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Mustered Musings

"The years teach much that the days never know." -- Emerson

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

AMUL : The Taste of India

Bollywood villian actor Shakti Kapoor watching footage of a TV news channel's sting operation on him - March'05

From : The best of AMUL ads.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Cinema in Nigeria

Silverbird Galleria

Thanks to a Nigerian Entertainment Business conglomerate, Silverbird Productions of Mr. Ben Murray Bruce, a US-educated Nigerian entrepreneur, who already has his own TV and radio station, for opening a cineplex in Victoria Island, Lagos. Never ever have I heard opening of a cinema hall or a cineplex make so much news ! The launch of the cineplex took almost everyone concerned with cinema in Nigeria by surprise. The cineplex is over 6 months old now. Still there is lot of excitement around. This is due mainly to the fact that the cinema in Nigeria had been considered as going into extinction, over taken by the emergence of the video films in the nineties.

I read it somewhere that from the Victorian period, emphasis on entertainment of a Western nature was a prominent feature of the Lagos social life. Such entertainment included operatic productions known as Christian cantatas and film shows. In order to indigenize the entertainment industry, the local community proposed the erection of the Glover Hall, opened in 1893. This began the development of such spaces in Lagos. Subsequently, other venues were constructed for the showing of films and other forms of entertainment. These have included the Casino in Yaba, Pen in Agege, Metro in Somolu, Super in Surulere, Tarzan in Orile, Plaza in Lagos Island and the Cinma Halls of the monumental National Theatre in Lagos.

Prodominantly, the screenings have almost euqal shares of “cowboy films” of the Western world, the Indian films from Bollywood, the Chinese films of the Kung Fu Era and more recently the Nigerian Nollywood (!) video films. These films were shown in a variety of cinema houses that cut across social strata. While the rich went to the more expensive cinema houses, the poor took solace in the often run-down cinema houses in the suburban areas and the ghettoes.

Though in Nigeria, I never have come across or personally visited any of the cinema halls before my visit to Silverbird Cineplex, I am told over seventy five percent of the cinema halls are currently housing churches and other places of worship and in some cases have been converted into lock up shops. There are several reasons that are adduced for this development. One of the being the socio-economic conditions that made it impossible for celluloid films to be made in Nigeria, after the first attempts by such people as Ola Balogun, late Hubert Ogunde and late Ade Love. Secondly is the rather strong campaign by the religious groups associating the socio-economic problems in Nigeria to the hosting of the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC ’77) in 1977 !

While some optimism may be shared about the return of the cinema the question to ask is that will the emergence of the Silverbird Cinemas houses bring about a reintroduction of celluloid films? This is not likely to occur as the culture among film makers has shifted to the making of video films which are marketed essential for home consumption, given the high costs of making celluloid films in a depressed economy. So, the Silverbird Cinemas are likely to continue to screen Western, Indian and Chinese films for a long time to come.

Anyways, I know for sure that the Indian community of Lagos is very happy. At any given time, there always is at least one Bollywood movie being screened at the Silverbird. There has been excellent response to screening of movies like Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Sathiyon, Swades, Veer Zaara, Aitbaar, Ailaan, and currently running Black. I already have seen Black, and looking forward to release of Bewafa !

Friday, March 18, 2005

Face of Festac

A few days after I posted an entry about a site Face of Festac developed by some enthusiastic youngsters of a village town Festac on the periphery of Lagos, I noticed some nude pics with obscene remarks posted in the gallery section of the site. I was furious to the extent that I not only removed the post from this blog but also fired an email to the webmaster of the site. To my surprise, I got a prompt reply by him saying that he not only has set up an administrative team to monitor all postings to his site but also removed all such pictures from the gallery section.

I admire highly professional approach by these youngsters and wish them luck.

It indeed is a very well designed site with good intentions, and that too without any sponsorship or monetary help from anyone. Currently they do not have any advertisers to support them. The very fact that in Nigeria, where it indeed is tough for someone to sustain for long without any revenue coming in, their efforts are praiseworthy.

Global report on corruption pays tribute to Satyendra Dubey

Transparency International has released it's Global Corruption Report 2005 with special foucus on Corruption in construction and post-conflict reconstruction.

The Global Corruption Report 2005 presents detailed case studies of large-scale infrastructure projects that have been plagued by corruption.

In the section on corruption in construction, Dubey’s story appears as Blowing the Whistle on Corruption: One Man’s Fatal Struggle.

Tranparency International's chairman Peter Eigen, in his remarks, mentions:

"The Global Corruption Report 2005 opens with a tribute to one individual, Satyendra Dubey, who was murdered after he courageously spoke out against corruption in the construction of a massive highway project in India."

Corruption in construction also has a direct cost in lives. Sub-standard construction projects, tainted by bribery, injure and kill when they are built in earthquake zones. The corrupt are all too often willing to put their personal gain before the welfare of others, as is no more clearly demonstrated than by TI Integrity Awards 2004 winner Satyendra Dubey, who was killed shortly after communicating his concerns about corrupt practices within the National Highways Authority of India.

Dubey was among the three posthumous recipients of the TI’s Integrity Awards late last year. He was also honoured posthumously in March 2004 as the Whistleblower of the Year by the Index on Censorship.

Dubey was shot dead after his complaint of corruption reached the Government which ignored his request for confidentiality.

In his letters to the Prime Minister's Office, Dubey had alleged that the 80-km stretch from Koderma in Bihar, a stretch of the Golden Quadrilateral he was supervising, was subject to "poor implementation" and largescale "loot of public money."

Also, current ‘Monuments of corruption’ from the Global Corruption Report 2005:
  • The Lesotho Highlands Water Project, in which US$2 million were allegedly paid in bribes by Acres International and 11 other international dam-building companies.
  • The Cologne incinerator project in Germany, where US $13 million was allegedly paid in bribes during the construction of a US$ 500 million waste incineration plant.
  • The Yacyretá hydropower project on the border of Argentina and Paraguay, built with World Bank support, is flooding the Ibera Marshes. Due to cost overruns, the power generated by Yacyretá is not economic and needs to be subsidised by the government. According to the head of Paraguay’s General Accounting Office, US$1.87 billion in expenditures for the project ‘lack the legal and administrative support documentation to justify the expenditures’.
  • The reservoir of the Bakun dam in Sarawak, Malaysia, which will submerge 700 km2 of tropical rain forest. The mandate to develop the project went to a timber contractor and friend of Sarawak’s governor. The provincial government of Sarawak is still looking for customers to consume the power to be generated by the project.
  • The Bataan nuclear power plant in the Philippines, built at a cost of more than US $2 billion. The contractor, Westinghouse, admitted paying US $17 million in commissions to a friend of former president Marcos. The reactor sits on an active fault line, creating a major risk of nuclear contamination if the power plant ever becomes operational.
  • The Bujagali dam in Uganda, which is currently being investigated for corruption by the World Bank and four different governments after a British subsidiary of the Norwegian construction company, Veidekke, admitted paying a bribe to a senior Ugandan civil servant. The cumulative environmental impacts of Bujagali and other dams on the Nile have never been assessed.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Signs of the times ...

I received this link from a friend on email. 9/11 still haunts ...