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Recently, Mr. Ramadoss was again in the news. This time, he was requesting (?) Mr. Shahrukh Khan and Mr. Amitabh Bachchan to give up smoking on screen. He was citing the example of Mr. Rajnikanth, who had decided not to smoke on screen. The very next day, Mr. Khan retorted by terming smoking on the screen as ‘Creative Liberty’.

If we further analyze this incident, we would realize that both of these individuals have a point in their argument. While the intention of Mr. Ramadoss is to discourage the public from smoking, his approach for the cause might not be the right one. In India, movies create a huge influence on the masses. The themes covered in the movies are widely discussed in all stratas of the society. The movie stars are always looked up on as icons and role models. Even their personal life is closely followed by the media. People follow each and every step of their favorite star with utmost care and affection. Hence, as far as eradicating problems (?) like smoking is concerned, movie stars could play a pivotal role in helping the administrators. But, will the message be strong if they give up smoking on screen? How many people knew that Rajini gave up smoking on screen for this cause?

That smoking is injurious to health is universally accepted, and eradicating this evil from the society is a mammoth task. The only way out, in my opinion, is to spread awareness about the ill effects of smoking to the youth, and to reduce their exposure to smoking at young age. This is in line with the recent survey by NDTV, which shows that people become habitual smokers during their teenage. As a first step to reduce the exposure of teenagers, government should ban smoking at public places. As a kid, one always would be desperate to try out what other adults do. They will be desperate to graduate to adulthood, and acts like smoking are seen as something really “cool” by these ignorant kids. Recent studies suggest that secondary smokers face equal danger for inhaling the fumes as primary ones. Moreover, there are many people who are allergic to the smoke. Considering all these factors, it is important and essential for government to ban smoking at public places.

The next step that they could take is to ban shops from selling cigarettes to the citizens who are minors. If they can ban sale of liquor to those below 18, why can’t they ban smoking as well?

In the metros, hookahs are a major craze. We can see hookah spots so crowded with youngsters who want to taste the flavored hookah. Kids are also ill informed by the so called cool dudes that hookahs, unlike cigarettes are not harmful to health, and are not addictive. This is a blatant lie. Hookahs also give that “inexplicable” ecstacy that smoking gives you and has trace amounts of nicotine which causes addiction. This is a major route through which the youth in metros get addicted to smoking. I was at a popular hang out in Mumbai last week, and was startled to see high school going kids smoking hookah and when they felt that I was watching them, they tried to act cool. But as I continued staring at them, they felt really uneasy! They are, afterall, kids! Now, hookah is very expensive. Once they run out of their pocket money, they will graduate to cheaper means like smoking. I know at lot of people who have taken up smoking as a result of this hookah addiction. This dude, who is a close friend of mine used to protest like a social activist whenever his dad smoked at home. He used to tell me smoking is the worst habit that a human being could possess. Now this guy is addicted to smoking, thanks to hookah. What should I call him? Hypocrite? Or an ignorant brat? This is where health ministry can come into play. They can strictly ban shops from serving hookah to underage kids.

The next step is the most vital one. Information. How many of the kids are aware of the ill effects of smoking while they take it up? How many know that every 2 out of 3 smokers die due to its ill effects? Information could be used as a major tool while trying to eradicate smoking. Now just sending out pamplets or writing on the cigarette pack won’t help. The message should create an impact on the youth. This is where film stars could be used. As Mr. Khan rightly pointed out, smoking on screen is a part of creative liberty. Not always should you portray ideal heroes. Since smoking is a part of common man’s life, they should show such scenes while enacting such scenes. Not smoking on screen does not conspicuously convey any message against smoking. Instead, film stars can feature in ads showing ill effects of smoking. This will create more impact than anything else. If Rajini works on a campaign to eradicate smoking, it will have more impact than not smoking on screen. It will send a stronger message against smoking than not smoking on screen.

Only a conscious effort can loosen the vice grip of smoking on the youth. I hope the health ministry understands this, and tries seriously to eradicate smoking from the society. They cannot, of course, attain this without the help of parents, who also form a very crucial element in the drive against smoking. Many a times the kids get lured into smoking seeing his or her dad/mom enjoying a puff. Parents who smoke will always be shy to discuss its ill effects as they feel that the kids would loose respect, which is not the case. So, more than Shahrukh or Amitabh, if the parents don’t smoke, there are high chances that the kids also don’t.

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What happens if the power is given to the undeserved? When these headless chickens are the flag bearers of our nation, who suffers on the long run? Two separate incidents last week can answer this question better than any other in the recent past.

The first one involves Mr. Ronen Sen, Indian Ambassador to US. When he made a seemingly harmless comparison of the journalists who run around with all the dirt splashed by the great communist gurus to headless chicken, whose ego is hurt? It hit the stalwart Comrades who still live under the glory of the 19thcentury greats like Carl Marx. They went to the extent of demanding a calling back of Mr. Ronen Sen for this minor incident. Mr. Sen is a diplomat; normally we don’t expect them to get entangled in controversies like this. But the unexpected happened.

On a closer look, why did the commies get incensed when Mr. Sen called the journalists headless chicken? Is it some kind of “self realization” that the great sages talk about now and then, followed by the inferiority complex that emerged out of it? When you are addressed daily by appellations worse than a headless chicken in the Parliament, why do you take them in a sporty manner? Mr. Sen, if I am correct, would have burned the midnightoil, in order to reach the position what he is today, unlike the commies who must have been more interested in strikes and college union during their screwed up college life, through which they came to power. One should respect his education if not anything else while demanding an apology in front of these headless donkeys. Moreover, are commies so low on self esteem to get pricked by a comment that is supposedly pointed toward the journalists? Is this move motivated by their guilty conscience about their irrational stand on nuclear deal? I am not a staunch supporter of the nuclear deal, but had there been any doubts regarding the deal, why didn’t Mr. Prakash Karat, who is the biggest of the losers point it out before the Congress made their intentions public? How can incorrigible and obnoxious individuals like Mr. Nilotpal Das make totally outrageous comments like Communists have always supported actions that are meant for the progress of the nation? , Getting back to the poor show against Mr Sen, was there a need for this big hue and cry? Now who are the real headless chickens? Commies or the journos? They should be ashamed to accept the unconditional apologies from Mr. Sen. Moreover, they should be charged for the mockery made by them against the educated lot. Incidents like this send wrong signals to the youth regarding power and authority. In my opnion, people who use their clout for wrong reasons like this should be stripped of their power and banished from politics forever.

The second incident is about the omission of “The Wall”. Rahul Dravid is one of the most prolific batsman Indiahas ever seen in the recent past. He is one of the rarest of its breed to ever bless the game of cricket. Moreover, he is a gentleman, a gem of a sportsman. He has been chosen by Gillette to be a part of the big league of Roger Federer and Tiger Woods in their latest advertisement. In the last series, his form has been dismal, scoring two ducks. But, is one series good enough to estimate one’s position in the team? In that case, why didn’t Sachin get dropped after his dismal Windies series? Why did they not drop Agarkar for long time? Another Mr. Obnoxious (thanks to Vamsi for this terminology) Dilip Vengsarkar, has been cheap enough to make illogical remarks like selection is purely based on merit, and form. Then how the fuck did he choose Sehwag? Where has he shown his form? When our Mr. Obnoxious raised doubts about Dravid’s fitness, he chose not to comment about the fittest on earth Sehwag and his paunch. When Mr. Obnoxious’ love interest Sachin was struggling for form, he used resort to the good old saying “Form is temporary and Class is permanent”. Keep shuffling Sachin from batting position 4 to 7, and let him maintain the average more than Dravid, I will eat my word. (In fact the primary reason for Sachin to make a public comment about Greg Chappel’s mishandling of the team was the latter’s opinion regarding his batting position. Apparently Chappel wanted Sachin to move down to middle order, which the little master found offending. He, though is the greatest batsman on earth, belongs to the same league of Mr. Vengsarkar when it comes to politics and ego.)

Dravid has been the victim of the cheap ego and politics. I am sure Sachin will hold the grudge against Dravid for the Chappel incident as well as the great declaration at 194 in Sydney(I hope I got it right). Otherwise, why does it take him so long to support Dravid? I can understand why Dhoni is keeping quiet. He is new, and he would not like to get out of sorts with the team management so early. Moreover he is afraid that such a stand will affect the solidarity of the team, with the influence of Sachin still strong on players like Yuvi and Sourav. The onus, no lies on seniors like Sachin and Dada to take the issue up with Sharad Pawar if required.

If this is the “Indian” way to treat gentlemen, then there is something seriously wrong with the system. Or you need to become another Nilotpal Das or Prakash Karat or Dilip Vengsarkar.

India almost out of world cups. Whom to blame? The coach? Or  The team?  

Statistics of our performance for the past 10 years or so shows that Team India always buckled under pressure. They always lost when it mattered the most, the only exception being the historic win at Lords during Natwest Trophy. This may sound psychological, but it is a fact, and India needs to work on making themselves tough, to get going when things become tough.  

I am not disagreeing to the fact that Indians took the Bangladesh match light and paid heavy price for that. Against Srilanka, Indian bowlers bowled as though they belong to a different league altogether, without any shade of luck. That shows Team India were serious, though they buckled yet again, unable to handle the pressure during the latter part of the game. It was almost like a repeat of 1996 semis, I still remember Vinod Kambli walking off crying that day. 

Many may argue that India were under prepared. But, the warm up matches showed otherwise. India bundled out West Indies for 85, and won the match comfortably. Again one can float up the theory that one match hardly shows anything. This same theory holds good for the match against Bangladesh. 

Now about blaming Indian performance on the money centric players who feature more in cheap commercials than their practice matches, sports is a field where one’s career is limited, and one injury is good enough to take them away from limelight.

Furthermore, cricketers are celebrities and they need to live up to their status. So, to live such a luxurious life, they need to make money when their commercial value is high. Sure, we think players like Sachin have earned enough, and we call them money minded. How about people like Amitabh Bachchan? He got a Bentley free of cost from Amar Singh right? How could Amar Singh get it? Of course a politician cannot earn it from his salary. Aren’t these people greedier than these set of cricketers? Then why let them Scot free? If the politicians showed 10% of the commitment that team India showed, India would have been in a much better position right now. And Sachin wouldn’t have stayed in the team had he not shown a high level of commitment so far in his long career of 17 years. One should never forget that n ot many have stayed fit and focused for that long. 

I am not trying to justify Team India’s performance. Sure, they need to get the stick for what they did in World Cup. I just wanted to say that Indian team doesn’t deserve to be treated so badly to the extent of peltering stones at their houses, and stopping one session in Parliament (for which the loss runs into lakhs, if I am correct). What we require is, people with vision at the top, who can nurture the talented young players of
India, make them tough to stand the pressure and perform up to the expectation of a billion of fans. Otherwise, we will have to see more hara-kiris performed by Team India at crunch situations.
  

 IIT JEE to have only 2 papers? 

I somehow am not able to absorb this news. During our years, we had a screening test followed by a main examination, which was mainly subjective. The subjective exam is considered to be the toughest to crack. Essentially the subjective exam used to tune our problem solving abilities to match with those which we encountered during our course work during IITs. I have to say the objective system is going to make the life of students difficult, as they may take time to get themselves accustomed to the quiz questions and tutorials for the courses.

Making the JEE system easy may not be the right move. I have not understood why they were insisting on making it easier. It could be to make JEE fair and square for all the candidates, as the tough format was dominated by the coaching classes, who used to encourage students from bunking their higher secondary classes, through which they miss the essential interaction of students. This inturn had resulted in what they call “nerds” coming out of IITs. This reason is something that I never understood. How could an easier paper result in more people attending their 11th and 12th classes? The coaching centers will make sure that they don’t miss a single point required for JEE, for which they will still go ahead with rigorous coaching schedules.

First day last show.

And Jiah Khan steals the show.

That’s how I would like to put it. Anticipating full house, we were welcomed by a relatively empty cinema, which is unusual for a Bachchan starrer RGV movie. The last movie of the duo was Sarkar, and it won accolades from all strata of Indian movie buffs. From the day 1 of promos, Nishabdh has been boasting of a different narrative in which a senile gentleman, who is also an artistic photographer, falls in love with a young girl in her late teens. Amitabh Bachchan is Mr. Vijay, a hexagenarian, who owns an estate in the picturesque landscapes of Munnar. He is accompanied by his wife, Amrutha (Revati) and his daughter. Life is quiet for them, until one vacation for which his daughter takes Jia, her college friend with her. Jia is a girl who has an attitude of “I don’t care around her”. Jiah’s childhood has been rattled by the divorce of her parents, followed by the second marriage of her mother.  Though she tries to don a cool girl image with punch lines such as “Take light”, one could see she is not very cool when it comes to things concerning her.

One fine day during the vacation, Ritu gets bedridden due to sprain and Vijay is forced to take Jiah alone for the estate trip for the next 5 days. During this period, they get very close to each other, and Amitabh realizes that he is in love with Jiah when confronted with the proposal from the teenager. Things turn bad when Ritu spots both of them kissing each other, and this leads to big turmoils in the family, and tears start rollicking from the eyes of everyone in the family. The movie ends showing the desolate Vijay contemplating about his future.

Amitabh, known for his domineering personality on and off the screen, chipped in with an uncharacteristic role of an emotionally fragile person and has added another stunning performance into his illustrious career. The rookie Jiah Khan is a treat to watch; she is sensual and has excellently fit into the innocent “I don’t care” desi teenager. She has got the looks, and her bosoms can flutter any guy I should say! Revathy, who has always shown her acting prowess, has done total justice to her limited role. A couple of characters who failed to make any impact are Ritu and her uncle, enacted by Naser. His role of a brother in law, who is unusually tolerant to Vijay and Jiah, looks very artificial. I don’t really believe one could see such brother in laws, unless he is Jesus Christ or Osho reincarnated, and has invented the elixir for life. Nasser, a very good actor known for his captivating roles in south Indian movies has been totally underutilized in the movie. Probably RGV could have given the role to someone else than wasting the talent of
Nasser.

On the whole, as the name says, Nishabdh is a silent, unconventional bollywood movie. Apart from the stunning cinematography (The place is a paradise!) and good acting at times, the movie is mediocre. After watching the movie, one gets a feeling that RGV failed to do justice to a wonderful story, and could have done much better. For the past 10 years, Ramu has displayed his caliber in making thriller and action flicks many a times, and his attempt to make a romantic movie is not up to the mark. The movie is very light, devoid of a powerful screenplay or dialogues. Nevertheless, the actors have performed remarkably, given the limited prospects offered to them by the screenplay. Though I won’t recommend it as a must watch movie, it is a different and daring attempt by RGV and one can go to the theatre and come out after the movie without much difference in their state of mind.

PS: The title reminds me of one of my favorites, The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel.

Hello darkness, my old friend,

I’ve come to talk with you again,

Because a vision softly creeping,

Left its seeds while I was sleeping,

And the vision that was planted in my brain

Still remains

Within the sound of silence.

In restless dreams I walked alone

Narrow streets of cobblestone,

neath the halo of a street lamp,

I turned my collar to the cold and damp

When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of

A neon light

That split the night

And touched the sound of silence.

And in the naked light I saw

Ten thousand people, maybe more.

People talking without speaking,

People hearing without listening,

People writing songs that voices never share

And no one dared

Disturb the sound of silence.

Fools said I ,you do not know

Silence like a cancer grows.

Hear my words that I might teach you,

Take my arms that I might reach you.

But my words like silent raindrops fell,

And echoed

In the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed

To the neon God they made.

And the sign flashed out its warning,

In the words that it was forming.

And the signs said, the words of the prophets

Are written on the subway walls

And tenement halls.

And whispered in the sounds of silence.

 

amitabh_bachchan_bb.jpg

Amitabh for prez?  Though the “big b” has dismissed these rumours, I am amused by this it. Amitabh, perhaps is arguably the best entertainer Bollywood has seen. He may not be the best actor of all time,but he has the charm that made him numero uno.The “BigB” brand is one of the highest valued Indian brand, only next to the batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar.

The popularity of Amitabh, as far as I know could be attributed to his metamorphosis from the guy next door roles to the ones that show strong and unique character (like Sarkar and Black) through the highly popular angry young man phase.Moreover, his personal image has always been “clean” (We always give unwanted weightage to one’s real life persona, while rating the star; Otherwise, how can Rajini be a bigger star than Kamal in Tamil moviehood?). After the dark phase of ABC going bankrupt and the notoriety for tax evasion, he has emerged out to be the biggest winner of Bollywood, thanks to KBC and a string of movies which brought Amitabh back to the thick of things.

But the question remains, is it all enough? So far, Amitabh has shown that he is a definite crowd puller, an absolute entertainer and a smart businessman (?). But as far as president goes, one needs to have a vision and passion for the nation. Amitabh is definitely passionate about acting, more than that, he wants to be in the good books of millions of his fans.

Let us examine the case of Mr. Kalam. He showed his faculty by heading the rocket research (ISRO) and is widely appreciated for his feats. Moreover, he is known for his humilty and erudition. Despite all these, he started poorly as it took time for him to learn the tricks of the trade, and he improvised immensely, emerging as a quality President. Within his limited strata of power (I don’t believe that the President has the absolute power in democratic systems. The rubber stamp Presidents under Indira Gandhi taught us so), he was able to assert his authority and demonstrate his character.

Coming to Bachchan, he has never got a chance to proclaim conspicuously his vision or passion for the nation, owing to the nature of his work. He has devoted a lot of efforts and hard work to reach where he is right now. His efforts were complimented by the charisma that I mentioned earlier, and succeeded in luring the masses. But in the highest administrative and diplomatic levels,  glamour won’t work as smoothly and effectively as they do in stardom. Moreover, we don’t need a president who is hell bent in preserving his feel good impression amongst the masses, as this could be a serious hindrance to his unbiased thoughts.

So, who we need is a tough president, who knows about his jurisdictions. T N Sheshan (noone likes arrogance!) could be a good choice, so is Shashi Tharoor (He needs to dispose off his obsession for diplomacy and euphemism though!). But, believe it or not, politicians always want a dummy president. Indira Gandhi has been the pioneer of this idea. Hence the natural choice for them could be someone who has been very popular amongst the masses, and is a repertoire in his field, but a total rookie when it comes to politics. On the course of this idea, they totally underestimated the brains of Kalam, and the idea boomeranged. Neverthless, the bunch is incorrigible, and hence I would not be flabbergasted when encountered with the flash news that Bachchan is unanimously elected to be the next president of the nation. All said and done, Mr. Bachchan could still bamboozle them, and culminate his transformation from the guy next door into the Prez next term.

There is a devotional poem named Jnanappana in Malayalam. It is a wonderful work by a poet Poonthanam in the 16th century. A few lines can be roughly translated into:

(What was there till yesterday, I didn’t know;

Neither do I know what beckons me tomorrow.

It’s you almighty who can take us

From rags to riches or otherwise…)

This is the case of all celebrities in India. Take the case of Sourav Ganguly. From the enviable position of the best captain India has ever seen, he fell into the dungeons of embarassment in a matter of weeks. Based on his performance, he was stripped of captaincy and was sent back to domestic cricket. Though he was awarded the treatment he deserved, I still feel the media treated him shabbily. What followed his exit was a string of articles vehemently criticizing and questioning the ability of a person who has more than 10000 runs in his kitty. Sure, for every crest, there is a trough, and one had to accept Sourav was having a bad patch. But the critics who praised him once started singing elegies for him. It was for sure, an emotional torture for Sourav. The same is the case of Sania Mirza. The wonder girl of Indian tennis, who rose to the celebrity status due to her diligence and talent, has been discarded off by media, and vehemently criticized for her inability to be consistent.

Leave sports for an instant. Let us take the case of Bollywood. Sanjay Dutt was a spoiled brat with underworld connections. He made the life of Sunil Dutt miserable by his irrational acts. Post Munnabhai, Sanjay is a “transformed” gentleman, who needs to be pardoned. The Sanjay, who got ammunition from Dawood was an immature, high adrenalin kid, and is not the Munnabhai whom we know. What would have been the situation had Munnabhai never occurred in Sanjay’s life? Whatever the court verdict is, the Indian media and public have forgiven him. What happened to Salman Khan? He shot a blackbuck, then a couple of other endangered animals, and the case is still alive. According to the media, he has been taunted enough, and the time has come to condone his actions. This essentially transforms to Salman leaving Scot free.

Politicians are no different. What happened to Lalu Prasad Yadav? His cases of bribe on cattle feed is a forgotten chapter in India, except for the poor judiciary. What we have today is the new Lalu bent on reforms. He indeed has resurrected the railways. But, is that enough to forgive him also? Another instance, what happened to Godhra incident? Where are the reports? How is Narendra Modi left out without even questioned? Looking at all these, what message should the youth of the nation take? Commit any unforgivable sin, to compensate that, change your image, and do some charity stunts. You are not crucified anymore. Nice way, isn’t it?

Now, take the case of media. I am not questioning their integrity. But the sad fact is that, no one knows about it. They are the ones responsible for feeding information to the public. Now, the question is, are they justified for their actions always?

Take for instance, the case of Princess Diana. She was followed by Paparazzi in a high speed lane, before she crashed inside a tunnel. Why weren’t these paparazzi questioned? They were running around for a scoop, and they ultimately ended up killing the golden goose. Nevertheless, they devoured enough on her public image, had enough news to fill their column for months. How about infringing into the privacy of celebrities? We get the photos of Agassi spending his honeymoon with Steffi from these photographers.

Are these actions morally correct? If one feels these are the only questionable acts of the media, boy! you are seriously wrong. Consider Iraq and Afghanistan. How many news papers/channels have been bold enough to report about the number of civilians who had to fall as victims of this unfortunate war? I have read somewhere that the satellite images published in the worldwide media were administered and censored cleverly by the US government, concealing the act of barbarism committed by soldiers. A few on the atrocities done on the prisoners of war by the
US troopers created an initial furor, which later got subdued. Why didn’t the media enquire what happened afterwards?

In the Indian scenario, I remember the incident of Karunanidhi getting manhandled by police at 2 AM, five years back. Jaya TV (owned by the then ruling party) showed it as Karunanidhi being un co-operative, where as SUN TV (owned by the then opposition) show cased the event as an act of inhumanness by the cops. So, if the logic is anything to go by, who is wrong? And if one of the parties is wrong, who will punish them? Is this what we call power of media?

I am not trying to undermine the wonderful acts that the media persons have done. Sure, they did a brilliant act when they campaigned for Priyadarshini Mattoo and Jessica Lal. This commendable act showed the power of media. The question is, can media do something better? When will the dream of unbiased media come true? How do we know if they are fabricating data or news? And, at the end of it, who will punish the faltered ones in the media? I am sure that there are more glasses to shatter, than the ones so far.