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KNOCKED UP: Few Reader Reviews on my first book

KNOCKED UP, my first baby that got released in a limited edition in UAE. It was an experiment to test reader reactions and also to raise funds for a charity.

Distributed by RICH BULL Marketing, it was only given to the members and patrons of the company by invitation and also to few people who showed interest in the book after they got to know about it from their friends.
Rich Bull Marketing had done extensive promotions and sent out invites to their client network. Initially they thought of releasing 100 premium copies but the kind of response they got motivated them to put up another 400 copies on sale and all the 500 copies were ‘sold out’ within a week and they are still getting more orders from prospective buyers who got to know about ‘Knocked Up’ through their friends – word of mouth publicity worked for us.

Here are few comments I got from the readers which I wanted to share here;
“It reminded me of my childhood days” Minal Salarpuria – Housewife

“It reminded me of Malgudi Days in a modern time period” Praveen Tyagi – Talent Manager

“I am not a book reading types… but when I got the first hand opportunity to read ‘KNOCKED UP’ the premium version I was tempted to read. The cover first caught my imagination and then the chapter names… the synopsis etc… Once I started reading I got involved in the story and I must say it was something of an experience which took… me back to my teenage days and the fun and masti I used to do with my friends back home… All the instances in the book made me laugh and I couldnt leave the book aside as the curiosity to find out what happens next made me finish the entire book in 4hours flat… GOOD WORK…SHAIJU MATHEW ‘U ROCK BOY’… I loved ‘KNOCKED UP’ and would wait for your next book eagerly…. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED….” Mohit Malukani – Finance Analyst

“Simply BRILLIANT…The characters were so believable and the one that took my interest was of Prateik and his girlfriend Rupa they both are funny and cute at the same time… I could sense the gradual growth of the characters from immature teenagers to responsible youngsters…especially Sid & Swati… Swati’s transformation from a tomboy to a delicate lady type is noteworthy…. Becky the heroine is smart, sexy and lovable…shez every boy’s dream gal… I am waiting for the next in this 3 part series…” Simi B. John – Physiotherapist

“Knocked Up!!! really Knocked me Out…. hehehe… awesome comedy, simple language and believable situations…I Like, I Like” Brian Reynolds – Investment Banker

“I loved it but I felt that the ending should have been slightly different…but overall I loved it” John Mathew – Sr. Accountant

“Chetan Bhagat has got competition here…After a long time some interesting, light hearted book has released that will be a bestseller in the coming days…Good Work Shaiju” Vinod Lalwani – Book Distributor

“We need more authors like Shaiju and need more such books like Knocked Up in the market and most of the books present in the market are written by few jobless IIM & IIT students describing their life in such colleges which common man like me are bored and least interested in…Chetan Bhagat already did that with 5 point someone…we dont need more CB clones… However, Knocked Up by Shaiju Mathew takes you on a different tangent… A simple, funny, lovable story of six friends…” Darshan Jhunjhunwala – Student

Thank you guys for your valuable feedback and comments… there are few more emails which I am reading right now. I will upload them shortly…

I would also like to answer all my friends and fans who keep on asking me when ‘Knocked Up’ will release in India and why it is taking so much time… To tell you frankly book publishing is a very meticulous and time consuming job. Moreover, there are so many situations and problems that are not in one’s control. I will definitely write my tryst with the publishing industry very soon so that upcoming self publishers and authors can take some help and guidance from y experiences….Till then I am keeping my fingers crossed for the India release which is happening this month….

Employee’s don’t leave Companies, they leave Managers

I once heard someone saying in a motivational session that ‘Employees don’t leave companies but they simply leave Managers.’ I didn’t understand this phrase as I had just stepped into my first job and I had never experienced the politics and management tactics present in an organization.

The training period went fine and I was the topper in my batch. People in the company always smiled, HR staff always said that the company was the best place to work and they took great care of their employees. Managers and Senior Managers repeatedly said that the company is an equal opportunity company and they have a open door policy, so incase you have any issues or problems you can always drop in and discuss your issues.

I was all charged up and hit the floor. We were told our SLA’s (Service Level Agreement) which simply meant the performance metrics on the basis of which I would be evaluated in the company appraisals. The Appraisals were the deciding factor for our promotions, bonuses and our increments. I understood every metric and put my best into my performance. In the the half yearly appraisals I was in the top 10 list and I got my bonus and also few incentives. Now my target was to grow in the company.

As per the rules I would be eligible for promotions once I complete nine months in my present role and if I was in the top 25% on the stack rank (decided by the performance metrics). I put in my entire self into my performance and built a sky castle about how I would be promoted after the nine months. However, when the time arrived for me to apply for the promotions I was told by my Manager that I shouldn’t apply as I was not eligible. I went back to him and showed the rules and also my stacks but I was sent back. Instead of me another person from our team was chosen for the promotion interview and the biggest surprise was that he was an under performer and was not even eligible for the promotion.

I was upset and wanted to voice out my concerns but didn’t know how? Then suddenly I remembered our induction day presentation that was presented to us by the HR staff and also the assurances we got from our Senior Managers about the open door policy and how I should approach them for finding a resolution in similar situations.

I went to my Area Manager and told him about my concern. My Area Manager heard me out and told me that he will speak to my Manager, which he did and later I had an extensive meeting with my Manager where he vent out his frustration on me. I was demotivated and was forced to loose focus on my work and my growth. It started affecting my work and I couldn’t do much. I was told by one of my colleagues to approach our HR Generalist and voice out my concern. I went and met my HRG who in turn arranged a joint meeting to resolve the issue with my Manager.

In the meeting it was decided that my team would be changed as I was not comfortable working with my Manager. I was put into a team which didn’t require the kind of expertise and my liking. I was given a shift that was one of the worst – graveyard shift. I was burdened with more work. I was not enjoying my work in that department. I went back to my Area Manager and told him how I was not happy with the new team. I felt I was indirectly punished for raising my concerns to the seniors.

My Area Manager said he will look into the matter and he didn’t do anything. Being dissatisfied with the entire matter I approached our Process Head and raised my concern. Now the entire thing was a ego tussle between the Area Manager, my ex-Manager and me. In all this drama my performance was affected as I was not able to concentrate on my work and the entire mental trauma was making me more frustrated. I was told by my Area Manager that I was not concentrating on my work and my stats were screwed up so anyways I couldn’t apply for the next IJP interviews.

I was totally demotivated. I felt I had chosen the wrong company and the company didn’t care for me. To teach a lesson to the managers I decided to quit the company and join another. I attended interviews and in few days time I got a job in another prestigious brand. I thought now my problems were over and I will begin a new chapter here and grow in the company. Alas, my delusion was broken again. Soon I realised that companies changed, managers changed but the situations were still similar…

I left 5 companies in the last 10 years not because the companies I worked were bad but the people who managed us were bad. Names changed, positions changed but the situations and the politics were always the same….Don’t know when such things will come to an end…..!!!

Review: We R Family

I have been an ardent fan of Chris Columbus’s 1998 superhit English movie ‘Stepmom’ starring Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon. I would have watched the movie more than 30 times and still like to catch up whenever the movie is shown on television. When Karan Johar announced that he is going to remake ‘Stepmom’ in Hindi, I was very curious to find out the outcome. I wanted to see how Kajol and Kareena would have potrayed the same role that Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts had already immortalized in the history of world cinema. My wait ended when I got to watch the movie today.

Karan Johar alongwith Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan has always spelt success and the hindi version of ‘Stepmom’ i.e. ‘We R Family’ starring Kajol, Kareena and Arjun Rampal was something to look forward to. Although KJo was not the director and it was newbie Siddharth Malhotra who has been an assistant to KJo on several projects. Surprisingly I was impressed with whatever I saw.

‘We R Family’ has its own positives and flaws as it is normally seen whenever an English movie is remade into Hindi. The restrainted and flawless performances of Susan and Julia is replaced by the over dramatic and loud acting of Kajol and Kareena (so synonimous of Hindi movies). The premise is the same as the original with little alterations done to suit the tastes of our Hindi movie audiences.

Maya [Kajol] is the perfect mother. Her life revolves around her three children, Aleya [Aanchal Munjal], Ankush [Nominath Ginsberg] and Anjali [Diya Sonecha]. Despite being divorced from her husband Aman [Arjun Rampal], Maya has ensured that everything runs smoothly in her house, under her watch, and that they continue to remain a happy family unit.

When Aman introduces his girlfriend, Shreya [Kareena Kapoor], a career-oriented woman, the situation takes an unexpected turn. However, Maya is diagnosed with a terminal illness and circumstances bring the two women under the same roof. Can two mothers make a home?

With a plot like this, you expect ‘We R Family’ to be an out-and-out serious outing. However, the film has its serious moments, but the director ensures that it doesn’t come across as a gloomy and serious fare. In fact, the generous dose of light moments in the narrative keeps the drama fluid. There’s an inherent sensitivity that the director brings in, which keeps you involved for most parts.

On the flip side, the film tends to stagnate in the middle of the second hour. One expects the story to move forward, but there’s not much movement here. Thankfully, the film picks up wonderfully towards the penultimate reels.

Kajol as usual is first rate while Kareena is able to match up to the towering presence of Kajol. After Rock On, Housefull and Raajneeti we see another brilliant act by Arjun Rampal. The three children are aptly cast and perform well.

The music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy is a big let down especially because Dharma Productions is always associated with chartbuster music and all their movies since KJo took over the reins has always been ‘Musical Blockbusters’ from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai to the recent I Hate Luv Storys.

Mohanan’s cinematography, Niranjan Iyer’s dialogues and Raju Singh’s background music is first rate. Director Siddharth Malhotra shows promise as he has handled the dramatic scenes between Kajol and Kareena brilliantly.

This movie will appeal to the female audiences who in turn will bring their spouses and children to watch the movie with them ensuring good returns for the movie. On the whole I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND the movie to everyone….

Stories that inspired me…

When I was a kid I was first introduced to books by my elder brother. The first book I ever read was ‘Famous Five Series’ written by Enid Blyton. Once I started reading my first book I couldn’t stop myself from reading more of the series and once I exhausted them I went onto other stories and books written by Enid Blyton.

When I grew a year older I got hooked onto detective series like ‘Hardy Boys’, ‘Nancy Drew’, ‘The Secret Seven’ etc. Mysteries were more interesting according to me and untill I finished the entire book at one go I couldn’t sleep.

At every stage of my life my likes in books changed. Once I got into college I got hooked to English Classics like the books written by Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, The Bronte Sisters, William Thackrey, Thomas Hardy etc…

Jane Austen opened me to a totally new world where every story of hers were a slice from her life. ‘Pride and Prejudice’, ‘Emma’,’Persuasion’,’Northager Abbey’,’Sense and Sensibility’ and ‘Mansfield Park’ showed the bonding that she shared with her siblings and her family.

In Indian writers Rabindranath Tagore and Ruskin Bond had a huge influence on me. Every story they wrote were simple and were even simpler to understand and imagine (I always tend to imagine the story in my head after every chapter I have read). Chetan Bhagat was another contemprory writer who brought back the book readers to the book shops with his stories inspired mostly from his life.

When I started writing my own books I always took inspiration from my life and from my surroundings. KNOCKED UP my debut novel is another case in point where I took heavy inspirations from my teenage days. It didn’t take me long to write the book as I already had it in my head and I was just waiting to put it on paper.

My relationship with books that was established by my brother still continues to be and I think when I die I still will have a book in my hand…. So happy reading 🙂 Books are indeed your best friend….

Who was Ibn-E-Batuta?


‘Ibn-e-Batuta, Bagal mein joota’ blared the music in the discotheque and within minutes I was dancing to the foot tapping music along with my friends not knowing what the lyrics was all about. The music lingered in my mind even the next day when I was in my senses. I also noted my 3 year old niece singing the song at home and she came to me and asked “Mama, Ibn Batuta kya hota hai?”

I kept on wondering the same as I had never heard of this word and therefore I surfed the net to find out the meaning of the word ‘Ibn Batuta’. The results showed me many links along with the song clippings in You Tube which I checked out. The song showed a sari clad Vidya Balan along with Arshad Warsi and Nasserudin Shah dancing pitch drunk to the groovy music and the weird sounding lyrics. The song from the movie ‘Ishqiya’ is composed by Vishal Bharadwaj and lyrics by Gulzar.
I felt no surprise for the word not being familiar to me because it has always been a thing with Gulzar to come up with weird sounding words with deeper meanings in his lyrics and poems. I was urged to find out more about the word ‘Ibn-e-batuta’ only to be surprised.

‘Ibn Batuta’ aka Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Abdullah Al Lawati Al Tanji Ibn Battuta (born Feb. 24, 1304, Tangier, Mor.—died 1368/69) was a noted Arab traveller and writer who travelled for 27 years continuously all over the world vowing “never to travel any road a second time.” He travelled all through Asia, Africa and Europe covering around 120,000 km and on his return wrote the most famous travel book called ‘Rihlah’.

I was feeling Janab Ibn Batuta (for short), in his grave, would be a happy man today to know that centuries after his death he has been immortalized with a catchy song and a controversy accusing the noted lyricist and poet Gulzar of plagiarism.
Ms. Shubha Saxena, the daughter of the renowned poet Shri. Sarveshwar Dayal Saxena, claimed that the makers of ‘Ishqiya’ should have given credit to Shri Sarveshwar Dayal Saxena for the lyrics of the song ‘Ibn-e-batuta, pehen ke joota’ as it was a direct lift from her late father’s poem which goes, “Ibn Batuta Pehen Ke Joota, Nikal Pade Toofan Mein …”

In response, the makers of Ishqiya only had to say that the song was an original creation by Vishal Bharadwaj and Gulzar. The director Abhishek Choubey also added that he was looking for a travel song in his movie and the lyrics recited by Gulzar was apt for the situation. Choubey has heard of Shri. Sarveshwar Dayal Saxena but never knew about this particular poem.

Gulzar was totally irked with the accusation and he mentioned to the media persons “Where is the similarity? Aap line se line mila ke dekhiye. Kya same hai? Is it the name, Ibn Batutta? If it is, then does the name have a copyright? I have always been deeply interested in history, and I knew that Ibn Batutta was a traveller who travelled with Mohammed Bin Tughlaq when he shifted his capital from Delhi to Daulatabad. Tomorrow, if someone uses the name Marco Polo with reference to anything, will that be an issue? Ibn Batutta travelled on foot, all the way to India from Turkey, and in the film, there are these two runaways. I thought the song fit the situation perfectly. You must publish both the lyrics together and get a public opinion on this. I stand by what I say.”

Ms. Shubha whereas specified that she was not looking for any benefits out of the accusation and the makers should give due credit to her father for the lyrics.
This year for Bollywood controversies on plagiarism were a starting point. Whether it was Chetan Bhagat screaming his lungs out to the media accusing Vinod Chopra and Rajkumar Hirani for not giving him credit for the story of ‘3 Idiots’ or Sonal Mehta’s accusation that Ram Gopal Varma stole her script to make ‘Rann’.

All big releases of the year have been surrounded by a fair share of ugly spats and controversies. This time around, its Vishal Bhardwaj’s ‘Ishqiya’ has been hogging all the limelight because of the song. Controversies at the time of release of a movie are nothing new as it not only gives a lot of publicity to the movie and the makers but also to lesser known people who like to take a short route to become famous.

Whatever the outcome of the controversy I can’t stop singing the song, who cares who wrote it until and unless it’s catchy and groovy and serves the purpose of making me dance in a pub or disco.

While going to the press I heard that the forthcoming ‘My Name Is Khan’ has being targeted because of the statements made by Shah Rukh Khan for including Pakistani players in his IPL team. Sena members have gone berserk pulling down posters of the movie and making death threats to SRK. Another round of controversy begins here….

Controversies and Bollywood – Part 2

continued from yesterday…

Black Friday
Arguably the most controversial film in this entire list, Black Friday was based on the book by the same name. Written by senior Mumbai-based journalist S Hussain Zaidi, Black Friday narrated the events that preceded and followed the dreaded 1993 blasts in Mumbai. The movie was ready in 2004 but kept getting stuck as the court stayed its release. Finally in early 2007, the movie hit the screens after the accused had been charged under TADA. The movie was a hit and propelled director Anurag Kashyap into some much-deserved limelight.

Black
Get the Friday off Black Friday and you still have a controversial film. For one, a antique furniture dealer sued director Sanjay Leela Bhansali alleging that he had purposely burnt the sets of Black to claim insurance. It was also alleged that the director has under-insured the movie sets in order to reduce his premium outgoings and has charged him. The dealer was reportedly not compensated either. The state-run Maharashtra Film, Stage and Cultural Development Corporation, which owns Mumbai Film City where the studio was located, had also slapped a Rs 60 million suit on Bhansali for causing damage. That was not all. A deaf and mute assistant also accused the director having skipped his payment for his services. After a dozen controversies and allegations the movie was released to packed houses giving relief to SLB and the awards it garnered was just the cherry on the icing.

Fanaa
There wasn’t anything in the film that stirred the controversy like MNIK as much as what the lead actor said outside of it that undid it. Aamir Khan, always a man about town when his film releases, made himself seen along with those protesting against raising the heights of the Narmada dam in Gujarat. The film was banned in the state for quite some time till the court decided to intervene and provide protection to the theatres screening the film.

Tashan
It was a film that pretty much brought the mighty Yash Raj films to its knees. The battle between multiplex owners and distributors reached a head with this particular film. The owners claimed that Yash Raj demanded more than a fair share of profit from the film. Not willing to give in to the Studio’s demands, all multiplexes refrained from showing the movie. As a result Tashan, one of the first big budget films of the year, ended up being a miserable flop. Funnily, it was Yash Raj, which started the whole anti multiplex owners trend with Fanaa.

Jo Bole So Nihal
This Sunny Deol-starrer was supposed to be a celebration of ‘Sikhdom’. Ironically, the movie managed to irk the very community it was cheering for. Members of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee accused the film of showing “the Sikh community in a bad light.” Things turned really ugly when two high-intensity blasts rocked two cinema halls in the capital killing one and injuring about 53 others. The community also had issues with a Sikh character being chased by scantily clad women. Further the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee claimed that the film had grossly misused the term ‘Jo Bole So Nihal” as the title of the movie, that was spoken in Sikh temples and battlefields. The controversy didn’t help the movie at all as JBSN is one of the biggest flop of ‘Dharam’ Puttar Sunny Deol.

Fire
This was probably Deepa Mehta’s first brush with controversy before ‘Water’. Right-wing activists stormed two theatres in Mumbai and prompted the movie’s distributor to stop the showing of Fire. The film focussed on a lesbian relationship between two sister-in-laws. It was clearly a first in the Indian context where homosexuality to this day is discussed in hushed tones. The controversy also rocked the parliament with opposition members slamming the Hindu nationalists for “intolerance” and “hoodlum rule” in Mumbai. Interestingly Shabana Azmi one of the two leading actors in the film and an MP, was present in the house when the debate started. She silently watched it unfold without once making a comment. The movie was discontinued from the movie theatres which resulted in massive losses for the producer and distributors of the movie.

Water
A period piece set in Varanasi, Water was to complete Deepa Mehta’s trilogy – Fire and Earth being the first two. But the movie ran into controversy right from the first day of the shoot. Water dealt with the plight of Indian widows in the 1930s and was supposed to be shot in Uttar Pradesh. However the state government the film’s location permits as mobs stormed the ghats along the Ganges. The film’s sets were burnt as were effigies of the director. At some point Deepa Mehta gave up the idea of shooting in India and put together an entirely new cast. Seema Biswas replaced Shabana Azmi and Lisa Ray replaced Nandita Das. The film was shot and completed in Sri Lanka under a different working title. The movie was released and it earned critical and commercial success abroad but in India it still awaits release.

Ek Choti Si Love Story
Manisha Koirala who had created waves when Dil Se released found herself in a spot when a film called Ek Choti Si Love Story began to generate curiosity amongst the trade circuit. The story revolved around a body double she had allegedly approved of. Shashilal Nair, the director of the film claimed that Manisha had no problem with the scenes where the double was used. Manisha, of course, claimed otherwise. Things came to a head when the actress approached Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackery to intervene. Nair was ‘advised’ to delete the scenes but he insisted that the Sena chief should see the film first before suggesting any cuts. The movie was banned in Mumbai but was released elsewhere to a thunderous response.

So the conclusion is that till Bollywood churns out movies year after year there would be more interesting controversies hitting the headlines.

Controversies and Bollywood – Part 1

Controversies and Bollywood go hand in hand. Many a times controversies have helped a movie to garner more returns at the box office and sometimes controversies have killed movies. I am presenting herewith the much hyped controversies surrounding movies in the last few years.

My Name Is Khan
MNIK one of the finest films to come out of KJo – SRK stable was marred with controversies recently due to a remark made by SRK regarding inclusion of Pakistani players in IPL. Shiv Sena threatened to kill the movie untill and unless SRK apologized for his remarks which SRK refused to cow down to. Shiv Sena went on a rampage damaging few of the multiplexes which were scheduled to screen MNIK. It was a riot kind of situation created by Shiv Sena forcing most of the multiplex owners in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka to decide against screening the movie in their multiplexes. They were of the opinion that releasing MNIK meant affecting the box office business of the other movies running in those multiplexes apart from the huge damages that would be caused to their property by Shiv Sena activists. It gave way to a political ego tussle between Shiv Sena and Congress (the ruling party) resulting in 2000 Shiv Sainiks put behind bars and threats to Shiv Sena of dire consequences by the Center. Amidst all this, few multiplexes dared to release the movie in Mumbai and comman man decided to come out and support the movie to prove a point to Shiv Sena that they wouldnt be terrorized by their threats. Last heard MNIK is breaking all the previous records held by recent movies in terms of box office collections.

3 Idiots
Chetan Bhagat author of Five Point Someone, on which 3 Idiots is based was surprised not to get an opening credit in the film. And even in the closing credit roll, his name comes quite late. Chetan cried foul and accused Vinod Chopra, Raju Hirani and Aamir Khan for playing dirty with him. However, the gang behind 3 Idiots were quick to defend themselves by producing the copy of the contract signed by Chetan at the time of acquiring the rights of the book which clearly said that he would be getting credit in the end rolls. The producer of 3 Idiots, Vidhu Vinod Chopra has even accused Chetan of being publicity hungry as the film has now become a blockbuster hit.

Ishqiya
Gulzar was accused of lifting the lyrics from one of the poems of the celebrated Hindi poet Sarveshwar Dayal Saxena, which goes, “Ibn Batuta Pehen Ke Joota, Nikal Pade Toofan Mein …” Saxena’s daughter Shubha Saxena accused the makers of ‘Ishqiya’ of plagiarising the poem and not crediting it to her dad. However, the filmmakers din’t agree with Shubha as according to them it was an original piece of work and Gulzar had just borrowed the first line of the poem which they claim they didn’t know about the existence of this particular poem. Gulzar was irked with the accussation and stated that there was no similarity in both the lyrics of the song and the poem apart from the name ‘Ibn Batuta’ who was a traveller and who travelled all over India and Turkey on foot. Gulzar also said that there was no copyright on using the name of Ibn Batuta and as the movie is based on two runaways the lyrics suited the situation. Shubha Saxena refused to step down and the case still hangs in mid air, meanwhile the movie has been released and declared a runaway hit.

Kaminey
What’s with controversy and Vishal Bharadwaj? The ‘Teli’ community were offended with the usage of the word ‘Teli’ in the song Dhan ta dhan and a nation wide agitation followed which forced the maker Vishal Bharadwaj to change the word ‘Teli’ to ‘Teeli’ in the song to please the community. The movie and the song were a runaway hit giving a drought prone movie industry a much needed hit after the 2 month long theatre stike.

Jodhaa Akbar
Ashutosh Gowariker’s Jodhaa Akbar was in the news right from the beginning. First it took an exceptionally long time for the film to be shot and then to be edited. Then there were rumours that Jodhaa Akbar was delayed because of Aishwarya Rai’s marriage and finally when the movie did release, it faced a boycott from a tin-pot organisation called Rajput Karni Sena. It was alleged that the movie had distorted historical facts about Jodha being Akbar’s wife where as per them Jodha was his daughter-in-law. Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a prominent Hindu organisation also demanded that that certain objectionable dialogues in the film be removed. Surely, Ashutosh Gowariker must’ve thanked his stars when the movie was released and declared the first blockbuster of the year.

Billu
If in 2008 it was the Rajputs who were protesting, then in 2009 it was the turn of the barber community. The film in question was Billu – earlier calledBillu Barber. Days before its release, the makers had to change the title and knock off ‘Barber’ from the title as the barber community took offense to the same. Things didn’t end there as a word from the song Mar jaani offended certain Muslim members of the audience. Stone pelting and some drama unfolded at the theatres playing the movie as well as at Shah Rukh Khan’s house. However controversy in this case didnt help the movie to garner rich dividends and was declared a dud on its release.

Aaja Nachle
Madhur Dixit’s Aaja Nachle also irked certain communities in Uttar Pradesh. A particular line from a song managed to get it into some serious trouble. So much so, Mayawati called for a nationwide ban on the movie. Trouble started when some bloke led a demonstration in front of a movie hall in New Delhi where the film was being screened. The controversy reached Parliament when Lok Sabha MP Ramdas Athawale of the Republican Party of India alleged the title song humiliated Dalits and demanded that the film be banned. Things turned uglier when even the chief minister of Punjab banned the movie expecting trouble. It took some amount of fire fighting to get things in place. Director Yash Chopra had to issue an televised, unconditional apology and remove a particular word from the song but again the movie was a big flop.

to be continued….

LIFE IMMITATES ART, ART IMMITATES LIFE

Cinema is the reflection of the society and we so have so many evidences of Cinema being inspired by real life characters and events. Not very long ago it was believed that films based on specific subjects attracted limited audience but recent films have changed that. Today’s audience is well acquainted with what goes on behind the scenes and enjoys the alternative reality. Today, there is as much curiosity for the real life stories-Black Friday or Mumbai Meri Jaan as for the fantasies.

A few years ago Jagmohan Mundhra may have had to struggle with Bawandar based on the gang-rape of Sanwari Devi by the thakurs or earlier his film Kamala based on The Indian Express story where a journalist actually purchased a tribal girl, Kamala. The incident evoked sharp social and moral debates, raising the ethical issue of human invasion. Mundhra’s hard-hitting film, Kamala played by Deepti Naval focused on the complications this led into the journalist’s personal life played by Marc Zuber and Shabana Azmi. Mundhra’s another movie Provoked was based on the real – life incident of Kiranjit Alhuwalia who burnt her husband to death in 1989 in response to ten years of profound physical, psychological, and sexual abuse.

Yeh Raaste Hain Pyar Ke inspired by the infamous Nanavati case was about a naval officer who, on learning of his wife’s involvement with his best friend, murdered the friend in cold-blood and then surrendered himself to law. The erring wife was played by the beautiful Leela Naidu. The script added an angle of loneliness that drives the wife to another man to justify the affair but the orthodox audience was not placated and all sympathies were for the husband played by Sunil Dutt.

The lesser known films inspired by real people include Sai Paranjpye’s Deesha based on a villager in the interiors of Maharashtra who spent his entire life digging a well because he was convinced that he would find water or Shyam Benegal’s Samar inspired from an incident in Madhya Pradesh following the installation of a water pump in Dalit basti, and the ensuing upper-caste protest.

Pooja Bhatt’s Tamanna about a eunuch and the social pressures he faces in adopting a girl-child was drawn from the life of a tea-stall owner Tikku, living in the Mahim Causeway, Mumbai. Benegal’s Sardari Begum focused on the life of a thumri singer who suffered a fatal head injury during a communal riot while Gadar – Ek Prem Katha is inspired by the life of Butta Singh, a Hindu who married a Muslim girl. Set in post partition the Muslims are sent across border in the wake of new laws and Butta Singh is separated from his wife and child. Determined to win them back, he slips into Pakistan, and eventually becomes a martyr for his love. The film was originally made as Shaheed-e-Mohabbat by Gurudas Mann.

The bigger the name the greater the curiosity the film aroused. Phoolan Devi sued the filmmaker of Bandit Queen, and it required a great number of accusations, negotiations and pre-conditions before the film finally made it to the theatres. Ditto with Vinay Shukla’s Godmother based on the life of Santokben Jadeja, the feared don of Jamnagar. Raj Kumar Santoshi’s Lajja was inspired by the gang-rape and gruesome murder of Siya Dulari, a 40-year-old dalit woman, by members of the upper-caste. Director Raj Kumar Santoshi was so shaken by the incident that he felt he had to make a statement on the oppression of women. As expected, the film’s release was preceded by various court cases, and the first screening disrupted by violent protests.

There are innumerous examples of movies being inspired from real life incidents like Bombay, Mumbai Meri Jaan, Fashion, Page 3 etc. We can also look forward to forth coming movies that have taken inspiration from real life incidents like Aamir Khan’s Peepli Live, Rajkumar Gupta’s No One killed Jessica based on the Jessica Lall murder case.

In the same vein we can also cite examples where common man took inspiration from movies and fought injustice like Lage Raho Munnabhai which propagated Gandhigiri and inspired many people to fight corruption and injustice through non-voilence. Taare Zameen Par a movie on dyslexic children helped in making the people identify with the problem and deal with it like any other illness. 3 Idiots questioned the education system and also opened the eyes of many parents who were forcing their ambitions on their children. The increasing number of student suicides were something that was beyond any parents imagination and control. 3 Idiots helped in making people understand that how burderned our today’s youth feel due to the high educational competion and parental expectations leading them to end their life.

There have also been incidences of negative influence of movies like mass suicides by many lovers after getting inspired from EK Dujhe Ke Liye or the mass eve teasing and ragging experienced in colleges after getting inspired from movies and movie stars. Children especially likes to immitate whatever they see over the TV and movies and end up with tragedies eg: After getting inspired by Shaktimaan many children tried to jump off their balconies or tried to set them ablaze with the whole belief that Shaktimaan will come and save them.

Films have also inspired the fashion trends like after Maine Pyar Kiya you could see the chudidars, sarees and accessories worn by Bhagyashree getting popular and every girl wanting to don one. Similarly the cap worn by Aamir Khan in Dil Hain Ki Manta Nahi or the ‘FRIENDS’ cap worn by Salman and Bhagyashree in MPK were a rage. The purple saree worn by Madhuri in Hum Aapke Hai Kaun or the Chandni Chudidaars worn by Sridevi in Chandni or the mini skirts worn by Urmila in Rangeela or the DDLJ skirts worn by Kajol were something every woman or girl in India wanted to have in her wardrobe. al

Many customs or games we had forgotten in due course of time came into vogue due to Sooraj Badjatya’s movies. Festivals like ‘Karva Chauth’ and games like ‘Antakshari’ ‘Joote Chupana’ or even the ‘Pillow Passing’ games. ‘Chak De India’ brought back the long neglected national game ‘hockey’ to the fore front and made the Government realise how we had ignored the game for long for Cricket.

Cinema has always been a mirror to the society and society has always immitated the good or bad values of cinema. So come what may inspiration in any form will always translate to art and vice versa. Whether Life immitates Art or Art immitates Life its a circle which compliments eachother. Oscar Wilde once quoted “Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life.”

Talent Hunt Shows: Boon or Bane

Sunidhi Chauhan, Kunal Ganjawala, Shreya Ghoshal & Abhijit Sawant, what is so common among them? The answer is, all the above mentioned singers are discoveries of various Talent Hunt shows beamed out of the various television channels.

Lets run back in time when every parent wanted his child to be an Engineer or a Doctor. Children were subjected to full time studies with very or less importance given to extracurricular activities. Scoring high marks in exams were the prime focus.

Today if you ask any parent or child what he or she wants to become the answer would be ‘Actor’ or ‘Singer’ or ‘Dancer’. Gone are the days of only concentrating on studies and nothing else, today’s parents are more keen on making their children celebrities thanks to shows like Indian Idol, Saregamapa, Fame Gurukul, Dance India Dance or Dance Premier League.

The craze for reality television hit India when channel V came up with Viva, a band of five young singers. When channel V announced the auditions, young dreamers gathered in huge numbers to give their luck a try. They cried when they failed, celebrated when they triumphed. The audience, on its part, lapped up this overdose of emotions thrown at them by the channel. The show was a big success and an inspiration for both the shrewd business minds and also for the young dreamers waiting for their share of fame.

Since then there has been no looking back as reality television proliferated with each passing day. With the registration for each show surpassing the last one and the audience votes pouring in billions, all doubts over the acceptability of these shows by the Indian audience were cleared. The real life Bunty and Bablis came forward for the auditions of Indian Idol, Fame Gurukul, India’s Best, Roadies, etc. Almost every channel today has an Abhijeet Sawant and a Prajakta Shukre to boast about.

Even before commercialized format of talent hunt shows started in India we had our very own Yash Chopra to thank. Chopra started a show in the early 90’s called ‘Meri Awaaz Suno’ which gave us a talent singer in the form of Sunidhi Chauhan. Same was the case with Shreya Ghosal who won the Zee Saregamapa at a very young age and was discovered by Sanjay Bhansali to sing for his magnum opus ‘Devdas’. Sonu Nigam and Shaan who were a nobody, came to be noticed through Zee TV’s Saregama, as they hosted the show for many years and became the favourites of the Janta.

The reason for these talent hunt shows to become a success is anybody’s guess because anything that strikes the emotional chord is an instant hit in our country. The reason for this is that we Indians are high on the emotional quotient and every Indian (even the most practical one) has an emotional soul hidden somewhere. The success of reality shows in India can be attributed to a great extent to this weakness of ours. Apart from this, the relief that these shows provide from the saas-bahu soaps, which currently dominate television, is another reason for their immense popularity.

The various television channels exploited the potential of reality shows and saw a huge surge in popularity. Sony’s popularity saw a huge rise after it launched Indian Idol, an adaptation of a hit British reality show. It was reality television that wrote the destiny of television channel Star One. The two reality shows, The Great Indian Laughter Challenge and Nach Baliye, are to a great extent responsible for the popularity that Star One has got.

Reality shows not only changed the destinies of many television channels but also of many ordinary people. People like Kunal Ganjawala, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shreya Ghosal and Anushka Manchanda are some of the successful finds of reality television. It was only for these shows that a teashop owner, Sunil Pal, became a laughter champion and Prashant, a sepoy from Darjeeling, became the third Indian Idol.

Reality television is a win-win situation for everyone, be it contestants, channels or the viewers. The high TRPs that these shows command explains the advantage they have for television channels. For the viewers, they are refreshing change from the somnolent Saas-Bahu dramas. The biggest gainers, however, are the contestants who are provided with the right platform to showcase their talent. There is a lot of untapped talent in our country and these shows by extending their reach to small cities provide an opportunity to bring out this hidden talent. These shows give an instant recognition to the contestants. A chance to showcase their talent on such a big platform and in front of such esteemed judges is something for which any struggler can die. Reality television can provide them with this lifetime opportunity. The rest, of course, depends on their talent and destiny.

Apart from this, the emotional angle of these shows is to a great extent responsible for their success. The fact that the contestants in these shows are ordinary people with whom audiences immediately relate to is the biggest trump card of these shows. The vicarious joy which people get in seeing somebody from amongst them living an almost impossible dream glues people to these shows.

Reality shows have come under a lot of criticism. Questions have been raised over the authenticity of the voting system on the basis of which the contestants are voted out. Prominent names like Lata Mangeshkar have raised fingers over the very method of selection that is used on such shows. Throwing contestants out on the basis of the votes cast by people sitting at home with hardly any knowledge about the technicalities involved in a contest like singing or dancing has been questioned.

Moreover the competition has become so tough its taking its toll on the contestants more on young children like Shinjini Sengupta.

Shinjini used to be a normal 16-year-old girl. She loved to dance, she went to college and probably had a great set of friends. A talented youth, Shinjini is a very good dancer who has also acted in Bengali tele-serials and has even acted in a Bengali movie.

Just like all other kids like her, Shinjini entered a dance-based reality show that has been airing on a Bengali TV channel. Things seemed to be going okay until the fateful shoot on May 19 saw a turn of events that changed this young talented girl forever. Shinjini was criticised harshly by the judges after her performance. Unlike other contestants she kept her cool and didn’t break down and cry.
Things got increasingly worse when Shinjini went into depression and eventually lost her speech… Today, her parents are worried as this once active dancer has lost even lost the use of her limbs. Psychiatrists claim that her case is an extreme and rare one in which depression plays a vital role.

To avoid such similar cases in future a new ruling has come into being which bars any child below 8 to take part in any reality shows and moreover the money of child artist will not go to them or their parents but will be kept in the form of FD.
Despite all this, the end reality is that such shows enjoy great popularity among the audience. Reality television is a ray of hope for the ordinary people. It not only gives them the courage to dream but also the assistance to turn their dreams to reality. It is difficult to say whether reality shows are a phase or they are here to stay, but we wish they stayed for long so that more and more Debojeets aand Abhijeet Sawants get a chance to live their dreams.

Movies, Masti, Magic etc…

I am a huge movie buff, especially Hindi Movies. Today I want to talk about the movies I am looking forward to watch in the next month. After seeing few very good movies in the last few weeks eg: I Hate Luv Storys, Peepli Live, Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai, Tere Bin Laden, Udaan etc I am hoping that the tidings are going to be good for our Hindi Film Industry and its viewers. Where big budgeted movies like Raavan and Kites that put our film industry into a big soup, small and medium budgeted movies are trying to bring it out of the doldrums.

In the coming months we have few really interesting movies up for release. Here I am presenting my choice of movies that I would love to watch in September;
DABANNG: After a long time a movie with Salman looks promising. The promos are promising, the songs are melodious and the fight sequences looks breath taking. After WANTED which released last year, I feel Dabangg would be another mass hit for the beefy Khan. The movie promises a line up of debutants eg: Abhinav Kashyap – Director, Arbaaz Khan – Producer & Sonakshi Sinha – Actress. Would love to watch it first day first show.
ANJAANA ANJAANI: Director Siddharth Anand and Producer Sajid Nadiadwala are known for their excellent track record with huge hits like Salaam Namaste, Bachna Ae Haseeno (in case of Siddharth) and Housefull, Mujhse Shaadi Karoge etc (in case of Sajid). Even Ranbir and Priyanka are heading the popularity charts after their past films like Raajneeti, Wake Up Sid, Kaminey, Fashion and Dostana. The music by Vishal Shekhar is already a blockbuster and the promos looks pleasing. Another sure shot hit for the hit starved movie industry.
WE ARE FAMILY: Kajol and Kareena with Arjun Rampal is a deadly combination at the box office with KJo’s named lanking behind. A movie that promises powerhouse performances and thrilling moments for its viewers however lets them down with its mediocre sound track. The returns on the box office looks grim unless priced intelligently. Would watch the movie irrespect of its box office outcome. Kajol here I come….