May 5th, 2013 | 1 Comment
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Bollywood, Film, Hollywood Films, Ideas, India, Technology, YouTube Videos

May 2013 marks the 100th year of Indian cinema. Raja Harishchandra was India’s first feature film that released on  May 3, 1913.  Made by Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, this silent film consisted of 4 reels and was not a big hit with the audience in the first few days. But, with some creative marketing Phalke managed to get people to come and see his film. From that first film the Indian cinema has grown to become the biggest film industry in the world. Today films are made in various languages with Hindi (Bollywood) leading the pack followed by regional cinema in Tamil Telugu, Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Bhojpuri and others.

Before Phalke there were other filmmakers like Hiralal Sen and Dadasaheb Torne who had made short films. But the credit for making India’s first feature film goes to Phalke.  Sadly, the full print of Phalke’s seminal film does not exist and what is left is just a partial film consisting of 2 reels.


In this extended film on Phalke and Raja Harischandra you get a glimpse of how Phalke prepared for the shooting of his first feature film. You see Phalke going about constructing the set, working with his actors and working on his film.


Nearly 100 years later,  filmmaker Paresh Mokashi directed Harishchandrachi Factory (2010) that retold the story of Phalke and how he made made history in Indian cinema. Mokashi’s films went on to become the Oscar entry for India. You can watch Harishchandrachi Factory on Netflix.

But, Phalke’s film would not have been possible had it not been for Eadweard Muybridge and Leland Stanford, who founded Stanford University. Stanford hired photographer Muybridge to settle the burning question of the day if all the four feet of a horse were off the ground when it was trotting. In 1878 Muybridge used a zoopraxiscope to shoot the first photographic motion picture calleSallie Gardner at a Gallop or The Horse in Motion. The rest they say is history.

For a brief time in the early 20th century Niles Canyon in the San Francisco Bay area was a hub for silent cinema. And today, Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay area is the hub for technologies used in making films right from hardware to editing software from Apple and Adobe to Lucas Films and Pixar.

Apr 27th, 2013 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Film, People, San Francisco, YouTube Videos

This year’s San Francisco International Film Festival (April 25-May 9, 2013) has an interesting mix of films from all over the world. Along with films the festival also features conversations with well-known filmmakers and actors, salons and master classes. On May 27th filmmaker Steven Soderbergh will give the ”State of Cinema,” and the following weekend on May 5th you can catch  filmmaker Phil Kaufmann in conversation at the Castro Theatre. Kaufman will receive the Founder’s Directing Award. And in a surprise announcement actor Harrison Ford will make an appearance at the festival to receive the Peter J. Owens Award. Last month Ford was in San Jose to receive the Cinequest Spirit Award.

Here is a list of films screening at the San Francisco International film festival and details on tickets.



Apr 24th, 2013 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Bollywood, Bombay/Mumbai, People, YouTube Videos

Shamshad Begum the legendary singer from Hindi films passed away yesterday in Mumbai.  She was 94 years old. She made her debut as a singer in 1947 and by 1949 her songs in Hindi cinema had become big hits, especially the song Mere Piya Gaye Rangoon. She continued to sing till the 1950s, and appears to have maintained a low-profile after that.

Here are a couple of rare interview clips of Shamshad Begum, where the audio quality is not the best, but still worth watching.

From the 1949 film Patanaga where Shamshad Begum sings about the latest tech gadget – the plain old phone. Music is by C.Ramachandra.

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Apr 21st, 2013 | 3 Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Bangalore, Diaspora, YouTube Videos

Shakuntala Devi,  mathematician and astrologer, passed away earlier today  in Bangalore. She was in her early 80′s. Often  dubbed as the “human computer,” she earned a name for herself in the Guinness Book of Records for her mathematical prowess. She wrote a number of books, including a cookbook.

Like any non-mathematically inclined person from the desi community in the USA, I first discovered Shakuntala Devi via India AbroadShakuntala Devi - photo credit Wikipedia published from New York. (It seems like those who were good in math had heard about Shakuntala Devi before they stepped on that metal bird that brought them to the US of A.) Before there was Internet, there was India Abroad newspaper that served as the main desi community portal for news, help and matrimonial section.  Nestled inside the pages of  the paper was that advertisement from Shakuntala Devi urging us to call her for help with astrology and math. That is how I discovered about the prodigious mathematical talent of Shakuntala Devi, whose ageless face stated at me every week from the pages of India Abroad.

It turns out that Shakunatala Devi was from Bangalore, and her father apparently worked in the circus and discovered her talent for numbers. She appears to have become the main breadwinner for her family from a young age, and does not seem to have had a formal education.  ”I have been making a living  in entertaining people with numbers,” as she puts in the interview below.



Photo credit of Shakuntala Devi Wikipedia.

Apr 21st, 2013 | No Comments
Category: Life

Sunil Tripathi. Until April 19th 2013 most of us had probably never heard of Sunil Tripathi. Many probably heard about  Sunil Tripathi via Twitter  in the wee hours of April 20th 2013 as the supposed Boston bombing suspects chase was unfolding on the streets of  Watertown, Massachusetts. Within minutes of the first mention of Sunil Tripathi’s name our Twitter timeline lit up in 140c that he could possibly be involved in the horrible Boston marathon bombing case. He could be the “white hat” suspect. His name reportedly first appeared on Reddit and then went viral on Twitter. As it emerged later on Sunil Tripathi was wrongly misidentified.

Who is Sunil “Sunny” Tripathi? He is a 22 year old Philosophy undergraduate student from Brown University, who has been missing since March 16h 2013. His family and friends have been tirelessly looking from him for several weeks.

How did Sunil Tripathi’s name come up on April 20th 2013 on Twitter? Atlantic’s Alexis C. Madrigal has a detailed article It Wasn’t Sunil Tripathi: The Anatomy of a Misinformation Disaster where he highlights how this viral misinformation spread on social media esp Twitter. And Reddit’s moderator has apologized to the Tripathi family for the pain they experienced from the misidentification event.

The Tripathi family is very worried and still searching for their son/brother and Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi is their Facebook page.



Apr 19th, 2013 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Bollywood, Books and Authors, Diaspora, Film, Ideas, India, People

Mindy Kaling, Jonathan Ive, Aamir Khan and Elon Musk in the same sentence? Is this a case of entertainment meets Silicon Valley?  What do these folks have in common you may ask in case you missed seeing the list? What list is that? Why, the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world that is published every year. And, of course you know how it is with us – we love looking at lists. Why, even the Renaissance man Umberto Eco loves lists and wrote:

The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature.

Eco expanded on lists and wrote a book called The  Infinity of List and why human beings love lists. Can you imagine  Kaling, Ive, Khan and Musk hanging out with Eco at a dinner party?  I digressed. Back to the list.

American actress, comedian, writer and shopper  is how Mindy Kaling  describes herself on her website. She is one of the 100 influential people in the world. A hard working and witty theatre major from Dartmouth college. Mindy achieved success early on in life with Matt and Ben. Mindy and her friend wrote  Matt and Ben, a play inspired by her hometown boys Ben Afleck and Matt Damon. And that play was just the start of her journey to success in entertainment. She currently stars in her own show The Mindy Project.  Take a look at Matt and Ben where they believe that the script for Goodwill Hunting literally fell from the ceiling of their room!


Jonthan Ive or should we say Sir Jonathan Ive is an iconic designer, who crafted a whole new line of stunning products for Apple, when Steven Jobs came back as CEO of the company the second time around. The ipod, the iphone and iPad are some of our (Apple fans) favorite things that were created by Ive with blessings from Jobs. Ive’s designs have definitely influenced a lot of designers and companies in the last 10 years.


Bollywood actor and filmmaker Aamir Khan is among a handful of folks from India who made it to the Time 100 list. A talented actor know for his attention to detail Khan comes from a family of filmmakers. Unsurprisingly his launch into Bollywood was through his family production. A hard working actor he has consistently delivered successful films right from his first one. In recent time he crossed over to television and through his TV series helped created awareness on a range of subjects that were taboo in India.

Here is Khan being interviewed by the comedian Russell Peters.

Spotting Elon Musk’s name on the list should come as no surprise. This Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur manages to successfully juggle his interests in automobiles, energy and space. Tesla, Solar City and SpaceX are the companies that he created.

Sometimes he is  referred to as the real-life Tony Stark, and guess it should come as no surprise then that he did make a cameo appearance in one of the Tony Stark films - Iron Man 2 – remember?

Here is Elon Musk answering 10 questions from who else but the folks from Time magazine.

Apr 13th, 2013 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Books and Authors, Film, People, YouTube Videos

Jonathan Winters 87, father of mprovisational comedy passed away on April 11, 2013 in his home in California. He was also an author and an artist. He originally studied to be an artist as a young man in Ohio.

A brilliant comedian, he could improvise at the drop of a hat, and was a big source of influence and inspiration for many well-known comedians. This is how Robin Williams paid tribute to his mentor and idol on Twitter.

@robinwilliamsFirst he was my idol, then he was my mentor and amazing friend. I’ll miss him huge. He was my Comedy Buddha. Long live the Buddha.

Steve Martin paid homage to Winters on Twitter thus:

@stevemartintogo Goodbye, Jonathon Winters. You were not only one of the greats, but one of the great greats.

He was a comedian for all seasons as many have mentioned in their tributes. Unpredictable comic is how The New York Times described Winters prodigious comedic talent.  ”Elastic talent”  is how this 1975 profile from Christian Science Monitor described him and added that Winters admired the precise timings of Laurel and Hardy.

Here is the original and there is no other like him is how Jack Paar described Winters, and there is no better way to describe the one and only Jonathan Winters.

Thank you for bringing laughter into our lives Jonathan Winters. Rest in Peace.


Jonathan Winters as JFK in Jack Paar’s show.

Jonathan Winters does something with that stick on Jack Paar’s show.

And here he is in a string of commercials with his trademark humor.

Jonathan Winters and Robin Williams.

Apr 6th, 2013 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Film, Film Notes, People, San Francisco, Video, YouTube Videos


Mathew Lillard has 20 years of experience in films and stage, and last year he made his directorial debut with “Fat Kid Rules The World.” The film is based on coming of age novel by K.L. Gooning. Lillard was recording for the audio edition of the book when he was drawn to the story and that kindled his interest in making it into a film.

Made on a tight budget, Lillard and team tried an innovative way to raise money for marketing their film. They turned to Kickstarter and successfully raised money for their marketing efforts. “Fat Kid Rules the World,” won the audience award at the South by Southwest (SWSX) in 2012.

We sat down with Lillard to talk about the making of his film, his acting career in Hollywood. . He has appeared in films like “Scream,” “Scooby Doo,” and The Descendants.

This interview was recorded in San Francisco.

Apr 4th, 2013 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Books and Authors, Diaspora, India, People, YouTube Videos

Disconnect by Chennai-based Anupama Chandraskhar made its West Coast debut in San Jose in March 2013. The play runs through April 14th, 2013 and this is perhaps the first time that a play by an Indian playwright is being staged at the San Jose Rep. Disconnect had its American premier in Chicago.

Set in a modern day call center in India Disconnect examines the dichotomy that exists between the personal and professional lives of the young call center workers. They spend long hours working the phones in a windowless office. They drink American beverages, eat American food, and are fluent in American culture and speak in pitch perfect American accents. Yet in the wee hours of the morning they go back to their individual families and homes that is so different from their American-infused lifestyle at the call centers.

You could think of Disconnect as the other American story told from a different perspective, one by the workers of call center workers in India. They too have their own version of “The American Dream” that turns sour like the credit card holders in recessionary America. In the play Anupama examines the tension between the personal and professional lives of the call center workers, who lead a surreal life of sorts. From being “simple folks living in a living city by the sea,” they have morphed into “scavengers, cleaning up other people’s mess,” as one of the characters in the play puts it. Is there a price they pay for working in these modern call centers? And what is that price?

Directed by Rick Lombardo, the play is fast-paced and funny. The cast includes Rajesh Bose, Sharone Sayegh, Imran Sheikh, Ray Singh and Devon Ahmed.

Apr 1st, 2013 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Film, Film Notes

Mental is a quirky, funny and heart warming film filled with imperfect humans trying to lead a normal life. You may find yourself getting a bit confused when watching the film and wondering, “Where is this going?” But, if you hang in there and let yourself go with the flow of the film you will get it.

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