Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Who the hell is Sonia?

She's definitely the blue-eyed baby of Indian politics. Sonia Gandhi, may lack experience or even good oratory skills, but her high-profile lineage has placed her on a high pedestal.

In a country, which has mostly seen pot-bellied, white-haired, paan chewing netahs, the suave and well-groomed Sonia had no difficulty grabbing the spotlight.

The "Indian obsession" for the white skin is evident from the amount of print and TV space dedicated to this Italian lady -- anything from a sneeze to a yawn is exaggerated and published.

Recently, I was witness to this blind adoration, when I had to edit one of the many copies that choked our server after BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan was shot (by his brother). This particular one was about how the President, the Prime Minister, the Vice President, Sonia and Lalu Prasad Yadav had expressed shock at the incident and wished the leader a speedy recovery. But the proposed headline read "Prez, PM, Sonia wish Pramod a speedy recovery".

Sonia deserved more space on the headline than even the Vice President.

Why Sonia found a place in the headline is only proof of her adulation. Never, in the history of Indian politics, has a party president ever received so much acknowledgment. How many of you know who the BJP president is? For the uninitiated, it is Rajnath Singh.

Now looking at things in a different perspective, it wouldn't be incorrect to assume that Dr Manmohan Singh is nothing but a puppet in the hands of Mrs Gandhi.

Anyway, I edited the story, cut Madam Sonia's name from the headline and send it for publishing.

Madam Sonia might continue to ride high on the "Gandhi" tag, but for some sensible people like me, she will never get any undue coverage!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Actors or social workers?!

We see them everywhere -- from inaugurating stores/restuarants/gyms/beauty parlours/coffee shops, to flashing their superficial smiles while endorsing brands on television or print, to prancing around extravagant sets at weddings/film awards/charity functions. It's extremely hard to ignore the film fraternity.

But when these actors adorn the role of social workers it turns extremely comical. This is because, in most cases, they have very little understanding of the cause and have no clue what to say. They mainly reach the venue, dressed in simple clothes, only to portray an intellecutal look, in an attempt to state there is more to them make-up, chant a few rehearsed lines and rush back to their Bollywood bubble. This five-minute soundbyte will fetch them more publicity than any of their flop films.

The most recent celebrity goof-up was by little-known actor Diya Mirza. Unlike other glamour dolls in the industry, she wanted to be "different" and choose to take a stand on the highly-debated Narmada dam issue. At a function in Rajkot on Sunday, the actor claimed she supported Aamir Khan's stand on the issue.

When told that the dam, if completed, will supply water to lakhs of villagers in Gujarat, she said, "People should also think about the thousands who are getting displaced. Should Gujarat drink water at the cost of thousands of displaced people?" . So is she proposing that people should die of thirst because some villagers can not be displaced? I don't contest that the problem of rehabilitation is a large one (and the government is working on it) but to ridicule the drinking problem of the other villages is deplorable. It just shows that she prefers to take a stand without understanding the problem, but because it is the "in" thing to do.

Aamir's stand in itself is debatable. The actor was seen mumbling his reasons for joining the movement in a recent TV interview . One of his reasons being inspired by his own film Rang De Basanti -- An interesting way to market your film, don't you think? So had there been no Rang De... he would have been relaxing in the comforts of his luxurious homes ignoring the plight of these villagers? His stand would have achieved some level of credibility if he had cited rehabilitation of the villagers displaced by the Sardar Sarovar dam as the ONLY reason.

Most often filmstars use such public protests to either promote their films or book a place on the TV slots and newspapers for their own publicity. Being actors they don't find it tough to make their act, however shallow, just as convincing and genuine for the star-struck public.

But for a few of us who can see black from white. You need to be more believable!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Wanted room-mate

I have tried everything from word-of-mouth advertising to actually posting an ad on an online portal in pursuit of finding a room-mate. It's been over two weeks now and the uncertainity of not finding one and the thought of moving out of the house is killing me. Since I have exhausted most of my options, I am going to use my blogspot to do the trick for me.

Here goes -- "Wanted "broad-minded" girl to share a two bedroom independent, duplex in Cox Town, Bangalore. Nice tiled bathroom. Big, spacious cupboards. Nice cute kitchen with gas connection. Big terrace over-looking the green military grounds. Rent Rs 5,000 plus deposit Rs 50,000."

Why broad-minded, you may ask? Because I don't want to share the house with a strict, matron-kind, moralistic person. I've suffered my share by staying three-long years in a hostel run by nuns.

In a strange way, I believe it is easier to find a life-partner than a good room-mate. There are millions of matrimonial sites (online and otherwise) to help you zero in on the right person, but when it comes to finding a room-mate, the options are very limited. There are no aunties or uncles, who'd walk upto you at a family gathering talking about a certain, prospective, well-bred person who'd be perfect for you to share the room with! Even the free ads don't help, cause most often people mistake "wanted room-mate" ads as a hidden invitation for "Can I be your friend?".
I pray that the almighty would step in and scan the entire planet to bring home the perfect girl who'd be willing to share this house for something less than a lifetime!

When my room-mate broke the news about her plans to move out, it sort of shattered me, the way, I thought, only a guy could! That's when I realised how dependant we are on our room-mates. You just can't do without them.

Now I walk around my house, dreamingly, wishing that I wouldn't have to leave this place so soon. In a strange way, I have grown attached to the house. It's cute. It's compact. It's the first house I have ever rented. And in no more than four months, I will be forced to move out if I don't find some girl to share it with.


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Out here actors have halos!

In a land of "snake charmers, filthy roads and starving kids", the obsessive admiration for film actors is not shocking at all. The craving for a rich and glamourous lifestyle is understandable, especially if it allows you to dream and escape from the daily struggle to feed one's own stomach.
So it isn't surprising that actors are placed next only to God and in some (rare) cases even attain Godliness, with even temples built in their names. It's often this seemingly harmless obsession that suddenly tranforms into a maddening frenzy when something (anything, seemingly harmful) attacks their stars.

And that's exactly what Bangalore witnessed last Wednesday -- a frenzy that killed eight innocent lives and left many more injured. I do have the utmost respect for Kannada actor Rajkumar and I'm sure he too wouldn't have anticipated how his fans held Bangalore city at ransom for a day.

What I saw in the name of grief was nothing but plain, gruesome murder. From burning down streets, to murdering cops, to forcefully shutting down shops and inconveniencing public, the public resorted to violent means, claiming it was the only way to convey their condolence.

Ironically, the "attackers" were not fans but mere hooligans who went on a rampage to destroy the city. They didn't care about Rajkumar, some may not have even known who he was. But they took advantage of the situation to unleash their inner frustrations, which is evident from the scores of video footage telecast of men jumping on buses, burning down petrol pumps, etc.. You even saw many waving to the cameras and smiling -- showing absolutely no sign of grief.

There were fans among these criminals too but why they reacted in such a brutal way is baffling. Their "beloved" actor died a natural death, he wasn't murdered or tortured or crucified. His health had diminished over the past few months and this was not quite unexpected. But the public reaction reiterated the fact that like Gods, they believe their actors are immortal as well.

In another part of the country, the celeb mania was at its peek as well. Public thronged outside actor Salman Khan's house to celebrate his release from prison. It didn't matter if he had wronged -- shot down a few innocent animals or had run down a few people -- all they did pray for was their star's freedom. They are so blinded by the glitz and glamour of the filmworld that they can't see the wrong. For them, Salman is a real-life hero -- his ways or means could never harm anyone.

Last week's twin incidents has left me disillusioned about actors and their larger-than-life persona and I request the public to be more discerning and sympathetic, at least to their less glamourous, fellow human beings.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Goodbye Sallu Bhai!

It's definitely a sad day for all Sallu fans. He's been sentenced to five years rigorous imprisonment in connection with the 1998 black buck poaching case. Salman, who is facing four poaching cases, was earlier sentenced to one-year imprisonment.

This blue-eyed boy from tinsel town would've never imagined that his Maharaja-ish lifestyle (what with expensive hobbies like hunting) would land him behind bars. Of late, Sallu bhai has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, from the 2002 hit-and-run case, to allegations that he is a girl-friend beater... he is Bollywood's new baddie. A life destroyed by fame and money.

In reel life, he's transformed from a skinny, wood-chopping hero in Maine Pyaar Kiya to the macho, I'll-drop-my-shirt-at-the-drop-of-a-hat hunk in Maine Pyaar Kyon Kiya. And with the years, he's also tucked away millions of hearts.

It ain't surprising that Sallu, like most other stars, believed his stardom could bail him out. Unlike in reel life, Sallu failed to find a god father to rescue him and had to finally bow down to the law.

For people like him, hunting would've been only a mere past-time, it's implications far forgotten. What would've mattered then were are only a few pointless hours of King-size machoism to impress rich friends by putting up the prized trophies that were hunted down. In Sallu's lingo, hunting would have never translated into 'killing'. For him, these animals were only a mere source of entertainment, nothing more... nothing less.

Many may vouch for Sallu's good samaritan status. He's done his share of social work, helped the poor, the old... blah, blah... well, so have other actors -- make-up in place, flashing a plastic smile and posing with dirty, poor boys. And once the "click-click" is over, their good samaritan role ends. Salman is no exception either. Had he been one, he wouldn't have fled after running over one person and injuring four others outside a bakery in Bandra in 2002. Instead, he shamelessly fled the scene and sent his driver back to take the blame. Is this what a human being does?

Even through the bad times, the film fraternity stood by him. They vouched that the actor couldn't harm anyone, intentionally! Some even drew parallels to the high-profile, Jessica Lall murder case -- if the killer could walk away free, then why is Sallu punished? This is true Bollywood logic, if one murder can walk away free then the same loop-holes should free their man as well. This way, they can conveniently rewrite the law for the rich and famous. An endangered animal for them, is no more important than the fly they squash on the wall.

The public, however, is unforgiving. The law should not be different for actors, they cried. So the mighty Sallu bhai has lost any sympathy. He ain't the sole culprit, there are other celebrities waiting in line to face the same whip... With Pataudi facing similar charges, we are yet to see how far and wide the law can reach!

But this judgment has definitely shaken the filmiwallahs. So the next time, they pick up a gun to aim down an animal, their hands will shake at the thought of spending a few years in prison. At least, that would save some innocent animals!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Is casting couch a myth?

You've probably wondered if there's any truth to all the malicious stories of casting couches. It's ironical that very often we've been exposed to such stories mainly through movies where sleazy directors entice struggling actors about the advantages of "satisfying" them for a meaty role in a film. In fact, Ram Gopal Verma's lead in Naach (played by Antara Mali) faces such perverse advances from a film director who has uncanny resemblance to Subhash Gai.

Despite open talks and discussions about the existance of the casting couch, when these stories attain a realistic picture through the media-eye, the film fraternity conveniently adorns a saintly image and denies that such cheap tricks exist in their profession. Many TV channels have time and again caught actors, directors and such, shamelessly asking for sexual favours in exchange for a large chunk of stardom. We've seen Shakti Kapoor say (on India TV) that everyone from top-notch heroines to freshies are involved in this scam for quick fame. But when the skeletons come out of the closet, the filmwallas hide, blaming the press for shoddy reportage.

In another incident Priti Jain accused film director Madhur Bhandarkar of taking "advantage" of her in turn for roles in his films. But everyone blamed the woman for falsely accusing the "innocent" man. I admit that some of Priti's actions were questionable, but no one failed to investigate the core problem of whether there was any truth to her allegations. Result, the man walked away free.

A recent press clip accused film director Dharmesh Dharshan of making a "pass" at a 22-year-old assistant. Soon after the report hit the newstands, many actors and directors came forward to defend the director and blamed the boy for spreading evil rumours. A popular actor claimed it was all a lie and no one can force a 22-year-old to do anything immoral and such acts do exist only if both parties are "willing". Well, these actors should realise that such acts are forced and the victims often helpless. And the age of the victim has little role to play in the crime.

Often, in such accusations, there are no concrete proof and it's only one man's word against the other. The senior artistes know better to shut up than stick up against a famous director who could ruin his/her film career. They'd prefer to deny its existance rather than save a fellow worker from harassment. Each to his own as no one has the will to save someone!

It's this blind denial that leaves the victims helpless. The victims are eventually transformed into the culprits... with motives of defaming a director for not giving him a specific role.

But unless someone comes out with the truth, we can only 'blindly' watch the fun!