Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Somehow or the other, I just couldn’t manage to take a vacation back home to Calcutta in more than 2 years. I finally went there this pujas. Once there, I realized it was a bad idea to be in Calcutta during pujas as the entire city is out on the street. It’s one big carnival, a big orgy of people on the streets, all dolled up with particularly nowhere to go but from this end of the town to the other visiting pandals. Which needless to say is not exactly my idea of fun in Calcutta. So there I was, in the middle of it all, and hoping for it to pass. Which it did after the four days of pujas and I got my city back. Just the way I like it, or should I say the way I liked it. Call me a little hung-up or whatever but I have forever been a fan of the Calcutta of yore, of the old Victorian charm, which already was in it’s way out while we were growing up.
I had planned to write my next post on the old Bungalows or ‘Baadis’ of my locality in particular and of Calcutta in general. I have grown up in Elgin Road, which they now insist on calling Lala Lajpat Rai Sarani. Elgin Road, sourrounded by Bishop Lefroy Road, Lee Road is now one of the most so called ‘happening’ part of Calcutta what with ‘this’ mall and ‘that’ shopping complex sprouting all around. The only old baadi left on Elgin Road is house no. 38/2. The house of Subhash Chandra Bose, now known as Netaji Bhawan. And the only reason it’s standing intact and preserved is because it is now a museum and a tourist spot. It’s the house from where Netaji escaped to his freedom, with the dream of India’s armed struggle. A dream which was lost. Much like the world which Elgin Road was. Other than Netaji’s House, this locality was dotted with old bungalows, each one grand and beautiful in it’s architecture. Baadis like Rajabadi, Lal Kuthi, Phoolbadi with their Buicks(mostly left as a showpiece only) or Fiats parked were such a delight to the eyes. Reminiscent of a world gone by. A world I am so romantic about. I wanted to take pictures, but there remains nothing to click, but ugly vertical buildings in their place, all bought over by land-sharks and converted into ugly multiplexes and Shopping Complexes, or ‘flats’(The word itself is so uninspiring, isn’t it?!). The families who lived in these buildings have lost their sheen much like the buildings they owned, so they were forced to sell them and move into the oblivion of Calcutta by-lanes, making room for the neo rich of the city.
Calcutta is going through a weird time, a weird phase, one which is torn between the old and new. At one side, it is as dirty and as unorganized at it could be, and on the other side, the malls are mushrooming, the misery and grandeur lives side by side, rather uncomfortably. The city doen’t have the flamboyance of Delhi, or recklessness of Bombay, which ends up making it a nowhere land at the moment. That certain something, which is so Calcutta, which is hard to put down in words, in phrases, is getting lost. In its reckless quest to become a global city its losing its charm, its identity, its character. And what is a city without a character!
I had planned to photograph the old ‘Baadis’ of Elgin Road, along with this post, but then, none are left to be.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
But we’ve had enough of you guys taking us for granted and promising people ‘compensation’ for their life and yet another promise of a ‘committee’ or some such shit. Vanita sent me a piece, which so rightly expresses the mood of the people and thank God for that! Here it is…
Fathers, brothers, mothers, sisters, all of them. I know we would all like to honour their memory and respect the sacrifice of those who died in the line of duty.
So if anyone suggests a 'peace march' or a candle in the window, or a human chain, or a message wall celebrating the city's resilience… tell them to F*%K OFF. Our city has had enough! No more candles, no more marches, no more resilience. People don't go back to work bravely facing down the terrorists – they go back to work DESPITE their fear and terror because they need to feed their families! Don't accept the insulting insinuation that we're somehow equipped to deal with this – we're not! And someone needs to do something about this fact – we want action.
The Police aren't equipped to deal with this – not all of them we're armed, and most of them that were, had antique .303 rifles. 3 of Mumbai's best cops were taken out – how easy will be to replace their wealth of experience and leadership?
And of course, the Delhi flock of vultures has descended to meet victims at hospitals and in one case, give a rabble-rousing speech in front of a still-untaken hotel. Tell them to f*%k off. Now they will talk about whose fault it is and why it happened despite 'intelligence alerts'. BTW, where is Raj Thackeray? We should've sent him and his goons in FIRST to protect 'aamchi Mumbai'. Why the silence? Or is he only good for bashing up labourers and taxi-drivers, and is content for the real fighting and dying to be done by soldiers from all over India?
In memory of those who were killed, injured & maimed, I beg you – DO NOT accept platitudes. DO NOT accept bland assurances. DEMAND action. Tomorrow, God forbid, it could be you.
We have to give some spine to our effort in combating terrorism. AND FAST! More and more fanatical youths are being trained to wage a war against us while we wait for our phone calls from Bombay checking if our asses are safe this time.
Friday, November 21, 2008
That’s how you go again and again when you watch the latest candy-floss offering from the house of Dharma. Like all Dharma Productions, its full of fun, frolic and rose tinted vision of the world, and nothing wrong with that. Taran Adarsh calls it a pathbreaking film and all that jackshit about it being a great ‘gay’ film but believe me this is not a film about gays, this is a film on gay jokes. And I say again, nothing wrong with that. And the thing is that if you have followed american sitcoms like Friends and Seinfeld, you have heard all the gay jokes. All they have done is put the jokes in hindi and some jokes which they can’t put in hindi, they’ve simply kept them as is in english. The film is funny as a whole and hilarious in parts though it tends to drag in the second half. While watching the film, I realised that the biggest achievement Karan Johar and Co. have is making some very western concepts homogenised and acceptabe to the Indian audience ( ‘Homo’ genised and acceptable to Indians, ironically funny, no!?). I mean the same Pammi Aunties and their children who watch Balika Badhu and never EVER switch on a Star World or such ‘english’ channels were laughing their heads off at all the ‘situations’. The film is set in Miami where a hot shot photographer (John Abraham) and a hairy male nurse (Abhishek Bachchan) end up pretending to be gay partner, to share an apartment with bhartiya sanskaaron wali ‘baby’ (Priyanka Chopra). And then what happens is full of those awwww…moments, happy shiny people, song and dance thrown in and some more awwww…moments which continues for some time till you start wondering if the film is at all going anywhere. First- time director Tarun Mansukhani has done his job well, and he more than enough pays his homage to his mentor, what with the movie full of Karan Johar movie references used in such ‘gay’ abundance that at times it looks like a home made video for Karan Johar. Of the cast, Abhishek Bachchan is really good with his comic timing, Priyanka looks hot. Period. John Abraham plays an eye-toffee who portrays 8 basic emotions and more with ‘equal’ ease, a sample here…
Kiron Kher’s role is something she has done before, that of a loud punjabi mother, only a lot louder this time. And Boman Irani gets all the parts which Anupam Kher used to get at one time. And Sushmita Mukherjee, who is supposed to be a sindhi but strangely speaks a weird accent which to me sounded more like a cliched bengali accent, I don’t know what exactly to call it. Singali, maybe. And then there is this firang guy in a small wee bit of a role, as officer Xavier whose acting is more balanced than many people with bigger role. And yeah, Bobby Deol is also there in the movie. To sum up, Dostana is a fairy tale love story Karan Johar never had. Wink-wink.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Sanjay Gadhvi surely doesn’t think so. Hey, lifting off ideas is no crime. In bollywood it’s called inspiration. Don’t believe me? Ask Sanjay Gupta, Guddu Dhanoa, Anu malik (or is it annu malek?), Pritam, the list goes on longer than the Nile. These fine men take inspiration from international films and music and whatever and ‘indianise’ it and bring it to us lesser Indian mortals. In fact, they are doing us a favour. Opening up the world to us.
Okay, now coming back to the question ‘Does committing a crime make you a criminal?’
That’s the BIG question on which Sanjay Gadhvi’s yet to be released film, Kidnap treads on.
Vikrant Raina, net worth 51.7 billion dollars. No more pachchaas tola and do peti roles for Sanju Baba. In Kidnap he is, in his own words, “The richest Indian in the world” . They say, in advertising there is no such thing as an ‘original idea’. Whatever there is to be said has been said before, done before. ‘Yeh ho chuka hai’ are the four goddamn words an advertising person dreads the most but is subjected to, everyday. But Sanjay Gadhvi of course had no such problem. So he is bringing us a film, which by the look of it doesn’t look like it’s been inspired by just one film, but a motley crew of films. One look at the promos and one can tell he is a big ‘fan’ of Korean films, so what better way to pay homage than to take inspiration from a whole lot of them. Looking at the promos one can tell that there is a bit of ‘Save the Green Planet’, the directorial debut of Korean director Jang Jun-Hwan, about a guy who kidnaps a rich entrepreneur who is responsible for his misfortune. And then there is a bit of Korean director Chan-wook Park’s ‘Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance’, a story about a young girl’s kidnap gone wrong. Only in Sympathy the young girl drowns in the water, unlike Minissa Lamba who takes up the oppurtunity to get into a bikini and do a little song and dance. I told you guys about the Indian ‘touch’, didn’t I? And then there is a bit of ‘The Cut’, another film by Park. It’s about a couple held hostage in their own home by a man, who makes the guy follow his instructions or else see his wife killed by the kidnapper. So there, at least 3 juicy stories concocted to make one wholesome indian offer.
And the inspiration doesn’t just end there. Imraan Khan’s look is inspired by Travis Bickle, who in my opinion is the most human hero of all times. Now that’s too much. Imran Khan is a promising guy, but jaane tu ya jaane na Mr. Gadhvi, Imran can’t hold no candle to Robert GOD De Niro. Or anybody can for that matter.
It’s Friday morning and in some time people will have a first public screening of the film. The eternal supporter of indian films that I am, I would be delighted to eat my words and see Mr. Gadhvi dishing out a ‘fresh’ film instead of a cheap rehash of some really brilliant international films. But I have a feeling he will not disappoint me, or should I say he will.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
In case you wondering which song and dance i am talking to you about, here's the link
Sunday, September 14, 2008
They did it again. The murderers, whatever fancy name they like to call themselves by, are actually nothing more than that. Bloody murderers. They strike again and again and we do nothing at all. Politicians give their customary ‘khed hai’ and ‘kadi ninda’ and ‘compensation’ for the dead and injured number. The ruling party and the opposition will dig their nails deeper, roll their tongues and relish the moment they got yet again to settle personal scores. And we do ‘tut-tut’ and get back to our daily business, happy and content that it didn’t happen to us or those close to us. The so called spirit of Delhi (Ahmedabad, Bombay or any other city) will be back and rolling. Let’s not romanticise a serious problem like this. It’s not spirit, its indifference at best. Tomorrow, we will go back to our offices and try to meet our deadlines for a soap or a dessert ad, as if nothing happened. But for how long? And why?
Sure the root of discontent is too deep and convoluted to be discussed in one single post. It goes deeper and is steeped in bloody history which started much before our independence and has been hounding us for the last 61 years. Different clans of people have fought between themselves for long. Our history is full of shameful and unfortunate incidences of communal riots before the independence and after it. But this organized attacks against people is more shameful and heinous. Why should innocent people die? Why should people be bumped off just as numbers? Oh, we got 25 of yours! How was that?!! Wait till we get 30 of yours. How long will this go on? What is most chilling is the apathy and aloofness we have about the blasts that happen in our city. People are so distant when they talk about it. One will typically hear things like ‘abki baar toh sirf 5 dhamaake hue, peechhli baar toh 14 hue the’, ‘ab dekho kahaan hota hai’. It has become a way of life for us. Yesterday, after the blasts, Barkha Dutt was on TV, reporting from GK. She kept talking about the people who must have come to the market to grab a bite or to buy a pair of jeans. Hell, that guy could have been me. I would have been there in GK buying a much needed pair of jeans, had I not felt too lazy to walk around after lunch. It’s chilling. Its shit scary and but more than that it makes me angry as hell.
What exactly will it take for us, as a society and a nation, to wake up and do something concrete about fighting terrorism and suppression. Nobody has the right to take the lives of common folk, be it hindu extremists or islamic radicals. They are fooling themselves with their ideas of jihad and ramrajya. Why should we pay the price? Its time we did something, its time our government shed its cowardly please-all-and-keep-ruling policy and sock the extremists right where it hurts the most.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
And if they are not talking on the phone, people talk amongst themselves. Somewhere down the line, they decide the film is not engrossing enough but then hey, they’ve paid for the ticket too, so what do they do? Simple, they catch up on gossip. And if that’s not enough, some go ahead and do the ‘cool’ things like throwing popcorns at each other. Its so disheartening to see that people don’t know their film. They just come to catch a flick. Once I was watching Dev, a Govind Nihalani directed, Amitabh starrer. A family which obviously ventured into the hall expecting a full blown amitabh movie got a surprise when they found out that it wasn’t exactly what they came in for. But they didn’t lose heart. So while the prosecution scene was happening on screen, the 8 year old of the family decided to recite a poem. He faltered at some point but his loving mother right on time corrected him. And the father? He must have dozed off. One happy family there.
Another time we were watching Mystic River, a poignant film about a father looking for his daughter’s murderer. Again there again was a gang who would talk non stop and their phones kept ringing through out the film, which they kind of stopped after some of us asking them to shut. And then in the film, a phone rang and pat one of the kids says, ‘ab usko band karne ke liye bolo’ and all of them laughed their heart out. You are too funny, man!.
Another time, another film. Monster, a woman serial killer’s story. A group of college kids, who came into the hall expecting a horror film, were so disappointed that one of them says aloud, ‘she is not a monster, she is a bitch!. And good time was had by all.
But jokes apart. Why people do this to others? How can they be so insensitive? Why don’t people learn some etiquette? Is it too much to ask?
Sunday, August 31, 2008
This is another post on me. Yeah, I am self obsessed. But I think it’s not just me, others are obsessed with me too. They can’t get enough of me. How else would you define the numerous names I have been adorned with over the years? We all give each others names, some in zest, some to just pull somebody's leg. Whatever be the reason, we just love calling each other names. Like my copy partner Anshumani is forever been ‘Ladiz’ to me!! A name coined by Nima, our boss, as she was the only ‘lady’ in our group. And then our friend Anirban, who we call ‘Baadi’(Bengali for home) because at 5.30-6 in the evening he would want to go back home, which is the utmost luxury you ask for in advertising. He eventually did go back home( Anirban is back in Calcutta). Mihir is Manchu(rian) Chanchu for his love of Chinese food. Biswajit is called Khecha, god knows why. Enough of you people. This is my blog. Let’s get back to my favourite subject.
So yeah, I have been called so many names, I thought I’ll list some down. The most common is mota-motay, take your pick, no need to explain why I am called that. Then Rohit coined the name Burger for me, which became big mac and now maharaja mac, which people love. Do I love it too? Does it really matter?? Kanishka calls me a Barrel, and a Big Slab Of Meat. Tarannum thinks I am The Thing of Fantastic Four. Not exactly flattering. But then…
But of all the names that I have been called by, the one I find most creative is given by Marina, an Anglo Indian receptionist at my last office in Calcutta. She called me PHATNOM. I love this one. Makes me sound like a superhero.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Just when you think that it can’t get any better (or worse or perverse), the reality TV scene in India has taken a whole new turn with a new show on Star called The Moment of Truth. It’s an American ‘reality’ show where a person is asked the most intimate questions about his or her life. Prior to the show, the contestant is hooked up to a polygraph and asked more than 50 questions. Without knowing the results of the polygraph, he or she is asked 21 of those same questions again on the program, each becoming progressively more personal in nature. The questions vary, increasing in difficulty and degree of personal nature of the questions. Sample this, “Have you in all these years of your marriage ever cheated on your wife?” or this, “Have you gambled away any of your kids’ college fund?” Sometimes, a "surprise guest" - such as an ex-partner or a good friend - will come on the stage and ask a particularly difficult question. The more you answer the more you go on winning and the jackpot amount is $500,000, which no one, by the way, has won so far. You can imagine how popular the show is that we have it beamed in India now.
We humans are voyeuristic and we, the Indians, have forever been a pretty nosey and voyeuristic society. From the mundane “who’s daughter is going out with whom” to more serious nosey business, we just think it’s our right to know. The idea of ‘private space’ was never there. It still is not. No wonder the reality TV format with its camera shoved into people’s bedrooms works wonders in our country. Be it an adventurous Roadies or the very stupid, very perverse Splitsvilla, where 2 losers get to ‘dump’ girls on their way to choosing the ultimate girl for them (though it’s a different thing that the girls on the show are no better) to song and dance competitions to the Indian version of Stand Up, reality TV is there on all channels.
Another reason for the popularity of reality based programs is that anybody, be it a post office clerk from Jabalpur or an automobile workshop owner in Jalandhar can be on TV and have his 15 minutes of fame. I had read somewhere that each of us have our Oscar speech. Reality based programmes gives people an opportunity to read that out to the world. Reality TV churns out celebrities every week, every episode. People come on TV, they sing and dance, and if that doesn’t work, they cry and do everything in the world to garner support and sympathy. Perverse, you might say, but it’s working. Contestants find a launching pad, people get their voyeurism satiated and a sense of pride that their vote made the contestant win (no matter what the reason for voting, no matter how good or deserving the contestant actually is) and channels laugh all the way to their bank.
Pornography is the biggest form of voyeurism. In the eighties the porn industry fought and adapted and eventually boomed manifolds on the internet. So now, a Jenna Jameson ends up fighting for attention with an aunty from Lajpat Nagar thanks to the MMS craze. People want ‘live’ action, they want to know what’s happening in their stars lives, or even in the lives of others. The more we become insulated and isolated as a society, the more we want to voyuer into the other people’s lives. We might not be friends with our neighbour but we surely would love to anonymously be privy to what’s going on with them. What more it even gives us a chance to simulate their action, control their fate, however much of a make-belief control it actually might be. And Reality TV provides us with that opportunity. Call it perverse, intrusive, entertaining, immoral whatver you may, but one thing is for sure that Reality TV is here and it is here to stay.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Saturday, August 9, 2008
After our stopover in Navi Mumbai for breakfast, I slept in the car for some time. And then when I opened my eyes, the view of the Bombay-Pune Expressway was so good that I couldn’t sleep anymore. But the best was yet to come. Tikona Fort (3633ft, also known as Vitangagad) is the dominant hill fort in Maval in Shaihadris. It is located near Kamshet around 125 kms from Mumbai. The 3500 ft high hill is pyramidal in shape and hence it's called Tikona. There is a lake at the summit. It’s a small weekend trekking destination for seasoned trekkers like my friends, and for Pune Symbiosis and such college types who hoot and make weird noises and whoop at the summit, “its amaaaaaaaaazing!! BEAUTIFUL!!! I feel close to HIM from up here!!(yeah dude, wonder what will you say when you are at Mount Everest…woohooo, I feel so close I can smell HIS ass from here). Hahahaha. Priti, not criticising, just joking! ;). Sneha took most of the pictures and they look good. Meenaz was guiding me throughout.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly...in that order :)
A sadhu's retreat, complete with his private swimming pool
A temple, on the way to the top
Sneha and Ritabrata
Our we-feel-so-close-to-HIM moment :P
And yeah, i got another tattoo done :)
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Not serious, Mr. Ledger, but really sad that you are not around to soak up all the adulation you so rightly deserve for your portrayal of The Joker. I was amongst the cynics who thought, you, a pretty boy, wouldn’t be able to replace Jack Nicholson as joker, that nobody could. And that Christian Slater could have been a choice to play Joker, if anybody were to at all try. But Christopher Nolan and you had a better plan. You make Jack Nicholson, who I thought was the best batman villain till date, look like a caricature. Powdered face, an evil smile carved with a knife, darting eyes and lulling tongue and a drawl, all make up for one of the most chilling, ruthless villains of all time. Heath Ledger’s Joker is evil personified. Evil without a reason, one who likes to “watch the world burn”. When the joker is on screen you are never too sure of what will happen next, only that something very nasty, mindlessly sinister is about to happen. The palpable tension is brilliantly complemented by the siren wailing as background score.
After setting the mood and establishing the characters in his first batman movie, Christopher Nolan plunges straight into the heart of action from the very first frame of this one. The dizzying pace is set from the beginning. In The dark Knight, the mythical Gotham city is toned down to a more believable modern day city infested with crime and terrorism which the Americans can relate to better, post 9/11. The Dark Knight not only is struggling with the Italian, Chinese mafia and imposters dressed like him, but Joker, a villain who needs no reason or motive to kill and plunder. Who in his own words is, “a dog chasing cars. I don’t have plans. I just do things. I’m not a schemer.”
The others in the cast include the new crime fighter in town, District Attorney Harvey Dent, the white knight (played very believably by Aaron Eckhart), as opposed to batman, the dark knight. Gary oldman returns as Lt Gordon and does a wonderful job again. In fact this film so belongs to the Joker, Harvey Dent and Lt Gordon that Batman, the vigilante is at times just one of the characters, and not THE character. Morgan Freeman, as Lucius fox, batman’s gizmo expert and Michael Caine as Alfred do their job effortlessly. And Maggie Gyllanhal looks much more believable and mature to handle the role of a woman torn between the two men she loves.
The film works at so many levels. It questions the very need of a superhero. Does Gotham need a man in suit to protect it? The virtuous and brave district attorney Harvey Dent-a hero without a mask, doesn’t think so. Batman, on the other hand wants to retire and pass on the mantle “to a man with a face”, Harvey Dent, so that he can pursue his lady love. He doesn’t like the man he’s become “to stop the men like him (The Joker).” Rachel Dawes, Batman’s love interest meanwhile is torn between him and Harvey Dent, the man of justice with a face. She finds herself drifting more and more away from Bruce Wayne and doesn’t want him to make her, his “only hope for a normal life”. And The Joker, well, he has a dark past of bad things done to him, but he has a new story every time he decides to describe it.
This is the best superhero film of all times. It is the Godfather II, the Taxi Driver or the Blade Runner of its genre. It’s a film which takes a comic book hero and turns it around into a major movie force. A crime and justice story turned into the greatest morality tale, all within the guise of a summer blockbuster. It’s quite a feat. Sure the film has its clapping and hooting moments like the overturned trailers and buildings blasting off, but they’ve been perfectly balanced by the emotional angle and psychological twists. The other ‘selling’ angle seems to be the exclusion of the Asian angle in both the Batman films, maybe because Asia is a huge market for Hollywood films now. So this time Batman glides over Hong Kong skyscrapers. Sure the studio expects Nolan to deliver a blockbuster but he doesn’t compromise on his storytelling. He, together with his brother Jonathan Nolan (co-scriptwriter) and cinematographer Wally Pfister bring us this brilliant superhero tale of all time.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Finally broke my jinx of not posting after 20 days :)
A friend of mine won the Cannes Young Lion contest and she was in Cannes sometimes back. She is an avid blogger as well. Interestingly the very next blog she wrote after coming back was not about the advertising greats she met there or what a great learning place it was. She wrote about the perfect looking people she saw there. “Beautiful faces, perfect figures, fashionable dresses, shoes and accessories. even beautiful dogs.” as she put it. She further wondered what makes people good looking. Can’t be genes, or else how amongst siblings, one looks great and the other, well, not so great, to put it mildly. Years back, a friend of mine came to my place for the first time. When he saw my two elder brothers who are 5’10”-5’11” tall and handsome, he exclaimed, “'your brothers are good looking and tall, how come you look like this?” I said, guess my parents ran out of resources by the time they were making me ( I am youngest of the five siblings).
One of my friends, also an overweight guy, once told me about this incident which happened to him. He was driving and he tried to over take a car and ended up creating a mess of a traffic jam. The guy in the other car looked at him and said, “you shouldn’t be driving, You should be jogging.” and sped off laughing. Sure the kid must have gone and told all his friends about the joke he cracked on ‘the fat bastard’.
Looking like how I do, it’s an everyday battle with people. I know it’s just in good zest but who likes to be in known as ‘that fat guy’ when they are referring to you. Hell, I know I am short, ugly and now fat. But I don’t need constant reminder. Or the worst is when they say, “No…you are not fat, short and ugly. You are CUTE!!” Or SWEET. Now I hate nothing more than those two words. It is comperatively ok if you call me fat and ugly. But please try not to compensate by calling me ‘sweeeeeeeeeeeet”. That’s so urghhhh!! Hell, That’s what you say to describe Danny Devito. So I know what exactly you are reminding me of. So do I need that reminder? Thanks, but no thanks.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
I watched the latest Michel Gondry film Be kind Rewind a couple of weeks back. It’s a film about a small community of people who come together to save a rundown VHS rental and thrift store in a rundown neighborhood operated by a rundown owner, Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover). The building is termed unsafe and Municipal corp plans to construct a new structure on the spot. The film also stars Mos Def as Mr. Flecher’s shop assistant and Jack Black as his crazy friend, Jerry. Now, I am an out and out Jack Black fan and I love Michel Gondry’s work too. But this post is not about the film, or Jack Black or Michel Gondry. This post is about the wonderful experience of watching cinema and the love so many of us have for the medium.
After watching Be Kind Rewind in a ‘multiplex’, I thought about Chanakya. Chanakya was the most iconic 1080 seater, single-screen cinema hall of Delhi which closed its shutters forever on 27 December 2007, after a successful run of 37 years. The decision to close and vacate the place was due to a Supreme Court judgment paving the way for the New Delhi Municipal Council to raze the theatre complex and build a multiplex-cum-mall on a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) basis. There was a lot of write ups on it, a lot of nostalgia around it. TV channels beamed interviews of the general public who were sad at the theater closing but were happy that a new, swanky multiplex would come up in it’s place.
Different people have different take on films. Some take it too seriously but for most, it’s a mere mode of entertainment, a paisa vasool. Agreed that the scene of cinema is evolving in India. It is also true that the multiplexes have enabled the release and screening of small and independent films. But it also has a reverse effect. I believe people took the whole experience of watching films too seriously earlier. Before the world opened up, films were the main choice of entertainment for people. I am in love with the whole traditional big-screen, 1000 people packed in a dark theater, totally lost in the story-unfolding-on-the-screen movie experience.
The single-screen cinema halls have a different charm to them. Many of them were built in 70s and their structure looked so great. The whole 70s look, which now we call retro. The façade, the way their names were written in fancy fonts were all part of the experience. They had a personality, a name, an identity. Each were known for, and by the kind of films they would screen and hence had almost a set kind of people who would frequent them. People love films in India, and come what may, it was and still remains the biggest form of entertainment for the masses. I believe that people took watching a film a lot more seriously earlier. They were a lot more involved in the films, because they had chosen to be in a particular theater for the film they wanted to watch. So they felt at home, they were more in it. But today, with the multiplexes where everything and anything is shoved under the same building, people have ‘choice’. Choice makes you lose respect for things. People come to cinema hall to catch a ‘flick’, and if they don’t get the tickets for ‘Mere Baap, pehle aap’, they’ll get it for ‘Be kind, Rewind’, because they have come for a good time and yeah maybe have heard of Jack Black, ..yeah..he is very funny, man!! Well, unlike Eternal Sunshine, Be kind is a ‘light’ film, but it still is not exactly a Jack Black movie, it’s a Michel Gondry movie which of-course these weekend flick-catchers have no clue of. So what do they do when they are stuck in a cinema hall and not tuned to the film they are watching? Simple. They talk amongst themselves. Play ‘predict what will happen next’. Text people that they are watching a boring film, talk on their phone and crack jokes. And god forbid if you ask them to shut up, they give you a ‘what’s-wrong-with-you, we-have-paid-for-our-tickets-too’ look. Or they just giggle and go back to doing whatever they were doing. Like I said, the respect and involvement with the medium has gone down.
If choice is the yardstick of development then hell, we’ve come a long way. But it is not. Choice is for people not sure of what they want, it’s for the confused lot. And with the multiplex culture, a lot of this confused multiplex crowd bring their confusion to cinema halls and kill the whole magic of watching a film. Single-screen cinema halls are closing down everywhere in major metropolitan cities making way for multiplexes. The screen fades into the dark and curtains are drawing on the single-screen theater and god, it is not the proverbial happy ending we forever wish for.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Thanks to now defunct Indrajal comics, our generation was ushered into the exciting and mythical world of Phantom. He was my first super hero. Unlike a Superman, who well, is a ‘super’man and has special powers for granted, or a Spiderman, who also acquired special power thanks to a spider bite. Or a Batman, whose angst, anger and insecurity ridden character I started idolising later in my ‘intellectual awakening’ years. So yeah, unlike any of them, here was our hero continuing his family business of saving the world from injustice and piracy and killers without any baggage. Everything about him is so fascinating. A man who lives in jungle, has a beautiful intelligent, loving wife. Fights crime. Has a dog…err a wolf called Devil, a white horse-Hero. He is the first to wear the skintight costume that has become a hallmark of comic-book superheroes, and the first to wear a mask with no visible pupils, another superhero standard. He is loved by people and feared by criminals. And when he is not fighting crime, he takes off to the secluded Island of Eden for a family vacation. Keeping him company on the island are all sorts of animals, a Prehistoric man and his partner, Hizz and Herz, a Stegosaurus and Nefertiti and Solomon, the two dolphins. Now that’s some life!!
Falk’s legendary character sounds like it’s inspired by Lord Shiva, another one of my childhood heroes ( As a teenager I would actually have fights with my sister about who was cooler, my Shiva or her Vishnu. Vishnu I thought was too clean, handsome alpha male. Kind of boring, isn’t it. Whereas Shiva was a loner, a recluse, a strong, rough and tough intellectual man with a temper to match.).
There are many other parallels. Like Parvati, a King’s daughter leaves everything behind to be with her beloved Shiva in the snowy Kailash mountain. Ms. Diana palmer leaves the luxury of city life to be with Phantom, the 21st. Ok, she has a job with UN (what the heck, she is a 20th century woman after all).
Like Shiva and Parvati, they have two kids, Kit and Heloise. While Nandi was almost like Shiva’s adopted son, Phantom actually has an adopted nephew, Rex, who called Phantom, Uncle Walker.
Shiva’s anger was legendary, all the gods were afraid of his temper. An angry Phantom was a terror too ("The cold voice of the angry Phantom can freeze blood - Old jungle saying.")
Shiva was suppose to be a recluse but he would come running to his follower’s prayer.
Phantom lives deep in the jungles in his Skull cave , but all the tribesmen of Bengalla got to do is play the drums to call for help. ("Call the Phantom anywhere and he will hear - Old jungle saying." )
Lee Falk died in 1999. As of 2008, the comic strip is produced by writer Tony DePaul and artist Paul Ryan. Indrajaal comics is long gone. Diamond comics keeps printing the old Phantom comics in digest format, but it simply doesn’t have the same charm. Internationally, we now have the 24th Phantom, very slim, very futuristic. I think, it doesn’t have the very soul of Phantom. Too modern, futuristic. A metrosexual Phantom. That’s the last thing our generation wanted to see.
For the generation growing up on Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and 3D Sci-Fi characters, all I can say is that you guys came a little too late.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
This is not a review, this is just a disheartened fan's rantings.
'There are forces at work beyond our understanding,'
So says Mark Wahlberg’s character Elliot Moore, a science teacher. Exactly my thought as I was watching The Happening. Nothing else can explain this dud of a film. What was M. Night Shyamalan thinking?? Or was he at all?? As it is with most of us, I am forever torn with my feelings for his work between absolute love to downright dismay. When he burst into the big arena with The Sixth Sense (no, I didn’t see his earlier films, Wide Awake and Praying With Anger), I absolutely loved it. I loved his approach to films, taking a B-grade genre and turning it into an A-grade film. Since then I have followed all his films, of which ‘Unbreakable’ is the one I love the most. But about that, maybe some other time.
Back to The Happening, Shyamalan’s new apocalyptic offering. Shyamalan’s film have forever been a big source for the Scary Movie makers. He gives them the moment they relish to rip. All the overt melodrama, all the bad acting is just ready dough for them. But The Happening, my friends, is in itself your next installment in scary movie series. I mean, they need not change nothing at all, all the jokes, all the situation are there for the tailormade, the entire film is a spoof. I tried to be serious through the movie but I just couldn’t help myself wondering in each and every scene that the scary movie people must be grinning ear-to-ear watching this stuff. Scary Movie folks never needed a script much, now they do have a script in their hand. I even think that Zooey Dechanel looks a lot like the girl who plays the central character in all the Scary Movies. And Mark Wahlberg has never acted so bad. All said and done, this installment from Shyamalan is so not happening.
Just the other day, me and my wife returned from somewhere. The main door of the building where we live in a rented accommodation was bolted from inside, so we rang the bell. The old lady of the house came to open the door. We did a little chitchat standing right there and found out she was all alone at home and hence the extra cautiousness. Everything was ok till she said…heard another news?? A Nepali servant has poisoned the family he used to work for ( this, in the wake of another ‘sensational’ news of a teenager Arushi and a Nepali help, supposedly killed by her doctor father) So, our landlady went, “In these times you got to be careful.” And then she went on to proclaim…”Nepali log toh waise bhi hote hai khatarnaak” (Nepalese anyway, are dangerous people). I was so taken aback by the comment that I didn’t know whether to laugh it off or to get angry at it. I am a Gorkha, which the poor lady of-course didn’t know. I was shocked and hurt by what she said. It reminded me of a comment some people make about us, that all Gorkhas are mercenaries. It’s so shallow. This generalization of people is so disgusting, yet we all do it. I mean, we don’t even realize that we are doing it all the time. It’s fed to all of us at home to be wary of ‘others’. ‘Others’ are discussed over dinner tables at home. How ‘they’ are different, how they are so not ‘us’. It’s just everywhere. I was reading an interview of well-known playwright Vijay Tendulkar long back and he was talking about racial profiling. Supposedly when his teacher in school would get angry at someone he’d scream,”Tu manush ahe ki musallman??” (Are you a human, or a muslim??)
I remember, when I started in advertising back home in Calcutta, this senior copywriter found out I am a Gorkha, and he ‘joked’, “oh, so you are a Gorkha! How come you are on the other side of the door??” Or sample another gem from him, “O ki idea korbe, o je nepali.( how can he come up with ideas?? He is a nepali after all.) Well, he sure has a sense of humour. And I am glad I forever have had a sense of humour for people like him.
As I sit to write this post, innumerable memories of Calcutta flood my heart. It was a pleasure being on the road in Cal. The people, the commotion, the unorderliness, the chaos and the women clad in ‘saree’. There is a method in madness in Cal, and I felt at home in it.
My best friend Rajesh and I watched films after films, paying as less as Rs. 5 at Nandan and Rs. 7 for the ‘boxstall’ at New Empire. I remember the time when Bikash and I on our evening stroll, have egg-chicken roll or mughlai paratha at Mass Snacks near Jadu Babu Bazar for 10-15 bucks, or rice and beef bhuna for an unbelievable Rs.13 at Neezam’s, or mixed Chhow Chhow at stalls in Totti Lane for Rs. 25, which two people could share. Or dirt cheap early morning Chines and Tibetan breakfast at Tiretta Bazaar. In those days we hardly had any money to indulge ourselves, but we had some great fun with whatever little we had. We would get drunk on the cheapest booze, dope up and make our own Thukpa to eat if had no money to buy food. I remember how we would get drunk at Olypub and then head to Someplace Else to listen to some live music. And if at all any one of us orderd a beer there, before you could say ‘Indian beer’, the bartender would uncork an Imported brand of beer and charge some Rs. 150 for it. Needless to say, some 6-7 of us would nurse that beer for an entire evening.
Now I can afford to go to the best cafes and the best bars and have the best food in the best restaurants, but it simply doesn’t feel the same. I call my mother and ask her how’s the weather there in Cal, and insist that it’s raining a lot in Delhi, just like Cal, as if it’s some compensation. I ask her what they ate for dinner, and how was it? I don’t know why but I need to know, maybe to imagine the food and taste in my head, the familiar taste and aroma I have grown up devouring. I call up my friends during Kali Puja and Saraswati Puja, and insist on talking to all of them, who’s got drunk?, who is dancing like crazy and who all actually fasted to give anjali?? When in Cal, I would sleep through Pujas, but now I miss it. I think it is the price we pay for taking things for granted.
Now that I am away, I realise what I have left behind. Being away from Calcutta, I now know one thing for sure; I might go to Timbuktu to work and have a career, but Calcutta is where my heart is. It’s home.