Joy of 80

And then he was 80. He had stories to tell and songs to sing, so he did. Because no life is ever complete without joy, and it is joy that gives him wings,  and with those wings he soars into the apex of prosperity. 

From the vision that gave the world the ‘Lotus Temple,’ comes the ‘Temple of Light’

If you’ve heard or been to the Lotus Temple in India, an architectural wonder and one of the most visited buildings of the world, then there is Temple of Light for you to look forward to in Chile.

Siamak Hariri just completed a building that will be the topic of much design and social impact discussions for the years to come. But for now, here is his TED talk on what inspired his design and how he went about completing his vision:

Is India still a British colony? Maybe Facebook thinks so

India gained its independence from Britain in 1947, but on Facebook’s page for India, the country still carries the British flag.

It’s curious because just a year ago, the same page showcased the correct flag, so I’ll let the Internet theorize on when, how and why it was changed to a British flag. Here’s something to note:

The page in question is an ‘interest-based’ page and is generated automatically, however there is an option for people to add information such as a website or a photo. So it seems like some mischievous person may have replaced the flag and the Facebook team approved the changes without careful review.

Here are some screenshots & the link to the page

Facebook Page for India (it does include link to an official website)

 

The page is the third result for Pages when searching for India

 

Facebook notes that the Page information comes from Wikipedia, but Wiki has the correct flag

 

Anyone can “suggest a photo” and then it goes to Facebook for approval

 

You can “Report” the page, but there isn’t an option for “corrections” of this nature

 

Aren’t people noticing the wrong flag when “checking in”?

 

*Please note that this post is meant to get the glitch fixed and not start a war between Modi & Zuckerberg 😉

#MixTape – Music in the Newsroom

With all the craziness going on around the world, newsrooms can be gloomy at times, and I wanted to change that. So we launched #MixTape, a weekly talent show to take place right in the middle of a global studio. We’d hunt the best musicians in town and surprise both the newsroom staff as well as our audiences globally with their unique sounds. Presenting you with a year’s hard work, here is #MixTape Vol. 1.

  1. BeatBox Without Borders: Youtube / Facebook / Live Session
  2. Kamashki Khanna – Youtube / Facebook
  3. Marut Bishut  – Youtube / Facebook / Live
  4. Begum on Mixtape – Youtube / Live
  5. Shadow & Light – Youtube / Facebook / Live Session
  6. Chaos in the Capital – Youtube / Facebook
  7. Mukul Jiwnani – Facebook / Live Session
  8. Prabhtoj Singh – Live Session
  9. The Forgotten Cure / Live Periscope
  10. Homemade Jams acapella group / Periscope Live

Bonus Tracks:

 

 

A Look at Women On and Off Screen

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Reflecting on the role of women on and off screen in this film review.

Dear Zindagi is a dear film. It hits all the cinematic chords under the direction of Gauri Shinde, one of the few female directors in Bollywood today.

In a world where a majority of the audience equates psychology, mental health and therapy with insanity, exploring such a sensitive topic is no less than a herculean task. Shinde knew not only how to tackle it but also crack it. She begins with a strong script, setting the film in the picturesque state of Goa, India, with characters that are far from clichéd roles that women usually portray in Bollywood ventures.

The story revolves around Kaira (Alia Bhatt), a ‘free-spirited’ and ‘care-free’ cinematographer who’s disturbed state of mind after a series of ‘bad lucks’ in romantic relationships leads her to Jahangir (Shahrukh Khan), a psychotherapist with a ‘friendly’ approach to his practice.

As Kaira shares the intimate details of her life with Khan, her perspective about life starts changing with his simple but thought-provoking counselling. She gradually starts to examine her life and dig deeper into her childhood where the roots of her distrustful behaviour in relationships lie. Flashbacks take us to the time when as a 6-year-old. She was abandoned by her parents, who left her with her grandparents to travel outside India for work.

Although childhood abandonment is a reality in the world we live in, the reasoning given in this film (the parents couldn’t ‘afford’ to keep the child with them) is a bit too simplistic. It makes you think of the clichéd way everyone loses their parents in a typical Bollywood storyline: “in a car accident, twenty-five years ago.” But let’s not let this little shortcoming get in the way of this mindful work of art.

What sets this film apart?

The Topic

Considering that 1 in 5 individuals need counselling in India, it was eminent to address this topic through a mass medium and what better way than a relatable cinematic experience to raise awareness about mental health.

The Female Perspective

One of the pivotal elements leading this film to its glory is the female director’s touch. Films trying to be about or for women empowerment can take a few lessons from Dear Zindagi. There are many elements that differentiate this film from similar ones written or directed by male directors, and I call upon anyone interested in this aspect of the film to do a full study and analysis of the film in the light of gender studies.

But for the sake of this short review, I’ll just point out one: the multi-faceted nature of Kaira’s character. She has real professional goals as a cinematographer. She is confused, but not powerless. She wants independence, but understands the role of a man in her life. She yells, but she isn’t disrespectful. She likes men who can charm her, but isn’t enraptured by their charisma. She’s on a journey of self-discovery, but she isn’t lost. She’s going through trouble, but she doesn’t need a romantic saviour. She is a multi-faceted being, also known as a human being.

Script & Direction

The script is very strong with sketching scenes that keep building, ultimately leading to a satisfying and realistic climax. Being the writer and director at the same time can sometimes be challenging, but not if you are the Coen Brothers or in this case, Gauri Shinde who know how to direct their self-written words and not let any mediocre line or scene find its way into the film.

Strong Characters

Alia Bhatt delivers an honest performance. Her character is believable and has just the right amount of swag and attitude to make Kaira standout while also the grace and depth needed to make her relatable.

For Shahrukh Khan, this should be a self-testimony that he is more than capable of delivering multi-layered characters, and it’s time he gives himself in the hands of capable directors like Gauri who can get the best out of him. Although he delivers a good performance, there was still more room for him to be ‘directed’ to portray the character with more vulnerability and humility.

Technicalities

Cinematographer Laxman Utekar’s choice of colour palette gives the film its dreamy look and feel while the editing Hemanti Sarkar delivers a seamless package. Music by Amit Trivedi complements the other components of the film, rather than stealing attention away from the film, thus fitting perfectly wherever used.

The Bigger Picture:

Women in Film Industry

According to a study of women in film industry by Geena Davis Institute in 2014, there are 2.24 male characters for every one female character. Only 23% films had a female lead or co-lead. Out of 1,452 filmmakers whose gender was identifiable, only 20.5 percent were female while the majority of 79.5 percent were male.

On screen, female characters are more than twice as likely to be either partially or fully naked. India had the smallest disparity in depictions of work: women make up 25.3 percent of the off-screen workforce and 15.6 percent on the onscreen one. Women in Indian movies are made to emphasize on their sex appeal but are unlikely to have professions if any. So for Kiara being portrayed as a cinematographer, a very technical profession, is a rare and welcoming occurrence.

Behind the camera, females are 7 percent of directors, 19.7 percent of writers, and 22.7 percent of producers. When women direct films there are 6.8 percent more women in them. When women are screenwriters, there are 7.5 percent more women characters.

According to another study in 2015 by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, women made up only 9% of directors among the top 250 domestic grossing films. They comprised only 12% of directors among the top 500. Women represented just 11% of writers in 2015, 20% of executive producers, 26% of producers, 22% of editors, and 6% of cinematographers. The increase in the percentage of women over the year has been negligible.

Mental Health

800,000 people globally die by suicide each year and 350,000,000 people in the world are affected by depression (WHO). In India, 1 in 5 individuals in the country need psychological or psychiatric counselling (Government of India)

Conclusion

Shinde has beautifully addressed the formidable topic of mental health in a story that also breaks some social conventions regarding women, making this one a must watch!

In Konversations with 9 Edgy Entrepreneurs

 

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Here is a list of nine interviews conducted as part of a multi-media series for World Is One News (WION). Five of the interviewees are in tech and the rest are in food, sports and art.

  • Living paintings, breathing portraits, life on a canvas – describing Alexa Meade’s art is an art in itself. Her subject is the painting in the true essence. In her art, 2D and 3D become one, leaving you wondering what is real and what is paint. A self-taught artist, when not working, she spends her time dreaming. > Meet Alexa

 

  • Usually, in the race of life and in the middle of all the chaos, one ignores small things. Things like where your last meal was grown and how it could be contaminating your system. > Meet S Madhusudhan

 

  • Allow your passion to be your purpose and one day it may just become your profession. Praveen Kumar turned his passion into his profession, and with his best friends as business partners, he started a platform that caters to the entire community of travel enthusiasts. > Meet Kumar

 

  • As a 13-year-old, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease – a severe blood cancer. Being in the fourth and final stage, doctors declared that he will not live for more than ninety days. But he survived again to astonish the medical world. > Meet Sean

 

  • From chemical imports, mushroom farming, graphic designing to fast food chains, Ramakrishna Iyengar did it all. But his calling was a greater purpose in life, he wanted to address the concerns of depleting natural resources and increasing landfills. > Meet Rama

 

  • According to a United Nations study, only 50 per cent of women are in the workforce, compared to 77 per cent of men. The numbers in India are much lower. > Meet Sairee

 

  • I met Rajat at an event where he had set-up a booth to talk about his start-up. His recently launched travel app has been getting an overwhelming response. His excitement to share his story was infectious and I was one of the honored victims. > Meet Rajat

 

  • She is a London School of Economics graduate and went on to work with Goldman Sachs. But five years later, the entrepreneurial bug bit Swati Bhargava, and she left her corporate career to create something of her own. > Meet Swati

 

  • What if there was no money in the world? Maybe we would all be wealthy in different ways. Actually, we are. Imagine getting a new computer in exchange of a classic briefcase that you don’t need anymore or bartering a home-cooked meal with a rare book. The possibilities are endless. > Meet Pooja

Leonor Dely, Afro-Caribbean musician

 

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Leonor Dely recently lost her son David, who, before moving on to the next world, left his last musical co-creation: Esto es Fe – an Afro-Caribbean music album that was crowd-funded via Kickstarter a few months ago.

But before we talk about the album, here is a bit about Leonor Dely herself. Daughter of musicians, her father is an Afro-descendant and her mother was born in the valleys of Andes Mountains in Colombia.

Her husband Istvan is a Hungarian with an overwhelming attraction to African culture. After returning from his studies in Cuba, the two founded their musical group, Millero Congo. Their two sons grew into inseparable members of the group and family became a musical powerhouse. The New York Times called her first album, Amame, “a musical masterpiece,” and this is their fifth.

What influences your music?

Life as a whole – love, hope, joy of living, perseverance, patience, courage, humility, a positive attitude, spiritual transformation, the value of this day, and the dreams. In style: the rhythmic cultures of Africa and the Caribbean, Native Indian flutes, classical Europe, jazz, salsa, rock, and reggae.

What was the inspiration behind this CD?

It is part of an uninterrupted line of drum-driven compositions with an urgent need to reach the heart of every listener with our music with increasing power.

Why release it now?

We would have liked to do it earlier, but now a new and significant motive was added: to pay tribute to the memory of our eldest son, David. He passed away two years ago, soon after completing his participation in the recording and mixing of the album. On the album you can hear his musical contributions of Amerindian flutes, bass, and guitar, plus he composed some of the songs.

How does this album compare to your other works?

One similarity that stands out is the unchanging basic concept of our musical proposal: unnumbered rhythms, Colombian and Africaribbean drums, Native Indian flutes, and in some instances bass, guitar and violin. The main difference is that this album is more family centered, with only one guest musician. Recording was done remotely, between Colombia, Spain and Hungary.

What makes this album special?

This album is unique in that it is the last album by our Millero Congo group whole and complete. What is so special about it is that it involves the loving support and contribution of many members of family, friends and fans to make the final production possible, particularly through Kickstarter.

What effect do you hope the songs would have on your listeners?

We hope to reach the hearts of everyone who listens to it, as part of the urgent need to share universal truths and values, always through our music that is rootsy and universal at the same time.

What is your ultimate goal as an artist?

In addition to expressing love and joy, our goal is to add our grain of sand to the betterment of the world.

What’s next?

We will keep scattering our spirit. We will continue inspiring people, especially youth, to use music in activities at the grassroots level. All seasons in life are laden with moments of special significance.

 

Life Itself, a doc on Roger Ebert

Life Itself  is a sincere homage to the life and words of the iconic film critic, Roger Ebert. Filmed during his last days in the hospital and rehab, filmmaker Steve James gives audiences in this doc what Ebert gave them throughout his career: a multifaceted, deep and sincere peek into the mind of film creatives.

So much could be said about the film, but at the end, it is about a man and how he connected to the world around him and perceived life itself. Personal commentaries include that of his wife, Chaz Ebert, Martin Scorsese, Errol Morris, Ramin Bahrani, Werner Herzog and his friend Gene Siskel’s wife, Marlene.

 

Selected at Cannes, Sundance. Produced by Film Rites & Kartemquin Films in association with KatLei Productions. Distributed by Magnolia Pictures and CNN Films.

 

In Conversation with Red Grammer, recording artist

Red Grammer is very much like the color red – he is energetic, ambitious, determined and simply an unstoppable force of positive creativity.

Both critically acclaimed and Grammy-nominated, Red is the man behind some of the most popular children’s songs for the past 30 years. And right now he’s onto something different, something new and something perhaps for you:

He is creating an app – or wants to, together with you – just like his sing-alongs.

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Mithaq Kazimi: What brings you from music to app creation?

Red Grammer: For me, creating music for kids and families has always been about supporting the good in all of us in a way that feels true and makes us smile and laugh.  When I started out, portable cassette players were making it possible for kids and families to feel and experience my music anywhere.  Now, with iPads and Tablets, children have a whole electric playground in their hands.  Although I think it’s critical that they be outside with real grass and trees, it’s also important that those of us who know how to touch their hearts go to where they are and make sure they experience the same powerful feelings and awareness through the expanded possibilities that these new devices make possible.

MK: What is the app all about?

RG: This app will be a platform that delivers three interactive music videos to anyone with a capable mobile device.  We envision it as Phase One of something bigger – “Red’s World”: a collection of music videos, eBooks, games, and other video content inspired by my award-winning music.

MK: How will a child benefit from it?

RG: Having some of the best children’s music ever created come alive before their eyes with brilliant visuals and opportunities for interaction has to be a good thing, especially when the underlying themes are those of inclusion, oneness, self-awareness and hope.

MK: What is the targeted age group?

RG: 4-7 years old

MK: What is your role in the project? who else is working on it?

RG: I’m bringing the music, of course, and I’m also integrally involved in the development of the characters and story lines in these music videos as well as the ensuing eBooks, games, etc. of “Red’s World”. My partner on this project is Joshua Homnick, an extraordinary, Webby award-winning video director/producer whose feet are firmly planted in the world of exciting possibilities that these new technologies provide.  He is also a young parent who keenly sees the need for media that supports and celebrates the best in children.    

MK: How is the process of creating an app similar and different from creating music?

RG: In both cases you start with nothing.  You get an idea, then you follow your instincts and heart, bending all your skills to bring it to its flowering stage, and finally push like crazy to get it into the world.

However, I find the process of putting imagery to my music a scary process.  Will it limit or expand the hearer’s perception of the song?  And then there are the numerous technical questions around the app regarding interactivity, compatibility, etc.  That’s why I’m so excited to be working with as creative, heart-centered, tech-savvy visual collaborator as Josh.

If you’d like to be part of this project, head over to his Kickstarter page or official page.