Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Study says schools need more information to help ethnic minority students

Schools in Britain should record more information on the languages spoken by pupils from minority communities to better support students who struggle with education, a new study has found.

Researchers from London Metropolitan University said simply recording students' ethnicity was insufficient as Britain becomes ever more diverse.

The team analysed GCSE records from 2007 to 2011, looking at the proportion achieving five good grades (A* to C), including maths and English.

They found in particular that speakers of other languages lagged behind in Yorkshire, Humber and the North West.

The report states: "Overall, many of the widest attainment gaps are present in local authorities with substantial Pakistani ethnic minority groups - for example Peterborough, Oldham, Bedford, Bury, Derby, Sheffield and Calderdale, who tend to speak Urdu, Punjabi or Mirpuri and experience economic disadvantage.

The aim of the study was to identify those ethnic minorities who struggle in education in England and where they are located.

Previous studies have suggested that pupils whose native tongue is not English did better than the national average at GCSE's.

But the researchers found that while this was true in inner London it was not the case in other regions.
They also found that in some regions the data being collected about pupils' first languages and ethnicity was imprecise.

Report author Ayo Mansaray told the BBC: "Britain is becoming more ethnically and linguistically diverse every day, beyond London and urban areas typically associated with multi-ethnic populations.
"But the statistics being collected and the research being done are not keeping up with this diversity."

- UKAsian Staff/Reports

Anurag Kashyap gets India interested...via Cannes

Director Anurag Kashyap is creating waves in India all the way from France.

His latest movie, “Gangs of Wasseypur,” is India’s first mainstream film to be screened in the Director’s Fortnight section at the Cannes Film Festival. The epic follows a feuding family over 60 years in the rural eastern coal district of Dhanbad.

It stars Manoj Bajpayee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Richa Chadda.
Kashyap says being at Cannes has increased interest in his movies in India. He says Indian movies that are not Bollywood are too often “sidelined as very boring and art house, and they don’t often get released “ in his native land.

But he said when “people everywhere are endorsing the film, back home they suddenly take it very seriously.”

Kashyap has another film titled “Peddlers” showing in the festival’s Critic’s Week section.
- Associated Press


"He's old enough to be her dad!"

A friend recently asked what I thought of the song “Chammak Challo Chel Chabeli” from the upcoming movie “Rowdy Rathore.” My unfiltered reaction was something along the lines of “Ugh,” not because of any particulars of the music or choreography but because once again a mainstream Hindi film has given us a jodi in which the man is ridiculously older than his female co-star.

Heroine Sonakshi Sinha will be 25 when the film is released in June, while hero Akshay Kumar will be 45. Ms. Sinha’s debut film, the 2010 smash “Dabangg,” saw her paired with Salman Khan, almost 22 years her senior. Mr. Khan’s last big hits, “Bodyguard” and “Ready” (2011), coupled him with Kareena Kapoor and Asin Thottumkal, who are respectively 15 and 20 years younger than he is.

Last year Ms. Kapoor also starred in “Ra.One” opposite Shah Rukh Khan, who is the same age as Salman Khan. Ms. Thottumkal made her Hindi film debut in “Ghajini” (2008) opposite Aamir Khan, who is also two decades older than she is. The list goes on: Sonam Kapoor with Salman Khan in “Saawariya” (a gap of 20 years), Deepika Padukone with Shah Rukh Khan (21 years), Anuskha Sharma with Shah Rukh Khan (23 years).

All this makes the 10-year age gap between real-life romantic partners Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor seem downright miniscule, doesn’t it?

But enough arithmetic—you get the point. The Hindi film industry isn’t alone in routinely making such lopsided casting decisions. It happens in Hollywood all the time, even in the notable occasions when major stars actually express concern about it, as Cary Grant did about his 25-year gap with Audrey Hepburn in “Charade” half a century ago.

For me, the problem with May-December romantic pairings is not as much what it reflects and proscribes about gender roles — though I do wonder about films’ implicit messages about power dynamics and choice in these relationships (and that’s a question that deserves a much longer investigation than this column has room for) — as it is about the sidelining and downplaying of the talents of women in the film industry.

Male superstars play the hero year after year, but their female colleagues are left with fewer career options as they age. If they get married and have children, they tend to be ineligible for primary heroine roles because they’re viewed as unsuitable for portraying a complicated mix of romance, sex appeal, propriety and naivety.

An article in The Guardian last week used superstar and new mother Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as an example of the conundrum facing many female stars: they’re expected to have children, but they’re also expected to look like fashion models.  Toss stereotypes of wifeliness into the mix, and what’s a young actor to do?

Ignoring these talented women, either by not casting them or by putting them in secondary or tertiary roles, deprives audiences of great performers. I don’t resent men in their mid- and upper forties propelling an industry, but I resent that women don’t seem to have anywhere close to the same chance. Since performers are the people we literally see when we engage with films, this is simply the most visible face of the overall gender discrepancies across the industry: types of roles, work behind the camera, earnings, power and maybe even respect.

It’s the face of a system that rewards certain men who keep on going… and going… but does not provide many opportunities for women to even try.

The way heroes are constructed in films is also a telling component of these extreme age differences. The hero is someone who can save and defend, and maybe it’s easier to maintain the fantasy of a woman needing to be protected if she looks a lot younger. Does the casting simply reflect and reinforce what male-dominated audiences are assumed to want: youth in sexy and submissive permutations? Or maybe it’s just another part of the masala world, like songs that magically teleport characters to Russia or California, inviting us to suspend our disbelief.

My frustration with the actual age gap of actors is somewhat mollified by how seldom the characters are clearly marked as being of significantly different ages. And if the characters seem like a good match and the actors do a good job at creating and enlivening them, the details of their realities remain irrelevant.

To its credit, Bollywood has occasionally addressed the issue of older man/young woman romances head on. In those movies, casting people with big age differences not only makes sense but is called for. Two films from 2007 feature Amitabh Bachchan, perhaps one of just a handful of actors with reliable dignity, in such stories. “Cheeni Kum” depicts the complications in a romance with a 30-year gap played by Bachchan, then 65, and Tabu, then 36.

The poster of “Nishabd” states “He is 60. She is 18” and pictures the smiling lead actors (Bachchan and Jiah Khan, whose real-life 46-year age gap is slightly more than that of the characters). “Anoka Rishta” (1986) saw then-44-year-old Rajesh Khanna as the object of a teenage girl’s affection — and not acting on it, much to the relief of viewers.

I wonder what would inspire the industry to cast more age- and talent-appropriate romantic leads with the male superstars. If the cash registers ring for heroes old enough to be the fathers of their love interests, then surely the pattern will continue and talented women will age past their preserved colleagues from lover to mother, just for having the gall to grow up.

Does a 20-year difference between romantic leads bother you? If so, who would you rather see opposite box-office heavies like Salman and Akshay? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section.
- Beth Watkins


Watkins has been blogging for more than five years at Beth Loves Bollywood. She is an expert on Bollywood history and lore as well as contemporary movies and actors. You can follow Ms. Watkins on Twitter@bethlovesbolly.

South Asian Cinema Foundation to Honour Shyam Benegal

The South Asian Cinema Foundation is set to honour the work of pioneering Indian filmmaker Shyam Benegal with a series of events in London this June.

Benegal is one of the most prolific screenwriters and directors in India and has often been called the father of the Indian New Wave: a genre which sprang up in the 1960's and 70's as an alternative to mainstream Bollywood.

During its heyday in the early 1970's, Benegal spearheaded the movement with such classics as Ankur (1973), Nishant (1975) and Bhumika (1977).

The underlying socio-political themes of his movies prompted Bollywood to demystify its portrayal of India.
Benegal also paved the way for such acting stalwarts as Shabana Azmi, Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah to shine.

Presented by the South Asian Cinema Foundation in association with BFI Southbank and The Nehru Centre, 'Honouring Shyam Benegal' will include screenings of Bhumika and Junoon, a filmmaking masterclass as well as a lecture on the current state of the Indian New Wave.

For more information, visit http://www.southasiancinema.com/interviews.php
- Poonam Joshi

Programme of Events:

Bhumika (The Role), 1977
143 mins. Hindi & Urdu with EST. PG. Dir: Shyam Benegal. With Smita Patil and Amol Palekar
This powerful exploration of the tragic life of a Bombay studio screen actress was a crowning achievement for actress Smita Patil and a career highlight for this notable director. Screen roles of virtue and self-sacrifice conflict with the reality of domestic violence, adultery and despair as actress Usha tries to break free of the constraints of gender and class. Shot on authentic locations, and using montage as well as colour tinting and contrasting film stock, this is emotionally intense, visual storytelling and a rare insight into the history of Indian cinema itself.
Sat 9 June, 13:30, NFT 1

SACF Excellence in Cinema Award to Shyam Benegal
Benegal will discuss his life and work with film historian and SACF Director Lalit Mohan Joshi & Q&A
The South Asian Cinema Foundation, in partnership with the Nehru Centre, will present him with the SACF Excellence in Cinema Award. Benegal and film historian, filmmaker and SACF director Lalit Mohan Joshi will discuss a rich, enduring career, and the conversation will include clips and an opportunity for the director to take questions from the audience.
Sat 9 June, 16:15, NFT 1

Bhumika Masterclass with Shyam Benegal conducted by Rosie Thomas
Attendees will be able to share the director’s view on the making of this masterpiece.  As a counterpoint to critical or academic perspectives, join this masterclass and share a film director's own insight into the making of this major work. Taking a shot-by-shot look at fragments of Bhumika, director Shyam Benegal will reflect on some of the key creative and practical challenges in the production process of this remarkable film. Attendees of the masterclass should be familiar with Bhumika (screening on Sat 9 June) so that they can fully appreciate this session.
Sun 10 June 13:00 NFT3

Junoon (Obsession), 1978
134 mins. Hindi & Urdu with EST. Dir: Shyam Benegal with Shashi Kapoor, Jennifer Kendal, Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, Ismat Chugtai, Nafisa Ali
Junoon means 'obsession' in Hindi and this theme underlies this passionate, sensual and violent story, set against the turbulent period of the so-called 'Sepoy mutiny' of 1857. Often considered as the First War of Independence, it is a period that still resonates in India today. Casting star names include Shashi and wife Jennifer Kapoor (née Kendal).  Benegal has adapted Ruskin Bond's A Flight of Pigeons and developed a tale in which an infatuated Pathan soldier interacts with the women of an assimilated colonial family, dividing loyalties and challenging connections between coloniser and colonised.
Sun 10 June 17:45 NFT2

Shyam Benegal to Release Kaal, a New Novel by Sangeeta Bahadur. (By Invitation only)
Mon 11 June 14:30 House of Lords, Committee Room 1

Phalke Memorial Lecture: “New Indian Cinema Circa 2012” by Shyam Benegal
Mon 11 June 18:30 Nehru Centre
Benegal to open SACF’s Shyam Benegal Exhibition curated by Dr Kusum Pant Joshi with Uttara S. Joshi

US webcam spy student Dharun Ravi jailed

An Indian student in the US who secretly filmed his gay roommate kissing another man has been sentenced to 30 days in prison.

20-year-old Dharun Ravi, an Indian citizen who has lived in New Jersey for most of his life, had posted the video of the encounter on Twitter and Facebook.

Days later, in September 2010, his roommate - 18-year-old Tyler Clementi - killed himself.

The subsequent trial made front-page headlines around the United States and even prompted comment from President Obama.

Ravi had been facing up to 10 years in prison.

Apart from the 30-day sentence, Ravi was placed on three years probation, ordered to complete 300 hours of community service and pay $10,000 to a public organization that helps victims of hate crimes.
The court heard how Ravi - then a student at the prestigious Rutgers University - used a webcam in his dorm room to film Clementi kissing another man.

Prosecutors said the video was viewed about a dozen times by fellow students.
Clementi, they said, had viewed Ravi's Twitter page 38 times in the two days before his death.
As he handed down sentence on Monday, Judge Glenn Berman said he had not heard Ravi apologise once, adding that Clementi's own words - "wildly inappropriate" - best described his actions.

The judge added that he did not believe Ravi had acted out of hate for Clementi, but said he had been guilty of "colossal insensitivity".

- UKAsian