Magician In The Desert – Day 1782

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Meru Cabs A True Story by Gaurav Rao tells the story of Neeraj Gupta, who at age 32 became the founder and Managing Director of India’s first and largest Radio Taxi Company, Meru Cabs.
Starting from a garage in the year 2997 with a borrowed capital of 50,000 by 2011 Gupta had created an empire valued st 2000 crores.
The book is a journey into the mind of a genius, his strategies, his principle, his interpersonal relationships with his clients and his team.
Published by Bloomsbury the book is a must-read for every startup company.

Lockdown Day 5 – Day 1781

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Lesson: Self Reliance

A writer has a lot to occupy her mind and time, m Radio channel Big FM decided that we reinvent the review show with a section called Classic where I will review the memorable vintage films. They asked me to get cracking instantly. In normal circumstances when I arrive at the recording studio it takes me ten minutes to complete the audio recording and about half an hour with all the technical glitches to complete the video recordings.

Post the recordings are the promo shoots, the stills and then back home to put it all on the social media. Friday for all film critics is an exhausting day but also an exhilarating day and now suddenly there is silence. My program head tells me I will have to do all the recordings on my own using the iPhone. I am petrified but I have no choice.  Through trial and error, I learn to position myself, learn to rectify my eye contact and finally learn to use first the microphone and later the camera to record myself. I have to do it a number of times before it is good enough to be posted but before that I have to learn the uploading which takes ages but is finally done.  Corona virus has taught me self-reliance and I’m hoping the coming week will be as productive as this one.


Lockdown Day 4 – Day 1780

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Lesson: No risk

On 25 March the Prime Mister addresses the people of the country again, says we did a great job in observing the weekend lockdown and prepares us for a fortnight lockdown, says it is necessary for the safety of our lives and those we love. His message is strong, stay indoors. The media offices are aware of what is coming and have held important meeting with teams on how to operate from home retaining social distance. So far, it was all about social media, now everyone was talking about virtual events, virtual launches even virtual breakfast and dinners.

 I know of many events that were cancelled and slowly came the big halt, the malls, the cinema halls, fine dining, shopping streets and more. Most of us listened to the Prime Minister and stayed indoors and so many didn’t and indulged in evening walks, pet walks, sitting in the building verandah and that is when the police came out with lathis threatening to attack all unless they stayed indoors.

Lesson of the day was isolation was for real, no indulgences, no risks, no contact with who so ever and everyone had to learn to plan their days and remain positive.  Before going to bed I listed calls I had to make, articles I had to write and house chores I has to accomplish. By evening I was exhausted so watched TV, ate my dinner and fell asleep.


Lockdown Day 3 – Day 1779

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Lesson: Be positive

At the grocers there were many like me with long lists on a piece of paper and to most of the things asked, an over exhausted Chedda bhai shook his head and said “Sorry it is over”. When he finally focused attention to me, I was fortunate to cover most of the groceries on my list and I think this is only because my demand of quantity was lower.  When an older woman asked when will the new stock arrive, Chedda bhai stated a few days later adding with full confidence that corona virus is leaving the country in the next four days. How does the grocer know and how can he announce this so casually like he is the health minister?

On reaching home the security guard says people are unnecessarily panicking why must they worry when there is a prime minister to protect us, so many times  there have been threats of  flu and conjunctivitis but did  anything happen, nothing will happen to anybody so best is to enjoy life and not worry about the future.

Lesson of the day is to remain positive but not be over confident, we don’t have all the answers as yet and till then we need to wait and watch…. 


Lockdown Day 2 – Day 1778

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Lesson: No panic

The following days apparently looked like normal days but something was not right, the roads looked more or less empty and wherever you went people discussed corona virus. Some said the fear was exaggerated and we should continue to live our lives as naturally as we do while some said caution was necessary and we must get ready to exercise restraint for a long, long time. Friends advised that I stock up the kitchen, the Frigidaire, banks advised that I withdraw money and keep it home for safety, driver advised that we fill up the tank and the chemist called to say if I needed to order more medicines.

I learnt that there was no need to panic but there was no need to ignore the suggestions either, so connected with the bank, the chemist, filled petrol and visited the groceries shop because he had no time to pick up phones forget about delivering the groceries.


Lockdown Day 1 – Day 1777

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Lesson: Be fair

The first time Prime Minister Narendra Modi makes an appeal on national television and asks us to stay home for the weekend, I thought it was going to be simple. The domestic staff will get the required rest and able to spend time with their respective families.  I was content to eat the food cooked by my maid and spent majority of the time punching on the computer. In the morning, I was happy to see my staff after two days and we quickly got down to complete all the pending chores both at home and outside.

I learnt that life has to be fair if all of us get the weekends off from our offices then why not the staff, I began wondering if I should give then at least a fortnightly off if not a weekly off. They say be careful what you think, feel and say because the universe has a way of making it come true.


Review – State of Seige – Day 1776

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 Thoroughly Engaging

State of Seige

Streaming on Zee 5

Genre: Action

Producer: Contiloe Pictures

Cast: Arjan Bajwa, Arjun Bijlani, Mukul Dev, Tara Alisha berry, Vivek Dahiya

By Bhawana Somaaya

In a dark alley of a neighbor land, a young lad limps his way to a jaded door carrying a basket of tea glasses. Fear grips you as he is cautiously led inside and emerges a while later, limping back into the darkness he came from. It is twelve years since the gruesome attack in 2008 and while the scars may never fade, we have sought justification through books, documentaries and some movies. A lot of questions have been answered but a lot still remains unanswered.

Contiloe Pictures State of Seige: 26/11 is inspired from Sundeep Unnithan’s Black Tornado: The Three Seiges of Mumbai 26/11 and gives a blow by blow account of how an ordinary day destroyed an entire city. Divided into eight gripping episodes the narrative begins in Pakistan where ten lads carrying military weapons in backpacks jump out of a boat in the darkness of night at the Indian shores and destroy our peace forever. They walk into the streets and divide into separate groups, travel by public transport to different destinations.

The first attack is at Leopold Café then CST station and before anybody could get a grip of what’s going on, the war is declared. The frenzy inside the café and the shot of a little boy inside the local train holding on to his ice candy staring at the terrorists prepare to shoot sends shivers down your spine.

Episode 3 where the terrorists jump over the gates inside Cama Hospital and confused why the building is plunged into darkness is the most sensitive and also the most terrifying because an operation is in progress and cannot be interrupted and a pregnant woman has that very moment gone into labour.

State of Seige: 26/11 is about the making of a terrorist where the fundamentalists in the name of jihaad manipulate young minds and turn them into criminals. By the time they realize they are manipulated, it is too late. The last two episodes capture the counter strike and the commandos. The rescue operation of the hostages is a replay of the news footage we have watched on television and it is all very painful.

Every frame is diligently designed, superbly shot on mostly real locations with natural lighting, the casting and writing are disturbingly realistic. The director is careful not to gloss over the violence or the tragedy, fortunately he does not sermonize on nationalism. The docudrama is effective because it tells the story without fuss or frill. All the performances are restrained and yet the impact is overpowering. The blood splattered on the Taj Mahal Hotel floor, the mayhem in the lobby and the carpeted staircase.

 Mobile and land line phones in different ring tones keep shrilling in the background as the camera travels different floors and rooms. Fear filled eyes of hostages hiding inside cupboards, beneath beds, below the table, dead bodies of Taj staff and guests strewn all over the place haunt you long after the episode is over…

Creative producer Abhimanyu Singh and team recreate a riveting account of 26/11 and perhaps the only demerit of the series is the pace, the editing should have been sharper but the sound, production design, art, costumes compensates for the few lapses. “It could have been different” the cop tells his colleague when it is all over. The colleague sighs, “Has it ever been different?” There is a feeling of unease mixed with  anger and contempt supported by suitable music, State of Seige is not an easy watch (recommend you to watch it in company) but here is pride too for our police officers, our National Security Guard and compassion for the young terrorists, specially Kasab for what awaits him.

When the cop comes to his wife after five days and breaks down, their little son watches his parents from behind the door. He is too young to comprehend what has occurred but he senses it is serious and he is terrified. Will we ever forget those 60 hours…the 165 lives lost… the 300 injured….? Probably not, will we ever be free of the anger and the sorrow, doubtful and most important, will we be better prepared in a similar situation again, I am not sure.  


Giving credit where due – Day 1775

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“In 1949 we would be shooting for fifteen days a month, and for that work junior staff used to get two rupees as lunch money, apart from our salaries”.

For a long time, Rajendra Kumar’s family had been feeling that the media had forgotten his contribution to Hindi films because whenever cinema was being documented they invariably left out Rajendra Kumar’s blockbusters. To an extent the family was right because while due credit was given to Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor and in the following decade even to Shammi Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar’s jubilees were mysteriously overlooked.

The family and his daughter Dimple particularly were looking for a suitable writer who would do justice to his body of work and author Seema Sonik Alimchand is the right choice because she is both an insider as well as the outsider. Outsider because she has been writing on cinema for a long time now and is the brain behind the popular audio album 100 Years of Hindi Film Music and insider because she is the daughter of noted music composer Master Sonik of the Sonik–Omi duo.


The man behind the Icon – Day 1774

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“The book of life turns its leaves, new leaves every day. This how my life in films started.”

There are many sides to a celebrity and Rajendra Kumar was no exception, he had his strengths and weaknesses as well.  He was aware he was not a great actor but he was hardworking. There were as many stories about his generosity as about his link-up with his heroines, not all these were true but some were and they created chaos in his life.

His peers admired his business acumen and consulted him when investing their money, his heroines depended on him for support on the sets and he was always gallant. Jubilee Kumar unwraps the many layers of an icon, a tale of struggle and stardom, fame and disillusionment, love and loss, a tale of an ordinary mortal who happened to be a superstar.

To be continued


60s Superstar – Day 1773

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“My father said his only desire is that I should conduct myself like a gentleman in the film industry. He said he had heard that Mr Prithviraj Kapoor is known as a perfect gentleman in cinema and I must be like him. “

Jubilee Kumar traces the life and times of 60’s superstar Rajendra Kumar. In his hey days there were many stories about him, his astute business sense and his equations with his filmmakers. The book throws light on the family of a superstar, their highs and lows and how they survive the scandals associated with show business.

For the first time the family speaks on their famous father and so do his colleagues like Manoj Kumar, Asha Parekh and Salim Khan. Based on the actor’s diary and some from video interviews recorded by his daughter Dimple, the book begins in Pakistan and ends in his holidays in London where he was recovering post fatal surgeries.

To be continued