Wales Estate conversionBy Shemuel FanfairWith less than four months before the closure of sugar operations at Wales Estate, West Bank Demerara, cane farmers have expressed concern over a lack of consultations on the future of the entity. This comes in light of the surprise announcement by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) that it intends to convert some 485 acres of lands at Wales Estate into rice cultivation, another industry which has seen challenges with the collapsed guaranteed markets.One farmer told Guyana Times that a combine can cost as much as $40 millionOn Saturday, Guyana Times spoke with several farmers, some of who only found out about the conversion plans through the media. The farmers are of the view that Government through its relevant agencies should provide monetary and infrastructural expertise to assist them in the transition from sugarcane cultivation to rice. Previously, the farmers had stated an unwillingness to transfer their produce to Uitvlugt Estate, which is located on the West Coast of Demerara, citing cost factors, distance and infrastructural inadequacies on the route. When the shutdown was disclosed earlier this year; La Retraite, West Bank Demerara cane farmer Roger Caryll said he was making preparation to cultivate permanent crops such as mangoes and citrus. He however noted on Saturday that he must now drop these plans as the estate announced the supposed rice conversion. Caryll expressed scepticism over the entire transition, citing that even at this point, he was not engaged in any consultations.“Up to now, dem an tell we nothing yet, they never come to we and sit down with we [and] dialogue… we want to see them,” the farmer noted, adding that from the consultations farmers can also offer meaningful recommendations on other diversified industries.He appealed for Government’s assistance for farmers to embark on the new venture.“If the Government come in and help we with finance [we can] go into the rice business… you got to plough down all them cane field, then you have to level, it’s a lot of work,” he noted.Caryll added that the transition to rice requires heavy financial investment. He noted that since this crop is new to them, farmers would have to purchase seed paddy, water pumps, tires, a combine, and specified tires for the tractors.Meanwhile, La Grange farmer Mohamed Khan, who has been into sugar cane cultivation for almost 40 years, signalled his intention to transition to rice cultivation. Khan however noted his fears over the change, pointing out that cane is more durable and weather-resistant that rice. He also stated that rice is a time sensitive crop and explained that rice farmers have been forced to cut their crops early due to the recent unsettling weather which has pounded rains on various parts of the coastland.“You plant cane one time and it grow 15-20 years but rice has to be done on a regular basis… when you don’t cut [rice] in time, you incur losses… cane is much more feasible for us,” Khan noted.The veteran farmer stated he will plant 20 acres next year but will be cautious on any expansion beyond that amount, given the reduced prices which farmers have been receiving. Since the collapse of the Venezuela rice deal, farmers are receiving between $1800-$2200 per bag of paddy. Several millers have citied financial difficulties as justifications for not paying balances owed to farmers.These concerns have made one farmer so cautious about the move that he plans to assess the transition before opting to engage in rice cultivations. Cane farmer, Mootooveren told Guyana Times when sugar operations at Wales cease, he will sit out one year before he joins the industry. The farmer further vented his frustration over having invested some $7 million in the sugar industry, only to sell off or “scrap” many of his farming equipment.“Wa de use? Nobody nah gone wan buy da,” Mootooveren stated, in reference to his trailers and other equipment.The general consensus for farmers attached to the Wales Estate is that they cannot afford the cost factor to transport their canes to Uitvlugt. Many also expressed that farmers alone should not bear all of the investments to convert their lands for rice cultivation, in addition to bearing the brunt of purchasing all the requisite farming equipment. Some are also waiting to see if GuySuCo will assist with proving equipment for rice cultivation.One farmer explained that a combine can run up to as much as $40 million, while a stakeholder stressed that lending agencies may be hesitant to assist farmers in rice cultivation due to the uncertainty of the sector. Meanwhile, residents of Wales have noted an upsurge in armed and unarmed robberies in the community, with many fearing that this will increase once the estate closes its doors.Before the rice conversion announcement came, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder had expressed that the estate would be converted into dairy manufacturing.
With two road games remaining, the Matadors (14-14, 5-7) still have a shot to finish fourth to earn a first-round bye in the conference tournament beginning March 7 in Anaheim. Northridge nearly blew most of an 11-point lead in the final four minutes, and Solomon HorseChief’s 3-pointer with 1:48 to play put Pacific (11-15, 5-6) down 69-67. Chitwood tipped in a Jason Hill miss to give Northridge a four-point lead, and Rai Colston and Chitwood made enough free throws to keep Northridge ahead. Chitwood scored 19 points, Jonathan Heard added 16 with five rebounds and two steals, and Thomas Shewmake scored 13 with 13 rebounds. “We had some letdowns but I knew we wouldn’t quit,” Heard said. “We came together as a team. It’s our last home game, so this was a big win for the seniors.” Northridge made 26 of 41 free throws, compared with 15of 18 for Pacific (11-15, 5-6). At least Northridge went to the line more than its opponent – something that’s happened infrequently this season. “We can be a very good team if we play hard and do the little things,” Shoemake said. “We just need to buckle down. I think we’re over the hump.” After the game, coach Bobby Braswell grabbed the microphone and implored the spectators to give Northridge support in the Big West tournament. “I’m happy for the seniors, and I think all of our guys played well the entire game,” Braswell said afterward. “There’s an immaturity factor we have to deal with because things are still going to get tough down the stretch. We’re going to have win close games like we saw tonight.” HorseChief scored 15 points, Michael White added 14 and C.J. Morgan scored 13 for Pacific. “To finish fourth would be good for us,” said Calvin Chitwood, whose two free throws with 26 seconds left gave Northridge a four-point lead. “I think we still have the potential to be a great team. If we play well, I think we’re unstoppable. I really do.” email@example.com (661) 257-5218 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! There’s still hope in Cal State Northridge basketball circles after a 76-73 Big West victory Saturday over University of the Pacific at the Matadome. The victory was Northridge’s second in a row, breaking a nine-game series losing streak.
1 Martin O’Neill has challenged the Republic of Ireland to follow in Leicester’s footsteps as they attempt to spring a surprise at Euro 2016.O’Neill’s former club are currently defying the odds as they continue the most unlikely of Barclays Premier League title charges, heading the table by five points with just seven games remaining.While he does not believe that necessarily means one of the smaller nations could surge unheralded to European glory this summer as Greece did 12 years ago, the 64-year-old is confident Ireland can call upon a similar spirit in an effort to emerge from a tough group and make an impression on the continental stage.Asked about the example currently being set by the Foxes, with whom he won two League Cups as manager, O’Neill said: “They are the standard-bearers there for the smaller side. I just think they have given people hope now that you can compete – and not only compete, actually be successful.“If they go on and win the league, does that mean that a smaller nation goes on and takes the European Championship? I’m not terribly sure about that.”When the draw was made for the finals back in December, a month after Ireland had secured their passage with a play-off victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina, their hard work was rewarded with a testing group which will pitch them into battle with Sweden, Belgium and Italy.But while qualification from the group will prove difficult, O’Neill, who will sent his side into friendly battle with Switzerland in Dublin on Friday evening, has no qualms about assuming the role of underdog, particularly after their 1-0 win over world champions Germany on the road to France.He said: “After Germany, the players feel as if they are capable of dealing with that. Do you want to go in as underdogs? I think we will naturally anyway, but I don’t genuinely think it will bother us.”Asked if he would be happy to see opposition teams underestimate his players, O’Neill replied:”Absolutely, absolutely. I don’t think they will. As Leicester are proving this year, you underestimate teams at your peril.”O’Neill will use the Switzerland game and the friendly against Slovakia which follows it on Tuesday to run the rule over some of his fringe players, with Blackburn defender Shane Duffy and Brentford midfielder Alan Judge likely to be the main beneficiaries.There will be a start in one of the games for Newcastle goalkeeper Rob Elliot, but skipper Robbie Keane and Cardiff midfielder Anthony Pilkington will miss the game against the Swiss with minor injuries.O’Neill admits it will take some effort for a player to emerge from the pack to make the squad as James McClean did four years ago, but has reminded his hopefuls that a new World Cup qualifying campaign is just around the corner.He said: “Let’s be fair about it: the players who are coming in late here have a bit to do, I must admit, just at this stage here to go and cement something. Everything would probably have to go pretty well for them individually.“But it’s not impossible and it’s happened before, and that’s why I’d like to open the door for them, to feel as if they have got a chance. And for instance, one or two of them – let’s say they didn’t make it – they know they are right maybe for the World Cup campaign coming up almost immediately.” Martin O’Neill believes former club Leicester City can be ROI’s inspiration
1 Chelsea are reportedly ready to break the British transfer record by launching a £63.5m bid to lure Sergio Ramos away from Real Madrid this summer.The Blues are planning for life without club captain John Terry next season after deciding against offering the defender a new contract and see Ramos as an ideal replacement.According to Don Balon, incoming manager Antonio Conte has ordered the club’s board to do whatever it takes to land Ramos as the Italian prepares to reshuffle the club’s defence.It will take a mega bid to prise Ramos away from the Bernabeu, but after 11 years in the Spanish capital, it is understood the 30-year-old could be open to a fresh challenge next season.Manchester United were also linked with a move for Ramos last summer and may rekindle their interest if former Real manager Jose Mourinho takes over at Old Trafford. Sergio Ramos in action for Real Madrid
DOZENS of people across Co Donegal are facing substantial fines and being forced to pay arrears for failing to have TV Licences.Fourteen cases were dealt with at Letterkenny District Court this week.Some defendants faced fines of more than €200. The cases – and others before other district courts in the county – are a result of a clampdown in the spring as TV Licence Inspectors called at hundreds of homes where there was no record of a licence being held.Judge Paul Kelly was given several different excuses by the defendants – who we have decided not to name – for failing to have the licences.The prosecutions were brought by An Post.We understand a new wave of inspections are underway in the county.Under new government proposals every home in the country will be required to have a TV license whether or not people have a television.The new rules are expected to be in place next year.DOZENS FACING FINES FOR DODGING TV LICENCE FEE was last modified: September 5th, 2013 by John2Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:District Courtdonegaltv licence
Data is allowing journalists to show their readers how the world fits together. • Media freedom is evolving • Research reveals Kenyan, Nigerian views of South Africa • Foreign journalists get the inside story • Documentaries celebrate the making of South Africa’s rainbow nation • Press freedom in South Africa Sulaiman PhilipData is not only changing journalism; but are changing the world. Poring over and analysing large data sets, finding what is interesting and telling riveting stories that show your readers how the world fits together may sound daunting, but these are skills journalists need to develop, and refine, in a brave new media world.Siyabonga Africa is counting. Sitting at a table close to his office at Jozihub, he is silently counting: women in summer dresses; men with beards; how many sugar sachets people at the tables around him are using. Numbers matter even if you choose not to pay attention to them, says the data journalism trainer and Fellow at Code4SouthAfrica.“Have you noticed how many more cyclists are out on the weekend? That got me wondering if the increased number had anything to do with the 94.7 [annual Joburg cycle race]. I asked the question on social media and got some interesting answers about panic training. Knowing this, I can plan a different route or sleep in on Sunday.” “The real challenge is getting journalists and techies into a room and getting to speak the same language,” says Siyabonga Africa.Information allows you to make informed choices when you interact with the world. Information has always mattered to journalists; but today, the way it is accessed and used has changed the way they work. Think of any of the major stories that you have read in the past year: it more than likely that they were driven by accessing reams of data across multiple sources.Data allows you to understand your world. Analysing the data well allows journalists to tell complicated and important stories in a way that readers can grasp. Data journalism gives consumers the ability to explain the world to friends, relatives and colleagues. To create data-driven stories that give readers the tools to make sense of their world and, as important, to want to engage, you need journalists, coders, data wranglers and graphic artists. They are collaborating to present information in innovative and interesting ways. They have helped to break down the walls between closely held data and how they are used in the wider world. On the African continent, the growth of data journalism is stymied by the lack of unique content, and what is available is shallow research not linked to other data sets in related fields. Africa is the kind of person every newsroom should have, what he calls an “evangelist”, a man who spreads the gospel of data and its power as a tool for journalists. Financial realities have forced media managers to try to squeeze better productivity out of fewer resources. As fewer reporters cover specific beats cultivating human sources, journalists have been forced to immerse themselves in the study of statistical data and policy papers to tease out stories.Hidebound and underfunded South African newsrooms have lost a step compared to other African news sources –some media houses are quickly catching up. Last year Media24 and the Global Editors Network (GEN) co-hosted an Editors Lab. Two teams, the Sunday Times and City Press, were chosen to represent South Africa at a global data event in Barcelona. “There is this fear of allocating staff to work that is time consuming and may not lead anywhere. It’s so much easier for media managers to keep staff doing the tried and tested, churning out content.”One of Africa’s favourite real world applications of data journalism on the continent is Kenya’s The Star’s Dodgy Doctors app. “Apparently unlicensed fly-by-night doctors are a real problem in Kenya. So they built an app listing all the registered doctors in the country. Anyone can now check to see if their doctor is actually a real doctor.”Data is not just changing newsrooms. The problem – especially in Africa – is that data is held on to tightly until they are perceived to have no economic value. But the value in data is that it can be interpreted and used by different people for different reasons.Sabermetrics – statistical analysis of performance in baseball – is used to identify and coach shortcomings in players by trainers. Managers use it to identify players to release or buy. Sport has lead the way in compiling and using data, and large sporting events like the Olympics and the football World Cup generate mountains of data.Germany are champions of the football world and the nation has drunk its fill of beer in celebration. Some would say that German superiority was down to Brazil not living up to the hype, the unbalanced Argentinians or the inability of the English to score, but German success was not down to just the machine slickness of their play festooned with sporadic flourishes of individual genius. Germany had a secret weapon: for two years the Manshaft coaching staff, with the assistance of German academics, built a performance database of thousands of possible future opponents. During the World Cup, they mined available data to build game simulations and analysis software to prepare the team.Data is as much a public asset as roads and parks and should be available to the people who paid for them, Africa believes. Taxpayer-funded data like the census figures can be used by entrepreneurs to create new businesses, more jobs or even new industries. Imagine if all the census records were freely available, machine readable and not saved in PDF format, Africa begins. “Someone could use that data in a way the government did not intend; entrepreneurs could create new jobs, new industries. That is why data [are] important and more importantly, why [they] should be freely available and easily accessible.”In the US, government-funded databases have been open and machine readable since 2013 by executive order. President Barak Obama understood a simple truth when signing the order, which reads: “Making information resources easy to find, accessible, and usable can fuel entrepreneurship, innovation, and scientific discovery that improves Americans’ lives and contributes significantly to job creation.”
Share Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday afternoon 306-117 to pass the GMO labeling measure sent on from the Senate. The White House said the President will sign the bill into law.The action looks to preempt the state GMO legislation that recently went into place in Vermont, in addition to preventing a costly patchwork of other state’s GMO labeling bills that are being considered.The legislation requires either an on-package label or smart-label that directs consumers to more information through a smartphone — a major reason behind its acceptance by groups on both sides of the aisle.The American Farm Bureau, while holding the bill was not perfect because of it requiring the labeling of foods that use Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), said the smart-labels are an acceptable option.The Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association (OCWGA) said they are pleased that the U.S. House of Representatives passed S. 764 today and encourages President Obama to quickly sign the bill into law.“Biotechnology is a safe, proven tool that helps agriculture feed a growing world population. Today’s vote is a win for consumers and farmers. It’s a vote against misinformation. We are proud to be involved in the strong coalition of agriculture and food organizations that are committed to a science-based solution,” said Chad Kemp, President of the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association and farmer from Preble County.The National Corn Growers Association also praised the U.S. House of Representatives for its vote passing S. 764. Particularly, the association praised Chairmen Conaway and Roberts, Ranking Members Peterson and Stabenow, Congressmen Pompeo and Butterfield, and all of the members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, who worked together to pass this bill.“Today, our representatives in the House built upon last week’s work in the Senate, taking another important step toward bringing consistency to the marketplace,” said Chip Bowling, NCGA President and a farmer from Maryland. “This achievement was made possible as members of the food and agricultural value chain came together as never before to advance a solution that works for farmers, food companies and, most importantly, consumers.“S. 764 ensures consumers have the access to product information without stigmatizing this safe, proven technology that America’s farmers value. Now that both houses of Congress have come together to address this important issue, we ask that the President take the final step by signing this legislation into law.”
Related Posts marshall kirkpatrick As machines learn to understand what the web means, what perspective will they understand it from? Who is teaching them? “Objective” descriptions of the world and the relationships in it can cause real problems, particularly for people with little power in those relationships. How will the emerging Semantic Web understand relationships and what will that mean for us as human users?Editor’s note: In this series, called Redux, we’re re-publishing some of our best posts of 2009. We hope you enjoy reading them again and we look forward to bringing you more Web products and trends analysis in 2010. Happy holidays from Team ReadWriteWeb!Austrian researcher Corinna Bath argues that there is a real risk that the semantic web of the future will be built with the perspectives and assumptions of male computer scientists baked-in unconsciously – at the expense of everyone else.Background Corinna Bath is currently research fellow at the “Institute for Advanced Studies on Science, Technology and Society” in Graz, Austria. She’s now working on engaging the several decades old study of gender and technology with the emerging world of the semantic web.What is the semantic web? We define it as a paradigm that makes the meaning of particular web pages understandable by machines – not just in full text searches or keyword categories, but in terms of which concepts are central to a given page and the relationships between them. The semantic web is hot. World Wide Web founding father and W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee says all the pieces are now in place for a semantic web to emerge.So is it a boy or a girl?When You Assume, You Make an…Corinna Bath did an interview last week for the Austrian Semantic Web Company where she articulates her concerns about gender and the semantic web. Unfortunately, the interview is extremely academic in language and tone – so we’ll try to explain her arguments here.Her first argument is that the architects of the semantic web need to be very careful about the assumptions they carry into the creation of categories of relationships. Bath draws a historical parallel with the first phone books, where listings were organized by the names of the husband in each household. That appeared to the authors to be the logical way to do it at the time. It wasn’t until after years of feminist political organizing led to general cultural change that the phone books changed. Why is this important? Because systems like the phone book help color our view of the world we live in and are the building blocks of basic inequalities.Too often, Bath argues, “binary assumptions about women and men are not reflected [upon] or the (gender) politics of [a particular] domain is ignored. Thus, the existing structural-symbolic gender order is inscribed into computational artifacts and will be reproduced by [their] use.”Right: The Semantic Web made me grow this beard. Semantic web t-shirt via SpreadShirt. For example, the Dublin Core ontology concerns Documents. It consists of a list of elements that can be used to describe a document, including “creator,” “contributor,” and “isReferencedBy.” Are there types of relationships that aren’t included on the list but are important to an accurate understanding of a document? There probably are, and different perspectives could help articulate what those relationships might be. For example, some feminist critics argue that the Western cannon of almost every type of literature is full of work that men didn’t give women appropriate credit for. Some argue that Albert Einstein’s wife deserves substantial credit for his theory of relativity – should that be included in semantic markup wherever the book is cataloged? How should that relationship be described? Calling her a contributor would be controversial and wouldn’t really capture the history – a new category may be needed.There are no shortage of ways to describe documents, events, people or concepts. The roster of people who will participate in the creation of a standard way to describe them will become increasingly important as machine learning becomes more important in our every day lives. Failing to take this seriously, Bath argues, could lead to the silencing of “minority views, quieter voices, and allows the dominant voice to speak for everyone, which seems highly problematic.”Is Categorization Itself The Right Solution?The semantic web today is based largely on what are called “triples” – sets of subject, predicate and object. For example Marshall Kirkpatrick [subject], loves [predicate] Punkin’ the Tabby Kitten [object]. (Hypothetical, I don’t have any kittens and please don’t send me any.)This way of describing things isn’t beyond question, however. As Bath argues:Even the modeling concepts themselves should be questioned as Cecile Crutzen suggest, since e.g. the class concept and the inheritance concept lack to represent social processes, because of limited formal expressiveness for conflict, change and fluidity. Such an ontology abstracts from human sociality, situated action and real meaning construction processes.In other words life aint so simple: people change, conflicts and context matter and things in this world don’t just get their meaning by one object bumping into another, one event leading to another, child inheriting traits from a parent, etc. Computer logic may necessitate simplification of some of life’s richness – but this is nothing to take lightly. We’re talking about helping computers understand meaning and that is not a simple or trivial matter.Is Knowledge Only The Absence of Doubt?Bath calls into question “computer science modeling that rests on the Cartesian epistemology,” or the belief that way we know that we really “know” something is by having no doubt about it.If our semantic markup reading robot finds markup asserting that a certain relationship exists and does not find any markup asserting that it does not exist – ought we conclude that we’ve determined the truth of the matter? Particularly if not all perspectives on the matter have been taken into consideration in even formulating how the situation is described, then an assertion that a particular object has a certain property or two subjects have a particular relationship may be woefully inaccurate in describing reality. There are a lot of things people disagree about and there’s a lot of knowledge that people deny for political convenience. The absence of doubt is not sufficient basis for determination of truth. Repeated attempts to disprove a theory make a much better basis for working knowledge. Or, as political blogger Karoli Kuns said to NPR’s Andy Carvin this morning when Carvin asserted otherwise, “I’d argue that tag dissent balances folksonomies, not undermines.”Let’s talk about “working knowledge” and stop whispering about “truth”, before the robot children hear us.Philosophy Aside, What Does This Mean?It means that as the language we use to communicate meaning to machines develops, we’d better watch out who is building it and what perspectives they take into consideration. Unconsidered assumptions could lead to a real disconnect between the meaning that machines know of the world and they way that millions of other people experience it.Bath isn’t suggesting that the semantic web should be rejected, quite the opposite in fact. “I am convinced,” she says, “that the perspectives I tried to sketch here can contribute to build better semantic systems or even prevent them from failure in function or on the marketplace.”She has her own explanation why this is important: “With the use of the Internet we are already witnessing a radical change in practices of how knowledge is represented, stored and spread. In the future most of our work and life will involve the manipulation and use of information. It will crucially depend on the epistemologies, concepts and leading metaphors of the Semantic Web, which direction the semantic “human-machine reconfigurations” (Lucy Suchman) will take.”That’s a nice way to say that we need to work hard to avoid creating fascist robots that exercise a homogenizing influence on diverse human experiences. There are people who are doing semantic web work in directions that take this into account, but it’s something worth considering for all of us.Disclosure: The author has consulting relationships with a number of pre-launched semantic web companies. Tags:#Analysis#Features#web Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Market
The Haryana government on Sunday issued transfer and posting orders for nine IAS officers with immediate effect, including 1991-batch senior bureaucrat Ashok Khemka. Ashok Khemka, principal secretary of Sports and Youth Affairs Department has been posted as principal secretary of Science and Technology Department, where he had been posted earlier as well.Vadra land dealThe 1991-batch IAS officer had first been mentioned by the media in 2012 when he had cancelled the mutation of a land deal between Congress leader Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra’s Skylight Hospitality and major real estate developer DLF. The IAS officer, who was posted for nearly 15 months in the Sports and Youth Affairs Department, headed by Minister Anil Vij, has been transferred over 45 times in his career so far. The other IAS officers transferred include Amit Jha, additional chief secretary of Medical Education and Research, advisor to Haryana Saraswati Heritage Board and additional chief secretary of Science and Technology Department. He has been posted as additional chief secretary of Sports and Youth Affairs Department and advisor to Haryana Saraswati Heritage Board, an official release said here. Siddhi Nath Roy, additional chief secretary of Forests and Wildlife Department, has been given additional charge of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department as Additional Chief Secretary. Rajeev Arora, chief resident commissioner of Haryana Bhawan, New Delhi and additional chief secretary of Health and Family Welfare Department, has been given additional charge of Medical Education and Research Department. Apoorva Kumar Singh, principal secretary of Town and Country Planning and Urban Estates Department, has been given additional charge of Faridabad Metropolitan Development Authority as its chief executive officer.
Remember Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, Khosla ka Ghosla, Aamir, Mumbai Meri Jaan, Welcome to Sajjanpur, Dev D, Mithya and Bheja Fry? Wasn’t it just the other day that these films were hymned and celebrated by critics, industry-wallahs, trade and the audience alike, and termed as the “New Parallel Cinema” of the new-age? Remember how the intelligentsia — the educated, discriminating, middle-class — lapped them up and eagerly looked forward to more? Even the likes of Mr. & Mrs. Iyer, 15 Park Avenue and Gandhi, My Father were celebrated by the discerning and went heavy-duty on the word-of-mouth track.So, what happened? It is reported that over a 100 small films, censor-approved and ready, are rotting in the cans with no takers! One major player in this category confessed he had six unsold movies on hand. So is this genre, which had spawned sub-brands, such as UTV’s Spotboy, PNC’s Guerilla, Mukta Arts Malpix, Sanjay Gupta’s White Feather Films Arthouse, and Balaji’s Alt Entertainment, on the verge of a fade-out?Tough call, but insiders point to Dibakar Banerjee’s (whose earlier Khosla and Oye Lucky were thumping successes) latest Love, Sex Aur Dhoka as the first deadly thud that started it all. After the initial hullabaloo — shot in high definition, devoid of stars, original concept — the Ekta Kapoor product designed to zonk the multiplex audience with a cathartic, never-before-experience, mysteriously zoomed out and landed in a DVD avatar in shelves across the globe within two weeks of release.Wassup? Saas Bahu Aur SensexDepends on who who’s telling. The UTV honchos, perhaps the biggest backers of this genre, admit it was no easy task getting films like A Wednesday, Aamir, Mumbai Meri Jaan or Sajjanpur off the block. “Solid investments, both monetary and marketing focus had to be called upon. No regrets. We went into these projects with our eyes open and remain proud of our association with these excellent products,” says Siddharth Roy Kapur, CEO of UTV Motion Pictures. However, when recession struck, marketing budgets for these small films took a big hit making their entry non-viable. Kapur is quick to explode a popular myth of small films being risk-free, commercially. He insists that the exact opposite is true, “If they don’t hit the bull’s eye, you could end up losing your total investment.”Adds a trade analyst, that while tons of money were indeed lost on multi-starrer bombs such as Drona, Chandni Chowk to China, Luck, Kidnap, Kambaqt Ishq and now the latest Kites and Raavan, people will still happily stand in line to see their favorite stars in big glossy movies rather than glamor-free, star-less fare like Saas Bahu aur Sensex, Dasvidanya, Aamras, Ugly aur Pagli, or Raat Gayi Baat Gayi. The other reason, say insiders, was the greed of the quick-buck, on-the-make financiers of these movies. Witnessing the success of small films, a quick appreciation on investment, and the viability of cashing in on numbers (six small films as opposed to one risky monster-budget, mega-starrer?) quantity preceded quality, leading to shoddy, even badly-made films with little style and less substance. Naturally, they had to be peeled off the ceiling!Finally, there is the terrifying logic articulated by a hot-shot producer: “Most small films are on DTH (Direct to Home) within days of their release. When viewers go to multiplexes and are offered a choice between SRK, Aamir and Akshay with Kareena, Kat and Priyanka and Vinay Pathak and Rajat Kapoor with Neha Dhupia and Neetu Chandra, having to shell out the same big bucks, any prizes for guessing which side is going to win, hands down?”So, at the end of the day, what gives? For one, substance and content remain key for small films to make big waves. Two, big ideas rather than big bucks, both in content and marketing focus in terms of bold, unique, unusual, or unconventional innovation have to be dreamed up and creatively leveraged. Finally — and this might be critical — can’t ticket prices for small films be rationalized to make them more realistic in confrontation with mega-crore glossies? As a perceptive Bollywood producer explained, it is the multiplexes, originally created to promote small films, that pose the biggest roadblocks to small films. Can or will that happen?This demand, from saner voices within the industry for alternative, smaller auditoriums for small films has been voiced for the last five decades. Only P.C. Sorcar or Houdini can help otherwise. Related Items