Posts Tagged ‘Agni’

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar threatens to sue tabloid

5 July 2010

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: A full-fledged war has broken out between “India’s future Nobel laureate“, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and underworld don-turned-journalist-turned-film maker, ‘Agni Sridhar, with the godman’s Art of Living foundation threatening a preemptive Rs 50 crore defamation suit against the latter.

The suit just comes four days after AoL claimed it was receiving extortion calls from a telephone number belonging to Sridhar, the man behind the eponymous weekly Kannada tabloid, Agni, and is clearly aimed at stemming the flow of negative news that has bedevilled “Mr Shankar” in the last month.

Last Tuesday, June 29, Ravi Shankar’s AoL filed a complaint before Bangalore police saying they had been receiving SMSes and calls from the mobile phone belonging to the journalist demanding Rs 42 crore (one million dollars).

Agni Sridhar was not named in the complaint.

An AoL  spokesman told reporters Agni Sridhar had visited the ashram to initiate “joint social development projects” with organisations associated with him, but when ashram representatives visited him, he changed tack. It is alleged he said he had some compact discs (CDs) to malign the ashram.

(Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has since claimed in an interview with the Bombay tabloid Mid-Day that “someone” was blackmailing him with a fabricated video.)

The following day, Agni Sridhar called a press conference to clear his name since his phone number had been mentioned, stating that he was only interceding on behalf of Paul Fernandez, a non-resident Indian whose 15-acre plot of land had been allegedly grabbed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s ashram, a charge denied by the ashram.

Now, AoL has followed up its police complaint with a legal notice to Agni Sridhar, demanding an unconditional apology for all the defamatory articles published by the weekly over a seven-year period. That’s Kannada reports that Sridhar has confirmed receiving such a notice.

Curiously, the notice has been sent by advocate S. Dore Raju, a former state public prosecutor seen to be close to the ruling BJP government in Karnataka if not the sangh parivar itself.

The police complaint and the legal notice cap a month of negative publicity for Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who earlier last month complained of being the target of an “assassination attempt” only to find Bangalore police assert that it was just a neighbour shooing off wild dogs.

The sudden spurt of incidents involving Sri Sri ravi Shankar also throws light on a possible war between godmen in Bangalore.

In a separate interview, Agni Sridhar had alleged that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was behind the Nithyananda video as he was wary of the latter’s growing popularity. Nithyananda who was caught on film with a Tamil film actress was released from custody recently.

Sridhar, a “reformed” underworld figure, has more recently branched out into making movies. He scripted the critically acclaimed Aa Dinagalu (Those were the days) on his stint in the margins, with the Jnanpith Award winning writer Girish Karnad. Two other films Slum Bala and Tamassu have since come from his stable.

Photographs: courtesy Enemiga Publica and Belli Tere

Also read: When a newspaper recites the Gita to a godman

‘Vijaya Next’ gives ToI Crest a Kannada avatar

28 May 2010

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: The Times of India group has unveiled its latest product in Bangalore: Vijaya Next, a broadsheet, all-colour, Kannada weekly for the “upwardly mobile Kannadiga population“.

The 24-page Friday offering, priced at Rs 6, is a customised version of the Crest edition of The Times of India, complete with shades of its aquamarine colour.

And like Crest, the product offering has the usual “upmarket” mix of relationships, health, education, sex, travel, food, fitness, films, celebrities, automotive, gadgets, and sport.

The strategy behind the hurried launch of Vijaya Next, according to insiders, is essentially the same as ToI’s Crest: to slip it along with the group’s flagship Kannada daily Vijaya Karnataka every week and get more out of the customer’s monthly newspaper bill without increasing the cover price of Vijaya Karnataka.

Vijaya Next is edited by Deepak Thimaya, a well-known TV anchor with almost no newspaper journalism experience on his resume barring a few columns, and is produced by residual staff from the Kannada edition of The Times of India, which was shut down in early March at a day’s notice.

(The Kannada edition of ToI had itself been launched in quest of a similar “upwardly mobile” Kannadiga audience after shutting Usha Kirana, the Kannada newspaper that fell into the group’s lap when it bought Vijaya Karnataka and the now-defunct Vijay Times from BJP parliamentarian Vijay Sankeshwar.)

Vijaya Next has been grandly proclaimed in a full-page ad in today’s Times of India (Bangalore market) as the “first-ever Kannada weekly“, although what that means is unclear when full-fledged features weekly magazines such as Sudha from the Praja Vani group and Taranga from the Udaya Vani group, have been available for decades.

Also, there are innumerable Kannada weekly tabloids, part news, part features and part crime, such as Hi! Bangalore, Lankesh, Agni and so on. Most of them do not carry advertisements as a matter of policy and are priced at between Rs 12 and Rs 15 per copy, giving Vijaya Next a price advantage.

But there is little confusion on what the brand managers mean when they say that Vijaya Next will take an “entertaining look” at the world and stories and issues that matter to you.

“Now read all di stories that matter, nimmade bhasheyalli (now read all the stories that matter in your own language),” reads the copy of a half-Kannada, half-English, half-page ad that runs in Vijaya Karnataka, which has lost considerable ground to the Deccan Herald-owned Praja Vani in the last two rounds of the ABC.

If nothing else, Vijaya Next will muddy the waters before Rajeev Chandasekhar‘s Jupiter group begins ploughing in money into Kannada Prabha, in which he bought a stake recently. It will also perhaps prevent him from finding people to staff the paper. Many of the ToI Kannada staff were absorbed in Vijaya Karnataka as a preemptive measure.

Also read: The Times of India to shut down Kannada edition

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