‘Satyameva’ Khan, Sunday ke Sunday

Wonder what goes through the minds of perpetrators of abuse and excesses when they watch Amir Khan’s  Satyameva Jayate.  Would they feel guilty ? Would they fathom the  consequences of the  cruelty they perpetrated ?   Short of naming them,  the victims  appearing on the show profiled  their oppressors and their acts in such graphic terms that they should  fall steeply  in their own eyes.

Maybe,  one of these days we get to read in the papers  about one of these guys taking his own life  out of remorse. Maybe someone guilty calls Amir Khan to  apologize on camera. Maybe  I’m daydreaming.

Anyway,  the Sunday 11 a m TV show anchored by film actor/maker Amir Khan is watched by almost everyone I have met.  Having missed the first two episodes,  I found myself conversationally inadequate in any gathering of  friends and neighbours,   who seemed to have  nothing else to talk about for a day or two after an episode.  If you live in a close-knit gated community, as I do, you simply can’t escape  Satyameva chat among residents you run into,  at the clubhouse or the grocery shop in our Chennai apartments complex.

The last straw was my son’s weekly call from California. And he talked about….you guessed it.  When he heard my wife and I  hadn’t watched either of the two episodes   our son promptedly e-mailed the YouTube link to the Amir Khan Shows –  about abuses on women and children.  Now that I have watched them on YouTube I feel updated ;  and  can’t help talking about the  episodes I just watched , while others,  having had their say, are waiting for next  Sunday’s episode.

I don’t know if Amir Khan was inspired by anyone,  but I see a  touch of Oprah in his show.  Both score high marks  on being thorough in their approach to any issue they take up . The format covers  case studies,  victims interview,  relevant research or govt. committee report,  expert comments,  and a summing-up.  At the end of the hour,  I was  left reasonably rattled by the revelations – that 53 percent of our children fall victim to some form of abuse;  that culprits are usually someone known to the victim and trusted by her/his family.  In many cases he is part of family – an uncle,  grandpa or someone so close as that.  There was this case where a schoolgirl falls a prey to indecent advances made by  a teacher who comes home to coach her in maths,  history or whatever.

Girls raped at tender age   by live-in relatives,  and married women forced into abortion for carrying a female in womb suffer in silence.  In rare cases where child victims gather courage to speak,  their accounts are hardly believed or their complaints taken seriously,  more often,  by their own parents.  Victims of abuses get trapped in a  ‘can’t talk, aren’t believed’  syndrome.

Amir Khan has got some of them talking , on camera;  and their gut-wrenching stories prompts  us to  re-define relationships within extended families,  re-draw lines of permissibility. Vulnerable children and,  particularly, their parents can’t be faulted, if  they start   looking over their shoulders,  so to speak ,  at friends and relatives with penchant to get too close to their young ones.

We have had just two weeks of  Satyameva Jayate  (SJ).  It would,  perhaps,  take 20 more episodes for  Satyameva Jayate to become an unfailing  weekly habit . And then,  every  Sunday, 11 a m,  would the  Amir Khan Hour,  nationwide.  Undoubtedly,  Amir Khan is on to a good thing.  My concern is,  if a busy celebrity of his stature would continue to  find the time and energy to sustain the weekly show, at a reasonably high bench-mark he has set for himself in the initial episodes.  Would he re-visit topics he has covered,  in later episodes ? For issues such as female  foeticide and child abuse couldn’t be wished away with a single celebrity show.

As Khan says,  the magic wand that makes things happen is within each of us.  We could do our little bit to put our shoulders to the conversational wheel Amir Khan has set in motion, nationwide. I don’t know  if  Cindrella and Harish Iyer would consider opening  a Facebook page  to encourage others who have been through such hell  to come out of their closets to talk out their past. The Amir Khan Show has got the country talking about issues we have till date  refrained from mentioning even within the confines of our living rooms,  let alone on national television. And bloggers could keep the talk going with their posts,  reviewing what Amir Khan brings up in his weekly episodes.

Chicken Soup for the Soul : Is Soul non-vegetarian ?

Jack Canfield who co-founded Chicken Soup for the Soul said the title was inspired by his  grandma’s tale that her chicken soup cured anything.  I wonder what Jack would have done for a title,  had his grandma been a vegetarian.  Chicken-soup-for-soul books have been such sure-fire sellers worldwide since 1970s  that it was merely a matter of time before we had a desi avatar –  Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul.  Westlands  are now at it,  bringing out  Soup editions for Indian armed forces,  women,  mothers,  fathers,  teachers,  teenagers,  and desi brides.

The latest ‘soup’  edition,  for Indian corporate souls,  is required reading for office-goers. It’s the kind of book you read on cummute to work;  you talk about with colleagues at office canteen. The book talks about corporate souls experiencing spurts of success,  stifling setback,  and life-long strife to maintain proper work-life balance.  The blurb mentions 101 stories of entrepreneurship and creativity at the workplace. I haven’t counted the chapters;  nor have I read them all.
It’s kinda book that invites readers to taste it,  in bits and pieces  picked out at random.  I remember the school days when we played  ‘book cricket’,  with a book in hand,  to be opened at random for the page number (denoting the runs scored).  With the Chicken Soup book I picked chapters,  as I picked up  ‘runs’  in  ‘book cricket’.  Reading this way was fun.

In his piece Sunil Agarwal wondered if company executives would do well to  have  appraisals of performance at  home – as spouse, parent  –  just as they have work appraisal at office.  Author Agarwal is an investment banker in Mumbai.  Akhil Shahani, born in a business family and an MBA from Kellogg’s  School of Management, writes of  the lesson he learned from failure of his software start-up.   Shahani has an ally in Sabeer Bhatia .  In this   BBC interview   (Hotmail) Bhatia  said  Indian  business community lacked the mindset to accept failure as learning experience.  In the US,  he said , business failure  was seen as a badge of honour,  something that spurs you to try again. The story of Silicon Valley has been that nine out of ten products failed,  but the one that makes it more than makes up for all earlier losses.

In the chapter – A professional Hug – interviewer  Juhi Rai Farmania,  of a corporate recruitment agency,  writes how she came to  give a hug to a job applicant at the end of the interview. I visualised in her account   a touch of  Jaadu Ki Jappi,  from the Munnabahi movie featuring Sanjay Dutt. We get to read about how  Sridhar Seshadhri  got his dream job with Facebook;  how  Sanghvi(Bali D), along with her Nishi Aunty (Nishita Garg)  opened an online library in Kolkata;  how a pipeline maintenance engineer Goutam Datta was saved by his technician from a charging bear in Orissa’s Mahargiri forest;  and how his office peon Rozario continued to hand out Christmas cake to  his office colleagues , and to  Datta even after he quit the company.

And then we have this dog-eat-dog story by media person Ingrid Albuquerque-Solomon.  As a has-been in the print media myself,  I would think media-eat-media stories are  a factor of today’s corporatized media,  in which branding and market share appears to be the driving force;  and editor is reduced to  a name that appears in the newspaper printline.  In the newspaper I used to represent the name appears in the finest of fine-print.  I wonder what Ingrid would say.  Wouldn’t it add value to the series,  if they publish a Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul in media ?

Editor of the book under review Juhi Rai Farmania says her first soup-for-soul story,  on the loss of her dear friend,  was done to share with her readers the beautiful message that changed her  relationships. This reminds me of a  ‘feel’ piece my friend  Vidya Sigamany  did on  death,   explaining why  she couldn’t bring herself to attend  the funeral of a person dear to her soul.  Sigamany’s piece –  Deepest Condolences –  would merit  inclusion in  a chicken soup book for those mourning the loss of their dear ones.

And  if Chicken soup publishers are considering language possibilities,  say a Tamil avatar ,  I would recommend as editor-contributor the likes of  Chennai-based IT professional and weekend writer LakshmiSudha (no friend of mine).  Her  writings can be accessed at Sangapalagai.  Writer  Sivasankari  comes to mind,   if  Westland-Tata wants to set up a  ‘soup-kitchen’  for the Tamil souls under Knit India’

I thank   BlogAdda ,   for  sending  the book for review  under their programme  for Book Reviews by Bbloggers.


Our man in Brazil

At our recent meeting in Chennai a blogger in our group (he didn’t wish to be named) came up with an idea – how about bringing out an anthology of selected pieces from the Mysore Blog Park.  As he put it,  we have a fairly wide group at MBP;  they write on varied topics of their fancy.  And do it competently.

He had a point.  We can think of quite a few who may have a book in their blogs.  The one who suggested MBP anthology is himself working on a book. Another MBP favourite,  B S Prakash,  has just come up with his work – Clueless in California (Konarak publicaions, Rs.195).  It’s a compilation, from his Rediff column,  with updates in reference to his years as Our man in San Francisco.  Mr Prakash has since moved to Brazil as our ambassador.

Those familiar with his column would nail the lie in the title –  apparantly a publisher’s ploy.  Mr Prakash is anything but clueless about California.  He is as knowledgeble about the prime dosa joint in San Francisco, as he is about the city’s connection with the Gadar movement.  I have read his engaging piece  on a philosophy teacher’s  take on Silicon Valley (Mr Prakash, M A in Philosophy, taught at Mysore Maharaja’s College before joining  Indian Foreign Service);  on the allure of MBA,  and about his re-discovery of the US in the company of Dr Kalam.

Invited to preside over a Stanford University music festival at which A R Rahman was honoured,  Mr Prakash did his home work so thoroughly that he used the material for a Rediff.column,  with knowledgeble references to the Bollywood Khans,  Aishwarya Rai and the then popular Rahman numbers – Chaiya, Chaiya, and Taal Se Taal Mila.   His  column gives one an insight into the man, his flair for writing and his mundane interests. Mr Prakash  watches  “a fair amount of TV,  all kinds,  movies,  series,  news, views,  sports and scandals”.  Mr Prakash’s recent piece – Is Hard Work Worth It –  is a study on hard work,  viewed  from the perspective of a Wall Street hedge fund manager (an endangered  species) and a German house painter.  I picked up from his column this German word – schadenfreude — which means  ‘deriving satisfaction from the misery of others.’  Mr Prakash had, presumably, picked it up when he was sent to Germany, at our foreign office expense,  as a language trainee.

As for the proposed anthology on Mysore Blog Park  pieces,  my first thought was whether it would interest a publisher.  Maybe the idea needs to be batted around,  blogged about , and  pickled in perspectives.  Maybe,  our blogger in Chennai  could make a  post of  it in  Giving It A Shot.

It was Slumdog’s day at LA

golden-globeFour Golden Globes – the best picture, director, screenplay and music score. Danny Boyle’s  Slumdog Millionaire  has drawn global attention to Mumbai slums and their grim reality,  as depicted by an orphan boy struggling to make it in life.  A  Kaun-banega-carorpati  type TV show  gives  him that chance to make it.  And the millionaire slumboy,  reunited with his girl, walks into the sunset to the music set by the Golden Globe winner A R Rahman.   Slumdog  (haven’t seen it yet),  they say,  is Oscar-class movie with a Bollywood ending.

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At the award-presentation ceremony  telecast the world over from  Los Angeles   Bollywood presence was perceptible.   Shah Rukh Khan got a chance to lead Slumdog’s female interest –  Freida Pinto –  to the centre stage and introduce her to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association,   sponsors of  the Golden Globe awards,  and  an   audience   comprising  virtually a  ‘who’s who’ of the US movie and televison.

100_0606Bollywood’s  Anil kapoor  was seen springing out of his chair on hearing actor-presenter  Tom Cruise announce   the best picture award for Slumdog Millionaire.       

100_0600Simon Beaufoy  was the first of the four  Slumdog  winners to be called on to the stage to accept his Golden Globe for making a screenplay out of  Vikas Swarup’s  novel –  ‘Q and A’ .  A Bollywood director  Mahesh Manjrekar is quoted in  The Hindu as saying that it was ironical no desi production house (Chopra,  Johar,  Screwwalla,  are you reading?)  took up this subject.  “I wanted to do it but by then the rights were sold,” says Mahesh to The Hindu’s Ziya Us Salam.  Irony was Manjrekar wound up playing gangster Javed in Danny Boyle’s  Slumdog.

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100_0612The director (centre),  with the producer and  the female lead,  making a thank-you speech.  And the film-maker brought on to the stage rest of his Slumdog gang,  represented at the award-presentation ceremony.

The Slumdog theme and the acclaim the movie has received reminds me of Satyajit Ray’s  Pathar Panchali. Both films dwell  on poverty.  Pathar Panchali made waves gobally in the 50s , but was no box-office hit in India. And he film came in for flak from many in mainstream cinema in Bombay. A leading actress of her times and MP,  Nargis Dutt,  had taken a swipe at Satyajit Ray for glorifying India’s poverty.

Ad.rage: When you want to smash the box

Ad.rage.  It hits TV viewers, usually during comercial break.

Symptom: You feel like lobbing your remote,  Iraqi journalist style,  at the TV set  in front.

A website on road rage has the logo that reads …When you just can’t take it anymore.  I feel ‘ragey’ about TV Commercials. The  ‘breaks’  tend to get on your nerves as they get longer and more frequent.  I kept count as I watched  a movie on a Tamil channel the other day.

The feature film with 150-minute running time was interrupted for commercial break  thrice during the first hour, every 15 minutes during the next hour,  and once in 10 minutes in the final half hour of the movie. I sat through  it,  to keep count of the ads.

Each commercial break stretched seven or more minutes;  during which they showed 15 ads. What’s cruel, the same set of ads gets repeated in each quarter-hourly break; and a few of these ads are shown twice or more during a single commercial break.

A Tata Indicom commercial featuring Soundarya Rajnikant grabbed my atttention when I saw it first.  Here is a girl who, instead of following the footsteps of her actor father, chose a career in animation graphics.  Why? Because, as she says, she had set her mind on it. The ad. was informative, insofar as it told us about the career choice of Rajnikant’s daughter.

Anyway half-way through this movie – Rasigar Mandram – the Soundarya ad.  had been played out so often that it was getting to be a drag.  Soundarya who sounded smart and sprightly to begin with,  became bit of a bore. I started finding fault with the tone of her voice,  gait,  and with her very screen presence.  Before long the sight of Soundarya made me switch the channel.

This can happen to any screen celebrity.  Remember Amitabh?  His exposure in TV commercials didn’t do any good to Bachchan’s screen image.  Image-conscious celebrities,  who choose their films with their screen reputation in mind,  don’t seem conscious of the damage TV commericals can cause to their public appeal.

Film celebrities,  in the interest of their image,  would do well to have it written into the contract that their commercials  shouldn’t be repeated more than twice in any given TV programme.  It would also spare TV viewers the agony of having to watch their commericals repeated ad nauseum.

 We  can’t wish away commercial ‘breaks’ .  What we can  do is become online activists . Wish someone sets up an Ad Rage dot com where we can share our  thoughts ,  frustration on the tyrrany of  TV commercials,  and take a snipe at our pet hate commercials . If nothing else, this could be a way of getting  round the rage, by hitting the keyboard during commercial breaks.

An ad-raged blogger says  the commercial break is getting so long as to be useful;  she gets done during the break chores she would have otherwise left to be done before bed – wash dinner plates, let her dog out,  brush her teeth,check e-mail etc..

More on the film-maker’s Taj visit

In an earlier post there is reference to film-maker Ram Gopal Varma’s ‘celebrity tourism’  to the terror-ravaged Taj ,  in the distinguished company of the (then?) Maharashtra C M Vilasrao Deshmukh. The First Post,  UK-based online news magazine speaks of ‘an extraordinary row’  that has broken out in Bollywood over the incident.

Actress SimiGarewal is quoted as saying, “It is not a tourist site or an exhibition”,  in reference to the film-maker’s visit to the Taj Palace Hotel.

Mr Varma can’t be blamed for taking up an opportunity to take a ride in CM’s convoy. Wonder how many in Bollywood would have passed up such a chance. Mr Ram Gopal Varma  would have us belive that it “just happened” when he was visiting his actor friend, who happened to be CM’s son. The film-maker  was at CM’s house  when they, father and son, were about to leave for a tour of the Taj on Sunday morning.  Whether RGV was/got himself invited to join the tour or he just tagged along is not clear. We have The First Post quoting CM as saying, “I had neither invited him (Mr Varma) nor knew about his presence.”

The electronic media, kept at a fair distance from the scene of action,  telecast blurred visuals, marking out Mr Varma with a red circle on the film footage. Not the kind of exposure Mr Varma would have relished. I recall the TV channels using the red-circle technique to show up a gunman in the blur of  the terror strike footage. 

The ‘red-circling’ by the media wouldn’t be lost on the film-maker, whose next film – Rann – is believed to be on our media excesses. Included in the cast is Ritiesh Deshmukh.

Mumbai ko gussa kyon aatha hai ?

Didn’t know Vilasrao Deshmukh has an actor son , Riteish, until I read about their Sunday morning spin around the Taj and Oberoi.  Mr Deshmukh was then the Maharashtra C M, and father and son were accompanied  by Ram Gopal Varma, who has made a name making movies themed on Mumbai’s underworld – Satya, Company and Sarkar.

Couldn’t make sense of their visit to such sensitive places, that too, under a meda glare,  but it is clear that none of  these worthies appeared sensitive to the prevailing public mood, in the wake an unprecedented terror strike. Media lapped it up. In stark contrast, when the chief minister came by Nariman House at the height of the seige, presumably , fishing for sound bytes, a TV news channel doing  ‘live’ coverage chose to break for commercials. 

power-mile-run1Mr Deshmukh’s tour of Mumbai’s ‘Ground Zero’ in the company of a Bollywood film-maker wasn’t the only thing aam aadmi couldn’t make much sense of.  In Bangalore The Times of India sponsored, what it called, a Power Mile Run  “to express solidarity with the terror-struck Mumbaikars”. A throng of 150, mostly business executives and some  politicians, turned up in knickers and colourful t-shirts.  In Mumbai people took to the streets carrying placards saying, ‘Enough is Enough’. This, i thought, could as well have been aam aadmi’s  response to Bangalore’s  ‘Power Mile Run’.  Enough – of corporate gimmicks – Mumbai seems to say. 

It’s ‘homage’ time for corporate ads in newspapers.  The Hindu carried scanon Page One a black-bordered advert. with photos of Hemant Karkare, Ashoke Kamte, Vijay Salaskar, and NSG’s Sandeep Unnikrishnan.  NSG soldier who lost his life, Havildar Gajendar Singh,  doesn’t figure in the corporate sponsored ad.  I would like to believe the ommission had nothing to with the rank held by the soldier who he died engaging a granede-lobbing terrorist at Nariman House.

On  the Nariman House siege, a newspaper report citing a neighbourhood resident gives the following account of the initial police response:

Wednesday, 9.30 p m – the firing (by terrorists) started;

Thursday, 12.30 a m  – two policemen arrived on the scene;

2.30 a m – Arrival of the state reserve police;

4.30 a m – Arrival of the Rapid Action Force.

No wonder why Mumbai’s aam aadmi is angry.