Sunday, June 24, 2007

Of Monsoon Showers and Dying Dosas !!!!

So the monsoon has finally announced its arrival in Mumbai with a bang. People awoke on Sunday morning to the sound of thunder, gloomy skies and heavy showers. For people who were anyways planning to chill out at home, it couldnt have been better news !! For the unfortunate souls who had to keep meetings and appointments, it sure would have been a curse. (Have called couple of my friends over for lunch and they are actually turning up, all credit to them !!!!)..

With nothing to do this morning, spent more than the usual time browsing through the Sunday newspaper. One particular article sure caught my attention (do not have a link for it here, sorry abt that). It talks about how traditional Udipi eateries in Mumbai (particularly in that South Indian haven of Matunga) are finding it tough to survive amidst obnoxious tax rates, shortage of cooks from down south and a clientele slowly but surely moving the pav bhaji and pizza way. Infact, they talk of such speciality eating joints shutting down in the next decade or so unless they reinvent themselves into a all-under-a-roof style, thereby compromising on their core strenghts. For someone like me who has spent two years gorging himself on the masala dosa and coffee at Mani's Lunch Home or on that wholesome lunch at the Rama Nayak's, it is nothing short of sheer catastrophe. One hopes that better sense prevails on everyone concerned (frm the government as regards taxes and the common junta rediscovers the joy of idlis and utthapas) and these bastions of Udipi culture and cuisines continue to survive and flourish. As regards me, its time to increase the frequency of visits to Matunga !!!..

Also, todays newspaper carries a short interview of my favourite RJ Mallishka. Also, the first time I have seen her snap. She surely rocks in her show, Morning No 1 !!!

Signing off on this post, hope to be more frequent than once every week on this forum !!..


Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Big Boss ???

A large part of the newsprint and airtime in the media the past week has been dominated by that phenomenon from Chennai and the release of his forthcoming blockbuster. I call it blockbuster, because, if the media reports are anything to go by, its no longer a question of whether 'Sivaji' would be a hit or flop. The only question is, how big a hit ?? The debate in the media (and not just the sensation-loving Zee News and Aaj Tak, but also NDTV and their breed) was whether Rajnikant had been treated unfairly by the rest of the country and has been unfairly denied his rightful place amongst India's superstar clan. And, oh yes, the inevitable comparisions between Rajni and the Bollywood Badshahs were all over the channels. As far as the people in question were concerned, both played politically correct: Rajni calling himself a King and Big B the Emperor, while Mr. Bachchan lauded the heights reached by the former bus conductor.

In this context, today's article in the DNA provides interesting insights into the debate over 'Who's the Boss ???'. For me, the key line in that article is : "Earlier, you used to rush to the loo only during the commercial break in an Amitabh flick. Now, you rush to the loo during any commercial break, and be sure that an Amitabh commercial is on air". Surely, there can be no comparison between the two. Someone who does 7 movies a year + endorses around 25 brands simply cannot be the The Boss. The larger than life aura simply wanes off. You simply do not look forward to the release of his next movie. Now consider a person who appears in a movie roughly every two years. Who dares to appear on TV not in designer clothes and shades but in a simple lungi and white shirt with hair almost unkempt. Who does not appear in all-over-the-place commercial. This is the way Rajnikant maintains that halo around himself. And his almost hypnotic smell transcends all barriers of class and caste. An office colleague of mine, an MBA at that, had nicely built the hype about Sivaji much in advance by forwarding every article about the movie. And this weekend, he is in Hyderabad to (or so he claims) catch the first weekend shows, tickets obviously booked much in advance by his folks there. Such is the sway you hold over the masses because you are choosy and careful and you know better than to over-expose yourself by appearing in every second movie and commercial. Thus, as I said, there can simply be no comparison.

Rajnikant rules !!!! Period.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The 'Joy' of Flying ???

I am currently in the departure lounge at Hyderabad airport, awaiting for the boarding call for my flight to Mumbai. Its been a long day and I cant wait to fly back home. But as I arrived at the airport, I was greeted by an announcement of a 20 minute delay of my flight. I only hope this is the first and last announcement regarding my flight. But as I write this now, there are constant announcements, all saying the same thing : "XXX Airlines regrets to announce a xx minute delay in its flight....". And besides me, the lounge is absolutely packed with hardly a seat to spare. And many are already getting upset with the endless delay announcements. This led me to think: is flying really a 'joy' in todays world ????

The Joy of Flying.. is the tag line of a leading private airline in India. But is it really so ?? In reality, air travel has become a pain for most. In my childhood, air travel had great aspirational value for middle-class households like ours. I guess that still might be the case, which is why airlines like Air Deccan are surviving today. But the actual experience can be quite forgettable.

As I mentioned below, the 'experience' usually starts on arriving at the airport. I guess delays have become the norm now-a-days. A flight leaving on time is actually in a minority, especially in the evenings. If one aircraft is doing many multiple trips during the day, the delay gets added up and by the time the last trip comes, the schedule has gone horribly wrong. (Take the case of an airline which promises us good times, however their last flight from Bangalore to Mumbai is late by almost an hour always, I have experienced this twice). Then comes the infrastructure at the airports, especially at the departure lounges. The seats are woefully inadequate in most airports, the announcements are at best non value-adding and at worst, irritating, the beverages quite expensive and the rest rooms just about hygenic. This ensures that not only are you cursing the airline for the delay, but you cannot wait in comfort as well.

Once you finally board the aircraft, the next hassle comes during landing. Ask anyone flying into Mumbai during late evenings and they would not have missed the standard announcement '...delay due to aircraft congestion..', '.. we are currently 7th in the landing queue....'. Most aircrafts would circle Mumbai about twice before actually getting a chance to land. Not only does it provide for bad sight-seeing, it also is downright irritating. And traffic on the ground is as bad. The tarmac at Mumbai airport resembles something quite similar to one of the traffic junctions in the city. Infact, during my last flight, the bus carrying us from the aircraft to the terminal building actually had to brake twice on the way to avoid colliding with other buses, fuel tankers etc. Infact, one smart alec wondered if BEST drivers had been appointed as drivers for these buses.

In summary, while the proliferation of airlines and the efforts to make flying affordable to everyone is all very well, it has come at the cost of the joy and convenience of the flying experience. One only hopes that the authorities realize this before its too late.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

My favourite Hindi movie lyrics !!!!

Hindi movies have always been remembered for their music, if not anything else. Down the years, the glorious tradition of Hindi film music has always been a part of our way of life, whether it be bands playing at marriages or wannabe Kishore Kumars and Asha Bhosle's trying their luck at the dime-a-dozen talent searchs. Lyrics, to me however, are at the heart of Hindi music. Through lyrics, one can convey the whole gamut of emotions: be it love, tragedy, happiness. You name it and Hindi movies have always had a song for each occassion, that too with the most appropriate words. Great poets like Sahir Ludhianvi (the badshaah of tragedy), Majrooh Sultanpuri, Pradeep (with the immortal 'Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon') and down to Anand Bakshi, Gulzar etc. have embellished silverscreen with the most heart-touching lyrics.

Recently, however, this trend seems to be dying out. As with fast-food, today seems the day of fast-lyrics. Lyrics are churned out instead of being written (samples like 'Tu mere sapnon ki rani hui, tu meri prem diwaani hui' etc abound in today's movies). No wonder then, we remember the words of the old melodies of the 60s and 70s rather than the fleeting words put together today. But as with any dark cloud, there is always a silver lining. Hence, presenting below, are five of my favorite poems of movies released this decade. These are enough to prove that good Hindi poetry is still a part of Bollywood today.

These are, in no particular order:

1. Ladki Kyon Na Jaane Kyon Ladkon Si Nahi Hoti (Hum Tum): The fact that Men and Women simply belong to different planets has been illustrated with vivid and real-life examples. You listen to the song and realize that how true it is. Lines like "jeene ka tumko dhang sikhlati hai, tumhe janwaar se insaan banati hai " or " woh sharmati hai, kabhi chupaati hai, ladki jo haan keh de, use nibhati hai " describe the arguments and feelings between husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend. Notice the superb one-liners in between in the voice of the lead actors. Simply written.

2. Kuch to Hua Hai, Kuch Ho Gaya (Kal Ho Na Ho): Another simple but truly oustanding poem. Describes the feelings of your first time in love to the T. Sample this: 'cheeze main rakh ke bhool jaati hoon, bekhalayi main gungunaati hoon, ab akele main muskuraati hoon' or 'dhyaan ab apna jyaada rakhta hoon, sochta hoon main kaisa lagta hoon, aaina ho to dekh leta hoon'. How very true na ? I have actually had friends on campus sitting in front of the mirror and ensuring they are tip-top before going on a date. A song that anyone in love can relate to.

3. Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera (Swades): Simply put, this poem raises goose pimples. It may not be quite in the league of that stunner 'Chitti Aayi Hai' (Naam, 1985) but its still quite superlative. Now I have never gone out of my country for work but even then, whenever i listen to this song, deep down in my heart, my country calls me. Now I cannot imagine my friends/relatives working in all corners of the world not being touched by this. Friends in US, Singapore, UK and elsewhere: answer me truly. Doesnt this song pull a string somewhere deep down ??? One line that stands out: " tujhse zindagi - hai yeh keh rahi - sab to paa liya - ab hai kya kami - yunh to sare sukh hai barse - par dur tu hai apne ghar se - aa laut chal tu ab dewaane - jahan koi to tujhe apna maane - awaaz de tujhe bulaye - wohi des'.

4. Chale Chalo (Lagaan): The poem of the underdog. One that urges you to keep fighting all odds. Very well composed. 'Baar baar haan, bolo yaar haan, apni jeet ho, unki haar haan' or 'koi na ab roke tujhe, toke tujhe, tod de bandhan saare, mila kya hoke tujhe nirbal tu hi bata' . The kind of words that you want to hear when you are feeling really down.

5. Mitwa (Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna) : The feeling of denial and the pain it causes have seldom been captured so beautifully. Dont we all remember the time when we loved someone but were either ignorant or scared to admit it. 'Yeh ho jai unkahi, yeh jo hai ansuni, wo baat kya hai bata !!!' or 'teri nigahen paa gai raahen, par tu yeh soche jaao na jaaon, yeh zindagi jo hai naachti to, kyon bediyon main hai tere pao' urge to let go of our inhibitions and express ourselves. Amazing song !!!

Couple of other close contenders: 'Yeh Taara Woh Taara' (Swades), Kal Ho Na Ho (Title song). Also had my Punjabi been better, 'Yaar Mangiyasi' (Kaante) might have figured in the above list.

Its not coincidence that ALL of the above songs are written by the same person. Javed Akhtar personifies good and simple poetry in Hindi movies today. Alongwith Gulzar (who comes second only because of his excessive use of Urdu - a language i hope to understand someday and hence appreciate his poetry), he has kept the flame and legacy of Sahir Ludhianvi, Pradeep etc alive.

Would love to hear your feedback and opinion regarding this !!!