May 26, 2012

For reasons unbeknownst to me...

Justin Bieber, v1.
This used to be one of my favourite songs:

Summary: Sonu Nigam, who was still 15 when this video was made, smokes on screen (because no one gave a four-letter-word back then) and obsessively pursues a younger Bipasha Basu who wears a series of noodle-strap single-colour gowns.

And this one:

Summary: 5 fully waxed Indian males wear white clothes with cuts in strategic places and some serious (for then) er... BDSM takes place.

Then there's this:

Moustaches are cool. In the 90's.
Summary: 2 lines help Hariharan and Leslie Lewis, back in the day when you could have a moustache and still be cool, last through a 4-minute song with visuals that are frankly bizarre. Towards the end, Leslie Lewis is called "Lez". Innocent times, when something like that wouldn't spawn a week of puns on Twitter.

 And this:

Summary: Before Alisha Chinai starting shedding a tear for every singer on Indian Idol, she made this video. It's basically a prequel to Rakhi ka Swayamwar, but it's also racist. The video is redeemed by the appearance of Milind Soman from what looks like a box from a customs warehouse. I don't know if this video launched Alisha Chinai or Milind Soman, but whoever it was, it did the launching bloody well.

Having grown up in a time when people could freely smoke, be racist, pass off Nepali dudes as Japanese, stalk women obsessively, not take 'no' for an answer, be metrosexual or deviant, I am no longer appalled at today's music videos.


Among other things, do read An Open Letter to India's Graduating Classes. And, making equal amounts of sense, An Open Letter to Prospective Indian Employer.

May 13, 2012

I can't remember the last time I said something good about a public figure, but...

When the first episode of Satyamev Jayate aired, there were enough people on Twitter who fought -against all odds- to make a joke about how stupid it was. And there always will be, no matter what the odds are, and no matter what the event is. This is inevitable and at some level, at times like these it's important to remind ourselves that we are a free society, instead of giving in to the first instinct (mine was to find them and punch them).

The point is, everything about the show and its concept is a first. The marrying of an A-list star with content, minus drama, the promise of action, the joint broadcast with Doordarshan, everything is new. The show is here for a purpose. The purpose is not so much to change something, but to create awareness. And this is the kind of scale that NGOs, social activists, and even the Government, can only dream of having.

Aamir Khan may charge 3 crores per episode. Heck, let him charge more. People decrying the fact that he makes money from this, are being ridiculous. The ad revenues are going to the channel, not to NGOs. And the ad revenues are mammoth compared to 3 crores per episode. He may be doing this out of choice, but let's not forget that the man has cancelled/delayed more lucrative opportunities to be able to do this show and has spent a long time conceptualising it and being a part of it. Everyone on the team will be paid well, and saying that someone should not be paid just because they have money, is the worst form of socialism. If you don't question why an industrialist pays Shah Rukh Khan 5 crores to show up at a wedding for an hour, don't question why a channel that's comfortably in the profit is paying Aamir Khan 3 crores an episode while he reaches out to India. The only reason you watched the first episode - the only reason - is Aamir Khan. It speaks volumes about the brand that he brings to the show, and he and the channel are absolutely aware that a show like this would go nowhere without a man like him.

There's no shortage of cynicism in the world. Heck, there's no shortage of cynicism on this blog, and millions of others. But there are times when we need to realise that there are some things that can't be made fun of. This isn't Rakhi-Sawant-judgement, with excessive tears, dwelling on the worst and other shenanigans. And the only criticism there seems to be now is that there's no "scope for debate". Question, do you want to ruin your message by creating a debate? Do you want to bring in the 0.01% of this country's junta, educated in Psychology at DU, with a radically different view that it discusses in the cool drawing rooms of Delhi, to create a debate over an issue such as female infanticide?

Yes, the show is straightforward, to the point and not very nuanced. But look at the audience they are trying to reach. Nuanced talk shows and debates about social issues, so far, have been either melodramatic nonsense, or something with a top journalist yelling at people, or anything on Lok Sabha TV that just puts you to sleep. How often have you looked at your clock and said, "Oh, it's We The People time. Must drop everything and go watch."?

It takes a heart and a brain to do something like this. And that, boys and girls, is probably the rarest combination of all, in Bollywood.

May 01, 2012

This is a postlet

You know how grownups write on Twitter and Facebook? It's all impeccable English, except that there are no full stops or commas. For example, "Hello saw your photos very nice how is your mother?"

My theory is that somehow social networking has taken them back to the telegram age. "Have you reached question mark Do cable back stop Love to everyone stop."


One of these days I will put up a picture on Facebook that's captioned "Herbs and green tea steeped in mildly sweetened water, some Darjeeling tea added, with a dash of milk and ginger." And junta will ooh and aah about it.


Which reminds me, I kinda miss the days when all restaurant menus read "Idli Sada dosa Masala dosa Rava masala dosa Mysore masala dosa Plain uttapam Masala uttapam Onion uttapam", and you'd order one and the waiter would shout it out to the kitchen and it'd be sitting in front of you in ten minutes. Because, really, one of the most tiresome things in life has now become reading descriptions like these:

Romanotomano ravioli with white fungus and Chardonnay
A classic dish - our own special home-made ravioli stuffed with minced wild mushrooms, spinach, sundried tomato and black peppers, in a rich sauce of tomato confit and emmenthal with a dash of white wine.

Classic Italian Burger
Home-cooked patty stuffed with the goodness of vegetables and Italian basil, sage, parsley and seasoned with jalapeno granules, served between freshly baked sesame baker's bun with Italian mayonnaise and mustard, with potato wedges and our special coleslaw salad on the side.

Cream Cheese Bagel
It's unclassy to complain
House Favorite! Philadelphia cream cheese bagel served with salad, tomato rosti and mustard. We stumbled onto this recipe when we went travelling to some place that nobody gives a damn about and our customers are dying of hunger because our service is slow and we write long descriptions and the idiots actually read the whole thing hoping to find something useful in here.

What's better is, the staff at restaurants (or "servers" as they're now called) will recommend or diss dishes to you with no better explanation than "I like it" and "I don't like it." This I find extremely uncomfortable because:
1. I can't tell them "Er, yeah, that's not enough of a reason."
2. Most of them do this with the air of I'm-going-to-take-this-personally-if-you-go-against-my-recommendation.
3. And most important - it makes no sense! It's like someone selling you a movie ticket for Desi Boyz because they like it, when you wanted to watch Pyaar Impossible. [Yeah, at most restaurants, this comparison exemplifies the contrast between the food you want to order and the food your server recommends. At the end of the day, there's no difference, and both are almost certainly duds, but you're left with the feeling that the other one could've been better.]