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Friday, December 25, 2009

Don't Worry Your Holidays are Safe. Ignore that SMS

No space for new messagesMultiple instances of this SMS landed in my mobile's inbox:

Sare papo ka saja agle saal milegi
holidays in 2010

And in our holiday-obsessed nation it is spreading like wildfire.

But the fact is that most of the date-day combinations do not hold true in the calendar for 2010.

Here's the official version [PDF] of the holidays in 2010.
Republic Day - January 26, Tuesday

Holi - March 1, Monday

May Day - May 1, Saturday

Independence Day - August 15, Sunday

Mahatma Gandhi's Birthday - October 2, Saturday

Dussehra - October 17, Sunday

Diwali - November 5, Friday

Christmas - December 25, Saturday

So relax, most of the holidays (for those with a six-day week) are still safe. And just don't frantically forward any SMS that comes you way.

Damn, for a moment I too was scared. Whew!

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Watch Online: Sant Tukaram (1936)

Sant Tukaram (1936) is one of the 20 greatest films ever made in India, according to T20 of Indian Cinema list at The 40th International Film Festival.

Since this movie was released more than 60 years ago, it, according to the Copyright Act of 1957 [PDF], is in the public domain.

Language: Marathi

Director: Damle and Fatehlal

Cast: Vishnupant Pagnis, Sri Bhagwat, Pandit Damle, Shankar Kulkarni, Kusum Bhagwat, Master Chhotu, B Nandrekar, Gauri

[Video source: taxpro999 on YouTube]

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Desi Jugaad: The Motorcycle Rickshaw

Motorcycle RickshawDesi jugaad or Indian ingenuity is legendary. Be it churning lassi in washing machines or using condoms to provide a smooth finish to tarred roads, necessity is the mother of amazing inventions in our nation. Even governments here run on jugaad.

Yesterday, in Vaishali, the boom town of Ghaziabad, came across a rickshaw that looked a little different, with headlights, indicators and all. On further investigation, discovered an engine beneath the seat.

The driver/owner of the rickshaw (I cannot recollect his name) says that his motorcycle rickshaw contraption is one-of-its-kind in the area.

He charges a premium of Rs 5 over the usual rickshaw fare in exchange for speed. Fitted with a moped engine, the motorcycle rickshaw (or should we call it a moped rickshaw?) gives 40 kilometres to the litre. He assures that his vehicle wouldn't topple if it encounters a bump at 40 kmph (the top speed according to him).

Asked about braking, "Power brakes," he replies with pride.

His only worry is that the transport department says that he cannot ply his vehicle without a license plate, something he expects to get soon.

With the narrow cycle rickshaw tyres, travelling at high speeds doesn't seem to be a good idea. Moreover the absense of proper suspension wouldn't make the journey very comfortable in the bylanes of Ghaziabad.


Watch slideshow in fullscreen

It is quite common to find carts (thelas) fitted with scooter engines on Indian roads, but it was the first time that I saw a petrol-powered cycle rickshaw. Do let me know if such example exist elsewhere.

By the way, what happened to the much hyped solar-powered rickshaws that were supposed to be launched in Delhi?


And here's a bit of rickshaw trivia. In 1902, hand-pulled rickshaws in Calcutta were priced at around Rs 160 to Rs 180. Would've been quite a sum then.

Related posts:· The Maruti 800 Pick-up
· James Bond Drives a Maruti 800
· Agra on the move

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ads for Oral Sex!

One day, in the comparatively innocent times that we grew up in, a friend announced, "I had oral sex." I and another friend present were stupefied. We were still in school. "Come, again," (no pun intended) we said. He repeated the four shattering words again, with extra emphasis.

Curious, we prodded for details and it turned out that our 'sexually gratified' pal had just talked a bit about sex with a girl on the phone. Being more enlightened, courtesy the agony column in The Teenager and quite a few magazines that we weren't exactly supposed to read then, we let our naive friend know of the dictionary meaning of oral sex.

But the times they have changed. When school kids nowadays talk of love, it isn't always platonic, as in our times (Damn, I already feel old).

Ads for oral sexEven newspapers do not shy away from advertising for fellatio services, as I discovered today. The massage parlour and escort services ads have been around for many years. Objections were raised, but such ads still fill in many column centimetres of the classifieds pages.

Since I'm on the look out for a new house, was scanning Times Classifieds, that comes along with the Sunday Times of India for properties. Under the 'Massage Parlours' head I discovered at least two ads quite brazenly peddling oral sex services. Only they interchanged a couple of letters (blowjob becomes blwojob), taking a cue from the spammers.

BANGKOK-STYLE-YOU-WORLD.CLASS Blwojob Ser Like Beautiful Charming Good Looking girl fully trained service staff CALL ASSH # 99********

REFRESHING.YOU-WORLD.CLASS Blwojob Ser By Beautiful Charming Good looking girl fully trained service staff Call KASHISH. 98********
Is it just me, or is there a striking similarity between the wordings of matrimonial ads and the ones above?

What's next? Fcuk!

(This could have been around for longer, just that I happened to notice it today)

This is one dhandha that doesn't go manda. Though I support legalising prostitution and quite agreed with the Supreme Court's observations on legalising the trade, but it isn't as easy a solution. Make a law and expect the world to fall in order.

The anti-legalising prostitution argument also makes sense (not the it's-against-our-culture kinds).

Kinda confusing.

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Monday, December 07, 2009

MegaWhats 2009: The National Open Quizzing Championships

MegaWhats 2009 is a mega quizzing event to be held across nine cities across the country simultaneously.

It's being held under the aegis of the Karnataka Quiz Association.

MegaWhats 2009

Details here »

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

When News is Sold

News, SponsoredThere is nothing new about the news of news being paid for. I first became aware of this practice as a mass communication student in the early 2000s. To me, then, it seemed that it was not just news but the soul that is being bartered. The feeling still holds true.

Even this insignificant blog of mine, has been approached for 'sponsored blogging'. Interestingly, when I refused the money and and gave them a counter offer: That they let me know of topics and ideas that would interest me and I would post about them for free. But it seems that they don't like their work done for free. Strange, isn't it?

Today there was an nice piece in The Sunday Express titled "News, Sponsored." The contents of the article wouldn't be surprising for people who are in the business of the media, we have learnt to take it in our stride. A necessary evil for some.

Friends in the Hindi news channels term such content ad ki khabar (ads as news) and they usually get preference over other genuine news content. Obviously so, because there's money in it.

Such initiatives by the media organisations could be beneficial in these cash-strapped times, but the long term implications may be adverse. News is associated with credibility and when the credibility starts to wash off, so does the bottom line.

Or is it so? There are newspapers that don't give much of a damn to credibility and still sit atop the readership figures. There are news channels that have ceased to be news channels but draw the highest TRPs. We all thought that it was just a passing fad and Indians will tire of such content and see the light. But the light doesn't seem to be coming anytime soon.

Even though being in the media (not the mainstream media, but a wing that'll be the mainstream soon), I have started to rely more on the opinions of individuals who are unassociated with the media: the bloggers, the twitterers, the forums. I think I can still trust them. For me, professionally, it isn't a good signal.

[Image courtesy: The Sunday Express]

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

The 20 Greatest Films Ever Made in India

The 20 Greatest Films Ever Made in IndiaI'm a big sucker for lists. More so when it has something to do with India and/or cinema. So obviously I was quite excited about the results of the T20 of Indian Cinema at The 40th International Film Festival of India being held in Goa. Though I didn't quite like the title, anyway the grumbles will follow later in the post.

So here are the 20 greatest Indian films ever.

1. Meghe Dhaka Tara (1960)
Language: Bengali
Director: Ritwik Ghatak
Cast: Supriya Choudhury, Anil Chatterjee, Bijon Bhattacharya, Geeta Dey

2. Charulata (1964)
Language: Bengali
Director: Satyajit Ray
Cast: Soumitra Chatterjee, Madhabi Mukherjee, Sailen Mukherjee

3. Pather Panchali (1955)
Language: Bengali
Director: Satyajit Ray
Cast: Kanu Banerjee, Karuna Banerjee, Subir Banerjee, Uma Dasgupta, Chunibala Devi

4. Sholay (1975)
Language: Hindi
Director: Ramesh Sippy
Cast: Sanjeev Kumar, Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Hema Malini, Amjad Khan

5. Do Bigha Zameen (1953)
Language: Hindi
Director: Bimal Roy
Cast: Balraj Sahni, Nirupa Roy, Murad, Jagdeep, Nana Palsikar

6. Pyaasa (1957)
Language: Hindi
Director: Guru Dutt
Cast: Guru Dutt, Waheeda Rehman, Mala Sinha, Rehman

7. Bhuvan Shome (1969)
Language: Hindi
Director: Mrinal Sen
Cast: Utpal Dutt, Suhasini Mulay, Sadhu Meher, Shekhar Chatterjee

8. Garam Hawa (1973)
Language: Urdu
Director: MS Sathyu
Cast: Balraj Sahni, Dinanath Zutshi, Geeta Siddharth, Shaukat Kaifi, Farouque Shaikh, Jalal Agha

9. Mother India (1957)
Language: Hindi
Director: Mehboob Khan
Cast: Nargis, Raaj Kumar, Sunil Dutt, Rajendra Kumar

10. Ghatashraddha (1973)
Language: Kannada
Director: Girish Kasaravalli
Cast: Ajit Kumar, Meena Kuttappa, Ramaswamy Iyengar

11. Elippathayam (1973)
Language: Malayalam
Director: Adoor Gopalakrishnan
Cast: Karamana Janardanan Nair, Sharada, Jalaja, Rajam K Nair

12. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
Language: Urdu
Director: K Asif
Cast: Prithviraj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Madhubala, Durga Khote

13. Nayakan (1987)
Language: Tamil
Director: Mani Ratnam
Cast: Kamal Haasan, Saranya, MV Vasudeva Rao, Janakaraj, Tinnu Anand

14. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1962)
Language: Hindi
Director: Guru Dutt
Cast: Guru Dutt, Mala Sinha

15. Apur Sansar (1959)
Language: Bengali
Director: Satyajit Ray
Cast: Soumitra Chatterjee, Sharmila Tagore

16. Sant Tukaram (1936)
Language: Marathi
Director: Damle and Fatehlal
Cast: Vishnupant Pagnis, Sri Bhagwat, Pandit Damle, Shankar Kulkarni, Kusum Bhagwat, Master Chhotu, B Nandrekar, Gauri

17. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (1980)
Language: Hindi
Director: Kundan Shah
Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Ravi Baswani, Bhakti Barve, Satish Shah, Om Puri, Pankaj Kapur

18. Guide (1965)
Language: Hindi
Director: Vijay Anand
Cast: Dev Anand, Waheeda Rehman, Kishore Sahu, Leela Chitnis

19. Madhumati (1958)
Language: Hindi
Director: Bimal Roy
Cast: Dilip Kumar, Vyjayanthimala, Johnny Walker, Pran, Jayant

20. Anand (1971)
Language: Hindi
Director: Hrishikesh Mukherjee
Cast: Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Sumita Sanyal, Ramesh Deo

This list emerged from the 'T20 of Indian Cinema' poll in which 20 experts from around the country - 10 young filmmakers and 10 seasoned critics and scholars - participated.
While the official website for T20 of Indian Cinema - when I tried to visit was a pain (and it's been down since yesterday) - has "showcased the 20 top Indian films in a form of a photogallery, with text by Saibal Chatterjee.

The list on website is full of errors.

Do Bigha Zameen is written as "Do Bhiga Jamin", Bhuvan Shome is "Bhuvan Shoma", Garam Hawa becomes "Garam Kawa", Ghatashraddha became "Ghataskrada", Elippathayam is "Ellipathe" and Apur Sansar is listed as "Apu Triology".

Whoever came up with the name "T20 of Indian Cinema" deserves some rotten tomatoes. The greatest Indian films is not T20, it's more like Test cricket. The name itself trivialises the affair.

Anabelle Colaco of The Times of India seemed disappointed with the likes of Chandni Bar and Lage Raho Munnabhai, not making the final cut. They might be good films, but then they aren't great films. Somewhat like the difference between good and great cricketers. Saurav Ganguly was good, Sachin Tendulkar is great.

Dhiraj Ramakrishnan (@stupendousman78) questions the choice of films, replying to my tweet about the list, he asks, "how come only bengali and hindi are well represented"?.

While I'll not go on to debate which film should have or shouldn't have made it to the list, I think Dhiraj's observation is valid. It does seem more like a Hindi/Urdu-Bengali monopoly with Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Marathi just filling in the quota seats.

The reason why I'll not comment on selection, is because my exposure to other Indian cinema beyond the Hindustani and the Bengali is quite limited. I watched the most regional films in my childhood thanks to Doordarshan and the regional film telecast on Sunday afternoons.

The only regional film on this list that I watched is Nayakan. Though I have the other three in my library, I need to find time (and interest) to watch them.

Now on to some trivial pursuits.

If we use this list as a barometer, the following conclusions may be drawn:

* Satyajit Ray is the best Indian film director (three of his films are on the list) followed by Bimal Roy and Guru Dutt (two each).

* Bengalis (not necessarily Bengali films) make the best filmmakers in India. Eight of the 20 films on the list have been directed by Bengalis.

* The 1950s and 1960s yielded the best films in India. 12 of the 20 films are from the two decades.

* Since the 1990s there haven't been any films of note produced in India.

Back in 2005 when people pestered me going gaga over Black, I wrote:
When Black was released there were accolades all over. I waited for some time for the rave reviews to disappear and made it to the theatre. When I exited, I didn't feel that I had just witnessed the makeover of Indian cinema. It was only a relatively well-made film with a dark and damp look. The much appreciated acting seemed a little overboard. Histrionics is not equivalent to good acting. And all films sans songs are not necessarily good. It was just another hatke movie, but without the ability to really hata de.
Now this list also gives me yet another stick to beat people who still root for Sanjay Leela Bhansali's 'masterpiece'.

Of the 20 films I recollect watching almost 16, but then much of it was as a child (thanks to my film-loving neighbours). Such lists, even if you do not entirely agree with them, are a good list of recommendations for a lazy weekend.

To some it may be blasphemy, but sometimes I feel that Satyajit Ray is a bit too overrated.

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