February 22, 2009

Dilli Dilwalon Ki

There are movies that make you think, there are movies that make you wish that you were in it, there are movies that make you wish that you weren’t born to watch such disasters in the name of cinema. And then there are movies that make you wonder why the director did not put in a little more effort? These typically become the movies that will be tagged in the future as “Also ran.”

Delhi 6 is perhaps the classic example of this genre.

Barring the last 10 minutes of the movie where the protagonist becomes the ultimate Bollywood hero, reunites the world, comes back from the dead and also gets the girl, the movie is fantastic. Well, fantastic maybe a little bit over the top but it definitely is good. If you love roaming around cities and if you love exploring the roads less travelled, this movie is perhaps for you. For here, you’ll get a taste of what Delhi is all about. And when I say Delhi, it’s not the Southern parts of our Nation’s Capital. Rather, it is the heart of the old city, the Delhi that  speaks direct dil se.

This is another ABCD (American Born Confused Desi) bringing his ailing grandmother back to her country story. So things are predictable. We know he’ll fall in love with the people, the place and of course the girl. The movie is about the ‘how’. The people are real in this movie. If you watch it carefully, you might even smell the faint drift from the Parathewali Galli.

There have been better journeys of self discovery, Swades for example. But watching this movie made me realize how the Indian woman is changing. Everyday in the course of my work I come across stories of this change. In the movie, Sonam Kapoor portrayed the duality and therefore the complexity of the modern Indian woman beautifully. Very few people have been able to impress me consecutively over two movies. She does, and does it with élan.

I sometimes wonder why we all can’t be heroes? And then I realize that only does who dare to stand up for what they believe in. Not people who are happy with their day to day existence.

When people tell me about the spirit of Mumbai and how it turns back after every setback, I like to respond saying that Mumbai has no other choice. It has to bounce back, if it needs to send money to the villages of UP and Bihar. Rishi Kapoor says the same thing to AB’s Baby. “We do not have money in our purse, so we try to make do with happiness. We do not have space in our houses, so we claim to have a large heart.”

Watch the movie. But be prepared to feel, bored, restless and maybe disappointed with the ‘flimi ishtyle’ ending. That’s a price you should be willing to pay to spend a couple of hours soaking in the beauty of Delhi 6.

February 20, 2009

Of Being Kids and Adults

A few weeks back the consultant called A called me up. Somehow, his brain cells had been short circuited and he wanted to revisit his childhood days. So he teamed up with another of his breed called V to plan out a trip to Essel World. And they decided to give a time of around 9:00 am to the women. Now V with his immense knowledge on Tam Bram Women (unlike other Vs in my life with negligible knowledge)and A with all his knowledge on women forgot one important thing. There is no way a woman is going to get ready at 9:00 am to go to Essel World whether she stays at Borivili or Marine Drive or somewhere in between. So we waited like Gandhiji’s monkeys in front of Borivili station waiting for the lovely ladies to turn up. M of course knew his ways with women. So he gallantly escorted the 6 lovely ladies to the three of us furiously chewing away at our gums.

Cutting the long tale of our trials short, a large gang of well educated over 25 somethings with a combined intelligence slightly lesser than Einstein landed up in Essel World on a fine Saturday morning. Now normally with consultants and bankers around I seldom speak. I sell soaps while they buy and sell companies. While I make sales reports, they make pitch reports to CEOs. So while everyone was consulting about maximizing their return on the investment I really really wanted to go up on the rides. So as I waited itching to go up on the roller coaster, everyone came up with a Plan of Action that was accepted without any form of unison (as expected of MBA grads) and like most well thought out of plan, it had one minor flaw. We went to the water rides first, ensuring that the next few rides were in a completely drenched state. But then what mattered was whether we were behaving like kids and that we were; without a doubt. I’m sure many of my friends that day had their first candy floss after ages. It was good to go back to childhood.

At the end of the day, we were tired beyond measure, the stalls in Essel World were slowly shutting down and we still were trying to figure out which ride we had missed. Sometimes, when you know something you treasure is slipping away, you grasp at it with all your might, only to realize how feeble your efforts are in reality. On that day I guess we were trying to grasp really hard at our childhoods -a time, when we did not pay heed to the possible safety hazards in a ride. We thought leaving our hands and shouting as the skies came down to meet us was the smartest thing to do. A time when we believed we could fly.

On the 13th, a very dear friend had her birthday. She is like this glue that keeps a lot of us together. She ensures that we meet up. She wants us to meet up regularly and when she is really excited, she plans the get-togethers.

So I had been ordered to leave office early, which I did around 9, the earliest in that week and picked up another friend on the way. As we chatted, I realized that this is perhaps the first time in almost 4 months that I am going out with a crowd where I do not know everyone. Somewhere, life was losing itself. So as I gyrated the night away, (laugh all you want) I suddenly realized that within the last couple of weeks I had lived the extremes of life. From being a kid, to being an adult, all within the course of a few days.

I walked out of Hawaiian Shack to see the world outside, still pouring into the small disco at 12 in the night. Everyone was dressed to kill, or maybe most of them were just trying to hide the dark circles beneath their eyes. When you were a kid, you waited for Sunday. You waited for Doordarshan to show you Ramayana and Mahabharata. Today as an adult you wait for the Friday evening and if you are like me, you probably dread the Sunday evening.

So there I was experiencing the two extreme ages of my life and as I looked back, everything in my life seemed to have happened in fast forward with the time slipping away from my hands, whether I tried to grasp it or not.

Slipping away, just like my generation’s wasted efforts in controlling their receding hairlines and expanding waistlines.

February 15, 2009

Moods on The Valentine’s Day

This year apart from everyone sending mails to everyone else about the Pink Chaddi campaign, Valentine’s Day seemed to have lost the innocent excitement it held in 2001 or 2002. As C tells me, it’s perhaps because we are growing up. So on Friday, the day before this year’s Val D she sent me this poem that completely captured the mood.

He goes home, seeking consolation

Among old Beatles and Pink Floyd -

But 'Girl' elicits mere frustration,

While 'Money' leaves him more annoyed.

Alas, he hungers less for money

Than for a fleeting Taste of Honey.

Murmuring, 'Money - it's a gas! ...

The lunatic is on the grass,'

He pours himself a beer. Desires

And reminiscences intrude

Upon his unpropitious mood

Until he feels that he requires

A one-way Ticket to Ride - and soon -

Across the Dark Side of the Moon.

Vikram Seth- Golden Gate

On the eve of Val D, we all went to Hawaiian Shack to celebrate the birthday of a friend, trying to dance away the night. But more about that later. As we headed back, I remembered this poem that another friend, S wrote in her blog. Sometimes, I feel that she’s wasting her talent selling soaps.


Miss her

But never want to speak to her

Ever again


Understands you like a dream

She also abso-fucking-lutely brings

The devil out in you


Is not love not hate

It is that crazy-dysfunctional-mutative human curse

I like to call the love-hate

The Mumbai Mirror carried an article today that the police today would be vigilant as if on a terror alert, to ensure that nothing untoward happens on this day. I remembered this poem by Martin Niemoller.

First they came for the Jews

and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists

and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists

and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me

and there was no one left to speak out for me.

I promised few people their well deserved chocolates. But like most of my plans, they did not get fulfilled. I like to see what I am gifting. Unfortunately, none of the shops seemed to remain open when I finally made my way back from office these days. Someday, I will.

And finally in the night as I sat staring into darkness, this song Kushal sent me came back to my mind.

Hothat jokhon sondhya neme ase

Akash pane ChaaNd muchki haase

aNdhar jokhon gobhir hote chai

Samay jokhon emni boye jai

Nijer ghore nibhiye baati

Ratri ami thakbo tomar saathi

Sokal abar asbe jaani kal

Puber akash porbe siNdur lal

Sei akash-e nai re kintu ChaaNd

Sei akash-e nai re maya-r faaNd

Din ke jokhon sibai bhalobase

Ratri ami thakbo tomar pashe

“When suddenly evening descends

And the moon chuckles;

When the darkness wants to become deeper,

And time just passes by,

I shall shut out my lights

And stay with you, my night.

The morn will come tomorrow again

The skies will adorn her red hue

But there will no longer be the moon

Or the enchantment of the night.

While everyone loves the morning,

My beloved night – I shall stay by your side.”

I found poetry again after a long long time this Valentine’s Day and sensed the innocence once again. However, xkcd had to intervene.

February 08, 2009

Not an Emotional Atyachar

On a Friday evening after work, when the world rushes back to home, family, solitude or liquor, we went to watch the “supposed” latest recreation of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s only non-masterpiece. And there lies my first suggestion. Do not treat this as another version of Devdas, since this movie is anything but that. This movie is about the India that we live in today and therefore, Devdas shortens his name to Dev D, Chandramukhi is no longer an artist, she is rather an unabashed CSW – Commercial Sex Worker and Paro is no longer submissive, she wants her revenge.

From the zamindars of Bengal, we have the business community of Punjab and in the first half of the movie; you really are prone to comparing the movie to the grandeur of the Sanjay Leela Bhansali offering or Dilip Kumar’s subtlety or maybe even Soumitra Chatterjee’s portrayal of Devdas. You can not be immune to the brashness of the movie. You laugh out loud, but it’s a nervous laugh because you do not know if it is the right thing to laugh at a dark comedy. You remember Anurag Kashyap’s last movie – No Smoking and wonder if this is going the same way. And then everything changes in the second half.

Here is when you realize that this is not Devdas. This movie does not need the Superstar SRK. An emotionally confused and tortured Abhay Deol is much closer to us. We can identify with him when we pour out our hearts in the dinner meets post work. We learn to move on. Thus this is not a story of the pristine and pure love, which anyway is an illusion. This is not a story where Devdas wastes away his life. This is not a story where Paro leads her life in misery, but most importantly for me, this is a story where for the first time someone gave Chandramukhi a chance.

Morality today takes a new name with Dev D.

February 02, 2009

Hope and Survival

Last two weeks two movies hit the down that people have been drooling over. First was Slumdog Millionaire, which thanks to its late release was watched almost by everyone on their pirated DVDs. Sometimes I feel bad about this whole stance I have taken on watching movies only in Theatres. It’s not making me any richer.

Anyway, the other movie that was released was Luck By Chance and again the audiences in the multiplexes seemed to love it. Strangely though, both movies seemed to have similar underlying themes of the underdogs fighting all odds, stuff that great stories are made of; I guess.

Slumdog is a good movie. It definitely is not a masterpiece. It’s the classic Rise of the Underdog that the US audiences love. It however aided Indian film making like few movies have done. When we do our movies on Mumbai’s underbelly, we either go to extreme darkness or we put a moral shroud and put on the tinted glasses.

Slumdog does none of this. It shows Mumbai as she really is. Life goes on in the city whatever you might get from it. Survival is important and it’s that primal instinct that drives the movie. And perhaps Jamal’s brother walks away with the role that’s the most complex and also beautifully portrayed. He’s the guy thrown into adulthood as their mother dies. Jamal remains the kid of the family and he is the protector and thus as the protector, at times he demands his pound of flesh. But then this is a feel good movie. So he must realize his folly and pay with his life but die a man who has earned his redemption and as the public dances to the tune of A R Rehman we all feel nice and secure.

I don’t mind someone from outside our world coming and commenting on an India we have swept under our carpets. Sometimes they are the best judges. What I mind however are people watching the movie in a multiplex, sipping on their Coke and munching their popcorn, spending more than 500 Rupees in the process and then denouncing the foreigner who’s not portraying India Shining. Somehow, they didn’t seem to have the authority to comment. Not that I do either.

One extremely irritating fact however was that people actually found the scene where young Jamal decided to jump into human excreta extremely funny. People actually guffawed and someone on whose intelligence I have little respect, told a gathering, “Yaar who scene kinta cute tha na?”

Luck by Chance was closer to India Shining Reality and therefore far more digestible to the above mentioned audience. It spoke of the outsider into the greatest dynasty ruled industry of India. And for the outsider, being at the right place at the right time is all that matters - Amitabh Bachhan and SRK, the greatest outsiders to have ever made their marks.

LBC was an insider’s view on Bollywood and therefore it had to have the stereotypes that the voyeurish audience would lap up willingly. In fact, if anyone reads Mumbai Mirror regularly, they would know beforehand what was going to happen next. Slightly slow in pace, LBC suffered from predictability and an inconclusive end. It’s great if things are left to the imagination but then it should not make one feel, “Arre!!! Movie’s over, is it?”

I’m reserving my comments on Farhan Akhtar. I’m yet to decide whether I like him as an actor. But every single person in the cast played their part perfectly. Maybe it’s because they were playing people from their own lives. But if someone just stole the show, it would have to be Konkona. As the starlet who never made it, she stole my heart (again). Hrithik had the best scene of the movie though when he played with the children through the tinted window of his car.

LBC gives us Zoya Akhtar as the director of tomorrow but frankly it achieves nothing more.