Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Meera bye: Mush fines actress for getting mushy on Indian screen

During his trips abroad, Parvez Musharraf loves to boast about how he pulled his country out of a dangerous medieval morass, the truth is that women in his country are still measured with medieval tapes.

While Pakistani men can make merry from Islamabad to Eternity, a Pakistani Meera cannot even enact a kissing scene. And if the man she's enacting kissing happens to be an Indian, Allah have mercy. Because, Musharraf's modern government will not.

The Pakistani government has slapped a heavy fine on popular Pakistani actress Meera (the picture pops up)for performing a kissing scene in Bollywood film Nazar. And it's not stopping there. The government now plans to ban Pakistani actors from appearing in Indian movies.

The ministry of culture has imposed a heavy fine (the amount not disclosed yet, still in purdah) on Meera as her actions were against "Islamic ethics and moral values," an information ministry spokesman was quoted as saying in reports on Wednesday. Yes you read right, it's the government's ministry of culture and not some rabid Taliban turbaned mullah. And by the way, Pakistani actors (male ones) have acted in Indian films, snogged with Indian actresses, and that never violated their ethics and moral values.

Meera is seen kissing Ashmit Patel in Mahesh Bhatt's new film Nazar, which has prompted the government to impose the fine. The government is also considering imposition of a ban on Pakistani actors from acting in Indian films following protests over some "vulgar" scenes featuring Meera in Bhatt's film.

Meera recently claimed in Mumbai that she had received threatening phone calls from people claiming to represent religious groups in Pakistan for acting in Indian films.

She is the first film actress to speak about such a problem as a number of Pakistani film personalities have stepped up their association with the Mumbai film industry.

Several Indian film actors have also been visiting Pakistan in periodic intervals to interact with the local film industry. Leading the pack of Indian industrywallahs has been Mahesh Bhatt. Ironical?

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

I am such a son of a beach!

Sun, sand, sea and palms

How pleasant to sit on the beach,
On the beach, on the sand, in the sun,
With ocean galore within reach,
And nothing at all to be done!
—Ogden Nash

I am back from Goa, salt in my hair, sand in my pants, beer in my belly and a song on my lips.

So what did I do? I had taken books I couldn’t finish. I did not go sight-seeing. I did not visit the happening places, skipped the famous rave parties. I didn’t have time from doing nothing at all, “with ocean galore within reach”.

I had breakfast on the beach, before I jumped into the Arabian Sea’s open arms. I had lunch in my swimming shorts (I had not taken trunks), which would dry by the time I finished my lazy lunch. And it was back to the sea again. The dinner too, except one odd night, was right next to the rising tide. And it was fish, always. There was a variety to be savoured.

I have not forgotten how to swim. It was a relief to know that after not swimming for nearly seven years. I did venture away from the shore quite a few times and did that without any fear.

That’s about it. But I will be back. There’s something in the white sand of South Goa.

(PS: God give us all long life in shorts and t-shirts. To hell with trousers.)

Living in an artificial world of his own creation

Nepal has again caught apna Natwar unawares. New Delhi has not done much and said little. It's too early to expect a tough stance from the thoughtful Natwar, but let us hope it's not too late. Meanwhile, I find my tribe growing. Check this out. Rajinder Puri in Outlook has a word of advice for Natwar Singh: "Natwar Singh ridicules balance of power theories. He should instead recall Pandit Nehru lamenting he had lived 'in an artificial world of his own creation'. "

Sunday, February 06, 2005

The Lord of the DVDs

This Friday was a lovely day. I received my box of The Lord of the Rings - The Motion Picture Trilogy (Special Extended DVD Edition) (2004) from Amazon.

To say that I am an LOTR fan will be an understatement. I do not think it's the best movie ever made, but definitely one of the best in the longest movie category. And yes, I do not think it's a trilogy, it's one film that we get to see in three installments.

I did see the movie on the big screen in installments. And then, I bought DVDs in installments, first pirated copies because I couldn't wait. Then the original copies, as they reached Indian shores.

The first one--he Fellowship of the Ring--released by Indus here was fullscreen and the transfer was totally crappy, worse than those from the Palika pirates. The Two Towers was a better release, brought to India by Saregama HMV. That 2-disc edition had the pride of place in my cupboard. Return of the King hasn't hit our shores yet.

I had been drooling at the extended edition box set since its release. At least once a day. I visit once a day. And finally, it was too much. It takes one click to buy and I said goodbye to my will power and clicked. The box arrived this Friday.

It would have arrived in just two days had I bought from, but the UK DVDs follow the PAL system. I have a DVD player that plays both NTSC and PAL progressive and my TV is progressive scan-capable, but only NTSC progressive.

The DVD player can very ably convert the PAL progressive into NTSC progressive, but it's never pure.

I will explain this a little: What you see as moving picture is a succession of still pictures or frames at a very high speed. PAL is 25 frames per second, NTSC is nearly 30 frames per second (29.976 to be exact). A film goes at the speed of 24 frames per second. When the film is converted to video by PAL, the film is sped up to 25 frames per second, and the audio is altered for pitch and tone, so that there's no lip-sync problem. Since it's sped up, a film is generally 4 per cent shorter on a PAL video, which some people mistake for censuring.

NTSC does that by 3:2 pulldown. According to Euroversion, to transfer the 24fps film to 29.976 NTSC, every fourth frame is divided into two seperate frames to create a fifth frame, causing an "interlaced", or combing pattern on the two new frames, (there are websites dedicated to this subject, do a search for "telecine" or "Interlaced NTSC" and you'll get great explanations, but that's it in a nutshell). NTSC interlacing gives you jittery picture, but progressive scan solves the problem by de-interlacing it.

Anyway, the trouble with PAL progressive video in my room is that, the DVD reads the PAL progressive, then converts it into NTSC and interlaces it, and then deinterlaces it to send it to my TV that interlaces it back for the screen. And I can notice my electronics babies working unnecessarily hard to get me a progressive video.

If I get an NTSC DVD, this is not needed as the DVD does not have to do any conversion. NTSC DVD to NTSC player to NTSC TV. Life is simple.

Anyway, just to let my DVD player have it easy, I waited for five days. This is also a mystery. The orders are shipped from Frankfurt Germany, not the US. The orders are shipped from a small town in England.
The UK order reaches me in two days, the order takes 7-10 days. I do not understand that.

Anyway, back to the LOTR DVD. It's extended, really extended. The films, all three of them, run for almost 11 hours. And then there are so many extras that I would take weeks to watch them all.

Now the trouble is the bill. I am dreading to calculate the price in Indian rupees, because the LOTR box was not the only one I ordered. To save the shipping cost, I went for the kill this time. I need a new storage, but am wondering there's any money left in the account for that.

So has the DVD-buying passion been worth it? Oh, definitely.

Left's song at JNU: Take my soul, not my body

Rail Line body dibo, maatha dibo na. This popular modern Bengali song by Nachiketa roughly means, “I am ready to offer my body, but no I won’t give my head.” The brain, the soul is not on sale. This song comes from the Left bastion of Bengal.

The left bastion in Delhi’s heart is the sprawling campus of Jawahar Lal Nehru University, where a debate rages: Should Nestle India be allowed to open its coffee shop inside the campus.


Their song: maatha dibo, body dibo na. They can sell their soul to foreign thinkers, but can’t have foreign coffee. They forget the fact that their ideologies — Marxism, Leninism and Maoism — are multinational with origins out of India. Now they will say no it’s Indianised. Well then it’s Nestle India, the Indianised Nestle.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Asset Laloo: Findings and perceptions

India’s Rail Minister Laloo Prasad is a national asset, a recent study conducted by experts has concluded. “He is not just a national asset, he is an international asset,” Vaday Wahachar, the head of the study group, told a news conference. He said the findings have no relation with the disproportionate assets case against Yadav.

Yadav has redefined democracy in the Indian state of Bihar he has been lording over for over 15 years. “He has got a name that even Goerge Bush can pronounce, well almost. He has made democracy strong in Bihar by freeing it out of the clutches of the weak, may the strong men win in the forthcoming one too,” Wahachar said.

“He is an all rounder,” IrbaR Ived, Prof. Wahachar’s deputy, said. “He has acted in movies, he is chairman of Bihar cricket association, he is the de jure railway minister of India, he is de facto chief minister of Bihar, he married his daughter to an IT engineer, he can get kidnapped children released,” Ived told the conference, saying she could not count the man’s qualities on her fingers and her toes were hurting.

“President Bush has been looking for a man like Laloo, who has made his contribution to democracy. The Bush administration, committed to democracy, is happy about the elections in Bihar. Recently the Bush administration held democratic elections in Iraq where nearly half of the population that has survived Mr Bush’s war on Iraq went to vote. They braved bullets and said yes to democracy,” Dab Rahib, the American member on the study team, told reporters.

“We expect the survivors in Bihar to brave bullets and vote. Democracy is important,” he added.

The study’s timing has however created a new controversy. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has said the study may help Laloo’s cause. Laloo Prasad however is unperturbed. It doesn’t matter what the media says about me, good or bad.

“My voters are illiterate and are mostly driven to the polling booth by my people, so they vote for me. It’s about perception. Laloo means loved one and that’s the perception. Some 1,000 people died in Gujarat and Narendra Modi is banished for ever. Double that number died in Bhagalpur under Congress rule, but Congress leads the secular front. Perception it is, no?”

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Nepal on the brink, King plays new game of brinkmanship

Half the country had gone to the Maoists. The other half is going to the dogs. >Nepal King sacks govt, assumes power. Natwar needs to wake up, smell the shit, and thank mother earth for the tragic tsunami.

The King, who became king in dubious circumstances after the entire royal family was died in mysterious circumstances, was expected to pay a visit to Delhi but had to postpone the visit because of the tragedy in southern India. Had he been here and gone back and done this, people of Nepal would have hated us. Many in Nepal already hate us enough for playing big brother.

The Himalayan Kingdom had long been the playground for Pakistan’s ISI, which operates in the terai region bordering Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The western and central Nepal has been in total control of the Beijing-backed Maoists.

Kathmandu has been a capital under siege for a year now. The Maoists have established a red corridor that now runs from northern tip of China to the southern tip of India. The Ministry for External Affairs has said it’s watching the developments in Kathmandu. It better make some quick moves too.

Extortion by the government: If it’s illegal, make it legal, or heck, force it to be legal.

The Union government has promulgated an ordinance asking tobacco giant ITC to pay Rs 419 crore in taxes. The taxes were in a dispute that went up to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decision rejected the government demand and instead asked it to pay ITC Rs 350 crores it had extracted from ITC in excessive taxes.

To kill the Supreme Court’s decision, it decided to change the law. Since a Parliament session was still away, it decided to bring in an ordinance.

The case is simple. Cigarettes are sold in packs that have the maximum retail price printed on them. But the small retailers sell cigarettes in loose. Suppose a pack of 20 cigarettes costs Rs 55. One cigarette from that pack should cost Rs 2.75, but the small galla seller would take Rs 3 for one. It works out simpler and the small retailer makes a little extra for selling it loose.

So some 15 years ago, the government asked ITC to pay excise on the basis of the maximum price a cigarette was sold for. ITC went to court saying it would pay at the rate it sells it to the retailer. It won the case.

But the government, to fill its coffers, decided to extort some money.

Extortion of a different kind
I see fresh posters and banners exhorting people to help the victims of December tsunami by donating money to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.

Our forex reserves are brimming, the economy is booming. I still do not understand why the government can’t give a thousand crores to the affected people from its own coffers. That’s less money than what was made in the fodder scam in one of India’s poorest state.

Mrs Gandhi, lie and behold?

Mrs Gandhi has spoken. Her party has promised to normalise law and order in 36 hours. She says law and order must improve. These voices perpetuate the lie that Laloo Yadav rules the state and he's responsible for the pathetic state of Bihar. It's a lie because Laloo and the Congress together rule Bihar. All the Congress MLAs are ministers in Rabri Devi's government. Mrs Gandhi would like to forget that and her talk about law and order gives the impression to the rest of the nation that she has nothing to do with that. You were supposed to be the courageous one, Mrs Gandhi. So stand up and own up. You can't share the spoils and then criticise the loot. Ulta chor chor ko daante!

Noteworthy: MEA goes anal on Iraq vote

India’s external affairs ministry, headed by the man in a timewarp Natwar Singh, finally responded to Iraq’s landmark Sunday elections. The world’s largest democracy was too anal to believe as it said a few noteworthy words about the first signs of democracy in Iraq in 50 years.
“The holding of elections is a noteworthy development.” Noteworthy, huh?
Mr Singh doesn't have much time from trying to resurrect the a dead body called non-aligned movement. Looks like he has finally decided to take note of other developments in the world.