Posted: 23 Sep 2011 01:10 AM PDT
A village in the Bharatpur district of Rajasthan in India is trying to rid of itself of the sex trade and gets a helping hand from Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor and CNN.
ALTHOUGH human trafficking leaves a black stain in the history of human civilisation, it is thankfully banned the world over today. But in the Bharatpur district of Rajasthan in India, there exists a community where many young girls and women are sold to the sex trade ... often by members of their own family.
The CNN Freedom Project Documentary exposes this violation of human rights through its documentary Trapped By Tradition: A CNN Freedom Project Documentary, which ropes in Bollywood luminary actor/producer Anil Kapoor as a partner. The network's multi-platform initiative aims to expose the horrors of modern-day slavery and to push for change and Kapoor's star power is hoped to cast a more prominent light on the social debacle.
During a recent phone interview from his home base in Mumbai, India, the Slumdog Millionaire star was only too keen to share his thoughts on these despicable happenings in northern India. Right off the bat, it was evident that this was a matter close to his heart, having visited Bharatpur two years prior to this year's return visit and having seen the place in a sadder state of affairs.
With hearty introductions out of the way, the genial superstar was quick to dig into the topic at hand, revealing what gnawed at his senses about the issue: "I've been working with Plan India (part of the global Plan International, a community development organisation dedicated in promoting child rights to eradicate child poverty) as a patron for the organisation.
"When they told me about this place in Rajasthan two or three years ago, I was completely shocked. It's a business there, where the young and impressionable are dragged into it and brainwashed into doing things against their will." So when CNN came a knocking, Kapoor was already familiar with the plight of the women in Bharatpur.
Although the situation still exists, the people in Bharatpur have made progress in changing their ways. "Families used to be viewed poorly when they didn't observe the tradition. Now families who observe that tradition are viewed poorly, which is a complete reversal of the situation and a sign of improvement," he enthused.
Given how the world exists in the information age today, it's a wonder how a place like Bharatpur has existed in the way it has, and stayed under the radar of morality. Surely the people there must have made some attempt at improving their situation?
Having visited the place and seen the plight of the people first hand, Kapoor reckons the seniors and elders there have played a part in attempting to eradicate this social malaise. "Human slavery in today's modern world is unacceptable and unpardonable," reiterated the 51-year-old.
In the documentary, Kapoor is pictured meeting a young "worker" and with her invitation, returns to her home to speak with her mother. The conversation he has with the girl's mother is a heart-wrenching one and it's evident that while the people there are aware that what they do is unenviable, extreme poverty can dull all sense of logic and morality.
Kapoor described the woman as the face of human trafficking, which seemed a trifle unfair seeing as she's just one in many mothers who've allowed their young daughters to walk out the door with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. "You can't sit on the fence. People have to be held accountable," asserted the actor who won his first Filmfare Award in 1984 for Best Supporting Actor in Yash Chopra's movie Mashaal.
Accurately, Kapoor singles out education as the most holistic approach in freeing Bharatpur of its archaic tradition, but that's always easier said than done, seeing as, like the rest of the world, India too is male-dominant.
"When the government and media are aware and keeping a watchful eye, people are more cautious about doing something immoral. Whether it is drugs, terrorism, etc, you are going to be exposed because the laws are stringent. With the aid of politicians and bureaucrats, the situation for the people there can certainly improve," Kapoor said, revealing that Plan India has even built schools there to provide appropriate educational needs.
As a celebrity, Kapoor is able to exert his star power to the cause but it's a very different story for the common man to fight human trafficking. So what can the man on the street do to prevent and combat this situation?
"For starters, they cannot play any part in human trafficking ... don't be involved. If he sees anyone being part of it, try to stop it. Report it to the police ... create a ruckus. If that doesn't work, see the MP ... take it to the highest level necessary. This is all about creating awareness. We live in a democratic country after all," he said assertively.
The living conditions of the girl and her family in the documentary are deplorable to say the least, but the most disturbing aspect of Kapoor's visit to Bharatpur was seeing the mental condition of the people there. "Poverty is the biggest problem. For the sake of survival, they'd do just about anything. They have no money, no jobs ... they're so innocent and vulnerable," he lamented.
There was another young girl, though, featured in the documentary, and she is one of a few from a growing group of young girls who aspires to educate herself and eventually become a movie star.
It's these little success stories though that make it all worthwhile for everyone who aspires to make Bharatpur a loving and civilised society. "She represents hope in that place, but she's just one of many now," Kapoor revealed.
Kapoor's quick to admit that he's not the only celebrity who is expending his energies on worthy causes. "There are many. Shabana Azmi is another person ... she's an activist and is always there to help," he said of his senior in the acting industry, who champions causes supporting child survival and fighting AIDS and injustice in real life.
It's intriguing how the movie that Kapoor has become inextricably associated with, Slumdog Millionaire, is a movie that addresses his interest in similar social concerns, too.
"Yes, Slumdog changed a lot of our lives. For me, living in Mumbai, I know those situations and have lived in those localities ... but when you don't see them, you tend to forget. It's easy to forget or be blinded because you're surrounded by your own needs. I moved on but now I've been reminded where I started. The film helped me be rooted," he conceded.
As far as his acting career is concerned, Kapoor will be appearing in the upcoming Mission: Impossible IV, which screens late this year. "I'm also appearing in the movie, Tezz (which translates to "speed"), which will be released early next year. I play a British cop," shared Kapoor of the thriller, which revolves around a hijacked train.
Acting is clearly his career, but Kapoor's growing concern in life is humanity and when he received positive feedback on the documentary from this writer, he sounded content and safe in the thought that his efforts have not been in vain.
> Trapped By Tradition: A CNN Freedom Project Documentary airs tomorrow at 9pm on CNN (Astro Ch 511).
Posted: 23 Sep 2011 01:00 AM PDT
Beret Hijau uses real weapons, no less, in its combat scenes.
WE all know that the Malaysian Armed Forces is guarding our country from any form of threat or invasion. We also know about Warriors' Day or Hari Pahlawan which we celebrate on July 31.
Other than that, we have to admit many of us do not know much about the Malaysian Armed Forces. With that in mind, Global Network Entertainment decided to produce its first drama series based on the Armed Forces' Commando Unit, arguably the toughest and most elite unit.
Titled Beret Hijau, the drama follows Haziq and Kamil, who are from the same village but are opposites in terms of background and personality.
After getting involved in fights with village thugs, Haziq is advised by his uncle to join the army. However, on the day he enters the army, he bumps into Kamil, one of the thugs who beat him up back home. The guys put aside their differences as they embrace army life.
"This is my company's first big budget drama and we went through a series of challenges in producing the 13-episode series," said producer Den Wahab.
At the launch of the series, Den (who is well known for his tailoring business for the who's who in the country) said that the idea for producing Beret Hijau came from Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Budgeted at more than RM500,000, Beret Hijau also saw close collaboration between his company and the Armed Forces.
"Producing a drama series based on the Armed Forces was no mean feat. We had to ensure that all the facts and depiction of army life were accurate.
"Together with the Armed Forces, we decided to focus on army life and its training as accurately as possible. We also used the latest weaponry employed by the Armed Forces," added Den whose real name is Zaharuddin Abdul Wahab.
Filming began in March and it took 70 days to complete. The series was filmed in different army camps in the country, including Kem Terendak in Sungai Udang in Malacca and Kem Sungai Petani in Kedah.
According to its director, Along Kamaruddin, this drama series was the toughest he has handled in his filmmaking career.
"It's difficult to describe, but suffice to say, it was extremely tough, especially when it involved fighting or battle scenes. We were using live bullets and we could not re-shoot the scenes. Everything could only be done once and it had to be perfect and most of all, believable."
Den also hopes that with Beret Hijau, members of the public will be more aware of the Armed Forces and youngsters will be encouraged to join the army.
The series boast a mix of new and established faces such as Aman Graseka (who plays Abu Farsi), Hasnul Rahmat (Soleh), Iqbal Mazlan (Haziq), Lan Mazlan (Kamil), Azie Yahya (Aishah), Chomell Fana (Amirah) Corrie Lee (Sergeant Fong) and Kuswadinata (Pak Ali).
Member of Parliament Khairy Jamaluddin also had a cameo role as a captain and appears in a few parachuting scenes.
> Beret Hijau premieres on TV1 on Sept 30 at 9pm.
What the actors say
Iqbal Mazlan (Haziq)
The actor said he had gained invaluable experience and had a most challenging time filming the series at the army camps in different locations in the country.
"As an actor, what I learnt in 70 days was just a tiny bit of army life and it was very tough. I can't imagine being an army commando as my chosen career.
"But after being exposed to the army life while filming the drama, I can assure you that I have the highest respect for the soldiers.
"My other challenge was playing a kampung boy who joined the army and became a member of the Commando Unit, the toughest and most elite unit of the army.
"I have to portray the changes my character goes through as he takes on more responsibilities," said Iqbal who was the winner of reality show Pilih Kasih.
Lan Mazlan (Kamil)
"My character's an orphan who was raised by his aunt. He just decided to pack his bags and join the army after coming across a recruitment ad.
"Acting as Kamil was a once in a lifetime experience. It was tough. We didn't have any army training prior to filming. It was a big shock when we were told the dos and don'ts when shooting the training and combat scenes.
"I feel privileged to have received insight into army life; the sacrifices they make to safeguard our country.
"I also learned that some of them haven't celebrated Hari Raya with their families in 10 years. I have the highest respect for them."
Corrie Lee (Sergeant Fong)
"It was my first time playing a commando role. Normally I would play a Communist. I remember feeling so proud when I put on my army uniform."
Posted: 22 Sep 2011 03:43 PM PDT
No letting up for both the hunters and the hunted.
IT'S been a busy week for both the hunters and the hunted as listeners continue their relentless pursuit of Red FM's Runaway DJs at a chance to win a brand new Proton Inspira.
Every Monday to Friday, the Red FM's Runaway DJs have been going out and about to secret locations. The first listener to turn up at the correct location and identify the Red FM's Runaway DJ of the day receives a key to be in the running to win a car.
Though the on ground search takes a respite on Saturday and Sunday, it's a non-stop entertainment filled weekend over the airwaves as the deejays continue to bring you Today's Best Music.
Check out Red FM's Fresh Forty Chart, Red FM's Skool Daze and Red FM's Remix to get your weekend going. Arnold brings you the latest hits with Red FM's Fresh Forty Chart Show (Saturday, 3pm-7pm). On Red FM's Skool Daze (Saturday, 7pm-11pm), Terry will play all your favourite school days anthems. Then let DJ Razz from Red FM's Remix (Saturday, 11pm-1am) hook you up with the top club songs, electronic dance tracks and dance anthem remixes.
With one week left in this month-long contest, it's a frantic race to grab hold of the key to enter the finale. In addition to the key, bonus prizes such as cash, iPad 2s and iPod Nanos are also given out.
Tune in as clues to their whereabouts are given out on-air as well as through the station's website, Facebook page and Twitter account. The hunt for the Red FM's Runaway DJs stops on Sept 30 at Tropicana City Mall, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, so don't miss out on your chance to pick up a key and join a thrilling finale.
Check out www.red.fm for the terms and conditions of the contest. Join the Red FM Malaysia Facebook fan page (www.facebook.com/redfm.my) and follow them on Twitter (@iloveredfm) for the latest updates of the contest.
Red FM is owned and operated by The Star.
> Red FM's station frequencies: Taiping, Kedah, Perlis and Pulau Langkawi: 98.1 FM; George Town and Seberang Prai: 107.6 FM; Ipoh, Perak: 106.4 FM; Klang Valley, Negri Sembilan and Tapah: 104.9 FM; Kuantan, Pahang: 91.6 FM; Batu Pahat and Malacca: 98.9 FM; Johor Baru and Singapore: 92.8 FM.
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