Wednesday, December 24, 2008

hardworking kids, lazy mom

Dhanno said yesterday: "After my Board exams, I'm going to take Time and put It in the mixie, and grind It, and take It out and throw It on the floor, then mop It up, and throw the mop in the dustbin. I'm going to waste and waste Time."

Her friend Shy said : "We'll just sit at the window and not even talk to each other, that is how much Time we will waste."

Poor kids, studying hard for their Std. X exams.

I meanwhile, continue to waste Time, gadding about unabashedly.

That is factually incorrect, the gadding about and the being unabashed. But I did so want to use those words.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

3 years overtime

Apparently, I ought to have retired 3 years ago. Or perhaps curled up and died?

John Abraham in today's Bombay Times, the Chak De, Mumbai column which has a new celebrity response everyday, on 26/11 -

"I think the message is out there. 60% of the population is below 40 which means we have the largest 'thinking' population in the world."

Does anyone out there know how I can switch that 'thinking' button off now that I'm way past 40?

Friday, December 12, 2008

I am charming :-)

This award is given to a blog that invests and believes in PROXIMITY – nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award. 

Grasshopper gave me this award because she says I am "A fellow FTIIan, I feel closer to her as a fellow blogger than I ever did before." And I feel the same way about her.

It's strange how many people I feel that way about. I've known them ever so long, and yet, feel closer to them now as fellow bloggers. And so I pass on this award to ..

1. Space Bar - She takes me into realms which I'd conveniently avoid if left to myself. Like poetry.

2. Sur - She is a next door neighbor whom I hardly ever see. But Sanah and she make me relive those early years with Dhanno.

3. Paro - I always thought she was a little formidable. But as it turns out, I like her.

Then, there are the people I've never met. But want to, some day, in this life.

4. Memsaab - She has an amazing taste in films, actors, directors, costumes, sets. That is to say, she has a taste that absolutely matches mine! She reminds me of all those childhood days, those dingy theatres and the magic of those films.

5. Beth - She differs. But she has strong opinions. And she's fun.

And then there are those who astound me with the power of their writing and their imagination. I'd like to meet them one day too. But I'd probably be a little shy around them.

6. Indeterminacy - His is a blog you simply can't ignore. Fabulous stories accompanying pictures sent to him by friends.

7. Madeleine - She's become really busy with her online magazine, Greenbeard. So her blog is rather neglected. I miss her.

8. Stan Johns - His blog, Half Dentist, is quirky and obscure and leaves so much unsaid, and I love it.

And though I've run out of my quota of awards, I cannot leave out

9. Dipali - She writes of home, kids, dogs, holidays and life. And I feel as if I've grown up knowing her.

10. Shweta - I love the name of her blog, Apni East India Company. And I like her film reviews.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

fat and dumb

Coming back from IFFI Goa 2008, Pu and I were latched on to by a fellow film buff. That's one of the dangers you encounter at film festivals, the single male who thinks females without male escorts are simply waiting to be bored.

During the 13-hour journey, we were subjected to about 10 hours of monologue on his part. His love story, work schedule, assets, liabilities, future plans, diet, piggy bank habits and so on. He also saw fit to be nasty to a fellow traveller who mistakenly asked us for details about the festival. And proceeded to give Pu a lecture on how she should not talk to strangers, because she insisted on answering the man's queries. Pu bravely argued for 4 hours while I glared out into the darkening evening.

As a quick aside to me he asked, "Have you always been this fat, or have you put on weight recently? You should take care of yourself, you know. Don't you walk? Do you like eating too much?"

Pu and I were shocked enough to be dumbstruck. In the rickshaw back home, when we had finally shaken him off, we spluttered with ineffective rage. The next day I read in Mumbai Mirror of the ruckus between Shiney Ahuja and Isha Koppikar. Getting back to a shoot schedule after a 3 week break, he said to her, 'You've grown fatter." She retorted back, "And you've grown uglier." He skulked off, apparently.

Oh, how Pu and I need lessons in repartee! What's the use of comeback lines that come to you a day too late?

And coincidentally, I had written this before I went to Goa, but not posted it, just because ....
The trouble is that the ripply, wavery lines and the wobbly bits in the mirror don't bother me. I'd have a better chance of sticking to my diet and exercise regime if I didn't quite see myself (and everyone else) with the same eyes that I see a Renoir painting or a Meghalaya landscape . The trouble is I like both the banyan and the coconut trees. I like watermelons as much as I do strawberries. I like flat stomachs and round stomachs, young faces and old, wrinkled ones. Muscled bodies and flabby bodies both tell their own stories to me.

That's not to say I haven't spent a considerable amount of time in the last decade agonizing about the kilos I piled on during one extremely stressful phase of life. But the agony was brought on mainly by people whose idea of conversation-starters is "Oh God, you've become fat." Or "You've really lost weight. The last time I saw you, you were fat."

I really wonder what people are thinking when they assail friends, strangers, family, all and sundry with retorts like:

1. You're looking much better these days. Less ill.
2. You're looking awful. You have a double chin.
3. What's happened to your hair?
4. You've grown older. You used to be so pretty.
5. What's up with the crow's feet?
6. You never used to have those shadows under your eyes. You should sleep more.
7. You should exercise more. Don't you go to the gym?
8.  Are you happy?  Are you still with the same guy? Just asking.

Maybe I should start using the grass wheel, eh Grasshopper?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Drums and old Hindi film songs at 100 decibels

It's impossible to think with this din. I feel as if my brain is being battered. One wedding and two days of persistent noise. If the sound blares so on the 13th floor, what is it like for those down there, and how can they tolerate it? How can this be their idea of fun or celebration? I hate these people. I curse them, may their marriage never work.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

There's pink and there's pink

Yet another thing that keeps me sufficiently and suitably distracted from film making is my obsession with lipsticks.

One of the things I like to do, when I really need to do nothing at all, as opposed to not having anything to do,

is chop up bits of lipsticks which are old, or the wrong colors, or simply boring now that they've lasted forever, and just won't give up their mortal existence,

and mix them all up.

I used to melt them over a pan of boiling water, now I just put them into a tiny tin and mesh them all together with the end of a nail file or a cut off ear bud. I mix in lots of lip balm too.

There, I have a new color in my life, which is usually the same color as most of the others I have, i.e. pink. Plus I satisfy my cheap, middle-class housewifely urges to recycle.

Grasshopper though has a different opinion about lipstick.

Monday, November 10, 2008

wrong place, wrong time

I did a series of short films on Mumbai for an internet channel in California, when internet movie uploading and watching was at an experimental stage, and so like a lot of my other work, the films were largely unseen. (My heart wails)

 I used to shoot the films on a small 3CCD mini-DV, sometimes by myself, sometimes with Teja, sometimes with any other cinematographer friend who'd oblige.

This is one of my favourites. I was wandering around Juhu beach on my own, and I could see from the corner of my eyes, these 2 men hovering just outside the edge of my frame. I turned the camera on them, and out poured this:

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

last Sunday

Spent 1050/- rupees on 7 tickets for 'Fashion'.
20/- for parking.
Say a 50/- on petrol
300/- on popcorn and colas.
5/- odd rupees on Dispirin for everyone in the evening. Because all of us came back grumpy, with headaches. Having missed our afternoon siesta. Which the  scrumptious Parsi lunch at Dorabjees deserved much, much more than it did a dose of 'realistic cinema'.

It was just that it had been almost 3 weeks since we went to a theater.

Dhanno, who's 15 and could be 18, has been walking into adult films with us occasionally, when Teja and I deem fit to ignore the censors. OK, I don't see how 'Music and Lyrics' with Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant rates an 'A' certificate, and 'Tashan' or 'Neil & Nikki' rates a U/A. So, I'd rather trust our own judgment.

But the Pune multiplex was packed with kids. Golu, who's 11 and could be 8 walked in easily, as did a lot of other boys his age. And of course, he was bored silly.

Later, he said: "If it (i.e. the film) was a man, I would have kicked it hard."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A river left behind

I read this story at the Caferati meet yesterday. It's a story that has been with me for a long time, and is one of my personal favourites. I'm still not sure whether it's 'done'. But ...

It came from a documentary recce shoot on a mini-DV, Shanker and I in the city. How I wish I'd made a copy of that tape before I sent it off to the producer in the US. Regrets born out of disorganized living.
Malti lived with Raju on a big, empty ground surrounded by apartment buildings, somewhere in Jogeshwari East, Mumbai. When Malti had come from her village many years ago, there had been empty grounds all around her, green fields, and lots of cattle sheds. The smell of the buffaloes, the clinking of the milk pails, and the milkmen in their yellowing white dhotis had reminded her of home.

But now, there were no green fields, and the cattle sheds were wedged between concrete buildings so tall, that Malti had to strain to see the tops of them. The ground that she lived on seemed to have been forgotten for some reason, in the building frenzy.

Malti did not miss her village all the time. But she did miss having a bath everyday. In the village, she could walk into the river any time she wanted, whenever she was feeling hot and dusty, and splash around to her heart’s content. But here she was able to have a bath only once a week.

Raju had to fetch buckets of water from the well near the tea stall. The tea stall owner had become the unofficial owner of the well, and even though Raju paid two rupees for every bucket of water he took, the self-proclaimed owner stared disapprovingly at him whenever he took a bucket too many.

The little boy, Muttu who worked at the tea stall would help Raju lug the buckets to and fro, and bathing times on Sunday mornings became a big event. But even twenty buckets of water could not give Malti the pleasure she had had splashing in the river back home.

Every Sunday, after the bath, Raju would take Malti to the South Indian temple in Matunga. It was a long walk, but they earned a lot of money on that day, because the temple was crowded with devotees, and each one of them gave something to Raju and Malti. Malti would be decked in all her finery, and everyone would turn to look at her, she was so beautiful. Malti would stare back with smiling, crinkled eyes.

Malti loved to go to the temple. The lane outside smelt of flowers and incense; the women were dressed in brilliant colors and the children laughed happily at her. The roads were not too crowded on Sunday, and it was a pleasant walk for Raju and Malti.

On weekdays, Raju would eat his breakfast late, at the tea stall. Malti would wait till he was ready. Then they would start walking on their regular rounds. Past the cattle sheds, crossing the busy highway, crossing the railway tracks to the more affluent western side of the suburb, Andheri where there were many small South Indian eateries, whose owners always had a little something to offer Raju and Malti. Malti hated to cross the highway, with its roaring trucks and cars that never seemed to stop.

Some days they met Indu and her keeper, Mahesh. It did not happen too often, but some times, they would be called together for a wedding party or a film shoot. Indu lived far away in Mira Road, and Malti was happy whenever they did meet. Indu and Malti could talk to each other all day with their eyes.

Indu was Malti’s daughter, born to her in the village many years ago. Malti and Indu had come to the city together, but had been separated when they came here because they worked different rounds. Malti had another daughter, Anu who lived further away in Kurla, and whom Malti had never seen again after they came to the city.

One day, Malti and Indu crossed each other near the crowded Andheri station. It was more than a year since they had seen each other. They were on opposite sides of the road, but oblivious to the traffic around them, they stopped in the middle of the road, and called out to each other.

The traffic policeman glared at Raju and Mahesh, who goaded both the females to move ahead. The cars piled up around them, the drivers honking furiously. But Malti and Indu did not hear the noises around them, or even feel the prod of Raju’s and Mahesh’s sticks, but just continued to stand still and look at each other.

Suddenly, a large red bus with an impatient, irate bus driver nudged Malti on her back and moved forward. Malti, shaken out of her stillness, was hurt by the weight of the bus and moved back a step. Across the road, Mahesh too nudged Indu again, and she reluctantly, but with a lingering glance at Malti, moved away. Raju skillfully guided Malti through the traffic, ignoring the abuse of the drivers around him, and with great patience brought her back home.

That night, Raju lay awake, hearing Malti moan for Indu. Her eyes were shut, probably she was asleep after her long walk, and the injury on her back must be hurting, but Raju thought perhaps she was dreaming of her daughter, Indu and the village to which she belonged.

Raju wondered if he should walk to Malti’s side of the ground and stroke her, but he lay where he was, listening to her soft crying. Again he thought of their silent walk back home, and felt a little proud that he had managed to bring her back without any further accidents, she had been so distressed that day.

After a few minutes, he picked up his thin mattress and sheet, and walked up to her. He stroked her gently and murmured softly into her ear. Malti moaned back.

Raju was a kind mahout. He had often told his owner, Jha-saab that Malti, Indu and Anu needed male mates, but Jha-saab had stopped bringing elephants to Mumbai.

It was too expensive to transport them, too expensive to keep them. The three females he had brought years ago were still paying their keep, but it was certainly not worth its while to invest more money in animals, what with the new rules and regulations. Anyway, where on earth would the elephants mate in Mumbai? There was no place big enough for that in the vicinity. Open grounds no longer existed, and they were lucky they still had place for the three elephants in the city.

Raju shrugged helplessly in the dark as he thought about Malti and her daughters, and their longing for their loved ones. Then he thought of his own wife back home in the village, and wondered if she too moaned for him like that in the dark. He laughed at himself and his fancies, as he remembered his silent Sarita going about her work at home and the fields, and sighing softly he turned to go to sleep.

When Malti woke up the next day, she was still a little sad. Every time she met Indu, she was sad afterwards for days, missing Anu, missing her village. But today, Raju fetched buckets of water, and gave her a bath, even though it was not Sunday. Malti sprayed water on him with her trunk, and tried to be cheerful for his sake. Raju, soaking wet, laughed, and threw yet another mug of water at Malti’s back. The little boy, Muttu came running towards them with a fresh bucket of water, and sprayed by Malti, he too laughed.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


The other day, at the fag-end of a party, with only 8 or 10 of us still around at 3 in the morning, conversation turned from Vipassana, meditation and prayer to corpses and ghosts. Don't ask me how.

Our hostess who lives alone, was a bit annoyed. We made a second start. Talk of food and recipes slid quickly down to corpses and cannibalism. Play-school level lavatory jokes too went the same way.

The men at 4 am were quite willing to leave our gentle hostess with the stench of decaying flesh and go off. They were drunk enough to fall off to sleep the minute they reached home.

But I know well how horror strikes in the early hours of the morning. I insisted we talk some more, of nicer things before we left. This time we tried films, and everyone sobered down, recalled to their professional selves.

Though we left behind a mass of dishes, dirty glasses and cigarette butts when we did say our goodbyes, I'm pretty sure we didn't leave any ghosts behind, thanks to  the Magic of The Movies.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Circle limit IV

Life is quite like an Escher painting. You see angels, angels, angels, then suddenly all you can see are wicked devils. And try as you might, they don't go away. Except suddenly again, with another blink of the eye, they are angels again.

The trouble is once you've seen the devils, you know they are there even when you are seeing the angels.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

some memories of August

These are the worst days of the year in Bumm-Bumm-Bhole-Land. Hot, hot, hot in a piercing way. Still, sticky, no wind. The sunlight exhausts your eyes. So, to cool down,  ....

What I noticed only this year, and loved, were the umbrellas and the raincoats used by boys and men. Very few blacks, or khakis, or greys. Out there in all the colors of the rainbow. Very metro-sexual, hey?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The broken people

Last year, I thought it was time for Dhanno to begin cleaning her own bathroom and toilet. When I proposed it to her, she was shocked. Until then, usually I and sometimes Tai had cleaned it for her.

Perhaps she had never realized that someone did the job for her. Luckily, she was reading bits of Mahatma Gandhi's 'My Experiments with Truth' then, and we crossed over several issues with the thought that Gandhiji cleaned his own toilet.

It's the same with our public spaces. Most of us assume there is someone to clean up. So, it's chuck, spit, pee, shit.

Read my review of 'Untouchable' by Mulk Raj Anand, here.

Friday, October 03, 2008

alternative modes of transport

I was watching Abhishek Bachchan and Rani Mukherjee on a snow peaked mountain in 'Bas Itna Sa Khwaab Hain', don't ask me why, I wouldn't know. No, wait, it was to do with the Friday release of 'Drona' and I wanted to see the director's earlier film, from an academic point of view. No, really, that's me.

Anyway, suddenly, I got an a-ha moment. Teja and Dhanno will tell you I often get a-ha moments, where I basically realize after a considerable amount of time what most people know from their mothers' wombs. A lot of my a-ha moments are to do with the working of taps, bottle caps, door latches, turnstiles, elevators, tetra-packs and other such mind-boggling things. But that's another story.

Right now my a-ha moment came while Teja said: "Where are they dancing?"

I said: "The Swiss Alps." Though I didn't know for sure, it's good practice to give answers confidently.

Since they had just reached the Swiss Alps via a Film City set just by virtue of singing a song, I said: "I'm sure if we sing a song right now, we could be in the Alps."

Teja said: "Yes."

I said: "We'd have to move our arms around in synch."

Teja said: "We could do that."

Dhanno said: "But both of you will reach there. I'll be left behind. I want to come too."

I said: "We'll sing a family song."

Much singing (completely off-key on my part, perfectly pitched on Teja's and Dhanno's part) ensued accompanied with much flailing around of arms and legs. But we stayed firmly ensconced in Bumm-Bumm-Bhole-Land.

I said: "We need costumes and make-up."

Dhanno said: "We need a camera and lights."

Teja muttered to himself: "Love means doing stupid things together. Love means never having to say sorry (to yourself) when you do stupid things together. Love means ..."

Meanwhile Abhishek Bachchan and Rani Mukherjee had come back to the Alps after a brief sojourn to some grassy flowery meadow in Ootacamund.  They looked at each other, they looked at the camera, they did some posing of the romantic, dreamy kind, you know the arms outstretched, twisted necks variety.

I thought the way they are shot, and their dance steps are, they could well be performing in front of a blue screen in Mumbai. Most songs are choreographed this way nowadays. The backdrop could be Milan, Mauritius, Muscat, or a painted screen in Mehboob Studios, Bandra. How does it matter? The actors don't relate at all to the place they are in, the dance movements have nothing to do with the space around them.

I missed suddenly with a deep pang, the cavorting, rollicking, rolling in snow, sliding down snow peaks, throwing snowballs  - Shammi Kapoor and Saira Banu in 'Junglee', Raakhee and Amitabh in 'Kabhi Kabhi', Shashi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore in 'Aa Gale Lag Jaa'. I missed the sweaters and the pom pom caps and the woolen mittens and the faux fur collared jackets. Rani was wearing a chiffon saree, Abhishek was wearing something that I forgot even as I looked at it. Certainly not made for goofing around in the cold. Sigh.

Anyway, since the song and dance routine didn't work for us, we'll just drive down to Pune for the weekend.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The one or the other

A friend sent me this sms today.

'6 am rush hour. Getting stuff ready for school. I get a call on my cell. A polite male voice wishes me 'salaam walekum, bhai jaan hai?' ... I stammer 'nahi, nahi'. My mind is blank, being yanked into a different world. I search earnestly, is it -- salaam walekum or walekum salaam? .. What was the right thing?... Only when the voice asks for bhaijaan again that I remember to say wrong number. He says sorry .. I go back to world but thoughts creep between my stupidity of salaam or walekum and my son's lunch boxes.  Could that be a terrorist? .. Strange how easy it is to make me suspicious,  even with all my intellectual upbringing which seems so skin deep.. How easy it is to break my faith on the other Indian who i've never learnt to wish ...'

It prompted me to write this.

That in turn, led me to dig up a short story 'Alias', published last year in 'Stories at the Coffee Table'.

Monday, September 22, 2008

1, 2, 9 or 10?

Poor Suzi in 'The Evening in Paris', the heroine Deepa's twin sister, lost in childhood. Not only does the hero, Sam detest her for smoking, drinking, and asking for a kiss, her long-lost father rejects her too because she dances in a night club. As if it was her fault she was kidnapped when she was a kid by a drunkard villain. Even at the end, hit by bullets, she is passed on by Sam to his friend, Rajendra Nath to take care of her, and that's the last we see of her. Did she recover, did she die? Who cares, as long as Deepa is fine.

Not my favourite double role. Though Sharmila Tagore looks delectable. Dhanno says she is the prettiest heroine she has ever seen.

My favourites in some sort of order are 'Seeta Aur Geeta', 'Ram aur Shyam' and 'Sharmilee'. The first and the last, not least, I guess because both Hema Malini and Raakhee are at their most gorgeous best. 'Ram aur Shyam' because Dilip Kumar is astounding.

Amitabh Bachchan does not do that well in 'The Great Gambler', both Jai and Vijay look and behave in the same way. Shahrukh Khan does much more with his double role in 'Om Shanti Om'.

Somehow I can't seem to remember that many double roles in Hollywood films, except the twins in 'Parent Trap' and of course, the roles were played by twins. Though I love Baby Sonia in the Hindi take-off 'Do Kaliyan' better.

I suppose The Star loves himself so much, and we love The Star so much, what could be better than 2 of him in the same film? 9 or 10 of him?

* Drawing from 'The Star' series by Teja 
Most of these links will take you to 2 of my favourite blogs, Beth loves Bollywood and Filmi GeekMy other favourite, Memsaab Story has not written about any of these movies. How come, Memsaab? Anyway, this triumvirate of women between them have an impressive list of Hindi films that they have reviewed. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

the rabbit and the raft

P-Bapu had a few preview screenings of his film 'Khargosh'. Teja has shot the film. A lot of times at private screenings, people make polite noises and slink off quietly. While we may hold forth censoriously on big-budget films on our blogs, all of us are too well aware of the difficulties of making films on low budgets, lower than The Star's bath water budget in the Alps (only Evian, good for the skin), to make smart aleck remarks after a trial show.

But after 'Khargosh', a lot of the people wanted to hang around for a while, chatting, making occasional remarks about the film as it sank into their consciousness. Some people grouped up and left together to drink away the evening, and presumably talked of the film amongst themselves. A little bit, at least, one hopes.

A lot of the audience at all the 3 screenings was from FTII. I, being a two-pice member of Khargosh's unit, doing what I love best, making wise-woman comments on other people's work, hung around at all the screenings. Watching FTII mates before and after the film, I thought this is what brings out the best in all of us. Going to the movies.

We may argue in the most pedantic way about the smallest issues on our wisdomtree mail group. We may run each other down malevolently when we are working together. We may get most nostalgic only about our drinking bouts and our subsequent brawls, passing them by word of mouth from year to year, as the stuff of legends. (Witness Tanmay's film 'I love the friends I have gathered here on this thin raft' - A tongue in cheek look at the FTII fraternity at the Wisdom Tree Film Festival)

But we are all shining faces and solemn grins when we go in to watch a film. That moment when the auditorium lights go off, and the screen lights up, is the moment we all forget the frustrations of working in Bumm-Bumm-Bhole-Land, the anxieties about our career paths, the middle-of-the-night musings on whether we should not have listened to our parents and become bankers, IT professionals, NASA scientists, architects, doctors, therapeutic  masseuses or whatever else but filmmakers.

It's at a screening we realize we are mates, after all. And our work matters. And our opinions matter. Even if they piss off everyone else.

OK, this includes not only friends from FTII, but everyone by default, who loves the movies. Anyone who cannot watch a film without analyzing it, criticizing it, taking it to pieces and putting it back together. Who cannot watch a film without a 1000 spoken and unspoken ideas on How One Would Have Handled That.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

recuperating or resuscitating or whatevering with the rajputs

Watching 'Rajput' through one entire evening, 4 hours on Set Max with lots of ads, but a long film, in itself. Like the viral fever all over again. Drifting in and out of stupor. Time seemingly standing still, and yet taking quantum leaps forward. Don't know if it's today or yesterday.

I went to take a call and came back to a son born and a husband come back happy now that a child that is not his has been born to his wife. He cannot help but know that the kid is not his, since he has never slept with her ever. And been away since the first night. Because he cannot forget the sight of a dead man's body over her unconscious one. A man who was kidnapping her. I do not understand, just as I did not understand the strange dreams of my feverish slumbers in the last few days. The explanation for everything, anything is 'We are Rajputs'.

Towards the end of the film, I have to check up on IMDB who the director is. Vijay Anand. I cannot believe it. Ugly rape scene with villian and victim tied together, shots of bleeding female legs, all about honour and dishonour, eew.

Teja and I sat there as if we were trapped, as if we could not switch off the TV, as if it was not a perfectly beautiful evening outside. I guess we both still felt weak and feverish and too tired to bother doing anything else.

PS: The imdb plot summary is more coherent than the film.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Left to myself

for a day, I:

1. Jump on the trampoline every once in a while for 5 minutes.

2. Drink an extra cup of tea.

3. Eat left-over dal dhokli for lunch, and plan to revamp left-over rice into masala bhaat for dinner. Or better still eat only fruits. I finally order in Chinese Chopsuey. Sinful. And actually quite yucky. And something Dhanno and Teja would never let me order. Because they don't like it.

4. Load more music into my iTunes library and spend chunks of time entering track names, album names, artist names, genre, my rating details.

5. Look at the photos on my desktop. Mostly shot by Teja.

6. Join up Bloglines and add feeds of some of my favourite blogs. Until I get fed up of so much organizing.

7.Clean the Mack with disinfectant. Even the tangle of wires at the back.

8. Watch part of a Jeetendra-Babita film. Aulad (1968). All about lost sons. Achala Sachdev always seems to play a mother who is very vulnerable, needs a lot of attention, and yet someone who can be very selfish, very much into doing the socially right thing. Someone very real. Was it only the roles she got, or something she brings to them? I watch her closely, the way she sits, looks down, looks up. The way her sari is draped. She seems like someone I know. Like a lot of people I know.

9. Almost fight with Teja over the phone. About something very silly. Then decide it is too silly. Call back pretending I did not almost fight.

10. Queue up a whole lot of old Hindi films on our Bigflix account. Since Teja is not around to laugh at me.

11. Watch almost all of 'Jab Pyaar Kisise Hota Hai' (1961). Until Dhanno comes in and makes me pack up. The chemistry between Dev Anand and Asha Parekh is great, specially in the song 'Yeh Aankeh Uff Yu Ma'. * Sizzling. Makes you want to fall in love again. Dev Anand was 38 when he did the film, but I can discern no difference in his look from his earlier films. Asha Parekh was a sweet 19.

12. Oh yes, did a bit of writing too.

* Deepuvel's YouTube homepage also has some of the other songs from the film. Worth a watch.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Humble Mosquito

Yesterday, Teja scolded me for sitting on my script, in the hope that it would hatch into a film with my body warmth. In 2 months, I have sent the script to 2 producers. They haven't got back to me, and I have not followed up, too polite to chase.

Both producers are not-big.

Teja thinks I should approach AC, SK, AK, KJ, to produce the film. He thinks if I need to get immune to rejection, I might as well start with the big guys and work myself down.

Perhaps I need lessons from the ubiquitous mosquito who can find its way into even the hermetically sealed life of The Star. As long as I don't get swatted.

* Drawing from 'The Star' series by Teja.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I know what I did last week

Was thrown over the edge of the world wide web by my internet service provider. A terrible week when I realized that I simply needed to blog everyday, compared to my average of two blogs a week in a good week.

Around 50 calls to the call centre, service centre and even the head office. Each call picked up by a different person. Explaining the case history each time. And getting a similar response from each person. 2 minutes, 2 hours, by noon, by evening, first thing tomorrow morning.

Someone finally realized 2 days ago that there was a problem with the modem. I've been given a temporary demo modem this evening which works ever so slowly. No fun at all.

Right now, I have a house full of kids. Dhanno's 15th birthday party. 23 kids. I've cooked biryani - chicken and vegetable for around 50 people I think.

So will post in more detail next week. If I'm not thrown off again. And we've washed all the dishes.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Faced with a deadline,

1. I decide I have to read Trollope's 'Orley Farm'.
2. I cook a huge meal, rajma-rice, masala aloo, grilled chicken, rice kheer.
3. I watch 'Kashmir ki Kali'.
4. I feel ill, feverish.
5. I want to scrap everything that I have written so far. Who wants to read this crap? Does it make any sense at all? Is it meaningful? NO.
6. I take photos in the rain.
7. I spend evenings analyzing myself.
8. Find new blogs to link to, and new networks to join.
9. I use the Thesaurus option as I have never done before. Using four words where one would do. I just want to reach the 100,000 mark as soon as I can.

I hope my editor is not reading this.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Traffic Jam

When I say: "I'm sure, there must be a traffic cop ahead, Teja. I'm telling you. They always create a jam."

- Sometimes Teja clenches his teeth and wonders how many more times in his lifetime, does he he have to listen to this statement?

- Sometimes he laughs affectionately and wonders, how many more times he has to listen to this statement in his lifetime.

- Sometimes he replies patiently: "Banno, what has the traffic police done to you? The poor guys stand all day in this noise and pollution and keep things moving."

I say: "No. They don't move their hands fast enough. So they keep one lane going. And all the others block up. Simple."

When we do pass the traffic police performing their antics at a busy crossroads, I smile triumphantly and say: "See, I told you so."

When we don't pass a traffic policeman, but a perfectly legitimate reason for a traffic jam like an overturned truck or a pair of cows confabulating in the middle of the road, Teja smiles triumphantly and says: "See, I told you so."

All said and done, I'm hoping that if Teja draws more traffic jams, he'll be less angry when we are actually stuck in one.

* Drawing by Teja

Thursday, August 07, 2008

All you people out there, please call.

Dhanno goes through my cell phone and says: "The last message you sent someone was 2 days ago."

I say: "So?"

Dhanno says: "I suppose when you are old, you can't just send messages to people like 'Hey, how you doing?' "

I say: "Why not?"

Dhanno says: "People might think you have no work."

I say: "It's not that, really. It's just that I have no friends I want to send messages to like that, everyday."

Dhanno says: "I feel so sad."

I say: "You don't have to feel sorry for me, just because I don't have people to text messages to."

Dhanno says: "I am feeling sorry for myself. What if I don't have a daughter like me, when I grow old? What will I do?"

I say: "So you think my life is pretty sad without you?"

Dhanno says: "Don't you think so? You write about it like that on your blog. You know, Life's punches, and all that."

I say: "That happens to everyone. Things go wrong some times. Doesn't mean your life is sad."

Dhanno says: "Is that necessary?"

I say: "What?"

Dhanno says: "For things to go wrong?"

I say: "No, but they do. Sometimes. It's OK. It would be crazy if nothing went wrong ever, and I was as sweet at 43 as you are at 15."

So, now I know I am old, friendless and pathetic.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

staying at home this weekend

Have decided not to watch
Ugly aur Pagli
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
and am feeling very relieved.
Not to mention
the 1000 odd rupees
I will save.
Can't speak for the middle of the week though
When the urge to be in a theatre
and eat popcorn
will overcome me.
And Teja.
And Dhanno.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Don't we all look rather stuck?
Sometimes, life feel likes that, too.
Then, I guess, you just have to wait for the tides of the Brahmaputra to come rolling in.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

word count

I am doing 377.58 words a day.
When I should be doing 5000 words a day
By all accounts.
Or at least a 1000? (Me, desperate!)
But I write 479 words
And delete 122.42.
So my total word count divided
By number of days
Averages out to
fewer and fewer words a day.
That is
Not counting the 1000 odd words
Like these
That I needn't write
at all.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rolu and Polu go abroad. Alone. Without me.

Rolu and Polu were invited for a business meet to an island resort in the Phillipines.

I, suspicious as ever, say to Rolu: "What kind of a business meet is that? Why are they paying for your air ticket? And Polu's as well?"

I say: "You know, anyone can set up an impressive web page. Or get a journalist to write nice things about them. But will you call up a few people and check if this company really exists? That it's not a front?"

I say: "Empty all your bags, check them thoroughly and then re-pack them, before you come back. What if someone slips in a packet of drugs in your bag when you are not looking?"

I say: "What if the person you are going to meet asks you to bring back something for him? What are you going to say then, haan?"

Rolu says: "I won't accept anything unless I open the package and see what is inside."

I say: "Will you please not wander around at night? It's a strange place, after all. A strange country."

I say: "And don't drink too much. Better still, don't drink at all. If you have to drink, come back to your room and drink, OK?"

Dhanno says: "Rolu Mamu is not a kid, Mama."

I say: "Yes, I know."

He's taller than me, bigger than me. Presumably, stronger than me. But to me, he is still that puckered up, dark, ugly little bundle lying next to my mother, whom I was taken in to see at the hospital, as a little girl.

Teja, chivalrous as ever to the women folk in the family, says: "If you are so worried, ask him to go alone. Not take Polu. That way, if anything happens, he can leave, fast."

I say: "No, if anything happens, and he is alone, he'll panic. Polu is more careful."

I say: "Can you at least make a list of some references there? People you know. People you can call in case of an emergency."

So, duly fortified by more advice than they needed from me, Rolu and Polu left for the Phillipines, last week. And they will soon be back. Without having been drugged, robbed, or assaulted.

20 years ago, I would have packed my bag, and said: "Can I come too?"

But some pretty severe punches on the face by none other than Life, and having Dhanno, have made me into a real worrier. Oh well, the way my mind works, I can always get a job in TV news reporting.

Monday, July 14, 2008

As long as I can wear cut-offs,
and not have wet hems flapping against my ankles,
I am quite happy
to walk in the rain.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Scenes from the making of 'Chaman in love', no, sorry, 'Love 2050'

Mummyji: "Listen, Chaman's father, Chaman is now exactly like Hrithik Roshan. It's time now we launched him."
Daddyji: "Chaman's mother, what are you saying, is Chaman 6 ft, 2" now?"
Mummyji: "That's what I am saying to you."
Daddyji: "Oh, you deserve a diamond necklace for this."
Mummyji simpers: "No, no, what have I done?"
Daddyji: "Why, you have fed this handsome son of ours with milk and parathas, looked after him so well, made him into a strapping young man. Now see what I do. My son will blast this industry."

Dialogue writer: "Sir, I thought this can be his catch-line. 'Karan Malhotra, Age 27, Status single and ...' the last word keeps changing. You know, depending on what he is doing, sitting, standing, whatever."
Daddyji: "Good, good. But make that 'Age 23'."
Dialogue writer: "But Sir, I thought Chamanji was 27. It's there in all the papers."
Daddyji: "No, no, once we say he is 23, he will be 23. Anyway, who reads the papers?"

Daddyji: "No, no, Chaman, please don't act. You must not have any expression on your face. Please. When you make any facial gestures, you stop looking like Hrithik Roshan. So, please, just listen to what I am telling you. No, no acting. You can jump, swing, run, dance. Walk like a stud. Move your whole body, but not your face, please."

Daddyji: "So Chaman, there is this butterfly, who will live through the ages, and show you the way, whenever you are stuck. It works better than the Global Positioning system or Google. So, you never need to take the phone number, address or email id of the girl you love. The butterfly will find her for you, wherever she is. And when the butterfly falters, your Uncle's time machine will come in handy. Isn't it lucky for you that your Uncle lives in the same remote town as your lady love? And that he gave up his job in NASA to work on his time machine? All for you, son, all for you. After all, even God bends his rules for those who love."

Daddyji: "Chaman, Chaman, so what if the country has not changed much in the last 200 years, in the next 42 years, it will jump ahead in leaps and bounds, son, in leaps and bounds. That is technology. But you are the hero, you must not look amazed by it. You must take it all in your stride, shell houses, flying cars, cute robots, androids and all. Please, please, no expression, no expression. Poor people? In Mumbai 2050? Oh, they will be eliminated. Deleted. Maybe, they are underground. I don't know, Chaman. Stop irritating me. This is not a story about poor people. It is a story about love."

Daddyji: "So what, Chaman, if you are in a strange, futuristic city? You are a hero. Of course, you can suddenly become a rock star, and get a stage show at the top place in town. You don't need luck, you have love, after all. No, no, no. Dance as a form never changes. What Hrithik Roshan did in 'Kaho Na Pyaar Hai' is classic dance. It will remain in peoples' hearts forever. Do that, do that, just listen to what I am telling you."

Mixing engineer: "Sir, will you come soon? We have a crisis here."
Daddyji: "What happened?"
Mixing engineer: "Chamanji insists on dubbing in a deep voice."
Daddyji: "I'll be right there."

Daddyji: "No, no, Chaman, please don't speak in your natural voice. You must have a nasal twang. That is what made Hrithik Roshan a star. Yes, yes, slip back and forth from Punjabi accent to unidentifiable NRI accent. Our people love it. It makes them feel as if you are like them, fake accents give you a little-boy charm. No, no, through your nose, through your nose. Please, Chaman."

Daddyji: "Chaman, if only you had had an extra thumb. I did everything I could. But what can I do if God didn't give you an extra thumb. If you'd had it, you'd have been a super-hit, son. A super-hit. No, Chaman, the story has nothing to do with it. Of course, it's a good story. Has anyone else thought of this idea before? Getting back a girlfriend from the future, time machine and all. It's very original, son, very original. No, it's nothing to do with not letting you act. Or your nasal twang. It's the extra thumb, I tell you. That did us in. Chaman's mother, you should have thought of that. Maybe we could have done something about it, when he was growing up."
Mummyji sighs sadly.

'Chaman' is often used as a nick-name for someone who is goofy, a little dumb, a little out of it. Teja insists on calling the hapless hero of 'Love 2050' "Chaman".

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Some Tandoori Thai

Loud woman on phone: "Hey, there's this Thai actor, wants to make a Hindi film. We have to first mount 5 action sequences. Yes, those are the highlights of the film. Story - we will think of something around them. The story should be something which is very low-production value. They want to spend all the money on the action scenes. Those will be the high points of the film. What do you think? Should we do it? It sounds very exciting."

So, now you know how films are made here in Bumm-Bumm-Bholeland.

P-Bapu and I were barely able to stop ourselves from choking on the Tandoori Bekti and the Aloo Poshto at 'Oh Calcutta'.

Later, I said: "Isn't this Andheri West culture too much?"
P-Bapu said: " Maybe she was only pretending to speak to some one on the phone. You know, telling everyone in the restaurant, how busy she is."
I said, gloomily: "And maybe, they were really planning a film around 5 action sequences."
P-Bapu said: "Yeah."

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Guide

Days when I am stuck
For words,
I read old books.
Books written 50 years ago
R K Narayan's 'Guide'
written in 1958.
It was a toss between
seeing the film
or reading the book.
Films made 43 years ago
comfort too.
Even if they veer wildly away
from the book.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Trofu, anyone?

At the Film Institute, Truffaut was one of my, no, my most favourite director. The days we had a screening of a Truffaut film were extra-happy days.

But once in Mumbai, I've hardly ever watched a Truffaut film. So, the other day I picked up "Two English Girls" rather greedily from the DVD library. When we put the DVD in, I said to Dhanno, "Come, watch this. This is my 'bestest' director." She hung around. She kept giving me glances. Then stormed off and scribbled this. Which I'm posting with her consent. Which she may regret when she grows up.

Later, she asked me, suspicious as usual, if I said I liked Truffaut only because everyone said so, and it sounded good to say so, or whether I actually did. I said I genuinely did. Teja said anyway, the films were too adult for her.

I admitted that Truffaut's films may be too much for her right now, but she did need to have watched it a little more patiently. She accepted that, and said she'll see another one of my picking. She may change her view on him after all, but in the meanwhile, here is what she thought right here, right now. Spelling mistakes, rambling sentences and all.

"Trofu - Dhanno (Awestruck)

A film that was so unique differed so much story wise (considering the fact it had no story) that no person would remember that they had seen a film like this. A person may experience a certain urge to write about the film even though only 15 minutes might have passed.

Amazed to see how people dressed (always white) and spoke to each other (as if it was a hearing with the President). I was thoroughly bored. I surely noticed that they have all the time in the world to tie their hair up even though they have come down from their room to have tea with their mother.

I wonder if they ever feel they should get a job? But I think they prefer living in the house of their mother's best friend. I'm talking about a man Claude, who even after 1/2 an hour of the movie did nothing but wrote a dumb diary. He lived in that house with his mother's friend and her daughters.

The daughters also following the trend of that time (Do Nothing! is the fashion) kept flirting with the guest of the house. Claude, I think the less busiest of all played silly games with the two girls (mind you, they might be 25).

I was just getting used to the nothingness of the film when the mother of all people, gave her daughters an idea to play back to back sea-saw. Claude joined them too, thinking it was his lifetime achievement of feeling the "supple" backs of the two women. This way for obvious his only achievement, maybe. Feeling I'd had enough I got up (had to) and wrote this."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Who says you can write your own destiny?

Every day I try to forget 'Aamir' and every day, the film seems to come up in discussion, the papers or as a TV spot. For over a week, I've been trying to tell myself, it's only a film. But try as I might, I cannot calm down the negative vibes it has evoked in me.

The fact that it is shot in Chor Bazar, Bhendi Bazar, Dongri, the areas that I grew up in, where I still have family, where my family still has family and friends, makes it difficult for me to view the film objectively. In my childhood, these areas were mohallahs, not ghettoes, as they have become now.

And I wonder, how did these traditional community enclaves become ghettoes? Is it due to overcrowding and a breakdown of infrastructure? Is it due to the takeover by communal and criminal elements? Or is it due to a changed perception of a community?

The director of 'Aamir' professes that the film is the story of a common person, and how easily a common man today can become a victim of elements beyond his control.

The dangerous part of the film is how every common man from Andheri to Dongri, in fact, seem to be part of the terrorist network, connected to Pakistan, actively a part of the terrorist nexus, or at least passively aware of it. From the taxi-driver at the airport to the seemingly friendly prostitute in the dingy lodge in Dongri, from restaurant owner to waiter to STD phone booth woman, from the manager of the lodge, petty gangsters to junk-yard workers, and countless other nameless, unidentified faces, they form a malevolent, hostile and inescapable trap for any innocent.

'Aamir' perpetrates the worst myths about Indian Muslims.

1. That most of them live in ghettoes.
2. That they live in filth and squalor.
3. That they do nothing to come out of it.
4. That they eat and butcher meat, and that enhances their inherent violence.
5. That they are more attached to the larger Islamic community rather than their own country.
6. That they get a huge amount of money from outside to fund their terrorist activities here.
7. That most of them are connected somehow with the terrorists or the underworld. Actively or passively.
8. That an outsider cannot say who or who may not be involved.
9. And of course, that anyone, who makes any attempt to get out of the larger community will still at the end be subsumed by it, becoming part of the terrorist nexus due to circumstance, or become a victim to it.

These are as absurd as the myths that all Gujaratis are right-wing Hindu fundamentalists, all Biharis are thieves and crooks, all Maharashtrians are lazy, unfriendly and insular, all Goans are amiable drunks and all Sikhs are either fools or trouble-makers.

The trouble with the film is that it is very well-shot. Anyone, who has anything at all to do with film-making in Mumbai will know how difficult it is to execute a shoot like that, given the crowds and traffic here.

That combined with the narrative form of a man chasing against time to save his loved ones, in fact, does not give any space for the protagonist Aamir, to be well-defined as a character. The one dialogue that makes his stand clear, that he believes that each person can make their own destiny, that they can pull themselves out of their circumstances, gets lost in the thrill of the chase. And of course, by the countering dialogue of The Bad Man who asks if this is the destiny (that is trying to save his family) is what he has chosen.

The Bad Man however gets enough time to repeat ad nauseam his stand on the Muslim issue, spending a lot of precious time haranguing Aamir about Islam, his responsibilities to the community, his infidelity in having a Hindu girl friend, not caring enough to send money to fund terrorist activities, and so on. To the extent, that it gets one wondering whether The Bad Man is more keen on teaching Aamir a fundamentalist lesson in Islam, or he wants him to get on with the job.

Was The Bad Man seriously hoping to convert Aamir to the terrorist cause, by kidnapping his family, having him wade through shit, not letting him drink water (a very un-Islamic thing to do, by the way, because not giving someone a glass of water when they ask for it, is tantamount to a sin in Muslim households), having him beaten up??

In the same vein, it is not clear why Aamir, an innocent and reluctant man, has to be emotionally blackmailed into putting a bomb in a bus, after a complicated, convoluted journey through the city, when it would be the easiest thing in the world for any one of The Bad Man's minions to walk into a crowded bus with a bomb, leave it there, and walk away, without any trace.

But of course, The Bad Man is a dark, bald, fat, meat-eating monster who shuns light, and sits in a dark room all day. He exudes menace when he holds up a kid, and then proceeds to beat up a toy monkey. So perhaps, one can expect only illogical planning from him.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Caves and churan

Since I feel a bit like this these days, am posting these pictures of me in Mawsmai cave. 19 May 08. Teja was photographing the cave, so you'll have to peer hard to find me.

I have to peer hard to find me, these days.

Why should anyone want to go traipsing through a cave? Rather squeezing through, crawling and groping through one. All I can say it cheered us all up immensely, apart from making us very hungry.

The cave's been lit up now with artificial light, which our friends hated. They said it was much more fun in the days when you had to find your way through, with a torch. Apart from the fact of course, that the lamps are fancy, plastic flowers, which don't "match" the caves, at all.

The path to the caves too has been paved, making the whole exercise like a walk through a public garden (see the step in the picture). Thankfully, the path in the caves is not paved.

What was on sale in the car park was bundles of cinnamon sticks, plucked straight from the trees (were they? or my fancy as always?). And 'churan' made out of 'bor'. Teja bought all the churan the lady had. I found the packets weeks later in his camera bag.

Oh, by the way, the full name of the Mawsmai cave is Mawsmai Nongthymmai Elaka Krem Pubon. Meghalaya. I saved up the entrance ticket. Ha!

Churan - a sour-sweet-salty powder, usually liked and licked by kids.
Bor - a sour-sweet berry.

Friday, June 13, 2008

All work, no fun

Dhanno comes back home after a 8-hour day in school, lugging her 14 kilo bag in the afternoon sun. She is sweaty, hot, tired, cranky. She doesn't take too kindly to my invitation to fool around a bit.

She looks at me, snuggled up in bed with a book in my hand, and says angrily, "I am tired. I've been working."

I say, "I've been working too since you went to school."

She raises an eyebrow.

"After you left, I spent about an hour and a half, taking care of the plants, shifting them around, and what-not."

"That's your hobby."

"Then I worked on my script the entire morning."

"That's fun."

"Then I cooked some chicken for lunch."

"You like doing that. It's not like you have to do chemistry. Which is so-o-o boring."

"I'm not asking you to study chemistry. I'm not asking you to go to school. In fact, I've been asking you to leave school for the last 5 years."

She looks at me as if I am a hopeless case, and walks off. Nothing can convince her that what I do is work, unless I look more miserable about it.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

All nature, no TV

Dhanno said, "I don't want to see any more waterfalls. I want to see Shahrukh Khan. Now."

After a half-day trek down 1000 meters to see a living roots bridge, our friends wanted us to go see a famous waterfall, Nohkalikhai in Cherrapunjee. On Day 10 of our travels in the North East, Teja, Dhanno and I thought every where we look is beautiful, we don't want to get back into the car to see something beautiful elsewhere. Specially not if it involved the gruesome ride out of Cherra Resorts.

Teja said, "I don't want to miss the sunset."

Our friends said, "We'll reach the falls before then."

I was skeptical. Dhanno and I had spent a better part of our journey doing speed = distance/time sums. Which somehow had no bearing on the actual time it took us to reach some place.

The 10 of us squeezed into one car. Dhanno was cranky, Thoi was hungry and Namya uncharacteristically quiet. The sky had darkened and we were still 5 kms away. Which could mean 10 minutes or an hour. I removed my sunglasses. The sky lightened and held out some hope.

The kids refused to get out of the car to see the waterfall. We sent them some tea and biscuits, which they ate and slept. Teja, Bubu and Surjit took photos of the sky.

The next day, Bubu told me how the fall got its name. Nohkali loved a boy from her village. When her husband found out about their affair, he cut up her lover, cooked him and served her the meat. She found a finger in her food. She went mad with grief, ran and jumped into the valley. And the fall is named after her. I'm glad he didn't tell me the story while we were there, sipping our tea.

Friday, May 30, 2008

i'm still lazing around so ...

Twenty minutes earlier, another rhino had arched her back threateningly at Teja. I don't blame her, I'd hate snoopy photographers taking snaps of me in a mud bath. The forest guard shooed Teja into the jeep, even as Teja kept up the pretense that he could have outrun an angry rhino at 60 kms per hour.

Rihana, (named so by Dhanno), was happy enough however to pose for Teja, amidst her purple flowers. She even turned a couple of somersaults in the water, and stretched languorously for him. Or as languorously as a rhino can.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


mumbai - delhi - guwahati - kaziranga - kohima - imphal - loktak lake - moirang - tuophema - guwahati - shillong - cherrapunjee - shillong - guwahati - delhi - surat - baroda - ahmedabad - baroda - mumbai

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Poets

When Teja got a SMS that said, "Meeting at 6.30. See you then. The Poets", I said, "Hmmm! I didn't know that about you."

He said, "It's the name of our cricket team."

I didn't laugh. It's a silly, absurd, sweet name for a silly, absurd, sweet lot that meets for net practice 2-3 times a week. The rest of the week, they spend calling each other, groaning over their aches and pains.

Teja is forever rubbing liniment on his joints and patting cold compresses over them.

One night before practice, Teja asks, "Why don't you come along too?"

I say, "For what?"

He says, "The ground is really nice. You could jog two rounds, and come back home. It would be fun."

I say, "What time?"

He says, "6.45."

I say, "Morning?"

He says, "Yes."

I say, "Ha, ha", turn and go to sleep.

He says, "Plus you'd meet everyone."

I deign to snore.

So Teja brings the lot over for breakfast. Now while I enjoy making huge, special lunches and dinners, for friends, family, neighbors, Dhanno's friends and sundry souls, anyone who expects breakfast out of me, usually gets banged on the head.

But this lot is so cheerful and excited after their practice, all boys again, dirty, sweaty, hungry, tired. And I can do nothing else but laugh with them, and get them something to eat. Teja makes khatta-meetha upma and I make them tea.

Anyone who wants to play with the Poets is welcome. Bring your own liniment and cold compresses along. And your own breakfast. Perhaps I will go one morning, and take some photos.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Their very own room

I read this story at the Caferati meet yesterday. Half way through, I found my hands trembling violently, and my eyes losing focus. It's this fear of reading aloud to an audience that has kept me away for so long from the Caferati meets, despite the fact that I've found the forum a huge help in my writing. Any way, glad to say I conquered that fear yesterday. And had loads of fun. Here's the story - Their very own room.

That day, Shaku was very excited when she came to office. She hoped that Pamela would be on time today – she had such important news to give her. But she knew that Pamela was more likely to be late than early. As usual.

She looked for her in the queue outside the lift, but Pam was not there. She smiled absently at the others, and waited her turn to go up in the dusty, creaky lift, to her musty government office on the 5th floor.

She put her purse in her drawer, her tiffin under her desk, shuffled some papers in her inbox, and yet, Pamela was not there. The bell on her desk rang. Mr. Jadhav, her boss called her into his room, and then, there was no time to look for Pamela for another hour or so.

Pamela herself came up to her desk with a cup of coffee and opened a pack of biscuits at around 11. The rest of the vast office seemed deserted – everyone had gone for a break. Some were tea people, some were coffee people, but 11 o’clock meant stretching the legs a little, and gossiping for a while.

Shaku scolded Pamela for coming late.

“Hey, can’t you be early even one day? I wanted to tell you something.”

“So, tell me now.”

“Hmm. The fun of it is gone, no. I was bursting in the morning.”

“Oh ho, so burst now. Come on, what’s it?”

Shaku smiled radiantly. “We’ve got our very own room, now. Now we can get married. What?”

Pamela shrieked and clapped her hands, and hugged Shaku. “Wow, what news, men. Lucky girl.”

Shaku shook her head. “Not lucky, ha. You know how much we tried for this. Four years. Four years Tony and I are engaged, you know.”

Pamela nodded. “You have lots of patience. I would have got married by now.”

Shaku grimaced fastidiously. “No, re. I know, na, my brother and his wife. How they do all that. All of us in one room. Chchee! Like animals. I don’t like that. I told Tony I will never do like that.”

Pamela pinched her, mischievously, “Now you will do, na, in your own room? Or any more demands?”

Shaku blushed and smiled.

The marriage was lovely. Shaku wore white. Her bridesmaids wore lilac. Pamela was her maid of honor.

Pamela teased her before the reception, in the make-up room outside the hall, “Hey, virgin woman. Today last day, no. Where you going today, which hotel? No secrets, ha.”

Shaku said solemnly, “No, no, we are going home. Why should we go to hotel? Unnecessary cost. Our room is so nice.”

Pamela laughed, “Did you decorate it?”

Shaku smiled, “Yes, we put up little thermocol hearts, gold and silver, and white and lilac streamers. It looks beautiful.”

“And the bed?”

Shaku blushed, “Shut up, men. You have a one-track mind.”

Pamela snorted, “Oh ho, and what you have in mind for today, then, Mrs. Shakuntala Pereira? Choir practice, what?” They both laughed.

A big photo of Tony and Shaku glittering with tinsel was pasted at the entrance of the hall. “Lilac and white looks lovely, no?” Tony’s mother asked everyone who came in.

Tony and Shaku danced at the reception. The band played long after midnight. Tony’s embrace became hotter and hotter, and Shaku squirmed in his grasp, giggling. She was so happy, that she did not even cry when her mother embraced her, and bid her goodbye. Tony’s friends insisted on accompanying the couple to their room. Tony’s mother went along to keep decorum.

Tony carried Shaku into the house. All of them squeezed into the little room. Lewd jokes were whispered in deference to Tony’s mother being around. She passed remnants of the wedding cake around, and bustled in the kitchen, letting the young ones enjoy.

Suddenly, there was a crash. Tony’s mother had fallen. The young men rushed to her side, Tony lifted her gently and put her on the bed, decorated with lilac and white streamers. Tony’s best man called the doctor on his mobile.

Later, after everyone had left, Tony’s mother, drugged lay on one side of the marital bed. Shaku, stiff in her “bridal trousseau” nightdress, lay on the other. Tony lay near her, but on the floor. In the dark, they could hear his mother breathing. Tony pulled gently at Shaku’s toes, willing her to come and lie beside him. Shaku kicked his hand gently, and stubbornly did not move.

Tony’s mother stayed with them for a month. Shaku and Tony had not planned a honeymoon; they needed all the money they could save to pay back for their new house. They went back to work after 3 days. Shaku shook her head at Pamela’s questioning. Pamela shook her head solemnly.

Tony and Shaku met every evening at the bus stop, like they used to when they were courting. After a couple of days, Tony put his arm around her and kissed her, like he used to earlier. But Shaku pushed him away. “We are husband wife now, no. This looks so bad.” Tony and Shaku went home silently.

When she cooked in the tiny kitchen, Tony would hold her from behind, and kiss her neck. She responded warmly to him, but at the slightest noise from her mother-in-law, she would push Tony away.

Well, Tony’s mother recuperated. She wanted to go back home. She did not say much, but caressed Shaku’s cheek lovingly.

Tony dropped her off home, and then called Shaku at office. “Want to take leave, and come home? I’ll wait, or what?”

Shaku scolded him teasingly, “Very impatient, what? I can’t take half-day now. Unnecessary salary will get cut. You go to office, also. We’ll meet at bus stop. OK?” Tony agreed reluctantly.

At the bus stop, Tony said, “We’ll go home in taxi today. Come.” He dragged her, they sat down in a cab, laughing, exhilarated, finally to be going to their own room. They hurried upstairs.

Outside the door, they saw a suitcase. They looked at it suspiciously. At the end of the corridor, a silhouette smoked a cigarette. The person turned and came forward.

Tony yelled, “Oh, Dino. You. Where did you land up from?” Dino and Tony hugged. Shaku opened the door. Dino said, “I called up Aunty. She gave me your address. I just landed from Dubai, man.”

Dino’s luggage had got stuck in the customs at the airport. He had to get it out, before he pushed off home to Goa. Dino was Tony’s school friend. Of course, he would stay with them, while he sorted out his customs problems.

Shaku got busy cooking. Tony and Dino had a few drinks. Tony and Dino slept on the bed, Shaku slept on one side on the floor.

Dino stayed for a week. While leaving, he gave Shaku a gold bracelet, a wedding present. The bracelet was too large for Shaku, but she thanked him. Tony was going to leave Dino to the railway station. They gave Shaku a lift to the office. Tony told Shaku, “Take half-day today, no?” Dino laughed. Shaku glared at Tony.

Tony was not at the bus stop that evening. Shaku went home. Tony was lying on the bed. She snuggled up to him, thinking he was sulking. He was burning with fever. Tony got chickenpox. Shaku slept on the floor, Tony slept on the bed. During the day, his mother came to give him lunch, while Shaku went to office. Tony got well after 15 days.

Pamela asked Shaku everyday, “What? It happened, or no.” Shaku would get irritated at Pamela’s insistence on knowing. But she shook her head, not being able to lie. Pamela frowned with sympathy. Shaku tried to avoid her as much as she could. Pamela was hurt.

One day, Pamela came to office with a swollen eye. Her stepfather had beaten her again. He was a drunkard and beat Pamela’s mother regularly. Once in a while, Pamela got some of his blows, for being her mother’s daughter, or just for coming in his way.

During lunchtime, when Shaku asked her what had happened, Pamela sobbed and sobbed. She did not want to go back home. Shaku, outraged, asked her to come home with her. Pamela grabbed the opportunity eagerly. “Really, really, I can come? I’ll stay only for a few days, till I find a room of my own.” Shaku nodded.

Shaku and Pamela slept on the bed, while Tony slept on the floor. Tony and Pamela crossed each other awkwardly near the bathroom, or near the kitchen. Tony was withdrawn with Shaku. Shaku would try and hold his hand at the bus stop, but he would jerk it away. He did not even try very hard to get a seat next to her, in the bus, like he used to earlier. Pamela looked desperately for a room, but after a month of trying, she decided to go back home.

After office that evening, Shaku and Tony were alone at home. Both were silent, tired. Shaku slept on one side of the bed, Tony on the other, both turned away from each other.

The next day, Tony hugged Shaku as she made breakfast. She kissed him eagerly. She whispered, “Let’s take leave from office today.” He held her close. The doorbell rang. It was Tony’s mother. Her toilet had got blocked. The landlord would repair it after a week. She could not live there until then.

And so it went on. People walked in and out of Shaku’s very own room. Very often, other people besides Tony and Shaku slept on their very own bed. Tony and Shaku worked hard all day, all year, for many years to pay off the housing loan they had taken for their room.

Shaku learnt to kiss Tony in the kitchen when no one was looking. Tony made Shaku laugh again. Somehow, in a couple of years, Tony and Shaku even managed to have a baby, and then after a few more years, another one. The little room was painted several times, and every day, it became brighter and cleaner with Shaku and Tony’s care.

 Batul Mukhtiar, April 2008

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Gangster’s Moll (sheer nostalgia)

Much before I joined the Film Institute as a student, I began to go there as a reluctant actress. I was flattered at first by the offers that came my way, but soon realized that in the conservative town that Pune was then, the Film Institute with it’s reputation of rowdy, ‘junkie’ students was not exactly one where parents were keen to send their young daughters.

However it may have been, I found myself doing all manner of incomprehensible things in the Tarkovsky-Bresson-Godard influenced student films. “Walk, no, more slowly, more slowly, walk to that window, then look out, then turn slowly, no, more slowly, and smile.” That was the least of it.

I spent one evening floating on a makeshift raft in the middle of a make-believe pond in the ancient Studio No.1.

Another day, I was put to playing the guitar. Since it was the first time, in my 23 years, I was holding one, I did what most Hindi film actors do, plucked away on the strings with huge gusto, swaying my head, my shoulders and arms in what was meant to be musical involvement. I wonder now how the director hid his horror, though I’m certain the crew went back to their hostel rooms that evening and bitched about what an idiot I was.

Once someone wanted to recreate Vermeer’s paintings in his film, and I spent a week, reading letters at a window, and pouring milk from a jug and so on.

So, when I did become a student at the Film Institute, and had some voice in the proceedings,

and Gurpal, the irreverent, wicked Sardarji decided to make a spoof on Hindi films as his diploma, I begged and pleaded to be the vamp in his film. Being one of only six women in a campus full of boys, I knew there would be a role for me, but what I wanted was to be the gangster’s moll, nothing else. I’d had more than enough of playing strange, mysterious women, whom I knew nothing about. Gurpal, perhaps out of pity, agreed.

Out came the bottles of make-up that I had hoarded all this while, out came the eyeliner, and the mascara, and the shiniest eye shadow I could find. I worked out elaborate designs for my hair, for fake moles and fake tattoos. I went scrimmaging in the musty, forgotten trunks inherited by the Costume Department, from the Prabhat Studio, which no one ever used any more. I found odd, jangly, grotesque bits of jewellery, masks, eye-patches. I rummaged for shiny, satiny costumes, and wondered if I could make holes in them,

a la Bindu

or Faryal

or Sonia Sahni,

then aware of the smelly bits of history I was holding in my hands, I refrained from using my scissors. I found a cigarette holder for one hand, and a gun for the other. I practiced crossing my legs with a mini-skirt on, and more than ever, I practiced leering lecherously at good, nice men, one of whom would be the hero, who would rather die than be tempted by me.

Finally, perched on the armrest of the gangster’s throne like chair, legs daringly crossed before the entire set, cigarette holder and gun held proudly aloft, I reached the peak of my acting career. After that role, I did not ever want to essay any other. I had been the gangster’s moll. No way you were going to catch me smiling vacantly out of set windows, onto dark studio lots again.

By the way, Teja played the hero in this film, a village boy who fights twenty villains at the same time.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


Greenbeard is a new 'artlit'zine, edited by a blogger friend, Madeleine in the Shade. Check it out.

Indeterminacy's short story, Timbuktu is goo..oo..od.

There's some stuff by me too.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A few tips on surviving film festivals, or life

1. Do your best to go with someone. Beg, borrow, steal, or call a professional escort service, if you have to. But don’t; please don’t venture into a film festival on your own. Firstly, it announces to everyone how friendless and boring you are, but more dangerously, it attracts other friendless and boring people to latch on to you.

2. If you really have no choice in the matter, and have to go it alone, then seek attention blatantly, with loads of make-up and attitude, and outrageous clothes, declaring that you are alone because most people bore you, and it’s so mediocre to hang around in mobs. Be sure to carry expensive accessories, a designer handbag and the latest cell phone. Don’t wander down to the corner chai wallah with the hordes, but buy the ridiculously expensive coffee inside the multiplex as that is all you drink. In short, do everything you possibly can to underline how exclusive you are.

3. Don’t queue up for the films; hang around pretending that you have seats reserved as a special invitee. Even if it means sneaking in after lights off, and sitting in the aisle. If you have the remotest connection to any filmmaker, crewmember or actor, who is in a festival film, be sure to attend the screening, even if it means missing the latest Jiri Menzel film. Soon, people will begin to appreciate the attention you give them, and actually start sending you special invites. People may even start asking you for your opinion on their film. Make sure to have some sufficiently abstruse comments ready. Don’t ever, ever say that you liked the film. Shudder!

4. Make sure to spend most of your time between films either in the washroom, repairing your battle paint, or on your cell phone, looking suitably annoyed and busy, as if you are warding off calls that threaten to drag you to more important work than watching films. Make sure to actually disappear for a screening or two, even if you have to spend it wandering around the city aimlessly. Take a day off; it’s terrible to be seen for all the films, on all the days of the festival. It just tells everyone that you are, as usual, out of work.

5. Please arrive in a car, preferably chauffeur driven, or a taxi. It’s pathetic to walk in, sweaty from the sun, or frizzy haired from a rickshaw drive. Leave in your own car or taxi. Don’t, under any circumstances, scrounge around for a lift. Especially if you are female. It implies you are incapable of negotiating the city on your own, after dark, and need male protection.

6. Approach and talk to people who are more successful than you. Flatter them for a while, and leave before they look bored. If someone less successful than you approaches you, talk to them with an unsmiling politeness for a while, and then start looking bored, making it clear that they need to leave you alone now.

7. Don’t smile.

8. Don’t wander in car parks, with a mistaken idea of finishing off your daily walk routine, unless you are looking for illicit sex, drugs or a quarter of rum. Exercise at home.

9. Despite all these measures, there will still be people who want to talk to you. Keep fake phone numbers, and email ids rehearsed, so that they come out pat. Unless you want to be pestered with friendly calls, text messages and emails from people you are not going to remember the next day.

10. Also keep a personal story rehearsed. There are always some types who can get you spilling out your darkest secrets. There is nothing more embarrassing than sharing a significant moment or sharing a personal secret with an interesting stranger, a potential friend, and then having him or her ignore you after the next film, because they are talking to someone more interesting than you. It cannot be emphasized enough, you must learn to ignore people before they ignore you.

11. As for watching the films, do watch a few. Preferably those with the longest queues, most sex scenes and most awards. If you must, catch up with the other films on DVD, for party conversations. Remember a film festival is not about watching films; it is about being noticed.

12. Learn how to shout “You f….ing bastard” every time a cell phone rings in the auditorium. Cluck-clucking or muttering to yourself in frustrated rage is ineffectual and old-womanly. Don’t sit next to old people, as they usually don’t know how to switch off their cell phones. Or young people, who have taken an oath never to switch off their cell phones until they die. Keep your own cell phone switched off.

13. Cultivate journalists, all breeds. They come in very handy, whether it is to create a buzz around you when you need it, or getting you the invite to the closing ceremony party.

14. However, if you are not invited to the closing ceremony party, pretend you are not going, because you find these events so boring. Imply you have better things to do. Hint that those better things are with Shahrukh Khan. Make sure you don’t do that in front of any real friends of Shahrukh Khan.

15. Good luck!

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