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PSA


NSFW-ish

I have absolutely nothing to add to Sue’s excellent post about contraception except to reiterate that your sexual health is absolutely your responsibility – and a partner who does not respect that, is not someone who deserves the privilege of sharing your bed.

And make no mistake, sex is a privilege. You can talk all you want about it being a bodily function and joke about notches on your bedpost, but you’re basically discussing the most invasive act your body will ever perform, short of childbirth, which 50% of you will never experience anyway.

I think I’ve linked to this calculator before but either way, it’s a good detail to keep in your head.

Speaking of respect, find a doctor who will treat you and your concerns with the same. If that’s not your family doctor, find a new one. You’re not paying her/him money for a moral lesson; you’re there for a medical opinion.

PS – remember to wash your hands. Before, if not after, but try for before and after. Of all the parts of your body, your pee-pee is the one you most definitely want to keep happy and fresh.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2010 in Life, Video

 

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Aisha: St. Mean Girl

<i>Aisha</i>: St. Mean Girl

“Are you trying to say I’m manipulative?” an easily outraged Aisha asks early on in the movie. And the answer would have to be No, because manipulation requires you to think at least a little about other people.

An adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma directed by Rajshree Ojha, Aisha has a problem – it is a movie populated by a bunch of interesting actors who effortlessly outshine the titular lead.

First, a note about Emma: it is not my favorite Austen novel. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I have conflicted feelings about it. It’s right up there with the best of Austen’s work and Knightley is second only to Darcy in terms of my favorite Austen heroes, but it is also the story of a deeply unlikable central character. Emma is an officious little twit and seldom have I wanted to smack somebody upside the head  as much as her.

Everybody mentions Alicia Silverstone’s Clueless when talking of the cinematic adaptations of this novel, but I personally think the version starring Gwyneth Paltrow was a lot more true to the spirit of the tale because The Goopster is pretty much the embodiment of the kind of charmingly beautiful horror I always imagined Emma to be. Silverstone is too warm to be entirely the Emma of the novel, just as Romola Garai is too sensitive in the BBC adaptation that came out last year. Oddly enough, Aisha could have done with some of that warmth and charm but Sonam Kapoor comes up low on supplies of both.

The only thing that made me think vaguely charitable thoughts about Emma, is when I saw her as a victim of her circumstances – she’s obviously smart, capable and well-off; if only her society permitted her to do something other than be a lady, she might have been more bearable.

Aisha (Sonam Kapoor) does live in a time and place where she can be something in addition to a lady – she simply chooses not to be anything else. She gardens, she bakes, she shops, she goes to events, she wears clothes, she throws lunches and dinner parties for her family and friends, and when she feels like doing something more, she dabbles in art.

Which is fine. What is not fine, is the way she sulks around this great life. She’s the world’s tallest toddler, throwing weddings for her dolls in this giant doll house called Delhi that God and Daddy have created for her entertainment, turning petulant and aghast when people refuse to fall in line with her plans for them.

Yeah. Fucking Emma. She reminds me a little too much of the person I try very hard not to be. :mrgreen:

Apart from the heroine, the true charm of the novel lies in the people around her and their reactions to her well-intentioned if ultimately disastrous meddling in their lives. I do not mean to go on comparing the two, so I will nip that habit in the bud right here but I will say that if you were hoping to see Aisha skewer upper class Delhi the way Austen always managed to needle her society, you will be disappointed. But as nothing about this movie suggests it intended to travel down that route, I barely missed it.

Aisha is instead a movie about one of the most inept mean girls who ever mean-girled and the people who love her in spite of it. Her attempts to ostracize Arti (Lisa Haydon), for example, a perceived rival who is everything Aisha could ever hope to be plus more, are embarrassingly childish. And not in an endearing way.

But the only person who bothers to consistently call Aisha out on her bullshit behavior is Arjun (Abhay Deol), her sister’s brother-in-law. He teases her, fights with her, takes care of her, rebukes her, and is the only person who treats her with honesty from the get-go rather than waiting to be pushed into it when her behavior gets beyond bearable.

If you haven’t already got Abhay Fever, this is a movie that might just infect you. There’s a lovely scene at a party during the course of which Aisha finds herself in the disconcerting position of a wallflower right in the middle of her natural milieu as Arjun’s attention turns to other women. The song is the amazing Behke Behke, the dance moves are Latin, and Arjun is moving around the floor, partnering with different women. And the first thing that popped into my head was, “Oh my God, he dances like a gentleman.”

I don’t think I’ve ever had that reaction to any man dancing before. The restraint, the genuine politeness that makes him ensure that everybody is having a good time, the manliness of his partnering skills, the subtly different way he held Aisha… ladies, it was a moment of true Regency etiquette come to life. Of all the characters, writer Devika Bhagat and Abhay really nailed George Knightley in Arjun.

Ahem. Yes. So… there are other people. Like Randhir (Cyrus Sahukar), the eligible young bachelor -cum- lovesick pile on who Aisha’s trying to unload on Shefali (Amria Puri), the downmarket dowdy she decides to transform into a princess – or a pale clone of herself, as Arjun points out with unkind perception.

Shefali is, in fact, the star of the enterprise. She starts out as a fairly easy to mock caricature of a behenji from Haryana, but by the time the credits roll you suspect she was a far more successful queen bee at her Hindi medium school than Aisha ever was at her tony public school, and those are skills that chickie is going to use to much better effect too.

There is also Pinky (Ira Dubey), Aisha’s quirky BFF, who is far less apologetic about who she is yet conversely more worried about what it means to be her. Aisha, who is possibly the most deaf a person can get without actually being deaf, is by turns dismissive, insensitive, and judgmental to the marvelous Pinky’s on-going crisis of confidence – and then shocked when Pinky has the mother of all blow-outs.

Aisha isn’t likely to blow you away, unless you count Amit Trivedi’s outstanding soundtrack, and even Paltrow at the height of her Ice Princess powers made you root for her more than Kapoor, but it’s one of the better attempts at froth this year, especially if you’re an Austen fan.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2010 in Entertainment, Movies, Review, Video

 

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Minus the Stripper Heels…

Okay, now she’s just fucking with us.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment

 

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Scandal by Song

Scandal by Song

There are few things I find as enjoyable as subversion. It speaks to the adolescent in me when I stumble across a thing posing as innocent and sweet as a daisy on a sunny morning only to discover it a clever ploy of hundreds of deadly carnivorous insects bent upon devouring the simple-minded bird or small animal who lands nearby to check it out.

Um. You get my drift. Translate as needed to less serial-killer terms.

In my house, a lullaby was something Talat Mehmood sang when my parents had turned out the lights and left me tucked up in bed. Alternatively, it could be Mohammad Rafi or or Hemant Kumar or Geeta Dutt and for a period of two months it was a collection of duets sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle. After a few weeks, my parents refused to let me hear it last thing at night because the songs were all pretty zippy and weren’t doing a very good job of lulling me to sleep much as I enjoyed them.

Anyway, at some point I realized Talat Mehmood wasn’t just singing, he was singing words. Word I understood. Call me dim but until then I could sing all these songs entirely by phonetics without understanding a word of it. I was that annoying toddler who’d run around the house singing some totally inappropriate song at the top of her voice, beaming with equal parts puzzlement and satisfaction at all the laughing attention my “talent” was getting me.

It took me years – this was back in the pre-Google era, if you can remember that far back, when we didn’t have awesome people like Atul just a click away – to put the different sounds of a song from Teen Deviyan together and end up with: “Aha maano kaha, ab tum ho jawan” which was a significant deviation from the way I first heard it as an admonishment to some Hawaiian woman called Ahamanokaha. My incomprehension-fueled, imaginary Dev Anand had a far more exotic career, obviously.

Anyway, when I was a little older, I realized that some of these songs my parents were blithely blasting around the house, lent themselves to certain interpretations that would have horrified my poor parents. So I wisely held my peace and have been sniggering about them ever since.

What? It comes from a place of deep love. I don’t want to ruin their favorite songs for them, after all. Besides, it never made sense that the finest poets of the Independence and post-Independence era like Sahir Ludhianvi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Kaifi Azmi and others (stalwarts of the Progressive Writers’ Movement for the love of God!) would be entirely content churning out sentimental verses without sneaking in a few sly references for those who were paying attention.

Of course, some of them were vocally and most emphatically not happy with film work and pursued parallel writing careers, and wrote some blazing lines of poetry for film when given the opportunity as seen by the examples of Pyaasa or Phir Subah Hogi, which Sahir set on fire with his writing.

But I’m referring to the love songs. They were far prettier and a ton more meaningful than the songs that would follow, but let’s face it – there’s a limit to the number of times you can dwell lovingly on the line of some girl’s eyebrow without wanting to play a little with the form.

You see it all the time in movies made under repressive regimes. Everything so sweet and proper or full of the right sentiment on the surface, until you deconstruct it and all of a sudden it means something else entirely.

Hindi film isn’t and wasn’t as dire as that but when you’re making movies for a nation of a certain conservatism, there are bound to be things you keep in check. Sexuality being at the top of the list. Casting the more explicit desires in the character of religious hymns was a neat trick that allowed you discuss things like the “fire in my body” without anyone batting an eyelid. Or you could go the other way and have the visuals say something at the other end of the emotional spectrum from the lyrics which say “I can’t bear this sweet sweet fire”.

The tricky vickys! Love it. Here’re just a few of my favorites:

Aaj Sajan Mohe Ang Laga Lo (Pyaasa)

(click here for better quality video with subtitles)

Let’s start with one of my absolute favorites, written by Sahir Ludhianvi with music by S.D. Burman and sung by Geeta Dutt.

A woman sings a hymn in the street about Radha’s helpless desire for Krishna. As Radha plaintively begs her lover to take her in his arms and “slake my thirst”, Gulabo, a beautiful but despised courtesan desperately in love with the poet Vijay, listens to it and her face fills with yearning. Against her will, her steps lead her to the rooftop where Vijay standing idly smoking a cigarette, oblivious both to her and the drama of the moment, his back set against her and her love.

I love everything about this song so much. Without the principals saying so much as a single word, the scene perfectly portrays Vijay’s self-absorption, his emotional poverty that he covers up with his take-no-prisoners-self-righteousness. Gulabo, however, well-accustomed to earthly passions and the dregs of humanity, is overwhelmed when a hymn speaks directly to her emotional state. It is a depth of feeling and suffering that Vijay will only begin to understand at the very end of the movie.

Jaadugar Saiyan Chhodo Mori Baiyyan (Nagin)

Written by Rajinder Krishan, with music by Hemant Kumar and sung by Lata Mangeshkar, this charming little song has a lot going on.

If I remember correctly, Nagin is about a girl from a tribe that worships snakes who falls for a young man from a tribe of snake charmers. (I could be wrong, it’s been a long while since I saw this movie.) Suggestive, wouldn’t you say?

And here, in this song, we have a very sinuous Vyjyanthimala pleading with her snake charmer boyfriend to please let her go. Every time she tries to step away from him, however, a flute joins the score and she immediately begins to dance instead.

“Sexy” is not a word that Pradeep Kumar’s most devoted fan would apply to him and Vyjyanthimala is far too studied an actor for that kind of spontaneity (remember this?), so it’s little surprise that the two leads play it without an iota of sexual tension for all the leaping and running about they do in the flora. Not that they need it with Lata Mangeshkar soulfully singing her heart out on lines like:

Jhuki-jhuki ankhiyaan dekhengi sari sakhiyaan
Dengi tana tere naam ka

All my friends will see my lowered eyes
And tease me with you name

Hm. Is that so, missy? And what exactly will you be doing to make you so shy, eh? Vyjyanthimala unleashes her usual chirpy expressions on these lines, but Lata invests them with a great deal more excitement and coyness. The actors might invite you to imagine the two of them plan on playing hop-scotch through the night, but Lata clearly has different ideas about what these two crazy kids might get up to.

Hawww!

Chhoo Lene Do Nazuk Honthon Ko (Kajal)

Written by Sahir Ludhianvi (I love him dearly, can you tell?) with music by Ravi and sung by Mohammad Rafi, here is a song that isn’t afraid to say what it means.

There were, of course, a few songs that didn’t mind coming out of the closet, as it were. Usually so the audience could shake their heads in disapproval even as they were titillated by it.

This one cracks me up every time I see it. Mainly because of Meena Kumari’s expression as he offers her a drink – the way she reacts to it, he might as well have given her a cup of poison. I don’t know if her real life alcoholism was public knowledge when she made this movie, but if it was, there is an added level of irony to the whole affair.

As for Raaj Kumar, I don’t know what he was aiming for with this performance, but if “drunken lech” was it then he did a stellar job – although Meena Kumari can wipe that look off her face; if anyone is going to get molested, it’s that poor glass. The only reason he wants her saree is so he can polish it before nomming on it.

Mohe Panghat Pe Nandlal Chhed Gayo Re (Mughal-e-Azam)

Written by Shakeel Badayuni with music by Naushad and sung by Lata Mangeshkar, this is arguably the best Ras Leela song ever shot for Hindi film.

Krishna and Radha are obviously the easiest metaphors to use for a great passion that could be as chaste and pure as the most conservative member of the audience would like or as intense and earthy as the more adventurous members would have.

But when Madhubala bites her lip and gives a naughty little smile as she sings about Krishna wringing her arm and how mad she’s at him for doing it, it’s clear that the beaming royal parents are getting a significantly different vibe from the song than their son with his sultry eyes fixed on the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen.

By the time she crosses her arms and sings about her wet clothes, Dilip Kumar looks like he needs restraints to keep him in his seat. :mrgreen: And his parents have no clue!

 
18 Comments

Posted by on July 22, 2010 in Entertainment, Movies, Music, Video

 

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Gah! The Pretty!

I can’t remember what I had scheduled for today because ever since a kind reader sent me these pics, they’re all I’ve been staring at.

You know, if I were even a fraction as beautiful as this woman, I would never pose for photographs and insist on candids like these. It’s not just that she has no bad angles – it’s the sheer vibrancy of her. Look at her! This is a woman who’d make you look up just by walking into a room even if she’d never made a movie in her life.

And, I’m sorry, I have a great deal of love for Mads Dixit but all that comparing business is nonsense and these pictures should tell you why. La Dixit is a fine, fine woman, but Madhubala isn’t just in a class by herself, she travels private jet.

Sigh. I have absolutely no thoughtful comment to make other than “OMG! GORGEOUS!” but wanted to share. Thanks, Reader! You know who you are! And you’re awesome!

Update: Since many of you asked for the full set, here it is. I have no idea who took these or where but it appears to be somebody’s apartment, most probably hers given her comfortable vibe, and she’s walking up the stairs to the terrace where she blows the camera a kiss. Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2010 in Celebrity

 

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Die-For Duo

Die-For Duo

All pretenders kindly cease and desist. My favorite mystery couple will always be Madhubala and Ashok Kumar. Unlike other claimants like the baby-faced duo of Sadhana and Manoj Kumar, for example, who often exuded a slightly off-putting matched-set vibe, Ashok Kumar and Madhubala complemented each other.

He was rugged, gravelly voiced, tough, and alternated between a stern-faced authoritarian and a dashing man about town with a sense of humor. She was beautiful, full-figured, charming, and channeled  a mischievous sprite.  Together they were perfection.

Chalti ka Naam Gaadi (1958)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my month of retina-scarring television, it’s that India loves its men strong and angry. Manly Men Be Aaaaangrryyyy! Rawr.

Much as I love to be contrary, that’s precisely why I love Ashok Kumar in this movie. Although he doesn’t star opposite Madhubala and younger brother Kishore walks around picking pieces of scenery from between his teeth when he’s not singing some of the most deliriously fun (and “inspired”) songs ever recorded for a Hindi film, Ashok is a big reason why I watch this movie over and over and over again.

The stern exterior hiding the battered heart, the marshmallow center of a hard candy – AIEEEEEE! If you’re lucky enough to find a clear(ish) print of this movie, you can gaze at his un-pretty but oh-so-charismatic visage and sigh that you’ll never find a man today who can bark out orders and forbid his brothers from associating with an entire gender the way he does.

What I seriously appreciate about his performance though is that he plays it straight. A lesser actor would have played the role for laughs and descended into caricature – something that happens distressingly often in a Hindi comedy where everyone is self consciously aware that they’re being !FuNnY! AK, on the other hand, let his brothers’ supreme hamming talents ricochet off his performance instead of trying to match them step for step. It’s a trick he would do in other movies, this metaphorical stepping back so that other more fiery stars could let the rockets fire out their bum while he quietly carried the scene in peace, but it’s never as perfect than in Chalti ka Naam Gaadi where all three of the Kumar brothers are so in tune.

In fact, given my druthers, I’d embed the whole movie here in lieu of a paltry clip or two. Although, I can’t imagine the madness that must have been the Ganguly household growing up.

Howrah Bridge (1958)

I have no idea why this movie gets so little love while Shakti Samanta’s other weepfests like Amanush and Amar Prem are still obsessed over. From the mid-60s on, Samanta was looking towards Europe but in his early days he had a bit of an Oriental fetish which you can see in movies like Howrah Bridge, Singapore and (the proto-Don) China Town.

Following the trajectory of Samanta’s less celebrated works, Howrah Bridge is a murder mystery featuring a stolen heirloom, shot in the noir style that (I assume) was then all the rage. It features Madhubala as a thoroughly believable femme-fatale-who-really-isn’t, Helen as the famous Ms. Chin Chin Choo, Madan Puri with slanted eye make-up, K.N. Singh as a sinister evildoer you can’t take your eyes off, and Ashok Kumar as the dashing out-of-towner with a game of his own to play.

This movie also brings up the question: was Ashok Kumar the last Indian actor who could wear a dinner jacket like he meant it? Some men can just wear it, you know? While most men look silly. And lordy, lordy, could AK wear it!

In conclusion: Look at them flirt! Well? What more do you need, cretin?

Mahal (1949)

I can’t remember the first time I saw Mahal, but I do remember that it scared the crap out of me. I was very young and the cable-wallah threw himself a little Scare Fest by showing us Bees Saal Baad (the one with Waheeda Rehman; he saved the Mithun Chakraborty one, which was scary for entirely different reasons, for a later date), the Rebecca-remake Kohraa, and Mahal.

I’ve never seen a quality print of this movie but, as you can imagine, any movie that saw the debut of Kamal Amrohi as director, gave Madhubala her first lead as an adult, and played a significant role in turning Lata Mangeshkar into a household name, is sufficiently awesome enough to battle crappy preservation and still shine through.

Although the camera faithfully follows AK’s extremely effective performance as a man faced with Very Weird Things that are totally destroying his mind, Madhubala left the greater impression on me. Not only because she was so amazingly lovely in this movie or because she managed to imbue a deep suspicion of all swings in me for a time, but because the big reveal was so incredible.

It was the first time I’d seen a true blue sociopath as a Hindi film heroine and they’re still pretty rare on the ground. And don’t tell me she wasn’t – girl be nuttier than a squirrel’s winter stash.

Ek Saal (1957)

The cutest ever. Seriously. This is a movie you watch curled up on your couch with the lights off, a big box of chocolates and a bottle of wine. The romance, the pretty, the Madhubala who is a light source on her own, the innocence of and the doomed struggle against true love, the heartbreak, the mocking AK who sings to the stricken AK as he realizes the value of what he’s lost, the penitence – I know it’s not technically a mystery but it’s all so satisfying!

Look at that poor sap on his flower-patterned couch. He actually thinks he has a chance! Ha! Ha, I say!

(And OMG, my mother totally has that necklace!)

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2010 in Entertainment, Movies, Review, Video

 

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Oh Boy

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Clearly, I’ve been wasting my time all these years by looking over women’s couture collections. The real action very obviously lies in menswear.

First up at the recently concluded Milan Fashion Week, for example, is what Calvin Klein thinks the well-dressed man will wear next year. Don’t worry if you don’t have that kind of definition in the midriff area. You can air your paunch.

Then there’s the Emporio Armani collection. What can I say but woo-hoo? Their head designer obviously went to a lot of exciting parties this year. You gotta respect a man who dreams up a show based on Nazis in leggings and S&M.

Meanwhile Dolce and Gabbana just randomly threw in a few men in their skivvies. As did Bottega Veneta. I honestly had no idea they showcased speedos on runways. I mean – it’s a speedo! How far can you tweak it? Oh wait…

And then there were a bunch of other folks, including Versace with an androgynous-but-not-in-a-good-way lineup of models who all looked anorexic. Donatella should have called up Vivienne Westwood for tips.

In related news, I’m still a philistine but a happy one today!

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment, News

 

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