Vantage point

Monday, October 20, 2008

Palin - Christmas Critter?

"I've never seen someone with a greater disparity between how cute they sound when they're saying something and how terrible what they're saying is," [Jon Stewart] said, launching into an impression of Palin. "Don'tcha know, Obama, by golly, he just is a terrorist?... Oh, you know, he just, gosh, kills babies, you know."

Stewart is right. Previous to Palin's arrival on the scene, the honor for greatest disparity between sounding cute but saying terrible things went to the woodland christmas critters -

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Amit Mishra

Mishra's fiver on debut is a very promising development, seeing as it came on a flat pitch. I haven't seen enough of him to form a solidly favorable impression, but whatever little I saw seemed good. He has more turn and more variety than Chawla for sure. A rivalry for selection between two decent leggies can only be a good thing for the Indian team.

One dismissal that impressed me a lot was that of Michael Clarke in the first innings. Dhoni also had a role to play in it. With about 15 minutes to go before the end of play, Dhoni brought Mishra on. He was bowling the last over when, after 4 balls, Dhoni asked him to go round the wicket. He also brought in a fly slip. The adjustments in the field clearly made Clarke think that Mishra would pitch it in the rough behind his legs. And then, instead of going for the obvious line, Mishra bowled a fuller googly right on middle stump. Clarke, primed for the delivery behind his legs, had a tough time making the quick adjustment. Plus he was clearly reading the googly off the pitch and not from the hand. So he was late in bringing the bat down and was caught plumb in front of the wicket.

That was a nice little bit of guile, getting the wicket of one of the better players of spin bowling in the Aussie team. Hope Mishra continues to grow.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


This small anecdote from this post accurately captures the mood in Pennsylvania at the moment -

So a canvasser goes to a woman's door in Washington, Pennsylvania. Knocks. Woman answers. Knocker asks who she's planning to vote for. She isn't sure, has to ask her husband who she's voting for. Husband is off in another room watching some game. Canvasser hears him yell back, "We're votin' for the n***er!"

Woman turns back to canvasser, and says brightly and matter of factly: "We're voting for the n***er."

In this economy, racism is officially a luxury. How is John McCain going to win if he can't win those voters?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

John McCain tried to kill me!

Last night we hosted a drinking game during the debate. For the uninformed, this is a game in which you list down the catchwords, pet phrases and other such cliches on a chart, and whenever a candidate says anything on the list, you drink. We had some 1-sip words, some 2-sip words, and a couple of "bottoms up" phrases.

One of the bottoms up phrases was "saying a random voter's name". And John McCain somehow found out about it and tried to get me and my friends killed by alcohol poisoning. He brought up Joe the plumber 21 times. Obama pitched in too, saying it 4 times. They tryin' to keell Poppy?

And no, we did not down 25 drinks. Survival instinct kicked in and we amended our list mid-game. But that does not take away from the fact that the two candidates colluded and tried to kill us!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bollywood and Plagiarism

The latest issue of Man's World has an article by me on the long history of plagiarism in Bollywood. Here it is.
Last year I was driving through the Pennsylvania countryside on my way to New York, and playing with the car radio dial trying to locate some music that would keep me awake. Imagine my surprise when I chanced upon what sounded like the mandolin melody from 'Mehbooba, mehbooba', the classic hit from Sholay. I thought to myself - radio stations in rural Pennsylvania are playing songs from Sholay? Bollywood really does seem to be crossing over. Until the vocals kicked in, and I realized the song was in English! Being sung in exactly the same throaty-nasal voice that RD Burman rendered the hindi song in. My first thought, a rather silly one retrospectively, was – someone from the West has copied RD Burman!

Of course, a simple google search after reaching my destination proved me wrong. The song was 'Say You Love Me' by Greek singer Demis Roussos, released a couple of years before Sholay was being filmed. The song was almost completed copied, note-for-note, by the late great R D Burman. Even the throaty-nasal voice, which I had gullibly assumed to be a novel innovation conjured up by Panchamda as a reference to the gypsies on screen, was dutifully emulated or rather imitated from Roussos. It was like scales falling from my eyes. We all love to make fun of Bappi Lahiri, Anu Malik, and other contemporary Bollywood music directors for shameless plagiarism. But it turns out that they are only following in the footsteps of other illustrious "composers".

Anu Malik's only misfortune seems to be that he lives in an era where MTV, Channel V and VH1 are accessible in India, and the awareness and following of Western music has grown in leaps and bounds. So any tune that he copies is readily identified, earning him ridicule. But paradoxically, the ridicule is often heaped by the same people who consider RD Burman to be some sort of a musical genius. They listen to his songs from the 70s and 80s, and nostalgically wax eloquent about a time when Bollywood music was "real and authentic". I too have considered myself to be an RD Burman fan, and although once in a while I detected some "inspiration" in his songs (like when I noticed how much 'Mila gaya humko saathi' resembled ABBA's 'Mama Mia'), I never suspected of him having plagiarized on a scale comparable to Anu Malik or Bappi Lahiri.

So I wanted to find out how many of the pre-Anu Malik Bollywood "classics", specifically those by RD Burman, were rehashed from foreign hits. In doing so, I chanced upon, a website which painstakingly compiles instances of plagiarism in Bollywood. A whole page dedicated to Panchamda shows that he was quite voracious about plagiarizing foreign musicians without giving them any credit. Take another song from Sholay – "Jab tak hai jaan, jaane jahaan". Copied from the prelude of 'Jomeh' by the Iranian singer Googoosh. Or listen to 'Mamunia' by Paul McCartney and the Wings, and then listen to 'O Maria' from Saagar. The website lists dozens of such songs.

Amitabh Bachchan spoke about an instance when he sat together with Panchamda after hearing a Persian tune to "imbibe a few notes that we liked on that number". That number being the ever popular 'Jahaan teri yeh nazar hai" from Kaalia. But listen to the original Persian song, 'Heleh Maali' by Zia Atabay, and you will realize that it was not a "few notes" that were "imbibed", but pretty much the whole opening stanza is a direct lift. Other Pancham "classics" like Tumse milke (Parinda), Chura liya hai (Yaadon Ki Baraat), Katra Katra (Ijazat), and so on are also either direct copies or heavy adaptations of foreign tunes, of course without any credit being given to the original.

But just like plagiarizing without giving credit did not start from Anu Malik or Bappi Lahiri, it did not start from RD Burman or his other plagiarist contemporaries like Laxmikant Pyarelal either.. If you, like me, might enjoy shocking your parents by showing them how tunes from their youth in the 70s and 80s were blatant copies, then you might also like to inform your grandparents that many popular tunes from the 50s and 60s were lifted too. Evergreen OP Nayyar classic like Yeh hai Bombay meri jaan, Babuji dheere chalna, Lakhon hain yaha dilwaale, and several songs by Shankar Jaikishen, Salil Choundhry, SD Burman are also listed on with their originals.

This is not to say that all Bollywood composers have just been copycats, lifting foreign songs in every instance. All these greats have also composed several outstanding original tunes over the years. But then, the same could possibly be said of Anu Malik. So when all the greats from OP Nayyar to RD Burman plagiarized dozens of songs, it seems a bit disingenuous to heap scorn on poor Anu Malik. In fact, one could argue that the success and adulation RD Burman and the likes received despite their plagiarism, actually paved the way for others to do the same. Considering how Anu Malik seems to cop a disproportionate amount of blame for plagiarism, one song that no one would grudge him plagiarizing is Billy Joel's "We didn't start the fire, it was always burning, since the world's been turning".

Shame on Amit Varma... and me

Kunal in an excellent post has skewered Amit Varma for endorsing the Ottoman empire's pro-genocide views. I am shocked shocked, to quote Claude Raines. Such pro-genocide views help no one. But one who has sinned can not cast the first stone. So I should also admit, in the spirit of full disclosure that I have not denounced or rejected the Armenian genocide either. I hang my head in shame.

Monday, October 13, 2008

OK Chetan, I'll Bite

Chetan has baited and I will bite. And he is not the first one. Over the last couple of weeks, I have gotten several mails and comments repeating ad nauseum a quip by the newly ennobled Paul Krugman - there are no atheists in foxholes and no libertarians in a recession.

It is nice to be viewed as a spokesman for libertarianism. Sadly, I have been busy with other things, so my blogging frequency has gone down. Forget bail-outs, recessions and stimuli. When was the last time you remember this blog being silent before and even after an India-Australia test match. But Chetan has tempted me to make what will be an admittedly rushed post.

I am opposed to the bailout and even the so-called "stimulus package" that is next on the Democrats' to-do list. The bail-out is just postponing the inevitable, and the unintended consequences of throwing so much taxpayer money at the problem could be disastrous. Mad inflation, and a possible crisis down the line with US T-bills even.

There are real consequences for the way people conduct business too. What the bailout is doing is ensuring that profits from private enterprise remain private, but losses will be socialized. This will set up a precedent and actually make future executives even more reckless. Because no matter how badly they screw up, Uncle Sam is always going to bail them out.

P.S. Chetan, yes I have put on some weight recently. But I still refuse to accept the name 'prachanda' :-P