Monday, February 28, 2005

Nat Geo Bollywood special

National Geographic Bollywood Photo Essay commented by photographer William Albert Allard in a lazy American drawl.

Trying times

One of my collegues here suffered a major fall on Thursday. He had climbed an iron pillar (the kind you see supporting overhead rail wires) in our car park shed to retrieve a shuttlecock stuck at the top. He managed to collect it, but on his way down, his leg slipped, he couldnt latch on, and fell down about 20 feet.

Right now, he is admitted in hospital with severe head concussion just above the eye. He is under medication, unconscious and his swelling refuses to diminish and so doctors cannot investigate the extent of damage. They can't even operate properly till that time. His parents are no more and his brother arrived just yesterday (from distant Bihar).

I don't know what's going to happen. Collegues have been going to check on his progress. But he continues to remain critical.

It would be easy to dissect the accident and analyze what went wrong (security should be alert, have badminton kit available in liberal numbers and not to take foolish risks) but it is a lesson learnt the dreadful way.

I just hope and pray he recovers completely from the accident.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Indian Idol

Today is the grand finale of Indian Idol. The program has made history in terms of viewer involvement and participation. Though, somehow not the talk at my workplace, the perfomances and results are discussed and debatedly hotly in trains, buses, offices. The singers and the contest are (should that be an are or an is) getting loads of attention in newspapers and TV.

It's been a fantastic journey for the top 5 guys, coming from obscurity to being center of such adulation and massive fan following, within a span of 6 months. Not many get such a chance and so they must count themselves very lucky. Certainly, Ravi Ravinder, for whom, the only thing going was that things had been not going good so far. Indians are sentimental and that was amply evident in the way, they kept voting him in. Not to take away the credit, for a painter without any training in music, he sung quite well. He has it in him to do a Sukhwinder, if he starting taking music lessons starting with Saaaaaa....

Disappointing is the fact that Prajakta Sukre is out. She is clearly better than Amit Sana, who I think isn't that great a singer to make it to the Last 2. But the guy is lovable, so its alright. Rahul Vaidya was his roomie in the initial rounds and went to say on hidden camera that "Amit Sana lacks talent". Without ever going on a smear campaign, Amit has pointed out Rahul's arrogance and unfair attitude. In fact, after judges rapped Rahul for his overbearing performance, he has turned excessively sanctimonionous and fawning. He should be doing time for best fakery case

That leaves us with Abhijit Sawant. Now, with the support of the Mumbai Muncipality behind, dare anyone challenge him. He was certainly a dark horse and as the series has progressed, has come into his own nicely. He has this beguiling smile, which seems to suggest that he is just there to enjoy and not be concerned too much about the title and money. He leaves Amit Sana miles behind in terms of talent and potential. So unless Amit Sana sings really well or really bad coz of his throat infection (in which case, he will surely have the sympathy vote), Abhijit Sawant will surely be the Indian Idol. We shall know next week.

Whatever it is, by then, India will be in throngs of extreme thumb pain.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Titular pains

The training is over. There was another starting today for 3 more days. But boss says "Enough training, get back to work". So am back to the grind.

Noticed that one of the blogs I had bookmarked, has actually lifted a title from one of my posts. Of course, he could genuinely have thought of the pun within a span of a few days. And it was just a coincidence. And it's after all, nothing but a title. yet it bugs me. The guy has even deleted my comment I posted at his blog.
His post follows along the lines I had written mine, though is very much different in text. Certainly, he hasn't done a Rohan Pinto on me. Still...

Well, may be I am bugged coz he stole just the title and didn't deem it worthy stealing my whole post. Boo... hoo...hoo.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Maal hai to mall hai...

Am right now in the middle of a training session- Oracle PL/SQL. Its a two day session. Thought, it would be a nice refresher course, since it is possible my memory might be playing truant (I keep forgetting what disease Amitabh contracts in Black. Ha!) and I might have forgotten some basics. No gaping memory lapses staring at me yet. May be, tomorrow.

Good part is I received a great Oracle reference book as training material, am connected to the net and can surf for some advanced topics, check mail, talk to friends and of course, update my blog. Keeps me from getting bored needlessly.

Anyway, was at Inorbit, Malad this Saturday and was amazed at the number of shoppers there. Its as if liberalization has unleashed this monster, who is ready to consume anything and everything that her (remember Ogilvy quote - 'The consumer is not stupid. She is your wife'. Or in my case, sister) plastic will buy. The spend now, pay later culture, which till now was the hallmark of the west, is here and how. Most shops in Inorbit are of the designer/upper crust kind. In fact, saw first Ritu Kumar, Satya Paul shop in Mumbai ever. Malad traditionally isn't really that kind of a locality. But new money is jingling and the nouveau rich are swarming the suburbs and are shopping by the car-trunk loads. With all the mad-rush going on, even you are tempted to spend on things you don't really want. Fortunately good sense and bad color-memory ("Deepti, do I have trousers this color ?") kept me from buying anything (though some sales looked genuine).

Hmm, more such monster malls on the way. Go, money, go. (Sigh!)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Mom, see I can talk sense!!

It's not like, I am losing objectivity in my idle idolatry of CNBCTV18 and disapproval of NDTV. Check out Mediaah, the most informed site about Indian media also seconds me (I commented first, you see). Article dated February 11

Anyway, more stuti-suman for CNBC-TV18 anchors. I never mentioned Udayan Mukherjee earlier. Its only because, the women just make you drool like an adolescent teenager and everything else is a pink blur. But seriously, Udayan is almost the best anchor in the country, right now. Or ever. Unlike the others, he is a fin. analyst first and thenan anchor . While talking stocks/market/deals with other consultants, he will first give his ideas, intersperse his talk with fa. and fi., some interesting but vital insight and then ask the consultant for his opinion. All this without the know-it-all air. His discussions are never callow or meandering. Of course, all that comes with tight programming (he ignores callers deviating from their pre-determined questions) and great research. Yet, his knowledge and finesse is quite remarkable.

Then there is Abhimanyu Radhakrishnan, who is just a perfect fit for gadget/technology show that he hosts. Again, a smooth, flawless delivery, great screen presence and nice sense of humour. In fact, I have this nagging feeling that I saw this guy at IITM jam sessions at Sarang, 2001. Hmmm.. Let me focus my mental powers and try to bring back memories of 4 years and 12th day to this one. AAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!

Monday, February 14, 2005



The Outing Season

Friday, we had a project outing. First it was bowling. Its here I am made aware of the lack of wrist power. There was one firang guy with us and he was technically very good at it. The wrist holding from below the ball at 90 degrees to the forearm, torso curved, so that the ball now is in center of gravity position. Then the run-up like a leg-spinner bowling underarm. What he had going for him was his huge wrist power. He could let the ball rip, directing it vaguely towards the right corner, but just when you thought it would hit the gutter, the ball would swing towards the center and take most pins with it.

Go-carting is again more fun than it seems. You are really close to the ground, with the engine roaring behind you. The adrenaline rush is quite something. The Hiranandani track is also quite good, esp the fairly straight stretch, where you can let the monster loose. Pity, its just 4 laps for 120 bucks. Still, worth it. I didn't do bad. Was the fastest of my team with average speed of 34 kph.

Off for some rock climbing. Was able to climb the faux surface and scale the peak pretty easily. The degree of difficulty is only slight (just mid-way of the ascent). Glad that am still in some physical shape and fitness, in spite of completely giving up any p. activity after the marathon.

To make up for all the exertion (ha!), we marched to Saffron Spice. Grub was comme ci comme ca, considering that the resto charges Rs 400 for evening buffet (afternoon its Rs. 200)!


Finally, have finished The Mating Season by P.G. Wodehouse. Quite a good read. P.G. is almost Christie like in terms of tying all the myriad strands of the plot together. Wooster as always faces so many problems of epic proportion (of Wodeshousian type). But with Jeeves by his side, need he or P.G. for that matter, worry?

Half way through the book, I was left wondering, as to who was hitched to whom and whether it was Esmond Haddock pretending to woo Getrude so as to ruffle Corky and get her to fall for him or if it was Corky who was in love with Catsmeat and Catsmeat with Getrude. It was all so confusing. So did a Match the Couples exercise at the back of the book, to find soon enough that someone had already done that on an obscure bookmark. And to top it all, even P.G. realized it was getting all discombobulating (had to use it) and so he has a list of all the cupid-struck in the epilogue. Which of course, you get to read only as you finish the book.

Still, you love all the melee ensuing in the heart melaa and it surely puts a smile on your face.

Now back to the Restaurant at the end of the universe, after a long hiatus. Hope the Heart of Gold knows where to pick me up (and vice versa)

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Balle Balle, Aishwarya in LA

Bride and Prejudice is released in US. and wonder of wonders! the reviews are good. Lets wait till more flood it towards the weekend. Also Rotten Tomatoes don't include british media, which has been scathing with B&P.

News is that Aishwarya Rai did a great job at Letterman show. Great going! After this movie, even if the junta is floored by the ice maiden's beauty, its good enough. I mean, she is not my most favorite actress, but anything for pheharaoing Bollywood zunda across 7 seas.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Slimes of India - my two cents

For some time now, the falling Times of India standards have been a topic of discussion on the blog circle.

TOI devotees praise TOI marketing techniques and brandish the fact that its subscription is exponentially increasing as a proof that it is a great success.
I am going to jump into the discussion fray and add my 2 paise.

TOI is such an historically important brand - almost an institution. The building itself is a landmark of CST. No wonder they call it the Grand Old Lady of Buribunder. TOI is now the largest English selling newspaper in the world. Brands like TOI should not be vandalised for petty commercial gains, simply because their worth, what they stand for cannot be measured in green.

TOI essentially had everything going for it. In most metros, the existing brands were intrinsically so weak, that one didnt need to come charging with splashy front pages, silly puns, flesh infested supplements and low brow analysis to capture the market. TOI, in its classic avatar was enough to put them in hibernation or even cold storage. But Mr Vineet Jain decided that TOI should ride on the standing of the earlier brand and use it to sell crap. Sleaze in any form is unbeatable marketing gimmick. The paper should not only succeed, it should capture everyone - from the intellectual (who reveres the older brand) to the desperate (who would rather have his mouth foam by gawking at whats on paper, than by a toothpaste).

In pure monetary measure, the TOI is a success. But it has essentially starved most English newspaper reading junta of worthy and relevant news. Sincere and serious stories are pushed off the front page or many a times, even off all. When was the last time, TOI did any serious reportage. Or uncovered a major scam or lapse on the part of government/bank/companies? Or carried a sustained campaign about any of the problems plaguing us. They won't or dont because thats not their priority. Its more model hunting, celebrity chasing and party crashing.

WIth such a mass following, TOI is at the helm of incredible manipulative power. It has created a high aspirational value for incredibly materialistic and lavish lifestyles. To begin with, these are not the worlds that normal folks inhabit, but then, one starts subconciously craving for such existence - because its so extravagant. We start to imbibe parts of them - hedonism, partying, fooling around. Most of the articles are under assumed names, so its difficult to check the authenticity of the article anyway. TOI has consistentily got away with this kind of fake articles coz people complain about TINA

I certainly don't have anything against the depravity existing in our society, but to encourage it as a policy is completely unfair.

Then there is a flagrant abuse of the media stronghold they have, by using TOI as a a vehicle to sell other Benneth and Coleman products and services. So, Indiatimes, PlanetM, Times Music Femina, Filmfare all occupy as much space as they possibly can in Times. As if that is not enough, even normal news column are for sale. You want to sell mangoes, go ahead we will put your photo on BT (they did it for DHL). You want to advertise your clinic, we will print your interview. You want to be noticed to get that big break, we will write that you are the hottest hunk/babe in town. Just be ready to loosen your purse strings and we will pimp for you.

All of this has not only lead to a fall in content, but a pathetic lapse of character of the paper. As mentioned above, articles are being invented instead of researched, even movie reviews are copied directly (Nikhat Kazmi) and typos are shockingly creeping in. Indiatimes is actually a soft porn site, with inviting/misleading captions. Repeating of reports on TOI and BT happens frequently. Same articles get circulated in Pune times, Bombay TImes, Calcutta times. Just the names get changed to represent the demographics.

We almost forget that so little reporting about rural India happens in TOI. I am not asking them to tell me village problems. But even major happenings/events that are not city centric are royally ignored or consigned to token reportage.

Nothing captures the decay of TOI more than the common man himself, RK Laxman. Every since his illness, his drawings are more haphazard and unclear. Even the messages are a rehash. Hardly do we get to read to a real barb about current events. He's turned facile like the newspaper. TOI meanwhile wont do away with him, coz he is one of the last vestiges of the empire that was TOI.

If you read the TOI, you will find a very close similarity with the way Sun does it reporting. There in lies the answer. TOI didnt need to turn itself into the Sun. Benneth and Coleman, had enough financial muscle to invest in a new tabloid/newspaper, which would have won massive readership. News International, Mudorch's company owns both The Sun and The Times. But Times has still maintained the dignity and sincerity of a newspaper. In fact, I don't know of any single newspaper where the newspaper has gone so venally commercial. And I dont think there is any way out for the paper. It will have to stay that way and bring out a new paper, to take TOI place. How ironic.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Black is in

Black is certainly not a masterpiece. It is certainly a fine effort and could easily rank amongst the best films of this year (I am sure Bollywood is going to have an inspired year).

It has a taut story, each scene is awash with grandeur (not in Devdas vein though) and beauty (including the best faces in India as the side cast). The cinematography is classy and muted, very much in tune with the European setting. Each frame is an attempt at elegy, which most of the time succeeds.

Certainly Mr. Bhansali deserves an applause.

The role of blind and deaf (hence dumb) is every actor's dream and one cannot squander this chance at all those easy awards (unless you are Abhishek Bachchan). Rani Mukherjee plays with poise, restraint and utter perfection. Amitabh Bachchan is reliable as always. But somehow, leaves me cold. With him, the man is always bigger than the role, and that's a big problem for any actor.

One major thing that people may not know, Black is an English movie. There is a smattering of Hindi, coz all the characters are Indian. But the spoken language is English. Somehow in this movie, it doesn't jar (in the typical Johar, Chopra movies, it gets on the nerves)

Black Friday, meanwhile is still in the cans.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

CNBC TV18 till I die

CNBC TV18 just seems to get better. Content wise, they are far superior than any other business or news channel. The anchors stand in sharp constract to the pedestrain presentation skills of NDTV's. Almost all the news anchors of NDTV (bar Vikram Chandra, and even he sounds casual at times) haven't quite mustered their act of speaking on the telly. You find them mumbling, fumbling and tumbling over words all the time. I would put Prannoy Roy also in this category coz have seen him struggling in live programs (election and budget).

The worst of the lot are Rajdeep Sardesai and Sreenivasan Jain. Mr Jain is especially awful with guests around him (and thats frequently as now he hosts Mumbai Central and some such). Watch him begin a question and then realise that he hasnt really thought about what he's going to ask and then turn to his notes for backup, and go Uh, hmm pause, Hhhhha.. pause... uhhh.. Aaaaaargggggh! These guys have been working on telly for so long and yet the camera still somehow queasy.

Also, moronic is the style of most Indian TV hosts (bar CNBC English of course) to rephrase their sentences in quick succession. Guys! You need to get your thoughts together the first time around.

TV18 have now launched CNBC Awaaz to grab to urban/semi-urban Hindi eyeballs(!). They have generally good hosts with very decent command on Hindi and fresh programming (unlike NDTV, who passes worn (rather shown) overs to NDTV India).

I think, CNBC in general does a lot of research and preparation with their anchors involved at an early stage. This certainly adds an edge and avoids the clumsiness that we see so frequently on NDTV.

But everything aside, I fail to understand, how CNBC manages to get such stunning anchors. I wrote about it earlier And add to that, now we have Maitreyi Seetharaman (or I am late?). A.MA.ZING! A dusky beauty very much in the mould of Shereen Bhan (forget the tan, but angular face, throw of words, body language are ditto) She does have a habit of turning his mouth rectangular while stressing on words, but I will ignore that.

Shereen Bhan, meanwhile can safely lay claim to Dhaljit Dhaliwal's mantle.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Firefox is at the Gates

This is my first post through Firefox. Is quite a simple and sparse browser, but thanks to the Open source community has numerous plug-ins, that can be added to customize it. Hope it provides the one thing that it brags about - better security.

Read the article about Blake Ross and Goodger. Truly amazing. I get the feeling that Blake Ross hasn't done anything in his life than tinker with Netscape, Phoenix, Firebird and the new Firefox (all are improved versions of the previous). Hasn't done him any harm in terms of reputation and mass support.

Clearly Firefox is snapping at Microsoft's heels.