Monthly Archives: March 2008

Music Review: Tashan

There is this tricksy thing people do: use an uncommon word as the title of a project and hope that makes it stand out from the crowd. If you win, then you hit the recognizability jackpot; lose and it’s just one more thing that’ll keep the audience away. Thus, the latest from the YashRaj banner, Tashan.

Tagged “The Ishtyle… The Goodluck… The Pharmoola“, ever since I got a good look at the theatrical teasers, I’ve thought this movie was cocking a snook at all the criticism YashRaj has had to face in the past few years viz. style over substance. I guess Aditya Chopra’s tashan (style, modus operandi) is to never back down.

So the four main characters (played by Kareena Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan, Akshay Kumar and Anil Kapoor) walk out in slo-mo through exploding bits of scenery a la Dhoom, sporting a variety of shades and accompanied by a bass guitar – and then Anil Kapoor informs us that the “furst impreson ij lasht impreson”. Indeed.

Tellingly, we’ve heard about Akshay’s paycheck (Rs. 12 crores), Kareli’s romance (now playing on a TV near you), and the directorial debut of Dhoom writer Vijay Krishna Acharya. What we haven’t heard even a rumor about? Is the plot. Generally? Not a good sign. On the other hand, I guess we have our answer: Chak De was an aberration. Which is all to the good coz I can now enjoy the final product in peace without being burdened by things like expectations. Good call there, Chopra Jr.

Okay… so, the music of Tashan. Vishal Shekhar, who ended the year on a high with the decidedly mixed Om Shanti Om, wield the baton on this one. What’s interesting about these two is that in addition to composing Bollywood tracks and appearing on reality TV shows, they also own a label of their own called Vishal Shekhar Counter Culture Records. Don’t laugh because I think they were earnest as proven by this here track by Raghu Dixit (and I liked the song). The reason I mention this is because Tashan is the first album where they’ve really impressed me with that Hindustani classical / rock background of theirs.

Dil Haara – My second-favorite track of the album, it’s such a pleasure when Sukhwinder Singh cuts loose. It starts slow, concentrating on Singh’s pipes, with a slightly rustic feel to it, and then the bass guitar from the teaser kicks in – and I suddenly want to buy a car so I can drive around to this track. And I don’t even drive! The lyrics by Piyush Mishra effortlessly continue the folksy feel of the beginning and he manages to keep it fresh. By the time the song ends on a surprisingly techno note, you’re pretty much sold on the album and want to hear more.

Pooja Ka Tashan – Four of the songs in the album are prefaced by a few lines of spoken word in which a character tells you what her/his tashan is all about. Sometimes, like in this first pairing, the relationship between the subsequent song and the character is pretty straightforward, for others I assume it will be more apparent in the movie. First up is Kareena Kapoor who reels off a couple of lines about how she’s totally hot and a tomboy or a rebel – I think they’re supposed to be the one and the same thing here. For a moment I thought she was telling me she didn’t like being a girl which would have been a really interesting twist for the story to take (sex change operation! gay man hiding in a woman’s body!) but nope, no such luck. She just doesn’t like to follow conventions.

Chhaliya – Now comes the good part. Sunidhi Chauhan’s remarkable patience in putting up with top banner dross is finally rewarded with a song she can sink her teeth into. Guitar riffs and a catchy beat compete with a folksy bit voiced by an unconventional choice (lyricist Piyush Mishra) to keep her company. And if the chorus sounds increasingly angry as it tells the boys to lay off, I’m sure they didn’t mean it. Lyrics, penned by Anvita Dutt Guptan, are once again not precisely the stuff great poetry is made of but absolutely perfect for this song.

Jimmy Ka Tashan – Look, I’ll be the first to admit that Saif Ali Khan has worked really hard to improve those bits of himself that frankly sucked when he made his debut. If you’d told me back then that Saif v. 1.0 would turn out to be this scrumptious, I’d have asked you what you were smoking. So, in the face of the kind of superhuman effort that clearly went into his reinvention and much as I’m digging it, it kind of pains me to say that there are some God given things you just can’t do anything about. Like your voice. He’s been speaking in a lower register for a few years now and that works on film but there’s nothing like recording your voice by its squeaky self to unmask all its flaws. So Saif v. 2.0 rhymes his naive wonder at the world and the strange people who live in it and how they might be injurious to his health… and I try to cut him some slack. He’s an actor, not a voice artist after all.

Dil Dance Maare – Do you remember this song from a David Dhawan movie in which Govinda kept asking Karisma Kapoor, “What is mobile number“? Okay, so musically? This song kicks that one’s ass. It marries folk to stoner to rock to typically Bollywood beats. It’s a total trip. But the lyrics, penned by Vishal and sung by Sukhwinder Singh, Udit Narayan and Sunidhi Chauhan, affect the same kind of zaniness except worse. It was touch and go for a while as to whether I was amused or annoyed by lines like “White white face dekhe, dilwa beating fast, sasura dance maare re, Oh very happy in my heart, dil dance mare re“. But the music wore me down and I decided I was having fun. If you can survive past the first stanza, I bet you’ll feel the same. The trick is to control that finger as it itches for the skip forward button. Oh, and don’t pay any attention to the chorus – I don’t know why they have that weird accent but I suppose it shall all be revealed by and by.

Bachchan Pande Ka Tashan – Akshay Kumar pays some kind of homage to Amitabh Bachchan by mentioning “Ganga kinare” (like in the song) and saying something about credit cards and Ram and Sita. I be not understanding pliss. However, he is the only one of the four who sounds genuine rather than a complete poseur. Kudos.

Falak Tak – This is my favorite track of the album. Electro folk isn’t the easiest feel to pull off, especially in a romantic song, but it’s absolutely seamless here. And what really impresses me about it is that it retains that indefinable Bollywood flavor. You can really picture this song in any Yash Chopra movie – but it doesn’t sound derivative in any way. I loved it so much, I feel like I’m setting myself up to be told that this is directly lifted from some South Indian movie I never heard of. God, I hope not. Udit Narayan and the under used Mahalaxmi Iyer sing Kausar Munir’s lyrics and take them up that extra notch. I’ve also come to conclusion that I really, really like the word “falak“. What? Like you’ve never had a favorite word.

Bhaiyyaji Ka Tashan – Huh. The movie hasn’t even released and I already want to club Anil Kapoor to death. If you thought that unfunny accent was some stylistic decision he took for the space of a scene or the promo, do I ever have bad news for you! He lays it on thick and heavy to mouth a series of disjointed sentences about: his language skills, his underwear, his work ethic and his need to follow old school villainy. It’s also interesting to note that back in the old days Raj Kapoor sang about his Indian heart – in 2008 this Kapoor proudly notes his Indian underwear. Sign of the times? On the heels of Welcome and Race, I really don’t know if I can take this. Dude, Anil Kapoor, 30 years of an interesting career and it all comes to this? I’m this close to egging your house.

Tashan Mein – This is the only song I feel sort of meh about. It has its moments of brilliance but it’s hard to get away from the commercial-turned-into-movie-song feel of it. When I first heard it, the hook fooled me into seeing a resemblance with what I call the Sanjay Gupta anthems – those really mellow rock songs he likes to set his movies to. But this song, with Vishal pulling double duty as co-writer with Piyush Mishra and co-performer with Saleem, is more complex than those songs. It’s okay.

Check out IndiaHits if you’d like to hear the songs before you buy. And yes, I would buy.


Posted by on March 30, 2008 in Entertainment, Movies, Music, Review, Video


The Rishi Kapoor-Neetu Singh Top Five

As requested by two of my favorite ladies, Ana and Sidekick, here’re my top five favorite movies from Bollywood’s #1 cutie-pie couple: Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh.

I’ve often noticed that in Bollywood, once a couple hooks up, they always find a way to wriggle into their sweetheart’s movie. There will be special appearances, item songs, whatever they can swing. I guess this is the time honored way to spend time with each other and navigate strenuous shooting schedules. And in case you think this is a recent phenomenon (why, hello there Kareena Kapoor and Salman Khan! Fancy running into you here) this is a tradition that goes back a while. Just look at that other pair featured on this blog, Hema-Dharam and their 42 movies.

Which is why I appreciate Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh as a couple. Not only were the two of them enormous stars separately on their own, but they managed to maintain it by themselves. Rishi didn’t turn up as some banjara consolation prize for Neetu Singh at the end of Kaala Patthar and Neetu never showed up to die in a flashback that explained Rishi’s sadness in any movie. Together, they appeared in 12 movies, most of them good if not outright great, some of them okay and none of them bad. The only other real life couple I can think of who’ve any done better is Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bhaduri (I won’t count Waheeda Rehman and Guru Dutt because she’s never chosen to acknowledge their off-set relationship and he was a married man all throughout their working relationship).

5. Kabhie Kabhie – Let me be honest. The last half hour – forty-five minutes of this movie is crap of the crappiest kind. To a point where I thought of leaving the movie entirely off the list. But I was convinced that if I did that, a giant hand would descend from the heavens, pick me up, carry me to the ocean and drown me. I don’t think I would like that. Actually, apart from Amitabh Bachchan’s fake-mustachioed Mr. Super McScowly in the second half and his incredibly annoying ham of a daughter (seriously? You think Amitabh and Waheeda would give birth to that grating brat? Sometimes I shake my head at thee Yash Chopra), I like this movie a lot. For one thing it had my Shashi Kapoor as a charmer who could make Rakhee go for some nookie even as she sang sadly about her lost love i.e. Amitabh pre-McScowlydom. Plus, Rakhee and Waheeda both gave excellent performances as women struggling with guilt, love and motherhood. And none of it would have worked without Neetu and Rishi to act all cute and there for each other. Aww. Below, a lesser known song where Rishi makes time with both sisters and acts like a total douchebag – but that doesn’t happen till the end of the video. Till then they’re being all awesome in the face of the jitterbugging mosquito. It’s also quite hilarious how the three of them are clearly on a trip of their own in spite of the extras in the background trying to pretend that they’re all one big happy dance party.

4. Duniya Meri Jeb Mein – A Shashi-Rishi movie once again (they’ve appeared four times together and all three full fledged roles included Neetu paired opposite Rishi), this one pretty much wastes Shashi who gets crippled early on and therefore gets no love since Bollywood only rewards physical disabilities that can ultimately be completely cured like new. So children, if you’re ever in an accident or fall prey to the nefarious designs of an evildoer and want to someday fall in love, be sure you get blinded in such a way that you can get a corneal transplant in the future. All else is hopeless. I mean, Shashi gets plenty of brotherly love from Rishi but that’s not what I’m talking about. Below, an avenging Rishi in a downmarket matador’s outfit + Neetu in a gypsy fortune teller ensemble + Ranjit in a tux + can can dancers who don’t can can wearing what appears to be the knockoff version of the pink outfit from Gigi + frenzied Beatles-y band in orange suits + Kishore Kumar + big, plastic ball = fun, baby, fun!

3. Rafoo Chakkar – A remake of Some Like it Hot, Rishi in drag is a sight to behold. And hilarious to boot. If only he’d tried for a Tony Curtis pout, my life would have been complete. Neetu as a rather materialistic young woman who very kindly doesn’t comment on her new friend’s utter trannyliciousness is a sweetheart. The rest of the movie isn’t a big surprise but still… Rishi is so fetching! Waaaaoooowww! :mrgreen:

2. Doosra Aadmi – The reason I chose this as my number two fave is because it’s such a surprise. It’s about the sad, desperate things lonely people (in this case two women) do and the impact it has on other people’s lives. It doesn’t manage to completely cut away from the Bollywood factor but why would you want to see a Bollywood movie that’s entirely unlike Bollywood, right? Beth has a more in-depth post here – with pictures!

1. Amar Akbar Anthony – well, duh! A good masala movie is like a gift that keeps on giving and this is the king of all masaladom. Everytime you see it, there’s something more to appreciate. And when it’s a mammoth like AAA, it’s like a community project. Everyone’s got a favorite part and notices something new. Like Ana, who wrote about this little thing about the Rishi-Neetu bit that I must have seen a million times but never really paid attention to:

What I found to be fascinating, and linguistically so, was when Akbar, barred from leaving Robert’s house, writes to his wife in Urdu, in Nastaliq script which no one else can read, and gives her instructions for help. So it is not simply ek jagah jab jamah hoN teenoN, Amar. Akbar. Anthony, who save the day, but also Nastaliq!

It’s things like this that make AAA so wonderful as Filmigeek writes. Below, the most famous qawwali ever. It took me years to get over my disappointment that real life qawwals don’t jump on stage or do any of Rishi’s signature moves. Sadness.


Posted by on March 28, 2008 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Movies, Video


Blogging the Blog


I don’t really mess with this blog too much but sometimes it messes with me. A bit. Like… right now.

It all goes back to this new (?) batch of spammers who’ve been leaving me links to Biblical critiques and porn. I don’t know what to make of this – what kind of algorithm gives you the Bible and Hot Babes Hard Core in one shot? And why would you think I or my readers would be interested? Actually, don’t answer that. Too disturbing.

Anyway, the upshot is that I’ve been handing Akismet a whole new set of people to block and it’s spilled over to legit comments as it sometimes unfortunately comes to pass. So a bunch of you have left me comments over the past couple of weeks and been unfairly identified as spam. This means you’ve either got a Spam Twin or else you’re Sleep Spamming or maybe you just pissed someone off on WordPress and they’re feverishly running around identifying you as an evildoer. I don’t know which it is.

I do know that I’m not the one marking you as spam. So if you’ve left a comment and not seen it appear, it’s not coz I don’t like you and want you to go away – it’s because there’s an Akismet shaped wall between our beating hearts and I didn’t know it. However, now I know and hopefully it’s been fixed.

Thus far, I’ve rescued Sue and Ashutosh but I don’t know if there are more of you out there. So I thought I’d write this and tell you all that if something doesn’t show up, it’s because the gremlins are feasting on it. I didn’t do it. Unless, of course, you were an obnoxious little buttwipe of an anon in which case – yes, I deleted you. But to be fair, there’s only been one of those so far, minor irritants not counting. Which is pretty incredible given that this blog’s been running for a year. (I know, I’m asking for it!)

But… this brings up another issue. I just realized there’s no way you can let me know you’re having problems. I’ve really resisted putting in contact information for a long time now coz I figured it was unnecessary but this latest hiccup means any complaint you might have would also go into the spam queue. Which I check every so often but not obsessively. Ergo, dilemma.

So here’s a choice: do you guys think I should put up my contact info on the sidebar or should I put in a contact page? Any feedback would be much appreciated.

PS – If you’ve put in a link of any sort in your comment and it doesn’t immediately show up then don’t freak out coz all posts with links in them are automatically held for moderation.


Posted by on March 27, 2008 in Personal


My Books This April


Did you know that UNESCO keeps an eye on the number and type of books published in every country every year? It counts as an index of a country’s standard of living and education. As per Wikipedia, the United Kingdom led the pack in 2005 with an astonishing 205, 000 books, closely followed by the United States with 172, 000 titles. And this, presumably, not counting self published books, etc. India clocks in a quarter down the list at number 17, between Finland and Sweden, with 11, 903 books published in 1996.

The Publishing Horizon, however, notes that that number jumped to 18, 212 in 2001-2002. So, yay. Especially if you read English, Tamil, Hindi, Bengali or Marathi coz your writers are increasing output.

All this makes me happy because it means I will never run out of reading material. This means a great deal to me because my favorite authors all write excruciatingly slowly or are dead. I try not to blame them for either condition. However, out of the hundreds and thousands of books published this year, we will hear perhaps of ten. Let me contribute to your list – here are the four books that I most look forward to reading in the coming month.

The World is What it is – An authorized biography of controversial writer and Nobel Laureate VS Naipaul by Patrick French. Everybody’s attention seems fixed on the details of his sex life but to me, the real story here is what French calls “at once an act of narcissism and humility”: his amazing feat of building up a fairly repulsive persona in a very gently spoken, completely frank and oddly attractive person. I’ve always felt this push-pull reaction to his work, equal parts repulsion and attraction, which makes it impossible for me to get a firm grip on the man behind the words. From the excerpts, this biography continues my journey with him – he lays himself completely bare and is even more a study of contrasts. My favorite bit from the three excerpts published this week in Outlook (sub might be req’d):

When he visited India for the first time in 1962, V.S. Naipaul had written to a friend: “The injection of religion into politics is the curse of this country, and…will throw India more and more into the hands of the Hindu reaction, as distasteful as any other type of fanaticism.” Thirty years later, when zealots smashed a mosque in Ayodhya built by the Mughal emperor Babur, Vidia felt a surge of excitement…He gave an interview to the Times of India which suggested in guarded terms that he approved of what had happened…The political fragmentation and the hundreds of deaths in the rioting that followed the destruction of the Babri Masjid were not his concern: “I didn’t kill them myself.”

I simply cannot wait to read this book.

John Adams – I’d heard about this biography of America’s second President by David McCullough when it was first published back in 2001 and thought vaguely about picking it up. After all, I’d read the biography of his wife, the highly accomplished Abigail Adams. That interest has been reawakened now because I’m watching the HBO series based on this book. As a sidenote: I love HBO and the fact that they spend $100 million on things like biographies and historical dramas.

The Adventures of Amir Hamza – A fat book bursting with promise that I just brought home today, this collection of Urdu fables featuring the Prophet Mohammad’s uncle has garnered favorable reviews from pretty much everybody. Jabberwock has a conversation with the author here.

My Country My Life – L.K. Advani’s autobiography. This one is a no-brainer for me. I just hope it lives up to the hype. Here’s what Vir Sanghvi says:

Anybody who has ever interviewed LK Advani will know that he is an unusual Indian politician in the sense that he does not shy away from discussing issues. He is unusual also in that he is comfortable with ideas and happy to conduct an intellectual argument. If he has faults, they lie in his sensitive nature. He is remarkably thin-skinned for a politician, will often take needless offence and equally, will be easily and tearfully overwhelmed. Plus, he is reluctant to cause hurt. Rarely will he say anything bad about any of his colleagues even when the truth might do him more good than the evasions he sometimes resorts to.

Advani’s strengths and weaknesses are captured in his new book, My Country, My Life, (Rupa). It is a readable, rewarding and often racy account of his political career. Written from the heart, it is part-memoir and part-manifesto. But he pulls his punches. And so, his account of his time at the head of his party is only half-complete. Many of the mysteries of the last ten years are not solved and, frequently, we can only guess at the truth by what is left unsaid.

Hmm. This is why autobiographies work best when published post humously – no need to pull any punches then.


Posted by on March 26, 2008 in Books, Entertainment


Is This NSFW?


On the one hand: boobies. Of a First Lady even. And this First Lady in particular. But on the other hand: I find it oddly asexual. Not that it’s supposed to titillate but that’s a gorgeous woman with a beautiful body – surely it ought to affect me in some way other than a clinical appreciation of the photograph itself? I mean, I’m looking at her and thinking, those are great proportions like I’m some kind of jaded runway coordinator who’s inured to naked models. Maybe watching too many raunchy Bollywood videos lands you in the same place.

Also, why is it more acceptable to show your breasts than your vagina? I understand why men cover their penises – it’s all out there in plain sight and they have a distressing habit of judging each other on it. But women? It’s all neatly tucked out of sight. So what’s the problem?

If it came down to it, I’d rather cover my breasts. I could always cross my legs. However, I somehow doubt anybody’d offer me $4,000 for it.

[Carla Bruni: Nude First Lady of France]


Posted by on March 25, 2008 in Celebrity, Entertainment


The Hema Malini-Dharmendra Top Ten

How many times have Hema Malini and Dharmendra appeared together in a project? According to IMDB, a staggering 42. Which is reason enough, wouldn’t you say, for this post to exist?

But first, a confession: I’m not a fan. I know, I know! It’s shocking. The mere thought that there are those amongst us with souls so dead that they don’t care for the awesomeness that is Veeru and Basanti. But I can’t help it – not only am I a Jai and Radha sort of girl but I really hate it when these two come together. Sorry, but it’s true. I like them on their own with other people, but to me, when Hema Malini and Dharmendra come together they consistently bring out all the more annoying bits of each other.

There is, of course, one exception and that movie is Sholay. It’s incomprehensible to those who’ve seen it and didn’t love it, or those who’ve seen it and found it likable enough but nothing special, but to people like me who grew up watching that movie, Sholay is the film that each of those actors was born to play. I can’t think of another actor who could have played Basanti as Malini did – as a grating yet charming, loyal airhead with an inexplicable Madrasi accent – and carried it off. And I can’t imagine any actor other than Dharmendra who could portray a goofy but emotional bonehead crazy enough to convincingly fall for her.

This is why I’ve kept Sholay off this list. It’s not a movie that belongs on lists – it’s kicked the ass of every list out there and deserves to be retired the way the Mangeshkar sisters (well, not Usha but the other ones) have opted out of award ceremonies.

I must also admit that I haven’t seen all 42 of their movies but I have seen a large enough number to feel vaguely embarrassed. For this I thank the neighborhood cablewallah from my childhood who had a very eclectic taste in Hindi cinema. Here’s my top ten from the Hema-Dharam stable.

10. Razia Sultan – Want another bit of heresy? I think Kamal Amrohi is overrated as a director. Hey, you can scream all you want, I can’t hear you. We used to laugh at this movie when we were kids coz the sight of Dharmendra in black face was hilarious. In retrospect, this movie had such a lot to offer in its hammy fist: race and gender politics, palace scheming, family drama and a romance to tie it all up in a neat bow. Too bad it all falls flat. However, the one thing Amrohi did right by all his movies was in choosing the music. Khayyam’s music here is nothing short of magical (like, what’s new?) and almost makes you forget the weird bargain basement Arabian Nights vibe of this movie. Below, one of my all time favorite Lata Mangeskar tracks, Ae dil-e-nadaan.

9. Maa – I had to go back to IMDB to certify that this movie was not a figment of my imagination. I’ve seen some strange stories in my time but this one is for the books. Dharmendra lives in a forest and spends his time kidnapping baby wild animals. I guess that’s one way to make a living and though you wouldn’t think there’s much money it (what would the ransom be? Carcasses and nuts?) he seems to be doing rather well off it. But he finally meets his match in an elephant who seriously disapproves of his criminal intentions towards her cute little baby and in the ensuing disagreement, his own mother ends up dead (sidenote: have you ever seen a mother elephant being separated from its baby in real life? It’s as traumatic as watching a human mother get separated from her baby. I’ve had a real hate on for plantations ever since I saw that). Now he needs to restore the baby elephant to its enraged mom before the mommy elephant gets mad enough to stomp all over his lady love as well.

8. Raja Rani – I guess Hema Malini and Dharmendra were every producer’s wet dream of what a princess and a prince ought to look like (frequently appearing in those well-known bits of royal attire: net gowns and leather vests) coz that’s the only explanation for the bunch of royalty-based movies that they’ve done. With really bad production values too. You’d think they’d have caught on after the first couple, but noooo! This is part of the early crop and is actually one of the more successful efforts.

7. Azaad – I don’t know whether to laugh at or cry about this flick. It’s very clearly a paycheck movie: busybody do-gooder and pyromaniac bitch beat each other up until they fall in love in that mysterious Hindi movie way where two people hate each other and hate each other and hate each other until quite suddenly they’re in love with each other and have the personality transplant to prove it. And now they have injustices to right and people to save. Oh well, then. That makes it all right. Below is the Kishore Kumar song in which young Gandalf and his pony try their best to pretend that they’re badass care-for-nobodies even in the face of almost irresistible provocation by the dreaded fruit cart toppling Bajaj Scooter Gang:

6. Pratigya – I really preferred this movie when it was called Khoon Pasina and starred Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha but I have to admit, there’s a certain charm to this. Just a little bit though. It annoys me in parts but then a lot of things that pass for comedy in Bollywood annoy me no end, so I can overlook this. But then, people apparently like this dumb song below so what do I know (loud noise alert):

5. Tum Haseen Main Jawan – Perhaps I’m being too kind to this movie because I saw it piecemeal over a period of many years. I thought Dharmendra as a womanizing navy officer who hires woman-with-a-secret Hema Malini to be the nanny was pretty perfect casting. It seemed to be a character he understood. This is one of those movies tailor made for the phrase “timepass”. You never feel bored and the masala’s just enough to save it from blandness. For the record, it was a toss up between this movie and Dost for the title of “Timepass Master”. But – electric blue Cleopatra wig! Sailors! Sitar music! Are you fucking kidding me? Sold!

4. The Burning Train – Toy trains! And misunderstandings! And Parveen Babi once again portraying a woman who has a spine! There are all kinds of things that bother you about the people in this movie – to the point where the villain seems almost reasonable. However, I had great fun watching it. Did I mention toy trains? Video of couples bonding below. Yeh dosti it isnt. But… la la la la la la la laaa laaa:

3. Dillagi – I usually can’t stand Bollywood movies set in schools because there’s invariably something seedy about them. The kids are all fucking psycho or the teachers are and it’s just not fun to hate children. Occasionally they’ll even hire great big honking adults to play “kids” and try to pass them off as seventeen year olds or something and that just sticks in my craw. But here’s a movie that’s relatively mild, a story of inter-teacher love that doesn’t have any porn-y bits that I can remember and was actually charming. Funny, even.

2. Kinara – If they’re lucky, then every actor stumbles across this one director who knows exactly what to do with them. Gulzar is Hema Malini’s special gift. Although that other Gulzar favorite, Jeetendra, walks off with honors. I thought the Rock Hudson original, The Magnificent Obsession, was kind of sickly sweet but Gulzar makes this work.

1. Seeta Aur Geeta – This is a childhood favorite. When I was little, I loved it when Geeta steps in to beat up the bad, nasty fatties who were tormenting Seeta. When I grew up, I was surprised to note that it was Dharmendra who managed to add a few layers to his strictly supporting role (this movie is all about the girl and you know it) rather than Sanjeev Kumar. Add a portly Kumar trying to hip it up on roller skates (what is the deal with the 70s and skates?) and my life is made. Below, the most amazing roller skating trip you’ve ever seen two beginners take – with dialogues in Russian coz they were the only ones on Youtube who shared my feelings for this song.

But if you insist on a Hema-Dharam song to finish things off, then here goes:


Posted by on March 23, 2008 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Movies, Review


Becoming a Writer


The topic on the blackboard spelled “If I had a million”. It was English class and our little group of solemn ten year olds were supposed to come up with ideas for a short essay on what we would do if we had a million in hand.

The teacher decided we’d spend one class brainstorming, then go home, write the essay and bring it back the next day. So she gave us a couple of minutes to think it over, discuss with our friends and then went around the class, asking people what they’d do.

There’s nothing and nobody quite so sanctimonious as a ten year old trying to tap into her/his better nature, so one by one we came out with the most amazingly saintly projects that required our mythical cash. We were going to set up old age homes, orphanages, fund neighborhood projects, clean up the streets – if I remember correctly, someone was even going to help drug addicts. You could practically see the halo hovering over all our heads and an invisible choir of angels was singing its heart out.

Another thing you could see? The big fat frown on our teacher’s face. We were beginning to get a little nervous – how good did one have to be before it was good enough to bring a smile of approval to her face? Maybe somebody could fund a national flagellation house where people could go whip themselves as a part of a Satyagraha to stop… things that needed stopping?

Finally, it was my turn.

“I’ll fund a project,” I said, and saw the teacher’s face fall another inch, “that helps poor women and their children.” (Yes, I was a ten year old bleeding heart liberal feminist. I have always been this way, thank you.)

“Okay,” she said unenthusiastically. “Next.”

Well! I sat down in a huff. What kind of an unfeeling monster sat unmoved at the thought of poor women and their poor children? They could be starving or victims of domestic abuse or living on the streets and turning to a life of crime. Didn’t she care? I was beginning to feel a bit lachrymose myself by this point. The next few benches met with the same amount of success. Plans to set up schools in rural India and drill wells for those who had no safe drinking water didn’t make an impact either.

And so we came to the last kid – a young man I will call Spongebob (not his real name). Spongebob, to put it in plain terms, was what we call the class idiot. He sort of ambled through life, inhabiting the bottom rung of every subject and earning the scorn of all the proper little swots that lived in the lofty heights of the honor list. And even the ones that just barely scraped through, for that matter. Because, you see, they scraped through and he didn’t. And that was all that mattered when you were a kid in school. So Spongebob tottered to his feet (he always tottered – I don’t know why. It’s like he was flunking gravity along with every other subject) as the rest of us gazed down from our smug clouds and said,

“If I had a million rupees, I would eat and sleep.”

Then he blinked at us and sat down.

The class erupted into laughter. He would do what? Ha ha, look at Spongebob! What a retard! Except…

The teacher loved his answer. She loved it like puppies love blankets and kittens love string. Like, she gave him a round of applause and held him up as an example. In what must have been karmic justice, he took it with the same amount of enthusiasm as she’d shown our well meaning answers. He hadn’t been trying to be clever or different in any way – he was just stating a simple fact that seemed so obvious to him as to be brain dead. Why wouldn’t you take it easy if you had a million heating up your pocket?

But for me, it was the single most important lesson I have ever had in the art of writing: to focus on what was real to me before I began worrying about audience. I’d been writing things (mostly really bad poetry that rhymed and a couple of short stories centered around things like the Ebola virus) for a while by then and I had already caught the reading bug in a bad way but as everyone giggled in class that day, it was as though someone had thrown open a door in my mind.

If I had to recreate my thoughts from that long ago day, it would I know how to do this. Not in a Oh, I can do this better than he can sort of way, but in a Oh, I see what I’ve been missing all this while way.

I went back home and wrote a smart-alecky essay based on my real feelings, which had nothing to do with poverty: I asked that the money be handed over in dollars (the exchange rate back then was waaaay better obviously) or pounds and said I’d blow it all on good living. I got an A. I really enjoyed getting it and the words had come so easily, it felt like I had done no work for it at all. And as suddenly as that, I was staring a possible career in the face.

Spongebob dropped out of my consciousness in seventh or eighth grade – I think he flunked out or left the school or something. We didn’t really hang out. He’s probably a completely different person today and wouldn’t recognize me if his life depended on it. If I ever meet him again though, I’d like to buy him a drink. I owe that guy.


Posted by on March 22, 2008 in Life, Personal


Movies This April


April seems to be the month where movies go to die or something. Ten movies are coming out on April 4 alone and quite a few of them settled on the date after they were supposed to be released earlier. I guess they all have to come out sometime. I’ve divided the movies as per their declared release date: some of these are limited releases and those that I plan to watch in the theater get a short write up.

April 4:

Shine a Light – the Rolling Stones documentary helmed by Martin Scorsese.

Flight of the Red Balloon – Inspired by The Red Balloon, stars Juliet Binoche and the world’s cutest kid. Also stars shiny red balloon.

The Ruins – Based on Scott Smith’s New York Times bestseller, movie features usual group of horror movie idiots who get into trouble with hostile Mayans and the local plant life in Cancun.

Leatherheads – Rene Zellweger, George Clooney and John Krasinski star in a Clooney-directed old-school screwball comedy about football’s early days in an America between the First World War and the Great Depression. Early reviews have it infused with a Coen brothers vibe and a throwback to movies like the His Girl Friday – smart, witty romances. It’ll be interesting to see how Clooney manages to pull off a crowd pleaser after helming niche subjects like Good Night and Good Luck and the criminally overlooked Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (I don’t care what anyone says, Sam Rockwell was robbed of a rightful nomination that year). Plus, a little sexiness never hurt and with Clooney and Krasinski in the cast, this is the movie for my money.

Meet Bill – Aaron Eckhart, whom I love, players a loser who’s given a new lease of life by a little kid and a lingerie saleswoman who looks a lot like Jessica Alba. Hasn’t he finished paying his dues, yet? Oh, well. DVD?

My Blueberry Nights – Wong Kar Wai’s tribute to Route 66 stars Norah Jones in her feature film debut alongside Jude Law, David Strathairn, Rachel Weisz and Natalie Portman.

Nim’s Island – Animated feature about little girl’s imaginary island sounds like Pan’s Labyrinth meets The Bridge to Terabithia. Stars Jodie Foster, Abigail Breslin and Gerald Butler.

Sex and Death 101 – Mysterious email with names of sex partners, past and future! Creepy! Simon Baker, Winona Ryder and Julie Bowen.

April 9:

Young @ Heart – Senior citizens prove you don’t go deaf after crossing that dreaded 50th birthday by singing non-old timey songs. Innovation! Documentary.

April 11:

College – Chicken Little from American Idol in an Ashton Kutcher-ish frat movie. Ugh.

Dark Matter – Meryl Streep and Aidan Quinn in a movie about that Chinese student who shot and killed six people at the University of Iowa.

The Visitor – Tired professor gets new lease of life by befriending illegal immigrants/ musicians and fighting their deportation.

Prom Night – Is full of horror. And I don’t mean the clothes.

Smart People – Would have tried something different. Dennis Quaid, Ellen Page, Thomas Hayden Church and Sarah Jessica Parker. I guess April is the month of the awakening movies coz this is the umpteenth movie that falls into the Sleeping Beauty category.

Street Kings – Talk about a bizarro group of people: Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie, Chris Evans and Jay Mohr in a movie about cops and crime in Los Angeles.

U Me Aur Hum – I can’t believe I’m typing this but I’m gonna see this. I know. I disappoint myself. But it stars Kajol and I’m a sucker. Ajay Devgan’s feature debut sounds incredibly syrupy: psychiatrist with unhappily married friends goes on a cruise and finds the woman of his dreams. Marriage and strife follow. This is why I’m so selective about my fan-hood – you never know what kind of turkey you might be compelled to watch. I really, really hope Devgan pulls a rabbit out of the hat with this one.

April 18:

88 Minutes – Al Pacino in a movie about an FBI agent with problems including a convicted killer from way back in his career. I think I preferred the look of this when it was an episode on Bones or something.

Forbidden Kingdom – Jet Li and Jackie Chan. Fantasy and fights. I’m so there.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall – Guy loses famous girlfriend and then loses mojo. Attempts to get it back lead to awkwardness. Kristen Bell, Jason Segel, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd star in what’s being billed as the world’s first romantic disaster comedy or something like that.

Kiss the Bride – Tori Spelling. Did I just kill your interest? Gay take on the old “lover returns to throw a spanner in the wedding works” story.

Life Before Her Eyes – Uma Thurman, Evan Rachel Wood and Eva Amurri in a story about a woman dealing with a traumatic past.

Pathology – Alyssa Milano and Milo Ventimiglia vie to commit the perfect crime.

The Rocker – Frustrated rocker Rainn Wilson gets a second chance from his nephew’s high school band. Also stars Christina Applegate. Hmmm. Maybe.

April 25:

All the Boys Love Mandy – Creepy high school sexual politics.

Baby Mama – Tina Fey wants a baby but the odds are remote. In comes Amy Poehler as the baby mama. Surrogate mother to you and me. Also stars Sigourney Weaver, Maura Tierney and Greg Kinnear.

Deal – Sort of like The Color of Money but with Burt Reynolds and about poker. Meh.

Harold and Kumar 2Escape from Guantanamo Bay. All right! Also stars Neil Patrick Harris on an unicorn. What else could you want? Look it’s juvenile and stupid but it’s the best juvenile and stupid you’ve ever seen. Admit it.


Posted by on March 21, 2008 in Entertainment, Movies, News, Video


The Bachelor: Where Panties Come Free

This is one of those days when I wonder what other wonders of the modern world my cursed TV snobbery has snatched from me. I’ve given my time freely to such works of genius as The Anna Nicole Show and The Newlyweds but I have to admit, it was only because I had company and my interest waned in the off season to the extent that I’ve never seen two or more full seasons of any reality trainwreck of that sort. Why bother really, when they powers-that-be unfailingly come up with a new show that’s even worse and more entertaining every year.

Plus, the thing that made a terrible show so fun to watch had a good chance to end up as a sketch on a show that I actually enjoy watching – like Late Night with Conan O’Brien (yes, still!) where Conan did this killer Anna Nicole Smith impression. You know that bit where Anna Nicole goes down the stairs? Kills me.

But then things like this season’s premiere of The Bachelor take place and I wonder if I’m missing out on something. Ah, trashy TV – if only you weren’t so vast, maybe I could catch up with you. Anyway, thank God for the internet with its trick of weeding out the excess and handing us the relevant coz here’s what went down:

Meet Stacey! She’s a grad student from Chicago. A nutritionist! One day she’s gonna invent the cure for something that nobody knows is bad as of yet. And she’s gonna make this The Bachelor melt in her arms, bitches!

Meet the Bachelor! He’s some British dude whose name I didn’t catch and he does something in London and he’s looking for a girl in America because “the culture is slightly different”. Whatever. Who cares? His big highlight is that he gets to meet – Stacey! Who has a sparkly blue dress! The following is from their first interaction –

the Bachelor: All right, so you tell me, what would you do in London?

Stacey: Well, I love the ocean.

tB: Okay, I love the ocean too, but… there’s no ocean in London.

S: Uh…

tB: What do you know about London?

S: The new upbringing cars…

Amrita: British car enthusiast? Huh. She doesn’t look it. The New Upbringing? Is that a new band?

tB: Upbringing cars? (Pause) Like the Prius?

[Amrita: Well, that’s silly. That can’t possibly be what she mea-]

S: Yes!

Amrita: Oh. Um… Wow, dude totally kept a straight face. Is he in PR?

Maybe, maybe not. But I do know who deserves a show of her own – and it’s Stacey! Any woman who’d take panties off for some guy she just met on a TV show, deserves to be in the limelight.

Nutjobs. They’re our entertainment future. Believe it. Accept it. Also, eat it, lick it, snort it, fuck it. Truer words have never been spoken.

A slightly longer video here that explains all about Stacey riding the nerves of other contestants “like a pony”. :mrgreen:


Posted by on March 19, 2008 in Entertainment, Television, Video




Picture this: woman, a doctor, successful, married, with a child who’s sitting her 10th Board exams (for those of you who don’t know what that means, it’s a massive centralized country-wide general examination that takes place twice – in 10th and 12th grade – in your academic career in India).

Said doctor is always tense prior to her child taking any exam and usually takes a week off her job to coach her child through them. She also does this post-exam review of the question paper to ballpark the performance – a common practice I used to loathe and refused to indulge in when I was giving my own Boards.

After one particular paper, mother and daughter pore over the question paper and find out to their dismay that the child skipped one question by mistake. It means an automatic deduction of – hold your breath – 2 marks out of a total of 100.

Mother can’t get over it. Daughter, who sleeps in the same room as her parents, wakes up in the middle of the night and sees mother sitting up in bed, weeping. She asks her mother if anything is the matter and the mother confesses that she can’t get over that 2 mark question that her daughter missed. The daughter consoles her mother as best she could and tells her to get some sleep before going to sleep herself.

In the morning, father and daughter wake to find mother hanging in the bathroom.

The funeral was today. Where the hell does everybody go from here?


Posted by on March 18, 2008 in Life, Personal