Archive for July, 2009

CHURUMURI POLL: Yella OK, andru KPL yaake?

31 July 2009

The Karnataka State Cricket Association’s decision to conduct a Twenty20 tournament called the Karnataka Premier League (KPL) has split cricketers. Former Test match legends like Erapalli Prasanna and Syed Kirmani think that it is a step in the right direction and that it will help “rural talent”. Stars like Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid, who have played the IPL, Tests and ODIs, are not quite so cock-a-hoop.

Indeed, in a cricketing establishment where the only thing that drives cricketers and organisers is the rustle of the rupee and being on the right side of the turnstile, Kumble has bravely stuck his neck out against KPL, the brainchild of Srikandatta Wodeyar and Brijesh Patel. Kumble says it is “not a positive or healthy development”, “that in its present form it would allow a backdoor entry to people not passionate about cricket.”

What is the KPL about? What is the point of the whole exercise?” Kumble has said. “Why isn’t the KSCA itself organising it? Why is it going in for private team franchises when the costs are so moderate?”

At one level, is the very real danger of forces beyond the boundary—real estate mafia, underworld dons, politicians, film stars, liquor dons—gaining a stranglehold over the game, with all its attendant miseries. Mutthappa Rai, among others, wants a piece of the cake. At another level, is the future of Karnataka cricket if all it starts producing from the ground-up are slam-bang cricketers, untrained for the longer version of the game.

Question: Is KPL a good idea or not? Will it help the quality of Karnataka cricket, and thus Indian cricket? If the idea is to promote mofussil talent, will it help to play all the matches in Bangalore? If the idea is to promote cricket, why isn’t the cash-flush KSCA conducting its league tournaments properly? Will TV audiences and spectators take to the KPL like they do the IPL? Will the big bucks roll in or is the KSCA killing the goose?

Also read: ‘Karnataka cricket is not Brijesh Patel‘s jagir

One small step for man, one giant leap for a…

When Srikantadatta Wodeyar met Gundappa Vishwanath

Look, who’s seeking the help of Muthappa Rai

The whore who couldn’t dance wails on the floor

31 July 2009

evm ad

For more than ten years, Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were not used in Indian elections even though they were ready because politicians of the V.P. Singh kind, luddite by-products of the computer era of Rajiv Gandhi and therefore naturally ill-disposed towards anything that had a whiff of modernity, felt they could be manipulated to tilt polls one way or the other.

Or that the unwashed millions were too ignorant to use them—or use it the way they would like them.

But ever since their introduction in the 1998 elections, EVMs have gone on to be one of the great triumphs of Indian democracy—and technology. While literate America battles the “hanging chad“, mostly illiterate Indians proudly troop to booths and press the buttons. The results are out in a jiffy, and at each election the tech-unsavy slap those who have questioned their ability to handle computers, cellphones, ATMs and all the rest. Hard.

But the verdict of the 2009 elections has given the conspiracy theorists some much-needed oxygen in the cesspool. L.K. Advani has asked questions of the EVMs. Subramanian Swamy has asked questions of the EVMs. Jayalalitha Jayaram, who has been asking questions of EVMs for a long time, has asked the same questions again. (Of course, P. Chidambaram‘s strange victory doesn’t help.)

Now, this strange advertisement appears in the Indian Express in the name of Rahul Mehta.

As the old Kannada saying goes, “Kunilaarada soole nela donku andalanthe (the whore who couldn’t dance complains about the floor).”

Only question anyone should ask Rahul Gandhi

30 July 2009

Anand-1

Whoever said only losers take up the arts? At 26 years of age, Priya Krishna, MA, LLB, s/o “Layout” Krishnappa, has Rs 770 crore of movable and immovable assets; and Rs 734 crore of loans from banks and financial institutions.

If Rahul Gandhi is really all he is made out to be—the great white hope of the Congress; the prime mover towards a new, improved Congress; the man who chose bright, clean, young candidates in the 2009 general elections—how on earth does he allow someone like this to be the Congress candidate from Govindarajapura, and how does he expect the world to ignore it?

Image: courtesy The New Indian Express

Link via Anand V.

Also read: When I grow up all I want to do is be a sub-inspector

Carper’s Index: Can crorepatis relate to crores?

C.H. Vijayashankar: That’s why they asked us to shut up and vote

One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi

Mayawati: For doyen of dalits, assets is all maya

Kanimozhi: How many poems can fetch a poet Rs 8.5 crore?

H.D. Deve Gowda: A snapshot of a poor, debt-ridden farming family

R.V. Deshpande: A 1,611% jump in assets in five years? Hello!

H. Anjaneya: How to grow your assets by 81,465%? Ask him.

R. Ashok: Everyone is stark naked in the public bathroom

A fitness regime for the moral police by remote

30 July 2009

The licence-quota-permit raj may have been consigned to the dustbin (at least in theory), but Victorian regulation runs deep in the Indian psyche, especially when it comes to the media: films, television, newspapers, books, art.

Don’t like M.F. Husain‘s painting? Just hound him out.

Don’t like a newspaper report? Smash the skulls out.

Don’t like a scholar’s biography? Burn down the library.

Don’t like a journalist’s views? Ransack his house.

Don’t like a scholar’s opinion? File a criminal case.

Don’t like Savita Bhabhi‘s advances? Just get it banned.

Don’t like Balika Vadhu. Sharad Yadav will take up your cause.

And so on and on.

All last week, the honourable members of the Parliament of India, having solved all the problems facing this large and great country—hunger, poverty, malnutrition, disease, deprivation, illiteracy, violence, corruption—were frothing at the mouth about Sach ka samna, an execrable television show out of the Rupert Murdoch stable.

Yesterday, a division bench of the Delhi High Court comprising chief justice A.P. Shah and Justice Manmohan delivered the moral police—the only police force which has no trouble finding new recruits—a stinging lesson in life and liberty.

***

“In this land of Gandhi, it appears that nobody follows Gandhi… Follow the Gandhian principle of ‘see no evil’. Why do you not simply switch off the TV?

“We have very good advice for you. You have got two judges sitting here who do not watch TV at all. It will certainly help. Individual ideas of morality are not the business of the court. We are not sitting here for moral policing… You approach the Parliament and get the remedy.

“The courts cannot be expected to deal with issues that involve different individual perceptions.”

“Our culture is no so fragile that it will be affected by one TV show. Moreover, nobody in his individual capacity can be allowed to take upon the social order and ask for directions.

“You are asking us to entertain an area which deals with perceptions and opinions. Further, morality yardsticks are to be decided by the government. We cannot decide the issue. We are not sure whether the show has brought out the truth of many people but it is certain that it has brought out the hypocrisy of various ministers and parliamentarians.”

Image: courtesy Savita Bhabhi

Also read: In the name of Bhagwan, All, Christ…

When the Maharani went on the campaign trail

29 July 2009

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Two beautiful voices—D.K. Pattammal and Gangubai Hanagal—fell silent last week.

This week, two beautiful faces radiate  no more: Leela Naidu and Maharani Gayatri Devi.

The rajmata of Jaipur, whom Sarojini Naidu called the “little queen of a fairy tale land”, once one of the ten most beautiful women in Vogue‘s estimation, passed away in London today at age 90.

***

In his memoirs Alive and Clicking, T.S. Satyan describes how he got to snap his magnificent picture of the Maharani campaigning during the 1962 parlimentary elections.

“In her dawn to dusk election campaign, the Maharani drove a car wherever there was a road and switched over to jeep on country terrain. In many villages, she was served tea in porcelain cups.

“‘It is not becoming on my part to offer tea in the mud pots that we normally use. So I bought these things from the money I had saved,’ a villager near Tonk, on the outskirts of Jaipur told me.”

Elsewhere, Satyan describes the week-long experience:

“She used to visit the villagers and understand their problems. In doing so sometimes she became just one of them.”

And

“Sadly one cannot go anywhere near politicians [like that] now.

The Maharani was 41 years of age during the election campaign. Time magazine described “her lithe figure wrapped in a peppermint chiffon saree“:

“The Congress’s party’s economic policy is like growing a babul tree and expecting to get mangoes. They come to you when they need your vote; when they are returned to power, they become, little monarchs who levy taxes on you as they please, make you quarrel with each other, and swell their bank accounts.”

Also read: Whistle-stopping Maharani

Also visit: Her Highness, Maharani of Jaipur

On Facebook: Maharani Gayatri Devi Girls’ School

Should a former President fall at a godman’s feet?

29 July 2009

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India’s VIPs and VVIPs had a bit of a brain explosion last week when news emerged that the former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam had been frisked by staff of Continental Airlines.

In today’s Times of India, Innaiah Narisetti, president of the Indian chapter of the Centre for Inquiry and author of the new book Forced into Faith, argues that leaders like Kalam set a bad example not by subjecting themselves to security checks, but by other acts they do.

“Children accept without question whatever the parents dictate. They carry that habit into their adulthood. Leaders practising superstitions set a bad example.

“It was sad that somebody like Abdul Kalam, when he was president, thought it fit to touch the feet of Sathya Sai Baba. That to my mind was more outrageous than his being frisked at an airport for security reasons despite his former office.”

Keen observers of photographs will doubtless notice the size, style and height of Kalam’s chair—the commander-in-chief of the armed forces!—vis-a-vis the hirsute Baba’s.

Keen observers of news will also have doubtless noticed that while Baba Ramdev was first off the blocks among godmen in opposing the decriminalisation of homosexual sex between consenting adults, there has been a studied silence in the spiritual corridor linking Kanakapura Road with Anantapur.

Read the full article: ‘Parents impose their belief system on children’

Also read: Should a President rub shoulders with godmen?

An eleven-and-a-half point manifesto for Abdul Kalam

VIR SANGHVI: The truth about Sai Baba

In the musical world, all of us are kind of kinsmen

28 July 2009

It’s not often that a Kannadiga gets written about in The New Yorker.

In 1985, Akumal Ramachander (left), “a part-time correspondent for a local paper who taught English at an agricultural college, but had been something of a drifter”, earned a lengthy profile in the magazine for discovering and successfully promoting Harold Shapinsky, a long-forgotten abstract expressionist painter.

In 2009, the saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath gets an honourable mention alongside the jazz sensation of Kannada origin, Rudresh Mahanthappa, but now “as American as apple pie or Barack Obama“.

“Jazz musicians have two fundamental goals: creating music that keeps listeners wondering what’s next, and finding a novel context within which to explore old truths. (There are no new truths.) Whenever a musician achieves this synthesis, usually after years of apprenticeship and exploration, a rumble echoes through the jazz world.

“Such a rumble was heard last fall, when the thirty-seven-year-old alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa released an astonishing album, “Kinsmen,” on a small New York-based label (Pi), quickly followed by another no less astonishing, “Apti,” on a small Minnesota-based label (Innova)….

“While Mahanthappa was at Berklee, his older brother teasingly gave him an album called “Saxophone Indian Style,” by Kadri Gopalnath. As far as Mahanthappa knew, “Indian saxophonist” was an oxymoron, but the album amazed him.

“Gopalnath, who was born in 1950, in Karnataka, plays a Western instrument in a non-Western context—the Carnatic music of Southern India (distinct from the Hindustani musical tradition of Northern India). Gopalnath, who generally plays in a yogalike seated position, has perfected something that jazz saxophonists have been attempting for decades: moving beyond the Western chromatic scale into the realm of microtones, a feat harder for wind instruments, whose keys are in fixed positions, than for strings or voice.

“Jazz players, such as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, and Albert Ayler, had gone about it by varying intonation, blowing multiphonics (two or more notes at the same time), or squawking in the upper register, where pitches are imprecisely defined. Gopalnath does none of that. Using alternate fingerings and innovative embouchure techniques, he maintains faultless intonation while sliding in and out of the chromatic scale.”

Read the full article: A passage to India

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Also read: The Kannadiga jazz virtuoso creating waves

Link via Anamika Krishnan

Kapil Sibal’s helped the kids. What about parents?

28 July 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Union human resource development minister Kapil Sibal’s move to scrap examinations for Standard X has received universal acclaim amongst students.

Although the teachers could lose out a sizable chunk of money in evaluation of papers and a bonus to re-do wrong evaluations, children are already celebrating with high-fives, pizza and Pepsi™.

I went around schools to gauge the prevailing mood.

***

In the first place I went, nervous parents were standing in a queue to face the exams, a prerequisite for admission of their kids to LKG in a play school.

I asked one of them his opinion of the Sibal Plan to abolish exams.

“I whole-heartedly welcome it! Kapil Sibalji should first ban the mandatory interview/ exam for parents before their children are admitted to LKG. This is the second school I have come to face an exam as I failed in the first,” lamented the father.

“Why? What happened?” I asked.

“In the first school, after I filled the form along with the Rs 500 fees, the secretary of the interview board gave me a guitar and asked me to sing Salman Khan’s latest hit song ‘Mujse shadi karo……’ I haven’t even heard of that song. Instead, I sang ‘My shayar tho nahi, magar….’ from Bobby. They all had a hearty laugh and asked me to come back for the exam next year fully prepared.  My son knew the song and he was very angry with me for being such an ignorant idiot.”

“It’s so sad,” I empathised.

“My life has changed ever since. I’ve been taking  tuition lessons after my office hours learning Bollywood songs,  mugging up all the brands of motorcycles and cars, and the jingles of chocolates. My son has also made me learn by heart the Rin ad ‘Doosra ball bhi sixer hoga, Sir’ and ‘Walk when you Talk, sirji’ ad of Abhishek Bachhan. If I fail this time, my son will never forgive me. Kapil Sibalji is my only hope.”

Next, I met a mother who had come for admission for UKG for her son but had flunked the exam for parents.

“I knew all the jingles, ‘Little stars of India’, and the names of those had got ‘Uttam’, ‘Athi Uttam’ and ‘Sarvottam’ in music competitions. But I was given a practical examination. They asked me to transfer a picture from a mobile phone to a computer. I didn’t even know how to connect the cables. I told them I could draw some pictures from Microsoft Word ‘Paint’ which I showed. When they laughed at my pictures, my son who was also present grabbed the mobile from me, connected the cables and downloaded the picture in 30 seconds.”

“Then, what happened?”

“Since I had failed the test they denied him admission. The education minister should immediately abolish this outmoded horrible practice and help mothers like me. My  son has taken my failure to his heart and insists  he won’t go to school  until I master downloading pictures. I am sending an email to the HRD Minister requesting abolition of exams for parents. I will draft the letter; my son will email it,” said the exasperated mother.

In the next school I went, the parents were asked to take the examination together. For admission of their child to the I standard, the parents were asked to send 5 SMS, each of 5 lines within 5 minutes to each other.

I asked the parents what happened.

The father replied: “They had a stopwatch ticking from the start. At the end of five minutes we could together send only four messages in which there were eight mistakes. We had failed in the technical part of the test which meant ‘no seat’ for our boy.”

The mother continued: “I had taught him how to count up to 100, add, subtract, paint and show up his little finger, both index and middle fingers whenever he wanted to go to ‘Su Su’ and ‘Che Che’. But their decision was final. We are approaching Aamir Khan to help us out.”

***
It appears Kapil Sibalji will have to abolish the system of examination and tests from nursery school level itself, mainly for parents!

***

Also read: India’s greatest poet since Bhakti movement?

One question you are dying to ask a real celebrity

27 July 2009

The Star Plus “reality show” Sach ka saamna has been just what “Dr Murdoch would have ordered.

The show has created a big buzz in the media. The format, lie detector and all, has gripped audiences. Court cases have been filed. And parliamentarians known for taking cash for questions have been riled by the sight of celebrities taking cash for questions like “Have you aborted a child?” etc.

Result: it’s going to rain rupees in Rupertland.

At one level, the show throws light on the murky area ratings-hungry television is getting into. At another level, the show is an indication of the growing voyeurism of a consuming class that doesn’t know where public ends and private begins. In other words, anything goes.

So far, only B-grade if not C-grade celebrities—Vinod Kambli, Raja Chaudhury, Urvashi Dholakia, et al—are letting it all hang out.

Question 1: Which A-list name would you like to see on the show?

Question 2: What is the one question you would like him/her answer?

Also read: Rupert Murdoch on India, China and democracy

‘I don’t envy those who have to follow Murdoch’

Who is this man who has S.M. Krishna’s left ear?

27 July 2009

If S.M. Krishna‘s appointment as the Union external affairs minister in the new UPA government was a bit of a surprise, even more surprising has been Krishna’s appointment of a little-known man called Raghavendra Shastry as his “advisor” in the MEA, with the rank of additional secretary.

To say that career diplomats are a little mystified would be an understatement, but correspondents on the diplomatic beat are happily reporting that the aroma of Mysore coffee (CoffeeDay™, presumably) is already wafting from the first-floor offices of Krishna’s (and Shastry’s) at South Block.

So, who is this neatly dressed, clean-shaven “longtime personal friend” of Krishna’s who has suddenly emerged as an officer on special duty (OSD) in the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) directory, and as “advisor” in the MEA telephone directory?

***

# Raghavendra Shastry is the president of GetIt Info Services, the official publishers of the Bangalore telephone directory and yellow pages. On his Linked In profile (accessed on 27 July 2009), Shastry lists his official designations as “president”, “corporate vice-president”, and “strategy and negotiation consultant”, all in the same breath.

# On his Google profile, Shastry terms himself a “consultant at GetIt Infomediary Limited”. On the official GetIt website, he is listed as president of the BizList division of the company. Getit is a company of former Congress MP Vishwa Bandhu Gupta, whose family owned the Daily Tej newspaper and Sun, the youth tabloid, before branching into yellow pages around the country. Gupta’s younger brother, Ramesh Gupta, now runs the family business.

2006010709700401# There are those who claim Raghavendra Shastry was introduced to Vishwa Bandhu Gupta, once chairman of the Congress’ publicity committee, by Karnataka Congress leader B.K. Hari Prasad, now a general secretary of the party. Some others say Shastry owes his Congress connections to his father, whose fortune-telling skills got him close to several politicians.

home-logo-smallAs the ambitious Bangalore head of GetIt, Raghavendra Shastry is said to have come close to S.M. Krishna in the mid-to-late 1990s, according to one version. Others say Shastry got close to Krishna only a couple years after the Congress’s 1998 victory. Some give credit to Shastry for Krishna’s telephone campaign (a technique used by Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2004).

# On his Google profile (accessed on 26 July 2009), Shastry writes that he grew up in Bangalore, but friends say he hails from Mukkur, near Puttur in South Canara, which partly explains his proximity to S.M.Krishna’s son-in-law V.G. Siddhartha, the founder of Coffee Day who hails from neighbouring Chikamagalur.

# Shastry’s rise and rise all the way to South Block is attributed to Siddhartha, who accompanied Krishna on the day of the swearing-in. Some say Krishna’s “family” is using Shastry to keep another Krishna crony, R.T. Narayan, in check.

Mysorean Narayan shares Krishna’s enthusiasm for tennis and is best known for the “permanent room” he maintains at a star hotel in Bangalore. However, Shastry is said to have accompanied Krishna on his last three trips to Wimbledon. Shastry is also said to have gone with Krishna on his post-debacle visit to China in 2004.

# On his Google profile, Shastry offers this bio:  “A highly successful Senior Executive with over 15 years of experience in administration, sales, marketing, and operations.  Very proficient in sales and business development, with proven record for increasing revenues and profits.  Outstanding managerial, decision-making, and negotiating abilities, plus excellent communication and people skills.  Well experienced in change management and in building and leading high-performance teams.  Highly motivated and dynamic go-getter.  Energetic, ambitious, and demanding, yet fair and easy to get along with.”

# Shastry is variously described as a soft-spoken, unassuming sort of person who melts into the background. He is said to have a tremendous memory, and doesn’t drink, smoke or eat non-vegetarian food. One journalist-acquaintance of Shastry’s says he works “18 hours a day”, calling him “indefatigable”. Jacob Thomas, who worked with him at Getit for 10 years, says Shastry “was a taskmaster and big brother at the same time.”

20090302getit1# At the launch of the Mangalore-Udupi Bizlist in March this year, Shastry, who now has to deal with embassies and high commissions, presciently said the directory included the listing of “over 150 embassies in India” along with their phone numbers and addresses.

At the same release, the DIG (western range), Gopal Hosur urged Shastry to “create a directory of all the criminals and keep a record of their addresses, so that it will help the policemen to easily trace them.”

nyt-global-edition-masthead-logo# Shastry was holding forth in a New York Times story in May 2008 on the damage wrought by coalition politics to Karnataka. “Nothing has been done in the last four to five years and we’re worried Bangalore will lose competitiveness. Companies are expanding to other places. And it’s not Bangalore that will lose business – it’s India.” Among the others quoted in the article was Ashok Kheny of Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise.

# Shastry is said to be a bachelor of science (BSc) from Bangalore University, but on his Linked In profile claims “education” in the University of Chicago’s Booth school of business (2005), Harvard business school (1999-2003) and Columbia business school (1996).

Searches on the Booth school and Columbia school websites for “Raghavendra Shastry”, “Raghavendra” or “Shastry” do not turn up any matching results.

Exhibit A: On the HBS executive education website, Shastry offers this quote for the six-day, $13,000 (Rs 6.5 lakh) course on “Leading change and organisation renewal”: “The work and study groups helped me to solve major problems in my company. As a result, I now am able to deal with the conflicts and pressures from the past—and prepare for the future by using all the tools and innovative processes of organizational problem solving.

Exhibit B: On the website of MCS consulting, an “international investment and strategic management consulting company”, Shastry offers an almost identical certificate:  “The work and study groups really helped me to solve major problems in my company. As a result, I now am able to deal with the conflicts and pressures from the past—and discover the future using all the tools and the innovative process of organizational problem solving.

# Shastry is effusive in gratitude even otherwise. “Dear Dr Prasad, Thank you very much for the individual reports of senior managers as well as the set of ‘inspirational keepsake’ provided by you. On behalf of the company I wholeheartedly thank you for giving the inspiration which we have already started adapting (sic) in our daily work,” he wrote to Prasad Sundararajan of the Coimbatore-based Geniuschoice Institute of Creative Management.

shastry raj

# During the Raj Kumar kidnapping crisis that dogged the S.M. Krishna regime, Shastry, according to reporters on the beat, was a busy player, if not the “chief negotiator”, in the negotiations that finally secured the release of the thespian from the clutches of Veerappan, by all accounts after the payment of a ransom. Some claim that Shastry dealt with Vysya Bank in person to “arrange” for the release.

Shastry  is said to be close to R. Ram Kumar, the son of former DGP R. Ramalingam, who was in the thick of things during the Raj Kumar abduction, with Veerappan even allegedly using Ram Kumar’s mobile phone to make contact with S.M. Krishna, according to former DGP C. Dinakar.

# On his Google profile, Shastry says he has conducted case studies for leading multinationals in USA and Europe; that he has been “invited” by Public Affairs International, London; China Strategy Forum, Beijing ; and China Society for Strategy and Management Research “to discuss matters on strategy and crisis management”.

Foreign secretary-designate Nirupama Rao was India’s ambassador to China till recently. Her husband Sudhakar Rao is currently chief secretary of Karnataka.

# When “Bandra Bomber” Sachin Tendulkar visited the Kukke Subramanya temple, Shastry set up a website on the temple and its rituals.  He claimed the site received 17.5 lakh hits in seven hours due to interest generated by the cricketer’s spiritual sojourn. Shastry is said to maintain and manage websites of temples at Udupi, Dharmasthala, Katil and Kollur on a “non-commercial basis”.

# In 2000, Shastry played a hand in announcing a Bangalore police foundation on the lines of New York police foundation. He initially promised Rs 3 crore from his organisation to help modernise police control rooms, but suffered a setback when he failed to get income tax exemption for the monetary contribution.

# Those who know Shastry say he is a cat at public relations (PR), with a special fondness for journalists. On his Facebook account, he has nine friends, including two working journalists and two former journalists. On his Twitter account, he follows one journalist. In the early 1990s, he donated rain jackets to every photo-journalist in Bangalore, and later also helped produce the annual diary of the Press Club of Bangalore.

Also read: S.M. Krishna on the release of Dr Raj Kumar

How Siddhartha built the Coffee Day dream cup by cup

‘What is my fate compared to Beethoven’s?

27 July 2009

Over a 35-year career, the duo of Laxmikant-Pyarelal scored music for 635 films. Such evergreen hits as Awara hoon, Main shayar to nahin, Achcha to hum chalte hain, Pardah hai pardah, My name is Antony Gonsalves, Ek do teen, and Choli ke peeche kya hai, bear their stamp.

They dropped off the horizon in the mid-1990s, then Laxmikant passed, but the memories of the music linger. In The Pioneer, Delhi, editor-in-chief Chandan Mitra has an excellent interview with Pyarelal, an interview which gives a lovely snapshot of what has vanished from Bollywood: innocence, warmth, decency.

***

On working with Laxmikant: “Laxmi and I lived like brothers for well over 50 years—waking, breathing, eating, walking and travelling together except Sundays, our respective family days. We met in 1952 and were together till he passed away. We never fought. And Laxmi never said “no” to Pyare. Even if I went wrong with a note anytime, he would nod and say, “Aa jayegaa“… Whenever I am lost in my compositions these days, I unconsciously seek his approbation aloud: “Laxmi, kaisa tha?

On Majrooh Sultanpuri: “I learnt a lot from Duke Ellington, the greatest dance music composer then. He worked with a 26-piece orchestra. We (L-P, as studio interns) worked with about 12 big composers and picked up intricacies like where the singer should breathe. Majrooh Sultanpuri once told us, ‘Tum zyada padhe likhe nahi ho, tum zyada likhe padhe ho‘ (You don’t know how to read and write, you know how to write and read).”

On Raj Kapoor: “I remember the day I cancelled my Vienna trip at the eleventh hour. We were having kebabs at Shete Hotel near Shivaji Park (the name has been changed now), when Laxmiji convinced me that we could move the industry with our music and therefore I shouldn’t leave the country. Raj Kapoor once told Zubin Mehta: ‘The only good thing Laxmi has done is to hold Pyaralel back’.”

On R.D. Burman: “I remember we were doing Farz, and RD was doing Jewel Thief. At that time, both of us got inspired by the James Bond theme. As most of our musicians were the same, one of them told Pancham that we were incorporating some notes from the Bond movies for Farz. It was then that he called us to find out how much we had done. We said we had completed seven reels,, he said he had finished three. He withdrew from using the Bond motif in Jewel Thief in our favour, saying he had done lesser work.”

On the general impression that Laxmikant was the composer and Pyarelal was the arranger: “The truth will be told by Lata Mangeshkar, Manna Dey and Asha Bhonsle. They know how we worked as a team. I am not going to give anyone the satisfaction of  counting how many times he arranged or how many times I composed beyond our core strengths. Kuch to log kahenge, logon ka kaam hai kehna.”

On his name being left out of the credits of Om Shanti Om for Dhoom tana tanana: “What is my fate compared to Beethoven‘s? Whenever he went through a low phase, he would play the piano continuously, noting down new tunes, then chucking them, losing all track of time. He would be in a trance for months. His attendants would pick up the discarded scraps of notations and sell them for food. Fame doesn’t bother me.”

Read the full article: It’s time to revive the L-P brand

Also read: My name is Antony Gonsalves. Do you know…?

‘Accuse me please… My name is Ramalinga Razoo’

Satanic Curse upon you if you ogle at this maami

25 July 2009

There are three good reasons why we are forced to shamelessly filch such a hot picture of Padma Lakshmi from the website of a truly great paper, The Sunday Times of London, using Google™.

Reason No. 1: Because she is South Indian, 38, a Palghat Iyer, a single-child, who has managed to capture the world’s attention (and Sir Salman Rushdie‘s for a while) with a name like Padma Parvati Lakshmi.

Reason No. 2: Because by steaming up camera lenses like this, as a model, as an actress and as a TV host, she is truly a bad miss in our list of The Sexiest South Indian South Asian Woman♥, for which we beg her apology.

Reason No. 3: Because as the author of Tangy, Tart Hot and Sweet, and as the host of the American reality show Top Chef, Padma, who was brought up as a vegetarian, has put some much-needed intellectual spin on the lazily uttered cliche, “Food is the New Sex“.

“Food is very tactile and sensual. If you think about it, it’s the only way you can get into another person’s body without actually touching them.”

As a website named after a food item, that likes to sing in praise of masala dosas, mavinakaayi chitranna, Iyengar bakeries, haalu khova, Maddur vade, kodu bale, and thair-vade, we wholeheartedly agree.

Get the picture?

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Photograph: courtesy The Sunday Times, London

Also visit: Maami’s Weblog

“Narendra Modi. Narendra Modi. Narendra Modi.”

25 July 2009

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Narendra Damodardas Modi has walked out of television interviews when he has been asked The Question. Narendra Damodardas Modi has stayed silent and stared at interviewers when he has been asked The Question. Can Narendra Damodardas Modi adopt either posture if and when the summons come, now that the Gujarat High Court has allowed the Supreme Court appointed special investigation team to question him?

E.P. Unny in The Indian Express

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Will the law catch up with Narendra Modi?

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Ajmal Kasab be hanged?

24 July 2009

It would be an understatement to say that the trial in the November 26 attack on Bombay took a twist in the first three days of the week. It has taken is a mindblowing contortion.

For months, the “lone gunman captured alive”, Mohammed Amir Ajmal Kasab, was an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in a Rubik’s cube. He would keep everybody guessing about his real name, he said he was a minor, he laughed at the prosecution’s questions, his parents claimed him but his nation didn’t, he said he didn’t understand Hindi, he said he did not throw grenades or shoot at Victoria Terminus, etc.

It looked like the case would drag on till the cows came home. Then, suddenly, on Monday morning—in the wake of Indian foreign policy’s ham-handed capitulation at Sharm el-Sheikh and Hillary Clinton‘s visit—Kasab did a u-turn. Yes, he killed the captain of the fishing vessel which was hijacked by the jehadis. Yes, he threw grenades and opened fire at VT. Yes, he fired at the police van carrying the Anti-Terrorism Squad personnel. Yes, yes, yes.

“Hang me,” he said. “Agar kisiko aitraaz hai…agar kisi ke dil mein shak hai ki main phansi se baachne ke liye yeh kar raha hoon toh beshak phansi ki saaza dijiye.” Relatives of the victims say Kasab’s wish should be granted to “set an example”. Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray has already gone to town saying he should be publicly hanged. But will Ajmal Kasab be hanged?

Will a country sitting on Afzal Guru‘s fast-track Kasab’s case? Will the UPA government, which has cited a long list of people on the death bench, make an exception in this “rarest of rare” cases? Or will Kasab’s hanging, like Afzal Guru’s, become political football, softly raising the communal atmosphere? Or will death penalty as a form of punishment have been abolished by the time Kasab’s time comes in the natural order of events?

Also read: Hang Afzal Guru, pardon Sarabjit Singh?

CHURUMURI POLL: A pardon for Afzal Guru?

On the catwalk, owner’s envy is blender’s pride

23 July 2009

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Apparently Bangalore is the fashion capital of India. Apparently fashion for the entire country takes its birth in Bangalore. Apparently that is reason enough for us to feature a model walking down the ramp at the commencement of the Bangalore Fashion Week in Electronic City on Thursday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Another example of commodification of women

One more example of commodification of women

Another example of commodification of exams

(HEART) BREAKING NEWS: ADVANI SWORN IN

23 July 2009

Al Gore is “the former next president of the United States”, and he says so himself, tongue firmly in giant cheek. After the 2009 general elections, Lalchand Kishinchand Advani is clearly “the former future prime minister of India“, except that no one in his party, least of all Advani, has the sense, humour or the sense of humour to say that.

On his newly launched spoof site, Noise of India, Mysorean GAUTAMA P. fills this vital hole in the democratic discourse, with a item designed to make all those who mourn this cruel twist of fate feel good, at least in cyberspace.

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“Ad-vani, the most clicked online Ad in Indian political history, was formally sworn in as India’s online PM on an undisclosed Google server. The ceremony was witnessed by hundreds of online ads including Jet Airways, bharat matrimony and Dominos Pizza.

“Security was tight, and all the ads had to pass through a firewall before being ushered into the RAM area. The installation went off smoothly, despite some angry heckling by the RAM’s step-motherboard and Dravidian parties raking up the south-bridge issue.

“Later, addressing a gathering of RSS feeds, Ad-vani vowed to focus on core ideological issues like Bangladeshi spam and bovine intercourse on the Discovery channel. He noted that the party was currently going through its worst phase of Rahul-kala.

“Next, logging on to Facebook, he lustily superpoked Manmohan Singh and invited him to a game of pseudo-ku. He ignored Uma Bharati‘s friend request and banged his head on Sudheendra Kulkarni‘s wall. On Orkut he deleted Varun Gandhi‘s scraps and posted a video of him deleting Varun Gandhi’s scraps. Finally, sensing the restlessness of the youth, he tweeted: “from now on, no more Mandir, only Mandira.”

Visit the site: Noise of India

Photograph: courtesy The Associated Press

Also read: ‘The only person to blame for BJP loss is Advani’

Defeat of BJP is a defeat of BJP brand of journalism

Even a paper tiger roars when ship starts leaking

How do you say, Be the change you want to see?

23 July 2009

Be the change you want to see in the world,” a tall, lean, tonsured, bespectacled man said presciently long years ago.

In the year of the lord 2009, six top Kannada singers—B.Jayashree, Pallavi Arun nee M.D. Pallavi, Rajesh Krishnan, Hemanth, L.N. Shastry and Avinash Chebbi—come together in Nee Badalaadare, a warm, feel-good, “patriotic” video released just in time for the 62nd Independence Day.

The composer is Ricky Kej, the lyrics are by Kavi Raj. The video is directed by Alok Shetty, with thanks to the actor Ramesh Arvind.

YouTube link via Madhu Gopinath Rao

A delayed sunrise due to reasons beyond control

22 July 2009

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Eclipse aficionados in Bangalore and many parts of the country were disappointed by the clouds, and by the oh-god-who-gets-up-so-early morningness of it all, but the blessed ones of Arasikere in Hassan district were treated to the celestial splendour of the century (so far) to their eyes’ content on Wednesday.

Composite photographs: Karnataka Photo News

She loved her State. Did State love her enough?

22 July 2009

KPN photo

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: The terminal illness had been stalking her for quite some time. But despite shuffling in and out of hospital frequently, she had not lost her zest for life or her love for music which was really her life.

Or at least she did not show.

The death of her daughter Krishna, who had emerged a singer by her own right (besides providing support to her mother in music concerts) four years ago dealt the big, psychological blow, creating a sort of void in her life, which was difficult to imagine; impossible to fill.

Gangubai Hanagal bore that loss too stoically, slowly picking up the threads.

Constant interaction with her admirers walking down memory line would bring a sparkle in her eyes. Doting members of the family—children, grand children, great grand children—often acted as antidote for all the physical suffering, pain and mental anguish.

But the illness at last had its last laugh on Tuesday morning.

The queen of the Kirana gharana may not be with the connoisseurs in person, but her memory and music will linger to provide solace to tormented souls and act as beacon for those bobbing through the stormy seas of music.

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Gangubai’s attachment to her home-town, Hubli, where she discovered her musical metier and blossomed to emerge as a titan in the field, and her home-state, Karnataka, was phenomenal.

Though she was born in Karnataka and spent all her life in the State, she received more patronage and encouragement from outside the State, mainly from Bombay and other North Indian centres like Delhi and Calcutta. She was more popular outside than inside.

Still, she politely declined all suggestions to move out of Hubli or Karnataka in the interest of better professional prospects. So much so that she did not even think of moving over to Bangalore too.

This, in a way, helped Hubli-Dharwad to carve out a niche for itself in the field of music with the twin towns justly earning the epithet as the last outpost of Hindustani music in a State which is more addicted to the Carnatic school of music.

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Before the reorganisation of the States, this area was under the Bombay Presidency and was doted on by the small principalities all over, all whom happened to be vassals of the Peshwa Empire of Pune.

All of them invariably turned out to patrons of music with a steady stream of musical performers coming down from Bombay and other parts of North India. This had created a taste for Hindustani music in these parts of Karnataka.

Also, being midway between Poona and Bangalore, the musicians invited for performanace by the Maharaja of Mysore, would invariably touch down in Hubli-Dharwad to provide a rich fare to the music lovers.

Little wonder, Gangubai Hangal, Mallikarjun Mansur and Basavaraj Rajguru, all big guns in the world of music, had made Hubli-Dharwad their home, giving the twin towns a distinct musical personality. (Bhimsen Joshi who is also from this area moved over to settle down in Pune.)

Both Mansur and Rajguru are no more. With the passing away of Gangubai, and Bhimsen Joshi not getting younger by the day, the twin towns are poised to lose their eminent place.

(more…)

‘Bollywood: India’s most moronic cultural export’

21 July 2009

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Besides software, Bollywood has emerged post-1990s India’s most recognisable signature. The movies open to full houses; the trade papers quote the oodles of dollars made by them; its stars are the toast of the town from Cannes to Macau; the big studios are opening shop and making films, etc.

For many, this is a source of pride: an indicator that rising, shining, growing India has attained cross-continental cultural clout, a little like Hollywood uses its movies to flex its muscle.

Not for Sathnam Sanghera. He writes in The Times, London, that he finds it depressing that a country that has produced so much important music, literature and philosophy has become synonymous with its most moronic cultural phenomenon.

“In what ways are Bollywood movies moronic? Well, leaving aside the lipsynching (the actors rarely do their own singing), the plagiarism (writers habitually copy tunes and plots from other films), the nepotism (relatives of Bollywood stars often get given choice roles), the crap sound (it is rarely recorded on location), the crap writing (dialogue and lyric) and that Bollywood movies are as predictable as a can of Coke, with their mindless use of love triangles, moustachioed villains and star-crossed lovers dancing around trees, I have two main problems, the first of which is the ceaselessly melodramatic plotting…. My second issue with Bollywood: the ridiculous length of the films.

“Bollywood fans, including members of my family, are constantly telling me that the films have improved, but I can see no sign of this. I watched Border, a blockbuster based on the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, when I was in India a few years ago and have had more enjoyable operations. A few years later I bought a DVD of Lagaan, encouraged by rave reviews, and found it about as engaging as a set of washing instructions on a cardigan.”

Read the full article: There’s nothing good about Bollywood

Also read: Bollywood’s a scam. Farah Khan‘s a big, fat con

Adoor: Do only Bollywood beauties possess glamour?

Mammootty: Is Hindi cinema Indian cinema?

‘Gangavva, yele southekaayi bandaithe kanavva!’

21 July 2009

KRISHNA VATTAM writes from Mysore: My daughter-in-law Shantala was sobbing as she woke me up this morning.

“Mama, Gangavva is no more,” she said, and broke down.

The rest of the morning was not the same for me, too, a journalist long used to being woken up at odd hours by people anxious to have the news of the demise of their near and dear ones published in the early editions of newspapers; long used to hearing news of accidents and deaths.

“Gangavva is no more,” had had a telling effect, and it was far from impersonal.

Was it the magical spell of the music of Gangubai Hanagal that had made me to adulate her? No. She was Gangavva to an even unlettered vegetable vendor, who has no ear to any classical music, be it Hindustani or Carnatic, except to the cheap beats of Kannada songs.

When I was in Hubli three years ago, where my son was the correspondent of Deccan Herald and where Shantala was learning music from Gangubai , I was taken by them to the weekly shandy.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Gangubai, then all of 94, shopping there, with a vegetable vendor who clearly identified her beckoning her by name:

Gangavva, yele southekaayi bandaithe avva (Gangavva, come, buy some tender cucumber).”

Or, was it her down-to-earth qualities, clad in simple Ilkal cotton sarees, that endeared her to one and all?

When my son had called on her in connection with a feature he was doing, it appears she casually asked about his parents. It was in 1999 when she was visiting Mysore to inaugurate the Dasara music festival she took my address from my son and honoured us with her visit to our small home. Shantala was also there on the occasion.

Gangubai Hanagal took my grandson, Shashank, in her arms. We were quite embarrassed and apologetic as the 10-month-old child urinated on her saree.

She was least disturbed.

Bidi, nanu makalanna hadide doddoulu agilla (It’s all right. I have not grown up without giving birth to children).”

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Veteran journalist Krishna Vattam is the former Mysore correspondent of Deccan Herald

RIP: ‘I am not Sachin Tendulkar to hit a century’

21 July 2009

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The body of Hindustani vocalist Gangubai Hanagal, daughter of Chikkurao Nadiger and Ambabai, who died on Tuesday morning at the age of 97, lies at her residence Gangalahari in Deshpandenagar in Hubli. She was born in 1912 in Shukravarapete in the twin-town of Dharwad.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Deccan Herald tribute: Curtains fall on a grand concert

‘Men will be ustads & pandits. Bais will be bais.’

21 July 2009

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A shudra born in a family of boatmen where women were considered as angavastra, mere drapes around men. Nicknamed gaanewali and ostracised by Brahmins, although both her father and husband were of that community. Gangubai Hanagal‘s was not just a rags-to-riches story, but a transition from degradation to respectability.

In her own words:

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# “The difficulties of my life were like orchestra to my music.”

# “There are many artistes who claim that once they hold the tanpura all happiness and sorrow is forgotten. This has not been my experience. When I sit for riyaaz emotions well up. I can vividly remember the hardships I’ve been through … the worry of what the next day will bring in its wake.”

# “I used to sit down to practise and felt besieged by the problems. My voice would choke and I could sing no further. Everybody has problems. And so did I. But I had the strength to sail through them.”

# “I’ve learnt that life has both good and bad to offer. Our status as a family of hereditary courtesans did not stop the urchins who throw cow dung at me when I passed them from helping when my mother was unwell but they would begin banging tin-pots to drown my music making every time I sat for riyaaz.”

# “For my first recording when HMV invited me to Bombay I went because they were taking care of the journey and sight-seeing. Later they gave me Rs 400 for my third recording but my family was annoyed as my name read Gandhari Hubali on the record.”

# “If a male musician is a Muslim, he becomes an Ustad. If he is a Hindu, he becomes a Pandit. But women like Kesarbai and Mogubai just remain Bais.”

# “I remember stealing fruit from our neighbour’s mango trees. More than the act of stealing, I remember the neighbours being horrified that a singer’s daughter should step into their compound. I would be thrown out. Incidentally, the same people invite me over to their house today and call me ‘Gangubai’ with great respect.”

# “Peace of mind is very essential in anything that you do—particularly in music. But in my case, it was just the opposite. What new things could I learn when I was constantly disturbed and unhappy? This whole concept of getting lost in music and forgetting the world around you, is a myth.”

Photograph: courtesy rediff.com

Also read: Gangubai Hangal with Balamurali Krishna

Gangubai Hanagal with Pandit Jasraj

‘The home of the unexorcised ghost of a gawai’

21 July 2009

H.Y. Sharada Prasad, the former media advisor to three Indian prime ministers, reviewed the English version of Gangubai Hanagal‘s memoirs Nanna Badukina Haadu (The Song Of My Life, Sahitya Prakashana, Hubli), for Outlook magazine in 2004:

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“As a schoolgirl, she sang the welcome song at the only Congress session Mahatma Gandhi presided over. In her teens, her music was recorded by HMV. In 1936, she sang on All India Radio for the first time as a stand-in for Hirabai Barodekar. Thus began Gangubai Hangal’s journey on the road to musical greatness….

“Now she tells us the story of her life. Three persons stand out in this simple tale: her mother Ambabai, a Carnatic musician who stopped singing to enable her daughter to take up Hindustani music; her guru, Sawai Gandharva, who also taught Feroze Dastur and Bhimsen Joshi (for 13 years she took a train from Hubli to his home in Kundgol a few hours away); and her husband, lawyer Gururao Kaulgi, whom she married at 16.

“Gangubai has no pretensions to being a writer. This is an “as told to” book. The ghost writer in the original Kannada was N.K. Kulkarni, a broadcaster known for his light writing. The English translation is by another AIR man, G.N. Hangal. Gangubai is a lively, even chirpy, conversationalist, full of anecdotes and sharp but unmalicious comments on fellow musicians.

“Kulkarni has not drawn her out well. She has enough sense of humour to make fun of her own masculine voice. Bendre the poet had once said that the unexorcised ghost of a gawai must have made its permanent home in her voice. The grand little lady of music deserved a better book, but given how rare books on our musicians are, it’s welcome.”

Read the full review: The bird’s songbook

When Bhimsen Joshi said: ‘Akka, haadi torsala?’

21 July 2009

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Padma Vibhushan Gangubai Hanagal, like Bharat Ratna Bhimsen Joshi, was a disciple of Sawai Gandharva of Kundagol. Although eight years older than Joshi, the two jewels became lifelong friends.

Deepa Ganesh of The Hindu recounted a lovely anecdote involving the two friends a couple of years ago:

“In dry Kundagol, it was Bhimsen Joshi’s duty to fetch unending pitchers of water for his guru’s house from a distant water tank. ‘Poor fellow, in the scorching heat, he would carry water on his shoulders… but as he walked he would constantly sing. How many times I’ve heard him practising the taans of Multani, Shankara…!’ recalls Gangubai.

“After class as Gangubai would get ready to return to her home in Hubli, Bhimsen Joshi would accompany her to the railway station. ‘It would have got dark and I being a young lady, my guru would never say no to Bhima.

“We would have barely got to the street, and Bhima would ask: ‘Akka, what did you learn today?’ I had to give him all the details. And then he would say, ‘Haadi torsala (‘shall I sing it for you…’).’ And in this way they would exchange notes till they reached the station, till the train chugged away.”

Also read: Jewels before the train for Hubli chugged away

Photograph: A young Gangubai, part of the collection of the Museum of Indian Classical Music at her residence in Hubli (courtesy: Frontline)

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Read Deepa Ganesh: A life in three octaves

Read Gowri Ramnarayan: Where north meets south

Read Sabina Sehgal: The gaanewali

Read the PTI obituary: The voice of tradition


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