December 30, 2008

Waiting for the New Year

It’s a cold night at Delhi and as usual I am at the airport. I perhaps could have stayed back for the night and met a few friends but that just didn’t feel right. Somehow, winters have always been Calcuttan to me. Even during my Pilani days, Christmas and New Year would be in Cal. Not that I would do much there but still it felt so very Christmas-y if you know what I mean. Even in Bangalore it was chilly. And I was the Santa. Mumbai just doesn’t have it in terms of a lovely winter.

I think I have this extremely sad habit of falling in love with cities. I dislike Delhi as a city, there’s no doubt about that. But today as I stopped under the Moolchand Flyover to have the most delicious Aloo paranthas in the evening chill, I could not but help love the weather, the aroma and of course the food of Delhi. It has its beauty in other areas too. The way consumers tell me “Haanji Beta”, it feels so much at home. That typical sing song of the Delhi tongue enthrals me.

Just a few more hour before another year comes to an end. This year too the 31st will be just like any other 31st. At office till evening and then a nice cosy bed and a good book or maybe very close friends. But as I look back, I see how different the situations in reality are. Last December, as a trainee I was fighting for survival. Fighting to pick up the broken pieces of my ego and build a collage out of them. I was worried about what the New Year would bring.

It’s not that I know what 2009 will bring for me. But I feel more confident about facing it. I don’t know if I have got any better at what I do. Maybe the academic in me is swooning under corporate delivery pressure and the professional in me is loving the adrenalin rush of it all. However, what I do know is that I have become less of an intellectual snob. In 2007, fresh out of college, I considered myself one of the best in terms of laddering techniques. I stand humbled by Ms. Pammi of Pant Nagar, Rinadi of Bagha Jatin, Urvashi Ben of Ahmedabad and Santhi Amma of Mylapore. When I know what they actually want, I might get a little snobbish again. But that day is far far away.

My wardrobe slowly is seeing a shift. Pathetically boring shirts and T shirts are coming in. My Spiderman T shirts are on their way out. Women I meet actually pass sniggering comments on them. If only they knew, how tough it is to find a Floyd T shirt, a customized Spiderman T shirt or even a Calvin one. The campus clothes also are on the back foot. I really wish I had R again to help me choose clothes just like she did before Placements. But hers being one of the many weddings I missed this year, I am too afraid to ask her. The number of my unmarried friends is dwindling drastically. It may soon be the case that V and I remain the sole bachelors amongst all the people I know.

As I step into 2009, I realize once again that I love my work. Yes I sell Oil, soaps, soups to earn some money (and blow them up by being a regular customer of legally printed copies of books and a regular at movie theatres) but as long as I feel nice I really don’t care. The problem happens when I try to explain to people what I do for a living. My grand mom got extremely suspicious when she heard that my company actually pays for my flight tickets so that I can go and speak to middle aged Indian homemakers. I am sure she still doesn’t believe me. After all she never liked the census guys getting into her kitchen and taking a tally of the number of LPG cylinders she had.

So 2008 is almost up. And surprisingly the flight is just a little delayed. The fog’s kind on me. In the misty mornings of Delhi, I suddenly realized that sometimes, however much we try; the old times never come back. The misty mornings (and evenings when the train was even more delayed) in Delhi once marked the beginning of a new term in college and the frantic search for a cab to deliver us and our luggage at the campus. Today, the misty mornings in Delhi just means delayed flights and flayed tempers.

But then Life goes on. And I must find a song for the New Year.

December 26, 2008

Khan Fan Versus Khan Fan

I went (rather had to) to watch Ghajini with the guy who introduced me to watching movies at theatres. We used to come back together in the same bus from school and I would listen with awe at his rendition of the greatest blockbusters of the year. He used to watch all movies either at the cinemas or in a VCR at home and tell me the stories in details. His eyes would grow wide as he recounted how Aamir Khan met with an accident when Madhuri Dixit came to call him in Dil. I would listen, speechless and in awe. My first movie with him was a Madhuri Dixit Starrer with Saif and Akshay in the male leads. We had just given our ICSE and was allowed for the first time to go to the movies alone, by ourselves. And it had to be Madhuri Dixit, for him. A couple of years later, on a fateful day in December, he took me to watch Mohabbatein. He had bought the tickets the day he went to get the entrance exam forms. We went there straight from the exam hall. That was our last movie together as high school students.

He was also (and luckily still remains) my oldest best friend. If we were a brand, I would perhaps call ourselves “Best Friends since 1989”. The reason why “I had to watch” was because if there was a Shahrukh Khan fan worth his salt, it would be him and I hadn’t ever watched an Aamir Khan movie with him. You perhaps would remember the discussion of the warring Khan camps. It all started in school. Sometimes I feel school friends who stick with you are a special breed. You do not remember how many runs they scored in the cricket matches, or their grades, or where they work, or how far they stay. What you do remember is how he stood up for you in Class 5 when everyone for the first time doubted you - that same you who till a few days ago could do no wrong.

There will be two types of people who would go to watch Ghajini. First the prude types like me, who have watched Memento and would constantly compare the two movies. The second would be the numerous people who wouldn’t have watched either the Tamizh version or the original memento.

Long long back in the early nineties, when Aamir was still in his chocolate hero image, SRK had redefined violence in the Indian movies with Bazzigar. He gave us our first Antihero. The guy actually killed an innocent girl in the movie and got away scot free. Everyone in the halls had tears in their eyes for the misguided young man. Then had come Darr, Anjaam and the rest. With that one move SRK had left competition far far behind.

With Ghajini, Aamir walks the same line, perhaps for the first time and he pulls it off with ease, just like you would expect him to be. This is NOT an Aamir Khan movie. This is not what makes him stand out and yet, you can see how he has humanized the entire dark humour of Christopher Nolan’s original. Of course, you might argue, the plot has thinned. The dividing lines between good and evil are distinct and you have no doubts about whose side you are on. It doesn’t tax your brain too much.

The movie is long, maybe a bit too long. And as my dear friend says, it’s a Sunny Deol or a Salman Khan movie. He would know. We had watched Garv - Pride and Honour and Gadar - Ek Prem Katha together. I get overtly excited by such movies. He longed for his SRK mushes.

But apart from that you would like to watch this movie for two things. Aamir’s expressions and Asin’s effortless acting. In fact, if Ghajini were two movies, I believe both would have done extremely well. One would be one of the best Love stories of the year and the other just another senseless violent movie. Of all women who came into Bollywood mainstream this year, she takes the cake and the cherry along with it.

So we walked out of the movie, no longer with arms on each others shoulders as that is banned in these post Dostana days and I just realized how we had swapped our roles. He no longer watched movies at the theatres. I, with a strange loyalty towards the movie making fraternity (after the opening credits of Mr. Incredible) watch almost every single movie released on the big screen. But then, when we are together, such things don’t seem to matter much.

By the way, why do sensible parents bring kids to watch such gory movies?

December 24, 2008

Prose and Poetry

One of the most endearing pictures of the quintessential Indian loser in love is walking crazily across the road, with a bottle in hand and speaking in his mind to his girl back home.

So yesterday I was in a similar situation with a few minor details changed. I had a benadryl bottle in my hand, I was walking unsteadily due to a hurt toe and I was on phone with my grandmom with the headset on. But anyway, my similarity with Dev D is a matter of a different post.

One of the many reasons I love talking to my grandparents is that they are the last remaining lexicons on Bengali poetry in my life. So as the Benadryl was beginning to have its effect on me and the taxis seemed to not notice my sizable bulk, she reminded me of a poem by Kalidas Roy.

Here’s the gist – The master and his disciple decide to go all the way on Rameshwaram to Tribeni to bring the sacred waters and pour it on the head of their deity in Rameshwaram. For days they walked and finally reached Tribeni, filled their container with water and started their long journey back.

On the way they meet a donkey almost dying of thirst amongst parched lands. The master stopped and asked the disciple to give the water to the donkey. A devoted disciple that he was, the disciple agreed without a question. But he wasn’t happy. 

After walking for a few more hours, the master asked, “What happened? You don’t seem to be happy.” 

The disciple burst out, “We went all the way, undertook all the hardships and now we are going back tired, dejected and empty handed because we gave the holy water to a donkey!”

The master smiled and answered, “Don’t you see how lucky we are? Because we were so tired, our Lord himself came all the way from Rameshwaram so that we could give him the water here itself. He did not want us to carry the water all the way with our tired bodies.”

Merry Christmas everyone. Spread the joy.

December 13, 2008

Dream Merchant

I am unabashedly a member of the Amir Khan Camp. I always thought Shahrukh was the hero, Amir was the actor. Even though I loved DTPH, DDLJ and every single one of his blockbusters, my loyalties lay with Amir. It was a matter of proving my snobbishness. Amir was the Thinker’s actor for me. Of course, post his ‘Love Love Love’ days. Kal Ho Na Ho changed a lot of my perceptions about Shahrukh. I always loved his movies though. But I thought with his age, he was becoming preachy. Remember Main Hoon Na? The third time onwards I was watching the movie for Sush and not SRK.

SRK is King Khan. He does not need my stamp of approval but something changed in him in the last couple of years. I think the turning point was KANK. After that horrible movie, maybe SRK realized he needed to explore newer territories. And one after the other, the surprises came. Not many people can pull off a Chak De and OSO simultaneously and make me consider changing camps.

It’s not that I do not respect Amir anymore. But then given the mass Govinda loving guy that I am who sometimes goes back into his shell to watch my Bergman and Ray, I need a SRK who can traverse both territories with perfect ease.

Anyway, now about Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. First day Third Show :) It’s much better than reading reviews and going with a warped mindset. Of course I will not tell you the story since there is no story. Taani is forced to marry Surinder Sahni and they both know she will never be in love with him. But he falls in love with his wife, for the first time in his life and invents Raj, all that he aspires to be.

If it was not for King Khan, it would have been one of the most boring movies ever. But somehow this movie is the redemption for Aditya Chopra and SRK. They finally made a movie making the hero out of the man who has filled up the stalls every day for their movies for the last 20 odd years. The Indian common man, going on trains everyday to office now has a hero he can identify with. It’s no longer about he NRI mansions and dream sequences in Switzerland. It’s about his dreams. It’s about his dreams of a foreign honeymoon. It’s about finding love in the day to day life. Maybe how he achieves his dream is still unreal but not SRK.

SRK pulls off his dual role with ease and showcases the strange workings of the human psyche where man and his alter ego are constantly at war till a co-existence comes to settle down between them. Sometimes for the one he loves, a man decides to give up his ego and be one with his alter ego. Before I keep on gushing about SRK, I should also say that Vinay Pathak is the new Middle Class Rahul Bose of Indian Cinema. He is our next door Dubeyji. He is us and he is getting better at becoming us.

The choices that Taani (newcomer Anouska Sharma) faces might seem harsh on her. One should not be put in front of such choices. As Vinay Pathak says, at the end of the day we are all human. But in putting these choices in front of her, SRK makes Surinder Sahni all the more believable.

The movie will not be a reviewer’s favourite but somehow I know a lot of Indians will identify with the movie. You will feel like crying during the movie seeing what SRK goes through but then you’ll love every time Raj comes out of the closet. This movie is a rebirth of SRK. He goes back to the days when he did Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman and was the one we grew up with. Oh, by the way, do not miss the ending credits.

A pop quiz for you – Where does this line occur? “All my life I wanted to be somebody. Now I know I should have been more specific.

December 09, 2008

Dance Like a Man

I have been keeping quite for sometime now as I do not want to judge anyone or anything prematurely. But I have finally given up. After visiting quite a few discos and lounges I have come to the conclusion that the Urban Indian Man actually does not know how to dance. Visit any discotheque in the country and I guarantee you that you will see similar steps being reproduced everywhere. In fact, I think if I spare some time, I can also categorize the steps. It’s not that the Urban Indian Woman is any better. However, she has one saving grace - The Delhite. As much as I dislike the National Capital Region as a place to live, I have to give it to the Delhi Women.

When I was in this village in Rajasthan, they used to come in like these angels from outer world, making our heartthrobs and village belles look like simpletons. I think after sometime, the women in my village gave up trying to rein in their meandering men with the Delhi women around. Bespectacled studious men could be found acting like zombies, Newsletter editors would bend rules of the competition to accommodate the LSR team and Presidents would take the job of a fresher in showing people to their rooms.

Around the Oasis when these nomads from Delhi pitched their tent, the villagers would eagerly lap up the knowledge and secrets of the dance moves and in the next community singing session called Music Nights, you would see those steps being repeated by the villagers. But let’s get back to our urban Indian disco.

So while the Delhi woman adds the class, South Indian film stars (barring Prabhudeva) adds the mass. So whenever the DJ gets bored of seeing everyone dancing in a similar fashion, you can often see him changing into a ‘mass Tam’ song or that sole Aaika Dajeeba from Maharashtra. A sudden change happens in the crowd. If these are crowds who have had initiation to the great histrionics of Telugu superstars, you will see amazing steps suddenly come alive on the dance floor, the Delhi women throw a sign of disgust and move back to their margaritas to reenergize. Mithunda and Govinda were dealt a raw deal I feel at times. If only they were born in these times, it might well have been their moves that would be scorching the dance floors.

In the last decade, another phenomenon has come up. While Punjab showed us the way toward prosperity through Green Revolution, they are also responsible for the complete breakdown of the Urban Indian Man’s understanding of dance. EVERY SONG CAN’T BE DANCED AS A BHANGRA. Someone should go and tell it to the poor little rich kids. Also Bhangra I feel is a beautiful art form and should not be danced to the tunes of Shakira. But then who cares for what I feel.

The saving grace all over India as I have said are the women from Delhi. Even at the cost of alienating friends I have to accept that they are the trendsetters at most discos across the country.

Anyway, I have never been fond of discos. I have finally zeroed in on what I like. Call me prudish but I feel that it’s a dance if only if you ask someone to dance and lead her to the floor. And since I can not do that to the tunes of “Come on Baby light my fire” I’d rather sit back on the sofa and dream of waltzing in the French Riviera. If you have seen the Tango in “Scent of a Woman” you’ll know what I mean.

So, discos are out for me. It shall only be lounges with 70s rock, Jazz and country (if any at all) - Me, my kind of music and my Peach Iced tea. And if I can’t find them, I shall stay away to keep my sanity.

December 04, 2008

Life As A Soap Opera

A friend and I were having dinner the other day after watching Dasvidaniya. After a lot of real life experiences I have come to the conclusion that most of my life’s problems have their roots in the minds of intelligent women I have had the privilege of knowing. Take for example this movie. Had I watched it with an intelligent man, we would have watched it, he would have listened to my dard bhari dastaan of something under the sun (I never run out of them), we would have dinner and coffee, shaken hands and plan the next movie. If he were an ubersexual man, we would perhaps have discussed how brilliant the acting was. How non-melodramatic and therefore lovable the movie turned out to be. We might also have analyzed the characters and told each other how badly it hurts when friends change, how on-top-of-the-world you feel when you finally are able to say what’s in your heart to your childhood sweetheart, how painful it is for the family to accept that a member will soon be no more amongst them.

In effect, we would have decided that it was one of the really good movies we have seen in some time, in these dark days of enjoying Hello and Golmaal Returns. In an aside, when I went to watch Fashion with an intelligent man, we had watched it, felt really depressed and in complete unanimity decided that the only way to lift our spirits up was to watch Golmaal Returns.

But intelligent women, hell bent on causing trouble choose to do things differently. As I looked intently about the menu wondering why the Thai had to give me such choices like the Green and the Red Curry she suddenly asks me, “So what would the movie on your life be like?” This is essentially a no-brainer if a guy puts the question to you. You would agree that both your lives are soap operas, make fun at the K serials and then go back to decide between the Thai Red and the Thai Green Curries.

But intelligent women ask it in such a manner that they make you think. And they seldom take an answer which is not well thought out. Either the Thai Green Curry that she had ordered or my safe answer of “My life is like a new age multiplex movie” might have saved the day for me but it got me thinking. This is the other problem of having dinner with intelligent health conscious women. Not only do they make you conscious of your food intake, but they also make you think. Men, on the other hand, order more than they can eat and keep thinking topics out of the dinner table. We discuss cricket.

So after a lot of thought, like a true blue diploma holder in management, I decided to go by the elimination route. The last time I actually fought was with a fellow bong in my wing in third year when he, draped in his shawl, came running towards me with a broom, for lack of a better weapon of course. My response to such dastardly attack was to pick up my own unused broom and defend myself. Since this won’t be an exciting fight sequence Action is out.

Being a Bong I believe I have a birthright on romanticism, but when I bounced this idea off a few close friends, they started laughing like there was no tomorrow. Apparently for a romantic movie, you first need the romance between two individuals. Uncouth people, what will they know of ‘thought-romanticism’ where you are in love with a thought, an image!!!

So Romance was out. And as comical I might be to look at, I definitely do not have incidents in my life that will make an audience begging for more. People in my college could not grasp the worth of my jokes, what will the world understand?

Mythologies and period epics are out for obvious reasons. Last time I defied my father was over choosing something for the house which later was vetoed out by mom who obviously chose the best and something completely different from both our choices. It’s not like I found some Anarkali, took her to dad who threatened to cut me off from takht-e-hindustan. I think the way things are going, mom and dad would be very happy if I announce one day, “here is my Anarkali.” And it actually turns out to be a woman and not a pomegranate.

Superheroes were a possibility. I avidly watched Shaktimaan when I was a kid. But then, travelling in a crowded Mumbai local everyday is not exactly a super power. And I haven’t yet been able to get up on a Virar Fast and get down at Dadar at 7:30 in the evening.

College was a strong possibility. Friends form a big part of my existence. But Indian audiences need the romance in college. There has to be a triangle somewhere. So that went out. My musical prowess is tending towards minus infinity so anything like a Rock On is also out of the question.

So finally I came across this one movie which can be the story of my life. But it’s late in the night and I’m feeling like I’m the re-incarnation of Fermat. So long then, Adios.

December 01, 2008

On Dec 1st

Sit, drink your coffee here; your work can wait awhile.

You're twenty-six, and still have some of life ahead.

No need for wit; just talk vacuities, and I'll

Reciprocate in kind, or laugh at you instead.

The world is too opaque, distressing and profound.

This twenty minutes' rendezvous will make my day:

To sit here in the sun, with grackles all around,

Staring with beady eyes, and you two feet away.

-- Vikram Seth