Thursday, December 24, 2015

#100MoviePact


After five years, I am starting a new year without a book to be written.
To gainfully (?) employ my late nights, I am starting the 100 Movie Pact (inspired by my wife’s Saree Pact in 2015) with which I also hope to revive my comatose blog.

In some of my best movie-watching years, I have crossed the 200 count and thought nothing of it. However, in the present scheme of things, hundred seems to be a fairly steep target and I will have to judiciously add Pixar/Marvel to the mix in order to get to the number.

Also, I have listed down some criteria to make the #100MoviePact a little more than turning up at the nearest multiplex twice a week.

Here they are:
  • Will write a minimum of hundred words about each of the films I watch. These will not (necessarily) be reviews but a random collection of thoughts during the viewings. 
  • Will only include first-watch movies. Repeat viewings won’t be included in the count.
  • Will watch at least five movies as part of film festival(s).
  • Will watch at least five first-day-first-shows. (This is likely to be the toughest to get to.)
  • Will watch movies in at least three different cities.
  • Will watch the movies with not more than one break. This also means TV movies don’t count, unless I record them and watch in one go.
  • Will watch at least 50% of the movies in languages other than Hindi and English.
I have kicked off the project by ordering DVDs of Court, Masaan and the Criterion edition of the restored Apu Trilogy. Goes perfectly with my plan of bringing in non-Hindi, non-mainstream films into the mix.

I will start the #100MoviePact on 1st January, 2016.
If you also love watching movies, join in…

(Leave a comment on the post if you are planning to take this up as well. Would be good to exchange notes, share thoughts and talk movies!)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Shelf Esteem: On Books in The Times of India

Recently, the good people of Times of India Bangalore asked me to answer some fun questions on books for a weekly column of theirs called 'Shelf Esteem' (ha ha, whatay pun). It was a listy kind of thing and everyone knows where I stand on lists. I promptly filled in the answers and they appeared yesterday, causing much joy among my friends and relatives. (Don't think anyone else read it!)

Since my long answers to the questions ensured that all of what I wrote could not fit in their compact column, here is the full questionnaire. 

Read it and then answer these questions for yourselves! 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

What are you reading right now?
Toggling between two books – an old favourite (Jeffrey Archer’s The Prodigal Daughter) and a new one (Salman Rushdie’s Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights). The first one is still as enjoyable and the second one may just become my favourite Rushdie novel.

Which book, author or series do you reach out for when you want a comfort read?
Satyajit Ray’s delightful Feluda and Professor Shonku stories – that were my staple reading as a child – still come to my rescue. Several other Bengali authors – Rajsekhar Basu, Lila Majumdar, Narayan Gangopadhyay – are great sources of comfort.
Ramachandra Guha’s cricket books, Mental Floss’ trivia books and Roger Ebert’s movies reviews are books I keep coming back to. 

Name one book you picked up at the airport that blew your mind.
Many years ago, the bookshop attendant at Calcutta airport recommended a book (that turned out to be the third in a series) – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I was hooked from the first page and when I landed in Patna an hour later, I walked across to the Departure section and bought Books One and Two. Finished all three books over two sleepless nights and have been a JKR-devotee ever since.

Who are your favou​rite contemporary writers, and your favourite writers of all time?
​​Contemporary: Amitav Ghose, JK Rowling, Gillian Flynn among the celebrities. Arnab Ray and Sidin Vadukut among the young writers.
All-time: Apart from the ones named in the ‘comfort books’ list, Saradindu Bandopadhyay (creator of Byomkesh Bakshi), Bill Watterson, Douglas Adams, Bill Bryson are all-time favourites.

Which was the last book that made you laugh?
Sahil Rizwan aka The Vigil Idiot came up with a full book of his trademark retelling of iconic Bollywood movies earlier this year – 42 Lessons I Learnt From Bollywood. It was the kind of book that made you choke on snacks and spill water all over yourself with its zany brand of humour.

Name one book you wish everybody would ​​read.
(Would it be too much self-publicity to plug one of my books here? Oh yes, it will be!)
I wish all of India would read Sunil Gangopadhyay’s Shei Samay (translated in English as Those Days), a stunning piece of historical fiction based in the times of the Bengal Renaissance. It is an example of how rich regional literature in India actually is. Also, how popularity and quality can coexist in the same book.

Which was the last book you just couldn't finish?
By and large, I finish books. A recent book that took the most effort to finish was Pranab Mukherjee’s autobiography. His sincerity and scholarship are in no doubt but he chose to concentrate on the minutiae of Congress governments and the Gandhi family.

Name one book that is on m​​ost must-read lists but you haven’t cracked a page.
I just could not go beyond the first chapter of Shantaram. The exotic India from the POV of exotic foreigner did nothing for me. I had started reading it when I heard of a Mira Nair film on the book starring Amitabh Bachchan. I remember wondering that it would all of their considerable talents to swing this book into a worthwhile film. Thank God the film got shelved!

If you had to get the PM of India to read one book, which one would it be?
The Complete Yes Prime Minister (by Jonathan Lynn and Anthony Jay). While at it, I should get him to send copies of Yes Minister to his Cabinet colleagues.

Are you a book hoarder or do you read every book you buy?
Unfair question to ask after forcing me to name two books I could not finish/start! But I am a book reader, I read pretty much everything that I buy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Little Stories of the Little Road

Sixty years back, a film called Pather Panchali released and continues to light up our lives with its lyrical beauty. The making of the film and its path to immortality were not easy. It only happened due to the iron will (not to mention, genius) of the film's maker.
Picking five stories from the hundreds that I have heard/read, I converted them into the only genre of fiction I can manage - 55 word stories.

If you can't make sense of the stories, do read this book.
And then, watch the film again.

*************************************

“You haven’t spoken since last night.”
“…”
“Thinking about the films?”
“…”
 “Say something.”
“I have decided, Monku.”
“Decided? What?”
“As soon as I go back to India, I’ll shoot a film. It’s possible. I saw it last night. Amateur actors. Real locations. Weekend shooting. I now know how.”
“But do you have a story?”

*************************************

“You’ve come after seeing the advertisement for the child actor?”
“Yes, sir.”
“How old is your son?”
“She’s… I mean, he’s eight… just as you had advertised.”
“Hmm… why so much powder on his neck?”
The child spoke up. “We have come directly from the saloon. Baba just got my hair cut like a boy!”

*************************************
“What do you think, Mathur?”
“Sir, we should include some message on community development… or family planning…”
“Family planning? Harihar has only two children, no?”
“Yes sir but the family leaving the village…”
“It is a classic of Bengali literature, Mathur. The ending cannot be changed.”
“So we must fund the film, Sir?”
“Yes, Mathur.”

*************************************
“Sir, that Sukumar Ray’s son’s film…”
“Yes. What about it?”
“Sir, where will the budget come from?”
“Only 1.5 lakhs…”
“Sir, the financial year has ended. Budgets have reverted.”
“None of the departments…”
“Sir, only the Roads department has surplus… but how…”
“Roads? Hmmm… what did he say the English title of the film was?”

*************************************

“Not a single jury member attended this show.”
“It’s past midnight, Mr Anderson, the jury members have…”
“But this film DESERVES…”
“The members have seen four films today…”
“They have not seen anything if they haven’t seen this film. You must organize another showing for the jury. I insist.”
“I’ll see what I can do.”

*************************************

Now, it is just a long wait for this to come to India.

Monday, August 24, 2015

So, where's your Calcutta tonight?

In another five years, I would have spent more time away from Calcutta than I spent in it. Like the recurrent migraine of those who are doomed to have it, Calcutta is like a nagging pain. It comes close and dares you to give up a few things to be with her. And then I chicken out and she taunts me by popping up at strange places… giving me a lump in the throat, a smile in a crowd, a sudden rush of blood, that thing that gets into the eye.
I see my Calcutta like a shimmering mirage in the strangest of places. As do other exiles from the city.
In the dazzle of South American football. In the mouth-watering mix of rice and meat. In the cerebral etchings of ink on paper. In the strumming of a guitar. She asks if I’d like to go out with her tonight.

On the first day of my new job, my new boss – true to his being the head of a startup in Bangalore – suggested a few food delivery apps to try for lunch. Then, he pointed to a hole in the wall just opposite the office and said, “Or you could try Chakum Chukum… good rolls.” I walked across and soon bit into some chunky mutton pieces and a flaky paratha fried with egg, washing it down with a Thums Up. I later found out the guy who started the shop left his job in an international advertising agency to do so.
And my Calcutta gets delivered to my office desk at lunch every day.

Often Calcutta turns up in the post. In a Facebook post, to be precise.
A friend visiting Calcutta notices that women there don’t use dupattas to cover any part of their bodies. I never noticed this myself but feel helplessly proud when she praises the city for this.  
And I ‘like’ Calcutta once again that night.

Sometimes, my Calcutta wafts out from a dingy shop in an even dingier shopping complex. Located on a Gurgaon road, known for its high property prices and deep potholes. The shop guys told me their chef was with Shiraz and of course, they put aloo in the biriyani (and what kind of question is that)?

My Calcutta often flickers past at 24 frames a second.
An ex-colleague makes a film set in Banaras. It makes waves in Cannes and finally wins a FIPRESCI award. The name sounds familiar and I vaguely remember it from a time when I read real books. I search and realise the other Indian film to have won a FIPRESCI award was also set in Banaras. And was made by a tall director from Calcutta.

My Calcutta is lying low in a Bengali novel written in English that – I am breathlessly told – will be read by no less than the American President this summer.
My Calcutta is wafting out from the pages of a Nobel Prize winner’s ruminations about Istanbul.
My Calcutta is raising its hands in protest from a film institute in a Maharashtrian city.
My Calcutta is weeping when a blogger is killed in another Bengali-speaking city.  
My Calcutta is laughing at Paneer Butter Masala.
My Calcutta is ensuring bookshops don’t shut down. And Old Monk remains in business.

So, where is your Calcutta tonight? 

Inspired by a Calcutta boy's post, which was way better and on - well - Bombay.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Writing on Writing

A few months back, I compiled a few stories around Hindi film scripts for a very popular magazine. The material got used in bits and pieces for the cover story that they were doing. The cores of the stories were picked up from books, old issues of magazines, video interviews, memoirs of film personalities etc. Putting those stories here. 

Pyaasa
Writer Abrar Alvi was visited in Bombay by some of his rich friends from Hyderabad. With them, he ended up visiting prostitutes and met a woman called Gulabo. He never had a physical relationship with her but became very close friends, visiting her several times in the red-light district and having long conversations about her life. Later on, Alvi became very busy as a writer and could not remain in touch with Gulabo, who succumbed to tuberculosis. In fact, Alvi was passing by her locality when he decided to stop and meet her – only to see her funeral pass by. He recounted this story to Guru Dutt, who asked him to write a script out of it. That story became Pyaasa and Waheeda Rehman played the on-screen Gulabo.

Sholay (Mausi)
One of Sholay’s most memorable scenes – Jai’s ‘praise’ of Viru to Basanti’s mausi – had a real-life parallel because that was exactly how writer Salim Khan took his partner Javed Akhtar’s proposal to Honey Irani’s mother, Perin. Since Javed did not have a cordial relationship with his father, Salim was the ‘elder’ in his family but Salim’s ‘praise’ of Javed pretty much cooked the marriage’s goose. The proposal went something like this:
-          “Ladka kaisa hai?”
-          “We are partners and I wouldn’t work with anyone unless I approve of him. Lekin daaru bahut peeta hai.”
-          “Kya? Daaru bahut peeta hai!”
-          “Aaj kal bahut nahi peeta, bas ek do peg. Aur is mein aisi koi kharabi nahin hai. Lekin daaru peene ke baad red light area bhi jaata hai.”

Sholay (Tank)
While the entire screenplay of Sholay had been written right at the beginning, the exact nitty-gritties of individual scenes were discussed before the shooting schedule and modifications made to the dialogue. Viru’s most memorable scene – the drunken monologue atop the tank – was discussed several times and Javed Akhtar was supposed to write the final lines. He kept postponing it till it was time for him to return to Bombay from the shooting location near Bangalore. He started writing on his drive to the airport but Bangalore traffic then was nothing like what it is now and he reached the airport before he could complete the scene. An assistant went inside the airport to check him in while Javed kept the sheets of paper on the hood of his car and kept on writing right till boarding was announced. He just about managed to catch his flight and the lines he wrote went on to make box-office history.

Amar Akbar Anthony
Writer-director Prayag Raaj was a long-time associate of Manmohan Desai and came to Desai’s home one evening to pick up keys for a farmhouse where he wanted to spend a few days relaxing. When he arrived, Desai told him about a news item about a man who left his three sons at a park and committed suicide. What if he didn’t commit suicide and returned to find the three sons missing, he wondered. Prayag Raaj was intrigued enough by the idea to abandon his farmhouse plans and jam with Desai. What if the three boys were picked up by a Hindu, a Muslim and a Christian, he countered. They threw ideas around till late night with Manmohan Desai’s wife – Jeevanprabha – also contributing and by the end of it, the story showed enough promise to be developed into a full-fledged film.

Don
The cast of Don – Amitabh Bachchan, Zeenat Aman, Pran – had been assembled by the director Chandra Barot and producer Nariman Irani but they did not have a script. Nariman Irani’s wife, Salma was Waheeda Rehman’s hairdresser and through her, they got Waheeda Rehman to put in a word to her neighbour, Salim Khan.
Irani and Barot went to meet Salim-Javed and the writers did have a script to spare. But they warned the team of newcomers that the script had been rejected by pretty much the entire industry including stars like Dev Anand and Jeetendra. Salim Khan honestly asked them, “Humare paas ek breakfast script padi hai jo koi nahin le raha hai... Chalega?” And the team said, “Chalega”.
Salim then looked at Javed and said, “Toh phir woh Don wali script inhe de dete hain...

Satya
Anurag Kashyap was about twenty-five when he met Ram Gopal Varma and RGV asked him to write a script based on a one-line idea: “Let’s put Howard Roark of The Fountainhead in the Mumbai underworld.” Anurag started writing the script but RGV brought in Saurabh Shukla because he felt someone more mature should be involved. Anurag was not happy about this but nevertheless they went to RGV’s farmhouse in Hyderabad and wrote the first draft in about a week.
When they were discussing with RGV on how to name the characters – who had to look and sound real – RGV told his office boy, “Bhiku, teen coffee lana...” And the name stuck.
(After the first three days of shooting, Gulshan Kumar was shot dead and the underworld’s equation with Bollywood changed. Ram Gopal Verma trashed the script written so far and started afresh.) 

Rang De Basanti
Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and writer Kamlesh Pandey were in Gujarat for researching a documentary when they met every evening and – with nothing to drink in the dry state – had anguished discussions about the state of the country’s affairs. This led to the idea of making a film on the armed freedom struggle of India and they wanted to call it The Young Guns of India. Kamlesh Pandey researched two years to write a first draft but when they bounced the idea off a group of Mumbai college students, they rejected it – unable to identify with the young revolutionaries of the 1920s. When Mehra wondered how to make this story relevant, he remembered a NDTV story on the faulty MiG aircrafts in the Indian Air Force and decided to rewrite the script with that as the focal point.  

Delhi Belly
The script of Delhi Belly was written by Akshat Verma and he pitched the concept to pretty much every big production house in Mumbai. Everyone made soft happy noises but eventually backed out. He tried getting in touch with Aamir Khan as well but could not reach the notoriously reclusive star. He left the script with Aamir’s maid and went back to LA (where he is based). The script was placed among a heap of unread scripts (yes, Aamir has one such heap at home!) and Kiran Rao happened to pick it out at random. She laughed so hard while reading the script that Aamir also read it and immediately called the writer on the number given on the first page of the script. 48 hours later, Akshat and his associate Jim Furgele were in Mumbai, narrating the script and figuring out shooting plans.

Gangs of Wasseypur
Zeishan Quadri had come from Dhanbad to Mumbai to become an actor. In between auditions, he hung around with other hopefuls and ended up watching the gangster classic City of God. He told his friends – Sachin Ladia and Akhilesh Jaiswal – this was nothing compared to the crime saga that unfolded in his hometown. This was met with disbelief till he came up with a flurry of stories and they made a treatment out of the stories. They managed to corner Anurag Kashyap inside the Prithvi Theatre complex. The director told all of them to write their own versions of the screenplay, which they did (including Zeishan, who had never written a script and wrote a novel instead). Anurag Kashyap took this voluminous material and went to Madrid, where Kalki Koechlin was shooting for Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. In four days, he wrote the script for Part 1 and half of Part 2 (while staying in a hotel full of transsexuals). On his way back, the airline lost the bag which had the script. He stayed in the airport for two days till they found the bag.
(On his way back from Spain, he was supposed to come directly to Delhi where Hindustan Times had organised a screening of Udaan and he was supposed to introduce it.)

Screen writers have been a big obsession for a long time now and much of the last two years was devoted towards researching some of the best. This post is an appetiser for – hopefully – bigger stories.

Friday, July 10, 2015

55 Returns To Bollywood

Seven 55-word stories. On seven well-known and not-so-well-known Bollywood episodes. 


“Galti ho gayi, Anand-sahab.”
“Galti ke bachche, tu jaanta hai mera shirt kitne ka hain? Main tere paise se...”
“Nahin malik, wohi saamne wale sahab se adla-badli...”
“Tujhe sab pata hain to...”
“Haan sahab, Prabhat Studios mein kaam karte hain...”
“Prabhat..?”
“Jee... dance master hain.”
“Kya naam bataya?”
“Padukone sahab... woh doosre maale mein kholi...”


“Nahin yaar, jam nahin raha hain.”
“Omprakash-ji, aap ko chahiye kya lyrics mein?”
“Thoda mischief... thoda romance... thoda banter chahiye, yaar.”
“Aap ko maine kitne options diye lekin... aaj aur nahin soch sakta. Kal phir se sitting rakhte hain.”
He turned to the two composers.
“Achha, toh hum chalte hain.”
“Phir kab miloge?” asked Laxmikant.


“Sorry beta but we can produce your script only by closing this office.”
“But that would mean...”
“Haan, people will lose jobs...”
“No, no... I will rework the budget.”
“How...”
“We’ll make the film for less but the office should run.”
“Thanks, Sooraj.”
“Kya bol rahe ho? Aapke mere beech no sorry, no thank you...”


“Okay... so, you don’t know her address?”
“No.”
“You have not even a vague idea of the locality where she might be staying?”
“No.”
“And you came all the way from Delhi to find her?”
“Yes.”
“Here in Bombay... without an address?”
“Yes.”
“And what if you don’t find her?”
“I will become a superstar.”


“What if this show fails?”
“It won’t... it’s an international hit.”
“But I’ve never done TV.”
“Doesn’t matter. You are...”
“I am very nervous...”
“Sir, you’ll do fine.”
“I don’t think I can do this...”
“Sir, shoot is about to...”
“No, I can’t...”
......
“Deviyon aur sajjanon, aap sabka swagat hai iss adbhut khel mein...”


“Nahin yaar...  not one good reason to do your film... Now don’t start on it being hatke... all films are hatke... I’ll get lost in this multi-starrer, yaar...”
“You haven’t read the script?” the producer asked.
“No, yaar... what’s the...”
“So you don’t know who the killer is.”
“No... who is the killer?” Kajol asked.


“You can’t take a call at an Enrique concert, ya!” 
“I know, ya but...”
“Not from home, na?”
“No, some unknown number.”
“Dekh, it can’t be any producer.”
“No but...”
“Why you spoiling this outing???”
“Let me just take this.”
“Spoilsport, yaar!”
“It will take five seconds.”
....
“Hello?”
“Hello... Bidya? This is Prodeep Shorcar.”

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Know Your Censor Board Chief

As a Bollywood fan, the Chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification (aka Censor Board) is the administrative post you are most affected by. After all, he is the guy who is going to decide if you would get to watch MSG with Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Singh Insan's topless scene intact or we'd have to make do with his Love Charger instead.
Therefore, today's appointment of the CBFC Chief needs a bit of perspective. More so, since people have already dismissed Pahlaj Nihalani as someone who made some Modi promotional video and are ignoring the impressive line-up of films he produced in the 1980s and 1990s.

Pahlaj Nihalani's greatest contribution is not to Bollywood but to Bangladeshi cinema. Because. He. Is. The. Man. Who. Launched. Suyash Pandey.
Nihalani met (or spotted) Chunky Pandey in the loo of a five-star hotel and immediately signed him for a debut that would electrify Bollywood in the 1990s, energise the Bangladeshi film industry a decade later and provide fodder for jokes at awards functions two decades later.

Apart from that, Pahlaj Nihalani bankrolled many of the massive hit films that would establish Govinda-David Dhawan as the greatest combination to happen to Hindi cinema after Amitabh-Manmohan Desai. [I didn't say that. Anupama Chopra wrote about it in an India Today profile of the actor.]

Pahlaj Nihalani's first film as a producer was Hathkadi (not to be mistaken with the 1990s GTH/LML version starring Govinda and Shilpa Shetty). The film is famous for the Asha Bhosle classic - Disco Station - composed by the legendary Bappi Lahiri. Point to be noted is that the film was released in 1982 with Shatrughan Sinha and Rakesh Roshan playing sons to Sanjeev Kumar, giving it a slight 70s vibe with an 80s disco touch.

His next notable was Ilzaam, featuring the song that would make Govinda the butt of jokes in the snooty English-language film press. I am a Street Dancer (again by Bappi Lahiri) was performed by Govinda with gusto on - well - the streets of Bombay while his cronies slipped into people's houses and stole stuff. This whole crime was being investigated by his brother, a police officer (Shatrughan Sinha) as his girlfriend Neelam confused him for someone else.

Then came Aag Hi Aag, which was the aforementioned Suyash's debut. In an interview to Stardust, Chunky said, "After Aag Hi Aag, it was bhaag hi bhaag for me" - indicating the ginormous number of films he signed after this first hit (!). Chunky was the son of Dharmendra, who was the enemy of Danny, who was the enemy of Shatrughan Sinha - in the typically complicated plot of the Bollywood of yore that needed 2:55 hours to uljhao and 0:05 hours to suljhao.

Shola Aur Shabnam was probably the first of the Govinda-David Dhawan partnership that would rule for the next several years. Govinda as army cadet Karan. Gulshan Grover as Kali. Mohnish Behl as his brother Bali. Anupam Kher as Col. Lathi. And Bindu as a girl's college hostel warden who had the hots for Anupam Kher. Any 90s connoisseur can imagine what an explosion the above chemicals can concoct and the film did not disappoint at all.
Add to that quite a few hit songs including the epic Aaaooooooaaaaa o o o o (x 3).

Immediately after SAS came Aankhen, a film that should have been in the Guinness Book for having a world record four double roles (two Kadar Khans, two Govindas, two Raj Babbars and one pair of Chunky-Monkey). It didn't get into the record books because Nihalani was too busy counting the money this film made. It was the biggest grosser of 1993 and I remember watching the film on cable one night, when I was not able to go for a leak because the events just did not let up!
A prankster duo. Their strict father. A gang of terrorists out to switch a CM with a lookalike. A stock-market scamster who had to be released from jail. Twin brothers of several people. And songs that were bloody catchy.
There was the Anthem of Eve-Teasing: O laal dupatte wali, tera naam toh bataa
There was Semi-Romantic Semi-Erotic Ditty: Ek tamanna jeevan ki (Feat. Govinda's Moobs)
There was the PETA Geet: Bade kaam ka bandar
There was the Ghar Khaali Gaana: Angana mein baba, duwaare pe maa - which probably started the debate around Double Meaning Songs much before Raja Babu, Dalaal and Dulara came into the picture.

The final name on this list - though not the final title on Nihalani's CV - is Andaz.
Anil Kapoor appeared as a bespectacled schoolteacher in this film, just in case everyone thought our favourite neighbourhood tapori was not intellectual enough to be associated with academia. But then, studies were strictly avoided as a love triangle between the teacher, his wife (Juhi Chawla) and a student (Karisma Kapoor—in the mandatory minis of a girl student) developed. In any case, Anil Kapoor’s erudition would have been terribly misplaced in a school—hilariously named Nalanda—which counted Shakti Kapoor among its students.

As is evident, Pahlaj Nihalani was (is) a visionary producer who has always been aware of the thin line between subtle humour and slapstick, between eroticism and porn, between body parts that can be exposed and body parts that can't. He has chosen never to walk that line but that does not make him any less qualified to be the person who decides which scenes stay in the movies we watch and which scenes don't.
After all, he knew that consent from the woman is essential for any romantic liaison (Khet gaye baba, bazaar gayi maa / Akeli hoon ghar mein, tu aaja balmaa said the woman in a song he produced). He also depicted empowered women (When asked her name, his heroine snapped back Pehli mulaqat mein ladki nahin khulti / Har ajnabi pe dil ki yeh khidki nahin khulti). And these modern women were also aware of old traditions of hospitality (Garam garam halwa aur puri khilaibe / Naram naram haathon se khaaja balma).
Overall, a man who blends the traditional and modern. Bring him on, I say. 

Friday, January 02, 2015

My Favourite (Blog)Posts of 2014

Before 2015 becomes more than a few days old, let me quickly upload a list of my favourite (blog) posts of 2014.

Arunava Sinha wrote on buying and reading books in 1980s Calcutta and Interstellar suddenly made sense. When he was pushing the shelves of Modern Book Emporium on Dover Lane, I was on Hindustan Road (the very next lane) at a roadside bookshop looking for nearly the same books and wondering why they were falling off the shelves and into my hands. 

One good Calcutta post deserves another. 
Parama Ghosh wrote on the Bengali New Year (Poila Boishakh) and her visit to College Street with her parents. She bought books, chatted with booksellers, ate at the traditional places, observed the not-so-traditional things and - for many of us - brought this beautiful place alive once again. 
Thought: If the post had been in English, more people would have been able to read it. But then, it wouldn't have been perfect.

Before you start complaining about posts in Bengali that everyone cannot enjoy, let me pacify you. 
Tanmay Mukherjee a.k.a. Bongpen started a parallel blog to assist people desirous conducting their romantic pursuits in the manner of the planet's most poetic, most thoughtful and most articulate people. Pickup lines in Bengali would turn every Kohli into a Kobi, every Ravi into a Robi. So, was it love at first sight or should I link the blog again? 
[Bonus Bengali Post: Tanmay wrote another post on 26th January last year and explained a diplomatic incident we have been trying to understand for the last seven decades.]

Kroswami is someone whose identity I don't know. But when (s)he talks about eating in Calcutta, falling in love while eating in Calcutta, breaking one's heart while falling in love by eating in Calcutta, the identity doesn't matter. There is a blog post about the less celebrated eateries of Calcutta that I cannot describe. And the good news is that I don't have to describe it. 
"Go there. Just go there. And live it."

After all that food, you have to wash it down with some alcohol. 
Amritorupa Kanjilal got that forward about '20 Alcoholic Puns for Booklovers' like all of us. What she did next will blow your mind. She came up with 80 (yes, eighty... eight zero!) more puns spanning both English and Bengali classics (and some not-so-classics). When Omar Khayyam said "A book... a jug of wine... and thou", I think he meant this post. 

Sidin Vadukut - after he became bestselling author - neglected his blog like anything. He returned to it in the beginning of 2014 recounting an interesting bit of his daughter's growing up. When I first read this, I fell on my knees and wept. Partly out of recognition, but mostly out of relief. 
I guarantee all parents will feel the same way. Unless you have a toddler right now. Then you will want to strangle Sidin. 

Arnab Ray a.k.a. Greatbong - even after becoming a bestselling author - did not neglect his blog at all. But he started deconstructing politicians, reconstructing politics and instructing a lot of others. But he returned to form with an elegant post on Bollywood's Ice Bucket Challenge (Classic Era) that ranks among his very best. You expected every blogger to write an Ice Bucket post, right? So what's new? Well, as a (Classic Era) Bollywood punchline went: 'Expect the Unexpected'. 

How can you write a memorable post - one that stays with a reader for several months, if not years - on a single film? Well, I will show you. 

Imaan Sheikh ruined some of the best loved films from my college days with her 'accurate and honest summaries'. My favourite one was the Hum Saath Saath Hain one, where she brought in marijuana, casual sex, incestual undertones, minority bashing and all the political incorrectness that you can think of. And then some. 
I really hated HSSH so I loved this one. On the other hand, I had loved KKHH when I first saw it but I loved Imaan's post on that one too. WTF? Kuch kuch hota tha, Imaan. Tum nahin samjhoge...

Sukanya Verma has been revisiting some of the classics from the 1980s, concocting a brilliant mix of filmi nostalgia, critical analysis and oft-forgotten trivia around some of our lesser classics. I feel about fifty of these columns would be a wonderful book on Indian cinema and her piece on JJWS was one of the best. Primarily because it is one of my favourites. But also because I loved the way she changed to top gear at the very end. 

Beth Watkins had developed an (unhealthy?) obsession with Shashi and Soumitra till it took the Deol to family to shake her awake and ride into Fictitoustan. As she explored Sultanat (yet another of my childhood favourites), it was like watching the film once again - this time with subtitles, an expert commentary track and mental popcorn to munch on, 

So, those are my ten favourites from 2014. You wouldn't believe the agony I went through to reach this shortlist from the hundreds of posts I liked. What I do for you guys! 
Happy? Now, go buy my book.