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#Gangaa: &TV soars as a little girl with a big heart wins viewers’ hearts

Originality sure does pay off.

The fresh shows of Zee’s brand new free-to-air channel &TV have proved to be a huge success with UK audiences after the General Entertainment Channel (GEC) soared to the top 3 in its first full week of broadcast.

The channel took 3rd place amongst all South Asian GEC channels in the UK closing in on the half-million viewers mark – a spectacular achievement for a new launch.

The channel’s success has been driven in part by Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan himself – the actor’s magnetic charm helping propel his weeknight show India Poochega Sabse Shanaa Kaun to the top of the audience wish list.

The channels’ weekend shows Killer Karaoke - Atka Toh Latkah, a singing show with a twist and Tujhse Naaraz Nahi Zindagi have also done particularly well.

According to experts, &TV has scored well with a myriad different segments of the audience with its varied content - the first week had the full range of the channel’s shows getting sampled – from the historical drama of Razia Sultan; the aspirational Bhaghyalakshmi and the laugh-out-loud Bhabi Ji Ghar Par Hai.

However, the weeknight drama ‘Gangaa’ – about a feisty young girl who becomes a widow at a young age – came out as the uncontested champ of the week: evidence that a simple story about ordinary people will resonate with more people than anything else.

The contemporary feel of the channel is reflected in its demographics: a majority of viewers were in the crucial 25 - 44 age bracket.

With a roster of hot new Bollywood movies set to add to the channel’s programming, things can only get better, &TV insiders say.

“We were confident that the great quality content of &TV would be a hit with the viewers and we are absolutely thrilled to gain a successful opening for the channel.

It is difficult to miss a poster or the sound of the channel out and about all over the UK and the shows are attracting the attention of the audience.  We are looking forward to seeing the audience rise in the coming weeks”, said Parul Goel, Deputy Head, Zee Network Europe.

&TV is available free on Sky Channel 705 and Virgin Media Channel 811.

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#Court: A little film with a big heart wins India’s top cinema award

A little film which tells a mighty impressive tale about a particularly mundane aspect of life in India has won the Best Feature Film award at the country’s National Film Awards.

‘Court’, by first-time director Chaitanya Tamhane, bagged the top prize as the full list of winners was unveiled on Tuesday.

Set in Maharashtra, ‘Court’ tells the story of Narayan Kamble, a 65-year-old musician and social activist who is arrested and charged with inciting a day labourer to kill himself after listening to one of Kamble’s songs. 

The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival 2014 and was widely praised for the impressive manner in which Tamhane explores the crushing dullness of the judicial process and how it continues to be manipulated for the benefit of the few.

The Best Film honour is the latest in a long list of accolades for ‘Court’ which has already won a number of awards, including at film festivals in Venice, Mumbai, Vienna, Hong Kong, Minsk, Singapore and Moscow.

The other big winner of this year’s Nationals was ‘Haider’, Vishal Bhardwaj’s critically acclaimed, Kashmir-set adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’. 

The film won honours for dialogue, costume design, choreography, male playback singing as well as its outstanding soundtrack but lost out on the major gongs.

Actress Kangna Ranaut - who had snubbed several of Bollywood’s regular award shows and who had, in turn, been snubbed by organizers who put more store in a star’s appearance at an event – was rightfully honoured for her exceptional turn as a jilted bride from Delhi who decides to spend her honeymoon along in Europe in Vikas Bahl’s ‘Queen’.

"Mary Kom", a biopic based on India's eponymous Olympian and five-time women's boxing world champion, was the only other Bollywood movie on the list of feature film winners taking the award for best popular film.

The awards will be presented at a ceremony later this year.

For the full list of winners and the jury’s comments on each film, click here.

Here's a look at the international trailer for 'Court'.

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#Honour: Suraj Sharma-starrer ‘Umrika’ wins audience award at Sundance

A beautiful little film about an impoverished young Indian boy and his fascination with the apparent utopia of 'Umrika' has won the Audience Award for World Cinema at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.

'Umrika' - a play on how 'America' is pronounced in parts of the sub-continent - was written and directed by ad executive-turned-social media-tycoon-turned-filmmaker Prashant Nair, the man behind the delightful 2011 comedy 'Delhi in a Day'.

The film stars 'Life of Pi' and 'Homeland' star Suraj Sharma in his Indian feature debut, as Ramakant. 

As a young boy, Ramakant watches his beloved older brother Udai leave their small Uttar Pradesh village and travel in search of better prospects to 'Umrika'.

Over the years, Udai’s letters inspire Ramakant and breathe new life in to the workings of the brothers' village, encouraging new traditions, sparking community debate and providing the impetus for young men and women to learn. 

However, following a family tragedy, Ramakant discovers a startling deception that sees him embark on a journey of self-discovery.

Critics have raved about the film, describing it as a "warm", "quirky" and "sobering" piece of cinema anchored by the outstanding Sharma. 

Berlin-based Nair has said he was inspired to make the film by the disparity in how different cultures perceive each other as well as the issue of immigration.

The film was developed with funding from the Sundance Mahindra Lab for filmmakers, the same outfit that helped develop 'Margarita With A Straw'.

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#Breathtaking: British-Pakistani debutante wins prestigious Best Newcomer Award at LFF 2014

British Pakistani big screen debutante Sameena Jabeen Ahmed has scooped the prestigious 'Best British Newcomer' prize at the London Film Festival (LFF) 2014.

Ahmed was honoured for her "breathtaking" performance as a teenager on the run in 'Catch Me Daddy', a powerful tale about honour killings set in northern England. 

The award is presented to the most promising writer, actor, producer or director with no previous track record in feature films or television. 

Film producer and LFF 2014 jury president Finola Dwyer said the decision to honour Ahmed had been unanimous.

"Sameena's performance was very assured, confident and fearless. In the lead role of "Laila", Sameena's range of emotion was breathtaking; she was the heartbeat of the film.”

Filmed on location in the bleak and beautiful Yorkshire Moors, the film follows pink-haired teenager Laila (Ahmed), who has gone on the run with her Scottish boyfriend Aaron (Conor McCarron). 

The young couple have fled their homes in an unnamed northern town and are trying to quietly set up home in a trailer near the Moors: Laila works at a local hair salon while Aaron sits around waiting for Laila to return so that they could get stoned out of their minds.

Unbeknownst to Laila and Aaron, two groups of men - both hired by Laila's outraged father to avenge his family's "honour" - are hunting the couple. 

One group is headed by Laila's brute of a brother Zaheer (Ali Ahmad). 

The other group is led by Barry, a brawny white thug even more psychopathic than Zaheer. 

The ensuing chase is both ominous and poetic as director Daniel Wolfe (brother Mathew Wolfe co-wrote the script) explores family dynamics, race and class in multicultural Britain.

Ahmed, 24, had been cast after a street audition and is sensational in her role which requires a mind-numbing array of emotions, most of which she nails to impressive effect.

Other major award winners of this year's London Film Festival include 'Leviathan', a Russian drama by director Andrey Zvyagintsev which won Best Film and 'Syria Self Portrait' by Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedirxan, which won the Girerson Award for Best Documentary.

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#Honour: Indian police officer wins top UN Women Peacekeeper award

An Indian peacekeeper serving with the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan has been named the UN’s ‘International Female Police Peacekeeper 2014’ for her efforts in helping victims of sexual and gender-based violence. Inspector Shakti Devi, who served with the Jammu and Kashmir Police for more than a decade, is currently …

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