Sunday, November 15, 2009

Photojournalism - Art and reality

I think there is a photojournalist hidden in all of us photographers. There is a small part of us who wants to throw away all the lights and gizmos and just go out there and shoot life. Photography is the medium closest to reality; at least it was the case some years back. All the fashion and lifestyle shoots won’t give the same adrenaline rush as capturing an important moment in history. Something that you will look back on in future and think, now this can’t be duplicated, it is something priceless. I always dream about being at the right place at the right time, and also having the perfect settings on my camera of course. My favorite images have always been the ones I shot on the streets of India. The colors, the characters, and the power it conveys make it special and unique. I wish I went out more onto the streets. There are so many stories out there to be captured. After all, in the end, we are all story tellers.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Lately, I have this strong feeling of being cluttered. A state of confusion where there is just too much information to process. I think that this has a lot to do with the amount of time I spend on the internet. I access the internet from work, which makes it around 9 hours of aimless browsing (I am good at multi-tasking :D). Once I return home at around 7pm, I come online for three more hours. That is 13 hours in a day. Wow, I just realized how many hours I spend each day online. That would be around 80 hours per week, 320 hours per month, 3840 hours per year. That is around 160 days of browsing every year, almost half the year, I am online. I have just calculated that figure at this very moment, and that number is driving me bonkers. So much of information input, majority of which I have no requirement of, the sole purpose of which is to pass my time.

This in turn affects the lifestyle. You constantly require some or the other form of stimulus, be it movies, music or anything similar. I am planning to tone down the amount of information I gather. I have been reading a blog on Zen habits. I usually don’t read self-help or motivational book. (I find them to be a bunch of horse manure) But this one has advice on what to keep and what to throw away. So Project Zen is off the ground. I have listed 5 main interests. They are not in any order.1. Professional Photography.2. Travel.3. Health.4. Friends and family.5. Guitar&movies. (couldn’t really chose one)From now on, each day would be focused on these 5 interests and if I have spare time(which I am sure I will have tons of) then I would branch out to other sub interests, which are aplenty. More on the progress in the next post.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Adrian Lyne’s Lolita - Review

I looked and looked at her, and I knew, as clearly as I know that I will die, that I loved her more than anything I had ever seen or imagined on earth. She was only the dead-leaf echo of the nymphet from long ago - but I loved her, this Lolita, pale and polluted and big with another man's child. She could fade and wither - I didn't care. I would still go mad with tenderness at the mere sight of her face” Humbert realizes towards the end of the movie “Lolita”.

A controversial novel and a good adaptation into the silver screen, Adrian Lyne’s Lolita shows us a man’s illogical, desperate passion. The frozen stare on Humbert’s face when he sees Dolores 'Lolita' for the first time to the desperate attempts to isolate her from the world; the needy and disgusting love is conveyed powerfully by Humbert. Dominique Swain as Dolores “Lolita” is the star of this movie, for you understand why Humbert can stoop to such lows for a skinny, young teenager. She was 15 years at the time of filming the movie and I wonder how no one got arrested for all the love scenes in the movie. Her vivacious, childlike nature contradicts with the sexual tones throughout the movie. A sexually mature woman in an adolescent’s body is how I would describe her character.

The strangest thing about this movie is that you root for the couple to stay together. Maybe it is out of pity for Humbert, a character who really should not deserve any pity or maybe you are just looking for a happy ending in the story. In the real world you wouldn’t think twice before sending an old pervert to prison for the same offence.

A thought provoking and at the same time engrossing, the movie twists your morals in a few knots for a couple of hours. Such movies are rare to find.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

guilty for life?

The Article in 7days

"When it comes to celebrities who have committed nasty crimes, why does the world of showbusiness seem to turn a blind eye and still employ them, asks Jane Plunkett
Anyone who goes to see the new comedy by Todd Phillips, ‘The Hangover’, will no doubt leave the cinema with a huge smile on their face - it’s a very funny film. Any woman who has been abused that sees the same film however, may not leave the theatre in such high spirits.
Starring prominently in the film is controversial boxer Mike Tyson, who, apart from biting the ear off fellow boxer Evander Holyfield, is also a convicted rapist.
It’s baffling how someone who has violently destroyed the dignity of another human being, can - because of his celebrity - continue to cash in on his famous name.
Dubai-based businesswoman, Rachel, is one person who can’t fathom this. Rachel was sexually assaulted when she was 17 years old.
“When you’ve been attacked sexually you never lose the fear that what happened could happen again. As much as you move on with your life you never forget how you felt when you were attacked,” says Rachel.
“I can imagine if I saw the man who attacked me continue to receive adoration from fans and land roles in big films I’d be very angry.
It’s almost like rubbing in the fact that they’ve hurt and disrespected you and, as dramatic as it sounds, haunted your life, yet their life hasn’t changed and they continue to be popular when they’re the guilty party.
“Fair enough, you have to forgive people and that person could be haunted by what they’ve done and paid their penance, but it makes you question mankind when fans can continue to idolise a person that’s committed such a heinous crime.”
According to Roghy McCarthy, a psychologist at the Counselling and Development Clinic in Dubai, allowing a convicted rapist to appear in a film gives out the message that if you are a celebrity you can get away with anything - that you’re above the law.
“This is a very bad message for teenagers especially, who idolise certain actors or sports stars. It gives out the message that if you’re famous and you do something wrong - nobody can touch you,” says Roghy.
Reshel Shah, production assistant at D-Seven Motion Pictures in Dubai and co-ordinator of The Scene Club ( feels that everybody, despite fame, should be questioned for their actions.
But she admits that the reality is big businesses, especially in places like Hollywood, only care about making money - not what might be ethically right or wrong.
“When celebrities do wrong they appear in the media even more and this makes their name even more famous,” says Reshel.
“Mike Tyson has been in the papers for 101 things - so for many production companies the fact that he is a household name makes him a viable option for a part in a movie.”
So it’s just a money game? “Remember, it’s show-business at the end of the day - not show art,” she says.
“Of course responsible morals would be great, and I am sure there are some who believe in that - but it’s usually just about bringing in a big audience.”
When asked how he would feel about acting beside a convicted rapist, Dubai-based amateur actor and health psychologist Ron Villejo says it’s a hard call.
“I would want to think long and hard about it. As far as I know Mike Tyson was convicted, spent time in jail and finished his sentence - so he has paid his dues as we say. In that sense I might not have such a strong issue with him being cast.” says Ron.
“If I were a woman however, Mike Tyson is a big guy, very imposing and with a criminal history - I might not be too comfortable around him.”
Having lived in star-struck America for many years Ron notes that people tend to forget crimes very quickly.
“You can commit the most awful crime, pay your dues, and it seems like Americans will be overcome with amnesia and continue to celebrate you as a sports figure or actor, despite the crime,” says Ron. "

While, I understand the sensitivity of the issue from point of someone who might have been abused, what I do not understand is the logic behind this article.
Mike Tyson has served his sentence, which was determined without bias by a US court. The article did not mention any objection to the length of the sentence or the severity of the sentence. So the question regarding whether justice was served does not arise.
The article finds fault with the fact that Mike Tyson after serving his sentence, continues to lead a normal life, with the fact that he is making money as a celebrity, as one of the most popular boxers in recent history. I find that argument faulty. If Jane Plunkett's issue is with the fact that Mike Tyson who as a convicted rapist was able to return to society, then she should have put across her argument against the court judgment.
Much is written about the plight of convicts who are unable to adjust back into society after serving their term. Many people who are convicted of minor crimes are unable to find a job because of their records being black listed by the conviction. We call our jails "correctional institutions" for a reason. If the convicts are not reformed, the issue is with the judiciary system.
Fans have always turned a blind eye towards the antics of their idols. Michael Jackson's death wasn't that long back, was it? Perhaps she has chosen the wrong celebrity to vent upon. Jane Plunkett could have written about someone like Salam Khan who did not spend much jail time even after being convicted, or take another angle to the judiciary system and write about the plight of undertrials in India who spend years in jail without being proven guilty or innocent.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Six degree of separation

I was reading one of my favorite blogs when I came across the term “six degree of separation”. This person has put out his message to the world that he wants to shoot a portrait of Coldplay and Pdiddy. The attempt is to actualize the theory of six degree of separation; that every person on this planet is just six steps away from every other person in the planet i.e. If your friend is one step away from you and your friend’s friend is two steps away from you, then the Queen of England is just six steps away from you.
It is wonderful to know that all the people you idolize are just 6 steps away from you. The tough part is to find the right path to take those vital six steps. If I were to use the six degree approach I would choose the following people to meet.

1. David Gilmour: Lead singer and guitarist for the Pink Floyd, I was hoping to take my guitar playing skills to the next level. Perhaps he can teach me a riff or two, or maybe give me tips how to do those freaky bends and phasing.

2. Morgan freeman: He is a late bloomer and I haven’t reached my peak of abilities just yet. It would be great to get pointers from him on what signs to look out for, of my impending greatness. On the side, he could also give me some vocal classes.

3. Ansel Adam: I know he is dead, but I don’t mind taking an extra step or two into the spirit world. All those online tutorials about his zone system for exposure are not enlightening enough. If he could prepare a workshop for me on the Zone system, I would, in return, give him some classes about digital photography.

4. Lalu Prasad Yadav: My management education wouldn’t be complete without a session with the enigma called Lalu. The village bumpkin who turned around the largest rail system in the world is highly underestimated. He might have been greatly popular with the media with his antics, but no one would have given him a rat’s ass of a chance to handle the Indian railways. A few lessons from him would keep in good stead when I start my own enterprise sometime in future.

5. Monica belluci and Laetitia Casta together: I haven’t decided what I will ask them, yet. For the time being, the objective would be to see them in person and drool.

More names to follow......

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Music and the man

Does a person’s personal life affect the manner in which his/her music is perceived? The past few days have seen this question pop up in my brain frequently. The king of pop is dead, his legions of loyal fans exhort the media and the masses to show some respect for his genius as an artist. Most people are unable to detach Michael’s apparently sub-human behavior from his musical talents.
Ironically most musicians look at their music as an expression of who they are. The vibrant music of the 70’s and 80’s come to mind. Lennon’s fervor against the war seeped through into his music. He used his music as a weapon against the US government who found him an annoying threat and tried their best to get rid of him, deportation being one of the means.
Jimi Hendrix wasn’t as vocal as Lennon about the war, but some of his songs do come to mind, namely machine gun and his version of the national anthem. The rolling stones’s notoriety and misbehavior lend more color to their music.
My perspective on this topic is subjective. If I like an artist’s personality and message, I might give their music a try; on the other hand if I like a person’s music, I might ignore their character flaws. In the end, music is the winner.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

addictions legal or not

Imagine a world where alcohol and drugs do not have adverse side affects that makes it so mighty popular. What would stop the government from making it illegal,nothing. We have KFC, perfectly legal, but we all know what good eating those fat immersed pieces of poultry would lead to. There is substantial evidence to prove that KFC food can make you obese and bring in heart related diseases. Still, the government wouldn't ban it. Is it addictive? It could be. I know for sure, Lays chips are addictive. The mono sodium stuff or whatever they add on makes sure of that. Why doesnt the Government ban it. What is it about a natural herb like marijuana that twists the government's panties in a twist? I can vouch for the increase in creative juices that alcohol and drugs can induce. As far as I know none of the junk food can bring the same kind of productive energy. You might ask, why compare an innocuous food item with a deadly stimulant? I would say why not? We take stimulants for all our illness, stimulants to make us get out of depression, stimulants to relieve pain,most of which have long term side affects. So how does a stimulant for the mind affect the conscience so badly?

The choices we make to take us faster to the grave should rest solely upon our educated shoulders. If we wish to sink our teeth into that tasty, oily sheekh kabab Big brother only helps elevate the desire of the unattainable.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Let me shoot you.... please?

Last week, I went for the Gulf Photo Plus, an event showcasing the best photographers around the world. I have been dabbling in photography for the last 2-3 years and I was excited at the prospect of meeting the giants in the photography business. So I enrolled for a few workshops, one of them being the “one light” workshop by Zack Arias, who is an Atlanta based editorial photographer.

I started following his blog once I enrolled for his class and I was fascinated by his use of flash lighting. If I had to choose something that I was entirely clueless about in photography that would have been the flash unit. I hate using the flash pop up on the top of my camera, which makes anyone who I shoot, have oily white skin and flared features. Ugly. Using a flash unit separate from the camera was akin to rocket science for me. I knew it would fire, but I just didn’t how the h*** it worked, and the manual looked like it was written by geeky MIT grads. Reading through his blog, I slowly started getting used to the idea of me being able to use a flash without going back for algebra classes.

I reached the venue for the workshop 30 minutes early. It was a bustle of activity with people of different age groups, ethnicity rushing about in search of their classrooms. I walked around the main venue where various photography related stalls were set up, stalls for Nikon, Canon, Adobe dominated the area.

The workshop had two sections to it, a theory section for four hours, enlightening but a relentless barrage of information can fuddle your brains. The next section was more fun, we had a photo session with three models in the new technique he had taught us, and surprise, surprise I can shoot with a flash! I would have put up the link to my flickr account here. But Flickr is banned in Dubai. So I would have had to scour for the second best photo sharing site and upload all my snaps there again. Currently that is too much of a hassle.

This place is such a wonderful city to photograph people. Such diversity in culture, a whirlpool of people from around the world. The fashion sense of people here is extremely unique to say the least. Sometimes you feel that you are on Fifth Avenue, sometimes you feel you are in the ghetto, and sometime you just don’t know which planet you have landed upon. Most probably the per capita investment in cosmetic enhancement would be the highest here. My trigger finger gets awfully itchy whenever I step into one of those swanky malls. It is like Disney land; wonders wherever you look.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Religion-my two bit

I was born a Hindu, a unique one at that. I am a beef eating, non-Diwali/holi/any important Hindu festival celebrating, “other backward caste Hindu”. Other backward caste (OBC)… caste was so insignificantly backward that it got slotted in "others". Don't you hate it when something that you feel is important gets slotted in the after-thought of "others"? For instance, when you file an online resume, you might get options for the institutes that you have studied in. You scroll through the list of IIMS, XLRI and many others, and at the end of it you find “others”. Well, I digress.

I value Hinduism for its nonchalant attitude. You can pick any god you desire for worship, you can worship him any time or day you want, you are not compelled to visit the temple at regular intervals, you can eat anything you want (atleast an OBC malayali can). The mythologies are colorful and vibrant, each with an underlying moral of the triumph of good over evil. The Gods have human shortcomings too, Indra’s pride, Krishna’s slyness, Ram’s suspicion and weakness. You can easily relate to them, but blindly worship them? Not really.

I have always envisaged religion as a projection of a higher way of life. It should be something or someone who you look up to for guidance on how to fabricate your life. In the chaos of life we forget the essence of what religion is and focus only on the propagators; the Gods. I believe that God wants us to worship him not through sacrifices and poojas but by following the message that he has conveyed to us. Living our lives in accordance to the standards and system which defines the religion is the best way to worship God. I personally find pilgrimages to be a fruitless endeavor. Visiting shrines to capture a glimpse of a small idol among throngs of people never appeals to my vision of serenity and it is rare to find a temple in India which isn’t crowded.

I have read the Bhagavad Gita and some parts of the Vedas, the profoundness of which overwhelms me. It also made realize that humans as a species are dumbing down as each generation passes. The intellect of people who wrote these scriptures must have been extraordinary.

As I grew older, I found myself getting more detached from Hinduism and God in general. The angst of my youth made me question the benevolence of God after witnessing the pain the world is going through. It is somewhere during this period of distrust, that I chanced upon the saying in Buddhism “life is suffering”. Well, now here is a religion who admits that life is not a cake walk. I had always admired the quiet confidence that radiates from Buddha’s smile. In my view, Mona Lisa’s smile was a poor effort to capturing the mystical all-knowing element of Buddha’s smile. How Davinci chanced upon Buddha’s image beats me, maybe Richard Gere might have the answer to that.

The deeper I got into Buddhism, the better the realization that it is not only for monks in far off monasteries in the Himalayan valleys. The simplicity of the religion, the quiet detachment from materialism, the unconditional love, the purposeful self awareness, these appealed to me.

I guess everyone has a set of values that they are comfortable with and I found mine in Buddhism. Being a Buddhist doesn’t automatically make me a Buddha, just as being a Christian doesn’t make one Christ. So go slow on the assumption that Buddhists are monks who have thrown away all worldly attachments and have found Nirvana. I still make mistakes, some really dumb ones at that. But now I have something to look up to and judge myself against. This forms the essence of my religion.

I can empathize with the anger that people feel on being marginalized based on their religions. The stereotypes- Muslims have beards and turbans, Jews have long noses, Buddhists are bald- will always be there. But the more dangerous ones, like Jews are cunning, Muslims are terrorists etc. bother me. The holy war of the past, the Christian crusades by the church was one of the ugliest periods of humanity. Wars based on religion might never cease. The irony of it would be when a set of aliens would land on earth and see people fighting against each other. The aliens would accost a human from the midst.

Alien: What are you humans fighting for?

Man: Religion.

Alien: What is religion?

Man: (after a lot of thought) it is something where people believe in and worship an unknown, invisible power called God.

Alien: You mean you have never met God?

Man: ummm, that is right.

Alien: And you are massacring each other in the name of someone you have never seen in your life?

Man: it is not as simple as that…..

Alien(looks back at the alien standing next to him): When did these guys take control of earth? The last time we were here, didn’t women rule the planet?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Why do they cry?

It is the finale of the Indian Idol contest. Three contestants remain. The judge looks at one of the contestants(one who looks like she has just come out of a Oprah make-over session), ‘I am sorry’; the judge says, ‘your Indian idol journey ends here’. The camera pans over to the section where the contestants who have previously been eliminated are sitting, the camera zooms in on a pretty girl who on cue burst into a flood of tears. Cut.

Why do they cry? This apparently is not a singular incident. I switch channels to an extremely bitchy reality “on the road” contest, and again, tears and more of it. When I was a kid (darn, that sentence makes me feel so old) I used to watch plenty of TV shows/contest. The reality tag wasn’t invented then, but the whole process was more or less the same; a pool of contestants, elimination rounds and a winner at the end of it. Rarely will you find anyone crying, especially for someone else! None of the contestants nowadays cry for themselves. The dams always break when others get ousted.

Is it the outcome of a huge surge in the emotional quotient of the current generation? Extremely doubtful, especially after seeing the manner in which these ladies go at each other’s throats or as seen in the last episode of Roadies, each other's cloths. Empathy is the last quality that you might associate with any of them. It remains a great modern mystery. But what isn’t a mystery is the positioning of Sony’s new Vaio P Laptop on a woman’s derriere. An advertisement which shows in its entire duration, a woman’s posterior as it charges ahead is a strong visual statement for the demographic section of men in the age group of… well, all men. Sony has apparently made it acceptable to stare at a woman’s behind as long as you want, if one of their products is hanging out her back pocket. I wonder whether this is also applicable to their mobile phone products, since the chances of seeing a woman, an attractive one at that, with a laptop in her pants is extremely bleak as of now.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


I dread opening the business section of my newspaper these days. As consistent as a sunrise in the horizon, the paper reports with gleeful gloom the thousands of jobs that have been lost in the last few months and then predicts the thousands of jobs that are going to be lost in the next few months, including the rate of jobs lost/minute(for our convenience perhaps). This is grim news especially for me, for I am unemployed. The fact that might tickle your funny bone is the fact that I voluntarily decided to get unemployed. It was in the month of august of 2008 that I decided to quit my job of three years in the quest of money and fame in the glorious middle-east. I have been planning to descend upon the land of Dubai with the positivism of a pure breed Malayali. So the month following my resignation from the company, I decided to take it easy, living life as a procrastinating bum, after all what is the hurry, the money in Dubai isn’t going to dry up in a month, is it?

Pop! the bubble busted. The cracks began to show in the US of A. Slowly it spread through the world and with a dreaded certainty, the world economy crashed into recession. As if that wasn’t disheartening enough, Dubai, the land of my future dreams was selected for a greater fall, the real estate bubble which accelerated Dubai’s growth and reputation in the previous few years is no more. The wondrous man-made constructions like the Burj, Palm islands, ski Dubai which had stood testimony to the great new arrival of Dubai as a super star, trembled suddenly as reality struck.

So here I stand, jobless like many around this globe, staring at the paper and wishing that it was April 1st and this is all an elaborate joke by an editor with a wicked sense of humor. I was in denial, but hey! I am in good company. UAE, sensitive to the needs of people like me is considering legislation against publishing reports in the media which are detrimental to the country’s economic reputation. I completely support them and my motives are selfish, I admit. The last thing I want when I open the paper is further bad news. You may call it escapism; I dare to call it optimism. We all realize how bad the situation is! What I would rather find out is whether there are any ways out of it.

“Yes, we can!” exhorts the new president of USA. He has been left the shambles of a great country, in the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, a dirty and draining war in Iraq, and hatred towards his country from almost every person outside the US and quite a few within too. And what does the man say?.... Yes! we can! Now, this is the man I'd rather see as the editor of the newspaper I currently subscribe to. I can imagine the contents of the articles he write; positive, professional and pragmatic. The 3 P’s.

Have you noticed that there are significant elements of socialism ingrained in most of his plans. I wonder whether the commie-phobic majority of Americans realize that. His plan to levy heavier taxes on the richer segment of the populace, the restrictions on outsourcing of jobs, a focus on infrastructure and healthcare in order to maximize job creation, control over the major banks, they all have a great deal of socialism infused within. Some might criticize his restrictions on the free trade process, but for me, as long as he can revitalize the economy by any means possible, so be it. Hell, they started the downfall of the global economy; let them clean up the mess.

I guess he has realized that the Indian government is too spineless to oppose his sanctions against companies outsourcing American jobs. The handling of the Mumbai terror incident made it quite apparent that the tolerance level of the Indian government is comparable to zen masters. We had invented the word “Om” as Mr. Resul Kutty reminded us at the Oscars, so infinite patience is a cursed gift, I presume. If Obama has to succeed, he needs to choose his enemies carefully. The initial signs are encouraging. The manner in which he is working towards strengthening bonds with the Muslim world is heartening. My only peeve is the manner in which he isolated the Muslims by putting them in a different “world”. His speech identified them as the “Muslim world”, an instant creation of “us and them”.

Obama realizes and so do I, the fact that unconventional means are needed to get out of depression and recession. A World War might have been nice to restart the industrial machine. But in lieu of that unlikely event, a back to basics policy would be the key to revitalization. As I learned in economics some years back, the demand and supply equation forms the base of any market. If either element increases or decreases by a great margin, then chaos arrives. Just before the recession began in the US, the “wants” of the people were enormous, funded by borrowed money. You don’t have to be a genius to guess what will happen when you reach the peak of the demand curve. You fall with a resounding thud. What Obama is trying now is to admonish his subjects into tightening their belts, reduce the “wants” pile down to the level of the “supply” pile which he is simultaneously stimulating to grow with the trillion dollar budget proposal. There you go; a practical illustration of a lesson in economics. My economics lecturer will be proud of me.

Obama hasn’t put in a wrong foot wrong till now. However, it would be unrealistic to believe that he never will. As long as his intentions and plans remain as positive and noble as it is now, I wouldn’t mind the occasionally stumble and I would still look up to him for hope, await his moments of audacity when he says the three simple words, “ yes! We can!”