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Thursday, December 31, 2009

What have these three idiots done?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

He let the world spin madly on.

The old man squatted alone, on the small, grassy bank between the murky green water and the dirt path for walkers, joggers and cyclists. His knees, thin and bony, were hunched nearly up to his chin. His back was thin, his ragged shirt clinging to it against the gentle evening Bangalore breeze. He looked out at the lake in front, ugly and polluted and hollow. All he got back was the stale stench of waste. His boat, old and creaky and alone like him, swayed slightly on the tip of the embankment.

He let the world spin madly on.

Not ten feet to his left, a group of young vagrants tugged at another boat. A few threw crude fishing lines into the water. Empty, eroded plastic bottles hovered half submerged not too far away. Behind the man, a college couple fought about adolescent feelings. Two men, their bellies sagging over their belts, strolled by talking business. Two middle-aged women walked, in salwar-kameez and sweaters, walked briskly past. A young cyclist struggled to peddle with the weight of another kid riding pillion. Another couple sat near a row of bushes, their heads buried in each others arms. Behind the grilled fence, a girl on a scooter was swapping phone numbers with a boy on a cycle. Behind them, life passed by in a blur of vehicles.

He let the world spin madly on.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas came and went. Didn't even feel it. Worked till 10pm. Three days later, after a massive lovely Mallu lunch - pork, mutton, rice, bread, kachimur, veggies, plum cake - and just being welcomed at a house I'd never been to, and sitting around with people I had never met except for two, brought back memories of my youth. The days of getting up at the crack of dawn to see how many presents were under the tree, and whether Santa had drank the milk and cookies. The stockings with peanuts, Snickers, Cadbury's, Reeses, bubblegum and an orange in them. Hot cocoa by the tree. The nativity set on the mantelpiece. Christmas cards. That massive brunch. Family. Christmas carols. Snow.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Stand out in the crowd? Tired of being stared at while sitting in an autorick at a stop light, walking to buy groceries, or at a train station? No? Well I didn't think so, but in case there are a few of you out there who do, let me introduce my three-step program to repel the gawkers who gape - and occasionally giggle - at you like you've sprouted green antlers right in front of them in the 56 seconds it takes for the light to change red to green. These may seem like drastic measures more likely to attract further intense scrutiny but they actually work in getting people to turn away and even look quite flustered. Then you sit back and marvel at your own handiwork.

Here goes:

1) Stare at said person(s)' shoes or sandles and then slowly make a face of disgust, like you've just noticed they've stepped in a pile of dung and its clung to the soles of their feet and attracted a swarm of flies. Keep staring, never for a moment looking at the person.

2) Do your best Ace Ventura impersonation. I mean wonky eyebrows, scrunched nose, crossed eyes and doofus, contorted grin. It normally surprises the hell out of onlookers and causes them to look away at something else, lest you suddenly start liking your own palms and make monkey noises. If they choose to slowly turn back for a peak, make Jim Carey proud. Full throttle.

3) Wink at them. It almost always throws them off guard and leaves them embarrassed, looking around to see if anybody noticed. Pure gem, I tell you. But this one requires some tact so pick your opponents, and make sure you have enough time to scoot in case they happen to reciprocate, should this be their thing. Be especially aware of your surroundings at traffic signals.

No animals were harmed in the making of this free public service announcement.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Ten best Hindi films of the decade

I’ve spend a lot of time these past couple weeks reading and working on various moments in cricket that stood out over this past decade, and while doing so I got to thinking about the more memorable Hindi films I’ve seen since 2000. So here, in order of their release, is my list.

Lagaan: It fell short of being a masterpiece, but Lagaan skillfully combined good acting, direction, writing, music and cinematography. The result was an entertaining, if slightly clichéd, film of gigantic proportions which ushered in the use of synch sound in Indian cinema. Not having to dub the extensive outdoor scenes, erected on a set in rural Gujarat, gave the film a crisp quality that was so crucial to its intricate details. It also helped change the way films were made – with Dil Chahta Hai just around the corner as well – in terms of technology and professionalism in the Indian industry.

Aamir Khan was, as most always, superb and gave the film its soul. Ashutosh Gowarikar, after duds like Baazi and Pehla Nasha, had pitched the idea to Aamir earlier but was snubbed. He made some changes and went back to Aamir. Success! It was just the pair required to get such a film off its feet. The film was marketed very well – until the date of its release the public was uncertain as to what this magnum opus was about – and it got the global audience’s attention. It was never good enough to win an Oscar, but Lagaan made the viewers clamber to the theatres to watch a clean, excellently made film that ultimately trumped because it had the soul necessary for a hit – a tight script. Simple though it was - the poor rebel against the suppressors and come up trumps - it was Aamir's role and his hand in the production that set Lagaan apart. Bhuvan was believable, even when he hit that last-ball six.

Dil Chahta Hai: In my mind, the summer of 2001 was Aamir's finest. The season opened with Lagaan and not two months later, Aamir was the gregarious, flirtatious, non-believer Akash in Farhan Akhtar's debut film Dil Chahta Hai. An incomprehensible about-turn from Lagaan's Bhuvan. Two films from different worlds, with different budgets, casts, but what they had in common were high production values, superb direction, great music, and Aamir. The film marked the debut of a skilled and thorough technician in Akhtar, and he carried on his work in each of his films this decade, though none was as good as this. He showed his masterful touch in many scenes; some that stand out are when the three friends are talking about their economics teacher, when they sit in the club and Aamir starts to impress Preity Zinta, when Akshaye Khanna realizes he likes the older woman, when Saif Ali Khan first meets his first ‘true love’, when Aamir realizes he loves Preity in the Sydney opera house and the following when he drops her home just after, and is caught between the old Akash and the new. It was a film India’s new and urban youth could identify with and was truly a trendsetter.

Maqbool: The Bard has been translated, morphed, copied and butchered in Hind cinema for years, but in January 2004 his work was given it best, purest and surprisingly easiest transformation into Indian theaters. If you hadn’t heard of Vishal Bhardwaj, he of the lilting OST of Maachis and the well crafted Makdee, you were sure made to sit up. Bhardwaj lined up a terrific star cast - Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Irrfan Khan, Tabu and Pankaj Kapur – and threw Macbeth into the underworld of Bombay. On the outside it perhaps seemed like a repetitive scenario, after a slew of gangster movies out of the Ram Gopal Verma factory, but Maqbool was very different. It had superb acting and good music, but its strongest point was the narrative. The film boasted a number of dazzling sequences that stuck with you – the scene in which Irfan, in his piece de resistance, looks down a dark corridor and sees the ghosts of people close and far is one of the most haunting ever – and Bharwaj handled his plot with utmost precision without ever compromising on his belief.

Yuva: Six years after he gave us the misunderstood, ahead-of-its times Dil Se, Chennai’s own Martin Scorsese made Yuva. The film, borrowing from Amores Perros, interwove the stories of three men in Calcutta and connected them via a road accident. The background of the film, shot superbly by the ever reliable Ravi K Chandran in the City of Joy, was set against politics in college. The cast was superb, with Abhishek Bachchan delivering a breakout performance and Ajay Devgan backing him up with another determined effort. Vivek Oberoi continued to impress, Kareena Kapoor shone in a brief but also career-boosting performance, and Rani Mukherjee confirmed that she was a real talent. Technically very sound, Yuva was a pulsing, story-bound film that resonated with the age-old angst that people develop when torn between the mind and the heart. With shades of existentialism and escapism in almost equal measure, the film was a cinematic masterpiece that somehow got misinterpreted and underestimated. In a year during which candy floss fair like Veer Zaara and Mujhse Shaadi Karoge drew audiences into the cinemas, Yuva fell by the wayside commercially. But its content, acting and gritty edge left a strong resonance

Swades: This film was unfair compared to Lagaan. Lagaan was made to entertain, Swades was Gowarikar’s attempt to explore interior, rural India and the problems besetting the country. It was told through the eyes of an NRI, Mohan Bhargava, which was played with utmost dedication by Shah Rukh Khan. Watching Mohan take a break from his plush NASA job and journey back to India, first in Delhi and then to the fictional town of Charanpur where he meets his childhood nanny and an assortment of characters, was endearing. It was Shah Rukh’s best role, and you didn’t feel he was SRK in the movie.

On a wider canvas, Swades tackled the issue facing Indian citizens at the grassroots level. When Mohan returns home, he isn’t aware of the hardships villagers face, the lack of basic amenities and such. What he intended to be a simple task, prompted by nostalgia and fondness, turns into a literal and metaphorical journey of exploration. How Mohan’s views change forms the crux of the story. Simply put, the film was about reality and reaction. Audiences found it preachy, but I think they misinterpreted Gowarikar’s vision of the central protagonist. He wasn’t preaching about the need for NRIs so come home and change India. He was just telling one man’s story.

Bunty aur Babli: “Yeh jo world hai na …iss mein do tarah ke log hain … It was a throwback to the masala films of the 70s and 80s. A simple premise with good treatment and great acting. A couple on the run and a hounding police officer. Nothing serious or realistic here. Just solid screen presence and direction, great lyrics and foot-tapping music. Don’t go looking for logic, just enjoy the ride. Colourful characters casually going about conning all before them. It worked well.

Abhishek Bachchan and Rani Mukherjee proved yet again that their screen chemistry was the best of the decade. From the sleepy by lanes of Fursatganj and Pankhinagar, to Kanpur to Lucknow to Delhi and Bombay, the tale of two starry-eyed individuals was pure fun. Some of the cons were predictable, but most were refreshingly original and really well depicted. Lyricist Gulzar and director Shaad Ali Sahgal again proved a great combo. Watch for the subtle homage to potboilers from Ramesh Shippy and Manmohan Desai. Yes, there was a bit of Bonnie & Clyde and Catch Me If You Can, but whose being picky with this film? Notice the scenes where Babli grooves with Q .. Q .. Qureshi to the tunes of Ramba Ho, or when the pair sells off the Taj Mahal for five years. Sheer genius. And then there was Kajra Re.

Rang De Basanti: Aamir more than made up for that indiscretion that was The Rising of Mangal Pandey with Rang De Basanti, a film that pricked the conscience and challenged the viewer to think outside of the box. Best of all, he didn't entirely hog the film, and the ending, critically, was not all about him. He had a deft director, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, who was thankfully allowed to be the boss and weave his craft as he had invisioned it.

Far from your run-of-the-mill Indian movie, RDB successfully weaved historical facts with contemporary themes. While I do not agree entirely with the film, I think it was a landmark film in Indian cinema's history. It was a sincere attempt at making a pivotal, social point, and it does what few Indian films in recent times have done - make you pick a side.

Omkara: The best film of 2006. From the opening scene - which captures the rugged Indian landscape in a way not seen since Sholay, or to a lesser level Bandit Queen - between Saif Ali Khan and Deepak Dobriyal to the final in which only Viveik Oberoi remains standing, the film is first-rate. In a year of Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna and a long list of Juhu-born, London-fed yuppie directors churning out candyfloss to no end, Omkara was poignant, no-nonsense cinema. In cricketing parlance, Vishal Bhardwaj’s masterpiece Maqbool was a one-dayer, and Omkara a fullblown Test match. Here, Vishal proved without a shred of doubt that he is a fine storyteller and great director. He handled an amazing starcast with ease and got the best out of each. Ajay Devgan excels in the title role, one that he was born to play, Karishma Kapoor delivers a break-out performance, Konkana Sen Sharma rises above her role, Vivek Oberoi and Bipasha Basu were, thankfully, taught to hold themselves back, Deepak Dobriyal was given a sensational debut, and Saif...well, Saif given the role of a lifetime.

Jab We Met: The year 2007 ended with a gem of a movie. On the outset it was an age-old tale of love, but what made it special was the treatment of director Imtiaz Ali and the lead couple. Jab We Met was a refreshing take on the genre. It wasn’t heavy, there wasn’t a major spanner thrown in the works courtesy a conniving ex or rage-fueled father, and there weren’t any jarring scenes. Where the reel-life chemistry of Shahid Kapur and Kareena Kapoor crackled and gave the movie its pizzazz, their real-life relationship went kapur. But thank god the movie was shot when they were an item, because the pair were superb. Kareena, in the role she was born to play, wooed hearts and made you giggle sloppily in the aisles. Shahid, until now reduced to playing mostly immature parts in larger ensembles, was handed a meaty role and he sunk his teeth into it. With Pritam’s music topping the charts, this one was a winner all the way. And, of course, the unforgettable dialogues. Come on, seriously, if you’ve seen the film you know what I’m talking about. Sample 1: “Kya boss, chakkar kya hai? Drugs-shugs leeya hai?”. Sample 2: “Ab toh mera haat chodh do, itni bhi sundar nahin hoon main!” Sample 3: “Tumhe museum mein hona chahiye, ticket lagne chahiye tumhe dekhne ke liye!” Sample 4: “Kyun dekhoon mai ganne ke khet?” Classic dialogues, memorable characters.

Taare Zameen Par: Aamir the director trumped Aamir the actor by some distance. He' had been handed a fine script - credit goes to Amol Gupte here - and he handled it so magically. It wasn’t without stereotype - the staff at the boarding school are dripping in clichés and the father broke into hives at the drop of a hat - but Aamir's shepherding of young Darsheel Safary and the camera was superb. He showed he can narrate a story very, very well and does so without any glam, thankfully. It was a touching movie; expertly handled it did plenty to make people aware of children with dyslexia.

Darsheel Safary was wonderful. TZP was about him, not Aamir, thankfully, and he did full justice to the role. Hindi movies have never had good child actors - the girl in Black was exceptional - but Safary has set the benchmark brilliantly.

Some other films of the decade that can watch repeatedly: Ab Tak Chappan , Yahaan, Khosla Ka Ghosla, The Blue Umbrella, Rock On, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Company, Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! Ek Chalis Ki Last Local, Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi..

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Email from HR department to all staff yesterday: "You are all invited to a special lunch from Adigas tomorrow at 1 pm to celebrate the merry spirit of Christmas."

For the uninitiated, Adigas is a chain of oily, canteen-style, cardiac arrest-inducing purely vegetarian chain of restaurants popular in Bangalore, reasons for which some very portly South Indian deity suffering from high cholesterol would only know. It is so bad that some of my south Indian colleagues crib about it. A couple even staunchly claim they have had better dosas and vadas IN NORTH INDIA. Heavens to Betsy.

Seriously, if you picked up one of those saada dosas and wrung it out,you would get a bucket full of oil more than enough to jump-start a Tata Nano.

Really Christmasy, if you know what I mean. So yeah, sufficed to say I skipped that totally festive Christmas lunch and ordered Chinese.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I remember seeing my dad on TV when I was about five. I remember waiting for him to come home that day. As soon as he opened the door I ran up, excited, and blurted out: "I know who you are!"

"Yes, I'm your papa."

"No you're not, you are Tom Alter!"

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cometh the hour, cometh the Onion

What. A. Session. West Indies didn't survive in Perth but England somehow did in Centurion. Cracking last session. Friedel de Wet, take a bow. At about 5pm South African time, with England four down for about 200, the mood was bordering on dull as the on-air commentators discussed the selection conundrums for both sides ahead of the second Test, with a lot of chatter about whether South Africa should drop de Wet or Ntini for a fit Steyn. There was talk of Ntini's ability to swing the ball away from the left-handers if he found assistance in Durban, but also of how impressive de Wet had been on debut, especially the longer he bowled. Then, in eight overs of the new ball, de Wet turned the game on its head and the commentators were salivating.

Tremendous effort by the debutant. Unlike Ntini, he made the batsmen play. That's all you need to do in such situations, and a false shot or two is bound to occur. Sure enough, a solid Trott was done for bounce, the ball skimming the shoulder of his bat to third slip where de Villiers took a blinder. Next to go? Surprise, surprise ... the Shermanator. Ian Bell looks gorgeous when creaming drives through cover and mid-on when all is well, but turn up the pressure and this wimp nicks the ball to second slip, tucks his bat under his arm, and its thanks for coming, Belly.

As the commentators discussed Bell's ability to bat big and pretty in county cricket but how his mindset changes in high-pressure Test cricket, the inevitable happened. Good bell, bat hangs out, nick to Boucher, great catch. Bye bye, Bell.

As one regular Cricinfo feedbacker said: "If Luke Wright does not replace Ian Bell for the 2nd Test, I'm taking up South African nationality in protest."

Prior was done for by a gem from de Wet, climbing from off stump and taking the edge to Boucher. Out goes Ntini, in comes Harris for some spin and viola! Third ball he gets Broad to nick one and the review confirms it.

Now its five slips, a short leg and a short cover. de Wet red hot. What a spell - 7-3-11-3. Poor Collingwood at the other end, stubborn and wondering where his team-mates were and who the posers were on the procession line. It really was an amazing collapse of South African proportions. The game looked headed for a tame draw but inspired by de Wet, it all changed.

Then a fuller one stayed low and darted back off the upright seam, striking Swann flush on the knee cap in front of middle and leg. It looked plumb, Morkel confidently appealed, Aleem Dar raised his finger, and Collingwood's request for the review showed that the world's best umpire was spot on. Nineteen deliveries to go, and out walks the last man. Five wickets went down for 15 runs in 11.1 overs.

It was as tense as Edgbaston and Old Trafford 2005, Lord's 2007, Sydney 2008 and Cardiff 2009. In fact England could have fainted from the deja vu of that Cardiff cracker this summer.

In the second last over, Collingwood and Onion ran a single off the fourth ball. That left Collingwood two balls to get a single. He got a four and a dot. Smith went back to Ntini for the last over. Six balls in his 100th Test. Amazing. Onions on strike. But was Ntini the best option? He made Onions play all six balls but Onions survived. So near, yet so far. Onions should keep his place in Durban just for his batting. England survived the most draws this decade?

South Africa's exceptional catching also contributed to the drama. de Villiers and Boucher were awesome. What a wonderful, see-saw match, and that's the beauty of Test cricket. Good to see Smith push de Wet up the stairs as the team reached the boundary, saying go on, lead us off.

Stuff high-scoring ODIs where big bats sodomize dead tracks. Give me a session of Test cricket like that any time.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Random Films I Liked: Pirate Radio

Introducing a new post that I hope will occur frequently on the these pages: Random Films I Liked. And starting off it is Pirate Radio, aka The Boat That Rocked, a period comedy about an illegal radio station in the North Sea in the 1960s.

A film that begins with Phillip Seymour Hoffman yelling into the airwaves about the power of rock and roll to the tunes of The Kinks and ends with the words "That's how you do it, innit?" cannot really go wrong.

It's far from perfect, the frame isn't bit enough to carry the cast of eccentric characters, and it doesn't take itself too seriously, but it's a lovely little film - I say little because it doesn't carry an overbearing Hollywood tag and resonates with tinges of indie classics like Almost Famous and Across the Universe - that portrays the mayhem of rock music and what it went through in that era.

The film, shot almost entirely on a ramshackle oil tanker, is set against the backdrop of the whole sex, drugs and rock n roll theme and the battle the stiff-upper-lip BBC waged against it. In the 1960s the BBC had a monopoly on radio services in the UK, and there were but two hours of rock and roll music played a week. As a result, the high demand for rock and the low supply led to the emergence of pirate radio.

Refusing to bow down is the most popular pirate radio station, and iconic ship anchored in the North Sea, with a motley crew of DJs and support staff. Think of the crew from The Life Aquatic drinking, smoking and playing classic rock hits on the radio from the middle of the ocean, with conjugal visits from ecstatic groupies and teenyboppers.

The kid trying to find himself in his teens, while searching for his father, and his sexual awakening track was a bit cliched and forced, and one that often turns your attention away from the bigger issue of the law trying to clamp down on the radio station via its Marine Offense Act (the naming of a government functionary Twatt was apt). But the acting and Curtis' ability to pen witty one-liners and create funny situations keeps you entertained. The montages range from surreal to slapstick to rowdy to existentialist, but all bind the film together.

Sure, there are times when the symbolism and metaphors pore over almost as frequently as the terrific blasts of classic Brit rock from the Beatles and the Stones to Dusty Springfield and David Bowie, and the boat does creak from character overload, but director Richard Curtis (Love Actually) succeeds - for the second time - in steering the film's ship through choppy waters. Aiding his vision is a terrific ensemble cast. I mean seriously, can you go wrong with Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Nick Frost, Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson? Throw in a top-notch supporting cast - props to whoever decided to get Flight of the Chonchords' Rhys Darby on board - and a great soundtrack and you can't go wrong.

Night, Frost and Ifans get the bulk of the classic dialogue, but everyone leaves an impact, even if they don't all get ample screen time. Playing The Count, an American DJ, Hoffman gets to let his hair down after Doubt and, as the who-gives-a-crap outsider in a sea of "Limy bastards", gets to lift the film's finger up to establishment theme.

Critics may argue that Curtis could have pushed harder to delve into the phenomenon that was British radio in the mid-60s, and rightly so, but it was probably his choice to stick to a genre he's comfortable in. The point is not to push the envelope too much, and in a way that makes this a watered down final product. No pun intended, as you'll see in the final scene.

The film's message is that its just about having fun. As Ifans' cool cat DJ Gavin would say, purring into his microphone: "Hit it!"

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It’s always fun to watch the underdog try and make a fist of it. West Indies, set 359 to win at the WACA and level the series, were three down for about 80 when I switched the TV on. I watched fleetingly, going about getting breakfast, checking my email, letting the maid clean up, and so on.

A while later I looked up and the score had moved to 140 without further loss. Still a mountain to climb for West Indies. It wasn’t just pushing and prodding and padding up. There were pull shots being attempted, cuts were being squirted past fielders and the frustration was palpable on the faces of the Australians.

Hauritz versus Deonarine isn’t going to get many enthusiasts glued to their TV screens, but there was an intriguing little contest brewing. Deonarine was stuck in the forties for a while, and broke the shackles with a four and six off Hauritz, both hit on dancing feet and over the infield. Suddenly there was a bit of aggression in the chase, and for the next two overs Deonarine’s shot selection turned itchy, like he wanted to continue attacking Hauritz.

Until this point Hauritz had found it difficult. He hadn’t gotten any turn, his flight wasn’t forthcoming, he was plugging away from only around the stumps, and he’d gone for nearly three and a half an over. Perhaps taking a cue from his spinning partner North who, despite the lack of sharp turn showed himself to be a thinker by making Deonarine and Nash play a bit more, Hauritz brought his line closer to off stump. He gave it some more flight, the ball pitched and spat up to clip Deonarine’s glove and then Haddin’s shoulder before it died just in front of Clarke at slip.

A few overs later Hauritz tossed it up generously, tempting Deonarine, and he took up the challenge, striking it well from out of the rough and playing through the line, and got four over mid-off. Hauritz wouldn’t have minded. Almost every time Hauritz gave the ball flight and slowed it up, something happened. An aerial shot, an inside edge, an outside edge falling short.

It was a fantastic session. It began with Deonarine and Nash blocking everything Australia threw their way. Towards the end of it, a slip and silly point were being counter-punched by the pair, who didn’t shy from cutting into the off side. Sliders were also being swept with power, shorter ones pulled over square.

West Indies were fighting, for the second Test running.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The kid sitting in front of his father on the handlebar of the motorcycle is looking at me, agog. What does a kid of 2 or 3 think when they see someone who looks different? Can the mind comprehend the difference in skin color? Do I even look human to that kid?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sign spotted at the junction of Frazertown and Ulsoor: WORK IN PROGRESS TAKE DIVERSION AT KENSINGTON OVAL. Seriously?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rare Sunday off. Found myself watching Karz. The Himesh one. Why did they have to take a bad film and remake it into a terrible one? Can you imagine being Dino Morea, dying, and then coming back as Himesh Reshammiya? It doesn't get worse than that.

Cracked up hearing Himesh clear this throat/nose when singing his ode to Om Shanti Om - Hari Om. Sounded like he was saying "Hurry home, hurry home".

And what's with his fetish for 15-year olds? And Raj Babbar looking like the discarded sardar from the mafia gang in Singhh is Kingg?

Bakhtyar is in the film too. First time I saw him anywhere other than Bigg Bosss 3 or that contraceptive ad. I half expected Vindoo to walk into the frame and slap him.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I’ve cracked it. There’s no point spending time and money joining a gym or getting up at 6 am for a run. To look slimmer, all I have to do is hang around people fatter than me.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Jinge bells, Santa smells

You can tell the Christmas season is upon us in Bangalore when the beggars at the MG Road traffic lights come up to you wearing floppy Santa hats and try to get you to buy one as well as a crappy plastic Santa mask. Ho ho ho.
"Tumhara desh ka ek rupaiyya hai kya?"

That's the cab driver at 12.20 in the morning after dropping me home from work.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"Chunnu, munnu aur pappu di gaddi". Its no more. Buland Bharat ki buland tasveer. Its no more. RIP.

Please don't touch HMT watches, Saridon or Laxman Sylvania.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

If your name is Hanumanth Reddy and you are reading this, please tell all who are important to you that my number is not your number. I'm sick of the wrong numbers.

Paa ...

Electricity bill was a week overdue. Decided to beat the rush and get to the local BESCOM by 845. There was still a line at that time. An eclectic one at that. An Anglo-Indian portly lady, her hair done up in a bun and bandanna, with shopping bags. Three old men, each haggard and unshaven, like they'd stumbled out of the nearest watering hole and decided that standing in a line was a decent way to beat a hangover. I ended up behind one of them, with long oily hair matted to his forehead. He was sweating on a cool morning. The burlap handbag hanging by his side was leaking something that, if you stepped in it, smeared the ground. Then a short old man joined the line behind me and kept getting a bit too close for comfort. I'd move to one side, he'd close in. Not fun.

Finally I got to the window and paid my bill. As I was waiting for my receipt another old man, scrawny, toothless and in a beanie, sidled up and smiled. I nodded back. Then from is satchel he pulled out three books about Christianity and handed me one: "Its only 50 rupees, brother, and the Lord will save you."

I'm getting Ramesh to pay my electricity bills from now on.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Three of the first crew that was Motley were at the Brabourne watching the return of Test cricket to the venue. Naseeruddin Shah, my father and Aakash Khurana. Where's Benji?

Seeing the trio, alone and on different days of the Test match, took me back to Sadhana Apartments and the backstage of Prithvi, where as a kid I would watch rehearsals, make-up sessions and after-show parties. I remember hiding under the bed when I saw Kenny get out of the lift at Sadhana. I remember hating Naseer briefly because he'd killed my father in Shyam Benegal's Junoon. I remember playing with Benji's son Rahil. I have vague memories of meeting Naseer and Ratna in the US, and ordering pizza.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Do the blind have dreams and nightmares?

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Music has always been an integral part of my life, even though I can't play an instrument. Tried the flute in grade four, but something about blowing on a long, thin object just didn't seem right. Tried the piano, but old Mrs. Hoy in Harrisburg, PA put me to sleep. Tried the guitar, but the creepy Polish instructor Ivor pissed me off. Am I making excuses for my own ineptitude? Maybe.

I grew up around music, if not musicians. There was always music playing wherever we lived. I remember being a toddler and fiddling with my parent's record player, tiptoeing up to it and playing with the cartridge - it reminded me of a caboose - before someone yanked me away from it. LPs of Bing Crosby, CCR, the Eagles and Bob Dylan sat placed on shelves in Mussoorie and various apartments in Bombay.

My earliest memory of comprehending lyrics is of sitting in Sadhana Apartments on Gamadia Road, the quite little lane that connects Warden Road to Peddar Road. My dad flipped between audio cassettes of the Beatles and Aradhana, music by SD Burman. I remember being amazed, confused and later confident at listening to and mastering a few lyrics from both cassettes, as distinctly dissimilar in language and comprehension as my five-year-old ears and mind could believe them to be.

"Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain ... where rocking horse people eat marsh mellow pies" shares as much space in my memory as "Raat nasheeli, mast sama hai, aaj nashe mein, saara jahaan hai...". I didn't know what half those words meant but they were mystic, overpowering and cool. I will never forget either song.

In a way that moment captures who I am. Torn between two cultures. I have never been able to decide on whether I like Western or Indian music better.

Friday, December 04, 2009

"You prepare the paperwork and come, yes?"

So apparently I have a new job profile - that of translator between my building's Nepali watchman/supervisor and foreign tenants with broken English who don't speak Hindi.

I'm at home finishing up season two of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia this afternoon, after getting home from a 4am-12noon shift at work, when the doorbell rings. It is Ramesh, the watchman, who speaks decent Hindi. But he's got an accent that makes it a little difficult to comprehend what he's saying, plus he doesn't really open his mouth when he speaks. Its more of a mutter.

He says something about how he can't communicate with the man below, who he says is Iranian. He says he's supposed to pay eight thousand rupees but wants to bring it down to seven. I have to ask thrice to confirm just what he was paying for. It's a motorcycle the guy below is apparently selling. Ramesh asks me to translate between him and the Iranian.

I go down and ring the doorbell. A thin, nearly bald man in utterly ill-fitting track pants - and I mean ill-fitting; like too tight in all the wrong areas - with a brat clinging to his foot opens the door. He's clearly confused at why the watchman has brought a white guy who hasn't shaved for a week and desperately needs a haircut. Flustered, he asks us to come in but I politely decline.

I tell him what Ramesh asked me to - that he will give seven thousand now and the rest later. The guy looks at me like I've asked him the meaning of life. Ramesh looks at me expectantly.

We manage to get on the same level soon enough, and I figure out that the motorcycle is not his, but his friend Musa's. Musa is not in Bangalore, I'm told. Ramesh wants to know who has the paperwork. The Iranian says he does. Ramesh is apprehensive of signing off in front of a third party. The Iranian seems keen to shut the door and smack his brat, who has now started to hurl a tennis ball against the wall. Ramesh looks back and forth between the Iranian and I.

The Iranian gets onto the phone, speaks for a minute, and hands me the phone. I speak to Musa, whose accent is thicker than the man in front of me. He wants to know who the interested buyer is. I tell him it's the watchman. He says he wants eight thousand tomorrow. I converse with Ramesh, who says he can give seven and a half max, final offer, repeating that he's a poor man and that Musa give him a concession. Musa isn't buying it. I hand the phone back to the Iranian. He and Musa speak for a while longer.

"OK, that is settled. Thank you," he tells me.

I ask him what is settled. He gives me a blank stare. Ramesh twitches. The kid is about to eat the tennis ball.

He says that Ramesh should decide what he wants and come back. I tell that to Ramesh, who is not properly puzzled. He asks who has the paperwork, and is worried that a third party won't suffice in completing the paperwork.

The Iranian says he has all the paperwork, but that Ramesh must bring the money and "prepare the documents". By now I'm the most confused, and tell Ramesh what the man has said. "Chuck it, something's fishy with this Iranian," he says.

I suppress my laughter. The Iranian snaps at the brat. I say thanks for his time, Ramesh gives him half a smile. The Iranian shuts his door.

Ramesh and I have an awkward moment. He thanks me and we part ways.

That was like a moment from the sitcom I was watching. My life is fun.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Flat tracks be damned, Sehwag has just hit three consecutive fours, scampered a couple, and smacked another boundary to reach his sixth Test double century. What a player. No Indian batsman has hit six double centuries.

He's on 202 from 168 deliveries, on day two of a Test match. Not just any Test, the first one at the Brabourne for 36 years.

My father is sitting in the crowd somewhere. Lucky man.
Listened to a few tracks by The Raghu Dixit Project. Decent. I especially liked 'Mysore Se Aayi', 'Hey Bhagwan' and 'Ambar'. Its contemporary folk, sort of. The band played at a prison in Bangalore recently. Seems the inmates enjoyed it, from what I saw on TV.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

It doesn't feel right seeing Adnan Sami Khan and Jermaine Jackson jiving in a pop video tribute to Bombay (yes, Raj, I will call it that, boo hoo)a year after 26/11. What does Jermaine know of the city? What does he know of India? And seeing Adnan holding the Gateway of India between his index finger and thumb just looks wrong. I see where he's going, trying to salute the city's spirit and all he's earned from it once hopping across the border. It smacks of gimmick. But more so it leaves an awkward taste, given how strained relations have been between India and Pakistan. A Pakistani, who has earned so much fame and money since landing in Bombay, holding a symbol of the city, just in front of the scene of that horrific attack? Doesn't feel right.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Trains used to be decent fun. What happened? Can't sleep. Can't eat (what is with the two veg patties and a slice of bread for breakfast?).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ik Omkara ... OYE!

What if Vishal Bhardwaj had made Omkara with Sunny Deol instead of Ajay Devgan? Let’s have a look at how different some of those unforgettable dialogues would have been … steady on …

Omkara in the jail (yelling with an outstretched hand, with that trademark sideways glance): “Jo agvai ka kaam kare soh hijra, Bhaisaab. Agar inki beti mujhe jhoota bole toh maa kasam, saara PIND ko aag lagake ek-ek karke in KUTTON ka khoon pee jaaonga! Jo bole so nihaal!”

Omkara to Vakil Sahib: ”Hamari jaat to khoob pehchani aapne Vakil Sahib, par apni beti ke dil ki baat nahi pechaan sake! Dolly sirf meri hai, sirf meri, aur koi bhi mai ka laal uski taraf aankh utha kar bhi dekhe na … toh haddi-paslee thod ke rakh doonga!”

Omkara to Surinder Kaptan: “Badi lakdi mat ttha, Kaptan! Maa ka doodh piya hai toh asli mard se panja lada!”

Omkara to Kichloo, who has been held up against a wall: (With an outstretched arm, pointed index finger wagging, eyes burning, nostrils flared, lungs being cleared with the force of a geyser) “Oye, haramkhor, sarat godon pe lagate hain, sheron pe nahin! Yaad rakh nahin toh boti-boti pees ke rakh doonga! Balwant Rai ke kutto! OYE!!!

Omkara to Kesu as he anoints him the new bahu bali: “No if, no but, sirf JATT!”

Instead of humming the lullaby Jag Jaa to Dolly, Omkara will stomp his feet and dance: ”Yaara o yaara, ab toh jag jaa!”

Omkara to Rajjo on the evening of Gollu’s birthday: “OYE! Saam dale kinga jaayegu tu, machchar?”

Omkara, instead of asking Langda where Kesu is, will bellow: “Oye, ROMEO kidhar hai?”

Omkara to Langda Tyagi and a bloody, inebriated, shamed Kesu Firangi: Kasoor daaru ka nahin, PAKISTAN ka hai! OYE! Hand pump kidhar hai?”

Omkara, when demanding to know where the jeweled cummerbund: ”Utaar ke fenk do ye wardi aur pahen lo Balwant Rai ka patta apne gale mein!”

Omkara to Langda in the rain after the shootout on the train: “Haan ke naa? Oye kaminey, haan ke naa? Yeh dhai kilo ka kaath jab kisipe padtha hai na … toh aadmi uttha nahi, ud jaata hai! Haan ke naa?”

Omkara’s ultimatum to Langda ahead of his wedding day: ”Taarikh pe taarikh! Saddi se pehle saboot ni laya na … toh halak pe haat daal ke kaleje kheech lunga haram khor! Kasam khata hun kal ka suraj ka, ussi waqt zinda doonga! OYE!!”

Omkara to any number of baddies, reaching for the nearest hand pump: “Khaal udhed ke pinjar dhoop mein sukha doongaa, Balwant Rai ke kutto!”

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Run fat boy run

I’ve started running off and on – the off ration outweighs the on significantly – in the mornings after my gym membership expired in August. I can’t do this gym thing; I much prefer the outdoors.

It’s been good because there actually is a place to run near my apartment in Bangalore and there are lots of joggers and walkers so I’m not the only person exercising at that hour. As expected when a white guy puts on a t-shirt and shorts and straps an iPod Nano to his arm in these parts, there are a lot of curious onlookers.

By now a few of them - the regulars like the bicycle tire repair dude, the newspaper stand owner, the barber who opens his shop at 7 as I’m returning, and the army guards at the gates of the officers’ mess – don’t even bat an eyelid as I bustle past.

A few people have struck up conversations whenever I stop to walk a little ways to cross the road or where the dirt path around the lake is dug up. There was the sardarji who crossed me in his Hyundai Accent – he’s also a regular walker – and asked me if I wanted a lift to the lake; the elderly American lady walks with her trio of friends; the college kid walking his dog who asked me why obesity was so bad in the US. A few others have just stood gaping. There are invariably young kids – most regularly the street urchins and the boy scouts – who giggle. There was even the trio on a motorbike who catcalled as they sped past (I know, three dudes squashed together on a Hero Honda and I look strange?).

Today was funny though. So there I was this, busting a gut to The Doves’ ’Kingdom of Rust’, when an auto rickshaw slowly pulls up and put-puts alongside. Says the driver: “Hello, boss, you want auto?”

Saturday, November 21, 2009


It seems nobody is safe from those hooligan Shiv Sainiks. Not journalists, not Sachin Tendulkar, not even Kareena Kapoor's bare back.

The latest episode is something the entire country needs to be ashamed of.  The attack on the IBN office was despicable and cowardly and terrifying. Is this what the Shiv Sena wanted Tendulkar to be proud of?

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Torn jeans are in fashion but there's a rip in my favourite pair of 501s that was getting a big too ugly so went looking for a tailor to patch it up. Yes, I'm trying to get the patch back in fashion.

Found one just down the road. Small little dingy place. I ask the guy sitting there, in Hindi, if he'll do the needful. He gives me the odd look I'm so accustomed to now, and says he can. He examines the damaged goods while I ask him whether he'll patch or sew it up.

"Do you speak English?" he asks, looking very disgruntled.

I tell him I do, and Hindi as well.

"No, no Hindi. English is fine," he says.

So we decided that he will sew up the rip. He says come back tomorrow at 5.

Then: "Where you from?"

I hesitate as usual before opening the dreaded can of worms. "America."

"Where in America?"

I go for Ohio.

"Not New York? You know New York?"

"Yes, I've been there."

"You heard of Blondie?"


"Blondie, Blondie? Singer! Big Singer!"

I say that I have, and that Blondie is a bit before my time. It doesn't register with Tailor.

"My cousin, he knows Blondie. Used to work with Blondie. He's big singer, ya?"

I say yes, a while ago.

"Yes, long time ago," he says enthusiastically. "Maybe thirty years back, huh?"

I nod.

"My cousin, he used to send me albums and photos of Blondie," he continues. "You speak Hindi huh?"

I nod again.

Then he laughs and displays a toothless grin. "I been in India all my life and I never learn Hindi, you believe? OK man, you come back at 5 tomorrow."

And with that he goes back to his sowing machine.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Ten rupees extra, sir?"

So I've decided to start a Bangalore Auto Driver Hall of Fame section. I've had so many incidents with this breed - some hilarious, some quirky, some irritating and some horrible. It's the quirky I'd like to remember.

Just to refresh the memory in case you missed previous posts. There was Syed Azam, who shared his views on how "ladies log" coming to Indian metros from smaller towns "bahut sexy-sexy dikhne pe dhyan deti hai" and wanted to know if I found Rani Mukherjee of John Abraham hotter; there was the guy who was hellbent on getting me to learn Kannada and offered to stop and show me the best Kannada-to-English tutorial books; there was the guy who knew of more of "my type"; there was the guy who spoke in crisp English whose son was in Texas; there was the former insurance agency clerk who had lost his job due to injury and who was rehabilitated and aiming to get a job with Bharti AXA; there was the chap with whom I discussed George Bush's nuclear policy, Barack Obama's relationship with South Asia, and the high divorce rate in the US; there was Mohammad Rafiq, who played Himesh Reshammiya tunes and gave me his mobile number to call anytime I needed a ride; and then there was the guy who played a cassette of English pop and dance numbers to make me feel more "at home". Legends all.

Well, the first official entrant into the Hall of Fame is Mahadeva, in whose auto was written, in large capital letters: "Closed the door to your past, live in present & enjoy every moments. Now smile plese, I am member of Alcoholics Anonymous group."

True story.

Monday, November 16, 2009

aatlu modhu kem the giyo bhai?

Bal Thackeray criticizing Sachin Tendulkar for his "Mumbai for all" remark. Lalit Modi shaking hands with the Indian team before the start of a Test.  India's two biggest fascists, under whose watch two of the country's most horrific acts of genocide were carried out, both whose credibility is on the wane, getting involved in the sport that is a religion here. India really is secular, isn't it?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

'Kevin, I'm going to feed you to my tarantula'

Remember Buzz from Home Alone? McCaulay Kulkin's older brother; freckles; spiky haircut; total jackass; "I wouldn't let you sleep in my room if you were growing on my ASS!"?

Of course you do. I'd not seen him in a movie since but squinted my eyes while watching a crapfest called Surrogates today. It was Buzz, about 200 pounds heavier and looking like the offspring of say ... if Michael Moore and Roseanna Barr had a kid. He looks way different now but still is recognizable. I think it was an expression he made in one of his initial scenes, which for a flash resembled a look he'd give his younger brother Kevin in the classic movie he's most famous for.

Anyways, it just reminded me of a time long gone by. It happens now and then. I'll see a movie from the past and immediately I'll associate it with a precise time and place. Mohra on Sony in 2009 = a rainy Saturday afternoon in Mussoorie circa 1994, after which Vinod and I did our best Akshay Kumar and Sunil Shetty impersonations, round-house kicks and perfectly synchronized 'dshhht' and 'duussht' - yes, there is a difference - sound effects and all. Dead Poets Society on DVD = buying a bucket of popcorn in Harrisburg, PA as an eight-year old. An episode of Full House = massive crush on Jodie Sweeten back in fifth grade and an even more massive heartache when she kissed some douche on a New Year's Eve special in 1991, watched by yours truly in Harrisonburg, VA. Memories. What can you do?

OK so there's not a lot to these posts. It takes some time to get back in the groove of things.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Another attempt ...

It's been well over a year and a half since my last post. Well, nearly 22 months in fact. Not good at this at all.

The few of you who followed loyally and kept dropping comments and feedback, thank you. I hope to see you back here again. Simran, thats means you.

Well, as you know there are just two things I can really talk about at length: cricket and movies. So let me begin with the former, for now. 

It's Tendulkar's 20th year at the top, and I remember January 19, 1989 pretty well. I was a week shy of my eighth birthday and my father took me along to interview what he said was the next big thing in cricket, a guy who was going to shake up the sport. I wasn't in to cricket at the time, but was made to believe this was a going to be something big. I tagged along.

It was at the Hindu Gymkhana ground on Marine Drive. It wasn't a very hot day, I recall. We got there, my dad and I, and there was a small camera crew. Just two people, I think. There was chit-chat between people, we stood around and watched players knocking it about at the nets. My dad wandered off with the camera person to speak to a man in dark shades. I would learn later that this was Dilip Vengsarkar. He wasn't too animated. Years later I saw the interview on Doordarshan and what struck me most were the Raybans.

Then up comes this little kid, with a big mop of curly hair. He looked shy, and apprehensive. Not that I was majorly perceptive back there, but this kid looked a bit uncomfortable. He wasn't much taller than me. The interview began and he spoke in this squeaky voice. This is the next big thing, I remember thinking?

It didn't last long. I didn't pay much attention. I stood near my father most of the time. I remember trying to stand under the shade of a small hedge. The interview over, they requested the kid to give a parting shot where he's supposed to grab his kit bag and hop over a ledge onto the sidewalk. He did it one take.

I forgot about that day. Later i got started watching more cricket, started reading. I got to fully understand what Tendulkar was.

Cut to 1993-94. I remember him pulling up to the driveway of our middle school building in Bombay, which was owned by his to-be in laws. He drove a swanky black sports car. Now he wore dark shades. The hair wasn't as much of a fro. People crowded about. But he was a kid still, waiting for his girlfriend to come down from upstairs. He still seemed a bit awkward, apprehensive. He waited for her to come down, he signed autographs in the meantime; then they drove off.

The next time we met was in Delhi, I think it was the same year. Tendulkar, Gavaskar, my father and I had tea at a hotel. He didn't speak much. The interview came up. He remembered it well. He was a superstar, and still awkward and apprehensive. The reasons to him were probably the same as when he was a kid in 1989.

Now that kid is a day shy of completing 20 years of international cricket. Time flies.