Monday, December 31, 2007

Slogan of the Year 2007: The year that was Part 1

Hathi nahin Ganesh hai; Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh hai (It's not an elephant, it's Lord Ganesha. It is Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh.): Mayawati won simple majority in the politically most important state of India (simply because it sends maximum MPs in Lok Sabha) and formed a single party Government in the state after 17 years!

This slogan puts in 1 line her entire strategy of getting the extremes of Indian society: Dalits and Brahmins under one umbrella.

Consider the about turn that BSP has taken since its inception, its former slogan was: Tilak, Tarazu aur Talwaar, inko maaro joote chaar (Brahmins, Vaishyas and Rajputs should be slammed!).

She won and has her eyes set firmly on Delhi now.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A question for Gujrat

I don't know if this is the right time to ask this question, now that voting has finished in Gujrat. This question is to open to not only Gujratis but all those people who believe that Narendra Modi is the right choice for leading Gujrat once again.

The most common arguments in favor of Modi are:

1) He is an able administrator who has made Gujrat one of the most developed states of the country and brought unparalleled investment in the state.

2) Barring the attack on temple, there have hardly been any terrorist acts in the state during his stint.

The reason that Modi supporters mostly give for no terrorist attacks is actually a sham and I believe that it has been coined just to suppport Modi's anti-Muslim stance and in a way glorify it. They say that Islamic terrorists don't strike Gujrat because they are afraid of retaliation against Gujrati Muslims.

Why do I call it a sham? Because that's precisely what terrorists want to do! Any state supported (with Modi at the helm of affairs you can be sure of that!) retaliation against minorities ultimately creates more supporters and more breeding grounds for terrorism. So, it is actually an open invitation for terrorists to attack the state. But if this does not happen, I think better thank Gujrat Police and Intelligence rather than Modi!

Now, my question. I won't go in details about how able administrator Modi is and how much development he has brought in Gujrat (however many people actually raise those questions, which Modi supporters tend to brush away with disdain).

Is all that development and those investment dollars worth the communal harmony that Modi's reign of divisive politics has taken the toll of? Everyone can sense the communal divisions that he has created in the state but there is more.

Not much has been reported in the media about his speeches where he address the central Government as 'Delhi Sultanate' and declares Gujrat's economic independence. He challenges the 'Delhi Sultanate' not to take a paisa from Gujrat and Gujrat won't need any thing from 'them'. So now this 'us' vs 'them' is not only with reference to 'hindus' and 'muslims' but also between state and country. Whenever any one raises any questions about Modi's acts or the 'development' either he is declared as a traitor (if he is a Gujrati) or one of 'them';an outsider who is envious of Gujrat's achievements.

Simply put Modi is doing precisely what George W Bush has done: create fictitious enemies and assure people of safety to prove yourself their best bet.

I repeat my question once again: Is communal harmony the price that Gujrat has to pay for its development? And do Gujratis really understand how immense this price is?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Movie Review: Dus Kahaniyaan

In one of my previous blogs, I rubbished Ram Gopal Verma (and dutifully got the brickbats as well!) for his recent cinematic outings,but who can deny that the man refurbished the concept of multiple ’viewlets’ in single film, with ’Darna Mana Hai’ and then ’Darna Zaroori Hai’. However both the films were constituted of only thriller/horror stories (ok ok, I know we mocked ’Darna Mana Hai’ as ’Hansna Mana Hai’ but that’s another thing!).

Sanjay Gupta produced ’Dus Kahaniyaan’ doesn’t come with this precondition and that’s why is different from RGV’s outings. I won’t say that all stories have got completely different shades but atleast they can be broadly classified in different genres, and also they have been treated as such (read there are cliches at times!)

All the 10 stories are completely disconnected with each other and thankfully the directors have neither tried to stretch the narrative unneccesarily nor tried to bind them in a common ending which often leaves a bad taste in mouth.

Talking about the film as a whole it sounds a gigantic effort: There are 6 different directors at the helm, 14 writers have worked on story, screenplay and dialogues, 8 music directors have composed the music, 8 cinematographers have shot the stories, there are a bus-full of actors and there is only one editor (Bunty Nagi)! A point worth appreciating is the juncture when the story title is shown. A very very clever ploy in story telling, it actually enhances the flavor of the offerring.

Let me get in predictable format and discuss each story separately!

Starring Mandira Bedi, Arbaaz Khan and Sudhanshu Pandey this is definitely one of the best if not the best. Short, swift and crisp, this film almost redefines its title. Without any unneccessary frills the story has been executed very nicely by Sanjay Gupta. Verdict: Amazing!

High on the Highway:
Hansal Mehta dons the director’s cap and creates this confused looking tale high on adrenalin and low on content. Jimmy Shergill and Masumeh Makhija star in this hapless story. Verdict: Not Sure!

Strangers in the Night:
Sanjay Gupta starts getting in his skin as you start seeing some skin on screen. Full of bad dialogues this story has some real good closeups of Neha Dhoopia. End of the story is so very different that you almost forgive Gupta for featuring awful looking Mahesh Manjrekar. Verdict: Good.

If there is one reason I would want you not to watch this movie, this is it. The story is absolutely disgusting and enforces the belief that a bar girl is a prostitute and it’s ok to rape her! Pathetic. There is no sensitivity in Sanjay Gupta’s handling of subject and actors Dia Mirza and Manoj Bajpai sleep walk in their roles. There is a twist in the tale but it makes people laugh rather than feel sorry for any of the protagonists! Verdict: Disgusting

Love Dale:
A mandatory offerring in these kind of platters is a ghost flick. Predictable from beginning to end this story and its dialogues are full of cliches (if this was a complete film, I think it would have outdone ’Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal’!). There is nothing remarkable in this story directed by Jasmeet Dhodhi. Aftab Shivdasani and Neha Uberoi outdo each other in trying to look cute while Anupam Kher and Anuradha Patel are in a ’blink-and-miss’ roles! Verdict: Skippable.

Rice Plate: Wow! Rohit Roy couldn’t get a better debut platform than this, directing Shabana Azmi and Naseeruddin Shah. Azmi has got her accent just perfect and Shah is very quite yet underlines her performance with his presence. This whole film is worth watching simply for Azmi. Two thumbs up for ’director’ Rohit Roy. Verdict: Fabulous.

Father-Daughter duo of Gulzar and Meghna team up here to play with Amrita Singh, Minnisha Lamba and Parmeet Sethi. And though the basic idea behind this one may seem little far-fetched it has been executed quite well. Verdict: Good

Sex on the Beach:
No, there is no sex, just a beach where Dino Morea lies and drops his Pepsi. The second ghost story which relies on tried and trusted formulae of scaring you. Tareena Patel is the eye candy and director Apurva Lakhia too makes a guest appearance in the end! Verdict: Average.

How many zillion times have we seen an old man visiting his dead wife’s grave (on second thoughts, how many times have we seen a woman doing that? Not once. May be women actually are more intelligent!) bringing flowers (ok, change that with balloons here!) and a sorry card! There is the trademark yellow tint in this Sanjay Gupta (yes, again) directed story starring Nana Patekar (looking as if he is coming directly from the sets of Yashwant!), Anita Hasnandani (man she looks good!) and Rohit Roy (I guess he was coming here after a bad day at sets, hence in a bad mood :) Verdict: Average

Rise And Fall:
Hansal Mehta and Gupta have co-directed this underworld saga. Mehta has filmed the part featuring youngsters and Gupta has worked with his dear friends Sanjay Dutt and Suniel Shetty. Verdict: Above Average.

All in all, the movie is watchable considering that it is hardly 2 hours of running time. My rating: 3 stars.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Movie Review: Dhan Dhana Dhana Goal

A bunch of part-timers solidifying into a team with sole aim of fighting the 'goras' to save their land. Underdogs beating the champions after the opposition's attempt of breaking the team didn't succeed. Ashutosh Gowarikar's Lagaan? Yes, and director Vivek Agnihotri's latest release 'Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal'.

Underdogs-beating-Champions is a perennial theme in the films of sport genre. You always know that in last 2 minutes the hero (or heroine) will hit the winning goal/claim the last wicket/score the winning run/reach the finish line or whatever and redeem the disgraced coach/fulfill the dreams of the community etc. etc.

What separates one good film from a bad one is everything else that goes on. And there is actually lot of 'else' going on. So much that game gets lost at times.

Goal introduces the UBCD (UK Born Confused Desi, the British counterpart of more famous ABCD, America Born Confused Desi) to Indian audiences, which could have been a good thing, had the director dealt it a little deftly. The film barely scratches this confusion because it is busy in digging up the issue of racism in English society, and this is precisely where it fails.

(My recommendation:watch 2004 Best Picture Academy Award winner 'Crash' if you have to watch a really sensitive film on the issue of racism)

The sensitivity required to portray the issue has been replaced with jingoism and unnecessary sense of nationalism ('Hindustan' and 'Hindustaniyat') which is so excessive (in reel-length if not content) that it puts you off. You can sense there is a problem when you hate the protagonists when they do the foul mouthing. There is hardly any viciousness in English racial slur ('Paki') and the pain in the hurt it causes.

And talk of the clich├ęs. There is a disgraced coach (as I mentioned above!) who agrees to coach the team (and comes directly to ground) after refusing initially but giving in when captain calls him a failure and coward. Yawn!

Writing is at best patchy. If Rohit Malhotra and Vikramaditya Motwane's screenplay is overflowing with cliches and a sense of deja vu, Malhotra and Anurag Kashyap have done pretty good job in dialogues. (But I can't forgive 'alag alag rang ke phhol sath mein kitne achhe lagte hain')

The first half goes in establishing the 'team' and troubles facing them and is almost as lively as a dead turkey. Second half has lot more action in terms of happening on the soccer pitch as well as story movement. But again most of the moments are predictable. Climax is well conceived and executed but a coach and a 'physiotherapist' (-cum-girlfriend of the star footballer) lets him play a match which could be fatal to his life, is beyond my understanding!

But the film has its moments like the one where a child tells Sunny (the star Asian player) that he is his (Wayne) Roony. (Ohh how I wish there was this subtlety throughout and now I realise that this was one of the reasons I liked Chak De!)

Southall has been shot pretty well, but most of the football matches seem a lot to be desired. Casual soccer hobbyists like me may like the scenes of Manchester United club and ground. (You diehard fans would already have seen all this on ESPN-Star Sports!)

Unlike Chak De this film may be about a team game but not about team. There are team-moments but individuals always loom large: Shan, the captain of Southall United Football Club and part time Chef in his own restaurant and Sunny, the professional footballer who is the star. Count others: Tony Singh, the yesteryear great, now coach of this team; wives of everyone, and team members!

Arshad Warsi has been dependable actor mostly and he delivers. I just wish that his character was better written. Why does Shan hate Sunny even when he believes that only Sunny can fulfill his dream of winning Championship? Why does he not talk to his team mates when they don't play well but just keeps on shouting 'idiots'? John Abraham has got Rocky S to make him look good and he does that! He has already played a brat in 'Taxi No. 9211' and he does that here as well. Boman Irani stands out as coach, but his version of '70 Minute' (The pre-climax pep talk) doesn't actually stand out as good as that of Kabir Khan (SRK in Chak De)!

Did someone say Bipasha Basu? I guess UTV guys made director take her at the last moment at the last moment so that they could get a little air-time on channels as a John-Bipasha movie. She does nothing, except wearing a RN jersey and saying things like 'I am sexy and you too are sexy'. Shame. Among others Kushal Punjabi impresses.

To its credit Goal qualifies as a sports film and doesn't merely pass of the sport as a backdrop for the drama, but then it is not able to captivate the viewer throughout its length! Go for it if you don't have anything to do, otherwise better still wait for TV Premiere.

My rating 2 stars.

Monday, October 29, 2007

When success is a two-edged sword

This article was originally written for and published on on 27th November 2007:

Some months back I read the book review of 'Orson Welles: A Biography' by Barabara Leaming.

I have always known Welles as the creator of the great 'Mars Attack' hoax on radio. This article however was focussed on Orson Welles, the director of 'Citizen Kane' (for those who don't know, this movie repeatedly tops the list of 'Greatest Movies of All times').

Barabara Leaming has argued that the initial acclaim that got associated with 'Citizen Kane' and hence with Welles has been a double edged sword for the prolific writer-actor-director-producer Welles. On one hand, it established him as one of the 'greatest' creative geniuses in the cinematic world and on the other it robbed him and the world of so much that he could have done. (She says that many film critics feel forced to include 'Citizen Kane' in their favorites' lists because it is 'considered' to be such a great film!)

According to Leaming, after the grand success of 'Citizen Kane', Orson Welles spent many years and many millions (of studio money, ofcourse!) trying to recreate something as grand and successful. But very few of his works after 'Citizen Kane' got to see the light of the day, and they too were hardly a patch on his on own previous work.

I have always thought of similar stories in Hindi cinema where too much early acclaim has had not-so-good impact on the makers.

Mahesh Manjrekar : I have not seen 'Vaastav' (actually I went inside the hall, but had to leave because my sister was with me and I thought obscenities were too inappropriate!) but I remember that almost all the critics hailed Manjrekar as hope of new generation 'aggressive' cinema. He changed gears and delivered 'Astitva' and proved that he could handle sensitive issues as deftly. But after that the downfall started! 16 flop and insipid films tell tale.

Vikram Bhatt: He could have at the top of this list but for an occasional hit like 'Awara Pagal Deewana'. With 'Speed' Vikram just scored his 10th consecutive dud. Sample his recent outings: Speed (2007),Life Mein Kabhie Kabhiee (2007),Red: The Dark Side (2007),Ankahee (2006),Deewane Huye Paagal (2005),Jurm (2005),Elaan (2005),Aetbaar (2004),Inteha (2003).Vikram Bhatt is one of the topmost DVD directors of India and one of his most successful films Ghulam was a ripoff of 'On the Waterfront'. So were 'Kasoor' and 'Raaz'. He is still busy ripping Hollywood but whatever happened!

E. Nivas: 'Love ke Liye Kuchh Bhi Karega' was bearable, but the man who debuted with 'Shool' seemed to be finished with first outing itself! What followed were disasters like 'Dum' and 'Bardaasht'! Surprising indeed. Let's hope 'My Name is Anthony Gonzalves' and 'De Taali' are better.

Sujoy Ghosh : This may seem pre-mature and I WANT that it proves to be. Because I loved 'Jhankaar Beats'. This was a farm fresh film with a farm fresh attitude and amazing style of narration. Everything that could go right was, and I can watch reruns as many times as they show. But what was 'Home Delivery'? Ghosh got lost in his own style and delivered such a great dud, not only commercially but also creatively that it was almost heart breaking!

Ram Gopal Verma: Ahem! I know you are ready to kick me for this one, but I really think that if someone has been spoilt by acclaim, it is this gentleman. He is supposed to be a 'maverick' and taking risk with new themes and newer talent is his favorite pastime, but has it gone to his head? I think it has. Making inane movies and then remaking them (anyone remember 'James' and then 'Shiva'?) hardly sounds to be the stuff coming from the director of 'Rangeela', 'Satya', 'Company' and 'Sarkar'. But then 'truth is stranger than fiction!'

Also mentioned:
Farhan Akhtar: Surprised? Well, though I believe 'Lakshya' was not as bad as critics made it to be and 'Don' also was ok, I don't think these two came anywhere near the cult status quality that 'Dil Chahta Hai' earned rightfully. But I believe he has still lot to deliver.

You may agree, you may disagree with my list. I am ready for the brickbats, but all I would want to say is that I would be more than very happy if these people make me eat my words!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Since cricket is of 'national importance'

Now that the euphoria of victory in T-20 World cup has subsided after losing the One day series against Australia, I think this is the time to raise some questions.

If our courts believe that Cricket is such a matter of national importance which made them curb the freedom of private enterprise causing it major losses, then why is cricket allowed to be run like fiefdom?

I am talking about making Neo Sports share their feed with Doordarshan. For those who don't know, honorable Supreme Court had ruled that since Cricket is a matter of national importance, every citizen has a right to watch it. Hence poor Nimbus had to share its feed with DD with a 50% revenue sharing on Doordarshan's advertisements. (So DD gets a cool 50% without doing anything!)

To be honest, I am a supporter of Nimbus. These guys have years of sports coverage and they used to produce some really great programs for DD and other channels. The sudden influx of ads in their recent cricket telecasts seem to be the result of what I said earlier: revenue loss due to feed sharing. (For those who don't know, Nimbus bought 5 year telecast rights from BCCI, of all cricket matches played in India at astronomical prices. And industry watchers have predicted doom of Nimbus since then!)

Now what I wanted to ask is that if Cricket is so important to this country then why is allowed to be managed by non-professionals, called BCCI? What is most shocking is that unlike other sports federations, currently BCCI is not answerable to anyone officially. This is what Times of India reveals about BCCI:

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) -- a private society registered as an association under the Tamil Nadu Society Registration Act, 1860 -- was formed in 1929. It is affiliated to a limited company registered in the British Virgin Islands called the International Cricket Council (ICC). As a private society, the BCCI is not compelled to reveal to the general public its handling of cricket, sponsorship, telecast rights details, income and expenditure statements. The BCCI is accountable only to the Registrar of Companies.

Why is a game of such 'national importance' allowed to run by such a body?

And it is no secret that since BCCI gets fat on telecast rights, the gate money (ticket price you pay when you watch a match in a stadium) doesn't mean much to it and hence India has perhaps worst cricket stadia as compared to other countries. Why are citizen's rights being ignored here?

Media and (publicity hungry) politicians have already sought out ways to gain from our love of Cricket. I just hope judiciary keeps its head in place!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Tale of Retail

Finally Reliance has decided to close its Reliance Fresh stores in UP and Orissa and move out. I don't know about Orissa but in UP this step was taken after protests and vandalism at Reliance Fresh stores in some cities. Mayawati Government ordered closure of some stores citing 'law and order problems' and gave the local administration in all the cities to order closure wherever they felt any such incidents might occur.

Considering that Lucknow had highest first-day sale as compared to other Reliance Fresh stores across country, this move undoubtedly costs Reliance heavily. What I am not able to understand is why only UP ordered this mass closure, leading to exit of the company?

I understand the concerns of smaller retailers, but I believe that these concerns are not limited only to UP businessmen. Losing customers to big retailer is a problem for shopkeepers across country and there have been protests everywhere, but no other government saw such a massive 'law and order' problem and ordered closure of stores. Whereever required stores and employees were given proper police protection, till the protests cooled off.

Will Government behave in same manner when Reliance or Bharti-Walmart come calling with their retail chains? You bet it will and the lame approach it has taken will only encourage the self-appointed protectors (read local politicians and their goons) of shopkeepers' interests to behave in a more violent manner and polotical armtwisting. But may be this won't happen, simply because these companies won't bother to come to UP at all! There are 25 other states to go!

OK, I am not so much bothered about big retailers, but yes I am miffed with treatment extended to R-Fresh. Everyone understands that declining trend in Agricultural sector can be reversed only if this sector becomes organized and entry of retailers is the only way this was going to happen. Reliance has invested heavily in setting up cold-chains across country and equally on transportation and sale of perishable goods, like vegetables and fruits. This will lead to lesser wastage of food products, a task Food Corporation of India has never been able to do and which is not possible without private funding. The farmers get much better price of their produce and we the consumers get the stuff at lower prices. The local sabji-waala suffers but only for a short-term when spill-over customers start flocking him again. And if he is thela-waala then it gets even better. (Also in Hyderabad, I have seen some small sabzi-walas buying from R-Fresh stores!)

I have witnessed this in Hyderabad, where Reliance Fresh stores debuted. And do you know who is the most stiff competitor of Fresh stores here? 'Fresh @' stores from Heritage, an A.P. Government enterprise, till now in milk and milk-production cooperative business. And I don't know of any protests from anyone here.

Frankly, I see this feet-dragging approach by U.P. Government a politically motivated step and I am afraid that Government will do so, whenever any corporate comes to establish any business in U.P. I remember a Shell project being dumped near Allahabad. Anil Ambani's Dadri project has run in rough weather. With such an unfriendly attitude towards private industry, I definitely believe UP is missing the bus to modern trends which are becoming norms all over the country now. Hum to aise hi hain 'Bhaiya'.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Chak De! India : The Review

The greatest challenge in reviewing a movie is that when you are writing the review a few weeks after its release, all the choicest adjectives (and expletives) are already taken and you have a dual challenge of not only being honestly critical about the movie, but also ensure that it doesn’t sound cliched! In the case of ’Chak De’, this task is even more difficult, since not only adjectives have been taken, but also all the aspects of the movie have been thoroughly discussed.

And what the heck this movie deserves every ounce of that adulation. So, since I didn’t have anything new to say,I decided to go ahead and find my own stars in this crew. And believe me, it was a very very difficult decision to assign this ranking!

1) Jaideep Sahni: Story,Screenplay and Dialogues.
Writer of last year’s critically appreciated ’Khosla Ka Ghosla’ is in stupendous form this year as well! Sahni dribbles his narrative through so many issues, each bigger than the other, and yet keeps his pace.

He comments on media, which in order of its 24x7 frenzy makes mountain out of thin air, making demons out of errant humans (I really wonder why AajTak agreed to get roped in, for a sequence that clearly shows media on a wrong foot!), on gender inequality and stigma faced by North Eastern citizens (specially the utterly vicious and polluted mindset against NE girls), on the lack of sportsman spirit in this country, which lauds the victors and crucifies the losers (I remembered Chetan Sharma and tried to think what happened to him after that last ball, which was hit for a six by Javed Miandad, in Sharjah), on linguistic divisions and definitely most ruthlessly on the association culture of Indian sports bodies.

And I can write a whole review dedicated only to his dialogues!

2) Amitabh Shukla: Editor
He could very well have been the rank 1 in this list. With longest ever footage canned by a Hindi film, his must have been a mammoth task to cut out the most engrossing 2.5 hours out of it, and he does it so well that he almost gives this film pace of a thriller.

3) Rob Miller: Sports Coordinator, Action Director
Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome the man behind those wonderful, edge-of-the-seat action hockey matches. He ensures that the movie has a great energy and the soul of film, hockey is as lively as it deserves to be.

4) Shimit Amin : Director
Ohh well, please forgive me that captain of the ship is not in the top three of this list, but this is just because his technicians are absolutely great. Doing only his second film, let’s hope Amin gives some sane ideas in the head of his mentor, RGV, whose ’Aag’ has been reduced to cinders in one weekend only!
He must have brought smiles to the faces of Yashraj Films’ honchos who were under heavy fire after a miserable year with "Ta Ra Rum Pum’ and ’Jhoom Barabar Jhoom’.
(A stray thought: Having the man whose life you are making the movie on, in your team definitely helps. I am talking about Mir Ranjan Negi, who is the hockey coach of this movie!)

5) Salim Suleiman: Music
Fabulous background score! There is passion and energy in the music which adds thump to the flavor of the film. If ’Chak De’ wants you to pump your fist in the air with joy of victory, ’Maula’ really tugs your heart strings.

Also Rans:
Cinematographer Sudeep Chaterjee who has captured hockey matches, skyline of Melbourne and Delhi’s India Gate with great flourish!
Art Director Sukant Panigrahy : Attention to details, really caught my attention. All the teams play in their real country colours and ball is a real FIH approved one!!
Casting Director Abhimanyu Ray : He is the guy who collected that team of 16!

That brings us to Shahukh ’Kabir’ Khan and his gang of 16! You all have seen them and adored them, so I won’t say much except that my favorites are Vidya Malavde (playing Vidya Sharma) and then Anaitha Nayar (playing Aliya Bose)

And now again I am missing those adjectives to praise this movie!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

6 Faces of India

60 years of freedom, more than 6000 years of existence! India is an enigma which can't be described in words! 6 images can hardly be sufficient! But they are what my camera captured.

India vs Bharat

India vs Bharat

Swanky overpriced malls to over-crowded 'wholesale-price' wholesale markets, everything is available for everyone.

And it is this consumerism which makes India supremely confident and conveniently ignorant about the plight of flood, drought and apathy struck Bharat!
33 crore and counting...

33 crore and counting...
India seems to be overflowing with Gods of all colors, caste, creed and ofcourse religion! You can see 'samadhis' or 'majaars' bang in the middle of road, where no municipal commissionar
can dare to touch them!
The deep scars in the hearts of society, made by Vote bank politics in the name of religion, will take generations and definitely a divine intervention to heal.
Color Pallet

Color Pallet
Ask any foreigner, what hooks them to India. The answer 9 times out of 10 (or as Sunny Gawaskar said, 20 times out of 19) will be "Its Colors"! You can treat these colors as symbol of anything you want, the diversity stays.
Monumental Concern

Monumental Concern
Once a symbol of love, The Taj according to me is now also a symbol of:

1) India being fastest growing market of cell-phones and internet users (how else we catapulted it to 4th rank in 'New 7 Wonders')

2) Absolutely myopic political leadership in India (Mayawati nearly put it on the death bed)

3) The Great Indian Spirit of Survival! (Surrounded by smoke spouting industries and vehicles, The Taj still Lives!)
Gods and Goddesses

Gods and Godesses
From Raj Kapoor to Rajinikanth, Indian Cinema (heavily "inspired" from everything else!) makes strides. And mind, I am not just talking about Bollywood or Hindi Cinema, every regional language shines through with its class (and kitsch!). Did someone say
anything about 'Bhojpuri Spiderman'?
Hues of Freedom

Hues of Freedom
I had the option to interpret this photo in whatever way I want. Millions of children being deprived of education and being forced to work or beg in inhumane conditions or economic
disparity being shockingly apparent in our society. But I chose to dedicate this to the smile on the face of child. For me it symbolises the dream, faith and innocence that we have not lost. Well, not completely!

'I' for India!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Starved of Ideas!

The biggest Bollywood hit of this year as all media has been informing us is debutant Sagar Bellary's 'Bheja Fry'। Made on a shoestring budget of 65 lakhs, supposedly the film has earned Rs. 5 crore, that is nearly 10 times of the initial investment.

No, I am not going to go gaga over, how a 'small, low-cost film' has cracked the code and went on to rake the money while biggies have bitten the dust with alarming and almost clinically precise regularity. My point is a little different.

For those of you, who don't know, 'Bheja Fry' is a copy of french film 'Dinner le Cons' and a scene by scene copy। So, what's new in this? A number of Indian movies are copies of foreign films, why am I singling out this movie? Simply because I don't want to heap praise on a director who debuted with a copy, even though he has struck gold. Did you appreciate the guy in your class who scored high marks by cheating? If not, then why go on tom-tomming about making a hit film that is nothing but a copy? What kind of newer generation of film makers are being escalated into stardom? If people can't be original even in their first film, what do you expect them to do in their next releases when they have got more pressures from producers, distributors and may be critics!

(Just imagine, they copied 'Derailed', itself a flop film, to make 'The Train'. Even its tagline 'Some lines are never meant to be crossed' was lifted from the original!)

So, Sagar Bellary may be the blue-eyed boy of this idea starved film industry which thrives on DVDs of foreign flicks and media may fall head-over-heals reporting the economics of his HIT, I am not flattered.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

China's new horror show!

I had always believed that Indian politicians and bureaucrats are most short sighted people in the world but compared to what China is doing, these people have begun to seem like greatest statesmen! I really don't have words to express my disgust over the news of their building a 108 km metalled road to the base of Mt. Everest. And this is nothing else except showing their muscles at the time of 2008 Olympics when Olympic torch is carried to the Mt. Everest.

Myopic journos and writers infatuated with China's much flawed (in my opinion) gravity defying growth story may harp about how the boom in manufacturing industry has transformed a nation of over 1 billion a decade ago to a global super power now, but my concern is that the way China has destroyed ecological balance in delicate Himalayan region can be compared to worst carnage by mankind ever. You can imagine the intensity of construction activities considering they want the work to be finished in 3 months!

(On this note: The annual floods in north-east India caused by Brahmaputra and flash floods in Nepal,Bihar and West Bengal have been largely attributed to Chinese interventions by Indian security establishments! More)

The glaciers supplying water to major North Indian rivers Ganga and Yamuna have been melting at alarming rates and this new project by China is going to make the matters worse! Burning of fossil fuels, blasting of not-so-stable Himalayan rocks, and cutting of thousands of trees leading to loss of habitat for so many species. I fail to count the horrors!

But even more horrifying is the fact that perhaps nobody is going to be able to China from going ahead with its absurd plans! China's human rights record is so pathetic that anyone who dare protest will face crackdown, possibly death penalty or if he lucky, prison! I don't see any other country, including the all powerful G8, sticking up their nose in this matter. Neither I think is China going to heed to them if they do! Neither I expect any NGO to be able to make China deter from their plans. So forget Greenpeace to stage any dharna in Beijing!

(There has been no response from Greenpeace yet on this issue, and their response to reports that China is causing maximum emissions in the world, has been very weak and lame!)

So China is going to make a mess of one of the most delicate environments on the planet and I don't know what to do!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Hyderabad Diary: Rumors spreading fast!

And taking the form of 'Unconfirmed Reports'! All the companies have issued travel and safety advisories to their employees. Most of the people have left early to avoid traffic congestions.

There have been 'unconfirmed reports' of a bus being set on fire in Ameerpet and tension in different parts of the city. None of this is true of course!

Central Government has rushed Rapid Action Force in the city. And there has been no other untoward incident.

Hyderabad Diary: Bomb Blast

There has been a big bomb blast in Mecca Mosque near Charminar in Hyderabad. The death toll stands at 6 by now. 14 people are seriously injured. The timing of blast was aimed to get maximum damage as it coincided with Friday afternoon prayers, between 1.30 - 2 pm. An unexploded bomb was also found. The blast has considerable damage to this historical mosque, which is also the biggest mosque of Hyderabad.

Old Hyderabad is a Muslim dominated area dotted with Hindu population. Though police is not taking any chance, citizens of this part, mostly small businessmen, have shown a notable and worth emulating sense of communal harmony and not giving in to such divisive tactics.

Let's hope this time also, this incident is not allowed to take any political or communal overtones.
The phone numbers of Osmania hospital where injured people have been admitted, are:
+(91) - (040) - 24600121, 24739549, 24600146, 24600122, 24600124

More details:

Monday, March 26, 2007

An advice to M.J. Akbar (and similar self-appointed-cricket-experts)

Anupam is understandably sore after the defeat (so am I!) and so seems M.J. Akbar (He is a senior journo and editor of Asian Age). But Anupam is a true blue cricket fan who loves, respects and understands the game and its nuances, unlike Mr. Akbar who seems to be just one of those self appointed cricket experts who first praise the cricketers indiscriminately and then call for their heads, when they lose.

In his recent article in Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle (Bylines, 25th March "Money and Murder: The Making of a Bloodsport") he calls the minnows of the worldcup as 'Joke' teams, repeatedly. He calls Bermuda players as Jokers and Dwayne Leverock as "a sumo wrestler who defied the laws of gravity just once to take a magnificent catch against India". It doesn't matter to him that he should get his facts right as he believes Leverock is the captain (Irvine Romaine is the captain!).

What exactly he means when he calls new teams as 'Joke'? Even Sri Lanka was also considered to be a joke team till only 4-5 years before they won the world cup in 1996. And who does Mr. Akbar think he is to make fun of the efforts of these cricketers? On one hand we complain that cricket is not played in enough countries and when new countries try to make their mark, cynics like him ridicule them. More than anything else, it is the love of the game that makes these 'cricketers' practice on weekends when they are not working for their livelihood. But what will Mr. Akbar understand? I doubt he has ever played cricket, forget loving the game.

He is quick to blame whole of the world: players, BCCI & ICC, politicians ("not least being the politicians, from Bengal to Jharkhand to Maharashtra to Kerala, who have muscled into cricket space in the hope that it will get them votes"), corporates and even poor commentators, but what about the bunch of 'jokers' Mr. Akbar is heading? He is the president of Editor's Guild of India. Hope you get my drift. Who is flaring this fire of cricket hysteria? Who is annointing the debutant cricketers as youth icons after their first match winning wicket haul or century? I remember well that it was a TOI article which called Dhoni 'rockstar' after his first century. Clap them when they are doing well, slap them when they are not, you will always get audiences.

And in a cricket-crazy nation, it has some other benefits as well. So when CNN-IBN asks you to sms a CHEER to 2622, this campaign is sponsored by LG and there is a revenue sharing with the service providers or when HT's world cup special is sponsored by Nokia and Tata Sky, some one out there is smiling more than due to journalistic pleasure.

Mr. Akbar is a senior journalist so I can understand that he is suffering from what Vir Sanghvi calls 'Editoritis' ("Its symptoms includes an inability to say “I don’t know” to any question") but for some things, he can better keep his mouth shut.

More: Read Seema Goswami's column in here

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Hypocrisy of Indian Media

I don't know if it would have been actually better if ULFA had not called off their boycott of the 33rd National Games being held in Guwahati. Perhaps then there would have been some news coming from Games venue, even if related to security concerns.

I am actually shocked by sort of complete blackout of any news related to National Games! Not even any hint of the event on the news scrollers! Not even a 2 column report on page 13 of any daily! And this is at a time when news of Superbowl is beginning to flood us, not to mention live telecast of English Premier League soccer! How many of us actually care to know if Beckham is going to any Los Angeles club or what was the goal difference between Barca and Chelsea in their last league match?

But the sportspersons playing in Guwahati are our own countrymen and best of them would be representing us on international level. Forget patriotism (it is too much to ask from these hypocrite media organizations!), don't we deserve the news even from a journalistic point of view?

And when these athletes don't win medals in Asiad and Olymipics, 'experts' will be called in the studios to discuss the falling standards of sports in India! All sorts of theories will be given and the fact that media itself is shying of its responsibilities will be conveniently swept below the carpet.

I have come to believe that only big bucks sell. So after cricket, EPL and SuperBowl will come. Indian sports and sportspersons can go to hell.

If you want any information about games, you can visit

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Mint Fresh Upgrades!

Mint Fresh: Hindustan Times Group launched two new brands recently in Delhi market. Their long-awaited business publication "In Association With The Wall Street Journal", which will be available in Mumbai also, is titled 'MINT'. (The place where they make coins, not the Polo or Mint-O, you moron!) Also making waves, or rather sound waves, is Fever 104 FM, launched in association with Virgin, UK.

Lately many media houses have taken the collaboration route to get direct access to global markets, money and content. CNBC-TV 18 was the pioneer in Indian Business channels. Both CNN-IBN and Times Now (Times Group and Reuters collaboration) have completed 1 year and their success shows that the trend is there to say. In print media most of the Indian papers are on content sharing agreements with foreign (mostly US and UK papers like Washington Post, New York Times, Guardian etc.) dailies.

The first impressions of Mint are very good (I have seen the online version!) and it looks very refreshing and inviting. But it remains to be seen if mint is able to make enough money to dent the popularity of leading bizz dailies like ET, Business Standard, Financial Express etc.

'Upgrage': Just read an article in The Guardian that coined a new word 'upgrage', which means 'the uncontrollable anger which occurs whenever a software upgrade deemed to be either essential or beneficial proves to be a pointless waste of your time'.

The article titled, 'The Vista upgrade saga' also says that Vista will render thousands of graphics cards, RAMs, monitors or even whole computers useless as very few computers fulfill the hardware requirements of the new MS OS.

You need to install a software called Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor which will scan your system hardware and installed software to inform you, which Vista variant your system can run (Vista Ultimate, Vista Home Premium or Vista Home Basic) and the reasons (insufficient hardware or 'compatibility issues' with installed programs!) if you can't.

The Advisor goes online to look for updates, so even if you pass the test currently, I don't think you can sleep peacefully for long!

I haven't had the Vista version of upgrage but definitely I have experienced it earlier. When Yahoo! 'highly recommends' upgrades for Yahoo! Messenger which do little from making your homepage and Yahoo Search your default search engine, if you are using Firefox. Or when Real Player stops playing songs claiming an upgrade is available (ditto with QuickTime) and Acrobat showing popups asking you to download recent upgrades.

I recalled this article by Richard Stallman as I read this report. For long sci-fi writers have painted a rosy picture of independent programs managing themeselves and you without your intervention. Stallman's version puts the future in a different contrast!

Friday, January 26, 2007

On This Republic Day ...

The two facets of a Republic: On this republic day, as the news channels beamed images of a resurgent, vibrant and proud-to-be-India-on-camera India amidst news of separatist groups protesting or observing bandhs, the mercury of my dilemma soared northwards.

Each time they show these kind of visuals of happy, dancing, talking-on-latest-cellphone Indians to project the image of NEW India, somewhere at the back of mind, emerge the images of hungry and extremely malnourished children, everyday mounting toll of farmers committing suicide and many others who are victims of apathy of not only Governments but perhaps of this new 'resurgent' India as well.

Then the sceptical me asks: what and whom this celebration is for? A celebration by the rich/middle class, of the rich/middle class, for the rich/middle class?

And the hopeful me replies: don't be sceptical you jerk. If you have so much pain in the heart for the deprived, don't just shatter keys, go out and dirty your hand in helping them. This one day is a reminder that we have moved a lot but we still have a lot of ground left to cover. No point cribbing over failures, but to highlight the successes and get INSPIRED.

DD Blues: The live telecast of R-Day parade on Doordarshan's National channel was typically old fashioned and hence somewhat nostalgic.

Actually the whole parade seems to be exactly what it seemed to be years ago, when I almost always missed the live telecast (going to school on the two national holidays was compulsory!!) and had to catch the glimpses on the DD's news bulletins which were of course very few and gave very summarizing coverage.

I tried to know the names of all the units marching and the armaments and equipments on display. And though all the tableaus had almost similar themes (and it seems will continue to have same themes for next 1432 years!) there was an excitement of watching all of them and knowing who was the winner.

I can't understand, just why can't DD make the coverage more informative, interactive and vibrant? Of course claiming some one else's feed of a cricket ODI as your 'legitimate right' is much easier than doing some innovation on your own. Mr. Priyaranjan Das Munshi are you listening?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Someone save my state. Please!!!

The missing rivers: The saints and devotees refused to take a bath in Sangam this year due to extremely high level of pollution in the holy rivers. What a shame! We are a nation of more than (supposedly) 330 million deities and this is what we have made of two of our greatest and holiest rivers. And the rate at which Gangotri and Yamnotri glaciers are melting, we may not have these rivers for long.

Why don't VHP and RSS make failure of Ganga and Yamuna Action Plans an issue? Why don't they protest against factory owners who are dumping untreated effluents out in the rivers, and the officials are letting them do so? With the wide reach these organizations have got, it would be much better for country (and Hindus also!) if they could educate people in protecting the environment. But will they?

Any comments, Mr Bachchan? Did you know who are the biggest supporters of Saddam Hussain? No it's not the sunni community of Iraq, not Al-Qaida either. The honour goes to the leaders and party workers of Samajwadi Party in UP. They were protesting against hanging of Saddam Hussain in Agra and attacked a tourist bus. The police said that action will be taken against miscreants, but you don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to understand that no officer would want his job in the line of fire, by acting against members of ruling party.

I wonder why nobody asks Mr. Amitabh Bachchan about his opinion on these matters of lawless ness in Uttar Pradesh. After all he is modelling for Samajwadi Party in UP and has 'family relations' with Amar Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav! If we can have Amir Khan in the dock on cola-pesticide issue, then why not Mr. Bachchan?