India’s babus are once again training their guns at Internet pornography, with new amendments to the Information Technology Act in the works to block websites on the grounds of ‘public order, decency or morality’. But with more power to the judiciary, it brings into question the current legitimacy of previous bans of websites such as that of the much-talked about Savita Bhabhi and her hot sexual, cartoony adventures. What people seem to forget is that the government, despite acting on complaints of obscenity last year, employed the security section of the law, blocking the site on grounds of endangering “the sovereignty or integrity of India, defence and security of the state” or “friendly relations with foreign states” – new powers granted by amendments after the Bombay attacks of 2008 – which would be granting the popular site a very impressive assessment anyway you look at it. But amendments aside, Savita Bhabhi has gained a modicum of respectability by being printed in France as a graphic novel – so much endangering friendly relations with foreign states!
Aamir Khan seems to be moving from one copyright feud to the next. First he went up against India’s most popular novelist, Chetan Bhagat (don’t blame Chhetria Patrakar, who only reads review copies), to now squabbling with Javed Akhtar, perhaps the region’s most popular lyricist. Khan is part of committee of industry insiders and composers asked by the Human Resources Development Ministry to suggest changes to the copyright law. The film industry has a notorious history of short-changing lyricists and musicians, and the most recent amendments have bolstered the legal claims over their works, something that is giving film producers sleepless, musicless nights. Khan, miffed at the “lies” in the media, quit after his row with Akhtar became public. CP would be remiss not to share some of the reported comments flung between the two duelists. Khan: “A song is a hit because it is picturised on a big star.” Akhtar: “Your first big song was “Papa kehte hain”. Did it make you a star or did you make it run?” That’s the real trouble of putting up a tamasha with a lyricist: They’ll always give themselves the best lines.
Aamir Khan could be considered an unlikely pick on a copyright-focused panel, considering his very public spat with Chetan Bhagat over the 3 Idiots film script. But HRD Minister Kapil Sabil seems willing to bat for him. When Sabil urged him to return with a letter of support penned by the rest of the panel, including Javed Akhtar, Khan finally relented. Now that’s star power, in the lucrative mobile-ring-tones industry (expected to overtake the film-song industry any day).
On the subject of mobile sales, perhaps readers have heard of vogging, the latest platform and stupidest new e-term by tech-savvy Amitabh Bachchan. A ‘vog’, once used to describe the noxious hot plume emerging from a volcano mixing with the atmosphere, has been reclaimed by the Big B to describe his combination of hot air and the blogosphere. Bachchan has also recently agreed to lend his baritone to Narendra Modi’s Gujarat, as an ambassador in its continuing efforts to present an agreeable brand to tourists and businesses. Apparently, the friendliness came about at private screening of Bachchan’s movie Paa. What telecommunication innovation will Bachchan come up with next – maybe fans can write a l-etter to the Big B and receive a handwritten response, thus unveiling the cutting-edge ‘logging’.
But perhaps the media has miscalculated the depths of our devotion to Bollywood, if the graphs at fanpageanalytics.com are any indication. The website compiles the top ‘likes’ of people who use the various social-networking sites according to their membership to fan pages. Included on the lists are Southasian personalities, with A R Rahman turning in a strong showing in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Beyond this, though, there’s almost universal appreciation for action star Vin Diesel in the region, while Indians and Pakistanis seem to agree on starlet Meghan Fox. Ambassadors for sexy, action-filled peace?
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) just released its 2009 report on violence against the press, with its usual depressing figures: 71 killings and 136 jailed journalists over the course of the past year. As usual, besides Iraq, Southasia doesn’t fare well in keeping journalists safe and unmolested. In Pakistan, reporters frequently receive dead threats from militants, and at least six have had their homes demolished in retaliatory attacks for printing negative stories; at least four have paid with their lives. Embedded journalists have to deal with suppression, self-imposed and otherwise, with footage heavily censored. Nepal was highlighted for having one of the worst rankings on impunity, with attacks on the press continuing to go unpunished – a situation mirrored in Sri Lanka. The report named Burma as the worst place to be a blogger, for the junta’s strict censorship policies, monitoring e-mails and web use, and scant access. CPJ also worried about reprisals on reporters and sources in China, particularly those working on Tibetan and Uyghur stories, and the use of anti-pornography campaigns as a cover to attack Internet reporting. It underscored the flimsy grounds that reporters presently behind bars are being held for purportedly “revealing state secrets or subverting state power” – indeed, remarkably candid indicators of Beijing’s anxieties.
Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, head of the Ministry of Mass Media and Information has more important matters to take care of: propaganda for the up-coming parliamentary election slated for April. But he need not worry that the Information Ministry will be left orphaned – indeed, who better to take charge than President Mahinda Rajapakse himself, who graciously stepped into the breach. He is certainly a multi-tasker, having taken over the Information Ministry once before in early 2009, along with the ministry of defence, finance and nation building. Perhaps this is a taste of things to come. But whatever happens to other Ministries, Sri Lankans can be sure of one thing: the Voice of Mahinda will boom even louder. Heil.
CP is on a perpetual quest to name names as the named people name themselves: Nepalese or Nepalis? Sinhalese or Sinhala? Having narrowed down the choice to Bangla or Bengali, the Daily Star out of Dhaka has confused matters with its use of ‘Bangalee’. Is that the people or the language, jee? Both, posiblee!
A recent Indian Express news item seemed to confirm what many south of the Vindhyas had suspected all along: Rajasthani tigers love South Indian food. “Delhi told: tigers hungry, send us sambar” ran the Page 1 anchor. Not only do the big cats relish idli and dosa, they are evidently fussy about the accompaniments. However, closer examination (yes, CP does occasionally read beyond the headlines, especially when this column is due) revealed that the Rajasthan forest department has requisitioned sambar (deer) from the premises of the Delhi Golf Club to make up the shortfall in the area of the Ranthambore National Park. The boss of SOS Wildlife, an NGO in the midst of this tiger-food procurement exercise, had this to say about growing numbers of sambar in the Golf Club: “The sambars occasionally stray away from the forested land into the golf course area. Besides damaging the course, the sambars are also in danger of being injured, which is what makes this translocation a win-win situation.” Win-win? When they are being packed off as tiger lunch?