Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I am media?

It has been worrying me right through the broadcast of the Mumbai 26/11 incident and further when I read the keen effort behind the meaningful work like Mark Tully or some old reportage of Marquez. As an ardent fan of right representation of information I feel cheated when I can intelligently put the truth together and when I see a seemingly detailed yet superficial illustration of things that matter, in the media.

It gets worse when it gets sensational and stupid. Picture Barkha Dutt walking up to bedsheets hanging from a window in that cursed hotel talking about how people used that as a lifeline, mindlessly repeating the same thing. Where is the homework? Reportage is like my daughters fighting over who is first. Analysis is about supplying verbiage and making people cry. Presentation is intrusive, voyeuristic and worse, narcissistic (Arnab from Times Now should be seated in front of a two-way mirror).

We need a media entity that is observant, non-intrusive, analytical and acts as a catalyst to reach solutions. I think social media has a power to be just that. See this

(On a completely bitchy note, the high pitched yapping pup din of all of the Prannoy protégés are appalling - Rajdeep, Arnab and Barkha)

Can we?

Last week was traumatic for every Indian on this planet as we were going through disbelief, anger, incomprehension, concern for all of us who remain and recovery. We cursed and blamed everything in sight over all this - religions, countries, politicians, bureaucrats, luxury hotels, fishermen, news anchors and more.

I believe that this calls for an attitudinal change that erases the grey spaces in rules. How can I drive without a license in India? How can I evade tax? How can I enter a secure zone when a dumb PVC tube metal detector beeps and the policeman is reading hindi pulp? Our comfortable mid ground in everything is the easily penetrable no man's land. Our security too stays on this mid ground.

If we can come to consensus that as citizens we will not break or flex a rule, will assist others to stay on the acceptable side and will create a wee bit of order in this enjoyable chaos of India, we probably will notice an anomaly earlier. When will we hold our elbows tight and stand in a queue?

But can we? Can I?

Monday, September 01, 2008

A Director's Profile

I was given this task of writing Indrajit Nattoji's profile to be published wherever necessary. Being a long-standing friend helped me write this piece and have fun doing it. Watch his movie when it is out and tell me if all this is true. His profile follows:

Indrajit Nattoji is a movie maker with an exotic combination of narrative panache and irreverent humour. He has always been comfortable in placing the mundane or the real against a complex perspective of human experiences that creates his brand of jocular art. Indrajit also has the ability to blend organic storytelling with the precise craft of cinema.

He began his career as a documentary filmmaker, which again is a fabulous excuse to get an all-paid trip around the country with a camera of your choice. This taught him relevant skills in deconstructing a real situation into intelligent modes of presentation. He also recognised the hidden irony in fleeting instances of the world.

He would have remained in that illusory realm of roaming about playing mouth organ with his bare hands if not for love. He fell head over heels for the Ford Mustang and consummating needed money.

He traded his ideals for moolah and tighter narratives when he started a production company in New Delhi called Watermark.

On recognising the mutual match in the genre of storytelling Channel V hired him as a Senior Producer and he moved to Mumbai to work with them for three years. These three years sharpened his wit, added style to his imagery and strengthened his managerial skills. Then he decided to start his own gig called Blink Pictures - a production house that jaywalked the roads of advertising commercials to glory. He rose to fame brushing shoulders (even if he had to stand on a step ladder) with celebrities like Hrithik Roshan and John Abraham as he directed them for endorsed products.

By now, he was a fully evolved film maker who was invited to flaunt his knowledge on 'Popular Street Culture and Advertising' in public by Promax BDA Los Angeles Conference. He did that well too. More international and Indian accolades followed.

Indrajit decided to move on to the greater plains of feature length movies with style and witticism. He recently decided to get married, push weights at the gym and make his first feature film all at the same time. Soon he will be introduced as a man with wit on top, washer-board abs in the middle, a smiling wife by his side and a few hits behind him.

Now, they say, there is a Ford Mustang somewhere heartbroken and pining.

Indrajit Nattoji is a Communication Graduate from National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, with a specialization in Film and Graphic Design.


Friday, August 01, 2008

Going Vernacular

I spent three days in Hyderabad doing a progress check and start developing the district tabloid for Sakshi, the newspaper that we designed along with Dr Mario Garcia of Garcia Media, Tampa, FL. Mario has published a new post on his blog that talks in detail about Sakshi, the newspaper (with a neat credit to Apparatus). Thank you Mario.

Follow this link to read it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Too wide a spread for forty

I am officially over the hill. I am forty. I have started squinting at small text, watch what I eat, pass time intensely listening for aberrations within my body, talk about it with others, workout as if life depends on it (does it?), examine my belly whenever time permits and try to upgrade to business with no specific purpose. Overall I have become more self obsessed with a veneer of maturity. I am growing old. This post is not to lament about my age and related inconveniences. It is about one breakfast on a rainy Wednesday.

Marriott in Hyderabad, used to be Viceroy earlier, perches over the Hussain Sagar lake. If you can manage to coax the guy at the lobby to give you a lake facing room you have a fabulous view too. Let us cut to the breakfast.

I have not seen such a wide spread in any other boarder. There were house baked goodies - Danish, Croissants, Prune cakes (bowel movement catalyst for the ET reader), cream doughnuts and more. There was South Indian - Pooris, Idlis, Vadas with Bhaji, Sambar and Chutney of astonishing texture and taste. There were parathas and eggs to order. There was another section with no specific nomen clature that had baked beans, potato wedges, grilled mushrooms, baked eggs, breakfast pizzas, bacon, sausages, and grilled chicken with veggies. You walk further to fruits and drinks. There was a well appointed coffee counter with a bored barista who could whip out espresso shots to lactose intelorance nightmare coffee. I was in an intimidating food wonderland.

Yet I stayed sane and limited my breakfast to six whites omelette, grilled veggies, one croissant, one idli and an espresso shot chased with still water.

As I said earlier, I am way mature for a wide spread.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Jalota Jungle

Picture this. You walk out of the elevator into a low-lit slatted wooden ramp with rope nets on either side. The ceiling is covered with plastic foliage - stiff, oily and shining. The floor is mottled with halogen shadows of the leaves. You can hear high treble noises of the jungle through some tinny speakers that you cannot see. You walk further to be greeted by a suited maitre’d of this restaurant on a roof in Banjara Hills. This is Serengeti – a bizarre world of awadhi cuisine served in a tacky copy of Amazon jungle named after an African plain.

The waiters are all dressed like desi Dr Livingstone with pith solar hats and starched khaki gear. They resemble malnourished native helpers standing along with sahibs in faded old retro photos of the Raj.

There are also strange animatronic and partially truncated menagerie to add to this chaos. If you are eating smoothly minced fried Galouti kababs at the second level you will observe a life size shiny giraffe moving his head jerkily towards you. The Galouti dropped from my mouth and you better hold on to yours. The giraffe stands at the level below with his head poking through the foliage to the level you are on exercising his right to watch you eat every once in a while. Do not tell me that I did not warn you.

There are more animal accessories like a mutant python with an extra large head (or was it an anaconda?) languorously wrapped on fiberglass branch above the bar stools that are illustrations of animal rumps. We should stay on the bar stools a little longer. I once saw a large man sit on the bar stool that was a zebra hip down (if the zebra was standing on his hind legs) from the back. In that darkness with thin spots of halogen it was very authentic. I was sure that it was a striped centaur ordering a Bacardi Breezer at the bar, in a plastic jungle, on the roof of a hotel in Banjara Hills. Very authentic!

The awadhi food, though very rich, is not so bad. The music is always ghazals with a preference to Anup Jalota. Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pearls of fine dining

Often I have noticed that an out of gamut question like ‘who designed this place?’ to a waiter in Bangalore will intimidate him/her to blurt out a sequence of guttural noises as if I asked him the square root of an eighteen digit number in Swahili. Having said this I should add that the fine dining restaurants in Hyderabad are well designed. They are typically designed by architects with an eye for the appropriate (in Bangalore they are probably designed by butchers or venture capitalists). The waiters are informed, hospitable and have a few things to say about your choice of food too. A remarkable change from the quizzical daze back at home.

I have nothing to do after seven in the evening when I travel. So what do I do? I find better places to eat dinners.

I am in Hyderabad on a long running project and that is exactly what I have been doing. So here I am propounding on a relational study of fine dining between hometown and this new winding swish avatar of the twin cities.

Lebanese was the unanimous choice last night and we landed up in the swank place on Road #2 Banjara Hills in a mall – Zafraan Laguna was the name. The mezze platter was immaculately presented with deep marinated meats three delectable dips of eggplant, chick peas, sour cream and Tabouleh – fine cut parsley mixed with onions, cinnamon, lemon zest and olive oil. The chicken was crispy outside and soft flavored inside. The last I have eaten a similar meal was at Fadi’s Mediterranean Grill in a Dallas suburb. We also got ourselves a grilled river sole, Lebanese style. This did not disappoint us either. Without much ado the fish was cajoled to fill our soul. The adjective here is succulent.

Today we were assaulted by chopped green peppers, comparable to the formidable habanero, hidden in our working lunch sandwiches. I had to call the fire brigade.

This does not deter us from our search for the perfect dinner. We were not too hungry and opted for Malaysian soup and starters – Amana on Road #12 (what’s with these numbers?). The waiter knew that traditional Malaysian carpenters designed the place. Though located in an upmarket wannabe mall, the restaurant from the inside is put together like a renovated heritage home – as spacious as a colonial bungalow. Double height ceiling with a look-down mezzanine, a dark wood bar tucked under it and large fake windows mounted on the walls to complete the mis en scene.

The saltwater jumbo prawn satay was a work of art. The peanut sauce was well textured and perfect. I supplemented this with a crab soup with coriander and egg whites threaded in. The most optimal, satisfying and yet easy-on-you dinner I have had in the near past.

At that point I realized that the Nawabs have moved on with their traditional haleem and biryani for a new set of fine gourmet diners in this city of pearls.

There was also an exception. I will not pollute this post with a rant. Watch this space.