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Wednesday, March 21, 2007
An unforgettable time in India


Director and chat show host Karan Johar

The constant blaring of car and truck horns, hoardes of people wherever you look, rainbow swathes of saris and incessant interest in what we were up to. Ah, the sensory onslaught that is India!

Although I am of Indian background, this was only my second time to the country and my first to Mumbai. Despite living in Hong Kong, among the most densely-populated places on the planet, the organized (and not-so organized) chaos of Mumbai makes Hong Kong seem like a ghost town.

My producer, camera crew and I must have stuck out a mile as we attempted to take in as much of the action as we could during our few days in Mumbai. As India’s own lala-land, it seems almost everyone is in the movie business, or is teetering on the cusp of their "big break!"

As part of CNN’s Eye On India week, which this year focuses on the country’s happening young up and comers, we were on assignment for the weekly chat show which I host, Talk Asia. We had a couple of interviews lined up which all of us were looking forward to, but you never really know how these things are going to turn out.

First up was Ekta Kapoor. As India’s leading television producer, she’s got more than 40 soap opera serials to her name, more cash than anyone could ever spend, and countless starry-eyed hopefuls clamouring for her attention.

Oh, and did I mention, she's only 31?

Ironically for someone so TV, the nocturnal Ms. Kapoor doesn’t do broadcast interviews. So when she said yes to Talk Asia with pretty much all the access we wanted, we were only too happy to work around her. Even though that meant sitting down to chat at 11 p.m.

Still, I defy anyone there to have felt even the slightest yawn coming on. She's a likeable and engaging character to begin with. The story of her rise to the top and how she stays there was a master class in how to make it. Then the tales of her workaday tantrums ... well, suffice to say, Ekta rules her 2,000 or so staff with a rod of pure iron!

Add to the interview, our time spent on set watching the beautiful people singing, dancing and scheming made for a great evening’s entertainment –- and hopefully a great Talk Asia.

After our 3.30 a.m. finish, the ensuing daylight hours started with a couple of eye drops but pretty soon, the intrepid Talk Asia team was dashing off to our next interview with Bollywood hot shot director and chat show host, Karan Johar.

As the son of one of India’s most respected film producers, the late Yash Johar, Karan might have initially had a lot to prove. Not anymore. He’s got three blockbuster movies to his directing credit and, thanks to his fabulous Rolodex, whoever he wants –- no matter how famous -- on his talk show, Koffee with Karan.

Oh, and did I mention, he’s only 34?

What better place to have a natter than at one of Mumbai’s most popular cinemas? (Outside by the popcorn and hot dogs, not in the theatre! We’re very considerate, us Talk Asia types!)

While still peppered with the impromptu musical numbers Bollywood films just can’t seem to do without, Karan’s most recent cinematic offering, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (tune in to Talk Asia during CNN’s Eye On India week to hear my train wreck pronunciation) tackled a prickly topic in India –- marital infidelity.

As a determined bachelor whose parents were happily wedded, Karan took a lot of flak over the film’s chosen subject. Yet because of it, he’s now seen as something of a social commentator, so marriage, poverty, even sex were all up for spirited discussion.

Things got especially lively though when I gave Karan a taste of his own medicine.

On his talk show, Karan waits till the end before springing upon his hapless guests the "rapid fire round." This involves a barrage of questions from the host, which routinely end up with the interviewees revealing sparkling gems of information they'd previously been quite happy with the public not knowing.

So, what’s in it for the victims, I hear you ask? The Koffee with Karan hamper, of course! And I had one standing by for the unsuspecting Karan, but perhaps I should have expected the generosity that pervades all aspects of Indian culture because I ended up as the proud recipient.

The thing was so huge and ostentatious, people on the plane back home were congratulating me on becoming a new wife!

It was also filled with the most wonderful stuff, which you’ll see on Talk Asia as Karan and I proceed to rip it open without even a semblance of gentility or finesse.

You can watch the interview: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Aside from the going home present, I took with me fantastic memories of Mumbai and its people who couldn’t have been more accommodating or helpful. A wonderful experience and two unforgettable Talk Asias. Now that’s what I call a great business trip.

-- From Anjali Rao, CNN International Anchor
There is a lot of things in the world which remain unexplored including India. Thanks you for sharing your experience.
The CNN reports on India are interesting. But, they are equally disgusting. Indian cannot care for the most essential human needs of huge segments of its population. It would rather build bombs and military strength than guarantee safe drinking water, sanitary toilet facilities, flood control to save the thousands of people who die every year during the monsoon season...the list goes on and on. I currently reside in Thailand and I have met many native Indians who won't take their kids back home to visit family because of widespread disease. India has little to recommend it to the nations of the world.
Its been only 60 years since we are indenpendent, it was for 200 years, india was ruled, and left in to a land of misery and poverty. Evils of 200 years can not be removed in 60 years. We can not affort to fall in the hands of neighbouring nations which can not see India rising. Military power is must so as to not allow rogue nations affect our growth. we are 2nd largest muslim population yet none of our muslims are in any terror activities, our muslims are more liberal and part of society than one residing in UK. Way to go India.
India is a lot of things to a lot of people.Its very nice to read about all the different facets that CNN has tried to cover & write about.What was fascinating about my last visit to the country was the empowerment that young people feel about the economic opportunities they have.Their confidence in their country & their determination to work hard.
The cell phone has brought the most remarkable explosion of how anybody & everybody is connected in ways that we in the West have never experienced,because we have alsways been connected.It just blows me away, when I see the poorest of the poor talking on the cellphone.Technology in India has done for the marginalised what the car did for the developed world. There is a lot of work to be done.The politicians are in no hurry to move the country the way their neighbours to the north are doing, but they have no choice but to keep moving!Good JoB CNN
It is really good to know that now the whole world is realising true potetial of India. As every coin has two faces , so here we are working hard to overcome our shortcomings for better future.
Good job CNN , for keeping an eye on INDIA.
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