Grey and Gone

Shalimar, once a happening cinema hall, is relegated to pages of history

Shalimar is past its prime. Photo: Sana Amir
Shalimar is past its prime. Photo: Sana Amir

Not quite known to Delhiites in general and even film lovers, Delhi’s age-old Shalimar cinema, caught fire. Its screen, seats and part of the big screen were burnt. A bigger tragedy was averted as the cinema had downed its shutters following poor business. A grey structure, Shalimar cinema, located beneath the Ashram flyover, is a picture of neglect. Once a colourful building it is now bereft of colour and any life. Broken gate, burnt windows bring out the pathos.

Shalimar means ‘Abode or Hall of love’ in Sanskrit but looking at its dismal condition, it’s difficult to associate any such emotion with the structure. Naseemuddin, popularly known as ‘Miyan’, owns this cinema hall alongwith his brother Shamiuddin. Even he is not optimistic about its future, more so after the recent fire.

Naseemuddin reveals, “It was built before 1947. It has 485 seating capacity. Tickets were very cheap then. We had to close it as the business was not doing well.” The cinema for a while showed reruns. Then it downed its shutters. “Who will come to such cinema halls when there are new malls and plush multiplexes?”asks irked Naseemuddin.

The terrace of the building is covered with steel sheets and the remaining space like the parking area and the front portion of the hall has become a dumping ground.

Residents of the area express concern at its present condition. One of the shopkeepers in the area, Bhupinder Singh says, “Sound system of this hall was the best in Delhi. We protected it in 1984 riots when some wanted to burn it. It was closed for 17 years in between. But then it was reopened and Atal Bihari Vajpayee inaugurated it. Tezaab was the first movie to be screened after it restarted..”

“Now inside this idlers come and sit. All the valuable things, including chairs, have been stolen. People drink and smoke inside the hall.” In last week’s fire, there was smoke all over and thanks to prompt action further damage was averted. The owners are reportedly trying hard to sell it but there are not very many buyers.

(This article was first published in The Hindu-MetroPlus)

Voice from the valley

Suravi Sharma Kumar evokes the beauty and turbulence of Assam in her debut novel

Reflecting on reality- (The Hindu)
Reflecting on reality- (The Hindu)

‘After long humid days, the breeze from the river relieved the valley. The red silk-cotton trees around the paddy fields flourished with seed pods, and with each gust of wind, the pods swirled and split, releasing confetti of cotton threads… while a bunch of village urchins clowned under the trees.’

This excerpt from the novel Voices in the Valleydescribes what is veiled in the valley of Assam. The serene and innate beauty of Assam has been brought alive by the author Suravi Sharma Kumar.

“Beauty of the land is the theme of the novel. It is about how a woman, feminist in thought, evolves in rural Assam. I wanted to bring the rural flavour of Assam in front. Guwahati and other cities are just like any other metro city. It is this rural life-my ancestral house, the vicinity which I have described,” says Suravi of her debut novel.

Apart from meticulous details of fresh green tea gardens, purple ferns, exotic variety of orchids, chirpy little birds, one horned rhinos, iridescent long pathways, this novel is about rural life, ethnic clashes, militant activities, women’s rights, and violent elections.

Suravi is a doctor by profession but has always been fascinated by literature. “Writing is my passion. I have been writing health related articles. This story has always been in my mind. I have been experiencing it all my childhood in Assam. So, I thought of enlarging this story. It took me almost three years to write this novel,” says Suravi.

The cover page of the novel again reflects beauty of the valley. It contains a pink orchid hanging on top of a background of blue and green. Suravi explains, “I get many compliments on the cover page. It is beautiful. This pink flower known as Kopou flower is very famous in Assam. Bihu dancers wear it on their heads. It is also our state flower.”

The novel has been written in a unique manner. Every chapter is divided into several parts. The author said she wanted to give it a poetic and epic touch. “Assam is such a beautiful place and people are not aware about it. That is why I wanted to describe its landscape and scenery in a poetic way,” she beams.

The main character of the novel, Millie is very strong. She struggles against orthodoxy, fights for her rights and goes on to become a student leader. She is described as ‘golden daughter’ by her mother. However, the most intriguing aspect of her character is her embodiment of Assam. “Millie represents Assam,” says the author. “Her childhood days are placed in the year 1962. That feeling is still very strong in all the dwellers of Assam. Again when she becomes a student leader and participates in protests, it echoes real student protests in Assam in 1975,” she adds.

One of the main problems which the character raises is inheritance of land by sons of the family. She confidently says, “Women in Assam are much stronger than all states of India. They are quiet broad minded and western in thoughts. Problem of inheritance of land by male member of the family is all over India. It is just that Assamese girls are more out spoken. They raise this issue of property a lot in Assam.”

So what part of the novel is fiction and what is real? She answers, “The stories in this novel are true stories. It is a collection of different biographies, a number of parallel stories . But these did not happen at the same time. I created the relation in stories and put all of them together.”

She is currently working on a medical project. Her second novel is also ready to be published. “It is a medical college life story of a girl in a metro. She is placed in Assam but moves to Delhi. It is common practice in Delhi. Girls complete their graduation here and then move to metros for higher studies,” the author says.

(This article was first published in The Hindu-MetroPlus)

A MoJo revolution

Around the globe, the mobile phone is changing the way journalists work. They upload breaking news, photos and videos within seconds of their compositions. SANA AMIR finds that Mobile Journalism is now catching the imagination of many

 

Photo By- Sana Amir
Photo By- Sana Amir

No more is your mobile phone just a phone. It has taken on a new shape using multi-media like high mega-pixel camera, video recorder, Wi-Fi connectivity, 3G and a wide screen. With such tempting features, it has become an attractive newsgathering tool for journalists who today can do away with the outer broadcast van if they are armed with a mobile.

Welcome to the world of Mobile Journalists commonly referred to as “MoJo”.

This type of newsgathering can turn out to be significant for breaking news events and for countries with strictly controlled media. During the Arab uprising recently, protesters circulated messages and uploaded pictures on social media via the mobile phone to spread the unrest.

It heralded a new phase of journalism. A mobile journalist uses only a mobile phone to collect or distribute news. The news may be the amalgam of text, audio and video.

Abhinav Kaul, sub-editor, Financial Chronicle, said, “Mobile journalism is like having the whole world in your pocket. One can access news of any country, region or part of the world. There is no need to carry a newspaper, television or a laptop anymore.”

Responding to the needs of the marketplace, mobile phones are available in all colours and shapes. The mobile companies keep upgrading the features and software. MoJo’s use tablets, smart phones like N series, iPhone, Blackberry and many others that have many applications.

Apart from a mobile phone, a MoJo bag contains a wireless keyboard, a miniature tripod, a solar battery and a small microphone along with relevant software to edit and publish multimedia content. It makes work easier and faster.

Pointed out Kaul: “Mobile journalism as the name suggests, is done on the go. Phone journalism or press release journalism can be done while sitting in your office cubicle, whereas mobile journalism can only be done when you are out on the field. Also, mobiles can turn every person on the road into a potential journalist, thus boosting the concept of ‘Citizen Journalism’ further.”

Many newspapers and news channels have build mobi sites, exclusively designed for e-readers. Recently Hindustan Times launched its application for iPhone Users. These sites also give an opportunity to journalists to upload news via mobile phones.

Chamath Aridyasa, founder of Jasmine News (JNW), well-known for mobile journalism in Asia, claimed, “We were the first to start delivering news by SMS in Sri Lanka in April 2006. I believe CNN started SMS news in 2005. We started off with citizen and mobile journalism, but very quickly expanded to reach a large subscriber base. We reached 180,000 people in 2010 on a monthly subscription basis.”

JNW news provides timely, well-sourced news headlines via text messages to reach you on your mobile phone wherever you may be. Other mobi sites are- CBS Mobile News, CNN, Straits Times, The Telegraph, Tele News Asia, BBC, Stomp, Goalkeeper, Blogging, Google News, Time, Newsweek, Sky News and so on.

As mobiles increase, there will be an invariable interest in Mobile Journalism. According to a latest report released by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, there are more than 800 million telecom subscribers in India.

Mobile Journalism is creating new opportunities. Aridyasa said: “The use of mobile phones allows citizens to report to news organizations. The mobile platform also allows individuals to start innovative news services. While news reaches the public conveniently, it is also cheaper and faster increasing the choice available to the public compared against traditional media.”

The mobile phone thus offers journalists mobility, multiplicity and enables multi-tasking. Dr Stephen Quinn, a journalism professor at Deakin University in Australia, says in his book, “MoJo – Mobile Journalism in the Asian Region” that mobile phones are a “Swiss army knife” option for journalists.

Actually, it all depends on how technology changes. Kaul says that at the moment, MoJo has emerged as an interesting form but if iPads come in a big way, we might end up calling it iPad journalism.

No rules have been written yet for MoJo’s. That gives many commoners a chance to explore the medium and discover the excitement of journalism.

(This article was published on ThumbPrint magazine on CULTURE AND SOCIETY – 2013-04-10)

Photo Exhibition- ‘Labour and Identity’

(These photos were on photo exhibition titled- Labour and Identity by IG Khan Memorial Trust, 2013)

Changing society through digital media

Written for UPI

 

New Delhi resident Tehzeen Fatima, 17, desperately wanted to continue her studies but her parents wouldn’t give her permission to make that dream come true.

Her life seemed dismal. She said she felt trapped in a cultural nightmare, which meant a future of uncertainty. To make matters worse, she couldn’t forge her own path because she wasn’t allowed to step out of her home unaccompanied to pursue her education.

“There were many problems,” Fatima said. “I did not have a voice at home.”

She didn’t give up, however and her family finally relented to her pleas. Now, she is completing a bachelor’s degree in social work at Indira Gandhi National Open University.

Much to her delight, Fatima recently joined the Aseem ASHA Foundation, an organization dedicated to train underprivileged children in the production of digital stories, advertisements, graphics and animation and game design.

The program focuses on young women, helping them to not only find their voice but to speak for others living in difficult circumstances.

“This center has given me a platform to discuss my problems and find solutions,” Fatima said. “It also boosted my confidence. It feels good to have an identity and presence now.”

After learning new skills, the eager student was able to tell the story of her sister, Shaheen, a widow, who was thrown out of her home after the death of her husband. She was illiterate, unemployed and poverty-stricken before taking shelter in a nearby non-governmental organization where she is learning embroidery.

“With the help of training in digital media, I want to make a short film on my sister’s life,” Fatima said. “I want society to know the importance of education for girls.”

The foundation has helped other young women as well.

“This center has developed my personality a lot,” said Iqra Amin, a student who completed her certificate course in design communication from Kalpana Chawla Media Resource Center, one of the programs offered by the foundation, in 2010. “My views have changed. Earlier, I used to think of marriage but now I want to become independent.”

She works as a marketing executive for a London cosmetic company.

Founder Aseem Asha Usman always has had a particular interest in helping young women break the chains of gender bias, strengthen their values and empower them to take on new roles in society.

“Girls never got an opportunity to interact with boys,” he said. “They never had this healthy atmosphere. The outdoor works also gives them opportunity to understand the society and its elements. Whenever we go out, I make boys do the daily kitchen chores. I want them to break the stereotypes which deteriorate the aesthetics of society.”

Kiran Rai has benefited from his philosophy. She is responsible for editing and directing small films and concentrates on domestic issues such as financial dependence of women.

“I hate stereotypes,” Rai said. “If a veil is for respect then it is good but when it is used to pull girls backward then it becomes an issue. The male gender is the core reason for all the problems which arises for girls.”

The Aseem ASHA Foundation is open to males, too.

Mushtaq Ali joined the Aseem ASHA Foundation when he was 13 years old. He used to study in a local school that had poor education opportunities. He wanted to learn more and develop a healthy earning potential to help his family.

The foundation showed him hope by training him in digital media. Now, in his early 20s, Ali enjoys editing and directing films.

“Paani Paani Paani Re” was one of his many films featured and screened at various national and international film festivals. The film also was shown at the 2010 Water International Film Festival, in Bangalore, and the 2011 CMS Vatavaran Film Festival, in Delhi. He was trained in video editing by Meraj Siddiqui of the Maya Academy of Advance Cinematics in Delhi.

Mushtaq recently received his first paycheck, which, he said, he gladly gave to his mother.

Usman said he is concerned helping all his students succeed. It has been a struggle to find a place to house the classes but the local community arranged for the funds, space and essential inventory needed to make sure the foundation was able to continue.

“I ask them to dream but about the things which are possible and approachable,” he said.

It’s no wonder that Usman’s mission has gained worldwide recognition.

“Simple words cannot convey how deeply impressed I am with Aseem’s tireless efforts,” said Michael Orlando Yaccarino, author, journalist and statistician for a major nonprofit organization serving the New York arts community. “One of the major goals of his valiant work is to expand the horizons of underprivileged children in his community through technical education and arts awareness. In all of this, Aseem demonstrates continually how he is guided by a deeply spiritual and selfless spirit in expanding horizons while making them brighter.”

Read more: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2011/11/25/Changing-society-through-digital-media/UPIU-8871319455376/#ixzz2LEjQsPD5