More Newsmakers....And Breakers

Updated: Dec 29 2002, 05:30am hrs
A P J Abdul Kalam
Missile man A P J Abdul Kalam has already travelled through a substantial part of India in the less than six months he has spent as President of India. And he is winning people over wherever he goes, with children specially being very happy with the time hes setting aside for them. The scientist Kalam is rated very high, how would you rate the President Kalam, one child asked him during his recent visit to Pune. Well, he seems to be a good fellow, reparteed the Prez.

Dr Kalam looks on children for the countrys future. During his recent visit to Bangalore, he held a day-long workshop for rural children in a vast playground, personally giving them their first lesson in computers. While addressing children, Dr Kalam makes sure they get a better grip on issues like poverty, underdevelopment and corruption. When one student in a recent meeting in New Delhi asked him what would cure corruption, his prompt reply was that no amount of law can eliminate corruption. Your parents, teachers and you yourself together can fight this malady, he said.

While other senior ministers prefer spending their summers in cooler climes, the President seems to have set himself the target of covering the entire length and breadth of the country, addressing issues that have long crippled the nation. Long live the Prez!

Amitabh Bachchan
Amitabh Bachchan had the media turn its spotlight on him full blast when he celebrated his 60th birthday in October. From a quick morning trip en famille to Tirupati to greeting a line-up of the countrys whos who at the evening celebrations, which, incidentally, were beamed live on television, it seemed as if the entire country was celebrating the movie icons birthday. Wife Jaya published Khalid Mohammeds To Be Or Not To Be with contributions from the entire Bachchan clan, which was presented to him on the occasion. The book chronicles three decades of Mr Bachchans journey in films. Another book was Main Amitabh Bachchan Bol Raha Hoon, a collection of interviews by Sumant Mishra.

On the film front, too, 2002 brought Mr Bachchan critical appreciation, if not box office success, for his performances in films such as Aankhen, Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin and Kaante.

His fan following, too, is as strong as ever. Though the rumoured comeback of Kaun Banega Crorepati never really happened, Mumbai police have reported at least three break-ins at the superstars residence by fans desperate for a glimpse of him!

2002 also saw the legend bottled as a French fragrance. French parfumier Lomani introduced Super Star Amitabh Bachchan, which bears the bearded face of Mr Bachchan on its bottle. What next, one wonders. The revamped Kaun Banega Crorepati

Mukesh & Anil Ambani
When Dhirubhai Ambani, the man at the head of the Reliance empire, passed away in July, it was his eldest son, Mukesh, who stepped into his shoes. Mr Mukesh Ambanis first annual general meeting (AGM) saw the entire Ambani family attend to lend him support. Conducting himself with great dignity and poise, Mr Ambani said, I am acutely conscious of the duty he (Dhirubhai Ambani) has entrusted me with, the values he has bequeathed, the task he has set and the vision he has outlined. I derive enormous strength from what I have learnt from him and look to the future with determination and confidence. Like his late father, Mr Ambani listened to and answered every shareholders grievance in a record AGM that went on for over four hours!

Another major event for Mr Ambani was his meeting with Microsofts Bill Gates, at which the two discussed the affordability of IT in India. Like his Infocom venture which was intended to make telecommunications affordable to the masses, this was to take IT to the public.

Mr Ambanis younger brother, Anil, is ably assisting his brother and the rumoured rift between the brothers has so far remained what it is... mere gossip! The junior Mr Ambani, who appears on Mumbais page three most days, was recently the interviewer instead of the interviewee with BBC Hard Talk man, Tim Sebastian. Mr Ambani says of the experience, This was a complete role reversal for me. I am used to being in the hot seat myself, so interviewing this world renowned interviewer before a large live audience was a challenge and required some research on my part. I enjoyed my discussion with Tim, and perhaps was able to get extract some candid responses from him. I hope the audience also enjoyed the show.

Mr Anil Ambani also played moderator for a recent meet on women CEOs. This interactive panel discussion on What Prevents Indian Women From Becoming CEOs was organised by the Wharton Alumni Association. Being a Wharton alumnus, I was given the opportunity to moderate this discussion involving top Indian women CEOs. The topic was really relevant in the Indian corporate context and I enjoyed being a part of this lively discussion, said Mr Ambani of his experience.

Salman Khan
Hardly had he finished celebrating a film offer from Hollywood when misfortune struck. On September 28, actor Salman Khan ran his Land Cruiser over a group of bakery workers who were sleeping on the pavement, killing one and injuring four people. He made a quick getaway from the accident spot, which was near his home in the Bandra suburbs. Initially, Mr Khan was let off after paying a bail amount of Rs 950, but public outcry led the police to slap more serious charges against him. He even spent a couple of days in Mumbais Arthur Road prison. The actor has deposited a sum of Rs 10 lakh as compensation to the families of the victims.

Before this incident, Mr Khan had received police protection because he was being threatened by the underworld. However, his bodyguard was withdrawn after the hit-and-run case.

Mr Khans now on-now off friendship with actress Aishwarya Rai was also in the news with both admitting their problems to the media. He even assaulted Ms Rai and actor Shah Rukh Khan on a film set, causing Ms Rai to lose the role.

Ekta Kapoor
Not for nothing did Time magazine describe Ekta Kapoor as the queen of Indian television. This year, too, Balaji Telefilms, of which she is creative director, ruled the TRPs with a host of serials on mainstream and regional channels, prompting Asiaweek to designate her one of the most powerful communicators of the continent.

More endorsement came from her repeat sweep of the ITA awards. She had already been nominated head of CIIs committee on the entertainment industry. Her serials, which command the best price as far as advertising rates go, are soon to be seen in Indonesia also.

The 27-year-old is focussing on her films now, especially on brother Tusshars next release, Kuchh To Hai, and planning a horror flick with Aftab Shivdasani. Her belief in the letter K has not dwindled in the leastit extends to these projects, too.

Narendra Modi
Narendra Damodardas Modi ruled the newspaper columns for most of the year, and towards the end of it, won back the post of chief minister of Gujarat after a resounding victory at the hustings, getting 51 per cent of the total votes cast.

Mr Modi is a typical case of an almost unknown face turning into a newsmaker, albeit for the wrong reasons. He has little administrative experience, having stood for election for the first time only earlier this year. He got a big break as chief minister last December, when his predecessor, Keshubhai Patel, was forced to resign. However, he has always had a formidable reputation as a party organiser, a skill, along with an ability for secrecy, that he acquired during his long years of training as a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) pracharak.

The dust of criticism and the demand for his ouster from the Gujarat chief ministers office had hardly settled, following the break-out of communal riots in Godhra, when an unscathed Mr Modi set out on his Gujarat Gaurav Yatra and then led the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to victory in the election.

His critics within and outside the BJP charged him with unabashed complicity in Gujarats recent religious clashes. But with the support of some senior BJP and RSS leaders, Mr Modi persisted along his hardline Hindutva route.

Venkaiah Naidu
On July 1, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) office crackled with celebrations and crackers as Union rural development minister M Venkaiah Naidu walked in to take charge of the party presidency. Mr Naidu was brought in by the party to reverse its downward slide before the Assembly elections in 10 states.

The earlier party president, K Jana Krishnamurthi, was removed from the party presidency when he declined to heed the Vajpayee-Advani combinations dictats in revamping organisational portfolios. Upon assuming office, Mr Naidu made several departures from tradition in the new appointments. The first was the denial of berths to his predecessors, Mr Krishnamurthi and Kushabhau Thakre. Bangaru Laxman, too, was left out.

Another trend was set in Arun Jaitleys appointment as board secretary. Till now, this was a charge held by the general-secretary (organisation), usually an RSS pracharak. Mr Naidu recast the Central Election Committee, too. Mr Jaitley was named committee secretary.

However, soon after he assumed his new charge, Mr Naidu came under attack for acquiring land through questionable means. Since then, Mr Naidu has relinquished ownership of the 4.95 acres assigned to him by the government in Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh way back in 1978.