Friday, September 19, 2008

Welcome to Sajjanpur - The Hri-view */5

'Welcome to Sajjanpur' is directed by Shyam Benegal, one of the most reputed directors of our country.That must have been the reason he got such an ensemble cast for the film and that was also why I wanted to watch the movie.

Sadly,the movie doesn't live upto the reputation or the body of work of Shyam Benegal.

Talking about the flaws of the movie will take really long,because even the first shot seems to be stretched beyond comfort, and the rest of the movie lives upto the 1st shot.

Shreyas Talpade plays Mahadev, a letter-writer.His work involves writing letters for the people in Sajjanpur.He is good with words and gets emotionally attached to the letters he is writing.This leads to him getting into various situations and meeting different people.What could have been an entertaining film sadly turns out to be a treacherously long story that makes you wait for the climax, but just so that you could rush home.

There are too many characters, too many sub-plots, too many cliches that it would be futile to get into them in detail.Amrita Rao plays a married potter whose husband is away.Ravi Kisen plays a compounder hitting on a widow.Yashpal Sharma plays a notorious local politician.

The characters are cliches and Benegal takes a lot of time establishing them.The screenplay drags on for eternity and the music is not pleasant to the ear.In short, the film fails on all fronts.

I cannot say much of the cast.Its a Shreyas Talpade show all the way. He succeeds in inducing whatever little interest you have in the movie. Amrita Rao is unsure, Divya Dutta has exactly one expression through the movie.Ravi Kisen overacts and Yashpal Sharma seems bored with the character he is playing.

'Welcome to Sajjanpur' will rank as probably the worst of Shyam Benegal's works.If you miss it, you aren't missing much.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

BAD HAIR DAYS?? Not Anymore

Someone once said that we get the politicians we deserve.He forgot to mention we also get the barbers we deserve. Barbers set low standards for themselves and then consistently outsurpass themselves.

I have had some bad experience with barbers. And then some more.The problem with barbers is that you have to convey exactly what you want, otherwise you take what he gives you.

I have always had long hair. I don't know why. I mean long hair. If you kept it in front of my face, it used to reach my mouth. In 2003, when Tere Naam released, I even had my hair like that for a few months. I also got into crazy pacts with my friends to cut my hair once a year with them.

The result was that I always had a large mop of hair in front of my eyes.

For 6 years, I tolerated taunts ( Girls telling me "Tere baal mere se lambe hai " ), sarcasm ( My dad - "This hairstyle was very popular in the 70's.... like Shashi Kapoor and all") and dirty looks ( my maid and all the shopkeepers I used to buy hairbands from).

I had to use lots of hairgel and shampoos and conditioners. And my right hand was always pushing the hair from the front of my eyes and keeping it behind the ear ( It's so girlish I am squirming even while writing about it ). Whenever I got wet in the rain, it inevitably meant cold and headaches.

On Sunday morning , I woke up and realised I was stupid. I had to get a hair-cut.

Coming back to barbers, there are 2 kinds : The foolish ones and the Absolute morons.

Since I keep on changing my barbers, I hav seen the entire range from absurd to asinine. There was this one guy who would ask me again and agian how exactly he should cut every part. And when he was done, I realised he had done whatever the hell he wanted to my hair. And there was this other guy who always sang a lot while cutting my hair. Imagine, a guy has a blade on your neck and he's singing "Main hoon Don.." !!

The worst part is, since I have to take off my specs, I can't even monitor how he's cutting it. I was completely at the barber's mercy.

This time I found a salon called ''Curl Up 'n' Dye''. I wanted to just check out the place because I was intriuged by the name. It was pretty decent.

My instructions were precise : "You see all this hair? Chop it all off. Please don't make me look stupid". He switched on the music system and a song started playing. "Main duniya bhula doonga..."

After he was done, I looked into the mirror and I couldn't recognise myself. I ran my hand over my head. This felt good.

So how did he cut my hair ? I don't know. I am enjoying the freedom right now.

But so that you get a brief idea, I will post some of the opinions ( with my comments) here for you.

Akka : It's such a relief to see you like this.You look like a kid (Thanks, that's so touching !!!)

Shruti :"Send me a pic...(I'll see)...Nautanki mat kar, and send me a pic"

Pooja : "Ab insaan ki tarah lag raha hai".("What was I with long hair then?Greek God?)

Sarmistha : "Hehehe..hehe...(*#@*#!...)

Amamma : "He cut a little more than required. Your grandfather had long hair, you know. But
anyway, this is also nice"(She can never find any flaw in me)

Prashant : "Finally, dude.Congrats. But its like a part of you is missing. I have always seen you
with lots of hair.

Anil : "He should have cut a little lesser. You almost look stupid, man."(If you weren't so
tall, I'd have bashed you up

The Barber: "Mast hai saab, ekdum hero."(I was speechless, didn't know what to say!)

I don't know whose opinion to believe.

But anyway, if you still have long hair, get a life. (And then a haircut)

Monday, September 15, 2008

'A Wednesday' - The Hri-view ****/5

If you're planning to catch up on Rock On,The Dark Knight,or Singh is King,chuck the plan,and go watch 'A Wednesday'!

Its a small film with a big heart.Neither is it overbearing, nor preachy.Minimalistic to the point of seeming underplayed,'A Wednesday' is one of the better movies to hit the theaters this year.
The story revolves around a man who holds a city ransom,threatening to blow it apart.He demands the release of 4 dreaded terrorists.Initially,the Commissioner doubts his credibility,but soon realises that the caller means business.

You have to watch the film to know what happens after that.But take my word for one thing, if you are expecting the usual thriller, you are in for a big surprise.

'A Wednesday' is fabulous for 2 reasons: 1.It is very honest in its approach.There are no glitches in the plot,no unwanted romances,and it's not very lengthy (At one point, I was afraid the film was getting over too quickly !!).The plot is neither compromised for songs nor for idolising the hero,as is the norm these days.Here,plot is king.

2.The characters are played to near perfection.Anupam Kher is restrained but effective.Aamir Bashir is good as the younger cop.The surprise package is Jimmy Shergill, in probably his best role till now.

But the film is held together by that one man who continues to surprise you with every movie.Naseruddin Shah.As the caller,he obviously has the most important role and has you hooked through-out.Another gem of a performance.

Kudos to debutant director Neeraj Pandey.Its a very well made movie.

Go watch it and tell me if I went over the top !

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Bachna Ae Haseeno - The Hri-view **

After dabbling with sports,women oriented and children's movies,Yash Raj is back to what it does best.Soppy love stories.

There are innumerable references to DDLJ.The characters are ready to burst into song at exactly at the right moments,the locales are post card perfect.There are actors doing guest appearances,children,a little bit of family sentiment thrown in.They have mastered the formula.

Sad part is,I think the audience has matured alarmingly over the few years.

Coming back to the film, I expected either a crazy story-less,all song drama like Dil Maange More,or an insane story like Singh is King. Thankfully,its not that bad.

Raj is a guy from Delhi.He has it all.But when it comes to girls, he's a killer.He doesnt fall in love and all that.He gets the girls easily.He reconts his life and the three girls in his life.The sweet Mahi,the confident Radhika and the smart,intelligent Gayatri.He dumps the first two and the last one dumps him.

He realises his life now sucks and ventures out to correct the wrong he has done.

Its a Yash Raj movie so I need not say anything else.Its self explanatory.

The movie is saved solely by the performances.Deepika Padukone and Minisha Lamba never over-act,they are restrained but sure of what they want to do.Bipasha Basu is the surprise package,But the film clearly belongs to Ranbir Kapoor who plays the Casanova with perfection.

Finally,its a movie you may enjoy but its definitely not one you will remember.Theres no towel scene in this one so I think even the girls do not have any special reason to watch this one.

PHOONK - The Hri-view ** 1/2

If Ram Gopal Verma was offering 5 lakhs to watch it alone, I think I deserve at least 1 lakh.There were hardly 10 people in the theatre I went to watch it in.That's the thing about Ramu.Those who watch his movies watch it for the reason that they are made by him.And those who don't watch his movies,avoid them because of the same reason.They are made by him.I think he's the only filmmaker who has actually become larger than his movies.Whenever a movie is to be released,less importance is given to the movie per se,but to RGV and his exploits.

But anyway,coming back to the story.Here's what was interesting.The remaining guys in the hall were there just to have a nice time,I think.They were the kind of morons who whistle and mouth obscene stuff when the heroine comes on screen.

These 2 guys were shouting "Vande Mataram" and "Bhoot hoon main" whenever they could,attempting to scare us but I was so pissed I could have kicked his butt to Lucknow.

As the movie went on,on of those guys came to me and said ''Can I sit here?".I asked him to sit a few seats away and keep his mouth shut.That guy was a nuthead.The movie isn't that scary.

But it has its moments.RGV's knack for zooming on supposedly inanimate things comes to the fore in the cinematography.The sound effects are good.

The only flaw here lies in the dearth of ideas to scare.Like in most Hindi movies made these days,whenever anything scary happens,it inevitably has to end with the person waking up and realising it was a dream.Also,the climax could have been far better,considering that the first half was successful in raising a few scares.

The actors essay their characters with ease,considering that its a horror movie and most of the action is supposed to take place in our minds.But the person who steals the show is the little kid.Kids nowadays act pretty well in our Hindi movies,exceptthe kids in Yash Raj movies.You feel like buying a big pack of Kitkat Chunkey and smacking their faces with it,but I'll get to that later.

Overall,Phoonk is an average movie.If you have an option to go to a movie,go for Rock On or the Dark Knight.But if you want to go watch Bachna Ae Haseeno or Singh is King,please watch this movie instead.At least you are not subjected to lip-syncing lover boys and dances at marriages.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Taare Zameen Par, and on my nerves too...

My dad hailed from an unknown village in Balasore district in Orissa.He had four younger brothers and 2 sisters under him.He was a topper,went to Bhubaneswar and started living there,working,studying and dreaming.

He also started taking tuitions.My mother was one of his students (They both learnt their lessons, I think.).They fell in love,married and he went on to start his own coaching institute that he used to finance the three cars that he bought to start his own travel agency.

I do not have the brains or the resolve like my dad.But I was inspired nonetheless.I decided to give tuitions too.At that time, I was managing my graduation,MBA coaching,and a job as a Customer Care Agent.I wanted a student who was easy to teach.

My first student was Sai Kumar, a 11th standard student who wanted help with Accountancy.I almost finished his course in 2 months,and he surprisingly understood everything.

After Sai Kumar left for his boarding school,I was confident about my abilities as a teacher.Then, Litton walked into my life. On to my nerves, rather.

If ever the calamity of tutoring children befalls you,remember the golden rule.CHILDREN ARE NOT EASIER TO TEACH.I learnt it the hard way.

Litton ('Lit-awn') was a 5 year old.He had been living in his native place all his life till his parents realised he was too street smart for the place and sent him to stay with his uncle, who stayed below our house.

Litton was a thin,little kid.He was not tall, not fair. There was nothing abut his appearance that stood out. Except one thing. He always wore a smirk on his face. It was a cross between a sarcastic and a 'know-it-all' smirk.

His aunt requested me to teach him.I was supposed to teach a 4 year old for 2 hours a day, and be paid for it.Walk in the park, I thought.

His aunt had forgotten to mention that he was an incorrigibly disobedient and naughty kid. I only got to know of this aspect of his from a few friends later on.

Apparently, Litton would bunk his tuitions and pocket the money meant for his tuitions every month.He was also whacked a lot by his uncle because he would use his uncle's perfumes before he went to school.Yes, he was a 4 year old !

Whenever we played cricket, Litton would stand there and be ready to fetch the ball if it went out of the park.I did not know that he could be naughty. I was in for a rude shock.

The day arrived when I had to start teaching him.

I did not know this, but his aunt had given him strict instructions not to have anything in our house.The first day, I offered him some biscuits.

"No." he said without even looking at them. But I am a couch potato and keep on munching on something or the other. He always declined the offer to eat anything but I could see his resolve was now weakening. One day when I was having Brittania Jim Jam biscuits and asked him,he said in a sing song tone. "If you want to give me...."

From that day, my sister and grandmother and sister pampered him. Inspite of his abysmal academics, he was given Horlicks made by my amamma and biscuits that were hidden away from me in the kitchen.

Litton was a smart kid and knew whom to be polite and sweet with. He always greeted my granny and sister and smiled when they said anything.

"Such a sweet kid,na?" my grandmother one day said.

She had no clue.Since I was his tutor, all his attitude was reserved for me.He wasn't great at studies and it didn't take long for me to notice that.

Maths and English to a 4 year old. What could have been easier ?

Anything !!

Litton was fascinated with Maths.When I say fascinated, I donot mean that he was interested in the subject and wanted to learn it. Far from it.

Whenever I explained anything in Maths to him, he stared at me.He kept on staring at me as if I was singing some melodious song for him.

I tried another technique. "If you have 5 apples and I give you 2 more, how many will you have?"

He continued staring at me as if he was wondering if the apples would be ripe or not.Then, he scratched his head and said,



"I don;t know."

And then he smiled. It was as if deep within, he knew that my maths sucked and yet I was teaching him.

I am more confident about my English so I thought that would have been easier to teach.

All his life was spent in his native place and he had as much an idea bout English as I had about cows.

His spellings were sacrilegiously bad.And that all-knowing smile was un-nerving.

After many attempts at spelling that would have given the Queen a definite heart failure, i asked him to read out the spellings from his book.He was to read a word in English, and then say its meaning in Oriya.

The first page had a picture of a healthy,smiling cow (quite difficult to find these days).After all, he had been tending to cows for a while and had an idea about them.

'Read that out', I told him.

" C-O-Oww...Cow.Cow maane gaay"

"Good." I said, ignoring the c-o-oww.Read the next one.

"H-o-r-s = Horse. Horse maane ....jersey gaay ? "

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


It's a little shop in the market near my house. A Bihari man runs the shop and is helped by his apprentice, a 14 year old called 'Golu'.

He gives amazing Kulfi cone ice cream for 6 bucks and badam shake for 12 bucks. No prizes for guessing which one I have !

The place is a very interesting one. Positioned strategically at the entry gate of the market to ensure maximum visibility, the stall is visited by people of all ages, genders, and income groups. I once saw a man get down from an Audi and take 20 ice creams as 'parcel'. The shop is also resort to jobless,pennyless vagabonds like me.

The Bihari guy has been here for 12 years and proudly says that the rates have been hiked only twice since then.For more than a decade now, he has been dishing out slurpy kulfi to people at affordable prices. He also dishes out dollops of sarcasm, mostly directed at Golu.

His assistant, Golu, has picked up the tricks of the trade but is never given the cresit by his boss.The other day I had a kulfi cone and asked for change for 50 bucks. Rajesh promptly handed the note to Golu and gave me the cone.

Golu put the note in the cash box and cautiously started counting the change he needed to give me back. Before handing me the money, he asked

'Chauvvalis rupay de raha hoon.." he said,half to me and half to Rajesh, probably to show he knew how to count.

'Nahi, poore Pachaas lauta de.Saab dost hai humaare...'

The smile on Golu's face vanished and was replaced by a scowl.

I can always sympathise with someone whose Maths is bad, considering that I once answered a sum in which the son's age was 12 years more than the dad's age.

'Bachha hai woh.Seekhne do usey...' I told Rajesh.

'Nahi, saab. Gobar bhara hai uske dimaag mein.Bahut saara gobar' he said, knocking on the sides of his head.

Poor Golu, my boss seemed like Lady Diana compared to his.

The shop is also interesting for another reason.Rajesh can speak perfect Oriya. But everybody who visits the shop speaks to him in Hindi. No matter how broken, pathetic or Godforsaken their Hindi is, a sudden, inexplicable love for the National language dawns on them when they reach Praveen Ice cream ( Mix Badam).

A few days back, a hefty man aged about 40 who looked like he should have quit ice creams long back,landed at his shop.

'Ram Ram, Bhaiyya' he greeted Rajesh. Quite unnecassary, but he probably wanted to show that he knew Hindi, or had Hindi speaking friends.

'Kya doon,saab?'

' 2 shake do, 'phool' wala '

'Phool wala nahi hai, saab. Pista, Badam, chocolate...kaun sa doon?'

'Chocolate do,phool'

'sirf chocolate hai,saab...chocolate phool nahi hai'

'Arey nahi,mujhe phool do,half nahi'

'Oh, 'full' doon,saab?'

I am not sure but I think that the permanent smile on his face had a smirk-ish twitch to it !!!


I was returning from Vizag yesterday in the Inter-City Express.Somewhere along the journey, a little kid came and started sweeping the floor near my feet.I generally discourage begging and so shooed him away.I feel disgusted by people who make the poor kids sweep the floor and don't even pay them for it.

After half an hour,i see the same kid.he's standing near the wash basin,his broom in one hand.He is short and skinny.He must be around 5 years old.A hawker was selling samosas. 'How much for one?' he asks.

2 rupees

He looks in his pocket,takes out a coin,and gives the man.The hawker gives him the samosa in his hand.The kid asks him for some salt.The hawker gives it to him in his hand.i stand up and ask him why he dint give the kid the usual paper plate and sauce.

'Why should i give him,saab?I can use it for some other customer.'

'Give him a paper plate and sauce', I told the hawker.He gave the kid the plate throwing me a dirty look.

The kid ate up the samosa greedily.

'You want one more?'

He looks at me,turns his head in a no and walks away,casting me a final glance before hurrying on to the next compartment.

At Vizianagaram, I get down to buy some snacks.When I return,the kid is sitting next to a boy who's about 12 years old in the seat next to me.The two kids are talking.I look at them.One of them is dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. The other is a scrawny kid with many scars on his hands,face,and legs.

I lean in to listen to what they are talking.The elder kid was asking the little one about his home.

'I have no home,sir.I live on the train.The other boys on the train always beat me up.They have also pushed me out of the train a few times.'

'What's your name?'


I smiled at the irony.'Subho' means auspicious in Oriya.The kid was actually pretty cute.If he had normal parents and went to school and had a normal life,he would have been pretty cute looking.But his hands were dirty,there were scars all over his hands and legs and he held on to his broom like it was precious.

When we reached Berhampur, I asked him if he wanted to eat something.He looked at me,as if he was shocked someone would ask him that.

'Yes', he said and his eyes lit up.

I got down and signaled him to get down too. 'Lets find something to eat,I am hungry too'

'I cant get down.Someone will flick my broom if i get down'.

'Bring it with you then, and come quickly'

He brought his broom and I helped him get down.'We have to come back quickly,the train stops for very little time here', he said trying to sound like he knew what he was talking about.

'You want to have Poori?' He nodded in the affirmative.

I bought a packet for each of us.The train sounded the whistle.I purposely waited for it to pick up a little pace and when it did,I ran to the door and lifting him up with both hands threw him inside the train.He was laughing loudly.

'Wash your hands before you eat'. He obediently washed his hands and started devouring the Pooris.

'Can I lie down here?' , he asks after he is done with the Pooris.

I shift a little and give him my book to rest his head on.He lay down on the seat.

I looked at him.What could I do for this kid ? How could I suggest that he go to a school? What good would an education do him ?

I knew that I had found a topic for my next blog. Was I a creep ? Was I using this situation just so that I had something new to write about?

I don't know that.But if you ever travel by the Vishakapatnam-Bhubaneswar Inter City Express and see a little kid called Subho,be nice to him.He's actually very sweet.


8th August
Hi !

I wanted to tell you this since long. Everything I say to you may not be right. Most of it is what I have gathered from the time I have known you.

You're not the most popular one. So what ? Others with lesser potential are better than you. But that shouldn't bog you down. You are destined for great things. That's because you have the one sure shot ingredient for success - Potential.

You are young And romantic. You wear your heart on your sleeve. You are emotional about people you love and sometimes err.But you have the cushion of the future to learn from. You sometimes get agitated quickly, but that's alright. At heart, you are loving and tolerant. Sometimes a little too tolerant, so that others take advantage of you. But nevertheless, don;t change. There are others who are taken advantage of because they are arrogant or stupid, You are still better off.

You are emotional. About your people, your loved ones. About their likes, dislikes, choice and tastes. You have had an illustrous past before you. But your future is yours. I am confident it will be enviable.

Look around you. People are changing. Times are changing. Some for the better. Some otherwise. You need to change too.

But which way should you go? Your family ? Friends? Culture? Your aims ? Aspirations? You are confused. You have many options in front of you and sometimes get depressed because you don't know whats right for you.What about status? Recognition? Your friends achieving more than you.
But remember that the world is vast.Your understanding of the world is the people you know.Your people.Your every step should keep them in mind as they are the ones that matter to you.
Equip yourself with knowledge.Success will come.I can see it.In the way you talk.Your enthusiasm and your behaviour.
There are times when I may have been cross with you.Times when I have complained.I shouldn't have done that and instead contributed in any small way that was possible.There were times when I laughed with you and others when I laughed at you.
I have never told you this.But I am proud of you.I couldn't have asked for anything more.You are perfect for me and I count my blessings everyday for having you.
Your birthday falls this Friday.I know most will say that your birthdays are superficial.
But I want this day to be different.I want you to realise your potential and know that I'll always be there for you.
You turn 60 this year.It doesn't feel that way.From what I know of you,you have been one,cool, dude.