Cerebral Shangrila

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Lalu ban gaya gentleman

The headline blares " Lalu to teach management at IIM-A".

Rediff says, " He may be the quintessentially rustic politician whose 15-year-rule in Bihar as chief minister was dubbed by critics as 'jungle raj,' but India's Railway Minister Lalu Prasad is set for an image makeover when he dons the role of a lecturer at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad next month.The turnaround in the financial health of the Indian Railways, with Prasad in charge, has been the subject of major discussion at IIMs and he is already being looked upon as a 'management guru.'

On September 18 this year, Prasad, who is also the Rashtriya Janata Dal president, will deliver a lecture to the management students and the faculty at IIM-A, explaining how he turned around the Indian Railways from a loss-making operation to a public sector unit that stunned everyone by earning a profit of Rs 15,000 crore (Rs 150 billion) in 2005-06.So what has Prasad done to the Indian Railways which his predecessors could not? The answer lies in his own down-to-earth attitude and rustic wisdom.Prasad puts it in his inimitable style: "My mother always told me not to handle a buffalo by its tail, but always catch it by its horns. And I have used that lesson in everything in my life, including the Railways."

P.S : A remarkable achievement for a politician considered as a simpleton. Perhaps Lalu should consider writing a book titled " Bovine techniques of Management" !

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Hrishida - The hero of realistic cinema

Musafir,Anupama, Satyakam,Anand, Bawarchi,Abhimaan,Golmaal ( not to forget Anari,Anuradha,Aashirwaad,Guddi,Namak Haraam,Mili,Chupke Chupke , Khubsoorat, Naram Gharam). These movies are not just the answers to my previous quiz, but a testimony to the enormous talent and versatility of Hrishikesh Mukherjee. He made movies for the common man devoid of glamour,vulgarity and violence. I am his avid fan and shall always remain so.May his soul RIP.As they say,art is immortal.

Here is a rare audio interview of Hrishida given by him in 2000 after recieving the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Award.

Here is the official tribute website of Hrishida which also contains some rare wonderful photos.

Here is an old interview of Gulzar ( Who had a long association with him) where he fondly reminisces about Hrishida .

Gulzar on Hrishida (Source unknown) "I called Bimalda guru and Hrishida, masterji.I started out in the school where the late Bimal Roy was the principal and Hrishikesh Mukherjee (Hrishida) who was Bimalda's chief assistant was Masertji for all of us. Masterji wanted good work because he firmly believed in good work which could only lead to good cinema.

Bimalda died in 1965 and we who worked with him as a team were suddenly unemployed. It was Hemant Kumar who came to our rescue and got us jobs in various places. Hemantda who was at the peak kept me with him to write his songs. He then introduced me to Hrishida who was destined to play a very important role in any life and career.It was 1965 and Hrishida was already making good cinema long before they before they talked about new cinema and parallel cinema. His cinema is simply what is called good cinema, cinema for every man, woman and child. He is a very good man and his goodness is reflected in all his films, that's why there are no villains in any of his films. He belonged to a typical middle class family who lived with his parents, his brothers and his sister.They are all seen in some way and other films.

He called me to work with him for the first time in Aashirwad. What followed was one long innings, a partnership as director and writer. He was the master still and I his obedient Shishy. There were times when Masterji said working with him had become a habit with him. And there were even times when Masterji made me stand out of class, dropped me from some of his films.I learned so many things from this humble genius of a man, specially, his timing for every kind of scene. I don't know why God has stopped creating great men like them this these days. His (God's)decision has greatly affected good filmmakers like Masterji and the kind of good cinema he made."

Monday, August 28, 2006

Rainbow Quiz - Identify the personality - Week 4

Here is the next Weekly Sunday (delivered 1 day late) "Rainbow" Quiz , where I would be giving 7 clues (Hence the name Rainbow) about a personality. You can either leave the answer as a comment / email me . Feedback/ suggestions welcome. Googling is not preferred but then its just for fun (Though I am in a sombre mood when composing this quiz) and so go ahead if you need to.

Each clue is a hindi movie.Find out each of these 7 movies and the personality common to all the seven movies.

Clue # 1 : The film was almost never made until the film's hero Dilip Kumar convinced the director that the idea would work. The story revolves around a house which is let out by the house-owner to a series of tenants - all of whom stay for a little while, let the viewers into their lives and then leave.Though the movie wasn't a commercial success it heralded the arrival of one of bollywood's most beloved director.Name the movie.

clue # 2 : A heartbreaking tear-jerker that explores life and death through the eyes of a young woman who has lived as a burden to her estranged father.The father holds the daughter responsible for his wife's death. Sharmila who plays the conservative daughter's role created a furore in the same year by posing seductivaly on the cover of Filmfare. Name the movie.

clue # 3 : Dharmendra entered movie production with this movie. And he chose the man he completely believed in to direct the movie.He plays an individual who values lofty ideals of truth above all else; his career, family and life itself.This movie was a commercial failure but today is regarded as perhaps the best work of this director. Name the movie.

clue # 4: Mr.Y had been penciled in to play the lead in this movie. However, Mr.X (the director) realized that he couldn't bear to see his friend (Mr.Y) die even in reel life and hence chose a different hero. This movie established a then strggling Amitabh Bachhan as a serious actor to reckon with. No praise is enough for this movie which featured some haunting melodies of Salil Chaudhury.Identify Mr.X , Mr.Y, the movie.

clue # 5: One of the most loved movies of 70's (Though a bit overboard in my opinion).The character that Rajesh Khanna played, was inspired by the director's own father.'Shanti Nivas' is today perhaps the best recognized house name in Bollywood! Name the movie.

clue # 6 : Rumored to be based on the life of Kishore Kumar,this movie analyses the complex relatonship of husband-wife rivalry and the resulting emotional drama. The newly-weds in the movie were coincidentally newly-weds in real life too at that time. Name the movie.

clue # 7 : This movies sets the benchmark for humor in Bollywood .A typical wodehousian comedy of charade , confused identities , this film is the ultimate classic comedy that has spawned a generation of movies none of which have emulated it. Amitabh & Rekha make guest appearances as themselves in this movie.Dialogues like "Baal baal bache" are still remebered today.Name the movie.

Connect all these 7 clues (movies) and identify the personality connecting them.

P.S : A man whose works I idolize and cherish, this quiz is a small tribute to his greatness.Art as they say is immortal.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Madhuvanthi Raaga

I was recently listening to the tamil film song " Kanda naal mudhala "( From the movie 'Kanda naal mudhal') and was mesmerized by the beauty of the raaga "Madhuvanthi" ( The raaga in which the song has been composed).

The song is actually a carnatic music composition by N.C.Chidambaram , which has been cleverly remixed by Yuvan shankar raja in the movie. Madhuvanthi is a beautiful evening raaga and really lives upto its name ( Madhuvanthi - The one that is sweet as honey).

Further googling , revealed that the Raaga is derived from the Melakartha raagam Dharmavathi and has an equivalent hindustani counterpart.

Its not the first time that I am hearing Madhuvanthi in movies. Illayaraja composed a gem of a song " Meendum Meendum Vaa " in Vikram based on the same raaga. Another Raja gem resembling Madhvanthi is the song " Ilancholai Poothadha" from the movie 'Ananda Raagam'.

MSV has tuned a wonderful song too . The unforgetable " Ilakkanam maarudho" ( What amazing lyrics by Kannadasan !) in Nizhal Nijamagiradhu is quoted as Madhuvanthi in some websites (Any experts out there who can clarify ?) .

MS has rendered a beautiful Bhajan in the same raaga and the Lalgudi thillana in Madhuvanthi is quite famous too.Last but not least the inspiring Bharathiar song " Nalladhor Veenai" (one of the versions) is set in raaga Madhuvanthi too.

P.S : I have provided audio links to all the songs. Listen and enjoy when you find time.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bird Watching at Singapore Botanical Gardens

I was lucky to be part of amateur bird watching group (Guided by a Professional birder though) last to last weekend. We set off on a bird watching trip at the lush and beautiful Botanical Gardens on a Sunday morning.

Though I have done fair amount of bird watching (of the serious kind !) in India , my knowledge of birds is extremely limited (Even the few I used to recognize were thanks to the Salim Ali Book on Indian Birds).

The Birds I spotted included the common singapore birds such as Lesser Tree Duck, Sunbird, Striated Heron, Rock pigeon, Tailor bird, Zebra spotted dove, Black swan, common sparrow, Crow. We also spotted some rare birds such as Ashy Tailor bird, Yellow vented bulbul, black crowned heron, glossy starling and white breasted waterhen.

It was so good to be out in the sun in a morning after a long time. May be I should do it more often from now.

P.S : I have been guilty of not posting photos of most of my trips. I still use a good ol' film SLR camera and hence feel lazy to scan stuff . Also I lack a scanner at home now. If all goes well, I shall soon be armed with a Digital SLR camera !

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Rainbow Quiz - Identify the personality - Week 3

Here is the next Weekly Sunday (delivered 2 days late) "Rainbow" Quiz , where I would be giving 7 clues (Hence the name Rainbow) about a personality. Try to discover the person in the least number of clues . You can either leave the answer as a comment / email me . Feedback/ suggestions welcome. Googling is not preferred but then its just for fun and so go ahead if you need to.

clue # 1 : Her first childhood hero was Cyrus Paltons, an Indian army officer in a Kipling-style story by Maurice Champagne, called "The Mysterious Valley".

clue # 2 : Her first literary success came with the sale of her screenplay Red Pawn to Universal Studios.

clue # 3 : Most of her novels, when they were first published, "received almost unanimously terrible reviews". Many of these became bestsellers due largely to word of mouth.

clue # 4 : Her magnum opus, ----- --------, was published in 1957 and went on to become an international bestseller.It is frequently claimed (Though not verified) as the second most influential book in America after the Bible.

clue # 5 : She claimed that her greatest philosophical influence was Aristotle,though her work borders very close to the Nietzschean ideas.

clue # 6 : A fierce New Yorker, she wrote, "I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York's skyline, the sky over New York and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need? I feel that if a war came to threaten this, I would throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body."

clue # 7 : Her belief: Rational selfishness (Objectivism) is a virtue; altruism (self-sacrifice), a vice.

P.S : Need I say more ? An author whose works have had a deep influence on the 20th century philosophical movement.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Ustad Bismillah Khan - RIP

It was sad to hear about the death of the Shehnai Maestro - Ustad Bismillah Khan. One of the foremost exponents of that instrument , he was largely responsible for the popularity of the Shehnai in modern music. Though a devout muslim, he was attached to the Kashi Viswanath temple and believed that Music has no caste.

Though I have never had the pleasure of listening to him live, I have listened to a lot of his Cassettes and CD's . Here a couple of my favorites.Listen to them if you have time :

1. Rendition of the Raghupathi Raghava Rajaram by the Maestro ( What an apt song !)

2. Tere sur aur mere geet - A wonderful musical duet with Lata from the movie Goonj Uthi Shehnai ( One of my favorite songs with awesome singing by Lata and a lilting Shehnai played by Ustad Bismillah Khan)

May his soul rest in peace .

Friday, August 18, 2006

Going off to Genting Highlands,Malaysia

I would be travelling to Genting Highlands(The "supposed" Las Vegas of Malaysia ) this weekend. Hence will try to post my weekly Rainbow Quiz on Monday .

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Indians learning Chinese

Looks like more Indians are interested in learning Chinese. With the Bilateral trade growing exponentially between the two countries, the opportunities are countless ! I guess its time to restart my Chinese lessons ( Its amazing how I can't do anything properly ). Being in spore, at least I have an active chinese speaking populaton.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

IIT's - Efficient supply from a Tiny school in Bihar

BusinessWeek profiles this amazing tiny school from Bihar (Patna) which offers free IIT coaching to 30 poor students every year. Last year, 22/30 made it to the IIT's.What could be a more nobler initiative than recognizing talent and fostering it ? Kudos to the School !

BusinessWeek reports, " Every April, some 230,000 Indian youths sharpen their pencils and sit for the intensely competitive entrance exam to the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) -- the seven prestigious schools that train India's top-notch engineers and entrepreneurs. After the grueling six-hour test, only 5,000 students are offered a place in the IITs. Most come from middle-class backgrounds and prepare for the exams through private coaching. But in the past few years, a small group of desperately poor, talented students have made it into the IITs, thanks to the Ramanujan School of Mathematics.

The school, named after a famous Indian mathematician, is even more intense than the IITs themselves. Located in Patna, the capital of Bihar, one of India's least developed states, the Ramanujan School trains just 30 students a year to take the IIT exam. Anand Kumar, 33, a local mathematician, and Abhayanand, 52, Patna's deputy director general of police and a lover of physics, founded the school in 2003 to help promising locals get ahead in the caste-based society.

They scoured Bihar's least privileged communities for 30 bright students to coach for the exam, providing free lessons and housing. They call their group the Super 30. "Intelligence is not birth-specific," says Abhayanand. In the first year, 16 of the group made it into the IITs. The next year, 22 made it. "This year," Kumar says confidently, "all 30 will get into the IITs."

Monday, August 14, 2006

Rainbow Quiz - Identify the personality - Week 2

Here is the next Weekly Sunday (delivered a day late) "Rainbow" Quiz , where I would be giving 7 clues (Hence the name Rainbow) about a personality. Try to discover the person in the least number of clues . You can either leave the answer as a comment / email me . Feedback/ suggestions welcome. Googling is not preferred but then its just for fun and so go ahead if you need to.

Since its the eve of Indian independence, here is a quiz on someone, who fought for our Independence & whom I deeply admire. Btw, also let me know in which clue you found the personality.

clue # 1 : He was the first Indian to be awarded the Bharat ratna posthumously

clue # 2 : To take part in the non-cooperation movement of Mahatma Gandhi , he began studying at the Kashi Vidyapeeth in Kashi, and upon completion, he was given the title ---- or Scholar.

clue # 3 : The first position he held in independent India was that as a Minister in the U.P. cabinet holding the portfolio of police and transport.

clue # 4 : Dr. Radhakrishnan said about him “Mr. X's case is an illustration of the strength of democracy in this country. From humble beginnings, without any advantage of birth, position or wealth, he rose to the highest position in the Government of the country. It is due entirely to his force of character and integrity of life.”

clue # 5 : A man of utmost integrity , he resigned as Railway Minister following a rail disaster near Ariyalur, Tamil Nadu.

clue # 6 : The slogan Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan (Hindi for "Hail the soldier, Hail the farmer") is attributed to him.

Clue # 7 : He led the country during its worst food crisis (He led by example by fasting on Monday evenings and requested the citizens to do so)and later ushered the Green revolution.

P.S : Happy Independence day ! Vande Mataram.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Mozart meets India

To commemorate the 250th birth anniversary of the musical genius Mozart, the tamil maiyam (The folks who made the Thiruvasagam oratorio with Illayaraja) has announced a musical album titled " Mozart meets India".

The Hindu reports," After the success of its album 'Thiruvasagam in symphonic oratorio' in CDs and cassettes, the Tamil Maiyam (Tamil Centre) today announced that its second venture "Mozart Meets India" would be released on August 25.The album has been defined by its producers as 'a global soundtrack based on six Indian ragas.'A live performance would also accompany the release of the CDs and cassettes on Aug 25, the Maiyam's director Father Jegath Gaspar Raj, told reporters here.

"We have kept intact the rules, the grammar, discipline and the identity of the six Carnatic ragas of Sankarabharanam, Kapi, Panthuvarali, Bilahari, Sindhu Bhairavi and Hamsananthi. It is unlike popular fusion."The objective of "Mozart Meets India" was to enable Indian classical music resonate globally, explore and create music that would transcend genres, cross cultures and become an attractive soundtrack for the world and make Indian classical music relevant to the modern generation, he said.

Friday, August 11, 2006


What is common to Bryan Adams, Carl Lewis (Athlete), Alicia Silverstone (Actress & model), Sardar Vallabhai Patel ?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Google Foundation - Indian footprints

Google Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the search giant is expanding its Indian footprints (After the Planetread initiative about which I blogged a few months ago). Larry Page, one of the co-founders, was in Madurai a few days ago to visit the famous Aravind eye hospital.One of the key reasons for Google Foundation's increasing presence in India is its new Exec Director, Dr.Larry Brilliant,who has spent more than a decade in India.

The Hindu reports, " The role of Information Technology (IT) in eye care management is set to scale new heights with global IT major, Google, offering to provide its expertise to Aravind Eye Hospital.The Google co-founder and president (Products), Larry Page, flew down to Madurai by a special plane on Sunday to have an overall view of the functions of the hospital. A presentation was made on how the hospital, which had a humble beginning, emerged into a world-class institution for eye care and obtained recognition as the only examination centre of the Royal College of Ophthalmology, United Kingdom, in the country.

After browsing through the hospital's portal on comprehensive eye care management, he said Mr. Page assured that Google Foundation would assist the hospital in its distance education programmes. "The focus would be on extending quality eye care to rural areas using IT. We will also work together on health projects benefiting the poor," he added. Google.org executive director Larry Brilliant, who had a long association with the hospital founder, G. Venkataswamy, was part of the team."

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

SDB - Centenary year Celebrations

I am a huge S.D.Burman fan.2006 is the centenary year of the celebrated hindi film composer - S.D.Burman. Hats off to Ritu, Maajid,Chowdhury for organizing a S.D.Burman musical night in Delhi last month. The three come from different nationalities and have put together the wonderful website sdburman.net (having worked together for the last 3 years, they never met until last month end). Read this extra-ordinary tale of passion and true love for music.


Maajid Maqbool is a computer professional in Rawalpindi. H Q Chowdhury runs a private science and technology laboratory in Dhaka. And Ritu Chandra is a software engineer located in Philadelphia.But a common passion binds this unlikely trio from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India: the music of Sachin Dev Burman.

Maqbool, 52, possesses 650 of the 670-odd songs composed by Dada Burman for Hindi films - a collection built assiduously over four decades rummaging through shops in Karachi, Lahore, London and New York. Along with Chowdhury and Chandra, he has spent considerable time and money to set up a Burman website ( sdburman.net) that includes snatches of his early classics. ''We are upgrading the website and hopefully the job would be complete by October 1, the day he was born 100 years ago,'' says Chandra, 33, the youngest among the three. All three are in the Capital to celebrate the birth centenary of the masterclass singer and music director.

It's a tuneful act of South Asian regional cooperation. The three,who chanced upon each other on the Internet, don't discuss Kashmir or Teesta river-water sharing. ''We have no political agenda."It's just our shared love for Dada's music that brings three individuals from three different countries together,'' says Chowdhury, 56, who grew up listening to SD Burman's Bangla songs in his childhood home in Barisal, before discovering his Hindi film repertoire. Of the three, Chowdhury is the researcher whose old film magazines carrying rare photographs and articles of the music maestro now find a place in the website. ''Now many fans have also sent photographs to us,'' says Chandra.

She is the buoyant spirit behind the group who helped organise a musical evening of Burman's songs here on Friday. Maqbool and Chowdhury also flew in from their countries.''We have known each other for so long. But we saw each other for the first time on Thursday,'' says Maqbool.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Rainbow Quiz - Identify the personality - Week 1

Waking up from the stupor, I have decided to give some work to my semi-dead grey cells from this week. I shall strive to host a Weekly Sunday "Rainbow" Quiz , where I would be giving 7 clues (Hence the name Rainbow) about a personality. Try to discover the person in the least number of clues . You can either leave the answer as a comment / email me . Feedback/ suggestions welcome. Googling is not preferred but then its just for fun and so go ahead if you need to.

First week, an easy one. Btw, also let me know in which clue you found the personality.

Clue # 1 : His Doctrate (Ph.D) topic was on " India’s Export Trends and Prospects for Self-Sustained Growth".

Clue # 2 : Was awarded the prestigious Adam Smith Prize at the Cambridge university (UK) two years after Dr.Y. Dr.Y later went on to become the first indian to win the Nobel Prize in economics (Identify Dr.Y too).

Clue # 3 : His daughter is a staff attorney at ACLU(American Civil liberties union) who investigated the alleged torture in American prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

Clue # 4 : He stood first in the University during his Intermediate,B.A,M.A courses.

Clue # 5 : He was awarded the Padma Vibushan in 1987 by the Govt of India.

Clue # 6 : Has had a tenure as a Honorary professor at both Delhi School of Economics & JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University).

Clue # 7 : Was the Governer of RBI (Reserve bank of India) from 1982-85.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

HMT - Time running out ?

The once ubiquitous HMT watches , a symbolism of pre-liberalization India, might be on its way out. Perhaps the Govt should have exited the business much before. Why is the Govt selling watches anyway ?

From FE, " HMT Watches Ltd and HMT Chinar Watches, which monopolised the Indian market for almost three decades till 1990, may soon stop ticking.The two are fully-owned subsidiaries of HMT Ltd, a 100% government-owned company under the department of heavy industries. Both, put together, have a market share of just 4%.

The heavy industries ministry has given up on reviving the two subsidiaries, which bleed the exchequer to the tune of Rs 125 crore a year."

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Omkara - Must see ?

Raja Sen in Rediff seems to be heaping praise on Omkara. There is little doubt that Vishal has emerged as one of the brightest talents in Bollywood in the last few years. Though Omkara is not exactly setting the box-office on fire in India, its doing pretty well (for a change NRI's have flocked to an artistic,non-Khan movie) abroad too.

So, What do you think ? I am looking forward to seeing it soon based on these strong reviews.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Ban on Child Labor

The Indian Govt has passed a comprehensive law banning the Child Labor . A welcome move and a much needed legislation that should have been passed long ago.The Hindu says, " The Government has banned employment of children as domestic servants or workers, and as helpers in dhabas, restaurants, hotels, motels, teashops, resorts, spas and other recreational centres.The ban, effective from October 10 this year, has been imposed under the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986. "

Most of the federal legislations run into problems in promulgation and execution. Will they adopt a strong carrot ( To those who report an underage kid being employed) & Stick ( Strong punishment for the perpetrators of the crime) approach to ensure its success?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Mohd.Rafi - 26 years later......

I can hear his voice almost everyday. But its been 26 long years since the man said goodbye to the world. On July 31,1980 , Mohd.Rafi breathed his last leaving millions of fans in distress. One of the greatest singers of hindi film world, Rafi's versatility still remains untouched.

More than being a great singer, Rafi is also remembered by his peers as a humble and ever-helping kind soul. Here is a tribute by 25 bollywood luminaries on Rafi's 26th ( I suspect this was written on his 25th) death anniversary.

At various points of my life, I have swayed between Rafi,Kishore,Hemant as my "Most favorite Singer (hindi)". Wherever my loyalties lie, Rafi definitely stands there up above in that list and the voice continues to mesmerize me as ever !