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.