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Urmila Matondkar seeks to spread cheer in flood-ravaged Maharashtra hamlets

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Amid the gloom that has engulfed the flood-ravaged districts of Maharashtra, Shiv Sena’s glam leader Urmila Matondkar on Wednesday sought to cheer up the people in a couple of villages in Raigad and Ratnagiri, and returned with a lesson on human sufferings.

Urmila drove down this morning to tiny Dadli village and surrounding hamlets in Raigad and later in Ratnagiri – that were completely washed away in last week’s rain fury which fuelled the floods in the district and wreaked havoc all over.

Accompanied by a vehicle loaded with relief supplies and abundance of radiance, she descended on the tiny village where scores of smiling and cheering villagers welcomed her with love and affection.

Clad in an earthy-brown salwar-suit with a white dupatta, Urmila reciprocated with equal warmth, mingling freely with the flood-affected folks, lifting a couple of giggling kids, touching some of the shy women and attempting to break the ice with small talk.

At one spot on the outskirts of Dadli, she learnt of a couple and a brother, mentally challenged, who lost everything including their two bullocks.

Their humble and devastated dwelling was a few meters away from the road, but the undaunted Urmila nonchalantly stepped into nearly 2-3 feet deep muck and sludge, trudged to the family who could scarcely believe their eyes.

“I tried to console them… Offered them some aid kits, and tried to boost their spirits. I promised them that things will improve for them in future and then later they could invite me for a cup of tea,” Urmila told IANS from the spot.

A member of her team later informed that she chatted with the villagers, enquired after their welfare, the status of their near and dear ones, and whether the flood survivors were able to get proper food, water, clothing and other items for survival.

In Chiplun – one of the worst-hit areas which was under 15-20 feet water and now has a mournful countenance, she interacted with a few hundred people and distributed aid material.

“While in Kolkata for a shoot last week, I had watched shocking images of the Chiplun bus depot which was submerged in 10-12 feet water with only the bus roof visible – and, right now I am standing here and seeing the wreck and ruin caused by the floods,” Urmila added.

Shaken to her soul by what she witnessed in her few hours long whirlwind tour, Urmila said the calamity is too huge for words and it will take long for the affected people to return to normalcy.

“Nothing can prepare you for this… Whatever help you can give is less. The most difficult challenge is to look in their eyes and talk… they have lost everything and pin their hopes on you and the government,” she said, recalling her similar 3-day visit to the flood-hit Satara, Kolhapur and Sangli in 2019.

On Wednesday, Urmila distributed around 500 kits with essentials for children and women including food, medicines, sanitary napkins, etc through NGO Rashtra Seva Dal and also pitched in with her own cash donations but did not reveal the amount.

“Tomorrow, I shall make videos of my trip, post it on social media and issue an all-out appeal to the film folks, corporates, charitable organisations and common citizens to open up their hearts and purses for the distressed people here,” Urmila said.

She pointed out that while the government will definitely help, it will take a long to completely rehabilitate the people and heal their mental scars at the loss of their loved ones, “but every tiny effort will count”, and promised to return for a longer visit with more aid material soon.

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‘Adipurush’ teaser out; most precious film, says Prabhas

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“Adipurush”, one of the most anticipated Indian films of 2023, whose first teaser was released here on Sunday, unites the talents of Prabhas (of the “Baahubali” franchise) and Om Raut, who directed the Ajay Devgn-starrer “Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior”, the biggest Indian box office hit of 2020, reports ‘Variety’.

“Adipurush” is Raut’s take on the ‘Ramayana’ by Valmiki. The film is set 7,000 years ago and in the film, Prabhas’s character is not called Lord Ram, he is Raghav, which is another name for Ram.

Sita, played by Kriti Sanon, is called Janaki (as in King Janaka’s daughter), while Saif Ali Khan’s Ravana is Lankesh (lord of Lanka), which are also derivatives of their ‘Ramayana’ names, notes ‘Variety’.

Adipurush literally means ‘first man’, but here the interpretation is that of ‘best man’.

Post “Tanhaji”, Raut could have called any Indian A-lister for his next film but he chose Prabhas. “I always had Prabhas in my mind when I was writing Raghav’s character — it became so compelling for me,” Raut said in a conversation with ‘Variety’. “If it was not him, I would have not made the film.”

Raut made it to Hyderabad from Mumbai in the middle of India’s first Covid-19 lockdown to discuss the film with Prabhas in person. The actor describes the meeting as a “super exciting day”.

“After three days, I got a little stressed because I thought it’s the most precious film for the country — can I do it?” Prabhas told ‘Variety’. “Om said not to worry and so it was a beautiful thing that happened. I think it’s the most prestigious film in my life.”

Prabhas says he signed on because of Raut’s intriguing screenplay and how it integrates the history and culture of India. “The way he designed the film was amazing, huge. And I think he made it very well,” Prabhas said.

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Actresses Nikki Tamboli, Sofia Singh taken to Tihar Jail to recreate meetings with Sukesh

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 Two actresses — Nikki Tamboli and Sofia Singh — were taken inside the Tihar Jail to “recreate” their alleged meeting with conmon Sukesh Chandrashekhar, a senior Delhi Police official said Tuesday.

“It was part of the ongoing probe into the Rs 200 crore extortion case related to Sukesh Chandrashekhar,” the official said.

Chandrashekhar, presently lodged in Jail No. 3 of the Tihar Jail, was arrested last year for allegedly cheating and extorting money from some high-profile people, which includes former Fortis Healthcare promoter Shivinder Mohan Singh’s wife Aditi Singh. Many women Bollywood actors and models have been questioned by the Enforcement Directorate for their alleged links to Chandrashekhar.

In April 2021, he was arrested in another money laundering case linked to the 2017 Election Commission bribery case, which allegedly involved a former AIADMK leader and others.

Notably, the Enforcement Directorate, recently in an application in Supreme Court, had mentioned that accused Sukesh has repeatedly committed offences, including that of money laundering during his incarceration in jail by subverting the legal system and prison rules with the help of his knowledge of technology and his “ability to con people”.

According to the sources, ‘Big Boss’ fame Nikki Tamboli, ‘Bade Acche Lagte Hai’ fame Chahat Khanna, Sophia Singh, and Arusha Patil met Chandrashekhar in the jail premises and he introduced himself as a producer of the southern film industry.

A source said that Chandrashekhar’s aide Pinky Irani, who was arrested later, had facilitated their meetings with Chandrashekhar. All these four actresses were given expensive gifts of renowned brands such as Gucci, Versace, and Louis Vuitton.

Chandrashekhar also transferred some Rs 5.20 lakh into the account of Patil, who has admitted to have met him but not in the jail. When Irani introduced Khanna to Chandrashekhar, the actress was allegedly given Rs 2 lakh and a blue-coloured Versace watch.

Chandrashekhar allegedly deposited Rs 2 lakh into the account of Singh and later gifted her an LV bag. She was, later on, given Rs 1.5 lakh more.

Irani got an amount of Rs 10 lakh from Chandrashekhar for introducing him to Tamboli, and she gave Rs 1.5 lakh to Tamboli. Later on, Chandrashekhar gave her a Gucci bag and Rs 2 lakh on their first meeting.

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‘We have lost a gem’: Condolences start pouring in for Raju Srivastava

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Even as the news of comedian Raju Srivastava’s death spread across the country, messages of condolence started pouring in.

The first to react was Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav, who said: “It is regrettable that Raju Srivastava is no more with us. He came from a poor family, but with his talent and hard work, he created his presence in the world. There are very few talented comedians like him. I remember how he wanted to contest from Kanpur when he joined SP.”

Srivastava was indeed given an SP ticket in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, but he later returned it and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar tweeted: “Saddened to hear the tragic news of Raju Srivastava’s untimely demise. He made us all laugh with his amazing comic timing for so many years. We have lost a gem. My deepest condolences to his family members and admirers.”

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