Thursday, April 23, 2009

Can they? Can't they? - IPL Post (2)

I imagine that I am watching the Rajasthan match with friends. Actually I am. Two of them on SMS and one of them on Yahoo.
As Mendis comes on to bowl, I can almost hear one of my college mates say, "Ajanta Ello re."

Shilpa and Shahrukh are both there to cheer their teams. Are they both sitting on the same balcony? Will Shahrukh throw her off?
Incidentally, Shilpa's sister is also there.

One good thing about the IPL is that you get to see really new, untested lads thrust into the international arena. Today KKR's opening bowler was Anureet Singh, who looks like the Jr Lucky from Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! and is probably Amrik Singh's nephew or something. I think he bowled far better than Ajit Agarkar ever did. But that's hardly any compliment.

The question in the title does not refer to whether KKR will win the IPL or not. As a genial jethu says in the Nokia ad, "Tum bhi jeet sakte ho..."
It refers to whether KKR will be able to identify Fake IPL Player. The latest post has 482 comments and some 1210 followers (when I checked last)!
My initial guess was that its Akash Chopra, since he can write well and so does FIP. But then, it is such a no-brainer that Chopra wouldn't risk it. Unless of course, he has given up all hopes of continuing in IPL, cricket and India.
Now I think it is Sourav himself. He is probably not writing it himself but supplying the dope to someone in the media, who is posting them in a rather easy & racy style!
There are millions of reasons why it shouldn't be him. But only one reason why it should. Nobody else in the vicinity of the IPL has the balls to call India's most powerful star Badshah Dil**.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dear John - IPL Post (1)

To: John Buchanan
Cc: Sourav Ganguly, Brendon McCullum, Chris Gayle, Brad Hodge, Shahrukh Khan

Dear John,

While you are thinking of multiple captains, did you - at any point - think of having multiple batsmen and bowlers as well? I mean - one batsman scoring and not even one bowler delivering is not really something 4 captains can solve.

Regards -

PS: Shahrukh - I know it's your team and you have paid for it and all.
But that's my city's name you are using. And you want me to buy a KKR jersey, don't you? So, start winning!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Dream Merchants

For a very long time after its independence, India did not have a proper news magazine. The ones that existed - Blitz, Illustrated Weekly of India - essentially covered politics and looked down upon Bollywood. So, outside the film press, there was no coverage of Hindi cinema and thanks to the snobbery, no discussion in polite society either. 
India Today - which started somewhere in the late 1970s - was probably the first serious magazine to put a film star on the cover. It helped that the star was Amitabh Bachchan, who was bigger than he ever was and bigger than anybody else could ever dream of. They not only gave him an epithet - One Man Industry - but also profiled two film makers who made their fortunes with Amitabh. 
And therefore, for a long time, Manmohan Desai and Prakash Mehra represented Bollywood to the non-fan. 

While these two directors were extremely successful and had their srengths, I don't think they even come close to being the most entertaining directors of Bollywood. 
Manmohan Desai was an one-story man, which he did with a great deal of style and chutzpah. And Prakash Mehra was a bad director. Period. His only claim to fame should be the fact that he found Salim-Javed to write him a script called Zanjeer (for which he tried to cast Dev Anand and Raj Kumar, among others), who also found him the lead actor of the film. 

There are three other directors, who have entertained a larger audience with greater skill, style and substance. 

Yash Chopra
He made a saga (Waqt) about a family of three brothers, separated by a natural calamity and then crossing each other's paths by strange twists of fate. He made a song-less thriller (Ittefaq) about an escaped convict landing up in a woman's house. He made bigamy legitimate due to amnesia (Daag). He made off-beat love stories (Lamhe, Kabhi Kabhie, Silsila, Darr). 
And of course, he defined the persona of the Angry Young Man with Deewaar, Trishul and Kaala Patthar
Several times in his career, he failed at the box-office for being too ahead of the times (Ittefaq, Lamhe and Silsila, for example) but there have been several instances of him shamelessly pandering to the box-office without anything substantial and still succeeding (Dil to Paagal Hain, Veer Zaara). 
Despite making all these hugely succesful films, it is enough - for me, at least - to remember him for just one film. Or for that matter, just one scene. The one in which a dock labourer tells a mafia don that "main aaj bhi phneke hue paise nahin uthata..."

Nasir Hussain
His forte was long names for films. Except for a Caravan, I cannot think of any names which are less than 3 words and 25 letters. 
See for yourself - Zamaane Ko Dikhana, Yaadon ki Baraat, Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin, Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon, Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hain, Itna Bada Naam Censor Certificate Pe Kaise Baithega?
Oh - not the last one! 
He worked with huge stars like Dev Anand, Shammi Kapoor, Jeetendra, Dharmendra and Rishi Kapoor - leveraging their charms for great success. He also worked with not-so-charismatic or new stars like Joy Mukherjee and Tariq (his nephew). 
None of his films were complete without teeny-bopper romance, a qawwali, a song-competition, a reunion of childhood buddies/relatives and a song atop a moving vehicle. 
But his genius was in taking these predictable set-pieces and mixing them up in a marvelous bhelpuri of such punch that even today when I see Yaadon Baraat, I am quite overwhelmed by the scene where Vijay Arora completes Tariq's song for a grand reunion of the brothers as an emotional Dharmendra looks on! 
And guess what - when he launched his son and nephew in the late 80s, he followed the same formula. Long name - check. Reunion of childhood enemies - check. College romance - triple check! 
QSQT did not have a song competition. But the film which came immediately afterwards did - Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar
What did I tell you about long names and Nasir Hussain? 

Shakti Samanta
He is the man, who demise last week triggered off this post. 
Shakti Samanta - in a span of about 10 years - directed/produced Kashmir ki Kali, An Evening in Paris, Aradhana, Kati Patang and Amar Prem. As I write the names, I realised that while he is credited with creating the first superstar of Hindi cinema in Rajesh Khanna, it is Sharmila Tagore who is more regular (4 out of 5) in this set of monster hits!
In the late 1970s, he made a habit of making films simultaneously in Bengali and Hindi - Amanush, Anand Ashram and Barsaat Ki Ek Raat
As a commercial film maker, he clearly stood among the very best because his sense of his actors' strengths was brilliant and it showed up repeatedly. Be it Sharmila's rosy-cheeked innocence in KKK, bikini-clad svelteness in Paris or Rajesh Khanna's mannerisms, he made these people into stars by creating an aura around them. 
"Aansoo pochh dalo, Pushpa. I haaaaate tears..." from Amar Prem is easily the most repeated Rajesh Khanna line - quite a pathetic line, brought to immortality only for the manner a reigning superstar said it! 
Again in Aradhana, he took the bold descision of killing off the superstar halfway through the film and then made him return as the son. Rajesh Khanna's entry on an airstrip, complete with an intro by his friend (played by an unrecognisable Subhash Ghai) - "Jab Prakash aa gaya hain, toh Suraj bhi zyada door nahin ho sakta" - is one of the best entry scenes in Hindi cinema. Ever.
The encyclopaedia of mind-numbingly good music that he created is very lovingly recounted here. I won't add to it. 
What I will add is one more piece of my favourite Bollywood puzzle, that needs to be repeated every once in a while...  

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Separated At Birth

If there is anything which distinguishes this General Election from the previous ones, it is the armchair activism. I call it 'armchair' because the hordes of concerned citizens taking to the polling booths is yet to happen.
Starting with the shrill (Tata Tea - Agar aap vote nahin kar rahe ho...) to the emotional (Times of India - Let's make this vote count) to the quirky (Radio Mirchi - Dot hain to Hot hain!), the Indian voter is certainly not unaware of the importance of his vote any longer.
He is not starved of information either. Be it the voter registration process, the affidavit details of candidates, parties's stands on issues - the data is available in a friendly format at a webiste or newspaper near him.
Having decided to vote and having the information, he faces the much more difficult question - Who?

Primarily because the information - like our candidates and parties - is indistinguishable.

LK Advani is projecting himself as the mazboot neta leading a nirnayak sarkar. One stunt of his - which got surprisingly low air time - was the challenge for a televised debate with Manmohan Singh. He was obviously angling to come across as a man of might in front of the mild-mannered Manmohan. And that would have convinced the nation that a 26/11 wouldn't have happened under his mazboot rule.
But surprisingly, two of India's most high-profile terror attacks - the Parliament Attack and the IC 814 Hijack - happened under his Home Ministership.
What mazbooti are we talking about?

Congress is talking about the hate-mongering of the BJP. It is frothing at the mouth in outrage over Varun Gandhi and the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat.
Interestingly, the official death toll in the 2002 Gujarat riots is only (sic) about 1000. While the corresponding figure for Sikhs killed in November 1984 is nearly 3000.
One would assume that political parties in a civilised nation would want to distance themselves from such skeletons from their past and sideline people who were involved. Actually, party officials accused - admittedly, not yet convicted - are being given Election tickets on both sides of the fence.
And maybe, there is a 'market' for these netas as well.

Mayawati rode to power in Uttar Pradesh on an anti-incumbency wave against Mulayam Singh Yadav. One of the worst things to hit Mr Yadav was not only his inability to tackle crime in the state but his cheek to get one Mr Amitabh Bachchan to endorse it for him! In fact, the biggest poll promise of Behenji was to end the Samajwadi goonda raj.
A couple of weeks back, the BSP candidates for the polls were announced and a whopping 20% of the BSP candidates in UP had criminal records - including ex-SP people who have changed sides as well as people sitting in jail, awaiting trial for murder.

For thirty years, people in West Bengal suffered a series of Left Front ministers and party bosses who tried everything in their capacity to cripple industries in the state. There were bandhs, gheraos, michhils and general mayhem as the government tacitly supported the 'masses'. As the votes piled on, the exodus of the companies stopped only because there was nobody left to move out.
Now, we are told that we have an alternative. And that alternative is riding on the same plank that the Left Front used to drive away companies all this while. Trinamool is the next big hope for Bengal, because they drove away India's most high-profile factory from the state.

Is it Congress who is giving 35 kilos of rice at Rs 2 to BPL families? Or is it BJP who is giving 25 kilos at Rs 3?
Should I vote for Mayawati because she is Mulayam with a handbag?
Or, should I vote for Mamata because she is Jyoti Basu in a saree?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

You Must Be A Bong If...

... you are secretly proud of Pranab Mukherjee.

... you feel a mild surge of anger whenever people mention Greg Chappell and John Buchanan.

... you think the Left Front is corrupt. Though not Buddha-babu.

... you feel that Mamata Banerjee should not become CM, come what may.

... you attribute people's successes to their Bong connections. And rue the chance to claim Ratan Tata into the fold.

... your ranking of the top Engineering colleges is like this: Presidency College, IIT Kharagpur, BE College, Jadavpur University...
What did you say? Presidency does not have Engineering? My friend, it is still the best.

... you always speak in Bengali even when you are in neighbouring states like Jharkhand and Orissa. Or for that matter, C R Park.

... you can catch a cold in summer.
Only Bengali language has a term called sardi-garmi.

... you feel sorry for Tamils since they have to eat idli-dosa every day.

... you are convinced you are more intelligent than your boss.

... irrespective of where you stay, you have bought (or are planning to buy) a flat in Rajarhat.

... you have a Rabindra Rachanaboli, which you have hardly read.

... you have a Feluda Shomogro, which you have read cover-to-cover. And do so every month!

... you pity people who have never heard of Jacques Derrida.
Even you don't know what the guy does. But nobody will dare ask you that.

... you claim that Beef Kabab outside Statesman House is best dish you have ever tasted.

... you think Ritwik Ghatak is a better film-maker than Satyajit Ray. And Snehasish a better batsman than Sourav!

Inspired by this post. Feel free to add on.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Oddballs Strike Back

Okay, I made a couple of mistakes when I listed my favourite oddball musical compositions from Hindi films... The Lamhe and the Love Story song shouldn't have been there.
Oddball - as defined by me - is a quirky, obscure composition with at least one of its lyrics, tune and singer being totally unusual. The two aforementioned songs fall in the great-but-obscure categories but they are neither quirky nor non-traditional. So, cut them out... till the post about great-but-obscure songs. 

And of course, I forgot to list so many of my other favourite Oddballs! To clarify the definition and complete the listings, here is the Second Coming of the Oddballs. 
Statutory Warning: These are MY Oddballs. Difference of opinion guaranteed! 

Ek chatur naar (Padosan)
HOW could I have forgotten the two Oddest Balls of Hindi screen - Mehmood and Kishore Kumar - played back by two Odd Bongs - Manna Dey and KK himself - raise a racket as Saira Banu hangs around in a conical bra? And Sunil Dutt looks really happy - not at all like the father of a son whose best friend is going to be Amar Singh! 
A harmonium, a mridangam, a lasso, a bolster... all happily contribute to a mayhem like any other! 

Gapuchi gapuchi gum gum (Trishul)
There is an accepted theory in Bollywood that in 1970s, Yash Chopra was the New School while moneybag producers like Gulshan Rai were Old School. The latter could not imagine films without songs while the former felt songs could be done away with IF the story demands it. Yash Chopra made some landmark films with Trimurti Films (Gulshan Rai's banner) - like Deewaar and Trishul, which defined the phenomenon we know as Amitabh Bachchan. None of these films needed songs but Gulshan-saab insisted a few 'relief points' to break the grimness of the films. 
And as a result, you have three songs in Deewaar. And four in Trishul - including this wonderfully crazy number, starring Poonam Dhillon and Sachin.  
And the prelude helpfully translates the inane lyrics! 

Masterji ki aa gayi chitthi (Kitaab)
A school-song with crazy lyrics, almost no music (except thumping benches), high-pitched 'kiddie' voices and a chorus line like 'VIP Underwear Baniyan' can only be created by RD Burman and Gulzar. 
In an otherwise not-so-great film, this was a rocking number as was the other oddball from the same film - Dhanno ki aankh mein - which was blessed with a gadget which distorted the sound of a guitar and only RD could have used it. 

Ding dong O Baby, Sing a Song (Hero)
Hero was the archetypal Subhash Ghai movie - great music, a lovely instrumental theme, roller-coaster story and super-octane dialogues. 
It also had this song, which exhorted the heroine to sing a song in a rather unusual rhyme! Otherwise a traditional filmi number, the eponymous chorus elevates the song to complete quirk-dom! And in the middle, it has a false-bearded Sanjeev Kumar (looking like Shammi Kapoor) going Ding Dong in a pseudo-baritone... mind-blowing! 
Hero Trivia: The four sidekicks of the hero had names whose initials were Sa, Re, Ga and Ma. 

Aslam Bhai (Love Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega)
Johnny Lever plays a bhai, wanting to make it big in movies. So, you have Aftab Shivdasani and Snehal Davi (as Aaj Kapoor!) chadaoing him on a channe ka jhaad. A brilliant song, preceded by an equally brilliant intro dialogue, explains how Aslam Bhai has everything required to reach the top of the Bollywood greasy pole. 
Na tu nanga, na tu hakla, na tu ganja... Aslam Bhai!
Haath mein bas paanch ungli, hero ban jaa Aslam Bhai!

Jaane kya hoga Rama re (Kaante)
Reservoir Dogs never had anything like Malaika Arora or a song like this one! Malaika (I like 'er) danced to Mahi Ve while the 'cool dudes' walked around New York singing cigarette ke dhuen ka chhalla banake... 
And Reservoir Dogs did not have this riddle either.
Q: Agar tere sar pe bomb rakh diya, to pehle kiya phatega - bomb ya tera sar? 
A: Sab se pehle toh teri phategi! 

Hum ko aajkal hai intezaar (Sailaab)
Why is this song an oddball? 
This is one of the seminal Madhuri Dixit songs (composed by Bappi Lahiri), performed by her with the energy and passion that still makes Bollywood miss her. But why the oddball tag? 
Simple. Listen to the song (prefereably audio) so that you are not distracted by Madhuri in that stunning yellow costume. You'll realise that the construction of the song is reverse of the traditional way - the lead vocalist sings the same line repeatedly while the chorus sings the different stanzas of the song. 

So, that's my second list of Oddballs. Let me think... what did I miss this time?