Monthly Archives: August 2009

BollySynth is Madhuri Mania

Throughout the promotion for Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle kept talking about Bollywood’s (and thus India’s) love of the disco. And while its absolutely true that disco has had a long and storied life in Bollywood music as does rock, latin, hiphop and (God help us all) rap, I kept wanting to yell out, “Nahin! Yeh jhoot hai!”

How strange, I thought to myself. Why do I object to his stating a fact? Perhaps it’s only a fraction of a larger fact, but that doesn’t make it any less true. It was then I realized that what was really bothering me was that a canon of sorts was being created in front of me: that of Bollywood Disco, Beloved. Whereas any and every child who emerged unscathed from the enervating 80s with their long line of revenge dramas, rape fantasies, dastardly crime villains who wanted to see India go boom for the sheer pleasure of it and other good stuff, knows that the only thing that kept Bollywood afloat and safe from sinking into a pit of toxic bile was the discovery of synthpop.

Yes, synthpop – that peppy genre of music created by musicians drunk on the possibilities of electronic music, relics of which are now drunkenly sung in karaoke bars around the world for a bit of a friendly giggle. Our savior.

I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve seen more than my fair share of 80s movies (I’m not sure but I think it may count as time served in the karma stakes) because our neighborhood cable-wallah prided himself on being very up to date in the piracy department, but there is hardly a movie in that lot that I would willingly watch again. Well, maybe if you broke out the drinkies. But the music has stayed with me.

At odd times in my life, I would find myself humming a song and realize with a shock that it was a Mithun Chakraborty number I’d probably heard once before. Do not judge me! You have done the same, I’m sure! You probably had a gold lame outfit to go with it too. [Digression: You know, someone really should dress up as Mithun in Disco Dancer or Wardaat this Halloween. It’d be a great conversation piece. Send pictures if you do!]

Thinking it over, I feel the person who really epitomizes the synthpop movement in Bollywood, even though she first appeared on the scene towards the end of the (original) arc, is Madhuri Dixit. Or perhaps her late arrival is precisely why she stands out for me because that fits in more with my movie watching age and by then the music directors had a better handle on what they were doing. For example:

Tamma Tamma (Thanedaar) – These days the kids all want video games and glitzy gadgets and whatnot. All that we wanted as children was the ability to dance like Madhuri in this song. In stiletto heels, bitches! Sadly, we ended up dancing like Sanjay Dutt instead. Bring on the Wii.

Dil to Dil Hai (Zindagi Ek Jua) – You know Madhuri is magic because she’s poured into the Bollywood version of tasseled pasties with excellent WonderBra support, topped with an electric blue origami project snugly nestled in her hair (and this is the classiest outfit in the whole film) and she still makes it all work. Even the Parkinsons-inspired dance moves. Which are murder on your neck muscles and general equilibrium in case you were thinking of trying it out.

Main Teri Mohabbat Mein (Tridev) – Sure, Sangeeta Bijlani and Sonam made off with all the more glitzy songs apart from the utterly 80s fabulous Gajar ne Kiya hai Ishaara (turbans! shiny satins! bare bellies! harem pants! villain lair! dastardly villain group song! cages! danger! I’m exclamation-point-ed-out!). But Mads got to explore Sunny Deol’s softer side – remember those days?

O Meri Jaan (Kishen Kanhaiyya) – Okay, this is a terrible song. It really doesn’t belong on any list anywhere. But it makes me laugh. And laugh. And laugh. And…

Idlee Doo (Khel) – Perhaps this was meant to be Madhuri’s Hawa Hawaii moment… except the movie it appeared in was anything but iconic. Plus, let’s face it, there’s a certain level of zany silliness that only Sridevi can pull off. Props for trying, I guess.

Hona Hi Tha (Sailaab) – Everyone remembers the Humko Aajkal Hai song from this movie to the exclusion of everything else. And rightly so, because it’s the best thing about it, frankly. But there’s also this strange song in which Mads is just incredibly pretty.

Pyar Ke Mod Pe (Parinda) – I could spend all day on Youtube if this keeps on, but I couldn’t wrap up without a nod to R.D. Burman, the man who made all of it possible. It’s a bit of a stretch, this one, but I like it and Tumse Milke usually gets all the love.

I bet everyone has plenty more to suggest.


Posted by on August 30, 2009 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Movies, Music, Video


Maybe It’s Comfort Food

There is a phrase that movie people often employ when talking about the budget of indie pics: that their little movie cost less than “the catering budget of [insert random summer special effects-heavy blockbuster]”. And now here’s The Economist saying the same of that movie about alien prawns.

How much do film crews eat anyway? And why does everybody grudge them their food?

[One. Two.]


Posted by on August 29, 2009 in Movies, Video



In honor of Julia and Julie, which I enjoyed very much, not to mention Top Chef coming back on air, I decided to become a sheeple and do a little French cooking this weekend.

After all, I never cook French (unless its soup of some kind – I find that anything with broth in it automatically sounds and tastes better when it’s French) cuisine and I figured it’s about time I give it a whirl. So off I went to find a few recipes to try.

And that’s when I realized why Julia Child was such a phenomenon – because French cooking is laborious! Not hard, mind you. Just intensely time consuming and with a million little finicky things that make you wonder why in God’s name you ever invited this grief upon yourself. Like any other cuisine, you won’t know until you begin but if you’re willing to put in some time, give it some love and refuse to panic or try to kill yourself when things (inevitably) go wrong, I think you should emerge more or less unscathed at the end of it. It also helps if you have some company to eat the results of your hard work unless you love yourself so much, no amount of effort is too much for a solitary meal.

Now I didn’t want to want to make anything too ambitious and I wasn’t in the mood for a souffle (although if you are, then you can’t go wrong with that recipe unless you simply can’t make a roux) – what I really wanted, in fact, was some delicious carbonara and a nice glass of white to wash it down. Or maybe a little homemade gnocchi with mushroom sauce?

But! French!

So what did I finally end up cooking? Er, this delicious frittata that I was sinfully pleased with: just halved the number of eggs to 4, substituted Romano for Montasio cheese and reduced it in proportion to the eggs, and put in some bacon instead of prosciutto. Basically, I made a variation upon a variation. Who cares! It was yummy! And suitably French! That is, until I realized everything about it sounds terribly Italian.

Erm. 😳


Posted by on August 25, 2009 in Life, Video


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Hands Off My Bed


Is there anything worse than having to make your bed?

Don’t get me wrong. I love a freshly made bed and would have new sheets on everyday if I could just bring myself to do it – which I can’t. No, scratch that. I obviously can because there’s no shortage of sheets in my home (lovely, cottony ones that are oh-so-soft to touch in cool, inviting colors. I adore my sheets!) and I have the requisite number of hands but when I weigh my love for crisply folded bed linen that still retains the warmth and aroma of new laundry against the effort required to get it on my bed… yeesh. The amount of laziness that steals over me reaches catatonia levels.

It might be puzzling to some since it’s probably the easiest of all household chores but I’d rather wash the dishes, do the laundry (as long as there’s a washing machine and a dryer, obviously. I draw the line and beating the dirt out of my unoffending clothes by smashing them on a cement block or a bathroom floor or wherever it is they wash clothes the old-fashioned way these days), dust the electronics, arrange the flowers, run to the supermarket or hang new draperies… but put me in front of a bed and I don’t want to have anything to do with it other than crawl in there and go to sleep.

Ah, sleep. I have a cousin who keeps telling me things like “there’s always time to sleep when you’re dead” and other dismal sayings, but I pay him no mind. To have your own bed, of the correct size and firmness, one you chose and tested and bought per your liking, and to sleep in it is one of the greatest pleasures a person can experience. Sleep isn’t something you do to pass away the night hours, it’s your rightful reward for a day spent on your feet (or backside if you work in an office – either / or)!

And to do it in a freshly made bed – the sheets tightly tucked into hospital corners without a wrinkle to mar the surface, the covers cozily folded to form a cocoon to your liking, the pillows plumped and smelling sweetly of your favorite detergent… mmmm. Everything feels so clean! Not in a sterile way, unless you’re into hospital chic for your bedroom, but in a warm, inviting way.

But the real cherry on top is when someone else does all this for you. Anybody can whip the sheets out the linen closet and drag it over the bed for themselves. But when you enter your bedroom to find it all done and waiting for you, it’s like a mini-miracle just took place! Like Santa paid you a visit and instead of getting you some dumb tie or tights or rubbish candy, he made your bed instead! Hooray!

In fact, I’ve often wondered why people have sex in their beds – the world is so full of possibilities if you want to get laid, why would you want to mess up your bed? Do it in the kitchen! Do it on the roof! Do it on the patio and wonder if you’re shocking the neighbors! Rent yourself a hotel room – it’ll be like you’re having an affair!

Cuddle away if you like – although I’d have to be really invested in a relationship before I let someone rub their dead skin cells, eczema, rashes, whatever other gross sheet-violating thing they have on their body, all over my nice, pristine bed – but why disturb the peace of your one sanctuary in the whole world with things that require effort? I mean, you could just lie there and let it all happen without any active participation but if you’re that disinterested, you should learn a very useful word in the English language: “No”.

Hmmm. This might be why I’m single.


Posted by on August 24, 2009 in Personal


“10,000 B.C. in Blue”

That’s what a commenter on AICN thought of this trailer. Hee.

What I can’t understand is why everyone thinks Avatar‘s best introduction is “director James Cameron’s first movie since Titanic“. I was pretty young when that movie came out so I don’t remember, but really? Were the fanboys really into that movie? Is it some kind of guilty geek pleasure?

I was a teenage girl, the prime audience for Titanic, when I saw it and I thought it was terrible. Sure, it had pretty pictures and prettier people. But no movie should be so sweet that it gives you toothache. The only reason I went was because my parents bought the tickets for me as a surprise family outing that they thought would please me – kinda like how everyone buys my niece Hannah Montana stuff because she’s a ten year old girl even though she thinks Miley Cyrus is “an ugly troll who can’t sing”. (Love that kid!)

That song alone would have ruined it for me, but making things worse was that even though Kate Winslet was lovely in it, I was left kind of cold by Leo Di Caprio. Sacrilege, I know, but even today I have no idea what the fuss was all about. But then, the only time I’ve ever liked him is when Martin Scorcese directs so maybe its just my faulty taste buds. In fact, the only good thing about that movie (and I’m not saying this to be mean) was when the boat sank. That, I liked very much. I didn’t even mind that Jack kept dying for 20 minutes after that – it was that well done, I thought.

Oh well. It’s not like I won’t go watch Avatar, even if it does look like “10,000 B.C. in blue”. I paid money for Kambakkht Ishq and Transformers 2. I think its pretty well established by now that I’ll watch anything. But I’ll try and remember that the James Cameron who made my least-favorite romance was also the man who wrote and helmed Aliens. Even if that movie is almost as old as I am.


Posted by on August 21, 2009 in Entertainment, Movies, News, Video


Paranoia As Art


I love letters. I can’t be bothered to write them anymore, of course, and nobody ever writes me any. But the few that I received back in my childhood when my aunts took the trouble to send them in a bid to teach me what my family believed was an important part of civilized living, remain fond possessions. These days it’s usually a one-line email asking me to forward this wonderful cash-making opportunity offered by a Nigerian businessman.

It seems to me that other than scammers, the only people who can be bothered to write letters these days are the nutters. For example:

Yesterday, Wonkette posted this tidbit about some Crazy Lady who wrote an article about President Obama’s mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, in which she alleged that Robinson was literally the in-law from hell because she was practicing witchcraft at the White House.

That’s right – it’s centuries later, and witchcraft is still the go-to accusation when you want to attack a woman apparently! Progress! Yay?

I thought then that the Crazy Lady ought to try her hand at writing melodramas for Lifetime or something because her tale of Marian Robinson’s sad descent to the bowels of Satan-worship is about as mawkish a story as I ever read. It’s like she’s reporting gossip from 17th century Salem live! You know – driven out of her mind by the grief of her husband’s impending death, woeful widow-to-be struggles against fate by selling her soul to the devil despite her family’s pleas… oh, well, as long as you’re going to use a stereotype, you might as well commit to it, eh?

But wait! the story gets better. Because after Wonkette published their take on it, Crazy Lady wrote in! Her letter is… remarkable to say the least. Seriously. You have to read it.

It makes me wonder if someone’s doing an excellent job punking the blogosphere.


Posted by on August 20, 2009 in Newsmakers, Politics


Sometimes It Just Blows

Of all the blowhards that populate tinseltown, I always enjoy reading what Ram Gopal Verma has to say. When Amitabh Bachchan starts ventilating about the myriad ways he’s been done wrong, I think yawnsies. When Salman Khan starts rips the fragile filter off his mouth and gives you a guided tour of the Inner Mind of Khan, I roll my eyes. But when RGV starts ranting about how he feels persecuted and doles out his frank thoughts on the film industry at large, I find it highly entertaining.

For example, his latest movie, Agyaat, a movie I have neither seen nor wish to see, apparently came a cropper at every reviewer’s table, so he unleashed this fantastic screed:

Some Peppermint Tejpal wrote a review in Mumbai Mirror, that is if it can be called a review, posing as if he is the world expert on cinema. If the only qualification of a reviewer is to just have an opinion then I would really like to know the process of a paper choosing and employing a reviewer out of millions of opinion makers. If it’s not about his opinion and it’s about expertise then what is peppermint’s expertise. It would be nothing but him being in love with himself the way he can rip apart a film much more than even his actual hatred for the film…..Also I have no problem in getting one star from sweetie cutie Anupama who thinks “Eklavya” is a classic and the lesser said about the Buffalo Bumzai the better.

Heh. RGV in fury mode absolutely kills me. But somebody needs to tell poor RGV that he’ll never get any traction in this snark business unless he learns to lay off the vitriol. Angry snark is not snark, it’s just a pissed off guy employing sarcasm when what he really wants is to egg the other guy’s house.

Wait a minute – did I just review his rant against reviews? :mrgreen:

Levity aside, I found the premise of his argument rather astonishing in a man of his background. Maybe it makes sense in the context of the people he calls out by name – I don’t know, I never read any of them – but a few points really made me think.

First off, do reviews really matter that much to the bottomline? Although I’ve often come across people who’ll murmur as an aside that the reviews have been scathing about such-and-such film, never have I found someone deterred from watching a movie they were genuinely interested in by negative reviews. And generally speaking, people seem to rely more on word-of-mouth than anything else. Added to this, certain movies, directors and actors are always going to be what they call “review-proof” – a term that RGV ought to be familiar with because he’s certainly worked hard to become one of those people.

Had RGV been a no-name director scrambling for funds who found his debut movie trashed beyond repair by a vengeful cabal of all-powerful critics, I might have understood it better. But while it can’t be pleasant to wake up one morning and find the newspapers full of terrible reviews of your work, as RGV points out himself, his bottomline is perfectly fine. Perhaps more people might have flocked to see Agyaat if it had cornered better notices but nothing anybody had to say ultimately mattered to its core audience of RGV- and horror-fans.

And yet, it’s always the review-proof directors who really get their knickers in a twist over the bad reviews. Look at Stephen Sommers, a man who routinely makes movies that cost tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars to produce and market because the studios know he’ll bring in that kind of revenue even in the middle of a recession and he might well be RGV’s twin:

On the most popular movies of the last decade, the reviews have gotten more vicious, more personal. These critics have become a dying breed, and part of it is how much more vicious and personal they’ve become. They attack the directors, personally.

So much for “Indian” reviewers then. The whole rotten tribe of them is evil! They live to persecute poor little directors who only wish to bring joy to the deprived masses.

When RGV, a man who famously began making movies because he couldn’t stop sampling the merchandise in his video lending library, writes:

“The purpose of a review could be to warn a viewer of how a film is and probably to prepare a mindset. But does anybody believe that this alone would be the intention of any of the reviewers.”

it really strikes me as odd that he doesn’t for one minute believe that perhaps the reason why reviewers review movies is for the same reason that he used to once watch movies in his store – because they like them.

“It’s not a critic’s job to reflect box office taste,” writes Roger Ebert in a post that reads as though it might have been written explicitly as a reply to RGV and his brethren. “The job is to describe my reaction to a film, to account for it, and evoke it for others. The job of the reader is not to find his opinion applauded or seconded, but to evaluate another opinion against his own.”

That said, since I don’t actually know any of the people RGV targets for his ire, I could well be mistaken. Perhaps the majority of movie-reviewers out there really hate the movies and want people to stop watching them and are cursing every day the cruelty of a fate that condemns them to watch cinema for a living. Perhaps their job truly is to “warn” others and “prepare” them for what lies in wait.

But for argument’s sake let’s say there are at least a couple of them out there who enjoy what they do. So why then do they write a “bad review”?

Maybe, just maybe, because the movie sucked. As simple as that.

And really, if RGV wants to see what truly excoriating reviews look like, he should call up Michael Bay. Here’s sample of the kind of things he had to hear about his latest moneyspinner: “Michael Bay has once again transformed garbage into something resembling a film, at least in the loosest sense: it can be run through a projector and used to sell millions of tickets.”

[PS: This whole brouhaha actually reminded me of that goodbye note Stu VanAirsdale penned for Defamer, in which he talked about the limitations of snark:

It also made me lazy. “If I talk to you,” John Cusack began an interview last May, “will you stop writing nasty shit about me?” I didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about, but I learned soon enough, rediscovering some tossed-off, machine-feeding item about his upcoming film 2012. Just stupid. And there were others like it — maybe even hundreds of them, too embarrassing to exhume now, but apparently not too awful to stop, you know, doing. They continued unabated, in fact, until a couple weeks ago, when one of the less egregious examples prompted a commenter to ask sincerely, “Do you like anything?”

It was a piece that resonated with me because I’d had a similar sort of epiphany myself not long before he wrote it. About a year or so into writing Hindi film music reviews for this blog, I arrived at a point where I began to actively dislike even the thought of writing them because they were fast making me hate everything my eye fell upon. I stand by every single one of them but at a certain point, when you’ve eagerly plugged in to the latest album only to find it as ridiculous as the last one, you start to wonder if your life is just going to be one long stretch of horrible. Which is why, to those who still ask, I no longer write music reviews. There’s plenty of snark-worthy stuff out there, it just wearies me to point it out when there’s so many other things I could snark about to better effect.]


Posted by on August 19, 2009 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Movies, Newsmakers, Video