Thursday, 26 February 2009

Goodbye Freedom

This stinks. A kid from Kerala is being criminally charged with hurting public sentiment by a fascist political group, the Shiv Sena, for comments made by others on a forum he started that the group's members don't agree with. The Supreme Court, in all their apparent wisdom, has declared that all people in similar positions are liable to be sued for the same. Naturally, there are protests.

I'd have loved to comment on the SC's decision but they haven't published the logic behind how they reached the same. All we have is:

We cannot quash criminal proceedings. You are a computer student and you know how many people access internet portals. Hence, if someone files a criminal action on the basis of the content, then you will have to face the case. You have to go before the court and explain your conduct."

So now a 19 year old boy, who probably has exams to take, has to travel all the way to Thane, Mumbai to attend court to reply to an FIR registered under Sections 506 and 295A pertaining to hurting public sentiment by comments that he didn't even make. This brings up so many points:

1. Got a mint...sentiment?

The sections pertaining to hurting public sentiment - what's up with those?
I'm assuming the purpose of these sections is to protect the masses from having their feelings hurt. But is this really a sensible law? What exactly is public sentiment? And how does it get hurt? And who decides this?

What if I claim that someone has hurt my feelings and the feelings of my community or organisation simply because he has an opinion that differs from ours? Because that's hurting public sentiment, isn't it? Does that mean that I can file a criminal complaint against that person, just because I say it hurts public sentiment, and they have to respond or face arrest?

If so, then maybe it's time this section was scrapped, because what prevents a person or group from crying out in false pain and agony and going to court every time they come across someone with a different opinion? Imagine the possibilities! Everyone suing everyone else daily for libel or hurting public sentiments just because they hold a different opinion. I can sue the VHP and Bajrang Dal for hurting Christian sentiments with their demand that we stop believing that Christianity is the only means to salvation. The Indian Jewish community can file an FIR against the Indian government for their official response to Israeli attacks in Gaza (i.e. sympathising with the victims), claiming that sympathising with Palestinians hurts their sentiments.

Without a proper definition of what public sentiment is and how it gets hurt, we won't be able to identify what is offensive. And until we do that, I'm afraid we can only expect more such ridiculous cases to come forward.

2. I didn't say that!

Assuming 'hurting public sentiment' is really a crime, and the police or courts were able to define what public sentiment was, and the comments made were really offensive enough to warrant an FIR, they weren't made by
Ajith D, the boy in question, but by other people on a forum he started. Can he be held responsible for other people's opinions, even if they do hurt public sentiment? If so, won't that rule apply to all of us and our blogs and forums?

And what if we simply can't keep up with all the comments; offensive comments might be posted on our forums faster than we can moderate them. Can we get off the hook that way? Can Ajith do so? Or will he have to take responsibility anyway? I'm glad I've enabled comment moderation on my blog, but that's besides the point; we're talking about a forum here.

Even if he had no intention of moderating anything, can he be held responsible for simply creating something that others misused? How far does this responsibility fall? Can Ajith also be held responsible for a criminal action committed by a forum visitor who claims that something he read on the forum incited him to commit the crime?

3. Why can't we all just be rude?

Why can't I insult or make up fake stuff about any person or organisation or political party or community without fear? Isn't that what humour writers do to some extent? Well, I can't because that's what the constitution says:

In other words, the state can clamp down on my freedom of expression if it involves defamation, which might very well be valid in this case. That the law needs to be changed is another point.

Strangely, the law says nothing about clamping down on freedom of expression when it comes to hurting public sentiment (unless I've missed something), which is what Ajith has been charged with. Did the SS screw up here and leave a loophole for Ajith to escape through by charging him with the wrong crime? The forum comments in question involve defamation i.e the SS trying to divide the country, while Ajith has been charged with hurting public sentiment.

Throwing stones from a glass house

The group that filed the FIR is the Shiv Sena youth wing. Are you kidding me?
How many people are dead and how many crores worth of public property been destroyed because of the SS's actions? Their very existence is an affront to public sentiment. Ajith should counter sue on that charge.

In any case, I don't think Ajith is ever going to see the insides of a jail cell, in the same way that Raj Thackeray hasn't got convicted yet for hurting public sentiments. I don't think they'll ever be able to prove that by starting a forum that eventually contained derogatory comments against the SS, he was willingly plotting to hurt anyone's sentiments or defame anyone.


Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Things to do in Mumbai

Once upon a time, a man named Zishaan Hayath compiled a list of 100 Things To Do in Bombay. This list was subsequently republished both in BombayLives and in Mumbai Metblogs.

In another kingdom nearby, Mumbai Ready Reckoner sourced, modified and published a Time Out Mumbai list of 101 things to see and do in Mumbai.

A very weary traveller and explorer is happy to claim that he has accomplished half of all the things on the lists, and hopes to do the other half soon.


Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Movies seen recently: Kagemusha, Deep Red


The story of a clan, a dying emperor, and his double. Good music, but it tends to get a bit repetitive, though not as repetitive as the music in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Black. Now that was really irritating.

Deep Red

A 1975 Dario Argento horror/thriller film. Like Slumdog Millionaire and Apocalypto, full of plot holes and bad lines, but designed around a director's amazing vision, meaning you can't help but overlook its faults and appreciate what's been created. Good build up of suspence and mystery. The story takes you along with it, making you ignore its faults. Like Kagemusha, has very good music.


Friday, 20 February 2009

Movies seen recently: No Country for Old Men, March of the Penguins

No Country for Old Men (2007)

Slow, intense. Written and directed by the Coen brothers. A man finds a lot of money and runs. A hitman is on his trail. An old policeman tries to piece things together.

March of the Penguins (2005)

A documentary about Antarctic Emperor penguins. Emotional, excellent shots. Directed by Luc Jacquet.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Target Audience

Does the news item placement team at Rediff know something we don't w.r.t target audiences and generating the most views?


Monday, 16 February 2009

Byculla Zoo, Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Kala Ghoda '09

Went to Byculla Zoo on Sunday morning. Met up with PV and BD and took a cab to the zoo at 10.15.

Looked around at the plant exhibition first. Then bought tickets to the zoo (Rs. 5 per adult and Rs. 10 for a camera). The zoo is large, spacious, quiet and very green.

The condition of the animals however, was quite bad. We saw two elephants. One was in its pen, the other was chained outside. There was a single bored looking lioness in a cage. Same with the Hyena - just one, and looking bored. Why do they keep these animals here if they can't find company for them?

This reminded me of an earlier post I wrote about the zoo here.

Saw quite a few crocs, snakes, birds and deer.

Then went to the Bhau Daji Lad museum next door. It was refurbished recently and really looks good. I'm talking international good. They don't allow photography inside however. The ground floor is taken up with the agricultural and trade heritage of India, with descriptions and displays of various products produced and the tools used to produce them in the small scale and cottage industries.

The first floor is dedicated to the religious heritage of India and the history of Mumbai, with descriptions of Mumbai's different communities, displays showing Mumbai's development into a city, and depictions of the British Indian Army.

We three of us then went to Kala Ghoda, from where we walked to Mondegar for lunch, after which PV had his portrait drawn by a street artist, and I bought one of those wire frame puzzles. They both left soon after and I roamed about the area, clicking away. It was really crowded, a lot more crowded than last year's festival. Maybe because that Sunday was the last day of the festival? I noticed a lot more displays this year as well.

Headed home soon after.


Saturday, 14 February 2009

Wildscreen '09

Attended the Mumbai leg of the Wildscreen festival, an international wildlife and nature film festival, on Thursday and Friday, at Film City. It was a gathering of amateur and professional wildlife and nature lovers, photographers, documentary filmmakers, interested souls, etc.

The festival is a part of the activities conducted by Wildscreen, a U.K based charity that, according to their website, seeks
"to promote the public appreciation of biodiversity and the conservation of nature through the power of wildlife imagery."

The main festival is held at Bristol every two years, with an awards ceremony, where they hand out Panda awards, and hold debates, seminars, screenings, workshops, etc. The international version of the festival is essentially going from city to city screening films and holding workshops encouraging wildlife filmmaking.

Thursday, 12th Feb.

I arrived in time for registration at Whistling Woods International, close to the Goregaon gate of the SGNP at 9.15, only to see the British Council people, who were organising the event, begin setting up.

Sipped coffee while waiting for everyone else to turn up and then sat inside the main auditorium waiting for the 10.00 A.M inauguration to begin. But things like laptops and stage furniture were still being set up. There seemed to be a lot of confusion and poor planning and it was only by 10.15 that things got started.

John Lee, the Dean of WWI, gave an introductory speech, followed by Harriet Nimmo, the CEO of Wildscreen, at 10.20.

Bittu Sahgal, sans ponytail, then gave a typically impassioned talk at 10.30. He stated that the entire film budget of a Wildlife documentary in India is less than the budget of the second sound unit of a BBC documentary. His entire talk was one long rant, mostly about there being no money to work with.

We saw a David Attenborough film from 10.40 to 11.40, Can we Save Planet Earth?, one half of a two part documentary on global warming. The most interesting things about it were the 7 steps to arrest global warming as put forth by a Princeton University professor, and interesting graphics to support main ideas.

Had a 5 minute break after which Harriet Nimmo delivered a Master Class on 'Trends in Wildlife & Environmental Filmmaking'. She described for us the Wildscreen Festival, told us the next awards ceremony would be in 2010, for which they would be accepting entries in January next year, and described ARKive, a relatively new Wildscreen product, a website that collects wildlife pictures for use by others.

  • I learnt that blue chip documentaries are those dealing primarily with animal behaviour (like David Attenborough films), as opposed to human-animal interaction at the opposite end (an example would be Saving Luna).

  • Expedition Guyana was quoted as an example of getting realistic footage - a man in a tent capturing on camera his thoughts and fears about a storm passing overhead.

  • Meerkat Manor: The Story begins was quoted as an example of a new trend where a T.V series is so popular it spins off into a movie. The clip of the start of the movie was good. It built up a description of what was to come to make it seem like some sort of dramatic epic. Also, I liked the shot of the sun rising just as the movie title fades away.

  • Another new trend is wildlife documentaries making it to movie theatres, like March of the Penguins. A lot of people are now looking to make something as popular.

  • The trend nowadays is to get people's attention, and one way to do this is by keeping them laughing and entertained. They might not want to see something gloomy after a long day at work.
The example shown to us was a funny ad for Rethinking the Shark.

  • The clip on Polar Bears on Thin Ice taught us to really engage our audiences, use graphics interactively, and make good use of sound and music.

We had lunch after which Producer Amanda Theunissen delivered a Masterclass on 'Storytelling' at 1.45.

  • She stared off with telling us to remember 2 rules.
    1. You must have a story.
    2. The story must have a beginning, middle, and an end.
She told us that you must have a story, and even though things may change while filming, so that parts of the story or the story itself change, you still need to have a plan to allow for continuance of the story.

She also told us that the rules shouldn't be straitjackets. You were allowed to develop stories around the rules, but not develop narrow stories to fit the rules.

  • We were shown a clip where two kingfishers were fighting and trying to drown each other, when they suddenly get attacked by a predator, showing us that in rare instances, filmmakers do get lucky.

  • We were told that two minutes into the movie, your audience needs to know two things:

  1. What is the story?
  2. What kind of story is it?
We were shown clips of the intros to episodes of Animal Planet shows Meerkat Manor and Vets in Action to demonstrate these points. While the former's intro narrated the the latest dealings in Meerkat Manor, making it seem like a soap opera, the latter's was urgent, clear and to the point, describing the three main cases it would be dealing with. Both intros answered both questions. Their narratives answered the first question, while their tone answered the second.

  • For a quick lesson on audience responsiveness, we were shown 3 clips from documentaries about the Wolverine, having to pick the one that we felt appealed to the most number of people.
    1. The first one was German; it built up on suspense but otherwise wasn't exciting and didn't show the main subject till the very end.
    2. The second was American; it was a bit in-your-face, with a thriller-sounding narration, and showed the wolverine right from the start, making it look ominous and scary with music to follow.
    3. The final one was Japanese. It showed ridiculous drawings of a story involving a wolverine with childish sound effects to describe actions that were taking place in the pictures.
I personally liked the first and second ones more or less equally, but disliked the third. However, I wonder how I would have felt about the first and second had I seen them in their entirety. As regards which would be the most appealing to the masses, I went with the third. Though it didn't appeal to me, I guess a simple cartoon type documentary would work well on DD.

Others felt that all three would be appealing, but to different audiences. The first one to serious documentary watchers, the second to the normal Nat Geo, Discovery, and Animal planet watchers, and the third to kids and the masses.

  • We were told that studies have shown that you just have 5 seconds to capture your audience's attention.

  • We were also told that it's best to include a discreet reminder of where the narrative is going somewhere in the documentary.

  • A question you were supposed to ask yourself is how much does the audience need to know. Too much information and they may get bored.
  • The Jeopardy factor. Many filmmakers include something exciting or some amount of tension mid way through the film. (For example, a major challenge confronts the explorers or the main subject.
False jeopardy is when there is false or no tension; when it's played up to be something its not.

  • Humans on film need to be understanding, likable, and interesting.
You need to use only interesting people who can carry the audience with them.

  • Studies have shown that a person remembers only 3 facts from a documentary and the ending needs to be one of them.
    • There shouldn't be too many endings.
    • It should be definite and wrapped up well. One example is Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.
    • It should end with the main character if there is one.
We finished at 2.45 and had a 15 minute break, after which we returned to watch another David Attenborough feature, 'Life in Cold Blood: Armoured Giants'.

Friday, 13th Feb.

The day was supposed to start at 10.05. I only reached at around 10.45, but was able to catch a lot of Paul Donovan's Masterclass on 'Sound'.

  • He showed us videos as examples of sync recording.
  • He quoted David Lynch on sound - you can't have all sound all the time or too little sound all the time. Sound usage depends on the story.
  • Layered sound.
    • Do it piece by piece.
    • Use Atmos for background effect.
    • Then add sound effects.
    • Then add a soundtrack.
We then had a 10 minute break, after which we were supposed to have Naresh Bedi present one of his films, but I guess he was running late, so they showed us the hour long Earth: The Power of the Planet: Atmosphere, instead, which they were supposed to show after lunch.

We then had lunch, followed by Naresh Bedi introducing his film Cherub of the Mist, to us, followed by an after movie discussion, where we learnt about the hardships he faced while filming, like standing alone in the cold for a shot lasting only a few seconds, and having to endure leeches. He then showed us a clip from one of his other documentaries.

All this uptil around 2.30, when Rabiya Nazaki, one of the faculty from WWI, and one of Mike Pandey's proteges, gave us a talk on Mike Pandey's films, and showed us Shores of Silence - Whale Sharks in India, and one of his Earth Matters episodes.

We then had a short break, followed by a viewing of some The Animals Save the Planet shorts, and the morbid movie Global Dimming.


Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Celebrity March

With IPL Season 2 nearing, activity at the office seems to be heating up.

RR team manager and director of coaching Darren Berry came in for a meeting and photo op yesterday. And today was RR Vice Chairman Ravi Krishnan's and co-owner Raj Kundra's turn in the boardroom.

New co-owner of approximately 12% of the RR along with Shilpa Shetty, Mr. Kundra came in with bodyguards, shades and the attitude and dress sense of a big time celebrity rather than a businessman, but perhaps that's what you'd expect from a flamboyant entrepreneur and self made millionaire.

Team physio John Gloster has paid us a visit in the past, and the friendly, humble Dinesh Salunkhe regularly makes guest appearances, at one time even trying out a cricket bat from our storeroom. Hopefully, he only did that for fun and that's not how we stock our players. Or maybe the recession HAS hit us.

But the one guy we're really waiting for is Warnie. Hopefully he'll turn up late on a Friday night with a case of rum, a few RR cheerleaders and designs on Bandra's nightlife.



The schedule for the 2009 Twenty20 World Cup is out on Rediff and guess what? India seems to be at a slight advantage.

There are three teams per group. The first round consists of each team playing against the other two teams in their group. The top two teams from each group then go to round two.

India should almost certainly feature in round 2. But this is Twenty20 cricket and anything can happen. Anyone willing to take a bet on Ireland, Scotland and The Netherlands making it into the top 8?


Monday, 9 February 2009

Movies: Into the Wild, Chungking Express

Saw Sean Penn's Into the Wild on Sunday morning. Amazing movie. Based on the true story of Christopher McCandless' efforts to find himself, as told in the book by John Krakauer.

Also saw Chungking Express in the night. A bit slow and boring. I will never forget the words to the song California Dreamin'.


Saturday, 7 February 2009

Friday Culinary Expedition

Hung around Bandra for a while after work with a friend on Friday. Chilled out at Bandstand and then went to Pali looking for food.

Went to MacCraig's first. Almost everything was over (it was about 9.00 P.M).

Then went to this Parsi cafe opposite 5 Spice called Ashmick's Snack Shack. Most of the stuff like the frankies and rolls were over, so we had the chicken burgers, which tasted really weird. The patties were small and there was some kind of weird sauce in the burger. Not worth it for Rs.55. Also tried the Chocolate Mousse, which is among the best I've ever had, though expensive at Rs.40 for a negligible quantity.

Walked around for a while noticing all the new places to eat, places we've not been to before and might visit in the near future. Glad to know that Pali has a lot of cafe's and small eateries that are quite affordable, and not just expensive restaurants. When I say quite affordable, I'm talking of course in relative terms. What costs Rs.40 in Bandra would easily cost Rs. 25-30 elsewhere.


Wednesday, 4 February 2009

The Normal Grind

Weird stuff happening today. Firstly, I was among the lucky few this morning who managed to catch the last train from Borivali before services were disrupted for a long time. Apparently, people were unhappy that a train was cancelled and so blocked all other trains from coming or going.

Also in the news, Shilpa Shetty has been gifted a stake in the Rajasthan Royals by partner Raj Kundra. Boy, I didn't see that coming. Ms. Shetty says she'll be getting involved in the more creative aspects of the franchise, like music videos and merchandising.

Last year, the RR management kept a reasonably low profile. This year seems more like a Bollywood circus.
Here's hoping that our team repeats last year's success while ignoring any possible 'distractions'.


Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Janjira Fort Trip

Finally went to the Janjira sea fort at Murud on Sunday. Been planning this for a while now.

Awoke at 4.00 A.M. Left home by 4.45. Took a train to Churchgate and a taxi to the Gateway to meet PV and BD, who were already there. I reached just a couple of minutes after the first ferry of the day (6.15 A.M by Ajantha Launch Services) left.

So, after apologising for my lateness, we settled down to wait for the next ferry, at 7.15. PV and BD had a bite to eat while waiting. Taking the next ferry turned out to be something of a good thing, since we got to watch the sunrise as we pulled away from the harbour.

The ferry ride to Mandwa jetty took an hour, and the accompanying free bus ride to Alibag (also by Ajantha) took another 45 minutes, so it was 9.00 A.M by the time we reached Alibag.

We walked down the road to the S.T bus depo and hopped into a bus bound for Murud, which was the closest stop to our destination. The bus ride took another two hours.

We got off a few stops before the last stop, so we had to take a rick to Murud market and another rick to the jetty from where we could catch a boat to Janjira fort.

As the rick hugged the hilly coastline in its path towards the jetty, we caught a breathtaking glimpse of the fort.

The jetty is pretty enough with clear views of the fort, and boats were constantly ferrying visitors to and from the fort.

We spent about an hour at the fort looking around. It was large, very large, with cannon turrets around every corner, and ruins of what were storage, administration, religious and living dwellings within its confines.

Took a boat back to the mainland, and a rick to Murud beach, where we gorged on thalis for lunch - I had the mutton one whereas my two fellow explorers had the chicken ones. We then waited for an S.T bus to Alibag and then took an Ajantha bus and ferry combo back to Mumbai.

Got a chance to watch the sunset from the ferry on our way back.

We chilled out at Leopold's for a while before taking a taxi to Dadar where we split up and I took a train home.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Movies Seen: National Treasure - BOS, The Visitor

Saturday was busy. I was supposed to go on a two day trip to Murud but shortened it to a one day trip on Sunday instead, as BD couldn't make it on Sat, and a one day trip involves less planning and less hassle. So I had more time to do other stuff on Sat.

Went to the bank in the morning, rested during the day, and watched a couple of movies at night. Saw National Treasure - Book Of Secrets on T.V during dinner time. The less said about it the better.

Then saw The Visitor immediately after. I knew I had a long day on Sunday but I really wasn't sleepy.
Excellent movie. A lonely man visits his second apartment to find it rented out to a young couple. He allows them to stay and the resulting experience changes his life. Written and directed by Thomas McCarthy and released in 2008.

Turned in for the night at around 1.30 A.M for a couple of hours sleep before the big trip on Sunday.


Sunday, 1 February 2009


Met up with FP, his friend EA, and cousin on Fri night. The plan was for me to take them around Bandra and help them indulge in some local fare vis a vis food.

So we met at Karachi Sweets at around 8.00 P.M, where we tried the Sev Puri, Malai Kulfi, Pista Kulfi, and a Kesar shake.

I then took them to Cheron, where they tried various croissants - Chicken Tikka, Chicken Malai, and Manchurian Chicken.

Then went to Elco's, where FP and EA had the Lassi, FP's favourite drink since his last visit there, and one which he urged EA to try, while his cousin tried the Pineapple Mosambi juice, all very good.

I decide to take them to Toto's next; we walked there from Elco's only to find it closed. Went to Janta's close by, to find it closed as well, which could only mean a dry day.

So we walked back the way we came and chilled out at Gloria Jean's. FP and his friend have got to be the lamest Gloria Jean's customers ever; with all the variety on offer, all they had was the tea and lemon juice.