Naidu changes his profile pic


By T S Sudhir

The last time I remember seeing Chandrababu Naidu in a white dhoti was soon after he survived the assassination attempt at Tirupati in October 2003. For several days at end, as the country’s VIPs and non-VIPs trooped in to his Jubilee Hills residence in Hyderabad to check him out, Naidu’s new attire grabbed eyeballs.

 

On the last day of the Telugu Desam Mahanadu yesterday, Naidu changed his profile pic once again. The dhoti made a reappearance, with TDP spindoctors editing his profile from CEO to farmer leader. All the yellow shirts hope and pray that come 2014, Naidu would take the pants off the Congress.

Sartorial whims and fancies were more N T Rama Rao’s style who used to shift from saffron to white to black robes, much like his film roles. Naidu in contrast, is 24×7 clad in his crisp but boring creams; he even holidays in them !

But leading his party back to the State Secretariat will not be a smooth ride for Naidu and his bicycle. The T-junction flashes red and Naidu, without being able to make up his mind whether to turn left or right, is getting fined every time he tries to cross the intersection. While the Congress stock is undoubtedly low, the Jagan factor threatens to play spoilsport. In 2009, Naidu did not factor the damage that Chiranjeevi on debut would inflict on the TDP and like cricket teams that crib about the Duckworth-Lewis method after losing a close rain-hit match, he kept grumbling about the Megastar doing a hit-and-run.

Naidu, who enjoyed the backing of NTR’s sons and daughters when he staged the coup against NTR and his wife Lakshmi Parvati in August 1995, now realises that the family that conspires together does not stay together for too long. His temperamental brother-in-law Nandamuri Harikrishna, who used to drive NTR’s vehicle, is reportedly unhappy with the manner in which Naidu is clandestinely encouraging a steering role for son Lokesh. With Lokesh’s posters making an appearance at the Mahanadu, Harikrishna sulked the short time he was at the Mahanadu and then walked out in a huff.

Politically Harikrishna is a zero. He has tried his luck to go it alone before, only to come a cropper. But it is his son, NTR Junior, who Naidu will need to worry about. The actor, with mannerisms similar to the late thespian, is seen as having the right name, DNA, charisma and grey matter to make a political splash, should he choose to. Probably that is why, Naidu chose a girl from his side of the family to marry NTR Junior. He used the same carrom ball to neutralise N T Rama Rao’s other actor son, Balakrishna by choosing his daughter Brahmani as Lokesh’s bride. Alliances crafted to ensure the family way is smooth for Naidu.

The TDP cannot look beyond Naidu because it has no other tall leader. The challenge for Naidu is to reinvent himself and stop using the software he installed between 1995-2004. “When I was the mukhyamantri …” repeated a zillion times sounds like a seedy line to an electorate that suffers from short-term memory loss when it comes to Naidu’s years of glory and power.

Naidu has been pilloried as an anti-farmer politician for long and it will take a lot more than just tying a dhoti to forge ties with the farmer votebank. He needs to decide what to wear fast lest others zip away with the booty.

 

 

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My twitter commentary team rocks


By T S Sudhir

“Twitter is a stadium every night these days,” tweeted Surekha Pillai last night when Chennai and Bangalore clashed in the finals of the Indian Premier League. Indeed and mercifully so. Who would want to listen to Ravi Shastri whose commentary as senior journalist Madhavan Narayanan tweeted “is like soya nuggets. Tasteless, pointless, bland.”
In fact, the only redeeming feature of last night’s boring and terribly one-sided IPL final was the wit that was overflowing on twitter and facebook. Every ball, every boundary and sixer, every wicket, every expression of the Mallyas commented upon, analysed and dissected. So much so that Chennai-based Ramya Kannan wondered when the match was just about getting over : “Jeez, wat to live-tweet about when IPL4 ends.”
IPL over the last eight weeks and particularly its so-called business end, saw twitter gatecrashing into the party, bigtime. When Mumbai Indians lost, India’s resident wit on twitter, Ramesh Srivats described them as the “Advani of the IPL”. And he didn’t miss out on poking Bhajji and Symonds over their monkeygate days either, tweeting : “Oh, Symonds has been benched. Clever. Now whenever Bhajji wants him on the field, he can shout, “Oy Symonds. Bench chod. Idhar aa.”
The finals saw tweets raising a toast to the achievers. Like Madhavan on Dhoni : “Dhoni ka horoscope dekhna padega. Ticket checker tha. Ab sab ka tikkat kaat raha hai.”
And Ramya on Paul Valthathy : “Paul Valthaty gets Passat volkswagen. Cos his batting wagon wheel was awesome.”
Unlike the IPL commentary team, that has to be politically correct, the twitter commentary team is subjected to no such censorship. And Srivats freaked out on the Simon Taufels and Asad Raufs of the IPL as well with “They seem to have stitched new shirts for the umpires from leftover material from Kochi Tuskers’ uniform.”
And when the issue of `club vs country’ cropped up, the 140 characters turned a shade more cruel, with loads of black humour.
Srivats tweeted : “Am slightly worried about this WI tour. Just some 80-85 more injuries and Agarkar may get back into the team.”

Not to spare the experts either. “Sidhu declares himself unavailable for West Indies tour commentary due to severe tongue fatigue.”

With stats emerging on how lucrative it is to play the IPL instead of playing for India, Srivats tweeted : “For instance, we had a strenuous 14-nation tournament, just before the IPL. Totally unnecessary.”
Sunny Gavaskar can thank his stars that Twitter and facebook did not exist in 1975, when he laboured to 36 not out in a 60-over ODI match in the World Cup against England. He of course, also lost out on the `virtual’ accolades that would have come his way for several of his match-saving and match-winning knocks.
In today’s world, Srivats tweets : “If twitter were not around, Osama would be dead.” Cricket, I say, would be, atleast, half-dead.

`The Train’ has arrived, don’t buy a ticket


By T S Sudhir

The headline of this blog pretty much says what’s on my mind. I would rate Mammootty’s `The Train’ that released yesterday, as one of the most difficult Malayalam films I have seen till date. Difficult because it was really difficult to sit through the film. After the extremely insipid first 20 minutes, I was hoping, somehow celebrated writer-director Jayaraj would redeem himself. But no, in keeping with the subject of terrorism, the filmmaker did a fidayeen job with the gullible audience.

The film branded itself as a `suspense / thriller’. It was anything but that. It meandered along, spinning insipid tales of other passengers who were on the train or at different railway stations that evening in July 2006 in Mumbai. Among them a grandfather, a singer (Jayasurya) who is to travel to Chennai to sing for A R Rahman, a lady who successfully manages to get the freedom fighter pension without paying a bribe.

 

Every time the scene moves from Mammootty playing Kedar, a cop in the Anti-Terrorist Squad, to the other characters, I found people in the theatre, just a handful of them anyway, fiddling with their phones, eating popcorn or chatting with each other. Mammootty himself seemed like sleepwalking through the role. Not his fault. Not a single scene challenged his immense acting talent. And to think that I got tempted by the tag of a `suspense / thriller starring Mammootty’. Ende kartaave !

The film could well have been titled `The Cellphone’ because all through the film, everyone is talking to each other on the phone. Very few conversations actually take place between two persons face to face. As I write this, I can’t think of any. Sounds very RGV-ish, doesn’t it?

Speaking of Ramgopal Varma, his favourite actor Kota Srinivas Rao finds space in this film, as a senior IPS officer, whose only pastime, nay job, it would seem is to ask his junior Mammootty to call it a day and go home. And then to call Mammootty’s junior, Jagathy Sreekumar, to find out where he and Mammootty are. Mumbai Police should file a defamation case against Jayaraj.

And there is this dull and boring hint of a romantic relationship between Jayasuriya and the brilliantly expressionless Aanchal Sabharwal that goes nowhere beyond phone calls and text messages. He calls her by mistake when she is just about to commit suicide after which she decides not to jump off the building. She might well have. Would have saved the audience a lot of bother.

For a film on terror, none of the bomb-planter characters are etched out. They are mere couriers, carrying bags with bomb-fitted pressure cookers inside them, contributing to footfalls at different railway stations in Mumbai.

The much-awaited relief comes at the fag end of the film. This when the credits roll to some very uninspiring background music. That BGM is a constant through the film by the way, perking up only when Mammootty moves in slow motion.

Jayaraj is an award winning director with several commercial hits and critically acclaimed films to his credit. Which is why it is sad to see him dish out a product like this.

If I know my cinema, `The Train’, like the bombs that go off in the film, will bomb as well.

 

 

India’s Gambhir issue


By T S Sudhir

2G radiation has hit Indian cricket and before you say “I told you so”, let me clarify it has nothing to do with Sharad Pawar. The 2G in this case, Gautam Gambhir whose presence in the qualifier against Mumbai Indians while not being 100 per cent fit, has led to a furious `club vs country’ battle on the airwaves. Angry television anchors have decided that this is THE most important issue facing the country today. After all, India travels to the West Indies soon after the IPL, where its captain, a gentleman called Darren Sammy has declared, the Windies will defeat India.

Damn.

Those who stand accused include KKR, SRK, GG, BCCI, IPL. Now that Gauti has been ruled out of the `crucial’ tour to the West Indies, how come he was allowed to play and aggravate his injury is the question. Didn’t he remember he is the captain for the one-day tour? Did KKR force IPL 4’s most expensive player at $ 2.4 million to play the crucial match? Did the BCCI look the other way? Can a club game be deemed more important than a India game? And lastly, was SRK so adamant about KKR getting into the final so that he could show Dada his place and the world his 6 pack (or is it 8-pack?) by taking off his shirt at Chennai?

The country deserves to know.

I find the number of hours this entire discussion has gone on for, at prime and non-prime time, ridiculous. If this 45-day jamboree of pyjama cricket is only a `club’ affair, why have the TV channels gone overboard, creating special shows for the IPL with retired cricketers and models discussing the Gaylestorms and Malinga slingers daily. The other day, I even heard someone pointing out on TV that IPL 4 has been a bore ; no slapgates of the Bhajji-Sreesanth variety.

And for argument sake, let’s say, Gambhir did not carry an injury but got hit during the match. Would he still be hanged for being `careless’ while batting? What is the guarantee that the final of the IPL will not see a casualty?

When IPL began in 2008, it ushered in an element of pop patriotism. Of cricket fans rooting for their respective city teams. Hyderabad discovered fake love for Gilchrist and Punjab for Brett Lee. The same fans were nowhere on the scene when their Mumbai played against Tamilnadu in the Ranji Trophy. Or Karnataka versus Bengal. The Badrinaths, Ashwins and Pathans who play to a packed house in the IPL perform before empty stands in the premier domestic championship. No TV station evinces interest in which cricketer plays a Ranji semi-final, carrying an injury.

The fact of the matter is that a super greedy BCCI is out to kill the game by pushing cricketers beyond a limit. Cricketers have been reduced to robots and they cannot complain because they are being paid to use their bodies. To run, to dive, to cheer.

And if the Windies tour is indeed so crucial, the same judges at 9 pm should put MSD, SRT and ZK  in the dock as well for choosing to skip the tour. And ask if they shouldn’t have skipped their duty with CSK, MI and RCB respectively to prepare to travel to Port of Spain.

The media is barking up the wrong tree. If it is so concerned about cricket and cricketers and Indian pride, it should have asked why is the West Indies tour scheduled so close to the IPL. It should mount pressure through a campaign for lesser matches and more rest for the players. This trend of `Did Gautam do the right thing by playing the match’? SMS Yes or NO to xxxxx’ is more of a Gambhir samasya for Indian television journalism.

(Pic courtesy : crickblog.com)

`Crack’-ing IIT. And life?


By Uma Sudhir

I didn’t quite know how to react, so I was smiling. The father of the boy who had stood fourth in the IIT-JEE merit list was saying, he and his son were disappointed. All mock exams and other performance-indicators had suggested that he would make it to the top of the heap. But being fourth was not quite the same thing.

“I am happy but I am also disappointed. The exam this time was too simple, that is the problem,” Sai Kiran said with a straight face.  The college chairman Mr Narayana endorsed what the 17-year-old was saying. “We have challenged this in the Supreme Court. We have demanded re-evaluation.” Ahem.
Here was a roomful of success stories, of boys and girls, who had made it to what for most is an ultimate dream, the IITs. Most, I noticed, were bespectacled and fit the description of those who would be called “studious”. After all isn’t what they have all proved themselves to be? Having shown capacity for hard work, dedication and a single-minded focus.
Each of these meritorious students have spent the last couple of years waking up everyday before sunrise, ensuring they are inside the classroom by 6 am and staying there till after 10 in the night. That is the routine, official schedule they were following. And no one was asking any questions.
Didn’t you miss the films, cricket and reality shows on TV, usual fun-stuff that teenagers do, I asked.
“No films or cartoons or anything else in the last two years,” grins Shyamak Reddy, who is third on the IIT-JEE list. “When you are in this environment, you don’t miss all that. You are surrounded by toppers. All that you think of is that if someone else studies and you don’t, they will do better and you don’t want to end up with an inferiority complex. So you focus on your studies.”
Healthy competition that pushes you to excel, better yourself? Perhaps. Seeing all those faces and their gleaming parents was certainly a happy sight. But I was not quite fully at ease.
The boy who had made it to the top of the list, Prithvitej from Sri Chaitanya, was smiling as he said, almost as though to reassure me, that he had thoroughly enjoyed preparing for the exam. “We would start by 5:30 am and go on till 10:30 pm but then we did a couple of hours break in the day, for rest, lunch and games.”
I asked parents if they were not too worried about pushing their child that much more.
“Initially I was worried if my son would be able to withstand that kind of a rigor, from 6 am to 10 pm. But he never complained about any inconvenience. He did have backache for a while from long hours of sitting,” says Sai’s dad B. Venkateswarulu, Joint commissioner with the state transport department. “But then they are not pushing everyone to do this.”
Everything hinges on the perceived potential of every child. Though I worry if a wrong judgment on that wouldn’t also have tragic consequences. Of children pushed to the edge in the effort to become super-achievers or those `labeled’ below par never getting a chance to explore and realize their potential?
The man behind this line-up of success stories, Narayana, says they follow scientific methods, with courses designed specifically to crack the IIT. It doesn’t happen in a year or two. The preparation begins ideally when the child is in class VI, about 10 years old. Fundamentals have to be built strong and the discipline of a rigorous schedule inculcated. That includes long hours in the classroom at school, much longer than in regular schools. Till 8 pm in the evening at school is regular and not frowned upon.
That is how from the `ordinary’ children, the more promising ones are taken into `concept’ schools and `Olympiad’ schools. The best among them are once again brought together to constitute a `super class’, the creme de la creme, who will then compete among themselves to be better among the best. The school boasts that there is `micromanagement’ to ensure nothing goes wrong anywhere. In learning the lessons and answering the questions, that is. As the home atmosphere may be `distracting’, they are usually shifted into hostels attached to the schools, so no time is lost in between studying, eating and sleeping.
That kind of a programme schedule perhaps explains why six in the top ten on the IIT entrance test merit list are from Andhra Pradesh. And for the last five years, more than 22 per cent of seats in IIT are taken by students from Andhra Pradesh. This year that number is higher.
So should I plan to put my daughter through what sounds like such a fool-proof plan to taste sweet success at the end of it? Every parent, I am sure would be proud to have the spotlight on their child, being celebrated as an young achiever. The thought is tempting but why do I feel more tense and almost scared rather than excited?
May be because, far too often, we are exposed to the other side. Of children who end up as depressed, disappointed, frustrated youngsters, losing their self-confidence and perspective.
May be it is only when you push yourself that super-achievers are born. May be it is inevitable in a system where sheer numbers in the race, force you to look at every single mark as a matter of life and death, because that sometimes does make a difference between whether “you made it or not”. After all there is no substitute for hard work and you do want your child to understand that.

But then would such a schedule scientifically programmed to produce almost a factory-line of high-mark achievers allow children to grow into sensitive, well-adjusted individuals, with well-rounded personalities, able to cope with the ups and downs in the real world? May be yes, may be no.

I really don’t know what are the right choices to make. To opt out of the race? Or live with the prospect of a burnout in the rat-race? I am sure the same dilemma faces so many parents out there.

Any answers?

Farmers as `criminals’


By Uma Sudhir

After a much embarrassed CBI had to remove a list of most wanted fugitives released by it a few days back, owing to grave errors, a bank in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh has put up the photographs of farmers who have defaulted on repaying loans as though they are much wanted criminals.

(video of the story)