Thursday, May 31, 2007

The truth about Tinky-Winky

I would have thought the Polish government had more serious stuff to worry about. Riots, unemployment...the usual suspects. Instead they are spending money to investigate if the Teletubbies are gay. More specifically Tinky-Winky, the eldest Teletubby on the British TV show for kids.

And why? Because the purple furry creature carries a lady's handbag.

Just one question for the Polish experts - Are you quite sure Tinky-Winky is not a woman. Last time I checked, the Teletubbies just had miniature television sets broadcasting stuff from their furry bellies. No genitals to speak of.

And I thought only we Indians had a fetish for publicity stunts.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Desperately seeking Sherlock Holmes

Actually, one of my pals is trying to find out more about this mysterious diva. Can you help?

- Student of IIT Delhi
- Sings like an angel
- Gyrates like Shakira

Hmmmph! The Baker Street guy is never there when you need him. Should I try Chetan Bhagat?

Vote for the Taj Mahal

What! You haven't voted for the Taj Mahal yet. And you call yourself an Indian?

Did you know the monument of love is lagging way behind in the race to be in the new Seven Wonders list. So, what are you waiting for?

Am not advocating booth-capturing of any kind. Just pleading with all you net surfing geeks out there. Log on and Vote Now

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Konkona getting a raw deal, eh?

Poor Konkona Sen Sharma. Why are directors hell-bent on making her fall in love with a gay colleague? As if Page 3 wasn't enough, Metro sees Konkona walking in on a none-too-brotherly encounter.

But she still gets off lightly. In a city where extra-marital affairs are passe and cool dude Sharman Joshi makes money by renting out his apartment for scheduled sexcapades. Which reminds me, is the similarity with The Apartment (1960) purely coincidental?

Shilpa Shetty, in her first film since winning British hearts in 'Celebrity Big Brother', plays the wronged wife to perfection. Hubby Kay Kay Menon is spending too much time in office meetings, or rather massaging Kangana Ranaut. And leaves a lonely Shilpa to find solace in the arms of theatre artist Shiney Ahuja.

As if that wasn't enough, director Anurag Basu brings in an ageing Dharmendra and Nafisa Ali to spice things up for older viewers. Despite this odd couple, Basu still manages to hold the film together with some tight editing and some spectacular scenes - go watch the movie, you will know which ones I'm talking about.

And I haven't even talked about the surprise package yet - Irrfan Khan is the soul of the film. He mouths the funniest and the most philosophical lines. Leaving those of the hamming variety in Shiney's kitty. By the way, I hated Shiney's theatre scene.

Nevertheless, Life in a ...Metro is eminently watchable. Be it for Irrfan Khan. Or Pritam's soul-stirring music. Or Kay Kay Menon's ogre husband bit. Or even Shilpa Shetty's return to stardom. Take your pick.

Rating: ****

Saturday, May 26, 2007

May 2007 Blog Mela

Sakshi thinks Karan Johar wants to marry Richard Gere

Falstaff falls in love with Paris Hilton - or does he?

Rashmi Bansal thinks Ambani's big adda is a big anda

Presstalk (is he the new War for News?) reveals that the media industry has its share of peeping toms

Bikkupedia sees peacocks dancing inside the Tiger's den

Suchitra Krishnamoorthi wants to yell, abuse, slap people and tell a few others to go to hell

Shaarique keeps you updated with the golden rules of flirting on Orkut

Rajaram comes clean on things he's learnt from his wife

SMI tells you why Amma is never far away

Unfortunately, many readers nominated blog posts published in April - Didn't you read the blog mela rules?

March 2007 Blog Mela
April 2007 Blog Mela

Wanna get featured in next month's Blog Mela? Visit this blog in the first week of June for nomination guidelines

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Lightning screws up May Blog Mela

Yes, a bolt of lightning put paid to my plans of coming out with the May 2007 Blog Mela today.

Yesterday, as heat-stricken Delhi welcomed the rainstorm with open arms, one teeny-weeny flash escaped from the sky and made a beeline for my rooftop.

Whoosh! The subsequent boom spelt death for all electrical appliances in the vicinity. Including my beloved MTNL broadband modem.

As I wait for my modem to spring to life, I hereby announce the postponement of the May 2007 Blog Mela till May 26. And you may now continue to nominate blog posts till midnight on May 22.

This delay will also come in handy for all those readers who have nominated blog posts published in April. Hello! These nominations are null and void.

Please take a look at the rules here and take this opportunity to nominate blog posts which satisfy the eligibility criteria.

April Blog Mela
March Blog Mela

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Yippee! Just been Google Whacked

Ryan Tyler from Glamorgan University writes in to let me know I'm a Google Whack. Don't believe me? Search for 'deskpersons' and 'snuffing' on Google (or click here) and you'll know why.

A Googlewhack is a Google search query consisting of two words that returns a single result. In this case, my blog.

One problem though - Ryan didn't quite tell me why he was searching for snuffing deskpersons on Google. Eh?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

On Blog Vacation

No, no, no - don't think you will get rid of me that easily. I'm just off on vacation to the city of my birth - Ahmedabad (otherwise famous for fake encounters and shaking minarets)

I will not be blogging during my 5-day stay at the Ahmedabad Blogging De-addiction Centre. No access to computers and cyber-cafes (but that story is reserved for a future blog post)

Until then, keep voting for the May 2007 Blog Mela. Deadline ends at midnight on May 15. Rules here

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

REVIEW: Spider-Man 3 - The second half sucks

"Spidey kisses classmate, MJ upset
MJ kisses Harry, Spidey upset"

Reminds you of millions of Bollywood films, doesn't it? If only director Sam Raimi had sought the services of Karan Johar, Spider-Man 3 would have been an emotional rollercoaster.

Alas! Spider-Man 3 suffers from surfeit. Love triangle apart, two new villains, their sob stories and a mysterious symbiote that flies in from outer space (how or why is never explained).

All Raimi can do is desperately try to salvage the different threads. The Spidey-Mary Jane love track stumbles (over MJ's botched debut on Broadway and an upside-down kiss), foe-turned-friend-turned-foe-turns-friend (Goblin junior Harry has selective amnesia), photographer Eddie wants revenge on Spidey for humiliating him and 'stealing' his girlfriend Gwen.

As for the villains (that would be too harsh a word coz all Spider-Man villains are nice at heart and victims of circumstance), the real killer of Ben Parker falls into a radioactive sandpit and turns into a Ruthless Sandman who robs banks to save his daughter's life.

Meanwhile, oozy symbiote turns Spidey into bad guy for a while. His slimy suit falls on Eddie transforming the latter into Venom. No more spoilers. Go watch the movie.

The big winner (and of course the reason why the third instalment in the series is breaking box-office records) are the special effects. They are good. Seriously. The chase sequences, how Franco turns Sandman, Harry vs Spidey are all top-notch edge-of-your-seat stuff.

The problem is the second half. The emotions are there but the emote-ing ones are not. Some bad acting by Tobey (can't really cry), Kirsten does her falling-from-skyscraper bit (again!), the symbiote can't really stand the sound of bells (blasted ear-drums I presume) and some bad attempts at Travoltaesque dancing (Tobey again)

You desperately wait for the film to end and on at least two occasions, I guarantee you will make the mistake of thinking it's over.

If not for the special effects and a certain scene in a French restaurant, the movie would have been a dud. I hear they will be making Spider-Man 4. Mr Raimi, please hire Karan Johar for that one. He'll teach you a thing or two about emotions.

Rating: ***

P.S. If you haven't watched Spider-Man or Spider-Man 2 before reading this review, am sorry you won't understand a thing

GUEST COLUMN - Eye thy football stadium

One thing that has always flummoxed me is how Indians can't seem to get enough of cricket. Now hang on – I'm not a cricket-baiter. In fact, anything but.

What I do know is that going to a cricket match requires patience (what with all the oversold tickets and resultant chaos), physical and mental strength, not to mention incredible bladder control and quite literally – a thick hide (if team India doesn't beat its opponent, then rude, overbearing police personnel and stadium authorities will more than make up for it).

I love cricket but as a professional who gets his rozi-roti from football, let me be shamelessly opportunistic and give you some reasons to visit your local stadium the next time Indian football comes calling.

The first stadium you have got to be at is the Yuvabharati Krirangan, or the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata. For the dictionary definition of 'goosebumps', stand inside the stadium half an hour before an East Bengal-Mohun Bagan match. I have done it four times in two years, but still can't quite put it down in words. With over a lakh Bengalis passionate about their football, and even more passionate about the team they support, YBK can be intimidating.

But for those of us who live for the passion and excitement of sport, it's an adrenaline rush. The stadium itself isn't the prettiest, but if you have a list of 'Things to do before I die', my suggestion is you put in this entry - To catch an East Bengal v Mohun Bagan match live at Salt Lake Stadium.

At the other end of the spectrum is the relaxed, almost eerie Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda, Goa. As a ground it is a good one (the only criticism being it is also used for cricket so you'll often see the remains of a cricket pitch) but the problem is - not enough people turn up there. Where that helps is that the Nehru Stadium is great for a football connoisseur – you can enjoy the peace and quiet of a relatively empty stand.

There are two more Nehru Stadiums (in Kochi and Chennai) and a Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore that are among the prettiest grounds in India. Chennai's Nehru Stadium is right up there among global football venues, while the one in Kochi gets its flavour through its football-mad supporters.

Back in 2005, we were there for the Santosh Trophy, and one evening I was seriously concerned about the health of those inside the ground. One of the stands was on the verge of collapsing under the weight of the dancing fans perched on it. The local DJ had the good sense of cutting the tournament song short to avoid a disaster.

Then there's Co-operage. Suffice to say it's the most "unground" ground for football in India. Located in the heart of Colaba, near Churchgate, Co-operage has massive potential as a football stadium owing to its small size and intimate atmosphere a la Highbury. Two days ago my brother wanted to drop in for a game, but kept driving around for the entire length of the first half while looking for a 'football ground'. If you take a right from Hutatma Chowk and drive away from Churchgate, you will discover why.

Then there's the historical Ambedkar Stadium in Delhi. Tiny in size (not incomparable with Co-operage), the atmosphere here is built up by old-timers who pop in from old Delhi. I think it's safe to say there are fans here that've probably seen every football game played in post-Independence Delhi. Never short on a comment or 90, there's nary a dull moment in the galleries especially when a player makes a horrible mess of a goal-scoring opportunity.

That's the only caveat – a football match is not the ideal place to go to if you're sensitive to profanities and rowdy behaviour. India in general and grounds like Salt Lake Stadium and Ambedkar Stadium in particular are no exceptions. However, games are much shorter than those in other sports, they're usually well-contested, and there's always a distinct buzz in the air. So make sure you have your fill of a few games in your local stadium the next time there's a game in your hometown. Believe me, you won't regret it.

(Debayan Sen lives in Delhi. He likes music, books, sports, movies and staring into space...not necessarily in that order. Oh, and he works for Zee Sports)

The Appy Fizz cricket song

I know it's a bit too late to be berating the Indian cricket team but this catchy Appy Fizz jingle was too good to resist. And who knows, it might just come in handy during the ongoing Bangladesh tour.

Friday, May 04, 2007

BLOG INTERVIEW - Sona Mohapatra

Meet Sona Mohapatra. The singer with the "ancient" voice who floored audiences with her debut album Sona.

Pop star, folk singer, classical musician - you just can't fit her into any one mould coz Sona's in a league of her own. She's been singing all her life, dabbled in ad jingles (if you try hard enough, you will recall which ones) and quit her job as a FMCG brand manager to immerse herself fully in the pursuit of her dream.

Sona told Toe Knee Unplugged her collaboration with Aussie band INXS (for Afterglow) won't be her last with international artists. Also in the pipeline is a hip-hop version of the chartbuster Aaja Ve.

Sona is strikingly different from other albums in the market. How has the response been?

The response has been great. I have people from all over the world writing in about how refreshing and original the material is. My band has been playing to live audiences who seem to know the lyrics by heart, especially Bolo Na, Sapne and Aaja Ve. Can be no bigger high.
For us (my team), the main objective was to create 'soul music', music that moves you. The biggest decision that we had to make on the creative front on this album was whether to stick to making a 'cohesive' album that showcased one aspect of me or to make a more 'diverse' album that highlights the inherent dichotomy that is me.
I'm moved to sing ancient words, learn histories and I'm told I have an ancient voice. But I'm also a young, urban woman who wants to communicate her feelings. We chose the latter and I'm really glad we did.
How did the collaboration with INXS come about? Any more international ventures in the offing?

Sona was released in September last year. The first single Bolo Na was among the most played songs and struck a chord with the urban audience almost instantaneously. INXS was coming down to India in October for a concert in Mumbai and Bangalore and evinced interest in collaborating with an Indian artist.
I understand that SONY BMG sent them options of Indian singers and their material but fortunately for me they chose to go with me as they felt my voice would complement their lead singer J D Fortune. Soon after the band got in touch about wanting to do another track together. It's a work in progress.
I've also collaborated with a DJ from the UK called John Flemming on a dance track. The production should be completed soon. Some UK artists recently got in touch with me to create a 'hip-hop' version of Aaja Ve and a couple of interesting projects... so lots in the pipeline.
The video for Aaja Ve (my favourite Sona Mohapatra song) really stands out. How did you come up with the concept?
The concept is Deepti Gupta's. She also shot and directed the video. She came up with it after watching a live performance of mine in a concert where the audience was in her words 'intoxicated' and the performance had a unique interactive quality to it. That's where the idea of the video came from.
While the song is a dialogue with the divine, in this video it's a call beckoning to live life and let yourself be elevated by the spirit of the song.
You have been trained in classical music, right?
Yes. I wouldn't call myself a classical singer though, that would require a whole different life of sadhna.
You took a few years to come up with Sona. How long do fans have to wait till your next effort?
There's lots in the pipeline as I mentioned earlier. I hope to tour and play live a lot more. Hope that the climate in the country for live music and venues improves. I've started working on new material but will put it out only when our listeners are ready for it.
The fact that most music is downloaded for free or consumed off television doesn't help the cause of music like mine.
Any particular style of singing you want to explore. Who are your favourite singers and composers?
I do want to research various folk stylings around the country. It's also a dream to go live in Spain for a good enough period and understand and learn some basic Flamenco stylings. My favourite singers and composers include Nusrat Fateh Ali, Sting, Bebe, Girija Devi, Pt Channulal Mishra, Ram Sampath, A R Rahman... the list is endless actually.
And I take it you have absolutely no regrets about leaving a high-profile career. Was it a hard decision to concentrate solely on singing?
I took the long, hard road to music. I believe my education will always hold me in good stead - not so much literally, but in terms of shaping my personality and opinions. You're only as good as your experiences. This may sound corny but you don't choose music. Music chooses you. I NEED to sing. I'm most alive when in front of an audience, with my band behind me.
I've dreamt about being a singer for as long as I can remember. What I didn't want to compromise on was a good education. So I chose the long, hard way to Mumbai, but I believe it's been worthwhile...and absolutely no regrets. I'm living my dream...and with no compromises.

Other Exclusive Interviews on this blog
Mahesh Dattani
Ruchi Narain

I wish I had teachers like these

The ones who don't read exam answersheets

(Link via Reddit)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Complan kids turn Bollywood stars

Recognise this cherubic pair from the timeless Complan ad?

'I am a Complan boy'
'I am a Complan girl'

Years after they first worked together as kids, Shahid Kapoor and Ayesha Takia made it big in Bollywood.

The two were paired in the forgettable flick Dil Maange More some time ago but will be seen in action once again in the soon-to-be-released Fool N Final.

The lady from Canada

She was standing at the sales counter when I entered Delhi's Oxford Bookstore. The spitting image of actress Maggie Smith - possibly older but with kinder eyes. And the puzzled look of a first-time visitor to India.

She clutched the latest bestsellers in her wrinkled hands, possibly reading material for her journey back to the UK or wherever she came from.

I don't normally start conversations with old ladies at bookstores but then she glanced at me as I came near and gave me an endearing smile. I had to say something.

Me: Are books cheaper here in India?
Lady: (smiles) Not at all, they are much cheaper in Canada. (pause) That's where I live. Why are you so tall? I have a crick in my neck already.

She looks at my face and then at my hands. Empty.

Lady: Young man, are you buying any books?
Me: Well, actually I am placing an order for the latest Harry Potter book
Lady: (looking at me strangely) My grandchildren read Harry Potter
Me: (blushing)'s actually for this friend of mine who's crazy about it. I would never buy something like this
Lady: (chuckling) It's okay. I read them too.
Me: No, really I don't...
Lady: Listen young man, can you help me out. My husband and I are looking for a chemist. Isn't that what you call a medical store in India?
Me: Sure, I think there's one not too far from here
Lady: Great! Could you give me directions. My driver is waiting outside - we just wanted to pick up some books first. Can you believe he didn't know where Oxford Bookstore was? We had to ask passers-by for directions.
Me: Most people don't know. This building is known as Statesman House.

Pre-order form signed, I turned to leave. She stood there - waiting for her husband. I spot him in the distance looking at something in the magazine section.

Lady: (smiling) Hope you have fun reading Harry Potter
Me: (protesting) It's not for me...
Lady: Whatever! It was nice meeting you
Me: Was nice meeting you too

At the entrance, I glance back. She was looking at me, smile still intact and her wrinkles uplifted. I couldn't help smiling too.

[Place a pre-order for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Book releases July 21, 2007]

May 2007 Blog Mela: Nominate Now

Did you just come across a quirky, interesting or something-that-tugs-at-your-heartstrings blog? If yes, feel free to nominate it for this month's Blog Mela being hosted here on May 26

How does a Blog Mela work, you wonder. Well, take a peek at the March 2007 Blog Mela or the April 2007 Blog Mela

Points to Ponder
- Posts must have been written by Indians or have an Indian angle
- Only posts published between 1-22 May, 2007 would be accepted
- If possible, please nominate individual posts, not the whole blog
- Feel free to nominate something you have written. Immodesty appreciated.
- Only nominations received before midnight on May 22 will be featured
- No, you don't get any moolah for nominating or getting featured in the Blog Mela. That could change once I am a millionaire but for now you'll just have to bear with me
- Yours truly reserves the right to nominate good posts which you ignore

How to Nominate
- Leave a comment on this post OR better still - Mail me at toeknee (at) gmail (dot) com

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Delhi's new "all talk" radio station

Another new radio station in New Delhi. Yawn!

But 104.8 FM claims to be all talk and less music. This interactive chat show is now going through test runs.

I had my doubts but I tuned in anyway. RJs Tina and Gina were discussing how names can create perceptions. About how you are likely to think someone named Basanti is a bespectacled dodo. Tina wondered how filmi characters like Mogambo and Shakaal fared in school. Did the other kids rib them to death?

People kept calling up in between (a majority were men) - including a corporate sanyasi - and the two gals had a lot of fun trying out Punjabi accents and goofing around. What struck me was the informality of it all. These gals can do some serious yakking for a living.

And instead of tuning out the Tina-Gina gang, I listened to 104.8 for the next few hours.

The music (yes, they do have music sometimes) was different too. They kept playing a cappella tracks by the Penn Masala group. Refreshing stuff. And no ads. For now.

Tina and Gina left at 8 pm. And Bina and Leah took over. Just one question - Is the management hiring people with similar sounding names?

Radio Today (they were associated with 93.5 FM earlier) returns to the business with 104.8 FM. And apparently the new station is called Radio Meow! And why is that, I wonder.

Lots of new voices on the channel - Ginnie Mahajan (RJ Gina) may be the only experienced hand around (remember her in AIR Rainbow FM?). But I suggest you give 104.8 a try - you might end up liking this kind of radio.

Update: Fauji ka ladka Raj (real name Radio Today COO Anil Srivatsa) is having trouble fending off female admirers on his late night show - the dude with the sexiest-voice-on-radio is finding it tough to answer phone-in queries about his age and looks. I've a feeling he won't be able to handle all the attention.

Have you caught Fever 104 FM yet?
Aren't you addicted to Hit 95 FM?

Look before you woof

Sunita Vedhara looked out of her kitchen window. She often stood there admiring the view from her house in Newcastle, UK but today she was busy watching her two dogs. The two labradors, Ruby and Princess were in the garden, jumping up at the railing and barking at something on the other side.

'Karan, what are the dogs doing?'

No reply.

Sunita stopped to check the time - 9.30 p.m.

And went outside. As she stepped off the porch, she saw a young man on the other side of the fence. Growling and barking at her dogs.

That was strange enough but the next instant two police officers came up behind the lad and handcuffed him.

Sunita was nonplussed.

'Excuse me officers. Why are you arresting him?'

'A public order offence, ma'am. Barking at your dogs'


(The above story is a fictionalised account of this news item)

Kyle Little, 19, was hauled off to jail in August 2006 for making canine noises at Sunita Vedhara's dogs. Prosecutors said Little had been abusive to police officers before he turned his ire towards Ruby and Princess.

Little was charged under the Public Order Act for causing harassment, alarm or distress to the dogs' owner, despite Sunita not making a complaint.

In January 2007, magistrates fined the teenager 50 pounds with a further 150 pounds in costs. The conviction was quashed by a judge last month. She remarked: "The law is not an ass."

This is what Sunita told reporters after the incident -

"He (Little) was messing about, being a daft young lad. We didn't want to see him prosecuted but the police said he was being taken to court, which we found surprising. The dogs weren't really upset by it at all."
Moral of the Story: And you thought Indians were crazy for raising a hue and cry over a kiss

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