culture & entertainment

Those were the days

At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s eve 2012, many private clubs and bars in India held a minute’s silence and others cancelled parties altogether, to mark the horrific gang rape of a 23 year-old student in the nation’s capital.

One year on, it seems women’s safety remains an issue. Much of India’s urban population is choosing to bring in the New Year at home this year. 

A company that launched on April Fool’s Day and takes its name from the Hindi word for chaos doesn’t sound like a winner.

But in its 14 years Hungama Digital Media Entertainment, the parent of Hungama.com, has grown to become the world’s largest aggregator and distributor of Bollywood entertainment.

It works with more than 400 content creators to distribute material in 47 countries through over 150 partners. With viewers in 127 countries, India’s Rs112.4bn film industry, which recently celebrated its centenary, is certainly not short of paying customers. 

Aerosmith wrote a hit single about “Livin’ on the Edge” but it seems that Jakarta, which has one of Southeast Asia’s hottest live music scenes, is just a little bit too edgy for the ageing US rockers.

The Bad Boys from Boston, as they are called, have cancelled their planned gig in Jakarta this Saturday because of unspecified safety concerns, disappointing the more than 12,000 fans who had bought tickets and representatives of Indonesia’s burgeoning concert promotion industry. 

Xi Jinping, China’s incoming head of state, is set to deploy a new force as he seeks to develop Chinese soft power: his wife, Peng Liyuan, a folk singer famous in China, as Kathrin Hille reports for the FT, for her fiery performances of patriotic songs.

Well, see for yourselves. Here she is in 2011, helping to celebrate the 90th birthday of the founding of the Communist Party of China. More after the break.

While Chinese filmmakers, bloggers and government officials are pondering how a low-budget comedy dismissed by many as senseless hullabaloo could end up as the country’s best-ever grossing movie, the film itself is on its way into US cinemas.

‘Lost in Thailand’ will start showing on Friday in 29 theatres of AMC, the second-largest cinema company in America. 

Over the past five years, China has spent millions of dollars to promote its image overseas. The state news agency has rented offices in Times Square in New York and boosted the budget for English-language programming. Around the world there are nearly 400 Confucius Institutes teaching Chinese compared with none a decade ago. And last year when president Hu Jintao visited the US, China even ran a video ad in Times Square featuring famous Chinese.

Soft power, in other words, is something Beijing takes seriously. So as the popularity of South Korea’s quirky music video “Gangnam Style” soars around the world, its success has been met in China with a mixture of awe, envy, and soul-searching. 

With more than 400 million viewers on YouTube, South Korean rapper PSY’s “Gangnam Style” music video has become an internet hit and made Seoul’s trendy Gangnam neighbourhood a household name. The FT’s Simon Mundy examines the growth in South Korean cultural exports and talks to some of the country’s leading film and TV producers.

It’s the most recent dance sensation to sweep the nation. We’re talking, of course, about the viral pop hit “Gangnam Style” by Psy.

Out-of-nowhere dance songs are not anything new to US audiences (Macarena anybody?), but “Gangnam Style” breaks an important barrier – the separation of K-pop, Korea’s pop music industry, and US audiences. It also demonstrates the shift in the music industry away from radio play and album sales and toward social networks and digital downloads. 

Pizzas with names like “keema do pyaaza”, “peppy paneer”, “five pepper pizza” and “non-veg extravaganza” will make Italian food purists cringe. But the creation of pizzas catering to Indian tastes has been a recipe for success for Domino’s Pizza in India. 

The Indian government on Thursday approved Disney’s plan to invest a further $180m into its Indian operations.

The government release announcing the approval said the money would be used in the “expansion of the business and making downstream investment in other companies and subsidiaries of the company, including broadcasting companies.” 

Over the past few weeks, Indian television has carried an advertisement for Ireland starring an unlikely pair: two of Bollywood’s biggest stars, Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif.

The ads were created by Tourism Ireland using footage from Khan and Kaif’s blockbuster movie, Ek Tha Tiger (“Once There Was a Tiger”), which the tourism board helped to bring to the Emerald Isle for filming through tax incentives and other measures.

The reason? Bollywood movies bring Indian tourists. 

Eurovision kicks off Tuesday night in Baku and the Azerbaijani capital is decked out to the nines. The city’s imported London taxis are emblazoned with Eurovision designs and traffic billboards tick down the days to the song contest’s finale on Saturday which the government says it has spent $100m preparing for.

As thousands of first-time tourists start to pour into Baku from continental Europe, the country’s ministry of culture and tourism is looking at the first big test – and advertisement – for the country’s nascent tourism industry. 

Bad news out of Jakarta today for executives in Indonesia’s booming entertainment industry, supporters of religious tolerance, and little monsters, as fans of pop star Lady Gaga are known.

Her upcoming concert in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation has been denied a permit by police following pressure from hardline Islamist groups who claimed that her skimpy wardrobe and outlandish stage show would corrupt the nation’s youth. 

First Walmart in Mexico, now it’s Hollywood in China.

According to this Reuters exclusive, the US’s Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether US movie studios might have fallen foul of the country’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the rush to gain a foothold in one of the fastest-growing movie markets in the world.  

Tony Stark – aka Iron Man – would struggle to do much business in China. For one of the most important suppliers to the Pentagon, the conflict of interests would be severe. The arms embargo in force since 1989 would scupper any exports, while intellectual property infringements would also be a worry.

And yet, Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr, will have his next film jointly produced and funded by China’s DMG, in the latest sign of Hollywood’s romance with the Middle Kingdom.