Tributes pour in as India’s ‘greatest’ actor dies at 98

Saira Banu, wife of Bollywood actor Dilip Kumar, leaves her house to attend the funeral of her husband in Mumbai, India, July 7, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 July 2021

Tributes pour in as India’s ‘greatest’ actor dies at 98

  • Dilip Kumar’s funeral was held with state honors at a graveyard in Mumbai

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the many people who paid tribute to legendary actor Dilip Kumar on Wednesday, calling his departure “a loss to our cultural world.”

Kumar died on Wednesday morning aged 98 following a prolonged illness, leaving behind an “incredible legacy” of films and fans. He is survived by his wife, veteran actor Saira Banu.

“With a heavy heart and profound grief, I announce the passing away of our beloved Dilip Saab, few minutes ago. We are from God and to Him we return,” read a brief statement on his official Twitter account confirming the news.

“Dilip Kumar ji will be remembered as a cinematic legend,” Modi said in a Twitter post immediately after Kumar’s death.

“He was blessed with unparalleled brilliance ... his passing away is a loss to our cultural world,” he added

Amitabh Bachchan, 78, one of India’s best-known movie stars, said that with Kumar’s death, “the institution has gone.”

“Whenever the history of Indian cinema will be written, it shall always be ‘before Dilip Kumar, and after Dilip Kumar,’” Bachchan, who played the role of Kumar’s son in the hit film, “Shakti,” added.

Kumar was born as Mohammad Yusuf Khan to Lala Ghulam Sarwar Khan and Ayesha Begum, in Peshawar — then part of British India, now in Pakistan — on Dec. 11, 1922.

His father was a fruit merchant and moved the family to Bombay, now known as Mumbai, in the 1930s. Later he adopted his screen name, Dilip Kumar, on the advice of actor and producer Devika Rani, who cast him in his first movie “Jwar Bhata” (sea tide) in 1944.

Thereafter he became more popularly known as the ‘Tragedy King’ of Bollywood and reveled in various roles from Devdas, Andaz and Mughal-e-Azam to Ram Aur Shyam, in a career spanning more than five decades, as he enthralled audiences with his signature style of method acting in nearly 60 films. 




Legendary actor Dilip Kumar died on Wednesday morning aged 98, leaving behind an ‘incredible legacy’ of films and fans. (AFP)

But it was his “personal connection” with audiences that made the iconic actor “a class apart from the rest” and “instantly relatable.”

“Look at any of his roles — be it a horseman in Naya Daur, a villager and dacoit in Ganga Jamuna, a prince in Mughal-e Azam, or a lover in Madhumati — he looked like the character he played. He looked like me and you,” Trinetra Bajpai, who wrote Kumar’s authorized biography, “Dilip Kumar: Peerless Icon Inspiring Generations,” told Arab News.

“No one portrays India better than him,” Bajpai added, explaining how Kumar reflected the country’s political and social evolution through his films.

“You could always identify yourself with the character that Dilip Kumar played. It was as if he was you in the film. He was not like a movie star; he was like someone you knew, someone instantly relatable,” Bajpai, who was a close family friend of Kumar since the 1950s, added.

Recalling his last meeting with the actor on his birthday in December, Bajpai said: “He had severe dementia and this was expected but being such a wonderful personality his death came as a shock, we wanted him to cross 100, but that was not to be.”

Indian-born British academic and politician Lord Meghnad Desai, who in 2004 authored a book on Dilip Kumar, “Nehru’s Hero: Dilip Kumar,” revisited the first 25 years of India’s political life after independence in 1947 through the prism of Dilip Kumar’s cinema.

“I think, without doubt, Dilip Kumar was the greatest actor of Hindustani cinema and one of the top four greatest actors worldwide with Marlon Brando, Toshuro Mifune, Max Von Sydow in the same league,” Desai told Arab News.

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Dilip Kumar’s father was a fruit merchant and moved the family from Peshawar to Bombay, now known as Mumbai, in the 1930s.

“During his first 25 years, Kumar embodied for the young people an ideal they could aspire to. He was progressive — Nehruvian — in his politics,” he added.

The awards said it all. For his contribution to cinema, Dilip Kumar was conferred with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, India’s highest award in the arts, and also received the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan, the country’s second-highest civilian award.

Kumar also possessed the distinction of being the only Indian recipient of Pakistan’s highest civilian award, Nishan-e-Imtiaz.

Ziya Us Salam, a veteran film critic who conducted several interviews with Kumar, said he was “the first one who could bridge the gap between actor and star.”

Salam also shone a light on Kumar’s love for Urdu and Persian literature and his taste in music, telling Arab News: “He was a very good singer and music connoisseur, but what is unknown about Kumar is his humility and devotion to God. He was a pious, practicing Muslim, a humanitarian and among the best neighbors one could get.”

Kumar’s philanthropic nature found a mention in a tribute from across the border in Pakistan as well, with Prime Minister Imran Khan highlighting the actor’s efforts to help raise funds for the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital (SKMTH), the cancer hospital Khan founded in the 1990s.

Khan said he was “saddened” to learn of the actor’s passing, calling him the “greatest and most versatile actor” of his generation.

“I can never forget his generosity in giving his time to help raise funds for SKMTH when the project launched.”

On Wednesday, Bollywood actors and filmmakers, including Shah Rukh Khan, Vidya Balan and Karan Johar, thronged to pay their respects to Kumar at his residence in Mumbai. The funeral was held with state honors at a graveyard in the city.

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Dating changed during the pandemic; apps are following suit

Updated 03 August 2021

Dating changed during the pandemic; apps are following suit

  • The use of dating apps in general has surged as people sought connections amid their isolation
  • Tinder reported that 2020 was its busiest and this year its users have already set 2 records for usage between January and March

LONDON: Early in the coronavirus pandemic, Jennifer Sherlock went out with a few men she met through dating apps. The dates were “weird,” she said, and not just because they were masked, socially distanced and outdoors.
One occasion, a date remained masked while they were out for a stroll, but soon after invited her back to his place, a move Sherlock saw as reckless.
“It was so off putting, and awkward,” she said. “So we wouldn’t be safe outside without mask(s), but we would be safe back at his place maskless?”
She decided she needed a way to filter people, so she began arranging video chats before agreeing to meet anybody in person. Sherlock, 42, a PR consultant who lives in New Jersey, said it’s a practice she’ll continue post-pandemic.
Sherlock isn’t alone in changing the way she used dating apps during the pandemic, prompting many to roll out new features. Despite the social distancing of the past 18 months, the use of dating apps in general has surged as people sought connections amid their isolation.
Tinder reported that 2020 was its busiest year yet; this year, its users have already set two records for usage between January and March. Hinge tripled its revenue from 2019 to 2020, and the company expects it to double from that this year.
In response to changing demands, Tinder announced new tools last month that will allow users to get to know people better online. People will now be able to add videos to their profile and can chat with others even before matching with them.
“Historically consumers were reluctant to connect via video because they didn’t see the need for it,” said Jess Carbino, an online dating expert and sociologist who has worked for Tinder and Bumble. Post-COVID, however, many people expect a higher degree of screening, she said. “Online dating apps like Tinder are leaning into that.”
The dating apps say their research shows video chats are here to stay, even as life starts to return to normal in some parts of the world.
Almost half of Tinder users had a video chat with a match during the pandemic, with 40 percent of them intending to continue them post-pandemic. Tinder says this is largely driven by Gen Z users in their late teens and early 20s, who now make up more than half of the app’s users. And a majority of Hinge UK users, 69 percent, also say they’ll continue with virtual dates after the pandemic.
Tinder, alongside other popular apps including Hinge, OkCupid and Bumble, has in Britain and the US partnered with the government to add a badge to profiles indicating that users have been vaccinated. (There’s no verification process, though, so matches could be lying.)
Dating app users are also increasingly looking for deeper connections rather than casual encounters, Carbino said.
That’s what happened to Maria del Mar, 29, an aerospace engineer, who wasn’t expecting to end up in a relationship after she matched with someone on Tinder early in the pandemic last year.
She started chatting with her now-boyfriend through the app in April 2020 during a complete lockdown in Spain, where she lives. Having moved back to her parent’s tiny town of León from Barcelona, del Mar was bored when she joined the app, but was surprised to find many things in common with her current partner.
After weeks of chatting, they finally met for a first date — a socially-distanced hike — after restrictions eased slightly in May 2020. Now the two have moved in together. “If it wasn’t for the app, probably our paths wouldn’t have crossed,” she said.
Fernando Rosales, 32, was a frequent user of Grindr, an app popular with gay men looking for more casual encounters, in pre-pandemic times. He turned to Tinder for social connections when coronavirus restrictions prevented people from meeting others in London, where he lives.
“Grindr is like, ‘I like you, you like me, you’re within 100 meters of me, I’m going to come over,’” said Rosales, who works at the popular British coffee chain Pret.
“Tinder is something more social,” he added,. Sometimes he uses the app just to meet others to play online video games or video chat.
Ocean, 26, a drag artist and photographer in Berlin, turned to the live video feature of an app called Taimi to make friends across the world during the pandemic. Having two-to-five minute video chats with strangers from places like the Philippines or parts of the US was “amazing,” she said. Ocean’s given name is Kai Sistemich; she identifies as a woman when in drag.
She said she’ll continue using the feature post-pandemic, especially while she’s doing solo activities like cooking, or getting ready before going out to party.
Sherlock also expects some of her pandemic dating behaviors to carry into the post-pandemic world. She recently asked two men she was texting for Facetime chats before meeting in person, something she would not have done pre-pandemic.
“It’s a crazy dating world out there, so saving time is necessary,” she said.


Saudi Arabia’s diverse topography attracts stargazers amid summer vibes

Mountains typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust, and with its different terrains and huge size. (SPA)
Updated 31 July 2021

Saudi Arabia’s diverse topography attracts stargazers amid summer vibes

  • Its mountains, valleys, plains, deserts are perfect escape for people trying to avoid bright city lights to observe night sky
  • Stargazing offers an obvious opportunity for the Kingdom to further diversify its tourism offering as it seeks to boost non-oil industries in line with Vision 2030

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s size and diverse topography make it an ideal location for astronomy enthusiasts. Its mountains, valleys, sand dunes, hills, plains and large deserts are a perfect escape for people trying to avoid the bright city lights to observe the night sky.

Mulham Hindi, an astronomy researcher, told Arab News that the best place to observe the night sky is far away from light pollution caused by human settlements.
“It is also best in locations where cloud cover is low. With its different terrains and huge size, Saudi Arabia is a suitable place for observing stars and even building observatories,” Hindi said.
He added that there are many locations in Saudi Arabia that are perfect places for astronomers and stargazers, citing Bani Malik, 150 kilometers south of Taif as a prime example.
“The (height above sea level) of that mountainous area reduces the percentage of moisture and atmospheric impurity,” he explained. “Its throughout-the-year cloud cover is less than 25 percent.”
Hindi also mentioned Al-Figrah mountain, west of Madinah, as one of the best areas for stargazing, as the mountain stands an estimated 6,000 feet above sea level.
“With their moderate weather, the northwestern regions of the Kingdom — which include AlUla, the Red Sea Projects, and NEOM — are among the areas with the least light pollution, (so) stargazers regularly visit,” he added.
Hindi explained that the observation of the stars and planets is deeply rooted in Saudi culture, particularly in the nomadic lifestyle prevalent in the Arabian Peninsula before the discovery of oil.
“Stars are (mentioned in) many Arabic poems that were composed hundreds of years ago and are still cited today,” he said. “It is also part of Saudi culture to observe stars while moving from one place to another, especially in the desert areas.”
Hindi also noted that the night sky above the Kingdom has become a popular subject for photographers in recent years. “These photographers have enriched exhibitions with very beautiful photos of the starry sky of the Kingdom, its distinctive terrains and heritage sites,” he said.
From a scientific perspective, he pointed out, the development and growing popularity of astronomy have encouraged Saudi astronomers to examine the planets, galaxies and stars more thoroughly than ever before, producing “scientific studies and research (that) can significantly contribute to the study of astronomy.”
A few days before his death earlier this month, the head of the astronomy and space department at King Abdul Aziz University (KAU), Dr. Hasan Asiri, spoke to the Saudi Press Agency about the difference between the three main types of terrain for stargazing in the Kingdom — deserts, plains and mountains.
“Deserts are characterized by their aridity and lack of light pollution. They include the desert of the Empty Quarter, the Nafud desert, Al-Dahna desert and Bajada desert, which is located to the west of Tabuk region,” Asiri said.
He added that plains are characterized by stable atmospheric layers and low temperatures and humidity levels. “These include the plains of NEOM, AMAALA the Red Sea islands, Al-Wajh, Al-Shuaibah and Al-Silaa region located to the south of Al-Wajh province.”
Mountains, he explained, typically offer stargazers clear skies in an environment free of clouds, light pollution and dust. He listed Al-Figrah Mountains, west of Madinah; Taif’s Al-Shafa and Al-Hada Mountains; and Mount “Ral,” near Al-Wajh’s Al-Manjor Center as good spots for astronomers. “Several cities can also be added to the list of sites suitable for observational astronomy, namely the northwestern city of AlUla, which is considered one of the Kingdom’s most prominent tourist destinations, in addition to Hail and Tayma, found to the southwest of the city of Tabuk,” he added.
Asiri said that ‘stargazing tourism’ offers an obvious opportunity for the Kingdom to further diversify its tourism offering as it seeks to boost non-oil industries in line with Saudi Vision 2030.
“This issue interests many people, especially now that the Kingdom is steadily moving forward towards establishing an actual tourism sector and ensuring its sustainability through a comprehensive national development plan,” he said.
“Establishing additional stargazing reserves allows us to create new and exceptional tourist destinations that are at the same time entertaining and educational,” he continued. “It also enables us to organize astronomical events, such as world space weeks or astronomy days, activate public and private space domes, and participate in scientific activities related to astronomical events — such as observing solar and lunar eclipses, shooting stars and planets. This approach would combine science with the joy of observing the night sky.”
The Kingdom is already home to several observatories, he noted, including those in Makkah, Al-Wajh and Halat Ammar, as well as the mobile observatories in Sudair, Tumair, Shaqra, Qassim, Dammam, Madinah and Hail. Meanwhile, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Center for Crescents and Astronomy, located at the top of Makkah’s Clock Tower, is considered the largest network of astronomical telescopes in the world.
According to the head of the Qatif Astronomy Society, Dr. Anwar Al-Mohammed, the Milky Way is one of the best astronomical phenomena to observe.
“It is the galaxy in which our sun and the solar system are located. It (consists of) more than 100 billion solar masses,” he explained. “At night, the Milky Way appears as a band of light in the sky and its appearance differs between one region and another based on the level of light pollution.”
Al-Mohammed noted that the Red Sea Development Company is currently working on turning an area of the Tabuk region between the provinces of Umluj and Al-Wajh into an “International Starlight Reserve,” by limiting the use of unnatural lighting in the Red Sea Project at night.
This, he said, could qualify the area as an International Dark Sky Reserve (a region characterized by “an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment”), which requires the approval of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).
If it were to be granted membership, he explained, “it would be joining more than 100 international sites that have abided by strict measures when supporting their communities to achieve this goal, and restore the amazing relationship between mankind and the stars.”

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UK PM Johnson’s umbrella mishap amuses Prince Charles

Updated 28 July 2021

UK PM Johnson’s umbrella mishap amuses Prince Charles

  • Sitting alongside Charles, Johnson struggled to open up an umbrella

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson struggled to control his umbrella at an official engagement on Wednesday as it was blown inside-out by the wind, to the amusement of heir to the throne Prince Charles.
Sitting alongside Charles, the son of Queen Elizabeth, Johnson struggled to open up an umbrella, then offered it to interior minister Priti Patel before blustery conditions turned the umbrella inside-out, prompting chuckling among the three of them.
Johnson was in central England attending the unveiling of a memorial to police officers who have died in the line of duty.


Greek TV commentator fired for remark about Korean athlete

Updated 28 July 2021

Greek TV commentator fired for remark about Korean athlete

  • ERT television ended its collaboration with veteran journalist Dimosthenis Karmiris following comments he made
  • He said ‘their eyes are narrow so I can’t understand how they can see the ball’

ATHENS: A sports commentator in Greece who made an on-air remark about a South Korean athlete at the Tokyo Olympics that the station called racist has been fired, the country’s state-run broadcaster said Tuesday.
ERT television said it had ended its collaboration with veteran journalist Dimosthenis Karmiris as a guest commentator following comments he made after Jeoung Young-sik beat Panagiotis Gionis of Greece in men’s table tennis.
Asked about the skill of South Korean table tennis players, Karmiris said “their eyes are narrow so I can’t understand how they can see the ball moving back and forth.”
Several hours later, ERT posted a statement on its website.
“Racist comments have no place on public television,” ERT said in the statement. “The collaboration between ERT and Dimosthenis Karmiris was terminated today, immediately after the morning show.”
Jeoung beat Gionis 7-11, 11-7, 8-11, 10-12, 12-10, 11-6, 14-12.


Lebanese fleeing collapse at home seek security, salaries in UAE

Updated 26 July 2021

Lebanese fleeing collapse at home seek security, salaries in UAE

  • Lebanon’s crisis has propelled more than half the population into poverty

DUBAI: Until a few months ago, 32-year-old Michelle Chaaya was a human resources professional at a multinational firm in Lebanon. Now she works as a bartender in Dubai, sending cash to her family back home where a financial crisis has left many destitute.
The United Arab Emirates has long been a destination for Lebanese businesses and professionals, propelled by instability in their tiny country.
Those who like Chaaya came to the UAE in the past year are leaving behind a Lebanon that was already in dire straits before a huge chemical blast tore through Beirut in August, exacerbating a financial meltdown that has seen the currency collapse and jobs vanish.
“After the explosion we felt like we were hopeless. So the first opportunity to travel outside Lebanon, I took it,” Chaaya said.
Fadi Iskanderani, one of Lebanon’s few paediatric surgeons who this month moved to Dubai, said the plummeting currency meant his wages had fallen by around 95 percent for the same workload.
Having trained overseas, he moved back to help rebuild his country after years of civil war. The decision to leave was heart-wrenching.
Lebanon’s crisis has propelled more than half the population into poverty, locked depositors out of bank accounts and worsened shortages of basic goods.
The country’s prized education and medical sectors have seen talent leave in droves: around 1,200 doctors are estimated to have left Lebanon.
Psychiatrist Joseph Khoury, who moved to Dubai this year with his family, said Lebanese doctors are filling entire departments at hospitals in the Gulf state.
“The pace of doctors coming from Lebanon is astonishing, ” Khoury said.
The UAE is stepping up efforts to attract and retain skilled workers as competition for talent heats up in the Gulf Arab region where countries are moving to diversify economies away from oil revenues.
The UAE, where visas for non-citizens are typically tied to employment, is offering certain investors and skilled professionals new long-term 5- or 10-year renewable residency visas — and even potential citizenship.
Abed Mahfouz, a Lebanese bridal couture designer, said he had been told he could apply for the so-called ‘golden visa’.
After the Beirut blast destroyed his business, Mahfouz re-opened this month in a luxury mall in Dubai, a tourism and trade hub that attracts the high-end customers he caters to.
“Dubai has taken the place of Beirut. What I have seen here (this mall) for the past week or 10 days is what I used to see in Lebanon 4-5 years ago: Customers, people shopping,” he said.
But unlike Lebanon’s professional elite, many younger people are struggling to land jobs in the UAE.
Soha, 28, came to Dubai to look for work after the bookshop cafe where she was employed in Beirut was damaged in the port explosion.
“You come from this tiny pool in Lebanon, so my CV looks like nothing, even though I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot,” said Soha, who declined to give her surname. She is rallying herself for more jobseeking in Dubai, a city that could give her the sense of safety she longs for.
“I just wanted to be sitting in a place where I have that peace of mind that something isn’t going to blow up at any minute.”