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.