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My Friend Sancho

My first novel, My Friend Sancho, is now on the stands across India. It is a contemporary love story set in Mumbai, and was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize 2008. To learn more about the book, click here.

To buy it online from the US, click here.

I am currently on a book tour to promote the book. Please check out our schedule of city launches. India Uncut readers are invited to all of them, no pass required, so do drop in and say hello.

If you're interested, do join the Facebook group for My Friend Sancho

Click here for more about my publisher, Hachette India.

And ah, my posts on India Uncut about My Friend Sancho can be found here.

Bastiat Prize 2007 Winner

Category Archives: Media

Learn to be the ideal Indian bride…

... from Jai Arjun Singh.

When I first read this post, I found it flippant of Jai to attempt to impart his wisdom in a mere blog post. I have since got in touch with him and convinced him to start weekend courses on the subject. To apply, write to me with passport size photos of yourself in wedding attire. I will tell you where to send the money order. Thank you.

PS: We also provide strapless gowns.

Posted by Amit Varma on 17 August, 2007 in India | Media

India’s Independence and the Glamour Industry

WTF ad of the day:


It’s all over the IBNLive site, this ad. Nothing wrong with that. I’m a huge fan of freedom.

Posted by Amit Varma on 10 August, 2007 in India | Media | WTF

Don’t break the mirror

The Information and Broadcasting ministry, Rediff tells us, in planning a content code for Indian television. The report says:

The draft content code ... plans to restrict TV channels from stereotyping women as passive or submissive so as to promote or glorify their subordinate or secondary role in the society.

Reader Praveen Krishnan, who sent me the link, writes, “I suppose we will be seeing Tulsi and Kkusum in leather and bondage gear from now on. Surely that is dominant enough?”

Frankly, seeing Smriti Irani intone grandiosely in Viruddh with a glint in her eye is enough to make a man rush to a corner, get into a foetal position and start bawling. No, but flippancy aside, this is the silliest idea I’ve heard in a long time, though it’s quite what you’d expect from the government mai-baaps who refuse to treat us as adults.

To repeat a cliche, art often just holds up a mirror to society. Breaking the mirror won’t change the ugly mug in front of it. And we need that mirror. No one should mess with it.

Posted by Amit Varma on 30 July, 2007 in Arts and entertainment | Freedom | India | Media | Politics

Mika Brzezinski v Paris Hilton

I’ll bet my shirt—unwashed and reeking in an erotic way—that Mika Brzezinski has 10,000 times more fans right now on our fine planet than Paris Hilton. The MSNBC newsreader who refused to read the lead story she was given—on Paris Hilton’s release from jail—has become a YouTube cult figure in the last couple of days, and here is the video that has won her such admiration:

The Guardian has a report on it here, and really, she is my hero too. More power to Mika Brzezinski.

(Link via email from Kind Friend.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 30 June, 2007 in Journalism | Media

Show me the tree!

First there was the whole saga about Aishwarya Rai marrying a tree. Then, recently, a denial from Aishwarya. Well, now Amitabh Bachchan himself has spoken:

Ash is not married to a tree! [...] It’s a challenge—please show me the tree she married! Bring that person who married her to the tree. Where did it happen?

Hmm. Perhaps they’ve killed off the tree and buried it. Or maybe they’ve kidnapped its saplings and warned the tree to deny everything or else…

Perhaps we should just take Mr Bachchan at his word. But why, I wonder, would so many people report the matter if there wasn’t something to it? Still, that’s our media…

(Link via email from Arjun Swarup.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 22 June, 2007 in Arts and entertainment | Journalism | Media | WTF

Vibrating condoms and Indian culture

Everywhere there is joy and squealing. CNN-IBN reports:

The Madhya Pradesh government has banned the sale of Crezendo condom in the state saying it’s against Indian culture.

Public Works Minister in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh Kailash Vijayvargiya has taken up cudgels against Hindustan Latex Ltd’s condom on behalf of the government.

Vijayvargiya says the condom is a sex toy and will not be allowed to be sold in the state.

I’d argue that the penis is a sex toy and should be banned from Madhya Pradesh as well. And I’m also most curious to know what a public works minister is doing commenting on this matter. What public works?

CNN-IBN’s TV news report on this is also hilarious—I love the back-and-forth between the anchor and the reporter, and I’d take their tone as mock seriousness if they weren’t always like this. The vox pops are immense fun too. These reporters are going to put satirists out of work. Watch:

(Links via separate emails from Anand Krishnamoorthi, Gautam John and Ashutosh Jogalekar.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 21 June, 2007 in Freedom | India | Media | News | WTF

All men are pigs…

... if they don’t carry condoms. Nice commercial:

So do you find anything objectionable about this commercial? Fox and CBS did, and refused to carry it on their networks. In a statement, Fox said:

Contraceptive advertising must stress health-related uses rather than the prevention of pregnancy.

Heh. Fox’s slogan really should be “Back to the 19th Century.” I’m sure what they regret most about the 20th century, even more than the Holocaust, is the emancipation of women—birth control had a lot to do with setting women free, and is a natural enemy. I hardly need to spell out who the pigs really are in this story.

There’s a pithy quote in that story by Carol Carrozza, a marketing executive, that just about sums it up:

We always find it funny that you can use sex to sell jewelry and cars, but you can’t use sex to sell condoms.

Posted by Amit Varma on 19 June, 2007 in Media


Remember my post about the worst logo ever? Well, that’s got competition. Check this out.

(Link via email from Lalbadshah, who wants Tulsi back. Heh.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 18 June, 2007 in Arts and entertainment | Media

“Free-range lunacy”

Joe Klein’s complaining about America’s left-wing blogs. Heh.

(Link via email from Sanjay Sipahimalani.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 11 June, 2007 in Journalism | Media | Politics

Princess Diana’s privacy

Public letters are most illuminating, and two recently released in Britain concern the use of images of Princess Diana’s accident in a Channel 4 documentary. Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, the private secretary of Princes William and Harry, wrote a letter to Channel 4 asking them to “appreciate fully that publishing such material causes great hurt to us, our father, our mother’s family and all those who so loved and respected her.”

Kevin Lygo, Channel 4’s director of television and content, replied saying that “in the context of a measured and responsible history programme, these photographs provide, for the first time, an accurate and detailed eyewitness record of an event of international importance that for ten years has been obscured by conspiracy theories, claims and counter-claims.”

My position: While the media may have the right to publish photographs of events that take place in the public space, publishing pictures of someone’s mutilated body would be tasteless and insensitive. However, Lygo clarified in his letter that Princess Diana wasn’t visible in any of the pictures that Channel 4 was showing, and I think it is silly, then, to object muchly. This is especially in the light of the conspiracy theories surrounding the accident—most famously by Mohamed al-Fayed—and if the documentary serves to inquire into the truth, then it is worthy journalism.

Meanwhile, here’s an excellent recreation by the Guardian of the hours leading up to the accident, and here’s an interview of Trevor Rees-Jones, the only survivor of the crash.

Posted by Amit Varma on 06 June, 2007 in Media

“A trial balloon”

On the subject of Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, the information and broadcasting minister, playing the moral police, an unnamed news channel head is quoted as saying:

I don’t see why we are surprised a Congress government is playing moral police. All parties want to control a powerful medium like television. No political party can afford to ban a news channel. But going after soft targets like AXN and FTV is like floating a trial balloon. It sends a shiver down the spines of all broadcasters.

Well, hardly anyone protested. So will there be more balloons?

Posted by Amit Varma on 24 May, 2007 in Freedom | India | Media | Politics

Chidambaram’s ways of countering inflation

The Times of India has a headline on their site, “Inflation will be moderated: Chidambaram.” Naturally, worried about both inflation and Chidambaram, I click on it. and I find… nothing.

(Click here to see a screenshot of what I mean, in case that page looks normal to you.)

I’n trying to figure out if that is some form of astute editorial commentary. ToI? Actually, nah!

Posted by Amit Varma on 06 March, 2007 in Media

Bangalore for the Western gaze

Immense exotification happens here. It’s a parade of stereotypes, that slideshow. All except for one picture, which you will no doubt identify if you enjoy good food. Heh.

Posted by Amit Varma on 03 March, 2007 in India | Media

APJ Abdul Kalam sneezes

Really, that would be no less newsworthy than this rubbish.

Being a president was the best thing that ever happened to good Mr APJ, for one reason alone: he is now a celebrity. Wannabe celebs, please note.

(More on APJ Abdul Kalam.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 01 March, 2007 in Media

Newspapers and regulation - II

Following my earlier post on why journalism in India needs less regulation, not more, Anant Rangaswami, perhaps the most astute media commentator among India’s bloggers, comes up with more reasons to support my conclusion. Do read.

Posted by Amit Varma on 27 February, 2007 in Media

Newspapers and regulation

I spend the whole day at the Kitab festival, hanging out with pals like Jai, Chandrahas and Manish, meeting the litty sorts and bitching about them like bloggy sorts should. I was also part of a session on journalism in India, and found some eminent people expressing the view that journalism needs to be regulated in India. The logic: The Times of India is indulging in monopolistic practices, and, in Delhi, forming a cartel with the Hindustan Times. To ensure competition, there should be government regulation.

I couldn’t think of a worse solution to the problem. (Leave aside the issue of whether there really is a monopoly emerging; Mumbai alone has HT, DNA and IE on the stands, among daily broadsheets.) The industry actually needs fewer controls, not more. If foreign capital was allowed to pour into that sector, and foreign ownership of media was enabled, there would be more competition, and monopolies and cartels would be less likely. Consumers would be empowered with more choices. Competition is the best regulation.

Government regulation, no matter how well-intentioned to begin with, always ends up favouring the entrenched players, and making it harder for newer players to enter. The protectionist lobbying that some of the top media houses in the country have done to keep foreign media out is a good example of this.

In my clumsy, inarticulate way, I did try and make this point, but I’m a better blogger than speaker. Anyway, the high point of the evening was the presence of Bhaskar Das, the executive president of the Times Group, who rightly got assailed about how the Times of India sells editorial space. “We don’t do it on all the pages,” he argued. “Only some of them.”

The best moment came when someone asked Das why the ToI didn’t have the basic decency to indicate which articles were paid for. His reply:

“The clients wouldn’t like that.”

Joy. It reminded me of Devi Lal, in that it was honest, and shamelessly so.

Posted by Amit Varma on 24 February, 2007 in Economics | Freedom | Media

On newspapers and their websites

On one hand, Steve Rattner writes in the Wall Street Journal:

The news about newspapers could hardly be more dismal: falling circulation, repeated rounds of layoffs, disappearing ads and a chain of bad earning reports. It’s an unsavory stew of ills, one that shows little prospect of becoming more appetizing.

On the other hand, there are a slew of them coming up in India, as the Economist describes in its piece, “Let 1,000 titles bloom.”

One reason why newspapers are flourishing in India but diminishing in importance elsewhere is the internet. At the moment, internet penetration in India is simply too low for people’s reading habits to change, and for some of the things newspapers do to become redundant. But it will grow.


Posted by Amit Varma on 20 February, 2007 in Media

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