Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Why can't Brazil win the Euro cup?

The news of the Slumdog wins began trickling in as I got ready to leave for work on Monday. My heart did Danny Boyle like scissor jumps when I heard that Rahman and Pookuttyhad won.

The Indian media covered the Oscars through the day and, as expected, TV ratings went through the roof.

Of course, for every Jai Ho, there seem to be a hundred doubts, accusations and cribs. I felt some of these were out of place and uncalled . So I thought that I will put down some of the complaints and put in my two bits:

  • "Would it have got the same recognition if an Indian made the film?" No, it wouldn't because the Oscars are awards for American/ English cinema. Our cinema is not American. Barring Karan Johar perhaps.
  • "This is not Rahman's best work and he has done better?" Same logic. He hasn't composed for American/ British so was not eligible for his 'better' pieces. And what's wrong if he didn't win it for his best performance. The fact that he won for what was entered is what matters. As an aside, Russel Crowe won the best actor award for 'Gladiator' and not for 'A Beautiful Mind'. Wasn't the latter much better. Back home, Amitabh Bachchan won the National Award for 'Agneepath'. Surely not his best work!
  • "Why didn't Rahman mention Sukhwinder or Gulzar?" Give the guy a break. He won us two Oscars. That way you can say Pookutty didn't mention Rahman. I think this is a time to celebrate rather than spoil the party. By the way Gulzar keeps saying continuously that the entire credit goes to Rahman.
  • "Danny Boyle has exploited India's poverty" To start with Boyle was making a film and was not doing an ad film for India. Secondly the poverty shown was a part of the backdrop - they did show middle class India, restaurants, five stars, plush TV stations, etc. Thirdly Hindi films have often shown their protagonists as Slum Dwellers including Bachchan's Amar Akbar Anthony & Deewar, every second Mithun film and so on. Its just that they were shot tackily with no attention to detail. In fact by showing the squalour of slums, riots, beggar rackets, tourist harassment, Danny Boyle has reminded us of a hard reality which we would like to wish away. I guess it is difficult to take criticism. (People say I don't take to criticism well. All I have to say to them is, "Boo!")
  • "Why are we celebrating? This is not an Indian film" That's true we have adopted this film like its nobody's business. The truth is that the film is made by an Irish director. And completely rewritten by an America (?) writer. Simon Beaufont really deserved the best adopted screenplay award as the film is completely different from, and leagues ahead of, the book. True, the film was not made by Indians. BUT most of the actors and technicians were Indian. The film was as brown as it gets. Only the credits and Dev Patel's British accent were there to remind us of the origins of the film
  • "What's so special about the film? This is the same plot of a million Hindi films" True. The makers of the film have taken typical Hindi film idioms - separated brothers, destiny, love through ages, the vctory of the underdog - and packaged them in a world class way with some excellent cinematography, story telling and acting, especially from the children. Think of the master Rajus and Baby Guddis or that irritating girl of Kuch Kuch Hota Hey and then think of the child actors here. You will know what I mean
  • "Anil Kapoor went over the top with his dance steps and star gazing. He was not the main actor in any case" I don't think that most of us can even relate to his level of achievement. He has reached parts where no Indian mainstream hero has. One would have perhaps expected Bachchan, Amir Khan, Sharukh Khan to be shown on the screen when the Oscars were announced. Not good old Munna! And exuberance makes people do strange things. Remember Pat Cash climb up stuffy Wimbledon to kiss his girlfriend? Or a certain Mr Ganguly strip at the equally stuffy Lords? Or Halle Berry scream at the time keepers, or Michael Moore scream at George Bush at the Oscars? Cut the guy some slack. And as far as his not being the main actor is concerned, Anil Kapoor was a part of the team. And he didn't have a blink and you miss it role. That counts for something. Sunil Gavaskar didn't do well too well in the 1983 World Cup win. But he is still central to any World Cup memory and celebrations
  • "Why get excited about Oscars? They are not about our cinema" Why were Indians crazy about Levis, Nike, McDonalds, Toyota, Coke before they were launched in India? These are global brands and we like to see ourselves as global citizens

Can you think of anymore prominent objections?

PS Did you notice how Hollywood seemed to have looked to Bollywood for a change on Oscars night? Gone were the witty anchors of yore as Hugh Jackman sang and danced us through the evening. And of course the interspersed TV shots of Brangelina and Jennifer Anniston were as Filmfare'ish as they get. I was referring to the way they pan on Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan and Rekha when one of them is getting feted at Indian awards.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Roots: a slave to the traffic of Mumbai

I am about to leave for home. And am dreading this. The traffic in the evening has been insane of late. The struggle to cover each square feet is epic. It takes me more than an hour to cover a meagre ten kilometers or so. And this is a luxury at Mumbai where people cover much longer distances to come to work.

My chauffeur has just left me. I have terrible luck with drivers in any case. And yes in Sumdog's India we do get help like maids and drivers. I have left myself to the mercy of cabbies now because I don't even want to think of driving back myself. It needs a much stronger man than me. Even marriage hasn't prepared me for the infinite patience required for this.

There are some common causes for traffic in Mumbai:

  • religious - the Wednesday Mass at Mahim, the Ganpathi visarjans, the Eid fairs, Mount Mary fairs... man's love for God touches us in many ways
  • perpetual digging - subways, flyovers, metros, monorails...good intentions, thirty years too late.
  • Sheer bad roads and potholes - Plus repairs are often given to corrupt contractors, the road repairs don't last beyond a season and the karmic circle of repairs continue
  • Jaywalking - India follows a pedestrian first policy
  • Political rallies - rallies could be against historians who write biographies of past heroes, against shops which put signs in English, against migrants who come from other parts of India or for asking for votes for the wonderful job that they do
  • Police checks for terrorists who would be law abiding enough to take the proper roads while on their mission. The objective being to irritate the hell out them I guess
  • Recently we have another cause for traffice - Pratibha Jam. She is India's first female President. She hails from Maharashtra and keeps coming home from the capital, Delhi. She has already clocked the highest number of trips home by an Indian President in office. We never feel her presence in day to day affairs or in matters of State. But she often has this phantom like aura at Mumbai. The city comes to a standstill and we are told that the traffic is due to the visit of this grandmother like lady and her posse of thirty or forty cars. I believe that local officials have thrown up their arms and said that they can't give her a ceremonial welcome if she comes home so often

I wish that our logjams are as logical as these points make it out to be. At times there doesn't seem to be any reason for traffic. That seems to be the scen nowadays. You are just stuck. Too many cars on the road I guess.

Its not that Mumbai is unique. I have seen horrid jams at Istanbul, KL, Bangkok and I believe that London's pretty bad too. But they at least have a slightly more comfortable public transport system than our hard warking local train system which is efficient but dirty, bursting at the seams and a ride through hell.

Anyway let me square my shoulders and go out to face the world out there. After all how long can one avoid this 'emotional atyachaar (torture)'?

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Bra burning 2 - chaddi power

I can't get over the 'pink chaddi protest' on Facebook. In the unlikely even that you haven't heard about it then it is a protest movement where women are sending pink panties on Valentines to the Mr Muthalik and his band of forty brave men who beat up 4 women in a pub for....well for being in a pub.

Who said we don't have a sense of humour? Mr M won't know what hit him. I hope some people are considerate enough to send him thongs. He and his leather pant boys can use them as sling shots. I wonder whether road side shops post 14th February will see a flurry of red panties. After all that's what happens to clothes one gives for flood relief and other government run relief camps.

Just one question to the folks who organised this. Why pink chaddis? I thought red was the colour of Valentines. At least that's what the window display at the lingerie shops at Hill Road, Bandra seem to be screaming out.

I saw a few vox pop comments on the pink chaddi issue in a newspaper. Most were quite excited. But a few, including a couple of girls, said that this was a wrong representation of Indian culture or modernity. Did I miss something? Is wearing underwear against our culture? Or is bringing it out of the closet a problem? Perhaps it should be hidden like paedophilia, wife beating, vote tampering, raping of tourists, corruption and other such aspects our culture

On a serious note I hope that this doesn't take the attention away from what is a really important issue... these hooligans need to be punished by law. There can't be any compromise on that.

A little over the top: Billloo hair stylist

I have always given a lot of importance to my barber. The reason's simple. I don't have too much hair. Folks used to point out how thin (patla) it was right from my college days.

I would try to avoid this by standing tall but there would be vulnerable moments when I would be sitting somewhere only to hear some girl squeal, "eeks you are going to become bald soon".

I have tried various places to cut my hair. From the basic salons of Kolkata to the basic ones near Bandra station and the legendary Air Cool at Churchgate, Mumbai. As the years progressed there was less hair to play around with and there was slightly more money in hand. So I have tried a couple of trendier places here in the hope of getting a 'different look'. With barely visible results. Still I give a lot of thought to where to cut my hair.

I also remember my father once explaining to me that the original surgeons in England were barbers. He said that this was the reason why surgeons should technically be referred to as 'Mr' and not 'Dr'.

Therefore the point I am making is that I had no idea that 'barber' was a derogatory word!

But it apparently is as poor Shahrukh Khan found out when some barber's association protested against the word 'barber' in his film 'Billoo Barber".

From what I understand SRK has given and said that he will remove the name. One can argue and say that he shouldn't have given in. If he hadn't, on the other hand, I am sure people would say this is a publicity stunt.

I just think that SRK is probably pissed and doesn't want to get into such a silly thing. At least I wouldn't.

As if we don't have enough real issues in our country!

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

The Goa invasion

We are off to Goa tomorrow.

We have made this a little birthday ritual over the past yeas and I must thank Kainaz for being so sporting. I think my love for Goa has rubbed off on her too.

We will be at Waters. We were really looking forward to staying here. The owner, Samir, has been kind enough to offer to upgrade us to two suites. I am quite looking forward to it.

I have written extensively about Goa in my food blog. Almost seems like there is nothing left to write. This year's different though. As they say in Hindi 'hum do sai char ho gaye' (we have become four from two). No, not kids as the saying refers to.

My mom and brother are coming with us. My mom has wanted to go to Goa for a long time. So we used this as a bait to get her over to come to Bombay. Something tells me that our usual beach bumming, desperate eating and sundowners won't be the flavour of this holiday.

My brother's birthday is a day before mine. This is the first time the three of us will be together on our birthdays in ten years. Plus Kainaz of course. She has put up enthusiastic stauts updates on Facebook about the trip.

I will drink to that.

Empty Nest

A series of events sparked off the chain of thoughts leading to this post.

It first begun when I was watching a Ray film, Shakha Prashakha. The film is about an elderly gentleman who has a heart attack and the days that fellow when his family comes to visit him. His children were not the evil offspring of the movie Baghbaan. But the film did show their attempts to balance their professional lives and personal irritations with their concern over their father.

Then we saw instances in our own family when my grandfather was hospitalised at Calcutta and we saw the nervousness in the my grandmom's voice even after he returned home. Her children were there for them in different degrees but the reality was they had their own lives and own families.

Then during a meeting a client came up with the hypothesis that Indian men start thinking in terms of 'family' only when they have kids. Wives, parents were often less involving and not strictly seen as famlily according to this gentleman. I must say that I sensed a grain of truth in what he said.

Then my Mom came to visit us from Calcutta after repeated requests from us. Its just been three days but I've often been at crossroads trying to balance my regular life with spending time with her.

All of this makes me thinks that do parents get the raw deal in a parent child relationships?

In the average relation the parent give up everything while rearing the child - money, saving for the child's future, being up at night, listening to the kid's prattle, answering questions patiently, coming home from work and cranking up energy levels for the kid, suspending life when the kid is unwell or has exams.

And I am not talking here of bad parents or 'bad' children here.

But the fact is do children spend as much time and energy with their parents as their parents did with them? Is this a fact of life? Are their exceptions? Is it possible for a grown up to focus as much on his or her parents as they did?

If not, then what is the best one can practically do? What would we expect from future generations? For those who are parents, is it worth the effort?