Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Holiday Tradition

I grew up in a house-hold where all festivals were celebrated with great enthusiasm regardless of their religious implication. During Kali Puja, Diwali, Bhai Phonta our house would be filled with aunts and uncles and cousins for days. Every morning Daddy would go to the bazaar and come back with bags laden with vegetables, fish and meat which would then be lovingly prepared by mom and my aunts. The men would sit on the dining table and the children on the ground and have our lunches and dinners amidst laughter and chatter and great bonhomie in general! In the evening we’d burst crackers and even after three days of non-stop bursting, there’d still be crackers left over for next year!

During Eid, Daddy’s friend Atiq Mian would send home giant vessels of Biryani and mutton curry along with trays of dry fruits and sweets…the smell of that Biryani would linger in the house weeks after that! Holi meant helping ourselves to packets of aabir of every possible color and filling balloons and pichkari from buckets my brother prepared to attack unsuspecting passer-by! For Lakshmi Puja, Didi and I would painstakingly adorn the house with alpana while mom fasted and prepared the bhog and in the evening we would all sit by the alter with folded hands watching mom in her red-bordered garad saree, face radiant in the lamp-light, read aloud from the panchali, asking goddess Lakshmi to keep her home filled with good fortune and happiness forever! Then there was Bijoya Dashami when the house would be filled with people and mom would serve never ending plates of home-made nimki and narkel’er naroo to every one who walked in and Poush Sankranti when the entire paara could smell the delicious puli-pithey and the patishapta being made in our kitchen!

But my favorite holiday of all was Christmas. That particular time of the year signified a lot of things; exams were over, good or bad – the results were out, which meant we could play all day long without a care in the world! Christmas meant hanging our school stockings from the bed-post before going to sleep, which would miraculously get filled with candies in the morning! It also meant enjoying once in a year treats – a fruit cake from Nahoum’s, a trip to the zoo or the Victoria Memorial! One year Daddy took me to New Market before Christmas - I don’t recall how old I was or if I had ever been to New Market before that! But I remember this – it was filled with Christmas trees, shiny ornaments, paper streamers, garlands, colorful hats of all shapes, piñatas and star lanterns – an enchanted bazaar straight out of a little girl’s fantasy! Daddy bought me a Christmas tree that day. It was a tiny thing, the kind that one puts on their desks. I decorated it with tinsel garlands and little shiny balls of different colors! That tree was my pride and joy – none of my friends had it and I would show-off my little Christmas tree to anyone who came by!

A few years later Daddy passed away and all celebrations stopped in our house! Holi became colorless, Diwali light-less. Uncles and aunts and cousins started congregating in someone else’s house. Dada would wake up very early in the morning on Rakhi and Bhai Phonta and disappear for the rest of the day! Eid came and went but the aromatic Biryani from Atiq Mian’s house never came! Very few people came to wish us during Bijoya Dashami and who ever came would be served store-bought mishti and shingara instead of my mom’s home-made delicacies! Like every year Didi and I would adorn our house with alpana, but mom would never make bhog again. Neither would she sit by the lamplight and read aloud from panchali. She would offer cut fruits and sweets to Lakshmi and sit in front of the alter in mute silence as if she was having a silent dialogue with the goddess who let her down!

But I held on to my Christmas tradition; every year I would unpack my little Christmas tree and decorate it with great enthusiasm. The twinkling lights and shiny ornaments brought a strange sense of peace in my heart! But nothing lasts forever, and one day my tree fell apart – the wooden base was eaten hollow by wood-worms and the paper needles of the pine disintegrated! I threw the tree in the garbage and never looked back. So along with other festivals even Christmas was buried under the collective grief in our house-hold! Yet every year I would be drawn to Park Street on Christmas; I would treat myself to a piece of fruit-cake at Flury’s while looking at the magical lights adorning the street outside!

Many years later in Bangalore, on Christmas day I found myself alone at home with my Anglo-Indian landlady. I was new in town and had nowhere to go, and she was almost 70, a spinster and nearly crippled with arthritis! Together we sat in her bed-room watching TV and drinking home-made wine while she told me how she was betrayed by her Sikh paramour, a doctor in the army where she was a nurse during the WWII. Her hatred for the man who broke her naïve heart fifty years back was quite intense!
“Men”, she said taking a sip of the too-sweet wine “are all bastards! You smile at them and they’ll want to get into your knickers!” The wine, in spite of its rather overwhelming sweetness, was quite potent!
“You’re right, Aunty!” I said.
“Take it from me girl - don’t let any man take off your knickers unless he gives you a wedding ring first!” A wonderful pearl of wisdom from a senile (and drunk) old lady on Christmas night that I’ll never forget in my life.

Little more than a year later I was married, moved to Seattle, bought a house and trying to settle into the suburban American life. That year I learnt that one can celebrate festivals with people other than family. I attended the Bengali community Durga Pujo, followed by Bijoya Dashami and Sindoor Khela party at some one’s place. There was more than one Diwali party to go to, where we didn’t burst fire-crackers, but generally partied till wee hours of the morning! Along with these I also adopted the American traditions of barbeque on 4th of July, putting pumpkins outside your doorway and dress-up silly on Halloween and eat-till-you-throw-up on Thanksgiving! Sometime after Halloween I noticed a giant Christmas tree in a mall…I was child all over again…I rushed to the tree and stared at it in amazement! Never before I had I seen a tree that big or ornaments that beautiful! I stared at the tree for a very long time admiring its beauty.

The day after Thanksgiving, spouse pulled out a battered old card-board box with a picture of Douglas fir on it from the store room and that day we started our very own tradition of putting up the Christmas tree. In the initial years the tree wasn’t much to write home about…but with each passing year we added more ornaments to our collection and decorated the same tree with great enthusiasm. After we had sonny boy, he too joined the family tradition with equal gusto – he would putter around us, handing us ornaments and squealing with delight when we turned the lights on!

The two winters that we spent in Hyderabad were rather interesting. The first Christmas, we were in Bangkok partying like it was the night before apocalypse! Little did we know that the very next morning hundreds of thousands would be killed as giant waves would hit the coasts of Indonesia, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka! We were incommunicado with family back in India who just knew we were in Thailand and Phuket was one of destinations – till we were able to get past the tremendous communication jam and get in touch with them! It was a time of stress, anxiety and immense sadness!

The next year we decided to celebrate Christmas in a much sober manner and planned to throw a party for sonny boy and his little friends! It was fun organizing such an event…it took me all over Hyderabad in search of Christmas paraphernalia, including a Santa Claus – yes, a rotund jolly-faced Santa Claus, who would walk in with his customary “Ho Ho Ho” and distribute gifts to kids from his giant sack! But alas, there was no Santa to be found, specially the jolly-faced kind! Every one offered me a Santa suit and asked me to find someone who’ll wear it! Honestly, I couldn’t ask any of my friends to actually wear that ill-fitting, not to mention smelly red suit! At the last store, I begged and pleaded with the owner. “Please, please, please find me a Santa! The children are expecting him – it was written on the invite that Santa will be there!”
“Sorry madam! This is a very busy time for Santa – they are all booked by star hotels months before Christmas!” the store owner said.
“What will happen to my party?” I wailed.
He took pity on me and had a quick discussion with his partner in swift Telegu which I failed to catch. Then he turned towards me and said “I think madam you are in luck…we can give you a guy!”
“Really? Wow! Where is he?”
He called out to someone “Ask Chhotu to come here for a minute”
A minute later Chhotu appears from somewhere in the back of store.
“Madam, this is your Santa Claus! Kya re Chhotu, do ghante ke liye Santa banega kya? Sirf yeh laal rang ka suit pahenna hai aur bachcho ko present dena hai…kar sakega?”
Chhotu dutifully nods his head as I stare at him. Where is my rotund, jolly-faced Santa? This guy is tall as a lamp-post, skinny like a match-stick, black as ebony and as if that wasn’t bad enough, he was completely cross-eyed! I wanted to cry. I wanted to go back to Seattle, to a mall, where Santa sits on an ornate chair, in his make-shift North Pole village smiling indulgently at whiny, snotty children who stand in line for hours in their stiff new clothes to get his or her picture taken with Him. I shook my head violently and left the store. Later in the party spouse and I cranked up the air-conditioners and wore Elf hats and spread Christmas cheer to a bunch of four year olds who kept asking when Santa will show up with the presents!

Christmas is still my most favorite time of the year – the beautifully decorated Christmas trees all over the city, the twinkling lights adorning the leafless trees on the curb, the gingerbread latte the Starbucks would serve during the season, the ancient creaking carousel in downtown, the fruit-cake baking in my kitchen, the holiday parties, the gifts under the tree – yes, I love every last commercial aspect of Christmas! And why not, it reminds everyone to be happy and kind, the idea of giving and sharing with everyone! Of course I’ve run into monsters out to do Christmas shopping, in the mall parking lot jostling for a spot, ready to run-over anyone under their expensive SUV’s; I’ve heard people complaining because of the conflux of family under one roof ; people getting stressed out over gift-giving; and people getting depressed because they have no one to share Christmas with!

This year, the day after Thanksgiving we took out our Christmas from its card-board box – its falling apart in every possible way. Spouse suggested we get a new tree. But I told him that I had promised our tree that it will be with us this year when we packed it last year. I have to keep my promise, so we lovingly put it up and decorated it with yards and yards of twinkling lights, red and gold ornaments, ribbons, garlands and beaded sprays – in my eyes it’s the most beautiful tree I’ve seen this season!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Dhoom 2 : A Roller-coaster Ride

Last night I had yet another one of those disgruntled moments, which soon turned into the biggest embarrassment of recent times. We went to watch Dhoom2 after a wonderful meal at the neighborhood Italian diner. Happy with the food and even happier with the delectable Pinot Noir that accompanied the meal, I rush into the theater hoping to capture some nice seats leaving spouse to park the car. Looked like it was a house-full show…lots of people inside the theater, but I was lucky enough to find some really nice seats…center row, towards the back, just where I like to sit! I immediately called spouse to let him know about the sudden windfall. Couple of minutes later spouse calls me back…he’s unable to locate me in the theater and asks me to wave my arm in the air- which I do- yet he cannot locate me! Turns out that we were in two different screens! He trudges over to join me. In the meantime, a man carrying a precarious tower of samosas and coffee comes over and scowls at me. The conversation that follows goes somewhat like this:
Man: Excuse me! You’re sitting on our seat!
Me: No!
Man: YES! That’s my daughter’s jacket over there!
Me: OK! But nothing was on these three seats, so I’m going to sit here!
Man: Come on! Don’t be so rude!
Me: (getting a little annoyed with the exchange) I’m not being rude! You should have put something on the seats to secure them. These seats were empty, so I took them. YOU are being unreasonable!
Spouse shows up by my side.
Spouse: What’s the problem?
Me: Nothing that I can’t handle!
Man: (He’s really upset now) This is ridiculous! Why don’t you go back to the seat where you were before the interval!
Wordlessly I got up from the prized seats and beat a rather hasty retreat, my ears burning in embarrassment, dragging a bewildered spouse and sonny boy behind me!

It took a second bottle of Pinot Noir smuggled into the theater in coffee cup to wash away the sense of mortification! But then Hrithik Roshan did a spectacular sky-diving stunt and landed on a moving train somewhere in the Namibian desert and robbed some royal old dame off her jewel-encrusted crown! And I stopped fretting about the stupid fracas that took place moments ago.

Dhoom2 is all about Hrithik Roshan, in fact its an ode to the handsome actor’s multi-faceted talent, so much so that you’d think Papa Roshan is at the helm of the movie rather than Aditya Chopra and Sanjay Gadhvi! Hrithik over-shadows every other actor in the movie in every department! Whether its his Greek God like statuesque physique, or his ability to dance like he has no bones in his body, or the death-defying stunts that he insists on doing himself, Hrithik is a cut above the rest of his contemporaries!

There’s not much to the story-line of Dhoom2. Aryan (Hrithik Roshan) is a suave, high-tech master thief who is giving Mumbai Police department sleepless nights with his daring robberies! He’s a master of disguise who revels in whisking away the coveted object from under the cops’ nose! On his trail are Jai Dixit (Abhishek Bachchan) and Ali (Uday Chopra) who has joined the police force now. They are joined by ACP Shonali Bose (Bipasha Basu in uncomfortably tight clothes) a ball-busting non-nonsense super cop! Shonali also happens to be Jai classmate from college and they share a wonderful camaraderie much to the chagrin of Sweetie (Rimi Sen) Jai’s pregnant wife.

Aryan carries out another audacious robbery in Mumbai and dares the cops to catch him at his next mission in Junagadh. In Junagadh, while trying to steal a six hundred year old royal sword, Aryan finally meets his match – Sunheri (Aishwarya Rai) a street-smart petty thief with an attitude. After much humming and hawing the two form a partnership and head to Rio for yet another heist with Jai and Ali at their heels. In Rio the cops are greeted by Shonali Bose’s beach-bumming sun-worshipping twin Monali. Thus begins the game of cops and robbers, of intrigue, of betrayal and of passion!

There isn’t really much to complain about Dhoom2. Yet, if I nit-pick, I would say that the initial track of domestic discord with a hint of adultery in Jai Dixit’s life could have been explored a little more by cutting off a song or two which kept popping up at most inopportune moments! And why did Shonali Bose’s tough-cop character just disappear only to be replaced with the ditzy twin Monali? It didn’t make any sense whatsoever! And why didn’t we see any Brazilian cop during the Rio heist sequence?

The other problem with Dhoom2 is its music. Pritam had a tough act to follow…and he couldn’t live up to the hype at all! Dhoom2’s music is at best mediocre. The saving grace is the trendy choreography and stylized picturisation, which makes the songs visually stunning!

Watching Abhishek Bachchan in Dhoom2 I was reminded of Shashi Kapoor in numerous Amitabh Bachchan blockbusters. He is very important to the movie; nonetheless Jai Dixit’s character has been relegated to the backseat. Bachchan Jr does a fine job as usual with his “oh-I’m-so-cool” body-language! Yet every time he was pitted against Hrithik Roshan, you couldn’t help but notice how much Abhishek needs to spruce up his appearance, his posture, his physique and his wardrobe!

Ash's Sunheri is all glamour and absolutely no substance. The anxiety or strain that you expect from her as she follows the master thief on potentially dangerous missions is never felt. Sunehri enters the scene silently; almost an hour into the film in a cat-woman like body-suit hugging her newly toned contours sensually, completed with a mask that highlights her gorgeous eyes. In a matter of minutes she spoils it all – as she strips out of her cat-suit she opens her mouth…what a let down!! No more sensuality, just plain annoying! I for one couldn’t see why Aryan would take her as a partner let alone fall for her!! Sunheri and Aryan's union was meant to be a sizzling, electrifying moment but yet again Aishwarya Rai's lack of chemistry with her co-star made even the most well-written scene fall flat! And no, she didn’t wear a bikini in the movie, in case you were wondering!

It was Bipasha Basu who appeared in a teensy-weensy bikini and looked really good in it! At least as a cop she had somewhat of a job but as the scatterbrained Monali she pretty much had nothing to do except run on the beach wearing a Baywatch inspired red swim-suit in Uday Chopra’s dream!

Uday Chopra is the comic relief and his exchanges with Abhishek are quite funny at times. Most people find him irritating, but I think he was quite endearing! If there’s one person who’s super-irritating, that’d be Rimi Sen! Not only her dialogue delivery is awful, her penchant for breaking into Bengali every now and then (this time around she was craving for Machh Bhaja) can get really exasperating…in fact so annoying that in the five minutes that she was on the screen I wished Jai would dump her (pregnant or not) and shack up with Shonali!

Mounted on a rather extravagant scale, Dhoom2 is definitely a visual delight. It’s a hi-octane action/thriller and the thrills, stunts, pace and the breathtaking visuals are dazzling enough to keep the audience riveted from the beginning to the end! Dhoom 2 isn’t a good movie, but it’s not a bad movie either. Its clearly a Hrithik Roshan show – throw in some stunning action sequences, fabulous bikes, chuckle-inducing comic sequences, scantily clad women and you get a sure-shot crowd pleaser! Go watch it, but leave your brains back at home!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Casino Royale

When Pierce Brosnan was unceremoniously fired form the James Bond franchise I was heart-broken, and I guess I wasn’t the only one who felt that no one else could do justice to the flamboyant agent 007 on the silver screen. And then, precisely thirteen months back the name of the new Bond was announced. He is now played by Daniel Craig, as the world knows, and although I loved him in Layer Cake, like everyone else, I too waited with bated breath to see the result! And what a result that is!! Along with his bullet-shaped frame, jug-ears and unlikely azure eyes, Daniel Craig brings an emotional unpredictability to the role that is both clearly human and just plain more interesting than his recent predecessors. Notwithstanding my personal obsession with Mr Brosnan, I have to admit that Craig's easily the best Bond since Sean Connery.

In Casino Royale James Bond is back to his roots as Ian Fleming's driven, bare-knuckled, rough-around-the-edges sociopath killer in Her Majesty's Secret Service who’s only just graduated to coveted 00 status. He doesn’t know much about the difference between a shaken and stirred martini let alone care, and who doesn’t get behind the wheel of an Aston Martin until a third of the way through the picture. Until then, it’s (gasp) a Ford rental car for him!! This is meant to be a less elegant, more rough-and-tumble Bond than we’re accustomed to — Bond before he becomes “Bond, James Bond.”

It doesn't even feel like a Bond film as we have come to expect them, in their mind-numbing, increasingly gadget-dependent gigantism. There is no mastermind hell-bent on world domination, no invisible car, no laser guns and hundreds of extras don’t get mowed down in every other scene. It begins with a black-and-white sequence in which Bond brutally earn his 00 status with two textbook-perfect killings, followed by an exhilarating foot chase, as Bond pursues a terror suspect (French “free running” champion Sébastien Foucan) through a Madagascar construction site… that’s a ballet of gravity-defying acrobatics!.

Under the watchful eye of M (a wonderfully animated Judi Dench) and aided by a fellow operative Mathis (Italian actor Giancarlo Giannini last seen in Hannibal where gets his entrails eaten by Anthony Hopkins), Bond arrives in Montenegro with British Treasury functionary Vesper Lynd (French actress Eva Green) by his side. There, in the swank hotel and gaming establishment of the title, he squares off against Le Chiffre in a multimillion-dollar poker game. Instead of a megalomaniac out to rule the world, Le Chiffre (Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen), "the Cipher," is a banker to international terrorists who is only in the game for the money. His quirks are a tear duct that drips blood and the need for an inhaler. He gives off a genuine creepy vibe, especially when he tortures Bond with a rather painful testicle squeeze and pauses to leer at his naked body. The marathon casino sequence is the front and center of the movie, although attempted assassinations and a poisoning make it a poker game with a difference. Also if my math is correct, Bond goes through three freshly ironed dress shirts in a single night, which suggests that he has off-loaded Q in favor of a silent Jeeves! I guess, he has to look good for Vesper Lynd.

The advance publicity for James Bond movies usually features an interview with an actress who insists that she's not playing the typical Bond girl. Yet invariably the movie comes out, there's some serious actress suddenly acting like an idiot. The pattern is finally broken with Eva Green. Vesper Lynd is probably the most complex creation in the “Bond girl” catalog — neither the submissive flirt or ball-busting vixen of older Bond adventures nor the extreme sportswoman (Michelle Yeoh, Halle Berry) of more recent past, but rather a smart, sexy, independent-minded femme (with smoky eyes, blood red lips and paper white skin) whose relationship with Bond is based on something deeper than the exchange of mutually seductive charms. Meeting on a train, they exchange some fabulously punchy dialogue that’s like the smart, double-entendre-laden lingo prospective lovers use in literate Hollywood romantic comedies. And when he comforts her in the shower following a frightening shootout in a hotel stairwell, it’s tender and touching in a way we don’t expect from a James Bond movie.

Having said that, I should also mention everything one expects from a James Bond film is here, but better and more human. Bond gets off wisecracks at the expense of his adversaries, but this time it’s almost apologetic. This Bond isn't invincible; he’s forever getting nicked and bruised and he half expects that next time his number will come up.

Craig reinvigorates a fagged-out franchise that's been relying on preposterous stunts and sillier gadgets to disguise the fact that it's run out of ideas. And he does it with an actor's skill, an athlete's grace and a dangerous glint that puts you on notice that Bond, James Bond, is back in business. This you do not want to miss.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sister of my soul - Part I

This is a story from the not so faded pages of my memory…about a friend I loved…and lost! I forget when I became friends with her or how. In a school reputed for teaching the maximum number of students in the whole world, unfortunately there were very few I could relate to. But she found me in the sea of faces and singled me out for her affection, loyalty and devotion and I returned her gesture with equal fervor! We were thick as thieves, always sitting together, always talking, whispering, laughing, and sharing everything from homework to lip balms to pangs of puberty to immature crush on some senior boy! And we shared a passion for Beatles, ABBA and Simon & Garfunkel…even the teachers knew about that! Every now and then we’d be pulled up to give impromptu performances in front of the whole class! In a class full of budding Rabindrasangeet and Hindustani classical singers, we were the odd ones out, but we loved every moment of our little gigs and the applaud that followed!

When we reached class IX, we had to separate! She and I chose different additional subjects because of which we were put in different sections. I missed her terribly and waited for the lunch-break and the minutes between classes when we could catch up by the drinking-water taps! That year her cousin, who was in the morning section all these years, joined us. I didn’t like this girl from day one…she was the proverbial kebab mein haddi…apart from the fact that she had absolutely nothing in common with us, she was also very needy, very insecure and very nosy! Yet my friend had to keep her close, because she was family…and if we didn’t give her enough attention, this girl would go home and cry after which her mom would call up my friend’s mom and complain how badly she’s treating her own first cousin! Pretty soon the situation became unbearable…my friend and I couldn’t talk at all…anything we said or discussed would eventually reach my friend’s family distorted like Chinese whisper and the poor girl would be reprimanded for ignoring her cousin over the company of someone with dubious morality! We mutually decided to give the cousin some space between us so that she stops making life so miserable for my friend and that seemed to work for a while! As much as I disliked her, I decided to be nice to her for the sake of my friend!

One day something unexpected happened. I had a severe stomach pain while in school, and had to be rushed to hospital for emergency appendectomy. For the next two weeks I was in the hospital and then at home recuperating! My classmates came to visit; those who couldn’t, sent get-well cards or called home to inquire. Only the person I missed most didn’t visit or call! There was complete silence from my friend. It broke my heart…I oscillated between making preposterous excuses for her, getting really angry and feeling abandoned! After almost three weeks when I went back to school, I took special care to avoid my friend; I rarely left the classroom, ate lunch at my seat, took the lift instead of the stairs and every day I waited her to come looking for me! But she didn’t!

A few weeks later, one day I bumped into my friend at the girls’ toilet. We exchanged forced pleasantries, she enquired about my health, I said I was doing fine…after that I had nothing to say to her and she seemed uncomfortable too! We bade each other good-bye and went back to our classes! That was probably the last time we spoke. Every now and then I’d see her at the playground during lunch-break standing arm in arm with her cousin at the corner which used to be ours for so many years! Sometimes we exchanged weak smiles…her cousin would always make it a point to turn her back towards me! After a point I stopped looking at her, moved on with my life…in a school of 14,000 students it wasn’t too hard to find new friends!

Soon it was time for the Board exams, the long break after that and then the results! I did pretty well…good enough to be among the hallowed circle of handful of students who get accepted in the last two years of school. My friend didn’t make it…she went to another school; so did her cousin and I never saw them after that!

A couple of days back I received a mail from the cousin…she found me on Orkut and wanted to get back in touch. I read and re-read her three line mail over and over again. In a flash I was 15 again; all the sadness, the anger and the heartache came rushing back like water from a broken dam! I realized that I was holding my breath, so I forced myself to take a deep breath and calm down…that chapter of my life ended so long ago; so much water has flown under the bridge since then! We are grown ups now and as the rational adult that I claim to be, I shouldn’t hold the cousin responsible for the demise of my friendship! In retrospect, I could have done things differently; I could have told my friend how much I missed her or given her a chance to explain…but I didn’t; I was busy playing the victim and wallowing in self-pity!

The petulant 15 year old me and the middle-aged current me fought for a long time and finally I decided to reply to her mail…no angry, sarcastic diatribe against her for the follies of the past; neither a mushy, sentimental reminiscence of the good old days…just a cut and dried account of the present! So now we are officially in touch…yet I don’t see the point of all this! Why play this charade when I have neither forgotten what she did nor forgiven her for it?!

Does time heal all wounds? Does growing older really make you wiser? I think not. There are some incidents in life that you never get over; you just learn to live with it!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Don - A chase that shouldn't have began in the first place!

I’m quite angry! No, let me rephrase that…I’m extremely angry…and confused! I don’t know whether to be mad at the teenage couple who rear-ended my car yesterday evening in crawling traffic or at Farhan Akhtar for completely massacring a classic movie like Don or at myself for being such a sucker for punishment!

What a way to spend a Friday evening! I braved rush hour traffic to get to the movie hall only to get embroiled in a fender-bender, 911 calls and police interrogation! By the time I reached the movie theater, I was already in a foul mood and unfortunately, Don did nothing to alleviate that!

I loved the original Don, one of my Amitabh Bachchan favorites along with Deewar, Sholay, Namak Haram, Satte pe Satta among others. Having watched it again just a few month’s back, I applauded the engaging storyline, the tight pace, the unusual lack of melodrama and above all the perfect casting of Don. The new Don, although technically a superior fare turned out to be much ado about nothing! Five years ago when Farhan Akhtar gave us Dil Chahta Hai, everyone hailed him as the messiah of ground-breaking cinema in Bollywood. He followed that with a much-hyped damp squib called Lakshya and now the super-hyped remake of Don! Why on earth Farhan, I ask, did you think of re-interpreting with a perfectly fine screenplay and make such a mess of it?!

It started off quite alright…Don (Sharukh Khan) answering a call on his Motorazr (pretty low-tech if you ask me) in a Paris bistro and subsequently beating the pulp out of Chunky Pandey (in desperate need of a face-lift)…introduction of DCP D’silva (Boman Irani) and Roma (Priyanka Chopra) doing a graceful Tai-chi routine. So the first half of the movie went off as expected…when ruthless Don (based in Kuala Lampur this time) is killed by the police, the DCP is afraid that another "Don" will take over when the rest of the gang come of know of his death, so he, unbeknown to the rest of the police force, recruits Don's look-alike Vijay to become the real Don. Vijay is at first reluctant, but when promised that the child he is caring for will be looked after and educated, he agrees. He is successfully re-located back with his gang by feigning injuries and loss of memory. He soon recuperates and takes over the job as Don. Unfortunately the similarity in the plot ends right here. There are so many twists and turns in the plot hereafter that as a purist I cringed and shuddered through the rest of the movie. I’m dying to blurt out the climax to all and sundry but I won’t be a spoil-sport and let the discerning viewer figure it out!

Performance wise I have to admit, everyone put in sincere efforts. It was quite refreshing to see SRK in his bad-ass elements years after Baazigar, Darr, Anjaam and Ram Jaane. We got so used see him sleep-walking through the Yash Raj type romantic roles as Raj or Rahul, that we nearly forgot that he could be quite delicious as a bad guy too! But its one thing to stammer K-k-k-kiran and totally another thing to mouth dialogues immortalized by the only superstar of Hindi film industry! SRK’s delivery of the famous lines was too hurried and lacked the desired punch! Yet I cannot deny his sincerity…looked like he relished every snarl and every growl looking through narrowed eyes…but honestly he wasn’t menacing enough! I mean how can you take someone seriously who sings “bahut hi khatarnaak hu main”?

I love Boman Irani in general and can sit through his idiotic antics even when he’s hamming…but his DCP D’silva just wasn’t good enough! One can’t help but miss Iftekhar’s portrayal of the gritty weaseled cop who is Vijay’s only alibi! And what was the big idea of casting Om Puri as Malik only to give him less screen time than the model-turned actor playing Inspector Verma?

Kareena Kapoor’s much talked about cameo as Kamini was a pleasant surprise…she looked great and acted her part well but got saddled with unimaginative choreography (aping the original by Helen, which wasn’t that great to begin with) in “Yeh Mera Dil”…her moves were dated and too frantic to be seductive! Priyanka Chopra had a tough job filling Zeenat Aman’s shoes. She didn’t really have the fire of original Roma but gave a restrained performance and some spectacular stunts. A lovely girl with a body to die for, Priyanka should really look at her wardrobe a little carefully…some of her attires were downright tacky!

Last but not the least is Arjun Rampal (or is it Ramphal…whatever) reprising Pran’s role as Jasjit. His story is supposed to be running parallel with Vijay’s…but in Farhan Akhtar’s version he just vanishes into thin air without any explanation whatsoever somewhere near the climax.

The climax itself, shot at Mt Mat Chinchang in Langkawi was quite bizarre and comes as a complete surprise to everyone, purists and novices alike! It doesn’t tie the endings in a neat bow which it should have, instead opens avenues for a sequel in the near future.

Farhan Akhtar with the blessing of his indulgent father Javed Akhtar (who also happens to be one of the writers of the original) has presented a supposedly updated Don. He has given this Don a sleek wardrobe, plush locations and technical gloss, along with confusion and mayhem in general. Herald this as the harbinger of a slew Bachchan remakes -- everything from Sholay to Amar Akbar Anthony to Satte Pe Satta which is in the pipeline, and that’s not good news at all!

Thursday, October 19, 2006


I’ve been a bit homesick lately, what with my knee surgery, the aftermath, the rehabilitation and the frustration of not being able to function “normally”. Then the Seattle fall/winter has set in…anyone who has been in Seattle between October and May will know what I’m talking about…the bleak light, the incessant rain, the cold wind day after day after day…I already feel the symptoms of winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD...what an apt name) if I try to make it sound glamorous!

Makes me want to go home…but then the million dollar question is...where’s home? Isn’t this home, the cozy nest that I've painstakingly built, which I share with my two boys? Is the cavernous mansion in Kolkata home, where my mom is spending her twilight years with two ailing dogs and a lifetime of memories as company? Or is it the house by the lake, where I was born, where I grew up, where every nook and corner has memories of my father, of which I dream about even after leaving it quarter of a century back? How about the shoe-box size flat in Bangalore, my very own space for the first time, where I learnt many a important lesson in life including atta-daal ka bhav? Is it the tiny apartment in Redmond I stepped into as a blushing bride to be greeted by a room full of pink and yellow and white balloons? Or the suburban house where I grew lilies and roses and the backyard patio still has the handprint of my baby boy in wet cement? Should I go back to the designer home in Hyderabad with its film star neighbors and army of servants? They say home is where the heart is…then where do I have to go to feel at home?

Going home, where love abounds.
Coming home, where comfort is found.
After many journeys long,
you turn back to where you belong.
Home again, where you find rest.
From every trial and every test

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Broken and Mended

I’ve never been a believer of Vaastu Shashtra or Feng Shui, even though I’ve indulged the whims of many a client who wanted their homes spiritually correct by positioning doors, windows, beds, kitchen sinks and even commodes at really odd places which completely defied logic as well as aesthetics. I gnashed my teeth in frustration or sighed wistfully every time a perfectly designed space got massacred in the name of Vaastu! And yet somewhere along the line those ancient beliefs seeped into my conscience without me realizing it. The exact thing that I pooh-poohed sometime back started molding my life…sleeping with my head towards the north became complete no-no; I blamed my fights with the maid to the wrong positioning of the kitchen in the house; started believing that the north-south positioning of the potty is an antidote to constipation; I looked at the sunken living room in the north side of the house with new eye even though routinely someone or the other forgot to mind his/her step and fell down! And then came the big move and with it the biggest question of all…where was I going to find a Vaastu perfect house in Seattle?! I reasoned with myself saying that the ancient laws didn’t affect my life at all when I didn’t know anything about it…

So we bought the first house that I felt had the right chi, even though the bedroom was designed such that I have to sleep with my head towards the North. But the kitchen is at the south-east corner; that was a big bonus! We moved in about a month back with our mountain of stuff. (Its like trying to get into size 2 skinny-fit jeans that you thought Bipasha Basu looked really hot in when you need a size 20 relaxed-fit…a nearly impossible feat! But you have your heart set on the skinny fit jeans so you start shedding that extra load….trim yourself down to realistic size… after all you know your limitations!) Then bad things starts happening in the house quite inexplicably …I reverse my car into the garage door folding it into half (nothing happened to my car, thank heavens!); light bulbs in the bathroom go on and off according to their free will; cupboard doors in the kitchen won’t close properly; fuse blew plunging an entire floor into darkness over a weekend; electrician shows up on Monday afternoon and finds mysterious water seepage into the fuse box; calling bell and security phone goes kaput; cherry wood floor develops ugly white patches and last but not the least the radiator died in the master bedroom. Apparently all these spooky incidents have explanation… OUR REAL ESTATE AGENT SCREWED UP!!! She did the final walkthrough of the house on our behalf while we were packing up in Hyderabad and she did a very shoddy job! Of course she’s got excuses up the wazoo…grandmother passed away, dad was diagnosed with cancer…oh boohoo!! Fortunately the builder is being really patient with all the phone calls and nagging from our end and trying to fix everything albeit on their own time.

In the mean time I finally got my knee fixed. After putting it off for more than a year, I finally bit the bullet and went in for surgery last week. My orthopedic surgeon turned out to be a man of few words. On our first meeting he breezed into the consultation room about forty minutes late, took one quick look at my year old MRI, twisted my already hurting knee real hard and gave me a pink slip…instruction to get appointment for surgery. All this happened in less than 5 minutes and during that time he said less than 5 sentences to me. The next time I met him was on the day of the surgery. Again he waltzes in about an hour late, signs his initials on my left knee and leaves me wondering if I’m doing the right thing. Thankfully my anesthetist was a cheerful soul and quite chatty too; he wagered a latte if I could count past five after he drugs me. Needless to say I lost the bet! An hour later I was rudely awakened in the recovery room. This time doc gave me a cheerful smile and said “Everything’s done!” and vanished. I turn towards the nurse, who smiles indulgently and said “He’s funny!” Weird is more like it if you ask me! Hopefully he has explained to spouse what he did, because all I can see is three incisions and a knee that’s the size of a giant watermelon! But the good part is that I’ve been given a generous supply of party drugs which I’m taking rather indiscriminately and in general having a good time. It’d be even better if I could add some champagne to the cocktail! But the good mommy syndrome is stopping me…don’t want sonny boy to grow up with the stigma that his mommy went to God’s house because she OD’ed on pain killer and alcohol after a stupid knee arthroscopy!

So I’m pretty much stuck at home sitting on my butt all day unable to stand or walk without doubling up in pain. Makes me wonder if suffering through a locked knee once in a while was better than this ordeal? It’s supposed to get better I know, but after hobbling around for five days, I’m losing patience! I’ve watched so much TV that if I weren’t on serious pain medication, I’d die of a splitting headache. On the upside I managed to watch some movies that I’ve been dying to see…Water, Hazaron Khwahishen Aisi, Khamosh Paani, Anahaat, Chameli and unfortunately The Mistress of Spice. I guess I’m the last person to watch them, but I’m glad I did. I heard Water is Canada’s official entry to the Oscars…if there’s one movie that deserves to go to the Oscars, this is it!

Things are broken, things are mended…beliefs change…old habits give way to new…you pick up the pieces and move on! And I wait for the discomfort to abate so that I can start a new beginning!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Home Again

My stuff has finally arrived …yippppeee! Of course, now I’m buried under the collective weight of 197 boxes…but at least I’m finally re-united with my things!

We had a hell of a time unpacking those 197 boxes…the skinny old men sent by the packers in Hyderabad took 3 days to painstakingly wrap each shot-glass in five layers of paper (I have a LOT of them…like I have a LOT of everything…so I’m a pack rat, sue me!) The guys unpacking this side were completely pissed off by the meticulous packaging and kept cribbing how its costing them time and such waste of paper, blah blah blah…and I suspect that in their hurry they’ve thrown away some of the stuff without even opening the parcels…talk about bad attitude!

Their cribbing finally got to me and I told their leader (who was complaining the loudest) to look at things in perspective…last time thanks to the shoddy job the US packers did , half of my furniture were destroyed and the company had to pay me five grand in compensation. This time, apart from the missing stuff, only a terracotta pot and a slice of the crown molding of an antique armoire have broken. That shut him up pretty quick, but they did leave without unpacking a whole lot of boxes. I don’t mind really…their lackadaisical attitude was irritating me to no end and I want them out ASAP. So now spouse and I are doing what those over-paid idiots should have done!! As a result there’s stuff on every flat surface in the house…one can barely differentiate between the Toss, Sell or Donate pile…there’s a mountain of debris in the garage…the city won’t collect our garbage because we’re way beyond limit! It’s a wonderful life :-)

I’m quite ashamed of the blatant amassment of things that I’ve indulged in…there’s just too much of everything! So from now on I’m going to turn over into a new leaf and simplify my life…de-clutter and organize! The funny part is I never realized how large this collection of “stuff” had become, simply because I’ve always lived in big houses and everything somehow always managed to disappear in various closets out of my sight. Now that I’ve taken a conscious decision to downsize I realize its easier said than done! Parting with things is hard…like I couldn’t bid adieu to spouse’s collection of National Geographic magazines dating from 1954 to 2003 even though either of us couldn’t remember the last time he read an issue!

In spite of the chaos there’s a sense of calm…there’s something peaceful about being able to sleep on my own bed, use my own towels and eat off my own dishes even if its just two minute noodles! Every thing will find its place and what doesn’t will either go to Craigslist or Ebay. But at least I am home...finally!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A letter to Karan Johar

Hi there KJ,

Last night I finally saw your latest directorial venture Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna. You were so secretive about the plot line. There were rumors floating around that it’s a remake of Silsila; someone said it’s a desi version of Closer. Of course, it wasn’t…why, its just a bad copy Falling In Love (1984) starring Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep. Now Falling In Love was such a lovely film, sweet and sentimental, packed with powerful performances not only by De Niro and Streep, but wonderful character artistes like Harvey Keitel, Dianne Wiest and Jane Kaczmarek (of Malcolm in the Middle fame). Unfortunately the movie went largely unnoticed when it was made, but watching it now, one gets a glimpse of the amazing talents both De Niro and Streep, before they started selling out to uninspiring, sleep-walking roles in mundane films. Their ability to get under the skin of the characters is incredible... so much is communicated between them in so few words! Falling In Love does not make light of the subject matter of having an affair but instead is a film about finding love itself. In keeping with that theme, the romantic feelings of the two leads are never allowed to reach their natural conclusion.

While watching Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, I was cringing every two minutes. How on earth did you manage to completely massacre the beautiful screenplay of Falling In Love and fill it with so much of inane crap? While Frank (Robert De Niro) and Molly (Meryl Streep) in Falling In Love were people caught in a predicament who you genuinely liked and rooted for, KANK’s Dev (SRK) and Maya (Rani Mukherjee) turned out to be these two obtuse, selfish and insensitive characters you feel like shaking really hard so that they snap out of their senselessness! Not only does one not feel any sympathy for these two for being trapped in their so-called “loveless” marriages, but actually start wishing that their spouses come to about their sordid affair and dump them like hot potatoes so that the movie can come to an end!

I read somewhere that you cannot even think of making a movie without SRK, Kajol and Rani. Your loyalty towards your friends is undoubtedly very touching...but can you please, please, pleeeease ask SRK to stop hamming! Poor Rani Mukherjee tried her level best to rise above the stupid character you wrote for her, but bogged down by the endless bottles of glycerin she put in eyes to generate gallons of fake tears and the hideous bustiers she wore, she couldn’t really salvage the one-dimensional Maya! And may be you can suggest to your other best friend Farah Khan to watch more MTV…her dance moves haven’t changed much in the last decade and a half!

I understand your indomitable urge to make films with a large star-cast, but then choose your “inspiration” films wisely. This movie required great character artistes, not stars in supporting roles. To give these stars screen time, you stretched the story beyond its comfort level and made it into this mammoth song and dance affair interspersed with silly comedy and tasteless digs at homosexuality!

But I’m glad that you finally gave Baby B his due. After all he did tell you that “he’d do ANYTHING” when he dropped by to have "koffee" with you. Hmmmm…wonder what you made him do for Rishi’s role?! What ever it is, I’m glad Baby B is a part of this otherwise sorry tale…watching him interact with the Big B as “Sexy Sam” so effortlessly was a treat! He’s definitely a natural…his portrayal of flamboyant but overall nice guy Rishi is so convincing that you want Maya to get out of his life because he definitely deserves better! There’ll be a serious tug of war at the award ceremonies this year between Baby B and Saif Ali Khan (Ishwar “langda” Tyagi in Omkara) for the Best Supporting Actor category, unless they give Chhote Nawab the Best Villain award!

You started the movie by portraying Preity Zinta’s Rhea as this cool, calculating, corporate ladder climbing bitch. Then you had a change of heart and made her a successful career woman (sweet nonetheless) fighting for her marriage. Then again you changed track and made her into a strong no-nonsense woman towards the climax. I guess hers was the only believable character in the whole movie. And please complement her for her sense of style, even though I personally don’t agree showing that much cleavage at work place!

BTW, why did you choose to set the movie in New York instead of Mumbai, may I ask? Is it because the upper class people in Mumbai don’t travel by local train? And your romantic couple might look incongruous standing outside Churchgate Station wearing designer garb from Manish Malhotra’s boutique? Or having cutting-chai from foothpath stalls instead of high-end Manhattan cafés serving over-priced latte? Or is it because the inspiration film was also set in New York? Anyway, I’m not complaining about your choice of locations… I love New York and your cinematographer did do a great job capturing the beauty of this fabulous city.

Just for your information dear KJ, the game that everyone in KANK kept calling football is called S-O-C-C-E-R in America. Since your characters were so obviously New Yorkers, this bit of a glitch was quite glaring!

Well, you did push the Hindi cinema envelope a bit. Goody-two-shoes characters of your previous ventures are now either black or white…I wish you had experimented a bit with grey too. Anyway, you get an E for effort from my side. But do remember next time you feel like Indianizing The Deer Hunter, SRK and Rani Mukherjee ain’t no Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep!

Yours disgruntled


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Rantings in general

My life is on hold. For last six months I’ve been living out of suitcase in temporary housing, first in Hyderabad and now in Seattle. This move has affected my life in more ways than one. Let me explain. I’ve never been very fond of camping, really! Yes, I diligently attended all the NCC camps I could find back in school, not because I enjoyed them but because they allowed me to skip exams (clever, hmmm?) I travel quite a lot and camp in various hotels around the globe…but in those cases I know exactly how long I’d be camping, where I’d be going, what I’d be doing and also that I won’t have to make my bed, do laundry or cook for that period of time. This arrangement works out pretty well for me. But these last six months’ camping has left me exhausted. Not only I’m not living in my own house and I don’t have all my stuff which makes me feel so darn incomplete, but every time I need something I have to rush out and buy it, even though I might have that exact same thing locked up in a 20 feet container crossing the Atlantic at a snail’s pace!!!! My brand new house is sitting vacant while I sit here, twiddling my thumb, waiting for that damn container to show up so that I can move into my house and get on with my life!

I should really start looking for work, just to keep myself sane. But I have been procrastinating…a) because my portfolio is in that container and b) once that damn thing shows up I’ll anyway have to take sometime off to get unpacked and get the house in order. I know it’s the lamest excuse in the whole wide world…but since I’ve already waited out two and a half months, a few more weeks wouldn’t hurt, now would it?

My Liquid Yellow Mini Cooper is sitting in the shop. Apparently these cars are notorious for landing up in the shop every now and then. For whatever reason, my car had to develop a problem which the technicians have never experienced before...they are so stumped that even after taking apart the car 3 times they haven't been able to figure out the malady!!! * Gnashes teeth in frustration* So heaven knows when the car will show up!

I just got back from a cruise to Alaska. It was fun…well mostly! It was a family reunion, called by the patriarch of the family (sounds vaguely Godfather’ish, but this patriarch is a far cry from Vito Corleone) which no one could say no to. So all his children and their bitter halves boarded the super-luxurious cruise liner to be trapped with each other for the next seven days. In fact one bitter half actually paid $50 a minute (or something equally exorbitant like that) for internet connection on board so that he could vent on his blog every night! And no, he didn’t give us the blog address, the chicken! :-)

It was somewhat entertaining to see a bunch of people, who are not particularly fond of each other trying to be civil. Its really hard…people got mild cabin fever, fangs and claws came out once a in a while, but no serious injuries happened as far as I know. What was I doing, you might ask…I was hiding most of the time. There was a lovely library in ship with huge glass windows from which you could see the whales jumping once in a while and I had a couple of really nice books to read…a perfect place to hide with a tall cup of green tea.

Other times we’d go for shore excursions and we all tried our level best to avoid each other. Spouse and I went dog-sled riding on Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau. It was quite amazing…after a stomach dropping helicopter ride (my first) we landed deep into this gigantic glacier where there was camp with about 200 dogs. While we were shivering in 5 layers of warm clothing and gloves and caps, the dog mushers were walking around in shorts and t-shirts. Our musher, a comely lass from Norway, took us for this once in a lifetime kinda ride through pristine white, almost surreal landscape of the glacier on a sled pulled by a dozen really frantic dogs. Pretty amazing! I wish I could share the pictures with you, but that brings me to my next reason to vent…spouse lost the camera! Yes, a lovely 8 mega-pixel digital camera brimming over with pictures of a life-time was inexplicably lost. What do I say to that? I wish whoever got it had the good heart to at least return the SD Card.

My gal pals have ditched me. By some quirky co-incidence, all of them are out of town this week, while I’m languishing here waiting for my stuff to arrive. One is in LA looking after her mom who just had a surgery, so she’s excused. Another one is in Cancun frolicking on the beach…may you get the seat next to the toilet on your flight back home! The third one is sailing somewhere around the San Juan Islands in her brand new boat…she’s too dear to me to wish anything ill…I’ll just have to guilt her into taking me out for drinks more often.

Couple of Sat’days back we went to a club in downtown Seattle, which was hosting a pre-Independence day bash. In the recent years Bollywood music has gained tremendous popularity among the club-going crowd of Seattle. In fact there is a club which devotes entire Sat’day nights to Bollywood/Bhangra which attracts major crowd, desi and firangs alike! This particular night we had to stand in line for nearly forty minutes to gain admission. The place was full, bodies were packed like sardines on the dance floor and it was easy to get it into the mood. We were having a great time, till spouse went to the bar for refills while the DJ was playing some Punjabi number. Lo and behold some guy showed up right next to me. I tried ignoring him as much as I could by slowing down and getting closer to my sis-in-law who was there on the dance floor. Out of the blue, he slapped me on my butt, grinned at me, leaned closer and said “Have fun!”, and disappeared into the crowd. I was completely flabbergasted. I left the floor in a daze to find the men, who of course wanted to beat the crap out of the fellow if only I could recognize him. But he looked like anyone in there. I kept wondering if I should have retaliated and caused another mini-stampede (read Shame for reference) or did the right thing by not making a big deal out of it. And two weeks later I’m still wondering…hmmm!

Few weeks back, following spouse’s corporate membership in the swankiest health-club in the area, I went in for a physical assessment with a personal trainer called Sebastian. He greeted me with a “Bonjour Madame” and for the next two hours I was mesmerized while he assessed my fitness. Okay, he was not particularly great looking, but that French accent was so delightful…it was pretty easy to close my eyes and pretend that he was Olivier Martinez! I smiled indulgently even when he measured my “waste to heap” ratio and declared me clinically obese. How could I not…even when he called me fat, he did it with so much flair :-)
“Help me” I said dreamily “I can’t work out. My knee is broken!!”
“In zat case you need to sweem, madame. Zat is zee best excercise for ze bad knee.”
“But I can’t swim either!”
“Don't vorry, madame! I vill teach you. I’m ze master coach. In 2 weeks’ time you vill be sweemming like ze feesh!” he declared.
Needless to say, I haven’t gone back there. I don’t trust myself around men wearing nothing but a swimming costume and French accent! :-)

That’s the current status of my life. I had this overwhelming need to vent today, which has been achieved. A few days back Ichatteralot mentioned that I sound happy and not disgruntled in general while White Magpie said that I lead a charmed life. Sure I do! :-)

Friday, August 11, 2006


Last night my 5 year old son was hatching a plot to kill me. He enlisted his dad to do the dirty work and in graphic details explained to him how to stick the knife in me! But he also asked his dad to take me elsewhere, because he doesn’t want to see blood!!! I tried to be a silent spectator of this drama as long as I could; after all I was the one who started it all.

When we were buying our cars, sonny boy expressed his desire to have a car which has a DVD player (read Mercedes Benz R500 MSRP $ 56,275…the guy has expensive taste I must say), so that he could watch Tom & Jerry in the back seat. Now, I know a lot of parents actually buy silence from their little ones by turning on the DVD player during long drives, and sometimes that silence is priceless, but I’m an old-fashioned girl…15 channels of so-called kids’ programming on TV plus countless “educational” computer games plus Gameboy is more than I can handle anyway…no kid of mine needs to be stuck to a pixilated screen in the car too! Of course the biggest reason is we can’t afford a $56k car…but try telling that to a 5 year old who thinks daddy owns the World Bank. So in my characteristic need to have the last word, I told him “over my dead body!” Little did I know that my famous last words will come back to bite me in the derrière!

So last night I watched my little baby, my bundle of joy, the light of my life, making plans to snuff me out so that he could have his daddy get him a car with a DVD player! In a flash I remembered the miserable nine months of carrying him inside me, the three day labor I went through to bring him to this world, the sleepless nights spent watching over him when he was sick, the years I spent being a stay-at-home-mom stifling my ambitions so that he gets the best attention…all mothers do that, right? That’s what motherhood is all about. You bring a child into this world, and then do your best to raise him/her right and lose yourself somewhere along the way…you stop being a person…your only identity is Mommy! But nothing in the handbook of motherhood had prepared me for this!

Of course I was told that he didn’t know what he was saying, that he has no clue what death is or the permanence of it, that as usual I’m over-reacting. But when my baby was asking his dad to put the knife in me, he looked so cold and distant. Where have I failed in raising this boy, I ask myself? Who do I blame for this…the TV? Tom & Jerry and their mindless, graphic violence? The consumer-driven world of instant gratification that we live in? Our policy to let our son have an opinion about things, treating him like person instead of a child? Are we raising a child who’s completely detached from reality?

I recall my childhood and my relationship with my mother. She was quite the Hitler…hers was a tough love and of course we were raised deprived, somewhat by design and also because she couldn’t afford to splurge. Growing up, I wished to get away, live my life on my own terms, earn enough money to be able to buy all the things I knew my mother could never afford to get me or herself for that matter…but never ever I wished her dead!

Every now and then I come across hapless moms trying to calm down hyperactive kids in malls, stores…typically the kid wants something that the mother is unwilling to get them and more than once I’ve heard a kid scream “I hate you!!! I wish you were dead!!” Such scenes would numb me to the core and I always wondered about my own reaction if my child ever said that to me. I had visions of slapping the living daylights out of him and then giving him up for foster care or something irrationally dramatic like that! But when it hit me last night, I was speechless. Was it because he didn’t throw a tantrum or scream at me, instead in the calmest manner one could expect of a 5 year old, he wished my end? Would it have been easier to deal with tantrum than the cold resolve I saw on his face?

I know the whole thing is much ado ‘bout nothing and this post is also quite meaningless. My ramblings here will be dismissed as the typical over-reaction of a drama queen! But what I’m trying here is to introspect and answer some questions about my own ability as a mother and to see if I’m fit to carry out the task that nature has entrusted me with! It hurts to fail you see!

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Last few weeks have been all about reconnecting with people I knew once upon a time. While I was away, I kept in touch with some and lost touch with others. Over the years I’ve come to terms with my inability to sustain high maintenance relationships…I get very claustrophobic as soon as I realize that the other person is expecting me to call, write or e-mail on a regular basis and I start looking for a way out. I love people who are as socially inept as I am and don’t hold it against me that I haven’t once called or emailed in six months. But the social creature that I am, I need people around me hence the need to reconnect!

There is this lady, much older to me and for whatever reason is extremely fond of me. Sometimes I wonder what she has seen in me to bestow that much of affection! Anyway, this lady actually threw a small dinner party to welcome me back to Seattle. Unfortunately I wasn’t really aware that there were to be guests other than us. I landed up in a Bong party wearing jeans and shirt…that was a complete sacrilege! I was immediately accosted by bejeweled, besaree’d didis who demanded an explanation for such behavior…didn’t I get any decent salwar kameez or saree to wear in my two and a half year stint in India!! I mumbled some vague excuse about not finding enough time to go home and change while the truth is that I was taking an extended afternoon nap when spouse reminded me of the invitation and I simply rolled out of the couch and sat in the car!

I think they forgave me as a first time offender (I swear this was the very first and hopefully the last instance that I broke the unwritten dress code…I have to be completely out of my mind to willingly invoke the wrath of the Didis!) and then they moved on to filling me with the latest gossip in town over the sumptuous five course meal that our hostess had painstakingly prepared. The biggest discussion was about the scarcity of daal in the Indian stores and how prices have gone up from 70cents a pound to $2. They shuddered at the plight of the poor South Indians who need daal in some form or the other in their meal (idli, dosa, sambhar anyone?) while we Bongs can live on Machher Jhol alone! I nodded my head meekly not daring to point out that I haven’t had Machher Jhol in last 15 years, yet can do without daal till Indian government decides to lift the ban on daal exports, even if it takes after another 15 years!!

We bumped into a cute little kid, who I realized was the son of yet another affectionate didi. This kid was born a few days before my son; the only thing I remembered about him was that the tyke used to scream all day and all night…so much that I sometimes felt like wringing his little neck! Since I was terribly ashamed of such impure thoughts, I actually started avoiding his mother! Anyway, he’s all grown up now, doesn’t scream as much…quite the precocious thing he is I was told, requires his mom’s French perfume to sniff while he goes potty! His mom took me aside and asked me for potty-training tips to which my answer was “Um…errr…take him to India!”
“But he needs to go to school this fall. How am I going to explain this habit to his teachers?” she cried. Now, I had just finished reading Indu Sunderesan’s Twentieth Wife and Feast of The Roses and my imagination was still wandering somewhere in the Mughal courts. So I told her, “Why don’t you tell them that your son is a re-incarnation of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. He cannot stand the smell of his own excretions, and needs the perfume of fresh roses to mask the unpleasantness!” She regarded me with suspicion, not sure if I was being serious or pulling a fast one. Then everyone else in the room burst out laughing. She wasn’t pleased at all, I could tell, but joined in half-heartedly.

The hostess’ son, a young whipper-snapper fresh out of Cornell (a model kid; every Bong mom wants a son like him) was trying his level best to be friendly to us, even tried speaking in heavily accented Bengali just to fit in. What a sweet guy! Everything was fine, till his mom requested me to find a suitable girl for him! What the…?? Do I look like someone who has little black book full of names and phone numbers of potentially marriageable girls?! Of course I refused point blank, instead offered my services as the wedding-planner if she couldn’t afford one when the time came! (I love to shop, you see.) Poor kid, he’s started working less than a month back and his mom is already planning to get him hitched!

The other day I drove my brand new Liquid Yellow Mini Cooper over to a friends place. She said I am suffering from mid-life crisis and the car is a sure sign of crying for attention and that the indicator knob reminded her of a dog in heat! What’s up with that? It’s only a car…at least I haven’t colored my hair Liquid Yellow! Since then I have exchanged cars with spouse. I drive his more understated elegant car (that’s what he calls it) and he gets around in my attention-seeking four-wheels. He’s a lot more comfortable with his mid-life crisis as far as I know!

Few days back I caught up with an old friend. She left Seattle about the same time I moved to Hyderabad and has settled in Chicago. It was wonderful talking to her…we picked up exactly we where parted two and a half years back. Neither of us complained about the lack of communication, didn’t accuse each other of indifference…we just talked like we never said goodbye!

So here I am, reacquainting myself with the milieu. Sometimes it’s pleasant, sometimes I wish I didn’t bother, but it’s an enriching experience all the same. So here’s to friends, old and new!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Gameboy and Sequels

Ever since we got back to Seattle, our social life has plummeted to an abysmal low. Evenings were being mostly spent in sitting in front of the TV or surfing the net, till we realized the power of Gameboy. Baby-sitters cost $14 an hour and typically an evening out will be nothing less than 3 hours, so that’s $42 plus tip down the drain to a pimply teenager barely able to look after him/herself. A Gameboy cartridge on the other hand costs $20 and after a skillfull bit of negotiation we were able to buy co-operation (read silence) from a 5 year old boy in exchange of a Gameboy cartridge every sixty days. We can now go to movies…yeah!! A small beginning, but a beginning nonetheless!

So, past few weeks we have been catching up on movies with a vengeance…anything to get out of the house after sundown you see :-) I have been noticing a pattern in the releases this summer…they are mostly sequels to blockbusters that came out couple of years back. In fact the last three movies we saw were all sequels.

First was Krrish (I hope I got the spelling right…these numerology influenced titles always confuse me to no end!) Now, I completely, totally, absolutely, entirely, utterly hated Koi Mil Gaya…and thanked my lucky stars a zillion times that I chose to watch it on DVD instead of putting myself through sheer torture for 3 hours! Then why on earth did I actually land up in a theater to watch the sequel you’d ask? Confession time…I missed Hrithik Roshan! Actually I didn’t realize how much I missed him till I walked into Totem Lake Theaters, Auditorium 3, (which smelled of greasy samosas and was occupied by talkative desis) and saw Hrithik running…muscles heaving, tresses flying, nostrils flaring and it all came back to me in a rush…I’m a Hrithik groupie!! Yes, I did get distracted and side tracked recently by the rising temperature of Baby B, but that’s what happens to hysterical female fans whose memory is only slightly better than that of a gold fish (3 sec) and Hrithik was away from more than 3 years (wasn’t he?). Anyway, he’s back…and with a bang! Krrish is all about Hrithik and showcasing his various talents…such as wearing designer clothes that mould to his perfect body like a second skin, dance with uninspiring music composed by Uncle Roshan like he was made of rubber, execute hideously choreographed Matrix-like fight sequences with panache, making Bambi eyes to a shabbily dressed Priyanka Chopra and give Oscar-worthy performance mouthing completely inane dialogues written by proud Papa Roshan…ok I was kidding…he still can’t act…but who cares as long as he looks so dishy!!! Overall, Krrish was a teensy-weensy bit better than its preposterous prequel.

Next up was Superman Returns. When was the last Superman movie released again? And who watched it?? I had vague recollections of the first two movies…didn’t have the time or the energy to rent them from video store for a quick recap. And I remembered Christopher Reeve better from The Bostonians and Somewhere In Time than the man wearing his red underwear over his blue tights. Even though I was curious about the new lad Brandon Routh, I really didn’t know what to expect. But Superman Returns didn’t disappoint. It was a fun movie. Of course, there were loads of tributes and references to the older movies, which I completely missed, but it didn’t matter on the whole.

Brandon Routh had pretty large boots to fill and I must say he was very endearing, not to mention a total hottie! Routh’s Clark Kent was slightly insipid though, but this movie was very little about Clark Kent and more about Superman and the new boy looked like he was relishing every minute of doing all the Supermanly stuff like deflecting bullets with his eyes. Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane was nice to look at and that’s about it. Her on-screen chemistry (or lack thereof) with Routh reminded me of Aishwarya Rai and Martin Henderson in Bride & Prejudice. I have vague memories of Gene Hackman as Lex Luther from the first two Superman movies…Kevin Spacey (as much as I love him) was a bit of a disappointment…he was more Dr Evil than Lex Luther. The special effects were mind-blowing, as was the overall look of the movie. A total paisa vasool film in my humble opinion.

Last night we saw Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man’s Chest. I have only one thing to say…What the heck happened? I so loved Curse of the Black Pearl; it was total masala movie that had all the ingredients right and has been an oft watched DVD in our household along with the Harry Potter series. I was looking forward to the second installment with great eagerness, not just because of Johnny Depp (I don’t think I’ve missed any of his movies including the very bizarre Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), but because of the whole action-adventure-comedy genre that Black Pearl so successfully attempted and I hoping for a reprise.

Johnny Depp is still there as the foppish, mercurial, sexually ambiguous and probably very smelly scoundrel Captain Jack Sparrow along with Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom, who finally have something to do other than stand around and look pretty. This time around Sparrow’s nemesis is Davy Jones, captain of the Flying Dutchman (isn’t that what KLM is called?) an undead maritime goblin who's been on the water so long that he's sprouted tentacles all over his head. Somewhere beneath this Medusa rig is an unrecognizable Bill Nighy, the lovable old rocker in "Love, Actually" and a sublime character actor. What a waste!

The movie is too long and there are way too many sub-plots with five times the special effects that the first "Pirates" had. The most amusing side trip finds Sparrow captured by a tribe of primitives who worship him and want to eat him at the same time. That leads to a funny and clever chase scene in which everything Sparrow does makes him look more like a human shish kebab. A lot of time has been committed to watching people chase one another around, turn, and chase one another the other way. After a point it just gets tiresome. Also, the art department went totally overboard with the make-up of Davy Jones and his crew. Every man in Davy's crew has fish-man disorder: One sailor looks like a blowfish, another like a hammerhead shark, one has a starfish stuck to his cheek, and several resemble piles of barnacles. These billions of blue blistering barnacles made my stomach too queasy to actually applaud the talents of the people who created them! Seriously, did it have to be so in your face?

The ending, though it involves a surprise decision that is completely out of character for one of the leads, at least leaves us with a cliffhanger, and there's a rousing final twist. It's like Lois Lane said, the world doesn't need Superman, but it could use more of Jack Sparrow. The galley is well-stocked for "Pirates 3," coming next year. Aaarrrr!

Coming back to Gameboy and its merits thanks to which all these movies were watched in packed theaters without any interruptions or tantrums. If Lego was the toy of the last century, someone should start a campaign to vote Gameboy the toy of this century!

PS: Also saw The Da Vinci Code: BORING…yaaawwwn! Fanaa: Hummable music, Kajol looking great, Amir Khan should retire! Devil Wears Prada: Diluted from the original book, great shoes, bags, coats & clothes, Meryl Streep great as usual…over all ho hum!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Springing Forward

Its spring time in Seattle. Actually spring is almost over…in fact, within the next few days, it’s supposed to be summer, officially! Then why the heck is it so cold!!!??? You can see that everyone’s ready for summer. Men are wearing shorts and t-shirts, women are wearing shorts and t-shirts and other barely nothing items of clothing (those who have the body to carry them of course) and everybody is hugging themselves to keep warm against the chilly wind that keeps blowing every now and then and looking wistfully skywards hoping for a sun-break (a very Seattle word…no where else in the world any one uses such a word!)

We had a sun-break last Sunday…it lasted pretty much all day and was beautiful! In fact so beautiful, that we braved our collective jet-lags, picked up Subway sandwiches and headed towards the park by Lake Washington for an impromptu picnic. I had almost forgotten how beautiful the lake side looks when the sun shines! The park was full of children splashing in the near frigid water while indulging parents lounged languidly in the sun. Nubile nymphets pranced around in miniscule bikinis showing off their perfectly toned and amazingly smooth (how do they do that?) bodies, while young studs with perfect six-pack abs strutted about wearing swim shorts that hung dangerously low on their butt ( I had to control the urge to pull one down when one them passed me in close range!) They rubbed sun-tan oil on each other, undid bikini tops to get smooth unlined tans on their backs and in general looked gorgeous!

Meanwhile, I was seating in the shade, covering my bags of cellulite in a mulmul tunic and long pants, munching on veggie delight sandwich (they are supposed to have only 6gms of fat), not daring to step out in the sun (I had forgotten my morning routine of applying Fair & Lovely on my arms, you see), feeling fat, dowdy and ugly!

So I went shopping that afternoon. My wardrobe consists of only mulmul tunics and jeans and salwar-kurtas…they were perfect for Hyderabad spring, summer, monsoon, autumn and winter. Being away for two and a half years, I had forgotten the art of layering that’s essential when you live in Seattle. Once in the store, I was thoroughly confused with the array of items that was available…skirts and shorts, shirts and shrugs, capris and culottes, camis and tees…everything looked great but nothing looked right on me. In my mind I was still the shapely teenager who was able to carry off anything she wore…but the matron staring back at me from the dressing room mirror looked completely incongruous in those clothes. I had picked things that looked nice on size 4 (that I used to be once upon a time) but not on size 8, 10 or 12 * sigh*

Next few days very cold and dreary and I felt cold and dreary. My birthday came and went. I general, I don’t like birthdays…mine or any one else’s…especially mine, since it reminds me that I’m getting old and makes me grouchier than usual! Spouse tried his level best to cheer me up. We went up to the mountains to a fancy lodge, had a fancy dinner watching the heavy rain obscure the valley below (it always rains on my birthday…always!), drank a fancy bottle of wine and passed out while wisps of clouds floated blissfully over rain-washed evergreen woods!

Yesterday, with renewed enthusiasm, and a vow to look good in future (birthday resolution…won’t last for long!) I walked into Old Navy and asked the first friendly teenager in obscenely low-rise jeans I could spot for help. I wanted to know what fat-middle-aged-but-young-at-heart women are wearing these days. She arched her perfectly shaped eyebrow and stared at me like I just landed from Mars or something (little did she know I indeed landed from Hyderabad) then smiled and said “Follow me!” Couple of hours later I left the store with two bags full of goodies, lighter by almost $300!! But now I have a wardrobe full of “in” clothes that actually fit me! Now that, as Mastercard would say, is PRICELESS!!

So I’m ready for Seattle spring, with all it’s the sun breaks, tall-non-fat-decaff lattes, walks in waterfront parks and fresh asparagus from weekly farmers ’ markets. I’m springing forward to a new beginning (yet again)!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Khuda Hafez Hyderabad

Its time to bid adios to Hyderabad. Two and a half years back when I moved to the city lock stock and barrel, I didn’t know what to expect. I had never been to Hyderabad before; my knowledge about the city was limited to Charminar, pearls and Chandrababu Naidu! I had no friends, no social life, I hated the blistering sun, the heat, the laid back attitude of the people, the chaos and confusion that comes as package with life in India; there were so many times I wished I said no to the move! In fact, I choked the mail boxes of friends with voluminous rantings about the city and its people, which I lovingly christened the Hyderabad Blues series!

Over the next year things started to change. I got myself a job (and quit it pretty quickly too…but that’s another story), met a woman who opened the door to a whole new world. I had always considered myself to be worldly wise, the been-there-done-that kind of person; but of course I was in for a rude shock because I had seen nothing before I came to Hyderabad! After two and a half years I can truly say that I’ve seen it all…desperate P3 types straight out of Madhur Bhandarkar’s movie, male strippers, drugs, adultery, attempts of murder, gun-totting bodyguards, mujra party at far-flung farmhouses, a foreigner who over stayed her visa and is now a fugitive, a man with many passports who love the thrills of international human trafficking, open marriages, upper-middle class women pimping their bodies for cash or kind…the underbelly of an apparently staid and boring city!

I also met some amazing people… true blue Hyderabadis, so kind and generous; they welcomed me into their city and their lives with their arms open wide. Memories of their warmth and hospitality will remain in my heart till I die. The last weekend was hectic…two farewell parties in my honor! The first one thrown by my girl gang…women I’ve come to love and respect over last two years…women with whom I’ve laughed and cried, partied and done tequila shots, had endless cups of coffee over hardcore bitching sessions and called up at 3 am when I couldn’t sleep! The other was organized by a very dear friend, the most generous and kind man in the whole wide world! The venue was perfect - open air, lots of trees, a pond and a cascading waterfall - all very carefully lit up. There was an open bar, a DJ spinning foot-tapping tracks all night long and lip smacking food (including haleem and grilled bater). Half the town showed up (there were some gate crashers too) to say good bye! It was such an emotional experience!

I never thought I’d say it, but I can’t help it…I’ll miss Hyderabad! Didn’t realize when the local lingo invaded my vocabulary and no became nakko bhai and go slow became hulloo lelo! I was always a foodie, but my decadence in Hyderabad will (hopefully) remain unsurpassed (because the weighing scale has been sending me signals for a while now!) I’ll miss Fusion 9, Angeethi, Dosa Plaza, Encounters, Gufaa, midnight Biryani at Ohri’s Banjara, Sunday brunch at Touch…heck I’ll even miss Indian Harvest, the Gujju thaali joint that closed down a while back!!! I’ll miss shopping for bangles and laces in Laad Bazar, its myriad colors, the glimpses of fair arms of Burqa-clad maidens, laden with sparkling bangles. I’ll miss my walks through KBR Park, the view of Golconda Fort and Qutb Shahi Tombs from the vantage point where Narne Road dips into Whisper Valley. I’ll miss the Ladies Night at 10D, Touch, Liquids and the after hours party at B&C. I’ll miss making fun of the ineffectual security guards armed with only a whistle who take their jobs too seriously! I’ll even miss the way Hyderabadis lie “raaste mein hoon” when they haven’t even dressed to go for a party! I’ll miss the awesome rock formations that dot the Banjara Hills-Jubilee Hills skyline (specially the one shaped curiously like a male body-part that can be seen from the terrace of Zafraan Exotica) and are fast disappearing thanks to the real estate development. I’ll miss the AP Riding Club, a heritage building gifted by the Nizam to the riding club almost 150 years ago, where generations have learnt to ride; thanks to the greedy bureaucrats it’s closed now, the horses languishing in Chanchalguda jail (of all places)! I’ll miss my man Friday cum chauffer, who would reverse the car in heavy traffic just to save me from walking a few extra steps in the sun; my maid, in spite of her limited intellectual capacity and her inability to follow instructions kept my home in shape and took over the greatest challenge a mother faces – feeding a five year old!! I’ll miss my family (even though none of them stay in Hyderabad, they were never more than two hours away).The list is pretty long…

I’m moving again and I wish I had said an emphatic NO this time. I’ll pretend that I’m taking one more of my frequent trips and avoid the emotional (read teary) good-byes and the heart ache that I invariably feel every time I leave a place. So farewell Hyderabad…hopefully I’ll see you again sometime soon!

I’ll sign off dear readers, with a beautiful poem, Nightfall in the city of Hyderabad by Sarojini Naidu

See how the speckled sky burns like a pigeon's throat,
Jewelled with embers of opal and peridot.

See the white river that flashes and scintillates,
Curved like a tusk from the mouth of the city-gates.

Hark, from the minaret, how the muezzin's call
Floats like a battle-flag over the city wall.

From trellised balconies, languid and luminous
Faces gleam, veiled in a splendour voluminous.

Leisurely elephants wind through the winding lanes,
Swinging their silver bells hung from their silver chains.

Round the high Char Minar sounds of gay cavalcades
Blend with the music of cymbals and serenades.

Over the city bridge Night comes majestical,
Borne like a queen to a sumptuous festival.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


My previous house-owner got into Time Magazine’s list of 100 people who shape the world! He’s been doing great work in micro-financing, making venture capital available to more of the 800 million people in rural India. He’s a true visionary, making a difference in the lives of people who live way below the poverty line.

But this post is not about his achievements…its actually about my experience in dealing with the only human being I’ve ever personally known, who got his name printed in Time magazine. When we rented his Hyderabad house, he used to live in Chicago. The house was in complete mess…his family here was in charge, and they couldn’t hand over the keys till the 23rd of the month even though we started paying rent from the 1st. When we wrote to him, about a refund or a rent adjustment, all we got was radio silence! Anyway, we did move in, and after some time a woman called us up, introduced herself as a cousin of the house-owner and told us that she’d be in charge while he’s away. Fine!!

A year and few months went by. In the mean time the electricity meter blew up, the man-hole covers got stolen, snakes and stray dogs kept coming inside through the gaps in the main gate, a septic tank pipe burst, the light fixtures inside the house kept blowing up one after another, ants ate up the exterior light wiring, the bore-well conked off at the on-set of summer, monsoon left huge damp patches all over the wall and rain-water seeped in through leaky windows and flooded my living room! Some stuff got fixed, some didn’t, some I paid for because I was living there! Then one day he came to visit us; seemed like a nice guy; gushed about how beautifully we kept his house, blah blah blah, told us about his divorce, his son, his alimony program and lot of other things about his personal life that we didn’t really want to know! But over all the experience wasn’t unpleasant.

Another six months went by. He came to visit us again…this time, he wanted to know how long we were planning to stay in his house…the lease was to expire in three months’ time. We told him that we were planning to move out at the end of the lease period. He expressed interest in staying in the house…his dream home, which he never got to enjoy! In the same breath he also added that we could stay on as long as we liked if we paid him the “market rate” which, according to him, was nearly 70% more than what we were paying him!! When we recovered from the mini heart-attacks this piece of information caused us, we enquired around…and no prizes for guessing that the so called “market-rate” was nothing but a figment of his fertile imagination! We were certain that we would be able to vacate the house by the end of the lease period!

The big move was in the pipeline and no matter how hard we tried, couldn’t wrap up everything within the stipulated time. We needed at least one more month in the house. Mr. Philanthropist immediately turned into Mr. Shylock and demanded his pound of flesh, in this case the exorbitantly inflated rent! We had very little choice but to comply. On the upside, he did buy out all our appliances which we couldn’t move and most of the IKEA furniture that I was dying to get rid of, but he also tried to weasel out a free dinette and an air cooler, which finally went to someone else. We left that house with a bitter taste.

Then came the news of his great achievement. It was in a mail from yet another female cousin of Mr. Philanthropist which was languishing in my Junk Mail box. I send him a congratulatory mail and in reply I got this:

It would be helpful if you could call the cable operator and indicate that you do not want cable service terminated but instead transferred to the new occupants (me). Otherwise, he is requiring me to pay a new installation amount. I realize that it is a relatively small amount I would save (Rs. 2,500), but would appreciate a call nevertheless.

Can’t blame the poor guy, he’s involved in micro-finance after all. *Sigh*

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Sholay In Schools? reports "More than 25 years after its release, Ramesh Sippy's Sholay continues to make headlines. This time, the film has made history of sorts by being the first to be introduced in schools as a chapter in textbooks! The movie will be part of a course teaching Std 5 students (of the CBSE board) to communicate well in English."

Wow! I'm actually dumbfounded! I've been trying to figure out the relationship between Sholay and teaching 5th standard students to communicate well in English! If I remember all right, Sholay didn't have any dialogues in English. If anything, it popularized Gabbar Singh's Avadhi accent! I wonder if after this, children will start calling their moms Chamiya, dads Sambha and their cars Dhanno!

Arre o Sambha, kaisa jamana aa gaya re!!

[Update: Patient Portnoy kindly pointed me to more information on this, umm...issue! Thanks a ton! And this is what I found out.]

For the first time in the history of Indian academia, an entire chapter in a school textbook will be devoted to a mainstream Bollywood blockbuster. Ramesh Sippy’s multi-starrer Sholay has been added to the Broadway course workbook No 5 for Class V students of CBSE.

Published by Oxford University Press, the inclusion of Sholay is a continuation to the chapter on films and film-making in the Broadway book, which is designed to help students communicate effectively and accurately in English.

The National Curriculum Framework 2005 postulates that the multi-lingual character of our society be treated as a resource and school teaching should focus on what the child understands. Since films are an integral part of our culture and Sholay is one of the most influential films, it has been included in the course, said sources. "The text on films and filmmaking in the course book and Sholay in the workbook is a representation of Indian drama in the life of a child. The choice of Sholay was made because it is a different film in many ways. Besides,we wanted children to be aware of the prominence attached to the Indian film industry," said an insider.

Now, my question is, do the members of National Curriculum Framework really believe that the current generation needs to be made "aware of the prominence attached to the Indian film industry"? As if...

Reactions have been by and large positive. Psychiatrist Harish Shetty believes it is an excellent idea. "Sholay encompasses the ethos and feeling of an era in a brilliant narrative. It can certainly touch young hearts and minds," he said.
However, an academic said: "The negatives may have a bigger influence on children than the positives.... Amjad Khan became more popular than Sanjeev Kumar."

Finally here's a person who said something that made some sense :-)

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Gangster - A Love Story

I was a bit skeptical about Gangster…even though Raja Sen and Taran Adarsh had given the movie great reviews! How far could I trust those reviews; after all Raja Sen liked Paheli and Taran Adarsh likes anything and everything that releases every Friday! And the last time I tried watching an Emraan Hashmi movie (Murder), I couldn’t stand the torture and left the theater sometime after the interval! But I decided to watch Gangster- A Love Story anyway…the soundtrack rocked and I was curious about Shiney Ahuja! And I’m happy to say, Taran Adarsh wasn’t kidding this time!

Gangster is a violent film and it’s a love triangle…well, almost! The subject is pretty complex, and as far as my knowledge of Hindi movies go, never been explored before. Kudos to Anurag Basu for attempting something totally different and not ruining the film by resorting to usual Hindi movie clichés!

The main protagonist is Simran (newcomer Kangana Ranaut); it’s through her eyes we see the story unfold. She is a mysterious woman, living alone in Seoul, has a wardrobe of rather revealing outfits and is a hopeless alcoholic, desperately seeking out the last drops of whiskey from discarded bottles in a garbage bin! Her only friend in an alien city is Akash (Emraan Hashmi) who’s a crooner in an Indian restaurant (he calls it the “club”). Akash is clearly besotted with Simran, tries to protect her from self-destruction and in general keeping her out of trouble when she falls into the deep abyss of alcoholism and depression. On a particularly rough night, Simran lands up at Akash’s pad (which has a precarious terrace with incredible views) and confesses her story. A Mumbai bar dancer, she fell in love with Daya (Shiney Ahuja), a Chhota Rajan/Abu Salem’esque gangster. Her presence in his life softened Daya, a hardcore criminal who guns down people in cold blood everyday. Daya’s mentor Khan (Gulshan Grover, in a special appearance with the best dialogues) tries to warn him of the consequences, but he turns against his own gang in order to protect Simran. They even try to live like a regular family for a while, but Daya’s shadow catches up with him and after a tragic encounter with the cops, Daya has to flee the country. Simran ends up in far-away Seoul, safe but lonely, spending her day and night in an alcoholic haze waiting for Daya’s phone call. Akash’s gentle insistence and her own growing loneliness lead Simran into Akash’s arms where she finally finds the happiness and peace that has been eluding her. But her bliss is short-lived, because Daya shows up on her door-step and in a fit of jealous rage, beats the pulp out of Akash. Simran, now pregnant with Akash’s child has to make a choice between the two men in her life.

From here the story takes quite a few unexpected turns which leave you slack-jawed, and it ends in the most unpredictable but befitting way. Anurag Basu never loses control over his story telling, keeping the pace tight all through. I’d be nit-picking trying to criticize the film, but I wish the director had taken care in some areas. There are some glaring continuity glitches…Simran starts walking wearing black boots, which mysteriously becomes black stilettos! Also during a very crucial and poignant scene, a huge billboard flashing LG logo was extremely distracting! The dialogues sometime sound very forced.

Kangana Ranaut is a lucky girl to have gotten a chance to play a character as complex as Simran in her very first movie. She’s hauntingly beautiful, with unusual hair and sad eyes. Playing an alcoholic is not an easy job; even seasoned actors tend to over do the drunken mannerisms. Kangana adds subtle nuances to her character, never over-doing anything! I found her dialogue delivery slightly weak…getting an experienced voice-over artiste to dub for her may have added more zing to the role. But over all a very impressive debut, I must admit!

What do I say about Emraan Smooch-me, oops, Hashmi? Every time he opened his mouth, crowds in the theater broke into peals of laughter, even though what he was saying wasn’t even remotely funny!! He plays the lover-boy crooner with great panache; gets to kiss the girl, make out on a bed of brilliantly hued autumn leaves and lip-sync some really great songs. But when it came to dramatics, he fell really short…he made an ass off himself in the confrontation scene at the Indian Embassy! I read somewhere that this was his last smooching role…he’s tying the knot and won’t be kissing any other girl. Hmmm…wonder if people would pay money to watch his movies anymore?!

I said right in the beginning that I was really curious about Shiney Ahuja. I haven’t had a chance to watch any of his previous films. (Note to self: Rent Hazaron Khwahishen Aisi ASAP) He was simply amazing. His Daya is reticent, relying mainly on his eyes and facial expression to convey his rage, passion and pain, and does a superb job. Daya’s character is mostly bereft of dialogues, and when he has things to say, it comes out a bit shy and awkward…things that a cold-blooded murderer is not used to saying. He disgraces himself by bawling on his girl-friend’s lap and in the very next moment reverts back to his take-charge macho self while fleeing from the police. Shiney Ahuja is definitely one of the best actors to hit the marquee in recent times. Of course it helps to look like a dream boat too…wearing a beret and a scruffy work shirt, he looked more like Italian Mafioso straight out of Godfather!

The Gangster soundtrack totally rocks. Pritam has done a great job with the back-ground score too. The songs pop up at the right places in the film, taking the story forward. I’m particularly addicted to Bheegi Bheegi and Ya Ali, even though the latter’s choreography was a bit of a let down. There I go nit-picking again!!!

Over all Gangster- A Love Story is a good movie; different from the usual Bollywood fare. Go watch it!