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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Noticed this the first time the ignominious manner in which the Energy Kapoor escapade broke, and the ensuing chaos thereafter. One of the many conclusions/interpretations drawn by a barrage of illiterate newsreaders, “analysts”, “media moguls” and the like was that this incident was not isolated and similar stuff has continued Time Immemorial. They have stretched the argument further and expectorated that the knowledgeable ones ( those who’ve been to the schools and colleges that they have, and spout drivel ) that this has always been “an inevitable evil”, “ an accepted and recognized fact” and more seditiously , “ a way of life” in disparate fields and disciplines such as Media—print & television, Films, Sports, Management, Medicine, Government affairs (sic) and other streams.

Must confess to being nonplussed by the fact that I did not even hear the familiar protesting and resisting squeaks against this bland generalization. Almost as if all around us had condemned themselves to this perdition silently.

While I may possess a debilitating paucity of first-hand knowledge in other strata, I adduce a fleeting strain of a contrary opinion—not quite a bark, but more than a bleat.

It is a scathing indictment of any achievement to insinuate, covertly or otherwise, that the feat has been accomplished by anything other than merit, industry, gumption and grit. There is an element of Luck in every sphere but that peters out and evens out with time and longevity.

In India, there is a plethora of reasons to explain why the distaff side has not always been well represented in the corporate world. The more apparent ones being, familial domestic duties, location issues, pride at home and a yawning overall lack of ambition, fuelled unfailingly in childhood and fostered through adolescence. These are endemic and not individual issues.

There have been stray cases of peaks climbed, which indeed are misleading because of their being portrayed as Amazonian, and insensitive, or else as Superwomen, to whom all else is suborned. And there could be more meaningful causes to which the preponderance of the gender in the only Indian firm that has made a song and dance about the matter.

More recently, the burgeoning software and BPO industries have ensured that more women enter and contribute to “regular” work ,read other than housework. I’ve some reservations about these, but they can wait…

Moreover, most companies have explicit guidelines on any aspect germane to the topic, and it is indeed unfathomable, that an individual can get away with even a wafting hint. If anything, erring is on the side of caution and folks make an over-the-top effort to maintain bonhomie and camaraderie and not even a whiff of untoward occurrences emerge.

Furthermore, although I’ve come across at least shades of misadventures and misdemeanors in other areas, I have yet to even hear canards or sniff undercurrents in the corporate world.

No smoke, hence no fire ?

Am I missing something ?


Monday, March 28, 2005


The advertising fraternity has hardly been anything other than remiss in their head-in-the-clouds demeanour while selling their souls to peddle baubles to buildings. Have never witnessed a single one of them owning up to a poorly conceived, shoddily panned , ill-executed and tawdrily-shot spot. The less one brings in the supposed raison d’etre of representing the nation’s pulse the better.

Saw a few adverts that pandered to something that I thought had long gone away from the Indian psyche—serfdom, class distinctions and “prestige”. And some others which refuse to live down the “dream” of escaping to the wastelands of Idaho, or wherever, where there’ll be rain clouds of fecundity and happiness.

One ad showed a postman, or some such luminary, refusing to hand in his delivery to the “man of the house”.
Because in his opinion, the “master” of the house did not look like an important person ( Of course the spot plays up the resplendence of the paint quality on the wall to whose exalted quality the humble garb of the resident does not match up ). This is followed by a series of service providers all unwilling to “do the needful” as they do not accept that the house owner’s habiliment is good enough to command their respect.

Another has a security engineer who expostulates on the pecking order of the guests who enter the hotel where he is at the helm of affairs, to his crony. He insouciantly waves in Government officials, doctors, captains of the industry, architects but when someone who “does something with Computers “ enters in a Worthington-esque car, he prods his soporific stooge and both salute smartly. And that is the “brand proposition” of the advertised four-wheeler.
(Ed—Whiff of your own bias here—am not certain YOU have been able to figure out what most folks do “with computers” !)

There is another where a middle-aged gent rides an idyllic bicycle on an autumnal landscape, luxuriously ruminating on what life would have been had he been able to live it on his own terms. He speaks uxoriously of a holiday with his wife, some dream for his son, and then, his earnest desire to have his daughter study abroad.

The least offensive is that of another financial major in which a tetchy wife is suitably impressed with her husband’s assiduity and perspicacity because they find a bank which matches the bloke’s late hours. I e they find a back which works into the wee hours—I e 8 pm.

The first two unashamedly cater to our “Indianness” that prizes gloss, sheen, size (sic !) , grandeur above all other parameters. I cannot but gnash my teeth helplessly at the third—its cancerous import is ominous and calamitous. The fourth’s ostrich-in-the-sand comportment is only an honest representation of how it operates in real life.
C;mon Abby Baby !


Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Have decided to expand my film-viewing panorama. The first to fall my way was “Dhoom":, an action-packed motorbike gang vendetta intermittently lapsing into a skin flick.

The now-familiar banner of putrefying Yashraj Films notwithstanding, I held my nerve and staggered on past the opening credits.

The story has Abhishek Bachchan, Uday Chopra, John Abraham. I know-- these guys cannot act. Well, that is easily managed because two are safely ensconced on vehicles with helmets that might choke the medulla oblongata ( hence no danger of having to emote on screen as their visages are obscured beyond recognition ), and the third is saddled with a role that permits him to behave as if he were paid per expression. Nifty work from the director !

There were three belles too—as the eager viewer would imagine. Esha Deol in perhaps her most assertive role so far, a lass whose name I do not know who plays the cop’s mantelpiece wife and spouts ersatz Bengali when excited, and promises to feed him mooli parathas for breakfast and aloo parathas for dinner, packs him gobi parathas and lassi for lunch, while dropping him off at work. Possibly, every Thinking Man’s Fantasy !! Perizaad Zorabian in a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo, again a very thoughtful director.

A cop has to trace, track and trap a gang of thieves on hot wheels—yep, that’s the plot.

Seemed to be an all-guys film, extremely overt machismo, the apparent brazenness of the plot as the mean marauding motorbikes parade with a Street Hawk-esque maniacal speed are the aspects that stuck.

Skidding wheels, a glint of steel, a racy background score are some elements that are used to good effect. Found the film engrossing enough—the unrelenting heady pace of the movie and the in-your-face directness were appealing. As stated, it was more a visual spectacle rather than a plodding narrative.

Music—all songs acquired a repetitive popularity, so I set my reservations aside although personally, they were terrible. And yes, aurat teri yahi kahaani—again perhaps the wrong place to proffer women’s emancipation.

Overall, surprising myself, I give it a Thumbs Up .


Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Participated in the open NMIMS Sports and General quizzes held on site over the weekend—more precisely culminating at 5 am on Sunday morn.

Met Parnab M in the flesh for the first time. Had heard a lot about him through multifarious sources, and hence was of some novelty value.

Will begin at the beginning.

Nope, we did not win.

Managed a 3rd in the Sports quiz and edged out of the medals in the General.

That itself did not, does not hurt.

Partnered my best friend from school, Sameer in the two-member Sports quiz, qualified , with surprisingly greater resistance than we had envisaged, led till the last round before as is my wont, things fell apart.
( A separate post on Sameer later whom I’ve known since 1985. Wow !) .

Fell to Delhi Bengali dudes—bankers, students et al. (Ed--That's the worst form of stereotyping yet )

Cobbled a coalition in the four-member General –with Vibhendu, Saif and Abhishek, qualified easily enough and again were outmuscled when it counted. Unlike the previous quiz, we did not look like ever winning this.
Ditto w r t the winners.

NMIMS knows a lot about kitschy RDB, Choreography, Informals, Strobe Lights

Quizzing ??

I move on.

Just a humble way to separate fact from opinion because I now will dive deep into the Mystery of the QM—the aforementioned Parnab M.

On last count, I am still ambivalent about the QM.

As the Gentle Reader will know, this is the person who asks questions without cue cards, an aide-de-memoire, a prompter, those PowerPoint slides that I so abhor, or any discernible media. I wallowed in this all night and was yet unable to come up with a way to explain this fully..

Maybe a miracle of memory, a freak, a pattern that none of us have been clever to detect, any of the reasons are probable. As Vibhendu says, his theatre background could have helped cos’ most actors are required to learn books by rote.

The trouble is, for all my scepticism, I was able to fathom only one “bad” question. Bad, not because it was simple and we did not get to answer it, but in terms of the depth needed, this one q fell far afoul of the standard set and maintained throughout the event.

To be fair, many well-worded questions did not fit the litmus test of Truth and meandered more on the fictitious, cooked-up, constructed and connived. This is an allegation that I was familiar with , and hence prepared when confronted with this. No getting away from it, ‘tis a tough task to grope for the answers if there is an element of duplicity and “effect” in the question itself. I don’t even know if our fellow finalists found it as hard to stomach as we did. Maybe…

I still think he redeems himself with the sheer repertoire and variety explored. For a long time , Sports questions dealt with more than Wimbledon, EPL, NFL, F-1, World Series, World Cups and the ilk. And general stuff found a voice well beyond some rotten fundas about H2G2, Tolkien, Dylan, Amitabh, RDB, and some trite Hollywood factoids. in an even representation of subjects—History, Politics, Lit, Science etc.

Most straddled diverse fields even in Sports—Fair Play awards, Coaches, Chess, Fencing, Volleyball, Associations, Athletics, and interesting takes on c & f.

Of course, there was more than a pronounced tilt towards Bengali ways of life, North Indian art, Lit, Theatre and NGOs—deprecatingly called jholawallahs. We were caught in the headlights as most of the questions whizzed by and tuned to the luxurious “ Hey, it’s time-Now can you give us an answer ?” demeanour of our circuit, we froze. Frenetic pace and our own palpable discomfort with the bewildering array was our undoing. A refreshing change from looking at an “easy” answer too.

Additionally, I must say he’s just—inasmuch that I liked the authority with which he clamped down on audience murmurs, and even the rare fisticuffs between teams on stage ( Was the receiving end myself , when a particularly revolting Faiz+ Khadi+ Jhola+ Long hair geek had me seething ). Also reluctantly admired his open scathing imprecations of Derek, the “prostitu tionalizing” of quizzing, etc.

Am vacillating as to my final pronouncement, but meanwhile
Hey, how does he do it ?



Watched Page 3 .

In dark light made worse by the camera used in the film.

Director undecided as to make an over-the-top expose or to let homilies and truisms roll on unthreateningly. Did not pick up too much—I had figured that everyone always knew that most of the menagerie that throng to be in the “news” are self-serving spineless vermin with a penchant for chemicals, liquids, back-biting and other elevated forms of demented shenanigans.
Their stories are swathed in mindless intrigue and secrecy—the trouble is, I could not bring myself to get even a faint whiff of ‘em.

Music lousy.

Protagonist clueless about her own identity and maybe that was the anodyne approach attempted by the director. Let not the main character have a mind of her own—that way all the goings-on in the underbelly of celeb life can be understood with an “open mind’ by the viewer. Interesting, except when this is known to the viewer, then it becomes less a story than a documentary. KSS plays a part, seemingly without an emotional underpinning, and hence is bereft of any percipience whatsoever. Maybe she played her part well.
Difficult to tell with the storyline.

Found the drivers’ epiphanies particularly contrived.

PS : Overheard

1) Aftab Shivdasani & Riteish Deshmukh taking umbrage at the extent of nosiness purveyed by the media into the private lives of celebrities.

2) Celina Jaitley ( Ed—Yes, I know, I know it’s coming ! ) –Who’s she ? Telling a befuddled interviewer “ I have never let my celebrity status affect me” .

Wonder why these folks should agonize over celebrities !!!I mean, how does it affect them ?


Thursday, March 10, 2005


Or Don’t give up so soon as the end is not far, more power to your limbs and lungs, we can win because O Liitle Brother , You can do it
(Ed—Pithy working title !)

Aha, at last a film in a language other than H & E, we can safely discount Amelie for the moment as I would have flailed irretrievably without subtitles.

Would be prudent to state that the film was in Tamil, directed by k balachander and starred Kamal Hassan, Seetha, Gemini Ganesan, Manorama, Janakaraj and a few trees.

The story of a music maven and his insensitivity to worldly suffering that deeply pains and repels his sensitive son, who though musically inclined and accomplished, is increasingly distraught and distanced from his father.

Finds intellectual companionship, and later love with an outspoken Harijan girl, from whose travails he derives inspiration. His father meanwhile has adopted a Brahmin orphan who is nurtured and placed as his protégé at the expense of his own son. Things boil over when an indignant Gemini accuses Kamal of sponging off his successes and throws down the gauntlet inviting Kamal to make it big on his own.

He does, bringing succour to a beleaguered village haunted by the pall of alcoholism with his enterprising fiancée. Challenged once again by the counterpunching villagers to forbear marriage as a precondition to their staying off C2H50H, he acquiesces. Is feted by the Prime Minister and Proud Pa hugs him on stage.

Loud applause , misty eyes…

Constant refrain of heady idealism, so no surprises on theme. Steady performances expectedly from all the leads. Average music (heavy on classical and hence wasted on me ) bolstered by a very decent background score, classically attuned with the violin, mridangam, nadaswaram all into play. Perhaps the best of the cast were an eccentric and arrogant Gemini, and a pragmatic Manorama, who battles her own inadequacies and caring for her mute husband, G’s elder son.

As stated, the idealism is on the high side. I thought kb wasted the middle third with the heroine inexplicably disappearing entirely, and hence not really comparable to the other epic, Varumai Niram Sivappu ( The Colour of Poverty is Red , that’s the translation for those who like to be informed) where Sridevi shines throughout the film, matching Kamal in histrionics and dialogue. Another handicap for me is that I am yet to fully apprecisate casteism and its encumbrances in rural India.

Felt kb could have executed better in familiarizing the viewer with the why of the bottle rather than a sterile treatment just as a malaise corrupting homes. Also, that Manorama was given lesser freedom of expression, and she may just have waltzed into a Damini-esque tirade against the pathetic lot of the (Indian)woman ( which La Belle Karen Anand preens she knows about )

A watchable film, nevertheless and a 7 on 10 !


May not have picked up this book had the blurb not promised big things from the renowned McEwan, snooty pretender that I am.

( There was a Karen Anand cookery show on at Crossword at the same time on the occasion of International Women’s Day ( Ed—the irony is not lost on me !), so having sniffed around and satisfied myself that no goodies were to be “sampled” I settled down and began )

A collection of seven dark independent stories and one of his earlier works. The blurb faithfully and unabashedly describes these as “ transcripts of dreams or accurate maps of the tremor zones of the psyche” . Clearly an over the top and smarmy definition of these stories that do not really rise to any heights, nor do they instill interest in the shenanigans of the twisted, mauled and kinky protagonists ( Ed—Priggish ! )

There was no epiphany of realization, so if the author was hoping for the theatrical elements of shock and awe (Ed—Must you repeat that cur !) , he did not get ‘em. Since the theme of the book appears to be imaginative symbolism of a sexual nature, some of the stories may have actually have had the desired effect when they were published originally—in the seventies.

Pornography” is a yarn flogged to death, “ Reflections of a kept ape” is about the wan musings of a simian enchained in a romantic interlude with his mistress, “ Dead as they come” deals with a torrid affair that an intransigent arrogant mogul has with a mannequin, and so on.

There is decidedly a conscious endeavour to alarm, benumb and startle.
And am not sure that he pulled it off.

No, a 4.5 on 10 !

A word on a phenomenon—while it seems ineffably difficult to repeat a grand first marquee, in some fields , initial works fall afoul of the viewer’s lofty expectations.


Tuesday, March 08, 2005


Am still not wholly sure that I was the right audience for this book –at least from the writer’s point of view. That, and also the literal expanses of land and sea between this tale’s settings and my own cloistered coordinates.

The Summer Book is a recounting of a relationship between Sophia, a motherless six-year old and her grandmother during a carefree summer vacation spent on a remote outpost of an island in the Gulf of Finland.

The book is divided into separate chapters based on incidents that occur on the island as they explore every nook and cranny of the island. Each chapter accords itself as a vignette of their stay on the island, as they revel in the manifold delights of discovery, adventure and even danger and fear as their lives are threatened by a fearful storm.

Sophia and her lively Gran talk and sulk, argue and bicker, revisit old memories and file away new ones. Expectedly, Sophia’s opinions are at once childish, precocious and incisive, just as her Gran’s are measured, stark, and built on experience. Both extremely credible characters—most readers would certainly relate to all that transpires in the summer, and that adds to the realism of the book. Sophia’s father is by far the only other character in the book, if one were to ignore the variety of interesting flora and fauna that show up on the way. His is a “non-speaking part”, but his presence can be felt by the reader, as he flits from venue to venue embroiled in the pressures of his work.

The bond between granddaughter and grandmother is a tenuous one, fraught with complete acceptance and understanding, with the elder making mental notes every now and then, and with the younger unfettered with queries on Death, Marriage, Work and other sombre stuff.

The author’s profound love for the Scandinavian geography is appealing—though most Indian readers would struggle to visualize life on an island where there is only one family living, the vicissitudes of Nature, the sun not setting till about four in the morning, the pleasures of building your own home, and (at least for me !) the distant memories of an endless summer holiday with nothing to do.

No elaborate thematic dramatization marks any of the chapters and hence the narration is comfortably loose, fluid and interesting. The prose is breezy, summery, languid, unimposing and makes for easy reading.

For the record, the characters are loosely based on the author’s own mother and niece, whose photographs too appear in the book. Jansson is far better known for her Moomin series, which I will take up soon.

I’ll give it a 7.5 on 10 !
(Ed—Influenced by your favourable disposition to both your grannies )


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

THREE PLAYS—A Ranting Ruler assailed by the Middle Class Indicted in a Court of Law

Been some time since I read any half-decent play , except within a book—as in the Trials of Arabella, in Atonement—coming to which I shamelessly missed an interview with McEwan on the radio, vacillating between watching the Greatest Show On Earth ( no, not Barnum’s circus ) and the vacuous Budget before settling on a Henry interview.

Three Plays is a smorgasbord, I am certain that there will be better ones lurking on musty corners and languishing silently beyond our vision but for sheer putative acclaim, Tughlaq, Evam Indrajit and Silence! The Court is in Progress , would be tough to trample over.

Tughlaq has a long and insightful prologue written by the venerable U R Ananthamurthy ( again , I must submit my ignorance at what he has actually written elsewhere ) which examines life in the times of the great Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq in engrossing detail. UR A provides us good reading background into the thematic context of the play, its historical “situations” , use of emotive display, narrative devices—like the two Macbeth-like characters titled Aziz and Azaam who flit in and out changing the pace of the play, and stringing the willing audience around. The Parsi technique of using the foreground of the stage for “shallow” scenes and the entirety for “deep” scenes was also , sadly, lost on me as I am a mere reader.

A most interesting play on one of the most complex of Indian emperors—who is increasingly tetchy and intolerant as time goes on, superbly well-informed and erudite, as enlivened to his surroundings as distanced from his people.

Can be studied in many hues—at one level, an exasperatingly intelligent king thwarted time and again by Fate and Followers, one far ahead of his time frustrating his subjects with new-fangled tenets of secularism and amity, abiding respect for Knowledge, Fearlessness and Integrity.

At another, a conniving genius masking capacious lust for individual immortality by timely allusions to the lonely peaks of high idealism and hence miring himself in the quicksand of Court politics. His infernal narcissism playing havoc on the morale and contentment of his troops.

Richly layered and a page turner—even though the “success” of the protagonist long a figment of the reader’s imagination.

Evam Indrajit in Bengali by Badal Sircar is in a much more reasonable setting, although the leitmotif is the inherent contradiction that is the Indian Middle Class, which as we all know, is itself only a fleeting thought in somebody’s mind.

The protagonist begins by questioning in painstaking rigour, all the multifarious norms and mores helf by this faceless body and ends in desolation and despair.

Compromise is an escape.
The rest is Silence.

Had read the last a decade ago, and Vijay Tendulkar is an excoriating playwright, doubtless.

Only quibbles were my own frailty—to play the right kind of music during my read—NFAK instead of Muzaffar Ali, and my abject inability to read in any language other than English or Hindi. Sad !


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