Feb 28, 2010

Amitabh Bachhan: India’s First Megastar

Amitabh Bachhan has won top honours yet again in the 55th Filmfare Awards. Is there any Bollywood movie award that the ageing actor is yet to win? Probably not. The achievements of greats of yester years like Dilip Kumar, Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra.............pale into insignificance when juxtaposed with those of Bacchan senior. However, the appetite for achievement of the Sean Connery of Bollywood (as some people call him) seems far from over. His performances in 'Black', 'Sarkar'.....................and now 'Paa' bear testimony to the fact that the fire in his belly refuses to die down. While most of his contemporaries...........Shashi Kapoor, Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Rajesh Khanna ............... and so on, have long since disappeared into oblivion, it is 'Never say Die' for India's first Megastar.

What more is the sexagenarian chasing? Fame, Glory, Achievement, or is it just more Money. Surely money is not something that is far removed from his mind, given his endorsements which continue to grow, his intermittent stints on the small screen as game show host, where he is reported to be charging astronomical sums and of course his acting career which continues to go from strength to strength.

A few of his actions though, seemed incongruous with his personality recently, when he used his position of a TV show anchor(Big Boss 3) to promote not only his film 'Paa', but also his son's debut as a game show host on the small screen 'Bingo'. With all due respect to the great man, The Big B commands a larger than life image, his actions therefore, appeared quite ordinary and not in keeping with his persona.

Coming back to what I was discussing, if it were not money that Amitji is after, what is it? Surely it cannot be Filmfare Awards. The great man's absence from the Awards ceremony, where Vidya Balan accepted the award on his behalf, speaks of the importance that this award holds for him. Bagging such awards for him would probably be just passé. I have no clue. What seems clear though is that he is in no mood to retire any time soon.

What the Big B should be looking for, in that case, is awards on the international stage, in particular the OSCAR. No Bollywood (or should we call it Mollywood, lest Raj Thakeray should get offended) movie so far has ever won an Oscar. 'Mother India', 'Salaam Bombay' and 'Lagaan' are the only ones that have been nominated. Wonder if it would be pertinent to mention here that none of these was a Bacchan starrer.

I think it is about time to set that record straight. Though the Big B is not a producer, just an actor, maybe he could put his energies into something that would ensure his place in History for posterity. Is the Big B, or anyone else in Bollywood up to the challenge? One person who i my humble opinion might have it in him, is Shekhar Kapoor. Time to do another 'Masoom', Mr Kapoor.


A very Happy and Colourful Holi to all readers.

Feb 27, 2010

Union Budget & Opposition Drama

Having spent more than two hours reading the analysis of the Budget in Economic Times, I am no closer to figuring out whether to cheer or to moan. I was amazed at the number of opinions, from the financial analysts, stock brokers to political columnists et al. So I thought I would chip in with my two pennies worth(if it is worth even that).

So here goes. While the IT relief is surely welcome(albeit small), the fuel price hike is more than enough to compensate for the savings affected and possibly add to the already spiralling inflation. That pretty much is the long and short of it.

However, the behaviour of our parliamentarians is nothing short of appalling. The entire opposition rather than debating the budget, walked out en bloc in the middle of the Budget Speech. Even worse, it turns out that while the Gujrat Budget was being presented, the opposition, in this case led by Congress, decided to boycott it altogether.

Will the Indian Politicians ever improve?
Further reading: http://www.financialexpress.com/news/column-an-oily-walkout/584917/

Feb 22, 2010

Terror : From Within and Without

13 Feb 2010 : Bomb blast in Koregaon Park, Pune. 15 dead (at last count), 60 injured and counting.

14 Feb 2010 : A huge cache of explosives, including 200 kilograms of ammonium nitrate and 600 detonators, seized by Gujarat Police from Vapi in Valsad District.

15 Feb 2010 : Massacre of 24 security personnel of the Eastern Frontier Rifles at Silda, West Midnapore, WB.

17 Feb 2010 : 12 villagers including a child slaughtered and several abducted in Phulwari Karasi village in Jamui Distt, Bihar.

20 Feb 2010 : Jharkhand official Prashant Kumar Layek was released by the Maoists evening after being kept in captivity for nearly six days. The state government is said to have paid the Maoists Rs 30 lakh and promised to free 14 Maoist suspects from jail in exchange for the release of the BDO.

Threat to the country stems not only from across its borders, but also from within the country. Which of these two threats is more potent? Threat from within, or the one from without?

Maoist Threat. 26/11, probably being a one off case, fatalities due to terrorist strikes have been lesser in number than fatalities due to Maoist violence over the last few years. PM Manmohan Singh has termed this menace the gravest internal security threat. Data regarding Maoist violence can be accessed here. Assessments of the threat posed by Maoists in various States can be read here.

It appears that the Govt, particularly the state governments have either not fully comprehended the threat from Maoists or are turning a blind eye to them for vested interests. While Mr P Chidambaram(PC) has shown some seriousness, albeit not enough by a long measure, the same alacrity is hardly apparent from CMs of Jharkhand, Bihar and some other states. Some of them made it convenient to miss the meeting of CMs called by PC recently to review Maoist situation. Soren has agreed to free wanted Maoists from prison to secure the release of an abducted BDO, thus not only bolstering the morale of these thugs, but also setting a precedent, which will severely dent the tempo of anti-Maoist operations throughout the country. Cabinet Minister, Mamata Banerjee, is opposed to police action against Maoists in WB. The Trinamool Congress is long suspected of being backed by Maoists in rural West Bengal. The sheer helplessness of the state against Maoists, who are running a parallel govt in certain rural areas is simply appalling.

Danger signs are there for all but the blind to see (in blood Red). We are well past the stage of nipping this serious challenge in the bud. Time for action is now, or never. Criminal excesses against hapless citizens cannot be tolerated. The full weight of state's resources must be brought to bear against this Insurgency, before the entire country is engulfed in Maoist violence and the Army, rather than guarding against external aggression, gets sucked into battling its own countrymen. It is about time we stopped mollycoddling these rogues and started hunting them down. The theory propounded by some(including the Bihar CM) that Maoist violence can be controlled with development is most fallacious. Maoists themselves are a hindrance to development, as can be seen by the number of times they have blown up rail tracks, schools, cell phone towers etc. Tribal welfare is an issue that Maoists use only to woo simple, gullible and rustic unemployed youth to join their ranks. Once power and money corrupts them absolutely, welfare and development cease to be an issue. As Brian Tracy eloquently points out in his audio series 'Laws of Achievement', all humans are inherently selfish.

External Threat: The threat from Terror, sponsored by our so called (by some) Responsible neighbours is concerned, a lot has been said about it both in print and electronic media. Measures are at hand, though moving through bureaucratic quagmire at the speed of lumbering elephants. A lot needs to be done and hopefully is being done. But what is a matter of concern is that while acts of terror like the Pune blast hog a lot of limelight, the media seems to be shy of giving similar coverage to Maoist violence. One reason that comes to mind is that while Maoist violence takes place predominantly in rural areas as against terrorist acts which are almost always in urban areas. It is more difficult and riskier for media to reach some of these rural areas.

Our intelligence setup needs to be spruced up and our citizens need to be more vigilant. Take the case of Pune, 13/2. We had prior information of impending strike in the vicinity of Osho Ashram. So? What would you expect, gun toting security personnel standing guard outside German Bakery and frightening all customers away? For how long? The intelligence report was many months old. And if they did stand guard, another target could have been chosen. After all German bakery was not the only hangout being frequented by foreigners, there are scores of them in Koregaon Park. Yes, the Pakis, if it was them, (probably yes) chose their timing well. They attacked when the police were busy guarding multiplexes. But then, wasn't that required as well? Should we just let the Sena goons have free citizens dancing to their tune all the time? (Read earlier posts here and here)

My point is simple, a generic input about impending terror strike in a city is not enough to prevent terrorist strikes altogether. In Iraq, the Americnas are using Guns, tanks, heptrs, aircraft, UAVs and what have you............. and with the intelligence reports from CIA. Have they been able to prevent all attacks on US citizens? It is only a matter of time before Al Qaeda strikes again. They almost did, a few weeks back.

Our Govt is vigilant, so this is the first terror strike since 26/11. However there is always room for improvement. As they say, sky is the limit. Ordinary citizens have responsibility as well. Are we vigilant enough ourselves? How is it that an unclaimed bag kept lying under the table in a crowded Cafe, without arousing suspicion?

Verdict : I am not for a moment suggesting that external terrorist threats are less important or that anti terrorist measures taken by the Govt are adequate, but it does appear to me that the threat from the Red Brigade deserves much greater attention than being given currently.

Feb 20, 2010

How Smart is Your Right Foot??

While sitting at your desk in front of your computer, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles.

Now while doing this draw the number 6 in the air with your right hand. Your foot will change direction.

Have Fun !!!!

Feb 13, 2010

The Tiger, Tamed

The roar of the tiger turned into a whimper by the end of the day yesterday. Tiger and cub were left fuming and licking their wounds post successive debacles viz Rahul Gandhi's visit and now MNIK. Left with very few options to save face, they have now resorted to foul mouthing all and sundry in the Sena's daily newspaper 'Saamna'.

Credit is due to all who ensured the release of the movie, beginning with the CM, Mr Chavan, all celebrities including Home Minsiter RR Patil for having led the audience into theatres, SRK and Karan Johar for refusing to apologise to Sena, but above all to Mumbaikars who dared the Sena to challenge them.

However, this is only a psychological victory for the state, as it had turned out to be a prestige issue for both parties. The entire Police force of Mumbai and more besides can hardly be committed to ensure the safe release of a movie or for successful conduct of any other event on a regular basis. If it is a movie today, tomorrow it could be a play, a sports event.......................

The state has to look for resource effective and time efficient ways of tackling such issues and prevent recurrence of such incidents. Whatever the issue, civil liberties and freedom in a democracy cannot be allowed to be held to ransom in this manner.

So much hoopla over release of a film is unprecedented. The spin off, as opposed to the perception that Sena's call to boycott the movie would have an adverse effect on its box office collections, is certain to be the other way round. And that was evident from the response to the movie on opening day. After all our TV channels have dwelled on little else in the past week.

The cause of the Ho – Hungama of course is Cricket, do read my take on it at 'Cricket and the Olympic medal'. And the non inclusion of Pak cricketers in bidding for IPL - III here.

Further reading:



Feb 12, 2010


Photo : A Shiv Sena party activist vandalises a poster of Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan's new film "My Name is Khan" in Mumbai on Tuesday.

Mumbai, last week, has been a battle zone. Shiv Sena vs Govt of Maharashtra. First round seems to have gone to the Sena. Chief Minister Chavan with moral support of the congress led govt in the centre, decided to take the Sena by the horns this time. However, the bull turned out to be stronger than expected. What must come as a moral victory for the Sena, theatre owners succumbed to fear from the Sena rather than rely on the state for protection and decided against screening of the much talked about offering from Karan Johar, 'My name is Khan'. And that, despite the Mumbai Police having rounded up and detained Sena goons in thousands as a prophylactic measure. Understandably so, one would imagine, as Mr Chavan was going around arresting small time Sena goons, rather than going for fountain head.

Why, one ought to ask was Uddhav Thakeray not arrested for fomenting trouble, disturbing the peace of the city? Who calls the shots in Mumbai, the legally elected Govt or the Sena?

This unfortunate development, besides being a huge embarrassment both for the state and the congress led govt in the centre, would give a shot in the arm to rogue elements. They can threaten the peace and tranquillity of Mumbai and the rest of Maharashtra with impunity, as if they were running a parallel govt.

Time to wake up !!!!! Mr Chavan, the show must go on. There still are a few hours left for theatres to open for the day. All may not yet be lost. Mr Chidambaram, we hope you are watching.

In an unrelated development yesterday, the self styled champion of Indian culture, Pramod Muthalik of Sri Ram Sene had his face blackened for threatening action against errant couples found celebrating Valentine's day. That is music to our ears(not that I care a whole lot for Valentine's day, but I do care for freedom).

Feb 9, 2010


Question : What is the full name of Obama?

Answer: Obama bin Laden!!

That must qualify as the 'Howler of the Year'. By the way, this was not an answer elicited from any five or ten year old child....................they would surely have known better. It came from one of the contestants of the new TV reality show, 'Rahul Dulhaniya le Jaayega'.

Take a look at some of the other answers from the contestants (all answers came from different contestants), who have been selected after a reasonably rigourous process not from India alone but from overseas as well (NRIs). So claim the producers of the show.

Question: Name the three brothers of Ram.

Answer: Laxman, Bharat and Sahadev.

Question: Where is Nagaland?

Answer: Colombo.

Question: Who wrote Mahabharat?

Answer: Valmiki.

Makes one wonder what kind of selection process led to such knowledgeable contestants being chosen, doesn't it.

The first one of course is a howler that I am not likely to forget in a long time. Like the judges on the show, I could not help laughing my guts out. I happened to catch this stuff by pure accident, while surfing channels. I am yet to watch a single episode of the show, but its highlights were being aired on Star News, one of the news channels which specialise in covering bollywoood and tinseltown.

These Reality shows which have hit the Indian TV space in hordes, are not only entertaining audiences with their weird and bizarre contents, they also seem to have given some of these News starved 24 X 7 News channels something to cover. So if you happened to have missed some episodes of your favourite Reality show, fikar not, you can always catch the highlights on some or the other News channel.

Feb 6, 2010

Should Freedom of Speech be Curbed?

The country has been witness to the verbal slugfest between the Thakerays and Rahul Gandhi and another one with Shahrukh Khan. And we have probably not seen the last of it.
Non Marathis have had to bear the brunt of verbal abuse, threats and at times violent attacks for many years now. Despite efforts from central leadership, media activism, etc. divisive politics ceases to end. The war of words continues to grow bitter. (Read earlier post 'Divide to Rule' here)
While freedom of speech is a fundamental right, the Shiv Sena and the MNS challenge the very constitution which bestows upon all its citizen, the right to choose their place of work, residence etc. Should it then not be against the law for the likes of Raj, Uddhav Thakeray and the rest of them to stir up such regional and linguistic passions in people, by making inflammatory speeches and statements?
In order to preserve the unity (what is left of it) the need of the hour, is to enact a law, if there is not one already, making it unlawful for parties like the Sena and MNS from carrying on with their ante North Indian errrrrrrr........... ante rest of India campaign. Or, if there is a law already, the same to be enforced and implemented. Haven't we had enough of hate mongering?

 If Rahul Gandhi is not welcome in Mumbai and is greeted by black flags by Shiv Sainiks, surely the Thakerays or Shiv Sainiks don't have any right to visit any other part of the country either?
Other Opinions:

Feb 1, 2010

Leander Paes : The Phenomenon

Looking at Leander Paes playing doubles tennis, one cannot but admire this ageless wonder who along with Mahesh Bhupathi has been keeping the Indian flag flying high for almost two decades through his exploits on the Tennis circuit. Mahesh and Leander have been at the forefront of ATP tennis doubles for almost two decades now, and are showing no signs of fatigue.

Contagious enthusiasm, electric reflexes, never say die attitude, remarkable anticipation, superb athleticism................. On the Tennis court Leander Paes is pure magic.

What a shame that Leander and Mahesh who began their doubles tennis career as partners, one of the most formidable pair parted ways. The bitterness, acrimony and discord amidst which they parted, was particularly distressing. However, individually both these great players have been doing us proud.


Leander Paes :

11 Grand Slam doubles titles (6 men's and 5 mixed) from 21 finals.
41 ATP men's doubles titles.
1 ATP singles title.

Mahesh Bhupathi :

11 Grand Slam titles (4 men's and 7 mixed) from 19 finals.
45 ATP doubles titles.

Leander though steals a march over Mahesh through his contribution in Davis Cup Singles and the Olympic Bronze medal (Athens).

Leander Paes of India and Cara Black of Zimbabwe pose with the championship trophy after their mixed doubles final match against Ekaterina Makarova of Russia and Jaroslav Levinsky of the Czech Republic.

Heartiest Congratulations to Leander on his victory in the Mixed doubles event at Australian Open 2010, which follows a similar feat by the all Indian duo of Mahesh and Sania Mirza in 2009. Wish them much greater glory in times to come.