Saturday, March 06, 2010

Phir 'Mile Sur Mera Tumhara'...

I am sure everyone, whosoever is in his/her late 20s or older today, must have seen 'Mile Sur Mera Tumhara' Video on Doordarshan channel when 'Rookavat liye khed hai' line for non-transmission was a regular affair. The 'Mile Sur Mera Tumhara' song was released on 15th August 1988 on Doordarshan channel and it had 26 famous Indian personalities. The song's duration was around five and a half minutes and it was indeed doused with the spirit of unity in diversity with stalwarts such as Lata Mangeshkar, Pt. Bhimsen Joshi and many musicians lending their voice to this composition. The song reverberated the message of integrity in spite of the heterogeneity in this vast land, where the word 'Ali' in 'Diwali' and 'Ram' in 'Ramzan' are embraced seamlessly. The song depicted India as an icon of religious and regional pluralism and the phrases were tailored so graciously that they were prettier than the embroidered border of a designer kurta.

The original 'Mile Sur Mera Tumhara' was the brainchild of late Suresh Mullick of O & M Advertising.

But recently the new 'Phir Mile Sur Mera Tumhara' Video was released and the modern version was made over after 22 years. The modern version, I am told features 68 famous Indian personalities. Hmmmm, let me equate the famous Indian personalities to Bollywood+Tollywood+Kollywood personalities, in fact all woods minus Hollywood. The song is shot at 15 different locations and features movie and music industry related personalities such as A R Rahman, Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, Shreya Ghoshal, Shankar Mahadevan and many more. The new song is bit darn lengthy and runs for about sixteen and a half minutes. I feel the soul of the original song was plundered in the new version and the modern edition lacks capacious togetherness which was the marrow of the original song. I may be a bit harsh, but the new 'Phir Mile Sur' doesn't depict unity in diversity, rather its a celebrity parade, a soup of glamorous faces humming the song of unity.

Aarti and Kailash Surendranath, the creators of the modern version of 'Phir Mile Sur Mera Tumhara' should realize that few things are better when left un-touched because those are master pieces and iconic creations of art. Any form of imitation or re-creation, even if the best in state of the art technology and sound effects are used, cannot create the magic of the original piece. The end result is as disappointing as in this attempt of the Surendranath duo. One 'Sur' never got juxtaposed to another 'Sur' which is the prime essence of the original song, rather it appeared to be an emphatic attempt by the artists to lip sync and somehow make it appear as though it were seamless. It is very unfortunate that even patriotism is used for marketing.

To me, the original work and memories of 'Mile Sur Mera Tumhara' are something best left in dusty frames of Doordarshan channel and not signed by erstwhile wave of commercialization. I still like my paati wali chai, than the tea-bag chai or chai made in any other sophisticated way.

More about chai, here. More about late Suresh Mullick here.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Patience Vs Impatience...

Don't you think that fans and foes of Barack Obama agree upon one point and that is he's an impressive and inspiring orator. Though he is an intriguing speaker, he has a strong addiction for

Words straight from the horse's mouth
Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it's not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won't. It's whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.

If you would have heard Obama speak, 'Patience' is one word that he uses often.

But is 'Patience' a virtue or a vice. For Indian Telecom major, Airtel the opponent of 'Patience' that is 'Impatience' is the new spice of life.

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Pic Source: Remain Connected

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

How Starbucks Saved My Life...

I read a number of books in the last couple of weeks. One among those was 'How Starbucks Saved My Life' by Michael Gates Gill and it did strike a different perspective on life, though very mildly. A life that has suddenly switched from one of prestige, power, money, glam and glitz to that of an ordinary common man, a barista at Starbucks.

It is the sweet bitter story in the first few chapters which transforms into a bitter sweet tale in the later half of the book. It's the story of Michael Gates Gill who was born in a highly reputed family and was son to Brendan Gill, well-known writer for the New Yorker. Gill's early life was all that one could aspire for, education at Yale University, job at the prestigious J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, acquaintance with Ernest Hemmingway and other crème de la crème in the field of literature, etc. You name it; he had it, all the symbols of modern day success and badges of material accomplishments by the time he was fifty.

One fine day J. Walter Thompson un-ceremonially dismisses him, thanking Gill for his service for more than two and a half decades. A high profile executive is now unemployed and that too at a time when he discovers that he is a new father with a woman he had an affair with and needs to take care of a little girl. The affair brings an end to his twenty-year marriage and he is isolated from his former wife and his children. Life comes to a sudden halt as Gill is also diagnosed with a small tumor in his head. Depression and cover of darkness dominates Gill's life.

With no money, no health insurance, and no prospects, one day Gill spends his time in a Manhattan Starbucks with his last affordable luxury "a latte" brooding about his misfortune and how to take care of his little baby girl. Something magical happens and a young African-American woman asks the suit clad Gill if he is looking a job. Gill accepts the offer without a second thought and later learns that the godsend, 28 year old young woman, Crystal, is a Starbucks manager.

Once on job floor, Gill undergoes a major shift in life from commanding an army of advertising specialists to scrubbing toilets, making coffee, handling the cash counter and doing other day-to-day activities at Starbucks working with a team of young African-Americans. Gill, the only old white guy in the team begins to see life from a different perspective, appreciates the harsh realities of survival, and also rectifies his ingrained prejudices related to many aspects. Respect and kindness become his crutches, when his entire armor of entitlement had been stripped away. Gill learns from his co-workers who are half his age in their mid twenties, that 'gratitude' and 'will to fight' doesn't follow any equation having color, class, race, religion, age, skin pigmentation, language, or gender as variables.

Crossing over the Starbucks bar was the beginning of a dramatic transformation that cracked Gill's world wide open. That's the pulp of the storyline and so the name 'How Starbucks Saved My Life'.

The book was a Ok Ok read though and I finished it in two sittings. At times I found that stories and the tales that Gill, the former corporate shark spews at regular intervals in the book were a bit kitschy. The author has spent page after page explaining how the utopian corporate culture of Starbucks transformed his life, the repeated theme of working with African-Americans, etc. While reading the book, I found these opinions were over done, often giving the impression that it was a Starbucks promotional pap impersonating as a memoir.

I am a bit thrifty and give it a 6/10 on my reading scale. Try it if you wish to.

The New York Times published an interesting interview-article with the author in which one can learn some surprising things that weren’t mentioned in the book.

More about Starbucks here.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Group 'Wah'...

Group 'Wah'. What's that? When was the last time that you traveled in a bus and the driver applied a sudden screeching break and all the passengers dashed forward from their regular positions. All at once, at one time, simultaneously.

Group 'Wah' is all about unison, applying the principles of wave propagation that we learnt when in school, it's a mantra to send multitudes into a kind of frenzy, something like a mass psychosis, it's the automatic clock that makes millions of others who are in different time zones and not within their native land, to sleep and wake up, perfectly in sync with the match timings.

Do you feel that it happens only in India or with desis. No, it's a global phenomenon. Now, to explain the behavior that you see in the video, you need to understand the phenomenon known as Brainwave Entertainment.

Don't miss the complete article here. Also, at the end of the video it was mentioned that the
IPL kicks off on 10th Apr'09. But so far nothing is clear and the final dates are not yet sorted out. Most likely this event would get delayed keeping in view the nation wide election which is slotted to be conducted in phases.

If in Honk Kong the sounds of horse racing announcers can stimulate the brains of people from a delta state to a beta state, it's a game of cricket, that does wonders in our desi land. Sahi boola na..

[Hat tip: Larry Feign for the Theory of Group 'Wah'.]

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Magic of 'Pata Chitra'...

Come to think of it, the winter season is famous for something, which is the biggest form of celebration in an Indian family, the marriage function. I do not understand the nitty gritty about why only this part of the year, but know for a fact that from May to July and again from November to February of the calendar, is the season for marriage functions in India. All I know is that these months are considered auspicious for the event.

A couple of months back my elder brother got married and like a similar function in any part of India, it was marked by a riot of colors, get-together of relatives and friends from within the country and abroad, gossip among the guests, sumptuous food, glittery jewelery, shimmering attires, and lots of naach, gaana dancing to the tunes of the latest Bollywood hits.

But to add a paaka desi-flavor to all these, to showcase something that is authentic and to patronize a dying art form, my maa had her own charter. She had planned for miniature paintings to be done on few walls of the house. She had contacted the artists and made the entire blueprint for her project from planning to its execution.

The art form that was followed is from the school of 'Pata Chitra'. 'Pata' in Sanskrit means piece of cloth and 'Chitra' means painting or picture. This art form is defined by its use of rich colors made out of vegetables and mineral extracts, its portrayal of pure and simple themes, depicting a combination of folk and classical elements and is not limited to religious themes.

Check for the detail work

In the picture below, the theme is that of a marriage and it is painted in the style of an oleograph on the wall. But as you can see, there is deviation from the basics here, synthetic paints are used, unlike the colors made out of vegetables and mineral extracts.

Marriage Scene depicted in Pata Chitra

The digression from the fundamentals was done because the base for the painting was not a piece of cloth but a concrete wall.

Pata Chitra on Wall

The colors are bright and possess a peculiar charm, very distinct and a remarkably original art form. As I was writing this post, it also reminded me of an excellent project work that one of my friends had done, while he was a Product Design student at National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. He had spent close to one and a half months in a village, Raghurajpur where artisans create sheer poetry on pieces of treated cloth or dried palm leaves or paper and learnt the fine nuances of this art form. More about Raghurajpur here.

The 'kolam' on the floor of the marriage 'mandap'(platform) was also done by the same artists who did the work on walls.


Do not miss a very interesting article by Raji on 'The Kolam Festival' at the Mylapore festival.

But what is hurting is that these timeless art forms are loosing their value with the advent of modernity. To cite an example, take the case of 'Pata Chitra', the entire process starting from the design to the final output is managed manually by artisans. It's the creation of their deft fingers and immeasurable imagination, an art form whose intricacies are passed from one generation to another. But duplicates of such paintings are made these days using modern printing capabilities. So the artists feel their authentic creations do not have as big an audience as for faux products. Many artisans leave the villages to find menial jobs in cities and towns to make a living. Sad but true.

Now, I know why my maa wanted those paintings, it was to showcase the creativity of the bunch of smart artisans, who need support. Don't you endorse, her thinking?

Check the pics here, looks better against a black background.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Happy Holi Wishes...

Wishing you all a Happy Holi. Enjoy this season with colors of life, colors of joy, colors of happiness, colors of friendship, colors of love and all other colors you want to paint in your life. Of course with lots of mithai, thandai and thoda sa bhang. The air reverberates with Rang Barsee.

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Note: The pic that you see above is by Xavier Zimbardo, a French photographer and journalist whose marvelous works have been featured in several European and international photography publications. A recipient of several grants and prizes, from different countries, including those from the Kodak Foundation and the French government. He is also author of several books, one among which is 'Holi'. Anyone who has been to Paris's Bibliothèque Nationale and Maison Européenne de la Photographie, would have never missed his work.

The entire collection of his pics on the colorful festival of Holi is here. Simply put its poetry through a camera lens.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Summer is on...

sitting with my knees close to my chest,
with a different silence,
my lungs and my nose inhale the dry morning air,
there is a sudden change around.
winter is all gone,
leaves crackling in front of my door step.

Standing out

roosting like an eagle at my place,
i see the streets which appear hebetudinous.
kids hurrying to school,
running over a bed of jacaranda.
withered grass meets drooped leaves,
they say summer is on.

Isolated from others

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