Mad Junglee

I’m a day late for #MusicMonday, I know. But this one is too good to wait for another six days. The track comes from DJ Ben G, a mashup-remix-master that has just signed on to Rukus Avenue. The remix profiled in this video is a tribute to the one and only Shammi Kapoor in a song called, “Junglee.” The video art is the work of our talented friend MadGuru.

MadGuru found 8-bit inspiration for the video from the original film.

I wanted to do something quick, which seems next to impossible in animation, and fun too. I really enjoyed the story of the film and that along with the creative sounds in Ben G’s mix made me think of old 8 bit video games like Donkey Kong and Mario Brothers. It sounded like a mashup of the two and so I thought, why not approach the visuals in the same way. Watch the original film and you’ll recognize many references in the piece. [madguru]


Watch the original film Junglee here and see if you can spot the references. The 8-bit video game inspired animation reminds me a lot of Das Racist’s Who’s That? Brooown! video. And of late nights playing Mario Kart in college. Bollywood 8-bit video games, now there’s an idea. How about it, MadGuru?


Teaching children the joy of sox … using Bhangra

This is from a Canadian-American TV show called The Backyardigans:

The show is an animated musical-adventure series aimed at children between the ages of 2 and 5.[4] In each episode, the show’s five friends–Pablo, Tyrone, Uniqua, Tasha, and Austin–rely on their vivid imaginations to transform their backyard into completely different worlds, in which they go through many sorts of stories and adventures…The episodes focus on music and dancing as much as they do on the stories, with each one featuring a different music genre [Link]

The Bhangra episode had three other songs (Socks, Wonderful Socks, That’s My Job, That’s My Job, and Gotta Get the Pencil) but this is the best one.

It doesn’t really make much sense to me, but then I don’t think that shows intended to amuse kids under five should really make sense to adults. Either you like it or you don’t, but trying to understand it … begs the point. Continue reading

“Children of a Lesser Google”

Hey, remember when Google’s motto used to be “don’t be evil?” Vaht, you thought they still had it? I did too, but this…might not be evil, but it certainly seems a little unfair:


Google India had launched a ‘Doodle 4 Google – My India’ contest in August. The Doodle is the logo design you see on the Google homepage. The theme of this competition was ‘My India’. On November 12, Google India announced at Taj Ambassador Hotel that tech hub Gurgaon based 4th standard school kid Puru Pratap has won the competition…a laptop computer for himself, a t-shirt with his doodle and Rs. 1 lakh (approx 2100 US dollars) for his school.

But his counterparts in USA and UK won substantially more. According to Google their US winner “will win a $15,000 college scholarship to be used at the school of their choice, a trip to the Google New York Office, a laptop computer, and a t-shirt printed with their doodle. We’ll also award the winner’s school a $25,000 technology grant towards the establishment/improvement of a computer lab.”

So let’s see: Indian winner = laptop + T-shirt + $2100 (for his school) + $0 (for himself)
US winner = laptop + T-shirt + trip to NY + $25,000 (for his school) + $15,000 (for himself)

Let me see…let me do the math…I dunno, maybe you need a special algorithm or something to make these two things equal? Because to my eyes, it looks like the Indian kid is getting royally screwed. It looks like the same contest, run by the same company, is rewarding a far lesser prize to the winner from one country than to the winner from another country.

The writer of the quoted piece goes on to point of various other prizes that are awarded equally to winners from all countries. She concludes:

Are we children of a lesser Google? Or is the Indian market less important? Perhaps Bing has the answer.

Dammit. I like Chrome. Continue reading

The Desi Equivalent of Baby Einstein …

My two-year old nephew can’t get enough of Lingo the Lion and ever since I watched the DVD “Animals”, I can see why.

One of the offerings from the bilingual publisher Little GuruSkool, “Animals” is what I’d call a Desi equivalent of the immensely popular Baby Einstein series. Combining video footage of the natural world with animated characters, adorable little puppets and Desi babies, and catchy music, it promises to help the diasporic subcontinental parent “introduce their children to the Indian culture in a fun and interactive way.”


Little GuruSkool is a relatively new company, based in Chicago and founded by Pooja Pittie Goel, the mother of a preschooler who “wanted to expose her son to Indian languages, music, art and nature at an early age, but could not find any books or DVDs in the market (either in the US or in India) that were appropriate for pre-schoolers – educational and entertaining at the same time.” When she couldn’t find what she needed in the market place, she decided to create the products (DVDs, audio CDs, and illustrated, high quality board books) herself. The production quality is impressive, and after I finished watching the “Animals” DVD, I couldn’t get the song about “choti choti machliya” (little, tiny fish) out of my head.

If you’re in the market for a gift for that little desi toddler in your life, Little GuruSkool’s line is sure to be a happy discovery for you. It’s a welcome addition to the current offerings of bilingual, multimedia educational lines such as Sonali Herrera’s Meera Masi, Monika Jain’s Kahani, Rashmi Turner’s Global Wonders, and Kavita (Shah) Bafana’s Little Ustaads (Indian classical music classes), all created by moms to fill existing gaps in the Desi educational marketplace. (I certainly did not have any of these options when I was a toddler, and am glad to know my little one will!)

Below the fold: a brief interview with Pooja Pittie Goel for those interested in her story and process. Continue reading

Sita Sings the Blues, Just for You

Roger Ebert calls it an “astonishing original” and something that has him “smiling from one end of the film to the other.” I am of course talking about Nina Paley’s animated film Sita Sings the Blues. A project of passion, Nina has worked on this film on and off over the past five years. The Mutiny has followed Nina’s progress over the past few years of development and finally, her Sita Sings the Blues is finished in it’s entirety.

On Saturday March 7th, if you have access to WNET NY Channel 13, set your TiVo for 10:45 because Sita Sings the Blues will be broadcasted. Not in NY? Not to worry, the film can be watched fully online streamed from the Reel 13 Blog right now and will be available to download in various forms on March 7th from the site.Sita Sings the Blues Poster.jpg

What exactly is Sita Sings the Blues? I got to watch the full movie this weekend and it’s…. well it’s…well a cartoon, I guess? But it’s like, wow….and unlike any cartoon I’ve ever seen. And a musical… and there is dancing, and blood. And puppets, really funny puppets. With four different parallel stories. About Sita. Hmm…I’m at a loss for words. Nina Paley calls her movie, “…a personal, musical, animated interpretation of Sita’s story in the Ramayana set to old American jazz and blues by Annette Hanshaw.” But really, it’s so much more than that.

I got the chance to catch Nina before she flew off to Vienna for an animation conference. Just for you, an exclusive interview with the writer, director, animator, and producer of Sita Sings the Blues, Nina Paley:

I’ve heard you say in the past that this story was developed after you yourself experienced heartbreak. In a very stark way, you placed yourself as an animated character in the final product. In one part of the film, the animated version of you is in black lingerie trying to get your husband to take notice of you. Why did you make the movie so personal when you had the option of not?

I was making the Sita segments to tell my story. In real life, when I explained that, people were at least as interested in what happened to me….so the autobiographical bits serve as a built-in FAQ. Might as well put that into the film itself, instead of just the inevitable press kit.

It was a very personal project from the beginning. Including the autobiographical bits emphasizes that. I didn’t set out to tell THE Ramayana, only MY Ramayana. I wanted to be very clear about my point of view, my biases.

Continue reading

A Virtual Visit to a Detention Center

I’m playing a new online video game today. It’s called “Homeland Guantanamos” and it has transformed me into an undercover journalist whose task is to unearth clues about the mysterious 2007 death of Boubacar Bah, a Guinean tailor who was held at a detention center in Elizabeth, NJ for overstaying his visa.detain.jpg

“Homeland Guantanamos” is the latest multi-media offering from Breakthrough, the human rights organization which uses media and popular culture to raise awareness here and in India. [Abhi covered their video game “I Can End Deportation” or I.C.E.D. earlier this year. ]

We’ve all heard stories about immigrants (illegal and residents) being detained without explanation or for prolonged periods of time. At the website, I got to see what life might be like on the other side of the fence. I took a tour of a simulated immigration detention center and collected clues to help solve the mystery of Bah’s death (he died of a skull fracture and brain hemorrhages). Along the way, I saw other detainees (eg: a pregnant woman kept in shackles during labor) and witnessed conditions of the facilities, including the solitary confinement room, the bathrooms, and the dining hall. Though this is a simulated experience, the content is based on factual sources such as news articles, court documents, and interviews.

Why call the site “Homeland Guantanamos”? According to Malikka Dutt, executive director of Breakthrough, “the Department of Homeland Security is violating the human rights of legal and undocumented immigrants” and some of the inhumane conditions of detention centers where these immigrants are being held are not all that different from the facility at Guantanamo Bay. Continue reading

Young Padawan

Star Wars fans were excited to learn today that a new animated film based on the the Star Wars Universe will be released this August:

Star Wars: The Clone Wars makes its theatrical debut as an all-new, computer-generated feature film in August 2008, followed by a television series in the fall.

The new adventures in a galaxy far, far away apparently take place between the second and third Star Wars prequel films, similar to the Clone War series of the same name that ran between 2003 and 2005. Returning characters include Anakin Skywalker – who later becomes Darth Vader – along with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Padme Amidala. New heroes also join to battle familiar villains from the Star Wars prequels, such as Darth Sidious, Count Dooku, and General Grievous.

“I felt there were a lot more Star Wars stories left to tell,” said George Lucas, Star Wars creator and executive producer of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. “I was eager to start telling some of them through animation and, at the same time, push the art of animation forward…” [Link]

One of the major points covered in the press release is that a new female Jedi character will be introduced. She will serve as Anakin’s padawan (the way Anakin was Obi-wan’s padawan). The name of this young Jedi (who will of course eventually be hunted down and killed by Vader) is Ahsoka Tano:

… among the familiar characters like Obi-Wan, Anakin and Yoda is a mysterious new Padawan named Ahsoka Tano.

This young Togruta is eager to prove herself as a worthy Padawan to her bold Master, Anakin Skywalker. Able to wield a lightsaber and pilot a spacecraft with great talent, Ahsoka promises to become a worthy Jedi. [Link]

Tano joins a long list of other sci-fi desi characters. Mysterious is right though, because I can’t find much of a backstory on her yet. The name Ahsoka makes it seem like she is Indian (dot not feather) but the name Tano makes it seem like she is Indian (feather not dot). Or maybe, since this all happened a long long time ago, and in a considerably far off galaxy, ethnically ambiguous is ok. For those of you who like bad-ass ambiguously desi chicks, get your tee-shirt here. For those of you who like your animated warriors more traditional, there is always this.

Continue reading

55Friday: The “I Feel Fine” Edition

oh, hell no.jpg Set adrift on memory bliss…

My screen says, “Please replace this generic password.”

Either my kappipaal hasn’t kicked in yet or I’ve got a severe case of Spring fever (perhaps cowbell could cure it?). I can’t focus, let alone devise a password with 12 letters, one symbol, two numbers and an exclamation point. One of my favorite co-workers stops by my desk, with an eyebrow raised.

“You look lost.”

“Can you like, pick a password for me? Like, passwords are hard.”

Like math?”

This is our favorite inside joke, this reference to Barbie’s great fustercluck of ’92. Still, despite legendary vacuous utterances, Barbie is beloved not just by me but also his six-year old daughter, because as we three agree, them Bratz dollz are slatterns.

“Sure I’ll pick something for you.” He seems serious.

“You like music. Use a song lyric.”, he instructs, before striding in to his office, which is next door to my desk. Then he pops his head back out…

“I used to use ‘It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine’ as mine.”

“R.E.M. fan, eh?”

He smiles at me in response. We’re nearly the same age; we were both dorky loners who probably spent all our free time between classes with our headphones on, tuning out the world. We both remember how the release of “Green” in 1988, during the fall quarters of our Freshman/Junior year in high school defined a moment, a mood. Continue reading