Saturday, October 24, 2009

The death and the burial of Storytelling.

I used to laugh when my soulmate Salim Asgarally used to say that soon one day when we turn our light or fan switch on, a jingle will start playing and not too long after that, a virtual screen will appear in our living, bed and bathrooms with an actual commercial running on it, but now I don't.
I really believe it is going to be a reality quicker than even he has predicted.
It's crazy how household and food products are promoted through 'in program' advertising in shows like Lux Perfect Bride and Big Boss as well as other reality shows.
'In film' and 'In TV program' advertising is the beginning of the most bizzarre phase that story telling and fiction, (I don't call reality shows non fiction because they are more scripted and manufactured than any fiction can ever be), has ever seen.
It has reached a point where the producer and the platform are no longer concerned about the audience because the returns on their investment is in their pocket before a product reaches a viewer and then the marketing of the product ensures vierwership by teasing the vicarious senses of the audience. (I wonder how many of you watched Sherlyn Chopra do a semi strip tease on Big Boss last week, and more than that, the promotions for the much awaited moment).
Between a story and the viewer is an active plan managed by a system that ensures that the spender and the viewer are both happy, oblivious of the damage it is doing on the psyche of an entire generation of people over a long period of time. When challenged with a good story told artistically and sensitively which will impact the audience in a progressive manner, the system collapses and rejects the idiom for its own survival before it is too late.
And now that the decline has plunged to depths of no return, from when good TV and good Cinema was not only watched by everyone but also popularized by the very consumer which devoured it and allowed its' influences to permeate their minds enough to change positively, the excuse of the creatively challenged system is that there is no benchmark in recent past.
Don't they realize that they have buried the wheel of art and creation so deep in the recesses of a chaotic and crowded world because of their comittment only to the numbers, that they have impoverished vehicles like Television and Film which have the greatest outreach to steer change for the better, almost permanently? That in their arrogance they have converted the art of storytelling from Literature to Math?!!!
I founded and launched Project Smita Society, a NGO, way back in 1989, with a commitment to work alongwith other NGO's working at the grassroots of urban and rural India to create commercial stories with a social slant and tell them through all popular media. From Tara, Umeed, Raahat, Shatranj, Rahein, Agnichakra and Sansaar on Zee TV, Kabhie Kabhie, Aur Phir Ek Din and more recently Miilee on Star, and Sheila and Kasbah on Doordarshan, I ensured that the impact on the viewers of all my productions was positive, progressive and falling in tandem with programs and policies of the Goverment of India and thousands of NGO's which were aiding it to make them work on the ground. Influenced by the research and understanding of the times we live in, each one of the shows remained popular on the charts in the top five of the rating meters, whether they ran for five years at a stretch or two.
Dissapointed when the most regressive political times fell upon us with the emergence of BJP in power, I rebeled when the market changed its tune and started singing a song which didn't make sense at all.
'Spend to cloak with decorations the worst practices and traditions', which are holding India back, became the new mantra, and it rent the air like a cacophony to such an extent that numbers went on growing and viewers continued to watch, never realizing when the taste buds which were being tickled, changed from good to bad, and when the effects of the mindless nonsense started to harm them.
It was a growing market for emerging tecnologies which provided exciting media to a hungry people when 'the concerned' were outnumbered by 'the opportunists' who were only interested to make a fast buck.
Now the tables have turned, and the two industries, film as well as TV, are floundering.
While the film industry and its lords, who sit in swank state of art offices atop the wealth they have amassed in most terrible times, is going to take a long long time to sort itself out, the fiction of the TV industry is in desperate state.
GEC's have become C grade Television.
News, Sports and Imported Entertainment have taken over and Entertainment Online is not making it any easier.
While the rona dhona of the poor woman, no longer in finery but now in tattered clothes and the same story continues set differently, the channels are frantically trying to garner ratings through reality shows which is their next attempt at confusing the viewers, or all that is left of them, more than they already have in the last 10 years with Saas Bahu fare.
Nobody can be fooled by the paucity of creative content here. The bad quality of writing packaged and marketed to an audience who doesn't care anymore. Now the audiece which has been made monster by the industry itself, is set to pay back in the same coin, unless and until the systems and the networks do not realize and understand that weaving good story to drive progressive change is a science which requires investment of time, research and respect for the creative mind.
At first it is the market, that pumps iron into the system to make it churn, which has to be influenced and sensitised to real issues, and then only will the perplexed programmers and producers, who don't necessarily 'have' to have deep pockets to hire the correct thinkers and minds, as there is enough money within the very system, be able to produce content which in the next five years can lend a helping hand to the millions of workers who exhaust themselves in the heat and dust to aid India's progress.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It's "Hello Dolly" from YELLOW TREE!!! :)

Last night was just one of those days which Ranjit, my best friend, makes happen with such ease. At YELLOW TREE! The newest most happening cafe set up at Pali Naka, Bandra by catering institute buddies Nicky Bedi and Roy Edwin, an all day restaurant, spread over three floors, that offers all time classic continental cuisine and some fusion fare as well.
As usual, Ranjit had brought together his most ecclectic gang of friends for a taste of the most awesome food where spirits were high because of superb cocktails served with style. I went there for half an hour and stayed for 5 hours instead, right until Roy and Nicky literally had to beg us to leave...
Everyone was there from Bunty Walia to Azeem Khan, from Shibani Kashyap to Jimmy Felix, Anaida, Umesh Pherwani, Surabhi Kalsi, Leena Mogre, Sherrin Verghese, Viren Shah, Siddhartha Kanan, Jatin Kampani and more.
Throughout the evening, everytime I bumped into Ranjit, somebody or the other was telling him what a good time they were having and he, his humble self, kept repeating, 'it is all because of all of you, without whom this would not be possible', little realizing that it's only him I know, who brings together people whom he instinctively knows, will love to meet and live it up for an entire evening wherever it is in the world.
What's great about Nicky and Roy is that they are so warm, friendly and young and just blend with the atmosphere like they are also guests at their own party.
I stepped out of my car singing 'Yellow Tree very pretty and the Yellow flower is sweet...' to be constantly corrected by soulmate Salim Asgarally, who was lost amidst a bunch of girls who wouldn't let him go. No cliches here, as the girls, led by gang leader Achala Sachdev couldn't stop laughing and having a blast, while I sat with Madhusudan Kumar, an artiste beyond, as he recounted stories of how he approaches all arts with the same passion that he feels for what he primarily is, which is a painter. He has composed music, he had made films and is now moving on to make one more film for which he is writing his own script. Wow! A pure genius he is and I have known him for years, which is why it was great to meet and sit and chat with him after a loooooong time.
While Achala played hostess, (it comes naturally to her, whosoever's party it may be, because she has to see to it that everybody has to have a good time), Anuradha Tandon wanted to inspect the joint from the top floor to the bottom and had to be escorted through a guided tour by Ranjit, Nicky and Roy. Anuradha, a writer, columnist and film maker herself had ideas spilling out of her and had a bloody good time with the lemon margueritas she had by the dozen/s I think ;-P !!! She will kill me for revealing this truth, but high in the sky Anuradha is so much fun as her voice gets huskier and she is told by almost everybody she meets, that she has a voice to die for.
Ken Ferns, my partner in drag on whichever occasion that permits, kept each and everyone laughing with his antics and looked edible in his off white shirt with blue jeans with an even more off white waist coat to add to the subtle he is so absolutely known for.
Salim, most attractive to all men and women, kept getting dragged in different directions but made it a point to see that the spirits of the girls remained lifted as he chased the bar to ensure that no glass was ever empty, be it Natasha Selims or Anuradha Tandons or Achala's or the wild and crazy Ananya's whom he has planned to do a photo shoot with for the promotion of his next line for 'men'.
And Dolly Lal, the party animal who loves to dance, drink, laugh and pump the music was here from Pune, and she came along with us because she is common as a friend to all of us. She has a house on the ground floor in Khar, and it was early in the morning after that dreadful night which caused havoc in Mumbai in July, 2005, when she managed to reach home safely, that she got a stroke when she saw the state of her appartment after an exhausting night filled with fear for all of us. Paralyzed on the right side of her body instantly, Dolly has been through excruciating pain and endless treatment to bring herself back with the mountain of power she has within, which has given her the strength to get back to partying with her friends, which she loves the most. She still needs to put one leg in braces to walk, and is on the last stages of healing herself completely and I'm proud to be one on the list of friends from her past which she left behind after she was dissapointed with the way most of her other friends went on with their lives, leaving her to recover alone with sister Lippy and her parents being the only ones by her side.
Now the long curly haired wild child is back in action, pumping both Mumbai and Pune to her beat, and Yellow Tree loved to relaunch her into the scene alongwith its own launch.
Everybody loves Dolly and Ranjit adores her.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


It's interesting to see a new breed of young talent among fashion artists who believe and trust their work enough not to need top notch filmstars to endorse it so to find an identity in a chaotic world of me too's, where one can't be distinguished from the other.
Here was a bunch which stood out on their own because their products withhold effortlessly.
I've always believed that art is that which cannot either be contained or controlled by just a spin alone. Art is something which pushes boundaries and finds it's space trickling like water around every block to present itself to everyone in all forms.
Art like, good writing, will get noticed, however insignificantly placed it may be depending on how much it can impact you.
Curiosity and my undying obsession with Salim Asgarallys' detailing as a fashion artiste (I don't refer to him as a designer anymore), led me to attend the presentation of six young artistes by Ranjit Rodricks, my good friend whom I believe has an eye for the most unique, at young, dynamic and beautiful Surabhi Kalsi's boutique Aspasia in Bandra on Friday evening.
I was stunned with the collection of Neha Badlani's crystal jewelry, Ken Ferns kurtas and shirts in linens and paper cottons denoting a twill weave. I fell in love with, and even came back home with one of Dyana Linda's bags which were screenprinted with Bollywood images and embellished with antique lace, buttons and rivets.
Karan Berry's collection of footwear evoked a sense of deja vu as well as a feeling of excitement as I stared at the newest cosmo chic collection in a blend of modern design crafted with traditional fabrics.

ASPASIA also introduced a fabulous range of men's shirts by established designer SALIM ASGARALLY.

He has created a range of men’s shirts in linen and cool mull mull’s (fine cotton voile). Subtle yet trendy, this collection is for the man who appreciates subtle styling. “Understated elegance” which is Asgarally’s design philosophy shines bright here.
Tone on tone appliqué in silks and cutwork organza enhance the appeal of the slim-cut linen shirts which move with ease from day to evening. Earthy and masculine colors ranging from sand, brick, ecru to black become the perfect balance for the delicate floral cutwork patterns to evoke an overall macho look the men so love.
The mull mull collection plays up on tonal appeal again with “self patti work in rosettes” adorning the fronts. Shades of grey, olive, and navy make up the color palette here.

Also available in the store is a wide variety of party and trousseau wear by Aspasia's SURABHI KALSI. You can see Surabhi who is so beautiful herself, in almost all her own creations and wonder if she would ever need a model for her work when she could carry it off on herself so well.

I have to give it to Ranjit, who is finally in his element, because, since I know him so well I can vouch for the fact that if there is one person in the fashion trade who understands the evolving culture of fashion art and curates it so provocatively, it is him. Never needing more than the presence of the art and the artistes themselves to prove that it is all that is required to sell interesting work. And then he turns each of these evenings into super fun for all his friends like Nisha Harale Bedi, Jacqueline Pearl D'souza, Shraddha Kaul, Celebrity Chef Max Orlati and his son Jocopo, Siddhartha Kannan, Umaesh Pherwani, Leena Mogre, Gary Richardson and Ananya Dutta, a melange of creative folk from different art forms, who intensely live and love their work, sculpting a cult of their own collectively.

I believe Aspasia, with Surabhi as the vision, Ranjit Rodricks as the curator and Salim Asgarally as the idiom which sets a benchmark, is going to be one of those landmarks where you will always find what you want for whichever occasion - but, only, if you have the courage to be who you want to be in your own future.