Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Popular Culture – India’ Category


The Ex-Files
Vandana Shah | Penguin | Rs 299

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 9.07.05 PMTechnology has made us believe that we all live in a global village, ground facts however are different. Each nation and each society is bound by its own mores and social inequities. Vandana Shah’s coming of age autobiography about a 3-year-old marriage and a 10-year-long divorce reflects the conflicted India we live in. On one had we have ‘well-to-do’ and ‘well-educated’ people who feel entitled to control women (be it fathers, relatives, husbands, sons), and on the other we have Shah, who’s asking, “Will someone please get up and change this system?” It’s a long battle. Still.

*

The Small Big
Steve J Martin, Noah J Goldstein & Robert B. Cialdini | Profile Books | Rs 399

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 9.07.27 PMModern studies in the field of neuroscience, cognitive psychology, social psychology and behavioral economics have given us many insights about how we react and why. The authors of this book have gathered some of these ‘insights’ to help people organize their businesses and manage their employees. These tips warn the writers need to be used judiciously and wisely, “Trying to use too many tools of persuasion at once could actually make it more difficult to achieve the outcome you are hoping for.” In other words, the tips may not work all the time!

*

Pathfinder
Angie Sage | Bloomsbury | Rs 350

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 9.07.43 PMEveryone needs magic. Angie Sage re-kindles it in her story of Alice Tod Hunter Moon, a young Pathfinder who leaves her seaside village in search of a lost friend, Ferdie. Rumour has it that Ferdie has been taken by the mysterious creature caked Garmin and Alice needs to rescue him. Set against the backdrop of Cornwall marshlands, this story is part of a trilogy sequel to the adventures of Septimus Heap and Jenna, the princes. For those who love the warmth and humour of Sage’s stories this trilogy is a special gift this season. Enjoy it.

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 28 December 2014.)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »


Duryodhana
V. Raghunathan | Harper Collins | Rs 350

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.17.01 PMIn a creative re-telling of Mahabharata, V Raghunathan, banker and author, takes the side of Duryodhana to give an alternative reading to the epic. “While most popular versions of Mahabharata portray Duryodhana as the perpetrator of all that is wrong, it seems to me that there is good reason to view him as the wronged party instead.” And so, Raghunathan, voices Duryodhana’s questions, “Was it my fault if Shakuni was a better player of chaupar than Yudhishtra? Am I to be faulted for agreeing to give away Indraprastha to the Kuntiputras in the first place?” Interesting.

*

The Temporary Bride
Jennifer Klinec | Virago | Rs 350

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.17.37 PMSubtitled ‘A Memoir of love and food in Iran’ Klinec’s tale is a diary of a 30-year-old Western woman’s journey to modern day Iran. Klinec was a financial executive in London, when she decided to head out to Iran to learn more about its cuisine. In Yazd she encountered a fabulous cook who taught her some awesome recipes. She also fell in love with her son. She has since returned to UK and is now thinking of a food journey to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. A sequel to ‘Temporary Bride’ she says, will follow next.

*

The Legend of Ramulamma
Vithal Rajan | Hachette | Rs 350

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 8.17.56 PMIn this collection of 12 stories set in a Andhra village you’ll meet a Dalit midwife, a police officer, an NGO activist and a foreign visitor who end up being at the centre of one crime or another. There is a hit and run case, a rape and a mysterious death, passports get lost and a disease brings death. Each of the stories tells of the poor man’s struggle to survive everyday life. Greed, lust, deceit are as much characters here as the Dalit midwife or the author, is. Quick read.

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 7 December 2014.)

Read Full Post »


Only Connect!
Ed. by Meenakshi Bharat & Sharon Rundle | Rupa | Rs 195

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 7.23.31 PM‘Only Connect!’ presents a mixed bag of short stories. Some good, some middling. Some ephemeral. It includes tales by Indian, Sri Lankan and Australian writers. The theme is technology and how it impacts people. What do these stories tell us? For one, people crave human contact. Texting, facebooking and emailing is artificial and misleading. On the other hand, too much proximity forces people to seek an alternative space that is accessible at a push of a button. Third, there is politics and surveillance, and our attempt to escape it. Readable.

*

Understanding India
Rohitashya Chattopadhyay | Sage | Rs 695

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 7.30.35 PM“Although this is an ethnography of media production, the central narrative of the book is structured around the issue of Indian identity,” writes Rohitashya Chattopadhyay in the introduction to the book. Can Indian identity be compartmentalized in an age of cultural hybridity? What are the reasons behind the mythic dimension of cricket-themed commercials? These and many other questions find their answers in this dissertation, which asserts that TV commercials connect consumerism with the nation-state and thus offer the viewer their country as a consumable product. Interesting.

*

Harley Loco
Rayya Elias | Bloomsbury | Rs 399

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 7.30.53 PMDaughter of a rich farmer and landowner émigré from Syria, Rayya Elias grew up in Detroit. While her parents were conscious of their migrant status, Rayya embraced America and drugs. In 1983, as a successful hairdresser, she arrived in New York and Lower East Side. Neglected by parents and brother, bullied by schoolmates and ridiculed by society around her, she sought escape in pot, boys, mescaline, acid and coke. Till she found out she was a lesbian and found herself homeless in Tompkins Square Park. Life changed. This is her story.

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 9 November 2014.)

Read Full Post »


Filmi Jagat: A Scrapbook
Ed. by Kaushik Bhaumik, Debashree Mukherjee & Rahab Allana | Art Heritage/Niyogi Books | Rs 995

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 6.15.58 PMWhat do you do when you find a cinema lover’s scrapbook from the Early Talkies days? For Rahab Allana, a curator with Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, the answer came in the form a book that not only features pages from the scrapbook but also tries – with the help of insightful essays – to decode how images in 1930-40s were consumed. This kind of reading opens doors to many ways of understanding our past. Basically, seven films made between 1938-42 find their mention here – Jawani Ki Hawa, Duniya Kya Hai?, Apni Nagaria, Naya Sansar, Behen, Jhoola and Kunwara Baap. Great to leaf through, except it would have been more fun had the publishers recreated the scrapbook as it was with its pockets and slide-outs.

*

Natural Kingdoms
Dr Rajan Sankaran | Penguin | Rs 299

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 6.16.10 PMEven though the scientific community across the world has debunked homeopathy as – ‘a product that is no better than a placebo’ – this form of treatment is very popular in our part of the world. Homeopathy doctors in India can be found in big cities, small towns and even in villages. Dr Rajan Sankaran, a Mumbai-based homeopath is one of them. He claims to have evolved a ‘sensation method’ of homeopathic treatment. Does it work? Science has made its opinion known. India is yet to debate the subject seriously.

*
Mid-Wicket Tales: From Trumper to Tendulkar
S. Giridhar & V.J. Raghunath | Sage | Rs 525

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 6.16.23 PMThere are books on cricketers and there are books that discuss cricket. Each has its special place in our hearts. This book falls in the latter category. The authors are cricket fans who have contributed articles to the ESPN-owned website, Cricinfo, since 2008. This book contains 27 of their essays that detail and discuss every aspect of the game. Though the 20-20 game is mentioned and analyzed, it is the test format that is the favourite. “If cricket is to survive then test cricket must thrive,” Venkat tells the authors. We agree.

 

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 26 October 2014.)

Read Full Post »


Kamadeva: The God Of Desire
Anuja Chandramouli | Rupa | Rs 295

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 5.47.22 PMIn telling the story of Kamadeva, Anuja Chandramouli picks up stories from the Atharva Veda, the Puranas and the Bhagwad Gita to draw a linear narrative of the life and times of the God of Love. In her tale, women talk of equal rights but accept that they need to be ‘protected’. There is also a passage that describes a royal feast that includes: biryanis and kababs (delicacies that arrived in India with the Mughals). And then there is the written language – Queen’s English peppered with British sit-com gags like ‘don’t get your underwear in a bunch’ and the Indian English favourite, ‘bloody good’. Oh!

*

Consiglieri: Leading From The Shadows
Richard Hytner | Profile Books | Rs 399

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 5.47.36 PMRichard Hytner was the CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi. Then he chose to be Deputy Chairman in the company. Why? He says he decided to become a deputy because he was rarely happy making the big, ugly decisions he had to make as the top man. In the hierarchy of numbers the importance of being an alpha male in a company can be self-destructive. “Other than in communist idylls and Hot Chocolate lyrics, not everyone can be a winner all the time,” he says. It’s time, Hytner asserts, to give due to the second rung in command.

*
One Hundred Days
Shweta Modgil | Tara | Rs 199

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 5.47.48 PMIf you want a lesson in how India’s rich young adults live and dream, this book will give you one. Neel gives up her job to find her ‘dream’. Her friend decides to chronicle her ‘search’. They have set 100 days to achieve the target. There is no struggle here, just vapid self-absorption, aided by mollycoddling family members. Neel wants to learn acting. Rich doctor brother in USA enables it. In between the girls dine in upscale South Delhi restaurants and swim in boutique hotel in the hills and encourage each other to ‘dream’.

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 12 October 2014.)

 

Read Full Post »


Kitnay Admi Thay?
Diptakirti Chaudhuri | Westland | Rs 275

Billed as “Completely useless Bollywood Trivia”, this book offers an interesting compendium of anecdotes and trivial facts sourced from books, film magazines and news media about India’s national obsession – Bollywood and its superstars. Presented as lists – e.g., 10 Songs That Became Movies; 10 Films Within Films or 10 Trains You Should Not Miss – the books includes answers to questions such as: Can you name the films or dialogues that made it to Amul’s billboard ads? Can you identify the two diseases that exist only in Bollywood films? Aishwarya Rai has acted as a sister to two superstars, who are they?

*

That’s the Way We Met
Sudeep Nagarkar | Random House | Rs 125

Nagarkar’s present novel – a story about a man who seeks to reclaim his love by writing a book that he hopes his estranged girlfriend will one day read – is as banal as it is intriguing. Interestingly, this book is a sequel to his debut novel, Few Things Left Unsaid, which according to sale figures on flipkart, India’s book delivery portal, was a ‘bestseller’. It is likely that its readership resides in the small towns, where the young try to imagine how it is to live in metro cities like Delhi or Mumbai. But who knows? It could be the ‘masses of India’ as the author says in acknowledgements.

*

March of the Aryans
Bhagwan S Gidwani | Penguin | Rs 599

“A civilization is kept alive only when it’s past values and traditions are recreated in men’s minds,” says Gidwani in the preface to the novel – an adaptation of his earlier book called Return of the Aryans. According to the author, the Aryans originated from India, traveled the world and returned home. He proposes that Aryans existed prior to the dawn of Harappan Civilization (3300-1300 BCE) in the age of Sanatana Dharma i.e., sometime between 8000-4000 BCE. That would place it in Stone Age, a period when man lived caves. But this does not seem to ruffle Gidwani, who also glibly admits that the book is “a work of fiction”.

(The above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 29 July)

Read Full Post »


The Best Thing About You is You!
Anupam Kher | Hey House| Rs 399

“I have found, that unhappiness is a great leveler,” says Kher in this pocketbook of schmaltzy advice on happiness, unfulfilled relationships and regret. Remember Rudyard Kipling? Arthur Miller? Francois de la Rochefoucauld? Never mind if you don’t. Kher brings them – and many others – on board, through a sprinkling of quotes here and there, while flitting between dispensing self-absorbed truisms and reflecting sporadically on his life as theatre and film actor. This is Brand Anupam – a modern day celeb guru of hope and love – beaming at you beatifically and saying, “In time of change, we all seek the same old wisdom but from new-age gurus. That is why we need life-coaching books in stores.”

*

Wild Child
Paro Anand| Puffin Books| Rs 150

In this collection of 10 tender stories, the author gets under the skin of teenagers to talk about contemporary life and events in modern day India. Things we often skim over, hoping the horror, hurt and humiliation would fade, disappear. A 10-year-old boy gets his nose rubbed in the dust by his classmates for being Muslim in post 26/11 Mumbai. He returns home to ask his parents, “Why didn’t you tell me about religion before, were you ashamed?” A girl breaks down in a class when a teacher decides to discuss the issue of domestic violence. How can she tell that her father beats her mother? In Paro Anand our children are not mute spectators. They have a voice.

*

Offshore
Gaurav Rastogi & Basab Pradhan| Penguin| Rs 499

Offshore business model, argue the authors, is not going anywhere it is the future of work. But, unlike automotive industry that judges its profits and solidity by numbers of car units sold, or telephone companies that count monies by number of minutes clocked, offshore companies work in ‘abstract’ terms. Terms that cannot be counted except maybe for two things, increase in employee headcount and two, increase in billings. If our business outsourcing companies are to grow, new revenue models need to be invented. It cannot suck the benign tax regime in India forever. In fact, the tax holiday is expiring, say the authors. Looks like its time for our BPO and IT industry to roll up its sleeves.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 22 January 2012)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »