Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sir Salman The Clown

Eight floors above, in the Random House boardroom, Rushdie is sipping takeaway coffee, and looking both professorial and profoundly amused. These days he is, as the receptionist implies, a novelist more talked about than read, a situation he is keen to reverse.

It wasn't always thus. Back in 1981 when he won the Booker Prize for Midnight's Children, an instant classic, he was the hottest young writer of the day. That all changed in 1989 when, following publication of The Satanic Verses, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa calling for its author's death.

Overnight, Rushdie stopped being "just" a novelist and became a weird hybrid – a man in hiding who was also a public figure, a visible symbol of freedom of speech who was, himself, invisible. Rushdie was forced into hiding for 10 years over his book's alleged slight on the prophet Mohammed.

Having said that were it not for the first lot of Moslem nonsense over his book the Satanic Verses, and a certain Iranian getting a fatwa on his arse few people would not really have heard of him. They do say that publicity no matter what type is good, as Oscar Wilde said something on the lines of it was better to be talked about than not talked about all. I am sure Salman is sat back cashing in the cheques and thinking, each death threat means a few more book sales.

What a lot of people don’t know was that he had round-the-clock police protection costing nearly £1 million a year, although that has been downgraded in recent years after Iran indicated the death sentence no longer applied.

I have to remind myself I’m a writer, not just a fighter, and that’s the story of my life, said Rushdie. Living in hiding is worse than death and your detractors will always try to discredit your work.

Now for those who came in late - a quick biography……

Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie is an Indian born novelist and essayist. He was born in Bombay (now Mumbai) on 19 June 1947. He went to school in Bombay and at Rugby in England, and read History at King's College, Cambridge, where he joined the Cambridge Footlights theatre company. After graduating, he lived with his family who had moved to Pakistan in 1964, and worked briefly in television before returning to England, beginning work as a copywriter for an advertising agency. His first novel, Grimus, was published in 1975.

He first achieved fame with his second novel, Midnight's Children (1981), which won the Booker Prize for fiction in 1981, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction), an Arts Council Writers' Award and the English-Speaking Union Award, and in 1993 was judged to have been the 'Booker of Bookers', the best novel to have won the Booker Prize for Fiction in the award's 25-year history.

Salman Rushdie is Honorary Professor in the Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He was made Distinguished Fellow in Literature at the University of East Anglia in 1995. He was awarded the Austrian State Prize for European Literature in 1993 and the Aristeion Literary Prize in 1996, and has received eight honorary doctorates. He was elected to the Board of American PEN in 2002. In the spring of 2007, Rushdie was named Distinguished Writer in Residence in the English Department at Emory University. Phew !

“Midnight's Children” narrates key events in the history of India through the story of pickle-factory worker Saleem Sinai, one of 1001 children born as India won independence from Britain in 1947.

The critic Malcolm Bradbury acclaimed the novel's achievement in The Modern British Novel (Penguin, 1994) as a new start for the late-twentieth-century novel.

Much of his early fiction is set on the Indian subcontinent. His style is often classified as magical realism mixed with historical fiction, and a dominant theme of his work is the story of the many connections, disruptions and migrations between the Eastern and Western world.

The author's own biography is of a boy born in 1947, educated in an `English public school ethos' school in Bombay, then leaving India as a teenager to complete his education at a major public school in England, and then Cambridge University, before making a career for ten years as an advertising copywriter in London. Lack of deep and broad insight into India and its people, much beyond his own rather narrow background and what one can pick up from books, newspapers, TV docs and acquaintances in England, is perhaps unsurprising. Now I know that I am being a bit over the top here, but aren’t all of from the same mould ?

Nonetheless, anyone who liked Rushdie’s other books is bound to love this one as well. The book certainly has some great moments that will definitely hold your interest.

Unfortunately, whatever people say, I have my views and perhaps that may be to the fact that I am not such a big fan of Salman Rushdie. However, at times, he rocks !

For example, there is the recent row over Muslim women's dress codes reignited today after author Salman Rushdie declared that "veils suck". Speaking as somebody with three sisters and a very largely female Muslim family, he added that there's not a single woman that he knows in his family, or in his friends circle who would have accepted wearing the veil. He was expressing an important opinion, which is that veils suck, which in fact, they do and he felt that in other words it is way of taking power away from women. No comments, but it takes a lot of guts to speak up.

The fatwa was lifted in 1997, and in more recent years Rushdie's public image has altered to that of literary playboy. The new view is that he spends his time attending parties with Bono, squiring beautiful young women (his marriage to the actress, model and TV presenter Padma Lakshmi ended last year) and hanging out with Martin Amis and Ian McEwan, the novelists with whom he supposedly forms a neocon triumvirate. Being a literary playboy is easier than being a fugitive from Islamic vengeance, but the divorce seems to have left a devastating effect on Salman Rushdie

Once reclusive, now apparently a global gadabout with homes in London, New York and his native India. He gets called lots of things – arrogant, smug, and overindulged – but in the final analysis, could Sir Salman be nothing more than a good bloke to whom some bad things have happened?
We start by talking about his new novel, The Enchantress Of Florence, which is set during the 16th century and in which Rushdie forges a connection between the sexual decadence of Medieval Florence and the sensual world of India's Mughal Empire. He has been working on the book for three years, and seems to feel that it proves, after almost a decade of bad reviews, that he remains a world-class novelist. "Sometimes when you finish a book you don't know quite what you've got," he says. "This time I actually felt happy when I finished it. As far as I can tell, this is not bad. The last time I really felt that way was Haroun And The Sea Of Stories, and before that Midnight's Children."

Rushdie, who studied history, did an enormous amount of research for "Enchantress," and there is the odd inclusion, for a novel, of an 83-book bibliography. The purpose, he said, was to acknowledge the work he built upon as well as to ward off any accusations that he copied other sources.

He particularly said that he did not want some smart aleck to go find the facts mentioned in his book and say that he stole it from another source.
He added that it is obvious that he has done extensive research and has taken stuff from all over the place. The only existing record of the Ottoman campaign against Dracula, for instance, is a journal written by a young Serbian janissary named Konstantine, who describes arriving at a town finding 20,000 people impaled on stakes. The image that particularly haunted Rushdie was of a mother with a baby, and he uses this description of 'crows nesting in her hollowed breasts.'

That's his, not mine," said Rushdie, who used it in "Enchantress." "But who can beat that for a description?"

The Enchantress Of Florence is also an important book for Rushdie because writing it helped him recover from his split from Lakshmi, his fourth wife.

After three years of marriage, they had split and for around two months, he was unable to work, but eventually found comfort in flitting imaginatively through the whorehouses and harems of Florence and the Mughal court. In his novels there is a recurring motif of artists literally disappearing into their own work, and he seems to have done something similar here, sinking into his own pages, sighing with pleasure and relief.

The two novels also share a fairytale quality. Rushdie is a great admirer of fairy stories and fables, a habit that he and his sisters were told when they were kids Memories of Ali Baba, Aladdin, Sinbad were the stories that his father told him and which he enjoys watching as movies. This was enormously important to his later development as a magical realist writer, but what it did at the time was bond him to his father, Anis Ahmed Rushdie, a small businessman in Bombay.

One of the few things that he remembers about his father was that he was a very good storyteller. However, he had a problem with drink and that made him difficult, but he was a very good father of small children – entertaining and amusing and entrancing. He had more difficulties with all of us when we acquired minds of our own, but as a child he was completely enchanted by him.

How did the relationship change? "Well, it got much worse and then it got better again.
There was a long time when he was in his thirties that things got so worse and they were not on talking terms. However, when his cancer was diagnosed he went back to meet him and they became immensely close. There wasn't very long between his diagnosis and his dying, but he says that it was during that time they put away most of their problems.

It then appears that on his 40th birthday (June, 87), his father wrote him a very long letter (which he still retains) in which he had spoken to him about his work. He had never really spoken to him about his work before as he found it hard to do so, but that letter it appears was extraordinary and deeply affecting. In short, towards the end they became very attached

He died in November that year

It isn’t surprising that he is called the literary playboy and the connection he has with women. He was born in Bombay in 1947 and his sisters arrived one, five and 14 years later. He seems to have had many more close women friends than men. Besides, the fact that in his family there was always the presence of such a disproportionate female element.

He grew up surrounded by confident, assertive women. One of his aunts married a general in the Pakistan army and became a high society figure. The other was one of the great intellectuals of her generation and through her he met some of the greatest writers and poets. In short, his knowledge of women was that they were anything but the cliché of mild, self-effacing Indian women. They were extremely confident, forthright and took no ‘shit’

This influence is paramount in his books as well. His friendship with women is evident in many of his books. He has never had any problems in making friends with women, perhaps it was due to the fact that they understood that he was only trying to be their friend and not trying to get them to bed. Many men start being friendly with women because they are trying to seduce them.

He maintains that the women he befriends are not for any other purpose but with the only purpose of hanging out with them. Perhaps a “seduction” is a bonus (pardon the pun). That said; let's not forget that Rushdie has been married four times. Seduction cannot be a completely foreign art for him. He feels that he has done his share and laughs at the fact of being viewed as a ‘Don Juan’, albeit embarrassing. Four marriages and still he remains an optimistic and romantic idiot !

It does seem to me that even now, aged 60 and with two children of his own, he craves acceptance. This desire to belong, would explain, for instance, why being awarded a knighthood made him so happy, why it meant so much to him that Indian readers took Midnight's Children to their hearts, and the very fact that why it hurts so much that The Satanic Verses was banned in that country.

Last June, when Queen Elizabeth knighted him, many of the issues that have dogged Rushdie over the past 20 years were freshly aroused, not only among Muslims around the world but also among political kin contemptuous that an avowed leftist would accept such an imperial honor, and conservatives who lashed out at him because they believed he was once again endangering Britain's security.

It appears that he deeply resented the assaults on him, and couldn’t quite fathom the animosity. Perhaps he should write a book titled “Sir Shalimar The Clown” and quieten his critics

Then, a few weeks later, he announced that Lakshmi was leaving him (she informed him via e-mail). Cheap…….didn’t think she would do that, but what to do, her upbringing is evident. Poor Sir Salman, he still hasn’t quite understood her.

Now if Rushdie happens to be spotted having a drink with an attractive woman, he is soon likely to be greeted with a headline like "Salman Rushdie Is Once Again On The Prowl in Midtown," in some New York magazine (no names here). Not being able to work was one of the terrible byproducts of his breakup with Lakshmi, Rushdie said. He has described the split as a "nuclear bomb dropped in your living room when you're trying to work. What a sentimental idiot – there are more to some guys that never are written.

As Rushdie himself acknowledges, he enjoys going out and socializing. Tell me something new. Perhaps, it might help him relax and get “himself out of the system” after a day of slogging and groom himself for another grueling day

Rushdie now lives in Manhattan but regularly commutes to London to see his family, and keeps a punishing lecture and touring schedule in North America and Europe. A theme that repeatedly surfaces in "Enchantress" is the illusion that one can come home after a long journey and find peace.

And to set the record straight, he recently clarified that all the people that he has been recently associated with “in such reports”, are not true.

He went a step further to add “I'm totally eligible, single and available." Any takers ? You kidding ?

With an old fart ! (with all due apologies)

Wishing him another four more marriages !

• Grimus (1975)
• Midnight's Children (1981)
• Shame (1983)
• The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey (1987)
• The Satanic Verses (1988)
• Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990)
• Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism, 1981 - 1991 (1992)
• Homeless by Choice (1992, with R. Jhabvala and V. S. Naipaul)
• East, West (1994)
• The Moor's Last Sigh (1995)
• The Firebird's Nest (1997)
• The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999)
• The Screenplay of Midnight's Children (1999)
• Fury (2001)
• Step Across This Line: Collected Nonfiction 1992 - 2002 (2002)
• Shalimar the Clown (2005)
• The Enchantress of Florence (2008)
• The Best American Short Stories (2008, as Guest Editor)

Prizes and awards

• 1981 Arts Council Writers' Award
• 1981 Booker Prize for Fiction Midnight's Children
• 1981 English-Speaking Union Award Midnight's Children
• 1981 James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction) (joint winner) Midnight's Children
• 1983 Booker Prize for Fiction (shortlist) Shame
• 1984 Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger (France) Shame
• 1988 Booker Prize for Fiction (shortlist) The Satanic Verses
• 1988 Whitbread Novel Award The Satanic Verses
• 1989 German Author of the Year The Satanic Verses
• Kurt Tucholsky Prize (Sweden)
• 1992 Writers' Guild Award (Best Children's Book) Haroun and the Sea of Stories
• Austrian State Prize for European Literature
• 1993 Booker of Bookers (special award made to celebrate 25 years of the Booker Prize)
• Prix Colette (Switzerland)
• 1995 Booker Prize for Fiction (shortlist) The Moor's Last Sigh
• 1995 British Book Awards Author of the Year The Moor's Last Sigh
• 1995 Whitbread Novel Award The Moor's Last Sigh
• Aristeion Literary Prize
• Mantova Literary Prize (Italy)
• Budapest Grand Prize for Literature (Hungary)
• Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France)
• Freedom of the City, Mexico City (Mexico)
• 2005 Whitbread Novel Award (shortlist) Shalimar The Clown
• 2006 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Eurasia Region, Best Book) Shalimar The Clown
• 2007 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (shortlist) Shalimar The Clown
• 2007 Man Booker International Prize (shortlist)
• 2008 Best of the Booker Midnight's Children

Publisher (General enquiries) Agent

Jonathan Cape Ltd The Wylie Agency (UK) Ltd
Random House UK Ltd 17 Bedford Square
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road London WC1B 3JA
London SW1V 2SA England
England Tel: +44 (0)20 7908 5900
Tel: +44 (0)20 7840 8539 Fax: +44 (0)20 7908 5901
Fax: +44 (0)20 7932 0077 E-mail:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hyundai’s Double Dog Dare

Hyundai has dared all car buyers to compare Hyundai models with any other car out there.

The new Hyundai Genesis has a stylized emblem, formed by a shield hexagonal black and silver wings and which symbolizes the desire to "fly over the others". As the car slowly develops the Hyundai brand, people will get the feel of the badge. The feeling that I own a Hyundai and I’m proud to be a Hyundai owner and would never consider buying something without a Hyundai badge!

Hyundai wants its new premium sedan Hyundai Genesis to be its brand image. It is certain that the Hyundai Genesis would achieve its goal. With the Genesis, Hyundai has created a design generic that is recognizable and a brand image that is desirable. It has managed to position itself into a unique spot where its brand has started generating attention.

Hyundai Genesis’ new adventure against the world has just begun and it will really be exciting.

To further substantiate that are the results from a recent survey where 44% of Hyundai Genesis owners that have been interviewed have household income of over $100,000.

What does that indicate?

It tells you that these buyers can also afford its competitors, but have instead gone for the Hyundai Genesis. Furthermore, the majority of the demographics have also previously owned other luxury models – so the value theory goes out of the window

What Hyundai offers is a car that is as good as a Lexus GS for around $10,000 less. At you’ll find ex-owners of Lexus, BMW and Infiniti vehicles!

Hyundai is now comparing the speed of a Genesis to a Porsche Boxster, the handling and braking to BMW, and the sound system to a Rolls. A Genesis is not a Rolls Royce. It is also not a Porsche. But when you say Porsche, you understand "speed and performance". When you say BMW, you understand that the car must handle well, and when you hear Rolls, you generally understand that the car has luxury features. They also conducted a 0 to 60 mph test with the BMW 750i and Porsche Boxster, with the Genesis finishing ahead. Not everyone is going to make a spreadsheet with performance specifications on it, but most people will understand what you mean when you say that a car is as fast as or faster than a Porsche.

Hyundai has also taken pains to ensure that each item stands apart - whether it is the gear levers, visors, cup holders or seat controls, it appears that they belong to a luxury sedan. Pitting each of these cars against the Hyundai's Genesis in a luxury car challenge has resulted in leaving most of them dazed and shuffling realizing that Hyundai Genesis deserves the full respect that it demands, whether be it safety or luxury.

So, if there is one thing to take from these comparisons, it would be the fact that Hyundai can take on its competitors head-on, without making room for the price factor.

Hyundai is now daring all car buyers to compare Hyundai models with any other car out there.

Visit us and see for yourself

Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Arab And The Genie

An Arab had just spent many days crossing the desert without water.

His camel had died of thirst and he was crawling through the sands, certain that the end was close when all of a sudden he sees a shiny object sticking out of the sand several yards ahead of him.

He crawls to the object, pulls it out of the sand, and discovers what looks to be an ash tray from an old car. He opens it and out pops a genie...

But this apparently is no ordinary genie. He is wearing a polka dot bow tie and a sport coat with a dog-eared little book in the breast pocket with a blue cover and has a pencil tucked behind one ear.

"Well, kid," says the genie. "You know how it works. You have three wishes."

"I'm not falling for this." says the man. "I'm not going to trust a used car salesman!"

"What have you got to lose?”

"You've got no transportation, and it looks like you're a goner anyway!”

The man thinks about this for a minute, and decides that the genie is right.

"OK, I wish I were in a lush oasis with plentiful food and drink." ***POOF*** The man finds himself in the most beautiful oasis he has ever seen. And he is surrounded with jugs of wine and platters of delicacies.

"OK, kid, what's your second wish."

"My second wish is that I was rich beyond my wildest dreams." ***POOF*** The Arab finds himself surrounded by treasure chests filled with rare gold coins and precious gems."

"OK, kid, you have just one more wish. Better make it a good one!"

After thinking for a few minutes, the Arab says: "I wish that no matter where I go, a beautiful woman will want and need me." ***POOF*** He's turned into a tampon.

The moral of the story?

If a used car salesman offers you anything at no cost, there's always going to be a string attached somewhere!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

55th Annual Filmfare Awards: 3 Idiots, Amitabh and Vidya shine

Bollywood Shahenshah Amitabh Bachchan and Vidya Balan won the much coveted titles of best actor and actress respectively at the 55th annual Filmfare awards which was held at Yashraj studios on Saturday, 28th March 2010. Both won it for the same film 'Paa' in which they starred as mother and son.

Other big winner of the night was Aamir Khan's top grossing film ‘3 Idiots’, winning the best film, best director for Raj Kumar Hirani, and also best story, dialogues, screen play and the best actor in a supporting role for its star Boman Irani. The best actress in a supporting role was won by Kalki Koechlin for her role in Dev D.

Musical maestro A. R Rehman won the best music director award for Rakesh Omprakash Mehra's ‘Delhi 6’ which incidentally also won the female and male playback singer awards for its singers Mohit Chauhan for 'Masakali' and Rekha Bharadwaj for 'Genda Phool' respectively. The female Category was shared by Kavita Seth too, for 'Ik Tara' from 'Wake Up Sid'.

Yesteryear actor Shashi Kapoor and Music director Khaiyyam were honoured with Lifetime Achievement awards.

The glittering event was hosted by the irrepressible host duo of Shahrukh khan and Saif Ali Khan and supported by Karan Johar, and actors Siddharth and Shweta for various categories. Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif and Karenna Kapoor were among those who entertained the crowd with their performances while Shahid Kapoor did a memorable dancing tribute to legendary singer Michael Jackson.

Most of the who’s who of Bollywood was present at the ceremony except the Bachchans, who boycotted the event in protest of against a publication associated with Filmfare, which gave false news about Aiswarya Rai's health.