Sunday, October 23, 2005


You meet the gorgeous man from ‘Pretty Woman’ and one of the first things he does is show you a tear in his trousers. Just as he was sitting down for the interview Richard Gere said to me, “I’m so jet-lagged and tired… look even my trousers are torn.” I just smiled and said, “Welcome to chennai.” (?? D’Oh!!?)

From then on I was determined to be a better conversationalist. The moments while your cameraman is checking the lights and sound are always extremely awkward. The interviewee is sitting right there in front of you and you’ve got to make easy conversation till you can abruptly start when you hear the word, “rolling”. What easy conversation do you make with Richard Gere? Turned out I didn’t have to worry about that. Gere is a seasoned TV interviewee.

He began to fill the space by beginning with, “Have we met before? You looked so familiar sitting there in the press conference.” (I was meeting him in an ante-room after his presser with Kamal Hassan, Parmeshwar Godrej and Kalanidhi Maran) I told him we hadn’t, although I was flattered for some reason. We started talking about this and that and he enquired about Dr. Prannoy Roy. But even as we talked, I began to get a bit fidgety because I was still not getting the green signal from my cameramen. Richard Gere immediately noticed that and wonderful gentleman that he is, asked me if the other people in the room were making me nervous. I assured him they weren’t and a nice woman from ABC news (cant remember her name now but her handshake is memorable… she was very strong), also chipped in with, “Its her cameramen who are making her nervous.”

Anyway, so the interview finally began. My introduction to camera was smooth and I set him talking about his mission of spreading awareness on HIV and AIDS. He has given these interviews many, many times so his sentences flowed like an extension of repeated thought. For an interviewer, that is always disheartening. Its as if your questions are not inspiring your interviewee to think anew about the same things.

However, I felt his body language change a little bit after the third question. I had kept the best questions for later. His reply was more spontaneous and thinking yet clear and concise. But just as I was settling in, his manager warned me that I could ask only one more question. My exclusive time with him had been eaten up by the technical delay.

So I shot my last question to which I think he gave me his most spontaneous answer. I was very pleased but had to wind up, at the point where I thought it was really getting interesting. Imagine my delight when he said, “I wish we had more time.” I could only say, “Me too.”

Incidentally, white hair and torn trousers have never looked more becoming on a man.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


You'd expect the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) to be an approachable, welcoming body, right? You'd expect it to have people who are benign, learned and kind, right? You'd expect it to be headed by persons who truly believe in an egalitarian society, right? And most of all, you'd expect it to have people willing to listen, right? Wrong.

I called the State Human Rights Commission in Chennai and asked to speak to one of its members - Justice S Thangaraj (former judge of the Madras High Court). When he came on the line, I wished him good afternoon, very politely, and introduced myself. Anyone who doesnt wish you back is strange. And he was. Undeterred I proceeded to ask him the status on a particular complaint and enquired when the investigation would be complete.

But instead of answering my questions, he began to yell at me! He ticked me off for nosing around and said I had no business filing such stories. Also, he made the bizarre allegation that I ought not to be calling him, but coming in person. So, if I was to land up at the SHRC office and find the venerable Justice S Thangaraj out of his seat, thats alright. Afterall, I have no business to try and speak with him on the phone before that!! It took me a moment to understand the ludicrous comment he had just made but when I finally recovered, to defend myself, he hung up on me mid-sentence and didnt pick up that line despite many attempts to call back.

My rationate is very simple - if this is how he treats me, this is probably how he treats people who appear before the Commission with complaints. And people who do are generally very poor, politically voiceless and deeply wronged. Upon such people we have unleashed the likes of Justice S Thangaraj.

Friday, October 14, 2005


Apologies to those who tuned in. The story must have been dropped at the last minute. Such are the vagaries of television news. Sigh... It did go on air today though. (14th), but guess what, i missed it too.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Okay.. Yet another update. Though i have the sinking feeling very few people will read this on time. The blogger story will go on air NOW. The latest I know is that its going on air on the 8 and 9 'o' clock bulletins on NDTV 24*7 on 13th October. Thats right - tonight.

But if you miss it - take heart. We are planning to do a longer story on blogging pegged around this issue. Do leave your thoughts here on possible angles to such a story.

The last time we did such a story I think there was some confusion on who the target audience should be. Should it be the vast majority who do not blog and thus run the risk of perhaps not getting them interested in the topic or do we talk to bloggers but run the risk of telling them things they already know. I guess like a good general news feature it should interest anyone - So how do you do that? Will be picking my brain over that.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


Recently a Tamil newspaper called ‘Dina Malar’ did something despicable to increase their sales. Their photographer, invited to cover a fashion show at a club called ‘Pasha’, trained his lens instead on couples on the dance floor. Close-ups of couples smooching and drinking were then splattered all over the newspaper - an utter and complete violation of journalistic ethic because it was a brazen invasion of privacy.

But before the outrage could even begin, the police stepped in and did something even more ridiculous. They arrested two staff members at the hotel where the pictures were taken! The charges against them were that they were permitting obscene behaviour and operating the bar without a license.

A favourite with Chennaiites - 'Pasha' will have to be on mute for the next three months according to court orders.

The police wants us to believe that the photographs of the smooches was the tip of the ice-berg. But hey…we all party and go clubbing. I have never seen anything that descends into something so obscene that people need to be arrested for it. 'Pasha' was made to appear like a den of vice, which it is not.

The buzz for a while was that the police was looking for the couples who were photographed kissing on the dance floor. Is anyone looking for that photographer?


I called Airport Enquiry at 11:45 pm on the night following the strike called by Left unions all over the country. All I needed was to find out when the Thai Airways flight from Colombo would land. A gruff sounding man answered the phone. I was at the wrong place, he said, but instead of giving me the correct number he hung up.

Dialing another number led to an ‘error in connection’ message. The third line was not in existence either. The fourth line I tried, a lady picked up the phone. She told me I was calling the wrong number and kindly gave me the right one. But that line didn’t exist as well! I called back the number with the same lady at the end of the line. She tried connecting me to Thai Airways – no reply. I tried the last enquiry number she gave me. Dead again.

Dipanker Mukherjee of the CPI(M) was in the NDTV studio, brandishing a document on their alternative to privatization of airports. They would do well to begin with a damn enquiry number that works.

Its difficult to be sympathetic towards government employees who promise to run your airports efficiently, when they can barely tell you whether a flight has landed.