Monday, December 31, 2012

Dil Chahta Hai

Note 1: For those special few people.

Note 2: 'Dil Chahta Hai' is very dear to me. Its organic quality has led my movie's interpretation to evolve as have I. I doubt anything else comes even close.

Agar mai tumse kahoon ki mai tumse pyaar karta hoon, tab bhi nahi?
Mai tum se aur sirf tumse pyaar karta hoon. Meri har saans, meri har dhadkan, mere har pal mai tum aur sirf tum ho.
Mujhe yakeen hai ki sirf isliye janma hoon ki tumse pyaar kar sakoon, aur tum sirf isliye ki ek din meri ban jao.
Tum meri ho, aur agar tum apne dil se poochogi to jaan logi ki mai sach keh raha hoon.

College was great. Sleepy days, crazy, sleepless nights. Nothing could stop us, and we could face everything. We were the world and we needed nothing else. It seemed complete. The balance had been achieved.

Mai kabhi soch bhi nahi sakta tha ki hum dono kahin aise baith ke baatein kar rahe honge.

We set out on our own individual paths, trying to make our own destiny, fighting our own fights, running our own races. Along the way, maybe we had left the things close to us far behind. Struggling, really. Without a clue about what hit us and when. Without realizing that time didn't run as slowly as it used to. And irreparably so, maybe. Maybe. Life happened?

It wasn't complete, and the balance wasn't perfect.

We all have, or eventually will, meet someone. And we will know we have met that someone when:

1) An 'I hate you' from her, to which you can reply with a smile, 'No you don't', comes second only to a 'I love you too' when you say 'I love you' to her.

Tum bhi naa, daraa diyaa naa bechaare ko.
I hate you.

Or, 2) 
Swarg ke darwaaze pe khadaa hai, magar andar nahi jaana chahta
Wo khuda se ek din maang raha hai, Cressida se aakhri baar milna chahta hai
Wo use bataana chahta hai ki wo usse kitna pyaar karta hai.
Agar use wo ek din mil jaaye, to use hazaar maut aur kabool hai.

Or, 3)
Agar wo mere saath hoti, aur kisi ne aisi waisi harkat ki hoti,
to mai use jaan se maar deta.
I would've killed him.

2), 3), must not be taken literally, of course, on account of it being too extreme. Anyway.

Imbalance, incompleteness, imperfection leads to balance, completeness, perfection. Full circle, if you may, stronger, surer than before. Imperfections made us complete. The sum was always greater than the parts, double, even more. Some, perfect, parts, not so much.

The beginning will be the end, the dream still kicking and wildly alive:

Agar mai kahoon ki mai tumse pyaar karta hoon
tab bhi nahi?
Mai tumse aur sirf tumse pyaar karta hoon
Meri har saas,
Meri har dhadkan
Mere har pal mai tum ho
Aur sirf tum ho
Mujhe yakeen hai ki mai sirf is liye janma hoon
ki tumse pyaar kar sakoon
Aur tum is liye ki ek din meri ban jao
Agar tum apne dil se poochogi
To jaan logi
Ki mai sach keh raha hoon

Dil Chahta Hai...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Rajdhani Express (from Rajdhani Express)

Note 1: I am posting this from Rajdhani Express.

Note 2: I realised that since I have come to Bangalore, I have not done any train journey at all! Specifically Rajdhani Express, it's been almost 8 years since I boarded one. It is the one thing that the Indian Railways gets right after-all (apart from Palace on Wheels, I suppose). I used to absolutely love the experience as a kid. They used to serve soup-sticks with soup. Soup-sticks! On a train! Must have that experience again. I am on an epic 34-hour journey from Delhi to Bangalore. On Rajdhani Express.

I reached the Hazrat Nizamuddin station in Delhi well in advance. I went to my platform, my train was waiting for me. How sweet! I checked the passenger chart pasted beside the entrance of my coach 'B8', not to confirm my name on the chart, but for a more customary glance to scout for 'F22' to 'F26' "fellow" passengers. This is the reason I had booked a 3rd AC ticket as against a 2nd AC ticket. You have 5 fellow passengers in 2nd AC, but 7 fellow passengers in 3rd AC. I was merely hoping to tilt 'Law of averages' in my favour. If it worked, imagine a cute girl sitting next to you with nowhere to go and no-one to talk to but you for 34 hours. Thirty, four, hours! I could have then let my charm do the rest.

As luck would have it, most of my co-passengers are > 'M45'. Worse, there is a family travelling with an ever-curious 8-year old kid travelling ALL the way to Bangalore with me. The annoying kid began asking his dad weird questions, which apparently pissed off his dad, even. The kid wanted to know a real-time answer to "Papa, train ki speed kitni hai abhi?", asked every two minutes. The geek in me made me tell the dad that there was an android app which he could install on his phone which tells the exact speed using GPS. Indirectly, my way of telling the kid to STFU. Thank goodness for the invention of GPS. One annoying kid shut up. And as if fate hadn't already had all the fun with me, there were two cute girls, my age, sitting bang in the next compartment. I smiled at them, they ignored me, life moved on. I realised that my coach was a bait rather than a 'B8', and I had fallen into its trap.

The clock struck 8:50 PM, and the train moved. Woah! ON TIME?! Like I said, the one thing Indian Railways gets right.

As soon as the train started, the staff jumped to action, and oh boy, first up, soup with soup-sticks! Paisa wasool already! While sipping my soup, I realised that a train journey is so much more comfortable than air travel. You have ample space to sleep, eat, stretch, relax. Plus, for people who smoke, there are two excellent smoking lounges (read: toilets) on both sides of the coach! If only the staff who served food looked like their Indian air-travel counterpart:

So, after a proper three-course dinner, I took out my laptop, and aptly for the moment, decided to watch a romantic comedy - 'The Princess Bride'. Nothing much about the movie, except that I found parts of the movie mildly annoying. It did though answer something for me which I have been thinking about since I started watching 'Sherlock'. Remember the pilot episode? In which the cabbie has pills in two containers in front of him, one of them poisoned and the other not, and our hero has to deduce which one is poisonous and has to make his pick. Well, the case gets solved, cabbie is killed (apologies for the spoiler), but we never find out which was the correct choice. The exact same game is played in 'The Princess Bride', with a solution that is both plausible and mind-boggling, even in the context of 'Sherlock', which made the movie worthwhile.

Another equally awesome discovery I made on this trip was Alpenliebe Mangofillz, which they served with the evening snacks. Oh. My. God. I haven't had a candy so full of joy in a LONG time. Smooth, delicious, filled with raw mango awesomeness! I am going to buy me a jar as soon as I reach Bangalore!

About 12 hours of my journey to go, which includes a movie or two, and another awesome dinner, until Bangalore...

Rajdhani Express (from Rajdhani Express)...

Sunday, December 09, 2012

7 types of dancers at Indian weddings

Note 1: With the wedding season on, here's to The Great Indian Wedding.

Note 2: I am most interested in weddings for the food.

Indian weddings are so much fun! And dancing. Dance is an integral part of the weddings. Baraat. And the relatively recent development - "DJ". The types of dancers, not an exhaustive list, typically found -

#1 The good dancer
They have no agenda and just enjoy dancing. They really don’t care what anyone else is doing. Often, this includes the prettiest girl around, and you cannot help but be smitten by such grace. Often the bride's sister, or her best friends.

#2 The performer
They need a stage to show the people how great their dance movies are, and treat dancing not as an expression of happiness at weddings but as a full-blown stage-performance, often at the risk of it being not fun anymore.

#3 The moves copier
They are not the best dancers around, but have seen enough videos on the TV to know the exact moves. They will eagerly wait for their song, and become unstoppable once it does. Often, these are the same people who will try to pull the by-standers to the floor and try to make them dance alongwith them, resulting in the 1-minute teasers.

#4 The 1-minute teaser
This is the person who is usually a by-stander, gets pulled into the mix by someone, gives us a 1 minute display of awkward dance moves, usually coupled with a lot of clapping. Then, obviously embarrassed, but trying very hard to not let it show, sheepishly goes off, until, of course, someone else drags them again soon enough. They, in turn, also drag a few other by-standers with them to share their embarrassment.

#5 The Bhangra dancer
One move fits all, irrespective of the song played. Punjabi or not.

#6 The Shady Casanova
This man wants to dance with each and every pretty looking girl on the floor, except, the pretty single girl on the dance floor is perfectly happy dancing with other pretty single girls on the dance floor. They often include the groom's best friends still single, who, under peer-pressure coupled with quarter-life crisis, feel they have to take matters in their own hands, right then, right there.

#7 The Hipster Uncle
The cool-dude uncle who think he's "still got it". Usually the one who dives in head-first, often after 5 pegs of McDowell's, and does not seem to want to to quit. On an already crowded dance floor, this uncle, by some miracle, clears a 2-meters-radius space around him.

7 types of dancers at Indian weddings...

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

7 girls who I'm glad are my age

Note 1: About 3 years ago, around the time I really started posting, I did three blog posts - '7 girls I wish were more famous', '7 Indian girls I wish were more famous', and '7 girls I wish were less famous', with a promise and hope that at some point, I would complete 7 posts in the '7 girls' series. This is the 4th post in that series, which I will hopefully complete. Although, considering my current pace, it seems a decade would pass by the time I would be able to do that.

Note 2: 2012 has been a good year for Indian cinema, and with that, have emerged new, fresh faces in the industry. This is my tribute to a memorable year for Indian cinema.

My age is a good age to be. I am making enough money to have a good lifestyle, so life doesn't suck as much (money-wise) as it did when I was in college. There are limited liabilities, and no real "worries" in life. Life's good. The best part about being this age is that most of the beautiful girls we see on-screen are also around this age. This, might be happening for the first time in our lives, when they take a very real form in our head, and the probability of our running into them randomly (at a pub, maybe, or at the airport, and so on) and our picking up a conversation with them and "hitting it off" increases. Albeit minisculely, still. I mean, I can imagine running into one of these girls somewhere and picking up a conversation with them with a "Hey, you know, I wrote a post about you.", and if it doesn't creep them out, I can imagine how awesomely we would get along and have so much fun in the subsequent 4 hours, and maybe a lifetime of togetherness.

So, the girls on this list are around my age, +/- 2 years (remember lifetime of togetherness?), and should have had atleast one release during 2012 (since this is a tribute to a good year for Indian cinema). 

#7 Sonakshi Sinha (25)

She stunned in Dabangg, and I am hoping she would manage it again this year in Dabangg 2. Yes, she's on this list despite the jokes about her forehead.

#6 Shruti Hassan (26)

A singer and a music director too, I'm not sure how her 2012 release 3 performed, but she makes her presence felt in just a few glimpses in the video of the blockbuster song from that movie, Why this Kolaveri Di.

#5 Prachi Desai (24)

I hear Bol Bachchan is a terrible movie, still.

#4 Ileana D'Cruz (25)

What's with the cute persona of South Indian actresses?! Anyway, playing a not-so-likable character in her Hindi debut Barfi!, she manages to hold her own alongside power-packed performances by the leads.

#3 Priya Anand (26)

Yes, she played that very likable (albeit a little cliché) character in English Vinglish, plus she gets bonus points for her name. She looks great in this ad-film, if only we got to see another movie or two which exploit her girl-next-door looks fully.

#2 Yami Gautam (24)

So glad she got a break into movies from doing soap operas such as Yeh Pyar Na Hoga Kam and Chand Ke Paar Chalo. I suspect Vicky Donor's success had nothing to do with a good script or a clever story. At least I wouldn't have enjoyed a movie about a sperm donor which did not have her. Her next Hindi release is going to be 'Hamara Bajaj', with the same production team as Vicky Donor. Can't wait!

#1 Huma Qureshi (26)

If there is one girl on this list I want to randomly meet somewhere, pickup a conversation, leading to a lifetime of togetherness, she would be the one! Such grace, poise, beauty, and talent! Who needs "size-zero"?! She is just so... real. After two critically acclaimed releases this year (GoW,  Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana), she has two declared upcoming projects, including one to be directed by Vishal Bharadwaj. I don't understand why Ray Ban hasn't signed her up to be the face for their brand in India!

I might have missed considering a few people for this list (à la Nargis Fakhri, Parineeti Chopra, Alia Bhatt, etc.), but that's because I haven't seen them on-screen yet.

7 girls who I'm glad are my age...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Life of Pi

Life of Pi (2012) on IMDb
Note 1: Just like the trailer, this post must begin with Sigur Rós's Sæglópur (Lost at sea).

Note 2: Watch it on as big a screen as you can, on as bright a screen as you can.

'Life of Pi' is a Hollywood movie, directed by the Taiwan-born Ang Lee, based on a novel by the Canadian author Yann Martel, about a boy from Pondicherry, named Piscine Molitor Patel after a famous French public swimming pool complex, who on an epic journey half-way around the world to North America on a Japanese freighter, gets ship-wrecked in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and is left to survive on a life-boat with a Royal Bengal Tiger, Richard Parker.

It was a time filled with wonder that I'll always remember.

Pi grew up with a deep faith in God. He embraced Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. As a child, his mother used to tell him stories about Gods, about how Yashoda once beheld the Universe in Krishna's mouth. He thanks Vishnu for sending Christ to this world, and does namaaz because he finds beauty in the sound of the words even if he doesn't understand it completely. The story begins when Pi finds himself ship-wrecked in the middle of the ocean on a life-boat with a Tiger, having lost everything about his life.

And oh boy does the story begin! The ship-wreck scene is brilliantly done, the camera work spectacular. Translating a small-life boat fighting for survival against HUGE waves to screen is no mean feat. You are transported right onto the boat and find yourself struggling as you fight to overcome the overwhelming waves. This seriously jeopardizes TDKR's shot at the cinematography Oscar.

I like going to beaches because it overwhelms me, every time. Even by the shore, the sheer power and force of water makes me feel so tiny and insignificant, it feels like my problems do not matter one bit. Beauty is here, and only here.

Ang Lee plays with the camera so well, the line between what is real and what is not, blurs. Our hero lies in the center of a continuous sky and the sea.

Until, of course, the ripples bring us back to reality. Breath-taking.

The struggle for survival, and surviving together, makes an unlikely bond between Pi and the tiger, Richard Parker. If it were ever allowed for non-humans to be nominated for a Best Actor award, this would be it. How in the name of God did they make a tiger do that?! No wonder this novel was claimed "unfilmable", and oh boy has Ang Lee proved 'em wrong.

The struggle for survival brings Pi face-to-face with himself. Faith. Even though the story takes this view-point from a religion perspective, it has a broader message about faith. In anything. Purpose, in the most unlikely things. That is necessary. Absolutely. Not the need for survival, but a desire. To behold life's beauty. Love.

If you stumble about believability, what are you living for?

When you've suffered a great deal in life, each additional pain is both unbearable and trifling.

When Pi overcomes his fear, has nothing to lose, and surrenders, he sees the Universe in the ocean, as Yashoda did in Krishna. The spectacular imagery suspends you in a moment of disbelief until you are filled with nothing but awe and wonder.

...for everything has a trace of the divine in it.


I see this movie as an allegory to life. We are all ship-wrecked in the middle of the ocean on our small little life-boats, with no land in sight. Yet the precious few we meet, and the unlikely few we fall in love with along the way. That is what makes the journey worthwhile. Are we lost at sea, or found at sea? Faith. Purpose. Love.

Surrender. It is important to say goodbye. Only then can you let go, behold the spectacular, and embrace it with open arms. So, which version of the story do you believe?

Richard Parker! Come! You have to see it! It's so... beautiful!

...and so it goes with God.

We all like telling stories. About our life.
Life is a story, afterall. Our story.

Life of Pi...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

One things.

One TV. One comfy couch. One washing-machine. One fridge. One sofa. One dining table. One king-sized bed.

One high-end computer. One big screen. One projector. One fast internet connection. One great camera.

One nice house. One luxurious car. One stunning bike.

One more update. One more like.

One phone. One number on speed-dial.

One hobby. One quirk. One sport to be good at. One instrument you can play. One act which no-one else can.

One girl who made you nervous. One teacher you admired.

One movie that makes you cry. One song that makes you smile. One book that you never forget.

One restaurant where everyone knows you. One bistro where you know what is available off the menu.

One crazy adventure. One unforgettable ride. One journey that changes you.

One trip around-the-world. One dive into the sea. One climb over the mountains. One jump from the sky.

One place to call home.

One big family. One group of amazing friends.

One companion. One lover. One confidant. One partner. One love.

One extra mile to walk, together. One kiss, again. One more look, into your eyes.

One walk along the moon-lit beach. One photo, to cherish.

One moment of grief. One moment of despair. One dead-end. One failure.

One moment of faith. One moment of strength. One moment of weakness.

One opportunity. One instance of pure luck. One moment of success.

One dream realized. One dream that never came true. One dream that you held on to.

One moment of real accomplishment.

One second of fear. One minute that just didn't seem to pass. One hour of patiently waiting. One day that felt like eternity. One month away from everything. One year that didn't matter.

One memory to hold on to, for happiness. One memory to hold on to, to always remember how it felt to be sad.

One moment of forgiveness. One fault, forgiven.

One moment of joy. One moment of desire. One moment of bliss.

One moment of anger. One moment of pain.

One moment of feeling really tiny. One moment of feeling insignificant.

One moment of mystery. One moment of magic. One moment that takes your breath away. One moment of surprise. One moment of delight. One moment of disbelief. One moment of beauty.

One miracle.

One moment you can never forget. One moment of awe. One moment of grandeur.

One moment of truth.

One last drink. One last smoke.
One last glimpse. One last sigh.

One life.
One things.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Barfi! Barfi!

Note 1: 'Barfi!' has been copied in the title of this post.

Note 2: Note 1: 'Barfi!' has been copied in the title of this post.

I had a truly amazing cinematic experience when I watched 'Barfi!' last week. My facebook feed was filled with updates hailing the movie of the sheer brilliance and the joy this movie is. News came, 'Barfi!' is now officially this year's entry to the Oscars from India. Within a few days, the tides turned. People were now sharing clips of movies from which 'Barfi!' has been copied. Like this, this and this. People seem saddened and disappointed. Something they connected to, felt proud of, brought them joy, only to later discover that it is a copy! Oh, the blasphemy!

I understand.

Let's talk movies now, let's talk Oscars, let's talk about the disappointment, let's talk about our country now. Let's talk some sense.

First, 'Barfi!' is India's official entry to the Oscars this year (The complete year-wise list is available here). It has NOT already been nominated to the Oscars (and chances are, it won't be). There is going to be a ballot, first round of shortlisting, the list ultimately cut down to 5 movies, which will compete against one another for the Oscar for the 'Best Foreign Language Film 2012'.

Let's talk Oscars now. The Oscars are NOT an international awards. They are NOT the United Nations of movies. They are an American awards institution. To understand which movies will/will not win at the Oscars, we need to try to understand it from an American social-cultural point-of-view. It is difficult for us to understand that, because we are not Americans. It is for this reason that we find it so difficult to understand why 'Slumdog Millionaire' won 8 Oscars. Of course, Hollywood ships amongst the best movies in the world, so Oscars definitely is a good indicator of the quality of movies that win them. There is truly great cinema out there in the world which do not find any mention at the awards. Does that make those movies bad? All dogs are animals, but all animals are not dogs.

Do we need a stamp of approval from a body that is NOT Indian to make us appreciate what good cinema is, and what is not? We lack a good governing body for cinema awards in India. Of course there are the lack-luster National Awards, which is a pretty good indicator of good cinema in our country. Filmfare Awards could have been the Oscars of our country, but that is a lost cause now. 'India's entry to the Oscars', irrespective of how the movie performs at the Oscars itself, is a good recognition for a movie, because it is picked by an Indian governing body.

Let's talk movies now, and the "originality" of the great movies. Directors refer to old classics all the time. They sometimes acknowledge it, they sometimes don't.

The iconic opening text crawl in 'Star Wars' (winning multiple Oscars across the 6 movies) was directly "inspired" from Flash Gordon TV Series.

The classic 'The Lion King' (1994) (4 Oscar nominations) "heavily borrows" from 'Kimba: The White Lion' as analysed here.

The iconic scene in which Sonny Corleone is killed in a car in the classic 'The Godfather' (1972) (nominated for 11 Oscars, won 3.) is directly "inspired" from the final scene of 'Bonnie and Clyde' (1967) (nominated for 10 Oscars, won 2.)

'The Shining' (1980) has an iconic scene which has Jack Nicholson breaking his way through a door. It has been "inspired" from this scene in 'The Phantom Carriage' (1921).

The steps scene from 'The Untouchables' (1987) (nominated for 4 Oscars, winning 1) was inspired by this scene from 'Battleship Potemkin' (1925).

Tarantino's 'Reservoir Dogs' was "ripped-off" from 'City on Fire'.

...and then there are remakes.

Kurosawa's 'Seven Samurai' (1954) nominated for 2 Oscars, remade as, 'The Magnificent Seven' (1960) nominated for 1 Oscar.

'Män som hatar kvinnor' (2009), remade as, 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' (2011), nominated for 5 Oscars, winning 1.

'La cage aux folles' (1978) nominated for 3 Oscars, remade as, 'The Birdcage' (1996), nominated for 1 Oscar.

'Infernal Affairs' (2002), remade by Martin Scorcese as 'The Departed' (2006), nominated for 5 Oscars, winning 4 Oscars.

'La bonne année' (1973), remade as, 'Happy New Year', nominated for 1 Oscar.

'Profumo di donna' (1974), nominated for 2 Oscars, remade starring Al Pacino as 'Scent of a woman' (1992), nominated for 4 Oscars, winning 1.

...and many, many more.

If movies weren't enough, let me also give you an example of actors being "inspired" for their characters. Heath Ledger's Joker is probably the most iconic super-villain ever played in a Batman movie. EVER. His brilliant performance in 'The Dark Knight' (2008) fetched him an Oscar. Check out this video of his fellow country-man Tom Waits from the 1970s:

I do not deny that 'Barfi!' has references to several great classics. Maybe even a scene-by-scene copy. But from classics! 'Singin' in the rain', 'City Lights', 'Life is beautiful' are AMAZING movies! Among the best I have ever watched! 'City Lights' is my most favorite movie in the romantic genre. That's the point! The director did not "copy" from the obscure movies, he did from the classics, which is why I am willing to give the film-makers the benefit of doubt. This would have been "caught". But does that make 'Barfi!' anything less than being good cinema? An emphatic NO. Few scenes are copied, yes, but the heart of the movie is true, original, and fresh.

I am a little disappointed, yes, but not to the extent of stupidity.

What is wrong with our country?! We went into the theater to watch good cinema. We experienced joy and happiness, we experienced good cinema. That feeling was real. Cherish it. The fact that we discovered a few scenes in a movie were "copied" from great cinema around the world, does that make anything we felt inside the theater any less real? Why is it suddenly a matter of national shame and disappointment? Cinema is a big deal for me. I like to talk about it. I love the experience it can offer. I speak to a lot of people around the world, and try to understand what their cinema is, and I tell them about the great cinema my country has to offer. 'Barfi!' is a movie about which I am going to tell people around the world. With pride, that my country produced this gem in film-making. I am going to share this with the world. And I know they would appreciate it. And so should you.