Sunday, April 25, 2010

IPL, Television and the Theater of the ABSURD :)

I tried my best not to write about it, but now I cannot stop.
The IPL drama goes on to becoming the biggest ever scandal that India has ever seen, involving politicians, corporates, film stars and anyone who is a somebody.
I believe that if we do not come out of this standing tall, with our heads held high, if we do not support those who are trying their best to stand for that which is right now, we are doomed forever.
What can be the most life changing experience for India, should not be aborted because of politics erupting to disrupt the process of revelation of a truth that will finally destroy all worms, skeletons and demons which have haunted our country since the day of our Independence in 1947, and given nightmares to every man, woman and child.
I speak about the expose in the Outlook Magazine regarding the phone tappings of politicians by the state since 2007.
I do not object to a probe on it, but what I object to is the timing of the expose.
And what it conveys to me, as a citizen of India who is aware and alert on the goings on of our politics, is that while the UPA Government is bent on cleansing a system which involves representatives of every walk of life in India, and has cornered some of the biggest culprits of havoc caused in the country for decades now, is that this expose is designed in a way, to stall investigations and interrogations on IPL and compell the UPA to give up that which has almost reached its end.
Because it is in the last episode of the IPL story, where a final cleansing is going to take place which in turn is going give birth to a new order.
All dirty money, as they call it, will have to dissapear and legitimate funds will be the only resource for the country to function on, denial of which has slowed, blocked and diabled our development and growth for the last six decades despite humungous efforts made by hordes of people who still remain honest and committed to their country.
Nothing is a secret in India.
That Dawood still operates through various rackets in India is a known fact.
That many politicians and political parties are his proxies is no revelation.
Yet the blatancy with which things have carried on post the 1993 blasts is what makes people the world over, cringe.
These guys who sheild crime are so assured of their invincibility that they have always known that they will never get caught. The trick is to involve so many people in the crime that everyone is safe.
Intellectuals, a minority and also a vote bank not considered of importance, have watched in shock, disbelief and awe, too dumbstruck to open their mouths, despite being in positions to question the criminals.
That is the level of shamelessness and defiance that some politicians have operated with in India till date.
From land deals, to builders lobbies, from encroachments to arms deals, everything has gone on in India relentlessly in the face of its citizens and politicians have jeered at and teased their people, daring them to raise a voice against them.
The IPL story only throws open the gates to the most morbid reality which every Indian has been exposed to, virtually forcing him to live with a truth which he can neither throw up nor swallow.
This is not just restricted to Politics in India. It is the culture of business in India and Politics is a business here.
Every single business which has potential to make money in India falls into the trap of bad money and ends up in a sludge, which in turn makes it possible for only one club of individuals or the other to monopolise the game, as it is called.
I have grown up with the growth of the Television Industry in India and witnessed the worst debauchery take place under my nose, so I can confidently talk about that.
Many like me found space in a business because of its expansion in the early nineties. At a time when money lenders did not see scope in it, business was pretty much in order where a TV Channel would commission a serial to a producer and pay 50% advance for the production of a show, and hand over the rest of the money on delivery.
Stakes began to get high and the business began to show potential, when banks came into the picture and gave loans to folk like us to carry out larger orders.
Until the time a decent bank interest was to be paid against borrowings, it was alright.
But then came an era of a strange sort of dealings where the channels distanced themselves from producers by refusing to pay advances, and brought in a practice where funds would be released 90 days from the delivery of each episode of a program.
There were no telecast dates in sight, so banks which were discounting bills could not do so until bills were raised and bills could not be raised until show was delivered, and show could not be delivered until a release date was decided upon. Shows would be put into long incubation, sometimes lasting over an year.
This meant an investment far beyond the capacity of a normal talented and able producer who was not backed by bank finance, could neither get finance from some of the sources approved by the channel executives, and therefore, ended his game.
A new kind of production house emerged which could spend so much money on a production that nobody else could afford it. This house had many stakeholders, dunno how many benami, which is a common word today, and went for listing, collected public money and played as big as the IPL with it. Sisters in law and brothers in law, cousins and friends and fathers in law and mothers in law, and clans from bollywood became stake holders in it. There is much more to 'Bollywood is a family', which meets the eye.
Programs not made by just a couple of production houses which could afford the extravagance, never worked out for many reasons, but I believe it was the smart handling of executives who programmed and marketed shows, therefore could control the verdict.
Their families and kith and kin were now all in the business. Talent and creativity, the voice of people and their expression could go take a walk for all they cared.
A club was formed which monopolised the business for more than 10 years, caring a damn for what the viewer would like to see, as programs were made as propoganda for the ideology of the strain of politics of the time.
Regressive and shameful, night after night, a certain kind of decadence was meted out to helpless viewers who in their inertia remained transfixed with the pomp show and finery displayed in the shows.
A frightening spend of money on tradition, conservative value systems and violence on women.
The next generation was brought up confused and rattled because while their fiction expressed a miserable dogma of an unpalatable sense of morality, on the ground people were forced to face a different fact all together.
Rapid urbanization had fractured lives and the tradition of a joint family was fast becoming extinct.
Economic realities forced poor Indian women to step out of their homes to work and contribute to the economy of the house thereby earning them respect from their elders, but the aspirations being set for the new Indian respectworthy independent woman through stories that were being told on the tube were regressive, because the protagonists and antagonists were a pack of somewhat rich middle class ladies who did nothing but dressed up in finery and fawned over their husbands who had affairs with other women so they could be called macho, and treated their wives badly.
I know of numerous instances while travelling to make documentaries during the time, when I gathered that there were smart and strongwilled women who were actually liberated due to the circumstances that surrounded the lives of the lower classes, who romanticised and aspired to get rich so they could be laden in their bejeweled wealth and get treated terribly by their men.
However, having said that, let me get back to what was happening at the top while silly women wrote sillier serials and indulged in their traumas with dramas produced by one or two filmy producers who quoted skewed viewership research to prove their point when questioned.
It was never a secret that most of these production houses had either direct affiliations to political parties or were more than ready to induct some of their celebrities into political parties to be able to function without accountability.
On top were a bevy of men, middle men and side kicks making money off a plan which was lucrative for all who belonged to the club.
Times changed with the rise of a new progressive and well centered government at the helm of affairs, and the whole concept of the Television drama which had ruled the roost fell apart.
The channels are still floundering to find the new idiom while they continue to tell the same story masked with a social relevance which never gets addressed, but the game has still not changed.
Even now, the ones who can put together a huge investment through a particular kind of financer are the only ones who can be part of a club which monopolises the business.
It is the game played by the industry of entertainment for decades now, and a game which was introduced to the executives of the Television Industry who fell for it as they could be stakeholders through relatives, friends and family members, and nobody would ever know.
And it is the same game which got played when IPL was conceived, this time embracing politicians and beaurocrats, because the game was also that of Cricket which is a religion in India therefore in the control of the BCCI, which is run by a governing council which comprises of a bunch of them.
While some of the teams bought through dubious bids were those bought by big corporates who have reached a place where adhering to compliances is a must, three were bought by film stars.
There was a confidentiality clause to all associations where the names of stakeholders could not be revealed. This was essentially relevant for the teams bought by film stars as in their break ups were all the kick backs through stake holdings of those who now fear the revelation of the truth.
I feel bad for Preeti, Shilpa and Shahrukh who could have easily signed up as brand ambassadors for the teams they ended up owning and perhaps could have gone home with more money and unscathed reputations. I still believe they are all good people caught in a terrible web.
I felt sorry for Preeti as I watched her speak to Barkha Dutt on TV tonight, as she looked clueless about what was going on. She had danced and she had cheered. She had travelled all over the world to promote IPL and attended parties with committment.
She had done her job.
Now what was all this tumbling out of everywhere?
Where were these allegations coming from? What was the truth behind what had happened?
Sharukh is quietly rooting for Lalit Modi, still unaware of the consequences of tax evasions which he might have been party to without his knowledge.
Shilpa Shetty perhaps will let her husband will take care of things.
Karan Johar laments on twitter that he is feeling sad that politics has entered a sport like cricket!
What are you saying dude?
Did you not know that already?
And if it makes you so sad that politics has entered a sport like cricket, and if you love the sport so much, shouldn't you be asking what the hell Bollywood is doing in the sport cricket?
It was just barely two months ago that some middle men who roam the streets of tellydom came to me asking me to produce one of the big reality shows on one of the biggest channels. They wanted me to produce the show in 10% of the allocated budget which was going to be paid by the channel.
Ninety percent of the budget was being distributed amongst people who I would never meet or see.
I declined the offer, but how many would do that. Even the ten percent was such a huge amount.
Last week I went to a channel to pitch for the production of a show because I was told by a friend that things had changed.
The poor little executive boy sitting there to commission shows gave me the following brief.
"We want the protagonist to be a woman. She should be a working woman."
I smiled as he continued, "but", I cringed, "when she comes back home from work, she should touch her father in laws feet, her husbands feet and cook food. She should look after the children and be respectful to her mother in law", as he trailed on, I thought to myself, what am I doing here?
I should be meeting some guys at the top and fixing a deal. Some junior from my company should be attending these meetings.
I had lost what this poor boy was saying but I butted in saying, "Shouldn't we give this woman some character? Like maybe make her very talkative", to which he said, "Our audiences are not prepared for it. The program will be rejected in small towns". "But I grew up in small towns", I told him, "I was very talkative and people used to find me interesting", I smiled.
The poor executive boy stared at me in silence.
Then he said, "I'm sorry, but this is all the brief I have from my seniors".
Then the meeting ended.
As the theater of the absurd will unfold on IPL tomorrow, all I pray and hope for is, that this time, there should be no expose's with ulterior motives.
Outlook Magazine or no Vinod Mehta who seems to be supporting some rebellion in the parliament on Monday morning, should derail the process of unearthing facts.
This is a moment of truth for politics in India.
It is a time when the government is going to go through its most difficult test.
But this is also a moment for the UPA to tear through opposition, unafraid of the consequences of the phone tapping scandal, which perhaps will be another saga in itself, and not bend under pressure and falter with its intent to weed out filth from the system once and for all.
I doubt if the effects of this cleansing will percolate down to the poor executive boy and me, in my this life time, but I will at least be left with some hope for my children and their future.
Hope that will ensure that one day everyone will do their jobs and participate in the growth of their own respective industries instead of running to wherever there is money and glitz to demand a share of the pie which they think is rightfully theirs because they are powerful.
Hope that a day will come when Industrialists remain Industrialists, Film Stars remain Film Stars and don't get used by awfully corrupt people, Politicians do their duty and give the freedom to a Sport to be a Sport.
Then will come the day when writers will be writers, producers will be producers and directors will be directors and executives will be happy with the salaries they recieve and the position and status that they have.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


"I have a feeling that we are going to be a generation which is going to fail this country," I remember my father saying to some friends of his in Kota, Rajasthan, where he was posted between 1970 and 1973 and where we went to school when we were really young. 'We have fallen into the trap of independence, a freedom which has ensnared us in a perpetual dependence because of the partition", he continued, "because the partition is more or less a device for us to keep fighting with each other permanently", he had said.

This was during the '71 war where one of my uncles was at the borders fighting in the army, and another was at sea on INS Vikrant, I think, with the Indian Navy. While one of my aunts was with us during the time because she couldn't bear to be in Bombay just in case there was bad news, the other I remember was in Srinagar and we would book normal, urgent and lightening, all possible calls to her, never to know which one would go through first almost every night and wait, sometimes till well past midnight, so my father could speak to her and be assured that all was well at their end.
Meanwhile on his radio we would switch between AIR and BBC 24/7.

I must have been barely 7 or 8 years old when I remember one of my fathers activist nephews who was a Marxist turned up at our doorstep one night, completely surprising us when he asked my father if he could stay with us for a few days. My father was aware at the time that there were guys being hounded by the Government and his nephew was one of those who has gone underground. My father called his cousin, his nephews father in New Delhi, to ask him what he should do, and my father was told by his cousin to throw his son out of the house immediately.
My father sat up all night talking to his nephew and before it was morning, he let him go, as there was no way he could give him refuge.

In various arguements in the drawing room my father would stick to his stand that India's non aligned position and close relationship with the USSR was more or less a status which suited the west. While his friends would shout him down, he would stand firm on his ground and tell everyone to wait and watch what will happen in the coming decades.
And what he prophecied, came true.
USSR broke up to bits and pieces, Afghanistan was occupied by allied forces, Pakistan and India turned Kashmir into a dispute of which solution could be found only after bloodshed and massacre, and post the nineteen sixtees, China began to rise far beyond it could've been ever imagined.

In the mid eighties, when the reservation issue began to catch fire in India, before he died, my father would gloat with my mother and say to her that he had told her so.
Since both my parents had left their roots in Pakistan when partition took place, discussions between them were extreme and my father being more volatile of the two abhorred the haphazard way India was inching towards modernization.
While my mother insisted that we, my siblings and myself, should move to Bombay one at a time and build our careers after we graduated from the small towns that we had grown up in, my father who had no option but to agree, would sulk and grumble as he would tell her that she was falling prey to devices of the capitalist wave which was pushing people to huddle up in concrete jungles to leave their land, rich with resources, for the very wealthy to own and exploit.

My father has been gone for much over two decades now, and everytime I remember things he would say to others, which we would often overhear, it jolts me. It is almost as if he knew what was coming, and where we were going.
The socio political framework of India is something which I have always been able to foretell and most of my friends have always asked me, how I know.
I would always quote my father and say that he had predicted this.

He had also predicted the break up of India into separate states, and said that it is inevitable that the separation of Pakistan from India is not the last partition we have seen, nor is the institution of Bangladesh as a separate nation the last which Pakistan is going to see.
He had said that the poor are going to grow in numbers, and rich are going to get richer. He had said we would be fighting the poor one day and each bit of violence is going to lead to the birth of new power centers and a day will come when every power center will want to follow its own ideology, its own vision.
He had said that in an unequally divided society, neither capitalism, nor socialism have the capacity to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, because both ideologies breed a culture of unequal distribution of opportunity as well as wealth, while they proclaim something else and ironically echo each others words.
He would often tell us not to be fooled by the capatalists as their intent to be dictatorial is hidden behind the veil of a perception of freedom that we are all so prone to fall for.
They are no different from the communists who have similar designs when it comes to giving advantage to the rich which will always disadvantage the poor.
'Because', he would say, "when in power, all ideologies lose their core vision and fall prey to the men at the top, who in that predicament are all the same".

I remember that as being my first ever realization where I understood that it is not neccesary for similar words to mean the same thing, nor is it a given that, that which is spoken differently should 'not' mean the same thing.

Today, 2010, the left, the right, socialism and capitalism are the various ideologies amongst other extremes, which apply in different parts in India, and there is no escape from that because it is the nature of our politics, the result of the divisions over time.
Bringing everyone together across one table to talk and discuss issues, is the greatest challenge for any political party in power.
It's not as though when the Congress Party is in power, for instance now, it can ignore the right wing and left wing thought. It has to take along and apease every section while hauling the nation forward and it is probably impossible in times like this.
Thus, the threat, the terror, the insurgency and the blood.
And in desperate attempts to tackle all the forces of varied opinion, politicals parties are now getting divided within, and forging allainces with extremely differing points of view externally.
This is not coalition politics anymore because this is a co-confused politics.
The whole concept of who we are, and what we stand for, is lost somewhere.

Post 26/11, India has changed completely.
The Indian State has weakened and our Governement is more or less a gang of school children whose moves are being orchestrated by some unknown external force. We hardly seem to have any say in internal as well as external matters. We seem to be a government held at ransome and a country living at the edge so much so that if we are to disobey the deciplines dictated by the west, we have had it. The situation is so out of the control of the Government of India and its administration, that it is next to impossible for us to ever know where the arms used by terrorists and ammunition in the poccession of insurgents is coming from.
Our media is so struck with horror as every situation unfolds that its space is mostly occupied with petty issues like controversies created by sports stars from India and across the borders, and Bollywood.

I'll be called a conspiracy theorist by all, but I can't help but analyse why we are so silent about the mafia wars going on within our nation where the rich and the powerful are doomed if they do not act in the manner which is expected of them, and that is to crush the poorest of the poor of their own nation.
Each one of the huge conglomerates chasing land and bidding unbelievable wealth to acquire the right to the resources of the land are in a position to address the state of the poor.
Then why aren't they doing it? What are they afraid of?
What is this trap which our politicians, political parties and corporates have gone and got caught in?

I am forced to believe that the blast at the German Bakery in Pune was the result of close proximity of some of our politicians with the mafia. It is their friendship with the underworld and their control over the police which disables the administration from taking strong action against all those suspects who enable the existence of unwanted elements in India.

I cannot help but believe that the cause of the massacre of 76 jawans at Dantewada was the result of PC's visit to Lalgarh, where he pronounced that the buck regarding the Maoist and Naxal attrocities, stops with the Government of West Bengal. On the one hand he had taken a hard stand with the Left Government of Bengal and ruffled feathers of his allaince partners, the Trinamool Congress, and on the other, his popularity with the media, the elite and the intellectuals, was not going down too well with his detractors within his own party as well as his rivals.

Are we to believe, that if the State ever takes a strong stand and acts according to the constitution and enforces law and order, incidents like these are going to be the result?

Should we not internalise and believe that external elements here, to harm and separate us are being fuelled and being given refuge by the very leaders elected by us, who have gone and prostrated before their greed while indulging and getting embroiled in the politics of power?

The BJP, the only opposition worthy of mention here, which had disintegrated and become too outdated with its vision and ideology to be able to show strength in the last elections, has consolidated itself recently by elevating its young to the top and inducting every celebrity it could lay hands on to make its presence felt. It still has no agenda, because its only purpose seems to be to overthrow the Congress or at the least weaken it enough so that it can hope to come back to power at the center after the next general elections in 2013.
And there is every possibility that they will achieve their goal, particularly when the likes of Lalit Modi, known for his relationship with the BJP unleashes an attack on Tharoor publicly, with an ace, a woman, Sunanda Pushkar, glamorous and attractive to top it, up his sleeve, but BJP will still not have an agenda for the nation which they expect should give them the mandate.
It is so disgusting to see Sunanda being raped by our media for her liason with Tharoor, especially when we know who the people our politicians and scribes are addressing, and what they must be thinking.

Is politics and power all that matters to these guys? Are they so hungry for wealth or what?

Why would Gopinath Munde start a demand for reservation for OBC's in the Womens Reservation Bill, and go against the will of his own party, the BJP, otherwise?
Do they really think that people are so stupid as to believe them and think that while the party speaks one language, Munde can speak another and get away with it?
Do they really think that we do not see that they are appeasing the Lalu Prasad Yadav's and Mulayam Singh's in such an underhand way?
How silly they must think we are when they believe that we do not realize that while the party is speaking to one constituency, some of its own leaders are addressing another?

We have to admit, that all the double standards, the triple speak and hypocracies of our political parties are revealing themselves and the politicians are stripped naked now. They have brought India to a place where today, it is the intellectuals who are slanting towards extremists like the Maoists and Naxals because in supporting them against state attrocities and the greed of the powerful, is the only hope left for the poor of the country who are constantly under threat of their women being mauled and their homes being vandalized.

And now, when Digvijay Singh and Mani Shankar Iyer go into a frenzy against PC, it is so obvious that the Congress, instead of taking responsibility for the failure of its policy to tackle the Maoist/Naxal problem, is making Chidambaram the fall guy. And suddenly Diggy and Mani are spouting words we heard from Arundhati Roy, who until yesterday was being blamed for leading a band of intellectuals to obstruct States intention.

Why is the state not coming clean on its agenda with the tribals?
What are all the politicians hiding that they cannot demand that corporates who want the lands, present to the nation what plans they have for the poor whom they will displace in the name of growth and empowerment of the nation?
Why do both BJP and Congress stand together, when otherwise they are poles apart, at the time it comes to  the Maoist and Naxal issue?

Indira Gandhi was left with no choice but to announce a state of emergency at one time because it was the intellectuals and the learned who had turned against the State. There was no other way left but to muzzle the media and control communication and to even shut down coffee shops where intellectuals met everyday to discuss politics and went back to their offices to write about the lack of logic in the policies of the government.
Those who were educated and thought deep could not fall for the insanity with which India was being governed and the poor were being marginalized.
They had to protest, and therefore they had to be made to shut up.
I can see such a state arising again now, when we as the educated, the liberated, the thinking people start to disagree with the manner in which our politics is being conducted.

The fear that makes me write this piece is the fear of my fathers words coming true.
His alluding to the fact the India - Pakistan partition in 1947 was not the last separation that we will seen.
The fact that once upon a time, it was the Marxists who were gone underground and showing their presence through violence, and today, they are a constituency and hold enough seats in parliament to make or break the Government of India.
The truth that today it is the Maoists and Naxals on the run, and tomorrow they would be taking seat in our parliament.
The question I ask is, do we need the bloodshed everytime before we give up our resistence to inclusion?
Can't we, as a State focus on the problems of the poorest without giving it a vote bank purpose?
How long will it be before we hear the cry of the poor and react to it, so that external forces don't get the freedom to create their own presence, own state, own constituency, by exploiting their needs?
I hope not after we have seen another bloody separation?

Sunday, April 4, 2010


This might be the beginning of a time when we are going to be forced to confront some truths about ourselves. Things that will make us uncomfortable and compell us to visit our dark side, the 'O look how good we are as a culture and a society which believes in family values and which the rest of the world wants to emulate from us' syndrome that which we suffer from.
While it may be embarrassing and difficult to face, the purpose perhaps of the process is, to help us to transform ourselves into becoming the best people in the world who deal with life honestly and in an uncorrupted way.
Jitesh Pillai, an old friend and I were tweeting away a few minutes ago about the Sania Mirza, Shoib Mullick and Ayesha Siddiqui drama unfolding in front of our eyes all over the media as the young talented, gifted couple hurtle towards their wedding day which is the 15th April, 2010.
What made me stop tweeting and write this peice, is when Jitesh reminded me that we may be in a frenzy about this today and praise the media for having exposed truths about what goes on behind the ghunghats, veils and pyjama kurta's of our so called pious society, but watch how this too is a forgotten story within the next two days.
I had to agree.
We have wasted the last 15 years of important time when communication breezed in through the open windows and doors of every Indian household whereas we could have changed mindsets and altered perceptions to make ourselves a race more prepared to face global realities instead chucking it away on mindless drama and fiction coming out of a sick society which had it embedded in their heads so deep that tradition is their monopoly and that they know what the world wants.
We can call the Sania, Shoib and Ayesha saga one that belongs to a repressed muslim society where what goes on behind the scenes is this, but it actually mirrors the truth of our entire middle class belonging to all religions and classes, which is essentially made up of upwardly mobile societies who were once aspiring to be whom we as communicators were projecting ourselves to be like through our media, in the last 25 years or so.
And now that today they are a reflection of what our truth is behind the facade we have successfully put up for the world outside, a reflection of our hypocricy and double standards, all we are left with to say is 'Welcome!'
We have to understand that we have distinctively two medias.
One which tells stories of the make belief like that of Tulsi which has only progressed to a child version of the same in Ballika Vaddhu in the last 12 odd yeara, and the other which tells stories of the real girl, the young MBA being gang raped in Pune, at the same time when the biggest tennis star of India goes on to get married to the biggest cricket star of Pakistan amidst controversy which exposes our realities totally.
We have to admit to our pathetic culture which has forced us for decades to hide our truths behind purdahs and ghoonghats, exactly like we end up doing through our storytelling as well. We have repeatedly cloaked our truths behind all the wonderful and beautiful images of doomed marraige ceremonies which made our men complacent in their chauvenism and women in their servility at the time when we had all the opportunity to do otherwise and even pocessed the talent to support it.
Then we have to realize that if we don't want media to forget the most important issues so quickly, then fiction has to pick up from where fact left of.
Fact has no choice but to move on to other pressing issues in a country where so much is happening simultaneously, but we, as an industry of storytellers, have to see to it that the narratives of our fiction carry forward the memories of horrific incidences reported by fact, so that everybody does not fall into amnesia and we can stop them from happening ever so often.
While each channel telling stories has to run by its own idiom and vision, we have to accept that the communication for a larger good is collaborative and those who know it have to come together so that it is told correctly to those who don't know it.
And by this I don't mean fiction has to get too serious and unbearable to be called entertainment, and all creative writers must be understanding what I am saying here.
Fiction is in unbearable mode right now because executives following collections are dictating it, and absurdly serious as well, but give talent the freedom from the shackles of numbers and market research and bring it under the common brief of the larger message instead, and see how genuinely creative people make you laugh and cry and entertain you and communicate the right values and morality as well.
Now that a new generation of people are growing up and taking birth under the influence of communication from the whole world available to them through every media, and we're caught with our pants down, lets be ashamed of the farce we have run for the last so many years.
Let us turn it to our advantage and change it for the better.

It was just the other day that a chill went up my spine when a reputed media proffessional I was lunching with called the Rahul Mahajan Swayamvar disgusting and in the same breath said, "but in the week of the wedding atleast the channel which ran the show went up in ratings to be at number 4 and crossed Sony TV for the first time with its GRP's".
A paradox, I agree, but scary!
Reeks of the countless times I have met with educated and sensible TV proffessionals with ideas that have been dumped with a given explanation that I am too intelligent for the Indian audience and that my sensibility is my limitation.
The fact that I want my intelligence, my thought process and sensibility to rub off on the audiences who will recieve my communication through my storytelling is something they have never heard of and don't want to deal with either.
The exploitative nature of our communication through our narratives are apparent because at the end of the day all that has ever mattered is the cash and the ratings.
The few who were different when we in India, perhaps, had the best storytelling on Television in the world, were outnumbered and their expression was stampeded upon by scores of feet running in an aimless race with no finish line in the plan.
Enligtening a race with enriching tales has always been considered a stupidity in the feudal context and it has taken 'this' form of humiliation through the 'Slumdog Millionaires' of the world, the viral spread of the Sania-Shoib-Ayesha story as well as all those other stories of brutality and corruption of our highest offices which are beamed through the media to the rest of the world, to strip us of our feudal masks. Our monopolistic attitudes and 'everything runs in the family' culture.
Now we seem suitably insulted and one can see the elite, the intelligensia and the so called intellectuals as well as all the pseudo expressionists clamoring for attention of media to focus on which side they are on.
It's not just India but Pakistan and the rest of South Asia which suffers the same.
Fatima Bhutto exposing the hypocricy of her own family and the politics of power played by her aunt in her interviews with Barkha Dutt and Karan Thapar which I have seen recently on the tube, is the result of the same force that the information and communication revolution has empowered people with in the last decade or so and that which has enabled the SILENCE TO SPEAK.
It may be harsh but I can't help but say that it is the same sensitivity of intention required by the media in the communication being made through all its storytelling, which will eventually compell an architect and engineer designing a skywalk or a pavement to think of how the disabled will use it, as that sensitivity of intent which will also drive a young adult in the villages of India to understand what he should do with a hard on when he gets one.
And if we don't get the communication right, we are in for much more trouble than we are in as we speak.

Friday, April 2, 2010


I'm in desperate need to write since the last three days but the chaos of thoughts is obstructing my intentions and compelling me to abandon each effort the moment I make it.
The necessity and the rush of feelings that something will go wrong if I don't write soon has finally made me sit here and beat the keys and spill out my mind, deserting the fear of what this might turn into eventually.
I sit in one place these days, wherever I am, and have turned into this person who is at the recieving end of everything taking place around me.
If what happens, is good for me, it shows, and if it is not, then that makes me plunge into the depths of depression which I force myself to come out of at any cost so that I don't end up paying a price for it with my life.
There is a book lying written but just never gets completed because everyday something in me changes, which completely alters my perception in a way that an integral part of my story needs to be rewritten.
What I felt sorry for yesterday, makes me unforgiving today and what I detested day before yesterday will definitely make me compassionate tomorrow, and now it is so predictable that these characters I am living with for the last two years have started dancing in my head and creating a din to a point where I want to kill some one day, and resusicate them back to life on another.
And I think all this is happening because I have become a victim to opinion.
I feel trapped and confined in the thoughts of other well marketed and well spun individuals who have become these permanent characters growing older under my eyes in the soap operas that run endlessly on the electronic media, print media and now when I turn to twitter and facebook and other social media as well.
It is the same people making a different noise everyday.
This is no music to the ears.
This is cacophony worse than the craziest and busiest street bustling in the smallest village which has become the part of a large metro in India now.
When the stories are told in flashback, the same characters who used to dance in black and white in front of my eyes when I was growing up, now jive in color on every screen and every surface around me.
And now it makes me realize why our fiction is so bizzarre.
Why our narratives, so contrived and formulaic.
What can a whole race, an entire country and its people create and recreate when their own reality is so insane?
So crazy!!!
On the one hand there is days and valuable prime time spent discussing the Gandhi - Bachchan story which has slowly become a national issue as it takes epic proportions while developing into the Congress - BJP saga.
The original story when told through its past in flashback is about two friendly neighbors in Allahabad. One was a poet and the other a freedom fighter who went on to become the Prime Minister of Independent India finally, and whose progeny today go on as the first family of Politics.
The poets son grew up to be the most revered entertainer India has ever seen.
The very next day, what was most irking the ruling party led by the inheritors of the freedom fighter who later went on to become the Prime Minister of the nation, the fact that the poets son has decided to become the brand ambassador of Gujarat, the state which gave birth to the father of the nation, which is now ruled by the opposition at the center represented by a man who spelt disaster eight years ago when abetting a communal carnage to create a right wing presence and who is now summoned and being made to explain his motives by the highest court of law in the country, is a forgotten issue.
How convoluted is that? But it is our reality!!!
The same faces, some who slant to the right, some who take position left of center and others who stay postured in the middle, go on to discuss the plight of the poor, rights of those who choose to have live in relationships as opposed to marraige and the grain lying wasted, unused and rotting in South India.
A couple of weeks ago, it was in Panjab, which is at the extreme North, where harvested grain in millions of tons was left to rot while scores went hungry and the Ministry of Health battled malnutrition and other disease caused by hunger.
All this while the mother of all sport, Cricket, runs into its third edition of the IPL, which actually is consuming the viewer, the one desperate for a doze of the drug, so he can sleep dreaming boundaries and sixers before waking up to another gruelling day the next, where nobody is really going to care for the condition he has to live in and the problems he has to deal with while wading through the filth and grime of another day of his life.
How twisted is that?!!! But this is our truth!!!
Its not a joke that the very guys spinning the yarn and keeping the myth alive through their media lead a miserable life of the poor consumer and require a doze of the Cricketococaine themselves too.
I'm telling you, this is not all!!!
The family of the freedom fighter who went on the become the Prime Minister of the country one day, which lives on to be in control of the ruling party, the Congress, has kept the wheels turning with yet another ace up its sleeve which could well occupy the media space for the next few days to douse the criticism it has had to face for having made it impossible for two of its most popular Chief Ministers to share two dias, one in Maharashtra for the World Poetry Day, and the other in New Delhi for the World Earth Day, with the son and the grandson of the Poet respectively because they are angry that The Great Entertainer accepted the offer to be the brand ambassador of the state which is ruled by opposition and represented by a man who is responsible for the carnage eight years ago, which gave momentum to right wing activism and has ensured the victory of the unfavoured party election after by election since then.
Now if that isn't mind altering, what is?!!!
And the ace up their sleeve is the annoucement of the Right to Education act, the bill which has finally been passed in the Parliament which makes it a fundamental right for each child in the country to get education. This is a big one!
A truth which should have been the reality of every child since the day we got freedom 63 years ago.
So there is no debate or discussion on this.
There cannot be!
But yet they are going blah, blah, blah...
The same characters, the same faces, some slanting right, some turning left and some middle and argueing and discussing something which is done.
Is this some time pass or what?!!!
The poor are a constituency and there is no way that they can be left out and ignored anymore.
Information and Communication is their right, as much as anybody's elses and Education is a must.
Some silly school principals sit wasting prime time yet again as they take elitist positions, particularly one silly bespectacled lady from the BILLABONG high school in Mumbai, neither left, or right, nor center, asking Arnab Goswami of Times Now where the money will come from for them to reserve 25% seats in their institutions as though he has the answer.
I want to tell her, shut up bitch.
Fuck off and go to hell!!!
Shut your damn institution if your business plan falls apart because it is because of the likes of you who have made education a business, that India isn't where it should have been today.
Thank heavens that what should have been done 63 years ago, has been done now.
Education is not for a priveleged few and if Shahrukh Khans children don't invite poorer children in their class for their birthday parties, then there is a price they will have to pay for it one day and it is not the poor children who will suffer psycological damage but on the contrary, those of the elite.
There is too much on your plate you whore.
For starters, worry about how you will shake hands with a student who comes first in class but lives in a slum where his father is a man from UP who was beaten up in the riots started by MNS when they decided that only Maharashtrians will be given licenses to drive taxi's and auto rickshaws in Mumbai.
What will you do you slut, when that child is not the son of Saif Ali Khan or Praful Patel?
Now run to the Psychiatrist because you can afford it.