Monday, August 28, 2006

Psst... That's Shah Rukh's Son!

There was a time when the concept of information overload did not exist. In fact, information was quite scarce to start off with! For example, news on entertainment was restricted to two sources only.
1. The last page of India Today - for desi stuff.
2. The last 7 minutes of Prannoy Roy-hosted The World This Week - for international masala.
And we waited the entire week to hear Mr Roy talk about contr-oh-versies around the globe.

In such a world, it was very easy to have an advtange of power... especially if you had nothing against reading. Which I never had - and I tilted the balance of informational power quite decisively away from my sister who was quite vehemently against reading of any kind.
There is a saying in Bengali for people like her - Kaw akshar go-mangsho. Which also has a Hindi equivalent, kaale akshar bhnais barabar.
So, she was susceptible to very small informational red-herrings.

Red Herring #1: Kenny G (the saxophonist) and Ken Ghosh (the ad-film maker) is the one and same!
There were very believable sub-plots about Bengalis converting to Christianity and she accepted this without any doubt whatsoever - and subsequently, flaunted her new-found knowledge to her classmates as well. When some one tried to question the veracity, she silenced the sceptic with an aggressive "It came out in India Today"!

Red Herring #2: The boy who played Tom Cruise's son in Jerry Maguire is actually his own son in real life.
I again slipped in a nugget of believability in this one. I said that the boy does not wear specs in real life but they gave him one in the film to make him look cuter! She lapped it all up again - and god only knows how many people were subjected to this bit of fiction from her.

Anyways, she grew wiser with the disclosure of these cons - and started suspecting even real trivia if it came from me! But it was a very illogical kind of suspicion because I could always put her in doubt with a confident laugh or two. But it certainly became more difficult - and rarer, because we had moved to different cities.

While watching Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, I sent an SMS to her... "Shah Rukh's son in KANK is actually his own son in real life."
There was no reply. So, I thought she had finally bought this one!
Much to my dismay, I got this SMS from her this morning... "Shut up! It's not. In fact, its a girl whose mom posed her as a boy! This was a big story 6 months back. You can't fool me no more. I'm a journo now!"

Damn... the balance of power has tilted!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Trivial Pursuits: World's Most Useless Knowledge

SMS query at 11:32 PM - "What is the name of the vamp who hangs out with Amjad Khan in Satte Pe Satta?"
Phone call at 2:16 PM (in the middle of a meeting) - "Which mythological character is mentioned in the ad for Manhattan credit cards?"
Follow-up call at 2:22 PM (meeting still on) - "Who the f***'s son was he?"
Email received at 9:01 AM - "Who was the first editor of Bangadarshan Patrika?"
What the hell is going on? Why am I the one who is perceived to the repository of all kinds of really arbit information? Starting from my dad right down to my cousins, everyone seems to be turning only to me for answers to problems which are completely cut-off from any practical utility.

So, I scratched my head a bit and tried to understand how this reputation (notoriety?) came about. And quite aptly, it started quite young! My classmate from school, Partha (who is now a venerable doctor) and I had this fierce competition going on about capitals of countries. Armed with an atlas (Bengali) by Chandi Charan Something, we managed to memorise the capitals of all (well, almost) the countries in the world. And we subjected each other to rapidfire rounds of the most arcane countries like Burundi (Bujumbura), Azerbaijan (Baku) and Burkina Faso (Ouagadougou)!
Now, this completely useless pursuit found public appreciation during the course of watching a comedy serial (called Hakke Bakke on solo-channel Doordarshan), during which a father's friend (coincidentally, also named Partha) happened to be visiting. In that serial, to depict a particularly tough job interview, a question was asked to the protagonist, "What is the capital of North Korea?" and in between the canned laughter, I answered "Pyongyang". My father's friend was suitably impressed. And just as a lark asked, "But do you know the capital of Somalia?". I did. "Mogadishu."
That a 10-year old would know a name which sounds like a Hindi film villain fired from a sling-shot was quite unbelievable for Partha-kaku and he became my first publicist, giving me excellent coverage across hundreds of SEC A homes across 80's Calcutta.

Then came a quiz contest.
This was one of those ones which are conducted in apartments during the 5-day Puja festivities all over Calcutta and the prize is always "Hnaad Knapano Bhooter Golpo" (Bone-chilling Ghost Stories) irrespective of the age of the winner! The quiz-master was a genial uncle, who gave you the answers itself if you asked sweetly enough for hints. This time, he had an ace up his sleeve and he was determined not to let any hints spoil that. Not that any hint was possible in the first place!
Round 3, tied at fourth place. And the question is, "What is the (snigger snigger) full name of Pee Tee Usha?" 1-second pause. "Pass?" Err. No. "Pilluvulakandi Thekaleenparambil Usha." "W-w-what?" This was the first time of could-you-repeat-the-answer-please? - and there was mayhem. I didn't have to repeat the answer to keep to the time but my reputation was sealed.
We still finished the quiz at fourth place but somehow, everybody decided that somebody who knows the full name of PT Usha is not somebody you would like to meet on a full-moon night without a rosary in hand!

Just as a monster gains strength by feeding on human fears, my Useless Knowledge Monster fed on frailties of quiz-masters across Calcutta who asked tangential questions in a misguided attempt to bring variety and the monster grew in girth and ambition.
* Aladin's father was a tailor called Mustafa.
* The skin separating the two nostrils called Columella Nasi.
* Sanjay Gandhi, Jesus Christ and Alexander the Great died at the age of 33.
* The film Karz had the maximum number of songs (4) which became the titles of other movies.
You get the picture, right? And I end up with the burden of having to explain to people why Calvin's teacher, Mrs Wormwood, is so named. Disgusting. You know, anybody who surfs Calvin & Hobbes fan sites can get the C S Lewis connection.

Now to get down to some work, the first editor of Bangadarshan Patrika was Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay. (Yes, the same guy whose compositions are voluntary to sing in schools nowadays.)
The Manhattan character was GhaTotkach. (The first T is a hard one, the second soft.) He was the son of Bhima (the second Pandava) and a (good) rakshasi Hidimba. (Her brother, Hidimbo, was killed by Bhima. No, Tina - I will do no such thing to Bubu, even if he annihilates me in Monopoly again!)

Now for the vamp of Satte Pe Satta... the initial discussions seem to indicate that she is Kalpana Iyer. But why Kalpana Iyer would be cast in a film without a cabaret is a valid objection, which we are unable to resolve.
As of now, I have engaged India's foremost (resident) expert on Hindi movies to watch SpS on DVD tonight and report tomorrow. Mad Momma and her OA should feel justifiably proud that they have managed to ask me a Hindi movie question, which has remained unanswered by my panel of experts. Tonight, another expert (non-resident) on Indian cinema will also be retained to identify the aforementioned vamp. She cannot escape recognition.
Watch this space!  

UPDATE: It IS Kalpana Iyer. Non-resident (see comments) and resident experts have both confirmed. Admonishements all around as to why I make simple things complicated! Case Closed.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna...

One of my long-standing ambitions is to write the screenplay of a Bengali wedding movie. And this was there long before Yash Chopra and Meera Nair drowned us in Punjabi baroque.
And the inspiration was a couple from college… she was a sweet Bengali girl. He was a sweeter Tamil boy. Met in school. Liked each other in +2. Fell in love in First Year, Got married a year after college. The families never had an opinion to the contrary.
It was I who thought of fictional twists involving joint families, vegetarianism, orthodox rituals and other assorted villainy!

There was another couple in Bangalore. They met in engineering college. He smuggled in liquor for her and her friends to drink. She, in turn, took an indulgent view of his drunken binges. She came from an orthodox Bihari family. He came from a liberal Marathi background. Her family literally ostracised her for marrying outside the caste. She gave up her family to be with him. He made sure she never missed them.

I had two readymade examples of Made For Each Other couples. I mean, these guys knew each other for a longer time before marriage than after. Even their squabbles were fun to watch… they knew what the other would say before they opened their mouths.

Couple I: I go on to Orkut and locate this friend of mine. Relationship status – Single. Children – Yes, not living at home. Is he the same guy? These South Indian names can be very common. Yes, it is. And yes, we are separated. We will be divorced soon. Single? After 15 years of double? Does he even know that “children not living at home” applies to empty-nesters only? When I met them almost exactly two years to this date, they were on the verge of moving into their own flat and terribly proud of their infant daughter.

Couple 2: In the course of planning a party, I suddenly hear that we can’t invite them together. Huh? They are living separately. Double huh? Umm, surely it is a bad fight. So, isn’t a drunken party the best time to make up? No, their minds are made up – and you don’t complicate matters by asking awkward questions. What complicate matters? The last time I met them (about a year ago), it was at the Holi party at their new flat and they were never more in love. And now they are separating – if that isn’t complicated, what is?

Too many friends have got separated for unnamed reasons for me to be remain blasé about the whole phenomenon of divorce. And these friends are too close for me to indulge into ideological debates. Should economic independence imply less tolerance? What constitutes torture? Don’t people realize shortcomings when they are courting each other? Are arranged marriages more prone to divorce?
All these questions lose meaning as all standard stereotypes are comprehensively shattered. And at the end of it, one is left grappling with intensely personal issues.

So, what can possibly happen in a year or two – that completely annihilates a decade of togetherness?
Am I the only brain-dead one who is unable to think of any conceivable reason for these people separating? Or, maybe reasons are really not needed to separate after years as man and wife?
I had been so close to all these four people that I have been singularly unable to assign any blame to any of them. Surely, these guys – who have been such faithful lovers for each other and such dutiful friends for me – could not have been guilty of the standard grounds for divorce?
In fact, it would have probably helped (in a perverse sort of way) if I could have identified the villains of the respective episodes. Then, I would not have felt so uneasy. I would have known whom to blame and whom to sympathise with.
Now, there are only victims.
An uncomfortable silence. And a helplessness, as I see them trying to pick up threads of their lives and get on with it. Alone.

Thanks to my absolute inability to influence the situations, I am living in hope.
Hopefully, they will realise that loneliness is too high a price to pay for freedom.
Hopefully, they will get back together again.
Hopefully, they will realize goodbyes are never final.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Ghost Who Walks... Returns

Nilendu has managed to unearth some fantastic sources of information on Phantom - including his home on the web!

So, in an effort to lend some colour to the previous post, here is a comic-book panel featuring the stalwarts of the Skull Cave (Karoti Guha)!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Lost in Translation

Due to my long (?) hiatus, anxious friends have started to enquire if there is any good news on the family front. The question is - how does the arrival of an insomniac tadpole constitute good news? Anyways...

What the rest of world knows as an abstract Phantom, people born in the Bengal of early 70's know as a glamorous Aranyadeb (literally, "Lord of the Jungle") or a sinister Betal (the Bong rendition of the organism that asked riddles to Vikram!). His epithet - Ghost Who Walks was translated as Cholomaan Ashariri.
The Anandabajar group (now known as ABP) had the comic-strip in its publications as Aranyadeb, while the erstwhile Indrajal Comics (distributed weekly by the Times of India group, I think) had Betal in its Bengali editions!
And our entire generation knew Phantom's lady love (Diana Palmer) had an uncle called "Dabhey Kaka". It was only after Star Plus came in and we put 2-and-2 together, that we found it was actually Uncle Dave!
On the topic of his cronies and entourage, his horse (Hero) was renamed Toofan (oooh!). His dog (sorry - wolf!) was no longer Devil but Bagha (grrr!).

Somehow, the jungle sayings completely lost their punch in English.
"Kruddho Betal-er thanda gola oti shahoshir rokto heem korey dei - Prachin Aranya Probad" would fall flat on its face whenever the English version tried to grapple with the difference between thanda (cold) and heem (ice-cold)! And of course, "Prachin Aranya Probad" had a venerable authenticity which "Old Jungle Saying" was unable to match.

Anandabazar Patrika - on its Page 2 - serialised the life histories of Aranyadeb through a 3-panel strip on the bottom left-hand corner. Just three panels meant that they were consumed by the time Aranyadeb mounted his horse. And to think, I followed the family trees of 21 Phantoms through these 3-panels and one page on the fortnightly magazine Desh!
The inventiveness of Lee Falk never flagged - the first Phantom was a cabin boy on Columbus's flag-ship Santa Maria, one married Shakespeare's daughter, Diana was an Olympic gold-medallist in diving who worked for the UN... cannot remember more! And in a show of comic-book solidarity, Mandrake & Lothar turned up at Aranyadeb's wedding to Diana!
The original base of Phantom was Bangalla (this, I read somewhere) - which threw up obvious complications when translated into Bengali. So, it was changed to Denkali.

As I meet despicable creatures (and sometimes, sweet ones too!) in various walks of life, I really miss the use of his two rings - one with the Shubho Chinho (reserved for good people) and the other with the Koroti Chinho (skull shaped ring on his right hand, which leaves an indelible mark on jaw of the baddies)!
Simple. Effective. Stress-busting.

Indrajal Comics folded up somewhere in the middle of my childhood and Betaal vanished, along with other heroes like Mandrake, Flash Gordon, Garth and our home-grown Bahadur.
Bahadur - India's first vigilante hero - was a handsome man, wearing a very with-it kurta (Fabindia?) with jeans. He had no super powers, but was a super-fit karate-expert who did not even use guns (to the best of my knowledge & recollection).
In a display of extreme maturity in depicting relationships, Bahadur had a girlfriend called Bela - and they had not got married till IC stopped. Cosmo readers would be shattered - even superheroes are scared of commitment... sigh!

As a 32-year old dinosaur, I see Pokemon cards and Beyblade competitions usurping the vocabulary of pre-teens, I get unduly hassled (as most old people are likely to get!) and wonder if the charms of the violet-spandex-black-briefs-on-top-two guns-in-holsters clad Phantom would have any impact in today's age.
Frankly, all we learnt about honour and duty was only from Phantom.
All our history is from Amar Chitra Katha.
And our generation grew up unafraid of kidnappers & child molesters because we knew we could sock their noses in - just like Aranyadeb did to the pirates of Wusaya.

The hyper-imaginative, kaleidoscopic world has given way to a more delineated world. Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and the movie adaptations of Harry Potter have left the kids with nothing to imagine. If Harry Potter had come out when I was a kid, I would imagined him to be my own replica. And Ron Weasley would have looked exactly like Yoshodeep.
But now, kids have to live with the reality that Harry Potter is actually a skinny, English boy.

All my uncles & aunts used to buy me the English versions of the comics and I used to buy the Bengali ones. Reading and comparing the two, I always thought too much was lost in the translation.
Now as a grown-up, I realise that even more has got lost in perception.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Main Kaun Hoon?

Ladies & Gentlemen -
In case any of you missed what you've been reading for so long!

Your Blogging Type is Cutting Edge and Amusing
You're a legendary storyteller, and you amuse many with your anecdotes.In fact, you can turn the dullest part of your day into a colorful event.You're also up on what's new and cool - from fashions, to links, to gadgets.You're the perfect combo: down to earth, funny, and a little mischievous.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Chutkule - The Trivia

Apparently, it started with Daag - The Fire. Though the jury is still out why it was named so.
I mean, what is the connection between Daag and Fire? And the plot of the movie starring Sanjay Dutt, Chandrachur Singh and Mahima Chaudhry (in a double role, that too!)?
One extremely plausible theory is that the distributor wanted to name it Aag - The Fire. His high school-dropout flunky misread it!
But why the sub-title? That's the Prashna - The Question!

Well, it is quite simple actually.
The producer wants to make a film with Karishma Kapoor in the lead. They sign her. They shoot the film. They have the title song composed. Then, they go to get the title registered. And WHAM - they suddenly find out some other pesky fellow has got the damn name. The pesky fellow has no intention of making a film of that name. But he wants to make a quick buck by selling the title to the aforementioned producer.
Now, if Bollywood was corporatised, they would have paid the money and got hold of the title. Its a bloody small sum of money anyway.
But Bollywood is nothing if it is not stubborn. And resourceful! The producer tells the pesky fellow - "Keep the fu***** title. I am not going to pay one penny for a name like Baaz."
And goes ahead and gets another title registered.
The new title? Baaz - A Bird In Danger.

Why convolute matters? Can't we get a simple spelling change - and register the same title? Yes, you can... except for the small matter that the pesky fellow has registered ALL possible spelling combinations that remotely spell Baaz!

So, to get back to Daag - The Fire, it started off a trend like no other. Every frigging Hindi film (whether facing a similar problem or not) had a subtitle.
When Karan Johar asked, "Mere paas Amitabh hain, Jaya hain, Shah Rukh hain, Hrithik hain, Kajol hain, Kareena hain. Tumhare paas kya hain?", the small-time producer said, "Mere paas Maa - The Mother hain. Hrrmmph!"

The basic format of the hyphenated name is Hindi Name - The English Translation.
But there are variations...
* Hindi/English: Dhund - The Fog.
* English/Hindi: Double Cross - Ek Dhoka.
* English/Hinglish: Rules - Pyaar Ka Superhit Formula.
* English/English: Encounter - The Killing.
* Hindi/Unconnected: Aan - Men at Work.
* Hindi/Deep Meaningful Thought: Waqt - A Race Against Time.
It was such an epidemic that Nagesh Kukunoor spoofed it in Bollywood Calling. The film being shot in that film was Maut - The Death!

Let me end with a brilliant story which is a exemplifies the typical Bollywood resilience and resourcefulness.
A very long time ago, the flavour of the season was a con-man called Natwarlal. He was caught after a long cat-and-mouse game with the police and the stories of his exploits were reported gleefully by the media. Bollywood decided to make a movie on him. Actually, all of Bollywood wanted to make innumerable movies on him. The most prestigious of these was the one starring one Mr Amitabh Bachchan. (Incidentally, there isn't a shred of similarity between the original Natwarlal and the film but then, we are being pedantic now!)
The producer happily signed Amitabh and Rekha. Went to great locations. Got Amitabh to sing for the first time. Shot a fantastic song called Pardesiya. And all this, with a working title of Natwarlal.
Only when Mr Bachchan completed shooting and the distributors started to badger the producer for a release date, did he saunter across to do the paperwork. And lo behold, there was some other jerk had already registered the name!
No probs, thought our dynamic producer and promptly registered Mr Natwarlal as the title.
End of story? Perish the thought!
The other guy (one with the legal rights to Natwarlal) decided that his film would not stand a chance against the box-office Midas.
So he stirred the waters a bit and went to the Association of Film Producers of India - where he filed a complaint that there is actually no difference between Natwarlal and MR Natwarlal. I mean, what would Natwarlal be if he is not a Mr?
The august association pondered over this very cogent argument and ruled in favour of the other guy. That, Mr and Blank Natwarlals were actually the one and same. So would the producer register his film under a different name, please?

Delayed release. Mounting debts. Sleepless nights. Terrible ulcers. Where is an AK-47 when you need one?
Then came the solution which would have left all of Mr DeBono's six thinking hats in a tizzy!
Who is in the film? Amitabh Bachchan. (Right. Can't pretend Satyen Kappu is the star attraction!)
Who is he featured as? Mr Natwarlal.
So, our debonair & dashing producer went ahead and named his film - guess karo, guess karo - AMITABH BACHCHAN IN AND AS MR NATWARLAL!!!

The association ruled that Natwarlal and Mr Natwarlal might be the same but ABIAAMr Natwarlal is certainly a different animal!
So, when you see a poster with the aforementioned phrase on it, don't mistake it for an advertisement for Bachchan's charisma.
Check out the censor certificate (I did!) - it is an advertisement for a producer's (one Mr Tony) wheeling-dealing!

PS: Is the story true? Who cares...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Cow-Belt Capers

Its been a long time since I did a post on my incessant traveling in the most populous state of the region. I am now not only on first-name terms of all the attendants of the Lucknow Shatabdi, some of them consider themselves to be my personal valets! Not only do they keep on badgering me with extra helpings of ice-cream and juice – last time, when I refused to have the dinner (how many times a week can you have the same chicken curry?), they offered to pack it for me!
(This is reminiscent of the time when the Patna Airport security officials used to wave me on without frisking!)

Bollywood screenwriters and advertising copywriters would do well to take a leaf out of the politician's book - on catchy slogan-writing.
What is a good dialogue/slogan? As a marketing student, I can tell you that it has to be short. Easy to remember. And most importantly, it must drive one to action.
One such slogan (an old one, actually) which I just heard is "Bhura baal saaf karo" - which literally means "Clear Out the Light-coloured Hair". Huh?
Actually, it is a mnemonic... Bhu stands for Bhumihaar. Ra is for Rajput. Ba is for Brahmin. L is for Lala (Kayasth). To clarify all doubts in the complex algorithm of Bihar caste politics, this was Laloo Prasad Yadav's clarion call to clear the state of the feudal and high-caste lords.
Short? Check. Memorable? Check. Driving specific action? You bet.
Move over, Prasoon Joshi. You are not the smartest adman around...

Koi Sagaa Nahin…
Gulzar’s one (self-acknowledged) act of plagiarism is the famous line from the Bunty Aur Babli title song… (Aisa) koi sagaa nahin, jisko (humne) thagaa nahin.
This, in turn, is the super-famous punch line of the super-successful Thaggu Ke Laddoo of Kanpur. Known far & wide (at least in the cow-belt) for his laddoos, Thaggu got his name from his grandfather, who started the shop and was particularly ashamed of using sugar (a videshi product) against the call of Gandhi. In an allusion to Gandhi’s verdict that anybody using foreign-made sugar is actually robbing (thago-ing) the nation, he called himself Thaggu – and the name stuck!
Intensive research is currently on to figure the origin of the other famous product of his – the Badnaam Kulfi!
Thaggu’s confidence in his products shows through one more of his punchlines… Mehmaanon ko mat khilaiye, tik jayengey!

Himesh Rules!
Far behind the glitter of Marine Drive, the buzz of Defence Colony, the euphoria of Brigade Road, lies the Humongous Indian Market.
For all of us who are completely devastated by the havoc Himesh Reshamaiyya has wreaked on our eardrums and who are unable to comprehend the artistry behind the nasal renditions, let it be known that there is a fan following which Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy cannot even begin to match.
Not only does every taxi, bus-stand, restaurant, home dutifully play his greatest hits, there is a huge group of young people who copy his fashion as well.
Outside colleges, movie theatres, malls and main thoroughfares are several of these Himesh clones – with the trademark stubble, baseball cap pulled on low, faded jeans and tight full-sleeve t-shirts!
So, while we continue to laugh at Cyrus and Javed’s wisecracks, Himesh continues to touch a chord with the Humongous Indian Market. And, not only sell millions of album copies, but command a fan following similar to that of movie stars. I mean, which musician has managed to have fans who copy their sartorial style?
Worldspace would do well to replace AR Rehman with Himesh as their brand ambassador – and all you South Bombay types, buy more cotton wool!

Name Trivia
I had read somewhere that Los Angeles has the lowest ratio (among cities) of the length of the used name of the city (2 letters – LA) and the length of actual name (a 54-letter behemoth)!
For those interested in the World's Most Useless Knowldge, Kanpur can hold a record of being the city, which has changed the spelling of its name the maximum number of times! Between 1770 and now, it has changed a whopping 20 times – thus averaging a mere 11.24 years per change!
For those with absolutely no work, the list runs as follows:
Cawnpoor, Caunpour, Caunpore, Cawnpour, Cawnpore, Kawnpore, Cawnpor, Cawnpour, Kaunpoor, Khanpore, Khanpura, Khanpore, Caunpoor, Khanpoor, Kannpur, Cawnpour, Caawnpore, Cawnpor, Cownpour, Cawnpore, Kanpur!
Numerologists, who make their theories to fit history, have claimed that the name Cawnpore is most suitable for industrial development and Kanpur for progress in education. Wah!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Cult of Gogo

While on the topic of comedies, the polite gathering inevitably discusses Golmaal, Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi – and sometimes even, Gold Rush.
And you feel a little defensive about your choice. But then, the vodka has loosened your tongue a bit and you suddenly speak up, “Actually, Andaz Apna Apna is a much better comedy than these. In terms of sheer wackiness and inventiveness, there is nothing to beat the movie. Some of the characters are so crazy that…” And trail off when you realize that a silence has descended on the gathering.
The hostess announces dinner and there is a lull. At which point, that guy in the balcony (whose name you didn’t quite catch) comes up to you and says, “Its true, you know. Every time I see Shakti Kapoor’s ‘dhak-ki-tiki dhak-ki-tiki’ dance on my VCD, I still laugh the same way I laughed the first time.”
You immediately know that you have found a friend for life. And the Cult of Gogo lives on!

Andaz Apna Apna (1994) remains an absolute cult favourite – which never got box-office success but continues to be the toast of each successive cohort which catches the movie on a lazy Sunday afternoon on Zee Cinema.
Considering the two heroines were at loggerheads during the making of the movie (due to a romantic dispute over Akshay Kumar, I think) and one hero took an immediate dislike to other’s undisciplined ways, the comic timing is quite brilliant.
But what is it exactly that the movie retains its charms more than a decade after its making?

To start with, the names…
The two heroes are Amar Prem. One goes 'Ai La'. The other goes 'Ooi Ma'! (And the full name of the latter is Dr Prem Khurana, Iss dhande mein bahut purana...)
The leading ladies are Raveena and Karishma. Easy? Actually, the actress called Raveena is playing the character called Raveena (and vice versa) whose actual name in the film is Karishma (and vice versa). But when the twist is discovered, she continues to be called as Raveena, which she is not. Aaarrggghh!
Of course, the villains are an Ajit-clone and his sidekick (named Robert, pronounced Raabert, mispronounced Rabbit!).
The second round of confusion between Ramgopal Bajaj and evil twin brother – Teja.
And finally, the piece de resistance – CRIME MASTER GOGO! Who is an international crime boss, wearing what the heroes respectfully call a ‘ghagra’!

It is a mayhem of a comedy film – slapstick (with secretly administered purgatives and shadow fighting during the climax), mistaken identities (“Teja main hoon kyunki mera naam bhi Teja hain”), non-stop nonsense (a jilted lover goes to commit suicide but “upar bahut ooncha tha isliye neeche se koodungi”) and even a spot of nostalgia (yesteryears stars Jagdeep, Deven Varma & Mehmood appearing with allusions to their most famous roles… Jagdeep being from Bhopal and Mehmood running a studio called Wah Wah Productions).

And it is all simple, low-brow comedy… no satire, no word plays, no underlying layer. It targeted the masses with such a vengeance that it left them bemused. The roller-coaster ride of humour was unrelenting and all those who expected a soft romantic scene, the mandatory ill-mother sub-plot or at least an aggressive call to arms against the villain were left high and dry!
Never before and never after has there been a comedy which is 100% so… not a single moment, not a single sub-plot, not a single set-piece is anything else. Even supposedly sentimental scenes are handled with such rip-roaring humour that there is not a moment’s respite in the laughs!

The wackiness that makes Cyrus Broacha and all the stand-up comedians such a rage today was first seen in AAA. And it predated the genre by about half a decade. Which is why all box-office reports continue to classify the film as a curt ‘Flop’.
Sample these…
Main Mogambo ka bhatija...
Main khandaani chor hain, ayaa hoon toh kuch toh lekar jayoonga…
Aankhein lekar gotiyan kheloonga…

Woh teele pe mila tha humne uska naam Teelu rakh diya tha…
Woh zamaana bhi kya tha jab maine Mohun Bagan ke liye 6 goal daage the…
Absurdity at its hilarious best.

And the spoofs…
In one memorable scene, Aamir Khan (Amar) is asked to cut the inaugural ribbon of a lock-up as the sad version of his anthem – Papa Kehte The – played in the background!
And in another, Salman Khan (Prem) gets all excited and says, “Sholay! Woh picture toh maine 50 baar dekhi hain!” To which comes the pat retort, “Haan, tere baap ne jo likha hain!” Such an ordinary line made unforgettable by the fact Salman’s baap is one Mr Salim Khan… Marvellous!

As for the director Raj Kumar Santoshi, I think it is a tribute to his underrated talent, that his release just prior to AAA was a woman-oriented thriller (Damini) and just after was a mushy love-story (Barsaat).
As they say, woh mahaan hain, buddhimaan hain, shaktimaan hain, balki woh to purush hi nahin hain :-O Mahapurush hain, mahapurush!

Thursday, August 03, 2006


In XLRI, there was this path-breaking association called the PJAXI, whose mission was to plumb the depths of bad humour. And when they reach the absolute depth, they will start to dig!
I think I cannot escape by using the third person here because I was one of the more active members of this august body.

Lack of practice takes away skill and serious meetings in corporate corridors took away the touch. I mean, bad jokes in the middle of an already bad review meeting are to be avoided at all costs!
On the opening of a large call-centre in Bangalore and Pepsi's subsequent entry into their cafeteria, I reported the same with glee in my review presentation. Breaking away from English, I had said, "Ek vishal call centre ka udghaatan hua hain..." and Vishal Kaul (who had recently moved to the Unit) was more than tickled!
But that was quite a rarity.

Though there are some which are really good ones... only if somebody had the guts to try them out!
Flunkey: Boss, aap ke paas khudka nahin hain kya?
Boss: (speechless)
Flunkey: Toh phir aap meri kyon lete rehte ho?
Maybe we should submit these for future commercials!

A long long time ago, there was the fly-and-mosquito series. Then came the hilarious elephant series. And the why-did-the-chicken-cross-the-road series. Which is always more fun when you make up your own series!
And then somebody merged the two... my favourite:
- Why did the elephant cross the road?
- It was the chicken's day off!
And guess what, there are these founts of creativity, who are constantly making newer ones!

Now, I have realised that the SMS is the largest vehicle of the PJ. And to think, the column of newspapers with SMS jokes are the most popular of all!

* Ladka: Mere dil mein aaja, raani!
Ladki: Sandal nikaloo kya?
Ladka: Mandir thode hi hain, pagli? Aise hi aaja!

* Himesh Reshamiyya goes to his son-in-law's house.
Knock Knock.
Kaun hain?
Tera Tera Tera Sasoor...

Lovely, I mean... what is a good PJ if it is not topical?

* While on Knock-Knock jokes, there's one from MTV's Hindification of the series:
Knock, Knock.
Kaun hain?
Video kaun?
Videocon washing machine. (Somehow, its more fun if you can sing out the tune!)

And, there are innovative sequel names.

- Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hain!
- Toh bolna, madar****!

- Maine Gandhi ko Nahin Maara.
- Toh kya woh nakli daaru peeke lukad gaye?

- Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon.
- Ladki hain tu??
(This was developed by my group in Marico South - and is more appreciated there!)

And finally, a Bengali one. And topical too!
- O Thello.
- Ami Porey Gelam!

Mhuhahahahahahaha... Don't go away. I am coming back with more.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Tagged by Mad Momma

This is a belated response to an earlier tag.

I am just back from Kanpur, where I spent the day trying to undertsand the evil machinations of the newspaper hawkers’ union.

I said some of the expletives I learnt from Omkara and I think the sales team looked at me with new respect!

I want to watch Amar Akbar Anthony. After depressing work days, I desperately need to see Amitabh come out of an Easter Egg!

I wish I was James Bond.

I miss the most beautiful city in the world.

I hear that the pesticide controversy is making a comeback – and I am glad that I won’t be losing sale because somebody else is pissed with MNCs spending money on Kareena Kapoor.

I wonder why all superheroes wear their undies over their trousers. I mean, what is the logic behind this trend?

I regret never having written a letter to Satyajit Ray. Given his habit of replying to all his fan mail personally, I would have had a collector’s item to die for!

I am a parochial Bengali and I believe Sourav Ganguly should return to open in the one-dayers.
I dance only when I am drunk!

I sing very badly – which is a pity because I come up with so many parodies of songs that I wish I could sing them myself!

I am not Baji Rao. (This is a play I wanted to see but never managed to.)

I cry whenever Amitabh Bachchan dies in any of his movies.

I’m not always blogging. Most of the day, I am getting screwed at work!

I make with my hands my diary – in which I write about my day. I have been doing this for the last 17 years now.

I write well (or, so my friends tell me). But nobody will ever pay to read what I write.

I confuse the GK-I and GK-II markets. So I agree to go to one thinking there will be a bookshop there and am greeted by strange looking shoe-shops! I also confuse Vasant Kunj and Vasant Vihar!

I need to watch Nishabd first day, first show.

I should write a screenplay about a love-story set in Calcutta - about a Bengali girl and a Tamil boy. I will put in all my college jokes... and invent a few more!

I tag nobody. This is a silly game!
Actually, I would like to tag Udayan - but he will fly down all the way from Bandra and strangle me!