Sunday, June 24, 2007

Living without the Idiot Box

[Image Courtesy:]

I have not watched TV in almost 3 years. No. Let me put it this way. I have not had a TV at home for the past 3 years. Cable TV itself was late entrant to our home in Bangalore. we finally got cable TV in 2003. By then I was working and hardly had the time to watch the shows. Now after coming to USA, I have deliberately avoided buying a television set so as to not get addicted to it.

Now, this does not mean that I do not watch TV. I do watch it at the student union, or at a friend's place occasionally. The last time I saw was the French Open finals. Before that, I don't remember! It must have been a few months ago. However, the frequency is so rare that I really do not even know if I am missing something or ever care about it anymore.

In India, the only channels I loved to watch were NGC, Discovery, some AXN, some sports channels for F-1 and the occasional good programs on ETV and Udaya(such as Divya Darshana early in the mornings, or the one with Hiremagalur Kannan, and such). I also used to watch an occasional movie once in a while but kept away from serials and soaps and reality shows as much as possible. In fact, when I tried watching Band of Brothers on HBO, the only obstruction was some stupid home-wrecking soap that my mother did not want to miss! That led to a lot of arguments and I totally gave up fighting for the remote.

In the USA and not to mention in India, of late, people are heavily addicted to television. Teens and elders cant stop themselves from watching and discussing soaps and other bogus shows. Kids are glued to Pockemon and whatnot from the time they get up to the time they go to bed. I think that the AC Nielsen survey which says that people watch an average of 4 hours of TV per day is a conservative estimate! Thank goodness, at least that WWF craze is behind us!

Whenever I bring up the argument that TV is a useless gadget(according to me, that is what it has metamorphosized into), people talk about its good programs, exposure to a lot of topics(yeah right! Its only exposure these days!), blah blah... Are they kidding themselves? Does everyone watch such things?!? Then why are Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki, Saas Bhi..., etc so highly rated? How many people watched an informational program such as the Sunday night special 'Pompeii Uncovered' on NGC or ETV Raaga Ranjini or for that matter anything else?

I don't know what to talk in gatherings when people are discussing the latest episode of some television show. Fine. I can live with it. Neither do I care nor do I want to watch those brainless things just so that I can find a topic of conversation at parties. Without the TV, I find time to play tennis, take a walk, read something, etc. In fact, more and more people are waking up to the fact that the TV is spoiling homes. A Google search of 'living without TV' yields 42 million hits!

Dont get me wrong. I am not advocating that everyone should live without the television. But does it justify giving it the place of honour in the living room? What do you say?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Puerto Rico: A Paradise in the USA

Just came back from the enchanting island of Puerto Rico which I visited for a conference. I stayed on the island for 5 days. It was really a memorable trip looking at the awesome scenery, the beautiful tropical beaches, the rain forest and not to mention the stunning Ritz Carlton.

Check out some photos. (Click on the photos for description and resizing.)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Really Old Oldies...

The term Oldies acquires different meanings in different circles. When I was young, what I meant by Oldies was maybe songs from the late 1960s and 70s. Thereafter, I discovered the gems of the 50s and listened to them for a while. I had recently met someone who is about 55-60 years old. While conversing with him, when I said I like Oldies, he took it to mean the 1930s and songs by K.L. Saigal, Pankaj Mallick, R.C. Boral, etc.

Of late, I have been listening to songs of the late 40s and 50s. In fact, I have gotten bored of listening to the late 60s and 70s. In this post, let me concentrate on some of the notable songs of the late 40s.

The late 40s was the period when actors had just stopped singing their songs in the song and dance sequences. The times when Ashok Kumar, Noor Jahan and other who sang and danced and acted had just ended. The era of big time playback singers was about to begin. Noor Jahan had acted and sung fantastic melodies in Anmol Ghadi (1946) especially Awaaz De Kahaan Hai standing out amongst the others. In 1949, one song single handedly launched the career of arguably the greatest playback singer India has ever seen - Lata Mangeshkar. When she sang the song Aayega Aanewala for the inimitable and most beautiful Madhubala in Mahal(1949), listeners swooned to the voice that would entrance billions for years. Legend has it that the people in the studio started talking excitedly about the new singer who had made a huge impression. When the movie was a hit (probably because of the song), Madhubala started insisting that Lata sing all her future songs.

It was also the time when Noor Jahan was displaced as the undisputed singing queen. Also, since she went over to Pakistan after the partition, she got fewer opportunities to sing than Lata did. In fact, Noor Jahan was Lata's idol in the initial stages of her career and even imitated her style of singing in some of her early songs. The other mindblowing songs were from Raj Kapoor's Barsaat (1949). Shankar-Jaikishen composed a remarkable score for Raj Kapoor's first directorial hit film. It established the Raj Kapoor-Nargis combo along with Shankar-Jaikishen and Shailendra-Hasrat Jaipuri pair for music and lyrics. Raj never wavered from this and they went on to deliver hit after hit. Mukesh only got two songs in the movie but Chhod gaye baalam is outstanding. Lata again reasserted her supremacy making this movie a terrific hit. In fact, RK made the RK studio emblem based on a Barsaat scene where he holds Nargis in one hand an a violin in the other.

Some other outstanding songs from the late 40s that are my favourites and immediately come to mind are:

Suhaani Raat Dhal Chuki, Na Jaane thum kab Aaogi (Dulari, 1949) by Rafi
Mere Piya gaye Rangoon (Patanga, 1949) by Shamshad Begum
Tu Kahe Agar (Andaz, 1949) by Mukesh

These are some of the earliest songs that I have listened. I have no recollection of having heard from the 30s. It must have been the glory days of KL Saigal, Khemchand Prakash, Pankaj Mallick, etc.

In fact, while I started this post with enthusiasm, it waned towards the end since I have not been able to weave a systematic classification about any one singer or movie or director. I have just been able to touch upon various geniuses who kickstarted their careers around the same time - Lata, Mukesh, Rafi, Raj Kapoor, etc. Maybe subsequent posts will be on individual movies and personalities.

Watch out for more in the future posts.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


After a long hiatus, I will make a comeback on this blog. There are lots of reasons for not posting new blogposts here, lack of time definitely not being one of them. I also have a full page of blogable topics that I have listed at various times. Watch out for my next post shortly.