Monday, August 27, 2012

The revolution so far...

So the Rebels have lost, the Party has won.

I was skeptical about the Jan Lokpal movement from the outset, when Anna had fasted at Jantar Mantar last year. It was too idealistic. But it had a person of theandnbsp;statureandnbsp;of Kiran Bedi, which was a good indicator. I finally visited the Jan Lokpal movement during its second innings at the Ramlila grounds, and came back a changed man. Looking at the electric atmosphere there, where the people braved the elements are listened to people like Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal, Om Puri and many others speak. I started believing in the Jan Lokpal movement, but not in the methods. Anna's movement did bring the idea of the Lokpal to the people, but to believe that his fast could bring about that change would beandnbsp;naive.

At Ramlila grounds, looking at the sea of humanity and the throng of celebrities, it was obvious that it would be a tough act to follow, a fact that was proved right a few months later in Mumbai. The fatigue had set in. People would not be willing to take time out to hear Anna speak again.

So, when Anna announced a fast again, people had a right to be skeptical. Since Ramlila, a lot had happened. The people India Against Corruption were not the saints they were a year ago. Stories, real a well as planted, about the mismanagement of the movement had tired the people.

That would have been a good opportunity to separate the movement from the people - Jan Lokpal should have been placed above Anna and Kejriwal. But the movement started worshipping Anna and Kejriwal, thereby undermining it themselves. Kejriwal even proclaimed that the Jan Lokpal was above the Constitution of India! So much so for humility!

To be sure, this movement didn't implode by itself. The government too planted stories about Anna and Kejriwal, leading to a lot of misinformation.

As things stand, the Jan Lokpal movement didn't achieve what it set out to achieve. Even the presence of Anna in the anshan could not drum up the hysteria of a year ago. The government chose to ignore the latest protest, and even the public stayed away, largely (I know, I was there).

The final nail in the coffin was announcement by Anna of forming a political party. The rebels had lost and the powers had won. While their demand of a Lokpal Bill was unfulfilled, the government's demand that Anna join active politics was fulfilled. Score one for the Institution!

By giving in to the demands, Team Anna have dashed the hopes of many Indians. What brought a diverse group of people together was a common dream for a better society. By going political, they have again divided them along regional, religious and political lines.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy Independence Day

Wishing all visitors to my blog and Googlebot a Happy Indian Independence Day! Long live the Republic!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dongri to Dubai: A review

Crime reporter Hussain Zaidi attempts to chronicle the Mumbai underworld, which is a monumental task, considering how widespread it is, and with a history that is not documented at all. Each generation has its own stories and gangsters, with only a tenuous connection between them. A layman would not be able to connect between Haji Mastan, Vardarajan and Haji Mastan, and fewer still will be able to recall who came before these three. The era of the D-company, though well documented, has its own urban legends, and it is difficult to separate truth from the fiction. By attempting to provide a history of the Mumbai crime world right from when it was a small fishing village is a daunting task, but Mr. Zaidi, who has been covering the crime beat in Mumbai for a long time is just the right person.
Mr. Zaidi is famous for his books on Mumbai blasts, as well as the women crime lords of Mumbai. Plus, he has the sole distinction of interviewing Dawood Ibrahim after the Mumbai blasts. These facts point to his resourcefulness in gathering facts, which would be a key aspect for a job of this kind.
The book, in a nutshell, is uneven. Mr Zaidi uses his journalistic skills to tell the story of crime in Mumbai well, starting from the beginning of the last century. He explains the importance of the Dongri in the book's title as not being just the place where Dawood Ibrahim operated, but rather where it all started. Dongri is the epicenter of the crime world in Mumbai. We also come to know about the earliest gangs of Mumbai, the Muslim gangs and the Christian gangs, as he chronicles their skirmishes. Without this book, the exploits of Bada Johnny, Chota Johnny and Chikna Johnny would have been lots, as would the stories of the Lucknowi Gang, the Rampuri gang and the Jaunpuri Gang. These parts are the interesting parts of the book.
Mr. Zaidi then moves to the era of the Big Three (Haji Mastan, Vardarajan and Karim Lala) and tell of the rise of three, and in turn, of the beginnings of organized crime. The narrative gradually goes to tell the rise of Dawood Ibrahim.
Mr Zaidi has done a lot of research into the subject, and it shows. But a little more research would have helped, a little restraint, since the book reads like a report on crime on one side, while it manages to throw pieces of information about the characters we did not know. Like the meeting between Haji Mastan and Vardrajan in a jail at night, or the striking up of a partnership between Haji Mastan and Karim Lala over an iftar meal. The narrative reads totally filmi, right down to the dialogues supposed to have taken place between the protagonists. Granted that Bollywood has always played a big role in Mumbai underworld, but the canniness is disturbing. To think that a dialogue from Sholay gave the impetus to the rise of Dawood Ibrahim. Or that a pir forretold of his greatness/infamy. Its too hard to believe, but difficult to disbelieve as well. As it stands, these are the best bits of the book.
The portion dealing with the Dawood era chronicles his rise to the top of the underworld well to the detriment of others. Even if Dawood was the biggest fish in the pond, there were others who help him, and still others who challenged him. The do get a mention, but not much is told about them, which is a shame since they were his foot soldiers, and a more public face of his.
The book does not dwell too much on the Chota Rajan - Chota Shakeel rivalry, explaining it as just a professional rivalry. In fact, reading the book, one gets the impression that the Dawood Ibrahim - Chota Rajan rivalry was started by Chota Shakeel, and Dawood had nothing to do with it. The book also misses out on the sensational murder of Sharad Shetty by Chota Rajan, It seems, the works of others pales when compared to the Big D.
Like I said earlier, the book is uneven. It skims over certain events, while suddenly delving into others in depth. Also, the exploits of some gangsters scores over the other. Haji Mastan and Dawood Ibrahim are given move space than Vardarajan, Karim Lala, Abu Salem and Chota Rajan. That Dawood should concentrate on Dawood since he is the biggest ganglord of our times is understandable, but to ignore his associates in the process in the process does not do justice to the ambitious book.
Dongri to Dubai is an important book in Indian publishing, but the importance is lessened by the lopsided storytelling. But for an initiation into the violent, compelling history of the Mumbai mafia, here can't be a better book.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Gangs of Wasseypur

Anurag Kashyap attempts a magnum opus with this one. Telling a story story that spans generations is tough, one that spans three generations is tougher still. One that also is a reflection of the changes that happened in the intervening years is a very tall order. But Anurag Kashyap is not one to back out of challenges, and the end result is a mixed bag.

Gangs of Wasseypur attempts to tell the story of warring Khans and Qureshis,the Khans and the Singhs and also the rise of the coal mafia in this small town. Here, Anurag Kashyap loses track occasionally, concentrating on on character to the detriment of others. The story of the warring factions is not directly linked to the coal mafia, so in effect, Kashyap attempts to tell two stories in one. 

Therein, the problem arises, as he flits between the two stories for the first thirty minutes, and then intermittently. But look past this flaw, and what emerges is an engrossing story, well told. The actors paying their parts being out the characters wonderfully.

The story matter is dark, populated by people who curse, beat and kill. They are darker than the coal mines of Wasseypur. Shahid Khan, a Pathan who robs trains as Sultana daku picks up a fight with the Querishis and is forced to move to Dhanbad, where he works in a coal mine. The first time he meets Ramadhir Singh on screen is when he is being stopped from going to see his wife who is expecting his child. It is clear that their relationship is uneasy, and the son is remotely involved.

Later, as things progress after India gains independence, Ramadhir Singh gets to oversee the mines and Shahid is  his enforcer. Each is getting more ambitious. The wily Ramadhir puts an end to Shahid's ambitions and nearly kills Sardar as well but he survives. Into this mix, come the Qureshis, once again. 

Manoj Bajpai plays the grown up Sardar Khan, hell bent on revenge, his only motivation. Sardar is darkness personified, having no conscience or guilt. All his actions are geared towards eliminating Ramadhir Singh, who has no idea about him. But for all all his bravado outside, he is at the receiving end of his wife's jhaadu. Richa Chadda has played the fiesty Najma, wife of Sardar Khan with conviction. The sight of a heavily Nagma chasing Sardar through a brothel, jhaadu on one hand, and of her going to spy on her husband with her kids speak of her range as an actor. Her wide range of emotions is a perfect foil to the single minded focus of Sardar Khan.

As the film progresses, we see Sardar Khan returning to Wasseypur to take on the Querishis, who have been terrorizing the other Muslims. He takes not time in making his presence felt. When he does meet Ramdhir Singh, he does not introduce himself with words, but with artifacts. Ramadhir is stunned, knowing he made a mistake long ago.

In the mean time, he also get a Hindu mistress for himself, the Bangalan Durga. The sequence of their courtship is among the few light moments in this otherwise dark film. Reema Sen as the seductress Durga is captivating.

Sardar loses no opportunity in hitting at Ramadhir. His clout has grown, and Ramadhir knows about him, but he is more of a nuisance to him than a threat.

In the mean time, two of his sons, Danish and Faisal have grown up, Danish being the good son and Faisal being the rebel. Faisal is the only innocent soul in the movie, a charasi who has taken refuge in the world of drugs and movies to escape the harsh realities around him.

From the beginning till the end, one expects violence to erupt on screen, such is the tension created by the characters. When Danish manages a truce between the Khans and the Qureshis, it would seem Sardar will have one less enemy to worry about. But the final attack on him at a petrol pump awakens him to the vengeance he had promised himself: the total annihilation of Ramadhir Singh, which still remains. Riddled with bullets, struggling to stand straight, he is again reminded of his aim, and sets out to pass on his vengeance to his sons. That is the perfect ending to the saga of Sardar, and the beginning of rise of Faisal Khan. One looks forward to the sequel.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Dibakar Banerjee gets together an ensemble cast for his fourth outing, a mix of regulars (Abhay Deol), expected (Kalki Kochelin, fast an alternate cinema favourite) and completely unexpected (Emran Hashmi??!!??).
Shanghai takes off from the promise that politicians make, about bringing about development, in this case, compared to Shanghai. Shanghaied also means to swindle someone. In the case of the move, the title can refer to either.
Based on the Greek novel 'Z', the setting has been Indianised. The aspirations of small town India aiming to be in the big league, 'progress' and 'modernity' trampling the traditional, the film covers everything.
Dibakar Banerjee has an eye for details, which catches the smaller nuances in a scene. He employs this sharp  observations to good use to capture the feel of a small-town India. His Bharatnagar is a claustrophobic town, filled with people aiming to move up in life. Pitobash wants to learn English, so that he can become a manager, Emran wants to earn money so that he can go home, and many more such stories. In the middle of all this, there are huge celebrations by the political parties celebrating their city that is about to become another Shanghai.
The Bharat Mata Ki Jai song appears to be ill-fitting in this setting, but in the smoke and mirror goings-on in the film, it is the most direct shot of reality. Calling the bluff on all the positive surroundings, the song, instead, revels on the truth of the visible India, the gur as well as the gobar.
The bleak environs of the movie are a stark contrast to the candy floss that is served up every week in theaters. That itself sets apart, but what elevates it is the performance of the principal cast. Of special note is Faroukh Sheikh as Kaul, the face of the government, as he goes about ironing out the issues, and also, the actor who plays Pitobash's mamu through all the mayhem, he is concerned about his truck, while being consumed by guilt. Though he speaks less, his eyes speak volumes.
Whit this movie, Dibakar Banerjee serves up another intelligent far. If three strikes is a hat trick, what do you call it when a person strikes four times?

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Anurag Kashyap: an ear for music

Anurag Kashyap has blazed a trail in directing movies and writing them. Every since Satya, his skills have never been in doubt. He brought a fresh perspective in the bubblegum movies of late nineties with the hard hitting Sayta, which he co-wrote with Saurabh Shukla. With Paanch, this grittiness was given a visual feel by him.
Since then, AK has gone on to make movies he believes in, mixing stories with his levels of real-life slices and his trademark drug trips (go through movies directed by him, and there will be a pot-smoking sequence).
But what many have missed, is his ability to get good music in his movies. For a Bollywood, having a good ear for music is as essential as having an eye for a good face. A look at the best directors shows that they usually have nice music in their films, with a few exceptions (Raj Kumar Santoshi seems to be completely tone deaf). Right from Paanch onward, the music in his film stands out, like his films as being off beat, but also catchy. Paanch had the superb Yeh Kaisa Hai Shehar as well as the moody Pakaa Mat. All in all, Paanch is a nice compilation, with immense repeat value. His next was Black Friday, which had music by Indian Ocean, once again an offbeat choice by Bollywood standards. Bu the quality of songs delivered is something else. Each song on that album is a gem. From Bandeh, which is a plea to the terrorist to stop, to Karam Bhaap Ke, which portrays the aftermath of committing a sin, it covers a range of emotions. Next up was Dev D, which people remember Emotional Atyachar and Pardesi. But the entire album is filled with gems, that cover a range of emotions and feelings. Dev lamenting with Saali Khushi, Paro rejoicing with Dhol Yaara, Chanda feeling happy with Aankh Micholi. I haven't seen or head That Girl in Yellow Boots, so can't comment on that movie (did it have a soundtrack?). With Gangs of Wasseyour, AK again shows his ear for music. He has gotten Sneha Khanwalkar to churn out music that is rustic, earthy, but at the same time, accessible to everyone.
Truth be told, it seems that AK has a monopoly in this kind of music, an earthy, true-to-roots kind of music, which melds with the movie.  But it takes a certain belief in yourself to go against the tide and do your won thing. The common thread amongst all his music has been that they have a certain melody to them, and fit neatly into the stories. No rock anthems for GOW, and not classical songs for Paanch, cos they would not fit.
In future, if there is a retrospective of AK, he should be mentioned in the same breath as Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt, Subhash Ghai. Looks like for all his rebelliousness, he is turning out to be one of them!

Friday, May 25, 2012

More Truths...

Another episode of Satyamev Jayate, and this time, Aamir spoke of dowry. As issues go, dowry is an evergreen cause to take up, given how it still needs to be eradicated from out society. A lot of it has to do with societal aspirations. The better placed a groom is within the society, the more value he can get for himself. The brides, on their parts, also aspires for a well earning husband, who has a standing in the society, Into this mix potent mix add money, and you have a heady mixture of dowry.
Watching the show, I was amazed at Aamir's theatrics, his long drawn gasps at hearing the heartbreaking stories , while keeping a poker face through it all. While Aamir must be applauded for taking a stand on issues, his theatrics do get in the way. If his heart bleeds for such issues, then he should not be afraid to show it.  Or maybe he is not to the type to show his emotions, letting his actions speak or him. If that is true, he should not be hosting a talk show.  Aamir later wrote and article in the institution. Reading it, one doesn't find any intellectually invigorating stuff. It may be written with the best intentions, but it is not the best piece of opinion pieces.
The show itself, has been losing its steam. Even Aamir can't force people to watch serious stuff on a Sunday morning, no less.
Aamir has chosen the wrong medium to vent his emotions about the society.  But I am more inclined to believe that he is looking for a far greater role in the society as a politician/conscience keeper.

A trip to Nizamuddin

There is a perception, in Delhi, that a trip to a Muslim locality means lip-smacking non-veg food, and a home grown exotica, as Muslim roam in their skull caps, and the more enterprising even wear the Dishdasha, the long white dress worn by Arab men. On the roadsides are people barbecuing  delicious kebabs, pieces marinated chicken hanging from skewers. Then there is a grand mosque, which usually form the nodal point of the place, where the residents go, and where the visitors (non-Muslims) go, to get a different experience. For all its claims of being multi religious, India is still segregated along religious lines, and Hindu visiting these localities finds them to be exotic, even switching to rudimentary Urdu to show that he fits in.
The most famous of these places, undoubtedly, is the Chandini Chowk/Jama Masijd area, but there are other. Theres the Matka Pir near Purana Qila, and also, Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah in Nizamuddin.
Thursday night, was a get together for a facebook group, which purpotedly meets once a week to visit little known places in Delhi and to taste the local cuisine. The plan was, meet up at 7 pm, go visit the dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin, listen to the qawwali, retire to a nice non-veg restaurant and gorge on meat.
Me, my wife and a friend decided to go, but we reached an hour and a half late. By that time, the others had already left, so it was left to us to explore that area. This was not the first time for me, as I had visited the place earlier, searching to the tomb of Ghalib, reaching early morning. I had found the place to be pleasant, though unremarkable for such a historical place. A regular basti.
This time, however, the scene was completely different. When we reached the place, it was thronging with people, all heading towards the dargah. On the sides were hawkers selling flowers and chadars to be placed at the tomb. It was like a visit to any Hindu holy place, except that this was a Muslim place. Lots of crowd, hawkers selling you pooja materials, or ibaadat materials, as Muslims would call it.
To get to the main dargah, one has to go through a very narrow lane, lined on each side with more hawkers selling more chadars. The lanes themselves are quite bright lit, crowded and full of life. If you have seen Rockstar, you know what to expect.
The first view of the dargah is a sight in itself, coming as it does after a long walk through narrow lanes, never expecting to see any open spaces. There is a main dargah an a smaller dargah, which comes first. A long line had formed outside, as people lay chadars and prayed. But there was a shortcut as well, where people could simply touch heads at the walls. The only catch was that the persons who made it happen would then ask for a small donation. The same thing was witnessed on the main dargah as well, where we were able to bypass a serpentine queue by making a donation of Rs 200/-. Reminded me of my Tirupati trip, with its variously priced tickets that can get you faster service. I was able a get a quicker darshan by paying a small dakshina, which I am sure will be used towards the dargah maintenance.
The praying over, no it was time to get down to the real purpose of the visit, namely qawwali and some nice non-veg food.
Unfortunately, the qawwali, which was scheduled to begin at eight, hadn't begun till nine-thirty, and there was no telling when it would begin. Looking at the crowd around me, I wasn't too confident about it starting too soon, so we had to abandon that idea.
The other part of the plan was food. We set out to savour what the galis of Nizamuddin had to offer. The jostling in the crowd had increased my hunger further, and I looked forward to some nice mutton. The first disappointment was that most of the restaurants at the place did not serve mutton. It was only chicken or beef, neighter of which I wanted. Only one restaurant in Nizanuddin served mutton, and that was at the beginning of the street, so we had to walk a long way back, only to be told that there was a waiting period.
We were able to get a table soon enough, and gorge on som nice mutton.
Alas, the food did not live up to our expectations! To be fair, we did not know what to expectation there. Our expectation were solely based on the experience of Chandini Chowk and the Matka Pir, both of which had been good. But the Nizamuddin experience was found lacking. For starters, the kebabs did not have any salt in them, neither did the tandoori chicken. The rotis were too hard, and the mutton gravy was sweet due to too much onion. This kind of food is not acceptable at a regular place, let alone at a place which is a tourist attraction and also a place visited by so many pilgrims. The service was bad as well, as it took more than twenty minutes for the order to come. Even the cold drinks took time!
A simple meal, which could be had in half hour took nearly on hour. Not a good service, and that too, after an exhausting trip.
All in all, the best part of the trip was the walk to the dargah, through the narrow lanes.
Also, I realized that I should not generalize. Just because I am going to a Muslim dominated place that has a famous monument as well, does not mean I will get good food as well. For that, I just stick to Matka Pir.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Truth shall prevail...

I missed Aamir Khan's TV debut Satyamev Jayate on 6th May, but have caught up all the arguments made in its favor and against it. From what I gather, it is a talk show where Amir Khan takes on social issues in the Oprah Winfrey/Phil Donahue mode.  He invites guests who have been victims of the issue at hand, supports his arguments with facts and figures, and also sheds a tear at the right moment.
Aamir being the perfectionist that he is (perfectionist of just plain anal, its a matter of opinion) does everything perfectly. No one is complaining. Clearly, this concept is aimed at making the star seem human, he does not host game shows that offer money to people, but talks serious. He doesn't entertain, he educates.
The reviews for the show have been mixed. People who have liked it say it is refreshing after all the brain dead shows on TV, while people who didn't talk about how manipulative it is. From a vantage point, both arguments are valid. Compared to what passes off as entertainment on TV nowadays, and serious talk is nice, especially on a Sunday. But for it to be successful, it has to manipulate the emotions of the viewer, which all shows do. Aamir alone can't be faulted for it.
I haven't seen Satyamev Jayate, so I can't comment much on it. But the show brings to fore another aspect of Aamir, the social crusader. Of late, Aamir has turned his stardom to 'highlight' issues like the alienation of youth (Rang De Basanti), Kashmir (Fanaa), the education system (3 Idiots), burden of expectation on children (Taare Zameen Par). In addition, he has been his clout on many other non-filmi forums like appearing for coca-cola saying that its drinks are safe, meeting parents of dyslexic parents and also sharing his views on the education system, though these were for promotions. But in all honesty, Aamir has always had a serious side to him, which has never hidden. After the romantic success of QSQT, he did the gritty Raakh, was career suicide in filmy terms. He also did a socially conscious movie, Jawani Zindabad that talked about the dowry system and the girl child. But the entertainment scene of the 80s and 90s was different than the 2000s. Besides, the movies were bad and deserved to fail.
But the social crusader never left Aamir, and the 2000s have been a boon for him. He has been able to bring his socially conscious side to the fore. He took part in the Narmada Bachao Andolan, but when that didn't succeed, he has sought other avenues, albeit ones that are not as emotionally charged.
Which is good for the actor and Bollywood. Celebrities who are vocal about issues are rare in here, so having one who is successful is always good.
Though he has been denying it, in my opinion, Aamir is gearing up for a more prominent role for himself, probably in the political arena. It is one thing to take up social issues, but to follow up on your promise to take this matter further is different. Aamir is clearly seeing this as a stepping stone to a future role in politics, as a conscientious leader. But to be successful leader Aamir has to show not his bleeding heart, but his toughness.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Bored of work...

Working in a low-activity second shift, I never thought that I would actively hunt for work, but is exactly what I am doing, as the novelty of unlimited web surfing becomes a burden, and thinking of newer things to search for becomes a chore. In this scenarios, the idea of back to back work seems enticing. Welcome to my anti-office.

Wish I could write a haiku about it, but I don't know how to.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Effective blogging tip...

To be an effective blooger, one needs to do compulsive blogging - any break in the link, and the blog ideas seem to pile up, so that when it is time to blog, we are not sure where to begin.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Albert Pinto...some thoughts...

I remember Albert Pinto lo gussa kyon aata hai from my childhood day, when it was shown on DD. For a kid, the title itself was intriguing enough. Then there was the scene I remember, of Albert (Naseeruddin Shah) driving his motorcycle, angry and shouting, 'look everyone, my girlfriend wears skirts!!', and also the vase scene (if you haven't seen it, watch it). I didn't remember much else about the other cast in the film.
So, watching it again, after nearly 20 years was a fresh experience for me. I discovered that the film is a star studded affair for a 80s art wave cinema. For example, I finally discovered that Albert's girlfriend is called Stella, played by Shabana Azmi. He also has a sister named Joan, played by Smita Patil, a brother named Dominic played by Dilip Dhawan. It also has a small part by Satish Shah not playing a comic, and Om Puri playing what can be called a character actor.
So, Albert Pinto ko gussa kyon aata hai?
Kyonki Albert ek garam dimaag wala ladka hai - he is hot headed. The movie begins with Albert driving out an imported car. He is a mechanic, giving the car a trial along with the car's real owner. The banter between them suggests that they are on great terms, the owner also offering him a Dunhill cigarette. The Albert we meet at the begnining of the film is angry, but for his station in life. He is isolated from his colleagues in the garage, thinks that he can simply succeed by working very hard. He takes the friendly behaviour towards him by his clients as a sign of friendship. A part o his aloofness has to do with his being a Christian. He thinks that Christians are the most forward thinking people in India, the first to send women to workplace, the first to allow them to wear jeans. He doesn't agree with his mill-worker father, who is planning to go on a strike, saying that strike are the works of goonda elements who only want to disrupt work like his rich clients tell him.
His belief is shattered gradually when, in subtle ways, he is reminded of his station in life. When is goes to deliver a car to a client, the lady of the house tips him for his services like his husband asked her to. Another time, when the imported car he is driving breaks down, people surround him, asking if it is his car, and he is unable to answer truthfully. Later when his father is roughed up by goondas hired to end the strike, the message finally reaches home. He looks up to his  rich clients for an answer, but gets the same reply - only goonds go on strike A hardworking man does not indulge in such things. That's when the penny drops for him.
The climax shows that Albert is still angry, but not at his surroundings, but at the rich capitalists. He for once identifies with the people around him.
The movie is part of the art hour cinema wave of the 80s, and we see a lot of the Seventies culture here. The anger at the state of affairs, the mill workers strike of Mumbai, the craze for foreign (in this case, Canada). In a way, the anger of the film is very relevant even today, showing that things haven't changed.
Naseeruddin captures the angst of Albert Pinto brilliantly. From being a totally self centered  person, who only thinks that he know everything to a person who realises the truth. he portrays the journey well. At the beginning of the film, Albert does not mix with his colleagues at the garage, thinking that they are not headed anywhere. His rich clients treating him well leads him to think that he is better than them. He is self sustained in his life. having a job, a girlfriend and the patronage of rich folks. From his viewpoint, he cannot understand the compromises that others have to make, like when his gf has to be at a party because of his boss. Or why his father has to go on a strike. His transformation from a cocksure person to one who wonders what his standing in life is, to one who discovers his true place in society, Naseeruddin Shah protrays the character development with aplomb.
One gouse with the film is the under-utilisation of other actors. Actors like Sulbha Deshpande, Om Puri and Smita Patil are wasted in one note roles, as Naseeruddin Shah hogs the entire film lenght.
Truly, he was the Amitabh Bachchan of the 80s new wave cinema.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Losing his constitution...

Arvind Kejriwal is at it again. Making explosive statements to press, whether at a public forum like he did recently Jantar Mantar on 25 march, or in talks to journalists. He seems to be progressively losing motor control over his tongue.
I completely support the Janlokpal movement, and was even present at the Ramlila maidan to cheer Anna. I fervently believe that the Jan Lokpal bill will bring about a sea change in the Indian administration, making it more transparent and more accessible to the people.
At that time, the stars of the movement, apart from Anna himself, were undoubtedly Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi. Both career public servants, he from the IFS and she from the IPS, both having given up their jobs to serve the public, there was little wrong that they could do. When they spoke, people listened, because they spoke with authority.
But when the government decided to strike back at them, for some reason, it chose to make a case out of Arvind Kejriwal. He was a deserter, they said, having not properly resigned from his job. He owed the government money, they said. Maybe because his supporters compared him to Rahul Gandhi, but the Congress, and especially Digvijay Singh, was hounding. In the end, he had to pay the income tax department Rs 7 lakhs as a fine for what it termed 'deserting his post'. The incident seems to have impacted him a lot, as since then, he has given a lot of statements that can only be termed as inflammatory. It started when he said that Anna Hazare was above the constitution. It gets worse, when he later said on February 26, 2012 that he had no faith in the constitution, and called the MPs rapists. Though he later clarified that he meant the current constituent assembly rather than the constitution, the damage was already done.
Since then, the Anna campaign has been a roller coaster ride. The Mumbai annshan didn't plan out as expected. The huge crowds of Delhi did not turn up there. Anna became unwell. Arvind Kejriwal again was targeted for speaking his mouth off.
As things proceed, Team Anna is, at best, meandering. It is extremely active on twitter, where is latches on to any cause, as long as it is against the government.
And Arvind Kejriwal, like a good foot soldier, is the mouthpiece, shooting his mouth off.

note: I know this post is inconsistent - it too is a victim of a double write and a long gestation

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ek Kahani

Indian cinema isn't knows for making thrillers. So when it does make one, it is a special treat for the viewers.
Kahani is a superlative thriller to be made in India in a long time.
Kahani plays well as s suspense drama, where Vidya comes from London to search for her husband, only to be told that no such person existed. From there, the movies starts playing as a cat and mouse game, as the IB gets in the mix, along with a crazy hitman, Bob Biswas.
To be true, the suspense of the film is actually a cheat. In the beginning of the film, as Vidya describes her husband, we are fed with a flashback which establish her story. Towards the climax, the viewer learns that he had been led all along, not by a clever story, but by a camera that lied. This may be a minor nitpick, but it matters a lot towards telling an honest story. There are some clues in between which hint that all might now be correct in her story, but those are so subtle of layered, we cannot be sure.
Vidya a Bidya Baghchi is a revelation. I was not impressed of her theatrics in Dirty Picture, but here, she gives a nuanced performance. She plays a woman who is undergoing tremendous pain but keeps a brave face about it all, and portrays it beautifully.
The biggest plus point of the movies, in my opinion, is that it does not rely on one single character to propel itself forward, as was in the case of Paan Singh Tomar. In here, there are lots of interesting characters, apart from Bidya. Theres the rookie Rana, the hot headed Khan, Bishnu the kid, and Bob Biswas the hitman. Bob is a scene stealer whenever he shows up. But the biggest 'character' here is Kolkatta the city itself. Director Sujoy Ghosh knows Kolkatta, and shows it to us like never before. The city comes alive under him, and as the story progresses, so does the city throw us fresh facets of itself. Kolkatta never looked so beautiful.
All in all, Kahani is a superb film, taut, well paced and well acted. The camera's visual lies could have been more muted or subtle. The story lends itself to rethinking once the movie ends, and the visual loophole is likely to come up. But if you are willing to overlook it, you may consider it an evening well spent

Friday, March 16, 2012

Paan Singh Tomar

Paan Singh Tomar is finally released, and is rocking the movie goers, who are calling it as one of the best movies so far. The euphoric claims may be valid, but only time will tell.
The story, if told, will seem like all dacoit movies. In that respect, Paan singh Tomar falls in the Cant-Believe-Its-True category, it being based on a true story. Paan Singh Tomar, was, in fact, a dacoit who terrorised the Chambal valley in the 70s. Prior to that, he was a soldier and an athlete, having represented India. If you think about it, mostly all dacoit stories in are about a law-abiding citizen wronged before he takes up the gun.
We first see Paan Singh as a tired, old dacoit, who has decided to give an interview to a local journalist, who is in awe of him. But the respect he commands from those around him makes one question, he is really dreaded? His story begins when he is  a young lad, just joined the army, probably 17. We see a tall, lean, strapping man. But there is an awkwardness about him.
He becomes an athlete, not because he loves sports, but because the army has higher rations for sports persons. Not a noble intention, but believable.
From a soldier to an athlete to a dacoit, the journey is unbelievable. It is a statement to the neglect for our sportsmen as well, the ignominy they receive once their career ends. The scene where PST tries to impress the police inspector with his medals is heart wrenching without intending to be so. We see PST bring laurels to the country, but all that is ignored. Later, he bitterly says that nobody remembers him for his achievements on the track, but they remember hims for his exploits as a dacoit. The bitterness with which the line is spoken stays with us.
The movie is believable due to the amazing Irrfan, who lends believability to the character. Paan Singh was an extraordinary character with an extraordinary life, and to lend it credibility requires someone with lots of talent. We start off with a PST who is a truant, to one who is determined to win a race. In between ,we get to see his vulnerability, especially when he goes to the police station.
PST is a must watch for the sheer Strange-But-True nature of the protagonist's live, portrayed exceptionally well by Irrfan

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I was right - my writing sucks. And I have my wife's word for that. Going through my last two post, my wife, who generally likes my writing, gave me the her honest opinion. My writing sucked. I totally agree with her on that. The long hiatus that i took has been very bad for my writing, my chain of thought, my sentence construction. 
But the biggest culprit, in my opinion, is my tendency to write in parts - a few sentences now, and few after some days. On a forum a personal as a blog, one cannot be as lazy. A successful blog post is always a show of the writer's train of thought. Sadly, I failed.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Note to self...

Just re-read my review of Agneepath. It is shit. Note to self: reviews are best written in one sitting, or not.

Friday, March 02, 2012


Agneepath makes its way back to us, repacked. But is it the same story? I watched the movie pretty late, so I was aware that it is not the same story. There have been changes, some good, some bad.

The movie is a fresh take on the story of Vijaynath Chauhan (or is it Chavan?). The basic premise - Vijay, having seen his father hanged, vows revenge against Kancha Cheena and becomes a gangster to achieve his goal, alienating his family in the process - is the same, but director Karan Malhotra has made some changes. Gone are Krishnan Iyer and Mary Matthew, in come Rauf Lala and Kali. Though, Kaali is more of a replacement for Mary Mathew.

At various points, the movies tips its hat at its predecessor, like how Master Dinanath Chauhan is murdered, Vijay going for his sister, Vijay warning Gaitonde and many more, but again, the take on them is purely his own.

The story begins in Mandwa, the village by the sea where the good teacher is bringing about a change in his village, and then moves to the big bad Mumbai after his murder. The transistion of the village brat Vijay into the criminal Vijay is believeable since the kid himself shows so much anger to begin with. Him finally turning bad (but good from within) is credible. The characterisation, though is not all perfect the fiesty kid becoming a brooding grownup is not understandable. Also not understandable is whether he is actually bad. He works for a gangster, but himself lives in a chawl and runs a charitable trust in the name of his sister, providing ambulance services. A killer who provides ambulance services. I would think twice before hiring him as a killer.

Kali is a childhood friend who understands his pain. Thats just the brief for her character, to provide some relief from the brooding. But then again, in thebegining, of the film, Vijay meets her in what looks like a red-light area, but the grown up kali lives in a chawl and though she hasn't moved house, its is not longer a red-light area.

The mother and the sister are just points of reference for Vijay's story and do not serve up much of a conflict in his life. The mother has taken a very principled stand against hte son and refuses to meet him, while the sister doesn't know that he exists.

Inspector Gaitonde, sadly is even more unidimensional than the original, and thats saying a lot. He is a tough guy with a heart of gold, but at certain places comes across as a Vijay sympathizer, which is not law-abiding at all. In the original, the inspector cared for Vijay, but that did not stop him from calling him a crook.

Kancha Cheena is now Kancha, a psychotic killer who quotes Gita while killing, hanging being his choice of execution. Other than that, we don't know much about him. He runs a drug cartel just outside Mumbai, but does not throw any lavish parties or spend money on the good life. So why is he still hell-bent on ruling Mumbai, if not for the money? does not add up at all.

Finally, there is Rauf Lala, a new addition, and by far the best character in the movies. Rishi Kapoor completely subverts his loverboy image for this one, and comes across as darkest of the lot here. Unlike Kancha, he is not a psycho. He is a businessman, who trades in drugs and women, with a coldness and aloofness. But at the same time, he is also a family man, who dotes on his sons.

Hritik gives his Vijay a brooding demeanor. He is a man of few words, who has learnt to internalize his emotions unlike his childhood. The viewer does not know what goes on in his mind. The emotional turmoil of a man who witnessed his father's murder and then his family's estrangement remains hidden.

The film has good action sequences, but they are very few.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Its been a long time since I posted here (this has got to be my standard opening lines here!). Frankly, writing is fun, but preparing to write is a chore, and a writer is one who does not get bowed down by the first few steps.

But I degress. The reason I post is because I am feeling rejenuvated by a vacation after a long work spell. how long was my work spell? it was so long, that I did not know that I needed a vacation. So, it was a godsend that my bro-in-law's son had to have his mundan at Tirupati.

The best part of the trip was that it was a holiday within a holiday.

I always welcome a trip to Mumbai, and like always, I immensely enjoyed it. After the still cold Delhi, Mumbai's heat was a nice change. I hadn't sweated for months in Delhi, but was seating an hour after reaching Mumbai.

The Mumbai trip was a nice way to prepare for a trip down south, to Tirupati. Now, this was my first trip to Tirupati, but a journey to south excites me. Leaving the dryness of the north to the lush green south is a calming experience. Plus there is the added bonus of authentic south Indian food.

We left for Renigunta by a midnight train. Any hopes I had of going off to speel immediately were dashed by my bro-in-law's two year old son, who could not comprehend the sudden constricting environs of a railway compartment and immediately made his displeasure know. When you are small, you are a king.

The journey itself was quite pleasant. I was expecting lush greenery when we entered south, the view didn't change much, in my opinion, than when we were in Maharashtra. Maybe the lush freens aer further south, towards Kerala, or maybe the difference would have been more pronounced on a Delhi-AP trip.

Now, the railways are notorious for train delays. So, imagine our surprise when we arrived at Renigunta a full hour earlier! The entire family had gone to sleep, setting our alarms to 15 minutes before arrival. A chance enquiry about the station by my BIL about the stop had all of us jumping out of the berth and running to the station, lest the train leave. His son was suitable bewildered to cry out aloud.

The Renigunta station itself was very clean, which is a good indicator, in my books that one has reached south (though by that definition, the Tirupati station could be any station in the north, but I am talking impressions, not specifics).

The gate that leads up to Tirumala close at midnight, and reopens at 3 am. We reached at the gates at 1:30, and so had an hour and a half to kill, which we did by drinking very sweet coffee

Coffee Break

and walking around a huge statue of an apsara near the gate.


For a temple town, Tirumala is very well organised. When we reached to the top, I had to wait in the line for a room, which was easily got, and which was pleasantly clean and spacious.

Tirupati is a town that never sleeps. Though the temple is closed for certain times, the flow of pilgrims never stops.

It was heartening to be in the midst of all the devotees, all there to pray to Lord Balaji. You cannot help feeling pious by being there, all your pent up devotion flowing. There are public toilets constructed for the pilgrims everywhere, and food stalls that serve good food round the clock. And the look of all, men, women, children with their shaved head is endearing. I was also suprised to notice that the place was not just frequently by south Indians, but by people from north of the Vindhalays as well. I heard people talking in Marathi, Hindi, Gujarati, and there was even a family of traditional Rajasthani's. In fact, the number of people coming from Maharashtra was quite a revelation.

Everybody who goes to Tirupati has to get their head tonsured, and I mine tonsured as well. The entire process took less than five minutes. All we had to do was to go a temple-appointed barber with half a blade provided by the authorities, and he did the rest. The number of people getting their head shaved is mind-boggling. I suspect more than a tonne of hair must be shaved everyday. Incidently, my bro-in-law's son only had his hair snipped a little, while his father, grandfather and myself shaved ours!!

The Tirupati temple is a sight that can't be described in words. The majesty of the place is worth seeing. We waited for three hours in a queue for the visit, and when we finally reached there, it was a wait well worth. Its not just the gold and silver walls of the temple, its the feeling of peity that exists throughout the visit that I liked. People were focussed only on the deity, and not on anything else. The amount of wealth on display did not seem to impress them. They had eyes only for Lord Balaji. The sight of the inner sanctum in the temple is a sight to behold. No camera in the world, or the world's best photographer can capture the sight. Theres the shine from the gold on the wall, the light from the lamps, the darkness of the wood. In the center, behind many doors, lies the statue of Lord Balaji, dark and majestic.

Heads shaven, praeyers offered, we made our way down, stopping in the way to feed the deers:

Tirupati town is more crowded and a little more chaotic than the shrine, but as usual, the good people of the Tirupati shrine board have made arrangements for the pilgrim going to or returning from the hill top. As usual, the rooms provided were very nice (the building looked like a recent construction). We were all tired after the journey downhill, but were also missing meat, not having eaten it for two days (my wife's family are big meat eaters!). So, it was time to go meat hunting.

Outside the town, all we could find was pure vegetarian restaurants, but we didn't give up, and after nearly an hour of walking around, located a non-veg restaurant in a Muslim neighbourhood. The gorging on the food was intensive, and we feasted on chicken, mutton and eggs. The food wasn't great, but when you have not eaten meat in two days, it gets a taste of its own.

Back to Mumbai, we had a face a case of serious illness in Mumbai, but things worked out well. The three days I spent back in Mumbai was enough for me to recharge my bateries. I even met my friend Arun after nearly  three years, though I missed Anu. Returning, I had the feeling that the vacation ended too soon.

All in all, the trip was enjoyable, except for the illness when we returned. Though, I did miss out on a few planned trips, like a trip to Cafe Baghdadi for their fried chicken, to Mumbai Docks, to see the Flora Fountain, a possible trip to Matheran, but I can look forward to those in my next trip now that I have renewed my association with the city.