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If Steve Jobs were a woman…

October 7, 2011 Leave a comment

…he’d be treated as a CEOILF.

…there’d be incessant carping about his sense of fashion (rather, the lack thereof).

…he could either be hard-working and unlikable, or incompetent and likable. Pick one.

…the over-pricing of his products would be evidence of his narcissism and be seen as a personal failing, not as evidence of his good/bad business sense.

…TV commentators would complain about his boring presentations, and wonder if he was *pimping* out his products a bit too vulgarly.

…late night comics would make jokes about raping his kids. Only the girls, of course.

…people would say ‘why doesn’t he just GO AWAY already?!’ while simultaneously clicking on every news link about him.

…people would make videos about punching him in the face, strangling him, and sexually assaulting him. In humor, of course.

…people would complain for years about how he was selfish in not having kids.

…people would be horrified that there were rumors of a kid he didn’t acknowledge.

…people would complain about how selfish he was in having kids and not staying home and taking care of them himself.

…people would complain about how selfish he was that he stayed home and took care of his kids for a few years, thereby *abandoning his company*.

…battle-lines would be drawn around his parenting choices – whether he chose to breastfeed or not would indicate how good a parent he was.

…his falling out with John Sculley, Gates and others would be seen as evidence of his b*tchiness, and he would NEVER get past it.

…sleazy pseudo-journalists would camp outside his house and write tell-all books about his family.

…sleazy journalists would say *good lord, isn’t it horrifying* about the brown and black (wo)men he slept with in India and elsewhere.

…his ideas would always be ignored. Even when they were good.

…his ideas, if un-ignorably fabulous, would be appropriated sans acknowledgement.

…his product names would be treated as evidence of narcissism rather than personalization (iDevice)

…there would always be deep insinuations about how much influence, exactly, Laurene (who? his spouse!) had on his work and the firm.

..he would never, ever, EVER be seen as a visionary. No matter what he did or said.

The Zoya Factor

April 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Just finished re-reading the excellent chick-lit “The Zoya Factor“. For the record, I have no major qualms about using the word (phrase?) ‘chick-lit’ to describe the broad genre of easy-breezy reads involving contemporary-to-the-times characters, a female protagonist – a usually ditsy and often extremely insecure female protagonist – dealing with relationship issues, presented to the reader with situational, self-directed humor, and involving a happy ending. I wish we could come up with a slightly less condescending name, but I can live with ‘chick-lit’ because it captures the spirit of the books themselves – irreverent, playful, self-deprecating. It’s the covers of these chick-lits – uniformly involving red stilettos, ‘cartoon’ drawings on the cover, primary/pastel colors – that usually get my goat. And the utterly boring, predictable plots that some of them have – seriously, even if it is ‘chick-lit’, you still need to put in *some* work, Ms./Mr.Author!! Oh, and yes, the irritating stupidity of the heroines, who just can’t seem to handle the fact that they have actual brain cells in their heads.

But The Zoya Factor is not irritating. The Zoya Factor is not thoughtless. For the most. And Zoya, the protagonist, is sily, but not teeth-grinding-inducingly stupid. I love that it is set in the familiar world (for me) of advertising/marketing. I love that it involves a seriously ambitious love interest – it doesn’t get bigger than the captain of the Indian cricket team. Oh, and did I say the humor is spot-on?

I’m not going to review this one thoroughly, because there isn’t much to review – it’s a pretty straightforward story that makes fun of ‘India shining’ while also being reclaiming ‘India shining’ for itself, in the whole Luck-by-Chance/Om-Shanti-Om style. Anuja Chauhan, the author (who’s from my college!! WHEEE!!!), doesn’t waste too much space setting context or even background for Nikhil Khoda, and with good reason. Her secondary characters are excellent, the love story holds your interest, the conflict could’ve been better – it is contrived in places, but not terribly irritating, so I’ll let that go. And the romantic pay-offs are superb.

Oh, and Nikhil Khoda has to be the dishiest romantic hero EVER. Really. He’s in Rhett Butler/Mr.Darcy league. That is all.

Anuja does the cricket well, though I do wish she’d spent just a little more time, but that’s a personal preference. Of course, she does the cricket-and-advertising pitch perfectly (see what I did there?), she does cricket-as-national-religion and cricketers-under-pressure pretty well. She’s also incorporated the whole Greg Chappell-Saurav Ganguly-Jagmohan Dalmiya fiasco, leaked email and all. Unfortunately (for me), she takes Chappell’s side very, very unambiguously, and makes Ganguly and Dalmiya look like buffoons. During the controversy, I’d felt – along with most Indians – that the Australian-import Chappell was being totally unfair to Ganguly, so here I will need to disagree with Chauhan. But of course, she probably has loads of better information. Maybe the former Indian captain was a shoe-stealer and weight-thrower during her Pepsi shoots? And this was her way of getting the perfect revenge? And maybe Red Chillies optioned for movie rights *after* Ganguly was out of KKR? Huh? Huh?

Because the script hews closely to actual current events, it’s fun to play guess-who. Khoda is Dhoni, despite the author’s protests. Sorry, but I just.do.not.see a ‘younger, unspoilt Rahul Dravid’ there. If anything, I can see a bit of Ganguly in the arrogance. Of course, Khoda is too metrosexual, dripping sophistication, compared to M S Dhoni’s earthy-cool. But the records are similar, and there’s just too many parallels.

Harry/Hairy is very likely a mix of Harbhajan and Yuvraj Singh (‘cut surd’, juvenile antics, aggressive on-field, etc.). Zaheer Pathan is, of course, Irfan Pathan, who was looking really good in 2005-6 when she was likely writing the book. Soon after, his luck turned south: but he’s been immortalized in the book, good for him! I’m guessing the others: Monita-Rinku-Chachi-Zoravar-Papa-etc are from Chauhan’s family/friends/acquaintances circle.

And now that the movie is being made, these are my picks for casting choices:

Zoya Singh Solanki:

  1. Preity Zinta, 10 years ago, would be my top pick. And if Aamir Khan can play a 17-year old in 3 idiots, why can’t Preity Zinta play a 27-year old lead? I would totally cast her. With crazy curly hair, of course.
  2. Amrita Puri. She could do the ditzy stuff well, and of course be Karol-Bagh-Solanki to the tee. And I *think* she could pull off the advertising executive work – but that needs to be seen.
  3. Konkana Sen Sharma. I can see her do both the ad-exec and the Karol-Bagh thing well. But she’s probably a bit too self-possessed to do the ditzy stuff. Well, she’s an actor, who knows. But this would be an interesting choice.
  4. Anushka Sharma. But I’m so, so tired of her being the Punju babe.
  5. Deepika Padukone, Sonam Kapoor, etc. – too urbane. But who knows, maybe they can pull off this role.

Nikhil Khoda – oh you dreamy, dreamy man.

  1. Farhan Akhtar. Top pick, hands down. Looks like a sportsman. Can totally do the intense, brooding “leader of men” thing. And looks dishy, oh, so dishy (forgive me, I just re-watched Luck by Chance recently!). Can do the romantic/angry/sexy scenes SO WELL. And is probably one of the three ONLY actors in Bollywood who can say ‘musical soiree’ and ‘pyromaniac’ without sounding like he had to practice in front of his bathroom mirror for days (the other two being, maybe, Abhay Deol and Shah Rukh Khan).
  2. John Abraham. Needs to stand up straighter to pull off the sportsman thing. And has been playing too many wing-man roles for me to be able to picture him as Alpha Male quite as well. But he does have potential.
  3. Siddharth (the guy in Rang De Basanti). Intense, brooking, blah, blah blah. Also, looks a lot like a younger Dhoni, but pseud-er, which is what we’re looking for. I just can’t picture him being masterful enough, but you could probably compensate with camera angles or background score or something.
  4. Imran Khan. In a pinch. Can’t act for nuts – yet. Especially not the angry/intense scenes. But he looks the part.
  5. Ranbir Kapoor – NO NO NO. He’s over-exposed, and a real-life d*ck. He’ll totally make the movie about himself, instead of supporting the woman lead. Doesn’t look the part ONE bit (dark, sportsman, intense, etc.). Can act all right, but is – and looks – too entitled to be a hungry-to-prove-himself-rookie-Indian-skipper. I only added him to the list because there’re rumors doing the rounds that he’s playing Khoda. Please, SRK, NO!! Don’t destroy Nikhil Khoda for me!
  6. Hrithik Roshan – Not really. Too old, for one. And too, too good looking. But he has magic, and can probably pull off the role better than others who’re more suited for it.

So that’s my take. Can’t wait for the movie, especially since Reema Kagti is supposed to be working on the screenplay (SQUEEEEEE!!!!).

Kurbaan vs. New York

November 22, 2009 1 comment

After watching the Kareena-Saif movie, we totally feel “hamne apna Saturday ‘Kurbaan’ ko kurbaan kar diya”.

The movie was a bore. And way too much like New York with John Abraham and Katrina Kaif and Neil Nitin Mukesh – Islamic terrorism, a wronged desi guy out to blow up some Americans, a hapless ‘innocent wife’, a friend who’s an infiltrator into the terrorist group. But it’s fascinating how two people can treat one identical storyline in two such totally different ways. New York was nuanced, shocking, held its suspense so well, and made you intensely relate to the characters and feel their moral dilemmas. Kurbaan set out to dazzle you with the looks of the leading pair – and it succeeded with Kareena, not so much with the over-botoxed, rebonded-combovered-hair Saif – and was a movie that never made up its mind about whether it was a love story or a window into the souls of people who like killing other people. At the end of New York you walked out wondering about the pointlessness of terrorism and the senselessness of American state-sponsored violence; at the end of Kurbaan we walked out wondering about the pointlessness of the movie and the senselessness of a story that pretty much glorified terrorism.

The problem (one of the many problems, really) with Kurbaan is that it was like that episode of 24 where a liberal dude trusts the brown stranger against the fervent opposition of the all-American dude suspicious of all brown people with funny names, and then the brown stranger turns out to be a terrorist after all. It shamelessly encouraged the average viewer to go ahead and stereotype every bukha-clad Muslim woman and every young brown man with a backpack and rewarded such stereotypes.

The writing was abysmal. They couldn’t make up their minds whose perspective to pick – Kareena’s or Vivek’s or Diya’s, so they went with option (D), all of the above. Unlike New York, where everything unfolds from Neil’s p-o-v, and so even small revelations – like Katrina knowing all along that her handsome all-American husband is actually a terrorist – are discoveries that keep you engaged in the story. John’s haunted expression and sudden character twists are hugely gut-punching, even more so when you hear the back-story and see the real, very plausible torment he’s undergone. Here, you never really related to Saif or felt for him – not in the initial love story, not when he’s revealed to be a scheming, manipulative husband, not when you’re told why he became a terrorist, and not when he falls in love with his now-pregnant wife, and not when has his final melodramatic change of heart. His journey seems eminently alien and strange, and each twist is totally ‘yeah, right’. They’d’ve been better off making his a fully negative role, throwing in a couple of wife-whacking scenes and maybe having a last-second unexplained twist (was a change of heart? did he really spare her? or did he miss his target for once?).

The logic was non-existent. It’s completely frustrating how at least two of the characters – Vivek Oberoi’s and Kareena Kapoor’s – are supposed to be Amreekan educated and liberal-thinking, but in any moment of crisis, faced with any example of rule-breaking, small or large, they end up going the illogical, circituous route. When Kareena’s neighbor comes to her for help since she’s presumably being beaten up and about to be murdered, she doesn’t go to the cops or to a local NGO dealing with DV cases, or to a women’s shelter. No, she leisurely pays an in-person visit to a news reporter that the neighbor had met months ago in an internet chatroom (yes, huh?! indeed), and passively walks away when the reporter tells her she’ll call the neighbor in a few weeks after her vacation/travel. And then Kareena, professor and consummate Manhattan girl, generally wanders around in the neighbor’s basement in the dead of night. Seriously heroine, WTF?

Poor Vivek ends up having to go one better. When he gets a lead on the people who may have bombed a plane and killed ~200 people, he decides to take on the whole terrorist agency by himself, and fight for world peace singlehandedly in a severe Miss World relapse moment. When he’s in the middle of the terror plot, he still doesn’t want to tell the cops what he knows, but renders ultimatums to Kareena (who’s under house arrest) to source a f***ing subway map for him ‘definitely by tonight!!!’. He tells the FBI/cops about the plot at the last minute, because evidently just saying ‘subway system under threat’ is less helpful than giving exact station names, because the silly FBI can’t figure that out for themselves. Touching, such faith in the American legal system. And just proves my often-repeated assertion that modern journalists are, by definition, stupid. Thank you, KJo.

Of course, the five stations targeted by Saif and Om Puri & co. to ‘teach the goras a lesson’ are the ones with the highest possible concentrations of desi people – Jackson Heights, Lexington Ave – somehow suicide bombing takes on layer 2 meanings here, or maybe they thought desi/NRI audiences wouldn’t be horrified enough if it was 57th avenue or Harlem. After all that analysis, Rensil couldn’t even be bothered to keep his stations straight, because the back-ups bombers who were to target Times Square and Grand Central and 5th ave end up somehow, in a twist, at three of the originally planned locations, having been magically swapped for the dead guys with backpacks.

More logic issues – not only do the incompetent FBI not examine voicemails and evidence – (what happened to all the wiretapped evidence courtesy FISA and the Patriot Act, huh? huh? HUH??!!), they wait around for hours in churches for tip-offs from random people, in touching displays of patience and loyalty to anonymous informers. And then reinforce their good-guy status by exclaiming ‘Jesus Christ!!!’ at regular intervals, since of course this is all a war about Christianity vs. Islam, in which Hinduism mysteriously proves victorious.

Finally, possibly the brightest spark of talent in the movie belongs to Kiron Kher’s uninhibited Afghani character – she somehow assimilates Iranian/Syrian hijabi sartorialism (maybe the real Afghan hijab was way too scary) and diction from villains in 1970s Amitabh-starrers to come up with a pretty good composite character, not too unlovable or too far from her usual Punju mom roles, but also crazy enough so you’re a tad afraid of/for her. She was definitely better than Om Puri, whom one barely noticed – except when he sulked off in a huff when his authority was easily challenged by upstart Saif. And Saif! Saif, that nawabi bad-child looking for his lost youth just continues to embarrass himself and us by trying to be all-in-one: cool-dude and action-superhero and chocolate-boy-lover in every movie. He unfortunately seems to have upped his ambition and jock-style pecs (and steroidal intake) at the exact time that his talent – and jowls, and hair volume – are moving downwards. This when he’s not terrorizing and manipulating Kareena in reel life and in real (watch their interviews where usually confident Kareena turns to him constantly for affirmation, very unlike the Poo-ing brat of Shahid’s time).

Kareena is as luminously pretty as ever, and came good in the last scene with snot freely running down her face, but somehow she leaves you with utter despair for Indian women – if psychology professors are this dumb, there’s not much hope for the rest of us. She’s completely unresourceful, can’t be bothered to do basic checks on the men she falls for, ends up accepting invites to boring sex-segregated parties, is trapped into house arrest in her own house and promptly packs a head scarf when she realizes her husband is a terrorist. And of yes, when tasked to do a difficult (!) chore, she turns to the only tool at her disposal – no, not Google, not her brains or her education, but her body and sexuality. It’s possibly not just Saif here who’s missing the 80’s.

So, yeah, John Abraham still has my heart.

Yeh toh kuch nahin hai, hamarein yahan toh….

November 17, 2009 Leave a comment

Then there was the Bigger family with Mr. Bigger, Mrs. Bigger, and Baby Bigger.
Q: Who was the biggest?
A: Baby Bigger, because he was a little bigger.

Remember the old popular joke about the guy who was visiting a small town and kept showing off that everything was ‘so much bigger’ in his own town? The roads, the houses, the cars – and then, when the small town guys dunk him in the pool, even the pools and the jokes were bigger in his hometown. And someone calls him an idiot, and he says there are even bigger idiots in his hometown?

That’s what AP sounds like in this farce of an article:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Sarah Palin’s book is highly anticipated in her home state — but she’s no Harry Potter.

“I’m excited about the event,” he said. “Am I as excited as I was for Harry Potter? No. That was huge.”

At Gulliver’s Books in Fairbanks, tins of candies packaged as “Sarah’s Embarrassmints” are a hot item, far outselling Palin’s book.

Store owner David Hollingsworth said he has received 10 pre-orders out of his 100 copies. It’s nothing like the frenzy he saw for the 2,000 copies he ordered with the last installment of the Potter series.

The July 2007 release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” prompted two young sisters to wait in line outside his store for 11 days, living out in their parents’ camper. Hollingsworth also had a midnight release for Potter fans but didn’t plan to repeat those hours for “Going Rogue.”

“Yes, it’s a big deal, but we’ve had bigger deals,” he said.

So they’re comparing a political book by a supposed (they wish!) non-entity to the last Harry Potter book? Umm, why not compare this to the two Obama books – wouldn’t that be a more equitable comparison? Or to a McCain book, or a Clinton book? Or to any autobiography/life story/non-fiction/roman e clef by any famous woman, since they only think women should be compared to women? It’s a truly telling sign when your detractors need to compare your book to the series that is supposed to have sold more copies than the Bible internationally in order to come up with negatives and then say ‘ohh, it’s no big deal’ while crowing about it falling short.

I’m no Palin supporter, but when a global news organization reprints press releases from one side of a battle verbatim as news and claims zero bias, one needs to call b***shit. Proof:

Coinciding with Palin’s national book tour, the Alaska Democratic Party announced Monday it was launching a Web site to hold Palin accountable on some issues. It’s called “Say nO to Sarah,” or SOS…..

And that’s the sign-off on the article – not the AP reporter’s sign-off, but that of the party issuing the press release. Rachel D’Oro didn’t even bother to wash hir hands and wipe the blood off the knife.

Deepika IS or DOES?

November 9, 2009 Leave a comment

Via MissMalini, yet another example of ‘men DO, women ARE’.


Deepika Padukone: “Killing them softly with her smile” – Deepika’s feminine mystique prompts us to dig deeper into….. what makes Bollywood’s current dream girl tick
Imran Khan: “I should lead by example” – Actor Imran Khan writes….on how he works on greening life in the metropolis.

It’s like palmistry when I was growing up – they all kept saying you should read the right hand of men, and the left hand of women. And then, further, that the left hand is what you start out with, what is ‘God-given’, and the right hand is what you make of it. My mother, then still a feminist, said categorically that I should always extend my right hand – because “nowadays women are also in control of their destinies – or should be”.

If women even today in 2009, in the most privileged class of Indian society, including the most visible, most successful career women – are only about their beauty, their looks, and who their families are, there’s very little chance that they can do or be anything different from the cards they were dealt. And one of the fundamental ideas, if not the fundamental premise, of modern human civilization is that no matter who you are, you get a chance to make of your life what you want to – through hard work and smart use of the resources available to you. It’s still not an equal playing field by any means – but each one of us has the right to try, the right to the ‘pursuit of happiness’ (and not just in the US of A). And when half the population is denied that basic human right, how on earth do we call ourselves civilized?

Selective editing

September 23, 2009 Leave a comment

Funny how both these news reports are from the same source research report:

The Hindu

Contrary to popular perception by historians that the caste system seen today is an invention of colonialism, the study found scientific evidence to show that “many current distinctions among groups are ancient.”

“The caste system is not recent,” said Dr. Thangaraj. “The social stratification existed right from early human divergence, some 50,000-60,000 years ago when initial settlement happened in India.”

versus:

Reuters

While the genes clearly show that the caste system has existed for hundreds of generations, the genes do not line up by caste.

“It is impossible to distinguish castes from tribes using the data,” Kumarasamy Thangaraj of the Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, India, who worked on the study, said in a statement.

“This supports the view that castes grew directly out of tribal-like organizations during the formation of Indian society.”

What’re your weekend plans?

August 20, 2009 Leave a comment

Keep your weekend free. This Sunday, I’m getting myself a copy of the New York Times’s special issue. Yup, after nearly four years of being increasingly distrustful, disappointed, disillusioned and disgusted with the NYT, I’m actually recommending to everyone that they buy and read this issue, because of the most heart-warming, well-researched articles they’ve put out in a long, long time.

The Women’s Crusade
Nicholas Kristoff talks about the ‘alchemy of gender’ in a deliciously long article, excerpted from his and Sheryl WuDunn’s book. I was alternately in tears and alternately giggling with excitement and nodding in vehement agreement through the story (but it could just be undiagnosed bipolar :-))

A New Gender Agenda
An interview with Hillary Clinton (swoon already), but I’m shocked at how much and how often she references India. It’s clear she’s actually one of the rare Westerners who can wrap their heads around the fact that one nation can be both more liberal and more conservative vs. another at the same time; that progressiveness is not a one-dimensional continuum. She gets that India is, in many ways, a model of development for the West and desh seems to be as top of mind for her as it is to me. And most effectively of all, she’s understood that advocating to the rest of the developing world (argh, I hate that term) that development = American values will not get them or her too far, that she needs to use someone else, someone closer to the developing world as an example – therefore the frequent references to Indian democracy in Nigeria, and to Liberian elections in Congo. Wish someone would smash some of her wisdom into Aaron Sorkin’s pathetic little brain sometime.

And hey, I’m suddenly more respectful of journalists again. Who knew.