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Not so young Fashion Graduate From National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Delhi, India. Aspiring journalist. Amongst other eclectic hobbies, she likes writing and has written several poems and articles over her school and college life and now for a living. She would someday like to be be a more popular writer than just on her blogs. 'Tis a lady of grand splendor, who waketh in my bed every morning while the sun beckons her towards night...

Friday, January 23, 2015

Mardaani review: Watch out for fiery Rani Mukerji

In the world of Bajirao Singham and Chulbul Pandey, Shivani Shivaji Roy has come as a breath of fresh air. ` Mardaani` does not have Rani Mukerji play a tomboy – it is a woman doing her bit to fight in a man`s world.

Rani has been acknowledged as a fantastic actor. In that regard, she has very little competition in the industry. The fact that she is possibly the best has been established well with `Mardaani`. The film deals with the difficult subject of human-trafficking and Director Pradeep Sarkar tackles the issue very carefully.

Rani plays a Mumbai crime branch officer, Shivani who is a hard-bitten cop with a mission to set things right. She is not afraid to bend the rules, to nab criminals and is respected by her fellows. She gets involved in the investigation of busting a sex-trafficking racket when a girl close to her goes missing. She has to follow the trail fast, as anyone involved is getting killed fast. The investigation leads her to Delhi where she goes into the nitty-gritties of the city to nab the elusive `Walt`, played by Tahir Raj Bhasin.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Rang Rasiya review: Painting a not so pretty picture

For artists in India, Raja Ravi Varma is an icon. He brought together the western style and Indian subjects, and made God available to each and every household in the country. He is a symbol who fought the society for the freedom of expression – something that we struggle with even after a century has passed.
He attempts to portray an artist at the pinnacle of his talent and the fight to bring God to each home. He further tries to weave in a love story within this story. That is where the film fails.Filmmaker Ketan Mehta, the genius behind classics such as 'Sardar' and 'Mirch Masala', decided to paint a picture of the man himself (based on Ranjit Desai's novel), his life story and his struggle through the movie 'Rang Rasiya'. The feature was waiting on the shelves for half a decade, to see the light of day only now because of censorship.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Happy Ending review: Intelligent but unoriginal

The movie starts with mocking the clichés of Bollywood romance, with the young urban commitment-phobic guy, highly unlikely to fall in love! And yet 'Happy Ending' is what all romantic comedies turn out to be – feel good!

Saif Ali Khan plays Yudi Jaitley, a young writer who has struck a writers block after hitting the jackpot with his first book. He is also caught in a string of unsuccessful relationships with the characters of Kareena, Preity and Kalki, which is a nice enough way to bring in the star power.

Enter Aanchal Reddy, a best-selling romantic author who doesn't believe in the idea of perfect romance she herself writes about! The rest of the story is as predictable as romedies go!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Rahman, Pritam have taken Indian music forward, says Shafqat Amanat Ali

“Music transcends all boundaries”

An adage that defines what singer Shafqat Amanat Ali stands for. Perhaps, one of the most loved artists in the subcontinent, he shot to fame with Fuzon's (his band) first album. Shafqat is the son of Ustad Amanat Ali Khan and belongs to the illustrious Patiala Gharana. Having had a Hindustani classical music training, Shafqat decided to try something different and worked on bringing together sufi, folk and classical music with western rock.

His foray into Bollywood has made him one of the most sought after artists in the subcontinent. Shafqat is known for some fabulous hits like 'Mitwa', 'Dildaara and 'Bin Tere'. Here is the interview with the talented artist

What brings you to India?

This India tour is for a very old commitment to perform in Kolkata. I am also here for some small projects and recording some pieces for a film. I have already recorded the songs and this time it is just for doing some small parts for Arjun Kapoor and Sonakshi Sinha starrer 'Tevar'.

Are you working on any new solo albums?

Yes, I am working on a solo album. Without revealing too many details, I can tell you that it is now in the mixing process. We are working on some last bits, and it is almost ready.

Do you like doing playback singing, live concerts or do you like working on collaborations like 'Dewarist', 'Unplugged' and 'Coke Studio'?
I don't have any particular preference. It all depends on what sort of work I get. If I am doing more satisfactory work on solo albums then that excites me. But if we have a good collaboration and if it is coming out to be a good song and a good composition, then that makes me happy as well. What matters is that it should be something that I can relate to later.

Who would be your dream collaboration with?

I won't like to name someone as I would keep thinking later that I may have missed out on someone important. The only criterion I have is that the person I collaborate with is as interested as I am in the project.

Anybody from the past....

I think I would have loved to work with someone like Madan Mohan ji and Salil Chowdhury ji.

How important do you think classical music training is in playback singing?

It is really important. It is like writing an English book. If you don't even know ABCD, grammar or the basics of the language – you won't be able to write a good piece. If you haven't trained to know the basics of singing then your work will just be a fluke and not proper singing.

Do you think the independent music scene in the subcontinent has become better with the passing years?
Film music has always been very dominating in India. Whereas that is not the case in Pakistan as it does not have a strong film industry. People just create what they want. They don't have to follow a certain situation. They don't need to compose something according to the writer or a set story. People have a free hand and that is a blessing in disguise.

But now, even in India a lot of people have made that change in the industry. Starting from AR Rahman to composers like Pritam, all of them are doing fabulous work. There is a plethora of music directors such as Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Vishal-Shekhar, Vishal Bharadwaj, Salim-Suleiman who have taken the music industry to another level. It is very refreshing.

Do you have any message for your fans?

I would definitely like to send out a message to everyone to stop downloading illegally. Piracy is causing great damage to music and music industry per say. It is an advice to all the people who love music to buy music because downloading and piracy is one of the biggest challenges that the industry faces today. All the music that you love is available easily, it is inexpensive and is just a click away.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Govinda: The return of 'Hero No 1'

Govinda was one of India's favourite 90s hero. No matter how much the snobs ignored him, secretly everyone loved him as he wore his purple and orange pants and made faces that would make soulless zombies guffaw till their sides split. He is the Jim Carrey of India - loved by many. His comic timing is something that younger heroes are trying to emulate and they still have a long way to go.

An actor who shot to fame with 'Love 86', 28 years later is still overshadowing his co-actors in the mere 10 minutes or so that he has appeared in his movies in 2014. His comic timing is impeccable as always. The way he dances will put the trained dancers of today to shame. Riteish Deshmukh, Varun Dhawan and possibly Ranveer Singh are probably one of the few actors of today who can match up to his style and energy.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Driving in Delhi – God save our souls!

Delhi boasts of a well-developed transport system. Unlike a decade ago, most of the commercial areas are now well-connected with the Delhi Metro and hence, the roads have become relatively unclogged. Obviously, in an ever growing city like the Nation's capital, there is no dearth of traffic snarls and yet things have become much better than before.

When you get a new vehicle, all you want to do is, have fun with it. Young guys zip, zap and zoom through narrow streets. They try and emulate bike stunts and test the speed limits of their machines.

Without condoning their stupidity, I still do understand why they do it. It is after all young blood – adrenaline rushes through their veins. Most of them are inspired by numerous advertisements of the latest super-powered bikes by manufacturers.

But what percentage of these 18 to 22 year olds is actually driving daily on the roads?

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Ravi Chopra – The man without whom childhood wouldn't have been as sweet

Growing up, Sunday was everybody's favourite day. It probably still is. But it was different for the 90s kids. It was the only day when there were interesting television shows which we were allowed to watch. There weren't a lot of channels to choose from.

But the national television then had a lot to offer. And for us, Sunday mornings were a treat. Every Sunday, after breakfast we would start with cartoons and soon be joined by our parents for 'Mahabharat'. As Mahender Kapoor started singing the title song, my mother would start hurrying with her chores, and my father would be sure to put the newspaper down, or put down the last letters in his crossword.

If I was spending my summer vacations with my grandparents, I was sure my grandma would have set her alarm clock to see Krishna in all his glory on television, looking on with such immense devotion, as if God himself has come down to feature on the little black and white screen.

Even though Ramanand Sagar's 'Ramayan' was already being telecasted, I loved this epic more. It was part of the ritual.

The death of Ravi Chopra brought back all the nostalgia of 90s television.

Belonging to the illustrious director producer BR Chopra, Ravi Chopra is also the nephew of Yash Chopra. He had directed several movies, including 'The Burning Train' and more recently 'Baghbaan'.

But he will be remembered for the television epic 'Mahabharat' which is considered a cult classic on the small screen, and also was screened on BBC. Many well known faces of today started or built their careers through the show.

He worked with BR Chopra and Yash Chopra as an assistant director for several films. He also produced and co-produced many flicks, many of which went on to do well at the Box Office. After his father's death in 2006, Ravi Chopra has only produced 'Bhoothnath' and the more recent 'Bhoothnath Returns'

His passing away is a sad day for Bollywood, but his legend will continue to live on for all those people who grew up in an era where television was a privilege. He made our weekends a cultural event - with the three generations of the same family watching a single show with the same amount of devotion as you may see in a temple.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Romancing the hills in Ranikhet

India is my favourite place on earth. Where else will you find landscapes as contradictory to each other within 500 kilometres? There are snow-capped mountains and vast sand deserts, beautiful waterfalls and exotic virgin beaches, all in one country.India is a place where colours are a riot of emotions and people are welcoming.

Travelling in India is an experience that no one in the world should miss. As a lover of mountains, with limited time and budget – Kumaon is a perfect getaway.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Shah Rukh Khan and the emperor's new clothes

Never a die-hard fan, but I have always admired this charming fellow from Delhi. My favourite Shah Rukh Khan moment was his introductory scene in ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ where he plays rugby in the rain. I guess every SRK fan fell for him in that movie. Maybe, the credit goes more to Aditya Chopra than to SRK himself.

However, the rise of this generation's king of romance was rooted in the negative roles he did in 'Baazigar' and then 'Darr' in 1993. He had starred in a few movies previously, but was always overshadowed by other actors like Sunny Deol and Aamir Khan. The boy-next-door from Delhi took a risk few would even dare to so early in their career. And he thrived.

Chopra took him and went on to make the cult classic 'DDLJ', making Shah Rukh a poster boy. He became what Hugh Grant is to Hollywood. Whether it is 'Dil To Pagal Hai', 'Yes Boss' or 'Kuch Kuch Hota Hai', his character of 'Rahul' has been so oft repeated that it got irksome for many.

People who don't like the 'Badshah' of Bollywood have always stated how all his films have the same formula since 1995. He has always been the larger-than-life rom-com king of Indian cinema.

Now, things have changed. Shah Rukh, the hero of the urban teen, is approaching his 50s. He also has to contend with the likes of Ranbir Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan (who has established himself as a brand unto himself) and Ranveer Singh.

Unfortunately, instead of attempting to take on more challenges in life, he is sticking more and more to formula films. This is a mistake that many a great actors made when their careers were on the brink of fading, including Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna and Rishi Kapoor in the 80s and the 90s. Stars who thought they were infallible were suddenly gone, replaced by the likes of Anil Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt and Govinda.

Brand SRK sells, no doubt. But that is no excuse for someone who is capable of 'Swades' and 'Chak De' to mould himself into somewhat similar to Salman Khan. One moronic film follows another, each more forgettable than the last. He knows his name alone draws crowds, so the mantra seems to be – why waste money on scriptwriters?

While all these movies are bound to make waves at the Box Office – with the atmosphere of marketing ruling over content – they are like the fireworks one sees at Diwali – there’s a loud bang and zero recall value. They spin money without caring about the ‘art’ side of cinema.

Grant's refusal to make different movies is rooted in his reluctance to be a celebrity (as he has openly stated many times), but Shah Rukh likes to do well. He thrives on being the star, he likes the limelight.

In a recent interview, he said he was afraid that he will wake up one day without work – it is amazing for a man who has achieved so much to strive so hard for so much more. It isn't as if SRK is only after money, otherwise he would have never agreed to do Amol Palekar's adorable fable 'Paheli'. It certainly wasn't your typical masala flick.

SRK says he doesn't make films for critics. Not many do. Everyone wants to make films for the audience. Some assume that their audience is intelligent and capable of thought. Some assume the audience is stupid and would pay for anything that is sold with a superstar’s face attached to it.

Unfortunately, more and more filmmakers fall in the second category.

I sincerely hope that someday, Shah Rukh would indeed take notice of his critics who maintain that he is capable of so much more. His fans hailed him when he did 'Baazigar', and also in the larger-than-life yet challenging 'My Name is Khan' (even though personally it was a little too idealistic for me). They surely expect more from him than hammy and repetitive tripe that is 'Happy New Year'. Fans will lose interest sooner than later.

He may be flaunting his 10-pack abs and getting all the love now, but the wrinkles on his face are starting to show. Even die-hard fans will move on to other people -- there are new kids on the block ready to topple him from his ‘throne’.

It is almost as though movie makers have conned SRK into believing that he can do larger-than-life versions of himself, however unoriginal they may be. He has been a superstar for more than two decades, and soon he may find that someone has called his bluff. He owes something to the people who have loved him and adored him for 20 years.

The only problem that I don't understand is whether he is the emperor being swindled or has he laid himself threadbare intentionally.

It is time to reinvent Mr Khan. You may not be interested in what they have to say, but experts notice changes in trend before others – it is their job. And it is bound to catch up with you, sooner than you think is possible.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Building anticipation - Bollywood's new fad

“The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting,” said noted artist Andy Warhol.

Bollywood seems to have taken his words to heart. It has become the new mantra in Bollywood to get the audience chock-full of anticipation for an upcoming film, and the new fad has even surpassed the old one of numerology-induced crazy spellings.

Long, teasing build-ups are now the standard operating procedure leading up to the climax of film making – the release. Promotion and marketing is key to making a movie work. Without it, the film is sure to fail.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Happy New Year review: Rides solely on Shah Rukh Khan

Farah Khan's movies are never about logic, great loophole free storylines or even thought generating grounded cinema. They are the definition of the word 'Bollywood'. Entertaining, cheeky and pompous. At least they are supposed to be.

One of the biggest and most anticipated movies of the year, 'Happy New Year' sees best friends- turned enemies-turned best friends again – SRK and Farah – coming back together after a hiatus of seven long years. It is bound to draw in the masses with a long weekend release, plus the movie has been dubbed in a few regional languages as well to attract the crowd from across the country. It also boasts of a very strong star cast. Shah Rukh Khan paired with Deepika Padukone – the hit making duo; added to them are Abhishek Bachchan, Boman Irani, Sonu Sood and Vivaan Shah. It also stars Jackie Shroff as the typical Bollywood villain – complete with a bad accent and hairstyle.

Peshawar Attack: When religion is an excuse to hate!

Your demons will eventually come back to haunt you.

132 children have been killed in Peshawar. Not in a natural calamity, not of hunger or famine, they died because they were in school and some people decided they deserved to die.

Religion is a very sensitive issue in the world. Today we have more deaths in the name of religious fanaticism, outrages, people willing to take up arms than ever before. Westboro Baptist church took placards saying that American children deserved to die. In our own country, an astounding 561 incidents of communal violence have been reported in which 90 persons have lost their lives. ISIS is terrorising the world, abducting women, beheading journalists, soldiers and selling young girls as sex slaves.

There was a time when people took up arms to defend their country. The world was divided in semantics. People were not only afraid of another community, there was a genuine fear of being completely wiped out, if you did not fight. The war had less to do with religion, more to do with expanding your kingdom. People did not understand the other community, they were much more superstitious. They thought that a shadow of a non-believer will afflict you with small pox.

Flipkart - Much ado about nothing

There is a joke amongst Bengalis – if you want a day off, just start shouting 'cholbe na cholbe na! inqilaab zindabad!', on the streets and the entire city will come to a halt. No one is going to ask you why you are protesting, rather they will just join you. In fact, if you can establish that you are protesting against a meagre 50 paise rise in bus ticket prices, you might get a week off.

This is not trying to belittle real causes about which people protest. This is just a reflection of how much people have a tendency to over-react to situations that don't need attention at all. We, as a country, like our freebies. It is in our nature to ask for free passes for the most coveted performances across the world. We like slashed prices for foreign trips. Travel websites have taken things to such a stage that flying to Malaysia is cheaper than flying to Goa.

This love for getting 'value for money' has become a sort of right for us, which applies to Flipkart's debacle too. A massive sale was organised by the e-commerce website on Monday, and things did not go as planned.

The users hoarded on to the website, trying to make the most of it, and Flipkart was not prepared. With promises of massively low pricing – the website garnered response from across the country. And, not being able to take the massive load on its servers, it crashed. Many complained. So much so, that it became viral on social media.

'Big Billion Day Sale' that was the sales pitch that apparently helped Flipkart garner a massive Rs 600 crore sale in 10 hours on the day, but it received a lot of flak from all and sundry. And the fiasco is still making headlines. Sony, Samsung and other tech giants have planned to take action as the e-commerce sale has directly affected organised retail. They have also said that they may even suspend sales through the website. The entire incident has also sparked off some policy making from the government to regulate online retail as predatory pricing may be an issue in the future.

But, why was there such uproar over a retail website crashing? Did it hurt our sentiments so much? Was it them promising and failing to deliver or was it merely the anger because we were denied of our 'birthright' to freebies.

They were indeed not well prepared, and they have apologised for it. The loss of faith from its customers is a fact that the business will not recover from soon. This is how the markets work. You build up an empire and it takes a lot of blood and sweat to get a sense and provide what your customers need. Unfortunately, they are not as grateful as you would want them to be.

At the other end of the spectrum, I feel we have made a ruckus over a non-issue. It is not as if customers had not faced a problem while placing their orders, they indeed were hassled. But there were so many others who were probably just scouting the website who hopped on the wagon to bash Flipkart too.

India, as a country has taken a pledge to support 'Make in India'. A pledge our Prime Minister Narendra Modi has implored us to undertake, to help the economy grow manifold. It is a sort of a 'swadeshi' movement to make a stand at the global level.

Maybe supporting Flipkart in their times of crisis, instead of blatantly criticising them for succumbing to unprecedented traffic is a little unfair. Though Flipkart mostly sells third party products, the support of 'Make in India' becomes all the more pressing vis-a-vis its comparison of global giant like Amazon and e-bay.

This is a country where online retail has just reached puberty, hence it seems that the glitches are getting apparent. Websites such as Flipkart and Snapdeal are homegrown online retail stores and competing with other global platforms.

And even if it is fair that we are taking them to task for a mistake, it is slanted behaviour on our part that we are not moving on to more pressing issues like unemployment, price rise, women’s rights and other plagues that our country suffers.

This Article was first published on zeenews.com

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Morning after

कल सुबह तेरी नींद से बोझल आँखों पर,
ठन्डे पानी के झपटो में कुछ पेट दर्द के बहाने सुने थे। 
माँ झूठ सच पहचानती है। 
मुझसे बहाने मत मारो।।।

तेरे नन्हे से हांथो में दूध थमाया था 
वह गिलास अभी भी टेबल पे आधा खाली पड़ा है। 

मैं नाराज़ हूँ की आज इतनी आवाज़े लगाई 
अब भी जागा नहीं है तू। 
आज क्या बहाना है?
बस्ते में टिफ़िन तक नहीं भरा । 
आज खूब फटकारूंगी, 
फिर स्कूल की बस छूटेगी,
फिर दौड़ेंगे पापा स्कूटर लेके। 

दूध कभी नहीं पीता , होशियार कैसे बनेगा?
कैसे नाम रोशन करेगा?
आज कौनसा होमवर्क छूटा, 
अगर आज तेरी टीचर ने शिकायत की 
तो तेरी खैर नही । 

उठ जा मुए! 
सुबह गुज़र गयी। 

अच्छा! आज चला जा, कल पिकनिक जायेंगे। 

अब तो आँखे खोल.… 
कल से सब बोल रहे हैं कि… 

ऐसी क्या नाराज़गी… 
माँ से नहीं बोलेगा?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

'Mamta' to 'Mary Kom': The changing face of women in India

Bollywood's woman – an entity of glamour, beauty, ideals, values and much more. The woman in Bollywood has changed over the century of filmmaking this country has seen.

From a time when only men played women’s characters, we have come a long way to having a female as the only central character in a movie. And yet, more things change, more they remain the same.

Even now, we are subjected to movies where the role of a woman is so trivial that her character could have been done without. 'Singham', 'Holiday', 'Kick', 'Entertainment', 'Humshakals', the list of hit movies without a sizeable contribution of a girl character is endless. Despite all that, the 'gentler' sex has established itself much more firmly than ever before.

Suchitra Sen, Ashok Kumar and Dharmendra starred in a movie called 'Mamta' in 1966 – the characters in the movie were quite forward-thinking for the time. Suchitra (in a double role) decides to escape from the shackles of an abusive husband, she also takes a strong step to bring up her daughter with a good education and a career. The daughter, who does fulfil her mother's dreams, is a commendable lawyer, who is competent among her contemporaries as well as seniors. She is a woman with opinions. A role that was rarely seen in Hindi cinema at the time.

A woman's part at that time was to be the ideal woman who looks up to her man. She depends on his love to keep herself alive. She lives to love him, and cry when he goes away. She, at most, took to stitching clothes to survive, the one thing she is good at. Even today, the depth of her persona is still limited to what the man thinks of her. She was and is supposed to always look good. She is supposed to dress up and stand out for the guy to fall in love with her beauty and not what is inside. This trait of a woman has hardly changed.

Even if the female lead has now evolved to a designer from a mere tailor, or even taken to journalism, or psychology, or is even a business tycoon – she would still dance to the tune of her hero. She also takes off her clothes at the drop of a hat to do a skimpy item number for ogling men making disgusting covetous faces at her - think 'Pinky hai paisewaalo ki' or 'Chikni Kamar'. They have nothing much else to do. They can only stand back and watch their 'better' halves take care of business, while they can sigh at their rippling muscles and high octane dialogue delivery.

We have had sporadic movies based on women. Perhaps, the most popular of them all has been `Mother India'. Nargis made the struggling farming woman, an icon of Bollywood – her stance of killing her own son rather than have him disrespect another woman has been reiterated several times in many movies – 'Vaastav', 'Fanaah' and even at one point the popular television serial 'Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi' had the same theme.

Art cinema or parallel cinema like 'Arth', 'Mirch Masala', 'Bhumika', 'Ijaazat' and 'Daman' had much more depth in their lead characters – women who had layers of nuances. Where their emotions were subjected to situations and not only love life, they had other struggles. These movies are women-centric not only because they talked about women issues – but also they had made their women think, react, express emotions that questioned the society and morals.

Remember 'Astitva'? The movie spoke about Aditi(Tabu) who has had an extra marital affair. The film was a deep insight to the woman's story – how everything we see is not black and white. How in a man's world, a woman's needs and wants are often secondary. The tragedy is mainstream cinema, which even today struggles with the concept. They still often make the ladies look vulnerable and glamorise that vulnerability.

But as a Bollywood buff, I find myself more optimistic than ever. Times have not altered much, but the wind of change has started blowing. More strongly than ever.

More and more filmmakers have started delving into the human side of womanhood. 'Cheeni Kum' had the female lead, Tabu, a 30 something who had the decision-making capability of choosing a life partner, almost double her age. 'English Vinglish' had Sridevi, who played the housewife, who takes her own stand with the help of her extended family to gain respect from her own. 'Kahaani' had a scorned woman out to avenge the death of her husband. 'Gulaab Gang' had a group of women, who fought the system and corruption. 'Queen' had a young girl who broke many societal norms to break free into a self-realised woman. There are many more big budget movies that have made it to the silver screen in the last decade.

With 'Mary Kom', the movement has taken a step ahead. Not only is the movie a Sanjay Leela Bhansali big budget production, the subject is also a real-life heroine. Female sports-persons have often been ignored by the people. That too an Indian who is from the North East – from an oft ignored sport like boxing. Mary Kom - who has represented the country on the world stage for so long now finally has become a topic of dinner time discussion in households across the country. Maybe others would aspire to bring more such heroines to the fore.

It is the power of Bollywood to have more people realise the worth of a woman – a responsibility and risk that directors and producers are now more willing to take. And hopefully the change would influence some others to break stereotypes and bring out the power of the feminine – 'Shakti'.

This article was first published on Zeenews.india.com
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