Jun 25, 2008

Reliance Big Entertainment in JV with the Bachchans

Amid rumors that Anil Ambani's Reliance Big Entertainment is going to help Steven Spielberg buy back DreamWorks studios from Paramount, the company is inked another deal.

Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Big Entertainment (RBE) has inked a joint venture with India’s first family of entertainment — the Bachchans. The JV will focus on creating intellectual property across all entertainment platforms including movies, television content, live shows, mobile and online content. The move will bring talents of the Bachchan family to the venture. A new company is being formed, which will use the expertise of the Bachchans and the financial resources of RBE.

An alliance with the Bachchans will allow RBE to leverage the relationships with the industry that Mr Bachchan, his wife Jaya, son Abhishek and daughter-in-law Aishwarya bring to the table. Speaking to ET, Amitabh Bachchan said: “RBE is a big corporate organisation, and I believe that in the future, creativity and corporate management is the way forward. Hence, in holding hands, we have taken a very progressive step forward.” Members of the family would float an SPV for the joint venture and will provide creative expertise to the new venture, he said, adding that the JV also allows them to hold copyrights of films for perpetuity.

For the Bachchans, an alliance with RBE will help them in terms of funding movie ventures and provide them scale and a platform. The move is not entirely unexpected, considering the strong personal relationship the younger Ambani shares with Mr Bachchan and his family. A six film slate is already being executed which includes movies with directors of the likes of Lowe India chairman R Balakrishnan, better known as Balki, Jhankar Beats-maker Sujoy Ghose, Ramesh Sippy’s son and director of Bluff Master Rohan Sippy and Chanakya television series producer Chandra Prasad Dwivedi, to name a few.

This will also provide RBE first right of refusal with the Bachchans for any project they wish to execute. Reliance Big Entertainment, earlier known as Reliance Entertainment, recently went through a change in its corporate identity, incorporating the company’s entertainment brand ‘Big’ in the mother company as well. Earlier this year, George Soros invested $100 million for a 3% stake in Reliance Big Entertainment, valuing the company at $3.3 billion. It has three main lines of business — Internet & new media, film entertainment and TV broadcasting.

Reliance Entertainment is looking at producing 25-30 movies within the next two years and about 7-8 animation films. Its business units include a movie production business, animation, movie studio, social networking site Bigadda.com, FM radio, movie rentals, online gaming, mobile gaming, home video unit and theme parks. Some of the recent investments made by RBE are in Nitin Desai’s ND Studio, where the company picked up a 50% stake for about Rs 120-150 crore.

Jun 22, 2008

Bollywood hires foreigner tourists as extras

Bollywood extras artist tourist foreigner

Exotic poolside scene that is supposed to make you believe that you are in New York or Sydney is shot right here in Mumbai with the help of tourist foreigner extras. For a day's work, they can earn Rs. 1000 - 5000, a meal, and a drop back to the hotel if the shooting goes into wee hours of the morning.

This type of casting does violate the norms related to recruitment and wages for junior artists. The model headhunters work with the hotel staff where the tourists are know to stay. They reach out discretely. They also bribe the local police to ensure that they are not pulled over for using the foreigners illegally in Hindi films.

There is something for everyone. The filmmakers use the foreigners as a marketing ploy to sell the film to the distributors for a higher price. The producers put up the sets inside studios and use foreigners to show that these sequences are filmed abroad. A Rs 10-lakh song sequence is presented as a Rs 50-lakh one.

Here is a list of Mumbai film studios. Maybe a stint in a Bollywood movie will pay for the higher air fares.

Jun 18, 2008

New seats for the BEST buses

The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST) is fitting its buses with swanky plastic-moulded seats as part of efforts to spruce up the interiors. Officials claim these seats are more comfortable than the existing ones, which are made of metal and stuffed with rexine cushions. The money will come from private firms who will be given the right to put up advertisements at the back of the seats. Apparently, the deal with advertisers includes maintenance of the seats too.

The new seats are grey-blue in colour. They are made up fibre plastic. They have a blackcoloured grip on top for the benefit of passengers who need support while standing. They are taller and flexible compared to the existing seats. The cushion too is better. The first of lot of buses fitted with plastic-moulded seats are running between Colaba and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). The move seems to have paid off as the vehicles now look like tourist buses.

This is the second major exercise undertaken by BEST to give its services a more swanky look. The beginning was made with bus shelters, some of which sport a trendy all-steel look.

Listen to your body vs. Control your body

Interesting set of Ads appearing in Mumbai newspapers. One suggests acceptance of increasing weight and the others trying to beat it. With TV and fast food taking hold in a culture where walking is giving way to riding in a car, these two areas are clearly growth areas. Incidentally Indian movie actresses from Bollywood have gone for the flat belly, skinny look.

Mukesh Ambani's Childhood Apartment

We have heard about new house being built for the richest man in India -- Mukesh Ambani. Antilia is still coming along. Here's a photo of Ambani residence in Mumbai while they were growing up. Goes to show how Late Dhirubhai Ambani built his empire from nothing plus ingenuity, ability to dream big, and take chances.

Jun 14, 2008

Residential Property Prices Update

Mumbai Residential Property Rates June 2008

Residential property prices in Mumbai have come down significantly. Check out where the property rates were in October 2007.
The infrastructure projects taking place in Mumbai are going to raise the quality of life in Mumabi. However, there is another trend happening. Navi Mumbai and the corridor between Mumbai and Pune is booming. If the jobs move over to these new regions, then it is not clear if the demand for the property will hold up.
Here are the developments to track in Mumbai infrastructure.
  1. Mumbai eastern freeway
  2. Bandra Worli sealink
  3. Mumbai Metro and Monorail
  4. Sewri Nhava Sheva sealink
  5. Skywalks
Here is the growth story just outside of Mumbai.
  1. Oil money flows to India

Jun 11, 2008

US Embassy puts up a Mumbai monsoon warning

Travel advisories issued by the US government to its globe-trotting citizens are usually concerned with terrorist attacks or the outbreak of a deadly virus. However, this time around it’s the monsoon in Mumbai and the BMC’s handling of it that have got Uncle Sam worked up. A warning issued on Monday and posted on the website of the US consulate in Mumbai tells its citizens that the “monsoon has arrived in western India and Mumbai is experiencing the season’s storms’’. They are also reminded of the 26/7 (2005) deluge and told that it had led to a “heavy loss of life’’.

American citizens in Mumbai have been asked to follow “commonsense precautions’’, like avoiding low-lying areas that appear to be flooded. They are warned that BMC workers are likely to open manhole covers on roads to ease flooding but not to place warning markers around them. “In reduced visibility conditions, you could drive into one of these open manholes’’, they are cautioned.

The travel advisory also lists some of the perils of walking in the city, which most Mumbaikars can only agree with. “Sidewalks are non-existent in some areas or used for other purposes in most parts of the city. It’s possible that you could inadvertently step into an open manhole,’’ it notes.

Civic chief Jairaj Phatak sought to play down its significance. “It’s a normal message that even I would give to my relatives coming to Mumbai from another city. I would tell them to enjoy the monsoon but be careful.’’ As for the open manholes, he again reeled off statistics to say that only ten people had died from falling into open manholes in the last seven years.

Jun 9, 2008

BEST to continue with double-decker buses

Double-decker BEST buses are Mumbai's heritage and pride. These red buses were unfortunately relegated to only Churchgate-CST-Colaba to NCPA and some suburban areas. Other route that is double decker is Rt 66. The original route 1 is no longer a double decker.

It was heartening to note that BEST has decided to add 50 new double decker buses. These buses carry twice the number of passengers carried by a single decker buses. Shouldn't they be carrying the most of the traffic during peak hours (8 am - noon, and 5 pm - 9pm)?

The bus shown here is no longer on the streets. The trailer double decker bus is part of Mumbai's past.

Jun 7, 2008

Sax Appeal - Manohari Singh

Golden age of Bollywood is filled with memories of wonderful songs, singers, and music directors. However, rarely do we know about the musicians who played those tunes. Check out this wonderful tune from Navketan's film, Guide. Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar duo must have made composer SD Burman a very happy man on the day this song was recorded.

When you listen to this song, it is hard not to linger on two intervals when Saxophone takes over. Not many people know who this magician is. The artist's name is Manohari Singh.

He came from Kolkata to Mumbai thanks to Salil Choudhuri. He worked as a orchestra arranger and saxophonist for RD Burman.

Taj Hotel in Mumbai

Taj Hotel Mumbai

Jamshetji Nusserwanji Tata, founder of the Tata Group, opened the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, the first Taj property, on December 16, 1903. He was inspired to open the grand luxury hotel after an incident involving racial discrimination at the Watson's Hotel in Mumbai, where he was refused entry as the hotel did not permit Indians. Hotels which accepted only European guests were common across British India. Jamsetji Tata had gone all out to ensure the success of this venture and to make Taj the most impressive jewel in the crown of the Tata Group. He travelled to London, Paris, Berlin and Düsseldorf to get nothing but the best for his hotel to be opened in Bombay (Mumbai). Due to its prime location, traditional architecture and massive size, this hotel soon gained the status of the most iconic hotel in Mumbai. He built this hotel in such a way that its backside is facing the Gateway of India -- which was built to welcome King George to India.

The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, Mumbai, a 105-year old heritage hotel, retains its stature as the flagship Taj property. This grand hotel epitomized the group philosophy that still holds true today: provide impeccable service and unparalleled facilities so every stay is a memorable one.

Besides the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, Mumbai, the Taj has many iconic, legendary and award-winning hotels around the world, and in India. These include: The Pierre, New York; Taj Boston, Boston; Campton Place, San Francisco; 51 Buckingham Gate, London; Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, Maldives; Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, Mauritius and Blue Sydney, Sydney. In India, these include: Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur; Rambagh Palace, Jaipur; Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur; The Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi; The Taj West End, Bangalore; Taj Malabar, Cochin and Taj Exotica, Goa.

Rahul Dev Burman

Rahul Dev Burman was born on June, 27th. There's enough written about him, but these two pictures are dear to me. The first one is with Lata Mangeshkar, and his father Sachin Dev Burman.

According to stories, Rahul Dev Burman was nicknamed PANCHAM because, as a child, whenever he cried, it sounded in the fifth note (Pa) of the Indian musical scale. The word Pancham means five (or fifth) in Bengali and Sanskrit. Another version is that when the veteran Indian actor Ashok Kumar saw a newborn Rahul Dev Burman uttering the syllable Pa repeatedly, he nicknamed the boy Pancham. Pancham was born in Calcutta. After coming to Mumbai, he learnt sarod from Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. When he was nine years old, he composed his first song, Aye meri topi palat ke aa, which his father used in the film Funtoosh (1956). The tune of the song Sar jo tera chakraaye was composed by him as a child. His father loved the tune and included it in the soundtrack of Guru Dutt's Pyaasa. As a child, Pancham also played the mouth organ in the famous song Hai apna dil to aawara (from film Solva Saal - 1958, starring Dev Anand). Pancham began his music career as an assistant to his father. His first film as a music director was Chhote nawaab.

It's almost monsoon time

monsoon mumbai wave crashing into Gateway of India monument
Mumbaikars are bracing themselves for another monsoon season. Here's a picture of a giant wave crashing into Gateway of India.

Jun 5, 2008

Juhu flooding during high tide

Amitabh Bachchan, and his Juhu neighbours, had better watch out this monsoon. The superstar’s neighbourhood went under knee-deep water on a bright and sunny Thursday afternoon. The cause was the year’s highest high tide, which reached 4.86 metres in the afternoon, and the water did not stay for more than half-an-hour. But it was enough to send a shiver down every Juhu resident’s spine. “What is going to happen when a few hundred millimetres of rain coincide with a high tide this monsoon?’’ local corporator Adolf D’Souza asked, echoing thousands of his voters.

The Juhu flooding also proved how hollow the BMC’s claim — of the city’s nullahs being wide and deep enough to take 350 mm-400 mm of daily rainfall — was. And it again brought to the fore how politics might drown Mumbai again this year. The flooding occurred because the sluice gates near Chandan cinema were removed so that the slums close to the creek would not flood.

Juhu is below sea level and we seem headed for big trouble this monsoon. What will make matters worse is the fact that all the high tides this monsoon are during the day. The BMC, however, does not feel the issue is very serious. Storm-water drains chief engineer S Korlekar said: “Juhu is below sea level and flooding is an annual occurrence.’’ The BMC has planned a pumping station on the Irla Nala but it will be commissioned only next year. “We can assure residents that the water will recede fast,’’ Korlekar said.

Juhu is below sea level? Global warming and rising sea levels should be on the minds of property buyers.

Jun 1, 2008

Farmer loan waiver at the cost of Mumbai?

State farmers’ gains from the farm loan waiver package may come at the cost of Mumbai’s citizens, or so it seems. The mammoth Rs 71,600-crore waiver package doled out by the Centre is likely to put pressure on allocations for urban infrastructure projects.

So far, the state has submitted 13 Mumbai projects worth around Rs 15,000 crore under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). Of these, five projects worth Rs 2,279 crore have been sanctioned. Apart from JNNURM, the Centre has also agreed to fully fund the Rs 1,200-crore Brihanmumbai storm water drain (Brimstowad) upgrade project and has also released the first installment of Rs 400 crore. The state expects an installment of Rs 400 crore for the project this fiscal. The five sanctioned projects include Middle Vaitarana water supply scheme, sewage disposal plan, western freeway between Worli and Nariman Point, elevated road between the international airport and Western Express Highway, and an underground tunnel linking Malabar Hill to Mahalaxmi.

Mumbai Eastern Freeway work begins

eastern highway project mumbai

Work on one of the road projects that Mumbai is looking forward to, the 22-km Eastern Freeway, has started. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) early this week started laying the foundation for the road that is likely to throw open the eastern waterfront for development besides giving Mumbai’s central and eastern suburbs a quicker access to the island city.

The Eastern Freeway, from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum (formerly Prince of Wales) to the Eastern Express Higway at Anik-Wadala, will be a high-speed corridor that will enable motorists to traverse the entire distance in 20 minutes. Motorists now travelling northeastward from Fort take the D N Road-JJ Flyover-Dr B R Ambedkar Road route to reach Sion, which takes almost an hour. So the Eastern Freeway will save nearly 40 minutes and also take the pressure off the existing roads, officials feel.

The freeway will be ready by December 2010 and is estimated to cost Rs 531 crore. It is being funded under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission; the Centre will bear 35 per cent of the cost, the state 15 per cent and the MMRDA the remaining 50 per cent.
MMRDA had obtained a no-objection certificate from the Mumbai Port Trust to carry out the work during monsoon. But the initial work, laying of the pile foundation, involves digging, trenching and boring and will affect traffic on the narrow MbPT road. The road will be an elevated structure from CST to Anik-Wadala Link Road (a distance of nearly 8.9 kilometres). The elevated road will affect around 60 structures, belonging to the MbPT and spread over a length of 2 kilometres, near Carnac Bunder and they will have to be demolished. Most of these buildings were leased out and the MbPT recently carried out a survey and found that most of the leases had expired. So there should not be a problem in demolishing them. The MMRDA has also had to raise the height of the elevated structure from 5.5 metres to 6.5 metres so that it does not affect the port railway network.

Skywalks coming to Mumbai

mumbai skywalks bandra

The skywalks coming up in the city will have modern designs including cable stay, arch and bowstring shapes. Their lengths will range from 100 metres to 2.2 km, in the case of the Masjid Bunder area. The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) will be putting up 17 skywalks and one subway in the city. Work on these skywalks is already underway.

The MSRDC has already carried out pre-feasibility studies for construction of skywalk bridges and identified 10 locations for them. The bills for the skywalks will be footed by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority(MMRDA). The MMRDA had earlier announced that it would be financing the construction of 50 skywalks in the city at a cost of Rs 600 crore. The MSRDC would be constructing 18 while the MMRDA will undertake the work on the remaining 32 skywalks. The first skywalk in the city at Bandra East is slated to be ready before the monsoon breaks over the city. The total cost of the 17 skywalk bridges would be around Rs 125 crore, while the estimated cost of the subway from CST along GPO road would be Rs 200 crore. Most of the skywalk bridges would be ready by June next year.

Phase I
Vasai Road(W), Ambarnath (E), Goregaon(W), Kandivli(E), Vile Parle(W), Lower Parel(E), Masjid Station Area(W), CST to Churchgate, Nallasopara(W)

Phase II
CST(subway), along GPO Road, Sandhurst Road, Reay Road(W), Sewri(W), Wadala(W), Chinchpokli(E), Parel(E & W), Naigaon