Monthly Archives: March 2010

Movie Review: Love, Sex Aur Dhokha

Love, Sex Aur Dhokha is a ground-breaking, course redefining, soon-to-be-cult, and eventually historic movie. Right up there, in the league of Dil Chahta Hai.

I say that, because of two reasons – One, that this movie has been made in a manner which is fundamentally different from any movie that you’ve ever seen before.

Dibakar ‘Lucky Khosla’ Banerjee has done away with the very lights-camera-action set up that we know movies by. Instead, he has made it look as if he was filming on third party camera footage – from an overenthusiastic noob movie maker’s hand held camera, from CCTV in a departmental store, and from a sting journalist’s hidden cameras. In this new medium, the screen goes grainy, the camera points at random angles and shows distorted images and sounds at times. These minor irritants are a part of the movie by design. And once you get over them, the director takes over and takes you into his stories. Where people look like you and me and speak our very own lingo without any beep. And you realize that the things which happen to them actually happen to real people in the complex times we live in.

This reality and novelty of the medium adds a further punch to the sharpness of the characters Dibakar has meticulously defined. They’re so real they hit you hard, and are destined to stay with you for a long time. Shruti is hot. Not the Katrina Kaif hot, but the-classmate-you-always-had-a-crush-on hot. Rahul is the chutiya from your colony who somehow got the hottest chick. Rashmi is the poor talented girl whose widowed mother couldn’t get her the best education. These aren’t geniuses or demi-Gods, they are ordinary people. And ordinary people look great on ordinary cameras.

Second reason why this movie is going to be a cult movie is that, it is going to be a huge hit. If the success of Reality TV Shows from MTV Roadies to Splitsvilla to Rakhee ka Swayamvar is anything to go by, the audiences across India are going to lap this movie up. Success will make its idea carry farther and longer.

The possibilities after this are endless. The fact that this 1.5 crore movie is going to earn its producer, the Ekta ‘Saas Bahu formula’ Kapoor, big money is enough for many more film makers to follow in this category. The boldness of this experiment might encourage others to take other daring chances. But what I’m looking for is something even beyond. This movie could do to movie making what blogging did to journalism – democratize it. Now that people have liked a movie shot on cheap cameras, newbie and amateur film makers might start making more movies from hand held cameras like the ones used in LSD. Movies created thus could be distributed over the internet. And in this way, amateur movie makers might start challenging the established movie makers the way bloggers are challenging established journos, thereby raising the abysmal state of the art in our country.

Rating: ****

PS: Those looking for ‘high art’ amidst all this brouhaha over reality, if the mere daring of the filmmaker does not satisfy you, I’d say that the metaphor of shooting a movie with spy cameras whose Tagline is ‘You’re being watched’ is the boldest metaphor I’ve ever come across in any movie.

Categories: Movie Review | 8 Comments

Wake Up Sid

Anne French, Lakme Compact, Colorbar lipstick… he murmured as he squinted his eyes in concentration looking at the toiletries section of Reliance Fresh. Reading was difficult. The letters were difficult to frame into words, and the words weren’t exactly making sense.

And so much of variety of items in a single store…! Humans brains weren’t designed to handle so much data. What has the world come to… the worlds brains won’t be able to take so much data and will just go kaput. Maybe that’s what Pralay will be‘ His thoughts drifted away into a far flung territory, not very frequently explored by average humans.

…Revlon Nail paint, Elle18 Nail Paint Remover… Wait, what was the first thing I saw?” He went back to Anne French. What he saw from the corner of his eye told him that a female, who had been looking in the same direction as he was, had moved just a fraction of a second before him in the same direction. Before his brain could register what that meant, he heard an exasperated sigh.

Turning behind, he came face to face with the female standing behind him.

WTBF!” her eyes seemed to scream at him.

And then he realized it. He had been looking up and down the same rack of female essensuals, thinking about human brains and their capacities for almost the past three minutes.

I’m sorry, uh, I was looking for face cream.” mumbling something like that, he walked away, away even from the line of men’s toiletries displayed in the next rack. He had been lucky. The WTF expression on the face could have as well been verbally expressed. The exasperated sigh could as well have been a kick on the ass.

The Mary Jane + rum and coke he had had last night was still having its effect. He was alright when he left home for shopping. The five minutes’ walk in the sun had caused him to dehydrate. His eyes were burning now, even in the air conditioned store. He wanted to go home. He felt like shit.

“No,” he told himself. He couldn’t give up like this. “Whatever happens, I will finish shopping against all odds.” Although he knew that in his present semi comatose situation, the survival instincts he had learned in his harrowing Himalayan adventures had to be stretched to the ultimate extent to achieve his goal.

He went and stood before the frozen foods section. The refrigerator had no door. The cool waves wafting from it soothed his eyes, and what seemed to him, his soul. Consciousness returned to him.

He picked up a packet of frozen Afghan Parathas and checked the price. Hmm, 60 bucks. How many were there in the packet? Can’t be more than six. The Afghans were huge people, with very little money. Six parathas would be nothing for them. So, to feed the Afghans, the parathas in Afghanistan would have to be cheap. Here, people were making money in the name of Afghans. Imagine how would an Afghan feel if he came to know that 6 parathas are selling for sixty rupees, an amount he feeds his entire family for a day on…

He realized that his thoughts had drifted again. ‘WTF’ he mouthed to himself. The next moment his brain registered that the female he had come across in the cosmetics section had been standing beside him. And that his ‘WTF’ had been loud enough to be heard by her. And that she was now staring at him with her mouth popped open.

He felt it his duty to make the situation somewhat normal. ‘What to do, what to do…’ his mind raced as fast as it could given its situation.

Um, would you know how many parathas come in this packet?

Four.” She pointed to the number written in large font on the face of the packet.

Oh, I didn’t see that. Thank you.

Dumping the packet in his basket, he turned around. He wanted to get the hell out of there as soon as possible. As he was turning, he could almost feel the female shaking her head in disbelief. “Wake up Sid,” he could make out a feminine whisper behind him.

He wanted the floor of the store to part, so that he could disappear inside it. He wanted to bolt out of the door, climb his bike and roar away into oblivion. But his Himalayan instincts told him otherwise. Grinding his teeth, he went back to shopping.

Standing at the beginning of a passage between two closely cramped racks, he was concentrating hard. ‘Wake up Sid’ was still echoing in his mind. “Plain Kellog’s corn flakes, 70 bucks for 300gm, Mango flavoured ones, 85 for 250 grams…WTF 15 bucks extra for just a mango flavour. And it won’t even be real mango, just some chemical which smells similar to mango…And gosh! What all have I bought?’ He looked at his stuffed basket. ‘Can I pay for all this? ‘ He tried to recall how much money he had in his pocket.

He could swear no ‘excuse me’ was uttered.

As he stood there, confused once again, he felt something brush against his back. Something round and pointed and soft and wonderful. That something was joined by another something. Both the somethings were there together, and pressed against him for an instant. Then the first something brushed by his back. The second something followed suit.

In a second, all this began and got over.

He saw the female he had encountered twice walk from behind him to what looked like her husband at the end of the rack. She never looked back. Her gait had been natural as ever. They began what looked like a husband and wife conversation and disappeared into another line of shelves.

He had bought 720gm potatoes, 5 apples, 3 packets of slim milk, 2 packets of frozen parathas and a dozen eggs. All these would together cost 308 Rupees and 28 paise. He did not need corn flakes although he could pay for them, and more through his credit card. He had been in the store for 20 minutes. It would take him two minutes on the checkout counter and another five to walk home. It was 10:30 now. He had one hour before he had to be in office.

The words “Wake up Sid” kept ringing in his head all through the day.

Categories: Short Stories | 9 Comments

A Woman in Love

Writing a poem after a long time. Was inspired by this episode, but not enough to actually put it down on paper. Then Himank’s poem showed the way.

Finally settled in the packed compartment,
my brow was wet from the sun.
“When will the train start”, I thought
impatient to leave the station.

My gaze strayed outside,
pillar to post, door to door
and when it rested on the seat in front
it could wander no more.

For there sat quietly,
talking into the phone
a girl, as beautiful as ever existed
as far as I had known.

My critical mind took her in,
her eyes were pools of dark.
But so too was the complexion,
nothing that would leave a mark.

Her hair was thick and dark,
tied up firmly in a braid.
No city ‘posh spice’ this, my type,
she was a small-town maid.

Slipping over to firm hands,
bangles and bracelets were cute.
figure, well, a wee bit too full
underneath the plain Salwar Suit.

With a ‘What nonsense! What’s so great’
I regarded her as a whole again.
And there she was,
as beautiful as when we began.

‘How the…’ as I stared at her, puzzled,
she smiled, turned red, laughed into the phone
then bit her lip, glanced upward,
caught me looking and talked in a hushed tone.

And seeing her thus, the secret
of her beauty hit me, by Jove
She was so beautiful, for the simple reason
That she was A woman in love!
Categories: Poems | 33 Comments

The Holi Post

Holi, for me as for almost every one of you, brings back fond memories. Right from the innocent days when girls and boys together would take a holy dip into the friendly neighborhood under-construction house’s not-so-deep tank and splash around for hours. To the riot at college, when you would tie knots on your torn T shirt and whack everyone within vicinity (irrespective of his size) a reddening blow on his bare back, while the better species among our classmates would look on at this spectacle with (what I guess was) some amusement.

Somewhere on this pattern of memories, as colorful as my face and as indefinable as the shape of my T Shirt on any one of those Holi days, lies a particular brush stroke of fate . One spot, which is indelible for the rest of my life.

I was in class IX at that time. In an age when mischief has not started taking altogether new dimensions. And among other things, I had one unique favorite hobby – setting things on fire.

We lived on the outskirts of Ajmer, just at the edge of the town. The colony was perched atop a plateau and overlooked some of the higher of the peaks of Aravalis in the district. Just beyond the colony started the thorn – forested hills. The colony itself had a lot of vacant plots, on which wild, mostly thorny plants grew. This whole setting provided an ideal backdrop for a number of my hobbies. Among which, of course, was my insatiable desire of setting things on fire.

I had once set my dad’s garden compost dump on fire. One of my favorite evening activities on no-cricket days was to gather a bunch of kids, go to the jungle nearby, collect some firewood and have a bon fire. Even on a lot of cricket days, we would collect some firewood lying here and there on the playground and set it on fire and sit around it and discuss the day’s play and leofy each other.

The ‘Ravanas’ that I made on Dussera consisted of a heap of firewood. Some kids would gather in their curiosity as I would set it ablaze. And these were big, roaring fires. I remember on one Dushera two girls hugging each other in fright that the Ravana kind of scared them.

But the Holika I had never ventured to make.

There used to be a ‘Vikas Samiti’ of the colony. Some of the residents had had differences with the people running this Samiti and as a result they had rebelled and floated their own parallel Samiti. There was a mutual one-upmanship between these two committees. The rebels had had their own temple constructed. They even had their own Holika Dehen. The members of the two groups did not go to each others’ Mandir or Holika Dehen. We kids, though, were exempted from this unwritten, unspoken rule.

The Holika Dehen used to be a sort of a show of strength of the two warring factions. Whoever had the higher Holika, or the larger crowd in attendance, naturally scored a psychological point over the other. I think this was one of the major reasons behind people making Holika with so much zeal.

It was in this background, that in class IX I decided that enough had been enough. That groups could continue fighting and politicizing the Holika. But this time there will at least be one Holika free of politics and guided by the noble principles of good triumphing over evil burning bright in this colony. And that that would be mine.

(Truth be told, I decided that my instincts of making a high heap of firewood and the pleasure of setting it on fire will no longer be stifled by colony politics. I will be making one. And I don’t care if others make higher. As long as I set on fire mine.)

So a few days before Holika Dehen, I set about making my Holika. There were two large plots vacant between our and our nearest neighbours, the Khoslas’ home. That was chosen as the venue. Alongwith a friend of mine, who used to do domestic work for the Khoslas, I collected firewood. Wood was in inexhaustible supply from the nearby thorn jungles and from the vacant plots of the colony. But handling it was tricky. These weren’t straight logs of wood, but thorny bushes. Curved, twisted, and well, full of thorns. However much you cut the branches, you really could not have a straight ‘log’ of wood. Therefore, the irregular shaped bushes were all that we had to make do with. We dug a small pit, inserted the base of the thorny branches inside and firmly filled the pit with earth and water. This now looked like a proper cone, a giant 10-12 feet high flowerpot actually, rather than the inverted cone that Holikas are supposed to be like. To give it a more proper structure, we put branches around its sides. Twigs and hay were brought in. Finally, the Holika started looking somewhat like a bucket.

All this hadn’t been done without any political intervention from the powers that be of the colony. I had assumed that the exemption granted to the kids in visiting Mandirs and Holikas of the other group extended to even actually building a Holika. Thinking along the same lines, my parents had only hesitatingly given their permission. But we had been mistaken. There had been an intervention and taunts by some people of the opposing camp while we were making the Holika. There were some murmurings in the colony suggesting that ‘that’ side was preparing two Holikas instead of one this time around as a show of their strength, and that they had stooped down to the level of involving their children to pass it off as a ‘children’s game’ so that nobody could raise a finger. These were stray voices, but they were there. Nevertheless, most people were happy with our effort.

On Holika dehen day, a dozen odd people turned up to watch our Holika burn.

And luck, or lack of skill would have to have it. On the Holi day, the Holika did not burn.

We tried our best. We put a torch this way and that. Some stray twigs did burn. At times, the flame seemed to have just about reached the tipping point. But reach it did not. Tried this way and that, we could not make it catch fire. Nobody around had kerosene in their home. And my parents would not allow any petrol/ diesel being handled. So after about 15-20 minutes of futile trying, we gave up. The neighbors who had come to watch the Holika too went away with some words of encouragement. I went home, dejected.

The next day was Holi. We played with colors to our hearts’ content. And after coming back, washed up and slept off. Nobody paid any attention to the Unburned, somewhat blackened Holika. In the evening, as people came out for the evening stroll, many noticed the unburned Holika. Evidence of a failed effort doesn’t look good. I decided to dismantle it the other day.

From the next day was school, the usual routine of school-home-homework-cricket started, and I sort of kept putting off dismantling the Holika as I had intended. People had been coming for strolls on the road in front of my house, as was usual. People had been noticing the Holika. After a few days, some people had started complaining to my parents that an unburned Holika was inauspicious and should be removed immediately. That evening, as I came from the playground, my parents firmly told me to remove it. The next day was a holiday, and I promised that I would remove it the first thing that day. People were superstitious and will get upset. The situation was already quite politicized as it was. Better have the end of it soon.

The next morning, I woke up to the sounds of some confusion. A neighbor was in the dining room, talking to my mom. From my bed itself, I strained to hear what the conversation was about.

What I heard made me jump up. I went to the door and listened. I could give no reaction. What I had first overheard had been right.

The neighboring aunty, the old Mrs. Khosla who lived in the other house adjacent to the plots where we had made the Holika, had all of a sudden passed away.

Before anyone else could pass by to go to their house or before even the incident set in and the mourning started, I crept out of our house, went to the adjoining plots between the two houses and dismantled the Holika.

I did not, and still do not have much respect for the modernity of the Ajmer people. People were superstitious to the core, and some people were always looking for excuses to bitch about each other. People had already been talking about the inauspicious Holika that did not burn. I was dead afraid that sometime, someone somewhere might say something connecting the unburned Holika to Mrs. Khosla’s death. And that that might open a Pandora’s box. But I never got to hear a word about it. It seemed to me that this thought had never crossed my parents’ mind. Or maybe they did a very good job of hiding it. Same goes for my neighbors the Khoslas. They remained as genuinely sweet and affectionate as they had been earlier.

Maybe that was how things were to be. Maybe I was being paranoid when I thought that people might connect the two things. But I cannot believe that this thought never came to people’s minds – my neighborhood aunties had kept fasts whenever any snake was killed nearby. I had known people to put Totkas on the roads in their wish to have a son. And everybody else believing in them and not touching them, no matter what. I never knew a single family buying anything made of iron on a Saturday. And you could never find a single barber shop open on a Tuesday anywhere in the city.

Still, maybe the people were so broadminded that in this case any connection between the death and the Holika did not occur to them.

Or maybe this thought did come to people’s mind. That the inauspicious Holika was in some way responsible for Mrs. Khosla’s death. But that they had then rationalized. And came to the conclusion that that couldn’t be true.

Or, that they had had an idea somewhere that the two issues were related but then they had thought of me. That what had happened had happened and any loose talk about it could severely impact my young, delicate mind.

All these require a level of rationality which I cannot give my neighborhood people credit for. I know all people could not have been like that.

Another possible explanation could be that maybe people were just so taken aback and aggrieved for aunty’s death that this thought never crossed their mind.

Perhaps the fact that Mrs. Khosla was kinda old (65 around) but appeared much older saved the day for me. That people just took her death for a natural one. And that because of this, the Holika never came to their thoughts.

These theories are again highly disputable. For the most part, I believe that people did connect by Holika with the death. At least some of them did. And that some of them did talk about it. But not many did that. And whoever did, maintained a level of propriety so as not to say such things in front of children or my immediate neighbors or people known to me.

What ever the case is, I’ll never get to know the truth now.

I lived in some stress for a few days; until the death itself got kinda erased from conscious public memory. I never told about this to anyone. The stress was not high, as I was too broadminded enough to have any feeling of guilt or shame about it. But the fear that some fool some day might point fingers at me, and that might make things unpleasant for the Khoslas, people I liked a lot, or my parents. But nothing of that kind ever happened and slowly, time layered everything over.

Two years later, I left Ajmer. I suppose I am no longer in conscious public memory of that place now. I forgot about this whole incidence. Except when I saw Holikas.

This is no longer a sad memory. Time has turned it into just another memory for me now. It comes every Holi. May Mrs. Khosla rest in peace forever.

Categories: Incidences | 8 Comments

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