Category Archives: Media

Looking for Comedy in The Muslim World!

As you read about the continuing riots over the caricatures of Mohammed, I urge you to please shed a tear for Al Brooks – the comedian who went looking for comedy in the Muslim world and released his movie about a month ago. How bad his timing could have been? It’s like releasing a movie over Hindu tolerance and love in December 1992, or releasing a movie on the maturity of the American voter in November 2004, or releasing a movie over the positive influence of the British Empire in April 1919. You get the point that I am trying to make crudely over here, right? Good! Now we can move on and talk some more about Al.

So the guy goes to India and Pakistan to find out what would make the Muslims laugh (and maybe some Hindus too) and barely has his plane left the soil of the Indian subcontinent that Muslims all over the world erupt in a violent frenzy over a cartoon. How much more ironic can it get? Not much, right? Well, the pinnacle of irony would have been if Al were to commit some kind of blasphemy in his movie and then Muslims over the world would have been burning prints of a movie that tries to find out exactly what makes them laugh. However disappointed Al maybe, I am sure he will gladly take the current irony over the pinnacle of irony any day. Wouldn’t you?

Now here’s another irony if you would. Al has made a movie out of a travelogue, a travelogue that is part fiction and part real with real people who are not acting. But guess what! These riots have turned his work in a great work of fiction or maybe even fantasy because they’ve shown that the Muslim world does not know to laugh.

Many times in India, if a movie has faired very poorly, it is re-released some time later under a different name with some additional footage. While in this case, Al’s movie has not been a commercial flop, I have a humble suggestion for him. He should interweave his movie with shots from these protests, the rioting, the killing, the burning and then rename it “Looking for irony in the Muslim World”. Yes, that would make it an instant classic.

The Beatles

So I finally finished reading the hefty 1000 page biography of The Beatles by Bob Spitz. It took a long time but I had such a fun time reading it. I am a big Beatles fan. My first English album was Rubber Soul which I bought at the Asiatic Departmental store while visiting Bombay for the first time in eight grade. For a small town guy like me, it was a big leap of faith. I just picked that one from rows and rows of cassettes in the store and popped it into the audio player of the cab while going back from Churchgate to Budhwar Park where I was staying with some relatives of my uncle. Needless to say, my uncle and aunty sitting in the backseat of the cab were horrified (they had been brought up on Vividh Bharti and Binaca Geetmala) and I was hooked.

I’ve always had most of their albums but surprisingly, I’ve not read too much about them. So this book which is both comprehensive and enjoyable was particularly rewarding. I loaded up my entire Beatles collection on my iPod and listened to their songs while reading about how many of those very songs came to life. The book covers childhood and adolescent of each of the Beatles in great details (John gets the most pages), talks in details about how the group came together and the long and arduous journey from the dingy bars of Liverpool to Beatlemania. Bob does not mince words while describing the negative sides of each of the Beatles (John has many while Ringo and George, as widely perceived come across as the nicest). Some of the details that particularly grabbed my attention:

  • Beatles wanted Gandhi and Hitler, amongst many others to be part of the cover picture on Sgt. Pepper’s Band. EMI put paid to both suggestions. Hitler of course was out of the question and they took Gandhi out to avoid any backlash in international market, specially India
  • Lots of pages are devoted to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Beatles stay in Rishikesh. It seems like that the popular wisdom that insists that George and John were disillusioned with the Maharishi because they saw him having sex with one of the American nurses is probably wrong. It might have been fueled by one of their cronies who was afraid that the Maharishi was holding too much sway on them
  • John Lennon while in Rishikesh used to meditate without break for eight hours a day

Phew! What a story and what a journey and what songs!

How Indian Express Got Its Groove Back!

Nothing could have made me happier than watching Indian Express getting its groove back. That effect has been augmented by the newly available e-paper from them. Frankly their earlier website sucked, but the e-paper simply rocks. It has a much better interface than Times of India’s e-paper and as good as Hindustan Times’.

In any case, what is the use of a great website or a good interface without great content? Exhibit A – Times of India.

Indian Express under Arun Shourie used to be a great newspaper and then while Shourie was still the editor it starting taking itself too seriously, thinking itself to be bigger than the story it was publishing. It became the paper of opposition – opposing everything and not standing for anything positive.

After years, it is getting back the true meaning of its tagline, “the journalism of courage”. Look at their coverage of the real-estate scandal being perpetuated by the local Delhi politicians, the hard hitting editorials, in particular by Shekhar Gupta.

Great going Indian Express – kept it up.