tells fans in
Singapore he’s open
to villain roles
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Tamil actor Vijay Sethupathi at the launch of the new Malabar Gold & Diamonds outlet located at Serangoon Road.
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SINGAPORE, WEEKEND OF FRIDAY,
DECEMBER 14, 2018
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Priya Varrier is India’s most
googled person this year
Malayalam actress Priya Prakash
Varrier has become the most searched
personality of the year, according to
The 19-year-old became famous
after her “wink song” Manikya
Malaraya Poovi from the film Oru
She was followed by actress
Priyanka Chopra’s husband Nick Jonas
on the list of most-searched
personalities. Priyanka was placed
The third and fifth positions went to
dance performer Sapna Choudhary
and actress Sonam Kapoor’s husband
Anand Ahuja respectively.
Bombay Canteen is India’s
The Bombay Canteen has been
crowned India’s best restaurant.
The Mumbai restaurant moved up
one place from last year to top the list
at the second edition of the Conde Nast
Traveller & Himalayan Sparkling Top
The iconic Indian Accent restaurant
in New Delhi was ranked second.
The winners had to go through a jury
of 111 tastemakers and experts in a
process audited by Deloitte Touche
Taj Mahal hikes ticket prices
The ticket price for Indians to the Taj
Mahal in Agra has been raised by 400
per cent in a bid to lower tourist
numbers and reduce damage to the site.
International tourists will pay about
$19 to enter, up from $16.
Experts say the huge flow of people
is causing irreversible damage to the
marble floor, walls and foundations.
The price hike comes only months
after Indian authorities restricted the
number of tourists to 40,000 a day.
Previously, up to 70,000 people would
visit the site at weekends.
Tamil Nadu to rename over
The Tamil Nadu government will
rename more than 3,000 locations in the
state. These include renaming Triplicane
to Thiruvallikeni, Trichy to
Tiruchirappalli, Tuticorin to Thoothukudi
and Poonamalle to Poovirundhavalli.
The decision to rename the locations
was made after the state’s 32 districts
set up a joint high-level committee to
finalise the new names. The committee
studied suggestions from historians and
Zomato sacks driver for eating
customer’s delivery food
Takeaway delivery firm Zomato has
apologised after one of its drivers was
filmed eating a client’s food and
resealing the containers.
The video, filmed in Madurai, shows
a man wearing a Zomato shirt eating
food out of the packed orders, then
resealing them and putting them back
into a delivery bag. It has sacked the
delivery man. Zomato said it will
introduce tamper-proof tapes to seal
food delivery boxes to prevent such
incidents from occurring again.
Nehal’s Miss Universe costume
features majestic throne
Nehal Chudasama is in Thailand
representing India at the Miss Universe
2018 pageant. For the national costume
round, she will be dressed as an Indian
The costume, which weighs 50kg,
features a portable throne inspired by
scenes from the movie Rudrama Devi,
which showcases the Kakatiya Dynasty – a
South Indian dynasty which was ruled by
the North Indian Sultanate.
It was designed by Neeta Lulla and
Melvyn Dominic Noronha.
The national costume show is a separate
part of the pageant and does not count
towards contestants’ overall scores. The
segment allows the participants to honour
and celebrate their countries.
Singapore Press Holdings
(English/Malay/Tamil Media group)
V.K. Santosh Kumar
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After suffering an electoral thrashing at the hands of
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata
Party (BJP) in 2014, India’s small regional and caste-
based parties are back in the reckoning months ahead
of the next general elections.
Losses for Mr Modi’s party in three key states – Mad-
hya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh – on Tuesday
– blamed mainly on rural anger at weak farm prices and
sluggish job creation – have opened the door for new
and old alliances between the main opposition Con-
gress and smaller parties bitterly opposed to Mr Modi.
One of the smaller parties, the Bahujan Samaj Party
established in 1984 to mainly represent people in the
lowest strata of India’s ancient caste hierarchy, said on
Wednesday it would support the Congress to form gov-
ernments in the big states of Madhya Pradesh and Ra-
jasthan, where it fell just short of a majority.
Congress has the numbers to form a government on
its own in the central state of Chhattisgarh, while re-
gional parties Telangana Rashtra Samithi and Mizo Na-
tional Front won in Andhra Pradesh and Mizoram, the
two other states that also went to the polls in recent
However, most political strategists still expect the
BJP to cling on to national power, albeit with a smaller
majority, in an election due by May next year.
But they also acknowledge this week’s results in
three big heartland states have opened up the outside
possibility that Congress could stitch together enough
support from smaller parties to form the next govern-
ment at the Centre.
“At the central level, Prime Minister Modi main-
tains overwhelming popularity over his competitors,
and anecdotal evidence suggests BJP has more boots
on the ground than other parties to mobilise during its
re-election campaign,” Japanese financial holding com-
pany Nomura said in a research note. “However, we do
expect talks of a grand (opposition) coalition to raise
political uncertainty into the 2019 general elections.”
A Congress-led coalition involving multiple smaller
parties could find it difficult to govern, and make eco-
nomic reforms particularly contentious.
That is because almost all the smaller parties have
their own local or community-based agendas that may
not fit with many national policies. For investors that
could mean dealing with more policy uncertainty or
even gridlock over some critical issues.
Adding to that uncertainty, Congress says it will not
announce that its president, Mr Rahul Gandhi, would
be its prime ministerial candidate in the event that it
could put together a coalition, as it seeks to respect the
aspirations of its alliance partners.
Many of the regional leaders are highly ambitious
with years of experience in office.
Mr Gandhi, although heir to the Nehru-Gandhi dy-
nasty that has dominated Indian politics since indepen-
dence, has never held any government position.
On Monday, a day before the state election results
were announced, the Congress led a meeting of nearly
two dozen opposition parties who pledged to oust the
BJP government and “confront and defeat the forces
that are subverting our constitution and making a
mockery of our democracy”.
Heartland turns hurtland
party’s victory in
December 14, 2018
India is home to many eco-conscious re-
sorts, but one stands out from the pack.
Surrounded by dense forests and un-
dulating hills, Evolve Back Chikkana
Halli Estate sits within a 300-acre planta-
tion in Coorg, in south-western India.
The address is known for its commit-
ment to the environment and local com-
There’s a reverse osmosis water filter
in every room, a state-of-the-art sewer-
age treatment plant, electric buggies
and windmills that power the lodge’s
“When guests visit, they can contrib-
ute towards social, economic and com-
munity development and learn more
about environmental impact,” Mr Kan-
thi Aneesh, general manager of Evolve
Back Coorg, told CNN Travel.
“Nowadays, it is necessary for our
generation to learn how to preserve na-
ture and how to contribute in smaller
The hotel’s backstory
Evolve Back’s Coorg lodge traces its
roots back more than 90 years, when ex-
ecutive director Cherian Ramapuram’s
family acquired a coffee plantation.
“About 30 years back, my six siblings
and I decided to diversify from agricul-
ture and go into hospitality,” said
Mr Ramapuram. “We thought it would
be a fantastic place to build a holiday re-
treat because we ourselves love to come
back to Coorg.”
The region is often called the “Scot-
land of India” because of its cool cli-
mate, dense woods and green hills.
One big difference? Elephants are of-
ten seen roaming around the plantation
“Coorg is so unique because of its cof-
fee, spices and pristine nature,” said Mr
“When people open the window of
their cottages, they can reach out to
touch the coffee bushes and the leaves
come into your room. That’s the kind of
feeling that we want people to have.”
A green scene
Evolve has made extensive efforts to re-
duce its footprint in this biodiverse re-
“It’s tourism with a conscience – it’s a
practical thing,” said Mr Ramapuram.
“There are three arts: One is to reduce
waste, the second is reuse whatever’s
left over and the third art is recycle.”
Indeed, the lodge follows these princi-
ples carefully. Ithas banned plastic bot-
tles, installed filtered taps for drinking
water in every room, implemented re-
newable energy and mandated recycling.
With these practices in place, Mr
Ramapuram estimates that the com-
pany saves 200,000 plastic bottles a
year across its three properties.
The solid waste management system
is also impressive. The team converts
roughly 150kg of kitchen refuse daily
into biogas, which is then used as ma-
nure for horticulture.
“When it comes to preserving na-
ture, you can always be better. We con-
tinue to improve how we process and re-
duce our waste,” said Mr Ramapuram.
“(We hope) when our guests see (our
efforts), they will go home and be more
educated about waste.”
Around the lodge
Home to four types of rustic villas and
cottages, the property’s traditional Ko-
dava-style architecture combines local
touches with romantic accents of woods
“You can’t see the Kodava culture
anywhere else,” said Mr Ramapuram.
“Inside the forest, about 7km, you’ll
find this village. There are lots of stories
– there is a tribal doctor who lives there
and sees people from all over the area,
coming to him to find cures.”
The cottage might take its cues from
this ancient clan, but it incorporates
plenty of modern comforts.
Whether you’re staying in a Lily Pool
Bungalow or a Heritage Pool Villa,
you’ll find open-air terraces, thatched
roofs and private pools.
“People don’t come here for gold, sil-
ver, glass, Italian marble – that is not lux-
ury any more,” said Mr Ramapuram.
“Luxury is walking barefoot on the un-
paved ground. Luxury is having coffee
with a local tribe. It’s about experi-
A community experience
Beyond eco-friendly choices, Evolve
also works closely with the local commu-
nity. The hotel employs roughly 60 per
cent of its staff locally at its Coorg loca-
tion, all of whom study in the company’s
job training programme.
To encourage interaction between
guests and the community, the hotel
also arranges visits to local schools, vil-
lages, shops and markets.
“We have a great partnership with
the community,” said Mr Ramapuram.
“We support the schools with books,
bags, uniforms, a library... We also pay
the salaries of the English teachers.”
While you’re there, you can also take
part in outdoorsy activities, like a daily
trek through the woods, bird watching
or touring the coffee plantation.
“To be part of something like this is
such a great satisfaction for me, person-
ally, because you are part of something
that people take back home with them,”
says Mr Ramapuram. “We are a part of
this transformational experience.”
Evolve Back, Karadigodu Post,
Siddapura, Kodagu, Karnataka
571253, India: +91 82742 58481
The hotel is home to four types of rustic villas and cottages, each featuring local textiles,
wood and stone.
Inside one of India’s
greenest luxury resorts
“We have a great
partnership with the
support the schools
with books, bags,
uniforms, a library...
We also pay the salaries of
the English teachers.”
– Executive director Cherian Ramapuram
Guests can dine
flavours at the
December 14, 2018
|Singapore Press Holdings|
|Copyright © 2018 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co|