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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Friday, April 27, 2007


You've heard of brand wars....

Now, for the war of the billboards.

I've been out of India too long to figure out who changed whom, but that hasn't stopped me from loving this.....

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Another poet who makes me want to reach out for my Milton, Keats, Wordsworth, is Jacob Sam La Rose.

Poet, writer, playwright, educator, photographer, blogger, he claims he is a typical Gemini and "is over the place."

A former Poet-in-Residence at the BBC London, he is currently a touring writer with the British Council, time for you to check out his schedule in your region.

As part of his travel, he teaches creative writing internationally. In addition to giving performances, penning poetry, writing plays, he is encouraging a new generation of poets around the world to embrace the form.

After all, "poetry is the music of language," he tells us before urging you to take the Editor in your brain away and simply "create."

Beyond poetry, does he ever find it tough to connect with his different loves. Jacob responds, "I find I'm sleeping less, but when you love something, when you love doing things, you find the time to make these things happen."


Thursday, April 26, 2007


Yes, your appetite was whetted, as was mine.

You wanted to know what 'Charmed' was all about. No, it wasn't a book launch. Seriously, you weren't wishing that, were you?

It was an invite for the Singapore Women's Weekly 2007 Lingerie Awards. My first. Sure, I was curious about the hot bodies, the garments or lack thereof, the ensuing comments. There was all of that and a whole lot more.

No, pictures aren't going to do the talking. I'm not going to behave like Amitabh Bachchan's camera phone happy neighbour. Head to the news stands or reach the publishers if you'd like to see it all.

Tara Barker, the energetic Editor-in-Chief of the magazine kicked things off, with her speech:
"Since this is about lingerie, I'll be brief."

Brief, she sure was, paving the way for a musical extravaganza complete with lingerie to set the mood for the night. Full marks to the models who carried it off with elan. It takes guts to strut that stuff. More than the skimpy outfits, it takes a lot to keep a straight face as the audience gets carried away.

I almost tripped on my heels and spilt my wine, when an eager hand went up and a female voice boomed to the male model in his boxer glory:
"What would he do if I touched him?"

Hoping to make a gracious exit, without our arms being mistaken for some other, ended up in front of a couple in the middle of a spat.

Angry female to male pal: "What's with you? Are you ...?"

Didn't they say briefs make for good tales?


Just when I thought the seasonal colours would change, three more recent and soon to be released books arrive in what else but...... Looks like I've got the colour of my blog right at least.

I'm particularly looking forward to Marina Lewycka's Two Caravans. If you've already read A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian, you obviously know why.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007


There was a time when every book I touched came with a blue cover. I remember that distinctly because every blue cover would fade into the blue virtual wall on the set.

I recall speaking to both Sadie Jane (of Pansing) and Zhi Wei (of Penguin) - both superb publicists in their own right - about the season of covers. Do all designers opt for blues or pinks or purples or browns in any given season? Is there a shared space when it comes to covers and their colours?

I'm not entirely sure about the designers but I can tell you that colours are definitely steering my reading of late. Everything I seem to be touching is off white, cream or beige. Thought that would change the minute I was done with Rageh Omaar's, Revolution Day but the addition of John Zubrzycki's The Last Nizam to our collection means beige is here to stay.

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There are invites and there are invites.

This one made me smile as I worked those lovely pink ribbons.... more on it after I attend the event.



Vikram Seth found it in a trunk full of letters and immortalised the tale of his Uncle and Aunt in Two Lives. Hanif Kureishi found it in a corner of his study. It wasn't letters, rather "a shabby old green folder containing a manuscript," that was penned by his father.

It was this manuscript that starts Kureishi's journey of reading his father, his life, his past and the moments they shared, remembered and forgot. It all comes back to him with his father's life.

Shannoo Kureishi, whose life like that of so many others changes with the partition. His early years in Poona, the journey to London, his father's diplomatic career with the Pakistani Embassy. His love for cricket, his dreams and hopes of being a writer:

"My father who was a civil servant in the Pakistan Embassy in London, wrote novels, stories, and stage and radio plays all his adult life. I think he completed at least four novels, stories, and stage and radio plays all his adult life. I think he completed at least four novels, though all were turned down by numerous publishers and agents, which was traumatic for our family, who took the rejection personally."

That takes you to Shanoo's manuscript An Indian Adolescence discovered by Hanif's agent. It's been eleven years since his father died and the he is now 50. Possibly an age when perspectives change.

The key character in the unpublished manuscript is Shani, the book is set in Bombay and Poona, there are sibling rivalries, infatuations, loves won and lost, it's almost like a part of his father's life is relived through these pages.

What makes the book such an amazing read is the way Kureishi deftly weaves Shani's life with Shanoo's and his. One minute you are transported to Poona, then to Ahmedabad, then on to the long sea journey from India to London. There isn't much of a structure, in fact it's hard to even categorise the book's genre, but that's where its charm lies. As Kureishi tells us:

"I think I am writing this book in the way he wrote his, as a sort of collage, hoping the thing holds together, divided and split though it may be, like any mind. Many of the young writers I teach worry about the structure of their work, but I tell them at the beginning the form of a piece is almost always the least interesting thing about it."

Reading My Ear at His Heart is proof of that. It's hard to leave the pages unturned in this subtle work of remembrance. It's enough to get you rummaging into the text of your own family history, starting with that forgotten box in Nani's house.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007


This was the one that got away. Several efforts to get a copy of Booker Prize winner Michael Ondaatje's memoir Running in the Family before my session with him remained unsuccessful. There were about 25 copies at the counter that sold books at the entrance of Indus. I'd made a mental note of getting it soon as the session ended. By the time I got there, every single copy was gone. That came as no surprise, as Michael had regaled the crowd with his wonder days in Sri Lanka. The clincher came in the form of this passage:
"She kept losing the contraption to servants who were mystified by it as well to the dog, Chindit, who would be found gnawing at the foam as it were tender chicken. She went through four breasts in her lifetime. One she left on a branch of a tree in Hakgalle Gardens to dry out after a rainstorm, one flew off when she was riding behind Vere on his motorbike, and the third she was very mysterious about, almost embarrassed though Lalla was never embarrased."

Then there was the part of keeping everyone in the family happy, so the line went : "a man who may or may not have been in the Cabinet."

Ondaatje had dwelt on the challenge of penning a memoir, writing something that calls for a return to the roots, for understanding his family, for long conversations, exchanges and putting it together in a the form of a book. I was dying to read it all. It would be a long wait, but worth every minute of it.

I finally spotted the book at the Vijitha Yapa bookstore in Colombo and saved it's reading till I got back. Just like I do with every book, I've come to cherish, I took it slowly. The scenic way of reading merely heightens the experience. And there was so much of it here.

Ondaatje's strong mother, his eccentric father, his grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings. Like the colourful Sri Lankan landscape, this was as rich as it gets.

While some memoirs end up focusing on all things that fell away Running in the Family turns everything it touches into a rollicking read. Right from the time his father falls in love, falls out of love, gets engaged, then disengaged, then married, then divorced, to the drama on the train - his father was eventually banned from the Ceylon Railways in 1943, this is an amazing account of a time, period and lives go by.

Ondaatje's attention for detail and his dextrous pen miss nothing, including the war that brewed between his father and Sammy Dias Bandranaike, a close relative of the eventual Prime Minister of Ceylon.

It all started with an exchange at the Kitulgala resthouse, which happened to his father's favourite. Sammy bitched about everything, to which his father responded:
"No complaints. Not even about Mr Bandranaike."

Soon ink was being spilt with a ferocity never seen before in the annals of visitors books.

"This literary war broke so many codes that for the first time in Ceylon history pages had to be ripped out of visitors' books. Eventually one would write about the other even when the other was nowhere near the resthouse. Pages continued to be torn out, ruining a good archival history of two semi-prominent Ceylon families. The war petered out when neither Sammy Dias nor my father was allowed to write their impressions of a stay or a meal. The standard comment on visitors' books today about 'constructive criticism' dates from this period."

Also dating back to this period are the legendary breakfasts. Having tucked into some during my stay in Sri Lanka, I can say with a certain degree of confidence that they survive, quite like the heat, the tea country, the silences in the estate and the silence that marked his parents relationship.

It is an evocative rendition of life, prose, poetry narrated with a liberal dose of humour. So whether you like it or not, you'll be heading back to the words, lines or incidents long after you've got that heavy hand as you flip the very last page.

I still end up thinking of the harmless breakfast, the crisp breeze and the toe Michael Ondaatje almost ended up losing. Or that bathing ritual when the author was just five, witnessed by the then bathing prefect, now distinguished author and scholar Yasmine Gooneratne.

Then there are the journeys they would all embark on when his mother moved to England in 1949. Journeys that would keep them on the move, but never together again.

"Magnetic fields would go crazy in the presence of more than three Ondaatjes."

Still looking for reasons to get started on Ondaatje, then get his take on books, movies and more in this interview.

More on one of my favourites - Anil's Ghost here.

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Friday, April 20, 2007


Pictures by Fawzan Husain

I say this not because Fawzan Husain is a dear friend, not because he has gifted me signed copies of these photographs (among others), not because each time people see these photographs on the walls of my orange study they swoon, I say this because Fawzan is more than another photographer.

We first met in 1993, when both he and I moved to India Today. He was based in Bombay, I, in Ahmedabad. Each time anything big happened in Gujarat (which it invariably did) Fawzan would be despatched, his camera gear in tow. He was there to cover natural disasters, riots, women on the move, vintage cars turned into taxis. For that photo feature we took a trip down to Junagadh, squeezed ourselves into the cars that at any given time would take 30 people packed tighter than sardines. It wasn't that we couldn't afford a roomier mode of transportation, but if we didn't pack ourselves like the rest, how could he give a sense of the picture. So we went on the long road trip - he for the pictures, I for the words. Which is why this picture of actor Shiney Ahuja and Director Tanuja Chandra tucked away near Shiney's legs has Fawzan written all over it:

Only he would put himself through the rigour of capturing what the eye can't see. Over they years, he's done everything to get his pictures do the talking. From Bollywood, to news stories, to pictures with sting, he's taken us through several unforgettable journeys. That's partly why this piece on Fawzan and his work comes as no surprise.

For those of you who have been avid India Today readers, you'll remember his work speaking to you through the numerous stories he photographed in India and beyond. He was there from 1993-2006.

Even during that time, he managed to spare some time to put together some exhibitions. Now, that aspect of his work is rapidly growing. Apart from being widely exhibited, his work has been added to permanent collections at The Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts, Japan and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. And this, I can say for sure, is only the beginning.

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I can't understand why people blog? Why they open up lives for scrutiny? I don't understand this obsession of putting everything out there....

These were questions, thoughts, opinions that fell my way at a party a couple of nights ago. Being a better blog tracker than a blogger myself, this opened up the proverbial Pandora's Box.

Blogging for me has been an experience like no other. It has opened so many possibilities, spawned so many friendships, led to so many creative exchanges that it is now next to impossible to give it up.

Beyond what it has done for me, it's been a process of discovery of a whole new world out there. A world inhabited by real people, real places and even more real stories. It was on a blog that I first heard of Shakti Bhatt and her even more tragic demise. It was on a blog that I first heard the name Rekha and the son she's left behind. These are stories that would have perhaps been covered in the mainstream but would have been written about in as detached a manner as it gets. These would have been stories that would have had to fight for space with flowery descriptions of Ash and Abhi's wedding and who didn't get invited.

A typical obit would be something along these lines:
'Photographer ___ was an assignment from ____ to ____. The scooter she was driving had a head on collision with a ___. She worked us from ____ to ____. She leaves behind a son. She will be missed.'

Just pull out a copy of any old newspaper track the story of messengers who lost their lives on duty and see if I am far off the mark.

There are word count restraints which are of course thrown to the winds when it comes to celebrity reporting, then there's the "keep the I out of the story" that effectively robs you of the feel of the story.

Blogs have changed all of that. There can be all of "I". The writer can be the story. A post can start with a word and end with a novel. The choice is entirely the creator's. The writer can choose to be as involved with the subject. Place, settings, characters and so much more comes into play.

Articles written in magazines and newspapers find their way on blogs. Often writers will tell you a shorter version appears here, the full story is on the blog. Or that this piece appeared in xyz publication first. Stories survive beyond the paper and magazine and find a way of reaching out to you like never before.

One such amazing story is award-winning journalist Sonia Faleiro's
tale of A Revathi. A story that has spawned a book no less. A triumph of the written word like never before. And I wouldn't have seen this if it weren't for her blog.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007


My Marrakesh is a blog that makes you want to pack your bags and rush out of that door to get on to a flight to Morocco.

It is here that I first spotted this awesome kurti/Moroccon inspired tunic created by none other than Tory Burch.

Considering Oprah wore one of her creations, the prices are expectedly for the well-heeled. That's not stopped me from gazing at the cuts and doing the rounds of all the kurti stores for that Burch lookalike. Expectedly, there's been no luck so far. Guess, I'll have to continue my search if and when I do get to India.

I've been in love with kurtis since the day they were created. Whoever was the brains behind it - my humble salaam. I love them because you can carry them off with anything - skirts, jeans, even a salwar. They have the right blend of casual and formal, you can ditch the jacket and still carry them off at a meeting. They are perfect for the tropics. Add on a shawl to survive the air-conditioning and you've got a style statement all your own. In places where uniform T-shirts do the talking, don your kurti and you are bound to stand out.

Not entirely convinced, then head back to Burch to be inspired. You can take your pick from the formal to the informal, from summery weaves to evening wear. Perfect for every season and every occasion, there's never been a better occasion for some creative conversion.

Check out more dishy designs on Lotus Reads other blog and get ready to go shopping.

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I was first drawn to Amitava Kumar's Home Products thanks to its cover. It reminded me so much of my own antique dresser and the lure of Lakme products despite leaving home 10 years ago.

The book hasn't made it to our shores yet, but its right on top of my reading list thanks to Jai Arjun's lunch with the writer himself.

Adding to the charm is this piece penned by Amitava in The Hindu. Don't you wish authors would be just as forthcoming as when it comes to telling readers what goes into creating their tomes?

Despite teaching full-time, writing books, spending time with his family, he also has this great blog. How does he do all of this in a day's work? I want to know that.

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This one is inspired by Sharon's piece on Neil Gaiman. Actually the numbers in this post brought back some memories. Having met the living legend, witnessing the queues, I can imagine Gaiman in his infinite patience signing every single book. He's known to not just sign off his books, but put in a message for his devoted readers too. If 1,250 people in Brazil is any indication, you can start doing your maths to add to his list of admirers globally.

When he was in Singapore, his sheer presence was enough to trigger literary crushes. His appearance on TV wasn't made public, but the minute word leaked out requests for: Can I get my book signed? Can I take my picture with him? Can I speak to him for one minute only started flowing in?

We'd all been told of his back to back schedule. Expectedly, the PR person responded listing out the rules of the game. Yes, he will do the signing but it will have to be capped at three books per fan. The instructions were then passed back with little hope of anyone heeding to them.

When the fans turned up the day Gaiman appeared in his distinct black, it was evident there would be no stopping at three. There were comics, books, magazines, anything and everything Gaiman had ever penned. One of them and I counted the list had 40 things in all to be signed. "How are we going to get past these?" I asked her. The solution appeared quick as the solution, pull anyone and everyone who didn't have a book to be signed to make an appearance three books in hand.

Well, it doesn't take genius to figure out what was happening. It also doesn't take genius to know who's not reading Gaiman. And he cracked that himself. "I can sign them all," he said when three of the 40 comics first appeared.

We held the door open to let the air flow in when the pronouncement was made.

He signed them all, gamely posed for pictures, chatted with everyone and best of all did the honours for my dear pal Connie by doing the long walk to the cab with her. It all got sealed with a kiss and Connie went on to write this swooning piece with a lot of 'Stardust' in her eyes. Despite trying to help herself she couldn't:

"There are too few characters, and the story is resolved too easily to pacify the hunger of a diehard fan. However, it's still a story worth savouring, to be read and enjoyed like many of the best loved fairy tales.

Am I a little partial to Gaiman? Perhaps - But he was here! And he signed my books! And he's an absolute charmer!

But then again, I may just have a little bit of stardust in my eyes."

Such is the charm of Neil Gaiman....

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007


For the past two years, I've gone through several writers festival, talks, workshops, book signings, art exhibitions armed with my handheld camera. The ability to frame a shot while keeping the eye firmly trained on the lens has been a humbling experience. Often it seemed like I'd clinched that perfect shot but when I played it back, it was far from that. A single shiver in the arm, a tap on the shoulder, a kncok into a chair was enough to shake the picture beyond repair. The quality and the sound only as good as a hand held's can be.

All that changed on the 1st of April, when Bala gifted me this....

I used my Sony HDRFX1 to film the Zee Cine Awards at Genting in Malaysia. It's not as if my picture capturing abilities have improved significantly in the months that I've journeyed with a camera in tow. It's got to be the camera doing the talking. When I played back the footage, I was simply stunned. Everything that's being said about hi-def is so true. The pictures are sharper, every wrinkle, pimple, freckle, every shade is superby captured. The Carl Zeiss lens indeed works magic. The sound, even without a clip on is awesome. Interviews with a full crowd screaming in the background failed to dampen the voice of the interviewees. Even the shots taken in the absence of less than perfect light turned out great.

That's not all, a push button took my shots through several transitions. Almost like I was working on a film.

What was even greater was the location of the 3.5-inch wide LCD. If you've used a handheld before, you'll notice the difference instantly. It's so much easier to see what exactly you are film making by getting that at eye level.

With its improved yet manageable weight, it helps stabilise shots like few other cameras would. Then there is the battery - a beauty. It refuses to die despite being shortchanged on the full charge. You can even add on an easy to use flash for those night shots.

The best part is recording footage on a mini-DV and toggling between HD and DV recordings with a simple switch. With the HDV/DV switching system you can record and playback in both formats. If you feel you don't need 1080/60i settle for the 480/60i with the 720x480 resolution.

And I haven't even got started on the still shots.

It can't get any simpler and easier than this. Should a camera switch be on the cards, check this out, before heading to the stores. Superb shots are merely a click away.

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Ganesha by M F Husain, Oil on Canvas

If you think, you've seen them all, then hold your breath for this long list.

M F Husain, S H Raza, Satish Gujral, Jogen Choudhary, Arpana Caur, Laxma Gaud, Manu Parekh lead the list of 20 artists whose work will soon be gracing our shores.

Expect 70 art pieces in all with prices starting from $3,000. If the paintings are over your budget there will be prints and lithos on offer too. Complementing the paintings will be the sculptures.

If you are looking to invest, here go the numbers. Since 1991, the contemporary Indian art market has grown 25 times to its current value of US $1.2 billion.

There was a time when $1,000 was enough to get a painting by an Indian master. These days consider yourself lucky if you see anything that even starts there. With hammers gonging at a million bucks and more, Indian art is truly hotter than ever before. And it isn't just hype. With requests ranging from 'Can we buy it per square foot?' to 'Can it go any higher?' art market watchers predict the exponential growth will continue.

Part of the charm of Indian art is the sheer range of styles. Figurative, abstract, a blend of the East and the West rendered through an Indian brush stroke - you name it and chances are you will find it.

If you haven't been drawn into the richness of Indian art, one good place to get started would be The Arts House at 1 Old Parliament Lane in Singapore. The exhibition will open on April 27th and run till April 29th.

I'm not going to miss it, neither should you.



Should he have, should she have?

Kisne kis to kiss kiya? Kyun?

After the adultion, its the effigies. Making it just the time for Celebrity Big Brother Winner and Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty to stand up and speak out.

There is fire, there is passion, there is conviction, there is belief when Shilpa hammers the nail on the head:

"I am shell shocked with the reaction and honestly you guys are the media, you are the voice of the nation, you all have to act responsibly.....People are over reacting because you have been showing the clippings again and again and again."

Sounds familiar?

Read more on Shilpa's reaction to the Richard Gere kissing saga here.

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It takes guts to don a swim suit and face the cameras. Yes, those unforgiving cameras that add inches not cms to your frame. It's a job for the brave-hearted or for super-models with those endless legs, flat stomachs, sunken cheeks and all.

Ex-supermodel, actress, talk show host Tyra Banks has been that. She's walked that ramp, she's made millions out of her killer figure and yes, she has been thin.

Now she is 33, eats normally, doesn't suffer from low self-esteem, "otherwise I would have been starving." She believes in living her life and standing up for herself and other normal women around the world.

For years, we've been flooded with pictures of reed thin models - the stories are out there - size 0 has made it to shelves around the world. As the pursuit for infinite litheness continues, models have starved themselves to death.

Banks puts all of that in perspective and how.....

Dismissed as 'America's Top Waddle' she picked on each headline on her talkshow by donning the swimsuit that made it to the covers. With one charged blow after the other, she promised hope to millions around the world. She circled her tyres, her cellulite and proved that nobody is made perfect.

True, she is heavier but as the screen flashed yet another picture, she told the world "this is not ugly."

I, with my tyres, cellulite, stretch marks and all whole-heartedly agree.

Here's to you Tyra....

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Friday, April 13, 2007

200 YEARS ON....

Thomas Jefferson was the US President the year publisher John Wiley was founded - circa 1807. While there have been 41 US Presidents since then, interestingly there have only been 10 Wiley Presidents.

Only a handful of surviving publishers predate Wiley. These include Longman (1744), Aubanel (1744), Editions Lemoine (1772), Encyclopedia Britannica (1768), United Methodist Publishing House (1789), Old Farmer's Almanac (1792), Taylor & Francis (1798) and Thomas Nelson (1802).

But the Wileys weren't born publishers. The first John Wiley (1720-1760), a sea captain who came to America from Scotland and made his living in New York as a distiller. His son, John (Jack) Wiley, was also a distiller. Jack's son, Charles, strayed from the family business and opened a print shop at 6 Reade Street in lower Manhattan in 1807.

The rest as we all know is history.

Soon after that print shop started, Charles and his son John started publishing authors as James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe and many others. In all, they've published the work of 150 Nobel Laureates.

They have moved from literature to scientific, technical, engineering and several management books over the years. Even if you haven't noticed the imprint, if you are a book lover, there's bound to be a Wiley in your collection.

I have a couple. Though my favourite is Against The Gods which came out in 1998. I'm not usually drawn to anything that has even a bit of management in it but being a stay the course kind of person, a treatise on risk sounded fascinating even then. In this compelling study, Peter Bernstein takes you through the story of risk from the past to the present through an immensely readable narrative.

This got the nod from several experts, though this sums it up best:
"With his wonderful knowledge of history and current manifestaions of risk, Peter Bernstein brings us Against the Gods. Nothing like it will come out of the financial world this year or ever. I speak carefully: no one should miss it." - John Kenneth Galbraith, Professor of Economics Emeritus, Harvard University

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Anonymous is actor Hugh Grant. Forget the music, it's going to be lyrics all the way. He's working on a "dark" and "disturbing" novel. Something, which upon completion will be submitted to book editors without his name.

Why? Because if he could simply sell it based on his celebrity, Grant would perhaps never know his literary worth.

Yes, I do like to be surprised, but given this confessional, I'm left wondering how much of it will be a total shocker, if and when the book is out.

It's almost like the norm of reading from books in progress. Passages, characters, entire chapters make it to readings these days, sometimes weeks, months before the book is out, killing all the elements of what could be an enticing read even before the story has begun.

Anita Desai has said she could never do it. "Somehow, sharing something so intimate before the work is completed, would break it for more," she'd said at her session at Ubud. Her daughter Kiran too was uncomfortable about sharing her book before it was completed.

It's a response that has intrigued me. And whenever, I get an opportunity to speak to authors I always ask them - how much would you share? Not surprisingly, before the book is out, the best ones give very little away. After that, if the book is good, it does its own talking.



He was last here in the April of 2005. If there was a summer in Singapore, you could call it the summer of '05. He rocked the house, even though the venue could have been better - for his foot tapping numbers that is. Perched precariously on those seats at Suntec, dancing was the last thing on my mind. But, such was the energy he exuded that people were willing to take their chances. It was his signature tunes from Veer Zara, Kal Ho Na Ho and Dil Chahta Hai that got them going.

Two years on, Sonu has grown as has his repertoire of music and he is all set to bring the house down at the Esplanade on Sunday, the 29th of April. The fun begins at 7:30pm.

I'd really enjoyed meeting Sonu. In fact, he was one of those rare stars who followed up our meeting with a thank you note. That makes him all the more special as a person. As a performer, he is great. The only thing he needs to watch out for are his 'surprise numbers'. I'm sure you'll remember them as his Dad and his sister. People are paying for you Sonu, so just make it your show, please.

Also heading back to town are Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy. Weren't they just here? Oh, well who am I to complain when the sponsors are lining up. They make great music, no two ways about that. They do get the crowd on their toes and have had to heed to a couple of warnings from the venue folks as well. "No dancing on stage," we'd heard that message from the mike when some pretty young things had to be told to return to their seats. Mercifully, the number was over by then.

If you've had enough of Breathless, then there's KANK, DON and Salaam-e-Ishq to put you in the groove.

They'll also be at the Esplanade, on Monday, the 7th of May at 7:30pm.

So those of you who missed the fun at Genting, you know where to line up for your tickets.

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It's becoming increasingly tough to keep track of the Booker.

Nominees have just been announced for the Man Booker International Prize. Lest, you think what you are thinking, don't confuse this with the Man Booker Prize. The one that gave us our literary inheritance back by honouring Kiran Desai.

What's the difference, you may ask? Isn't a Man Booker or a Booker by any other name the prestigious literary award - the one that catapults books into bestsellers, makes the prize-winning authors the toast of the literatti and the gliteratti.

Subtle differences exist. If you were to read the fine print the Man Booker International Prize sets itself apart from its other famous predecessor by looking at work from fiction writers of any nationality. The only criteria - the work should be written in or translated into English. The 60,000-pound award is presented every two years to highlight a living writer's continued contribution to fiction on the world stage.

So what can you expect?

The names you've heard so many times before. That pretty much makes up for the 15 finalists. Among others there's Salman Rushdie sharing the long list with Margaret Atwood, Peter Carey, John Banville, Philip Roth, Alice Munro and Michael Ondaatje.

The inaugural prize in 2005 was awarded to Ismail Kadare, so could it be Carlos Fuentes this time round? Find out in early June. That's when the panel of judges make their pronouncements.

If you are into award-tracking, it isn't too long a wait for the Pulitzer Prize though. They will be announced on April 17th, with the awards ceremony slated for May 22nd. Yup, the award season has only just begun.

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Monday, April 09, 2007


Your blog writer has been on break. Actually not quite. First, it was an assignment then a driving trip that kept me on the road to Malaysia. Wonderful weekends both - the first one at Genting with the Bollywood gliteratti where I tested our Hi-Def camera, Carl Zeiss lens and the works to very little effect. The second one with family at the charming Malacca. It was back to handhelds, with optimal results on and off the dust tracks at the A'Famosa resort, where Dhruv imagined he was a Lewis Hamilton. Couldn't blame him, Sepang was only a couple of hundred miles away. And the Vroom, Vroom of the Malaysian Grand Prix was heard almost everywhere.

My blogging breaks though haven't stopped thebookaholic aka Bibliobibuli aka Sharon Bakar from handing me a Thinking Blogger Award. I'm not entirely sure if I'm truly deserving of the honour, but I am deeply touched by it. Coming as it does from Sharon, with whom, I've shared some wonderful moments at the Ubud Writers Festival and then through our mail exchanges, this means the world to me. If Sharon tells me, this is the author to watch out for, I'll go all out to do what she asks me to. She recently recommended Tan Twan Eng of 'The Gift of Rain' fame and the interview with him turned out to be as good as it gets. Her passion about all things literary is truly worthy of emulation. She doesn't suffer from what Kunal Basu profoundly summed up as the Dalda Syndrome. Knowledge and information for Sharon, are all about sharing. Just head to her blog and see how many fresh voices are heralded. That, I am sure, you will all admit, is in itself is a big thing.

Now for the work Sharon has set out for me. What I need to do is pick 5 of my own 'Thinking Blogs' - no mean job this. I know some good blogs will be missed, but I really have no problem picking these as my top 5:

1) Jabberwock leads my list. I love the way journalist Jai Arjun Singh straddles between worlds. Authors, books, cricket, movies, music, people. You only have to read his author interviews to get the sense of place and characters in some of your memorable reads. Beyond that two of his recent posts showed what it takes to stay grounded in a world that is being increasingly marked with a sense of loss. His tribute to Shakti Bhatt and Business Standard photographer Rekha make this blogger with a heart stand out heads above the rest.

2) Indi.Ca - this is a blog I discovered after I came back from the Galle Literary Festival. Pity I didn't bump into Indi Samarajiva maybe I did - there were just so many people in those packed days. He does an immensely fine blog, which I visit often enough to make sense of what the media is telling us about Sri Lanka. Read his piece on Military Theatre and the attack on Sri Lanka's 'airport' to decide for yourself. Apart from the written word, there are some great pictures that make this special.

3) Speaking of pictures... who needs text when you have pictures like these? Had read 'Sri Lanka Style' before I headed to Galle. While I got to exchange a couple of quick hellos with the writer Channa Daswatte, never got around to meeting photographer Dominic Sansoni. Met his lovely wife Nazreen a couple of times over breakfast at The Lighthouse and discovered Dominic's blog through hers. A picture story like never before.

4) Making it to the fourth spot on my list is Lotusreads who does great stuff on her blog. I love the lay-out, the easy to comprehend sentences, the breezy style and the fact that she tells us when she's on break. Lessons I should be learning. Superb links too. You'll never need to look elsewhere.

5) Shekhar Kapur, yes, the filmmaker has a brilliant blog too. You read, you decide.

Well, Congratulations All! You have won a Thinking Blogger Award:

The rules are quite simple.

Should you choose to participate, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging.

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.

Please, remember to tag blogs with real merits, i.e. relative content, and above all - blogs that really get you thinking!

There are several other blogs that I enjoy and they deserve a mention too - Zafar Anjum's Dreamink, Amit Varma's India Uncut, Chandrahas Chaudhary's The Middle Stage , Miss Snark , wanderer, day dreamer and fellow Sagittarian's blog Szerelem, Szerelem and something I started reading recently - author Amitava Kumar's blog. Thanks for the blogs all.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007


They came from London, Melbourne, Jakarta, Singapore, Mumbai, New Delhi and beyond to Genting Highlands. The occasion - the 10th Zee Cine Awards which drew the A list of Bollywood to Malaysia. The stars had arrived some before the fans and they were being put through the paces for what would be a show to remember. "There'll be lots of surprises," Tripta Singh of Zee Television had told me a couple of days before the show.

As I made my way to the venue appropriately called 'The Arena of Stars,' I wasn't about to doubt that. Months of work had gone into the making of this show. From the airport to the hotel counter, to the Zee Room, there was a buzz of activity all round. I wanted a quote from Lydia Fernandes, who makes all of these mega scale events happen for Zee but she was quickly shooing everyone. "I need two minutes of quiet, I need to speak to these guys." Various folks were getting their duty checklists, run through - security, red carpet, star seating, the works and then there were the intense rehearsals.

The reigning King of Bollywood Shah Rukh Khan was here practising his Don steps as was the leading actress Priyanka Chopra. She made her descent from what looked like a precarious harness, somersaulting her way mid-air. There was no stopping the heart-pumping action when she landed on terra firma, that's when the charged dance steps took over. This, as another star, Katrina Kaif, waited patiently for her turn. And it sure took a long time. That was because the man in charge, choreographer Ganesh Hegde would tolerate no misstep, no mixed up musical notes, no dancer messing his steps and no stage curtain woes. "Why is there still a gap there?" he'd boom into his mike before the word was heard again "CUT."

Lots of things happening simultaneously too. Celebrity Big Brother winner Shilpa Shetty reading through her autocue, fixing her script - "that doesn't sound right, let's try this." If there was ever an indication of how far the Indian film industry has come, it was to be seen way before the award ceremony. For far too long, the Indian film industry has been panned for its lack of professionalism. Watching Shah Rukh sweat it out, Priyanka perfecting her descent, Katrina waiting and watching, dancers going through their steps over and over again, Ganesh painstakingly spotting and fixing every minute error, the sound crew ensuring the boom was just right, the camera guys capturing every moment, everything that was happening behind the scenes was as professional as it ever gets.

At 5pm, some of the stars who clearly took entertainment seriously were still on stage sorting out all the last minute stuff. Outside the fans had packed both sides of the red carpet. "We want Shah Rukh, " we want Saif", "we want Salman", "we want Abhishek." Having stepped out of the rehearsals, I knew most of the A list wouldn't even be able to make it here. But the King did and proved why his sheer presence is still unmatched. Despite a packed schedule, he stole the limelight from the rest of the gliteratti thanks to his red carpet appearance. There was the usual crush of fans, some attempting to break through the security cordon, all in a bid to shake hands with the super star. His beefy guards did their best to keep him safe, but Shah Rukh proved yet again why he is such a hit with his fans. There were the quick hellos, the handshakes and loving all round. "We love Shah Rukh," "We love Shah Rukh," the chanting hit fever pitch as he led some of his fans into the main stadium Pied Piper like.

Once the star gazing on the red carpet was over, it was time to shift the action indoors. Things kicked off with a performance by Katrina Kaif and Salman Khan. Hosting part of the event, Karan Johar upped the ante with his own brand of humour. "You look stunning," he told Urmila Matondkar and "you don't have to return the compliment!"

Interspersed with the performances, were the awards, of which there were plenty. The main Zee Awards, the Viewers Choice Awards and the Critics Choice Awards. The critics, who often tend to differ from the mainstream, when it comes to picking the best films, seemed to mirror the minds of the audience. They picked the blockbuster Lage Raho Munnabhai - a movie that has captured the imagination of film lovers beyond India by reviving the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.

In the main awards category Hrithik Roshan took home the honours for Best Actor for his role Krrish - a movie that was partly shot in Singapore. He was laid out due to an injury, but he made up to his fans through an SMS message which in true Krrish fashion arrived slightly before the actual award was announced. Read by his father, Director Rakesh Roshan, it said "Krrish started out as an impossible dream for me and my father," though its something that would spur him onto even bigger things. Take note all you Hrithik fans, there might be something bigger than that and Dhoom 2 in the works even as I write this.

Speaking of Dhoom 2, all eyes were on Bollywood's power couple Aishwarya Rai and Abshishek Bachchan. They didn't make an appearance on the red carpet but they more than made up to their fans through their sizzling individual numbers. For those who have tracked Abhishek's steps in the past, it was impossible to miss the new found spring in his step when he performed his number from Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (KANK).

Things only got better when he edged out his father, Amitabh Bachchan by taking home the Best Supporting Actor for his role in KANK. Konkana Sen Sharma bagged the same award in the female category for Omkara, while Bollywood's darling Kajol who made her comeback with Kunal Kohli's Fanaa took home the Best Actor (Female) award. Saif Ali Khan got the nod for Best Actor in a Negative Role for Omkara, for which he thanked "Vishal Bharadwaj, who had the foresight to cast me in such a role."

While the evening seemed to be equally divided between Omakara, KANK, Krrish, taking a narrow lead towards the end of the show were Lage Raho Munnabhai and Rang de Basanti. Both films defied tried and tested formulas. As the brains behind both films explained, if you were willing to test the limits, there was an audience willing to try it out. More importantly, they spoke of working as a team, actors who improvised and even brought scripts to life. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra who got the Best Director and Best Film Awards for Rang de Basanti was quick to express his gratitude to Aamir Khan. "It has been a great year and it all started out with a beautiful script which would have remained in my drawer collecting dust if it weren't for Aamir Khan who told me to never fear."

As the drum rolls continued, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, whose name together with Raj Kumar Hirani will forever be associated with Munnabhai called it a "it a celebration of Indian cinema." And what a celebration it turned out to be.

The music, song and dance extravaganza continued as rivalries and competitions were forgotten. Singer Alka Yagnik may have her swipe at the "beedis and the hookahs," but all that was forgotten when Kuala Lumpur's twin towers appeared on stage. Shah Rukh Khan took a leap of faith and got the crowds on their feet. The Don was rocking the stage making this the perfect capper for an unforgettable night.

I know India seems to have had enough of Bollywood award ceremonies. 'Yet another award ceremony' is the constant refrain. Not so for the fans who had made it to Genting.

While South-East Asia gets its share of the single act, shows like these that bring together names like Shah Rukh, Salman, Priyanka, Preity Zinta, Saif Ali Khan, Katrina, Abhishek, Aishwarya, among a host of others, in one night are far and few between. In fact, the last one was the IIFA in Singapore and that was way back in May 2004.

For those who made the trip all the way from London it was all well worth it. "There's nothing like seeing the real thing," said Bank Manager Maina Patel who expectedly gave full marks to Shah Rukh. "He was the best, his appearance was simply fantastic." Her husband Sunil reserved his recognition for the choregraphers, "they stole the show by putting it together in such an innovative fashion." For 13 year old Bhavisha Khatri seeing Shilpa Shetty in action was good enough. Shetty, with her new found success added oomph to the show, not through a dance number but with her script.

The awards were remembered too and fans were glad to see some of their favourites honoured. Some would have liked KANK and Krrish to be the top films of the evening, but we all know what it takes to please all the people, all the time. My salaams to the organisers who certainly tried.

Once the show was over, the action shifted to the post party. After the star struck fans had parted company, the flashes disappeared, choreographer Ganesh Hegde who put parts of the spectacular show together took to the dance floor. He unleashed more of his foot magic and then attempted to croon the night away with DJ Aqueel. Making an appearance on the dance floor in the wee hours of the morning was actor Zayeed Khan who sizzled just like stars do when they take to the stage. No script, no choreographed steps, just DJ Aqueel's heart pumping music, Hegde's moves and the dancer in Zayeed came to the fore. For those who stayed behind, it paid to party all night.

And if you've lost track of the awards, here they are again:
BEST FILM: Lage Raho Munnabhai
BEST ACTOR: Sanjay Dutt (Lage Raho Munnabhai)
BEST ACTOR (Female): Gul Panang & Ayesha Takia (Nagesh Kukunoor's 'Dor')

BEST ACTOR (Male): Hrithik Roshan (Krrish)
BEST ACTOR (Female): Kajol (Fanaa)
BEST DIRECTOR: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra (Rang de Basanti)
BEST FILM: Rang de Basanti
POWER TEAM AWARD: Shared by Rang de Basanti and Lage Raho Munnabhai - Both bagged 6 awards each
They were followed closely by:
Kriish (5 awards)
Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (5 awards)
Omkara (5 awards)

(All pictures courtesy Zee TV)

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