Entertainment... online

THE FAMILY that surfs together, stays together. This is the time of the year when working parents take their annual holiday to share some quality time with their children during school and college vacations. Perhaps for the first time, the Internet offers an alternative to hours spent in front of the 'idiot box.' Many of the new websites seem to recognise this fact.

A few weeks ago, a Chennai-based dotcom company, Antarix e- Applications Ltd, launched an interesting family portal called six2sixty.com. As its name indicates, this has something for all ages - kids, youth, women, techies and senior citizens.

The portal seems to be particularly strong on technology (They have a special site called populartechnologies.com). For parents, they have a section on legal counselling, which includes useful tips on such things as preparing a will.

Fabmart.com, one of the pioneers of Indian online shopping, has launched a new section on movies. As part of its inaugural offer, the site is currently offering a number of VCDs at 20 per cent discount. These include children's favourites like the "Home Alone" series. However, the Hindi film selection has mostly classics.

Another new web presence is the Pepsi funsite (pepsizone.yahoo.co.in) which offers music, greetings, movie news, cricket, careers and just about anything that teenaged Indians could ask for. There is also an online game with a chance to win an Opel Corsa. Sounds and looks great - but for one problem: there is no way to look at any of the contents, without first registering and obtaining a password.

In other words, Pepsi wants to get a lot of details about you before it gives you even a 'trailer' of the main show.

Not a nice way to reach out to a teen audience. Yeh dil maange more? More than we are prepared to give you, Pepsi guys.

Useful guide

It's Friday - a new film has opened in town and the children who are having their holidays, are pleading that they should be allowed to see it. But is it safe to send them? A common dilemma for parents who do not keep in touch with the entertainment trends of the young and are worried what their kids are exposed to.

Now help is on hand - online. Screenit.com is a website for parents which reviews all feature films released in the U.S. from the point of view of a young audience. For parents, it provides clinical details about a film's content by way of tense or frightening scenes, violence, alcohol or drug abuse, bad language, nudity etc. It makes no recommendations but leaves it to the parents to decide on the basis of this detailed analysis, whether they would like their children to see the film.

Another site, albeit less detailed, is the Family Movie Guide of The New York Times. (www.nytimes.com/learning/parents/movieguide/index.html). This site provides film reviews as carried in the newspaper, with an additional box of parental notes and suggestions, regarding the film's suitability for various age groups. As a sample, the accompanying illustration provides extracts of entries at both these websites for the upcoming film, "Miss Congeniality" starring Sandra Bullock.

Since most American films end up in local theatres here within 4- 6 weeks of the original release, these websites will be quite useful for parents whose children are into Hollywood movies. This column has not yet found a similar service for Indian language films- surely a niche which is waiting to be filled?