Jhalak dikhla ja

Not the imbecile song by Him who shall be Silky. The new dance show that launched today, in fact just now. The format seems to be straight out of the previous “popular” dance show – Nach Baliye, which sent the whole country watching just one program during those days. So much so that sitting in Finland I got reports that this show was rather popular. When I returned back to India midway in the series and saw the furore with which families, friends, colleagues discussed the goings on of the show beamed into their bedrooms, I realised that Indian television had a “formula” at hand. I digress, but then a tribute had to be paid to the first one (in India that is, since it was also copied from an international format).

Like Nach Baliye (which has a sequel coming up anyway), this show too has the 3 judges format. One dance director, one movie director (why do they have those I dont understand) and one oomphy actress who’s better at dancing than acting. So Saroj Khan has been replaced by Farah Khan minus the histrionics. Farhan Akhtar has been replaced by Sanjay Leela Bhansali (again sandwiched between the two females). Malaika has been replaced with Shilpa Shetty (can we ever forget ‘Chura ke dil mera’). The pair anchoring the show has been lifted straight from Nach Baliye and happens to be one of the popular pairs – Archana puran singh and Parmeet Sethi. Thankfully Parmeet isn’t heading over towards Shilpa at every opportunity to hug her like what he did with Malaika. The only way in which Jhalak Dikhla ja, seems to be different is that it has one celeb dancing with his/her choreographer instead of a celeb couple dancing. The choice of celebs is again, people who are not professional dancers and in some cases are rather surprising like Sanjeev Kapoor the chef!

Surprisingly I didnt see much promotion for the show, or is it because I hardly watch any of the Hindi serial channels?

Anyhow the first episode seemed to be executed just the way Nach Baliye was. Adequate hugging by the judges was there though no distribution of chillad or a guru/shishya bhashan. Since this is the first episode, the extra emotion, teary eyed people or the drama factor seemed to be absent. But I am sure it would follow once the show gains momentum. To start with, Ajay Jadeja strode in along with his choreographer. From hurling balls on the cricket field, he seems to have come down to hurling balls.. err..come down to gyrating his pelvis. Not very impressive. Then came Rati Agnihotri with a gusto, trying to recreate the “tere mere beech mein” effect that too with a costume that looked like she forgot her antlers and the tribal gong. Though I didnt see that 25 yr old effect, the judges were all praise for her effort, keeping in mind her age. Then entered the bad meanie of the KKKKKKkingdom – Aakashdeep Sehgal, sans the long hair, beard, moustache etc. He almost looked gay. He showed a lot of passion, physical strength and chemistry but forgot that he was here to dance. All that he did was twirl or swirl his choreographer around whereas everyone expected him to do something, what with those expressions and that agile body. Ended up being the lowest scorer of the day. Incidentally he was the only male dancer wearing white, all others turned up in black (is there some rule?). Then came one of the finest performances. Sultry Shveta Salve. She had the right movements, the right facial expression, the synchronisation, the enjoyment writ on her face. And needless to say she has a great figure (not that it matters, what with dilnaaz and gang coming up tops). Easily the topmost scorer of the day.

Then surprises of all surprises, we had Sanjeev Kapoor out of the kitchen for once, and onto the stage. He came dressed as a chef complete with the cap and then shed off his layering as if peeling an onion. Out came a black dress (what else) which somehow reminded me of Phantom comics. And out came even the fake moustache, peeled off yet again, like them veggies. Though he still stuck to salsa – if not in the kitchen then on the stage. And surprisingly again, he danced quite well, handled his partner well, had the right facial expressions too! Then it was Pooja Body err..Bedi, in an eminently forgettable dance number. Nevertheless she got complimented by a relieved Farah Khan who had been through the nightmare of directing her in “Jo Jeeta Wahee Sikander” and all the dance that she could manage then was, her lying on a car with the fan on. Mahesh Manjrekar strutted in with his partner. He looked like he could just stand around with a pistol blowing smoke. Surprisingly he danced well in a combination of salsa with tapori dance. He almost gave a Dev anand look while dancing in fact. And just before I thought that dancing on salsa was perhaps a requirement of the day, Jassi came in with her Babaji’s blessings and did a nice jive number. Again, she had the right dance, the right expression, the right everything. Though on a slightly lesser scale than Shveta Salve. And like all other couples, this one too ended the dance with the female falling onto the guy whilst he held her.

Like earlier reality shows, this one too gives the audience the kind of power to decide the winners, which they expect would decide their TRP’s too. Though the quality of the dances is mediocre compared to Nach Baliye. The show caught attention alright, but what with Nach Baliye’s sequel releasing soon, we would have too much dance everywhere. It still remains to be seen if these shows are gonna die out like India Idol 2 or move on to something more spectacular.

Rahul and I

Ok, the title here isn’t the Asha Bhonsle album. It could probably be the title of the picture I got shot with Rahul Bose (no, it’s not appearing anywhere here). But before I describe that foolishness here, here’s some bhoomika. On 7th April was Kitaab fest in IHC and the main reason why I wanted to go there was because one of my favourite most authors – William Dalrymple was participating. He’s a wonderful writer and is the sole reason behind my sudden interest in Indian history. Textbooks could never do what he did with a couple of books of his. I had written a review of the “City of Djinns” a year or so back and I wanted to write about “White Mughals” but then let it be. I’m currently reading “The Age of Kali”. The immense desire to meet WD in person and to be able to talk to him, was enough for me to slog in the week so as to be able to take leave on Friday. People got quite flabbergasted when told that I took leave for “this” event and that too when I am not even a writer (well not with critical acclaim at least), journalist, critic, random media person and am instead a software person. Of course the other attraction was Rahul Bose who I think is one sane actor and last but not the least, he blogs too!

The morning of 7th saw me get up quite early so as to make it to IHC at 9am from Gurgaon. I shouldn’t have made that effort because I made it at 10am and was greeted by a hall which was absolutely empty with not even the ghost of a program lurking nearby. Shortly William Dalrymple arrived and started setting up the projector with his slides for the reading of his new book – The last Mughal. I didn’t have any problems in procuring seats in the second row, right in front of the stage because the hall was fairly empty. The program started when Rahul Bose arrived “fashionably late” (in the compere’s own words). The book reading by WD started with a gusto but got converted to a sleep inducing murmur in some time. The chilling AC anyhow made me feel like curling up in a blanket and sleeping. William Dalrymple and Rahul BoseI somehow managed to keep myself awake. William Dalrymple appeared to be the bonhomous and affable guy next door. He tended to stretch on with his reading, quite unaware that he was doing so. This thing of being oblivious to it all, is what lent him a non-starry air. After the session, Rahul Bose asked him some questions related to the apparent change in the amalgamation of the British and the Mughal cultures, over a period of time. He also talked about how history takes shape by word of mouth or how it would be for our coming generation because of the difference in our perceptions and the things which are recorded down in history books. That is something I have always found rather interesting. It has also been highlighted quite well in the Da Vinci code.

One of the advantages of sitting right in front was that I could minutely see every expression of Rahul Bose Rahul Bose in deep thought(some of which I captured on my cam). I suddenly felt all school girlish about a celeb being there right in front. I also felt silly for feeling that, since clearly no one else treated him like a celeb except for the NDTV, CNN IBN and Tehelka guys. For a moment I even did the admittedly shameful thing of giving him the attention Rahul Bose with a faraway look in his eyesI had initially reserved for William Dalrymple. But in spite of all this I knew that I wanted to get a picture clicked with him. So I waited patiently till most of the “bees” had stopped buzzing around him and then I asked him if he would mind getting a pic clicked with me. He acquiesced and pictures happened. He instantly rushed out, before I could even utter a thanks, with some autograph mongers trailing behind him. That made me feel rather foolish for having given “bhaav” to a celeb. As it is, he doesn’t get a chance to get his picture clicked with me everyday.

After the WD & Rahul session there were several interesting discussions with eminent South Asian and British writers as the panelists. By this time I had exchanged my seat for a row which was way back in the hall so as to facilitate easy exit. Around lunch time when the discussion got rather boring, I thought of exiting the hall. Just as I reached the cornermost seat next to the aisle, a thought bubbled up in my head. It said, “What if I were to fall right now. This whole area looks rather precarious.”. And somehow that’s exactly what happened. My thoughts translated into reality with me wondering whether I had had a premonition or something! I had twisted both my ankles quite badly. More than the pain in my ankles, I was quite shaken up by the happening as I had actually been cautious and ended up falling. I had a feeling that for a split second there, I had hogged the limelight from the panelists and perhaps the whole hall was looking at me. I quickly did what I was in the process of doing viz. exited the hall and then collected myself. The pain wasn’t that much in the day but by evening I was beginning to walk like a wooden legged pirate. Thankfully I wasn’t driving as I had company. It took a day for the twisted ankle to get ok by using a painkiller and a muscle spray. As a result I missed the 2nd day at IHC when Goldie Hawn had to talk about her book. Since this “twist in the story” happened, I was also unable to get William Dalrymple’s pic clicked with myself. But I had managed to run into another celeb. Suchitra Krishnamurthy had a painting exhibition ongoing at IHC. And do these celebs make some dough or what! Her paintings were in the range of 2.5 Lakh + 12.5% VAT! If someone is as foolish as to leave buying a good enough car and buys a painting done by Suchitra, then he actually deserves that painting. I didn’t expect her to be there, but there she was, wearing HUGE goggles that looked like Mickey mouse’s ears, asking me whether I wanted the rate list. After taking the list I realised that it was her. I actually used to like her in her Lakme ads, but here she looked like a cartoon.

On the 3rd day of the Kitaab fest, I visited IHC for the sole purpose of meeting WD, talking to him and possibly getting a picture taken. The panel debates were rather interesting and engrossing. Soon enough William Dalrymple got free. He looks pretty much at home in cotton kurtas and all. I went and talked to him in bits and pieces with myriad “bees” buzzing around him from time to time. He even started greeting me with a “hi” everytime I pinged him, ignoring all the news channel dudes! Was I pleased or what! I also learnt that he lives right here in Gurgaon (Kapashera border to be precise). I talked to him some more and our conversation ended when eventually the picture titled “William and I” happened. A very unique and well spent weekend.

Coming soon in a theatre near you

… is a bomb blast. Last night 2 cinema halls in Delhi had bomb blasts during the show of ‘Jo Bole So Nihaal’. One person is reported dead and several injured. I was quite surprised to note that a bomb blast happened in cinema halls in the first place since the security is very strict (almost to the point of being bugging) and all necessary gadgets are available with the security checking personnel. One of the halls is Satyam Cineplex. Surprising again, since once, with just 10 minutes to the show, I had to go back home to keep my handbag, since they were not allowing even that inside. When detailed news reports came in, it became clearer that the bomb was placed in the toilet of the Subway joint right next to the main hall. It’s in fact so easy to take just about anything and leave it in any loo as long as it is outside the hall. That is a lesson to learn for Cinema managers. The other movie hall and the more affected one is Liberty in Karol Bagh. The bomb here was inside the hall.

It is concluded that the blasts had something to do with the show going on in both these movie halls. I have no idea what the movie is about and if it really is offensive. Definitely something can not be *this* offensive that people now start blasting people *watching* it! As if we already dont have enough of militant organisations to tackle, here comes another one with a chemical plastic bomb that goes undetected. We don’t even need outsiders to destroy our peace. All major multiplexes stopped screening any movies yesterday and evacuated people after this incident occured.

It would have sounded good in an ad but in this context it’s just too bad. The movie going experience is never gonna be the same ever.

Yeh Dil Maange no more 1

Long long ago, when I was a kid… (now that I have started with that dramatic bestseller line, I can continue). Long long ago, when I was a kid, I saw an ad on TV for a soft drink. That ad was for Pepsi (Yeh dil maange more – AHA days). It starred some new faces and some not so new. The new faces attained great heights. It won’t be an exaggeration to state that the great heights were achieved *because* of the ad. It starred raging heartthrob Aamir Khan, along with upcoming models Aishwarya Rai and Mahima Chaudhry. While Mahima was shown as a common girl next door (she definitely had potential for looking much more than the plain jane that she did), Aishwarya Rai was shown as this sizzling siren who asked “weak in the knees and heart going flip flop” Aamir for a Pepsi, right when he had risked limb and life for a bottle of the soft drink. That ad catapulted Aishwarya Rai into the top of the charts and even before the Miss India title she had a major fan following who believed that she would win the crown that year. This ad also found a lot of mention as a landmark of sorts in the ad world. All that was then.

Lots of years later, when I was not a kid anymore, I saw another ad on TV. Again, it was for a soft drink but a rival one – Coke. And it was being endorsed by this very couple mentioned in the previous ad – Aamir Khan and Aishwarya Rai. When I saw that ad for the first time, I saw it from somewhere in the middle. I saw that both Ash and Aamir were looking for each other with a bottle of coke in their hands and when they did meet, they looked at the soft drink bottles and at each other like longlost friends. It all gave me the impression that it’s a sequel of the landmark pepsi ad and somehow after having bumped into each other so many years later, both realised that their tastes still match and that they both prefer a “better” drink now. I found that idea pretty interesting and thought that it was pretty innovative for the agency to have made use of the fact that they were endorsing a rival product earlier (though I was not very sure if they can legally do that). But to my dismay my bubble soon burst and I realised that the ad was an insult on the name of creativity as it just showed that Ash/Aamir were chatting on some website and choose a bottle of coke as their means of recognising each other. Utterly dumb.

But this isn’t all. For some reason, soft drink ads, instead of outdoing each other in terms of creativity are outdoing each other in the “create the worst ad” department. I simply abhor the ad where Amitabh Bachhan plays a rustic boatman. It just doesn’t appeal to my senses. But then all AB ads are getting quite irritating. Just taken the sheen off him. Then there are these new ads that have recently started being aired. One has Shah Rukh Khan drinking what else but Pepsi. But the sickening part is that the ad has some horrible animation which shows the bellybutton of some females as lips (ugh) with the lips singing some stupid song which goes ‘oye hoye bubbly’. The idea is that all objects around the soft drink somehow become ‘animated’ and start hitting on bubbly – the soft drink! These myriad objects include the burger that SRK is about to gobble, SRK’s shirt pocket etc. and the idea is that ‘bubbly’ is depicted like a female with all ‘objects’ in the universe trying to flirt with it! For heaven’s sake, I wouldn’t want to drink a soft drink like that – pesticides or no pesticides! Then Aamir Khan has gone one step ahead and become Manno Bhabhi! This ad of his has a double role with him playing a dumb NRI and also Manno Bhabhi at the same time. Manno Bhabhi sets the NRI’s nakhras right with some silly desi cookery dialogues like ‘tadka lagana’ and ‘chhaunkh lagana’ etc. Though Manno Bhabhi doesn’t look very bad to look at (much better than the concept of ‘bubbly’), it fails to promote a soft drink and promotes Manno Bhabhi instead. Sadly endorsing a product is no longer equivalent to vouching for it. It’s just become equivalent to making a fool of oneself on national TV.

Reality bytes 2

What’s with all TV channels joining the rat race for making the most “realistic” TV show which would fetch them high TRP ratings? They can’t even be original to say the least. I have seen just one episode of ‘Indian Idol’, where the 3 notorious judges – Anu Malik, Farah Khan and Sonu Nigam (not looking like the apso that he looks now), dissect the personality of the so called participants. In case someone doesnt know, they are notorious for being rude. Anu Malik is the rudest. He doesnt need to make an effort. Venom spills from that forked tongue of his and he kind of takes pride in being sarcastic. Farah Khan looks as if she’s got it on her mind to be rude. She thinks, pauses, and then lets out something that would make a participant wince. Sonu Nigam is quite spontaneous &jhatpat to give an opinion and mebbe because of that he’s the least vile of the three.

When I watched it, the city where they had conducted this farce was by chance Delhi. I call it a farce because it appeared quite stage managed and certainly not reality the way they claimed. There was an assortment of participants. Some sang well, but were ridiculed by the judges. Some sang so-so but were accepted by judges on basis of their looks or because the participants were sucking upto the judges. Some were really good and were taken (but of course, it was supposed to be a talent hunt all along). Of course, some were *really* really bad and they did need to be questioned whether they were even aware of it. There was some guy who came and did some weird exercise of touching his own feet and various parts of his body in a yoga manner. The judges got really flustered (mebbe because they were jealous of this yoga flexibility) and snapped at the guy to hurry up. The guy tried a little emotional dialogue by saying that he had some problem in his body because of which he needed to do all this before singing and that they should not make fun of his problem. Beats me, how all this had any connection with his throat. Anyway, the judges didnt buy it either and snapped at him to start. The guy sang a new classical rendition of the “Nirma” ad and sang it well (mebbe his exercise worked), but he was told by all three judges in a very rude manner that he was a misfit & his choice of song was outrageous. The guy got pretty angry and started fighting with them on camera. He told the judges that he thought it was pretty rude of them to have behaved the way they did and they could have been more polite certainly. Kewl reality this.

Then, there was a woman who was blind and had especially come to audition. On seeing her, the judges kind of got overwhelmed and suddenly turned respectful (sympathy with the handicapped). The lady sang a nice number with a lot of emotion and expression and needless to say she got through, though there were several like her or better than her who got kicked out. Her “Sonu Bhaiyya” specifically remembered her from Sa-Re-Ga-Ma. Then, came a painter (prolly from Ludhiana). And no, this was not the MF Hussain variety. This was the hanging-in-some-makeshift-jhoola-painting-house variety. Again the judges warmed up (sympathy with poverty). This guy sang an amazing Mohd. Rafi number and for once the judges were all praises. Then, there was some guy, who was just ok, not really great with a Shaan song (and Shaan songs are what he sang later too), but he kept flashing a sweet (according to Farah) smile all the time. He got through (I feel) because of that.

There were a couple of others who sang ok or well, but got kicked out for no apparent reason. Newspapers mentioned some lady, who took the whole venue by storm because her daughter was ungracefully thrown out of the elimination rounds. I didnt witness this “reality”. One interesting statistic from the Delhi episode – the song which was sung by most participants was “Bheege Honth tere, pyasa dil mera“. Gotta get real, these singers.

Suddenly ppl’s idea of reality is to shock the viewer. “Instant recall” perhaps is the theory behind it. There are lots of reports in the papers too about how these so called reality shows are stage managed, Indian Idol and India’s best being among them. I dont even know the names of the various such clones on every other alpha, beta, theta channel.

US has already started showing reality shows where wives exchange their ‘oh-so-boring’ husbands for a week. In other words, swinging is just a game now. Temptation island was another. Soon this stuff would be all over the country, in desi flavour. “Slurp” would say the couch potato generation. Is it a surprise that they cant distinguish between the real and the idiot box variety of life?

Given a chance, I would like to start a reality show of mine. “The Great Indian Cookery Show”, I would christen it as. Compared to these oxymoronic unreal-reality shows, at least *there*, I would know that if the nymphet-like-cook-with-the-pearl-drop-like-tears is crying, it’s for “real”, because she’s peeling an onion.