Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008, Signing Off

Outlook is debating if it is India's worst year yet. NDTV is calling it a year best forgotten. India Today has put a splash of blood on its year-end special. On a lighter note, Radio Mirchi is calling it Do hazaar-Vaat!
Clearly, 2008 is a year every one is waiting for to end. And take the blood & gore with it.

I see 2008 as The Year Trust Died.
We thought Sensex can only go up. We thought Lehmann Brothers employed some of the smartest business minds of world. We thought the Taj lobby was the poshest and safest place in the entire country. We thought Citi never sleeps. We thought our employers will never fire us. Hell, we even thought Rahul Dravid will never fail.
And each one of our symbols of faith crumbled. And if they didn't, they looked suspiciously susceptible.

This year, I did some unexpected - but eagerly awaited - things.
I did not participate in one of the best quiz shows on television - Bollywood Ka Boss. But that's because I contributed questions to it!
I wrote the end-notes for the English translation of two Satyajit Ray books, published under the Puffin imprint. Do take a look if you spot the books.
I visited the homes of Shakespeare, Holmes and Cricket.
And I watched my son going from a cute one-year old to a devilish two-year old.

But to keep a two-year tradition (thank god, I did not call it heritage!) going, I will try to collate my favourites from the year... in no particular order, in no particular category. Just to remember them later.

The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction had a picture of a gun-toting, cleavage-baring damsel on its cover. It totally lived up to its promise. Detective couples. Past lives. Corrupt politicians. Drug rackets in colleges. Office romance. If you liked 1970s Bollywood, you will love the book.
Jhumpa Lahiri wrote about the same stories yet again. But like the way we never tire of listening to the same stories about very good friends, I remained hooked on to Unaccustomed Earth till the very end.
We Are Like That Only (Rama Bijapurkar) and India After Gandhi (Ramachandra Guha) were two 'academic' books but totally readable! Actually, they were released earlier but I read them in '08.
Just added: The Tehalka Year-End Fiction Special is fantastic. Grab it at the next book stall.

Question of the Year: We are castigating a Punjabi girl for not being able to recognise her husband when he undergoes a makeover. But, even a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist fails to recognise her boyfriend when he takes off his glasses and wears his undies over his pants.

Did a lot of self-debating before awarding the Best Film award to Rock On! For a fabulous soundtrack on a totally satisfying film. Anybody doubting the power of the soundtrack should see my two-year old son go Na-na-na-na-na-na the moment Pichhle saat dinon mein comes on!
Coming in as joint second are two brilliant films, but unfortunately largely unseen.
A Wednesday deserved to get a large audience without the 26/11 baggage. One of the tautest thrillers, it had Naseeruddin Shah maintaining his usual standards and Anupam Kher rising beyond C Kompany.
Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! is going to become - like Andaz Apna Apna - one of the highest selling DVDs in India. Once people realise what a sansani-khez movie they missed out on, they will have to come in droves and pick it up. The maker of Khosla Ka Ghosla deserves it!

Question of the Year: What is unusual about someone who loses his memory every 15 minutes? Wasn't it said that we will anyways be remembered for only 15 minutes?

Most of my favourite bloggers slowed down to almost a grinding halt (8, 7, 3) though some of the old favourites have kept up the good work.
Some wonderful posts happened in my other favourites. Some new blogs were discovered - though it is entirely my tragic slowness to blame that it took me so long.
* Bollywood's charm winds into the unlikeliest of places. And for strangest of reasons!
* Even the worst Hindi films have one memorable dialogue that stays with you for a long time. But when you forget, where do you go to relive them? Here.
* One-liners are really difficult to generate. But these have a series of them on the most obvious of comparisons, but...
* A short poem. Which 'touches the g-spot of the mind'.
* Everybody in Tinseltown blogs nowadays. But he manages to have point of view. Whether you agree or not.
* What is the correct etiquette for a public loo (male)? What Emily Post never touched upon, he did.

Before I end, I am putting together a series of clues to remind me of the posts that I must do in 2009. Something like a series of Ghajini tattoos...
9820189743. Naaz, Meenakshi, Mithila. 55 x 18 = 990.
Can you figure what they will be about?

Calcutta Chromosome wishes all its readers a fantastic 2009.
As a toast goes, "In the New Year, may your hand always be extended in friendship and never in want."

Friday, December 12, 2008

Timeo Danaos...

I have received something called a Premio Dardos Award from Goofy Mumma. This rewards bloggers for "their efforts to transmit cultural, ethical, literary and personal values every day".

Cultural values? Check.

Ethical values? Check.

Literary values? Check.

Personal values? Check.

Thank you, GM.

Why the title? Three reasons.
1. It sounds a bit like the award itself.
2. It is the name of Jeffrey Archer story and somehow, I wanted to use it for a post. Never got the chance.
3. Me - for a 'values' award? I am looking at GM with a lot of suspicion!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Teen Deviyaan

While doing my previous post on Hum, I reminisced about Kimi Katkar and her films.
A certified starlet in the late 80s, she was one of several (minor) deities worshiped at the altar of teenage hormones. She came in - like the others - with a bang and then did a series of indistinguishable movies before settling down into happy matrimony.
They were never contenders for the No. 1 position but made up the numbers that make India the largest film-producing nation of the world. But they drew huge applause and commanded a reasonable fan-following among teenagers who were suitably impressed by their ability to change and drop clothes at frequent intervals.
This is the first instalment (in a series, that will hopefully be taken up by Nilendu) of Teen Queens.

Kimi Katkar
Kimi made her debut in Tarzan opposite Hemant Birje - a man who gave new meanings to the words 'wooden' and 'guttural'. But as 'Jane', Kimi played her role to sultry and sexy perfection. Tarzan, my Tarzan / Aaja tujhe sikha doon pyar kaise ho was a rage then and it would be again if somebody just released the damn video with Kimi in it!
Kimi's voluptuous figure made her a shoo-in for all the bold-heroine parts in the 80-90s style cut-price multi-starrers (read more about them here). These films needed an asexual heroine (sub-plot of having seen murder / widowed at young age / domesticated) and a sexy in-your-face one (sub-plot of country liquor bar owner / dancer due to family compulsions or spoilt rich brat in 'modern' clothes). Kimi did the latter roles to perfection.
She ran a country bar in Kaala Baazar. She was the college shrew in Rama O Rama. In villain Ranjeet's directorial debut (Karnaama), she had a series of 'bold' scenes with Vinod Khanna. And in the last film (and biggest hit) of her career, she was Jummalina Gonsalves - a dancer in a dockyard beer bar. Only in Vardi do I remember her breaking the mould and appearing in a white lab coat as Dr Sonam.
Keeping with her image, she was usually called Bijli. She acted many times opposite Anil Kapoor, who was a shoo-in for tapori roles himself. Her boldness was quite well-known. In one interview, she claimed that a kissing scene with Shatrughan Sinha (I forget the name of the film) had to be scrapped because the actor chickened out!
Eventually, she fell in love with fashion photographer Shantanu Sheorey and left films to marry him. There were rumours of her return but they died down completely within a few months.
She is probably settled in the USA right now and occasionally, a mid-30s Indian techie would see her walking down a supermarket aisle and wonder where he had seen this good-looking housewife before.

Sonam was the niece of Raza Murad (he of the Baritone Bigger than Big B!). Her real name is Bakhtawar (a name usually reserved for really cruel villains in Hindi cinema). Despite these two major shortcomings, she became synonymous with bikini roles in Hindi cinema between 1985 to 1995.
She kicked off with Yash Chopra's Vijay - in which she acted opposite Rishi Kapoor. Vijay was a sandwich between Yash's earlier Angry Young Man films (which gained him a formidable reputation) and his later Sweet Mushy Romantic films (which got him serious money). Nobody really remembers it. But aficionados would remember the petite Sonam in a yellow bikini being wooed by the voluminous Rishi.
Subsequently, Sonam flitted between a million skimpily-clad roles, which incorporated at least one swimming pool / sea-beach song each. In the notoriously prudish early 90s, she was not beyond a kiss or two (in the real sense of the act and not in the flower-touching style of Bollywood). In Ajooba, she even popped Rishi Kapoor down her blouse to hide him after he had shrunk to Liliputian dimensions, thanks to a magic potion.
I recall her screen-name being Sonam in more than one movie.
Her biggest hit was Tridev - which had our then national anthem Oye Oye - opposite Naseeruddin Shah, who did a fab job of acting really badly so that we are not distracted from Sonam's see-through harem pants! She also acted in the spiritual sequel - Vishwatma - again opposite Naseer in the most inconsequential role of the film, where she remained fully clothed while Divya Bharti stole the thunder with her thighs. This was probably because the director - Rajeev Rai - was in love with her by then and had no wish to expose his fiancee.
She married Rajeev Rai and eventually moved abroad (London?) because of Abu Salem's attempts to extort money and kill the director.

Neelam Kothari was never known by her full name. Probably because in the late 80s, the surname Kothari brought images of Pan Parag and therefore, bad teeth.
Her debut film - Love 86 (released in 1986, for those who are interested) - opposite Govinda was a massive hit and set her towards stardom. In the next few years, she acted in quite a few films opposite Govinda - most notably Khudgarz (which had Jeetendra and Shatrughan Sinha fighting each other in a loose copy of Kane And Abel) and Hatya (which finally marked Govinda's emergence as star).
Neelam's USP was cuteness. She was always seen in a pony-tail, wearing dungarees and t-shirt in college scenes or salwar-kameezes in family scenes. She was usually the daughter (Tanuja in Love 86) or sister (Amitabh in Agneepath) of an authoritarian figure. Her boyfriend was usually a tapori kind and her primary duty would be to playfully frown and pout at his antics. She has popped it a couple of times for the authoritarian figures to avenge her death (Indrajeet). In multi-starrers, she was the perfect foil to Kimi Katkar-style boisterous exposure and was the docile heroine. Though - for the life of me - I cannot recall any films of them together.
Much later, Neelam played herself in the biggest hit of her career. Unfortunately, Kuch Kuch Hota Hain was not about her, even though she had an eponymous TV show in the film. Neither was Hum Saath Saath Hain, in which she was the sister to the main leads and had to make do with Mahesh Thakur (known for being the father in millions of toothpaste and insurance ads) as her husband.
I don't know much about her marriage except that she married an NRI and there was opposition from the boy's side on having an actress daughter-in-law.

No one can pretend that any of these starlets would be getting a Lifetime Achievement Award. Their movies were strictly forgettable and mostly identical. Their acting was limited, which they were probably aware of. They lasted in the industry for approximately a decade each, acting in about 50 movies or so. They were never credited for their hits and remained in the news for the flitting affair or the bold cover picture.
Despite that, teenagers loved them, fantasised about them and their pictures adorned several hostel walls across the country. Thanks to our billion-strong film-crazy population, they commanded a fan following - though fleetingly - that would be higher than most Hollywood actresses at their peaks.

Even in such depressing times, when you think about Kimi Katkar dropping a coin inside her bra and challenging Amitabh to take it out, it brings a smile to your lips. And this is about two decades after she had acted in her last film.
This also has a value. This is also a social contribution. Infinitely better than our holier-than-thou politicians, at any rate.

Other similar starlets - that I can think of - are Farah, Shilpa Shirodkar, Divya Bharti, Raveena Tandon, and Mamta Kulkarni. They also deserve to be written about. Watch this space.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Random Movies I Like: Hum

When Mad Momma proposes a motion, the entire blogosphere takes sides. And when the topic is the hottest movie of the 1990s, it is like Yuvraj against Chris Broad - mayhem!

Hum released on 1st February 1991 across 400+ screens across the country. For teenagers who don't get surprised at Singh is Kinng's 800 screens would do well to understand that 400 screens = 400 theatres of 1000+ seats each and not 80 piddly multiplexes of 5 screens each.
To the best of my memory, Hum was the first Bollywood movie to have tremendous pre-release publicity and hype.
About a year before its release, the 'item song' - Jumma Chumma De De - was previewed at a Filmfare awards telecast on TV. And since then, India could not talk of anything else. The budget. The pairing (a nearing-50 Amitabh with nearing-25 Kimi Katkar). The tune of the Jumma Chumma song being lifted from an English (a guy called Mory Kante or some such) number. Bappi Lahiri lifting the same tune for another film (Thanedaar) around the same time. Etc etc.
But these are not the reasons I like the film, actually love the film.

* It had Amitabh's best entry in years.
A union leader - known only by his surname, Gonsalves (producer Romesh Sharma) - tries to rise against Bhaktawar (main villain, Danny) but is hung from a chain and about to be dropped into an acid vat. As the pulley gradually unfurls and he goes down with a martyr-ish look on his face, a man runs over and manages to latch on to the chain that suspends him. I remember screaming and jumping up (along with the rest of the hall) on to my seat. The man proceeded to pull out a bottle of rum, open the cap with his teeth and take a swig. Then he fought off the army of goons, all the while hanging on to the chain. Stupendous!

* It had Rajnikanth and Govinda in delightfully comical action roles.
As Amitabh's two younger (step) brothers - the police-officer and the college loafer - they provided perfect foil to Amitabh's old-worldly stardom by doing all sorts of crazy stuff. Effortlessly. In the most famous scene, Rajni says, "Bey-te lal, yek se bhale do aur do se bhale teen..." as he and Govinda beat up an army of goons led by one Captain Zatack (whose signature line was 'mere paison pe attack?' - yes, I am coming to that!) to the tune of a Batman soundtrack.
In fact, I first realised Govinda's star power when in a particular scene, the hall lustily cheered one of his dialogues. Somebody else being cheered in an Amitabh film was a definite first for me.

* It had a whole army of villains. Literally.
There was Danny, who was the first villain. He ruled a dockyard with the help of his red-kerchiefed army, led by Pratap (Amitabh's father, played by Deepak Shirke).
He was double-crossed by corrupt police officer, Anupam Kher. After Anupam burned Danny's family alive, Danny became bit of a tragic villain.
Famous dialogue: Iss duniya mein teen tareeke ke log hote hain. Dusro ke upar zulm karne wala Atyassaari. (Shot of Danny, running away.) Uske zulm ke khilaf awaaz uthane wala Krantikaari. (Shot of Amitabh, chasing Danny.) Aur in dono ke jung ka faida uthane wala - mere jaisa - Vyappaari!
There was the aforementioned Captain Zatack (and his band of merry men), who were corrupt officers of the Indian army and were trying to get kickbacks by buying battle tanks.
In the massive climax, Amitabh, Rajni and Govinda fought off all these guys in a battle involving tanks, helicopters (Amitabh hanging from it), bazookas and blood-curdling cries.

* It had millions of sub-plots.
Amitabh and Kimi's unrequited love story. Amitabh's sacrifice to bring up his step-brothers. Govinda's love story with Shilpa Shirodkar, in the face of her General father's (Kader Khan) opposition. Anupam Kher trying to sell shady tanks to the aforementioned General. A nautanki artiste (Kader Khan in a double role) being brought in to replace the General. Danny trying to take revenge for his dead family, mistakenly believing Amitabh to be responsible.
I must have forgotten the rest!

* It had Amitabh in a drunken scene, after ages.
For several years after the film, I knew the entire monologue involving gandi naali ka keeda and samaj ke gandagi se nikalne wala keeda by heart.

* It had Jumma Chumma De De.
Long before Pappu, we all knew Amitabh can't dance. He had a few quaint steps involving careful placement of hands and feet, which were religiously copied. But in those days, people copied everything of Amitabh.
But in the Jumma song, Amitabh danced like Elvis on Energizer batteries. Kimi Katkar (playing Jummalina Gonsalves) was the object of his osculatory ambitions and she matched him step for step, getting sprayed with beer an screaming her lines in the high-pitched voice of Kavita Krishnamurthy.
And in an even better reprise (Jumma Chumma Le Le), Amitabh and Kimi try to reach each other wading through a sea of people (Jumma had become a film star) to the tune of the song and in the climax, they embrace.

Apart from all of the above, I love the film because I saw it on Day One of release in Priya cinema of Calcutta (I have preserved the ticket to prove it!) - along with some fifteen classmates. We danced. We screamed. We whistled. We cheered. We booed. We laughed. We cried. We embraced each other because it was as if we were part of the same religion.
And at the end of day, we are faster friends because of Hum.