Practically A Movie Review – Happy New Year

 

The ONLY reason to look forward to Diwali this year

The ONLY reason for looking forward to Diwali this year

There have been a few occasions in the history of India when the entire future of our great nation has hung precariously, and then toppled over to the wrong side. Like the time centuries ago when both the British and the French wanted to stake their claim on our land. But then Le République lost, dooming us into becoming tea and rusk eating philistines when we could have been la wine and la cheese connoisseurs instead. Or, when Pandit Ravi Shankar discovered the Beatles, brought them to India and turned them into hippies swaying to ganja tokes sitar notes. The wily fox then, instead of beseeching the Liverpool Lads to stay on and absorb our culture, decamped with them to the Evil West. Imagine the possibilities had the Beatles chosen to forgo Notting Hill for Pali Hill, and become Bollywood music directors instead – the best heroines of the times, from Asha Parekh to Madhuri Dixit, might have swayed their wide hips to the tunes of Lennon-McCartney instead of Laxmikant-McPyarelal.

Of course, there have been other times when a national tragedy was so catastrophic that even God sought to redress the wrong He had instigated. One such calamity had occurred a couple of years ago on the sidelines of a major awards function when a Biiiiiig Star (who is not called Raj or Rahul in real life) exchanged blows with a film-director-husband of a choreographer-turned-film-director. That unfortunate episode had instantly transformed a Karan-Arjun-type blood-bond into a Godfather-like feud where the two parties (including their spouses, friends, servants etc.) exchanged venomous barbs like – ‘His six-pack has six times more acting talent than the rest of his body parts combined’ and ‘No one has ever walked out of a movie theatre unimpressed with his film because, well, no one went inside in the first place’ in gossip magazines.

Ouch.

Well, you can imagine the ramifications the ShahRukh Khan – Shirish Kunder War sought to wreak on Bollywood, nay the entire nation. Hostility between them could mean only one thing – that the country was now doomed to a protracted phase of collaboration between Kunder’s wife Farah Khan and their other favourite Akshay Kumar. Remember Tees Maar Khan? (Of course you do. No one ever forgets their first prostrate / gynae exam) What if that was just the tip of the iceberg, the start of a string of sequels, the next being Untees Maar Khan? Then Atthais Maar Khan, then Sattais…? By the time we would have hit Shoonya…

Such disaster, and that too so soon after India had just eradicated Polio and Kamaal R Khan!

Anyway, like I said, God the Merciful slapped Himself into His senses, and SRK and SK kissed and made up. Farah Khan immediately booted Akshay Kumar out of her psychedelic dance floor and signed back ShahRukh instead. And, so, here we are, a few short months later, with a brand new film called Happy New Year. Scheduled to be prematurely ejaculated two whole months before New Year.

The dazzling promos are all over YouTube. Clearly, the film is a remake of Sholay, though no one is saying the obvious in as many words. The trailer is absolutely unfunny, because it would be laughable to make a funny one about an unfunny subject – the revenge of a man who has lost everything.

Here is the plot –
Thakur Baldev Singh, known as BS (played by SRK) has lost two things most essential to live the life of a normal man. No, not arms, for those can be easily replaced with prosthetics in the 21st century. BS has lost much more than mere limbs – he has lost his Looks and his Senses. Understandably, he is super pissed about it, and so he tries to keep his mind (whatever little of it is still functioning) occupied by working on his 8-pack, streaking his hair blond, crinkling his forehead, and dancing like Miley Cyrus. Classic symptoms of a mid-life crisis, even though BS is no more than 32 years old in this film.

One day, Daku Gabbar Singh (or GS, played by Jackie Shroff, f/o Tiger Shroff) lands into BS’s village in his helicopter, and walks around in slow motion wearing a very expensive suit and a very smug smile, as if he owned the place. Ramgarh, thanks to corrupt ex-dacoits-turned-real-estate-developers like GS, has transformed into something that looks like Macau (it’s a small town in South Africa) now, where poor villagers are still forced to go and deposit their hard earned cash at the feet of the Roulette and Blackjack dealers sitting inside casinos built over flattened ravines. Obviously, no one is happy to lose money, despite the momentary joy one derives in anticipating that, maybe this time, their luck will change and the dealer will not only return them all their money, but also give them some more by way of goodwill (and interest). Alas, that is never to be.

BS, devastated to see the incessant looting of his people, decides enough is enough. He must destroy GS’s Evil Empire. The only way to do so is by dancing his way into Senior-Tiger’s den, a la Mehbooba-Mehbooba in the original, and destroy it from within. Sadly, since Helenji has now retired, BS decides to do so himself (after all, he does know how to dance like Miley). He hires two sidekicks in his battle against GS. (Remember, he can’t do ALL of it himself – he has lost his Looks and his Senses, plus he has just spent thousands getting that bleached blond streak too). Enter Jai and Veeru, played by Abhishek Bachchan and Sonu Sood, two actors who have honed their skills over decades to play Sidekicks to perfection. Both are masters of serious and comedy, even though they are most comfortable in scenes that require acting like baboons. (No offence meant to any member of the ape family)

Then there is Basanti (played by Deepika Padukone), the key motivator for BS, Jai, Veeru etc to rise and shine each morning. After Chennai Express, Finding Fanny and now Happy New Year, men all over India are bound to fall in love with her delightfully weird accent again, almost as much as they would want to take her Cleavage (OMG!!) home to meet their mothers for ashirwad. As everyone knows, endless tales (both on Twitter and in newspapers) have been written about the Beauty and her Bust.

The film also stars Boman Irani, who plays either Ramu Kaka or Dhanno the horse, it is not absolutely clear which. Plus, even though absent from the trailers, it is assumed that the film also has Kirron Kher because, let’s face it, a loud Punjabi Woman is a must in every movie script these days.

Together, Sensible BS and his team wage a war over Evil GS. They must use every tool in the Bollywood arsenal in order to win this fight – song and dance, emotions, song and dance, music, song and dance, comedy, song and dance, dazzling locales, song and dance, slow motion walks towards the camera, song and dance, and song and dance.

So, who wins in the end? Your guess is as good as mine. Though one thing is clear. Now that Farah, Shirish, their triplets, her brother Sajid, and SRK are one big happy family again, Happy New Year is bound to make more money at the box office in its first weekend than all of Africa makes in a year.

And deservedly so, too.

Why Raj Kapoor Must Have Hated Zeenat Aman….or Satyam Shivam Sundaram

So, what happens when friend, guest blogger and fellow Bollywood aficionado Achala Srivatsa traipses into her living room, pours herself some red wine, kicks off her high heels and settles herself down on her comfy couch that’s pointed towards the telly? Well, read on to find out her story…

Film poster stolen from some website or the other

Film poster stolen from some website or the other

While surfing channels on a lazy Saturday afternoon, I suddenly happened upon SSS which, as anyone born before 1980 knows, was Raj Kapoor’s Magnum Soft Pornus – where an excruciatingly coy Zeenat Aman manages to produce one of her most hilarious roles yet.

In the interest of providing life improving information to my readers (mainly friends, relatives and acquaintances who feel duty-bound to read my stuff) I decided to watch this absolute gem of a movie, or rather skim through it in 10 minutes. Here are a few highlights that prove my point – If I have missed out any important detail, feel free to correct me.

First off, here is a woman whose face has been horribly disfigured (HD) by a fire or some such and has, therefore, taken a cunning vow to conceal half her face BUT reveal all her body so that everyone’s attention is drawn to the two bits of loin cloth and the laughably itsy bitsy blouse cut to her navel. By the way, her name is Rupa (Get it? Get it?) As an aside, let me say – ZA, the jasmine in the hair… what were you thinking?

Anyway, while flitting lightly along the road, she sees our Fair Hero (FH) and promptly jumps into a waterfall with him – ostensibly to scrub his back…no, really… to scrub his back. They quickly get entangled in the bushes as Lata Mangeshkar sings some of the worst songs of her career (all the while closely covering her face with her ghunghat –important point that).

Needless to say no one realizes that ZA is HD until fairly late into the movie. By everyone, of course, we refer to Shashi Kapoor, whose brain has evidently been so addled by her fashion statement that he cannot read between the lines of deeply inscrutable statements like “If I were horribly disfigured would you still love me?” Who’d guess she was dropping a hint as heavy as a brick? Evidently everyone except our FH.

Interwoven are his and her fantasies where ZA changes her regulation loin cloth for a pearl embedded one and then tries out a Bharat Natyam style dance which will go down in Bollywood history as one of the most awkward dances ever seen on screen. The song will be remembered, or forgotten as the case may be, as one of Mukesh’s worst ever – the poor man’s loyalty to RK being the only reason he took this up no doubt. I have seldom watched anyone embarrass themselves so thoroughly and elaborately –although the endless scenes where ZA weeps copiously wrapped around an embarrassed Shiv Ling come close.

Meanwhile the wedding takes place and the groom discovers the grand deception. Clearly hoary sayings about beauty being skin deep / beauty is as beauty does etc. were not drilled into his head at his mother’s knee, and he goes into an apoplectic rant – “What? Her? But … she’s horribly disfigured!! But she’s got this thing on her face!” She responds with ”Please don’t send me back, my Baba will die!” Evidently, Baba’s house rules on dressing are pretty relaxed (nothing over half a meter) but married beti cannot return to her father’s house.

But wait, there’s more – Our FH thinks there’s been a switch! That the lady with the scar is a stand-in for the real beauteous ZA. Now once ZA figures out that the love of her life has the IQ of a pebble, her plan falls into place. She meets him secretly as the Rupa of his fevered imagination – with a coy ghunghat drawn across half her face, while she holds it in place with her teeth. You’d think FH would demand to see her face, but nooo. Long story short – pregnancy, disbelief, drama, reconciliation.

Now if these highlights don’t make you want to DVR this movie and watch it every week, I don’t know what will. But to get back to my original point – why did Raj Kapoor hate Zeenat Aman?

 

 

So You Want To Be A MasterChef : Part Deux

Some time ago, Superfoodie Achala Srivatsa had shared some mouthwatering tips for ordinary morsels mortals like you and me craving to make it big in the world of Reality TV Cooking Shows. That post had stood out on this boring blog because of its delicious wit and wholesome advice, much the same way a three-tiered cake stands out at a bland wedding. So, it was quite expected that her pointers were going to attract attention, stir the pot, so to speak. It did. The most important consequence being this companion piece, written by Achala’s and my dear friend Adam Murphy, that garnishes the original post (which can be found here) with some new ingredients just as essential for success in the chef-eat-chef world of competitive cooking.

Kindly don’t forget to thank Adam for this recipe in the Comments section below. He already says ‘You’re Welcome!’

Over to Adam. Bon Apetit! 

 

The winner of MasterChef Namibia. She described her winning recipe as a delectable melange of Champignon Bordelaise and Pea Soup.

The winner of MasterChef Namibia. She described her winning recipe as a delectable melange of Champignon Bordelaise and Pea Soup.

Inspired by Achala’s wonderful piece about MasterChef, I humbly offer up a complementary “Glossary for Success” for those who may now be contemplating lining up for the next MasterChef auditions.

These are the secret “safety words” of the culinary fraternity that can slide even the most amateur of home cooks past the judges, time and time and again. Sprinkled lightly, these words are your express pass deep into the final rounds of televised competition.

  1. “Deconstructed” (adj.): use liberally to cover up the fact that you either: a) didn’t have time; or, b) didn’t collect the right ingredients; or, c) burnt a critical component required, to put the dish together properly.
  2. “-inspired” (suffix): code word for “I didn’t care much for your actual challenge, so I made what I wanted to from the start, but included one ingredient of the thing you actually wanted me to make”. Example: “Please enjoy my key-lime-pie-inspired crab cakes.”
  3. “Riff” (noun): charming colloquial term used to pass off the thing that you thought you were asked to make, until you saw what everyone else was doing and realised that you had no idea from the start. Example: “This is my ‘riff’ on Croque Madame, replacing the ham with crocodile meat, and serving it as more of a salad than a toasted sandwich. I call it ‘Croc Madame’. Enjoy.”
  4. “Elevated” (verb, p.t.): pretentiously elaborate way to say you added something that has no place ever being in that dish. Best used when specifying the unnecessarily-exotic origin of said ingredient. Example: “I elevated my chicken risotto by shaving a few slivers of pickled Bolivian cucumber on top. Please enjoy.”
  5. “Re-fire” (verb): a far less embarrassing – and decidedly more “chefy” way to say, “I #%&@ed up and am starting over”. Example: “I’m re-firing that plain white toast right now, Chef.”
  6. “Ensalata de…” (prefix): use with straight face instead of just admitting that the best thing you could think of was another bloody boring salad. Example: “This is my Ensalata de Salmon. Enjoy.”
  7. “Classic” (adj.): use to cover up the fact that you haven’t a drop of creative talent in your body, so just made the recipe exactly as expected. See also, “traditional”.
  8. “Rustic” (adj.): sloppily put together or unprofessional looking – perhaps still served in the cooking vessel because you ran out of time for plating. See also, “down-to-earth”.
  9. “Accompanied by…” (adj.): subtle note to the judges that your actual dish is pretty gosh-darn horrible so they should focus on the thing you put beside it. Best used if the accompanying item is an alcoholic beverage of some type. The worse your main dish tastes, the boozier the cocktail should be.

With this new vocabulary and Achala’s power tips, you’re well on your way to being the next MasterChef. Culinary talent optional.

What I Miss About Old Bollywood

Bollywood has changed. These days, it’s all about big budgets, bigger weekends and the biggest stars. Gone are the times when films were either a Dacoit-Drama (also known as gaon wali film) or a Breezy Romance set in Kashmir (aka city-type film). The angriest word ever spoken on screen was “Kuttey!” and only Dharmendra was allowed to utter it. Girls went to college on bicycles, wearing sarees, with one notebook and two plaits. Flowers would tremulously kiss each other each time the Hero and the Heroine visited Vrindavan or Shalimar Gardens to sing a song. Elderly Mothers always wore white. Everyone had a Mandir at home, no matter how poor they were. When the title credits rolled, “Records” were always on HMV and the “Playback” singers list was headed by Lata Mangeshkar 100% of the time, even for the obscurest of films.

Simple times they were. I mean, even Rajinder Kumar was a hero, giving monster silver jubilee hits, so…what else to say? Anyway, my point being, those were the homey, familiar days of Bollywood that are now long gone. Sadly.

I watched an old Hindi film the other day and started to reminisce the wonderful things about Old Bollywood that are now lost forever. Here is a list of things I miss.

The Blue-print of Side-Heroine

The Blue-print of “Side-Heroine”

 

The Side-Heroine cum Cab-Ray Dancer – For decades, this was almost always Helen, but sometimes a stray Padma Khanna or Jayshree T, even the occasional A-lister like Parveen Babi, would get to play this character, too. This Lady had a soft spot for only two things in life. First, the Hero, even though he was clearly not so keen back because he only had eyes for women with very large hips (e.g. Asha Parekh, Vyjanthimala etc). Second, Blond Wigs. After all, Blond Hair was practically made for dancing along R.D.Burman’s western tunes. Wait, actually, the Lady had a fondness for a third thing, too. Alcohol. That immediately made her an immoral woman who could never be taken by the Hero to his mother for pairee penna. Which was just as well because our Side-Heroine would invariably be shot by a Pran or a Prem four reels from the end anyway. Remarkably, the bullet would always hit her in the heart. Each time. No shoulder injury, leg, kamar, arm, ghutna, nothing. Heart, it had to be. Oh, and she would die in the Hero’s arms and he would shed tears because she would say “Ho sake toh mujhe maaf kar do!” (for what?) before conking off.

The Singing Sardar – Quite often played by Parikshit Sahni, with Mahendra Kapoor (whose voice always appeared to emerge from the hollows of the gut) doing the singing honours. This character was that over-ebullient Sardarji truck driver who would automatically start crooning the moment he touched a steering wheel of any kind (could even be a taxi’s). For every up-note, he would steer left, and for every down-, right. No wonder then that our Singing Sardar would constantly, and violently, keep flinging the wheel one way or the other keeping up with the melody, even though the road ahead was always very, very straight. (Strange, then, that in real life, truck accidents are blamed on alcohol, not music).

The Blind Beggar – You remember this one? This was another singing character. Usually seen with a harmonium, but always without pupils. Of the eyes, that is. I presume that the screen test of any actor trying for this role involved him rolling his eyeballs up and under his head, and holding that posture for hours. (I just tried to do it myself and it gave me a headache in 4 seconds flat. And kindly do not attempt this in front of little children, they will pee with fright). Anyway, sometimes, the harmonium would be replaced by an 8 year old girl in a torn frock and an unwashed face. Together, the Blind Beggar and his Young Associate would walk up and down a Roadways bus, hands thrust forward asking for alms, all the while singing the exact tragic story that compelled the heroine (Mala Sinha, Reena Roy, Jayaprada etc etc) to run away from home. “Has this fellow been stalking me?” was a thought that never crossed these women’s mind, maybe because they would be quite busy sobbing softly into their pallu.

Satyen Kappu – Yes, seriously, where is he? I mean, unless he is dead or something, what is his excuse for going missing? He could play any character in any film, and he did – smuggler, drunk, mill worker, cop, brother-in-law, TB patient, driver etc etc. I am quite certain he once even played a camel in a film.

Dil ka Daura – Way before Alok Nath had even learned how to spell sanskari, there existed a Babuji called Nasir Husain. He was naturally blessed with sad eyes perennially swollen with tears. With a crisp pagdi atop his Ooncha Sar, and a Budhape ki Laathi that kept him sprightly, he was every Hindi Film Heroine’s dream daddy. Sadly, however, he was to Calamity what bees are to honey, magnet is to iron, and Poonam Pandey’s bra is to sports. A family tragedy usually meant that the lathi would topple to the floor, the pagdi at the feet of the Baraat departing in a huff from his daughter’s unrequited wedding, and a Dil ka Daura, with Babuji immediately clutching a central location in his chest, and mouthing 4 full pages of dialogues, slowly and tearfully, before breathing his last. With his incessant heart attack related fatalities, Nasir Husain had single-handedly kept the Glass Bangles Industry of India flourishing for decades.

The Tawaif – This one hurts. My favourite Rekha could have had as protracted a career as Amitji had the Tawaif roles of Bollywood not dried up. I understand, it might be odd to imagine Deepika Padukone, Sonam Kapoor or Katrina Kaif as Kothewalis, but how would we know it won’t work unless they tried? Actresses today are no risk-takers. I wish they took a leaf or two out of Abhishek Bachchan’s script. I mean, just because his Inspecter Jai of Dhoom is about as similar to his father’s umpteen Inspector Vijays as a non-AC 3-tier on Patliputra Express is to the Tokyo-Osaka Shinkansen, has it stopped the remarkable young man from trying? Over and over (and over) again?

The Climaxing Cop – After the Hero has landed the last punch on the Villain’s viciously battered face, and the ropes trussing the Heroine and Maa-ji have been untied, an open Willy’s jeep would fly into the “Smuggler’s Godown”. Off would jump one rotund man in khaki and four rotund others in blue half-pants. Maybe a bullet would be fired in the air for good measure. And then, Jagdish Raj would yell – “Hawaldaar, arrest him!” – pointing at the most grievously hurt man at the site, not once needing any tafteesh of any kind. Possibly because Jagdish-ji, may his soul rest in peace, could simply smell evil? After all, he played a cop in over 87,000 films.

The Cock-eyed Drunk – The last time one of my friends acted like Keshto Mukherjee, Bhagwan, Johnny Walker etc after swigging a few at a party was…well, never. In fact, other than hooting loudly on the dance floor to a Honey Singh song, and then puking wildly on that lovely lady’s dress, you could barely tell that the fellow was drunk! No cock-eyes, no donkey-like guffaws and no slurring on jokes – none of the typical symptoms of Bollywood drunkenness were displayed. No wonder then that this character fell by the wayside with time. Sigh. I used to really like Keshto Mukherjee, though. <sad emoticon>

Munimji – No, I don’t mean Tina Ambani. I mean the character who would keep all the hisaab-khaata for the Zamindar. Always in a dhoti and topi, carrying an umbrella, and walking two paces behind the Boss, with folded hands. His all-time favourite word was Byaaj. Also, by law, he could never be taller than 4 feet 5 inches.

Moti the Dog, Badal the Horse, etc etc – Also, Safed and regular Haathis, Monkeys, Crocodiles, Babbar-Shers, Tota-Maina, Do Hanso ka Joda, Kabootars et al, all gone! I think, despite PETA’s strong presence in India, the destruction of the Animal Kingdom of Bollywood had started the day Sridevi outstared a snake with her blue contact-lensed eyes to grab the main lead in Nagin. After that, even a valiant Tuffy didn’t stand a chance, did he?

Oh, how one wishes some of this golden stuff could find its way back to films! (Now, all I need to pray for is for Sajid Khan to read this post and remake one of my old favourites)

The Mistake – A Short Story

Image taken from Google

Image taken from Google

The viscous hold of terror had started to ease a bit. The flush was back on his face, turning it handsome again. He knew he had made the right decision in calling his father. Dad was going to come and fix everything. Like he always did.

He looked at the bed, and at her again, focusing on the ridge between her bare breasts, three inches from each nipple. He began counting, his eyes unblinking. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, night, ten.” Ten seconds and no movement! ‘Holy fuck, she’s dead!’ his brain surmised, quite alarmed. ‘But she had been breathing just a minute ago!‘ He looked up at her face. It had started to look bluish-grey on the left side. That entire side was swollen, like a party balloon waiting for a cigarette butt. The other side of the face was fine. He hadn’t hit her there. He noticed how the blood coming out of her cut upper lip was trickling towards her left ear.

Why isn’t the bitch breathing?

He dared not touch her.

He noticed the glisten near her vagina. Was that his cum? He was suddenly embarrassed. He couldn’t let Dad see that! ‘I should cover her.‘ He reached out to the side of the bed where her clothes lay. His hand caught her ripped panties first. He was disgusted by them. So old and stained! They were unlike Anamika’s lacy ones. Hers smelled so good. He tossed the stinky rag back to the ground. He picked up one of the large items of clothing. It was that pyjama-type thingy that women wore – what do they call it? Pyjama only, he guessed. He flung it over her body, covering it from tits to knees. He kicked the rest of the clothes under the bed. Out of sight.

He pulled out his iPhone again. Where the hell was Dad, he wondered. It had been ten minutes already!

The door-bell rang. ‘About time, too!’ he mumbled, and dropped the phone into his back pocket. He noticed that his fly was still undone. He pulled up the zipper and made himself respectable again.

Dad looked livid, just like he had that time when he had reversed their brand new Honda Accord into the lamp-post just outside the house. The old man had yelled at him like a crazy moron, his eyes bulging and froth coming out of his mouth. It had made him giggle. ‘It’s just a fucking car, yaar!’ he had wanted to say.

Nothing of the sort today. Today, Dad was serious-type livid. The kind that usually made him go all quiet and think-y.

Dad kept staring at the battered face. ‘He is trying to see if she is still breathing.

“Is she dead?” he asked and got a glare in return.

Dad left his room. He followed. Both entered the dining room, where Dad took a chair and started fiddling with his old BlackBerry. He was scrolling through his contact list.

“Dad?”

Dad looked up and asked ‘What is it?’ with his eyebrows.

“Can we not tell Mom?”

Like a panther, Dad leapt out of his chair and smacked him hard on his cheek. ‘THADAAAK!’ it sounded. Like the Batman comics. It was funny. But very, very painful. Within seconds, the left side of his face was starting to swell. Like a party balloon waiting for…a pin.

He figured there was no way Mom couldn’t be told. After all, she knew the girl’s mother. He guessed she would be doing whatever ‘talking’ needed to be done with that family.

He looked crestfallen. This was so embarrassing. Why hadn’t he just pestered Anamika a bit more, he wondered. She would have agreed to do it in the car eventually.

Fuck it!

He pulled out a chair and sat down. Dad had still not found the number he was looking for.

These oldies, I tell ya!’ he thought. He smiled.

Dad looked up and caught his eye. Caught the smile, too.

“What the hell is wrong with you? You are bloody fifteen, you bastard!”

THERE it is!’ he groaned internally. ‘The fucker has started with his lecture!

Dad’s eyeballs were starting to pop now. Pretty soon, there would be drool, too. He was going to try to not laugh at the poor sucker this time. He tried to shut out the old man’s voice.

“And that, too, with the maid, of all people? Let alone morals, no bloody standards either!”

He wondered if it was ok to pull out his iPhone now.