Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ask Jeeves: Answers to Hindi Film Questions You Wanted To Know But Did Not Know Whom To Ask

As I had earlier described, I am one of the world's leading repositories of useless knowledge.
If in some faraway land called Jhingalala, you are captured by violent cannibals and they ask you a question ("What is common to Tezaab, The Untouchables and Battleship Potemkin?") on the condition that they will spare your life if you can answer the question, then you know whose number to dial.

Today, I got an SMS from a friend.
"Why does it always rain in the movies when a coffin is lowered into the grave?"
It is a very simple answer, actually. It just means that the director is lazy enough to borrow the famous cliche of the skies crying when a good man leaves. Some director must have thought of it some 105 years ago and the rest of them have been copying it ever since.

Another question that has bothered India for several generations now is the Ghost Question.
"Why do ghosts always wear white and glide around with a candle?"
Think about where it all started. In the olden days, there would be a vast jungle outside the haveli. Biswajeet would be wearing a trench-coat and Stetson hat (in the UP summer) - and he sees a white saree clad ghostess (or do we use a unisex ghost?) in the jungle.
Now, in those days of B&W cinema, is there any other colour which would be visible in the dark expanse of the jungle? Obviously, the ghost had to wear white. And since the film was often dodgy, they made her carry a lighted candle for good measure.

Those bemused with the plethora of songs would be surely be perplexed enough to ask one more question: "How come the hero-heroine change costumes so many times during one 3-minute song?"
Songs in Hindi films have been described as Brechtian Alienation Devices. That is, they are a trick employed by the maker to ensure that the viewer doesn't lose itself in the 'realism' of the film. Why did I say that? Well, I just wanted to sound intellectual by using words with 3 or more syllables.
Actually, the songs which show a rapid change of costumes imply a passage of time. x costumes mean x different days, which signifies the maturing of the relationship so that the parents of the couple can step in and scuttle the affair.

And in the wake of the great autobiography coming out, there is probably a small question gnawing at every one's minds: "Who watches a Dev Anand film?"
Thankfully, I can at least hazard a guess for this question unlike the tougher one - "Who finances a Dev Anand film?". Well, at any given point of time in India (being a country of one billion), there are millions of kids who have bunked college, thousands of couples who are looking for privacy and hundreds of poor villagers who have never seen the inside of an air-cooled cinema hall. Now, a large percentage of these walk into the cinema where a Dev Anand film is playing. Unfortunately, the number of people in the above categories who stay in the vicinity of - let's say - Gaiety/Galaxy theatre are not enough to fill up the hall. Actually, the stalls of the hall. Precisely, one row of the stalls of the hall. So, the movie ends up getting taken off by Monday of Week 1.

For the gastronomically inclined - "Why are all Hindi film heroes fed gaajar ka halwa by the kilo?"
The answer lies here - in the website of University of Wisconsin - Madison. You see, the average Hindi film hero has to see his father getting butchered, follow his mother walking ten flights of stairs with cement on her head, kill the villain and his 42 thugs, resist the amorous advances of the vamp and lift Asha Parekh during the course of at least one of six songs. Obviously, he needs more calorific value per serving than what is offered by Baked Turnip Casserole. Of course, Chocolate Truffle Torte with Cherries Flambe offers even higher than carrot halwa - but imagine Nirupa Roy pronouncing that!

Or the pedantic ones might wonder - "Why are all the Hindi film heroines sixteen?"
Again, I do not know the answer to the corollary question - "Why are all Hindi film heroes seventeen?" but I think the idea is to have a mathematical progression simple enough for the masses to identify!
To get back to the original question, there is a Section 375 in the Indian Penal Code which defines what constitutes rape. The sub-section 6 of the aforementioned section states that sexual intercourse in case the woman is below 16 years of age is rape, irrespective of whether it is consensual or not. Hence, when the heroine sings "Main chauda baras ka..." (pun not intended, I meant 14!) and then they show two flowers touching, then some conscientious lawyer can argue in court that the producers of the film are promoting rape.

So, those are the immediate ones which I could think of. Write in if you have more pressing queries. Our research team is fully equipped and waiting for your questions!

PS: The common element between the three films is the Odessa Steps sequence, in which a child's pram hurtles down a steep flight of stairs in the middle of a commotion.
There, tell that King of Jhingalala to buzz off!
Oh - now he wants to know how to change a fuse? Well, ask her.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Indian Idols

It took us a generation to be World Champions again. I watched the 1983 triumph with my dad. Today, I watched it with my son.
And to think, it came less than 6 months after this... But remember, I told you so!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

My Favouritest Movie Dialogues

* Aaya hoon, kuch toh loot kar jaoonga. Khandaani chor hoon. Mogambo ka bhatija, Crime Master Gogo - Andaaz Apna Apna
The craze fest of AAA had a bevy of outrageous lines, but this one takes the cake. For the first time in Hindi cinema, the bio-data of the villain consisted of lineage. Gogo was no ordinary criminal. He was the great Mogambo's nephew.
Of course, he backed up this lineage with the ability to make a heist every time he made an appearance. Shakti Kapoor - in his funniest role - gave a completely new dimension to the character which went around sporting a ponytail, a Chinese moustache and a cape-poncho outfit! I have heard fans use this line to describe anything that they thought they were born to do. As a colleague used to say, "Khandaani ASM hoon. Aaya hoon, kuch toh invoice karke jayoonga..."

* Cake khane ke liye hum kahin bhi pahunch jaate hain - Dil Chahta Hain
DCH was cool. DCH was trend-setting. DCH turned the Hindi film friendship on its head. Just like his father did in the landmark Sholay, Farhan Akhtar got his characters to play pranks on their best friends. The bombastic speech announcing sacrifices for friends went out of the penthouse window.
And when Saif was thanked for spending an evening with a not-so-cool friend of his best friend, he articulated the reason why all of us sing Happy Birthday so enthusiastically at office birthday parties... we are there for the cake! He did it for his friend. But the self-deprecating reason was a Hindi film first.

* Chinay Seth, jinke ghar sheeshe ke hote hain, woh patthar nahin phnekte - Waqt
This line would have meant nothing if it was not delivered by Raaj Kumar with a whole lot of swaying, neck-rubbing and husky voicing. After all, what was it except for a literal translation of a standard English proverb? But then, Hindi cinema is seldom about content and form is king!
Also, this proverb now has the distinction of being the Most Spoofed One on radio channels. One version goes, "Jinke ghar sheeshe ke hote hain, woh light on karke kapde nahin badalte...". And my favourite one is "Jinke ghar sheeshe ke hote hain, woh ghar Mallika Sherawat ko kiraye pe dena chahte hain!!"

* Dil pe mat le, yaar. Haath mein le - Hyderabad Blues
Nagesh Kukunoor's debut film was lifted straight out of his life - and ours. His bride-seeking mom, his garrulous uncle, his no-nonsense girlfriend. We had seen all of them somewhere - though the most recognisable face was his chubby best friend with a killer sense of humour!
His philosophy about life, women and everything was oh-so-true and served with a panache not seen often in a debutant actor.
His most famous line (which inspired the name of a film starring Manoj Bajpai) ended up being used by people in pretty similar or wildly dissimilar situations. And it was so popular that all one had to do was to start on the first line and inevitably some one else completed the second!

* Johnny karta toh hain beimaani ka kaam, lekin imaandari se - Johnny Mera Naam
The suave criminal, Johnny, had no qualms about smuggling diamonds hidden in tennis racquets but he did feel a bit 'offended' when someone tried to check the consignment. I might be a thief, he said, but an honest one. A hint of irony, a lot of style, a bobbing of the head in Dev Anand style and you have celluloid magic!
This line came back to me a lot later when I asked a colleague if a distributor (we employed to bribe someone) was trustworthy. And he replied, "Boss, just because he does dishonest things does not mean he is not honest..." I did not point out the wonderful oxymoron and just took his word for it!

* Main aaj bhi phneke hue paise nahin uthata - Deewaar
This has to be the Most Perfect Screenplay Ever Written. And this has to be the Most Dramatic Line Ever Said Onscreen.
Vijay is a little shoeshine boy. Two big bosses come to him for a polish. After they are done, they drop a coin in front of him. The little shoeshine boy stands up and says he works for a living and not on charity. The bigger of the bosses is taken in by the boy's gumption. He makes his flunky bend down, pick up the coin and hand it over to the boy.
Twenty years later, the boss recruits a dock labourer for his operations and throws him a fat bundle of notes. The two-penny labourer contemplates the fortune and says that the little shoeshine boy may have grown a lot taller but he still doesn't take charity. This time, the boss bends down and hands him his first salary.
Once in a century, we have a moment like this one. And it is well worth the wait!

* Samajh mein nahin aa raha hain ki aapki gale ki taarif karoon ya aapki haath ki. Aapki awaaz ki taarif karoon ya aapki andaaz ki. Aapki jeet ki taarif karoon ya aapki haar ki - Shaan
Shaan was the ultimate style movie. It was loaded with stars, but there was no doubt who the real star of the film was. Salim-Javed gave the best lines of the film to Mr Amitabh Bachchan, who delivered them with characteristic aplomb. But here, he is no longer the Angry Young Man but a Cool Young Con as he effortlessly moves from taking diamonds, jewelry and revenge.
And when he meets a beautiful woman (Parveen Babi) stealing a coveted necklace right under his nose while singing a classic song (Pyaar karne waale pyaar karte hain shaan se), he is at a loss of words.
And when he gets his wits together, he comes up with the honey-tongued classic. The flattery... and don't miss the pun on the haar!

* Jo dar gaya, samjho mar gaya
- Sholay
You guys don't know why?

* Vijay: Teja, main aa gaya hoon. / Teja: Hello. - Zanjeer
Nobody wanted to play the role of the police officer on a short fuse. Nobody probably bothered to read the script either. If they had, the stars would have salivated at the prospect of having lines that were going to make history.
The most famous one was the warning to Pran. The one about not mistaking the police station as his ancestral property. My favourite is the totally understated line in which the police officer comes out of jail and makes a simple announcement to the smuggler that he is about to destroy him. Not to be outdone, the smuggler (Ajeet) employs his characteristic poise and welcomes him. The gunpowder intensity shines through, even in the simple words. Ajeet lives up to his silken reputation as well.
And of course, there is the subtext of a hero announcing himself to tinsel town... Main aa gaya hoon.


Before this tournament, how many of you knew whether Joginder Sharma was a bowler or a batsman?

And before 25th June 1983, how many of you knew whether Balwinder Singh Sandhu was a pacer or a spinner?

The omens are great...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What About Him?

Mothers' Day is in May. I think it is celebrated on the second Sunday of the month.

Fathers' Day is in July. Probably the first Sunday.

Now, Archies have manufactured one Daughters' Day - to be celebrated on the fourth Sunday of September.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Long Time, No Hear

This can safely be classified as very irrational nostalgia. It is a yearning for some completely insignificant phrases / words that seem to have gone out of our daily lives. At least my life, at any rate! I used to come across them quite regularly at one point of time. Now I don’t…

Sorry for the Interruption
This is from a very ancient age, when the entire family congregated around the TV set at 8:58 PM for the English news and patiently watched the seconds tick away.
At least once every evening, transmission would be interrupted and the familiar board would be displayed. I grew up with “Onushthan procharey bighno ghotai dukkhito” and my Delhi friends would remember “Rukawat ke liye khed hain” but the regularity of the message was amazingly identical at both locations!
Somehow, I miss the innocence of that admission, however irritating it was at that point of time. It was a symbol of more genteel times, as TV stations were ready to admit that they had goofed up and we were about to miss 3 minutes of Sahitya Sanskriti (or Krishi Darshan, as the case might be)!
Nowadays, television channels cook up fake videos to frame innocent people, get caught and pretend that nothing has happened. Maybe, they should pick up the same board from the recesses of Mandi House and put it up.

A very long time ago, when I was on my first job and got posted back to Calcutta, I had a ritual. Along with a friend, I used to go to Olypub every Saturday.
In those days of youth, we used to think nothing of knocking back four drinks each to the accompaniment of assorted snacks & savouries. The evenings were made better by the fact that the bill never touched four figures.
During those evenings, the waiters never hovered around our shoulders like they do in the swanky lounge bars nowadays. When we wanted a refill, we beckoned at them. The one assigned to our table (a very rigid system, we found out) would saunter over, look at us a little sadly and ask, “Arekbar?” (Again?).
There was no persuasion in that question as it tends to be in pubs / bars – “Should I get you a refill, sir?” It was more of an admonishing garbed in the detached confirmation, which incidentally had no effect on the efficiency. Seconds after we nodded, he would bring the bottle over and measure out the large pegs.

Boss, company is not understanding the problem…
When I started off in FMCG sales, it was a time without mobile phones and with floppy drives.
Companies wanted to sell irrational amounts of soap, toilet cleaners and other such products of eternal consequence. And they had already convinced a large group of MBAs to execute the plan. These MBAs – with their data interpretation and presentation skills – in turn, convinced another group of lesser mortals. The guys who repeated this problem to me some 482 times were these lesser mortals.
We would be at the depot, trying to invoice truckloads of stock without too much of an idea what the Madhubani distributors would do with 330 cases of soap (which can bathe all of Madhubani for about 7 months). And when all pleas not to do so would fall on deaf ears (mine), this phrase would come out with a deep sigh!
This statement of despair did not deter them from their duties, as they would still do what the company required of them but made this small complaint anyway. Companies no longer believe in those kinds of absurd billing nowadays. And in any case, I have moved out of frontline sales.
I miss that statement because it was a momentary despair of a soldier. He would still fight. He would probably win as well. But his wisdom and profound experience forced him to make that one note of protest before he moved on.
I miss the loyalty, tenacity and the cynicism of those guys.

Inquilaab Zindabaad
Growing up in Calcutta, one lost count of the number of times one heard and saw this slogan. Though this is obviously not restricted to Communism alone as it has reverberated in India from the days of the freedom struggle right down to my college days. Which is about the time I heard it last, though it is still going strong.
Be it protesting against Manmohan Singh’s nefarious designs to mortgage to the country to World Bank or be it expressing shock at a fee hike of Rs 10 per month, Inquilaab Zindabaad raised adrenaline levels like no other. One of my friends was celebrated all around for their god-gifted ability to form perfect cones around the mouth with their palms and let out a sound of such terrifying pitch and timbre that imperialist monsters would have wet their pants if they heard it!
The classical version of the slogan has the lead voice calling out rapidly – Inclubjindabaad – and the chorus responding with a double-barrelled Jindabaadjindabaad! This had to be repeated till desired result is achieved or lead singer collapses of laryngitis. When ending, it had to be in one voice – INNN. KI. LAAAAB. JINDAAAAA. BAAAAD.
Now we have silent marches, candlelight vigils and photogenic protests. The clarion call of keeping the revolution alive has somehow not lent itself well to the live telecasts and it has crept out of our lives. Now, we want to Ambedkar to live forever. We want Sri Ram to live forever. Some even want Salman Khan to live forever. But the revolution has died.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Muse Musings

Preity Zinta was recently in the news for a role in Shaji Karun’s film on Raja Ravi Verma’s life. She is being considered for the role of Sugunabai, who was the painter’s muse for a large part of his career. Literally so, because she was the model for several of his paintings as well.
In recent times, MF Husain painted Madhuri Dixit on canvas as well as celluloid in a typically exaggerated demonstration of his passion for the star.

But, muses are not restricted to painters alone.
Film directors, the world over, have had their favourite heroines. A director’s muse is probably one who has forced the directors to think of roles specially written for her. Or, at the very least, have roles that would suit her the best. A muse is quite distinctive (from a mistress) in terms of the fact that they inspire the maker to think exclusively for them – hopefully for elevated performances. Though, obsession leads to depressed performances as well…

Satyajit Ray made some of his finest films – as well as ones with the most finely etched female leads – with Madhabi Mukherjee.
A relatively ordinary role in Kapurush (The Coward) was the precursor to Mahanagar, which is one of the strongest statements on women’s place in the society and had Madhabi essaying an understated but brilliant role of a middle-class housewife.
She went on to do the title role of what is regarded as Ray’s best film – Charulata. It has been documented that Ray’s wife was not keen on Madhabi for the role as she felt Madhabi’s teeth (paan-stained due to a long standing habit) would take away from the dignified beauty required for the role. Ray, however, felt that the stains can be hidden by camera placements and Madhabi’s talent was critical for the role. That explains the surfeit of low-angle shots in the film!
Bollywood directors down the ages also have had their muses.
Raj Kapoor’s pairing with Nargis was influential enough for Raj to use a famous pose of theirs as the mascot for his studio. They acted in a massive number of films – eighteen, I think – and some of Raj Kapoor’s own ventures had Nargis in roles that were strong, well written and eventually iconic.
From a frivolous point of view, Nargis wore swimsuits in RK films and set a million hearts aflutter. From a serious point of view, she played a lawyer (Awaara) or a working woman (Shri 420) or an ethereal beauty (Jaagte Raho) and several very different roles at a time when heroines were seldom more than eye-candy.
After Nargis walked off into the sunset with Sunil Dutt, Raj Kapoor’s muse became Vyjayathimala for a short while when she played a multi-faceted role in Sangam. Apparently, they had an affair also during this period, which Vyjayanthimala has now denied in her autobiography and Rishi Kapoor is strenuously propagating. Strange – Rishi thinks “My father is publicity hungry” is a worse insult than “My father is a philanderer”.

Guru Dutt was totally in love with Waheeda Rehman – and did brilliant (but very few) films with her in the lead. She delivered the goods in each one of them.
The first film she did with Guru Dutt was Pyaasa in a role, which would eventually become a cliché in Hindi cinema – The Golden Hearted Prostitute. She was the breathtaking beauty in the eponymous Chaudvin ka Chand and her last outing under Guru Dutt’s direction was Sahib Bibi Ghulam. While the direction of this film is credited to Abrar Alvi, it is widely accepted that Guru Dutt directed the film but refused credit because of the failure of his magnum opus – Kaagaz Ke Phool.
Ironically, in Kaagaz Ke Phool, Waheeda plays the protégé of a legendary director who loses touch with her mentor after becoming a star. Whether the fiction had shades of reality or whether Guru Dutt really committed suicide because he was not able to get Waheeda is probably the subject of another film.

In more recent times, Rajkumar Santoshi was rumoured to have a soft corner for Meenakshi Seshadri. But their output has been very limited.
After Ghayal, where Sunny Deol’s 100 decibel voice drowned out everything, they did Damini, a role written for the heroine and its success got Meenakshi a whole lot of critical acclaim as well. Ironically, Sunny Deol (with his ‘tareekh pe tareekh’ bombastism) walked away with the National Award!
She also did Ghatak (I think) with the same director-actor pair but her role was again quite insignificant. Now, I wonder that it would probably be more accurate to label Sunny as Santoshi’s muse. Whatte dhai-kilo-ka-thought!

That brings me to the subject I wanted to write about… Ram Gopal Verma and his heroines, almost all of whom have been covered extensively and labeled as RGV Ki Muse at regular intervals.
RGV probably has one of the shortest attention spans as a director as well as a human being. Evident from the flitting between genres and actors, Ramu’s Factory has a continuous stream of debutant directors presumably because he loses interest in a theme midway through the production and it is up to the director to shepherd the project to its completion. His muses have been as short lived.

His first muse was Urmila Matondkar, whom Ramu first cast in Drohi – an almost unknown film starring Nagarjuna and famous (among buffs) for a cabaret by Silk Smitha.
However, the first film, which completely recast Urmila as a sex goddess was (but of course!) Rangeela. Urmila was the smallest star (if she was one, in the first place!) of the three lead players in the film and thanks to Ramu’s affectionate camera caressing Urmila’s figure all through, she became the most celebrated.
After Rangeela, Daud upped the oomph factor even higher as Urmila’s sex-kitten role had great comic potential as well. She was turned 180-degrees with a deglamourised look as a simple Maharashtrian middle-class girl in the very next, Satya. And did crazed, maniacal parts in Bhoot, Kaun and Pyar Tune Kya Kiya. (Her roles in Mast and Jungle were rather non-descript.)
Urmila touched wildly different roles in a very short span of time with RGV – all of which she performed competently but she got them over more talented or sexier contemporaries.

Mast starred Antara Mali in an insignificant role.
Like Urmila’s elevation after an insignificant film, Antara was cast in the lead role of Road, which featured her washboard abs and pierced navel to perfection. Despite Road flopping quite miserably, Antara was cast (almost) as a contortionist in Naach, which flopped even more than Road (if that was possible)! She was also the object of Tushar Kapoor’s desires in Gaayab – though what the Invisible Man saw in her was quite unfathomable. As was the reason for making Mr Ya Ms, in which Ms Mali was expected to ‘display histrionic skills’ by playing a man trapped in a woman’s body. Needless to say, that film upstaged all three of predecessors in Flop Quotient.

At this point of time, RGV decided to abandon Antara and plonk for probably the most misplaced of his muses – Nisha Kothari.
Like his previous two, Nisha also made a low-key debut in a bit part in Sarkar. She was promptly elevated as the lead in the slugfest James starring Mohit ‘Oak Tree’ Ahlawat (so called because of his fabulous body and wooden acting). She came back in Shiva – and completely anti-justified her inclusion! Despite the film being without a script or any reason whatsoever, it might be safe to say that she was surely the weakest link the film.
Whether she was also the weakest link in RGV Ki Aag is still being debated. She is slated to appear in at least another film – Go. Maybe, the title is a hint for her!

To my mind, only Urmila Matondkar qualifies as a muse – who has routinely appeared in RGV’s films and they have been her most memorable performances as well. She continues to be a part of his projects (the latest being Mehbooba in Aag) – despite the brief dalliances with his other demi-muses.

The directors keep coming. So do the muses.
Earlier, when the corporate bosses were not there, the directors wrote entire films for them. Now, they have to fit them in guest appearances or item numbers. Or, get them for TV chat shows…

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Old Friends

The really great thing about friends you go to college with is that – irrespective of the time gap you meet them after – you can just pick up a conversation as if there was no break!
I met two friends for drinks and dinner a few days back, who were with me in engineering college. I have been meeting one of them off and on but the other one, I met for the first time after graduation. Though we kept exchanging mails, we were meeting after exactly a decade.
But the conversation was electric…

Sample these snatches spread over the evening seasoned with large quantities of Bacardi.

About a common friend (actually, Mad Momma’s OA): “I had great respect for him in school because he was the first in our batch to write love letters.”

Recounting a bunked Physics lab: “No really… I did not switch off the mains that day.”

About cost-saving techniques: “When I got off the bus, I used to hand over my ticket to another guy – who would be sitting next to the window. So on one day, he did not buy a ticket. The next day, I didn’t!”

Retort to the above: “You are still like that! You are always doing really sidey stuff to get a Business Class upgrade.”

Suddenly: “You were responsible for their breakup.”

About an extremely eligible bachelor's reasons for not getting married: “Do you remember his boobs? There can’t be four breasts in a marriage.”

This was reminiscent of another time I was meeting another batchmate (from b-school) after a very long time. We were both feared far and wide for our inane conversations.
An excerpt:
Me: “Tera moving ka saara formalities complete ho gaya?
Him: “Arre, bahut fight chal raha hain… itna kaam baaki hain. Kabhi ghar ke peechhe bhagna padta hain, kabhi gaadi ke peeche.
Me: “Ghar ke peechhe kyun bhag raha hain?
Him: “Ghar ke peechhe ek garden hain. Wahan bhag raha hoon. Exercise ke liye.
Me: “Toh phir gaadi ke peeche kyun bhag raha hain? Kutta hain tu?

Ah – the inanity of youth!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

United Colours of India, Part Three

DISCLAIMER: Most (if not all) of the examples in this post are based on oral renditions. Factual accuracy is not claimed and should not be expected either.

A few days back, my wife wanted the remote. Like a true blue Punjaban, she asked, “Remote kitthey?” The extent of my multi-cultural life came through when I replied, “Itthey illa.
For the Hungarians who read my blog, kitthey is the Punjabi for where. Itthey is the Punjabi for here. And illa is the ‘Madrasi’ for no/not. I used the word Madrasi advisedly because ille/illa remains same across Tamil, Telugu and Kannada!

That exchange made me re-realise that this wonderful melting pot of a country has more languages than all of Europe has highways. And consequently, the probability of having a word with religious undertones in one language and incestuous overtones in another is quite high. Even if that is a bit of an exaggeration, there are several cases of rather hilarious confusion over similar sounding words in different languages.

My wife did her Masters in Pune. It is a different matter that majority of her class consisted of Bongs!
Anyway, she did not know what hit her when she got on a ladies special bus and the bus conductor started screaming “Fuck the mahila” every time the bus stopped! The firebrand that she is, her first impulse to whack the jerk behind his ears but good sense prevailed when she noticed nobody is really taking offence of the conductor’s scatological screams. Of course, the Marathis have realized ‘faktha’ means ‘only’ and the clarion call to make love to all the ladies in the bus was actually a warning to keep away from the ladies special!

The buses of Pune are evidently hugely funny places as there was this route called Podfata. Okay – Bongs, stop giggling and rest of you, stop wondering what the whole deal is about! Translated into Bengali, Podfata means ‘exploding bum’ and needless to say, this is as funny as the area on the outskirts of Ranchi called Chutiya. There are, in fact, two markets called Chhota Chutiya and Bada Chutiya.
As a young ASM, I was more than a little amused when I first visited this market to see the sales of soap and toilet cleaner. A shopkeeper warned me sternly that the name is to be pronounced with a hard T and not in the way you address any general asshole!

Bongs try to assimilate their good selves into the Indian conglomeration by trying to speak in Hindi at every possible opportunity. It is a different matter that they speak it all wrong (sometimes, intentionally!) and they end up offending all whose language they mangle.

Firstly, there is the small matter of the lady who once famously declared “Hum Bangalion ka gender nahin hota…” and sent her audience in a tizzy! What she meant was that in Bengali, every noun – common, abstract or otherwise – is not qualified with a gender.
On the other hand, Hindi insists on having a gender for every table, chair and ventilator. I am guilty of having my Hindi genders in a spin, as I never seem to get the grip of “Main karti hoon” and “Mera biwi karti hain” properly.
This practice is somehow not very logical as (1) it complicates the process of communication quite needlessly and (2) the gender of certain nouns are fixed rather arbitrarily and there is no scope of guessing it (unless you know it properly).
In one of the earlier Khushwant Singh joke books, he mentioned that an exclusively female appendage like ‘stan’ (breast) was male while a male device like ‘moochh’ (moustache) was female. I don’t know if this is true and despite working with Hindi wordsmiths all day, I never get the courage to ask anybody about this!

The Bengali language has a lot of similarities with Hindi – except one major one.
An aunt was surprised to open the door one afternoon and see her husband’s driver. “Saab ne cigarette mangwaya…”, he claimed. He sent his driver home to get a packet of cigarettes? Actually, my good uncle wanted the driver to pick up the pack from his cabin and used the Bengali word for room – ‘ghar’. Thus, the obedient driver promptly went to the boss’ ‘ghar’!
I asked several property brokers in Bombay – “Is flat mein kitne ghar hain?” – and had to hastily change the offending word to ‘kamra’ after seeing their uncomprehending looks!

The Southern languages are blessed with a sharpness that only Rajanikanth and Chiranjeevi have and we can only aspire for.
Having spent a large part of my life selling cooking oil and soft drinks to the Chettiar scions, I thought I was one of the better Amateur Speakers of Tamil till I heard what Mad Momma’s OA had done. He listened to FM radio on the way to work and managed to memorise phrases from the programmes. His signature phrase was “This is programme is sponsored by…” – which he repeated quite often and even talked about Kittu Mama and Susie Mami’s antics on his favourite morning show!

Telugu has lots of words which are just gibberish to the untrained ear but attain a certain dimension when heard in quick succession. “Repo randi pampistanu” has a distinctly obscene feel to it – and you are never really sure whether the guy referred to you as Big Boss or Head Pimp or any other term of respect!

The most confusing element of the South Indian language is the non-verbal cue. The shake of the head, for example. The South Indian shakes his head when he says ‘yes’. The concept of nodding just ceases to exist as soon as you cross the Vindhyas. Being in Sales, I have had innumerable sales reps promising to do their targets while tracing an ‘eight’ in the air with their shaking heads. I took their promises for granted, only to find out after the month that they were actually not too sure!

While on the subject of Southern languages, I am reminded of the vagaries of Tamil (which I wrote here) in the specific context of a wonderful film – Kandukondain Kandukondain (which means, "I have seen, I have realised"). Without dwelling on the felicities of Rajiv Menon’s film, I am now concerned with the fact that sometimes in Tamil, K and G become interchangeable. So, where does that leave the film’s name?

Some other day, I would like to compile a list of some of the fascinating Indian English phrases – the ones which we translate literally from Indian languages with hilarious effect.
The most famous example of which is – “What to do? We are like this only!”

Sunday, September 09, 2007

21 Things: Diligent Candy's Tag

So, from my first year of daddy-dom, here are - according to Ms Candy's express wishes - 21 things I learnt while bringing up Junior. She did her's in 3 months so obviously, she is a much fast learner!
And I could manage only 17... ab, sales ke bande se 21 likhwane ke liye toh 25 ka target dena chahiye tha!

1. Your importance in the family goes down dramatically. Suddenly, your identity ceases to be anything other than the kid’s father. Actually, most people only write to you because the one-year-old does not have an email address!

2. Your tolerance for yucky stuff goes up manifold. You unflinchingly clean potty, puke and other gooey stuff without batting an eyelid. Actually, after a point, you can clean them even with your eyes closed.

3. You are deeply interested in potty – as a noun, verb and phenomenon. You discuss it with friends and strangers alike, in graphic detail irrespective of whether the kid has a problem or not.

4. You get used to millions of people (including strangers) judging whether your child looks like you or your wife or your side of the family or your wife’s side. And views of consecutive visitors will be diametrically opposite.

5. You start to wonder if you have paid your last insurance premium when your flight encounters turbulence.

6. You never tire of recounting stories about the labour and sleeplessness of the first few days. You have a group of close friends / relatives who would have heard it hundreds of times but they will not tire of it. In fact, they helpfully add details you have forgotten.

7. You and your spouse are blamed for each one of the kid’s bad traits just as your siblings / parents take credit for the good ones.

8. Your entire decoration shifts two feet upwards along with part of the electrical network. This is rendered useless by the ingenious methods used by the kid to reach live plug points and crystal decanters.

9. You will keep track of all milestones – major and minor. This includes things like ringing the bell at the mandir, breaking the space bar on dad’s laptop and lifting a girl’s skirt.

10. Your extremely strict parents (who beat the shit out of you as a kid) look on indulgently as the kid demolishes their entire drawing room. This is the same place where you were denied entry almost your entire childhood.

11. You start evaluating restaurants on the sole criterion of child friendliness and are willing to go to ones with execrable food if they have high chairs and waiters willing to carry the kid around.

12. The childhood icons on your wallpapers and screensavers are replaced with baby pictures (and updated every week).

13. Your friends who are unmarried or without kids look at you with greater respect. They also offer to help and you are surprised at their immediate expertise.

14. You end up living with a camera during all your waking hours and keep snapping. You have to get an additional hard drive to store the pictures.

15. You become completely indulgent of crying babies on flights, naughty babies in public places etc. In fact, you even wonder why the kids are crying or behaving badly (and get scared if this is your future).

16. You realize that one of the nicest sensations in the world is to stroke your own cheek with a little baby’s soft hands.

17. And finally… however much you crib about the problems, you don’t want to give it up for anything in the universe.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Ek Ka Do: Films I Have Watched Twice in Theatres

Films you watch twice in a theatre are oddities. Sometimes they do not have to be exceptionally good. Sometimes, they just have to be there. Or, sometimes you have to have a large group of friends – all of whom have similar tastes but at different times!
I – despite being a bit of a movie buff – can count on the fingers of one hand the number of films I have watched more than once in a theatre. The last one is obviously the one which triggered this post.

There comes a time in your life when the person you envy most is the guy who can speak to a girl without stammering.
Saajan released at the time when our generation was going through this phase. All of us were utterly convinced that only if the girls from Modern High knew how talented we were, they would choose us as their life partners for the next seven births and wear even shorter skirts for the Xavotsav finale night.
Sanjay Dutt was the talented, tongue-tied guy. Salman Khan was the smooth-talking flirt. Between the two of them, our entire class stood divided. And we had to watch the film again and again to be sure whom we wanted to be like. I watched it only twice – because I figured out I was Yunus Parvez by then!
And as it turned out, it ran for some 50 weeks at Priya. If the combined attendance of St Lawrence students were taken, we would have accounted for at least 10 of those 50.
In hindsight, Saajan is tacky, badly acted, sketchily scripted and obviously shot in a hurry. But it became the iconic film for a generation of people who either did not have the courage to profess their love or professed it to too many!

Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan
In b-school, I hung around with a guy who is Amitabh Bachchan’s greatest fan. He was the President of the Bachchan Fans’ Association of the institute. I was his official hanger-on.
When BMCM was about to release, we planned a special screening for the institute and spoke to Payal Cinema for blocking out one section of the balcony. As part of the advanced recce, we went first day first show and watched the movie. The special show could not be this one because the sissies of our batch were taking some class tests or some such piffling matter.
Anyway, on the designated day, we landed up in large numbers with posters, banners, whistles and gargled throats. It’s a good thing I watched the movie earlier because I did not catch a single dialogue that day!
Now that I am an old man, I wonder if BMCM was really such an enjoyable flick that one can watch it on consecutive days. With my newfound objectivity, I have to agree that its mediocrity would have alleviated manifold if that David Dhawan had not given all the punchy dialogues to paunchy Govinda.

Kal Ho Na Ho
This was the typical situation where you watch a movie before your friends and then they force you to watch it again with them. It was not a painful experience, though. On the second viewing, I sneaked out after the Mahi Ve song but it wasn’t a drag.
Actually, Nikhil Advani’s directorial debut was laced with great songs, some cool jokes, interesting set pieces (despite a hackneyed plot) and above all, the dimples of Shah Rukh Khan. It also had Saif’s Superman undies but the less said of that, the better!
Of all the politically incorrect jokes in movies, this one from KHNH is probably the subtlest (For the want of a better word)…
SRK (handing over an earphone): Isse apni kaan mein ghusa le.
Saif (shocked): Kahan ghusa loo?
SRK: Kaan mein.
Knowing sniggers.

I watched Sarkar thrice – and that too, in three different cities.
The first time was on the very first day in Calcutta, with Mom (AB fan, who thinks SRK is catching up), Dad (who still thinks Deewaar is AB’s best film) and Wife (who thinks how fast can we get to dinner at Oh Calcutta). After the film, it was Mom (oh God, where were you all this while?), Dad (okay, this is probably as good as Deewaar) and Wife (we will watch it again in Hyderabad).
We went back, gathered around all our friends and convinced them that this is a rather worthy remake of Godfather. Sceptics all – they sneered all the way to the multiplex. The sneers stopped at the first close-up of his clenched jaw.
The third time was in Bangalore with a lady friend of mine, who breathlessly commented about Junior B, “My god – he runs even better than his dad!” and tried to take pictures with her phone camera.
Genius must be a seasonal phenomenon because one friend messaged me in utter incredulity last Friday – “How can the same man who made Sarkar make Aag?”
Ramu – we want an answer to that question.

Chak De India
Did anyone think that the gang of girls would NOT win the World Cup? Obviously not, because when SRK puts on Aviators along with white shirts and jeans, there is nothing he can’t do! He can even tear off a bhnais ki poochh with his left hand.
This is archetypal ‘repeat’ movie. One huge star, patriotism, action, emotion, politically correct messages, politically incorrect stereotypes, deadly dialogues, one villain who turns good in the end, one cute Sardar and 16 babes in sleeveless vests and short skirts! And if that was not enough, we beat the Australians in a World Cup final…
Can we make Shah Rukh the coach of the cricket team? No? Oh damn!

These are the Hindi films. I guess in all languages, I can add Nayak, Agantuk, Meghey Dhaka Tara, Bicycle Thieves and Modern Times to the list. And there is one more film (Alai Payuthey - Tamil) which I have seen in two different languages - Saathiya (Hindi) and Sakhi (Telugu).

Thursday, September 06, 2007


The good doctor pulled out a slippery, gooey mess – not unlike a chicken marinated in tikka masala – and exclaimed – “Oh good, Dipta. A quiet boy like you. You won’t have to manage another one like Trishna.” (Ahem!)
Trishna took a look at the mess and squealed, “Oh god, he is so ugly. Just like ET. And so cute.”
Those first words are an apt summation of the last one year’s roller coaster of emotions and actions.

They are usually two kinds of creators in the world – Pygmalion and Doctor Frankenstein. And we veered between the two with a speed that would have scared a certified schizophrenic. One moment, we were totally in love with our bundle of Joy and the next, we were ready to give him to the next passing stranger!

Sometimes, I marveled at how much our parents did for me. Remember, they did not have diapers or wet wipes!
Sometimes, I wondered why I fell for my wife’s idea in the first place!
The other times, I was just too tired to think.

And as Mr Dyujoy Chaudhuri completes a year of entering our lives, I have to thank him. He made me realize the limits of my endurance. Then, he made me extend them!
And finally, he made me enjoy it all!