Tuesday, May 30, 2006

In the Name of the Father

June 1, 2006
DISCLAIMER: Like all controversial productions, it is important to know that all characters and events in the Cravings part are fictional and any resemblance to any person, living or dead (or more importantly, my wife!) and event - past, present or future - is purely coincidental and unintentional!

My take on random points, as I plunge headlong into extending my bloodline. Extending my bloodline... sheesh... that's what happens when you get too much into The Da Vinci Code.

Firstly, I am extremely ambivalent about accepting congratulations for my impending fatherhood. It’s okay with women… I mean, carrying a 3-kilo mass of flesh in your tummy AND loving it after it’s out deserves all the congratulations in the world and more. But why should men be congratulated? For having unprotected sex?


Of course, its not that they just hang around. They do equally difficult things… catering to the “cravings” being the most important. Getting woken up at 6 a.m. on a Sunday to be shown two lines on a home-pregnancy-kit is the second most. (But thankfully, the latter one happens only once during the nine months!)

To go back a bit, my knowledge of pregnancy stemmed solely from Hindi movies – from which I knew two irrefutable scientific facts:
(a) Unmarried women get pregnant the first time they sing a song in a wet saree
(b) When married women want to eat sour things, it means they are pregnant.
Hence, my ability to grasp the “cravings” was a bit limited to start with. On top of that, the “cravings” my wife had would have tested the collective culinary skills of Sanjeev Kapoor, Ananda Solomon and Hemant Oberoi. As it turned out, we turned to them (and their protégés) for assistance!

For other poor souls who are thinking that “Pyaar Ek Mandir” is quite sufficient for their 9-month stint and they don’t need to see “9 Months”, let me quickly warn you of the nature of “cravings”:

1. They happen at really arbit times.
That 11:45 ice-cream thing was the only real true-to-life episode in Salaam Namaste. So, be prepared to get a call in the middle of a work-day (sometimes, in the middle of a crucial meeting) to bring home some Fresh Coconut flavoured ice-cream from Naturals in Juhu. All the Bombay Boys who are heaving sighs of relief, let me remind this a Delhi craving. Bombay cravings are usually sheekh kababs from Karim.

2. They get triggered off by the strangest things.
So, your ever-practical wife will see a promo of “Thoda Khusi Thodi Gam” (or whichever is the top-rated Gujju serial) on Star Plus and will demand to have dhokla. When you are in Hyderabad and when you were watching the late-night re-run of Desperate Housewives. (See Rule no. 1)

3. And they are bloody specific.
She will have to have the Lunar Cheesecake with a cherry on top at Baskin Robbins, without too much notice to the fact it was a special-edition flavour, which was launched after Mr Armstrong’s small step for man. If that’s so, why did they show it on Travel & Living? Now, you try to answer that one. (See rule no. 2)


“And there is your baby…” Darkness. I politely stare at the monitor. My wife – from a significantly more uncomfortable position – contorts herself to stare at the screen. Extreme darkness.
“And no, not twins…” Oh-kay. In any case, I was seeing only one mass of blackness.
“See?” Umm… err… what? I wanted to ask.
We made suitably choking noises – and hoped our inability to spot our own baby would get disguised under the faux-sentimentality. I was quite sure that the good doctor was thinking if these irresponsible brats cannot spot a 2-month old foetus in a 14-inch screen, then what chance do they have of finding a 5-year old in the India Gate lawns on a Sunday?
We left with a black paper (ostensibly that’s the picture we paid 1500 bucks for!) – and an accompanying report which said, “single foetal pole observed…”

The next USG was slightly more descriptive… we could see two round things. One was declared to be the head and the other bum!
Ah… the eternal cycle of life has manifested itself first. We eat, we shit, we die! Somehow, I tried to bring a philosophical undertone to the whole episode. My first-born should have regal underpinnings, I decided. Even when it has holes for eyes and nose!
My wife’s cousin was more perceptive… she declared the nose (actually, the cavity which would eventually become the nose) to have taken after the father. I had always marveled at people’s abilities to find similarities between a 7-day old tadpole and the mother, who is a raving beauty – but she took the cake!

The third one was more of a show… the fella had a big enough head, spindly legs & arms and yes, the bum remained from last time. The doctor remained steadfastly away from you-know-what so that all of us don’t have to go to jail for trying to know something we didn’t want to know in the first place.
There were some glowing dots bunched together. These were the fingers, we were told. I immediately counted 10 and snatched a sense of relief for myself. (At least, the bugger has the correct number of fingers!) Apart from the poster for ET, I had never seen fingers that were so long and glowing! At least, it will try to “phone home”, I thought.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Seven Years Back...

Taunton – May 26, 1999
Ramesh b Vaas 5 (4)
SC Ganguly c sub b Wickramasinghe 183 (158)
R Dravid run out (Muralitharan) 145 (129)
SR Tendulkar b Jayasuriya 2 (3)
A Jadeja c & b Wickramasinghe 5 (4)
RR Singh c de Silva b Wickramasinghe 0 (1)
M Azharuddin not out 12 (7)
J Srinath not out 0 (0)
Extras (lb 3, w 12, nb 6) 21
Total (6 wickets, 50 overs) 373

FoW: 1-6 (Ramesh, 0.5 ov), 2-324 (Dravid, 45.4 ov), 3-344 (Tendulkar, 46.5 ov), 4-349 (Jadeja, 47.3 ov), 5-349 (Singh, 47.4 ov), 6-372 (Ganguly, 49.5 ov).

May 29, 2006
Yesterday, 11 Indians could not score what two did seven years ago to this very day. Actually, they haven’t scored as much for all of last month.
Interestingly, one of those two Indians is having to open nowadays because there is nobody else. The other one – who scored more – did so as an opener.
If he hasn't retired, where the f*** is he?

Friday, May 26, 2006

A Hitch-hiker's Guide to Bengali

A quirky short-list of Bengali words – which are generally heard all over offices, colleges, hostels, visa queues, airport lounges, film studios and even award ceremonies in Stockholm.

'Da: Shorter version of Dada (literally meaning 'elder brother). Not to be confused with the Maharashtrian Dada that is reserved for the lumpen elements of Mumbai!
This suffix is introduced to reflect respect / closeness and is a rough equivalent of the first-name camaraderie of the corporate world. Hence, for the uber intellectuals of Calcutta, Satyajit Ray is Manik-da. Jacques Derrida is – no prizes here – Derri-da. And now, everybody has also heard of Vinci-Da.
The longer version (devoid of any chummy first names) - Dada - is the Bengali version of bhaiyya / dost / guru / paaji and all such pause-fillers which are generally used for asking complete strangers for directions! Outside of Calcutta, Dada is used as a multi-purpose term for Bengalis – and has now been made famous by Bhajji and Yuvi’s endearing name for their erstwhile captain!

Boka cho**: The commonest (or at least, the most used) Bengali abuse. For live examples, see Greg Chappell!
Research is currently on to conclusively determine whether this is the first word all Bengali children learn AND immediately know not to use in front of parents!
The nearest equivalent in the cow-belt is probably chu**ya - but that lacks the well roundedness of the BC. (Not to be confused with the other BC, which is used in conjunction with MC and has more incestuous undertones!)
Lends surprisingly well to fusion since non-Calcations as well as students of Loreto House / La Martiniere have been heard to interject "Oh you bokacho**, what have you done!"
(This is generally used for minor calamities. For major calamities, the Bengali usually invokes his colonial hangover and exclaims “Phuck”.)

Byapok: Literally meaning, "extensive" the meaning of this word expands to include all things undefinably good!
"Byapok boi" means "Excellent book" (or, "excellent film", for that matter - because Bongs use boi for books as well as movies, but that is a different tangent altogether!). To give a pan-Indian context, the closest equivalent could be the way Tamils use the word "Super" (pronounced as "Soop-her")!
A common refrain in all Calcutta colleges is "Byapok bawaal hobey". Literally, Widespread Unrest Anticipated... and as anybody going to college in Bengal know, THAT is a way of life!

Mairi: My grammar book from Class IX propounded that this is a mis-pronounciation of "Mary" and was inducted into the Bengali vocabulary by the babus of the Raj.
"Meyeta ki dekhtey, mairi!" (In Mumbai lingo: "Kya item hain, baap!") is the commonest usage of the word - though other uses vary from confession (“Mairi bolchhi, ami korini” – “I swear I didn’t do it!”) to exasperation (“Jaliye marlo, mairi” – “The bugger is making my life hell!”). The first one is found more in educational institutions while the latter is reserved for Hari Sadu-like bosses!
The Tamil ‘Da’, the Telugu ‘Re’, the Marathi ‘La’ are all of the same genre as Mairi… space-filling exclamations to express delight / dismay / derision.

Shorbonaash: Literally, “Destruction of All” – but the calamity-loving, paranoid Bong is prone to use this word to denote everything from the child’s diarrhoea to sub-20 degree winter temperature in Calcutta.
Different geographies throw up different pronunciations of the word… as North Calcutta old-timers find East Bengal’s victory at the football League to merit a Sobbonass, while South Calcutta gasps at the paucity of hilsa with a Shorbbonyash. All in all, a lament… sic transit gloria mundis.

UP Newswatch

Three interesting news items:

June se kaun padayega ENT mein?
In Meerut Medical College, the ENT department has only one professor. And he is retiring on the 31st of May. Then what?

Char badmashon par inam ghoshit
Four criminals on the run for a murder in Baghpat district now have a price on their heads. A princely Rupees Two Thousand Five Hundred Only. Jo inhe zinda ya murda pakdega, unhe yeh rashi milegi! 2500 bucks for dead or live? Sounds like a contest... Kill a criminal, get a DVD player free!

Pati ko peetkar boli: Main to Mumbai jaakar bar mein nachoongi
Man lodges complaint that his wife - whom he married after the dance bars in Mumbai were closed down - now wants to go back after the HC order lifting the ban!

Sholay: A History in Letters

Dariya Mahal, Colaba
18th August, 1975
Dear Geeta –
Sanjeev-bhaiyya and I went to see a cinema yesterday at Minerva theatre in Tardeo. The name of the picture was Sholey. I was wanting to see “Prem Kahani” again but Sanjeev bhaiyya said me that this is a new picture by the director of Andaaz. What a romantic picture (XXX to my sweetie Rajesh Khanna) that was! So I went with him even though Rajesh Khanna was not in this picture.

I started feeling sick after the first scene only!!! Thousands of dacoits attacked a train and bullets went dhichkao-dhichkao all around the place. I counted 13 murders in that scene only before I fainted.

The story is also very tragedy. A dacoit kills the family of a police inspector and cuts off his hands. To take badla, he hires two thieves. They come and kill the dacoit.
The thieves are Dharmendra and new actor called Amitabh. The police inspector is Sanjeev Kumar, who is very good. He has a widow bahu, who is Jaya Bhaduri (of Mili) but she has very small role. Dharmendra’s girl-friend is Hema Malini and they also have very few love scenes. And the villain (a newcomer actor called Amzad Khan) has such a strange sing-song voice I can’t tell you. He does not have personality like Pran and Prem Chopra – and I think this will be his last picture only.

Please do not watch the picture when it comes to Bangalore. Number one, it is very long. Number two, it is very sad ending. Number three, it is very flop movie because in entire dress circle, there are not even twenty people.
Of twenty people, only Sanjeev bhaiyya was jumping in his seat and shouting, “How the West was Won” “Seven Samurai” all though the movie. He is becoming very English after returning from London. He is always saying Indian cinema is copy from English cinema. But after this picture, he said, “First world class movie from India”. I am thinking he is going mad only!
Write soon…
Your loving friend –

* * * * *
DATE: 18th August, 1975

* * * * *
Barharwa, Bihar
20th July, 1977
My Dear Prakash –
We are all very pleased to hear that your business is going very well in Bombay. With the extra money order you have sent us, we are buying one more calf from the cattle-mandi next month!
But we are very confused to know how you can sell tickets to a bioscope at higher price than the printed price. I hope you are not doing anything illegal.
Your mother is hoping this bioscope will run for one more year so that we can keep adding calves to our shed! The illiterate woman does not know bioscopes do not run more than a week in the big cities.
Anyway, let me end with blessings to you.
PS: You wrote “Jai Shri Gabbar” on the head of your letter. Who is Shri Gabbar? Is he a Maharashtrian deity?

* * * * *
20th November, 1978

The Distribution Department
Yashraj Films

Dear Sir –
This is in response to your enquiry regarding the booking of Minerva Theatre for the release of your new film “Noorie”.
We regret to inform you that the collections of our present film are such that we are not in a position to take it off in the near future.
We thank you for your interest and hope to be of your service sometime in the future.

Yours truly,
Manager – Minerva Theatre

* * * * *

Dear Ramesh –
Congrats on the 25 Years of Sholay. You never really made another film like that one!

Dear FK –
Neither has anybody else.

Ab Hindi mein...

So, which are the best of Hindi-dubbed Hollywood titles?

Before we go any further, let me inform all Townies and South Delhi-ites that Jurassic Park's Hindi title was NOT Jurassic Bagicha. Park is as much a Hindi word as taxi, time and politics!

The earliest one I can think of is for Dunston Checks In and hey! It rhymed... Ek Bandar, Hotel ke Andar! Children's movies have to go overboard on the catchy quotient and hence Baby's Day Out was a cutesy pie Ek Baby Teen Badmaash.

The latest ones are even taking help of current events... Poseidon is Tsunami Ka Kaher.
And being terribly descriptive... Basic Instinct 2 is a gory Murder Ka Nasha!
Pirates of the Carribean came in as Samundar Ke Looterey. Now the sequel (Dead Man's Chest) has made an appearance as Ek Shaap Ke Chapet Mein!

And if you have a puzzle-solving brain, you can go ahead and try out The Da Vinci Code - Ek Janleva Rahasya suljhaiye aapke nazdeeki cinema gharon mein.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Mixed Metaphors... aur Gulzar

All the lyrics are from memory. Hence, pardon the errors! And that also explains why all the lines are in isolation.

Why do I so like Gulzar?
Because, in addition to the sensitivity & romanticism, Gulzar lends a quirky undertone to the poetry of the Hindi film song. He mixes metaphors, conjures up strange examples and cooks up a delicious khichdi with the most unusual ingredients.

While every Hindi lyricist is talking about “Jheel si neeli aankhen”, Gulzar malapropism-ed the beautiful eyes of the beloved with “Aap ki aankhon mein koi mehka hua sa raaz hain…” That a mystery could be fragrant and that the fragrance can be SEEN is so unusually ‘cool’!

On the other hand, he comes up with a wonderfully nostalgic set-piece of “Jaadon ki narm dhoop aur aangan mein lait kar, aankhon pe khnichke tere aanchal ko…
Imagine the winter sun, lazing on the verandah and an aanchal (couldn’t think of any English equivalent!) to shield your eyes… I know my wife will kill me for this but I was thinking of “Feluda Shomogro” to shield the sun!

And these warped metaphors come in a flood…

* Aa dhoop maloon main, tere haaton mein… Fiza.
The pleasurable act of rubbing sundrops on to her face.

* Ek baar waqt se, lamha gira kahin. Wahan dastaan mili, lamha kahin nahin… Golmaal.
A moment dropped off from the tree of time. And blossomed into a legend.

* In umr se lambi sadkon ko, manzil pe pahunchte dekha nahin… Gharonda.
These streets – seeming longer than life itself – never end up reaching anywhere.

* Saanjh ka dulhan badan churaye, chupke se aaye / Mere khayalon ke aangan mein, koi sapnon ka deep jalaye, nazar na aaye… Anand.
As evening approaches, his bride hides herself. And somebody unseen inflames memories in my mind.

* Muskuraon kabhi to lagta hain, jaise honthon pe karz rakha hain… Masoom.
When I smile, it feels like a debt on my lips.

All these come out of Gulzar’s reminisces (currently being serialized in Filmfare) – which is full of lovely stories about his workings with the other genius of his times – RD.
The most touching is of the one during making of Ijaazat.
When Gulzar had first come up with the lyrics of Mera Kuchh Saamaan, RD read through the ‘text’, flipped the page and asked, “Dialogues to badiya hain, lekin lyrics kahan hain?
When told he was holding it in his hands, he threw the notebook back at Gulzar and said, “Aisa paagalpan nahin chalega… Yeh lyrics hain? Kal Times of India uthake le aogey aur kahoge issi pe dhun banana hain…

The poignancy of the story probably lies in the fact that the tune for Mera Kuchh Saamaan is a brilliant one… completely spellbinding in its way of linking ‘blank verse’!
And of course, Gulzar’s steadfast refusal to let his broken-up lovers to give back their dil-s. Instead his heroine asks to return 116 chaand ki raatein… geeli mehndi ke khushboo… jhoot moot ke shikvein kuchh…
116 moonlit nights could end up being a statistic if we are not made to realize that there is someone who has actually counted every night of togetherness.
And then, he follows it up with Ek khat mein mein lipti raat padi hain… when a beautiful girl breaks up and asks for all her letters to be returned, isn’t she actually asking for all those nights to be returned? All those nights she spent in writing those letters?

From his quirky high-art, Gulzar (by his own admission) entered popular idiom with Maachis. Chappa chappa charkha chale was the first Gulzar song to be played in auto-rickshaws.
With Bunty aur Babli, he not only reclaimed all the auto-stereos, but made the ultimate transition to the discos as well! And in doing so, he doesn’t stop at mixing metaphors. He mixed languages as well…
Babli claims “raat din taaron mein jeena veena easyyy nahin”! Ash feels your eyes “personal se sawaal karti hain”. The arrival of a lover “garmiyon ki loo hain”. When she speaks, it has the fragrance of liquor – kimaam ki khushboo.
And in between all this, Gulzar throws in a mosaic of Old Delhi… “Ballimaran se Daribe talak, teri meri nishaani Dilli mein…” Where else would dreaming lovers in Chandni Chowk go – except from streets with tailors to streets with jewelers.
And of course, aficionados would be interested to know about Kucha Ballimaran’s most famous resident… Mirza Ghalib.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

24 Frames Per Second

Written for a blog compeition, c. March 2005.

It all started with Kishori Paswan.
He was the manservant at my grandfather’s house in Assam and it was Kishori bhaiyya’s self-inflicted duty to take me out for an evening walk. And everybody agreed that a one-year old needs all the fresh air it can get! Kishori bhaiyya, for better or for worse, had completely other plans.
In the latter half of 1975, there was a film called Sholay which was just getting released all over the country – having met with some kind of success in the major centres. In such a set-up, Kishori bhaiyya had to forsake the banks of Brahmaputra and take refuge in Jyotsna cinema hall – trying to memorise the complete dialogues from Gabbar’s introduction scene. Since he flunked his Class IV exams repeatedly, Kishori’s forte was clearly not a photographic memory – and he had to attend the showings daily (with me in his arms) to get a hang of the words, dialect and the mannerisms! The usher of Jyotsna – a guy called Bajrangi – also happened to be from Kishori’s hometown (Begusarai) and he benevolently allowed Kishori and Munna-babu to come into the rear stalls at exactly the right time, day after day.
(The even longer story of how Kishori enacted the full scene to my aunts and how he could not explain when he went to see the movie has to be the subject of the India Laughs Contest next year!)

While psychologists keep on debating on the exact age at which a person’s memory begins to form, I can speak for myself that when seven years later, I went for my (supposedly) first viewing of Sholay in Calcutta’s Alo Chhaya theatre – I had this feeling of such strong déjà vu that I was convinced I was Sambha in my previous birth! (Nobody believed this till I found a scientific basis for my theory in Subhash Ghai’s Karz.)
Basically, the impingement of light on my 13-month old brain at the speed of 24 frames per second had such an impact that I became pre-programmed to be addicted to this entire phenomenon.

Here, I use the word “addicted” advisedly – because I realised that my entire existence has come to be measured against moments of cinematic excellence – and here, I do NOT use the word “excellence” advisedly.

Most people would be hard-pressed to remember a film called Henna – which for the benefit of saner people, I have to introduce as Raj Kapoor’s last and Zeba Bakhtiar’s first film – but I remember it vividly because it was the movie I saw in the summer of 1991 (July, to be precise) to celebrate our Class X results! In fact, I have such a strong memory of the film that I am inclined to start a discourse on how the Heidi-like Henna pranced around mountains and Rishi Kapoor. And how the latter started resembling the former!

And these films abound – as do the milestones!
Afsana Pyaar Ka (Aamir Khan and Neelam) was on the day I gave my practicals for the Class X Boards.
Inderjeet (Amitabh with Neelam – what’s with Neelam coming back again and again?) was after leaving my Class XII Statistics exam early, thus risking a flunk.
Andaaz (Anil-Juhi-Karishma, not Raj-Dilip-Nargis!) was by escaping the Fluid Mechanics lab after giving attendance and coming back in time to submit the results.
Company was on a Thursday night show, directly into the theatre from the railway station (back from a tour) – since it was getting changed the next day.
Milestones, did I say? Ah well – for the want of a better word!

And this addiction has gone beyond the constraints of language and milieu.
In a small town called Kurnool in central Andhra Pradesh, I land up. (Thanks to a prevalent custom in MNCs by which they send yuppies MBAs to far flung corners of the country, ostensibly on training! These are places where I could have tried to light a bulb if I had seen Swades then!)
However, Kurnool turns out to be a complete metropolis – with electricity, running water and a cinema theatre (Jayamalini – Air Cooled) too! Okay okay, now I am being supercilious! However at the end of it, I land up in the theatre after dinner, lured by posters of Kamalahaasan’s magnum opus – Hey Ram.
I had a 5:30 bus to catch the next morning but I was not about to let go. Who could have imagined I would get to hear Rani Mukherjee’s husky-voiced rendition of Ruposhi Bangla in the very first week of its release?
I settle down – and start to silently curse the maintenance of small-town theatre sound systems. Except for some stray dialogues in English and Rani Mukherjee’s Juhu-accented Bengali in pre-Partition Calcutta, I am not getting a single dialogue.
However, my ire against the sound system AND the dialogue writer has to go as soon as I realise that famous words like Hey Ram remain the same in all languages.
Yes, the movie is the Telugu dubbed version.
(Did I expect Hey Ram to be released as Aiyo Rama South of Vindhyas? Probably not. But then, my sense of perspective is not very strongly grounded in reality!)

That I watched the Telugu Hey Ram till the very end is not even close to the silliest thing I have ever done. There is at least one more – which could qualify as either the silliest or the most intelligent. You make the decision!
This is from the time when I – like most Indian twen-agers – agree to get married (actually, stop saying ‘no’ to the incessant requests from parents!) – and the parents waste no time in coming up with a shortlist.
The first on the list is a Fashion Diva from Chennai – Diploma in Fashion Designing, working for boutique, hoping to one own soon! The family is impressed enough by my qualifications (misleading) and photograph (tummy tucked in) to offer to visit to Calcutta.
The date is obviously auspicious – since Amitabh Bachchan’s tour-de-force Aks is releasing on the same day. Having no intention of missing a Bachchan movie on the First Day, I devise endless machinations to procure Night Show tickets.
The ‘meeting’ is fixed for 6:30 in the evening – and I figure that even if the wedding does have to get solemnised today, it would not take later than 8:30 to do that. Hence I feel quite safe with the 9:30 show timing.
Simple? Simple is boring!
6:30 – Mom, Dad, PG (prospective groom) all decked up and nowhere to go.
6:45 – As above.
7:00 – As above. PG’s father takes out mobile.
7:07 – Bride’s father contacted. Presently, on train returning from ancestral home.
7:39 – Bride’s father reaches their home. Will reach ASAP.
8:00 – PG very nervous. Divulges plans for evening. Mom-Dad aghast.
8:02 – Mom-Dad regain composure. Dad gently suggests cancellation of show.
8:07 – PG regains composure. Presents irrefutable logic – “Look, if I have to spend the rest of my life with this person, then it is only fair that she knows the priorities of my life. If she has to live with me, she should be willing to forsake a couple of things here and there in favour of a couple of First Day shows…” (Horrendously chauvinistic. BUT honest!)
8:09 – Mom-Dad acquiesces. (Come to think of it, what else could they have done?)
8:25 – Girl’s family arrives. General bonhomie all around.
8:55 – Bonhomie in full force. PG discreetly clears throat. Mom-Dad pretends not to hear.
9:01 – PG clears throat clearly (for the want of a better word!). Mom-Dad sighs.
9:05 – Girl’s family aghast.
9:07 – PG escapes. Bonhomie now forced.

Do I have a choice in these matters? As I see it, I don’t. Neither do millions of others. And we have to rush breathlessly from theatre to theatre, trying to zip past reality at 24 frames per second.
After all, it is like the children of distillery workers… you only drink whisky to ensure that THEIR dreams are realised, THEIR fathers earn enough, THEY get a decent education and THEY have new clothes for Christmas.
We do it for the stuntmen’s children, I guess!

For example, Bewafaa has got horrendous reviews. But I have tickets for tomorrow. And I tell myself – how bad can the movie be? After all, with Akshay, Kareena, Anil, Sushmita – you have a great cast going. Manoj Bajpai and Shamita Shetty are said to have some really catchy dialogues. In any case, what do I have to do during the evening anyway? After all, the Filmfare Awards show starts only at 8:00.
It is a dirty job. Only, I don’t realise it when I am doing it!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Dear Farhan,

I am a big fan of your dad's - and yours too! I am sure you have heard this a million times but I have to tell you all the jokes of Dil Chahta Hain actually happened to me and my friends! (Especially, the "gehri dosti"one..)

So, as a fan, I have to tell you - even at the risk of being too late - PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DON'T REMAKE 'DON'.

As I am writing this, Don is happening on SET Max and the more I see the film, the more I realise the futility of the remake. And it has nothing to do with you...

You have done your best. You have (almost) matched the star power of the lead pair with SRK and Piggy Chops. You have out-done Helen with Kareena. Let's not get into the Pran-Arjun Rampal bit but then, you will get a lot of babes to come in and see Arjun. Pran, at the best of times, was never a chick magnet!

But Farhaan, what will you do with the bit players?
Who will play Shakaal - the bald-headed goon - the one which Shetty played with (unintended?) perfection?
In today's age of extras (oops, junior artistes!) with well-toned abs, where - in God's name - will you find the starving look of Kaka, the guy who played Pran's cell-mate?
And that gang of thieves, who looked right out of Indrajal Comics... Mac (as Mac! How imaginative!), Kamal Kapoor (as Narang in horrible red polo-necks!) and the motley crew!
Is there an equivalent of the self-righteous Satyen Kappu, as the semi-martyred police officer?
And and and... IFTEKHAR? Where will you get an actor the thin-ness of whose waist matches that of his moustache? Has there ever been a better DSP than him?

Your dad was heard saying that Don was a great script but it suffered from a tight budget... and there could be space for improvement. But the lack of budget - and constraints thereof - was the reason that the movie is so brilliantly goofy and has all the ingredients for repeated viewings!

It is because of this tight budget that the climax takes place in a graveyard!! With millions of goons jumping all over tombstones and a full-fledged burning truck bang in the middle of the cemetery, ain't I glad that the movie happened before the times of The Da Vinci Code?
Costume budgets ensure that AB is in a spotted waist-coat all through the second half of the film. But that is part of the plot! What is completely inexplicable is when Pran wears black trousers & shirt, along with a white belt! All through the movie. (Except when he tight-rope-walking... then he wears really clunky black briefs on top of his white leotards!)
And when he gets the diary, he says (in his trademark leery tone), "Kaka, yeh diary nahin. Bank of Smuggler Limited ka chequebook (pronounced: Chekk-bookk) hain..."
The most memorable chase in the movie happens as AB runs through a dhobi-mandi, zig-zagging through clothes-lines. A free location.
And in the coolest title-song of all times, in between AB's groovy moves, we have repeated shots of the same Arab sheikh, and at all times, he is doing exactly the same gesture of kissing-fingertips-saying-wallah. (You will have to see it to see what I mean!) Too much budget would have meant Chandra Barot wouldn't have needed these kind of pack shots to fill in a song... and no child of my generation would have ever learnt how Arabs expressed appreciation!
But somehow, these never distracted the plot... they only made the movie more memorable!

All in all, classics need to be left alone... with all their goofy-ness and goose-bumps intact!
Don't get carried away by RamGopal Verma. He is only getting finance for the remake of James by talking about Sholay! He will never make it!

Love -

Psst, do you think I should tell everyone that Inspector Malik is the real bad guy?
Oh damn...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Where Are They Now?

Not a very long time ago, there used to be one channel on television. In fact, it has been that way for the major part of my life... if that doesn't say how old I am, nothing will! For a significantly long time, there were only two.
And this was the time when DD Metro was a Pandora's Box of forbidden pleasures, which the moral police used as a touchstone to prove the collapse of the country's moral fibre. These were the heady days of Superhit Muqabla, Baba Sehgal and (pssst...) Late Night movies on Fridays. (Or was it Thursdays?)

This was also the time when icons were all from TV. With VCRs ruling the roost, Rishi Kapoor's pullover-swathed obesity and the Khan-trio's cinematic infancy were quite unable to grab the attention of the ticket-paying public!

Speaking of the Khans, one remembers SRK's commando-turn in Fauji - where he was almost upstaged by this tall, baritone-voiced co-star whose signature line was "I say, chaps..." Rumours had it that he was a real-life fauji and he went back to the barracks immediately afterwards. Any idea where he would be now?

Of shooting stars, no better example than Ramanand Sagar's contribution to religiosity in India! The last page of India Today gleefully reported how Arun Govil (in blasphemous jeans!) and Deepika (thankfully, in salwar-kameez and nothing more scandalous!) were accosted in public places (can't be malls!) by hordes of blessing-seeking, feet-touching devotees! Deepika, when last heard, had become a BJP MP from Gujarat (I think)... whatever happened to Arun Govil?
While on the same tangent, Ravana - I forget his real name - also contested elections on a BJP ticket. All his campaign speeches apparently started with the same line, "In today's India, Ram is in such a bad state that even Ravana has to help him"!

Then there was this supremely precocious kid who went by the name of Baby Guddu.
In those days, she was the Asian-Paints-girl-Pepsi-boy-Rin-Boy-Maruti-Sardar-kid all rolled into one. She became so popular that she even played boy roles in movies! One role which I recall immediately is Amitabh's nephew in Aaj Ka Arjun! Her most regular role was in Rajni, where she played supposedly-cherubic daughter to Priya Tendulkar's vigilante housewife!
(The other most famous kid-star was the Vicks kid – the one who popped a tablet and winked! But she has grown up to be Ishita Arun. She is still Ila Arun’s daughter… but at least I know what she looks like!)
Guddu (can't call her baby anymore!) must also be in her early 20's now... so, isn't she trying to be an actress, beauty queen or Indian Idol?

Where is Lajo-ji of Buniyaad? Her husband (the eternal do-gooder Alok Nath) went from father to father of all the stars of the Hindi movie scene. But where did the mom vanish?

(BTW, just in case you were wondering, Baba Sehgal is edging towards a comeback… he is anchoring the Punjabi version of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa!)

Much earlier than these was Kumar Gaurav.
I (a life-long Bachchan devotee) was taken to a show of Love Story by my teen-aged aunts who predicted that I would forget AB once I saw this new kid on the block. I am reminded of this utterance every time I heard "Kaun Banega Crorepati Dwiteeeya" or saw him sipping tea in Sarkar or admired him in Reid & Taylor suits!
I read somewhere that Gaurav is playing an Indian bounty-hunter in some historical African film. I catch a glimpse of him in Sunil Dutt’s funeral. He passes me by in Kaante. But is that all that was there to him?
In the few films he did, he certainly showed more acting talent than most. His chocolate-boy looks then and his ruggedness now certainly makes him better looking (and more importantly, better ageing) than most. Including but not restricted to his own bro-in-law!

Of hit films, there cannot be a better example than Aashiqui.
Everybody associated with this two-decade-old film is doing well for themselves… including Nadeem who was wanted for murder and excluding Gulshan Kumar whose murder he is wanted for! Even the hero’s-friend Deepak Tijori is finding backers to make films with English sounding names.
Everyone… except the lead pair.
Rahul Roy had hair as bad (actually better!) as Salman in Tere Naam. He was brave enough not to shave it off!
Anu Agarwal did more 20 years back than what Mallika Sherawat does now… not only did she show more skin, she even acted opposite heroes from prehistoric times. While Mallika is being praised to the skies by her geriatric co-star (Anil Kapoor), Anu tried to seduce Jeetendra (no less!) with adequate displays of mammaries and pickaxes!
Surely, they could have stayed on for longer?

And as the dividing line between sports & showbiz blur to form an ‘entertainment space’, one thinks of gallant sporting heroes as well.

Where is Robin Singh, for example?
He took us on some terrific chases in one-days. He looked presentable. Spoke English well. Surely, he couldn’t have been a worse commentator than Sidhu or Srikkanth. Maybe, he couldn’t have been a judge on The Great Indian Laughter Challenge but then… he could have tried?

Now that we have meandered away from television to films to cricket… an uneasy thought comes to my mind.
Five years from now, will we not remember Sourav either?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Meerut Musings

Culture shock for a city slicker… small towns are small, but not too far behind! For all those of you who thought that tank tops and Nokia N-Series phones are only to be found in Ansal Plaza, Meerut proves to be an unlikely spoiler.

Zipping past a posh residential locality, you see a “Men’s Salon”. The name? A very with-it pun… “Head Masters”! The façade, at least, looks straight out of Malabar Hills!
In the ultra-swanky PVS Mall, while hanging outside the Pizza Hut outlet, you see a girl talking on a Razr. The t-shirt legend is disarmingly honest… “So many men. So few who can afford me!”. Ah – women’s problems never change!

You go past a supermarket… 711. The signage is an exact replica of the chain-stores you had seen in Bangkok, a large Seven (in numerals) with an Eleven (in letters) along the bottom. However, a local points out jokingly that a more appropriate name would be Eleven-Seven! The store seems to be opening only at 11 and promptly downing shutters at 7! After all, with the rising crime rates, you cannot take a risk – he reasons!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Bengali in Bahraich

Okay, first things first... let me confess that I have not yet gone to Bahraich and I just put that in the subject line for the sake of alliteration! For people who think civilisation ceases to exist beyond Malad, let me inform you that Bahraich is a district HQ 107 kms from Lucknow and that TTK Healthcare Limited (Printing Division) designs, cartographs, prints and publishes excellent maps of the states & union territories of the country and you would be well-advised procure samples of the same.

Anyways, I am now neck-deep in dailies printed in national language, the first thing that strikes is the sheer creativity of the names. As opposed to complete predictability of The Times of India (what else can it provide except maybe, a day in the life of India?) or the complete colonialism of Deccan Herald (only Brits deserve to have newspapers with Tribune and Herald in their names), the names of most Hindi dailies are suffused with a hint of the sublime!
The most well-known of the lot is obviously Amar Ujala. But there are many more – within the purview of the ABC or without, they proclaim their intentions boldly through their mastheads! There is Dainik Agnibaan - obviously, a paper which promises slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (on a daily basis)! Or, Purvaanchal Prahari – which is so much more descriptive than their English counterpart – The Sentinel. Even a Swatantra Chetana which seems to be waking you AND your conscience from slumber every morning. And then, there is Hindmata – which makes you feel that you are committing treason if you are not subscribing to it!

First, the headlines!
While the venerable Hindustan Times announced "HDFC hikes home loan rates", Amar Ujala exclaimed "Uff! Apne makaan ka sapna mehenga!" While, HT Lucknow rued the power cuts in the city with a staid "Power cuts throw city off gear", Dainik Jagran was more voluble with a distressing "Hai re Bijli! Udyog chaupat, shaher mein hahakaar!" and then followed it up the next day with "Hadd ho gayee! 24 mein 6 ghante bijli".
Apart from these, I have also got to know what a "Laabh ke Pad" is. And I am also aware that students of the Ahmedabad-sthit Bharatiya Prabandh Sangsthan are not driven by “Mota Package nahin, Kuch kar dikhane ka Iraada”.

And then, the hobbies page is funnier than you imagine!
For example, you have Hindi translations of Blondie ("Main chintit hoon ki Daisy bilkul party pashu ban gayi hain!") and Dennis the Menace ("Dennis bete, daddy se kaho breakfast taiyyar hain!").
Or for that matter, a daily column of SMS jokes (so, now you know where those came from!) and I have to give at least one sample... "Mandir mein jap karta hoon / Masjid mein adaab karta hoon / Insaan se kahin khuda na ban jaoon / Isi liye shaitan ko SMS karke roz ek paap karta hoon". And remember, there’s one such every day of the year…

The movie ads are quite revealing of the preferences of the people... An ad for Waqt - which had Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar and Priyanka Chopra in its lineup - shows Rajpal Yadav! Needless to say, so does Malamaal Weekly.
Besides there is a plethora of Bhojpuri movies... The latest releases are: Suhaag (now, that’s cosmopolitan enough!), Coolie (Mithun ki pehli Bhojpuri film!), Ghunghat Uthaile Chaand Dekhle (Bhagyashree pehli baar Bhojpuri film mein!) and Dharti Kahe Pukaar Ke (Ajay Devgun ko pehli baar Bhojpuri film mein dekhiye!) and Sainya Sipahiya! Seems like the entire Bollywood is now making a beeline to be part of the Bhojpuri Brigade! And lest any of you snigger at the star power of Mithun-da and Bhagyashree, let me remind you of the now-in-shooting film called Ganga, which stars one Mr Amitabh Bachchan! So there!
The film supplements are currently agog with the descriptions of shooting for "Mumbai ka Laila, Chhapra ka Chhaila" – which happened bang on Marine Drive and how the traffic had to be stopped for a couple of hours. Given that South Bombay stops for nothing (not even a flyover outside their window!), this seems to be quite something!

So much for the time being! Watch this space!