Thursday, December 15, 2016


A new graphic adaptation of the celebrated Indian epic The Mahabharata narrated through three distinct perspectives- Book-1 though the point of view of Sahadeva, the youngest of the fabled Pandavas, Book-2 through the blindfolded eyes of Gandhari, the disillusioned Kaurava mother, and Book-3 as seen by Krishna, the intuitive game changer discredited as the master manipulator.

The Clairvoyant

Monday, November 2, 2015


Oh for the love of god, now they want to shoot down our sense of humor too? Even at the rate of one new ban every day, who though it would eventually come down on the timeless Santa- Banta jokes! A new petition has gone to the Supreme Court to ban all Sardarji jokes, as they are “a violation of their right to equality with fellow citizens and an attack on the dignity of the community”.

Anybody in the know of even a single Sardarji would vouch for the fact that they are a happy lot that can take far more than these silly jibes in a stride. So the new ‘concern’ came as quite a shock. But in the wake of deteriorating national tolerance towards every sneeze and hiccup heard above the permissible sound limit, why should just the Sardarjis take a back seat? Even if, by this logic, all the Mallus, Gujjus, Biharis and Bongs follow suit and get all touchy about jokes on their respective stereotypes. Prohibition is the trend. Be it beef, porn or alternative perspectives on religious or societal beliefs. And it seems to work every time! So why not!

Have you ever wondered as to why we do it? Actually, who are we afraid of? Why does it matter so much that somebody does things differently than you? Have food different from yours? Looks at things differently? Dress differently? Isn’t it enough that they don’t force you into their ways? Why force them into yours? Wasn’t diversity a part of all the fun in living? Yet we are hell bent on beating the twisted twigs straight. And these days the so called beating are happening at the drop of a hat and way too often. So down in the doldrums are our tolerance for others’ taste and preferences, that at the very sight of a slight difference in opinion we file a petition to ban the behavior. Whatever happened to the venerable maxim ‘live and let live’? As if philosophy could change a disease, right?

The show runners of our country are obviously encouraging a gigantic psychological disorder the head doctors sweetly associate with raging control freaks- a sickness that prompt them to use power and pressure over others and manipulate them to change so as to avoid having to change themselves- in brief, ‘my way or the highway’, and today, the intolerance is on an all time high. Every day a new ban is restricting our freedom a little bit more, and we are slowly moving towards the point were everything is pretty much going to be illegal. The damage with which this 'Ban'ger has been defacing the general idea of our freedom is going way beyond help.

As is to be understood from the diverse spectrum of various bans in all possible existing areas that has cropped over time, these interfering urges are not just because of the relentless messiah-complex to make the world a better place for our kids by screening evil. More often than not they are clearly cheered by the vested interests of various groups to fulfill their political ambitions, however deeply rooted within our faiths and values they make them seem. This they gain by exploiting our insecurities and fear of change, which we have in abundance. That we have been successful one too many times in banning things has also encouraged this tattle-tail behavior that once back in kindergarten cheered us to tell on our friend who was having all the fun we didn’t dare to. If it was easy to stop heeding to these petitions arising from conservatism, things would have been simple. But constitutional right to freedom of speech goes both ways. And everybody deserves to be heard (only, not taken seriously). If at all there was a way to distinguish between these meaningless pleas and the real valid ones!

However, ever since it has been life threatening to eat beef, no news on human intolerance seems silly after all.
Without the Santa-Banta jokes, I guess, we’ll learn to live eventually.

Sunday, February 1, 2015


We are unique. And cultured, and well bred too. We are god fearing, and know which god to turn to, and when. We are taught our roles in society very early in our lives. We are polite and respectful of our elders. We act for the larger good of the family, and value their opinion even when it comes to that collective decision as to whom each one of us should marry. It might all sound a bit challenging but not so much when you see everybody else around you doing it without much ado. We know what to accept and what to rebuff, and what to shut our eyes to. We are quite a piece of art, really, classical maybe, but beautiful every time, as façade was always a priority. Keep up the good face, as other people don’t have to know what’s troubling you inside.

We are pretty creative too. We are a nation obsessed with art, and music, and dance, and theatre, and films, and we have pretty strong opinions about each one of them as we see them not just as art forms but also as medium of expression. So what do we do when any of them stray from the said code that we were raised on, when they dare to express what challenges the “culture”? Questions our beliefs? Mars our image? We immediately yield to that hard trained instinct.
We shut our eyes!
Or we ban them!
So that we don’t have to deal with it. It’s much simpler that way, trust us. You could call it escapism or opportunism. We simply hate to wash our dirty laundry in public. So anybody who dares to express “unpleasant” truths will be shown his place. Hope, you still remember what happened to Uber taxi, Satanic Verses, Comedy Central and homosexuals.

We might be a free nation, but freedom of expression with us has always been a dubious area, as our Independence of 68 years is yet to figure that part out- the expression part. You express it through art, books or films; some of us invariably find a way to drive in the ban nail every time you jump the “culture” gun. Of the lot, films have more often than not been on the receiving end, as it obviously makes a deeper impact on public psyche capable of attracting wider attention when compared to any other media.

India is one of the very few democracies that practice censorship on films, and that too with the unkind vigilance of witch hunters. A huge violation of the basic rights of free man, censorship was launched as a part of the British colonial authority to keep a check on the voices that dared to question the queen- a purely and puritanically medieval enforcement.

In the light of the most recent controversy about the Censor Board being overruled by the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal in the case of a film, and the following brouhaha about the resignation of the board’s chief along with twelve others has in fact resurrected once again the age-old question about the very relevance of the board.
Do we still need it?
Isn’t it time already to shoot down the very idea?
Isn’t it enough that the board’s responsibilities be limited to just certifying films as age appropriate?

Banned for its "vulgar & offensive" sexual content
So long as we work within the broader domain of decency and public interest, do we really need the clippers to keep a check on us? A panel that insists on flashing “smoking kills” every time somebody lights a cigarette onscreen shouldn’t be the ones that dictate what deserves to be watched and what not! (There couldn’t have been a more adolescent approach to tackling health issues, worse still at the cost of somebody’s artistic creation). Why should a “selected” few have an upper hand over some poor man’s sweat and toil of months or perhaps even years in certain cases? Is it too much to ask for seeing it only as an individual’s view or that of a small group? How low has the level of our tolerance plunged to?
Banned in fear of triggering communal violence
Veteran filmmakers of the likes of Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Shyam Benegal and Mrinal Sen have vehemently been against this “outdated institution, which serves only a negative role” as “it depends a lot on the opinions of various people in power and position”.

What are the deciding factors that regulate censoring parts of a film or banning it as a whole? Offensive language? Unflinching depiction of sex? Nudity? Violence? Its capacity to create religious disharmony, or political unrest? Or all of it?

Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen was initially banned by the Censor Board not especially for the offensive language, or the brutally realistic depiction of rape, as they undoubtedly was covered by the ‘A’ (Adult)- certification. The film raised numerous questions about prevailing inequalities in our society, and so it was banned for its potential to rake up a political disruption! The ludicrous reasons for the initial ban on Gulzar’s Aandhi was the striking similarity between the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the film’s protagonist who takes to drinking and smoking during traumatic election campaigns.

Following the initial ban for its sexual content, Mira Nair’s Kamasutra- A Tale of Love had to be released with 2 minute cut of nudity in spite of an ‘A’ certificate.

There always seems to be an agenda behind the forces that operate the cleaver, and it more often than not has been observed to come from primitive meaningless urges. Urges of any Mahesh, Suresh or Ramesh. International filmmakers have frequently refused bowing to these urges, disagreeing with the board’s decree to disfigure their films. When Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan was blocked by the Censor Board for excessive violence, he decided not to release it in India altogether, which is when the case was reconsidered and with the intervention of the then Home Minister the film subsequently released. More recently David Lynch’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo faced a similar ban, this time for graphic depiction of rape, and the film was cancelled release when the director refused the stipulated cuts. Isn’t it a bit too outmoded in this day and age when the Internet has made the decorous intentions of censor board redundant with accessibility to any material world over just a click away?
At the end of the day it’s only an individual’s choice as to which film to watch, as there always is an option not to, or better still, stop watching right when it starts getting offensive or tasteless for you. But when there is a faction of people in general and the film fraternity in particular that insists on having the Censor Board in tact in order to avoid “total moral disintegration” of society, it’s hard to break free from those iron cuffs that has so bound our Human Rights for years. Maybe we probably are yet to emerge from the societal conditioning that we need surveillance on our every step, that parental correcting, or maybe the attitude of servility that the British Raj has created in our minds is still lurking in the genes as dogged masochism. But say what you want, or think what you will as we are unique. And cultured, and well bred, and perfect and everything. And that’s all that matters.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

TOP TEN BIRIYANIS you must try before you croak!

From the perplexing grain of culinary variations lapping across the subcontinent, if one were to pick a national dish for India, it would be sacrilegious to overlook the prospect of the ubiquitous Biryani as a strong contender with its countless variations conforming to a generous rate of not less than one from each province. There’s not another exclusive dish from the diverse cuisine of the fiery Indian palette that stands a fighting chance against this phenomenon as far as popularity and countrywide consensus goes.

If one were to superficially examine the many versions of its famously disputed origin, Biryani has two unrelated derivations, one that leans more towards the royal rearing in the Mughal kitchen and the other that it swam across the Arabian Sea to the Malabar Coast with the Arabs, and although it traditionally started off as a spicy lamb-based rice dish, there came into being, chicken, beef, egg, fish, prawns and vegetable variants of the same over time. They also spread through the length and breadth of the peninsula adapting to local tastes resulting in a range of remarkable offshoots, each speaking volumes about the province it comes from. Following is the top ten of the best regional variations available... plunge in!

10. Moti Biryani

In this biryani from the Nawabi Kitchen, the customary chunks of meat is replaced by small koftas (dumplings) made from minced meat that is first steamed and then coated with chandi vark (edible silver), and without simmering in the masala, is assembled in layers before the final baking with saffron flavored rice. These small beads of meat that melt in your mouth and resemble pearls (moti) with the silver coating, gives the biryani its name. 

9. Bhatkali Biryani

A Karnataka specialty from the Konkan coast, this variant uses more than any else, a generous amount of onion in the masala, and often cooked in the non-dum style as well. Apart from the fact that it employs curry leaves, which is a common South Indian practice; the rice here is cooked without a drop of ghee or oil! Good news for the really health conscious Biryani lovers! The only sad part is, there are very few restaurants that serve it, and to get a genuine portion, one might have to take a ride to the coastal town of Bhatkal for all you know.

8. Sindhi Biryani

This Biryani variant hails from Sindh province in Pakistan and has potatoes and prunes as characteristic departures in the ingredients, which along with mint and sour yoghurt are prepared in a spicy hot masala. The masala to rice ratio here is slightly more than any other type.
Sindhi Biryani is perhaps the most consumed dish in Pakistan and is very popular in India as well.

7. Bohri Biryani

When compared to Sindhi Biryani, the Bohri variety is more fragrant and less spicy. This type comes from the Bohra Muslim community in Gujarat, most particularly from Surat, and has largely migrated to Bombay making it a present day stronghold. Bohri Biryani is generously sprinkled with cashews and apricot, typical of the enigmatic Bohri cusine, and could only be trusted for an original right from a Bohra household.

6. Moradabadi Biryani

Coming from Moradabad, in Uttar Pradesh, known for the brass and handicraft industry, this genus is liberally dotted with cumin seeds and is hot with the zing of whole green chilies. Every essence of the taste here except the fire of the chilies is so subtle that even the change in water apparently makes a difference to the end result. Bastardized version of this type is the most popular street side Biryanis available in Delhi.

5. Kolkata Biryani

This type of Biryani from the eastern state of West Bengal, like the Sindhi and Bohri versions, uses diced potatoes along with meat and rice in addition to the regular mixture of spices used in the Nawabi Biryani of Lucknow. But Potato was initially used as a cheaper substitute for meat, which stayed on even when the patrons prospered.

4. Ambur Biryani

Coming from the Ambur region of Tamil Nadu, that essentially has more number of biryani shops per square kilometer than any other town in India, the difference in this type primarily lies in the small-grained Seeraga Samba rice that is used here as opposed to the long grained basmati rice. Here the flavors are subtle, and is more often than not eaten with a spicy brinjal curry.

3. Malabar Biryani

Variously known as Thalassery Biryani and Kozhikodan Biriyani, this Malabari variant of Biryani uses a small-grained fragrant rice (Khyma) similar to the one used for the Amburi variety, and is predominantly relished throughout the southern state of Kerala. Another important factor is the omission of yoghurt and the increasing quantity of fresh mint and coriander leaves in the meat masala. This type however has no association to the Mughals whatsoever, instead came via Arabs through the Arabian Sea.

2. Awadhi Biryani

Also known as the Nawabi Biryani as well as Lucknowi Biryani, the Awadhi kind involves the baking of alternate layers of half cooked rice and half cooked masala over slow flame. Marinating the meat is a key to make it succulent in the end. This is also the best form of the Mughlai types that has retained the ‘subtlety in richness’ of their cooking.
This subtle flavored type is also where the Kolkata variant took off along with an exiled ruler.

1. Hyderabadi Biryani

No prize for guessing this one, as this particular gastronomical delight is the only species that made it to the comprehensive Top Ten Indian Dishes you must try before you croak list. The Nizam’s of Hyderabad are credited for this lip-smacking outcome of the blend between the original Mughal recipe and the ethnic Andhra cuisine.

Now for the real Biriyani buffs, there are lot more different varieties you must dig into, just in case you haven’t already, that is! Beary Biryani, Memoni Biryani, Vaniyambadi Biryani, Andhra Biryani, Bombay Biryani, Kolhapuri Biryani, Kalyani Biryani, Cubbonpet Biryani, Ranipet Biryani, Delhi Biryani, Punjabi Biryani, Virani Biryani, Palakkad Rawther Biryani and many more including a host of non-Indian ones as well.

In addition to these there is also the Tahri biryani, which is vegetarian alternative to any of the variety mentioned above.
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