Dec 26, 2011

Out of the Blue (TY!)

Since the beginning of December, I was wondering what should be the last post of 2011 on 'Out of the Blue'. A nice romantic poem, that would fetch me good number of 'likes' on the facebook link? Or a movie review of Don-2, that would get me maximum number of 'page views' and controversial comments? Or a simple and cute good bye kind of post, where I would say nice moralistic things and thank you for wasting some of your time in reading my blog?

Even after a lot of consideration, I could not decide on anything concrete. Writing a romantic poem requires lots of 'hands on' experience (You cheap mind, it does not mean what you think!). I have been deprived of love and romance off late. Yes, 'separation' and 'solitude' are themselves catalysts of verse but now a days even these feelings have ceased to bother me. So, romantic posts have to remain in 'draft' section at least till early next year.

'Convertible' remains the most loved blog post. Click and Read!

Moreover, reviewing Don-2 was also out of contention straightaway. In fact, I have decided that I would never 'review' any Shah Rukh Khan film on this blog. I do not want even a slight hint of bias to creep into my reviews. Yes, I would continue to write about Mr Khan, every now and then. But there I would have my privileges as a 'writer'. Recently one of the readers' very interestingly summed up my 'love' for Shah Rukh Khan...."And when it comes to Shahrukh Khan, you behave like a kid fighting for his pa’s movie, saying he is the best (you love him so much…)"!

Click on the Photo above to read the 'most popular' blog post!

It is the love and responses like these that have kept this blog alive for 10 months. When I returned to blogging in February this year (I know the word 'return' sounds dramatic. But trust me it was nothing grand), I did not have extraordinary hopes. I still do not have any illusion. But, I just wanted to see that will at least some of those 30-odd people who regularly 'like' and comment on my Facebook notes bother to come over to a new page altogether, just to read what I write. At facebook, I 'forced' my friends to read my posts by tagging them. Yes, I received much appreciation and love on Facebook, but I wanted to see whether that appreciation was only an 'obligation' post tagging or did some of my friends actually liked what I wrote. Will they take some time out, click on a link, wait for the page to load and then read &comment on the post? I could bet on some of my best friends and few of my ardent admirers (Yes, you ass! I have a fan base. Size does not matter). But anyone other than them? I used to wonder.

It is in this regard that saying 'thank you' is absolutely important. I must thank all the readers for showing great patience and appreciation by visiting this blog so often. For coming back again and again to this blog, and making me feel special by posting some wonderful comments. All these months have been nothing less than an unbelievable journey where around 80-odd people have joined the site in some way or the other. Nearly 200 people like the blog's page on Facebook. I know you must be thinking that 200 is not such a big number for a FB page. But, I had never thought these many people would 'like' a page belonging to someone's personal blog.

It is very humbling, extremely satisfying and monumentally encouraging when someone addresses you as 'Sir' after reading a certain post or a reader's comment goes on to state something as inspiring as this.. "Yes, your a month or two back post-When A Nation Churns… Yes, I read it on October, and believe me, I again and again clicked on 'Apply Now' button, until I realized what you meant… that very day I opened an account in blogger, I always wanted to have one… Your writing has this power…"

Okay cut it. Neither I myself want to sound pompous nor do I want you people to think very highly of yourselves.

By now, you know what this post has turned out to be. A not-so-well-written or rather stupid 'Thank you' post. But honestly, I could not stop myself from writing this. In fact, I wanted to say so much more, share some gratitude, affection and love. But sometimes, we should let things take their own course. Planning does not always guarantee success. Somethings are great just because they happen 'Out of the Blue'. :)

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year!!

May you do things that nobody has ever done!

P.S.- OTB will never let you down. 2012 will be bigger and better! (And I know you are thinking how smartly have I promoted two of my previous posts through this write-up. Yeah, I know I am good. (wink))

Dec 15, 2011

Not-So-Great List of Top 10 Songs-2011

Ok, I was really interested in bringing out a proper list of Top-10 songs of 2011. I was always fascinated with Cibaca Geetmala or even a Mirchi Top 20. But, when I sat down and tried to collect the data, I realized that the task was enormous (I hate to research while writing a blog!). First, I had to google all the releases of 2011, then sort them out. I did not want to miss out on any good song. We often forget the films and songs that come in the beginning of each year. Second, I realized on what basis can I call my list 'Top 10'? I mean, different people have different tastes and my list was certainly not based on any scientific survey. I tried to run a small survey on blog's facebook page for the No. 1 song but again the sheer 'variety' of taste was again on display.

So, I finally settled down on bringing out a list of 'personal' favorites. Yes, 10 songs of 2011 that I liked the most. Based on the number of times I listened to these songs, watched their videos, recommended them to friends, put them as my caller tune/ ringtone and so on. Obviously, the list will have some songs that are universal favorites. But a few might surprise you or even make you despise my music taste. But anyways, If you are here, reading my blog, I know you love me. :)

So, Here are the 10 Songs that kept my ears engaged in 2011!-- (In the descending order)

1. Chammak Challo (Ra.One)--- It has to be the song of the year for me, for the sheer impact it had on my mind. I have heard it innumerable times and it still exists in my playlist. It was my ringtone for good one month. And I love Shah Rukh Khan. And of course, the song has its merits. Akon's diction, Vishal-Shekhar's music and the gorgeous KK. Yes, choreography left a lot to be desired. But SRK looked cute while trying Bharatnatyam steps.

2. Sadda Haq/ The Rockstar Soundtrack--- I took up to Sadda Haq immediately. It was the perfect fodder to my mind in this year of rebellions and protests. However, I was not very fond of rest of the songs of Rockstar, till I saw the film. With time, 'tum ho', 'Sheher mein' and 'kun faya' mesmerized me. Now, all the songs of Rockstar seem to be so soulful! Easily Rahman's best work since the Oscars. True master he is! And no to forget, Mohit Chauhan's awesome vocals!

3. Laung Da Lashkara (Patiala House)--- This song is 2011's unsung masterpiece! Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy are second to none when it comes to creating Punjabi magic! Earthy innocence!

4. DK Bose/ Switty (Delhi Belly)--- DK Bose hit my like a cyclone. Unconventional and unforgettable lyrics. Switty took over after a certain time! Awesome Punjabi dance number! Delhi Belly was one hell of an unusually great soundtrack! (The Return of Ram Sampath)

5. Saddi Gali (Tanu Weds Manu)--- R Madhvan and Kangna Ranaut. It does not get more non-typical than this. Flair of folk and strong vocals. Also, appreciable is the effort of relatively new music composer (krsna) and lyricist (Rajshekar). Great soundtrack in totality!

6. Darling (7 Khoon Maaf)--- Usha Uthup carried this song on her shoulders. Vishal & Rekha Bhardwaj and Gulzar are proven geniuses. Teasing lyrics, foot tapping music.

7. Senorita (ZNMD)--- Spanish flavor. A lesson on life and how it should be spent. Hrithik-Abhay-Farhan's vocals. Do we need more?

8. Te Amo/Saibo (DMD, Shor in the city)--- Te Amo drowned without making much impact as it was part of a forgettable film. Ash King and Sunidhi made sure that I remembered 'her', every time I listened to this song. Saibo was another such beautiful track. Fresh and romantic.

9. Achcha Lagta Hai (Aarakshan)--- This one makes to the list just on the power of its lyrics. Prasoon Joshi, my god! He seems to be so familiar with the common man's antics! Another song that makes me remember 'her'!

10. Jalebi Bai (Double Dhamaal)--- Ok! I am sure, you are hating me by now! May be laughing! But If I had not included this one in the list, I would have been a hypocrite. I was hooked to this song, specially its video. That 'Jalebi-Making step' of Mallika! I don't know who sung it, or who composed the music! Sometimes, it does not matter! (Wink)

P.S. - More serious 'Top 10s' follow soon. I know, this list is not so great. But, music is all about comforting your ears and soul. Is not it?

Dec 9, 2011

Ladies V/s Ricky Bahl: An Uninspiring Face-Off

I will not get into the plot and story line of Yashraj Films' Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl. As an audience, you are intelligent enough to figure it out after seeing promos and reading about the film in the media. There is nothing new or no 'twist' as such, of which I need to make you aware of or warn you before hand. So, let's come across to the goods and bads of the film, straightaway.

Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl comes with a huge albatross, called Band Baaja Baarat, around its neck. Frankly, no one expects Maneesh Sharma (Director), Aditya Chopra (Producer) or Anushka-Ranveer (Lead Actors) to recreate that magic 'literally', as films like BBB are very rare and special. But one can not help but expect at least 'some' of the euphoria that 'BBB' generated, from 'L Vs RB'. That earthy humor, taut script, sizzling chemistry! Aah!

Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl fails to take off for the entire duration of its running. It moves at a steady and sometimes lethargic pace, reminding you of the 'plateau' phase in any tenth-standard physics graph. But film's slow pace in the second half and lack of excitement in the first half are not the only flaws. What comes across as an unpardonable sin is the way Anushka Sharma has been somewhat sidelined in the narrative. She ends up playing a 'pawn' in this epic battle between 'Ladies' and Ricky Bahl (Ranveer Singh).

The ladies in question here, Debutante Parineeti Chopra, Aditi Sharma and Dipannita Sharma Atwal, do justice to their respective roles. In fact, Parineeti deserves special applaud for pulling off the role of typically rich and partially dumb Delhi girl with utmost ease. Her dialogues, or rather monologues, are hilarious at places, and her timing brings in some much-needed comic relief to the entire proceedings. Dipannita Sharma, as the ambitious, brave and modern corporate professional cum leader of the ladies pack, exhibits remarkable restrain and poise.

And what about Anushka Sharma? She is undone by a script that does not let her be free. She is absent for the entire first half, and gets very few moments of personal brilliance in the second half. That famed chemistry of Anushka-Ranveer suffers heavily due to this injustice done to role of the girl who carried BBB on her shoulders.

Ranveer Singh seems to be enjoying his day under the sun with a well-toned body and a meaty role. He looks totally at ease, looking sufficiently cunning and deceptive as the 'woman-wealth hunter'. The music of the film is very 'one-track', with at least two songs (Jazba and Jigar Ka Tukda) having stunningly similar tunes. Maneesh Sharma, the director, should have ideally done more with such an interesting concept in hand.

Moreover, the film clearly lacks doses of humor. A film of this genre (Rom-Com) breathes, eats and sleeps humor, both covert and overt, but Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl falls flat in this department, with only the character of Parineeti Chopra fighting a lone comic battle.

I went to the theatre with an expectation to watch an mouthwatering battle of sexes, some fun moments (Typical Yashraj style), all in all to have a paisa-vasool experience. But Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl falls well short of the expected experience with not so exciting treatment of the story line. Ranveer Singh cons the girls way too easily and the girls too, get back at him way too easily. And somewhere in between, Anushka and Ranveer fall for each other way too easily and that, is the end.

Final Verdict: Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl disappoints in totality. Do not expect a Band Baja Baarat encore. This is strictly a 'one-timer'!

**1/2 (Average)

Dec 4, 2011

Sometimes, Greatness Just Spills Over the Brim!

I don't believe in mourning. I think, great people leave behind great memories which should be cherished rather being mourned. This was precisely the reason, I refrained from putting up blog posts after demise of several legendary artists this year, be it Dr. Hazarika, Shammi Kapoorji, Jagjit Singh, Bhimsen Joshi and many others. I have no hesitation in admitting that I know very little about the craft and the legacy left behind by these great people. But sometimes, greatness just spills over the brim. You need not always eat a mango to relish its taste.

But Dev Anand's demise leaves behind a great vacuum and fills my heart with strange sadness. Again, I have not seen all of his films. Hum Dono, Guide, Heera Panna and Jewel thief are some of his works that I had the chance of appreciating. My remembrance of Dev Anand is mainly associated with my father being a fan of his style and cinematic craft. I remember being told by my mother that my father used to imitate Dev Saab's style during his youth. Those were the days when Dev Anand would sweep the nation off his feet by wearing 'black trousers' and 'white shirt'. He was the first style icon of India, with millions of girls dying to get a glimpse of the charismatic actor. Dev Saab possessed a unique charm, an infectious radiance that could enthrall young and old alike.

On his birthday this year, I put up a status on Facebook which said, "Happy Birthday Dev Saab! Please stop making films now! :P". It was a casual update. I never knew he would take my jibe so seriously. People of my generation have often been amused to see a 80-plus man making films after films, most of them disappearing without making any noise. But most of us failed to understand the undying vigor and love for cinema that Dev Saab had. His 'Chargesheets' and 'Love At Time Squares' may not have set new landmarks, but his unflinching faith in his craft and abilities has definitely put several of those young filmmakers to shame, who waste their talents and resources like overflowing water.

This post was not planned. I do not know what to write. I will always remember Dev Anand for acting in, and making great films. I will remember him for living his life on his own terms, for working till his last breath and for giving back so much to the Industry (he groomed an army of young talents). Much more than what Industry actually gave him. I saw spark in his eyes every time he sat there at any award function. There was a child-like stubbornness in him. He did not mind people cracking jokes on him. He did, what he loved.

R.I.P Dev Anand!


P.S.- Needless to say, this year has been absolutely terrible for Indian Art/Entertainment. The picture below comprises few of the gems who passed away this year, but let me clarify, the list is much longer. (Notable misses- Uncle Pai, Indira Goswami, Ustad Sultan Khan, Shrilal Shukla)

Nov 23, 2011

To Rahul, With Rancor- 2

Dear Rahul,

Hope you are doing good. Let me make it very clear, I have no intention of bugging you with letters. But, somehow you, and your politics always seem to occupy my mind (do not doubt my orientations). After all, you are supposed to represent the changing face of Indian politics, and the young, vibrant population of the country, in general. I don't know who appointed you as the representative/ face/ brand ambassador of everything young that this country has. But now that the onus is on you, I can not help but address this letter (second in six months) to you.

First, I wish you all the best for UP assembly elections due next year. I can sense your excitement, there is spring in your feet and your speech has fine balance of vitriol and wisdom. Your excitement reminds me of my school days. Biology used to be my favorite subject, and gleefully I used to wait for its exam to come. Similarly, UP seems to be your favorite political subject and hence the evident  augmentation is quite justified. I sincerely hope that you manage to show a good report card to your mumma.

Second, I am impressed from the fact that you kick-started UP election campaign from your great grandfather's constituency. It seems that rough political weather in Delhi has sharpened your wisdom, at least in the case of Uttar Pradesh. But apart from symbolism attached with Nehru's Phoolpur, what else the voter should expect from you? Are you willing to push Nehruvian Model in today's times? What is your stand on India's foreign and economic policy? Sadly, you never touch upon these areas. You only seem to be interested in rhetoric, matching Mayawati word to word. I mean, you must realize that 'beggar comment' was in bad taste. So far it is only rhetoric, I pray to God that you do not try and match Maya's theatrics!

And lastly, why don't you try and break that logjam in parliament? Why are you not ready to take up that extra mile? Why is your every move calculated like a family's monthly budget and measured like a cricket pitch? What is stopping you from taking up a larger role in party functioning or even a smaller role in governance? Do you know Kalawati, the Dalit woman who rose into national limelight thanks to you, is finding it tough to have two meals a day? Do you know there are millions of Kalawatis across India who are reeling under unprecedented inflation? And do you know youth of this nation is finding it tough to ride a bike, the vehicle you used to 'appear' in Bhatta Parsaul, because of the rising petrol price?

I think you know all of this. I am sure you have a cable connection at home. I am sure your party men, friends and family keep you informed on issues concerning India. Then , what makes you so unresponsive to matters of national significance? Why only Uttar Pradesh has Viagra like effect on you? And even after being so excited about UP, you do not project yourself as the Congress Chief Ministerial candidate. What's the harm in taking the plunge? Or do you also foolishly think, like some of your party men, that you are tailor-made only for the PM's post?

Ok, listen. I do not like asking all these clumsy questions again and again. But your actions are so infertile and supine that I can not help but write these letters to you. I mean, please do something. Match your words with action. Get your dreams right. Set your goals straight. Get rid of those classical myths. Go, reform Indian politics. I am sure you can do much better. Much better than watching Chirag Paswan's debut film.

With Rancor,

A Non-Congressman


P.S.- I know you do not follow my blog. There are chances that you may never read these letters. But, still I have a belief that someday we will meet and discuss these letters over a cup of coffee.

Click below to read the first letter-

Nov 17, 2011

'Your' Music Stands a Chance!

Listen. You mostly listen to shit. Worse, most of the times you even memorize that shit and later on complain about it. Yes, I am talking about your playlist.

And when I refer to music playlist on your phone, i-Pod or whatever, I mean Hindi Film Music. Strictly. 'These Bollywood songs are so predictable these days', is a typical 'music lover' grievance. The purists fondly remember the good old days, when melody was more important than the sound effects and other 21st century gimmicks. Some of the more evolved music aficionados go a step further and say, 'I think, I would have done better than this singer who sings from his nose!' or 'I guess, they have used a bit too much of guitar in this song'.

Here is an opportunity for such music enthusiasts. People who think they have something to contribute towards Hindi Film Music. People who like to take up challenges, but seldom get the right opportunity. 

Lorien Motion Pictures, an Independent Film Production House founded by Bhargav Saikia, has introduced the "Kaafiron Ki Namaaz Song Contest", for their upcoming Hindi Film 'Kaafiron Ki Namaaz' (can be roughly translated as 'Non-Believers' Prayer', in English). This specially designed contest gives you an opportunity to get your self-composed, original song featured on the Audio CD of this film. The winning song will be featured with songs sung by eminent playback singers like Usha Uthup, Javed Ali, Najim Arshad, Kshitij Tarey and Sukhwinder Singh. Individual musicians as well as music bands are welcome to participate in the contest.  Not to mention, this is a first-of-its-kind contest in India, where the 'common music enthusiast gets an opportunity to get his/her song/music featured in a Hindi Film Soundtrack! (Stop imagining as of now, your name would look good on the CD cover)

The music of 'Kaafiron Ki Namaaz' is being composed by the talented Advait Nemlekar. The songs boast of some rich, imaginative and fresh lyrics by the film's director himself, Sandeep Sharma (On facebook under his pen name Ram Ramesh Sharma). If you like music that touches soul and lets you shed your inhibitions, Kaafiron ki Namaaz is your destination (Don't frown, I am saying this as I had the privilege of listening to a few songs). Nothing better than being a part of the venture that promises not to travel the often traveled path in Hindi music and cinema.

So, this is your chance to clean up the shit yourself. Be the change that you want to bring. Give something back to Hindi Film Music. Challenge that melodious soul inside you!

Visit for details.

P.S.- Yes, you guessed it right. The film's producer has asked me to keep my mouth shut about the exact amount I have received for writing this post. (wink)

Nov 12, 2011

'Rockstar': A 'Could-Have-Been' Classic

You will hear every person associated with film making, be it a director, producer or an actor, say 'story is the soul of a film'. Even the often warring reviewers and critics, agree as far as the significance of a good story in a film is concerned. Imtiaz Ali, the young director, who gave us inventive, fresh and memorable love stories like Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal and somewhat unnoticed Socha Na Tha, tries to redefine love through a rather unconventional Rockstar, his fourth directorial venture. However, this time it is Imtiaz's trump card (read story) that deserts him. Rockstar works very well in patches, with some memorable moments, but falls short of mark in totality, specially the closing reels. 

Ranbir Kapoor plays Janardan Jakhad/JJ/Jordan, an average Delhi boy who dreams of being a Rockstar, inspired by none other than Jim Morrison. He fails to make much headway after being discouraged by his family and ridiculed by people around him. He gets a friend cum confidant in a canteen owner (Kumud Mishra) who tells him that it is absolutely necessary to experience pain, suffer humiliation and undergo tragedy to become artist of any kind, musician/singer included. Janardan then meets Heer (Nargis Fakhri), the gorgeous college candy, and decides to 'experience' tragedy/pain by proposing to her (he knew the proposal would be duly rejected). Later on Janardan and Heer become very good friends, traveling from Kashmir to Prague. As is the case with most friends of opposite sex, love blossoms, and what follows next is heartbreak, tragedy, pain and self-destruction. And yes, Janardan goes on to become Jordan, gains popularity across the world and develops a peculiar violent streak.

Rockstar suffers from inconclusive and unclear narrative. There are glaring loopholes in film's screenplay. For example, opening scene starts with a few men beating Jordan while he is going for one of his concerts. Then, the film goes into the flashback mode to tell the tale of Jordan, but explanation of that first scene never really comes up. That scene is totally forgotten when the story comes back to present times. The Prague episode looks totally unconvincing. While, Heer and Jordan's adventures in Delhi are fresh and charming, the European part of the story looks forced and made up. This is the reason why film works well in the first half with Ranbir pulling off the simpleton act with aplomb. The second half is stretched and induces a slight headache. Ranbir and Nargis's love track is inconsistent and disjointed. Sometimes, you wonder is this love or lust or none of the two? Also, there is not much insight into Ranbir's peculiar violent streak. This was needed, specially after he was also simultaneously shown as a very mystical and 'tough' guy, who spends two months at a Dargah. There are different ways of justifying a Rockstar's erratic behavior, mostly it is done through showing substance abuse. Imtiaz does not get into that cliched territory, which is good, but he should have put more logic behind it. The film's end is its biggest lacuna, you don't really know what happened to the female protagonist. Mind you, this is not open ending, but clear lack of clarity in the storyteller's head. The end, somehow, justifies the process, with that lingering confusion along with occasional brilliant moments.

But also, everything is not bad about the movie either. Few things are exemplary, some are very good. Ranbir Kapoor's riveting performance stands out, his best so far (You will forget Saawariya and Rajneeti). Hindi Cinema's youngest Superstar gives his heart, soul, sweat and blood to the role of a maverick Rockstar. His shrieks, violent encounters, rendezvous with strings, passion for Heer, comic timing, every damn thing will be etched in your mind forever. His performance is beyond praise and awards. Theatre's cooling (AC) has nothing to do with hair-raising moments that you experience throughout the film. It's Ranbir's show all the way.

Special mention for film's cinematograher Anil Mehta. Frames of Rockstar are very soothing, almost like painting. Shots of Kashmir and Hazrat Nizammudin Dargah deserve standing ovation. If Ranbir's histrionics as a helpless, mystical soul finding shelter at dargah make you feel for him, brilliant camerawork of Mehta inside the Dargah completes your experience. 

And as expected, A. R. Rahman's music weaves magic, hand in glove with the film's narrative. Expect for Sadda Haq, no song has immediate recall value but they grow on you with each passing day. 'Tum Ho' and 'Kun Faya' are honey to ears. Rockstar should go down as Rahman's finest work since his Oscar achievement. Also, background score gives a boost to somewhat sluggish proceedings in the second half.

Film also boasts of very fine editing (cuts and montage wise), but the editor (Aarti Bajaj) could have easily done away with at least 15 minutes in the second half. But again, there is a flip side to it. With such a wafer thin storyline, the editor did not have the liberty to reduce the film's length. Rockstar almost gasps to reach its conclusion in the second half, you know the director is trying hard to say 'The End'. Also, film's dialogues are straight out of heart and situational. (Palangtod takes away the top honors)

Ok, what about the newcomer Nargis? She is gorgeous except for that ever-protruding pout. Her acting skills are ordinary, to say it in the polite terms. Dubbing of her voice looks very odd at places, you sincerely wish to see a Katrina in her place by the time film reaches mid-way. Also, you wonder how Nargis miraculously gets turned on by just 'hugging' and produces semi-moans. Kumud Mishra as Ranbir's friend cum confidant is superb. Piyush Mishra, as the music company owner has been wasted. The massage scene is the only worthwhile scene that he gets in the film, and he makes an impact. The legendary Shammi Kapoor makes a very short appearance. But seeing him on the celluloid for one last time is pacifying enough. Isn't it?

Rockstar, as a film, would boost Imtiaz Ali's skills and credentials. One can easily see that the director has come out of his comfort zone (Fresh love stories) and tried something more challenging and mystifying. Full marks to him for taking that extra step. But he struggles to match promise with execution. There are way too many loose strings in the film to give the director a clean-chit. The film has everything, a larger than life canvas, a lead actor in form of his life, a compelling premise but it is the basic story and screenplay that seem to be awry. 

There are many moments in the film that you will take home. This is not an ordinary affair that you will see and forget. It will compel you to think. However, at the end of the movie you will wonder, "agar ye aisa hota to film classic hoti."

Rockstar is the quintessential 'could-have-been' classic. Ranbir Kapoor is the reason enough to watch it. And there are many more as well. Worth a Watch!

Rating- *** (Good)

P.S.- Mohit Chauhan deserves applaud for being the 'Unsung Rockstar' of the film.

Nov 6, 2011

God Save Cricket!

I am not finding cricket exciting these days. Not just me, but several other cricket fans across the world are developing a disconnect with the sport, which once even occupied their dreams. Such was the charm and beauty of this supposed gentleman's game that people (specially Indians) did not mind following the proceedings of a match even for five continuous days (test matches). But things have changed now. There is hardly any buzz around India-WI test series that starts today. Fewer and fewer fans are turning up for cricket matches in the stadiums. One Day Internationals, which were considered to be crowd-pullers, at least in India, have recorded dismal attendance recently (India-England ODI at Mumbai). This trend is alarming as attendance of spectators is already low in cricket stadiums outside the Indian Subcontinent.

What has led to this apparent lack of interest among cricket fans? Have they finally come out of the 'illusion'? Do they think cricket as a sport has not anything new to offer (Are the soccer enthusiasts grinning)? Not exactly. There is nothing wrong with the sport as such. Cricket and all its three forms (Tests, ODIs, T20s) are very wholesome and entertaining in their own special ways. In fact, cricket is the only sport that offers such variety to its followers, giving them a wide range of dishes, as per their tastes. A purist may take pride in the 5-day format and meticulously follow the technicalities of the game. A fan, whose life runs on time, can indulge himself in the T20 game after coming back home at 8 in the night. And for those who like fireworks along with some sanity can follow the ODIs. Then, where does the problem lie?

The problem, it seems, lies with the scheduling of the matches and the 'excessive' dose. If India's World Cup win ensured that madness for the game reached its crescendo, the subsequent West Indies tour proved to be a damp squib. furthermore, spirit of the fans touched an all-time low after India failed to register a single win during the disastrous England Tour. The problem is, India, after winning the world cup, should not have started off their campaign through a low-key WI tour. And England should not have come to India to play One-Dayers just a couple of weeks after hosting them. For months, it was as if India had only one task at hand, that is to play England and play England again. And now, India will host West Indies for tests and ODIs. Why have we spent the entire year playing West Indies and England? And not to forget, their was a CLT20 squeezed in between all this nonsensical drama.

So, scheduling is a clear problem. And this kind of unreasonable planning eventually leads to overdose of cricket or instigates the 'fatigue factor' among the fans. And also, one should understand that when we talk of cricket's dwindling popularity, receding TRPs of broadcasters, it mostly and primarily concerns state of the game in India. Because, whether you like it or not, Cricket's nerve center lies in this nation of billion people. Cricket's health is directly proportional to interest for the game in India, and the subcontinent in larger perspective. South Africa, Australia, England and New Zealand may be good cricketing nations but that cricketing culture is somewhat non-existent in these countries.

Cricket's woes have been further compounded by the shocking spot fixing controversy. Few days back, I read an article by Pradeep Magazine (Senior sports journalist, HT), where he drew an interesting parallel between sports and society at large. He said, its tough to imagine corruption-free cricket when money making and pursuit of wealth have become the main motto of society. The eventual fate of Butt, Asif and Amir should act as strong deterrence for youngsters. But in any case, it is the sport of cricket that has been tarnished and damaged beyond repair. A set of cynical fans will now look at every delivery with a certain degree of suspicion and every dropped catch or even a no-ball may excite them.

So where does the solution lie? At a time, when cricket is perhaps going through its sternest test, both on and off the field, the rescue act has to come through a moment of immense significance. There has to be a divine intervention, a masterly act that compels us to focus our attention back to those 22 yards.

No, we need not look heavenwards. A certain Indian cricketer, who bats for his country at No. 4 in Test Matches, holds the key here. Sachin Tendulkar's 100th ton would be the perfect antidote for all the ailments plaguing the game of cricket. Who cares about the West Indies or this test series for that matter, but time would come to a standstill when Sachin walks out to bat, most probably tomorrow. I am sure he would beat the insensitive Central Government, hell bent to score a hundred through petrol price hike, in reaching the magical mark.

We, the mortals, have always looked upwards in moments of crisis. And the Almighty has often responded in his own unique yet effective ways. I think, cricket lovers might just get their prayers answered, by their God,  in next few days.

Nov 2, 2011


I was trying to sleep for some time. There was this sense of expectancy, a profound air of optimism surrounding me. I curled myself up in the blanket and gazed at the wall facing me. The moonlight filtering through the window added that extra zing to the entire setup.
 She was not my kinds to be honest. Actually, no girl is my kinds. I am unique (Peculiar!). But still she was the magnet and I was a hardcore Iron. Her company made me smile. I could sit for years in front of her and do nothing. My friends termed me loser. (Rightly so)

But He never lost faith in my abilities. He always looked smiling at me from that uppermost corner of the wall. He has always been like that, friend of friends, a true companion, a remarkable confidant. I could rely on Him, He was my friend, philosopher, guide, and elder brother. His smile was infectious, He emitted extremely positive vibes, he symbolized life (King Size).

I went up to the mirror, stretched my arms horizontally, and tilted the upper half of my body to right. A current ran across my spine. I could feel the energy that divine posture generated. My heart pounded like freshly boiled Rajma.

Love was never my cup of tea, but he always gave me that ammo to move ahead. He is no Casanova, He is just hopelessly romantic. He does not have great looks, but has the charm to woe any girl on planet. He is one of us, real yet special. Simple yet magnificent.

I knew, she would be restless too. Perhaps not trying out postures at this hour of the night, but anxious nevertheless.

(Kahin Aag Lagne Se Pehle, Uthta Hai Aisa Dhuaan....Jaisa Hai Idhar Ka Nazaara, Vaisa Hi Udhar Ka Samaa)

I was dying to let her know what I felt for her. But I could not muster up enough courage. I was pathetic at expressing emotions, an awful orator. So unlike Him, He is a man with wise words. When He speaks, we listen and smile and listen. He has profound opinion on everything from cinema to religion to politics to cricket. His oratory skills are spell binding and effortless, far better than those of his ‘surname sakes’. He is not a mere actor, He is a true SuperStar (Others are just His distant poor cousins) and an unparalleled entertainer.

At that moment, my phone rang, “She is leaving for US, tonight. May be forever. You are doomed asshole :P

My adrenaline was pumping. I was scared, I knew would never fall in love again. She can't go like that, You can't let her go, I can't let You go. Climax scenes of His several "works of art" started to flash in front of my eyes.

(Saanson Mein Badi Bekaraari, Aankhon Mein Kai Rat Jage....Kahin Kabhi Lag Jaaye Dil To, Kahin Phir Dil Na Lage)...

I looked at the mirror again. Reflection of a sentence was very easy for me to make out. Repair almost anything. Broken heart? I wondered.

I was at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, desperately searching for that US bound flight on the display board. Finally I could locate it, the flight to New York. As I tried to make my way through the hustle-bustle of the waiting area, I wondered how would I get in! After all, not many break into an airport with a night suit on. It was nearly midnight but the buzz at the airport did not seem to die down. I could notice other faces, waiting expectantly for their near and dear ones.

That buzz at the airport suddenly burst into a roar. I looked back to find if there was a bomb scare. I could only see people and more people, anxious & happy. A figure emerged from between the crowd, dressed in an impeccable black suit. His persona was towering despite a modest height. He looked like a playboy and a monk simultaneously, blowing kisses to his fans and doing a courteous adaab. Before I could realize, He stood at a touching distance from me.
Shah Rukh Khan, 45, India's best domestic entertainment product and finest export, was standing in front of me. Several thoughts rushed through my mind, one moment I wanted to jump in the air, the other I wanted to flee the airport and never look back. I felt like hugging him, touching him to ensure that its him! It was one of the those moments which I wanted to either freeze forever or completely erase from my life. I was not just happy, I was scared too. I was not prepared to meet my idol this way.

" Please, close your mouth." Dude, I am talking to you". Shah Rukh Khan tried to bring me back to my senses. " Holy shit, It's you. Oh my God!" . I barked when the significance of the moment sinked in. " Hey, please don't call me shit! I am Khan. Pleased to meet you." SRK replied in his typical tongue-in-cheek style, his baritone was killing me.
I extended my hand which he held with both of his. That handshake was incredible to say the least, the warmth touched my soul. Quite stupidly, the story of Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan and the handless workers surfaced in my mind. I was going insane.

" I mean how, why, when..I mean how did you notice me? I mean why are you here with me?" I somehow managed to put across my point. " You are special my friend. Noticed you the moment I entered this area. After all not many come to the airport in chaddi and baniyaan. " He said and smiled at his own joke. It was a bad one considering the reputation his witty one-liners have. " I am wearing a night suit."" Oh! I was just kidding. You are here to receive someone? I hope you are not planning to board the plane like this."

The crowd now started to notice the special attention I was getting from the King. All eyes were set at me or rather us, I also noticed a few bright flashes around me. Couple of larger than life Bodyguards stood behind him. One of them gave me nasty look.

" Errr..Not really. I am here to stop someone. I mean I am here to stop her from boarding the flight" I said. "Stop Her! That sounds cool. Love bug, yeah!" SRK Said enthusiastically. " Yeah, I love her a lot but she does not know that. And she is going to US tonight." I said. " Oh! That's straight out of my movie. You copied me bro!" SRK winked. " Go get her. Stop her now. I gotta go. Bytheway, what's her name? " He started to move away.

"Her name is..There she is!" I shouted like a maniac and pointed in front. SRK sprung 360 degrees to notice a beautiful girl whose eyes were about to pop out any moment. "Shahrukkhhhhhh!" She shouted and flung herself straight in the actor's arms, evading all the security band-o-bust. She fainted.

" Ohhoo.She is beautiful dude!" SRK said holding her in his arms. "I hope you are not jealous" Now, my mind was racing, I could sense something was about to happen. "Please get some water", SRK ordered his attendants." Wait. Wait. Dont wake her up. I shouted. " what, but why, I got to go dude? " No, no. Tell me how do I do it? How do I tell her that I love her." I said excitedly.

"Please tell me. which of your dialogues should I use...70 minute..oh shit that's hockey..., some song? Please." I continued blabbering. " Hey hey, buddy relax! She is all yours. Don't impress her by my dialogues. Let her know the real you. I just enact the characters that are woven for me. You write your own script here. I am sure if your love is true and if she likes truthful men, you would be on." He said with a remarkable calmness and poise in his voice.

"And now you got to hold her because I am seriously late. and dude, don't act, just be yourself." the great actor poured those wise words upon me. He held my hand and put it over her hand. She was awake now, her eyes still trying to pop out. For one moment, three pair of hands were magnificently bonded, staging a perfect commercial for any Life Insurance company.

He withdrew his hands slowly and patted at my back. " All the best". His smile was never sexier than this. He quickly started to move away from me, the crowd obstructed my vision further.

"Dude, at least tell me your name? I told you I am Khan." He shouted from some distance away from me. " And gorgeous, why are you holding him so tightly. No PDA here!." I realized that she was hugging me very tightly and her eyes were still trying to remain in the socket.

" Thank you. I am ....." I started shouting only to find my voice choked. I was jumping with tears in my eyes, he waved back at me and pointed towards his ears. He could not get my name. A final thumbs up and he was gone.


"That's a Khan-tastic Love story dad". my 5 year old son was thrilled. "It is, champ." But, why did mommy faint?" he started with his grenade of whys and whats. " If you don't sleep now, I like make you faint." Her mom said with slight irritation in her voice. " Mommy is bad!" "Dad, did you get Ra.1 DVD for me?" He continued. "Good night, champ."

P.S.- My son is a huge SRK fan and I love narrating stories to him.

NOTE--A special post originally posted on Facebook on Nov. 1-2 2010, in two parts, on the occasion of Hindi Film Actor Shah Rukh Khan's Birthday.

Oct 23, 2011

Ra.One: Needle for Naysayers

First, the fact that an 'intellectual' minority is aggrieved and agitated by the thunderous promotional spree that Ra.One is currently on, ascertains that the film and its makers are moving in the right direction. Promotions, after all, are not just to woo your core target audience and the concurring lines surrounding them, but also to shock, infuriate and startle those 'select few' who would never wish you good luck, come what may. These 'critics' (the term has lost all its dignity off late) are not just pessimists, sadists and frustrated but are also driven by a biased notion that has no rational foundation. They see a film through a prism of prejudice and presumption. Presumption that they have the right to discard and disintegrate someone's hard work, devotion and dream. So, going by the kind of uneasiness film's trailers and its massive promotions has created amongst the 'cynics', Ra.One is well on its course to hop on a sky-penetrating rocket, this Diwali.

Second, charming, hard working and successful men have always aroused strong emotions of jealously and hatred amongst others. Shah Rukh Khan, apart from all the above mentioned qualities, also possesses a very sharp tongue and a brilliant mind. This makes him a thorn in flesh for those who can not withstand dazzle of a star or shine of a diamond. When the otherwise subtle Aamir Khan went into promotional overdrive for his films Ghajini and Three Idiots, it was termed as the 'stroke of a genius'. But, when SRK, the father of all promotions and marketing extravaganza, promotes Ra.One, it's being called a gimmick. Why the cynics forget that Aamir's promotional drive was inspired, if not imitated, from Shah Rukh Khan School of Economics? When an Aamir can cut hair in salon, travel across India in disguise, why can't SRK visit major cities for promotion, or launch a happy meal at McDonald's?

It is ridiculous how quickly the naysayers change their colors. I wonder, they would beat chameleons, if a 3C ('Color Changing Competition) was ever held in this world. For them, Ra.One's first teaser (April) was 'naive' and way too ambitious for someone like SRK. They stayed up whole night google-ing similarities between Ra.One and superhero flicks from West. Their response to Chammak Challo (the leaked version) was cautious. They could not quash the efforts of a well-known international singer. According to them, it was 'OK', but they again blamed Khan for leaking the music on the net!

From the first one-minute teaser to the recent post-Dusshera trailer, the reactions of naysayers have changed from 'Ra.One-is-going-to-be-biggest-disaster-ever' types to 'Special-Effects-look-good-and-anyways-its-Hindi-cinema-which-will-benefit-in-the-longer-run' . Why do cynics always jump to conclusions? Why can not they give a chance to someone who has invested his soul in some project? Every moviegoer reserves the right to love/hate Ra.One post its release. But to deride a film and efforts of an actor, well before its display, smacks of jealousy. Or lets say, it indicates how resentfully or painfully they are desirous of someone's advantages and gains.

Ok, let's not waste more words on naysayers. I will just drop some hints/identifications, that would help you recognize such creatures and beware of them. Because, cinema, after all, demands your reactions, and your reactions must be free of influences.

  • These people would, in all probability, experience orgasms while watching an Aamir Khan film.
  • Their reaction to Salman Khan's Dabangg or Bodyguard would be 'he is like this only, what else do you expect?' or 'he is a mass entertainer who makes masala films'. They would not criticize Salman's filmography, come what may. (They fear rebuttal from massive fan following of the muscular Khan)
  • Psuedo-intellectuals that they are, they would only appreciate Shah Rukh Khan's Swades or may be 'kabhi haan Kabhi Naa'.
  • They would tell you not to trust film critics. They will give you their numbers. 'Call me before going for a movie.'
  • They will comfortably shuffle between critical and commercial aspects of a film to determine its success. The shuffle is entirely their discretion, so collections are relevant for '3 Idiots' or even 'Bodyguard' but not for 'Om Shanti Om'.
  • They will have no concrete reason to hate Shah Rukh Khan, but still they will hate him. They find it 'cool'. 
  • If they will fall short of logic while debating about SRK, they will mention Karan Johar.
  • These people would watch K3G, DDLJ, RNBDJ on weekends but never admit it.
  • And lastly, if you manage to win over them and force them to admit all the above mentioned 'traits', they would switch to Hollywood. Sigh.
Films and actors are not just about fans and non-fans. There must be a line that separates criticism from cynicism , dislike from grudge and lies from truth. Ra.One may or may not be a great film. But decide only after you watch it. Be honest to those 200 odd bucks that you spend, to that 70 mm screen that you so often look up to and to that 45-year old man who has been entertaining you for the last 2 decades.

P.S.: This is neither a 'Hate Post' nor a 'Fan Post'. I call it the 'Needle Post'. Needle for the Naysayers.

Oct 18, 2011

When a Nation Churns

As children, most of us were exposed to those fantastic mythological tales in which 'good' mostly triumphed over the evil and the sanctity of the Almighty was restored. One such fascinating Pauranik story involved churning (समुद्र मंथन) of the Great Ocean of Milk (क्षीर सागर). The Great Churning was meant to consolidate the Devas and extract the 'nectar of immortality' from the ocean. The churning also symbolized the periodic 'clean-up' action undertaken by the nature, under the supervision of Almighty, to get rid of all the undesired elements and enrich itself with precious new endowments.

Now, the story may seem outlandish and way too unrealistic for us to digest. But as is the case with most of the Vedic scriptures and rituals, this story too has a very real and special connect with the current times. We need not go too far to find the churning analogy, the churn has begun, right under our nose, in our own backyard. Yes, India as a nation is tantalizingly poised to set foot into a new era. No, this is neither about our superpower obsession nor about UNSC seat fixation. This is about a nation that is getting rid of all its political, bureaucratic rust and demanding a 'change'.

Its only for the second time since independence (the first instance being the JP Movement) that the collective conscience of the nation seems to be awakened. Or at least, there are some people asking questions. There are debates over laws and bill drafts, calls are being made to amend the constitution. We have taken things lying down for most of the part of the history. After the first battle for independence in 1857, it took us almost another 100 years for becoming free. I wonder if it was not for stubbornness of a semi-naked man, India would have easily consumed some more time in getting independent. 

Even after being a 60-Year old, well-functioning democracy, we have forgotten to exercise our basic right. The right to ask questions. We have accepted the system the way it is. Our actions are routine, endorsing and always subscribing to the 'majority'. It is in this regard that the current scenario in India holds immense significance. Finally, there is a nation-wide debate over passing of a law, people are getting agitated about issues and patience seems to be running out. All these developments many appear dangerous on face value but one needs to take a closer look to examine them.

Anarchy is definitely not the best gift for a democratic country but absolute order is not good either. India was way too docile, its citizens way too passive in that regard. Hardly half of us vote in the elections, we take terror attacks in our stride, cry after loosing a cricket match and get back to work the next morning (for those who work). We had lost our volatility, zeal and had forgotten the immense potential we possess, in the process. We became used to corrupt politicians, non-functional governments, roads with potholes and electricity cuts. We stopped asking questions, seeking reforms and looking at the future. Our leaders had already set the future for us: India Superpower by 2020.

But the Windfall seems to have arrived. And a part of the credit must go to the team of social activists, led by Anna Hazare, who gave a kind of shock therapy to the nation. Suddenly, we appreciate the power our sticks wield. We want debates over issues, policies and laws. There is a will to shake-up the system, to make it more efficient, transparent and public-friendly. The churning is on its way.The battle is now not just against corruption, it transcends to issues such as electoral reforms, land acquisition, Kashmir, state reorganization and many more. Lets look at some examples:
  • A so far non-political 'team' campaigns against the ruling Congress in a Haryana by-poll and contributes to the party's candidate's drubbing. Remember those Bollywood dialogues: 'Agar system to badalna hai toh isi system mein reh ke kaam karna hoga'. The team is enthused. And I am sure this is not going to be their last political engagement.
  • For the first time in more than a decade, the country is debating over its future Prime Minister. Their seems to be a dislike for anything 'old'. Advani is being ridiculed in most quarters, praised in some for his undying energy. There seems to be a race for the 7 Race Course Road, a healthy one. Rahul Gandhi is the pin-up boy whose bottom we love to pinch. Not to forget other challengers like Narendra Modi and dark horses like Nitish Kumar. Every politician suddenly knows that politicking is no more about fooling people. They are watching their steps, tongue and all other body parts. The electorate is suddenly at the higher pedestal.
  • Over last one year, a series of corruption cases have been exposed. While the magnitude of these scams is troubling, the exposure has shocked the political class and rocked the boats of the corporates. Heavyweights are being sent to jail, this is the season of resignations. All these developments set a great precedent and will act as deterrents for those who like to play with gray shades.
  • There is intense debate over 'Right to Reject'. The Chief Election Commissioner of India has brought out some valid points against the proposed move. Those who are demanding this clause in citizen's Right to Vote will definitely respond. This is the essence of a functioning democracy. As free and aware citizens, we must know how to ask and engage. 

    It is this environment of engagement, involvement and debate that Indian democracy always needed. It needed activism on part of its citizens, concern on part of its politicians. All of this churning will keep the government on its toes and the opposition on its mark. Change, Reform and other such loaded words are not so loaded after all. All we need is a bit of urgency and sensibility. India awaits its transformation from a sluggish, promising, developing country into a brisk, developed and awakened nation.

    Each one must do his/her bit. Know more, ask more, do more. Are you in?

    Oct 10, 2011

    Advani’s Last Throw of the Dice

    Political Commentary

    India’s eternal Prime Minister-in-waiting, BJP’s old warhorse L.K. Advani, is all set to embark on yet another Rath Yatra. His latest Yatra bandwagon aspires to ride on the popular public resentment against corruption. Taking a leaf out of veteran social activist Anna Hazare’s book, Advani will travel across the country to express his solidarity with the anti-corruption sentiment that is sweeping the nation.

    Advani’s desire to reside in 7, Race Course Road is an open secret. After being snubbed by Indian voters in 2009, most pundits expected him to silently walk into the sunset. However, despite relinquishing the post of Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, Advani could not really keep himself away from active politics. Hence, the proposed Yatra seems to be an effort on Advani’s part to assert his ‘leadership’ in the party, specially when BJP is struggling to find a credible leader out of a host of ‘wannabes’.

    Advani’s sudden announcement of the anti-corruption Rath Yatra has surprised political experts, his own party and the ruling congress. The move is also being seen as a last-ditch effort by the octogenarian leader to stake his claim to BJP Prime Ministerial Candidature in the 2014 General Elections. Advani’s decision to embark on a Yatra has reportedly not gone down well with BJP’s Gen Next leaders. Officially though BJP has voiced full support to the veteran’s Yatra, calling him party’s ‘tallest’ leader. However, Advani, being a seasoned politician, has kept his cards close to the chest by not ruling himself out of the PM race so far.

    It will also be interesting to see how Advani justifies this Yatra specially after some BJP leaders themselves are reeling under allegation of corruption of great magnitudes. From Ramesh Pokhriyal in North to Yedduirappa in South, BJP woes seem to compounding with each passing day. The motives behind the Yatra will surely be intriguing for the common man, who seems to have developed a bitter taste for anything political these days.

    The Congress Party has expectedly slammed Advani’s proposed Yatra, reminding him that the nation is yet to come out of the repercussions of his first Yatra. However, at this stage of his political career, Advani is not really expected to arouse sentiments similar to Rath Yatra on Ayodhya Issue.

    Whatever be the eventual outcome of his Yatra, Adavni has at least managed to hog limelight in this ongoing anti-corruption campaign. The BJP will both keep an eye on Advani’s moves and expect to reap dividends out of this latest crusade against corruption. Party feels that its own anti-corruption movement against the government has lost steam after Anna Hazare and his team took over the stage. Hence, Advani’s Yatra may revive BJP’s own anti-corruption agenda and give it a much-needed ‘face’ to take on the government. After all, Advani’s personal integrity is untainted and he still commands lot of respect among the BJP cadres.

    However, despite the prospects of gaining some political mileage out of the Yatra, BJP is worried about an impending ‘leadership’ struggle within the party. Now after Narendra Modi has been given a breather by the Supreme Court in the Riots Case, the race for BJP’s Prime Ministerial Candidate has gained further momentum. So, BJP’s immediate goal is to piggyback on Advani’s Yatra politics, wrest back the anti-corruption campaign from Team Anna and put forward a united face in front of the nation.

    Advani finds himself at crossroads of a long-cherished dream, political realities and fortunes of a party that he meticulously built along with others like Vajpayee. His true motive behind taking up yet another Yatra may never be known but India will be keenly watching the outcome of what seems to be the Veteran Leader’s last throw of the dice. 

    Oct 7, 2011

    Jobs' Demise Bares the Digital Divide

    Steve Jobs is no more. 56 is definitely not the age to head heavenwards, but even the supposed 'Greatest Inventor' since Thomas Edison, could not really persuade God to listen to some more music on iPod before descending down on earth to take him away. Technology, after all, can not alter the inevitable.

    The global mourning over the death of Apple co-founder has highlighted some very interesting facts. The event has divided the global population in three distinct chunks or bites (we may say so with reference to 'Apple'). The much talked about Digital Divide was on full display yesterday as the news of Steve's death trickled across various media.

    One, most aggrieved people are those who are the beneficiaries of Jobs' revolutionary vision on technology. They belong to the 'elite' class, the tech-obsessed generation, the ones who sleep with their iPods on. Two, close on the heels of this section is an even larger pool of people, which aspires to make it to the first category. They are quintessential 'middle-class' with their eyes set on the 'elite'. This section might not have used any Apple product till date or may not know much about Jobs but would behave as if his death is their personal loss. These people would wail and whine, mostly online, pay glowing tributes to the erstwhile Apple CEO, using creative expressions such as iMiss and iSad. Before you, as a reader make any wrong impression about me and think I am belittling Jobs' contribution or making fun of people who paid tribute to him, let me make two things clear. I, myself, belong to the second category and I have greatest respect for the man who was the best CEO of our times, to put it in the best possible way.

    Lets talk about the third category of people now. This is the largest chunk of human civilization that knows only one apple and that is red in color (sometimes green). They do not know who Steve Jobs is, they do not have access to the internet, they do not know whats 'trending'. As netizens churned out one creative status updates and tweets after the other, this section was busy in its own world. After all, most celebrations, mourning, revolutions and war are, now a days, formulated and fought online. The 'elite' takes up the subject, the 'middle class' cashes on it and the media generalizes it as thumb rule or 'pulse' of the nation. Take up today's leading Hindi and English Dailies, the glaring Digital Divide, that the genius Jobs so wanted to bridge, would stare you in face. A TOI would dedicate two full pages to Jobs' death other than the front page, a 'Nayi Duniya' would sum up Jobs in a box.

    Yes, Jobs was a great entrepreneur, an unparalleled CEO and an extremely talented technocrat. But saying that he was the greatest inventor since Edison, is taking things too far. All that Jobs invented in his lifetime was a touch-enabled music pad, a phone and a tab. All these three Apple products are more of innovations than inventions. Do we pay similar tributes to those who invented phones or music systems for that matter? Do we know who invented the Walkman? Apple, after all, is a billion-dollar firm that makes consumer products. iPod, iPad and iPhones are consumer products, may be better than their contemporaries, but certainly do not qualify as inventions that revolutionized the world. Having a thousand songs in your pocket is cool but nothing changes if you have say just 80 songs! Apple makes luxury products, products that make our lives easier. But, these products do not change our lives. It's understandable when Obama pays tribute to his nation's leading innovator or Zuckerberg and Gates say good things about their rival, but that online frenzy over Jobs' death is, well, a little baffling.

    Steve Jobs was a visionary, a hard taskmaster and an able CEO. With a life & career full of ingredients of a Hollywood Potboiler, Jobs was and will be part of the popular culture. His ultimate goal was to bridge that huge Digital Divide in which he succeeded to an extent. But he is no way near the Edisons and the Newtons. Bulb and gravity are far more deeply embedded in our lives than Apple products. 

    Kudos Steve for making a difference, taking that first step. Hopefully, one day our sorrows and joys would not be divided. The world would be unanimous in identifying and hailing the genius.


    Sep 17, 2011

    क्योंकि हिंदी मीठी है...

    कल मैंने फेसबुक पर एक तस्वीर देखी. उसमें एक फोटो फ्रेम के अन्दर 'हिंदी' शब्द लिखा हुआ था और उस के ऊपर एक हार चढ़ाया हुआ था. फोटो देख के मुझे तकलीफ नहीं हुई. दरअसल मुझे काफी आश्चर्य हुआ. हम कितनी जल्दी फैसलों पे पहुँच जाते हैं. मुझे ये समझ नहीं आता की आखिर हिंदी और उसके भविष्य को लेकर लोगों में इतनी घबराहट क्यों है? क्यों हम हिंदी को एक मरी हुई भाषा के तौर पे देखना और दिखाना चाहते हैं?

    मेरे हिसाब से हिंदी तब तक जीवित है जब तक हमारी सोच 'हिंदी' है. जी हाँ, भले ही हम अंग्रेजी में लाख गुटरगूं करलें, कहानियां लिखें, कवितायेँ लिखें या फिर 'स्टेटस अपडेट' करें, हमारी इन सारी क्रियाकलापों की जड़ में हिंदी है. हमें जब कुछ बहुत महत्वपूर्ण बात सोचनी होती है, हम हिंदी का ही सहारा लेते हैं. हिंदी हमारी सोच में छिपी है. और इंसानी सोच इतनी जल्दी मरती नहीं. मुझे याद है, पिछले हफ्ते जब मेरे प्रोफेसर ने अचानक मुझे माएक  पर आकर कुछ बोलने को कहा तो मेरे अन्दर की अंग्रेजी ने मुझे धोखा दे दिया, अपनी बात रखने और साख बचाने के लिए मुझे हिंदी का ही सहारा लेना पड़ा. अंग्रेजी आपकी पहचान बन सकती है लेकिन हिंदी आपका भरोसा है, अपने घर की तरह, थके हारे आप कभी भी वहां लौट सकते हैं.

    हिंदी एक मीठी जुबां है. सच बोलूं तो अगर मैं काफी देर तक अंग्रेजी में बात करता हूँ तो मेरी जीभ थक जाती है. जब मैं बहुत खुश होता हूँ तो मैं हिंदी में बोलता हूँ. जब बहुत गुस्से में होता हूँ तो गालियाँ हिंदी में ही निकलती हैं. 'शीट, ओह माय गव्ड' जैसे शब्द रोज़ की बातचीत का हिस्सा होने के बाद भी 'सुपफिशिअल' ही जान पड़ते हैं.  और मेरे हिसाब से यही छोटी मगर मोती बातें हिंदी को महान भाषा और एक अमर संस्कृति बनाती हैं. 

    मुझे हिंदी के भविष्य को लेकर चिंता तब होती है जब कुछ लोग हिंदी बोलने और लिखने के चक्कर में दूध का दही बना देते हैं. हिंदी की श्रेष्टता साबित करने के लिए कई लोग ऐसे शब्दों का प्रयोग करते हैं जो ना सिर्फ बोलने और समझने में तकलीफदेह होती है बल्कि हिंदी की एक भाषा के रूप में छवि भी खराब करती है. क्यूँ हम हिंदी को एक मुश्किल और जटिल भाषा के रूप में पेश करना चाहते हैं? ट्रेन को ट्रेन बोलने में क्या दिक्कत है, 'लौहपथगामिनी' बोल कर आप क्या साबित करना चाहते हैं? हिंदी की भलाई इसी में है कि वो समय के साथ बाकी भाषाओँ से अपना तालमेल बना कर रखे. विश्व की कोई भी भाषा पूर्णतः शुद्ध नहीं है. अंग्रेजी में भी फ्रेंच, लातिन और अन्य यूरोपियन भाषायों का प्रभाव है. हिंदी की ख़ूबसूरती उसकी जटिलता में नहीं सहजता में है, हिंदी कोई 'टंगट्विस्टर' नहीं बल्कि एक बेहद ही मीठी भाषा है. हिंदी यूँही हिंदुस्तान की प्रमुख भाषा नहीं है, सदियों से यह भाषा एक अथाह सागर की तरह खुद में कईयों को मिलाती रही है, चाहे वो उर्दू हो या अंग्रेजी, हिंदी शरबत के ग्लास की तरह है जिसके अन्दर कई स्वाद घुलते रहे हैं. उर्दू के 'शक़' से लेकर अंग्रेजी के 'फक' (Fuck) तक!

    हिंदी से भले अब मेरी थोड़ी दूरी हो चली हो, लेकिन आज भी यह भाषा मेरे बहुत करीब है. और यह करीबी कभी कम नहीं होगी क्यूंकि मेरी सोच हिंदी है. मुझे याद है किस तरह बचपन में रेडियो पर मैं बीबीसी हिंदी सुना करता था. मेरी लिए वही सच्ची हिंदी की परिभाषा है. मेरे लिए नंदन और चम्पक जैसी किताबें हिंदी की सच्ची पहचान हैं. हिंदी मेरी मातृभाषा है, इसीलिए ये सरल और सहज होनी चाहिए. आखिर माँ से बातचीत में जटिलता कैसी?

    हम हिंदी सप्ताह या पखवाडा इसलिए ना मनाएं की हमें एक महान भाषा को श्रद्धा-अंजलि  देनी है. हमें हिंदी पखवाडा मनाना चाहिए, भाषा का जश्न मनाने के लिए. इस बात पे गर्व करने के लिए की हमें विरासत में एक इतनी खूबसूरत जुबां मिली है जो समय की हर परीक्षा पे खड़ी उतरी है.

    और हाँ हिंदी तब तक सलामत है जब तक न्यूयोर्क से लौटा वो फिल्म का विद्यार्थी मुंबई में आकर हिंदी फिल्में बनाता हो. जब तक हमारे गीतकार रूमानी बातें कहने के लिए खड़ी बोली हिंदी का सहारा लेते हों.

    हिंदी तब तक महफूज़ है जब तक इस देश का प्रधानमंत्री लोगों को संबोधित करने में इस भाषा का प्रयोग करें.

    जब तक दो दोस्त मिलने पर 'साले' और 'कुत्ते' कहकर एक दुसरे को बुलाएं. 

    हिंदी बहुत सुरक्षित है. साहित्य के पन्नो में, या वक्ताओं के भाषणों में नहीं, अन्दर कहीं हमारे दिल में....

    Sep 11, 2011

    Anniversaries We Mark

    When the world was simpler and people naive, anniversary was about birthdays and marriages. We all waited with bated breath for our birthdays to come or our parents' marriage anniversary to arrive. We were simple people, drawing happiness out of these special little days of the year. Even for institutions with bigger canvas like a state or a nation, anniversaries were meant to mark historical days of achievement, freedom, success and martyrdom. Our very own Republic Day, Gandhi Jayanti or even US' 4th of July celebrations are some shining examples.

    But things have taken a drastic turnaround now. Now, it is all about how you play up to the gallery. Your actions are no more melody of our own, but have become a collective cacophony of sorts. In the era of digital revolution and media crusade, anniversaries are meant to gain mileage or wield a weird symbolic punch. So, we mark 10 years of the horrific 9/11 attacks in a manner that is bound to encourage more of such cowardly acts. We remind them of their 'heroics' and inspire them to seek further 'revenge'.

    Media is the oxygen of terrorism. Those who mastermind bomb blasts, terror attacks do not just intend to inflict damage to life and property. Their ultimate wish is to create panic, infuse fear and insecurity in the minds of the people. The all-powerful media of our times, falls prey to this dirty tactic of terrorists and adds fuel to already blazing fire. Non-stop coverage, the feeling of city/nation being under siege, that helplessness, blood, gore and tears on screen.

    It is because of this, I think, anniversaries like 9/11 should not be observed with such fanfare. Why give them another chance to strike by gathering around the place that was once struck? Will Obama's speech will make any difference to those who lost their loved ones ten years back? What's the wisdom behind throwing your security apparatus in tizzy every year around 9/11?

    Has the world changed 10 years after 9/11? I am not sure. Blood bath continues in Iraq, Afghanistan. US' War on Terror is far from over and light years away from success. Americans' frantic 'pat down' at airports continues. Yes, it has served them well. But, they are not breathing easy. And you are not a victor till you can breathe easy. The only success, if at all, has been the killing of viagra powered Osama Bin Ladin.

    Some media researcher remarked few years back, "There would be no terrorism in this world, if there was no media." I do not fully endorse his view but, yes, his remarks forces me to ponder. Forces all of us to ponder. Terrorism resembles showbiz in many ways. There is media attention & scrutiny, glamour (of different kind), fanfare (of different kind), appreciation and emulation (of different kind). With so much coverage and footage already being dedicated to terrorism, least we can do is to do away with such symbolic anniversaries. I thought Osama's burial in sea marked a new dawn of smartness for the American Mind but alas they have flattered to deceive, yet again. They still talk of 'credible but unconfirmed threats' of terror on eve of 9/11 anniversary.

    Those 102 minutes, we must forget. Why just on September 11, that tragedy should haunt us all the time. Silently, we should mourn and resolve to emerge stronger. Our happiness and safety lies in our hands. The more noise we make, more vulnerable we are, in this world of great insecurity.

    Sep 5, 2011

    Pen Drive

    Perhaps, Your dad made us meet
    Taught you to hold me gently
    Holding me made you feel important
    Glistening in glory, I wrote your fate

    Together we made lesser mistakes
    As there was no room to erase follies
    Thoughts got a mirror to reflect
    And we traveled the world on a paper

    When love struck you like lightening
    I was your hope and yearning
    From the pocket to purse
    I was with you in good and worse

    Whether borrowed or bought
    Lying in a corner or a decorated piece
    Flamboyant signature, examination curse
    I have been your all-weather pal

    Now, you have made new friends
    Keys are more important than the ink
    Yet, when you languish, long and strive
    Do not Hesitate to get into a Pen Drive

    Sep 3, 2011

    Bombay Beloved: Rock On! (2008)

    Film Making is an exciting process. Perhaps, no other work engulfs you to an extent that you yourself become its embodiment. While making a film, you become its characters, its songs, situations and even its success/ failure. There are some stand out examples of such devoted film-makers, actors, musicians and other technicians who give their soul and heart to the process of film-making. For them, films are not just their source of livelihood or even a medium to express their creativity, but also a way of life.

    First Impression:

    When we look at the young generation of filmmakers, Farhan Akhtar is one such shining example. However, in 2008, when he decided to take a plunge into acting and singing, I was little skeptical. Being a conservative man, I have always vouched for 'specialists' and hence Akhtar's decision left doubts in my mind. Rock On!, the supposed launching pad of Farhan the Singer and Actor, was being directed by a little know Abhishek Kapoor, who had earlier delivered a dud like Aryan. All kinds of negative images were created in my mind regarding the film. I wanted a supremely talented director to stick to what he does best, direct films.

    Even the music of Rock On! failed to make inroads in my thick skin. I am a very stubborn man when it comes to likes and dislikes. The idea of rocking on in Hindi seemed little alien to me. Javed Akhtar's lyrics failed to impress me first up. And then the film released. I went to watch it with a friend after lots of pursuance and insistence.

    What I witnessed on screen during those 3 hours was awe-inspiring. Rock On! made one thing very clear from the onset. I did not need to be a rockstar to watch and enjoy the film. I did not require to have an understanding of Rock Music and bands to appreciate and indulge in the film. All I needed was to have a few good friends, some successes and failures and unfulfilled ambitions in my life to 'experience' Rock On!


    Aditya Shroff (Farhan Akhtar) is the lead singer  of the band 'Magik' who belongs to an affluent family. Joseph (Joe) Mascarhenas (Arjun Rampal) is the lead guitarist, Rob Nancy (Luke Kenny) and Kedar Zaveri or KD/"Killer Drummer" (Purab Kohli) comprise the remainder of the band. As youngsters, they dream of making it big in Rock Music but end up messing it up when the opportunity actually arrives. A series of compromises, ego tussles and love-hate relationships finally leads to disbanding of the band Magik. Worse, the four protaganists cease to be friends and drag themselves into cocoons of life, doing things that did not excite them.

    Ten years later, coincidences and Aditya's Wife Sakshi's (Prachi Desai) efforts bring them together. Joe is now married to her girlfriend Debbie (Shahana Goswami) and is in poor financial condition. Magik regroups to recreate magic one last time. Friendship, love and ambition triumph over ego, hatred and obstacles.

    Performances/ Why the Film Works?

    Rock On! pegs you to dream big. It teaches you to value your relationships and never hesitate to pursue your goals. The film's high point lies in the simplicity with which it conveys a bag of complex emotions. Farhan Akhtar makes a fascinating debut and his voice emerges as his biggest strength. Arjun Rampal, finally, comes of age, and infuses life into the character of an insecure, struggling musician who wants to reach to stars someday. Luke Kenny and Purab Kohli play their part well and the four members of the band bond like house on fire. The ladies, Prachi Desai and specially Shahana Goswami, are not mere showpieces and are inseparable part of film's storyline. Abhishek Kapoor, the director, makes a massive mark with Rock On. This film makes Excel Entertainment's slate even more brighter.

    Kudos S-E-L and Javed Saab!

    With time, I developed a strong liking for the film's music. 'Tum Ho Toh' is melancholy and jubilation personified. 'Sinbbad the Sailor' is a landmark Hindi Rock Song. The title song and Pichhle Saat Dino Mein are superbly composed (Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy) and written (Javed Akhtar). Rock On has an ultimate soundtrack that every music lover should have. And I have no hesitation in admitting that my initial judgement of the soundtrack was, well, faulty. (To say the least).

    Why a 'Bombay Beloved?'

    Rock On! symbolized Hindi cinema's coming of age, in many ways. It showed that buddy flicks need not always revolve around girls, romance and love, and a film based on Rock music can work with Indian masses. The main reason why Rock On worked, both with the critics and at the Box Office, was because it had its heart in place. Joe Mascarhenas did not just play with strings of the guitar but also hit a chord or two of the viewers' hearts. Aditya's vocals give you goosebumps, the band's camaraderie makes you smile. You relate with film's characters, their fights, the situations and wish to have that final swansong in your life too.

    Rock On! is an honest film that does extraordinary things to you while telling an ordinary story. The culminating song (the last performance of the band) made me shiver and left my eyes wet. I am sure most of us have already watched it. If you have not, watch it as soon as possible. This is somewhere near to New Age Hindi Cinema's Pinnacle.

    Bombay Beloved series will feature Hindi films that have offered something new to the viewers, set a new trend in the industry and have certain repeat value.