Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fake, but entertainment

Am I glad that I don't follow cricket? Perhaps. Am I relieved that I did not get swayed by the histrionics of the Fake IPL Player at its height? Definitely. I don't know what to make out of it. Looking at the Fake smiling on TV, happy about relieving himself and coming out, answering questions of tons of his fans, who despite being massively misled into believing something that they thought was gospel, but was infact nothing more than someone's figment of imagination, as he basked in his glory on TV that showed him like a trophy, like an achievement of being the first TV channel for breaking the identity of the Fake and kept reiterating how many zillions of phone calls they've been getting ever since they broke the story, I don't know whether to be happy or sad.

Let's get one thing straight. The world has moved on. We've all come a long way. In the world of reality shows where contestants shed rivers of tears, even strip their dignity to get ahead, this one seems to be the mother of all reality shows. He made it look so easy; create a mass hysteria and capture the nation's imagination. You could say its a masterstroke. And it probably was. This sort of stuff puts Bollywood scriptwriters to shame. (Not Hollywood; they make Inception.) With no source on the cricket field, the Fake conjured up stories, filled with pseudo names, allegedly purely out of his own head and drove millions of cricket fans in a tizzy. The guy has to be mighty creative to do something like this. And while fans must be kicking themselves (c****** banaa diyaa sabko), you can't deny talent here. Or creativity, whichever way you look at it. If I am running an advertising agency, or even if I am a brand manager, I'd pay to get this guy on my payroll. As a fan, I'd kick myself. As a citizen of this country, I'd say yeh hain India meri jaan. As a journalist, I'd say more power to the pen, which yet again has proved, is mightier than the sword.

Every word that the Fake wrote on his blog seems to have triggered heated discussions and debates in offices, cafeterias (as one caller said) colleges, classrooms, coffee shops, not to mention, locker rooms. Conspiracy theories floated around and realms and realms of newspaper and air space was spent on deciphering what this Fake meant, where did he get the news from and all the repercussion. And all this for what? If everything was his figment of his imagination, many would call it a waste. Entertainment? Sure, why not? Dollops of it. I can think of some Hindi news channels who would look for fodder here, who would throw their bodies and souls to get him on their TV shows, do his psychoanalysis, his dog's psychoanalysis, decipher him inside out, what colour of clothes he wears, what time he goes to the toilet, and what not.

I am so glad that I am not a fan of cricket. I wouldn't dream of getting caught in this sort of hysteria. I am happier gallivanting between Flinders Park, Rolland Garros, SW19 and now, Flushing Meadows.

Mint's story on the US Open Tennis

Mint carried a preview of the US Open tennis championships

And the best reality TV show is...

Reality TV shows have crossed the line of bizarre and have become icons of mediocrity. These days the amount of crying that reality TV shows, especially those blasted singing and dancing competitions, dump on us is not funny. If there was an award of who cries the most- and God knowing the way our TV bosses work these days- there might just be one of those too in future- these participants could give a tough competition. 

But, all hope is not lost. Lost amidst a sea of mediocre reality shows is this jewel. My vote for the best reality show goes to Masterchef Australia. Don't get me wrong; singing and dancing is also a huge talent and some of the mighty talented kids, especially those on the show Chak Dhoom Dhoom, have shown that at such a young and tender age, they can give the best dancers a run for their money. But the mere proliferation of such shows across multiple TV channels have ruined the charm. 

Masterchef Australia has that much-needed charm. It's a cooking reality show that takes place in a studio and there are rounds with themes. Contestants from all walks of life enter the competition to become the Masterchef. I have't caught many episodes, but the few that I have, left me impressed. Last week, the contestants were grouped into two groups; Red and Blue. They were to cook for a  nine year old's birthday party, and her 40 guests consisting her little friends and their parents. Each team had to prepare a birthday cake, main course and dessert. Each team got to sit with the birthday girl for about 2 mins and ask her as many questions as possible in that time, to get to know her taste, likes, dislikes, preferences and so on. Then, it's showtime. 

Each party guest, kid and adult, gets one vote. The birthday girl gets an additional 10 votes for the best birthday cake. The team with most votes, wins. I thought the concept rocked. The whole idea of catering for a kid's birthday and wooing their votes in a competition of this stature is mind-blowing. Even on other weeks, they call celebrity chefs and contestants are made to prepare a dish out of this chef's cookbook. It's a little odd to see contestants looking weepy and about to cry over an uncooked chicken or some such thing at result time, but the idea of a cooking reality show, gets my vote for the best reality TV show on Indian television. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Peepli Live

It's celebration time when we see a meaningful film being made in India that is devoid of the usual rubbish mushiness and pop corn romance that makes little sense and call for unnecessary flood of tears that seem to go nowhere. Or, say, when they pick up a realistic subject and attempt to allegedly make a story out of it. In an industry that turns West every time it falls short of original ideas, here's a movie that is both contemporary and as original as it gets. The trick in the Indian context, however, is to pick up what appears on the surface to be a typical tear-jerker, possibly a social issue (something that our TV serials amply do these days) and turn into a product that keeps the histrionics at a bare minimum, appeals to a wider audience and doesn't sound preachy. (I caught the morning 10.40 am show at Pune's Inox (one of my favourite theatres) and the hall  was about 20% occupied, mostly by young college kids. They were having a ball of a time, laughing merrily at  the various twists, turns and dialogues.) That, in a nutshell, is Peepli Live, a film made by debutant director Ms Anusha Rizvi, who was earlier a journalist.

The story tracks two farmer brothers Natha and Budhiya, in a fictitious village called Peepli, who lose their land to a bank when they cannot repay the bank's loan. Getting to know about how the government compensates the families of those farmers who commit suicides, the brothers decide that Natha would commit suicide so that the government pays his family (Natha's wife, three children and mother; Budhiya is single and lives with them) so that atleast the family can live. The media comes to know of this story and very soon there is a circus of frenzied media chasing the story scrambling upon each other to cover what appears to be the country's first Live farmer suicide (hence, the name Peepli Live) on camera and politicians trying to get a mileage out of this awkward situation. 

It's a serious subject, yet, not for one second does Peepli Live gets preachy. The film is not a documentary; it's a satire. It's a dark comedy about how the farmer brother duo aim to make a quick buck to ensure their family lives to die another day. The movie takes a satirical look at the the political class and the media. The opposition and the ruling State party falls head over heals to either take advantage of this situation or do a massive PR to save their faces. The media is only too happy to cover every aspect of the beleaguered farmer family, dissecting every little detail surrounding Natha, breaking news, and all of that; even answering nature's call becomes a big headache. It literally is a circus out there. It takes a journalist to show glimpses of how the media can chase a story, hook or by crook. 

The script is tight and the screenplay is fantastic. The performances are superb and it's a wonderful sight to see raw talented actors from little known theatre groups turn in such marvelous performances. Clearly, the best film of 2010 so far. 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Somdev Devvarman

Mint carried a story on Somdev Devvarman last week when he became the first Indian men's tennis player to enter the top 100 of men's single ranking, in over the decade. The last Indian to do that was Leander Paes.

Meher Mahino, Ava Mahino and Adar Mahino: The holy trinity of Zoroastrian calender

Zoroastrians- or better knows as Parsis and Iranis of India- have a separate calendar. We look at the English calendar of course, but we al...