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How ‘Friends’ helps people around the world learn English

True or false: In the television show “Friends,” Monica Geller was invited to Rachel Green’s wedding.

The question is part of an English lesson for international students in San Jose, California, that is based entirely on the show’s pilot episode. It was designed by Elif Konus, a teacher from Turkey who once binge-watched “Friends” to improve her own English.

The class, and the teacher’s TV habits, illustrate an international phenomenon that emerged in the 1990s and has endured across generations: Young people who aren’t native English speakers appear to enjoy learning the language with help from the hit sitcom.

Seventeen years after the final “Friends” episode, students and educators say that the show, still seen widely in syndication around the world, works well as a learning resource. The dad jeans and cordless telephones may look dated, but the plot twists — falling in love, starting a career and other seminal moments in a young person’s life — are still highly relatable.

Over the years, several prominent celebrities have said that they learned English from “Friends.” The list includes Jürgen Klopp, the German soccer coach who helms Liverpool in the English Premier League; a number of Major League Baseball players whose first language is Spanish; and Kim Nam-joon, leader of the South Korean pop group BTS.

Fans and educators on three continents echo the sentiment, saying that “Friends” is a near-perfect amalgam of easy-to-understand English and real-life scenarios that feel familiar even to people who live worlds away from Manhattan’s West Village.

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‘Friends: The Reunion’: The one that flew down memory lane

“Friends: The Reunion” was never really meant to reload the hysteria. The purpose was always to remind the world that the hysteria still exists. Seventeen years after the original series ended its decade’s run, the reunion special was essentially aimed at reiterating the fact that nostalgia around the series is still intact.

Creators Kevin S. Bright, David Crane and Marta Kauffman have wisely gone for an unscripted format, aware perhaps that no amount of smart storywriting could create an episode that would let them avoid comparisons with an original series that continues to draw overwhelming sentimental appeal. Bright, Crane and Kauffman let the cast be themselves, and also bring into the show the essence of the characters they played.

One by one, they walk into Stage 24 on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, California, and we get a close look at the sets that so seamlessly passed off as Monica’s living room, Chandler and Joey’s bachelor pad, the hallway between the flats, the fountain around which they groove to the title song and, of course, Central Perk.

“This is beautiful,” sighs David Schwimmer, aka Ross Geller, the first to arrive, as he soaks in yesterday once more. You are drawn in instantly, for a 104-minute ride into a happy fictional past.

Essentially, the reunion special is about Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer being themselves, even as they let themselves be Rachel Green, Monica Geller, Phoebe Buffay, Joey Tribbiani, Chandler Bing and Ross Geller respectively.

They open up their boxful of memories, seated on the orange sofa and next to the fountain of the theme song that are set on a stage. They relive the years that were, on and off camera, recreating highlight scenes and sharing behind-the-scene trivia. Director Ben Winston mixes highlight moments from the series as the sextet talks about those scenes or episodes.

It is a swell idea actually, more so if you are a fan. It would have made for a perfect watch, but for a couple of glitches.

First, they should have let the six friends be. Instead, they put James Corden into the mix.

“The Late Late Show” host is a master of chatting up celebs but, trying to fit himself on stage with the six and their sofa, he seems grossly out of place. He is there to monitor the conversation, we understand, to ask key questions at the key moments to keep the impromptu vibes coming in. Somehow, the outcome ends up more staged (no pun intended) than it actually is.

The second thing lacking is audience connection. Watching “Friends” over 10 years — as well as in numerous reruns — one always became a part of the gang, in the same room. There was the note of camaraderie the six friends managed to strike that made each of their millions of fans feel like they were the seventh friend in the room.

It’s down to the little moments and the random quips really, more than overall planned production, to make the special click. A downside is also the fact that the reunion doesn’t leave you with a remarkable last shot. The least they could have done was throw in a funny one mid or post end-credits.

“Friends: The Reunion” is the one that flew down memory lane and little else. For legions of fans that is the one thing they’ve lived for through the last 17 years.

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Matthew McConaughey engages in conversation with Sadhguru

Hollywood star Matthew McConaughey took to Instagram to inform fans that he would engage in a conversation with Sadhguru. The interview went live on YouTube.

The Oscar-winning actor’s discussion with the spiritual guru pertains to Karma, crafting one’s destiny, the connection between yoga and religion, and exploring the unknown.

The official description of the video on YouTube reads: “Academy Award-winning actor @Matthew McConaughey asks Sadhguru about Karma, crafting one’s destiny, the connection between yoga and religion, and exploring the unknown. Sadhguru offers insights on how we should not confuse our lifestyle — a consequence of the times we live in — with life, the real thing!”

The actor’s recently-released book “Greenlights”, too, speaks about the discovery of life.

“Recently, I worked up the courage to sit down with those diaries. I found stories I experienced, lessons I learned and forgot, poems, prayers, prescriptions, beliefs about what matters, some great photographs, and a whole bunch of bumper stickers,” McConaughey said on the official website of his novel.

“I found a reliable theme, an approach to living that gave me more satisfaction, at the time, and still: If you know how, and when, to deal with life’s challenges—how to get relative with the inevitable — you can enjoy a state of success I call catching greenlights,” he added.

Describing it as a “love letter to life”, he added: “Hopefully, it’s medicine that tastes good, a couple of aspirin instead of the infirmary, a spaceship to Mars without needing your pilot’s license, going to church without having to be born again, and laughing through the tears. It’s a love letter. To life.”

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Host of Bollywood celebrities contract Covid-19

As India is battling the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, more and more celebs are sharing their coronavirus positive statuses on social media. On Monday morning, Vicky Kaushal turned out to be the second Bollywood star to have tested positive. Vicky Kaushal posted about being COVID-19 positive just hours after his Mr Lele co-star Bhumi Pednekar shared her coronavirus diagnosis. “In spite of all care and precautions, unfortunately, I have tested COVID-19 positive. Following all essential protocols, I am under home quarantine, taking medication as prescribed by my doctor,” Vicky said in a statement posted on Instagram.

Just like all celebs, Vicky too asked those who may have been in his physical proximity in the last few days, to get themselves tested: “I request all those who came in contact with me to immediately get tested. Take case and stay safe.” In the comments section, get well soon messages poured in for Vicky Kaushal, and one among them was from COVID-positive Fatima Sana Shaikh: “Khayal rakho dost. Get well soon,” she wrote.

Akshay Kumar, who tested covid-19 positive on Sunday, revealed a day later that he has been hospitalized. In a tweet on Monday morning, the 53-year-old actor thanked his fans and well-wishers for showering him with prayers: “Thank you everyone for all your warm wishes and prayers, they seem to be working.” In his statement, Akshay added that he is in the hospital as a precautionary measure and that he is looking forward to be back to home soon: “I am doing fine but as a precautionary measure under medical advice, I have been hospitalized. I hope to be back home soon, take care.”

On Sunday morning, Akshay Kumar revealed he has contracted the coronavirus with this statement: “I wish to inform everyone that, earlier this morning, I have tested positive for COVID-19. Following all the protocols, I have immediately isolated myself.” The actor was initially in home quarantine, as per his statement: “I’m under home quarantine and have sought necessary medical care.” In his tweet, Akshay Kumar asked those who were in his vicinity in the recent past to get themselves tested: “I would sincerely request all those that have come in contact with me to get themselves tested and take care.”

Actress Alia Bhatt too checked in on Instagram on Monday, days after she contracted the virus. Bhatt, who was busy filming her upcoming projects before she tested positive, is currently quarantined at home. 

Actor Govinda has contracted the coronavirus, his wife Sunita Ahuja revealed in a statement. Speaking to news agency PTI, Sunita Ahuja said Govinda tested COVID-19 positive on Sunday morning. The 57-year-old actor has been experiencing “mild symptoms” and is following all the necessary protocols – he has isolated himself and is currently under quarantine, reported PTI. “He tested positive today morning. His symptoms are absolutely mild,” Sunita told PTI. Sharing a health update about Govinda for concerned fans and followers, Sunita added: “There’s nothing to worry about. He is quarantining at home and taking precautions.”

In the recent past, celebs such as Aamir Khan, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Kartik Aaryan, Paresh Rawal, Milind Soman, among others have tested positive for COVID-19. Stars such as Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan, Sanjay Dutt and Malaika Arora, among others, have taken their COVID-19 vaccination.

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Vikas Khanna’s movie poster on Times Square billboard

Just like his film, ‘The Last Color’, that is all about promises, director Vikas Khanna sure knows how to keep his word. A few years back, he had made one to Neena Gupta, the actress of his film, saying that a poster of her from the film will be up on billboards at the Times Square in Manhattan. With posters donning the iconic billboard of one of the most-prominent locations in the world, posters of the film will also be present on buses in the city.

The Last Color, which premiered at the 30th Palm Springs International Film Festival, USA, in January 2019, has finally got its India release across PVR Cinemas.

Speaking about the film’s release in India, an elated Vikas Khanna said, “I had promised Neena ji that when The Last Color comes out, her picture in the beautiful pink color will be on Times Square billboards. Today, as we release the film for everyone to witness this story of hope and promise, I, too, am going back to fulfil my promises and share with everyone this story with the ever-talented Neena ji.”

The Last Color explores the bond between Noor, a widow in Varanasi, and Chhoti, a Dalit street performer. A fast friendship develops between the gentle and devout Noor (Neena Gupta) and the feisty and irreverent Chhoti (Aqsa Siddiqui), leading to the movie’s best scenes.

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‘A Little Late with Lilly Singh’ returns for Season 2 on Jan 11

‘A Little Late with Lilly Singh’ is set to kick off its highly anticipated second season on Jan 11 at 1.35 am on NBC and across digital platforms.
The late-night series heads into its sophomore season with an all-new look as Lilly showcases her signature authenticity, observational comedy and creative talents as host. The upcoming season will feature a fresh mix of sketch comedy, interviews and Lilly’s unique take on current events and pop culture. The show will also go behind the scenes, letting her audiences into the creative process and seeing how Lilly and her team brings the show to life.
“During the first season of ‘A Little Late,’ I was thrust into a whole new world that admittedly consisted of 90% learning and 10% being creative,” Singh said. “For this second round, I know the ropes and plan to bring more of my creativity to the table. It’s time to get goofy, be imperfect and bring my full authentic self to late night.”
The writing staff will include head writer Chelsea Davison, plus staff writers Vannessa Jackson, Sabeeh Jameel, Romen Borsellino, Nimesh Patel, Neuli Handa and Natasha Vaynblat.
In other staff announcements, the show will be executive produced by showrunner Neil Punsalan and Polly Auritt, on behalf of Unicorn Island Productions. Auritt was an executive producer of Peacock’s “Sketchy Times with Lilly Singh” and a co-executive producer on the first season of “A Little Late With Lilly Singh.” 
Swapping out a traditional stage for a Los Angeles-based house as the show’s location will give Lilly more space to break the rules and embrace imperfection. Without the constraints of a typical studio, “A Little Late” will be spontaneous and unfiltered, bringing a funhouse vibe to the 1.35 a.m timeslot.
The trailblazing first season included notable guests such as Mindy Kaling, Charlize Theron, Malala Yousafzai, Jessica Alba, Tracee Ellis Ross, Natalie Portman, America Ferrera, Ashley Graham, Justin Hartley, Meghan Trainor, Tony Shalhoub, Snoop Dogg, Terry Crews, Daisy Ridley, Awkwafina, John Legend, RuPaul, Adam Devine, Tyra Banks and many more.

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Netflix’s ‘Delhi Crime’ wins Best Drama series at International Emmy Awards 2020

Netflix India Original series ‘Delhi Crime’ helmed by Indian-Canadian director Richie Mehta has bagged the best drama series honor at the 48th International Emmy Awards. Told from the perspective of the Delhi Police team investigating the crime that made global headlines, the series deconstructs the case of the 23-year-old physiotherapy intern who was abducted and gangraped in a moving bus on the night of December 16, 2012 before she was abandoned on a Delhi road.

Her injuries were so grievous that she died in a Singapore hospital a fortnight later.

Mehta, in his acceptance speech during the virtual ceremony on Monday, dedicated the honor to all the women who not just endure violence that men inflict on them, “but are also tasked to solve the problem.”

Actor Shefali Shah played Vartika Chaturvedi, whose character on “Delhi Crime” was based on former Delhi Police DCP Chaya Sharma who cracked the case of the brutal gangrape within 72 hours.

The show, released in 2019, received massive acclaim for its sensitive retelling of a horrific crime that shook the entire nation. Performances by its ensemble cast, including Shah, Rasika Dugal, Adil Hussain and Rajesh Tailang were particularly appreciated.

Last year, Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer “McMafia” won the best drama series award at the International Emmy Awards. Actor Richard Kind hosted the ceremony from New York.

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Akshay Kumar to go into the wild with Bear Grylls

Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar will soon embark on a wild trip with TV host and adventurer Bear Grylls.

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi and superstar Rajinikanth, Akshay is the next icon to feature in an upcoming episode of the show “Into The Wild With Bear Grylls”.

Akshay shared the news on social media, with a motion poster of his episode.

“You thinking I mad… but mad only going into the wild. #IntoTheWildWithBearGrylls,” he captioned the picture.

In the teaser, the actor and the host are seen in a jungle environment, swinging towards each other on ropes.

The special episode will premiere on September 11 on Discovery+, and September 14 on Discovery channel.

The show features Bear Grylls taking prominent stars on 48-hour journeys into the wild, where they are faced with inhospitable conditions.

In 2019, PM Narendra Modi had joined Grylls for a special episode of the adventure-survival series as they visited and shot in the Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand.

Later, Rajinikanth and Grylls explored Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka. They shot for the episode for six hours in a day in the forest area.

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Raveena Tandon to award nine special children for academic achievements

Raveena Tandon, a humanitarian and philanthropist, has often underlined the importance of education for underprivileged and differently-abled children in the country. As a public figure, she has been associated with various non-profit organizations which support the cause. Encouraging young minds yet again, this time the actress has stepped forward to honor nine differently-abled children for their spectacular academic achievements the Maharashtra State Education Board‘s HSC exams.

The actress, a mother of two young kids, is doing this in collaboration with one of the world’s largest women’s organizations which has representatives in the United Nations, too. 

The felicitation event will be held virtually. “It’s such an honor for me to applaud these young super achievers who have challenged and conquered their physical disabilities, and done outstandingly well in their academics. They truly are an inspiration for each one of us, motivating us to believe in ourselves and never lose hope in life. Felicitating them is our way to empower them and at the same time, encourage them for their personal aspirations in the future. I’m really moved by their hard work and efforts,” she said. 

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