Tuesday, July 31, 2007

BLOG INTERVIEW - Shiva Keshavan

Meet Shiva Keshavan. At 25, he's India's most famous luger and the most likely candidate to win the country a rare medal at the Winter Olympics.

A Winter Olympic sport since 1964, luge involves a high-speed sled ride through a semi-circular ice track.

At this young age, Keshavan's already a veteran - having taken part in three Winter Olympics and now preparing for his fourth at Vancouver 2010.

At Torino last year, he finished 25th - a creditable result considering only one second separated him from the gold medallist in terms of best lap time.

Moreover, Keshavan did it against all odds - no funding or help from a defunct national luge association. And he had to compete on an inferior-quality sled because he can't afford the best.

Because his mother is Italian, the Italians had even offered him citizenship but Keshavan refused. But disgusted with the state of affairs in India, the young luger has now set up his own sports federation to help fellow athletes.

But Keshavan told Toe Knee Unplugged he hadn't participated in any events last winter because he didn't have any funds to do so.

Here are some excerpts from the interview -

"I have not received any help from the Sports Ministry. My application for a grant of five lakh for five years was accepted but after the Olympics I have got no word from anybody. I suspect it is the well known bureaucracy that is so good at making funds vanish under its cloak."

"The winter sports federation IFISTS is in place. Bureaucracy has it that three years must pass before it gets any recognition."

"I did not participate in any race due to a total absence of funds last winter. I did maintain myself in form by training on my own. My performance in Torino gave me confidence in my potential to move further up the world rankings. I want to give the world's top some sweat at Vancouver 2010."

"I have not been in contact with the Italian team. Despite my part Italian origins, I feel a sense of belongingness to India and I think it is here that I can make a larger difference."

"I wanted to share the fact that I have not been given my certificate, medal and Olympian pin badge for my participation at the Torino Olympics. I am sure that it is a deliberate action and that athletes dedicting themselves to the glory of their country must be given more respect."

"I am currently in India and plan to remain here for some time. I would like to dedicate myself to sports development in India. I also hope to continue my training with adequate facilities and realise my true potential in luge."

"I am currently negotiating with a company for sponsorship so will not comment before something is finalised."

"I have completed my university with specialisation in international relations from the University of Florence. One of my main areas of interest was the role of non-government organisations. I also have an NGO of my own, La Giraffa which has done its share of projects not only in India."

Other Exclusive Interviews on this blog
Ravi Godse
Sona Mohapatra
Mahesh Dattani
Ruchi Narain

Monday, July 30, 2007

July 2007 Blog Mela

Falstaff is struck down by Paraphernalegia

8 by 52 was wonderstruck when her yoga teacher asked kya aapne shauch kiya?

Dilip D'Souza bumps into a flower lady

Bikkupedia is now addicted to all food Bengali

Great Bong waxes eloquent on Sonu Nigam's tryst with some Jha

Jabberwock describes the morons he met at Osian's Cinefan

Sassy Satan hangs out at Shibani Kashyap's hangout house

Suchitra Krishnamoorthi is perplexed by the sex buddy syndrome

Moonstruck Maniac thinks Vinod Khanna is the sexiest man in Bollywood

Black Muddy River muses on the death of the Harry Potter era

March 2007 Blog Mela
April 2007 Blog Mela
May 2007 Blog Mela
June 2007 Blog Mela

Osian's-Cinefan 2007: Satyajit Ray who?

Unfortunately, if Satyajit Ray were alive today and made his best film ever, it still may not get a place in a film festival.

Blasphemy? I don't think so. These words by German author and critic Klaus Eder do ring true.

Eder, FIPRESCI General Secretary and a jury member at the Osian's-Cinefan film festival 2007, said Hollywood was exerting too much pressure on Cannes, Venice and Berlin festivals. And leaving little space for films from India and Asia.

According to Eder, the Rome festival flew in Nicole Kidman for its opening ceremony while the Istanbul festival grabbed Gerard Depardieu. There's a tendency even in small film festivals today to look for celebrities, paying them obscene amounts and holding red-carpet events.

Eder's right. Thank God the Osian's-Cinefan film festival doesn't need a Bachchan or a Shahrukh to stir things up. Nandita Das and Konkona Sen are regular guests though and Hollywood is still a strict no-no. And there's no question of asking - Satyajit Ray who?

Exclusive Coverage of Osian's-Cinefan 2007 film festival

Osian's-Cinefan 2007: Konkona Sen

Some excerpts from Konkona Sen's interactive session at Osian's-Cinefan film festival 2007 -

I am a very shy person and find it very strange when people I don't know walk up to me and start talking. Sometimes they are very boring

I don't feel I belong to any industry. I am aware of my space as an individual

I was adamant about having bound scripts. Then I found some people don't write a good script but make wonderful films

I nearly died when I looked at my costumes and dialogues for Traffic Signal. I kept pronouncing 'bhadve' as 'bhavre'

While preparing for Mr and Mrs Iyer, I practised the accent by playing the dialogues back on tape. I used to practise the Tam Bram accent with Mom even while shopping

I was very nervous during Omkara. The dialogues were in the western UP dialect. And at the time, I thought I sucked.

Exclusive Coverage of Osian's-Cinefan 2007 film festival

Osian's-Cinefan 2007: The Awards

Indian Competition
BEST FILM: Paruthiveeran

BEST ACTOR: Kay Kay Menon for Shoonya

BEST ACTRESS: Priyamani for Paruthiveeran


Asian and Arab Competition
BEST FILM: Desert Dream

BEST ACTOR: Lotfi Abdelli for Making Of

BEST ACTRESS: Cherry Pie Picache for Foster Child

JURY AWARD: Lonesome Trees and Making Of

Other Awards
FIRST FEATURE: Crossing the Dust and Woven Stories of the Other


NETPAC AWARD: Dancing Bells

Exclusive Coverage of Osian's-Cinefan 2007 film festival

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Osian's-Cinefan 2007: Of guards and ushers

Well, there's no beating the security guards at Siri Fort Auditorium no matter who you are. Food and drinks are NOT allowed inside. VJ-turned-actor Ranvir Shorey learned this the hard way this week when a guard forced him to chuck his Fountain Pepsi before allowing him to enter.

Would just love the look on Shahrukh Khan's face if a guard did this to him at the Osian's-Cinefan film festival.

Am sure Manoj Bajpai would agree. After all, he's been a regular at Siri Fort in his student days, working as an usher to earn money while dabbling in theatre. In fact, it was within these hallowed walls that he first watched Heat and Dust.

Is that why his film Return to Rajapur seems so much like a remake of the Merchant-Ivory film? Try telling that to him. He just wouldn't agree.

On the whole, Osian's-Cinefan has been fun. Especially the kind of stuff I have been hearing from fellow audience members. One ecstatic girl pointed to IIPM head Arindam Chaudhuri and wondered aloud how he looks like Bipasha Basu's twin.

A couple of middle-aged aunts tut-tutted during Rupa Ganguly's lesbian romp in Jara Brishtie Bhijechilo. How Draupadi has changed, they must have been wondering.

And while Shoonya was being screened, the man sitting next to me fell asleep and started snoring. Now, it's a very serious film with several pregnant moments of silence. So, you can easily imagine the giggles that broke out when this man's snores echoed in the auditorium in tandem with the action on screen.

Can't blame the poor guy though. Watching up to four films on a daily basis is tough work and by the night show, one is prone to frequent spells of yawning. But it's just a matter of ten days, right? Sleep can wait for now. Films are more important.

Exclusive Coverage of Osian's-Cinefan 2007 film festival

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Osian's Cinefan: Vivek Oberoi or superstar?

Vivek Oberoi is no Shahrukh Khan, but judging by the media attention he got at the Osian's-Cinefan film festival in New Delhi, this Bollywood actor has reasons to be happy.

Not so the media.

Reporters and cameramen, waiting patiently in the VIP Lounge Room to interview Vivek (yes, he's back to spelling his name this way) got a rude shock when the actor waltzed in an hour late and then slipped out through the back door.

Apparently, he had used the stage entrance to go directly to the auditorium where his film Omkara was being screened on Wednesday night.

One television reporter had been pushed in the melee and she blew her top. Even the other mediapersons were having none of it. One irate correspondent remarked that this had also happened on Day One when Manisha Koirala escaped the paparazzi.

The PR team avoided a fracas by getting Vivek to meet the press in the foyer following his Omkara introduction. The poor guy was quickly surrounded by the press and over the next 20 minutes, complained frequently of "feeling claustrophobic".

That's still a small price to pay for being courted by the media, right?

Overheard: If a nobody like Vivek Oberoi shows such nakhras, what will we do if Amitabh Bachchan or Shahrukh turn up at Osian's-Cinefan film festival?

Exclusive Coverage of Osian's-Cinefan 2007 film festival

Osian's-Cinefan 2007: Driving to Zigzigland

Zigzigland. Where's that? It's an island just off the southern tip of South America and had been formerly under Japanese rule.

Stumped? Don't look for the atlas just yet. It's not a real country.

Driving to Zigzigland, screened at the 2007 edition of the Osian's-Cinefan film festival in New Delhi, chronicles a day in the life of Basher, a Palestinian taxi-driver trying to make it big in Hollywood.

When his passengers ask him where he's from, Basher says he's from 'Zigzigland'. Not because he's afraid of admitting he's Palestinian. But because of the inevitable question that follows - isn't that "where suicide bombers come from"?

Surprisingly, Basher's passengers often believe he's from Zigzigland. And blame their ignorance on poor knowledge of geography.

For the taxi-driver, Zigzigland is a country where citizens respect other people and there's always enough money to pay utility bills (unlike Basher in Los Angeles). The film depicts him trying to desperately raise a thousand dollars to stop the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from deporting him.

The low-budget film, based on a true story, explores how being an Arab guy in the U.S. is no longer easy after the 9/11 attacks.

Stereotypes against Arabs abound. When he turns up at film auditions, Basher keeps turning down roles that require him to play a terrorist. In another scene, an FBI agent asks Basher if he knows anyone planning jehad. And one lady passenger, unwilling to pay the fare, tells police Basher had kidnapped her.

Amazingly, several actors in Driving to Zigzigland portray themselves and their experiences on screen. Basher Da'as puts in an amazing performance in a role made even more spectacular thanks to a brilliant screenplay.

Director Nicole Ballivian, who's married to Basher in both real and reel life, says the film stays true to life except for its denouement - Basher was never actually deported.

"In real life, the FBI agent asked me questions. Not Basher. And we still have no idea why... I have so many Indian friends back home and even they face this kind of problem".
As for the screening, despite a rousing response from the audience, Nicole was a bit disappointed with the sound quality at the Osian's-Cinefan film festival.

"It was frustrating not to properly hear the narration," she told Toe Knee Unplugged.

Basher, in his inimitable style, says he looks forward to working in Bollywood films. And does an impromptu jig to prove he's a good candidate.

"I always wanted to visit India. In fact, because of my surname (Da'as) people keep asking me if I'm Indian".

Exclusive coverage of Osian's-Cinefan 2007 on this blog

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Adam moos better than Amit Varma's cows

Yup, he does. Adam, the official cow on RJ Sarthak's show on Hit 95 FM, seems to be drawing a lot of attention these days. You gotta hear him moo whenever a caller loses Sarthak's 9-second nailbiter challenge. It's a treat for the eardrums.

Amit Varma may be the blog world's foremost authority on cows but Adam kinda beats him hollow on the radio waves.

Delhi's "all talk" radio station
Getting high on Fever 104
Ten hits in a row, anyone?

Osian's-Cinefan 2007: Boring start

One would think organisers would have learnt from past mistakes. After all, this was the ninth edition of the Osian's-Cinefan film festival in New Delhi and its biggest yet.


The opening ceremony was as tedious as ever. This time around, Neville Tuli had roped in Roysten Abel and his troupe of street magicians to enthral viewers at Siri Fort.

Abel's 'The Magic of Freedom' even had a blues band playing in the background. But barring the female vocalist, the show had little to offer by way of entertainment. Even the magic tricks were old hat. And a tad too long.

Just when half the audience had been lulled into a sleep-induced torpor, emcee Rajit Kapoor stepped in to announce that the opening film would be screened shortly.


After a round of lengthy speeches, during which several jury members were paraded on stage, the lights dimmed and the global premiere of the Iran-Azerbaijan feature Raami got underway.

Unfortunately, Babak Shirinsefat's film failed to live up to expectations. This esoteric work based on the Qarahbagh conflict and lovers of an ancient era didn't find favour with several in the audience.


The number of people seated in my row disappeared faster than you could say "Roysten Abel's magic". What Abel could not achieve, Raami did - people fled the auditorium at regular intervals. Raami's director and leading actors, who had specially flown in for the premiere, would surely have been disappointed.

Day One had proved to be a damp squib. Will the next nine days at Osian's-Cinefan 2007 be better?

Do check out Jabberwock's must-see list of films at this year's fest.

Spotted Manisha Koirala on the run, trying to avoid the paparazzi.
Spotted Gul Panag baring her back, flaunting a tiny tattoo.
Spotted Divya Dutta in a pensive mood, wishing she was in Koirala's shoes

Thursday, July 12, 2007

It's raining reality TV singing contests in India

Ya, and this is just the right time to make it big in showbiz whether you are the hymn-singing kind or part of the bathroom singer gang.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

June 2007 Blog Mela

Here at last is the long delayed June Blog Mela. All complaints should be directed at my computer, which has been operating in fits and starts this fortnight.

Dilip D'Souza indulges in some non-name dropping

Falstaff thinks Nakul and Sahadev are the R2D2 of the Mahabharat

Rashmi Bansal wonders kitne aadmi gay

Presstalk wants to know if NDTV is supporting Hillary Clinton

Bikkupedia goes to Ramgarh

Rahul Khanna reveals more about his journey from rookie renter to serial subletter

Great Bong endeavours to say "Meow" as masculinely as possible on radio

Anand Ramachandran reports on the Tamil Nadu government's new cooling glass rule

Teesra Pahiya encounters two tough cookies on the Rickshaw Run

AB battles chicken pox and uses an umbrella

SMI writes a letter on her third wedding anniversary

Moonstruck Maniac mourns the death of Indian cinema

March 2007 Blog Mela
April 2007 Blog Mela
May 2007 Blog Mela

Did you just come across a quirky, interesting or something-that-tugs-at-your-heartstrings blog? If yes, feel free to nominate it for this month's Blog Mela being hosted here on July 26

Blog Mela Rules
- Posts must have been written by Indians or have an Indian angle
- Only posts published between 1-22 July, 2007 would be accepted
- If possible, please nominate individual posts, not the whole blog
- Feel free to nominate something you have written. Immodesty appreciated
- You can nominate as many blog posts as you like - provided you really like them
- Only nominations received before midnight on July 22 will be featured
- No, you don't get any moolah for nominating or getting featured in the Blog Mela. That could change once I am a millionaire but for now you'll just have to bear with me
- Yours truly reserves the right to nominate good posts which you ignore

How to Nominate
- Leave a comment on this post OR better still - Mail me at toeknee (at) gmail (dot) com

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