Monday, January 19, 2009

Lakshmi in pink

Lakshmi (Shabana Azmi) started well enough in 'Amar, Akbar, Anthony' (1977), enterprising, feisty, in bellbottoms. Luring eager, lecherous men into dark corners to be hit upon by her stepbrother (Ranjeet) and his goons. Turned out that she didn't really want to do this work. Her grandmother meanwhile protected a set of gold earrings meant for Lakshmi's wedding from her stepmother (Nadira), and seeing this, Inspector Amar (Vinod Khanna) was convinced that Lakhsmi was a good girl. Promptly, he invited her grandmother and her to live in his house, and promptly they agreed.

The next we see her, she is wrapped up in a sari, demure, picking Amar's washing from the clothesline, while he swings on a hammock, book in hand. She looks longingly at him, he sings of love, looking not at her, but at the sky. Though later, he does consent to sit back to back with her on the porch, while it rains outside.

The next we see her, she happens to be on the same road where her stepbrother is kidnapping Jenny (Parveen Babi). And like all true blue Hindi film heroines, she runs towards trouble and not away from it. She hides in the trunk, to be caught moments later by her smarter stepbrother.

The next we see her is as a reluctant bridesmaid to a reluctant bride Jenny.

And in the end again, demure in a sari, family photo time.

For a fortnight, the vision of that bridesmaid would not leave me. Every time I closed my eyes, I would see a woman in pink. Shocking pink. A pink gown, a pink train edged with white frills trailing behind her, a pink veil pinned on her head, with bunches of pink lace flowers on either ear.

She looks trapped, helpless, in a state of shock, very, very unhappy in her pink dress. She looks like a kid who has been told that the school bell is never going to ring again, and she will never be let out of the classroom. She looks like she is about to burst out crying like my brother Rolu on his first birthday, hot and scratchy in too-much-finery.

She has reason enough to cry. She's pitched against Parveen Babi who looks glamorous in whatever she wears, lemon yellow, or postbox red, with matching hats, handkerchiefs, purses and shoes. And Neetu Singh, who couldn't care less what she's wearing. Shararas and burqas are not a big deal for her, since she's even carried off checked shirts, high waisted polyster pants and square eyebrows with her bubbly charm.

I wondered how long I was to see this pink before my eyes. Until I saw blue.

Lily (Sonia Sahni) in 'Andaz' (1971). Now Sonia Sahni was a glamour icon for me in childhood, and I longed for the day I could wear dresses with holes in the unlikeliest places like her. Sadly, that ambition was fulfilled only once.

Anyway, so when she appeared at Badal's (Roopesh Kumar) party, wearing a gown made of blue Banarasi silk, I grinned with pleasure. The halter back was pretty tame, as also a small round hole on her belly. But what had my eyes popping out were the slits on both thighs that almost touched her waist. While she lurched around drunkenly and even cavorted brazenly on the floor, I went into super-protective Mom mode, wondering where are the shorts? Is she actually wearing a thong for this number? I hope she doesn't flash.

Badal however remains indifferent to her seductive charms, since he has 2 firangi babes on his arms, and even one firangi girl serving drinks, and several other firangi couples smooching around the room. Fed up of her throwing herself at him, he pushes her across the room.

However, the next morning when his pal Satish walks into his bedroom, as people in Hindi films usually do, Badal in bed, with a girl snugly ensconced on either side gives a super-quick glance under the blanket and asks: "Where's Lily?"

What? Or what?

I'm wondering what I made of this when I saw this otherwise sweet, family film at the age of 6.

But at least, the woman in blue has made the lady in pink go away.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

i'm gonna 2-time

Flabbergasted by my comment on my last post 'Copy Chris, Paste Ghajini' that I quite liked 'Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi',

My brother Rolu called me and said accusingly: "So you liked 'Rab ne'?"

I hemmed and hawed and defended myself sheepishly: "Well, you know, we saw it on New Year's day, and it was sort of just right for an evening after a hangover, quiet and simple."

He said: "It was worse than 'Ghajini'."

I said: "No, 'Ghajini' was so violent. 'Rab ne' was not."

And Surinder Suri in his polyster checked shirts and polyster pants, with the goodness of a loving provider, reminded me of my father, and of course, I am a sucker for anyone who reminds me of my father, and I cried and cried lots.

And I knew that Taani would choose Suri, rather than Raj, as any girl with any sense would,

and I loved that moment between Bobby and Suri, when they are drinking and Bobby passes out, and Suri says wistfully, 'We were having so much fun'.

What to do? It really didn't matter to me that Suri was rather idiotic in his attempts to woo Taani with a lame makeover, because we are allowed to do idiotic things when we are in love,

and Hindi films are full of idiotic disguises anyway, which are such great fun.

And I just like SRK better than AK.

Rolu said: "Well then, we can ask Teja-bhai to shave off his mustache, and you can start having an affair with him."

Not a bad idea that.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Copy Chris, Paste Ghajini

Teja decided to take Christopher Nolan with us to see 'Ghajini'.

I said: "Is that a good idea?"

Teja said: "Well, it's a copy of his film, so ... "

I said: "Yes but, do we have to be the ones to tell him?"

Teja shrugged: "It's too late now. I have already asked him."

I said: "Then you'd better sit in the middle. I'd like some distance between us when he starts getting angry."

A long note on short term memory after the opening credits totally went past Chris who was still shuffling around in his seat, excited at being in an Indian cinema house.

The opening scene with a computer graphic map of the brain, and a medical college lecture that went "The brain is the king of all organs. The brain controls all the other organs" invited a small snort from him.

Medical student Sunita finds a file on Sanjay Singhania. She pretends interest in his condition of short term memory but actually she thinks he's cute. Her professor rightly judges that and asks her to stay away as SS is a police case. 'But, but ... ', she says. He glares at her, she looks down meekly. She wonders what SS is doing right now.

SS was on a killing spree.
He took out his Polaroid, Chris gasped.
SS made notes, Chris stopped breathing.
SS went home, Chris made a small gurgling sound when he saw the maps on the wall.
SS went to the bathroom, and a note asked him to remove his T-shirt. His 6 pack body was revealed with tattoos all over it.

* Drawing from 'The Star' series by Teja 

SS's eyes popped out, and he made growling animal sounds. Chris's eyes popped out, and he made growling animal sounds.

He flung himself out of the chair and stomped out. Teja's tub of popcorn was scattered all over the floor.

I hissed: "Does he know that cost 65 rupees?"

Teja remonstrated: "It's not a huge amount for him. And he's angry right now, Banno."

I said: "I don't care. Go get me more popcorn. And get him to pay for it, if you can."

Teja found Chris stalking before the uniformed boys lined up before him, in their uniform 'Ghajini' haircuts.

"What's with this haircut?", he was saying. "Do you know my film is about memory and how it plays tricks on the best of us, and how it's the basis of the identity we create for ourselves, and who we are, and all that? What's this hair got to do with it?"

Teja calmed him down and said: "Haircuts are an important part of actors' performances here, Chris. They are crucial to the actor's interpretation of the character."

Teja led Chris back to his seat. I skulked in the furthest corner of mine, keeping the new tub of popcorn well beyond his reach. Chris was better behaved for the rest of the film though he continued firing questions at Teja every few minutes.

1. Chris: "Do ad agencies in your country work like this? With in-house models who get promoted to head model if they have rich imaginary boyfriends?"

Me: "I wish."

2. Chris: "There is no photo of Kalpana in SS's diary. Then how come the police officer who is reading the diary know what Kalpana looks like? How come when Sunita reads SS's diary, she too knows what Kalpana looks like?"

Teja: "Because Kalpana was a model. She did the Hamam soap ad. She was famous."

3. Chris: "Are those tattoos? They look like they have been written with permanent marker pens. No, they don't look like tattoos."

Teja: "They are meant to be tattoos. So tattoos they are."

4. Chris: "Why is this Ghajini character such a sidekick? Isn't he supposed to be the main villain?"

Teja: "He's the star's friend. And all the star needs is a sidekick. He doesn't need a powerful antagonist who may steal the show away from him. It's all about the star, Chris."

5. Chris: "Is this Sunita chick dumb? Which psychiatry student asks a patient - 'So what happened to you? Did you get hurt? Who hit you with a rod? Who killed your wife? So sad, no.'"

6. Chris: "Is this Sunita chick dumb? Instead of going to the police, she goes to Ghajini, has a look at his slimy self, and the 6 goons behind him, flourishing their knives and their knuckle-dusters, and says - 'Sir, I think I should warn you, this mad man SS is going to kill you.'"

7. Chris: "Is this Sunita chick dumb? When SS has had his tattoos wiped out and can hope to start a new life, she reminds him of Kalpana's murder, and provokes vengeance in his heart all over again?"

8. Chris: "Is this Sunita chick dumb? She leads SS to the villain's den and then says - 'Hey, I think we should come back another time. This is so not safe.'"

Teja: "Her brains have seriously been affected by studying very hard to get 97% in the Board exams so that she could get admission in medical college, and then listening to such illuminating lectures as 'the brain is the king', so forgive her, Chris."

9. Chris: "Is this Kalpana chick dumb? When confronted with Ghajini in the middle of the night who tells her that he has just cut 2 girls to pieces and will do so to anyone who threatens him, she answers him with - 'It is because of people like you that girls cannot go out of their houses. Who all should girls protect themselves from? Their teachers, their bosses?' Then she turns and walks away, and goes back home. And he lets her?"

10. Chris: "Is this Kalpana dumb? When her police informer tells her that Ghajini is going to kill her, and that his people are already in her house, she uses a power failure to go further into the house, rather than just leave from the door right behind her? She doesn't think to call or SMS anybody for help? Not the police? Not her innumerable friends? Not her boyfriend? And of course, like all the idiotic members of the audience who never switch off their cellphones, she doesn't think of doing that either."

Teja: "Chris, Kalpana is an angel. She helps people cross the street, and gives them street directions, and gets them jobs and such like. She has to die. And if to die, she has to be dumb, so be it. She is too good to live. She cannot, must not live. That's the rule, you see."

11. Chris: "Is the police informer dumb? Why does she wait for Kalpana to reach home before calling her?"

12. Chris: "Are the people in SS's employ dumb? When he was normal, a convoy of 4 BMWs accompanies him even when he goes to pee, and when he is ill, all they can manage is an ineffective, 'Why don't you come back home, Sir?'. No bodyguards, no nurses. They just leave him to roam around mad on the streets, killing people?"

Teja: "Maybe the manager wants SS to die and get a hold of all his money?"

13. Chris: "Is Ghajini dumb? He is the owner of a huge pharmaceutical factory. Why then does he indulge in small, sidey rackets? And even if he does, why does he get down to street fights with iron rods, instead of hiring people to do his dirty work?"

Teja: "Because those are his roots. He's a humble man, he hasn't forgotten his roots, where he comes from. He believes in equality, he believes in getting his hands dirty. He wouldn't have his men do anything that he wouldn't do himself."

15. Chris: "How come the police woman knows the details of Kalpana's death, if she was not there herself, Kalpana is dead, and SS has lost his memory? When SS regains consciousness, who reminds him about Ghajini, and sets him up in Kalpana's flat with the essentials like a walker and a punching bag, for those crucial 6 packs?"

Teja: "It's called poetic license, Chris. Suspension of disbelief. How else can you make a film, or watch it?"

By then, Chris was convinced that 'Ghajini' was a better film than his own. Thanks to Teja's patriotic defense of Indian cinema. Chris was also convinced of the merits of copying. After the film, he stalked off with bulging eyes and puffed up face, like SS.

I said wearily: "Is he going to copy that now?"

Teja said: "Yes, he's even going to get the 'Ghajini' hair cut."

I sighed. I knew I should have concentrated on my own abs rather than go to watch someone else's photo-shopped ones.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

1st January 2009

After 6 glasses of smooth red wine made in Nasik, bought in Goa, consumed in Malad,


a mainly-qawali night from our very own 'fairly talented when drunk' troupe


coming home

when one man was already jogging in Goregaon East, a woman in Saibaba Complex was feeding some stray dogs, and a man outside another gate was tying white rags around a couple of stray puppies to protect them from the cold,

and another man in a lungi, plastic bucket in hand, was on his way to finding a private corner for his morning ablutions on Western Express Highway,


before going to sleep, first packing up the leftovers of palak paneer, rajma, mutton curry and peas pulao, cooked for 25 people, and eaten by 10 to the capacity of 5, because everyone had stuffed themselves with liquids by 2 am,

I am not really at my scintillating best, so I shall content myself

with wishing all of you a Happy New Year

and excuse myself for all your posts that I have not read yet.

Maybe tomorrow my head won't be throbbing quite this much.

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