Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. He worked in journalism for over a decade, and won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007. His bestselling novel, My Friend Sancho, was published in 2009. He is best known for his blog, India Uncut. His current project is a non-fiction book about the lack of personal and economic freedoms in post-Independence India.
I’ve written before on the mediocrity of the film reviewers of India’s broadsheets, and Nikhat Kazmi illustrates that better than anyone. It’s a pity, in a way, that Jai Arjun Singh busted her for plagiarism: we’re stuck with her original stuff now, and it is monstrous. Consider these lines from her review of 300:
In case your appetite for bloody violence failed to find satisfaction with Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, just go for 300. You won’t be disappointed because the level of violence, once again, reaches an all new high in this Hollywood flick which transforms war into unadulterated gore. And it does it without losing its aesthetics. So that, you get to see heads being decapitated and flying on screen and humans being impaled, chopped and chutnified in palettes that have been specially tinted to create a canvas where the colour of blood is black and the body count is beyond cognition.
Is a worse sentence possible than that last one, which careens beyond redemption from that first misplaced comma onwards, as if in a parallel universe where grammar and simple writing are vices, not virtues? To top it up, she then writes: “The tale is pre-history.” Pre-history? Hello?
This kind of a review would be understandable from a seventh-standard schoolgirl trying badly to impress with her knowledge of English (probably her second or third language), and her contrived insights. It is sad that our country’s most-read English paper should carry such writing. Why are the editorial standards of our newspapers so terribly low?
(Link via email from Rahul Bhatia.
Chutnified? Hilarious. And I thought I had bad english.
#1 Posted by Abhinav on Mon, March 19, 2007 at 4:25:41
Actually I have no issues against that particular word!
#2 Posted by Amit Varma on Mon, March 19, 2007 at 5:05:33
Nikhat Kazmi rocks!! Or rather,
Nikhat Kazmi, rocks!!
#3 Posted by dhananjay mhatre on Mon, March 19, 2007 at 5:42:25
I would not watch a movie based on her review. Most critics in Hollywood also seem overrated. Why is she reviewing Hollywood movies anyways??
We cannot expect a whole lot from TOI anyways. The paper is tabloid news, trashy reporting, plagiarism, government agency ads that I dont care about, cheesy matrimonial ads(btw, my dad put one in for me also - the phone rang for 2 weeks), real estate ads selling overpriced apartments. If you think about it - TOI is a mirror to our society….. The government does a lot of business (which it should not be doing).... people are desperate to get married…. they also want to own a lot of property…. they also want to know what bollywood stars are doing and saying…. That Kareena Kapoor would tie with Ashlee Simpson in a chess game.
#4 Posted by Siddharth Chhikara on Mon, March 19, 2007 at 11:38:49
Had stopped trusting Nikhat’s reviews ever since I read Jai’s post. And now with the ‘300’ review, she sinks to a new low.
#5 Posted by Toe Knee on Tue, March 20, 2007 at 12:26:51
“It is sad that our countryís most-read English paper should carry such writing.”
The ‘bad writing’ kinda explains the ‘most-read’ part don’t you think? This absolute disregard for grammar and language is just restricted to Nikhat Kazmi. And it’s not just the language, I am also not very impressed with the quality of its content.
No wonder, lot of people I know hate The Hindu. :)
#6 Posted by The Piker on Tue, March 20, 2007 at 6:07:46
Typo from last comment (word inserted in Block letters).
“This absolute disregard for grammar and language is NOT just restricted to Nikhat Kazmi. ”
#7 Posted by The Piker on Tue, March 20, 2007 at 9:13:23
The Piker, I don’t know if you were implying that the Hindu is a better paper, but it certainly isn’t. Indeed, their English, if anything, is even worse: often archaic, sometimes purple (the sports pages especially). And their politics is stuck in the Soviet years.
#8 Posted by Amit Varma on Tue, March 20, 2007 at 10:12:54
I grew up reading The Hindu. As a kid, I probably wouldn’t have cared for their political tilts, although now, as a grown up (and with the advent of the net) I don’t read either of them exclusively. I also realize that The Hindu isn’t that neutral (its AIADMK bias is well known). But atleast from what I’ve read I haven’t seen many glaring grammatical/spelling errors. Until recently, The Hindu has usually been known for not sensationalizing news. So based on these factors, I feel it is a better paper.
I’m definitely not a very keen observer of political leanings of newspapers, and read news these days from more aggregated sources. For opinions, thanks to blogs and online media I get diverse ones. So I have rather been out of touch of late with Hindu, so yes, you could safely disregard my comments. Definitely wouldn’t want to take on the might of a journalist.
Anyway, what I do know is Nikhat Kazmi and the whole lot (of what I suspect to be TOI interns ghostwriting reviews) need to do some back to basics work on the language and treatment of their reviews/articles.
[End of Rant]
#9 Posted by The Piker on Tue, March 20, 2007 at 10:48:06
Piker: I am not sure, but I do think the Hindu leans towards DMK, and not the ADMK.
#10 Posted by Ravages on Tue, March 20, 2007 at 12:33:16
Ha! Great going, Amit. Couldn’t have said it better myself about ‘The Hindu,’ one of the most boring and uninteresting newspapers ever.
#11 Posted by Shwetha on Tue, March 20, 2007 at 1:11:12
“Why are the editorial standards of our
newspapers so terribly low?”
Could it be because the general quality of writing in English is low in India? After 17 yrs in the US, I can’t read any Indian publication for more than 30 mins without cringing…
#12 Posted by Prashant on Wed, March 21, 2007 at 9:48:00
Wonder what you mean when you say Hindu isn’t a better paper. Better being a relative word, surely you are not implying that Hindu is worse than TOI. I don’t think Piker said that Hindu was the BEST, but only better. If you can’t accept that contention, it can only be prejudice againts their political leanings.
I personally don’t like their leftist/ left of centre leanings (i was a long term fan of the Indian Express, pre-split). What i do like is that it is the only paper which does not have trash, which our kids can read. It has tie-ups with Guardian and NY Times where you get to read some good columns. It has probably the only half-decent literary edition, the Hindu literary supplement.
Agree on the Sports section bit. I know you are referring to Nirmal Shekar who seems to have gone dotty. But it does have Rohit Brijnath and Peter Roebuck (on syndication). Some of the recent writers are doing a good job - like Dinakar.
Finally, it is the only Indian newspaper which has a reader’s editor.
#13 Posted by Vamshi on Thu, March 22, 2007 at 1:56:44
Vamshi, I have already specified the reasons why I don’t like the Hindu, and the one I mentioned before their politics was their language: it is atrocious and unreadable. The Guardian is also a left-wing paper, but it is a joy to read, especially when it comes to features and sports. The Hindu has nothing to redeem it.
And I’m offended by your statement, “If you canít accept that contention, it can only be prejudice against their political leanings.” So anyone who doesn’t share your tastes is prejudiced?
As for their “readerís editor”, precisely what did he or she do when Gautaman Bhaskaran was exposed for plagiarism? Nothing.
#14 Posted by Amit Varma on Thu, March 22, 2007 at 2:22:02
That was a quick response. On a humourous note, anyone who doesn’t share my dis-taste for ToI is prejudiced. Hindu’s language is a bit difficult to adjust to. But i would rather have that than articles about T&A (T*** and A****) in HT or ToI. I would rather be archaic here than mod.
Hindu does have some good science features. It has some very good arts and cultures articles and good columnists like Ram Guha, Marquesee, Harish Khare..Of course i ended up liking Hindu through a process of exclusion after i crossed out ToI, HT, IE. What else is there?
And the last bit, the Reader’s editor wasn’t around when the Gautaman Bhaskaran expose happened. But if he is still writing, i do not see his writings in the Bangalore edition often, the Hindu editors are not online.
I have one question for you - why are the Indian media houses reluctant to throw these people out (Kazmi, Bhaskaran) out when NYtimes had a editorial reshuffle when a case of plagiarism came out 4 years back.
#15 Posted by Vamshi on Thu, March 22, 2007 at 3:42:45
Vamshi, when I said “archaic” I was referring to language, not subject matter. and at least regarding the Bombay editions, HT and DNA aren’t too bad, and Mint, within it’s niche, is excellent.
As for your question, if our media houses had the same values as NYT, such instances wouldn’t occur at all. It’s a shame, but I know for a fact that many senior people in the business simply do not care about these things: they just want to get the damn product out.
#16 Posted by Amit Varma on Thu, March 22, 2007 at 7:09:43
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