Thursday, December 31, 2009

Viva America

People are celebrating halloween in india now...waiting for the day we'll have 4th of July fireworks. Viva Ameerika!

That's what my FB status message read around last Halloween. Some of my friends reacted quite sharply to it, labelling me as no-fun and an anti-American. Now i take serious offence to that. Not the no-fun part. I largely agree to being a no-fun boring kind of a guy. But i have serious reservartions against being labelled an anti-American. Because i love America. I’ve never been to America, but I have this genuine love for some things American, not all, but most. I love America as I know it, these images I get of America through Hollywood, media, American sitcoms, music and popular culture.

I love films, and you cannot love cinema and be oblivious to Hollywood. Hollywood of 70s (which I only saw later), 80s and 90s played a huge part in discovering my love for cinema. Well most of Hollywood fare is utter crap but then there are some gems every now and then. I love American sitcoms, they’ve got more easy humour than British ones. I love the Stand up comedians. I love the whole idea of New York. I want to spend at least 6 months of my life there. Soak up on all the urban ‘culture’. Watch Musicals (they are unarguably the best in the world), visit pubs and listen to underground bands, jazz acts, stand ups video artists. Be part of The Central Park and the Times Square of hurried, smug people. Of warm and clipped smiles. Be part of the cosmopolitan jamboree that New York is.

How can I love a place without ever being there? Well, I haven’t met Madhuri Dixit also, but boy, don’t even get me started on how much I love her. Yes, even now.

One can always divide oneself into being a hindu or a muslim, gujarati or a Bengali, south Indian or a northeasterner and then there’s this whole thing about being a world citizen. But I believe after being an Indian, more than anything else, we are American. The urban Indian life imitates American lifestyle. And it is true for most of the countries around the world. We are bombarded by everything American (some of them excellent, some good and some bad). You switch on the TV and the sitcoms you love are all American, the music you mostly like is American, so is the fast food you so love, the language you pass off as English is American. For a country colonised by brits for over 200 years, we are more American than we are British. We drop our easy on tongue American and put on our best Liverpudlian accent only to sound exotic. You go to “fookin hell” or "let’s rob sum ciggies fellas" only when you want to sound different.

We have the same kind of family values and melodramatic ideas about patriotism and social behaviour. Are homophobic, and have closeted ideas about sexuality as Americans do. Only they being a ‘first world country’ and us being ‘third world country’, there are differences in how we approach them, but the basic structure of society is the same. Being American makes us feel at home. Gives us a sense of belonging. For example, sometime back a couple of my friends were traveling through Cambodia and Vietnam. They were sick of eating ‘exotic’ asian food and then they saw a McDonalds and they immediately felt ‘at home’. That’s how American we are.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

You Know You Are a Nepali When.....

Ok, this is just for the kick of it. Thanks dipendra for sending it, i added some too. I waited for you to add some of yours, but I couldn't wait to post it(you can always add some). So here it goes...

- You look up when you hear an airplane.

- You point with your lips.

- Whenever you meet someone you ask, “bhaath khaayao? ("Have you had your food?" )

- You meet someone in a movie hall and ask, "cinema herna aayeko?” (Here to watch a movie?”)

- You call all action movies " action pack!!!!"

- You know the three Ds of partying. i.e - dance, drink and dangdung (fist/khukuri fight).

- You think all festivals mean relatives playing cards and getting drunk.

- You cannot drink without chicken chilly and momos.

- You think
chilly chicken and momo are nepali food.

- You are crossing a one way street and you have to check both sides. (debre ani daine)

- You get annoyed when people think you are from Nepal.

- Your relatives give you money whenever you visit them. ( even when you are 40)

- You sing or atleast hum “Ghaam paani, ghaam paani…” everytime it drizzles while the sun’s still shining. ( even when you are 80)

- When you see a pair of slippers upside down (ulta chappal) you have to turn it around.

- You don't cut your nails at night. (Lest the devil take you and your family)

- You feel you haven’t eaten if you haven’t had Bhaath (rice).

- You are not allowed to hum or sing while eating.

- You laugh at everything on Nepali TV but you still watch it.

- You dont know that the buff you have been eating is actually short for buffalo.

- You have been dragged to a mandir on saraswati puja so that you will get good grades.

- You are afraid to step on any paper, or pen (You don't want to piss off Saraswati and flunk an exam).

- Your grandmum doesnt let you whistle at night.

- You can’t date someone if you are not in love.

- You Know who Humjayaga is.

- You watch Korean movie and try to act like you’re in one.

- You miss those mountains you used to see the moment you opened your eyes in the morning.

- You go out for lunch/ dinner/ whatever in a group and look at the menu for half an hour and order:
1. momo
2. chowmein
3. fried rice
4. chilly

- You think of titaura and your saliva glands go wild!!

- You miss wai wai ,churpi and tituara almost any given day.

- You are good at drunk driving, especially if it's bad mountain roads.

- Your conversation with any Nepali you just met always ends up being an interview to unearth the degree of association with this person. (eh...Ghar ka?? gangtok? Tyeso bhaye timi xyz lai chinchhau??)
- 90% of the time you end up knowing someone who knows someone who knows the person.
- The remaining 10% of the time the person is your relative.

- You think cats are evil.

- You feel obligated to pay for everyone else when eating out with your friends.

- Your non-nepali friends in primary school earnestly asked you if you know karate and if you ate cockroaches for dinner.

- Your American friends ask you if you have climbed mount Everest.

- You probably haven't even seen mount Everest.

- Your favorite Hollywood actress used to be Phoebe Cates

- You pronounce Phoebe Cates as "fobee cyats"

- You love the pungent, fermented smell of pickled bamboo shoots (tama) and dried and aged vegetable leaves (gundruk) + you are drooling at the thought right now.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My Favourite Dialogues

Owing to overwhelming pressure from the ardent followers of this blog, I am compelled to write this post. Ah, wishful thinking!!! Ok, now that I’m done indulging myself, let me tell the real reason to write this post. Some days back a couple of my colleagues were discussing some film dialogue, and I knew this post was long due. So here goes my list of favourite dialogues, of course the ones that I remember at the moment. Some of them are not even spoken dialogues but voiceover, but what the heck! And please do add your favourite/s.

The Thin Red Line

(VO)What's this war in the heart of nature ?
Why does nature vie with itself?.
The land contend with the sea?
ls there an avenging power in nature?
Not one power, but two?

A very powerful opening shot which sets the tone of the film.


John Laroche: Point is, what's so wonderful is that every one of these flowers has a specific relationship with the insect that pollinates it. There's a certain orchid look exactly like a certain insect so the insect is drawn to this flower, its double, its soul mate, and wants nothing more than to make love to it. And after the insect flies off, spots another soul-mate flower and makes love to it, thus pollinating it. And neither the flower nor the insect will ever understand the significance of their lovemaking. I mean, how could they know that because of their little dance the world lives? But it does. By simply doing what they're designed to do, something large and magnificent happens. In this sense they show us how to live -- how the only barometer you have is your heart. How, when you spot your flower, you can't let anything get in your way.

So lucid, so beautiful. Charlie Kauffman is a genius of geniuses.

Taxi Driver

Travis Bickle: You talkin' to me?

One line which became part of modern pop culture. Travis Bickle. The most flawed superhero of all times, and Robert DeNiro, the boss, the god! The combination couldn’t have been any more smouldering.

Full Metal Jacket

Private Joker: A day without blood is like a day without sunshine.

Private Joker: I wanted to see exotic Vietnam... the crown jewel of Southeast Asia. I wanted to meet interesting and stimulating people of an ancient culture... and kill them. I wanted to be the first kid on my block to get a confirmed kill!

Crazy Earl: These are great days we're living, bros. We are jolly green giants, walking the Earth with guns. These people we wasted here today are the finest human beings we will ever know. After we rotate back to the world, we're gonna miss not having anyone around that's worth shooting.

Each of the cold-blooded dialogues are a testament to the horror of the war. Each dialogue a smack on the face, a kick in the gut.

Maine Pyar Kiya

Jeevan: Ek ladka-ladki kabhi dost nahi hotey. yeh toh ek pardaa hai pardaa, kapkapaati raaton me, dhadakte huye dilon ki bhadakti hui aag ko bujhaneka, chhupaneka.

Long before he turned it into a mass movement, Ram Sene chief sat down in a dingy room and wrote those historic lines. A true lesson in Indian sanskaar, this.


Kuldeep: Jab who namaaz padhti thi toh dil karta tha ki mussalman ban jaaun.

When you think you’ll heard and read every possible way to say I am in love, Gulzar goes ahead and writes something and you go, ‘wow’!


Yeh bacchhon ke khelne ki cheez nahi, haath kat jaaye toh khoon nikal aata hai.

Long before I cared to notice that Raj Kumar was not exactly a great actor, I was floored by his style. Ok, it was a rub-off of my elder brother idolizing him, and I was only idolizing my elder brother by following his likes and dislikes. But Raj Kumar surely had style.


Renton: So why did I do it? I could offer a million answers, all false. The truth is that I'm a bad person, but that's going to change, I'm going to change. This is the last of this sort of thing. I'm cleaning up and I'm moving on, going straight and choosing life. I'm looking forward to it already. I'm going to be just like you: the job, the family, the fucking big television, the washing machine, the car, the compact disc and electrical tin opener, good health, low cholesterol, dental insurance, mortgage, starter home, leisurewear, luggage, three-piece suite, DIY, game shows, junk food, children, walks in the park, nine to five, good at golf, washing the car, choice of sweaters, family Christmas, indexed pension, tax exemption, clearing the gutters, getting by, looking ahead, to the day you die.

Andaaz Apna Apna

Gogo: Crime-Master Gogo naam hai mera. Aankhen Nikal ke Gotiyan Kheloonga, gotiyaan.

Juvenile and over-the-top it is, but I laugh my head off every time I watch this film and every time I hear this dialogue. And I do watch it every time it’s on TV.


Oh Dae-su: If you stand aimlessly at a phone booth on a rainy day, and meet a man whose face is covered by a violet umbrella, I'd suggest that you get close to the TV.

Without the context the dialogue might not seem as important, but it holds the key to the plot. It is almost funny but heartbreakingly so.


Bulla: Mera naam hai Bulla, rakhta hoon main hamesha khulla!

You may not have heard of Kanti Shah and his contribution to Indian cinema. He is not your regular V. Shantaram, Gurudutt, Raj Kapoor or even Manmohan Desia, Farah Khan or Vishal Bhardwaj. He is not the ‘face’ of Indian cinema, but the smelly ass of it, which most of you hoity-toity people so snobbishly turn your nose up at. But Kanti Shah and his film are, without doubt pure genius, and Gunda his crowning jewel!! As mithun Da would say, “Koi Shaq”!!

As good as it gets

Melvin Udall: You make me want to be a better man.

I know it’s soppy. But rolling off Jack Nicholson’s caustic tongue, it’s something else.

Reservoir Dogs

Mr. Brown: Let me tell you what 'Like a Virgin' is about. It's all about a girl who digs a guy with a big dick. The entire song. It's a metaphor for big dicks.
Mr. Blonde: No, no. It's about a girl who is very vulnerable. She's been fucked over a few times. Then she meets some guy who's really sensitive...
Mr. Brown: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa... Time out Greenbay. Tell that fucking bullshit to the tourists.
Joe: Toby... Who the fuck is Toby? Toby...
Mr. Brown: 'Like a Virgin' is not about this sensitive girl who meets a nice fella. That's what "True Blue" is about, now, granted, no argument about that.
Mr. Orange: Which one is 'True Blue'? Nice Guy Eddie: 'True Blue' was a big ass hit for Madonna. I don't even follow this Tops In Pops shit, and I've at least heard of "True Blue".
Mr. Orange: Look, asshole, I didn't say I ain't heard of it. All I asked was how does it go? Excuse me for not being the world's biggest Madonna fan.
Mr. Blonde: Personally, I can do without her.
Mr. Blue: I like her early stuff. You know, 'Lucky Star', 'Borderline' - but once she got into her 'Papa Don't Preach' phase, I don't know, I tuned out.
Mr. Brown: Hey, you guys are making me lose my... train of thought here. I was saying something, what was it?
Joe: Oh, Toby was this Chinese girl, what was her last name?
Mr. White: What's that?
Joe: I found this old address book in a jacket I ain't worn in a coon's age. What was that name?
Mr. Brown: What the fuck was I talking about?
Mr. Pink: You said 'True Blue' was about a nice girl, a sensitive girl who meets a nice guy, and that 'Like a Virgin' was a metaphor for big dicks.
Mr. Brown: Lemme tell you what 'Like a Virgin' is about. It's all about this cooze who's a regular fuck machine, I'm talking morning, day, night, afternoon, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick.
Mr. Blue: How many dicks is that? Mr. White: A lot.
Mr. Brown: Then one day she meets this John Holmes motherfucker and it's like, whoa baby, I mean this cat is like Charles Bronson in the 'Great Escape', he's digging tunnels. Now, she's gettin' the serious dick action and she's feeling something she ain't felt since forever. Pain. Pain.
Joe: Chew? Toby Chew?
Mr. Brown: It hurts her. It shouldn't hurt her, you know, her pussy should be Bubble Yum by now, but when this cat fucks her it hurts. It hurts just like it did the first time. You see the pain is reminding a fuck machine what it once was like to be a virgin. Hence, 'Like a Virgin'.

Just a bunch of crooks rambling away to each other, but there’s so much more happening there in the conversation. A riveting scene from the master of long-winding dialogues.

Kill Bill Vol II

Bill: A staple of the superhero mythology is there's the superhero and there's the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he's Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone. Superman didn't become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he's Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent....What Kent wears - the glasses, the business suit, that's the costume. That's the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent? He's weak, he's unsure of himself, he's a coward. Clark Kent is Superman's critique on the whole human race.

Another piece of classic Tarantino. The dialogue is self-explanatory, I needn’t add more.

Meghe Dhaka Tara(Cloud-capped star)

Neeta: Dada, ami baachte chai (Brother, I want to live)

Ok, I am a big sucker for melodrama. But I cannot imagine a single soul who will not be stirred by this scene and this dialogue. It is brilliantly portrayed and is disturbingly heartbreaking. You have to watch it to know what I am talking about. In a confirmation of the popularity of Meghe Dhaka Tara, a recent survey by a leading Indian news group reported that this concluding line of the film was the most well-known line of any film.

Agantuk(The Stranger)

Manmohan Mitra: Aami oder moton Bison aankte paarina( I cannot draw bison like them)

‘Them’ here refers to the people who drew animals in the ancient Altamira caves of Spain. Dialogues are often mirror to a character. And very rarely a director or writer’s work can capture a personality in just one sentence dialogue. Satyajit Ray was one man who could so wonderfully do it. In this one dialogue, he successfully captures the angst of a man who has seen it all, been there-done that, yet is aware how little it is compared to the genius of so called primitive cave-dwellers.

Monday, August 24, 2009

So Fast So Furious

There’s something about being ‘fast’ that I think is over-rated. People are just way too obsessed with being fast, aggressive. Fast city, fast car, fast technology, fast person, everything and everyone ‘fast’ is to be revered, feared or respected. The Go-getters. The Winners. You got to have it all, and have it now. I mean, everywhere you go, anything you do, we want our things NOW. Instant gratification is the order of the day. Age, wisdom are passé. Something to be sniggered at. No wonder, we have so many 18 year olds hanging around in agencies who know absolutely nothing about advertising (And at their age, they are not expected to know anything about it), but man, they are smug. When you know nothing, to have a little bit of humility doesn’t hurt but then like I said, humility is passé. I wonder what these kids are drunk on. Ignorance, I guess. Because the less you know, the more you are not afraid of what you don’t. And if you are ever confronted with something you don’t know, you can always google.

People are so obsessed with getting and doing things so fast that it is mind-boggling. I mean, we got our ATM machines, and we get hopping mad if the guy in front of us takes more than 3 minutes for his transaction. We cannot wait to get in or out of a cinema hall or an airplane, as if elbowing out other people will fetch you better seats. Sheehij sent me this video and that’s when I thought of writing this post, because I so believe in what this bloke, Louis CK, An American Stand Up, Actor, Writer, Producer, Director says. We’ve come such a long way in getting things so fast at our disposal that we don’t value what we have. We are so dependent on the machine that the moment it falters even for a second, our world comes crashing down. People don’t have such expectations from fellow people. You’d be still okay with your girlfriend coming an hour late for your date, but god if your ATM machine fucks on you for a moment, you’d be cursing like crazy, like it owes you something. I have forever hated the way people think they have absolutely all the fucking right in the world to talk crap about the ‘aunty’ airhostesses of Air India. About how rude they are and how unattractive and old they are. You know what??! You are rude. Give her a fucking break. She’s your hostess, not your slave! And it is only a 2 hour journey. Your own mom or wife wouldn’t come running to you if you ring that bell so many times in 2 hours.

And this apathy and intolerance doesn’t just restrict to machines. People are critical of anybody who’s not ‘fast’. There’s something really malicious about the way one is treated if you don’t fit into their scheme of things in terms of what’s fast and what’s not. I have been a part of such maliciousness too. And more often than not I’ve been told that I talk to much, think a lot more than that. That I am not aggressive enough. That I am a drifter, not a go-getter. Too old. Too fat. Not FAST. Well, heck, I am not! And I used to be quite troubled by it. I wanted to be like the ‘fast’ friends I have. I wanted to be them. But I can’t. Because it’s not me. I don’t believe in self-help books, but one day somebody told me I’ll forever be like this, because it is me. And the day I develop a sense of humour about it, I’ll be a happy man. That was awesome advice. Now I try not to be so apologetic about who and what I am. Everyday I struggle with it. Every day, my jokes are on myself. A sense of humour is a wonderful thing. It’s helped me a lot.

I am not your quintessential winner guy, but I am learning to be happy with what I am. To sum it up, I’ll use a quote from Jerry Maguire, “I don't have all the answers. In life, to be honest, I failed as much as I have succeeded. But I love my wife. I love my life. And I wish you my kind of success.” No, thanks??

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fuch Feriouf Fun!

Identical twins have been one of the formulas long used in Bollywood. But to take a cliché and to treat it in a way that it becomes a ‘genre’ film, now that’s quite an achievement. And that’s what Vishal Bhardwaj has done. Again! Much like the Koreans, who take a subject like revenge and create masterpieces out of it.

So there it is, a film about the good and the evil . And everything in between. A movie about love and deceit. About cultural differences and geographical divides. About crooks and gangsters, about freaks and opportunists. About characters with opposite beliefs but intertwined fates. About very little white and a little black, and a lot of grey.

The good being Guddu, a stammering NGO worker and the bad, Charlie, his identical twin, jo ‘Fa’ ko “Fa’ bolta hai. They both want to make it big in their life, they both have goals set for themselves. But the similarities end just there. They are as different as it can get. Guddu is an honest NGO worker, while Charlie is a small-time race course better. Both have and want nothing to do with each other but their fates collide and they end up in a situation where they only have each other to survive. What follows then is a rollercoaster ride that ends in an explosive climax. One of the best climaxes I have seen in the recent times.

Really good and convincing casting has been forever a strong point of Vishal Bhardwaj’s films. Kaminey keeps up with this trend. Shahid has portrayed both roles very effectively, but call it my bias or a problem, I look at him on the screen and just can’t help wondering ‘oh, he looks so much younger than anybody and everybody around him, younger than his heroine and even fresh faced Mikhail (brilliantly portrayed by Chandan Roy Sanyal). Priyanka Chopra is very believable as a marathi mulgi (Vishal bhardwaj supposedly had to woo Priyanka to do this role. Well, she should call him up every day and thank him.) Amol Gupte is so entertaining as a manipulative crook cum aspiring politician. The verbal duel between his character Bhope Bhau and Mikhail, played by Chandan is one of the best moments of this film. The others in the cast are very apt and nicely portrayed.

In keeping with the dark theme of the film, the sun hardly ever rises in Kaminey. Throughout the film, it is dark, muggy and brooding. The editing is top notch so is the camera work. But at times, the keep-the-camera-roving-all-over-the-place gets a bit too much. I know, that’s exactly what the intention was, in keeping with the delirious sequences, but then still it gets way too disorienting at times. The dialogues are crisp. Vishal and Gulzar have forever made brilliant music together, Kaminey is no exception. It’s a shame that hardly anyone else uses a gem like Suresh Wadekar.

Vishal Bhardwaj is a master of linear storytelling, he’s portrayed that in all his previous films. He forever has had really good material, whether it is adapting Shakesperean plays or a Ruskin bond story. But in Kaminey, there’s a shift from his style and is much ‘Tarantinosque’, if I may use the term. So yeah, it is no Maqbool, it is not even Omkara. But Kaminey is a great watch nonetheless. It might not be Vishal’s the best film, but whatever anybody else does, he does it so much better. He is arguably the best we have in the Bombay Film Industry and perhaps one of the best in the world.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


I am generally interested in films and particularly interested in Korean films. I think they are amongst the best film-making nations. I regularly keep track of what’s happening in the Korean film-world and on my last such reading session, I came across a very interesting film which has just released in Korea. It is called Bandhobi. Now Bandhobi is not exactly a Korean term but a Bengali term meaning ‘female friend’. From what I read about it, it is quite an interesting film. It’s a story about growing pains and the meeting point of different cultures says the review I read. A story about a Korean Teenaged girl and an illegal Bangladeshi immigrant who have to team up due to some circumstances. Teenage actress Bae Jin-hui portrays the cheeky 17-year-old Min-seo, while Mahbub Alam, who, I read is a migrant worker-turned-documentary filmmaker (which in itself, is so interesting) plays Karim, who is what else, but an illegal immigrant in Korea.

Korea has a HUGE western hangover, much like the rest of Asia. In some ways, more so, than the rest of the Asia. Even when we are geographically closer to Korea, they have much more affinity to the west. More often than not, Hollywood films are bigger grossers than the home grown movies. So they often end up making films which has western characters or setting. The very bad but hugely successful D-War is a case in point. But Bandhobi is a totally different ballgame; one of its protagonists doesn’t come from the west but from an ‘undesirable’ country like Bangladesh. The director of this ‘crude socio-political satire’, Shin Dong-il is already hailed as Korea’s Woody Allen, thanks to his previous films.

This movie promises to be an exciting ride. One which will be quite new and refreshing, as it comes from a society we don’t much know about. One which and I quote from the original review, the “director Shin Dong-il translates to screen “uncomfortable” issues of illegal immigration, racism and social toadyism through the universal languages of ticklish humor, teenage angst and priceless friendship.”
I can’t wait to lay my hands on the movie.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The 'BAD' is gone

The self-proclaimed King of Pop is dead. Not that we ever disagreed about the ‘The Greatest’ being the ‘King of Pop’. And pomp. He was unarguably the greatest showman on earth, and the greatest entertainer of our time. Of all times.

I heard him as a kid first. Saw him is more like it. In our good ol’ doordarshan days, when the western music on the tube was so far and in between, MJ was a rage. I understood nothing of what he was singing. I think, none of my friends did. But what made him special was his presentation. He was one helluva performer. I never was much of a dancer. But I had this next door neighbour who moonwalked into so many young girls' heart with his crotch-grabbing, body-contorting, kicking-the-air MJ style breakdance. At that age, it never occurred to me what a gifted singer and sogwriter he was. Only later I discovered his singing, the ones he did alone and the ones he did as one of, and arguably the most talented of the Jackson 5. And what a delight he was!

Later, when I grew up to more music and different genres, MJ and his music took a backseat. But whatever he did, music or otherwise, never failed to surprise us. Whether it is his music, or Peter-pan acts, or other more serious allegations, ‘Wacko Jacko’ always stayed in news.

It's very very weird to hear about his death. I mean, someone like him doesn't just 'die'. He was 'different', to say the least. I really don't mean it mockingly, but i seriously think that someone like him doesn't die. With MJ, you expect an alien ship to come and take him to the mothership, when he decides to depart. Or he disappearing mysteriously somehow, only to be 'sighted' by fans, even after 100 years later.

I don’t quite remember where was it that I first saw his number, what age was I. But I am sure we will all remember where were we, what exactly were we doing when we heard the news of his death. That’s the legend MJ is!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Poll Sell

There was a time when the walls in Calcutta were plastered with posters and graffiti endorsing political parties, once the poll frenzy began. Thanks to Court's order, that has been curtailed, well almost. But the political parties have found out more sophisticated ways to advertise themselves, which is what else but hiring advertising agencies. So now you have TVCs, press, outdoor, web advertising, the entire works done by leading agencies of the country for political parties And that, is something I am so afraid of. I work in advertising and I do my bit of selling aerated drinks when you actually should be having water. And I have designed cigarette packs and glamourised a life-threatening thing initially in my career. So yes, I am guilty of it all. But I believe, endorsing a political party and its people are a different ballgame altogether. And I am glad I am not in an agency which endorses them. Because I know, I will not do it, just like I will not work on cigarette brands. EVER.

How can we endorse criminals, mass murderers, people who have orchestrated hate crimes and genocide against a section of people or a particular community? How can we advertise them! Glorify them! And more so when we might not believe in a particular party’s ideology (if it has any). I am glad I am not part of the team which sits down and ideates on how to ‘sell’ a politician to masses. A politician, who might have criminal cases pending against him, or has led an armed mob to maul a particular community, or has twisted the system’s arm to facilitate genocide against a particular community.

But then I am an advertising guy and my job is to sell things. Only thing I can try doing is sell a product which is honest. So here am me selling you a politician who has what it takes. Ok, on a serious note, we know that not all politicians are corrupt. There are people out there who are doing it to actually make a difference. One such person is Mr. Arun Bhatia, an ex IAS Officer who is contesting from Pune. An honest man of steely resolve who in his own word, “paid the price of denial of promotion, frequent transfers (26 transfers in as many years of service in India), numerous charges and enquiries, bad assessment reports, ridicule by peers, seniors and subordinates, lack of support when giant offenders like Glaxo or senior officers and politicians were prosecuted by me, ugly threats from the Bombay land mafia.” You can read more about the man (And I insist, you must) on his site,

Delhi went to poll today. I could not vote as I am registered in Calcutta and I haven’t had it transferred to Delhi. The total turnout in Delhi was roughly 50%, while sometime back Bombay recorded a shameful 43%. I wonder what is it with people. People in Bombay had come out in full force a la Rang De Basanti to light candles after 26th November’s terrorist attack. Roughly 4 months later, the very people took the first train, bus or car out of Bombay on polling day, just to enjoy the long weekend. How sorry is that! As they say, a nation gets the government it deserves; I hope the 50% of you in Delhi who have voted kept that in mind while voting.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Up, up and away, forever

Okay, another one of my ‘those who came really late’ stories. To my generation (people who were born in the 70s), TV was the biggest luxury. You know, the time when TVs were black and white and they came in this huge wooden box with shutters. The era of Doordarshan, when you waited for almost an entire minute for that doordarshan logo to unfold before a programme would start. Programmes, we would so eagerly wait for. We would hang on to everything that was beamed on the idiot box and we would lap it all up. But one programme I used to watch as a boy and thought to be the greatest show of all time was, Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot.

For the uninitiated, it is a Japanese Tokusatsu (which literally means, Special Effect) series about a Japanese boy, Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot who save the world from the evil plans of Emperor Guillotine from the planet Gargoyle. Johnny is joined in his adventures by a young man named Jerry Mano, who is secretly Member U3 of the top-secret peacekeeping organization, Unicorn, which even Johnny joins after their fateful first meeting. So each episode would consist of Guillotine trying to destroy the earth by sending a missile or a monster and Johnny and His Robot fighting it off.

It was such a pleasure to watch the show. Now when I look back at it, it was crude and very primitive in style compared to what we have today. But back then, when you’re was not even 10, who would care or even bother about it. That was the best shit we were getting to watch and it was great. For an elite crime-fighting group, Johnny and his team members wore scooter helmets and not so flattering clothes. Guillotine himself had a large blue head with tentacles extending from the bottom of the head, wore a long robe, and carried a staff with a white orb. His terrorist army called Gargoyle consisted of a pretty incompetent bunch that wore uniforms like Soviet soldiers and greeted Emperor Guillotine with a Hitleresque hail, a la Japanese Nazi. And Flying Robot, for some strange reason looked nothing like a Japanese character, what with a Pharaoh kind of hairdo and face. Still, with all it’s limitations of low budget production and not so advanced technology, it made for a great watch. They beamed the series dubbed in English, which we never noticed. To us, that’s the way the Japs spoke English, with the lips movements and uttered word having no relationship whatsoever. Even if you missed the dialogues, you’d never miss the context as the facial expressions of Japanese actors would successfully convey it. The only exception was the Giant Robot who was a wee bit less expressive than John Abraham.

The reason, I think, Johnny Sokko struck a chord with kids around the world was that somewhere, somehow they saw themselves in both the characters. I am sure, whoever watched the series then secretly or not so secretly so wished to have a Giant Robot friend at his or her command, to thrash the bullies around. I remember, I wanted to be Johnny Sokko and Giant Robot both. I would pretend to be Johnny Sokko and call my imaginary giant Robot on my two-size-too-big fake branded china-made digital watch. And then I would do the Robot part too, complete with the ‘robotic’ hand movements, before flying off. Now when I think of it, so many memories of the show and its impact on me, flood my mind. I still remember the last episode where the Giant Robot finally battles with Guillotine himself. The robot had used up all his nuclear energy and had no strength left. Guillotine increases his size to that of the robot, but his body is a mass of atomic energy. So if a bullet were to hit him, his body would explode and the entire Earth would explode with him. Johnny activates Giant Robot’s auxiliary power source and fights Guillotine. He disobeys Johnny’s commands to stop attacking and flies into Space with Guillotine and they collide with a meteor destroying them both. Johnny Sokko breaks into tears and as Johnny, Gerry and the rest of the Unicorn Agency salute the Giant Robot we are left with the words “And so the saga comes to an end. Giant Robot sacrificed himself to save the Earth from the terrible Guillotine but, who knows, when Johnny desperately needs him again, perhaps like a miracle he will come back out of the sky.” But that never happened. The Robot flew up, up and away, never to come back. I remember I cried my eyes out when Giant Robot ‘died’.
Thankfully I stumbled upon some forums and these videos on youtube. I can’t be thankful enough to the gentle souls who share the same love for Johnny Sokko as me. Guys, thanks to you, I got to revisit a part of my childhood. I’m sure you’d love them as much as I did. Adding a couple of links here, you can see more in youtube, sadly the sites like hulu and Johnny where you can see entire episodes for free are only available in America.

I do a lot of nonsense TV watching now, flipping channels after channels endlessly, what with so many channels nowadays, but hardly anything captivating enough to watch. In the good ol’ days of Doordarshan we didn’t have the luxury. Or rather we didn’t need it.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

I, like so many of us ‘advertising types’ have already seen 'Slumdog Millionaire' before it has got its theatrical release in India. Now, don’t ask me how…you know, wink, wink! But anyway, that’s not important. Some of the people in my office who’ve watched the film as well, are all praises about the film. Everybody is like “what a great film it is”, and “how you need an outsider to make a ‘real’ film about India”. The thing is I really didn’t like the film. And I’ve been much mocked and reviled for not liking a ‘truly great film’. But, I didn’t. Now I thought I’ll keep my mouth shut about it and not act the movie pundit, but I simply can’t help it. The western media is all gung-ho about the film, what with calling it an ‘epic fantasy movie’ and ‘movie of the year’ and all that. I believe, it is really not ‘great’ cinema as it is made out to be. Is it entertaining? Yes. Is it visually dazzling? Of course. Is it a great film? Not by a yard.

The western world is, and forever has been in love with our misery, poverty and the perverseness of our society. They love to romanticize it, taking it to bilblical proportions. Like Johnny Depp calls ‘Shantaram’ his bible. Or when Lars Von Trier challenged his mentor Jorgen Leth to remake his celebrated documentary, ‘The Perfect Human’ in 5 different extremes situations, guess which place he chose when he was asked to make it in what he considers ‘the-worst-place-on-the-earth’?! Yes, you guessed it right! Bombay!! Kamathipura, the red-light district in Bombay, to be more precise. So it is this kind of romantic love the westerners have for India, which the Slumdog Millionaire is product of. Colours, kistch, homeless kids, organised crime, poverty,
Call centers, police brutality…and yeah, a Shakespearean love story above it all. And you have your most human movie of the year. Not that we haven’t seen it before. It’s just that we’ve seen better. Like Mira Nair’s ‘Salaam Bombay’ a powerhouse of a debut film. Slumdog Millionaire just doesn’t do it. It just never rises from a level of morbidity. Slumdog tries too hard to be an entertainer. It is as good a movie on India as ‘Crash’ was about the state of America. Full of cliches. Jamal, the protagonist of Slumdog is like ‘forrest Gump’. He is in the middle of everything, every evil of our society, It is like the ‘Forrest Gump’ in India, only difference being unlike Forrest, Jamal, rarely ever meets anybody with a heart. We are in India, not America, remember.

The movie has an interesting format, ripped from the writer Vikas Swarup’s novel ‘Q&A’ and turned into a rags-to-riches story by writer Simon Beaufoy. But that’s about it. Like I said, the film never rises above the story. One more thing I absolutely hated was the fact that the characters spoke in English, which looked so-so fake. I know the film has been made for a western audience, and that it is an ‘English’ film, but it just doesn’t sound right. Remember the Chinese films that you watch dubbed in English where the characters talk in ‘Chinese English’. You get the picture, right?! And then it doesn’t help that the dialogues are really flat. I know it’s asking for too much but I wish the film was shot in hindi with english subtitles, just the way ‘Letters from Iwo Jima’ was shot. Dialogues in English by Indian characters, that too mouthed by the characters who belong to the slums, just doesn’t do it. More so when Dev Patel (Jamal) sounds and looks every bit the British lad that he is. Anil Kapoor does his bit, so do the rest of the cast, especially Mahesh Manjrekar who gives a very balanced performance. The film is shot brilliantly by cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, and the score by A.R. Rehman is good. But that’s almost all that I found good about the film. The only other Danny Boyle films that I’ve seen are Trainspotting’ and ‘The Beach’. The Beach was entertaining, nicely shot, great score and a brilliant performance by Leo DiCaprio. And I think Trainspotting had everything going for it, the right mix of the dialogue, the music, the performances, the direction, the production values, the humor, the shock-value.

And above all, in these films, you see a director who is in-charge of his material, one who is at home with the subject and their circumstances. Sadly, with Slumdog Millionaire, it isn’t the case.