whether the brittlestars can resolve shapes. The researchers are conducting ongoing experiments that suggest they can, similar to animals equipped with eyes, Lauren says.

    Look, no eyes!

    "Theres a growing understanding that the ability to see without eyes or eyelike structures, called extraocular photoreception, is more widespread than we thought," says Julia Sigwart, an evolutionary biologist at Queens University Belfast, UK, and a study co-author. Many animals, including sea urchins and some small crustaceans, use this mechanism to sense their surroundings. Brittlestars are just the latest addition to the list.

    "Sensing the environment and responding to a stimulus without having to wait for that signal to go all the way to the brain can save a lot of time," Julia says. And the idea could inspire the development of robots and image-recognition technology that dont rely on a central control system, she adds.

    As for the crystal structures that researchers thought acted as microlenses, "theyre just part of the skeleton," Julia says. Their transparency and ability to focus light is "completely coincidental," she adds. But Gordon disagrees. "They could still conduct light into the skeleton," he says. "Im not ruling out the possibility that they have some optical function."

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    Clipped wings, dried pools of blood, a scattered pile of feathers. What used to be this birds neck - the white stalk that boasts an inflated gular pouch during a males mating display - is now reduced to a bone sticking out between a sliced head and torso. This is all that was left of the regal bird that is the ambassador of our grasslands, one scorching summer in the Thar desert, under a high-tension power line. This crime scene is of one critically endangered bird, the Great Indian Bustard (GIB), whose global population hovers at around the hundreds.

    The culprit yet again is the 220kV power line it flew into in the Khetolai village of Rajasthans Pokhran district, in December 2017. This events occurrence in the last week of 2017 reflects the birds fate and foreshadows its future: in the past decade, nine GIBs have been found dead due to collision with power lines. Dont let the single digit take away from its bearing, for it represents the wiping out of close to 9% of its global population.

    Looking at the data

    The Thar desert is a battleground for the GIB, which is also its last refuge. Its skies have armies of high-tension power lines criss-crossing through the aerial corridors of the birds habitat, closing in on the birds remaining populations. For a low-flying bird with poor frontal vision, the mesh of thin power lines is difficult to spot from a distance, making collision or electrocution all too easy. On the ground, where the bird lays one egg a year and only in grasslands, its offspring have a low survival rate due to the threat of nest predation by feral dogs. A vision for developing the Thar, and increasing accessibility of electricity, water and roads to the remotest corners of the landscape have pushed its flagship species to the brink of extinction.

    Whats great about the Great Indian Bustard? One of the heaviest flying birds of the world, it once roamed far and wide across rural landscapes and grasslands of India. Today, it has been wiped out from 90% of its previous range. A few birds still exist in Gujarats Kutch and Maharashtras agricultural landscapes. The Thar desert grasslands, on the other hand, are home to around 75% of their remaining population. These places are the birds last hope for survival. In the Thar, these birds are largely concentrated in two patches. While one set of the bird lives in less than a third of the 3,162 sq km under Desert National Park, the other set lives in the grasslands of the Indian armys Pokhran field firing range. The area between these ranges is dotted with heavy presence of power lines and wind turbines, further isolating the two populations.

    Deserts and grasslands are unique and thriving ecosystems where hundreds of species of mammals, birds and reptiles have adapted to survive. The Thar too has a unique biogeographic construct: it shows high avifaunal diversity and falls in the migratory flyway of many bird species. It is no surprise, then, that the drastic alteration of the desert and grassland ecosystems over the last decade, in big part due to infrastructural expansions, has come at a massive cost for its wildlife. By 2022, the government aims to reach its renewable energy generation target of 175 GW, of which nearly 160 GW is expected to be met via solar and wind energy. Infrastructure associated with both these forms of green energy now defines the Thar expanses, and has been fatal for its rich avifauna. Can this be called green energy, if it is driving a critically endangered species to extinction?

    An unpublished study on bird mortality due to power lines in the Thar was conducted by Dr Sutirtha Dutta, a wildlife biologist at Wildlife Institute of India (WII), and Mohib Uddin, a Masters student at University of Kota. It was found that for GIBs and other endangered birds, rates of mortality due to collision with high and low-tension power lines were high. For the study, 100 km of power lines in the GIB habitat in Thar were surveyed and carcass detections were carried out in this landscape.

    A total of 98 bird carcasses were detected in one month, including that of two GIBs. Worryingly, the highest number of carcasses found were of the Egyptian vulture and common pigeon. Carcasses of other endangered birds like the white-rumped shama and red-headed vulture were also spotted. Extrapolating this collision rate from 100 km to 3,600 km of power lines in the GIB habitat, it was found that an estimated 18,778 birds are dying due to power lines every month.

    Power line mitigation

    "There are solutions to the power line issue," remarks Dr Sutirtha Dutta, "but the rate of implementation is nowhere near it should be, given the striking urgency of the problem." When WII began highlighting the issue in 2013, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change published the Bustard Recovery Plan which is the central advisory document for GIB conservation planning. In a May 2016 meeting between the Rajasthan Forest Department, the Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation Limited (RREC) and scientists from WII, consensus was reached that no new energy infrastructure would be established in GIB priority habitat.

    It was also agreed that existing power lines will be marked with diverters and that the possibility of undergrounding power lines will be explored. After a pilot installation of 30 diverters, they were to be installed across power lines in the Thar that exist in GIB habitat, by the RREC and associated power companies. "Everything is agreed upon on paper," adds Sutirtha, "but implementation is extremely slow. As of January 2018, after much delay, the pilot diverters have been installed, but it remains to be seen how expeditiously the large-scale installation is done." Down south in Gujarats Kutch in 2017, a bustard radio-tagged by WII flew into a 33kV transmission line, which is associated with wind turbines in Naliya, and died. This turbine is located at nearly one km away from the Lalaâ€"Parjan Sanctuary - the only refuge for GIB in Gujarat. Due to pressure from the Forest Department and conservation organisations, the companies that had installed the power lines agreed to put the electricity line underground.

    There arent many studies in India, but power line mitigation by underground-cabling and usage of diverters has shown positive results for avian populations in other parts of the world. Time is running out for the GIB - some argue that it already has. The question, then, is whether timely, immediate and organised action by all stakeholders will save the bird or if we will silently watch the bustard vanish from its grasslands.

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    For centuries, people have drawn a line between nature and nurture. In the 19th century, English polymath Francis Galton cast nature-versus-nurture in scientific terms. He envisioned a battle between heredity and experience shaping each of us. "When nature and nurture compete for supremacy ... the former proves the stronger," Galton wrote in 1874.

    Today, scientists can do something Galton couldnt imagine: they can track the genes we inherit from our parents. They are gaining clues to how that genetic legacy influences many aspects of our experience, from our risk of developing cancer to our tendency to take up smoking. But determining exactly how any particular variation in DNA shapes the course of our lives is proving far trickier than Galton would have guessed. There is no clean line between nature and nurture: How a particular variant acts, if at all, may depend on your environment.

    A new study published in the journal Science offers a striking new demonstration of this complexity. Genes may help determine how long children stay in school, the researchers found, but some of those genes operate at a distance - by influencing parents. The authors go on to coin a phrase for this effect: genetic nurture. To scientists accustomed to tracing the links between the genes you carry and the traits they govern, its a headspinning idea. A genetic variant may shape you not because it directly influences you, but because it changes those around you, noted Paige Harden, a psychologist at the University of Texas, USA, who co-wrote a commentary on the new study: "Something is happening outside your own skin."

    Long before scientists could easily read DNA, there were clues that genes influenced how many years people stayed in school. Researchers compared identical twins - who have virtually identical DNA - to fraternal twins, and in study after study the educational attainment of identical twins tended to be closer than that of fraternal twins. The recent revolution in DNA sequencing gave researchers a new way to study the link. In 2016, for example, researchers in England surveyed hundreds of thousands of people and linked 74 gene variants to how long the participants stayed in school. Some of those variants were in genes active in the developing brain, perhaps influencing relevant traits - everything from how well people learn new words to how motivated they are by long-term goals.

    Murky connection

    Yet the connection between genes and education remains murky. Each gene variant, on an average, accounts for just a few weeks of the total. And when researchers try to estimate how important these variations are in entire populations, they end up with different figures. Some researchers estimate the proportion at 21%, while others have put it at as high as 40%. Either figure means that a lot of variation cannot be accounted for by genetics. Factors in the environment may explain some of the variation: a familys wealth, for example, or the quality of schools children go to, or their exposure to pollution.

    When the first DNA-based studies of educational attainment came out in 2013, a geneticist named Augustine Kong sifted through the results. Augustine was working at DeCode, a genetics company in Iceland, so he was able to look for some variants in the companys database of Icelandic DNA. Augustine wondered if researchers had missed something important. "It suddenly occurred to me that part of this effect could be coming through the parents," he said. "And then I got obsessed with the idea." Children, after all, get their genes from their parents. It was possible, Augustine reasoned, that genes could influence how far children got through school by influencing their parents behaviour rather than the actions of the children themselves.

    In the new study, Augustine and his colleagues used a new method to measure the influence of genes on education. They didnt inspect individual variants to see if each clearly had an impact; instead, they added up the influence of hundreds of thousands of variants in peoples DNA, even if they had a very weak influence at best. The researchers compared 21,637 Icelanders to their parents. The parents, of course, passed down one copy of each of their genes to their children. Some of these might be related to educational attainment, and some not.

    But Augustine and his colleagues focused their attention on variants carried by parents but not passed to their children. These variants, the researchers found, predicted how long the children stayed in school - even though the children had not inherited them. Any single variant in the parents had a minuscule effect on the childrens education. But combined, the researchers found, the untransmitted genes had a significant impact. Their combined effect was about 30% as big as that of the genes that the children actually inherited.

    "The direct genetic effect is quite a bit smaller than what people thought," said Augustine, who is now a professor at the University of Oxford, UK. How can that be? Augustine speculated that the genes carried by parents influence the environment in which their children grow up. "Variants that have to do with planning with the future could have the biggest effect on nurturing," he said.

    Paige expected that genetic nurture would be a very complex phenomenon. "My intuition is that its not any one thing, but a constellation of things," she said. While Paige and other researchers on human behaviour hailed the study for revealing something new about nature and nurture, researchers who study animals recalled familiar echoes in their own work. "I am not surprised by the findings," said Piter Bijma, who studies livestock at Wageningen University, the Netherlands. "These are to be expected."

    Wealth of evidence

    Piter and other researchers have amassed a wealth of evidence showing that animals are influenced not just by their own genes but by the genes of their parents. Calves may grow quickly thanks to their own growth-promoting genes, or because the same genes in their mothers make them produce more milk. A calf may inherit those milk-boosting variants from its mother. But just because the calf carries them doesnt mean they directly make the calves bigger.

    Compared to other mammals, Piter observed, human children are especially dependent on their parents - not just for food and other essentials, but for social development. So it stands to reason that theyd experience similar effects. "Humans provide substantial care to their offspring, and so the nurture they create is very likely to have a genetic component," Piter said.

    Paige said that taking account of genetic nurture could improve research on the effects of poverty on how children do in school, as well as studies of methods to improve educational attainment. "Its so obvious in retrospect, and so elegant," she said. "A lot of people are going to say, I can see my data in a new light with this."

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  • 02/05/18--22:44: Short films showcased
  • That short films are just as popular as mainstream cinema was emphasised at a panel discussion on short films held in the city recently.

    The event was hosted by Royal Stag Barrel Select Large Short Films. The discussion served as a perfect motivation for budding filmmakers. The panel comprising Sumeet Vyas, Aman Dahiya, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, Padmapriya, Somnath Pal, Ankoosh Bhatt and Puja Gupta, laid emphasis on the freedom short films give them to showcase their innovation and creativity.

    The films that were screened were sharp, original and thought-provoking, with the potential to bring about change. Sharing her perspective, Padmapriya said, "Short films provide more room for creativity and also give a chance for different interpretations to come in. The viewers could interpret the movie in whatever way they want to." She felt that her role in Maya gave her the chance to explore and showcase some complicated emotions. "Films like Maya give an actor the chance to break away from stereotypes and get the audience thinking about some serious issues," she added.

    The films that were screened were Camouflage by Aman Dahiya, starring Purab Kohli and Sumeet Vyas; Sparsh by Ankoosh Bhatt starring Puja Gupta; Death of a father by Somnath Pal and Maya by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, starring Padmapriya. Camouflage by Aman Dahiya aims to show that war is a never-ending process and how true patriots can have an open debate about war, without it turning into a matter of national pride.
    Sparsh by Ankoosh Bhatt is the story of four strangers and a series of events which brings them together. It shows how each one of us lives and dies with our own prejudices.

    Death of a father by Chaitanya Tamhane gives an insight into the life of a young boy who tries to take charge of the situation post his fathers demise and Maya by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, starring Padmapriya, is a unique love story where the boy is in love while the girl is ignorant of his feelings.

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  • 02/05/18--22:44: 'I wanted to come back'
  • Dipankar Roy, who hails from Silchar, Assam came to the city searching for better job opportunities.

    He now works as an associate manager with Accenture Solution Pvt Ltd and lives here with his wife Rajyashree and daughter Divyakshi.

    Though the couple did their schooling and graduation in Assam, they were able to adapt to Bengalurus culture easily.

    Dipankar was working in Kolkata before he moved to the city. "Better job prospects brought me here. The culture, growing cosmopolitan crowd and the acceptance will make anyone feel welcome here," says Dipankar.

    The couple met through common friends back home. They also find Bengalureans easy to get along with.

    "Back home, everyone knows everyone. Here, although people may not know each other, they still reach out whenever needed," says Rajyashree, who is a businesswoman. Even before marriage, she had worked here but moved back to Assam.

    "I always knew that I wanted to come back. Everybody loves to move to a bigger city as it provides better opportunities. This was one of my favourite cities," she adds.

    Sparing minor incidents, the couple have only good memories about the city to share.

    Rajyashree says, "Once, I was waiting for an auto at BTM Layout and the auto drivers were charging me double the fare to take me to my destination. However, one driver offered to drop me at whatever I was willing to pay. I was pleasantly surprised by this behaviour," she says.

    "People here are generally humble and trustworthy which makes you respond the same way," she says.

    She is also of the opinion that the city moves at a fast pace. "Back home, everything is done in a relaxed manner unlike here. People are focused in their work and commitments," adds Rajyashree.

    "Compared to cities like Delhi, people are more respectful, kind and encouraging here," adds Dipankar.

    "Though I can converse only in broken Kannada, I find people here very tolerant of my language skills and keep encouraging me. When people around me hear me speak broken Kannada, they correct me with a smile and ask me to keep learning," he says.

    The Roy family has not only adjusted to the city but also its food habits. "Though we eat out often at restaurants like Esplanade and Oh! Calcutta, we also visit South Indian restaurants," says Dipankar.

    Rajyashree and Divyakshi also eats at 99 Varieties of Dosa carts. "We love dosa and its varied combinations," she adds.

    Apart from regular visits to malls, the family also goes to Mysuru and the Bannerghatta National Park during the weekend or when they get a holiday.

    "While the traffic here is really annoying, the people and the culture will keep us here forever," says Dipankar.

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  • 02/05/18--22:46: 'I am an inquisitive person'
  • While actor Ashika Somashekar is awaiting the shoot of the Curious Cases of Yedebadita to resume, she has been listening to different scripts and planning her career ahead.

    Excited to be a part of the exciting venture by actor-director Ashwin Rao Pallakki, Ashika believes that it will be a big stepping stone for her.

    In a candid chat with Tini Sara Anien, she talks about the film and more.

    Whats on your mind now?

    I feel great and more confident as an actor. I know how to face the camera and I know a lot more about the technicalities of camera work now.

    Youre a theatre artiste. How different was it to act in movies?

    It is a different ballgame. You have to exaggerate expressions a lot more in theatre as you are performing for a close crowd in a small space. In movies, there are a lot of people watching you and the camera picks up the most subtlest expressions. The intonations and the expressions are all different in both fields. The good part about films is that you get a retake.

    Which do you find more thrilling?

    I am in love with both these platforms. Theatre taught me a lot about acting. I love acting and I always wanted to act in movies, so films are a dream come true. At the moment I am more excited that I am being featured on camera but theatre has its own thrills.

    Tell us about your role.

    I play Sangeetha, a village belle. It was a challenging character as she was nothing like I am. I am a talkative person while she is a subtle and shy girl. Its important to get into the skin of a character. Though I am nothing like Sangeetha, as soon as I slipped into her character, I was her.

    Did you face any difficulties while being Sangeetha?

    Everything new can be challenging. I got so involved in the character that I stopped talking
    to everyone and didnt even call my parents for a while. Language was not a problem but I had to be sober.

    How was it to work with fresh talent?

    While some people on the sets had already acted in a film or two, everyone in Curious.... including Ashwin approached the subject with a fresh perspective. They were a happy lot to work with. I am cast against Shankar who was Sankoch in Kirik Party. I am an inquisitive person; I would ask a
    lot of questions on the sets about the camera etc.

    What about Curious Cases of Yedebadita will be exciting for the audience?

    The movie is all about love. Who cannot relate to love? The movie has the curious element in it while showing four different stories which
    will connect to the viewers.

    Your next film will be...

    I will be seen in Peter Rajesh Joachims film later this year which also has a romantic subject. Ive also been listening to other scripts and I am hoping that 2018 will turn out to be an exciting one.

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  • 02/05/18--22:46: 'I don't want money or fame'
  • Balraj is an actor-turned-anchor who is known for his witty humour and spontaneous one-liners. He has been impressing celebrities and television audience with the show Entertainment Ki Raat.

    Its probably his natural flair for comedy that manages to tickle the funny bones of even the most serious of celebrities. He spoke to Anila Kurian about what its like to be a celebrity host.

    Did you always want to be part of the entertainment industry?

    Not at all! I wanted to become an IPS or someone in the law. But due to some financial conditions at home, I had to drop my studies and find a job.

    Did you ever complete your graduation?

    I did after a while and I took part in many extra circular activities at the time. Eventually, I realised that the industry has an eye for standup comedians and thats when the show The Great Indian Laughter Challenge took place. Long story short, I am a television host who makes people laugh.

    Was it easy for you to find a job here?

    Unlike many others who joined the industry, I didnt have any contacts. I just happened to know Kapil Sharma and a few others like him when I moved to Mumbai. I just hung around with them and six years later, I was recognised.

    What are some of the shows youre working on?

    Im the host of Colors TVs Entertainment Ki Raat. I also have a Bollywood film which Ive signed up for. But apart from that, I dont have anything else in the pipeline.

    You host many celebrities on the show. Do you find it difficult to make them laugh?

    There have been cases where I have to do a homework to understand the humour the guests likes. I do take a risk with few others but thankfully none of them has backfired. I mean, who else will ask Salman Khan what he likes to do on karvachauth (laughs)

    What are some of the things you want to accomplish in the industry?

    I dont want money or fame. I just want to work hard enough and entertain the audience. I know that I have succeeded when people will want to watch my own show just because I am in it and not what I am doing.

    Are you coming to Bengaluru anytime soon?

    I have been there a couple of times and I really like the buildings here. The traffic is quite bad though. Having said that, if there is an event that someone wants me to host, Id be happy to be drop by!

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    Manvitha Harish never dreamt of becoming an actor. She began her career as a radio jockey but things changed almost overnight when she got chosen to play the lead in Kannada movie Kendasampige a while ago. The young actor has since been noticed for her style and her ability to play nuanced characters with ease. With no godfather to lead her on, Manvitha has been taking it one step at a time and admits the results have surprised her. She recently appeared in Kanaka and has played the lead opposite Shivarajkumar in Tagaru which she calls a great learning experience. In an interview with Nina C George, Manvitha, talks about the experience of working in Tagaru and more.

    What made you accept Tagaru?

    Its not a run-of-the-mill story. The film has a stylish feel and finish to it. I liked the way every character been designed to perfectly complement each other. More than concentrating on the commercial aspect, the director has made the film with a lot of passion and commitment. This is what sets it apart.

    Whats your role?

    Shivarajkumar encounters many people en route his journey. And I play an integral part of that journey. Its a performance-oriented character and I liked it that I had more to do than just stand there and look pretty.

    What defines your character?

    The free-spirited nature of the character impressed me. My role is that of an aspiring musician. Music is like a religion for her and she wishes to discover more of the musician in her.

    What preparations went into your role?

    I was asked to workout to look fit and look every bit like my character. Going about achieving that transformation was a challenging experience. The director didnt want to make a regular film, so he lent me a couple of videos and books that were relevant to the film. These helped me get a better grip of my character and the story flow.

    Whats in the pipeline?

    My next project is Relax Satya. There are only three characters in the film and I play one of the them. The powerful narratives and unique screenplay is sure to catch the attention of the audience. It was challenging because there are only three people in the story.

    Any lessons learnt so far?

    I have learnt to talk less and listen more because I dont think people, in general, take very kindly to smart and intelligent heroines. Heroines are expected to look cute and nothing more.

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  • 02/05/18--22:48: Weight loss with raw food
  • Raw food is catching on in Bengaluru. Among those experimenting, some eat raw all through the day, while others include it in some meals. A majority see it as a means to reduce weight.

    Being a food consultant and founder of Arha - Natural Essentials, Neetha Bhoopalam, tries to include the raw food diet in some of the meals during the week. She explains, "The whole idea of raw foods is to consume uncooked and unprocessed foods. Its to preserve the nutrition without adding artificial flavours or additives to it. Its even become a big revolution now since its easy to digest and offers several health benefits."

    You can choose raw organic foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs, sea vegetables, honey and so on. These items are known to provide more dietary fibres, clear your skin, treat constipation, heart diseases and hormonal imbalance.

    However, choosing wrongly produced raw foods can be dangerous. When one chooses to go on a raw food diet, organic vegetables are a better choice as they will be chemical and pesticide-free. If possible, pick them up from your own garden!

    Nutritionist Ryan Fernando from Qua Nutrition suggests that raw food diet is a good way to stay healthy as long as you balance it with the right principles and components of the diet. "The advantage of raw food diets is that it provides the rainbow colours of food which many of us lack otherwise. So, instead of having all your meals with raw foods, maybe a snack or two and a meal a day is ideal," he explains.

    The raw food is known to have helped people lose weight and stay hydrated as the items have higher water content. The high nutrient and protein value is also an added advantage. However, this diet is not recommended for those who have irritable bowel syndrome, piles and haemorrhoids.

    While it may seem like this fad is not too difficult to follow, getting the right ingredients is the main challenge. Ryan says, "Lets take lettuce for example. You pick it up from the market and wash it like you normally would. But doing a final rinse with filtered water is your way of monitoring the cleanliness of it. Whereas, if you are to go to a restaurant and have a salad, most of the fruits and vegetables served are not washed properly. As I have worked in the food industry before, this is something I can point out confidently."

    So how practical is it for one to go on a raw food diet? "Its not impossible but it requires discipline and good planning. You will have to carry a fruit peeler and vegetable knife as the whole point of the diet is to have food that is fresh and not something that is cut into pieces a few hours ago," adds Ryan.

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    His song Tu Mera Bhai Nahi Hai has become an anthem among youngsters. The song from the movie Fukrey Returns took playback singer and entrepreneur Gandhharv Sachdeav to new heights.
    Gandhharv made his debut in the industry with the song Tu Zaroorat Nahi from the film Fuddu. With chartbusters like these, the young singer is climbing the ladder of success.

    In a candid chat with Surupasree Sarmmah, Gandhharv throws light on his journey as a singer and a producer.

    What made you realise that music was your calling?

    From the very beginning, I was inclined towards music. My mother is a national award sitarist and my guru. I learnt Hindustani classical from her and soon realised that music was my calling. I formed a band and also participated in many youth festivals in college but soon realised that I needed to do something big. I have always believed that an artiste should create opportunities and not wait for them. For me, gaining knowledge in music and the business side of it was important.

    Your song Tu Mera Bhai Nahi Hai, became an instant hit. How does it feel to be part of such popular tracks?

    It is a fantastic feeling. I am thankful to Excel Entertainment, Farhan Akhtar, Ritesh Sidhwani and Mrigdeep Singh Lamba (director of Fukrey) for giving me an opportunity like this. Everyone is loving the song and it is so amazing.

    You have also co-produced the movie Fuddu. How was that experience?

    (Laughs) That was an interesting experience too. This world is a mixture of creativity and business, which I am fond of. Being an artiste, I can understand the creative side and being an entrepreneur, the business aspect also makes sense.

    Who are your biggest musical influences?

    A R Rahman tops my list. Pritam Chakraborty, Shankar Ehsaan Loy and Vishal Dadlani are other Indian artistes I look up to. Adele and Bryan Adams are my international favourites.

    What do you do when you are not working?

    I love to travel, read, try new food and meditate. I like to visit different ashrams and explore my inner self. Spiritual space is very important to me.

    You have a close relation with Bengaluru...

    While I was doing my MBA, I had to stay at Manipal University in Bengaluru for six months. I fell in love with the city instantly. The vibe and the culture of this place are amazing. The best part is people are knowledgeable about music and are music lovers in the true sense. I try to visit this place at least once a year. I have many friends here.

    Any moments from your career that you are particularly proud of?

    At present, I am proud of the song Tu Mera Bhai Nahi Hai. It is doing really well. It is loved by the industry and audience. Salman Khan himself loved the song and so did Varun Dhawan. This in itself is a big achievement. The cherry on the cake is the movie also has done great business.

    Whats next for you?

    I am coming up with a single, which is a sad dance song. There is an international celebrity involved, along with Bollywood stars. This apart, there are many singles coming up in movies.

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