Sunday, March 25, 2012

চিত্রনাট্য ও সংলাপ

In my earlier post on Hindi movie dialogues, a perceptive commenter asked about my favourite dialogue from Bengali films and put me in a quandary. The Bengali films I have watched all my life are not the coin-throwing, whistle-blowing, jumping-in-the-aisles variety. I have steadfastly avoided Posenjit and seen the star only as Prasenjit Chattopadhyay. In fact, I wrote a post on masala Bengali dialogues – mildly poking fun at them. 
But when I thought about it, there were so many lines that have come to me and score highly on the parameters of Performance, Immediate Impact and Repeat Value that I had to excise mercilessly to keep the list down to a small number (11). 

So, here is a list – in no particular order (except the last one) – of my favourite dialogues from Bengali films. I have given a bit of context and avoided translation. Why? Say the words “But I have mother” and you’ll realize why.  

Unt ki knata bechhey khai?Shonar Kella
Every line which Lalmohan Ganguly a.k.a. Jatayu (played by Santosh Dutta, in the best comic performance ever) said in this film deserves to be enshrined in a Hall of Fame for Cinematic Dialogues. But I will go with this non-sequitur which makes perfect sense in the context of the Bengali conversation where it appears.
BONUS QUOTE: Apnar Gyanpeeth phoshkey gelo.Joi Baba Felunath
When Feluda realized super-popular novelist Jatayu did not know the meaning of sholko (fish’s scales), he pointed out that Jatayu is not graduating to Critics’ Choice in a hurry.    

Ei romantic surroundings-ey tomar hoito money hochhey, love is the most important thing in the world. Kintu Kolkatai phirey giye tomar jodi kokhono money hoi prem-er cheye security boro kimba security thekey prem grow kortey parey, taholey amai janio. Kemon?Kanchanjungha
I love this line because this was said by a character – which was the exact opposite of an ‘author backed role’. While the heroine was talking about the mists of Darjeeling and Tagore, he – an engineer (gasp!) – went on and on about bridges and dams. But then, he redeemed himself with this line. It was the most unromantic ‘proposal’ in the world but it had grace, it has simplicity and if not anything else, it had an element of realism that was the perfect counterpoint to the unreal magnificence of the Himalayas.  

Ki madam, Bangla-medium boyfriend poshachhena?22ey Srabon
22ey Srabon had many lines that were clever, topical, layered and eminently memorable. But as a Bengali medium boy, I identify too much with this one. Every time a Modern (pun intended for Calcuttans only) girl gets exasperated with the set ways of her boyfriend/husband, this is the taunt. It has been said many times in real life. I was just glad it has been immortalized on film.
Don’t forget the funny frustration of the police chief (“amra ki kendriyo sarkar na PC Sarkar?”) or Prasenjit’s gentle but damning admonition to a late-comer (“Goto 12 minutey 8 ta rape hoye gelo deshey aar tumi goli-ta miss korey geley?”).

Janar kono shesh nei, janar cheshta britha tai.Hirak Rajar Deshey
Intellectual Bengalis are raised with “lekha para korey jey, gadi ghoda chorey shey”, establishing a direct correlation between education and affluence. The King of Hirak felt education breeds revolution and convinced young students with a reverse logic. Since you are never going to finish learning, why bother?

Sheta ki bhalo na kharap?Seemabaddha
As I had mentioned in an earlier post, Satyajit Ray was mostly about questions and seldom answers.  Nothing exemplifies this better than this question of Seemabddha, where a corporate executive took the ‘right’ steps in his life & career but was forced to answer if that was good or bad. The question returned again and again as the answers kept getting tougher to face.   

Tumi amai bolo Uttam Kumar.Basanta Bilap
Women sometimes imagine their boyfriend to be Adonis. Or in the case of 1960s Bengal, Uttam Kumar. Only in the zaniest situation does the boyfriend imagine his girlfriend imagining him to be Uttam Kumar. And if that does not happen, then he makes it happen. One of Bengal’s best-loved Chinmay Roy was the exact antithesis to Uttam Kumar but with this line, he ensured that he had almost as many fans.

Ami Jhinder bandi noii. Ami Jhinder raja.Jhinder Bandi
A rocking adaptation of Prisoner of Zenda, Uttam Kumar was recruited as a stand-in for the missing king of Jhind and an army of loyal retainers attempted to mould him. And just when the directions and training became a little too intrusive, he turned around and said what Bengal knew all along. He wasn’t a prisoner of fame. He was the King.

Rape aar molestation-er moddhey tofat-ta thik ki?Dahan
Probably Rituparno Ghosh’s best film, Dahan was an amazingly real picture of modern society and its hypocrisy. When a couple was physically assaulted in full public view, a circus erupted. In addition to the attempts to shield the guilty, there was voyeurism from supposedly concerned parties. In this case, a husband’s colleague said this line and very subtly channeled his outrage to titillation.  

Pratham inaam dewar adhikar grihaswamir.Jalsaghar
Satyajit Ray’s forte wasn’t bravura. His characters were real, not prone to bombast.  But they were never beyond showing an upstart his place.
Chhabi Biswas, Bengal’s most legendary character actor, gave a commanding performance as an impoverished zamindar. And at the end of a stunning performance in his jalsaghar, he flicked his ivory-encrusted stick to stop a nouveau riche rival from throwing money at the performer. The host has to do it first, he intoned. And with regal air intact, he handed over his last pouch of gold coins.   

Lokey boley Cruci-fiction. Ami boli Cruci-fact. Karon ami toh nijer chokhey dekhechhi. – Mahapurush
He loved having roasted hippos. He edited the Manu Samhita. He knew Buddha when he was a chhokra. He was there when Nebu(chadnazzar) was a nabalok. He taught Einstein relativity. And he was there at the time of Nativity.
Many consider the film version to be inferior to the novel (Birinchi Baba) but I disagree – on the basis of this one line. Okay this one and “Kashi Benaras, not kashi khuk khuk”. 

Dada, ami bnachtey chaai. – Meghey Dhaka Tara
And finally, this is the line I love most. You could call me a masochist but Ritwik Ghatak blurred the line between compelling and gut-wrenching with each one of his films and nothing demonstrates it better than this one line. A perfect ending to a perfect film, it is – on one hand – depressing. On the other, it is a message of hope.

Honourable Mention
Hamare yahaan Bidya Vidya shob ek hain, madam.Kahaani
To lighten the mood, my post-final entry is from what I consider a Bengali film. This, for once, needs no context because everybody and their missing husbands seem to have seen the film (or at least the trailer).

Waiting for what? Write your favourites down also, no?

All of the above are from memory. Please excuse errors. (Will try to link from YouTube for some of them, if I get time.) 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

3 Days in Calcutta

In one of my earlier food posts, I had talked about iconic restaurants and caused the controversies that inevitably emerge when Bengalis discuss food! Recently, the post attracted a long, well-written comment seeking recommendation. 
Was going through your old blogs about Calcutta. Even though I am from a 'Hai Raam-you said ANDA' variety of UP brahmin family, have always been a wannabe bong. And now have turned my thoroughbred beef eating mallu husband into one hell of a bong convert. So much so that we are sneaking away to Calcutta for 3 days which has left our families befuddled and enlightening us about Air Asia and cheap foreign travel ;). I have always been a fan of yours and would love to have a chance to explore the place through your eyes. The must dos and eats and drinks! I have been there once and did the Victoria memorial, Flurry's routine but would love to spend these 3 days as a true blue bong would. Would you mind helping me out if it is not too inconvenient for you? I promise to return the favor by divulging all the secrets held close to my heart about Lucknow and Bangalore! Pretty please?

I immediately replied on how outsiders can spend 3 days in Calcutta. But after writing that comment, I realized it probably applied to more people desirous of spending some time there.
So, re-posting my response here…

You want to spend 3 days in Calcutta like a true-blue Bong would? Check into Ffort at Raichak and don’t move unless you have to eat or drink. I am told there’s a new place called Ganga Kutir – which is even more luxurious, pays even more attention to culinary matters and frowns at physical activity and raised voices. But I am sure you don’t want to do that…

Try to eat at Mocambo (Devilled Crabs), Peter Cat (Chelo Kabab), Arsalan and Shiraz (Mutton biriyani), Kewpies (Bengali cuisine) for the meals. Remember – it is important to eat at both Arsalan and Shiraz. Otherwise you would never be able to take sides during the Great Biriyani Debate and remain a perennial outsider to Calcuttans.

Between meals, make do with (double-egg, double-chicken) rolls at Kusum (Park Street), pastries at Kookie Jar (just ahead of La Martiniere school), phuchka near Bibekananda Park (on Southern avenue) and coffee at, well, Coffee House (College Street).

Don’t forget to sneak in a drink or two at Olypub (Park Street) along with cocktail sausages. Browse books at College Street. Watch a movie at Nandan. Catch a play. Visit Presidency College. Take a tram ride around the Maidan.
While on the subject of drinks, it has been ages since I had a drink during the interval of a movie. Do that as well. Unless the world has come to an end, New Empire or Lighthouse should still have the bars.

Chat with the cabbies. Ask the Nandan usher for a review of the movie. Tell the Presi students their college sucks. Walk past 1/1 Bishop Lefroy Road. Get on the Metro and get off at Uttam Kumar. Buy a CD of Rabindrasangeet. Passionately criticize the ‘blue colouring’ of the city. Floor the citizens by asking “amai ektu Bangla shikhiye deben?

Fall in love with the city. And then spend the rest of your life trying to explain to the infidels why.

People are watching Kahaani, liking Kahaani and praising Kahaani. They are singing eulogies of Vidya Balan, Sujoy Ghosh, Parambrata Chattopadhyay and Bob Biswas. Nobody (except Abhishek) is talking about the bewitching presence that deserves all the Best Supporting Actress awards for this year. The film couldn’t have worked without the hynoptic setting of Calcutta. 
You sexy thing. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Dialogue. Dialogue. Dialogue.

A few days back, my wife’s sister-in-law (who’s a kindred spirit when it comes to food and Bollywood) asked me to change my BB status message to my favourite Hindi film dialogue. And awakened a monster – albeit a friendly one. I got so excited that I was changing my Blackberry AND Facebook statuses every 15 minutes, even tweeting them for good measure!

When I asked people on Facebook if they agreed with my choice, I had 38 comments in a flash with mostly serious (and passionate) choices though the spell was nearly broken by my good friend, Arijit, who insisted “Mere do do baap. Mere do do baap.” from Gopi Kishen should be considered.

For a film line to be memorable beyond generations, languages, caste, creed and OBC quotas, it has to – in my humble opinion – have: 
  • Performance – This is a no-brainer that if the performer does not deliver the line with aplomb, even the most jhakaas of lines will pass like a ship in the dark.  
  • Immediate Impact – People in the theatre must sit up and say ‘WOW’ because of the situation in which the line is said.  
  • Repeat Value – People should want to say it in real life. Most filmi dialogues are such bombastic that we never think of saying it in real life but it should make us want to.

With these in mind and picking from the suggestions received from friend, here is my assessment of the Most Impactful Lines in Bollywood (using a shortlist of 15 culled from responses on Facebook and Twitter).

Aapke pair bahut khubsoorat hain. Inhe zameen par mat rakhiyega. Mailey ho jayengey.
Performance – 8. Immediate Impact – 6. Repeat Value – 5. 
Total – 19 

Har aadmi ke liye ek aurat bani hain. Agar usse bach gaye toh samjho zindagi ban jayegi.
Performance – 7. Immediate Impact – 7. Repeat Value – 8. 
Total – 22

Hum woh hain jo kisi ke peechhe nahin khade hote. Hum jahan pe khade ho jaate hain, line wahin se shuru hoti hain.
Performance – 8. Immediate Impact – 7. Repeat Value – 7. 
Total – 22

Aansoo pochh dalo, Pushpa. I hate tears.
Performance – 7. Immediate Impact – 8. Repeat Value – 8. 
Total – 23

 Badi badi deshon mein aisi chhoti chhoti baatein hoti rehti hain, Senorita.
Performance – 7. Immediate Impact – 8. Repeat Value – 8. 
Total – 23 

Yeh haath mujhe de de, Thakur.
Performance – 10. Immediate Impact – 10. Repeat Value – 3. 
Total – 23

Khandaani chor hoon. Aaya hoon, kuchh to lootke jaoonga.
Performance – 8. Immediate Impact – 7. Repeat Value – 9. 
Total – 24 

Picture abhi baaki hain, mere dost.
Performance – 7. Immediate Impact – 7. Repeat Value – 10. 
Total – 24 

Thoda khao, thoda phneko.
Performance – 7. Immediate Impact – 7. Repeat Value – 10. 
Total – 24

 Kabhi kabhi jeetne ke liye kuch haarna padhta hain. Aur haarke jeetne wale ko baazigar kehte hain.
Performance – 8. Immediate Impact – 8. Repeat Value – 9.
Total – 25

Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahin, namumkin hain.
Performance – 9 (AB)/6 (SRK). Immediate Impact – 8 (AB)/6 (SRK). Repeat Value – 8.
Total – 25 (AB)/20 (SRK). 

Shaant gadaadhari Bheem, shaant.
Performance – 8. Immediate Impact – 8. Repeat Value – 10. 
Total – 26

 Mere paas maa hain.
Performance – 9. Immediate Impact – 9. Repeat Value – 9.
Total – 27

 Mogambo khush hua.
Performance – 10. Immediate Impact – 10. Repeat Value – 8.  
Total – 28

Main aaj bhi phneke hue paise nahin uthata.
Performance – 10. Immediate Impact – 10. Repeat Value – 8. 
Total – 28

(Mere blog mein mera favourite No. 1 banega, samjhe? Pasand nahin aaya to apne blog mein apna favourite ko No. 1 banao! Mwahahahaha...) 

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Book Is Nearly Done!

Hey, what's up with your book?
Arre - read the title of this post, yaar! It is nearly done. 
Over the last seven-odd month, my editor has been hard at work trying to correct the million grammatical errors that I had made in the manuscript. 
I was hard at work calling producers asking for permission and high-res versions of stills from their films. 
In fact, I have worked harder at sourcing pictures to go with the text than I worked at writing the damn text. 
Though the consolation was that I got to speak / write to some of the biggest names of the country's film industry.

Some of the experiences were quite sad.

Some of them were very exciting. 
"I have selected the stills but I have to show them to Mani-sir once before I send them."
"Mani-sir? Mani Ratnam?"
"Yes, sir. He's on a location recce. He will be back on Tuesday."
"Location? Where?"
"I can't tell you, sir..."
Like the time I wrote to the CEO of a production house if he can share photographs or storyboards from an unmade film of theirs. And he replied... 
It is interesting that you are considering ***** in your chapter of 'unmade films' since it is back in development and therefore, we won't be able to share any related material. The tagline on the poster says pretty much everything we want to say at this point. I won't be able to comment on the plot right now.

These responses more than made up the frustration of having wait endlessly with some other houses.

Achha, all that is fine... but what is it going to be called? 
That is a million-dollar question. The 'working title' was The Book of Bollywood Lists which - while accurate and descriptive - wasn't likely to attract too many readers.

I asked the readers of this blog for names and I had some very interesting suggestions like: 
- Bolly Mera Naam 
- Matinee Matters
- Cine Maa: The Mother of Bollywood Lists
- BollyListic: 50 Bollywood Lists
- BollyFan: A Fan's Handbook to Bollywood
- Hi Fi List: Trivia from Hindi Films 

But the name (or part of it) that was suggested by the most number of people and because it is from a film that I just love, the name finally is (drum roll):

So, there... we have a name, we have almost fixed the designer for the cover and we are gunning for a May 2012 release - coinciding with the beginning of celebrations around 100 Years of Bollywood. (Yup, Raja Harishchandra released in May 1913 and Bollywood is gearing up to pay tribute for the entire year.)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Random Movies I Like: Shaan

Shaan - released five years after Sholay - holds the dubious distinction of being the movie that replaced its illustrious predecessor after a record-breaking run at Minerva. If it didn't, who knows? Sholay may still have been running there.
In terms of scale and grandeur, Shaan is about 10 times Sholay. If Sholay had everything, Shaan had everything 3G-enabled, wrinkle-free, loaded with micro-sculpting serum and with extra dust-busters. But the way products with many features often don't succeed because they don't connect to their users, Shaan too remained a mere product and did not become an icon, everyone hoped - and maybe even expected - it to be.

I love the scale of Shaan, its grandeur, its style. I like the way a filmmaker's passion for mounting a memorable product In short, I like the shaan of Shaan.

Sunil Dttt played the heroes' elder brother in the film, whose usual role in Hindi cinema is to die tragically so that the business end of the revenge drama can be taken up. Even he got two and a half kick-ass scenes before he was allowed to die.
He started off the film with a scene in which he defused a hostage situation involving skyscraper construction sites, scaffolding, elevators and a massive water tank. Soon afterwards, he was kidnapped using 4 trailer trucks on a never-ending highway. And finally, he was chased by a packing of hunting dogs (shot from helicopters, trolleys, hand-helds and what not) before he was killed in a dreary seaside abyss. Wow!

The villain's den was on an island and was loaded with gizmos - completely on a different level altogether from the rocks of Ramanagaram.
The villain here also liked to play Russian Roulette with his untrustworthy henchmen but instead of ghumaoing the revolver's barrel, he ghumaoed the floor they stood on and ended the ordeal by depositing the errant one in the jaws of a salivating crocodile!
Like the scarily named Gabbar, the villain was the bald-headed Shaakaal - who chewed his words 32 times before allowing them to leave his lips to ensure better digestion of his messages. (Use this line to best demonstrate this: "Ab yeh zahreeli gas dheere dheere mehfil ko aur rangeen bana degi...")

Sholay - when launched - had one superstar couple, one major character actor, one heroine coming out of retirement and one unknown as second male lead. The villain was, of course, a debutant.
Shaan had substantially more star power with Amitabh Bachchan and Parveen Babi in 1980 probably being a bigger draw than Dharmendra-Hema in 1975. Shashi Kapoor was still a major star as was Sunil Dutt. Kulbhushan Kharbanda - after a stint with Shyam Benegal (Manthan, for example) - made his mainstream debut with style.
And the massive supporting casts of both films were studded with the who's who of Bollywood.

Shaan had phenomenal music - way better than Sholay. Sholay's real strength was its background score, supported by two big hits (Yeh dosti and Mehbooba).
Shaan - on the other hand - had a cracking title song (Doston se pyar kiya), a sort-of item number (Pyar karne wale), one romantic ditty (Jaanu mere jaan) and one prime example of that long-forgotten Bollywood furniture - the climax song (Yamma yamma).
If I go by the sheer popularity on FM radio channels, Shaan is one of RD Burman's most popular soundtracks, if not among his very best. It was the typical whistle-inducing, dance-floor-rocking soundtrack that still earns DJs their daily breads.

And finally, it had brilliant lines. Smart, cool lines. And nothing exemplifies the film better than my favourite line from the film.
When Parveen and Amitabh make a break after stealing a necklace during a brilliant song, he compliments her by saying: Samajh mein nahin aa raha hain aap ki gale ki taarif karoon ya aap ki haath ki, aap ki awaaz ki taarif karoon ya aap ki andaz ki, aap ki jeet ki taarif karoon ya aap ki haar ki.
Really, Shaan was such an overloaded film that you did not know what to praise. And it remains like a Dravid in the history of Bollywood - never appreciated enough but it is one of the most slick and entertaining films ever made.
So, let me end with a shot of the film from another film... you remember which one, don't you?

UPDATED TO ADD: This is a mail from a friend, who refuses to comment on blogs but he liked this post enough to mail me a response.  
The read was almost as enjoyable as the movie! Couldn’t agree more…“zehereeli gais (gas needs to be spelt this way for the Kulbhushan effect!) ne sachmuch mehfil (cyberspace) ko aur bhi rangeen bana diya...”

The favourite line rocks (not sure it is exactly right – if my memory serves me correctly, it is “apni” jeet and “tumhari” haar). Actually, every line in that conversation rocks i.e. “ek hi shehar mein rehkar hum aaj tak ek doosre se kaise nahin mile” ?

While all parallels are with Sholay, the car conversation with Parveen is akin to the one in Deewaar…Incidentally, both sequences are the first meeting between the 2 in the movie when they are rushing out of a 5-star hotel! They are at different ends of the romantic chemistry spectrum though - Deewaar is intensely (remember “tumhaare jaise ajeeb aadmi ka naam kya ho sakta hai ?” line) romantic and Shaan is flirtatiously (oh-so-uber coolly!) so, na?

Thursday, March 08, 2012


Being a father to a baby daughter is a daunting task. And full of contradictions.

On one hand, I get angry - no, make that livid - at insurance companies who want me to save for my son's education and daughter's wedding. On the other, I am more protective of my daughter than I ever was for my son. When my son was taken for his vaccinations, I held his legs down firmly as they poked him with needles. With my daughter, it almost brought tears to my eyes and I had to tell the other nurse to hold her.

On one hand, I hope - and pray - that she breaks all stereotypes and does not become a 'girl'. I hope she becomes something very macho like a Mechanical Engineer (ahem) or an Air Force pilot or something like that. On the other hand, I call her baby, shield her from sun in a car-ride and buy her pink dolls to play with.

On one hand, I promise to treat both my children equally and make no concessions for either. On the other hand, I let her get away with a lot more than my son ever did. My wife is convinced that I will let my daughter get away with murder and spoil her rotten as she grows up. I half-heartedly protest and promise myself this is not how it is going to be. But then, what do I know?

When my son turned one, I had written that he made me realise how strong I could be.
Over the last one year, my daughter made me realise how soft I really was.
I did not believe in love at first sight till I saw her. And I can't believe its been one year since I saw her first - swaddled in that green towel and with no nose or eyes to speak of.
And in another blink of the eye, she will be standing before me with a man who will claim that he loves her more than I do.
Till that happens, I will enjoy my contradictions.