The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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City Lights
History in graphics & games

Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Mohd Ali Jinnah, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Vallabhbhai Patel, C.R. Das — all are huddled in a meeting in Mumbai in 1919 to discuss the consequences of the draconian Rowlatt Act. They are to chalk out a protest plan.

This is not a clipping from real-life footage saved in the national archives. Rather, an animated glance at Indian history as it flowed down time since the arrival of the British. And that is not all. The CD-viewer can take part in the shaping of history by helping the leaders at every step — in this case by finding out a pamphlet containing Gandhiji’s hartaal dos and don’ts which the leaders have lost. The viewer has to ask questions to each of the leaders to learn about them, the act, the Indian National Congress etc. At the end, he has to pass a quiz based on the new-found information, and get to trace the missing pamphlet.

It’s not just Panchatantra and Ramayana that are being reworked by animation experts. Planet IQ, a city-based learning and development centre for kids, has undertaken a project to present history in a fun package that includes interactive educational games.

“Our target age-group is eight to 16, which has to study history in school. For them, history is often just a bunch of dead facts and dates to be memorised. Our aim is to infuse life into the subject,” says Anup Kanodia, managing director of Planet IQ.

“Our generation grew up on stories in comics like Amar Chitra Katha. But with the emergence of computers, that medium has lost its appeal to children. We have to come up with software that can capture their imagination,” he adds. Planet IQ has identified history, religion and mythology as its target areas.

Other than using graphics, interactive games and humorous dialogue, the package has introduced IQ Man, ‘a national hero’. “The superhero concept appeals to children,” Kanodia explains. IQ Man emerges as a saviour in many a crisis at the end of the century, in 2099, when the story unfolds.

The 10-part Freedom series will cover the period from 1857 to 1947. Episode IV is ready for the market first. “It is a twin CD pack — IQ Man and Trouble at Jallianwalabagh and IQ Man and the Advent of Gandhi — covering 1915 to 1919, each about three hours long. We had 28 artists working on the project for a year-and-a-half,” says Kanodia. The package is a mix of animated video, interactive games and reference shots like Gandhiji’s residence. While the games boost the child’s feeling of involvement in his country’s freedom movement, the reference shots are there to make the package look authentic.

Other titles like 1857: The Uprising and biographical pieces on Rani of Jhansi, Khudiram Bose and Netaji are also being readied. Individual episodes may spill into more than a CD, if the content exceeds the 700 MB capacity of a disc. Planet IQ is trying to maintain a parity in the pricing of the episodes, with the introductory pick-up offer being Rs 399 for six months, a Rs-200 discount. The sights are set on both the domestic and the foreign markets.

The company is hoping to get President Abdul Kalam to launch the series. “After all, the IQ Man is modelled on him — a scientist who takes care of the nation,” Kanodia smiles. There are plans to offer 1,000 CDs to government schools which have computers but not the resources to invest in CDs.

Sudeshna Banerjee

Tip of pensters

Writers with roots in Bengal have made their mark in the world of English writing. Now, for the first time since the inception of the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize (of which Amit Chaudhuri is a recipient) a Calcuttan has been chosen as the chairperson of the regional judging committee.

Sanjukta Dasgupta, professor of English, Calcutta University, is heading the panel that will screen the entries received from the Eurasian region, along with Maya Jaggi of The Guardian and professor Fakrul Alam, Dhaka University.

The entries chosen from the four regions — the others being Africa, the Caribbean and Canada and South East Asia and the South Pacific — will then be judged by the pan-Commonwealth jury. Entries for prose fiction, first published between January 1 and December 31, 2003, are eligible for the 2004 awards, which will feature two categories: best book submitted and best first published book. The eligible countries in Eurasia are Bangladesh, Cyprus, India, Maldives, Malta, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and United Kingdom.

Applications are open till November 15. Forms are available through the British Council, which will also support the final regional judging event in February 2004, with the finals scheduled for May, in Melbourne.

Prosenjit picks out a thorn from Aishwarya’s toe on the sets of Chokher Bali

Sand tune and text

Tagore is setting the cash registers — and a few other gadgets — ringing this season. He is making waves at the

movies with Rituparno Ghosh’s take on Chokher Bali, piggybacking on which, publishers are releasing the novel in an old-avatar-turned-new and cellphone service-providers are beaming it all on to handsets.

Chokher Bali is making a comeback between the covers, this time in its English translation, courtesy Penguin. After Saratchandra Chattopadhyay’s Devdas spent months on the best-seller list sharing the spotlight with the larger-than-life Bollywood blockbuster, it is expected that the Rabindranath Tagore classic will work the same magic for the publisher. Translated by Sreejata Guha, also behind the Devdas translation, this is the first time Binodini’s tale will be available in English.

A more hi-tech splash is also in store, for AirTel subscribers. Marking a first-time tie-up with a Bengali film, users can download stills featuring the lead actors Aishwarya Rai, Raima Sen and Prosenjit Chatterjee, on to their MMS phones, while Rabindrasangeet and Debajyoti Misra ringtones are available to all.

SMS contests also hold the promise of filmi prizes for winners, including an evening with Raima or Tota Roy Choudhury. Those with MMS and GPRS-enabled handsets can also log on to and download screensavers and wallpaper.

Coming up

The king of slapstick comedy, Johnny Lever, will hold forth at Science City on October 25 in a show organised by The Assembly of God Church School, Hindi Medium. The evening will also feature Indian football captain Bhaichung Bhutia, actress Rituparna Sengupta and school education minister Kanti Biswas.

Pareek Sabha is organising its silver jubilee celebration on Sunday. From launching the association’s website to presenting a colourful cultural show, a host of programmes is scheduled for the day-long festivities at Kala Mandir.

For all those who missed seeing Simba rule the jungle the first time around, or simply just can’t get enough of the lovable lion and his gang, The Lion King is now available on DVD and VCD.

Cricketer-turned-actor Salil Ankola launched the Disney classic in Mumbai on Thursday, with his family in tow. Both the DVD & VCD include extra new footage and a new song by Elton John, Morning Report. The DVD pack also includes a computer game.

The 1994 film has become “the biggest-selling VHS of all time”, with 55 million cassettes being sold worldwide.

IIT- JEE aspirants, check out how ready you are before taking the real test. Appear at IIT Bridge Test 2003 by SpringBoard Study Home, 113 Park Street on October 11 and 13.

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