Thursday, September 29, 2005

In Madison now

Flew in to Madison this morning for a proposal defense/friendly conversation with my PhD committee. The meeting isn't until tomorrow morning, but I figured it'd be nice to catch up with friends here, attend colloquium, and go out for drinks after that. I think I can honestly say post-colloquium merriness is the one thing I will miss the most about Madison. Random Perkins runs with Ben for coffee and gooey apple pie would come a very close second.

*sigh* I suppose it just isn't possible to inhabit a place without being inhabited by it.

Off now to pore over the proposal and anticipate questions. I'll be heading back to Chicago tomorrow, spend the weekend in Naperville, and then back to Buffalo. I'm not sure now if I'll be able to fit in a trip to Ann Arbor next weekend to visit the Wahindia office. Darn, too many things to do over the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Decent Start

The interview went better than I expected! I ended up cradling the cell phone with my shoulder while typing on my laptop and it worked out well :) Sunil Thakur, the CEO, was very enthu about my project and we ended up chatting for about 50 minutes. The questions I had jotted down as a guide for the conversation worked on the whole, and as with all interviews, I had to reword some and bring them back into the conversation at a later point.

The one difficulty of conducting interviews over the phone, at least the one I faced today, concerns pauses. In the absence of any bodily cues, how do you read pauses in the conversation? On at least two occasions, I began speaking only to realize he still had something to say. But on the whole, decent start. I ended the interview asking him if there were others at Wahindia I could speak with - he was very receptive to the request and sent me an email (less than 5 minutes after he got off the phone) with a list of contacts - one of Wahindia's hosts (of Persian descent!), the Editor, and a former employee who helped develop the business plan and content development strategies.

And oh, the single biggest advantage of typing notes as the interview proceeds - major reduction in time spent transcribing. I spent a good 30 minutes going over the notes, completing sentences, adding follow-up questions, etc. but it was nothing compared to the hours I've spent transcribing audio tapes (esp without one of those foot-pedal things).

Anyhoo, I was supposed to work on a bunch of things after the interview, but all I've done is read the news and blog surf (is there a specific word for jumping from one blog to another?). Seriously, I have to kick this habit at some point...its not going to happen in India, that's for sure (these days in Bangalore, cybercafes charge just Rs.10/hour after 9:00 p.m.!). Anyways, here's a Bollywood PJ I came across

Q: A terminally-ill guy visits New York. His one wish in life is to get laid by a hooker. But will he find one in time? If one were to make a Hindi movie on this uncertainty in his life, what would they call it?
A: Kal Ho Na Ho.

Nice, no?! Check out the comments for more PJs, some that will have you breaking into delighted cackles, and many that will have you groaning in sheer pain. And needless to say, do add to the list.

Update: I finally got sick of the PJs and settled down to finish reading
Nawal El Saadawi's Memoirs from the Women's Prison.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

First interview -

One major component of my dissertation involves understanding the institutional architecture of the "new media" sector that creates and sustains Indian cinema's presence online (particularly Bollywood). In India, I will be spending time meeting with folks at Rediff and Indiatimes. In North America, I will be speaking with people behind Bollyvista, Behindwoods, Wahindia, and perhaps Indiaglitz. And tomorrow I kick things off with an interview with the CEO of Wahindia.

From the industry's perspective, "new" media have transformed production processes, marketing practices, the design of promotional packages, and perhaps most crucially, have been indispensable in the drive to tap into and expand the audience base outside India. While some efforts, like the decision to promote Rok Sako to Rok Lo by "premiering" the entire film on cell phones are a bit out there, overall, new media technologies have come to define contemporary film culture in many ways.

I am interested in understanding the history, business practices, and content development processes of companies like Wahindia. And I really want to grasp how these folks deploy their understanding of audience participation to both invite and structure fan activity. And, when I look at sites like Wahindia and Bollyvista, and the content they carry, I also cannot help wondering about these media professionals' own sense of being a fan.

I'm a little nervous actually. While I've done tons of interviews with audiences, broadly speaking, I haven't done any with media execs. And not having worked in the media industry, I wonder what questions are off-limits, how much I can probe, what the jargon is, etc. I'm also wondering if I should scribble furiously as he talks, or use the speaker phone function and tape the conversation, or follow Suketu Mehta's technique (Amardeep Singh) and type directly into my laptop as the conversation unfolds.

Monday, September 26, 2005


In three weeks from now, I will be in India, following in the footsteps of many a desi grad student returning “home” to do fieldwork towards a dissertation. Home, in many ways, is Bangalore. My parents live there, and it is where I came into my own. It is the city in India I know best, it is where I was part of an adda. So I travel first to Bangalore, on a Kuwait Airlines flight from New York City.

From Bangalore, my "field" will extend in many directions to include Madras, Bombay, Pune, Delhi, and Hyderabad. This blog is where you will hear of my travels, conversations, and myriad other experiences. I'm not sure now what I will write, but I will write each evening. Of navigating different cities, attending fan meetings, interviewing media execs, anxiety attacks about getting no work done, swanky new lounge bars in Bangalore, and so on.