Wednesday, February 21, 2007

We stepped a line, Mr T. You didn't

And you will continue stepping several lines, and it's all our fault. Why wouldn't you, when you rant and rave and warn journos not to write anything defamatory about your sweet-as-sin toddler Uddhav, we just hang our heads in shame and silently promise to comply with your wishes.

It's not your fault that you hold forth on every topic, right from the Samjhauta Express tragedy to Black Friday. The fault is entirely ours. We put the idea into your head that maybe, just maybe, you and your amazingly proactive party should do something about stopping the screenings of Black Friday. You declared with a beatific smile on your face that if the film glorified Dawood Ibrahim, you would stop the screenings in Mumbai.

And then one particularly pushy reporter says, "Saheb, tya film madhye asahi mhatla aahe ki Thackeray, Advani hyana udvaicha kat hota." The smile vanishes, and you announce, "Me aadhi ti film pahto. Mag tyavar kay karvai karaichi ti baghu."

(Note: Anurag Kashyap, more publicity coming your way. Get a new wardrobe and a shave in preparation for interviews in the coming days).

Anyway, you also announce that the media is a chor, the media is only out to get you and your family and that your only advice to nephew Raj (who, you say, majhya mandit mutla hota) is to keep away from Maharashtra Times' Sukrut Khandekar, and we all giggle and look at you in awe as if you just made the joke of the millenium.

Like I said, it's really not your fault. I always used to think that your fault lies in assuming that you have patented rights to say anything about anything. Your fault is also in honestly believing that your views and you will never be opposed. Your fault also lies in thinking that you own all of the city and it was through your efforts alone that Mumbai is still surviving in its present form.

But then I look back at all the simpering and ass-licking and guffawing at your inane remarks (I applaud your gift for talking a lot and saying little), and I wonder if it's not our fault as well. After all, we let you carry your delusions into our workplaces, let the fear of your office-bashing minions stop us from wording strong stories, let a pint-sized politician of low cunning take over our imaginations and religiously note down your opinions on government policy, rival parties, films even.

And you can rest assured that we won't give you or your precious master strategist son any bad press because we have been WARNED. We promise to comply. Just do us a favour and keep your next press meet in Sena Bhavan - your house is too cramped and we want an uninterrupted view of you in all your frail, foul-mouthed glory. Besides, as many journos whispered to each other later, Sena Bhavan always offers refreshments...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Some pics of general interest on Valentine's Day.

The guy in the picture wanting to go to the men's room is Aamir Khan (who never attends Indian film award shows but gallivants at award dos in the West) at this year's BAFTAs, where everybody wore black to mourn such films as Babel.

From left to right: Aamir in faux mohawk look and shoes which he wore with a three-piece suit at another party. Amazingly graceful outfit at this party, though. Centre and right- two old fogies, one of whom won an award for holding the other old fogie's garbage bag dress together.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think somebody pulled a Frankenstein on Aditi Gowitrikar (if it is indeed her?)? Pictured here is Aditi with Sarika's eyes, Zeenat Aman's jaw and nobody's hair.
Ooh, but the dress is complete Valentine's Day stuff. But did anyone notice that Aditi is trying hard to conceal a little kid's sling bag inside her dress? Look close; see the red strap? Probably a gift for her second baby.

This is designer Manish Arora (the queen on the left, not the woman on the right), who had an evening showing of his latest collection in London yesterday.

Apparently, our Manish impressed the junta well and propah. So the initial applause went to his head, and he dragged out what looks like Kate Moss dressed in one of the tin foils the backstage guys use to wrap lights in.

Manish took the show in his stride - he was nonchalance personified with a salt-and-pepper mould on his face and a strategically-placed hand to cover a coffee stain on the shirt front.

Producer of Water David Hamilton poses in Toronto with director Deepa Mehta's evil older sister, who recently turned 100.

This seems to be a happy outing for the two - Hamilton was recently quoted as saying that he was fast losing his fear of 'the unknown', while Deepa's sister (name withheld to protect identity) will soon be fitted with a new set of teeth, something which should bolster her confidence.

The guy in the centre, known as Irfan Pathan, plays cricket in his spare time. When he's not playing cricket, he takes a shave with bad razors and gets fooled into driving in circles by little boys.

We snapped Irfan just when he crossed the finish line after clearing the 200m Langdi Race for Pretend Cricketers. Teammate Harbhajan Singh didn't look pleased to be coming in second. If you notice, Harbhajan was mentally marking the spot where he would stab Irfan in the dressing room.

Next change: Eklavya. This is Vidhu Vinod Chopra's next venture after Mission Kashmir; he has Amitabh play Ravan in this film, if the poster is any indication.
left to right: Saif Ali Khan (who has not brushed his hair since Dil Chahta Hai), girl with big nostrils, Sanjay Dutt (who cannot go to jail because he has family to take care of), Amitabh Bachchan (whose eyes, some part of nose and lower lip are just visible above the tropical forest on his face), Boman Irani (looking pained to be in the picture), Jimmy Shergill (who has just discovered that he is not carrying his train pass and the TC is in the compartment) and Jackie Shroff (trying level best to look impressive and failing parlously).

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ragged to tears

So there was a meeting presided over by this highly learned Committee appointed by the Supreme Court to look into ragging and what causes it and how to prevent it and the whole blah.

Except that this highly learned Committee showed that it was comprised of six impatient farts, who would give everybody just two minutes of airtime and not allow us press guys to ask the same kind of question over and over again.

Idea being, that this Committee would document the views of students', parents', educationists', government officials' and everyone else willing to talk about the subject. Their observations will then be sent to the Apex Court, which can merrily take it's own time to act on the recommendations and implement a strong law, if it so desires.

Interestingly, in both sessions that yours truly attended, (apart from the press meet organised after the two public sessions) some heads of institutions and hostel wardens came with heads of student councils from various parts of Maharashtra. Naturally, in the face of so much parental guidance, so to speak, every student could be heard parrotting, "There is no ragging in my college, none."

Yeah, right. Wonder how many of them were paid to say that.

I swear if I was still a Mid Day reporter, this Committee would have had it. Here's why:
- First off, the Committee is visiting Mumbai, Kolkata, Jaipur, Chennai, Cochin, Delhi and heaven knows where else, without any figures for those places.
- The Committee will visit Delhi tomorrow, and NGOs, student activists and central government guys have been invited to share their views. How come none of the above were present for the Mumbai meet, or indeed, in any of the other three meetings the Committee has presided over so far?
- What sense does it make to have a common session for students and faculty members? No wonder everyone clammed up, and Santosh Andhale (for the first time in his existence) succintly said that only 'goody-goody' things were said and a rosy picture of the ragging scene in Mumbai painted. Which will throw the findings off-kilter, you'd agree.
- How does one pass and enforce a strict law on ragging based on the comments of 50-odd people in every city? And when more than half of them are lying through their necks about no ragging existing in their colleges, what does it say for the already pitiably small sample size per city?
- How will the Supreme Court define what ragging constitutes, when not a single student or faculty member can judge when a line is being crossed? One student said, "If I am asked to sing a song in public and I'm okay with it, I'll do it. But I can't accept any vulgar challenges just to be accepted by seniors." Contrast this with the hostel warden of a ladies' establishment in Mumbai, who says, "If seniors make juniors work on their journals and homework, it will only help the juniors in the long run. Later on, even the juniors can ask help from their seniors. It is not wrong to help in college assignments."
Notice that both the student and the warden choose to draw their own lines about what is acceptable and what is not? So if this is such a subjective issue, how does the SC hope to cover us all with an objective 'ragging boundary'?
- Findings will be submitted to the Apex Court by mid-April 2007. There is no deadline on how quick the SC acts on it.
- The Committee is not drawing its own conclusions about which places show more incidences and why.
- There is no representation for places other than metropolitan cities. I suppose no ragging happens anywhere else.
- An issue of such import as ragging and how to prevent it is documented based on voluntary comments by a mixed group that insists on talking bollocks. The sessions last not more than one hour each. Imagine, a law is to be implemented based on this insightful talk.
- My biggest grouse is that not a single attempt, not one, is being made to explain the existing Anti-Ragging law for the State, and indeed, to explain students' rights to them. And Maharashtra has reportedly the best Anti-Ragging law with very slight lacunae.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Test your Sunday current affairs - Click here. It's FREE!

Note: -- Colour the circle next to the appropriate option
-- Leave your e-mail ID at the end of the test so we can mail your score to you.
-- Good luck!

The Mumbai serial killer's name has been reported differently by different media. What do you think it is?
0 Ravindra Kantrole (Mid Day)
0 Ravindra Kantrulu (Sunday Times)
0 Ravindra Kantale (CNN IBN)
0 Ravindra Control (Hindustan Times, in the first two stories the paper did on the subject)
0 None of the above. It's Raavinndra Kkantrolle.

The Shiv Sena now says it will 'go soft' on Valentine's Day offenders. What do you think the Sena will do?
0 Burn cards and break shops quietly and with huge smiles.
0 Twist offenders' ears and make them do uthhak-baithhak.
0 Nothing. Mid Day reporters might act on the Sena's behalf like last year.
0 Instruct all gift shop owners to stock only bhagwa hearts and teddy bears.

When the MNS says 'we do not support or oppose V-Day celebrations', what does it mean?
0 That the party forgot to mention its position in its manifesto, and now it's too late to deliberate on it
0 That it will wait till the Sena does something - after all, there has to be something to contradict
0 That sitting on the fence is a policy Raj Thackeray intends to adopt from now on.
0 That the 'Holier than thou' attitude is a good way to appear elitist.

'Rang De Basanti' was recently kicked out of the Oscar race because:
0 It is about 6 hours long.
0 It is a straight lift from an English film on a filmmaker researching the life of Jesus.
0 It was destined for a Water-y finish.
0 UTV defaulted in its payments to the Academy of Motion Pictures.

When the CBI says that "The Reliance Infocomm case is too technical", what do you think that means?
0 That even the CBI is only human and that the full implications have not yet sunk in even after two years.
0 That the CBI is still wondering how Reliance hit on such an ingenious idea to cause losses to the State Exchequer.
0 That the CBI is unsure about how many zeros are to be counted in Rs 150 crores.
0 Nothing. What is the Reliance Infocomm case?

What are the first words that come to your mind when you hear 'Shilpa Shetty'?
0 Oh no, not again.
0 Big Bother.
0 Har kutti ka din aata hai.
0 "Chicken curry rules!"

Rakesh Sharma's Final Solution (based on the aftermath of the Godhra riots) was posted on Google without permission and has had over 17,000 hits already. What would you say to the incensed filmmaker?
0 Good gimmick, that. When it releases in theatres, the film should beat Parzania's sales.
0 Even Google has its freedom of expression, just like you do.
0 The internet is a good place to peddle a turkey of a film. Sooraj Barjatya made good money by posting Vivah online.

Arthur Road jail is now fitted with a mobile jammer. What does this mean?
0 That those who have mobile phones can now use it only to play 'Snake'.
0 That crime reporters can no longer file stories using versions of inmates currently lodged there 'on condition of anonymity'.
0 That at least 20 stories will be filed explaining how inmates can get around the jammer.
0 That Mid Day and Mumbai Mirror will now file front page stories with such headlines as 'Jam jam jammy' and 'Aur bhi tareekein hain Bhai ko phone karne ke...'

Friday, February 9, 2007

Dear Rahul Dholakia,

You know, you're so lucky your film got a screening anywhere at all. Wish the rest of us were this lucky, though. You're probably still doing all you can to show your film everywhere in Gujarat, especially the multiplexes. I wish with all the might at my disposal that even the single screen theatres shut their doors on your film.

In fact, if given half a choice, I would vote that your film be banned immediately in Mumbai as well.

Why, you ask? Your film's collections are picking up, you mention? Well, of course they would. Your film was endorsed by dozens of usually dependable critics as 'Cinema that must be watched'. The other dozen halfwits who gave you a 4-star rating first read the other guys' reviews and then jumped on the bandwagon.

I must applaud your sturdy common sense in picking a subject that would guarantee you eyeballs. Where I do take objection, is that audiences and critics alike have stepped in to defend and praise glowingly a film that is at best, mediocre and at worst, inflammatory. Of course, if I object it's because I want you to realise that there are some of us who cannot back a film simply because 'learned' souls do.

There is not one redeeming factor that saves your film from itself, not one. Save for the green of Shanaz's eyes or the pain in Cyrus'. Nothing else. Everything in your film, right from the Gandhi-toting American spewing expletives, to the final NHRC hearing is one big sham.

And I'll explain why - I, like you, don't want to be accused of not explaining my subject matter thoroughly. I call your film a sham because I am ashamed of how ruthlessly you chose to exploit Azhar's family (not Parzan, but Azhar), how superficially you chose to lay their story for others to judge, how casually you insert references of private parts being mutilated with knives and of breasts being cut and strewn about, at the height of cruelty in the carnage. Cruelty as you choose to see it, sir. For a commoner like me, it is as cruel to ride on a desperate family's search for thier missing boy, peg your film around it and leave the narrative floundering happily while you talk of mobs and the rest of it.

Your film is a sham also because you have nothing new to say. I was still in college when Godhra happened, but I remember following the story well. Your account of Godhra is only culled from reportage of that time, and that too, very sloppily and superficially.

Your film, apart from being ridiculously one-sided, is calculated to cause a riot once again. I suppose if that happens, you will have attained eternal glory as the man who moved a nation to action. I so wish that if a riot is inevitable, the rioteers decide to start and end the riot by targeting only you. It is too scary a thought that innocents should get caught in a crossfire that they did nothing to cause. Like the numerous cliches in your film emphasise, why should blameless souls be blamed for raking up an incident that is not only best forgotten, but best gotten over?

And what was the ending? A very literal interpretition of a family awaiting justice in the NHRC court of law, and an abrupt shift to Azhar's schoolboy picture , with the caption, 'This boy is still missing. If you have any information,' yada yada yada.

Sir, if you had no message, no solution, nothing new to offer by way of a storyline or narrative, why take the trouble to make a film at all? Your only claim to fame in this entire enterprise seems that you induced a bunch of idiots in the Censor Board to pass your film and allow it a nation-wide release. All I remember of your film 24 hours later, is that lanky American who calls Indians 'motherfuckers', a little girl who cries on Rakhi day for her brother and the beginnings of a migraine after watching a mediocre film with no cinematic values and no ethics in storytelling.

Bad show, sir. If you have a semblance of self-respect or even half an ethic left in your warped judgement of what is right and wrong (or indeed, is it your place to be judgemental at all?), you will pull out your pathetic excuse for a film out of cinema theatres pronto. For if tomorrow, a group of impressionable minds picks up swords and sutli bombs to avenge their dead after one screening of your film, I hope they go after you first.

Yours in disgust,

p.s.: Thousand apologies for not mentioning 'Parzania' anywhere in my communication to you. But then, you didn't choose to either, when communicating to us.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Desk is mad or what?

Being a deskie myself some time ago, and then graduating to becoming a reporter, I can understand how annoying this can be.

When la desk simply sleeps through your copy and you see your story appearing the same way you filed it, with typos, spelling mistakes, blanks and swear words in next day's edition, it's not funny. Especially because all those silly mistakes make you look like the Idiot of the Millennium, who can't file a story to save his/her life.

Desk generally gets away with butchering your copy. The most dangerous of the lot are to be found in Mid Day, where they cannot digest their evening meal without a complete rewrite of every paragraph. To top it all, you'll get the most ludicrous headlines in the name of Fun, Fresh and Fiesty. Which further explains gems like, 'Gheun Tak', 'CM ki baj gayi', Panvati Poll' and some such.

And while the eternal fisticuffs between Reporters and Desk continue to rage on, in every newspaper, magazine, website and channel across the nation and world, I salute the spirit of Deskism.

Simply put, I thank all Deskies - past, present and future - for keeping us reporters always on the lookout for errors in our copies and for gradually becoming better at your job.

Take a cue from the 'No face to assailant, but 5 more detained' story in HT today. There are about four typos in a 200-word story. One sentence actually states, 'Her bag contained my mobile, railway pass and Rs 60.' Unfortunately, we don't know which HT Correspondent filed this story, so we will never know whose mobile Ayesha Sarkar made away with. (Story within story, that: Robbed girl robs HT Correspondent's mobile).

Jaan informs me that one of his deskies has also goofed up in his story in DNA. I haven't seen the story myself - DNA is generally riddled with so many typos and foolish errors that it's more like a kankar-se-chaawal-chunna kind of situation.

Anyway, you get the drift.

I generally read HT Cafe because it is an unintentional laugh riot. The Under Honey's Hat section in Psst Mortem aims at the catty Stardustesque quality of bitching about nothing, but the effect is somewhat marred by bad editing and no attention to grammar and punctuation whatsoever. In the story 'So owlarious', for example, the opening line says, 'What's up my apple struddles?'. Yeah, more like asking 'What's up my pink pyjamas?'. Honey, your deskie needs to insert commas wherever necessary. It's the difference between asking, "What's this thing called love?" and "What's this thing called, love?"

Of course, who I am to complain? My own 'newspaper' is the king of sloppy editing. Our deskies are paid only to transfer stories from the editor's inbox to the page, and fit it to length. How else would you explain this crucial para in the story about Salem's Delhi visit being axed: It may be recalled that Delhi Police had produced a production warrant issued by Tis Hazari court of Delhi, for Salem’s custody following which TADA court had agreed to handover Salem’s custody to Delhi Police.

(1): May be recalled: By who? You, me, saara samaj?
(2): Production warrant: What the heck is this supposed to be? And is this wrong usage? As in, do you produce a production warrant the same way you book a train booking?
(3): Tis Hazari: What is Tis Hazari? I like the exotic ring to the words. Shall name my kid Tis Hazari and send her for higher studies to Iran.
(4): Handover: Tsk tsk. You handover a project, not a person. Next time, make sure you hand over Salem, not treat him like a bouquet.
(5): Handover Salem's custody to Delhi police: Dear Principal Correspondent, you couldn't resist the temptation to use the words, could you? Of course, it's not your fault. Oye deskies, wake up for once. That last sentence could simply read 'Hand over Salem to Delhi police'. Clean and simple. When will anybody learn to Simplify, Simplify?

p.s: While rechecking this entry, I came across about 10 mistakes. So will every deskie, once the story he/she is working on has been knocked into shape.
I still salute you, though.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Apropos of absolutely nothing at all

Apropos of absolutely nothing at all, it seems that Malavika Sangghvi believes that her column (or rather, gross abuse of newspace) 'Spectator' on the last page of DNA is humorous and insightful.

Apropos of absolutely nothing at all, I would like to quote on record that by starting every fresh paragraph with the words 'Apropos of absolutely nothing at all' in today's column, Ms Sangghvi has proved herself to be a writer of extremely limited skills at her disposal and even scarcer good ideas to hold a ghastly column together.

Apropos of absolutely nothing at all (I told you it's bugging if you keep repeating it) let me also establish that Ms Sangghvi needs to maybe skim her own paper if she needs ideas to write on. Take a cue from the page 2 debate on slum tours. A subject like that would have been right up her street.

Apropos of absolutely nothing at all (hmph, if she does it you read it, if I do it, you take umbrage), I am going to write to DNA and ask them to give Ms Sangghvi a weblog ID where she can happily put down her random thoughts. The idea of blogging on newsprint has not caught on in Indian media circles. Hopefully, with the likes of such columnists around, the idea never will.

Apropos of absolutely nothing at all (I used the Cntrl C + Cntrl V option to print out 'Apropos of absolutely nothing at all' for the nth time. I suppose Malavika did it too) Ms Sangghvi also uses her column to plant plugs ('...[Cntrl C+ Cntrl V] I would like to say that altruism is alive and kicking in Mumbai...just spend a day with Vandana Gupta and her V-Care organisation that looks after cancer patients'), she tries to make her column topical ([Cntrl C + Cntrl V]...the phrase 'laughing all the way to the bank' has never been more apt than when it's been used in reference to Shilpa Shetty) and she attempts comedy as well ([Cntrl C + Cntrl V] I would like to say that more than couples themselves, all of India is preparing itself for the Bachchan-Rai and Hurley-Nair big fat Indian weddings).

Apropos of absolutely nothing at all I would like to kindly put it to Ms Sangghvi that her efforts at comedy, humility and knowing what makes news, fail parlously. And for a simple reason: a columnist who starts a column with a comment on cocktail parties is only catering to a certain section of the readership, not the rest of us non-wine drinkers who do not discuss Hillary Clinton and Barach Hussein in Obama.

Apropos of absolutely nothing at all, let me say thanks to Ms Sangghvi for allowing me the liberty to skip all of page 18 of DNA (where this column and a rather boring story on skin cancer occupied pride of place) and move on to other, not interesting but equally entertaining items of news.

And apropos of absolutely nothing at all, let me add that generally all of Ms Sangghvi's Spectator ramblings are good stuff to read if you're not already nursing a migraine (like I am now) and if you're planning to hit the sack early and need a push in the right direction. Cntrl C + Cntrl V, Sweet dreams and toodle-oo.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Shettys duped us and all!

Would you be confoundedly surprised enough to fall out of your chair if I told you that Shilpa Shetty's mummy is cheating two unfortunate souls out of monetary remuneration and thanks, despite these two being responsible for Shilpa's 'success' at Celebrity Big Brother?

No? Then why did Mumbai Mirror assume so this morning, with a front page bearing the headline, 'Shettys duped us'? My heart goes out to Razzberry Rhinoceros (or rather Jazz Barton) and Bobby Khan who were instrumental in making a non-entity into SOMEONE, (if they actually did that) and I cry buckets of tears for unrewarded effort. I mean, c'mon, the duo have singlehandedly managed to do what dozens of suicidal directors and truckloads of bankrupt producers failed to do all along - make a successful actor out of Shilpa.

Incidentally, Jade's mum Jackie insisted on calling our latest goodwill ambassador 'Shipla', something that inexplicably infuriated the actor to no end. Personally, I don't see why. All throughout my childhood and young life, I threw not a single tantrum when people thought I was 'Vaishali', 'Vrusaali', 'Vrishali' and even 'Varushali'. But yeah, if somebody did a Truman Show on me and captured me on live camera as these interpretations of my name slipped into everyday parlance, they would have seen a child and then adult grin and bear it. For free.

In other news, Mumbai Mirror has no news on Sunday yet again.

Mid Day, on the other hand, has this highly original and entertaining graphic illustration of a half-submerged tiger looking insolently at the camera while people wade through water in the background. Satish Acharya should have pondered long and hard before claiming credit for this illustration, which I shall not dignify with any adjective. Suffice it to say that I did not get Satish's joke this time around, and he's one of the funniest people I know. Sorry sir, but tiger-in-the-water-as-Mumbai-wades through-26/7-deluge is a graphic too literal in its interpretation of the cover story.

Speaking of which, Krishnakumar has rather spread himself in his description of how the Sena got voted back to power despite "wards being under water during Mumbai's biggest civic failure" yada yada yada. Like it hadn't crossed our minds already.

I generally like Krishnakumar's stories, but this one is as childish as the graphic that accompanied it. Sorry to you as well, sir. But he is one who appreciates plainspeak more than anyone else, methinks.

Other front page news in other newspapers remained unworthy of either positive or negative press. So we shall let it be.