Archive for March, 2008

If you can

One of my favourite poems that I keep repeating to hopefully keep me level-headed in office:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

– Rudyard Kipling


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I have always been suprised at the way websites work. I mean the way they go picking the brains of other websites. I had worked on a story for Medindia on Dr Ian Simpson: http://www.medindia.net/news/interviews/The-RIGHT-Way-to-Deal-With-Snakebites-Ask-Dr-Simpson-32986-1.htm

and imagine my suprise when I see it on http://forums.kingsnake.com/view.php?id=1475688,1475688

The same thing has happened earlier. I had done an interview with wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales for News Today http://www.newstodaynet.com/26feb/ss2.htm

and suprises of suprises I see it on http://randex.org/index.php/weblog/2007/02/

I wonder If I give an article for DC, will Asian Age do the needful and just upload it on to their site? Would look better on my resume…

And meanwhile, my animation story has also got recycled and I saw its new avatar on India forum. com, without the slightest clue what is Indiaforum or how my article landed up there.


And the funnier part is all these sites give a link to the original. While I don’t have a high opinion of me or my articles, I wonder what posessed them to do this… I heard of websites operating on a policy of Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V….

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Life Down The Cyber HighwayBy D.R. Chitra(http://groups.yahoo.com/group/journalismonline/post?postID=MF1hozEJNsHxDlS5MJGeQEto3DiqoiS8AYxVQa5hIngKnDA3KgGg9QMzjvFjzln4prdL5Kkiw1cGWF-7jQ)

11.30 in the night. The MP3 collections were getting downloaded at snail’s pace. Deadline for the karoke was tommorow night 9.00. Rohit yawned and kept playing a desultory game of minesweeper, occasionally checking the download process. Just a lot of junk mail and a few ads popped up, which he quickly deleted.

The ad for Shaadi.com with a picture of awell-groomed couple and two sets of idiotically grinning parents alone refused to go. He felt frustrated and started clicking on End Task. When suddenly he was seized with the impulse “Why not?”. No harm in checking out the site with a false ID, after all he wasn’t going to end up married. He knew it would be a punishable offense, but curiosity woudn’t kill this cat, and what the heckIndia wasn’t America.

It was this very same impulsiveness that had made MTV select him as a roadie for its Madras-Manipur trip, made Wilson College refuse to have anything to do with him even before he had completed his first semester, and had also made him DJ at the Meridien with his precious little know-how on music. He had four Ids 1-work, 2-friends, (not too sharp a line of demarcationbetween the first two), 3-family, 4-for all the X things he was interested in ranging from sex to salvation. He had made a lot of queer friends and the experience, as he consoled his troubled conscience, was highly educative.

He decided against all four especially the fourth, as he had only recently done some online chatting in an adults only website. He started filling out the form for a new Id, when it struck him, since itwould be a false email Id, why not go the whole hog and become a totallydifferent person. So he made out his name to be Reshma Agnihotri, got his Id and went back to shaadi.com. He started filling out the particulars, including the column for parents. He was feeling slightly revolted by the questions asked which were downright racist, sexist and casteist. The final application made him or rather her out to be 25, single, software engineer, salary-25,000 (at least that part was true).

For the rest of the story you can read http://groups.yahoo.com/group/journalismonline/message/59

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TV Channels: Twisting The ScripturesBy ————–D.R. Chitra(http://groups.yahoo.com/group/journalismonline/post?postID=EWqc0kDZEnKSK_UfhDwObSfP7D4JwEqsAIeWgsgYdl0MIdLKZS3vppEIADQ5LZ3XLq4KgP6NTV_k9VuLERzH)

Anti-Christian broadcasting networks are exactly what GOD TV and CBN are though they claim to be otherwise. Both these channels have extensive networks in all the five continents. GOD TV has its base inBritain, and CBN is an American channel.

Though they may disagree onvarious issues (divorce, PMS, Human GM), they all managed to reach a consensus on the Iraq war. CBN’s mascot during the war was undoubtedly George. W. Bush Jr.
Evenafter the ‘45 minute claim‘ and the ‘uranium import‘ were proved to be false, the 700 Club still did a show on how well Bush can get along with Christians of all denominations. You had commanders-in-chief testifying to his bravery (by staying in the Home Guard), pastors commending him for making Texas crime-free (by the simple means of sending the maximum number of people to the electric chair)… You even had snapshots of the President, the Security Adviser and many of his close aides kneeling down for prayer at the White House.
God TV, not to be left behind, came up with a Tony Blair special, in which we see Blair holding the Bible at a public meet, after the invasion, proudly declaring, “I am ready to meet my Maker today.”The very same week, there was another programme on the Axis of Evil. Even now if you visit the 700 Club official website, you can read so much on the Saddam Hussein-Charles Taylor-Osama bin Laden link, North Korea‘s nuclear programme, the Talibans in Afghanistan, that one wonders if they shape the American Foreign Policy and issue the White House Press handouts.
CBN’s coverage of the war began with Bush proclaiming “I AM A WAR PRESIDENT” and studio people shouting ‘halleluiah‘ and ‘praise theLord’. CBN also used footage of CNN’s ‘Freedom Iraq’ for its news special. Though only 20-25% of the programmes are politically oriented, they serve very well as ‘Weapons of Mass Distraction’.
Andrew Wommack (GOD TV — Gospel Truth) has the constant refrain “We are waging a Holy War.” This one line pretty much sums up theideology of most preachers such as Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Oral Roberts, Graham Junior (Billy Graham‘s son). Benny Hinn who was recently in Mumbai for a Miracle Crusade said in prayer, “I thank youGod for this wonderful opportunity (the Iraq War) you have given us, to preach the Gospel to these newly liberated people.” Wommack and Copeland are so hawkish that Rumsfield pales in comparison. Even if it was a matter of “an eye for an eye,” must thousands die and millions be left homeless in Afghanistan, because 2000 died at the WTC? After this you had 24-hour gospel channels filming Mrs. Blair’s interactions with the ‘liberated’ Afghan women.
Not satisfied with my tirade against the money-minting religious channels? You can read the original at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/journalismonline/message/56

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If you’re a working journalist, whose ambit is Chennai, the first mission of your life should be getting a placement in the Times of India. The TOI, which has been promising to come for many years, has finally got bored with the hype of arriving and decided to get the irksome job of getting to Chennai done and over with.
So landed TOI HR personnel, machines, baggage and all…..And no they did’nt advertise. Advertised recruitment drives are for measly papers with a circulation of less than 1 lakh (by the way this should not be construed as any hit at the New Indian Express, Chennai). For the TOI, advertising is more elite – only word of mouth. Or maybe the word of mouth stuff is a discrete cost cutting measure.
Anyway, the average TOI Chennai aspirant had to try his luck at the great, grand TOI. And applying for a company in the conservative circles of Chennai is not as easy as you think. First thing one has to get leave for the interview. And for that one has to be good at inventing stuff. “My grandmother is sick. She’s on her deathbed.” “Im suffering from writer’s block, tennis elbow, hepatitis, or even better mental depression…” are just a few excuses to give to the boss.
But for all you know when the boss is scolding you for taking too much leave, he/she might actually be thinking; “Will I get the job in TOI? What If I don’t? I’ll have to explain why a whole lot of people stampeded out of my office. And what if I meet this guy in the TOI office during the interview? Or even worse this loser gets the job and I don’t?”
So the boss decided to leave you in the lurch and not give you leave in the greater interests of his own career in TOI. Then you’ll have to squeeze in the interview between the hours you were supposed to have been in office.
The TOI guys are going to be here for three days. But its going to be three days of hell for the average TOI aspirant.
TOI aspirant to another reporter in the same beat: “Machan, I have some urgent work. I heard you’re attending the same press conference. Can you tell me what happened later?”
Another reporter: “Machan. I wanted to ask the same thing. My wife is not feeling well. So can you tell what happened there…”
(Deep silence. Mutual suspicion)
Both TOI aspirants hang up.
End result: All dignitaries will have to face empty chairs for the next three days in press conferences, business lunches and all the other events for which people want journalists to grace the attention.
And those who don’t want to be part of the TOI herd are dismissed as people who have to a) take up permanent residenship in Kilpauk IMH b) neurotic c) have enough money – damn the filthy rich and the cover-taking journalists or d) people who want to apply to TOI later after they get their annual hikes and increments in their current office.
(I suddenly realised I’ve used more than 14 TOIs in the post. Just shows the overall TOI fixation doesn’t it?)
Rachel Chitra

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(Above: The best part about this story that got chucked by DC, because they deemed manikandan had got enough publicity, is the promo stills I got)
With Om Shanti Om, running to packed houses within a week of its release; cameraman V.Manikandan’s star seems to be definitely on the rise in both Bollywood and Kollywood. A cinematographer, who’s delivered a string of hits like Anniyan, Kuch Naa Kaho and Main Hoon Na, he has won greater prominence after his recent tryst with Farah and Shah Rukh.On what made Om Shanti Om click, his one word answer is Shah Rukh. He goes on to describe Farah and Shah Rukh as the dream team to work with. Surprisingly, Shah Rukh’s star presence in no way intimidated him, he says, adding that king Khan was the most unassuming and accommodating person he had to work with.

The much talked about 31-star studded title track Deewangi was one of the most difficult scenes to shoot. What started out as a six-heroine starrer ended up as a mega dance sequence. ” Once word got around that Farah was shooting an item number with so and so, everyone got interested and wanted to jump onto the bandwagon. We had celebrities coming at all odd hours for the shoot. Preity Zinta turned up at around midnight once. We sometimes had to shoot with only two stars on the set,” he says.

Having had the distinction of turning even slightly angular beauties like Shilpa Shetty and Sushmita Sen into drop-dead, gorgeous sirens on screen, he says that there is no such thing as having a naturally photogenic face. “Of course, I have heard that people like Shobana don’t need make-up to look beautiful. But all the girls I have worked with have had to have make-up, special lighting and tuck-ins for me to do justice to their beautiful selves,” says Manikandan.
Though a veteran in the field, he says even he felt thrilled when Dharmendra, Jitendra came to the sets. He says it was a little tricky making the stars of by-gone years look as glamorous as their younger counterparts. “We had to make Subhash Ghai wear a high-neck shirt and loads of make-up to cover his double chin.”

“The film was colossal and grandiose in terms of everything – glamour, style, money, etc. And Farah wanted it that way,” he reminisces.In terms of editing, recapturing the 1970s retro look in the film was far from easy.

“While we could easily copy the styles and costumes of those days, when it came to lighting we had a problem. We had long discussions on whether it would be better to stick to the absurdities of the era or make compromises. In the end, I used soft lighting and all the best that technology had to offer as the harsh lighting of the 70s would not have matched the aesthetic sensibilities of today’s audience,” says Manikandan. We also had to remove huge 50-storyed skyscrapers from Mumbai’s landscape during editing to be more authentic, he adds.

A film institute student, who had to come up the hard way, it took four backbreaking years in the Tamil film industry before he got his break as a cameraman in Atharmam. “It was a low-budget film, in which every take counted. The luxury of doing a Shankar’s film, with great-looking sets and as many as takes as needed for that one perfect shot, came much later. But working for films like Atharmam was good training,” says Manikandan.
One of the few artists, who has made a successful transition from the Tamil film industry to the Hindi one, he feels that we have a lot to learn from North Indians in terms of professionalism and discipline on the sets. “Here, sometimes we have just one toilet for a 250-crew set, while in Mumbai, everyone had their own suite, complete with attached bathrooms on the sets.”

“Also Tamil films never get completed as per schedule. For instance in Anniyan, the shooting was erratic; things got delayed and I did not have any dates to complete the film in the end. So cinematographer Ravi Verma had to take over from where I left,” he says.

Describing himself as an ad filmmaker (he has about 500 ad films to his credit as on date) who makes brief forays into filmdom to make his presence felt, he feels that filmmaking is a taxing art unlike ad production. “Even now I had to turn down a Hollywood film, produced by Warner Bros, because I desperately needed a break after Om Shanti Om,” says Manikandan.

Manning cameras might be exciting, but sometimes it could get a little too exciting for safety, according to this ace cameraman. While shooting the fire sequence for Shah Rukh’s blockbuster, a cylinder had burst barely a few yards from where Manikandan was standing. While he escaped, two other technicians on the set were injured.

And while daredevil stunts like shooting from a copter, while being suspended on ropes, might sound exciting; it is the reverse in reality, he says. While shooting for the famous ” Oh Sukumari” song for Anniyan in Amsterdam, Manikandan had to spend nearly six hours being frozen to death while being suspended in mid-air from a copter. “Shanker wanted purple-coloured tulips for the song, so we had to shift from one location to another. And the whole time, there I was hanging dangerously in mid-air, cursing my fate and watching my assistant puke,” quips Manikandan.

He also has the honour of being the first cameraman to shoot time-slice frames in India after the technique gained fame with the release of Matrix. He managed to successfully bring about this extremely complicated shot, using as many as 120 cameras, surrounding the actors from 360 degrees, in the films Main Hoon Na and Boyz. “It all comes down to the timing. Movie making is just a series of still shots. And time-slicing makes maximum use of it by freezing one object of the scene and capturing the others in motion,” explains Manikandan.

For someone who has always come up with new innovations in technique and treatment with every new movie, he says that he does not have any distinctive cinematographic style. “I adopt styles, based on the script in hand. I try to make the camera movements in sync with the general theme of the movie,” he says.
Justifying the huge sums of money spent on just one song sequence in Indian cinema, he says that people no longer want to see lovers dancing around trees in botanical gardens. “They want to see new things every time. And with directors like Shankar or Mani Ratnam they have to prove themselves all over again with every new film.”

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While I bow my head in respect and mourn the death of Ms.Benazir Bhutto, since my blog is dedicated to books, animals and cinema….I felt the need to delve into the more humane side of Ms. Bhutto. Not, that this should give way to conclusions that the cynical journalist side of me wholly approves of anything she said or did.

Well anyway….

NDTV correspondent Sarah Jacob reports that “Bhutto’s big, deceptively menacing looking dog followed her into the room. Ever the proverbial love sick puppy, he placed his huge, floppy head on her lap as she sat herself in front of the camera. As a dog lover trapped in a city where my favourite animals and my profession’s paychecks rarely go together, I felt myself warming up to her.”; when she met Pakistan’s ill-fated princess long long ago during her exile
And for those interested, the big, deceptively menacing dog of Benazir’s was named Caeser.

Another account of Caeser I was able to glean from Amy Wilentz, reporting for More.Com. She says “Caesar is barking in the courtyard. When I pass him, he pulls at his chain, trying to reach me, and not for a pat on the head. He’s not a big dog, but he’s fierce and muscular, with a mouth full of long, sharp teeth.
Caesar is Benazir Bhutto’s dog. He’s snarling in the background as I proceed on an afternoon in early September to the front door of one of Bhutto’s houses, this one in a Middle Eastern country that she has asked me not to identify. Caesar, it occurs to me, is a richly ironic name for the pet of someone who considers herself a freedom fighter and democracy advocate. But then, Bhutto’s pets have run the gamut of appellations, and it is perhaps unwise to come to conclusions, ironic or not, based on what she chooses to name them. When she was a fiery opposition leader in Pakistan in 1986, two years before she was first elected prime minister, her cat was called Sugar. “Be sure to take Sugar to the vet.” Those are the last words Bhutto is reported to have spoken to her staff back then, as she was whisked off to jail in a police car, and not for the first time.

But sadly after intensive searching of the net, Im yet to come up with photos of her doggy. Just shows…doesn’t it? You have to be a dictator in Pak, wearing sheep clothing sorry military clothing if you want to flaunt ur pets under the nose of the fundamentalists.

And its no credit to Musharraf’s broadmindness that while he can break Muslim taboos by owning dogs and drinking liquor, he can also break Muslim hearts by acting like George.W.Bush’s poodle…..Sorry doggie woggie (Since Tony Blair has exclusive media rights to the tagline ‘poodle’)

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