Interview with Harini Calamur

As always BlogAdda brings to you yet another brilliant interview of a lady who is known for her ‘point of view‘. She is a business woman, a writer by passion and also a teacher. Her interests include media and communication and her teaching is mainly into that field itself. She started blogging when it was very little known and developed in India. Her interest in television and films has resulted in her producing a Marathi film and also many television programmes. Her film had farmer suicides as its backdrop and now she plans to put light on this social cause through her kind efforts to show this film in 4000 villages in Maharashtra! A woman who has left a mark in every industry that she has entered. Let us welcome Harini Calamur to our Adda where she talks about her life and lot of other things apart from her blogging life. Read on…

Q: When and why did you start blogging?

A: My first blog post was in June 2003 and was about the lamentable state of roads in Mumbai.

Why did I start blogging – well I have always been interested in media and ways of communicating with masses and niches – it is what I do for a living. I also have opinions on a myriad subjects – and blogging seemed to be designed for someone like me 😉

It seemed a very natural extension of writing and narrowcasting. My first blog was on the, now defunct, 20six blogging platform. Once I knew that I will write on a regular basis I got my own domain .

Q: You worked on a film about the farmer suicides. Can you tell us more about the experience of ‘Jhing Chik Jhing’?

A: Jhing Chik Jhing was our first feature film in Marathi. It is not so much about farmer suicides as it is about the reasons why marginal farmers commit suicide – their input costs are greater than the price that they can command in the market place, and they have no control over the price. Furthermore, since organised lines of credit are not available to farmers – they take money from money lenders.

The solution was to revert to more traditional ways of farming – primarily organic farming adapted to the modern environment.

But these issues are in the background – the story itself is about a 10 year old boy – born in a marginal farmer’s family – and his desire to live and make something of his life.

The experience was brilliant – you cannot ask for a better cast or crew. The industry support as well as support from organisations who have seen the film has been phenomenal.

We are currently making plans to show the film in 4000 villages in Maharashtra and the plans are to show it in the rest of country where farmer suicides are a problem. The message of the film is – it is possible for the farmer to live a dignified life without resorting to suicide – if only they relook at the way in which they farm.

Q: You also teach at Mumbai University’s Mass Media program. Do your students follow your blog and tweets? Any incident you remember where your students spoke about your blogging and tweeting skills?

A: I also teach and train. Some of my students follow my blog and tweets and are friends on FB and are connected on Linkedin. Others are not.

Some tell me they read my blog.

Q: As a part of the education system, have you ever used blogging in your work? If not, would you consider it?

A: I do write a lot about the media and media ethics. In that sense I do blog about media and mass media related topics. But, not directly. The university system is a very formal, structured system – and follows a syllabus. I share a lot of links with my students – via closed groups.

I have begun training, recently, on the use of new media–for primarily a corporate and NGO audience – and yes, in the course of that I train on how to use social media to share information, build capacity and build communities.

Q: Do you think blogging and tweeting will challenge traditional media? Any recent incidents you would want to highlight with your take on it?

A: Blogging and Tweeting will keep a watch on traditional media. In the modern, commercialised space – MSM is advertiser driven and needs to keep revenues high and costs low. One of the things that gives is time for research and writing. As a result of which we end up with very lopsided reporting – reporting that is aimed at maintaining the status quo and not challenging anyone.

Quite a few areas where blogging and tweeting and wiki are challenging the traditional media –

  • The entire wiki leaks coverage of the Iraq War and human right abuses
  • Sites like Kafila in India that give the ‘non-MSM ‘ view
  • Sites like blogbharati that recognise new blogging talent – and issues that are very local
  • Sites like Churumuri that reveal a probable cause for the ToI coverage of the CWG
  • The blogger outrage when a leading management ‘institute’ went after bloggers for stating that the institute was not recognised by UGC (It wasn’t).

It is all very nascent – noisy, entropic and fun – that is what makes the whole scenario interesting and enjoyable

Q: You blog about your work, your experiences and books that you like. What is your favorite topic, really?

A: I like blogging most about the documentaries that I make – in the interiors of India. It is a place that one can truly see development. I can also see the Government in action. All of this fills me with hope. I also get to interact with various parts of society – from NGO’s to volunteers, from Panchayati Raj members to women who run self help groups and of course, children. It is the most uplifting experience.

The MSM – depresses me terribly.

Q: You are also an avid photographer. What are the things in your camera kit and what are your favorite subjects?

A: I have been photographing for a long time. I switched to a DSLR a few years ago and have an Olympus E-510. The things i have in my camera kit are – the wide angle lens, the zoom lens – battery charger, USB cord, lens hoods, lens guard and a tissue.

I love portraits of everyday life. Most of my photographs document life in various parts of the country.

Q: Do you use any special tools for photo-blogging? Can you share some tips for our would be photo-bloggers?

A: I generally shoot RAW – upload on flickr and use the photographs from there to link back to my site.

Tips would be – ready, aim, zoom, shoot. Don’t take too much time trying angles initially – shoot straight. Also, every photography should tell a story –what is the story that you are telling. Beautiful frames are nice – but for me, photography goes beyond a perfect frame …

Secondly – you are shooting digital – don’t worry about taking multiple shots in different magnifications – you can always delete what you don’t like.

Thirdly, posed photographs are not as good as natural ones — try and shoot natural as far as possible

Finally, don’t use the flash unless there is a need and you know what that need is – mostly flash spoils a photo.

Q: Do you ever get stuck when writing an entry? What do you do then?

A: I write a lot in my mind. While travelling, commuting, waiting for meetings. I often don’t have the time to put down these thoughts.

I very rarely get stuck writing an entry – i usually have a structure in place – in my mind –and follow that structure. It’s pretty much like writing a script.

Q: Do you promote your blog? What promotional techniques work best for you and why?

A: My blog url is part of my e-mail id. I promote it on twitter when I write a new piece. It gets cross posted to FB, I am on Blog Adda and InBloggers – but that is pretty much it. I do comment regularly on other blogs – especially on newer blogs.

Q: How important is it for a blogger to interact with their readers? Do you respond to all the comments that you receive?

A: I don’t know if it is important or not – but it is only polite if you respond to people who have made the time to read what you have written and posted on it . I mostly do …

Q: What do you find to be the most gratifying aspect of blogging?

A:The freedom from deadlines, censorship and the ability to write about anything that may catch my fancy

Q: How, in general, would you rate the quality of Indian blogs? Share your favourite five blogs and top five Twitter follows.

A: Indian blogs, like any blogging from anywhere else – has some brilliant blogs and some not so brilliant ones. The joys are you can pick and choose the people you like to read. I read an eclectic mix of blogs from left leaning blogs to right leaning ones – in the political space, from art and films, comics and technology and, of course media. My favourite 5 blogs

On Twitter

To be very honest, i haven’t noticed. I follow close to 500 people and none of them are filtered. So anything that catches my fancy at that point in time.

Q: Do you earn revenue through your blog? How does one go about it?

A: No. I don’t earn revenue through my blog – I never activated google adsense.

Q: What is your advice to someone who wants to start a blog?

  • Start a blog because you want to, not because everyone else is.
  • Like everything else, blogging too requires a certain amount of discipline and commitment
  • Link with others on the web – other bloggers other opinions
  • Remember, you are blogging for your self not others – so lack of comments should not dishearten you.

And finally, some fun facts about Harini Calamur

Color: Earth colours

Movie: Amar Akbar Anthony – I can watch this film a zillion times and still laugh 🙂

TV Show: Yes Minister/Prime Minister

Book: The Mahabharat – any rendition of it.

Time of Day: Night

Your Zodiac Sign: Pisces

Thank you Harini for this wondeful interview. The whole team at BlogAdda wishes you all the best for all your future endeavours. 🙂 Readers, if you want to know anything more on Harini Calamur, do ask her and she will be happy to answer.

Connect with Harini at our Adda, Blog, Twitter

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