Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Complete Works of Sipla Poppadum

There has been a general surge in resentment over the millions of pounds Ms Shilpa Shetty stands to gain post her tabloid-conquering performance in London. There is also a general feeling that this is largely undeserved.
In order to convince the world in general, and Jade Goody in specific, about the histrionic skills of the goddess they call Sipla Poppadum, I thought there is an immediate need for a critical appreciation of her body of work. (More body than work, some might snigger uncharitably but remember, she is the one sitting on a pile of money, not them.)

So, here is a quick take on the Hindi films of Shilpa Shetty. I am told that she has an equally impressive list in Telugu as well, but alas, that remains inaccessible to me.

Baazigar – She started her film career with a fling. Over the parapet, that is. Her six-foot body and Kajol’s bushy eyebrows got lost in the manic villainy of SRK. The film picked up from where she died and it was a quiet debut – as Kajol took the meat of the film and SRK the publicity.

Aag – After the brief dalliance in a swimsuit in Baazigar, Shilpa flaunted her figure like a mad woman in this film. She was supposed to playing a village belle, but if village belles dressed and talked like her, then you would have had a million real-life Swades-es happening in India!

Main Khiladi Tu Anari – Long before SRK played the Don, Shilpa did it in this film. Dancer Mona (who is Shakti Kapoor’s moll) is killed atop a lighthouse, while Akshay Kumar looks on. Enter street dancer, Bijli (with a song that goes, “Khulla hain darwaza, saajan tu aaja aaajaa aaajaaa…”) – who is a look-alike of Mona. The dehati Bijli is trained into sophisticated Mona by film star Saif and she is sent back to Shakti to do a spying act. Complete with the memory loss, even! Mona ka intezaar…

Aao Pyaar Karen – Saif, in his pre Langda Tyagi (or for that matter, pre-metrosexual days) was this longhaired wimp who sang songs about his mehbooba ki roomal. It had the standard rich-boy-poor-girl-rich-girl formula, with Shilpa being the servant of the household and Somy Ali being the spoilt brat.

Hathkadi – This is the film of the classic song, which goes something like this: Annu Malik singing LML Baba LML, hone they baba LML, Let’s Make Love Bay-bay. (Yes, LML stands for Let’s Make Love!). And then, the Shilpa Shetty character retorting GTH Baba GTH, Go To Hell etc etc. Ah such poetry… Sahir Ludhaianvi would have died of envy!

Himmat – Sunny Deol, playing a secret agent with a whole lot of missile technology doing the rounds. Shilpa is a femme fatale trying to do Sunny in, till such time her zameer awakens and she turns out to be a desh ka sachcha sipahi as well. There may or may not have been another heroine.

Chhote Sarkar – Govinda, pretending to be Shilpa’s boyfriend, because her real one has died. Usual mistaken identity shit.

Mr. Romeo – No recollection. Could be the dubbed version of one of the Telugu hits.

Auzaar – Salman Khan and Sanjay Kapoor are college friends, who end up being a police officer and a mafia don respectively. Shilpa played Sanjay Kapoor’s wife.

Zameer: The Awakening of a Soul – For some inexplicable reason, Shilpa did two movies with Flop Guru Sanjay Kapoor – and that too, back to back! Both of them sank without a trace! The plot, you ask? Does the director himself know of it?

Prithvi – Sorry, no clue!

Gambler – Govinda is in the title role. He plays a corrupt cop who is diagnosed with a terminal disease. To make best use of the short time, he turns into this supercop and kills all the baddies in record time. And then of course, the doctor says that the reports had gotten mixed up so he is not dying after all! It also had the greatest song lyrics in the history of Indian cinema, sung by then-sensation Devang Patel, one line of which goes – “Mera daddu pehne diaper, chashme par unke wiper…” I sing this line even now as I am changing my son’s diapers! What did Shilpa do in this mess? Beats me!

Aakrosh – Copy of Kindergarten Cop, with Sunil Shetty doing the Arnie role and Shilpa the teacher. Had a hit song which went, “Hello hello bolke, tere aage peeche dolke…

Pardesi Babu – Nobody saw this film. But everybody heard the hit song – "It Happens Only In India, Dhikichikidhikichiki…” – where Govinda rhymes bindiya with India.

Lal Baadshah – Shilpa’s first and last film with the Big B – which also had Manisha Koirala playing an insurance agent (of all things)! I remember Prem Chopra, Nirupa Roy, Mukesh Rishi, some of the other usual culprits – and Shilpa in an item number kind of song ("Koi hain dil lene wala, koi hain dil dene wala... I like your dance baby, dance baby..." sung by Sudesh Bhonsle), but I cannot – for the life of me – remember what her role was.

Shool – She came. She danced. She looted. Then the others came! In this angry film starring Manoj Bajpai (fighting Sayaji Shinde’s Bihari politician), Shilpa did the “Main aayi hoon UP Bihar lootne” item number and the Cow Belt was never the same again! Incidentally, Punjab Kesari (one of the leading Hindi newspapers of the day headlined Shilpa’s Big Brother victory with “UP Bihar ke baad London loota Shilpa ne”.

Tarkieb – Murder mystery? Political thriller? Business saga? Even Shilpa is not sure!

Jung – In Bengali, Jung means rust. My rusted memory cannot place this movie!

Dhadkan – Her biggest hit, which was a love triangle co-starring Akshay Kumar and Sunil Shetty. In a tangential reference to the myths, director Dharmesh Darshan likened the story to Ramayan, by saying Ravan loved Seeta as much as Ram, only his methods were dubious! Confused completely? Join the club! Some typical Nadeem-Sharavan hits, some Dharmesh Darshan melodrama and a decidedly over-the-top Sunil Shetty (hell-bent on getting the Best Villain awards) were the questionable ingredients of this hit. Shilpa was styled by Manish Malhotra for the first time and looked like a million dollars.

Indian – Sunny Deol, in yet another film, tries to (and probably succeeds!) pulverize the entire nation of Pakistan into mincemeat and make kakori kababs out of them. I am sure posters of this film still adorn dhaba walls in Punjab with Sunny-paaji garlanded! Shilpa is hidden behind the garlands.

Junoon – Not Shyam Benegal. Not Rahul Roy. Some other exercise in forgettability!

Badhaai Ho Badhaai – A film about some vague kind of family feud (oh no – not again!) in which a super-fat Anil Kapoor lands up to do the patch-up. Anil Kapoor’s fat act held curiosity only till the trailers and the film sank abominably. Shilpa had some Punjabi dialogues in this film… now, is that informative or is that informative? Some more trivia – the guy who did Eddie Murphy’s makeup in Nutty Professor worked in this film as well. What a waste of foreign exchange!

Hathyar – This is supposed to the sequel to Vaastav, and Shilpa is Sanjay Dutt’s wife. This Sanjay is the son of the Vaastav Sanjay Dutt. Unlike Vaastav, this film collapsed at the box office and the only memorable feature is Sanjay Dutt’s name – Boxer bhai. There was a tapori-style song also on the name.

Rishtey – Anil Kapoor and Karisma split after having a baby son, who gets to stay with the street-fighter (WWE style) father. Shilpa is the bombshell Marathan in the koli-style saree, who secretly loves Anil. Usual Indra Kumar potboiler with lots of cheap humour and clashing cymbals in every scene!

Karz – The only Karz I know is the one in which Monty Oberoi remembers his past life when a particular guitar riff is played!

Darna Mana Hai – Shilpa played a housewife in one of the episodes, which would also be the most tangential of the six! It was about a housewife around whom everyone starts turning into apples (after eating one)! Yes, you read that correctly. The climax of the story had Shilpa running down an empty street littered with apples! Kabhi kabhi Ramopal Verma bhi...

Chor Machaaye Shor – A Xerox copy of the Hollywood movie in which a thief hides his loot in a construction lot and goes to jail. When he returns to collect, there is a police station built there. Bobby Deol was the thief. First heroine Bipasha Basu in a tight police officer’s costume took away all the attention from Shilpa, who played the Police Commissioner’s Daughter. Made famous by Sridevi in Aakhri Raasta, this character makes repeated appearances in Hindi cinema as a comic-relief-providing bimbo, usually in love with the hero and generally screwing up investigative procedures.

Garv: Pride and Honour – Salman played a bombastic encounter cop – Arjun Ranawat – in this movie directed by Puneet Issar. Shilpa was a perfect eye-candy in between all the blood, gore and Salman kicking the CM! She flaunted her figure, sang songs in exotic locales and looked suitably stoic in the emotional scenes.

Phir Milenge – A remake of Philadelphia, with Shilpa playing the Tom Hanks character and Abhishek Bachchan the Denzel Washington one. Apparently, a sensitive film by Revathi, this belongs to that brand of cinema, which everybody praises, but nobody watches. Shilpa was nominated for Best Actress at the Filmfare awards. There is also Salman lurking somewhere in the vicinity but I am not sure where he stayed in Philadelphia!

Khamosh: Khauff Ki Raat – This was a murder movie with an ensemble cast, which had Shilpa playing a sort of a street-walker in fishnet stockings. But I am sure, she was doing it for her mother’s treatment and brother’s education. There was a lot of shrieking and screaming by her, as seen in the trailers. This was directed by Deepak Tijori, of all people!

Fareb – Her first (and hopefully, last!) film with sister Shamita Shetty, in which they both vie for the attentions of Manoj Bajpai. BUT FOR GOD’S SAKE – WHY? Abhishek, I understand. Hrithik, I understand. But why Manoj Bajpai? It is an infidelity drama, with Shilpa playing the wronged wife and Shamita the femme fatale. Or was it the other way round? Who cares – except Manoj Bajpai!

Dus – Shilpa ended the era of Hindi film heroines’ days of flying kisses with flying kicks as she played a Lara Croft kind of law enforcement officer – in tight black costumes and no-nonsense lines. Unfortunately, she got smothered by the plethora of stars around her – especially Abhishek Bachchan, who died spectacularly to hog all the limelight. Otherwise, her athletic fight scenes would have had a few clones!

Shaadi Karke Phas Gaya Yaar – Her most recent release, starring Salman, is a deep, sensitive portrayal of the resultant angst of a mismatched urban marriage. Holy crap – actually, this dinosaur of a movie was some 48 million years in the making and Salman’s hairstyle changes in almost every scene, each of which were shot about a year apart!

Apne – This is one of her forthcoming films, in which she is slated to share screen space with three Deols – Sunny, Bobby and Daddy. Abhay is presumably scared of the profusion of muscles in the film and has buzzed off. Wonder what Shilpa is going to do. But she is most likely to kiss the Deols goodbye and say hello to the Douglases from now on, so…

Metro – One more of her forthcoming releases, the producers of which are already salivating over the prospect of breaking KANK’s Great Britain box office records.

There. And remember, chicken curry rules!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Scientific Fun: Rating the Best Restaurants of India

I have managed to isolate that there can only be three criteria for evaluating a restaurant as best-in-class.
For identifying acceptable restaurants, there are innumerable. In fact, usually one overwhelming factor manages to decide which is the place we go most often to eat. Music played, parking space available, one brilliant dish on the menu, distance from residence, damage caused to wallet, blood relation to the staff - each one of the above (or other) factors could determine whether Jashn Restaurant is the place where you would spend more time than at the office.

But as I said, for those restaurants which qualify as the Holy Grails of gastronomy, there has to be a three-pronged selection criteria.

1. Randomness of Excellence
Every restaurant has a signature dish that ensures their bottomline remains black. Even if they are not as lofty as to be called 'signature', at least a couple of dishes on every menu are always fantastic, even great. But at the truly great restaurants, you can just point at a dish blindfolded and it is guaranteed to be super.

2. Ideal Comfort Zone
This is what the HT City Eating Out Guide clubs under Ambience / Service / Buzz Factor etc. For a restaurant to reach dizzying heights, it has to give you a kick and make you feel like a king - all at the same time. It has to make you feel so comfortable that you would want to go back again and again.

3. Value For Money
This is not to say that it has to be like the shack outside Statesman House in Calcutta, which served 6 pieces of Beef Kabab for Rs 10. But irrespective of whatever it charges, the food and the experience should not make you feel bad about adding a 10% tip. From Zeeshan Roll Centre to Zodiac Grill, its customers should consider the amount well spent!

A very long time back (about four and half years), I collaborated with another expert to do a listing of the Ten Best Restaurants in India. I think it is time to revise that list. Spanning Delhi, Bombay, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Calcutta - this revision is going to be very authoritative, opinionated and partisan.
Watch this space!

Welcome Back, Mr Ganguly!

That was a SMS I received at 10:27 a.m. today and said it all.
Sourav Ganguly continued his infuriating habit of doing exactly what no one expects him to do. And answered at least one of the many questions that were raised at the end of the South Africa tour.
And hopefully, these 98 runs would do what his other 10123 have failed.

Hopefully, he will finally be seen as an Indian player and not one from Bengal.
Hopefully, The Hindu will give as effusive a headline tomorrow as Anandabazar Patrika.
Hopefully, Bangalore and Mumbai will also react violently when somebody falsely accuses him of creating factionalism in the Indian team.

And hopefully, he will walk out to open the innings in Barbados on 28th of April as well.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Shakahaari: How to Fill your Stomach without Bloodshed

There has been a profusion of cholesterol and violence whenever any mention of food has been made on this blog. This is primarily due to my hereditary and cultural predilection for non-vegetarianism.
My father vehemently feels that vegetarianism a fate to which only the most unfortunate are condemned. This could be because he spent most of his early years with his grandmother who was a widow and hence, vegetarian. Because of that, he never learnt to pick fish bones and cannot stand the smell (aroma?) of fish. This strong association of vegetables with denial of pleasure has made him quite incapable of understanding the concept of voluntary vegetarianism. And, he has decidedly passed on those genes of his to me and my sister!
Apart from that, ever since Jagadish Chandra Bose proved conclusively that life exists in plants, Bengalis resigned themselves to the fact that murder for food is inevitable. Might as well kill the better tasting food, they thought!
In order to present a more balanced view, I felt there is a need for a piece on some of the excellent vegetarian food that I have had.

One of the most abiding memories of any Bengali child’s growing up is the Sunday breakfast. After a week of toast and eggs gulped down with milk, one looked forward to the leisurely Sunday breakfast.
It usually consisted of luchi (the Bengali equivalent of poori) and a dry potato preparation. The hot luchis, served fresh and steaming, were milky white since they were made of maida. It has been empirically proved that there is absolutely no limit to the number of luchis that can be eaten by a Bengali male. No limit, at all – for it has been reliably confirmed that people have gulped down luchis in hundreds.
The potato preparation varied from family to family – as people seemed to have their own favourites. It could be a simple aloo bhaja (a crisper, thinner version of French Fries) or any dry sauté of potato (using tomato/turmeric/garlic/ginger/methi/chilly as flavouring). Luchi-aloor torkari, served with a little bit of pickle on the side, is something programmed into my DNA and has very few parallels – non-veg food included!

A very long time ago in Delhi, a restaurant opened and called itself Bukhara. It served North-Western Frontier cuisine and cooked their kababs in a glass-walled kitchen for all to see and drool on. While their mutton, chicken and prawns were being raved about all over the world, their signature dish turned out to be their daal. I first tasted Daal Bukhara – a black daal redolent with butter – in 1986 on a trip to Delhi and even at the age of twelve years, it got etched on my mind so deeply that when I went back to Maurya Sheraton another twelve years later, I had a lunch only of this daal and roomali rotis. I think this qualifies as that one vegetarian dish, which is sinful enough for me to renounce my kababs and tikkas. At least for some time!

Living in Calcutta, the opportunity to eat great vegetarian food in restaurant is non-existent. Firstly, why waste money on greenery when you can graze in the Maidan for free? Secondly, there are no vegetarian restaurants to speak of. It was only out of Calcutta, that I ate completely vegetarian meals out of home.
The first experience of this was when I was in Jamshedpur for my MBA, there were at least two vegetarian places that provide nourishment not only for the body but for the soul as well.
The first was Madrasi Sammelan (called Mad Sam in student lingo) – whose biggest utility was that it opened in the wee hours of the morning. After a night of tiring and dehydrating oneself in drunken binges, one could hardly wait for the Mess to start serving breakfast (at eight)! So, groups of four trooped into autos (sharing the 40-buck fare) and reached Mad Sam at the stroke of six to gorge on the steaming hot idlis and dosas. Since, I never had a meal at Mad Sam, which was NOT within one hour of having my last drink, I am unable to state very authoritatively whether Mad Sam served the best dosas in the world. But, at 6 a.m. in the morning, they were God’s messengers, distributing ambrosia to the heathen.
The second place in Jamshedpur was Karnail Singh Da Dhaba. Now, they certainly qualify as the makers of the best stuffed paranthas I have ever had. Aloo, gobi, mooli, methi – you name it, Sardarji made it. And served it with huge dollops of white butter at such speed that more parathas materialized before you could finish the first round. Asking him to stop with your mouth full was again a difficult task and so, a lunch at 1 o’clock meant a siesta long enough to miss the 7 p.m. class at least – if not the 9 p.m. one!

On my first job, I was banished to the South of Vindhyas and I learnt for the first time that Madrasis were actually a small percent of South Indians and they spoke at least four languages (not counting the dialects). I also learnt that Chettinad cuisine is one of the best-kept secrets of Tamil Nadu, probably to keep job-seeking Bengalis away!
But Saravana Bhavan dosas – while crisp and tasty – were not stuff to die (or kill) for. So, on my first stint in Chennai, I had to survive on Saravana Bhavan and raid Karaikudi (a Chettinad joint) and Panjim (Goanese) for their chicken and pork respectively.
However, when I went back for a second (extended) stint, I made two discoveries.
1. The best Andhra thalis are not served in Andhra Prdesh, but in Bangalore.
2. Idlis can be magical. Almost as good as Chicken Rezala.

Bangalore’s Nandhini group of restaurants introduced me to the most wonderful Andhra thalis – and despite their ubiquitous presence, the lunch-hour rush was inevitable.
But the best Andhra thali – complete in its fiery hedonism – has to be the one at Bheema’s (Church Street) beating out RR (on the same street) by a whisker. RR, incidentally, was the first ever Andhra style restaurant opening in Bangalore, which re-opened in 2003 after being shut for some time.
Both served the full complement of Andhra delicacies in varying degress of hotness. Starting from the gun-powder (eaten mixed with rice and ghee) to the daals & sambars, the beauty of both these places was that you did not feel the full impact of the spices when you were having the food. It was only when you were walking down Church Street, you felt a slow volcano building up and erupting through nostrils, reddened ears and enlarged sweat glands! One man's bliss is another's masochism!

Murugan Idli Shop was the institution to have brought about the second of the above revelations. A tiny shop - up a few stairs - on G. N. Chetty Road of T.Nagar in Chennai is where I went for a working lunch one day. One bite of their 'soft idli' (served with four kinds of chutneys) and I came back every single time I was in Chennai. Even at the cost of waiting for pretty long periods of time, the fluffiness of their idlis remained a un-missable allure. And if I remember correctly, the idlis were priced at Rs 4.50 each and the ghee masala dosa was at Rs 22. Even after stuffing myself to the point of bursting (along with a colleague), the thambi always managed to get back some change from a 100-buck note! The only grouse against Murugan is that they serve their sambar directly on the banana leaf (and not in a bowl), so you almost end up licking it off to prevent seepage onto your trousers!

The last stop of the Veggie Express has been identified in the city of Kanpur - during my exertions to launch a Hindi newspaper there. It is Gyan Vaishnav, a sattvik eatery, situated right next to a traffic junction (which, in turn, is very close to railway crossing). So, even if you do not get run over by a train, Sumo or scooter while trying to enter the restaurant, you will find eternal bliss in their ghee-laden preparations of aloo gobi, daal tadka and fresh rotis. And they some how manage to gauge your fullness. So after a while, the benign waiter smiles and provides tissues and water - without trying to hard-sell their mithais!

There, the alternative viewpoint. But remember - "If God didn't want us to eat animals, He wouldn't have made them out of meat."

Friday, January 12, 2007

Celluloid Getaways: Filmi Places To Go To

Hindi cinema is such a star-centric industry that seldom do makers bother with chronological and geographical accuracies. Alternately, they end up choosing locations for their scenic beauty and not for their contribution to the screenplay.
So, you have Yuva's major action scenes happening on the Vidyasagar Setu of Calcutta, but the story may well have been set anywhere else. Corrupt politics and youth awakening is hardly the monopoly of Bengal anymore! On the other hand, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar - with its plot of swanky boarding schools and 'fatichar locals' needed Dehradun, which it promised in the opening commentary.
Ramgopal Verma's visceral takes on the Underworld could well have happened anywhere but the director is insistent on grounding them in Mumbai. Quite a change from the 1970's underworld films, where even well-known landscapes were given fictional names. E.g. Deewaar, where Amitabh comes out of an eminently recognisable Hotel Sun 'n' Sand but the script calls it 'Sona Bar'!

Here are 7 fictional places of Hindi cinema. Could well have been 8, but I completely forgot the name of the place of which Simi is the Raani in Karz! (Nilendu...? )

Dongri-La: One of the infinitesimally few examples of pun in Hindi cinema. Dongri-La was the kingdom of super-villain Dong ("Jo kabhi wrong nahin ho sakta"), played with great relish by Amrish Puri. Dong was a Chinese looking (complete with the pigtail!), musically inclined villain who was subjected to fate worse than Saddam Hussein's... Javed Jaffrey, Naseerddin Shah and Aditya Panscholi in drag! Serves him right for all that gluttony... He kept on singing "Shaam shaam shaam shaam samosa-sa" instead of just ordering some of those from Nathu's Chat Centre!
There is no record of the geographical location of this place except that it is located in the middle of an ice wall kind of thingamajig, which can only be reached through cable-crawling and then entering through one small window - which is left open by a traitor (and whom Dong has killed by now, so perish the thought of getting there)!

Rampur: This is from where Lakshman hailed, in the eponymous film. Lakshman, played by Kareena and Karisma's father, sang a wonderful song "Goom hain kisike pyaar mein..." (RD, who else?) which was about his only claim to fame. Of course, he sang this to a make-up caked girl called Bhanurekha Ganesan (sitting on a swing, which did not collapse - at least, not on screen!), who was almost as fat as Adnan Sami but nobody minded too much since her cleavage show was better marketed than Adnan's "Lift kara de" hand-pumping routine!
Mr Kapoor sings energetically about how he is a Rampur ka baasi, for those amoeboid organisms who came to see the film but did not catch on where the hero hailed from! Unfortunately, there is no information of the location of Rampur. Presumably, there is no connection between this Rampur and the one of long-handled knives! After all, Lakshman hung around with a long staff. No, not that kind - you perverts! I meant a lathi!

Dhanakpur: This is where it all started. Thakur Dhanraj Singh killed Ratan Singh to avenge the injustice on his sister. And then, a couple of decades later, his son - Raj - came back to this place and fell in love with his arch enemy's daughter, Rashmi. And movie initials became the rage... long before K3G ruled the multiplexes, QSQT (sometimes, written as QS Cutie) came up with a marketing line like no other - "Who's Aamir Khan? Ask the girl next door!"
This is a place close to Delhi, possible to do a day trip by bike. Thats how Raj and Shyam went there. It also had a sessions court where Ajit Vachchani was a paan-spitting lawyer. And if you were lucky, you could see Rashmi Singh - in a yellow dress - riding a horse. But then, the guy who saw her like that died in her arms at the stroke of sunset. Lucky?

Fursatganj & Pankhinagar: Rakesh, son of TC Trivedi-ji, stayed in the former. Vimmi Saluja, whose parents wanted her to marry a head clerk, stayed in the latter.
Pankhinagar is in the Lucknow district (as a Miss India organiser of Kanpur said) and Vimmi got off at Lucknow from the Jhansi Mail. (There's no such train stopping at Lucknow, at least! Maybe it is Gwalior Mail.) So, Pankhinagar threatens to be somewhere around where real-life Sultanpur exists. Fursatganj remains steadfastly coordinate-less.
From the pictures of the towns, the mindscapes of its residents and their trajectory after they leave, these could be Anytown in Uttar Pradesh - where walls do not constrain dreams, where Bombay is the Holy Grail and where Himesh Reshammaiya is God!

Champaner: Okay, Champaner exists. In Gujarat.
But that is not the village where a band of 11 rag-tag Indians defeated the British. In a game of cricket. In 1893, a guy called Bhuvan went up one Captain Andrew Russell and challenged him to him a game of 'firangi gilli-danda' and, to borrow a Ravi Shastri cliche, set the cat among the pigeons.
Day-and-night cricket. Coloured clothing. Match fixing. Foreign coach. The 'doosra'. Last-ball victory. Nothing we saw in modern day cricket was not seen in the match of a 100 years ago... and it was a game like no other.
The drought and the landscape seemed to indicate a mid-Western location for the village. The crew shot near Bhuj and the language was a happy mix of central Indian dialects of Hindi.

Ramgarh: Kashiraam. Dhaulia. Imam sahab. Ahmed. Basanti. Mausi. Radha. Ramlal. Even without the main players, the village of Ramgarh gets populated and gets a life of its own. The ironsmith's shop. The village well, where the dead body of Ahmed arrives. The Thakur's house on a hillock. The famous water tank. The mango orchard. The talao. The Shiv mandir. The Holi maidan. We have been subjected to these set pieces so many times that if we are let off in the village, we can find our way around. And since the entire village was actually mapped and constructed, there is not a false step and no geographical inconsistencies either.
When Ahmed is offered a job in a beedi factory, Basanti mentions the two 'large cities' close by - Meerut and Moradabad. So, the badlands of Central UP is where Ramgarh has to be located. (But the shooting location was a place called Ramanagaram, about a hundred kms from Bangalore. Its landscape is now called "Sholay Rocks" and is a tourist attraction.)