Monday, December 7, 2009

Malegaon road naming runs into a dead end

Slain ATS chief Hemant Karkare who probed the 2008 Malegaon blasts

Cops Haven’t Issued NOC To Civic Body

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
The Malegaon Municipal Corporation’s plan to name a road after slain ATS chief Hemant Karkare is pending for a year because the police has not issued a No Objection Certificate (NOC).

The police, in its letter to the civic body, stated that if something (referring to the law and order situation) went wrong, then the corporation would be held responsible.

Residents of the textile town had expressed their wish to name a road after Karkare. The road goes from Bhikku Chowk to Nehru Chowk, the spot where an RDX bomb exploded on September 29, 2008, killing six and injuring 101. Karkare and his team had arrested 11 persons belonging to Abhinav Bharat. The suspects included Indian army’s serving Lt Colonel Prasad Purohit, shankaracharya Swami Dayanand Pandey and sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur.

The proposal to name the road after Karkare was sanctioned by the 72-member corporation, including BJP and Sena corporators, in December 2008.

The then house leader, Rasheed Seth Yeolewale, sent a letter to the police asking for an NOC. However, the police did not respond. “We sent three letters to the police seeking an NOC, but they replied only to the third letter,’’ said Yeolewale. He added that advertisements were placed in Urdu and Marathi newspapers asking for people’s opinion on the proposal. “Not a single person objected to this plan,’’ he added.

The police letter to the corporation stated that this was not their prerogative. “You take your own decision,’’ the letter stated. Yeolewale, however, is not satisfied. “We want a clear answer. We don’t know why they are doing this,’’ he said.

Sanjay Patil, additional superintendent of police, said they did not refuse to issue an NOC.

“We never said we would not issue an NOC. It’s the corporation’s prerogative. If they want to implement this proposal, they can go ahead with it,’’ said Patil.

(The story was printed in The Times of India, Mumbai, on December 7, 2009 edition)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Malegaon films- India Reborn

The local film industry, which started in 1998, has hit the headlines internationally. Youngsters belonging to several play group had this innovative idea and the first film they made was the re-make of India's all time hit, Sholay. The movie was re-made with the budget of merely Rs 40,000 with local accent and raised this town's issues.

The Canada Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) had sent a five-member team led by Jacqueline Corkery recently to Malegaon as part of their project entitled as “India Reborn”. "Malegaon ka Superman", was awarded the Best Documentary at Asiatica film mediale, Italy’s biggest event dedicated to Asian films, towards the end of 2009.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Low-budget film-maker from India flies high with Superman of Malegaon

When Slumdog Millionaire wowed audiences having cost a mere £15 million to make, the film industry's savants foresaw a new era of super-frugal, post-credit crunch cinema.

They did not know the half of it. The latest darling of the festival circuit is a dirt-poor director who learned his trade shooting wedding videos in a backwater Indian town. His latest movie was made for just 0.01 per cent of the budget of Danny Boyle's movie.

When Shaikh Nasir, 33, a shopkeeper with a unshakable passion for cinema, embarked on his first feature film in the industrial hub of Malegaon in 2000, his measly 50,000 rupee (£650) budget meant a bullock cart had to serve as a camera crane and neighborhood tradesmen were roped in to star.

Even the plot was second hand. The film was a spoof remake of Sholay, a hit 1970s Bollywood action adventure — even if Mr Nasir's villain's had to forgo the horses ridden by the original's bandits, to travel by bicycle instead.

The homage, with its Python-esque eye for the ridiculous, delighted local audiences and won the director a cult following, but its DIY appeal never extended beyond the subcontinent.

Now, six super-low-budget films later, it appears that Mr Nasir is finally on the cusp of breaking onto the world stage. His latest project, Malegaon ka Superman (Superman of Malegaon), made for a relatively lavish 100,000 rupees, is winning international acclaim.

Something of Mr Nasir's agreeably ramshackle — if slightly loopy — style is gleaned when he recounts his influences. "I learnt my craft from the English classics," he told The Times. "James Bond, Jackie Chan, Charlie Chaplin, Commando, Rambo." Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that while Malegaon's Superman dons the red and blue of his Hollywood namesake, there the similarity ends.

Mr Nasir's hero is played by Shaikh Shafique, a skinny factory worker who was paid about £1.30 a day in what was his first acting role.

Superman's lycra outfit hangs from his scrawny frame. He wears flip flops over his baggy blue leggings, threads hang from his billowing shorts, and his asthma means he is not always up to fighting his nemesis, a local tobacco baron.

This may not sound like the type of fare worthy of winning gongs, but a documentary, called Supermen of Malegaon, which records the making of the feature film has clinched awards at film festivals in Los Angeles, Prague, Pakistan and Italy.

When Malegaon ka Superman was shown at a festival in Goa this week, international buyers jostled to snap up the rights. Consequently, a worldwide cinema release is — astonishingly — on the cards.

Such a move would put Malegaon, a gritty industrial town previously best known for ugly inter-religious violence, on the world cinema map — a status it surely deserves given the dedication of its hard-pressed film makers.

The region, about 180 miles northeast of Mumbai, is famous in India as the site of a bizarre parallel movie universe. Home-produced spoofs of Bollywood blockbusters made by a handful of budding amateur directors are more popular in Malegaon than the originals they parody.

The appeal of the spoofs, which are shown on VHS tape in local "mini theatres", owes much to the incorporation of local idioms and the escape they offer audiuences from the monotony of 14-hour shifts in local factories, Mr Nasir says. There is also the delight to be had in spotting the neighborhood postman hamming it up as, say, an evil henchman.

The Superman film marks the first time Mr Nasir has sought inspiration from Hollywood, but it remains true to his cottage industry ethos. It may have the biggest budget yet and be the first to be edited on computer. But the production process still rests on improvisation.

Superman is only able to achieve the illusion of flight, for instance, because he is held up horizontally above the heads of three of the crew or rolled along on a plank of wood placed on top of a bicycle.

Now, with Superman proving a triumph, Mr Nasir's fans want to know what source material he will tackle next?

"Malegaon ka Dinosaur" — a remake of Jurassic Park — and "Malegaon ka Rambo" have been mooted as "dream projects". However, a remake of another superhero franchise seems most likely: "Malegaon ka Spiderman". Unless, presumably, Hollywood's lawyers consider that an homage too far.

Low-budget blockbusters

• The low-budget zombie film Colin, which featured at Cannes festival this year, was made for £45. Marc Price, the director, said that the budget was spent on “a crowbar and some tapes”

• Robert Rodriguez raised almost $7,000 to make El Mariachi, his first feature film, by taking part in clinical drug trials. He went on to make blockbusters such as Sin City

• Oren Peli’s film Paranormal Activity cost between $10,000 and $15,000 to make and grossed more than $106 million

Sources:; Times database

From The Times (Times online December 5, 2009)

Friday, October 23, 2009

History made in Malegaon as first imam bags seat

Imam Ismail

Team TOI

Mumbai: The Congress winning Muslim votes notwhithstanding, t e r ro rstruck Malegaon has r e b u f f e d the party’s overtures. In the mill town, Ismail, Deoband-trained chief imam of Jama mosque, has won the seat by 17,000 votes, getting the better of the Congress’s Shaikh Rasheed and five-time MLA and Janata Dal (secular) leader Nihal Ahmed. He contested on a Jan Shakti Sawaraj Party ticket.

This is the first time that a serving imam has won in Maharashtra and that too from Malegaon, which has witnessed a spate of violent incidents. Ismail (46) secured 71,157 votes, while Rasheed won 53,238. Former minister Nihal Ahmed could manage 23,237 votes.

Ismail’s win, say ob
servers, was the consequence of a “change in command’’ in the Muslim-dominated textile town. Malegaon, which has been hit by bomb blasts twice and labelled “communally sensitive’’ after sectarian violence, witnessed an election beyond politics of hatred. “Ismail is a role model and a youth icon. He has made history by not spending any money to win the elections. In fact, he asked for Re 1 as party fund for every vote,’’ said Ishtiyaque Ahmed, a law graduate from Malegaon. He is so popular that even children would donate him Re 1 during his rallies.

Ismail, who has been leading the namaz at Malegaon’s grand mosque, studied at Darool Uloom Deoband in Uttar Pradesh. He was just 28 when he led Eid namaz and since then, he has been conducting the prayers with over 2 lakh namazis. “Ismail formed a third front in Malegaon in 2006 and his party won 28 seats in the 72-member Maleagon civic body,’’ said a resident.

Ismail’s strengths are his
command over people and communication skills. During the 2001 communal riots, it was him who reined in the mob. After the 2006 serial blasts, he went around the town in a police van, appealing for peace. “Ismail dared to tell Congress president Sonia Gandhi that her party did promise several sops to Muslims but they did not expect anything beyond that,” said Masood Ahmed, another resident.

The residents, say observers, were fed up with the poor Congress leadership in Malegaon. “The place was divided over communal and secterian rows. The leaders in Malegaon could not even build a single school, college, hospital or a playground in the past 40 years. However now, people expect development. Ismail’s victory proved that he was the choice of both Hindus and Muslims,” said an observer. Even the senior police officials who earlier worked in Malegaon deemed Ismail’s victory as a “great change’’ in leadership.

The Times of India, October 23, 2009

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sonia inaugurates govt hospital in Malegaon

This 200-bed government hospital was inaugurated in Malegaon by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on June 30, 2009.

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday inaugurated a government hospital in the textile town of Malegaon which had been a longstanding demand of residents.

Sonia promised a civil hospital in 2006 when she visited Malegaon after four serial bomb blasts had killed 31 here. It is the first government-run hospital in this town which has a population of 7 lakh. “We were in trouble because of the blasts the last time I came here. I had then asked the chief minister that there should be a proper government hospital in Malegaon. I am very happy after seeing this 200-bed hospital,’’ Sonia said.

This was Sonia’s first visit to Maharashtra after the UPA came to power at the Centre for the second consecutive time. People of the country have faith in the Congress and it was reflected clearly in last month’s election results, she said.

Malegaon, a 10th-century city located about 300 km from Mumbai, did not have a single government hospital all this while and had to depend only on private hospitals. So, the last time the Congress chief came here, a government hospital ranked top on the list of demands of Malegaon residents.

“Malegaon needs progress. There are more poor people here. Several powerloom weavers and their children have deafness. I have asked the CM to look into the problem and the central government will help the state,’’ she said. But many Malegaon residents, despite appreciating Sonia’s concern, said she had been provided with wrong information and not many in the town were deaf. Around 4 lakh people are dependent on the powerloom industry.

Taking a firm stand on the attack on North Indians in Maharashtra, Sonia said: “Our government will protect all migrants who come to Maharashtra from several parts of the country for their livelihood.’’

Sonia seemed to have the elections on her mind when she gave details on how the Congress was helping the minorities.“Minorities, Dalits, farmers and women have to be given special attention. That was why we constituted the Sachar Committee. Districts with a greater percentage of minorities have been provided with funds and special funds have been released for children,’’ she said, adding that farmers and Dalits were given a Rs 100-crore development fund.

CM Ashok Chavan said that Malegaon will be provided with ‘as much funds as required for development. “Mrs Gandhi has fulfiled her promise of a hospital,’’ said Chavan.

Union health minister Gulam Nabi Azad, who began his speech in Marathi, changed to fluent Urdu after the audience demanded it. All Muslims in Malegaon speak Urdu. “We are working on many projects envisaged by Soniaji under the National Rural Health Scheme,’’ he said. Calling Malegaon “mini-India,’’ Azad said people from Hyderabad, UP, Delhi and Gujarat had migrated to this town for their livelihood and it was one of the best examples of unity and integrity.

Sonia appeared confused while trying to pronounce Malegaon Municipal Corporation mayor Najmuddin Khajoorwale’s name. As the audience laughed, a smiling Sonia said: “Kuchh galat kaha mein ne (Did I say something wrong)?’’ But her honest admission of her mistake was enough for the crowd to forgive her.

The Times of India , July 1, 2009

Friday, February 6, 2009

Malegaon delegation seeks speedy probe

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

MUMBAI: A 30-member delegation from Malegaon, led by textile town's former MLA Nihal Ahmed, on Wednesday met anti-terrorism squad (ATS) chief K P Raghuvanshi and demanded that the investigation into the September 2008 blast case be expedited.

The delegation, comprising representatives of social, religious and political organisations, spoke to Raghuvanshi and additional commissioner Param Bir Singh.

"The number of suspects who were conspiring to fight the constitution could not be limited to a dozen. This seems to be part of a larger conspiracy. The remaining accused should be arrested at the earliest,'' Ahmed said.

Ahmed, who has been pushing for a speedy probe, was invited by the ATS to discuss the issue. "I asked the ATS chief if this case, where the conspiracy is spread over several states, could be handed over to the newly-formed National Investigation Agency. Investigators need to uncover the conspirators who are planning to break the country,'' said Ahmed.

"Several people have been made witness, while some of them have not even given their statements in the case. An army colonel and some people from hard-line organisations are also part of the conspiracy, but no action has been taken against them,'' said Dr Raees, a participant. The delegation also met home minister, Jayant Patil, and reiterated their demand.

Param Bir Singh said, "Our investigation is sincere and transparent."

(The Times of India, Feb 5, 2009)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chargesheet filed in the 2008 Malegaon blast case

A charge sheet was filed against the alleged perpetrators of the Maelgaon bomb blast case on January 21, 2009. The charge sheet named 11 arrested suspects and three wanted accused. The accused were booked under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act. Six persons were killed in the blast in Malegaon on September 29,2008.