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When We Are Family No Longer

When <i>We Are Family</i> No Longer

“Do you remember So-and-So?” my mother asked. “Auntie Such-and-such’s daughter?”
“No,” I said. I never did.
“We went to her wedding,” Ma reminded me.
In all my life, I’ve never wanted to attend the wedding of anybody. Consequently, I do my best to forget all about them as soon as decently possible. “Nope.”
So, of course, Ma proceeds to give me all the details. It took place at that venue, I wore that dress, I argued against it this long, and this funny thing happened when we got there.
“Oh yeah, I remember,” I say at last, just so she’d stop. “What about it?”
“Well, she got divorced.”
I thought about it. “Wait, didn’t this take place last week or something?”
“Three months,” she sighed. “She apparently doesn’t want to relocate.”
“She didn’t know she’d have to move before they got married?” I asked.
“That’s what I said!” Ma said, pleased to hear me display proper feeling for once.
“Is that long enough for her to keep the wedding gifts?” I asked. A girl’s gotta know these things, just in case.

At one point in our lives as young things, it appeared that the average life expectancy of a marriage amongst people of our generation was roughly one year. I do not speak of celebrities with their Las Vegas prank weddings or whatever – I’m talking about people as ordinary as you and I.

Cousins married their long-term partners and were divorced within months; friends had carefully arranged marriages that collapsed before the first anniversary. It was a freaking epidemic and for a while there in the mid-Noughties, this was all that concerned uncles and aunties could talk about: Why Can’t Our Children Stay Married? Things got so bad, my best friend’s grandmother felt compelled to take her aside and inform her that not all marriages were like these. Some actually did survive and hers might well be one of these, so she shouldn’t get turned off the whole idea, OK?

To this day, I feel like congratulating people my age who got married in their early 20s and are still making it work. The point being, divorce is no longer an exotic experience for a great many Indians, especially of the urban variety. There are a number of people out there who’re starting out on their second (or more) marriages, some of them with kids.

Now back in the day, at least as far as I’ve observed in my own family, when a couple got divorced despite the intense social stigma attached to the condition in that era, it generally did not point towards an amicable separation. You really had to loathe the other person to your very core and have a family who hated them right along with you before you could even think about dissolving your marriage.

And once you took that step, in nine cases out of ten, the mother might as well have been widowed because the father just disappeared. I know men who haven’t had any contact with their kids in thirty or forty years even though the children live in the same city as them, move in the same circles and pretty much live down the street. Wife gone, kids went with her.

Not that it was any better when the father won custody. Because then, the mother disappeared instead and was replaced within a matter of minutes by a stepmother who was then expected to carry the full responsibility of someone else’s kids.

Somewhere in the middle of all this are the kids, stuck in a limbo where they’re expected to play along to this game of parental musical chairs and keep any objections they might have to themselves or their psychiatrists if they have such a huge problem with it. Imagine growing up watching your parents battle it out, until one day your father just disappears, a new one shows up, you get a new surname, and presto! this is your new reality and nobody wants to talk about your old one, except this is India and everybody knows about it and you know they’re talking about it all the time behind your back.

It is bizarre. And awful. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt by imagining that they simply didn’t have an approved template of behavior for situations like these back then but…

These days, however, things are a lot better. The people I know who’ve separated despite having children are definitely making an effort to remain involved in their kids’ lives. I still hear about absent fathers and mothers who’ve been supplanted by grandmothers / stepmothers, but unlike the older cases, this is uncommon in my immediate circle at least. Baby steps.

Produced by Karan Johar, Siddharth Malhotra’s We Are Family, a remake of the Susan Sarandon-Ed Harris-Julia Roberts starrer Stepmom, is rooted in this new reality with decidedly mixed results.

Maya (Kajol) and Aman (Arjun Rampal) have been divorced for three years and have settled into an amicable relationship in which Maya does all the parenting while Aman plays support during weekends and special occasions. On his days off from being a dad, Aman has a sexy romance going with Shreya (Kareena Kapoor), a klutzy career woman who doesn’t know much about kids.

You understand early on that while Aman loves his children – Aliya (Aachal Munjal), Ankush (Nominath Ginsberg) and Anjali (Diya Sonecha) – they are not his priority; and the reason he can get away with that is because Maya’s life centers around them. His recognition of her superior parenting skills comes off as  relief that there is a real adult in charge of the unpleasant things. It’s a dynamic that works for them but is thrown into instant confusion the moment a third person shows up to share responsibility.

“I don’t want to be your mother,” Shreya says. “You already have a mother.” It’s the extremely correct thing to say, of course, but the fact is when the kids are at their father’s for the weekend, their father’s partner will be an authority figure in their mother’s absence.

And despite her best intentions, this is the reality that bites at Maya after she invites Shreya into their home with the idea of training her as her replacement. Maya has already had to accept that she is officially her husband’s ex; now she has to stand by and watch as her kids leave her behind and move into the future with the same woman who’s taken her position in Aman’s life. Even supermoms aren’t that saintly. Maybe especially supermoms.

Kareena, as the somewhat reluctant other woman, is pretty darn good, particularly when Shreya is calling out Maya and Aman on their respective blind spots. She stands up to the Kajol juggernaut and comes out unscathed, which is more than you can say for poor, delicious Arjun Rampal.

Rampal, yummy as ever, mystifyingly chooses to underplay his role by cutting his expressions in half, leaving him with just one: tortured. Maybe it’s because he knew the women were kicking his ass all over the place. Aman furtively slinks about the place, hoping nobody would set him chores, and even leaves it to Maya to inform the kids about her illness. Of course, the one time he has something pertinent to say, he chooses the absolute worst moment. Aman is just That Guy and, as far as that goes, Rampal nails it.

Kajol, obviously, walks away with the movie. She is, by turns, perfect as the Mama Bear, the jealous ex-wife, the bitchy housemate, and the shattered cancer patient. She even cuts into the ham in the hospital scenes.

And unlike the rest of the cast, she only annoyed me a little bit at the end when the interminable Okay-Let’s-Hurry-Up-And-Wait-To-Die segment began, festooned with large helpings of cheese. Which, I realize, is the reason why I disliked Stepmom as well, even if Susan Sarandon didn’t get to float about in a starry sky.

Should have listened to Aliya when she said she didn’t want to do it, movie. Smart cookie that one.


Posted by on September 3, 2010 in Entertainment, Life, 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!


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


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Minus the Stripper Heels…

Okay, now she’s just fucking with us.


Posted by on July 23, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment


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The Kind of Parenthood I Like

The Kind of <i>Parenthood</i> I Like

I’m easy. Tell me a show has Lauren Graham and Peter Krause in it, and I’ll at least give it a try. Even if it does sound like Brother & Sisters : Berkeley. I mean, Brothers & Sisters is a show that needs to die already, it should not be setting up a franchise, even through coincidence. Early buzz likening it to Modern Family a.k.a. Brothers & Sisters: Los Angeles, Ha Ha. wasn’t really doing it any favors where I was concerned either.

Turns out Parenthood, despite its meh-tastic title and been-there-done-that premise, is a lot better to watch than it sounds on paper. This is one of those shows where you shouldn’t read the spoilers or the episode descriptions because it will remind you of terrible moments in your family and drastically reduce your motivation to watch. (Go ahead and read my review though coz I already wrote it and you’re here so you might as well.)

Based on the movie directed by the series’ co-producer Ron Howard, Parenthood follows Team Braverman: three generations of a sprawling, squabbling, but ultimately devoted California family.

Yeah, you never heard that one before. I know.

The ensemble cast features everyone from old hands like Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia as the grandparents with a 46-year marriage in crisis to Dax Shepherd who is a pleasant surprise as the man child Crosby-the-third-sibling who has responsibility suddenly thrust upon him in the guise of the adorable love child he never knew existed (Tyree Brown). Everyone gets their moment in the sun but the characters who really take center stage, though, are the other three Braverman siblings.

Peter Krause (Sports Night, Six Feet Under, the only good part of Dirty Sexy Money – a show that, alas, was none of those things) plays the eldest Braverman. His father calls him a hero, the family’s “fixer-upper”; younger brother Crosby calls him Dudley Do Right; I call him yummy. But really, when in trouble, everyone calls Adam.

The series begins with Adam and his wife Kristina (Monica Potter) realizing that their son Max (Max Burkholder – previously sighted in another part of California as Rob Lowe’s son on the Brothers & Sisters set) has Asperger’s – a diagnosis that leaves their teenage daughter Haddie (Sarah Ramos) unsurprised. In spite of being “perfect”, her whole life has been hostage to Max’s difficult behavior.

While Adam is trying to deal with his son’s illness and trying not to ignore Haddie just because she’s the easier kid, his sister Sarah (Lauren Graham), broke and looking for a fresh start, moves back into their parents’ home with her two kids. Sarah is a more beat-up version of Graham’s beloved Lorelai Gilmore, without the scary smart kid whose big problem is choosing Yale over Harvard and deciding which cute, obscenely rich preppie to date. Alright, alright – blasphemy. I’ll say no more.

[Digression: I should note here that while the combination of Krause and Graham was what initially drew me to this series, I also found their pairing distracting. Their scenes crackle with chemistry and not of the brother-sister kind. I keep waiting for them to make out and they never do! Fanfic seems to be my only option now. That video with Maura Tierney is such an intriguing possibility.]

With a couple of attention-starved, messed-up kids (Mae Whitman and Miles Heizer), a deadbeat ex and just a high school diploma, Sarah is the Sliding Doors version of Lorelai, being constantly reminded of all her wrong choices.

One of her biggest reminders is the youngest Braverman – Julia (Erika Christensen) the ambitious corporate lawyer who is bringing up a teensy cherub (Savannah Paige Rae) with her stay at home husband Joel (Sam Jaeger) who just happens to be the pin up fantasy of all the local moms.

Just as Adam and Kristina have to deal with the complexities of raising an autistic child while simultaneously acting as the anchor of the family or fragile Sarah has to deal with being a single parent to two needy children who aren’t absolutely sure she wants them given her tendency to dissolve into tears and moan what a terrible mess she’s made of her life, Julia and Joel have to deal with the stress brought on by gender role reversal. As committed and on-point as they are with their choices, they’re constantly battling the perceptions of outsiders and what it means to be “mom”, “dad”, “man”, “woman”, etc. Especially when their daughter makes her preference for the primary care giver, i.e. Joel, clear.

Parenthood can be relentlessly on message – life is hard! especially for people with kids! – but it can also be warm and familiar when everyone comes together. Written by Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights – and it’s eerie when you see that signature hand held, slice of Americana, grit in your eye, style creep into these California scenes), this is a show about people bringing up their kids but also vice versa. It’s about how you never stop being your parents’ kid but there comes a point when you look across at that familiar face and realize that that is not just “Mom” or “Dad” but a real, live human being.

It’s about your siblings driving you crazy but you can’t handle it when someone else agrees with you. It’s about keeping secrets when you know it won’t do any good and sooner or later everyone’s going to know – in the strictest confidence, of course. It’s about jostling for attention and how it never stops. It’s about the people you call when you’re in trouble even if two seconds ago you were sure you would hate them till the day you died.

It’s about family. And it’s good.

None of you listened to me about Friday Night Lights so why don’t you check out this somewhat-happier, somewhat sunnier version?


Posted by on June 17, 2010 in Entertainment, Review, Television, Video


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Kites: Cut Me

<i>Kites</i>: Cut Me

If you’ve ever seen a beautiful horse put through its paces and thought to yourself, “Hmmm, I wonder if you could do that with pretty people?” then boy, do you have a treat in store for you! It’s called Kites, a movie starring the extremely delicious Hrithik Roshan, directed by Anurag Basu (Murder, Gangster) and produced by Rakesh Roshan a.k.a. Papa Roshan a.k.a. The Only Man Alive Who Knows Exactly How to Use Hrithik to Best Effect.

In the first half hour: see Hrithik in pain! see Hrithik’s amazing green eyes! see Hrithik stagger! affectingly! see Hrithik charm! while chewing a matchstick (?)! see Hrithik dance! jaw-droppingly astoundingly! (Shahid Kapoor go home!) see Hrithik scared! cutely! see Hrithik scared! by a creepy feely Bad Man! see Hrithik fall in love! see Hrithik be a gentleman! see Hrithik swim! see Hrithik lounging on a yacht in a lifestyle ad of the kind made by tobacco companies who can’t advertise their cancerous product! see Hrithik underwater! see Hrithik con! effortlessly! see Hrithik smile! see Hrithik in formal wear! see Hrithik walk! And do all of this in slow motion and extreme close up. (The way you like it, don’t lie!)

About the only thing Hrithik doesn’t do a lot of, in fact, is talk. Which is not a bad thing as he’s supposed to be an Indian-American grifter in Las Vegas and let’s face it, that’s just a Salman Khan-comparison trap waiting to happen. I mean, that’s your heads-I-win-tails-you-lose scenario right there. When he does speak, he puts it to good use. “Honeymoon extra!” he says tantalizingly at one point. Jokes! Or have we finally gotten a Bollywood gigolo we can all get behind? Ahem. Metaphorically speaking, I mean.

Filling in the silence is a fair amount of muzak and voiceover as he explains his down-on-his-luck status and why he’s marrying random women for money to counter it. The movie uses the silences to great effect: the early Hrithik was notable (to me, anyway) for his dismaying dedication to the !Face! method of acting, in which he quivered facial muscles I don’t think science has yet discovered in order to convey emotions like “hello”. He’s largely gotten over it (his face probably went on strike after Yaadein. Or that under-disccused epic, Main Prem ki Deewani Hoon, whichever came later) and in the silence of Kites, his expressions are finally fighting in their own class.

In fact, I was honestly impressed to note that in this movie he actually manages to wipe his face of all expression in a scene or two, confining himself to a faint frown at the most. I know that sounds snarky, but I have seldom been more serious. “Wooden” is not his problem. I think we can safely chalk this up as another win under Papa Roshan’s unchallenged champion status as The Only Man Alive Who Knows Exactly How to Use Hrithik to Best Effect.

Now that we’re all in the same hormone frenzy, comes the next 100 minutes. In which J Ray (that’s right, Hrithik Roshan’s character got rejected from The Jersey Shore) and Linda (Barbara Mori), try to give the slip to the insane and insanely rich siblings Tony (Nicholas Brown) and Gina (Kangana Ranaut) after certain life-altering, event-complicating passions come to the fore. There are shadow puppets, car chases, explosions, slow motion montages galore, rain, sweet exchanges of love, touching backstories, make out sessions in the wild, promises of everlasting love in three languages, Yuri Suri and Kabir Bedi in effective cameos, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

You’ll either eat it all with a spoon and beg for seconds, or you’ll sit there for the last half hour bothering the person in the next seat by jiggling your legs, fidgeting in your seat, breathing heavily, checking the time, sighing loudly, and generally acting the nuisance until an annoyed auntie with tears streaming down her face and samosas on her breath turns around and tells you to shush.

But if you do decide to check it out, take my word for it and please do it in the theater. Kites is one of the most visually pleasing movies I’ve ever seen and only half the credit for that goes to Hrithik Roshan. The other half is all on the excellent camera crew, which includes directors of photography Ayananka Bose, Steve Koster and Jacques Haitkin. So if you’re planning to catch this on DVD, throw it a bone and watch it on the big screen: even if you walk out hating the movie, you’ll have had the full-screen experience.

So pretty!


Posted by on May 24, 2010 in Entertainment, Movies, Review, Video


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The Khanna Element

The Khanna Element

[From Qurbani: Earth, with Wind, on Water, facing Fire]

What kind of woman are you, asks this vintage ad. This Khanna-o-Rama the question to be asked is: what kind of Khanna are you?

EARTH – sensual, elemental, and in touch with reality.

Dude. In a pink jumpsuit. Also in daffodil-yellow, brick orange, dusty blue and spangled capes. With the gayest swordsmaster since Errol Flynn disappointed Truman Capote in bed. And still finds a way to roar. You know how? Coz that’s the only way the Alpha rolls.

By the time he met up with the original Mogambo of Hindi filmdom though, he’d got the hop under strict control.

WIND – setting things in motion, light and airy!

Aww! He’s like a little kid at dance camp with his favoritest star! Look at him skipping along the side of the road with Mads Dixit in her safety-first reflective gear.

But as you see from the above, all it was doing, was setting the stage for this, the greatest Khanna dance vid ever shot.

RAIN – gentle, softly stated and refreshing!

Yes, that is the famous Elaan – a movie that brought together John Abraham, Arjun Rampal, Lara Dutta, Amisha Patel and Kama Khanna… and then made them dance to a song called “Anderloo Manderloo, tu rota why?”.

File this under “shit you couldn’t make up if you tried”. I could watch this movie all day long. Not to mention Rahul’s dancing. :mrgreen:

FIRE – melting the ice, lighting up the place.

And how.

Demonstrating the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree (although it’s taken a few diving lessons):

[Ad via Jezebel]

[Pic via The Most Delicious Indian Twitter]


Posted by on May 10, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Movies, Video


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Alpha, Beta, Kama

Alpha, Beta, Kama

The major fun of Khanna-o-Rama for me is that I get to trawl through tons of Khannatastic pics and videos. And when I do, I always wonder: who did it better? My kneejerk response is “Vinod!” but the Khannas play on such different fields (mostly), I thought that was unfair. Here then, is a chance to compare and contrast.

All dodgy mathematics are my own.


Alpha: Man ka Meet (1968)

The Huh: All I know is that IMDB says this is the movie in which Vinod made his debut. (+0)
The Yay: Look at the cool stuff going on with that song! A very young Leena Chandravarkar with oblivious musicians in a fez hat in the middle of a tastefully appointed dancing hall with a lady bartender. (+10)
The Nay: Som Dutt is the hero and not a glimpse of Vinod in sight. Boo! (-1)
Total: 9

Beta: Himalaya Putra (1997)

The Huh: Uh. Stuff? (-10)
The Yay: “I’m a bachelor, I’m alone and I’m sick. I want a girl who says she loves me. With black eyes and swear words on her lips, that’s the kind of girl I can’t wait to meet,” Warbled the snaggletoothed Akshaye. Could Jane Austen come up with words this immortal? I think NOT. (+200)
The Nay: Anjala Zaveri (remember her?) is just blah. But she gets Akshaye in a swimsuit! (-10 + 10)
Total: 190

Kama: Earth (1998)

The Huh: Religious strife is bad. As is stealing Aamir Khan’s girl after killing all the women in his family (+10)
The Yay: He’s sort of charming in a mute way. (+1)
The Nay: Did I mention the mute part? (-10)
Total: 1

Selling Soap

Alpha: Running with horse

The Huh: He’s a beast. Rawr! (+10)
The Yay: Look at him leaping through the waves, bursting with virility, his wild mane giving that horse an inferiority complex, expending the hotness so he doesn’t set his tux on fire. (+100)
The Nay: Comments on Youtube – “Vinod Khanna runs like LION”; “Nowadays it would be considered gay.”  (-1000 to Youtube commenters)
Total: 110

Beta: I’m Better than That

The Huh: Akshaye Khanna is an artiste. He doesn’t do ads. He does PSAs. On film. (+10)
The Yay: He got Upen Patel off the screen. (+20)
The Nay: It’s still 36 China Town (-100)
Total: -70

Kama: Soothing Muppets

The Huh: He’s a good daddy to an adorable little booboo. Aww! (+10)
The Yay: My ovaries! (+200)
The Nay: Will he know what to do with my ovaries? This has always been my sticking point with Kama Khanna (-10)
Total: 200

The Pain

Alpha: This is How We Do It

The Huh: If you haven’t seen Achanak and are spoiler averse, don’t play the above video (+0)
The Yay: He goes from lighthearted to heartbreaking in two seconds flat (+20)
The Nay: Where did the happy go? (+10)
Total: 30

Beta: Sure, I’ll Give it a Shot

The Huh: He screwed up. (-10)
The Yay: Awww, look at that sweet little face. It says, “Love me”. (+20)
The Nay: He’s a heartbroken rollerskater (-10)
Total: 0

Kama: Why You No Love Me?

The Huh: Never date any of these people. (-10)
The Yay: He’s cute when he cries (+5)
The Nay: How many times did I want to slap him upside the head? (-50)
Total: -55

Bring the Sexy

Alpha: Slurpee

The Huh: Nayakan in Hindi. (+0)
The Yay: He’s old, he’s saggy, he’s clearly past the glory days of his swim trunks. But the man can sell it. Way better than his kids too. (+20)
The Nay: From the discerning Youtube commenter – “Babajee, kuch bhagwan ka khauf karo.” Um. I want to hate on him but he’s got a point. Mads is, like, painfully young in that flick. (-10)
Total: 10

Beta: I Want My Mommy!

The Huh: A half-baked remake of Send Me No Flowers. Like Rock Hudson hadn’t suffered enough. (-150)
The Yay: This clip is fairly representative of the genius of this film. Watching Mallika and Akshaye together is like the most fascinating of trainwrecks. (+50)
The Nay: Not even snark can carry you over half an hour of this movie. (-100)
Total: -200

Kama: I Take Suggestions

The Huh: People in ancient times liked to have sex too. (+10)
The Yay: You just knew he’d be a sensitive lover. (+20)
The Nay: Aamir looks like he’d be better. (-10)
Total: 20

[Thanks to Roswitha for the title :mrgreen:]

[pic via]


Posted by on May 6, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Movies, Video


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Quantum of Holy Fuck!


Little did Winston Churchill know, but when he said

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air… whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender

he could well have been talking about the exploits of a fictional British secret agent called James Bond. Quantum of Solace might be a celebrated 106 minutes long, but not only does our favorite martini-swiller find the time to do all of the above, but he manages to sex up a naive plot point, attend the opera, blow things up in Italy, Bolivia and Russia in addition to France and get his buddy at the CIA a promotion. That he does all of this while sharing with a grateful audience the recipe for his favorite drink and taking out the man ultimately responsible for doing him wrong, is just a measure of his cool.

Don’t worry, I haven’t spoiled the movie for you. You could read the script with Daniel Craig’s little notations in the margins and it still wouldn’t ruin this movie. Reason? Because it’s awesome.

‘Awesome’ as in it blew my mind. Not because the whole damn thing is a rollercoaster that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Not because I’m so shocked that they managed to keep that arthouse chic of Casino Royale ticking in its sequel.

‘Awesome’ because it remains true to its genre while subtly probing the mind of the cold bastard at the center of the movie. As Bond deals with the fallout of his love affair with Vesper Lynd in the previous installment, you get the feeling that you’re no longer watching a movie about “Bond: The Early Years”, you’re watching “Bond: The Making Of”. If you haven’t watched Casino Royale then perhaps this might not make much sense – and you arguably wouldn’t be missing much subtext. But if you have, then this movie is the epilogue of that conversation between Vesper and Bond on the beach in the first film.

I, for one, am thrilled that I got to watch Bond learn the lesson he learns in Quantum of Solace. It makes me feel much better about the crush I’ve had on him – if “sonofabitch” is a personality trait, then Bond clearly arrived at it honestly.

PS – if they wanted to bring back Olga Kurylenko down the road, I wouldn’t mind it at all. Now that Bond’s her father figure. *koff*



Posted by on November 15, 2008 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Movies, Review


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Romancing with Life

Nothing can quite prepare you for Romancing with Life, Dev Anand’s autobiography. All the reviews, the excerpts, the interviews, the soundbytes – all of it, including this post, becomes ultimately comparable to describing a rainbow for a blind man.

Consider this: At the very outset of this rather blog-style narrative, he tells you that his ultimate aim in writing his memoirs is to reduce the reader to a state of complete adoration for him, The Star. Anything else, he informs us, wouldn’t be worth his time and effort or befit his status as the beloved of millions. He then proceeds to dole out (sometimes graphic) anecdotes about his sexual exploits with married women, his own adulterous affairs, his jealousies, his despondencies, his vague spiritual flights of fancy (if you’ve seen Guide, you know what it is), and a laundry list of people he’s met in all the places he’s been. All of which make it increasingly difficult for you to feel anything even resembling the blatant adoration that he feels is his due.

Occasionally he writes of little incidents that have could possibly have been heartwarming in the right hands like the time his daughter cut her hand and he took her to the doctor in tears – once the trauma is over and the screaming little baby is all stitched up and soothed, she automatically sticks her thumb in her mouth. But after informing us in great detail about his suffering over her pain, he ends the little tale with the information that he later made Zeenat Aman (or rather the child who played the younger Zeenie) suck her thumb in Hare Rama Hare Krishna. The audience quite liked it, he assures us.

There are quite a few anecdotes like this one – the one in which he begins Navketan Films for the sake of his brother Chetan Anand is another one that sticks in my mind – but they all wind up making you grateful that you weren’t the recipient of his magnanimity. For instance, by the time we learn, rather early on, that Chetan repaid his younger brother’s magnanimity by eventually looking at him as the problem not the solution, you can’t help but feel there must have been something to it for Dev is already beginning to sound like a man you would rather not be indebted to – not because he’s a monster but because he wouldn’t understand that his idea of a kindness and yours might be considerably different.

But these are secondary things, as are his memories of his various colleagues and the films he made. The main theme of this book is Dev Anand’s love life, forever chased by a horde of panty-flinging women everywhere he goes.

It starts early on, as we meet a young, shy, and beautiful Dev, much cosseted by his family, a bit of a Peeping Tom and tortured by his unrequited love for the prettiest and smartest girl in his class who doesn’t even know he’s alive. Instead, he’s relentlessly pursued by another girl for whom he has no use – she’s “dark-skinned” and “smell[ed] of sex” and likes to chase him into secluded corners where she can plant one on his unwilling lips. I might have felt bad for him if he hadn’t all but drawn a diagram of a boner on the page with a neon arrow pointing to it.

The older Dev, according to his autobiography, is still shy and beautiful. However, we don’t see any of that shyness once he starts fooling around with (mostly married) women. The more successful he becomes, the greater the frenzy amongst women for a little taste of him. They throng around him, demand to act opposite him, kiss him, giggle at his jokes, exchange a great deal of tedious (and tediously recorded) banter and occasionally sleep with him until pesky things like husbands and children interfere.

I felt uncomfortable precisely twice – once when he described his first extended sexual encounter up to and including oral sex (my eyes!! my eyes!!) and secondly when he described his “courtship” of his wife Kalpana Karthik a.k.a. Mona. The way he describes the latter leaves the impression that Mona, dazzled by all the shiny toys he owned, pretty much begged him to marry her while he used her to get out a deep funk that was interfering with his work and life, getting stuck in the relationship before he could figure out a graceful way to end things in the absence of a waiting husband and pitiful children wailing for mommy at home.

The payoff for it, as far as I’m concerned, comes in an incredibly funny sequence towards the end of the book when Mona finds an injured Dev lying in bed studying some “sexy” blow ups of Richa Sharma, the future Mrs. Sanjay Dutt (although none of them knew it at the time) whom he first meets as a winsome 13 year old wannabe actress whom he invites into his hotel room in New York. Glaring at him without a word, Mona gathers up the photos and spitefully puts them where he can’t reach them with his broken ribs in a cast. Which makes him mutter to himself, “Why you gotta do me like this woman? Didn’t I always come home at the end of the day and sleep in my own bed?” I paraphrase. And then he painfully drags himself out of his bed, gets the pictures, triumphantly pores over them and hides them away in his bedside drawer where no one else could get at them.

Thus, it’s perhaps predictable that the only two times he ever actively pursues a woman (we’ll skate over his man-crush on Jawaharlal Nehru), it’s both tragic and unintentionally hilarious.

They’re falling in love right there!

The first is Suraiya, who wins his heart at the first meeting by carefully refraining from disturbing his puff (that thing on the front of his head? It’s known as the puff. So now you know). He rewards her by bestowing a fond nickname on her – “Nosey” because her only “defect” is her long nose – and soon he’s channeling Barbara Cartland. I’m not kidding. If you ever read Cartland’s description of an orgasm, then you’ll know how Dev Anand thinks of cuddling his chaste beloved. However, Suraiyya’s grandmother, whom he hilariously calls “granny” throughout the episode, wasn’t about to let her little baby marry some Hindu with a puff in his hair and Suraiyya was convinced to throw her feelings for him along with his very expensive ring into the sea. She never married and he rebounded with Mona. The (miserable) end.

Where are the rustic boobies?

The second was Zeenat Aman whom he impressed by bumming a cigarette from her so he could blow smoke in her face. Once she was dazed by it, he dragged her off to Nepal to watch Mumtaz act so she’d know what to do in front of the camera and hey presto! Hare Krishna Hare Rama was made. Once that got over, he took her to South India, stuck her in a bikini, posed her in a hammock, rescued his fly away cap from the “bulging breasts” of some village belle surprised to see what a freak dust storm had blown her way… and just when he was about to declare his love for her, went to a party and found a bloated, drunken Raj Kapoor discreetly feeling her up. “Humiliated”, he went back home and tried to think happy thoughts.

I think I’m supposed to feel bad for him but I couldn’t really concentrate with my skin crawling at the thought of that scene – the young sexy woman and the two old men jousting over her. It’s nothing I didn’t know before, but it’s still creepy as all hell.

And yet… in the middle of all this there is a note of sincerity and honesty. He has nothing but praise for his contemporaries, especially Dilip Kumar and Ashok Kumar, the man he calls his idol. It’s true he gives them about as much space in the book as some random pretty girl who blows him a kiss on the street but I believe him when he says he cared/cares for them, as well as Kishore Kumar and Guru Dutt, a great deal.

Generally speaking, Indian movie stars simply don’t do things of this sort (for good reason it turns out) but not only do I think Dev Anand wrote this book on his own but I think he made a conscious effort to be as frank as he could be.

The oddities of this book emanate from its author, for it becomes increasingly clear that over the past sixty years or so Dev Anand has devoted himself to his image as a movie star to such an extent that it’s managed to completely imprison him. There is always an unconscious whiff of a man who has spent a great deal of his time in front of a mirror trying to divine what it is that others see in him, and not being able to spot it himself, has arrived at his own (inaccurate) conclusions.

He wears a hat and dangles his “goggles” because he thinks of them as a sort of calling card, a part of his silhouette that announces to the world “Here Stands Dev Anand, Movie Star”; he nods his head and smiles a special smile for special people that he’s convinced is his “most charming smile”; he believes in the infallibility of his cinematic taste where every failure at the box office is the fault of the little people who lag behind his own exquisite sensibility; and lacking any real demons to fight, he gives a splendid speech highlighting his unique position in the film industry to a flummoxed set of film association people who didn’t appreciate his sticking up for the media at a time when they’d all decided to boycott what they called its yellow journalism.

As I reached the end of the book, I was about as far away from adoration as you could get. But what I did want to do, was take him by the hand and tell him it’s okay – he’ll always be Dev Anand even if he loses the scarf and the goggles and doesn’t nod his head… or chat up women young enough to be his granddaughter.


Posted by on August 21, 2008 in Books, Celebrity, Entertainment, Review


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Nightmares and Cakes

So here’s what I learned this weekend – if you watch The Dark Knight and follow it up by gorging on a six ingredient cake of which four ingredients are eggs, cream, sugar and rum, you will then dream of Amisha Patel singing songs from Mamma Mia on a Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham set (complete with diffused lighting) before Batman saves her from the machinations of two random dudes who’re in cahoots with Dr. Evil just as she launches into a Lara Croft impersonation and swings from a chandelier to save the cast of Battlestar Galactica – and then you’ll wake up in a pool of drool with a tummy ache.


My Auntie S’s cake is meant to be eaten with extreme caution. It’s officially called The Burnt Sugar Cake and informally as “Auntie S’s cake” but I prefer what my mother calls it – the cream and sugar cake. Because that’s basically all there is in it, with a little flour to hold it all together. The directions below are written in a language called “Baking for Dummies” because that’s pretty much my level of baking. Believe me, if I could make this thing, so can you! It’s the world’s easiest cake and I’ve never ever come across a single person who didn’t love it (duh! it’s pure fat, of course everybody loves it). In fact, a little less love and I wouldn’t be sitting here right now feeling like crap. Oh well, it’s like drinking – at least I enjoyed it while it lasted.


Eggs – 4

Cream – 2 cups

Sugar – 2 cups (powdered) + 3/4 cup (granulated)

Flour – 2 cups

Baking powder – 1 level tsp

Boiling water – 1/2 cup

Dark Rum – 1/3 cup (optional but I prefer it and it burns off while baking so you don’t have to worry about kids)

Vanilla extract – 1 tsp (optional)

Walnuts / Almonds / Raisins / Cashews – a handful, roughly chopped (optional)


Beat powdered sugar and eggs in a food processor. You can use a Kitchen Aid or electric whisk but you don’t want this to be too aerated so if you have a food processor go for it. When eggs and sugar have combined (about two – three minutes), add cream (thirty seconds). Pour into mixing bowl. Sift flour and baking powder together; add a few spoons at a time to the egg and cream mixture, stirring to combine.

In a separate pan, pour the granulated sugar on high heat and let it melt. When the sugar caramelizes and turns liquid, stir a little until all the sugar is melted and the color turns dark brown. When it starts to bubble and froth, add half a cup of boiling water and turn off the heat once the mixture stops hissing. Stand back and be careful when adding the water.

Cool the caramelized sugar – and no, lukewarm is not fine – and pour into the cake batter. Add vanilla, rum and lastly any nuts or raisins as per your taste. (I like walnuts with this. It’s almost unbearably rich but yummy!) Stir gently.

Pour into buttered, floured pan (if you don’t know what that is – take a little butter in a warm, dry cake pan, swirl it around so every inside surface is coated, drain excess butter if any, and dust it lightly with flour, shaking the pan free of any excess amounts). Bake at 180 C or 350 F for 45 minutes, check every five minutes after half an hour. When top is a rich dark brown and knife inserted in center comes out clean, cake is ready.

This is not a cake that needs or wants icing but if you want to prettify it further, hold a sieve over it and sprinkle powdered sugar. You can eat it warm or do what I do – slice and chill overnight and eat it cold. Bliss.

What I particularly love about this recipe, apart from it’s sheer lack of complications, is that it’s so forgiving. As long as you have an oven, a cake pan and the ingredients at hand, you can eyeball things or use everyday kitchen utensils to measure and mix. In fact, the original recipe says things like “use a katori of sugar” and “four large tablespoons of rum” and “beat it all in a mixi”.

Heh. Mixi. Enjoy but don’t eat it all at once even if you really want to.


Posted by on July 21, 2008 in Life


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