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.