Saturday, June 30, 2007

For Adults Only

If my blog was a film to be released in USA, this is the rating I would have got - which means no teenage audiences and therefore, no hope of breaking the opening weekend record of Pirates of the Caribbean! This rating was based on the usage of the words sex (4 times), steal (2 times) and kill (1 time) on the front page of my blog. It's a good thing that Dick went off the first page or else I may have got saddled with a X-rating!

So, keep the kids away!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Eighteen Till I Die: Songs from the last Century

I have already chronicled my eighteenth year (1992) in terms of the films that released then. Now Mad Momma wants to know about my favourite music from that year as well and she has helpfully provided two websites, on which I am not able to recognize a single song. Nobody told me they were English language websites!
Well, I will have to rely to my memory and earlier list for the music I liked when I turned old enough to vote!

Cable television started in India around 1991 – and we got our connection towards the end of that year. So, when I turned 18 (the next year), there were MTV, Star, Zee and DD Metro (in a new improved avatar) to choose our music from.
The only songs that I remember from the early days of MTV are Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit (where a whole lot of long-haired punks tried to break guitars) and Bryan Adams’ Everything I Do (which became the Mush Anthem of the times).
The high point of my week was Superhit Muqabla – which was India’s first countdown show and was hosted by Ekta Kapoor in one of its first episodes. My sister and I watched that one and we concluded that the lady had absolutely no future in television. Not in front of the camera, that is!

It had also been a few years since a cassette company called T Series had started and they already had notched up several hits in a market dominated by HMV.
T Series started two things. One, the concept of Jhankaar Beats, where old classics were appended with a dhikichiki dhikichiki background strain to make them dancier (though not as pleasing)! And two, the religious album, where Mata Vaishno Devi and Shirdi Waale Sai Baba’s hymns were composed, remixed, jhankaared and popularized with great speed.
Of course, they started with Kumar Sanu regurgitating all of Kishore Kumar’s hits in a voice, which appeared as very nasal then but gained great popularity post the success of Aashiqui.

Some of the Hindi films that released that year had absolutely brilliant music.
Of them, my favourite has to be Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar. One of Jatin-Lalit’s earlier hits, it had a RD hallmark to the music, which again was in the typical Nasir Hussain style. College romance peppered with lots of dulcet melodies and zingy tunes. Pehla Nasha, the signature tune, was shot brilliantly by Farah Khan and as Nilendu points out, she became the first choreographer in an industry where her people in her profession were known as dance masters. All the songs of JJWS were runaway hits though my favourite is the least popular one called ‘Rooth kar humse jab chale jaoge tum’ – a very melodious number, filmed fantastically as well on two kids (playing Aamir and his brother Mamik’s childhood versions). Worth a hear. Buy the album, if you have to.

The second big musical of the year was the first and last successful crossover of a Southern artiste. Where Rajanikanth and Kamalahaasan failed, AR Rehman succeeded and continues to remain the country’s most inventive music composer.
Roja, even with its slightly stilted lyrics, managed to have the most imaginative use of background vocals and electronic music as the valleys of Kashmir came alive to the tunes of Yeh haseen vaadiyaan and Roja Jaaneman. Chhoti si Asha still turns up at FM request programmes and Baba Sehgal’s version of Rukmini Rukmini still manages to bring a smile to our lips. After all, that was the first time a suhaag raat was described in such graphic detail in a Hindi song!

The third big hit of the year belonged to the composers who had done nothing to push the envelope and yet was churning out hits with regularity for the last couple of years – Nadeem Shravan.
Phool Aur Kaante was Ajay Devgun’s debut and the year’s most filmi album.
And in today’s age of swanky colleges (that look more like museums), I miss those tacky corridors and canteens in which Ajay Devgun rolled (literally) on the floors and sang ‘Tujhe dekh kar dil mera dhadka, mera jaan phadakti hain / Koi jannat ki woh hoor nahin, meri college kiiiiiiii ek ladki hain’.

Another reasonable album but momentous film of the year was SRK’s first maiden hit as the eponymous hero of Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman. It added a new disease to the Hindi film lexicon with ‘Sardi khnaasi na malaria hua / Main gaya yaaron, mujhko love love love Loveria hua’.

Apart from the above, a few other hits that I remember:
* Dhak dhak karne lagaa (Beta) – Madhuri sang, sighed, slithered, simmered and sizzled in what was a trademark Saroj Khan choreography.
* Dil tera hain deewana aii aii yo aii aii yo (Muqabla) – One of the first examples of motorized pelvises, inane lyrics and Govinda-Karisma pairings.
* Aisi deewangi (Deewana) – The winner of the Filmfare Award for the Best Music, this film was not a patch on JJWS, if you ask me but it still had a few very hummable numbers and Shah Rukh’s grand entry atop a bike singing ‘Koi na koi chahiye pyaar karne wala’. Though again, that was not a patch on the other entry on a motorbike – ‘Rote hue aate hain sab’.

As far as Bengali music was concerned, a huge impact was made with the release of Tomake Chaii – the first album by Suman Chatterjee.
Till then, the Bengali song was restricted to love, nature, patriotism, spirituality for most part. Political consciousness was present but the issue often overwhelmed the musicality so much that they were hardly memorable.
Suman arrived on the scene and redefined modern Bengali music with infusion of modern imagery, language and style. He talked about urban life and contemporary issues, to the accompaniment of a strumming guitar. His concerts became hugely popular thanks to his interspersing of the songs with relevant comments.
Suman wrote, composed and sang all his songs – most of which can qualify as very good poetry as well. His exposure to Western music – classical and popular – showed up in his songs as a pretty strong influence. He spawned a new genre named ‘Jibonmukhi gaan’ (literally – songs looking at life) and there have been a large number of singers who got on to this bandwagon. These singers ranged from the good, the bad to the ugly but the Bengali music scene was infused with a fresh breath of life with the reloaded lyrics, off-beat tunes, stylized rendition and most importantly – identifiable themes.
College romance. Hill-station nostalgia. Political protests. City nostalgia. Translation of Dylan. Middle-class and middle-aged frustrations. All this and more found their way into the songs of Suman and his contemporaries.
And also, Suman broke the stereotype of the Bengali love song with a fresh idiom. The best example is probably the first song of his first album, of which I will try to translate few lines…

Kobekar kolkatar shohorer pothe / In the streets of ancient Calcutta
Purono notun mukh ghore imarote / In the new & old buildings & faces
Ogunti manusher klanto michhile / In the tired processions of teeming millions
Ochena chhutir chhnowa tumi ene dile / You got me a breath of fresh air
Nagorik klantite tomake chaii / In urban angst, its you I want
Ek phnota shantite tomake chaii / In an oasis of peace, its you I want
Bohudur hnete eshe tomake chaii / I want you after walking miles
E jibon bhalobeshe tomake chaii / I want you so that I can love life

Shirshendur kono notun novel e / When I am reading the latest novel
Hothat porte bosha abol tabole / Or when I am remembering poems from childhood
Obodhdho kobitay thumri kheyale / Listening to poetry or classical music
Slogane slogane dhaka deyale deyale / Standing beside slogan-covered walls
Salil Chowdhurir fele asha gane / In the lost songs of my youth
Chaurasia-r bashi mukhorito prane / In the exuberant flautist’s tune
Bhule jaowa Himangshu Dottor shure / In the obscure tunes of a forgotten composer
Shei kobekar onurodher ashore / In the famous tunes of request shows
Tomake chaii, tomake chaii, tomake chaii, tomake chaii / Its you I want, you I want, only you, nobody but you…

Prothomoto, ami tomake chaii / Firstly, its you I want
Ditioto, ami tomake chaii / Secondly, its you I want
Tritioto, ami tomake chaii / Thirdly, its you I want
Shesh porjonto, tomake chaii / Till the end of time, its only you…

And the all-pervading entity that is the subject of such wondrous longings? As Suman revealed, it’s a cigarette.

1992 was also the year when a man died. The subtleties of his music have consumed books to chronicle. I will not try to fit it in the same post where I have mentioned Nadeem-Shravan as well. Maybe some other day...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Becoming Soon: Cliches of the Next Generation

My good friend – AKB – has asked for a recap of the number of times “Main tumhare bachche ka maa banne wali hoon” has been said on screen. This is probably the most clichéd use of a cliché – it has been demonstrated as a cliché more number of times than it has been actually said on screen!
The true blue cliché is actually “Sab kuchh theek ho jayega” as there was a time till the end-90s before which I had not seen a single movie without this line being spoken!
Anyways, trying to recap solely depending on my porous memory would mean I would forget more than I would remember. So I thought I will turn his request on its head and do a bit of crystal gazing to figure out which are the dialogues / scenes that are going to become a cliché in a few years from now.

Exposing a gay relationship
Konkona Sensharma has already become to this what Nirupa Roy was to motherhood! She has already done in twice (Page 3, Life in a Metro) and looking good for more. With more and more films being made on a realistic gay relationship, it is only natural that the most dominant theme – closet homosexuality – will have to be depicted pretty regularly.
What will make it tiresome is the way it will be shown. In both the films mentioned above, the scene unfolds in exactly the same manner in which the hetero partner (cuckold?) arrives at the apartment of the closet-gay for a celebration (Konkona was even holding exactly the same things – a bottle of wine and flowers) and sees her lover in bed with (an)other man.
How long before a man walks on to a lesbian couple? I can bet the expression would not be the aghast look which Konkona had!

Signs of suicide
More and more dysfunctional relationships on screen can mean only one thing – more and more suicide attempts. And as in the socials of 1960s, a close-up of the mangal-sutra was required to signify a married woman, we will keep having close-ups of sutured wrists to show the harried woman.
The cliché will probably not be the fact that people try to end their lives to get away from it all but the fact that these characters are always women. I guess men just choose a more leisurely way of ending their lives (ref: Devdas) and a slashed wrist is much more amenable to cinematic drama than an x-ray of a shriveled liver!
Kangana Ranaut has tried both options (Woh Lamhe, Gangster) and she looks perennially poised on the edge of a parapet about to jump off!

Thirty Plus
It is said that Rajesh Khanna took almost 15 years to get out of college. He started as a college student in one of his first hits – Do Raaste (late 60s) – and stayed right on till Souten (early 80s).
The 16-year old heroine falling in love with the 19-year old hero continued till Rishi Kapoor just could NOT fit into the benches of those colleges that were hired for the film shoot! That cliché’s last rites were performed when the only crib against Rang De Basanti was the 40-year old Aamir Khan hovering around the gates of Delhi University. We never raised an eyebrow when Mithun jumped around HS College in the mid-90s!
Now of course, the age combos have just multiplied with old-man-old-woman (Baghban, Pyaar Mein Twist), older-woman-young-man (Leela), young-woman-old-man (Cheeni Kum) all elbowing out the teenybopper romance!
The cliché around this is the forced ridiculing of the elderly member(s) of the couple, which brings about a (temporary) realization about the age difference. “Aapka toh abhi bhagwaan ka naam lena chahiye…” is usually the unsolicited advice and it produces an equally stereotypical angry reaction, followed by doubts on the future of the relationship and remorse!
Of course, sometimes the line is as funny as “Uncle ko Durex chahiye” but the situation is a cliché and threatening to become bigger!

Multiplex Lingo
Now, there is a new genre in town called a ‘muliplex movie’ – which is to say that it survives not on script, direction or acting but on savvy marketing. The business model is quite sound as it is probably easier to get a hundred viewers in Infiniti Mall at Rs 200 each than five hundred at Sultanpur at Rs 40 each! Especially, if you have paid more money to Akki Narula than Abhishek Bachchan.
So you have movies with lots of English – which is so far removed from the 1960s, when even the Japanese and the French spoke Hindi (Love in Tokyo and An Evening in Paris respectively). But even with your focus on the multiplex, you can still see Etawah from the corner of your eye and try to rake in a little bit of moolah from there as well. So, you lazily translate the smattering of English in your film in the script itself and there is this irritating cliché of mixed languages!
So Preity Zinta says, “I am engaged. Meri mangni ho chuki hain.” Somebody asks, “What’s the time? Time kya hain?” and it is only a matter of time before someone says, “I am pregnant. Main tumhare bachche ka maa banne wali hoon.

Infantile Adultery
Finally, Hindi cinema has managed to have people survive pre-marital or extra-marital sex. Till as late as the 1990s, the lead players of Hindi cinema either died or got widowed or got tuberculosis or took to prostitution or had to smell an anaconda’s fart even if their shadows touched during a song on a rainy night! And of course, they got pregnant.
Not any more! Mallika Sherawat (in Murder) neither died nor got pregnant for having an extra-marital affair – but she had to repeatedly kiss Emraan Hashmi, which is probably a fate worse than death!
Jokes apart, the cliché is the stereotypical way in which a married woman and man approach a liaison.
The married woman is guilty and has pangs of conscience. She pulls away from the man and even exits the room. And then she comes back for a reason (excuse?) and is pulled into the whole ‘mess’. She usually cries after the first time. The married man – on the other hand – is an unmitigated bastard who has no qualms and is shown to have flirtatious conversations with his partner (who is obviously unattached).
I think it will take some doing for the Sati Savitri cliché to be forgotten!

How many years before AKB’s son asks my son for a recap of a Bollywood cliché of their times – “Kya main iss bachche ka baap hoon?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Rice and Meat

This friend of mine suddenly pulled a fast one on me. He claimed all biriyanis are overrated... what is biriyani after all, he asked? Some good old red meat and uncomplicated rice thrown together with a dash of onion and garlic paste. And voila - you have a meal for the lazy male Greek god, whose simple mind cannot process more than 'duh meat yeah'!

What the fornication is this? Has Tunday Kababi lost out to Saravana Bhavan? Are the Gosht Godfathers getting masscared by the Sambhar Mafia? Has the poster boy of cholesterol converted after his marriage?
Those are questions that will only be answered when he lands up in Delhi next but for the time being, I thought it would be interesting to explore this whole business of mixing rice and meat to come up with food that at least some crazy people will take some pains to get to!

First things first, there is no better example of an oxymoron than Vegetable Biriyani.
For the veggies, please understand that meat constitutes approximately 80% of the cost of a non-veg rice dish. If you replace meat with vegetable, then the price is reduced by 5% and cost falls by 90%. Do the math and try to figure how you are contributing to entry of F&B entrepreneurs into the Forbes List of Richest People in the World!

There is a pretty strong misconception in Calcutta that non-veg food ceases to exist once you cross Orissa. So, when I was posted to Madras for my first job, the entire dynasty went into mourning. I steeled myself for an extended tryst with rice paste delicacies. As luck would have it, I took up residence in a place called Royapettah which has the highest density of biriyani restaurants in urban India apart from the Charminar and Jama Masjid areas! So, while my grandmothers were shedding tears over my gastronomical misfortune, I would be breaking fast with a quick half-plate chicken biriyani at Velu Military Hotel!

Anyways, the addition to my biriyani repertoire in Madras happened by way of Chettinad Biriyani.
It is the spiciest and least oily biriyani I have ever had. The spice was not through chilli but black pepper - which had a more gasping kick. Of course, the dish would also be redolent of cardamom, cinnamom and a whiff of coconut (apart from the standard onion and garlic). Also, the recipe works best with chicken because mutton tends to absorb the spices more and that makes it a little overpowering.
Karaikudi was one restaurant in Madras where I pigged out on all kinds of Chettinad dishes, though I cannot - for the life of me - remember how their biriyani was.

From Chennai, I moved on to Bangalore - where the entrant was Andhra Biriyani.
I think I have made this point earlier as well that the best Andhra cuisine is found in the capital city of Karnataka. This kind of biriyani had chillies - lots and lots of them - with green chillies being cooked into the rice and a whole lot of red chilli powder added on for good measure. Again, it is not oily at all and almost dry. So you have to add copious quantities of raita to make it wet and dull the chilli!
RR and Bheema's (both on Church Street) have killer recipes of the Andhra biriyani. The ubiquitous Nandhini chain is also worth a meal - at least for beginners because you might die of a spice attack if you try out Bheema's on first go!

Time for the third Southern metro to raise its hand be counted for probably the most famous brand of biriyani - the Hyderabadi Biriyani.
This has a very strong Mughal influence and uses a lot of oil and saffron. A lot of hue and cry is made whether the meat should be cooked along with the rice (dum) or be pre-cooked and added to the rice. Frankly, the first one is a high-risk, high-gain option. If you manage to cook the meat right, then it is a feast for the gods. If not, order takeway!
And don't forget the Haleem to go with the biriyani. Minced meat made into a thick porridge by adding daal and wheat, it is traditionally eaten to break the Ramzan fast. It is a deadly rich accompaniment to the biriyani and as Anthony Bourdain says, "If I have to die, I want to die with a morsel of this in my mouth!"
If you go to the swankier places like the Kakatiya Sheraton, then they go the whole hog and serve the biriyani in earthen pots with the cover sealed with atta dough. However, if you can make do without these trivialities, then the place to go is Paradise. Cannot think of too many restaurants which identify the road/place they are located in and Paradise is one such institution standing proudly on Paradise Circle! Bawarchi is the other contender (which also has an equally fanatical following) but I personally found them to be overrated.
The most revolutionary rendition of the Hyderabadi biriyani is the Midnight Biriyani - which is a buffet of biriyanis (even veg ones!) served with an assortment of raita, mirchi ka saalan and haleem! Hotel Green Park's no-frills offering is highly recommended after the pubs close and all that dancing has burnt a whole lot of calories!

Bombay is one city where I have hardly sampled a fraction of the food it offers. Also, thanks to the cosmo nature, there is a little bit of every good thing in Bombay which I have only scratched the surface of. Blame it on the long commute!
I have only heard of Irani Biriyani of Cafe Britannia and managed to sample it at conveniently located Lucky's at Bandra. The intricacies of Bohri Biriyani remain unsampled. The marination, the gravy-centred rice and the spice will have to be researched on a later day.
What I can comment on is Cafe Noorani near Haji Ali. I have had the privilege of having their Fish Biriyani and that was quite heavenly. Imagine a succulent fish tikka with a semi-gravy feel getting soaked in the oil/ghee of the rice and becoming softer! Now imagine a game... there is a mound of rice and you do not know how many such tikkas are there in it! You have an hour on Sunday afternoon to find out... wanna play?

Now, I go North and arrive at the biriyani that developed closest to the Mughal kitchen itself - the Awadhi Biriyani. They operate on the principle that you cannot spoil a dish in any way if you add a whole lot of meat and ghee.
Not surprisingly, there are very few good biriyani joints in Delhi, which is essentially a roti-shoti-tikka-shikka town. Deez Biriyani does a reasonable job of show and taste by home delivering a mean Awadhi Biriyani in a covered earthen handi.
Delhi has one very robust culinary culture. Most of its localities have meat shops which double up as kabab-paratha joints in the evening. Thanks to their day job, the quality of the meat is first-rate and it is very difficult to screw up from there. They extend this by taking party orders for biriyani which they get made from secret kitchens in the Jama Masjid area. Our local butcher - Shamim's - supplies by the kilo if you order a day in advance and provides a biriyani with the highest meat/rice ratio I have had.

That brings us to Calcutta - which embraced the Awadhi biriyani and made it into the Calcutta Biriyani. Imagine a perfect recipe and suddenly you feel it does not have enough cholesterol. So, you add a potato to it! Still not clogging the arteries? Oh well, thrown in a boiled egg as well and light-fry the bloody egg before adding it.
Shiraz, aptly described as The Golden Restaurant, is the iconic Calcutta restaurant which has the added sentimental value of being the first place where I had biriyani from. Calcuttans love underdogs a lot and arguments even more. So, any discussion on the best biriyani joints have a lot of contenders and usually end in abusive fisticuffs. In recent times, Arsalan (on the Park Circus circle) has emerged as a place which could hold its own in such discussions.
No roundup of Calcutta biriyanis is complete without a mention of the annual Eid feast at the Saturday Club, organised by the Club's Muslim waiters. They get in bawarchis from Lucknow and the goats are walked down as well. Gentle souls would cringe but apparently the long walk improves the meat quality of their thighs. It is meant for a private gathering - only the Club members and their guests can attend - but let me very confidently state that this is the only perfect biriyani I have tasted.

Life is all about finding your own perfect mixture of rice and meat.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Aap Ki Farmaayish

The title is a hark back to the good old days of AIR and Vividh Bharti, where Ameen Sayani or one of his innumerable clones would read out “Patiala se Neetu, Chintu, Dabboo,Babita aur unke saathi, Haldwani se Sumeet Saigal, Avinash Wadhawan, Rahul Roy aur unke dost, Kalkatta se Deepak Parashar, Vinod Khanna aur Pran…” before telling us we will be hearing “Mohammed Rafi aur Suman Kalyanpur ke awaaz mein, Gulzar ke geet, Roshan ke suron se saja Aflatoon film ka gaana…
Likewise, this is an attempt to consolidate all the interesting requests I have got in the Comments on what to write on next! Some of them are eminently doable and will never get done because of my laziness. Some are rather esoteric and will happen when I am getting bored in some faraway hotel room… so apologies in advance for the ones I won’t be doing!

Anonymous: Post on Indo-Anglian fiction by Parsis.
This sounds a bit like Mastermind topics (Rulers of England between 1097-1106). But since I have read all of one book by Rohinton Mistry, I will have to let this pass! But if you give me an easier topic and leave a name next time, I will try harder to oblige.

Raven: Post on best sports movies of all times.
International cinema is just not my scene. I watch English movies only sporadically so I am simply not the guy who can write on best sports movies. Maybe my top sporting memories. But then that would hardly be interesting...

Mad Momma: Post on mixed background kids.
Hmm... interesting premise. Wait a sec, do you mean mixed background kids generally or in Bollywood? Cannot think of too many right now but I am sure some thoughts would arise some time or the other...
Oh-kay, one thought arises in the form of a question for you (and others as well): Which famous Bombay couple have twin sons by the name of Kamal Bashir and Kabir Narayan?
(Post your answers in Comments.)

Cute Chunky Chick: Post on Goan Catholics.
Though you probably meant about their pronunciation but I think I will extend it to Goan Catholics in Bollywood instead! Some very interesting characters, lots of stereotypes... and even some moral dilemmas faced by Catholics! Coming soon to a screen near you!And boy, modesty is just not your thing, eh?

Rimi: Post on children's fiction in Bengali.Well, for one thing, I started re-reading all my Feluda and Prof Shonku collections post your request and thought of writing in detail on some of my favourite authors. Though when I get down to writing it, it will probably in the form of my favourite books from my childhood.
On a related note, recently Spaniard wrote about a Nostalgia Challenge about whether we have over-rated notions about books we read in our childhood. I, for one, have only lovely memories… but then I was reading primarily in Bengali!

If I forgotten any one, please send in a postcard… aap ki farmayish agle hafte zaroor bajaya jayega!

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Billion Votes

Generally, politicians in India do not do anything that does not cater to a mobilisable group of people and they get reviled for their vote bank politics. On that note, is there any other kind of politics? However, politicians the world over do exactly the same.
I usually do not write on current affairs - but two recent events have left me wondering on the concept of vote banks.

The first is the 'Indians for Hillary' episode. The Barak Obama camp spoke what was evidently a pro-America option, which is when somebody reminded him what happened to John Kerry. Now they are strenously denying that he ever wanted any jobs not to be outsourced. Obviously, the Green Card Lobby is fast becoming the strongest vote bank in the US.
Also, Obama's campaign database is probably being managed by TCS!

The second is the 'Vote for Taj' campaign initially run on Internet, which has now been extended to SMS and all the FM radio channels in the country have taken it upon themselves to ensure that the queen's tomb remains in the Top 7.
Overtly patriotic souls (like my mother, for example) is exhorting all and sundry to vote. However, the telecom companies do not share her patriotism and they are charging Rs 3 for every SMS. PSUs MTNL and BSNL are loyally charging only Re 1. And if you vote (which I did - I always listen to mom!), then you get a return message of thanks from Fair & Lovely. Obviously, some more money is being made!
Anyway, the happy outcome of Taj retaining its 7 Wonders tag is the tourism boost that would ensure India's Golden Triangle does not become a straight line.
Breaking News: AR Rehman has even composed a Taj anthem, which is surely the worst tune he has ever composed!

Cynical souls are quite convinced that Taj won't make it (as it is currently No. 20th in the list). But somehow, I am immensely trusting of the power of a billion people. Given that so many of us are there and even more have mobile phones, I don't think Acropolis and Sydney Opera House really have a chance! Like always, Great Wall of China is about the only one which can beat us.

Actually, my confidence stems from this poll, which had shown the world what a few Indians with internet connections can do!
This is the poll in which Amitabh Bachchan beat Olivier, Chaplin, De Niro and Marilyn Monroe to become the Star of the Millennium. Everybody knows about that! What is lesser known is the star who came at No. 10 in the same poll.
It was Govinda. Yes, our very own Virar ka Chhokra beat Brando, Cruise and Jack Nicholson to the list. The bigger surprise is that he beat even Shah Rukh to it!
And it all happened probably because a group of Indian software engineers decided it would be a lark if the Hero No 1 got the honour.

Last year, the entire nation broke into fisticuffs over the devate whether Silchar Assam ke Debojit should win Sa Re Ga Ma Pa on Zee TV. All this while, a few good men in the Eastern part of the country diligently worked on their T9 keyboards to elbow out a slew of more-talented contestants from UP, Andhra and Haryana.

Its all about the vote bank.
A group of reasonably dedicated people must decide that their candidate must win as it will accord them some (in)tangible benefits. It is critical that this group coalesces and starts acting for the desired result to emerge.
I am sure there is a Babloo Sharma who wants female tourists to come to Agra so that he can rape them in his tinted-glass Maruti van. I am sure Bharat Rastogi wants tourists to come to India so that his bread-and-breakfast setup can start making money.
And of course, there is my mother...

So, N7W - here we come! And next time, we will nominate Bangalore's Forum Mall as the Indian entry - just to make it a little more difficult - and still win!

Babloo - are you voting or not?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Fathers' Day

I am told that tie sales in the US zoom during the second week of June – because the entire nation starts buying them as Fathers’ Day gifts. That is as unimaginative as it gets as far as gifts go and may stand in as a Fathers’ Day ritual. I am not aware of any other.
Mothers’ Day is usually associated with letting Mom take it easy by doing her work in the house. Given that a mother’s job is not only linked to attitude but aptitude as well, I have this feeling that actually Mom’s work gets increased if clumsy people get into her domain and try to do her work!
Going to dad’s office on Fathers’ Day does not seem like a viable ritual to keep him happy! In any case, sitting and wondering what your kiddo is doing at your workplace is much more stressful than having a normal day at the office!
So, generally Fathers’ Day ends up being a poor cousin of the big thing called Mothers’ Day.
Being the selfish beast that I am, I only noticed Fathers’ Day this year because this was my first one! And very sweetly, The Toothless One obliged with gifts and a card. (I must admit he gave nothing to his mom on Mothers’ Day!)

Most fathers are heroes to their children and impart them values and knowledge of eternal significance. Ours was more than a little unconventional and the stuff he told us were a little out of the ordinary. But they have stood me pretty well in life so maybe I can try them on Junior?
Of course, he also thinks BE College is better than JU and Dilip Kumar was better than Amitabh in Shakti but let's not get into that!
Apart from that, what did he keep telling us all through?

There’s a game in everything. Even apparently boring stuff.
My dad never solved any maths problems for me. Going to him with a problem meant a good half-hour of playing bloody difficult puzzles (with more than a little badgering to ‘apply my mind’) at the end of which the answer usually presented itself. He invented games out of factorizing car numbers, memorizing the Periodic Table of Elements and solving recurring decimal problems.
And it is my firm belief that this makes 'studies' a lot more fun.

Never say no to books.
However expensive or inane the request might have been, I always got the books I wanted. Starting from the hugely marked-up comic books at airport bookstalls to popular science to movie encyclopaedias lugged in from the UK – if I asked for it, I got it. My sis never did. So when she developed a taste for good cinema, she had to steal all my Ray screenplays.
Psst… Don’t tell anybody but he even smuggled in a copy of The Satanic Verses after it was banned in India!

Get 'em used to the good life. They will figure out a way to finance it later!
He took us out to as many posh hotels and restaurant as he possibly could without my mother throwing all of us out. This meant that by now, I can make out if the chicken is broiler or the fish a day old in any restaurant I walk in.
My sister did even better and made a living as a food critic for a few years before taking a break. At the end of it, both of us became these two incorrigible foodies who think nothing of trashing some of the better restaurants of the country. And you should see my credit card bills!

Be cool with your son’s friends.
My father smokes like a chimney and offers cigarettes to my pals. I don't even smoke.
My father solves differential equations. I make do with calculating auto fares without the chart.
My father tried out all kinds of booze during his college days (and lived to tell the tales). I still stick to Bacardi.
And as a friend observed admiringly, he even knows zodiac sign of the oldest steward at Peter Cat!
Basically, I could have told this to most of my friends and now I will end up telling this to my son as well... "Know what? My dad's cooler than your dad."

Happy Fathers' Day!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Bawas in Bollywood: Parsis in Hindi Cinema

Without fail, my posts manage to elicit more addenda and corrigenda than praise. That is a cross one has to bear while writing on Bollywood, as there is at least one person in the audience who has seen that one movie of 1994, which one had missed while trying to take a class test!
On top of that, you have people like Udayan who are making excruciatingly rude comments from faraway Amsterdam. (How is it my fault if his employer has not sanctioned a Kinky Sex Allowance?)
So, I tried to steer clear of Bollywood and dabbled in general racism. Just when I thought I had gotten away with it (even my wife praised the post!), Orange Jammies opined that I have ignored the Parsis in my pseudo-academic treatise on Indian pronunciation.
So, I thought I would make up for that oversight by writing about Parsis in Bollywood.

It is my contention that Parsis are ignored in almost every sphere of life except steel. Bollywood is no exception. In fact, it does worse than ignoring. Every time a member of the minority community appears on screen – more often than not – it is as a caricature.
And of all the stereotypes, the Parsis are probably the worst hit. The men are always wearing the cylindrical black hat and a white band-galla kind of coat, driving a vintage car loaded with a large family. The women wear a pink saree worn in the traditional fashion and carry a Japanese hand fan. They speak in a manic accent with all their T’s pronounced hard and use a whole lot of ‘dikra's in their conversation. I have never seen a Parsi like that in real life! Well, neither have I seen a Muslim who uses words like ‘barkhurdar’ and ‘lahaul bilaquwat’ in his conversation!

So, there are two groups to talk about – one, Parsis in the film industry and two, the Parsi characters in films.

In the showbiz, there has never been any dearth of Parsis, who have traditionally manned technical roles. Cinematographers, editors, sound recordists – of the names Fali, Nariman and Homi and surnames Irani, Nariman and Contractor and any combinations thereof – abounded all over for major parts between the 50’s and 70’s.
Of the more famous ones, we have Mickey Contractor who is staple for the soft-focus romances of the Chopras & Johars. Miss India-s down the ages have sworn by him.
Then there is Avan Contractor of Juice Salon – responsible for styling Hrithik’s hair in Lakshya and Aamir’s in every movie since Dil Chahta Hain.
I am not sure if the Irani sisters – Honey & Daisy – and Aruna are of Zoroastrian descent.
Then come the actors – Boman Irani is the flag bearer as he is surely the most recognized Parsi face in the industry.
For a more desirable face, you can pitch for Perizad Zorabian (who, incidentally, is married to one Boman Irani) who appears in films on and off now and whose father owns a poultry farm called Zorabian Chicks. So, she is not the only one in the family!
And among the character artistes, we have Tanaaz Currim playing the archetypal Heroine’s Friend (a role made famous by Guddi Maruti in the early 90’s) and becoming even famous by dancing like a dream in Nach Baliye.
We also have Dinyar Contractor – of the Mumbai theatre circuit – who appears in comic cameos every now and then. His most famous role is probably that of the nose-digging client of Jhankaar Beats. Old timers would remember him as the echo-talking principal of Khiladi.
A very long time ago, a lady by the name of Persis Khambatta won the Miss India contest and did a slew of modeling assignments in the Garden Vareli genre. She also appeared in a Star Trek movie with her hair shaved. Wonder what happened to her?
I will avoid mentioning the name of Cyrus Broacha as he is yet to break into Bollywood… though I am waiting for him!

As I mentioned, an overwhelming majority of the first group are caricatures and they have appeared in innumerable such films. I can think of a vintage car riding uncle in Qurbani (who bumps Feroze Khan’s car and whose wife eyes FK) and an aunty in Dil Hain Ke Manta Nahin (who gives a lift to Aamir Khan and pretending-to-be-pregnant Pooja Bhatt).
Of course, Dinesh Hingoo is an actor who is probably in the Guinness Book for the maximum number of Parsi parts and appears as Mr Batliwala in the trademark costume.
In recent times, the carrom-playing uncle of Munnabhai MBBS and his genius doctor son are probably the most famous Parsi characters!

There are only a few films I can think of that have portrayed Parsis realistically – but the flip side is that their viewership has been extremely limited!
Parzania got great reviews for its subject but it was too serious a film to attract the multiplex crowd, which flocked to Krrish!
Pestonjee was a deadly boring film about Naseeruddin Shah’s unspoken love for Shabana Azmi, who gets married to Anupam Kher. I think I saw it on a Sunday afternoon when Doordarshan used to show award-winning films but its terribly slow pace was quite difficult to bear.
Being Cyrus was an interesting thriller and a reasonably box-office success. It was about a very eccentric Parsi family and had probably the biggest star (Saif Ali Khan) playing a Parsi in any film (with the probable exception of Vinod Khanna donning the ‘dikra’ accent for a short scene in Muqaddar Ka Sikandar).
Khatta Meetha is the movie which has the highest number of Parsi characters ever! It had Ashok Kumar and Pearl Padamsee marrying and uniting their families of four children each! A huge number of Homi, Fal, Jal, Freni, Soli and Dara moved around!

And finally, we have to talk about the Greatest Film Ever Made and there is a Parsi there as well.
Remember the engine driver in the train that gets looted in Jai and Veeru’s introduction sequence? Well, that is Mushtaq Merchant looking suitably harassed by the attack of the Northies in his domain but does a decent job of cranking up the speed and providing Veeru with liquor!
Of course, the twist is that he is the only person to have a double role in Sholay. Do you remember a thin figure who screams and jumps as Jai-Veeru drive off in the double-carrier bike of Yeh dosti? That’s Mr Merchant again – as he plays the guy whose bike gets stolen by the heroes. There was a full sequence of the theft – but that got chopped at the editing table.

Just what I said… they are always on the sidelines!

Friday, June 08, 2007

United Colours of India, Part Deux

The idiosyncrasies of Indians deserve a book, if not a whole library! One billion people squeezed over a relatively small space means a whole lot of jokes… now don’t get pedantic over the ‘small’ bit. Everybody knows that 0.9 of those 1 billion stay in Bombay and half of them stay in Lokhandwala. The Shootout killed only a few.

The last time I wrote about our racism, it elicited an avalanche of comments and clarifications. Everybody from Chennai asked where I found those courteous auto-drivers. Actually, that is the exact answer I received from a cabbie. Auto-drivers, I agree, are a different kettle of fish.
So, I thought that maybe I should take more advantages of my multi-cultural life and talk about the languages of India – and the comedies thereof.

The Bengalis are an erudite and cultured group of people who usually read Kafka by the time they are seven. (I was a moronic wastrel, so I read him much later – Class XI – and I woke up every morning half-expecting to have turned into a bug.)
But since the Bengalis are read out the complete works of Tagore when they are still in their mothers’ wombs, they are born with genetic refusal to speak in any other language. (If you force us, we will speak wrongly – so there!) Basically, you have this large group of people, who discuss Camus and spew Derrida in Bengali till they leave their land for worldly pursuits. And then comes the small matter of communicating in English – and you have Pranab Mukherjee as the Poster Child of Bonglish!

The ‘S’ and the ‘Sh’ are mangled with the same precision that Hannibal Lecter reserves for his victims’ kidneys. Now, most Indian languages have a ‘sa’, a ‘sha’ and sometimes even a ‘sshha’. So, the mangling of the S is not uncommon. What is the inalienable birthright of the Bongs is the juicing-mixing-blending of all similar sounding vowels and consonants! So, ‘we are heart at our uncle’s hurt-attack’ and ‘we sleeped off the bed while we were slipping’…

And then there is the Great Jaw Puzzle. Indians often pronounce ‘z’ as ‘j’. If I am not mistaken, the dot underneath the ‘ja’ to denote ‘za’ is actually a Urdu thing and a lot of Hindi publications don’t use that. So, even Hindi-speaking people say ‘bijness’ and 'joo'. But only Bengalis interchange ‘ja’ and ‘za’ – and Calcutta is the only place on the planet where people get stuck in a ‘traffic zam’.

And we don’t have any V in the Bengali language but any jokes about bhegetables will be shoved up you-know-where.
Now, if I start off on how A is actually O – and Dipta is actually Deep Toe, Amit is actually Aw-meet and Shekhar Suman is actually Shey-khor Shumon – then we are here till end of time! And those of you cannot pronounce Shou-robh correctly, please call him Dada.

Having left my homeland and moved to Madras, I was firstly amazed at the uniform inability/refusal to speak Hindi by all. I mean, Divine Classical Tamil will live long and all but bhaiyya, saamne gate ke paas roko na! Of course, the inability and the refusal can be easily segregated by addressing the gentleman in question with a Hindi expletive (ch***** works just fine).

After a few years in the salubrious climes of TN, I realized something was missing (apart from potatoes in mutton curries). It was the letter H (a.k.a Hech).
Apparently, the Tamil alphabet does not have a ‘H’ equivalent and so Mahesh Deshmukh of Chembur becomes Magesh! So, when I was working with a soft-drink company, a Tamil colleague asked me if ‘Lager’ sales were up and I was left wondering if there is any correlation between beer and cola sales. Of course, there is but he was only asking about Lehar Soda!

A North Indian guy with perfectly normal name like Rohit gets so many variables the moment he crosses the Vindhyas is quite unbelievable. Firstly, he becomes Rogit (see above). Then comes the matter of the T. Down south, ‘Th’ is a soft T and ‘T’ is the hard one. So, Rohit will obviously sound like as if he has written a thesaurus. Before pointing out that the Roget T is actually silent, people should realize that here, we are grappling with umpteen pronunciations of one letter and there in the West, there are not pronouncing it only. What injustice, I say!

Now, add to the attendant problems of how Pa is pronounced as Ba (or is it vice versa?) and how Ka and Ga are interchangeable and you know why they are taking so long to solve the Cauvery water dispute! After all, they are looking for Gaveri… har har!
How do I know all this? Even you would have, if you had spent going around Hotel Kanka (written in Tamil) for half-an-hour looking for Hotel Ganga.

The other parts of South India have their own mild quirks of speaking the Queen’s language.
At a Malayali wedding reception, I was standing right next to the bar and heard lots of requests for ‘Won Whiz-key Smoll". As the ‘smolls’ piled up, the words started merging until it became “Wowekey Smorr”!

My sister and brother-in-law (a Mallu) both speak in impeccable accents and offer no scope for jokes. Though, my brother-in-law’s Hindi knowledge is rather sparse and he occasionally checks out stuff with my sis (“Barah means twelve, no?”)

In the Western parts of the country, the Gujjus have to forever bear the cross of “eating snakes in the hole” and “going to Make Donalds”. In fact, a recent ad announcing a tie-up between TOI and a Gujarati paper used these lines for their headlines. Taxi would be the one word that is recognized in all languages and sound the same as well. Only Gujjus call it Take-si!

What is lesser known is the Gujju thing of phonetically replacing ‘e’ with ‘a’ as well. So, you ask for a ‘pag of rum’ and ‘go on a trak’. I first noticed this in a friend who, is not a Gujju but, spoke like that because all his neighbours were!

Which brings us to my current home – Dyal-hi.
Meri toh dyath hi ho gayee’ is the common refrain as our Punjabi brethren speak English the same way they live the rest of their lives – with confidence! They manage to eat up the vowels where they should be – my friend Parag becomes the capital city of Czechoslovakia (Prague) and people dance in a braat. And insert vowels where there shouldn’t be… “Sacooter pe chadke Saw-tate Bank chalte hain.” The funniest twist is when they replace ‘sure’ (at the end of a word) with a ‘yyure’. Why? How? No idea… just a lot of ‘pleayyure beyond meayyure’.

And did I tell you how in Assamese some of the ‘S’-es (in English or other common words) get converted into ‘ch’ and some into ‘h’. All the City Buses on their road are labeled as ‘Chiti Bach’ while Bally Sagoo will never be able to do a show there!

Damn – we ourselves remain so confused with our innumerable languages and accents, it’s a wonder that some non-Indians learn to speak the language as well.
As a recent radio spot asked, “Bangali log panjabi kyon pahente hain?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Golden Oldies: 7 from the 70's

I was driving back from a dinner alone tonight and heard about 30 minutes of uninterrupted golden oldies on FM radio. I am aware of such a show and have heard it before but what blew me away was today's sequence of hits - all from 70s and 80s - which represented the best of director-composer combos of the two decades.

Har kisi ko nahin milti - Jaanbaaz
Feroze Khan and Kalyanji-Anandji had a series of hits starting with FK's first directorial venture (Apradh) till this one. Jaanbaaz did not meet with the super-success of Qurbani and in any case, the biggest hits of Qurbani was composed by Biddu. But it did have some good numbers including this one and one club song (Ek pal hain zindagani) picturised on Rekha.
This particular song was picturised on Sridevi - who played FK's girlfriend, killed by the villains by a drug overdose. The song was shown as being shot for a music video, which FK was watching 'stylishly'. Since he was a mediocre maker of reasonably big hits, FK is credited as being the most 'stylish' director of Bollywood - whatever THAT means!

Mohabbat bade kaam ki cheez hain - Trishul
Trishul is known to be a powder-keg of anger and revenge but its music was surprisingly strong, thanks to the Yash Chopra-Khayyam partnership. The producer (Gulshan Rai of Trimurti Films) was known to get great music for his films and even badgered his directors to put in songs. Deewaar was one film in which songs were forced on the producer's insistence while the director wanted it to be song-less.
To come back to Trishul, it had this song performed on screen by Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini and Shashi Kapoor - three of the biggest stars of the day. It also had a young and peppy fun number - Gapuchi gapuchi gum gum - picturised on Poonam Dhillon and Sachin, who formed the young couple in the film. (The second line of the song is Kishiki kishiki kum kum - for those who are interested.)

Dard-e-dil, dard-e-jigar- Karz
Subhash Ghai and Laxmikant-Pyarelal had innumerable hits together. They teamed up for the first time on this one and continued till Khalnayak. The combo broke up slightly acrimoniously when Ghai signed Nadeem Shravan for Pardes.
The team had a set formula of having a chartbuster, a classical-based hit and a haunting theme tune which keeps getting repeated in the movie. This is easier said than done because a memorable theme tune (without lyrics) is very difficult to compose but LP did it for Ghai in Karz (the famous guitar riff), Hero (a flute tune), Meri Jung (the title song played on piano) and Saudagar among others.
Karz is continuously reviled as being a 'copy' of The Reincarnation of Peter Proud by Anglophiles but if you check out the antecedents of the 'original', then you would realise that it is very unlikely that any Indian would have seen this movie ever and people just parrot what they perceive to be erudite. Karz had bigger stars, was a much bigger hit and had only the reincarnation theme common with the English film. And of course, the music was to die for - not something Mr Proud could have done!

O majhi re - Khushboo
Gulzar and RD. I have written (twice!) about this pair, which is probably the best lyricist-composer pair in Hindi cinema.
I say this with conviction not only because they gave their best with each other but because they tested their boundaries with each other. Otherwise, how else do you see the RD of Teesri Manzil composing this song, whose bhatiali touch would have done his father proud? And who have expected Jumping Jack Jeetendra to eschew his white loafers for thick-rimmed glasses and dhoti-kurta?
This film was based on a story by Saratchandra Chatterjee, which is one of the few Bengali authors Gulzar has raided for his stories. The other notable one is Subodh Ghosh, who won the Filmfare Award for his story of Ijaazat.

Hoga tumse pyaara kaun - Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hain
Another producer-director for whom RD reserved hits for is Nasir Hussain. His frothy romances were garnished by RD's music (always) and Rishi Kapoor's charms (almost always).
This one had Rishi (in his trademark ankle-length muffler) singing the song on top of a train as it passes through tea gardens, with the tea-pickers providing the 'Hey Kanchi' chorus!
The slightly echoing quality of the background score, the use of drums typically heard in North Bengal and of course, the catchy tune was something only RD could have pulled off!

Kabhi Kabhie - Kabhi Kabhie
Yash Chopra and Khayyam continued their partnership for the first film under the Yash Raj Films banner and this film became a benchmark of film poetry as Sahir Ludhianvi came up with some of the greatest lyrics of Hindi cinema.
The title track is available in two versions - the romantic song version and the tragic poem version (which Amitabh recites the way ONLY he can do). The shooting of the song - with its romantic scenes - was a bit of an embarrasment for Amitabh and Rakhee as Gulzar was like an elder brother to the Bachchans (having performed brotherly duties for Jaya at their wedding).
This was beginning of the Yash Chopra Mark II brand of filmmaking as he gradually made a transition from the 'angry' films to silk and chiffon in Switzerland. This was probably the influence of his marriage to Pamela (during the honeymoon of which this film was shot).

Jaane kaise kab kahan - Shakti
Very aptly, the last film of the lot is by Ramesh Sippy who broke into the scene with a film noboby (including himself) could match. But his talent shone through all his films - before and after Sholay - as he straddled different genres.
The best music of his films came with RD Burman (that man, again!) with whom he never worked after Saagar, despite the film having monstrously good music. Quite inexplicable because none of his later films had good music.
Shakti was meant to be a serious sort of film, with Amitabh and Dilip Kumar pitting their ideals and acting talent - as the latter got chewn up, in my humble opinion. Of course, some people swear on their left testicle that Dilip Kumar's was the better performance but then, they are probably the ones who think TRO Peter Proud is better than Karz!
But this one song was a massive hit and I remember being a little embarrassed at Amitabh's 'sex scene' with Smita Patil.
Question: Did Ramesh Sippy have a S fixation? Seeta Aur Geeta, Sholay, Shaan, Shakti, Saagar... why did he change it to B for Bhrashtachar and flop? Maybe because Buniyaad was such a massive hit!

Lovely... two back-to-back Bollywood posts really make your Sunday!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Khel: Sports in Bollywood

Sports and movies form a perfect combination. You know the good guys will always win and there’s absolutely no chance of some Son of Satan Mashrafe Mortaza coming and uprooting the middle stump of Marathi Boy Next Door.
But given the logistical nightmare of shooting sports matches realistically, filmmakers have shied away from making too many sports films in Hindi. But then you wonder, since when has lack of realism bothered our directors?
In the recent past, of course, there has been a slew of sports films made or being made but none of them have managed to get even close – forget match – the adrenalin rush of some of the best sports films. Obviously, I mean the sports films of Hollywood because in India, I cannot think of any film other than Lagaan and Iqbal, which used a sports theme with style and reality.

So, which are the sports movies of India? And to make it merrier, which are the films that have had passing references to sport?

The first and only film, which seems to have encroached my entire consciousness is Dev Anand’s magnum opus Awwal Number. (Incidentally, Dev-saab is the only director ALL of whose films are magnum opii!)
Dev Anand’s character in the film was an absolute rarity – a Police Commissioner of Bombay who was also the Chairman of the Selectors. And if that was not enough, his brother (Aditya Panscholi) was the top batsman of the Indian team. Dev dropped his brother from the team because he was doing ayyaashi (this is an all-encompassing term for drinking, boozing and being generally prodigal) and took a baby-faced boy called Sunny (Aamir Khan in his pre-one-film-a-decade days) in his place. Aditya took grievous offence to this and teamed up with a terrorist outfit to bomb the stadium from a helicopter above it! (No, VVS – give me the detonator back right NOW!)
In a double-barreled climax, Dev killed Aditya before he could kill anybody. And Aamir killed the Aussies by hitting a six off the last ball. I was slightly disappointed because I thought Aamir would take out the helicopter with the same shot which would eventually be the winning six!
For all its inane bloopers, Awwal Number had probably one accurate depiction – one of the Aussie openers was shown to be a fat, moustachioed guy a la David Boon of those days!

Another cricket movie was All Rounder. This had Kumar Gaurav playing a talented cricketer, egged on by his rustic villager brother (Vinod Mehra in one of his sugary sweet do-gooder roles). He broke into the national team, only to be framed on some trumped-up charges of ayyaashi (see definition above) by a jealous Shakti Kapoor (I think, not too sure). He is promptly chucked out, his girlfriend’s (Rati Agnihotri) father rejects him and he takes to the bottle. Ultimately, of course, he is inspired to make a comeback and he hits Glenn Mcgrath for six sixes in an over. Oh well, not exactly but thereabouts.

Cricketers have made several appearances in Hindi films – including some extended ones. Sandeep Patil, thoroughly misguided about his looks and sex appeal, acted opposite Debashree Roy in a movie called Kabhi Ajnabi They. The movie also starred Syed Kirmani as a villain.
Salim Durrani’s celluloid debut opposite Parveen Babi has been the staple of innumerable quizzes. Though despite that, I have forgotten the name of the film.

Sunil Gavaskar acted in a Marathi movie before he was called upon for an extended guest appearance in the film Malamaal. Naseeruddin Shah, who plays a cricket-crazy tapori in the film is asked to spend Rs 30 crores in 30 days as part of a bizarre inheritance challenge. And in one of the ploys to blow it all up, he invited Sunny to play against his Chawl XI in the Wankhede Stadium.

Of the movies, which do not have cricket as a central theme, we have several that make a passing reference to the national obsession.

Amitabh does a fantastic monologue in Namak Halal on the partnerships of Vijay Hazare and Vijay Merchant, Wasim Bari and Wasim Raja… which was elevated to a different level of nonsense by his accent!
Again, in Amar Akbar Anthony, when he is asked about the whereabouts of a criminal Robert, he responds with “Kaun Robert? Oh – Andy Roberts! Woh toh series khatam hone ke baad West Indies chala gaya…

Anupam Kher in Darr was Juhi Chawla’s cricket crazy brother who watched matches with full cricket gear on. As he put it, “Hamare team ka itna bura haalat hain ki na jaane kab mera bulawa aa jaye…” – exactly the sentiments of most cricket fans in the country.

In the film Chamatkar, SRK – as a coach and assisted by Naseeruddin Shah’s ghost – played a college cricket match (which had bookies betting on it!) against a nasty opponent, which was captained by Ashutosh Gowariker! Maybe the Lagaan idea originated then?

Karan Johar put his SRK-obsession on a giant screen in a New York soccer stadium when he showed a close-up of Shah Rukh’s eyes as he was about to take a penalty shot. Filling up a soccer stadium in USA is something only the Dharma Productions budget can do! SRK, of course, did not become famous and ended up being a frustrated coach in the film though no sight of any football stadium is shown ever again.

One of Anil Kapoor’s earlier hits – Saheb – was a remake of a Bengali film of the same name. The maudlin plot was about a good-for-one-thing youth who played football and had promise to make it big. He blew it all away when he sold off a kidney to pay for his sister’s wedding. The minuscule budget of the Bengali version did not permit inclusion of any disco numbers. The Hindi one did and to this day, “Yaar beena chen kahan re” remains one of Bappi’s Lahiri’s cult classics!

Anil Kapoor re-appeared on the football pitch in Mashaal as well where in one scene, Dilip Kumar dribbles around all his cronies to score a goal that would have made Maradona proud!

India’s pride was completely sidelined in Hindi cinema – except for probably one time where Rishi Kapoor and Rakesh Roshan (many kilos and hair ago) came back from behind to win their college hockey match in Khel Khel Mein. The match was all of five minutes in screen time!
Now, I am told that SRK is lending his charisma to be the coach of a girl’s hockey team in a Yashraj film called Chak De India… Bend It Like Dhanraj?

Apart from the these, the appearance of sport has been largely peripheral to the Bollywood plot.
A few stray cases here and there...

Basketball: Kajol and SRK fighting it out in the coolest college of India (Kuch Kuch Hota Hain) was followed much later by a rather boring banter between Aishwarya and Hrithik in Dhoom 2.

Table Tennis: In Chhoti Si Baat, the introverted Amol Palekar is coached by Wilfred Julius Nagendranath Singh on how to gain the upper hand in life, which included a table-tennis session won by upsetting the opponent’s rhythm.

Billiards: Raaj Kumar plays it with great style because this is the only game which permits heavy-duty dialogue-baazi while moving around slowly between shots (ref: Tirangaa). Or, flirtatious heroes try to teach heroines the game by embracing them from behind and trying to steal a kiss or two (ref: Jaanbaaz)!

Of course, no mention of sports is complete without the mention of the epical badminton match played by Jeetendra and Leena Chandraverkar in Humjoli.

It is momentous for several reasons – it gave Jeetu a valid reason for wearing white pants and shoes (he was playing). The game was played in a choreographed manner, to the tune of a song. And most importantly, it incorporated the sounds of the game (the shuttle cork hitting the racquet with a TUK) into the soundtrack.
And we have the absolute gem of a song…
Dhal gaya din *TUK* Ho gayi raat *TUK*
Jaane do *TUK* Jaana hain *TUK*
Abhi abhi to aayi ho *TUK*
Aur abhi abhi jaana hain? *TUK *
Maybe, I overdid the TUK a few more times than actual… but then, great sporting achievements are meant to be exaggerated!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Thoughts of the Day

Is Google God?
The Gods of Page Ranking are not beyond some fun. They have come up with ‘conclusive’ proof that Google is actually God. Or, is God Google?
Even if they are, at least one company still refuses to recognize them. Mr Gates’ Microsoft Word still puts red squiggles under Google. But then, they also put the same under Satyajit and Amitabh.
This claim to divinity has, of course, drawn heavy protests from religious groups who are probably expecting the real McCoy to unleash a thunderous blow to decimate the Google HQ. But I doubt if that will be enough to wipe off Google from the face of the earth. And lot of people I know will die along with it because of Orkut-deprivation. (Another red squiggle from Mr Gates… so there!)
Of course, there are counter groups who are coming up with lists of stuff that Google CANNOT do. Sifting through the esoteric super-technical stuff, I came across one thing that I could understand and agree with.
Google cannot catch Don. Kyunki Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahin, namumkin hain!

Working Moms
What Mad Momma was writing about all this while, Mrinal Pande has seconded. And with her language & stature, the opposition is sure to be reduced into a quivering mass of jelly!
Mrs Pande’s last line – Ever wondered why three of the most powerful goddesses in the Hindu pantheon, Lakshmi, Saraswati and Kali, chose to not bear children? – was blindingly true as all of last night, my wife tried to put Junior to sleep while I tried to blink my sleep away so that I can prevent her from throttling him! Couldn’t have blamed her if she tried, though!
However, on a lighter note, we were watching Pyar Ke Side Effects last evening and there was this discussion between three protagonists on why super-heroes are never married and convesely, why married men can never be super-heroes.
Well, imagine Superman going to save to world from Lex Luthor and suddenly, he gets a call on his mobile – “Come home early tonight. I am making pasta.” Poof!

Arts or Science?
As the college entrance season approaches, a really handy research has come out, which predicts the stronger aptitude – between verbal and numerical – in children by the relative lengths of their fingers. Now, how cool is that?
Apparently, if your index finger is shorter than your ring finger, then your numerical aptitude is expected to be stronger. And if the index is longer, then your verbal ability is stronger.
Of course, my longer index finger explains – in hindsight – why I scraped through four years of Mechanical Engineering. But it does not explain why I could not understand the long reasoning behind the research, which has descriptions of testosterone or oestrogen influencing digit ratio as well certain areas of the brain.
So, students can just junk the long-winded entrance tests and just give colleges the finger. Literally!