Manish Tewari, Jest in Time!

Posted by Tina on Monday Aug 26, 2013 Under Art & culture, Books, Current Affairs

“I want to be a stand-up comic, next”. Yes, that’s what the Minister of Information & Broadcasting said this bright and shiny Monday morning as a host of eminent personalities got together to celebrate something quite out of the ordinary. It was the launch of a collector’s item coffee table book commemorating 175 years of cartoons in the Times of India. Renowned cartoonists from across publications came together and collaborated on an iconic artwork right before our eyes. Neelabh and Ajit Ninan from the TOI, Sudhir Tailang (now with Deccan Chronicle), Manjul from DNA, Keshav from the Hindu, R Prasad of Mail Today and Jayanto from Hindustan Times. What was truly amazing was the fact that all these men, from rival publications came together for this event and put together a priceless canvas depicting the common man bearing the burden of the Indian parliament and its colourful members.

The book itself ‘Jest in Time’ largely celebrates RK Laxman’s Common Man and is a true delight! The mood at the event was lighthearted and the I & B minister chipped in with a few gags of his own! This despite the fact that all the satire on the canvas was directed at his government. Full marks for sense of humour, Mr Tewari.  And yours truly had the honours of hosting the event.  Yippee! It’s not every day that you get to see renowned artists from across spectrums collaborate on a work of art, live in front of you. SUPER FUN!

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The most awaited movie of 2012?

Posted by Tina on Sunday Jan 1, 2012 Under Books, Current Affairs, ShowBiz

It is not everyday that I become so obsessed with a work of fiction that I lie awake into the wee hours of the morning, trying to envision just how I would picturise it, had I been directing its movie adaptation. Alright, I’m weird, but put it down to a professional hazard where I’ve worked with multiple cameras and their infinite angles for over ten years now. And even then, I know what we have in television is child’s play compared to what is employed and can be achieved in movies. In TV the most complex camera set-up I have worked with is four cameras, five maybe including a Jimmy Jib. Sigh. The very thought of working with as many as twenty cameras for a single shot makes me quake with inspiration.

Which is why I just cannot let go of the imagery that The Hunger Games trilogy has embedded in my mind. Alright, go ahead and laugh. (Yeah, I know it’s meant to be young adult fiction but thankfully my favourite author of all time, Stephen King has quelled my inhibitions on that front, as he considers ‘young adult novel’ a dumbbell term that he puts right up there with ‘jumbo shrimp’ and ‘airline food’ in the oxymoron sweepstakes… Ha ha! Could anyone put it better?) Anyway, so young adult or not, thanks to my insatiable appetite for popular fiction, I do read whatever is taking the world by storm; be it the soppy, mushy Twilight series to the riveting and brilliant Millenium Trilogy to my latest obsession: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Some of you, family and friends, will groan because you’ve already heard me go on too much about this trilogy. So I’ll keep it short.

It is brilliant. It is evocative and it is thought-provoking in a way I never imagined ‘young adult fiction’ could be. Set several hundred years in the future, it is staged in the nightmarish country of Panem, where the annual highlight is a reality TV show called the Hunger Games, in which teenagers fight each other to the death. The concept might make your stomach turn, but believe me, the treatment won’t. Because author Suzanne Collins has woven the fabric of that world so intricately that one almost begins to view the Hunger Games as par for the course, just like the audience in Panem would. And the protagonists, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are so finely etched that one cannot help but feel emotionally engaged with them. And therein lies the secret to a great work of fiction, doesn’t it? Collins’ Katniss Everdeen is even more kick-ass than Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander – believe me – because she is simply more believable. And as for the baker’s son, Peeta Mellark, well I’d like him for breakfast any day.

The trilogy moves from the adrenaline-fuelled adventurous first novel, The Hunger Games, to the somewhat sluggish second one, Catching Fire, (which I must admit seems not much more than a means to bridge the first with the utterly brilliant third) to the concluding volume, Mockingjay. It is in this intelligent, complex and unsettling third book that one can truly appreciate the allegorical quality of the entire story; one that asks questions we are all too afraid to ask.

The likes of Entertainment Weekly and MTV have listed The Hunger Games – starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth – as the most anticipated movie of 2012. Gosh, I hope it does justice to Suzanne Collins’ book. Can’t wait for 23rd March.

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Roger is a freak of nature: Rafa

Posted by Tina on Thursday Oct 13, 2011 Under Books, Sports, Tennis

Yup. We’ve been suspecting it all along and finally, validation comes from the highest source itself. Roger Federer’s greatest rival and good friend Rafael Nadal has confirmed what we have known all along – that Roger is no mere mortal. I received my copy of ‘Rafa: My Story’ a few days back and much as I was engrossed in the third book of the Millenium Trilogy, I just had to put it down to start leafing through a tennis autobiography. I mean c’mon, first of all it is my favourite kind of book anyway – a sports autobiography (I’ve read them all, from Lance Armstrong’s It’s Not About The Bike to Steve Waugh’s Out Of My Comfort Zone, My Side by David Beckham to Andre Agassi’s much-lauded Open. Heck, I’ve even read Michael Atherton’s Opening Up, so you can imagine what a sucker I am for sports autobiographies!) So yeah, I put aside the nail-biting Hornet’s Nest and sank my teeth into Rafa’s story. And was rewarded with a few gems right at the start. Sample this:

All elite sports people do (play through pain much of the time). All except Federer. I’ve had to push and mould my body… but he just seems to have been born to play the game. His physique – his DNA – seems perfectly adapted to tennis, rendering him immune to the injuries the rest of us are deemed to put up with… You get these blessed freaks of nature in other sports too.”

Now you may call that sour grapes, but I call it the highest form of compliment. Basically, Rafa is likening Roger to a superhero who simply happens to be the best by virtue of being genetically superior. It is a fact that cannot be contested. You and I cannot fight Spiderman, can we? It’s a bit like that and I think it’s wonderful to have it come straight from the horse’s mouth, n’est-ce pas?

The early pages of the book so far also shed light on an unlikely friendship and mutual respect between the two on-court foes. It is heart-warming reading. It may not be scandalous or shocking like Agassi’s Open, but it is captivating alright because it delves deeply into the process of producing a world class champion athlete. Brilliant reading if you’re into that kind of endorphin-and-adrenaline-pumping stuff. This poor little good boy is no enfant terrible, so naturally, I wasn’t expecting a sex-drugs-n-rock-n-roll account in the first place, like I did with Agassi and Boris Becker. (Both of those books by the way, Open and The Player, are astoundingly revelatory and will leave you slack jawed with shock. Must read, if you haven’t already).  

Although I’m far from finished, the book seems to be much like Rafa himself: straight, uncomplicated and endearingly nerdy. :-)

PS: I also realised today that I am in serious danger of slipping behind the times. While playing Snakes N Ladders with my sons, I happened to comment “wow, you’re zooming ahead like Michael Schumacher!” to my elder one, who is all of four and a half years old. He looked at me quizzically and said, “Not Schumacher! Sebastian Vettel!” 

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It’s Raining Novels!

Posted by Tina on Monday Mar 14, 2011 Under Books, Personal

Okay, so I am chin deep in all sorts of work – from anchoring World Cup post match shows on DD Sports to finishing construction of my new house, from reviving my interest in art & painting to bringing up two boys and of course, writing.

Good old writing that happens to be my personal escape mechanism. My own, private means of teleportation that takes me into a different world; one where I can live vicariously and play God indulgently. It is liberating.

But. (You knew there was a ‘but’ coming, didn’t you? There just had to be a ‘but’.) The problem with me is that when I get hooked onto something, I don’t just enjoy it, I get obsessed. And then I overdo it. And I bite off more than I can chew. Seriously. There have been innumerable occasions in my life where I have felt I have discovered my true path, my raison d’etre if you will. Only to discover three months down the line that I am bored stiff. This pattern has applied itself with equal disdain to both, hobbies and people. Thankfully, however, I have also always managed to find a few lingering interests that have remained with me for years and will continue to do so. Like my obsession with sports that started at the age of eight and still persists like a teenage hangover. Or, ahem, my husband for that matter. Things (is a husband a thing?) that I love and passions that I know will be everlasting.

So now, about writing then. I first discovered the liberating, cathartic quality of fiction writing when I was about 15 years old. I remember waking up one morning, reeling from a particularly vivid dream that had caused me to toss and turn all night. It had been a nightmare of sorts – in the sense that it did involve spirits and contact with the netherworld. But it was also about friendship, teenage angst, sexual tension and heady adventure. Now that I think about it, it sounds the perfect recipe for a B-grade horror film. In fact, it sounds like Twilight. One and the same thing (ouch!). But I promise you, my book is nothing like Twilight, and I don’t care whether you consider that a good thing or a bad thing. Because it was written thirteen years before Twilight was published. As soon as I had woken up that morning in 1992, I had rushed to the phone and called my best friend, even before I had felt the need to brush my teeth or visit the toilet. Narrating it to her had felt that urgent. And I remember how I had recounted the entire dream, from beginning to end without so much as a whimper from her end. And when I finished, she had squealed in delight saying it was ‘the best story ever’. And that weekend she had come over to help me start what we had simply labeled ‘novel’.

Almost twenty years down the line, the ‘novel’ has now been christened ‘Dead End’ and is being reviewed by a genius of an editor who also happens to be a good friend. And in all probability, it will follow Running on Full as my next title from Rupa & Co. (Considering they initially suggested December 31, 2010 as the deadline for manuscript submission, I’m afraid I’m running a little late.) And that’s because we have hit a few roadblocks – my editor friend and I – so I’m not terribly sure when I will be in a position to submit a satisfactory first draft. Meanwhile, (and here’s where all that talk about obsessions comes in) I cannot stop writing! It is as if some alien beings have invaded my fingers and are causing them to type incessantly. At 3 am in the morning and 5 o’clock in the evening. All I ever want to do is write. Whenever I have a minute to myself, amidst all the chaos, the urge to perch myself in front of the desktop and start hammering away, is overwhelming. And my mind is working overtime too, spinning yarns by the dozens, stories jumping out at me in the dead of the night, causing me to throw off the covers and go racing to the computer like a patient with a bad case of gastroenteritis runs to the loo. As a result, I have a good half dozen synopses ready and am faced with a problem of plenty, much like the poor Indian cricket captain, MS Dhoni. (STOP using 7 batsmen just because you have them!)  

So now, even as Dead End is being tidied up, I have begun work on an outright bubble gum, chick-lit comedy called ‘Lifted’. (And by the way, these pictures are ‘working covers’ certainly NOT the final ones and maybe YOU all can help me decide which way to lean when we do finalise!) 

But meanwhile, there are so many other story ideas tugging at me like a noisy, insatiable brood of children that I fear I might lose my mind trying to write all of them simultaneously! I have enough projects to keep me busy for the next 12 years.

So what have I decided to do? Take the week off and do nothing but READ! :-)

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Tennis, anyone?

Posted by Tina on Monday Mar 1, 2010 Under Books, Personal, Sports, Tennis
I want to work on only tennis from now on. There, I said it. Pooh to all of you gasping with disbelief  ’Can an Indian sportsjournalist actually NOT want to work on cricket?’. Well, the answer is a resounding YES.  I’m soooo Goddamn fed up of it.  Its an overdose that makes me sick to the stomach and I can’t help but wonder how those poor sods who actually have to PLAY 365 days a year manage not to burn out.
Seriously. Our Indian cricket team plays so much cricket, it is inhuman. And everytime they play, we TV sports journalists get screwed writing, reporting, producing, editing and anchoring .. whatever. Every time we think there is some light at the end of the tunnel – that there are a couple of months on the calender which don’t have international cricket scheduled for the Men in Blue, the BCCI goes right ahead and pencils in another couple of tournaments. If no one else, then with Sri Lanka. Bangladesh. Anybody. They’ve got to milk the cow, right? Now, if the dairy industry (that’s us, sports journalists) is getting weary of this, think about the poor cow! True, they get paid millions to for their teats to be yanked, but how much can they really be enjoying it if they are subjected to it day in, day out, relentlessly without any break?
That holds true of any job. The more money they pay you, the more handcuffed you actually are because you get used to a certain standard of living, a certain lifestyle. Then even if you hate, say, playing cricket for India, you can’t exactly forego that one option that makes you Richie Rich. You think I’m talking crap? You think that every sporting superstar in the world wakes up clicking his heels with joy, thanking the Lord for putting him where he is? Nope.
Just read Andre Agassi’s autobiography Open. I don’t even like the guy, but I loved the book. Because it tells you so much about what goes on inside the mind of a world class professional athlete. He HATES tennis. All his life. But can’t figure out what else to do because he also loves his multi-million dollar endorsements. See? That’s the thing.
Which is what brings me back to my job. Ten years ago I quit an entire profession because I wanted to follow my dream of being a sports journalist. It was a piece of cake to chuck a job that I had no interest in (I taught art & illustration at NIFT, believe it or not) and go after what I had always loved – sport. I put myself through college again, worked part-time, got a break and got started. It was such fun for the first 5-6 years that I honestly don’t even know how the years flew by. And when you’re having that kind of fun at work, you usually are very good at it, so you get promotions and raises and suddenly you’re zooming up the ladder. Six years later I was heading the sports desk at a national news channel and being wooed by no less than 4 other networks to join them for obscence amounts of money.
Now then. A longish maternity sabbatical (2-3 years) later, I feel stuck again. I no longer enjoy it. Why? Well, maybe because after the one-year stint with a 24-hour Sports Channel, doing sports on a general news channel just doesn’t cut it. Here, sports is a small part of the overall scheme of things, important but not the raison d’etre, you know? And moreover, the ‘obscene’ amounts of money now just seem par for the course, even a pittance. That’s what I mean by handcuffs. When you get used to what those ‘peanuts’ can buy you, you are bound. Add to that two kids, a home loan, a car loan, a staff of five, a mandatory foreign holiday every year etc. etc.. and you are just screwed, my friend. Its not that I NEED to work, I can get by just fine even sitting at home, but that’s not the point. I LIKE earning and spending big. I actually LIKE WORKING, I do. The main reason I crawled out of hibernation after almost 3 years of changing diapers and warming milk bottles, was boredom. I’m not one of those people who can sit at home and do nothing. I envy those women who can. It must be so much simpler. But I just can’t. My husband was convinced that I was going stark raving mad at home, so he practically kicked me out the door and told me to make myself useful in the working world again.
Initially, it was great. But now, just six months later, I feel trapped. I feel like a factory worker – just show up at work and go through the same motions day after day after day. It wasn’t like this in a sports channel – there we were actually immersed in the live sport itself… that was in fact the most satisfying period of my life professionally. I hosted live cricket, signed autographs and set off flashbulbs everywhere I went and felt mostly thrilled about myself – but the real joy for me was that part of my job which practically went unnoticed in our cricket-mad nation… I produced and anchored all the WTA tennis action, the Davis Cup and the Fed Cup. And man, I was living my dream. Those who know me well know that I became a sports journalist because I loved sport, all sports, but tennis most of all. I still rabidly follow the sport like an obsessed 15-year-old. Its the only sport I follow rabidly like that, even though I actively enjoy watching many others.
So, what do I do? Sports news on a news channel I’ve really had my fill of. Honestly, I have. Everyone’s peddling the same old shit everyday, its so mindnumbingly boring. As for sports channels – the one I worked with earlier has now gone bust and the only other option that is broadcast in India is the Singapore based ESPN-Star. Will they have me? I don’t know. Will they take me onto their tennis team, more importantly? No idea. Can I even think of moving to another country, when I have a completely settled life here? Really don’t know. Just know that I’m trapped, bored and on the verge of committing professional harakiri.
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