Saturday, April 15, 2017

I Big-Apple NYC

Things have warming up with the arrival of Spring. And it's the perfect time for my post on the New York City trip from April, last year.

Zantu from London, who BTW has covered all known countries, wanted to celebrate her milestone in NYC. Whatsapp connected us, a plan formed and we landed in NYC. It turned out to be a perfect College Reunion for 4 of us.

We choose to stay in Westin at Times Square. That was some brilliant research & decision by MJ. It saved us renting a car. Was very close to Metro station. Cabs all around and walking distance from Time Square.

Lots of squealing once we got together. All this excitement could not be contained in the hotel room. Even though it was late night and past usual bedtime, we were out for dinner and then spent a long time at Times Square.


We begin the grand tour with what else, but the Statue of Liberty. I am the Prodder - one who prods family out of the house, every-time we have a travel planned. So I started, with emphasizing the need to get out of the room by 7am because it will be hot and there will be mile-long line for tickets. Other sensible ladies brought it up to a decent 9 AM.

Turns out, it was not hot and no lines at Battery Park. Always a pleasure to be proven wrong this way :)

A short Ferry ride from Statue island to Ellis island. Fascinating place for History buffs.

Once back on land, we waded through the street dancers, snake performers & Jam stalls, looking for a good place to eat. All the sunny stroll had made us ravenous. Google maps took us to Tajin Restaurant. Food was decent, heavy even. In our excitement , we forgot to check that they charge extra for the chips & salsa.

Post lunch we walked aimlessly and reached WTC. Walking around the monument, reading all the names, was a very sobering experience.

After a brief rest in our room, we set out to find out the oldest/largest library in the world. We didn't find it though. Instead we wandered to Bryant Park and lounged there, watching the performances and crowds, taking more pics at the fountains and flower-beds.

Next stop - Willies Tower (Sears Towers). Why do they keep renaming places ?

No long ticketing queues but by the time we reached the Observatory deck, it was close to dark. So no great pics, but absolutely great views. Even with crowded balconies, we got enough unhurried view of all sides.

Dinner was at a Thai place we stumbled upon while wandering the street in the dark.



Central Park was the main theme of Sunday. We had decided to get into the touristy I-Heart-NY shirts. After breakfast, the first hour was spent looking for the said shirt. 4 ladies with 4 different choices. But we did end up buying white shirts with the same I-Heart-NY logo. Now that we were well-fed and dressed, off we went to the Central Park. First thing, we spent 30 minutes clicking picture at the entrance.

Then we haggled for bike rentals and took a cycle rickshaw to the rental shop and got ours. Yahoo the Fun Begins now !

Ride across the Central Park was very eventful. Stopped at each location for photos.
 My cycle chain kept coming off, which my more handy friend Mandy, fixed it for me. When it happened the nth time and one Indian uncle offered to help plus some patronizing lecture, she brushed off his help. Applause.

Here we are at the fabled F.R.I.E.N.D.S. water fountain. We were ready to dip our feet in the water and click pictures. There was a shooting crew already and the camera guy offered to click for us.

When he finished clicking, a lady from the crew came by and said, he is a famous BAFTA award wining cameraman and we should take pictures with him, so ofcourse we did that ! Weeks later Zantu did some research and found out, that the lady was also a UK Celebrity Anita Rani ! We didn't click pic with her. Bamm !

Once the shooting crew went away, we lingered in the algae water. And soon a Parks employee came running to chase us out. We, bunch of 40 year old, never felt more Collegiate young before :) And she was laughing at us, "I don't think this is even the real one". Oh !

Further biked up to a Japanese Garden. Just more opportunity for us to goof-off and click more pictures.

This place I forgot what it's called. But this large stone area is featured in so many movies. A place where the protagonist muses or has a private conversation with SO. In reality, it was teeming with people.

Once we got out and all photoshoot was complete, a side look at 2 shirts revealed that it was not "I Heart NY". It was "I Apple NY". Apple, as in Big Apple. Geddid ? Nawww.

Now we were on our hunt for a lunch place. We roamed 40 minutes rejecting everything that came up. Finally landed at "Lunch Pazza Notte Restaurant & Lounge". Food was I-cook-better-pasta type.

The street outside was much more interesting. There was a market in the middle of the street, selling trinkets, crochet jackets & the lot. Perfect post-lunch activity.

Sunday night

Monday gloom began to set in early Sunday evening. With Mandy gone and me to leave by an early flight, there was not much cheer. So best thing to do was a Times Square stroll again.

Take-a-away dinner which took 2 hours to decide because umm choices. I went for my favorite Falafal sandwich loaded with every veggie on the table.

Someone managed to pull in another friend RH. Our conversations went on and on. There was no settling us. And soon I discovered, that the new friend RH, was an old school friend of my PUC BFF and about whom I had heard so many school-time stories. Oh small world indeed. Zantu was also a school friend of my PUC BFF, but I had forgotten about it. So bamm ! More Whatsapp calls to Belgaum. And more talking.


I had to force myself to sleep at 2:30 so I would get atleast some sleep before getting up at 4 AM. I dilly-dallyed and got out of the hotel by 5 AM. Long multiple Metro ride to JFK. Since I reached at 6:45AM, they wouldn't allow me for my 7:30 flight. Boom ! They put me standby for the next flight at 10. There was only one thing to do after Security check - find a spot to get some ZZZZZZ. That is exactly what I did. Later I tried communicating with work & home to say I will be late.

Clocks did not exist for me that weekend. All the leisurely walks, like we had nowhere be, at no given time. That unhurried feeling. Crowded streets. Metro rides. It all come back when I played some of the NY-centric movies - Been Again and Before We Go  .

Did I put enough photos ? Did I miss something ? Is this post not lengthy enough ? Bah.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The whole nepotism discussion

This whole discussion on Bollywood Nepotism, oh if only media shows that same level of passion on Political nepotism. Now that's where the really negative impact is.

Most of the folks in Twitter and Social media comments are vocal as they or their relative, is employed in Film industry or its offshoots, and hence fairly envy the access privilege that comes to those born in existing Filmi families.

As opposed to Film-Nepotism, Politician-Nepotism is misuse of janta-money and anger of that is understandable. Film world is not without its own Politics. But it is definitely more inclusive to new joinees. Those who agree to that privilege, are being buried under other arguments because it's more newsworthy.

There is this naivety in the crowd who started working in the 90s & 00s. That the educated professional crowd got jobs by merit, which is true. But the same streak would continue in the next steps of career or the assumption that it is so in all other industries. It took a lot of experience to understand, that though merit, skills and experience have its place, connections can be a crucial thing as well.

There is difference between family business and nepotism. There is this confusion between connections and nepotism. If any group in some community figures a job sector, they refer others they know and soon all get into it. That is how past stereotype evolved, like about certain regional communities in Financial sectors. And it is the case with new world jobs too (ex Testing). This comes from sharing information. This kind of community based connection and knowledge sharing cannot be called nepotism. In case of Film World, this kind of connection is not by bonding based on what region they came from, but by family, extended family and friend connection.

Nepotism laws were to counter family connections based financial exploitation of tax payers money or an organizations money. Definitely laws are blurry in family owned businesses, but surely they are not suicidal with money.

Being born or married into existing established family give them reasons to stay relevant and get work. All outsiders want to come and grow roots, so it keeps paying in their future and makes things easier for the next generation.

 Doctors coaching their kids to be Doctor, paying fees and even setting up clinics - does that count as nepotism ? Definition-wise yes. Is it a bad thing ? For someone from Military home, writing books with Army and Airforce as background, is that unfair use of the info gained through connections ?

A lot of business transactions everywhere in the world depend on connections.
In regional cinema world, there are lot of folks from Theater families. Children or grandchildren of distributors, makeup artists, costume suppliers. They are not outsiders. But they are not privileged either. They may have connections, but everyone knows - connections last only in prosperous times. After that its "tu kaun, main khamakha". But what they do have which is their unique strength - that is they are not distracted by anything outside cinema. They live and breathe every logistics related to cinema. They can give their 200% to it coz that where they live, all their interactions and that is all they have. Their vacations, their after-school times, their evening discussions, their family or wedding or festival get-togethers. Everything. That kind of dedication is not possible for every layman. It is their strength, it is their curse.

Excluding certain production house owners, an average person in the Film world has made as much fortune in film world as anyone in share market. This is an uncertain business. If you look at the beginning trajectory of anyone they are envious off, its pretty unbelievable coz remember no one knew they would end up with good fortune or clout decades down the line.

Film world is definitely a soft-target for numerous issue. This whole discussion was surely just fodder for MSM to munch and spew out some content, bulk up their star interviews and fish for some more controversial comments to flame a new war of words, and then rinse and repeat.

Among many MSM who pitched in, Buzzfeed was the most half baked , quick turnout article.
No, Bollywood Star Kids, You Don’t Get To Have An Opinion About Nepotism

I found the Huffington Post articles very well-written on this topic. They are one-sided, but well-rounded within that side.
  1. Nepotism In Bollywood Goes Beyond Star Kids And Their Silver Spoons
  2.  Bollywood's Nepotism Debate Is A Terrific Lesson In How Privilege Actually Works
  3. It's Dismaying How Blind Bollywood's Star Kids Are About Their Privilege
And these two blog posts are so much eloquent in describing the workings of film-making. Basically how costs are kept down my recruiting someone they know, instead of running an expensive recruitment drive and paying extra salary.
  1. Hindi Film 101: Nepotism in the Hindi Film Industry, Part 1
  2. Hindi Film 101: Nepotism in the Hindi Film Industry, Part 2
I find this whole excitement more in line with Family-business-Envy rather than outrage against Nepotism.

Now parting from all these extensive thoughts, coming to Kangana & Karan conversation which started it all. I will always marvel Kangana's guts to speak out while continuing to work as usual. While I admire the powerhouse Karan has become and the entire folio of work his production house has churned out, his arrogant response to accusations to his privilege will get disgusting when he uses his power to hurt other careers. And since a creator is very different from her creation, I don't have to like the creator no matter how much I like their works.