Siliconeer: September 2002

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Volume III Issue 9

Publisher's Note:

India, it has been uncharitably said, is the land where the bullock cart lives cheek-by-jowl with the space satellite. The condescension implicit in this observation may be vexing, but it is difficult to deny the truth in the statement. So it is particularly heartening when news arrives that civic minded technology buffs are trying to put their hi-tech expertise to use for real needs in India.

This month, our cover story is about students at the Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh who have developed an interactive software program called Deepti, which enables a computer to actually talk in Hindi. This promises to bring benefits to the Indian masses for whom basic literacy has been a struggle.

This effort is part of a small but laudable trend in India of highly educated, motivated people wishing to get out of the corporate rat race and urban cocoon and look for ways of contributing towards the betterment of the broader Indian population whom the financial reforms and globalized environs of the metropolitan cities have largely passed by. It can take many diverse forms. Siliconeer has featured stories of Magsaysay winner Sandeep Pandey’s return to his ancestral village to open a school and self help programs after getting a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from UC Berkeley, and a program by Sustainable Access in Rural Internet that lets villagers in Tamil Nadu to send Tamil email.

Of course, it would be foolish to get carried away. India continues to be plagued by corrupt, thuggish politicians and a privileged, affluent urban elite with scant concern for the less fortunate masses. Nevertheless, these public-spirited, highly educated citizens, who are immersed in efforts to make technology relevant to the Indian masses, are true heroes in which the nation can take pride.


Main Feature

Virtual Hindi Chat
Deepti, the Talking Computer
By Rahul Jindal

Chandigarh students have developed a program which lets computers talk in Hindi. It has enormous potential in India, writes Rahul Jindal, who developed the program with his associates.

Hello India. Artificial Intelligence, meet India’s illiterate peasant. Four of us, originally from Chandigarh’s Punjab Engineering College, are now building what we believe could be a vital bridge that unites India’s proud, state-of-the-art computer expertise with its impoverished masses.

Imagine a scene at a busy railway station in New Delhi. A semiliterate passenger wants to know what time the train to Jalandhar will leave. He goes to the information booth, finds the monitor which has the information. Maybe he chooses the distinctive icon that represents the his train. Or he chooses the train number. He touches it, and a voice tells him what time the next train shall leave. It can also guide him to more information about reservations and availability.

Sounds like a sci-fi movie? Well, it isn’t, thanks to Deepti. Touchscreen technology is now commonplace in the West, and Deepti is a program that we have developed which is an interactive computer chat program that can speak in Hindi.

The three-member team includes me (Rahul Jindal), Ritvik Sahajpal and Rohit Kumar working with Rishi Bihari. We have come up with a chat robot — a chat software program—— that understands and speaks Hindi and is capable of intelligent talk. 

It has great potential, we believe. Deepti could be used to make government services more accessible. We could put it in government offices, where it could replace the information desk. Fully developed, we could have a system where people could communicate with it via voice and it could then provide them help, say, to get the right official forms, again through voice.

Deepti could also be used on home computers. Users could install it on their computers and have fun chatting with Deepti. As Deepti chats more and more with the user, it will acquire more knowledge about the user and become more and more intelligent.

The ability to communicate through speech is something we take for granted, but it is one of the most complex of skills, as scientists who do research in artificial intelligence have discovered. Talented computer scientists are now on a path to teach computers to do this. The ability of computers to talk comes through the use of Natural Language Processing techniques. The simplest of these is based on the pioneering work of the AI Foundation which has developed an as-yet-primitive non-standard “markup” language for artificial intelligence, called AIML. AIML is the brainchild of Dr. Richard S. Wallace, a computer scientist with Carnegie Mellon University

Scientists are trying to develop chat robots using this, and substantial success has been achieved.

Our project works best through modular programming. We wish to follow the dictum “From simple to complex” throughout the development process. We would wish to set out with a study of AIML along with planning and discussing the simplest of the AIML categories.

The development and conception of these categories will undoubtedly be a continuous process.

We will need to develop what might be called an AIML server, that understands the AIML rules and hence our AIML categories. This is actually what the “robot” is. With a weak “shell” developed, we move on to giving a simple command line interface (aka client), which would in fact be an interface to the human user. It is as if we take our server to be analogous to a http Server and the User Interface as being analogous to an http Client that sends requests to the server on behalf of the user.

Until now both the user and the bot — a machine that communicates through typed speech — communicate through Unicode (or ASCII) characters. At this stage we are working towards transforming the bot output to simulate human voice. This can be done using a Text-to-Speech system. Currently we work with user inputs in text format with the bot “speaking” out her dialogues.

There is a lot of work ahead. We would like to reiterate that categories of AIML would need to be refined to make Deepti intelligent.

We would also like to move from command line interface to a Web browser-compatible interface. For this we would need to direct all input to a software port at which our server would be listening, so that appropriate responses can be played on a multimedia-enabled system through the speakers.

As we develop our system, we wish to ultimately have some form of lip syncing, so that we have a character on screen that seems to be speaking out her responses.

Few things are certain in scientific research. The thorniest problems can be solved in unexpected flashes of inspiration; on the other hand, unforeseen hurdles can come up and stymie progress. But perseverance and hard work will get you there.

We are very, very optimistic. The basic principles are sound, and we already have a prototype, though it needs refining. So it may not be too far in the future when at a major Indian railway station, when you need to know about train schedules, you may be looking at the face of a beautiful (virtual) woman on a monitor who answers your questions with seductive grace. Now that would be an improvement over the usual scene today: A dour employee who wordlessly points a stick at some blackboard as he looks at you accusingly, as if asking about the train schedule is an only slightly less serious crime than culpable homicide.

Rahul Jindal presently works with Infosys in India.
He helped develop Deepti, a software program
that enables computers to talk in Hindi..


Infotech India

Karnataka CM at Videoconference

Karnataka Chief Minister S.M. Krishna, who could not make it to the World Kannada Conference being held at Detroit, inaugurated it from Bangalore using a video conferencing facility.

Krishna addressed the gathering both in Kannada and English for about 30 minutes Aug. 31 from his home office through the video conferencing system, a release from the Chief Minister’s Office said.

BSNL had arranged for the uplinking, it said.

Krishna’s speech was received with applause from the non-resident Kannadigas, who had gathered in large numbers, the release said.

He had to cancel US trip following the prevailing drought conditions and the crisis created by former minister H. Nagappa’s abduction by forest brigand Veerappan.

Development Center in Canada

Wipro Technologies, the global IT services division of Wipro Limited, Sept. 3 announced the opening of a development centre at Windsor, Canada, further enhancing its global delivery capabilities.

This augments Wipro’s network of development centers spread across four cities in India, two cities in the U.S., and one each in the U.K., Germany and Japan, a Wipro press release said.

“A globally distributed development centre network complements Wipro’s disaster recovery and business continuity plans by de-risking Wipro’s clients from natural and man-made geography risks, further improving Wipro’s position as a reliable outsourcing partner,” it said.

“The development centre at Windsor enhances our ability to service clients by addressing their need for closer architecture support and cost-effectiveness of a global delivery mechanism,” said Vivek Paul, vice-chairman, Wipro Limited and CEO, Wipro Technologies.

Accord with Shanghai

A high-level delegation from Kerala, led by the state’s Information Technology and Industry Minister P.K. Kunhalikutty, signed a memorandum of understanding with China’s leading software park at Shanghai on Sept. 3.

An official press release in Thiruvananthapuram said this was the first time any state had cooperated with their Chinese counterpart in the area of IT.

The MoU was signed by Aruna Sunderrajan, Secretary (IT) and chairperson of Technopark, on behalf of the state government and H. Hongliang, president, Shanghai Pudong Software Park.

SPSP, with over 1,000 companies, is China’s largest and leading technology park and contributes to more than one-third of the Chinese IT market. It was playing a key facilitating role in developing IT industry in this part of China and expanding business channels worldwide, the release said.

The MoU covers key areas of cooperation, including technology and knowledge management, joint business development and promotion and information and business exchanges.

Taiwan Seeks Help

Taiwan, renowned for its computer hardware industry, is seeking India’s help in upgrading its software sector to transform the cash-rich island into a’“silicon island,” a senior industry official said in Taipei Sept. 6.

“We are in the process of finalizing some agreements with the Indian side for co-operating in the field of software in Taiwan,” vice-president of Taiwan’s Institute for Information Industry, Tai-yang Hwang, said.

He said Taiwan’s Information Technology industry, hit by global recession, has concentrated more on computer hardware sector and neglected the software sector.

In the vastly changed international situation, Taiwan’s IT industry has recognized the need for international cooperation, especially with India, to enhance Taiwan’s IT profile, he said.

IT industry sources here said Taiwan welcomed Indian IT professionals to shift their base to Taipei and there was tremendous scope for Indian IT education companies who are now focusing on China.

GE Launches UPS

GE Digital Energy, a unit of the General Electric Company and a leading provider of critical power products and services to the digital marketplace, today announced the availability of its UPS — uninterrupted power supplies — and APS—— advanced power systems — in India.

GE said its power protection products were aimed at customers in mission critical markets such as Information Technology, telecommunications and healthcare.

The GE manufacturing facility in Switzerland was responsible for the production of the GE UPS products, while the APS products were manufactured in the U.S. and Canada, a GE Industrial Systems release said.

Martin Kemper, Asia Pacific managing director for GE Digital Energy, said—“India is an important market especially for businesses with precision electronics or IT processing that need to have clean, uninterrupted power.”

Bioinformatics Course

With great potential for bioinformatics professionals at the global level, Chennai-based Small Industries Service Institute has started post graduate diploma in bioinformatics in the city and Pondicherry.

With good response for the course in Chennai, where it was started four months ago, the institute, under the union Industry Ministry, would attempt to bridge the demand-supply gap by imparting training in the field, SISI director V.S. Karunakaran told reporters in Coimbatore Sept. 4.

Saying that there were more than 20,000 bioinformatics professionals required all over the world particularly the U.S. and Europe, Karunakaran said there were also many self employment opportunities available in the area.

In association with Chennai Online


Budget Strategies
Financial Means and Goals
By Ashok Gupta

Running deficits can be just as injurious for individuals and families as it can be for governments, says Ashok Gupta, who provides a simple road map to avoid this pitfall.

We all get angry and upset when the state or federal government spends beyond its means and runs huge deficits. The same principle applies in our own lives, too. A family or individual with a planned budget program functions far better than those who live on an ad hoc basis, there are fewer disappointments, crises and realistic goals become much easier to both set and achieve.

The best part of it is that it’s not rocket science. With a bit of prudence and care, we all can do it, and improve the quality of our lives remarkably.

The Value of a Budget

In recent years two conflicting trends have surfaced within the American culture. Americans are earning more than ever before, but are saving less. What is a solution to this problem? Develop a household budget.

Here are the steps to help you get started:

  • Determine your net monthly household income (subtract taxes and other payroll deductions). Remember to add any supplementary income such as interest, stock dividends or income from rental properties.
  • Assess your monthly expenses. Reviewing the past will help you anticipate the future.
  • Don’t guess — take time to analyze your spending habits by reviewing old bills and returned checks.
  • Establish major budget categories. Review the amount you spend each month on food, housing and utilities, loan payments, dependent expenses, medical bills, taxes, insurance, recreation, clothing and personal care items.
  • Review your budget. Track your budget periodically. If you get off track, look for ways to cut back.
  • Put your computer to work. There are several inexpensive, user-friendly programs that can help make budgeting fun and interesting.
  • Another way to start saving money is through a systematic plan. When a portion of your salary is automatically transferred to a long-term savings account, you’re saving money regularly and learning to meet expenses with less money.
  • Learning to budget your money allows you to start achieving long-term financial objectives like saving for college tuition, retirement and other important goals.

Setting Financial Priorities

During our lives, we move through the financial lifecycle. We begin by saving for a house, then focusing on our children’s college education and later we’re looking toward retirement. To help set your financial priorities, consider the following life stages.

  • Early Years (25-40)

    • At this stage, it’s best to focus on growth-oriented products since many of your goals are several years away. To create a balance, life insurance can offer safety and stability in addition to death protection.
    • Work on your savings through good financial habits.
    • Consider taking risks with your investments to outpace inflation.
    • Have adequate life and long-term disability income insurance and be sure your policies cover your needs.
    • Beware of credit card debt, car loans, lease payments and mortgage debt.
    • Set up an estate plan shortly after marriage and update it when you have children. It’s important to have a will, a living will and a durable power of attorney.

  • Building Years (40-50)

    A rising income is helping you achieve your goals during this stage in your life. However, expenses such as your children’s college education may reduce your current spendable income. The need for growth is still essential since retirement is nearing, yet impending goals may warrant a shift toward more conservative products.

    • Size up your retirement needs to project your annual retirement income and expenses.
    • Be more conservative; avoid making high-risk investments.
    • Weigh your financial needs against those of your children. Don’t let your children’s college costs interrupt your retirement savings plan.

  • Refining Years (50-60)
    Our peak earnings combined with reduced financial responsibility for your children can make this stage financially rewarding. Accumulating assets for retirement is more important than ever.

    • Consider a shift toward more conservative growth opportunities including inflation protection.
    • Take a look at your estate plan. Your estate may have grown to the point that you can benefit from advanced estate planning techniques, such as marital status and life insurance trusts.
    • Determine your desired retirement lifestyle and plan accordingly.

Ashok Gupta, CLTC, LUTCF is a Financial Representative
of Principal Life Insurance Company and a
Registered Representative of
Princor Financial Services Corporation, 800/247-4123.
Principal Life and Princor are members of the
Principal Financial Group, Des Moines, IA 50392.
Ashok can be reached at 408/437-7228.

In Remembrance of Those
Who Died on September 11, 2001
A Siliconeer Essay

When the twin towers of the World Trade Center fell in dust and flames in the morning of September 11 in 2001, all people of goodwill were stunned by the enormity of the crime.

Anger and pain overwhelms us as we remember the thousands of innocent people who were pointlessly killed. The World Trade Center, like New York City, was a workplace for rich and poor, white, black and Asian alike. Their wanton killing has shocked us at the inhumanity that individuals are capable of. It causes us boundless anguish to see the sudden heartbreaking end of so many promising lives, hopes, dreams and aspirations.

No amount of solace can bridge the chasm left by the death of loved ones. The grief of loss, alas, is a burden to be borne forever.

However, we have to take on the challenges that life continues to present. We also have reaffirm our basic values of fairness, reason and civility.

When so many people were killed because of blind hatred, a clear line had been drawn. On one side are the decent, innocent folks who died, on the other were a few people overcome by blind hatred. As we honor those who died, we have to decide whose values we wish to champion.

The terrible events of September 11 have brought Americans and people all over the world closer in solidarity and sympathy. Unfortunately, it has also unleashed an almost bloodthirsty desire for vengeance. One year after the attacks, the world is a more dangerous place, not only because of hate-filled terrorists, but also by the growing prospect of war.

Grief, and even rage, is understandable, but we will dishonor the folks who died on September 11 if we let vengeance defeat compassion and understanding.

Our grief must not be a cry for war.


Telugu Extravaganza
SiliconAndhra Presents
– By Dilip Kondiparti

Over 2,500 people are expected to attend a day-long Telugu cultural fest, writes Dilip Kondiparti.

Bay Area-based nonprofit cultural organization SiliconAndhra will host a mammoth Andhra Cultural Festival Oct. 5 at the Flint Center in Cupertino, Calif. If you have any interest in Telugu culture, please join us.

The elaborate day-long event will comprise eight hours of events that showcases folks songs, folk dances, Telugu dramas and traditional art forms like Burra Katha, Hari Katha, Dhimsa, Bonaalu, etc).

Over 250 artists are already rehearsing for the event and we expect an audience of 2,500 Telugu-speaking Indian Americans to attend.

We are conducting competitions in Telugu plays and folk dances in various categories (sub-juniors, juniors and seniors) and are inviting interested artists. We will also have live performance of Telugu arts in front. The finale of the event will be a gala awards ceremony to recognize the talent of artists.

We will release a 200-page souvenir with articles, stories, poems, cartoons, graphics and pictures which will be distributed to the audience. In addition, copies will be mailed to various Telugu organizations across the United States.

Our entire event will be presented at highly subsidized ticket prices, so we seek support from sponsors, and our souvenir is an excellent way for businesses to express their support. Interested readers can reach Ajay Ganti by email at for more information.

SiliconAndhra strives to promote Telugu culture among the Telugu community of the San Francisco Bay Area. We intend to organize cultural events that depict the rich heritage of Andhra Pradesh. The organization was founded in 2001 and we hosted our launch event in August 2001 that got an overwhelming response.

To date, we have hosted Ashtavadhanam in August, the Andhra Cultural Festival- 2001 in December last year and Ugadi-Kavi Sammelanam in April 2002.

Interested readers can visit our Web site at for more information.

Dilip Kondiparti is one of the founders of SiliconAndhra,
a voluntary organization that promotes
Telugu culture in the San Francisco Bay Area.


Festival of Lights
Diwali in Great America
By Biren Chaudhary

Celebrating Diwali in an Amusement Park is a great way to celebrate both Indian and American culture, says Biren Chaudhary.

As the Diwali festival nears, the heart of every Indian gladdens with anticipation of this most delightful of Indian festivals. No matter where Indians live, the festival of lights is a time when we light lamps, socialize, distribute sweets, and join friends and family in a joyous affirmation of affectionate kinship.

For those of us who are away from the old country, Diwali has a special cultural resonance, as we try, with loving care, to keep alive our cultural identity. We all know it is not an easy task in a foreign land.

The Federation of Indo American Associations of the Bay Area is proud to celebrate Diwali with style in the San Francisco Bay Area, and we thank Paramount Great America for making this possible. For the third time, we will celebrate Diwali at the Great America amusement park on Oct. 5. As far as we know, this is the only instance in North America where a mainstream amusement park recognizes an Indian festival.

In a way, it is a fitting combination for the Indian American community. What could be more Indian than Diwali? What could be more American than a roller coaster ride?

So on Oct. 5, come join us for a day-long event of Indian festivities that literally celebrates being Indian American. After a day at a mela within the park with desi food and merchandise, we shall round off the festivities with fireworks played to Indian music. At the same time, you can enjoy the thrills and spills of all the rides at Great America and eat your fill of popcorn or candy floss.

Biren Chaudhary is president of
Federation of Indo-American Associations of Bay Area.

Auto Review: 2002 Toyota MR2 Spyder
Sleek Bundle of Joy
By Al Auger

The secret of a beautiful woman and a perfectly handling sports car are the same: It’s symmetry, says our automotive editor Al Auger, and says the new Toyota sports car has it in spades.

I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun with the mechanics of driving a really neat motorcar. Not an automobile, you understand, a motorcar — the definitive difference as in grand touring and sports car, for instance. The bundle of joy we’re addressing is the 2002 Toyota MR2 Spyder 2-seater droptop sports car. But, beyond the usual collection of handling, performance and persona, the MR2 has a very special difference. Toyota calls it a Sequential 5-speed Transmission.

It was inevitable and it has finally happened. The boys at the computers simply amputated the alternative manual shifter that was joined to the contemporary automatic transmission and applied it to the vehicle that could best utilize it. Essentially it is a true 5-speed manual transmission you have to shift, but there is no clutch. It even “double clutches” on downshift. And, to add to the festivities, you can play Grand Prix driver with paddles on the steering wheels. To shift up or down with the console-placed shifter, you simply finger-flick the lever a mere _-inch up for downshifts and down for upshifts. The only automatic function is at stop when the gears automatically drop to 1st gear.

The response through the gears is so quick you can go deep into even the nastiest corner and whip the rearend out with abandon. The corpulent rear 15-inch tires drifts with the change, yet never losing their tenacious grip. Front tires are 15x6.0 and the rear 15x6.5.  The MR2 stance is nearly neutral, easily controlled by the accelerator. The 1.8-liter, twin-cam, 16-valve VVTi, 138 horsepower, 4-speed mid-section engine is a David doing Goliath duty.

The driver seat positions you perfectly for the 8-and-4 handhold, the swift steering response is the secret of a beautiful woman and a perfectly handling sports car: symmetry. Every aspect of the MR2 seems to be at the ready not only for the driver’s next move, but the many changes that occur throughout the rigid chassis, highly tuned suspension and powertrain. Stopping power is supplied by 4-wheel vented discs with ABS. At only 2,100 pounds, the power-to-weight and g-forces are also part of the harmony.

The cab is nicely laid out with the ergonomics setup for the challenging driver. The tach is big and readable and set exactly where it belongs: dead center with the speedo relegated to the left corner. This is a motorcar you drive by the tach and not the speedometer. The gearing is so tightly mated, the Sequential Transmission is one of the most flexible I’ve encountered. Whether in town or on the back roads, there’s a proper gear and just the right amount of torque to maintain that symmetrical smoothness. Naturally, all this bonding is accomplished with the easy one-hand operation soft top in the down mode.

There are a few very important caveats to consider, though. The MR2 Spyder is really a toy, with little if any cargo space. It is exactly what the poobahs meant when they christened it a Midship Runabout. I would consider the cab more intimate than crowded for two people with the top up. What is becoming a given in the auto industry today, the MR2 comes almost completely equipped, our only options were nicely priced leather seating ($600) and carpets ($66).

The final selling point is the MR2’s attitude-conscious exterior with its Ferrari-like rear air-scoops and Bavarian rearend treatment, complimented by the sculpted razor-edge front. The 2002 Toyota MR2 Spyder brings smiles on the road and in the mall parking lot. The MR2 is the machine that finally answers the ubiquitous cocktail party question: “What’s your favorite car?”

A small, mid-powered, quick handling sports that can make any driver look good (well, most drivers) on any road. I don’t think I’m going to give this one back.

Today's Test Drive:

Al Auger, our automotive editor has been writing about cars for over 30 years.
He has spent 20 years as a race driver and public relations specialist.


Community News in Brief

Stamp for Saund

The Global Punjabi Diaspora has requested the U.S. Postal Service in Washington, D.C., to issue a commemorative stamp in honor of the first U.S. Congressman of Asian origin, Indian-born Dalip Singh Saund. It has begun an active campaign to seek the support of Asian American organizations and individuals for the release of stamp at the fiftieth anniversary of Saund’s victory in the 1956 elections.

“Dalip Singh Saund was the pioneer in the field of politics,” observed Inder Singh, a long time community leader in Southern California. “As the very first person of Asian origin elected to the U.S. Congress against many odds, he is still a source of inspiration and worthy role model for over 10 millions Americans of Asian origin,” he added. He said it would be a matter of pride for the entire Indian American community to honor the life of Saund with a U.S. postal stamp. Singh is asking all Indo-Americans community leaders to sign a petition and send letters to the Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee in Washington DC in support of his request.

SSaund was a native of India, who came to the United States to pursue higher education and earned a masters and doctorate degrees from the University of California at Berkeley. He ran for Congress in 1955 and won election against a highly celebrated Republican from the 29th Congressional district. He served three terms

Petition in support of the campaign for a Dalip Singh Saund’s stamp should be sent to Citizen’s stamp Advisory Committee, Stamp Development, U.S. Postal Service, 475 L’Enfant Plaza SW., Room 4474E, Washington, D.C., 20260-2437. Interested readers can reach Singh at (818) 708-3885, send him an email at or visit the Web site for a sample copy of the support letter.

Candidate for State Assembly

Pakistan-born Syed Mahmood of Union City, Calif., is running for a seat in the California State House as a Republican. Mahmood has lived in the United States for over thirty years. He has lived and worked in Union City, Calif., since 1977, where he has raised four children. He is a businessman who has created a thriving market for American telecommunications, computers, and business machines overseas.

He is an active member of the California State Republican Party’s central committee and is former president of United Muslims of America, as well as founder of the American Institute of International Studies. His campaign is endorsed by former Congressman Tom Campbell and the California Republican Party. Campaign contributions can be sent to Syed Mahmood for Assembly, P.O. Box 335, Union City, CA 94587. Interested readers can reach Mahmood at (510) 441-8839.

Running for City Council

Shyam Chetal of Fremont, Calif., is running for a seat in the city council. A civil engineer, he has over 30 years of transportation experience. His campaign priorities include a plan to develop affordable housing. He wants to develop a Vargas Plateau. This development plan envisions 15 percent of the homes to be well below market value. The homes will be allocated to school teachers, police officers, city employees and other residents.

Interested readers can reach Chetal at (510) 657-6603 or by email at

Fundraiser Run

Representatives from the 5H Program and the Silicon Valley chapter of City Year, two youth service programs, announced the Silicon Sneakers Race which will take place at Shoreline Park in Mountain View, Calif. Oct. 6.

The registration fees are $20 for pre-registration, $25 race day, $10 for kids 12 and under. Readers can register online at For more information they can call Raghu Srinivasan at (408) 569-8057 or send email at

The event will raise funds for community service projects and celebrate the unity of the two organizations. Participants of both programs — typically between the ages of 17 and 24 — are trained in leadership and civic engagement before diving into full-time, rigorous, hands-on work in the community, where they serve as role models and initiators of change.

Beauty Pageant

Pooja Jain, a Stanford graduate who works for a venture capital firm in the city, the only Indo American who made the finals of Miss Asian America and on August 17, 2002 was crowned Miss Asian Princess and Miss Asian California.

She was crowned Miss. San Francisco India 2002 in February at the Fremont Marriott Hotel. Produced and directed by Rennu Dhillon and Swagat Care Foundation, Jain walked away with a cash prize of $5000 at the Miss San Francisco India Pageant.

Jain, 23, is now headed for Miss. India U.S. in Los Angeles.

Young Filmmaker

Purvee Christie Johal, a young filmmaker, director and producer, has been received with enthusiasm by Hollywood and Indian American audiences alike.  Her recently completed documentary, My American Soul: Under Attack, depicting Indian American reflections on 9/11, and her upcoming full length Hollywood feature film, Expecting Shanti, have both generated considerable interest.

Her production company is seeking talent for the upcoming feature film, as well as volunteers and investors.  Interested readers can visit the following Web site for more information:


India Festival 2002
A Photo Essay
By Som Sharma


What Independence Day Means to Me
Essay Competition Winners

What does India’s Independence Day mean to young Indian Americans here? The Federation of Indo-American Associations of the Bay Area hosted an essay competition to find out.

Amlu Natesan

The courage and the devotion shown by the freedom fighters towards their motherland is the living spirit of India that has been passed on through the generations. This indomitable spirit still burns brightly in my heart. August 15 commemorates the Independence Day for India. It marks the end of a long period of struggle that freed the people of India from some 200 years of British rule. And, a free nation was born on this day in the year 1947 to establish itself as the world’s largest democracy.  The most amazing part is that through all the struggle and hardships, India made its way through and earned its freedom. They went through many years of British rule but they never gave up. The arduous struggle for freedom and the immortal sacrifices of our freedom fighters is remembered by free India. I am very proud to be born in such a marvelous and incredible country. Salutations to India!

To me, our independence is much more than just freedom. It is the pride, bravery and the devotion to our culture that goes into the celebration. For example, many people show their spirit by raising flags and making sweets. In New Delhi, the capital of India, the prime minister addresses the nation after the flag has been unfurled. In his speech, the prime minister speaks of the country’s achievements, major issues facing the nation, and future plans for further progress. Among the common people, kite flying has become a tradition on this day. What could be more symbolic of freedom than these happy, free flying kites? On August 15th my family celebrates Independence Day, by going to Indian melas and enjoying the wonderful performances of young children filled with patriotic feeling. India’s Independence Day is a time when families love to get together and spend time with each other. When the month of August starts in America I look forward for dance competitions, singing songs, sharing memories, laughing and enjoying each other’s presence, wearing traditional costumes, meeting friends and much more.

Indian Independence is partly about thankfulness and religion, too. We should get to learn about our freedom fighters and in our prayers, we should thank them. Many people show their appreciation by setting out sweets in front of a deity in praise of our courageous fighters. All the effort that went into our gift of freedom should not be forgotten, we should thank them every August 15th. So as you can see, Independence Day is not just about enjoying luxuriously what you have, but showing a little admiration to our fighters. All of our freedom fighters (e.g. Tatia Tope, Rani Laxmi Bai, Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bhagat Singh, Jatin Banerjee, Jawaharlal Nehru and many more) went through a lot of struggle for India. On August 15th, I take the time to thank and appreciate them because I know that if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be living in America or have an Independence Day to look forward to.

But the most pride I have during the 15th is the pride of being a woman. Many women back then didn’t have the rights to have an education or even state their opinion. But today, women have proved that they deserve to have just as many rights as men and they’ve earned their respect. This indicates that our independence is not only freedom from the British rule, but also the freedom for women. I am very proud to be a woman and thankful to be capable of achieving much more in life then the women in the early 20th century could have achieved.

Pandita Ramabai was one of India’s great humanitarians who spent her life trying to improve the lives of Indian women. In those days when boys were believed to be more valuable then girls, she took the first steps to help the poor young women. Many Indians believed that young widows were being punished for the sins of their past lives. This was the trend in the olden days. But now, people started having a revolutionary approach in educating women and giving them equal rights. Without our independence, as a girl, I wouldn’t have the freedom to participate in dance competitions, essay competitions and other public affairs.

To me, independence is something I share with the rest of India. But in India, things have changed. We are proud to be a free nation since 1947, but in India many people are focusing on themselves too much. Deadly diseases have spread throughout the country affecting our economic status. We should help one another if we’re in such trouble. Independence is something you must share with everyone; it’s not all for you. If anybody can make a difference in the lives of Indians, it is the politicians. They have all political power and were elected to improve India. Many politicians, sadly, don’t do their job well.

Another problem signifying that India still hasn’t gotten its full independence is the caste system. Upper classes are treated with more respect than the lower classes. If you ask me, I think we should demolish the caste system once and for all. When I travel to India, there is still a part of me scared of what might happen next. If you ever want anything, you have to bribe people with money.

When I traveled to India, I was shocked to see the poor conditions of the local schools. Some of the schools in the villages of Southern India didn’t even have basic chairs or benches to sit on. They sat and wrote on the ground. My family and I had felt very sorry for them. So when we traveled back to America, my dad and a couple of his friends started a non-profit organization called TEAM. Every month we paid $10 and during the meetings they pick members to sponsor $500 to any elementary school in India. We were chosen as the very first sponsors. When we traveled to India the year after, I was so happy to see the children finally having something to sit on. It made me very proud of my whole family. As you can see, helping others will help you get a step closer to having a happier Independence Day. Independence Day should not only be celebrated for what we have, but we should also strive hard to get closer to a perfect India.

India has a healthy economy, as well as respect within the international community, and it has made steady progress against the long-standing challenges of poverty and illiteracy. However, political discontent and religious and ethnic violence still disturbs the nation, in spite of signs of growth and improvement. As a conclusion, I state that Indian Independence Day, to me, is a time of appreciation, celebration, prayer, pride in who we are, moments to enjoy our freedom, as well as helping to make a more peaceful India. Every step we take in helping others, we are a step closer to making India perfect and one of the most independent countries in the world.

Amlu, 12, won the first prize in FIBA’s essay competition at the India Festival 2002.

Gokul Natesan

We shall either free India, or die in the attempt.” These words of Mahatma Gandhi proved that freedom was one of the most important concepts in Indian history. According to my own opinion, independence means freedom in speech, religion and vote.

On the 15th of August every year, every Indian is made aware of the sacrifice of our freedom fighters. This day celebrates India’s freedom from British rule. The celebrations began in the morning with the national flag hosting ceremony. The tri-color flag is a symbol of courage and our country’s freedom.

In India, people celebrate the freedom by hoisting the flag and giving sweets to young children and adults. I am really surprised and happy to celebrate the gift of freedom given to us by our brave freedom fighters. I believe that the Indian Independence Day Celebration in Santa Clara, will give all young children like me an opportunity to share the gift of freedom. The courage of the freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bhagat Singh, Subash Chandra Bose, Ravi Lakshmi Bai, Bharathiar and others have been passed on through generations.

We have freedom to practice any one of many different religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Islam and Christianity in India. Though we follow different religions we need to remain united. Religious freedom should not be taken for granted. Presently, we have many political and religious problems within the country. This situation can be changed if proper measures are taken. India is considered to be one of the biggest democracies in the world. But still common people cannot enjoy the freedom like the upper class. The upper classes exploit the poor. Gandhi, Nehru and other national leaders struggled and fought using non-violence acts. Political leaders should follow the same path set by our forefathers. Also, the growing population poses a big problem for our country. If the population is not controlled, India will remain within the ranks of the word’s poorest nations.

I would like to talk about education in India. Since independence, India tried to improve the national educational system. When I visited India, I was happy to see the school children in cities and rural areas. But I was shocked to see the children in rural areas because they didn’t have chairs or desks to sit in the classroom. They sat on the floor filled with mud. I felt so bad. So my family and I sponsored our public school in our native village. We bought tables and chairs for the students. Now they are very happy and I am very happy too. Everyone should come forward to help our country.

India’s independence has given a lot of freedom for women. When my mother told stories about ancient women in India, I felt very sad. In olden days women couldn’t go out and study in schools and colleges. But now they compete equally with men in all parts of life. But still in my village in Tamil Nadu, the system has not changed completely. I hope it will change in the years to come. Even though political problems, religion and ethnic violence still disturb the region, India has shown a lot of growth in technology after independence. If this continues, there is no doubt that India will be one of the greatest nations in the world.

Gokul, 8, won the essay competition in the junior division.


New CD Music Releases

Vighnaharta: The Divine Destroyer of Obstacles
Vocal: Vijay Prakash
Music: Shaarang Dev
Times Music

This spiritual music CD presents stotras in praise of Ganesh. It includes a signature prayer by Pandit Jasraj. The CD includes Vighnanash Shloka, Ganesh Kavacha, Sankatanashanam Ganesh Stotram, Vighnavinashaka Siddhivinayaka Stotram, Sarveshtapradam Gajanan Stotram, Ganesh Gayatri, Ganapatyatharvashirsha and Bhaktamanorathasiddhipradam Ganeshstotram and Mantrapushpanjali.

The many mythical stories associated with many of these stotras highlight the great regard for Ganesh which many of the ancient sages had. According to Hindu tradition, devotees who recite these stotras are blessed with the goodwill of one of the most popular deities of the Hindu pantheon.

Times Music

This CD is a prayer to Ganesh. It includes a prayer, Ganesh Mahamantra, Ganesh Invocation, prayer, Stuti, Ganesh Gayatri Mantra. In addition, there is Hindi Aarati and a Marathi Aarati.

“May we pray to Lord Ganapati, the protector of noble people, the best poets, the most honorable, the greatest ruler and the treasure of all knowledge,” says the Ganesh invocation in Sanskrit. “O Ganapati! Please heed our prayer and recite in out hearts.”

Shree Siddhivinayak Mahapuja
Chants: Vijay Joshi and Sanjay Hardikar
Aarti: Ravindra Sathe
Music: Ronu Majumdar
Times Music

This CD presents two priests of Mumbai’s Shree Siddhivinayak temple, who recite prayers to Ganesh. “Prayers to Shree Siddhivinayak from Kakad Arti in the morning to Shayanarti in the nights evokes Ashtasatvikh Bhav in the devotees,” says the inlay card.

The prayers are usually performed with the following six articles of worship:

Sandalwood invokes the feeling of serving others by taking efforts; flowers bring forth happiness to the self as well as others; akshatas symbolize a pure mind; incense sticks teaches devotees to exchange generous, dignified and noble thoughts; haldi-kumkum symbolizes good luck; arti diyas teach devotees to offer panchpran (five vital signs) at the feet of the deity and camphor teaches devotees to give up ego while worshipping Ganesh.

Onkar Tu Ganesh
Devotional songs by: Sadhana Sargam
Times Music

A devotional CD comprising eight songs that pay homage to Ganesh. Lyrics are by Ashish Bilekar and Udayan Bramh, and the music is composed by Shailesh Danee.




Double Trouble

Shashilal Nair’s Ek Choti Si Love Story has turned out to be anything but. In the huge slugfest that pits Manisha Koirala against Nair, “Jessica” (it’s a screen name for a model), the double who modeled for Manisha in steamy scenes, has now jumped into the fray.

It all began with a huge row between Manisha and Nair, with Manisha claiming that Nair had filmed some compromising scenes with Jessica standing in for Manisha. The whole argument went to the Mumbai High Court and a judge had a bit of fun by insisting that he had to see the film before making a ruling. So the film was duly screened for his honor, and his sage opinion was that he couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. So the judge threw out Manisha’s complaint.
Before poor Nair could heave a sigh of relief, however, Jessica threw a tantrum. She is threatening a Rs. 1 million lawsuit claiming damages because the media circus, she says, has resulted in her identity being discovered by her close relatives and other folks as well.

Which is a nice bit of change, considering the twenty-something model made a paltry Rs. 12,000 for the original two-day shoot.

Nair, she said, had agreed to cough up Rs. 350,000. He better keep his word, she warns, because she has a lawyer cousin waiting in the wings to help her.

So Nair, or the producer, seem doomed to be poorer by Rs. 350,000. In the end it may balance out, because the hoopla has resulted in a publicity bonanza that might send hordes of prurient film buffs rushing to the cinemas, many of whom don’t care whose butt they get to see.

Only time will tell if that happens, but all agree that it’s anything but a chhoti si love story anymore.

Devdas Franchise

The Disney effect has yet to hit Bollywood, but Devdas may be triggering something faintly similar. You know how it is with slick Hollywood mass marketing: As soon as the film hits the theaters, consumers are inundated with accompanying books, action figures, toys in fast food stores and all sorts of trivia, all packed together in a seamless, all-encompassing campaign.

Well, Bollywood hasn’t quite caught on to this yet, but that may change. Following the hype surrounding Devdas, there isn’t a dearth of savvy folks ready to ride its wave. Designer Neeta Lulla has launched a Devdas clothes collection, a CD-ROM on the film has come out, and three books have come out which try to ride piggyback on the film’s popularity.
V.S. Naravane has translated Saratchandra Chattopadhyay’s stories in “Devdas and Other Stories,” Penguin has brought out an English translation of Devdas by Sreejata Guha, and Mushtaq Sheikh has come out with a coffee table book on the making of the film, “Devdas: The Indian Hamlet,” which sells at a whopping Rs. 1,000.

However, Bollywood still has to learn a trick or two. The books were not released in time to catch the Devdas wave, and for Sheikh, it could be déjà vu all over again. His previous coffee table book on Asoka fared even worse than the film, which is saying something.

Hollywood Beckons

Critics carp about the bad-boy antics of beefcake star Salman Khan, but he may have the last laugh. The Bollywood stud is all set to send the pulse of goris racing with Marigold, a Hollywood film where he will play an Indian choreographer who befriends a B-grade American actress who comes to Mumbai to do a Bollywood film.

Willard Carroll, the director, has previously made films with Sean Connery and Angelina Jolie, so we’re talking serious Hollywood here. While the film will be made for a mainstream audience, it will have quite a few Bollywood flourishes. Javed Akhtar will write six songs which will be set to tune by Shankar-Ehsan-Loy, and Farah Khan has been roped in to make sure those song and dance routines are done with style.

As for who Salman will romance in the film, all kinds of names are making the rounds in the grapevine: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Britney Spears and Gwyneth Paltrow, for instance. But nothing is final yet.

Friendly Preity

Pity poor Preity Zinta. The dimpled Bollywood beauty made quite a winsome pair with hot model Marc Robinson, but that relationship fell by the wayside two years ago.

After that she has kept quiet about her love life. That doesn’t mean she has been living a nun’s life by any means. She has dated an Australian for a while, but it didn’t blossom into anything serious.

That may be about to change. Remember the handsome heartthrob Parveen Dabas in Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding? He was the guy who played the engaging groom, and who knows, that role may stand him in good stead if Bollywood gossip is to be believed.

Preity and Parveen became inseparable in Canada during a film shoot, and now they are seen together quite often and openly in Bandra. Preity prefers to be coy about it all, saying it’s just a friendship. Avid Preity watchers say that’s baloney. And we say the poor woman has experienced how hard it is to break up, so just leave her alone and give her the space she needs to make up her mind.

Shyamalan Calls

After Salman could it be Ash? Bollywood beauty queen Aishwarya Rai apparently has caught the eye of Hollywood whizkid Manoj N. Shyamalan, no less. That’s what she has been telling everyone.

Apparently Cannes opened the floodgates. After Devdas was screened with much fanfare at the French city, Aishwarya says she has had offers from European filmmakers, and her name came up even during the Oscars, according to Aamir Khan. Shyamalan has called her, too, she said.

Aishwarya, however, is not in a hurry to make any decision. She will be in the U.S. this month for a show, and then she will meet agents and make up her mind. In any case, she is not going to hurt her Bollywood career for bit parts in Hollywood. Now that shows there’s more to Aish than beauty: This woman is smart.

Lean, Mean Film Machine

Devdas may well be the last lavish Bollywood extravaganza in a long time. If you heard Bollywood filmmakers recently, you would think they are all on a drastic diet. A financial diet program, you may call it. A wave of flops have made filmmakers edgy as their multi-million dream projects meet harsh reality in slim box office pickings.

This year so far, a string of 72 box office duds have translated into Rs. 2 billion going down the tubes. Producers are beginning to do the unthinkable: They are asking Bollywood’s coddled stars to take a pay cut.

The Indian Motion Picture Producers Association has been joined by two other filmmaker associations in a fervent call to stars to cut their demands, stop film promotions on television to avoid “overexposure.” They are even asking film reviewers in the print media to stop rating films.

Sadly, and unsurprisingly, nobody is talking about the key issue: For an increasingly savvy consumer with a surfeit of entertainment options on television, only well-made films will set cash registers ringing. Until then, all the belt tightening in the world will not be able to save the producers.

Mum’s the Word

Sushmita Sen’s career is headed south, and the personal front isn’t too hot either. So the former beauty queen is now giving her attention to her newfound love Renee, a baby girl she has adopted.

Insiders say Sushmita dotes on the little girl. Bollywood cynics, stingy as they always are with sympathy, are full of snide observations. Thank god for the girl, they cluck in faux sympathy, and they don’t mean Renee. They say that with her relationship with hotelier Sanjay Narang pretty much over and her film career going nowhere, fast, the little girl has been a godsend for her. What on earth would she be filling her waking hours with, they say.

Soap Addict

Oh dear, Mihir is dead. Mihir? Who is Mihir? Shilpa Shetty was nonplussed when her mother grimly informed her of the death of Mihir. Well it’s a virtual death, Shilpa quickly found out, because “Mihir” is actually a TV sitcom character played by Amar Upadhyay. “Mihir” died during a recent episode of the all-powerful TV soap Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, and Shilpa’s mother, who follows the daily soap religiously, was distraught.

It runs in the family, you see. Shilpa’s grandmother is an aficionado of The Bold and the Beautiful, and when she misses an episode, she calls up Shilpa’s mother to fill her in on what happened.

In fact, even Shilpa misses those early days before stardom when she could channel surf to her heart’s content. So she can’t really complain.


Hindi Film Review
Complex, Imperfect but Impressive


Director: Arjun Sajnani
Music: Sandesh Shandilya
Starring: Jackie Shroff, Raveena Tandon, Milind Soman, Sonali Kulkarni, Nagarjuna, Prabhudeva, Mohan Agashe and Amitabh Bachchan (special appearance)

This film, based on noted Kannada playwright Girish Karnad’s play The Fire and the Rain, is rooted in a relatively obscure story in the epic Mahabharata. In his celebrated play, Girish Karnad’s brought his formidable talents to bear on the story to create a compelling tale of social and human conflict that had enormous dramatic power.

The film is set in a dusty, parched kingdom. This could be the modern author’s imaginative license, but what is borrowed from Mahabharata is a typically complicated story of rivalries, hatred, curses and lust within the various members of an extended family. Well, no surprise there, because family trouble is the middle name of Mahabharata.

In Mahabharat, Raibhya (Mohan Agashe) and Bharadwaj are two friends. The sage Raibhya has two sons Paravasu (Jackie Shroff) and Arvasu (Milind Soman). Yavakri (Nagarjuna) is the son of Bharadwaj.

Paravasu is the royal priest, which fills Yavakri with envy. This triggers a chain of events that in true Mahabharata fashion, explodes into a frenzy of mayhem and suffering.

The kingdom in the film has been crippled by drought for several years, and so Paravasu is leading a yajna to propitiate the rain god Indra (Amitabh Bachchan). In fact, for seven years Paravasu has not come home once, giving up all pleasure and even the company of his wife Vishakha (Raveena Tandon).

Yavakri has returned from sannyas himself, and this is when he discovers that Paravasu is chief priest, which incenses him. His heart is filled with the desire to destroy Paravasu, and he prays to Indra to grant him supernatural powers. Indra gives him some power, though he tells him that what is acquired to ardent tapasya and following the guru is not available for the asking. With whatever power Yavakri has, he sets out to destroy Paravasu. He begins an illicit relationship with the neglected wife of Paravasu. Raibhya unleashes a rakshasa (Prabhu Deva) against Yavakri.

But Raibhya himself is not clean. He too, is jealous of his son’s power and lusts for Paravasu’s wife. Paravasu decides his corrupt father is a threat to the yajna and kills him, but then he seeks to avoid the consequences, by implicating his innocent brother Arvasu. Arvasu, a person of childlike innocence, suffers grievously. He is nursed back to health by the devoted love of Nittilai (Sonali Kulkarni), a tribal woman with whom the Brahmin Arvasu cannot have any relationship, according to the strict caste rules. The rest of the story revolves around the resolution of this conflict, with Arvasu playing a prominent role as an actor, who along with his group of actors, presents a theatrical performance to appease Indra, who is the god of theater as well.

Before going into a critique of the strengths and shortcomings of this refreshingly off-beat film, a word on the strides that Bollywood has taken in terms of sheer technical excellence. Films like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and even more extraordinarily, Lagaan, are evidence of Bollywood’s excellence in cinematography. For instance, Lagaan’s sweeping vistas and earthen tones went a long way in establishing a distinctive, captivating setting that made the film a feast for the eye. Visually, this film is similarly compelling and it should come as no surprise. What Anil Mehta, ace cinematographer of Lagaan and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, creates here is sheer visual poetry, and combined with Shashi Adappa’s superb, impressionistic art direction and the historically redolent setting of Hampi, all combine to craft a magical ambiance that is distinctive and powerful.

If the buck stops at the director’s desk, then filmmaker Arun Sajnani can claim special credit for wresting superb performances from the main three characters: Jackie Shroff, Raveena Tandon and Milind Soman.

Shroff’s understated performance as Paravasu projects both gravitas and vulnerability, while Raveena’s superb performance will go a long way in furthering her reputation as a talented actress, not just a pretty face. Milind Soman also gets an opportunity to prove that he is more than muscles on legs, and he does so with panache.

By the same token, Sajnani also has to accept the responsibility for the less successful performances, of which Mohan Agashe’s Raibhya deserves to be singled out for excruciating overacting.

Overall, the film suffers from an inability to distill a coherent plot with a clear message, and it gets tied up in knots with its labyrinthine sub-plots. Many a viewer, raised on the simple parables of the Mahabharata, will be shocked at this, but Sajnani can be partly forgiven because the fault is not his own alone. The grandeur of Mahabharata is in its complexity and ambiguities that defy easy pigeonholing.

That said, for all its faults, Sajnani deserves a big pat on the back. He eschewed the heavily trodden path of mushy romance, trite clichés and retread formulas, and made a film that was visually compelling, packed with powerhouse performances and reflected original vision. It’s not perfect, but hey, what on earth is?

Rating: *** (Good)


Tamil Film Review:
Uncertain, Confusing Cocktail


Director: Suresh Krishna
Music: A. R. Rahman
Starring: Rajinikanth, Manisha Koirala, Sujatha, Sanghavi, Nambiar, Goundamani, Vijaykumar, Amrish Puri and Sayaji Shinde.

A large dose of spiritualism, blended with the usual Rajini-style of mannerisms and punch lines, and some graphics. A story of sages, fall from grace, rebirth, unscrupulous politicians, ruffians and violent encounters, the film ends up being a bit of an uncertain and confusing cocktail. 

That only goes to reflect the confusion and dilemma of the superstar, who seems to have almost come to the end of his innings, exhausted most of the ideas in his repertoire, is forced to think of new ones, and is in a dilemma on how to project himself anew on screen.

The prediction of some sages that a child would be born to an elderly couple turns out to be true. The sages visit this special child, name him Baba, and tell the mother that they would return and take him back with them at an appropriate time. Baba grows up with all sorts of vices under the indulgent eye of his widowed mother and his uncle. He is an atheist, gambler, alcoholic and a ruffian. The latter quality is, of course, reserved for the deserving villains. Baba falls in love with his new neighbor Chamundeeswari, but when it comes to marriage, she dithers. She does later on return to Baba, but this time it is Baba’s turn to reject her.

Baba has an on-going feud with Chief Minister Purushottaman and his minister Ramasamy, both enemies of the people. Ramasamy had usurped the land occupied by Baba’s people. Baba had bashed up Ramasamy’s son, resulting in unending violence and clashes between the two sides. There are quite a few lines with political overtones in the film.

A cranky tramp-like character hovers around Baba and mouths philosophical profundities. After an elephant blesses Baba with his trunk, the cranky sage transports him to the Himalayas. It’s here that Baba realizes who he really is, learns about his previous birth, and the reason for his being reborn again. Baba is now given a mantra to recite, and a mudra to go with it, which can fulfill seven of his wishes. Baba and his cronies (mostly comics) waste most of it by trying to test if it works. The scenes of wish fulfillment could have been more imaginative.

Baba uses his wish to get good minister Kandha to become the chief minister. The unscrupulous Purushottaman-Ramasamy duo, shorn of their powers, get a tantric to get the mantra and mudra from Baba, but the attempt fails. In the confrontation that follows, Baba’s mother is killed. A disillusioned Baba, now shorn of all earthly desires, decides to leave for the Himalayas with the sages who had come to take him. But it’s not all over. New Chief Minister Kandha is killed, and Baba has to make his final choice. Rajini is vibrant in the dance numbers, trying to show that he can still match strides with the younger crop of heroes. The blazing fiery looks are there, the intensity too. But he has done it all before. And there’s a desperation which shows. Sujatha as the mother, and Nambiar, as the uncle, present emotional performances. Manisha Koirala has little scope for performance, as she is discarded by the hero without an afterthought. If Sanghavi thought she’d had it good acting with the superstar, she’ll have a change of mind after viewing the couple of vague scenes she’s been given. Goundamani, to a large extent, keeps the proceedings alive. The Japanese actress is sidelined completely. 

The music is definitely not Rahman’s best, but it manages to fit the film. What doesn’t fit is the rap bit in the background, the refrain of “Baba, Baba........Hey Baba that’s me!”

— Malini Mannath
In association with Chennai Online


Recipe: Bread Utthapam
East Meets West
By Seema Gupta

East meets West in this simple yet delicious recipe by Seema Gupta which uses the humble bread to prepare a popular South Indian dish.


  • 8 Bread slices
  • 1 Medium-sized onion
  • 1 Large boiled potato
  • 2 Tomatoes
  • 1 Green bell pepper
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 5-6 Green Thai chillies
  • 1 Cup milk
  • 1/2 Cup yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp garbanzo flour/semolina (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • Water


Mash the bread slices and add milk. Chop tomatoes, bell pepper, potatoes, chillies and add to mashed bread. Add garbanzo flour/ semolina and yogurt, and finally add salt. Mix well.

Cook on a fry pan with oil. Add water if needed. Garnish with cilantro before serving hot.

Seema Gupta is a homemaker
based in Sunnyvale, Calif.


September-October Horoscope - By Pandit Parashar

ARIES (March 21 to April 20): You will be making great advances in career. Problems will arise but healthy solutions will follow. You may go on a short trip to meet old friends or relatives. Money will be wisely invested in real estate.

TAURUS (April 21 to May 20): There will be a good offer from a distant place. You will work overtime. A long time project will finally bring results in a few months. You will resolve an important personal issue. You will make a good investment, maybe in a property.

GEMINI (May 21 to June 20): You will move forward towards your financial goals and prosperity in every stride you take. Associating with new people will be beneficial. You will make a generous donation. Large gains are foreseen if you are into stocks. You will have to deal with a government agency regarding a minor issue.

CANCER (June 21 to July 22): It is time to take it easy and relax. Watch your mail, as a long due payment should be on its way. You will spend time communicating with people. You will take helpful lessons. You will spend on home improvement.

LEO (July 23 to August 22): Lots of uncertainties will diminish as you regain your confidence. It will be a result-oriented month. You will also resolve an important issue diplomatically. Purchase of property can be beneficial. You will make fast cash.

VIRGO (August 23 to September 22): Quick cash is on its way. Expect positive developments in career. If you want to try anything new, now’s the time to do it. A beginning to a serious relationship is likely to take place. Do not take any chances with the law, park your car at a designated spot.

LIBRA (September 23 to October 22): Life will get better and comfortable. Relocation may take place soon. Investment made at this point will yield big profits later. You will work towards a major change in career. Soft planets will help avert any layoffs. A business trip will be very successful.

SCORPIO (October 23 to November 22): You will be helped by influential contacts. You will focus on more important issues in life. Some of you will take a short-term course to improve your personal and professional skills. A new found friend will make your life more exciting.

SAGITTARIUS (November 23 to December 22): Things may go wrong just when you think you have achieved your goals. However, do not let this stop you from trying. You may cancel your travel plans. Religious rituals will be performed and you may consult an expert for proper guidance.

CAPRICORN (December 22 to January 19): Things will improve but gradually. For once, ask your inlaws for help, as that might be your only way out. Career-related matters may look gloomy. Competition will force you to advertise your business more rigorously. You will sign important documents.

AQUARIUS (January 20 to February 18): Spouse will be adamant and try to forcefully impose decisions and cause agony. You will survive a major blow at work. Hang on to what you can and avoid spending liberally.

PISCES (February 19 to March 20): Some of you will launch a big project, ignoring what your wellwishers suggest. Prepare to welcome a new member who will soon join the family. It is a good to time to take up college as you will complete whatever courses you take up. A close relative will try to hurt you out of jealousy, but rest assured they will not succeed.


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