Sunday, January 29, 2006

Bravo, Rang De Basanti!

Yesterday had been an eventful day: had a good meeting with the architect on the site, helped my driver shop for a mobile and get a Trump connection, had Chinese flavoured corn and McDonald’s Chicken burger and fries for lunch, and got to see Rang De Basanti in the evening at PVR Plaza at the invitation of a Dutch bank. And it’s to RDB that I return.
What a film! It’s got an attitude, moves like an animated lizard and rocks like hell. The film celebrates the youth of modern India, call it Gen Y and Gen Next, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that they care beyond their cultivated nonchalance, their carefree bohemia, their silly college pranks, their “chill, man” attitude. They care and they feel passionately. And in that I see hope for this much abused country. The film has a message but it doesn’t harangue: the exploitation of the Raj is replaced by an even more pernicious one by the corrupt and amoral troika of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen in post-colonial India. We need to take stock, shed apathy and participate in governance and make the system work for the people, and not against them. The two parallel stories work in tandem and often fuse, so compelling is the presentation and the appeal.
Of late, it looks as if Bollywood is in a frenzy to reinvent itself. And it does you proud. What a beautifully shot film, the use of duotones (Sepia to depict the past), soft, aesthetic cinematography that makes a virtue out of loud and garish Delhi, the pulsating music that holds no apology for its "with it" tonality, and the works. With this, Bollywood has definitely arrived and one marvels at its energy and freshness. The film works at all levels. It entertains, amuses, provokes and makes you think. And our grand hope is that maybe, just maybe, it will also go a long way, in a tiny but significant way, in making us act.
All actors were good in their roles. Amir as a fun-loving, bike-mad Punjabi-munda, DJ, gets the rustic accent and manner right and the cake. Alice Patten as Sue works at her role and comes across as sincere and accomplished. And endearing, of course. Our umbilical chord with the British for historic reasons is now working in our favour.
Only two things, however, that I would have liked to see a little different in the film: a less melodramatic end and more ruthless editing. On second thoughts, even that doesn’t matter. Perhaps the end reflects our collective angst, a desperate full-measure to change things for the better.
I don’t know why but I like the film reviews at Rediff. Check this one out of RDB. It’s superbly written.
And if you haven’t seen the film, don’t miss it. Despite all our gory politicians and parasitical system, it will make you feel proud of India and give you hope. And hope is what life is all about, isn’t it? Take care…

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Shalimar the clown

Who lit that fire? Who burned that orchard? Who shot those brothers who laughed their whole lives long? Who killed the sarpanch? Who broke his hands? Who broke his arms? Who broke his ancient neck? Who shackled those men? Who made those men disappear? Who shot those boys? Who shot those girls? Who smashed that house? Who smashed that house? Who smashed that house? Who killed that youth? Who clubbed that grandmother? Who knifed that aunt? Who broke that old man's nose? Who broke that young girl's heart? Who killed that lover? Who shot his fiancée? Who burned the costumes? Who broke the swords? Who burned the library? Who burned the saffron field? Who slaughtered the animals? Who burned the beehives? Who poisoned the paddies? Who killed the children? Who whipped the parents? Who raped that lazy-eyed woman? Who raped that gray-haired lazy-eyed woman as she screamed about snake vengeance? Who raped that woman again? Who raped that woman again? (An excerpt from Shalimar…)
Is it a coincidence that I finally finished Shalimar the clown on India’s republic day? Critics may say whatever, but it’s a powerful tale told with passion, empathy and with a certain brutality, for truth needs to be shorn of padding, of the paradise lost. There are two parallel stories here: the loss of Kashmir as God’s own land and the story of unrequited love, lust, loss and revenge.
NYT critic Laura Miller says: “It must be said that despite the author's efforts to foreshadow it, Shalimar's transformation doesn't make much sense. As a rule, Rushdie's characters lack a plausible inner life; instead they have bizarre quirks, unusual looks or magical powers, like the figures in a fable. He seems psychologically astute only in the sketching of minor characters, for example an Indian Army colonel, an unrequited lover of Kashmir, who fantasizes about being nicknamed "Hammer" ("Hammer by name, hammer by nature," he imagines saying) but instead has to settle for "Tortoise" ("Tortoise by name, damned hard-shelled by nature").”
The lady is not necessarily right. It is precisely because he imbues his characters with a certain magical quality, unpredictability and human frailties that make them for what they eventually become: a part of our heightened conscience. Rushdie is not just a writer; he sometimes becomes our conscience-keeper. The problem with Western critics is that so much of the quintessential Rushdie is rooted in the local idiom that they may find it difficult to grasp the compete repertoire of Rushdie’s almost magical prose. That is why there is perhaps the tendency to reduce him to one caricature or the other. He is arguably the most powerful writer in English of our times. And what a beautiful but demanding book Shalimar turns out to be. The bhands of Pachigam and their evocative dance-dramas will reverberate in my mind’s eye for a long time. Read the book. It ain’t easy but it’s worth the effort.
Amitava Kumar on Rushdie in Tehelka
Moorishgirl Laila Lalami's brilliant review

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Nice Nikita

Posting yet another picture of my warm and beautiful friend, Nikita.
Do check out this piece on the resurgence of online advertising in India. Am glad our perseverance in this space is paying off.
And yes, I am about to finish Shalimar the clown. Shall post my short review soon. It’s a sad, beautiful, poignant, powerful, and masterly book written with consummate ease by a master craftsman of real-dreams. It has taken a lot out of me. Take care…

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Oh, women!

K responded to my missive regarding the Natan ad. Perfect fodder for my blog. Here it is unedited:
“1. I’m 35, it’s 3 and 5 and not 3 or 5!!!
2. That mail got to you by mistake. You weren’t supposed to be on the bcc list.
3. It takes you a week to reply?
4. I lied on point 2!!

Saw Dead Man Walking again yesterday on the idiot box. Poignant, powerful, almost perfect. Here are excerpts from the Ebert review:
“After seeing "Dead Man Walking," I paused outside the screening to jot a final line on my notes: "This film ennobles filmmaking." That is exactly what it does. It demonstrates how a movie can confront a grave and controversial issue in our society and see it fairly, from all sides, not take any shortcuts, and move the audience to a great emotional experience without unfair manipulation… any conventional story, we would expect developments along familiar lines. Take your choice: (1) The prisoner is really innocent, and Sister Helen leads his 11th-hour defense as justice is done; (2) They fall in love with one another, she helps him escape, and they go on a doomed flight from the law; or, less likely, (3) She converts him to her religion, and he goes to his death praising Jesus. None of these things happen. Instead, Sister Helen experiences all of the complexities, contradictions and hard truths of the situation, and we share them.”
And, oh, I have begun work on Ms. Liz and her darling Submissives, a bold poem on women and their alternative relationships that had been brewing in my mind for some time.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

First Remote

K (she can be naughty sometimes) sent me this interesting ad of Natan jewellery. It works, whaddya say?

The Economist in its latest edition has a cover story on the mainstream media’s struggle with the digital world. Do read the piece here. The story concludes as follows: “Any media business has two products to sell: its content (to readers and viewers); and its audience (to advertisers). The task for old media is first to protect its advertising revenues by amassing audiences online and, second, to offset their viewers' intolerance of mass-advertising by making them pay more for content—which they are increasingly willing to do. It will not be easy, but then saving the heroine never was.”
Btw, S is in Bangalore on work, and Indo-Pak cricket ain’t working, thanks to flat pitches. Life goes on...

Friday, January 20, 2006

Digital Summit 2006

Just wanted to post a quick note to say that my short speech as a part of a long panel on the emerging Broadband scenario in India at Digital Summit 2006 at Mumbai on the 17th went off well. A Google search shows that it received a decent coverage. Do take a look at:
Mumbai Mirror
Dina Mehta’s blog
Sadly, the summit focussed on Web 1.0 and did not include anything about Web 2.0. Concepts like social networking, bookmarking, user generated content, new web ecosystem, collaboration tools were not even mentioned. The quality of speakers was also rather mediocre. However, besides the usual networking, the highlight for me was meeting lovely Nikita of TV Today. Nikita in London
I met her for the first time at Ad Asia 2003 at Jaipur and bumped into her again at the Summit. There are some people with whom you connect for no apparent reason, and wonderfully warm Nikita is one of them.
Next day, I attended the Al and Laura Ries seminar on Branding and it was refreshing to hear the father-daughter duo. They talked about brand line extensions and the mushy middle (how they don't work!), the law of divergence, the law of the opposites, positioning etc, in a lucid and demystified manner. Do check out Laura’s blog here. Cool stuff.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Busybee @ Work

Last week had been pretty eventful at the work front. I was asked to deliver the welcome address at the BPO Conclave 2006 and also made a presentation on Webisodes and Animation content: Is the Indian market ready? at Nasscom’s Animation India 2006 at Hyderabad. I am not from the animation industry and was a trifle nervous. However, my presentation was well received and it was truly a humbling experience when tens of business guys flocked me after the presentation. I was told by Nasscom that I spoke with passion, my session received a good feedback and that I will be invited next year too. Keeping my fingers crossed…:)
During the week, I also had two interesting visitors, Ari from Oberon Media Singapore and Sarah from BBC and it was fun meeting with them. Ari, an Israeli, is a seasoned gaming industry professional. His role model is his beautiful wife who has a double degree in law and he has promised to bring her to India next time. Sarah, who I had met earlier too, came with her online editor for South Asia, Bernard, and we truly had an enriching conversation about how India is changing and would call the shots in the emerging new world order. I believe that a sincere conversation, without the hard sell of business talk, also turns out to be the best way to do business.
Do take a look at my poetry blog at Sulekha. Sulekha has a great community and it’s nice to get comments on poetry. My friends, Sanaya and Vishi, relocated from Cochin to Agra in June 2005, and I got to know that when we received their new year’s card. Vishi is now the GM of The Oberoi Amarvilas that is located 600 meters from the Taj Mahal. It’s a super cool hotel and it must be fun to run it.
Take care all ye folks…

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Coldest Day

Well, today is the coldest day in Delhi in over 70 years. Imagine the temperature plummeting to 0.2 degree Celsius! (Hey, can somebody please tell me how to put the degree symbol!) Today also happens to be my Birthday. As far as my birthday is concerned, I have always had an ambivalent attitude towards it. Don’t see the need to make a fuss, kinda sounds self-indulgent. Anyway, I had a quiet day: Saw the concluding part of The Mayor of Casterbridge (Henchard, what a forlorn and tragic man!), read parts of Shalimar (still at it…), went for a walk, etc. My friends sent lotsa warm messages. K even googled for a funny message but finally settled for a warm note. Thank you, folks.
That Elizabeth-Jane Farfrae be not told of my death, or made to grieve on account of me.
& that I be not bury’d in consecrated ground.
& that no sexton be asked to toll the bell.
& that nobody is wished to see my dead body.
& that no murners walk behind me at my funeral.
& that no flours be planted on my grave.
& that no man remember me.
To this I put my name.
Michael Henchard

I have started a blog titled Life in Cyberia at Indiatimes. Though I don’t get much time to update it, I shall try my best to keep posting interesting stuff. Do lemme know what you think of it. Also discovered that I have a poetry blog at Sulekha that I had started sometime back. Enough rambling. Now, I shall key in some thoughts for Life in Cyberia. Take care…

Monday, January 02, 2006

Retrievr and Fido

Discovered a truly interactive search engine, Retrievr. It searches Flickr on the basis of the sketch we make. It’s still in the experimental stage and great fun. I played with it for almost 15 minutes. The results may not be 100% accurate, but I am no Picasso either.
On the fun beat, do check out this uber cool rich media ad by 7 Up. Fido’s Mind Space is a chic hangout developed by Studio Smile. Besides TV ads, do internalise Fido's mantras. Lotsa gyan you can use. Cheers…

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy 2006

Had a quiet new year eve at home with Shelle's parents and their generous-to-a-fault friend, the famous Dr. Varadarajan, who brought in a bottle of Chivas.
Saw two wonderful films. Continuing my admiration of RPG’s work, Raincoat, and The Mayor of Casterbridge. Though Raincoat has a slow pace, I loved its languid quality, searing inner intensity and the use of different colour frames to depict the present and the past. However, somehow one feels that the story should have had a more long drawn-out closure. It’s beautiful in its poignancy, and Ash floating between the bubbly and the comely, the passionate and the indifferent, is stunning. Sukanya Verma’s review at Rediff is pretty apt. Way to go, RPG. Gotta see more of you for sure.
Today, we saw the first half of The Mayor of Casterbridge. Hardy has been my favourite author, and Michael Henchard epitomises a tragic-hero. You love him, you hate him. I am reminded of my school days when I religiously devoured all Hardy books. Do take a look at this plot summary of The Mayor…at B& N’s remarkable SparkNotes. Can’t wait to catch the concluding part next Sunday on Zee Studio.
Have a super-duper 2006, and lotsa sunshine in the years to come. Take care…