August 27, 2010


LAUGHED AND had fun over a movie which made mockery of my fraternity. For a change I did not mind. PEEPLI LIVE's visuals were afresh in my mind when one of my news coordinators called up last night to tell me that a woman had a dream that she would be dying at midnight.
I thought wow a TRP story! Lot of things were wrestling in my mind. Should we send an OB van to monitor her movements live till she kicks her bucket. And run a scroll saying few more hours before this lady bid adieu to life. Will she die or not! Why she had this dream! Then good senses prevailed – we didn't give it a damn attention and as expected it turned out to be a bluff.
For people who watched Peeli Live and had riots of laughter over the manner media functioned. Let me tell them it is based on a true story which was reported in October, 2005 in a village in Madhya Pradesh. The only difference is in the real story it was not a farmer but an astrologer.

Indian Express carried an interesting story about the entire episode. I still remember it. Let me tell you guys what happened on October 20, 2005.

Let's begin at the very end: Pandit Kunjilal, self-styled astrologer, is alive and well and living in Betul, Madhya Pradesh. At precisely 4 pm, Kunjilal (according to Star News’ correspondent) coughed. He drank some water and as Sahara’s correspondent reported in offended tones, ‘‘suddenly rose one hour early’’ from his certain death. Asked to explain the postponement of his date with darkness, the smiling media star of the day replied that it was all due to good wishes, prayers. ‘‘And how long do you propose to live, now?’’ demanded a disappointed TV journalist. Kunjilal grinned broadly: ‘‘God knows how long I will live.’’ Coming from a man who had predicted that he would die today between 3pm and 5pm that’s really funny.
3 pm onward: TV news channels Star News, Aaj Tak and Sahara who took Kunjilal at his word and devoted hours of live transmission time to his close encounter with death, were, like Queen Elizabeth II, not amused. He had spoilt their headlines. ‘‘Aaj Meri Mauth Hai (Star News), ‘‘Aaj Maroonga’’ (Aaj Tak), sound infinitely more filmi than ‘‘Mauth ka drama khatam’’ (Star) or Aaj Tak’s tame, ‘‘Mauth Talli ’’ (death postponed).
What went through Kunjilal’s mind during what he believed were his last few hours (did he do it to come on to the ‘‘video’’ asked one reporter, nastily) we will never know. All we saw was a man looking half asleep. However, these TV news channels knew death is a serious matter. So they took Kunjilal’s prediction very seriously. Fearing that he might pop it while they popped off for ‘‘ek chhota sa break,’’ Sahara simply stayed put outside his hut in Betul, and listened to people celebrating the event with dholaks and songs and posted regular updates on his health: ‘‘Doctors say he is fit.’’
As the leading news channels in the country, Aaj Tak and Star News (or is it the other way around?) felt it was their duty to treat the occasion greater solemnity. So they held studio discussions. Aaj Tak asked its resident astrologer for the day, K.N. Rao if people could accurately predict their own death. ‘‘Of course it can happen,’’ replied he gravely, adding that his analysis of Kunjilal’s kundali, indicated the strong possibility of his imminent departure. This outraged the General Secretary of the Rationalist Society in Kolkata, Probir Ghosh who went ‘‘pooh-pooh’’ or more polite words to that effect. His disparaging comments offended another astrologer, Acharya K. Arora who said he had no business criticising astrology. It was time for Dr. Vohra to referee. He took KBC’s 50:50 route: ‘‘Astrology is a very deep science but there is a lot of superstition in this country.’’
Meanwhile, where was poor Kunjilal? Left to die in Betul while they slugged it out in the studio. Star News and Sahara also staged it like a WWF wrestling bout between The Rationalist and The Astrologer. However, Star’s sympathies lay with the latter and, in particular, Prem Kumar Sharma from Chandigarh. As 4 pm neared and Kunjilal was obstinately still breathing, the anchor quizzed Sharma:‘‘But what if the time (of birth?) was 8? Or 8.30? Or 9?—is death a possibility then?’’ insisted the earnest anchor knowing this was a matter of life and death. Sharmaji was most unhelpful: No, 8 is not possible, 8.30 is not possible and nor is 9.
3.51 pm: Sahara’s reporter in Betul was losing his enthusiasm: ‘‘The clock is ticking on but it doesn’t look like he will die.’’ Indeed, Kunjilal was nonchalantly fanning himself. We saw doctors going into check him out—2 minutes to go, said the correspondent in a space-shuttle countdown voice but Kunjilal was not for, er, lifting off. Star News turned for help to the public outside Kunjilal’s home who dismissed the entire thing: ‘‘Nothing will happen—this place is just very superstitious. I only came because all your TV channels were carrying the news.’’
3.58: Just before the appointed hour, Aaj Tak and Star News went for a commercial break, no doubt unable to bear the tension. When they returned, it was to announce Kunjilal calling off his death vigil because the worst (time) was over. But the channels were not giving up so easily. Feeling almost cheated by his living, they flogged the story to death. On Aaj Tak, it was a triumphant smiling rationalist Ghosh versus Rao until a weary Rao could be heard asking ‘‘How long will this go on?’’, while on Star News, astrologer Sharma felt that Kunjilal probably staged the entire drama for media attention.
4.20: In the absence of Kunjilal, his son and daughter took over on Aaj Tak to say how happy they were daddy was alive and how poor mummy-ji had fallen asleep. The channels were getting very tetchy now—having exploited and been exploited by Kunjilal, the channels now turned on him: Sahara Breaking News: ‘‘Khatam hua natak’’, Astrologer Rao on Aaj Tak: It’s not right for an astrologer to predict such a thing.
And finally, Star News offered this by way of explanation for its behaviour: ‘‘It is always our aim to bring you the truth, so we stayed with the story. This was a drama, nothing more.’’ Never had a truer word been spoken.

August 4, 2010

Afghan woman symbolizes war stakes

Till date the famous Steve McCurry photograph of a young Afghan girl that adorned the cover of National Geographic magazine was the most memorable photo of green-eyed Afghan Girl which he clicked at some refugee camp in Pakistan.
But now there is another Afghan Girl photograph which has not only set to become memorable from my point of view but also raise questions on the fate of women in the war torn country. The two photographs taken by different individuals make your cerebrum work hard to look into the pain the individuals gone through in their own respective lives. It is not a mere photo to appreciate but life story to feel.
The face on the cover of Time magazine is graceful, composed and unthinkably maimed. The heart-shaped hole where 18-year-old Aisha's nose should be is a mark of Taliban justice _ a visceral illustration, the headline suggests, of "what happens if we leave Afghanistan."
The portrait has quickly becoming a symbol of the stakes of a nearly decade-old war. For me the photo is disturbing on so many levels but I think that it was completely necesaary, unfortunately. Interestingly, while I was reading comments on websites about the photo I found many people terming the cover page as avoidable and out-cried that the photo might affect children.
If the response proves it's still possible for pictures to provoke a visually saturated culture, it also shows how much viewers have come to accept graphic images.
Under orders from a Taliban commander acting as a judge, Aisha's nose and ears were sliced off last year as punishment for fleeing her husband's home, according to Time's story and other accounts. She said she fled to escape her in-laws' beatings and abuse.
Now in a women's shelter, she is set to get reconstructive surgery in the U.S., with the help of Time, humanitarian organizations and others.
Aisha posed for the Time cover photo because she wanted readers to see the potential consequences of a Taliban resurgence, the magazine said. Prominent Afghan women have expressed concerns that a potential government reconciliation with the insurgents could cost them freedoms they have gained since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion toppled the former Taliban regime.

April 15, 2010

A Village Of Twins

Hello are you Krishnan? No I am Ramesh, Krishnan's brother. Hi Gopanna how are you. Sorry I am Shaju, Gopanna's younger brother. Everytime I try to greet a person in this small but green village in Kerala – it turns out to be other person.
Turn a corner in Kodinhi village, and if you have seen one child you will probably run into its double soon after. In this community of 2,000 families there are 250 sets of twins. In 2008 alone, of the 300 families who had children, 15 pairs were born, a rate at least six times higher than the average for the country. India has one of the lowest twinning rates in the world, but Kodinhi is close to the top of the global twinning league.
Krishnan Sribiju, a doctor at the Tirurangadi Taluk hospital, just outside the village, said the number of twins born was increasing year by year. In the past five years, up to 60 pairs had been born, and the 250 pairs who had been registered understated the true total.
The high number of children with indistinguishable features makes life difficult for teachers. Abhi, 16, standing beside his brother, said: "I comb my hair to the right and he combs his hair to the left. I also have a mark on my neck. Apart from these differences there is nothing else."
"It's an amazing phenomenon to see a medical marvel occurring in such a localised place where the people are not exposed to any kinds of harmful drugs or harmful chemicals," said lKrishnan Sribiju who is studying the twin phenomenon.
Pathummakutty and Kunhipathutty, 65, are the oldest surviving twins in the village, with both only having a single name like many people in the village.
The youngest are Rifa Ayesha and Ritha Ayesha, born June 10.
Pathummakutty said being a twin was not always easy. She recalls how her family struggled financially when she was a child but laughs about the many times people would get mixed up between her and her twin sister.
At the local school, 15-year-old Salmabi said teachers often confused her for her twin sister and she was once reprimanded for something that her twin did.
"It happens all the time," the students pipe in chorus.
Sribiju said scientists were still trying to unravel the mystery of the high number of twin births, believing there must be something in the environment that is causing this such as something in the water.
Some locals also believe it is to do with the water as Kodinji is surrounded by water in the fields and during the monsoon season it becomes inaccessible due to heavy rains.
Most of the twins are non-identical, which means that the mothers are producing extra eggs that are fertilised at the same time. Identical twins develop from a single embryo that splits after fertilisation.
The National Geographic is planning an hour-long documentary with a working title ‘Twin Town.’ Paul Nelson, producer-director of the documentary, says it will be a genuine attempt to get to the bottom of the matter.

April 5, 2010

TV9 Sweeps NT awards in Delhi

I was one of the panelist for seminar on Telugu News Industry. After the discussion - indiantelevision NT awards were held where TV9 swept 12 awards.
Below is an article published in about the panel discussion I participated.

Telugu TV news market needs to consolidate amid clutter Team
(30 March 2009 1:20 pm)

NEW DELHI: Consolidation is the only way forward to beat the clutter in the Telugu news channel space, senior industry experts said.

With 12 Telugu channels crowding the marketplace and jostling for a share of the Rs 1 billion ad market, there can be space for only the top three players in the long run. Distribution costs are also wreaking havoc as politicians and real estate owners are busy launching news channels.

“The news consumption in Andhra Pradesh is much higher as the state witnessed many events in 2009. A lot of infrastructure and political players are pumping money which can create ripples in the market. TV9, however, sits pretty with an almost 50 per cent share in revenues,” said TV9 Editor - Input Dinesh Akula, while speaking at the NT Awards summit.

The session, "The Telugu News Titans," was moderated by founder and Editor-in-Chief Anil Wanvari.

Having invested Rs 1 billion in setting up the infrastructur (including HD), Saakshi TV will take longer to break even. Saakshi TV marketing director Rani Reddy, however, said there is no political affiliation and the news operations is run like an independent business. Incidentally, Saakshi TV comes from the house of Saakshi Telugu daily owned by YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, son of former chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy.

“We launched during recession and we came with our eyes open. We invested on HD because we wanted to be ready for the future. The newspaper business is run as a profitable venture. We have the same approach in the TV news segment,” said Rani Reddy.

Talking about the slowdown and non-serious players in the market, HMTV’s Editor-in-Chief K Ramchandran Murthy accepted that they had not anticipated the market would get so cluttered. "We are in the serious news business and staying away from any type of sensationalism. We believe that will lead to our success," he said.

On the content front, Zee 24 Ghantalu channel head Shailesh Reddy said that as the Telugu industry is mainly cinema and entertainment driven, the viewer wants to watch news in a movie style format. “When there are so many players, you have to do more value addition. Let the viewer decide if it is news in entertaining format or sensationalism,” he said.

Akula raised the concern that there are copycats in the market and there is no innovation. “Some players just copy the graphics and tickers even. What can you do? We need training centres to teach journalism. Lots of people with no understanding have become journalists overnight and are getting obscene salaries,” he pointed out.

Distribution is a big hindrance. Said Murthy, "Some MSOs are even dictating content. They threaten to block the channel if you show any news against their political connections."


March 31, 2010

An actress is here to stay!

All my communications with one of the upcominng and talented actresses of south is through FaceBook. We invited her for live interviews in our news studio couple of times but never had an opportunity to sit and have a face to face interaction. The only similarity between me the actress is the book which we both like – A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mishtry.
Ladies and gentlemen – let me introduce – PRIYA ANAND. A promising face in tollywood who is armed with passion towards acting despite not having a formal training in acting. Dipped in the essense of Tamilian, Andhrite and Maharashtrian blood – this damsel shows confidence to leave strong impression in the canvas of acting. Her mother is from Chennai – father is from Hyderabad with Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtrian links – Priya is brought up in USA and now stays with grand parents in Chennai.
Opps – suddenly I realised that I have another similarity with Priya – she majored in communications and later did business journalism.
I completely agree with her when she says that she is the girl next door. She is carefree yet vibrant. She is cool yet confident. She is simple yet attractive. She is extrovert yet candid.
She flew from USA to India – aim was to be an assistant director but eventually star shinned and she became a star. An actress with spice and twinkle in her eyes. From Tamil movies to Telugu. Short time – long jump. Performance in Leader was liked and appreciated. She dubbed for herself. Simple – because she wants people to know her visuals with her voice. A complete package. Soulful performance. I am told she will not let anyone dub for her.
For those who want to woo Priya. Some secrets – She doesn't like big things. Small things can move her. Flowers! Of course she loves.
For those who want to make her fall in love – some more secrets- She likes compatibility and a person with integrity. She has a special liking for those who are passionate towards work.
Talking about her hobbies – social networking – facebook and twitting. Travelling but more into rural areas. Audio books so that she can hear while makeup and other activities. Books keep her positive.
Foody – prawn biryani and of course the Hyderabadi biryani she is not a vegetarian. And so no PETA calender shoot for her.
During shoots she takes down notes for her diary and also pens fun experiences but doesn't share. STRANGE.
She is active in movies since 2009. Vaamanan and Pugaippadam are Tamil movies she did and of course Leader with Daggupati Rana. Her new movie – Rama Rama Krishna Krishna is being shot while another telugu-tamil movie Putham Pudhu Kaalai is in pre-production and is likely to hit screen in 2011.

According to a fanclub website: FAN RATINGS

Looks: Drop-Dead Gorgeous
Ratings: 5.00/5

Talent: Exceptional
Ratings: 4.50/5

Sex Appeal: Hot
Ratings: 4.50/5

Star Power: Mega Star
Ratings: 4.50/5