Blog Posts by Anand Ramachandran

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  • The alternate history of Indian Rock N Roll

    Contemplating alternate histories - What if Hitler had won? What if Alexander hadn't died so young? What if Amithabh Bachchan had used a contraceptive? - has always been a favourite pastime of people who have nothing else to do.  And since I, by virtue of writing this column, and you, by virtue of reading it, have amply demonstrated the lack gainful activity otherwise available to us, I will attempt to explore the following possibility for our benefit :

    What if India was the home of Rock N Roll ?

    Or, what if, instead of chiefly classical and film music, India had gone down the path of rock, pop, techno, rap and all those other very American forms of music?

    To aid in this idle speculation, perhaps it would be convenient to try and visualize (technically, verbalize, but I digress) what a retrospective written in a music magazine, say Rolling Stone, would look like today if history had taken a different turn. Without further ado :

    The most influential artistes in Indian music history - a

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  • ‘Inner intelligence’ needs to be recognized

    From when we are quite young, we are introduced to the concept of 'inner beauty'.

    This is done by our elders with the lofty ideal of teaching us that physical attractiveness in human beings is not important - as long as the human beings referred to are not in our family. So we continue to cheerfully buy and use products such as 'Fair and Lovely' and place matrimonial ads that need only be answered by "good looking" prospective brides and grooms - while simultaneously pontificating on how "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and why we shouldn't " judge a book by its cover". This essentially means that, while other people are permitted to walk around looking like the offspring of all those decidedly unattractive people such as plumbers, carpenters and school principals, we ourselves must take utmost efforts to resemble Hrithik Roshan or Deepika Padukone.  A charming school of thought.

    Although this Olympic-standard hypocrisy is perhaps morally abhorrent, it is not without its lessons.

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  • Lessons to be learned from arranged marriages

    I think we all agree that there are few things more respectable and legitimate than that great pillar of Indian society — the arranged marriage. While the acceptance of love marriages (known as lou marriages in some parts of the country) is certainly more widespread today than it was even a couple of decades ago, it is far from universal. The arranged marriage still holds pride of place as the preferred method of getting our sons and daughters hitched with the finest specimens from amongst the youth of our great nation.  Such is the greatness of this institution, even Apache Indian, the musical legend, sang about it in the early nineties.

    In fact, young people today are far more accepting, and even desirous, of arranged marriages than those of the eighties and nineties. This cultural shift could be due to any one of numerous reasons. Perhaps they are too sensible, or simply too lazy, to bother with rebellion. Perhaps they believe, quite correctly, that their parents are more likely to

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  • Where Have All the Myths Gone?

    Abandoned children, scorned suitors, valiant women and men struggling against fate, shape-shifting tricksters, Pyrrhic victories and rites of passage. All this and more, one would imagine, is rich fodder for the novelist. However, mythology and its tropes -- "public dreams", as Joseph Campbell once called them -- seem to be all but absent from the contemporary novel.

    Exceptions do exist, of course, the most famous being Joyce's Ulysses, patterned on the events of The Odyssey. More recently, Salman Rushdie used the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice to underpin his "rock'n'roll novel", The Ground Beneath Her Feet. His earlier Midnight's Children, too, played with Indian myth, especially when it came to the characters of Major Shiva and Parvati-the-witch. Magic realism as a genre is especially suited to the recreation and subversion of myth, but it's not the only way to do it: see Zachary Mason's The Lost Books of the Odyssey, full of delicious re-imaginings and inversions of Odysseus'

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  • Rickshaw drivers and vampires in Bengaluru

    I recently had the opportunity to experience Bengaluru for the first time through the eyes of a resident. It is a city of many delights - the easiest on the eye among all Indian metros, the advantages of a modern lifestyle (though only until 11 pm, more on that later) without losing out on a certain old-India charm, and a climate that gently, smilingly urges you to forgive the city's idiosyncrasies, generally with a very respectable success percentage.

    My new job having given me the opportunity to escape the bullying, brutal Mumbai summer, and the relatively easy pace of Bengaluru cushioning the impact of being separated from the great things I love about about Mumbai(my family, functioning public transport, nightlife and, most importantly, home delivery.), I was able to approach life in my new home with a cool, breezy confidence not unlike that shown by Duke Nukem on learning that aliens had invaded Earth, and were planning to steal away our babes. (I read that as 'babies' when

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  • When Hollywood starts making movies based on magazines

    What's with Hollywood? Seriously? Let's see what they have lined up for the immediate future - a reboot of Spider-Man (so that the millions of people who saw all the Spidey movies ... see them again), another lame Wolverine spin off, excitingly titled 'The Wolverine', more Batman, Superman, Thor, Captain America, Green Lantern. It's almost like the film industry has forgotten that there are stories that aren't comic books or lame videogames.

    It's either that, or movies based on children's books about kids who have - surprise - magical powers, pencil-boxes that lead to mythical lands, or talking pets with a Jimmy cagney personality. Thank you, JK Rowling. Thank you very much.

    What's with the whole 'reboot' thing anyway? Reboot a series that's not even ten years old? I wouldn't be surprised if Hollywood starts rebooting franchises midway through a film - the second half will feature a different director, a different cast, and a 'more mature, gritty feel'. All reboots should have

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  • In celebration of fancy-dress

    I have written before about the general strangeness of certain exquisitely weird and quaint practices that we see in school, such as Mass Drill.

    The recent enthusiasm shown by my fellow Indians in celebrating Halloween by wearing outlandish and terrifying costumes, as well as celebrating Diwali be wearing even more outlandish and terrifying costumes, reminded me of another abominable ritual seen in schools - the fancy-dress competition.

    I mean, who thought up this stuff? "Wait, I know! Let's make little kids dress up in ludicrous costumes, give them prizes, and we can all have a good laugh. And, even better, we can embarrass them in front of their friends during their teen years by digging up and publicly displaying oh-so-cute photos of them dressed up as peacocks, drunkards or Michael Jackson. Hooray!" some evil genius must have squealed in delight, pleased to have come up with a brilliant plan for humiliating innocent children for hundreds of years.

    However, for kids like me who

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  • Confessions of a Tam-Brahm freelancer

    I normally don't have any regrets about not having pursued a conventional, respectable profession. You know - like working in a bank, or at one of those nice software companies with offices that are mostly made from glass and strategically placed ping-pong tables, or something like that. I'm happy with what I do, even if it is a little hard to describe in most social situations.

    Usually, when I meet someone who asks the fairly understandable and perfectly normal question "So, what do you do?", I do not have a quick, elegant and impressive response such as "I'm with Citibank", "I head marketing at Infosys" or "I'm commissioner (suspended) of the IPL." My response is always clumsy and long, along the lines of "A bit of writing and some game design and some comics writing and some art and a few columns and . . er . . ah . . " - which normally elicits one of two kinds of responses -

    a.) "Games????? (or Comics?????) Awesome! I love that stuff. [followed by long, three hour nerdcore

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  • It’s not wrong to like Bollywood, so why do I feel so guilty?

    Last month, I did something completely unacceptable in my social circles. I watched, and, horror of horrors, actually dared to like two Bollywood films in a row. When your immediate circle of friends comprises chiefly proud Tamils who only watch films in languages nobody in India speaks (Korean, Arabic, Yiddish), this is clearly a no-no.

    The films in question are Dabangg and more recently Do Dooni Chaar. Both are rather good, and there's absolutely nothing wrong in enjoying either of them. But for me, due to this cultural peer-pressure, it's almost as if it's some forbidden, guilty pleasure. Like Bon Jovi. Or eating Boost directly from the jar.

    Take Do Dooni Chaar for instance. It's a delightful film about a middle-class family and their aspirations. It's a superbly written feel good comedy with some absolutely great laughs, poignant moments and some brilliant acting from Rishi Kapoor. (which came as a shock to me. I thought he only did stuff like this)

    Yet, when speaking to my friend

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