Horn OK Please

Monday, November 13, 2006

A Mumbai Taxiwala starts his day with his Taxi owner demanding his pay, he then proceeds to start the taxi with by hitting the engine with a spanner, meets assorted characters, dreams of buying his own brand-new taxi and sees his dreams go up in smoke in just the space of one day! Yet he starts afresh, the next day! This short animation feature, titled Horn OK Please - that ubiquitous message on the back of most trucks and taxis in India, is as much a tribute to the Mumbai taxiwala as it is a story of most taxi/auto drivers in India.

Inspired from the experiences of director Joel Simon in Mumbai, the short animation feature, created by Irish and Indian animators using clay models and hand drawn backgrounds won several awards. Mixing brilliant animation with a taut script and wonderful background score, the short film is a striking advertisement for short animation features.

Read more about the film and one of its creators, Vaibhav Kumaresh - an NID Ahmedabad alumnus, here.


Friday, October 20, 2006

Shailesh J Mehta School of Management (SJMSOM), IIT Bombay, my alma mater is conducting its annual BFest - Avenues. They have an interesting online quiz running. Check it out.

This format of quizzing is the latest fad on the internet. Remember to read the rules carefully and check out the Avenues blog as it has some pretty nice clues, in case you get stuck, which I promise you will. The quiz has apparantly already been cracked, but dont let that stop you. It can be quite addictive once you crack the initial few rounds. And oh, I am not even halfway through yet!

Micket 2006

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Its that time of the Cricket calender again. The jamboree reaches India for 3 weeks of Micket - Mickey mouse cricket. What else can you call it? When you have all the cricket playing nations in the world - from the mighty Australia to the hopeless Zimbabwe and Bangladesh - playing for glory and you dont call it the World Cup, and you schedule it exactly 6 months before the world cup, it has to be called mickey mouse cricket, a comic caper which is somehow supposed to set the world afire.

Cricket administrators have never been known for their creativity. How else can you call a tournament that has all the cricket playing nations in the world, the Champions Trophy? We have heard of the Champions League in Football in which the top teams of Europe compete against each other. Then there is the Champions Trophy in Hockey in which only the top 6 teams in the world compete. But only in Cricket do we have this farce where every one worth playing international cricket, and some not even worth even that get a chance to play.

The Champions Trophy started in 1998 under the name mini World Cup (later changed to ICC Knockout Tournament before finally settling on Champions Trophy) to spread the gospel of cricket in the non believers of cricket religion. I spoke earlier of mickey mouse cricket, cricket almost came close to being genuinely called that as one of the places under consideration for the inaugural tournament was Disney Land. Thankfully, it never materialized. Till now 4 tournaments have taken place, with the minnows alternating between the usual suspects Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Kenya to the Netherlands and the US. Together these 5 countries played 20 matches without managing to win even one of them.

The contests between the top tier teams have also not been evenly matched, with only a few matches creating some flutter like the Ind vs Aus and Ind vs NZ contests in the 2000-01 edition in Kenya, the final of the last tournament in England when WI managed to beat England, in what can be termed as the only upset so far.

In addition none of the teams seem to be too keen in this money making exercise. Take this year’s tourney. Aus and Eng have made it abundantly clear that they don't appreciate playing in a meaningless ODI contest just before the Ashes. The Indian board isn't too keen either, as they don't like seeing all the revenue from a potential tri-series being taken away by the ICC. Never mind that the tournament itself was the brain child of Jagmohan Dalmiya when he was the ICC chief.

But the Indian paying public wont mind. They will flock even the Bdesh vs Zim game and fill the coffers of the ICC. SL and WI will make it in as the qualifiers and we will hopefully see some interesting games. There might also be some experimentation by the teams keeping the WC in mind, so dont cross your fingers. Aus or Pak might win this time, both having never made it to the final till date.

So here’s to the most meaningless tournament in the cricket calender. May you see some cricket.

BBC gets the wrong 'Guy'!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Imagine you are at a television studio to pick up someone. Someone calls your name and you respond and they take you into a studio, put you in front of half-a-dozen cameras, attach a microphone and the anchor starts asking questions about Apple winning a lawsuit against the Beatles. What would you say?

Well, this London cabbie found himself in such a situation when he was waiting for picking up someone at the BBC studios. It so happened that he shared his first name (Guy) with a technology expert and the studio staff put him on air instead of the expert and started asking him questions on the latest lawsuit between Apple and the Beatles! The cabbie, to his credit, was flustered initially but later went on to answer the questions as only a London cabbie would! What was wierd about the whole fracas was that the expert is a white bearded dude, while the cabbie is a bald black man!

Catch the entire store here, along with a link to download the video. Dont miss the cabbie's expressions when he is shown on air for the first time! Priceless! Its such an ROTFL moment! I've watched it a dozen times till now, and each time laughed till my stomach hurt! He is sooo cute!

And check out the expert's own take on the whole thing here!

Bangalore...Whither goest thou?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Scene: A busy traffic junction.You are on a bike waiting for the light to turn green! So are a hundred others on bikes, scooters, cars and buses. Suddenly someone jumps the red light! Would you go after him and give him a lecture on traffic and civic sense? You might! What if the car that jumped the Red light belonged to the Assistant Commissioner of Police of that City with the gentleman himself in the passenger seat? Would you still chase him down and lecture him in public?

A 'Hindustani' did it in Bangalore! His name is Swaroop Srinath!

Link to the story and original post on this here!

I am sure there are a lot of good cops out there in Bangalore, but stories like the above and this do not give any reassurance to me!

Budhia and Kutral

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Recent news reports have been abuzz with this kid called Budhia Singh, from Orissa, who all of 4 years old, ran 65 kms non-stop. It was not just Indian media, both print and electronic, but foreign media as well who wrote in awe about the Marathon Kid. The amazing story of a slum kid who was sold for Rs.800 by his mother, whose precocious talent was 'discovered' by a Judo instructor caught the imagination of press worldwide. It was not just his apparant stamina at such a young age but the manner in which it was discovered that made headlines. The kid apparantly jumped over the fence of the yard in which the judo instructor was training his wards. To teach the impertinent kid a lesson, the 'guru' told him to run round the yard. When he returned 5 hours later, he found the kid still running! Stuff of Hindi or telugu movies? Where the hero cycles for 10 days to earn the gazillion dollar prize money!?

The kid dint win any prize money, but he won the admiration of the coach who recognized his amazing talent, took him under his wing to make a champion runner out of him! He started running in competitions at an age when most kids are still carried by their parents! His latest achievement (he ran from Puri to Bhubaneswar) made the media and the public go crazy. In a nation starved of world beating sportsmen, in a billion strong nation which every four years suffers the ignominy of returning almost empty handed from the Olympics (save for saviours like Leander Paes or Karnam Malleswari or Rajyavardhan Rathore), Budhia represented a fond hope!

When was the last time a 'kid' created a sensation in sports or related activities? If Sachin Tendulkar was a 'kid' when he faced Waqar's bouncers fearlessly, then what should we term this boy? What do you call a 4 year old boy who runs for 65 kms? The media was ready! He was called 'Marathon Kid', 'Pocket Hercules', 'India's Forrest Gump', 'India's answer to kenyan runners' and so on!

But where there is a success, there is a controversy! NGOs and Human Rights groups shouted from roof tops that he was being exploited by his coach, that his life is in danger and that the courts and Govt should intervene in protecting the young boy. Would the protests have been raised if it was his Dad instead of his coach? Another instance of such foster-parent-exploitation allegations occured quite sometime back in South Africa, although in completely unrelated and quite tragic circumstances. Concerns raised when a 12 yr old South African Black kid called Nkosi Johnson, who was affected with HIV/AIDS from birth, increased awareness among African public through his rousing speeches. The impact was huge, and Nkosi later died from the Syndrome but not before human rights groups accused his foster mother (who incidentally was White) of putting him under tremondous pressure and scrutiny by encouraging him to give more and more speeches.

Such concerns are genuine and in one way its imporant that such concerns are raised lest we get carried away. But, like it happened to so many 'child prodigies' in India, will Budhia Singh become another footnote in India's long list of 'what might have beens'!? Case in point: Kutraleeswaran! This boy from Tamil Nadu swam six channels in 1994 and was included in the Guinness Book of World Records at the age of 13! he became a sensation in long distance swimming after breaking Mihir Sen's record of crossing five channels in a calendar year. So where is he now? Except from Rediff.com's article on him:

Even as a 16-year-old, Kutral was sad about the way his father had to run around each time a competition came up. He had said then, 'I was to participate in a competition in Germany. Everything from tickets to visa were ready. We were to start at 5.30 in the evening. At 3 pm we got a call from the sponsors. They said they could not sponsor me. My brother had gone to Bombay to arrange for the visa. At the last moment we had to cancel everything. I cannot say how disappointed I was.'

'In other countries, if you excel in some sports you are eligible for good jobs. But here, unless you have a good academic background, you will not get any job. So, I am forced to give more importance to studies than swimming. Given a chance I would like to channelise all my energy into swimming.'

He couldn't, and decided to concentrate on studies. Reason: "Lack of sponsorship."I wanted a strong supporting career of my own, hence decided to concentrate on academics. Ethically, it was a painful decision, but logically practical and comfortable. But it was indeed very hard for me to come to terms (with the fact) that I was leaving competitive swimming," recalled Kutral. When he realised that every competition abroad was a burden on his parents, he decided to call it quits.

Will Budhia Singh become another Kutraleeswaran? If the same public adoration, support and concern for him continue, he may not, but public memory is short in India and Budhia became a STAR at just 4!

Fate or Talent?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Just read that Sandeep Acharya, from Bikaner, Rajasthan has become Indian Idol 2 beating NC Karunya, from Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. I have been following this programme for quite some time now and I shamelessly concede that Karunya is a much better singer, both technically and in terms of his versatality.

Sandeep's voice starts and ends with Udit Narayan! He is a good singer, but not a brilliant singer, which I think Karunya is! Sandeep also does not have the range of Karunya nor does he have the technical depth! One on one Karunya is a much better singer! Karunya sings everything from Classical Carnatic to Punjabi Bhangra with equal ease, with everything in between! Even while singing songs of playback singers, Karunya can change his modulation to suit the style of many singers! Be it the 'josh' of Kishore Kumar or the 'pagalpan' of Sukhwinder Singh or the melodiousness of Sonu Nigam! My favorites are 'Kawa kawa' and Manna De's 'Jhanak Jhanak baaje paayaliya' which I think represent the two extremes of Hindi Music or for that matter Indian Music!

Sandeep was consistently in the top 2-3 while Karunya time and again, to the surprise of the judges and his supporters, almost always managed to come in the bottom 2-3. It was never a secret as to whom the judges preferred, they time and again openly said that they though Karunya is a better singer! In addition, it was Karunya's choice of songs that left every one asking for more! He had consistently chosen difficult songs to sing while Sandeep always chose the easy wasy out singing more popular numbers without really experimenting too much.

But Karunya has come a long long way since the first episode! Consider this: Hindi is not his mother tongue, he is from a state which has a very strong vernacular film industry. I am myself from Andhra and I can vouch for the 'film craziness' of andhrites! We are fed on a staple diet of Telugu songs and movies since childhood! An average Andhrite is probably a better speaker of Hindi than any other South Indian with the exception of probably Kannadigas, but still its not easy to learn, forget mastering 3 different languages! He starts with an obvious disadvantage because of these factors...I still remember the legendary Javed Akhtar telling Karunya how to pronouce 'khayal' and 'khwab' while agreeing that such intricate things are probably difficult for an average South Indian to keep in mind!

So was I surprised with the result? Disappointed yes, but Surprised No! Because for quite some time now, somewhere at the back of my mind, I knew that with the voting system and its patterns of late, Sandeep stood a better chance! Is it regionalism? Is it North vs South? Is it the fact that down South, because of the strength of regional TV channels, Indian Idol or for that matter any Hindi Channel is not watched as much as it is watched in North or West? The arguments and counterarguments will go on, as will the 'what if' questions! What if Anuj Sharma who was voted out after the piano round had not come back because another finalist dropped out? Dont forget that this 'turn of fate' led to him displacing Amey Date going into the final 3, once again due to curious voting. And there was a mini riot after the judges walked out in protest disagreeing with the decision! So what if Amey wasnt voted out and instead made it to the final three along with Karunya and Sandeep!

But as quite curiously everyone from the judges to the hosts kept 'hinting', I think 'fate' won over 'talent'! There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Karunya has serious talent, one which the industry cannot afford to ignore! He has all the qualities of a good play back singer and there is no question that music directors will be quite excited by his talent! In one way, its probably a blessing in disguise for Katunya! Without the tag of Indian Idol, he is not bound by any contracts to Sony Music! He is quite free to pursue his own career which I am sure will take off the moment the dust settles over the excitement of Indian Idol!

Just to prove that Indian Idol is not everything, Abhijeet Sawant performed at the end of Idol 2 finale and he gave an absolutely pathetic renedition of RDB's title song, which I am sure made A R Rahman the music director and Daler Mehndi the singer choke over their dinner, if by chance they were watching! I may sound cliched, but votes and hype can never beat pure, unadulterated, exciting and real talent, which Karunya has in abundance!

A biased view of a Neutral State

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

When you land in a foreign country for the first time, you form certain first impressions of that country, its people, its customs and it’s working. These sometimes supplement the associations you have formed about it while sometimes it goes against the best or worst imageries you have about that country.

Similarly I had my own ideas about Switzerland, which I am sure are no different from the viewpoint of the average Indian. Especially since such views were reinforced by a mélange of Hindi, Telugu and Tamil movies which showed snowcapped mountains with the hero and heroine dancing atop them. The heroine is generally covered with nothing more than the average Indian ‘movie sari’ (read: sleeveless blouse, sari below the navel). That the heroine seemed ecstatic just to be dancing in the snow even in that cold never quite sat well with me. And the fact that the Hero is always clad in the best of the clothes (read: woolen or leather jacket with a hundred layers of clothing underneath it) did not make things any better. I had a soft corner for all those poor heroines who gladly stripped off. Although I tend to ignore my friend who says he would dance naked for an hour in the same snow if he is even paid half of what the movie stars are paid.

Another set idea I had about the country is that its people are business like, stiff and very methodical. This was a view that was fostered by the numerous books and movies about Swiss banks and Swiss bankers. Since the banks protected the monies of their clientele and more importantly their identities with such dogged efficiency and utmost discretion biased my views about the Swiss.

The other images I had about Switzerland, other than its snow capped mountains and its banks were of course its spas, cheese, chocolates, watches and Swiss Army Knives. And also that the Swiss buses, trains and trams run notoriously on time. These were the things I had in mind when my company asked me to travel to Switzerland.

So time for reality check! The image about snow capped mountains turned out to be quite true, only this time around it was not Indian movie stars dancing atop them. Rather it was the global heads of state, meeting to discuss globalization and competitiveness issues atop the snow clad resort of Davos. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a certain Manmohan Singh and a certain Chidambaram were among the most sought after people at Davos. Watching German TV at my apartment, I felt rather proud to see images of both these nice fellas accompanied by incomprehensible news in German.

Then, the people! It was interesting to note that the people are rather friendly and not the stiff business types I expected. As Zurich is among the Financial Nerve Centers of the world, you get to see and meet people from diverse nationalities. Around my cubicle are an Englishman, a Chinese lady, a Pole, a South African and me an Indian. And this in just a few square meters of space. Clichéd as it may be but the word ‘microcosm’ immediately comes to mind!

Contrasting my other images of Switzerland were images of a beggar (only one!) on Zurich’s world famous shopping district, a gay couple kissing on an escalator while people watched open-mouthed (most of the onlookers were goras), Swiss versions of taporis teasing a gorgeous girl in a bus and finally a gigantic billboard hanging down the Zurich airport shouting “INDIA FASTEST GROWING FREE MARKET DEMOCRACY”!

Enough to make me feel at home!