29 November 2006

What Took Them So Long?

Finally the US media are calling a spade a spade. NBC, New York Times and some other news organisations have decided to call the situation in Iraq what it is - a fucking civil war! Of course the White House has objected. What does it matter what we call it? 3000 Iraqis are dying every month.

This reminds me of the cyclone that hit Orissa in 1999. Over 10,000 people died, and our MPs were busy debating whether the situation should be declared a "national calamity" or not!

13 November 2006

What Next?

What kind of change can we expect in the US's Iraq policy, after the mid-term polls and Rumsfeld's departure? George W Bush is still the President and the Commander-in-Chief for the next two years. So any change in the approach in Iraq is entirely in his hands. Will he be more flexible and open minded? Is he prepared to redefine "success in Iraq"?

There won't be any shortage of inputs. The new Defence Secretary was CIA Director under Bush Sr, so he should have some ideas. The Democrats are calling for a phased withdrawal/redeployment of troops over the next 18-24 months. Some of them are talking about "keeping troops in the region but not in Iraq", which seems a little bizarre to me. The Baker-Hamilton Committee might submit its report next month. That will be more comprehensive and coherent. But they seem to be pinning too much hope on some plan that involves Iraq's neighbours (including Iran and Syria).

Perhaps Dubya should ignore all this noise and just read Fareed Zakaria's article in Newsweek, which gives a realistic and sensible analysis of the situation - and a way out.

10 November 2006

A Vote For Change

I missed the action on Wednesday as I was attending a friend's wedding in Mysore. I came home late in the evening and switched on the TV to see the news: Democrats had taken the House (as expected), and the Senate was in the balance. Next day brought more good news: the Senate was in the bag as well (surprise!), and Rumsfeld was gone (too little, too late). Of course from India's point of view, it wasn't good news. The nuclear deal is now as good as dead. The irony is that while Bush was bad for America and the world, he was good for India.

The woman of the moment is Nancy Pelosi. She may be a she-dragon, but even her critics admire the way she has led her party of "wimps" to an emphatic victory. And finally, after 230 years, America has a woman Speaker.

What An Asshole!

Check out this guy.

03 November 2006

Ash Is Back

Aishwarya Rai is back today in 'Umrao Jaan', after a long hiatus. If you ignore 2004's 'Khakee' (in which she didn't have much screen time), her last big movie was 'Devdas' in 2002! Since then it's been a string of flops (Hum kisi se kam nahin, Dil ka rishta, Kuch na kaho, Kyun ho gaya na and Shabd), item numbers (23rd March 1931: Shaheed, Shakti: the power and Bunty aur Babli), art films (Chokher bali and Raincoat) and ill-advised overseas forays (Bride & prejudice and Mistress of spices).

The audience doesn't seem to mind. They still consider her Bollywood's #1 actress (check out India Today's bi-annual opinion polls if you don't believe me). I guess the rules are different for Ash. She is thin and has green eyes, you see. 'Umrao Jaan' also mark's Ash's return to India. Till now she's been busy trying to become an 'international' star - appearing in Cannes and on Oprah and David Letterman. Welcome home, Ash!

Ash has two more releases this year: 'Dhoom 2' and 'Guru'. How will these films fare? And how will they impact Ash's career? My predictions are:
Umrao Jaan - average
Dhoom 2 - big hit
Guru - average
Dhoom 2's success won't be due to Ash. In addition to riding on Dhoom 1's success, it has Hrithik and great locales. But still Ash, being Ash, will walk away with a significant part of the credit. As I said, the rules are different for her. What will be the impact of the movies' performance on her standing? It will further boost her #1 status. At worst she will remain #1 :-p

How long will Ash mania last? Perhaps another 2 years. Once she turns 35, she may no longer be hot property. That's why she's making hay while the sun shines. Get ready to see a lot of Ash in the next 2 years. Curiously she's playing a lot of historical characters: Mumtaz Mahal (The heart of India), Jodha Bai (Jodha-Akbar) and Jhansi Rani Lakshmibai (The rebel). It'll be a nice way to end her career, since she started it the same way: her first film was 'Iruvar' (1997), in which she played a character based on Puratchi Thazhaivi Dr J Jayalalithaa :-p

02 November 2006

What's In A Name?

Ok, the unthinkable has happened. My beloved Bangalore has become Bengaluru. What next? Bendakaluru?!

After Bombay, Calcutta and Madras were renamed I thought we Kandus were the only sane people left in the country. Now even we have lost our heads :-(

I agree that Kannada must be supported and encouraged. But this is not the way to do it. The language of Pampa and Basavanna does need the protection of illiterate politicians and incompetent bureaucrats. Renaming cities will do nothing for the cause of Kannada.

Besides, the move is meaningless. The name of the city was already Bengaluru in namma cheluva Kannada. 'Bangalore' was merely the Anglicised pronounciation of the same. We could have continued to have the two names. Why should we impose our pronounciation on others? The Bongs were nuts to 'rename' Calcutta as Kolkata. Atleast Chennai is a different name from Madras. And I won't even talk about the Shiv Sena.

Kannadigas are the most broad minded, tolerant and cosmopolitan people in India. This kind of chauvinism and parochialism go against our ethos. This is nothing but a gimmick by politicians to divert attention from the real issues: infrastructure, education and healthcare. In what way will a name change improve the life of ordinary Kannadigas?

This whole mess started when the Dharam Singh government was looking for ideas to celebrate Karnataka's golden jubilee. Of all people, U R Ananthamurthy came up with this suggestion. The do-nothing Dharam was only too happy to accept it. His government fell before Nov 1, but the JDS-BJP regime that succeeded him went ahead with the asinine move.