Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sorting Out Sid - Beer and Blogger Contest

After the bestselling success of Just Married Please Excuse, Yashodhara (Lal) has now taken it on herself to sort out a much-harried-not-so-married toilet cleaner salesman – Sid. And she has asked: why would I like to read the book? Because I liked JMPE, I ventured tentatively? Apparently, that was not the right answer. Why does Sid sound interesting to you, she asked.
And that’s what this post all about... I take a look at some of the famous Sids of Bollywood and see what makes them interesting.
Statutory Warning: There are very few prominent Sids in Bollywood. So, we will have to make do with a lot of Siddharths. 

The first Sid - naturally - has to be the wastrel who couldn’t pass exams or hold down even simple jobs (at his father’s company!). Wake Up Sid was the final nail in the larger-than-life Bollywood hero’s coffin. Fighting off goons, he didn’t do – but Sid was courageous enough to strike out on his own and become a photographer in a classy Bombay – sorry, Mumbai – magazine. You know the type whose retweets are higher than the copies sold. But Sid’s talent was evident in the manner in which he saw the city he loved and hey, anything is better than selling toilet fittings. (Yes, that’s what Sid’s family business was all about.)

Nearly forty years before Ranbir Kapoor became Sid, his grand-uncle also played Sid – who also renounced the path of riches.
Before he became Gautam (or frivolously, when Buddha was a chhokra), the original proponent of the middle path was Siddhartha. Herman Hesse wrote a philosophical treatise on him, which Conrad Rooks promptly made into a film. This firang-fest became full-on Bollywood when Shashi Kapoor was called in to play the title role. Many eyebrows (and other things) were raised when Simi Garewal appeared topless in what is pretty much the scene that defines the film in India. [Go and search for the scene yourself, you pervert. I am not linking it here.]
Additional Trivia: Hemanta Mukherjee composed the music and Shashi’s son – Kunal – played his son in the movie.

Another Sid was artist Siddharth Sinha of Dil Chahta Hai.
Akshaye Khanna was the sensitive yet strong artist whose brushstrokes were as bold as his choices, his choice of career was as unconventional as his worldview. A single mother's son, he fell in love with a much older woman and did not mind taking on his best friend when he spoke of her disrespectfully. Farhan Akhtar redefined cool with his debut film and we suddenly found ourselves on big screen. And like in most friend circles, there was always one guy who was sketching the others on paper napkins. That guy was Sid.  

Dr Siddharth Sinha was a doctor who wanted to build a state-of-the-art hospital for children and passed on his Armaan to his son, Akash.
Amitabh Bachchan played the only Siddharth of his career as the silver-haired, golden-hearted doctor who died trying to save a child and then his son had to marry a shrew to fulfil his last wish. Amitabh Bachchan’s customary thoroughness was on display throughout the film as the lovable doctor in a good-natured film, which was a bit too slow.

After being a Siddharth’s son in Armaan, Anil Kapoor almost became a Siddharth’s father in Parinda.  
After Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit completed their famous lovemaking scene (shrouded in white satin sheets, lit in blue) in the film, his post-coital pronouncement was his son’s name and his ambition for the unborn child: “Siddharth... woh iss duniya mein shanti layega...
For having such unrealistic ambitions for his child and putting undue pressure on what was theoretically not even a foetus, he was shot repeatedly by Nana Patekar. The bad news was that even Siddharth perished in the crossfire.

Q: Which three-word proposal did Siddharth Marathe make to Alisha Mafatlal in 1998?
Mr Marathe a.k.a. Sidhu was a neighbourhood-tough-wannabe-boxer who was Maharashtra Tourism’s most famous brand ambassador when he asked “Aati kya Khandala?
The only Sid(hu) in Aamir Khan’s career was in Vikram Bhatt’s Ghulam, a Bollywoodised version of On The Waterfront for which Aamir Khan did not bathe for the week when he was shooting the climax. Sidhu got into fisticuffs even outside the ring, thought nothing of climbing a skyscraper to meet his girlfriend, ran straight into incoming local trains and decided to become a hero when his father ceased to be one.

Which brings me to my favourite Siddharth – Siddharth Parashar of Chashme Buddoor.
Farooque Shaikh played the wonderful Economics student who put pictures of Gandhi on his wall and smoked only so that he could give it up when a pretty girl requested him. And a girl did request him soon enough and they had a delightfully real love story before his roommates messed it up. As the quintessential Delhi University student living on money orders, books borrowed from professors and cigarettes bought on his ‘khaata’, he remained endearing throughout the film. Even after he got a job in a company run by the aforesaid pretty girl’s father. Good guys don’t finish last, you see.

Relevant Trivia Alert: The SRK has never played a Siddharth yet though the other SRK (the one married to Vidya Balan) is a Siddharth.

So, the picture of Sid I have in my mind is someone who is quite sweet though a little tongue-tied and awkward with people (especially with girls). He is the type who would be a studious sort of chap in college but not averse to hanging out with some of the wastrels. In the corporate world, he would be the one trying to question conventional wisdom and could be taking a stand. He would also get frustrated with silly things happening around him and would want to quit the corporate rat race. And become a photographer, or something like that.
Sounds like an interesting sort of chap! 

So, what are you waiting for? Buy Sorting Out Sid and see if my predictions of Sid have come true. 

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Farooque Shaikh: The Gentle Young Man

Over the last few years, we seem to be losing many more of our cinema's stalwarts than normal. We have lost great directors, huge stars, superb craftsmen - brilliant talents all. But then, we RIP them on Twitter and move on. Hence, I was quite surprised at the sadness I felt when I heard about Farooque Shaikh's passing. Here was an actor who acted in very few films by Hindi cinema standards. Not even sixty films in forty years. That probably gives him one of the highest memorable/forgettable ratios among actors.

I wanted to write a tribute but then decided it is far better to just compile some of the best tributes that others have paid him. And just as I had imagined, he seemed to be exactly like his on-screen persona in real life as well.

First up is a wonderful illustration as tribute by Jayanto, the cartoonist for Hindustan Times.

The Indian Express reported how he had been funding the education of a 26/11 victim's children - anonymously. He simply called up the newspaper's office after reading a story and picked up the tab, just like that.

Jai Arjun Singh wrote about his short interaction with him, about his unfailing politeness and his charming self-deprecation.

Sukanya Verma confessed to being a fan-girl for never giving a bad performance and for being sweet even in queues for popcorn!

Shubra Gupta recounted the joys of his polite SMSes and brilliant filmography, thus giving a lovely picture of his reel and real lives being very similar.

Varun Grover remembered the life lesson Farooque Shaikh gave him - mangoes are not gold coins!

Shabana Azmi - his co-star, friend and college-mate - presented a beautiful picture of their careers together right from their days in St Xavier's Mumbai till the last performance of Tumhari Amrita.

His newest co-star - the very talented Swara Bhaskar - wrote about her stories during the filming of Listen Amaya and how the charm, the wit, the talent floored her.

And probably the best tribute to the man was written ten years back. It called him the 'Invisible Man' and described his roles quite brilliantly. Thus:
Where Shaikh differed from the Oms and the Naseers was that they had the unwashed, lean and hungry look, while Shaikh, at all times, looked like he had access to a good launderette and that, no matter how grave the crisis, he wasn’t going to skip lunch. 
Just the kind of person anyone would love to have as a friend.

The epithet of the title has been taken from a tweet by Greatbong. Most apt.