Describing the Four Newspaper Kiosks that I Patronize

There are four different kiosks located in different parts of the township that I live in that I frequent to buy newspapers. Because I found out that the agency that used to deliver to my home was ripping me off, I began buying it myself and, that too, without paying extra for “delivery”. Now it has become part of my routine. So much that I cannot resist talking about it here.

Here are short descriptions of the four newspaper kiosks that I have been frequenting at least since late 2017.

Kiosk #1 – Run by a 40-Something Couple

My favourite place to buy newspapers from, this kiosk is run by a wife and a husband who look like they are in their late 40s. Situated in a corner of the busiest intersection in the town – encroaching a footpath – adjacent to maybe the second busiest bus stand, it only consists of a table the size of two umbrellas if they were forcibly shaped into a square, a huge umbrella twice the size of the ones I just talked about and which is the standard size for all such kiosks, be it the one that sells Jio SIM cards or SBI credit cards that you don’t want, and one or two plastic chairs. Sometimes they tend the shop together, often talking between themselves and laughing, attending all their customers with a wide smile. Buying my favourite newspaper from them is usually how I start my weekday and exchanging a smile with them sometimes makes my day better. Although, the decrepit waste bins right in front of the kiosk turns me off.

Kiosk #2 – The Old Man & the Newspapers

This is the most recent find of mine and also a lifesaver because it is the only newspaper kiosk that stays open till one in the afternoon. Set up on a few boxes as tall as a five-foot person’s knees with a single plastic, support-less chair, it is run by an old man who is at least 60. His wisdom that the shop is located in the township’s busiest market which I think works better for him than for the couple above, even if both act as enroachments. I like to believe his sales are better because copies of The Times of India (TOI) often gets sold out here, which forces me to buy Hindustan Times. (Does that say something about these newspapers?) Located just beside an auto-rickshaw stand, when the old man is not selling newspapers, he has people to give him company (at least when they are not on the roads). And let’s not forget about the umbrella; only here it is adjusted to a lower height that makes me bend and swerve to pick up my copy.

Kiosk #3 – A Balanced Life

This is run by multiple people and I don’t know if they are all related by blood. I know for sure that the guy who tends the shop these days is an employee because he’s least bothered, always stuck to his mobile phone playing what looks like PUBG. It is the kiosk with the biggest display (enroaching about 80% of the walkway) and at a height similar to that of the old man, which works against them because they have the same umbrella. During monsoon and because they keep TOI on the corner, I often have to do with a damp copy (despite pulling the one in the middle of the stack). They are situated next to probably the third busiest bus stop and in front of a popular cake shop whose quality of cakes has gone down as fast and terribly as the level of arrogance has gone up in the owners of this kiosk. They often refuse to sell me a paper if they have already bundled the copies together and are about to leave. They say they stay open till noon but I have never seen them go beyond 11.30 and that is what makes it the most less-frequented kiosks of all for me. The paper is right there and which can be even removed without unbundling the bundle and yet I have gone back home empty-handed, haven’t I?

Kiosk #4 – Passive Income

This kiosk, located at the entrance of the town’s not-so-busy railway station, looks like it is not the primary business of its owners. The one 20-something chap who tends the store did not even know the cost of TOI the first time I bought it from him. It may be true that he was new then but I still see him check the rate before giving me the balance to the 10-rupee coin that I hand him. Located in the walking area of the station as an enroachment, it has a medium-sized display (like half of that of kiosk #3), a small plastic chair, and a separate section where the guy keeps a huge water bottle. I don’t usually see many people buying from him because everyone is trying to catch their train that’s already on the platform. But the guy is not much bothered either because he is probably in a game of PUBG locking horns with the under-performing employee of kiosk #3.

These are where I spend two minutes of my life every day not just buying newspapers but assessing and judging people who sell them to me without ever knowing that I have written short descriptions about them and criticized them for enroaching public space on a medium that is trying to kill their business. TN.

Featured image courtesy: Unsplash

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List: Why Do People Honk

There’s a simple mantra that I use to avoid honking while driving. It is to assume and believe that everyone on the road at a given point of time is eager to reach their destination. No one – especially the ones in front of you – is voluntarily trying to delay their movement. It’s just that one of many external factors is influencing them at that specific point of time, be it a bratty auto-rickshaw driver or an illegally parked car or pedestrian traffic or a lost member of a bovine family (who apparently are safer in India). The mantra is basically about exercising self-control and is a trait that I think should be mandated by Regional Transport Offices (RTO) across the country as part of the tests for obtaining licence. Along with the reintroduction of and when to use indicators.

But it’s not an ideal world we live in. And self-control is not easy to master, particularly in Mumbai traffic. So, here’s a hypothetical list of reasons why I think people (in India) honk while on the road. Some of these may sound ridiculous but I assure you they are based on my own experiences ever since I got myself a driving licence in 2014.

People in India blow their vehicle’s horn while on the road because…

  • The button is right there in front of them
  • When they learned driving/riding, it was taught to them that honking has properties similar to that of nitrous oxide
  • They think the person/vehicle blocking their way is trying to settle down at that particular place on the highway/road
  • Of muscle memory
  • Telling a person to do something by irritating them almost always gets the job done unless you are in Gurugram. There, you just get shot
  • It’s a privilege
  • It is easier than exercising patience
  • The person behind is doing it too and they can’t let the chain break or else seven years of curse. Duh!
  • Everyone does it
  • They have a fancy/loud horn
  • It makes them look important/busy
  • They have nothing better to do (because the person on the other side of the phone call they are on just does not shut up)
  • The green light is just 30 seconds away
  • They think they own the road

There are more but I don’t want to extend this list because I think I have driven the point home.

One day I will invest in a startup that makes horn-less vehicles. And the day the startup becomes profitable is when I will retire this list from my website. Till then let us all exercise patience while driving and riding. TN.

PS – I recently also created two similar lists here (about seat belts) and here (about helmets). Thank you.

Featured Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

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Best of Malayalam Cinema in 2018 (Critics’ Choice)

Although over 150 Malayalam films released in 2018, only a handful of those were deemed watchable by industry critics at large. Out of this handful, 15 titles were selected based on their cinematic brilliance and without considering their box office success.

Ee Ma Yau poster
Ee. Ma. Yau is the best Malayalam film of 2018

This is a list of the 15 best Malayalam movies of 2018, as selected by eminent critics of the Kerala film industry.

  1. Ee. Ma. Yau (dir. Lijo Jose Pellissery)
  2. Sudani from Nigeria (dir. Zakariya)
  3. Sexy Durga (dir. Sanal Kumar Sasidharan)
  4. Varathan (dir. Amal Neerad)
  5. Kayamkulam Kochunni (dir. Rosshan Andrrews)
  6. Koode (dir. Anjali Menon)
  7. Carbon (dir. Venu)
  8. Eeda (dir. Ajithkumar)
  9. Aami (dir. Kamal)
  10. Swathanthryam Ardharathriyil (dir. Tinu Pappachan)
  11. Njan Marykutty (dir. Ranjith Sankar)
  12. Aalorukkam (dir. V C Abhilash)
  13. Padayottam (dir. Rafeek Ibrahim)
  14. Poomaram (dir. Abrid Shine)
  15. Maradona (dir. Vishnu Narayn)
Varathan Malayalam film poster
Varathan has polarizing reviews but still came in at #4

The method of selection as well as other details about individual titles can be found over at my IMDb list here. My annual tradition of creating best-of lists/video was not possible because I could not catch all the films in 2018. (A punishment for not living in Kerala.)

Carbon film poster
Carbon stars Fahadh Faasil and Mamata Mohandas in the lead

Most of these are available on DVD or VOD. If none of these interest you or if you have already seen them, consider my personal favourites:

  • Ente Mezhuthiri Athazhangal (dir. Sooraj Thomas)
  • Uncle (dir. Gireesh Damodar)
  • Theevandi (dir. Fellini T P)
  • Kuttanpillayude Sivarathri (dir. Jean Markose)

Or, go for some of the underdogs of 2018:

  • Bhayaanakam (dir. Jayaraj)
  • Kaly (dir. Najeem Koya)
  • Joseph (dir. M Padmakumar)
  • Lilli (dir. Prasobh Vijayan)
  • Kammara Sambhavam (dir. Rathish Ambat)
  • Njan Prakashan (dir. Sathyan Anthikkad)

While you decide which film to catch this holiday season, also check out my list of the best posters of Malayalam cinema in 2018. A few of my other similar lists related to Malayalam films can be found here (best of 2017), here (best of 2016), and here (best of 2015). TN.

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Best Posters of Malayalam Cinema in 2018

I am a sucker for posters. They are one of my favourite design objects to look at. As an Engineering student, I used to design posters for my college’s annual cultural events and would spend a good time working on them. Because I used to heavily depend on stock images while grabbing ideas off the internet, I understand how difficult it is to design them. And when it comes to films, it is often out of just an idea. First-look posters have to attract a film’s target audience while depending on that tiny idea sitting only in the director’s head. That is why talking about their beauty and appreciating the best ones as well as their creators are important.

Here is a list of posters that were created for Malayalam films that released in 2018. In no specific order; and images sourced from IMP Awards, IMDb, or the film’s respective Facebook pages, with proper credits attributed wherever expected.

These are the best Malayalam posters of 2018:

Carbon film poster
Produced by Poetry Film House

Designed by Oldmonks, the posters for Venu’s adventure drama film Carbon perfectly encapsulates the hidden meaning behind the title as well as the central character’s selfish odyssey. Note the elongated hexagonal outline of the poster as well as the geometrical shapes in the title font and then read the tagline.

Ee Ma Yau poster
Produced by RGK Cinema

I am not a fan of posters that are not vertical (portrait) in shape, yet I cannot resist raving about this poster designed by Oldmonks for Lijo Jose Pellissery’s sombre drama Ee.Ma.Yau. In the film, the titular character dreams of being sent to the Gods on a gigantic coffin with pomp and circumstance. And with this striking first-look poster, we exactly know how big (“breaching a coastline” big), while giving you a bad taste of death and horror along the way.

Dakini Malayalam film poster
Produced by Universal Cinema and Urvasi Theatres

Rahul Riji Nair’s zany crime comedy drama Dakini certainly switched ON the hype through its series of vibrant posters designed by digital artist Prathool N T. I love the title font so much that I just cannot decide between it and the poster’s magnificent colour scheme. Nowhere has a team of four grandmas looked old, lovable, and wicked at the same time. But I don’t think I can forgive the makers for the missing Oxford comma. (Just kidding!)

Trivia – What is surprising to me is that the artist also developed the publicity designs for Rosshan Andrrews’s period crime drama Kayamkulam Kochunni. Which are better than the ones designed by Thought Station that went live.

Lilli Malayalam film poster
Produced by E4 Entertainment

Prasobh Vijayan’s crime drama Lilli ran a pretty successful campaign before its release, thanks to ample help from Oldmonks who only raised the bar if we compare this with their first two designs on this list. Giving the central and titular character a bouquet of lilies to hold, a crown of thorns to wear, and an aura, and then framing her as a character in a High Renaissance painting makes me want to print it (frescoed, if possible) and gift it to a friend so that he can expand his own Sistine Chapel collection of movie posters.

Varathan Malayalam film poster
Produced by Fahadh Faasil and Friends

The neon colour scheme, especially in the title font, made me spit out my coffee the first time I saw the Oldmonks-designed first poster of Amal Neerad’s uppity crime drama Varathan. And then I stopped having coffee for some time because with each poster coming out (even the character ones), I was getting this strange, negative vibe – something bad is going to happen to the lead characters that will unshape their relationship. That is exactly what the film wanted to convey. And it is.

Padayottam Malayalam movie poster
Produced by Weekend Blockbusters

Another poster designed by Prathool N T, the rusty, neon-induced shades added more fun and expectations to Rafeek Ibrahim’s gritty crime comedy Padayottam. It is when you realize that the character (played by Biju Menon) you see in the poster is not as terrifying as he seems to be in the film is what makes this more interesting. (Like an anti-promotion stunt, if you will.) Posters so colourful like these for films like these make me secure my faith in Malayalam cinema.

Ranam Malayalam film poster
Produced by Yes Cinema

With Nirmal Sahadev’s crime drama Ranam (also known as Detroit Crossing), Oldmonks add some Western touch to their design (and rightly so), which makes this poster featuring the ensemble cast look like that of a potential Hollywood blockbuster. Do note the neonized font for the title in Malayalam text.

Iblis Malayalam film poster
Produced by Ichais Productions

Designed by nologomedia, this charming poster for Rohith V S’s fantasy love story Iblis has not only a beautiful, BEAUTIFUL title font but also fantastical factors etched into each and every one of its pixels, which gives you every bit of a hint about what to expect. Iblis is also the third film on this list so far to feature its actors’ names on the posters, which surely is a welcome move by Malayalam cinema at large if you ask me.

Neerali Malayalam film poster
Produced by Moonshot Entertainments

Oldmonks give Ajoy Varma’s slipshod survival drama Neerali (or Nieraali) a more direct reference to its title (which means Octopus) than the director himself gave to the film. The immensely likable designs with a heavy dose of honey yellow scattered across the posters, and an intelligent hue spectrum on specifically the one above, made me go gaga.

Thobama Malayalam film poster
Produced by Radical Cinemas and Thekkepat Films

Designed by 24AM, the poster design for Mohsin Kassim’s ode to romance Thobama gives out a peculiarly oldies vibe (of a time) when you used to hang out with your colleagues on the madhil and whistle at the beauties of your college (which, at the moment, is a type of eve-teasing). It’s supposed to be nonchalant and nostalgic and it very well is, with some amazing use of the watercolour effect.

Trivia – 24AM rose to instant popularity when their butterfly logo on the posters for Alphonse Putharen’s Premam went viral.

Aabhaasam Malayalam film poster
Produced by Spire Productions and Collective Phase One

Designed by artist Pavi Sankar, the posters for Jubith Namradath’s social satire Aabhaasam are as raunchy and vivid as the film’s characters and the central theme. There would be no one person who will look at this piece of art and not want to consider consuming the full content. I remember the publicity team had also released a slightly risque-y poster on social media once the film was certified by the CBFC after much controversy. And it was equally awe-inspiring. Just bravo!

Eeda Malayalam film poster
Produced by Delta Studio and Collective Phase One

One of the best Malayalam movies of 2018, B Ajithkumar’s powerful romance story narrated against a political backdrop Eeda really took the rawness and realism of its theme to a higher level with this poster. Not only does it adopt the “put the ensemble” route – like Dakini, Ranam, and Aabhaasam – but also takes its title font so seriously that it evokes memories of a certain political theory popular in Kannur (and Kerala, in general) where the film is set. It is designed by Oldmonks.

Aami Malayalam film poster
Produced by Reel and Real Cinema

Last on this list is – for the eighth time – an Oldmonks design where they give a subtle nod to the film’s primary subject (legendary writer Kamala Surayya) and her ink-y writings that not only wreaked havoc in her own life but also kicked up a furore in the sensitive literary, political, and religious spheres. What better use of the smudge tool than on a poster for a film that talks about how a person is oppressed by the society because of their outspoken writing. This is for Kamal’s hard-hitting biopic Aami.

These are the 13 best posters that helped Malayalam cinema go the extra mile in its promotions in 2018. I wanted to list more posters (considering around a hundred fifty films released this year) and write about their designers to give them more exposure but I feel doing that would take the focus off from these pieces of remarkable creative art. TN.

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My Experience at IMDb’s First-Ever Contributor Meet-Up

2018 has been very special for me. Especially for my passive association with cinema. I wrote for Little India Directory; I completed 1000 movie reviews (of which over 125 were written this year) on IMDb; and for the first time in four years, I attended all the seven days of the (20th edition of the) Mumbai Film Festival in October this year and caught a record 13 films including the opening and closing films. The fest was perhaps the most exhilarating experience I had all year, which I would compare with my time at the fabulous Young Critics Lab in 2017. 

And then – to top everything – on 11 December I attended IMDb’s first-ever contributor meet-up here in Mumbai. It was unusual of me to go considering I often get cold feet as the day of such events approaches and eventually back out because of a passive case of social anxiety. But that would have meant going against the promise I made to myself earlier in 2018: to invest on experiences. And not on materialistic stuff like wristwatches and jackets and coffee mugs and pens. It is for the same reason why I often forcibly find myself going to soirees and catch-up parties organized by the overzealous HR at work including the one planned for Christmas next week. Gosh, I can’t wait for the Secret Santa activity as I hope to receive either a watch or a jacket. Fingers crossed!

Since I had no idea what the agenda was for the day or even what to expect at the event, I was unsure about going till even the previous day. I emailed one of the staff overseeing content at IMDb to get some idea about it, but all they said was that it was going to be a casual tête-à-tête with other contributors as well as the Founder and CEO Col Needham. I was curious to know more so I finally decided to go. And I did. Unbeknownst to the fact that it would take me by surprise.

This is my personal account of the day-long activities that happened at the casual meet-up at Sofitel in BKC, Mumbai. 

Who Attended?

A total of 19 contributors from different parts of the country were invited for the event. People from different walks of life who have been submitting kilobytes and megabytes of data for years (and even decades) were contacted and their presence ensured by the lovely and relentless Prachi Salgia, Program Manager of Digital Video at Amazon. She also played host for the entire day along with her colleagues – Vandana Pillai (with whom I exchanged the traditional question, “Where are you from in Kerala?), Sneha Shukla, and Neha Gureja, who had come all the way down from Seattle for the session.

The session’s attendance stood at 100%, a fact that I believe made the IMDb folks very happy. (Neha even suggested that there could be a second one soon.) But what was more exciting to me was to meet Anoop Varghese, a fellow contributor on IMDb and one of its top 250 worldwide contributors in 2016 and 2017, who focuses on Malayalam cinema. In fact, Anoop and I have been working together on lists about upcoming Malayalam films at least since 2016 and have only exchanged a few messages when the platform’s Message Boards was still alive. Seeing him at the event was a good enough start for me, helping me keep aside the anxiety I was trying to ignore.

Other than Anoop, I had previously interacted with Dibyayan Chakravorty over at Get Satisfaction. And because of him, I have my first-ever poll live now. (Vote if you can.) We also had Zachary Coffin, a professional actor, amongst us. I knew that I had seen him somewhere and it was only after the first few hours that I realized who he was. For the uninitiated, he was last seen in the Zee5 Original starring, Tigers (2018).

We were also lucky to interact with Col for close to an hour when he took us through the birth and history of IMDb, and quite animatedly, I should say. It was interesting to hear the history from the person who had created it, especially when he attached shoots of trivia and personal anecdotes with it, including the fact about who was the first film person to have their biography published on the platform. (Any guesses?)

Towards the end, we also interacted with Hindi screenwriter Mayur Puri, best known for his award-winning dialogues for Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om (2007). Competing with Col’s animated antics was Mayur who talked about the essence of Hindi cinema, again garnishing it with interesting trivia of his own.

All in all, it was supposed to be a day full of interactive discussions about Indian cinema and IMDb. And having experienced it first-hand, while at the comfort of some delicious food by Sofitel, I would say it was a 100% success. (I hope this acts as a cue for Prachi and Neha).

Here’s a bit more about the meet-up so that you know what to expect if it is organized in your country next. 

IMDb and Me

I have been on IMDb since 12 July 2012. Yet it was only in October 2012 that I posted my first review (for a film that released in the same year – Anwar Rasheed’s Malayalam-language drama Ustad Hotel). From then on, I have been continuously publishing reviews (1078 write-ups as of 19 December 2018), making edits to titles and biographies, creating lists (mostly focusing on Malayalam cinema), and lastly, simply being amazed at all the data that the platform houses.

One of the major reasons why I transitioned from a basic user – just rating and reviewing films – to a data contributor was because of my obsession with filling up incomplete data. When I started out – sometime in 2015 – a lot of titles I was interested in was either missing or had incomplete information. This triggered a sort of passive OCD in me to begin adding data that I know was true and verifiable, much like how Col first began adding data to his database on an email access system.

While I contributed and still do so as to help people learn more about their favorite movie or film person, I never thought something would come back to me years later in this form of a national meet-up. Which makes this event all the more cherishable to me.

What Happened at the Meet-Up?

The contributor meet-up started with all the 19 contributors and IMDb staff interacting with each other post breakfast, chiefly talking about Indian cinema and content. Once we were seated in a conference room, the hosts asked everyone to introduce themselves. That was the moment I first looked at the door, gauging the possibility of sneaking out. But I didn’t.

Prachi made it simple for us by asking us to mention our favorite film in our intros. When you talk about a topic that you are passionate about, (stage) fear goes out the window. Not so surprising to learn that Rajkumar Hirani’s comedy drama 3 Idiots (2009) was a common favorite. I said mine were Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010), Farhan Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Hai (2001), and Sathyan Anthikkad’s Nadodikattu (1987) in the reverse order. But most of you knew that already.

It is during this introduction that the hosts added some insider tidbits about some of the contributors’ contributions. I am choosing to not write about those because I consider that as a privilege of having attended the event. 😉

Little Bit More About the Contributors

I really loved the diversity in the room. Some – like me – were passive contributors unrelated to the film industry, who added information to titles and biographies on IMDb out of sheer fun. Some were working on films (or aspiring to be) who used IMDb as a starting platform. The age spectrum was between 19 and 50s (I guess) because we had college-going twins coming all the way from Indore as well as a senior businessman (Vinod) who flew down from Dubai.

IMDb India Contributors
The 19 contributors who attended the meet-up

As I have mentioned above, Dibyayan is a seasoned contributor who focuses on old film and TV show titles. He’s also an IMDb champion and a poll expert (with over 400 polls to his credit). Anoop, on the other hand, has added so much information to Malayalam film titles that Prachi did mention – not once but twice – how relentless he was about certain content features and errors on the platform. I also became friends with M Srinivasan (lovingly called Sri) from Chennai who is a professional filmmaker and adman (his portfolio here) and a Kamal Hassan fan. He’s raked up quite a lot of credits as a video producer over the past few years and has his own biography on IMDb.

In addition to these two, we had a casting director, Zachary Coffin the actor, aspiring filmmakers, a Wikipedian, some film crew, and Marathi film enthusiasts amidst us. Everyone had vivid stories to share about their time with IMDb and we could all relate with them. Had an outsider entered the room and tried to make sense of the things we were discussing, they would have not much understood it. They may even have shrugged it off as ‘geeky’ stuff. And that is exactly what it is, only fueled by the love for cinema and information.

Three IMDb contributor friends
(l-r) Anoop, me, and Sri

This type of craze – sheer passion – to add content without expecting anything in return is what I believe got us here. 

There were folks from Kolkata, Chennai, Pune, and Bhopal who had taken the overnight flight to make it to the event. Special nod to the IMDb staff as well as Roshni Rai from Wizcraft World for taking care of the logistics. I wouldn’t deny that it felt really good to one, have been invited to an exclusive meet-up, and two, get a cab ride from my apartment and back. The event was already showing its worth, and then Col entered the room.

Although I have interacted with him a few times at IMDb’s Get Satisfaction community, it is only after meeting him that I took him as more of a nerd who takes fun in coding and technology and cinema and less of an entrepreneur (which is how he comes off as online).

Here’s the story of IMDb as narrated by Col in possibly the best way possible.

History of IMDb by Col Needham

I have told this before and I’ll tell this again: Col talks animatedly and passionately about everything and it automatically makes talking to him amusing. Although, I did find that when I finally got to interact with him, while receiving the Top Contributor award, the anxiety kicked in and it was the opposite of amusing.

Col started his story with a short anecdote from his childhood when he was around seven. How his grandmother had encouraged him to participate in a coloring contest and how he had won the top prize (a ticket to a movie theater). Col found the movie-in-a-theater experience enthralling, which led to his appetite and increased interest in movies. And, with movies, came the need to create a personal database of those that he had watched and that are pending.

IMDb Sizzle Reel (A bit cringe-worthy!)

Initially, Col, the software engineer, started creating an offline database of movies and their associated information about directors and actors. Which then subsequently became a passion project involving a dozen more people from around the world who contacted each other through the first version of email (it took more than 24 hours for the one-way communication to execute itself in the late 1980s). Most of these “volunteers” – who are IMDb’s first contributors – hailed from the United States. If Col was interested in documenting the directors’ and actors’ names, a chap from a US state was interested in the actresses, and another from Italy was interested in the crew members. And thus began the evolution of a rough database that would germinate into the IMDb of today.

Col’s database soon went live on Usenet with information about over 10,000 movies. A direct comparison with the Movie Guide of the early 1990s (popular in the West among Christians) would make this database a strong competitor. was registered sometime in 1995, followed by the acquisition by in 1998. And then Col finally spoke about how his grandmother had helped him to win that contest fraudulently. Since Col was not good at coloring, it was his grandmother who had taken the unfinished piece of paper that night before the submission and colored it to perfection. Which ultimately led to Col’s win.

So, you can say that a little cheating had a role to play behind IMDb’s birth. But, more than that, it shows how little things can transform into big, awesome inventions. So, next time you see that your (or a) kid is doing badly at something associated with a contest, you know what to do. Just don’t mess it up.

Of course, more about the story and history can be found on Wikipedia. But, hearing the backstory directly from the man was a treat, and probably the best element of the meet-up if you don’t consider the food. In that case, it’s food for me, any day.

After the discussion with Col, we were all given out mementos for our valuable contribution on the platform. And post that, we all took photographs with him. Even I took a selfie as a souvenir but it’s blurred, so I’ll rather share the group photo (see below).

IMDb Contributor Meet-Up
All 19 contributors with Col Needham and other IMDb staff at Sofitel, BKC

Post lunch, we discussed about IMDb’s growth in India over the past few years and how it is competing with the US for the number one spot. Neha took us through a small PowerPoint presentation (although those are a strict no-no at Amazon) about how contribution helps IMDb grow, but it soon turned into a Q&A session. So, we zapped the presentation and went and had some good food that I earlier told you about.

Assessing Indian Cinema (with Mayur Puri)

Screenwriter Mayur Puri made an appearance at the event where he talked a bit about the evolution of Indian cinema and film writing. Apart from a few self-congratulatory messages, he did have some valuable points to make about how Hindi films are constructed, what goes into all the writing, film censorship, and how attention to details is an important factor for certain Indian filmmakers. A very cheerful guy.

Mayur Puri with IMDb contributors
That’s us with Mayur Puri (extreme right)

Two of the best film trivia that he shared with us are listed below. I know that this article is showing no sign of ending so I will keep it short.

  • Director Rajkumar Santoshi once finalized a movie location in Hyderabad in the month of June (some year). After the pre-production, he took the cast and crew to the location sometime that November only to find that the location – which was selected for its abundant greenery and scenic landscape – had turned into a picture taken in grey-scale. How the crew had to paint the location later validated Puri’s argument about filmmakers’ extra attention to details. The film is China Gate (1998)
  • Producer Gulshan Rai, in the 1970s, asked his team of writer and director to make a film for him on any subject. He promised no intervention or micromanagement from his side except for a small recommendation. The movie should be titled “Teesri Aank” based on his undying devotion for Lord Shiva, which he also claimed was lucky for him. The team dismissed it as a joke and went on to write and shoot the film. Before the release is when they found out that Rai was serious about the title. It was eventually named Trishul (1978), validating Puri’s another point about how certain movies are named not by taking their content into consideration but through one, abstract randomness, and two, producers’ whim.

Before meeting and interacting with him, I had heard about Puri a couple of times. But I never knew that he had won awards for his dialogue writing in the Farah Khan film or that he has writing credits for some of the top Bollywood songs of recent times. Which makes me – a small-time film reviewer – slightly uncomfortable and this admission embarrassing. Although I make a point – at least these days – to sit through the opening (and ending) credits of movies, talking to him gave me this renewed interest in knowing more about the invisible faces of cinema.

I would readily call it a 2019 resolution but I don’t want to jinx it because I never come around to completing these resolutions. Don’t even ask me what my 2018 resolutions were.

Miscellaneous Stuff We Did

Apart from the sessions with Col and Mayur Puri, we also had a good time with a fun quiz at the end. The IMDb staff had prepared a series of questions that would assess our knowledge of Indian cinema. It’s safe to say that our group came third. (Don’t believe in anyone who tells you how many groups were there in total.)

At the end of the contributor meet-up, each one of us got a nice little surprise. A bag of goodies with IMDb merchandise – something that made me jump up.

A Treat for a Merchandise Fanatic

I think a picture is worth more than I can possibly write about this. Have a look.

IMDb 2018 merchandise
IMDb merchandise and goodies

Here’s a better photo by Dibyayan:

IMDb merchandise
IMDb merch – mug, pillow, pen, and trophy among others

And I’ve been showing off some of them at work. Here’s one, keeping a watch while I write.

IMDb coffee mug
That’s the IMDb mug at my work desk

People who know me even as an acquaintance know how much of a merchandise fanatic and stationery lover I am. Which makes this idea of giving out goodies by IMDb an instant classic and lovable move. It shows how much it cares about contributors, and for all I know, I will be continuing the contribution. (Also, I don’t think I’m ever going to throw that pen away.)

It was obvious why the event was organized, and without stating it here, I can say that it worked 100% on me and the other 18 contributors.

Tips for Aspiring IMDb Contributors

One last section for the aspiring contributors out there. This is because a lot of people have reached out to me when I shared these photos on social media.

If you are someone who likes cinema and would love to contribute information (names, titles, trivia, anything), then here are few tips to help you:

  • Start with this: read the contributor’s charter and create an account
  • Then explore the contributor zone
    • Start with rating and reviewing films; creating lists
    • Add any missing information that you may find while browsing the site
    • Then move to areas where IMDb editors need help (called Data Gaps)
  • While adding information, try to make sure you can back it up with a reference. Because no one likes factually incorrect information
  • Join the small contributors’ community on Facebook
  • Join the IMDb community on Reddit and ask questions
  • Develop a niche of your own (e.g.: Anoop and I focus on Malayalam cinema where we create new titles, lists of upcoming films, etc.)
  • Make sure your contributions are consistent
  • Head over to IMDb’s Get Satisfaction portal and engage yourself

Lastly, if everything seems difficult as you start, reach out to me and we’ll discuss over email. (Requests for goodies will be turned down rudely.)

Top 20 contributors on IMDb India
Some of us after the session decided to take a selfie on Anoop’s iPhone.


I think I have covered almost everything that happened at the first-ever meet-up for IMDb (India) contributors. I would easily nominate this experience as one of the top 10 in 2018 for me because when I came back home that day, I was happy. Just plain happiness without any other emotion taking space in my heart or face. My mom even thought that I had found the one. I’m sorry to have disappointed her.

For the past six years, it was just me and my computer adding all these information into the database. But, today, we have a WhatsApp group where we share tips and tricks, some of us have been exchanging movie and TV show recommendations, I know more about how IMDb works, and last day I published my first-ever poll on IMDb. I don’t remember one single event having such a great impact on me all at once. And I’m just happy that I didn’t skip it. Gosh, that would have been a lifelong regret. TN.

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  • about me

    Tejas Nair is a freelance copywriter based in Mumbai, India. He writes about cinema, literature, current affairs, culture, and society. He manages search-based digital campaigns for Publicis. more »