Archive for category Entertainment

Random musings about the loud & largely unprofessional Indian mainstream media


Barkha Dutt

I believe when the uprising in Egypt started attracting major headlines internationally, some members of the Indian mainstream media rushed to Egypt to provide on-the-spot coverage. Why this was necessary in the first place was a mystery since the Mid-East in general, including Egypt & several other countries would not quite be high-up on the typical domestic mass-market audience or viewer’s list of interesting places in any case and since that is typically the market most national & regional news-channels in India

Christiane Amanpour

Christiane Amanpour

cater to, the move still remains largely inexplicable. Maybe this constituted a pioneering attempt to broaden the horizons of the target audience, as it were. One also wondered what was the typical Indian angle, if any, that they were planning to cover since there weren’t a large number of Indian expats based in Egypt in any case and also since the Indian govt., generally clueless & not knowing which way to turn, as is fairly typical of the way it conducts its foreign policy, continued maintaining a studied silence on the whole affair. In any case several major international publications & channels like Al-Jazeera, NYT, Guardian & CNN to name a few were already doing an excellent job of covering the developments extensively & timely. Also, this being Revolution 2.0, as many have suggested since, constant updates on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube & Google were available to those who had access to such channels and cared to check periodically about what exactly was happening.Soon these gentlemen & ladies made a sorry spectacle of themselves after landing up in Cairo. Instead of reporting about developments on the ground they became the news themselves and ended up whining,

Sagarika Ghose

screaming & tweeting about how they were being harassed, followed, arrested, threatened etc., etc.,. Ostensibly the only one to have been spared such treatment was the outrageous Ms. Barkha Dutt, who soldiers on thanks to the UPA & Prannoy James Roy. She then busied herself going sight-seeing all over Cairo, filing dispatches by selectively cutting & pasting the

considerable volume of material already available on the Egypt affair & pretending that she was arranging to get an exclusive interview of Uncle Hosni as soon as Christiane Amanpour had finished with him. Unfortunately, despite her vocal championing of the Revolutionary Kashmir Stone-Pelters’ Association, she couldn’t get any of the folks in Tahrir Square to chuck even a couple of such ‘missiles’ generally her way which could then lead to dramatic coverage about the ‘brave & intrepid Barkha Dutt reporting from the scene of action despite grave threats to her life (i.e. mortal danger)’.

Having lost a great deal of face vis-a-vis her competitors who could triumphantly talk about being followed, harassed and even imprisoned, she & her boss planned to best them the next time around. Soon Libya happened & despite NDTV‘s target audience apparently having even less interest in Libyan affairs than in that of Egypt, she landed up with a team in Egypt again and decided, apparently on the spur-of-the-moment, to venture forth into ‘liberated’ Libya. This became all the more necessary to upstage the competition which had landed up too, in an effort to beam live reports from the ‘scene of action’.


Arnab Goswami

She then apparently set forth in vehicles hired in Egypt across the Egypt – Libya border, which is long & largely porous at the best of times. Thousands of Libyans & Egyptians, apparently go across it daily, mostly to earn their daily bread in a neighbouring country, without bothering in the least about niceties like checkpoints, entry permits or Visas. However when Ms. Dutt went across this virtually unmanned border, it was projected as an extremely brave & hazardous move to the target audience, generally clueless about what the ground realities at that point in that part of the world were (if they were aware, they wouldn’t have been tuning into NDTV’s dispatches anyway for regular updates). Soon, this became a full-blown story about Ms. Dutt’s adventures in ‘extremely dangerous’ territory, while she prattled & tweeted her way across miles & miles of largely deserted countryside. The hordes of folks who follow her on Twitter apparently got into paroxysms of anxiety & delight alternately, exhorting her through tweets to take care, stay in touch & even come back to keep ‘life & limbs intact’. Any stragglers she may have come across in the largely deserted countryside became ‘fighters & revolutionaries of a liberated Libya’ who were egged on to voice their ‘views’ about the ‘momentous change’ happening and about Gaddafi’s repressive regime among other things.

NDTV apparently fashioned a full-length feature out of the ‘Adventures of Barkha Dutt’ which played out to their prime-time audience. The competition was thus upstaged and in a paradigm shift, the correspondent became the centre of attraction and the news herself. The synergies between championship cricket, soap, Bollywood & ‘breaking news’ which are the four pillars on which most news channels in India survive and even thrive on thus got greatly reinforced and the target audience went to bed happy after being riveted by this latest edition of ‘news soap’, Bollywood style.


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Tiger Woods – Trendsetter

Tiger Woods has become a trendsetter the world over! Look at Singapore’s Tiger Woods wannabe, Jack Neo, a guy who makes low grade slapstick movies for…ahem…a certain section of the audience. Trouble is, while the guy tried to take a leaf out of Tiger’s book by organizing a press conference, how poor he is as a scriptwriter and director became evident, when, despite his intentions to project stoic calmness and solidarity, the press conference very rapidly degenerated into a drama of an entirely different kind. See for yourself below.


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The Bengali A-Z

Calcutta Street
A is for Awpheesh (as in Office). This is where the average Kolkatan goes and spends a day hard at work. And if he works for the ‘Vest Bengal Gawrment’ he will arrive at 10, wipe his forehead till 11, have a tea break at 12, throw around a few files at 12.30, break for lunch at 1, smoke the 7th unfiltered cigarette at 2, break for 5th cup of tea at 3, sleep sitting down at 4 and go home at 4:30. It’s a hard life!

B is for Bhision. For some reason many Bengalis don’t have good bhision. In fact in Kolkata most people are wearing spectacles all the time…..Bhishon Bhalo and Bibhotso….though their meanings are quite opposite …used for same situations..depending on the Beauty of fairer sex…are close …almost in a tie for second spot….

C is for Chappell. This is the Bengali word for the Devil, for the worst form of evil. In the night mothers put their kids to sleep saying, ‘Na ghumoley ebar Chappell eshey dhorey niye jabe.’

D is for Debashish or any other name starting with Deb. By an ancient law every fourth Bengali Child has to be named Debashish.. So you have a Debashish everywhere and trying to get creative they are also called Deb, Debu, Deba with variations like Debopriyo, Deboprotim, Debojyoti, etc. thrown in at times….as creations of God himself !!

E is for Eeesh. This is a very common Bengali exclamation made famous by Aishwarya Rai in the movie Devdas. It is estimated that on an average a Bengali, especially Bengali women, use eeesh 10,089 times every year. ‘Ei Morechhey’ is a close second to Eeesh.

F is for Feeesh. These are creatures that swim in rivers and seas and are a favourite food of the Bengalis. Despite the fact that a fish market has such strong smells, with one sniff a Bengali knows if a fish is all right. If not, he will say ‘eeesh what feeesh is theesh!’

G is for Good name. Every Bengali boy will have a good name like Debashish or Deboprotim and a pet name like Motka, Bhombol, Thobla, etc. While every Bengali girl will have pet names like Tia, Tuktuki, Mishti, Khuku, et cetera.

H is for Harmonium. This Bengali equivalent of a rock guitar. Take four Bengalis and a Harmonium and you have the successors to The Bheatles!

I is for Ileesh. This is a feeesh with 10,987 bones which would kill any ordinary person, but which the Bengalis eat with releeesh!

J is for Jhola. No selfrespecting Bengali is complete without his Jhola. It is a shapeless cloth bag where he keeps all his belongings and he fits an amazing number of things in. Even as you read this there are two million jholas bobbling around Kolkata, and they all look exactly the same! Note that ‘Jhol’with mysterious condiments.. as in Maachher Jhol is a close second. Jhaamela and Jachhetai are distant 3rd and 4th

K is for Kee Kaando! It used to be the favourite Bengali exclamation till eeesh took over because of Aishwarya Rai. Kee mushkil is a close second.

L is for Lungi, the dress for all occasions. People in Kolkata manage to play football and cricket wearing it not to mention the daily trip in the morning to the local bajaar. Now there is talk of a lungi expedition to Mt Everest.

M is for Minibaas. These are dangerous half buses whose antics would effortlessly frighten the living daylights out of all James Bond stuntmen as well as Formula 1 race car drivers.

N is for Nangto. This is the Bengali word for Naked. It is the most interesting naked word in any language!

O is for Oil. The Bengalis believe that a touch of mustard oil will cure anything from cold (oil in the nose), to earache (oil in the ear), to cough (oil on the throat) to piles (oil you know where!).

P is for Phootball. This is always a phavourite phassion of the Kolkatan. Every Bengali is born an expert in this game. The two biggest clubs there are Mohunbagan and East Bengal and when they play the city comes to a stop.

Q is for Koshchen (question) as in "Mamatadi koshchens Cheap Ministaar in Writaars Buiding."

R is for Robi Thakur. Many many years ago Rabindranath got the Nobel Prize. This has given the right to all Bengalis no matter where they are to frame their acceptance speeches as if they were directly related to the great poet and walk with their head held high. This also gives Bengalis the birthright to look down at Delhi and Mumbai and of course ‘all non-Bengawlees’ ! Note that ‘Rawshogolla’ comes a close second!

S is for Shourav. Now that they finally produced a genuine cricketer, that too a captain, Bengalis think that he should be allowed to play until he is 70 years old.

T is for Trams. Hundred years later there are still trams in Kolkata. Of course if you are in a hurry it’s faster to walk….Trams are still existing in Paris too…….you see!

U is for Aambrela. When a Bengali baby is born he is handed one.

V is for Bhaayolence. Bengalis are the most non-violent violent people around. When an accident happens they will fold up their sleeves, shout and scream and curse and abuse, "Chherey De Bolchhi" but the last time someone actually hit someone was in 1939.

W is for Water.. For three months of the year the city is underwater and every year for the last 200 years the authorities are taken by surprise by this!

X is for X’mas. It’s very big in Kolkata, with Park Street fully lit up and all Bengalis agreeing that they must eat cake that day.

Y is for Yesshtaarday. Which is always better than today for a Bengali (see R for Robi Thakur)?. It is also for Jubraj Shingh and Joga.

Z is for Jebra, Joo, and Jipper.

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From an Infoscion To A Politicion – Nandan Nilekani’s Chronicles

Reproduced from Srikant Harihar’s blog

Nandan-Nilekani1  azharuddin


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

from an INFOSCION to a POLITICION – Nandan’s Chronicles – 2

Continuing my tryst with capturing the life and times of Nandan Nilekani in his new avatar as a Cabinet Minister, here is what he had penned after his first day in the Parliament.

The last entry stopped when the House was just about to begin. Let’s see what happened thereafter…

The House was in pin drop silence as the Speaker to her Chair. I was brimming with anticipation and excitement!!!! Manmohan had informed me that my introduction was one of the important points of the agenda. I hoped that I will be able to make my speech properly. After so many interviews and conferences, I was nervous today!!!!

After the Speaker indicated that the proceedings of the House could begin, Manmohan formally introduced me to the entire House. He mentioned that as the head of the Unique Identification Authority of India, I was responsible to ensure that each and every Indian had a digital smart card as a proof of his existence. Manmohan spoke about why I was selected and also some references to the various projects executed by me in Infosys were mentioned. The House listened with rapt attention. I was asked to say a few words and I did exactly the same!!! I thanked the Government of India for having given me this opportunity and I assured the House that I would strive to successfully deliver this project. The Speaker then formally inducted me into the House and before the proceedings could move any forward, there was a small commotion on the other side of the hall. It was Minister of Textiles who had a comment to make before the next point on the agenda. He made a request that I

should be attired in a more austere way instead of a flashy suit. It did not go well with the image of a minister who should live to serve the common man and should be less ostentatious in his habits. I stood up to reply. I offered my apologies to the Honourable Minister and assured that I shall be in a more acceptable dress next time. I felt that he was right. We also used to have corporate dress code in Infosys. So it s here as well!!!!

I sat down and felt somebody nudging me. I turned around and to my surprise; it was the former Indian skipper and one of my favourite batsman Mohd. Azharuddin. I remembered that he had recently won the elections. I smiled at him and mentioned to him that I used to like his game very much, shaking his hand. No Rolex, I noticed.

Azhar told me that he would “fix” me an appointment with an Italian designer who had designed his dapper Kurta suit. An Italian designer in Milan doing Kurtas!?!?!?!

I made a note of this and reminded myself to give this example to Friedman for his next book,” The World Markets are flattened”. Since there was no doubt about the “Fixational” capacities of Azhar, I told him to give me the details and I would consider.

The proceedings of the House went on with numerous bills being debated and passed as I sat as a passive audience waiting for my project’s turn to come up. After the lunch break, it was the moment for me!!!! MY PROJECT”S FIRST REVIEW CAME UP FOR PRESENTATION. I was at sea. My laptop did not have any reserve power. I went to Manmohan and apprised him of the situation. I was sweating. He calmly replied that this would not be a cause of concern. I was flummoxed!!!!

The Speaker asked me to explain to the House on what were my plans for the Unique Identity Project. I replied that I have a plan prepared for 30-60-90-120 days’ milestones and I have presentation to make for which I need a power socket, a projector and a screen. I had no idea what was going to happen after this.

The next couple of minutes were a complete jolt for me. I was completely in a tizzy. Let me just summarize what happened.

A Joint Cabinet Secretary Committee was set up to judge the feasibility of my request. The Under Secretaries for the Ministries of Power, IT and Broadcasting will prepare a Viability Report after scrutinizing National Security threats to my request. This was because the power socket comes under Power, laptop comes under IT and projector comes under Broadcasting.

I have also been told to reconsider my timelines of 30-60-90 days and start thinking in terms of years. Probably, they are right. I did not have the foresight in this matter.

The summary of the issue is that I need to come up with a more inclusive, democratic, comprehensive long term plan for this project to be executed over the next five years. I have also been given a presentation slot 3 months from now (by which the issues related to the power cord etc will also be resolved).

I am filled with mixed reactions. I was planning for a quick resolution; the management wants a strategic solution. I come out of the House and text Murthy, “You won’t believe it but these guys work just like us. I am on a NATIONAL BENCH for the next three months!!

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