movie/play/event/book review

By the moon and the stars and the sky

The prominently evident flavour last weekend can be described in one word – spontaneous. After seeing a rather pathetic movie which finished at 1:15am and ended up giving me a headache instead of laughs, it was time to freshen up a little. I digress, but here’s a one word review of Malamaal weekly – “bakwaas”. This important event of “brevity in its real element” having been put aside, I shall now proceed to describe the wonderful spontaneity that ensued.
1. I wanted to see the sunrise in the hills since long now.
2. I have been to and lived in, various Jhumri tallaya corners of our country but never Rajasthan/Jaipur.
3. If I am awake that late, there’s no way I can get up by the time sunrise happens. Except if I never sleep to begin with.

Put 1, 2 and 3 together and you know what followed. After a quick “camera-jacket-sneakers-cassettes-water bottle” pickup, we were on the Jaipur highway by 2am. Well, practically I am on it every single day at least twice, but this time the destination was not yonders.

So off it was, with some breathtaking Kandisa in the middle of the night. Eerie moonlightI have said it earlier and I say it again. ‘Kaun chaday roz yeh sooraj, pawan kaun phoonke’ echoes just the sentiment I had at that time. The mesmerising moon followed us everywhere. It was almost full and there were no clouds. Everything was bathed in the full moon light. After the first toll check, small little hills began dotting the landscape. In the milky whiteness of the moonlight, all of them seemed even more pristine and untouched. Venus, shining brightSome attempts at taking the moon’s pictures got thwarted because of the sheer luminosity of it. I had been much more successful earlier the previous weekend while attending an Indian classical music concert in Nehru park, when the moon had bashfully peeped out from under the clouds. Kandisa soon gave way to Roxette. The darkness soon gave way to an eerie blue sky. At 4:30 am we stopped and had some adrak chai from a dhaba. All this, while Venus was shining brightly in the night sky. It’s a strange feeling, this exploring in the darkness business, while the world sleeps. It unites one with nature, just a little bit more, than what one would be in the daytime. It all seems to be one’s private haven, one’s private adventure, one’s private magic show. In the morning it would be there, but it would be for everyone. That is magical yes, but special – no.

Soon the milky whiteness of the night began giving way to orange hues in the eastern corners of the sky. The western corners were however unconcerned with whatever was happening on the opposite end and retained the same look. Lots of kilometers and trees went past. Finally we stopped again, just as the sky was beginning to glow a ripe golden. I tried a panoramic shot which I later stitched together. The most fabulous golden sunrise wasThe panoramic sunrise just *about* to take place along with a big moon against a blue sky, just about to vanish away like the cheshire cat’s smile. The ripple of clouds spread above the sun like a natural quilt, only enhanced the colours more. While I took a series of shots to create a panned panoramic shot, I could see the sunrise taking place in a different frame (than my camera’s) and the sun actually coming out from behind the hills as if golden butter floating its way to the top in a pan. The opposite end of the sky was of course still drowsy and birds lazily flew along, carrying wisps of brightness with them. The fabulous sunriseWith the glorious sunrise witnessed, we inched our way towards Jaipur.

On the outskirts of Jaipur is Amer fort, built atop a hill. Since we didn’t have much time to spare, we knew this would be the only “Jaipur” we would be able to see. So off we went spiralling up the hill with “Kuschel Rock” giving us company Shall we dance?over music. Never before had I realised that hills are so close to Delhi! This fact itself quite pleased me. The place was absolutely scenic and full of greenery as well as lots and lots and lots of peacocks. There were entire peacock families moving about calling out to each other. It reminded me of my childhood when my sister and I also used to go “Keyooon” along with the peacocks in ChandiMandir and they would reply back with equal enthusiasm. We spotted a lot of peacocks Stretching by the moon!dancing too. Soon we came to a clearing from where the splendid view of the valley below was visible. Wisps of cloud hung in the air over the town and over the palace in the middle of a lake. Typical Rajasthani stuff. We reached the gates of the Amer fort soon but there was nobody to greet us except the longtailed long..err.. langoors. They made quite a picture, perched on a tree against the fast vanishing moon. The fort would have opened at 9 am and we were already there before 7am. But with enough of happiness and smugness collected for one day, we set back towards Delhi.

I drove on the way back, with speeds between 120-140kmph. Glisten carefullyMore smugness followed. I promptly earned myself some ma-behen gaalis like “Michael Schumacher kee maa” and “Narain Karthikeyan kee behen”. But in the end, nobody can ignore true excellence and I got a compliment on my excellent driving skills when we landed in Gurgaon by 11:30 am and promptly went to 32nd milestone for a brunch. Surprisingly I wasn’t drowsy even after a night out and eventually slept after 36 hours. All in all, a great funfilled weekend which I shall always cherish for all times to come. But this wouldn’t have been the same without my friend who actually was spontaneous enough to get up and go all the way to Jaipur in the middle of the night, who was patient enough to stop and watch each time I felt the urge to click pictures, who let me drive his car, and who also listened to entirely my choice of music. For all this praise that I am showering on you, I am sure next time you would let me visit Chowki dhani and let me buy some nice mojris too :p.

Taxi No. 9211 FAQ

(“Frequently asked questions” for the uninitiated)
Spoiler warning – Plot revealed

2.5 out of 5. Good timepass. At least one doesnt feel that the money went waste.

Who all are starring?
Nana Patekar, John Abraham, Sonali Kulkarni, Sameera Reddy. Sonali is wasted. Sameera? She was there for just sashaying in and out of John’s life.

What’s the storyline?
After the first half full of funny potshots and some myriad startling shrieks (the aim of which isn’t quite clear), the second half gives one a feeling of watching “Iss raat kee subah nahi”. John Abraham and Nana Patekar keep trying to outdo each other, using every means in the dictionary. Ultimately they call for truce and realise that they benefit each other by helping each other. Nana Patekar gets his lesson on how to be a good husband/father and John Abraham realises that money isnt everything though it sure attracts everyone. For good measure, Piggy Chops (the name is now so popular that this is what is mentioned in the cast) is thrown in for John Abraham once he’s lost everything, but gained his senses.

Can John act?

Is John HOT?

Can Sameera act?
No way.

Is Sameera HOT?
Undoubtedly not.

Who has contributed most to the movie, acting wise?
Well, as usual, Nana Patekar was his usual hyper and sarcastic self. The rest of the cast just reacts to his crazy potshots in the first half and his attacks in the second.

How’s the musical score?
After waiting for the entire movie duration, for the much promoted song (Meter down), I got it only after the movie ended. There was another eminently forgettable song, when the story takes the expected climactic turn. At the end of the movie, (Meter down) is growled by our very own John Abraham and Nana Patekar. But one does not understand why the background score consists of those startling shrieks. Was it a horror movie that I was watching?

Who are the extras?
Priyanka Chopra (aka Piggy chops) and Sanjay Dutt (lends his voice for some initial narration). Sonali was roughly wasted the same way.

Corny scene?
Both Nana and John happen to have their birthdays on the same day. Of course, the movie was all about that day.

Mumbai. More Mumbai and more Mumbai. Only Mumbai. Mumbai-ites would have a nice time figuring out where they were during the shooting.

Fast. Racy. Speedy.

Good. Especially the one where (supposedly) John Abraham has to dodge oncoming vehicles while rolling on the road.

Point to Note?
The producer must have some insurance agents as his friends. The number of vehicles destroyed or damaged in this movie is quite noticeable.

Do I go and watch the movie, now that the finer nuances are revealed already?
Do. Especially if you want a roller coaster ride. One repeats those too, you know.

City of Djinns

The “City of Djinns” doesn’t need any introduction. Neither the book nor the mystical city. William Dalrymple, born in Scotland, visited India around 1989 and stayed for 4 years during which he penned the book – ‘City of Djinns’. This book won the Thomas Cook travel book award. This is the story of one year in our very own city – Delhi, the city of Djinns. Djinns are supposedly another race like us, fashioned from fire, spirits invisible to the naked eye – one needs to fast and pray to see them.

William Dalrymple describes Delhi as “Full of riches and heroes, a labyrinth city of palaces, open gutters, filtered light through filigree lattices, choke of fumes and whiff of spices”. He unveils the ‘seven dead cities’ of Delhi in his book, the current being the 8th. Some even count the number as 15. These are nothing but a representation of the number of times Delhi has been destroyed and rebuilt. There are pieces of history lingering in every such city. Different areas of Delhi, preserve different centuries, even different millennia. Punjabi immigrants (form the recent day Delhi), old majors in Lodhi garden, old city eunuchs speaking courtly Urdu, Sadhus at Nigambodh ghat (depicting Indraprastha – first Delhi from Mahabharat) all form Delhi. Indraprastha was invaded & burned and yet it rose like a phoenix from fire, like hindus believe.

WD’s landlady for these 4 years was Mrs. Puri, a sikh from Lahore, expelled during partition, lost everything, rebuilt from scratch (like most punjabi immigrants). Her husband who was intermittently senile (he went crazy since 1984 Sikh riots), firmly believed that Mr. William had kept some mules ‘upstairs’. WD’s book talks about his experiences as a foreigner in this city – unused to domestic help and traffic snarls, his trysts with MTNL (which he called ‘an empire dedicated to beuracratic obfuscation), Delhi marriages which go on throughout the night, festivals like Holi, Diwali, Id, Dussehra and the fervour with which these are celebrated. WD goes on to talk about the 1984 riots, the partition and how these incidents affected people. The account is interspersed with amusing wit where his sikh driver – Balwinder Singh – points out ‘eye candy’ on the streets (clearly something WD is totally unused to) or tries communicating in his limited english resulting in some humourous misunderstandings. WD describes Shahjehanabad – the city established by Shah Jehan. He also visits Karachi where they asked him about certain ‘gullis’, or whether the streets still looked the same as before partition, (through whatever was left of them in their memory). There he meets the author of the book ‘Twilight in Delhi’ – a very good and accurate account of Delhi before the partition. Karachi itself looked very similar to Delhi – reconstructed.

People in Delhi believe in a certain prophecy that whosoever builds a new city, consequently loses it. History vouches for the same. Pandavas, Prithviraj Chauhan, Feroz Shah Tughlak, Shah Jahan are all examples of that. WD moves on to describe Lutyens Delhi and specifically its architecture. He gives accounts of someone who had seen it being built as a child. Events like the persian massacres of 1739 and the British recapture of 1857 are woven into his historical account. He writes about Nadir Shah and the British Resident – Sir David Ochterlony – who lived like a Moghul. He beautifully highlights the cultural amalgamation that followed in terms of the architecture in this era in ‘Dehlee’ and ‘Hurriyana’. Till date, the British residency supposedly retains some part of the mughal architecture (the moghul ruins on which it was built). WD also happens to read the letters from one particular British Resident – 183 years later at the same desk at which the resident wrote them. He writes about Angloindians, who suffer the worst racial prejudices of Indians and the British Both.

His culturally rich, amply researched and historically lush account mentions a lot of aspects of all cultures that Delhi has seen – for eg. Kabootar Baazi – a sport prevalent in old Delhi, Eunuchs and the way they exist. He talks about historical figures like Shah Jehan, Dara Shikoh, Aurangzeb, Roshanara Begum, their related history and their associated establishments – Shahjehanabad, Aurangabad, Roshanara Bagh, Shalimar Bagh etc. He writes about how Aurangzeb ousted his favoured brother Dara Shikoh and crowned himself in Shalimar Bagh, beheaded Dara Shikoh and sent his head on a platter to an imprisoned Shah Jehan just before his prison meal. The barbaric nature of the Moghuls is clearly evident through several tales.

This book also brings to light several interesting things to the unaware reader. Apart from the cultural, historical, architectural narratives, it contains things which I am sure many of us never knew. He mentions that the Britishers are to blame for diverting the ‘Jumna’ and laying in its place a main road so that the Mughal pavillions in Red Fort look out not to a source of water but onto a road – MG Road, one of the most noisy and polluted stretch of the Ring Road! WD also interviews Fakeerah Sultan Begum – the great grand daughter of Aurangzeb(!) who’s still alive and talks about Delhi as “her” city.

A ‘must read’ is a mild description for this book. More than a book, it is a time travel machine which takes you back several years and several centuries without never really leaving the present. It makes you realise that you were unaware of such treasures in your own backyard all this while. This enriching and informative book makes history look like an interesting dream where some bits are still fresh in my mind, bits where I experience the thrill of discovering something, some bits are sadly erased permanently and I am unable to recollect them and then there are still some, which I am trying to recollect, by digging deep through my memory. I want to know more by exploring whatever I have today. Something that textbook history could never achieve. Go ahead and read this book for accounts of Ibn Batuta’s travel adventures, Yunani medicine, Hakims, Hindi Gaalis!, Nizamuddin saints, Elusive eunuchs, Djinns which got captured, Kaurav’s capital – Hastinapur and many more interesting things while I take a copy with me to revisit Shalilmar Bagh, Roshanara Bagh, and Begumpur (On way to Mehrauli) where Mohd. Bin Tughlak had his palace. Not every city has a spirit of its own, but djinns or no djinns, Delhi does.

Page 3

Spoiler warning – plot revealed

It was just by chance that I went to watch this movie. I was really not interested in watching P3 even though it had been given a good rating by the papers (journos really identified with it or what?)

Anyhow, my reservations had to take a backseat when we decided to draw a lot and select the movie for a team outing from office. The best I could do was to draw the lot myself, which I did. Few hours later, I was watching Page 3 at PVR Gurgaon.

The movie has no crisp storyline as such. The first half is just about a snapshot of the life of a P3 journo. Young and ambitious as they come, Madhavi (enacted by Konkona Sen Sharma), goes to all P3 dos, fashion shows, gliteratti parties, you name it. People are nice to her. Of course, they want good press. The movie shows life the way it is. Madhavi has 2 roommates – Pearl (enacted by Sandhya Mridul) who is no non-sense, practical and knows the way Mumbai works, and Gayatri (enacted by Tara Sharma) – a lost lass from Delhi, in Bombay to try her hand at movies. The plot reveals the superficial lives that social butterflies lead, flitting from one party to another, bitching about each other, screwing anyone and everyone who they could manage to “lay” their hands on (age no bar, gender no bar), air kissing, name dropping… the works. One can make out a lot of characters shaped out of known P3 regulars, be it the police office who’s more at parties and at filmsets than at his own thana or area of jurisdiction, the lady who writes novels on what else – sex, the gay fashion designer, the director with the casting couch, the hero sleeping with young, nubile, wanna be’s. But there are a few other people in this otherwise “artificial” mix, who are genuine, like the honest Inspector Bhonsle (Upyendra Limaye) who tries putting an end to crime in his own way, the journo Vinayak (Atul Kulkarni) who works in the same paper as Madhavi, but on real stories rather than superficial party dos, the odd socialite who does social work whether or not there are journos to write on her. The movie gradually proceeds with Madhavi’s love life blooming with the struggling model Tarun, pragmatic Pearl hitching a millionaire, so that she is served to rather than *she* serving ppl (as an air hostess) and Gayatri finding love in a successful hero who impregnates her as nonchalantly as he would swat a fly. Madhavi is gradually disgusted with all that has been happening.

Post interval, she decides to do meaningful journalism like crime reporting, instead of smiling plastic smiles whilst watching the plastic lives of social butterflies. She gets trained under Vinayak. Just when she thinks that things are becoming more meaningful, she discovers that her model boyfriend has been screwing a gay ‘makeup man’ friend of hers. She takes this in her stride along with all the other things which disgust her. One fine day she witnesses a blast. The misery, helplessness, blood, gore, bhaichara, all affect her deeply. She realises that life is not a party and blurts the same to the police officer who she encounters as a cover up journo in a P3 party. One night when Vinayak is out covering other cities, she gets a tip from an informer. She ropes in the inspector and goes on to expose a child abuse scandal involving a major tycoon, who happens to sponsor her paper. Needless to say, the news never makes it to the paper, the proof gets destroyed and she gets sacked. Life moves on, and she learns that one must “try to change the system while being a part of it”.

The acting is generally good. But the actor I like most is Sandhya Mridul. I found her better than Konkona Sen. Atul kulkarni is also good. Boman Irani (as Madhavi’s editor) is wasted. Soni Raazdaan looks awfully old. There are lot of P3 types who play themselves like Suchitra Pillay, Dolly Thakore etc. Upyendra Limaye is also good and there were times when the audience started clapping/cheering. I also liked the driver bunch who keep talking about their saab/memsaabs.

The soundtrack is good. I registered only 3 songs out of which one was pure torture to the ears, referred to as “truck driver” song in the movie. A deep, thought provoking “Kitne ajeeb rishtey yahan par” – has been sung by Lata Mangeshkar and an utterly melodious “Maar daala, Huzoor-e-aala” – has been sung by Asha Bhonsle.
The movie can make you cry and make you laugh. Basically shows what life can be all about. Overall rating – eminently watchable.

Bride & Prejudice – a review

Gurinder Chadha has all the characters from ‘Pride and Prejudice’ . She has tried to indianise everything. So Elizabeth Bennet becomes Lalita Bakshi. Her elder sister Jane becomes Jaya (pronounced as Joya by her love interest), Mr. Bingley, the love interest of Joya becomes Balraj, Liddie (one of the younger sisters) becomes Lakhi, Mary (yet another younger sister) becomes Maya. Lalita’s best friend becomes Chandra Lamba from Charlotte Lucas and last but not the least, the sloppy, weird relative trying to woo Lalita metmorphoses (into an ugly creature nonetheless) from Mr.Collins to Mr. Kohli.

The first scene shows Aishwarya Rai trying to sit pretty on a tractor. Typical case of the beauty and the beast. Here one should note that the sister no. 2 in “Pride and Prejudice” (Elizabeth) is a trifle less good looking than the others (if I remember correctly), but clearly here, the situation is quite different. Gradually the story moves towards the great indian wedding taking place where Lalita and her sisters happen to meet the best man (Balraj) and his phoren friend, Darcy. Of course how can one forget Balraj’s sister who generally behaves like a “cunt” in Balraj’s own description of her. The story has Lalita disliking Darcy right from the beginning because he seems to prefer “high standards”. Meanwhile she falls for another firang she happens to meet in Goa – Wickham, who happens to know Darcy & tells her stuff about him, which makes her dislike him further. Equally or rather more infatuated with Wickham is Lakhi, who’s just a desperate teen out to impress guys. Jaya and Balraj are getting closer to each other in every way imaginable. No, the movie is all prim-and-propah!! Forget any intimate scenes, one doesnt even get a glance at the actual colors of the swimsuits these ladies wear. I am surprised we didnt have the typical bollywood scene of two flowers touching each other to signify that love is blooming. In between the comical character of the plot, Kohli, arrives and is all set to woo Lalita with his sloppy ways, only to be rejected by Lalita but accepted instantly by Chandra, Lalita’s friend, as a ticket to a better life. Here I must mention that Sonali Kulkarni as Chandra, looks quite horrible in indian attire that this movie made her wear. One is finally relieved when she starts wearing westerns in firang land.

In all this while, Lalita has begun to like Darcy but later realises that Darcy for some reason dissuaded Balraj from his Joya. Wickham kinda lures Lakhi into eloping with him and Darcy helps Lalita get her back. This gets him not only brownie points but he also scores a hit. In the end we see Darcy/Balraj getting married to their Indian sweethearts.

The indianness factor figures high on Gurinders list, but it keeps clashing with the fact that this is supposed to be an international movie and the soundtrack is completely in English. Not even a single Hindi/Punjabi song. Moreover the songs sound weird (at least to my accustomed ears) on hearing english lyrics being mouthed on familiar hindi tunes. The background score mostly seems to include only professional western classical singers and their voices just do not gel with most of the indian faces in the movie especially so in “A Marriage has come to town”. Though “No life without wife” and “Show them the way” are still tolerable. Ashanti’s stint in Goa is also not impressive, where she struggles to blurt some heavily accented Hindi in her otherwise English song. Maybe the international junta would have a different take on the musical score. I dont know if there’s an english musical score in “Balle balle, Amritsar to LA” – the hindi version of the movie. It would sound quite drastic to have proper English songs in a hindi dubbed version!

Though the movie does have the masala from typical bollywood movies, Ash’s acting is nothing great. In fact it looks quite artificial. The expressions she makes are not spontaneous. I didn’t go there expecting another spontaneous and very natural Jess Bhambhra from “Bend it like Beckham” but this cold, unnatural, non-spontaneous act wasn’t expected either. She was better in “Taal” and “Hum dil de chuke sanam”. The humour is also a little lacking in this movie considering that it’s a Gurinder Chadha movie. The scenes with Kohli are replete with slapstick comedy, but that’s that – it’s slapstick. The nagin dance by Lalita’s sister, takes everyone by surprise, the audience in the movie itself as well as that in the hall. Overall a masala movie but I would have rather waited for it to be shown on cable than especially checking it out.