Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Woo Kaun Thi?

Mad Momma has suggested that I do a post on the differences between wooing and stalking - as elucidated by the doyens of Bollywood. Now, this is a sure-shot recipe for disaster since Bollywood is not really known for classy wooing (Think "tu cheez badi hai mast mast...") and sophisticated examples are few and far between.
But one must look at Bollywood's message in its entirety.

Let me explain.
To start, I will take two scenes with identical dialogues from a universal favourite - Dil Chahta Hai.
In the first scene, Akash - an incorrigible flirt - accosts a simple girl (clearly not in familiar territory) and almost bulldozes her for a dance. And while doing so, he subtly mocks her with a faux-romantic dialogue.
In the second scene, Akash - now a better man - walks into Shalini's wedding and asks for her hand in marriage. He has been a bit of a lout all through the movie and didn't 'woo' her at any point of time. Walking into a lawn full of hostile people, getting down on his knees and proposing to her is - what I consider - very courageous wooing.
If you take Akash's behaviour for about three-fourths of the film, he is a jerk. But he reforms. And how.

Let me try again, with an even more difficult-to-defend example.
I just spoke about Phool Aur Kaante in my earlier post. The famous song which focuses almost entirely on the heroine's thighs and breasts while the hero gleefully stalks her, shames her and almost molests her. If the Anti-Rape bill had turned out as it should have, Ajay Devgn would have been jail for that song.
See this song, one more hour into the movie. The hero leaves his millionaire father's house to marry the aforementioned girl. He marries her. He doesn't force himself upon her during the suhaag raat. He appears suitably smitten and (in an exaggerated, filmy sort of way) takes care of her when she is pregnant. He even shares the child-rearing (in an antiseptic, problem free sort of way). This is also a sort of wooing (though not what I would call among the best of Bollywood).
Please don't nitpick by saying catching your falling wife is not really taking care of her. Or, swaying a baby isn't really rearing him. Remember, this is a movie which uses simple symbols to depict complicated things. 
Anyway, my point is that the movie doesn't stop at showing a molester/eve-teaser. They show the guy finally transforming into a sensitive husband. If the logic is people get 'inspired' by Bollywood and stalk girls, then they should also be inspired enough to become a dutiful husband. That, somehow, never catches people's attention.

Hell - before this degenerates into some kind of defending-Sanjay-Dutt kind of gig, let me quickly list out some of my favourite wooing scenes from Bollywood. I have tried to avoid songs, which is the staple mode of expressing love.
Here goes in chronological order...

A poet-cum-musician is suspected of throwing a woman down from the teesri manzil - by the woman's sister. He should keep as far away from this girl as possible but you know what they say about moths and flames, don't you? He says I know you will kill me but I will still be right behind you. And before they sang that wonderful song, he said a few wonderful words. Watch it.

The virginal prostitute of Amar Prem sang like an angel. Just when she had started a song - Raina beet jaye - a drunkard walked in. He didn't seem the type to frequent kothas. He underlined his difference from her other customers when he asked her to sing. Never in the history of cinema has a woman been wooed with just two words... Gaaiye na.

The romantic (probably Bengali) Anand Babu of Amar Prem transformed into a garrulous Dilli-wala in Anand, never shy of taking his Bengali friend's case. When his poetic friend tried a few lines about the ocean and sky merging on his girlfriend, he broke the mood by calling him a hypocrite for taking too long to woo her!! This scene stands as one of my favourites because the good doctor demonstrated his sensitive side beautifully while talking about Anand's impending death. He wasn't consciously wooing but the girl got wooed. Subtle, sensitive.

The good doctor gave up his reticence in the next few years. While trying to steal a diamond necklace, he bumped into a gorgeous woman. The woman stunned him by popping the diamond necklace into his pocket. He - then - did a double-barreled wooing. First, he proved his thieving mettle by stealing the necklace right out of the police dragnet. And then he broke his silence with a line that stole her heart.
(While we are in the AB zone, we might as well see what DOES NOT work.)

It would be interesting to point what does work from Chashme Buddoor itself.
The cute Siddharth Parashar let a detergent salesgirl into his flat and suffered a full demo of Chamko. To put her at ease, he put on the radio, explained that he put Gandhi pics on walls (and not bikini ones) and finally confessed that he had given clean clothes for her to wash. The impression he made became apparent when the girl gave pretty intricate details about her whereabouts every evening. Sweet.
I will not link this scene. Go and watch it in the theatre when it re-releases on 5th April!

Yash Chopra knows a thing or two about wooing. Or not.
In Chandni, the hero hired a helicopter to shower petals on her. And promptly crashed to become paralysed. In Darr, the heroine was wooed with a brilliant song by an unseen admirer. Who turned into a crazed stalker immediately afterwards. In Lamhe, the hero took sweeping sorties over the lush English countryside (again to the accompaniment of a lovely song) with his heroine. But was fantasising about her mother all the while.
Not my idea of great romance.

The guys in uniform do it best. In Rang De Basanti, we had a Flight Lieutenant sweeping a girl off her feet with his sense of duty, his idealism, his cool shades and leather jackets. And when he chose to propose, it was not a hush-hush candlelit dinner setting. It was in bright sunlight, in a beautiful setting that you find only in India and in the presence of friends. When she was least expecting it. Tu bin bataaye mujhe lekar chal kahin...

Sometimes the girl wants you to woo her. She wants you to take her hand in yours. She wants you to get close to her and murmur sweet nothings. She wants you too look deeply in her eyes. Lekin parmisan toh lena chahiye, na?
The fearsome don of Wasseypur turned into jelly when she was meeting her lady love. And he taught us that wonderful lesson Indian men... Whatever you do, take permission.
Whether you want to hold her hand. Or whether you want to have sex.
And if she says no, back off. You may be a hunter but don't take out your gun. Just back off. (See from 2:00 onwards.)

The best gift with which you can woo a woman is attention. And who knows this better than a Frenchman?
When asked to name the favourite part of his class in English Vinglish, Laurent gave a totally charming one-minute speech (see from 4:20 onwards) about the woman he loved. In another language, for another woman, he may well have succeeded.
Come to think of it, who said he didn't? (see from 1:20 onwards)

Those were my favourites. Like? Dislike?

Monday, March 18, 2013

College Songs

When I was growing up, collegiate heroes of Bollywood used to bamboozle their heroines during the course of one great song before falling head over heels in love with them. The corridors of HS College of Arts & Commerce reverberated with jhankaar beats and corny lyrics, garnished with the heroes' machismo. We never blamed them for promoting commodification of women (Khambe jaisi khadi hai… Gasp!) because they were soon writing letters in blood and fighting Mukesh Rishi to win the hand of their lady love. Nowadays of course, all rapes are entirely the fault of Bollywood heroes who call their heroines mast cheez or similar.
I thought of listing down some of my favourite 'college songs' - a mix of flirtatious, romantic, attitude-exuding pieces. The musical quality of some of them is questionable. Some other's lyrics are a little dodgy. But the energy is quite amazing. 

Here goes... 

Humne tumko dekha - Khel Khel Mein
At the "Teenth (sic) Annual Function", Rishi Kapoor put on a muffler taller than himself, strummed a guitar and RD Burman took over from there. Actually, Rishi provided able support in the form of energetic dance moves while his future wife shook a mean leg too. Before the cute Khans, this Kapoor scion had put the 'teen' in teenybopper romances and boy, did we lap it up?  

The next three songs form a tribute to the 1990s, a decade nobody acknowledges in Bollywood. But I had the dubious fortune of being in college when hunks wooed damsels over benches and bunsen burners. 

Jisse dekh mera dil dhadkaPhool Aur Kaante
Ajay Devgan and Madhoo were the underdog pair, not-so-good looking in a decade where everyone was in love with chocolate box stars. Ajay entered the scene standing atop two zooming bikes and promptly dived in front of the heroine. As college students, we predicted the swift end of the hero's career and thought even Sunil Shetty was probably better. As I write this, Singham is playing on a music channel.
And I realise - to some horror and some happiness - that I remember most of the lyrics of this song.

Mera pant bhiDulara          
This song, I remember ALL the lyrics. I even remember the controversy. I also know that the Censor Board wanted to replace the offending word with fancy. Mera pant bhi fancy, mera shirt bhi fancy... sigh, just doesn't cut ice.
ALL TOGETHER NOW, SING WITH ME... Ek hain anaar yahan, kitne bimar yahan...

Khud ko kya samajhti hainKhiladi
One more of those 'commodification/semi-molestation' songs, this was redeemed by Akshay Kumar's acrobatic presence.
If you had told me then that Akhay Kumar would act in 786 Khiladi films one day, I would have referred you to a good psychiatrist.

Pappu Can’t Dance Saala – Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na 
After the trio of mid-90s masala, let me take a generation-crossing leap and land in South Bombay where a bunch of college-leaving kids were making fun of people who can't dance. Basically, the film's producer was making fun of Salman Khan.

Just as we are done with Imran Khan, we have to get to this mamu-jaan, who has been a college-goer for as long as he has been in movies. Two songs from the beginning of his career and two songs closer to the present day underline Aamir Khan's durability as a college-goer.

Papa Kehte HainQayamat Se Qayamat Tak
The situation of Pappu was similar to the Papa song but the magic was something else.
When my sister and I bought this cassette, we were quite alarmed as an instrumental piece played for nearly one minute (that seemed like five) and we wondered if we picked up the wrong album. Udit Narayan, Anand-Milind, Mansoor Khan all found their stardoms riding on Raj Singh's slender shoulders.
We all know Aamir's then-wife Reena was the giggling girl in the red dress. A Bollywood fan (Rohit Bajaj) recently told me that the girl next to her is Imran Khan's mother. Here is a recent picture of hers. You tell me if he is right or not. 

Yahan ke hum sikandar –  Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar 
When you are in college, you own the world. Period. This one thought made for this song (which - strictly speaking - is based in a school but don't be pedantic, okay?)

PathshaalaRang De Basanti
Sulphuric acid never fails to take us back to those long corridors, dank laboratories, stolen cigarettes and the confidence to change the world. The very cool open-air disco, the psychedelic music and the crazy lyrics... what wouldn't you give to get those when you were back in college?

Aal izz well3 Idiots
I watched the movie thrice in a theater and millions of times on DVD and YouTube but I don't tire of it. Probably because I can't get over the philosophy... bakra kya jaane uske jaan ka kya hoga, seekh ghusegi ya saala keema hoga? It was 100% accurate in college. The scary bit is that it is still that way!

And that brings us to what is my favourite college song. 
Jagadi jagadiShiva
Creating a brilliant mix of Botany with matinee and history with mystery, Raj Zutshi, Amala and their cohorts pulled off an unchoreographed mayhem with style. They even pulled out a farra and reminded us Supplementary ka shahenshah hai tu... Basically, they created a superb pseudo-college we all wanted to be in. Till, of course, Nagarjuna bent down and pulled out a cycle chain.
But it was great while it lasted.

Bonus Song: This song shouldn't be in the list because it is not part of any film. But then, it is not the composers' fault that the universe is incapable of producing a film that can contain the magic of a well-paced rod. I am just glad that I spent two years of my life breathing the same air as these magicians. [NSFW]

So, what do you have to offer by way of class participation?