Friday, July 22, 2011

The Book of Bollywood Lists

And so, Westland has shown extraordinary courage by agreeing to publish what is going to be my second book. It is an honour to be published by the same house which has several of my favourite author/bloggers on their list already. From literary fiction to cinema to travelogue to horror, their roster of authors and range of topics are quite fantastic. Three of their authors made it to the cover of Outlook recently as Lo-Cal Literati.
Okay... end of publisher gushing. Now, the book...

The book is about the favourite pastime of Bollywood fans.
Which are the 10 best death scenes? 7 best sequels? Anupam Kher’s 8 best performances? 12 best comedies of all times? The whole parlour game of making lists – and fighting endlessly over them – is what this book is all about. Currently, blood is being shed in college canteens, on internet discussion forums, over a drink to decide the 10 best Gulzar-RD songs This book is not intended to stop those battles but to fuel them.
(BTW, none of the above lists appear in the book.)
The book is about getting more people to join in the favourite pastime of Bollywood fans.
This book is incomplete. Don't ask for your money back because I assure you it is more fun this way. The book lists out some of the names of a list and you are supposed to come up with more. Scribble in the extra names on the margins. Call up your childhood buddy in Alwar and ask him how many films he remembers in which Amitabh played a Muslim. Feel superior if an obvious name is missing.

In short, this book is for you.
Readers of Calcutta Chromosome are requested to buy, read and gift the book in large quantities.
(Helpful Hint: Buy two copies at least. Keep one on the bedside table and quickly flip through a couple of chapters before sleeping. Keep one in the drawing room to impress visitors with your eclectic taste.)

But first, get to work. Give me a name for the book.
The Book of Bollywood Lists (a.k.a TBBL) is not sounding deliriously inviting to me. So, do you have some better ideas?
Title Suggestion Trivia: Kirron Kher is credited with 'Title Idea' in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Palace of Memories

I came to Calcutta after a very long time. And after an even longer time, the taxi driver did not take the usual route via the EM Bypass and went through the city. Despite the crawling traffic in sweltering heat, this turned out to be a very beautiful trip because I passed through the places of my earliest memories of the city - after a gap of nearly three decades.
Navigating through places where you have spent only your early childhood is a slightly disconcerting experience. Distances that were supposed to be long - almost interminable - turn out to be a few steps. Open fields that were shortcuts are now crammed with multi-storied apartments. Deserted construction sites are now shopping complexes. Open markets with slushy lanes have now become Pantaloons.

I passed an auditorium where I gave my first stage performance, wearing my first pair of trousers (dark brown) along with a pink full-sleeved shirt. Like hundreds of pre-schoolers down the ages, mine too was a rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and I still have a B&W photo of myself with my hand pointing skyward. I am quite sure such a photo exists in almost every Indian household.

I passed what was earlier a saloon - called Kesh Karu (in the Bengali poetic tradition) - where I had my first haircuts and whose penchant for crew cuts defined my hairstyle preference ever since.

A cinema called Alo Chhaya has now folded up with a rusty collapsible gate protecting the brood of dogs peacefully sleeping on the lobby. This was the place where my parents went one Sunday afternoon in 1975 and watched a film called Deewaar and discovered the phenomenon that is still ruling the box-office. I remember going to watch Yaarana in the same hall with my mother, while returning from school one day. (Yes, she is a cool mom!)

I went past the massive walls of Loreto Convent - whose lush compound is probably one of the most beautiful campuses I have seen and is only visible when you are on the flyover beside it. This is still as beautifully green as I remembered it.

On the road approaching Park Circus Maidan, Detective Training College and Forensic Training Institute still stood opposite each other and brought back my childhood thoughts when I always wondered if Prodosh C Mitter or Byomkesh Bakshi were invited as guest lecturers to these places. 

Christ the King Church may have a lot of religious significance but for me, it is a venue for quizzes. This and Dalhousie Institute are the places where the best and brightest minds  of Calcutta pitted brains against each other. In a moment of pompousness, some quizzer proclaimed that the buses of Calcutta called the halt outside DI 'quiz stop'. In my many years of travelling to DI by buses, it had never been referred thus. Truth be told, however culturally evolved Calcutta bus conductors were, they were unlikely to stop buses for 'quizzes' which - even in DI's busy calendar - happened only a few days in the year! This was - what we called - a 'home-made' question.  

The stop outside DI is known for the institution on the opposite side of the road - Modern High School of Girls, though the name is mangled beyond belief. This school is the alma mater of many worthies ranging from Aparna Sen to my sister and is considered to be the shrine of nyakaness. Every time I have said this, Modernites have jumped up and counted out many examples who are not nyaka - thus proving my point conclusively because you can only count exceptions!

Before we finally turn in to the road to my house, I leave behind Cakes - a store which was earlier Kookie Jar, which has to be (without exaggeration) the world's best pastry store. Cakes does a fair replica of KJ's products and the difference between the two is only palpable the  morning after. Kookie Jar's Macaroon Tart's crust holds even after a night in the fridge while Cakes' crumbles.

So what is the point of this nostalgic rambling?
Nothing because Calcutta is not about bullet points. This was just a recounting of memories that now exist in a different form.

The city has changed beyond recognition physically and yet when I walk down a lane - any lane - in the early evening, I still hear strains of tanpura, harmonium and voices practising Rabindrasangeet.
Shiamak Davar classes have started but students at Mamata Shankar's dance academy still cause a traffic jam in my lane.
Professionals return to the city only to work with corporates based in other cities of India. But they are happy. Probably because their office is 'right opposite the office of Dover Lane Music Conference'.

It is still the only Indian city where there are roadside boards with the day's newspaper stuck on to them. Though, it is no longer Ganashakti (the Left mouthpiece). It is Jago Bangla, adorned with the new Chief Minister's pronouncements.
The witty Anandabazar hoarding outside arrivals gate at the airport is no longer there but the print advertisements for the paper - "Pujo shonkhya manei Ananabazar" - is reassuringly erudite.
New bookstores have sprung up and many lament that their favourite para bookshops have shut down. But it is still the only place in the world where the bookstore attendants actually read in the store and recommend additional titles when they see your purchases.
It follows the Great Indian Malaise of changing the names of institutions of public usage - airports, bridges, colleges, train stations. But they are not named after members of one dynasty or one party. Intellectuals and patriots ranging from diverse fields are chosen instead. I was very impressed to find that the Institute of Printing Technology is housed in Upendra Kishore Bhawan (named after one of the pioneers of modern printing in India, who is also Satyajit Ray's grandfather).
And speaking of Ray, his fictional creations have now ensured that Bengalis don't have to depend on Che Guevera and The Beatles for t-shirt art. Professor Shonku (who turns 50 this September) and Feluda have now started an industry by themselves.

None of these things have any tangible value and yet I feel illogically happy that this is the place where I was born.
And this is where I will have to come back to die. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Snippets of a Lazy Blogger

A few days back, the venerable GreatBong shared a link with me - from way back in the early 1990s. In those days, a film called Agneepath (on which I have dwelt on, in considerable detail, here) had a 'charity premier' in Calcutta for which Amitabh Bachchan and Mithun Chakraborty had both come to town. The link is from a 'video magazine' of those days (Lehren) that chronicled that momentous occasion.
My story of watching Agneepath (first day, second show) is an epic in itself, which I will leave for another day. But I remembered an interesting tidbit from this particular star sortie in Calcutta. At a joint press conference, some journalist had asked Mithun if he felt peeved that in his own hometown, Amitabh was getting more attention. While there was an undercurrent of rivalry between the two, Mithun deflected this by answering - "In a Bengali household, the son-in-law always gets more attention than the son."

Which, in turn, reminded me of yet another star repartee.
When Govinda entered politics and contested Lok Sabha elections from North Mumbai (which includes, among other places, Virar), he was written off as a comedian who would entertain before losing his deposit. The same people who had written off one Amitabh Bachchan (contesting against HN Bahuguna in Allahabad 1984) must have made this prediction as well because Govinda not only won, but won handsomely.
I watched a Hindi news channel interview Govinda after his victory and asked the mandatory question - "aap ko kaisa mehsoos ho raha hain?"
Govinda flashed his gleaming white teeth and said, "Mujhse mere tajurbe ke baare mein bahut sawaal poochhe gaye. Main iske pehle bhi uska uttar de sakta tha. Lekin main chup raha aur Mumbai ke matdataon ka intezar kiya. Aur jab Mumbai uttar diya, Uttar Mumbai de diya..."

* * * * *
What do people do to be seen on TV with a celebrity?
A very reliable source told me about a particular contestant in this year's Kaun Banega Crorepati who sent in more than 1,00,000 SMSes to the show during the elimination rounds.
Yes, you read that correctly. One. Person. Sent. In. One. Lakh. Messages.
Of all those answers, 65000 were correct. And do you know when that guy will be on KBC this season?
None of those answers made it to the randomizer that selects the final contestants to be on the show. None.
He has the type of luck where he shouldn't be in a flight path because planes would probably fall on him. But then, Amitabh Bachchan is lucky to have him as a fan. 

* * * * *

HT recently did a story on Bengalis settled in Delhi and profiled a gentleman called Chittaranjan Pakrashi who stays in - where else - Chittaranjan Park. I once heard of a Saket (Agarwal) who stayed in Saket. I am sure there is at least one Vikas Puri staying in Vikaspuri.
This is so much better than Juhi in Juhu and Anupam Kher in Khar.
(Trivia Alert: In his struggling days, Anupam Kher's address was something like Anupam Kher c/o Mrs Kaur, Khetwadi, Khar).
How many more can you think of?

Monday, July 11, 2011

100 Days

Having just drawn a Test match that could have got us an unbelievable 2-0 win over the mighty West Indies in West Indies (because we didn't want to chase 86 runs in 90 with 7 wickets in hand), it is difficult to feel very happy about Indian cricket.
But then, I have to remind you that it is exactly 100 days (down to probably the hour) since Mahedra Singh Dhoni carted Kulasekara over mid-on and ended a 28-year old wait. As I tweeted that day, "We have waited for longer than Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison or James Dean has lived".

This World Cup was brought alive by many friends and unknowns across the globe, through Facebook and Twitter. So, on the Official Celebration Day of a movie (as dictated by Bollywood), I thought of recounting the World Cup through tweets and FB statuses.
Feel free to add on yours...

rameshsrivats - 7 Feb 
If you look at our recent captains, perhaps Sourav gave us a spine, Kumble gave us a heart, and Dhoni gave us balls. 

diptakirti - 9 Feb
Rahul Bhattacharya hoping, India will win one match more in 2011 than they did in 2003. Magical.

diptakirti - 15 Feb (Morning radio had a surprise RJ - MSD!)
Factoid of the day: MS Dhoni's mother-in-law's name is Sheila. But that did not stop him from playing Sheila KJ as RJ on Mirchi!

diptakirti - 17 Feb (Cricket's biggest stage was getting set and all I could think of was IPL.)
Bangladesh hosts its biggest opening ceremony and I missed it. All I know is that Sourav Ganguly wasn't picked here either.

spymaami - 18 Feb 
Created fantasy team with 11 hot players. Hoping that at least 30% of them take off their shirts.

sidin - 19 Feb (Cricket was not on everybody's minds.)
I have a fantasy league also. But not comprising cricketers.

eyepeeyell - 19 Feb (during the India-Bangladesh match)
Considering he wrote both anthems, who would Rabindranath Tagore support?

When the India-Bangla match ended, my friend Koustuv forgave them for the upset from 4 years back: 
"2007 Khoon Maaf" 

diptakirti - 21 Feb (by this time, the Hindi news channels had gone mad)
Dear Aaj Tak, do not use phrases like 'Rok sako to rok lo' already. We have beaten only Bangladesh.

diptakirti - 27 Feb (England had us on the mat and guess who scored a century? Again.)
All this while, we were saying 'win it for Sachin'. Now, we should say 'Sachin, win it for us'.

diptakirti - 2 Mar (2 days later, England was done in by Ireland while I did a bit of channel surfing)
TV is bursting with adrenaline - Dhoom on SET Max, Ghayal on Star Gold, Karma on Zee and above all, Ireland on Star Sports.

diptakirti - 15 Mar (I had just finished the best cricket novel ever. Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilaka)
World's greatest cricket team: Hobbs, Gavaskar, Bradman, Richards, Border, Sobers, Akram, Lindsay, Barnes, Lillee, Pradeep Mathew #Chinaman

diptakirti - 17 Mar (After the South Africa match)
#youprefer for last over: Ashish Nehra or Chetan Sharma?

misschamko: - 18 Mar (Ahead of the West Indies match, a spoof of the Airtel ad becomes a serious question)
To the indian middle order. Aaj kal ek nayi beemari aayi huyi hai. Are you there?

diptakirti - 20 Mar (And despite winning against WI, I remembered their Last Action Hero)
I am remembering Vivian Richards and feeling incredibly sad.

diptakirti - 24 Mar (Panic had taken over on the morning of the QF against Australia)
Yaar, let's decide today's match by SMS voting.

samitbasu - 24 Mar (Others were invoking mascots!)
Win today, India. Win it for Bob Christo.
diptakirti - 24 Mar (While my panic increased manifold)
An ad for slimming 'Motapa se Mukti'. I read it as 'Motera se Mukti'. Calm down. Deep breath. In out. In out. IS VIRU PLAYING OR NOT?

diptakirti - 24 Mar (Though it all turned out fine in the end and enthusiastic Amdavadis celebrated in style) 
And nine years later, people still celebrate an Indian victory the way it should be... By taking off the shirt and twirling it in the air!

diptakirti - 25 Mar (In between, people wrote perceptive articles) - An amazing join-the-dots article by @sidvee on India's Y Factor and Z Factor.

diptakirti - 26 Mar (A few days before the SF, I saw yet another ad.)
Just saw an ad. Side profile of a face I've been seeing for 22 years and three words - Bring it on. Yes Afridi, bring it on.

ZaltzCricket - 27 Mar (And at Ground Zero, this was somebody's idea of a joke)
Greetings from the PCA, Mohali, where the Indian team is practising. And looking worrying out of form. They are practising football, though.

Sacredinsanity - 28 Mar (Gulzar responded thus to entreaties to work)
India-Pak match ke din aap humse kaam karwayenge? Ghar aiye, match dekhenge. Shayad wahin se lyrics aa jayenge

diptakirti - 30 Mar (I was dying on the morning of the match)
Dear Chest Muscles - relax, loosen up. The match is still five hours away.

diptakirti - 30 Mar (The One in Which Ashish Nehra Redeemed Himself)

diptakirti - 30 Mar 
Afridi, great job done. But the original 18-year old had to win today. Sorry.

rameshsrivats - 30 Mar
If Ind beats SL in the final, we'd have beaten all past champs in our last 4 games. In the order in which they won.

ImZaheer - 31 Mar 

ikaveri - 31 Mar (Somebody provided the perspective)
Patriotism: painting ur face & screaming urself hoares? Ask d jawan who spent last night on a cold, lonely post ready to take a bullet 4 us.

iPoonampandey - 31 Mar 
and the Countdown begins :) Stay tune Stay Raw

diptakirti - 1 Apr
Mirchi playing the perfect thought for the Cup: tere bina zindagi se koi shiqwa to nahin. Tere bina zindagi bhi lekin zindagi to nahin.

diptakirti - 2 Apr
Roses are red, violets bleed blue (from @sidin). I am dying of tension, what about you?

148isme - 2 Apr (Some people in the US needed help in explaining cricket to the Yanks)
Need of the hour- an Amar Chitra Katha book on Sachin Tendulkar. Boy, it takes too much to explain to folks otherwise.

diptakirti - 2 Apr (My sister-in-law believes in preparing for a match.)
Chips and tri-colour dip! Bring it on, Sanga!!

148isme - 2 Apr (Some bowlers didn't click that day. Like every day.)
Munaf Patel - RFM. Zaheer Khan - LFM. Sreesanth - WTF.

diptakirti - 2 Apr (Yuvi was capping an already fantastic World Cup with some breathtaking fielding.)
Wow! Yuvraj - 1. Gravity - 0.

diptakirti - 2 Apr (While everybody was depressed at the early fall of wickets, I had a thought.)
Rajini to come three down. Kamalhaasan to be his bat.

diptakirti - 2 Apr (But there was a bigger gun-slinger in town that day.)
Anhoni ko Dhoni kar de?

diptakirti - 2 Apr (In the end, it was...)

diptakirti - 2 Apr
*hand* @sidin: Hand. “@thecomicproject: *hand* RT @doomoo: Ok who all on this timeline shed tears? Show of hands. *hand*”

Stunning, no?

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Lines We Love to Say

Some time back, I did a post on my favourite dialogues from Hindi cinema. Iconic they were but I found most of them weren't very useful in real life. For example, I have never heard anyone say "main aaj bhi phneke hue paise nahin uthata" - however much we wanted to say it, though.
On the other hand, many not-so-dazzling lines have come to occupy a prime position in our daily conversation. Even if I don't include Sholay (which is something like an all-occupying behemoth in our lives), there are so many funny/sad/romantic lines from movies that we keep on saying. And saying. And saying...

In the mythological times, a self-righteous, forever-truthful man tried to restrain his muscular younger brother in extenuating circumstances. In the mid 1980s, a crazy bunch of people made a film with that situation
and gave words to it - "Shaant gadaadhari Bheem, shaant!"
I have heard people say it when some novice offered to take large sales targets. People have said it to diffuse heated arguments. I now want it to be said in a film. Maybe in a love-making scene, the lady could say it to temper the passions of her beau. Oh - by the sizzling scissors of Censors - what a scene it will be!

You realise how iconic a film is when you hear so many of its phrases making it to everyday lingo.
How many times have people coaxed you to eat more by saying "thoda khao, thoda phneko"?
Ever since a Time magazine photographer who appeared in the earlier film told us about the abundance of food in USA, we knew that when we were eating well, we had to throw some food for every piece we eat.

Food – specifcially cake – is the great Indian obsession.
Be it the Time magazine photographer or the guys from SoBo, we are willing to go to inordinate amounts of trouble to get cake.
Every birthday party I’ve been to has had its share of interlopers and whenever a frowning look has landed on any of them, they have always stated the truth… cake khane ke liye hum kahin bhi pahunch jaate hain.
The first Bollywood villain with a lineage was Gogo. He was the great Mogambo's nephew (bhatija). And as befitting such a pedigree, he did not rest on his laurels. He was hell-bent on proving it every single time -
Khandaani chor hoon. Aaya hoon, kuch toh lootkar jaoonga!! 
I have had a colleague who refused to leave office without invoicing some goods to his distributors ("khandaani ASM hoon, kuch toh bechke jaoonga..."). I have heard it many times when people were hell-bent on doing something they were meant to do. They were egging themselves on!

We love twists in the tale – not only in movies but in real life as well. Whenever people want to give up on something, we like to appear like a hero in a Hindi film climax and announce the twist. No sales conference is complete with an unannounced gig and however predictable that may be, no MC worth his cordless mic would let an opportunity pass to say – Picture abhi baaki hain, mere dost.   
In the film, they meant it for something as momentous as a rebirth. We now use it to announce, maybe, an item number!

And finally, we come to a story...
You are travelling, staying at a five-star hotel. The work you are there for has dragged on and you return to the hotel really late. Before going up to the room, you walk into the coffee shop for a quick bite. As you wait
for a club sandwich, you spot a sexy woman in a LBD who gives you a sultry smile. She dangles a room key on her finger and it is obvious that she would love to know you better, a lot better.
You walk up to her table. And there's only one thing that you can ask her, really. The question that you've been dying to ask - somebody.
"Aap broker hain ya party?"

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Father knows best

My father told me a rather amusing story - quite early in my life - about how he and a few college-mates tasted country liquor (colloquially, Bangla) for the first time and the whole episode was an exercise in swallowing a repulsive liquid in the face of peer pressure. Each one of them hated the stuff but was unable to voice it and be labelled a sissy who could not handle alcohol.
If there was a moral in the story - though with my father, it was never intended - I took it as one around never having cheap liquor.
In fact, one of my father's ambitions was to have a drink with me after I turned eighteen. Yes, eighteen. What did you think? Sharaabi's Pran or what?

Somehow, I never ended up having that eighteenth birthday drink but that did not stop me from being extremely open about alcohol with him. Having a father who drinks and brags about it to his son's friends was very cool and immensely handy to have in college.
Without drinking an ounce at college parties, I used to sneer at the Gilbey's Green Label my friends were consuming and sometimes have a peg or two of Old Monk. In between, I used to slip in a nugget or two about how rum is the best cure for constipation, how the tomato-juice-cure for hangovers is utter crap and that the Peter Cat steward is a Sagittarian.
People who drank 17 times more than me were pilloried for being wimps! But because of my extensive knowledge of alcohol and social drinking, nobody ever called me a sissy.

Except my father, himself.
With my liking for white drinks ('ladies' drinks', as he called it), he was quite heartbroken when I first ordered a vodka in the evening. He had appeared totally embarrassed in front of the Club waiter as I completely messed up the meaning of a 'sun-downer' on his home turf!

He had some very old-fashioned ideas about drinks. Never have cocktails with umbrellas in them, for example. If God meant us to have blue drinks, he would have made Colin Glass Cleaner tastier. He had stronger ideas on avoiding hangovers. Never have cheap liquor, he sternly said. Effective but bloody expensive.
And of course, the standard fatherly advice made famous by Mr Kamal Kishore Khosla (of Ghosla fame) - "Hold the drink."

His second biggest disappointment with me was that I never made an effort to develop a taste for good whisky. (The biggest disappointment was that I never really made an effort at Chemistry either but we'll leave that for another - longer - day.) Every time I ordered Bacardi-and-cola, he would sigh and try to explain that there must be a reason why whiskies took several more years to make and cost a lot more.
In fact, once I visited the Club with a colleague and ordered a Bacardi for myself. The waiter (one of my father's favourite) said, "Whisky nahin lenge? Sahab shaam ko Bacardi lene se gussa karte hain..."  

He would have been 64 years today. And on that occasion, I should drink a single malt for the first time. Maybe, a Talisker 18 year from his collection.
But then, maybe I shouldn't.
I think it is too late to realise that I should have listened to him earlier.