Thursday, June 28, 2007

Pichchurr Hall - Bheja Fry

I am a great fan of Vinay Pathak and Ranvir Shorey, after their amazing show in Khosla ka Ghosla and saw this film only because of those two. Otherwise I usually avoid movies which suffer from such a huge identity crisis that they do not know which language should the dialogues be in.

The premise is rather new, a rather irritating Income Tax babu, with pretensions of being a singer comes across this rich businessman whose idea of weekend fun is getting such people to perform in front of his friends for a laugh.

The detailing is also quite good. I particularly liked the use of the plastic packet that makes a hell lot of noise every time it is opened or folded back up, to the extent that even I got irritated after Vinay did it for like the umpteenth time in the movie. Question for the trivia geeks: How many times does Vinay Pathak open and close his poetic autobiography?

Vinay's expressions are also hilarious for the most part, his sneak peek at people close by as he sets the combination lock on his suitcase, being a favorite of mine.

As I mentioned before, one of the biggest irritants of this movie is the flip flop between english and hindi between the characters.

Milind Soman is adequate in his role of the guy who loses his love to his friend and is now helping him search for her after she is missing, and is suspected of having gone to someone else, in search of love.

What Saarika is doing in this movie is beyond my comprehension. Surely, she could have found a better role for a comeback? The only benefit of doubt I can give her is that she might be strapped for money after splitting with Kamal Hassan and did this for the moolah. Though how much money she could have got from such a low budget movie is anybody's guess.

That brings me my biggest peeve with this movie. Whatever the hell Ranvir Shorey was thinking when he decided that the expression that he carried throughout the movie was the most hilarious, it was certainly not so. In fact, he looked such a crude caricature of absolutely nothing that I could have banned him from acting ever again. Surely, a cricket crazy Income Tax clerk who is doing a favor for his office friend and rival in cricket fan-dom could be played with more panached and a nuanced portrayal? Just a twisted face and a funny walk are not enough to bring the laughs out in an audience which has come expecting some subtle humor laced with witty interludes and sparkly dialogues.

And this is precisely what is wrong with this movie. The makers have promoted it as a subtle comedy, appealing to the high brow and yet have made large parts of it in a way that can only be appreciated by the relatively lower strata of society. Needless to say, the movie becomes a sad medley, a perfect example of the sum being much less than its parts.

Brilliant in parts, pathetic in others, Bheja Fry comes true to its name.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Her Royal Highness beckons, again

All right. Its confirmed now. I am finally travelling to the UK, again. This time it will be on my Work Permit, which took a bloody long time to get amended to reflect the change in client name.

This time around, I will be based further north in Manchester city, and expect it to be much colder than it was around London and Norwich, where I stayed the last time I was in the UK.

I will have my own apartment too with Sky, Plasma TV, Wifi Broadband and a rather nifty kitchen too. My favorites among all the amenities are the wifi and the bathtub, of course.

I will be posting pics of my apartment, as well as Manchester too, as soon as I can so keep your eyes peeled.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Losing our identity

I was going to Allahabad from New Delhi by train a few days back. Usually this would be one of the many night trains on the route which would mean that I go to sleep within an hour of the train moving from the station and wake up when the train has already entered Allahabad district, thus leaving me with only enough time to wash up, pack my stuff and have a nice hot cup of tea from the vendor in the train before the train pulled into the station and it was time to get off.

However, due to the rather short time span at my disposal this time, I was forced to take a day train, which meant that I boarded the train at about 8 in the morning and covered the entire stretch in full daylight. Since I had parked my posterior right next to the window, by virtue of my lower allotted berth, I got an opportunity to look at the countryside racing past us and this sent me into a revue of thought. This being summer, the countryside outside resembled the area around my ancestral village in Bihar, and I couldn't help but lapse into nostalgia.

When I was in school, every summer vacation we used to pack our stuff and the entire family would go to our village and spend about a month there. While it was certainly not a comfortable existence, what with no electricity or tap water, we never really noticed the shortcomings. Whether it was the relative young age or the sheer excitement about being in a different place, we actually enjoyed the fact that we had to draw our own water from the well, eat our food while sitting in the courtyard in the light of a lantern, or go out in the field for morning duties, or bear the stifling heat all day, it was fun all the way.

Almost eveything in a village is different. Things which you would take for granted, like paved roads, shops for everything, medicine stores, doctors, access to telephones, televisions, cars and bikes, bread & other bakery products, soft drinks, even basic electricity, are absent. There are no drains laid by the municipality because there is no municipality. And yet, there is a sense of order, an invisible system that our cities do not seem to have been able to develop even after decades of trying.

While we struggle to wake up even with the aid of alarm clocks etc, village folk are able to wake up every morning on time by the sheer device of sleeping in the open. The moment there is a bit of light, your brain automatically signals to the body that it is time to wake up and off you go, ready to start a new day.

The brisk walk to the fields, pretty much the first activity of the morning, has its own benefits too. It gives you the time to wake up fully and get your thoughts in order, gets the blood and oxygen flowing into the limbs as the morning's fresh air starts circulating in your lungs,
and also allows you to chew the daatun, the brilliant rural toothbrush, into fine bristles.

A quick glass of tea, consumed with fresh rotis, (no bread remember? ) and milk, would be the perfect energiser for the day. It is this similarity and simplicity in routine that ensures that almost the entire village heads to the fields, withing minutes of each other.

The walk to the fields, along village alleys, most people walking barefeet on the earth, rhe feel of alternating patches of hot clay, wet earth, green grass, dry grass and even pebbles, is something indescribable and I still cherish it.

I used to love running up to the river that flowed by right outside our village and splash about merrily in the water all day. The water was very clean, quite unlike the Ganga and the Yamuna in Allahabad and it was hours of endless fun, exploring the river bed. I still remember seeing a crab one such day and running to my father, scared shitless at the sheer ugliness of the thing.

The way the trees swayed in the fields, the sheer joy that we felt at climbing the mango and jamun trees and eating their raw fruits while perched on top, the frequent admonishments received for taking such risks, the taste of litti chokha, or for that matter anything cooked on that clay stove, fired by dungcakes, the awesome feeling of sleeping in the open with a brilliantly lit sky to figure out all night, the soothing sensation of the early morning breeze as it caressed us to wakefulness, the thrill of eating at night, not being able to see clearly in our plates, the glee with which we just ran about the village with no fear of anything or anyone, the running into anyone's home and always getting something to eat, ah, I am rambling, aint I?

That experience of rural life is an important part of my life and has gone a long way in shaping me into the person I am. I wonder if our children will have any chance of experiencing the same and fear that in most cases, the answer is going to be in the negative. As we chase increasingly western lifestyles, with the incessant emphasis on convent education and using the summer breaks for vocational training or learning some other skills like music etc, we are almost certain to not be left with time for going to our villages and spending any length of time there.

I suspect ours is going to be the last generation with significant exposure to the rural life. And this is likely to widen the chasm between rural and urban India even further. It will become even more of a 'us vs them' scenario due to reduced levels of understanding of rural India and its unique problems in the future generations.

And if that is the case, then a huge part of our culture, our tradition, our very identity will be lost. And with every passing generation we would lose a little bit more of our Indian-ness.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The magical daatun

To most urban folks, this term would be unfamiliar, even though some of us might have seen rural folk walk around with a stick in their mouth. Fikar Not ! Here is your primer to the daatun, the humble toothbrush of the villages.

It is basically a 6 inch long piece of a stem of the neem, guava, or other tree, preferably freshly plucked from the tree. To make this a brush, you chew one end for some time, until it breaks down into relative coarse britles, not far in resemblance to a painting brush with all bristles of the same length. While this is usually good enough for brushing the teeth, the more serious connoisseurs of the daatun actually go a step further and bite this whole bit off and spit it out. Then they proceed to start afresh on the daatun until yet another set of bristles, much softer and finer, make their appearance. This is then rubbed vigorously on and around the teeth and gums, pretty much like a toothbrush.

There are many variations to this final act. Some people use a tooth powder, usually red like Dabur Laal Dant Manjan, or white like Colgate Tooth Powder. Others, usually belonging to the older generation, prefer ash from the previous nights embers. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the same black sooty stuff that the dungcakes turn into after they have been consumed the previous night for cooking. And while most of you might crinkle your noses at the very thought, as an experienced user of the same, I can confidently assert that it feels far better than any FMCG created toothpaste can even dream of feeling. Yes, when the ash particles rub against the tooth surface, you can actually feel the cleaning happening.

Of course, dentists will frown at the practice and come up with a million problems with that, I would like to point out that I never saw a single case of tooth decay, pyorrhea, gingivitis or any other dental problem in anyone below 50 years of age in my village. Everyone had gleaming white teeth and were more than happy to give you a demonstration of the strength of their teeth and gums by chewing a sugarcane, many of which were amply available during summers.

As if this is not enough, the best bit of a daatun is the fact that being a stem from a tree, particularly neem, it had immense medicinal properties and the gentle massage that you gave to the gums went a long way in ensuring total dental hygiene. Trust me folks, nothing is better for your teeth and gums than a neem daatun.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

journalism in the pits

This is absolute bollocks !!!

I have never had very high expectations from the Times house in terms of journalistic ethics and I really do understand their need for more masala than news in their rags, but surely this is going too far.

While surfing aimlessly through a lot of sites, I happened to reach this indiatimes page and lo and behold I see a link screaming 'Sameera may hook up with Bong guy'. Now I dont care who Sameera hooks up with and would have just moved on but for some inexplicable reason I clicked on the link and I reached this page.

Now what exactly in the article suggests that the said lady is likely to get involved with a gent from the aforementioned community is something that I leave to your intellect.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Pichchurr Hall - The Train that got Derailed

Some lines should never be crossed

And some movies should never be made.

All right, no lengthy openings to this one. A year or two back, Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston starred in a rather ho-hum movie, Derailed which had the tag line, Some lines should never be crossed.

Cut to 2007. Someone wants to make a movie with Emraan Hashmi. Now they know that the movie must be set in the Far East (Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong) , have two sultry ladies as the so-called heroines, have 2-3 foot tapping dance tracks, snatches of adultery and of course lots of on-screen smooching.

What they didnt know was what should the characters in the movie do apart from kissing and dancing. So they just looked around randomly in a movie store and came across this DVD of Derailed. Now here was a movie that was a global flop. Not many in India would have even heard of it, forget seeing it. I am not sure if it even released in India since I was in the UK around its world release. And yet it was chosen to be the source. And just to cock a snook at the intelligence of the audience, they chose to name the remake, The Train and even retained the aforementioned tagline.

I have no complaints about remaking an English movie. After all, some of Bollywood's most remarkable movies have been remakes Kaante (Reservoir Dogs) being a case in point.

However, since the producer was in a bit of a hurry and did not have money to pay an intelligent scriptwriter to craft a fine-tuned story that was inspired from the English movie, he decided that he will just copy the entire movie frame-by-frame. Decision made, casting completed by quickly roping in Geeta Basra, who is she?, and shooting started.

The worst is not over. I am one of the 29 odd unfortunate souls in the world who have seen the original movie and while I suspect it will never be recommended by either Clive or Jennifer as their memorable performances, it will also certainly never make it to any list of Worst Movie of the Decade or something like that.

It is because of precisely this reason that I fail to understand how exactly did the director of this flick manage to make an entirely dead-on-arrival movie when all the entire cast was doing was re-enact scenes from an existing movie with the same dialogues and expressions. I mean, how hard could it be to translate 80% of the dialogues from English to Hindi, the rest remain in English, and then have the cast see a scene from the original and then do the same scene again, just mouthing the translated dialogues?

And yet, master performer that Emraan is, he, and the rest of the cast, manage this seemingly impossible feat. Jennifer Aniston's character in the original atleast had some of the sex appeal and the come hither look that it demanded. Ms Basra is just plain stone faced. And Clive Owen did look tough and mean enough to do what he did in the climax. Emraan is not only not very credible doing all those things, he also looks unbelievable as the guy for whom such a girl would fall for.

An entirely forgettable nonsense, this one must not only be skipped, but also forgotten for ever.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The one thing that NDA got right

There was a time, about 7-8 years back when traveling any distance larger than a 100 odd kilometers by road was considered akin to an army posting in Siachen. You wouldn't do it unless hell had frozen over and would rather subject yourself to the ignominy of traveling in an impossibly crammed train compartment, sandwiched between stinking, paan-chewing, ill-mannered, mostly ticketless co-passengers than travel by road.

If at all you were forced to do something as unthinkable, you would do so using your own, or atleast a borrowed, car. Buses would be left for the most unfortunate and naive souls on the planet and if you met anyone who had undertaken such an arduous task themselves, you would express sympathy, incredulity,admonishment and pity, all at the same time.

It is this impression about traveling on Indian highways that I had carried since childhood and hence when I reached Kozhikode railway station on 8th July 2004 so begin the first term of my 2 year PG Diploma in Management, I was in for a treat.

The IIM campus is located about 12 kms away from the railway station and to say that the entire stretch was pristine would be an understatement. It was so smooth that even the rather narrow span of the roads and the breakneck speeds with which the local bus drivers plied their trade, failed to dampen my enthusiasm for traveling in those areas.

As if this was not enough, over the course of my 2 year stay at Kozhikode, I traveled extensively all over Kerala and nearby areas and found all roads of uniformly superb quality. This was something entirely unexpected. I was beginning to question whether my aforementioned view of Indian roads in general and highways in particular needed to be amended significantly.

However, frequent discussions with my batchmates told me that this phenomenon was restricted to parts of South-western India and should not be taken as representative of the national firmament and hence I could rest easy about my long held beliefs about road travel.

It is in this context that I embarked on the first of 2 of my recent long distance journeys undertaken by road. The first of these was an overnight journey in a Volvo from Delhi to Jammu and second was a 5 hour early morning trip in a State Transport Corporation bus from Delhi to Jaipur.

On both occasions, not only were the buses themselves extremely comfortable, you would expect that of a Volvo of course, but a state govt bus? who would have thought of that? but the roads were so good all the way that I could sleep through almost the entire journey and not once was my sleep interrupted due to a pothole or rubble strip anywhere.

Add this to recent input recieved from my friend Alok about the drastically improved condition of the Delhi - Kanpur stretch of NH2 and I am beginning to suspect that this malaise has spread far wider than I had originally feared. Its not just South India which is enjoying better roads but large chunks of the entire country and one cant help but think of the Golden Quadrangle and other related road-improvement projects initiated by the NDA government.

Sadly, they are not in power to reap the benefits, which will surely be appropriated by the incumbent UPA buffoons, and herein lies one of the most cruel dichotomies that afflict Indian politics and government. Truly sustainable development will not come unless governments invest in infrastructure building and let market forces benefit from the same. But infrastructure building cannot be made to yield immediate results and will never compare well with populist yet regressive measures like distributing free foodgrain etc. And in a democracy like ours, it is votes, and not roads and bridges, that decide the fate of governments.

To really make the people healthy, wealthy and happy in the long term, you must think long term. But think long term and you wont be in power next term.

Terminal Illness is what this is.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Pichchurr Hall - Ek Chalis ki last local

Who thought of making this movie?

Batao !!! Kiska behooda idea tha ye ? Main uska khoon pee jaunga !!!

I mean it. I really do. I agree that India is a free country and people are free to make any kind of movie they want and they have a right to screen it all over the country if the censor board deems their baby fit for national consumption. But still yaar !!! Koi limit hai ki nahi?

A Call center exec misses his last local, which call center does not provide transport to its employees at 1.40 am?, and decides to take an auto. He asks the sleeping auto driver if he will go to Vikhroli. Suddenly this gorgeous girl appears out of nowhere and wants to go to Vikhroli too in the same auto. Apparently she was in a party which went on for longer than expected and her friends dropped her off at the deserted railway station.

What follows next is something that can be described by just one word, bizarre. The movie, already well on its way to the bollywood graveyard, descends into utter chaos and rapidly goes down the ladder of movie grading from A to C, or even worse.

Firstly Kurla, that is the station shown in the movie, is never empty like the way it is shown in the movie. Secondly, at no time of day, or night, will you ever be in a position when an auto or taxi is not available to take you anywhere in Mumbai. And last, Vikhroli is not even so far from Kurla that one needs to go through all the drama that the protagonists in this movie go through.


Cheap histrionics, cheaper dialogues and gestures, and extremely crude references make this movie utterly disgusting to watch.

And why does everyone want to cast Neha Dhupia as a prostitute? Even though, she has done a passable job of it, and I cant help liking her, its getting boring and she must consider refusing such roles.

To sum it up, dont see this, dont let anyone see this and contribute to any campaign to ban such movies.

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