Raghuram Rajan’s Last Day At The Office

Raghuram Rajan“Beant Singh, aaj bhi late?” RR scolded his driver in his Chicago–accented Hindi. “Today is my last day in the office! Kam se kam aaj toh…” he let his reprimand trail off into feeble futility.

Beant Singh, the driver, belonged to the ICCS (Indian Chauffeur and Chaprasi Services), 1989 Punjab cadre. In his long and distinguished career driving Government of India officials around pillars and posts, he had learned that the only people who mattered in New Delhi were the Prime Minister and his top-three coterie, and anyone with the Gandhi surname. (Also, any politician from Uttar Pradesh, because those bastard could kill you even if all you did was protest at their spitting paan inside the car). RR meant dogshit to Beant Singh. Useless. Impotent. After all, anyone with the tag of ‘Governor’ was purposefully designed by the Indian Constitution to have even less power than a Maruti-800 trudging up to Mussoorie.

Beant Singh nonchalantly swung open the left rear door of RR’s white Ambassador with a big red bindi on its forehead, and said, “Sir, Modiji ke raj mey attendance ka half day hi to katega. Anyway, like you said, it’s your last day at work.” He slapped the door shut as soon as RR’s navy blue, pinstriped, impeccably tailored tush hit the white towelled cush of the car.

The drive from the official home of the RBI Governor near Khan Market to the office digs at Parliament Street took the usual twenty minutes. At the RBI entrance gate, and then inside the office building, the customary salaams were dispensed by uniformed staffers with oversized bellies. Not in his three year tenure as Governor had RR learned how to properly respond to these salutes, so he had settled on some quaint mix of Queen Elizabeth’s royal wave and Govinda’s wrist movements when he danced.

“Sir, the PM had called sharp at 9 am. But since you hadn’t reached office, I took a message,” announced Pratibha Kumari, RR’s PA (1999 Tripura cadre, IRS), once her boss had taken seat in his rather plush office. RR was concerned immediately. “What did he say?”

“Goodbye,” said Pratibha, referring to her notes, her forehead furrowed with concentration.
RR waited for more, but when the lady said nothing else, he asked, “That’s it? That’s the entire message?”

The PA lady nodded, and RR shook his head. “Still nothing about who I should handover to! Wait karte karte ab toh notice period ka last day aa gaya…

“Perhaps you should call the PM, Sir? I mean, speak with him directly to know his Mann ki Baat…?” Pratibha Kumari offered. “At your advice, I sat through the PM’s entire radio address last Saturday with my dictation notes copy ready, but he only talked about the new signature all-in-one ‘Lala Lajpat Rai Gram Shaheed Samvedansheel Kisaan Awaas Pragati Paryavaran Vikaas Khushhaali Yojna’. Oh, and India’s growing relations with Zimbabwe. But he spoke nothing about RBI,” she said morosely.

Pratibha Kumari’s advice made sense. After all, there were policy documents to be handed over, files to be secured, names to be couriered to Switzerland, interest and growth rates to be adjusted and re-adjusted…so much still to be done on the last day! But WHO to work with was the sixty four crore question.

“Yes, Pratibhaji,” RR said. “PMO ka number lagaiye.”

“Oh, sorry, Sir, the PM is not at the PMO. He was calling from Air India One. From somewhere above Romania and Estonia.”

Aargh…!’ mumbled RR under his breath. “Aur Jaitleyji?” he asked. “Woh bhi saath hain?

“Yes, Sir.”

Another dead end. RR gave up. It was his last day at the office. ‘Theek hai, then,’ he thought. ‘Why should I care? I will just complete all other formalities and be done with it. And if I still have time in the afternoon, I’ll look for some last minute deals on Amazon. Will buy stuff here than in the US…sasta padega.

“Sir, the IT department needs to complete your Full and Final,” Pratibha Kumari reminded him. “Should I send the fellow in?”

“Yes, yes, of course. Thank you.”

The IT department was really one lanky guy with a boy moustache. He was a Grade 4 2013-batch from Government of Uttarakhand on deputation to RBI for eighteen months. The chap’s name was Shabbir Kumar.

“Sir, aapne personal backup ley liya hai?” he asked politely. RR, who was leaning over the laptop while Shabbir Kumar fiddled with the keyboard, nodded.

“What will you do with my laptop now?” RR asked.

Hum haaddiss reformat kar denge,” the chap answered.

“What is ‘haaddiss’?

Haaddiss, maane, jismey aapka sara data storez hota hai,” the boy explained patiently.

“Oh, Hard Drive! But what do you mean ‘reformat kar denge?” RR said, a bit bewildered. “Hamare country ka saara economic data hai iss laptop mey!” he added, his voice rising to a squeak.

Toh reformat kab karen, Sir?” Shabbir Kumar asked. “Afternoon mey? Sir, woh compulsory policy hai F&F ki.

KABHI NAHI! This laptop will NEVER be reformatted!” RR shook his head in horror, and immediately summoned Pratibha Kumari back to the room. The lady assessed the situation and then turned to RR and said, “Sir, have you not taken back up on the pen drive I gave you? Are the files too large?”

Heavens, thought RR.

“Why don’t we finish the rest of the formalities in the meantime?” RR offered by way of moving things along. “Let’s delay reformatting the country’s economic future for the time being. What else do you need from me?”

“Sir, your laptop bag, mouse, cables and 3G dongle given by RBI.”

Clueless, RR looked at Pratibha Kumari. “What is he talking about? I have none of those things!” he lamented.

“But, Sir, this laptop bag…?” Pratibha Kumari said pointing to the soft leather, super expensive Bottega Veneta laptop bag RR had purchased when he still consulting as a financial adviser to the IMF in Europe.

“Does this even LOOK like a bag that Government of India might supply anyone?” RR answered, his eyes squinting with displeasure.

Tired now, RR hustled Shabbir Kumar out of his office. None of the items in the poor boy’s checklist had a tick mark against it. “Full and Final karne mey dikkat ho jayegi, Sir,” were the boy’s final words of warning as he left the room.

With the IT question still unresolved, Pratibha Kumari felt it best to close the formalities with the finance department instead. This was proving to be a stressful day for her. After all, these Full and Final formalities were not the only thing she had to look into. There was also the farewell to organize! A samosa, gulab jamun and soft drinks ‘get together’ had been organized in the cafeteria on the fifth floor. The one that RR had never visited in his entire three year tenure…

Akshay Patwardhan (Office of GBO, RBI Officer 1997 Batch, Mumbai) from the Finance department stopped by at noon. “Sir, aapne apne Provident Fund ke baare mey kya socha hai?” he asked.

“What about it?”

Matlab, aap apne new employer ke yahan transfer karenge? Ya withdrawal?

“I am moving to Chicago. Transferring PF will not be an option,” RR explained.

“But, Sir, transfer is a simpler option than withdrawal,” Patwardhan continued. “Withdraw karenge toh bada time lag jata hai. Paperwork soh alag.

“So what are you recommending? I take up another job in India instead of moving to Chicago so that it is easier for me to transfer my PF from RBI?”

Dekh leejiye, Sir, agar adjust kar paayen toh…

It was time to throw the Finance fool out of the office too. RR summoned Pratibha Kumari to the office again to do the needful.

The day was fast hurtling towards a close and nothing had been accomplished yet. If he couldn’t close all formalities and walk out of the RBI office today, the headlines in tomorrow’s newspapers were going to be relentless.
‘DELAYING TACTICS!’ SCREAMS SUBRAMANIUM SWAMY : The Times of India, was just one example. Arnab Goswami demanding answers on behalf of the nation, was another.

RR shuddered. It was approaching 4 pm. Time for the official farewell in the cafeteria that he had never visited. Bloody hell, he hadn’t even prepared a farewell speech! No handover. No Full and Final Settlement. And now, no Farewell Speech either!

“I will have to simply sneak out of here,” he mumbled to himself. “Without ANYONE finding out. It’s the only way!”

Reluctantly, RR fished out the mobile phone from his pocket. Then, looking around him furtively as if he was about to commit a major fraud, he scrolled the Contact List to the name he was looking for. When it came up, he pressed the green key. The number rang for around ten seconds before it was picked up at the other end.
“Oh, hello, hello, Mr. Mallya, sorry to bother you in London like this, Sir, but I need a BIG favour from you.”

 

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)