Friday, October 28, 2005

Qazi and Rooprekha are the Fame Jodi. I feel gypped. Heck, why am I complaining. I have free cable ... shhh!

Mangalyam tantunanena
Mama jeevana hetuna
KhanTHe bhadnaami shuBHage
Tvam jeeva sharadaam shatam.

By this sacred thread,
A symbol of my life,
That I auspiciously tie around your neck,
I declare that you may live
To see a hundred autumns!

The auspicious prayer symbolized in Saathiya (Alai Payuthey in Tamil, Sakhi in Telugu). The Telugu version of this movie is very, very close to my heart for several reasons, but the reason I bring this up, is because A.R.Rahman put this sactimonious prayer to music, so aptly. The word is "aptly". Not the raucous mess that Jatin-Lalit did with 'Raghupati Raghav' in K2H2. But APTLY. Keeping the sanctity and ominous feel, but adding modern music to it, to elevate it, not mar it in any way. And the way he merged "O humdum" into it. Sheer brilliance!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

How many of you use Babelfish? For the uninitiated, its an AltaVista provided web service that translates sentences between several languages. It's only yesterday that I realized that the the name is adapted from Douglas Adams's "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", which is highly imaginative fare, nevertheless. The babelfish is a fictional sea animal which, once stuffed into a person's ear, makes the person understand Vorgon-speak (acting like a translator). Cool!
South Indians do rule India. There are no doubts about it. They're just not as outgoing as North Indians and often lose out on the limelight. As Daddy rightly put it in our phone convo today, I would have a better chance is my name was Vishalan. hyuk hyuk! Well said, Daddy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

And some US Open pics to go with that vid.

Talking of open, I caught Sania at a press conference on TV wearing a T-shirt blaring "I'm Cute. No Shit". And a bunch of confused Hyderabadis went, "Kya boli re?".
Before Dubai, I hit up the US Open and got to see Agassi practice before he played some forgettable Russian giant in Arthur Ashe. Have a sneak video of him serving in practice courts. Do check it out - the man is lethal
2001. Must've been a cold, dreary night. Raindrops racing each other down a window. Found this one on the distorted pages of an old notebook, whose supposed raison d'etre was to help me keep track of Bandwidth Analysis lectures. It's called "Jeevan Sahara". (for those of you in the know ... its a geet, not a ghazal)

Ae dil tu mujhko bataade,
Kyun chaaee hai tanhaai,
Chahat yeh mere man ki,
Kyun aise rang laee,
Ae zindagi, yeh samjhade mujhko,
Is mod par kyun ruki hai,
Aankhein jo thi mera jeevan sahara,
Mujhe dekh kar kyun jhuki hain

Dil ka yeh hai afsaana,
Tujhko hi hai bataana,
Tere bina mera jeevan adhura,
Tumse milne ki tamanna hai,
Na tum miloge, na hum milenge,
raatein yun kat jaayengi,
Na tum kahoge, na hum kahenge,
baatein yun reh jaayengi

(I think the intricate usage of the title of this track, in the penultimate line of the first stanza is key. It subtly forms a part of the song, instead of being in the limelight and getting repeated several times (a la songs like Saathiya, etc.). Kinda like the word "Parineeta" is used just once in the entire album, that too - ever so delicately.
El Politico : India. A nation where every realm begets political ramifications in some shape or form. Nothing is safe from the political powerhouse that controls every thought, every emotion of the "common man", an image best inked by the legendary R. K. Laxman to comically (albeit vociferously) represent silent acceptance and gullibility.

This thought process was revitalized when I observed a simple example on television. Those of you in India or the Middle East (or in the US, with the Dish Network Mega/Value Pack), have probably caught the reality show, Fame Gurukul. For those who haven't, its a reality show where contestants have been residing in this mansion of music education, called the Gurukul, being eliminated by audience votes to produce a "fame Jodi", if you will, of a talented duo. The final 3 that the competition has come down to, after 'crores' of votes and hundreds of eliminations, are Ruprekha Bannerjee, Qazi Tauqeer and Rex D'Souza. Over the months, I have witnessed the elimination of some really talented and gifted singers, by so-called audience voting (which is carried out by phone calls and SMS-es across the nation, and is re-emphasized by non-televised campaign rallies). Seems simple enough so far? Now comes the political manifestation of the same. Qazi Tauqeer is visibly a good stage performer, with a Hritik Roshan fixation, not to mention a good-looker with a hairdo resembling a disregarded mop. But when it comes to the singing department, he falls short by orders of magnitude of several of his predecessors who are unfortunate not to be in his position today. Why? Because he's a Muslim from Kashmir. The minute he would have lost the public vote and left the Gurukul, his first media interview would have been crammed with allegations of discrimination. And India would burn. It would, trust me! It takes very little sparks to ignite conflagrations in our nation. And most minority leagues who are bereft of funding and a tad bit 'mental', (hence, funda-mentalists), just wait for an opportunity to grab the riot limelight. Hence, he remains. And with a grand chance of winning one half of the title, as well.

Moreover, get this. Rex, Rooprekha and Qazi. C'mon! A modern-day "Amar Akbar Anthony", don't you think? Why piss off any of the communities and their respective bodyguard commissions that cry reckless violence when mildly discriminated or even, disregarded? Why ignore the communities that relate to the religion of a candidate rather than his talent, and bring down the TRPs? Its sad that in a nation of disparities and heritage, that calls itself the world's largest democracy, even a so-called simple televised music competition falls prey to negative communalist variables.

Monday, October 24, 2005

That's what I love about the spirit of Americans. They never let it get them down. An image of an evacuee from Key West - shocking that I was there just a few months ago, and there were all those hurricane evacuation route signs. What a strange life they must live out there in the Keys... at one outstretched end of the nation, with just one road strip (Route 1) connecting them to mainland. Constant evacuations as they are the brunt of every wind current that brews out of the Atlantic. But thumbs up to the spirit of them Floridans. Stay strong, people.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Rick Wagoner amazes me. For those unaware of the latest debacle in the money market, GM posted a third quarter loss of .. "hold-yer-breath" .. US$1.1 BILLION. That's about $1.92 per share. What's amazing is that this debacle didn't tank their stock. But here's where CEO Rick came to the rescue with a classic PR rescue mission - supposedly entitled Project Distraction - and this clearly outlines how gullible investors really are. Prior to announcing the staggering losses, management cut health care costs by nearly $3 billion a year, as well as another $2 billion in structural cost cuts. Although the details of how GM plans to go about this are non-existant, Wagoner relied on the king size credibility that the auto giant has on The Street, and expected that these humongous (and virtually surreal) cost cuts would dilute the concentration of the loss amongst the investor peeps. Well ... he was right.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

"Deewana liye jaaye, naam tera sanam,
Mera yeh dil chaahe, saath tera sanam,
Mushkil badi hai yeh dooriyaan,
Yeh zindagi ki majbooriyaan,
Qismat ne ki bewafaai sanam, kaise sahein yeh tanhaaiyaan"

Yes, that's Don Juan-ic as I can get for the day. Have been trying to work on this song for ages, much to my chagrin. But like Tolstoy's War And Peace, it never finishes! Have the chord structure laid out, have the lyrics down - but just need that momentous projection to get it done with. Any takers?

Saddam pleads innocent. I don't get it. He has no home to go to. He has nobody to call his own. He's stuck in a land, far far away from where used to be, surrounded by people who hate him. And still he pleads innocent. Dude, you're lucky you're not breathing out of a tank yet. You're lucky that you haven't been written off as a "Slipped-in-shower-and-died" case by the resounding Pentagong (mispelt conveniently so that I don't have an RV with antennae hanging around my apartment after I post this - pardon me, I live in a paranoid nation).

Katrina ke baad, its Wilma, now. Can't these people get a little creative with their names. I mean, hurricanes need to sound DEVASTATING. They need names like Rex or Tyrone - something mean and realistic. Not cutesy names like Wilma. What's next? Typhoon Barney and Cyclone Fred running up the coast in their wood-and-stone jalopy, with a dinosaur in the backseat? Gimme a break. How come they don't name other natural disasters. "San Andreas was hit by a 7.6 this week, marking the return of Earthquake Pikachu". Maybe they should name earthquakes after crashed stocks - there's a symbolism. Think about it.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Station Desi-fication

Like most New Yorkers, I decided to go club-hopping on the weekend after the magnificent fireworks display. But as I got down on the dance floor with my two left feet, I heard something awkwardly familiar. The primarily gora crowd went wild to the opening warped riffs of the retro craze, “Yeh Mera Dil” from Don. I was undoubtedly the only one who identified the Kalyanji-Anandji hit, because everyone seemed to recognize it as the opening to Don’t Phunk With My Heart, the latest No. 1 from the Black Eyed Peas (of Hey Mama fame). This is not the first time that BEP has used a desi influence in their music, as the Elephunk Theme is appreciably inspired by an obscure, devotional Illaiyaraja number. My only question is – where do these bands dig up these songs from?

This trend of desi-influenced vocal and instrumental samples, re-initiated in this decade by Truth Hurts (who sampled the now-overused Kaliyon ka Chaman in their track, Addictive, much to the exuberant shock of the garishly bedecked Bappi “Finally, they recognize my music” Lahiri), was sustained by several artists and producers in the US, including Missy Elliott and Timbaland. Then, Punjabi MC’s Beware of the Boys happened and voila, desi music became hot property, regardless of the fact that no one in the West had the slightest clue what the over-zealous Sardarji was blaring about. And no, I’m not going to use the cliché here. Well, maybe just once. Here goes. Of course, music transcends languages and borders. Sorry, that was irresistible. But, I digress.

My point is that desi music is finally on the verge of arriving, in the global sense (beyond Bhangra, which has carved a niche of its own). And by arriving, one implies reaching a musical destination beyond radio-quality vocal samples and tabla loops – a destination where our music is recognized as a whole, and given its own identity and space – quite like Salsa or Merengue, which are appreciated in their original element.

And one hallmark in this global awakening is the recent nationwide launch of MTV World, and its crowning glory, MTV Desi. In a land where channels like Zee and Sony Entertainment TV are categorized as minority programming, MTV’s creative crew had the ball-point pens to sketch out a revolutionary new concept – bringing international music to American audiences in their own distinct vehicles. MTV Desi is part of a triumvirate, along with MTV-K (Korean) and MTV-Chi (Chinese), and is poised to create a rivulet for South Asian music into the mainstream, and also act as a platform for South Asian artists in the United States. Thousands of people were awe-struck on July 9th in Times Square (which is referred to by many as the center of the world) as the video of Rabbi Shergill’s Bulla Ki Jaana played on humongous electronic billboards to mark the launch of the channel. And what’s even more interesting is that the visionary behind MTV World shares a deep connection with my homeground, Dubai.

I met up with Nusrat Durrani, GM/SVP of MTV World recently and he said, “I was in Dubai from ’90 to ’95 and it continues to fascinate me. Dubai is a great example of how variant cultures can co-exist”. He shared the fact that the seed for MTV World was germinated when he saw the television launch of MTV India, while he was handling the Marketing Department of Honda at the Al-Futtaim Group in Dubai. With music interests as variant as Begum Akhtar and Bob Dylan, and a striking resemblance to Mick Jagger, Nusrat, a native of Lucknow, is credited with coming up the hard way during his 9-years with MTV and single-handedly driving the MTV World juggernaut from conception to launch. Although they currently piggy-back on their counterparts, MTV India, for content, Desi has recruited a couple of VJs and is developing local content. Although their heart is in the right place, only time and TRPs will tell whether MTV Desi does manage to achieve its place in the sun or fade out like a lullaby.

Spotted! Desi residents on the chic and expensive Upper West Side of New York (yes, all four of them) now have a delectable new food joint to call their own. After the success of the open-till-late, Calcutta-street food Kati Rolls in the West Village which has answered the prayers of many a post-clubber dying for food on a Saturday night, the newbie Roti Roll brings a very popular desi favorite to New YorkBombay Frankees. Although it does disappoint when compared to the sumptuous and one-of-a-kind original, its fun to see Indian food catch on in New York – not to mention, to watch the gora-folk down water by the gallon after the Achari Paneer Roll. Hee hee!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

America. A land where you saw your dreams and opportunities come true. The land you came to after leaving it “all” behind. And today, as you stand in awe and admiration of the magnificent Statue of Liberty, amongst a crowd of New Yorkers on their way to work, what do you hear? You hear this. “Did you hear that Abhishek and Rani are carrying on? Oh my god, yaar!”. Yes, it’s the invasion of the “desis”, who have arrived to burst your sweet “I’m-away-from-home” bubble. Desis, desis everywhere, not a whitey in sight. Desis are like ants – we migrate in hordes. We’ve formed dominions of influence in places as spread out as South Africa, Canada, U.A.E. and of course, the “States” (a truly desi reference, as if it’s the only country with that kind of divisional policy).

And this is America, today. A melting pot of Hispanics, Asians, Africans, Europeans and “desis” (or in a more politically correct classification – South Asians). An inter-continental smorgasbord, if you will. A land where white people are soon diminishing into a minority. Most Americans, however, have a very ambiguous outlook towards Indians and India. They think that we can do only one of two jobs in America –manage convenience stores or code software. And contrary to belief, most Americans still think that back home, Indians are snake-charmers, goat-herders or inept call center representatives. Although the awareness is building, it still needs to be purported on a vast scale. And movies like Bride and Prejudice aren’t helping as they still show Indians as a bunch of over-zealous, elephant-followers. Yes, I agree we have a wonderful culture and oodles of tradition – but we also have a metropolitan side to India that needs to be portrayed to the world through popular film. Bollywood, are you listening?

Friday, October 14, 2005

Back to blogging. Back to basics. Its been a 2 year-hiatus. But what brings me back to blogging? When Sade sang the words "This is no ordinary love" soothingly into my ear (within the steel-white confines of my loyal I-Pod, mind you - unless you thought otherwise), it made me ... duh ... think, i guess. One gets so involved in mundane life and predictable occurences, that one starts to perceive the extra-ordinary as incidental. As Forrest Gump supposedly coined a phrase, "S**t Happens". But that's not all.

Hurricanes. Earthquakes. Tsunamis. Unpredictability. All leads me to suggest, nay, believe one thing - the environment is fighting back. This love-hate relationship that we share with the world around us, is far from ordinary. Once in a pale blue moon, when we choose to sit back and appreciate the magic of nature's surroundings, we do so to no extend. We run off to a lakeside paradise, or a mountaineous adventure, and gorge on nature's beauty. But once we have sated our appetite, we retire to the characteristics of our dominating split personality. Taking our world, our lives, our surroundings, our thoughts, our processes, our people ... all for granted. Industries plunder the skyspheres with murderous substance. Corporations steal land from the sea, with a refusal to curb their enthusiasm. Trees are uprooted. Land is mined. Its in our nature to plunder nature. We love her to death when she catches our fancy, but will in fact be, the primary cause of her soon and sudden demise. Today she fights back, with a veracity reminiscent of Mangal Pandey single-handedly attempting to battle the Rangoon regiment. She fights back with every ounce of dignity that kept her going, and every memory of the joyful and shy pride which was inspired by the extensive appreciation or artists and poets and writers for centuries. She fights back with anger and animosity at a human race that has cheated on her with a fairer maiden named technology. But she fights back with the firm knowledge that she is larger than life itself - a certainty that she can end this wicked game that she was forced into. When will this madness end? This relationship has turned into a vicious chess game, where the earth has turned into a massacre board where we are victimized pawns - as we face the wrath of the elements, that have been wreaked by the wrongdoings of a few misled souls. We continue to build castles in the air, develop technologies, build better, bigger and more pollutive objects of mass destruction .. and expect Her to quietly suffer in silence, cry in the corner and never speak out in her defence. Think again, nature-lover. This is no ordinary love.