Friday, March 24, 2006

Being Cyrus

The tag line of Homi Adajania's Being Cyrus is “who you let in can change your life”! The movie begins with the arrival of Cyrus Mistry (Saif Ali Khan) into the lives of Dinshaw and Katie Sethna who live in a dilapidated bungalow among the secluded hills of Panchgani. Dinshaw (Naseeruddin Shah) is a retired sculptor and is forever stoned. His once beautiful, over the hill wife Katie (Dimple Kapadia) immediately takes to Cyrus, who comes to assist Dinshaw at his pottery school.

The tales revolves around Cyrus and the dysfunctional Sethna family and shuttles between Panchgani and Bombay where Dinshaw’s aged father Fardoonji Sethna (Honey Chhaya) lives with his younger son Farokh (Boman Irani) and his wife Tina (Simone Singh).

As the movie proceeds, one realizes that everything is not right with the Sethna family. There are skeletons in the cupboards and a lot has been swept under the carpet. Not just that, even Cyrus has his own mysteries and demons to fight. As Katie pours herself all over Cyrus in her attempt to win his passion and make him dance to her tune, Cyrus decides to play a different game altogether. His is a complicated round of chess, with each member of the Sethna family a pawn in his hands. As the plot slowly unfurls, morbid and unanticipated sides of these characters are revealed. Saying anything beyond this point would be giving away the plot.

Being Cyrus is embellished with some fine performances, something that's expected from an ensemble cast. Naseeruddin Shah as Dinshaw is flawless yet again. His stoned expression and apparent detachment from life is beautifully portrayed by Shah. He is especially outstanding in the sequence when he cuts his foot while trying to pluck flowers from a well.

Saif Ali Khan took a big risk by stepping away from his current status of box-office heart throb and play Cyrus. He is present in almost every frame and literally carries the film on his able shoulders. He’s mysterious and a rogue, yet so vulnerable that you want to protect him. Looks like every now and then Chhote Nawab relishes playing the bad boy (remember Ek Hasina Thi?) and I must say he does it with great panache!!

Boman Irani as the scheming, blunt and quarrelsome Farokh is a bit jarring. He’s your stereotypical Parsi complete with the accent and white shirt and trousers. He did have some hilarious sequences though, specially the fight about the neighbour’s pet dog.

The worst thing about the movie is probably Dimple Kapadia. She is supposed to be the femme fatale here, but I’m sorry to say she’s a far cry from either Dil Chahta Hai or even Leela. She hammed throughout the movie reducing Katie to a sad caricature!

Honey Chhaya, Manoj Pahwa (as the cop) and Simone Singh provide excellent support to the lead characters!

The cinematography and the background score deserve special mention for lending Being Cyrus that unique quality that sets it apart from the rest of the mindless Bollywood fare that are churned out week after week.

The uniqueness of Being Cyrus lies in the originality of the story and the distinctive look of the film. Yet it is not what I expected it to be. I guess I had some expectations from the movie; after all it generated quite a bit of media hype in the recent past…but at the end of the day, it wasn’t quite as fulfilling as thought it’d be. It is definitely very hatke, quite dark and sometimes funny without trying too hard (but one has to be quite conversant with Parsi humor to get the jokes!) I personally would have liked a little more background on Cyrus, because at the end of it all I still couldn’t fathom his motive!

For a debutante director Being Cyrus is definitely a very good effort. Keep up the good work Mr. Adajania!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Air Deccan Woes

This came out in Mid-day. Its unintentionally hilarious :-)

Delhi resident Omkar Singh Pal (42) got into a fight with an Air Deccan airhostess over Rs 20. Pal refused to pay the airline its marked up price for two bags of chips.

The MRP was Rs 10 per packet, but Pal was furious as Air Deccan charged him Rs 20 per pack.He got angrier when the airhostess refused to give him a bill, as the amount was less than Rs 50.

When the flight landed in Mumbai, policemen greeted Pal at the airport and asked him to explain the matter. Both the airline as well as Pal lodged complaints against each other.

“Why should I pay more than the printed price? Why should they refuse to furnish a bill? I will move the consumer court as I have been overcharged. The hostess should not have argued with me. She lied to the pilot that I was misbehaving with her,” said an incensed Pal.

Air Deccan spokesman Vijaya Menon, however, said that Pal was being unreasonable. “The in-flight menu rates are higher than MRP. We charge Rs 20 for a packet of chips (Frito Lays), as it also includes service tax and loading charges. We don’t give bills for purchases below Rs 50. We complained against Pal because the argument could have led to a security problem,” she said.

Spouse reaction to the "security problem" issue :-)

Pal: “That’s it, I’ve had it! I’m hijacking this plane and not letting it land unless you sell me your chips for Rs. 10!”
Air Hostess: “Umm, no.”
Pal: “Arrrgh!” *bonk* *creak*
Air Hostess: *shriek* “He’s opened the emergency exit!! People are flying out the…” *swoosh*
Pilot: “Mayday, mayday!”
People on the ground: “Hey, are those bags of chips falling from the sky?”

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Disgruntled, Annoyed, Displeased and other Synonyms

Someone asked me why I decided to name my blog “Disgruntled In General”! I was taken aback...I just thought it’s quintessentially me …grouchy, caustic, disillusioned, mostly annoyed with everything in life! Never really needed to analyze the cause of my perennial bad mood. But spouse pointed out that I can be really nice and sweet at times and even look pretty when I’m not frowning. :-) That got me thinking. Why am I disgruntled? So I’ve decided to revisit the last week and see what caused me to frown and what made me smile.

First and foremost, I’m moving yet again!! I’ve counted the number of times I’ve changed residence in last 10 years…a whopping 11 times!! I should be a veteran by now, a master of moves…but I’m not! I still get attached to every house I stay in…try to make it my “home” and get heart-broken every time my nest is destroyed!! So pardon me, if I’m frowning and acting moody. No it’s not PMS…I’m just sad. Some people cry when they’re sad…I frown and get crabby!

The other day I had a fight with a client. Let me rephrase that…the client stood around like cat’s got his tongue while his uncle was screaming himself hoarse over some petty issue. I actually didn’t fight…I can’t fight…I’m too sophisticated for that! :-) I just leave the scene if it becomes unpleasant. So I left this uncouth person foaming in the mouth and walked out of the site with my head held high. Can’t blame me if I’ve been in bad mood since then!

An uneducated labor contractor gave me some pearls of wisdom! He told me that one can’t work compromising his or her dignity. In his words “Hum log kaam karke paisa lete hain…ijjat ka suada nahi karte hain!!” Wow!!

Some people owe me money, and I am sick and tired of politely reminding them. Why do people conveniently forget when they owe money??? I can’t sleep at night when I know that I haven’t paid someone on time! I guess I can do some yelling to get the dough out, but that will sour the relationship…and I believe in relationships…I wish some more people thought like me! *sigh*

A so called designer has seriously messed up some of my clothes. They look like something you’d see on extras in a Telegu film song!!! I was too stunned to even react. Of course, he’s not getting paid and I don’t care if our relationship sours…in fact I asked him never to cross my path again! It boils my blood to even think that he calls himself a designer and actually has a degree from NIFT. Wow, I’m astounded by the quality this hallowed institution is producing!!

Half the lights in my house don’t work! Every day a new bulb blows out and I’m sick of replacing them. Lately my excuse has been that I’m moving anyway, so why bother! In addition to that there’s the intolerable heat (it’s only March), the power cuts, the mosquitoes, the nagging maid servant and a hyper-active child! I really do have a wonderful life! My injured knee is acting up again. The pain gets unbearable at times. I know I should go for Arthroscopy which promises miracle cure, but I can’t get myself to trust the local health care system. So I grit my teeth and bear the pain and the result…more frowns :-)

I can't seem to avoid Himesh Reshammiya. He's everywhere; god! He's at the pubs, at the grocery store, at the mall, on my TV, in the car radio...last week my 5 year old son had a play date and I heard his little friend crooning" Ooooooooooo Oooooooooo Oooooooooo...A(n)shi(n)q Banaya(n) Aa(n)pne!! That was clearly the limit!! I'm not jealous of Reshammiya's fact I'm quite in awe that he's become such a hit machine! But please, that Sufiana (read annoyingly nasal) voice is now getting to me! As if Ashiq Banaya Aapne and Aksar wasn't enough...he now has a private album (whatever it’s called...its sounds the same any way). The music video also looks like a rehashed version of his other videos where he sports three day stubble and a baseball cap and looks forlorn, pining for some pretty girl who has decided to move on with her life!!! Good for her!! Bad for us...unless he gets the girl we'll be subjected to more Ooooooooooo Oooooooooooooo’s! *frown*

Last but not the least; Amey Date got eliminated from Indian Idol 2. My first reaction was “What the @#$%???!!” Has the audience gone deaf that they gave more votes to Anuj Sharma?! I was very angry. But then I saw the monk like smile on Amey’s face and the dignity and grace with which he accepted the decision. I was so touched by his humility. Hats off to Amey! He brought a smile through my tears of anger! But I can’t rest in peace unless I know that Karunya has won the title. Yet, looking at the trend, I won’t be surprised if he gets eliminated next week! If that happens, I must warn everyone, there’ll be a lot more grouchiness!!!

I haven’t been on a vacation in a very long time. Every now and then I hallucinate about a white sand beach, azure sky meeting aquamarine ocean at the horizon, a large umbrella fluttering in gentle breeze, a muscular guy in brilliant white uniform and teeth to match serving me Lynchburg Lemonade while I lounge on a deck chair reading one of the 12 books that I plan to read (as soon as I can get some time). Now wouldn’t that be loverly!!

I guess my life is not that bad. I don’t have an alcoholic husband who beats me up, or evil in-laws who threaten to burn me alive if I didn’t bring more dowry from home. Neither am I suffering from a debilitating illness or in a financial mess. My problems are small, may be even petty! I manage to keep my chin up all day, but I should at least be allowed to vent in this space!!!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Maalamaal Weekly

I have to admit that I have been a closet Priyadarshan fan…why closet you ask? Well, I had never watched any of his movies in the theater…always on DVD (sometimes pirated) or on TV. But today I changed that. Armed with popcorn I went for the first day first show of Maalamaal Weekly.

I was told that it’s a rural comedy. Rural it was alright, complete with Bhaiya accent and curiously South Indian homes. Oh well, why get into the details. The setting is a village called Laholi where after a long spell of drought the starving villagers have sold or pawned everything to the evil Thakurain Karamkali (Sudha Chandran, sporting colored lenses and ironed hair). Her brother Baaj Bahadur aka Baje (Rajpal Yadav) terrorizes the villagers with his power. Lilaram (Paresh Rawal) is supposed to be the only educated fellow in the whole village who sells tickets from Maalamaal Weekly lottery to the villagers. He sells a ticket to the village drunkard Anthony (played by Malayalam actor Innocent, voice by Tikku Talsania) which wins the first prize of Rs 1 crore. The drunkard dies before claiming the money and half the village gets involved in an elaborate charade to impress upon the lottery inspector (Arbaaz Khan) that Anthony is alive and keep the money in the village. Saying anything beyond this will be giving away the kahani mein twist and there are quite a few.

Priyadarshan has made an original comedy this time (as opposed to remake of his Malayalam hits). It’s fast paced with quite a few laughs and some really hilarious moments. Mercifully there’s only one song in the movie which felt like a gratuitous cleavage show for the front benchers. Maalamaal Weekly boasts of an ensemble cast of very talented actors like Om Puri (playing to the gallery with great gusto), Asrani (good to see him in a substantial role after a very long time), and not so talented like Shakti Kapoor and Arbaaz Khan. Then there is Ritesh Deshmukh as lover boy wooing designer village belle Rima Sen …both has too much city kid body language to pass off as villagers…but you can ignore them. Just watch Paresh Rawal, Om Puri and Asrani. Innocent as the dead Anthony reminded me of Satish Shah's dead D'souza in Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. Tough act to follow, but he is quite effective. Rajpal Yadav in a completely over the top role is great…he’s funny even when he’s trying to be sinister (ok, I’m a bit partial to him…but he is good!)

Maalamaal Weekly has its flaws. It defies logic most of the time and could have been trimmed down a bit, but over all it’s a time pass movie with a message. What message you ask? Leave your thinking caps at home and go figure it out!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


This was written as a participation post for Blank Noise Project It was extremely hard to write these words which has tormented me for many many years. Finally they are out and the process has been extremely cathartic. Thank you BNP for giving me the courage!

Growing up a girl in Kolkata who studied in a co-educational school and went without chaperon everywhere had its consequences. Eve teasing is a term I learnt pretty early in my life…I had a very attractive elder sister…that helped!

Both I and my sister always dressed conservatively. We were Bengali middle class girls who neither had the guts nor the means to dress otherwise. Yet every now and then some young man would leer, lick his lips obscenely or wink in a suggestive manner…which blissfully didn’t affect me much, thanks to my innocence or naiveté, whatever you wish to call it!

My earliest memories of sexual harassment are honestly quite fuzzy. There’s a cousin (I don’t speak to him anymore) who was, lets say, a bit touchy feely. In an unfortunate event, I was introduced to French kissing by him…thankfully it didn’t go any further! So you see, it all begins at home!!

I’m eleven years old. On the verge of puberty. In a school full of boys with raging hormones! The slightly “developed” girl students are called “Dolly Parton” and the not so developed ones “Manchester”. I was one of the fortunate ones to be somewhere in the middle who didn’t attract much attention. Also being a tomboy and hanging out with the guys helped! Yet one evening on my back home I meet a stranger on the road, who very casually and with extreme nonchalance came up to me and squeezed my budding breasts. Before I could react, he was gone, smiling like a Cheshire cat! I remember coming home and telling my mother, whose first reaction was “Tumi ki korchhiley?” (What were you doing?) As if I was flaunting my assets to a total stranger inviting him to fondle me on the street in full view of at least 100 other people who didn’t even bat an eyelid, didn’t chase him down, didn’t beat him to pulp for molesting a minor!!!! That incident taught me three things: a) never to talk to my mother about something like this, b) walk with your bag clutched in front of you and c) nobody gives a damn!!

I’m about fourteen. I’m going back home from school in the rush hour. The bus is very crowded! A math teacher from school, I’ll call him PM, is also in the bus. We are all jostling for standing place, when PM comes up behind me. The bus is packed like sardines and PM is standing very close to me, so close that I can feel his foul breath on my neck. He slowly inches forward till he’s completely pressed against my back. I feel his hard-on pressing against me. And then he starts rotating his hips, grinding himself against my back, in front of a bus full of people, who were either completely oblivious or utterly disinterested! I’m standing there, rooted to the spot, tears steaming down my cheeks, being used by my math teacher, who could ruin my year if he wanted to be malicious …not even a single person asked me why I was crying!

I’m twenty-two. By this time I’ve got myself a job and spend most of my salary on cab-fares! It was before Durga Puja and my office was very close to a major shopping area. This particular evening I’ve been standing around for almost 45 minutes fruitlessly waiting for a taxi. Finally I give up and take a bus to home. It was as usual very crowded. I barely managed to get past the door, and find myself a spot not wanting to venture inside among throngs of sweaty bodies. The bus hadn’t gone past two stops when I suddenly felt a hot breath on my neck followed by a sharp pain on my shoulder. Someone bit me! Yes, someone bit me!! I know it sounds funny now, but at that point, I felt extremely violated. I yelped in pain, causing a commotion and a man jumped off a running bus and vanished into the crowd. This time around I found a lot of sympathizers who wanted to know the incident in gory details. I was shaking uncontrollably, shocked, in pain and in disbelief! I got off the bus at the next stop and took a cab back home. I bathed at least 5 times that night unable to feel clean, unable to erase the teeth marks of a man who couldn’t resist the “provocation” of my kurta covered shoulder!

1997. I’m in Bangalore. On a Sunday evening I go out with a girlfriend for a movie. It was Ishq starring Aamir Khan and Kajol. I keep cribbing why the Hindi movies play in theaters in the Majestic area. It was crowded and down-market. This particular theater had three screens simultaneously showing different movies. We bump into a male acquaintance; I’ll call him Raj who was there with his girlfriend. We make plans to go out for dinner post movie.

While stepping out of the theater we realize that the other two theaters also have ended the show, so there were at least 1500 people trying to get out of the complex. In retrospect I should have waited till the crowd dispersed. But I didn’t. I was young and reckless and always in a hurry. I stepped into the sea of human bodies and immediately assaulted by groping hands all over my body. I could have gritted my teeth and walked through it, but I didn’t! I reached behind me and caught a particularly persistent hand on my derriere! And then all hell broke loose! The owner of the hand pulled himself away, as a result pulling me down. All of a sudden I was splayed on the ground…feet trampling over me, hands slithering all over like a million snakes…I was kicking and screaming but nobody heard me. Pain was shooting up from everywhere in my body and I could taste the metallic taste of blood in my mouth. With one last surge of strength I started kicking and flailing my arms. I didn’t care who I kicked or where I kicked…survival was more important at that point!

All of sudden a pair of hands gripped my shoulders and pulled me up. Through the haze in my eyes I recognized Raj. He held me close and dragged my injured body out of the throng…arms were still reaching out towards me for one last grope, one last assault to my dignity! My clothes were torn, glasses shattered, arms and face bruised, I was missing a shoe. But the greatest loss and the ugliest bruise was one that couldn’t be measured or seen!

I survived that episode. It took me a while though! For a long time I oscillated between anger, shame, self pity and self deprecation! Lot of people who came to know about the incident offered me support and then there were some who said I was asking for it by going to the movie hall in the Majestic area! The marks on my body healed, but the scars inside remain. Almost 10 years later I still cannot go to a crowded place in India or abroad. I still have vivid nightmares about the incident, as if it happened yesterday.

Raj and I never talked about it again. It was an unspoken pact that we both honored. We have moved on with our lives leaving that nightmarish evening behind. I can’t remember if I ever thanked him, but Raj if you are reading this, please know you are my true knight in shining armor and no word of thanks can ever express my gratitude!

What happened to me happens to women everyday somewhere in the world. I remember sometime back the US media sensationalizing an incident where a girl was molested in public view by revelers in the Central Park. Last yearTamil film actress Jyothika was molested by her fans in Chennai which was caught on camera and was shown over and over again by different news channels. Was anyone caught or punished? None I suppose.

I have heard so many times that women who are targets of sexual crimes are responsible for their fates, because they are either dressed provocatively or behave in a manner to arouse the animal instinct in men. But tell me how provocative can a 11 year old girl in school uniform be to warrant a sexual crime against her?!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Shall we Budget??

I don’t understand economics, neither do I try! I’m the artsy type you see :-) I’m officially close to middle age, yet I cannot recall a single time the Union budget has affected my life!!! How can this year be any different?

So, pasta is cheaper!! Yippppppy!! Now I can feed my son 10 min pasta instead of 2 min noodles more often! Who has the time to cook anyway!

Umbrellas and walking stick to be more expensive. Hmmmm...let me see. Dadu used to have a walking stick. But he left us for a heavenly abode sometime in 1986. I can't seem to remember anyone who uses a walking stick...darn...I need to know some more old people!!!

I personally don't use umbrellas. I run to my car when it rains or simply stay home. When it’s sunny out there I do wear sunglasses or should I call it "goggles"? Which BTW will be more expensive! But who calls it "goggles"? A goggle is something that Rishi Kapoor wore in Bobby or Tariq in Yaadon Ki Baraat. That was the 70's. This is 2006...Sanju Baba & Sunil Anna opened a store called Shades in Begumpet that sells designer "goggles".

I think the reason why they made Henna more expensive is to control the sudden conversion of brunettes to redheads among the Indian female population!! Finding a non-streaked head is like looking for needle in haystack!! Only someone should have told PC that Henna is not the culprit here…L’Oreal, Garnier and other brands making hair colors should have borne the burden instead of the Henna powder making industry!!

This year on Feb 28 my son and my father-in-law had a huge fight! Baba was monopolizing the TV and son wanted to watch Tom & Jerry. Couldn’t make my son understand how a man in white mundu and shirt talking for hours with little or no expression on his face could be more interesting than a cat and mouse chase interspersed with graphic violence!!!

Oh well, one more year, one more budget…what difference does it make anyway!