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Tag Archives: where did my childhood go?

The Mystical Relation of Hair & Ice Cream

Why should hair be so inextricably tied to my emotions, I don’t know – but it is a fact that a good haircut can uplift me for a week, while a terrible one has left me in tears more than once.

And the reaction is instant. Serve me a bad meal and I can somehow suffer through it, making appreciative noises as I go. Take me out on the mother of all disaster dates and I will still thank you for a lovely evening and promise to keep in touch. I am the master of the easy let-down. But cut my hair (hell, just style it) in a way I don’t approve, and my reaction to it is completely physical. My face gets red, my throat chokes up, tears flood my eyes, I start breathing heavily – all symptoms, in fact, of my primitive rage. It’s always been this way, too.

When I was seven, for instance, my mother persuaded me to get a “smart crop”. Unfortunately, this turned out to be code for what you might recognize today as the Stereotypical Lesbian Crop. Imagine a really butch woman without access to a talented hairstylist. Back when I was a kid, it was the basic Modern Indian Working Woman Haircut. Short and extremely unfussy, you could probably come out looking freshly barbered on the other side of a tornado. The only people who ever complimented me on the results of that disastrous trip to the salon were my mother, the nice Chinese lady who’d followed my mother’s instructions against her better judgment, and a teacher of mine who sported that exact same boxy cut. Call me a diva but I did not appreciate looking like a middle aged schoolteacher whilst still in the second grade. I ended up throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of the salon, whereupon my mother promptly ordered an emergency pedicure for herself and banished me to the reception area where I spent the next fortyfive minutes cooling my heels, seething in fury, and frightening the rest of the clientele with my panting rage while tugging fiercely at my hair in an effort to make it come out of my head a little faster.

Before you think I was some kind of special needs child – the alarmed receptionist definitely thought so – I should say that I already knew that particular effort wasn’t going to work. It was just another example of my once-ungovernable temper driving me to do things that were the outside of stupid.

But the roots of my hair-related rage go back a long way. It all started, I suppose, when my grandfather decided the time had come to get the baby fluff shaved off my head. I rewarded him by screaming like a banshee – pressing every nerve ending you possibly could in a manic depressive, I imagine. I was brought back home posthaste, victoriously bearing a full head of hair. It grew and grew, curling into loose ringlets that charmed my mother so much, she forgot I was a baby and not her doll. I was, therefore, within sight of knocking on three before she decided to get my hair cut.

I don’t know why she stuck my dad with the job though. Maybe she felt it would be a waste of money to take me with her to the ladies salon where they had things like proper lighting? Or she saw what I’d done to her poor father and just didn’t want to deal with the hassle? Maybe my dad offered like the responsible parent he is? Who knows! But I ended up accompanying my dad to the barbershop he frequented. My first memory of getting a haircut is of a smiling man with a neat beard and Daddy sitting next to me, telling me Not. To. Move. An. Inch. To this day, I can’t relax and get all chatty with a hairstylist because my entire brain is hardwired with my father’s voice telling me Not. To. Move. An. Inch. And so I won’t by God!

At the end of this tense period, where I would sit scarcely daring to breathe while Daddy sat next to me and ostensibly studied me carefully to make sure I was Not Moving An Inch (I couldn’t really tell because I couldn’t see with all the hair in my face), we’d go for a treat.

Our routine was always the same. First came the haircut. Next came the ice cream. In my memory, the barbershop is a sort of antiseptic pale green-blue; the color of a government office. The ice cream shop, on the other hand, resembles an Old West Saloon, complete with wood paneling and rustic furniture as well as a noisy air conditioner. This can’t possibly be true since nobody else remembers my description of it and I think it highly unlikely that someone would go to the trouble of building a secret Old West Saloon for Ice Cream in deepest, southiest South India for my benefit alone. The reasonable explanation is that it somehow got jumbled up with a scene from one of those Westerns my brother was addicted to, but reasonability’s a party pooper so who cares what it has to say?

As I was saying… my father used to take me to an ice cream parlor that resembled an Old West Saloon. And for some reason this was behind the main taxi stand. Because that is a perfectly logical place to build an eatery. Vanilla with carbon monoxide topping. Mmm-mm-mmmmmm!

I remember the inside of this fine establishment as a crowded and rather dingy place, which means it must have been tiny indeed given my toddler’s perspective. I’m sad to say it did not survive the years and thus I have no adult contrast to offer. I’m also pretty sure it smelled like milk in there. I’m going to think of that as a positive. Anyway, as soon as we got in the door, Daddy would head straight for the glass counter and ask me for my preference.

I was three; my nose barely reached the part where the metal ended and the glass began. I couldn’t see a thing but I did enjoy breathing on the tiny bit of cool glass that my face could reach, and looking thoughtful. Eventually, I would place my order: strawberry. And Daddy would place his: vanilla. If he was feeling adventurous, he would switch it up to chocolate but I think that only happened once or something.

I don’t even know how we decided I was a strawberry aficionado. For all I know, my dad marched in there and growled, “What do little girls like to eat?” At which point the terrified man behind the counter probably said, “Strawberry!” because it was all pink and girly and he was afraid to say he didn’t know. Voila! I liked strawberry. And since it never occurred to Daddy to pick me up and show me the various options, I didn’t even know there were more than three flavors of ice cream until I was about five, which is when I learned about the glories of the mighty pistachio.

That was the summer my second cousin came back from the United States and opened a fancy parlor that both manufactured and sold ice cream that you could order and consume curbside in the luxury of your very own car! My auntie took me there one night and introduced me to my first falooda. And my life was never the same again.

But that is to fast forward. Back in our Old West Ice Cream Parlor, we were being served ice cream. Not scoops or scones, but slabs of it. There’s a small part of me that still thinks of waffle cones as exotic because my lizard brain thinks ice cream is naturally served as slabs on cheap white porcelain plates. Good times.

We would sit there solemnly consuming our ice cream, until Daddy had scraped his plate clean and I was still sitting there with half of mine on my plate. My mother was bringing me up to share so I always asked him if he’d like some of mine. My father, meanwhile, was bringing me up to not share eatables with him so he always refused. He would then sit in silence, watching me make heroic attempts to finish the entire plate before taking pity on me when I was about three-quarters through and proposing we leave.

It was powerful magic, for an undemonstrative man and his willful daughter. And like all magic, it was contained to that moment in time. For years afterwards, as soon as I graduated to the big girls’ fancy salon, I couldn’t stand the taste of strawberry ice cream. I would go out of my way to avoid it. Every mouthful tasted like melted plastic mixed with sugar and a slightly sour aftertaste that reminded me of spoiled milk. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it. I was disgusted by it. Even today, when I’ve made my peace with it, it still wouldn’t crack my top twenty flavors. I’d sooner eat blackcurrant.

These days, I tell my dad he should get a pedicure and take him out for coffee. That is our thing now – I push him to try and move an inch while he lets me order unfamiliar items off the menu. It’s a different kind of magic but one thing remains the same: we have a standing date anytime either one of us cuts our hair.

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2011 in Personal

 

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For Want of Whiplash

I don’t care what anybody says, but I love Willow Smith’s Whip My Hair. And that’s a good thing because I can’t get it out of my freakin’ head.

But look, it’s age-appropriate and it’s fun and it’s silly and it makes me vaguely wish I was still a kid – and hardly anything makes me want to be a kid again because let’s face it, being a kid sucks. But if I got to whip my hair back and forth and just shake ‘em off, shake ‘em off, shake ‘em off, shake ‘em off, maybe it won’t be so bad.

I don’t know why public opinion is so harsh against the Smiths for letting their kids act. Will Smith was a child star too and he didn’t invent the whole famous-parents-introduce-spawn-to-family-business gig. In fact, if we must have the children of famous people foisted on us, I wish more of them would be like the Smith siblings, Jaden and Willow, who have a real personality.

Look at Willow’s red-carpet outfits (thanks for alerting me to those, Beth!)! I think the Fanning sisters, Dakota and Elle, do a good job at princessy-appropriate, as does Abigail Breslin – but it’s great to see a kid really play dress up. So her parents have the money to make it couture rather than family hand-me-downs discovered in the attic and she does it on red carpets – that’s the way it is. She didn’t go rob it from some other kid.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Music, Video

 

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Give Me Leaves, I’ll Give You Shampoo

Things not to do in the kitchen… especially when cooking with aunties who remember you were banned from lifting even a spoon when you were a child and are convinced you must still be that little girl even though 20 years have passed since you last tried to make everybody eat your “cooking” i.e. raw gooseberries in brine.

A short listicle:

  • Fiddle with gas connection
  • Turn on heat under empty vessel
  • Wash knife
  • Thinly slice
  • Grate
  • Deep fry
  • Transfer utensil from one burner to another
  • Insist everybody wash hands with soap in between tasks
  • Offer tips
  • Explain flambe
  • Cook

I finally had to stop because she was clearly not enjoying the experience at all. When I offer to “help”, I don’t mean I’ll help some senior citizen to an early grave. Not her fault, though. The last time  she saw me, I was busy manufacturing shampoo out of hibiscus leaves.

I was fascinated by housework as a child – a fascination that was immediately dispelled once I had to do any. Eventually, bugged by my constant pleas to chip in, one of the maids asked me if I knew I could make shampoo at home. My paternal grandmother, the child of an Ayurvedic doctor, used to mix up powders and potions all the time so this little chemistry experiment appealed enormously to me. It sounded like real grown up work.

My great aunt who ran the kitchen immediately whipped out a mixing bowl and sent me packing with a heartfelt squawk of relief. I gathered my retinue of essential staff (one of the houseboys, the oldest of the drivers, and the head gardener who was incidentally the henpecked husband of the maid who’d made the initial suggestion) and set off for the garden where I spent a pleasurable half hour discussing the merits of differently colored hibiscus plants. The boy held the bowl and offered to climb the gooseberry tree instead; the driver smoked and grinned; and the poor grandfatherly gardener nodded his head gravely when I informed him color was an important indication of cleansing strength.

Having established that red was the best choice, capable of cleaning even the dirtiest scalp, I proceeded to make my shampoo. This is how you do it:

  • Pick leaves. The shinier, the prettier the better
  • Pick flower. The more brilliantly red, the more you will enjoy it
  • Remove stamen. It offends the eye and has gross crumbly pollen. Yuck
  • Place in mixing bowl and pour water. From garden hose or whatever is convenient. As much or as little as you like but mixture made with less water is more satisfying in texture
  • Put in your hand and squish, squish, squish
  • Revel in sticky scented glory
  • Display results to universal acclaim
  • Abandon bowl because your job is done – you have prepared shampoo for whoever needs it
  • Wash hands and forget about the whole thing until the next time you’re bored.

As an adult who continues to use store bought shampoo, I always thought they’d invented this whole hibiscus thing to keep me out of their hair same as when they convinced me people were just dying to eat my gooseberry “pickle” – just note how the jars mysteriously vanished from their shelf.

But turns out people actually do use hibiscus to wash their hair. Hibiscus and a whole bunch of other stuff including bananas and baking soda and God only knows what else. I don’t think they’re following my recipe though.

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2010 in Personal

 

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Answering for Lamhe

Answering for <i>Lamhe</i>

Sridevipalooza is long over and not even a hangover remains, but that doesn’t mean I can’t chip in at this late date. Here I am, anyway, whether you want me or not – and I come bearing Lamhe.

Yash Chopra’s favorite child that fell flat on its face during the race to the top of the box office at the mega-hurdle called “incest”, Lamhe is the movie that endeared Chopra to an entire generation of tender-hearted young girl children who’ve remained his die-hard base ever since. Nearly two decades after its release, Lamhe is the Chopra movie most likely to be called a “cult-favorite” or “overlooked masterpiece”.

As an unapologetic member of that cult which deems this movie its favorite (although, to be fair, I belong to a number of such cults so I’m probably not the fervent convert of quoteworthy fame), I have to say it is a gross exaggeration to call this movie a masterpiece. Overlooked, yes. Masterpiece, no.

Lamhe is actually the beginning of Yash Chopra Lite, the expression of a gentle sentimentality that would eventually devolve into the hollow shell of Dil To Pagal Hai (which recycled a number of this film’s lesser ideas) and the overwrought Veer Zaara. Conversely, though, Lamhe is thus the best of these movies and it shows its quality – in its performances like Anil Kapoor’s earnest confession at the climax or Anupam Kher telling his best friend off; in scenes like the one in which Pallavi’s husband gently informs her about Viren’s feelings and advises her to continue her friendship with him or when Anita first recognizes that Viren and Pooja aren’t exactly platonic.

In case you’re one of the few who haven’t seen this movie, here’re some things you should know:

Q. Is Lamhe really about incest?
A. Nooooooooooooo! It’s about this guy(Viren) who falls for the daughter (Pooja) of his first True Love (Pallavi).

Q. That doesn’t sound too bad. What’s up with the incest thing then?
A. Nasty imaginations at work! Okay, so Viren became Pooja’s guardian after Pallavi died in childbirth and she looks exactly like her mom. You know, the one he’s never stopped obsessing over. But! The thing to remember is that he never laid eyes on Pooja for those 18 crucial years when she was growing up into her mother’s double and all the day-to-day raising was done by his old nurse (Dai Jaan). Besides, she‘s the one who chases him, the hussy!

Q. Hmm.
A. Quite.

Q. So it’s like a Bollywood Lolita?
A. More like this awful thing but with 100% less rape and 100% more awesomeness like this:

Q. Moving on, what does Lamhe mean?
A. It means Moments. You see, Viren spends his whole adult life hoarding the few moments he spent in Pallavi’s dazzling presence and Pooja threatens to do the same with the few moments she spent in Viren’s considerably less dazzling presence, and then Viren realizes that all the dazzling moments he spent with Pallavi have been supplanted by Pooja’s dazzling presence. Razzle dazzle!

Q. You know, I don’t think I like the sound of Viren and Pooja.
A. On paper, you’d be right! Viren is a sentimental idiot who needs a good shake and a swift kick up his ass while Pooja is a total pile on with daddy issues that absolutely nobody is interested in addressing. But when Anil Kapoor and Sridevi play these two fuckwits, they’re impossibly aww-worthy.

Q. OMG is this the movie with the clean shaven Anil Kapoor?
A. Yes! It is how you differentiate between the callow youth who fell in love with Pallavi-who-looked-straight-through-him (Moochless!) and the fuddy duddy who falls for the fun and energetic Pooja-who-idolizes-him-even-though-he-ignores-her (Mooch!).

Q. How many times does he slap his co-star in this?
A. Just once but he makes it count!

Q. Who else is in this movie?
A. There’s Waheeda Rehman who is a total darling. Anupam Kher is great, especially if you didn’t know that this was going to be the character he plays in every single YRF movie from then on. Deepak Malhotra as Pallavi’s husband and Pooja’s father is hilariously wooden. And then there’s Dippy Sagoo as Anita the woman-who-ought-to-have-known-better-than-to-spend-years-mooning-over-a-wet-blanket. I’m very sad Dippy Sagoo’s career never took off. Too bad, Dippy Sagoo!

Q. Should I watch this?
A. Do you like happy endings, older men, spunky young women, Sridevi and Anil Kapoor? Lata Mangeshkar warbling in the background and warm woolens in England? Then this is the movie for you! Otherwise, not so much.

Q. You really like this movie, don’t you?
A. Do not judge me.

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Movies, Review, Video

 

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Rob(b)in My Heart

Rob(b)in My Heart

In The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Errol Flynn runs around a forest in green tights with his BFF who looks like he’d like nothing better than a cuddle from his comrade in arms, and falls for a girl dressed in medieval Europe’s version of the hijab. Directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, it is an enduring classic. And watching it again for the purposes of my self-declared Flynn Week made me remember why.

If you speak English, you know the story. In fact, it’s been made and remade so often, for television and film, that I was pretty sure I had Robin-fatigue. Part of the reason for this feeling, quite apart from the individual merits of the films or television shows made after the 1938 version, I realized, is because when you’re remaking an old classic, the burden is on you to find “something new” to justify the remake.

Better sets and better costumes that introduced moody lighting and did away with the famous tights. New interpretations of old characters that gave them a bit more to do than be candles to Robin’s star. Realistic styles of warfare involving a great deal of blood and screaming. A hook that announces to the audience that this is not the same old stuff that you saw in your childhood.

By that same token, however, the charm of The Adventures of Robin Hood is that it is precisely that movie you saw in your childhood… and loved very much. The sets seem made out of play dough; the costumes are hilarious; the fighting is choreographed like a slightly less graceful ballet; the story is a wafer thin concoction of action scenes culled from lore; and any true unpleasantness like blood and death are presented in a way calculated to preserve the innocence and sensibilities of the infants of an era past wherein incredible amounts of mindless, desensitizing violence wasn’t the cultural norm. And yet, it is a benchmark because, quite simply, it is fun.

I’ve lost count of how often I saw this movie as a child, or even as an adult because I never missed it if it was on TV, but it has been a few years now and this is the first time I’m writing about it. That brings the realization that my idea of what it means to be A Hero has been indelibly shaped by Flynn’s portrayal of Robin Hood.

“He’s brave and he’s reckless,” gushes Maid Marian (the very lovely Olivia de Havilland) to her nurse (the very funny Una O’Connor). “And yet, he’s gentle and kind, not brutal…”

Flynn’s Robin is indeed all these things and more besides. In fact, my deeply held belief that true heroes are wonderful men who must be a phenomenal pain to know in person stems from his portrayal of Robin in this movie. Childish me thought him exceedingly romantic – grown up, stodgy me doesn’t grudge poor Marian a lifetime of following in the wake of the fires he’s bound to start because he thought the night called for some warmth and by building the biggest bonfire he could, he’d have some fun and something pretty to look at besides. But the magic of Flynn’s Robin is that despite knowing all this, you still either want him or want to be him.

His hot-headed nobility would be insufferable if it weren’t for his humor and obvious intelligence. Of course, it helps that Flynn is also the personification of male beauty at his very prime, with a truly excellent pair of legs he puts to good use during intensely acrobatic fights that require him to run, jump, and swing around like a monkey. And then there is that cocky little grin doing a lot more damage than any of the arrows he lets loose in the movie.

Helping him along is his chemistry with co-star de Havilland. Unlike the majority of versions, in The Adventures of Robin Hood, Maid Marian is not the childhood sweetheart of Robin of Locksley. She is instead a snooty Norman ward of the King of England, very much a partisan in the on-going ethnic strife between Saxons and Normans, and doesn’t care all that much for Robin at first sight, pretty face or not.

You can’t really blame her: Robin has a taste for mouthing off to royalty in the guise of the villainous Prince John (Claude Rains), appears at parties with the carcasses of forbidden game that he dumps on the main table, a habit of jumping up on tables where food is being served, his friends are a ragtag bunch of extremely common commoners, and his main occupation is running around shooting or robbing her friends, especially her would-be beau Guy of Gisborne (Basil Rathbone). Hardly endearing behavior.

Once she adopts his cause, however, Marian is anything but a wilting flower. She gently nudges him back to the path of duty when he starts dreaming of a countryside idyll with her by his side, and plots his escape when he inevitably gets into trouble through his reckless actions. She is also the one who puts her life in danger to send him word of King Richard the Lion-Heart (Ian Hunter), who has returned to England after escaping his captors.

And in the midst of all the things that are going on – kings to be restored to thrones, villains to be defeated, fair maidens to be rescued, a kingdom to be freed from the greed of a racist tyrant – The Adventures of Robin Hood even takes a moment to comment on current affairs circa 1938. The Merry Men of Sherwood Forest, you’ll be happy to know, were decidedly non-interventionist. Oh, irony.

The Adventures of Robin Hood is one of those rare movies that delivers exactly what it says in the title: Adventure with a capital A. If you somehow passed your childhood without access to its magic, you need to rectify it today!

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Movies, Review, Video

 

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Bittersweet

Some places are gone forever.

The best part about moving on is that which is yet to come – the busy-ness of it, the sense of purpose, the future that awaits, the anticipation builds. You see a door and you don’t know what lies behind it. A whole another world to explore. A new house with new neighbors and new idiosyncrasies to learn; a new room with new shadows that wait to make friends with your old dreams and forgotten nightmares; new sounds that announce themselves in drips and creaks. A new life with new possibilities.

The worst part about moving on is that which is past – the sadness of it, the sense of loss, the memories that fade into a sepia tint despite promises of forever. You look over your shoulder and you see all that you’re leaving behind. You grieve because you know you’ve said goodbye even though you pretend it’s au revoir. The old house with its worn knowledge, its mysteries exposed; the shadows you know by name; the sounds you’ve investigated a million times; the walls pitted with your deeds. It is home.

Sometimes a song, the music of horns, snatches of conversation, the sound of someone’s laughter, wind rustling through leaves along an endless line of defiant trees, the smell of tobacco warming the morning air, squirrels at play, the squeaky tones of an adventurous toddler’s sneakers, mustachioed men at gates, the milky warm smell of a happy puppy, aged stone warmed by sunlight, the smooth grain of polished wood, bright red blood welling from a cut – and there you are again. In that place with no address; that space you carry within you. Fold by fold it opens to envelope you, until you stand there, just as it used to be.

Nothing has changed. But you don’t live there anymore. Nothing has changed, but these streets don’t look the way they used to. The trees have been cut down. The flowers aren’t the ones you love. It was the people who made it real but where have they gone? Nothing has changed except you.

The monster ate them. The bulldozer got them. The man bought them. They lost the directions. It’s a bittersweet realization, but some places are gone forever.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2010 in Personal

 

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Awesomely Insane Jeetendra

Awesomely Insane Jeetendra

While searching for material to post during Sridevipalooza week, I made a mistake – albeit a happy one. I went to Youtube to look for clips and fell down a Jeetendra-related video-hole.

I’d forgotten, for example, that the man spent a good chunk of his life dressed like Errol Flynn. The results were so astoundingly, blindingly B-movie fabulous, I just had to share! Just to scratch the surface…

10. Jaise Ko Taise

What better to start us off than a spot of homoerotic S&M? Complete with gymnastics and crotch shots!

Because you’re special.

9. Badi Mastani Meri Jawani

You know what Sholay lacked? The part where Jai and Veeru are hung over a bunch of hungry lions while Basanti and Radha dance awkwardly in harem pants with a bunch of passing African tribesmen.

What? No self-respecting African lady would be seen without a feather duster on her head, I’ll have you know!

8. Kismat Likhne Wale Par

A floating gold throne gently deposits Jeetendra and Jaya Prada (dressed in doublet and apsara costume, respectively) in the technicolor land of floating disco balls. You know things can only improve from there!

7. Chumma Chumma

Apart from the amazing lyrics (the rhyme scheme alone merits it a mention on every list), what I particularly love about this song is the expression on both their faces:

Jeetendra: But… but… that’s not Jaya Prada!
Dimple Kapadia: What the fuck am I doing? That’s right – I have two kids to bring up.
Jeetendra: I don’t understand! Those are the right clothes but that’s not her! This one looks like she actually understands what she’s saying!
Dimple Kapadia: Wave hands! Raise leg! Wave hands! Raise leg! I can dance! And I have no idea what I’m saying! See? Kiss me, you fool!
Jeetendra: Fraud! There is no kissing between Jaya Prada and me – we only have pretend sex while partially clothed! Get off me!

6. Deewana

Mithun wept.

5. Oye Sanam-a

It is a crime to choose just one song out of Hatim Tai but since I can’t embed the entire movie here, this will have to do. Sigh.

4. Daiya Re Daiya

There are some things without which you really can’t call yourself a Bollywood Hero of a certain vintage – and one of those things is the honored tradition of blackface. Or, as practiced in Bollytown, dark green face.

Omigod! Is that Jeetendra under that “tan”? I totally didn’t recognize him! What a cunning disguise! Of course, all the pelvic thrusts helped distract.

3. Maine Tum Sang

Did you ever wonder what people did before they had CGI or if they couldn’t afford special effects? Well, this is your lucky day! The answer is: they simulated running in slo-mo and took over some school’s annual day decorations. An absolutely fabulous school, of course!

These two really made the best movies!

2. Nainon Mein Sapna

I don’t care what you say – if you were in India at a certain point in the 80s, you knew this song like your mother’s lullaby. You saw it on Doordarshan on those oh-so-special Thursdays (Fridays?) when the holy half hour of Chitrahar played state-approved movie songs. You heard it on the radio at your grandmother’s house. Your cleaning lady hummed it under her breath. You knew it, no lie.

Try getting it out of your head now. Muahahaha!

1. Yeh Mera Premi

The thunderous notes that open this song herald your entry into a whole another dimension. Canary yellow wigs! A handkerchief on Leena Chandravarkar’s head! Playing card motifs! The I-got-beaned-on-the-head-till-I-drooled expressions on Jeetendra’s face! Tights! Happy skips! Extras in lockstep! Nothing beats this song!

[pic source]

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Movies, Music, Video

 

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Lost MacLean: Night Watch

JOKES!

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Pierce Brosnan loudly simulate sex in a horrendous pair of white boxer briefs while his offended colleague rides him bronco style.

Welcome to Night Watch! Or Detonator II: Night Watch. Your glimpse of what might have been Brosnan’s career if he hadn’t finally landed the British super spy gig and become The Billion Dollar Bond. It is properly horrifying.

I was really excited to watch this movie for some reason. I love Brosnan and I love Alistair MacLean – how bad could it get when they got together? And to be honest, even though Night Watch has a distinctly made-for-TV feel to it, it’s only as bad as your average Lifetime movie, which is to say it’s watchable.

But from the first moment, as a fiercely mustachioed Brosnan runs towards the camera in tight fitting pants that keep getting tighter and skinnier as the movie progresses and long-ish hair that always manages to look greasy, something is very off. Let’s face it: despite his stellar work in movies like Evelyn, The Matador or The Ghost Writer, Brosnan’s USP is his looks and his ability to wear the shit out of a tuxedo. Both of which are wanting here. In fact, by the time the movie ended I was having fond memories of his dye job from The Noble House. I don’t know who Brosnan pissed off, especially in the costume department. Or did people really dress that way in the early 90s? Thank God I was just a kid.

Anyway, the plot takes us to Amsterdam where Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” has been stolen and a forgery put in its place. Mike Graham (Brosnan) is some kind of special ops agent on the brink of burnout after losing his partner during an extraction. Sabrina Carver (Alexandra Paul) is waiting for Baywatch to make her famous as the honorary non-bimbo brunette. They have, ahem, a history. Ooooooooh.

But what is supposed to be a low-stress case of art theft investigation, a little R&R for poor psychologically fragile Mike, suddenly turns violent and confusing with the introduction of a Hong Kong-based mastermind, busy inventing the means of world domination. World domination and art theft, I guess. There are also some ominous North Koreans thrown in for good measure because, you know, North Korea – boo! are you scared yet?

If you get your rocks off watching Brosnan dressed up as a cross between an American Civil War veteran and a stereotypical errand boy for the Italian mob (and let me tell you, it takes considerable talent to take the refined Mr. Remington Steele to that pass) or you like the kind of movie where the hero slides down a steep wall, dragging his fingernails all the while, only to show up with perfectly manicured nails at the end – find a copy of this movie stat!

Meanwhile, I will pray that I never have to watch Detonator I. Or will I? :mrgreen:

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Movies, Review

 

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Lost MacLean: Golden Rendezvous

Golden Rendezvous was the first Alistair MacLean novel I actually wanted to read. I’d spent a year flipping idly through the pages of The Guns of Navarone on the recommendation of a friend and had never been able to really get into it with all the other stuff lying around my room waiting to be read. But one rainy day during the summer vacation when I couldn’t think of a single other thing to do, I noticed a copy of this book lying around my grandma’s house and picked it up.

I loved it. It’s not the best of MacLean’s novels, but it’s crisp and stacked full of his trademark touches: ironic wit, manly heroes carrying the weight of the world on their broad shoulders, beautiful blondes with rich daddies and an attitude problem, villainously villainful villains who need to be taught a lesson, and lots of action. As an introduction to his work, it has a little bit of everything that MacLean has to offer and you honestly couldn’t do better.

For years, I’d heard that there was a movie version of Golden Rendezvous and I wanted to watch it. I’d seen the famous three: Where Eagles Dare, Guns of Navarone, and Ice Station Zebra, and I wanted to see all the other versions too. I should have realized that the reason those three are so famous is because they’re the only good ones.

Oh well. It’s not like I’m getting particular in my old age. So this week is all about The Lost MacLeans. Little known movies based on the novels of Alistair MacLean. Perhaps you all wished to know what I thought of Khatta Meetha (it’s crap and shame on you for even asking!), Salt (very fun – kick some more ass, girl!), or Inception (instant obsession), but this is what I’ve got instead.

***

1977′s Golden Rendezvous promises “The action of The Guns of Navarone. The suspense of Ice Station Zebra. The drama of Where Eagles Dare.”

In that spirit, we start at the cruise ship where all the action takes place: an odd-looking man with long, 70s-style, thinning blond hair is directing sailors and being busy. I’m immediately confused because in the book, these are the actions of Johnny, our hero – a solid block of handsome manliness who I’m pretty sure had all his hair.

Suddenly, a taxi comes flying across the docks and screeches to a halt so a pretty, 70s-style, young woman built like a gazelle (that is to say, kind of elongated everywhere – there is a disconcerting shot of her in profile later on, where her neck looks disturbingly like that of a turkey’s except she doesn’t have flaps of skin hanging off it) can leap out.

Johnny Unlikely (Richard Harris) calls her Mrs. Beresford (Ann Turkel). In the book, she’s most definitely a Miss and traveling with her sweetheart, millionaire parents.

I decide to stop using the book as a reference point.

So… a bunch of things happen: An old man is gambling on board the ship and winning heavily by using some complicated system he’s invented that is apparently foolproof and legal. A crew members shows up late for duty. Mrs. Beresford is very cozy with some guy called Conway whom she “loves very much” but also spends her evenings flirting with some Latin type called Tony while Conway drinks in his cabin. A cancer patient and some coffins are transferred on board right before the ship leaves. A waiter delivers meals. A woman with big peroxided hair evidently doesn’t want to be on the ship but is there anyway while her husband is kidnapped from some top-secret facility by men with accents. A terrible waiter steals a drink and goes outside to sneak a cigarette, and is promptly paid for his sins by getting his head bashed in. Johnny Unlikely sees his body getting dumped and is only saved from the same fate thanks to his colleagues.

If you’ve never read the book, then I have no idea what you will make of it all except Very Bad Things take place and Johnny fakes a leg injury after the ship is hijacked so he can wander around in the rain inflicting, we later find out, absolutely no damage whatsoever other than killing the Big Meanie’s son in a severely anti-climactic fight as well as a couple of other random baddies in assorted skirmishes. In fact, his greatest battle takes place with Mother Nature as he struggles against rain and sea to snoop on people and look thoughtful.

Somewhere along the way Harris pulls out his inner magic (jokes!) and manages to convince you he’s Johnny rather than Johnny Unlikely. And he mainly does it by randomly planting a big wet one on the attractive Mrs. Harris Beresford – although even that bit of charm doesn’t get her to give up her unnecessarily secret subplot.

Directed by Ashley Lazarus, who appears to be someone with a knack for assembling a talented cast so he can direct them into oblivion, Golden Rendezvous chooses to zig where the novel zagged and falls right into the ravine of mistakes in the middle.

The novel wasn’t merely about “Nuclear Terror”, the title chosen for Rendezvous‘s TV debut. In fact, it was about a lot of things but nuclear terror was absolutely not it. Golden Rendezvous was a fantastic conjob as well as an action-packed thriller in which superman John Carter doesn’t merely get bloody revenge for the shipmates the crooks killed, he outsmarts them out of their money and then blows them up to kingdom come – coz if that’s the way they wanted to play it, he was more than game.

The movie John Carter smashes through a few things to a potentially great Jeff Wayne soundtrack that was apparently just slapped on, bumbles the one big switcheroo and stumbles upon the way out by pure luck. Phooey.

The best part of the movie was undoubtedly the luckless Preston (Keith Baxter) whose is introduced – in one of the three scenes he is allowed to speak – by the back of his head. I forgot to mention the camera work on this movie is insane and not in a good way. Things don’t get much better for the poor fellow.

He gets shot in the stomach, is medicated with a glass of brandy, then is knocked out and locked up in isolation at the infirmary because Johnny is suspicious of him, and subsequently spends the rest of the movie saving Johnny’s and everyone else’s ass without so much as a word – all liberally interspersed with scenes in which he is randomly tossing and turning in bed or crawling about the deck on his wounded tummy. It’s like something out of Monty Python.

Too bad the rest of the movie doesn’t match up.

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2010 in Entertainment, Movies, Review, Video

 

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Pop Went the Popsicle

Pop Went the Popsicle

The thing that shocked me the most about moving to America was when my friends would turn on the kitchen tap, fill a glass, and drink it. Water in our house was directly channeled through a filtration system before it was boiled to kingdom come, cooled, poured into sterilized bottles and stashed in the fridge. A separate batch was poured boiling hot into a thermos flask for my mother who insists on boiling her insides irrespective of the weather.

My greatest rebellion, the way I see it, was when I went to camp and drank my fill from a nearby tap like all the other care for nobodies around me, against the strict instructions of my parents. Of course, the Gods immediately felled sinful me with a mighty bout of flu and I landed in the hospital. But by then camp was over and I had other things to worry about like that perennial gift of camps everywhere: lice.

[Yes, my life is exactly that lame. Sorry.]

My very first memory of hospitals is from when I was barely four – I pigged out on contraband popcorn and my stomach rebelled. The resultant projectile vomiting was unpleasant but what followed was worse. Apparently the only way to treat a four year old with popcorn poisoning in 80s South India is to shove all sorts of tubes down her nose and stick her with IVs. Personally, I think the doctor must have been pissed coz he got dragged out of bed in the middle of the night and was trying to scare my parents into keeping a beadier eye on me.

If he’d been trying to warn me off popcorn, he definitely didn’t succeed. But hoo boy, did he teach my mother about the evils of popcorn. To this day I can barely munch a single kernel in her presence before she starts making noises about how its going to land me in the hospital.

The only good thing that came out of the whole experience is that my dad bribed me into staying still and convinced me that this was a Fun Thing for us to do as a family by buying me bucketloads of popsicles. The kind that come in a plastic tube and are probably filled with ice from the morgue? Or as I like to call it – the best kind. Raspberry and orange were my favorites. Of course, they were also the only flavors he ever bought me (or were available for that matter) but I loved them all the same.

The raspberry was a dark magenta and tasted like cough syrup. I’ve never understood why raspberry is such a hot flavor in India – I don’t think I ever saw it in its natural state until I left the country. Strawberries make so much more sense. But there it is, in everything from ice cream to jello. Is it some kind of colonial hangover?

The orange was a virulent shade of neon and was basically like sucking on a mild, iced lemon. You know how Rasna made the orange taste so much more orange-y than an actual orange could ever be? This made the orange taste less orange-y than the most withered, water-logged orange could ever be. And yet! So delicious!

The secret ingredient was obviously some cancer-causing chemical engineered to turn to children into mindless slaves. Or maybe dead people. Who knows! I can’t find them on the market these days. They’re probably banned.

Which was the bad news my father brought me that day as I lay on my hospital bed, eagerly awaiting the by-now de rigeur bribe of popsicles. Oh, the things those little goodies have convinced me to do – let them stick needles in my arm, tubes down my nose, push me into claustrophobic scanners that resemble coffins… No more.

I looked at the rectangular thing in my hand. “What is this?”

“It’s an ice cream bar,” my father said, refusing to look me in the eye.

I unwrapped it. “It’s an ice lolly.”

Now I’m not philosophically opposed to the idea of a ice on a stick but the whole point of the hospital experience was to suck it out of a plastic tube. Didn’t he know anything?

“Why don’t you eat it?” he asked, already hovering at the door.

“Where is my popsicle?”

“EAT WHATEVER YOU LIKE, YOU STUPID CHILD!” he yelled preemptively and dashed out the door.

I looked at my mother, laughing hysterically on the couch.

“Oh baby,” she said, patting me consolingly. “They don’t sell those anymore. In fact, they tore down that shop from which you father used to buy them. And those are the only things they carry in the supermarket.”

And that is how I found out that my childhood was losted. Isniff.

[pic source]

 
11 Comments

Posted by on April 29, 2010 in Life, Personal

 

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