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Indians are hot

India and Indians have been quite a bit in the news what with the polls in India and Sunday Times Rich List here, writes Nabanita Sircar.
PTI | By Nabanita Sircar, London
PUBLISHED ON APR 21, 2004 08:27 PM IST
Over the past two weeks India and Indians have been quite a bit in the news here, not only because of the elections in India and the entrance of the Gandhi heir Rahul into the electoral arena, but also the success of Indians here.

I admit, the Sunday Times Rich List has always remained the most authentic and the growing number of Indians entering the list and improving their position is heartening. But now this rich-list craze is going a bit too far, with almost every Asian media group jumping on the bandwagon to produce its own list. It is undoubtedly a great money-spinning and publicity ploy. But we know Lakshmi Mittal is the richest Indian in the UK, or don't we? No, I have no confusion on that count, but some rich lists in some Asian papers appear to have devised their own system of rating wherein the Mittals and Hindujas remain missing.

I am still not clear about the reasons behind it. I did hear last year that the omission was because they held Indian passports and their investments were not in Britain, but then the Hindujas rightfully objected, I was told, because the brothers hold UK passports and the entire world knows about that, given the Mandelson scandal. Anyway, for this paper, Mr Mittal is more of an "international millionaire" while Hindujas fit into India's rich. If some gossip is to be believed then I remember having heard that people involved with the list have been upset that Mr Mittal never graces events where such lists are declared. 

Mr Mittal, I suppose, has no time to spare for such little ratings. The media-shy Mittal, I know, avoids the press but the same cannot be said about the media. Whether it is about him buying the most expensive house in the world or being the biggest riser in this year's rich list, the media loves him, or at least loves writing about him. Sometimes I wonder why. Is it an underlying irritation that an Indian has made it so big in this country?  It surely is not simply about being a foreigner because foreign-born tycoons are taking over the British elite with Roman Abromovich being the richest in Britain. And if you look at the top ten you realise how fast foreigners are heading to the top. Then why such sharp focus on Mittal? I am intrigued. He donated money to the Labour party and it became big news, not so when anyone else does the same.

did a double-spread on the man who is only the fifth rich. Why not Abromovich or Rausing? Yes, may be Mr Mittal is a flamboyant person, but why grudge the man for buying a £70 million house in London's Billionaires Row? After all, until now it belonged to Bernie Ecclestone and none of us even knew about it. No, the article grumbles, its got to do with the tax loophole that helped Mr Mittal buy the property. So, go ahead and change the tax structure!

Oh, and Mr Mittal is not such a nice guy, because "he now, all but owns Kazakhstan, the corrupt, violent, tree-less republic in Central Asia" and is close to country's "dictatorial president". Is he not a talented businessman? No, he is a "hard-nosed, often rutheless operator." And because the media has photographs of him posing bare-chested by his personal swimming pool at his house in Bishops Avenue, the article sniggers at his "trim" body, maintained at the "basement gymnasium" of his home. Can the man do anything right in th eyes of the Mail? I doubt it. I had often been told that the paper has somewhat racist undertones, and somehow, I am beginning to have my own doubts about it too. This kind of underhand criticism, one is made to suspect, can only stem from the fact that Mr Mittal is Indian, the country, possibly a handful British still cannot forget,  England once ruled.

But now Indians can no longer be stopped. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee figures prominently amidst the world's leaders and revolutionists as the world's unlikely peacemaker. Of him the Time magazine writes: "If India is one vast enigma, it could have no more apt leader than a Prime Minister who prefers poetry, a rousing orator who shuns the public and a computer illiterate, 79, whose young tech warriors are taking on the world." But the one reason that places him among the world's most significant figures, is "his pursuit of peace with Pakistan".

However, the list also has Aishwarya Rai as Bollywood's beauty and crossover catalyst. And that reminds me - her recent visit here with Hrithik Roshan and others to perform in Manchester, London and Birmingham was quite a flop. Its not about the stars alone, but the entire exercise fails to grab the interest of Bollywood fans.

The success of such extravagant shows reached its peak in the 80s with Amitabh Bachchan, when the idea, conceived and masterminded by his younger brother Ajitabh, was fresh and new. But those days are over now.  Today, only Shah Rukh Khan can command an audience. The only recent show that drew packed audiences was that of Adnan Sami. Some time ago organisers claimed to have cancelled a  Salman Khan show because it could not draw enough crowds. I am sure its time for something new.

Basere se dur, it's time we had something innovative!      

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