Posted on 19-10-2014
Filed Under (ENTERTAINMENT) by Shombit

From Discomfort Zone column by Shombit Sengupta in Financial Express and Indian Express

Acoustic sound in music is incomparable, I love it. It’s uncluttered by electric or electronic technology, or by overproduction that excessively uses audio effects. I’ve always liked the harmonica, the smallest and simplest of free reed instruments because it’s totally acoustic. Of course I’m keen on Western modern music too, including hard rock.

What fascinates me in Western music is their outstanding, scientific method of harmonization. Europeans invented harmonization where multiple instruments play a given music in different scales but the musical output convergence is one. The harmonica or mouth organ’s advantage over all instruments is that it’s extremely expressive; you can dramatically alter each note’s tone and pitch to create musical magic by blowing and drawing.

When the harmonica is the solo musical device in a Western symphony orchestra, it looks quite incongruous to audiences. The conductor’s orchestration of larger instruments like violins, double bass, saxophones all hang on the lead music emanating from the little mouth organ that’s mostly not visible in the closed palm of the player, but its marvelous for harmonization. The harmonica’s beginnings go back to Sheng, a Chinese instrument using bamboo reeds invented a few thousand years ago. Sheng came to Europe late 18th century. Instrument maker Christian Buschmann created Aura, a similar instrument with metal reeds, while the modern harmonica of ten holes, two metal reed plates was invented by an European named Richter around 1825. Germany’s Hohner first started mass producing the harmonica, and continues to be the leader. After Matthias Hohner introduced 19th century America to the harmonica, its popularity rose. Being cheap and easy to carry, it became perfect for black slaves, whose uninhibited spiritual music is the root of American popular music and the blues genre.

I was watching an interview with Charlie McCoy, one of my favourite, and among America’s pioneering blues harmonica players from Nashville ‘Music City’ Tennessee. He’s accompanied Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Paul Simon, among others. Explaining the time around 1960s when mono or stereo recordings were done, he said all musicians had to unfailingly practice for these one-shot recordings. Musicians had to be more meticulous and precise for recordings than stage performances. If one among multiple musicians makes a mistake on stage, others can correct it. But a recording does not tolerate errors because a disc is cut for permanency. Any mistake, the recoding had to restart. McCoy said the big thrill of displaying your expertise and ability to harmonize with other instruments in a musical session is what he misses in today’s digital era.

Everything’s recorded separately nowadays. You hear many instruments in a song, but those musicians may never have known one another. Say a saxophone player is hired; he’ll come alone to play just his part in the playback musical track. It’s also possible that an intelligent music programmer will say to the producer, why do you need the saxophone player? My digital keyboard has everything; I can play whatever musical instrument you need, so you don’t need any musician to make your recording. The danger of course is that we are going to lose out on the knowhow. Suppose there are no saxophone players that the new generation can look up to because it’s all programmed, how are new musicians going to learn? When the big studios and great sound engineers retire, will the knowledge have been passed?

In today’s clinical way of recording, the live, unplanned, theatrical musical effect that emerges extempore when musicians play together can never happen. We’ve lost that on-the-spot musical drama that inspired or provoked musicians create. Digital technology has barbarously killed the emotion of musicians in a recording studio. In fact digitization is the barbarian responsible for killing many musical careers. Individual players of specialized instruments like the trumpet, drums, different types of percussion, piano, organ, harp, violin, bass guitar among others have had to put aside their competencies to pursue other jobs.

But digi-tech has had the exact opposite effect on sound engineering. The clarity of sound output, its blending and mix have become extremely powerful and without parallel to earlier times.

You may find I’m writing with an archaic attitude, pouring cold water on the invaluable invention of digital technology without which the world will literally come to a standstill today. Actually, that’s not true. I’m the technology world’s biggest admirer, but my discomfort is in digital technology knocking out the value and competence of human expertise. That’s an extremely dangerous trend for tomorrow’s creators and inventors in different domains. In music, singers like Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong among others have deeply impacted many generations, but such commanding musicians have not appeared in the digi-tech era these last 20 years.

As a music lover, I love digi-tech for enabling us to enjoy all the world’s music on our mobile handsets. But that’s exactly what’s killing individual musicians and the music world’s emotion that McCoy lamented about. Music producers no longer need to track musicians for recordings. Musical shows even cheat spectators when singers just make mouth movements of pre-recorded songs while dancing on stage with myriad effects.

Musical sound by itself was hallucinating to listen to, but songs can never be successful today without music videos. Here’s the musician’s plight: passionately build expertise but that pays nothing because music producers are not interested. You have to upload your music free of cost in YouTube. You know the number of hits you get, but will never know if people really liked your music.

Hohner in Germany must be using highly advanced digital technology today to manufacture harmonicas. But I still see their new harmonica having the same acoustic style of 45 years ago. This illustrates that technology has not disturbed the individual musician’s interface with the harmonica and the acoustic sound it delivers. That’s how digi-tech should be, not more than a mere skeleton, definitely not the killer of creativity. We have to know how to perfectly exploit technology at the backend to make it a strong skeleton.

Click here  : Digital Barbarian To download above article in PDF

Source :  The Financial Express  /  The Indian Express

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Posted on 24-06-2012
Filed Under (ENTERTAINMENT) by Shombit

From Discomfort Zone column by Shombit Sengupta in Financial Express and Indian Express

Hindi movie plots ignite diverse emotions in us covering star-crossed lovers, sacrifice, angry parents, siblings that fate separated, rapists, rebirths, mistaken identities of twin brothers, one innocent the other stomping the underworld. Continuing the saga of "Suresh! Tumne mujhe dhoka diya!" summarizing Bollywood fantasy for me, let’s get into themes beyond the melodrama kick-off scene, dance song, crime, political drama and fights you’ve read about last week.

Hate: Bollywood storylines can flow to establish extreme jealousy, greed and passion. This hate factor is Western imitation. Bad and good are not culturally prominent in India. Even our mythological stories convey that something bad for one could be good for another. In contrast, Catholicism that the West largely follows clearly demarcates good and bad. Hindi films have adopted hate, so the hero or heroine, villain or some side actor has to choke over hate, as though its food stuck in the gullet.

Love: Triangular love is a much loved theme. Different men can show overbearing love or secret attraction for the heroine, putting her emotions in critical array. But a woman can’t openly have many boyfriends as is the social reality among today’s young generation. Depicting that would make her a whore. It seems a few movies tried that with no overwhelming acceptance. The girl should love the good man, never the villain.

Foreign tour: Foreign tours were always a kind of windfall in Bollywood movies. Sitting in India spectators enjoy a visit to exotic foreign countries. In this globalization era, an overseas setting has become obligatory. Shooting abroad makes the film relevant for the extended audience of foreign born Indian origin children. Experience shows that a scene shot in a developed country upgrades the film both in terms of its acceptance status and production quality. Consider it Bollywood’s quality development or showcasing of the producer’s power.

Betrayal: Betrayal anchors more or less every movie. The emotional corruption of betrayal can happen between the hero and heroine, with 2 friends, in the family, in business, among gangsters, in politics, also shown through a death. When the betrayer is caught and punished, there’s big applause in the cinema hall.

A lecturer’s dialogue: This is an all-too-frequent Bollywood attempt at education. One character talks directly into the camera as though preaching or teaching society. The cameraman zooms into the actor’s face without stops and commas, so the gyan (lecture) giving session can become one long shot. This translates as the film director’s social conscience, do-good idea of contributing philosophy to society.

Happy end: Most Bollywood movies have the happy end format to not dissatisfy spectators or leave them in unconcluded situations. Of course sad ending films do make an exceptional entry, but the pay-off comes from what we’d all like our lives to be, happy. As Bollywood cannot afford to disturb its paying public composed of under-privileged population and NRIs (non-resident Indian), the formula of every puzzle getting solved in the end is the success factor.

Value-for-money technical effects: Technical effects established exuberantly, never subtly, is the icing on the Bollywood cake. The most advanced art effects are dramatized and felt as part of the storyline. New camera techniques, glamorous never-seen-before-in-Indian-films props, use of advanced digital effects and artistic modus operandi like slow motion, fast forward, morphing, travelling shots, crazy animations are enmeshed into films. They prove that we’re no less than foreign films, and flesh out as bonus for spectators.

Trend influence: The influence of Western trends used to come a little late to Bollywood before, but the gap’s narrowed now. For example, bell bottoms took forever to be seen in Hindi films, but torso-revealing, hip-hugging jeans made it in instant digital time.

Mother and children affection: After listing my observations on Hindi films, I was verifying with Aravinda, who Professor Raghunath says is the most careful driver he’s met, whether I’ve missed anything. Aravinda very often gives me social imagery that I may not so easily see. He promptly answered that I’ve totally overlooked the mother-children affection chapter. Mother is the moral foundation of Hindi films, the mother-hero relationship is very intimate. Bollywood makes it obvious that Indian society values sons over daughters. The hero is invariably the best son a mother can have, and vice versa. Mother-son bonding against all odds leaves copious tears in cinema hall audience eyes.

Telling statistics: Bollywood is top-of-mind but actually the South Indian film industry currently holds 75% of all film revenues in India. Of 1274 feature films that went to Central Board of Film Certification in 2010, Hindi films were only 215. Southern productions totaled 631 with Tamil 202, Telugu 181, Kannada 143, and Malayalam 105. Among other regional players were 116 Marathi and110 Bengali films.

India ranks first, followed by Hollywood and China, in number of films produced. As per statistics from Motion Pictures Association of America, India produced 1014 films in 2002, sold 3.6 billion tickets and collected revenues of US$1.3 billion from theatre tickets, DVDs, television and so on. In contrast Hollywood made 739 films, sold 2.6 billion tickets but generated revenues of US$51 billion.

These statistics make evident silver screen quality vs. quantity. Perhaps Indian movies need a disruption of universal appeal, away from "Suresh! Tumne mujhe dhoka diya!" fantasy, while still being relevant to India and Indians. Indian films go to 90 countries, but it’s the Indian diaspora that lap them up. They don’t become box office hits for natives of these nations.

India’s diverse salt, sugar and pepper culture like multiple gods in one religion is unique in the world. Portraying a storyline outside of cliché fantasy can create another dimension. For example, there’s tremendous history just 255 years ago when Siraj-ud-daulah, Bengal’s last Nawab, lost the Battle of Plassey against the British, 1757. Just imagine, if this untold story could be presented Hollywood-style like The Gladiators of ancient Rome by Ridley Scott, what an incredible film that would be for the global market and India’s reputation.

To download above article in PDF Carried away by Bollywood Suresh

Financial Express link:http://www.financialexpress.com/news/carried-away-by-bollywood-suresh/965944/0

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Posted on 17-06-2012
Filed Under (ENTERTAINMENT) by Shombit

From Discomfort Zone column by Shombit Sengupta in Financial Express and Indian Express

While engrossed in a scholarly discussion with my professor friend, Dr S Raghunath, the phone rang. “Bhavna has invited us all to see a Hindi movie,” his wife Usha announced. How can we refuse their beautiful teenage daughter? I promptly blurted out to Usha my one-frame resume of 65 years of Bollywood: "Suresh! Tumne mujhe dhoka diya!" Doesn’t this representatively capture the poignant scene of betrayal the heroine suffers at some moment in every film?

“No, no, it’s very different nowadays …” Usha said, so without my disagreement we went to see ‘Shanghai’ the latest dhamaka (hit). At half time, the near-dead hero’s wife came from Delhi to take her husband away, only to discover a girlfriend attending to her husband in hospital. So my contention that "Suresh Tumne mujhe dhoka diya" is Bollywood’s single point focus was proved! Experiencing Bollywood extravaganza after many years has inspired me to narrate these cliches I’ve absorbed. With utmost respect to the millions of spectators who enormously enjoy these delicious films, let me give you typical sensational ingredients that churn out box office hits.

Social melodrama to kickoff the movie: Older films portrayed the underprivileged in the opening social aspect or family complex, but now it’s got Western flair. After all, a large audience base has shifted from Indian villages to children of Indians born in America, England or elsewhere abroad. They may speak with local Yankee or Cockney accents, but their migrant parents keep Indian culture vibrant at home. That “culture” for millions settled abroad happens to be Bollywood mores. To cater to such good custodians of Hindi films, directors don’t stubbornly stick to old winner scenarios; they create Indian family dramas outside India too. Storylines are just a few dozens, with myriad permutations. Heart rendering themes include rich girl running away with poor boy, long-lost relatives, high class boy in love with low caste girl, slum dweller forced to become gang leader, then discovering he’s not an orphan but the son of the merciless industrialist his trade union is targeting to destroy. Tragic death of a loved one at the film’s kickoff establishes the cause of revenge. Most of all, the presentation has to touch very raw nerves, bringing tears to spectator eyes.

Dance song: Songs comprise the film’s core, determining success formula. Everyone knows that actors only lip sync. Playback singers were earlier associated with certain actors whose voices tallied with their harmonious renditions. Some actors carried one playback singer’s voice for their whole career. Only if you’re excellent at playback singing can you become a famous singer in India. I remember in our young days a song would be released, made into a hit, and subsequently the film would ride piggyback on its success. Electronic media has made singers better known today, but their public fame is appended to the hero/ heroine and film’s performance.

The hero always has a crooner’s role, teasing a girl who plays hide-and-seek to display she’s shy and unwilling-but-actually-willing. Rarely would heroines start romantic overtures. Sometimes, reminiscent of Lord Krishna’s girlfriend Radha and her gopis (cowgirl friends), the girl dances with village belles in colourful lehengas in front of wheat fields. Or the passionate couple prances around some forest, garden, mountain, snowfield or sea beach with staccato head and body movements.

From such natural locales, Hindi film songs have shifted to the streets of New York. The inspiration seems to be from Broadway choreography for group street dancing from the 1961 comedy musical, Westside Story composed by Leonard Bernstein. You can distinctively spot the romantissimo couple in Bollywood versions as they’re dressed differently from the backdrop dancers in perfect aerobic routine. Suddenly dancing on foreign streets has almost become mandatory. You see foreigners gaping askance on the sidelines sometimes, but the couple’s oblivious to the surroundings, as people in love are. Dancing to songs builds up the crescendo; so high excitement whistles come ferociously in quick succession at Indian theatres.

Crime: Villains are must-haves, they’re the salt-and-pepper of Hindi movies. Dialogues of the powerful, pan-juice (addictive betel nut and leaf) spitting Boss are memorized for real life play acting by imitative fans. Sometimes they become Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to save the poor. Such villains get heavy applause at movie halls.

Political drama: The plot always features some direct or indirect political corruption. The public is jealous of the politicians’ ill-gotten wealth yet has no voice to check them. So when Hindi films portray politicians being punished for their scandalous corrupt crimes, it thrills the public. The trend still has the law and order machinery backing the right cause, whether that’s true or not. The police station has both good and bad policemen, but the ethical ones always prevail.

Fight: Spiciest of all is the fight. Initially the hero doesn’t win, but you can be sure he will come back to win. The fighting hero is a handsome dude with gleaming biceps. He has the power to fight multiple villains, mix techniques of wrestling, judo, karate. The villain is bad, bad all the way. He’s got crooked teeth or false glass eyes ensuring no girl can fall for him. A gun fight is okay, but its physical dhishum-dhishum fighting that brings every spectator to the chair’s edge. The way you await dance sequences, moving your sitting torso and lips in rhythm, perhaps the fight gives you more involvement. You mentally feel a punch, physically crouch on your seat, take in your breath in quick, short exclamations, or narrow your eyes. A girl may squeeze her partner’s hand and hide behind his shoulder when the scene gets too graphic. That of course is bonus pleasure of watching fight scenes at the movies.

Intermission! Hindi movies cannot be finished so quickly. What about footage on hate, love, foreign tours, betrayal, lecturer’s dialogue, happy end, value-for-money technical effects, trend influence, mother and son affection, all so essential to complete a real Bollywood format? Coming next week…

To download above article in PDF Suresh! Tumne mujhe dhoka diya!

Financial Express link:http://www.financialexpress.com/news/suresh-tumne-mujhe-dhoka-diya/962873/0

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Posted on 18-07-2010
Filed Under (ENTERTAINMENT) by Shombit

The Indian EXPRESS/ The Financial EXPRESS article

Music is an emotion and passion that people cannot do without. A recent study done by global market research firm Synovate with 8,000 adults ages 18+ across 13 countries, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Korea, Philippines, Spain, UK and US confirmed music to be the world’s favourite pastime.

Singers and musicians have, through discomfort, made a breakthrough in the entertainment business. They have infused new thoughts that have heightened collective and personal human emotion. Let me illustrate this by taking Western music as an example.

Western music’s evolution from medieval, renaissance, baroque to the classical opera, operetta and philharmonic symphony to today’s rock, rap and jazz happened amidst immense discomfort in their musical world. Classical masterpieces emerged mostly from Eastern and Western Europe since 1740. Georges Handel was among the precursors who set the foundation of Western classical music.

Simultaneously from the 1600s, African music from the enslaved African community in USA opened another musical chapter with rhythm as the base. Black music started as spiritual, and evolved incorporating work-songs, ragtime and minstrel shows during the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865. Blues and Dixieland were born in the late 1800s, while jazz and gospel began in early 1900s. After World War II the black influence invented rock and rap music. African American gospel music, the collective humming voice of the black community in church was not considered aristocratic by Caucasians. Over centuries they were used to hearing songs sung in characteristic monotone as in country music. In the 1950s Elvis Presley created a new musical era of discomfort when he brought black gospel music and rhythm into mainstream society as rock ‘n’ roll. He also broke the rules of musical performance and disapprovingly got dubbed ‘Elvis the Pelvis’ for gyrating suggestively, moving his hands and legs while on stage.

Elvis had followed his father’s profession of being a truck driver; he worked for Crown Electric Company. One day he stopped his truck at Memphis Recording Studios where he had heard that anyone could record a 10-inch acetate for $4. He was 19 years old, totally smitten by music, and enthusiastically recorded his own composition ‘My Happiness.’ That was the beginning of an extraordinary journey to be crowned the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

When television shows censored his rhythmic leg movements as too sexy, Elvis concentrated on rhythmically moving the upper part of his body. He wanted his music to stir up everybody’s dancing shoes because the atmosphere after World War II was very morose. His sensational singing style became extremely controversial, with American puritans taking a jab at Christianity and calling it the devil’s music. Elvis was unique in that nobody was ever neutral about him. The shock of this negative–positive current made him the rock ‘n’ roll phenomenon of all time.

Another discomfort in music came from the Beatles in 1962. John Lennon, James Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Richard Starkey (who took the name of Ringo Starr later) were born into working class obscurity in post war Liverpool, a dingy depressed town where money was scarce. They took the world by storm, and Beatlemania became a worldwide cult. Even the Queen of England honored them with the MBE in Buckingham Palace in 1965.

An Evening Standard interviewer queried John Lennon about religion, and his apolitical reply was: ‘Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue with that. I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first, rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity.’ Pandemonium broke loose. Disk jockeys in the southern American states encouraged a God-fearing youth to destroy Beatles records and memorabilia at bonfire rallies. Within a week, 30 US Bible Belt radio stations banned the Beatles from airplay. Lennon created discomfort at the risk of breaking his own group’s career at the height of their success.

The shock was momentary though. Lennon inspired a whole generation to think fearlessly, openly and clearly. He also touched a raw, discomfiting nerve in a social atmosphere stifled with a telling generation gap. In a world tired of domination, discipline, prudishness and morality, the genuineness of the Beatles was powerfully refreshing. Millions of young and old fans worldwide still uphold the Beatles as the perpetuators of ‘All you need is love.’

Musicians and singers comprised a new kind of creature who emerged to kill gloominess and depression in Europe and America in the second half of the 20th century. They deliberately brought discomfort with a message. Singer Mick Jagger, now over 60, is still creating discomfort with ‘I can’t get no satisfaction.’ He’s taken his 40 Licks World Tour to wake up newer generations across the globe.

There was a cliché that the Punks were less a musical genre than a state of mind. In their discomfort creating heydays from early 1970, being a Punk fashion victim became fashionable. The Punks remained an underground music sect upto 1976. They demonstrated individualism and even revolted against older sub-cultures like hard-rockers and hippies. Being an anarchistic, anti-power movement, the Punks were amazingly successful in establishing a trend that influenced industry and lasted beyond their generation. For 40 years the Punks have been considered the trend that brought color into European fashion and music with breakaway characteristics and tremendous business gain.

But today the music industry faces a commercial dilemma about how to better encash music when computer downloads and recording from TV has become the music lover’s way of getting music. As per Synovate’s 2010 study, MTV in 1981 ushered in a new way for fans to connect to artists. About 57% of people surveyed said they watch songs on TV, but the computer is fast catching up as 46% use it for enjoying music in.

In India 38% of people use their mobile phones to listen to music. That’s because the mobile phone market is growing phenomenally here with millions of subscribers being added every year. In fact a fully loaded mobile phone has become a basic in India. About 73% of Indians polled say they watch music videos, mainly Bollywood music, on TV. Bollywood still rules the roost so we have not seen many artists make breakthrough change in the music scene here by creating the kind of discomfort that the West has experienced.

The flourishing entertainment business worldwide is a perpetual discomfort-creating machine. Being a perfect performer is never enough; the masses will endow the artist with commercial success only if they can remember the discomfort the artist created when reaching out to them.

To download above article in PDF Please Breaking through musically

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Posted on 13-06-2010
Filed Under (ENTERTAINMENT) by Shombit

The Indian EXPRESS/ The Financial EXPRESS article

The first time I watched the World Cup on TV was in 1974, a few months after arriving in Paris. Before that, I’d caught the experience only on radio, hearing the spectacular voices of commentators Ajayda, Kamalda and Pushpenda. They were so good that without being in a football stadium, we could visualise a match with Kolkata teams like East Bengal, Mohan Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting, among others.

Being Bengali football freaks, even without the presence of TV, we felt very close to the World Cup. Brazil was almost a part of the Bengal team where Pele, at 17 years and 239 days, won the World Cup for his country in 1958. The greatest footballer of all time, Pele played in four World Cups, thrice bringing home the Cup for Brazil. Argentina’s Diego Maradona is as big a world football icon, sharing the FIFA Player of the Century Award with Pele. Maradona made his international debut at 16 and played in World Cups from 1982 to 1994.

Cite Universitie in Paris 14 district where Greek House Director Yourgoulis gave me hostel accommodation is where I sat mesmerised before that b&w TV set. I’d grab a chair in the small table tennis lounge-cum-TV room an hour before the match. I could not speak French then so had to guess at everything, including the incredible moves of Beckenbaur and Muller. I peppered my fervour with Greek swearwords like malacca and putanis. The word ralenti often cropped up so I asked the only other Indian student—who had given me to understand that he spoke very good French—what it meant. He said ralenti is like penalty. I believed him but discovered by the 1978 World Cup that ralenti means slow motion in French.

In 1994, I visited Argentina to implement a global project. Much to the chagrin of my client, Elizabeth, I’d wander into the ‘dangerous’ Buenos Aires slums to observe social trends. I found that companies like Pepsi and Coca Cola had sponsored good football grounds to encourage slum children play. In fact, Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez, who is now part of the Argentina team, played street football in these ‘no go’ areas as a child.

At that time, as I watched young boys practice football, others quarreling—one even had a gun—and I remember thinking how terrific these sophisticated sports arrangements were. This crumbling slum had murky streets where even emergency services often refused to enter. In our poor village in Bengal, we could never think of such sports facilities or of anybody from our village becoming a world famous football player. Yet, even football champion Maradona, currently Argentina’s coach, was raised in a poor family in a Buenos Aires shanty town. He was ten when he was spotted by a talent scout.

Elizabeth and I once went to a coffee shop at a national football ground. A boisterous group were gesticulating wildly about an imminent major local football match in the city starring Boca Juniors versus River Plate. I wanted to join their table-talk. Elizabeth did not approve of it but I explained to her that the food company they had acquired had its roots here and its transformation work required us to gather cultural aspects of Argentina and football was an intrinsic part of it. This kind of social phenomenon would bring us the right insight for this acquired company’s future plans.

I walked across to those guys and introduced myself as a Bengali Indian living in Paris. The moment they heard Kolkata, they hugged me. It seems a few in this group of football journalists had gone to ‘Mother Teresa’s city’ with the Argentina team in 1984 for the Nehru Cup. They marvelled at the Kolkatans’ passion for football. Happy to meet a fellow football lover from across the globe, they offered me a ticket to the match that day. I’ll never forget that immediate connect that football created.

I’ve been to two World Cups now—in France and in Spain—and seen other European football matches and found the excitement that emanates there to be incomparable to any other bonding experience.

Fortunately, there’s something beyond elite intellectual global recognitions like the Nobel Prize. Excellence in sports can also create international heroes. The youngest Nobel Laureate, Lawrence Bragg, was 25 when received the prize along with his father. And in sports, Pele and Maradona were teenagers when they acquired world fame with their genius. Pele, who grew up in São Paulo, could not even afford a ball and played with a grapefruit or a sock stuffed with a newspaper. He earned working in tea shops until he was discovered by a coach. When he scored his 1,000th goal, he dedicated it to the poor children of Brazil. These famous players are a great inspiration and powerful motivators for underprivileged


In India, sports is always short changed, the focus being on education. But everybody in society cannot be, or does not need to be, a graduate. Basic school education is enough to become a globally renowned sportsman. In India, sports can be a great medium to encourage disadvantaged people to acquire prowess instead of abandoning them into ghettoes where crime generally grows unabated.


To download above article in PDF Please Football can make the underprivileged into stars

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Posted on 21-02-2010
Filed Under (ENTERTAINMENT) by Shombit

The Indian EXPRESS/ The Financial EXPRESS article

You may enjoy the failures children experience in reality television, but unconsciously, like antibiotic, you absorb the frequent advertisements at the pause of reality shows. When a child or earnest youngster is highly criticized for his or her imperfect performance, tele-spectators find vicarious fun there, although most do not admit it. It’s comparable to the excitement that stung the Romans when watching gladiators rip each other apart, or the excruciating thrill Spaniards feel when they roar as the bull fighter or the bull died in the ring of every famous bullfight.

Let me restrict the impact of reality TV to children as they are the most vulnerable. Why do the brilliant judges think they are entitled to criticize youngsters any way they want to in front of millions of tele-spectators? Have they thought about the future career of these aspirants? While enjoying the defects and defeat of striving young artists save the winner, you the tele-spectator, are endorsing the total success of the program’s producer for getting high TRP ratings for the TV channel.

The reality boom hit the US at the turn of the century with shows such as American Idol and Survivor; earlier shows like Miss America Pageant never made the big time. India’s highly proliferated native cultural societies copying the Caucasian American seems a mismatch. Look at America’s evolution, from being invaders into a continent to embracing the cowboy culture. Their selling-marketing attitude made them take big risks and gambles, and led to their becoming outstanding inventors of all time. US inventions have changed the way the world thinks and works with its rapid advancement of digital technology. All such disruptive consequences may have created American society to be forever agitated. In the US, every citizen is allowed to carry a gun for self protection and defence as the crime rate is supposedly very high. As gun-toting people, their mental make-up is totally skewed towards being daring and damn-care. We cannot compare this with India’s culture that has transcended from ancient traditions which has a compromising attitude.

Let me illustrate with a personal experience of the disconcerted American social order. I once accompanied an American client of mine from New York City to his suburban home in New Jersey after working hours. There was a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam that could be seen for miles. My client suddenly switched on a device atop his dash board which had programmed inside it different kinds of irritating sounds. The one he chose was the machine gun shot. In this colossal traffic jam, he attacked all the cars in front with gun shots, as though he was taking part in The Terminator film. I watched amazed, feeling stupid, as we’ve never experienced this in Europe. He laughed saying this way the time will pass faster, and we will not feel bored. By the time we reach, he said, we’d have killed so many vehicles that this, he finds, has become his best stress busting tool. On another occasion in a friend’s car, I noticed an unsettling program he activated in his car. He put his car radio in the auto scan mode so that every 30 seconds the radio station changed, and he ended up listening to a medley of songs. These are anecdotes of disquiet in the American way of life which is a unidirectional society.

American entertainment has its own history since the last 60 years. It is far removed from Indian entertainment that runs on outstretched fantasy. But India is imitating America’s hybrid culture without evolution, just jumping from fantasy to reality in a short span of time. Americans have become tired of blockbuster Hollywood films and scripted TV shows like Dallas and are now turning towards reality TV. I have no cribs against American culture, I love their Barbie doll and hamburger ethnicity, but when India blindly follows this culture, authenticity gets discounted. And originality all but dissipates into just collecting money from TV advertisements. Indian reality game shows and voyeuristic people-watch programs are good for boosting TV ratings. However, when young performers have to take barbs from so-called guru and maha-guru judges, their morale gets totally destroyed.

In the last 11 years, the artists that have emerged from such national and regional channels have been just a handful, less than ten at the national level. I find it quite amoral and inhuman the way children are harassed by judges on TV shows. When the prestige and confidence of debutant artists break, can it result in producing artists from the masses, as is the purported objective of these entertainment programs? The performing arts cannot be taught facing a public forum; doing so intimidates the children.

Famous silver screen actors and playback singers are often the judges. Actors have the advantage of shooting take after numerous take until the correct retake is captured. So in the released film, the public never sees their shortcomings and flaws. In today’s practice, singers dub with modern technology, recording line after line, multiple times and in multiple tracks. They sometimes don’t even see the musicians. All voice imperfections are corrected with digital technology. Even in front of an audience on stage, the musicians have to manage a singer’s mistakes. The public is never privy to the professional artists’ kitchen. But when these artists become reality show judges, its amazing how, sometimes with sugar-coated words, they feel free to bombard the young ones with high definition censure. Undoubtedly, reality TV has helped underprivileged people to express themselves, earn money and fame, but criticising them on TV is a totally anti-artistic solution.

As a telespectator you enjoy the defeat of hapless children artists. They do not exactly get physically killed as did the barbaric gladiator competitors in the Roman Emperor’s arena, but such reality shows can kill their self-esteem. Incidents have already happened where children have become severely unwell, such as becoming paralytic with the shock of defeat. It appears that the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights is enquiring into the long hours, remuneration and working conditions of children in reality shows, especially as employing a child under 14 is a crime


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