Sunday, December 04, 2011

Review: The Dirty Picture

The writer throws his story "Sir, the hero then cracks the ribs of 20 people with a single punch".
The ageing superstar replies "This wont work at all. There is no sword fight scene in the climax"
"But Sir, the hero is a Police Officer. From where will he get a sword?"
"Hmm, you have a point here. Then he can have the sword as some ancestral heirloom"
"But Sir, how can he have a heirloom? Our hero is an orphan."
"Orphaned heroes are so 60s! The public doesn't want this anymore. They want change. Give him a family. Give him a sister. Give her Izzat and then get her raped.Now that is a story!"
"Fantastic Sir, Superhit! This movie will be a guaranteed superhit!"

More than anything else, The Dirty Picture is a tribute to the 80s. Where the heroes were Gods, heroines were plus ones, movies were peppered with garish sets, over the top costumes, cliched story lines, cheesy dialogues, vulgar dances, suggestive songs and testosterone filled unbelievable fight sequences. The absolute pits of Bollywood history. And its a treat to watch Milan Lutharia's Dirty Picture just to recapture these  bizarre times.

A biopic is based loosely on the life of South Indian sex siren 'Silk' Smita. The rags to riches story of a woman ahead of her times and the inevitable downfall is the central plot. A woman who unabashedly used her body and sexuality to titillate and shake the morality of a shallow society. Reshma, played by Vidya Balan, is a small time extra on movie sets whose gyrations and potential are discovered by a keen eyed producer. She is offered an 'item number' with Surayakant (Nasseruddin Shah), an aging leading man, whose growing paunch and greying hair are no deterrent to romance girls half his age. The ambitious and sharp Reshma, who is now rechristened Silk, capitalizes on the window of opportunity using Suryakant as a launchpad to catapult her life into a tailspin of sex, success and stardom.

Abaraham (an uber cool Emraan Haashmi), is an intelligent director who wants to make meaningful and thought provoking movies. The meteoric rise of 'cheap' Silk overlapping his own 'grey cells' driven career is a reason strong enough for him to hate Silk to his last breath. Suryakant continues to use Silk to quench his thirst for sex and desire for success. Suryakant's brother, Ramakant ( Tushaar Kapoor ) is an aspiring script writer, who is madly in love with the voluptuous dancer. These three men form the triangle of love, sex and deceit around Silk.One cannot decide if she is a victim or an opportunist. Its inevitable truth that an inexorable and quick rise is followed by a dark and quicker downward spiral. Silk continues to get dragged into a life of alcohol, lust, exploitation, heart break, failure, bankruptcy, loneliness and eventually death.  

The movie is a brave effort to be different. Is it a classic? No. It has his baggage of lapses. The second half is a drag with several unnecessary scenes like a catfight with another item girl, out of place dance sequence, extended drama-bazi at an awards function. The screenplay is at times tardy and predictable. In terms of performances, Nasseruddin Shah effortlessly carries the role of the age defying hero and Emraan Hashmi always manages to grab and deliver interesting roles. Tushaar Kapoor is easily replaceable and sticks out as a sore thumb amongst a host of capable actors, managing to eke out a role just because of  big sis! The music is catchy and relevant, especially the chartbuster from Bappi Da!

There are two things that stand out in the movie. Firstly, the dialogues by Rajat Arora. They are sharp, heavy, bucolic and in the face:the 80s in a nut shell. From crackerjackers like  "Agar upar wale ne neeche itna kuch diya, to thoda share karne mein kya jata hai" and "Public samaan dekhne ati hai, dukaan nahi", every other dialogue is a riot. The second and the pivotal part of this movie is Vidya Balan. She has managed to define a new range of characters for herself in Bollywood, be it the dogged mother in Pa, the femme fatale in Ishqia, the plain jane sister in NOKJ or the glamorous Silk in The Dirty Picture. She single handedly carries the movie on her heaving cleavage and thrusting pelvis. She lives and breathes fire into Silk with a passion unseen before and sets a new bar amongst today's heroines. The cookie cutter class of Deepikas and Katrinas look so childish and incapable in front of Vidya. She is no doubt going to bull doze all the award ceremonies next year.

Its great to see that over the last few years, Bollywood is not afraid to try new ideas and brave new frontiers. Add this to its list of movies carving a new niche for Hindi films. Go watch the movie, for Vidya and definitely for the Dialogue baazi!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Why we love Calvin and Hobbes!

Fourteen years ago, one fine Saturday morning I opened Times of India to find this cartoon strip for the first time. I had never laughed so hard at a cartoon before. It was crisp, it was witty and it was hands down funny! Its been fourteen years, and there has not been a single day since Calvin and Hobbes has not enriched my life. Today I have the entire collection in soft copy, all the books in paperback and I have the hard bound limited edition set! I sit and wonder, why is it that everyone loves CnH so much and the list is just endless!

You will laugh so much, you'll cry
Whatever the format, the setting, the language, the message, a cartoon fundamentally needs to be funny. Bill Watterson is undoubtedly the most talented cartoonist of all times. He always manages to bring in amazing humor into such short pieces of art, they will leave you rolling on the floor. The humor cuts across all ages, topics and formats.

Verbose or sparse!
Watterson in his '10th Anniversary Edition' talks about two strips that influenced him to write CnH, Peanuts by Charles Shultz and Pogo by Walt Kelly. You can clearly see the shades of both in CnH. The flat, spare and laconic drawings of Peanuts and the lush, bombastic, nonsensical commotion in Pogo. Every comic strip has its own style. Rarely can one find, a strip that can be either verbose or sparse, and be awesome either way!

It happened in your life? It's already there in CnH!
I had lost a good friend of mine in a tragedy. I opened that newspaper the next day and there was the 'Dead Racoon' series on CnH, which was almost talking to me. It was spooky. For every small incident in your life: important, insignificant, happy, sad, there is a Calvin strip for it. I have sat down to make so many presentations in my career and I always manage to find a CnH strip perfect for the point I am making on the slide. It, just goes to show the genius of Bill Watterson and his powers of observation. There is a Sherlock Holmes case, where at the end after getting the logic behind how the case was solved, Watson is amazed that both Holmes and he could see all the facts in front of them, yet only Watson failed to see them. And Holmes replies " People see dear Watson, I, observe".

The third frame
Usually the daily strip is a standard four frame cartoon. It sort of builds up the curiosity when you are reading frame by frame. I love those strips which have the 'moment of realization' third frame. There are no dialogues, just a silent Calvin or Hobbes, looking straight at your face. And you know, that the last frame is going to have a killer one liner. And once you are done reading and laughing your guts out, you are forced to look back at the expression in the third frame and end up laughing even more!

Masti ki Paathshaala
Those were the times, weren't they? With so much to see, learn and get fascinated by. No malice, no pressure, no complications. And it is this essence of school life which Watterson so beautifully captures in his strips. I bet, almost everyone who reads the stips, just wishes that they can get back to the times of the uniform, school bus, recesses, PT and times that were far simpler.
As a kid I always wondered, how a rectangular bus could turn around a curve. The storks delivering the baby formula has almost become legendary. For every question that a kid has, grown ups need to come up with an answer which may very well change that small world of the kid. I just love the Calvin and his Dad's question answer sessions. As Watterson puts it "It must be great temptation to misuse one's parental authority for private jokes."

The parent trap!
I am not a parent, and can't imagine how it's going to be having a 'pain in the ass' kid. I have seen my mother pull out her hair, all thanks to her 'wonderful' sons. When I first introduced her to CnH, she could so easily connect with Calvin's mom. And it just makes you wonder, how the hell did Bill Watterson manage to churn out such amazing parent-kid confrontation strips, when he doesn't have kids of his own!

Snow men!
There are lots of CnH stories, which personally don't thrill me, like the Transmornifier or the Rosalyn series. But what really kills me are the Snow men series. With a very basic framework of just conversations and building snow men, Watterson comes up with so many interesting strips, it amazing!

Who is your role model, really?
Whatever people say about being good and fair, they all know deep down, its fun to be bad, to be lazy, to play pranks, to lie and be a little mean. Calvin embodies everything that people would want to be, but can't, as they are bound by rationality, society and responsibility. This is just an outlet for all such people, to find out, just how different life would have been, only if they could live the way they really wanted to!

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
Frodo couldn't have reached Mt.Doom if not for Sam, Harry couldn't have brought down Voldemort without Ron and without Jerry, Tom would have just been a cat running around the house. Calvin, without Hobbes, wouldn't be just as much fun! Hobbes is the friend who one always wants, he is the innocent bystander, he is the mirror to the world around. And the stuffed tiger vs. imaginary friend, is just different versions of reality for Bill Watterson. As he quotes "The nature of Hobbes's reality doesn't interest me and each story goes out of the way to avoid resolving the issue. Calvin sees Hobbes one way and every one else another. I just show two versions of reality and each makes complete sense to the participant who sees it. I think that's how life works".

Licensing and Merchandising
Bill Watterson believed that a comic stip, should survive only its merits. Printing it on a million products, producing hundreds of dolls and memorabilia, just cheapens the product and the public inevitably grows up to bored of it. Do you care for Mickey Mouse any more? Not really! With CnH, remaining in its pure form, it does manage to have a magic and aura still associate with it, which I personally find endearing. Watterson also hated the publishing syndicate dictating what a strip should talk about and got into constant tiffs with them. As he puts it "When a cartoonist is trying to talk honestly and seriously about life, then I believe he has a responsibility to think beyond satisfying every market's whims and desires. Cartoonists who think they can be taken seriously as artists while using the strip to sell boxer shorts are deluding themselves."

Alter Egos!
Well, what's great about Bruce Wayne turning into Batman. Can he turn into Superman as well or Captain Planet? And that is where the beauty of CnH lies, in its variety. Calvin can instantly turn into Spaceman Spiff or Stupendous man or my personal favorite, Tracer Bullet. It gives Watterson the license to transport Calvin into a totally different world of intrigue and adventures, that are so much fun to read.

Life is beautiful
Calvin and Hobbes, is funny, entertaining, witty and lot more. But most importantly, in its own non preachy way, it teaches us about life. It doesn't go around making whats right or whats wrong statements, but it forces us to think of who we are and what we have become in this fast paced world. The strong messages of friendship, environmental care, futility of war, ambitions, careers, relationships are all out there. Its left to us, if we are ready to learn it from a six year old kid and his stuffed tiger!

It is just fitting, that I end this post, with the last strip that Watterson ever wrote, which embodies the undying spirit of Calvin and Hobbes. Thanks, dear friends, for enriching our lives so much.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Review: Delhi Belly

The time of the formula masala movies in Bollywood is over! No more 'boy meets girl, they fall in love, shit happens, they separate, but love heals all but not before 15 songs, 10 fights, 6 arguments, 3 rapes, 2 accidents, 1 prayer and oh yes! 20 more songs'. The time of the new hero has come in Bollywood. He aint no rippling muscle hunk or the chocolate boy next door or some producer's son who cant act for nuts. This new hero of Bollywood, ladies and gentlemen, is 'novelty'. Every new kid on the block is getting fresh concepts, quirky ideas, bold subjects, which stand out and yell, 'I am different and I dont care if you dont like it!'. Ishqia, LSD, TZP, Kaminey, Udaan, Tere Bin Laden and now you can add Delli Belly to the list.

The inspiration for the movie comes from the 'British Gansta Flick' types, which rewrote a whole new genre of slick storytelling. Quintein Tarentino ushered in the revolution by making 'Pulp Fiction' which mesmerized, bewildered and captivated audiences around the world. And then Guy Ritchie made 'Lock, Stock and two Smoking Barrels' which set a benchmark for the genre. A set of simpletons usually get entangled in a web of gun totting gangsters, stolen diamonds, car chases and fist fights. The co-incidences are unbelievably crazy, which make the movie that much more funny and edgy. Delhi Belly works exactly on this premise.

Three friends, struggling to make a mark in life, share an appalling flat in some bylane of Delhi. Tashi (Imran Khan) is an aspiring journalist engaged to the bade-ghar-ki-beti Sonia (Shenaz Treasurywala). Arup (Vir Das with weird hair-do) is a talent cartoonist, stuck with an idiot boss and dumped by his girlfriend for an NRI groom from Canneda! The real funny part of the tripod is Nitin (Kunal Roy Kapoor),
the fat, gluttony, greedy photographer colleague of Tashi. He eats trash off the streets, to suffer from a bad of bout of diohhrea a.k.a Delhi Belly. Its metaphorical of all the shenanigans that happen in the underbelly of a large metropolis like Dilli!

An underworld gang use the air hostess route to smuggle diamonds into the country. All hell breaks loose when a delivery of smuggled diamonds gets exchanged with the stool sample of Nitin. From here on the movie is a like roller coaster ride, taking a twist every other second and changing course faster than party hopping politicians. Into this melee, is thrown an ex-wife obsessed businessman, a whore loving house owner, a Khatak dance master and his protégés, an office babe who has the hots for Tashi. Every character is unique and fits into the story effortlessly.

The strength of the movie lies in the situational humor: dark or otherwise which keeps coming at you relentlessly. It’s more than a welcome change for the Indian audience burdened with the multi-star, brainless, so called ‘laugh riots’. They story in itself, is not very complicated, but it’s told with a style and pace that keeps you at the edge of your seats asking for more. Kudos to the director, Abhinav Deo for pulling off a tough genre to make. The cinematography is slick with amazing angles, be it the old pizza rotting under the sofa, the blood dripping over the dead gangster’s forehead. The final shoot out scene is shot in slow-mo, a tribute to the climax in Reservoir Dogs, similar to the one in Vishal Bharadwaj’s Kaminey.

What really sets the movie apart is the music. There are no song and dance sequences which the lead actors break into without any rhyme or reason. There are only background scores which beautifully complement the situation: Sweety tera pyaar, Bhaag DK Bose. You will really enjoy the catchy ‘Ja Chudail’ parody which is beautifully choreographed by Farah Khan. And finally it brings us to the dialogues. The dialogues are smartly written, damn funny and totally street like. A lot has been said and written about the profanity in the movie. Common guys, this is the language of today’s generation, like it or not. If you refuse to grow up to the truth and want to take up cudgels with the morality brigade, its really just your loss. The movie would have worked just as well without the profanity, but it’s a package deal isn’t it!

Imran Khan does a decent job, but can be easily replaced by anyone else. The support cast really do a commendable job. But the two guys who really pack in a fantastic performance are Kunal Roy Kapoor as the fat Nitin and Vijay Raaz as the frustrated underworld don. The movie as such could have been set in any other city, but today’s movie makers have developed a strange new obsession with the capital.

Delhi Belly is funny, entertaining and above all, original. Go catch it, before Aamir’s sequel ‘Disco Fighter’ hits the screens.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Driving for dummies

I have been in Mumbai for five years now. Have been driving for three. I have driven and ridden - in the scorching Mumbai summer, in the unforgiving torrential rains, along the potholed highways, over the innumerable flyovers, waited countless minutes at the irritating signals, dodged insouciant jaywalkers, BEST buses, greedy maamas, check nakas and the whole jazz. I can say, with some amount of experience, I have become what you may call, 'Mumbai's short fused, foul mouthed, impatient' driver next door. And when one has nothing to do while siting in the car and waiting for timeless moments to pass, one cant help but observe the world around. So, this blog is about all the specimens on Mumbai roads, that you will be delighted to ..err.. bump into.

Specimen 1: The Dogs in the window
You have seen those pet dogs traveling in the back seats of cars, with their tongues hanging out? Well, they have competition and they are called taxi drivers! Head thrust out of the window, right arm dangling from door like a hose, a red piece of wet cloth hanging out to dry, they are the undisputed kings of the road. They cut lanes like a frog jumping on hearing gushing water, give a generous blast of honking if you dare stray in their path and never short of kind words to share, in case you tell them to watch where they drive. Bombay might become Mumbai, Victoria Terminus may become Shivaji Terminus, but the Black and Yellow taxi drivers are destined to be on the roads of Mumbai for ever.

Specimen 2: The Real Estate Agents
What is the most expensive thing one can buy in this city? Real Estate of course! There is no free land here. And that's why these set of guys fight for every inch on the road, like their lives depended on it. Even in bumper to bumper traffic, if they spot a piece of open road, not occupied, they gun for it with every last bhp their engines can cough up. Even in situations where others have a clear road, if they are just let through, our land grabbers just wont let it. They will fight for that last inch and claim it.

Specimen 3: The guided cannon balls
Have you seen a canon ball fly? They fly straight, they fly fast and they are mostly found on the leftmost lanes of Mumbai's highways! They might have as well bought left hand drive cars and stayed back in the US. They don't bother about anything that may come in their way: potholes, parked vehicles, people waiting at bus stops. They just zoom past at breakneck speed, cause the cannon balls know only one rule 'Left is always right'!

Specimen 4: The Greenpeace Gang
Ever had that meeting where you just couldn't afford to be late, the anniversary dinner you wouldn't dare to miss, the trailers you loved to catch at the start of the movie? Well, they can all wait, cause the carbon saving guys are sauntering ahead of you. Not that they give a damn about the environment, they don't mind replacing petrol with third grade kerosene. Just that they see a small hint of declivity, they switch off the engines and go 'row row row your boat gently down the stream'. You could kill them if you had a gun, but I guess, punching them on the face would be the greener thing to do.

Specimen 5: The Hawa ka Jhonkas
It was the first time that I sat in an auto in Mumbai. Off it went cantering along the bylanes of the largest suburb in the city. It was afternoon and the was not much traffic on the road. As the auto picked speed, I noticed a small kid walking out of the gate and into the road. The vehicle was too close and too fast and neither slowed down. I clasped the railing harder, held my breath and almost closed my eyes. To my utter amazement and relief, the vehicle swerved by half an inch and I swear there was just enough gap in between for wind to pass through. That was the day I learnt, this was just another day in the office in Maximum City. Time is money here, they said and true to the last letter, no on slows down, no one brakes and no one gives the damn way!

Specimen 6: People with Connections
No silly, not the neta types of connections. Its the ringing types. The worst invention of the century if you ask the automobiles about it. Worse than Jack Daniels. And we, being the forever connected generation, cant keep our hands off the mobiles. Even if it means that we have to balance the phone between our cheeks and shoulder while riding the bike, have the traffic pile up behind us while checking Facebook, not knowing that the signal has turned green, check incoming mails and messages on the BlackBerry while clocking 80 on the highway. Dents, bumps and crashes are all pardoned as long as we are on the 'Smart' phones. An Apple a day, might not really keep the doctor away.

Specimen 7: The Diwan-e-aam
The common man, he is there everywhere. Not one or two, a full twenty million plus and growing. And given that 70% of this twenty million people stay in slums and roads, you have them everywhere. They just arent there on the roads! They use it as an extension of their living rooms. They sleep, the run, they eat, they shit, they live on these roads. Which of course, leaves little space for your car or bike, let alone the trucks and buses. And not to forget the million other people looking to go to work, schools, homes. Of course, they have never heard of zebra crossings, sky walks, footpaths or generally about 'look where you are going'. That obviously leaves the motorists as the poor cousins or say second rate citizens, where really they should have been kings.

Specimen 8: Mahanagar
Its just not some place, its not just a city. Its a living, breathing, ever-changing mega flux. You have to adapt to it, adjust your pace, develop a taste. Long roads, ugly flyovers, clogged bridges, beautiful sea faces, serpentine alleys, on going constructions, mid night traffic jams, sun scorched bus stops, rain battered cobble ways, potholed highways, blood stained memories, aged black and yellow cabs, historic landmarks. They are all there. You just have to be a part of it. There are millions out there trying to reach their destinations. If you just pause and observe, you might as well enjoy the journey though this mad place.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

I wish you enough

How many birthday reminders do we see every morning when we log into Facebook! The standard operating procedure then kicks in. Open every person's profile who has his/her birthday on a different tab, type any of the following generic wishes applicable to any age, any sex or any relation: 'Hey Happy Birthday' / 'Many happy returns of the day' / 'Have a great day and fantastic year' / 'Here's wishing you all the joy in the world', copy the line you have typed and paste it in each of the tabs open. After a while you get a standard reply like 'Hey thanks for your wishes' / 'Thank you' which has been laboriously copied and pasted into every person who has wished them on their wall. Or some of them who don't have the patience to reply to each post, put up a generic 'Thank you all for the warm wishes! It made my day' post on their wall. And all those friends/acquaintances/colleagues/relatives who has missed out wishing them in the first place, reply to the post with a standard 'Happy belated birthday'/ 'Better late than never'/ 'So sorry to have missed wishing on your birthday'. This cycle continues till the last day you have a profile on Facebook and then decide to move on to something different, like when you decided to move from Orkut to Facebook.

I usually put on the AIR FM channel when I drive. The other set of FM channels with the loud RJs usually end up playing the same set of songs, until you reach a point of dying due to repetition. The AIR FM has really bad RJs accompanied with old English chart busters, that are easy on the ears and fun to drive along with. On one such occasion, a couple of days ago, a RJ narrated a story of a guy in the airport wishing his daughter goodbye and then telling her 'I wish you enough'. It was a really beautiful piece of prose, effortlessly stringing in simple words to deliver a powerful, heartfelt message.

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.

I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.

I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.

I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.

I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.

I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.

I wish you enough “Hello’s” to get you through the final “Goodbye.”

Isnt it brilliant! To all my friends, whom I had wished with a standard, hollow "Happy Birthday', I apologize and wish you enough!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review: Stanley Ka Dabba

******************* Spoiler Alert ********************

Got a chance to watch Amol Gupte's 'Stanley ka Dabba' last Sunday. If you recall, Amol Gupte was the scriptwriter for Aamir Khan's 'Taare Zameen Pe'. There were some ugly rows between the two, with Amol accusing Aamir of hijacking the script and direction, which ensured ample coverage on Page 3. This time however, Gupte ensures that he delivers the movie on his own and boy does he deliver or what! 'Stanley ka Dabba' comes out as a sweet, real and nostalgic movie which will take you down the memory corridors of your school life.

Stanley Fenandez is the most popular student of Class 4F at Holy Family School. He breaks into impromptu karaokes, stitches the most incredulous stories on the fly to his classmates delight, joins the group for a game of after school football. He is the favorite student of the sweet and encouraging 'Rosie Miss' who is spellbound by the your boy's ability, be it writing a funny essay, breaking into a poem for her birthday or building a Light House with junk. He is exactly what Ishaan Awasti was not in TZP. He's funny, he's popular, he's smart and he's without a tiffin box.

This is where the story begins to unfold. Stanley never gets dabba from home. Unkempt, torn uniform, blackened eyes all point to some basic brickwork missing from the boys' life. Your heart tears to see him drink water from the school tap to fight his hunger. But for every dark cloud, isnt there a silver lining! His classmates are forever welcoming him to trade their food for his stories. It reminds you of your own days in school, when all the kids used to flock around the table to hog on yummy food tucked in by over zealous moms. Enter Aman Verma into the picture. He is there in every class I am sure. The guy who has the biggest and yummiest food packed into a carrier that would put the Qutub Minar to shame. And the kids dig in with gusto.

What the kids are not prepared is for Hindi teacher 'Babubhai Verma' a.k.a Khadoos. The sweaty glutton never lets go of an opportunity to dig into the dabbas of students and even teachers. He shamelessly asks for a helping from his colleagues and worse still takes a liking to Aman Verma's tower of indulgence. And yes, he never gets his own food. The kids spite him for his bullying and especially take offense to Khadoos picking on Stanley for not getting his own food. And that's when the most fun part of the movie comes in: a set of kids outwitting the greedy hog by changing the khane ka adda every day. It doesn't take long for Khadoos to realize that he's being played with and lashes out at poor Stanley for his 'beizatti'. The 'No dabba to no school' diktat pushes the proud boy to a corner and he stops coming to school.

This is where the movie takes the tested and familiar route of David vs Goliath, innocence vs oppression to reach a very expected ending. The boy is an orphan, living with his hotel owner chacha who constantly abuses and exploits him. The only solace there for Stanley is Akram, the hotel cook who doubles up as his Big Brother. Akram helps Stanley finally get his own dabba to school, which acts as his license to get back to school and the ultimate expulsion of Khadoos.

It might not be a script that sets the screen on fire, but there are a couple of things which make the movie so endearing. Firstly its the school life itself. Its sure to transport you back to the days of your own challenging days with pampering mothers, boring lessons, great friendships and times of pure innocence. The teachers' casting is superb with Divya Dutta as the glowing Miss Rosie that every student looks up to, Divya Jagdale as the archetypal Mrs. Iyer, the flower adorned cold as stone Science teacher, the classy and elegant Father and finally Amol Gupte, as the Hindi teacher who shares no love or cares two hoots for his students. I am sure every one amongst us has vivid memories of the teachers who taught, loved, punished and molded us. Secondly, it touches upon the friendships that we build over the years. The real pillars who understood everything that was going on in our lives and shared every moment of the highs and lows to build everlasting memories of bonding and camaraderie. We are after all, defined by the friendships that we make. Finally, the real star of the movie if your really ask me is the food itself. There are hundreds of superbly shot scenes of spluttering tadka, frying samosas, chopping colorful vegetables, fresh paneer...the list is endless. I really loved the character of Raj, the new history teacher who brings in a new dish every day and has such a lovely story and explanation to every preparation: the style of cooking, the contents of the dish, the variety in the spices. Every time the food comes on screen, you will feel like digging into the dabbas and feel its really not such a sin if Khadoos wanted a bite of this heavenly bliss.

The acting is superb. The young actor Partho, who is actually Amol Gupte's son effortlessly manages to paint the tale of Stanley with total sincerity and enthusiasm. You cant help but fall in love the with boy who inspite of the cruel world around him, comes up trumps with his personality and simplicity. The script is a little slow and predictable at the end, but never leaves you uninterested. The direction is quite good and Amol Gupte doesn't try to over do any emotional scenes. Its a simple story, told with a lot of innocence and a large heart. Go watch it and enjoy yourself, its worth its salt.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Fellowship of the Bling

It was the only time that some thing else replaced it. At the time of Napolean Bonoparte when Aluminum was just discovered and considered so rare, he had his 100 most revered guests served with Aluminum cutlery. The rest of the lesser mortals were served in just gold plates. Of course it just took another 10-15 years for gold to win back its ....err.... gold medal.

" I just got my year end bonus. Lets go buy some gold" my wife said.
"Do you want to spend some 20 grand on 10gms? We can put it in some Mutual fund na!"
"20k was last year Sir! Its at 22500 now and the paper says it will go to 50k in two years!!"

That is ridiculous I thought. Which led me to go online and check some trends on prices of gold over the years. And boy was I stumped or what!! Over the last 36 years, irrespective of closed or open economies, boom or recession, smuggling or streamlined, gold prices are going in only one direction: north-north west. In 1974, 10 gms of gold cost INR 185 and today we are at INR 22500 and its growing at a phenomenal pace. No wonder we are the largest gold consuming country in the world. And hey! even the world went crazy after it: remember the Gold Rush of California and Alaksa in the early 18th century!

And then it got me thinking. Gold is just every where in our life. Its there as a metal, as a concept, in our language, in our names, its all pervasive. Lets see...
  • Language: Idioms and phrases filled with it like 'as good as gold', 'golden goose', 'all that glitters is not gold', 'old is gold', 'heart of gold', 'worth its weight in gold', 'silence is gold', 'sitting on a gold mine', 'gold digger', 'golden age', 'golden ratio', 'golden rule', 'Midas Touch', 'Eldorado'.....its endless
  • Royalty: The Russian Czars were shot at point blank range with automatics, but they apparently had so much gold and jewelry on them that the bullets just bounced off! This and stories around the Peacock throne, the Gold sarcophagus of Tuthankamen et all.
  • Names: We call out to small babies with affection - chinnu, shona equating them to precious gold, or heck just name them after gold - Sonika, Kanchan, Swarna and as simple as Goldie!
  • Movies: How many movies have we seen as kids where bad men were the bald big men who used to smuggle gold and drugs at the docks. James Bond fighting the Man with the Golden Gun or at Golden Eye, finding the magic land though The Golden compass, Charlie Chaplin eating the shoe in Gold Rush and Natalie Portman's intriguing performance in Golden Swan. Well and if you do well, you will get what else but the 'Golden Globe'!
  • Religion: Well almost every God we know of in every religion is adorned in Gold. Be it Lord Venkateshwara in Tiruapti or the sacred Golden Temple, Goddess Lakshmi in one of her forms, the box of Moses to hold the 'Ten Commandments'
  • Random: Golden Gate, Gold fish, Golden Handshake, Golden retriever, Golden triangle and quadrilateral, Gold ETFs, Gold dust, Gold's Gym, Gold Quest
  • And Weddings: Ofcourse how can we Indians forget about weddings jewelry, mostly gifted and occasionally demanded! Parents end up saving years, some times taking loans or mortgaging property to gift the gold! Well a picture is worth a thousand words if you ask me....

Well I cant think of any thing else as of now. If you can let me know and I might just give you a Gold Medal.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Life between two blog posts

Its been just over three years since my last blog. Over the three years, I have

  • Gotten married
  • Worked in two great companies
  • Made a lot of good friends
  • Seen the great Pyramids
  • Bought a flat and a piece of land
  • Ported from Airtel to Vodafone
  • Changed four houses
  • Put on twenty kilos
  • Lost a dear aunt
  • Been gifted an Enfeild \m/
  • Finally started my dream movie collection
  • Spotted a tiger in the wild
  • Got malaria 3 times
  • Driven 1000 kms in flat 16 hours
  • Understood how the guy who calls at 3 PM on Sunday afternoon selling Insurance feels
  • Seen an IPL final and India win the World Cup!
  • Survived near lay offs, recession and a company takeover
  • Lost a phone and a wallet
  • Gone bonkers over the road side Pani puri in Mumbai
  • Flown in a hot air baloon
  • Proudly seen my brother get his first job
  • Fallen in love with Ikea furniture
  • Broken my ankle twice
  • Have seen the smart phone revolution
  • Earned tonnes of i-mint points
  • Totally stopped reading for some Goddamn reason
  • Bought my first car
  • Collected upto thirty eight fridge magnets
  • Traveled to every nook and corner of the great Megapolis called Mumbai
  • Moved from Orkut to Facebook
  • Celebrated my dad's 60th year Shanti
  • Developed lots more grey hair, but maybe not that much wisdom
  • Enjoyed every bit of this crazy journey called life
I'm lovin' it!