Saturday, December 01, 2007

There's hope for Indian television

After several years of suhaags, sindoors, saas and bahus, 2007 may well end up as the year that steered the wheel around for Indian television viewers. Yes, there's hope for Indian television.

If you thought programming on Hindi entertainment channels was all about soaps, think again. The slew of new channel launches brings an interesting mix of experimental shows and fresh comedies.

And why not? Considering Hindi news channels are serving up enough drama in the garb of news, its time the mass entertainment channels pulled up their socks to offer something different.

It is a challenging premise. Indian viewers are not best of samplers since they are thoroughly loyal, even though they (mature female audiences, especially) in retrospect, might bitch about regressive Tulsis and Parvatis. Some new channels have braced up to this challenge upfront. Some have targeted new age urban audiences. And some are bringing top-notch international content from across the world.

Who needs a remote when Remote Control is on?
First up, a worthy mention about Remote Control on INX Media's newly launched 9X. Truly, its time to crown the serial's producer - Hats Off Productions - as the king of television comedy. J D Majethia's characters spin hilarious situations in this Monday prime-time half-hour show. The show's concept brings back memories of Waghle Ki Duniya, since the setting is similar. A simple, well written comedy about the common man. And the Golden Eye Channel. (Hyuk hyuk hyuk!)

Also on 9X, is worth a watch. The comedy, which marks Endemol's first inroads into television fiction is a commendable effort. The serial offers a healthy dose of situational humour bordering on the slapstick, but crisply edited.

Sony - SAB's new mantra: Non-saas bahu shows
Observe the themes of the Sony-SAB's new list of shows and it's easy to figure out that the channels have decided to give the saas-bahu serials a miss. Will it work or not? Perhaps only time (and TAM) will tell. In the meantime, there's relief in the form of Kucch Is Tarah, Amber Dhara, Viruddh, Jersey No.10 amongst others.

Quite a contrast to Zee's weekday prime time programming - totally saturated with lathery, frothy soaps. You know what I mean. Pick your keywords - dulhann, betiyaan, saat and phere. And if that was not enough, it has introduced a Naginn for weekends. Eeks! But the snake-fest is doing very well in the interiors, I hear.

Good Times are here
NDTV's lifestyle channel 'NDTV Good Times' has a must-watch roster of shows for the tech-savvy new age young urban Indian. T3, What's the Next Big Thing hosted by the suave Rajeev Makhani are informative, with high-end production values. Lounge hosted by Rajat Kapoor has improved considerably after the initial hiccups. The channel does have its share of dampeners though, prime amongst them being the Great Indian Love Challenge. The show is old wine in a new bottle, with similar concepts explored earlier by Channel [V] Crush and MTV Love Ke Liye.

Times Now's Total Recall
I came across this gem today afternoon. Total Recall on Times Now explores the bygone era of Indian television, the characters, genres and defining moments that have scripted the television revolution that we see today. Malgudi Days fans, don't miss next week's episode - an interview with the grown up Swamy (yes, the same one from Swamy and friends) is on the cards.

Lagegi to drop title?
There's buzz that UTV Bindass' driver show Lagegi is likely to go for a name change. The stand-up comedy show hosted by the likeable Mantra and Aniruddh could well land up calling itself Hass de India. Sad, but true. The show's comic lines were doing quite well for itself, at least within its target audience. Looks like Roshan Abbas wants to encompass a larger audience base into a laughing spree. So now truly, sabki lagegi.

Rant of the week: Rama rama kya hai drama? Sahara One's Jjhoom India is witnessing too much of mudslinging within the judges and contestants. Shekhar Suman deserves to be rapped on the knuckles for his rude remarks to host Rahul Vaidya. But who cares? The uproars seem too scripted to be true. And whats with the jordaar taaliyaan after every outburst? Tch tch.

Chant of the week: Weekdays 10:30 pm on SAB - watch America's Funniest Videos (AFV). God bless Sony and God bless the handy cam. Had it not been for the candid video clips recordings, we'd never have sampled American humor at its best. The videos are bound to leave you in splits.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Great Indian Procastrinator

Festivals are great procastrinators.

And they are used with good effect in India. A box of sweets, a hug or a handshake and a few sweet mumblings is all it takes to wipe the slate clean. A Makar Sankranti is a good occasion to forget all past issues and begin a relationship afresh. Not only for Sankranti, the thought largely applies to all festivals.

However, is a festive wipe of the slate necessarily a good thing? How many of us can withstand the guilty come clean so easily?

We are a nation which sleeps in guilt over ghosts we may have never seen. We are subconsciously troubled over the fact that, as much as we celebrate our diversity, it is still the root cause of all dissatisfaction among masses.

We are still unsettled by the fact that while we may exchange material posessions over Diwali, a part of this world may never see a festival that offers so much visual delight. And yet, it is the festivals which we hope will act as the leveller to all our follies, ghosts and greviences, every time.

My strong opinion is, that a festival only partially manages to succeed in the mission it sets out for. The purpose can be only fully served if every time, we vow to neutralise the negatives our follies, ghosts and guilts. And this, I believe, can be done only through constructive resolutions.

My question therefore is - shouldn't festivals be an occasion for new resolutions?
What do you think? Share your thoughts.

Caffeine injected love

A lot can happen over a cup of coffee.

Hands can be held. Lips can be locked. Deals can be signed. Bonds can be made. Memories can be revived. Hearts can be broken. Abuses can be hurled. Presentations can be planned. Wallets can be exposed. A lot can happen over a simple cup of coffee.

So much so, that today the Cafe Coffee Days, Baristas and McDonalds are playing a major role in the steering the course of human relationships. What is it, about these locations that is driving people to it? What really happens at these hangouts thats propelling a whole generation of caffeine injected love stories?

Or is something about coffee that works the magic? Your guess is as good as mine. Share it here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cabbie cabbie mere dil mein khayal aata hai

The Readers' Digest survey which labelled Mumbai as rude could be partly true, if one has had an experience with the city's cabbies. Most of them are downright arrogant, refusing to ply you to your desired destination.

However, the reason why I say the survey is 'partly true' is that for every 10 rude cabbies, you'll have atleast one cabbie who is polite and responsible. And in Mumbai, that's a lot of good cabbies. A recent experience in boarding a cab from Colaba reaffirmed this opinion.

I'd tried about 7 cabs whether they would ply me to Churchgate station. A curt 'No' was the reply from all of them.

"What's wrong about Churchgate?" I asked one of them, dejected.
"Arey... there are so many, why don't you ask them?" replied one.

Frustrated (and determined to write a blog on this), I moved ahead, still searching, when from a far distance, I saw this cabbie with a 'Chalo...tum ko lekar... chale' smile , burgeoning me to come in. From the looks of its, it seemed he'd take me anywhere I ordered him to. He waved at me. I waved back asking him to halt.

The conversation that followed, was a pleasant surprise. Here we, two three.. zatak!

Cabbie: Saar..ek taraf se aage aa jaiye, please saar...baithiye..! Saamne aa jaiye!
Me: Churchgate station?
Cabbie: Kyun nahin, saar? Bas baith hi jaiye, uss meter ko zara down kijiye..haan bas!
Me: Hmm.. (relieved, shutting the door, sighs)

Cabbie: Saar, kya badhiya perphume lagaya hai. Kaunsa hai?
Me: Yeh? (giggles with surprise) Zatak.
Cabbie: Deo hai kya spray?
Me: Erm.. Deospray.
Cabbie: Same wohi hai kya, jisme sab girls idhar udhar se uss aadmi ke paas aati hain?
Me: Kaun sa? (wonders) Oh.. nahin. Woh toh Axe hai. This is Zatak.
Cabbie: Accha, lekin khushboo badhiya hai. Iska naam zatak nahin, zhakaas hona chahiye, nahin?
Me: (smiles)

Cabbie: Memsaab se milne aaye the?
Me: Kya? (surprised)
Cabbie: Aap apni memsaab se milne aaye the?
Me: (smiling) Nahin.. ek meeting ke liye aaye the.
Cabbie: Wohi, memsaab se meeting tha?
Me: (giggles) Nahin.. office ka meeting tha. (smiles again)

Cabbie: Aap naukri karte hain?
Me: Haan. Andheri mein. Tum kahaan ke ho, bhai?
Cabbie: Hum to saar hai Kalyan se.
Me: Arrey waah..hum aap ke wahan Ambarnath ke rehne waale hain.
Cabbie: Roz up down karte hain kya?
Me: Nahin nahin, Andheri mein rehna padta hai. PG ke taur par. Vahin mera office hai.
Cabbie: Har meeting ke pehle deospray lagana padta hai? Yeh Zatak?
Me: (laughs, thinking about it) Kabhi kabhi. (spots a babe crossing the road) Bambai mein hasina ko dekhkar pasina aa jaata hai na.
Cabbie: Woh toh hai (smiles). Accha bataiye saar, aapko Eros ke paas chhod doon toh chalega na?
Me: Chalega, no problem.

Cabbie: Zatak kitne ka aata hai? 130?
Me: Haan.. aisa hu kuch. 140 shaayad.
Cabbie: Toh aap kya Zatak leke ghoomte hain?
Me: Haan.
Cabbie: Don't mind saar, hum par bhi zara spray kar denge. Acchi khushbu aa jayegi.
Me: Haan, haan, kyun nahin.. (opens the bag, sprays some on him)
Cabbie: Thank you saar, abhi accha lag raha hai. (pause) Kaunsa flavour hai saar?
Me: Pata nahin. Orange hai shaayad. Accha hai na?
Cabbie: Haan woh toh hai. Lo, aa gaya aapka Eros. Woh saamne isstation.

Me: (peering into the meter) Kitna hua?
Cabbie: Total hua pandhrah rupaye, lekin aapne humein spray lagaye, isliye hum saar aapse sirf phorteen rupees lenge.
Me: Waah bhai, kamaal karte ho. Yeh lo (hands out the change.)
Cabbie: Thank you saar. Happy journey saar.
Me: (gets out of the cab) Thank you. Aapko bhi. Jidhar bhi aap jayeein. (smiles, waves)
Cabbie: Take care saar.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

There's something about Ramu

Okay, so everybody's derived sadistic pleasure out of Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag and its subsequent collapse. My editorial director Thomas Abraham particularly likes to chestbeat about the how Varma is a "twit" to make a remake of Sholay. All he can suggest is that RGV se bhaag.

I object to this issue on two fronts that people fail to realize - One, is that people somewhere knew down the line that the film would in NO WAY be as good as the original. So, the moment the critics panned it, audiences also went into the "I told you so," mode.

Two, nobody for that matter admired RGV's enthusiasm for the film, least of all realise that here was a man making a film centred around a villain, rather than a conventional hero.

So with RGV Ki Aag, here is a film whose villian was pegged as its USP, and for many viewers it must have been the prime reason for watching it in the first place. Some "gurus" believe that the original Sholay itself was an erroneous script, since Gabbar as the villain shot to fame quicker than the 'positive' characters. RGV exploited the same sentiment and pegged a film around him, titling him 'Babban'.

RGV, however screwed it up in the adaptation to the current milieu. Mumbai's underworld has been quiet since a long time. Varma's earlier gems on the subject have made audiences acclimatised to this setting and it comes across as repetitive today.

RGV should learn a thing or two from Vishal Bharadwaj, who skilfully adapted Macbeth and Othello into gems like Maqbool and Omkara respectively.
But the saddest story came only after Aag released. Pritish Nandy has announced plans to make a prequel, a remake, a sequel and an animated version of the same old Sholay. Talk about obsession with old ideas and a vacuum of new concepts. If only that bald head of Nandy's struck a eureka spark, he'd do it. Otherwise he's quite a bum.

PNC's plans are only being echoed by some more remakes which by the way are actually coloured versions of good old Guide by Ketan Anand. Goldstone Technologies has acquired the rights to digitally colour the film and re-release it.

The trend will give a lot of veterans a chance for their aakhri khwaish to see old movies in colour. Also, it might possibly lure the current Gen X to experience golden days of yore.

What worries me though, is the direction in which the industry is heading. A man like Pritish Nandy can do wonders. He almost did so with a brave Chameli and a tongue-in-cheek Pyar Ke Side Effects. If only he had those grey hairs to differentiate the right from the wrong...

This reminds me of Lagaan, the making of which I recently saw on VCD, in the form of Chale Chalo. The film attracted all the attention from its cast, crew, media, foreign press only because of its unique screenplay and storyline. If only, we could create that celluloid magic again.

Another round of gems please, oh you industrywallas...!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Bollywood talking BIG

Bollywood is the big adda
Bollywood is talking BIG in sheer numbers. The corporatization of the Hindi film industry is suddenly taking giant strides on the global frontier and testimony to this is UTV's Ronnie Screwvala, who's now on the cover of Newsweek. The media conglomerate is going places not just in terms of his Bollywood and television plans (8-10 TV channels), but also for his Hollywood projects. Hats off to this bawa gentlemen who's minting money in return for good, solid entertainment.

Welcome the titans
The Bollywood success story is seeing some biggies emerge in the entire scenario. Yashraj is huge, alright but new players emerging are Eros, Reliance and UTV. Eros recently received funding from Citibank group to the tune of $400 million, especially for its film production business and this I think, speaks volumes for the industry as a whole which is seeing investments from non-film players. Citibank is a banking company, after all.

SUB ka bheja fry
About me, things have reached a crucial juncture at work. I've discovered a firm footing on desk, and I'm learning it quick and enjoying it. I've discovered that reporting is not my forte, nor is pestering people to give me a story. I'm enjoying subbing and of late, rarely being pulled up by my managing editor for subbing goof-ups. It's a good sign and moreover he's acknowledged it, that I'm potential subbie in the making. An industry senior says that the print medium has a dearth of good sub-editors and I could offer my services to Print, in the coming days. Let's see. The desk is not a bad place to be. And I can do features alongside. Makes it more relaxed and focused.

Chak de Indiantelevision!
Team will watch Chak De India today at Fun Republic. That's about 40 of us. It's a part of a corporate team-building exercise. We can draw inspiration from this film to function much better as a team, by pushing harder towards better quality work. It's a different story though, that most of us have already seen the film. It's also another different story that the film is 'tax-free' now that the office has arranged for a trip. :-)

There she goes
Our editorial team faced a blow this week when our 'centre-forward' Renelle put in her papers. She'll join Vir Sanghvi-headed INX News in October. She's been with us for over a year, rising from a trainee journalist to staff reporter to sub-editor to senior reporter. She's an asset to the team apart from being a friend and a wonderful colleague to me. I've learnt a lot from her and I wish her all the best, although it makes me nervous how we'll cope up without her.

The buzz, though is that we're poaching senior journos from DNA Money and HT Cafe. This is good news. The value of the brand will go higher if journalists from print publications turn to the web. It helps us garner much more respect not only as a brand, but also as a web-based B2B medium.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Muse paper

Its late evening.

I'm at busy at work, uploading stories on another website. The atmosphere in the editorial room is relaxed - we've finished our work for the day, my managing editor and colleagues have signed out.

My editorial director Thomas Abraham is sitting a few desks away in his cubicle. He resembles Voldemort (more on that, later) and is playing some of the most melodious English classics. I've not been much of a rock music aficionado all my life, but I must admit, this music is inspiring. What lyrics!


Saw Transformers today. The movie makes for great pop-corn entertainment, but its half-baked characters were a total turn-off. The plot has several loopholes since it never really makes it clear and elaborate on the motive and purpose of the attack and defence at various stages.
Yes, the Special Effects were eye-popping alright, but then even Spiderman and Superman have great SFX. But they score in their finely etched characters.
The auditorium was half-packed even though it was the morning show at the neighbouring Fame Adlabs multiplex and all the patrons were college going youngsters. From the look of it, all had a good time watching it and the movie is likely to achieve cult status, thanks to its SFX, similar on the lines of 300.
I give the movie a three-star rating.


Discovered the most fabulous Chicken Pulav at the neighbouring Cafe Safar restaurant. And that too, by chance. Whatever happens, is for the good of everyone.
My editor and myself were supposed to attend a press conference at Land's End. The occasion - Vijay Mallya would grace the launch of the tennis stars for the Kingfisher open. I thought we'd go, for sure and hence cancelled my dabba. We didn't make it though. It took us a while to get the stories ready on the site. The Delhi bureau has been active off late with both Sujit and Bhushan sending in stories on a timely basis. But damn, the Vijay Mallya party was a glamorous evening I hear! :-)


Adversity introduces a man to himself. That's one quote, that has kept me going all this week. Stories are difficult to come by and I'm finding the desk more and more addictive. I guess, I enjoy the clean-up act (sub-editing, proof-reading) more, rather than pestering people for stories.

I've realized over a period of time that there are two kinds of journalists - one, who is the curious, pestering types, loves chasing stories and two, the observant one. The latter is good at spotting trends providing more analysis and thus representing the larger picture. I think I fit into the latter.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Channel pe channel pe channel

Black current wonders how our gharwaalis will stick on to existing TV channels.
By the end of this year, we're expecting about 4 new General entertainment channels - all modelled on Sony and Star Plus and then there are the youth based channels as well.

You have INX Media's new channel, then there's one from BAG films and media, then the Viacom-18 thingy, ZeeNext, SaharaTwo, UTV Bindass...

And not to be missed the Sameer Nair helmed NDTV Imagine! Just imagine..

Phew! I need more eyes.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Mornings at Fame

Morning shows at Fame Adlabs rock. Period.

Do not mistake that as a plugged story, they did not pay me to write this. I recently saw Harry Potter and Order of the Phoenix (order, order!!) in the 9:30am show at Fame Andheri, bang opposite my workplace. Its a steal at Rs.40 a ticket, that too at a plush multiplex with those couch seats. Note: It's located in one of the most expensive real estate properties in the suburbs - Lokhandwala - and a stone's throw away is competition in the form of Cinemax and Fun Republic. Surprisingly, the auditorium was almost half full - most of them were couples who wanted to start their day off with some heavy duty love-making in the midst of spells, charms and Expecto Patronum. Just goes to show that no matter how weird the show timing be, pricing is a big factor that can pull in the crowds.


Our managing editor Godson Adam threw a free lunch for us recently. The food rocked and so did the dessert that followed. What impressed me most about him and always does is the fact that he's so humble and down to earth in nature. I wish him a wonderful life ahead and pray that he gets married soon. He's around 40 years old and with a witty brain like that, I wonder how he's still single. Ladies! Go for him!


Another mention about Godson Adam.
In journalism, every word counts. There is a lot of thought that must be put behind every single word that goes into a copy. A recent session of copy-editing by Adam impressed me thoroughly and I have tried to borrow a lot from him.

The story was about the Subhash Chandra promoted Essel Group's Digital Media Convergence Limited's foray into mobile television, through a tie-up with Government owned BSNL. I'd filed the story and Adam was restructuring it. Or so it seemed.

Initially he began what I'd describe as 'butchering of copy'. But as I stood there and observed him edit, I almost could read his mind and feel the amount of thought and conviction that was being put behind every sentence. It was a learning experience. And it is a collection of such experiences that I'm picking up everyday here on the job.

Monday, July 23, 2007

From pitching to billing

In a multi-restaurant pitch, Arcopol Chaudhuri has awarded the culinary duties of his stomach to Welcome Dabba. The account size is estimated to be small but filling enough for the already malnourished and underweight skinny Bong.

Other contenders in the pitch were Rasoi the people's favourite, Laxmi Chhaya (didn't it collapse, a few days back?), Cafe New Link and Cafe Safar. According to highly placed sources, Welcome's name took the cake. Rasoi was a tough competitor but misplacements in the order and a dumb albeit cute looking Nepali chhokra made a nuisance of the orders.

Also, sources near the reception desk say, that Rasoi was obsessed with Aloo Jeera and Chana masala as main culinary items on a platter every damn day of the week. The author of this post, has found out from reliable sources that the name Aloo Jeera has been derived from the international news channel Al- Jaljeera. The channel repeatedly shows a funny looking man with a long and a funny name (what was it..Oh-mama or something) making lewd gestures. His staple diet was Aloo Jeera.

Muggle news recently announced Hogwarts night within its premises. Nominations have been coming in from all quarters about who should be donning whose cap from the famous Harry Potter series. Some of the interesting characters we could place are:

1.Anil Wanwari as Albus Dumbledore. The pony works. A flick of the wand, hair on a strand... do you understand?
2.Devyani as Professor McGonagall. She doesn't meos, nor does she have the bun. But she fits into her shoes easily. Rats, beware!
3. Thomas Abraham as Lord Voldemort. This one got the maximum votes. That devilish chuckle and stature. Harry peed in his pants during the interview itself.
4. Anand Gurnani as Hagrid. He's friendly and very approachable. Isn't he, guys? He gets the spells right most of the times.

More nominations coming in. Watch this space.
A muggle is peeking into my computer right now.
And yes, Cho Chang's calling me.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Passing the baton

It was dinnertime. I was home. Dad was seated next to me, sunk in his seat servicing his morsels religiously as usual. He was quiet. I was indulged in separating the fish from the bones on my plate.

Mom was standing next to me, looking over the two of us. She's always quiet these days, ever since I've been living away from them as a paying guest, close to my office. That's about two hours away from home.

Dad and me don't talk much during dinner. I'm not the talkative types and although he is, over a period of time, he's realized that I'm not the best audience for him. He's a thorough intellectual, well-read and very knowledgeable. He's 58, a month away from retirement. And he's worried. After 38 years of service, he would no longer be a contributor to the family's income. Mom had told me this over lunch. Dad's been mum about it. He's serving a notice period at work already. In 30 days, it'll all be over.

Maybe he's wondering what life's got for him, after this. He's passionate about script-writing and theatre, especially Bengali theatre. I'd like to believe that he'll follow his passions wholeheartedly once he gets done with work. Presently he's a mechanical engineer. He still wants to work, it seems.

Although we weren't talking over our meal, I could feel a deep message emanating from him. I could feel his eyes on me. I didn't make eye contact and it seemed he had finished eating. But I could feel eyes on me. Both mom and dad. Its not everyday that they get to see their son eating in front of them and so they were making the best of it. Or so it seemed. It lasted for about 3 minutes.

Within those three minutes, I felt a world turning around. A father hanging up his boots with caution. A wife acknowledging his effort. A mother hopeful over her son's future. And a father emotionally passing over the baton to his son.

Its been a long journey. 21 years of bringing up a son. A naughty son - who broke car windows amidst games of lagori, who stole tomatoes from the fridge, who hid his mother's shoes so that she wouldn't take him to school. A geeky son - who demanded a new story book every week. A truant son - who ran away from home at the age of 13, only to be found by cops and handed over. A failed son - who found his calling in conceptualizing film stories by bunking classes for the cinema halls.

The tide turned slowly, though. They were proud when I salvaged some pride after I almost topped school in my boards. Bad luck struck, though after the high school boards. I found my calling in a new course they had no clue about. Three nervous years passed, wherein the son was indulging in activities they generally were not informed about.

But I knew the future looked bright, atleast on the career front. I made new friends, lost many on the way. Mom and dad have been protective, but not interfering. Always cautious and full of advise. "Don't repeat the mistakes which I did," said Dad.

I did have some issues though - I wasn't given pocket money and I had to constantly ask for it. I was not allowed for trips and participation in inter-school sports. But if its the end which defines the means, then I'd say, they were right. They always are. They had a sense of achievement when I graduated with distinction, topping my college in the journalism. Today, an eventful upbringing process has reached a level of maturity today. When I look at them, it shows in their eyes. I want to thank them and congratulate them.

They always say, "When you'll become a parent, you'll know how difficult it is."
Its so goddamn true. I'm 21 today, working for a news-portal and at a very delicate stage of my career. This is the period which will define the course of my future growth and destiny.

And this is the period, where I'll become more responsible than I ever was. Its because the baton has been handed over.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Black Eyed Peace

The other day, a crow from the neighbouring apartment told me that Mumbai is all-set to get a make-over. I brushed aside his supposed tip-off. He thinks I am a journalist - so he is free to give me khabar. I was getting myself ready for work and he thought a tip-off might as well do me some good.

"That's old news," I replied, but Black Current was insistent.
"It's true. Ekdum pakki khabar hai," he asserted. I thought otherwise. Mumbai's make-over is stale bread and the BMC has been taking a refresher course in promising same old apples every monsoon. No wonder they dont't grow here.

Seeing me ignoring him, Black Current revealed, "The crows are taking over control to ensure that their promises don't fall flat."

"How is that?" I asked, unperturbed by his conviction of getting his Black Army together.

"Havnt't you heard of the next level of the RED FM campaign?" he asked.

"You're talking about the Bajaate Raho thingy?"

"Yes!" he exclaimed, flapping his wings in excitement. "We've been inducted for the execution of the campaign. Bajaate Raho now becomes Jhooth Boleh Kawwa Kaate to take care of the politicians," he whispered, emanating a devilish kaaaw at the same time.

"Oh, really? And how are you going to take care of them?"

Black Current, confident as ever and lifting a feather up near his collar said, "Everytime a politician makes a false promise, the Black Army will swoop down and make his head resemble the surface of the moon!"

"You mean," I asked, "you're going poke him with your beak?"

"Of course!!" he laughed like the devil. An entire fleet of crows did the same from the neighbouring trees. (I could hear my neighbour Divya shriek from the nearby apartment, startled by the noise.)

I shivered in fright as Blackie sharpened his beak on the window grill. "Yes!! We're going to claw him, poke him with our beaks and pluck the hair out their politicians nostrils. We're going to mow them down!" At this Blackie invoked yet another round of shrill laughter. "Aren't you going to write about the campaign?"

I considered his idea for a moment. If there was any truth to it, it would be definitely worth writing about. Black Currant's proposition looked impossible to achieve, but he was a good informer too. But how would he mobilise all his crows into an army? And how would RED FM get all the crows together for the campaign? Who would train them? Such questions lingered in my mind. Still, the experience seemed interesting. Atleast the fear of crows could initiate the politicians to action. Tehelka's campaign also used the similar tagline - Jhooth Boleh Kawaa Kaate, so this was bound to be elaborate to write about. Moved by my own vision of the story and the innovation of using wildlife for a radio station campaign, I told Black Current that I would write about it.

"You sure you going to write about it? Don't make a fake promise to me. I'll pluck the eyeballs out of you!" Blackie threatened. I considered his threat and confidently told him that I would convince my editor and write about it. Blackie also squeezed in the fact this was an exclusive and I'd get a byline for it, as well. My editor Godson Adam, in desperate search of a lead story believed my story and put it up as a lead story. Rival agencies, newspapers thought the news was hogwash. RED FM officials, while thoroughly impressed with the negative coverage basked in the glory of some unprecedented publicity. PTI quoted Maneka Gandhi saying, "Man and animal must work hand-in-hand in a similar manner. I'm really happy with the initiative. I congratulate RED FM and I wish Black Current and his army all the best. I wouldn't be surprised if crows contest elections from now on. Atleast they'll do well than these human parrots."

Three days later, the Black Army tasted blood at the CM's speech at Azad Maidan grounds, where he had called a public meeting to explain how he was trying hard to get funds from the Centre for implementing BRIMSTOWAD - the rainwater drainage project. Blackie knew he was making a false promise. He went for his kill.

A TOI headline read the next day -

Crows attack CM; try to pluck his balls but find none

Since then, Black Current has been scouting the skies with his army. The BMC has been trying hard to call truce between the black army and has also roped in a reputed production house to make an animation film on crows. Sources in the Black Army say the film will be titled, 'Black Eyed Peace' and will be the story of how an army of crows swooped down on erring politicians and created a city of truth and justice.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

300: All gore

Yet another adaptation from Greek mythology post Troy and Alexander, in the recent past stormed the theatres recently. After watching 300, while the curiosity about the famous Spartan defense was satisfied to a large extent, the film also turned out to be imminently forgettable. Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name, 300 is exemplary of style over substance.

Regular moviegoers would foul mouth such claims and today, as it stands, the movie has almost acquired cult status amongst the Playstation yielding audiences. That, although being highly reflective of their indifferent concern to substantial elements in cinema, is also indicative of the sheer power of visuals effects on show, throughout the film.

Directed by Zack Snyder, 300 sticks
true in every frame to Miller’s text. In retrospect, the film’s storyboard is identical to the novel, which is the biggest novelty that is on offer. The myth goes like this - King of Spartan, Leonidas (Gerard Butler) who gathers 300 of his best soldiers to fight the Persian army. Wisely he selects only those who have male children, so that their family name can continue even after their death.

Epic in proportion, daunting in proposition, the Spartans march across till Thermopylae, referred to as ‘the hot gates’ where they are try to defend themselves from being under the superior command of the Persian King Xerxes. The Spartans are tough and they refuse to budge.

What’s more – they chop and chuck every form of attack on the way with incredible valour and spirit. It is here, that 300 begins a treat for the eyes. The raw energy and sheer grace in the choreography of the fight sequences is remarkable. In terms of visual effects, 300 undoubtedly becomes a landmark film. The ripples felt in the rhealm of SFX are similar to those created by the Matrix series during its time. However, the big positive for the action sequences and imaging is the detail and believable nature of every frame. The special effects will undoubtedly be the USP for new audiences to drool over the film.

The screenplay manages to keep the tension and energy palpable throughout. The humour is tongue-in-cheek, but its far and in-between. Since the storyline is wafer-thin and the narration proceeds in a linear fashion without any major hiccups, a sense of predictability creeps in after a point of time. Also, the language used throughout the film is too modern for its time with words like ‘stupid’, ‘Idiotic’ being used generously in the dialogues. Did Greeks ever speak like that? Of course, they did not speak English either, but considering it’s a period drama, a sense of ethos and formal touch should have been a must in the dialogue.

The reason why 300 turns out as forgettable and shallow is ma
jorly because of the thin-storyline and average performances. None of them, goes beyond average, except for Butler who’s energy is symbolic of the film.

300 is a treat while it lasts. In today’s age, where audiences belonging to stressed lifestyles, this might just work for the film. But a great film is a memorable one, which unfortunately 300 does not qualify for.

Monday, April 02, 2007

TYBMM Journo students admitted in hospital after severe memory loss

22 mass media students from V.E.S college, Chembur reportedly diagnosed with short-term memory loss were admitted to The Smoking Taj hospital yesterday evening. The students, about to appear for their final year University exams next week, were in for a shock when they received their notes and did not remember being taught anything.

On being informed about the incident, when this correspondent called up the Prinicipal of the college, Jedi (not the Star Wars one, stupid!) she said, "The students belong to the Bachelor of Mass Media (BMM) course. It is highly unfortunate something like this happened." As an afterthought, she added, "Although I hardly see them in college, I had high expectations from them."

When asked what could have caused all of them to show this syndrome all of a sudden, she replied, "I'm yet to figure out. We're investigating the issue. Our first priority is to make sure the students recover as soon as possible."

Interestingly, BlogTheTalk has learnt that all the students are journalism students. Although college officials, including the BMM co-ordinator are tighlipped about the issue, sources said that the students complained of severe dimaag ko shot after one of the students, Arcopol Chaudhuri cracked a joke. The agony of the joke transformed into fever and soon, all the students were found unconscious on the classroom benches.

A peon, Ajay, pleading anonymity, said he was involved in a strip-tease with the class. He said, "Aksharshya, tyanchya class madhye professor nahi yaychya. Notes nahin milale, mhanoon, mula muli chidle, bhadakle and tyanchya payat gole sutle." (Blimey hell! No professor would visit their class for lectures. They did not get notes for exams. All girls and boys freaked out and their feet developed balls!)

At The Smoking Taj hospital, the students were found chanting, as if in a trance. While the doctors were busy administering saline and injections, this correspondent managed to get a few responses from some students. First up, the student who cracked the joke...
BlogTheTalk: Is it true Mr. Arcopol Chaudhuri, that this semester, you did not get enough notes and professors hardly came for their lectures?
Arcopol: I don't know. I was absent. Hey buddy.. can I tell you a joke?
BlogTheTalk: Fuck off!
Some more responses..
Bhushan: God, I don't remember a thing! All I remember is those phone calls...horrible phone calls...
BTT: What did the caller say?
Bhushan: "Bhushan... I wont be coming for the lecture today. Please inform the class!"
BTT: Which subject was this? What do you know about it?
Bhushan: Ohh gawwwd.... don't ask me. News Media Management. All I know is that Ayaz Memon loves to make you cry... (gets into Enrique mode..starts singing) ..Girish, sit properly .. Girish, why are you laughing?

Another student, Shailaja Sharma was tied to the bed, banging her head and looking heavenwards and saying, "Kya Mummy???" Suchithra Pillai, a petite figure relaxed calmly in the corner bed. She said, "I don't know what was taught. I came late for the lecture. The bus tyre got punctured."

Manali Shah, another student was heard crying in the distance over the phone, "Wazzaa...wazzaa..wazzaa.. Baba.. meri jholi notes se bhar do baba...!"

But almost every student complained about a tall thin man, sitting on top of a newspaper sheet in sagely fashion and nodding blankly across the room. His smile, they said, is the heartbreak of millions and his lectures are torture of billions.

Some more responses...

: Preeti, was full justice done to the portion of Radio?
Preeti: Shut the fuck up, OK?! That's nonsense, OK?! Get lost, OK?!
BTT: Arcopol Chaudhuri, could you tell us...?
Arcopol: I don't know, I was absent.
Prateek: Aaii shappath!!
Ashwini: Sir is scared of Sneha Shah.
BTT: Huh???
Ashwini: Yes. (Getting up, standing erect.) Sir feels Sneha knows more about the topic. So he's scared of opening his mouth in front of her.
BTT: Who is Sneha?
Sneha: (looks around wildly) Haan..Ashwini.. kay tari kaay? Nothing like that. Newspaper sheet pe baithte hain. Newspaper bolta hai, "Oh shit! Oh shit!" Toh phir, saara gyaan pichhwade se hi se nikal jaata hai.
BTT: Who is this professor?
Arcopol: I don't know, I was absent.
Prateek: Aaii shappath!!
Ayan Dutta: I can tell you. I will tell you who the professor. But you will have to give something in return. What say..lets make a deal... you give me a cute cat to gift to my girlfriend..
Anushka: (wide eyed) I will tell you.

BTT was finally told about the source by the students. Enquiries are being made into the professor's educational qualifications. It is learnt that he completed his PG Diploma from Bombay College of Journalism. His knowledge of Internet is highly confined to Yahoomail and his command over Radio is only confined to FM Rainbow. Excerpts from an interview with the professor...

BTT: My sources tell me that you are not qualified to teach the subject.
Professor: Ohhh... (looks around blankly...dissolves into a smile)
BTT: Is it true?
Professor: (continues to look around blankly...keeps smiling)
BTT: Are you dumb or what?
Professor: I choose not to answer your QUESTAN.
BTT: You can't do this.
Professor: Remember, I still have your PROZECT with me. I can flunk you.
BTT: Suit yourself. But tell me, what all did you learn about Radio and Internet when you did that PG Diploma Course?
Professor: I don't know. I was absent.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Global warning, courtesy Al Gore

Firstly, special thanks to my revered professor P.K.Ravindranath who agreed to lend me an original DVD of Al Gore's Academy Award winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.

Undoubtedly, the film came to me at an opportune moment. The mercury is rising across the city and the heat wave is unprecedented, atleast in the month of March. Mumbai clocked 41 degree C at Powai, yesterday and even at 8pm, when one expected the temperature to dip a bit, the thermometers clocked 38 degree C. The usual reaction is, "If it's so hot in March, imagine how extreme the summer is going to be in April and May!" The state's inability to deal with power-shortage has exacerbated the situation further, with large parts of Maharashtra, experiencing black-outs for over 10-12 hours. Its a cruel summer, indeed.

Unfortunately, this is only the beginning of what could turn into an annual phenomenon. Hard summers are lined up ahead, every year. If statistics quoted in An Inconvenient Truth are anything to go by, the world is only going to get warmer. The hottest years in the last century are all in the past one decade, with the mercury peaking highest in 2005. The massive heat wave in the same year claimed over 30,000 lives in Europe alone. British environmental journals claim that 'nature's been acting crazy.' And with good reason. Global warming has caused alarming rise in CO2 levels across the world.

Al Gore's film is a fitting rejoinder on the environmental crisis that lurks ahead. According to the film:
"Humanity is sitting on a time bomb. If the vast majority of the world's scientists are right, we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced."

Gore's persuasive argument is convincing enough, albeit at times, scary. And rightfully so. A majority of countries across the world have treated global warming as more of a political issue. International treaties have been signed and nations have decided to come together and pledged to fight global warming. But the film's true merit lies in the fact, that it treats it as a moral issue that could alter the course of global civilization.

He hits the right notes when he presses for our concern to avert global warming keeping our future generations in mind. "50 years down the line, if nature's turmoil does not come to an end, our children would shudder to believe, 'What were our parents thinking?'"

David Guggenheim carefully intersperses the screenplay with Gore's own life story - from proud father who's world changed with his son meeting an accident, to a son who saw the family business of cultivating tobacco come to a stop after his sister fell prey to cancer. ("That's one way you don't want to see yourself die.") The strategy works for the film - firstly it does a lot to break the monotony of being stunned in the face by terrifying facts and figures. Secondly, it makes the narrative more autobiographical. It gives a deeper reason for the viewer to espouse his cause since Gore's story offers a human perspective. It re-affirms him as a messaih of the campaign to save the world for inevitable disaster.

The screenplay offers much fodder to make a dig at the political administration of the US, where Gore was brushed off "as a crazy lunatic offering to play with global warming as an emotional issue." The digs are well-placed and he also cites the case of a clandestine document acquisition, wherein a Bush aide was asked to alter the climate report to be presented in the Senate. Gore professes the following reason for it:
"It is difficult to make a man understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it." The repartee pays off, sending the studio audience into splits. Having said that, it is worthwhile to mention that the film is not the run-of-the-mill sound-byte hunting documentary. Its a studio set-up with a huge LCD plasma screen forming the backdrop. Gore switches across several platforms in the setup to demonstrate statistics, images and predictions, with fervent passion and concern. He takes centrestage throughout. The comfort and confidence with which he deals with the topic is astounding. Since the globe has really not warmed up to the isue yet, he gives enough reason for us to believe him, when he says:
"It is extremely frustrating for me. I've given this slide show about 1000 times. Or rather, atleast 1000 times. I keep hoping that as I proceed from person-to-person, maybe it will create a difference enough for people to reach out for the cause. And every time, I try to focus on what is it that I can do, to make people reach closer to the issue, by making it simpler."

The Inconvenient Truth ends on an optimistic note, providing alternatives to curb the distress. Since it's a global issue, Gore cites historical examples to prove his point wherein Nelson Mandela's victory, the fall of communism and fascism, the invention of vaccines were remarkable global events. He graciously accepts that the US is the highest contributor to global warming and expresses political hope and faith in the democracy so that the issue will be dealt with alacrity:
"It's not been done before, because of the lack of political will in this country. But you know what? In the US, political will is a renewable resource and we're going to make it."

As the movie ends, there are certain facts presented which stay with you for long time. Long enough to make you think it over. I'll list some of them below:

1. The Arctic Ocean could be ice-free by summer 2050.

2. Global sea levels could rise by more than 20 feet with the loss of shelf ice in Greenland and Antarctica, devastating coastal areas worldwide.

3. Deaths from global warming will double in just 25 years -- to 300,000 people a year.

4. Heat waves will be more frequent and more intense.

5. More than a million species worldwide could be driven to extinction by 2050.

CONCLUSION: An Inconvenient Truth is a land-mark film made on a global issue of a different kind. The scope is enormous and the purpose is firm. Carbon emissions have to be reduce at any cost if the future of mankind wants to survive. Perhaps the current generation will not live to see the catastrophic effects of global warming. But the film rightfully instills fear in the name of our future generations, if that is the only alternative, to get people moving into action. That, I believe, is a convenient truth to solving the issue.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Shades of MAMI 2007

After a disastrous IFFI (International Film Festival of Goa 2006), I’d almost developed this allergy towards film festivals. Then in January, there was the much hyped Frames Film Festival, which is supposed to be the Cannes
for BMM film-makers. Frames was utterly disappointing and its evaluation standards are falling every year. There was talk amongst fellow BMM-students from several colleges that Frames is meant to represent majorly the film-making expertise of SIES students first, then talent from other colleges. Either ways, one would expect the turnout to increase. However, that was not so.

Debutante at MAMI

Let me say it straight - Imax Adlabs rocked as a venue for MAMI. It boasted of the requisite hi-tech infrastructure and co-operative staff. Although the location - Bhakti Park, Wadala - is way off the mark from the main city (and many did rant about it), I think it does enough to filter the real film lovers from those who merely come over to warm their seats. A passionate lover of films would definitely go the extra mile to enjoy the best in global cinema, for seven days atleast!


Curse of the Golden Flower
Hong Kong-China
Colour / 35 mm / 111 mins / 2006

Curse Of The Golden Flower from China was a fitting entry as an opening film. Indians like to start off events in all possible grandiose and this oriental magnum opus was breathtaking in its opulent sets and costumes (Nominated for Best Achievement in Costume Design, Academy Awards, 2007). As has been the case with all Chinese period dramas, COFTGF had a good story to bank on. The action sequences were brilliantly choreographed and although the concluding action sequences seemed to go on forever, nevertheless, the ending more than made up for it.

*The discipline showcased in the Tiang dynasty of the 10th century is stunning. Right from frame one, the perfect harmony and order in which the supporting cast and extras have been choreographed is a revelation. I would not be surprised if this very discipline gives China a shot in the arm for an emerging global destination for foreign investment. Such orderliness and worship to work and daily life, coupled with the richness of culture is attractive for investors looking east for greener pastures.
Rating: * * * *


Having to choose between films is the regret of every delegate attending any film-festival. Given an option, we’d like to watch all of them. Amongst the films I was able to catch up, here are some of the notable ones.

Irina Palm
Colour / 103 mins / 2006

Sam Gabarski’s Irina Palm is a neat effort. A simple story of a professional handjob artist, her ailing grandson for whose medical surgery she must earn money, the film runs on a linear plane with some hilarious comic moments. The humour is situational and the story presents a fascinating glimpse of the life of Irina Palm, it never goes over the top. The director has deftly handled the scenes at the sex parlour, where Irina works. The most memorable scene from the film is where Irina’s friends ask her about her job profile. The guffaws from the audience had enough power to light up the auditorium.

Rating: * * * ½

Merry Christmas (Joyeus Noel)
Colour / 35 mm / 110 mins / 2005

If you’re wondering what a great film looks like, here’s one. Joyeus Noel presents the story of the unthinkable. When war breaks out in 1914, it puts millions of men in its wake. But its Christmas too. Unbelievably, its time for some celebration in the warring camps. Rifles are left at the bottom of the trenches and the armies march, candle in hand, to see those opposite, shake their hands, exchange a cigarette and piece of chocolate and wish them “Merry Christmas”. The strongest point of the film is the fact that it shows the power of a festival to bring warring parties together in a spirit of celebration. The fact, that this celebration leads the way in creating truce and furthermore strong bongs between men belonging to different countries, is heartwarming. Based on a true story, the film boasts of some great music, all of which lingers on when the credits scroll up, in the end. A must watch!

Rating: * * * * *

The Wind That Shakes the Barley
English-Gaelic / Colour / 127 mins / 2006

Winner of Golden Palm at Cannes Film Festival (2006), Ken Loach’s masterpiece boasts of powerful direction and performances. Set in Ireland in 1920, it’s the story of the two brother Damien and Teddy, part of a guerilla squad fighting for the independence of their motherland. However, when truce is signed through a peace treaty regarded as unfair by a part of the population, war resumes putting Irishmen against Irishmen, brothers against brothers.

Rating: * * * *

The Land (La Terra)
Colour / 112 mins / 2006

Sergio Rubini’s crime drama is sprinkled with black humour and an infectious set-up of brothers who are out to reclaim a piece of family property. The setting is very adaptable to Bollywood standards and is very watchable. I particularly liked the concluding shot where the brothers are shown atop the rooftops of three houses, having fun throwing pebbles at each other. Brilliant.

Rating: * * *

The Good Shepherd
Colour / 167 mins / 2006

Directed by Robert De Niro, this film created quite a murmur at the Berlin Film Festival, what with a top-knotch star-cast of Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin and De Niro himself. It tells the story of the founding of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and a man who is prepared to sacrifice anything and everything to protect his country. The story revolves around a quagmire of world, where deception is a part of life. Matt Damon in the lead role is terrific in his poise. The film gets monotonous after a while and while being scholarly shot, it offers little in the form of entertainment. Too scholarly and not up-to-the hype that surrounded the film.

Rating: * * *

Red Carpet (Tapete Vermelho)
Colour / 35 mm / 100 mins / 2005

This film is a heartwarming comedy with a deep social message. Quinzinho, a Brazilian country peasant has a promise to keep: to take his 10-year old son to watch a Brazilian Mazzaropi movie just like his father once did when he was a boy. So if he goes with him, his wife and their donkey on a journey through towns and cities to find a movie theatre still playing pictures he so fondly cherishes. But Quinzinho soon finds soon finds out that times have changed. The actors successfully get into the skin of their characters with their rustic look and accents. Although the film makes a slow start, it conveys a strong message about an era gone by, which ceases to exist on celluloid today.

Rating: * * * ½

The Road (Fang Ziang Zhi Lu)
35 mm / 114 mins / 2005

A touching life story of ticket controller Li on the rural bus line. And such is her whole life, like a bus ride with ups and downs. Set in the the prudish Chinese Society of the 70s during the Maoist revolution, the cinematography of the film is simply breathtaking. The deft handling of Li’s relationship with the much older bus driver Master Cui (note the bedroom sequences, sensitively shot) are one of the film’s strong points. Worth a watch, in case you’re in for sentimental touching cinema.

Rating: * * * *

The Child (L’ enfant)

Colour / 107 mins / 2005

I’d seen this one a couple of years back at the Pune International Film Festival, where it won the Best Film. This Palm D’Or winner at Cannes is one of the best French films in years. It tracks the growth of Bruno, the father of a child from childhood to manhood after being carefree and living only for the present. A petty thief, Bruno lives off his wife Sonia’s benefits. Always scheming and always strapped for cash, he decides one day to sell the baby on the black market. It’s the sensitive portrayal of the improvisation of Bruno’s character, all for his child, that makes this film a compelling watch.

Rating: * * * ½

Aviva My Love (Aviva Ahuvati)
Colour / DVD / 107 mins / Hebrew / 2005

Aviva, a hard working hotel cook in the small north eastern town of Tiberias, is on the brink of finally fulfilling her lifelong dream of being a novelist, thanks to her remarkable writing abilities. Due to her sister Anita, she gets introduced to Oded, an accomplished novelist. Immediately recognising her talent, Oded takes her under his wing. But the journey to greatness affects her life and lives of her family. Whats more, when Aviva discovers that Oded has other plans for her work, her world collapses. The contemporary urban setting makes this film extremely likeable. The central character of Aviva wants to be a successful and this trait is identifiable, therefore, the screenplay manages to make the emotions very practical, since most of us want to be achievers and successful in life. The film is well-packaged with its dose of humour and melancholy. A must watch.

Rating: * * * *

The Collector (Komornik)
Colour / 35 mm / 93 mins / 2005

Directed by Polish director Feliks Falk, Komornik boasts of a power-packed performance by Andrzej Chyra. The plot covers 48 hours and shows the rise and fall of Lucek Bohme, who in the name of law, ruthlessly seizes property of individuals and institutions for their debts. A series of incidents soon shock him into an attempt to right the wrongs he has done. However, being far too self-confident, he doesn't realize that his corrupt colleagues and superiors have set him up and falls into a trap. Although the screenplay is breezy and breaks into a rock-music-sorta -jumping-jack-around the city, the film does not give enough time in the transition of the lead character from ruthless collector to generous nobleman. It is however, the no-nonsense performance by Chyra, that this film still becomes watchable.

Rating: * * *

Just Sex and Nothing Else
Hungary Colour / 90 mins / DVD / 2005
This Hungarian film is a humorous romantic comedy about 33-year Dora, a beautiful actress who, after discovering that her fiance already has a wife and a child, decides to advertise for a HIV negative partner strictly for a night of sex, so she can have a child. Although the DVD print was not very clear - the subtitles were unclear most of the times, merging with the background colours - the movie was entertaining to say the least. Film festival afficionados might cry hoarse, since the film was more of a commercial entertainer, rather than the 'film-festival' circuit type of films. Nevertheless, the comedy gave an insight into a talented world of Hungarian cinema.

Rating: * * * 1/2


Spain Colour / 121 mins / 2006
One of the most awaited films at MAMI, Pedro Almodovar's Volver is almost fable-like. Actress Penelope Cruz was nominated for Academy Awards 2007 for Best Actress in her role of Raimunda and rightfully so. With a near-perfect screenplay, the film puts up the hilarious situation when her mother, who supposedly died in a fire with her husband comes back from the dead. Watch out for the title track, where Cruz really elevates her performance to brilliance and deserves a noteworthy mention. The rest of the cast come up with notable performances too. A must watch.

Rating: * * * *

The Near East (Ei Proximo Oriente)
Colour / 95 mins / 35 mm / 2006

Director Fernando Colomo must be watching a lot of Bollywood cinema to come up with a masala flick like this one. A thorough enterainer, in true Bollywood style, The Near East tickles at the right places. While certain sequences, like the revamp of the restaurant are reminiscent of Nikhil Advani's Kal Ho Na Ho, the plot set in the Bangladeshi immigrant community in Spain, is well sketched out. Good music, well-executed comic sequences and witty-lines to bring down the house, this film was a popular choice at the festival.

Rating: * * * 1/2

The Barbarian Invasions
Colour / 99 mins / 2003

This Oscar winner is a touching story of an estranged son who comes home and eases the last days of his father dying of cancer. While the father is a disillusioned academic, he finds it difficult to accept the reality of his death. The son creates an oasis of comfort in the crowded public hospital by getting together his father's ex-wife, ex-mistress and old friends. A must see.

Rating: * * * * *

Turev (Derivative)
Colour / 35 mm / 91 mins / 2005

Winner of the Best Film and Best Woman actress at the 2006 International Chennai Film Festival, Turev is a fantastic rendition of a litmus test for love gone wrong. The film looks almost like a home video - this speaks volumes of the performances and direction - and the screenplay jumps forth between actual happenings on screen and confessions by the characters about their lives. Sureyya wants to confirm whether her lover Nazim is really loyal to her or not. Hence, she asks her best friend Burcu to try and seduce him several times. By the time the film arrives at its conclusion, the tables turn, altering the course of the lives of the three lead protagonists. Paisa vasool!

Rating: * * * *

The Bong Connection
Bengali-English / Colour / 35 mm / 138 mins / 2006

Shot in Kolkata and Houston, the film is a satire around the Bengali community living in these polarised cities. Youngters might be able to identify with the film, as I did, since it reflects the catch-22 situation of the Bengali mindset - one which wants to dwell in the old intellectual past and the other which wants to progress in the globalized world. The screenplay lends itself delicately on these issues with a dig at Bengalis. For once, we end up laughing at ourselves. A very contemporary Bengali film.

Rating: * * *

Telegu / Colour / 35 mm / 111 mins / 2006

Even after winning the Best First Feature Award at the 57th Berlin International Film Festival, director Rajnesh Domalpalli has not been able to find a producer for this masterpiece. Using local talent, none of whom are professional actors comes this poignant tale of a spirited daughter of a low-caste, drink-addicted fisherman. Vanaja will be a great dancer, predicts a soothsayer. Sexual abuse at puberty makes Vanaja seek revenge. The film remains an authentic piece of work since it skilfully portrays the politico-socio implications of sexual abuse, at the same time dwelling highly on semiotics.

Rating: * * * *

English / Colour / 35 mm / 98 mins / 2006

An audience favourite at the festival, the film is a romantic comedy of 32-year old Todd, manager of call centre in Seattle, who is summarily despatched to India to train his own replacement. He expects the worst from this unknown country and the chaos of Mumbai assaults his senses. But slowly, with time, as he gets to know his co-workers, he finds them disarming and thoroughly likeable. He slowly gives up resistance to this new culture and learns a lot about India, to develop an emotional bond with the country. This bonding is almost Swades-like. Peppy to the core and sprinkled with humour throughout, this is one film with a heart. Beautifully shot with delightful performances, especially from Josh Hamilton, Asif Basra and Ayesha Dharker, this film deserves a two-thumbs up!

Rating: * * * *

The Namesake
India USA
English, Bengali, Hindi / Colour / 112 mins / 2006

Based on Jhumpa Lahiri's acclaimed novel by the same name, this film is directed by Mira Nair. It tells the story about the Gangulis: Ashoke and Ashima and their son, who is named Gogol, after the author Nikolai Gogol. Gogol is caught in a different conflict between his Bengali roots to which his parents cling and his American birthright of forging his own identity. The film boasts of brilliant performances by every actor and authentically portrays the confusion of migrant communities in adapting and identifying with a new culture. The film remains faithful to the novel choosing the best parts and the film is satisfactory to say the least. However, a special mention about the lead actors - Tabu, Irfan Khan and Kal Penn - whose performances really elevate the film from being a mere adaptation, to a film with a lot of soul and an identity. Highly recommended.

Rating: * * * 1/2

A delightful week of some of the best films in world cinema finally ended with the closing film, The Namesake. I'm looking forward to MAMI next year already. Over 2000 delegates registered this year for the festival and the numbers are expected to rise. Imax Adlabs still remains a favoured venue, but I'm hopeful that the management will introduce special transportation for delegates everyday, from the next year.

The line-up of films was good. But the Indian segment was disappointing. They still need to be well-marketed in order to capture more delegate attention. Buying and selling of films remains a major problem at Indian film festivals. The organisers must get aggressive about this.