Jan 31, 2009


Published in DECCAN POST JULY 2008
Murphy’s 116th Law states that ‘Left to its own devices, anything can go wrong from bad to worse’. Blogs and bloggers were left to themselves – as platforms of creative writing for amateurish and enthusiastic writers in 1998. The same blogs (short for web logs or online journals) have now become an online menace - a dumpsite for personal raves, rants, news, views, juice, gossip, secrets, sexual fantasies, unholy thoughts and whatnots! Some blogs look for admiration, some affirmation, some for acknowledgement and some to just download their guilt. And why do people read blogs that don’t really concern them? To eavesdrop, to peek into other’s lives and feed the curious cat in them.

Googling the word blogging yields 77,000,000 results. Mind boggling? Considering nine blogs are created every minute and 2.3 content updates are posted every second (According to Wired magazine), blogging is the new online pastime. After aimless surfing, impersonal emailing, personal chatting and intimate webcamming, the new mania online is blogging. Blogs are the new I, Me, Myself avatars of online users. That blogging is free, easy-to-use (write and click upload) and fast and promises anonymity is certainly attracting even non-writers to post little big things of their everyday existence.

Blogging is the new tool through which actor Aamir Khan assures his fans that he is doing just fine after he injured his thigh at a Hyderabad shooting schedule. It is also the medium through which social activist Nandita Das fights her cause. It is where media professionals jam together to vent their ire out or bitch about bosses. Singletude is about advice to singles on how to get hitched and to be happy if there is no relationship on the cards. A Wired online research reveals that six out of ten blogs are malicious and gossipy. Is blogging therapeutic? Or is it just a vicarious pleasure to bitch about colleagues behind their backs?

Pyschiatrist Naveen Nekkanti, himself a relentless blogger, says blogging is the online confessional box. “In the church, only the Father listens to you. Online, the entire world is listening to you. Blogging should be used to expressing thoughts, writing creative pieces and discussing ideas. But to use it to debunk and backbite somebody on an everyday basis could be a sign of your own mental illness,” he says.
“A blog is like a personal CV. People google your name and want to know about you through your blog and once they realize both of you are on the same wavelength, they befriend you in real life,” says Dr Sneha Krishna, a doctor who does not blog but often meets people asking her why she doesn’t.

Blogs have become popular after employees have found that it is the best and safest place to discuss office politics. “Gossip has always been dangerous. But with the new blogging phenomena, it is also instantaneous. However, it is not very tough to guess the employees who put up blogs,” says Anjali Kola, a senior HR consultant.

Blog censorship is the new keyword online. Just as abusive posts and vulgar responses can be removed on websites, blogs may soon have a censorship body if the content gets exceedingly malicious or inappropriate. But that is still a long way. For now, the online world’s credo is I blog, therefore I am!

Jan 29, 2009


Published in Hyderabad Times, Times of India, Sept 2008

Barring the post-World War II period when the British levied a ban on movies, nothing could shake up the 75-year-old Telugu movie industry. A look at the giant called Tollywood

For mathematicians, it could be just be a statistic. 240 movies released every year;
For the producers, it is just another big punch in their current account. Rs 2.3 billion in the last one year;
For the bees ka challees wallahs, it is just an awesome figure. 700 million ticket sales annually;
But for the Telugu moviegoer, a matinee show is not just a three hour pastime. It is part of his life, an element of his psyche, a component of his lifestyle and a piece of his very being. 75 years since the first Telugu movie hit the screens, the movie mania continues to hold the Telugus mesmerized. How else can you explain the flourish of the 2,700 theatres across the State? Magic of the movies? Call it mania. An obsession. A passion. Or simply Telugu cinema.
While the quality of lyrics has plummeted, the number of young maverick directors has shot up. If the sons of soils have got a raw deal and made inroads for the Bollywood imports, the advent of star sons has compensated for the trend. If Digital Intermediaries, animation, CG and SFX has notched up Tollywood’s worth, remakes, copies and inspirations pull it down by a few steps. But on the whole, the 75 years of Telugu cinema can be summed up as phenomenal. Barring the post-World War II period when the British levied a ban on movies, nothing could shake up the industry.
Among the biggest milestones of the industry would definitely be the shifting of base from Chennai to Hyderabad and starting off at ground zero to be able to build the most exotic Film City in the world.
Tollywood has always been a path breaker, each decade at a time. The first decade marked the theatre artistes facing the camera; the second decade was about mythologicals. The third was about socially-relevant themes about freedom, social conscience etc. The fourth was the decade of epics and devotionals. The fifth was love stories – tragedies, classics et all. The fifth was family dramas. The sixth was sentiment and love. The seventh was musicals, romance, action and violence.
Each decade gave birth to a new set of filmmakers that took the industry to a new level. If K Vishwanath put up Indian music on a pedestal with his ‘S’ series, Ramgopal Varma brought in the Hollywood action and revenge dramas amidst the gaana bajana. If lyricist Srisri motivated the youngsters to take up the cudgels of the society with his motivational songs, Sirivennela cocktailed chaste Telugu with colloquial Telugu to bring forth fresh lyrics. In terms of sheer technical brilliance, the cinematographer took Telugu cinema to new heights, be it with his camera angles or Digital Intermediaries. Interestingly, the stars of the new age have also done their bit for the society. If not directly, but by gently guiding their fan force into social service.
Like any industry, there will be ups and downs, super hits and duber flops. Awesome flicks and bakwaas movies. Tollywood is no exception. But the promise that there are new paths being stepped on, fresher ideas being incorporated and path breaking trends invented. That spirit is enough to celebrate 75 years of Telugu cinema. Salaam Tollywoood!

While there are innumerable biggest, highest, firsts in the industry, any Telugu movie fan would agree the following are the Big Ten of the industry.
1. The Classiest movie of all time: Shankarabharanam (1979)
2. “God’ of the matinee: NT Rama Rao
3. Ultimate Lover of the matinee: Akkineni Nageshwar Rao
4. Starriest Star: Chiranjeevi
5. Biggest grosser ever: Pokiri (2006)
6. Funniest movie ever: Mayabazar (1957)
7. Tollywood’s best export to Mumbai: Sridevi
8. Biggest embarrassment: Remakes, remakes and remakes
9. Most creative gift to Mumbai: Ramgopal Varma
10. Biggest asset: Giving a break to everyone who is talented

Jan 19, 2009


Published in Big Hyderabad November 2008

…and dreaming about looking like your favorite star doing yoga and following a diet, your fave stars underwent a host of treatments to look so good.

One of the first things my cousin reads in every magazine is the sample diet of a celebrity who look Wow even when she is way past 50. Oh yes, the diets that talk of an egg white for breakfast, a glass of cranberry juice for mid-morning, one phulka with salad for lunch and things like that. Another two hundred words about her Yoga or aerobics exercise regime.

Well, if you are one of those who have ‘weight loss’ as your keyword in life, and have been envying actor or actress – from Hema Malini to Malaika Arora Khan and Sanjay Dutt to Ronit Roy, you really need to read about what most of the celebs do to look young and beautiful.

Behind all the stuff you read about egg white breakfast and sandwich for dinner schedules, there are weekly appointments with the beauty parlor for de-sagging facials, wrinkle-stopping massages and wart-removing treatments.

That done, the next few days are spent at the aesthetic medicine specialist who puts your celeb through his Botox injections and face lifts. Yes, an insta facelift – a half hour procedure where electrodes put on your facial skin give a slight tinge to iron out the wrinkles temporarily – easily covers up the wrinkles and the age on your celeb’s skin when she is doing the cover shot for the beauty magazine. From Rs 5,000 a session to Rs 6 lakh, the face lift can cost anything depending on what the celeb needs. This is besides the real face lift using Thermage (a new anti-ageing technology) and the collagen stimulation. Not to forget about Botox and anti-wrinkle treatments.

For that hot bod with an enviable silhouette, a team of doctors and experts would have worked on, for several sessions. On a good day, the hot looking star you are dying to look like may have had electronic muscle stimulation programs for at least three weeks before she or he posed before the camera. These stimulations are 30- to 40-minute passive, non-aerobic workout to all major muscle groups delivered through small pads placed on the body. This massage-like session yields almost instant tightening of muscles and lost inches. Ha, and you thought if you did Ashtanga Yoga for six months or survived on Cabbage soup, you would get a figure or skin like hers!

No, we are not done yet. A week before your star appeared for the Award nights to give a performance or walk away with a trophy, he would have had a Body Wrap. Here, your star has been coated with an herbal body treatment and then wrapped in muslin or plastic sheets for 45 minutes to an hour. As she relaxes planning for the photo shoot, she is on a vibrating bed while dry sauna heat elevates the heart rate. Herbal lotions are applied and the combination of heat, massage and elevated heart rate result in a “shrinking” of tissue. What you see is a super slim figure with all her assets in the right size and shape! All this coupled with the final Photoshop touches given by the page designer of the fashion magazine!

While you were working hard at your office, they were spending their time and energy trying to keep the wrinkles at bay, fight the sagging skin and look younger. So next time you see a sexy celeb looking twenty years younger than her calendar age and talking about having buttermilk for breakfast, you know the secret, don’t you!

Jan 18, 2009

You are a true Hyderabadi if...

  • Published in August 2002, City Info
  • Your address reads as 23-404-32/67A-43 (New MCH number 56-678/4A/B-22), while you actually live in the second house beside Zamzam cafe in lane behind Anand Theatre on SP Road.
    You end up buying only a salwar kameez, whether it is a theatre workshop, food mela, consumer expo, designer jewellery show, science show or an automobile convention.
  • Your street has at least one roadside mobile hotel that serves Chinese delicacies such as Vegetable soft needles, Navrotten Kurma, Chicken Manchewurea or American Chompsee.
  • Your answer is \'seedha chale jao\' when somebody asks you for directions, whether it is to Malakpet, Masab Tank, Malkajgiri or Moosapet.
  • You come across tailors sporting the board: Immidiot delivery in two days onli.
  • If you can speak Hindi, Urdu, English and Hyderabadi, except Telugu, fluently.
  • Your answer is \'not in my pockets\' when somebody asks you \'Where is XYZ?\'...and you also roll on the floor laughing at your joke.
  • If you ask the waiter to get you some \'Mango pickle\' even if you are sitting at a lavish continental banquet dinner with exotic Chinese, Mexican, Italian and Lebanese cuisines.
  • You order for a tea just after having had a Caramel custard.
  • If you have at least one Srinivas, Raju or Venkatesh within six square feet. In other words, you have at least one cousin, friend, colleague or acquaintance with these names.
  • If you have at least one cousin, friend, colleague or acquaintance in the US in software.
  • If everytime somebody gives you a piece of good news, the first thing you ask them is \'Party kab hain?\'
  • You are reading this and secretly admitting that you are, after all, a true blue Hyderabadi.

A little abt the Hyderabadi post :)

When I was a diminutive editor of a city magazine called City Info, when I was suddenly thrust with the responsibility to 'write' an edit with the promise of my photograph adjacent to my 'edit' and that too on the front page, I was thrilled and wrote off with flourish a piece Ive been wanting to write. This was sometime in 2002, I guess. The edit was also put up on the Net and it got ciruclated so much around the Net that it was sent me my own mail Id under the title Baap of all forwards.. Or Funny Hyderabadi Forward.. Must read... Needless to say, it got published in various Hyderabadi websites, coffee break pages of dailies... All without any credit to me. So here I am trying to reclaim my credit.. Read along.. and u can add ur own bullet points to it.. Bieeee

Jan 16, 2009


Published in Namaskar December 2006

When explorer Marco Polo was on his deathbed, a priest came into his room to ask him if he'd like to admit that his travelogues and cross-country stories were false. Marco answered, "I did not tell half of what I saw". Those were his last words.

Marco must’ve meant these words because his book Travels of Marco Polo has a mention of the architectural beauties of Warangal, a placid district in Andhra Pradesh, but only in half measure. Now what would a one-liner description by Marco – ‘Brightest stars in the galaxy of medieval Deccan temples’ – suffice for the awesome historic places - thousand pillar temple and the next door black beauty Ramappa temple? Mysterious, alluring and soulful, these temples are stones that whisper untold tales.

For long, the Andhra Pradesh tourism had dissuaded me from visiting these lovely temples by making them sound like, well, regular religious temples in its hard sell brochures that boggle you with dates and years (12th Century, 1139 AD etc) to give prosaic historic touristy information about the shrines there. A default trip actually put things in perspective. Warangal, I realized, is an out-and-out mine house of architectural marvels. Temples all right, but more a work of art, an exercise in aesthetics.

Strictly speaking, the Thousand pillar temple is exactly 150 km away on a straight line drawn between Hyderabad and Warangal. This stretch has its own attractions.
The lure of the country liquor (known as kallu and extracted from the Tati tree) on the highway is irresistible. “Take to your city and do party madam,” the young boy tried palming it off to us. The disheveled hair and crumpled cotton kurtas may have made us look like party animals that lost its way and ended on the highway. For Rs 40 a litre, it wasn’t a bad deal. But strike one deal and the entire battery of liquor boys will descend upon you in a swarm giving you one deal better than the other.

We had a deadline to meet before the temple doors shut so we shooed them all and zoomed off. The temple is about 20 minutes after you enter the heart of Hanumakonda, a dusty and noisy town. A quiet lane leads to the temple. Until you actually enter the lane, you wouldn’t believe there could be such a magnificent temple standing tall in black granite. There is not much of a wall, but pillars and more of it. The play of light and shadow makes it all the more alluring.

Warangal is one of the hottest districts of the state, yet the black granite feels like ice on a hot afternoon. Magical! “That’s nothing compared to the bricks that float in water,” informs our guide Reddy. “Even today, we are not able to replicate this marvel. Some secret formula that died with the architects,” he sighs. Indeed, the bricks float.

The temple has pillars in every form, shape and size. Apparently there are exactly one thousand pillars till date, though most of them are undergoing some or the other form of chemical treatment as part of the Heritage Conservation project. Even the half pillars are part of the thousand count.

The legend goes that Kind Rudradeva had dreamt of Lord Shiva who asked him to build a shrine based on 1,000 pillars. The Nandi here, the vehicle of Shiva, is not just magnificent in its size at six feet in black basalt, it has some of the funkiest accessories that a bull could ever sport! My guide informs me that the anklets, bells and other random tags around the Nandi’s neck is a sign of the prevalent fashion in those times. Beads, ghungroos, chiseled ornaments, belts that resemble leather (made of stone of course). The figurines there, at least 500 in number, have handsome looking men and gorgeous women. The features are distinct – expressive kohl lined eyes, shining nose rings, long bindis and elegant chokers. Beauty must have been the primary preoccupation in those days. It’s hard to believe the kind footwear in vogue those days. Yes, platform heels in its full form under elegantly made soles with dainty straps! From 12th century to 2005, fashion has come a full circle.

The thousand pillar temple is also an exercise in geometry. The main shrine of Lord Shiva has been built at such an angle that through the day, never does the sun’s shadow fall on it. “Some believe that it adapts the design of the Konark temple which also is a masterminded plan against the sun’s rays.

The city-bred folks were found huffing, puffing and panting trying to transcend the dozen steps. “The average height of each step is an indication of the height of the people in those days. Obviously, people thronged to the temple,” our guide gave us a little archeological gyan. Looks like our ancestors were nothing less than eight feet if they had to climb these stairs in flourish.

The temple had a rather low profile until a flamboyant Telugu movie director chose to shoot a sensational and sensuous rain dance in the temple precincts. The Nandi bull at the entrance plays a significant role in the movie that went on to become a blockbuster last year. Ever since, young moony-eyed lovers in Warangal gave the coffee pubs and lakeside benches a skip in favour of the big, black Nandi’s shade. How lucky of the Nandi to be able to overhear sweet nothings of lovesick couples!

Jan 14, 2009

Admissions and Confessions

‘International e-techno school with world class curriculum’ read the hoarding.
The nursery school in the neighbourhood opened up with a gala party. Precocious cuties walked around to get a feel of the school. Parents stepped down their imported cars to walk through the red carpet with their wards in branded wear, sippers and sling bags to find out about the school. Teachers escorted the parents around the place.

The school correspondent explained the various amenities. Sand pit, to help kids play and improve their motor skills; splash pool for the kids to, well, splash around, and get friendly with water and perhaps learn swimming at a later date; models of fruits, vegetables, plants and trees. All of them in 'feel-like-real' fibre models…

In the study area, they have computers, baby lap tops, audio visual aids to teach them – A for apple, B for bat and such other things, a flat screen television for them to watch cartoon network if need be, a dance floor and discotheque along with strobe lights for them to develop their creative skills and fine arts such dancing, singing etc. Oh yes, they also have field trips, camps, workshops, seminars, conventions… for nursery kids… to keep up with the times.

In good old days, when we were in school (and that wasn’t too long along ago), nursery just meant a place to freewheel. A place where you could show your thumb to drink water, show the little finger for a visit to the loo, pinch the girl next to you and come back home happily looking forward to school the next day. Today, children have to ask ‘Maayyyaaaiiii pleezzz haaaaaaff vaater to dink, teashur,” at a time they can barely muster up the words, “Mom, I am hungry’ in their mother tongue.

For us, the living room doubled up as the doll house. Empty cartons became the rooms and old cushions served as the ceiling. Mom’s used up slim and tall Ponds powder dabba served as a telephone and granny’s old broken umbrella was a rifle in the police police game. Kids were teeming with creativity and anything could become anything else.

There were no real time models of fruits or workshops about the vegetable market. A chat with the mobile fruitwallah who walked around with his wares in a cane basket gave us inputs about fruits. Holding Dad’s hand to the vegetable market every evening acquainted us with roots, tubers, legumes, leafy greens, beans, peas and what not. Sand and mud on the street developed motor skills while helping mom wash clothes was sheer water games. Watching mom cook in the kitchen was a great lesson on pots, pans, ladels and forks. And finally, a bedtime story – not your American Cinderella or the Goldilocks – from, your granny about local heroes and heroines which we could relate to, helped us pick up vocabulary, increase our IQ and yes, comprehend too.

Ah, those where days when you could pay Rs 85 a month and get home a happy child. Today, you shell out a few thousand rupees to bring home your nursery kid, restlessly look up her diary, read up what the project work for the day is, quickly factor in the time (even canceling a meeting at home) to do her project work on ‘red coloured vegetables’. International e-techno school with world class? My foot!


Happiness@Rs 3

How would you feel if you went around a noisy vehicle, from 9 to 9, every single day of your life? Tired? Exhausted?
Spent 12 hours of your work day on the road negotiating traffic? Frustrated?
Encountered 8 people who were suspicious of you, four who shouted at you, two who walked away without paying you for your time and effort and another one who threatens to file a police complaint against you? Disgruntled?
A couple of fines, a few challans and the perennial threat of your only means of livelihood being picked up in a tow away van? Disillusioned?
Actually you would feel like the ubiquitous auto rickshaw driver in Hyderabad. Agreed, you’ve all had awful experiences with this breed but did you ever try just being nice to him? Yep, being nice to the auto driver!!! He may not thank you. He may not even give the Rs 2 change back after the transaction. But he will certainly send you an invisible vibe that will linger long after the noisy auto rickshaw swirled off into the busy thoroughfare.
I am not someone who uses the three- wheeler too much but on occasions I did, I met extremely nice fellas. One who helped me find a cobbler in the bylanes of Marredpally. Another who did not charge me the mandatory Rs 12 when he found his metre was not working after we crossed nearly 3 km. But I’ve heard of horror stories from friends about the auto drivers and their harassment.

Interestingly, those who fear and detest the autowallah invariably get the crudest and rudest fellow. Must be the ‘you attract what you think’ rule. Sometimes, it feels great to just let go. Not argue with him about the four rupees he did not give back. Not suspect that his metre charged you six rupees more than what you normally pay! It feels great to give him 70 and ask him to keep it if the fare is Rs 66. The glint in his eyes, the smile on his lips send me vibes that are much more than the four bucks I’ve saved.

I’ve often been accused of being a spendthrift at the vegetable market or for not bargaining for two rupees less with the old lady selling guavas. Frankly, sometimes I feel like letting them have those few extra bucks. I would probably anyway spend that ten on a Chotta Pepsi and guzzle it in a less than a minute. But it could get them a bunch of green leafy vegetable to make hot sabzi for dinner that night.
I deliberately don’t fight with the vegetable vendor, flower seller, parking boy, street corner bhutta (corn) walla, garbage collector and balloon boy at the traffic light… I don’t know if the two bucks that I don’t bargain for will make his day. But I know that giving away that two bucks for someone who has done a little service for me has made my day, bought me a wee bit satisfaction and yes, that little invisible ‘Good day’ vibe he sends.
For me, it is happiness@Rs 3!


Jan 6, 2009

Less is more, Excess is bore

The best moments in life are not meant to be captured as silly tif images in your mobile camera or viewcam. They are meant to be amassed as lovely memories and cute reminiscences in your heart’s desktop.
It was a beautiful moment on that glittering morning on the summery beach. We were in a make-do wooden boat on the Miramar beach in Goa and ostensibly on a ‘Dolphin sighting’ trip. Dolphins are considered to be amongst the most intelligent of animals and their often friendly appearance and seemingly playful attitude have made them popular with the tourists. We were all geared up with the paraphernalia - binoculars, sunglasses and straw hats - to catch a glimpse of this aquatic mammal. After steering a few minutes into the deep, azure waters, the boatman showed us, ‘Dekho, waha hai.” There were squeals of delight, oohs of pleasure and aahs of ecstasy. Everyone in the boat now took out their cameras – digicams, phone cameras, viewcameras and went click, click, click. The next few moments were spent in showcasing their triggering skills. “Oh, yours is a Cannon Powershot A530. How many megapixels? Is it a 4 X zoom. Got it in India?”. “No, from my cousin in Dubai. Has a 1 GB SD card free also.”

Not one in the boat was actually relishing the graceful leap or noticed the swing of the dolphin’s waist and the sway of its rocky black skin against the glitter of the sun. Alas, the moment was gone forever. It was only captured as a silly tif.image in their cameras. Everyone came back home and heroically downloaded the pix. Yes, there was the dolphin against the waters, but it was just a dumb photograph that they would show the world.

Ever wondered why your Grandpa’s single keepsake Black & White photograph is more appealing than your 1214th picture of your new car? Excess is boring, less is more.

Some things in life – like the Mahamangal aarti at a temple, the secret kiss to your new bride, the first smile of a newborn, your Dad’s hug when you turn a first time Dad, your mom’s tears on your first appearance on television - are not meant to be stored as tif.images on your desktop. They are meant to be permanently amassed in your heart’s memory bank and relished every time you recollect it. You are not supposed to spend time recording it in your viewcam or your mobile camera, then dump it in your PC and forget about it. The next time we went to Goa, I laid down the rules. A) I will NOT pose for any pix B) I will NOT click pix for anyone C) I shall not spend all my time protecting the silly camera from the water, the sand or the hangers-on the beach.

This time around, I have fond memories of the dolphin with yellow spots, the devotional frenzy on the streets of Tirumala, the young boy immersed in meditation on the Rameshwaram beach. I don’t own a phone camera, viewcam or a digicam. I only have the built-in camera God has given me when I was born. Thank you God!