Thursday, December 28, 2006

End mein kya hota hai?

"So, how was it?" I asked, my mom. She'd just been pampered to an exclusive LAN downloaded screening of Vivah on my PC. Courtesy me.

"Something different, you know," she replied, nodding. Usually that's the expression she gives when the movie either confirms to her beliefs and school of thought. "It was good," she added further with the you-should-have-seen-it-too attitude.

", what happens in the end?" I probe further, getting details out of her.

"You should have seen it!" she quipped. See, I told you. It was coming.

End mein kya hota hai? One of the deepest obsessions film viewers have. What happens in the end? Do they live happily ever after? Do they die? Do they walk into the sunset (without any sunburns) Are they caught by the police? Or on rare occasions... Do they leave room for a Part 2?

We all love listening to stories. Stories about love, victory, heroes, war, adultery, crime... they dissolve into so many genres. Its almost like magic. You enter a dark cinema hall and expect to be told a story on the screen. A story does unfold on most occasions (unlike Dhoom 2, etc) and we're rivetted in our seats.

Till the end.

We're all interested to know, what happens in the end. Or sometimes, we ask ourselves, "What's the point, at the end of it?" Like a senior of my college, who uses the term, "end of the day" in every fourth sentence. It does matter for us to know, the culmination of all efforts which are meant to satisfy a certain 'end'.

However, it pains to know the lack of curiosity of how somebody did it. "Pehle toh gunda tha, chor tha, lekin ab dekho...laakhon mein kama raha hai!"

"Earlier, I was a brat at school, you know! But now..."

"He came to Mumbai with 20 rupees in his pocket. And now see where he is..."

"He used to serve chai before. And now see, he's a laughter champion!"

See? They never tell you HOW they did it. They just tell you the ending. Maybe its because they themselves wouldn't know (the gossip mongrels), how they did it. Maybe they were not curious to know.

Newspapers and magazines, though, sometimes pick up on this curiosity. Journalists are expected to be curious (hello!?) about 'things'. They'll tell you how they did it. It'll take time - they'll tell you every day what Dolly Thakore had for breakfast, what Krsna Mehta is doing today evening, how does Jitesh Kallat manage time effectively, how did Suchitra Pillai manage to hook up with that gora...

They'll tell you... slowly.

Thank God, for magazines, then! A simple extended feature on achievers and how they did it and there you are. You know how they did it, you know how they beat the odds and this precisely could become inspiration for millions of Gajraula ki Madhuris to come try their luck in Bollywood. Their success stories in turn, could inspire a million more.

Nevertheless, it is this very end that everyone's trying to satisfy. The end where life, after being a long, steep, hard climb to the top, suddenly transforms into a plateau. And its at this plateau, you have the mediamen waiting for you. Eager to hear your story. "How did you get here?" "Was it difficult?" "You wanted to be an engineer! You're a super-model now? Why did you take up that engineering seat at all? My nephew who was trying in the same college did not get through!"

But come to think of it, isn't it this very end from where there's a new beginning? We all are persistently try to reach somewhere, achieve a certain status, recognition, fame, glamour...

And in the end it's respect that is all we seek. Kishen Mulchandani may not be interested in putting his nose into your business, but yes, he'll tell this to Pooja Bedi, yelling amidst the Page 3 cacophony: "He's a good hotelier!" All of this, with a certain sense of respect.

Are we trying to work hard to elicit comments from Page 3 people, alone? Nah! We seek respect from the society at large. And they start respecting one fully, only that person has reached that end.

I remember a friend asking me the other day. What kind of ending do you like at the movies - happy, sad, clueless, sequel types... "Kis type ka ending pasand hai tujhe?"

"The sequel one," I reply, primly.


"It leaves room for more. I can come back again. With new hope. Twists and turns to expect."

But most importantly, after I've seen such a film, and anybody asks me, "So, how was it?" I can reply coolly, Mr.A style -

"Game's not over yet!"

Monday, December 25, 2006

A Walk To Remember

Milky moonlight
The crunch of leaves
Noisy crickets
Not a soul in sight
A howl surrounds
A noise rebounds
I skip a heartbeat
Clutching in fright.

The walk has begun
That will last till dawn
With veins throbbing
To the song on my lips

Armed with a pen
Mightier than a sword
Ecstatic in delight
Poised I am, capturing the chants

Sung by the ants,
Sung by the trees,
Splashes from a puddle
In splendid harmony.

A whisper here, a crackle there
A hiss here and a growl there
The walk has just begun, my fellow
Silence beckons in this sleepy hollow

For the song of the forest
Is a song of charm
As if in subtle prayer
The species disarm

A magic is cast
As Nature hums itself to sleep
Listening to their prayer
Spellbound I remain.


Now that, is my second attempt at writing poetry. Deeply inspired from my trip to Lonavla recently.

Six of us. The day has comfortably settled into late evening. Armed with a scribblepad, a pen and a folder, wearing a sweater and a monkey cap, I was the youngest trekking through the dense green forests at Lonavla, a quiet breezy destination on the Western Ghats. The others - my crew members from a television shoot for a travel show, now recently telecast on national television. We're making our way uphill slowly and surely.

The purpose of our climb - to record sounds from nature. Sounds of crickets. Bees. Insects. Snakes (If any. Hope not!)

I'm feeling a terrific sense of adventure. The blood streaming through my veins knows it. These are moments which I've read about in adventure novels, Enid Blyton mysteries, that television series on AXN - Amazon. And now I'm living each and every moment of them.

We're totally bathed in moonlight filtering through the treetops. As we march slowly, finding our way through the dirt track, the cold wild snuggles in through our sweaters. I raise my head like a wolf to the moon and see my warm breath diffuse into the stillness of the air. The recording goes on, slowly and cautiously. And I take copious notes in my scribble pad, in whatever light nature has on offer.

In a few hours, we shall see the sunrise. The breathtaking horizon is still several kilometres away. I feel drowsy occasionally with all the dark figures around. It's been a tiring day of shoot. We've been up since 4am, visiting several caves all day at Karla, Bhaja, Lohagarh, scrambling through highways till the light is right. I'm almost stumbling onto the trees. The crew members have quitened down for the obvious fact that they're looking for natural sounds to record.

And then, came the hiss.

All of us heard it. I almost jumped out of my skin. My first thought was - one of us stepped on it and therefore it hissed. The big question - who was it? On dense bushy paths, sound often gets muffled in a host of various other noises. And our senses often get lost in the transit of fear and logic.

Strangely to confirm our worst fears, we want to hear the hiss once more. Was it really a hiss? I look around to check whether everyone is alright. I check my belongings. All intact.

And then another hiss. I've heard it right, this time. I follow the sound. It's a constant hiss. Strange thing to do for a snake, which has got no business whatsoever in scaring the shit out of us. Our director, a professional wildlife documentary film-maker, knows snake sounds better and claims it's not a snake's hiss. A total of 15 seconds has passed since the first hiss, when we finally chance upon the source of the sound.


A unit member eager to relieve his bladder, back in the bushes. Warm, bodily piss touching the blades of smooth misty-grass. And in the warmth, as it makes contact with the blades of dense grass, comes the frighful but delightful pseudo sound of nature.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

Post Script 2006

A turbulent year of ups and downs is coming to an end. A new year is about to begin. Some unfinished business remains, though. This post is dedicated to all the people who've played a vital role this year in my life. Some heartfelt messages for people in the midst of whom I've been this year ...

Hari - Our friendship ran on a bumpy road as the year began. But as it is with India and its highways, after a rough patch, there's always a lengthy smooth one. But because of the rough patch we went through, I realise you important you are in my life. My intellectual sparring partner. My buddy. All the best with your stint at the Indian Express. Hope you reach places which nobody has 'sawed' till date. (Giggles!) And yes, I couldn't have passed those exams without your help! Muaah!

Dheera - I hope we remain good friends lifelong. You've played a vital role in shaping up this current Arco, who's wardrobe, off late is being admired. (Smiles) But most of all, if you've agreed on this before, I'd consider myself fortunate if I've even come close to the man you always wanted me to be.

Nikita - I've made friends online through chats. But you are my first blog buddy! We've shared crazy experiences together. Sometimes, I feel it's impossible to believe that I havn't met you. And I don't know what designation you've given me (fighting buddy, not fighting buddy, pakaoing buddy, checking out buddy! LOL ) Distance makes the heart go yonder. We;ve had great conversations of fun and masti. And sometimes, that has brought even the loudest snores in the world to a standstill. May the world snore once again and may we relive the magic once again. After you're back from your trip, that is. And I hope, I'm of help to you on any topic personal / professional / nonsensical / checking out.. (Giggles)

Radhika - You wouldn't believe how glad I was, that I found you on the Web after so many years! Brought back old memories and created new moments to cherish forever. You've been a kind and a very open outlet to listen to my PJs. Congrats on your apprenticeship and I pray that you go places, keeping an account of things! My future CA in the making, eh?

Raj - Dude, we've had the most memorable time together. I've always come to you, whenever I've felt the need to escape from the daily rush and the monotony and you've always done more than enough to help me feel refreshed with crackling sense of humour. Our shoots were fabulous - the DON spoof! Our nightouts, the giant wheel at the Ambernath fair, the eating out at Bandra's Muslim hotels during Eid, talking about so many things.. Man! I cherish each and every moment. Thanks for everything you've done for me and I promise that I'll always be there for you.

Pia - You make me clueless about so many things in life. In other words, you make me think. The thinking is always worth it, but in the end, you get pushed to the back-seat. We've shared some great moments with you. Pardon me for 'Meet The Fockers', but I think it was just another faux pas. More happy moments to come in our lives. You have great potential on the career front and you're one of the few caring people I've met this year.

Indrani - Aah..I know I can be an ass sometimes with people. But with you, I've been an ass with a hole. The evening at Bandstand was a classic evening! Few evenings can come close to that, when it comes to class. And our discussions about films, films, films and your consistent desire to start new forms of business... great moments. Hope more of them are in store. I'll try my best not to turn down an invitation from you for a movie!

Sagar - Dude, you've reached new levels this year on the personal front. Wish you all the best. I had a great time in Goa. It was fun meeting your room-mates and knowing them. And thanks for the great coffee, masala bhat and hospitality. Damn, I shouldn't be telling you all this in such a formal language. Tu toh mera yaar hai! School buddies ke saath nahin jamta aisa formal tone.. anyways, just for the sake of my blog.

Abhishek, Raksheet - Guys, we have the most rocking time every time we're together. The Goa trip in summer was a memorable one. No matter where we proceed in lives after our graduation, may we always have such trips together. Such journeys take our friendship to all time highs and make me yearn for more.

Sushmita - We're back as friends this year, after that one year hiatus. Hope you've forgiven me for all the bad and distasteful PJs. You're a sweet and caring girl and that's your best trait. Few people today show it so openly as you do. Thanks for being there!

To all my classmates - I may not have forged a bond of deep friendship with any of you in all these three years, thanks to my elusive nature. I admit I've been obsessed with my professional commitments rather give time for activities like 'hanging out' or college activities. On the academic front, I may have been a bit too dominant in projects, discussions, etc. But I hope all of that was taken in good spirit and not at a personal level. Some things are just in my nature. I hope we are more open about certain things, rather than back bite. Or rather not bite at all. Just keep your mouth shut about it.

And yes, it's time you start blogging. It's a medium to watch out for.

The future is calling. Where are you?

Friday, December 22, 2006

Chat messengers reduce productivity at work

The world is divided into two types of people. One – the hardworking. Two – the hardly working. There is a third category too - people who have enjoyed privileged memberships with both the types. This blog, is about them.

My estimates from reliable sources reveal that the world’s productivity would increase by atleast 12% if Gmail Chat, Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger would be banned from office computers. They’re a great way of you sitting on your computer terminal, yet pretending to work. But actually you’re chatting and spending time over casual conversation, (aren't you?) mostly answering rhetorics like ‘Wassup’ and ‘Hows life?’. Questions like these would be better off asked in person face-to-face. You could have Karan Thapar for company and I’d just love to see your face shrivel into a nut as he would sneer at you from behind those glasses. Even for the above questions. [Let me put it to to you this way, Mr.Chaudhuri – You are dating someone. I have the facts with me. The Sunday Times paparazzi spotted you making out with…]

Let’s give Karan some rest for the moment and make-out (not the one you're thinking) how the Third Type of people are a nuisance in your office. While assigned work often goes for a toss, I’ve often seen colleagues having casual chat, pretending to take a break that lasts for hours. Surfing Orkut should be allowed only for specific hours in a day, when the ISP can unblock it. The social networking craze is good way to stay in touch, mind you. And nevertheless, an innovative way to make contacts too.

I believe, a Happy Surfing Hour segment offices would be a constructive idea. All censored sites could be unblocked and staff members can surf and chill-out during that time. It’s better to allow staff to communicate through voice-based conversations, rather than to chat using text. A chat online for one hour mite yield the same results as a phone call for 3 mins. Therefore, rather than keeping the mind engaged to window conversations, emoticons, smileys and short-hand, its appropriate to have a heart-to-heart, however personal on the phone. Remember, productivity is at stake, here!

More so, in media houses, where work largely depends on deadlines. And sticking to deadlines is the topmost priority, no matter what the excuses might be. I think, it is because of these chat windows, that media people end up working long hours at office. It sounds sensible to avoid casual chatting in office environs and finish up with assignments at the earliest.

Recently, a senior at office, logging in from abroad into Google Talk, was shocked to find his subordinate, 'Available' on the same messenger. That too, with the music on! (So much for status messages!) It was the same colleague to whom he had assigned major responsibilities (lucky him), but the fellow was consistently being humbled by the deadline. Productivity of course, got a beating. But what was affected even more was his reputation for avoiding work and chilling during office hours on chat windows.

The senior did not make a big issue out of it, though. He calmly handed over the guy’s responsibilities to me (lucky me) and avoided delegating any major work to him. Perhaps he did not realise this change or maybe perhaps he did. But for the moment though, he’s happy to work-chat-work-chat-chat during office hours.

Some people just don’t get the point, do they?

Monday, December 18, 2006

IBN alive

Prannoy Roy, Sameer Nair, Gautam Adhikari, Vinod Mehta, Chandan Mitra, Vir Sanghvi...Rajdeep Sardesai - the ivy league of ivory towers in the media. They're media moghuls who've come up the hard way and seen the most controversial times in Indian media, including the Emergency. They've survived as journalists through the thick and thin of times, often jeopardising their life and reputations by their much sought-after nods. Vinod Mehta should know best. Rajdeep Sardesai should know it even better.

His news-channel CNN IBN, jointly owned by him and Sameer Manchanda recently completed one year of a roaring presence in the Indian electronic media. The channel has surely etched a place on the remote, which cannot be ignored. It's natural to hurl abuses nowadays at the cable operators if we cannot tune into IBN.

Their anniversary feature was a special episode indeed. A year's round-up of stories that made a difference in some way or the other. IBN's exclusive package of premium electronic media was on showcase in the episode. The presentation made for excellent viewing, as it once for all sent the critics (read All Seeing Spy for WFN) thinking, I hope. The channel's attitude towards news and the presentation of news, seeking it, following it and analysing it for the viewers has been exemplary for a news-channel that is so young. IBN's future looks promising in Indian cities.

Much of the channel's aggression can be attributed to the people who run the channel's editorial functions. Rajdeep Sardesai (Editor-in-chief) and Sagarika Ghose (Features Editor) both are naturally aggressive and noisy, often leaving no stone unturned in flaring their nostrils over a controversy. It's a healthy habit as long as their nostrils flare up in all directions. They're a couple who always enjoy a healthy debate. However, they sometimes try to impose their opinion on the speakers, as is clearly seen in The Verdict, Face the Nation and India 360.

I'm not saying that their imposed opinions are wrong. They most often reflect the larger public sentiment correctly, but as standard journalism practice, they breach a certain protocol. However, its possible, that even they've realised that journalism in India needs to get much more aggressive. For long, the press as the fourth estate has been a mute observer and commentator on the scheme of things. IBN, for once, has realised, that it's time to get the wheels rolling for changes.

However, the channel is not without its flaws. Many a time, their programmes achieve a point of excellent debate. And that is exactly where you hear the anchor go ringing, "I'm sorry, we're running extremely short of time and we'll have to bring this discussion to a close..."
Can't there be programmes which take the leap a little forward? I'm sure there must be common sense enough to understand when a debate is reaching a solution.

The channel is yet to come up with more innovative programming. Debate and opinion being the highlights of IBN, they must include more feature based shows. Why not show documentaries shot in India exposing issues? There must be several stories that do not see a complete coverage due to time shortage on news bulletins.

Sports coverage is highly limited to Krishnamachary Srikanth. God, give him a break! The channel should get more versatile in its views and try to achieve a balance in the sports coverage and analysis.

Paras Tomar, initially an eyesore, today has come of age. He has a style of his own, that's true and he's sinking it in slowly amongst the viewers. But he should still try to let his guest do more of the talking rather than himself!

Hope the channel in all its entirety expands and spreads its impact in all directions. There is a very confident man at the helm of affairs - Rajdeep shouts-all-the-time Sardesai. NDTV, beware.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


'Rudraksh' is the worst film I've ever seen. It had Sanjay Dutt, Sunil Shetty and (oh-why-oh-why) Isha Koppikar. Sanjay Gadhvi's 'Dhoom 2' comes very close to edging out Rudraksh from the much-easily-conferred title. And why not...with over 300 films being released every year at Bollywood, atleast some of them are bound to make it to the 'Hall of Shame'.

The promotional trailer was perhaps the slickest we'd ever seen. It seemed the stage had been set for the ultimate duel. Prince Hrithik in a negative role - master of disguises, techno geek, super-cool quotient and on the other hand you have Junior B, icy cool and persistent. Add a spice of Ash and a bikini-clad Bips gyrating on Brazilian beaches. Perfect formula? Not exactly. Perfect ingredients alright, but the formula, if any, left much to be desired.

Where's the story, dude? Half an hour into the film and I felt like walking out. Some cons of being a journalist. I want to see sense in everything. Why are only two cops chasing a much sought-after Mr.A? Why does Uday Chopra still retain his post even after so many goof-ups? And perhaps, the most important question of all - where did the bikes disappear??

Pop culture saw a craze for a phenomenon called 'biking' after the success of Dhoom. Bikes have always been the biggest brand recall from the original film. If cycling became a rage after Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, the Hayabusa was the next rage to happen after Dhoom. I missed bikes in the sequel. Totally, you know!!

Uday Chopra was a welcome relief from the average performances from the rest of the cast. His humour was well-placed and the Baywatch runs on the beach were brilliantly shot. The guy deserves roles in those Priyadarshan comedies. Loud, chaotic, goofy and slapstick.

But honestly, the best part of Dhoom 2 were the trailers shown during the intermission. Some great movies are lined up, all of which I'm waiting to see.

Mani Ratnam - Guru

Anurag Basu - Metro

Madhur Bhandarkar - Traffic Signal

Nikhil Advani - Salaam-e-Ishq

Lets hope none of them will be as bad as Dhoom 2. Not even worse.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Slow, but safe on Kabul Express

Somewhere down the line, I got a feeling that the distributors went overboard hyping up the 'Behind The Scenes' of the film. And then began my apprehension, that, what if the film is not as good as the thrilling stories we heard during the promotional interviews?

Thankfully though, the movie lives up to my expectations.

The story is an experience, somewhat like a slice in the life of two India journalists - played by John and Arshad. Its a journey over a period of two days in war-ravaged Afghanistan post 9/11. They desperately need an exclusive story for their news-channel back in India. And as they board Kabul Express vehicle and their only way to reach Kabul, they are, well, hijacked by Taliban soldier. Hijacked, eh? (Deja vu of Ramgopal Varma's ROAD, since this film too, is about a journey at gunpoint. Aah, anyways...)

Perhaps the most important character in the film, is the country and landscape of Afghanistan itself. Its political and military setting sets the premise when the story takes place and that lends itself to most of the screenplay. The grounding for most of the humour and thrill in the series of events in the journey of Kabul Express is mainly due to the socio-political climate of this country.

What disappointed though, were the rest of the cast and their characterisations. The landscape takes over the proceedings so much, that we get wafer thin portraits of John and Arshad. The only deeply etched character is of Imran Khan, the Pakistani army soldier, who once served the Taliban. Performances by the lead cast are therefore average. Arshad Warsi as always is the saving grace. John-hunky-Abraham has a total of 3 expressions in his Kabul-Express-manual. Big grin, confused grin and no grin with the hair gingerly, under control of course. (I still maintain, Zinda was his best performance.)

The humour for most part of the film is intelligent. It's a colourful relief, considering the barren landscape and dry performances. The Imran-Khan Kapil Dev-All rounder charade was smartly placed and so were other digs and contemporary world politics - Pepsi-Coke! So was the donkey, in the middle of the road.

The film wins on technical aspects - cinematography (Amitabh Mahaley - picture postcard purrfect), editing (Amitabh Shukla - neat) and a haunting background score (Julius Packiam).

The film deservingly is being screened at The Pusan International Festival, Toronto International Festival, London Film Festival, etc.

The entire packaging is of a world-class standard. Indian film-making hereby has gone one level-upstairs. It's not the greatest of films that you'd ever see. But it's an experience of a journey captured in the most difficult of situations in a war-ravaged country. Now that's a first for an Indian film-maker.

Kabir Khan can take a bow.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

'Kaisa lag raha hai' journalism

I often marvel at the Aaj Tak reporters. They amaze me with their capabilities to stretch a non-news item into a full-length 30 minute khaas peshkash. And now I'm convinced, that they alone are the primary reasons of inflation, in this country.

Inflated news is the mainspring of an inflated economy.
Ask me, just as you've been asking hundreds of others. Including Mr.Snake Catcher, who had to face your 'volley' of questions a few weeks back...

Q: "So, Mr.Snake Catcher, you've just caught a snake from Sanju baba's apartment. How does it feel?"
A: "Feels good, ya! Damn good. Never felt better. Felt like I'd caught my wife red-handed, asleep with another man on Sanju's bed. Feels good, alright!"

Q: "Whoa! You must have been scared! Were you? How did it feel?"
A: "Scared? Who, me? No, ya! I'm a professional snake-catcher. How the hell could I be scared?"

Q: "So, what snake was it? And how did you know, it found it's way to Sanju baba's house?"
A: "It was a deadly viper, mind you! And his hissss got the whole neighbourhood awake. That's how I came to know about himmmmmmmm."

Q: "Now that you've caught the snake, sent it to its rightful playzone, how does it feel?"
A: "Feels good, ya! Damn good. Think I'll head for that glass of beer, which your editor is gulping down, right behind you, in the newsroom. Hehehe..."

Q: "And how does it feel, coming on national television? Aaj tak se baat karke aapko kaisa laga?"
A: "Bahut accha lag raha hai. Apne bhai behen mujhe dekh rahen honge...(nodding towards camera) Kai ga vahini? Kashi aahes? Aai, jevan karoon ghe..."

Q: "Mr.Snake Catcher...thank you for talking to us..So, there you saw, how Mr.Snake Catcher gave us a terrifying account of how he caught the snake, that had found it's way to Sanju baba's house. In our next section, we'll have a look at what animals have been caught in celebrity houses.

1. Once, a bhaaloo catcher was called for urgently at Sridevi's house. She had felt an immensely hairy animal leap into her bed and go beneath her bedsheets. The catcher on arrival, was disappointed to find that the so-called 'bear' was in fact Anil Kapoor. Naked.

2. Gauri Khan, once heard goats in her bathroom. She called up PETA (since there are no farmers near Bandstand), only to realise it was SRK inside, practising his lines.


There is no doubt, that we're witnessing an overdose of 'kaisa lag raha hai' journalism, nowadays. 'How does it feel' is what the brief is for reporters. Or is it? Of course, there are ways of arriving at a point. We are keen to know how do the newsmakers feel and we want to hear it from the horses mouth. However cliche it may sound, "Bahut hi accha lag raha hai..." from Indian Idol Abhijeet Sawant, just after he won the title, is just what you might have expected him to say. It's a different story that Mini Mathur, is not a journalist.

I feel Munnabhai would have done a better job. Atleast he'd genuinely ask questions to the people in power - "Tumko is maamle mein kya feelings hai?" (Remember the way he'd asked Suman...'Tumko mere baare mein feelings hai kya?")

Come to think of it, Munnabhai as a journalist would be interesting to watch, especially for mediamen. The media has become a subject of mockery today - In every episode, Laughter Champions has atleast one gag about newchannel waale. The print media has been padded from the ridicule, to some extent though.

Taking the Munnabhai possibility forward, let's hear how a normal news-report would sound like...
Munna: "Arey circuit, suna hai udhar baarish ho rahela hai? Log doob rahe hain kya?"
Circuit: "Tension nahin lene ka bhai !! Baarish toh solid ho rahela hai, bhai. Idhar ka collector saala kuch kaam nahin kar raha tha...usko do teen kaan ke neeche bitha ke diya na bhai. Ab sab theek ho jayega bhai..paani nikaal rahela hai bhai, BMC ka log. Sab shanti hai bhai."
Munna: "Hahaha..theek hai."

Talk about media impact. Immediate relief. No floods. No erring officials. Only Circuit and Munna. Reminds me a bit of that Anil Kapoor starrer 'Nayak', which had raised many eyeballs.
But a Munna Circuit journalistic pair would surely do some good today's journalism scene.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

DON revisited

Two minutes into Farhan Akhtar's Don and Shah Rukh strikes a pose in a room of ballroom dancers. And I knew he wouldn't mess up the role.

Fourteen minutes into the film and SRK is found playing golf by the seashore. He strikes. And how! Knocks off his best man with the golf ball.

When Farhan Akhtar was quoted that the new Don is going to be "only style, no substance", I wondered what he had got himself into. Thirty minutes into the film and I know he can't spoil it from here. The plot is set. The characters are borrowed. And the stylists have done their job.

The film has received a mixed response. NOTE: Mixed, is a euphemism, here. Whenever a film's collections don't rise exponentially as they're expected to, a sugar-coated verdict - 'mixed' - is spread around.

What I liked about the film...

1. SRK is first rate as DON. He carries the role splendidly on his shoulders and Farhan's direction has kept in mind the 'King Khan' status he enjoys in the industry. In that sense, the role is tailor-made for him.

2. Mohanan's cinematography is ultra-slick. His earlier outing in Robby Grewal's Samay starring Sushmita Sen, was notable. He's succeeded in achieving the film's lead actors a sense of authority. The colour toning is generally grey, since throughout the film, the story line marches on the 'Evil v/s Evil' format.

3. Farhan Akhtar has borrowed the concept, but thankfully created his own version, since post-interval, the movie eludes the original screenplay. The twists and turns are swift and the racy screenplay does justice to the required tempo of the film.

4. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's background score maintains the agility of the screenplay.

5. Supporting cast - Boman, Rampal, Priyanka Chopra are worth a mention. Boman Irani is turning out to be one of the most versatile actors in the industry.

6. And finally, the surprise ending. Goes with the promo line of the film - Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahin, na mumkin hai.

What I didn't like about the film...

1. The absence of clever humour is a disappointment. The chuckles during DCH...I hoped Farhan would do an encore of some sorts in DON. Black humour would have been perfect, here.

2. Isha Koppikar and Kareena Kapoor. Farhan's tried to keep up with the original DON's music. Perhaps not the right thing to borrow, especially when you know Kareena's put on weight. Isha is a waste.

3. The film can get confusing at times and that's one reason why family audiences are going to keep away from watching it for a second time. Blockbusters depend on the 'second-time-watch' potential. e.g Lage Raho Munnabhai, Rang de Basanti. I'm afraid, DON, doesn't satisfy the second-look quotient.

The film can bomb with good reason. SRK is never known for superhits beyond his conventional 'lover-boy' image.
e.g Asoka, One two ka Four bombed badly. Swades did average business. So did Abbas-Mustan's Baadshah. And off late, comedies (Lage Raho.., Phir Hera Pheri, Golmaal), romances (Fanaa, KANK) and 'leave-your-brains-at-home' action flicks (Dhoom, Krrissh) are the trend flicks that are doing great business.

DON's USP is its styling and packaging. While both can do enough to pull in the crowds, they cannot do enough to entertain.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Socialising online - courtesy Orkutrya

Is Orkut creating a world of online socialites? Just the other day I read a piece on 'air-kissing' in a Mumbai tabloid. Orkut may not give us scope for an air-kiss, but the platoform it provides to network (read socialise) may result in deliberately flattering concerns.

e.g a "Hey..wassup?" would sound more personal and genuinely concerned if said through a phone-call. Through Orkut, every other person who has 'added' you, does it, if they have no other business, online.

If you're birthday is on the cards, Orkut lists it out for you on your home-page. A friend of mine recently stopped displaying his date of birth on his Orkut profile. Rightfully so, I believe. You take the pains of putting up your birthday on your profile for others to see, so that Orkut can take new pains to remind them to wish you. What about genuine memories? Painstakingly noting down your birthday, someone would give you a call, no matter how distant he/she may isn't that a sweetest good morning wake-up to receive on a birthday morning? 'You remembered?! Thank you so much!'

Another case is of 'simply hello' greetings. There was a time, when we'd call up friends, speak to them...empathise with their worries, share our daily troubles, giggle over silly jokes, all in real-time. Today, greetings, feelings, hi's and hellos are well...'scrapped'. Now, out of all the things in the world, is that the only word they could create for it? A 'scrap'?

Scraps have ushered in a world of artificial greetings. Just like those air-kisses in Page 3 parties. Yes, Orkut has helped us remain in touch with people - a single click is all it takes. But it has also opened the doors to comments from people you're not concerned with, people who're just trying so hard out there to get a piece of your attention. And testimonial threats? Read more about them here - Orkutrya

There have been times, when I've seen the first 10 scraps saying, "Hey...wassup?", "Hi..kya chal raha hai..?", " was your day?"
While all this attention might seem flattering initially and you might be bowled over by the fact that so many people really are concerned about how your day was and are you being well-fed or not, the truth unfortunately is, that MOST OF THE TIME, they're posted by people with nothing else to do (read Orkutryas - The Orkut Dogs...hatttt kuttaaa!!). Yes, Orkut is addictive and people are keen to increase the size of their social networks. So, is it true that the more people you got on your friends list, the more popular you are? Or are you more friendly? Or..wait a're so famous??

I see genuine concern missing in the world of scraps. Genuine thoughts, feelings, meeting up, casual visits, courtesy calls, etc are slowly fading away as we get used to a world of web-cams, e-mail, e-cards, etc.

There's nothing like talking to a friend over a cup of coffee, laughing, giving that customary high-five, clapping your hands into each other, when you enjoy a good joke, laughing till your sides burst...

We're increasingly getting absorbed into a lifestyle where we're constantly obsessed with things that are out of our reach - virtual friends, celebrity lifestyles, etc. Orkut is great no doubt, to find a world, which we thought was lost once, in memory lane. But I think we must let Orkut be, what it's meant to be - a means to stay in touch. A warm-hearted conversation can only be made in person.

The world is in our fingertips. Place those fingers in the hands of a friend. The warmth you receive, is priceless. And a scrap is, well, a scrap.

The following lines from Lage Raho Munnabhai, said by 'Jhanviji' [:-) ] are memorable -

"Serial ke kirdaron ka haal to pataa hai, par Ma ka haal poochne ki fursat hi kahaan hai...
Internet mein duniyan se toh touch mein hain, magar pados mein kaun rehta hai? Jaante tak nahin!
Mobile, landline sabki bharmaar hai...lekin jigri dost tak pahunche, aise taar kahaan?"

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Man of the moment...Horee

A dear friend celebrated his birthday recently. Mom calls him Horee, with her typical Bengali touch. He has bowled her over with his voice. Sample this conversation on the ashtami (eighth day) of Durga Puja celebrations - Mom wants to wish him good luck for his exams...I hand over the phone to her:

Mom: Hello! My darling! How are you?
Horee: (bowled over, laughing) Nomoshkar kakima...aami bhaalo aachi..tumi kemon? (Namaste aunty, I'm fine. How about you?)

A warm-hearted person, Horee would make a great uncle for my to-be-born kids, I always tell him. With him, I'm at ease with my thoughts. I've often debated whether there is something really like a 'best friend'. And I've also wondered where does he stand in my life - is he a best friend, or just 'one of my best friends'? In the end, I've realised that ranking friends is a total non-issue.

Getting back to the man of the moment, I was casually introduced to him at a coaching class. There I was, poring over microscopes and there he was, just around the corner, talking about a loo that he'd written about, in a popular teen-mag. Oh by the way, he has this strange stimulating attachment with toilets, loos and commodes. All of them, somehow get his creative juices flowing and every other day, I'm asked to sample some of his literary delicacies.

He's one of the most enchanting sculptors of sentences. Today, if I have any standards in reviewing written matter, the standards have been set by him alone . And therefore, he's spoilt me. I can no longer digest mediocre literature that I come across. I remember having trashed write-ups by editorial team-members while editing my college tabloid recently. All of it, because I thought that their piece of literature was junk, compared to Horee's writing standards.

I've assigned him the responsibility of writing my biography. This decision comes in the wake of my observations and calculations of his attitude towards his life in general. He has met with several ups and downs in life and taken all of them in his stride, saying, "It's okay. As long as it adds another interesting page to my autobiography, I'm happy." With such a belief, I'd imagine he'd be willing to remain adventurous all the way. And that would make his autobiography worth a read.

Both of us have also had our share of ups and downs. We became friends as mere travellers in local trains running in the wee hours. For once, I've mistakenly been bruised by the sting of this Scorpio. We were distant for a while, but it was the very same sting which had the healing touch. With Horee, it's his forgiving nature, that's helped cheer up things.

He's my Intellectual Sparring Partner, my googly-woogly bear, my compere...and I say this, just as I care. You are God's gift, a lion-hearted pen-wielding soldier.

Here's to you, Horee...cheers!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Raindrops keep falling on my head

You’re not alone when you’re walking in the rains, sheltered under an umbrella. There is the constant chatter of the raindrops falling on the rooftop. Pitter-patter, they go on and on. Sometimes (quite often in a city like Mumbai), their chatter often becomes highly abusive, if its pouring. Their grievances, their trials and tribulations…Oh, you feel like turning the umbrella over and mouthing them a few from your own vocabulary.

I almost did so, on Tuesday, as I made my way home from college. Splat, I opened my umbrella and they began. Two armies were battling it out in the war of wits. And hits.

“Vilasrao almost escaped today. Had I not sprung a leak that moment, the CM’s mountain sized water-mark on the sidewalk would have almost caught the media glare. And it would have been proved, that the soft-spoken minister also has a soft-spoken bladder. Damn.. we could have exposed him!”

The other army chirped, with a ‘we-told-you-so’ expression: “Not just him. It’s his entire motley of ministers. Did you know, there’s a special comode in the Mantralaya, which R.R.Patil favours. We think, its some lucky charm or something. But he always heads for that commode everytime he gets a call.”

“Gets a call? From whom?” retorted the other army, with their drops poised in anticipation.

“Call from nature, you assholes. Seems like you havn’t had enough of his moral policing. We guys miss Julie and Champa at D.N.Road now. It was amazing sliding down their curves, slowly and discreetly as they gyrated in the rain…”

Just at that moment, a Matador just whizzed past me, spraying me as I tried to shield myself, with my umbrella. While doing so, the muddy water splashed the fantasies of the raindrop armies out of their reverie. The jolt was quick and somehow in this aggravation, the armies grew even more aggressive and started pounding hard. Tapku, penetrated the umbrella’s cover and alighted softly near my earlobes.

“She’s sent a message for you,” he whispered softly.

“Who?” I asked, puzzled and pleasantly tickled by his presence.

“She, who loves the rains!” Tapku was bubbling with excitement.

“Who doesn’t love the rains, eh? Especially with people like you around, tickling my earlobes as if they were the folds of your…”

“Shut up!” he interrupted. “You very well know whom I’m talking about.”

I pretended to lift one of my fingers to shove him off on to the street, when – “Stop!! Stop, you son of a bitch! At least hear out the message. Then do whatever you want,” he said, frightened. “I was blessed to rest on her lips as she whispered the message to me for the first time,” he said, blushing.

“Is it?” I asked, teasing him. “Anyways, what did she say?”

“After a long days.”

Silence. Tapku was smiling triumphantly.

“What??” I asked, confused than ever before.

“That’s it!” he said, smiling and pattering his eyelids.

“What was the message?” I asked, firmly this time.

“After a long days,” he said, again. “That was the message.”

“Huh?? What am I supposed to make out of it?” I asked, now irritated. Honestly, I hadn’t hoped for something as nonsensical as this.

“I don’t know,” Tapku replied, yet again battering his eyelids in a manner that makes Dukes go wild. “But isn’t it romantic?”

“Romantic, my ass,” I answered disgustedly. “Now, I know what’s your degree of romance.”

“You do?” he jumped, eager than ever before. “Then, tell me,” he beckoned, slowly tickling me cheeks, “what is my degree of romance?”

“Piss off,” I said. And I flung him off my cheek.

Raindrops, I tell you. Every drop with its mildish tenderness, cajoles moments out of your memory. And as you ruminate on them, as to why he / she said so and how they said it, you find yourself, smiling, frowning or even giggling. A walk in the rain is not merely an exercise dodging potholes, but also an exercise jogging across those memories, once in a while. As she rightly said – After a long days. On this occasion, it was said by a friend of mine, not exactly a master in English verbiage, but yet she wanted to put across the thought of meeting after a long time.

Meanwhile the umbrella’s rooftop members had begun on another round of pounding my umbrella. Evidently it seemed, Vilasrao has sprung a leak again.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Shiv Sankees, not Shiv Sainiks

...and there I was, hanging on to his collar, my other arm flailing wildly in thin air as the raindrops battered my skin as if sanctifying his act. One feet rested on the footboard and the other bobbing wildly outside like a towel on a clothes-line. The wind made it even worse and all I could was stare blankly at his face in fright.

I still maintain, I'd done nothing brave in asking the few puerile Shiv-Sainiks to behave themselves, crowding illegally into the first class compartment. Their cacophony wasn't music to our ears. The other commuters merely tched tched in disgust. I was there too, a representative of a generation awakened (Right, Mr.Rakesh Mehra?) to fight for something which I believed was right.

Initially when these saffron banded, ruffian looking boys entered the compartment, they brought along with them the nauseating smell of booze. But that was not the end of it. There was dirty talk that followed, apparently about a certain lady that one of them had dumped. Triumphant about it, they were celebrating vociferously and their conversation would have given the Censor Board much fodder to chop (or rather, chomp on). It was numbing, especially when you could see the partially crowded ladies comartment wince annoyingly at their foul language and rash behavior.

The Rang De Basanti spirit is a dicey feeling. Sometimes, it overwhelms you so much that you forget the situation you're faced with and firmly believe in righteousness. But the resulting feeling is an unbelievable calm and serenity of thought, wherein nothing, absolutely nothing can shake your resolve, forget breaking it. And with such firm resolve I confronted them.

"Excuse me, do you realise this is a first class compartment? Do you have the required ticket?" I ask.
A sheepish grin followed as one of the four men startlingly looked up at me. "Are you the TTE?"

"No, I'm not...but I must request you not to create chaos in the compartment..." I replied flatly.

"Huh? Who're you to say so?" he hollered back. This time, I felt several faces peek around from the rest of the compartment. Everybody's eyes rested on us. That's Mumbai for you. Any minor confrontation, any minor abuse becomes an event, a spectacle which people watch with craned necks. And that's exactly what happened here. I was expecting some support from the rest of the 10-odd men in the compartment.
"What are you going to do?" he continued.
"Nothing. Just don't create pandemonium in the train." I retorted calmly.
"Why? What will you do? Throw us off the train? Eh?"
And saying so, he rose.

A slap followed on my neck, which I could not manage to defend. A few men from the other corner of the train let go off their I-pods and Palmtops momentarily and tried to come to my aid, but this fellow had already dragged me to the door. The train was running swiftly, almost adding fuel to the proceedings.

And then he almost threw me off. Almost. I clung on to his collar, as the rain battered my eyelids, the scenes passing around me in a hazy marquee. My heartbeats almost climaxed into a pounding and I gasped to suck in wet air laden with raindrops. Suddenly, I felt a great rush inside me and I was pulled back into the train. Unable to breathe, I choked for air.

I was knocked out.

From what I was told when I woke up a few minutes later, just in time before my station arrived, the burly young men were in fact Shiv-Sainiks and it was the leader of their gang, who could have almost flung me at a passing railway pole.

I thanked my fellow commuters for the help, but silently brooded over the fact, that it was me alone who rose to pick a fight. Was I wrong in doing so? Or was I just trying to find a cause to take Shiv-Sainiks to task?

PS: Make that Shiv-Sankees, please.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The spy who shagged Jaswant

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect - the release of his book ‘A Nature’s Call to Honour’ (Wasn’t it ‘A Call to Honour’?) which supposedly has a mention about the mole in Narasimha Rao’s PMO. The current PM, the very mohan man, Manmohan has dared Jaswant Singh to shag the spy out of the closet. When last heard, Jaswant had done it.

But what one cannot deny is the focus that his sheepish narrative has received. If a certain DNA reviewer’s remarks are anything to go by, Jaswant has missed a golden chance to give an inside view of a “fascinating period in history”. (Bunty says Jaswant’s next book is going to be titled ‘One Night at Nature’s Call Centre’ about Jaswant’s nightmarishly long sojourn in Rashtrapati Bhavan’s shauchalay.)

Meanwhile let us treat ourselves to one of the most incredibly long and inane sentences in English literature lifted from Jaswant’s current literary accomplishment…

“in governance, to meet any form of challenge, such are routinely presented decisions will always have to be made and always in a relative void of information, for information is never complete, never in time, never focused and never entirely relevant, because no brief, however well prepared, will ever be adequate, no theory however astute will or can provide the needed insight, certainly not for long and theory by itself is never able to sufficiently absorb information and to then convert that into a series of effective actions…”

God only knows what point he was trying to make here. (Bunty says, the ‘God’ here could be the ‘mole’ he talked about. Smart Bunty.)


Is our Prime minister too docile? I admire the fact that he’s the most highly qualified PM of the world, but at times, you need fire to retaliate to something as much as a terrorist strike. I guess Sonia just doesn’t do well enough to strike that match, or else, our supposed ‘puppet’ PM would have genuinely given fiery speeches.

My belief in thinking so stems from the very day he addressed the press after the 7/11 blasts. I believed atleast an occurrence like this, would arouse him from his ennui with the cabinet members.

Parag Kansara (The Great Indian Laughter Challenge finalist) offers some hope. ‘Socho…oolta socho…how would it be, if one day at a press conference, Manmohan would fling around his clothes just like Saurav Ganguly did at Lords…? He would remove his turban, swing it round and round, hurling abuses at Musharraf…’


Kurukshetra always has been a place for events. Mahabharata was the greatest of them and the recent Princely tragedy was treated as an ‘event’ too, by the media. Going by the non-stop coverage, news-anchors were reduced to mere commentators. The best part – Prince is going to be given Rs.5 lakhs as compensation by the state government. Why? Just because it was an unfortunate incident and the poor emaciated kid fell into it.

Ah..! Now I know, why Johny Joseph hasn’t got those pot-holes removed from Mumbai’s streets!

Good-bye people, I’m off for a night in one of those deep-potholes. But before I leave, I must leave a tip-off for the media, shouldn’t I? And who better than Zee News!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Rude jolt of rudeness

Mumbai is not the repository of polished culture, courtesy and soft spoken denizens. Such culture and polite manners are expected when you're in a Western Country, everyone's happy (never mind George Bush) and polite exchanges are flowing as smooth as the Thames.

So what makes the recent Reader's Digest survey a topic of such debate? Is Mumbai indeed one of the rudest cities in thw world? The media has had a field day discussing the issue. Precious editorials have been devoted to it, guest columnists have been invited to write about their experiences in Mumbai, Mumbai Mirror reporter Bapu Deedwania purposefully dropped a bunch of papers at road crossing, only to end up photographed by her shutterbug and appear on the cover page and to prove that somebody did help her pick them up. That's not all - even Karan Thapar hosted a show on CNBC TV-18 figuring out with the help of several icons of the city, whether the survey had hit alarm buttons on Mumbaikar's manners.

While the survey elaborated on how an average Mumbai-ite never held doors for you, hardly said Thank-you's or Sorry's, what strikes through is the fact that the survey would have been held true for all of India. Why pigeon-hole Mumbai on the rude-oh-meter? Perhaps the survey was limited to certain famous cities of the world, but isnt it a obvious question that what holds true in one city may not follow a similar pattern in the other?

I'm willing to believe that the RD survey is a mere conjecture, wherein an inference has been arrived at without situational proof. Every great city has its individual class, which is mirrored by the people who reside, travel and identify with it. Mumbai, the potpourri of the rich and the poor, the haughty and the meek, the winners and the losers, builders and destroyers, the corrupt and the principled - similarly has its own value culture. Chivalry isn't a part of Indian psyche and hence, even though we may treat guests as God, we often leave them to fend for themselves until of course they refer back to us.

However, there is no denying that Indians are helpful when it comes to guidance. This country is full of experts , nevertheless also the financial capital of the country, Mumbai is a place where the educated class thrive. But do Mumbaikars indeed have the chutzpah to slam a door on your face? I'm not sure. If you've faced it, you need to watch your nose, next time around.

On the other hand, let us not forget the limitations of a survey like this. Notice the Health pages in the daily newspaper? Every other day a new survey result emerges and a study arrives at its conclusion - but how much do we adhere to it? Chocolates are good for the womb, chocolates are good for sexual life, smoking can cause your child to grow excess hair on his hair-lobes...
How many of these surveys have actually impacted our lives with such immediacy that we take this RD survey personally?

Mumbai may surely have its own way of dealing with it, by having its own share of stories to defy the survey. It is true, that Thank-you's and Sorry's are not the most often heard words on Indian streets. But there is no denying that Indians are the most warmest and friendliest people on this planet. Ask any tourist or traveller and he'll echo the same sentiments. In a country that is bound together by so many bonds in the face of diversity, unemployment, corruption, starvation, poverty, illiteracy, it is infact the smile on the faces of our people that has taken many a researcher into a puzzle at the spirit of this nation and its people who've been brought up under sub-standard conditions, always in a struggle for survival. And dear, when life is a struggle, we often take the manners for ransom.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

India Rejuvenation Initiative

"You have to work within the system, to change the system."
- Atul Kulkarni in the film, Page 3

The common man stands testimony since times immemorial to instances of corruption at various footholds of the so called 'system'. While bribery, nepotism, favouritism and red-tapism have become a routine part of our lives, it is no surprise that we have begun to show the path of least resistance to these examples of sacrilege to a democratic set-up.

Interestingly, cinema has paved the way to show a sanguine path and the new generation (at least the educated middle-class) has begun to ventilate their grievances, intermittently. Be it cases of injustice (the Jessica Lal Case) or Mandal -II, wherein the young brigade from all sections revolted in rebellion for what it believed was a failure of meritocracy. Keeping all these recent uproars in mind, an expression of hope is a sign of relief for the future.

Nurturing that hope for admonishing the idiosyncracies of the system, is the India Rejuvenation Initiative (Bharat Punarothhan Abhiyan). Debate, being a compulsory and a mundane recourse to every issue, IRI comes as a breathe of fresh air since it votes for action over debate. Supported by a group of several educationists, senior IAS and IPS officers, senior government officials viz. Former Chief E
lection Commissioner J.M.Lyngdoh, Former Director General of Police J.F.Ribeiro and former Chief Justice of India R.C.Lahoti, IRI has resolved to direct action to fix accountability, transparency and probity into the system.

The need for an enterprise like this has always been felt, when the system has tried to take over virtue and principle. Key positions for senior officials in the bureacracy are often occupied by the corrupt. This prevents the new recruits - just pawns in the larger set-up to adhere to the higher authorities vested interests, often sacrificing ethics and standards, that their profession demands.

gdoh believes, "It is necessary that honest public servants must be supported strongly when they stand against misdeeds. The corrupt officers are well-known to their colleagues." IRI will come into action when it will influence key appointments. "Whenever we come to know that the government is going to appoint a wrong officer on a key post, the members will meet the authorities and request to reconsider the decision. We also could resort to other democratic means to curb such practices as and when required," he adds.

Therefore, for IRI's powers to be fully functional in efficacy, it will necessitate its urgency into full-prominence since initiatives like these have easy chance to die a stifled death, thanks to the already empowered VIP class.

The group is also against these very VIP facilities for privileged few at the cost of the common man and law-abiding citizens.
A case in point where IRI could have been effective, is a plethora of storylines, already done to death on celluloid. E.Nivas' Shool, Mahesh Manjrekar's Kurukshetra, Mani Ratnam's Yuva, Shimmit Amin's Ab Tak Chhappan amongst several others, have rightfully showcased how the system deserts the dutiful, when bribery and politics permeate a system, that should ideally remain impregnable.

While IRI should successfully create a beginning somewhere in exposing corruption, gross inaction and inefficiency in the echelons of power, it remains to be seen how much of an edge it has over agencies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). These agencies are believed to have also been swallowed into the pool of dirty politics in several high profile cases, tampering evidence and concealing information.

A welcome move would be the setting up more and more fast-track courts. This would ensure that there isn't any time spent in dispensing justice to the needy. Also, a culture of pressure groups coming up in every state would energise the intellectual vanguards of an already suppressed system. Not only that, civilian participation for IRI initiatives and citizen action groups will help constant pressure to be mounted on the administration and the media will only be to too glad to oblige by monitoring activities throughout.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Knights riding on dark horses

What can stars do? Nothing...but sit on their axis!
-Charlie Chaplin

With soccer fever flying high over the air-waves, its time the bird flu received some welcome relief. As support extends itself in the riot of colours for their favourite teams, soccer extravaganza has taken over all the world. So much so, that even in a cricket crazy country like India, the national team's Carribean tour has taken a back-seat. That's the power of the world's most popular sport.

Soccer fortunately gets more popular in certain regions of the world, with each passing World Cup, thanks to qualifying teams coming from under-developed countries. Being a part of this event does them a world of good. Similarly, at FIFA '06, emotional support rings high especially for countries like Trinidad and Tobago, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo, Angola et al. And with good reason.

Several amateur nations have caused major upsets in the last few decades. Senegal's trounced France 1-0 in 2002, Croatia rose to the top four teams in France '98, Cameroon had a rollercoaster ride to the quarterfinals in 1990, Algeria defeated West Germany in 1982...
All of the statistics only accentuate the presence of these under-dog teams at the international arena. This not only makes them a force to reckon with, but makes the biggies ensure a spirited performance against them.

Branco Milanovic, author of a study on soccer for Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, observes, "In the four latest World Cups, there were always at least two newcomers among the top eight national teams."

While countries like Togo, with a growth rate of 1% in 2005 and a GDP just under two billion dollars, bring their citizens international repute, where does India see itself? Currently in the race for economic dominance alongwith China, India is not far from becoming an Asian superpower, with its fertile manpower resources and booming economic growth. Will soccer be a part of the national agenda for a nation that finds its denizens go crazy in support for Samba boys?

A question worth pondering over is how dark horses for the World Cup have garnered support in a sport where Ronaldinho hogs cover pages of all World Cup specials. England, thanks to its widely telecasted English Premier Leagues remains the most hyped team so far and Beckham, the only player to have been in the news always for anything but his football playing prowess.

There's a thrill in cheering for under-dogs, always. Not only for soccer, but for every sport on this planet - the favourites are undoubtedly most written about, but when the under-rated team goes a step ahead and creates a major upset, that is when we have a match on our hands. The under-dog has the extra edge of improvisation and elevation, while the favourites always need to retain their pride. Over confidence, under-estimation are few vulnerable qualities which corrupt the favourites. On the other hand, a constant hunger of trying to level the favourites keeps the under-dogs mentally agile. The result can be quite a humdinger in such cases.

As far as a game like cricket is concerned, there's a reason why there is pride in cheering for India. Not because I'm an Indian myself, but because India has always been a dark horse in the race for glory. Unpredictably classy and failingly consistent, the dark-horses perform at the most unexpected and opportune moments. They have the capacity to sniff lethargy in the body language of the favourites; they capitalise on vanity from the opponents often leaving them completely flummoxed.

Building on the same hopes, India can also make a mark for itself provided there is the political will to upgrade the sport's presence. Its not just the infrastructure nor is it the absence of finances, but majorly the political will to place the sport(s) as a medium which can take the country places. And since India is an underdog, you never know - the next time you hear crackers burst in the neighbourhood, you won't think of an Indian cricket victory. Rather, you'd most probably say, "Bhaichung scored."

Friday, June 16, 2006

Suspense-thriller books don't make great films

There's been quite a lot of debate so far whether a good book makes a good film. I havn't been exactly a participant in this debate, but surely have harbored certain views on this topic. And most of them have been formed with the release of the recent blockbuster 'The Da Vinci Code'.

I believe the debate is not a platonic discussion. There can be certain books which have fuelled the imagination of millions and have tremendous fodder for visual appeal. For example, a movie in the Harry Potter series holds extravagant visual imagery and cinematic content that can take the book ahead in our imagination. Hogwarts, wizardry, dragons, Quidditch, Voldemort...there is immense scope for interpretation on part of the director in the way he portrays the characters, sets, make-up of the film. It is only when the director's interpretation and our own tread on similar grounds, that we identify with the film and begin to like it.

Surely, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings went through this process of identifying with the imagery the books once created in our minds. The books formed movies which were magnum opei and the rest is history.

Thrillers or suspense potboilers in books for films, aren't exactly what you expect to be curious about. Since the plot and the mystery has already been revealed in the book, there is hardly anything to sustain viewer interest, unless of course if the script-writer adds his own spice to the film.

The Da Vinci Code, to me, unfortunately suffers from the same anomaly. Let's leave aside the fact that director Ron Howard is a scholarly director - not the first person who comes to mind, when you want to produce a suspense thriller.

It is the mere fact, that the film offers very minimal visual curiosity, grandiosity and unpredictability to sustain audience interest. Unless you haven't read the book, the film definitely is a drab show. You know the conclusion, the villian, the sequence of events, the answers to all the codes ...the suspense has already been revealed to you long back alongwith its manifestation in steps of several clues! What could you possibly like this movie for? Tom Hanks' dry performance? Or Audrey Totou's francoise English accent? Not Ian Mccallen's pretentious role of course!

When films were made on HP, LOTR, Chronicles of Narnia, there was an awe and curiousity attached to the different fantasy world created by their authors. Fantasy sells quick when it is converted into celluloid, since the fantasy has been converted into a format which till then never orchestrated itself in front of your eyes.

Under such circumstances, the Da Vinci Code lacks any curious imagery that we would have formed. It grandiose for some portions if you've not seen The Louvre ever, but that's about it.

It is difficult to fathom what would have happened to the film had there not been any controversy surrounding it, internationally. Thanks to all the furore, it is rightly been termed 'The Critic Proof Film' of all times!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Intelligent discontent calling

"Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization. Progress is born of agitation. It is agitation or stagnation."
- Eugene V Debs

With the students of Presidency College, Kolkata stepping in, the Naxalite movement received the required shot in the arm. Intelligent, radical students from perhaps the most respectable families then participated in the movement that not only began to hog extensive media attention, but also managed to garner expert organisational abilities. That was India, post 1975, during the Emergency.

Similar revolutions, although not underground, have been happening in India over the last several months. Its an interesting exercise to analyse, why words like 'protests', 'anti', 'march', 'rally' have become daily parlance. It began with the Jessica Lal case, a travesty of justice which witnessed a furore across the country. Silent marches, candle-light walks, black days, petitions and silent rage were easily visible amongst the educated classes. However, a new form of protest also made head-way across satellite airwaves - the E-revolution.

SMS petitions, E-mail forwards and PetitionOnline became the latest protesting channels, which cleverly exploited the vast majority of intelligentsia with an opinion on every issue. For Online petitions, the idea was simple - all one needed to do was to register one's name, email address and their comments. Quick, easy and comfortable - three terms that today's generation eagerly identified with, have been the fountainhead of the E-revolution.

But a question worth asking is - Why a sudden burst of public opinion across every medium, in the past few months? Is the media hogging news coverage about protests? Could several mediums have collated together, giving the cause the required support? Or, was it just the Rang De Basanti effect?

As far as mediums go, intelligent and uncensored opinion has been successfully garnered through the E-revolution. In the recent fervent protests against Quotas by medicos and the subsequent hunger strike, 3 striking medicos passed away. While this news was kept at bay from the press, the simultaneous E-revolution by the protesting body 'Youth For Equality' left no stone unturned in spreading the message. The online petitions garnered against reservations, features in the list of the top 20 petitions worldwide, this year, on

The media certainly had tremendous fodder for coverage for something that it believed, was right. In fact, the Jessica Lal case went back from the cans back to the corridors of justice thanks to effective coverage and investigations on the shenanigans of the Delhi Police.

It wouldn't be trivialistic to assume that this year's most 'repeatedly' watched film, Rang De Basanti, struck the right cords with a generation that had become complacent about themselves. In fact, it gave the necessary fuel to ignite passions of young blood, which so far could merely bicker about the apalling state of affairs.

The lack of censor-ship in the E-revolution has been its greatest advantage. For a country where facts are swept under the floor thanks to the all-pervasive red-tapism in the bureacracy, any trivial information has spread like wild-fire across inboxes.

However, for the very same bureacracy, the effectiveness of an online petition by amassing thousands of signatures, is questionable. Also, while online petitions may work for national issues, their use is limited when it comes to local causes. The scope of the E-revolution still holds tremendous potential for causes which are largely unaccounted for by the daily press, viz. Alarming rate of farmer suicides across several parts of the state can achieve greater dimensions by spreading the word, online.

Globally however, petitions have acquired new dimensions altogether, moving beyond the bureacratic needs. Some of the top petitions signed this year were titled 'Please show Soccer World Cup Live at Stanford', 'Please show Rugby on ESPN and ESPN2', 'Issuance of US Postal Service Stamps on Diwali', 'Persian Gulf - a global heritage in danger', etc. In India too, recently, a petition was signed in large numbers requesting a radio station which decided to 'Go Hindi' to continue playing English tracks.

Nevertheless, we indeed are witnessing an alert generation that has suddenly begun to stand up for its rights. Artifice Inc., the private firm which runs PetitionOnline registers over 25 petitions daily, across the world. The conventional media must keep the people responsibly informed, in the meantime. After all, at the end of all the intelligent discontent, its the proposed solutions that matter. Till then, long live the revolution.

Friday, May 26, 2006

What's Up? I'll show you...

"What's up?" she mused, over the phone.
"Yeah...nothing much," I replied, casually. The question has become redundant now-a-days. 'How are you' has now been dethroned by 'Wassup' as the official greeting line. Too bad if you're on the internet, chatting.
"n wt else?"
"nm..u say.."

Chat-o-freaks, I tell you. They've got nothing to say and they claim they're chatting. And while the chat-o-lingo takes over our lives, I fear an official molestation of the English language. 'Nothing much' has been replaced by 'nm' make that NM college of Management Studies as Nothing Much College of Management Studies. Let's see how the admissions go.
A deadly and gorgeous female from our class has mutilated the lingo even further. She's replaces 'Wassup' or 'ssup' with 'sp'.
Ha! Sardar Patel just moved in his grave. Wassup Jain College of Management Studies. Even better admission prospects.

But even more irksome is the fact, that even though there might not be anything up in your life, you're persistently asked 'Wassup' at every other corner. Dodging and steering through Yahoo chat windows is not an onerous task, but can become one, thanks to the 'Wassup culture'. Completely annoyed by its ramifications, one day, I decided to give a piece of my mind to a chat-friend of mine.
"Hey..wasup?" the text bounced on my screen, out of the blue. I decided not the reply.
"BUZZ!" he went as the room rang shrill with the Yahoo buzzer. I'd had enough. This guy was indeed desperate to know what was up in my life. I began...
"Hey..howdy man? ntn much yaar...woke up in the mornin..went for a pee, brushed my teeth only to realise it was shaving cream that I was brushing with. Then shaved my under-arms with Old Spice. Had breakfast comprising of owl-meat and hairy legs, topped it up with milk. Wanted to watch TV, but mom was hooked on to it. So logged on to 'Gay for Pay' on the internet. It was cool, you should catch it sometime..."

We're distant friends now. And why not? The next time one of us ever asked, 'wassup', we flung ourselves at a distance from each other.


Telecom networks made brisk business lately, thanks to the fervent protests against reservations across the country. While public outcry is vociferous on TV channels, a silent revolution has been hogging SMSes with enormous efficacy. Arjun Singh jokes are a clear favourite - right from his sexual proclivities to the famous dialogue of Deewar...
"Mere paas IIT ka PG degree hai, IIM (A) ka MBA hai..tumhare paas kya hai?"
"Mere paas reservation hai!"
The impact, I believe has been equally registered in the virtual world through the 'Youth For Equality' blog and its associated Yahoo Group. Long live the revolution.

Having said that, I must admit I'm bugged with same old 'Mail from an AIIMS student' and 'Please forward..oppose quotas', 'Imp: Youth for equality'...
As if this was not enough, banking on the Orkut craze, a canard has surfaced about closing accounts of inactive Orkut users. For conspiracy theorists and for the revulutionaries, a community has been set up to work upon breaking this system of chain mails. Join in...

Mission Break the Chain

Also, if you wish to verify the authenticity of donor mails, which claim that 10 cents from Yahoo will be donated for a cause for every forward, here are a few useful links...


The advertising industry has finally tasted blood, albeit the cola wars are subtle this time. Ads from the cola majors - Pepsi and Coke are something we look forward to, but this time, the fun seems to have been, well, fizzled out a bit. Still, no place like the Indian ad industry...

Here's a Mediaswamis round-up of some of the coolest ads this summer... (not in the order of their merit, nor reservation either)

1. Mirinda - Mouth ka karo good use

Perhaps the only cola, which managed to place itself differently using a novel concept. Zayed rocks and so does Kunal Ganjawalla.

2. Wheel - Kaun rakkhe rang

Vibrant, colourful and essentially Indian; this is a feel good ad. And yes, Kailash Kher's voice elevates it to a new pedestal altogether.

3. - Hari Sadu that's what you call a good one! Real good one. Mind it.

4. Parle Hide n Seek - Wanna Dance?

Flamboyance is thy name. And the packaging. Hrithik 'Krissh' Roshan does the needful and so does the danseuse.

5. Mentos - Hair Cutting Saloon

Mischief spills out in every frame with cunning intelligence. Works for Mentos.

6. Sprite - TV hota hai dekhne ke liye. Soft drink hota hai peene ke liye. Clear hai. Sprite.

A well-timed spoof launched on the very day Pepsi's silly Pepsi TV campaign was revealed. While the latter disappointed, Sprite was able to retain its nature of taunts.

7. Limca - Boondon mein

Refreshing idea and great packaging. Ideally placed for the summer. And the cool SFX make it way much better.

8. Fast-track - the FALL collection

Initially I thought they were falling for him, but English is such a funny language - wonder how come nobody used this before.

9. Coca Cola - Thande ka tadka

Aamir's presence makes all the difference. And Prasoon Joshi hasnt had enough of championing for the right cause - this time a Japani being duped in an Indian Hotel. We don't mind, as long as it works.

10. Air Tel - Power of Expression

Black and white images, a chilling background score - gives you goosebumps everytime you watch it. Amazing stuff.


Mumbai Mirror reporter Nilesh Nikade recently fell victim to jaundice. Confined to the bed and on a steamed rice diet, jaundice wasn't something that was going to escape him so easily. Sudesh Malvankar, a fellow reporter for TOI and myself paid him a visit, wherein we chided him playfully.
"Stay away from the field, leave the stories to us," we advised.
"Why?" he asked, smiling.
"You've got jaundice. Not good for your health. Not good for the stories either."
"Not good for the stories? Why?"
"Yellow journalism."

- Arcopol