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Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Emmy winners are out and other stories

The Emmy winners are out and other stories

The Emmy winners were announced today and we are very excited and a little bit annoyed. Firstly, what? How much cooler and funnier must Parks and Rec, Community and Louie be to be nominated for an Emmy? And hasn’t 30 Rock really run past its expiration date? What kind of world do we live in where Ron Swanson and Abed Nadir don’t even get a nomination for their brilliant performances? Huh?

But yay for Modern Family winning for the third consecutive year and hurrah for Louis CK and Homeland and Aaron Paul and Claire Danes.

Yes, it was a bit tiring that the men on Modern Family monopolize the Supporting Comedy Actor section every year. Which is why I was rooting for Schmidt (played by Max Green field in New Girl) but oh well, Cameron is great too. Ho hum.

Also, Amy Pohler was robbed! Again! And so were Bryan Cranston and Mad Men. Boooo.

P.S – How amazing was Aziz Ansari?! Fish n chips!

Speaking of Bryan Cranston, the meth-cook-in-tighty-whities is directing an episode of Modern Family. Having already directed a few episodes of Malcolm in the Middle as well as Breaking Bad, we know this guy has some serious directing chops. We can’t wait for Modern Family to be back, September 26th is almost here. Also, it’s kind of unnerving to see Heisenberg chilling in a suburban home looking way too normal for comfort.

Fanfiction and its tremendous rise in the past few years is a trend really worth observing. From Harry Potter and Twilight to Desperate Housewives and Friends, writers and fans all over the world are creating incredible plot twists and spinning stories for a large audience that seems to lap them up. Some of them are written beautifully and makes you wonder why these guys aren’t creating their own original work of fiction (Readymade characters with already set personalities are quirks are easier to write about then creating characters of your own and breathing life into them is my opinion). But, most or a large amount of fanfiction is sexual. Character pairings like Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter who get it on in the forbidden forest or incestual relations between Ross and Monica are all over the internet. In this story by Supriya Nair, she explores sexual fanfiction in the world of classic literature and reviews Jane Eyre Laid Bare about, well as you can tell from the title, Jane Eyre’s explicit sex life. Though it is doubtful this will make Charlotte Bronte roll over in her grave considering Jane Eyre is already full of sex, we sure want to know what she would think.

If you are active on Facebook, you might have already seen this link doing the rounds with ‘awwws’ and ‘sooo cutes’. Buzzfeed’s 50 most romantic photographs of all times may or may not have made us weep.

– Sharanya

MTV’s Bring on the Night and the state of youth programming

MTV’s Bring on the Night and the state of youth programming

No TV for young people. Indian television is still stuck in some regressive daily soap infested twilight zone. The youth channels you can count on the fingers of one hand. Good youth channels of course, you can count on the fingers of the hand of that homeless guy whose arms end in a stump. Stilted dialogue and terrible concepts are all we get, packaged into reality shows of the Roadies and Splitsvilla variety or into the unbelievable high school drama like Suvreen Gagal.

Television channels targeting the youth have absolutely no idea what we watch or want to watch. The guys at the helm are clueless old cronies who get offended by everything and the content is filtered through the tight strainer of the standards and practices department. The uninspired television content that we get on Channel V, MTV or Bindass makes me wonder what these channels think of this 20 something generation. Do they think I don’t know they’ve ripped off this particular adventure task sequence from Survivor Australia? Do they honestly believe that this joke is still funny? Yes, Roadies gets their TRPs and dammit yes, putting skimpily clad dancing women on air for 20 minutes in a 30 minute show entails viewing. But this means that I’m not part of the target audience during the concept forming process and not only does this piss me off, it also means it’s where the circle begins. The shame circle of bad TV begins at “That’s too smart for the Haryana audience.” Write that down. It’s true.

As a 23 year-old avid television watcher, I don’t want to watch a show where people don’t talk like me, aren’t funny or where the word ‘shit’ has to be beeped out and replaced with an inoffensive word in the subtitles. I don’t want to watch a watered-down anything with beeps followed by beeps. So, I turn to the internet for my television needs. If an Indian channel were to create a good show I wouldn’t watch it. So, the TRPs would fall and any endeavor to make good television is thwarted right there.

MTV’s Bring on the Night is a show I have been recommending to absolutely everybody I meet. Watch the uncensored trailer! Wait, I’ll buffer it and show it to you! Look, it’s funny and they talk like us!

Sigh. But they can’t. You can’t have people say bhosadike and madarchod on Indian TV. So, I watch the uncensored episode online. And before I go any further, let me just gush over how incredibly superb Bring on the Night is. The first scene where Devang and Patrick talk about superheroes had me in splits. With great pace and story building, cinematography that reminds me of Bejoy Nambiar’s Shaitan and Ankur Tiwari, Dualist Inquiry and others making appearances in the background score, BOTN is making me very excited.  It is directed by the super cool Vishwesh (of Scribe and The Dewarists), written by the incredibly funny Tanmay Bhat, Ashish Shakya and Rohan Joshi, and the plot revolves around four guys who transform a run down old building into an after hours party place.

Is this the dawn of a new day? Is reality television in India reaching its end? Dancing, singing, living in a house and making an ass of yourself and conducting loyalty tests on your boyfriends and girlfriends…Maybe we have milked it for all its worth and maybe, just maybe, its time to put that cow to sleep. In 5 years, or maybe a decade, maybe good fiction will have taken over, pushed the boundaries of what defines entertainment. Maybe we’ll grow up and not be pussies about words like sex and fuck. That’s when I’ll be watching TV made for me.

Please stand up

Please stand up

If you live in Bombay, off late you’re probably measured for coolness by the number of times you’ve visited The Comedy store at Palladium. The Dark knight? Sure. NH7 Weekender? Definitely!  But XXXX’S set at The Store, OMFGSOFUNNYIALMOSTKILLEDMYSELF. I’m not exaggerating. Yes, I admit that the heady rush of exhilaration has died down somewhat. In 2010, it was the biggest thing since Jesus. Suddenly every publication in the country was doing profiles of upcoming talent and writing trend stories that just about stopped short of taking off their metaphorical shirts and throwing them on stage. Acquaintances wanted to be comedians. During sets, women friends made eyes and started touching their hair a lot. Twitter exploded with one-liners from hopeful amateurs. And amateur nights? Yeah, there was probably a bar somewhere in Belapur or Thane, that didn’t have one.

At Project Small Fry, we attempt to document the vein of a subculture that may in the future be held as the first record of the stirrings of a great youth movement. What do you mean, we don’t really do that? Well, the “babble” about TV and books are supposed to be a build up, okay? In any case, we’re a big fan of stand up comedy ourselves. We follow who needs to be followed on Twitter, we go to The Store (if we can afford the tickets) we free ourselves for things like this. All this is reason enough, to try and write about what’s great and not so great, about the stand up comedy scene in the city.

What’s great:

It’s a lovely alternative entertainment option. And it isn’t always expensive. Shows with local talent cost as much as the latest (dumb) Bollywood screening at PVR. And you get to listen to someone poke fun at the latest (dumb) Bollywood screening at PVR.

It will open your life to a lot of off-the-beaten-track entertainment options. Fun fact: Comedians are a restless bunch, always trying to break new ground and work on new cool projects. Like All India Bhakchod, a podcast by comedians Tanmay Bhat and Gursimran Khamba, for example. The more projects, the more laughs. It’s simple maths really.

You will start giving mainstream entertainment the slimmest sliver of a chance. A month ago, the only reason I’d agree to watch even 30 minutes of programming on MTV, would be if you told me that Raghu was converting to Buddhism live on Roadies season 8. Now, when I hear that a comedian I like, had something to do with the script of a television show or wrote such-and-such awards ceremony, I’m more likely to watch. Read Sharanya’s column this week to understand what I mean.

Jokes about Andheri. Jokes about parliament. Jokes about Pooja Bedi. Win.

What’s not so great:

Nine times out of ten, a stand up routine is not somewhere I would take my mother. Now calm down. I’m not talking about the cussing or even the jokes about religion. But, speaking as someone who is actually a patron of stand up, I gotta say, sometimes, comedians get carried away with the laughs. When that happens you can almost see the blood of super human recklessness rush to their faces before they leap, Willy Wonka like, over the line that goes from hilarious to offensive. Check out this clip from Louis, a clever sketch show by legendary comedian Louis CK. Jokes that skim the edges of sensitive issues had best make a point. If it’s a potshot without a point, I won’t laugh. Why should I?

The bandwagon people. These are the people in the audience who are laughing so hard, they’re almost doubled over. “What did he just say? I missed it,” You might ask of such a person. “Oh. I didn’t catch it either,” they’ll reply, eyes streaming over with mirth. So annoying. Though technically, this isn’t stand ups fault. It’s kind of the fault of human nature.

That’s all folks. More about this trend when it develops, I guess. For now, we love how stand up is going in the city. We love the veterans and the newer comics.  We love how fresh and new it all is. We love how funny has become a business and how it’s new enough to not be tainted (as far as we know) with the hypocrisy of most industries in the country. We love that years from now, when it actually is tainted, we’ll be able to shake our heads and say that this, 2010 to 2012, was comedy’s golden era, that we were unknowingly part of a revolution in entertainment and that we wrote about it on Project Small Fry.

Celebrity interviews we love

Celebrity interviews we love

Nolan Gould on Ellen: Nolan Gould is in MENSA, which means he is the exact opposite of Luke, the character he plays on Modern Family. On Ellen, he wowed us with how self possessed he is, how smart he is and how he can match Ellen in a battle of wits.

The Dalai Lama and the pizza joke: He’s peaceful, happy, accommodating and ever so polite and pleasant. Gotta be every interviewers dream right? Oh, except….

Aziz Ansari on Conan: We tried to answer this really important question. Do we love Aziz Ansari for Tom Haverford or do we love him for Aziz Ansari? We were leaning toward the former (He IS a velvet, cashmere, velvet Candy Cane) but then we saw this…..

Louis CK on Conan: Everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy. AMEN!

Hugh Laurie on Ellen: Ba-donka-donk. It’s a fantastic word!

Narcopolis gets shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and other stories

Narcopolis gets shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and other stories

Jeet Thayil’s Narcopolis has been nominated for the Man Booker Prize. Yawn. Why yawn? Well I don’t think too much of Sridhar Thayil and I haven’t read Narcopolis yet (Though I have it on good authority that it lost itself in the quest to be intellectual). Okay fine, that’s not good enough. I’ll get around to reading it after I’m done with From Heaven Lake (which is going great, thanks very much). In any case, Hurrah for Jeet Thayil. I guess.

Once upon a time, there was a genius called Groucho Marx and he wrote a letter to another genius called Woody Allen. Now what do you get when you take a genius and discover he had friendly feelings toward another genius? That’s just a whole lot of genius, so Be Excited, you guys! And while we’re at it, I am so totally in love with this website that I will definitely recommend you read every single letter on it. Every single one. No, I’m not being needlessly emphatic. Read.

More news about this controversial Anti-Islam film that causing all manner of violence and unrest. The director and the “man associated with it” are never brought into the same sentence but the former has apparently been questioned now.  And there are talks of the Youtube clip being blocked even in India which has a small but devout Muslim population.

The Wire a modern day Victorian Novel? Bitch please, says critic Laura Miller.

Pussy Riots back in the news! Well, kinda. A press that’s both Indie and Feminist, huh? We’re not surprised it’s championing this particular cause.

– Sheena

A jumbled sea of stories

A jumbled sea of stories

Usually I steer clear of movies that have characters with disabilities of any kind. I don’t like feeling forced to empathise with a character or be called insensitive if I don’t. But Bollywood, despite Guzarish and some others, has really handled disability very well in recent times. Paa, Taare Zameen Par and this week’s Barfi.
Barfi is a story about deaf and mute boy (Ranbir Kapoor is absolutely incredible in this movie and so cute!), an autistic girl (Priyanka Chopra) and of course the message of all Bollywood movies: love surpasses everything.

The movie successfully manages to skip past sympathy and gets straight to the story; that there is an autistic person and a deaf-mute is almost kind of incidental. I’m not an expert at writing movie reviews but this is a movie I would recommend to everybody. The music is very sweet and some of the scenes are shot extremely beautifully. The cast is great; it’s just a wonderfully made movie.

I caught the 11pm show and at 2.30 am, I took a rickshaw home from Andheri alone, plugged my headphones in and I realised, it was 2.30 am. A few years ago I wouldn’t dare go alone anywhere past midnight and yes, there is still that occasional moment of anxiety when I’m the only woman on Khar station and the sleeveless kurta seems to reveal more than it actually does. And then there are nights like these when I’ll stop on the way and smoke a cigarette with the rickshaw driver, when all of Bombay seems to mutter stories and the song that plays on shuffle seems to fit your life and even the street lamps look like fireflies. Nights like these when coming home and opening a word document seems organic. You have almost no idea what you’re writing but you do. It may not be as inspiring as you thought it was in the morning but what I’m coming to, after all this pointless build up is that Bombay is so full of stories, so many worlds, so many characters.

Speaking of Bombay stories, this week, Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil (of the super cool Sridhar Thayil) was nominated for the Man Booker prize. Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of the book, the story is great, the narrative is exciting but somehow it seem a bit, erm, pretentious. I know. Maybe I just didn’t get it. Maybe I’m being a hipster and don’t want to like anything that’s popular (Ok, that’s not true. Look at the fangirlism on this website). But this is still terribly exciting news for Indian fiction and I do hope Thayil wins. We’ll know in about a month, and till then if you haven’t read Narcopolis yet, you should. Do tell me what you think.

And here’s something else I recommend this week, Go on. Matthew Perry’s latest show is about a radio jockey who loses his wife and has to attend mandatory group therapy sessions. Matthew Perry is one of my favourite actors and every time he fails I take it personally. Studio 60 lasted only one season (and what a spectacular season that was), Mr. Sunshine was terribly lackluster so I had my fingers crossed for Go on. Two episodes in, and I predict good things to come. A very cute story with Perry’s trademark humour and wit and a cast that makes for some crazy and sweet moments, Go on might just be the show to watch this season.

A CIG’s guide to why you should read The BB guide to the GIG

A CIG’s guide to why you should read The BB guide to the GIG

CIG means Cool Indian Girl,  by the way.

Last year, The bad boys guide to the good Indian girl was published. The book, which has a strange dappled red jacket, is a collection of little vignettes about the Good Indian Girl compiled by Annie Zaidi and Smriti Ravindra. I hadn’t heard the latters name but I was familiar with and quite liked Annie Zaidi’s bylines. When the book came out last year, there was a lot of talk about how deftly it captured this and that, and how thoughtfully it threw light on the other.

I have the book and I have read it and I have liked it. I may not praise it as elegantly as it should be praised, but I will say this. Every word of it was something I have seen and felt. For a book of fiction, it’s almost scarily accurate. And I say this from my experience of having lived with, studied with and played with a wide assortment of Indian girls both good and bad. First of all, as each story will illustrate, The GIG is not an actual thing. It’s more of an idea, a concept. And that is the whole beauty. When you consider the fact that there’s 221 pages of stories about a damn idea you may end up wanting a drink.

But that’s not why I like it. I like it because it made me feel something I hadn’t felt in a long while. I couldn’t identify what that feeling was exactly, but I searched my memories and came up with an inkling.

When I was about 11, my mother started studying her BA through correspondence and I ended up reading all her prescribed texts. I gobbled up her plays, (The glass menagerie was my favourite) struggled through The Scarlet Letter, read Things fall apart with great enjoyment and also completed my first unabridged Dickens (A tale of two cities), a text I had the pleasure of studying when I did my own BA. There was one book, that came into our house during the mothers BA phase, that I remember very vividly, a copy of which I have never seen again. Sunlight on a broken column by Attia Hossain. I remember this book, because it was written as if the words were coming from my heart and speaking from inside me. I don’t even know why. Contextually, it might as well have been I don’t know, Breaking Bad. My family had told me no horror stories about partition, so obviously I didn’t relate to that, and I wasn’t raised in a conservative Muslim family, so naturally, I had little in common with the main characters. Defying tradition for love was obviously not it. (At that time, I was all about defying geometry homework in order to read BA books but whatever). Was I an orphan? Nope. Did I have an ancestral village where cousins would talk about how soon they wanted to get married? Uh uh. Maybe that was actually the first Indian English fiction I read. I can’t say for sure. All I know is, the writing made me feel alive. With the first vignette from The bad boys guide to the GIG, that feeling came rushing back.

The great thing about books that are compilations of short fiction, or even a book of short stories, is that there’s breathing space between pages. It’s not a book you read to finish. It’s a book you read when you have an hours wait in a coffee shop. It’s a book you put aside when something exciting comes along, not to desert it, of course, but to visit it later, like you would visit an old roommate that you never stayed in touch with.

If you don’t like short fiction, here’s a list of reasons you should read The Bad Boys Guide to the Good Indian Girl.

You’re a GIG, A BIG (Bad Indian Girl) or have known/loved either of the above.

You are a boy and your love interest is a girl.

You are a girl and you’re love interest is a girl.

You were shy with the opposite sex or still are.

You fight with your parents.

You live alone in a city and your watchman gives you sidelong glances when you come home late.

You regret things.

You are at a crossroads.

You are young, restless and eager.

You feel older than your years.

You are scared.

You are happy.

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