Archive for March, 2011

Calvin and Hobbes!

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Turning over a new leaf!

Source: Hindustan Times I 27th March 2011 I Sunday

A FRESH CHAPTER Marathi publishing houses, once oblivious to profit margins and marketing techniques, are wooing the next generation with web shops and Kindle-friendly e-books.

Their idea of a marketing campaign used to be rickety wooden tables laden with Marathi tomes and lined up in an empty shop or exhibition space.

The internet is the most person- alised medium available. It's time for publishers to chuck those post- cards and just send an email. I SUNIL MEHTA , head of Mehta Publications

Now, they are setting up snazzy websites with e-stores and uploading titles in PDF format for use on e-book readers like Amazon’s Kindle.

It’s a sea change for a publishing fraternity that has traditionally shunned overt marketing and taken a laissez faire attitude to profit margins.

But, as Marathi publishers are saying, it isn’t just about marketing. It’s about connecting with a new generation of readers in a relevant and effective manner.

“The truth is that the internet is going to be an inseparable part of the average youngster’s life, and that’s why we began our e-journey,“ says Sunil Mehta, 44, owner of Mehta Publishing House.

“Most Marathi publishing houses have their own little retail outlets, but a web store means you are not just reaching out to your city, you are reaching out to the world.“

Mehta’s 33-year-old publishing house recently uploaded on its website excerpts of 1,200 of its titles, in PDF format, giving e-visitors a taste of the works available for purchase online. In another four months, Mehta plans to expand this list of online offerings to include all 3,000 of its titles.

“It’s all about reaching the right market, and the internet can help us reach millions of relevant doorsteps at little cost,“ says Harsha Bhatkal, 48, owner of the 59-year-old Popular Prakashan, iconic Mumbai-based printers of more than 1,000 Marathi works and numerous scholastic and educational texts.

One of the first Marathi publishers to latch on to the Net, Popular Prakashan launched its website in 2002, to showcase its range of offerings by renowned Marathi writers such as Vijay Tendulkar, VD Karandikar and GV Kulkarni.

Two years ago, the website was expanded to include a web store for Marathi and English titles. “We have also started selling Marathi e-books and I believe that that’s where the future lies,“ says Bhatkal. “I have already seen the Web market for Marathi literature grow significantly over the past year.“

The Net is also reaping rich rewards for Ameya Prakashan, which launched its website in 1998 and recently expanded its web store and e-book offerings.

“I have always believed in the web as a medium of reaching out to readers, and now I believe as strongly in the potential of e-books,“ says Ulhas Latkar, 45, head of Ameya Prakashan, which hired a consultant to help make the website more attractive and easier to navigate.

We Maharashtrians are to be blamed for not making Marathi literature visible enough in the market. The internet has given us a fresh opportunity. HARSHA BHATKAL , head of Popular Prakashan

The e-store now offers 25 titles, including translations of best-selling books by US President Barack Obama, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar.

“We’re now getting 25 hits on our site every day, up from 20 about three months ago,“ says Latkar. “And the hits are translating into online and offline sales in 5% of the cases.”

One of those new-age Web-savvy Marathi book buyers is Harshal Mahajan, 30, a Thane resident who regularly buys books on e-bookstores such as sahyadribooks.org and marathimati.com.

“Now I don’t have to go hopping from shop to shop, trying to find books to suit my specific interests,“ he says. “These websites have given me much better access to Marathi literature and made it much easier for me to find books I have been searching for.“

The websites are also getting hits from Indians living abroad.

“The diaspora is getting stronger these days and it’s easiest for NRIs to order through the internet,“ says Bhatkal. “We are also getting orders from governments of countries like the US, UK and Canada, where there are large Indian communities and public libraries wish to stock samples of their vernacular literature.”

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Book Launch – Black Brown & The Blue -Shuvaprasanna

Black Brown & The Blue -Shuvaprasanna. The 256 page illustrated book in limited edition and hard cover, edited by curator-writer Sushma Bahl, explores the conceptual depths of Shuvaprasanna’s aesthetics. Besides well researched essays and interviews by scholars including distinguished art historian Prof B N Goswamy, art critic and historian Dr Seema Bawa, curator -consultant Ina Puri, German scholar and art collector Ralph Oestrich, eminent art critic Manasi Majumder and the editor; the publication also includes a substantial number of full page reproductions of the artist’s work as well as some rare photographs and other memorabilia. Who is Shuvaprasanna? What are his aesthetics? Where does he draw his inspiration from? The publication vividly tells the story of the man and his artistic track, how he has managed to get to where he is today, to make it a collectors’ delight and a useful reference source on contemporary Indian art.

Date: Apr 08 2011

Time: 07:00 PM

Venue: TAO Art Gallery

THE VIEW, 165, A.B. ROAD, Worli, Mumbai

www.taoartgallery. com I   91 22 24918585/8686

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How Shakespeare is still relevant to the Facebook Generation

It would not be an exaggeration to state that Shakespeare is
a name that is synonymous with literature. His works have been studied by students and performed by theatre enthusiasts for decades.  The true genius of Shakespeare and his works lies in the fact that uttering his name would elicit at least a faint recognition even from someone who has not studied literature, or read any of his plays. That is certainly not the case with other noteworthy writers of that era including Christopher Marlowe and Ben Johnson.

No other writer or playwright in the history of literature has enjoyed the popularity and following as the “Bard of Avon” which is strange, considering the fact that Shakespeare wrote in Elizabethan English (an outdated form of English) and his plays reflect the customs and traditions of the Elizabethan age.

When you read Shakespeare for the first time, it takes a few pages to get used to the archaic vocabulary and grammar. Yet, this has not stopped people from reading the plays and hailing them as an important milestone in dramatics and literature. This brings us to the title of this topic and a question that is worth asking: How is Shakespeare still relevant in the Facebook Generation?

Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter has brought about a cultural revolution in the way we interact with our friends and the world in general. As long as you have an internet connection, catching up with your friends is just a click away. Social networking sites have also provided a platform for the public to voice their opinions and even start a revolt as the recent uprising in Egypt has demonstrated.

In such a time and age, are the works of a 16th century playwright still relevant? The one word answer to this question is…yes.

The reason why the “Bard of Avon” is still relevant to those of us who type exclusively in 140 characters (read: the twitterati) is because Shakespeare’s plays were based on themes central to human emotions that are a focal point of our existence. In other words, the plays centred on emotions such as jealousy, love, hate, lust, greed, which will never go out of fashion as long as we exist.

Take Macbeth for instance. The tragic tale of a hero turned thrown usurper is one of the bard’s finest tragedies. The play opens with Macbeth returning victorious in battle and the king applauding him for his outstanding bravery. Unbridled greed and ambition soon takes centre stage with Lady Macbeth inciting her vulnerable husband to kill the king and rightfully take his place. The psychological effect (conscience in layman’s terms) of the cold blooded murder takes a toll on the despairing Lady Macbeth who tries to invisible bloodstains off her hands.

We may be more connected to our friends today, thanks to social media, but we still feel pangs of jealousy when colleagues or even our friends achieve something and are in the spotlight. There are moments when greed and ambition still force us to go against our conscience and commit actions that we later regret. Jealousy and greed, however, are not the only emotions that we continue to share.

Love, brotherhood, compassion are some of the other emotions that are central to our existence. In Romeo and Juliet, the two central characters cast aside familial enmity and fall in love with each other. The love that they share is pure in its essence and devoid of any ulterior motives. In the same play, the brotherhood shared between Romeo and Mercutio is so strong that the latter gives up his life and saves Romeo.

We have moved from caves to cities, but we still experience the emotions of friendship and love and share it with people around us. In fact, social media itself is based on the principle that it allows you to befriend other users and stay in touch with constant friends. Social media sites have essayed the role of cupid too- just like the two angels in A Midsummer’s Night Dream– and have helped users to discover love.

Apart from the emotional content, Shakespeare’s contemporary relevance can be traced to his immense contributions to the modern English language. In the age of Shakespeare, there were no standard set of rules for the way English was spoken or written. The bard’s use of grammar and sentence structure has pretty much shaped the way we talk and write the Queen’s language today. When you say “with bated breath” or “a foregone conclusion”, remember that Shakespeare was the first to use these phrases.

Though we have evolved as a technologically advanced race, we still experience the same emotions that people did back in Shakespeare’s times. As long as we continue to experience shared emotions such as love, joy, guilt, greed, and compassion, the bard’s plays will live on in our collective consciousness.

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