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Cairo’s main souk in the crowded Islamic district, shop owners seek out Indian Tourists with friendly hails of Amitabh Bachchan

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A pyramid in Egypt, VOA

– by Tarun Basu

April 19, 2017: At Khan el Khalili, Cairo’s main souk in the crowded Islamic district, shopowners seek out Indian tourists with friendly hails of Amitabh Bachchan! Shah Rukh Khan! Welcome!! These two actors are by far the most popular Indians in Egypt, a testament to the enormous soft power of Bollywood.

When Bachchan came to Cairo in April 2015 for the Indian Culture Festival, he was mobbed like a rockstar wherever he went. And when he met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, he reportedly remarked in jest that he was so overwhelmed by his fan following in the country he might even think of contesting a presidential election — and perhaps win it!

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With so much goodwill in Egypt for Indians one often wonders why the two countries are not closer partners and why friendship with Egypt is not talked about in India in the same vein as other countries with which New Delhi shares close political, economic and cultural ties.

With the ascent in both countries of two strong leaders, Narendra Modi and Sisi, came a change in the strategic calculus through a series of quick meetings between them — in New York and New Delhi.

The New York meeting, where something evidently clicked between Modi and Sisi, acknowledged historical bonds, found common ground in counter-terrorism cooperation and investment opportunities, and set the ground for future meetings. It was quickly followed by a visit by Sisi to New Delhi for the India Africa Forum Summit and then, within a year, with a state visit where the two leaders talked of working towards robust security cooperation following a major convergence of views on regional and global issues.

India and Egypt shared strong chemistry in the 1950s and 1960s, with close personal and political ties between their independence leaders Jawaharlal Nehru and Gamal Abdel Nasser, founders of the Non-Aligned Movement. But after their deaths, ties slumped with President Hosni Mubarak, who ruled for 40 years, not having the same comfort level with the Indian leadership. Although Mubarak did make a visit to New Delhi in his later years, the turning point in perceptions in many ways came during the short-lived rule of the democratically-elected Muslim Brotherhood and the visit to New Delhi in May 2013 by President Mohammed Morsi.

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Although Morsi was ousted — and arrested — within a month of his return to Cairo, and the visit was criticised by many as ill-timed with New Delhi seen as being a little out of touch with the region’s political realities, the growing importance of India for Egypt was beginning to be realised by its policymakers.

With the Middle East in upheaval and relations with the US looking uncertain, Cairo, that was used to putting all its strategic and economic eggs in the Western and Arab baskets, is looking, like other regional powers, at Asia and, more particularly, China and India. While China is a source of expanding investment in the region, India’s salience as a major economic and geopolitical power has increased in Egyptian eyes after the recent high-level visits and close strategic ties forged by New Delhi with key powers like the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

India has been holding a major multi-city cultural exposition in Egypt, called imaginatively ‘India by the Nile’, bringing in musicians, dancers, artists, street performers, not to mention Bollywood stars, that enhanced significantly the image of India in the Egyptian consciousness.

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Indian companies have found Egypt a good destination for business. Over 50 Indian companies are present in Egypt with an investment of $3 billion, providing employment to about 35,000 Egyptians. And Egypt’s recent discovery of gas, its upward looking economy following a currency float and growing foreign investment have added impetus to growing ties.

Companies like Kirloskar with their water pumps and Dabur and Monginis with their personal care and confectionery products are household names in Egypt, and many firms recognise the Suez Canal area as a potential hub of future expansion because of the country’s economic arrangements in the Arab world, Africa and the European Union. Even though there are only three Egyptian companies in India, bilateral trade has grown 60 percent over the last five years to touch almost $5 billion.

The current thinking in New Delhi is that if Cairo plays its cards right, a stronger Egypt could play a more moderating role and help in restoring regional stability and security. India is therefore investing a lot more in Egypt not only to shore up its profile but also to use the goodwill it builds up in projecting a larger role for itself in North Africa and the Arab world.

With a political foundation of friendship from the sixties India has the ability to tap into popular sentiment and cultural affinity, an advantage that few countries enjoy in Egypt, remarks Sanjay Bhattacharyya, India’s Ambassador in Cairo.

And the ‘India by the Nile’ show is by far the largest such exposition in Egypt by any country here in recent times.

Despite recent terror attacks, India is demonstrating a major vote of confidence in the Egyptian government’s ability to deal with Islamist extremism by not cancelling music and dance shows as part of the festival in Alexandria, one of the two cities where minority Coptic Christian churches were targets last week.

The future of bilateral ties look promising and there is much expectation in Prime Minister Modi, who has shown personal interest in shoring up ties, making a visit there later this year. (IANS)

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Popular Indian Quiz Show Kaun Banega Crorepati 9 to go Off Air Soon

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KBC
Amitabh Bachchan during an episode of KBC. Wikimedia

Popular Indian quiz show Kaun Banega Crorepati has been topping the rating charts ever since the megastar Amitabh Bachchan returned to the show for its 9th season. But what comes as a major blow to the fans is that the show is going off air soon. Reportedly, KBC 9 will be broadcasting its final episode on 23rd October. This year also the show did wonders when it comes to TRP and rocked the charts.

With popular guests like  PV Sindhu, Actress Shilpa Shetty, Mithila Raj and Abhishek Bachchan in the show, KBC 9 certainly did amuse the viewers as its every season did always.

According to a report by SpoyboyE, there are three new shows which can replace KBC 9, Sequel of Pehredaar Piya Ki, Haasil and Ek Deewana Tha.

Last month, the show made a lot of buzz with its first crorepati of the season, social worker Anamika Mazumdar, who hails from Jamshedpur. Anamika surprised everyone with her feat and even Amitabh Bachchan applauded her grit and confidence.

Thus all that we can say that KBC 9 till now is running in full swing with an overwhelming response from its viewers.

The viewers will surely have a tough time biding adieu to the magnitude of Mr. Bachan’s voice welcoming everyone to their TV screens.

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Amitabh Bachchan: 75 and ‘not out’ of filmdom

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Amitabh Bachchan

New Delhi, Oct 10 : Age is just a number for Amitabh Bachchan, who turns 75 on Wednesday. His work diary is already spilling into 2019, but he remains firmly “not out”, continuing a glorious journey that has lasted over four decades.

In an industry where roles are seldom written for veteran actors, Bachchan is experimenting with looks, characters and themes with an enthusiasm and passion of a newcomer.

“When he comes on the set, he is always in character. I never feel like I’m directing Mr Amitabh Bachchan. I feel I am directing the character,” Umesh Shukla, who is working with the “living legend” in “102 Not Out”, told IANS.

“When he steps out of his vanity van, he comes out in the type of mood that is required for a scene and makes the atmosphere like that. It’s fun to work with him,” added Shukla, who has cast veteran actor Rishi Kapoor as a 75-year-old and Bachchan as his 102-year-old father in the movie.

Another challenging role that Bachchan has taken up is in “Thugs of Hindostan”, which will see him in an armoured look with a heavy beard. His co-star Aamir Khan, who will be sharing screen space with Bachchan for the first time, has been a long-time admirer.

“His aura, action, every nuance of his acting was such a fulfilling experience in cinema,” Aamir said of watching Big B’s films in theatres in his younger days.

But as he rings in his milestone birthday, Bachchan wants no celebrations.

He is off to the Maldives for a vacation with wife Jaya, son Abhishek, daughter Shweta, daughter-in-law Aishwarya and granddaughter Aaradhya. And he will be back to work soon.

“A small and peaceful family time is more than enough for me,” Big B had once said.

Film historian S.M.M. Ausaja, whose forthcoming book “The Bachchans” retraces the journey of what he calls the “premier family of Bollywood”, said Bachchan’s “extraordinary” success is a “spectacular example of talent and luck”.

“If you’re very talented and low on luck, you’re Naseeruddin Shah. Or if you’re low on talent and high on luck, you’re Jeetendra. In Mr Bachchan’s case, it has been the right mix. He was unconventional in looks and amidst a string of actors for whom it was the romance genre all the way, he was like a whiff of fresh air. His mannerisms and style were his own,” Ausaja told IANS.

Having started with a role as one of the seven protagonists in “Saat Hindustani”, Bachchan next featured in the Rajesh Khanna-starrer “Anand” and did a few more films. But it wasn’t until the 1973 movie “Zanjeer” that he came into his own.

“There was no stopping him then,” Ausaja said, pointing to some of his “sensitive films” like “Ek Nazar”, “Mili” and “Abhimaan”, as well as hits like “Deewaar”, “Sholay”, “Mard”, Naseeb”, “Namak Haraam”, “Kabhie Kabhie”, “Don”, “Hum” and “Shahenshah”.

In 1978, he was at the top of his game with movies like “Muqaddar Ka Sikandar”, “Trishul”, “Don”, “Kasme Vaade”, “Ganga Ki Saugandh” and “Besharam” doing well.

A near-fatal injury on the sets of “Coolie” in 1982 led him to take a break from films and he ventured into politics from his native Allahabad. He contested the Lok Sabha election on the Congress ticket in 1984, but didn’t continue his political journey for long.

He found himself named in the infamous Bofors scandal, but was cleared of the allegations 25 years later and remains apolitical even though he associates himself with issue-related social campaigns for the government once in a while.

Until 1988, when “Shahenshah” was released, Bachchan — son of legendary poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan — was in top form.

“Post-‘Shahenshah’, his fall began when directors started presenting him as larger-than-life characters in films like ‘Toofan’ and ‘Jaadugar’. He endured a lot of flops and other problems until the start of the millennium when he came up with the television show ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ in 2000. In fact, Mr Bachchan was named ‘Star of the Millennium’ at the worst phase of his career.

“But then, after ‘KBC’, his meteoric rise began and he started playing his age on screen and reinvented himself with every project — be it ‘Sarkar’, ‘Baghban’, ‘Bunty Aur Babli’, ‘Paa’, ‘Black’… His popularity is a binding factor for the country,” Ausaja said.

For someone who was considered too thin and too tall to fit in the Hindi film industry, Bachchan’s run in showbiz — to many — is what dreams are made of.

He failed when he launched Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Ltd in the 1990s, but his acting acumen has taken him places.

Bachchan has earned epithets like “Angry Young Man” and “Shahenshah”, and has won the love of fans who throng the gates of his house in Mumbai every Sunday to meet him.

Shukla said Bachchan must be still working 14 to 15 hours a day. “It’s commendable at his age. He is always on his toes and I have never seen him tired…”

“Sometimes we have to tell him to take it easy. He says, ‘No, I’ll do it’. That’s his spirit,” Shukla said.(IANS)

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No Diwali, Birthday Celebrations for Amitabh Bachchan This Year

The Bollywood took to Twitter to reveal his plans to his followers

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Amitabh Bachchan
Amitabh Bachchan. Wikimedia

Mumbai, October 8, 2017 : Megastar Amitabh Bachchan says this year he will not be celebrating the festival of lights Diwali or his 75th birthday, which falls on October 11.

Though Big B didn’t give the reason, his daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s father Krishnaraj Rai passed away in March after several days of illness.

“India thrash Australia in T20, Pink Panthers’ extraordinary convincing win, thunderstorm cancels shoot, 30 million on Twitter, and just for your information… no Diwali celebration this year,” Amitabh tweeted on Saturday night.