Jinnah is now being discussed everywhere from board rooms to news rooms. I am still unsure about the facts, but there are reasons for which I like him. He has been the BJP's nemesis not once, but twice.
I have always disliked the party. Its a bit like cricket. When you dont like Austalia, you support the opponent no matter who it is. For many years, I thought the party was a solution to the nepotism and sycophancy in the Congress. But Godhra shattered me. The charm of Vajpayee wore off when no action was taken against Modi.
Modi grew in stature with the party and the party kept on defining for the rest of us what "culture, nationality and India" meant. Ever since, I have an utter intolerance for anything saffron (Gajar halwa, of course not included). Its appalling how a political party can raise the issue of religion in every election and get away with it. I used to pray that they did not come to power.
But since 2000, I need not have worried. Committing one faux pas after another, the party has expertly got into puddles of embarrassment. One does not even need to fight them, they can handle it themselves.
Kandahar, the coffin scam, Godhra, Cash for Votes, Raje, Jinnah and that moron called Varun Gandhi (who won from his constituency by the way). Now the party is like a volcano crumbling under its own lava. The stalwarts have retired, the ones who remain have lost it. Young leaders like Varun give me hope. With people like him, you always know the party is going nowhere. Exposing the truth about the functioning of the party, Mr. Shourie now asks RSS (a cultural organisation) to take over the party ( a political party that is answerable to the people). If Govinda was here, he would show his Colgate teeth and say "He...he..it happens only in India"
So thank you, Mr. Jinnah. Even after partition, you are doing us a favour without even knowing it.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Posted by Hriday at 11:50 PM
Monday, August 17, 2009
Imtiaz Ali's films are characterised by funny lines and real people in (un)real situations. You will not find cliches and item numbers in them.
Love Aaj Kal, starring Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone is the story of a couple in today's world. In a parallel story, the film also talks about love in the sepia-toned yesteryears when romeos chased their juliets on bicycles. Its a take on love in both the eras. Love Aaj Kal is not boring. Saif plays the cool dude for the nth time and yet keeps you interested. Deepika Padukone is stunning and just about ok, if you overlook her histrionics in the dramatic scenes.
What works for LAK is that the characters are believable. Just when you begin to say "Oh! No...", Ali breaks free from the stereotypes. The dialogues, like in all his films are real and funny. What doesn't work for the film is that you know that the guys will meet in the end. Some of the twists have become characteristic of his films.
The guy and the girl meeting after a long gap, the same incidents now happening to the other person etc. These were evident in both Socha Na Tha and Jab We Met. However, watch the film for Saif. Its fun while it lasts, but not something you will remember after you leave the cinema.
Posted by Hriday at 5:13 AM
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Bad Hindi films hardly perturb me these days – I have started taking them with a pinch of salt. But if you make a film estimating the audience to be absolute morons, you are in for trouble.
Soham Shah made his foray into direction with the much-hyped ‘Kaal’. His claim to fame was that he had worked under RGV and Karan Johar, two filmmakers as contrasting as chalk and cheese. However, it appears he has picked up the negatives from both of them.
The problems that plague “Luck” are too many to mention here and I will mention the two most glaring among them.
1. The film’s target audience is those with IQ levels below 50. With utter disregard for logic, Shah picks up threads of inspiration from ‘The Condemned’ and “13 Tzamti” and stirs it into a bad, tasteless film.
Sanjay Dutt plays a gangster (yawwwwn!!) who bets on the lucks of human beings. He picks up people from around the world to participate in a contest where they have to perform daredevil stunts with people placing bets on them. Not surprisingly, 6 of the ten people are from India!
Cliches that existed in the Stone Age are repeated here. Ailing wife, sobbing mother, revenge, you name it.
2. The dialogues: You might not believe me, but there is not one, and I mean ONE instance where the characters talk normally. They all dish out shayris for lines and the dialogues are without doubt the worst in recent times. I’d be surprised if Sonam Shah finds any more work as a dialogue writer after this film. Not to forget the irritating “Aazma Luck aazma” score running in the background throughout.
The performances are uninspired. Only Ravi Kishen seems bearable, but that’s only because he looks completely natural as a jerk. Imran Khan cant rise beyond the flaws and Shruti Hasan is very, very bad in the acting department.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Me and Twinkle were sitting in the library. There was a woman who used to come regularly to the library. She would sit in the junior room and help the children to read, colour and paint. We were sitting in the office room and preparing a poster for the Summer Camp. She offered to help us prepare the poster and we started talking.
She said that she was waiting for her son to finish his classes. Ironically, right next to Bakul Children’s Library, there is a ‘Brain Institute’ where children are taught new, path breaking techniques on how to cram. Needless to say, more children attend the cramming-coaching than come to the library!
She started talking to us about her son. Apparently, he was a prodigy. He was the top ranker in his class and scored the maximum marks in every exam. He was also gifted with artistic skills. He painted and had won many prizes at different levels. She then took out from her bag some photographs of her his son with the Chief Minister, the Governor and many other dignitaries. He had had his first solo exhibition at the age of 6 and continues to paint!
I marveled at the exposure that today’s kids got and couldn’t help wondering what I had done as a 6 year old.
We got talking some more and it was all about her son. “Does he get time for studies?”
“Yes, he is the 1st ranker in his class.”
“Does he have any other talents?”
“Yes. He is a singer. He was selected for and participated in “Little Champs”. He can also dance…”
We continued working on the poster and the kid arrived after his class was over.
He was surprisingly young, all of 8 years old. But he didn’t have the mannerisms of a child. He did not smile, or fumble, or goof up. He walked in and picked up a few books. He knew what to do. For some reason, he seemed much older than an 8 year old.
We went to the other room where he had found a book that he liked and was browsing through it. When his mother introduced us to him, he promptly stood up, did a ‘namaskar’ and bent down to touch our feet! Embarrassed as we were, we said it wasn’t necessary. The kid did not seem very interested in us but it looked like he had no option.
“Sing a song for bhai….”
“I want to colour..”
“Just one song, come on sweety..one song”
The boy started singing an Oriya bhajan, and did it beautifully. After he was done with the song, he sat down.
“Sing a Hindi song also, na…”
The boy hesitantly began singing “Pal pal dil ke paas…”.
But his mom wasn’t done yet. “Now sing a modern song..”
Twinkle and me were starting to get uncomfortable. “It’s alright, aunty”, we said.
“No, no…he will sing. You will, won’t you, beta?”.
He began singing “Kal ho na ho..”
Hoping he didn’t have any other talents, we quickly said goodbye and left.
On my way back, I wondered how that little kid would be spending his childhood.How many people's feet he touched everyday and how many songs he sang for them? Did he play cricket with his friends in the evenings? Did he read comics? I was glad that my childhood was extremely ordinary. As a child, I had Chacha Chaudhry, Mithun, Mogli and Sachin Tendulkar. I wondered who the kid had…..
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Director Kabir Khan's first venture, 'Kabul Express' was quite an interesting watch. He had cleverly blended the documentary style with commercial elements. It had its flaws but it was quite watchable. However, in his second outing, Khan chooses a wider canvas - 9/11 and its impact on Muslims.
Omar (Neil Nitin Mukesh) is asked to spy on his former college friend, Sam (John Abraham) because an FBI officer (Irrfan Khan) is convinced that he is involved in terrorist activities. Neil agrees to it hesitantly, but more to prove him wrong. Sam is married to Maya (Katrina) who was Neil's college crush. He discovers there is more to Sam than meets the eye. You might want to watch the movie to know what happens next.
What works for New York is that it has its heart in the right place. Khan wastes no time to setting up the mood of the film. Supposedly based on actual research, Khan keeps the plot clean from any sub-plots, item numbers, or gimmicks- something that is common in Bollywood these days. But since it is after all a Yashraj film, you have the usual slow-mo of the heroine, the flowers falling from the trees, and the songs in the background.
However, there are large gaping holes of logic in the film. If the FBI has sufficient proof on Sam, why are they willing to wait and watch out for his next move? If Maya works for Human Rights of immigrants, how can she let her hubby blow away thousands of innocent people just because she is waiting for him to "come back to the right path"? If you can ignore these follies, you might find the film somewhat engrossing.
Now the performances. The backbone of the film obviously is Irrfan Khan. He manages to make his role convincing. Neil Nitin Mukesh does a competent job. However, it is the acting of the lead pair Abraham and Kaif that disappoint. You cannot sympathise with the characters because they hardly make you believe it. While Kaif gets to do something different from her usual mad-cap comedy capers, it is John Abraham who disappoints. In what is an author-written role that could have made the difference between an okay and good film, John doesn't deliver the goods. His acting skills have graduated from wooden to plastic and it is a serious dampener in the film.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Throughout my childhood, MJ was a colourful bundle of rumours. Being cut off from the outside world, I used to hear from friends who watched videos of him during holidays. He was supposed to be a very popular singer. A popular book in our library, "Guiness Book of World Records" mentioned him for his records and also his donations to charity. When I first saw him, I thought he was a girl. Rumours were always floating when MJ was involved.
Some said that he was black but got a total skin transplant. Some said that he was a eunuch. He apparently went to sleep in an capsule of Oxygen. Others said that he lived with children, monkeys and other animals. When MJ visited India in 96, there were those (now) laughable rumours of Prabhudeva challenging MJ to a dance duel. They also said that girls fainted upon seeing him.
Then Victory James came along. He was from New Zealand and a devotee of MJ. I remember listening to tales of greatness, sympathy and largesse sitting in the last bench. Victory would hum some of his songs and we would listen. I don't think he was a great singer, but it sounded like music to our ears. I watched a few videos of his on TV when I went home.
When we went to the senior hostel, we had a little more freedom. While the rest of the school was in the Ashram singing bhajans in praise of different gods, we would sneak out and go to internet cafes outside the ashram. The internet cafes used to charge 60 Rupees an hour. The cafe owner was a smart businessman. We were hard to miss, with our white shirts, white pants, and no chappals! He knew how starved we were of any sort of entertainment. He used to store videos of film songs in Hindi, Telugu and English, which included MJ's videos. We were allotted cabins in the small cafe and given headphones.
The first video I watched was 'Black or white'. I remember being blown away by it. I watched it about 5 times. The fact that we were watching the songs while our friends were singing bhajans gave the experience a feeling of sinful indulgence. After watching every video, Victory would give us a brief lecture on the many virtues of MJ. So we would watch with tears in our eyes when he said "All I wanna say is that they don't really care about us". And with amazement when he implored us to "save the world". Initially, the idea that we got was that he only sang songs that had some larger altruisitic message. For us, he was a hero. Someone who was fighting a lonely battle for the forgotten and the marginalised. We would learn his songs and hum them in front of our friends, waiting for them to ask what song it was, so that we could say "Michael Jackson" and then narrate the glorious tales that Victory had told us.
After a few years, we got to see reports of other stray incidents. Reports of him being a paedophile, and addicted to painkillers. Victory would have none of it. "All rubbish…. they are just doing it to tarnish his image", he would say. Gradually, we started sneaking out on our own to watch MJ's videos. We watched a lot of his earlier songs. They din't have a social message, but they were pure visual spectacles. Thriller, Bad, Blood on the Dance Floor. We had always seen fat heroes dancing around trees with coquettish heroines. This was something else. We stared open-mouthed as he glided on the stage, did the Moonwalk and whatever else he did in the videos. When there was no one around us, we used to secretly try the 'moonwalk'. I remember slipping and falling many times in the bathroom.
After we passed out from school in 2002, MJ faded in and out of the headlines for a variety of reasons. There were talks of his huge ranch 'Neverland'. Tales of his numerous surgeries and makeovers. I still remember the spine chilling image of him dangling his newborn baby from a balcony and thinking that the poor guy has lost it. When he was cleared of paedophile charges, I was a little happy. I could imagine Victory having tears of joy.
A few months back when I heard that he's making a comeback, I was looking forward to them. His death came as a shock. His death, like his entire life made the headlines. I do not know whether he was a good man or not. I do not know whether I can be called a die hard fan. But the name Michael Jackson brings back memories. Paying 60 rupees, sitting in a ramshackle internet cafe, putting on the headphones and getting transported to another world altogether.
Thank you, Mr. Michael Jackson.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Have you ever had a jack fruit? Its a big fruit whose outer surface looks like it has had a bad case of acne. The inside is sticky and yellow with big seeds. Some people eat the fruit as it is. Some cook the seeds to make it a curry.
I have always hated the fruit. I remember during the summers in my childhood, our house would always reek of a strong smell of jack fruit. I felt like I was in a concentration camp. Jack fruit is probably the only fruit that has got such a terrible smell. And flaunts it so that anyone in a radius of fifty feet can smell it. I had to bear the smell as my mother loved it. She used eat entire jack fruits herself.
How she got hooked on to jack fruit is a very interesting story. My mom is Telugu and had never been to my dad's village. When she went there for the first time, she was tensed. She did not know if the people would accept her or not.
She was made to sit in the centre and was surrounded by women. You know how it is in villages, there is no privacy. Your business is the business of the entire village. So my mom was sitting there surrounded by the women. After the initial niceties, they brought a huge thing and placed it in front of her.
"Eat", was the instruction.
My mother had no clue what the thing was. The ladies had a hearty laugh and then cut it open for her and gave her a piece. My mother loved it. Without a word, she proceeded to eat the entire fruit as the women watched with their open mouths! It took about two hours but she finished it. The jack fruit broke the ice with them. From then on, my uncle would send jack fruits for us every summer. People still refer her in my village as 'that jack fruit eating girl".
I have not met another single person who likes jack fruits. Near our house in Unit-9, there was a man who was very stingy. He had a lot of trees and drove us out if we tried to pluck any fruit. But there was one exception. Every summer, he would land up at our doorstep, with a fake smile on his face and a huge, ugly jack fruit that looked like the carcass of an alien baby. I'd be asked to bring the damn thing inside. My attempts to suggest that guavas and mangoes were tasty too always failed.
Posted by Hriday at 2:30 AM
Thursday, June 4, 2009
I got in touch with a friend of mine, Mrutyunjay Praharaj after 14 years. We exchanged numbers and were talking about the old times.
“Do you remember any of the guys?” I asked him.
“Not very clearly, I can just recollect your face vaguely”
“You don’t remember anyone?”
“Yeah. There was one girl, Disha Dixit. She was very thin and had nice eyes. She was from Bhopal and had a brother in our class. She was good at studies and the monitor of our class”
Great! I dint know whether to compliment him on his memory or curse him for not remembering the rest of us.
But he had a point. Disha Dixit was a major feature of my childhood as well….
I had joined the new school. I was in Class 1. She was in my section. She always sat in the first bench. She was attentive and never blinked an eyelid when the teacher was explaining something.
She was a ‘good’ girl - the teacher’s pet. She was thin. But her eyes made her look powerful. Her eyes could drill into you when she looked at you. Her hair was just a little curly. She had long eyelashes and brown eyes that I never had the courage to look into. She had misaligned teeth. But when she smiled, everyone else’s seemed imperfect. And her laughter. She had a slightly boyish laughter. It was Mozart to my ears!
There was nothing that Disha Dixit couldn’t do. She was a very good student. Academics, speeches, drama, dance, you name it. The only flaw was that her singing wasn’t exactly melodious, but such trivial things could be ignored. She was a slow eater. Which was perfectly fine for me. We didn’t get to talk to girls after the 2nd standard, so the only time I got to see her was during lunch and dinner. She’d eat in slow motion. Pick up a morsel of rice and look at it as if she was inspecting every grain for bacteria. And then put it in her mouth. And chew. And chew. And chew.
She wasn’t the prettiest girl in the class. There was Suman, who was very cute. But Disha was by far the most attractive. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. The only problem? She was Varun’s sister. Varun was my best friend. When the two of them would be talking, I would butt in with the lamest excuse.
“Hey, Varun. Wanna play?”
I knew he wouldn’t, but that was just so she would look at me. As a kid, you do stupid things without knowing exactly why you do them. Like, if the teacher asked me to stack some notebooks in the cupboard, I would first search through all the books till I found hers, and then after lovingly caressing it, would put it on top of the pile!
The teachers generally arranged our seating in such a way that a guy and a girl would be seated on the same bench. Each time, I’d pray that she sat next to me. But that never happened. So all I could do was admire from a distance. She was hot property in the class, only a few guys spoke to her, and I was never among them. Everyday I used to make up my mind to start talking to her the next day but that day never came.
She was the monitor of the class, and she meant business. Whenever any of us misbehaved, we were made to wear frocks for the entire day. And since she was Varun’s sister, it was pretty convenient. The teacher would say, “Disha, go bring a frock of yours”. And she would run up to the dormitories and come back with a bright, colourful frock. MP was made to wear frocks on a regular basis. I still remember them. They were always in hues of bright yellow, orange or red. Though the idea seems revolting now,
I used to wish I got to wear them. Wearing her frock would be worth all the thrashing that came before the frock-wearing ceremony. But I never got the chance. I was always made to wear the frocks of other girls I cared two hoots about!
From my description, you must be under the impression that she was a sweet, cute girl. She was not. Another punishment that was meted out on us was this. If a guy misbehaved, Nishant Reddy (the strongest guy) would hold his hands behind his back. And Ms. Disha Dixit would be asked to slap the guy. Now, normally you’d expect a person to slap the guy lightly.
But not Disha. How could she be like others? She had to be extraordinary.
She would raise her hand; take it a few feet, and…… WHACK!!!!!!!!!!!!! Right across the face. For someone so frail, I wondered where all the energy came from. She would keep slapping the guy till she was asked to stop. It was all done with clinical precision. She’d be sitting on her bench, the teacher would call her, she’d alter the colour of the cheeks of the poor guy, and then quietly go back to her desk and continue writing!
But this did not change my feelings for her. They were my friends, but they deserved it, I thought. During the games periods, she would be having running races with some of the guys. I would be playing stupid game like Ramayan and watching her, strengthening my resolve to talk to her. I was never able to talk to her freely. Maybe a ‘Thank You’ or a ‘sorry’ once in a while. But the fact that I’d see her everyday made the entire grind of the morning prayers and ayah bath worth it.
Yes, Disha Dixit was something else!
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
It started off as a crazy idea. We were walking, a little bored, and Guru suggested that I go begging. “Let’s see if you can pull this off.”
We were a little drunk on some tribal liquor (a refreshing white drink called ‘taadi’ that looks like buttermilk and tastes like heaven). May be it was the liquor. I agreed.
The next thing I see, Guru is off to the string of shops that sell stuff for the devotees. So he was serious after all. I was still a little high and so dint know how to react. Maybe if I wasn’t high, I would never have agreed in the first place. But saying a no now would mean chickening out and I dint want that. I was game for it.
I think you guys deserve some background info. We were in Koraput, one of the most remote and backwards districts of Orissa. We were in this place called Gupteswar. It is a holy place for Hindus and one of the thousand places where you can find a
Guru did the shopping. He bought a copper plate. A pretty basic one – the normal begging bowl that you’d see with a beggar. Well, not exactly a bowl – I’d say something like a plate (come to think of it, have you ever seen a beggar with a bowl? They always have those flat aluminium plates).
But anyway I was getting ready into character. I put on a pair of cheap sunglasses that were bought there. I pulled my collar up and rolled up my pant a little bit. I was wearing slippers anyway and thanks to Bata’s wide range of models, mine could pass of as that of someone who wasn’t exactly Prince Charles. Guru found me a Y shaped stick that could double up as a walking stick. It looked like a catapult that Sabu might use. To add the finishing touch, Guru bought a miniature copper snake put it in my plate. (It was a Shiva temple – target audience!!) I was ready to go.
Or was I? I mean, agreeing to something because you are drunk is one thing. But actually begging on the streets?
The shrine is called Gupteswar and it is situated in caves on top of a mountain. There were steps leading to the shrine and people had to climb up and down the stairs to see the Lord’s you-know-what. I looked around, and found what I was looking for. There were two rows of beggars at the bottom of the steps. They were the typical beggars. Bright red/ orange clothes, beards and a dreamy “I don’t give a fuck” expression in their eyes. I was half nervous, and half anxious to see how this would turn out. I asked him whether I could sit next to him. He looked at me, up and down. He probably thought I was some fancy sort of beggar, or a college yuppie who had run out of money to buy the drugs that he was addicted to. I think it was latter, but he shifted and let me sit next to him. There was another beggar to my left who looked a little trippy. There were about 6 more guys in total and all of them were staring at me. There was no backing out now. I had to do something.
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and started thinking of a Bhajan that I could sing….not one of them came to my mind.
Now, I studied in a spiritual institution. We were taught about 200 bhajans and in our hostel you could listen to the bhajans on the PA system even when you were in the loo. And I could not come up with a single bhajan!
Finally, thanks to Danny Boyle, I got one. I closed my eyes, tried to fake a painful Oh-I’m-so-miserable look on my face and started singing…
Darshan do ghanshyam nath more akhiyan pyaasi re…
That did the trick. Some of my compatriots thought I was actually a beggar and the rest thought I was plain crazy so they relaxed and went back to i-don’t-give-a-fuck land. After about a minute, this young boy was coming down the stairs and mumbling some prayer, threw some grains of rice in my plate. I was starting to enjoy this. Gradually, I grew in confidence and started shouting out some other bhajans loudly. My neighbours weren’t pleased with me. The guy on my right wasn’t probably used to this much noise and was starting to give me dirty looks. After a while, he politely asked me to leave. But I was just starting to get a hang of things and acted like I hadn’t listened to him. He got aggressive and asked me to fuck out of the place. He chose the choicest abuses in Telugu, and I dished out a few myself, the few I had learnt during my stay in Andhra. Within 5 minutes, they drove me out of the place.
I had no option now but to hit the roads. Guru, Sat and Nilu had come with me but they were on the road acting like normal tourists. If I started talking to them, people would smell something fishy and then I might have had to sleep with the fishes so I did not want to take the risk. I continued walking on the road and singing songs.
The crowds on the road were a little less spiritual and so I thought it might be OK if I sang film songs. I mean, I knew only 1 para of Darshan do ghanshyam and the rest of the bhajans were so boring, if I was a horse I would go to sleep while standing.
I thought of the most common song I’d expect a beggar to sing. Within seconds (it was like a Google search in my brain – Did you mean ‘beggar Hindi songs’ ? )
Pardesi pardesi jaana nahi…mujhe chhodke…mujhe chhodke
Now, for some strange reason, this song by Nadeem-Shravan seems to strike a chord with the average Indian male. I think it is because most people might be having this fantasy of a hot foreign chick or something. But anyway the song got instant recognition and I, acceptance. Gradually, I moved on to other popular numbers and inevitably there had to be a tribute to Himesh bhai. I was quite surprised myself, I knew quite a lot of Himesh songs and they were quite easy to sing as well.
By now it was about an hour since I had started and I was beginning to get a hang of things here. My plate was getting heavier now and my singing must have sounded pretty heart-wrenching because people were actually starting to give me some money. There was this little kid. He was probably helping out his dad in the shop. He walked up to me and said “Sing a Himesh song” (I was tempted to tell him that Naam hai tera tera wasn’t exactly Bryan Adams, but I restrained myself).
Sing one from Karzzz
Ek haseena thi
Ek haseena thi…ek deewana tha… kya umar…kya samaa…kya zamaaNA THAA AAA AAA....
When I was done with the song and stretched out my plate he politely told me that his dad wasn’t in the shop!
Other hits of the day included Dekha hai pehli baar, saajan ki aakhon mein pyar and Tu cheez badi hai mast mast. One elderly man stopped me on the way and asked me why I was doing this. I mumbled something about someone stealing my wallet and having no money to go home. He went in to bring me some food but I sneaked out when I got the chance. There was another man who asked me to sing Hanuman Chalisa. Another asked me to sing some Oriya Jagannath bhajan. The entire session must have gone on for about 2 hours.
It was getting dark and we decided to leave. I joined Nilu, Sat and Guru in the car and we drove away. While we were on our way, I turned back to have a last look at this place. Would anyone believe me if I told them this had happened?
My plate was on my lap and I started counting my day’s earning. They were:
22 rupees and 50 paise in coins
Grains of rice
2 small potatoes
1 piece of pakoda
1 cheap copper ring
I have done some crazy stuff in my life. I have acted like I am deaf and dumb in buses, sung at a barat,slept for an entire summer in a temple, been chased by 25 dogs at 1 in the night. But this, it was something else.
PS: All the names of people, places and songs are completely true. Resemblance to any person is completely true. And yes, the person in the picture is me.