Sunday, August 21, 2011

Jagathy Sreekumar's Cognitive Dissonance

If you are a Malayalee, you have by now seen that video in which Jagathy Sreekumar speaks his mind about how anchors or presenters should behave on television. The venue was the grand finale of Munch Star Singer Junior - a reality show on Asianet. It is plain to everyone who is familiar with any amount of Malayalam television that his scathing attack on anchoring was directed at Ranjini Haridas. His problem with Ranjini’s style of anchoring is that she speaks a line or two about the previous performance before going to the judges to hear the scores announced. He argues that no one except the judge of the event has a right to speak about the performance of the participant and if an unqualified speaker such as the anchor says something about it, it is blasphemous and unacceptable.

Fair enough, I accept that as his personal opinion. Except, it isn’t. Moments before he launches the verbal tirade directed at Ranjini, Jagathy says “I like Yadhu (one of the participants) the most” and later he follows it up with “I was at a function earlier this evening and all the housewives in the audience asked me to tell the judges to give the prize to Yadhu. And I am saying this because the public opinion should be heard”.

Wait, what? So essentially he is saying

  • No one should, on any stage, make a comment about the performance of the participants except the judges but I would love it if ‘Yadhu’ wins the prize.
  • And an unqualified speaker does not have right to say stuff when there are qualified judges around and then he plays to the gallery saying their opinion is what matters the most.

Pause. Deep breath. What? Okay, Cognitive dissonance QED.

To me, as a person who has done a fair bit of anchoring, an anchor is well within his/her rights to express his/her opinion on the previous performance and especially so in Ranjini’s case because she rarely uses anything except encouraging language. If you just want a person to call out the next participant’s name, you might as well use a tree.

What is even more WTF is the fact that there was unanimous applause to Jagathy’s statements and Berly the popular malayalam blogger wrote an open letter to Ranjini Haridas in which he tries to shred Ranjini’s take on the same in Deccan Chronicle. Now this, I cannot stand. Berly’s whole argument seems to be based on this premise: Jagathy is a wonderful actor who is deeply loved and respected by all Malayalees. True. Ranjini cannot speak good Malayalam and speaks only English. True. Therefore Jagathy can say anything he wants about Ranjini and she and everyone else should accept it. False.

What irks me most about Berly’s post is the usage of words such as aanatham (manliness) and nattellu (backbone) in his piece on the same. It is clear that such a piece does not target the opinion expressed by Jagathy or Ranjini but the people involved at a personal level. It is most unfortunate that such statements are made in public domain and people are allowed to get away with it. There is a very strong tendency among Malayalees (sorry for the stereotyping) to pull down a person who does good work but is not yet an established personality, even more so if that person can speak some good English.

When God was designing his own country, he got two things wrong on the configuration machine – he turned up the humidity rate to double of what it should have been and turned down the humility quotient to half of what it should have been - a simple typo between humidity and humility perhaps. The basic problem with Malayalee (me included) is his sheer arrogance and inability to accept something good for what it is. The Malayalee has a beef with almost everything (*mild chuckle*), except the widely accepted superstar. And so there is and always will be a lot of negativity surrounding Ranjini Haridas.

PS: Minor edit - I have changed the last line of this post since it was distracting readers from the point at hand. Perhaps it calls for another debate at a later stage.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Headcount Hysteria

In the new Malayalam movie "Ividam Swargamanu", Sreenivasan plays a wonderful cameo as a lawyer cum social activist. In perhaps the best scene in the whole movie, Sreenivasan speaks about a burning issue that pains his heart at a junction using a loud speaker. There is absolutely no one listening to him except for the character played by Mohan Lal who is waiting to consult him about a case. When asked why he wastes his time, money and energy on a speech when there is no one watching him, Sreenivasan says "If I just wanted to attract a huge headcount, I could just have performed a cabaret."

It is fitting and proper that Sreenivasan should say it because you know it comes from the master-satirist/movie maker's heart. To me, that one line defines the difference between the Malayalam movies I had been brought up on as a child and the horrid bollywood movies I am forced to watch now. Of course Malayalam movies today are no better. The last movie I saw - "Happy Husbands" - is a remake of "Masti" my cousin tells me. You can imagine how bad the scene is when I tell you it received tremendous applause and the brilliantly made Kerala Cafe went largely unnoticed by the folks in Kerala.

The sad part is that it is not restricted to the movie industry. Somewhere down the line my life too has been affected by the bollywood syndrome. I do not do what I want to do. I do the thing that gets me the maximum Gandhi-headcount in my wallet. I want a happy family life. Job security is the most important thing to me. So what if I am not doing something I like? I am a part of the majority. And in the age of democracy, the majority is always right, just like our elected political leaders. I am not even wasting my talent. I am just burying it safely. When my master asks me, I shall return it to him. For now let me just watch another bollywood movie.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Remembering Verdasco

By Tony Sebastian

It was just a little over a month ago that Fernando Verdasco scripted one of the best sporting matches in history along with Rafael Nadal in the semi finals of the Australian open. That five setter which had all of us on the edge of our seats - that amazing spectacle which had all the elements of life in a 5 hour 14 minutes span is still etched in the minds of anyone who watched the match. But the name of Fernando Verdasco is not one that comes as easily to our lips as that of a certain Mr.Nadal who went on to win the title at Melbourne Park.

In fact, "Verdasco" would never have crossed the thoughts of someone who did not watch the match but merely saw the scoreboard and it is highly unlikely to do so for the rest of their lives. They wouldn't know of the effort, dedication and supreme sportsmanship he displayed to stretch the match to a world record length. The painful tale of how he fought off the angst of an injury and battled on with some powerful winners and serves only to ironically double-fault in the 10th game of the 5th set to concede the match (and quite possibly the Australian Open) to Nadal is one which has already been forgotten.

It is a weird world, the one which we inhabit. Completing two runs with a lunge for the crease when the throw comes in is dubbed "great running and tremendous athleticism". Being run out by an inch while attempting the same two runs is a "needless waste of a wicket". The margin of error is that slight - a thin line which separates the heroes and the villains. You set off for the second run because you are "confident" that you can make it. If you do make it, your confidence is lauded. If you don't, you are just stupid.

We've all had our share of close misses. But the bottom line is nobody cares, except yourself. I myself have rambled on for two years about CAT 2007 and how my score of 98.95 percentile was just short of IIM Calcutta's cut off of 98.96 percentile. How I missed out by 0.08 marks when the least count in CAT was 1 mark. But the way the world sees it, I am a person who didn't make it while others did. I can argue about how unfair that is, and how 0.01 percentile was not something that set me aside from the people who got calls. But I have found out that it is best to save my breath.

William Henry Davies in his poem, leisure, said "It is a queer life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare". When the once considered soaring finance field crashes and burns consuming everything around it the very next day, you can take it for granted that life is certainly queer and people have no time to stand or stare, let alone sympathise with you. Fernando Verdasco may go on and win a grand slam in the future, but until that day he will remain in obscurity.After all, in the digital age if you are not the one you are a zero.

My take on Delhi 6

by Tony Sebastian

I feel quite sorry for Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra. For someone who hates bollywood as much as I do, Delhi 6 was a welcome relief. Having been brought up on a steady diet of Sreenivasan at his satirical best, my movie appetite has long been starving for something like this which ROM dished out. The movie was entertaining, insightful, metaphorical and clever.

I am not here to review the movie. For one, I don't think I am qualified enough to do that and also Baradwaj Rangan has done a brilliant job of dissecting the movie here. Instead, I would like to put forth an analogy which will explain why I feel frustrated with people panning the movie...

I was pretty proud of the crossword which I had made. I was even gladder still that there were about 150 people gathered to solve it. I had taken great pains in ensuring that the clues were fair and clever. It had taken over three days to make the grid, but the effort was worth it. I handed out the sheets and the heads in the hall started bending down, I sat down with a contented smile on my face.

Five minutes later, I decided to walk around looking in to see how the solvers were doing. My heart sank when I saw people filling in "Guevara" for the clue "Does he instigate revolutions? (7)" I walked around and saw a few more of the same. The solvers had expected a quick crossword, I had prepared a cryptic crossword. They failed to see why "Does he instigate revolutions? (7)" would result in "SPINNER" or why that is beautiful. One by one, the people started leaving, they had had enough.

I think that in a nutshell sums up what happened with Delhi 6. He made a cryptic crossword, but the audience did not understand it. They were too used to the run-of-the-mill quick crossword and something as trivial as a symmetric grid was enough to win their appreciation. Anything smarter was given a miss.

If Delhi 6 is a cryptic crossword, its climax was the fit in clue - That one clue which you cannot frame properly. You don't really like it being part of the crossword, but you can't take it off since you need it to complete the grid. You hope that the solvers forgive you for that one clue because the rest of the crossword is good enough, and it is only fair that the one bad element is forgotten.

I realise that I sound extremely snobbish with that analogy, but I chose it only because it is one which I can relate to. I am sure this is how Vinu (my roomie and an ace musician) feels if he tries to explain to his musically dense friend (me) why a particular song is beautiful or Thomas (my other roomie) feels when I blink at him when he tells me how awesome his new graphics card is.

Delhi 6 was a perfect movie for the wrong audience. But I don't think the bollywood crowd is to be blamed. Malayalees eat beef because that is the way they have been brought up. The reason Delhi 6 is panned is because we are used to the senseless idiocy like "Singh is kinng" and "Om shanti om". I just hope that people like ROM don't feel disheartened and play to the galleries.

About This Blog

Although Royal Ramble has been short of content, I have attempted to keep it silly and humorous. This means that the random thoughts which pass through my head just go away without being penned down. Here is an attempt to post a few thoughts.

The title (which is a kind of acrostic for my name) explains what this blog will be like. It is not designed to offend anyone, but to give vent to my frustrations/thoughts. I will not painstakingly edit/censor any of the content on this blog. It is most likely that its content will be impassioned and off the cuff.

With that heads-up/FYI we are off.