Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2007: Bath(room) Humor

Some people might be looking forward to the multistarrer Masti meets Three men and a baby flick Heyy Babyy. Nott mee, especially after debut director Sajid Khan showed up on SRGMP and enthusiastically unleashed one PJ after another. But thanks are in order to Sajid who pulled up contestant after contestant for displaying poor dress sense. That and poor Vidya Balan - she of the creamy skin, lovely hairline and blank stares - having to smile through all the weak humor was entertaining to watch.

At least Sajid came looking spiffy. Which is not what one could say about the previous director who visited the show - Anubhav Sinha. Which leads me to this rant: can people please at least try to look nice when they come on TV? Jeans and a T-shirt are fine. But would it kill them to take a bath and stick a comb in their hair?

But the show's award for best phatebaaz went to Raja Hasan, whose diplomacy and chatoing skills left even Himesh speechless. "You are the most hyped singer on this show!" Himesh announced when Raja walked on stage. "Sir" said Raja "being number one is nothing. But maintaining it like you do is a big deal.". After the song Ismail Darbar sought to tease him a bit "How many people in this audience are from your family?" Raja countered "This entire nation is my family." Someone make this guy our ambassador to Pakistan!

Lest all this entertain us to distraction, SRGMP continues to deliver terrific singing. Last week's magical performance was Mussarat's uttam rendition of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's Saware from Bandit Queen (watch it here on YouTube). Aneek Dhar, who I can't stop liking, cranked out a solid version of Sonu Nigam's "Iss pyaar ko mein" which was superior to Emon Chatterjee's version on Indian Idol the same week. This overlap of songs between the shows has happened before and it constantly shows the Indian Idol 3 singers in poor light compared to their more vocally sophisticated SRGMP cousins.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Shekhar ki Megan

If you've been here before you might have seen our SRGMP poll for everyone's favorite judge. Vishal and Shekhar together lead this poll. But take a closer look and Shekhar Ravjiani comes in third all by himself, not far behind second-placed Himesh Reshammiya. That's a lot of love for a guy who can't seem to find a decent razor (hey, don't hate me - I'm just playing).

Last week on the show host Aditya Narayan - for apparently no reason than to chato a judge - mentioned that of all the gurus the most popular with women happened to be Shekhar! Uttam, I say, now carry on after this extremely useful piece of statistically derived information.

But the conjunctivitis-ridden Head (thanks for the moniker, Leera) kept pressing. "There is a fan of yours called Megan who has gone completely crazy for you" he revealed. "If you go online and type 'Shekhar' anywhere, you'll get thousands of things Megan has prepared for you." Shekhar preened - he seemed to be genuinely pleased. He followed this with a rather funny attempt at being humble by thanking Mehgum profusely for her hard work.

Really? Type Shekhar "anywhere"? I tried Google because let's face it - it is everywhere which is closest I could come to "anywhere". Typing Shekhar gave me hits on Shekhar Kapur, Shekhar Gurera's cartoons, then Chandra Shekhar the ex-Prime Minister. Hey, even a Dr. Shekhar Garde came in before our sexy superstar. And Megan was nowhere in sight.

Hmmm. I tried typing in Shekhar Megan. Bingo! I hit this YouTube fan video by someone called Megan titled "Sexy Beast Shekhar". Interesting description.

Megan's YouTube profile lists her as MeganDiva, 19, Fine Arts Student.

Pecheeda mamle ka hal. But Aditya, can you get your Internet IQ in order?

UPDATE: An anonymous reader (who is NOT Megan) tells us: "She is a regular poster with the screen name of Aphrodite at india-forums.com a website I frequent. And in her posts she pointed out that she had not made 100's of videos and while she likes Shekhar a lot she is deinately not the stalker, crazy fan type. Trust Adi and Zee to exaggerate!!!"

UPDATE: Megan stops by.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Indian Idol 3 Gala Round: The gulab and the hathoda

Sure Anu Malik gives balanced comments - sometimes. Most of the time he appears to either hand out a gulab or bring out his hathoda. But like every scooter that works only in first or fifth gear needs a closer look, Anu Malik's comments came in for scrutiny from Alisha Chinai this week.

For a while now in an effort to make that forced episode of Indian Idol 3 (Rubaroo) seem interesting, the producers and Mini have been drumming up a romance between contestants Deepali and Chang.

This resulted in a public dressing down handed out by Anu Malik to Deepali after a particularly insipid performance. "This crush is crushing your singing" he declared. Next episode Deepali was in the danger zone. Now she's been there before but this time Alisha Chinai flew into a rage - lambasting Malik for bringing her personal life into play and holding him responsible for her lack of votes.

The host, Mini Mathur, having first killed all chance of any budding romance by publicly outing it at the alter of ratings gain, now proceeded to act indignant, having forgotten that she had helped put wood to the fire that was being fanned. I'm not complaining - a much entertaining jhagda ensued.

So should Anu have dug into Deepali's personal life this way? It depends on what role people expect Anu to play. If he is a judge, I believe he should stay away from it. If he is a mentor, he should point it out - perhaps not so harshly but its well within his rights to question any possible distraction.

There is some precedence for this: his public reaming of the stagnating Emon Chatterjee has resulted in Emon cutting out the cheeky harkats in his singing. In fact, in the same show he delivered a rousing rendition of Malik's own Sonu Nigam special "Iss Pyaar ko mein kya naam doon" re-staking his claim to the top spot.

With Deepali though, this hathoda approach puts the contestant down a slippery slope. First, she is struggling with her votes - she always gets much fewer than she deserves. Secondly, not everyone - and I believe gender plays an important role here - responds to the barking, abusive coach archetype and raises their game.

Muddled as it was to me there were some positives. Alisha Chinai picked up the mike and made herself heard and she did it well. Chang quietly and gallantly supported his friend without fear of reprisal from Malik.

And a darshak made a terrific point during an audience reaction clip. Why is everyone talking about Deepali, she suggested, aren't there two people in the romance? Indeed!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2007: What makes a winner?

Last week Vishal went at it again with Himesh Reshammiya over Mussarat Abbas. A few shows ago, Vishal's needling of Mussarat for singing songs in his comfort zone had sparked an entertaining row resulting in a thundering lesson on rozi-roti from the House of Reshammiya. And it happened again: Vishal wanted variety, Himesh wants a singer who can sing certain types of songs for people. Complicating all of this was the fact that Mussarat was in the rather hilariously named trishanku which is the equivalent of the Indian Idol danger zone.

And this made Himesh nervous. "Get back to singing what you do best" he ordered. Vishal coolly picked up the mike and insisted he'd like to examine Mussarat's range on the show.

Vishal and Himesh both sound right to me. A singer needs to perform in multiple genres to prove himself. But it is a bit much to expect newbies to display this versatility. And Himesh's argument is a practical one: stay in your comfort zone and even if you don't win the competition, you'll end up getting work because you specialize in certain types of songs.

Ultimately the question is: what is SRGMP looking for in its winner? This is a complicated question because once voting is open to the public - the situation becomes dicey. In obvious cases, the public seems to vote sensibly. But in borderline cases, factors other than singing talent can easily result in a contestant's exit.

I'll stick with Vishal's argument that a singer has to at least try and display versatility to win this show. After all, with all the entertaining but ultimately weak crooning happening on Indian Idol, the best singers for the next generation are going to come from this show.

On to other matters: I'm beginning to enjoy the sheer tackiness of what is called the yellow room. This is the rather sorry looking room where all three yellow lighted contestants have to cool their heels. They have to listen to their competition on a large screen TV at angles that surely must test their neck muscles. Further torture is inflicted on them in the form of pictures of previously eliminated contestants on the wall - an empty one with a question mark being a particularly sadistic touch. I shall hereby call this the Lonely RoomTent (thanks ~mm~ and also pictures over at her place) because that is what everyone who ends up there looks like.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Harry Potter: Book 7 - The Experience

Guest blogger Meena, who sometimes stops by here, reviews the experience of the inexorable literary force called Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Any more writing like this and she'll get her own book deal for sure. Jeet, I hope you like this.

So, the much awaited release day of the last, er...rather lets just say the 7th Harry Potter book went like this.

My cousins and I had pre-ordered 6 books at Barnes & Noble. We were each going to get a copy, make a night of it and read it through by Saturday morning in my house. On Saturday night, one of my cousins was set to host a huge house-warming party. Out of town guests had already arrived at her place but undaunted, she prepared to pull an all nighter the night before.

She had a pool going to let us bet on all major characters on whether they would live or die. Intense discussions on the characters ensued all Friday evening much to the disgust of my aunts, mom and grandma. In fact, my grandma was bewildered when it was explained to her that all this was for a novel and not for some critical exam like she assumed.

By 9 o'clock on Friday night the air was tense with waves of disapproval radiating from my aunt who was naturally anxious about the party. The plan was to take turns standing in line from 9pm. Accordingly, one of my friends made an initial foray to Barnes and Noble and discovered that, surprise! the line was already several hundred people long.

I had never been to a midnight purchase of a madly awaited book before so I dont know what the stores usually do in terms of moving and managing people. On Friday, they had a system going which no doubt they thought was ingenious. They would hand out wrist bands named for different characters to 200/300 people at a time. Each band was given a certain time that the counter will open to them. We got a band that was 10th down on the list. That meant we may not be able to get the book until 2am.

When we went to the store at midnight it was humming with anticipation and chaos reigned. Young, pimply store clerks dressed in character costumes were leading people up and down in long lines that to all appearances went in circles around the bookshelves in the store and got nowhere. People in the Voldemort queue and Ginny queue crossed, recrossed and intermingled so many times that they decided to unite.

Dutiful dads who brought their kids prepared to hunker down for a grim wait. Bitter experiences at the INS came to mind. I went and dutifully found what I believed to be my place in line and started on the circuitous journey. I need not have worried. One of my young cousins with utter contempt for the inept handling of the lines and magnificent disregard for silly rules walked into a queue near the counter and found himself supplied with books he needed and was paying for them 15 minutes after we walked in the store.

Clearly a few years stay in this country have not jeopardized the desi spirit of this veteran of dozens of trips to Tirupati.

The book turned out be some 750 pages long and seemed to promise long-awaited answers and closure. We managed to finish it in about 11 hrs with short naps in between. I have to tell you that I am not a fan of the Harry Potter series for its story or the setting, etc. I could not care less if Harry lives or dies.

Escapist fiction is my secret indulgence, and authors who are capable of sketching and sustaining well developed characters will grip me. Here is an author who has the smarts to know that the joy of such elaborate stories are the secondary characters. I think I kept going back to read the stories only for that reason. Plots can be contrived but not the characters. Even the movies were an afterthought for me.

Maybe that was why it was not a satisfying book. All the events did lead up to a magnificent showdown, a great war and many deaths. In short, sounded like any two-dimensional epic saga. Although the book had its moments, especially in scenes with Dumbledore's last conversations, Dobby's fate, Neville's heroism etc. it could not save Voldemort from becoming a Mogambo-style evil villain and Ron and Hermione just the sidekicks.

The dark satire and depth of the previous books were just not there. The less said about the epilogue the better. Too sugary sweet and Bollywoodish. Surely, JK understands the reason why her fans get hysterical over Colin Creevey's fate or George Weasley's feelings?

Its all about the characters. After making us know and love Hermione, giving her an ending as trite as - 'oh yeah, she got married and had kids' is a sad letdown.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

New Music: Marigold is a pleasant surprise

I've been digging the soundtrack of Marigold - the upcoming Salman Khan and Ali Larter starrer. It's a highly enjoyable album strewn with lilting songs, several of them powered by some thrumming bass lines.

Now the movie itself sounds about as hackneyed as they come. But hey, we've got Salman Khan in it. He'll rescue it I'm sure.

Shankar Ehsan Loy - who registered such a thumping success with Jhoom Barabar Jhoom recently and are on the up and up - produced the music. Javed Akhtar wrote the lyrics - and seems to have satisfactorily negotiated the fine line between dense and frivolous.

Ali Larter, whose brave and instinctive turn on NBC's hit Heroes powered the early creepy vibe on the show and revived her career, sings on "Listen to the Music" with Shaan. And her smoky voice serves her well enough that you eagerly forgive her muddled diction. There is also a chance to listen to Sonu Nigam's sister Nikita who does a wonderful job here after her spunky and catchy but somewhat unmemorable work on "Rabba De De Jawaani" from Pyaare Mohan.

The best picks from the CD:

And another link you can use to listen to the songs (not sure how long it'll be up).

Monday, July 23, 2007

Depth comes from unlikely places in Ratatouille

There have been precisely three animated movies that have impressed me since Disney's Toy Story brought practicality to bear on the promise of CGI to change the animation landscape in 1996.

Tarzan, the last notable non-CGI animated blockbuster, made me sit up and take notice with the way in which the animators were able to manipulate objects of high detail and move the titular character seamlessly between the front and back of a static backdrop.

The attention to detail and the ability to render it in Pixar's A Bug's Life left me speechless. I remember my eyes darting around the screen so much that they positively hurt when it was all over.

The third movie to fill me with the same sense of wonder about the craft was Ratatouille. It is just as good because the movie itself arrives with an innovative plot filled with hackneyed situations and often forgoes genuine enchantment in favor of quick thrills.

Remy (Patton Oswalt) is a rat who is born with a gift. He has a super-sensitive nose and a palette to match, both of which give him a laser-sharp sense of good food. He arrives in a restaurant in Paris which seems to have lost its way. Unbeknownst to the management who understandably don't want rats around, Remy joins forces with Linguini (Lou Romano) to conjure up magical recipes and restore the restaurant back to pole position. Along the way they encounter important life lessons - standard fare for this genre.

There are two exceptional things that save Ratatouille and make it a really good time at the multiplex. First, the canny and versatile Ian Holm shows up as Skinner, the head chef at the restaurant who has a vested interest in seeing the restaurant remain at status quo. Holm sinks his teeth into the role by essaying an unapologetically ridiculous French accent. He makes Skinner smart, pompous, vulnerable, afraid, swashbuckling and driven. Its a hilarious performance which culminates in one rollicking chase scene with Skinner on a scooter.

And the innovative animation is the second one. More than any movie I've seen, Ratatouille is able to deliver terrific depth and perception in frame after frame. (Compare this to, say, the flat and lifeless backdrops of a major blockbuster like Shrek 3.) Although the characters are cartoons, the backdrops are rendered in true form. And by dissolving the sharpness ever so slightly between multiple objects in the backdrop, the animators of the movie have managed to create a fully realized 3D universe that is positively dazzling.

The Shirtless Wonder does Sa Re Ga Ma Pa 2007

It's likely that Salman Khan's boisterous appearance on SRGMP last week will polarize viewers. It certainly has me disagreeing with Mum who thinks he was weird (thankfully unlike most other women in our family, she doesn't label everything "stupit").

There is much to dislike about stars who think they are the cat's whiskers. And while Salman carries this attitude about him he has always managed to tweak himself to appear as a smart ass who knows what he's doing - which includes deliberately playing a smart ass (but with a heart of gold). And for this, I've found him to be immensely watchable in films or on TV.

On the show, first he threatened to kill anyone who sang any of Shah Rukh's songs - a game reference to the Aishwarya Rai-fuelled feud and subsequent patch-up between the two.

He mercilessly pulled the House of Reshammiya's leg around the whole nasal singing thing. Then he warmed up Mussarat's engine nicely.

Later, he confirmed that Aneek was about to sing "O Jaane Jaana" from "Pyar kiya to darna kya" and proceeded to walk up on stage and strip the poor boy down to this jeans (hmmm...I wonder what Sonu Nigam would have to say about something like that).

He praised Poonam, ribbed Shekhar, flirted with Mauli Dave and jumped on stage and did a groin rub with Harpreet's achkan.

All the judges and Lara Dutta - who was the co-guest- wisely did their best to stay out of harm's way. Himesh - who shares history with Salman - chatoed the man relentlessly. Salman lapped it all up.

The contest was a complete side show. I barely noticed that poor Apurva got the boot. Amanat Ali conjured up the versatility that Vishal was looking for (although not with the same elan as he sings raundu songs), Raja and Aneek continued to turn in strong performances and Mauli, Junaid, Sumedha and Harpreet all delivered resurgent vocals.

Poor Nirupama Dey was the only one who couldn't seem to get any unilateral praise from anyone on a day when perfect marks were handed out frivolously. But wait, I have a vision! I see a red light in her future. Very immediate future.

The video for this episode can be viewed here

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Indian Idol 3: Kiss offs and Kiss Curls

The smart folks who voted here for who will be eliminated on II3 this week got it dead right. A whopping 38.9% of the votes went to Charu Semwal - who promptly got the kiss of death on the show. Goodbye Charu, we'll miss that fine bone structure.

Meanwhile the whole girls versus boys fire was fanned by the hosts of the show early on, knowing no doubt that three of the bottom four would end up being girls.

Javed Akhtar - visibly pissed at the emerging gender bias - picked up the mike and called the voting junta bhala bura. He's right of course about voting patterns and gender affinity. But his argument of women not being able to help themselves when given the opportunity was both simplistic and disappointing.

Finally, Alisha Chinai needs to attend an urban dictionary course. In an attempt to be chakaas-cool, she kept misusing phrases to amusing effect. "You really blew it" she said when praising Meiyang Chang. She tried to rouse Charu by exclaiming "You really gave it to us!". Later she informed Ankita Mishra "Aag laga di tumne! You smoked it!" On top of all the trip ups, she also said mindblowing once - minus 10,000 points!

Also Alisha, congratulations on singing increasingly complex songs with panache - loved your work in Raqeeb. But can you go easy on the curling irons? Your bouncing curls are distracting and make you look like that most unstylish Parsi aunty from Vadodara who ran away with the guy from Goa. Any more curls and they might have to be given their own Republic.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Govinda aala re on Indian Idol 3

My image of Govinda has been that of an unrefined star. And as soon as he showed up on Indian Idol 3 this week that image seemed to be instantly validated.

His hair looked strange - dry on top and gelled on the sides - like someone was trying to hold his toupee in place with glue. His shirt was visibly struggling to keep things from popping. His sleeveless coat was several inches too short from behind and kept making involuntary trips up his back. And his pants would have shamed Rod Stewart - a doctor would undoubtedly have labeled them a circulatory hazard.

But then Govinda opened his mouth. And shame on me for stereotyping people by the kind of movies they act in. Our man turned out to be an abstract expressionist. He used abstract phrases to express his diplomacy, gently letting the contestants know that they had something special but were no great shakes. Which I think is a fair assessment of the contestants on Indian Idol 3 as far as pure vocal talent goes.

When he was asked by host Mini Mathur to plug his movie Partner, he waved it off and chose to focus on the good hearted-ness of Salman Khan instead. He jhadoed philosophy, showed a keen ear for singing, handed out rousing nuggets of advice and generally touched me with his generosity and willingness to play along.

But while I have a new-found appreciation of Chi Chi, does any of this make me want to go see his new flick any more than before? No. Now, can we stop with the relentless shilling?

The video for the episode can be viewed here.

Style Re Ga Ma Pa

SRGMP is a show where trends are adopted and discarded faster than fashionistas in Paris can keep up with.

Take Ismail Darbar for instance. The Yunus Parvez look is already creeping back into place. Clearly Darbar read this comment by ~mad munky~ and decided to make his fans happy.

Meanwhile Bappi seems to have invented a terrific finger wave. This is not only unique but also showcases his bling rather well - an example of creativity and purpose.

If only the contestants could follow the lead of the gurus. But unfortunate choices abound - particularly amidst Shakira, Britney Spears and Hulk Hogan from the Josh gharana.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Mind Rush: Ethical violations on Sa Re Ga Ma Pa 2007?

Guest blogger Mind Rush is back! Anyone else feel like doing a guest spot, shoot me an email at ahavewala{at}gmail. Apna hi ghar samjho!

We all know that judges are supposed to be objective. And you all know that I have my fave two judges on this show (Vish-Shek). But I am SOO bothered by what I consider major ethical problems on this show with the judges….Let me clarify.

All of the judges have signed on various singers for their own labels, filmi songs, shows, etc. Then they still get to judge “their own” artists. This amounts to the judges judging their own products.

Each of the judges has a stake in promoting certain singers. In fact this affects their bottom line. Surely then, objectivity might be affected??? Does one have the ability to be objective in the face of their own self-interest? Even if they do, by all ethical standards, this would be considered a problem.

It is a clear conflict of interest for a judge to be evaluating his own future source of income among a lineup of contestants. In ethical-legal terms, it is a dual relationship…each judge is essentially promoting a person, and then evaluating that person. These are two distinct roles. And they need to be kept separate.

Some might argue that the “janta” makes decisions not the judges. However, the judges have the ability to advocate for certain contestants. They can sway public opinion by their “wah-wah” or their thumbs down. Himesh Reshammiya for one comes to mind. He shamelessly promotes “his singers” (and himself) all the time. Even my two faves, Vish-Shek are not immune to this criticism.

But the final responsibility lies with the producers. They should have seen this coming and drawn up clear guidelines to demarcate the role of the judge from the role of the promoter. But hey, why would they care? They probably got quality judges on the promise of giving them a platform to promote themselves. The judges are happy to get first dibs on cheap labor. The singers get a break. The janta is happy to get entertainment. Am I the only one cribbing about old fashioned ethics?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa 2007: The makeover

Recently Smita Adhikari's makeover on Indian Idol 3 drew a lot of attention (or not). After much fussing and fiddling, Smita emerged looking pretty much the same except with a half inch thick foundation covering her zits.

I am not trying to be rude but just want to make the point that while makeovers might be fun to watch because they tap into an ugly-duckling-turns-princess sense of rah-rah justice among us, they are pretty useless in altering the course of someone's destiny.

Much more fun to watch was Ismail Darbar on SRGMP last week. The hunted lab rat look was replaced by something more sauve (or at least by Darbar standards). His hair had been cut and gelled in unison, his beard had been trimmed and he was dressed in white. This made him look less like Yunus Parvez and more like the progeny of Shahjahan and Peter Ustinov playing Emperor Nero in Quo Vadis. Bring on the dancing girls!

Meanwhile a request to Bappida. It's time for a haircut from the back, no?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa 2007: Cashing In

A lot of people like batsmen who step out to the bowlers and hit huge sixes. I, for one, am highly entertained by batsmen who do the same but get caught in the deep. I love robust creative ambition constrained by mediocrity of execution - its my type of entertainment. And SRGMP delivers this in spades.

Take for instance the Gurumeter - each guru rates the contestants from the other gharanas out of 10. Great concept! But in practice - this thing sucks! First off you can see the guru often adjusting their grades after some other guru starts off (Bappi, you know who I'm talking about) and each grade is given without much explaining.

Another example is the red-yellow-green light kiss-off given to each contestant. Huge improvement over those ridiculous colored table tennis bats that Khayyam had to hold up. But how bad is it to watch! And the arrangement makes it highly predictable.

Finally there is all that shameless cross-promotion (Mind Rush will have something to say about this soon).

Contrary to what you might think, this makes me happy because no show does camp better than SRGMP.

So the shilling this week saw two amazingly well-coiffed actors - Shamita Shetty and Diya Mirza - with all the mutual chemistry of rice and burgers, urging people to go see their movie Cash. Shekhar shamelessly joined in. I hope all of them have at least seen the flick.

Normally this would be annoying but Diya Mirza was downright magnificent. Why? Because while Shamita Shetty was busy protecting her hair from those humongous microphones and stiffly handing out opinions in angrezi, Diya excelled.

She seemed to be enjoying the music, wore those headphones on her head like one is supposed to, spoke crisply in Hindi, accepted Aneek's outburst of love with grace, never once said "Mindblowing" and above all, on one occasion said "Umda!"

Clearly, she reads this blog. Thanks, Miss.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Indian Idol 3 Poll: Pick your winner

Ok, we're down to 10 contestants on Indian Idol. Smita Adhikari was the last to leave. The smart people who hang out at this blog predicted her exit accurately and objectively.

The official Indian Idol 3 site has opened up online voting. But its complicated, costs Rs 2 and is open only to Indian residents. Fortunately, we can do an unofficial online poll here.

All are welcome to cast a vote for who they think will be the next Indian Idol in about 30 days. If you'd like to leave an explanation of why you picked a particular contestant, leave us a comment.

More Indian Idol 3 polls:
Who will be eliminated next?
Who is your favorite judge?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Indian Idol 3: Shabana Azmi and the public shredding of Anu Malek

I'll confess I am not a big fan of Shabana Azmi. How much not a fan? I thought her best movie was Parvarish (some pictures and a review if you're interested over at Beth's). This is the cause of some alarm in my house because my wife (who I admit is smarter than me) thinks Shabana is a goddess. So I was more than a little cagey when she showed up recently on Indian Idol 3 as a replacement for husband Javed Akhtar.

But her work on the show was delightful. She could easily have smiled and played good cop - no one would have held it against her. Instead she dissected performances with grace, didn't overcompensate or adjust any judgement and made sure she kept everyone's chin up.

And then when Anu Malek went after Emon Chatterjee, she let him have it. "You shouldn't discourage competitors this way!" she thundered. This was much fun to watch - someone finally shutting Malek up, albeit momentarily. (Hopefully Alisha Chinai took some notes on how to project and wield power. Hint: no peals of giggling). Right after the performances, some of the contestants' comments that filtered through showed growing discontent in the ranks.

More was to follow for Malek. In the second show, the hosts singled out Emon and showed clips of the junta shaking their heads at Malek and showing their support for Emon. Malek swallowed hard and said something to save face that I still can't understand.

Now whether this slows down the man or not remains to be seen. A better critique of Emon came from Alisha who pointed out that Emon sounded worse than before and he was stuck in a rut. And speaking of singing, its interesting how the equation has changed. The two most consistent voices now belong to Deepali and Amit Paul.

Both excelled last week, particularly Amit, who as ~mad munky~ astutely pointed out, seemed to be the sole contestant who put voice before performance. It's not every day that Udit Narayan jumps out and risks tripping on his achkan to come and congratulate someone on stage.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Polls: The real reality bites

MindRush suggested Indian Idol 3 and Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2007 polls recently. I love polls. And there are plenty of free poll sites that allow you to create widgets you can embed in a blog.

But when I actually went out there and tried them I'll be darned: they all max out the number of poll answers at 10. Which means I can't fit in the Indian Idol or the SRGMP contestants in a poll until a little bit later.

So here is one instead on the judges on Indian Idol. Voting on the poll will show you the current results.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa 2007: Who's next?

Reader Rupal suggested recently that we try and figure out who's next to get the boot on SRGMP and Indian Idol. Before we get into that, a reminder that you can vote online for your favorites. You get one vote per email you make up. Hey, don't look at me like that - I always only vote once like I'm supposed to. Last week I voted for Aneek because the poor kid got pasted - rather undeservedly - by Ismail Darbar.

In any case, here is what is left on SRGMP.

Mussarat Abbas
Nirupama Dey
Joy Chakroborthy
Aneek Dhar

Junaid Shaikh
Harpreet Deol
Raja Hasan

Mauli Dave
Sumedha Karmahe
Abhijit Kosambi

Amanat Ali
Rimi Dhar
Poonam Yadav

I thought this situation through. There is no way I'm touching Raja, Poonam, Amanat and Aneek. Mauli is way too popular with the masses. Harpreet has been recently resurgent. Mussarat, if you forgive his indifferent singing last week, is pretty good. I'd be too scared to vote out Abhijit - that man looks like he could kill someone. Junaid rocks. Apurva is such a hard worker and solid singer. And Sumedha has already been declared the "Bhritni Spheyar of India" by Bappi.

This leaves Nirupama, Joy and Rimi. And its a tough call - but I agree with Rupal because Rimi's spunky but terribly shaky and breathless rendition of Reshammiya's "Yeh tera mera milna" stood out enough that it will result in her exit.

What do you folks think?

Indian Idol 3: Mini's style and Hussain's straining suits

Coco Chanel, the marvelous French fashion designer of the 60s and 70s once said about dressing up that you should take one thing off before leaving the house. I've grown up in a Parsi family in India and no one seems to understand this better than Parsi women. Sure, some of those who walked around Mumbai in baby frocks back in the day should have been given traffic tickets. But for the most part, when it came to dressing up, Parsi women do it lightly and look fabulous.

And I mention this because Mini Mathur - the splendid host of Indian Idol 3 - reminds me of this philosophy. She always seems to know exactly how much glitter to put on her game face. If she dresses subtly, she accessorizes richly. If she has a glittery dress on, she tones down everything else. Compare this to say Sarika Singh on Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2007 who once showed up in an outfit with enough going on to give the entire color spectrum an inferiority complex (this seems to be a common malaise on that show as a reader recently pointed out).

Which brings me to her co-host Hussain Khuwajirwala - who I find to be immensely energetic, likable and complementary to Mini. More often than not he combines excellent colors on his suits but its the shiny ones he wears that are a bit problematic. I haven't seen Hussain in full-on Salman Khan mode but clearly he is ripped. And those bulging biceps crinkle up his suit and distract the heck out of me.

Its not envy - really. It's just that I can't bear to watch a man with a suit that looks to have shrunk on him. God alone knows what would happen if a tall contestant came on the show and caused Hussain to really stretch on a high-five.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What exactly is a "mindblowing mahiya"?

The growing use of the word "mindblowing' has been causing me some consternation lately. Everywhere you look people seem to be saying it. How's that song? Mindblowing! What do you think of the new Himesh Reshammiya movie? Mindblowing! Would you like sugar with your coffee? Mindblowing!

Now we have Vishal-Shekhar giving us this single from the soundtrack of a movie named Cash starring Ajay Devgan, Ritesh Deshmukh, Zayed Khan, Esha Deol, Shamita Shetty, Suniel Shetty and Diya Mirza.

It's called "MYND-blowing mahiya" (thanks to Amrita for the correct pronunciation) and features Shamita Shetty looking glossy and doing dance steps inspired by PT class. Yes, you heard that title right!

But what exactly does mindblowing mean? This is a question that keeps me awake at night. Quite simply mindblowing is used to indicate that it provokes feelings of intense emotion - so much emotion that the mind might blow up. For a moment ignore the fact that the if you opened up a human body, you couldn't find anything labeled "mind". Does anyone know what mindblowing might look like?

Fortunately for all of us, I recently watched the cultishly comic movie Tenacious D: In the Pick of Destiny. And a scene in the movie provides us with the answer.

In the movie Jack Black dozes off and daydreams about suddenly becoming a godly rock star after having struck an ungodly deal with the devil. In full glam-rock mode, he issues a bellow causing someone to experience instant "mindblowing". "Sorry" sings Black "I did not mean to blow your mind"

You can see the entire scene from the movie here. Take a good look people. Would you want a mahiya to do that to you? I didn't think so. Order cancel, boss.

Monday, July 09, 2007


Somewhere in Transmetropolitan: back on the street, the main protagonist Spider Jerusalem is questioned by bouncers on his way to a bar for an interview. So annoyed is he that he mercilessly beats the men to pulp. "I don't have to put up with this shabby crap!" he snarls just as he is about to stomp on them with his studded boots "I am a journalist!"

Spider Jerusalem used to be a gonzo-journalist. When we first meet him he's become a secessionist of sorts - choosing to live in isolation in the mountains away from the cesspool of the city. His hair runs down the small of his back, a straggly beard covers his face - he struts around naked, his body covered with tattoos and the soles of his feet dotted with blisters. People annoy him. He's hilariously filthy when he speaks. And he has a propensity for violence.

Jerusalem's hand is forced by his book publishers - who demand the two books he has been paid an advance for. However the money is long gone and Jerusalem needs both a job and the stimulus of a metropolitan area in order to deliver to his contract. He enters the city and lands himself a gig as a columnist. His automatic shower renders him hairless. A matter synthesizer gives him camera-sunglasses - with a circular red lens and a rectangular green lens. Jerusalem struts around town - looking like Keannu Reeves in Matrix: Punk Revolutions.

Writer Warren Ellis stages his futuristic vision carefully. He shows us the changes in the social fabric brought about by technology. And he is able to extend that vision to show us how these changes are further being circumvented by society. All of this happens seamlessly in the story - people make references to technology and use it with humor and familiarity - making the setting feel natural.

Take Jerusalem's "maker" for instance - a matter synthesizer that creates objects from garbage - is a terribly worn futuristic "invention", appearing in sci-fi projects from the beginning of time so to say. But Ellis tweaks this delightfully. The maker pops up a hologram of Marlon Brando from the Godfather. "I am a Godti 101 Maker" it says and eyeing Jerusalem's cigarette further announces "And I am not your fucking ashtray". Turns out the mafia-made Maker is on drugs.

Darick Robertson illustrates the comic book and his framing is superb. Mixing elements of cartoon, punk, horror and graffiti, he creates panels that are energetic and enjoyable.

Transmetropolitan is published by DC's Vertigo label.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Kids Picture Books: The Iguana Brothers

I'll be honest and say that I picked up Tony Johnston's The Iguana Brothers: A Tale of Two Lizards because it had one of those shiny circular jagged edge golden stickers on it - those that proclaim awards and rope in parents who want their kids exposed to decorated material.

On closer inspection the sticker said "Presenting a tale of two lizards". But since the book had made its way into my hands I opened it. And the wonderful illustrations by Mark Teague reminded me vaguely of one of my comic book favorites - Rick Leonardi. Enough that I then read the entire thing. And I was so charmed by it that I ended up reading it to my sons, 6 and 9, who both loved it.

So what's so great about the book? Tom and Dom are two brothers who live in Mexico. They are both laid back and spend most of their times sunning themselves and ruminating about life. Early on after some back and forth Tom decides to become a vegetarian. Then he embarks on convincing his brother that they are dinosaurs. Together they decide to rule a leaf. And when Dom expresses his love for the twinkling stars in the Iguana constellation at night, Tom sets off to find a friend for Dom.

The Iguana Brothers for me was a tale of brotherly love. But what it does a great job of capturing is the easy-rider dudeness of male siblings. There are a lot of Mexican words woven deftly into the narrative and if you can essay a Mexican accent, you'll have a lot of fun reading the book to your kids. The book is also handily read by a 7 year old.

The illustrations reflect the relaxed narrative. And they are complex enough that multiple reads continue to be interesting.

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa 2007: Contract or competition?

There has been some squabbling going on on SRGMP these days. And it has been over the surprise inclusion of the two regional SRGMP winners into the contest - Aneek Dhar (Bengal) and Abhijit (Maharashtra).

Vishal and Shekhar got an early earful of one of those singers - Aneek - and they decided this was well and good with them. They really believe that Aneek would raise the stakes for the show. Ismail Darbar - on the other hand - refused to acknowledge that these winners could be given direct entry into the agnipariksha. Now, I do agree with Ismail Darbar but this jhagda sounds fake and unnecessary.

First, this is a contractual issue for ZeeTV. It has to be sorted out with them - and if the gurus didn't know the format or rules, its the producers' bad for not informing them beforehand. But particularly excruciating was the way Darbar went about his business - by throwing darts at the two hapless contestants who were working really hard and turning in excellent performances.

Finally, in a rather comical but delightfully watchable sankat ki ghadi, the House of Reshammiya begged Darbar for a personal favor. Darbar relented trying to make a confounding connection between his granting of the favor and "Aap Ka Suroor" becoming a hit. And both kids were in.

This is good because Aneek can really rock the house with his voice. And his caps are beginning to grow on me. We also got a look at his head (lots of hair you suspicious people) when he opened the show with the entire Rock gharana. Note to Aneek: there can be only one cap on the stage and you know whose head is going to be wearing that!

Also a quick note on Poonam Yadav, who after Sarika (whose exit was predicted by a reader) remains the strongest among the female contenders. Its ballsy to take on Shilpa Rao's smooth and powerful rendition of "Tose Naina Laage". But not only did she take that chance, but sang with such confidence and pleasure that even though she was found wanting, it sounded good and you felt like rooting for her.