Showing posts from 2011

Free Speech: Look Beyond Content (Part-I)

Padmaja Shaw,
Columnist, The Hoot 

The year drawing to a close should be declared the Year of Free Speech, not just in India but across the world. The world has witnessed people's movement for democratic rights on an unprecedented scale. Starting with the elections in Iran, through Tahrir Square in Egypt, to the "Occupy" movements all over the world, individuals have chosen to wrench back the initiative from the oppressive governments and predatory corporations and they have done this primarily through those genuine marketplaces of ideas: the social networking sites. A few years ago, at any conference on media, Indians could be justly self-righteous for the apparent freedom we enjoyed for free speech even as in our neighbourhood as every nation-state was still grappling with dictatorial/theocratic governments. Indian democracy may well have been an inspiration for some of the uprisings in the world. 

Then, in the last quarter of this year, two influential voices in India-- …

Free Speech: Look Beyond Content (Part-II)

Padmaja Shaw,
Columnist, The Hoot 

There is also a relentless process of mergers and acquisitions in the media industry which is resulting in large corporations straddling print, television, radio and new media and consolidating further. In the latest news about such mergers the multi-national corporations are making inroads into the regional space rapidly. So far, even though the nature of ownership, working conditions of the employees and the content left much to be desired, ownership in the regional space was dispersed. Beginning with the acquisition of Asianet in Malayalam, this process is picking up pace. 

Without going into the much-debated issue of media monopolies and their implications for democracies, it is interesting to see that there have been no regulatory growls from either the government or other media entities such as the Press Council of India on these kind of issues. What role does the Competition Commission of India have in such mergers and acquisitions? This is just …

Jana Gana Mana

"Jana Gana Mana" is the National Anthem of India. The National Anthem is set primarily in Bengali, it is comprehensible to almost every Indian because of its strong Sanskrit flavour. While it is well known that the first stanza is a tribute to the astonishing geographical diversity of India, the second is a tribute to its multiple communities and the remaining are a salutation to India's undying spirit. Jana Gana Mana was first sung at the Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress on December 27 1911. Yes, you read that right, our National Anthem is 100 years today!! Jana Gana Mana was officially adopted by the Constituent Assembly as the Indian National Anthem on January 24 1950.

To commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Sri. Rabindranath Tagore in 2010, the leading English newspaper The Times of India had launched a campaign called "Jaya Hey". The truth it is that not many know of the remaining four stanzas that make up the National Anthem. These fo…

Exchanging Times: Cotton Green

There still exists a Bombay that is distinct from today's Mumbai. No cars honk there and the sidewalks are as wide as today's suburban roads. Alongside the entire eastern stretch of our great city lies a deserted Bombay that has no nightclubs, no multiplexes, no shopping malls, no tall high-rises. Not yet, at least. A walk down its carefully planned avenues will make you eventually wonder at the level of city planning employed by the British rulers over a century ago.

The Cotton Exchange is a a relatively unknown heritage structure in Mumbai. The Cotton Exchange was constructed in 1844 and is located just a stone's throw away from Cotton Green station on the Harbour Line, which incidentally gets its name from the iconic building. The Cotton Exchange remains well-concealed in Cotton Green. The original name of Cotton Green derives its name from the Cotton Exchange and because of a series of warehouses which used to store grains. Hence, the name "Cotton Green" is de…

More Media Regulation? (Part-III)

Anup Kumar,
Columnist, The Hoot

While there are no special privileges granted to journalists that are different from those enjoyed by ordinary citizens. The right of free speech and freedom of the press come from the same Article 19 (1A) of the Constitution. From a strict constitutionalist perspective every citizen, including those who hold power, is a potential journalist--an ideal that has come to its fruition with blogs and the social media. But it would be also naive to suggest that the news media do not have power, like the government, rather they have immense power to shape public opinion, which is a powerful thing. However, as the power of the news media does not come from exclusive privileges and discretionary provisions, regulating the media would also mean regulating the liberties guaranteed to the citizens by the constitution. 

Importantly, the company laws already regulate the corporations that own the news organizations and journalists come under the purview of criminal laws…

More Media Regulation? (Part-II)

Anup Kumar,
Columnist, The Hoot  

Contemporary journalism is significantly different from the past when very few could read and most of the journalism was produced for and by the highly educated class. Although no specific empirical data on news consumption is available for India, yet the size of the Indian public sphere does suggest that an overwhelming part of the population is watching and reading the news on a daily basis. The news media's main role is to give fact-based information, which does not necessarily require great intellectual abilities. I think majority of journalists do not have the desire to be intellectuals, which is perhaps why they have chosen this profession. Most of the consumers of the news have basic education and in some cases, they are not even literate. In order to stand true to the democratic credentials, journalists working for thousands of newspapers and hundreds of news television channels have to produce and present news taking into consideration the …

More Media Regulation? (Part I)

Anup Kumar
Columnist, The Hoot

Is the freedom of the press under threat in India? Not really. Some would argue that it cannot be a mere coincidence that the calls for stricter regulation of the media are coming at a time when the news media have been highlighting corruption in the government such as the 2G Scam and the graft in the organizing of the Commonwealth Games. The media advocacy, often questioned by some, for the movement led by Anna Hazare against corruption has also attracted criticism from the ruling party. Morever, it seems that the criticism of the government on social media is also making some in the government uncomfortable.

A few days ago, Kapil Sibal, the minister for Communication and Information Technology, called for stricter regulation of the chatter on social media sites to check hate speech and protect national security. Earlier, Justice Markandey Katju, the chairperson of the Press Council of India, in his widely reported interview with Karan Thapar and later in …

Virtual Noise

Sevanti Ninan
Columnist, The Hindu 

There is no denying that 2011 has been a noisy year. It brought us Justice Markandey Katju, who alarmed, appalled and amused us in turn. To begin with, he was appointed as the Chairperson of the Press Council of India in the last quarter of the year and has been making himself heard ever since. His latest views, put out last week, relate to Internet offences. Before and after him, TV anchors have harangued and heckled and now it is Kapil Sibal's turn to utter first and ponder later. What do we get in response to his call for proactive screening of the Internet? More noise, unsurprisingly. A rising crescendo of free-spirited protests, though some of the offences can hardly be defended. 

The noise has been at one level and succeeded at hogging attention while the action has been at another level. Two murders of journalists, 14 attacks on them over the year in different parts of the country, one Home Ministry circular asking for withdrawal of advertis…

1857 Indian Freedom Struggle Memorial

The role of Bombay in the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny can best be described as modest. The Mutiny originated in parts of Northern India which at a later stage in history came to be known as the first struggle for Indian independence. Bombay has always been associated with trade and commerce in its veins and it reacted in a very characteristic manner when the news of the Rising broke out: the stock market bucked. 

The Indian Freedom Struggle Memorial is dedicated to the martyrs of the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny in the form of an obscure plinth located on a fence right outside the underground subway opposite the Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. It is dedicated to two martyrs Mangal Cadiya and Sayyad Hussein.

As the superintendent of the police in Bombay Charles Forjett ordered two sepoys should be tied to mouth of cannon and be blown to bits. He was fluent in the local languages and an expert in disguise and often walked the streets to eavesdrop on conversations to get a sense of trouble brewing. The g…

Types of Love

Swami Chinmayananda 

No activity in human life is taken up with so much sincerity and elaborate preparation as is man's search for the joy of love and yet, no enterprise of man fails so constantly with such regularity, as his quest for love. He helplessly waits to receive love and yet everyone is always disappointed. 

In a nutshell, the love that leaves us with agitation is lower love and the love that leaves us with profound peace and joy is higher. In true love, every action and sacrifice you make towards the object of your love reduces your egocentric desires and calms the agitation in your mind. When love is directed towards a Higher or Nobler object or person than yourself, it is called prema. When it is towards a lower object, it is called sneha. Higher love alone can help us come out of our sense of incompleteness and alienation.

 The lower type of love called sneha is an escape from a person's sense of loneliness. Without this protection the person feels lonely, isolated …

Harnessing Potentials

Swami Tejomayananda 

Most of us will agree that we are born rich and yet somehow we are unable to truly realize and harness our true potentials. In order to harness the great potential that lies within each one of us, it is important to manifest it and for that it is necessary to have a great goal in life. Our potential lies in the body, speech, mind, intellect and also through external means. Indeed, the treasure that we possess is vast and invaluable. It is due to this reason that psychologists would agree that we are not entirely using the true potential of our brains which is why we remain as extras in our own movie.

Much of our potential has been manifested out of necessity to survive or thrive. A police officer once tried catching a weak-looking thief who escaped. When asked why the thief outran him, he said, "I ran as part of my duty. He ran to save his life. His motivation was greater." Great potential may at times manifest out of sheer necessity but usually if your go…

Control Freakery

Arun Jaitley

The chairman of the Press Council of India, Justice Markandey Katju, lost little time after his appointment to make known his contemptuous views about the Indian media. The obvious danger of talking out of turn in order to crusading is that one ceases to be objective. You only have to tabulate the weak points of the target institution and emerge as a reformist yourself. 

While doing so Katju overlooked the fact that despite many weaknesses, the Indian media is a key protector of our democracy and does not need to be regulated. The argument that every institution in a democracy needs to be regulated is not a valid one. It is this mindset that produced the Indian Emergency of the mid-1970s. Has anyone dared to suggest that the Supreme Court is unregulated and hence needs to be regulated? This "control" psyche is destructive of democracy.

The media, both print and electronic, is today judged by the readers and viewers. It is for this reason that some newspapers and ch…

Movie Review: Traffic

The 2011 Malayalam film "Traffic" is a multi-narrative thriller that intertwines multiple stories around one particular incident. The narrative of the film has been told in the hyperlink format dealing with plot twists, interwoven storylines between multiple characters. The film follows the life of six main characters--an aspiring journalist Raihan (Vineeth Srinivasan) and his friend Rajeev (Asif Ali), who are travelling in a bike and are fatally hit by a speeding car at a signal, a superstar Sidharth Shankar (Rahman) who is getting ready for the release of his new film, a young cardiac surgeon Abel (Kunchako Boban), City Police Commissioner Ajmal Nazar (Anup Menon)  and a traffic constable Sudevan (Srinivasan). 

The story takes place on a certain September 16 at a crowded traffic junction in Kochi. It has been an inspired from a real-life event that happened in Chennai. As the film follows the hyperlink format, an accident changes their lives forever and how they tackle with…

Movie Review: Ananthabhadram

The 2005 Malayalam film "Ananthabhadram" concerns ghosts, black magic and spirits. The film begins with little Ananthan hearing a folk tale from his mother Gayathri (Revathy) telling him that his family comes from a line of powerful magicians and that they are responsible for protecting a "nagamanickyam", a jewel on a serpent's head. The jewel, she narrates in the ancient village of Sivapuram in a house guarded by snakes, including a tiny snake called Kunjootan. 

Years later, Ananthan (Prithviraj) returns to Sivapuram with his deceased mother's ashes. His mother wanted him to light the lamp at Shivakaavu, a dark and mysterious temple of Lord Shiva. During his stay in Sivapuram, he meets his cousin Bhadra (Kavya Madhavan) and encounters the local black magician Digambaran (Manoj K. Jayan). Soon enough, we are shown that Digambaran is not a friendly character as he opposes the lighting of lamps on the grounds of local superstitions in order to get his hands on…

The Decline of The West

R. Vaidyanathan
IIM Bangalore

Ten years ago, America had Steve Jobs, Bob Hope and Johnny Cash. Now, it has no Jobs, no Hope and no Cash. Or so the joke goes. Only, it's no joke. The line is pretty close to reality in the US. The less said about Europe the better. Both the US and Europe are in decline. I was asked by a business channel in 2008 about recovery in the US and I mentioned 40 quarters and I was never invited for another discussion. Recently, another media person asked me the same question and I answered 80 quarters. He was shocked since he was told some "sprouts" of recovery had been seen in the American economy.

It is important to recognize that the dominance of the West has been there only for the last 200-and-odd years. According to Angus Maddison's pioneering OECD study, India and China had nearly 50 percent of global GDP as late as the 1820s. Hence, India and China are not emerging or rising powers. They are retrieving their original position. The dollar …


The song "Nee" is certainly one of the well-composed non-film songs in recent times. The lyrics for the song have been written by Aisoorya Vijayakumar and sung by my childhood friend Jaya Vidyasagar, a talented and classically trained singer from Mumbai who has lent her voice for this song. It has been composed by Rishi S. for an independent music label called "Sonore Unison".

I imagined the song as an expression of a young girl waiting by the window as she was disillusioned and depressed since the boy whom she was in love with had moved to the city for higher studies. However, it was on a rainy morning, when her lover returned as a true gentleman from the city, it was as though the young girl almost received a new lease of life. On the joyous occasion of his arrival, she breaks into this song and sings it as tears roll down her eyes as she welcomes him back into her life. The song is a wonderful tribute to her lover's arrival back into her life.

The rough meanin…

Steve means success

MN Kundu
Hindustan Times

If I were to define success, I would say it means "Steve". By changing the digital world and thereby bringing a revolution, Steve Jobs, who died last week, changed the approach and lifestyles of people all over the world. He dared to rebel and walked the untrodden path. His stress was: Be different and see the difference in your life. Steve was not only different but made it possible for the rest of mankind to think that they too can be different and agents of change.

I found the best tribute paid to Steve in a tweet: "Three apples have changed the world. One seduced Eve, the second awakened Newton and the third one was in the hands of Jobs." Steve wanted us to always follow our inner voice but give a damn to dogmas and tradition. As if he knew the imminent end of his journey on this planet, he said, "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogmas. Don't let the noise of othe…

Headlines you will never see...

Sevanti Ninan
The Hindu

Last fortnight, a new documentary screened in Delhi had a packed hall in thrall. Called "Brokering News", it glided effortlessly through a succession of sound bytes and TV news clips to suggest a range of unethical practices prevalent in the media. The existence of election-time paid news, of complicity between stock market experts and the TV channels that feature their tips, of cosy deals that enable each newly released film to get varying degrees of prime time pre-release exposure, of increasingly political ownership of channels, of seductions to journalists, abundant "reviews" of new gadgets and automobiles and so on.

This documentary has been made by Umesh Aggarwal for the Public Service Broadcasting Trust and will be shown on Doordarshan, which will doubtless be delighted to air it. It was a brisk film built largely on circumstantial evidence and assertions of a general kind. Business journalist Sucheta Dalal saying for instance that: &quo…

Thank You, Steve Jobs

The death of Apple founder and former CEO Steve Jobs, as tragic it was, brought back some hope for aspiring journalists like me that it was possible to find positive stories amidst death. For probably the first time, I learnt not to be boggled by the scams and the brain-numbing figures associated with each scam. Though it was a tragic end for Steve at the young age of 56, it rekindled a hope that it was possible to find and unearth positive stories even during adversities which could find a mention on the front page of a newspaper.

He, of course, left behind a legacy which is tough to replace. He created one of the world's best companies, Apple and led the company to a towering success with his inspiring leadership qualities and a unique vision. What he left behind is far more important was that he left the world as a role model for many people. He left behind the possibility that one person can make a huge difference. He proved that even school or college dropouts had the potentia…

Ek Shaam Shammi Ke Naam

Every childhood hero takes away a little bit of one's life along with him when he dies. In the India of the 1950s and 1960s, when Indians were just learning to enjoy freedom, Shamsher Raj Kapoor or Shammi Kapoor, as he was more popularly known, became the most obvious symbol of freedom. Nearly forty years after his iconic movie "Junglee" released, it is easy to be dismissive about that yell which rose from the belly, filled the throat and then knocked your head off: "Yaaaahoooo!" It was the roar of liberation from the silly boredom of convention.
Shammi Kapoor entered the Hindi film industry when Dilip Kumar was still going strong and Rajendra Kumar was bowing out of the race for the best actor. Shammi Kapoor, who came as a breath of fresh air and became India's first youth icon with his sea-blue eyes, chocolate boys and a man with a colourful personality and an amazing sense of rhythm and dance. In a very boisterous way, Shammi Kapoor encouraged the youth …

The Guru Principle

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

The Guru tattva is the principal and the wisdom of a Guru is a tattva (an element), a quality which is present inside each one of us. The Guru tattva is confined to a body or form. There is a story that Lord Krishna once Uddhava, his close friend and a very wise man, to the gopis and gopans, who were full of devotion. Uddhava went to give them wisdom, to talk about liberation but none of them was interested in listening to that. They all echoed: "No, tell us about some story about Krishna, tell us what is happening in Dwarka, where He is. We don't want to hear this wisdom; you can keep that to yourself. But tell us what news you have of Krishna? We don't care about wisdom; we are happy with longing and we are happy with love. So, let us sing and dance."

That's all they wanted to do. This is how love makes you crazy. That's when all the boundaries drop and you feel one with everyone around and one with the whole universe--and that's ca…

JRD: A Class Apart

Sudha Murthy

There are two photographs that hang on my office wall. Everyday, when I entered my office I look at them before starting my day. They are JRD Tata and Jamsetji Tata.

It was a long time ago when I was young, bright, bold and idealistic. I was in the final year of my Master's course in Computer Science at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc.) in Bangalore, then known as the Tata Institute. Life was full of fun and joy. I did not know what helplessness or injustice meant.

It was probably the April of 1974. I was the only girl in my postgraduate department. I was looking forward to going abroad to complete a doctorate in computer science. I had been offered scholarships from universities in the US. I had not thought of taking up a job in India. One day, while on the way to my hostel from our lecture hall complex, I saw an advertisement on the notice board. It was a standard job-requirement notice from the famous automobile company Telco (now Tata Motors). It stated that th…