Monday, December 27, 2010

Peter Saltzman - The revolution ensemble :)

As I get to know more about MOA (Music Online Alive), which is a platform for artistes from the world of music not just to be able to independently create, market and distribute their virtual albums online, but even interact with their fans and fellow artistes, I discover that my journey is endless.
It's like an artist lets loose his canvas midway through his journey to an ocean of enthusiasts and other better or worse peers, to have a go at walking some distance with him. Or then a film maker putting up half his film shot and loosely edited online and inviting whoever wishes to, to jump into the process with him/her to take the story further. If you are an artiste as secure with his craft as Peter Saltzman is as a pianist, then you can let float an idea online, and enjoy while others take it from one level to another, as you take the same idea, through your own interpretation.
Man, the world is getting closer than I thought and art can now be, not just experienced collectively, but even created collectively by varied people from different corners of the world without them even having met each other.
As I revel in the possibility as an artiste myself, who can't wait to release an idea in my head online, and create one piece of fiction while people I don't know, but who may be interested, take the same story I am writing forward, in different forms and styles, I choose to chat with Peter, who I find on Skype almost immediately after the thought crosses my mind.
I want to know what Piano Diaries, his blog, on MOA is about. And you can read his answer in an American accent, as I reproduce it verbatim for you here.
"The inspiration for Piano Diaries... umm... ah! well, actually, the very first album I thought of, for MOA, the virtual album platform, when we were developing it was Piano Diaries... and it was even in my prototypes of images which I developed and we did an early alpha prototype back in 2008 before I met all the people in India..." (he takes a long pause)... "and that was the very first album... and the idea is that, unlike a conventional album, or CD... the virtual album is ofcourse a dynamic ongoing album, and the obvious candidate for that from my standpoint, as a musician, composer and pianist, and singer, songwriter was Piano Diaries, like a Piano Blog... that I could just add entries to, whenever I felt like it... I think ideally on a daily basis, in reality that does not happen.... but the entries are essentially all improvised, kind of whats on my mind... musically that day, and I then, try to tie in some little pithy remark about that... sometimes there's some connection going through my mind with the music and I put that down in the track notes, so, it's really like a piano diary... its just... not structured, not planned... just kind of what goes on in my head musically on any given day... and thats the history behind it..."
Peter, the founder and CEO of Music Online Alive smiles as he relaxes back in his chair and continues, "now... interesting thing is, I believe that this is a really a great prototype for MOA, not only from artistic, but a commercial standpoint, and I think artists need to think about... you know... in a dynamic format like the web... where things are constantly being reinvented... redone... what can you do with it? What can you to with a format which is not static like the CD and the LP... but can grow all the time?... And this is just one idea... I'm sure a guitarist could do the same thing, or a songwriter could put down short songs everyday... different kinds of things that you could rethink the formats that you could put your music in, in as dynamic a format as the web..." he trails on... and leaves me thinking of the painters, writers, film makers, singers and creative people from all forms of performing and non performing arts who are missing out on so much because none of us has a Peter who has actually put together Music Online Alive for musicians, composers, songwriters from all over the world to experience what it is like to play with people who love their art as much as they do, and a fan base which appreciates it as well. Check out Piano Diaries on http://www.musiconlinealive.com/ :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

IGNITING CHANGE!

Film Festival in City gives a Wake up Call

December 3, 2010 Mumbai

Coinciding with the Human Rights Day, Mumbai city will play host to a hard hitting and thought provoking film festival on human rights issues. FLASHPOINT Human Rights Film Festival, that is being held from December 8th to 10th at the Alliance Francaise auditorium at Marine Lines brings together eight extraordinary films from around the world that deal with human rights issues Human Trafficking & Child prostitution; War Crimes; Religious Fundamentalism, Homophobia, Violence against Women, Death Penalty, Forced Disappearances, etc.

“These movies will shock you and wake you up to the new realities that we all must understand and counter. The Flashpoint Human Rights film festival will hurl you into the hearts and the lives of those brave people who had the audacity to stand up alone against the tyranny of the oppressor”, says Mahesh Bhatt, filmmaker and rights activist, who will Inaugurate the Flashpoint film festival on December 8th at 11am. Well known theater person Dolly Thakore will also be a Guest of Honour at the opening ceremony.

The eight films set in Algeria, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Iran, Italy, Nepal and the Gaza strip show how brave human rights defenders campaign for justice and human rights, often paying a very high price for their work. “These activists and/or their organizations play a crucial role in the worldwide protection and promotion of human rights”, says Taco Ruighaver, Director of Movies That Matter Film festival, Netherlands with whose support this festival has been organized.

Apart from screening of films, there will be panel discussions on urgent and important topics like ‘human trafficking and inadequacy of the law’, ‘violence against women’ and ‘religious intolerance’ with eminent filmmakers Kalpana Lajmi, Bishakha Datta & Vinta Nanda; rights activists Priti Patkar & Flavia Agnes and advocates Maharukh Adenwala, PA Sebastian & Colin Gonsalves.

“For me, it was a simple human response”, says Sridhar Rangayan, Festival Director, who also organized the hugely successful KASHISH Mumbai International Film Festival at PVR Juhu earlier this year, “I saw these films as a Jury member at the festival in Netherlands and I was so moved by the films, that I was determined to bring them to India to share with audiences here”. He hopes that the film festival and discussions will bring about a change in perceptions and mindsets and initiate action. “I want the festival to urge us to reflect, react, revolutionalize and act as a ‘flashpointers’ to usher in change.”

This three day film festival being organized by Solaris Pictures, Mumbai, Magic Lantern Foundation, New Delhi and Movies That Matter, Netherlands.

The festival will also screen in New Delhi from January 20-22nd , 2011. Gargi Sen, Festival Director, who will be organizing the Delhi screenings, says “The impulse to question, criticise and resist is varied but the films also fundamentally present the spirit of the change makers and their abilities to paint a future for mankind. I believe that engaging with these films will make us pause, think and take a re-look at our own lives and thereby create possibilities of change.”

The festival organizers are expecting a good participation by the younger population, like students and youth groups, who have shown an interest in attending the festival.

“If a change has to be made to end this human rights abuse, there has to be an outcry from the public, from every strata of society, from people of all walks of lives. The starting point of this could be very simple – just being informed and aware”, says Nandita Das, award winning actress, filmmaker and social activist in support of the festival, “A human rights film festival like FLASHPOINT makes us aware of the issues and if you are aware, you can possibly make a difference one day”.

Details about films and schedule can be found at www.flashpointfilmfestival.com

Phone: (022) 28618239 ; Email: flashpoint.hrff@gmail.com

Support Messages from FLASHPOINTERS: http://tiny.cc/0l8s5

Review of films in Time Out by Nandini Ramnath : http://tiny.cc/2rxlu

About Solaris Pictures:

Solaris Pictures was one of the organizers of the hugely successful KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival that created history by being the first ever gay & lesbian film festival in India to be held in a mainstream cinema multiplex. Solaris Pictures is also producer and distributor of award winning films on social issues like HIV/AIDS and gay rights.

http://solarispictures.com
email: solaris.pictures.india@gmail.com

About Magic Lantern Foundation:

Magic Lantern Foundation is involved with: Production of documentary films that explore aesthetics and politics, Campaigning with films on issues of social justice, culture and censorship, media education to critically assess the dominant media, training in the use of media and media education, intervening in the construction of media policy, dissemination of independent films, curation and organization of film festivals.

http://magiclanternfoundation.org
email: magiclantern.foundation@gmail.com

About Movies That Matter:

‘Movies That Matter’, an initiative of Amnesty International, in the Netherlands, promotes international human rights film screenings, offers advice and assistance, and stimulates the exchange of knowledge and experience. They offer a platform for feature films and documentaries made by filmmakers taking a stand for human rights and a sustainable world.

http://moviesthatmatter.nl/mtm/
email: W.Brouwer@moviesthatmatter.nl

About Alliance Francaise:

Alliance Fran├žaise in Mumbai and New Delhi collaborate closely with the other prestigious cultural centers, promoting cultural exchanges between France and India and initiating a dialogue of ideas and debates through contemporary creation that is accessible to all. The centers are also a unique place for dialogue, learning and transmission of knowledge and culture.

http://bombay.afindia.org and http://delhi.afindia.org/

Saturday, November 27, 2010

OPEN - The Can of Worms

Here we go with the Nira Radia tapes.
I was waiting for the media to break its silence on it and lo... just as I had expected, the ice broke through CNNIbn, arch rival of NDTV, and who spoke vociferously against the two journalists in question in a brilliantly crafted show was none other than N Ram, editor-in-chief of The Hindu, which is to the South, what HT is to North India.

I believe I belong to what in modern times is the sixth estate.
We are all well aware of the first four estates, PR machinery of corporates and business houses slowly becoming the fifth, and because of internet, the people of India, the civil society, emerging as the sixth estate, of which I am a part.
I see with objectivity what every single Indian besides me, who is not a part of the first five estates which might have vested interests in the goings on between each other, is watching.
As the circus unfolds, beginning from the IPLgate conducted by Lalit Modi, moving on to the CWG scam led by Kalmadi, to the telecom scam conducted by A Raja, to the Adarsh Society Scam directed by three ex chief ministers of Maharashtra and a bunch of Generals of the Indian Army, to the Yeddurappa scam executed by his sons and daughters in law, which has finally come and rested upon what is widely being referred to as Barkhagate, I cannot, like the rest of the citizenry of India who is at the recieving end of each of this, help but observe the theater of the absurd taking over our lives in the format of reality TV.
Who says our television borrows from the west?
Who says we're not good enough at developing our own formats?

In IPLgate Tharoors head rolled and Modi is on the run.
Some small fry side kicks of Kalmadi are under arrest and being interrogated by the CBI for CWG.
A Raja resigned for the telecom scam which cost the exchequer over a lakh and seventy five thousand crores of rupees, but actually got a pat on his back from the PM at a recently held DMK function.
Yeddurappa has gone scot free.
And Vir Sanghvi and Barkha Dutt are in the dock.

When the fourth estate got serious about their responsibility and started to expose corruption the way they should have done since the last sixty years of our independence, one by one, the truth about what goes on in the name of development, started to reveal itself.
The true face of the politics of the country began to emerge through the media and political parties started to fight like cats and dogs and accuse the others for being more corrupt than them.
Kalmadi became embarrassing for the ruling party.
He got the axe from his post within the party he belonged to, but continued to retain his post as the Chairman of the OC which is responsible for swindling the people of India of hundreds of crores of rupees.
He was too powerful and knew too much to be pulled off his post.
He roams the Asian Games in China, representing the Indian Government and travels Monaco as such, while the government manipulates the FIR being filed against the corruption of the OC, to see to it that Kalmadi's name doesn't figure in it.
Chavan went, and the Generals involved in the Adarsh Society scam through which they benefited prime property in the name of Kargil war widows, have been charge sheeted.
A Raja was forced to resign because media as well as opposition chased him down in the telecom scam but the pat on his back given to him by the honest PM of India, the only man who has integrity, said it all.
It was an assurance that for what Raja had done, he would be rewarded.
Why?
Because, while Raja was being chased, the party he belonged to, DMK, led by Karunanidhi felt cornered and supported a member of another opposition party, Subramanium Swamy, of the Janata Dal, to drag the PM to the supreme court and embarrass him.
Meanwhile to teach the largest opposition, the BJP, a lesson, the ruling party began to chase them with the media in tow, on Yeddurappa who had misappropriated his position to enable his sons and daughters in law to own acres and acres of land at throwaway prices, thereby causing tax paying citizens of India, hugher losses.
The BJP alongwith all other opposition parties, big and small, have held back the winter session of parliament for days now and while the circus continues, the back rooms were fully in action.
They are all crooks and deals were being fixed between them to save the system which doesn't work from collapsing.
Finally Yeddurappa never had to resign or step down, Karunanidhi is being promised perks for his compliance, Kalmadi is going scot free and to shut the media up a plan was devised to put it in its place and send a warning out which would make the media realize that they are as vulnerable as they make others out to be.
OPEN magazine, which I had never heard of before, found an opportunity to become the most read tabloid overnight, and fell in cahorts with Vinod Mehta of Outlook Magazine and some politicians, who got hold of the tapes of conversations between Nira Radia, Vir Sanghvi, Barkha Dutt and many others and had them released in the most alarming way, much against what the law permits.
While Manu Joseph, never heard of before journalist, now claims to be editor-in-chief of the new one to hit the stands, stammers and stutters to clarify his position on the Karan Thapar show on CNNIbn, and N Ram pontificates about ethics in journalism, I give full marks to the courage Dilip Cherian and Sanjay Baru showed by defending the fall guys, who everyone is taking pot shots at.
Barkha Dutt is one of the most impressive journalists of our times and needs no support to establish her credibility.
I have seen Vir Sanghvi at a collective congregation of all four estates during the launch of one of the documentaries I produced which was released by Mr. Chidambaram in New Delhi a couple of years ago, and I have witnessed how each and everyone was eating out of his hands, men and women both.
How they must have hated doing that, I remember, I had thought.
How powerful he must be, I had wondered.
So now, its the dogs day out.
Those jealous and envious of the positions of the two in question, who have never had the audacity or the courage to pursue the journalism these two have, are out there ranting and raving about good journalism while the above scams are slowly getting buried under the weight of technicalities that all the lawyers who are at work on them are applying, and the focus of the media has shifted from the scams which have cost this nation progress, to the ethics of journalism, 26/11 and Bihar elections.
And they think, we don't see through it.
I haven't even gone to the bureaucracy yet which is shaking with fear, nor to the stench of the split between the North and the South in Indian politics.

Friday, November 26, 2010

From an Artiste to a Revolution :)

My curiosity for art emerges from my inability to be anything other than a writer.
When I meet an artiste, I am in awe of him or her.
When I watch people paint on canvas, render poetry, dance, sing, perform or write with such ease, it dwarfs me, because it is their connect with the depths of their own souls which enables them to create such beauty through their varied forms of expressions.
Peter Saltzman whom I was a big fan of once, is a friend of mine now, so I know much more about him than his music which is what I have turned to so often when I've  needed to tear myself away from the cacophony of life to take me to the calm most of us try to reach out to almost every single day of our crazy lives.
An accomplished jazz pianist in Chicago, USA, Peter humbles me with the passion he has for his craft whenever I talk to him, which is quite often these days.
On a visit to Mumbai, some time ago, Peter left us riveted when he told us all about himself and his life.
He was barely three at the time his grandparents discovered his talent when he played around with an electronic organ lying around at their house once. Soon they bought him a standing piano which was the beginning of Peter's journey. He would fool around with keys till he got a sound he was looking for, and by the time he was five, his folks knew they must put him in training.
So Peter started to train in classical music at such a young age while growing up in the '60's when Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkle and the Beatles were a rage. So while he played their records over and over again till he wore them out, Peter continued to practise on sonata's of Beethoven, and by the time he was in high school, he developed a passion for jazz and started to play it.
I needed to know more about his journey, the process, so he took me through some of his memories like when he played with a band, with bass and drums for the first time in his freshman year at high school when his teacher got some of his top students to play with proffessionals. It was an incredible experience for him, the sense of playing with others, performing with others, was music to allude new levels for him.
It meant a lot as an experience and it was like, music for him has been a series of realizations of some incredible force.
He also remembered one time when he was about 15, and he was listening to a Miles Davis record called Milestones, Cannonball Adderley, the great jazz alto saxophonist of the hard-bop era of the 1950's and 1960's, started soloing and it was one of those times he remembers particularly because upto that instance he knew he loved the feeling of jazz but couldn't understand the abstract complex elements of it, but in that moment it was like the heavens had opened up for him and he began to see the whole thing and experience his passion in its true sense.
He smiles as he shares this private moment with me because he says it is a personal experience, all about him alone, for which he credits Cannonball in a certain way for explaining what it all meant.
Things like that have happened over and over again with him whether he was listening to Beethoven or Bach, Classical, Jazz and Pop, all three traditions which he grew up with, Richard Rogers, Cole Porter, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and many more artistes.
Peter believes their music has been like what they've told him. He believes they are like his forefathers, because they've laid down the book for him as all that he's done this far, comes from them.
He laughs as I ask him about gigs.
For some reason although he's had great times playing at concerts and clubs and parties, he only remembers those times when things went wrong and therefore doesn't want to talk about them.
Sounds like a true artiste.
Why is it that we only remember the negative things that happen at the time we perform? Is it because we don't want to ever go through them again.
Well Peter, now is the founder and CEO of MOA (Music Online Alive) you can go to at http://www.musiconlinealive.com/ which is a platform he has created for all artistes across the world. Here, he tells me, artistes belonging to all traditions from across the world, can find simple tools to create virtual albums, which the team in the back office would then partner to market and distribute through the online space. 
Talking about revolutions, this is one. 



Thursday, November 18, 2010

OF THE SILLY CON JOB! :)

It is one helluva season on Television this year.
There is Big Boss on one channel and Rakhi Ka Insaaf after her Swayamvar on another.
I can't wait to see what they are planning with Rahul Mahajan, next.
If we want to call it rot, we have to at first admit that we love it. Such programming cannot surface and then become so popular that it scares the hell out of a terrified Government of India to focus on it and move it to now what they call an adult slot.
Once upon a time prime time was between 8pm and 10pm.
KBC came and with it enough modern mythlogicals like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki, which regressed the evolving Indian mind and took it two decades behind, to change all that.
Then Prime Time became 8pm to 11pm.
Now with the imposition of this new rule that programs like Big Boss and Rakhee Ka Insaaf should be shown only after 11pm, I am convinced that Prime Time will go right up to midnight.
So we'll have more hours to sell at high rates, more ratings where there were none, and who do you think will go home laughing? None other than the rewarded Television Channels who our State machinery ironically is attempting to punish.
Now eyeballs will shift from the CWG, Adarsh Society and the Telecom scams which threaten to bring even the PM under the scanner, to an inconsequential morality debate.
Last night news on all media, online and television, discussed this controversial move more than the scams which have cost the exchequer so much money that had that not been so, India would be a developed country with cent percent literacy, thereby relegating such programs like the BIG BOSS and RAKHEE KA INSAAF to a backward space, never allowing them to make it to take centerstage like in the USA where there is also a JERRY SPRINGER SHOW which is highly popular, more vulgar than its Indian counterpart, more crass than the BIG BOSS mix and more debauched and pornographic than the entire Indian conscience as a whole, but never has been nor ever will be legitimized to mainstream, neither by the media, nor by its people.
Everyone in the US loves to watch the Jerry Springer Show and nobody likes to admit that they do. Television like Big Boss and Rakhee Ka Insaaf have to be slotted and aimed at that psyche. It works for a society.
Pornography exists in the gutters of the minds of the people of every society and remains there. Rarely do you find people talking about the latest bit of porn they saw openly in a social environment and if they do bring it out of the range of whispers, they are ostracized and deemed embarrassing. Similarly, one has to make distinction between one kind of programming on television and another.
This essentially came to my mind as I switched between debate to debate on news television last night and noticed a visibly embarrassed Sameer Nair, CEO Imagine TV, man behind Rakhee Ka Insaaf, on NDTV 24/7.
He didn't know what to say as he couldn't get himself to take a stand for the show he was endorsing. He looked scared because he knew he was in the dock and he needed to defend the indefensible which if he did, would make him not look good. How convoluted is that!
The expression on his face was the same as many others whom I encounter when I go to meet programming heads and their subordinates in many channels who do their best to avoid facing those who disagree with them.
They are always scared and keep shifting in their seats because they don't know how to tell you that they don't believe what they are doing is right, but compulsions of the TRP's compell them.
They obviously don't realize that for fear of risking their jobs, they are ending up putting at risk an entire social fabric which ironically, they are either oblivious to, or don't care about.
The best talent in the circuit languishes in the fringes and doesn't get work because it demands a healthy environment to work in where logic prevails, whether to do with timings or to do with the sheer quality of content. On the contrary, absolutely unevolved people falling into the category of corrupted minds call the shots.
In a country of 1 billion where over 40 percent of the population is Muslim neither one series in 500 odd channels has a muslim character nor one of the faith is in the secondary or tertiary lists.
In a nation battling globalization where multi culturism is more a necessity than a choice, not one series addresses the issue or attempts to move out of a house with a large joint family, which barely exists in reality anymore.
A vigilant media today has forced the worst evil in the Indian system, corruption, to be tabled in Parliament, but not a single story addresses it.
Why?!
Because to write such stories, which take into their narratives sensitive issues and help find solutions through their characters as they unfold as well as make compelling viewing, channels need to invest in development and nobody is ready to do that as it brings them in confrontation with creative and talented people who challenge them and drive channels to do what is right.
And dare not anyone say that good programming doesn't work.
It's been too long that I have had to hear the arguement that television does not cater to you and me, and that it is only targetted to the lowest common denominator.
Are we trying to say that the lowest common denominator does not deserve respect? That people belonging to the lowest end of society which bring in the ratings can't appreciate the good?
Sorry, I don't buy that arguement.
Because for me to be convinced, I have to see those executives who save their positions while they put in danger the social fabric of a country in the bargain, justify and defend their work without squirming when the television camera is on them.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Golden Retriever: THE WEEKEND OF CRAZY! :)

The Golden Retriever: THE WEEKEND OF CRAZY! :): "Its been a while since I wrote on my blog so I'm a bit anxious because I haven't said my bit about the world which is going quite crazy as w..."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

THE WEEKEND OF CRAZY! :)

Its been a while since I wrote on my blog so I'm a bit anxious because I haven't said my bit about the world which is going quite crazy as we speak.
Amidst all the euphoria and criticism of President Obama's visit I was too caught up with an exhausting as well as enlightening Diwali weekend.
Left without a housekeeper or a maid, ditched by both without notice, I was stuck with housework and a demanding dog who has never in his five years been alone for a second in the house.
So if I went to the loo I caught him seated right outside the door when I stepped out, and if I dared to open the main door, even if only to keep my garbage can outside the door for the cleaners to collect it, I could feel the warmth of Charlie's paranoia on my back and would turn around to see him terrified of being left in alone.
So from the super market to the kitchen, I had to take my big black canine, everywhere with me. For some reason he considers my car to be as comfortable as home and my driver to be as comforting as my housekeeper, so while he rested in the boot of my Safari, I ran from store to store and wrapped up my simple and necessary shopping and returned home to housework which included, sweeping, mopping, cooking, serving as well as feeding the dog who also ended up with an injury so therefore nursing too.
I was so tired by the time the weekend started that the day after Diwali, I put my dog in my car and drove off to Khandala with a friend on Saturday night after attending an intimate dinner hosted by Pooja Bhatt where Dr. Ravi Zacharais interestingly took us through some enlightening experiences from his own life and spoke about various things which were personal to him but relevant to the entire audience which was a mix of actors, evangelists, artistes, writers, film makers, fashion designers and other creative folk.
I sort of connected with Dr. Zacharais when he spoke about his childhood and how amongst his siblings, he was a blacksheep, never interested in academics and always in trouble. The only difference was that while his father kept telling his mother that one day their child would bring shame to the family, my father kept telling my mother right through my childhood that one day I would bring fame to the family. While Zacharaiss' unsuccessful attempt to commit suicide at the age of 17, was a turning point in his life, I was in realization of why there had never been a turning point in my life.
It was obviously because I had always lived never to take my life, as I believed, that because of my fathers encouragement to me despite all my failures, there was something within me which was worth living for. Right at that time though I did feel suicidal, because my dog who loves to be driven in a car was being taken around all of Bandra so he would remain calm while I attended this lovely evening, and diesel was burning while I sat listening to a man who was particularly charming and withholding.
Pooja has a way with managing people from different walks of life brought together by her electric personality. Munna and she had invited Dino Morea, Soni Razdan, Deepak Tijori, Salim Asgarally, Helen, Salim of Salim Javed fame, Jhonny Lever, and many others who sat through the hour long talk by the dynamic Dr. Zacharais who perhaps is as good an orator as Obama.
I was in Khandala through the Sunday that the President of America was in our city and before leaving had heard and read plenty of criticism about his visit to India being badly planned so it had complicated life of the common man during Diwali in Mumbai.
When I returned Mr. Obama was in New Delhi and I had a new housekeeper, Savita, in my house.
I heard him address the Parliament in the capital city on Monday evening as I sipped off a hot cup of tea made by Savita, who was most curious to know who this guy on every channel was.
I was completely riveted.
He was brilliant and humble and simple and uncomplicated.
More surprising was the vote of thanks awarded to the proceedings by speaker Meira Kumar. She was outstanding as she spoke in English and Hindi. She was striking and impressive. Truely, in that moment, at that meeting with the Parliament of the Obama which I was watching on TV, it made me feel that India had arrived.
It has!
Nobody in the media noticed it, but I did.
At the dinner hosted by the President Pratibha Patil, Obama pushed in a snide remark in his speech to shut tongues wagging about his poorly timed visit to Mumbai during Diwali when he reminded the entire gathering that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had visited the US in his first year of office during Thanks Giving last year and that weekend to the Americans is as important as the weekend of Diwali is to Indians.
I think we Indians made too much of it.
Later that night, Shobha De wore her Mumbaiat on a channel on TV when she ranted on about Mumbaikars not making so much of Obama's visit to Mumbai as Delhiites are making of his visit to New Delhi.
I don't think it is true.
Mumbaikars were as excited, but wholly embarrassed that the leader who was receiving and entertaining the President of America was tainted with corruption charges and that everyone knew that he was on his way out.
This evening the media, electronic and print, is still under the Obama effect, analysing and discussing each word said to India by him on every podium.
Chavan is out and so has Kalmadi been asked to go.
I want to know what will happen to the Generals and other officers of the Army, as well as the bureaucrats who enabled scams of the magnitude of CWG and the Adarsh Society to take place.
What will happen about Raja, Yeddurappa and perhaps every other being in our politics who is a scamster or a criminal.
Who will replace Chavan? A scamster who was thrown out many years ago? Someone who the people of India have forgotten, was perhaps as, or more corrupt?
Everyone in India knows that the only thing holding the nation back from taking the greatest steps forward is corruption.
Everyone knows, that it HAS to be weeded out.
As I live in the comfort of having a housekeeper take care of everything around the house, and a dog who sleeps forever sprawled on the floor or on the cushions besides wherever I park myself in my home, I do wonder if we will ever be able to lift the curse.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

DASH OF REALISM

India for the first time after many decades is looking inwards.


And as it does that as a nation, it has started to stare at the truth right in the eye and express itself with an honesty which had become as alien to us as the cinema we had started to make in the eighties and nineties of the previous century.

For once, India can laugh at itself and also mourn its failures and acknowledge its strengths and weaknesses with equal balance. That is because the new breed of expressionists, be it film makers, artistes or other creative folk, are irreverent to the previous generation, which, because of its apathy, has left its young a nation which they must stand to take the responsibility to correct.

Indian films died a death somewhere in the late eighties along with the Indian psyche which became one of hopelessness. The faith in the system was lost thereby the belief in people, in the sense of who they are, had started to collapse. The trash that the business of entertainment began to mete out in the last two decades before the turn of the century, left not just the audience but even the expressionists uninspired, therefore the whole concept of reflecting and mirroring our societies, which the art of cinema stands for, fell into a black hole and found itself lost in an abyss of nothingness.

Mindless song, dance, action and storytelling did more to harm the individual than to take him from one stage of progression to another. It had to finally come to its own end with the revolution of technology that took place suddenly and which snatched the power from the hands of the monopolists and gave it to a breed of young, tireless and passionate youngsters who for the first time kicked the fear of failure out of the window and risked their storytelling by changing the grammar of cinema, enough to make it a more universal language that started to be understood by the audience in its entirety.

Today if an Abhishek Kapoor stands tall with Rock On under his belt and Imtiaz Ali can be proud to have shunned the formula to create another with Jab We Met. If Tarun Mansukhani, Abhinav Kashyap, Anusha Rizvi and Mohit Suri can boast of having given the industry a new direction through a Dostana, Dabangg, Peepli Live and Crook (so what if the latter did not do well at the box office), it is because they have the guts and the courage to make a film as they see it, not as some bloke sitting somewhere in a remote corner of India who fantasizes a half naked woman lap dancing on his thighs sees it, and could thus compel cinema to be as ‘he’ thinks it should, because the obscene Mr. Moneybags called the distributor also called the shots. The directors, technicians and actors were left to titillate the sensibilities of the debauched if they wished to earn a living from the art they loved.

Let’s face it. If it wasn’t the sacrifice of Anuraag Kashyaps’ five odd films which still lie in the cans, or for that matter, the audacity of a Vishaal Bhardwaj to pluck Indian Cinema from the tulip fields of Switzerland, where the story could jump to from the Sarson fields in Punjab with utter lack of logic and be carried along with its heroines in chiffon saris to places unseen by an average Indian at the time, and cut the glam to take it to a gritty UP, one of the poorest and most backward states in India with his Omkara, cinema would not be where it is today. My own film the critically acclaimed White Noise, which was a commercial disaster in 2005, left me stumped because only 5 prints were released by the distributors in a country of 1 billion where 40 percent speak English, the language it was made in.

I cannot but praise the efforts of Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya which was the beginning for the change of idiom, or for that matter many of Shyam Benegals’ and Govind Nihalani’s films which were forced into the art arena by an insensitive and greedy industry which only saw big money to be the criterion, never displaying an intention to take low budget and honest films to larger audiences, across the country through courageous distribution. It was perhaps only one Mahesh Bhatt who carried his Arth, Saaransh, Janam and Zakhm with a defiance which required guts that nobody else from his generation ever had, and since he is a favorite film maker of mine, he deserves a mighty applause here.

I have nothing against big money. But I am against twisted minds which only tease the voyeuristic and hypocritical sensibilities of man, without leaving him anything to take home but confusion about his bearings. The present state of general entertainment on television is as stark a truth as what cinema’s truth was about a decade ago.

The cinema of the people of India has to be one which reflects Indian lives honestly and young film makers as well as older film makers like Prakash Jha who continue to remain young even now, have started to do that, whether about Indian lives in the back of the beyond Bihar, or be it the lives of Indian’s in Miami, Florida.

What makes me even more optimistic about the future of Indian Cinema is that this present young breed of makers have managed to get the so called superstars to finally have faith in their expression. They have seen to it that the stars enjoy working on characters which are rooted in present times and which are not some robotic Barbie dolls doing a confused kathak mixed with salsa number in some European country with no footing on the ground whatsoever.

And it is certainly more than welcome to see writers and directors today, spoofing on the nonsense that we have lived with as we grew up. DevD for instance with its music as well as its take on the desperate Devdas was more than what we had ever asked for. Who wants to cry today, over lost love?

Because the truth is that now everybody moves on and forgets the past.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

IF I HADN'T LOST THIS, WOULD I HAVE FOUND THAT?

Life has been absolutely crazy in the past two months and sometimes I believe it just get as mad as this for me so I can actually sit and hammer away at the keyboards to get my mind off what I cannot deal with.
As a writer I feel so very fulfilled but as person I must admit, I was lost.
It's taken me 5 years of tremendous heart break to come to this point, and I deliberately pushed it to bring it upon myself so late so that I could handle it emotionally.
I built a company from scratch from the time I was in my early twenties about an equal number of years ago. It went on to create milestones with almost everything I produced, be it a television serial, a documentary or a film.
We touched heights as a production house in the mid and late nineties as amongst the top 10 in the industry through sheer hard work and discovery.
As the industry grew to mammoth proportions, we obviously did not make the right decisions to capitalize on the times and fell apart, attempting time and again to come together and see ourselves through, but failed on the business front miserably.
In better times we had done enough for me to have built a life to make myself secure so that I could set myself to higher pursuits with my creativity and practise experiments as a writer and a film maker.
The last attempt to capitalize on what we had built was a big series for TV in 2006, which, like the rest of our works, went on to make it to the top of the charts, but failed us in the business so badly, that the company was left heavily in debt.
Everything came to a stand still and I had to close operations once and for all and settle all matters, some which were in court and some outside of it.
Under tremendous stress I hypothecated all I had built in the last 20 years, hoping to safeguard it through my work but never realized that I wouldn't be able to produce anything under the pressure of the fear of having to lose it.
It took five years of relentless court proceedings going on against me and my company because I did not have the power of funds to fuel the battle against some of the things which were also completely unfair.
Eventually, I had to cave in and I knew I would have to do that at some point, from start, but I only wanted to fall apart when I was ready to deal with it internally, as all along I knew that, however brave I was, if I were to break at the wrong time, I would be crushed.
Three months ago, after giving fierce opposition to my detractors, I closed most matters with the help of my family which, however painful it was for me, stood up for me and released me from the attack of those who had me nailed, by paying up much more than what was owed to them.
And finally, two months ago I went and handed over the house I had earned for myself and lived in for 15 years to the bank it was hypothecated to, to settle the last matter.
It took me five years to come to this because I was terrified of finding myself without a roof on my head, that too without a job at hand.
And then, when I did it, I lost the roof on my head and I was still without a job, but I was unafraid.
Time had made me fearless and given me the courage to plunge to the unknown one more time in this life time, exactly as it had happened before with me, 20 years ago.
This time I am not as confident, but much wiser.
I wouldn't say it was easy.
I was unafraid, no doubt, but I was sleepless.
For days on end, after having handed over my house to a bank and moving into rental premises, I sat up nights and days wondering how I'm going to get by with the bills each month, which have now escalated because there is a rent added to it.
What I would do if I could not gather enough steam to make myself a home again?

When I had started I had 35 to 40 years of a career to look ahead at.
Now I have about 15 to 20 and a whole new generation of creativity rising over me, with greater power and energy, which I have to compete with.
As a writer and a creative person I had to reach beyond what I had touched so far.
As a proffessional I had to go back to where I had started from.
Where were the two roads going to meet?

On one sleepless night, I started going through my files on my laptop and found amidst many things a synopsis and concept note for a film called BAD which I had drafted many years ago.
It was funny, it was weird and insane but it got my attention and I went for it.
It was the story of two girlfriends who meet in strange circumstances when they are really young and start by hating each other but also connecting over the recognition of a streak of independence in both of them. They get drawn closer to each other through an understanding of each other which they don't find with anybody else in their respective lives. They share truths about their various relationships with different men at different stages of their lives and feel comforted because neither stands in judgement about the others escapades. The conflict arises when they stretch the trust they share with each other and risk it by sharing a man.
The rest I shall not reveal now.
I began to write BAD to overcome my lack of sleep through adverse times, and in my worst moments produced a piece of work which I can hardly believe I've written because something as funny and as convoluted in such terrible times was least expected by me from myself.
However, it kept me going and saw me through.
And it is a work I'm so unsure of that I just know that it must be good because I'm also experiencing a sense of pride in it.
I read an extract from the play to an audience at NCPA'S Chauraha, last week, thanks to my friend Deepa Gahlot who drove me to do a reading with friends Nisha Harale Bedi and Salim Asgarally. It was a terrific experience interacting with others who were there.
I'm more confident as I write the final draft before we go into production to stage it.
I now wonder, what if I hadn't lost my house, would I have found BAD - The Theater of Weird?
Probably not. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

AK MATOO IRRITATES ME?.....

AK Matoo irritates.
For no other reason but the fact that he is the typical face of Indian beaurocracy which pops up from nowhere when politicians in India go underground and officials who aided them to cheat the people of India are suspended.
Now, Mr. Matoo is the only face of the Government of India which is visible apart from Mani Shankar Iyer who is smug and satisfied with an 'I told you so' attitude towards the media as well as the Government which at present is run by the party which he belongs to. Somebody has obviously convinced Mr. Matoo that he is saving grace, having taken over charge from the suspended crooks barely a month ago because of a clean track record. He seems to be so out of sync with the reality and he is in some sort of delusion that he is an overnight star. Why else would he be chased by the media?
He, in all his commitment to the games is obviously oblivious to the fact that the real culprits are probably watching the proceedings on television completely grateful that they are as forgotten as their names and faces are.
Everything is as was expected, but Iyer's politics is something I cannot understand.
Is it that he has been appointed by his own party to hit Kalmadi till he runs away?
I wish it were true.
Or is it that he really doesn't care a damn about his future with his party because he knows that the Congress itself has no future?
How can it have a future, when at the moment it seems like India itself, has none?
Slumdog Millionaire was the first slap on India's face in public view of an international audience when it sprung up a surprise out of nowhere in our faces and smacked the sacred cow's dung on our cheek with the very shit that we live in and desperately try to hide.
We like fake Gandhians proffered our other cheek, so here comes the next in the form of the Commonwealth Games. The dog and his faeces in the athletes quarters, the collapse of the overbridge and the disgust of the entire world with the way things function in our country.
We should've expected it and seen it coming.
How long were we going to paint a picture of our nation as one which would fool the world to believe that there is something about us, our culture, our heritage and our ancient civilization which makes us higher than the rest of the world when it comes to the universal design of the truth?
How long were we going to hide the ugly faces of the Bhanots and one Sardarji whose name I forget behind the kanjeevaram sarees and erudite elite of our South Indian beaurocracy which is slowly dissapearing to accomodate all the various candidates who come through reservations to partake in handling the Great Indian Administration where loyalty to politicians helps them to make a fast buck?
The Commonwealth Games was one more attempt by the governing bosses to color the walls with such brightness that the bling blinds the world from viewing India as a pathetic poor nation where millions of children die everyday due to malnutrition and huge metropolises are built by cheap labor which is exploited by the builder lobby which comprises of politicians themselves.
Sad is not the word to be used here because there is no redemption and nobody is ready to forgive anymore. One comment of Chetan Bhagats on Times Now when he spoke to Arnab Goswami this evening sent a chill up my spine. He said, "what are we going to tell our children? That corruption is OK? Are we going to let our children grow up to be like us who believed while we were raised by our parents, that corruption is OK?"
That is so true!!!
We are an entire generation, well almost, who were made to learn to cheat by our parents and mentors because they were so afraid, they so feared how we would survive the world which they saw coming.
Not me.
I grew up to believe that I had foolish parents.
I, at a certain stage of my adult years actually regretted that I was born to a family which never taught me how to snatch, trample, grab and shamelessly claim what was not mine. I was never told that guilt is a useless emotion therefore what I do to earn money to secure the future of my children and myself, should not bother me.
I was never told that what I learnt in school and later college was complete bullshit and that in the real world, none of those values apply.
I had friends and I still have many more who often laughed at me, as they would tell me that my sense of idealism and faith in hard work was false and that neither the pretence nor the genuinity of it was going to get me anywhere. They were always confused about whether I was really honest or only projecting myself to be true.
However, this article is not about me, but about MY INDIA which has been trashed by the elected representatives of the people of my country to safeguard my interests and take my nation to the highest places.
No amount of damning and name calling the criminals at the helm of affairs is going to be enough now.
They don't even deserve our ire.
What the people of India should do is to sweep them off the floor like dust and throw them away in the garbage where the vultures of time can swoop upon them for their meat which perhaps night even be poisonous.
Gosh! To think that the keepers of law and order don't obey the law themselves!
So much so that the very labourer who lies crippled and wounded under the collapsed overbridge was the man who was at first supposed to recieve his due for toiling in the scorching heat and freezing cold of New Delhi for two long years to build a stadia for the classes to show off their status to rest of the world.
At first, as per labour laws, it was he who should have been provided with decent living conditions where he worked like a dog through night and day to make Kalmadi's dream come true.
As per the law, there are specifications to the size of his living quarters and amenities he has rights to, because as per the constitution of India, he must be treated like a human being.
But no!
This is the country where the standards of hygiene are such that a dog sleeps on an athletes bed, and dumps all over the floor of the athlete's bedroom while a human child, crows and a cow scavenge off the same garbage dump in various nooks and corners everywhere, in small towns and in big cities, often right outside state of art structures which house the elite.
Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!
Till the day we don't get it, until the day we don't realize that the man working at a wage barely Rs. 20 a day, deserves respect, we will never have the freedom nor the conscience to host or provide hospitality at an International event.

Friday, August 13, 2010

THE VILLAGE DIARIES 2

I am overwhelmed...
This morning was where it finally began...
I so realize the meaning of having found a purpose and having started to work towards achieving something that is not just going to bring me happiness, but going to bring thousands of people along with us a peace which they so hope for.
THE VILLAGE PROJECT INDIA  finally took off with a painting competion between 50 of the Khar Danda Municipal School's best artistes.
Each painting was to die for...
Each drawing spoke...
Children from the age group of 9 to 12 sat for two long hours and poured out colors from their hearts on their drawing sheets... and in pin drop silence, the three judges, Actor/Model Adam Bedi, Fashion Designer Salim Asgarally and Artiste Bina Aziz, watched over them and at the end, had a hard time making up their minds about who the best three were.
Vilas Chavdi, the Shiv Sena Corporator of Khar Danda, graced the occasion and gave away the prizes to the best. He also emphasized the need for proper health services and requested everyone to be pro active in the process. All fifty children belonging to various communities, painted their interpretations of Lord Ganesha and it was declared that the best three paintings will be printed on T Shirts designed by Salim Asgarally and distributed to the organizers and workers of the Ganesh Seva Mandal at Khar Danda during Ganpati Festival next month. Twenty five top artistes will be helped to hone their skills by some of India's top artistes in a workshop organized by Artiste Bina Aziz during fall vacation this year.
Nisha Harale Bedi compered the event and made the children participate in the celebration of art and made them pledge that they will help THE VILLAGE PROJECT to maintain a safe and healthy environment.
Akash Thakker, Treasurer, The Village Project India, managed the event which was conducted seamlessly and his team, Nitin Pore and Ritchelle Nanda worked hard to make it successful.
Dale Bhagwagar, member of the Governing Council and PR and Brand Management Expert, handled media and enjoyed working hard to bring it all together.
Camlin sponsored the paints and colors for the children and Parle Agro sponsored the snacks and drinks. Hippo was a hit with the kids and Frooti went real fine too.
Most of the respected elders and senior citizens of the Fishermen's Village attended the prize distribution and congratulated the children as well as pledged to support the project.
THE VILLAGE PROJECT will soon begin the process of cleaning up the beach as well as flagging off various communications and training programs.
Some youth of the village will be trained by experts for disaster and crisis management and the team will be made available to the inhabitants 24/7.
THE VILLAGE PROJECT will help the people of Khar Danda to also run an ambulance service of their own and build other enterprise which will give employment to all the young and talented.
It has started and with the support and good will of all our friends, we will make it happen.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

THE VILLAGE DIARIES 1

It was only January 2010 when Brinda Chudasama Miller asked me to work with the Kala Ghoda Festival team and curate the film section for the 2010 edition of the festival. A part of the process was to produce some short films with people other than film makers. One of the most fulfilling experiences as a creative producer for me was to make three short films directed by Artiste Bina Aziz, Fashion Designer Salim Asgarally and Chef Max which were then screened at the festival as well as many other occasions later.

Chef Max took us on a journey with him to discover how he shops for seafood in Mumbai city. When he took the camera team to Khar Danda Fishermen's Village where he purchases his lobsters from, he introduced us to Bhaichand, who is one of the most senior and respected citizens of the village. Bhaichand told us about the village and took us to the jetty from where the boats leave to bring back the catch everyday.
We were stunned to silence with the beauty at the sea front and completely taken aback with the state it was in. It was filty beyond imagination with waste collected more than 10 feet deep, drowning the beach which Bhaichand explained, they once played football on. With years of negligence, one of the oldest and purest places Mumbai can enjoy, has also been allowed to waste away.

Narrow lanes lead to the sea front and the filthy beach and it was preposterous that none of us who pass that way on an average 10 times a month, didn't even know of its existence. The Khar Danda Fishermen's Village Association, formed by roughly 4000 families who are the present generation of the original inhabitants of Mumbai and headed by Ashish Shellar, along with Shiv Sena elected Corporator Vilas Chavdi had been fighting a losing battle with authorities to bring to their notice, a paradise gone waste, for years now.

THE VILLAGE PROJECT INDIA was born right there and then. All those involved with the making of the three short films came together to form the NGO which in partnership with the Fishermen's Village Association pledged to clean the sea front and assist the 45000 plus population of the village, to maintain and keep it clean. As we collectively explored further, the need to assist the inhabitants of the village to build adequate toilets, provide ambulances for emergency and basic health services as well as help create awareness and enterprise to improve the quality of lives of the people of the village came up. A crisis management team trained by experts is also being prepared by the youth in the urban village with the help of the NGO. A campaign to inform the people of their legal rights, specially the women and children, is also underway.

THE VILLAGE PROJECT INDIA has its office strategically placed opposite the local Municipal School and what better way is there, but to launch all initiatives by involving the children of the village, who are the future of the country, on the 63rd Independence Day of India, first.
Taking forward the motto 'ART CREATES AND VIOLENCE DESTROYS', the members of the Governing Council of the NGO along with the Fishermen's Village Association, Bhaichand, Ashish Shellar and Vilas Chavdi have organized a painting competition amongst 50 children from the school, of which 20 will be selected for a 2 day workshop with India's top artistes to be held around Diwali this year.
The top three winners will also be given kits and tools to take their art further and their paintings will be selected as the designs on the T Shirts which the 230 organizers of the Ganpathi Mandal of the Village will wear during the Ganpathi festival in the 2nd week of September.

Chef Max Orlati, Fashion Designer Salim Asgarally, Choreographer Nisha Harale Bedi, Artiste and Curator Bina Aziz, Graphics Artiste Madhuri Iyer, Waste Management Expert Stewart Klevan, Executive Producer Akash Thakker, Youth Activist Nitin Pore, PR expert Dale Bhagwagar and I, aim to engage with the people of the Khar Danda Fishermen's Village through various activities by way of which we can communicate and disseminate information about a clean and healthy environment.
Hands on we are, and toil we will, along with the Association, the villagers and their leaders, to give to Mumbai one more corner to be proud of.

A special thanks to Camlin for sponsoring the colors, crayons, paints and brushes for the children to use and Parle Agro for providing drinking water, soft drinks and snacks.

The Village Project India would like to thank our friends Nadia Chauhan Kurup, Raj Kurup and Surekha Kotwani for supporting the initiative and our mentors Subhash Kamath and Mahesh Murthy for giving the project vision.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

GREAT INDIAN TELEVISION!

Nidhi Razdan, Barkha Dutt, Dr. Prannoy Roy, Vikram Chandra, Arnab Goswami, Navika Kumar, Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagarika Ghosh, all make compelling television. Great Indian Television!

In the last few months, television seems to have finally arrived, if only on the shoulders of the few names I've taken above. I have to say that we are getting back to where we started from in that space which had been vandalized and completely destroyed by a business which was desperately chasing TRP's, and pandering to the demands of mindless politicians who seemed threatening to the honest voice and the inner conscience of India.

Between 830PM and 11PM, you cannot ignore the set.
On the contrary you go crazy trying to figure out what you should watch.
This week NDTV has introduced a new show at 830PM hosted by Nidhi Razdan who takes you through the events of the day and discusses them with a respected editor of a leading national daily, sitting right across her table.
On it's first day, it was Shekhar Gupta, and on Tuesday it was Dilip Padgaonkar, both equally articulate and both of whom, with the depth of knowledge it requires to analyse the way Indian Politics functions, made critical comment.
From the CWG corruption scandal, to Kashmir and Mamata Bannerjee flirting with the Maoists in West Bengal, all issues that haunt India today, it was engaging discussion which made me feel like we were finally in search of solutions and bringing the guilty to book without mincing words instead of just chasing ratings with sensational content.

It gets hard to choose what to watch at 9PM because there's Dr. Prannoy Roy or Vikram Chandra on NDTV, Arnab Goswami and Navika Kumar on the News Hour on Times Now and Rajdeep Sardesai on CNNIbn.
One goes crazy switching channels because it is criminal to lose out on even a minute of the heated debates on all three channels running simultaneously, although its interesting to note regulars like Ravi Shankar Prasad, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Rajiv Pratab Rudy and others switch camera's for a perfectly coordinated appearance on all three channels in the same one hour.
Despite the fact that most of the panelists will be the same, I spend the evening figuring out which of the three I should leave for watching during the repeats, and which of the two I should watch alternately between that one hour so as to catch the best of both. It's really not as much about the panelists, as it is about the anchors because all three channels maintain their difference, respecting it as well.
Dr. Roy and Chandra are gentle and engaging, Arnab grills and wants answers right here and now, and Rajdeep has the amazing talent to present things as they are and all three perspectives count.

Come 10PM and I'm decided.
Its 'The Buck Stops Here' with Barkha Dutt for me and 'Face the Nation' with Sagarika Ghosh is my late night fix before I retire to my writing.
The Buck Stops Here took a break for sometime only to return on all week nights since last week, presumably to give Kalmadi a chance to carry the baton and try his luck with the placard on his table which eventually had to and also did fail him.
Back in her place each week night, Barkha takes you through events and discussion with ease, putting her panelists in the dock and getting more of her own tribe on board to fire at them and raise the right issues.
Kashmir is close to Barkha's heart, it is obvious.
She's spent more than a decade now bringing news from the valley to India with a certain empathy which puts her apart from the rest of the reporters who tend to make it sound like they are reporting from a war torn zone where those who die were meant to. Barkha on the other hand reaches out to people, be it soldiers and officers from the armed forces who dare the relentless battle and risk their lives, or the people of Kashmir who have now lived more than two decades in a paradise lost to violence,
Of recent past Barkha has been bringing young Kashmiri's to participate in her panel and present to the people of India an honest picture of what is going on in the minds of the people of the state who have lost all faith and hope.
It is so sad to watch students and young teachers vent their anger at the failures of the administration and not surprising that each one of them supports azaadi, the freedom of Kashmir from India.
The Government keeps harping about an economic package and an education package which is yet to be visible or seen by the Kashmiri's. Now they are trying to create jobs for the young in Kashmir to cool down tempers as well, they say.
But where is there any sign of development?
Where is there employment in Kashmir for its youth and where is there education for its young, even after the so called third democratically elected Government is in place? When there is peace in the valley, it is as forgotten a part of India as the North Eastern states of India are while the anti establishment forces lie low there.
Ecomomic, education, health and employment packages are words which have no meaning for alienated people who have no opportunity to progress on their own land. When unrest surfaces, packages are promised again.
Nothing changes.
Nothing has, since the time the Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave their homeland about twenty years ago.
My suggestion to Barkha, bring the young Pandits and the young Kashmiri Muslims face to face on Television. See sparks fly and make them speak. Get them out there to talk, discuss and solve the problems of their homeland which concerns nobody other than they themselves and give them the space to resolve issues, because left to the Government of India, nothing will happen.
I am shocked that in 20 years, not once has anybody in India brought the original inhabitants of the valley on a common platform and asked them what it is that they really want. A mindless politics between India and Pakistan is being played out since our Independence between leaders who neither belong to Kashmir, nor will ever go there to make a life.

I believe that the media is really our last hope and each member of civil society should support it.
Ironically, Face the Nation with Sagarika Ghosh took on the judiciary for trying to gag the media on basis of a litigation filed against various channels and reporters by Dr. Talwar and his wife for having lost repute during the investigation of their own 14 year old daughters murder. The infamous NOIDA murder which rocked the country some time back.
I'm refering to the Aarushi murder case, where the 14 year old girls father is still an accused.
The discussion between the panelists was about the limits media can go to and I sat wondering why is reportage being blamed for the lack of delivery of administration in our country?
Should the media put off its camera's and shut their recorders when the IG of Police calls a press conference and insinuates an illicit relationship between a minor and her middle aged servant and also suspects her own father for having killed her?
How bizzarre is that!!!
Should the media throw those tapes out of the window which carry sick recordings of the servants and family members go through lie detector tests and what else not?
Let the judiciary question a perverse NOIDA police, the CBI and those beaurocrats who got vicarious pleasure in discussing a suspected sexual liason of a poor 14 year old and loved watching themselves do that on national television.
Dr. Talwar and his lawyers should file a complaint against all those who were a part of the investigation, not against media which only reported a most absurd reality unfolding before their eyes.

The mother of all facts is, that our media is a reflection of us.
If we change, so will the media.
If we don't want to see blood and gore, let there be none.
If we don't want corruption exposed, weed it out of the system.
If we don't want systems to fail, make them work.
If we don't want politicians to be cursed and criticized, improve the quality of politics.

It is no longer the time when media can be blamed for everything, because a committed tribe of journalists are here to expose, correct and put to task a system and politics that has failed the nation for over 63 years and a civil society out here is alert and aware of its rights.

Friday, August 6, 2010

WHAM THE GRAND SCAM!

We are at the... er... well almost at the juncture where India is prepared to call a spade a spade.
How many people are the powerful going to go after, and how many will they be able to nab and destroy and where in the world are they go to go and drag out to punish all those voices which speak out against them? They can eliminate two RTI activists, one in Pune and one in Gujarat, but how many more will they be able to manage do away with?
India is at the threshold of its independence for the first time now.
With the power of the opinion in the hands of its people, whether because of online or interactive media, the Government of India is left with no choice but to act and perform, or else, one by one, each politician, beaurocrat and every cheat who has manipulated the system to amass wealth illegitimately, is going to be revealed and hanged.

Trust me, its not just the media which is the watchdog of the politics of India that is making this happen. It is also the people of India who have finally got the right to their opinion because of online media in their hands and their close proximity to other media, so intimately today, that even the media is being watched over by them, and the barons know it, the barons who have waited for it for years while they silently supported the corrupt, however angry it made them, for the sake of their own survival.
This time the media dare not relent in its pursuit to root out the rot which has collected for over six decades of a latent dictatorship and authoritarian rule which has conveniently operated behind the veil of democracy ever since the 15th of August, 1947. This time it has to weed out the filth, the dirt from the ground.

Tonight on Prime Time Television, it was so apparent, that every news channel went on from where it had left off on the CWG scandal yesterday, inspite of the fact that every politician consumed by it or afraid to be, had abandoned them. One poor Salman Khurshid, in all his decency appeared on Headlines Today to salvage the face of the Congress Party but he looked so distressed because of his own position, that one felt sorry for him.

While everyone is slamming the Organizing Committee, the Sports Ministry, the DDA, Ministry of Urban Development and every other body involved with putting together the games, a handful, like Khursheed, Vinod Sharma, the new treasurer of the OC, Mr. AK Matoo are virtually pleading with the panelists who for once are representing the people of India unanimously, to allow the games to take place and let there then be an inquiry on the accountability of the huge funds which have been grossly misused, embezzled, laundered and syphoned and which there is substantial evidence and proof of.
When neither the opposition, nor the party in power have the guts to appear on the debates, it is obvious that they are admitting to their failures and hoping that some miracle takes place and the games are achieved at the end of the fifty ninth day from now.

How?
How on earth are they going to achieve it? I smell a rat here as well.
I know, that the Government is aware of the fact that the Common Wealth Games are not going to happen. It knows we are not ready for it, which is why it has allowed the scandal to catch fire and burn the country's pride, so at the end of this horrendous period they can turn around and accuse the media as well as the people of India by saying, that had they been left to themselves, and had they not been questioned or compelled to suspend key corrupt officials of the OC, they would have met the deadline, but because India rocked, and the people and media insisted that culprits be brought to book, the games cannot happen.

However convoluted it may sound, but believe me, that is what is going to happen.
Our leaders are so far removed from reality and the truth, the parliament is so distant from its purpose, that MS Gill, the sports Minister, could actually crack a few jokes, and get a few laughs, when he spoke amongst his ilk at Parliament House today.
That is how shameless and unaffected our Government is.

Are they going to carry on the games in substandard stadia?
Are they going to host millions of guests and tourists in a chaotic city which is already bursting at its seams?
Or are they going to bring it all together in 59 days by rebuilding and recreating everything from scratch?
Lets see how it unfolds.

I was watching the promotion for a series on sports and sportspersons, which is the beginning of a campaign for the Olympics to be held in UK in 2012, on BBC today. 2012. Here, we have less than 60 days left for the launch of the games, and we're swimming in shame.
When the hell are we going to start talking about our infrastructure with pride?
When will be bring our athletes to the forefront? Those athletes of India who, for the first time, had advantage home ground, in the Common Wealth Games but yet haven't stepped into stadia to practice?
After the games are over? When all the equipment which has been hired, is returned to its rightful owners after having paid them 3 times the amount of the cost of the equipment?

Are we going to carry on with the scandal till the day that the games start and then declare celebration, like schizophrenics, like hypocrites, who have to impress our guests, the outsiders in the name of patriotism and national pride?
What nonsense is this?
Can't one out of the 565 elected members of Parliament step out and apologize to the country?
Shouldn't they step out in the open and admit to their ineptness and systemic failures?

Let me tell you, the Commonwealth Games are just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg.
If a leader doesn't emerge from the system, and doesn't take charge, there is going to be anarchy.
The people of India have to be taken in confidence now and an honest representative has to step out and be the healer by admitting to and apologizing for the failure of governance at every level, every state, every layer of society which is lying torn with lies, deceit and fraud.

This is the moment to face the truth.
This is the moment which can turn around everything and bring us to the beginning of the change,,the beginning the shining India which we keep talking about.
This is the moment which can bring us that freedom which was an illusion, which we had never ever had before.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

SHAME ON OUR SILENCE!!!

India has quite had it.
Although it surprises me that everyone seems shocked with what is being exposed of Kalmadi and the kala dhanda behind the Common Wealth Games, because I thought everyone must know whats been going on for decades now?
Thank heavens for RTI and thank heavens for a media which is leaving no stone unturned on all the dirty play behind our politics, else we would have gone on like somnabulists through life and let the rot lie.
I like the fact that our media has arrived at the stage where it is able to pit one party against another and therefore make the world see politicians reveal themselves by exposing another in the process.
CWG is an answer to the embarrassment caused to BJP with IPL because it attacked the UPA.
So the story which started with Tharoor, went on to expose Modi and has climaxed with stripping Kalmadi naked, but in the bargain, the people of India have seen with their eyes, what they always knew about corruption, deals and debauchery with the exchequers money when it came to politics and governance. (I'm ignoring price rise, thousands of tonnes of rotting grain, Amit Shah, Modi and all other things forgotten for now).

The least common denominator in this game of sport is the athlete.
The less said the better here, as every channel, every bit of old and new media is burning with anger and shame.
Unfortunately, a politician like Tom Vaddakan isn't.
I think the rest of UPA spokespersons have abandoned their positions on this one and I'm not surprised that none of them, Jayanti Natarajan, Manish Tewari or for that matter Abhishek Manusinghvi were visible on TV this evening.
I'm sure they refused to defend Kalmadi and make fools of themselves like Tom Vaddakan did.
Has he lost it?!!!
Or is he so far removed from reality that he thinks Indians are fools?!!!

This time, politicians better get it straight.
They had better know that Indians are not sleeping, they never were.
Thanks to interactive media that today we are able to engage in the process and let them know what they always thought we didn't know.
Ordinary citizens of India have been taken for a ride by the politicians and the rich and the powerful right from the time of our independence. It has always been advantage, the wealthy, and disadvantage, the poor. And the poor have always paid a huge price for it.
I salute each one of those athletes, players and sports persons who have gone on to bring India pride and continue to do so despite these criminals who have the audacity to charge 4000 bucks for a roll of toilet paper and forge documents to justify their acts. I salute that labor which is treated worse than animals in hell in India, who have built that stadia despite poor and adulterated materials and lost their lives despite a constitution which upholds a law to protect them.
Who the hell do these guys who sit in high offices think they are? What gives them the right to such evil?
Where are their values, where is their morality?
How dare they do this to the country and how dare they then have the gall to appear on National Television to defend themselves?
Vaddakan is using national pride as a bait to save the skin of his party while the party, which has gone into hiding, is left with no choice but to confront the truth.
And the greatest tragedy here is, that it is five days since, and the UPA has still not sacked Kalmadi, on the contrary, is allowing him, the most tainted, to head a three member team to investigate his own filth.
Also that Vaddakan is pleading on national television that we should let the games go on for the sake of national pride.

The shame these guys have brought to the nation in front of the rest of the world is unparalleled. They have made India fall apart and crawl because of their greed for power and money. They have terrorized the very people they represent and hidden fact from them about the misuse of their money. They have blatantly lied for decades and pimped our integrity and self respect, and above all that want us to let the games go on for the sake of national pride and not question them about their crime?
Indians are unforgiving today.

Look at Kashmir. Look at UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal which are burning with poor jawans fighting poorer citizens and losing their lives, because of the complacency of the government?
Look at the neglect in the North East.
Look at how urbanization is taking place and how ordinary people are being raped by an inefficient archaic system.
Today, you go out in Mumbai where the roads are the pits in a car, and you feel like you are in a bullock cart. You try getting into a local train and it's horrendous what you go through.
New Delhi, the capital of India looks like a city bombed.
Look at the way the poor live in the worst weathers and look at how children suffer disease, and this man Tom Vaddakan, actually has the confidence to go on national television to barter patriotism for peoples pride?
Every young Indian who struggles is angry, and every young Indian who is opportune is guilty. This is what our next generation is about, and these loud obnoxious creatures, who have managed to find themselves in positions of power, sit and pontificate patriotism like each alphabet in the word bleeds with the blood of their ancestors?
Shame Shame Shame Vaddakan. Shame on you UPA, BJP and all other political party's of India which have not been able to clean their acts and prepare themselves for the challenges of the 21st century.
Ravi Shankar Prasad went ballistic on News Hour on Times Now, crying foul when Harish Salve called all politicians corrupt. He was hurt and offended that all politicians were being painted by the stroke of the same brush. I was laughing as he said that there are people like him in politics who have integrity and are honest. I wanted to tell him that he may be honest and may have integrity, but the fact that he keeps silent about what goes on within his party, be it when he defends Modi or be it when he keeps mum about Hindu terror supported by the RSS, it makes him equally to blame.
I saw Barkha Dutt on her show, The Buck Stops Here, talk to two Kashmiri youth this evening. I couldn't help tears roll. Forget the politicians Barkha. Start talking only to the people of India. In their words is the truth, the reality. Let the lies rest for a while and let the politicians work instead of inviting them to your studios and allowing them to paint a picture of India which is completely untrue.
I saw Arnab Goswami question his panel and couldn't stop anger from gripping me as all the truth tumbled out.
What have we done to our country? How have we brought it to this?
Our silence is to blame and if we don't break it immediately, it is our silence which is all that's going to remain way after us, as the world has already gone miles ahead.
If there is one thing which might save us, help us to speak out and protect us, it is our media. Fortunately, it has arrived at the place where politicians dare not attempt to muzzle it or else what is happening in Kashmir today, will happen in the rest of India as well, and they know it very well.
No Mark Tully, you are nobody to call the expression of our angst a tamasha as you did on NDTV on The Buck Stops Here last night. Be assured your agenda's are visible.
In this one time in our History, India stands at the cusp of change. And if the Common Wealth Games do not take place, we probably deserve it as it will wake us up.
This piece is dedicated to the whole of media which has the power and the will to redefine India and end the rule of those drunk on power and lusting for money.