Monday, October 19, 2009

Tumhari ada hai jo sabse juda hai...chaha tha tumko isi waaste !

It was one of those days when I had neither my driver nor the will to drive. So after having finished yet another boring look test to further my bollywood aspirations in the posh suburb of bandra, I hopped into the first rickshaw that past my way, and with a relatively bored look and expression told him to drive straight ahead into the mystic neighbourhood of lokhandwala andheri.
It was the mean machine that caught my eye first. The colour if i remember correctly ,was white, and it was unusually big and majestic for the cars I normally see. Despite not being too much into automobiles, this cool customer on the santacruz juhu road grabbed my attention so much that I actually, did something very out of character for my taste. One I asked my rickshaw wallah to drive fast and get close to the car and two stretched out my entire six foot ninety kilo frame out of the moving rickshaw to peep into the car.
Little did I know that this was a moment I had waited thirty years for!
It was somewhere in the middle of 1978 that the legendary film maker Dev Anand had introduced in his film “des pardes” a young teenager who emerged confidently from a barrelful of champagne and entered straight into the hearts of millions. Tina Munim, who made her debut with this classy film shot mostly in the lanes and by lanes of London, would have had no idea the kind of effect she had on a kid, somewhere living in the alleys of a small town in Uttar Pradesh called Allahabad.
I was nowhere close to puberty, when I fell completely in love with Tina. To me she was the ultimate combination of beauty, grace, charm and class. I had seen no one who could evoke the kind of vulnerability which she did when she sang “kaisi yeh nagariya kaise hain yeh log “in “des pardes”. She was the ultimate Elisa Doolittle learning “charu chandra ki chanchal chitwan “in “manpasand’, she was the ultimate prize to be won between Rishi Kapoor and Rakesh Roshan in “apke deewane ", and later between Rishi Kapoor and Jeetendre in “deedar e yaar”.My heart bled when Sanjay Dutt won the “aa dekhe zara “competition with Rina Roy over her in “rocky”. I travelled and travelled in local trains to see anybody similar sitting on a window seat for me to hum “suniye kahiye’ from “baton baton mein”, and forever hoped she would come one day to invite me for a cuppa tea singing “ shayad meri shaadi ka khayal “from “souten”. Even her forgettable films like ‘aasman’, ‘wanted”, “papi pet ka sawaal hai”, “karishma,’ “bewafai”, “saat bijliyaan”, “jigarwala “etc were nothing short of classics for me. From her entry into bollywood as a nubile nymphet to her exit as a diva in “kamagni”, she had one constant in life, a fan sitting quietly, far far away, collecting her photos and buying one “Stardust” after the other if it had anything to say about her.
Not just her films, her personal choices also began deciding mine…I loved and hated Sanjay Dutt and Rajesh Khanna when she loved and hated them, I disliked Poonam Dhillon and Rati Agnihotri when they spoke badly about her. I loved Gautam Rajadhyaksha who shot excellent photos of her, and I hated Devyani Chaubal when she bit her into pieces in her articles. I wanted to help her, love her, be with her and give her everything that nobody was willing to give her, happily,while studying for my icse exams in the mid eighties ! I felt betrayed ,but also a bit relieved when she finally tied the knot with “rich, young, single and very sought after textile tycoon” ( as per cine blitz in 1988),, since I knew that he would make her happy, although one day I was sure she would realize what true love is , ( that is when she would meet me !)…
And somehow with the course of time ,as Tina moved on to become, India’s most successful corporate wife, my life also drifted, and I , via UPSC exams and MBA aspirations, eventually landed here in the big bad world of Bollywood, The film industry became a part of my life, I began acting on stage, TV and films.. I started meeting, on a different level, various big film stars and artists who earlier were only shining stars for me. And after every hand shake I did with yet another top star, I felt I had come a long way, from Allahabad to Mumbai and had managed to take out these stars from their silver screens into my own space.
Almost everybody but Tina. I never met her anywhere. Never saw her at any award functions or parties, never bumped into her in any hotels or airports. Until that day, and the drive from bandra to andheri. As I peeped into the white sedan on the road to juhu, my eyes shifted from the car interiors to the lady who was sitting inside it, happily chatting with another lady friend, totally oblivious of this bystander ogling. She was facing me, on the back seat, in a lovely white dress, short dark brown tresses flirting with her still very attractive face. In a second I felt I knew her... that she looked very familiar, that I had seen this face somewhere before, although thirty years is a really long time. And then the realization daunted upon me… is this she? Is this the moment I have been waiting for? My god there was a freight train running literally through the middle of my head.
And then the inevitable happened. If only I could have frozen that moment for eternity. Very casually, while still engrossed in her conversation, she looked a little away and spotted me almost leaning out of my rickshaw. She looked at me, did a double take, our eyes met, she saw me for two seconds and turned back her face. She felt conscious, the fact that she was spotted, that she was still that elusive movie star and still had mad fans chasing her. With utmost panache and that little bit of nervous awkwardness, she ruffled her hair, leaned back on the seat, and smiled, as if she was telling me…. “Yes buddy this is who you think this is ’.
And her car zipped past me, leaving me completely overwhelmed. For the whole drive after that, I was shivering, literally with excitement. I was quiet, shocked, ecstatic and relieved, all at the same time. I kept looking at the car till I lost it, like very many things in the mad lightening speed of suburban Mumbai. I sat in my rickshaw like a zombie and came back into reality only when I had to take out 70 rupees to pay at my building gate.
I am an actor today, not really big, but still big enough for the very few admires and fans I have. Some people contact me, some send me friend requests on networking sites and some spot me when I am on the road mostly when I am out of Mumbai. There is a nervous excitement in these faces, looking at me, not sure whether they should come up to me or talk. And I understand them completely. I myself do not know still how I would behave if I meet Tina in person today. Would I shout, would I run to her for an autograph, would I request her for a photo? Or would I confidently go up to her and tell her my story.
In all sincerity, I guess I would just freeze. And would hope she would take the initiative, come up to me, call me by my name and stretch out her hand towards me.
Then maybe, just maybe, I would have the guts to smile…

Sunday, August 30, 2009

united we fall !

Lazing on my bed deciding between going to the gym or watching a movie this lazy Sunday morning, by sheer (bad) luck I saw a debate that was going on, on a popular news channel, about whether we are happy that partition of India happened and that Pakistan was created. After an hour of innocuous jargon, the show culminated with the anchor asking if it would be prudent to reverse partition today..
It made me a little breathless with its very thought. Six decades ago, partition was wrong, more so in its timing and execution, and of course in the ridiculousness of the idea of a “friendly exchange of the population”. So wrong that it lead to what today comprises of eighty percent of our modern history syllabus. Stories of carnage and hatred, of divisions and new boundaries, of losses and deaths, of camps and refugees, and finally the birth of two nations in the pool of blood and lap of genocide. And although the partition baton was tossed between Mountbatten to Jinnah to Nehru depending upon which team was shouting , it happened and we accepted it .
This tragedy, if it can be called had several horrible ramifications which can obviously be seen till today. We are still and forever quite uncomfortable being neighbours, we have the military primarily to guard ourselves from each other and we oppose everything the other says in international meeting and forums. We have fought three full fledged wars, hundreds of skirmishes leading to mass killings, proxy wars of humongous magnitudes and so on and so forth. Added to which we have been the victim of terrorism and separatism resulting in non stop nuisance to our police and security forces. Surprising though it may sound to us, this angst is felt also on the other side with the Pakistanis feeling they too are a victim of India, its policies and its arm twisting tactics.
But the idea that it should be reversed? In the name of Allah NO. We as Indians are far far happy being the way we are. Short of sounding jingoistic we are a nation which is truly pluralistic and all encompassing in all respects. We are a nation where Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism were born, where Christianity has existed for 2000 years; where the oldest Jewish synagogues and Jewish communities have resided since the Romans burnt their 2nd temple; where the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile reside; where the Zoroastrians from Persia have thrived since being thrown out of their ancient homeland; and which has the second largest Muslim population, even post this partition on religious grounds. We are an example of a modern liberal society, despite its hiccups and hurdles, and have continued to be. We respect and understand democracy, and although may be accused of symbolism, cannot deny that we have had three Muslim Presidents, a Sikh as the Prime Minister and Catholic Italian woman, as the head of a the ruling party. We have, despite global recession, a seemingly okay economy showing some developments in all the sectors. We have to be credited with having top quality educational institutes, both for primary and higher learning and have slowly started dominating the world intelligentsia with our presence in the silicon valleys and research institutes globally. We may not be laughing all the way to the bank always but we are optimistic and hopeful, and this vibrancy is manifested in our movies, arts, economic growth, and if looked at closely, in our voting patterns also despite the usual cry of rigging during elections.
If I may humbly ask…what has Pakistan to offer us today, other than a open barrage of problems, disaster and debacles, which they have, nobody but themselves to blame ? What good would come to us if we inherit a bankrupt economy, a dead defunct non existent industry, millions of unemployed youth, and illiterate hooligans masquerading as champions of Islam. What a scary thought it is to see some Kalashnikov wearing tribal, hanging around our country, threatening people and forcing Shari at laws. Pakistan is a completely failed state, the epicentre of global terrorism, and like a football is kicked as and when the American shoe decides to change its angle. It is a country that was made wrongly, for the wrong people, by the wrong people and if I may add of the wrong people. The only way it can survive now is if the almighty Allah and not India, takes out time from his busy schedule and decides to do a charitable overtime. Somehow it seems that his diary is also full.
So please, let us be the way we are, it would be quite fine for now if we just remain happy neighbours, maybe allow easy movement of population, and ease out our visa laws. Maybe we should work together, if there is an honest will, to curb terrorism, and fight poverty and illiteracy. We should completely subscribe to the policy of live and let live and happily coexist while being peacefully indifferent. We should get each others news, watch each others films, allow cultural visits from one country to the other, and play cricket from time to time.
But only if we return back to our separate homes.

Monday, June 15, 2009

fair and lovely

Should I shouldn’t I? I have been asking myself this question for almost a month now. Just as the election drama took its bow and the ipl animals went into hibernation, we suddenly discovered that being Indian was no more a trophy and not everyone around the world was arselicking the Indian honchos to get into the ipl squads. Far far down under, when Glenn McGrath was getting a cold shoulder by the Delhi daredevils to find a place in the playing 11, some Indian students in his very own country were getting a shoulder, a shoulder of a slightly different variety, a rather aggressive one, which resulted in a massive contingent of the Indian student community on the road, and a few of their brethren, in hospital.
Early every morning, day after day we were bombarded with images of Indian students in Australia being badly beaten, some nearly dead, some paralyzed, some in coma and some impaired. The news channels were screaming about it, the headlines of nationalist newspapers had the news in bold. We were angry ,we were vocal, we addressed meetings, we called experts, we summoned the Australian diplomats. Apologies were demanded, protections were asked. Boycott was suggested. Even a demand for coming back home gained momentum. Discrimination on the basis of the colour of skin was a heinous crime. The world sang for it in unison against it. And we Indians being at the receiving end of that became the sopranos.
And this is where my dilemma started. I wanted to write a piece to articulate my anger, but every time I opened my laptop inside my air-conditioned room, the sound of my servant boy washing dishes in the hot kitchen started disturbing me. I do not intend playing the devils advocate and neither am I less angry than any other in criticizing the Aussies especially when, national pride and pop patriotism is at stake. Its just that by being an Indian I am not really sure if I have a right to do so. Legally yes, politically of cource, and diplomatically for sure. But morally ? Have I really earned the right to take a stand on the issue of racism when I am myself a product of ,what I firmly believe is ,one of the most racist, divided and discriminating society of all times.
My grandmother was very very happy when I was born, not just because I was a male child, but also because I was fair,( although no match for my milky white sister). Therefore I had validated the fact that I was a chaturvedi, the highest of the highest of Brahmins, of pure Aryan decent and true representative of the “varna vyavastha “. It’s a little known secret that “varna “ or the colour of the skin was what later got concretised as caste ,which till today is the most important reality of this shining India. And so contrary to what some neo liberals think that our fondness for the white skin, and a very obvious dislike for the less light skin tone ,is a colonial hangover, I beg to politely differ. The prejudice existed for as long as there was the veneration for the pristine white waters of our “ganga maiyya”, or the exotica and mystery attached to the love affair of “gori radha” and “kale Krishna”..
And so my grandmother and mother were relieved seeing my skin colour, as they were well aware of the dark reality of Indian families. It is a well known hard fact that different rules are ascribed to the fair child as compared to their dusky alternatives even today in this age of glittering multiplexes. Dark children are openly ridiculed, called names ,made aware of their skin tone even before they can pronounce their names, and if girls, forced to carry the burden, of their taken for granted ugliness. Huge amounts of dowry is expected to marry off dark girls, they have to go through the trauma of getting ridiculed and rejected at varies levels in varies fields. No wonder, we since ancient India are experts in knowing household recipes for becoming fairer, much before the” fair and lovely” revolution happened in the mid seventies with the introduction of the first official skin lightning cream . Needless to say, that the ” magic fairness in 4 weeks creams” have the highest takers in middle class households in various small towns and cities in India . And I understand my nationals completely on this.
Our discrimination does not just end with colour prejudices. We are such a tolerant society ,that we allow different religions and cultures to co existed peacefully as long as they do not enter inside each others verandas. We are always very respectful and cordial but still fall short of serving utensils when members of other communities have to be offered food. It is an open secret that in very many upper caste houses, including my own, there were kept a different set of crockery which came to use when members of sometime “lower “castes or sometimes the infamous ‘minority community “ paid their visits. There existed houses where metal coins were washed before entering the houses, lest they would have touched so many hands. And if this is the memory I have of urban India, I shudder to think what the reality of rural India would have been.
Violence is scarier when it changes its form. The impact of emotional and psychological violence, far far exceeds, in both damage and hurt, the pain of the more obvious physical ones. It is easy to cure the wounds of a box or a kick, but the ritualistic humiliation which one suffers through the growing years is hard to forget, or cure.Especialy when it comes due to a reason you don’t choose. Nobody knows the reason or cure of being dark, of being of lower caste, or of being in the minority. Nobody can choose ones sex, or sexuality, something which is also a perpetual issue of discrimination and ridicule in precisely that order. We have no respect or space for the other, for someone who is different ,for someone who chooses a path other than the obvious. Yet we pride ourselves in being liberal, loving, compassionate and tolerant.
And so, division and dislike has started running in our veins. We discriminate boys over girls, rich over poor, majority over minority, brothers over sisters, sons over daughters, white over black. Our liberal society is such where riots happen at the drop of a hat, whether in Delhi, or in Gujarat, in which specific communities are targeted. Our all encompassing society is such where intercaste marriages face stiff parental opposition, one caste kills the other for job reservations , different castes own different wells in villages and different housing societies in cities, and female infanticide and farmer suicides is on a perpetual increase. We are such a modern nation that without reservations we can’t see any strata of the prejudiced society coming up, neither in jobs nor in the parliament .
And yet we accuse. A very old saying says that when you point one finger towards someone, four other point at you. Isn’t this an opportune time for us to look within and understand how bloody castiest, communal, and intolerant we are, and continue to be. What is happening in Australia is appalling, criminal and these people should be jailed and punished. But doesn’t it give us an opportune time to light a candle in our very hearts and see where we are heading to?
Only then we would convincingly beat the Aussies .
Right mate?

Monday, May 18, 2009

o saathi re... tere bina bhi kya jeena.....

On the morning of may16th, when television channels were screaming and shouting over the success of finally a non coalition government and the defeat of the left and the right at the same time in one of the worlds largest democracies, a small news item hit me , and hit me very badly. A scroll running on the foothills of the main news screen, announced quietly the demise of a film director by the name of Prakash Mehra. In between the hysteria created by congress sycophants, disclaiming Mr Manmohan singhs clean governance over Rahul Babas charm and efforts as the real reason behind the congresses reincarnation, it took me a while to realize what an impact this rather inconsequential news item had on me.
And on millions like me. The entire generation of Hindi movie buffs who grew up in the seventies and eighties owe their allegiance to a style of film and filmmaking, when Hindi films was not bollywood and the hero was the son of the soil and not some vague yuppie meets a Hollywood reject cross .This imagery was created, film after film by films like ‘sholay’, ‘muqaddar ka sikandar’, “trishul”, “deewar”. “zanjeer”, and so on and so forth. Hindi film heroes were real men, men who cared for their mothers and their motherland, who came from humble backgrounds and wooed princesses, who always rebelled against the unjust, fought for the rights of the poor and took revenge of murdered fathers and raped sisters. The crowd tried to emulate every single mannerism of their demi gods, right from Amitabh Bachchans drunken dialogue delivery, to Dharmendras war cry for revenge, from Feroz khan’s stylish hats to Jeetendras white shoes, and from Mithun Chakrobortys haircut, to Vinod Mehras ample display of his hairy chest! The kids knew dialogues from films which they narrated in family functions with great aplomb, and these film stars got harassed, not just by the income tax people, but also by female fans who wrote fan mail in their own blood and who actually attempted suicide when the news of superstar Rajesh Khannas engagement to a certain “Bobby" girl hit the headlines.
But behind the golden curtain of this absolute brilliant imagery, smiled some dream merchants, people, who dreamed and dared to dream, and hence, once having attained the position of some influence, dared to sell their dreams as their stories and their pieces of art .The combined passion of these directors, these story writers, musicians, singers, actors and of course technicians was so strong that the Hindi cinema of the seventies created mass hysteria. Many a student, both in India and abroad have burnt gallons of midnight oil, just trying to decipher, the reason behind this mass hysteria created by the Hindi cinema and its consequent affect on public life.
Ironical isn’t it, that the day, Indian government changed guard and the cries for young leadership gained momentum, a representative of the Hindi films old guard also passed away, maybe making place for the new generation. Prakash Mehra, who combined with Amitabh Bachchan, gave one super hit after another, right from, “muqaddar ka sikander”, and “laawaris”, to “namak halal” and “sharaabi”, breathed quietly his last in a suburban hospital. The master who created many a immortal song and situation, calmly left. Who can forget the batting partnership of Vijay Hazare and Vijay Merchant as narrated by cricket commentator Amitabh Bachchan in “namak halal”, or the death of Zohrabai in Sikandars arms in “muqaddar ka sikandar” which immortalised the most exclusive, and illusive Rekha -Amitabh pairing. ..Who can ever erase the memory of the legend Pran singing 'yaari hai imaan mer yaar meri zindagi 'in “zanjeer”, and which “mehfil” is complete without the rendition of 'salaame ishq meri jaan' .Till date antakshari sequences, which begin with the alphabet m jump start with one group singing mere angane mein, and the other group refuting it by saying that the song actually has a different start ( a rather inconsequential, lalalalalalal )and so not the apt song for the correct start. Needless to say, Prakash Mehra may have moved on quietly, but his legacy breathes, and breathes forever in many ways than one.
But it pains me, that they are all going, slowly but surely and I don’t know whether they are leaving behind deserving replacements. I cannot see the maverick who could replace Manmohan Desai, , the clean wholesome domestic storyteller who could replace Hrishida,the socially conscious maker who could be the B R Chopra or the stylish wild western who could step into the cowboy shoes of our original cowboy Feroz Khan. And now Prakash Mehra has also gone. The film industry which we all looked at and ran to be a part of has changed, not just by market pressures, but sometimes by cruel divine interventions. Silently we bear it and helplessly we stand not knowing how to handle situations where the remote control is in the hands of someone who lives far far away, behind the clouds, up in the heavens, someone who is kind and just , but unfortunately calls back those people soon, whom he loves the most.
That’s what my Hindi films always taught me.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

hi, this is vikrant

Hi, this is vikrant chaturvedi,(smile ) if you like me you can call me on 9820087811(smile), I have been doing, theatre, films, ads and television here for a while(smile). I am 35 (?) years old, I am 6’1’ tall and I weigh around 85 kgs. (Smile) .These are my profiles, right, left, smile, smile, and smile wider!
I can do this in my sleep. this is a routine me, and every actor does in Mumbai, everyday, multiple times, hopping from one dingy studio to another while auditioning for one TV commercial after another, or for a role in a television series or a small film. (Big films are cast in five star hotels generally without any auditions...)it’s a routine we all hate, criticise, dismiss, even deny but keep finding ourselves doing that one last time .
Ever since India opened up, and the economic boom happened, multiple television channels mushroomed out of nowhere, and hundreds of new products got launched in the economy. The middle classes suddenly discovered money in their pockets or got lured into flashing their credit cards pushed down their neck by aggressive credit card executives. Needless to say, a fringe benefit was bestowed on us actors, as more products meant more ads and more ads meant more jobs for actors.
And so they came, in hordes galloping downwards from, the plains of Punjab, haryana and U P, stacked up with massive biceps and six pack abs, hands on their low waist jeans and eyes on John Abraham’s throne. This is the first breed you encounter as you walk into the audition hall for a ‘look based ad “, cigarettes, booze, condoms, designer wear, bikes and cars. The requirement here is simple. You need to look rough and tough, lean and hungry, with zero fat on your body and no expressions on your face. you need to get consistently confused for not being Indian looking, ala the original Italian jat Veeru Bhooker, who became a top model by endorsing products he never used in reality .This breed is generally friendly, you can start a conversation with them, and they would reply you first in English, then bad English, then bad Hindi, and finally in a cocktail of hindi/pujabi/haryanavi.They will quickly become your friends, and guides (if not philosophers ) ,and will guide you towards correct, gymming , nutrition, and women. Their favourite topics in precisely that order.
The second breed you see are generally called “character actors”. This is a breed recognized as non “hero” looking actors. They all have vast experiences of different forms of theatre behind them, in their various small towns of origin. These people are not bestowed with Greek god looks, and as the joke goes, are a result of god’s overtime…but they can boast of, almost arrogantly of one thing. They are all good actors. Put them in front of the camera and they would blast, sometimes even more than actually required and amaze the audience with their talent. They are normally called for pan Indian parts. the milkman, the servant, the office peon, the barber.. However their looks and appearances are sometimes very deceptive. With the ad industry discovering the new market for their products in the great Indian middle class, the demand of such “faces “is huge and in all likelihood the rich looking dude actually takes a local train to the studio, while the actor playing his servant boy steps out of a shiny Hyundai accent, accompanied by his spot boy, if you please.
The third breed is a strange animal. They are slightly older, fair complexioned, (necessary to portray rich), fit, but not gym toned, educated looking, (aided by powerless glasses), always carrying a jacket and a tie, (to give the illusion of a corporate look), models. They normally do television to survive and are very critical (almost ashamed) of that. They normally play, the young father, young corporate, doctor, engineer, lawyer, military officers. This is a breed which normally endorses household consumer items, so they sell saffola and buy dhara, speak for Colgate and use close up, endorse icici and keep their monies in Citibank. They do not discuss the ethical question behind advertising, they are paid money to speak one lie after the other, time and again, to pay their rents and drive their cars.
Whatever type you may fall in, you end up following the same routine. You go inside the room, give your introduction, try to perform in the vastly calming presence of an arrogant bimbette masquerading as a casting director, and an extremely bored looking camera attendant, just waiting for his shift to get over. You take directions from lady Spielberg, who in between talking on her mobile, screaming for silence and munching her sandwich tells you what exactly the correct expressions of a doting father are. A great atmosphere for a great performance I must say.
But I have to admit, the atmosphere in and out of the audition hall may look intimidating to begin with, but it eases up and starts looking familiar after multiple visits. You find out that behind every face and body, there stands a genuine person with genuine intentions of giving his best. The talent may sometime be a point of debate, but the drive and passion is certainly not .And in a predominantly luck driven industry like bollywood,which is the final destination for every single soul in that crowded room, what difference does it make if you look good or not, speak well or not. All success stories generally will tell you that all it requires to succeed here is to be at the right place at the right time, Rest just follows.
And so to do that, one needs to have the patience and the grit to survive one gruelling video test after another, jump from one audition to the next and generally just be in the loop. Success in either monetary terms or pure wisdom usually follows. And if you finally attain your Buddhahood by giving multiple auditions and getting no calls, you can always write a blog.
Did I hear somebody say sour grapes???

Saturday, May 9, 2009

five months is a long time

I admit I have no great love lost for the clich├ęd bombayite. And it is not because I live twenty five kilometres up north in the predominantly migrant, nouveu riche and bollywoodized suburb of andheri lokhandwala, surrounded with film aspirants in their v shaped bodies, but simply, because having come from the lap of Hindi heartland , where a young beaurocrat still expects the highest dowry and heated political discussions are buzzing on nine out of every ten tables in coffee houses , I find it rather disturbing, the amount of indifference and apathy that it shows to Indian mainstream politics. My big eyes widen even more with utmost amazement, when an average Mumbai “youth”, pauses and thinks the name of the president of India , but rattles of the names of the American idol winners with utmost ease and panache. Although appalled, I generally laugh it out.
But 26/11 changed it all. Or so I thought. Suddenly, south Mumbai heard noises which were not coming out of their play stations. , Kandahar was not just the name of a fancy place to eat, rather a place where people got killed mercilessly by people who ironically may have been connected to the actual Kandahar. Death shifted base. From the dark alleys of downmarket ghatkopers and malegaons to the spik and span (and expensive) taj and oberoi. There was mayhem and anger and it showed. Politicians were ridiculed and abused, carpet bombing of enemy country was suggested, candle vigils in the night gained momentum, signature campaigns and sms polls gained pace, and it became imperative if not fashionable, to discuss changing the future of India. The call for participation of the youth in nation building became louder. ‘we have to wake up and show them our strength, surely Mumbai deserves better governance, change the system, deshmukh resign, ram gopal verma is a criminal’ and so and so forth suddenly became mainstream topics of discussions instead of bollywood releases and Mac book models. Suddenly politics was happening!
Alas, five months was too long a time period to keep the interest in their new found toy alive. Came Election Day, and the voter turnout could not even reach halfway mark, percentage wise. That when, the election commission declared that day as a holiday, so that the people could go out and vote. But I guess the EC got it all wrong.
Election Day being a Thursday meant a very long weekend and lonavala, alibagh and goa were offering weekend packages.
The summer holidays had begun and the kids had salsa classes.
The drivers had taken leave what with the harvest season in his village about to happen.
The ipl was on.
Standing in a queue in the sun meant getting tanned, and that is permissible only when you are in goa or in Hawaii..
oops, but i just got my manicure done, dont want to spoil it with the blue ink
The booths were not air conditioned.
Ballet boxes were not available on home delivery.
So how could they go out and vote. There is one thing screaming for change on television sets, with the pr people making sure your sound byte is aired at the right time, but when it comes to actually taking a step, same old story. What is the reason for this sense of acute indifference? Is it just because of a huge colonial hangover, or simply a case of an “island city “mentality where your life starts and ends within the radius of five kilometres? Or is it that the people are so disgusted with the entire system that the absence was actually a boycott.
Nobody would ever come to know and nobody does. It like all the mysteries surrounding this absolutely, majestic and magnificent city, which despite having zero interest, pays the highest amount of taxes, year after year so that flyovers can be built in Delhi to prepare it for the commonwealth games. This is a city, where petty crimes are relatively low, women are safe, opportunities are in abundance, the people generally smile, holi, diwali, id, ganpati, and Christmas are all celebrated with huge aplomb and gusto and the city generally adopts you, make you its own…it’s a city where centuries co exists in adjacent flats and people generally live and let live, even if you are not a Marathi manoos.
I am myself a migrant to this city and completely in love with it. So I request you… all you mumbaikars, whether in south Mumbai or north, east or west to wake up and take control, before it again goes out of hand. Don’t be so disconnected, don’t be so disillusioned.. Things would change if you change. Just broaden your horizons and see what magic follows.
And meanwhile you can always learn your salsa…..

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

ipl.. senior citizens in a young (?) game !

I am really surprised at the surprise shown by all the walking Aristotles on the super success of senior citizens at the ongoing ipl season down south…. Whether it is the ndtv inhouse expert ajay jadeja, or the just rejected aakash chopra , or some vague goras broadcasting live, invariably they are all surprised by how, a format suitable for youngsters has success stories of only over 35 year olds…and so on and so forth .
Come on guys, u don’t need to be a PhD in postmodernism to realize how your basic understanding of the T20 format is all awry. It’s a fast game, agreed, but the pace sometimes is just a hyper reality created by some screaming bimbettes ,skimpily clad cheerleaders , channel v veejays masquerading as cricket experts and of course an over enthusiastic crowd, which has been pushed in the stadium or in front of their TV sets by either peer pressures or by the sheer wretchedness of their lifeless existence.
Real Cricket, is no doubt a gigantic battle. It is played for five days non stop, at times in scorching heat ,week after week till the desire of the players, the spectators and the money making boards is quenched, which in all practicality is never. Therefore to succeed at the very high level here requires huge amounts of fitness, skill, talent, ability, passion and patience …and above all it requires youth.
But 20 -20 ?…a format in which one can miss the entire match if one gets stuck in a traffic jam surely does not impose so many conditions on the player. A bowler, for instance is expected to ball for only 4 overs maximum, which comes to a sum total of 24 deliveries, and surely the Mcgraths, and the Shane Warnes are fit enough for that. A good batsman is the one that can clear the ropes multiple times, while standing on his crease, and who is better in this department than the Haydens and the Gilchrists of the world. The success of the batsman is not determined here by their ability to take quick singles and converting the ones into twos and twos into threes while looking for the odd boundaries... the odd boundaries are the only real requirements. Young legs for taking quick singles is just the icing on the cake, and not the cake itself .Who would know that better than “youngsters” like Mohd kaif and Sanjay Bangar who have already found themselves on the flight back home.
Maybe fielding is one area where the young legs do make a difference, but here too the ability to not drop high catches really differentiates the winners from the vanquished and the senior players with their vast experience behind them invariably never fail in this area, while the new nervous bacchhas sometimes make a mess of it.
And how can one forget that a format so short, requires spot on, lightning quick decision making by the skipper consistently and this can come handy if you have a vast treasure of cricket experience behind you and a certain Mr Shane Warne is a living example of that.
I find it really surprising therefore when experts say that this is a format not suitable for the not so young cricketers. Maybe, in a predominately youth driven society the right to ogle at the sexy cheerleaders is an exclusive of twenty year olds. I see no other valid reason for that.
As I am about to post it, I have the image of a vibrant Ravi Shastri on my flat screen, impeccably dressed in his Saville Row or Armani speaking in his deep baritone.. “can you believe it, Matthew Hayden, all of 38 is holding the orange cap still .
Yes Ravi I do.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

my shuruat !

Django paid me a visit just now. No, I don’t know some exotic African princess by the same name. she is just a dear friend and the sister of another dear friend of mine , a friend named James, who abandoned India, its filth, traffic and heat and moved on to London , to an upmarket McKinsey job and white girlfriends.
We discussed what could be the best option to move forward in my life. I suggested writing a blog. She jumped on to it. She thinks I have an amazing potential for it. I think so too, just no potential to make people read it, especially when I face stiff competition from mr bachchan, mr amir khan and of course the fake ipl blogger..
I always fancied myself as a jack of all trades, and master of not even commerce, as I barely managed to finish my bachelors degree.. When you are twenty something, you enjoy the feeling of being such a jack, but when you are fast approaching forty, in both your age and in your midriff size, you start begging to differ. The problem with people like me is that we can never decide, what we want to do, as we think we can do everything, much better than even specialists in that field. We are born commentators; we have a comment on everything, sitting comfortably in our cushioned homes, generally at times of extreme lethargy and acute boredom. So an average journalist irritates us. he doesn’t know anything worth asking , an average film is so badly written , a singer cant sing to save his life, a writer doesn’t know the w of writing, Indian cricket team is full of hyped mediocres, you become film stars by either birth or sleeping around, and critics are either partial, pushed or sold.
I think I am like many others around my age and my space is going through what can be loosely written, off, or abused as mid life crises. It shows everywhere. You wake up in the morning to find out that you are neither married, nor divorced, neither in a relationship nor out of it ,neither have kids biologically nor through adoption ,hide away from being suspected to be either impotent or gay, and deal with the loss of being the head turner you earlier were. You look for solutions everywhere, from pumping an extra kilo in your gym, to applying for vippassna courses in beautiful surroundings, you visit siddivinayak temple one day and declare you are an atheist the next .you talk to friends who seem disinterested, and you can’t afford counsellors. Every other person seems to be happier, in better jobs, in better homes, with better partners. You are the only one who has missed the bus, train, flight everything and are slowly even forgetting to walk.
And you have probably forgotten even good English!
So how to write this blog when this seems to be the only safe and cheap option you are left with at this stage?
I thought and thought and thought and finally decided to try. Funny I got inspired (rather got a reality check) from two rather mundane lines, which reflected a lot of meaning now. The first from a play I do called “class of 84” where the protagonist finally summarizes, “you cannot regain lost youth, just cannot recapture your past “… how true for all of us! And the second from the film “Ghost”, where a dead creature re-emerges and says “use time, that’s all you have “.
I have just read this brilliant masterpiece and have realized that I have hardly made any sense... But I would not delete it. That’s the easy way out.. I would rather be abused, ignored, ridiculed for it, then lie on my bed and criticise another bad tv serial….after all, “aur bhi gham hain zamane mein ek blog ke siva “.
The night of may the 5th 2009,, Delhi daredevils have defeated Kolkata knight riders.