Blast from the past: MUQADDAR KA SIKANDAR

April 30, 2011

Remember this is late 70’s and yours truly is a teenager. Like a teenager I have confused views about life, where to head to, what to do. One keeps toying with various idols, various “ideologies”, multiple ideals (heavy words for a kid!). There is no clear solution in sight. There is one beacon however in this miasma, Amitabh Bachchan. Or rather the persona of Big B those days (who was called AB still, not Big B), the angry-young-man, ready-and-keen, to take on the establishment. He, from the dregs of the society, taking on the heavyweights. Remember Trishul, Ganga Ki Saugandh, Adalat, Deewar? If he was not from the dregs, he was tortured soul personified. Mili, Namakharam, Zanjeer, etc. etc., remember?

Sorry, I digressed, I do not mean this piece to be a discussion on Amitabh Bachchan’s filmography. Let me just tell you that I loved this movie, loved enough that after watching it for the first time, I saw it twice again within seven days of its release.

Let me tell you a small story. I was born and raised in Jamshedpur, a small town in what is now called Jharkhand. After I completed my 10th in the city, I had to move out as there were limited options for +2 in Jamshedpur. My classmates and I chose Nagpur. There were two simple reasons behind this. Nagpur was just 12 hours away by train (Geetanjali Superfast Express) from my hometown and more importantly the Maharashtra Board exams (for +2) got over in March which gave me enough time to prepare for the IIT-JEE scheduled for May. Those were the rational reasons. There was one more reason, known only to me then, Nagpur had many more cinema theaters, compared with Jamshedpur. And me, a hard-core movie buff, this was incentive enough to relocate from home in Jamshedpur to a hostel in Nagpur.

The year was 1978. The year I saw many interesting movies including AB’s Trishul, Kasme Vaade and Don. And MKS!

It was during my early days in Nagpur when MKS was released. And I saw the movie on the 8th day of its release in a theater called Liberty, in the Sadar area in Nagpur, close to my college hostel. To say I was bowled over would be an understatement. This was the movie about an underdog going down fighting!

I will not go into the details of the movie, but suffice it to say that the great Kadar Khan’s “speech” in the graveyard when young AB (the hapless Master Mayur) is moping on his foster mother’s grave was inspirational:

Sukh mein hanstey ho to,
Dukh mein kehkahey lagaao.
Zindagi ka andaaz badal jaayega!”

(If you laugh when happy, chortle aloud when sad. You will then find an altogether novel way of living)

And the adult AB comes on screen soon enough riding around in South Bombay on his motorcycle dressed in a natty jacket, singing aloud: “Rotey huey aatey hain sab, hanstaa hua jo jayega.”

Sometime during the song he crosses a hearse on the street. He pauses and sings:

Zindagi to bewafaa hai, ek din thukrayegi,
Maut mehbooba hai apni, saath lekar jayegi

Enjoy this song, one of the greatest movies of AB, ever, and one the greatest songs from Amitabh Bachchan/Kishore Kumar combo.

PS: This song was placed 13th in the “Binaca Geetmala 1979”. However the top two songs were AB’s. In fact of the 39 top songs of the year, 16 were from AB’s movies.

PS2: This post was written a few months ago for my friend Atul’s excellent blog on Hindi film songs http://atulsongaday.wordpress.com

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“The Three Idiots” and I

January 17, 2010

The Making of an “Idiot”:

I have kept away from the reviews of “3 idiots” as I always do when I plan to see a particular movie; it has been a few weeks since the movie was released. While I could keep myself off the printed reviews, I could not prevent my friends’ and colleagues’ impromptu reviews and the masses of unsolicited emails. Not to mention the recaps of the movie from my sons whose friends had seen the movie in the very first weekend while the family kept away from it as son-the-elder was writing his 10th pre-boards and we decided to abstain from movies in that period. (Now, having seen the movie, I think I was championing the very system the film was trying to denounce). May be I should have allowed my elder son to keep practicing on his fledgling guitar knowledge or his general mastery in computer games instead of focusing on academics.

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I have been a product of a system very similar to that of Imperial College of Engineering, the Institute of technology of Banaras Hindu University (IT-BHU, Varanasi). Not one of the IITs, but it was then one of the only two colleges outside the (then) five IITs which admitted students based on the much awe-inspiring JEE, the great IIT Joint Entrance Exam.

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Those days, for a reasonably bright student in a middle-class family, there were just two options for further studies, engineering or medicine. Arts and commerce were not in consideration. Commerce, maybe, if you were from a business family or a family of Cost Accountants and Chartered Accountants. Arts was the last resort for all, though your parents would conceal their general disappointment by telling all those who would care to listen that their child was aiming for the IAS- that Holy Grail for the middle-class families. The large majority could at best hope to become a probationary officer in a scheduled bank. Most landed up learning typing/ stenography and hoping to become a clerk somewhere. Courses like Computer Applications (BCA, MCA), Journalism, Hospitality, Aviation et al just did not exist!

Coming now to selection of engineering versus medicine: it was mostly a negative choice; if you did not like- or did not do well in- Maths, you were destined to pursue medical entrance. Likewise, lack of fondness for Biology made you pursue the engineering stream if you were otherwise a bright chap.

However, like Madhavan who wanted to be a wild-life photographer, I had these romantic notions of being a journalist. My father, a college professor, on realizing that I doth protest too much, plotted with my elder brother and sat me down for some “advice”. They convinced me into pursuing preparations for the engineering stream. They remarked that to be a successful in life- even as a journalist- I needed to have intelligence. That was a motherhood statement, I had to agree. If one exam does prove relative intelligence, they continued, it is the JEE. That kind of sealed my “fate”, as it were. If thought I was intelligent I needed to prove to my family and the world at large, that I indeed was brainy. That made sense to me and I decided to take a shy at the much-feared JEE.

Pitaji was a Hindi professor and he had no idea about matters-science. But he knew a trick-or-two about education. He consulted his colleagues in the sciences departments of his college and was advised that whatever I may want to pursue in life, excellence in mathematics was essential. “Santosh”, they advised, “needs to be a year ahead of his class in math.” So, off I was, attending tuition classes in trigonometry while my friends were struggling with algebra. I was learning Calculus while my classmates were learning the rudiments of sin squared+ cos squared= 1. I hated all this. I even bunked a few of these classes to see the latest film releases.

With some hard work and lots of luck, I did pass the JEE. Never mind the rank. I had the consolation of being in the “exalted” list of something like 2000 qualifiers from among 1.5 lakh applicants. I do not know the stats now, the number of applicants has increased manifolds since, and so has the number of IIT seats as there are many more IITs now. The ratio remains somewhat unchanged even now.

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The Myth of Rancho, the Great:

I have a fundamental problem with the character of Rancho. I do not agree with the premise that a Rancho can be a comfortable topper without investing time and effort in academics. Sure, Rancho has a thing for machines and can tear them apart and fix them back. Sure he can get the aeroplane-like contraption to fly. But topping the class? I have my doubts. The bindaas Ranchos I have seen during my five years of engineering were at their  best middling in academics or often at the bottom of the class. A true engineer is more than someone who can repair machines, there is a lot more to engineering than just fixing nuts and bolts in the right places. You are not training at the local polytechnic to be a mere mechanic.

(I have one more crib with Rancho, he had the IQ of Einstein- or maybe more- and also was a great friend. He should have realized that his two room-mates did not have matching IQs and should have advised them to pack-in some studies instead of indulging in sundry extra-curricular activities all the time.)

The guys in my Institute who really did well academically were a mix of fun and studies. Of the two toppers in my class, one was into movies of all types while the other was a solidly-built football half-back. The rival teams dreaded him! Sure they studied, but not at the expense of fun. The film guy, by the way, is now a global nano-material scientist with tons of papers published in the coveted journal “Nature”. But in no way I can describe him as a uni-dimensional character, a nerd. The topper in the batch senior to ours was an ace drummer and the Institute cricket captain. And he too studied hard.

Of course, there were enough Chatur’s lurking around, but I cannot remember anyone of these ever making it to the top of the class. Rare was a nerd who topped. To that extent I agree with the portrayal of the character.

The fact remains that the Institute was a great place to gain knowledge and meet and make friends with some supremely talented folks. Music, theater, sports, arcane hobbies; the range on display was breath-taking. A few did kind of drift-off and lose all sense of perspective (I have known seniors who spent 7-8 years to get their 5-year engineering degree.) But most students were intelligent folks who managed to mix work and fun. After all, these were some of the brightest students of their times who occasionally indulged their sundry other interests with like-minded folks.

Like I mentioned earlier, I had no great interest in engineering but having qualified for studying at the Institute I made sure my grades were reasonably healthy through those five years. I may not have been in the top quartile, but what-the-hell, I had my share of fun. Directing plays, editing the campus magazine for a couple of years, picking up cryptic crosswords and going on- what some considered crazy- a 800 km cycle trip from Varanasi to Delhi. I never aspired to top the class, not that aspiring would have helped given the general IQ levels floating around. But I had my fun and passed out much richer in terms of skills learnt, friends made, and generally knowing a little bit more about what all a human can do. And by the way, my CGPA was Ok and I had a coveted campus job as well in the bag when I graduated. It is another matter than I was fortunate enough not to take up the job.

But that is another story!


My Favourite Music of 2009: Gulaal & Kaminey

December 30, 2009

This last post of the year is about two Hindi film albums released this year which I have enjoyed the most. “Gulaal” and “Kaminey”. The piece which follows is my take on these two albums and the reasons why I like them. If you read my blog you would know that I very rarely review music CDs or movies here. But I thought I must let you know about the music which has really excited me in 2009.

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The contrasts could not have been starker.

One album is raw, unfinished, just like the movie. The other a gleaming, finished product complete with orchestral arrangements and great sound engineering. The former is rooted in the beats, tunes and silences of the Hindi heartland, the other revels (well, almost) in the pulsating beats of the metropolis of Mumbai.

A hitherto unknown music director versus someone who has unveiled the beauty of his craft in his earlier ventures too. A relatively unknown lyricist against an established doyen of Hindi film lyrics, and indeed, Hindi/Urdu/Hindustani poetry with published anthologies of his own.

The differences end here.

Both the albums break the stereotype of Hindi film music. Both have music which has not been heard before. The lyrics are a syncretic fusion of Hindi and Urdu (with some Sanskrit and Urdu/Arabic thrown in as well). Sheer poetry, nevertheless. Both use relatively lesser known singers And both these musicians create magic.

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Gulaal:

I knew of Piyush Mishra as a lyricist. The movie Black Friday is one example. But this effort of his straddles multiple facets; lyrics, music and voice. With verve, panache, a deep understanding of the “hinterland” psyche, and a supreme command over language. (And, as an aside, he has a fairly major on-screen role as well in this film.)

There is this famously famous mujra number “Ranaji” with references to global current affairs, seemingly flippant mentions of post-war Afghanistan, Iraq, 9/11?

Or the soulful number “Aisi hawa” which speaks of unspeakable sadness and longing. Sample this:

Aisi sazaa deti hawaa, tanhaai bhi tanha nahi

Neendein bhi ab soney gayeen, raaton ko bhi parwaah nahi.

Just some disjointed strums of a guitar, and some thunder and lightning, that is what accompanies Shilpa Rao as she explores the depths of desolation.

Can you visualize the punishing breeze, the desertion of solitude and slumber and the unrelenting nights?

Or would you rather prefer the other mujra? “Beedo” which talks about iliicit love? “Beedo doojey thali ka, lagey bada majedaar…”. The distinctive voice of Rekha Bharadwaj who seems to be enjoying herself completely.

Or would rather immerse yourself in the sheer poetry of “Duniya”? Piyush Mishra strong vocals accompanied by table playing the basic dadra matra as he sings about the hopelessness of it all.

“O, ri Duniya!

Surmayi aankhon ke pyaalon ki duniya,
Satrangi rangon gulaalon ki duniya,..o duniya!”

Duniya” is unabashedly based on the classic “Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaye toh kya hai.” In fact it is a tribute to the shayars of yore.

Ghalib ke, Momin ke, khwaabon ki duniya
Majaazon ke un inqualaabon ki duniya
Faiz, Firaaq aur Saahir o Makhdoom
Mir ki, Zauk ki, Daagh ki duniya

The vigorous “Aarambh” is all vim and vigour with a supremely energetic- in fact warlike- feel to it while the doleful and brooding “Musafir” with just a guitar for accompaniment is sad, very sad.

Sheher”, a duet featuring Piyush Mishra and Swanand Kirkire is all about impending sense of danger, doom, and the utter futility. Sample some words:

“Kahin pe wo jooton ki khatkhat hai

Kahin pe alaavon ki chatpat hai
Kahin pe hai jhingoor ki aawaazein
Kahin pe wo nalke ki taptap hai
Kahin pe wo kaali si khidki hai
Kahin wo andheri si chimni hai
Kahin hilte pedon ka jattha hai
Kahin kuch munderon pe rakha hai”

A chill runs down your spine when the words “Kahin pe wo nalke ki taptap hai” come on. It is as if the tap is dripping ice-cold water on you naked back past midnight in the middle of the killer Rajasthan winter.

Thanks you Piyush Mishra for the lyrics, music and your singing. Thank you Rekha Bharadwaj for you two mujra pieces and thank you Anurag Kashyap to continue being the non-conformist you have always been. Ever since Black Friday and the quirky music of Dev D (“Emosanal Atyachar”) I have expected a lot from you movies and the music of your movies.

On a personal note, let me confess that I searched far-and-wide for a CD of Gulaal, but of no avail. And I was forced to, for the first time, to search the net for a download. This is what I listened to for months till the Gulaal CD was formally released which I bought with alacrity.

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Kaminey:

The polished and sophisticated track of Kaminey is a confluence of magicians.

The ever popular lyricist Gulzaar who weaves common Hindi words into a web of magic. Remember his earliest song: Bandini’s “Mora gora ang lai ley, mohe shyam rang dayi dey” to “Aa, ee, aa gayi chitthi” from the film Kitaab which he directed himself, to the soulful Asha Bhosle number “Mera kuchh saaman pada hai” to the recent “Beedi” from Omkaara. He does not let you down, one bit, in Kaminey. He transforms common day-to-day Hindi speak to sheer poetry, as only he can.

Vishal Bharadwaj began his Hindi cinema career as a composer with his big break in his mentor’s film, “Maachis”. Remember the hypnotic “Chappa, chappa, charkha chaley? He then went on to direct films which cut across several genres: His first film was “Makdi” for kids, then took a “U”-turn to do a couple of utterly Indian- and honest- adaptations of Shakespeare: Maqbool (based on Macbeth), Omkaara (Othello-based). Both were liked immensely by the average movie-goer and the critics. He also scored the music for these films. Soon after Omkaar followed a kid’s movie “The Blue Umbrella” based on a Ruskin Bond story. Kaminey is the latest offering from Vishal B., a complete departure from what he has done before. A film with the gritty and fast-paced feel of a Quentin Tarantino movie (Kill Bill I and II, Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs). Q.T., by the way, is a favourite director of mine.

The singer-duo of Kailash Kher and Sukhwinder Singh need no introduction. Kher’s dominating songs with a sufi feel to it, (remember “Allah ke Bande”?) while Sukhwinder had a big hand in spreading the popularity of the venerable A R Rahman in the Hindi heartland with his music in hits like “Taal”. Yes, he was the lead singer of the Oscar winner “Jai ho”.

The zingy “Dhan te Tan” was the first off the block on the popularity charts. The pre-release publicity of the movie even mentioned that this was one of the rare Hindi film songs to be played at the famed night club “Ministry of Sound” in London. I am not sure about that but I would not be surprised. The electrifying energy of the song would get any lay person to shake his leg or two. Never mind if he or she does not understand the magical lyrics of Gulzar:

“koyi chaal aisi chalo yaar ab ke,

samundar bhi pul pe chale.

phir tu chale uspey ya main chaloon,

shehar ho apane pairo tale.”

The only injustice to this number is the way it is written in English, “Dhan te tan”. Dhan-te-tan is essentially a sound which you use to preface your narration of a suspenseful piece of the story you are narrating. If you are an Indian you would know how you would actually pronounce it, that dhan-ta-dhan sound (impossible to write in English!). I wonder why this common sound was never employed in a song before!

Yes, and one more thing about this number. It is the way in which Vishal B. quirkily weaves in a completely unrelated string of words, probably in the Western UP dialect of Hindi (VB’s roots are in Meerut). I have been unable to catch the words clearly, but this little linguistic cameo adds to the charm of the song.

Talking about sounds, how about “Phataak”? That’s actually the name of another peppy number! Don’t you wonder again as why this very common sound-word has never been used before? The sharp, biting sound of phataak punctuating the voice of Sukhwinder Singh and Kailash Kher who sing about AIDS prevention, of all the things! And as only a Vishal B.+ Gulzar combo could do it, this song climaxes into a soulful, near saintly,

yeh ishq nahi aasaan, aji yeh isaka khatara hai

o patvaar pehan jaana, yeh aag ka dariya hai

ke naiyya dubey na, re bhawaraa kaate na

How about the utterly naughty “raat ke dhai baje”? The one which has gems like “ishq mein jaltey huye, saans tejaabi lage” and “ek hi latt suljhaaney mein, saari raat gujaari hai”. Coming back to the music director’s penchant for creating magic via mixing quirky, strange lyrics into a number,did you notice the western rap number inserted into this song?

And now for my favourite, the title song, “Kaminey”. Vishal Bhardawaj sings, that I knew. Gulzar writes well, we all know. But the confluence of these two gentlemen could create such magic out of the word “Kaminey”, I could never have guessed. To start with, Vishal B. was handed a set of words elegantly crafted by the maestro lyricist. Sample this:

kya kare, zindagi, isko hum jo mile,

iski jaan, kha gaye, raat din ke gile.

raat din gile.

meri aarzoo kamini, mere khwab bhi kaminey,

ik dil se dosti thi, ki hujur bhi kaminey.

The singer internalizes the angst inherent in the words and as the song progresses he carries it to the height of regret… and longing. A slow build-up leading to a heart-rending climax in the magical combination of words and voice:

“jiska bhi chehra chheela, andar se aur nikla.

Masoom saa kabootar, nacha toh mor nikla.

kabhi hum kaminey nikaley, kabhi doosarey kaminey.

kaminey, kaminey, kaminey, kaminey

meri dosti kamini, mere yaar bhi kaminey.

ik dil se dosti thi, ki hujur bhi kaminey.”

To my mind this one song alone is enough reason to possess this album.

By the way, I have not mentioned Mohit “Masakali” Chauhan’s “Pehli baar mohabbat ki hai”. It is good.

And the three remix versions of the numbers in the album, of which one is a sure winner. The pulsating “Go Charlie, go” which is a funky take on the word Kaminey. Furiously fast-paced, on-the-edge, it slows just for fractions of a second and then takes off again. A metaphor for life in Mumbai (the city in which the film is based)? Probably yes!


“Paa”- A Review

December 13, 2009

For those of you who read this blog this piece will come as a surprise as I do not write film reviews here. But I am compelled to write this after seeing the movie this morning as I would like to urge you to watch this movie, in a theatre of course.

“Paa” is about a young kid, thirteen years old, who is suffering from a rare genetic disorder, progeria. This disease which is extremely rare ages its victim six to seven times faster than the physical age. Like, if one is ten years old, one has the looks of someone who is sixty five years old and would have ailments like cardiac and respiratory problems, quite common to those of that age.

Add to that the complication of this kid being born out of wedlock. No father to oversee his growing-up phase. Luckily for the kid, he has his mother and grandmother to nurture him though they both know that the kid will die really premature; not surviving beyond fifteen years. That is what progeria does to its victim. This kid dies in his fourteenth year.

The mother is Vidya Balan, a gynaecologist with a mind of her own. The grandmother is Arundhati Nag who supports her daughter (Vidya Balan) in her decision to have her baby unquestioningly. And the father of the kid is Abhishek Bachchan, a young upcoming politician out to prove to the world that there is something called a “good” politician.

And the kid is the 68 year old, ex angry-young-man, Amitabh Bachchan.

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Watch the movie for those great acting performances. Vidya Balan nurturing a kid who she knows would die. With dignity and composure. Her mother, Arundhati Nag, the bulwark for her daughter to take on life at her own terms. And Abhishek Bachchan, the politician who wants to carve a niche for himself by proving to the world that politicians can be upright and honest too.

And the Big B, for acting as a kid as old as his grandson. Auro. This man keeps reinventing himself, with every passing year.  I have been a fan of Big B. Ever since his Reshma aur Shera days. Ek Nazar, Deewar, Sholay, Amar Akbar Anthony, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar right till Black. With this movie, he surpasses himself. Imagine a 68 year old man passing off as a 13 year old kid. Admirably. Complete with his scatological references (“bum”, “potty” etc.). His love for King Kong. Who he claims in a poignant sequence, King Long does not understand English, only Chinese. The graffiti on his bedroom door (“Knock, or I will knock your head off.”). The aversion to girls. Normal for his age. For a girl who he discovers in the end wants to say sorry to him for expressing her shock at seeing an “old man” at school.

Big B is BIG, even in this role as a pre-teen.

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If I have a crib about the movie, it is about the role of the small B, Abhishek Bachchan. He has done a great job but I wish those live TV sequences had more meaning- and meat- to them.

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With a story-line like that, I am amazed that the director steered the movie away from sentimentality, away from tear-jerkers. The focus ultimately is on the loving relationship between the mother and son, the mother and her mother and the grandmother and the grandson.

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For me, the hero of the movie is Vidya B. I have not seen her in too many movies but she straddles it like the proverbial Colossus. And that is some act given the presence of Amitabh B. The immense dignity she gives her role, from right when she discovers she is pregnant to when her lover refuses to marry her till her discovery that her son has an incurable disease is breath-taking.

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OK, now for the other reason why I write this post. This movie reminds me of my close friends, a couple battling with a similar life-threatening disease of their young child, now barely 9 years old. This disease is called Niemann-Pick disease which has so far been known to afflict only 500 kids worldwide. And as of information available now, the kid would die before he turns 17. The couple is grappling with this whole issue in such a dignified manner- and so valiantly.

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May God give them courage to bear this utterly terrible thing with strength.

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Go, watch the movie “Paa” with all you loved ones and celebrate life… and all its ironies.


Fashion: A Film Review

October 31, 2008

This is my first attempt at reviewing a movie, I am an avid movie-goer but I have never reviewed one. I saw “Fashion” today and I do want to say a few things about the movie.

This piece may contain some spoilers so those who wish to watch the movie and are particular about these things may wish to skip this piece.

I had nearly given up on Madhur Bhandarkar with the passage of time. I thought “Chandni Bar” was brilliant, “Page 3” was acceptable, and “Corporate” was a disaster. I was so disappointed with the director that I avoided seeing “Traffic Signal”. (I have not seen his other movies, “Satta” and “Trishakti”, either). After “Corporate” the only thought I had was that here is a great movie director but one who had gone to seed.

Fashion” has reinstated my faith in the director.

The story is about the fashion-modelling industry. It is told through three women. One a super-model, Shonali, (Kangana Ranaut) who is not able to handle her super-success and denigrates into drug-addiction, eventually losing her life to drug overdose. The other, a B-class model, Janet Sequeira (Mugdha Godse) street-smart but with a heart of gold ends up making compromises with life. And the third, Meghna Mathur, (Priyanka Chopra), a small-town girl with big ambitions of becoming a super-model after winning a local beauty contest.

The story of the industry is told through the interweaving lives of these three women.

Meghna Mathur has the looks and more importantly the “spunk” (as the model agency boss Kitu Gidwani puts it with admiration in a remarkable scene at her office) to make it to the top. She quickly moves up, compromising her morals and eventually this spunk, which from confidence moves to arrogance, does her in. Meghna had replaced Shonali as the super-model and she in turn gets unseated by another newcomer. The last 40-50 minutes deal with how she gets into a depression and then claws her way back to being a top model all over again.

While this is a story of three women in the modelling world, the remarkable thing is that the script-writers and the director have managed to write-in several supporting characters with great body and clarity. The designers, model coordinators, the modelling industry movers and shakers, all written with care and detail. As also the working details of the industry. Even the dialogue exchange between the photographers, so reminiscent of the drivers’ exchange of words in “Page 3”.

I have no insider information about how this industry works, my only exposure to it is through mass media. So whether some designers are gays, models keep smoking all the time and quaffing bottles of wine before a show, models sleeping with their bosses, etc, I have no way of knowing. I do not know whether designers buy garments from global markets (“Indira market” of Bangkok in this movie), change tags and pass them as their own.  Maybe stereotypes, but all ring true.

And yes, this movie does have a “wardrobe malfunction” but this would hardly gladden the heart of a voyeur. This is so sensitively handled that one feels like crying with the model concerned when she has a break-down in the green room after she returns from the stage.

I do wish, though, that the movie was about 30-40 minutes shorter, it tends to drag a bit after the interval. A 2:45 hour movie is a bit too much!

The way the character of Meghna is written, it could be the role of a lifetime for any actress. And does Priyanka grab the offer! With both hands. Head and heart firmly in place! She is there in virtually every frame, and the camera lovingly captures her beauty and emotions. Emotions right from the eager-beaver days of being a struggler from a small town, to someone gaining entry into the industry, at her peak and then the decline. The scene where she breaks down in front of the mirror in her bedroom ashamed at her moral decline (wiping kaajal and liner off her tear-sodden face; like wiping away the “kaalikh” from her face) is a treat to watch. The big show where she is about to re-enter the modeling world but has a personal tragedy to simultaneously deal with is heart-rending.

Kangana Ranaut breaks your heart with her destined-to-death life-script. Though, to be fair, this characterization reminds me too closely of her performance in “Gangster” (the only other movie of hers I have seen). I always thought of Mugdha Godse as just a model with an impossibly sculpted body (to have an idea, watch the poster of the film, the one which has the three protagonists together), but she is totally easy on the camera. Very likeable. Kitu Gidwani is competent, and so are the male characters of Arbaaz Khan, Samir Soni, Harsh Chhaya, Ashwin Mushran. Madhur Bhandarkar too makes a Hitchcockian appearance as himself.

When I returned home after seeing the movie (we had wisely, not taken our kids along), my younger son who is all of 12 years asked me what I would rate the movie as. I said three, and he, a follower of TOI’s Nikhat Kazmi, was satisfied.

What I meant was: Three cheers for Madhur Bhandarkar, we shall await your next!


Growing-up in Jamshedpur: Time Sharing

June 16, 2008

Wanting to see a movie was one thing, finding a suitable time to watch it was another. Not that there was any dearth of personal time, but trying to conceal the fact that I was going to a movie was a tough one. Initially the standard ruse was that I was going to a friend’s place for joint study. After a couple of movies, folks at home caught on. Afterall the timing always coincided with the matinee show time: 3 pm to 6 pm! Somehow all the movie theaters in the city had a fixed time those days, 3 to 6, 6-9 and 9-12. Slowly this lie evolved something more elegant. I would step out during the interval and phone up my folks and explain to them (very quickly, before the second half of the movie started) that I was extending my study period by another hour and a half. Another variant was telling them that I was actually on my way home but my cycle had got punctured. Folks would bite into the story initially. Remember that the mobile revolution had not started yet; far from it, land  lines were few and far between (we were the only ones on the road where we lived to have a phone connection). Little would they suspect that I would be making a phone call during the interval from a movie hall! However there was a catch; the cycle puncture routine began getting too common, and my time away from home was the same three hours.

 

And then came the very inspired one from S. This one ought to enshrined in the Hall of Fame of moviegoers (if such a body exists!). Like all things brilliant, this was elegance and simplicity rolled into one. We would routinely watch a movie several times in the course of the few weeks it ran in town. The first viewing was to take in the story, plot etc. After that a movie was watched for specific scenes, songs, dances etc. So the great S said, how would it matter if one saw the first half first or last during the second viewing. This must sound confusing, so let me explain. Either S or I would go and watch the first half of the movie, come out during the interval when the other person would hang around near the cycle stand. The ticket stub would be passed and off the other would go to see the remaining half of the film. Simple! How did it matter whether while watching Trishul you saw Amitabh Bachchan lighting the dynamite fuse with his beedi stub on day one (while watching the first half) and several days later while watching the second half see the Big B exchanging loaded dialogues with Sanjeev Kumar. Magical moments are magical, never mind the sequence in which they come!

 

PS: Good things had to come to an end. One day, it was my turn to watch the first half of “Khoon Pasina”. I duly came out during the interval to the cycle stand and much to my horror I realized the chap running the stand had tied up rows of cycles together with a long chain and vanished somewhere. The chai-wallah informed me that the cycle chap would return only when it was time for the movie to end. There was no way I could go home minus my cycle. So I returned to the hall to enjoy the second half as well leaving a fuming S behind. When I met up with him later that evening, he was understandably furious accusing me of being selfish and wanting to see the entire length of the movie all by myself. (He did not buy the cycle stand story). And then the deal was called off, abruptly. Bye, bye to movie sharing


Growing-up in Jamshedpur: First Day First Show

June 16, 2008

Des Pardes, the opus from Dev Anand was set to be released. Jamshedpur had the honor of being a part of the national release. (Typically in Jamshedpur movies were released 6-8 weeks after the national release). And how could we not but be a part of history. But there was a small catch, there was no advance booking for this movie and tickets were sold just before the show. So undeterred on that Friday afternoon S and I took out our respective cycles and started on the five kilometer distance to the theater having resolved that come what may, we have to see the first day, first show. Parents were of course told that we are going for some joint study with classmates! (they had still not begun suspecting my joint study stories, and when the did, I deftly changed the rules; but more about that later.).

 

Jamshedpur Talkies appeared to have been invaded by half the population of the city. There were people queuing up in the cage-like enclosures leading up to the ticket counters, there were people swimming over the heads of the queued people crawling ahead holding the rods of the cage roofing. There were people thronging the periphery of the cage trying to figure out a way of getting into the queue. And there were people milling around the pan shops making small talk with the panwallahs hoping that he would somehow secure them a ticket. People around the cart of the guy selling roasted peanuts. People nearly trampling the guy on the pavement selling movie song booklets. People clambered on all elevated features around the area trying to take in the tamasha (these guys were not very hopeful of getting a ticket but wanted to be a part of the system anyway so that they could spin yarns about this momentous event later this evening in the addas with their friends. I, the weak-hearted one, whispered to S that there was no way we could get tickets. But the ever-optimistic S admonished me telling nothing great in life happens without some hard-work. We parked our cycles some distance from the theater and plunged into the throng determined to emerge successful. Soon enough, S who was considerably stronger than I penetrated deep into the crowd, and I was left to fend for myself. I did make some feeble attempts to seek some tickets but soon enough I had to get out of the crowd lest I got trampled upon. I stood besides the peanut vendor catching my breath and wiping away the sweat. S was nowhere to be seen. I had given up all hopes of seeing the movie when suddenly S appeared with a triumphant look on his face. As he emerged from the crowd I saw he and several other people were actually tailing another guy. A few quick strides and the Pied Piper went and stood under a lamppost across the road. A small circle surrounded pied Piper, S being one of them. The next five seconds were sheer magic. A quick exchange of currency notes and tickets happened between S and Pied Piper and there we were, part of the lucky few to have secured the movie tickets.  (S later told me that sometime earlier he had “befriended” Pied Piper, a black marketer and PP had kindly agreed to part with the tickets to S. The premium was hefty – Rs 15 for a Rs 3.20 ticket- but what is a little premium between friends, especially when this enables you to be part of a historic moment!) First Day, First Show; here we come. It was just a small matter of parking the cycles in the authorized cycle stand of the theater and finding your way to your seat numbers. But then there was a small catch, S’s bike was missing. Gone! S’s brand new green Hercules cycle was missing while my old black Avon cycle was very much there. Hey S, what will you do now. S looked thoughtful for a while. He walked a few paces to the left, and a few paces to the right, probably thinking that someone may have moved his cycle around just for the heck of it. Of course there was no new green Hercules cycle to be found. And then I made the mistake of telling him that the omen was not good and that we should abort the mission and return home. What I got in return was a withering why-am-I-stuck-with-an-idiot look and then a quick smile. Santosh, don’t be silly, cycles come and cycles go, first day, first show happens only once. Let us go in the theater before it becomes too late. And that settled the matter. 

 

The movie of course was a riot! We returned home on my cycle. me on the pillion of course! I asked him on the way what he would tell his parents about the cycle. He said that he would just tell them that he never did take the cycle and the cycle was parked near the gate of their house. And that he had no idea what happened to it. True, so what is a cycle or two when you had the privilege of watching Tina Munim emerging out of a beer keg, first day first show!